April 1: We just added a few fresh quotes from Shauta Marsh to this story, first published on March 28.
The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) announced today that it will open a 3,000 square foot exhibition space in a courtyard off of South Street at CityWay, with a tentative opening date of September 2014.
The new gallery, created through a partnership between iMOCA and the Alexander, will give iMOCA a total of 5,500 square feet of exhibition space between its two locations.
IMOCA executive director Shauta Marsh says the time is right for the expansion: "We've been enjoying a successful run of well-received, high-quality exhibits getting attention in national publications like Interview, Wired, and Vanity Fair. Now's the perfect time to build on this success, and partner with CityWay and the Alexander to help bring more art and excitement to Downtown."
Marsh says the new space will afford more opportunities: "The size and layout of the Fountain Square space keeps it from being very flexible. The new space, designed to be very flexible, enables us to expand programming with more events - especially with film and music. And we're pleased that the space is attached to the Alexander, a hotel known for its excellent permanent collection of contemporary art on display.
And Marsh gives credit to board member Brandon Judkins, for connecting iMOCA with CityWay and working hard "in his tenure as our board president to stabilize iMOCA and find opportunities like this for our organization."
Both the Children's Museum and Conner Prairie have been expanding their adults-only programming lately. You may have seen, for instance, Dan Grossman's piece about roaming the Children's Museum during Adult Swim a few weeks back.
But I think Conner Prairie gets takes the prize for quantity (we'll leave you to judge quality) with the introduction of two series of programming designed for visitors who have achieved the age of reason: Prairie Plates, comprised of three catered, many-course dinners; and Prairie Pursuits, consisting of classes in disciplines both old-timey (sausage making, forge welding) and newfangled (iPhone photography).
Contact 776-6006 or head to connerprairie.org for more information. Prairie Plates events are for 21+ patrons, and we'd suggest checking in with the folks on the Prairie for information about age restrictions for Prairie Pursuits events.
Conner Prairie promises additions to the schedule as time goes by, including a progressive dinner through 1836 Prairietown with Neal Brown and a whole-hog butchering workshop with Chris Eley from Goose the Market.
Here's the current events lineup, taken from the press release:
Joseph Decuis Dinner at the Chinese House
April 10, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
$150 (tax included)
Join the chefs of Joseph Decuis, a farm-to-fork restaurant in the Fort Wayne area, for a four-course, sit-down, Wagyu tasting dinner matched with fine wines at Conner Prairie's Chinese House, an oriental-themed house rumored to be a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Cash bar available for additional drinks.
Chef JJ on the Covered Bridge
May 2 and 3; doors open at 6:15 p.m. and dinner begins at 7 p.m.
$75 (tax included)
Indulge in a four-course dinner on Conner Prairie's covered bridge in the 1863 Civil War Journey experience area, prepared by Chef JJ and his Big Green Bistro. Join us Friday, May 2, or Saturday, May 3, for a long-table dinner as Chef JJ cooks up his modern takes on classic American cooking. Enjoy music and also interact with Conner Prairie's skilled interpreters, who will be in costume for the event. For tickets, go to http://chefjjs.com/big-green-bistro-events.html. Ticket price includes admission, family-style dinner and one drink. Cash bar available for additional drinks.
Prairie Plates at Sunset
June 19, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
$50 (tax included)
Watch the sun set over Conner Prairie as you enjoy small plates from Goose the Market, ciders and meads from New Day Meadery and desserts from Sugar. Tour the historic Conner House, stroll through our heirloom garden, and discover the colors and fibers used in the Loom House. Once the sun has set, you are invited to explore the beauty of the night sky with the help of high-powered telescopes and mission specialists from Spaceport Indiana (subject to weather). Cash bar available for additional drinks.
March 22, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
$130 and $120/member
Join Conner Prairie's own expert blacksmith, Nathan Allen, to learn the basics of forge welding in a coal forge. Participants will learn fire control and fluxes, chain link welding, bunch welding and lap welding. Previous blacksmithing experience preferred but not required. All tools and materials will be provided.
Sausage-Making with L.E. Kincaid & Sons
March 29, 1pm to 4pm
$60 non-members/$55 members
Learn the ins and outs of sausage-making with Dave Rollins, owner of L.E. Kincaid & Sons Meat Market. Guests will grind, mix, stuff and cook several modern and historical recipes. Whoever said "it's better not to know how sausage is made" never tried this fun and engaging workshop!
Draw Like Clark, Audubon and Darwin: Flora and Fauna Illustration
April 5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The 19th century was a time of exploration and discovery! William Clark (of Lewis and Clark), John James Audubon and Charles Darwin helped unlock the secrets of the natural world through their journals and sketches of flora and fauna. Indianapolis Art Center instructor Bianca Mandity will lead participants on their own expedition through the historic areas of Conner Prairie. She will show participants how to draw on location using historic, rare animal breeds, local wildlife and plants as their subject matter.
April 12, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 4, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
$72 and $60/member
Join local photographer and iPhoneography expert, Rad A. Drew, in this four-hour workshop where participants will be introduced to the fundamentals of iPhone photography. Explore the possibilities of your phone and learn how to use a host of apps to create remarkable images. Drew will guide those attending through a simple, yet effective approach that allows participants to see what can be done, watch how it's done and then practice those same skills. After the initial learning session, the group will tour the Conner Prairie grounds and photograph on-site, applying all the newly acquired skills.
April 12, 9 a.m. to noon
$60 and $55/member
Get your artistic juices flowing in Conner Prairie's textile studio. Learn basic basket weaving techniques by weaving and sewing a simple pin-cushion basket. This is a great class to learn elementary skills in both basket weaving and sewing. All tools and materials included in the cost of the workshop.
May 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$60 and $55/member
Channel your inner Bear Grylls or Katniss Everdeen and discover how the wisdom of yesterday's pioneers can help you survive the wild of today. Learn how to build a shelter, find water, forage for food and make fire in this unique six-hour workshop. This training will keep you from getting voted off any island or help you survive a zombie apocalypse.
Abstract Landscape Painting with the Indianapolis Art Center
June 7, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
$60 for all guests
Using the stunning landscape of the natural prairie lands as a muse, students will create their own works of abstract art in the style of a famous abstract artist. Examples include: Van Gogh, Soutine, Wolfe Kahn and Fauve. Students will also get a short art history lesson about the artist and the movement they represent with skilled instructor Kerri Ammirata.
Fun in the Forge
June 7, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$95 and $90/member
Be a blacksmith for the day! Learn to heat metal in a coal forge and shape it on an anvil. Participants will have the opportunity to complete several simple projects, such as barbeque skewers, a flint and steel fire starter (with instructions on how to use it) and a dinner bell. All tools and materials will be provided.
Arts and Armsmaking Workshop
Various times and costs
Conner Prairie's hands-on workshops provide you a rare opportunity to work closely and directly with some of the nation's best craftsmen. Small class sizes in well-equipped facilities will allow you to develop basic to advanced skills in everything from horn work, engraving, axe forging, leather work, knifesmithing and more. All materials are included in the class price; tools are provided for some classes. For classes, dates, times and cost, please visit www.connerprairie.org.
Brickworld Indy 2014
In its fifth year, the two day Brickworld Indy display and exposition appeared to draw as many interested adults as it did wide-eyed children.
Sprawling miniature LEGO cities and armies of small, plastic people were on display March 8 and 9 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Now in its fifth year, the two day Brickworld Indy display and exposition appeared to draw as many interested adults as it did wide-eyed children. Some came to shop, some came to play and some came simply to observe and snap photos of the creations of this year's builders.
Displays which showcased animated abilities were some of the more popular LEGO exhibits. Motion and light sensor plugins and power packs offered by the toy manufacturer allowed trains to move along monorails, elevators to lift stacks of lego "bricks" and robots to shoot tiny soccer balls into tiny goals. The one rule required of all exhibits was that everything be totally constructed using LEGO products, including power sources.
In 2012, 45.7 billion LEGO bricks were produced at a rate of 5.2 million per hour. According to LEGO's website, laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold that year would stretch around the world more than 18 times.
An idea pitching competition which awarded $40,000 last year to local arts innovators is returning this May for another round. This first event in this year's lineup, called Re:Connect, is looking for "arts ideas that reconnect people with the environment, especially our waterways, and each other," according to a news release.
Big Car Collaborative will host the first event May 8 at their Service Center for Culture and Community. Three more events will follow, each looking for different types of ideas: RePurpose, hosted by People for Urban Progress on June 27; Re:Mix, hosted by the Harrison Center for the Arts on Aug. 1; and Re:Populate, hosted by IndyHub on Oct. 30.
Ideas for Re:Connect are due online to 5x5indy.org by April 27. Selected presenters will be notified by May 1. The May 8 edition will coincide with the opening of Theater of Inclusion's Tools exhibition (delayed from last year) and will feature a performance by the IUPUI Music Technology Ensemble.
The rules remain the same from last year: Each of five presenters gets five minutes and five slides to make her case. Host organizations are in charge of selecting finalists and coordinating judging, but audience voting is incorporated into deciding the winner. Each winner gets $10,000 to realize her project, with funds coming from Central Indiana Community Foundation, Efroymson Family Foundation and the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation.
Here's a look at last year's 5x5 event at the Service Center, when Indy Film Fest won $10,000 for their Roving Cinema project.
Slideshow: 5X5 at Big Car
Craig Mince and Indy Film Fest won a $10,000 grant for their Roving Cinema pop-up screening at the first 5X5, a new idea-pitching event along the lines of Pecha Kucha.
Hello, Indianapolis. A quick check-in before heading over to the Paramount Theatre for the Lou Reed tribute. Also: Harvey Sid Fisher is apparently taking the stage in the Omni lobby; call it a pleasant, absurd surprise. You know his astrology songs, right?
I want to talk about Gruff Rhys today, whom I've run into at a couple places during SXSW: last night at St. David's Episcopal Church, a great setting for singer-songwriters that's just off of the Sixth Street madness; and this afternoon at the Alamo Ritz, where he presented his outstanding documentary American Interiors. It's about his so-called Investigative Concert Tour, which followed the path of John Evans, a Welshman who crossed the pond in 1792 in order to find a lost Welsh-speaking Native American tribe.
The claim's not quite as crazy as it sounds: while historical and archeological proof is hard to come by, some believe that a Welsh Prince, Madoc, sailed to America in 1170. And if we accept that fact, it's not at all farfetched that Madoc's descendants could have continued to speak some version of Welsh well after Columbus's arrival.
Rhys, whom you may know from his work with the Super Furry Animals, first learned about Evans when a Welsh cultural center asked him to write a song for a play based on Evans's life. The song was cut but Rhys was intrigued, and he set up a tour with stops at bars, libraries, museums and other appropriate venues, where he presented a Powerpoint slideshow about Evans, complete with props, including a felt puppet of Evans, created with the help of a historian because no visual record exists of Evans.
A charming and very soft-spoken presence on screen and stage, Rhys sets up meetings with historians and other relevant experts along the way, notably members of the members of the Mandan tribe, who live today in North Dakota.
A little bit more history: Evans arrived in Baltimore, then made his way west along the Ohio River before being imprisoned by the Spanish in St. Louis. Somehow, he was not only freed from captivity (who were eventually convinced he was not an American spy but a genuine eccentric on a quest), but made second in command on a Spanish expedition of the Missouri River, at that time almost totally uncharted. He was given the job of not only mapping the river, but capturing any British creeping over the Canadian border - and making his way to the Pacific and catching a unicorn while he was at it.
And so as Rhys continued on Davis's path, he ended up meeting with the last two speakers of the Mandan language - the last living fluent speaker and his protege. And here's where Rhys brings out the convergences and synchronicities in the story: Just as the Mandan people are attempting to preserve their language despite the almost total adoption of the language of their occupiers, so do the Welsh try to assert their independence by speaking Welsh whenever possible (including during several interviews in the partly subtitled documentary).
I won't try to give a complete plot synopsis, but I'll say that Rhys's project is a whole lot more successful in its humble way than the kind of ambitious European-in-US TV series or book that we've seen attempted by guys like Stephen Fry and Bernard-Henri Levy. But that may be highfalutin an interpretation. On another level, it's just fun to watch Rhys learn more about a near-forgotten historic figure whose work aided Lewis and Clark on their way down the Missouri River years later - and to see a Muppet-like felt incarnation of said figure accompany Rhys on his own exploration of the States.
But wait, did I mention the music? The doc wouldn't work half as well without its soundtrack by Rhys. There's nothing like gently uncanny Welsh folk to open one's mind to the primal mysteries of the universe, to the paths history declined to take in this dimension - but who's to say about the others?
I can't really add anything to what's being reported on last night's fatal car crash, except to note that not two days ago I mentioned a guy who spent all of last year's SXSW in a hospital after being struck by an SUV - and that during the last SXSW I attended before this one, in 2011, the wonderful Kate Lamont withstood pretty significant facial injuries after interacting with a motorized vehicle (you may remember a local benefit show afterwards to help pay for medical bills). But the show will go on pretty much exactly as planned, says SXSW managing director Roland Swenson, and like just about everyone here, I'll be getting to some afternoon showcases - just as soon as I empty out this notebook full of stuff I just haven't had the time to write about.
The Legend of Shorty
A guerilla doc about two guys trying to find Mexican drug lord numero uno Chapo Guzman ties for the profoundest thing I saw during the fest (the other being the Jury Prize winner for Best Doc, The Great Invisible, which I'll get to in a second if you'll just be patient, geez). The pretty darn brazen conceit was that co-directors Angus Macqueen and Guillermo Galdos would challenge the U.S. and Mexican governments' contention that Guzman was impossible to find by using their meager resources and connections to score an interview. And as Macqueen put it, talking after Friday night's world premiere, "the authorities got to him just before he went on camera" (you may have heard that Guzman was arrested this February, more than a decade after he "escaped" from a "maximum-security" Mexican "prison").
Who knows how much Macqueen is inflating his own efforts, but the doc shows that they got to Chapo's hometown, in a region apparently completely ruled by drug gangs who grow opium and marijuana with impunity, and scored an interview with Chapo's mom and some of his employees and cohorts. Which raises a question: Knowing that it's pretty much open season on journalists investigating the drug trade in Northern Mexico, why would anyone embark on such a foolhardy project? The answer, according to Macqueen, is that "foreign journalists, if they're sensible, are safe" and that it's those journalists actually living in Mexico who could be eliminated by either the drug gangs or the government (or both) at any moment.
One of those brave journalists, prominently featured in the film, was in the house for the premiere: Anabel Hernandez, a freelance journalist who gets to righteously and justifiably attack Chapo and his crew during the film, emphasizing the complicity of a Mexican government which allowed him to operate as he saw fit until his recent arrest (which both the directors and Hernandez agree is unlikely to alter the situation considerably; they doubt, for instance, that he'll be extradited to the States). Hernandez said after the film that Chapo and his fellow gangsters are "primitive people," and that because Chapo's lower-key partner in the Sinaloa cartel is still in charge and the cartel remains in power, "northing has really changed."
While I'm suspicious of anti-drug arguments that place the blame for complex geopolitical situations squarely on the shoulders of drug users ("you know you're supporting the Taliban when you smoke that opium, jerk") - if only because we're complicit in the suffering of others when we buy just about any consumer good - I certainly felt bad about every joint I ever smoked as I saw the footage of journalists, gangsters and innocent bystanders slaughtered in all kinds of creative ways on the streets of Culiacán, home base for the Sinaloa cartel, from beheadings to hangings to old-fashioned drive-bys (Chapo evidently killed his own son by accident in one of those drive-bys). Indeed, it's hard to tell who isn't complicit in the ongoing brutality taking place just south of us.
One more note: The Legend of Shorty's storyline is moved forward in large part by a soundtrack made up of original songs in the style of narcocorridos - and it's such a wise and clever choice on the part of the filmmakers. They give a sense of how these gangsters are glorified and mythologized - and give the doc the sort of exciting forward momentum which can be found lacking in your average public media documentary.
The Great Invisible
Here's a fact from The Great Invisible, about the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that I felt compelled to jot down: Revenue from sales of offshore oil revenue drill rights is the second biggest source of funds for the U.S. Treasury department (trailing only tax revenue). And to be sure, the same organization that sells off those rights is in charge of regulating drilling. So it only makes sense Congress hasn't passed any sort of new safety legislation concerning oil drilling in the way of the disaster, according to the documentary.
Aw hell, here's another film where no one is innocent. Yes, you're part of the culture that allows giant evil corporations like BP, Transocean and Halliburton to not only destroy our planet in a gradual way, but cut costs and employees to the bone on drilling platforms such that redundant safeguards become ever less redundant, and 11 guys end up losing their lives so that we might have $3 oil. That's not to mention the survivors, prominently featured in the doc, who suffer from PTSD, consider or attempt suicide, and generally find themselves cast aside by the predictably evil Transocean, which operated the platform, constructed by Halliburton, on behalf of BP.
Director Margaret Brown emphasized after the film that she didn't make an "environmental documentary"; that it's not quite right for eco film festivals; that she couldn't really discuss the impact of dispersants (used to clean up the oil spill) on the environment, partly because we won't know the impact for at least another decade; and that she wasn't really looking to provide any answers to help resolve the situation. As she puts it, it's not a "green but gray film," in the sense that it attempts to present a truthful, complex portrait of the situation (although it does offer a website and opportunity to get involved at the close of the film, and only a deluded apologist would think the subject deserves a balanced treatment which gives credence to misinformation disseminated by an industry which already controls the narrative in a Congress and White House that just can't resist a few good payoffs).
So what does Brown actually do in the film? She visits with those living along the coastline whose lives were impacted (often ruined) by the oil spill, from the poor shrimpers and oyster-catchers and -shuckers who are either out of work or working much less; to a tugboat captain who takes a long view on the industry as he works reduced hours; to those folks who survived the explosion, including Doug Brown, the rig's chief mechanic, who was forced to take shortcuts that led to the tragedy, and who now finds himself wracked by guilt for having lost so many men under his watch.
Brown obviously spends plenty of time with her subjects and cuts to the core with well-chosen scenes and interviews, and we get the sense of how an accident miles away can throw off the equilibrium of communities that were perhaps on the borderline between poverty and self-sustainability, but which offered a way of life and inspired pride of place. But what do you know? By the close of the film, the docks are up and running and people are back to work - that is, in the staging area for oil rigs and tugboats. As for those shrimp whose veins are still coursing with black gold - well, it'll be a little longer before they're ready to be harvested, and besides, the big money is not in shrimp.
I walked out of a new documentary about Dan Harmon and his podcast, Harmontown, thinking: "That it was better than it had any right to be." Not that Harmon isn't funny and brilliant and troubled and open about his troubles, but the setup felt a bit contrived - to follow Harmon and crew on the road for a January 2013 tour of his show, the first time on the road for Harmon but certainly not his co-host, Jeff Davis, whom you may know from Whose Line It Is Anyway? and other improv comedy.
But, you know, none of it felt forced, and director Neil Berkeley was careful about pacing out the "you changed my life, Dan" moments, mixing them in with Harmon's self-loathing monologues or backstory on Harmon's writing and directing jobs (including The Sarah Silverman Show and the cult fave pilot Heat Vision and Jack). Berkeley, who also directed an excellent doc on artist Wayne White, gets a lot of credit for putting together a movie that captures the fun and energy of the podcast while suggesting why people connect with Harmon's honesty as he negotiates a new relationship and what would appear to be full-fledged alcoholism.
But guess who the real hero of the film is: Harmontown's resident Dungeon Master Spencer, a shy but very funny and totally adorable nerd who leaves his bedroom in his parents' house for the road trip, and overcomes the demons of anxiety and misanthropy along the way. Spencer holds his own, improv-wise, with Davis and Harmon, playfully translating their D&D moves in a way that makes the game actually seem fun and somehow appropriate for the stages of comedy clubs.
The Case of the Three Sided Dream
OK, one more doc to discuss (and all of above are worth a full-price movie ticket, by the way). I went out of my way to catch this feature on Rahsaan Roland Kirk, one of our greatest jazz musicians, who would try just about anything to, as someone put it in the film, connect with the audience - playing three woodwinds at one time, making use of a nose whistle to imitate the sound of a cuckoo bird and generally pushing the boundaries of jazz in order to better realize his ideas (which he says came to him chiefly through dreams).
And while I thought it could have used a narrator or captions or some other way in order to communicate key facts about Kirk (familiarity is certainly assumed), The Case of the Three Sided Dream is an excellent riff on Kirk's life, featuring interviews with family members and close collaborators, animated sequences based on Kirk's music or interviews, and a whole bunch of archival footage that I hadn't seen before, including his one performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which is probably the best thing that ever happened on The Ed Sullivan Show (Roland Kirk and Mingus trading phrases in the intro to "Haitian Fight Song" with Ed fuming in the wings; it doesn't get better than that).
It's a trivia question that you'll probably never find on the back of a Topps card: Who's the only MLBer to throw a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD? The answer, Dock Ellis, is the subject of an ingratiating, vibrant and sometimes surprising documentary, No No: A Dockumentary, that premiered at Sundance in January, then made it back to SXSW Saturday for its debut before a hometown crowd (the director and much of the crew is Austin-based). And it starts out by revisiting that June 12, 1970 no-no, with Dock on the side of the mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, walking eight batters and hitting two Padres on the way to the record books.
Ellis, who died of liver disease in 2008 but was extensively interviewed for the film, said he couldn't see the batters during the game, and that his catcher had to wear reflective tape so he could see the signs. And if another interviewee, the friend with whom he reportedly dropped acid the day before the game, casts a bit of doubt of the veracity of Ellis's story, others seem to back it up, including director Ron Howard, who heard the story from Ellis in the '80s when Ellis was telling it not as evidence of his talent or bigger-than-lifeness, but as just another instance of how he lost some of his early years to drug abuse.
Director Jeffrey Radice first presented Ellis's story in a 2004 short film called LSD a Go Go, which consisted of funny anecdotes about what people got up to while under the influence. And while the no-hitter remains Ellis's claim to a historical footnote, there's plenty more to the story, including a good case for Ellis being a post-Jackie Robinson figure representing the Black Power movement and challenging white clubhouse paternalism. Indeed, Robinson wrote Ellis a letter during the '70s, praising his outspokenness and cautioning him that he may still find plenty of bigots along the way; Ellis tears up when reading the letter in one of the film's '00s-era interviews. And he pitched for a Pirates team that was the first to field an all-black starting lineup.
Ellis was an outlier even on a Pirates team known for its hard partying and sartorial excellence. He was suspended by the Pirates for a week for wearing hair curlers on the field during practice, which was evidently the equivalent of walking out of the clubhouse in drag in the '70s. And he impressed his teammates with his ability to down massive amounts of drugs and alcohol without appearing to act any differently. Ellis admits that he never pitched without the aid of drugs. It was par for the course for ballplayers, particularly pitchers, to take amphetamine (brand name: dexamyne; street name: greenies) to sharpen the senses. But Ellis sampled the panoply of the drug world both on and off the field, which led the documentary and his life into its darker moments.
Director Radice says he didn't know about the extent of Ellis's domestic abuse until a second round of interviews, when Ellis's second wife reported a marriage-ending night that involved emotional and physical abuse including firearms. We aren't given an exact timeline for Ellis's sobering up process, but by the mid-'80s, he was speaking out about his abuse of alcohol and drugs, and by the close of the film, he's working as a drug abuse counselor at a boys correctional facility.
The film doesn't belabor Ellis's crimes, but it does offer them as an all-too-human counterpoint to his success as both a pitcher who burned bright until the inevitable arm trouble (which came by his late 20s) and as a gregarious, sometimes flamboyant, black and proud figure who would anticipate subsequent camera-friendly stars. And it also gives voice to praise for Ellis's work in giving back to the community by speaking his truth about the impact of drugs and alcohol on his life, including his work with troubled young adults who found themselves surprised that anyone liked them enough to, say, share a little soul food with them for lunch (even though it was against prison rules).
I'm neglecting to mention how funny and appealing the film is as a whole, in no small part thanks to a hard funky score by Adam Horovitz (of Beastie Boys fame). And I was also impressed by the tons of work the production team must've put into digging up '70s baseball footage, during a time when regular season televised games were the exception rather than the rule. To that point, Ellis's no-hitter can only be seen via black-and-white 16mm footage of the second half of the game (someone told the Padres' team photographer to get up to the press box and film every at bat when it looked like Ellis might go the distance).
I'll leave things on this point: Radice notes that one can draw a direct line from Dock Ellis to Robert Frost, if one goes through former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hall, who co-wrote Ellis's autobiography after meeting him during a George Plimpton-style trip by the poet to the Pirates' spring training camp. If that were the only remarkable thing about Ellis, it still might be good enough for a feature-length doc; good thing there's plenty more of note along the way, making this something like essential viewing for fans of baseball and/or acid.
It's a truism that any Q&A dedicated to deeply and intelligently understanding an artist's work tends to break down when audience questioners ask said artist for a hug - or a Tarot reading or an impromptu therapy session. Except when the guest is Oprah or filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (whom I'm not going to describe as "Chilean-French" because he pointedly emphasizes that he has no homeland, and further, films are not like flags and need not be identified by their country of origin).
So when some dude with a British accent got up to the mic and wasted some of our valuable Alejandro time with his tale of getting hit by an SUV and spending all of last year's SXSW in the hospital - an all-too-common occurrence given how some streets are totally roped off and others coursing with jerks driving at typical speeds; there but for the grace, you know - well, I was waiting for the next person with some meat to his question.
But Jodorowsky was into it, and invited the accident victim to the stage for his psychomagical "action" - psychomagic being Jodorowsky's own brand of psychotherapeutic and spiritual healing. His prescription: rubbing down the guy's leg while intoning "poor baby" and other such Mom-like phrases. There is room in psychomagic for plenty of humor - just as Jodorowsky's films try to heal the world while, say, deploying little people for comic relief. (A later questioner had his Tarot read just by calling out the card numbers; he has woman problems, said Jodorowsky.)
Jodorowsky was at SXSW Monday afternoon for a Q&A followed by the U.S. premiere of his 2013 film The Dance of Reality, his first movie in almost 23 years, following 1989's Santa Sangre (and 1990's The Rainbow Thief, which bore less of his stamp), both of which came years after the "midnight movies" avant la lettre that made his name (El Topo, The Holy Mountain).
Why the wait, another impertinent British dude asked after the screening? He just didn't have anything to say, and he's not trying to make movies one after the other like the factory that is Hollywood (you'd be unsurprised to learn that Jodorowsky is not a fan of mainstream escapist filmmaking, and while he liked Gravity, he wondered what the hell George Clooney was doing up in space).
Of course, all the British-sounding dudes have their heart in the right place - the same place mine is, I think - because we all missed Jodorowsky, whose films have, if nothing else, the virtue of being largely and genuinely unpredictable, perhaps surrealist, though I'm not always sure what people mean by that word. But unpredictable, sure; I didn't know mom was going to cover her 10-year-old son in black paint, then disrobe and dance with him in a sort of pas de deux into the dark side, nor that she would sing all of her dialogue in a sort of operatic recitative, while all other characters are deprived of the benefit of song.)
The Dance of Reality, based on Jodorowsky's autobiography of the same name and premiered last year at Cannes, tells of Jodorowsky's childhood in a Chilean town, where he felt an outcast because he was Jewish, with artistic inclinations and (initially) long hair, and because he was starting to get into mysticism and religion, but his father, an atheist and capital-C Communist who dressed like and worshipped Stalin, would have none of his timid explorations of self and the outside world. Dad gets just as much if not more screen time than his son; he goes out on a hunt for Chile's fascist president Ibanez, a journey that will involve personal transformation and the loving care of the president's horse, appropriately named Bucephalus.
Jodorowsky is himself an actor in the film, appearing during pauses in the action to embrace his younger self and urge him to see the oneness of things and know that he'll eventually get to leave behind the jerks in his backwater hometown. In one striking moment, he pulls back a young Alejandro as he teeters over an ocean cliff (he had had just suffered a bout of vicious teasing because his equipment was not quite like the other boys').
"I do what I can with my English," said Jodorowsky shortly after his Q&A began, which was quite a bit, although some stories got a little lost as they made their way from Spanish or French to English. And so I plucked out some phrases for the notebook that bear passing along.
He was "broken in 1000 pieces" after the 1995 death of his son Teo, which prompted him to examine why he was making art, which certainly wasn't to give people a reason to "relax for two hours." And one of his conclusions is that he thinks the "value of art is to heal," and his goal to create something that enables the viewer not to escape, but to discover himself. That said, all his films are autobiographical - "I never speak of a thing I haven't lived" - especially his latest, in which his son Brontis plays his father ("I started to hate him because he was my father," Jodorowsky said of the shooting). And he noted all his films are a "family affair," arguing that he ought to use family members to play key roles and write the score because they are talented and appropriate for the job.
Jodorowsky was good for some bon mots about pop culture, like "I don't want to rape any person with three dimension," or, in talking about the way he uses Twitter, "I am not using it to speak about egos; I am not Lady Gaga; I am not a tiny person with a lot of feathers." Jodorowsky puts out 15 Tweets per day (a key number in the Tarot) and thinks it's the "only literature of the 21st century because you get an immediate reaction" and is "completely alive" in the way it encourages immediate feedback and interaction. And here's another good one: "Only God can create; we are transformers...but not the Hollywood Transformers."
The director also pointed out that he still hates Peter O'Toole, even if he happens to be dead (Jodorowsky worked with him on 1990's The Rainbow Thief), and that he doesn't like working with established actors or producers. And the Dalai Lama naturally came in for criticism: "If I was the 14th recreation [meaning the 14th incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion], I wouldn't say some of the things the Dalai Lama said; I would be floating in the air."
Talked turned to Jodorowsky's failed but influential attempt to film Dune; he thinks that movies - and that movie in particular - need to be longer (14 to 16 hours), and that such a world has come into being with the Hobbit trilogy, a similarly ambitious fantasy novel adaptation.
I don't know if I walked out of The Dance of Reality having been healed in any way, but there's something inspiring and freeing about Jodorowsky's storytelling. His films incorporate brutal violence, perverse (or maybe just straightforwardly presented) sexuality, a rather bizarre sense of humor and an openly pantheistic theology, all playing off of each other in a sometimes discordant, sometimes incoherent, but always thoughtful way; as he put it during the Q&A, films must be "comedy, tragedy, everything."
Can't say I've ever seen anything quite like Richard Linklater's Boyhood, the talk of Sundance and making its Austin premiere - at least for those not invited to last week's cast and crew screenings - on a Sunday slate at the Paramount Theatre that also included another big-budget indie partly filmed in this city, David Gordon Green's Joe. Filmed over 12 years, about three days at a time per year, the near-three-hour fictional feature follows Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane) from age seven to 18, or grade one to 12.
There are precedents to the project in the documentary world, notably the Up series, which has followed the lives of fourteen British subjects since 1965, starting when they were seven years old and checking every seven years thereafter. The premise of the film was a Jesuit maxim, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" - something to keep in mind when seeing Boyhood, though Linklater keeps it a little lighter and less fatalistic than the documentary series, giving Mason a chance to actually make some choices for himself after years of moving around central Texas with his single mom (played by Patricia Arquette).
But while I've never seen anything quite like Boyhood in a formal sense, it sure does look like a Linklater movie in terms of story and tone, being sunny and optimistic but not without its rocky moments; driven by dialogue that's often funny and insightful but not in an unrealistic, stagebound way; and studded with specific cultural and geographical touchstones without neglecting the universal potential of its story.
To wit, the most relevant touchstone to the project might be within Linklater's own universe: His Before Sunrise-Before Sunset-Before Midnight series, which is a little more like the Up series in the sense of checking in with a (fictional) relationship every nine years or so from 1995 to 2013. And all four of those films - the Before trilogy and Boyhood - just happen to star Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason's dad, separated from his mom by the time the movie gets going (which leaves an opening for some drunken step-dads to populate Mason's life before he gets to leave home).
Linklater opened the screening by joking that Boyhood "never leaves the borders of Texas, much like me before I was 20 years old." And it's not like the still Austin-based Linklater has gone far; even if much of Boyhood takes place in Houston, Austin certainly features in the film (as a great place to party and experience culture, naturally). He noted in a post-film Q&A that everything about the project was unconventional, from IFC giving him a little money over 12 years to make the film, to the 450-plus person cast and crew (huge for an indie if not a Hollywood epic).
Talking with folks in line before the film, there was a bit of a misconception going around that the film was more of documentary/fiction hybrid than was actually the case. Sure, Ellar Coltrane's performance is informed by his own life experiences, for he is a human actor - and it's fascinating to see how his acting style changes over time. But Linklater said that he knew the last shot of the film when he started pre-production about a decade and a half ago, and that outlines and ideas were in place going in. Hawke backed him up during the Q&A, saying to Linklater that it was "shocking to see how much the movie looks like how you said it would like 12 years ago."
In other words, it wasn't a collectively devised film, at least on a script and story level, though Hawke said he did consider it a "joint art project" and everyone on stage during the Q&A, including Coltrane - miraculously so much older than he was three hours before - talked about how the cast and crew had become a family by the end of the shoot. That artistic family also included actual blood relations to Linklater: His daughter, Lorelei, plays Mason's brother in the film; he jokes that he "would have been disowned as a father" had he not cast her at age 8, when she was an enthusiastic performer."
Linklater joked that he should call the making-of documentary "12 Years a Slave," given the amount of time the child actors put into the film well before they had reached the age of reason. But Coltrane said that as he got older, he was more grateful to be involved in the project, and that he took it more seriously.
Linklater said he shot the entire film on 35mm in order achieve a consistent look, given the complexity of working in digital during a time of technological upheaval.
Hawke's character gives his son a cleverly compiled mixtape of post-Beatles solo work, The Black Album, that jumps from "Band on the Run" to "My Sweet Lord" (if I remember the sequence right), and Linklater joked that he hopes it'll trigger a release of an iTunes compilation along the same lines. Hawke added that some of the Beatles gifting scene was cut, including his lecture on the drawbacks of their solo work, including "John's righteousness, Paul's goofiness and George's over-spirituality."
As I mentioned, Joe was the second Austin-based super-production making its local premiere at the fest, though, like Boyhood, it had already made its North American premiere elsewhere (at Toronto last year). So while neither qualified as an opening night gala event, Nicolas Cage nonetheless made the trip in, saying after the screening that he found Green's movie to be a perfect fit after taking about a year off to gather his bearings.
I'm inclined to agree: Joe is a great vehicle for Cage, who gets to punch cops, initiate dog fights, befriend and mentor a vulnerable young man in his own all-too-human way - and, ultimately, have a chance a balancing the scales of justice as things tend toward their logical, Southern Gothic conclusion. And it's great material for David Gordon Green, who's shown he has a talent for making compelling drama out of the raw materials of the South - often using amateur actors alongside the pros, filming landscapes and, er, low-income living situations in a fascinating but not exploitative or picturesque way.
The script, adapted from a book by the late crime writer Larry Brown, finds Joe (Cage), an ex-con who heads up a crew doing the dirty work of a logging company coming into contact with the bright, hard-working 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) and his alcoholic, abusive and ancient dad Wade (the excellent, scary Gary Poulter, plucked right off the streets of Austin, where he had reportedly been living, for the film). Gary does a great job killing trees - you see, the logging company couldn't cut them down were they healthy, but a few hacks with a hachet that distributes poison and the situation is solved - but his dad's a real piece of work, setting up a confrontation between the troubled but not demonic Joe and the probably irredeemable Wade.
It seems to be all about family and community in the Austin film world, and just as Boyhood has its share of non-professionals, so does Joe, which, beyond the once-homeless guy who plays Gary's dad, also features a guy whom Green met at a local barbecue joint as the foreman of a work crew, and Green's next-door neighbor as a sheriff (because Green thought he gave such sage advice, and could do the same for Joe in the film).
When I told my daughter, Naomi, that I'd be going to Adult Swim, her reaction was immediate and unequivocal: "The Children's Museum should be for children and not for adults," she said.
I've probably taken Naomi to the Children's Museum a dozen times over the past several years. If not for her, I would've never experienced Barbie: The Fashion Experience. While this was never my favorite exhibit in the museum - this temporary exhibit has since been rotated out - I admire the way the curators merged the world of fashion and design and encouraged children to investigate clothing design as a possible career choice.
Not long after I walked into the lobby at around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22 - under the giant yellow Bumblebee Transformer - I got an opportunity to ask Dr. Jeffrey Patchen, the CEO of the Children's Museum, what Adult Swim was all about.
"It's really an opportunity for adults to come here and explore the Children's Museum without children," he said. "And it's kind of funny because we talk about exploring your inner child. But really it's about allowing adults to have some unfettered time to enjoy the gallery, enjoy the experience with other adults. We get to split the proceeds of this with Sapphire Theatre. It's a collaboration which has been really great. "
Since this was the second Adult Swim event to take place (the first one took place in 2013), I asked Dr. Patchen if there was anything they learned from last year's event that they applied to this year's.
"There are more beverage stations and there are more places to secure food," he said. "And we also moved some of the food and beverage stations into places where the lines won't be so long."
He wasn't kidding. The first watering hole, as it were, was to be found by the Water Clock on level one, featuring a decent variety of alcoholic beverages. And as I was soon to discover, there was a beverage station parked on every floor. And the food! I'll get to that later.
Not far away from the beverage station, Heather Liden and Jeanne Jones of Indy Hoopers, dressed like inhabitants of some South Pacific island devoted to techno-raves, were showing off their hula-hooping skills. Eventually, as the night wore on, patrons would try their own skills at hula-hooping before the entire first floor of the museum exploded into a dance party.
I wasn't interested in hooping, or imbibing, at least just yet. I wanted to check out what was going on in my favorite part of the Children's Museum, the Dinosphere, on the lower level. There was Paleolithic percussion with D. Marquis and Conga J, and some guests were joining in trying to play along with their bone-shaped drumsticks on plastic bucket drums. But I was really just interested in the dinosaurs, the same as I've always been interested in dinosaurs, since I was five years old.
While pterodactyls (seemed) to fly in the sky-like sphere overhead over Stan the T-Rex, I talked with the Children's Museum's Mookie Harris, who, acting as my interpretive guide, introducing me to the some of the restored dinosaur skeletons that I've overlooked in the past, among them the ostrich-sized Bambiraptor hailing from the late Cretaceous which ended 65 million years ago.
"Too bad there's not a Barbie Raptor," I said.
"Actually," Harris said. "We do have a paleontologist Barbie. She came from the manufacturer that way. We had to dress up Ken ourselves."
Indeed there was a small display window with Ken and Barbie dolls at a mock dinosaur dig.
Another corporation besides Mattel - Barbie's manufacturer - had a presence in the Dinosphere: Rolls Royce. A gallery sponsor, Rolls reps were handing out glowing bracelets and necklaces to guests. Rolls, in addition to making glitzy cars, also manufactures component parts for high tech commercial and military jet engines and has a dozen manufacturing facilities in the state.
Maybe it was a coincidence that Rolls was located near a display of fossil skeletons. Rolls engines - whether they be jet or automobile - are pretty much wholly dependent on fossil fuels.
On my way out of Dinosphere, I said hello to a "Supercroc" skeletal reproduction. This 110-million-year-old croc was found in Niger, West Africa, where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1992-1994. The early '90s seems like a hundred million years ago to me now. And there's no going back to Niger now, for me really. Even if I was able to afford a trip there, I would be doing so at considerable risk of kidnapping by Al Qaida-affiliated groups. The Peace Corps evacuated its last volunteers from the country back in 2011.
I made my way out of the Dinosphere back into the world of smart phones, bling, and Chihuly Glass.
Under the wildly colorful underbelly of the 43-foot high sculpture of "The Fireworks of Glass," a rainbow's assortment of colored glass tubes and flowers constructed by Dale Chihuly, there was a slowly spinning, moving wheel called Christel's Kaleidoscope where you could sit down and be moved around 360 degrees every few minutes like a kaleidoscope lens.
All the humanoid riders reclined on the slow moving wheel of Christel's Kaleidoscope had their smartphone cameras pointed up to the ceiling, relaying their colorful experience to all their peeps.
I didn't partake of this particular activity. Instead, I chowed down on the offerings of Arnie's Pizza and California Pizza Kitchen, pizza and Thai Noodles with chicken respectively). But I did check out the "Planetarium Mash-Up II" shortly afterwards. This planetarium show took all the most exciting bits of all kinds of presentations and mashed them up with none of the boring science stuff. With its quickly moving, highly geometric Buckminster Fuller "Bucky Ball" and Mobius strip visuals - both of which turned into virtual vomit comets - I'm surprised no one unloaded the contents of their stomach on the planetarium floor.
On my way up to the fourth floor I had some braised beef tacos offered by Seasons 52 - there was a long line for that item. And then I sampled the Zinfandel Scallops (with apple fromage blanc, pistachio, and bacon) offered by Cerulean. In the Dow Science Center on the fourth floor I washed all this down with a free sample or two of Sun King Beer.
All of this imbibing was not without considerable cost to the environment, as my samples had to be accompanied by a plastic plates, fork, cups and napkins. So if the thousand-odd partiers each had five samples a piece, that would generate something like 15,000 distinct pieces of trash. And if this plastic went to landfill, it wouldn't degrade right away, even if you measured the degradation by geologic time.
And, who knows, maybe several million years from now a cockroach-biped-geologist will dig up this trash in some dig somewhere and describe it - as some geologists are already describing post Holocene geologic history - as the Anthropocene layer, a layer thick with plastics, heavy metals, and bling of all sorts including the iPhone 5.
I thought back to my Peace Corps days, when my fellow volunteers and I were content to eat out of common bowls or plates with villagers. Might it be a good thing if such a way of serving food came back into style?
I didn't let myself get too carried away by such thoughts as I entered the Dow Science Center. There were some adults at play in the construction zone, a pair of twenty-something women, Erin Webley and Kellyn Christmas were having about as much fun as two people can have on a pedal-powered earth mover. They didn't mind if I took pictures for NUVO.
Also on the top floor there was a long line forming for the carousel but I wasn't interested in that. I found myself dragged down by my inner child back into Dinosphere. This time I visited the Paleo prep lab where Lead Curator Dallas Evans was exhibiting a triceratops skull, still partially encased in plaster, found in South Dakota.
I got to talking with him a little bit about the exhibition with Evans who said, "You have to make sure real bones are out there because the kids always ask." Accordingly, a lion's share of the restored dinsosaur skeletons in Dinosphere are actually composed of real fossils.
By then it was just about midnight and it was time to go home.
The next day I showed my daughter Naomi the pictures I took during my time at Adult Swim. Her response: "Maybe it's a good thing after all, that there's an adult night, daddy. That way, when I'm older, I can go there one night, too."
Feb. 16 - With (hopefully) the last of this winter's super cold weather on its way out, it's clearly time to think about what's up for next season. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra today so accommodated us by releasing its programming schedule from this September through the following June. As always we'll have a season dominated by its Classical Series and well supported by its Pops Series -- both sets of subscription concerts for 2014-2015.
ISO music director Krzysztof Urbański returns for his fourth season, starting with the Opening Night Gala on Sept. 14. It includes orchestral excerpts from Carmen and Beethoven's first piano concerto with pianist Jeremy Denk. During the classical season Urbański will be conducting familiar repertoire by Brahms, Beethoven and Mahler, works the patrons always enjoy hearing. He will feature, in addition, a midwinter Russian festival entitled "War, Fate and Fantasy" in which he concludes with the first ISO performance of Shostakovich's monumental Symphony No. 7 ("Leningrad"), a musical memoir of Nazi-Germany's 1941 siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The festival will also feature both major and lesser-known works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Urbański ends the season in grand style with the ISO's first performance in four years of Beethoven's Ninth, with of course the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir (their usual programming frequency of this "greatest of all symphonies" is every three years).
"I've programmed the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's classical season with music that inspires me personally, and challenges me as a conductor," said Urbański. "I love the sounds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially the stories and events in history told through works by Russian composers, and the power portrayed in late-Romantic works. It's gratifying to present a season of music that the orchestra loves to play and audiences will love to hear."
Former ISO music director Mario Venzago will return to the podium (where "red scarfs" will undoubtedly be seen in abundance as they were at his last fall's appearance). He will feature a performance of Beethoven's "Eroica." ISO conductor laureate Raymond Leppard returns to the Classical Series with works by Elgar. In addition, the ISO will present performance debuts of eight new works, including principal trombonist Jim Beckel's Brass Concerto.
Another season highlight will be the ISO's first performance of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat (The Soldier's Tale), normally scored for a chamber ensemble of seven players wielding winds, brass, percussion and a solo violin -- this time using a libretto by Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut.
Jack Everly returns once again to lead the ISO Pops Series. He has programmed a season with a nod to the leading men -- the artists, composers, singers, songwriters, actors and creators -- who left a significant mark on American music and film from the last century. Highlights include a tribute to the Beatles, to the late Marvin Hamlisch, to the signature songs of Broadway's leading men. Saxophonist Kenny G returns for two performances. Finally, for Valentine's day, Everly will conduct Max Steiner's music to the famed movie Casablanca as it is being shown on the "big" screen -- clearly with the music being stripped from the film track. It may include parts of Herman Hupfeld's signature song, "As Time Goes by."
It is noteworthy that the number of classical concerts for the upcoming season has increased from 14 to 18, suggesting a bit of a financial recovery from the contract lockout of 2012. However, counting the Opening Night Gala, Urbański will be on the podium for only eight of them--less than half the season. When asked about it, an ISO spokesperson stated, "Krzysztof is just in demand everywhere. We're glad to get him whenever we can." Here is the calendar of events for all the ISO series currently programmed.
Spirit & Place is seeking a few good programs for its 2014 festival, running Nov. 7-16 and structured around the theme of "journey." Organizations of all stripes can apply to spiritandplace.org before the submission deadline of March 7 at 5 p.m. The cost is $400 to participate for accepted programs, with training, resources and program support from the festival included in the deal.
Here's more about the theme from Spirit & Place's news release:
The JOURNEY between "here" and "there" is filled with movement and meaning. How is this movement shaping - and being shaped by - identity, spirituality, public policy, and civic life? From the instruments of mobility in all its forms (education, money, waterways, trails, bus lines, bike lanes, etc.), to the reasons (quality of life, pilgrimmage, self-expression, community development, health, persecution, etc.), JOURNEY will explore the dynamic passages of people and places.
What past journeys inform present life? What new journeys do we need to make together to catalyze community change? What new adventures and pathways need to be explored? The 2014 festival will explore these and other questions through performances, exhibits, workshops, panel discussions and other innovative programs that bring us together across the boundaries of difference.
[A+E] Festivals + Parties
[A+E] Sports + Recreation
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums