Saturday, July 25, 2015

What I'm Watching: Solaris (1972)

Posted By on Sat, Jul 25, 2015 at 9:00 AM

A gorgeous earthly landscape in Solaris - MOSFILM
  • Mosfilm
  • A gorgeous earthly landscape in Solaris
On vacation recently, my wife and I both read Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris, which she grabbed in haste from the shelf as we headed out the door. It was a curious choice, as she doesn’t read much science fiction; neither do I, really, but I had read and enjoyed Lem’s absolutely fascinating Imaginary Magnitude, a collection of introductions to nonexistent books. I’m sure I’m not the first to call Imaginary Magnitude “Borgesian” (a high compliment indeed), so I was keen finally to get to Solaris.

Though both my wife and I were sort of lukewarm on the novel, I nevertheless declared that we’d be embarking on the Solaris Project, in which we would watch both film versions of the book: the 1972 version by Andrei Tarkovsky, and the 2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh. (I recently learned that the book was made into a Russian television movie in 1968, but I’m not sure that I’m enough of a completist to seek it out.) I’d seen them both before, but not for approximately 20 and 10 years, respectively. So I was looking forward to revisiting them, as I admire both directors, albeit for different reasons.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Style Patrol: All Your 'Based Arounds' Are Belong to Us

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 4:05 PM

  • Brad Calkins
Many years ago, three Berkeley professors gave me an oral examination for a doctorate in comparative literature. When I mentioned that a certain text was "centered around" a theme, one of the profs — a well-known critical theory maven and quasi-performance artist — made a sour face. "It's centered on," she said. "I'm sorry, but people make that mistake so often. You can't center something around anything, because the center is in the center."

I've avoided the phrase "centered around" ever since — and, frankly, that may be the most useful instruction the professor ever gave me. I think of it every time I edit a story where the writer uses the equally baffling — and strangely popular — phrase "based around."

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vermont Comedy Club to Open in November

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 3:42 PM

Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick in front of the future VCC - DAN BOLLES
  • Dan Bolles
  • Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick in front of the future VCC
Stop me if you've heard this one before. A horse, a priest and Donald Trump walk into a bar, look around and say, "Holy shit. It's a comedy club in Burlington!"

OK, so maybe my punchline needs a little work. But starting the third week of November I could brush up on my joke construction at the Vermont Comedy Club. No joke. Co-owners, comedy moguls and sickeningly cute married couple Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick — seen above in a photo taken by a guy named Dan Bowles, which is kinda freakin' me out — announced earlier this week that they have finally broken ground on their long-awaited comedy club.

The venue, which will take up residence in the old Armory building on Main Street in Burlington — formerly home Sh-Na-Na's and Hunt's and also occupied by the Hilton Garden Inn — will open in November with the 2015 Vermont's Funniest Comedian competition. Appropriate for the soon-to-be epicenter of local comedy. (Obviously, based on the previous joke, I will not be competing.)

In a press release announcing the groundbreaking, Miller and Hartswick and developer Erik Hoekstra said a bunch of stuff you'd expect to see in a glowing press release. ("We're totes pumped, you guys." "This will be great for the children." "I just wanna thank God and give 110%." "Feel the Bern." And so on.)

OK, I made up those quotes, because I hate reading press releases. But the point is this: After well more than a year of planning and speculation, VCC is going to open. For real. And that's great news. (Also cool news: The team behind hot BTV eatery Butch + Babe's is designing the VCC menu.)

Stay tuned for updates — and better jokes — as events warrant.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

UPDATE: Vermonters Bring Home the Gold at the National Senior Games

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 5:43 PM

  • File illustration by Paul Laud
Vermonters Flo Meiler and Barbara Jordan are two hard-core medal heads: As readers may recall from Seven Days' July 8, 2015, Cartoon Issue story, "Silver and Gold," Meiler, 81, of Shelburne, and Jordan, 79, of South Burlington, are longtime friends, training partners and competitors in the National Senior Games, aka "Senior Olympics." For nearly two decades, the pair of track-and-field stars have been breaking world and national records in their age category.

But in 2013, Jordan's athletic career was nearly derailed by a diagnosis of breast and lung cancer, which claimed part of her lung. As recently as two weeks ago, Jordan wasn't even sure if she'd be up for competing in this year's games, which were held in various cities in Minnesota from July 3 to 16.

“I almost didn’t go," Jordan says. "I said to my doctor, 'Are you sure I won’t drop dead on the track?' He said, ‘No, just go for it!’”

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

What I'm Watching: The 2015 'Gathering of the Juggalos' Infomercial

Posted By on Sat, Jul 18, 2015 at 9:01 AM

Three Juggalos from the future watch Juggalos from the present day on the video screen of a time machine. - What, that doesn't make sense to you? - PSYCHOPATHIC RECORDS
  • Psychopathic Records
  • Three Juggalos from the future watch Juggalos from the present day on the video screen of a time machine.What, that doesn't make sense to you?
Every year around this time, the far-flung organisms of a colorful and peculiarly American species converge on their ancestral spawning grounds in the Midwest. There they engage in ritualistic behavior unheard of anywhere else in the animal kingdom. These rituals include arrhythmic gyrations, decorative facial camouflage and the liberal consumption and dispersion of the brightly colored nectar on which the species subsists.

I’m referring, of course, to the annual Gathering of the Juggalos.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

The First 50 Pages: The Remedy

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 3:00 PM


In this monthly Live Culture feature, I review the first 50 pages of a local book — and sometimes, if I feel like it, more.

Summer's my favorite time to stay up late reading scary books. So I checked out The Remedy, a horror novel set in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom from Ludlow writer Asher Ellis (Full Fathom Five Digital, 259 pages. $3.99).

The author
Ellis holds an MFA from the University of Southern Maine and teaches English at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire (here's his website). His publisher is the new digital imprint of Full Fathom Five, author James Frey's book packaging company, so the book is available only in e-formats.

The deal
The Remedy opens with two rednecks pounding beers at a desolate hunting camp. If you guessed a horrible fate will shortly befall them, horror is clearly your genre.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Dead Reckoning: 'Wake Up to Dying' Exhibit Opens in Burlington

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 at 5:52 PM

Executive director Nina Thompson's design of a traveling trailer exhibit that can be erected wherever WUTD events are held - WAKE UP TO DYING PROJECT
  • Wake Up to Dying Project
  • Executive director Nina Thompson's design of a traveling trailer exhibit that can be erected wherever WUTD events are held
It’s summer in Vermont, which means it’s the season for fairs and festivals around such popular interests as craft beer, classic cars, hot air balloons and … dying?

Yup, you read that right. This week, the Wake Up to Dying Project comes to Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library from Thursday through Sunday, July 16-19. Its goal is to help Vermonters broach that difficult, painful yet inevitable subject most of us prefer not to think about until it’s unwillingly thrust upon us.

These days, even national journalists seem increasingly averse to using the verb “died” in stories, opting instead for the more wishy-washy “passed away.” Nevertheless, the subjects of death and dying are generating considerable public interest and attention — and not just among the old or infirm who are nearest to it.

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A Cardboard Pinball Machine Makes Its Entrance at Tilt

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 at 4:33 PM

  • Cardboard Teck Instantute
  • PinBox 3000

Ben T. Matchstick
and Pete Talbot brought an unlikely — and much quieter — pinball machine to Tilt Classic Arcade and Ale House in South Burlington on Sunday evening. The PinBox 3000 Arcade Pinball System is made of cardboard.

The central Vermont-based founders and self-appointed "professors" of the Cardboard Teck Instantute (CTI) allowed customers to try out their latest creation as they celebrated a successful Kickstarter campaign. Matchstick and Talbot exceeded their $10,000 goal, and will use the funds to produce and deliver 300 of the DIY devices.

The 15-by-22-inch PinBox 3000 is a non-virtual-reality gaming device consisting of 12 sheets of recycled, laser-cut cardboard that can be assembled in about an hour, its makers explained. It comes with marbles, rubber bands (the elastic power behind the ball launcher), an idea book and instructions. For extra fun, two PinBox 3000s can be locked together, back to back, for what Matchstick and Talbot call "BattleMode!" Each set comes with two interchangeable play boards that present endless opportunities for customization.

Matchstick and Talbot arrived at Tilt slightly after 6 p.m. on Sunday. Moments after they set down two PinBox 3000 prototypes on the end of the bar, a family that had been heading out the door instead gravitated toward the cardboard fun machines. Emily Guynup, 11, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., couldn't keep her hands off the "Grottoblaster" (so named after the "interactive hip-hop-inspired puppet adventure" the professors produced last year). "I think this game is amazing," she said.

If she had her own, Emily said, "I would put in sheep and paint it gold all over."

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

What I'm Watching: 'Yacht Rock'

Posted By on Sat, Jul 11, 2015 at 9:02 AM

J.D. Ryznar (left), as Michael McDonald, and Hunter Stair, as Kenny Loggins, belting out some smooth tunes in "Yacht Rock" - CHANNEL101.COM
  • J.D. Ryznar (left), as Michael McDonald, and Hunter Stair, as Kenny Loggins, belting out some smooth tunes in "Yacht Rock"
It’s hard to believe that the online series “Yacht Rock” is now 10 years old. But Rolling Stone’s (deliriously overlong, yet still somehow incomplete) “oral history” of the show recently made me aware that somehow this internet thing has been around for a while. Huh.

In the decade that has passed since this hilarious series premiered on the still-vibrant, many of us have come to take for granted that much of our filmed and televised entertainment will be delivered to us internetically. For the moment, at least, the identity of the internet is that of a video-delivery system.

But when “Yacht Rock” premiered in 2005, that was not the case. It wasn’t much of a surprise last year when Amazon’s online series “Transparent” won so many Golden Globes; 10 years ago, by contrast, online series were definitely a fringe phenomenon. “Yacht Rock” was not the first such series (I’m not sure anyone knows what was), but it was certainly a trailblazer.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Lit News: Summer Readings, Rants & Awards

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 3:03 PM

click image Left to right: Michael Coffey, Penelope Cray and Rebecca Makkai, part of the NER Reading Series - COURTESY OF THE NEW ENGLAND REVIEW
  • Courtesy of the New England Review
  • Left to right: Michael Coffey, Penelope Cray and Rebecca Makkai, part of the NER Reading Series

July Readings

Concerned about the gentrification of Burlington's South End? You may find like minds at a reading this Saturday celebrating the release of Pine Street Poets, a collaboration of the Pine Street Poets' Workshop and Honeybee Press.

Honeybee publisher and part-time Vermonter Ben Aleshire sent us a press release for the event (Saturday, July 11, 8 p.m., at the Green Door Studio in Burlington; $5 includes book and refreshments) accompanied by a "brief anti-gentrification rant," which runs thus:

Events such as these may soon become a thing of the past. How long until Pine Street’s vibrant community of artists are pushed out to make room for high-end condos and craft cocktail bars for the upper-middle class to slake their un-ending thirst in Capitalism’s trough and luxuriate in their delusion of participating in the cultural cache [sic] of the very ‘Arts District’ they disemboweled? Although the poems in Pine Street Poets do not directly deal with this theme, as a product of the South End, they represent one of the many cultural contributions hanging beneath gentrification’s Sword of Damocles.

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