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2014 Minnesota Fringe Festival - rehearsals and first day

Just before the Minnesota Fringe Festival formally got underway, a family crisis intervened. Everyone's fine, but I spend most of Friday on the phone and will be going out of town next week. So please forgive shortened coverage and abbreviated posting on LiveJournal.

I'm not going to add pictures to these posts, but will link to my public FB galleries and YouTube videos.

20140727-29 Fringe Rehearsals Crime Sex Speakeasy
20140730- Fringe from Ootiefest onward (will be added to)

I went to three run-throughs/dress rehearsals. All were great in their own way and recommended.

Crime and Punishment. Adapted from the novel, the performance takes place in the basement of The Soap Factory. 80 people at a time will wear masks (though not speak) and wander around as the show takes place around them. The immersive experience will be different for everyone. Creepy and unique. Probably not for everyone, but if you like your Fringe really fringy, this is the one to get to. It's already selling out, so check availability. My interview with Noah Bremer and others of "Crime and Punishment" with music and clips.

The Sex (Ed) Show. Courtney McLean and the Dirty Curls is always a fun, raunchy show. Sort of like filking sex. This show is a combination of skits and songs that are hilarious and touching (in a good way), ranging from "Sidecar" (about wanting grandchildren but realizing that one needs children first) to "The MILF Rap" and instruction on how to use a condom.

Speakeasy is a recreation of a Roaring 20s nightclub. A Bring-Your-Own-Venue, with comfy sofas and cafe tables, it's the dance studio of the producers. Limited to around 75 at a time, but even good for kids. The rehearsal I went to didn't have the whole cast, but the dancing was fun and energetic. They were so impressed by my photography that they asked me to write a skit for them... so it's possible I may actually be in one of the shows. My interviews with cast members of "Speakeasy" with a few dance clips.

Existentia. Yet another Bring-Your-Own-Venue. Though downtown, it has free parking and the show itself is limited to 30 people. Indeed, calling it a "show" or "performance" isn't quite right. The audience fills out a form about their travel experiences and is divided into groups. Each group goes to a station where a cast member/travel agent guides you through various experiences, from songs to smells, to help you determine where you want to travel to. Then you move on to the next one, cycling through all five stations. I gather this isn't the first time for "Existentia" at the MN Fringe, but having their own office space helps establish the travel agency atmosphere, with couches in the waiting lounge and appropriate tables for the groups. I'm hesitant to rate this one at all, but I suspect you'll learn a little about yourself, and it's really easy to get to know your fellow travelers. A potentially valuable experience.

Continuing at 2014 Fringe Festival -- my final four shows and other finery
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I Am A Convergence and So Can You -- updated for 2014

Welcome to Convergence 2014

A Brief Introduction For The First Time Con-Goer

or I am a Convergence, and so can you

By Baron Dave Romm

Updated for 2014 CE: This is an update of I Am A Convergence And So Can You, which I created in 2012 and updated in 2013. Mostly, what I've done is update the links and add a few bits. The advice, snark and jokes are largely the same.

Claimer: I'm Dave Romm, aka DavE or Baron Dave. I'm not on the Convergence Committee and have no direct relationship with the convention except as a member, panelist (but not this year) and, of course, as a volunteer in several capacities. I produced Shockwave Radio Theater, a science fiction program, for almost thirty years, and talked to many authors, actors, con runners and costumers, among others. I've been to all the Convergences, and to scores of other conventions of various sizes. I was Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon in 1990 and Marscon in 2004. Many people have asked about coming to Convergence: What should I see? What is there to do? Let me take you on a short guide, from a personal perspective.

Welcome to Convergence! There is no Neofan's Guide, as such, though the con provides a What is CONvergence page, but I've provided an introduction to new fans for other conventions so have the template for this Convergence overview. Everyone is amazingly friendly and will be happy to answer any questions you have. Just be prepared to get different answers from different people.

I'll note here that the Convergence itself likes to be spelled CONvergence, but I'm too 20th Century. The con's shorthand is CVG, good for texting or keeping things short. Unlike here.
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Baron Dave Romm is a real baron of a fake country. He produced Shockwave Radio Theater, for nearly thirty years. He likes being weird at science fiction conventions, and encourages others to be so. This means you.
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Minicon, Myrna, Matisse

A few things to talk about, in a longer and more narrative venue than Facebook

Minicon 49

Well, I had a great time. Largely because I took it easy and didn't have a lot of running around to do. Mom was at the top of her game... at age 89. I went home early every night. At least twice, mom stayed up until 3am...

mplspunky as a sub-head for Opening and Closing Ceremonies worked out well. She was helpful and comfortable in front of an audience. The Guest of Honor were wonderful. Janny Wurts agreed to play the bagpipes and make a grand entrance at Opening Ceremonies, which she did. Toni and I spurred along the raging controversy about whether the event is "Opening Ceremony" or "Opening Ceremonies". Whee!

Public Facebook Galleries:
20140413-18 Minicon pre-con, Thursday and Friday"
20140419-21 Minicon Saturday, Sunday and Monday
20140426 Minicon 49 Post-Mortem
Video: "Scotland the Brave/Amazing Grace" Janny Wurts April 19, 2014 (approved by Janny for the sound, not the vid)

I only regret the pictures I didn't take, and I didn't take one of Myrna this year. We talked for a bit. and she seemed fine. I knew I'd be posting a lot of pictures and wanted to save some time. Humph.

A pattern seems to be that men die before big events, and women die after. Myrna looked like she was having a good time at Minicon, and died a few days later.

I understand and respect when people ask me not to take their photo. But please, understand that a recording of an event is not just for you. I will try harder in the future to talk you into letting me take a good photo of you.

Myrna at the Metrodome for the wedding of Laurel and Kevin 9/17/2005. This is the picture used by Gregg at the memorial, cropped just for her face.

Myrna at Conjecture, 10/14/11

"Smooooothing" for Myrna at the Minicon 49 Post-Mortem 4/26/14

Also: Myrna at Minicon April 7 (I think), 2007


The Mpls Institute of Arts has a special showing of Matisse sketches, paintings and sculptures from the Baltimore Museum of Art.

I confess, I've never quite understood all the fuss about Matisse, and this exhibit didn't help me understand any better. He's not a particularly good draftman: His faces are usually poor, his postures uncomfortable and everyone in his paintings looks sad. There are very few smiles in his pictures

Several people, including two docents, weighed in on this. Matisse was very demanding of his models, and frequently had them posing for up to 12 hours. This still seems iffy: Do the face first, or after a bathroom break. One docent tried to say that it was commentary on the hard life of women at the time. No, that doesn't work, as he has pictures of women watching parades or wearing fancy hats. If he wanted social commentary, he'd choose other subjects. He was all about composition.

I like how he uses colors to make planes and add a three dimensional depth to a flat picture. But others have done the same, better. Ah well. Yet another reason I'm a reviewer, not a docent. The exhibit is worth seeing, and you might get more out of it than I did.
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NYC for Mom's Windows, Pool Party pics, etc.

I'm a bit behind in reporting to LJ. On the plus (or at least interesting to me) side is that I now have more than 18,000 photos on Facebook. And I still get comments/likes from pics posted five years ago. So it's worth the effort to post and annotate.

Public Facebook Gallery: 20140301 MN-StF Pool Party

A few weeks ago, my mother was informed that her apartment, one of 365 units in a high-rise complex on Roosevelt, Island NY (technically part of Manhattan) would have her long-awaited window installation. She wasn't read, and called me in to to help. I didn't have time for fannish meet-ups, and barely made it into Manhattan proper at all, but we did clear enough space for the installers and put everything back.

Public Facebook Gallery: 20140214-23 Visiting Mom in NYC

A few pics under the cut, showing the effort around just one of the three windows.

My original plan was to make an LJ report with more before and after photos and such, but I wound up with the equivalent of con crud after the ten-day trip, and Other Things have snuck up. So let me just put the list of things we donated to the Thrift Shop here, behind the cut. This is a pretty rough count, as I did a lot on the fly, but it's what we're claiming as tax deduction:

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Why I don't like fanfic: Sherlock Holmes Edition

I just finished reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, and have been watching Elementary on American TV and just saw the third season of the British Sherlock. The Robert Downey Sherlock movies and the vaguely Holmesian House are in the not-too-distant past. A great deal has been written about Sherlock Holmes. Now, it's my turn. A long essay, as befitting pre-social media literature.

First up: The new BBC "Sherlock" series, set in today's world. Quick reaction: No. It's sometimes fun to watch fanboy wet dreams, but fails as a Sherlock Holmes update.

The Sign of the Three was both painful and hilarious. Incredibly bad fanfic, that gets the characters all wrong. Not merely outside canon, but just wrong. I don't mind expanded roles for Mary, Watson's wife, who has a medium part in the novel "The Sign of the Four" and is mentioned (sometimes by the wrong name) in several other stories. I'm not bothered by the greater shift toward Lestrade (one of several Scotland Yard detectives in the stories, and Sherlock's least respected) or Mycroft (who is very, very different physically) or an expanded role for Mrs. Hudson (who's more like Poirot's Miss. Lemon). But this British series is fanfic (which they admit in the commentaries on the DVD). I don't like fanfic. The nod to slash between Holmes and Watson is cringeworthy. Playing with the deerstalker cap is amusing, but you can't get away with such for much.

His Last Bow, the third episode of season three, was similarly awful. Completely at odds with the Conan Doyle canon and not particularly believable outside of it. they did to Mary what they had done to Irene Adler in the second season, and it just doesn't work except as fanfic. Not particularly good fanfic.

The original A. Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories can be divided into two groups: The stories written until he got tired of writing them, and the later stories after he brought Sherlock back from the dead.

Here's my take: Anything after The Final Problem is not canon. I'll accept "The Hound of the Baskervilles", which was written during the interregnum and takes place before the events at Reichenbach Falls..

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The updated Holmes stories, set in present times, always have one odd anomaly: No one seems to have read A. Conan Doyle. It's one thing to 'reboot' the series, it's another to pretend that the annals of crime do not contain century-old cases. In many of these shows, I would prefer that they aren't reimaging Sherlock Holmes but do something similar, with a nod to the originals, and just keep going from there.

Still, credit where credit is due: "Elementary" gets a lot wrong, but gets a lot right. Sherlock Holmes sounds more like Sherlock Holmes than usual. The nods to the canon stories are fun but fleeting. Joan Watson is intelligent and adds to the investigations. To be sure, the misses are striking. Jonny Lee Miller is physically wrong for the part. The attempt to introduce Mycroft failed. But for the most part, "Elementary" doesn't try to graft the 1890's onto the 2010's, and the show is closer to "The Mentalist" or "CSI" than any fog-enshrouded Victorian recreation.

So I'll keep watching "Elementary" and even the BBC series if it gets to a fourth year, but my disbelief suspenders are stretched. But I wish modern adaptations would pay closer attention to the canon stories than to the wet dreams of fanboys. There is a reason that people still read Sherlock Holmes and not the "more serious" works of A. Conan Doyle. Please don't throw that away.
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Urban Archeology: slide show & lecture at the downtown library Jan. 18 2-3pm

You're all invited!

I've been taking photos of Nicollet Avenue Repaving project for more than two years. I've posted photos in chronological order. The Minneapolis Central Library has encouraged me to put a few of them in some sort of coherent order for Urban Archeology: The Nicollet Repaving Project.

Free, at the downtown Library, 300 Nicollet Ave., Jan. 18, 2-3pm. Right before the MN-StF meeting!

I've been pulling photos to show in sequence, and have encouraged the project supervisors to come to answer any questions I can't answer.

This was a pretty big deal for those of us who live on Nicollet Ave between Lake and 40th, and for anyone who travels the route.

I dug into the history of the area, and my oldest photograph is from 1879. The Lake & 31st station for the "Motor Line" steam-powered streetcars; where the bus station is today. I also have pics of the baseball stadium where my condos and the Wells Fargo bank is.

And pics of the paving stones, streetcar rails, sewer structures, water mains, several different kinds if dirt/gravel, trees, traffic lights, etc etc etc. The hard part will be only talking for an hour. Anyone who has heard me geek out about the photos (which is many of you) know the fascinating details of the streets you don't think twice about driving over.

Facebook Calendar: Urban Archaeology: The Nicollet Avenue Repaving Project

The movie I made last year about the work done above and below ground at Lake & 31st:

Our Story So Far
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One Day As An Engineer at Fresh Air Radio

This story is for Bubo G. Gear. We were discussing Patti Smith's punk poetry and I mentioned the following incident, saying I probably shouldn't post it on Facebook. So here it is, in all its glory.

NSFW, so the naughty bits will be under an LJ cut (not that you'll notice from the link in FB).

One Day As An Engineer at Fresh Air Radio

In the early days, KFAI-FM was a small, 10-watt (at best) station that was, as I used to say, "exclusive to parts of South Minneapolis". The station began broadcasting in 1978, and I joined in 1979 for Shockwave Radio. Even though non-profit and (mostly) volunteer run, we were required to have 3rd Class Broadcasting licenses, meaning we could handle the studio controls.

One day, probably circa 1980 or so, I was asked to be the engineer for a remote broadcast. The Urban Guerillas, a local Mpls punk band, was giving a concert at nearby Powderhorn Park. I didn't have to do much, claimed the guy who recruited me, but the station needed someone in the studio for legal reasons and if anything happened to the tech during the concert. Okay, I thought, an easy gig for which I get volunteer credit.

I sit down in the studio, alone in the station on the weekend, scan the settings, and get a little bored. Punk rock isn't my kind of music, and I'm sort of half-listening while absorbing more of the equipment and any reading material on hand. The live concert is going well and I don't need to do much but adjust the pots (volume controls) now and again.

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The rest of the concert went smoothly, at least from a technical perspective. No one else called and no one said anything afterward. One of the many reasons I remain a volunteer at KFAI to this day.
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Channukah Chaiku -- delivered

Carole and I had a lovely Thanksgiving in Washington DC with family and friends.

Public Facebook galleries:
20131126-28 Thanksgiving in DC Part I
20131129-1201 Thanksgiving in DC Part II

Since I posted the Channukah Chaiku on LJ, I thought LJ would be the place for a little exposition.

Antonia, lighting the Channukah candles for the second night. 12/28/13

Antonia, with my two gifts. (We combined the first and second night.) First, the headlamp. She used this to proper effect while riding her scooter.

Forehead light straps on
Light emitting diodes charge
Darkness to banish

Here, she wears it while painting on a Buddha Board. The brush is wet with water, allowing her to "paint" what she wants. When it dries, the board goes back to serenity.

Bright color when wet
Free the imagination
Live in the moment

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For the completists: The other Channukah Chaiku referred to a) a notecard collection of the only synagog designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, b) a tin plate emblazoned with various Minnesota iconography, and c) the moose poop are chocolates. (is chocolates?)
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Channukah Chaiku

This year, Channukah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day. That is, the first night of Channukah (in whatever spelling) is the evening before, and the traditional afternoon Thanksgiving feast will be on the first day.

So Carole and I will be around to help celebrate with Antonia, my 6 1/2 year old niece. I bought her eight presents; Channukah isn't as commercial as Christmas so we exchange smaller gifts and mainly the first night or two, with the equivalent of stocking stuffers the other nights.

Plan: Make eight envelopes, each with a note and colored dots. The colored dots match up with the real gift which will be hidden somewhere (or at least otherwise undistinguished).

And for each gift, I have written a Channukah Chaiku. I may change these by the time we leave, but at the moment:

Forehead light straps on
Light emitting diodes charge
Darkness to banish

Bright color when wet
Free the imagination
Live in the moment

Spirit wolf message
with Love from Minnesota
Constant reminder

An architect's dream
Holds Torah and Menorah
In wingéd word

Deal with the results
Minnesota memories
A trick is a treat

Stuff from your pocket
Pencils and coins and earrings
All in one safe place

An eagle soars high
Your thoughts take wing as you write
Let the ideas flow

It is said moose poop
Is not all that it may seem
That is up to you

I also got gifts for other family members, but haven't written their chaikus yet.
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Les Miserables: Maybe the movie is better

I had Les Misérables on the Kindle, so read it a bit at a time. Glad I went that route, as reading a book that thick in bed would have given me carpal tunnel syndrome. I never quite got into it, as Victor Hugo went on these long tangents about battles, French kings, slang, and "recent" French history, using classical allusions and talking about people his 1860s audience probably knew well but didn't mean anything to me.

Amid the essays and political pronouncements, the book follows the lives of several people. With few exceptions, I didn't like them. Jean Valjean is an interesting character, but let's face it: He's an idiot. Sort of Like McTeague, he's not very smart but tries to do the right thing... and doesn't always. Javert doesn't ring true. Thénardier was too convenient as a deus ex machina. To talk more would involve spoilers, so you'll have to let me be general.

I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Didn't like Les Miserables. Ah well. I've added the most recent movie to my Netflix queue.

-- There were good parts, and I agreed with much of his basic take on society. Some quotes I pulled (and put on FB):

"Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than material improvement. To know is a sacrament, to think is the prime necessity, truth is nourishment as well as gain. A reason which fasts from science and wisdom grows thin. Let us enter equal complain against stomachs and minds which to not eat. If there is anything more heart-breaking than a body perishing for lack of bread, it is a soul which is dying from hunger for the light." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

"Mud can never enjoy a good fame." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

"Where are your free and compulsory schools? Does every one know how to read in the land of Dante and of Michael Angelo? Have you made public schools of your barracks? Have you not, like ourselves, an opulent war-budget and a paltry budget of education? Have not you also that passive obedience which is so easily converted into soldierly obedience? military establishment which pushes the regulations to the extreme of firing upon Garibaldi; that is to say, upon the living honor of Italy? Let us subject your social order to examination, let us take it where it stands and as it stands, let us view its flagrant offences, show me the woman and the child. It is by the amount of protection with which these two feeble creatures are surrounded that the degree of civilization is to be measured." -- Victor Hugo, Letter to M. Daelli, Publisher of the Italian translation of Les Miserables, 1862

-- If you've gotten e-mail from me, you might have encountered these in my sigfile:

"The invention of printing was the greatest event in history. It was the parent revolution; it was the fundamental change in mankind's mode of expression, it was human thought doffing one garment to clothe itself in another; it was the complete and definitive sloughing off of the skin of a serpent, which, since the time of Adam, has symbolized intelligence." -- Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

"If we try to form a collective picture of the combines results of printing down to modern times, does not this total picture seem to use like an immense structure, having the whole world for its foundation, a building upon which humanity has worked without cease and whose monstrous head is lost in the impenetrable mist of the future? This printed tower is the swarming ant-hill of the intelligences. It is the beehive where all the imaginations, those golden bees, arrive with their honey. The building has a thousand stories." -- Victor Hugo (predicting blogs, perhaps), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)