Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Writing Contest Unwritten Rules, Revisited

I didn’t know what to blog about today, until Hardingfele suggested our conversation regarding the Public Radio writing contest (you may remember my post about their unwritten rules), so here goes: Hardingfele sent me her story today, and I said it wouldn’t win because it wasn’t the right style. She asked what it was missing, and I said:

“I don’t know how to explain it. They are looking for a very particular style of writing, which I neither like nor can emulate. There is a pervading sense of sorrow, and the protagonist is flawed but comes to realize it by the end of the story. I don’t have any interest in reading about over privileged white women realizing that their lives aren’t perfect because they are focusing on unimportant things, unless it is that they have a spiritual epiphany, which they never did in the winning stories. To me, that is the only thing that could fill all these women’s yearnings. So you have to address the angst that only a spiritual life can fix, but without bringing spirituality into it.”

She said, “You nailed that, exactly.” That got us thinking about how we both have leftist sensibilities, but upper middle class white liberals do drive us crazy, and I think these stories provide the key. When you don’t have God in your life, but your material needs are all fulfilled, you feel a deep longing that people who either are striving to survive or who have a relationship with God don’t have. Then you look around you, trying to fill that emptiness but not with God, and you settle on trying to change things that are unjust, but you focus on the wrong things. For example, Hardingfele told me about a “Safety Pin Ally” thing, in which whites full of liberal guilt wear safety pins to show their solidarity with people of color. Now I am not a person of color, so I cannot speak for them, but I imagine such a move would strike me as an empty gesture. How hard is it to wear a safety pin? What does it cost the wearer? It does not involve any work or having to face the fact that you do have advantages because of your own whiteness. I have been thinking for the last few months about what my response to racism could be that would be helpful, and I am thinking of volunteer work. It seems more productive to ask the victims of racism what they actually need (mentoring?) rather than wearing a pin they never asked you to wear.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Pack Are Back! Phew!

I am very happy because the Packers finally won last night. It had been a while! Their offense scored right away after a monster drive down the field, and I thought, “At least they have shown up to play!” But the defense did not seem capable of stopping the Eagles from answering with their own touchdown. However, after that the defense started to come to life too, batting the ball down and even intercepting it, while the offense kept racking up points. And this was on the road – and the Eagles were undefeated at home! It’s good to have our Pack back! Though I do have to admit that the officiating seemed weirdly biased towards the Packers. Now let’s see if they can keep up this momentum…

In sad sports news, a soccer team from Brazil just died in a plane crash as they were on their way to a tournament. They were a small-time team who had really begun to coalesce the last couple of years, and this year they were on their way to the second-tier championship, with their sights on the first-tier one next year. It was a Cinderella story with a tragic ending. Pray for them and their devastated fans.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend Hiking and Jazz

Sorry for the long silence. I hope my readers had a good Thanksgiving – mine was very relaxing! Wednesday evening Travalon and I started off our four-day weekend by going to Octopi for their Trivia Night. Our team (“Famous Hats”) came in fourth out of eleven, and that was just the two of us versus teams with about six people. We want to try it again sometime!

Thanksgiving Day Travalon and I spent a few hours with his mother, then we went for a hike on Tivoli Island in Watertown, and then we went to Rich’s crazy dinner. There were about twenty people there, including most of the Rosary Ladies, two little kids and a whole enclave of vegetarians at one end of the table. A political discussion did break out among the vegetarians, but I was able to avoid it from where I was sitting just at the edge of their section, and some random singing broke out too, but that I don’t mind as much. I spent much of my time talking to a delightful woman from Nicaragua. As always, I provided the turkey and other people brought all sorts of things, including at least three types of sweet potatoes and half a dozen pies.

Friday Travalon and I took the day off of work, slept in, and made chocolate croissants for breakfast. We drove to Reedsburg to visit the Corner Pub and took a long hike in Mirror Lake State Park. Anna Banana II was in town briefly from North Dakota, so we met her, Jilly Moose, and OK Cap for dinner at Himal Chuli. Some of them went on to Rich’s house for leftover dessert, but by then Travalon was really not feeling too well, so we just went home and had a quiet evening.

Saturday Travalon was really under the weather, so we did not travel to Ma and Pa Hat’s house. I met the Rosary Ladies and Rich for brunch at Crema Café, then we went to the craft market and the pottery place in the same strip mall. I had been hoping to get Kathbert to come up to Cherokee Marsh because I knew she would remember how to get to the boardwalk, and indeed she did! We went for a long hike in the marsh, running into a bandmate of mine, then we went to Rich’s for leftovers. Thanksgiving Part Two!

Yesterday we went to brunch at Sofra in Middleton, then Travalon was feeling well enough to go on a gentle hike in Cherokee Marsh, so I was able to show him the boardwalk. We also went to a memorial concert for Doc DeHaven, a local jazz trumpeter and high school music teacher who had died this summer at the age of 85, and that was great. Different groups played all sorts of jazz, and it was all the kinds I like. (True confession: I am not an Ornette Coleman fan.) So it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend, and Travalon was recovered enough to go to work today.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ukulele Newbie Christmas Jam

I want to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I will be going to Travalon’s family’s dinner for lunch and then Rich’s place for dinner. As if that won’t be way too much food, we had a potluck at work for lunch today, so I am already over my calorie budget and haven’t even eaten dinner yet. Sorry for my silence the last couple of days. Monday evening I joined a bunch of other ukulele newbies to play a number of tunes (including some Christmas ones) at a retirement community right near my house. If it weren’t so dark and cold, I could easily have walked! It was mostly a jam, but we did have an appreciative audience of some of the residents. When we played “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” a couple of relatives of one ukulele player stood above us on a balcony and danced around with stuffed hippopotami. (Is that a word? Spellcheck doesn’t mind it.) Then last night I totally forgot about the magic berries they had at Liliana’s (they make sour food taste sweet), so Travalon and I went swimming in the warm pool at our health club. On further reflection, that was probably a better choice: getting some exercise burns off calories, while eating magic berries adds them, and we already paid for the health club while we would have had to pay for the berries. All the same, I was sort of bummed when I remembered this afternoon about the berries. People tell me it is the craziest thing! Slices of lemon taste just like candy! Maybe someday I will get another chance to try them…

Famous Hat

Monday, November 21, 2016

Shakespeare Folio

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Mine was a little quieter than past ones due to the cold weather. Friday evening Travalon and I did join Rich, Cecil Markovitch, and the Single B-Boy for the fish fry at the Dorf Haus. They had tropical plants out in containers, and it really bothers me that people treat tropical plants as annuals that can be thrown away each year. How hard would it be to bring them inside?

Saturday Travalon had to work, so I met Rich for coffee and then went to a free concert at Grace Episcopal: Lute Player’s husband on the organ, joined by a violinist. Lots of Bach, which is what sold me on it. Then I went to the Chazen Art Museum to see the Shakespeare folio, which looks like a book, and not even that old compared to some I’ve seen. I believe it was dated 1623. I also checked out some of the art there: didn’t like the modern stuff, loved the Asian and African stuff, and really enjoyed an exhibit of photographs of the facades of Gothic cathedrals. In the afternoon Travalon and I went to Sauk to see if we could spot any eagles; we didn’t, but we did get an impressive view of water spewing over the dam, and the town was done up charmingly with Christmas lights. Then we met OK Cap for dinner at Bellitalia.

Sunday after Mass Travalon and I had brunch with Cecil at the Crema Café, then we ran some errands, and then we went to the movie Arrival, about a linguist trying to communicate with space aliens. I felt it was a more realistic depiction of how a first contact might go than you generally see at the movies, but the mind-blowing twist was, on further reflection, not at all logical. We took a hike around Teideman’s Pond and then watched the Packer game, which started kind of okay but devolved in the second half when the defense couldn’t stop Washington. We have just resigned ourselves to this being a bad year for them – now they have a losing record. Ah well, they can’t be good every year, and they are good most years. The announcers did make some comment about how fans are getting frustrated because we are so spoiled, with the Pack going to the playoffs every year. However, I would say Packer backers have been loyal through some historically low periods, like the decade before Lombardi and of course the 80’s. They will be good again someday. Look how long it took the Cubs to win again!

Famous Hat

Friday, November 18, 2016

Milkweed Collectors Helped the War Effort

Sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday. Travalon and I went to the East Side Club’s Thanksgiving dinner for members, which was catered by Bunky’s. (They have closed their restaurant and only do catering now.) We sat at a table with three kindergarten teachers who were very friendly, and one tried to talk me into joining the Social Committee. Not that I have an abundance of free time, but maybe that way I would at least know when social events have been canceled… After dinner, a member talked about how as a child during World War II she collected milkweed pods so the fuzz inside could be used to make life preservers, and several other people in the audience had done the same thing. I had no idea this huge war effort existed! The speaker had even made a DVD of two survivors of the USS Indianapolis disaster (if you didn’t know anything about this, join the club) who had survived in the ocean for five days before being rescued, thanks to their milkweed down-filled life preservers! It is kind of cool to think that back then kids were expected to contribute to the war effort with such an age-appropriate yet obviously important task. Not that I desire in any way to be in a war, but I wish there were something that united us all the way the war effort seemed to unite people seventy years ago. We could sure use it after this contentious election!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chinese Light Festival Photos

Sorry that I didn't blog yesterday. I was very tired after Irish class, but after uploading the photos from my phone onto my computer, I realize there are enough for at least three posts. Today's post will just be of the Chinese light festival Travalon and I went to a couple of weekends ago.

Oyster with pearls

Chinese fan 

I took this picture because she looks like she is playing a mandolin!

These lotus blossoms were overhead as we walked on a boardwalk.

This dragon was huge!

Ginkgo tree


Year of the Tiger

I didn't think the Year of the Pig was that cute, but Travalon and I both liked this Year of the Goat depiction, and the goat is my Western sign.


Tomorrow I will try to post photos from our Lower Dells trip and some of our other road trips.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hyperlocal Popup Dinner

I hope my readers had a good weekend. I mostly hung out with Tiffy, who came to town for a special dinner party. We met Rich for lunch on Saturday and then hung out on the three-season porch in our condo. Why we don’t use that room more is beyond me. When we first moved in, it was Cashmere the Rabbit’s room, but she hasn’t been there in a couple of years. Travalon did get some furniture to put in there, so that helps. In the evening Tiffy, Rich, and some other people who do not have names on this blog went to a dinner party we had to pay for. Let me explain: a young couple (with an adorable 15-month-old daughter who loved me) throw these dinner parties, and you pay to go to them. This is their seed money to start an actual restaurant, although they are thinking of continuing more of the popup dinners because running a whole restaurant when you have a baby is a daunting proposition. Anyway, she is the chef and he is the sommelier; they both trained in Chicago and did an amazing job, besides being very personable. She did say she was embarrassed that during an interview she said she served “hyperlocal” food, meaning from her own backyard garden, and her family has not stopped razzing her for using that word. However, it must exist, since Spellcheck is not hating on it. Travalon, meanwhile, went on a guys’ trip to Chicago with Cecil Markovitch, the Single B-Boy, and Mr. N’Awlins, and they had an excellent time too, visiting a Greek Orthodox church with a weeping icon, a Mexican art museum, and a church where they went to Vespers and Mass. Then they had dinner at a Greek restaurant.

Sunday morning Tiffy, Travalon, and I went to brunch at Tavernakaya, since I had seen a few weeks back that they were advertising it but nobody was there, and you know how I feel sorry for people. Apparently word had already spread, because it was quite busy when we were there. It was really good: brunch basics with an Asian twist, like my eggs benedict were over Asian buns instead of English muffins. You could also get basic American brunch food or straight-up Japanese fare. Then we watched the first half of the Packers game, but it was so bad that all three of us loyal Packer Backers decided we were wasting our lives, so Tiffy headed home while Travalon and I went for a hike at Indian Lake with Rodney. (We did tape the game in case the Pack made a historic comeback, but of course they did not.) They can’t be good every year, but do they have to be this bad?? In the evening we went to the Parched Eagle Brew Pub for a pizza and a beer, and when I asked the brew master if he was going to brew a sour beer because I love those, he said, “And for good reason!” He said he is working on two, but that sour beers take a very long time to mature. This I did not know! Maybe that is why you don’t see them very often.

Famous Hat

Friday, November 11, 2016

Live Performance Rules

Last night Travalon and I went to see the Hillbenders, a bluegrass group, play The Who’s “Tommy.” They consisted of five guys: one on banjo, one on dobro, one on mandolin, and first cousins playing the guitar and bass. They were really good, and when one would play a particularly exciting solo, the audience would cheer. That got me thinking about how it is considered bad form NOT to applaud after someone’s improvisational solo section in jazz, but at a Baroque concert you would NEVER applaud right after an interesting passage. In fact, it is considered rude to applaud after each movement; you are supposed to wait until the entire piece is finished. But how do I know this? I’m not really sure. I don’t remember anyone ever telling me these rules, so maybe I just picked them up at all the live music shows I have attended over the years. Here in Madtown we have a particularly funny tradition where virtually everyone gets a standing ovation, so if performers are exceptionally good, sometimes they DON’T get a standing ovation, just a really long round of applause. There also seems to be some unwritten rule that people have to applaud long enough for the musicians to come out and bow a second time, and then they will play an encore. That seems to be true across genres. I can’t think of the last time I went to a show where they didn’t treat the audience to an encore, so maybe it’s just expected. Anyway, these unwritten rules kind of fascinate me, unless in fact they are written somewhere. Anyone know?

Famous Hat

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pine Cliff Trail at Governor Dodge

Sorry for my silence the last couple of days. On Tuesday Travalon and I needed to get our minds off of the election, so we went to Liliana’s for dinner. Then we did watch the returns. Yesterday I had the day off of work, so we went on a therapeutic hike at Governor Dodge State Park. (Interestingly, I read an article that said one of the best ways to get over depression from the election results is to get outside.) It was a gorgeous day, and we started with breakfast at Crema Café before hitting the road, sitting by the window in the sunlight. That already improved my mood, and then we hit the trails at Governor Dodge. I have hiked there many times before, but I had never done the Pine Cliff Trail that goes around Cox Hollow Lake. Of course the sign only said that it was 4.5 miles, not that it had a lot of steep climbs – I ended up going up the equivalent of 24 flights of stairs! Poor Travalon had to carry Rodney up all those inclines, so he must have really burned a lot of calories! Rodney cannot really hike anymore. We did pass Pine Cliff, or at least a cliff with pine trees on it, and we hiked along the edge of a peninsula in the lake and past all sorts of interesting rock formations. At one point we were high up on a ridge with drop-offs on either side of us… and we still had to go up further! We also passed over a stream several times (or several streams?), and the ferns and moss were still green around it this late in the year. At the other end of the trail we found a sign stating that the trail goes past some of the oldest and most varied geology on earth. Who knew such a fascinating trail was awaiting our discovery? We did have to walk along the road a short way to get back to our car, just to forewarn any readers who might want to take this trail. After that we went to Mineral Point so Travalon could buy tea at the Cornish shop, and then we went to their little brewpub, but it is only open Thursday through Saturday during the fall, so we ended up at a pizza place across the street, in one of those old stone buildings the town is so known for. Delicious pizza! So what could have been a horrible day turned out to be wonderful.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 7, 2016

Duck Ride and Chinese Lights Festival

I hope my readers got to get outside to enjoy this unseasonably beautiful weekend. Friday evening Travalon and I went to the East Side Club for their fish fry, partly because of my propensity for supporting the underdog. Anyway, we think their catfish is delicious. Then we went to a small brewery called House of Brews, which was also very uncrowded. Are we just that good at picking the not-hot spots? I prefer a place to be uncrowded, but it probably doesn’t bode well for their bottom line.

Saturday Travalon, Rodney, and I drove to Rock Springs near Baraboo, where there is a spring with fresh water gushing out of it and also a state natural area called Ableman’s Gorge where we hiked to a rock called Van Hise Rock. It is in the Baraboo Hills, so the rock is the ancient Baraboo Quartzite which is over a billion years old and has a lovely purple hue. After our hike, we filled our water bottles at the spring and then drove to Reedsburg, where we stopped at a place called the Corner Pub for lunch. They had the best cream ale! It almost tasted like cream soda. We drove a little beyond town to Lake Redstone County Park for another walk. It was such a gorgeous day. We went to Devil’s Lake on the way back home and hiked a little there too. In the evening we had been planning to go to a silent movie downtown, but we couldn’t get tickets, so we went to the Fountain. (Again with supporting the underdog.) That place is in rougher shape every time we go – now they only have the back section open for private functions. They have a new soul food place on the front right side, so we got dinner there and ate outside, then we got some dessert at Red Elephant Chocolates across the street. Since we couldn’t get into the movie, we decided to check out the live music at the Fountain, a guitarist named Durango McMurphy. He was really good, but we were about it for audience. Rich had to come downtown to change the clocks on the church back to Standard Time, so we hung out with him in the church library and discussed racism, which seems to be my favorite topic lately. I’m not sure why, but I apologize to my readers who are sick of hearing about it.

Sunday Travalon and I went to the East Side Club for their inaugural Sunday brunch, but the front was all locked so we went around the side and found a club regular who told us it had been canceled, as had the Halloween party. Is there some way we are supposed to know this? How does everyone else know these things? So we went to World of Beer for “beerunch” and had “beermosas” along with brunch. It was another lovely day, so we played some tennis (and my backhand has already improved since last time), and then we talked about canoeing, but I am scared of our canoe since falling out of it the second time. Instead we went to the Dells and took a Duck ride through Lake Delton and the Lower Dells, which is full of cool rock formations. Tiffy texted me that there was a Chinese light show at a botanical garden in Milwaukee, and that was their final night. Because Travalon is such an adventurous guy, he said, “Let’s go!” so we drove there while listening to that pathetic Packers game. Our poor Pack are just not very good this year. The light show was beautiful, and I got lots of photos of things like a giant fan and playful pandas. Afterwards we had dinner at a restaurant called That’s Amore; I thought Chinese would be fitting after our adventure, but Travalon was in an Italian mood, and I will never argue about Italian food! I had spaghetti with seafood, and there was so much that I also had it for lunch today. Yum!

Famous Hat

Friday, November 4, 2016

Unstated Writing Contest Rules

Hardingfelde sent me a link to a Public Radio writers’ contest. The rules are pretty simple: the manuscript must be two thousand to five thousand words, be anonymous but accompanied by a letter with the writer’s details, and written by someone living in our state who is over 18 years of age. However, having read past winners, I think there should be some more rules stated. These people all write in the same style, which is one I neither write in nor enjoy reading, and maybe they should just state that up front in their rules:

Your story must be from a privileged upper-middle class white perspective, even if the protagonist is poor. Bonus points if you write like a woman; while manuscripts are anonymous, we always choose women writers. Remember that humor is not appreciated; we are not looking for the next David Foster Wallace or John Irving, no matter how much people actually enjoy their writing. There must be a lot of pathos, as though you have never encountered tragedy before so that when it strikes you are shocked by how horrible and unfair it seems. We will not entertain the notion of giving the prize to any story with a positive outlook on life, since our lives (and yours) are so easy that we need to read about fictional tragedy in order to feel like your story has any meaning. We strongly encourage you to include people of color in your story, but please do not write from their point of view, and we certainly discourage actual writers of color from submitting manuscripts, since we only award prizes to those with a white perspective. Remember, we your judges are all intellectuals, so be sure to write about something we can understand, like life in academia. We don’t want to read about any actual struggles, just tragedies of the sort that can befall wealthy white people.

What do you think, readers? Should I email this fleshing out of the rules to the contest judges so they can post a more honest evaluation of what they are looking for?

Famous Hat

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubbies Win It All!!!

There is really only one thing I could blog about today. The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken!! The Cubs have won the World Series!! My grandpa, who was a huge Cubs fan, didn’t live to see this day, but then he did live through two championships, when he was a tiny baby. There is one fan who is 108 who said she would love to see a second championship during her lifetime – and she did! One hundred and eight years – a very long time to go between championships! As someone noted on social media right after the win: “Time since the Cubs won their last pennant – five minutes!” Before the game people were posting graphs of who was supporting the Cubs vs. the Indians, and the poor Indians were only favored in Ohio; the rest of the country was solidly pulling for the Cubs. Who wouldn’t want the Lovable Losers to finally win?

Travalon and I watched the first five innings of the game at the Parched Eagle with the brew master and some other random guys (I was the only woman), then we headed home to watch the second half of the game. The Cubs had a solid lead, but they made some errors, and Chapman was so tired that he pitched a two-run homer to tie things up. Whoa, we were heading into a tenth inning! Then – just to ratchet up the tension – there was a rain delay of about a quarter of an hour. In the tenth the Cubbies scored two runs, but then the Indians scored one, and just when it seemed that we might be heading into yet another inning, there was an easy out and it was all over! I screamed so loudly! My neighbors might hate me, unless they were also watching. This has to have been the most exciting World Series in years, maybe ever: two teams suffering from championship droughts, the Cubs down three games at one point, and then this dogfight of a game at the end. They only won by one run, but who cares? The Curse is finally broken! 

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Diversity Forum

Sorry for my silence yesterday. I had Irish class in the evening, of course, and spent the workday at a diversity forum. These things always seem so pointless; as one panel member lamented, we always talk about problems, but we never do anything about them. The first panel was interesting because it was called “Diversity in Ideology,” and it featured faculty members from both ends of the political spectrum. I liked that because, while I am not particularly conservative myself, I do feel conservatives are underrepresented in the higher education conversation. At the end of the discussion, the panelists were surprised that they agreed more than they disagreed about the solutions to these problems, and that is what I think too: people of all political stripes who are of good will want what is best for society, at least where the welfare of minorities is concerned. Another panel was on coping strategies for women of color, which was very interesting to me. I am always fascinated by hearing about other people’s experiences. One very bad moment in my life was when I was raving about Door County to a friend who happens to be a minority, and she said her experience there was very negative, and I was shocked and horrified that she would say such a thing – but how could I discount her experience like that? How would I know what it is like to be a minority in Door County? The last panel of the day got kind of contentious because one black lady on it was saying how all white people are racist, meaning we profit from the suppressive system in this country, but white women in the audience kept taking issue with that and saying they weren’t racist, meaning they weren’t personally prejudiced. It seems to me that they were all talking past each other. What struck me the hardest was that while the black ladies were angry, the Native ladies were so sad. Two of them (on different panels) began crying while describing their experiences. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by their plight. The problem is that I have no idea how to change things, and this forum didn’t exactly provide any answers. I get that there aren’t easy answers, but if we all work together, I have hope that we can improve things.

Famous Hat