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November 2013

November 29, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Computer Chess

569This week in movies you missed: It's 1980 all over again in this period piece from mumblecore mainstay Andrew Bujalski, who shot it on vintage black-and-white analog video for a painfully authentic look.

What You Missed

Programmers from the nation's top tech schools have converged on an unassuming hotel for their annual computer-chess tournament, in which the computers play each other.

The winner gets to square off with a self-satisfied human chess master (played by film critic Gerald Peary) who has made a bet that no computer will best him for a decade. (In fact, it took until 1997 for IBM's Big Blue to score a fairly decisive victory over a human chess master.)

Meanwhile, a '70s-style encounter group composed of middle-aged couples roams the halls, trying to enlist some of the nerds for birthing rituals and swingin' sex. Grad student Peter (Patrick Riester) despairs of his software, which appears to be trying to commit suicide rather than beat its opponents. Mysterious freelance programmer Mike Papageorge (Myles Paige) can't find a room. And all the programmers are bemused and fascinated by the sole female geek in their midst (Robin Schwartz).

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Computer Chess" »

Vermont Photographer Publishes Book 'For the Birds'

WrenCharlotte photographer P. Brian Machanic has produced an 82-page volume titled This Book Is for the Birds, but of course the book is really for bird lovers.

Machanic notes in a preface that there are some "50-60 million" birders in the United States, that is, obsessed individuals "whose affliction for monitoring things avian is all consumptive, leading to forays afield at ungodly hours, while being viciously attacked by the biting insects which birds are supposed to eat." The author admits he is not one of these people:

I'm more of a bird-watcher sort, which means that I enjoy sleeping in once a month, and stop looking for nighthawks when the thunder and lightning starts. I have only a couple of well-worn bird field guides, the second of which was purchased when I thought I'd lost the first.

What Machanic is afflicted with, however, is "a penchant for spending hours and hours at a time waiting for that perfect shot" — that is, with his camera. (The detail at right is from "House Wren.") The right photograph, he imagines, might catapult him into "the Bird Watchers' Hall of Fame and allow me to generously dip into the multi-billion-dollar industry devoted to supplying every imaginable need of the birding world."

Continue reading "Vermont Photographer Publishes Book 'For the Birds'" »

November 22, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Only God Forgives

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 11.31.04 PMThis week in movies you missed: Ryan Gosling and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, together again. To little purpose.

What You Missed

Brothers Julian and Billy (Gosling and Tom Burke) are drug smugglers who run a fight club in Bangkok. One night, Billy employs and murders a 16-year-old hooker. As the boys' mom (Kristin Scott Thomas) says when she shows up, "I'm sure he had his reasons."

The nature of those reasons is moot, because Billy quickly falls victim to vengeance engineered by a cop (Vithaya Pansringarm) with a sharp blade, a fine singing voice and strong notions of right and wrong.

Julian wants to let the matter rest there, given that Billy was kinda indisputably a dick, but Mom is having none of it. She taunts him with insults to his manhood until he reluctantly agrees to seek counter-vengeance. Big mistake.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Only God Forgives" »

Vermont Blacksmith Steven Bronstein Chosen for USPO Hanukkah Stamp

Hanukkah stampAvid philatelists, aka stamp collectors, were probably among the first to learn that Steven Bronstein, a blacksmith who operates Blackthorne Forge in Marshfield, was the lucky winner of the U.S. Post Office's Hanukkah stamp design this year. That is, his wrought-iron menorah was chosen to be photographed for the stamp — an annual designation by the USPO.

Bronstein himself was not contacted until the selection was a fait accompli. "I had nothing to do with it," he says, when asked if he had applied for the gig. "I got a phone call one day and they said they wanted to use my menorah for a stamp."

What he learned later was that "an art director saw my work at a craft show in D.C." and chose his design. The piece is in the style of what Bronstein calls "Classic Curve."

That art director was Ethel Kessler, of the Kessler Design Group in Bethesda, Md., who has designed some 250 stamps for the post office.

There is no remuneration to be on the stamp, nor is his name on it, but it's an honor nonetheless. Of course, Bronstein can't help wishing the image on the stamp didn't cut the menorah in half. "There is this artistic component — I'd like the piece to be appreciated," he says, likening it to a painting only half seen.

But he's quick to say he doesn't want to appear ungrateful. He was thrilled his work was chosen, Bronstein says.


Continue reading "Vermont Blacksmith Steven Bronstein Chosen for USPO Hanukkah Stamp" »

November 21, 2013

'Pages in the Pub' Returns to Norwich, and Hardwick

Sota-lisasTwo Lisas — Christie and Cadow — are behind the Book Jam Blog, whose mission is to promote books, libraries and independent bookstores. Not content with exercising their literary passsion solely in cyberspace, they also created Pages in the Pub, which is an evening out to share beverages and book talk. And to benefit local libraries. I first wrote about the event for Seven Days last December.

Oh, and the event isn't really in a bar. In the case of the event at 7 p.m. tonight, Christie and Cadow (pictured here, left and right) will proffer the booze at the Norwich Inn. A $10 donation will go toward the Norwich Public Library.

Presenters tonight will be from the library, the Norwich Bookstore and the community.

The Lisas will branch out to Hardwick on Tuesday, December 3, bringing Pages by the Pub to the Galaxy Bookshop. Presenters there will be from that shop and the Jeudevine Memorial Library, along with a "special guest from the Northeast Kingdom."

Sure, it's fun for book lovers to get together for lit chats, but how do these events benefit indie bookstores? Glad you asked. Quite simply, they sell books — $500 to $1000 worth of books, Christie writes. For a small bookstore, that's the equivalent of a good Saturday during holiday season, she suggests.

As Christie told Seven Days last year, "We do as much as we possibly can to sell books outside the store."

If you can't make Pages in the Pub, visit the book blog for reviews and interviews, lit news, and ideas about what to read next — or what to give this holiday season.



November 20, 2013

Flying Jelly Attack! Abby Manock Sculpture Invades Burlington City Hall Park

DSC_1242No, those dangly yellowish-orange adornments in Burlington's City Hall Park are not the "Fry Guys," the entirely unlamented former mascots from days of McDonaldland past.

Artist Abby Manock's installation "The Airborne Jellyfish project" may seem somewhat whimsical, but it's a little more serious than you may think.

Continue reading "Flying Jelly Attack! Abby Manock Sculpture Invades Burlington City Hall Park" »

November 15, 2013

Night Vale Welcomed Anaïs Mitchell

This is kinda old news, like practically a year old, but hey. It took me that long to discover the "Welcome to Night Vale" podcast, which apparently is a top download on iTunes.

It's a twice-monthly "community update" for an imaginary desert town where hooded figures roam the forbidden dog park, "glow clouds" menace downtown traffic, and the city council appears to be composed of ill-intentioned immortals. It's also weirdly soothing. If you enjoy David Lynch, H.P. Lovecraft, mellifluous voices and/or making fun of unflappable public radio personalities, you should discover it immediately, too. Perhaps you already have.

Anyway, today I was listening to last December's episode 12, "The Candidate," and who should I hear as the voice of "the weather" but Vermont's own Anaïs Mitchell? (The Night Vale weather forecast is always musical, with a different artist featured each time.) The song was "Of a Friday Night," misidentified in the podcast as "The Brightness," and it sounded appropriately spooky and ethereal. You can hear the whole episode here.

Movies You Missed & More: The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 10.37.28 AMThis week in movies you missed: This very night, Seven Days is calling all Achievers to a party at Champlain Lanes called the Big LeBOWLski.

In honor of the event, I watched this 2009 documentary about The Big Lebowski fan phenomenon.

What You Missed

In 1998, Joel and Ethan Coen put out a movie called The Big Lebowski, a shaggy-dog story involving crime, bowling, White Russians and rugs that really pull the room together. It was not one of their hits.

Over the years, certain people discovered The Big Lebowski on video and started quoting it. Obsessively. They found one another on internet forums and began calling themselves "Achievers," after the "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers" briefly referenced in the movie. They got together at bowling alleys to celebrate their fandom like a more mellow version of Trekkies.

So was born the first Lebowski Fest, in Louisville, Ky., in 2002. Today, it happens all over the nation and the world. Eddie Chung's documentary takes us to several Lebowski Fests, including an LA event where star Jeff Bridges showed up to perform and mingle with fans (wearing his jellies, of course).

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans" »

November 14, 2013

S'Up to You, People: Cast Your Votes for Vermont Architects

ChapelEveryone likes to critique the built environment, right? The Vermont chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIAVT) is offering a chance to make your opinion count.

On its website, AIAVT has posted 39 photographs of architectural projects, along with a voting tool visitors can use to cast their votes — through Wednesday, November 27. These images, collectively the "People's Choice Exhibit," will be displayed at an event in the Vermont Statehouse on December 5 where the recipient of the 2013 People's Choice Award will be announced.

That's where you come in. Take a look at the photos and pick your fave. While all the architects live and work in Vermont, their projects are both local and all over the world.

The photo above is "Chapel" by Robert Peabody Brown of St. Johnsbury, last year's choice of the people.

Photo courtesy of AIAVT. 

Video: "Matador" by tooth ache. (NSFW)

ToothacheA couple months ago, local electro-pop songwriter tooth ache. — aka Alexandria Hall — released a rerecorded version of her debut LP Flash & Yearn, which was originally released in 2011. Ms. ache. has just unveiled a provocative new video for one of that record's signature cuts, "Matador."

Earlier this year, Hall dished to 7D about the song for a piece we did on local love songs. Here's what she said:

“Matador” is a glimpse at love as the game or sport or chase. In the song, the matador exercises more control over the situation, while the speaker, the bull, is the passionate, even desperate one, hurling herself at him despite love’s lances.

But the matador is in danger, too. So while it may seem like the bull is the “victim” of love, they’re both in this turbulent, dangerous, but showy and appealing zone. It’s this kind of chaotic but necessary ritual. It’s anxiety and anticipation … the drum machine’s urgency or the bass line’s hesitance.

Playing up the aforementioned love-as-sport angle, Hall's new video is set in a combination bowling alley/strip club — Shenanigan's in White River Junction, to be exact. (And, yeah, it's a real place.) Produced by Burlington's Sullen Belle Productions, it's an entertaining video that almost plays like a short film. It features bowlers, strippers, one of the greatest ironic T-shirts ever and one unfortunate fella laid to waste by a stiletto heel through the eye — perhaps a stylish allegory for bullfighting? Oh, yeah, there's a real live bull, too. (We hear his name is Ace.)

Here's the video, in all its delightfully sleazy glory. And, yes, some of the strippers are topless. So if naked lady parts offend, maybe skip this one. (Though frankly, we find the heel through the eye scene to be far more unsettling than a few passing bewbs.)

Tooth Ache | "Matador" [NSFW] from SULLEN BELLE productions on Vimeo.



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