Friday, September 29, 2006

Taliesin Pics

Taliesen from the front

Drafting Studio and Student Rooms at the Hillside School

Looking out at the gardens from under one of Wright's signature low eaves.

The Hillside Home School showing the Assembly Hall Exterior

Wright's Personal Study at Taliesen

Madison, WI and Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin Are Wondrous!

A Frank Loin Wright entry in the Cows on Parade Exhibit

Interior view of the sanctuary of Wright's Unitarian Church in Madison

Another Cows on Parade participant

Madison's State Street in the fall

The lovely Wisconsin State Capitol

And a view of a large sculpture in the main court of the University's Chazen Museum

If you need some additional narration, here it is.

What do old folks do on a busman's holiday to Madison, Wisconsin? Why they pig out, or should we say "beef out" on sculpture, architecture, and food.

We signed in at the Best Western motel with old friends the Blum's and the Waltershausens and then took a quick lunch at Panera. After a stop at the F.L. Wright designed Unitarian Church, we descended on Madison's State Street (also a great street) for a stroll. The university is at one end and the state capitol at the other end of this bus and bicycle environment. Inbetween are funky shops, bookstores, eateries, and entertainment venues. Adding to the pzazz were a couple of dozen cows on parade. They were Moo-arvelous and a couple of the pics above will give you a bit of their bright contribution to the streetscape.

Strolling brings out the thirst in a body, so we soon felt the need for a few glasses of frosty micro brew. I had a dark October Fest and Jan sampled the Spotten Cow from New Glarus. That led into an Afgan hostelry for a dinner of Lemon Chicken and Lamb with Couscous. Tangy and oh so filling.

Tuesday morning we headed toward Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin East at Spring Green. It was about an hour's drive in the sunny rolling Wisconsin countryside--one of those crisp fall days that would be lovely to cruise about on even if you did not have a destination to reach.

Our tour covered the Hillside School and Taliesin itself and the guide was outstanding. For a taste you can take a peek at the pictures. Lunch was at the Taliesin Visitor Center, which is also a Wright designed building.

After our return to Madison it was back down to State Street where we spent some time at the University of Wisconsin's Chazen Museum of Art. It has a nice small collection of classics and some dynamite moderns in a striking atrium domininated building. (See picture above.)

Dinner was totally into orbit at L'Etoile right next to the Wisconsin state capitol. It is one of the fifty best restaurants in the country according to Gourmet Magazine. A spoon sized cup of truffle soup began the repast. Then came a a tender salad of mixed greens with pecans. My main course was fresh broiled trout with creamy potatos, and a patois of unusual vegetables like kolrabi and spinach. Jan had the roasted pheasant, which was just as elegant. We shared a fresh rasberry iced delight for desert. We washed it down with a smooth white wine from Alsace. T'was pricey and a half, but worth every penny. Did I mention that the cadre of wait staff hovered about like quiet little helicopters whisking dishes on and off at just the right times and attending to our every need. "Quelle service! Ooh La La."

A fitting end to a fine day in the company of some of our best friends in the whole wide world. On Wisconsin!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Stirring the Pudding of Free Speech

The heading of this blog alludes to the impossibility of going back again and recent events highlighting comments by the Pope and other national leaders point to the speed with which the pudding is now stirred in this internet age. There is no acceptable apology possible for any remark since the ubiquitous offense has girdled the world three times before the speaker has put a period on the sentence. Any attempt to respond or explain is buried beneath the raging reaction of the offended party.

A number of columnists have taken up the "free speech conundrum" in the wreckage of the Pope's citation of a 14th century Byzantine who believed that Islam was spread by violence. Anne Applelbaum, in the Washington Post, rues that all subtle distinctions seem to be lost on fanatics, whose narrow claim to the title admit no variance or mitigation of the goal. One perceptive observation she makes is that most, ". . . fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don't see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too." Read the whole article.

Charles Krauthammer, who is normally a shade too conservative for me, also has some keen comments in his recent column. He says, "Religious fanatics, regardless of what name they give their jealous god, invariably have one thing in common: no sense of humor. Particularly about themselves." That got me to thinking that perhaps that's why all those religious jokes seem to start out with "There were three clerics out in a boat fishing--a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew rather than A priest, a rabbi, and an Imam were stranded on a desert island." Score one for Krauthammer.

Not only do today's Islamists seem unable to stomach any kind of joke about anything, Krauthammer goes on, but today's Islamists also have a tough time perceiving irony. The pope makes his reference to the 14th-century Byzantine emperor and to protest the linkage of Islam and violence we see Christian churches attacked, a nun killed, and Christians, including the Pope, condemned to death. This, says Krauthammer is certainly a fine way to refute the charge that Islam is a violent religion. That is spelled I-R-O-N-Y just in case you need to refer to a dictionary. Read the whole article. piece at

You cannot unstir a pudding, but you also cannot get two disparate elements to mix if you refuse to consider trying to put them together.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

WIU President Al Goldfarb Has Full House at the Buchanan Center for the Arts

President Al Goldfarb of Western Illinois University spoke to a crowd of almost one hundred people Tuesday evening September 19, 2006, at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth, IL. The program was sponsored jointly by the Warren County Library and the Buchanan Center. Goldfarb spoke on “My Personal and Research Interaction with the Holocaust.” His grandfather and other members of his family were killed or died in concentration camps. His parents both survived and immigrated to the United States after World War II. He told movingly about how the children of survivors still feel the loss of family roots that most of us take for granted. He also challenged the audience to think about why there were so few who stood up against the Nazi policies or helped those who were under duress. In the question period a World War II veteran, who had actually been in an American unit that liberated a concentration camp, spoke about his own experiences.

Goldfarb’s speech was in conjunction with the “Varian Fry: Assignment Rescue” Exhibit from the National Memorial Holocaust Museum, on display at the Buchanan Center through October 26th.

The photos show people gathering for the talk, Goldfarb speaking, and chatting after his address with two members of the audience.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Al Goldfarb, Pres. Western Il University Speaks for OFTA and WCPL

Dr. Al Goldfarb, President of Western Illinois University, will be a featured speaker in conjunction with the Buchanan Center for the Arts exhibit, “Varian Fry: Assignment Rescue.” Dr. Goldfarb will speak on “My Personal and Research Interactions with the Holocaust” at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 19th at Buchanan Center. The public is invited. Goldfarb’s presentation is co-sponsored by the Warren County Library and the Evening OFTA outreach program of the Buchanan Center for the Arts.

A compelling speaker, Dr. Goldfarb is the son of two Holocaust survivors, who immigrated to the United States in the 1940’s and ran a candy store in lower Manhattan. In addition to family connections with the Holocaust, Dr. Goldfarb has done extensive research on the topic and often teaches a course on the Holocaust at Western Illinois University. His book, "Theatrical Performance During the Holocaust", co-edited with Rebecca Rovit, was a finalist for the 1999 National Jewish Book Award.

While serving as President of WIU, Dr. Goldfarb also continues to teach theater history and to lead groups of students and community members on theater tours to New York City. He has written two popular theatre textbooks and has authored many articles and presented many papers on theater. He has won a number of awards, including admission to the Hunter College Alumni Hall of Fame, and service awards from the Illinois Theatre Association, the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education, and the American College Theater Festival.

Varian Fry: Assignment Rescue, on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. is on view at Buchanan Center for the Arts, 64 Public Square, through October 26. Buchanan Center is open Tuesdays through Fridays. 9:00 to 5:00; Saturdays from 10:00 to 2:00. For detailed information about other special events related to the exhibit, stop in at the Center and pick up a brochure, or call 734-3033.

Friday, September 15, 2006

It's Agatha Christie's Birthday

Agatha Christie was born on Sept. 15, 1890 and died on Jan. 12, 1976. It was just by a change that I had picked up a copy of "Murder on the Orient Express" on the Warren County Library's twenty-five cent discard shelf. What a delight to relaxedly stroll again on board the snowbound train with Hercule Poirot and try to solve the murder in which every possible suspect has an alibi. The description is spare and the dialog a bit forced, but soon it sucks you in. Even with little glimmers of the movie and Albert Finney and the BBC Poirot (David Suchet) the book remains a classic of the whodunnit genre. I also recall that a snowstorm figures importantly in another of her classics--"The Mousetrap". The play version will be celebrating the 55th year of its run in 2007 having opened in Nov. of 1952 at the Ambassador Theatre in London. Need more on dear Agatha just check here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What Do you get when you "Google" an OFTA?

What do you get when you Google OFTA? You might get a lovely photo of last week's OFTA presenter, Julia Andrews, doing her musical thing on the life and musical career of Duke Ellington.

But there is another series of items just waiting to be discovered.

When you put the acronym “OFTA” to the Google test the first thing that strikes you is that there appears to be over 18 million possibilities for that four letter combination. That’s a bit ominous, but it does narrow down quite nicely. There are a lot of references to the “Office of the Telecommunications Authority of Hong Kong” (OFTA) or the “Offshore Financial Trade Association” of Great Britain. You can actually join another OFTA if the “Online Film and Television Association” floats your boat.

Should you be brave enough to leave the comfort of the English language, take a gander at the site for (OFTA) the “Observatoire Francais Des Techniques Advancees.” You might be able to figure out what they do, but will have to remain a mystery unless you can decipher Czech.

There are also a number of references to the “OMAN Free Trade Agreement (OFTA)” You will discover quickly that it has not been popular in all quarters. One blogger has written an article titled “No OFTA”, there is a citation to an “Anti-OFTA” letter, and there actually was a “Rally against OFTA” in Tacoma, WA on July 20, 2006.

Before you get too discouraged about the treatment of our fair acronym, you can take comfort in Google reference #28, which reads “OFTA Takes a Ride on the Dodgeville Line.” A click on that URL will bring you to the happy smiling face of Mr. George Waltershausen, railroad buff and eminent real OFTA speaker.

It is both comforting and astonishing to discover the one and only true OFTA standing for "Old Farts Talk Arts" is alive and well on the internet and meeting the 2nd Wednesday of each month in the Buchanan Center for the Arts on the square in downtown Monmouth, IL.

Long may it survive—even in the face of august competition.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Here's to Harold Pinter on his 75th Birthday

I note with interest and honor that across Britain and Ireland many are gathering to celebrate the 75th birthday of Nobel Prize winning playwright, Harold Pinter.
Pinter has long been a favorite of mine. I was exposed in the early sisties to his one acts and excitedly directed "The Birthday Party" in the 1970's. While in England in the 1980's, I was lucky enough to see the first performances at the Hampstead Theatre of "The Hothouse." Upon returning to Monmouth I couldn't wait to stage it and believe that it may have been one of the first productions of the play anywhere in the United States. I also remember with delight the National Theatre's production of "Betrayal."

On the more mundane level, I saw with amusement that Southern Illinois University administrators have been taken to task for alledgedly plagiarizing parts of its Strategic Planning document from the Strategic Plan of the University of Texas. One wonders how one could determine this as most of those kinds of statements are full of inflated boilerplate pie in the sky educational claptrap.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Learned a new word today!

Learned a new word today. "charrette" And thanks to Wikipedia have discovered a bit about it.

a final, intensive effort to finish a project (usually architectural) before a deadline.

i.e. we convened a charrette today.

Thought to originate from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 19th Century, the word charrette, French for "cart" or "chariot," refers to the cart pushed around by professors to collect the final artwork by art and architecture students, who often rushed frantically to finish their work.
The term charrette also, historically, applied to the cart or tumbril used to carry the condemned to the guillotine. See: Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé. For example: Une charrette (...) traînait lentement à la guillotine un homme dont personne ne savait le nom (Anatole France, Les Dieux ont soif, 1912, p. 44) [trans: "a charrette slowly brought to the guillotine a man whose name nobody knew".]
Hence the current meaning of work leading up to a deadline, subsequently morphed into the urban-planning usage of the term.

Teaser question for the day. What musical currently has more productions playing than any other?

Abba Dabba Do! It's Mamma Mia! There are currently 11 productions
running around the world (9 resident productions and 2 tours). With three productions playing in North America alone, the musical has more productions playing around the world than any other current Broadway musical and can be experienced in six different languages globally (English, Swedish, Spanish, German, Japanese and Korean). Courtesy of Allan Bird's Broadway Review.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Few Things More Small Town American Than

The Prime Beef Festival Parade in Monmouth comes the week after Labor Day along with the graceful Stearman Bi-plane gathering in Galesburg. It is small town Americana with a double capital "A" Folks begin staking out lawn-chair spots along Broadway by noon. Because it is small town America and not Chicago, they just put their chairs down and go back to their daily tasks confident that when they return at 4:30 or so the chairs will still be there holding their coveted spaces. Promptly at 5:00 PM a sky rocket announces the start of the parade and for the next couple of hours you are assailed with high school marching bands, church and civic floats, antique tractors, giant combines, horses, and the festival queens riding in pomp on trailered power boats. This is one of those exquisite Monmouth ironies. We are 20 miles from the Mississippi, but the boats are made here so we get queens in boats not on floats. You can continue your post-parade festivities by heading out to the park. You can check out the entries in the Prime Beef category that are penned in the airport hangars across the road, get a rib-eye sandwich or an Indian Taco at the food tents, do a twirl on the ferris wheel, and follow it up with a slam bang demolition derby. And don't miss a lemon-ade shakeup, which is a staple at most Illinois summer fairs.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

OFTA Features Andrews on "The Duke" (Ellington not Wayne)

It’s a change of pace for OFTA on Wed. September 13th at 10:00 AM in the Buchanan Center for the Arts. We have not done much in the music area for a while so here comes a toe tapping crowd pleaser.

Our presentation is titled “The Duke” (Ellington not Wayne)
It will cover the life, career, and music of one of America’s most respected Jazz icons.

Our presenter and performer will be Ms. Julia Andrews. She is new to Monmouth this fall but she will not be unfamiliar for long. She will be teaching group piano at Monmouth College and accompanying studio lessons, recitals, convocations, and juries. She has also just taken a position as Chorus Manager for the Galesburg Community Chorus. In addition to performing in classical and jazz ensembles, she teaches private lessons and is a free-lance arranger.

Andrews graduated with the Master of Music degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and received two Bachelor’s of Music degrees in piano and music theory from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. While at Texas Tech, she was a Presser Scholar for excellence in music and was the Highest Ranked Undergraduate in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. She has been active in the Music Teachers National Association and recently served on the Nebraska Music Teacher’s State Board. She is a strong advocate of community music schools.