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Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

by Christopher Duggan

Italy is a country of many distinct regions, mutually incomprehensible dialects, squabbling political parties and great artistic fertility. The history of Italy is a lot to fit into one book, even if limited to the past two centuries, but British historian Christopher Duggan manages in around 600 well-written pages. One of his persistent themes is the country's doubtful search for identity. Even Mussolini failed. The dictator . . .
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

Searching for Ancient Psychedelia

Anyone who encountered the Lotus Eaters while reading Homer already suspects that mind-altering drugs flourished on the fringes of the ancient Greek world, the matrix for much of what we call civilization. In The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press), D.C.A. Hillman argues that the Lotus Eaters weren't confined to one isolated island but were in the mainstream of Greek and Roman society. In other words, Haight Ashbury in 1967 had nothing on Athens in 300 B.C. With degrees in the classics and bacteriology, Hillman is interested in both the natural world and the cultivated garden of humanity. The convergence makes stuffy academics uncomfortable. As the Madison author tells it, he originally hoped to present his findings on ancient drug use in his doctoral dissertation at the
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

(Milwaukee Art Museum/University of Wisconsin), by Cheryl Robert

Milwaukee was fertile ground for arts and architecture in the early 20th century, with many ideas transplanted from Europe. The new expanded edition of The Domestic Scene examines the work of George Niedecken, perhaps best known for collaborating with Frank Lloyd Wright, but also a significant force in his own right . . .
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

Extraordinary debut by Wisconsin novelist

Some books are written in such exquisite detail that even if you somehow don't care for the overall story, you can't help but enjoy reading them. Robert Coover provided a perfect example with The Universal Baseball Association Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., in which the title character, a disappointed accountant, spends his solitary nights immersed in his own world, manipulating a kind of fantasy baseball league of his own creation wherein every action is determined by throws of the dice. Even if the book wasn't your cup of tea, you would still be fascinated by the complexities of the baseball league and the lives of its players.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

Art Review

At the start of the period in which the work in "Biographical Landscape: The Photography of Stephen Shore, 1969-1979" was shot, America remained entrenched in the Vietnam War; the tumult of 1968, its assassinations and aftershocks preoccupied the country's consciousness. None of this political upheaval, however, is apparent on the main streets of small towns across the United States that populate the core of the exhibition at the Haggerty Museum of Art, on display through Sept. 28. Shore'sUncommon Places is a series of vernacular images geographically distinguishable only by the titles describing their coordinates in an intersection of time and place.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

Art Preview

The belief that "everybody can create something" embodies the artwork in "DIY: Do It Yourself Series," currently on display in the Community Gallery at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. The "DIY" exhibit presents the work of eight national artists who define the do-it-yourself spirit. The artists use their crafts as a means of personal expression, demonstrating sustainability, individuality, simplicity and appreciation for a community that creates unique material goods. These characteristics . . .
Monday, Aug. 4, 2008

Stardust: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

Pop and country music were never entirely isolated from one another. Some of the material sung by the early generations of country recording artists originated on Tin Pan Alley before seeping into the folk traditions of the South. Later, Tony Bennett recorded Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart” and, during the early. . .
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The final X-File?

Mulder is hiding and Scully is a doctor in a Roman Catholic hospital. When an FBI agent goes missing and the only clues come from the visions of a disgraced Catholic priest, someone in the agency has the good sense to call the old team out of retirement. Scully knows where Mulder lives, and Mulder is the FBI’s only expert in the paranormal, even if they had succeeded in silencing him. That’s the premise of The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a disappointing coda to Chris Carter’s long-running television series. Believe isn’t overly long but sometimes seems that way. It rambles and lacks the tight drama of the show’s best episodes. An interesting idea or two stumble along with the movie as it zigzags down the icy back roads of West Virginia, where strange things are happening in the night.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shoppers paying the $1.50 entrance fee to 7 Mile Fair were unknowingly paying admission to a concert at an unlikely venue for two local bands, The Trusty Knife and Crappy Dracula. The Trusty Knife has created a local buzz with their unique indie rock, while Crappy Dracula is known for their strange sense of humor and has often been compared to the Dead Milkmen and Flipper. The bands set up under a small makeshift stage in an outdoor stretch between the two main buildings of the fair . . .
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Art Review

Every now and then an artist sparks controversy through no design of his own. It’s a scenario especially endemic to public art, and one with which Milwaukee is uncomfortably familiar. The city is rife with examples of public art that have provoked impassioned outcries from one party or another, whether they’re proposed projects that never got off the ground or ones single-mindedly propelled forward by a will unmatched by that of their most ardent foes. Each occasion yields the potential for an enriching discussion on the significance of public art. Whether or not it has been sufficiently taken up is another matter . . .