Tango X is the place to be

The first installment of Tango X, an Argentine-tango influenced dance party, is happening this Wednesday the 17th at L’entrepôt, (527 Julia St.). A beginner-level tango class will start the evening at 7 p.m. (no partner or experience necessary) and the dancing will continue from 8 until 11 p.m. The cover is $10. During the event, Carmo is offering a special menu and there will be a bar with specialty cocktails.

Tango X is being hosted by myself and two friends of mine, all members of the local tango community. We’d love to see new faces who are curious about tango. So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to tango, or if you’d like to watch the dancing and enjoy a nice meal out, this is the event for you.

Tango X

Least Favorite Love Songs Kickstarter Campaign

Helen Krieger, of Flood Streets fame (and one of our Femme Fatales in 2011), is working on the second season of her webseries Least Favorite Love Songs. To raise a budget for the the show, she launched a Kickstarter campaign that’s winding down in the next five days. They’ve already made their minimum $5,000 goal, so now they’re stretching for an amount that will allow them to pay their crew just a lil something for their time and expertise.

They have low contributor levels ($1 and $5 backers get updates and swag!) and every little bit will help — maybe they’ll even be able to provide lunch to their crew on shooting days. :) Even if you can’t contribute, you’ll help them out enormously if you watch Season 1, talk about it and share the Kickstarter page with your friends. There’s also a Kickstarter Campaign Wrap Party this Sunday, at Banks St. Bar (4401 Banks Street), from 7 to 9. The suggested $5 donation gets you a screening of Season 1, music from ROARSHARK and some improv.

It should be noted that Least Favorite Love Songs has some strong adult themes, is very funny and includes partial nudity. Season 2 is likely to be funnier and perhaps even nuder. Nudier? How do you express that there may be more nudity? Well, how about you check out the short, funny, almost nude video for the campaign?

Local author Ronlyn Domingue in the middle of the Simon & Schuster/Barnes & Noble contract dispute

Recently, a friend of mine, Ronlyn Domingue, published her second novel, The Mapmaker’s War. Ronlyn’s a fantastic writer and The Mapmaker’s War is a inventive and inspired book. However, since her first novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in 2005, the publishing industry has changed drastically. It’s often very hard for authors to make their books visible to the reading public.

It’s recently gotten even harder for some authors with recent titles from Simon & Schuster, including Ronlyn, because S&S is involved in a contract dispute with Barnes & Noble. This means The Mapmaker’s War, as well as other recent S&S titles, are not being carried in B&N stores.

The greater workings of this contract dispute are complicated, but the easy take-away is that authors with recent S&S books need help spreading the word about their books since there are no B&N front-of-store-placements or co-ops available to them right now. Please do them a favor and check out some of their titles here. Read them and tell as many people as you can to check them out, too.

Something else that’s changed significantly since 2005? Social media. Fans just voted on Facebook and picked Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book cover. Together, we can tell people about the S&S titles we like and help the authors get read.

Ronlyn recently had book signing events in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where she lives. Her books can be found at the great local booksellers Garden District Books and Cottonwood Books, among others.

Ronlyn signing a huge stack of books at Garden District Books. She put handmade bookmarks in each one!

Ronlyn signing a huge stack of books at Garden District Books. She put handmade bookmarks in each one!

Downton Abbey Week 4 Synopsis

First off, DO NOT READ any further if spoilers bother you because there’s at least one huge event that I will write about. Though, fans in the UK saw it in October and I’m sure other people have been writing about it in the last several days. Myself, I’ve been almost inconsolable since I saw the episode. Read below to find out why…

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The episode opens with several scenes about Sybil’s pregnancy. She’s close to giving birth. Everyone’s up in the middle of the night and Dr. Clarkson has been summoned, but she’s fine for now. A specialist, Sir Phillip, will arrive in the morning, though the family is divided, with the ladies particularly wanting to include Dr. Clarkson, their family doctor, in the birth, and Lord Grantham wanting the society specialist because he felt like Dr. Clarkson misdiagnosed both Matthew and Lavinia.

Downstairs, they’re atwitter at the baby’s imminent arrival, up in the middle of the night as well. Ivy, the new kitchen maid, has the attention of both Jimmy and Alfred, much to Daisy’s dismay. Mrs. Patmore astutely observes that Alfred won’t like Daisy any better for being rough on Ivy. Poor Daisy! Always fighting for position and attention. It’s very likely that Ivy is actually interested in Jimmy, but both of the new footmen follow her around like puppies.

Ivy’s not the only one interested in Jimmy. Thomas is very “familiar,” in Jimmy’s words to O’Brien, when he teaches him to wind the clocks. O’Brien encourages Jimmy to stay in Thomas’s good graces, which makes me wonder what she’s up to. I’m sure when her plan finally plays out, it will be truly devious. But poor Jimmy, in the meantime, is trying to find his place and feels uncomfortable, a pawn in the game between Thomas and O’Brien.

Mary and Matthew are at it again, still arguing about Matthew’s determination to better manage Downton – after both Mary and Lord Grantham insisted he step in. Matthew’s concerned about the future of Downton, not just for their own sakes, but for their children. Who he’s very concerned about, stopping Sir Phillip when he arrives to ask him if his spinal injury could’ve impaired his ability to have children. Uh oh… What if the heir can’t have heirs?

The Anna/Bates story line is interesting as Anna has doggedly found the proof of Bates’ innocence, as Mr. Murry congratulates her. However, the portions that take place inside the prison are downright incomprehensible. I have no idea why Bates’ cell mate and the one guard are plotting against him so viciously. Did I miss something? Please tell me if I’m alone on this and it makes sense to you.

Mrs. Crawley has hired Ethel, which causes her housekeeper Mrs. Bird to quit, and also ruffles the feathers of Carson, Molesley and a tiny bit less so, Mrs. Hughes over at Downton. Poor Ethel is trying so hard, but is struggling with the cooking and making tea. And poor Mrs. Crawley keeps biting her lip.

Edith is offered a column and discusses it over breakfast with Matthew and Lord Grantham, then later with the Dowager. She seems almost amused by her family’s arguments against whatever direction she wants to pursue.

Quite a lot of the episode is various scenes of the family and staff waiting for Sybil to give birth, intermingling in various configurations, and the two doctors disagreeing over whether anything is wrong with Sybil. At which point, when Dr. Clarkson keeps stressing that he’s concerned, I started to worry about Sybil.

And then comes the moment I was truly concerned about my favorite character, when she asks Dr. Clarkson if she’s on duty, delirious and confused. She’s already had one conversation with Mary in which she elicits a promise from Mary “fight her corner,” defending Tom’s decision to give the baby a Catholic christening. And then, after the baby is born (It’s a girl! Both mother and baby are fine! But are they really??) she has another conversation with her mother, Lady Cora, asking her, “Help me do battle for Tom and the baby.” And when she says, “I just want to sleep, really,” my heart absolutely SANK. The dread I felt for half the episode hardened into absolute certainty that Sybil was doomed, perhaps the baby too.

There are celebratory moments – Lord and Lady Grantham kiss exhuberantly, the servants cheer and are relieved, including Thomas, who tells Jimmy that Sybil is a “lovely person.”

And then. Mary wakes her parents in the middle of the night and every family member – and I mean EVERY family member – gathers around Sybil’s bed as says, “my head” and goes into seizures while both the doctors look on in horror. You know it’s a bad sign when the only people in the room NOT trying to help someone are the two medical professionals.

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Another spoiler line, just in case you didn’t believe me before.

And then Sybil dies. I knew it was coming and I still felt shocked and devastated. It was a beautiful (if absolutely wrenching) scene, well-played by all the actors. Branson, Lord Grantham’s reactions in particular were tough. But the singular most eerie and horrific moment was when the baby started fussing from the other room and everyone fell silent, realizing that Sybil was truly dead and her daughter would have to grow up without her. I’m getting chills just remembering it.

Cut to another moment of shocked, devastated silence as the servants learn that Sybil has passed and their various reactions. Especially Thomas’s, who leaves the room and starts sobbing, “the sweetest spirit under this roof is gone,” and Carson who says, “I knew her all of her life,” absolutely dumbfounded.

Cora, alone with Branson and Sybil’s body, swearing to her daughter that “We’ll look after them both,” and then her growing, quiet, certainty that Lord Grantham is to blame for ignoring Dr. Clarkson.

The sisters have several great moments in this episode, but none better than Mary and Ethel standing by Sybil’s body and Ethel asking if they would get along better now since they’ve lost her and Mary, being Mary, says pragmatically and honestly that they probably wouldn’t. Then proceeds to say, “Since this is the last time we three will be together in this life, let’s love each other now.”

The servants discussing how to feed the baby without Sybil broke my heart. The Dowager saying to Carson “We’ve seen some troubles you and I,” and him responding, “Nothing could be worse,” broke it again.

And then? The image of Branson in the window, holding his baby, uncertain without Sybil and trapped in this grand life he didn’t want, demolished me.

The sweetest spirit under the Downton roof, and my favorite character on the show, is now gone.  Where can we possibly go from here?

Downton Abbey Week 3 Synopsis

Oh, what an episode! Though, each episode of Downton always does cover a lot of ground and pack in the melodrama. Please stop reading now if you haven’t seen Episode Three or it bothers you to hear details before you have…

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Alas, Mary and Matthew still aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, even after he accepted the inheritance and saved Downton. First, she wants him to pull his weight and take an active part in the estate, but then when he discovers that the estate isn’t being managed properly, she won’t listen or support him. [It's probably pretty clear that Mary isn't my favorite of the sisters. Sybil is, in case you're curious.]

The storyline with Ethel was absolutely heartbreaking, but probably realistic. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Crowley team up to help Ethel give up her son Charlie to his rich and landed grandparents, so that he’ll have better opportunities in his life. I kept hoping Mrs. Hughes would offer Ethel one of the new jobs at Downton, but I guess she couldn’t work there with a child. Ethel forced herself to give up Charlie and if you didn’t cry at that, you just don’t have a heart. I wondered if Ethel would do herself in, but Mrs. Crowley offers her a job in the trailer for the next episode, so hopefully not.

The household is atwitter with the arrival of a new candidate for footman, the good-looking Jimmy, who Mary urges Carson to hire to please the ladies downstairs. But he pleases more than the ladies – Thomas, who refused to help Alfred, is eager to offer Jimmy assistance. It was sweet to see Carson defend Alfred, and to watch him train the younger footman.

Just as it was cool to see Matthew stumbling to support Edith in his clueless way. And I loved when the Dowager told Edith to stop whining and to find something to do with herself.

More reasons Mary is an insufferable brat: she essentially ignores Matthew’s question about what they’ll use for a nursery “when the time comes” in favor of redecorating the nursery as a sitting room, then when talking to Anna, she can’t wait to turn the conversation to herself and says, “well, your issues with your husband are coming to an end, but mine are just starting…” Um, Mary, Anna’s husband is in jail and YOURS is essentially trying to do right by you and your family. Obnoxious.

Which brings us to the nicer and more interesting sister: Sybil. Edith receives a mysterious phone call from Sybil, which is cut off. Then, Branson arrives in the middle of a rainstorm during dinner. Apparently, he’s had to leave Ireland and Sybil behind in order to avoid arrest for the burning of a noble family’s home, which he participated in but regretted. This infuriates Lord Grantham, of course, and worries the rest of the family, as well as the servants.

“What a harsh world you live in,” Lord Grantham says to Branson, who responds, “We all live in a harsh world, but at least I know it.”

Which was echoed a few scenes later when Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Crowley discuss Ethel and her giving up Charlie. Mrs. Hughes says that Ethel has done the right thing “until we live in a very different world than this one.”

Sybil arrives safely and has a sweet moment with Branson. Seeing her safely home seems to enrage the family all over again, especially Lord Grantham and Mary, who protests that the family whose home was burned “are like us.”

Daisy has a sweet moment with her father-in-law on the farm where he gives her his blessing to fall in love again and a bit of sage advice. She defends Alfred later, which he thanks her in a later scene. She tells him she’s on his side and is about to confess how she feels when Mrs. Patmore introduces the new kitchen maid, Ivy, who Alfred admires. Poor Daisy! Hopefully Alfred can redeem that clueless moment!

Edith stopped whining and wrote a letter about women’s rights to the paper, which will be published. Lord Grantham doesn’t approve of course, but Matthew is supportive.

Carson is a bit of the comic relief in this episode, saying he’d “He would rather not say” regarding Edith’s letter being published and rushing to put out a fire when smoke comes out of Mrs. Hughes’s office. It’s her new toaster! He says he never expected she would burn down the house, Branson maybe… She says, “You shoud never take anything for granted.”

There’s a troubling moment between Sybil and Branson when they disagree about where the baby should be born, and whether or not they should stay at Downton. He wants to go back to Ireland, but will be arrested on sight if he does.

Matthew tries to discuss the estate with Lord Grantham, who changes the subject, so Matthew goes to get advice from “Cousin Violet.” Daring! She tells him there’s no way not to put noses out of joint, but he should go ahead.

The Anna/Bates thread was a bit confusing, mostly because I couldn’t keep track of who the players were or understand their accents. But I did get the highlights: Bates was on the outs, his letters to and from Anna withheld, as well as his right to visitors. Both he and Anna were suffering, thinking that the other one had given up on their being together. Then Bates, with the help of a fellow prisoner, turned the tables on his cell mate, who’d tried to frame him for something. He got all of Anna’s letters and she got his, all in a big packet. The episode ends with them each reading the letters, laughing and crying, almost as if they’re together again.

Most of this is slightly out of order, batched thematically rather than strictly chronologically. I hope you’ll understand and approve. I wonder what you think of Episode 3?

We return to Downton Abbey

We’ll be blogging about the third season of Downton Abbey over the next several weeks. Please assume that the rest of this post contains spoilers and don’t read further unless you’re prepared to encounter plot details.

Downton Abbey Season 3

First, the American premiere of Downton Abbey is always near my birthday, so it kind of feels like a present to me, but one I can share with family and friends and other rabid fans. This season was hotly anticipated, by me as well as the legions who’ve gotten addicted to this soapy period drama.

Following the changes of WWI, which we saw in Season 2, there were so many moments of adjustment in these first two hours, and we got to see all of our favorite characters in new situations.

O’Brien and Thomas, former downstairs conspirators, are on the outs and now manipulating and backstabbing each other as O’Brien schemes and succeeds in getting her nephew Alfred hired at Downton.

Bates is in prison, which is not quite as dreary and boring as you’d think (which likely owes a lot to Anna’s spunky steadfastness) and Lord Grantham has lost Cora’s fortune in a risky investment, which puts Downton and all of the Crawleys at risk.

Deliciously, the Dowager Countess is fed a bit of her own medicine, wavering in annoyed awe at the arrival at Cora’s American mother Martha Levinson. I never thought I’d see the Dowager Countess back down in any situation, but watching her realize that Downton needs Martha’s money once again, and then trying to curry the favor of a woman she disdains is remarkable.

Mrs. Hughes’ sickness is at first comical as Mrs. Patmore struggles to support her despite her own squeamishness with sickness and doctors, and then poignant as you later realize that Mrs. Hughes probably has cancer, that she will struggle silently and nobly, and probably succumb. What will Downton (and we?!) do without her?

One of my favorite threads through the first two hours was the ways in which each family member and each of the staff had to adjust to the arrival of Branson and his new status as a member of the family. The intimate scenes of Sybil and Branson as spouses privately and publicly were nice touches.

But of course, I must mention the wedding. The Wedding of Mary and Matthew, which is such a perfect plot device on which to hinge so many of these stories. On the one hand, it’s satisfying that they are finally together, but it’s also frustrating that they are still not entirely united as they struggle over Matthew’s possible inheritance. How dreary and cruel Mary can be! But she is riveting, regardless, and always herself.

Her attempt to call off the wedding the night before allowed for some poignant scenes between Mary and Anna but, even more remarkably, Branson and Matthew. Their support of each other was such a nice note and a wonderful way to witness the changes afoot at Downton. Oh, and also, a lovely moment between Mary and Matthew themselves, as they agree to disagree and reconcile.

Which brings me to my two favorite moments of the first two hours of season three of Downton Abbey:

1. Lady Mary comes down the stairs in her wedding gown, with both her father Lord Grantham and her lifelong champion Carson watching, both amazed at her. When she speaks, she addresses Carson first, “Will I do, Carson?” Mary’s relationship with Carson has long been the most redeeming aspect of her character, the chance for her to truly be vulnerable and sweet.

2. At the end of the second hour, in a very poignant closer, Mrs. Hughes reminds Mrs. Patmore that they will all perish one day, which reminds us, the audience, that because this is a period piece, all of these people (if they were real, as well as their real counterparts) have perished. And all that is left is Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) and our memories/imaginings of them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The NO Show Wants You

Host Mindy Hawes with Eritria Pitts and Andrew Larimer.

Today, The NO Show is recording live at the Loews Hotel (300 Poydras), at 6 p.m.

What is The NO Show, you ask? Well, it is a new-style, old-fashioned variety radio show, hosted by Mindy Hawes, with music from Hazy Ray and produced by local filmmaker Helen Krieger of Flood Streets and Least Favorite Love Songs.

Featured in this session of The NO Show are Dan Woods and Cyrus Cooper, founders of Film Instant, Andrew Ward, a musician and poet, and Chris Champagne, political satirist.

The recording is free and open to the public.

Mindy Hawes with Michael Garrett and Jason Foster.

Sisters in NaNoWriMo

A photo of your bloggers, taken by Aimee's son

By Emilie

In 2007, I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. I sent out the e-mail the organizers suggest, warning friends and family of what you are about to attempt and asking them for encouragement and accountability. My sister Aimee got that e-mail and was my biggest cheerleader that year.

We wrote together as kids. It came naturally to us both to tell stories together and to write them down. I wrote about this experience going into NaNoWriMo 2009, never realizing how much it had formed me until the story flowed out of me.

Aimee attempted NaNoWriMo alongside me in 2008, but we both failed to write the full 50,000 words. However, we have now supported each other to TWO NaNoWriMo wins in 2009 and 2010. I’ve learned more from Aimee’s wins than I have from my own (and I learn a lot from my own). She gets behind every year and only her determination to keep going brings her across the finish line.

And we’re hoping to win again in 2011, but it’s a bit different this year. Because now we’re writing together again. We’ve been talking about a story for a few months and at 12:01 on November 1st, we began writing.

Our first word counts were modest, under 1,000 each. But we wrote hundreds of words in a half hour. We began construction on a world and a few people who hadn’t existed were born.

Despite the enormous hurdles that always come with this wicked and crazy challenge, I feel more excited than ever because I am writing again with my original collaborator. It makes me feel like a kid again and that all things are possible, if we only just get started.

By Aimee

As I sit here trying to write about NaNoWriMo (instead of writing for it), my son is lying next to me hot with fever, coughing intermittently, and breathing with difficulty.  This is my fourth NaNoWriMo beginning, and the fourth time my son has decided to be ill on Nov. 1.  Already wholly unprepared for it to be November again, I feel almost defeated before I’ve begun (okay, shortly after I’ve begun).  Almost. Because this year, I agreed to partner with my sister. Write a novel together. Just like when we wrote stories on notebook paper and No. 2 pencils. When Emilie used an eraser. Gasp. I was excited about it even. Until about a week ago. Sure, let me add one more deadline in the ocean of deadlines that is my life. Insecurity. Doubt. Panic. I haven’t prepared. I didn’t know it was November already. I’m not a writer anymore. I spend my days reading manuscripts, not writing them. It’s only Nov. 1, and I’m already exhausted. At least my son is finally sleeping.

Where was I? Oh, writing. I’ve thought about what the past NaNoWriMos have done for me and how Emilie has encouraged me, challenged me, inspired me, and kicked my butt to keep me writing. But as I write, what really matters to me this year isn’t any of those things (even though I am grateful every day for those same things—they’ve changed my future). When I think of this year’s novel—our novel—I see two little girls with No. 2 pencils. Two little girls in love with a good story. Who decided that they had their own stories to tell. I’m honored to be here with you again, Emie. But let me warn you, I’ve decided I won’t be writing this November. Thanks yet again for the reminder that it’s so much simpler. What is better than a good story?

Break out the pencils. I’m ready to tell a story.

Peauxdunque Writers Alliance Presents Yeah, You Write

In 2007, a group of writers came together under the auspices of the Faulkner Society and the Words and Music Conference and formed Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. The crazy name came about because each and every one of the writers felt like they’d arrived in New Orleans from their own private podunks.

And now, the PWA has created a series of literary concerts called “Yeah, You Write.” The first event takes place at Tipitina’s on Thursday, October 13th at 7:30 p.m. Six writers will grace us with their words and the event will be emcee’d by writer/poet/MC/tour guide Nick Fox and followed by the dance visions of D.J. Sep. All for only a $5 cover.

Come hear Mat Johnson (author of “Pym,” winner of the Dos Passos Prize for Literature), Kelly Harris-DeBerry (local poet and literary activist, and founder of the Literary Lab), Amanda Boyden (author most recently of “Babylon Rolling”), Bill Loehfelm (past Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner, author most recently of “The Devil She Knows”), Gian Smith (spoken word artist, author of “O Beautiful Storm,” featured in Treme Season 2 trailer), and Terri Stoor (PWA member and winner of the 2011 William Faulkner-William Wisdom short story competition).

These are the words of our time, our city, our region, and our Peauxdunque. We hope to see you there!!

48 Film Project August 12-14

Team Gefilte Fish Eye shoots 'Damned Love' in Tel Aviv in 2008.

A friend of mine recently told me about 48 Film Project, which is about to start its fifth year in New Orleans (and tenth year overall).

Teams register online and then spend 48 hours writing, producing, editing (and scoring) a 7-minute film. Later, the films are screened for audiences (always sold-out audiences in New Orleans) and the winning films will be screened at the New Orleans Film Festival. They’ll also compete with the winners of other competing cities for a screening at the Cannes International Film Festival.

There are a limited number of team openings in each city, so register now if you’re interested. You can also register as an individual interested in joining teams by providing your name and contact info, as well as skills and experience.

The kickoff event will be Friday the 12th at 6 p.m. at The Big Top/3 Ring Circus. The dropoff event will be at the same place on Sunday at 6 p.m. In between will be 48 hours of no sleep and lots of creative chaos for each of the teams. Don’t forget to register BEFORE the kickoff event as there is limited availability for teams. You can, however, sign up for a waitlist if they’ve already reached their maximum number of teams and you register to join an already-formed team. Check it all out at the website: http://www.48hourfilm.com/neworleans/

If any of our readers compete (or have competed), we’d love to know about your experience!

Photo taken by Rob Hatch at Cinequest 2006.