Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beating the Heat at Music in the Park

Hey everyone, guess what? It's really hot outside! ("Thanks for the tip, I was wondering why I've been sweating every time I step outside," Everyone). Temperatures yesterday, Thursday, July 21 reached into the hundreds. That's pretty, pretty, hot. Definitely not my region. But while the heat may have seemed near unbearable during the day, I went to check out Bill Bynum & Co. at Wilson Park in Milan during Music in the park, and you know what? It was very pleasant over there. There was a nice breeze coming in off of Ford Lake and the park provided a nice,shady setting to listen to some fine music.

So lets talk about the music for a second. Bill Bynum and Co consist of Bill Bynum on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Mary Seelhorst on fiddle, and John Lang on the pedal guitar. The group also ha a bass player but, "He's got a lady back home... He's probably sitting in some air conditioned bar right now," said Bynum. At the end of their set Bynum describes their sound as "hillbilly music" but also relented to the fact that it is more well-known as "Americana" but Bynum did not seem to appreciate that distinction a lot.

Personally, saying I dabble in this style of music is probably overstating things a bit. I've heard it before. I've seen bands incorporate elements of Americana in their music (one of my favorite shows to this day, was seeing Iron & Wine after they became a real band with a fiddle player and pedal guitarist in tow,and not just an awesome singer/songwriter with an awesome beard). I've also listened to some southern rock which incorporates lyrics about whiskey-tinged memories, aging, and the law (all of which were prominent themes in Bynum's songs and the covers they chose). But that's about it, and southern rock I speak of really only entails Skynard radio singles and oeuvre of the Drive-By-Truckers.

I've found as I've gotten older (relatively speaking of course) I enjoy this style of music more, probably because I can relate to the themes more now, if nothing else. But there was also something about the setting and the music combined on Thursday night that just kind of seemed to fit. The southern-esque style of music mixed with heat and humidity was nice, the only thing I was missing was some lemonade and sweet tea blended. After the set Rena Gibelyou, co-owner of the lighthouse who has had these guys perform before, told me that Seelhorst plays her fiddle completely by ear, and does not read sheet music. For that fact, she was very good. Bynum himself can't exactly set the world ablaze with his guitar playing, but he has a great twang in his voice and he doesn't need to stretch any sort of guitar-playing virtuosity. Lang was good sitting at the pedal guitar, but in all honesty, I just love the sound that thing makes. Especially outside on a hot day, I wish they'd allowed him a couple more solos just to let that sound vibrate throughout the park.

Now I would like to talk a little bit about the setting. It was very nice,specially being in the shade, but I really only have one main qualm. I thought about it while snapping pictures and taking some video and it was reiterated to me by a concert-goer who came up to see Bynum from Toledo. "It's really nice, I enjoy the shade from this huge cottonwood,but I think the back-drop could be a little nicer," Mike Weintraub said. What he was getting at was the fact that the band was situated right in front of the basketball court,next to the big cottonwood. And on the court were multiple trucks and such. Seeing as the park is filled with beauty, and could be absolutely gorgeous on a night like last's, it was a little disappointing. However, this is a minor setback on what was a great evening of free music in the city of Milan.

P.S. I'm still going to put a video here, even though there's already one at the top. I' hope that 1:30 clip is done by the time you get to this point in the post :)

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The End of Harry

So I attended a midnight showing of the final movie in the Harry Potter franchise on Thursday night. I feel like many people will look at back at this movie in a bittersweet manner; enjoying the movie itself, but sad to see a franchise they've come to love come to an end. I am not sure if that is how I feel. While I wouldn't say that I am happy there will be no more magical hi jinx with Harry, Ron and Hermoine, but I do feel as though the series has run its course.

I say this for a couple of reasons. As a 23 year-old male I was definitely a little older and more male than a majority of the people in attendance. But I did not feel out of place in my mind because I literally grew up with the characters in the movie. The first book came out when I was ten, exactly how old Harry was at the start of the first book. The first couple of books were filled with whimsy, and a light sense of something darker. But Voldermort (who really carries the darkness) was not really around for the first two books, so the darkness that has really come alive in the last few movies was not there. This was perfect for a young boy like me.

But as I got older, my taste matured, and just the fact that there was a magical world of kids my age performing spells would not have been enough to whet my appetite. But this did not happen. As the books progressed, they started to deal with death, love, and even awkward sexual tension, odd themes if these were just kids' books. As I got older and more mature,so did the characters, and so did the subject matter of the books. people Harry truly cared about, like Sirius who became kind of the closest thing harry had to a father, die trying to protect him. That cannot be an easy thing for a boy going through puberty to deal with. A normal 15-year-old would just be worrying about Cho Chang, but no, Harry also has to deal with the fact that wizards more powerful, and greater than himself, are literally sacrificing themselves so Harry can do something he has no grasp of whatsoever. That's heavy.

In actuality, the most recent film featured so much death that it could easily have received an "R" rating had there been more blood and less wands. And while I think the movies have done a fine job in attempting to convey the same sorts of emotions that the books did while having to cut some stuff due to time constraints, i think the one part the filmmakers missed the boat in the last movie is with death. Even though they made the last book into two movies, there are several occurances where things just kind of happen and are justglanced over. I don't want to get to spoilery, so I will leave names out, but in the penultimate battle scene, members of the Order of the Phoenix and other characters who we have gotten to know over the course of now 8 movies get killed. Not only do we not actually see this occur, but there are mentioned briefly with a tracking shot showing the dead bodies and some of their friends and family weeping over them.

Then it’s back to Harry. For a series that may seem like it’s about protecting the world or whatever, it was seven books long, and while Rowling isn't the best author ever, she'd have to be literally the worst author ever for us as readers to not have a connection with these characters. Ok sorry I’ve got to get into this some more. SPOILER: the fact that we barely get a mention of Lupin and Tonks' death or the Weasley twin dying made me quite angry in fact. While these were not the main characters they have more "face time" or "page time" then Voldermort or countless other characters. Neville Longbottom gets to look like a hero in the movie, but these three characters who have done plenty of heroic things over the course of the series aren't even granted the decency of dying on screen.

Also: WHERE WAS HAGRID???? He is in the last movie for like 5 minutes and after Harry saves the world or whatever, he comes up to him, hugs Harry then walks away. That’s it. No more Hagrid.

Okay, but enough complaining. I actually did really like the last movie. It was the shortest of all of them I believe, and at no point did it drag at all. We got big action set pieces, followed with some dialogue setting up what was going to happen next, followed by another big set piece. The film was well constructed and shot very well. They were also able to mine some small humorous moments out of dark material and not come across as cheesy. I also felt they dealt with the final scenes very well, especially Harry in the White Room, which also could have been cheesy but I thought worked.

All in all, i thought it was good ending to a series I have literally grown up with. Maybe not the best film adaptation of something I love a la "The Dark Knight" but still good nonetheless.

But one more thing: couldn't they have given old Harry an actual beard instead of stubble like he was 16? Shouldn't the most awesome wizard in the history of wizards be able to grow a decent beard? I mean, come on.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

My First Celtic Festival

This past weekend, Saline hosted its annual Celtic Festival, and I made my first visit. While I had read all of the previews and asked around, I still was not really sure what to expect from the festival. What I saw I was very happy with.

Whenever there is a big outdoor event like the Celtic Festival, it helps to have some nice weather. And while many of the people that I talked to while there made sure to comment about the heat (it was 91 on Saturday without the heat index)the sun was shining the whole day and there wasn't even a threat of bad weather.

Aside from it being extremely hot,the other thing most brought up to me was the fact that everyone either had a smile on their face or appeared to be having a good time, which is something I noticed myself. Again,this may be the weather,but I also think it has to do with the general atmosphere of the festival. I think one of the main things that made the atmosphere so great were the people who were working as the old-time Celts. While obviously knowledgeable about what they were talking about (swords, music, birds, haggis) many of the demonstrators also had a winking sense of humor,but not to the point where they where making light of the festival. To me, this seems like a great way to make sure the general public will get a kick out of the Celtic Festival. I know there are plenty of people out there (myself included) interested in history and how people used to live back in the day, but there are also plenty of people who aren't. Plenty of people who may not be super interested in the historical aspects still go to the Celtic Festival to see what it's about. If all the demonstrations were dry, straight historical recreations and completely lacked a sense of humor, it seems possible that the general 'everyone is having a great time' feeling may not be so prevalent.

However, it also helps that the people doing the demonstrations were good anyways, so maybe my last paragraph is moot. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this year's Celtic Festival, and look forward to next years,as well as upcoming outdoor events in Saline like Summerfest coming up at the beginning of August.

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