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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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Plunge into New Orleans' nightlife with "Tchoupitoulas."
Plunge into New Orleans' nightlife with "Tchoupitoulas."

"Tchoupitoulas" documents New Orleans' beauty and darkness

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world – I consider myself a NOLA-phile and consume anything I can about the magical and mysterious Crescent City – so when I had a copy of "Tchoupitoulas" in my hands, which will screen twice at the Milwaukee Film Festival, I couldn't jam it into my laptop quickly enough.

"Tchoupitoulas" – which is a street name in New Orleans – was created by brothers Bill and Turner Ross and produced by Court 13, the same group who produced the stunning "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Like "Beasts," "Tchoupitoulas" has a dreamy quality to it, but whereas "Beasts" is more of a dark fairy tale, "Tchoupiloulas" has a grittier feel as a documentary that chronicles the adventures of the three Zanders brothers – Kentrell, 16; Bryan, 15; and William, 11 – who take the ferry across the Mississippi River from their home in Algiers to the lively French Quarter.

From dusk to dawn, the boys encounter a variety of NOLA nightlife experiences, including burlesque performers, an oyster bar, a rapper in a club, street brass bands, an abandoned riverboat and more. The beautiful, abstract images will make fans of the city long to revisit and those who have never been will most likely feel a mix of curiosity and awe mixed in with a dash of trepidation.

The conversations between the brothers are natural, ranging in topic from how to attract women to Michael Jackson, but sometimes it's difficult to hear what they are saying and the audience might only decipher a single word. However, the snippets of dialogue and the visual vignettes which flow one into the next create a non-traditional plot that's still easy to follow and an experience that washes over the viewer more like a poem than a documentary.

My only complaint was that I didn't feel that the brothers, although appealing people, were crucial to the film. They could have been removed from it entirely and little of the overall experience would have been lost. This might be due to the f…

The perfect place for a pop-up park.
The perfect place for a pop-up park.
Swing time.
Swing time.
This one is particularly fun, allowing the swinger to "go over the edge."
This one is particularly fun, allowing the swinger to "go over the edge."
Bench swing.
Bench swing.

Park "pops up" under Holton Street bridge

Let's see, we have pop-up beer gardens, pop-up restaurants, pop-up stores and now, a pop-up park. Located under the Holton Street Bridge, the "park" – created by a group of Milwaukee artists and activists – features five swings, a bench swing, two tire swings and a trapeze swing.

All of the seats are re-purposed tires with the website spray painted on the bottom. An online video also contains this statement:

"This was social construct project: it invited other artists and those who support more spontaneous activity in our daily routines to come together last Friday night to do a guerrilla installation ... It is our hope that the installation will serve as not only an element of recreation, but as a point of reconsideration for these leftover spaces in our city."

The swings are very well-secured with thick ropes and chains to the bridge beams – they even affixed rubber around the beams so the chains wouldn't damage them.

I felt safe enough on the swings as a 120-pound adult that I'm bringing my kids back for some afternoon playtime before this gem of a park pops down.

One-day-old Levi James in September, 2003.
One-day-old Levi James in September, 2003.

In yo' face, infertility

Nine years ago today my son was born, but when I look at him, I sometimes can't believe he's here.

I was told, repeatedly, that I wasn't a candidate for conception. A doctor once told me I wasn't ovulating regularly and that I would, most likely, never conceive a child. (I later sent her a photo of my healthy 9-month-old son). For the first decade of my adult life, this was welcomed news, but then, I turned 30 and suddenly, I felt betrayed by my body.

My mind took over and convinced me I didn't want kids. Just steer clear of baby showers, my inner voice said. And I did just that. I got a dog; I complained about other people's kids.

So when the two pink lines appeared on the white stick, you can imagine my surprise.

I do not believe blood makes a family; I believe love makes a family. But I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to be pregnant – even though I hated every day of it – and to experience birth – even though I opted not to have an epidural and afterwards felt like a fleet of milk trucks ran me over.

The Existence of Levi, who's now a little boy with glasses and my very same mouth, reminds me of a quote that I adore. A quote that wasn't said by a brilliant philosopher or a famous writer, but instead by Wally Byam, the man who invented the Airstream camper.

"It was impossible and so it took a little longer."

"A Journey Home" by Milwaukee's Matthew George.
"A Journey Home" by Milwaukee's Matthew George.

Milwaukee photographer picked as finalist in Canon contest

Last year, Ron Howard and Canon USA invited people to submit photographs that would influence the script, theme and feel of a Ron Howard production. They received 100,000 photos and selected eight. Ron's daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, directed the short "When You Find Me."

This year, the contest, called Project Imaginat10n, was expanded and there are now 10 categories and 10 winners.

Milwaukee photographer Matthew George's photo called "A Journey Home" was picked as a finalist. Voting is open until Oct. 1.

The first five shorts will be directed by Eva Longoria from "Desperate Housewives"; actor, singer and comedian Jamie Foxx; Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter; Georgina Chapman, fashion designer and actress; and James Murphy, singer and founder of LCD Soundsystem.

"I am honored to be a finalist in the contest," says George. "I really do feel that photography is a journey of self discovery, and it's ability to teach us about life is limitless."

To find out more about the contest, go here.