Remembering Mildred Fish-Harnack

November 7, 2011

A new WPT program premiering tonight has all the suspense and romance you’d find in a Hollywood thriller — but this one is a real Wisconsin story, with a genuine hero and a tragic ending. Wisconsin’s Nazi Resistance: The Mildred Fish-Harnack Story tells the tale of  Milwaukee-born Fish-Harnack, who joined the resistance movement in Berlin and paid for it with her life. In fact, she was the the only American woman executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler.

It was at UW-Madison where Mildred Fish met her husband Arvid Harnack–she a student and teacher there, and he a Rockefeller Fellow from Germany. With him, she moved to Germany in the late 1920s, and they soon witnessed Hitler’s rise to power. At great personal risk, the couple worked with other activists to oppose Hitler’s Nazi regime: distributing literature, helping Jews and transmitting intelligence information about the Third Reich to the American and Soviet governments.

In 1942, the Harnacks were arrested along with a number of other resistance fighters. Within months, Arvid was sentenced to death and hanged at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. Mildred, originally sentenced to six years of hard labor by the Reich Court Martial, was sent to the guillotine in February 1943 after Hitler revoked the judgment and ordered a second trial.

Actress and Greendale native Jane Kazcmarek narrates the documentary, which airs Monday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television and Milwaukee’s MPTV. WPT has also launched a companion website that provides a wealth of video, documents, photos and a timeline.

Art – Alive and Well in Wisconsin

October 20, 2011

When I moved to the Midwest 15 years ago, my family was surprised. How could one move from the East Coast to the Midwest? It seemed incomprehensible to them. When I informed them I was moving to the North Woods, to a small town in the “middle of no where”, they were alarmed. What about culture? What about music? What about opportunities for the children? My answer was always the same. “It’s not that far from the cities.I have a car.” In reality, we didn’t really need to go to the cities, we just had to be more pro-active, plan well in advance. We had to change our expectations, more local artists, more amateurs, less professionals. The truth is…. that was reality then but it isn’t reality any longer.

I have spent the last year traveling around Wisconsin visiting small town performing art centers and other musical venues. Let me tell you, small town Wisconsin is not only alive and well it is thriving. Yes I have seen my share of local musicians and various “amateurs” but I have also seen Bill Staines, Brandi Carlisle, John Prine, Mike Compton, Yonder Mountain Band, Corky Siegel, or best of all the ABBA Tribute band. Yes I have gone to the big city in years past and seen the likes of Carol King and James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John. They were great concerts but I will take a small performing arts center any day to the likes of the Xcel Center or the Target Center where you watch the big screen more than the stage. It is true that you don’t have multiple options on the same evening like you would have in Madison or Milwaukee. It’s true that in many towns the venues operate only once or twice a month. Seeing a performance every weekend might mean traveling at least to the next town. But, that is a small cost for living on 20 acres two miles from the center of town and being kept awake at night because of the deafening sound of peepers.

The Park Theater, Hayward

So on the average day, I would have to say that although we are close in small town Wisconsin, we still are not quite on par with “the big city.” That all changed this month. You see, on October 1st, small town Wisconsin was at least on par if not ahead of many big cities. On October 1st, Hayward Wisconsin was host to the Manhattan Short Film Festival. That put us on par with Milwaukee and Minneapolis and put us ahead of Madison and Chicago. The Manhattan Short Film Festival was shown in over 200 cities, across six continents for one week. It is a film festival of short films, nothing lasting more than about 18 minutes. From all of the submitted films, from all over the world, the top 10 go out around the world to be viewed and judged by the world at large. I was there at The Park Theater on October 1st with 179 friends, laughing and crying and reading sub-titles. Our votes counted just as much as those in New York,  San Francisco, and London. Hayward is now on the map for something other than sporting events and the National Fishing Hall of Fame. Culturally, we are coming into our own, as I found all over Wisconsin last year.

This year I’m continuing my pursuit of eventually attending every Performing Arts Center in small town Wisconsin. This year I’m targeting theatrical performances. I suppose that’s because I saw Of Mice and Men in Green Spring at the American Players Theater and was enthralled. If you have particular PACs (Performing Art Centers) that you think I ought to visit, drop me a line. Otherwise, I’ll just plan to see you out on the trail.

Dayle Quigley

People to meet

March 18, 2011

In some circles, Aldo Leopold is famous. In others, not so much. He was born toward the end of the 19th century and his most well-known book, “A Sand County Almanac,” wasn’t published until 1949, a year after his death. Sixty years later and the book is gaining in popularity, translated and published all over the world. Wisconsinites proudly claims him as one of our own and there are markers attesting to the success and genius of his work all over the state. But don’t feel bad if you are one of the many out there who is not yet familiar with him. The new film , “Greenfire: Aldo Leopold and A Land Ethic for Our Time”, is a wonderful introduction.

The documentary premiered on March 1 in Baraboo, near where Leopold and his family owned and restored a piece of land and near the home of the Aldo Leopold Foundation headquarters. In the film, a rancher and conservationist in New Mexico named Sid Goodloe says about his experience reading Leopold, “Boy, if I’d just read this thirty years ago I could have saved a lot of time and effort because he already knew all the things I was learning.”

It’s not easy to sum up all that Leopold is, but I agree with Goodloe in thinking that we can count ourselves lucky if we’ve had the chance to get  to know some of his ideas before getting too far along in life. For those who are already chummy with the guy, this film is a wonderful celebration of his legacy in land stewardship, soil conservation, forestry, and ethics. I found it very inspiring. Find a screening, or better yet, get a copy of the DVD and host one yourself. You’re friends will appreciate the introduction.

Another film that promises to both inspire and introduce us to important fellow Wisconsinites premiers in Madison on April 19. Produced by the Midwest Environmental Advocates, “Crossing the Line” illustrates a people’s history of legal battles that have been fought to protect all of our rights to clean air, land and water.  I understand very little about American law but I know it takes guts and tenacity to stand up to the powerful forces that are used to getting their way, even when that way hurts lots of us regular people. The film presents five stories about people who have managed to win, despite the odds. I’m sure I have a lot to gain from getting to hear these voices. Thanks to the good folks at MEA for taking on these cases, and then for sharing some much needed good news. It’s never a bad moment to be inspired.

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs. Both films received grants from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

Video Post – Musings on posting and life as an artist

September 5, 2010


Here is a download link for the video, for those on dial-up who wish to download it to view.

To download the video, right click/CMD-click the link and choose “save link as”

My caution is that it is a large file, being video. it is 95MB.



My apologies for the roughness of the editing. Please let me know what you think of the video in the comments down below.

Links mentioned in the video:

Portrait a Day Project

Rainy Day Worzella

Spyros Heniadis

Betty Boop Festival in Wisconsin Rapids

July 30, 2010

Have you ever visited Wisconsin Rapids?  I have not, but I plan to go there next weekend.  A jewelry artist from Wisconsin Rapids sent me an invitation and  information about  Betty Boop Festival.  I  grew up in Europe where we loved Betty, but have to admit that I am guilty of not knowing that Myron “Grim” Natwick, original top animator of Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios in 1930 was Wisconsin Rapids native son!

The organizers of Netwick’s celebration invited  artists, vendors, retailers, etc. to rent a booth during  Aug 7 & 8 events - an outdoor venue in downtown Wisconsin Rapids, and an indoor venue at Hotel Mead.

I will copy
  the announcement I have received:

“Betty Boop Festival, August 5 -8, 2010, is a four day celebration of animation art and history in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, honoring hometown native son Grim Natwick who was original top animator of Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios in 1930.  Events include: Grim Natwick Art Exhibit from ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archives; Animation Film Festival featuring Wisconsin filmmakers, Nina Paley, and Betty Boop films; Nina Paley Art Exhibit and Meet the Artist events; Betty Boop Bash dance; Betty Boop Revue song and dance with Broadway star Tom Berklund; Motorcycle Shine, Show & Ride; Arts & Collectibles Show and Presentations; Dedication of Grim Natwick State of Wisconsin Historical Marker, and more!  Vendor and Artists booths are available to rent at two locations, Aug. 7-8; forms and details can be found at 
> Mark your calendar for a boop-oop-a-doop great time and help spread the word: 



People and Ideas=Incredible Potential!

March 18, 2010
Making it Home Film Fest at the Al. Ringling Theatre: Liz, Milly, Woody

Opening Night at the Al. Ringling Theatre with Baraboo Making It Home project director Liz Nevers and Milly and Woody Zantow. Photo by Jessica Becker.

Milly Zantow is my new hero, but I am not alone. Almost 200 people turned out at the Al. Ringling Theatre last weekend to honor Ms. Zantow at the kick-off for the Making It Home Film Festivals. Milly Zantow is a pioneer in plastics recycling!

“We came up with the idea of a little imprint on the bottom of every container, a little triangle emblem with a number inserted in it and that would identify what the plastic was—1, 2, 3 on up— and so I was real happy when that went through and now days everybody can see that,” Milly explains in a short film about her work directed by Liese Dart, a student of the UW-Madison Nelson Institute’s fall 2009 Environmental Filmmaking Workshop. (All seven “shorts” shown throughout the 2009 Tales from Planet Earth film festival can be viewed here.)

Yes, we can see it and probably take it for granted. I know I did. When I learned that a woman from Wisconsin was behind the national plastics recycling movement, and the EPA adopted practice of labeling, I was impressed.

Milly says that after she returned from a visit to Japan in the 1970s, she started seeing her home surroundings differently. She had been impressed by the way garbage was neatly organized and collected in Japan, so she went to the dump in Sauk County and spent a little time observing. Turns out most of what was coming on the trucks, and blowing around the dump, was plastic in one form or another.

The story continues—she and a friend sold their life insurance policies, bought a machine to recycle plastic, collected and processed the stuff themselves, and even found commercial buyers to use the recycled material to make new products. Much of what Milly was able to accomplish began as simple questions leading her to learn what was going on and why. As she learned more, she educated others. People started coming to her to ask “can this be recycled?”

A visit to the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame clearly shows there many Wisconsinites from whom we can draw inspiration and feel state pride. In fact, three new members will be inducted next month: citizen activist Emily Earley, DNR science writer Ruth Hine, and UW-Stevens Point professor of biology George Becker.

We all have our own way of connecting with place, of seeing ourselves in the larger community and landscape, and of understanding how to translate our passions and values into meaningful action. These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who dedicate their energy and time to help to make the state a place we are lucky to call home.

At the most recent Making It Home Film Festival in Dodgeville, I had the pleasure of meeting many of these people, caring and compassionate regular people, who came in droves to watch free movies and talk about them. The conversations after films like “The Greening of Southie” about a “green” construction project in Boston, or “Upstream Battle” about people who worked together from various interests—tribes, hydroelectric companies, and farmers—to return salmon runs to a threatened river in the Pacific Northwest, were wonderful. I was reminded that it’s not just Wisconsin’s lakes, forests, and seasons that I cherish. I love the spirit of the Wisconsin people, and it’s these people who are part of a larger tradition of caring for the land, the water, and the communities that thrive here.

Now, as I look around my Madison neighborhood and I wonder why things are done the way they are, or not done, I think of Milly. Having the courage to ask questions and think creatively about solutions, as so many Wisconsinites do, will naturally lead to new ways to improve the quality of life for myself and my neighbors. It is spring in Wisconsin and the soil feels very fertile!

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs at the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

Plastics One Through Seven (TRAILER) from Nelson Institute @ UW-Madison on Vimeo.

Let’s Go to the Film Festival?

February 16, 2010

An article earlier this month in the New York Times about the Sundance Film Festival, held annually in January, and about film festivals in general asked: Are they still necessary?

I think it’s a valid question, though I certainly hope the answer is yes. Or that they are at least still considered a pleasant and worthwhile way to spend a weekend. I am coordinating four film festivals this March and April here in Wisconsin.

Ghostbird film still

"Ghostbird," the movie, will screen at three of the Making it Home Film Festivals. See film information on the Making it Home Film Festival Website at

The festivals are called Making it Home, and they each will use a variety of films, from Wisconsin and around the world, to explore the many ways people and place affect one another. The first festival opens during Aldo Leopold days and the fourth and final festival takes place during the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. The environmental themes of the Making it Home Film Festivals make it especially important to ask out loud: Should we all save the carbon output by staying home and ordering up movies on Netflix?

The Wisconsin Humanities Council strives to support strong communities with public programs that encourage the use of history, culture, and conversation. We understand that films are powerfully good at telling stories and giving people something to talk about. We also figured that communities around the state would enjoy seeing free films and that, considering the strong tradition of caring deeply about the Wisconsin landscape and its natural resources, Wisconsinites would be eager to see some of the latest, most exciting new films from filmmakers around the world.

Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Institute, which includes the annual festival and the Sundance Channel on cable, chooses to embrace technologies that allow people greater access to non-hollywood films. “Opening new vistas,” he is quoted as saying to describe his approach to the broad distribution of Sundance selections. He believes that the more access people have, the greater their overall appetite for independent film. The Making it Home Film Festivals draw from the Tales from Planet Earth Film Festival produced by the UW-Madison Nelson Institute in Madison.

Whats on your plate stars

The film "What's On Your Plate?" will screen at Making it Home Film Festivals, followed by family-friendly conversations about food! Film info at

Ultimately, the goal and the appeal of film festivals like Making it Home and Sundance is to bring folks together to spend some time sitting still, in a darkened theater, to share the experience of a well-told story. Because when people gather, and feel moved or inspired, they are inclined to turn to one-another, friends and strangers, to talk.

The Making it Home Film Festivals, organized by the Wisconsin Humanities Council with local partners in Baraboo, Dodgeville, Milwaukee, and the Chequamegon Bay (Ashland/Bayfield), have been designed by and for those communities. Films were selected and events planned specifically to meet the interests of the people living in those regions, making the drive downtown to the main street theater worth the time (and energy). And while you can go to the Making it Home Website and watch trailers for some of the films, as well as short films made by Wisconsin filmmakers that will be interspersed throughout the festivals, I would agree with the Sundance fans: Attending a film festival is a life experience for which there is no substitute.

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs, Wisconsin Humanities Council.

Listen. Watch. Change. (Then share your ideas with us.)

August 4, 2009

On Wisconsin Public Television Tuesday night, a 57-minute version of the feature-length documentary Playing for Change: Peace through Music premieres.

The video follows record producer Mark Johnson’s multimedia, multicontinent music project, which he says, “was born out of the idea that we have to inspire each other to come together as a human race, and that music is the best way to do this.” Sure, change is a word made trite in 2008, but there’s nothing trite about these artists or these songs.

Below, a cover of the tune that started it all, Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” The musicians in the clip had never met each other, and they performed (via Johnson’s mobile recording studio) in locations as distant as Santa Monica, New Orleans,  Zuni, New Mexico, Amsterdam, Caracas, Barcelona and Umlazi, South Africa:

Because I manage the Web site, I’m intrigued by Playing for Change. Our site’s mission is to support Wisconsin’s arts, culture, humanities and history, and we do this by bringing arts and culture lovers together with visual and literary artists, performers, authors, scholars and historians from around the state.

After learning about Mark Johnson’s project, I’m wondering how we can use to extend our reach — from Milwaukee to Lac du Flambeau to La Crosse, and all the places in between. Using the resources we have in place, how can we bring arts and culture to your children’s schools, to your neighborhoods and to your lives? Even more exciting to me right now, how might become a place where we inspire residents from the state’s farthest reaches to come together to create, much like Mark Johnson has?

Watch Playing for Change on WPT at 8:30 p.m., August 4; view Bill Moyers’ interview with Mark Johnson online;  or listen to an archived interview of Johnson conducted by Wisconsin Public Radio‘s own Jean Feraca (visit Here on Earth‘s April archive, and select April 21).

Then, send your comments and ideas. You can contact us at, call us toll-free at 866-558-4766 or use the comment form below to post your thoughts to this blog.

–Tammy Kempfert

This is your brain on Bach

July 1, 2009

In an episode called “Musical Minds,” last night’s season premiere of NOVA showcased the most recent research of neurologist/author Oliver Sacks. He’s perhaps best known for the memoir-turned-movie Awakenings, but his latest book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, examines the ways that individual brains respond to music.

Featured in the NOVA program are a rock drummer with Tourette  syndrome; an autistic pianist who can play nearly any song after one listen; and an orthopedic surgeon who, though not musically trained, began composing and playing classical piano after he was struck by lightning.

The following excerpt from “Musical Minds” shows Dr. Sacks himself submitting to a brain scan. To determine his cerebral response to song, researchers recorded the doctor’s brain activity while the life-long Bach enthusiast listened to two Masses — one by Bach and one by Beethoven. They wanted to see if the scan reflected his preference for Bach.

Which composer rocked Dr. Sacks’ amygdalae? Watch the four-minute clip to find out.

You can also view the full hour online at NOVA‘s Web site. But don’t delay: Due to rights restrictions, the program will only be available for streaming on the NOVA Web site this week, July 1-7, 2009.

NOVA is broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television. Check to learn when the next episode will air.

Using the “Web 2.0″

April 10, 2009

I’ve spent an interesting week trying to integrate Web 2.0 into my workflow. I love technology, and I love the participatory culture. I’m a bit of a technogeek, I have a Blackberry (no iPhone here despite it’s iconic status), a Windows PC (my main imaging workstation for my photography), a laptop running three different operating systems (2 different Linux distros and Windows for my wife), a netbook, and a Mac. The house is set up with a wireless network, and the phone has internet access as well.

With all of this hardware and connectivity around, you would think it would be easy for me to be part of the 20% instead of the 80% in terms of the particpatory Web 2.0 culture, but it’s something I still find challenging.

So I spent the last week trying to streamline my ability to participate in the Web 2.0. See, a week ago my wife and I were in Wausau for the weekend Blues Cafe event. Lots of great Blues. Studabaker John and Sue Debaco were the highlights of our weekend. Two very different Blues artists, both powerful performers in their own rights.

I was out there at the shows, and I had my Blackberry, and could have posted some fun stuff, here to the blog, or to some of my other social media sites. The problem was, I couldn’t. Not “couldn’t” as in not possible, but “couldn’t” as in didn’t have the tools and right setup to do it.

At that point I had the ability to post to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Blogger from my Blackberry, but not to WordPress. The other limitation, was that every different service would require me to retype the text and re-upload the media to each different service. Not pleasant on a thumbsize keyboard.

What I wanted was the ability to post all types of content to all my services at once. Easily.

This quest led me to three services., and

Each does the same thing, but in slightly different ways, and so I’ve started using them all depending on the type of content I’m posting. The most versatile of the services is Posterous. It’s a blog service of it’s own, but it also posts to just about any service you can think of, including wordpress. What I love about it is the way it just handles your media for you. You post via email, which is perfect for For instance, you can attach a video file from your phone and email it to your Posterous account, and it automatically converts it and embeds it into your post. The quality of the video is reflected in the quality of the capture device, but the ability to post video that easily is astoundingly useful! It’s really fantastic, because now I can update any and all of my services from my phone. I’m still testing how the posting looks from each of the various services, and I’m also testing the capabilities of my phone’s media capture devices. All in all I’m having lots of fun with it and hope to share some real time content with our readers here.

Find out more at


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