The long, dark night of Milwaukee’s soul: 5 ways to celebrate the 2011 winter solstice
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Consider this: At some point in the near future, Christmas nostalgia will be all white Coke cans and Arthur Christmas. There was a time when holiday classics by Burl Ives and Bing Crosby profaned the true meaning of Christmas, but the wheel in the sky keeps on turning, and the significance of the holiday shifts with every year. Winter solstice, however, celebrates a fundamental shift in the Earth, when the planet’s axis has tipped as far away from the sun as possible. Before the 2011 winter solstice arrives Dec. 22, The A.V. Club presents five ways to celebrate the forces that keep our world turning and our feet on the ground.
Winter Solstice at the UWM Planetarium (Dec. 21, 7 p.m.)
The stars are one of nature’s gifts to us all. Of course, you can’t generally see them over Milwaukee’ light pollution. Luckily, for the low, low price of $2, the night sky is recreated for you through video projection on a dome-shaped screen.
The solstice connection: Experts will point out the cosmic trajectories of stars and other majestic curiosities of the sky.
Roulette at Potawatomi Bingo Casino
Roulette is a microcosm of life: You play your chips the best you can, and cruel Lady Fate laughs at your designs. Also, did you know you can smoke on the gaming floor?
The solstice connection: Tony Soprano once said a roulette wheel operates by “the same principle as the solar system.” That’s true, except the Earth doesn’t eventually slow its orbit and fall into the sun. Wait—it doesn’t, does it?
Polaris Dining Room at The Hyatt
The Polaris was once a spinning, romantic destination that seemed like a windowed, five-star Gravitron. In 2009, the Polaris closed to the public in favor of private events. Now, few enter but the occasional posse of drunken businessmen, hooting with handfuls of sweaty cash. But Polaris still occasionally entertains clients other than intoxicated business professionals.
The solstice connection: The Earth revolves around the sun and turns on its axis. Hyatt’s rotating dining room with a 360-degree view of downtown reminds us that though we feel stationary, we’re always revolving—around the sun, on the Earth’s axis, and toward our own deaths.
The Streets of Old Milwaukee, European Village, and Asia exhibit at Milwaukee Public Museum
As if the recreation of turn-of-the-century Milwaukee streets wasn’t surreal enough, the exhibit segues into a faux European village, and then into the streets and marketplaces of Asia. It’s cool but also troubling, like a nightmare you’d have after studying all night for a world history exam.
The solstice connection: The exhibits are connected, just like their real-life counterparts, to the here and now by a relatively small patch of space-time fabric. When a few steps carry you from Old Milwaukee to an Old Dehli market, the distance of a single step seems impossibly long. Given the thousands of years and miles the exhibits represent, it’s also immeasurably short.
Nomad World Pub
There’s no better pub in town to contemplate the enormity of the Earth and our place in it. A world map on the wall shows you just how much of this vast planet you’ll never see. On Sunday nights, the rhythms of the globe converge in DJ Marcus Doucette’s brain and explode out of his amplifiers.
The solstice connection: It’s a head-scratcher all right—despite Nomad’s name, the bar never moves. It’s also famous for another paradox: the 15-minute happy hour. Many have pondered it, and a few have gone mad in the process. Best not to think about it and simply order the Prix Fix (a can of Pabst, a shot of Jamo, and a cigarette for $5). Let your mind join the pool of collective consciousness and your vomit join the pool of collective stomach acids on the Brady Street sidewalk.