Today, USA; Tribune, Chicago; Fonzarelli, Arthur
- I was out of town for the latter part of the week, and missed a lot going on in Milwaukee. By the time I battled traffic (294 in Chicago was a mess) and got home, the cold I've been battling really kicked in and I spent the weekend huddled under the covers. Among the things i missed: Cocksmiths at the BBC, which would have been a good place to see them, and the Championship bout of the Brew City Bruisers. (As best as i can tell, the Crazy 88s destroyed any hope of the Sheevil Kneevels pulling off the upset of the century. Oh well.)
- Brian took Stella to see the Bucks in one of their few wins this past Thursday, and together they reported that overall, it was a good tight game, all the way through. I'm glad Stella finally got to see a win. She told me that the anthem was "OK"; Brian said it was a bunch of kids and they were on key. There was, however, somebody about three rows in back of Brian and Stella that sounded like they were on the rejects part of American Idol Auditions. Brian: "Aw, Dawg, I'm sorry, but I can't sent you to Hollywood. Paula? No. Simon? Terrible." And I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, any citizen should feel able to belt out their Anthem whenever they wish, and feel good about raising their voice in unified song. On the other hand, sometimes it's OK to just mouth it. Still, Stella got to see a good, tight game.
- So, I'm in my hotel room paging through my complimentary copy of USA Today. Have I mentioned before that I really don't understand why USA Today exists? Maybe it's because it's the McDonalds of newspapers: comforting in its exact configuration wherever you are in the country. Still, when I go to a different city I like to eat in a locally-owned restaurant because i want to sample the local flavour -- and the same with the news. I want the local paper! So I went down to the hotel restaurant, ordered a cupppa, and picked up a Chicago Tribune. The Trib is especially comforting to me: it's the newspaper I learned to read on. And over all the years, they still haven't changed their logo, which is equally comforting. And the sections all seem the same. Headline fonts are a bit updated, but that's pretty much it. Its like going to New York and reading the Times, or Washington and picking up a Post. They have their own subtle distinctions, and in these rapidly homogonisitic times, I like that. I wish hotels would just send up the local paper. I'm in your town, send me your town's news!
- So I'm in my hotel room, and to check back in, I see that back in Mil-town, they've finally raised the $$$ (like it took all that long) to build the Fonzie statue, and true to his word, Mike Brenner is closing Hotcakes Gallery. Another mixed feeling here. I'm sad to see Hotcakes close. They put on interesting, thought-provoking shows, and really added to the art scene in town. But please, Mike, don't kid yourself. This little publicity stunt didn't do anything to bring attention to small galleries except to make the artists who fill them look like a bunch of bitter whiners, and since Brenner isn't leaving town after all, like he previously threatened, it really sounds shrill. On Hotcakes' website, Brenner says he's going to focus on being the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Artists Resource Network in a statement that's more warm toward the exciting artists who live and work in town than the threat he'd made previously giving up on arts in Milwaukee.
Here's the thing, though. i really wish that people would stop this whole denial thing, that Milwaukee isn't brats, beer, Fonzie, and "Yah dere Hey." It is. It's part of what makes us different and unique than any other USA Today kind of city. Every town has cool artists. Every town has a vibrant arts and music scene (you just have to know how to dig to find it.) I just don't think that a "serious" arts scene can't co-exist with pop culture. Look at my rants about Summerfest. As a musician, I can get snobby about it, or I can enjoy it for what it is (and "what it is" is a terrific 10 day smorgasbord of pop culture that Chicago tried, and failed, to copy) and still head to the Cactus Club to catch a band that really excites me. There is room for both meat and candy in a cultural stomach. The junk culture Brenner decries, whether he wants to admit it or not, flavors the meaty stuff he's helped to put on the Milwaukee arts plate. It's not a bad thing. We can co-exist with it, and in fact, I don't just co-exist with both, I embrace both. I want Fonzie, and I want the Borg Ward. I'm happy and proud that Henry Winkler came to town and said gracious things about the plans for a statue. And yes, I'm embarassed that we couldn't get "Blue Shirt" up for almost opposite reasons. That's not a reason to close up shop and leave town. That's a reason to dig in your heels and work harder. Anybody can sell avant garde art in NYC or even Chicago. It takes a special kind of artist to do it here in Milwaukee. Now quit whining, admit that Fonzie isn't the real reason you're closing (I'd bet my next paycheck that if Hotcakes was kickin' a$$ and paying the bills bills, none of this would even be an issue), dig in your heels and take MARN to the next level.