May Roundup

Again, I haven't gone dark, really. I just have this new job, I'm back in Information Technology, and we're in the middle of an implementation. I'd forgotten how much IT implementations take out of me. I take them personally. Some had likened it to labor, but having done the labor thing twice, I don't think I'd go that far. Still, I've been too wiped out to a) write b) go see bands and c) write about them.

I did get out to see some things and I missed others. Here's a roundup, along with some rants, because when you're pooped out from work, you gotta bitch about something, and in this economy, it would be vulgar to bitch about work when there's plenty of people who would love to have my problems.

  • Yes, we did the ballet a couple of weekends ago! The last offering of the season, Live and Kicking, ended with a reprise of "Common People," Margo Sappington's intrepretation of William Shatner's album form a few years back, "Has Been." Ach, I love the ballet, I love this ballet, and you all know how I feel about the Shat. But while it was wonderful, it just didn't have the same zip they had the first time I saw it. I think it was the opener, "Common People." they seemed to be phoning it in, especially after the premiere of "William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet" (you knew some filmmaker was going to make a documentary about this). the rest of the numbers shined, but the opener fell flat, and that set the tone. They still skillfully passed through "It Hasn't Happened Yet" and aired out a collective frustration to "I Can't Get Behind That." But it was upstaged by the two previous offerings that evening. The first was a whole rooster-themed thing called "Gustav's Rooster" to music by Sweedish band Hoven Droven. Hoven Droven's music was very American/folky mixed with European jam band, with a major prog influence. It was extremely lively, and the ballet followed suit. There was this ubiquitous rooster literally perched over the dancers, as though it were overseeing matters, and it was like this romantic comedy taking place on Planet of the Roosters. Did I mention that Sammy joined us this evening? He really enjoyed this piece, the music and the dancers.

    The second piece was "Wonder Wild" -- ostensibly based on James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" but really about the relationship between Joyce and his daughter, who craved his attention and didn't exactly get it. I divided it into thirds, because the first third -- where we establish that father and daughter did enjoy each other and simply didn't have the time to nurture that love, told that story wonderfully. The last third, which depicted the daughter's affair with somebody who just couldn't save her from herself, was also effective; both done to modern celtic music that suggested the emerald isle but didn't smack it in your face. I and my companion had trouble with the middle part. Yeah, it was showing the daughter's decline, and nobody could deny the virtuosity of David Hovhannisyan and Marc Petrocci as two Irish Characters who follow a Joycean narrative from Finnegan's Wake. They were great, but the problem was, the narrative went on too long, in that stream-of-consciousness style that left a listener wondering what was really going on. the narrative was delivered with a thick Irish brogue accent that I could barely understand, so I spent more time trying to understand the words than let myself just enjoy the dancing. Yes it was distracting as opposed to Shatner's clear, almost musical narrative himself.

    Or maybe I need to admit right here and now that I really just don't get into James Joyce. It's not that I haven't studied Joyce. (repressed flashback: Me to college professor: "Hey, I've already read Portrait! So I can take a pass on Joyce, right?" "Wrong! You can read Ulysses!" DOH! Pull out my eyes! Apologize!) And I get stream of consciousness and unconventional storytelling. I even like (love) Thomas Pynchon. (Do I get points for actually finishing Gravity's Rainbow?) Maybe you just need to be Irish to get Joyce, and I'm not. But yeah, that middle part was distracting, I flashed back to those awful days wading through Ulysses, and I just kind of removed myself from it.

    But overall, these adventuresome nights are why I keep coming back to the Milwaukee Ballet. They're varied, they aim high, they try new ways to tell a story with dance, and if I have to put up with 10 minutes of Joyce to get an otherwise lovely night of invigorating dance and music, so be it. It's worth it.

  • Rant time: so before we went to the ballet, my companion for the evening, Miss Annie, took me and the kids for a lovely treat at Bella's Fat Cat. Except that I really have a complaint here. First, I ordered a cheeseburger with fried onions. The onions weren't there when I got it. "Did you check undeneath the bun?" the counter person asked. No, I just used my x-ray vision to inspect. YES I CHECKED UNDER THE BUN. Then, I'd ordered the "mini-turtle sundae." The menu item which described the vanilla custard, hot fudge, hot caramel, pecans and a cherry was accompanied by a photo of it, which included the aforementioned custard, fudge, caramel, pecans and a cherry. But when I dug into it and finally got to a part that was "crunchy", I didn't get pecans. There were chopped peanuts.

    "Uh, what makes a turtle sundae a TURTLE sundae is the pecans," I told our surly counter person. "I wanted pecans and I expected pecans. I HATE peanuts in icecream. Always have."

    "Oh, well we were out of pecans, so we substituted fresh peanuts."

    "So you made a substitution without asking your customer or even informing your customer that you were doing so?"

    "Well, yeah."

    "And what would you have done if it turned out I had a peanut allergy, like many people do," I asked. She jsut shrugged. No apology, no offer to make me something I do like. Look, I don't have a peanut allergy, but that's not the point. Attention Bella's: You do NOT make a food substitution without telling your customer for just this reason. I simply don't like peanuts. But you could have put your customer in a hospital. Step it up, Bella. The only reason I'll give you one more chance (this isn't the first time Bella's has dropped the ball) is you have the best vanilla custard in the city.

  • OK, here's another gimme review: Stella's class did a play at the Alchemist Theatre, and it was a smash. The class wrote it themselves, a way to demonstrate the history lessons they've been learning. The jist was two kids who stumble upon a time machine and use it to find answers to their history questions. Yes, I was as impressed as the reviewer from the Shepherd who came to the performance, and didn't patronize the kids. But I was also delighed by their sense of humor: the kid who did FDR was upstaged by the kid who did JFK only because I think more people could catch the references to JFK. Still, a lovely cultural evening with my girl.

  • Did anybody hit any of the following shows that I'm really sad I missed: Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash at Vnuks, Lumberhorn vs. Pupy Costello at Kochanski's again, Kenocore's Vomit Posse Reunion at Club Anything? I really, really really wanted to hit these shows. And Eric Knitter tipped me off to a band he went to see Memorial Day weekend in Madison that was a surf band that did Misfits covers. I'm really missing this. And last night, Paul Cebar opened up Chill on the Hill at Humboldt Park -- and everybody agrees that the "Chill" part of the name was apt.

  • Anyway, on to summer, time of the fabulous freebies. This weekend starts off Riversplash, and that includes the Five Card Studs at Pere Marquette Park (oh, and they're on Fox 6 Wakeup News tomorrow -- wake up with a Stud!). Saturday night isn't free, but there is a Floor Model 10th Anniversary Party (they've been around for 10 eyars? Jesus!) and the Uptown Savages are at Lulu. The Aimless Blades headline Chill on the Hill next Tuesday, and I've got tickets in hand for Tom Jones in July. (Actually, Dave Allswages got them for the pack of middle ages ladies I hang with, and he'll be surrounded by all of us in the cheap seats.).

So, I'm tuning up the bike for the bike for the freebies, and I'm headed out.


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