- However, one of the things we did was our annual Nutcracker outing with our family friend Emily, who treated us to a fabulous lasagna dinner before heading out to our cheap nosebleed seats at the Performing Arts Center. It's a lovely tradition for us now, and Emily's family celebrates her sister's birthday by having lasagne in her honor, even if her sister is 3000 miles away. We agree with Tom Strini who's now writing for Third Coast Digest since he took the early retirement package from the Journal -- it's a terrific Nutcracker, and we in Milwaukee are lucky to have it. As a matter of fact, I ended up watching the whole "Vote for your Favorite Nutcracker" series on the Ovation Channel -- there were five. Two "traditional" ones (from the Bolshoi -- you don't tell the Russians they get Tchaikovsky wrong -- so let's just call that the baseline, and the Royal Ballet of London). There was this French one that seemed more like a paeon to the choreographer's mother than a faithful rendering of the actual story. The American entry was a comedy set in 70s Suburbia -- a fun and interesting concept, but I'm afraid it just didn't work for me. And finally, the Monaco entry answered the question "What if Cirque du Soleil took on the Nutcracker." That ended up being my favorite, because I'm a fan of athleticism. But all of them proved to me that Michael Pink's rendition could definitely hold it's own -- that we have such a strong company for a city of our size makes me happy.
- Right across the street from the PAC is the good ol' Red Arrow Park (free) skating rink, and the kids and I have been taking advantage of that. Stella has finally grown out of her old skates, but we were able to trade them up at Play It Again Sports (along with a really older pair) and it's worth it to get a used pair of skates (or even new ones -- they had a half price sale when we walked in, and with our trade ins, it was like getting new skates for a used price!). And it's worth it, if you're going to go skating more than once, because rental at Red Arrow is six bucks! Ugh. But it's such a fun little rink, full of unpretentious people, outside for that lovely wintry chill, a Starbucks staffed with quick baristas, and the cutest little mini-Zamboni you ever saw.
- I regretfully missed a lot of great music, including (from what I heard) a terrific reunion show from THe Lovelies at the Mad Planet. Instead, I went cheap and popped into the Circle A to catch a rare set from Bobby Rivera. When it's cold and wintry, I need the warmth of surf music to get me out of a funk. Rivera delivered. Only problem was, I was sitting on the bass player's side of the room, and in fact, next to the bass amp. This meant I didn't get to hear as much of Bobby R as I would have liked. Bass player that night was good ol Rev Johnny Leisure, one of my replacements in the Psychobunnies. He's a great and fun americana guitar player, and let's just say guitar is his primary instrument and leave it at that. Hope to see these guys again soon.
- Santa brought the kids a new tube sled and a starter snowboard. Too bad we haven't had enough real snow to test them out.
- New Year's Eve is a time I spend with friends -- mostly because it's too expensive to get a sitter that night. So some other blogger will help you sort out how the night went musically. I heard the show to be was the Uptown Savages with Liam Ford at Lulu -- although the Five Card Studs reportedly put on a good set too. I was toasting the new year at a kid-friendly house party, kvetching about this past decade and looking forward to the next.
I'm not one for end of year lists, or even resolutions, but this morning I dragged myself out to Bradford Beach to shoot the annual Polar Bear Plunge. I needed a huge event like this (as opposed to the small, but growing Bicycle Polar Plunge I shot two years ago to kick my photo eye in gear. And it helped. So my resolutions are mostly artistic:
- I'm going to get this blog as active as it used to be. Even if I don't see a band every week, I'll still write weekly, and post recommendations, even if I don't practice what I preach.
- I'm going to force myself to shoot more. I haven't been shooting lately, and I need a challenge. So to that end, I set myself up with a challenge to shoot at least one photo a day that I would show to others, and I set up a photoblog at Aminus3 to do it. It's set up so that it will be glaring if I skip a day.
So, there's my resolutions. Recommendations for the rest of this weekend? Why, there's the Unheard Of (with WMSE's Dietrich) at the Circle A on Saturday, and Project/Object at the Miramar on Sunday night (doing a Zappa set). 2009, over and freaking OUT.