Sunday, January 24, 2010

Populist Hoopla for Hoops

Squad 6
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Well, if you're going to only hit one or two games a year (as opposed to as many as I used to go to, back when I had a full time permanent job), you might as well hit a a blowout like the Bucks served up tonight. I daresay, it was almost BOR-ing when the score got to be Bucks up by 20 (and that was by halftime), but you know me. I don't go just for the game itself, even though I could be happy just watching the game.

I know we're halfway through the season, but this is my first game this year, so, bear with me while I run through the kinds of things I would have commented on during the first few games. And that starts off with the pre-game hoopla. It was refreshingly toned down, instead of some ridiculous barrage befitting the first game of the playoffs; no, this was more tones down, and very populist in nature. Even the jumbotron montage was less about flash, and featured photos of fans arriving in the stadium, along with the Bucks themselves suiting up. There's no bombastic heavy metal or rap music -- rather there's "Bucks Wild Drumline" out there, sounding like a high school marching band, providing a basic beat. It's reasonable, not out of control, and it makes the anticipation for the game believable. The Energee Girls seem to have toned down the sluttieness, and pumped up the athleticism, too, which was refreshing to see.

But the fun thing to watch, of course, is good 'ol Squad 6 -- the section of fans organized by No 6 Andrew Bogut -- to specifically keep a promise to be on their feet and rowdy all night. their populist feel spread through the stadium. It's marketing genius. People want to be a part of it, and the rowdyness evokes a feel that's part hockey fans (every time the Mn Timberwolves' Kevin Love shot a free throw, they'd belt out the chorus to that J Geils Band song, "Love Stinks!") and part soccer supporters (especially toward the end, when you'd hear "Olay, Olay Olay Olay"). It especially brought to mind soccer fans as the Bucks' multinational makeup was represented by the flags of Argentina, Turkey, Austrailia, and the good ol USA being waved about.

Anthem tonight from some church choir singer named Dan Forness. Forness has a lovely voice, and he hit the notes perfectly and evenly, almost effortlessly. Only criticism I have here is that it almost came out like a lullaby, it was so sweet and gentle. And get this, halftime "entertainment" was a demo from Jazzercise. That's right. We got to watch an aerobics class. I finished a set of nachos while Stella tried to pick up some WiFi on her Nintendo DS, but to no avail. She can sure multitask, though. One minute, she's playing Pokemon, the next, she's a hair away from catching a T-Shirt. Best part of halftime was the half court shooting contest. The guy who won the chance to attempt a shot from half court (and thus win $10K from Potowatomi Casino) came this close to hitting it; his shot bounced off the rim and almost fell in. Even Bango was disappointed.

Oh, the GAME. What made the game not boring was that it was fun to watch some slick moves on the part of the team, especially in the first quarter when they came out like gangbusters and by the time they'd made mush of some Minnesota turnovers, the steam had been blown out of the MN team just like the Vikings had done to the Cowboys last week. Yeah, they messed up a lot (especially Delfino), but they turned it around a lot too (especially Delfino). After the game, Stella and I had an invitation to have our picture taken with Ersan Ilyasova, the not-so-young Turk. I kind of felt sorry for the nice Bucks' representative girl who offered to take the picture. I keep forgetting that with this young crowd, most have never seen, much less operated a camera that acually uses a viewfinder, instead of a preview window. "It's not on," she said, after I'd handed her my DSLR, turning into Portrait side and telling her simply, "Standard camera, halfway down to focus, all the way to shoot." I confirmed it was in program mode and then it dawned on me: "Oh,yeah, this is an SLR. That's a review screen, not a preview screen. Look through this thing right here....". She did a fine job anyway, and now Stella can go to bed secure in the knowledge that Sammy's not the only V'ron offspring that got to meet a famous athlete. In the meantime, I'm futzing with my camera on the way out, wondering, have I really gotten this old?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Old Nasty Gin

Forest Home Series
Originally uploaded by V'ron
So much for resolutions, eh? Some friend on Facebook comments that he hadn’t been out since late December, and believe you me, I wasn’t the only one who clicked “Like” for that status (“Like” in this case meaning “Totally Agree This Status Massively Applies to Me Too”.) And even though I haven’t gone out much, much has happened musically and artistically to me and to folks around. In no particular order:
  • While Sammy was at a buddy’s birthday party, Stella and I snuck over to the third ward to check out a few galleries for Gallery Day. We didn’t have a LOT of time, so we picked the ‘ol Marshall Building. There's always something worth seeing in there. And there's always something worth eating: we had a scrumptions plate of Beef Lo Mein at Jing’s and checked out the galleries within. Elaine Erickson had some provocative work from Erica Spitzer Rasmussen. Rasmussen is basically a sculptor whose work seems to center on commentary of the female condition, or just the human condition overall. I particularly liked a necklace piece made with hundreds of price tags that represented her consumer spending over the years; it looked heavy and thus seemed to be a literal weight on anybody’s shoulders. Another piece was a corset made with (what looked like) papier mache that was coarse and unpolished, but trimmed with a fringe of smooth, golden human hair. Stella, on the other hand, was drawn to the kimonos made from handmade paper. We ventured upstairs to check out two newer galleries – one featured some (again) provocative work from a sculptor named Darlene Wessenberg Rzezotaurs. Great sense of humor wrapped in a sort of impressionistic style, if not horribly ironic: one piece, titled “My Husband is Turning into a Frog” was a commentary on environmental concerns; another, "AIDS Is Killing The Vampires of Europe" spoke for itself. Next door was a newer gallery with photography that an artist took at a concentration camp in Poland – you can almost see the ghosts. As I just (finally) saw Inglorious Basterds, I pointed out to Stella, who was just wrapping her head around the concept of putting people in ovens – “I know this isn’t pretty, but sometimes movies don’t always really drive home how vile the Nazis are. These pictures do, which is why we need to see them.” They also had some other neat work by an artist named Tori Tasch whose medium was stated as "Gin Transfer on Sculpy Tiles." Gallery owner explained, “Well, the process normally uses rubbing alcohol – she prints out the images onto inkjet paper, then transfers them to the ceramic pieces with alcohol – but she was honest to say she used old gin, which was maybe a step up from pure rubbing alcohol. “ They was she described it made me almost taste it: Old gin. Old nasty gin. Old undrinkable nasty gin from the prohibition era. Art-wise, it was great stuff, and the images themselves – photographed at the Forest Home Cemetery – seemed to belong on these found ceramic tiles.

    Then, I decided to pop into Gallery 218. Gallery 218 used to be at 218 S 2nd – where Don Nedobeck’s studio is now -- hence the name. I have a bone to pick with Gallery 218 – an old grudge from many years ago, but it should explain my snarkyness. See, Gallery 218 is an artists’ co-op, and they’re always looking for fundraisers to keep it alive. (Hmmmm, how about actually selling your work? But I’ll get to that.) They’d had a silent auction during their “Elvis” show and I bid on a piece by an artist out East. There was no minimum bid, deadline was supposed to be midnight that night, and I was the only one who bid. You’d think this piece would be mine, then, right? Wrong! The gallery head decided she wanted to wait to see if she got any more bids. For how long?, I’d asked. “Oh, a few days.” Days went by. Weeks went by. Months went by. I called and my calls got blown off. Finally, I went to another event, and there was the piece, up there for sale (for way more than I’d bid, but still, there were no takers). Uh, girlfriend, that’s not how a silent auction works. That’s not how any auction works. Sale goes to the highest bidder even if it’s not what you wanted. I chalked it up to deceptive business practices and left it at that. But here’s my snarky part. Every time I go to Gallery 218, there’s a piece on the wall by the gallery co-op head titled “Winter Rice” that’s been there since the old 2nd Street Days. It’s an abstract piece that’s basically a bunch of white and beige paint layered and layerd and layered. “Mom, I don’t get it,” Stella said. “It looks like it would be really nice wallpaper, though.” I shooed Stella out so I could tell her the story. Best part of the story? According to the gallery tag, artist wants –hold your breath -- $5K. That’s Five THOUSAND for it. Uh, it’s been hanging up there for 9 years like a run down bungalow that should just be taken off the real estate market for awhile so the neighbors can forget that’s nobody’s buying. You’re not going to get 5K for it, especially when it’s hanging there, in the middle of the room, for five thousand dollars every single gallery night since FY2000 -- everybody has seen it and seen it and seen it and they're still not buying. Give it up. And while you’re at it, why don’t you finally give up that Elvis piece, too. I bet that’s still in the back storeroom, waiting for whatever price you wanted for it. I’ve held my piece on this for years, but Stella’s comment popped the zit that was my annoyance about this whole thing, and now I feel better, so, OK, snark mode off.

  • Band hiatuses: I’m in denial that these bands may not be on hiatus, but a very long hiatus but I’m still bummed. The Mighty Lumberhorn are “on hiatus.” Bummer. I blew my last chance to see them, and had I known… at least Ted Jorin is keeping busy with the Bikini Beachcombers and he’s (oooooooooohhhh, can’t wait for this) in a surf band being masteredminded by surf aficionado Eric Knitter, so if I have to give up snarky, hilarious bluegrass, at least I have deadly surf to step in and take its place. Oh, and Chief! Chief is officially on “indefinite hiatus.” That’s another band I loved simply because they were true to their genre (ball-breaking cock rock) but were also conscious of just how closely they teetered on the edge between sincere reproduction and unaware parody. I guess Cesar Palace knows where his paycheck is coming from these days.

  • Good music news however: Besides the above mentioned surf band coming up, Paul Kneevers’ latest project, Lovanova,is in the studio and if you follow him on Facebook, you know this project is cranking out tracks like crepes. Especially exciting is a post where he mentiones that the Danglers’ Jason Loveall dropped in and laid down some violin that took the song into gypsy wonderland. Waiting to hear the mixdown on that!

  • And Les Lokey (now calling herself Lulu Lokey) is coming back to town for a visit. Back when she stomped around Milwaukee (in the late 90s, the Tasting Room’s heyday), she was billed as a “fearless folk singer”, but the tracks I’mhearing now on her pages suggest she’s just approaching her craft on a bigger, more psychedelic scale. Can’t wait to hear what she brings back from out West, where she’s been puttering around.

Coming up? I've got tix for a Bucks game this weekend (when you're unemployed as I have been through 2009, you don't get out to the Bradley Center like the old days, eh?) but I'm looking forward to the United Nations Team of the NBA, even if they blow it. I grew up a Cubs fan, remember? I'm used to the home team sucking like a bottle of old nasty gin.

Friday, January 01, 2010

I'm still here

"Oh, good. They're still there."
Originally uploaded by V'ron
It's New Year's Day, and I suppose I should get caught up. Didn't see a lot of shows, because I had a choice -- either go out, or have a decent Holiday for the kids. I chose the latter. Quick rundown, so I can start the new year right, along with a few artistic resolutions.
  • 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.