Sunday, March 24th, 2013

We got all kindsa kulcha today.

About a month ago, My Darling B asked me if I wanted to go to the opera. It’s not something she asks me very often – like, never – so I said yes. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. She caught me unprepared.

But that turned out to be a good thing. The show she got tickets for was The Real Divas of Dane County, a reality show/opera mash-up. I’m only passingly familiar with the “Real Housewives” television show, and the only opera I know is what I heard watching Bugs Bunny, but I think they did a fair job.

We got there way too early, though. The last time we went into town for a show at the Overture Center there were huge crowds milling around in the lobby for three different shows and we had one hell of a time grabbing our tickets from the will-call window in time to get to our show. We didn’t want to cut it as fine this time so we left an hour before show time, only to get there and find no other shows going on and virtually nobody in the lobby. After picking up our tickets, we had forty minutes to kill before the show.

So we headed up State Street to see if we could find an open bar where we could sit and sip a cocktail before the show, and it turned out we could: The Fountain had plenty of empty bar stools and a bartender who was more than willing to mix a couple drinks for us. He had an interesting way of mixing a martini: After he chilled the glass with ice water, he poured just a bit of vermouth into the glass, swirled it around enough to coat the insides, dumped the excess down the drain, then filled it up with gin. My dad would’ve loved that, both for the theater of it and the resulting delicious martini.

When we told him we were in town to see a show, he let us know that there would be a big band playing in the upstairs bar later and invited us to stop by if we were staying in town. We hadn’t planned on it, but figured what the hell, we can do things spontaneously once in a while, and came back.

Good thing we did, because The Fountain Big Band is fantastic! If I counted right, there were five sax players, five trombone players, three trumpet players, a piano player, a drummer, a guitar player and a bass player, all jammed into a back corner of a very intimate venue. They all seemed to be professional musicians or professors of music from all over the state, and a few from out of state. They get together at the Fountain on the last Sunday of each month and, without any kind of rehearsal, belt out some of the foot-tappingest big-band music I’ve heard. We enjoyed it so much that we stayed for both the first and last set. And to think we wouldn’t have even heard of it if we hadn’t been too early for the opera.

kulcha | 9:56 pm CST
Category: booze, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, show | Tags: ,
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Sunday, October 21st, 2012

image of My Darling B drinking beer from a boot in a Milwaukee tavernWe’re back from Milwaukee! We went there to watch a taping of one of our favorite radio shows, Says You!, and ended up doing a sightseeing tour of a small slice of Milwaukee while stopping off at a couple of our favorite places.

Even as the number of things we wanted to do mounted up, it seemed like a good idea each time. Tickets to the show cost just $17.00 each, but the taping was scheduled to end sometime after 10:30 pm. I didn’t want to drive back to Madison that late at night, so we reserved a room at the County Clare Inn. That tacked a hundred fifty bucks on to the cost of our trip right away, but seemed like not only a good idea but a good deal: We’d be smack dab in the middle of Milwaukee. That’s how we decided to do some sightseeing while we were there. We had the time. We were in a good location. Why not?

We left Madison as early as we could Saturday morning, by which I mean ten o’clock. We were going to shoot for a much earlier departure time until we realized it’s not like there was a great big hurry to get there. I made a pot of coffee and we slowly drained it while we passed a couple hours Googling for information about interesting places to go and fun things to do while in Milwaukee. Don’t laugh. There really are some. The last time we were in Milwaukee, for instance, we stopped at a place called the Wisconsin Cheese Mart. Guess what they sell there? And not only can you snack on a selection of great Wisconsin cheese, you can take your plate of cheese to the tap room where you can ask them for one of the two-dozen great Wisconsin beers they have on tap. Tell me that’s not a place you’d want to visit.

And it was within walking distance of the inn, along with other sights we’d never seen before just because we hadn’t taken the time. So we pulled into town shortly after noon and, with more than a few hours before the show was scheduled to begin, started wandering the streets in the warm sunshine of an gorgeous autumn day in Milwaukee.

How to see Milwaukee on just $500 a day | 8:02 pm CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, radio, restaurants, show, travel, vacation | Tags: ,
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

The song stuck in my head this morning is Oh What A Night.

I have never liked this song. Never. I loathed it the first time I heard it. Loathed. “Hate” is too weak a word to describe my feelings toward this song. Only loathed comes close.

It’s not that there’s nothing redeeming about the song. The tune is really very catchy, and I rather like the vocals. It’s the words I can’t stand. If Elton John had sung it instead of The Four Seasons so I couldn’t understand any of the words no matter how much I wanted to, my feelings toward it would be a lot different. I’d probably like it, maybe even try to sing along. That will never happen, though, because I can hear all of the words. Every. Single. One.

Tim liked the song until I told him what the words were. That night I not only ruined a song for him, I planted in him the same revulsion that I feel for it. He probably even wants to blow his brains out with a bazooka, just like I do, when it gets stuck on a loop in his head.

Oh, what a night! Late December, back in sixty-three
Got a girl to give it up for me
Boinked her brains out, what a night

You know I didn’t even know her name
Who knew the best sex is anonymous?
Pegged her legless, what a night

I felt a rush and a rolling ball of thunder
This part about his orgasm makes me want to chunder
What a night!

When I read that the musical Jersey Boys was coming to Madison this fall, I was going to talk My Darling B into taking me until I heard an advertisement for it on the radio that featured Oh What A Night. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how I expected they wouldn’t include that craptaculous song. I guess I was just hopeful. Too bad. There’s a show I’ll never see.

craptaculous | 8:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, show, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Steve Curwood’s show, Living On Earth, explaining why sending people into space is a good thing:

CURWOOD: So, tell me, why should we explore space, with people?

TYSON: I’ve got my own reasons for exploring space, that I don’t presume others should have these reasons. I think we should explore space because it’s cool to do and that you discover interesting things tomorrow that you didn’t know today, and that’s enlightening. That’s why I like to explore.

But I’m not going to require others to want to write the checks for those reasons. We should do it because our economy is tanking right now and people need to recognize the role and value of innovation as a cultural directive on the health of an economy. And by innovation, I mean the capacity to dream about a tomorrow that doesn’t exist today, the capacity to want to accomplish something tomorrow. In space it would require some kind of application of science, engineering, and technology to do something tomorrow that you didn’t know how to do today and when you innovate on that scale, you invent the economies of tomorrow.

And when you do that, the kids want to become scientists because they can see what role, it’s writ large in the daily headlines, they see what role science and engineering fluency plays in the trajectory of your society. And then the entire country becomes a participant on that frontier rather than sitting on our hands watching the rest of the world do exactly what we used to dream about doing for ourselves.

Listen to the whole show, see nifty pictures and read a transcript.

cool | 9:50 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, current events, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, show, space geekery
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I didn’t like Jonathan Coulton the first time I saw him in concert at the Majestic in downtown Madison. There. I said it. It was my dark secret, but now it’s out in the open. Unleash your very worst flames in the comments, I deserve them all.

Paul & Storm opened for him and, after a frenetic hour of their wide-open comedy, Coulton shuffled to the front of the stage with the downcast expression of a teenager dragged to his great-aunt’s 93rd birthday party. He kept doing that between songs and I thought, Well, damn, if he doesn’t want to be here, why did he bother coming?

I didn’t like his fans much, either. They wouldn’t shut up. Every one of them knew every word to every song he played that night and sang along with the kind of reckless abandon you don’t normally find outside a karaoke bar.

By the end of the night, though, I was screaming “ALL I WANNA DO IS EAT YOUR BRAINS!” along with the rest of them, and the next morning My Darling B and I sat on the sofa for an hour or more playing “Skullcrusher Mountain” over and over so we could learn the words. “Code Monkey” too.

Since then, he’s been back to Madison twice, and we have more fun at each concert than we did at the last one, although if I had to rate them I’d have to say I enjoyed his appearance at the Barrymore Theater more than any of the others, partly because we had awesome seats just a dozen or so feet from the stage, but mostly because he played a set of songs that were tweeted to him by fans before the show that turned out to be oddly, coherently wistful and sweet, and he seemed to get really into them. And he ended the set by playing “Birdhouse of Your Soul” instead of “Sweet Caroline.”

I’ve been waiting patiently for new music from Coulton. It came out a little while ago, and I finally downloaded it last weekend, playing it over and over while I puttered away with my toys in the basement. And now I can’t get this song out of my head! DAMN YOU JONATHAN COULTON! (And you, too, John Roderick.) It’s the most wonderful earworm I’ve ever experienced, and Coulton’s new album is just packed with jewels like this!

Well played!

P.S. Just what does “even the suit has teeth” mean, anyway?

toothy | 10:07 pm CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, show | Tags: , ,
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Sunday, September 11th, 2011

My Darling B and I went to see Paula Poundstone at the Barrymore Theater last night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. But my, how that woman can talk! When she came out on the stage at five minutes after eight I joked to B that I hoped she would tack at least five more minutes on to the end of her act to give us our money’s worth. Little did I know. Two hours later, Poundstone, pacing back and forth on the stage, was asking audience members what time it was. “I have OCD and as a consequence I can’t stop talking, because everything I talk about reminds me to talk about something else,” she explained to us, “so I have trouble coming to a conclusion. My show was once described as a hostage situation.” I don’t think anyone in the audience felt like a hostage. From where I was sitting, it the standing ovation they gave Poundstone when she finally wrapped up her act and began to sidle off the stage was unanimous. She came back out to accept it, but insisted she couldn’t inflict any more jokes on us and instead just thanked us and wished us well.

Paula | 1:30 pm CST
Category: entertainment, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show
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Sunday, April 24th, 2011

While we were waiting in line for the doors to open at the Majestic last night, a car coming up King Street pulled a yooie in the middle of the block, trying to swing into the open parking spot right in front of the theater. It was a small car and had an impressively tight turning radius, but the driver had a little too much confidence that it would be able to squeeze through that turn without hitting the curb. Everyone in line winced and more that a few sucked air in through their teeth when the undercarriage of the car connected with the cement of the curb with a grinding noise that we could feel in our bones. Backing off the curb, the driver slid easily into the parking slot after realigning the wheels and the passengers started to climb a little self-consciously out of the car.

Barely a minute or two later, another compact car did exactly the same thing, only this time everyone was laughing, even the guys who were getting out of the first car, making it extremely awkward for the guys in the second car to even think about getting out. The driver of the first car made it a little easier for them by explaining what had just happened, though.

When the doors finally opened and we got into the theater, we headed straight for the balcony. There is a row of seats on either side of the stage, and we’ve been lucky enough to snag a couple chairs up there every time we’ve seen this show. The luck held last night. Not only that, but the seats right next to the stage were open! Score!

We hadn’t been sitting there more than a couple minutes when who should come visit us at our seats than the guy who got out of the second car. “I wonder if I could ask a favor,” he appealed to me; “My brother and I have seen every Jonathan Coulton concert from these seats …”

I didn’t want to be the one to break this guy’s streak, so we traded seats with him — and ended up with the balcony seats we saw our first Jonathan Coulton concert from. Even more coincidentally: The people sitting next to us were the people sitting there when we saw Coulton the first time and they were the people in the first car that scraped the curb. Small world.

Curb appeal | 4:19 pm CST
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Ears: Still ringing. Voice: Intermittent and hoarse. Smile: Still broad and frequent after last night’s concert at the Majestic with Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton.

Paul & Storm did a great set, starting off right this time with “We Are The Opening Band.” They tried mixing it up when they came here once before by opening with another song and didn’t get to “Opening Band” until two or three songs into the set, confusing the hell out of ever fan who came that night. We have never fully recovered, but last night’s concert went a long way toward our hopes for a full rehabilitation someday.

Jonathan Coulton had a back-up band with him last night! So we got to hear lots of old favorites, as well as some new songs, in full rock-out mode. The new songs would have been even more exciting if we’d been able to hear the lyrics … and here I go again into my grumpy old man riff:

Why doe the backing band have to be so goddamned loud? Are there really people who go to a Jonathan Coulton concert who don’t want to hear the words? I find that really hard to believe. Although the music is great, the nerd appeal of the lyrics has to be a huge draw. I snatched a phrase or two out of the cacophony but, for the most part, the new material was completely lost to me. I’ll have to buy the album after it’s released to find out just how great those songs really were. Hmmm, maybe that’s the ploy. Clever, Coulton, very clever.

Not that overblown volume of the concert kept us from enjoying ourselves. My Darling B was dancing in her seat just about the whole concert through, and we had great seats up in the balcony, the same seats we had when we saw this show for the first time, many moons ago. Of all the times I’ve seen them here in Madison I think I liked the show they did at the Barrymore best, but every show has its own pluses and the full-on rock mode of this one added a lot to it.

Full-on | 11:15 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Thank goodness there are still people like Leon Redbone and Leo Kottke in the world. They can make me forget about all the crap going on in what is laughably called reality, and they do this by the simple act of playing their guitars, singing a few songs and telling some jokes. For three whole hours, it completely slipped my mind the world’s going to hell in a handcart. That kind of talent is almost indistinguishable from magic.

The first I heard they were coming to town was about two weeks ago, and thank goodness I read The Isthmus every week or I might have missed them. I don’t think they spend a lot on publicity. There might have been posters in a few stores around town, but other than that the one-column ad in Isthmus and their names on the marquee of the Barrymore Theater were all the warning we got.

When they came to town about two years ago and I mentioned to my Mom that I’d seen them she sounded pretty jealous, so this time around I gave her a heads-up and asked her if she wanted me to pick up a ticket for her. She was so pumped to see the show she drove three hours in a blinding snowstorm, navigating by sticking her head out the window so she wouldn’t lose sight of the car in front of her. Kidding. But she was pretty jazzed about seeing the show.

We had dinner at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner across the street from the theater, then ambled on over about twenty minutes before the show was scheduled to start to find some seats and settle in. Leon Redbone opened the show, Leo Kottke finished up, and they were both amazingly fun to listen to, as if that were ever in question.

Redbone and Kottke | 6:15 pm CST
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