Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

new season: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Last night was my first Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert of the season. It was a sublime evening with the Brahms Symphony No. 3, a favorite of mine. The highlight was Andre Watts playing the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" under the direction of Andreas Delfs. Delfs knows both both Brahms and Beethoven the same way that you or I know our own name, which makes for an excellent performance. Even I could tell that Watts hit one or two sour notes, but his performance of the Beethoven was terrific.

The opening number was a new piece called "Festival Fifty" written by Maurice Winisky, one of the MSO's bassists. The piece was a melodic, exciting, and fun way to commemorate the MSO's 50th anniversary this season. Winisky's composition seemed like a homage to John Williams, which no one, including me, seemed to mind.


My friends Kate and John S and I went to see James on Friday night at Turner Hall. James has been one of my favorite bands since the release of their 1990 album, "Gold Mother." The show was excellent and amazing. The only disappointment was that they didn't play "Born of Frustration," which is my favorite James song. But they did play "Sit Down" (a wonderful song about unity), "She's a Star," "Say Something" (oh, I can relate), "Out to Get You" (which is A+), "Ring the Bells," and "Sometimes (Lester Piggott)," which was the emotional highlight of the show. After the band concluded "Sometimes," the entire audience kept singing, "Sometimes I look in your eyes and see your soul" for literally seven or eight minutes. It was amazing and a truly transcendent experience. Of course, they also played their most famous hit, "Laid," which is an awesome song, but I am quick to point out that I liked James well before they became better known after the release of "Laid."

I bought their new album, "Hey Ma," which proves that the band is still making truly excellent music and that they're as relevant as they were in the late 80s and early 90s. I'm particularly taken with the tracks "Hey Ma," "Upside," and "Whiteboy," which has done well on the charts in the UK.

It's hard to believe that lead singer Tim Booth is 48. He could easily pass for 38.

According to their official blog, the band had a great time here in Milwaukee. I'm glad, and hope that they'll return sometime soon.

TEXT BELOW FROM www.wearejames.com/blog/

Yesterday in Chicago the aftershow carried on in the diner over the road… We finally left town at 2am. Milwaukee not far. Parked up outside hotel for a while. Sleeping on the bus getting easier. Stationary sleep becomes an unusual event. We’ve been doing overnights on the bus for 4 out of 5 nights…
Milwaukee seems like a quaint peaceful town. River and malls. Go and buy socks in TJMaxx, just like TKMaxx. Just round the corner there is a beerfest. Me n Mark eat a Caesar salad at Buck Bradley’s. Blackened chicken done their special way. Tastes great. A polka band are playing wearing lederhosen and hats with feathers…….before going into a cabaret style version of That’s Why the Lady is a Tramp…..
Tim, Jim, Larry and Andy doing a radio show. It’s sunny and warm today.
The venue is 100 years old, dark wood stylish old place with a very slopey floor. Windows covered in posters of the B-52’s and Josh Rouse to give a stained glass light effect in an unusual kind of way. The ballroom is a stunning building with a kids tumbling studio downstairs. It has a tasteful, clean dressing room and modern shower. We are very happy about this. Larry takes a photo of the shower curtain. He sees James daisies everywhere. There is much showering and Unkle Bob shower too. There is even an in-house juicer so we run out of carrots quite soon. Another three bags arrive and then me n Geoff get to a bit of post-juice bottling before it all gets packed away. There are some interesting yellow beetroots which look like giant radishes. Geoff the Unkle Bob chef goes wild and juices half a ton of celery and it tastes dreadful. Don’t say I didn’t warn you… He then looks dismayed at the pineapple pulp and whisks that off to use in something he is creating later.
The people who work at the Turner are really friendly and helpful. Especially in catering where there is an array of mexican options and a vat of fluorescent green margarita containing 3 bottles of tequila. We steer clear til later and it ends up on the bus til then.
Take Tim back to Buck Bradley’s. The oompah band have gone away. But the Usinger’s sausage factory is a good point of reference to head for. The bar is a long one with a great atmosphere. Tim has blackened fish and is really happy with that.
The gig is a stormer. A guy called Eric has asked to propose on stage to his future wife. He does this near the end of the show. Then the band play Star…..she’s a star… Eric even got down on one knee. The ballroom slopes forward so there is a feeling of dancing forward. The place is packed but there’s a bit of breathing space at the back. There’s a little lookout square window just outside the dressing room where you can see the show.
A woman gives us orange roses outside the dressing room. There is an aftershow which is packed. The two guys who helped me with my suitcase randomly got tickets to the aftershow, good karma to them. The couple who bought me and Mark lunch were there. Hello and thanks to all them. Lots of good people. Much signing of t-shirts and singles and Larry explains about the artwork being changed with the baby and the bricks and the gun…. We finally set off at 2am to Minneapolis… It’s a long drive and I wake at 9 and head out off the bus passing a neonlit place called Sexworld to a charming Dunn Brothers cafe where I drink a well brewed tasty coffee…..life is good…

Well, that happened

As Lesley would say, "Well, that happened." So I learned about 10 days ago that Bobby was responding to the personal ads of other guys. And he has serious issues and hang-ups about intimacy. I'm fairly certain that our relationship will end as a result. Since this came to the fore, I find his ambivalence about our relationship and me extremely unattractive. I know what I want. I have given our relationship 100%. He can't say the same. I don't know how I can stay in a relationship where my partner, who I was totally committed to, is ambivalent about us and me.

a few more birthday photos

1. Mark and Barbie
2. Michelle and me with our double cherry vodka and tonics
3. Ruben and me, with me trying to do my best Ruben impression

people who share my birthday

September 16 birthdays:
Nick Jonas (16)

Teddy Geiger (20)

Sabrina Bryan (24)

Katie Melua (24)

Alexis Bledel (27)

Amy Wesson (31)

Steve F - me (35)

Amy Poehler (37)

Marc Anthony (40)

Molly Shannon (44)

Richard Marx (45)

Jennifer Tilly (50)

David Copperfield (52)

Mickey Rourke (52)

Ed Begley Jr. (59)

George Chakiris (74)

Peter Falk (81)

B. B. King (83)

Lauren Bacall (84)

Photos above:
1. Kim G and Kelly
2. me, Bobby
3. me doing a shot of tequila (shades of my 21st birthday back in 1994 when I decided I don't like tequila) under duress from my friends
4. Kim and me

My 35th birthday

Sept. 16 was my 35th birthday. It isn't that many years ago when I thought that 35 was old. Now it seems pretty young. The weekend before the actual date, I celebrated with a casual dinner at Jalapeno Loco, then drinks at Sugar Maple, an excellent smoke-free bar in Bay View. It was a fun evening, and I was grateful that so many friends wanted to celebrate my birthday with me.
1. Barbie, Erika, and Mark
2. Ruben, John M, and Chad
3. Michelle SD and Bobby
4. Art and Kim
5. Andy, Sarah French, and Michelle Sp

Broadway shows I've seen, 2008

1. Gypsy, 1990. St. James Theatre. A revival starring Tyne Daly. I was captivated, especially since I'm always interested in the "American dream" theme.
2. Meet Me in St. Louis, 1990. George Gershwin Theatre. See my prior post about Jason Workman for details. It was cute but certainly not groundbreaking.
3. Show Boat, 1996. George Gershwin Theatre. Quite entertaining and an important show in the history of the American musical.
4. Victor/Victoria, 1997. Marquis Theatre. An absolutely amazing experience since I had the privilege of seeing Ms. Julie Andrews perform live. This was before she lost her ability to sing due to a botched operation on her vocal cords. She was, is, and always will be the best.
5. A Doll's House, 1997. Belasco Theatre. I've been fascinated by this play since the first time I read it in a drama literature class in 1993. Since I'm one-half Norwegian, I have a particular fondness for Henrik Ibsen, a playwright who was most certainly ahead of his time. The performance was captivating.
6. Phantom of the Opera, 1997. Majestic Theatre. Garish and banal. I only went because my travel companion really wanted to see it.
7. Rent, 1997. Nederlander Theatre. Inspirational and relevant. I was singing along with the soundtrack for months after seeing this musical.
8. Take Me Out, 2003. Walter Kerr Theatre. We scored front row seats from TKTS, which was particularly pleasant since the men in the cast spend much of the show fully naked. It was refreshing to see a gay-themed show.
9. Hairspray, 2003. Neil Simon Theatre. The most fun show I've seen to date and the one where the audience had the loudest reaction. Harvey Fierstein was hilarious as Edna Turnblad and Marissa Jaret Winokur sparkled as Tracy Turnblad.
10. Wicked, 2006. George Gershwin Theatre. Much happier and more positive than Gregory Maguire's innovative and original novel. The songs were particularly interesting.
11. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 2006. Circle in the Square Theatre. A charming story. I have a crush on Barrett Foa who played Leaf Coneybear. Barrett, will you go out with me?
12. Mary Poppins, 2006. New Amsterdam Theatre. A terrific and invigorating take on the classic story by P. L. Travers and the Disney film. The sets were amazing, the dancing was superb, and the kids playing Jane and Michael Banks were charming. Gavin Lee as Burt stole the show.

13. Jersey Boys, 2007. August Wilson Theatre. This was an entertaining show chronicling the story of the The Four Seasons, in particular the partnership between songwriter Bob Gaudio and singer Frankie Valli. I enjoyed the musical numbers, and the show has some semblance of a plot. Overall, it was entertaining but hardly spectacular. The average age in the theatre was about 60. The people from that generation who grew up listening to The Four Seasons had much more of an emotional connection with the show than me. Since music connects with people on such a deep emotional level, it stands to reason that the generation who grew up with The Four Seasons would be more into the performance than me. I'm sure that I would have a similar reaction to a musicl about Erasure or The Cure 30 years from now.

14. Boeing-Boeing, 2008. Longacre Theatre. A humerous comedy with excellent actors including Christine Baranski and Bradley Whitford. The entire cast had solid comedic acting chops. Cute and entertaining but not excellent.

Tout Va Bien

Here's the family after a mighty fine dinner at Tout Va Bien.

Central Park

While my dad waited on a bench, Dave, my mom, and I rented bicycles and made a big loop through Central Park. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we had a great ride. I hadn't been north of the Guggenheim Museum before, so I got to see some new portions of the park. After the bike ride, I enjoyed a chocolate cupcake.

more New York

1. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
2. Dave had a hankering for a hot dog from Gray's Papaya
3. Me next to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

possible Christmas card photo

This would be a good photo for my Christmas card were it not for the fact that Sara and Abby are missing. Still a nice shot, though.

New York tourist day

1. Grand Centerl Terminal exterior

2. Main waiting room at Grand Centeral Terminal

3. Dave outside the New York Stock Exchange

4. Me outside Federal Hall with statue of George Washington

Thai restaurant in Chelsea

My cousin Eric and his partner Brett live in Chelsea and took us to a Thai fusion restaurant. It was a nice dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't get a phot of Brett, but here you can see Dave and Eric with their chopsticks.

Nate wrote after seeing these photos: another fabulous Open splashed with lots of GREEN shirts to match those tennis balls... the best was that Davie and Judy-Rudy were all decked out in the Official F Family Color.
A poem by Nate --
Lovely F______'s all dressed in green
watching tennis, balls go flying, fans scream
for popcorn Bill brings
deserts in front of stevie, he sings
Open! Open! Open!
tennis for everyone
New York New York
All have fun fun fun.

more US Open

Here's Dave in front of John McEnroe's plaque at the Court of Champions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Also my folks in front of the Davis Cup.

I'm really disappointed that this was the USA network's final year of television coverage of the US Open. I think that the USA broadcast team of Ted Robinson, John McEnroe, and Tracy Austin is the best in the business. Add to that Michael Barkann's on-court player interviews and Jim Courier's analysis, and you've got an A grade team. Contrast that to the weekend coverage on CBS and you want to press mute. While Dick Enberg is a broadcast legend, he's awfully long in the tooth and you can clearly tell that he doesn't really follow the game anymore the way that Ted Robinson does. Mary Carillo is incredibly annoying and she talks way too much on the air. Mary Jo Fernandez's on-court interviews pale in comparison to Michael Barkann's work.

Next year the weekday coverage moves from USA to ESPN2. Who knows who ESPN2 will hire for its broadcast team. I'm afraid, though, that there will be endless promos for NFL football (who cares?) and SportsCenter (who cares?). Nothing will surpass Ted Robinson, John McEnroe, Tracy Austin, Michael Barkann, and Jim Courier.

Plus even though he's straight, I think Jim Courier is hot, hot hot.

US Open

We had tickets for three days and nights of tennis at the US Open during the first week of the tournament. As usual, we saw some great matches, including Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic in her stunning early round loss to Julie Coin, James Blake, and many others.

It was interesting to see the change in Novak Djokovic from 2007 to 2008. Now that he's won a major, he seemed to lose his sense of humor and now he's rather unlikeable. Last year he was the funny comedian with a perennial smile on his face who did spot-on impressions of other players. This year his painfully slow play, endless calls for the trainer, and bad attitude toward the crowd were really difficult to stomach. And his biggest offense was that he was a sore loser after he beat Andy Roddick.

The Federer v. Murray final was good. I would have liked to have seen Andy Murray win and become the first British man to win a major since 1936, but Federer was just too much for him. At the same time, it was great to see Federer win his fifth consecutive US Open. I think that he's probably the best man to ever play the game. In the women's final, it was good seeing both of the Williams sisters at the top of their games with Serena winning the title.

Top of the Rock

These photos didn't turn out real well, but here a couple of shots of us at the Top of the Rock obervation deck. My brother hadn't been to New York since 1990, more than 18 years since his last visit, so he wanted to get the lay of the land. Even though I'd been up there twice before, I never tire of this view of the city, which is spectacular on a clear day.

New York

I'm behind on blogging since I view it as a chore. I wish that I could commit to posting every day like Kenneth Walsh does at http://www.kennethinthe212.com/, but I guess I'm too busy living. In any event, I should post a bunch of photos from my annual US Open trip. This year it was my parents, my brother, and me. My sister-in-law and 17 month-old niece stayed in Milwaukee, as Sara is expecting baby number two at the end of October. Pictured is an outdoor lunch and walk through Rockefeller Center.

We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off

Why isn't Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" available for purchase on iTunes? How can I obtain this song? And speaking of cherry wine, Astrology Michelle and I downed a bottle of Door County cherry wine a few years back. We need to do that again one of these days.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I wish I could get Turbo HD from DISH

I am a long-time Time Warner Cable subscriber. Time Warner stinks. First, Time Warner is overpriced. Time Warner's channel selection is mediocre. Time Warner's HD options are meager and incredibly insufficient. Time Warner's DVR service is unreliable and lacking.

I would very much like to switch to Turbo HD from the DISH Network, specifically their Gold Turbo HD package. Unfortunately, I live in a condo building, and my unit has windows facing north and west. In order to get Turbo HD from DISH, you must have a southern facing wall. I don't, so no Turbo HD for me. This is a definite drawback of condo living, because my only choices for television service are Time Warner Cable or AT&T Advanced TV. I have asked numerous people about AT&T Advanced TV, and have heard that AT&T's customer service for TV is even worse than Time Warner's cable - a feat I did not think possible.

Just one example of why I am so irritated with Time Warner: I am a huge fan of the US Open tennis tournament. I attend three days of the tournament in-person each year and watch the rest on TV. The coverage on USA Network this year was in HD, but Time Warner doesn't give me USA in HD. So I was forced to watch the US Open in standard definition (read: blurry and fuzzy).

I hope that people who are able to do so switch to DISH and force Time Warner Cable into improvements. They can't come soon enough.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Palin - bad for America

I commend to my (small number of) readers my friend Mikel's reaction to Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention. He says it better than I could. I agree with him 100%. Way to go, Mikel!