2008-10 Vital Source Mag – October 2008

  • One Thousand and One

    The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Theatre Department opened its 2008-2009 season with a Mainstage production of 1001 by Jason Grote. Straying from the standard university fare of well-known and over-produced plays, UWM bravely chose a newer work by a contemporary playwright. This bold move gave voice to some wonderful moments and connections, but ultimately was too imposing for the UWM Theatre Department to grapple with. Jason Grote wrote this play as a reaction to September 11, 2001. However, he is adamant that it is not a 9/11 play. The backbone of the play is the first English translation of The Arabian Nights. Other works and artists are woven in, such as Gustave Flaubert, Jorge Luis Borges and even Monty Python. Some of the literary references will float over the heads of many audience members, however, the comedy of these references is playable at two levels; the audience shouldn’t ever feel as though they missed something. Grote uses the scenes of 9/11 to explore modern racial relationships, but also to tie them back to a common history. 1001 shifts back and forth between several different stories, between space and time and between sparse realistic moments and pure magic. In a brief talk back following opening night, Grote spoke about incorporating magic into his work. His feeling that magic and mysticism can and should be utilized in live theatre is a welcome break from the super-realistic and angst-ridden relationship plays that are currently popular. Grote’s play is by no means straight forward, which proved to be cumbersome for most of the actors. All the actors in 1001 play more than one character. When actors are multi-cast, it can either be delightful and magnificent or confusing and dispirited. Director Rebecca Holderness obviously tried to encourage each actor to discover distinct physical mannerisms for each character, which is key when a single actor portrays several personas. Adrian F. Feliciano did this wonderfully as he played One Eyed Arab, Mostafa and Sinbad. Each character was distinct and crisp. It was also clear that Porsha G. Knapp had a clear understanding of her three characters, Princess Maridah, Juml and Lubna. She was endearing and completely engaged with her work. However, several cast members were not able to keep their characters separate from one another. They seemed to rely on costume changes and alterations to announce that they were now a new person with a new set of beliefs and reactions. While costumes did play an important role, the actors cannot trust in fabric alone to do the work for them-it’s lazy. Holderness may not have gotten the best out of all her actors, but she was able to address Grote’s epic storytelling with humor and ease. Most notable was a scene where Princess Maridah is to be pushed off a great height as punishment from her father. Death is imminent. Instead of trying to stage a realistic death scene, Holderness kept it straight laced until the big push, when Knapp daintily stepped down off the dooming perch, […]

  • All The Great Books (Abridged)

    The sound of the bell signals that class is in session. For audiences attending All The Great Books (Abridged) at Tenth Street Theatre this involves participating in a remedial Western literature course taught by In Tandem Theatre Company. The performance proves to be a humorous hour and forty-five minutes during which classical literature clashes with popular culture for the audience’s entertainment and edification. The production was written by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, with additional material by Matthew Croke and Michael Faulkner. These four men combine their collective training in improvisational comedy and Ringling Brothers and Bailey performances with prestigious credentials from the UC-Berkeley and Boston University. As a result, All The Great Books (Abridged) tries to educate a high school class (played by the audience) on the meaning of 86 literary classics through comedy. Every technique from revisiting the Three Stooges to Saturday Night Live skits are used during the play, which sometimes resembles a three ring circus. A coach, a professor/drama teacher, and a young student teacher forge ahead through dramatic presentations of Homer, Dickens, Austen, Hemingway, Joyce, Thoreau and Tolstoy, among 80 others. While this silly supposition offers an evening of continuous laughter, the script also invites the audience to recall these timeless books and their own high school experiences with them. Doug Jarecki, R. Chris Reeder, and Kevin Rich perform superbly with this material, which in less talented hands might fall on deaf ears. These three actors demonstrate camaraderie on stage that carries the evening, an essential ingredient to dramatizing the 1,000 pages plus of War and Peace in five minutes. Each actor showcases a remarkable gift for improvisation and comedic timing, both as a troupe and on an individual level. Reeder’s rendition of poetry combined with phrases “Go gentle into this Gladys Knight” resounds with humor as does Jarecki’s explanation of Little Women chalked on a board with football play by play descriptions. Rich’s one sentence summaries of the last twenty books puts a striking finale to the play, even if his character confuses invincible with invisible when discussing Homer’s Odyssey. There’s also timely political commentary injected into the script previewing election year while Chris Flieller provides skillful technical support. While dispelling the play’s premise that “reading and fun have little to do with literature,” the production also underscores and uncovers the discrepancies between literary knowledge and cultural education, both of which are components to attaining genuine literacy. When one mentions Homer, is it the Greek poet or the character from The Simpsons to which they are referring? Who are the Brothers Grimm, or as the play puts it, The Brothers Gibb? While Great Books espouses humor, at the end taking it over the top, the evening delves into rethinking these legendary books that defined certain cultural concepts and how pop culture delineates contemporary society. Take a seat for an evening at In Tandem’s Western Literature class and ask yourself the question the play posits when explaining Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol: Were Marley and […]

  • Giggle, Giggle, Quack

    A barnyard chorus of mayhem overtakes a Dutch country farmhouse in the lighthearted Giggle, Giggle, Quack. The stage’s resemblance to a field of brightly colored tulips and the production’s amusing mischief recapture Doreen Cronin’s familiar picture book. Using this adaptation by James E. Grote and George Howe, First Stage Children’s Theater opens their First Step Series, which they present at the intimate Main Stage Hall inside the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Although the 50-minute musical attracts a pre-school audience, this charming story provides plenty of word play for adults to appreciate through the intelligent dialogue and lyrics. To be enjoyed on several levels, the performance succeeds in sustaining the attention of all ages in the audience. The tale is woven around Farmer Brown, who desperately needs a vacation. When Brother Bob agrees to run the farm in his absence, Pig, Cow, Hen and Duck utilize “A Golden Pencil” that allows them to use their imaginations to create several misplaced instructions on how to run the farm, causing humorous confusion for Bob. The golden pencil is delightfully depicted using Latin-themed Samba music. Add to the production Kristina Van Slyke’s ingeniously conceived costumes, complete with webbed slippers for feet, together with Karl Miller’s playful choreography that recalls various musical genres, and the children watch entranced. Several clever lighting and stage effects also create an element of surprise that the audience asks about in the talkback following the performance. A combination of casts acted on Sunday morning, with Alison Kennedy performing “Duck” and Rachel Schmeling playing “Hen,” both students at the First Stage Academy. The storytelling of Beth Mulkerron’s “Pig” and Karen Estrada’s quirky “Cow” round out the ensemble to comprise a comic yet masterful menagerie overseen by the dual role of Farmer Brown and Brother Bob, capably portrayed by Rick Pendzich. Sitting on carpet mats or risers close to the performance, these tiny tots barely uttered a sound the entire hour while they experienced the joy of theater, many for the first time. In Giggle, Giggle Quack the concept of introducing young children to the joy and thrill of live theater instead of video screens attains a high standard. The future of all performing arts depends on these “first steps” that Milwaukee’s First Stage envisions and delivers with remarkable skill. Whether one giggles with a quack, an oink, or a cluck, this performance produces a moovelous hour of make-believe. First Stage Children’s Theater presents Giggle, Giggle, Quack at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 East Walnut, through October 19. 414-273-7206 or www.firststage.org

  • The Laramie Project

    It’s been ten years since Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, was brutally beaten and left to die tied to a fence post out in the prairie. Matthew’s death – and the inscrutable cruelty of his killers – stirred a media storm, drew worldwide focus to a small Great Plains town and had us all asking hard human questions about hatred, justice and violence. Based on hundreds of interviews conducted in Laramie in 1998 and 1999 and the personal observations of the play’s writers, The Laramie Project is an intimate and moving attempt to make sense of the tragedy, a compelling portrait of a town rocked by a senseless crime and an interrogation into the nature of journalism. Soulstice Theatre’s production is simple but affecting and intensely heartfelt. Directors Jeffrey Berens and Mark E. Schuster navigate an ensemble of eleven actors through a thicket of Laramie personalities – from a Baptist preacher and a diner waitress to a homicide detective, a neurosurgeon, an Islamic feminist, a lesbian professor and a gay cowboy – as well as the journals and notes of the Tectonic Theatre Project members who made trip after trip to Wyoming, entangling themselves in the story. Characters are signified by wardrobe pieces and small affects – a hat here, a nail bite there, a flannel jacket or a vocal inflection. They weave in and out, interrupt each other, struggle to express themselves or express themselves with too much candor, make off-handed comments or tell tales straight until, with an easy flow, a narrative arc forms. The first act ends with the discovery of Matthew’s barely-breathing body lashed to a fence by a lonely country road; the second with his death a week later; the third with the trial of his killers and the hush that finally falls on the community after a year in an awful spotlight. Moises Kaufman’s beautiful script is hard to sell short, and Soulstice’s tight and talented cast delivers with enthusiasm, professionalism and emotional depth. Jordan Gwiazdowski is a dynamic and energetic force in the ensemble as the gregarious bartender who is the last to see Matthew Shepard alive, the detective who’s consumed and tortured by Shepard’s case and a Hispanic inmate at the prison where Shepard’s killers are sent, among other characters. Joel Marinan is natural and emotive as both Jedadiah Schultz, a University of Wyoming student whose homophobic parents won’t come to see him perform in Angels of America, and Matthew Shepard’s anguished father. He delivers Mr. Shepard’s speech at the courtroom with captivating eloquence. And Katrina Greguska as a university theater professor, a drawling Wyoming grandmother and the stern but aloof judge in the court case is magnetic. In this tiny black box theater, where the stage is draped with plain but ghostly gauze curtains, it is impossible not to feel personally engaged – even accountable. The production’s inconsistencies – awkward sightlines, at times too-sentimental music and projected images meant to set the scene that […]

  • An Adieu to Delfs

    Twelve years ago when Andreas Delfs became Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, I was assigned to interview him. We met at the Performing Arts Center (now the Marcus Center), and my hands were shaking as I set up my trusty recorder. In came Maestro Delfs wearing blue jeans with a baby blue sweater draped over his shoulders. He told me he was just an ordinary chap and there was no reason (he could determine) for my trembling digits. I was unprepared when he said one of his favorite singers was Celine Dion. “She has great pipes,” he smiled. On September 26, 2008 I sat in box M8, waiting for the Sunday matinee to unfurl. The lady sitting next to me said it was her first time ever in a box seat and she felt like she was in heaven. Recalling my first experience in the box seats, I could identify with her thrill. I was there, clad in a formal ball gown and elbow-length white gloves, when the Performing Arts Center opened. Though much has changed in the passing decades (including the interior of Uhlein Hall), the thrill continues. I scanned the stage to see how many of the musicians I’d enjoyed over the years were still around: Roger Ruggeri and Laura Snyder stood beside their bass instruments, Steven Colburn cradled his oboe, and in the horn section, I spyed Bill Barnewitz and Dennis Najoom. Frank Almond, first violinist and Concertmaster, hasn’t been around quite as long, but long enough that I also interviewed him early in his career. The program opened with The Star Spangled Banner, a patriotic moment when folks rise to the occasion and struggle to recall the words to the tune. Next came Festival Fifty, a lively five minutes written by Maurice Winisky (a principal bassist with the orchestra) to celebrate MSO’s 50th anniversary, and the final season for Maestro Delfs. To my ear, the finest part of the program arrived just before intermission, on the elegant wings of Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major. The entire event was being recorded for posterity and the forewarned audience (turn off all devices that go beep, bleep and bong) sat rapt in their seats. Fortunately no one was sucking on bottled water, a bad idea that was promoted a few seasons back. My memory returned to Delfs’ debut concert a decade plus ago. It was a moment to remember when the Maestro stopped the music, turned to the crowd and advised them in no uncertain terms to cease and desist their high-tech beeps and bleeps, thus setting the pace for future concerts. Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 73, and Emperor by Ludwig Van Beethoven wrapped up the afternoon. I’ve never liked this work, but with Andre Watts at the ivories, and the orchestra working their way through Allegro, Adagio, and Rhondo, the Maestro brought it to a finish and brought the crowd to their feet. During intermission, I […]

  • One Question

    In the run-up to this historic election cycle, VITAL asked a sampling of your elected officials one question. We deliberately chose politicians at the city, county, state and federal levels, both Republicans and Democrats, in the hope that the responses of five different people who serve their constituencies from different horizons of perspective would offer some collective insight into where we are, where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there in the next four years. Their repsonses virtually careen from fiery stump speech to party line recitation to four-point-plan. If you follow politics, not much here will surprise you, but it is a rather fascinating character study.–Jon Anne Willow Willie L. Hines Jr. Alderman, 15th District Milwaukee Common Council President Having grown up in public housing, I am well acquainted with severe struggles many residents of Milwaukee face. My nine siblings and I always knew that having food on the table was not something to take for granted. We witnessed decay and destruction up close. And we learned to be thankful for everything, in and out of season – regardless of circumstances. Those childhood lessons have equipped me with a unique perspective when it comes to government and serving the needs of citizens. I know that significant challenges present significant opportunities – it’s a belief that guides my everyday life as an alderman and as Common Council President. I’ve witnessed individuals and communities in my district overcome myriad obstacles, so I know that it can be done with the right mix of determination and sound public policy. In regard to unemployment, housing and transportation, Milwaukee can do much better. We can – and should – face down these challenges and transform them into opportunities for growth, prosperity and a better quality of life for everyone. Part of the solution rests in a word that is often talked about but seldom realized: regionalism.Just as Milwaukee has its share of challenges, so too do our suburban neighbors: New Berlin has the largest industrial park in the state, but they need employees; many Waukesha residents want to get in and out of downtown Milwaukee quickly, but our inter-transit system is anemic; Shorewood and Whitefish Bay rely on Milwaukee for their employment options, but they offer almost no affordable housing. By recognizing that we are all one community, we can leverage our mutual advantages to address our mutual shortcomings. If Milwaukee can have sister-city relationships with municipalities in China and Africa, surely we can collaborate with our suburban counterparts. Recently, the topic of regionalism was fiercely debated when New Berlin came to Milwaukee seeking a deal for Lake Michigan water. This was not a surprise; as soon as the Great Lakes Compact was signed, we new that New Berlin would be the first candidate on the docket to be vetted for full connection to Milwaukee’s world-class fresh water infrastructure. Some have said that the New Berlin/Milwaukee water agreement offered an example of regionalism. But I say regionalism has to be a twoway […]

  • Reconsidering the turkey

    The other day my son and I were driving in the country when we saw a small rafter of wild turkeys hanging out by the side of the road. We stopped to watch, which eventually caused the big tom to lead the dozen or so females and adolescents back to the tall meadow stand at a leisurely pace, one eye on us and one on his charges. He perched in a low tree, puffed up and giving orders in what sounded like a calm but firm voice, not descending until it was time to form a rear guard of one. It was very cool. For a 10-year old, Harrison is a fount of history and science trivia. As we pulled away he asked me if I knew that Ben Franklin thought the turkey would make a better national bird than the bald eagle. “I did know that,” I replied. “Do you know why?” “Because he thought turkeys were smarter and more honest than eagles, and that was a better symbol for America.” I asked if he agreed. “I think,” he replied, “that the turkey would be a better symbol of how we should be, but the eagle is more accurate for how we are.” Indeed. Benjamin Franklin’s now-famous thoughts on the turkey were disclosed in a letter to his daughter in 1784: “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. …[T]oo lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. … [L]like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird …He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage…” Franklin never petitioned his idea formally. Maybe he already had a sense of the direction in which things were headed and didn’t see the value in ruffling any feathers (sorry). He was, after all, a pretty smart guy, and eerily prescient on a host of matters. Philosophically, as a publisher, I’m probably a lot like Ben Franklin, who worked as a civil servant late into his life, more interested in improving the postal service, the library system and municipal functions than holding great power on the world stage. So when you read VITAL Source online or in print, […]

  • Subversions

    On Assignment

    by Matt Wild + Photos by Kat Berger I’m sipping a flat rum and coke at a place called El Bait Shop (Spanish for: The Bait Shop) in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, when I realize how much this town is like a Lou Reed record: difficult, frustrating and haunted by past brilliance. Sure, there’s always something of worth to be found buried beneath the bright bars and non-existent music scene (or, in Lou Reed’s case, concept albums about Edgar Allen Poe) but damn if you don’t have to work for it. To explain: In late August, Vital sent me to cover the inaugural World Xtreme Boxing Challenge being held in Des Moines. Less than 48 hours before I was scheduled to leave, the tournament was cancelled. Figuring a weekend out of town might do me some good, I decided to make the trip anyway. My story would now be of the city itself, its similarities and differences to Milwaukee, its selling points and hidden treasures. It would also be a half-assed travelogue, one that would come to feature a failed Wayne Newton encounter, an appropriately geeky renaissance fair and me getting slapped in the face by a dwarf. And finally, like a Lou Reed album (I’m thinking something along the lines of Transformer now), it would be about how a road trip can be a bundle of blind hope, bitter disappointments and – given enough time and patience – something like a revelation. This is the story of that road trip. This is Des Moines. DAY 1 Looking out the windows of the ultra-swank Embassy Club atop the 801 Grand building, you can see nearly everything there is to see of Des Moines, a city roughly a quarter the size of Milwaukee. It’s a beautiful city, really, with the Iowa State Capitol – its 23-karat gold-plated dome shining in the sunset – overlooking downtown. I’m taking it all in with a glass of red wine in my hand, joined by Milwaukee’s own Amy Elliott, Bridget Brave and Kat Berger. (A quick note to male readers: when making a road trip with three women, it takes less than 20 minutes before the conversation turns to tampons and Judy Blume books.) We’ve just driven seven hours and have barely made our dinner appointment with three members of the Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. There are no prices on our menus and the ladies look amazing. I’ve managed to put on a shirt and tie. The similarities between Des Moines and Milwaukee are striking: both share a clean, compact downtown that has benefited from recent revitalization programs, and both have a contentious, newly-erected bronze statue to contend with (in the case of Des Moines, it’s of recent Olympic gold-medalist Shawn Johnson). Other fun facts learned over our five-course meal: Des Moines is the insurance capital of America, it contains some of the most extensive urban biking/hiking trails in the world, and its four-mile downtown skywalk system is second-to-none. Later, a helpful Wikipedia […]

  • Grails

    Some folks label the Portland, OR band Grails instrumental. I deem it ambient or Narada metal. The prolific (and I use this term with a large measure of chagrin) quartet’s 9th release this millennium, Doomsdayer’s Holiday, really is just more of the same, and all the more agonizing because of it. The seven songs within dabble in a few textures, but all of it just blows wind (literally, in many unfortunate instances) and is entirely forgettable. Many have come before Grails, and to much better results. There’s “doom” metal (just grubby blues licks) on “Reincarnation Blues” and “Predestination Blues.” Then there are the aforementioned wind samples, high-fret guitar chimes, and recycled “large room” percussion on the opening title track. The only creative touch or compelling moment of any kind comes at the very end, with the Pink Floyd-apeing “Acid Rain.” All of these songs are frustrating in their sheer lack of direction and overall dullness. Virtually everything here is pretentious: the artwork (perhaps an homage to Danzig: naked breasts, check; power animal, check; fog, check; ominous trees, check), the songwriting (with ho-hum musicianship at best) and the production (will Steve Albini get royalties?). I can best describe this (and in fact, their entire output) as merely different joints all rolled from the same bag of weed. Now, I must ask you … have you ever smoked eight-yearold weed?

  • Octoberfeast

    Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival held each year in Munich, Germany. Originated in 1810 to commemorate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Bavaria, it is reputed to be the world’s largest fair, with millions celebrating every year by troughing mass quantities of food and lager. Here are a couple of great recipes for your own Octoberfeast. VS (Photos by Lynn Allen) Chef/Owner John Poulos Karl Ratzsch’s 320 E Mason Street Milwaukee, WI 53202 414-276-2720 Karl Ratzsch’s celebrates its 105th birthday next year. Chef/owner John Poulos came on board in 1976 as a prep cook during his training at MATC’s culinary school. Many of the Southern German recipes go back to Mama Ratzch’s originals, like the renowned hot bacon salad dressing, the sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel, roast goose, stuffed pork chops and German potato salad. Five years ago, with partners Tom Andera and Judy Hazard, Poulos bought the restaurant from the Ratzch family. Poulos has since tweaked the menu, adding appetizers and lighter fare. His salmi recipe is the happy result of a mistake. Mr. Ratzch was roasting ducks and forgot about them, so they overcooked. He took bar olives and cherries and made a sauce with Burgundy wine. It’s been on the menu or run as a special ever since and is always featured at lunch and dinner on Saturdays. Karl Ratzch’s Salmi of Duck Shanks A salmi, short for salmigondis, is a ragout of wild game, often featuring waterfowl plentiful during Wisconsin’s fall hunting season. You may also stalk down all the ingredients you need in the aisles of your grocery store. 6 duck shanks (8 to 10 ounces each) Salt and pepper to taste Granulated garlic to taste 2 onions, sliced 4 bay leaves 6 cups chicken stock ¼ cup honey ½ cup packed light brown sugar 2 cups frozen sour cherries, thawed ½ cup pimento olives, sliced ¼ cup Burgundy wine ½ cup cornstarch mixed in ½ cup cold water Chicken base to taste Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season shanks with salt, pepper and garlic. Put duck shanks skin side up in a 15-by-10-by-2-inch roasting pan and cook 40 minutes in the oven or until light brown in color. Add onions, bay leaves and stock. Cover with foil and roast in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and baste. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Return to oven without covering. Cook 30 to 40 minutes longer, or until golden brown and the meat is tender. Remove shanks and strain stock. Transfer strained stock to a saucepan. Add honey, brown sugar, cherries, olives and Burgundy. Bring to boil, then thicken with cornstarch and water mixture until the consistency of a medium-thick gravy. Adjust seasoning of sauce with chicken base to enhance flavor, then return meat to roasting pan and top with sauce. Roast 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with wild rice and stuffing. Makes 3 servings. Ms. Marcellyne C. Amann Ms. Amann grew up in a large family of German and Irish heritage […]

  • Behind the Scaffolding

    There’s a lot going on in City Hall right now – not that you’d know from Milwaukee’s broadcast news and daily paper. With increased coverage of suburban issues – Shoplifter at Large in Glendale! – the most important issues of the day for the region’s economic and cultural hub are largely left untouched. That’s why VITAL Source is making space for this column. To give you the inside scoop on what’s going in City of Milwaukee government. Hopefully it will be both enlightening and entertaining. Let’s start with the 2009 city budget. About two weeks after posturing as an anti-tax guy (read: afraid of talk radio) and vetoing a much-needed “wheel tax,” Mayor Barrett introduced a host of increased fees – from snow removal to “solid waste” removal – in his new budget. (That latter fee is your garbage collection, in case you were wondering what constitutes “solid waste.”) Here’s the key difference between the wheel tax, which passed with 11 cosponsors, and all the new fees that Mayor Barrett is trying to implement in the budget: the $20-per-year wheel tax is actually replacing the street assessments, which totaled thousands of dollars, saving money for property owners. Barrett’s new budget fees replace nothing – they’re just new fees. Advantage: aldermen. (And alderwoman – can’t forget Coggs.) Whether libraries are closed, fire fighters are cut or sanitation services are consolidated, times are tough for the City of Milwaukee. Watching the committee meetings, you get the sense that the department heads are scrambling to make ends meet. Milwaukee should have a long-term plan for progress, but it seems like everything is addressed at the 11th hour. I don’t think the heads of Manpower, Harley or even VITAL manage their funds this way, so I don’t know why it doesn’t bother the mayor. Captain Jim Harpole, who was in the running for MPD Chief and has been at the helm for the District Three Police Station – in the heart of the central city – is being promoted to Assistant Chief. The promotion got little attention from the Journal Sentinel and nothing from the TV stations, but it could have far-reaching ramifications. City Hall insiders – and those who pay attention to crime statistics – know that Harpole has worked wonders at D3, so his replacement will be key. Alds. Murphy, Bauman and Hines are sure to be especially nervous. Another Mayor-Common Council conflict of late is how to deal with Milwaukee’s foreclosure crisis. In August, President Willie Hines wrote a letter to Barrett, asking that he consider hiring a full-time Housing & Foreclosure Policy Advisor, as many other cities have done. The mayor has granted that request, but it seems like the new advisor will only be a low-level manager, not a cabinet-level adviser, as Hines requested. My next column will focus more on the nuts-and-bolts of the departments behind the scenes, as I interview the people who actually fill potholes (hopefully), board up houses and weigh babies (public health nurses) for […]

  • The Sea and Cake

    The latest album from Chicago’s The Sea and Cake finds the band mid-lap on the race begun on last year’s Everybody, in which the jazzy, poppy, light post-rock was more ebullient than the band’s debut material in 1993. The mid-lap shows whether the participants are capable of following through. The Sea and Cake have produced a fluid group of songs, most likely because these are their most quickly-penned compositions to date. Last year’s album had an effervescence it might not have claimed without the four years between it and 2003’s One Bedroom. That lifts the burden of the element of surprise from Car Alarm, which takes much of its attitude from the less-than-ayear-old Everybody. Sam Prekop – more Chet Baker than Stephen Malkmus – builds on the momentum of the previous release, which reached for the roots of Nassau-esque jazzy-pop and abandoned the more electronic leanings of One Bedroom. What the band had abandoned at that point is what makes Car Alarm kick in. A noticeable element of urgency gives a spark to opener “Aerial,” with driving drums and strong but fuzzy guitars making way for hints of electronic noodling. A driving tempo and smooth, steady instrumentation is tailored for natural electronic inclusions in the run of the album. This occurs in the oxygenated “CMS Sequence” – one minute and eight seconds of straight-up electronica, and a genre precursor to “Weekend,” which mixes the jazz-pop and electronic flavors nicely. Think of Everybody and Car Alarm as participants in a relay race consisting of two people: the strong and steady starter followed by a substantial and sparkling finisher.