Friday, July 27, 2012

British Media, You So Crazy!

This cracks me up.

Less than two weeks ago we were flooded with stories of how security at the upcoming Olympics was a grave concern and that the company (G4S) retained to hire and train security personnel was woefully understaffed. They originally were contracted to hire 2,000, but as security was evaluated, the number ballooned to 20,000. (Note: I've seen various figures here. I am not sure exactly what the total requirement is.) They fell short by roughly 3,500 persons and the government had to step in and bring in members of Army and local law enforcement to make up the difference.

West Midlands Police Federation chairman Ian Edwards said the situation was "chaos, absolute chaos."

On July 15th, the Mirror wrote "It's pathletic: Police and army seethe as G4S admits Olympic Games shambles."

As recently as July 18th, a writer for the UK's Guardian, Simon Hoggart, wrote "Olympic security boss couldn't plan a pig-out in a pie shop."

Also from the the Guardian on July 19th, writer Hugh Muir pens "Olympic fiasco. We'd name the guilty parties, but we'd run out of space."

Nick Buckles, the head of the G4S security firm that received an $89 million management fee to help police the Olympics, admitted the plan was "in shambles."

Ten days later, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney visits London and uses the word "disconcerting" to describe the security situation at the Olympics.

Today's British headlines? "Party Pooper" -- The Daily Mail, "Nowhere Man" -- The Times of London, and "Mitt the Twit" -- The Sun.

I'm not an apologist for Mitt Romney. While I lean conservative I can't admit to being Mitt's biggest fan; however, I find these criticisms ridiculous in light of the security disaster news our heads were filled with only 10 days ago. Also, Presidential aspirations aside, Mitt's qualifications do permit him to be one of the few qualified politicians to question security measures at the Olympic Games. After all, he was the President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics! A role that I assume came with significant responsibilities and scrupulous oversight requirements.

Maybe it's just the British media being, well, the British media.

That said, let the games begin and let's hope for a safe and successful London 2012 Summer Olympic Games.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Road ... er, Sidewalk Rage!

I had the opportunity to confront a horrible and rude driver this afternoon.

I did not waste it.

I was walking back to my office in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood from the Public Market. My route south was along the west side of Water/1st Street. I was crossing the street at Seeboth. While I was in the crosswalk, a southbound driver, wishing to turn right, slowed and yielded to me. However, behind her, a driver angrily beeped her horn and waved her fist at the yielding driver.

I damn near jumped out of my skin because the horn did what it was supposed to -- it startled me and, at first, I wasn't sure if the car blowing its horn wasn't the vehicle nearest me.

Moments later I reached the other side of the street, the yielding driver turned right and the jerk driver drove about, oh, 25 yards only to be stopped at the E. Pittsburgh traffic light.

My heart still pounding from the surprise and rage, I yelled in her open passenger window, "What was the horn for?!"

"It wasn't at you," she replied.

"Then who?" was my retort.

"The car in front of me."

"What? She was supposed to run me over?!"

I believe she felt a pang of guilt and stopped looking directly at me. "Sorry," she sheepishly replied.

Sadly this one small incident reflects life in America today. Few are civil, even less are respectful. Try legally parallel parking your car on a busy Milwaukee street sometime; you'll see what I mean. You'll get three horns, a shaken fist and two middle fingers in the time it takes for you to put your car in reverse.

My friend Sara, in the wake of the horrible shootings said "People are broken." I think she's right. I'm generally optimistic, but I've seen little lately that gives me reason to be.

Excuse this terse post. It's a beautiful Friday, but with the awful news out of Colorado and the general incivility in Milwaukee, I'm a little grumpy today.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Forget Dueling Pianos ... Dueling Stages!

Performer dependent, last night was likely the last time I'll ever go to a show at the Marcus Amphitheater during Summerfest.

Here's the problem: sound bleedover between the new BMO Harris Pavilion and the Marcus.

To some, this may be a small, maybe even unnoticeable, phenomenon, but to me it darn near ruins the entire concert experience. There were times last night, it fully ruined it for me.

David Gray performed at the BMO last week and instagrammed that it was a "cluster****." (See: I saw the Avett Brothers last Thursday at the BMO while Zac Brown was playing the Marcus and didn't notice anything, but that's probably because I had good seats, was under the pavilion roof, and the Avetts didin't play (m)any ballads. I imagine Gray's set with Iron Maiden must've been a joke.

While Neil Diamond certainly isn't Iron Maiden, nor is he going to be as loud, the bass from the neighboring BMO stage last night (B-52s) was highly distracting. And I had what I hoped were good seats (reserved bleachers, Sect. 14, just a little off-middle). When Neil moved into a slow number or a song that had slower, quieter elements (e.g. the beginning of Holly Holy, Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, etc.), the subsonic booming from next door stage trampled the songs. I think at one point, Mr. Diamond himself was distracted by it--he turned his head towards the noise and for a moment paused; I think he even furrowed his significantly bushy brows. There's no doubt in my mind he could hear it. And his slowest song--You Don't Bring Me Flowers--was pulverized by the B-52s' heavy bombardment of bass.

At show's end, I posted this tweet: The location of the BMO Harris Pavilion relative to the Marcus Amphitheater was the biggest Milwaukee mistake since Elton John at Harley. :(

A friend responded back with a few things like, "It's a music festival; the acts should expect it" and "the crossover is worse at other stages," but I take exception to both of those comments. First, I don't think a performer on the main stages (call it two main stages now) should have to fight for the right to be heard. He's Neil-friggin'-Diamond for Heaven's sake and his fans doled out a heck of a lot of money to see him. Our crummy tickets were $75 each with fees. Second, the crossover effect is worst at the BMO/Marcus for this reason and this reason only: low-frequency bass.

Since the adjacent stages of the Miller, Harley, Briggs' Backyard all face east, you can hear other performers too during the quieter moments, but the earthen and concrete berm that separates the BMO and Marcus takes that heavy bass from the BMO and transfers it into the seating area at the Marcus. Once I got accustomed (?) to the thump, I even heard it during Neil's louder songs (Cracklin' Rosie, Sweet Caroline, etc.). You don't so much hear it as you feel it.

I'm not sure how many others are this distracted by it. I've always been highly sensitive to these kinds of things. My wife said it didn't bother her, but by the end of the show, I think she was starting to understand my complaint.

And I bet this: future performers are going to be very wary of playing these stages without knowing who is playing at the adjacent theater. Guaranteed. You can bet your butt David Gray won't be back!

That said, Summerfest 2012 had a great lineup and the BMO Harris Pavilion, by itself, is a remarkably great place to see a show. Maybe the Marcus's days are numbered? I don't know, but complaints aside, I'll probably be standing in the sweltering heat with a $6.50 Miller Lite in my hand next first week of July just like I have for the last 25.

I guess I'm just stubborn. :|

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Two Short Stories That Will Make You Feel Good

This is a short post about a couple of things that are very nice.

First, to celebrate the 4th of July, we went to the Bay View parade (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). It was great to attend the Three Little Birds' first parade ever (for those unfamiliar, the "Three Little Birds" are my triplet nephews and niece; born a tad premature in 2011, I used to sing Bob Marley's Three Little Birds to them in the NICU). It's great to see how far they have come and it's exciting to see them out and about after lots of time indoors.

Like everywhere, yesterday was sweltering in Milwaukee. As we stood at the northeast corner of Humboldt Park watching the parade pass, a Milwaukee police officer monitoring the parade from the rear bumper of his parked, unmarked squad car approached my sister and brother-in-law and said that if the three little birds were too hot, he would gladly allow them to rest for a spell in the air-conditioned car.

What a nice gesture!

We didn't take advantage of it, but wasn't that swell of him to ask? Heck, I was ready to take him up on his offer; however, the thought of me sitting in the back of a squad car conjured up too many bad memories of my collegiate years. 

Ah, reckless youth. Thank goodness I lived through it. 

Second, tonight's main act at Summerfest's Marcus Amphitheater is the Zac Brown Band. I knew nothing about Zac Brown on the day that his mega-popular album The Foundation dropped in stores. However, on that day, I found myself sitting at Elephant & Castle in downtown Chicago after a day at a trade show at McCormick Place. Another diner and drinker in town for business too, sat beside me. After a few minutes we struck up a conversation when he asked me this question: "Do you like music?"

Turns out this fellow was a good friend of Zac's and he was thrilled that his buddy's new album was released this day. He was excited and alone and couldn't wait to talk to somebody about it. This guy was not only a friend of Zac's, but he was the band's personal physician. He would often tour with them or meet them at various points along their tour to monitor their health. 

This doctor's main professional focus, however, was the treatment of children with autism. And here is where my best memories were formed. 

He explained at great lengths innumerable examples of Zac Brown volunteering and providing support, shows, resources, etc. for autism foundations (the good Doctor's in particular). Zac hadn't even reached his big fame yet, and, up until that point, he mostly had a dedicated and passionate legion of fans. Nonetheless, I was highly impressed by his selfless nature and commitment to a cause.

Even without ever hearing his music, I became a Zac Brown Band fan.

Since that night I've come to know his music from the band's The Foundation album. I've enjoyed seeing their meteoric rise and I've admired Zac's incredible ability to pick the guitar. I am happy to see good things happen to good, talented people and if it weren't for the Avett Brothers (a personal favorite!) playing next door tonight at the BMO Harris Pavilion, I'd be there at the Marcus Amphitheater amongst Zac's dedicated and passionate legion.

Good stuff to hear, right? Now enjoy some of my favorite Zac Brown picking on Mary.