Thursday, March 30, 2017

Music and Language Musings

Yesterday I had both band and choir practice, and it occurs to me that I spend a lot of time around other musicians so sometimes I forget that my knowledge of musical terms can be bewildering to laypeople. It is amusing to watch people’s eyes glaze over when I accidentally drop a term like Phrygian mode, theorbo, or hemiola, but when you know a lot of people whose knowledge of music theory is on a doctoral level, it’s easy to forget you might have a master’s degree level of knowledge. One bit of musical knowledge I do not yet possess is how to play the bouzouki Travalon gave me a couple of years ago. We are going to take it to a guy who fixes guitars and ukuleles to see if he can do something about the high action on it (the strings are so far above the fingerboard that it is painful to play), and then I will find a video online and try to learn at least one song. Sometimes the university has classes on how to play interesting instruments, and in the past they have had classes on playing the mountain dulcimer, but I haven’t seen those lately so I still don’t exactly know how to play ol’ Bubba Sue either. Maybe my Lenten resolution should be to actually learn to play all these instruments I have acquired over the years. Maybe it’s for the best that I never bought that balalaika years ago!

We have a new person in our Irish class, a college student who just started studying the language but already has a way better accent than we middle-aged people who have been studying it for three years now. It’s funny, when I was in Ireland, I bought anything that had Irish written on it because it seemed so cool and mysterious. Today I came across a T-shirt from the Guinness factory, and not only could I read the message on it and realize it was just something about how you shouldn’t drink anything else, I was also all like, “Hmm, they’re eclipsing the B there, and aspirating that S.” Now when I see written Irish, my first reaction isn’t, “Whoa, that’s so cool!” but “Oh man, another thing to translate!” Familiarity really does breed contempt, or at least fatigue. 

Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Asia and Journey

Sorry for my silence yesterday, but I had a busy evening. First I went to Irish class, as usual, then Travalon picked me up and we went to the Colosseum to see Asia and Journey, two bands from my youth. Asia’s original lead singer had died in January, just before they started the tour, so they had a guy from YES (another arena rock band that was big in the 80’s) sing, and they dedicated the whole show to their late singer. It was crazy getting into the arena, so we missed a little of Asia’s set, which wasn’t even an hour long, but we did catch the songs I remember liking by them. Our seats had kind of an obscured view, and the place was pretty full, but we did manage to find two great seats that nobody ever claimed, so then we had a perfect view of the stage.

Journey was my favorite band back in my early teens for two simple reasons: 1) they played a lot more songs in minor keys than the average arena rock band; and 2) their lead singer was smokin’ hot. Apparently he is also a huge jerk, and he wants nothing more to do with the rest of the band, which is his loss because they are amazing musicians. Also, they found a Filipino street kid who could sing just like him, and so now they have a lead singer half the age of the other guys. He is totally ripped too – he looks like he works out every day! I guess when your job is running around on stage for two hours, you have a lot of other time to dedicate to pumping iron. They started their set with my very favorite Journey song, “Separate Ways,” which is not only minor key but also has a keyboard line based on Bach. A lot of people were out getting beer between bands, so they came running in when that song started. Honestly, the band was so good that even their lame slow songs sounded great live. Anyway, it was a fantastic show, and their replacement lead singer rocks. Who needs the original jerk?

Famous Hat

Monday, March 27, 2017

Durian Bars

Did all my readers have a good weekend? I ended up having a very nostalgic one. First I have to say that Travalon is a prince among men, and he went to the music store for me and got a music stand and a tuner before my ukulele jam on Friday. The Snark brand tuner even came with a free Snark pick! The jam was a lot of fun, and Luxuli and my old friend (Rich says I should call her Hockey Girl) came and sang along, then we went to the Parched Eagle and Travalon joined us before he and I watched that heartbreaking Sweet Sixteen game. At least the Badgers went down fighting – losing by one point in overtime is definitely nothing to be ashamed of!

Saturday morning Travalon had to work, so I ran some errands downtown and took the opportunity to see an art exhibit that was closing the next day. It was icons and carved crucifixes from Mount Athos in Greece, as well as beautiful photos of some of the monasteries. As a woman, I am not allowed to go to Mount Athos, so this was the closest I would ever come. They even had a sample of the incense they use. I did miss the annual bead show that Jilly Moose and OK Cap went to, but maybe that’s just as well – I probably would have bought way too many beads! How many rosaries can one person make, right? Once Travalon got off of work, we were going to see a movie, but the theaters were packed. We did go by the old place I used to work at; I hadn’t been there in fifteen years, so that was a real trip down Memory Lane. Then we drove out to Sauk to see eagles, since it was a cold, wet day and they seem to like that weather, but we didn’t see a single one. Lots of gulls, though. In the evening we went to the Parched Eagle again to hear members of the Madison Classical Guitar Society play. Readers, if you have never heard them, it is such beautiful music! They play two Fridays a month at the Lakeside CafĂ©, if anyone is interested in catching them sometime with us. Even Travalon likes classical music when it is played on the guitar, and they played a lot of flamenco too. The brother-in-law of the Daughter of Denni was one of the players, but her sister (the other Daughter of Denni) was home with the little kids. He is taking her and the kids with him for a vacation in Spain so that he can study with a flamenco master. How cool does that sound? Can I go to Hawaii to study with a ukulele master?

Yesterday after brunch Travalon and I went to hear a jazz concert, but they wanted $25 to let us in, and the place was packed. There was nowhere to sit. I noticed they were all old white folks, so that’s who can afford to hear a genre invented by poor black folks. Interesting, isn’t it? A black guy was coming to the concert, but when he heard me tell Travalon the price, he said, "That's all I need to know," and he turned around and left. It was great jazz, so we stood in the hall listening until we thought they might come yell at us, then we walked to my old place on Pirate Island. That made me even more nostalgic than seeing my old office building! I just loved living there and only moved because I found a free living situation, so I could pay off my student loans faster. (Which worked, by the way.) Then we went to Rich’s house and Travalon watched some Elite Eight games while Rich, Kathbert, and I took a long walk in the neighborhood. We went to the Asian grocery store owned by the people who sold Rich his house, and I mentioned that I was curious about durian fruit. It is supposed to smell vile but taste wonderful. The fruit is enormous and looks like a medieval weapon, with giant spikes coming off of it. One fruit was $20, and even cut up chunks of it were about $12 for a package, so Kathbert suggested we try the $3 for four ice cream bars, in case we didn’t like it. By the time we got back to Rich’s, Catzookz was there, but she wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t have an ice cream bar for her when she googled durian. They are ugly inside and out. Kathbert and I thought the flavor was like rotted onions, garlic, and eggs mixed together, and Travalon said it was like sour pineapple, but Rich (who has no sense of smell) said, “It tastes like vanilla to me.” We did finish our bars, and then we skyped with A-Fooze, who had tried durian and also said it tastes like a bad onion. On the way home Travalon and I stopped to get Thai iced teas to get the flavor out of our mouths. Can you believe this? My diet app not only had durian ice cream bars listed, it even had that brand (Sweety)! They are 100 calories each, in case you would like to indulge in one. I personally cannot recommend it.

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Late Winter Pictorial Post

It is time, once again, for a pictorial post. First are a couple shots of the old Shakespeare folio Travalon and I saw at the university library, showing how they used two capital Vs instead of a W on the title pages. Of course I forgot to take a picture of the title page that said: "Romeo and Ivliet."

Next are the two Valentine's Day presents Travalon gave me: an ornament of Ireland and a pin based on a design in the Book of Kells.

Here are three pages from my adult coloring book. It was a wonderful winter pastime, but I haven't been coloring in it lately. Of course, now it is spring!

This is a picture of the Lake Windsor Country Club, so you can see how beautiful it is. I would have loved to have our wedding reception there except a) I didn't know about it at the time, and b) we couldn't have afforded it anyway.

Ma Hat sent me this photo of her Plant World, which rivals mine and has way more color:

This beautiful sunset was what I saw when I voted in the primaries.

And finally, astute readers may remember the photo of the magenta Christmas cactus bloom I posted a couple of months ago. Just last week my white Christmas cactus bloomed at work. It is so fun to have flowers at work!

I hope you have enjoyed this late winter pictorial post. Soon I may post short videos of the bands we saw at the World Music Festival last month.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Women's Hockey Championship

I totally forgot to mention yesterday that when Travalon and I went to the Thirsty Moose on Sunday afternoon, we watched the third period of the Women’s Hockey Championship game. The Badger Ladies were the highest ranked team in the country, but they were destroyed 0-3 by Clarkson, a school in Pottsdam, New York, with 4000 students. So that was sad, but they had a great season. However, I do not really like hockey because of the inherent unjustness of the sport. For example, once Clarkson had two goals, the Badgers had their goalie pulled, so that Clarkson easily got a third goal. And I’ve seen things like that before, where one team is far ahead and they get a free shot at the goal without the goalie defending it. How is this fair?? If anything, the team that is way behind should get a free shot to make it more of a game. It’s like they really do not want anyone coming from behind and catching up. Travalon tells me it is a reward for doing well, but it galls me. That is why I never will be a hockey fan.

Famous Hat

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Badgers Beat Villanova!!

I hope my readers had a good St. Patrick’s Day. I met Jilly Moose and OK Cap at Brocach right after work, and we were later joined by Cali and another friend who doesn’t have a name yet on this blog, the one who was around before I was blogging and just recently came back to town. Sooner or later I will think of a good one for her… We were at a table for four, so Cali had to sit on the side, but the table next to us for two was free, so we wondered if we could just move it over, especially after Travalon joined us. They said they had a waiting list for that table so no, but it sat empty next to us the rest of the evening so we just kind of moved it over anyway. We debated about going to the Harmony Bar to hear a live band that we had heard the Sunday before, but we were having so much fun talking that the evening got late and we all just went home.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich, Jilly Moose, Luxuli, and another woman for coffee, and soon Prairie Man joined us. Travalon went off to watch the high school basketball tournaments, and we Rosary Ladies prayed a rosary, then we met Travalon at the Union to watch the Badger basketball game. Was that ever exciting! At the last moment we beat the highest ranked team in the country, Villanova, and instantly broke almost half of the brackets out there. I am very happy because I want our players Koenig and Hayes to look really good so they will be drafted by NBA teams. Koenig would be the first member of the Ho-Chunk Nation in the NBA, as far as I know, and Travalon said he might be too short for them to look at him, but he hits a lot of three-pointers… just like Steph Curry, who is even shorter but is arguably the best player in the NBA. Then I met some other friends for what one called a “vegetable-forward” dinner at Everly, a new restaurant not far from where I work. We ordered all the vegetables on the menu and oysters Rockefeller for appetizers, and I had delicious curry squash with forbidden rice for my main course. Travalon, meanwhile, met an old friend for dinner at the Journey, the pan-Asian buffet he loves. He did join some of us later for a drink.

Yesterday Travalon, Cecil Markovitch, and I had coffee right after Mass, and Cecil bought me a red rose from a street vendor. Then Rich had brunch at his house for the first time in ages, and Travalon and I brought pastries from the Mexican grocery store down the street from him. The weather was finally beautiful, so Travalon and I took Rodney the Poodle and went to Indian Lake Park for a hike, but it was so muddy that we didn’t get far. We drove up to Lake Wisconsin and stopped into the Thirsty Moose for a snack and a drink, then we took the ferry across the river and went up to a county park that turned out to be a couple of picnic tables by the side of the road. Since I hadn’t gotten all my steps yet, we watched the first episode of Roots: The Next Generation after dinner so I could walk while watching it. We also caught parts of various college basketball teams. If you live with Travalon, you can’t help but be caught up in the excitement of March Madness! Especially when the Badgers are in the Sweet Sixteen again!!

Famous Hat

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today my coworkers and I went to a nearby Irish restaurant for lunch, and they ordered corned beef and cabbage, but I don’t like corned beef (nor did I ever see it in Ireland), so I got a shepherd’s pie. Unfortunately they no longer have the delicious vegetarian shepherd’s pie on the menu, but our local bishop gave us all a dispensation so we could eat meat today, and so I had the regular one with meat.

Did anyone watch that exciting Badger basketball game last night? It was their first game in the tournament (or, as they call it, “The Big Dance”), and they are an 8 seed and played a 9 seed, so the teams were (in theory) pretty evenly matched. In fact, for most of the game the Hokies were just a few points behind the Badgers, but Koenig kept putting in three-pointers and Hayes was amazing at the free-throw line, so at the end the Badgers pulled well ahead and won by ten. Of course, that means that tomorrow they will meet the unstoppable force that is Villanova, and I don’t have high hopes for that game. Imagine if they did win it… Travalon and I went to Brix 340 last night before the game and watched a little of the Villanova game there while enjoying cocktails of Irish whiskey, ginger ale, and lime, which was what everyone drank in Ireland when we were there. Villanova is the top-ranked team in the nation and of course they are a number one seed, so they got to play a scrappy little 16 seed team. During the first half, to our pleasant surprise, the other team (Mount St. Mary) were ahead by a few points, but of course in the second half it did look like a 1 seed playing a 16 seed, and Villanova slaughtered them. The question is, which team will show up to play tomorrow? If it’s the first-half Villanova, our Badgers might have a chance. If it’s the second-half Villanova, then we don’t. Oh, and in case you were wondering, no Number 16 seed has upset a Number 1 seed since 1985.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pi Day Celebrations

Did my readers all have a happy Pi Day yesterday? In honor of the day, Handy Woman brought an apple pie into work, and then Travalon and I went to Liliana’s for their special Pi Day menu. The first course was a pecan, pear, and gorgonzola tart, the main course was a spicy shrimp and crawfish pie, and the dessert was a chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Of course I did not stay under my calorie count yesterday, so I ran in place while listening to about seven different versions of the jazz standard “Topsy.” I will warn you that if you search for “Topsy” on internet video sites, the first thing that comes up is not a video of someone playing the jazz song but a very old movie of an elephant being electrocuted back in 1903. Yes, it was on purpose; she had killed several people and was deemed a “bad” elephant. Considering that she was stolen from the jungle as a youngster and dragged to this country to live in a cold climate and do demeaning tricks for people, I can understand why she felt a little murderous! Why they didn’t just return her to the jungle is beyond me, but maybe they figured that she wouldn’t know how to survive in the wilderness. The reason I did not walk in place while watching Roots is that we have finished watching it. Now we are set to watch the sequel, Roots: The Next Generation. Will that one give me weird dreams? The original one caused me to dream that I had been stolen from Africa, or at least that is what someone was trying to tell me, but I was confused because I clearly remember being twelve and living in this country the whole time. Also, they were trying to tell me my birthday was in April, not January. I just kept saying, “This is not my story you are telling me. I know my own story.” Maybe that was caused by Kunta Kinte having to take a new American name. If you have not seen Roots, I would highly recommend it. It is disturbing, but – spoiler alert! – it does have a happy ending, after all.

Famous Hat

Monday, March 13, 2017

Discovering Deansville

I hope my readers had a good weekend. On Friday Cali suggested we go to the fish fry at the bowling alley in Sun Prairie, so Travalon, Cecil Markovitch, Richard Bonomo, Luxuli, Prairie Man, and I joined her there. Saturday Travalon and I went to a pop-up donut shop at Macha Tea. As my longtime readers may remember, they used to be located in a house, and I had my wedding shower there. Now they are in a much smaller space, but they were crazy busy selling donuts on Saturday morning. Then Travalon and I drove to Watertown to get two-for-one mint chillers at Berres Brothers Coffee and then go on a hike on Tivoli Island. That is more sugar in a short amount of time than I have consumed in a while! We drove back on back roads and discovered a tiny town called Deansville with a very nice tavern called the Barrel In, then we tried once again to find the source of the Yahara River, but Google Maps doesn’t always exactly match reality, and we were not successful. In the evening we went to a new jazz club on State Street, but a trio was playing free jazz, you know, the Ornette Coleman style stuff. It doesn’t even sound like music, just noise. We left after the first set. The worst of it was we could have gone to see a group for free that includes the Daughter of Denni, but we thought we would support live jazz in Madtown. However, I keep forgetting what a wide array of styles are called “jazz,” and that I really do not like all of them equally.

Yesterday we had a much more successful music day. After Mass Travalon and I went back to Macha Tea for their Asian brunch, and Rich joined us for a bit. We decided to go home and nap instead of going to the St. Patrick’s Day parade around the Square, but we did go to the St. Patrick's Day Irish music extravaganza at the Brink Lounge, and we were joined by Jilly Moose, OK Cap, Cali, and another friend who doesn’t yet have a name on this blog. She is someone who was around years ago, before I was blogging, and she just came back to town. We heard several bands and watched two dance schools perform. At the end of the festival they even taught dances to anyone who wanted to learn. The music made up for the disappointing “music” the day before so that it was an enjoyable music weekend, after all.

Famous Hat

Friday, March 10, 2017

Big Girl Ukulele Jam

I have been going to ukulele jams as part of a group called Ukulele Newbies, and it is a lot of fun. We don’t do any songs with chords that are too difficult, and the pace is generally merciful. Once a month there is a bigger ukulele jam for any player, not just beginners, and it happened last night. Travalon was going to a basketball game, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to check this jam out. I was a little intimidated, going to the “big girls’ jam” (an awful lot of the players seem to be retirement-aged women), but I just figured I could skip any chord that was too tricky. In fact, this strategy worked very well because the group was much larger than at our beginner jams, so nobody noticed if I dropped out on a chord or two. To my surprise, I actually could play almost all of the chords.

This jam was at a coffeehouse with a beautiful view of Monona Bay, and some random people sat and listened to us, but most of the people there were ukulele players. We had a fearless leader who also teaches the classes, and there was even a bass player, which really added to the sound. A few people performed duets, but most of the time the whole group played. I saw a couple of others from Ukulele Newbies, and we talked about how long we actually qualify as newbies. We have some musical background, so it wasn’t as if we came at the ukulele with no knowledge. One of them joked that we should call our northside group the “Nukes,” but she couldn’t remember what that stood for. I suppose the N is for Northside, and maybe the rest is just “ukes” for ukuleles. Even if we are no longer Newbies, we can still get together and jam as the Northside Ukuleles!

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Exploring the Upper Yahara

Sorry for my silence the last couple of days. Tuesday I was going to blog after Irish class, but when I got home, Travalon and I got into a conversation that somehow involved the miniseries Roots, and he mentioned that he had it on DVD, so we had to watch some of it. Yesterday I took the day off of work so that we could do some exciting business stuff like taxes, but then we also went hiking on the northern part of the Upper Yahara Trail, which is not paved. We had Rodney with us, but the wind was blowing so hard that it almost blew him away, and he didn’t like it at all, so we took him back home. After lunch we went back to hike even further along the river, but the trail does not really go any further than the Veterans’ Memorial Park in DeForest, so we drove to find the source of the river. We discovered a little town called Morrisonville, and according to Google Maps, from the town’s park you should be able to see the pond or small lake that is the source of the river. However, we saw nothing across the street but a corn field, so that was confusing. And do you know, if you change Google Maps to the Google Earth view, there is a field right where the pond or small lake should be, so obviously someone filled it in and planted it. We drove back to the park in DeForest and met Jilly Moose for a hike along the river the other direction, and then we all got pie at the Norske Nook. After that I went to band practice, which we haven’t had in awhile, and my mandolin was a little out of tune. Both the guitarist and I have been playing a lot of ukulele in the interim, and we both had to get our brains back in the mode of the instrument actually in our hands. It took me the first part of a song to remember mandolin chords, but then it was like being with an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile, when everything is just like you left it and you can talk as if your conversation was never interrupted. I do like the ukulele – it’s a fun little instrument – but the mandolin has felt like my identity for the last two decades. Who am I? A mandolier. Is that a word? Spellcheck doesn’t like it, but who cares? It’s what I am.

Shout out to Pa Hat, who was not feeling well earlier this week but is out of the hospital and feeling much better.

Famous Hat

Monday, March 6, 2017

Saturday in Milwaukee

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I are trying to live more simply for Lent, so we had fish at home, and then we went to the health club. Saturday we made up for it by living larger: we went to Milwaukee, and Travalon went to his high school buddy’s daughter’s basketball game while I went to a show called “Shen Yun,” which is Chinese music and dance, with Tiffy. I said to her that while I don’t really like Western ballet, I loved this show, and she said, “The costumes and music were very different than in Western ballet.” This show had dances from all sorts of regions and ethnicities in China, like the Han, the Yi, the Tibetans, and the Mongolians. The orchestra was mostly full of familiar Western instruments but featured a Chinese lute and a stringed instrument called an erhu (pronounced “ahr-hu”) that is supposed to be the instrument that sounds the most like a human voice. It does sound somewhat human, but I would say the cornetto could give it a run for its money. The costumes were so beautiful, and the dances featured a lot of very athletic tumbling type moves like backflips and somersaults. Afterwards we met Travalon at a fancy German restaurant called Mader’s for a delicious dinner. His friend’s daughter’s team had barely lost, and this was the game that would have sent them to the state tournament, so that was a letdown. Otherwise it was a wonderful day, except for all the drunk Millennials staggering around in green T-shirts for something called the “Shamrock Shuffle” that seemed to involve going barhopping as a team sport. As we were leaving the restaurant, we saw one ambulance on every block for three consecutive blocks! Think they were there for acute alcohol poisoning episodes?

Yesterday we had a quiet day. We took a long walk on the walking/biking path that goes between Windsor and DeForest, and while we usually start in a park in Windsor, this time we decided to start from the other end, since we had never walked the whole thing. We googled the path and found out it is called the Upper Yahara Path, and the far end is at the intersection of two roads in DeForest. We drove there and found it was a quiet residential street where it was easy to park, and then we set out on the path, which started with a long, elevated boardwalk along the river. It was so pretty! We walked until we got to a house we recognized from coming the other way, and we found the map that showed the whole path. We also found Little Mendota Lake in DeForest, but it is smaller than Tiedemann’s Pond! You would certainly never mistake it for the big Lake Mendota. In the evening Travalon went to the last Badger basketball home game, then he joined a small group of us at Rich’s house for dinner with an old friend who is in town for a while. It was a very relaxing day with plenty of fresh air and exercise – just how I love to spend my weekends! 

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Mardi Gras Two Days in a Row

Sorry for not blogging yesterday. I was going to tell you about the party Travalon and I went to for Mardi Gras at Union South, but there wasn’t much to tell. It turns out the live music ended an hour before we got there, so all that was going on when we got there was mask painting. We did have crawfish po’ boys and Abita Purple Haze beer for dinner, and we found some beads sitting on a table so Travalon put them on, since I already had some on. Then we went down to check out the bowling alley. As we were walking to the car, a thunderstorm blew up and we got thoroughly soaked. We thought about going to North of the Bayou, but by then they were closing in a few minutes, and I forgot all about the Mardi Gras party at the Essen Haus that I have gone to other years. We just went home and got out of our wet clothes.

Since Mardi Gras had been such a disappointment, Travalon suggested that we go to North of the Bayou the next evening. We went to evening Mass for Ash Wednesday and saw Jilly Moose, OK Cap, and Richard Bonomo, but they were not interested in going so far afield. (North of the Bayou is on the far east side of town.) Travalon and I went and were not disappointed: the building is crazy and pink from the outside, and inside it is just as fun and really does look like a place in New Orleans. There is even an alligator on the wall! Of course it was not as lively as the night before, when there had been a band playing, but we had delicious catfish as our non-meat main meal of the day. Downstairs there is a beautiful nightclub that is open on Fridays and Saturdays. This place is a lot of fun!

Famous Hat