The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Third Monday in September

Today might be the last hot day of the year in Chicago. (I hope so, anyway.) While watching the cold front come through out my office window, with the much-needed rain ahead of it, I have lined up some news stories to read later today:

And finally, Metallica has an unexpected show tonight at Metro Chicago, about two kilometers from my house. Tickets are $20. I hope people show up for my board meeting tonight.

Lunchtime lineup

It's another beautiful September afternoon, upon which I will capitalize when Cassie and I go to a new stop on the Brews & Choos Project after work. At the moment, however, I am refactoring a large collection of classes that for unfortunate reasons don't support automated testing, and looking forward to a day of debugging my refactoring Monday.

Meanwhile:

And now, more refactoring.

Fun times with non-profit contracts

Local restaurant review show "Check Please," which was to begin its 20th season on the local public-television station WTTW, will instead end its run after the station proposed contract terms that the producers couldn't accept:

I'd like to say our upcoming 20th milestone season will be our best one ever!  However, WTTW/11 and I want to go in different directions and pursue other opportunities, so it's just not to be.

Crain's has more:

The show's last contract ended in the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic forced restaurants to close. Manilow said they started new discussions about a month ago and in the last week, WTTW presented him with a new contract and he said it was so different, it didn't make sense for him to continue the relationship.

"We talked about some different ideas they had. They were so drastically different that I'm not going to get into the details," Manilow said. "There wasn't much room for negotiation. We tried but it didn't work out. If they had done what we've done the last 19 years, we'd be in production now. That's just a fact and that's their prerogative. From a fundamental standpoint, every other renewal was kind of pro forma and they'd renew."

My guess, informed by years of dealing with non-profit arts organizations, is that WTTW misunderstood how pricing and microeconomics work.

Arts organizations have a tough time making money, because (let's face it) most people don't value them highly. So there's a large supply of arts organizations and small demand. If you graph supply and demand, where they meet is the equilibrium price (where curve D1 and S meet):

If you charge more than P1, you will sell less, and probably make less money. In order to sell more (move from Q1 to Q2), demand has to move first (D1 to D2).

Unfortunately, many arts organizations try to balance their budgets by increasing prices, believing demand to be constant. Someone whips out Excel and plugs in some numbers, and voilà! Instant revenue!

But that doesn't work, and it's easy to see why.

We sell tickets to Händel's Messiah for $35 to $70, depending on the section. We have a good idea how many we sell every year in each section, so we have some confidence in our budgeting. But imagine we found out that, say, a deadly disease would require us to have an empty seat between each person in the audience, meaning we could only sell half the number of seats.

So we plug everything into Excel and figure that we can sell half as many seats for twice as much money. Cool!

Except no one wants to pay $140 for a seat at our performance. They might pay $75, but at that price would many other people would shift from the orchestra level to the balcony, so we'd wind up with even less money.

I imagine that WTTW looked at their budget and figured that they needed to pay "Check, Please!" a lot less in order to keep their books in balance. And the producers of "Check, Please!" said no, we're not adjusting our prices to help you balance your books; we can take our product elsewhere.

We'll see. It's sad when this sort of thing happens, and I wish more arts organizations would recognize that they need people with business skills in management. I expect "Check, Please!" will do just fine online.

Getting the band back together

In a few minutes I'm hosting only the second in-person thing my chorus has done in the past 18 months: our last board meeting of the summer. We're all set to start in-person rehearsals on the 13th, though we will probably have to wear masks until our performances. That'll be weird—but at least we'll be in the same room.

Other choruses in Chicago have the same challenges:

“COVID shut us down completely because singing is a superspreader event,” said Jimmy Morehead, artistic director for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Immediately, they canceled all shows and in-person rehearsals.

But they set virtual rehearsals for the same time, hoping to provide connection.

“The twofold reason why people join the chorus is to either just sing, or make friends, and so we wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel alienated and didn’t feel isolated,” Morehead said. Everyone shared what they did that week, what they watched on Netflix or what they cooked.

In person, Morehead was used to being able to give quick feedback. On Zoom, “I have to trust and hope and pray that they’re learning and doing everything correctly.” The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus pulled off live online shows, where people performed from their home.

Some of our singers also perform with CGMC, and I've talked to Jimmy a couple of times during the pandemic. We are all overjoyed to get back to rehearsals, even if it means proof of vaccination and big ugly masks.

On this day...

Fifty years ago today, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar put on the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden:

It was the first major charity concert of its kind — the Concert for Bangladesh. In that corner of South Asia, civil war, cyclone and floods had created a humanitarian disaster.

"There are six million displaced Bengalis, most of them suffering from malnutrition, cholera and also other diseases that are the result of living under the most dehumanizing conditions," former All Things Considered host Mike Waters reported in July of 1971.

The situation was deeply personal for Indian musician Ravi Shankar, a sitar virtuoso, whose family came from the region. So, Shankar reached out to a close friend, former Beatle George Harrison.

He marveled at the astonishing roster Harrison was able to attract. "You have a Beatle — two Beatles in fact — that you have Ringo Starr as well. You have Bob Dylan," Thomson says. "None of these people had played live particularly much in the preceding years. So, that was an event in itself. You have a stellar backing band, people like Eric Clapton." Including, of course, Shankar on the sitar.

What they did end up making went to UNICEF. That weekend alone raised around $240,000. Millions more came later, as a result of the subsequent album and movie, all with the goal of helping refugees.

And exactly ten years later, MTV was born. (And I still have a crush on Martha Quinn.)

More stuff to read

I know, two days in a row I can't be arsed to write a real blog post. Sometimes I have actual work to do, y'know?

Finally, as I've gone through my CD collection in the order I bought them, I occasionally encounter something that has not aged well. Today I came across Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," which...just, no. Not in this century.

Relaxing weekend

Cassie and I headed up to Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wis., yesterday to hang out with family. Today, other than a trip to the grocery and adjacent pet store where Cassie picked out an "indestructible" toy that now lies in tatters on the couch, we've had a pretty relaxing Sunday. I thought I'd take a break from Hard Times to queue up some stuff to read tomorrow at lunch:

I will now return to Dickens, because it's funny and sad.

Weep, O Mine Eyes, and Sea Snot

The Sea of Marmara, which lies between the Black and Mediterranean Seas, is covered in mucus:

[A] thick, viscous substance known colloquially as “sea snot” is floating on the water’s surface, clogging up their nets and raising doubts about whether fish found in the inland sea would actually be safe to eat.

Scientists say that the unpleasant-looking mucus is not a new phenomenon, but rising water temperatures caused by global warming may be making it worse. Pollution — including agricultural and raw sewage runoff — is also to blame.

As the Guardian and numerous Turkish news outlets have reported, high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Sea of Marmara, situated between the Black and Aegean Seas, are leading to an explosion of the phytoplankton populations that discharge “sea snot.” Though the mucus itself is not necessarily harmful, it can become a host to toxic microorganisms and dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. And when it forms a layer that covers the water’s surface, it can set off a harmful chain of events, preventing fish from being able to breathe, causing mass die-offs, which in turn leads to plummeting oxygen levels that choke other forms of marine life.

Ewwww.

And if you're not up to date on your 16th-century madrigals, the headline of this post comes from this rockin' tune by John Bennett he released way back in '99. (1599.)

Lunchtime reading

Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.

Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:

And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.

One video done for today...

...and I still have another one to do, though I'm not sure if today's the day for it.

This year, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago annual benefit cabaret/fundraiser Apollo After Hours will once again go virtual, necessitating a lot more individual work and a lot less fun than doing it in person. I've just completed the easier of the two songs I need to record by yesterday. With rehearsing it, learning it, recording the audio, setting up the video, and uploading the audio and video files to Google Drive for our editor, it only took me...about two hours. The song runs 2:15; I sang only 21 bars out of 81, for about 40 seconds of singing; so the ratio of work to performance is about 50:1—including the 3 minutes where I videoed myself lip-synching to the accompaniment track and smiling benificently.

For comparison, we rehearse Händel's 2½-hour oratorio Messiah for about 12 hours total, for a 5:1 ratio.

And we have one more recording to do after After Hours, which I'll describe as we get closer to the "performance" date. Once that is in the can, I don't care if we have another pandemic, I'm never doing one of these again.

But hey, After Hours will be fun!