News & Editorial Archives -
2006, 2007, 2008
► Changes to
Milwaukee's Polka Scene for 2009
December 30, 2008
Thursday afternoon dances at Serb Hall have been cut back to two
Thursdays a month. All but one of the regular bands have been let
go, and the remaining band has been scaled back to two pieces.
The Richfield Chalet is apparently attempting some kind of a rotation
of the same bands every month. As a result, some of the bands
that have played there in previous years have not been asked to come
The Hiawatha is cutting a half-hour from the length of their Sunday
dances. The new time of the dance will be 2 PM to 5:30 PM.
The band hiring duty at the Moose Lodge on 13th & Grange recently
changed hands. In an unexpected move, they let one popular band
go. It's not quite known what their live music intentions are for
In good news, the Wednesday afternoon dances at the Pulaski Inn are
going strong, and are expected to pick up due to Serb Hall scaling
back. And Kochanski's is still just as committed as ever to
keeping polka music going in Milwaukee.
No-Support Goes Too Far
July 19, 2007
all familiar with these scenarios: You call a company
for technical support, and you end up going through a maze of
touch-tone phone menus that leads you around in circles. Or, you find a
technical support page on a company's website, but when you submit a
description of the problem, the web page freezes or sends you around in
circles. I believe that some companies purposely avoid helping
customers by making technical support so frustrating, many people just
The other day, I discovered one
company's unique, surefire
technique for doing just that.
A friend of mine
who uses Hotmail suddenly stopped receiving email from
me. After a little investigating, I found out that every email I was
sending to her was getting blocked by Hotmail. The email did not get
rerouted to a spam folder -- Hotmail literally intercepted and deleted
it without my friend's knowledge or consent. Apparently, Hotmail was
using some kind of a content filter which was being falsely triggered
by my emails. I went to Hotmail's website and found the technical
support page for people who are having trouble sending email to Hotmail
users. Below are roughly half of the questions they asked. I am not
making any of these up. These are the actual questions they asked me:
What domain are you sending
What are the IP addresses
of your outbound mail server (as seen by the receiving mail server)?
Is your server dedicated or
What mail transport
software are you using? How are bounce messages (non-delivery reports)
handled by your system?
What are the volume of your
What are some of the
accounts on Microsoft's systems that you are attempting to send mail to?
Do your SMTP logs show any
failed transactions when attempting to send to addresses at MSN, MSN
Hotmail or other MSN Services? If so, include those entries here. Can
you telnet to port25 of mx1.hotmail.com from your mail server(s)?
Can you traceroute to
188.8.131.52 from your mail server(s)?
Are you currently a Return
Do you publish Sender
Policy Framework (SPF)/Sender ID records for your IP?
Do you use separate IPs for
your transactional vs. promotional/subscription marketing
Do you use Smart Network
Hotmail required that all of these questions be answered. Most of my
answers were, "How on Earth should I know?" Hotmail did email me
back, but required me to answer more technical mumbo-jumbo. I explained
to them that I was not a computer geek, but just a regular guy simply
trying to figure out why they were blocking my emails. I asked if there
was someone there who could speak normal, everyday language to me.
Hotmail never replied.
July 18, 2006
Every year when I
receive my nomination form Wisconsin Polka Hall of
Fame, I put thought into who I choose to nominate. It's very easy
to name the musicians who possess the most musical talent, play the
most jobs, or already hold the most awards, but those qualities are
only a part of what makes a musician a winner. I looked well beyond
notoriety and talent, and based my decisions primarily on musicians'
attitudes about performing, promoting, and persevering in polka music.
I did this by posing twelve questions regarding bandleaders and sidemen:
1. Does the
sideman truly enjoy performing, or does he bring a
lackluster, "I don't want to be here" attitude to the stage?
2. Does the
bandleader/sideman show up in a timely fashion, or does he
often cause the band to start late?
3. Does the
sideman possess any sense of obligation to his bandleader,
or does he often back out of committments?
4. Does the
sideman accept the full gamut of jobs a bandleader offers
to him, or does he try to pick and choose only the highest-paying ones?
5. Does the
sideman help his bandleader pack up the PA system, or does
he disappear as soon as he gets paid?
6. Does the
bandleader promote his music by printing schedules,
distributing flyers, recording CDs, publishing web pages, submitting
dance dates, etc. or does he passively lett the polka music scene
dwindle by not exerting any promotional effort?
7. Does the
bandleader strive to broaden his band's repertoire by
learning new songs -- especially popular requests from patrons -- or
does he resist change?
8. Does the
bandleader/sideman broaden his skills by listening to the
styles and techniques of other professional musicians, or does he make
no attempt to diversify?
9. Does the
bandleader/sideman challenge himself musically, or does he
confine himself to a comfort zone of oversimplification and repetition?
10. Does the
bandleader/sideman willingly donate any of his time for
fundraisers or benefits, or does he continually turn them down
regardless of the worthiness of their cause?
11. Does the
bandleader/sideman support any polka organizations, or
does he see no reason to join any of them, subscribe to any polka
periodicals, or cast his votes in any polka awards programs?
12. Does the
bandleader/sideman take care of and upgrade his musical
equipment, or does he constantly struggle with the same blown tubes,
broken cords, sticky reeds, etc.?
When voting in
any national or state polka awards program, consider
attitude as being just as important as raw talent, because only
musicians with the right attitude will appreciate the honor of
receiving their awards. Asking yourself these twelve questions may help
you identify those musicians whose attitudes are the kind that will
keep polka music going through the next decade.
Lighting For Twenty Dollars
February 2, 2006
Are you tired of
playing in the dark, but don't want to invest hundreds
of dollars in stage lighting? Don't worry. There's a way to effectively
light up your band for around twenty bucks.
At most any
hardware store you'll find 100-watt colored floodlight
bulbs. Buy a red and a blue bulb. Now look in the store's lighting
department for utility/shop light fixtures. The particular fixture you
want comes with a clamp and a round metal reflector. (Reflectors might
be sold separately.) Buy two fixtures and reflectors.
probably come with 6' power cords, so you'll want to
purchase two 15' extension cords.
reflectors onto the fixtures, screw the bulbs into the
fixtures, and attach the extension cords. Guess what? You have stage
lighting. Simply clamp the lamps somewhere onto your speakers or
speaker stands, and your band will take on a more professional
appearance. At the most, you may want to attach something on top of
your speakers for the lights to clamp onto, but it doesn't have to be
There you have
it. Stage lighting for twenty bucks!
store will also have green bulbs. Red and green lights are
perfect for the Christmas season, and when mixed, their combined colors