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During times like this I remind myself that crime happens everywhere.
During times like this I remind myself that crime happens everywhere.

The urban lessons keep coming

Like most parents choosing to raise their kids in the city, most of the time, I’m confident and certain about my choice. Once in a while, however, something happens that makes me question my decision.

Take last Friday, for example.

My sons and I were exiting an East Side grocery store with a cart filled with groceries when an alarm started blaring.  Then, we saw a guy jump into a brown car that pealed away onto a busy street. A second or two later, a security guard came running outside, said the guy stole two bottles of liquor and asked if anyone got a license plate. (I did not.)

My kids were absolutely blown away by the loudness of the alarm and the "bad guy" action. We talked about stealing, and the consequences of stealing, in the parking lot. When we reached our car, I realized that someone had backed into our car, busted out a taillight, and, not surprisingly, didn’t leave a note.

I tried to ignore the broken taillight. I didn’t think we needed to segue from a liquor story robbery discussion to a little chat about hit-and-runs. But Kai, who I often refer to as "eagle eyes," noticed right away.

So, all the way home, we talked about hit-and-runs and the importance of taking responsibility. At the supper table, we talked about stealing again, and before bed, Kai asked if I had ever stolen anything. But the biggest chunk of fallout from the messed-up afternoon came the next morning, when the boys took turns chasing each other around the living room, reenacting the liquor store holdup.

"Hey, it's my turn to be the guy that stole the beer!" Kai told his brother.

Oy.

Urban Outfitters opened in Milwaukee in 2007.
Urban Outfitters opened in Milwaukee in 2007.

My favorite Madison spots are now in Milwaukee, too

It's "Madison Week" at OnMilwaukee.com. We sent our editorial staff to check out bars, restaurants, retail outlets and cultural venues in order to uncover some of the best of Wisconsin's second-largest city. 

Years ago, I took day trips to Madison a few times a year. I had a long list of places I liked to visit, including Community Pharmacy and Ragstock, but Urban Outfitters and Noodles & Co. were my favorite places to crash.

The fact I loved Noodles so much -- and would beeline for a bowl of Japanese pan noodles -- is particularly humorous to me now, considering the chain is one of the "McDonald’s" of the new millennium. But 10 years ago or more, the concept was fresh and the food was tasty, especially to my unsophisticated palate that savored any noodle dish that didn’t come in a package stamped with the word "Ramen."

I also adored going to Urban Outfitters. I would spend hours in the place looking at everything, from the fashions to the funky home furnishings, and would usually walk away with what would become my new favorite sweater, necklace or drink coasters.

I still love Madison, but it’s just not quite as magnetic as it was a decade ago.

Mike Schank from "American Movie" chills out at home.
Mike Schank from "American Movie" chills out at home.

I kissed Mike Schank from "American Movie"

It’s true. I kissed him. About eight years ago, while auditioning for a new Mark Borchardt film, we interacted in a scene together and I planted one square on his mouth. It was short and sweet, but all the same, the experience instantly topped my mental list of local, surreal experiences.

I’m using this smooch confession as a lede, and a cheap lede at that, to segue into the fact that "American Movie" is 10 years old, and an anniversary screening is set for Thursday, Jan. 22, at Landmark’s Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave. The film airs at 7 p.m.

According to Milwaukee Film, the documentary’s main subjects, Mark Borchardt and the aforementioned Schank, will be in the audience. Both Borchardt and Schank are from Menomonee Falls.

Co-director Chris Smith will attend the anniversary release, but the other director, Sarah Price, is at the Sundance Film Festival for a movie she helped shoot, "The Yes Men Fix The World."

Originally, "American Movie" premiered Jan. 22, 1999, at the Sundance Film Festival. It earned that year’s Grand Jury award, secured a distribution deal from Sony Pictures Classics and went on to receive prizes and accolades around the world.

Following the success of the film, Borchardt and Schank became repeat guests on "Letterman," hung out at the Playboy Mansion with Roger Ebert and attracted national media to Milwaukee for interviews.

"American Movie" tells the story of Borchardt’s dream to make a movie called "Coven" and his obsessive quest for the American dream. Price believes that, a decade later, the film remains relevant.

"Humor aside, it's a story about an inspiring individual on a mission to fulfill his dream in the face of adversity," says Price. "I don't know about you, but I can always use a good dose of that."

Price co-produced a documentary music film, "Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love," that is currently showing in Europe. The film will screen in American theaters this summer.…

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Do you care if your guests can feel their toes?
Do you care if your guests can feel their toes?

Must you crank up your heat for guests?

We're all struggling to deal with the "dangerously low" temperatures that plunged Milwaukee into a penguin-friendly state of existence earlier this week.

These arctic temperatures force us to make a big decision: how high -- or low -- should we set the thermostat? Bank-busting gas bills and below-zero temps are, unfortunately, the best of friends, so it's crucial we identify the fine line between what we want to pay at the end of the month and how many layers we want to pile on our bodies.

People have different comfort levels and budgets for their monthly bills, so whereas some folks enjoy a toasty 70 or 72 degrees, others reluctantly live in a nippier environment

However, if you choose -- or are forced to choose -- to keep your heat on the low side,  is it your responsibility to turn up the heat when you entertain friends or family? Can you simply alert guests that your house is chilly, and they should bring an extra sweater?

Can you really invite a couple over for dinner and serve them in a 57-degree dining room?