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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Green music musings

If things look a little greener around here this April, there's a good reason. Our editorial staff is busy expanding the ideals of Earth Day into a month-long celebration of energy conservation, alternative transportation, recycling tips and about a million ways you can be a better friend to the planet. Welcome to Green Month, Milwaukee.

In the 1950s and ‘60s, America experienced a booming, post-war economy that inspired increased technology and space travel. On the music front, the optimistic state of the country was reflected in the music, with space age pop -- also called bachelor pad music or lounge music -- made popular by musicians like Dick Hyman, Les Baxter and Esquivel.

This leads to the chicken-and-egg question: Does music echo society’s trends or do trends come from music? Most likely the former, but it’s hard to say because art and music change public perceptions all the time.

In any case, it’s happening again.

Partially due to the popularity of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” mainstream America is “going green.” Many people are consuming less and recycling more, which inevitably leads to a simpler, more natural lifestyle. This trend is reflected in popular music, too.

A new folk emerged in the midst of the green frenzy. It's arguably edgier and smarter than the folkies of the hippie movement, with musicians like Jack Johnson, Jose Gonzalez, Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart and a score of others breathing new life into a genre that was last popular a few decades ago. 

Plus, artists like Gonzales, along with others like Andrew Bird and John Mayer, partner with Reverb, a non-profit organization designed to educate music fans and promote environmental sustainability.

It’s interesting to think about the backlash from all of this “greenness” both in society at large and specifically in the music world. Everything has a season -- right? -- so most likely the eco-friendly trend in music is going t…

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The inevitable trip to the water park

My family is gearing up for our first visit to a water park at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells. We’re staying two nights, and the first night, we’re sharing a condo with two other families (for a total of four little boys ages 5 and younger.) The second night, it’s just our family, and possibly two single friends we invited to stay with us.

Now that the weekend is upon us, I feel excited to go, but I must admit, originally the thought of spending the weekend at a water park sounded like a loud ‘n’ humid hell. Friends invited us on water park excursions before, but we always declined. Recently, however, it seemed like we either take our kids to a water park or become the hippie weirdos whose house smells like soup. (I love that line in “Juno.”)

But most importantly, my kids really wanted to go for a long time, and I know they will have a great weekend. By the time my oldest was 4, he was well aware of “these swimming places with really big slides” and at that point I knew it was just a matter of time before I’d be flip-flop shopping.

So we’re finally doing the American family right-of-passage water park pilgrimage and despite my original skepticism, I’m looking forward to it.

If I can compost, anyone can

If things look a little greener around here this April, there's a good reason. Our editorial staff is busy expanding the ideals of Earth Day into a month-long celebration of energy conservation, alternative transportation, recycling tips and about a million ways you can be a better friend to the planet. Welcome to Green Month, Milwaukee.

Prior to moving to my current house, I liked the idea of composting, but didn’t actually do it. I was, quite honestly, too grossed out by the thought of rotting food to move forward with a plan.

Four years ago, I moved next door to my friend Stacy and her amazing backyard composter. It’s a simple structure -- invented and constructed by her stepdad -- that’s made out of cedar planks. Basically, it is a big wooden box that’s divided into two separate bins and has a hinged lid. We dump our fruit and vegetable trimmings (and coffee grounds) on one side, occasionally turn it, and then in the fall, transfer it to the other side where it sits all winter and turns into rich compost by spring.

Most importantly, the composter is far away from our patios, so we don’t have to smell it, and it’s next to the garden, which makes transferring the soil to the beds very easy. Seeing the rich soil every spring -- and then using it in the garden -- has sold me on composting for life.

As for dealing with the rotting food, I have a large Tupperware container in my back hallway, and have learned to turn my head and not breath when opening the container. Actually, it’s not so bad.

What to put in your compost bin:
Vegetables and fruits (In fact, Stacy told me that natural sugars are great for increasing the composting process, so rotting fruit or expired fruit juice is great for compost.)
Eggshells
Coffee grounds (you can toss in the coffee filters if they are unbleached)
Yard clippings
Basically, anything plant-derived that’s not a fat

What not to put in your compost bin:
Meat
Fat (nothing with b…

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A tale from Jalisco at bar time

It’s rare for me to stay out until bar time, even rarer that I go out for Mexican food at 2 a.m., but that’s exactly what happened last night. A few friends and I, after an evening of Glo Bowl at Bay View Bowl, went to Jalisco because Todd wanted horchata.

Someone tried to order guacamole, but the waitress said they were out of avocados. We didn’t think much of it, ordered our meals and went back to eating free chips and slurping the cinnamon rice milk. A few minutes later, the server returned to our table and said they had “found” an avocado, and although they could not make it into guacamole, I could order it sliced inside my bean burrito.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this found avocado.  I tried to ask -- in the least snarky voice possible -- where exactly they had found it, but the waitress didn’t answer. I imagined it lodged behind a big cooler and a cook or dishwasher shoving his arm between the wall and appliance to nab the fruit. (I also imagined it perched atop a pile of raw chicken, but I quickly shooed that image from my brain.)

Indeed, I was a little leery of the suddenly materialized avocado, but I decided I was already eating at Jalisco at bar time, so I was already compromising my better judgment. Plus, the pitted fruit has a thick, protective skin, so it seemed relatively safe to eat.

Today, I’m thinking it wasn’t such a good idea.