Tag Archives: rants

A Response From the Overture Center

A few days ago, I posted a letter about my frustrations with trying to buy Flight of the Conchords Tickets. The following day, I received a response from the Overture Center Spokesman. It’s in a comment on the previous entry, but I thought I’d re-post it right on the front page:

Hello Dave – Rob Chappell, Overture Center spokesman here. You’re obviously not the only one disappointed by the way the FotC ticket sale went, so I’d like to try to shed some light on some of the concerns that you raise.

The simple fact is that this show sold out very quickly, as popular acts often do. We did have some website and phone system issues, however, which we regret.

One reason the show sold out so quickly was that Flight of the Conchords management required us to make a presale available to FotC Fan Club members beginning on Monday, February 2, five days ahead of the general public on-sale. We were asked to make 70% of the available tickets, or about 1,360 tickets, available for this presale. In addition, we made a small pre-sale available to our own email list and the promoter ran a presale with one of the media partners, radio station WMMM. Only 250 tickets were allotted to each of those two pre-sales, which were made available the day before the general public on-sale.

You also wanted to know how to get onto those presale lists. The best way is to sign up for our e-list at http://paciolan.myprefs.com/?@overture&p2p=Signup. Joining fan clubs of bands or radio stations you like can also help get you on preferential lists for pre-sales.

Anyway, when 11:00 Saturday morning rolled around, we felt that we had to set aside enough tickets to accommodate at least those who were standing in line at 11. Our phone system was overwhelmed and crashed, a fact that we regret. In the end, only 371 were available to sell through the Internet on Saturday, which didn’t take more than a few minutes, as you can imagine.

Unfortunately, ticket resellers were able to purchase a number of tickets and have subsequently made them available at much-inflated prices, as you note. We do have measures in place to curb this as much as we can. For example, we’re holding tickets in the first 15 rows at the box office and will only give them to the person who bought them (and only if that person has valid ID). Still, this reselling practice pervades the live performance and concert industry. It is disappointing to venue managers like us, to performers, and, most importantly, to fans. Unfortunately, at this time, the measures we have in place can only go so far to stop these outfits from buying tickets and reselling them.

We are truly sorry that you and many others were disappointed not to get tickets.

Anybody with questions can contact me at rchappell at overturecenter dot com.

So, as I suspected, the pre-sales weren’t all the Overture Center’s doing – they had contractual obligations to fulfill. I still think that if pre-sales are going to eat up a majority of the seats for a given show, there should be some sort of general warning to that effect alongside the notice of when tickets officially go on sale. I have joined the e-mail list that Mr. Chappell mentioned, and I suppose I’ll try to join fan club mailing lists for groups that I want to see in the future. Also, it seems that I would have scored tickets if I’d actually gone to the Overture Center to stand in line. So, I guess I’ll do it the old fashioned way next time, rather than relying on any technological means to make my purchase.

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Ticket Madness

I recently became aware that Flight of the Conchords will be playing at Madison’s Overture Center in late April. I excitedly took note of the date and time at which ticket sales would begin, as listed on the Center’s web site: Saturday, February 7 at 11 a.m. On the appointed morning, I visited the web site early, set up an account, and feverishly waited for 11 o’clock to roll around. As soon as my computer’s clock ticked to 11, I began the purchasing process. After I’d made all the relevant selections, I received the somewhat cryptic message “Unable to secure seats in this price level.” I made a few more unsuccessful attempts, and then decided to try calling the ticket office. The woman who answered (after I’d been on hold for quite awhile) cheerfully told me that the show was already sold out. The time was 11:20am, and I expressed my disbelief that every one of Overture Hall’s 2,251 seats had been sold in such a brief time. The ticket agent then told me that there had been two pre-sales, and that the tickets had all actually sold before 11 – that is, before they officially went on sale. I asked how one finds out about these pre-sales, and she replied simply “I don’t know.”

I understand the promotional value of making a small number of tickets for an event available to a select group of people. However, allowing an event to sell out before the stated beginning of ticket sales is absurd and inexcusable. The Overture Center’s web site does not contain a single mention of (or warning about) pre-sales. Furthermore, at the time I attempted to make my purchase, there was no indication that the Flight of the Conchords show was already sold out. Had this information been available, I might still be without tickets, but at least I wouldn’t have rearranged my Saturday plans around the supposed beginning of ticket sales or wasted half an hour frantically trying to make a purchase.

I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of contracts between performers, promoters, and venue, so I hesitate to lay the blame for this situation entirely at the feet of the Overture Center’s staff. However, I do fault them for failing to keep their customers informed. If pre-sales are outside the Center’s control, they can at least make the general public aware that pre-sales are occurring. They can also certainly update their web site more quickly to reflect when a performance has been sold out.

My only option now seems to be purchasing tickets that members of the ‘select group’ of pre-sale participants have made available on Craigslist. But at a minimum markup of 200%, they are now well outside my graduate student budget.

I’ve sent a much-shortened version of this (on my own site, I don’t have to abide by any 200-word limits, ha!) to a number of local news outlets as a letter to the editor. If anything comes of it, I’ll update this post.

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Bump, Set, Yikes

I’ve been watching alot of NBC’s coverage of the Olympics (or the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, for you purists) this summer. Having been an aquaphile my whole life and a competitive swimmer through high school, I’ve naturally been most interested in the aquatic events. There’s been plenty of exciting swimming in prime-time, along with gymnastics and track. I’ve also seen some diving, rowing, trampoline, field, cycling, and basketball. But the sport I’ve probably seen the most of is volleyball. Why? I have no idea.

Sure, it was exciting to watch Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Trainor squash their competition for their second gold medal in as many Olympic games. It was also impressive to see Todd Rogers and the gargantuan Phil Dalhausser fight it out for the gold. And, it was funny to notice that the Brazilian women competed in sports bras that said “BRA 1” and “BRA 2.” But, why is there so much beach volleyball (and seemingly just as much of its less exciting sibling: indoor volleyball) being broadcast live? It’s been on pretty much every night I’ve watched, and some mornings, as well. Volleyball isn’t exactly a huge spectator sport in the US. Why is it getting so much more coverage than other lesser-known sports? What about sailing, white-water kayaking, or ping pong? Where are weightlifting, tennis, and archery? And most importantly, why is volleyball on now instead of the Modern Pentathlon, which NBC’s site tells me is also happening at the moment?

“What,” you may be asking yourself, “is the Modern Pentathlon?” I asked myself the same question a short while ago while browsing the Olympics page on Wikipedia. It is, in short, the most bad-ass event at the Summer Olympics, and it’s getting no TV coverage. The Modern Pentathlon is not a track and field event, as you might be inclined to guess. Instead, it combines skills from a range of disciplines: épée fencing, pistol shooting, a 200 meter swim, show jumping, and a 3 kilometer run. Yes: it involves running, swimming, jumping over things on horseback, shooting at stuff, and fighting with swords. And instead of these impressive demonstrations of modern-day-knightly skills, I’m watching twelve men in short shorts hit a rubber ball back and forth. What the hell, NBC?

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Yucatan Deep

Yucatan Deep Yucatan Deep Tom Morrisey
Zondervan 2002
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Mike Bryant is a world-class cave diver and diving instructor. After discovering a previously unknown (to non-natives) cenote, or water-filled sink hole, in the jungles of Mexico, Mike and his mentor Pete Wiley attempt a record-setting dive. Equipment failures at 1,100 feet prevent Mike from reaching the bottom of the cenote. But, for unknown reasons, Pete never makes it back to the top. Mike returns to Florida and his work as a dive instructor, but the cenote and his friend Pete are never far from his mind. Five years after the fateful dive, Mike receives a letter informing him that his exclusive diving rights to the site will soon expire, and that Viktor Bellum – a competing diver and all-around shady character – is preparing to make an attempt. Against the wishes of Bridget, his girlfriend and dive partner, Mike begins planning and outfitting another expedition to Mexico. As his team makes preparations at the Well of Sorrows (K’uxulch’en, the Mayan name for this cenote), it becomes readily apparent that someone – or something – will do almost anything to keep Mike from reaching his goal.

The synopsis I just gave is in the spirit of the one that appears on the book’s back cover. These two summaries each describe a fairly run-of-the-mill adventure book. The suggested categorization provided on the cover bears this out: “Fiction/General/Suspense.” However, this is only partly truthful. In actuality, Yucutan Deep is an Evangelical Christian adventure novel. There is very little on the book to tip a prospective buyer off to this fact. One hint is to be found in Morrisey’s bio: “A popular speaker, he is also active in both youth and prison ministry.” The only other indication comes in the last sentence of the blurb: “Yucutan Deep is a taut tale of loyalty, greed, and the wellsprings of faith and life.” These two clues are present, but there is nothing that explicitly reveals the book’s true nature.

“So,” you may be wondering, “what makes an Evangelical Christian adventure novel different from a regular one?” The short answer: lots of Jesus. A more comprehensive answer is that the climax of the plot comprises not only the height of the action, but also the height of Mike Bryant’s existential crisis and the point of his becoming (underwater, of course) a Born-again Christian. This conversion comes about after Mike makes an underwater escape that he attributes to God, but that James Bond or Dirk Pitt would have ascribed to skill, luck, and the ability to improvise under pressure. The character who is largely responsible for Mike’s conversion is a missionary who works with isolated native peoples in Mexico (ugh… another rant for another time). This missionary – named Elvis – is an ex-surfer who, were this book ever adapted for the big screen, would best be played by a youngish Keanu Reeves, circa Point Break. Elvis actually says things like: “Dude, miracles are my boss’s specialty!” Now, if Elvis’s surferisms were the most offensive aspect of Yucutan Deep, I could just write the book off as intended for a different audience. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The book’s portrayal of the indigenous people to whom the cenote is sacred is often closed-minded and ignorant. Morrisey creates a fictional tribe of Mayan descent who have had very little contact with the outside world. He then makes this tribe evil, or at least misguided (in any case, ripe for “saving”), by having them throw their sick and dying into the cenote, in a twist on Mayan sacrifice. Of the Mayan belief that sacred cenotes are a sort of portal to rebirth in the afterlife, Elvis says that it’s the same principle as a Christian heaven, “it’s just a terrible distortion of it.” Later in the book it is revealed that this new form of sacrifice (the sick and injured, rather than the healthy and willing) was instigated by the meddling of a deceitful white man, anyway.

In another part of the book, the tribe’s leader agrees to a simple test of the validity of his religion and the existence of his gods. Should the test fail, he is fully prepared to convert to Christianity and persuade his people to do the same. I suppose this is the sort of thing career missionaries fantasize about: whole groups of people who are willing to give up centuries of ritual and tradition in the face of simple challenges of their beliefs. I hardly think that any Catholic would denounce his or her faith if his or her post-Communion stomach contents were shown not to include any human blood or flesh.

Tom Morrisey also badly confuses the concepts of faith and confidence in empirical scientific data. The diving equipment that Mike plans to use for his second attempt at diving the cenote has undergone rigorous testing to ensure that it will properly function under the conditions to which Mike will subject it. The equipment has, of course, never been tested in the cenote at the target depth – that wouldn’t be a test, that would be the real dive. But, Elvis interprets Mike’s willingness to use the gear as powerful faith; thus, he tells Mike that he possesses the strength of faith necessary to become a Born-again Christian. Mike simply accepts this, apparently not realizing the massive difference between the two.

Please, don’t read this book, or for that matter anything else that Tom Morrisey may have written. If you want an underwater and/or archaeological adventure novel, go with something by Clive Cussler or Douglas Preston. And please remember – especially when shopping in thrift stores or used book shops, as I was when I purchased this – you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Read my initial reaction to learning the true nature of Yucutan Deep here.

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Stupid, Not Stirred

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a food/kitchen gadget blog, when I came across this product: the Waring Pro WM007 Professional Electric Martini Maker. “Cool,” I thought, “it would be wonderful to turn a dial to ‘dry,’ press a button, and seconds later receive a perfectly mixed martini.” Then, I actually read the product’s description on Amazon:

The ultimate in convenience and class, this commercial-quality martini maker allows for effortlessly preparing a martini at home. The unit’s polished stainless-steel 20-ounce cocktail shaker features a built-in strainer, while its touchpad ensures easy operation. Simply add favorite martini ingredients using the 1-ounce shaker cap, turn the appliance on and watch the green olive light up, press Shake or Stir, and voila–a timeless cocktail is made. The cocktail shaker and cap clean up easily by hand, and the unit’s exterior can be wiped down with a soft cloth. Great for a quiet evening at home or elegant cocktail parties, the 60-watt electric martini maker measures 10-4/5 by 7 by 15 inches and carries a five-year limited motor warranty.

Wait… “Simply add favorite martini ingredients…?” The device doesn’t have chilled reservoirs for the gin and vermouth? And you have to mix them yourself? And provide your own ice? A little more online digging shows that some sites claim that the machine “shakes or stirs a martini until it reaches the optimal drinking temperature of 34° F,” while in the same breath saying that the “shaker moves up and down vigorously during the shake cycle and gently rotates in stir mode, melding the ingredients during either cycle for 60 seconds.” Which is it? 34° or 60 seconds? It can’t always be both. Unless you’re working with pre-chilled gin and vermouth, 60 seconds of either stirring or shaking would result in a great deal of ice meltage, unnecessarily watering down the drink.

Let’s recap. You pay $99.95 (plus tax/shipping) for the machine. You measure the ingredients. You pour the ingredients. You add the ice. The machine wiggles the shaker – either up and down (‘shaken’) or in a circular motion (‘stirred’) probably for much longer than necessary. You pour the martini. You wash the jigger and the shaker. You find a place to store the bulky unitasking device. Wow, aren’t modern conveniences wonderful?

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