Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 February, 2006

Prost Gotvins geometri - Part 18

This is Prost Gotvins geometri by Gert Nygårdshaug. The translation was done by Roy Johansen. Nygårdshaug is a Norwegian author and the text has not yet been published in English. Roy is a friend of mine who recently moved back to his native Norway. He has translated a good part of the novel and I'm trying to convince him to finish it.

Here’s Part 17.

Father Gotvin's First Journey (continued)

Thinking back, I remember the train ride from Paris to Copenhagen as a pleasant alternation between sleeping and dozing. I got off early in the morning, feeling refreshed and rested. The train to Trelleborg would depart in about an hour which gave me enough time for two sandwiches with wonderful Danish salami and a cup of tea. Afterwards I fumbled a while in a phone booth trying to call the Danish directory assistance. Preben Hansson; there were two Preben Hanssons on Zealand. One of them was a hairdresser here in Copenhagen while the other one actually lived not far from Trelleborg, in the small town of Korsør. Was this the Preben Hansson I wanted? He's the one I'd put my money on, but I didn't have the nerve to call him now. What would I say to him? First I had to go to Trelleborg. But the question remained whether I would have to visit the other places as well. If so, I would have to travel all over Denmark. I made up my mind there and then – I must solve this riddle, no matter what. Today was Saturday and I had to be back at my desk in Vanndal the day after tomorrow. If time proved too short, my substitute, a young student, Laura Lønnevig would just have to stay on another couple of days. That's how it had to be. I hurried toward the platform where my train was ready to depart.

I spent the entire trip to Trelleborg in the restaurant car with my half-bottle of red wine and water. The flat Danish scenery whooshed by. Again I was Gotvin the Investigator. What would become of this little detour? I had hastily grabbed a few tourist brochures from the information counter at the railway station in Copenhagen – brochures about the Trelleborg fortress, one of Denmark's historical treasures, they said. The Danes had three such landmarks; the other two were none other than Fyrkat and Aggersborg, all classified as fortifications from the Viking era. This caught my interest and I studied the ground plan of Trelleborg.

This was precisely the way she had drawn it. Later I would copy this plan and put it in the secret drawer of my escritoire with the other documents. But now I was sitting there examining the peculiar geometry. What might have been the Vikings' intentions with it? Everything was so perfectly symmetrical – circles, crosses, and these figures, the stones resembling obtuse rowboats. Thirteen in an outer circle and four in each quadrant of the innermost circle. Vikings? This place was a good haul from the coast and didn't the Vikings build their fortresses along the coast? I knew next to nothing about these things, but I wanted to learn. I got off the train at the right station and asked around for cheap accommodations. I found a small inn, "Mosegaard", where I immediately took a shower, shaved, and changed clothes. Then I walked to the nearest payphone.

"Bodil Hansson," was the answer.
"Excuse me, is Preben Hansson available?"
"Are you a Norwegian?"
"I'm sorry, Preben is at his store," informed the lady.
"Where can I find it?"
"Here in Korsør, of course. Do you want the number?"
"Yes, please."

She gave me the number. Store? What kind of store did Preben Hansson run? Was this the Preben Hansson I wanted? I hesitated a moment, then I dialed the new number.

"Hansson's Glass; how may I help you?"
"Thank you – uhm – my name is Gotvin Soleng, from Norway. I'd just like to ask – would you in any way happen to be connected to those Viking fortresses? Do the names Trelleborg, Eskeholm, Fyrkat, and Aggersborg mean anything to you?"

Then laughter.

"Do they ever! Haven't you read my bool?"
"Book? No," I replied, taken aback.
"What, then, is it you want to know?"
"Well." I cleared my throat. "I'm on my way back from a trip to Spain. There I met a woman who told me you would be able to tell me what truly is concealed in Heaven…"

Again silence. And laughter.

"A Spanish woman, eh? Not bad! Where are you now?"
"At the Mosegaard Inn. Would it be – uhm – possible to have a word with you in private? You see, this is very important."
"You sound very cryptic, young man. Very well, I suppose so."

Again silence. I waited in trepidation.

"Are you afraid of flying?"
"Flying? No…"
"Then meet me at five sharp tomorrow afternoon at the airstrip outside Korsør."
"I'll be there, Mr. Hansson, and thank you very much."
"You're welcome and I'll see you there."
|| Palmer, 7:00 PM || link || (0) comments |

New Unplugged Brew From New Glarus

Although the New Glarus Brewing Company's webpage doesn't reflect it, brewer Dan Carey has new beer Unplugged brew. The series is described thusly: "A few times a year, we will cut Dan loose to brew whatever he chooses, uncensored, uncut, unplugged. Always handcrafted, the bottle you hold is brewed for the adventurous soul. This is a very limited edition and we make no promises to ever brew this style again." This time around it's a Cherry Stout. It tastes very much like NG's Wisconsin Belgian Red but is less carbonated and thusly smoother and a bit more dry and bitter as well.
|| Palmer, 6:28 PM || link || (0) comments |

On the Gramophone

Since I spent last week listening to culinary lectures, this week's tune will be in that vein. Take a listen to the Dixieland Jug Blowers performing "Don't Give All the Lard Away", a piece of vintage hot jazz from the 1920s.
|| Palmer, 6:25 PM || link || (0) comments |

First Annual Jewish Entertainment Spotlight Series @ Hillel

The First Annual Jewish Entertainment Spotlight Series sponsored by the Jewish Cultural Collective and Hillel has started. Tonight is "The Rules of Comedy with Jim Abrahams" at Hillel. Abrahams is a former UW student and one of the guys behind The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Thursday night features Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan bio, No Direction Home at the Orpheum. The last event takes place next Monday again at Hillel and is a discussion with Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis who are writers and producers for the ABC TV show Lost.
|| Palmer, 6:15 PM || link || (0) comments |

Neo-Con Patriarch Wants to "Cut and Run"

Arch-conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. has written a piece which appears up at the National Review in which he pronounces our venture in Iraq a failure.

I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.
|| Palmer, 6:11 PM || link || (0) comments |

"One shot is what it's all about"

If you've ever wanted to re-enact the Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter but not actually die or refrain from playing The Beerhunter for fear of getting wet, here's your chance.

Seated in individual compartments, twelve chocolate bullets lay waiting to be bitten into. Although eleven of the sweet little slugs contain delicious praline centres, one conceals a seriously red hot chilli that's guaranteed to blow your head off - metaphorically, at least.

(Via Sivacracy.)
|| Palmer, 6:00 PM || link || (0) comments |

Crappy PKD Adaptation Due in 2007

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that a new film is in the works based on a story by one of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick:

Jessica Biel has signed on to co-star in Lee Tamahori's sci-fi thriller "Next" for Revolution Studios. Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore are toplining the film, which is based on Philip K. Dick's short story "The Golden Man." Penned by Gary Goldman, the story centers on a man (Cage) with the unique ability to see future events and affect their outcome. Pursued by the FBI, which is seeking to use his abilities to prevent a global terrorist attack, he ultimately is faced with the choice of saving himself or the world. Biel will play Liz, the love interest of Cage's character, whom he must attempt to save from terrorists. Cage, Todd Garner, Norm Golightly, Graham King and Arne Schmidt are producing. Derek Dauchy is overseeing for Revolution, which has set a late March start date for the film. Biel, whose credits include "London," "Blade: Trinity" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," next appears in Neil Burger's "The Illusionist." She is repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Karl Austen. (Tatiana Siegel)

I love PKD's writing but Hollywood adaptations of them has been a mixed bag. I love Blade Runner and thought Minority Report and Screamers were good. However, Total Recall, Imposter, and Paycheck were really bad. With the director of xXx: State of the Union and Die Another Day helming and a screenplay by Gary Goldman who is responsible for Total Recall, it looks to be another boilerplate action piece of dreck. (At least Goldman penned Big Trouble in Little China).

Before Next, however, comes Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly.
|| Palmer, 5:39 PM || link || (0) comments |

26 February, 2006

Mythbusters in Milwaukee

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are the stars of Mythbusters, a show on the Discovery Channel which disabuses viewers from belief in urban legends. They will be bringing their show to the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee for two shows on 20 May. Click here for more info.
|| Palmer, 1:41 PM || link || (0) comments |

Two Great Tastes

Two great tastes that taste great together will be at Cafe Montmartre on 14 March for a Belgian Ale and Chocolate Tasting. The ale comes from Unibroue, a Canadian brewery, while the chocolate will be courtesy of local goddess (and chocolatier), Gail Ambrosius.

|| Palmer, 1:26 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Applied Science of Deliciousness

Last week I spent a couple nights downtown listening to culinary discussions. Wednesday night at the State Historical Society was "Cooking Philosophies: A Chef's Debate". Truth be known, it wasn't really a debate but more a roundtable discussion. The occasion was the presence of Harold McGee, food scientist and author of the seminal On Food and Cooking.

Joining him were Tory Miller, head chef at Madison' L'Etoile Restaurant, and Tami Lax, restaurateur behind Harvest and The Old Fashioned. The discussion was moderated by Madison food writer Raphael Kadushin. Here they are:

(L to R: Kadushin, McGee, Lax, and Miller)

The conversation was wide-ranging. Some of the discussion concerned things on the scientific end of the spectrum such as food irradiation while most of the topics were directed more at the art of cooking. E.g. - culinary traditions of Wisconsin. The proceedings started with about half an hour of discussion initiated by questions from Kadushin while the rest of the talk involved the audience. I can't remember a whole helluva lot about what was discussed as it's been a few days but I'll lay down what I can.

Tory Miller reiterated several times the philosophy of L'Etoile which is to use locally-grown and raised ingredients – sort of a modified living-off-the-land scheme – and this philosophy of eating locally (and organic) was bandied about throughout the night. An audience member asked about Wisconsin culinary traditions. Tami Lax chimed in by saying that these traditions were at the heart of her newest restaurant venture, The Old Fashioned, which is an upscale replica of the supper club. It looks to Friday fish fries, prime rib, chicken on Sundays, the hamburger with an egg on top which was served at taverns for breakfast up north in lumber country, et al.

Miller reiterated L'Etoile's philosophy and remarked that he is a Wisconsin native. Thusly he grew up with fish fries as well as hamburgers, custards, and the like. He said that he liked just about anything in a basket which drew a hearty laugh from everyone.

McGee gave a more scientific perspective to the proceedings as he fielded questions. For instance, someone asked about genetically modified foods as well as irradiation.

I was reminded of this same question at the lecture given by Edward O. Wilson earlier this month.While I cannot speak to the mindset or motivation of the person that asked the question, I admit that I immediately thought that this was just another stereotypical hippie-Lefty looking for scientific validation of their fear of genetically-modified & irradiated foods – so-called "Frankenfoods" – and ammunition for criticism of companies like Monsanto. Like Wilson, McGee said that there is no evidence that any of these foods are harmful. I liked how he mentioned that the irradiation process is called cold pasteurization(?) and reminded folks who have no problem with the use of heat in making food safe that heat is a form of radiation.

There was also talk about "molecular gastronomy", a new culinary trend, which leads me to McGee's solo lecture on Thursday. It was at Engineering Hall and focused on the theme of cooking as chemistry. He began with Denis Papin who invented the pressure cooker in 1679. It was dubbed "Papin's Digester". McGee recounted how Papin and his fellow scientists would get together and cook various foods in it and note how they turned out. He especially noted their trial with cooking pike, a particularly bony fish. The result was that the bones were cooked so much by the device that they were edible. McGee continued by talking about Count Rumford who invented the convection oven. He studied convection in liquids after noticing that the center of bowls of thick soup remained hot while the top cooled. He ended up inventing the convection oven in an attempt to create a potato drying device. The lecture continued with a man whose name I cannot recall who wrote a book called (I think) The Chemistry of Cooking sometime in the 19th century. It was this man who is responsible for the fallacy that searing meat seals in the juices. Moving into the 20th century, he mentioned the rise of Home Economics in the first half and stated that it contributed basically nothing to the culinary arts & sciences. Then a slide appeared on the wall of a man looking into this tall glass apparatus. A scientist did a show about the chemistry of cooking for the BBC in 1969 and it was a still from the show. There was a quote of his about how we know the temperature of the surface of Venus but have no idea what happens inside of soufflés. This led to a chart showing the temperature inside a soufflé and how it changes over time. It goes up at first and then plateaus before dropping. Why would the temperature drop? Because heat is being used as the proteins congeal or bonding or whatever it is they do. In other words, chemical reactions going on inside the soufflé require energy and so the average amount of energy there, i.e. – temperature, drops.

Aside from the history lesson, McGee talked about specific culinary mysteries. For instance, he addressed why French chefs traditionally whip egg whites in copper bowls. He related how he initially dismissed this practice as having no basis in science but then did some experiments at home and found that whites whipped in copper do hold their consistency better than those whipped in a glass bowl. This led him to enlist some help and the results of further experiments were published in the scientific journal Nature. Their initial theory proved to be wrong and he explained that they found that what was going on once again involved proteins bonding. Another bit of research that he did involved using a computer to simulate a hamburger cooking. He and his partners in crime wanted to know how the thickness of a burger and frequency of flipping affect cooking times. He showed a slide of charts and thermal images which revealed that doubling the thickness of a burger increases cooking time fourfold. In addition, the more frequently you flip your burger, the quicker it cooks. Turing every six minutes yielded a fully-cooked burger in about 12 minutes while flipping every 15 seconds, meant that your dinner was done in only about 7 minutes.

Much of the lecture was in regards to the aforementioned molecular gastronomy. MG is a culinary approach with chemistry in the fore that seeks to experiment and expand cooking and eating. McGee mentioned the Spanish chef, Ferran Adrià, who is one of the more well-known faces associated with molecular gastronomy who appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. (Apparently Chicago is also at the vanguard of this trend with a couple restaurants. I can only remember Moto.) McGee then went on to show us some of the dishes by various cooks and described some of the generally chemistry behind them, when applicable. While I cannot recall all of the examples, here are a few.

One involved a restaurant which began meals with a palate cleanser. It was a meringue that was infused with vodka and a couple other ingredients that I cannot recall. And so the server scooped up a dollop and plopped it into liquid nitrogen. Pulling it out, diners ate the frozen meringue, had their palates cleansed, and found fog puffing from their mouths.

Then there was shrimp serverd skewered on a pipette. A pipette is like a turkey baster that's used in chemistry labs. One eats the shrimp and then gets a flood of sauce.

There was some kind of dish that looked like an egg that was fried sunny side up but the white was coconut-flavored while the yolk was carrot-flavored.

"Olive oil caramels". These are tear-drop shaped edibles. A liquid is created using agar, I believe, as a thickening agent. The chef dips a straw into the liquid and blows into the straw to create a bubble – a bit like blowing glass. A drop of olive oil drips down the straw and the bubble falls off the straw creating the tear-drop shaped "caramel". Then the bottom is dipped in vinegar powder and a crystal of sea salt is attached towards the top, like a bow.

Then there were the transparent ravioli. Instead of using dough, one chef made ravioli by congealing veal consommé with some kind of seaweed extract like cargeenan. Thusly you can see into the little pillow and see the filling.

There was also a type of risotto that is flavored with saffron. The chef behind the dish went about deconstructing it. Instead of all the flavors being mixed together, they were separated out into their constituent parts with a twist. Instead of rice, there were water chestnuts shaved to look exactly like rice. The saffron component was actually a foam. There was also a sauce and everything sat in a gel of some kind.

The last thing I can recall is McGee describing how Adrià serves 43 course meals that involve a lot of foams so you get these ephemeral bursts of flavor that are not filling.

It was a really interesting lecture. I enjoyed both the history parts and the look at molecular gastronomy. McGee also fielded some questions from the audience. This allowed him to explain the chemistry why garlic gets bitter the more you cook it while onion gets sweeter. He also explains why woks and cast iron cookware gets seasoned. And when anwering one question, part of McGee's answer involved the phrase "the applied science of deliciousness", which I really loved. I came away wanting to check out one of these molecular gastronomy restaurants in Chicago and experience the style first-hand. I am also determined to get my grubby little hands on McGee's books as I'm sure I'll find them fascinating. And I just want to get my ass in the kitchen and do some cooking!
|| Palmer, 12:19 PM || link || (0) comments |

24 February, 2006

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 7:33 AM || link || (0) comments |

23 February, 2006

Eat Meat, Eat Meat - Eat It All Day Long

Mark your calendars for 20-23 April because that is the weekend when lovers of processed meats are thrust into nirvana. Lovers of coarse-cut ring bologna, cooked jellied loaves, jerky - re-structured, jerky - whole muscle, natural casing wieners, cured and/or smoked large diameter slicing sausage, and other such tasty delights can indulge themselves at the annual convention of the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors. My co-workers Ed and Pete are going to reprise their roles as judges this year. Unfortunately, the tasting is not open to the public. Pete described how last year there were endless rows of buffet tables lined with those mini-stove hoolies all frying bacon. Mmmm...bacon...Ed said that, if he should become aware of any openings for judges, he'd put my name in the hat. Oh, to be a bacon judge!

Luckily there will also be a product show open to schmoes like me. Some food service quality knives, 55 gallon drums of marinade, huge cans containing enough dry rub to last for 10 years - lots of funky stuff. So be there and sample until your colon is completely blocked and you lapse into lethargy caused by a gigantic meat buzz that permeates your body.

Eat meat, eat meat, filet mignon
Eat meat, eat meat, eat it all day long
Eat a few T-bones till you get your fill
Eat a new york cut, hot off the grill
|| Palmer, 11:44 AM || link || (0) comments |

New Socrates Café

A Socrates Café is a gathering organized and fascilitated by members of the Society of Philosophical Inquiry (although open to everyone) at which ordinary folks discuss philosophy. The SPI's credo is devotion to

"spreading forms of inquiry that enable and inspire each participant, within a group setting, to a become more autonomous and conscientious thinker and doer, a more expert questioner and listener. A paramount aim of ours is to inspire people who are curious, perplexed and filled with an insatiable sense of wonder, so they can dialogue for discovery. We also strive to enable those who share our deep concern about the state and straits of civility and civicmindedness to dialogue for democracy. And we are here for those who subscribe to the Socratic ethos that the philosophically examined life can make for a richer existence."

There has been one ongoing now for some time which meets at Avol's Books Wednesday & Friday evenings at 6.

Now a new SC has been started. It's to meet at Café Zoma at 7 tonight. I haven't been at the one that meets at Avol's in a while now but it was always fun and interesting. The crowd there was mostly middle aged or older but no matter. There were occasions where one would have to wade through a sea of speculation by a couple guys about aliens from outer space influencing human civilization but I tried to not let that distract me from good philosophical discussion. If I recall the words of Kevin at CZ this morning, this new SC was started by his co-barista, Erin. So perhaps this is aimed at a younger crowd. I won't be able to attend as I'll be at the culinary lecture I mentioned in a previous entry but I'll try to catch the next one.
|| Palmer, 11:06 AM || link || (0) comments |

More Culinary Science Tonight

I attended "Cooking Philosophies: A Chefs' Debate" last night at the State Historical Society. It was a roundtable discussion featuring Madison chef Tory Miller (L'Etoile Restaurant), Tami Lax (Harvest Restaurant), Madison food writer Raphael Kadushin, and Harold McGee (noted author and science writer). I'll post an account of it later along with some pictures and video clips.

Mr. McGee returns tonight with "Playing With Food: Three Centuries of Science in the Kitchen":

Harold McGee will recount some of the little-known history of food preparation and its influence on the development of science, and report on his own research into such questions as: Why do French cooks insist on whipping egg whites in copper bowls? How many liters of mayonnaise can you make with one egg yolk? Can thermocouples and computers help you cook a better hamburger? And why does the spatter from a frying pan end up on the inside of a cook's eyeglasses?

It's at 7:30 in room 1800 of Engineering Hall.
|| Palmer, 9:51 AM || link || (0) comments |

22 February, 2006

The Passion of Benny Hill

Sick, but humorous. (Via Pharyngula)
|| Palmer, 10:08 PM || link || (0) comments |

Word of the Week

Since I've been enjoying some tasty brews lately and am planning on attending a couple lectures on cooking this week:

sybaritic (sib-uh-rit'-ick) adj. furnishing gratification of the senses, hedonistic, voluptuous, luxurious.
|| Palmer, 7:24 AM || link || (1) comments |

21 February, 2006

Religion on Parade

I recently had a (very) brief exchange with a co-worker regarding my views on religion. I had told him that I had put the infamous Danish cartoons on my blog and made some comment about the riots that have raged in the Muslim world over them. He then said asked if I felt negatively about Christianity as well. I told him that I did. I told him that I was an equal opportunity disliker of religion. I went so far as to say that I'd love to see religion disappear totally. His retort was a common one, namely, that, even if religion suddenly disappeared, we would still have many things to kill each other over.

This is most certainly true. There'd still be wars over land and oil, for example. Race and gender too would still divide humanity. But no religion means less ammunition for all-out violence and hatred. Look at the riots in Nigeria. Muslims killing Christians (including the beating of children to death as the killing of at least one priest in his church) and burning churches. A man had a tire thrown around him, gas poured on him, and was set ablaze. According to this report, 17 people have died, 30 churches raze as well as 5 hotels. And then there's this:

Felix Usman, the priest in charge of St Augustine's Catholic Church in Maiduguri, said he was lucky to escape when his church was attacked and burned by protesters. Another colleague, Matthew Gajere, in charge of St Rita's Catholic Church, was burned to death by rioters inside his church, Usman said.

Don't forget that in the early days of this month, Christians in Nigeria saw this coming.

An umbrella Nigerian Christian body based in the majority Muslim north has condemned the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Even though the cartoons were not the voice of Nigerian Christians, religion provided the fuel for the fire of inter-religious hatred. And the Christians there aren't turning the other cheek:

Christian mobs rampaged through a southern Nigerian city Tuesday, burning mosques and killing several people in an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence that followed deadly protests against caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad over the weekend.

Residents and witnesses in the southern, predominantly Christian city of Onitsha said several Muslims with origins in the north were beaten to death by mobs which also burned two mosques there.

Imagine being able to take away a person's ability to hate someone else just by virtue of that other person's religion. Imagine removing the most combustible of fuels – religion - from conflicts that otherwise have nothing to do with people's beliefs in a deity and instead being able to concentrate on the true grievances.

People of different religions and of no religion at all get along quite well in our country. Perfect? No. But we don't have suicide bombers nor do we have pogroms and the like. Christians didn't riot in the streets over The Last Temptation of Christ. But this isn't because there's anything inherent in Christianity itself, it's because secularism has been pounding away at it for hundreds of years. If it hadn't, there can be little doubt that Christianity would be as barbaric as it was in the Middle Ages. The founders of our country studied history. They knew what the wars of religion did to Europe a couple centuries previous to theirs. I think they created a secular state because they knew exactly what a powder keg religion can be and how it can be used to deter peace.

If religion were to suddenly disappear, the world would magically turn into a perfect and perfectly peaceful place. But it sure would go a long way.
|| Palmer, 5:01 PM || link || (0) comments |

Culinary Death Match!!

Wednesday! Wednesday! Wednesday!

The UW's Center for Humanities presents Chefmania I!! See Harold McGee and local chefs slug it out in caged death match over who can saute onions the best!!

The UW's Center for Humanities is presenting the first of two lectures/discussions about things culinary tomorrow. It's entitled "Cooking Philosophies: A Chef's Debate" and is a forum with Harold McGee and Chef's Roundtable. You'll no doubt see the chefs discussing their art calmly and respectfully. Check it out @ 7PM at the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium.
|| Palmer, 1:35 PM || link || (0) comments |

New Brewpubs, etc.

Yesterday's Capital Times had an article about a couple new brewpubs that will be opening here in Madison anon. The first was another edition of the venerable Great Dane slated to open by the ever-gentrifying Hilldale Mall.

The Hilldale Great Dane is proposed for the corner across from the planned Sundance Theater.

The Hilldale Great Dane would be a scaled down version of the other two, Peterson said, with about 8,000 square feet and seating for about 250. There will be outdoor seating, probably a private dining room and the feel will be a "little more upscale".

The other is to be called Granite City Food & Brewery, a chain.

Granite City is a publicly traded company based in suburban Minneapolis. The regional chain has 12 sites open and is aiming to open six more this year, including the West Towne site.

Granite City styles itself as "upscale casual dining with craft beers," spokesman Dan Bauer said, noting that all of the food on its 85-item menu is made from scratch.

The company has a patent-pending brewing process that allows it to efficiently serve its brewpubs in Minneapolis and St. Cloud, Minn.; Sioux Falls, S.D.,; Fargo, N.D.; West Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport, Iowa; Lincoln, Neb.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Kansas City, Kan.

Under "Fermentus Interruptus," the initial stage of the brewing process - the production of non-alcoholic wort - takes place at a central location, with the wort then transported via truck to the fermentation vessels at each restaurant where the brewing process is completed in 20 to 30 days.

Lastly, there's been some word on the opening of Ale Asylum, a new brewpub on the north side. According to a post at the Isthmus' forum, the joint will be opening on 31 March.

And, if you're planning on seeing a play in the woods this summer, you'll also be afforded the opportunity of checking out a new brwepub. Furthermore Brewing is expected to open one up in Spring Green this summer.

And don't forget that there's a few beer-related events going on this weekend in the region. Closest to home is Bockfest at the Capital Brewery in Middleton.

On Saturday at Milwaukee's Public Museum is the Food and Froth Fest:

Sample more than 200 types of beer from Midwest and international breweries, including special creations and seasonal beers, among Museum exhibits during the eighth annual Food and Froth Fest, Saturday, Feb. 25, 7-10 p.m.

Taste the latest creations from Milwaukee’s hottest restaurants. Groove to live tunes from local bands.

In Chicagoland, Delilah's is hosting their Vintage Beer Fest:

On Saturday, February 25th from Noon to 6 PM, Delilah’s (2771 N. Lincoln - (773) 472-2771) hosts its eighth annual vintage beer festival. Mre than sixty beers, primarily strong ales, from over 40 breweries will be tasted - side by side, for the first time ever in Chicago - many in multiple vintages.
Regionally, Three Floyds, Goose Island, Greg Browne Brewing, Capitol, Two Brothers, Rock Bottom, Flossmoor Station, Flatlander’s, Bell’s & Lakefront Brewing will be represented, and many of these brewers will be in attendance.

Strong ales have been traditionally brewed during and for the Winter and early Spring months and are quite suitable for aging - often being brewed a year before release. Many of the ales for this tasting will be sampled in vintage, the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, for instance, will be available from both the 1989 and 1999 vintage and the George Gale’s Prize Old Ale will include a 1996 and 1997 - plus six vintages of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barley Wine.

There will also be a special tasting of strong blonde beers from around the world - filling an obscure category which falls under the broad sector that is barley wine itself. These beers include: Lucifer, Trois Pistoles & La Fin Du Monde from Unibroue, Malheur Millennium, Capitol Blonde Dopplebock - multiple vintages, Two Brothers Bear Tree Weiss Wine, Maredsous Triple, Delirium Tremens, EKU 28, and the French Belzebuth.

A very unique experience to sample all these strong beers together - along with vintage dated brews including: Anchor Old Foghorn, Avery Hog Heaven, Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Harvey’s Elizabethan, Skull Splitter, Portland Brewing Adam Barley Wine, Dog Fish Head Immort Ale, Rogue Ales Old Crusty, Sam Adams Triple Bock and Young’s Old Nick.

Admission is $20 for a sampling of the offerings. Information concerning each product will be available. This tasting is a must.

Lastly, my buddy Renaldo gave me a 4-pack of Maudite - The Damned. I haven't had one yet but am looking forward to it. The webpage indicates that it's a fine contender for aging. So I'll have to throw a bottle in the cellar along with my barley wine from New Glarus.
|| Palmer, 1:20 PM || link || (0) comments |

Annie Mae's Hat @ Overture

I wrote last week about having attended the International Festival at the Overture Center and also mentioned checking out the exhibit at the James Watrous Gallery. It's entitled Miss Annie Mae’s Hats: Church Hats from the Black Community. Considering that the gallery is not super-sized, the exhibit was concise but it was also very informative.

Annie Mae McClain was born in 1913 in Belzoni, Mississippi. She married Terry McClain in 1993 and they moved to Milwaukee in the late 1930s in search of better jobs. They joined the relatively small black community there and immediately set about looking for a church. The McClains settled on Tabernacle Community Baptist Church. Ms. McClain was apparently a very independent woman because, at some point, she took a job at a tannery against the wishes of her husband. A couple years later, she began working as a beautician, a job she would keep until retirement. The job provided her with disposable income which allowed her to increase the size of her wardrobe. Along the way, she developed a love for hats which she wore to church on Sundays.

In addition to Ms. McClain's story, the collection addresses the role of the church in the black community where women are renowned for their hats.

Yeah, I know it's not a great picture but it shows a congregation with the women all behatted. (Is that a real word?) While I cannot recall exactly how this is remarked upon at the exhibit, the current issue of the Wisconsin Academy Review includes this passage:

Annie Mae's great-niece Terri Birst, who learned to love hats from her auntie, shares her philosophy. Dressing up in a hat is not a vanity, it's an assertion that you recognize your own value: "You want to look your best for the Lord." In the now-classic book, Crowns (Doubleday, 2000), which documents the black church hat tradition, author Craig Marberry notes the hats' double purpose: "These captivating hats are not mere fashion accessories. Neither, despite their Biblical roots, are they solely religious headgear. Church hats are a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous."

Here are the hats:

|| Palmer, 12:09 PM || link || (0) comments |

On the Gramophone

Today I present a little Jelly Roll Morton. This is a tune that, as near as I can tell, has not yet been officially released. It's called "Animule Dance" and was recorded in New York City on 14 December 1939.
|| Palmer, 6:53 AM || link || (0) comments |

20 February, 2006

Prost Gotvin - Part 17

This is Prost Gotvins geometri by Gert Nygårdshaug. The translation was done by Roy Johansen. Nygårdshaug is a Norwegian author and the text has not yet been published in English. Roy is a friend of mine who recently moved back to his native Norway. He has translated a good part of the novel and I'm trying to convince him to finish it.

Here’s Part 16.

Father Gotvin's First Journey (continued)

At the Gare du Nord we had a longer stay. I might have used the time to see a little of Paris, instead I remained in a café in the waiting hall with a bottle of wine, a large glass of water, and a loaf of Parisian bread right from the oven. I was tired. I had just phoned home and talked with Margit Nederstuen. My father had dug up half the field and she was at her wits' end. The metal detector had become an obessession with old Kastor; rusty bits of iron were accumulating on the kitchen table; everything he found had to go there. Were there traces of a green 1934 Hillman delivery truck? Margit Nederstuen was desperate – wouldn't he come home soon? Yes, he was on his way, but had to spend a couple of days in Denmark so would Margit be kind enough to extend him a short-term loan? Deposit a thousand kroner on his account today or tomorrow at the latest? Sure, no problem. She'd take care of everything, but what would I do with my father when I came home? I drank wine and water and waited for my train to get ready for embarkation. Next stop was Copenhagen, then a different train to Trelleborg, which, according to the map was in the southwestern part of Zealand - what was I to do there? Stroll around a Viking fortress? As around for th enigmatic Preben Hansson? Yes, that's what I had to do. Where was she now? I closed my eyes for a moment with my wine glass on my lips. She was on an excursion with her students to some caves where Neanderthals had possibly once lived. What was a Neanderthal? A human, a human being like me, created in the image of God. What came before the Neanderthals? Homo erectus, I seemed to remember, and before that there was homo habilis, and if one went ever-further back in time, three-four-five million years, a breathtaking time span, we would find homo australopithecus. Some time, a few years ago, I had read about this, about evolution the way paleontologists through their excavations have demonstrated, could homo erectus be classified as a human being? Yes, it probably could, but what about habilis and australopithecus - were they even our distant relatives? Created in the image of God? I had experienced doubt and I still had no clue, but where was the delineation between man and beast? Did such a demarcation exist? The transition from ramaphitecus, who resembled modern apes, to australopithecus, who resembled us humans, and who possibly was a human being – the transitions here were almost indiscernible and spanned millions of years. Was it possible to put down a demarcation and say, "There, precisely there emerged the first people, Adam and Eve, created in the image of God." Was it really possible to surgically bisect this row of continuous, minute biological transformations somewhere in this evolutionary chain and categorically say, "You are an animal, you are a human being"? Was this possible? What did Lucienne think about this? Were Adam and Eve Neanderthals? Or even australopithecine? Images of God, God's parables weren't all equally easy to understand and my inquisitiveness had often taken me into cul-de-sacs where my inadequacies had not been able to find a way out, and sitting here at the railway station waiting to embark a train, I again found myself stumbling around in these cul-de-sacs. Stumbling around blindly with a strong desire to know where in the evolutionary chain to fix the borderline between beast and man, between non-soul and soul, and I knew that this was emerging because I might, some time in the future, talk with her about it. This was her territory, our future topics of discussion – paleoarchaeology. I didn't want to appear ignorant, least of all I wished to appear dogmatic in my belief, but here, too, were borderlines. I held onto my thoughts on the evolutionary chain while drinking the last few sips of red wine. These thoughts had usually, despite only being the result of my own naïve inquisitiveness, made me feel uneasy, but this time I felt completely at ease. Far better to think these thoughts than to recall the terror in the face of the garbage man Pedro Urz.

The PA system announced my train.
I got up and walked to platform eight.
Found my compartment and my seat.
In the corner.
Four youths with Euro-passes plus me.
I hung up my jacket and put my head behind it.
I wanted to sleep.

I closed my eyes in the darkness behind my jacket and smiled. Was she thinking about me right now? Probably. I could hear her voice, feel her thoughts. I was going to Denmark to solve the riddle, but why did you have to make it this difficult? Why this game? Certain demands, she had said; this was one of the demands. Were there more? Probably not. "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, fear not though the light appear weak, worries are strangers to no man. Lord my Father, never again shall I enclose my fear within me, but seek You and follow the way Jesus Christ has shown." Thus was my prayer before I fell asleep.
|| Palmer, 7:42 PM || link || (0) comments |

19 February, 2006

Feingold & McCoy in the Media

A couple local figures have appeared in the media recently.

On Friday night, Senator Russ Feingold appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. There's a piece up at Dane101.com about it so I'll try not to rehash anything. He made statements saying that the Dems will (finally) get some cajones and stand up to the Repubilcans. While there's no doubt that he knows things I don't about his party, I still have to say that I'll believe that when I see it.

Another local, Professor Alfred W. McCoy appeared on Democracy Now! on Friday as well. McCoy is a professor of Southeast Asian history here at the UW and his latest book is A Question of Torture. He appeared to comment on the newly released pictures of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A transcript of his interview as well as links to video & audio of it can be found here.
|| Palmer, 3:59 PM || link || (0) comments |

18 February, 2006

Jack-in-the-Green Is Busy Today

When I got up this morning and popped open my roommate's laptop, the little weather beacon in the system tray said that it was -4. "Wow!" I thought, "Winter has finally arrived." As I opened a webpage, the sound of wind blowing started emanating from the laptop's speakers. At first I thought it was the page I had opened. It had never made sounds before but perhaps it was a new ad. Once I found that this wasn't the case, I noticed the weather beacon had changed color and now read -16. Colder than a well digger's ass! While the prospect of going out in the cold doesn't thrill me, at least the weather is normal. Milder winter weather has its good aspects - more comfortable and smaller heating bills - but forty some-odd days of above normal temps only serves to remind me that the globe is warming and Wisconsin is on its way to becoming Arkansas as far as average temperatures are concerned.

Stevie and Becca came downstairs and turned on the TV. For some reason, we started watching the Olympics and the event was curling. I have never curled nor even watched it on TV before but I've gotta tell ya that my eyes were glued to the screen. I don't watch much in the way of sports on TV generally and think that people who watch golf should be sent to labor camps as punishment for wasting so much time when they could be out doing good for humanity. And one would think that watching curling would be about as exciting as watching golf but it was a hoot! It was the US men's team versus Germany. There was just something hypnotic about watching the stone slowly slide across the ice and two grown men swept the path before it with all the abandon of Charlie Sheen at a whorehouse. Maybe it was the fact that I used to go to the Silver Dollar frequently where I'd indulge my affinity for shuffleboard. Both Stevie and Becca curled while in high school up in Portage so they gave me a crash course in the game and its terminology. For anyone who wants to learn about the sport, head to CurlTech's Curling School. It goes beyond the grab-a-beer-and-a-broom approach. Like any technical school, there are sections on theory and practice. And there are nice flow charts like this one for Delivery Theory.

For anyone who has a good handle on what to do with the broom, there's Advanced Sweeping.

The US women's team plays this evening and they have a local connection. Maureen Brunt is the lead and she, like my rooomies, hails from Portage, WI. (About 30 miles north of Madison.)

I was going to comment on Bryant Gumbel's stupid comments on the Games but I found that my sentiments have already been expressed by a fellow Madison blogger over at The Daily Aneurysm. Check them out.
|| Palmer, 11:57 AM || link || (2) comments |

Mathiak's View on ID Unclear

Here in Madison, a couple seats on the school board are up for election. Candidates are out campaigning in anticipation of the 4 April vote. Our local alternative weekly, Isthmus, has been posing questions to the candidates and posting their answers on its webpage. This week's question is:

Do you think that the Wisconsin state legislature bill to bar the teaching of Creationism and Intelligent Design as science is necessary?

The bill at issue is LRB-2463 – Psuedo-Science Prevention Act which was sponsored by Rep. Terese Berceau. The bill reads:

SECTION 1. 118.018 of the statutes is created to read:

118.018 Science instruction. The school board shall ensure that any
material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the

(1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes.

(2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

While biologists are nearly unanimous in wanting to keep creationism/Intelligent Design out of the classroom, they are not unanimously supporting this bill. P.Z. Myers over at Pharyngula came out against this method of keeping religion out of the classroom:

Legislators need to keep their hands off science and science teaching, no matter what side they are taking. Promoting good science is OK; suggesting to school boards that they follow guidelines set by the major scientific ideas is so obvious that it shouldn't need to be said; picking and choosing and saying which specific ideas ought to be taught and making them part of law is just plain wrong.

And so our five school board candidates were asked to weigh in on this contentious issue. Of the five, only four submitted answers. (Juan Jose Lopez was unavailable due to a death in the family.) Of those answering, three stated that they were against the teaching of creationism/Intelligent Design in our classroom. There was, however, some disagreement over the bill.

Maya Cole comes out against creationism/ID by saying: "…repeated attempts by creationists and ID activists to distort the science curricula across the country (including Wisconsin)." (Emphasis mine.) She lends her support to the bill as well: "I would argue that, as public policy, the proposed bill serves the state…"

Michael Kelly affirms his disdain for ID and his support of the bill: "I am strongly affirming my belief that it is absolutely essential to bar any type of creationism in our school system, and that includes the complete ban on intelligent design or any other ridiculous theory postulated by right-wing evangelicals to sneak Creationism into our school system!"

Arlene Silveira makes it clear that she is against teaching ID but she also thinks that it's an issue that the legislature ought to avoid: "I don't support teaching Creationism and Intelligent Design as science in the public school system. But I prefer not having the Legislature making such specific curricular decisions for our public schools."

Lucy Mathiak, on the other hand, gives an answer that deserves some scrutiny. She clearly states her position on the bill: "I would not welcome a bill to bar teaching of creationism or intelligent design any more than I would welcome a bill to bar teaching of evolution or any other scientific theory." She then goes on to make a questionable statement:

"I would strongly prefer that students be given the core arguments and evidence supporting diverse theories along with the freedom and critical thinking skills to consider what they are willing to accept or reject."

It is exactly this kind of wishy-washy fence-sitting hoo-ha that I don't want to hear. Michael Kelly rightly came out and called ID bullshit that has no place in our public schools. Mathiak, for some reason, leaves the door open to introducing religion masquerading as science. She bookends her answer with the "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing" motto of our university and some "food for thought" - a story about how the idiotic rantings of Holocaust deniers was used to demonstrate the presence of anti-Semitism. I find this very disingenuous and odd to boot. Was she equating Holocaust deniers and proponents of Intelligent Design? Or was she saying that the ridiculous ideas of people on the fringe have utility? In light of her previous comments, I presume that she means that all views on a topic should be heard. While I certainly don't object to this, her example doesn't cut the mustard. It is unfair to equate a letter to a professional organization of historians to teaching students. Food for thought - it seems reasonable to assume that she would favor teaching the viewpoint of Holocaust deniers in our schools' history classes and letting the students sift and winnow their way through the racist bullshit. I'm sorry but the Holocaust has been sifted and winnowed already and the verdict is in – it happened. The same holds true for evolution. Biologists have sifted and winnowed the past 150 years and evolution has emerged victorious because the evidence for it is there. ID, on the other hand, is not science. If the chorus of scientists calling out ID for the religious bullshit that it is wasn't enough, there's also the ruling in the Dover case.

Another problem I have with Mathiak's answer is her linking of the sifting and winnowing that is supposed to take place at the university with high school (and elementary?) students being "given the core arguments and evidence supporting diverse theories along with the freedom and critical thinking skills to consider what they are willing to accept or reject." Hey, I'm all for teaching critical thinking skills – don't ever think for a moment that I'm not. But the activities of professors and students at a university doing research is a wholly different proposition from high school students do. The latter group is not out to discover new truths; it is there to receive a basic education. High school students are there to have truths imparted to them. They are there to gain knowlege and skills to build upon, not to be out on the bleeding edge of research.

I challenge Ms. Mathiak to name some of the diverse theories that oppose evolution. And I mean scientific theories, not the book of Genesis wrapped in a cloud of uncertainty. Her statement worries me because it reeks of the ID tactic imploring schools to "teach the controversy". It sounds all nice and fair to teach all sides of a controversy except, in this case, there is no controversy. While there is debate within the scientific community about the mechanisms of evolution, the validity of evolution is not in dispute. Her answer is perilously close to a comment by Rep, Thomas Petri of our fair state who is a proponent of ID. He said:

Additionally, this conference report makes a strong statement that, where Darwinian evolutionary theory or other controversial scientific topics are taught, students should be exposed to multiple viewpoints. Too often, students are taught only one theory where evolution is concerned, and this language gives support to those at the local and state level who uphold the value of intellectual freedom in the teaching of science.

Petri was – I cannot determine if he currently is – on the Board of Advisors of the Discovery Institute, the prime mover in the promulgation of ID. George Bush has also come out on the side of teaching ID using this very language about a non-existent controversy.

I honestly don't know Ms. Mathiak's position on ID. That her father was a biologist gives me hope. I went to her website and looked at the other questionnaires she's answered but this topic was not addressed. Still, her comment above gives me pause. If she does accept ID, then she should be voted down so as to keep religion out of our schools and to help ensure that the science curricula for our schools are of high quality. If she is ignorant when it comes to the evolution vs. ID debate, then this too is problematic for her ignorance would have the same negative impact as actively promoting ID for our classrooms. Another possibility that is more benign, but not very comforting, is that her fence-sitting is merely political posturing so as not to offend voters of any stripe.

I think it unfortunate that Ms. Mathiak did not make clear her view on this issue as did the other candidates. I wanted to e-mail a query to Ms. Mathiak's on this issue but her site has a paucity of contact info. There is only a mailing address for her campaign.

|| Palmer, 11:18 AM || link || (0) comments |

17 February, 2006

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 6:45 AM || link || (0) comments |

16 February, 2006

On Tap

As winter marches on, so does the release of new seasonal beers by our state's fine brewers.

Sprecher Brewery, just outside of Milwaukee, has two new brews this month: an Irish Stout and a Maibock.

Also from Milwaukee comes Big Easy, a blonde dopplebock from Lakefront Brewery.

Up in Stevens Point at the Point Brewery, they have introduced their Spring Bock.

Way up north in Dallas, WI is the Viking Brewing Company. This month they have J.S. Bock, a German Helles Bock.

A bit closer to home from the Capital Brewery comes their Maibock. And please note that on the 25th, the annual Bockfest will be held at the brewery. It's a celebration of the release of the brewery's Blonde Doppelbock. So go drink good beer and catch fish thrown from the roof of the brewery!

I also want to note that, thanks to The Dulcinea, I have tasted one of the two new brews from New Glarus Brewing, Road Slush Oatmeal Stout. Lemme tell ya, it's might tasty! Very smooth and it just covers your palate with it's smooth oatmealy goodness. Their other new beer is Yokel, a blonde ale. I shall seek it out anon. In order to bring back their Coffee Stout, Dan, the brewmaster, is halting production of Edel Pils and Native Ale. In October, Dan will unleash Enigma...

Next month on the 12th is the Blessing of the Bock in Milwaukee. On tap:

City Brewing, La Crosse, WI - Honey Bock, Winter Porter, Pale Ale
Flatlander's Brewing, Lincolnshire, IL - Dopplebock, something else
Leinenkugel Brewing, Chippewa Falls, WI - Honey Weiss, Sunset Wheat, Creamy Dark, Big Butt Dopplebock
Riverside Brewing, West Bend, WI - Honey Ale, Amber Ale
Two Brothers Brewing Co., Warrenville, IL - Incinerator Dopplebock, Brown Fox Session Ale
Tyranena Brewing Co., Lake Mills, WI - Fighting Finches Mai Bock, Bitter Woman IPA, Rocky's Revenge

And on the next day, the 13th of March is the Irish Beer Dinner with Brewmaster Rich Becker and the return of the Irish Ale and Stout - 6 PM, J.T. Whitney's, 674 S. Whitney Way, Madison WI 53711 - (608) 274-1776
|| Palmer, 6:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

kaniktshaq moritlkatsio atsuniartoq

"Observe the snow. It fornicates."

I knew that we were to have a lot of snow but I didn't expect the thunder and lightning on my way in to work that I heard and saw. I managed to grab some snaps during the storm.

This is John Nolen Drive.

Although I saw many folks with cars stuck in the snow, I personally didn't have much of a problem. The worst was trying to get out of the Convention Center's parking ramp. There were some serious whiteout conditions. When I went out for a smokey treat in the mid-morning, the lake was completely shrouded in white.

For our first real snowfall of the year, our snow blower took a digger. It was a bitch to start and, once started, it never stayed that way very long. Methinks that it needs a new spark plug or that the gas line is partially blocked. But the shovel still worked.

Here's the mound of snow in the parking lot behind 1 West Wilson.
|| Palmer, 5:49 PM || link || (0) comments |

Film Fest Volunteers Needed

The Wisconsin Film Festival is still a month and a half away but volunteer recruitment is now! To volunteer, go to the sign-up page.
|| Palmer, 5:36 PM || link || (0) comments |

American Life in Poetry: Column 024

In this poem by New York poet Martin Walls, a common insect is described and made vivid for us through a number of fresh and engaging comparisons. Thus an ordinary insect becomes something remarkable and memorable.

Cicadas at the End of Summer

Whine as though a pine tree is bowing a broken violin,
As though a bandsaw cleaves a thousand thin sheets of
They chime like freight wheels on a Norfolk Southern
slowing into town.

But all you ever see is the silence.
Husks, glued to the underside of maple leaves.
With their nineteen fifties Bakelite lines they'd do
just as well hanging from the ceiling of a space
museum —

What cicadas leave behind is a kind of crystallized memory;
The stubborn detail of, the shape around a life turned

The color of forgotten things: a cold broth of tea & milk
in the bottom of a mug.
Or skin on an old tin of varnish you have to lift with
lineman's pliers.
A fly paper that hung thirty years in Bird Cooper's pantry
in Brighton.

Reprinted from "Small Human Detail in Care of National Trust," New Issues Press, Western Michigan University, 2000, by permission of the author. Poem copyright ? by Martin Walls, a 2005 Wytter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress. His latest collection "Commonwealth" is available from March Street Press. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
|| Palmer, 9:44 AM || link || (0) comments |

15 February, 2006

Cheney Enters Lexicon

From Diary of an Unrepentant Sex Addict comes (hehe) a report that our language is being graced with a new term: "cheneyed". In this case, it means having one's face unexpectedly ejaculated upon:

From Violet Blue, I learn that "Cheney" is starting to pick up steam as a euphemism for facial come-shot. I heartily approve. There is some debate as to whether it should be limited to "unexpected" shots or not. I think it should. Otherwise, we end up retroactively naming an entire sub-genre of porn.

Here it is, used in a sentence with another, related name-cum-noun:

So she was doing this amazing Lewinsky on me, but at the last minute she decided against swallowing and tried to pull away, and she ended up getting Cheneyed, big-time.
|| Palmer, 7:42 PM || link || (0) comments |

UW Offers Bullshit for $34.50

Thus is one of the missions of our great university – to sift and winnow for the truth. People sifted and winnowed and found that the practice of medicine has efficacy if the doctor knows how the body works as opposed to trying to diagnose an imbalance in the humours. Keen minds looked into witchcraft and found that people cannot bewitch animals into sickness. Intrepid investigators looked and looked but could never find incubi and succubi. Lots of sifting & winnowing led to lots of superstitions being shown the door and relegated to a past of ignorance. Yet here in the 21st century, as UW scientists probe the mysteries of stem cells hoping to find cures for illnesses, the university's Memorial Union is peddling superstitious bullshit for $34.50.

Yes, for the low, low price of $34.50, you can take a mini-course to learn all about the tarot card. This isn't a history lesson or a look at a curiosity, mind you. Instead it's being touted as a legitimate and efficacious approach to knowledge:

Expand your personal belief system and experience a more mystical and less dogmatic approach to your journey towards inner knowledge. Participants will be introduced to the meanings of each card in the major and minor arcana, culminating in interpretation of a reading. This course is intended for beginners. Please bring the Rider-Waite tarot deck to class. 5 Meetings.

It is taught by a charlatan named Dawn DuCharme who is co-owner of Moon & Star Mystic Services. (Quite a name. I wonder if it's real.) Her brief bio for an upcoming "wellness fair" reads:

Dawn is a well-known Tarot card reader in the Madison area where she has practiced her unique readings (which include the astrology connection) for over ten years. Dawn is also a teacher of metaphysical topics at the University of Wisconsin Mini Course Department and the Madison School and Community Recreation Department. Her classes include Mysteries of the Tarot, Dream Interpretation, Introduction to Astrology and Seeking Your Soulmate.

The shining must run in the family because a Debby DuCharme will be at the fair as well:

Deb is a local Madison psychic and has practiced intuitive counseling for over ten years. She is a psychic channel and intuitive counselor. Deb is able to connect with Spirit through various mediums. She is clairvoyant (seeing images, symbols, visions), clairaudient (hearing messages), and clairsentient (clear knowing). She also connects with Spirit through psychometry (receiving and reading information from objects and energy).

Why is a public university whose mission is to discover truth giving this swindler a forum to peddle her bullshit? When not done for sheer amusement, tarot card reading is the realm of hustlers who cold read a person and tell them what they want to hear claiming all the while that they have tapped into the spirit world. Read this account of how a non-psychic quickly learned how to fool people. Also, go down to your local video store and rent a DVD to watch Penn & Teller expose tarot cards for the bullshit they are.

Looking at the holistic health fair line-up, I see that there's a whole boatload of bullshitters. Take Laurel Harrison. She is an "Intuitive Angel Reader and licensed Certified Energy Practitioner". What the fuck is an "angel reader"? And who exactly licenses "energy practitioners" and on what grounds? Laurel has been "communicating with her angels for over 15 years". Is this woman delusional? Or is she out to cheat stupid and/or vulnerable people out of their money? Ooh! There's also Kathleen Schneider who is an "animal psychic". Yes, your pet cat who can't distinguish its own tail from a predator has a complex mental life just like we humans. Uh huh. The bullshit continues: "Kathleen…offers assistance to law enforcement in the areas of missing persons, murder and arson cases and robbery." OK, I believe this statement. But does any law enforcement agency take her up on her offers? Has she ever solved a crime? Go here for a nice look at psychic sleuthing. Also, check out How Psychic Sleuths Waste Police Time.

If you wish to let the person responsible for foisting this bullshit on the community know that it's not welcome, contact Jay Ekleberry, Mini Course Director at 262-5759 or jpeklebe@wisc.edu.
|| Palmer, 7:05 PM || link || (2) comments |

Word of the Week

I just like how this word sounds.

quincunx (kwink-unks) n. an arrangement of five things with one at each corner, and one in the middle of a square or rectangle.
|| Palmer, 7:19 AM || link || (0) comments |

14 February, 2006

On the Gramophone

I'm not sure why but I've been in this 80s metal mode lately as I find myself listening to the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, and Dio. To celebrate, this week's song is by one of Ronnie James Dio's first bands, Ronnie and the Redcaps. It's called "An Angel is Missing" and is a long, long way from "The Last in Line" and "Holy Diver". It's hard to believe he went from this to flashing the horns and singing with Black Sabbath.

"An Angel is Missing".
|| Palmer, 7:10 AM || link || (0) comments |

13 February, 2006

International Festival

I spent several hours yesterday downtown at the Overture Center for the 2006 International Festival. It promised to be 6 hours of multi-cultural goodness including music, dance, crafts, and food.

The festivities started at 11 with the Swiss Alphorns of New Glarus.

(Video clip)

It was explained to the audience that the horns were carved from pine trees and were originally used to communicate from mountaintop to mountaintop back in Switzerland. For anyone not familiar with Wisconsin, New Glarus is a small town a bit south of Madison. It was settled predominantly by folks of Swiss-German heritage. For more information on Swiss music in our fair state, check out Yodeling in Dairyland by UW professor James P. Leary.

The alphorns were followed by local purveyors of Cajun music, The Cajun Strangers. Cajun music is dance music! Lots of two steps. It features plenty of accordion and fiddle and, when it started, was mostly played by whites. (As opposed to creole/zydeco.)

(Video clip)

There were many performances going on at the same time so I wasn't able to see them all, unfortunately. I spent a lot of time in the newly-renovated Capitol Theater as that's where the bulk of Slavic dance was held. I wasn't able to get a decent picture of the joint but it looks fantastic! I personally really love old theaters like the Capitol and find it to be aesthetically superior to Overture Hall. There's just something about attending a classical music concert in a more modern setting that just doesn't jive with me. Of the area venues for symphonies, Symphony Hall in Chicago takes the prize. Hopefully some interesting acts will be booked at the Capitol as I look forward to returning.

The first performance I saw there was by Zaibas Lithuanian Dancers, a troupe right here in Madison.

(Video clip)

The picture immediately above was taken of a dance about linen – making it, washing it, turning it into clothing. It struck me as I sat there that we here in modern America don't have dances about the mundane and, indeed, the whole idea seems rather silly. We don't have a dance about shopping at The Gap or any such thing; we don't have dances about the everyday things we all do. I suppose this is because such things don't take nearly as much time as they used to and we are less involved with them. Most people go to a store and buy clothing today instead of going to a clothmaker, buying material, and then spending hours sewing. Still, there are plenty of little things we all do in our lives but it seems like we tend to think of these activities as filler between other "more important" or major things.

I had some time to blow before the next performance at the Capitol Theater so I wandered downstairs and caught a bit of the Bits-of-Africa. I heard the sounds of drums and wandered into the room to find children galore dancing and singing.

Going back to the theater, I eagerly sat down and watched music and dance by the Madison Chinese Cultural Association. The first routine was performed by a group of girls who were all about 10 years old. Glad in striking red outfits, they did a dance with scarves.

A couple of the girls changed outfits and came out again.

Next, a group of musicians came onstage and performed a couple short songs which were wonderful.

The man is playing a wooden flute while I believe the instrument the woman is playing is the pipa which is a bit like a lute.

Now, I think these folks are playing a type of fiddle called the Gao-Hu.
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The performance continued with the young ladies returning in green to do a wonderful dance involving umbrellas.

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For the finale, all the girls came out, including some younger ones who were probably 5 or 6, and danced to the sound of cymbals. They held paper plates painted bronze while folks offstage played the real things. They were all just interminably cute in their colorful outfits!

The performance by the Chinese Cultural Association was just magnificent! If the Lithuanian routines seemed foreign then this was positively alien. Afterwards I felt a bit bad as it reminded me that I should really reestablish contact with a friend of mine who is first generation Chinese-American. His parents immigrated here from China in the 1960s and he and I have known one another since kindergarten – almost 29 years! And in that time, I know he has struggled to reconcile the Chinese and the American. His father passed away about 3 years ago and he's been helping his mother through rough times. T shift to a brighter note, his mother is a fucking fantastic cook! Eating at her home was always a treat and I've never had anything remotely like her cooking at any Chinese restaurant. Ye gods! I'm getting hungry now…

Next up were the Heather Highland Dancers which featured a couple former co-workers of mine. Some of the dances were done to live bagpipe while the rest were done to pre-recorded music being piped in through the PA.

Look at those socks – marvelous!
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I think it was about this time that I caught up with The Dulcinea and her kids. We retreated to the lobby for some lunch. Indian tacos it was! I had vowed to try them to see what the hell they were. Well, they were fry bread with ground meat and your typical taco fixins mounded atop it. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. Hastily chowing it down and removing the sour cream from my goatee, I headed back to the Capitol Theater where the pollack in me reveled in Polish dance courtesy of Narodno International Dancers. The first couple dances were Polish and were followed by others from Eastern Europe.

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The above dance featured women only and sent many a naughty Slavic thought through my head...Mid-set, a couple came out and sang some songs a cappella. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the origin of the tunes. Croatian?

I went downstairs hoping to catch some klezmer courtesy of Yid Vicious but I only caught a couple minutes of their set.

Afterwards I got in line to see the Natyarpana Dance Company but the joint was packed and I was turned away. Instead I wandered over to check out Miss Annie Mae’s Hats. (More on that another time.) On my way to the gallery, I caught sight of Navan downstairs singing Celtic music.

My cell phone actually came in handy as I called The Dulcinea and she said that she was in line for Tri Bratovchedki Singers. The trio sing music from the Balkans which appealed to my Ruthenian blood.

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The day was rounded out by the Atimevu Drum & Dance Ensemble. My pictures of them didn't turn out but I did grab a bit of video. Check it out.

Although I saw a number of performances, I missed twice as many – easily. It was just impossible to take it all in. In addition to the music, dance, and food, I got to meet some fellow members of the Polish Heritage Club. They were selling various craft works and I was sorely tempted by the pottery which featured some really neat bowls, utensils, etc. The Dulcinea saw some shirts being sold by the African Co-op that she thought would look good on me. Alas, no purchases were made. I also got a chance to peruse the artwork hanging on the walls. Some of it was really good and I'll post some pics of that another time.

Oh! In addition to drums'n'dancing, I had me some jerk pork from Jamerica. I gleefully made my order and was given a country ton of porky goodness! The paper plate didn't stand a chance as the liquid seeped through almost immediately. I had about 20 napkins underneath to soak it all up. And so, as I ambled back to my car, I had a big pork buzz going. Perfect way to end the day.
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