Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 March, 2006

The Crucible in Madison Blogosphere

Steve S. over at Letters In Bottles called us idiots. Well, by "us" I mean me. A bottle is thrown through a window physically hurting no one and was apparently taken in stride by those inside, according to Sergeant First Class Bruce Bovenkerk:

"Our window has been broken many times," Bovenkerk said. "It’s part of the job. We’ve got insurance and they cover it. So nobody got hurt and nobody got injured. We board it up and put a new one in. It’s business as usual."

Yet this prompts cries of terrorism, conflating the act to 9/11. In a post entitled "The Level of Debate", Mr. S. decries the paucity of response to this incident by campus bloggers as demonstrating that the level of debate in Madison generally. He also calls me an idiot.

Perhaps Mr. S. has an extraordinary post-modern sense of irony. Or maybe the definition of the word "debate" eludes him. Then again, it could be just a case of sheer hypocrisy. I'm inclined towards the latter. We can only hope that it is only in Mr. S.'s world that ad hominem attacks count as debate. And the same goes for hasty generalizations. Extrapolating the "level of debate" in the city of Madison as a whole from the reactions of campus bloggers is ridiculous.

Most of the admittedly few conservative blogs that I have read which discuss this incident are written by authors that go out of their way to avoid anything akin to debate. Instead they are full of reactionary cries of terrorism which conflate a broken window to the deaths of thousands.

Here's the U.S. Code's definition of domestic terrorism:

(5) the term "domestic terrorism" means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Could a brick being thrown through a window be dangerous to human life? Sure. (I still maintain that the brick thrown earlier this week and flying airliners into planes have enormous qualitative differences.) The incident occurred in the United States. Notice the elements of part B. First of all, there's no mass destruction, assassinations, nor kidnapping. Is it reasonable to say that a lone brick thrown through a lone window is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population? Am I completely out of touch with the population of Madison or are the city's residents not feeling particularly threatened by this incident? The Madisonians I've encountered the past few days are not on edge over this. Is there any evidence that there is a general feeling of being intimidated amongst my fellow citizens? Finally, I don't think it reasonable to say that the lone brick was intended to get the knees of the federal government shaking.

It seems more likely that this was an act of vandalism that was an expression of someone's anger regarding our venture in Iraq. I do not condone this act - I denounce it unequivocally. But the hysteria over this incident is ridiculous. The victims brushed it off yet some bloggers splenetically accused some folks while one unequivocally stated that Stop the War! was responsible. And all of this was done despite the identity of the perpetrator being unknown. These people don't seem to give a tailor's cuss for getting all the facts nor having a sense of perspective.

Sir Bedevere: There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
Peasant 1: Are there? Oh well, tell us.
Sir Bedevere: Tell me. What do you do with witches?
Peasant 1: Burn them.
Sir Bedevere: And what do you burn, apart from witches?
Peasant 1: More witches.
Peasant 2: Wood.
Sir Bedevere: Good. Now, why do witches burn?
Peasant 3: ...because they're made of... wood?
Sir Bedevere: Good. So how do you tell whether she is made of wood?
Peasant 1: Build a bridge out of her.
Sir Bedevere: But can you not also build bridges out of stone?
Peasant 1: Oh yeah.
Sir Bedevere: Does wood sink in water?
Peasant 1: No, no, it floats!... It floats! Throw her into the pond!
Sir Bedevere: No, no. What else floats in water?
Peasant 1: Bread.
Peasant 2: Apples.
Peasant 3: Very small rocks.
Peasant 1: Cider.
Peasant 2: Gravy.
Peasant 3: Cherries.
Peasant 1: Mud.
Peasant 2: Churches.
Peasant 3: Lead! Lead!
King Arthur: A Duck.
Sir Bedevere: ...Exactly. So, logically...
Peasant 1: If she weighed the same as a duck... she's made of wood.
Sir Bedevere: And therefore...
Peasant 2: ...A witch!
|| Palmer, 6:44 PM || link || (2) comments |

Amtrak in Madison Only $254,000,000 Away

A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story from January touched on the possibility of Madison finally getting an Amtrak station.

It noted that the Milwaukee-Chicago route, the Hiawatha line, is doing booming business and had over a half million passengers last year. Amtrak Board Chairman David Laney was in Milwaukee to check out the new station at Mitchell Airport and commented that "extending the Hiawatha to Madison was 'a terrific idea.'"

Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi was on-hand as well.

Plans for a 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison line have been on the drawing board for several years, but the line would cost $318 million to build, Busalacchi said. If the federal government would put up 80% of that cost, service could start within two years, he added.

Pushing for 80% federal funding of passenger rail projects - the same as highway and public transit projects - is backed by the States for Passenger Rail Coalition, a 26-state group led by Busalacchi. Laney said he supported that concept.

So we may get a station yet and not have to board up in Columbus.
|| Palmer, 6:35 PM || link || (0) comments |

Bier News

I made a quick stop at Star Liquor this afternoon and walked out with some suds. Capital's Wild Rice beer is now available. I thought that this was more of an autumn deal, not that I'm complaining, mind you. While at the store, I noticed that they've rearranged the beer coolers a bit. They now carry 5 or so selections from Viking Brewing Company where they only had two last time I was in the store. Their beer was moved from the cooler on the back wall to the side and bottles of Tyranena are now in back.

I grabbed a clutch of single bottles: Captial's Wild Rice (lager) & Island Wheat (an American wheat Ale), Viking's Whole Stein (a coffee, oatmeal, milk porter), Lake Louie's Arena Premium (an American Pale Ale but with more hops), and a Berghoff Dark (lager).

The Ale Asylum website has been finagled a little bit. Gone are the photos of the tanks being put into place. But the links on the side for their beers are active. And by "active" I mean they open to a blank page. However, the URL's betray the secrecy. We have:

Gold Digger
Big Slick
Happy Ending
Hath Weizen
Tripel Nova

However there's still no word as to when the establishment will be opening its doors.

In other sudsy news, Leine's is introducing a new beer - Sunset Wheat. Didn't see it at Star but, then again, I wasn't looking. Finally, New Glarus will have their Coffee Stout again this year. When I hear of it, I think of that Easter Sunday spent at the Paradise several years ago shooting pool and downing bottle after bottle of the stuff. Mmm...
|| Palmer, 4:16 PM || link || (0) comments |

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 8:46 AM || link || (5) comments |

30 March, 2006

CoC Finally Arrives for PC

The Call of Cthulhu video game was released this week for the PC. It's been available for XBox for a few months already.

Also of note, the site for Neverwinter Nights 2 is apparently now fully-armed and operational. The screenshots look really cool. I'll have to get a bigger, badder video card if I hope to play it. But that can wait as I'm still stuck in The Temple of Elemental Evil. If I'm not getting my ass kicked by Willow the Wisps, I've gotta worry about some pansy-ass wizard who can't stand to be around an ominous black orb that radiates evil.
|| Palmer, 1:46 PM || link || (1) comments |

LOST Cartography

From PSP-Spot comes The Map from last night's episode of LOST. It's a hi-res pic supposedly provided by the show's producers and not a screencap.

Click here for the full-sized version which also contains annotations.

Click here for the full-sized version which contains the annotations and transcriptions.

Having taken 8 years of Latin, I thought the inclusion of Latin phrases was pretty cool. I translated a few of them before turning off the laptop and heading to bed last night. Others finished the job and so here's the full list:

Nil actum reputa si quid superest agendum - Don't consider that anything has been done if anything is left to be done. (Gaius Lucilius)

Aegrescit medendo - The disease worsens with the treatment (Virgil)

Sursum corda - Lift up your hearts (Roman Catholic Church)

Malum consilium quod mutari non potest - It's a bad plan that can't be changed (Publilius Syrus)

Cogito ergo doleo - I think therefore I am depressed

Credo nos in fluctu eodem esse - I think we're on the same wavelength

Ut sit magna, tamen certe lenta ira deorum est - The wrath of the gods may be great, but it certainly is slow (Juvenal)

Liberate te ex inferis - Save yourself from hell

Hic sunt dracones - Here are dragons

Mus uni non fidit antro - A mouse does not rely on just one hole (Plautus)
|| Palmer, 12:35 PM || link || (0) comments |

29 March, 2006

"Just the facts, ma'am"

Just the facts, ma'am.

Although the television show Dragnet is rather hokey for modern audiences weened on Friends and American Idol, Sgt. Joe Friday's epistemologically-inclined signature line is still worthy of attention.

Yesterday I was critical of fellow Madison blogger Jenna Pryor for accusing Stop the War!, an anti-war organization, of having committed an act of terrorism. The act in question is the throwing of a brick through the window of the Army recruiting station at University Square Mall on Monday afternoon. In her post, Ms. Pryor points to this piece at the Daily Cardinal webpage. Here's the important bit:

Authorities do not yet know who is to blame for the broken window.

While, as I type, the perpetrator may be in custody - I honestly don't know - but, at the time the post was written, authorities admitted that the identity of the person who committed this crime was unknown. Then Steven Stehling of Standards and Grudges chimed in saying that the crime was "obviously politically motivated" and gave a definition of terrorism:

the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

Being denotative, we can see that motive plays a role here - intention. And so, although the identity of the brick-thrower was unknown, Ms. Pryor knew the person's intentions. While it seems likely to me that the brick-thrower had the intention of making an anti-war statement, she didn't just say that she thought that someone against the war threw the brick. Instead she accused a very specific organization - Stop the War!. Let us return to the dictionary:

lie n. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression

Look at the accusation Ms. Pryor makes in the title of her post: "Terrorism from Stop the War!". And so, if the authorities don't know who threw the brick, how does she? Surely, if she knew the criminal she would respect the Rule of Law and turn him or her in to the police. So either she knows who did it and isn't telling the police or she doesn't know who threw the brick and is lying when she says that Stop the War! is responsible.

As for Mr. Stehling's definition, I cannot deny it. But it's disingenous to just say, "Look! It's denotatively correct!" Just as he tried to sidestep incorporation, now he now tries to sidestep connotation. Read what I wrote again:

Conflating this act of vandalism and terrorism - the real stuff that kills - is ridiculous.

I am not disputing that the brick-throwing is an act of terrorism in a literal, denotative sense. He even concedes as much in his comment at Jenna's blog: "Palmer at Fearful Symmetries thinks you calling this an act terrorism is an exaggeration." Notice he uses the word "exaggeration" and that he doesn't say that I deny that it was a "terrorist act". My point was that the word "terrorism" is loaded. It is loaded in this post-9/11 era just as the word "Nazi" is. Perhaps a new rhetorical term is in order. How about Argumentum ad terrorism? The definition of the word "terrorism" is not in dispute here. It is the connotations that are. I argue that the connotations involved here are the WTC Towers afire and people strapping bombs to their person & detonating them in a room full of children.

My point is twofold:

1) To state that Stop the War! was responsible for the shattered window despite having no knowledge of who committed the crime is to lie.

2) The use of a loaded term advances no argument and serves to distract from it. Using "terrorism" in this case conflates throwing a brick through a window and hurting no one to flying planes into the WTC Towers and the Pentagon in which thousands were killed and I find this to be ridiculous.
|| Palmer, 10:17 AM || link || (3) comments |

Word of the Week

aubade (oh-BAHD) n. a song or poem greeting the dawn; also, a composition suggestive of morning.
|| Palmer, 5:45 AM || link || (0) comments |

28 March, 2006

Can You Eat a Fish Fry Ohne Bier?

Earlier this evening I went through a stack of magazines and papers that had been piling up for months next to my computer and came across an old issue of Shepherd Express, Milwaukee's free weekly. SE has a column written by the "History Guy" who answers questions regarding local history and culture. One of the questions in this issue was: Why are Milwaukeeans so crazy about Friday night fish fries?

I print an abbreviated answer here as it applies to Milwaukee specifically but also to the whole of Wisconsin generally.

After consulting with three of the top fish fry experts in the state, I can safely say that Milwaukee's long fish fry tradition is the result of a few factors: religious dietary restrictions, availability of fish and the desire to keep corner taverns in business, even during Prohibition.

According to Jeff Hagen, author of Fry Me to the Moon and its sequel, Codfather II, the German Catholic tradition gave rise to the Friday night fish fry. Since Catholics were unable to eat meat on Fridays throughout the entire year, they were able to feast on fried fish and not feel deprived. Bob Milkovich of Serb Hall on Milwaukee's south side said that Eastern Orthodox Christians were prevented from eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, too, and therefore ate a lot of fish.

Janet Gilmore, a folklorist and assistant professor at UW-Madison, said that the Pomeranians and Kaszubes, communities from the Baltic region that settled on Jones Island in the 1870s, were great fishers and developed a thriving fish trade in the city. "It was a fish peddler's paradise," Gilmore said, "because of all the Catholics in the area."

In the early 20th century, fish fries moved indoors and became a year-round meal to save our corner taverns. According to Gilmore, taverns were able to stay open during Prohibition by luring in customers for free fish fry lunches. Since taverns weren't allowed to serve liquor – openly, at least – they offered free fish fries, then made diners pay for illicit booze under the table. Hagen added that after Prohibition, adults would bring their children to the taverns since Wisconsin, unlike surrounding states, allowed children to be in establishments that sold liquor. Fish fries remain a family tradition today.

(Hagen) added that any fish fry worth its salt must be all-you-can eat, beer-battered, and served with cole-slaw, French fries or potato pancakes and some type of bread. Asked if it was possible to eat it without a beer, Hagen said, unequivocally, no.

|| Palmer, 10:05 PM || link || (0) comments |

Terrorists Strike Madison

Yes, terrorists have struck in Madison. Karl Armstrong and associates having nothing on the evil person or persons who broke a window at the Army Recruiting Station at University Square Mall.

This is horrible.

Ms. Pryor accuses the Stop the War! group of having committed an act of terrorism. Since when is throwing a brick through a window is on par with flying airplanes into buildings? Vandalism - yes. Terrorism - no. Secondly, the article she points to offers no proof of the identity of the perpetrator yet Ms. Pryor blares "Terrorism from Stop the War!". Read the article closely and you'll read this very important sentence: Authorities do not yet know who is to blame for the broken window.

Not letting the little formality of absence of facts stop her from jumping to conclusions, Ms. Pryor dons the robes of Torquemada and presupposes guilt, assigns blame, and recommends action:

This is, as well, yet another reason to vote NO on the Iraq referendum on the ballot next week (as if we needed another one). To approve this referendum would be to validate these actions, these actions by a group who spurred this referendum in Madison.

Is it possible that someone affiliated with Stop the War! broke the window? Yes. But how about a little innocence before being proven guilty? I too think that whoever broke the window ought to pay for the vandalism - whatever the law prescribes. But it's just that - vandalism. No patchouli-laced, tree-hugging, dope-smoking hippie did a MacGyver & made a bomb out of tofu, flax seed, and hummus and blew him- or herself up on a bus; no IED was detonated on University Avenue; and not even a Cessna was flown into any building. Conflating this act of vandalism and terrorism - the real stuff that kills - is ridiculous.
|| Palmer, 9:17 PM || link || (5) comments |

The False Dichotomy of a Young Republican

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
~~~Hermann Goering

Jenna Pryor of Right Off the Shore recently denounced Russ Feingold for not supporting the Patriot Act and falls just shy of endowing him with the power to bring an end to our Republic in a Patriot Act-less Götterdämmerung. To wit:

This is why we need the PATRIOT Act, and why Russ endangers the country with his opposition to it. This act allows governmental agencies to share information much more efficiently and quickly. Imagine if this was in place five years ago. Imagine if our law enforcement agencies could have shared information about this hijacker. Imagine how many lives could have been saved.

Either we have the Patriot Act or we get killed by terrorists. Nice false dichotomy. In what ways does this act all allow governmental agencies to share information more quickly? She makes it sound like some G-Man had cracked the Enigma code of Moussaoui and the hijackers in the antelucan hours of 9-11 but got lost in the CIA's labyrinthine automated voice response system.

"Press 1 for toppling the governments of sovreign nations..."

The plot to set a bomb off at LAX was foiled without the Patriot Act so it's not like the country was completely defenseless prior to its passage. Still, I want to give Pryor some benefit of the doubt. Take this passage from Coleen Rowley's memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller regarding Moussaoui:

The Minneapolis agents' initial thought was to obtain a criminal search warrant, but in order to do so, they needed to get FBI Headquarters' (FBIHQ's) approval in order to ask for DOJ OIPR's approval to contact the United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota. Prior to and even after receipt of information provided by the French, FBIHQ personnel disputed with the Minneapolis agents the existence of probable cause to believe that a criminal violation had occurred/was occurring. As such, FBIHQ personnel refused to contact OIPR to attempt to get the authority.

First of all, note the bureaucratic hoops. Second, notice the intra-FBI disagreement. Does the Patriot Act eliminate the hoops? Does it end turf wars between agencies and within them? I ask hoping someone can point me to some information regarding the Patriot Act and exactly how it "allows governmental agencies to share information much more efficiently and quickly".

Let us also ask the following question which also cuts to the heart of Ms. Pryor's false dichotomy: Must we endanger the Fourth Amendment in order to facilitate the flow of information between governmental agencies? I firmly say NO. What has one to do with the other? Making sure that the FBI, the CIA, the INS, et al relay data to one another quickly and efficiently is a bureaucratic matter. If the Patriot Act does, in fact, contain provisions on this matter, then they should have been segregated from passages authorizing secret searches and the like.
|| Palmer, 8:26 PM || link || (0) comments |

Madison Just Got More Funky For Me

This is one of my co-workers, Jon French. Until recently, I had no idea he was in the band Cool Front. I also had no idea of his remarkable CV:

He has played and recorded with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions in the 60's and 70's. You've heard Jon on the radio on "Freddie's Dead" from the Superfly album and other songs. Jon has also recorded with Lonnie Brooks and Koko Taylor, two mainstays of the modern blues scene. Jon has played with Otis Rush, Albert King, Freddie King, Little Milton and many other big name blues musicians.

Madisonians know that Clyde Stubblefield lives here but who knew about Jon French? For such a white bread town, we sure have got some funk.

Cool Front's next gig is Saturday, 1st April at J.T. Whitney's from 9-1AM.
|| Palmer, 2:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

What Have the Romans Done For Us?

Well, for starters they handed down a portrait through history of the Barbarians as being a bunch of, well, barbarians. Not so quick, says Monty Pythom alum, Terry Jones. In his new book Terry Jones' Barbarians, co-written with Alan Ereira and the accompanying BBC television series, he argues that:

"we have been sold a false history of Rome that has twisted our entire understanding of our own history.

Terry Jones' Barbarians takes a completely fresh approach to Roman history. Not only does it offer us the chance to see the Romans from a non-Roman perspective, it also reveals that most of the people written off by the Romans as uncivilized, savage and barbaric were in fact organized, motivated and intelligent groups of people, with no intentions of overthrowing Rome and plundering its Empire.

This is the story of Roman history as seen by the Britons, Gauls, Germans, Greeks, Persians and Africans. The Vandals didn't vandalize - the Romans did. The Goths didn't sack Rome - the Romans did. Attila the Hun didn't go to Constantinople to destroy it, but because the Emperor's daughter wanted to marry him. And far from civilizing the societies they conquered the Romans often destroyed much of what they found.

Hopefully the series will be shown here in the States at some point. Otherwise keep an eye out on Usenet or your favorite torrent site for copies. If you can make it to Michigan in May, Jones will be speaking at the 41st International Congress on Medieval Studies. His topic is Richard II.
|| Palmer, 11:37 AM || link || (2) comments |

On the Grammophone

How about a little Bach this week? In this case, it's the first movement of one of J.S.'s Brandenberg Concertos by Jamison Smeltz. Done with 8 saxophones.
|| Palmer, 9:16 AM || link || (0) comments |

27 March, 2006

DeLay To Keep Six-Shooter At Home

Tom DeLay's permit to carry a concealed handgun has been revoked. Will it have to be pried from his cold, dead hands?
|| Palmer, 7:02 PM || link || (0) comments |

Now Kids, Stay Away From That Hemlock

Mark Usher is probably the first person to write a children's book concerning the father of Western philosophy, Socrates. It's called Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates. He explains his motivation thusly:

Usher says that he wrote the book to capture the mystique of the man, not to drum in some high-minded idea that children must know more about Socrates. And yet it’s clear that he’d like to see Socrates become an antidote to the consumerist, entertainment culture that kids are bombarded with.

"(What I want them to take away) is that they should not be afraid to ask tough questions, to be interested in finding answers that convince them,” Usher says. "(I want them to) see that there are more important things in the world than iPods and television and T-shirts and brand names… there’s something about Socrates and Greek philosophy in general that privileges the soul and the mind and things that are beyond the everyday dross that we deal with… If a kid decides that it’s okay to be intellectual and they associate (that) with asking tough questions all the time and talking about ideas with other people, that’s a good thing."

Hopefully there's a disclaimer about hemlock somewhere inside.
|| Palmer, 6:46 PM || link || (0) comments |

Critical Thinking For the Masses?

I was shocked to see this article. It's called "Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches" and points to Bush's use of the logical fallacy, the Straw-Man Argument.

"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

In other words, Bush builds up some bullshit proposition that heargues against all the while avoiding the real issue. But this and other fallacies are not exclusive to Bush. Rather it's common currency amongst politicians generally. Still, it's nice to see something so uncommon yet so important as critical thinking in our media.
|| Palmer, 6:30 PM || link || (0) comments |

Here's What You Need To Do If You Want to Exercise Freedom of Conscience in Afghanistan

Forget it.

Abdul Rahman, an Afghanistan man, converted from Islam to Christianity 15 years ago and now he's in a fight for his life over his conscience. His conversion came to light during a child custody dispute and it has spurned many a Muslim cleric to call for his death. There's no mention that he's been a horrible person these past 15 years. Instead, his sole offense is leaving Islam. Look at this article. It notes that even a "moderate" cleric wants this poor guy dead.

But in Afghanistan even moderate clerics such as Abdul Raoulf have called for Mr Rahman's execution.

The cleric who was jailed three times for opposing the hard-line Taliban said: "Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die."

"Cut off his head!" he exclaimed, sitting in a courtyard outside Herati Mosque.

"We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left."

In other words, if the government doesn't take the man's life, the people will rise up and pull him to pieces. What is with these barbaric fucks?

(I-s-l-a-m) (r-e-l-i-g-i-o-n) (d-o-g-m-a)

While I certainly don't think that every Muslim in Afghanistan is foaming at the mouth like the goodly moderate Mr. Raoulf, I wonder how many are. Also, how many rabid about the guy's death but are instead shrugging their shoulders saying, "That's his problem." No wonder the pseudonym "Ibn Warraq" was devised for apostates of Islam. Even if diplomacy and cool heads in the Afghan government prevail, this guy is royally screwed. I hope for the best for Mr. Rahman. But, if he is killed either by his government or some of his fellow citizens, what will this say? That there are so many calls for his head already speaks volumes to me about Islam but what would his death have to say about Bush's crusade to distribute his deity's gift of liberty to the world? You can lead a horse to water...

Check out Apostates of Islam.
|| Palmer, 6:29 PM || link || (0) comments |

A Couple Videos

Do they taste like chicken?

That's one big goddamn centipede!
|| Palmer, 5:41 PM || link || (0) comments |

R.I.P. - Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem has died.
|| Palmer, 4:54 PM || link || (0) comments |

Madison Government: Paragon of Gender Equality?

If you read this post by fellow Madison blogger, Jenna Pryor. In it she accuses Lisa Subek, another blogging Madisonian of being misandrous. And on what basis does she make this claim? On the post entitled Ma(n)dison which is a laundry list showing the make-up of various city committees by gender. And men are the overwhelming majority. Knowing the lefty views that Ms. Subek holds, it is obvious that she is concerned about the disparity. Yet nowhere does Ms. Subek attempt to explain why there are so many more men than women on the committees nor does she offer a remedy. Still, the mere act of posting such a list to a blog is grounds enough for charges of misandry by Ms. Pryor.

In the comments section of Ms. Pryor's post, there are exchanges on both sides to be found, including ripostes by Ms. Subek. Note that Ms. Pryor does not dispute the statistics that appear in the blog entry. A commenter, Shane, asks: "Why do you think she hates men and how is her post sexist?" At this point, Ms. Pryor just avoids the question at all costs and says: "Shane, if you can't answer those questions yourself by reading her post, then nothing I can say will help you." What kind of nonsense is this? Curiously enough, I had the same exact question as Shane in my mind when I read Ms. Subek's post. What leap of logic is required to extrapolate misandry from a list of statistics?

After Ms. Subek replies quite pointedly, "And to clarify, Jenna, I do not hate men. I am concerned, though, about gender inequity in government, in the workplace, and in society in general...Perhaps you think we've achieved gender equality in this country, or perhaps you think it's unnecessary."

See how Ms. Pryor now builds a straw-man: "Lisa, would forcing Madison committees to include a majority of female members do anything to help your perceived 'gender inequality'"? For her next trick, she makes a declaration with absolutely no proof, as she did in stating that Ms. Subek was misandrous: "No. It would only serve to exacerbate the 'problem.'" Exactly how would the problem be exacerbated? And what problem is she talking about? If you perceive the problem to be that there are not enough women on the committees of city government, then forcing them to include a majority of female members would certainly be one remedy. It is also here that Ms. Pryor does a bit of wishful thinking. Ms. Subek offered no cause nor remedy yet Ms. Pryor either pretends to be a mind reader or makes assumptions about what Ms. Subek thinks. The former notion is ridiculous and the latter is untenable given the post at issue. Again, Ms. Subek makes no claims whatsoever as to a remedy so Ms. Pryor takes it upon herself to just make one up on her behalf.

Ms. Pryor goes on to make a hasty generalization and another unsubstantiated assertion: "Lisa, please open your eyes--Madison, of all places, would not be sexist when choosing members of committees. Most likely, most women have kids, and simply don't have the time to sit on a committee that men do." So, against all odds, the Madison city government has created a mini-utopia at city hall. How nice. And let's see some statistical data about how much time "most women" do or do not have for being on committees.

If you are like Ms. Pryor in being against gender quotas, that's fine. I'm not nor, based on Ms. Subek's post and comments, is she out to crucify you. But to place words in her mouth is ridiculous. Ms. Pryor came across to me as someone trying to head off "typical liberal arguments" at the pass. That is, if a liberal points out a gender disparity, then immediately start attacking quotas. Is it a common tactic amongst conservatives to go after a liberal for a position that he or she hasn't even taken?

I read Ms. Pryor's blog and, though she and I disagree much of the time, she always provided food for thought. But this is just a travesty of logic. I sincerely hope that she doesn't include wishful thinking and hasty generalizations in her papers at school.
|| Palmer, 3:31 PM || link || (0) comments |

Who's Your Daddy?

I want to second Michael Muckian's opinion on the tastiness of the new Who's Your Daddy? Imperial Stout from Tyranena Brewing. As the article states, Who's Your Daddy? is the first installment in brewmaster Rob Larson's Brewers Gone Wild!, series which bills itself as "A Series of Big, Bold, Ballsy Beers". Who's Your Daddy? is an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. I love Imperial stouts and I love bourbon so the combination is almost a no-brainer for me. The luscious malty goodness is complemented by the taste of bourbon. I think that there's just the right amount of bourbon flavor present as any more would have tipped the scales too far. So check the shelves of your local purveyor of beer - bottles are construction yellow so you can't miss them.

Here's the skinny on future releases:

"Who's Your Daddy?" will be replaced this summer by "Bitter Woman from Hell," an Extra India Pale Ale that Larson said is roughly equivalent to the Dogfish Head "90-Minute IPA," the famous, highly hopped beer brewed by the Rehoboth Beach, Del., microbrewery.

In the fall, "Bitter Woman from Hell" will be replaced by "Hop Whore," an Imperial India Pale Ale that will up ramp the hops and alcohol content considerably, producing a beer roughly equivalent to Dogfish Head's "120 Minute IPA." This will be followed in the winter by "Spank Me Baby!," a barley wine-style ale that's 9 percent alcohol.
|| Palmer, 11:57 AM || link || (0) comments |

A Clash of Civilizations?

Sam Harris has a new article out entitled "Killing the Buddha" (PDF) in the March issue of Shambhala Sun. In it, he retreads his call for an end to religious dogma which so bitterly divides much of the world. His purpose here is to aruge that Buddhist philosophy would be better off it were not viewed as a religion.

The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism. even in the West, where scientists and Buddhist contemplatives now collaborate in studying the effects of meditation on the brain, Buddhism remains an utterly parochial concern. While it may be true enough to say (as many Buddhist practitioners allege) that "Buddhism is not a religion," most Buddhists worldwide practice it as such, in many of the naive, petitionary, and superstitious ways in which all religions are practiced. needless to say, all non-Buddhists believe Buddhism to be a religion—and, what is more, they are quite certain that it is the wrong religion.

To talk about "Buddhism," therefore, inevitably imparts a false sense of the Buddha’s teaching to others. So insofar as we maintain a discourse as "Buddhists," we ensure that the wisdom of the Buddha will do little to inform the development of civilization in the twenty-first century.

Harris does a good, if brief, job of distancing Buddhism from religion. I admit near-total ignorance of it. As Harris has it, Buddhism is about meditation and self-transformation & well-being without the need for faith in a supernatural deity.

His dislike of religion aside, he makes a point which often goes unaddressed.

It seems profoundly unlikely that we will heal the divisions in our world simply by multiplying the occasions for interfaith dialogue. The endgame for civilization cannot be mutual tolerance of patent irrationality. All parties to ecumenical religious discourse have agreed to tread lightly over those points where their worldviews would otherwise collide. yet these very points remain perpetual sources of bewilderment and intolerance for their coreligionists. Political correctness simply does not offer an enduring basis for human cooperation.

How far can "mutual tolerance of patent irrationality" takes us? And what does interfaith dialogue really do? Religion has always been a justification for destructive Us vs. Them mentalities. Can a dialogue really change this or is detente the best we can hope for? President Bush and other leaders remind us that our "War on Terror" is not about Islam. Yet there are voices, such as that of apostate from Islam, Salman Rushdie, who tell us that it is about Islam. Riots in Europe, terrorism, calls for the death of an Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity, et al really make me consider whether or not there is a clash of civilizations going on right now. Is it all or mostly governments rattling sabres or is there a deeper divide between Islam and the West?

What are the odds of a Reformation in Islam?
|| Palmer, 10:24 AM || link || (0) comments |

26 March, 2006

Madison's Finicky Filmgoers

With the Wisconsin Film Festival starting in a few days and all the attendant hype, an article by Sean up at Dane 101.com cuts to the bone about the movie-going community here in Madison. In it he says:

The big news is obviously the launching of the Wisconsin Film Fest on Thursday; I have a special announcement about that to make on Monday, but other than that there's no news to report. For the purposes of a segue, though, I wonder how much business the re-release of Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger will do at Hilldale this week as a regular release, vs. the business it would have done as a piece of archival repertory at the festival itself, with all of the attendant publicity. I can imagine a sellout "event" screening in the latter case, whereas in the open marketplace of Madison moviegoers' weekends and evenings, I suspect it might suffer. (The movie's not exactly a crowd-pleaser.)

Absolutely goddamn right. Madison reminds me of Christians who only go to church on Christmas. Most folks here can't be bothered to see foreign or art film but once a year in the spring during the FilmFest. Or so it seems to me. I don't expect the theater at Hilldale to be boasting next week about the thousands of people going to see The Passenger. I'm planning on seeing it within the next couple days and expect a near-empty theater. Just like when I saw Night Watch, Ran, Pulse, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Dreamers, et al here in Madison. And I expect the same to go for Manderlay. Like the rest of the country, Madison loves the big blockbusters. No biggie. And it also loves its lefty advocacy documentaries like Outfoxed and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. But films in a foreign language, those that do not strictly conform to Hollywood's conventions, and older movies hitting the revival circuit seem to be avoided like the plague here. Why is this?

Am I wrong? Obviously, a modicum of such films as above do make their way here. If there was such little demand, one would think that theaters wouldn't show them. So, hands up - who goes to see the occasional foreign film when it makes its way here? Who's going to go see Il conformista (The Conformist) next month?

And when was the last time a commercial theater here featured the oeuvre of a director? How about David Lynch? It's the perfect time for a Lynchian revival. A new print of Blue Velvet is making the rounds and a new "extended" version of Dune is now available on DVD. Plus his next film, Inland Empire, is due later this year. In addition, he's got ties to Madison.

There was an episode of The Simpsons last year which featured this exchange:

Uter: I feel like I'm in Fitzcarraldo.
Nelson: That movie was flawed.

I watched this episode ("On A Clear Day I Can't See My Sister") a few months ago with a group of people and I was only one who laughed at this line. I had a similar experience watching the episode "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" which had this dialogue:

Marge: "You liked Rashomon!"
Homer: "That’s not the way I remember it."

How many Madisonians read the review of Hoodwinked in Isthmus and had absolutely no knowledge of Rashomon? Perhaps a revival festival featuring the films mentioned in The Simpsons? Here's some other ideas for getting finicky Madison filmgoers to try something new:

Films shot in Wisconsin - this could range from the arty in Werner Herzog's Stroszek to the commercial such as The Blues Brothers.

J-Horror - Hollywood has recently remade a spate of contemporary Japanese horror films as well as others from the Orient. The Ring, Dark Water, and The Grudge are all remakes of horror films from the East. And on the horizon are remakes of The Eye, the aforementioned Pulse, and Shutter. Perhaps a theater can show one of the new remakes and also one of the originals that has already been remade.

Plus you can take the above and broaden it to include other foreign films that Hollywood has remade such as Insomnia and Vanilla Sky.

Foreign Blockbusters - There are several films out there that are essentially Hollywood blockbusters but aren't English-language films. For instance, there's Night Watch, La Femme Nikita, and Brotherhood of the Wolf. These are all foreign-language movies that emulate Hollywood action blockbusters. La Femme Nikita was even remade here in the States.

Hell, maybe I'm just pissing into the wind here. There will be some shake-ups with Madison theaters soon. University Square 4 theaters will be closing in August as the mall it resides in is being torn down so a venue will be lost. This will leave the downtown without a full-time cinema. On the other hand, Madison will soon be the first town with a Sundance Cinema.

"The independent culture of Madison makes it a great environment for the Sundance Cinema concept and we look forward to creating together with the local community, an experience that captures that unique nature," said Sundance Group President Robert Redford, in a statement Friday. "I couldn't be more pleased that this location will launch this venture."

On the one hand, I can understand not opening in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. These cities already have multiple venues for art/foreign/indie films. Here in Madison, Redford's venture will essentially have one competitor - Westgate. On the other, I don't see the market that Redford apparently sees. While Madison has a certain reputation that is amenable to Sundance, I just don't see the actual market. But I assume Redford and his financial backers have good reason to believe otherwise.

I wonder how much the paucity of foreign films here can be attributed to the lack of large ethnic minorities. I mean, when I went to see Russian Ark in Chicago a few years ago, not only did the theater have a number of people in the audience on weekday matinee showing, but many of the folks were speaking Russian as they purchased tickets and wandered into the theater. Can you imagine a foreign-language film in Madison attracting a large audience that either speaks no English or another language in addition to it?

There is an ongoing series of lectures about Madison as a cosmopolitan city. I would suggest that we've got a ways to go as far as film goes. Even the most commercial foreign-language films don't seem to make much of an impact here. Aside from Latinos, we don't have any large ethnic minorities to provide a base audience, if you will, for such films. Foreign films had their heyday here in Madison in the late 1960s/early 70s. While Madison's population has grown, the demand for foreign films isn't that great. I think this is the case for multiple reasons, including the fact that there are more entertainment options today. Not only can these films can be rented at video stores, but there's also video games, the Internet, and other ways to occupy one's time that weren't available 30+ years ago. Still, I'm hopeful. We are getting the first Sundance Cinema and the Wisconsin Film Festival consistently does well and offers great programming. By year's end, the cinema landscape here in town will be quite different than it is currently.

On a personal level, I am pleased that I don't feel compelled to trek to Chicago to see as many films as I'm more confident that the more popular arty fair makes its way to Madison, even if for only a week. Still, there are occasions when I must head south. If I want to see an old Lynch or Kubrick film on the big screen, I'm going to ChiTown. If I want to see a foreign film that isn't an attempt at a blockbuster or one that doesn't have a "hook" like Russian Ark, which was a single 90-minute take, I'm again forced to go to Chicago. So we'll just have to wait to find out what Sundance will have to offer us. Plus the increasing Latino population could lead to some regular Spanish language showings. Stay tuned.
|| Palmer, 9:18 PM || link || (4) comments |

24 March, 2006

Action Philosophers!

I recently discovered a new comic book called Action Philosophers!. I bought this issue:

It begins by discussing Freud's theories on how our consciousnesses work and his psychoanalysis. Moving forward, we meet Carl Jung and learn how his disagreements with Freud left their friendship riven in twain. Readers then get the lowdown on Jung's work - all those archetypes'n'such. We are then treated to a look at Jung's influence on Joseph Campbell and the resulting ideas of his on heroes & myth. Good stuff! Plus it's quite humorous. The All-Sex Special and World Dominiation Handbook issues look quite amusing. Their rendition of Machiavelli looks to be classic.
|| Palmer, 2:08 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Judges Have Spoken

I spent this morning much like I do every weekday morning suppin' coffee and catching some CNN. Much to my surprise, there was a short blurb on the 2006 World Championship Cheese Contest which finished yesterday. Since I work across the street from the Convention Center where the contest was held and consider myself an aspiring turophile, I zipped over there yesterday to check out the scene.

A couple co-workers and I ambled over there around noon only to find that the contest had adjourned for lunch. This left us to try free samples! Out in the main area I had a couple chunks of a very tasty mild cheddar infused with lime & chile. Don't be fooled - this cheese wasn't going to make you breathe fire through your ass. It was nice and mild & pleasant with the additional flavors melding well with the creamy cheese goodness. I also had a bit of brie which was unlike any I'd ever tasted previously. When I popped it into my mouth, it was rather like eating cardboard in that it had a very dry, cottonmouthy thing going. Then this sensation gave way to a very sour taste. Finally, after biting in, my tongue was assailed by the rich and exceptionally creamy brie goodness. Now, I'm not sure what part of the tongue registers creaminess but this stuff sent every taste bud involved into ecstasy.

We didn't stick around too long and I decided to come back after 1 when the super-cage match final judging would begin. Walking towards the stairs, I noticed a room nearly devoid of people but bursting with cheese. A judging had been held there and a table was littered with samples of cheeses that didn't make it to the final round.

Oh mama! Just look at those blue veins! Mmmm...blue-veined cheese...mmm...

I went back to work and then headed back over for a brief spell after 1 to catch some of the final judging. The media was out in full force. (Well, not really but I like to think so.)

Beatifully-adorned tables had the contestants on display.

Here's how it went down:

The nice judges in their clean white coats (ha-ha) were to be found gathered 'round a table.

And then one of them would powerlift a big-ass hoolie of cheese above his head so everyone knew which variety was going to be scrutinized.

Judges then greedily start removing a section of the cheese's casing so they can bore core samples for tasting.

Here's a shot of the cheesetaster's toolkit.

All the while a pair of announcers informed the crowd of what was happening.

For instance, they explained that Monterey Jack is an American cheese first made out in Monterey, California by David Jacks. And when the Co-Jack was judged, I learned that "Co-Jack" is a trademarked name like Kleenex and that it's technically a marbled curd cheese. They also noted that Wisconsin was the first state to grade its cheese for quality and this was back in 1921.

Each of the judges would get a sample and then mill around with funny looks on their faces and judging sheets in hand. They took in the texture and flavors of the cheese, often stopping to look at the floor so as to concentrate.

Here's some other sights.

Here comes the provelone!

Now, I think #2814 was made with basil.

People out in the hall had a live feed of the action.

Finally, here's probably the most ginormous wheel of cheese I've ever seen in person.

For a full list of the contest's results, head over to this page. If you just want to check out the medal winners, here ya go. Looking over this list, I'm surprised at how few cheeses from California there are. Were they few in number this year? Or do they just make mediocre cheese? As I mentioned previously, Wisconsin kicked ass in the Unsalted Butter category with Grassland Dairy taking all 3 spots. As for Madison, well, we got one award. The Third Award for Hard Sheep's Milk Cheese went to the Babcock Dairy Plant.

For more information on Wisconsin cheese, head here. Also note that Brennan's Markets carry the winning cheeses. In fact, I think they have some kind of exclusive deal to do so, but don't quote me on that.
|| Palmer, 11:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 7:26 AM || link || (0) comments |

23 March, 2006

A Saturday in Milwaukee

The Dulcinea and I took a wee trek to Milwaukee last weekend. We began the day by heading to the Alterra coffeehouse by the Lake. Alterra is The Dulcinea's favorite roaster so it was like a pilgrimage for her.

The joint was rockin' and we had to hover for a bit before finding a table to sit at and drink our mochas. We sat in the pump room. The joint is located in the Milwaukee River Flushing Station which was built in 1888. And it's still used today to pump water from Lake Michigan into the Milwaukee River. When fully-caffeinated, we zipped over to the Milwaukee Public Museum.

I'd never been to the MPM so I was looking forward to it. And having grown up in Chicago, I was used to various disciplines getting their own museum. There was the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science & Industry. Being a bit smaller, Milwaukee kind of tied everything into one spot. When we walked up the stairs, we were confronted by our past. Not our personal pasts, but our past as homo sapiens.

The large foyer had an exhibit smack dab in the center which had animals that had been stuffed & mounted plus lots of specimen cases.

In addition, there was a funky hoolie that looked like a mega-incense burner from the Orient.

After looking at this prelude, we headed through the geography exhibit. There were dealies about plate tectonics and rocks & minerals.

There was a room decked out to look like a cavern where aspiring spelunkers can learn about stalagmites and stalactites. Being a big fan of Genesis, the song "In the Cage" came to mind. The relevant lyrics are:

Stalactites, stalagmites
Shut me in, lock me tight.

I was specifically thinking of the performance from the Mama Tour Video which featured Phil Collins singing these lyrics with his arms wrapped around himself. With dorkery aside and a modicum of walking from Pangaea, we learned how life arose on our wonderful blue-green planet. From the first cell to life in water to life on land. Of course there were dinosaurs. Life was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short back then. For triceratops, at least.

Moving on to the biology/botany area, we found ourselves in a mock rainforest.

It was an interesting exhibit that did a great service in these times with this bit:

No ID here. We also learned of the wonderful bounty that the rain forests give us. E.g. – tasty spices!

And then there was manna from heaven – the cocoa pod! Oh precious cocoa pod, giver of chocolate!

Moving on, we found ourselves in the entomology section. Many a butterfly sacrificed itself for the exhibit.

We didn't have a lot of time so we ended our time there by traipsing through the European Village. It featured a whole bunch of small houses such as this one:

Each displayed a room or two of typical turn of the century home of a particular ethnic group. Here's an example though I cannot recall which home this is.

We also toured the Streets of Old Milwaukee which was a mock up of a turn of the century street in Milwaukee. After this, we made a hasty exit as we had a three o'clock appointment at Lakefront Brewery.

Walking up the ramp, it was my turn to feel like I was on a pilgrimage. Upon entering, we found that the joint was rockin'.

Five bucks got us a pint glass and four chips good for an 8 ounce pour each. I started with their Snake Chaser Irish stout as it was the day after St. Patrick's Day. Three rolled around and we were herded up and led downstairs by this guy:

He welcomed us and then gave a brief intro to the brewery. I didn't know their output was so small – only 7,000 barrels a year. Our guide also told us that they follow the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) of 1516 meaning that their beer doesn't contain goofy adjuncts so they can make a quick buck. It's water, yeast, barley, and hops. He talked about the roasting of the barley and pointed out their silo full of the precious grain.

The guy was quite funny. He remarked that the Miller tour had a multimedia introduction which involved watching a video. Not wanting to disappoint us, he did his own multimedia presentation with laminated photographs of barley. He also remarked that beer is food and, patting his large gut, said that he ate well. After his intro spiel was over, he marched us around the fermenting tanks as he explained the brewing process.

Although I don't have a picture, three of the tanks were adorned with faces painted on them – of Moe, Larry, and Curly. He explained the difference between lagers and ales and which tanks did what and how. Our tour ended amongst a walls lined with barrels…

…as we saw how the barrels were filled. The gentleman was sure to emphasize the terms "bung" and "bung hole". Their slick new bottling line was also showcased.

The Dulcinea and I had a great time and are eager to tour more breweries. In fact, she was at the New Glarus brewery today and was kind enough to phone me at work to inform me of this fact. She also called this evening to make sure I was aware of her purchase of large quantities of their barley wine. Our trip ended with a stop for dinner. Since we were to be touring a brewery and the trip would mean that I couldn't continue my exploration of German cuisine at home, I'd planned ahead of time to hit one of the several German restaurants in the Milwaukee area. As fate would have it, I chose Kegel's Inn which is at National Ave. and 59th Street. The interior was beautiful. Stained glass, tall wainscoting, and painted walls featuring hunters as well as a monkey knocking over a stein of bier.

The service was great but the food was bad. The chicken soup was made with prison base. The salad was pure iceberg lettuce. (Although the combination of sour cream & blue cheese to dress it was new to me and quite tasty.) I had sauerbraten which was drowned in a gravy that tasted like it came from a package mixed with water. The Dulcinea had rouladen. The beef & pickle filling was good but the gravy on it also tasted like it came out of a bag. I intend to never go there again. Luckily there are other German joints to try next time.

As for the next time, I'm thinking a tour of Sprecher is in order…
|| Palmer, 9:16 PM || link || (0) comments |

"Wisconsin is at the epicenter of a linguistic collision"

Something that the NYT seems to have missed but that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has picked up on is how English is changing. In an article entitled "That Wisconsin accent…or is it an eccent?", readers are forewarned of an impending change in English perhaps akin to the Great Vowel Shift.

Thomas Purnell, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ran to the office of colleague Joseph Salmons.

Excited and out of breath, Purnell managed to say, "You won't believe what I just heard."

Purnell had been walking down a hallway behind a couple of female undergrads who were discussing a party that one had been to but the other had not.

"One of them says to the other, 'Eck-tually, it was ax-cellent,' " Purnell explained.

That snippet of overheard conversation - trivial to the untrained ear - demonstrated the forces of linguistic change bearing down on Wisconsin. The unusual vowel sounds are hallmarks of a change coming at us from the Southeast, the so-called Northern Cities Shift in which "aa" and "eh" sounds are being reversed.

This change, however, is moving head-on toward another vowel change coming from the West, the so-called Low-Back Merger. In this second change, words such as caught are being pronounced increasingly like the word cot.

In other words, Wisconsin is at the epicenter of a linguistic collision.

Prof. Purnell and others are exploring Skonnie English and are holding public forums on the matter. The Milwaukee forum was yesterday while the one in Eau Claire is on the 27th. Folks here in Madtown get the chance to give their input on Saturday, April 1st from 10 a.m.–noon at Union South (227 N. Randall Avenue).

Having grown up in Chicago but also having spent some time up nort, I think my dialect is an odd mish-mash. Although I heard the term "uff-da" as a child, I didn't start using it until my 20s. I sometimes end sentences with "hey" and that is definitely something I picked up here in the Land of Cheese. Still, the word "creek", for me, should be pronounced as it's spelled - no "crick"! And bridges are a certain number of feet across, not "acrosst".

Anyway, while you're waiting for your chance to give the lowdown on Wisconsin English, check out the Wisconsin Englishes podcast.
|| Palmer, 7:54 PM || link || (0) comments |

Beards Making a Comeback

The New York Times has an article today which claims that beards are back in fashion.

At hipster hangouts and within fashion circles, the bearded revolution that began with raffishly trimmed whiskers a year or more ago has evolved into full-fledged Benjamin Harrisons. At New York Fashion Week last month at least a half-dozen designers turned up with furry faces.

"This is some sort of reaction to men who look scrubbed, shaved, plucked and waxed," said the designer Bryan Bradley, who stepped onto the runway after his Tuleh presentation looking like a renegade from the John Bartlett show, at which more than half the models wore beards: untidy ones that scaled a spectrum from wiry to ratty to shabby to fully bushy.

"It's less 'little boy,' " Mr. Bradley said. "For a while men have looked too much like Boy Scouts going off to day camp."

As I told my friend Old Man Standiford, who has had a beard for ages, today "If you wait long enough, even you'll be back in fashion." I'm glad to see the Boy Scout look is falling out of fashion. Films & TV shows featuring such men as big action heroes just seem hokey when you have a guy who looks like a 10 year-old boy running around saving the day.

Perhaps the trend will be ported over to women and this whole Brazilian waxing thing can be laid to rest and with it can go such awful people as Marylin Jaeger who earns her living by going around and making women feel like monsters if they have any pubic hair.
|| Palmer, 6:24 PM || link || (0) comments |

American Life in Poetry: Column 027

In this lovely poem by Angela Shaw, who lives in Pennsylvania, we hear a voice of wise counsel: Let the young go, let them do as they will, and admire their grace and beauty as they pass from us into the future.

Children in a Field

They don’t wade in so much as they are taken.
Deep in the day, in the deep of the field,
every current in the grasses whispers hurry
hurry, every yellow spreads its perfume
like a rumor, impelling them further on.
It is the way of girls. It is the sway
of their dresses in the summer trance-
light, their bare calves already far-gone
in green. What songs will they follow?
Whatever the wood warbles, whatever storm
or harm the border promises, whatever
calm. Let them go. Let them go traceless
through the high grass and into the willow-
blur, traceless across the lean blue glint
of the river, to the long dark bodies
of the conifers, and over the welcoming
threshold of nightfall.

Reprinted from “Poetry,” September, 2004, Vol. 184, No. 5, by permission of the author. Poem copyright © 2004 by Angela Shaw. 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, 5:35 PM || link || (0) comments |

22 March, 2006

Common Council Vendetta Against Big Tobacco Takes a Step Back

The Madison Common Council finally stepped down from the pulpit yesterday and passed some exceptions to the draconian anti-smoking laws.

In a debate Tuesday that ranged from stogies to spittoons, the Madison City Council voted 12-8 to allow cigar and pipe smoking in cigar bars and smokeless tobacco in public places.

The exemption would allow cigar- and pipe-smoking in "tobacco bars," defined as bars that get 10 percent or more of their income from on-site sales of non-cigarette tobacco products. The only current bar that would qualify is Maduro, 117 E. Main St., in Verveer's district.

While I'm against the ban in taverns, I was especially incensed by the ban on smokeless tobacco and the fact that tobacco bars were not exempted. These aspects of the law showed that the ulterior motive behind the it was actually government-sponsored behavior modificiation and that the law wasn't a pure act of altruism towards bartenders, the majority of whom, see favor smoking in taverns. That the Common Council justified the prohibition of smokeless tobacco products in taverns by saying that their use constitutes a health risk to servers was just positively Orwellian. And failing to provide an exemption for tobacco or cigar bars was merely an act of contempt on the part of the City Council for these types of establishments. It was about the government deciding that it did not like a particular kind of business and ratifying a law which would, for all intents and purposes, ensure the closure of such businesses in the city and the prevention of them opening in the future.

Ald. Judy Compton took issue with the allowance of the use of chewing tobacco and said:

"I'm picturing a little inebriated (person) with a stubbed toe kicking a spittoon by accident and all that sloshing over it into an open wound," Compton said. She added that a giant bucket of spit could be considered a greater hazard than tobacco smoke.

Does anyone have access to Nexus/Lexus? Can someone scan the medical literature and find an example of chew spit spilling into an open wound and bringing dire consequences? Is this a new concern or was it taken into consideration when the tobacco ban was passed? I'm thinking that the new law isn't going to increase the use of chewing tobacco in taverns far beyond what it was prior to the ban. Were spitoons considered a hazard before? I think the city ought to open a multi-million dollar investigation into the potential armageddon we face here with the possibility of tobacco-laden saliva entering a papercut. I demand to know the effects of infection via fine cut vs. long cut. Does Copenhagen pose a greater risk than Skoal?

Here's a quote from Ald. Brian Benford:

"I believe that when you look at the health issues, yes, there are those dangers, but overall in our attempt to stop big tobacco, we’ve hurt small businesses. I don’t want to hurt this small business.”

I feel stupid now because I missed the whole thing about the Common Council's mission to stop big tobacco in the last election. Is this what we elect alderpeople for? To go after big tobacco? You see, the ban wasn't merely in aid of bartenders, it was about exacting revenge on an industry. What industry will the Common Council set its sites on next?
|| Palmer, 12:59 PM || link || (0) comments |

2006 Cheese Championships

We are in media res of the 2006 World Championship Cheese Contest! The three-day competition ends Thursday and you can catch live video of the championship round tomorrow at 1PM CST.

As you can see above, cheesemakers don't mess around.

In the meantime, you can check out the contest results in real time.

OK, the Dutch may have edged us out in the gouda category but we are kicking ass when it comes to unsalted butter! There's some stiff competition in the Blue-Veined Cheese round. I'm rooting for Swiss Valley Farms. Here's my assessment:

SVF must show a lot of poise and curdle as one cohesive unit. I'm sure they are taking things one contest at a time and letting the rennet fall where it may. A lot of people doubted them so they're probably competing with a chip on their shoulder.
|| Palmer, 10:15 AM || link || (0) comments |

Republican Disenchantment

Kevin Phillips used to be a Republican but now identifies himself as an independent. His latest book is American Theocracy and the Gray Lady has a review. In it, the former Nixon strategist decries the Republican party that emerged out of the late 1980s. He focuses on three issues:

One is the role of oil in defining and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating.

Check out the review for more and then listen to Phillips explain himself over at Democracy Now.

Phillips readily admits that there is little in his book that is new & original. Instead he has compiled a littany of pre-existing complaints to explain why he didn't leave the Republican party, but that it left him. Thusly, the most interesting part of his interview on DN!, for me, was when he described the views of fellow conservatives at Republican social gatherings. He recounts how many Repubs expressed dismay over the current administration and the state of their party. When the program was over, I felt more hopeful that the Republican candidate in '08 might be someone who doesn't view the world in strictly black & white terms and someone who will not feel beholden to zealots determined to rid science classes of science. Perhaps this could inspire the Dems to field a candidate who won't spend an entire campaign trying to wrap him or herself in the flag and saying, "Look! I'm religious too!"
|| Palmer, 9:57 AM || link || (0) comments |

The Atheist Vision

A recent study shows that we atheists are not well-liked:

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. "Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years," says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

Jinkies! What's up with people? I mean, we atheists are a small minority of the population. This means that the majority of lawyers and politicians are religious and everyone hates lawyers & politicians. When a scandal breaks in Washington, it's Christians that are found doing wrong. You think the Supreme Court is getting all activist and defying "traditional values" - well, there's no godless justices on the SCOTUS. Yet it's we atheists that most folks find to be lower than snake pussy.

"Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good."

You never hear these folks bitching about the godless scientists who contribute to the common good with their vaccines and medicines. And self-interest? Isn't the basis of capitalism that Christian folk act based on their self-interest? You know, good Christians go buy a bunch of cheap products from China at Wal-Mart and then go home to sit in front of their Japanese TV while wearing their clothes made in Mexico or the Pacific Rim and bitch about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs here in the States? Is this not the Yahweh-approved American way?

I hope that you religious folk here in America realize that we atheists are your fellow citizens. We are your co-workers; we are your neighbors. Atheists pay their taxes, love their children, and basically lead lives very similar to yours except we don't go to church on Sundays. I think that we atheists have a very similar vision of America to that of religious people. We value justice & fairness. Our hearts went out to the people of the American South in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We don't get off on watching people suffer. (Nor do we go around saying that victims of natural disasters got what they deserved.) While there are differences on how to achieve the goal, atheist- and religious Americans have very similiar visions for our country.
|| Palmer, 6:30 AM || link || (0) comments |

Word of the Week

While it's now spring, it's still a bit nippy outside.

algid (al'-jid) adj. chilly, cold
|| Palmer, 5:51 AM || link || (0) comments |

21 March, 2006

Whitey, Please

Adele Ferguson proclaims that slavery was a good thing in a recent column.

= Yahweh's love & mercy.

Ferguson ponders, "It mystifies me why the black population remains in thrall to the Democratic Party." Well, maybe this is perhaps because only Republicans make the claim today that slavery was a good thing and was all a part of some grand subterfuge on the part of Yahweh in which he took those stupid black folk and shipped 'em over to the whiteys who could civilize them. If Ferguson's deity can create a universe in a day, you'd think he could just move them over to these shores with less thought than it takes for us to breathe. But no. Mr. G. Oddie instead has to have them shipped over in boats which led to deaths of many of them. Those lucky enough to live were denied freedom and placed into slavery. And do you know what was used to justify slavery? Let's all try to guess what book was used to justify treating human beings like cattle, to deny them their freedom, to force them into labor for whitey, to beat them, separate parents and children...? Yes, it was the Bible!

"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis

So it was all a ploy on behalf of blacks! All the pain and misery and cruelty was just Yahweh's love. So did Lincoln foil God's loving plan or should black Americans just be thankful for slavery?

Religious nutcases don't always explode IEDs or behead folks with machetes. No, some are more benign in appearance, like Adele Ferguson. Her argument that the cruelty & inhumanity of slavery is just an example of God's love is absolutely ridiculous. It also illustrates very well that religion has an evil side. An evil side that doesn't just appear when bombs go off. It manifests itself in seemingly calm, civilized people like Ferguson who use their religion as an excuse to turn a blind eye to reality and to ignore problems.
|| Palmer, 2:59 PM || link || (0) comments |