Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 July, 2007

On the Gramophone

Last week at my podcast I got all retro and featured Music of the Baroque.

|| Palmer, 8:58 PM || link || (0) comments |

R.I.P. - Michelangelo Antonioni

What's with all these great directors dying lately? First it was Ingmar Bergman and now I find that Michelangelo Antonioni has also passed away. Well, he was 94 so it's not like he died young. Instead he had a long, fruitful career. The last film of his I saw was The Passenger. RIP
|| Palmer, 8:50 PM || link || (0) comments |

Older Brothers Are Evil

My birthday was last week and The Dulcinea made me a cake.

It was a pecan bourbon pound cake with the emphasis on the bourbon. I think I got a buzz eating a piece. Here's how it was served - with bourbon-infused whipped cream which had freshly grated nutmeg.

I went down to Chicago over the weekend to celebrate my birthday as well as my mother's and grandmother's which are this week. My grandma had been in the hospital but out and looking well. She'll be 92 tomorrow. We had dinner at What's Cooking over on Lincoln Avenue. My reuben was quite tasty. Afterwards my brother and I headed over to Border's Books. We'd been talking about books earlier and Harry Potter had come up. I enjoy HP whereas my brother does not. No biggie. To each his own. We walk in and find that there's a HP display right by the door. And so my brother proceeds to pick up a copy and read the last line to me. Older brothers (and siblings generally) are just plain evil.
|| Palmer, 8:39 PM || link || (0) comments |

30 July, 2007

R.I.P. - Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman has died.
|| Palmer, 8:57 AM || link || (0) comments |

Blade Runner - The Final Cut

The "final" cut of Blade Runner is due on DVD on the 18th of December, according to Amazon. While this final cut looks to be the unkindest to your wallet, it is 5 DVDs worth of replicanty goodness of one of my favorite films. It will no doubt piss off a lot of critics whom are adverse to revisionism, many of whom were angry at the release of the director's cut in 1992. While I don't want to dismiss their criticisms out of hand, I am generally in favor of director's cuts. Yeah, not all films warrant a DC. I mean, Zardoz just cannot be salvaged. And there are DCs where 2 seconds of an actress' breast are inserted and the whole premise is reduced to a mere marketing tool. But I prefer the DC of BR and feel that it generally rectified an instance of commerce triumphing over art. With this final cut, the film has supposedly been given a great transfer. While you may not be inclined towards multiple versions of the movie, these sets generally give you great transfers. Even if you don't care for Apocalypse Now Redux, it's creation spurred a restoration of the film so you can see the cinematography as it was meant to be. Previous transfers looked like they were made from copies that had been stored at the bottom of a swamp but Redux let Vittorio Storaro's photography loose and seeing his color palette as he meant it to be seen made it a whole different film.

My only gripe with DCs is when the theatrical release goes out of print. Critics have a very good point when they say that replacing the original version with a DC and storing the former away in a vault is wrong. It is still a cultural artifact and the one that many people saw in theatres so you're kind of changing history by relegating it to storage. Luckily, the BR set contains the theatrical version in addition to subsequent re-cuttings.

Disc One
Restored and remastered with added & extended scenes, added lines, new and cleaner special effects and all new 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Also includes:

Commentary by Ridley Scott
Commentary by executive producer/co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher and co-screenwriter David Peoples; producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine Haber
Commentary by visual futurist Syd Mead; production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer

Disc Two
A feature-length authoritative documentary revealing all the elements that shaped this hugely influential cinema landmark. Cast, crew, critics and colleagues give a behind-the-scenes, in-depth look at the film -- from its literary roots and inception through casting, production, visuals and special effects to its controversial legacy and place in Hollywood history.

Disc Three
This is the version that introduced U.S. movie-going audiences to a revolutionary film with a new and excitingly provocative vision of the near-future. It contains Deckard/Harrison Ford's character narration and has Deckard and Rachel's (Sean Young) "happy ending" escape scene.

Also used on U.S. home video, laserdisc and cable releases up to 1992. This version is not rated, and contains some extended action scenes in contrast to the Theatrical Version.

The Director's Cut omits Deckard's voiceover narration and removes the "happy ending" finale. It adds the famously-controversial "unicorn" sequence, a vision that Deckard has which suggests that he, too, may be a replicant.

Disc Four

BONUS DISC - "Enhancement Archive": 90 minutes of deleted footage and rare or never-before-seen items in featurettes and galleries that cover the film's amazing history, production teams, special effects, impact on society, promotional trailers, TV spots, and much more.

Featurette "The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick"
Featurette "Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. The Film"
Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews (audio)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover Gallery (images)
The Art of Blade Runner (image galleries)
Featurette "Signs of the Times: Graphic Design"
Featurette "Fashion Forward: Wardrobe & Styling"
Screen Tests: Rachel & Pris
Featurette "The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth"
Unit photography gallery
Deleted and alternate scenes
1982 promotional featurettes
Trailers and TV spots
Featurette "Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art"
Marketing and merchandise gallery (images)
Featurette "Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard"
Featurette "--Nexus Generation: Fans & Filmmakers"

Disc Five
This rare version of the film is considered by some to be the most radically different of all the Blade Runner cuts. It includes an altered opening scene, no Deckard narration until the final scenes, no "unicorn" sequence, no Deckard/Rachel "happy ending," altered lines between Batty (Rutger Hauer) and his creator Tyrell (Joe Turkell), alternate music and much more. Also includes:

Commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner
Featurette "All Our Variant Futures: From Workprint to Final Cut"

There's also a trailer for it on YouTube. It contains the previously unseen footage of the dancers who are wearing hockey masks.

|| Palmer, 8:54 AM || link || (0) comments |

New DHARMA Orientation Film

The drive to season 4 is underway!

|| Palmer, 8:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

27 July, 2007

Friday Skin

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Christ v. Darwin

The Dulcinea found this:

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"Witness the artistic and creative exchange"

Witness the artistic and creative exchange between emerging and established local artists as Madison-area artists come together.

I saw these works in Gallery III at the Overture Center yesterday evening. They really didn't appeal to me all that much though I did enjoy the bottom of the trio here. Something about the juxtaposition of the black against the bright border.
|| Palmer, 11:37 AM || link || (0) comments |


|| Palmer, 10:28 AM || link || (2) comments |

Pizza Napoletana

The Dulcinea relayed to me her refusal to cook dinner yesterday afternoon and, since we were going to head downtown for the evening, she suggested we hit one of the many dining establishments there. Her first suggestion was sheer mockery as it was Ian's Pizza about whom I've written before and which is also the object of one of my many boycotts. Instead we went to Café Porta Alba which serves authentic pizza Napoletana. By this I mean that it has been certified to do so.

The restaurant's interior is new & shiny yet has a relatively homey atmosphere with all the wooden tables & chairs plus a fireplace. And the comforting orange glow of the oven adds to the comfy feelings.

Our server was a tall thin woman with an olive complexion who actually looked Italian. She was casual, friendly, and knowledgeable. We began our meal with caprese which is a series of tomato slices alternating with those of fresh mozzarella cheese laid out all pretty in a row. They are given the olive oil-balsamic vinegar treatment and garnished with fresh basil.

The flavorful simplicity of it was not betrayed by the price of $7.50. Don't get me wrong, Café Porta Alba is not an extremely expensive restaurant but neither is it cheap. But I suppose one must pay for good quality ingredients. As for the pizza, we went with the Margherita con Prosciutto.

This was my first time eating pizza Napoletana and I was impressed. The crust was nano-thin and, biting into the thick, chewy edge, a bit on the salty side which worked well with the sauce which was unseasoned. Fresh, unadulterated tomatoes are always good and our meal was full of them. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of mostly unassuming ingredients which were allowed to stand on their own rather than having things seasoned and thrown together. The rich, smoky flavor of the prosciutto provided a nice contrast to the sprightly tomato sauce. I should mention that the pie was 10-12" in diameter and can easily be a meal for one person, although The Dulcinea and I split ours.

For dessert, we indulged ourselves with tiramisu.

The dish was certainly rich and not sickeningly sweet, but I thought that it was perhaps a bit too mellow. It could have used a bit more espresso as I like my tiramisu to have a strong rather nutty flavor from the cocoa and coffee that is balanced by the custard. Still, it was tasty.

Lastly I'll mention that I had a Caffe Frappe which was excellent. It is a sweet iced coffee with a foamy head that is as thick as molasses.

|| Palmer, 10:25 AM || link || (0) comments |

26 July, 2007

Waxing America - Apply Directly to the Blog!

If you want to take your blogging from an amateurish enterprise (such as the one you're reading) to professional heights, then mark Tuesday, 30 October on your calendar. On that day you'll be able to take a course called "Blogging for professionals in politics, media, business and education". OK, it's more of a seminar but for $150 you can have former Madison mayor Paul Soglin and UW prof Barry Orton help you transform your blog into a shiny and professional machine. (Soglin and Orton are behind Waxing America.) Also on-hand will be several special guests, many of whom will be familiar to even casual denizens of the Madison blogosphere.
|| Palmer, 1:36 PM || link || (0) comments |

25 July, 2007

No Progress on Senate Bill 224

Some news on the continuing saga over the Brewpub Tourism Development Act. From Rob Larson of Tyranena Brewing:

A meeting was held at the State Capitol on Monday to "negotiate" a deal on SB 224, the so-called "Brewpub Tourism Development Act." As you know, this bill would adversely affect the future of small breweries in Wisconsin by limiting their opportunities for growth and success. The Wisconsin Beer Wholesalers were inflexible and unwilling to compromise... preventing a resolution that would permit the Great Dane from serving their own beer at their Hilldale location.

The Wisconsin Beer Wholesalers Association seems intent to limit opportunities for small breweries and we will likely be asking for your help again in preserving Wisconsin's rich brewing heritage and future by contacting your legislators.

I suppose I shouldn't add that the Great Dane was unwilling to compromise with the Wisconsin Brewers Guild either, so this headline could have easily read: "Great Dane Prevents Great Dane From Serving Own Beer At The Great Dane Hilldale Location," but that just sounded a little odd. Another dirty little secret that no one has talked about... if the Great Dane did not distribute their beer all over Madison and Dane County they would fall under 4,000 barrels per year and be able to serve their own beer at the Hilldale location... but I suppose that isn't mentioned as the headlines and story and the resulting urgency wouldn't be as compelling.

I should also note that despite these few paragraphs that might be deemed as overly critical of The Great Dane, I do like going there... still like their beer... and still think that the laws in the state preventing them from serving their own beer at Hilldale, despite producing over 4,000 barrels per year, are ludicrous and should be changed. But, of course, not in a way that adversely affects the industry. Politics, gotta love it... or contribute enough money to get your voice heard.
|| Palmer, 11:44 AM || link || (0) comments |

I <3 Jada's

While the plan had been to head over to Inka Heritage for dinner yesterday evening, The Dulcinea and I ended up cruising a bit farther down Park Street and ended up dining at Jada's Soul Food. We'd had their ribs at the Madison Blues Picnic but now was the time to sample the rest of the menu. We walked in and found that the place empty. Gospel music echoed through the room while the aromas of Southern cooking hung thick in the air. The place was much larger than I thought it would be considering Jada's is a take-out joint. There were four large tables – much more seating than I had supposed. Along the walls were a couple dart boards, a jukebox, and a couple arcade games. Two gents were at the counter (one of whom I believe to have been co-owner Jackie Clash) who proved to be extremely friendly and very patient as we took our sweet time deciding what to order. With a puddle of drool at our feet came the realization that ordering everything on the menu would be impractical. The D went with the catfish dinner and got the collard greens and yams while I had the fried chicken (dark meat, of course) accompanied by potato salad and mac & cheese.

We grabbed seats and awaited the arrival of the food which was about 15 minutes. My chicken was quite tasty. The batter coating was thin and lightly spiced. Every order comes with hot sauce and I made good use of it. I love potato salad in any incarnation and Jada's was excellent. I detected good, spicy mustard overtones which is almost mandatory for my spud salads. The mac & cheese was also good with a rich, creamy sauce that couldn't have come from a box. I was also pleased with the corn bread in that it wasn't too sweet.

As you can imagine, I sampled The Dulcinea's dinner as well. The collard greens were fantastic have a good dose of spice and, if memory serves, garlic. I normally put vinegar on greens but, even had I had any, they didn't need it and it probably would have done them more harm than good. They were just that tasty. The yams were similarly delicious with just the right amount of clove and perhaps a bit of nutmeg. (I am kicking myself for not having brought a camera nor anything to write with. Hopefully my memory is accurate here.) Lastly, I also want to heap praise on the catfish with its spicy corn meal breading. Pepper was the predominant flavor on the crispy outside and it gave the tender inside a wee bit of zing. Plus it wasn't too greasy.

As we ate a couple folks wandered in and, overhearing one of their orders, we realized that we'd forgotten to get fried okra. The horror…the horror…Next time. Also, one of the guys from behind the counter stopped by our table to ask if everything was OK. We both absolutely loved our dinners and The D had to hold back tears as it brought back many memories of her family down in Montgomery, Alabama. She has an aunt down there who runs a diner and Jada's collard greens reminded her of her aunt's. Before we left, she went back up to the counter and told the gentleman how good the food was and how it had brought back the smells and tastes of her aunt's cooking down South. For my part, it reminded me of the times I've spent in the South. The only thing missing was silos of Natural Light.

We had gotten dessert but waited until we got home to eat it.

That's banana pudding and lemon cake. The corner bit of the cake that's missing got a bit of collard greens juice on it so it was disposed of. The cake was moist and flavorful. Jada's is famous for their pudding which is a big, tasty mess of bananas and caramelized goo.

The bananas weren't quite ripe, though, and the prize has to go to The Dulcinea's banana pudding which she made earlier this week with nice, ripe fruit.

Despite this minor quibble, Jada's food was excellent and the folks very friendly. The Dulcinea and I will definitely be going back. Indeed, driving down Park Street, we were reminded just how wonderful the area is. I felt bad for not having been to 20th Century Books since it moved to the south side from the Square. Most of the attention is directed downtown as that's where all the money is and it's our city's face for tourists. But Park Street and its environs can perhaps give us a clue as to what's happening beyond Madison's white middle-class exterior. Jada's didn’t have Isthmus or POST lying around, it had Voices, the Allied Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood paper, Asian Wisconzine, and The Capital City Hues. Driving down Park I noticed that Madison now has what is, to the best of my knowledge, its first Spanish language radio station, WLMV 1480 AM plus various Latino businesses.

The times they are a-changin'.
|| Palmer, 11:28 AM || link || (1) comments |

24 July, 2007

Spoiler Alert!

From The Dulcinea:

And found at Pharyngula:

|| Palmer, 1:50 PM || link || (0) comments |

"The real world will never be like Wisconsin"

Salon has a look at Russ Feingold today as well as the new book about him, Feingold: A New Democratic Party, which sounds like it's nothing more than hagiography. Edward McClelland wrote the piece for Salon and I think he does a decent enough job of portraying Feingold but his comments on our state, of which he says, "The real world will never be like Wisconsin", are off-base.

Wisconsin is very much in the real world. We voted to ban gay marriage - a bit more than a simple nod to real-world homophobia and bigotry. Mr. McClelland might want to go check out some of the real-world problems in Milwaukee or real-world racism & poverty up north on our Indian Reservations. Clean government isn't a big issue here - property taxes are. Plus there's teacher bashing, anti-Hmong sentiment, and folks who vote based on a candidate's views on gun control. And we've got lobbyists in our state capitol too. The spirit of Bob La Follette and clean government is long gone. There's corruption and politicos who fancy themselves "vindicative potentates".

Just like the real world.
|| Palmer, 12:02 PM || link || (0) comments |

Boycotting Maxwell Street Days

The weekend was fleeting but I had fun. I managed to continue my boycott of Maxwell Street Days. Being from Chicago, I find it offensive that the once-a-year sale draws on the reputation of the venerable weekly bazaar of the Windy City. (Admittedly, the Maxwell Street Market was irrevocably changed in 1994 due to gentrification.) The Daily Page has a piece by Kristian Knutsen about how Maxwell Street Days has changed over the years. Still, Maxwell Street Days never could and never will have anything near the flavor of the Maxwell Street Market. The sights of hordes of white folks flashing American expressions so they can be urban outfitted is anathema to the whole ideal of the MSM. The MSM was about folks of all races & ethnicities getting together. It served as an incubator for the early Chicago blues scene and eventually saw one of my favorites, Hound Dog Taylor, playing there. Carl Sandburg immortalized the street in Fish Crier. The MSM wasn't about chains and people who could afford to rent a storefront on a city's most well-known street putting stuff outside, it was about people who couldn't afford stores. Where are all the hubcaps and butterfly knives that I saw for sale as a kid in Chicago? Where are all the people of color and average Janes and Joes who made the MSM not only a commercial enterprise, but also a folk culture gathering?

Go co-opt some other market's name and not one that helped define Chicago. Better yet, come up with something original. State Street Days or The Big Sale (The BS).
|| Palmer, 9:11 AM || link || (0) comments |

23 July, 2007

Diet Soda = Heart Disease?

Dear Nick Rhoads,

Now that diet soda is linked to cardiac problems, why don't you start calling for a ban? I want to hear your bloviations about aspartame being a pollutant, how big corporations are poisoning our food supply, and on and on and on.

And whad'ya know? Smoking reduces your risk for Parkinson's.
|| Palmer, 5:27 PM || link || (0) comments |

Feingold and I Are on the Outs

Here I am reading a transcript of this past Sunday's Meet the Press and I find that Russ Feingold was a guest. As far as I'm concerned, host Tim Russert has no spine as I don't think he's ever done anything more than whine in order to get an answer to a tough question. Well the whole spineless thing must have rubbed off on Feingold because he's turned into a wimp:

I think that they have committed impeachable offenses with regard to this terrorist surveillance program and making up their own program. What I am proposing is a moderate course, not tying up the Senate and the House with an impeachment trial, but simply passing resolutions that make sure that the historical record shows the way they have weakened our country, weakened our country militarily and against al-Qaeda, and weakened our country’s fundamental document, the Constitution. I think that’s a reasonable course and does not get in the way of our normal work. But the American people are outraged at the way they’ve been treated. They are outraged at the dishonesty that they have been subjected to. The American people—we deserve better than the way we’ve been treated, and somehow this has to be reflected.

What the fuck is this?! They have committed impeachable offenses so we'll just sit around and keep a fucking tally. Great, just great. You jokers in the Senate have been sitting around watching the Bush administration's impeachable offenses pile up for 6 years and this is the best you can come up with? Bush & Co. have surely done more than their fair share to weaken our Constitution but so has Congress by sitting around watching Dubya thumb his nose at our founding document while you folks sit there and cower. Impeaching a president *is* part of your normal work - it's in your fucking job description! The Founding Fathers told Congress that they had the power to impeach before they enumerated the powers of the president. You clowns are in Article I! Checks and Balances ring a bell?! IT IS YOUR JOB TO IMPEACH A PRESIDENT WHEN HE COMMITS IMPEACHABLE OFFENSES.

I just want to put Feingold in a head lock and give him noogies while saying, "Hello?! McFly!" I'm sorry Mr. Feingold but if you don't think enough of our Constitution to do anything to protect it and instead just want to sit around keeping an official US Gov't tally, then you're just Wisconsin's Nero. How many books does John Dean need to write about Bush's secrecy? How many of Bush's underlings need to spurn subpoenas or show up and say they've sworn an oath to serve the President? How much more wiretapping, torture, and war? How many times does John Nichols need to invoke the words of James Madison and point out that the Founding Fathers foresaw a person like Dubya and included a plan to deal with him and his ilk? Hanging out and keeping lists sends a message to the next George Bush wannabe: go ahead and trample on the Constitution because Congress won't do anything about it.

Mr. Feingold: Exactly how weak must the Constitution become before you'll stand up for it and against the Executive by advocating impeachment? I am sorely disappointed that you feel that doing your Constitutional duty of checking power is "tying" you folks up.
|| Palmer, 5:10 PM || link || (4) comments |

Hitchens Comes to Town

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's annual convention is this October and they've announced that Christopher Hitchens will be in attendance. I must remember to get my check in for registration. Last time I went to one, I met Steven Pinker and heard several good speakers. Hitchens is the big name and I know what he's going to say because he's all over the media promoting his book. Perhaps I'll meet him outside having a square and chat. The person I am hoping to hear speak is Matthew LaClair. He is but a teenager yet he stood up against proselytizing in his school. The kid's got guts and it's nice to see younger godless folk standing up.
|| Palmer, 8:21 AM || link || (2) comments |

20 July, 2007

Can I Put You on Hold? I've got Zork on the Other Line

A guy named Simon Ditner has ported the classic text adventure, Zork, not to a game console but to the phone:

The crazy thing Ditner wanted to do was play Zork over the telephone.

Zork is a text-based adventure game that debuted in the late 1970s. It became a popular series in the early 1980s with versions for the IBM PC, Apple II and Commodore 64 systems. Ditner tried to take that game and make it playable over the phone using only your voice.

His effort is called Zoip (a hybrid of Zork VoIP). In order to build his phone-based game system, Ditner started with a stock Asterisk installation and then added a number of items to do speech recognition and text to speech.

In the game, the Zoip system reads out a Zork description using the Festival text-to-speech engine. For instance: "This is a small room with passages to the east & south. Bloodstains & deep scratches mar the walls."

What is a grue?
|| Palmer, 2:05 PM || link || (0) comments |

Oh Peri, So Very

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Back in the Village (of Fitchburg)

(Photo by Mike DeVries.)

I am not a shopper!
I'm a free man!
|| Palmer, 12:22 PM || link || (1) comments |

Deathly Hallows Immanent

With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows due in a bit over half a day, HP mania has been running wild for days with a copy leaked onto the Net. Well, tonight there will once again be Harry Potter release parties as there were in 2005 upon the release of Half-Blood Prince.

Both Borders in town will be whooping it up starting at 9:30 tonight with the Great Snape Debate and the Potter Spelling Bee.

Those wishing to support a local bookseller and engage is less hype should head over to A Room of One's Own which is having its own release party.

And when your kids are done reading it and ready to discuss it, have them check out one of the HP discussion groups that will be happening in the coming weeks.
|| Palmer, 10:36 AM || link || (0) comments |

18 July, 2007

X-Files to Return & Interview w/Captain Jack

The Beeb is reporting that there is a new X-Files movie on the way. Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are on board.

Also in the sci-fi realm and of interest to Torchwood & Doctor Who fans is this interview with John Barrowman who plays Captain Jack. It covers a lot of ground including Jack's omnisexuality (and the fact that Barrowman is gay) and that he grew up in Aurora and Joliet, Illinois. Just like me, he spent his youth watching Doctor Who on channel 11, the PBS affiliate in Chicago:

“PBS played a huge part in my growing up [in the U.S.]. It was the only station that showed BBC programming at the time. Those Sunday night blocks -- It was ‘Dave Allen at Large,’ ‘The Two Ronnies,’ ‘Monty Python,’ then you had Doctor Who...

Monty Python was on at 10 and then Dave Allen or Two Ronnies at 10:30 and then Doctor Who at 11. I was so happy to become a pubescent because that meant I was finally old enough for my parents to allow me to stay up late, especially on a school night.

Barrowman also talks about the upcoming season of Torchwood which will guest star James Marsters who played Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Here’s what he had to say about Marsters’ second-season guest spot: “There’s a scene between he and Jack when they first meet, all I’ll say is, this scene is so hot, so horny, so violent, that all the fans who watch it are going to [er, appreciate it greatly].”

For any American viewers who haven't seen Torchwood yet, it will begin airing on BBC America on 8 September. Unfortunately, the episodes will be cut for time and content so I recommend downloading the program instead.
|| Palmer, 8:03 AM || link || (0) comments |

Mmm...Cerne Abbas Giant Donut...

Pagan types in the UK are having a cow over the latest representation of Homer Simpson. Biodegradable paint was used to create a Cerne Abbas Giant Homer right nest to the original Cerne Abbas Giant.

Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: “It’s very disrespectful and not at all aesthetically pleasing.

“We were hoping for some dry weather but I think I have changed my mind. We’ll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away.”

Ah, yes - rain magic. Works every time.
|| Palmer, 7:47 AM || link || (0) comments |

17 July, 2007

I Should Be a Lobbyist

A funny thing happened over the weekend. The Dulcinea and I were moving a sewing table from her garage out to the curb when who should drop by to investigate free stuff? It was none other than state senator Mark Miller and his wife. OK, I lied. It was technically his wife followed by the senator from Monona. I availed myself of this opportunity for democracy and ran inside, grabbed my bottle of New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat (a highly tasty beer), and ran back out saying, "Save our microbrewers!" After voicing my opposition to the Brewpub Tourism Development Act, he asked why and I explained myself and related some of the proceedings at the hearing last Wednesday. He is a sponsor of the bill yet had no idea about the provisions that would limit the expansion of various microbrewers. When I mentioned the distributors, he got a slightly flustered looking on his face and said, "Yeah, they got something put into the Democrat's version of the state budget too."

In retrospect, I feel sorry for Miller. I mean, he and his wife – very nice folks the both of them - were out running errands and then suddenly he finds himself accosted by a big fat sweaty guy angrily wielding a bottle of hefe weizen. But I suppose that's the kind of thing you've gotta put up with when you're an elected representative in Wisconsin. Another lesson is that the microbrewers of this state have a lot of PR work to do to get people, both elected officials and citizens, to understand that the BTDA does more than allow the Great Dane to start brewing at their Hilldale location.
|| Palmer, 8:17 AM || link || (2) comments |

16 July, 2007

I Hate Moving But At Least I Get to Eat Well

The move is over.

The Dulcinea's house is now sold after a weekend of scurrying to get her moved out. I learned a good lesson and it's that she and I are diametrically opposed when it comes to packing. She packs like old people fuck whereas I'm of the mindset of "get 'er done". Throw crap in a box and move on. Thankfully it's all done and she's going to hire Two Men (Neither of Whom are Named Palmer) and a Truck to move her stuff out of storage when she finds a place.

We paused for dinner on Saturday night at Papa Bear's BBQ over on Cottage Grove Road. It blows Famous Dave's and Smokey Bones out of the water and, from what I've tasted, ranks right up there with Madison's best, Smoky Jon's and Jada's. I had the smoked pork while The Dulcinea had rib tips. The pork was sliced thin and was very tender. Compared to Smoky Jon's, Papa Bear's meat had a sharper smoke flavor. The sauce was quite tasty as well and was less sweet than a lot of joints. Complimented the flavor of the meat well. My sides were corn on the cob and garlic roasted potato wedges. The corn was mushy, unfortunately, but the spuds were quite good. Just the right amount of garlic on them and, when dipped in the sauce, they made for a, well, not a symphony of flavor, but a chamber orchestra, at least. The restaurant itself was unremarkable in its décor but it's par for BBQ joints. We were the only folks there so service was quick and it was also friendly. I don't know if it was Papa Bear himself in the kitchen but whoever it was there was very friendly. He thanked us and wished us a good night. Their ribs definitely deserve a go. If you're an eastsider like me, do give it a shot. This side of town has been blessed with some good food lately in the form of unpretentious holes-in-the-wall that serve great food and, from my experience, also have great service.

Tonight The Dulcinea and I are going to chill out in front of the television and watch episode from of Jekyll. It's a modern re-telling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the BBC. Right now TV is a big void as LOST, Doctor Who, and Life on Mars are over or on break until next year. As is Torchwood. There's gonna be no drama I care to watch until January. However, my barber has given me last season of Heroes, some Doctor Who, Trailer Park Boys, et al. Plus The Dulcinea has season 3 of LOST to catch up on. On the other hand, there's plenty of films that make me wanna get my bum in a cinema. The new Harry Potter flick is going to have to wait a couple weeks as I want to avoid the teeny bopper crowd at all costs. Radiant City is playing at the Orpheum and I'd like to check it out. Lars von Trier's Direktøren for det Hele (The Boss of It All) opens on Friday at Sundance. I saw it at the Film Fest this spring and found it much funnier than the reviewer from The Onion did. Also opening this week at Sundance is Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn. On Thursday night there will be an advance screening and it's free. You'll just need this pass and to get there early.

OK, I just went to the Sundance webpage and The Boss of It All is nowhere to be found, the free screening isn't listed, and Rescue Dawn is set to start on the 27th. Call the theatre to be on the safe side. Curiously enough, Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) is, according to the webpage, set to open on Friday. How blatantly odd considering it has already played here at Westgate. Whatever you want to say about Sundance's pricing scheme and its ploy to be a trendy spot for well-heeled westsiders, the fact is we're going to get a free advance screening of Herzog's latest film and it will open a week or two after Chicago instead of months. While there are things about Sundance's programming I'd like to see change, so far so good. I just can't wait for everyone to see Sicko so it goes away and is replaced by something else. Hopefully Redford can use some of his muscle and actually get filmmakers to put in a stop at his theatre. And how about some revivals? I still take the place to task for not being about cinema enough. How about celebrating the history and art of cinema with the décor and some old flicks?

Lastly, UW Cinematheque has an African film series this summer and some Bob Altman to boot. So there's a country ton of films to see.
|| Palmer, 8:05 PM || link || (2) comments |

14 July, 2007

Eyeing Wisconsin on TV

For folks interested in Wisconsin culture and history, it is the dawn of a new age. Wisconsin Eye, a C-SPAN for our state, is now on the air. The press I've read about it focuses on the fact that it will allow viewers to watch our government in action. However, there is also lots of cultural programming as well. For instance, you can watch interviews with authors who write about our fair state. Current archived shows include one with Robert A. Birmingham who discusses his book Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town and another with Terese Allen who reads from her book Café Wisconsin Cookbook. And coming up is a documentary for all turophiliacs Say Cheese! The Story of Wisconsin Cheese.

It's on channel 200 for Charter digital customers in southern Wisconsin, including Madison, Janesville and Beloit while Time Warner Cable digital subscribers can find it on Channel 163. Our TiVo does not yet register the channel so other steps must be taken...

Wisconsin Public Television will be showing a program on local history this weekend called Fill 'er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations. Catch it at 10:30 p.m. Sat., July 14 and 4:30 p.m. Sun., July 15. Does it make me old if I can remember the days of full service gas stations?
|| Palmer, 8:22 AM || link || (0) comments |

Friday Skin (On Saturday)

|| Palmer, 7:23 AM || link || (0) comments |

13 July, 2007

Dirk Gently Has Been Cast & Little Britain Comes to America

The BBC is reporting that Harry Enfield will play Dirk Gently in the upcoming adaptation for BBC radio. I am totally unfamiliar with Enfield's work so I don't know if this is good news or bad news.

Meanwhile Reuters has a piece about the English show Little Britain making its way across The Pond. Normally I'd say this is very bad news but the show's creators, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, are doing it and the program will be on HBO. Ergo I'm only dismayed.
|| Palmer, 3:39 PM || link || (0) comments |

Ogg Still Sucks

Having been a resident of Witte Hall during my tenure in Dormland, I quickly discovered that Ogg Hall sucked (and Sellery swallowed). Now that it's being torn down, there is a message board dedicated to memories of Ogg. Let's see...there was that fire in '91 and all those bicycle parked outside which gave some of us a hassle when we weren't sober and...
|| Palmer, 8:35 AM || link || (0) comments |

12 July, 2007

Messrs. Microbrewers Go To Madison - Part III

(Part I, Part II.)

The last speakers were the team of Eric Jensen and Mike Wittenwyler. The former heads the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association while the latter is an attorney for the Wisconsin Wine & Spirits Institute. I'll be honest here, dear reader, and tell you that I'm on the side of the microbrewers against the bill. Having said this, I will give the opposing viewpoint a fair shake.

Jensen spoke first and plead his case. First he noted the Granholm case from 2005 in which the Supreme Court of the United States "struck down two states' laws that forbid wineries located out of state to ship wine directly to customers in those states". Secondly he noted the role of wholesale distributors in the 3-tier system. (Producers-distributors-retailers) With much of the blame from the microbrewers being directed at him, he defended himself by saying that distributors have a stake in seeing beer production go up in Wisconsin too. Wittenwyler took over with a very paternal attitude. He began by saying that alcohol is a "controlled substance" and that alcohol legislation is being considered by virtually every state – it is a big issue. The Granholm decision having a far-reaching effect, he claimed. This was also evident by litigation by Costco in Washington state where they seek to be able to bypass distributors and buy directly from producers. Finally there was the Internet where retailers were selling to consumers in other states. Wittenwyler spoke of preserving the 3-tier system which is how we've chosen "to deal with this controlled substance". The courts, he claimed, were taking us towards a system where you are either a brewpub or a brewery, not the distributors.

This kind of rhetoric really gets in my craw. By using the term "controlled substance", he conjures images of crack addicts and ATF agents busting drug rings that ruin communities instead of breweries and brewpubs where people gather to eat, drink, and socialize. Secondly, his case was almost boastful. He had this attitude that he was doing the state of Wisconsin and its citizens a favor by protecting it from the big, bad monster of litigation by Costco or a similar entity. It was as if he was pretending to be the only voice of sanity while everyone else was on this quixotic venture and thusly he was saving us from ourselves.

He continued by saying that we can't legislate for all future concerns which is true enough. But can the bill be amended to address some future concerns? And, from his statement that the bill as it stands takes care of current companies led me to believe that there was a grandfather clause.

Sen. Plale asked if he was amenable to a legislative counsel study to provide a framework for the law. Jensen replied that he was open to conversation and to a study. Any new legislation should clarify and not confuse, he added. Finally, Wittenwyler noted that the Great Dane needs immediate relief and that, if the legislation is pushed to the next session, litigation is likely.

The matter was closed at 14:24.

To begin my closing remarks, I'd ask that you watch a couple short videos. They're Quicktime and each photo is an active link.

Russ Klisch of Lakefront and president of the Wisconsin Brewers' Guild.

Eric Jensen and Michael Wittenwyler speaking in favor of the bill for the distributors of the state.

Now, I realize that these videos aren't perfect and don’t give the full speeches but look at what they show – the two sides are miles apart. Notice how Klisch talks about the brewers of Wisconsin and they're desire to grow and to try to be in a position to overcome future challenges. Contrast this with Wittenwyler who talks about litigation and the influence of out of state retailers. The distributors wore suits while the brewers were casually dressed. Jim McCabe spoke at one point about how Dan Carey of New Glarus Brewing takes his Belgian ales across The Pond and beats the Belgians at their own game. The brewers are not only fighting for their businesses, but they're also asking for the government's help in furthering their craft and the reputation of Wisconsin beer. McCabe also said that, if the government allows the brewers to expand instead of restricting them with the provisions of this law, they will make Wisconsin the premier craft brewing state which will be a boon for tourism. The distributors, on the other hand, spoke a lot about fear – fear of law suits from Costco – and they pushed the blame onto the courts, specifically the Supreme Court and the Granholm decision. It should also be noted that Wittenwyler authored a similar bill affecting Wisconsin wineries.

As far as the videos go, I must emphasize just how late the brewers in opposition got in the game. That the head of the Brewers' Guild was shut out the process until very recently seems quite unfair. And this coupled with the "stealth" introduction of the legislation on the day before a federal holiday smacks of underhanded maneuvering on the part of the distributors. A big question is how does current law and this proposed legislation fair in light of the Granholm decision? That is something I cannot answer. While I would certainly concede that current law may be vulnerable to litigation, upon reading the SCOTUS Blog entry on the Granholm decision linked to above, exactly how the Brewpub Tourism Development Act would shore up the defenses is not clear to me at all.

Michael Horne at Milwaukee World has made a couple interesting observations:

Probably the guy in the biggest fix is Sen. Jeff Plale of Milwaukee. His district includes the Milwaukee Ale House, but is poised to gain two more restaurants as Hinterland Brewing Co. of Green Bay and Fratello’s of Oshkosh plan to open in the Third Ward. The bill could throw some monkey wrenches into both Fratello’s, which is owned by the same firm as the Fox River Brewing Co., and in Hinterland’s plans to operate here.

In a final irony, Governor Doyle has said he would sign the bill if it passes. Russ Klisch thought it was amusing that among the most recent fundraisers the governor has held in Milwaukee, one was at his Lakefront Brewery, and the other was at the Milwaukee Ale House.

And earlier today Rob Larson of Tyranena reflected on the hearing and offered this tale:

Wednesday received a phone call from a panicked brewery-under-construction in Wausau who just heard about the "Milwaukee Beer Party" who was concerned about the implications of this bill... a bill he had never heard of that would have great implications on his business. Why he called me of all people is beyond me, but... In any case, this brewery sounds like they are planning on being like the Ale Asylum with a small restaurant and distributing their beers. However, it does not sound like they would meet the minimum 40% non-alcohol sales limitation to qualify for a brewpub... and the new law would prevent new breweries from getting a restaurant license. Here is a guy that has sunk a lot of time and money into a business venture and may have his opportunities stolen from him by this so called "Brewpub Tourism Development Act."

As he also noted, standing outside the hearing room, one of the brewers said, "We should really have a celebratory beer but after listening to those lobbyists I feel slimy and just want to take a shower." In addition to this comment, the same person also expressed disgust at how the committee gave the distributors a virtual pass when it came to questions while those speaking against the bill were asked to explain their views more fully and justify statements.

At the end of the day, the brewers could claim a small victory with the committee having decided to delay any executive action, i.e. – not vote on it. Next week will bring more discussion to bring the two sides closer together.
|| Palmer, 10:36 PM || link || (2) comments |

Messrs. Microbrewers Go to Madison - Part II

(Part I.)

The hearing continued with Jim McCabe of the Milwaukee Ale House. McCabe noted that the current laws are outdated and that the current bill would force new entrants into the market to choose the brewpub or microbrewery path and that this limits growth and the ability of businesses to adjust to the changing market. He implored the senators to get together with all interested parties and hammer out a solution. Sen. Kapanke asked McCabe if he was confident that he could work with Sen. Plale to resolve the issues. McCabe, one of Plale's constituents, said that he would most likely be able to do so. Next Sen. Hansen asked the owner of the MHA what his biggest concern was. The answer was the definition of brewpub as given by the bill. He also said that the new rules would be "something else" and that the government would increase its bureaucracy on the administrative side and that microbrewers and brewpubs would be burdened with more paperwork. Sen. Plale spoke up and indicated that he wanted to work further to amend the bill but wondered if perhaps band aids could be applied now to give relief to the Great Dane and then the parties could continue to refine the law. McCabe responded by asking for a seat at the table to work things through.

This last sentiment would again be echoed later but it's important so I want to comment on it now. Asking for a seat at the table harkens back to what Russ Klisch told the reporter from the AP. The senators have been operating under the impression that the Great Dane was speaking for the diverse interests of brewers across the state when, in fact, they haven't. One of the major gripes those opposed to the bill have is that the bill was composed with little, if any, input from them.

Otto Dilba of the Ale Asylum took a seat and proceeded to make three points. 1) If this legislation were the law of the land a couple years ago, the Ale Asylum would have never opened. 2) The original two page bill was fine but that bits that have been tagged on should be stripped away. And 3) Concerns about distribution should be considered separately in different legislation. Sen. Plale asked why it was that the AA would not have been able to open. Dilba replied that they would have needed 33% more startup capital. (The Ale Asylum started off as a brewpub to get things going until they could begin bottling.)

Following Dilba was Russ Klisch of Lakefront Brewery and president of the Wisconsin Brewers' Guild. Klisch was in no good mood and had a rather aggressive tone as he began by signaling his dismay at not having talked to a single senator until last Friday, 6 July. He continued by citing a magazine (trade journal?) article which showed that, of the top 50 breweries in the United States, 30% of had restaurants. His next criticism was that the 10,000 barrel limit is wrong. This was followed by a tirade attacking the tourism part of the bill's name. Klisch noted that 60,000-70,000 people go to his brewery, which has a restaurant, per year and that about half of these folks are from out of state. I paraphrase him here: "Why should I have to come before a tourism board and report this?" Further, he thought it ridiculous to "outlaw the sale of food at a brewery". Lastly, he concluded with an anecdote about how he was approached by a German businessman who was interested in opening an American incarnation of the Hofbrauhaus of Munich in Milwaukee. Klisch said that this new legislation would make that and its influx of business and jobs impossible. At this point he said that he thought he should stop and one of the senators said that he agreed. This brought a laugh from the committee and onlookers alike. Clearly the committee didn't like something about Klisch's presentation. Whether it was his tone or the substance, I won't venture a guess.

Regardless, the committee got another dose of impassioned testimony from Heidi Supple of the Supple Restaurant Group which owns the Fox River Brewing Company and Fratello's brewpubs. She too was very angry and let it be known from both her tone and her comments. Supple's group was looking to open a fondue restaurant in Milwaukee and it would be their sixth location. Because it also owned brewpubs, this made the SRG a brewing entity, if you will, and thusly limited them to six locations total despite the fact that not all of them actually brewed beer. She noted that the 10,000 barrels per year limit was not the issue. Her brewpubs manufactured only about 2,000 barrels per year while the group as a whole purchases roughly $200,000 of alcohol per year from wholesale distributors. If the bill passes and the fondue restaurant comes to fruition, her business would be unable to expand. Currently they are working with a Canadian group to start an upscale café and this plan is now in jeopardy. (Recall the comments of Pete Hanson from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.) "Please don't limit me," she pleaded. There are no such limits on Applebee's, she noted. She also remarked that she can't come to the legislature again in six months when the law needs changing so it has to be done right this time around. The only senator to comment was Mr. Hansen and this was only to clarify the names of Ms. Supple's operations.

Rob Larson from Tyranena spoke next. I thought he'd follow in Klisch and Supple's footsteps but he was very calm and non-combative. He started by saying that, if the bill were to become law, that his business would be negatively affected. Tyranena, he noted, competed against the Great Dane and Milwaukee Ale House for taps and this new legislation would give brewpubs an unfair advantage. Further, if the bill were law in the past, a certain brewpub near a mall on the westside would not be open now. (I presume he meant Granite City.) In addition, Larson's plans for a second location that would serve food would have the kibosh put on it if the bill were to become law. A question by Sen. Hansen asking for clarification on this point led to the legislative council stating that the provisions under consideration would restrict microbreweries to 0% of income from food.

From the other side of the room came Kyle Maichle of Students for Prosperity-UW-Madison. He seemed rather nervous and spoke hurriedly using the phrases "I believe" and "I really think" about a million times in two minutes. The gist of his message was that the bill would make bad law because it was confusing and limited entrepreneurs. Enough said.

Again, I'll end this part before it gets too lengthy. A couple things to consider: 1) Ms. Supple's testimony reiterates the fact that this legislation will affect folks whose business is not strictly brewing. 2) There are brewers whose businesses will be negatively affected the second this bill becomes law if no grandfather clause is added.

In the final part, we get to hear from the other side. Plus I'll illustrate my closing comments with some video.
|| Palmer, 9:02 PM || link || (0) comments |

Messrs. Microbrewers Go to Madison - Part I

This post is about the continuing saga of the Brewpub Tourism Development Act. If you are coming to this in media res, please acquaint yourself with some of my previous entries on the topic for some background:

"Woe Betide the Wisconsin Microbrewer?"
"Woe Betide the Wisconsin Microbrewer? (Follow Up)"
"Rob Larson of Tyranena Chimes In"
"Sand Creek Brewing Comes Out Against BTDA"


I took Wednesday afternoon off from work to head downtown and attend a public hearing on the Brewpub Tourism Development Act or Senate Bill 224 by the Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Insurance. It had been introduced on the 3rd of July and moved to the committee. When I arrived, it took me a while to find the room but find it I did. Being a bit early, it was empty so I took a seat and relaxed. Soon enough folks started entering. First was Russ Klisch of Lakefront and president of the Wisconsin Brewers' Guild along with Heidi Supple, co-owner of Fox River Brewing Company. Hot on their heels were Rob and Stacy Larson from Tyranena and Jim McCabe of the Milwaukee Ale House. An AP reporter approached Klisch and they began chatting a few seats down from me. I overheard a bit of their conversation which included Klisch noting the misconception amongst the senators that the Great Dane represented all of the brewers in the state. He would reiterate this point in speaking to the committee. Otto Dilba and a crew from the Ale Asylum entered along with a gentleman with several boxes in tow. They contained beer bottles from various breweries across the state with messages from the brewers speaking out against the bill. As I chatted with Otto, they were distributed to the committee members who soon made there way to their seats. The side of the room I was on had all the microbrewers/brewpub owners against the bill and they were donning polo shirts with their breweries' logos. It was the casual side of the room. On the other were many folks there for the other bill to be considered at the hearing as well as those speaking in favor of SB 224. These folks were clad in suits and ties. It was quite a contrast and, as you'll read later, quite indicative of the positions of the two sides and their approaches to the bill.

The committee is made up by the following members who are listed with some of the brewpubs and breweries in their districts (thanks to Michael Horne):

Sen. Joseph Leibham, R-9th, Courthouse Pub, Manitowoc
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-17th Lake Louie Brewing Co., Arena
Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-32nd City Brewery, Pearl Street Brewery, LaCrosse
Sen. David Hansen, D-30th Hinterland Brewery, Green Bay
Sen. John Erpenbach, D-27th Capital Brewery, Madison; New Glarus Brewery, New Glarus
Sen Jeffrey Plale, D-7th Milwaukee Ale House, Milwaukee
Sen. Roger Breske

First to speak was Sen. Fred Risser who introduced the bill. He briefly explained the purpose of the bill as being to update laws from the first half of the 20th century and to allow the Great Dane Brewpub and others to open up to six locations. In addition, he gave the brewers seated around me good news by asking the committee to not take executive action after the meeting so that more discussion and tweaking of the bill could take place. With his departure Eliot Butler, president of the Great Dane and Michael Welch, whom I assumed to be Butler's lawyer, were seated. Butler addressed the committee and laid out why he is in favor of the bill: he third location at Hilldale is not serving his beer. Sen. Hansen spoke about this being a "fairness issue" and indicated that he wanted to bring the opposing sides together. In addition, he was amenable to amendments to the bill. He was followed by Sen. Plale who asked for Butler's reaction to the sentiments of his fellow brewers who were against the bill. Mr. Welch answered by reiterating that the bill created a new brewpub classification and said that it was basically two microbrewers who were most vocal. He concluded by saying that he was happy to continue working with Plale on an amendment to address the concerns of the microbrewers.

I can't speak for the brewers who were sitting by me but I think that, if I were them, I would have taken offense at Welch's intimation that it was merely a couple brewers who had issues with the bill that were making a stink. There were five seated in the same room as Welch that were prepared to speak against the bill and one of them was going to speak on behalf of the Wisconsin Brewers' Guild, an organization that represents 60 concerns, if I'm not mistaken. And while not all members were opposed to the bill (the Great Dane is a member, for example), it seemed clear that the majority of the Guild's membership was opposed. Next was Sen. Breske who asked whether the bill would affect pub/restaurant chains. Welch mention the "small brewers exception" which applied to entities that manufactured less than 4,000 barrels annually. They would not be affected if they did not have any class B licenses which allow the sale of beer on or off premises where sold. Next Breske asked whether this bill would open the doors for national chains of brewpubs. Welch answered no and said that the limit is six locations and up to 10,000 barrels of beer annually for everyone.

Fred Gray of Gray's Brewing spoke next. He talked about his business before urging the committee to look 20 years down the road. Flexibility was needed for businesses to grown and adapt to changes in the market. Sen. Erpenbach ased what he would change to which Gray replied that he would set a limit on Class B licenses and that the limit would apply to all brewing entities equally. Sen. Plale chimed in and inquired as to whether modifying the bill so that the 40% of sales of food were changed to an aggregate percentage as opposed to the current per location basis would provide relief. Gray responded by saying that his Tied House is about 40% food and 60% beer. Adding his brewery which sells no food would up his ratio to about 90% beer. Gray also pled for more clarity in the language of the bill and noted that it began life at two pages and has since grown to 28. Sen. Schultz asked about his production growth over the past year and the past three. For Gray's it had risen until recently and has now leveled off. Mr. Gray was looking to open in a new market next year to increase growth but, under the bill, he would not be able to do so.

With no more questions, Mr. Gray was followed by Pete Hanson, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. The organization included members who were brewers or owners of brewpubs and he indicated that the WRA is strongly supportive of brewpubs being able to operate more than two sites. His concern and that of the WRA was that the bill would limit the ability of concerns such as the Great Dane to expand with restaurants that do not serve its own beer. If you had one brewpub, you were considered a brewing entity and were thusly limited to six locations. I got the impression that owning just a single brewpub limited you to only five more locations even if they were purely restaurants and did not serve any beer that you brewed on or off premises. Hanson expressed concern about the bill creating barriers to entry and thought it unfair that it forced entrepreneurs to choose the restaurant or brewpub path instead of being able to have a business modeled that included elements of both. Only Sen. Breske spoke and his lone comment was that no executive action would be taken today.

I'm going to end part 1 here lest this entry veer perilously close to Moby Dick length. But take note of a few things. Firstly that everyone so far expressed their desire to see the Great Dane start brewing at their Hilldale location ASAP. Secondly, notice that the bill was introduced on the 3rd of July, a day when most people are gearing up for a day off and not paying much attention to politics. The third thing is to remember that the bill creates a brewpub category in state statutes and that it essentially forces brewers to choose between being a brewpub or a microbrewery. Lastly, I want to mention that I found Mr. Hanson's contribution interesting. Until then, I thought of this issue as being one about brewpubs and breweries and hadn't thought about restaurants being affected.

(To Part I.)
|| Palmer, 7:48 PM || link || (0) comments |

All Bad Things...

It is now a year after the events of "The Sound of Drums" and The Doctor's revenant companion, Martha Jones, is once again on English shores. A boat is dropping her off on a beach in the company of Thomas Milligan. Once a doctor, he now resists the tyranny of The Master. Martha has been traveling the world and gained the reputation as being the only person who can kill The Master. She has returned home to find another member of the resistance, one Professor Docherty. Milligan takes her to Docherty's hideout.

Aboard the Valiant, The Master enters the bridge to the tune of "I Can't Decide" by the Scissor Sisters. He kisses his wife Lucy who seems less than thrilled to see him. The Doctor is housed in a small tent while Captain Jack is chained below deck. Saxon is tended to by Martha's family who are now maids and a janitor. Like some twisted Fred Astaire, The Master dances about and sings before shoving the frail, aged Doctor into a wheelchair for a whirligig ride to a portal where the pair look out at the sky littered with Troclafane. The Master teases our hero by saying that the Toclafane broke his heart after he figured out what they were. In addition, The Master has heard that Martha has returned. The Doctor can only muster "one thing to say" but he never gets a chance to say it. Meanwhile, Martha's family prepares to execute a plot.

Back on the surface, Tom shows Martha miles and miles of rockets being readied to launch and wage war on the rest of the universe.

The Jones get things moving by causing a distraction and allowing Jack to be freed. The subterfuge is executed well and The Master's laser screwdriver is purloined. However, when The Doctor tries to use it, he finds that it has been programmed only to respond to its owner.

In Docherty's lab, Martha watches a TV transmission in which The Master again turns his aging device on The Doctor who is shrunken into a small creature that appears to be half Doctor and half Gollum. With the broadcast over, Martha relates to the professor that one of the Toclafane was immobilized when it was struck by lightning. They jury rig a device to deliver an equivalent shock and lure one of the Troclafane to it. The sphere is zapped and promptly falls to the ground. Upon examination the professor and Martha discover that inside each of the globes is a head – a human head – and it's from 100 trillion years ago. The Troclafane are the people from Malcassairo who went to Utopia and found nothing. And so they cannibalized themselves and regressed back to being these child-like creatures. When asked why it wants to kill its ancestors, the Troclafane replies, "Because it's fun". With that, Tom shoots the creature.

Professor Docherty asks Martha for the truth – can she really kill The Master? She pulls out a gun supposedly developed by Torchwood and/or UNIT that injects a mixture of four chemicals which can permanently kill a Time Lord. But she only has three of them and so she tells Docherty that she must go to London to get the fourth. After Martha and Tom take their leave, Docherty activates a hidden videoscreen and reveals herself to be a traitor by contacting the authorities with information for The Master about Martha's whereabouts.

Tom and Martha find shelter on their journey at a house in Bexley only to have The Master and a squadron of troops come looking for her. With Martha's life being threatened, Tom steps forward and is killed by The Master who takes our brave companion to the Valiant. On the bridge, he has Martha genuflect before him and prepares to execute her as the countdown of the launch of his fleet counts down. As The Master gives his standard pompous victory speech, Martha begins to chuckle to herself. When asked what was so funny, she reveals that she knew Docherty was a traitor and that she has spent the last year traveling the world telling people about The Doctor and to think of him at the moment of lift-off. Over the past year, The Doctor was able to somehow integrate himself with the telepathic matrices of the Archangel network. Just as the fleet is to launch, The Doctor begins changing back to his youthful self and overcomes The Master who curls into a corner. The Doctor holds him and says, "I forgive you".

The Master pulls out Jack's vortex converter which had Martha give him but The Doctor grabs hold of him and they both materialize on the surface. Threats to cause the fleet to self-destruct don't phase The Doctor who knows his archenemy too well – he won't kill himself. They struggle and are both teleported back aboard the Valiant. There the Joneses see the Troclafane returning to protect the paradox machine inside the TARDIS where Jack has made his way. He opens fire on it with a machine gun. With it destroyed, the Troclafane disappear and time reverses itself.

With things having returned to normal, The Master is captured and handcuffed. Francine pulls a gun on The Master but is unable to pull the trigger. Instead The Doctor takes responsibility since the villain is also a Time Lord and says that he will imprison him aboard the TARDIS. Then a shit rings out and we see that Lucy Saxon has shot The Master. The Doctor urges him to just regenerate but The Master refuses – he'd rather die than be locked in a cage by his sworn enemy – and he does so in The Doctor's arms which causes our hero tremendous grief. The Master's body is burned on a large pyre.

In Cardiff, The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack ponder recent events. Despite being invited to travel in the TARDIS, Jack opts to return to Torchwood which prompts The Doctor to disable his vortex manipulator. Before leaving, Jacks asks about his immortality and is told that there's nothing that can be done but The Doctor isn't sure about aging. Jack replies by reminiscing about joining the Time Agency and remarks that he was given the nickname of "the Face of Boe". Martha and The Doctor look on in stunned disbelief.

Outside the Jones' house, the TARDIS sits with The Doctor leaning against it. Martha comes running out and follows her companion inside. She tells him that she is going to stay with her family. They embrace and Martha walks out only to turn around and go back in. She explains her unrequited love for him and says that she has to get out of their relationship as it was. Returning the cell phone, Martha says they'll be in touch and walks out for the final time.

The Doctor then dematerializes the TARDIS and we cut to The Master's funeral pyre which is getting down to just ashes. His ring lies on the ground and a female hand with red nail polish picks it up. Back inside the TARDIS, The Doctor prepares himself for being alone again when the Console Room shudders throwing him to the floor. He looks up only to see the bow of a ship protruding into the TARDIS. He looks up in disbelief and then notices a life preserver labeled "Titanic"…

OK, I admit it – I cried. I cried when I first watched it and tears welled in my eyes again just now getting screenscrapes. Nothing gets the waterworks going for me like two Timelords embracing as one of them dies. I haven't shed a tear watching Doctor Who since, well, I was going to say since Adric died but it was really only last season when Rose ended up in the alternate universe. I'm just a sensitive 80s kind of guy. Don't get me wrong, Martha's leaving made me very sad too but that whole male bonding thing was sort of the culmination of 25 years of fandom so it really got to me. Is The Master really gone? Probably not. We did see that woman's hand grab the ring so I suspect he'll be back though not in the form of John Simm, I'd imagine. I've read that The Master will not be featured next season so we'll have to wait until 2009, at the earliest. I got as excited as a kid in a candy store when I heard the initial rumors about the return of The Master and I think it all paid off exceptionally well. Not to tread familiar ground too much but I want to say again how much I loved Simm's Master. In this episode, we see him dancing a bit and then throwing the crusty, aged Doctor into a wheelchair singing all the while. I'm sorry to see him go.

I'm also sorry to see Martha go. However, she will be returning in the middle of next season after a stint with Torchwood. This is great news as I love Martha. Least importantly, she has the best bum of any companion – ever. More importantly, she's just so full of spunk and strong. And she always stands up for what's right. I felt so bad for her having to let go of the man/alien she loved. Martha ended up being perhaps the most resilient and headstrong companion so far with her year-long trek around the globe preparing humanity for just one brief moment. At the beginning of the series, she was a bit hesitant, she was still taking it all in but, by the end, she took the burden of saving the world onto her shoulders and delivered.

As for the story, it was pretty much standard Doctor Who with the villain having (almost) total control and things looking really, really bad for our heroes. But they still manage to save the day. I found the bit with The Doctor's aging being reversed a bit on the ghost in the machine side which left me wishing they'd done a bit more to emphasize what he'd done over the previous year to integrate himself with the Archangel network.

My biggest criticism here is about the lack of quality screen time given to Captain Jack. I think that his role decreased throughout this three episode finale. He had a major role in "Utopia" but receded into the background a bit in "The Sound of Drums". Here, he is reduced to the now hackneyed "here we go again" joke when confronted by men with guns and to the role of a cop from a 1960s TV show with some of the worst dialogue ever that mostly consists of three word sentences. I personally love the Captain Jack character. He is smart, funny, and eminently likeable yet very complex with his immortality and omnisexuality. Thusly it's disappointing to see him being all brawn and simply mopping up after The Doctor has done all the hard work. Regardless of any feelings Jack has for The Doctor, I just don't care for portraying Jack as an underling, of sorts, of The Doctor. To the show's credit, Martha is way more than that and so too should Jack. I understand that the emphasis was on Martha but did they really have to turn Jack into a bad cliché?

This is the second season in a row which ended with the emphasis on The Doctor's loneliness or loss off something who is dear to him. Last season he lost Rose; this season Martha leaves him and the only other surviving Time Lord in the universe extinguished himself. Hopefully this will change for next season because it's getting bloody depressing. We saw The Master's ring being picked up from the ashes of the pyre so he'll likely return. I'd wager that that hand was Lucy Saxon's as we see her aboard the Valiant with red nail polish just like that on the nails of the hand that grabs the ring. Personally, I'd love to see her become The Master. This reminds me of The Rani, another renegade Time Lord. "The Mark of the Rani", despite its flaws, is one of my favorite episodes. Having a female Time Lord villain was great. Perhaps as the show continues and we learn more about the Time War, we'll find out that the Rani or The Time Meddler is still around. Or another renegade Time Lord we have not yet met.

But rather than prognosticating, I want to briefly look back. After "The Last of the Time Lords" ended, a feeling that has been brewing since early in the season was really solidified. Namely that the new series has finally stepped out from the very long shadow cast by the classic series. The show's latest incarnation has been on the air for three years now and we've been reacquainted with Daleks, Cybermen, and The Master – the unholy trifecta of Doctor Who baddies. The novelty of the show's return has worn off and older fans like myself are no longer wondering how the new series will handle old bad guys. This third series, as with all that preceded it, had its peaks and its valleys. But we're now at the point where the show has its own legs. It is mindful of days past, but not totally beholden to them. We've got the pattern set – a "new" format, a Doctor-lite story, and an arc that plays out over the whole of the season – and this third series showed just how great these new patterns can be. Well, mostly. I am still not completely enamored of the single 45-minute story but so it goes. However, it can work marvelously. "Blink", this year's Doctor-lite story was fantastic and the whole Saxon/return of The Master arc was handled really well. Not too obvious or intrusive yet still a mystery lurking in the background. The new series also makes judicious use of audio dramas and novels to expand on the Doctor Who formula.

Next up is "Voyage of the Damned" on Christmas Day. Pop singer Kylie Minogue stars as a waitress on the Titanic. And then next season Katherine Tate will reprise her role as Donna Noble from last year's Xmas special and become The Doctor's new full-time companion. How Martha will react to her mid-season when she rejoins the TARDIS crew should be interesting.
|| Palmer, 10:32 AM || link || (0) comments |

11 July, 2007

The Milwaukee Beer Party

(Photo by Jack Orton and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

The beer spewed into the Milwaukee River yesterday afternoon at the Milwaukee Ale House for The Spirit of ’07 Milwaukee Beer Party Protest and Demonstration. Craft brewers and beer drinkers alike rallied against the Brewpub Tourism Development Act which is now Senate Bill 224.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article yesterday called "Producers bitter on liquor bills" which looks at the objections against SB224 as well as a similar bill which affects wineries. Of note:

Great Dane President Eliot Butler said there shouldn't be any limit. But the 10,000-barrel limit was "the best deal we could cut," he said.

"Anything else is politically untenable because of the power of the wholesalers association," Butler said.

SB224 will receive a public hearing today:

Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Insurance

Wednesday, July 11, 2007
1:00 PM
411 South
State Capitol

I was able to take this afternoon off from work to attend.
|| Palmer, 8:09 AM || link || (0) comments |

10 July, 2007

The Spirit of ’07 Milwaukee Beer Party Protest and Demonstration

If any readers are in or can head over to Milwaukee, the The Spirit of ’07 Milwaukee Beer Party Protest and Demonstration will be happening today at 2PM at the dock of the Milwaukee Ale House at 233 N. Water Street. Join the owners of the Ale House and Lakefront Brewery as they dump a barrel of beer in the river in protest of the Brewpub Tourism Development Act.
|| Palmer, 11:48 AM || link || (0) comments |

Brewpub Tourism Development Act Hearing Tomorrow

I have read that the BTDA will have a hearing tomorrow before a Senate committee. It will be 1:00 PM in the State Capitol, room 411 South. I wonder if I can take the afternoon off...
|| Palmer, 9:45 AM || link || (1) comments |

Sand Creek Brewing Comes Out Against BTDA

The folks at Sand Creek Brewing Company up in Black River Falls have come down against the Brewpub Tourism Development Act. To wit:

We need your help to stop state legislation that will hurt brewers! Please contact your state senator and assembly person about this THIS WEEK before it's too late!

Here is the latest update on what is being called the “Brewpub Tourism Development Act”. Its official name is Senate Bill 224.

The bill will outlaw a brewer from having both a restaurant and brewer’s license from the State. All current restaurants that are in brewery grounds will be grandfathered in. This is a new addition to the bill, and it reads as follows:

“Current law prohibits a person from operating a restaurant unless the person has been issued a restaurant permit. This bill prohibits a person issued a brewer’s permit after the bill’s effective date from holding a restaurant permit, thereby requiring a person who intends to begin manufacturing beer and operating a restaurant after this date to obtain a brewpub permit if the person is otherwise eligible for a brewpub permit.”

This means that any brewery that is currently over 10,000 bbls and doesn’t have a restaurant permit will never be able to get one if the bill is passed. If the brewery is under 10,000 bbls, the brewery will be able to get a restaurant permit but will never be able to grow above 10,000 bbls unless they give up the restaurant. Since a lot of brewery business models in the state have been built on having a restaurant in their facility, this is a very damaging addition to the bill.


Call your state senator and representative and explain how this bill will hurt craft beer in Wisconsin. You can find your legislators numbers at http://www.wi.gov . Talking points are listed below.

Talking Points Against The bill

* The bill will hurt the growth of current small breweries. Any startup packaging brewery will not have the aid of a restaurant to assist in growth of their brewery.

* There are currently breweries/brewpubs that are under construction that will not be grandfathered in to the current bill. These breweries/brewpubs will have to either close their places under construction or drastically alter their business plans under great loss of money (example - Milwaukee Ale House).

* Current small brewpubs cannot use their knowledge of brewing and start a packaging operation, or small packaging breweries cannot add a restaurant to their location. Examples of small packaging breweries that have added restaurants are Lakefront, Gray's, and Green Bay. City Brewery, Sprecher, and Capital all have banquet facilities on brewery grounds (I don’t know if they have a restaurant license). Examples of brewpubs that have or are adding packaging facilities are Milwaukee Ale House, South Shore, and Stone Cellar. All of these examples show companies that have added employment and taxes to the State of Wisconsin that wouldn’t of happened if the law was in place 20 years ago.

* Breweries such as Tyranena, Rowland’s, and Hop Haven Brewhaus that currently have a packaging brewery and a bar will not be able to add another location that has a restaurant since the sales of food in their first location is not 40% of their sales.

* Brewpubs such as Stonefly, and probably many more in the state, which don’t have more than 40% food sales will not be able to expand with another restaurant.

* The bill states “The applicant does not hold or have an interest in a Class “A” license, a beer wholesaler’s license, a brewer’s permit, or an alcohol beverage, warehouse permit, and does not hold or have an interest in a Class “B,” “Class B,” or “Class C” license other than one for brewpub premises.” I could be wrong about this, but the way I’m reading it if you own a brewpub you can not have a license in anything but a brewpub and you will only be able to have six of them. This could effect operations like Fox River, Stonefly, Water Street, and Green Bay.

For more information (so you can confuse yourself really well), please check out my earlier posts on the subject:

Woe Betide the Wisconsin Microbrewer?
Woe Betide the Wisconsin Microbrewer? (Follow-Up)
Another Brewer Speaks
Rob Larson of Tyranena Chimes In
|| Palmer, 8:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

09 July, 2007

History of the Merkin

It's been a while since women's pubic hair got a nod here so I present the history of the word "merkin". Thanks to CUSS.

|| Palmer, 3:19 PM || link || (0) comments |

Clear As Mud

Here's what Dubya said last week in his weekly radio address:

"Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time," Bush said. "I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time. "

And then a couple days later when Congress wants to interview his staff, transparency & openness are jettisoned:

President Bush invoked executive privilege Monday to deny requests by Congress for testimony from two former aides about the firings of federal prosecutors.

The White House, however, did offer again to make former counsel Harriet Miers and one-time political director Sara Taylor available for private, off-the-record interviews.

I take that back. Bush has had 7 years to prove he's for transparency and openness in government and he's only proven his administration to be a bunch of Know Nothings. Dubya's hypocrisy makes baby Jesus cry.
|| Palmer, 2:05 PM || link || (0) comments |

08 July, 2007

Books, Cherries, and Booze

Weekends just go too swiftly. However, I was moderately productive the past couple days. I got a long overdue haircut at which my barber gave me his obligatory five minute speech about how I just have to start watching Farscape. I have immense respect for all the barber shops downtown and their great histories but my barber is a sci-fi geek who also happens to enjoy redneck comedy. Hence I was treated to a couple episodes of Trailer Park Boys while sitting in the chair. Afterwards I frequented a local independent bookseller as I was moved by some recent posts by Hastings up at POST which chronicle the decline of the independent bookstore here in Madison. Do check them out:

"Avol's owner: 'Does Madison still want small, locally owned bookstores...?'"

"Bookworks owner on his relationship with, well, books. And why he'll eventually leave Madison."

"Star Books to close"

Amongst the books I purchased was an apple cookbook. Granted it's ridiculously hot now, but it will be autumn eventually and I want to be prepared after my expected trip to an orchard. And in preparation for the winter, I brandied some cherries.

I put up a couple of the jars with kirschwasser and the other three with bourbon. When there's snow on the ground, my ice cream will have a touch of summer. And give me a buzz.
|| Palmer, 7:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

07 July, 2007

Geek.Kon Update - 7 July 07

A couple brief updates on Geek.Kon:

A list of potential films to be screened is now up.

And, unfortunately, LAN gaming has been canceled due to staffing problems.
|| Palmer, 9:53 AM || link || (0) comments |

Weekend Godlessness

There's a great article up at the website of Skeptic magazine called "Why Richard Dawkins is Wrong About Religion". The author is David Sloan Wilson who is an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University. In the piece Wilson is critical of Dawkins' evolutionary explanation of religion.

Along these same lines, an interview with philosopher Daniel Dennett from Danish TV has been posted on YouTube. Dennett's latest book, Breaking the Spell, is a call to examine religion as a natural phenomenon. Here is the first part:

Part 2
Part 3
|| Palmer, 9:32 AM || link || (0) comments |

Like Roger Hodgson Said

An acquaintance of mine recently sent out an e-mail to everyone in her address book, including me, imploring us to go see Michael Moore's latest bit of agit-prop, Sicko. I enjoyed all of his films except Fahrenheit 9/11 but wish he were on television again because TV and The Awful Truth were great. Anyone remember the bit from the latter (methinks) shot here in Madison with those folks dressed as Pilgrims running around Library Mall? I nearly pissed my pants during the scene with the woman writhing on the ground who said, "Orin Hatch killed a man just to watch him die!" I think it was Hatch, anyway. For some reason, I have no intention of seeing Sicko. It just holds no appeal for me. I've read about it and eagerly watched an interview with Moore on NOW last week and I just feel content as far as the film goes. (I'm also happy that the film has prompted less mudslinging and instead more genuine debate about the issue.) I'd just rather read a book on the subject than see a Michael Moore documentary about it.

Regardless of my film viewing preferences, there's no doubt that Moore's films rally the liberal troops. I recall people showing Fahrenheit 9/11 in their homes and inviting strangers over to watch. It was required viewing for Lefties just as, say, Noam Chomsky is required reading. These people found something of such importance in the film that they just had to share it with others. A similar thing happened with An Inconvenient Truth. People would try to encourage their friends and family to see it because the film had a message that these folks wanted to be spread. So why does a film by Al Gore or Michael Moore inspire such people to e-mail their friends & family when similar messages in other media do not? It seems that folks don't send out mass mailings urging others to watch Frontline or read a book. The price of admission for Frontline is owning a television set that gets PBS and while books have the virtue of being able to give much more information and are available at the library for free. It's almost like a subject isn't an issue for concern if it isn't give a stamp of approval by a film.

Are you one of those people that e-mailed everyone in your address book imploring them to see An Inconvenient Truth or one of Moore's films? If so, why? Were you completely ignorant on the topics addressed in the movies and so moved that you felt compelled to get others to see them?

I also wonder what happens after the lights go up. You watch the film, get all pissed off at the system, and then what? Our health care system is very complicated and I highly doubt that Moore had the time to give a textbook lecture. Besides, it would probably be a pretty boring film. What have these movies inspired you to do? Anyone go see An Inconvenient Truth and then takes steps to lower their carbon footprint? Anyone reading this see Sicko and feel inspired to find out more on the subject? Write a legislator? I am curious to know whether these films actually light a fire and get people active in trying to change things or if, perhaps, they merely do a good job of getting choirs gathered in theatres to be preached at. Or some point in between.

I think one reason this came to mind was because I've gotten all charitable. The last time I gave money to a good cause was about 3 years ago when I helped pay a friend's mortgage after his wife had a stroke. And just a couple weeks ago, I read something at a blog which made me feel strongly that I should be charitable. My giving began that day with a donation to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Firstly, I support the cause of separation of church & state and secondly, I was renewing my membership and the form also came with one for donating to their special projects. And so I did. Yesterday was payday so one of my weekend projects is to get another check written. I'm not wealthy but, if Sally Strothers in right by saying that a $0.25 can feed a child for days, then what I give out can certainly be helpful. Every bit counts. Since the blog post which inspired me was at a feminist blog such as Feministe, I think that I'll donate to the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.

But what about next time? Do I give to local charities or international? When you, dear reader, donate money, to whom do you give it and how do you make that decision? As far as international charities go, I've got a short list which I meticulously compiled after 10 minutes of research on the Internet:


Doctors Without Borders

The Nature Conservancy


Here are a few local causes to which I intend to donate:


Planned Parenthood of WI

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County

If you are a fellow Madisonian, to what local charities do you give?
|| Palmer, 9:18 AM || link || (4) comments |