Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 August, 2008

The Ridiculous Press Release of the Right Honorable Tammy Baldwin

My Congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin issued an absolutely asinine press release yesterday:

"A real test of a presidential candidate’s judgment is his choice of a running mate – the person who is next in line to become the Commander in Chief. As we face serious global challenges and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, John McCain has chosen someone with virtually no national security or foreign policy experience. This choice calls into question both Senator McCain’s judgment and a McCain administration’s ability to lead a nation in crisis.

To the extent that this choice represents an effort to court supporters of Hillary Clinton's historic candidacy, McCain misjudges the reasons so many voters rallied around her candidacy. It was Senator Clinton's experience, skill and commitment to change, especially in the areas of health care and energy policy, that drew such strong support. Sarah Palin's opposition to Roe v. Wade and her support of big oil will not draw Democrats from the Obama-Biden ticket."

Barack Obama was assailed for his lack of experience and now Baldwin makes this ridiculous attack. Firstly, since when has the position of Vice-President required national security or foreign policy experience? The position was never glorious until Dick Cheney's tenure when a V.P. with national security and foreign policy experience decided he wanted to increase the power of the Executive branch, endorse torture, and all the wonderful fruits of the Bush administration with which we're familiar. This is how Baldwin wants to judge a potential administration – the foreign policy experience of the would-be veep? Please Ms. Baldwin, lay out the history for us about how our country has suffered because a V.P. didn't have much national security or foreign policy experience; please explain in detail how a V.P. sans national security or foreign policy experience hinders the ability of an administration to lead our crisis-laden nation.

Also, Ms. Baldwin, please tell me about all that national security or foreign policy experience of Hillary Clinton. Which of Clinton's qualifications does Baldwin promote? Health care and energy policy. If Baldwin had her way, Clinton would be the Democratic nominee yet she can't even point out any of the senator's national security or foreign policy experience.

And how much national security or foreign policy experience does Barack Obama have? Should we not vote for him because of his lack of experience, Ms. Baldwin?

If you want to be critical of Sarah Palin, how about starting with the lie in her acceptance speech. Ed Brayton has details. Or perhaps we should question Palin's membership in a Dominionist church which apparently has connections to an embryonic paramilitary organization. Head over to Pharyngula for more.
|| Palmer, 11:11 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Real Days of Maxwell Street

Last summer I wrote about my boycott of Maxwell Street Days. (And I boycotted again this year.) In my post I wrote, "Maxwell Street Days never could and never will have anything near the flavor of the Maxwell Street Market." For anyone too young to have gone to the Maxwell Street Market before 1994 or never found yourself at the corner of Maxwell and Halsted on a Sunday in Chicago back in the day, then you can get an idea of what it was like from Mike Shea's 1964 film And This Is Free which was recently released on DVD by Shanachie.

And This Is Free is a good example of what is known as "direct cinema". This is where the camera is a fly-on-the-wall capturing events and there's no omniscient narrator to explain to the audience what is unfolding before their eyes. The style was made possible by portable cameras developed during World War II as well as portable sound recording equipment. Robert Drew of Time, Inc. led a unit which invented a wireless synchronizing system in the 1950s and this meant that a maneuverable crew of two could go out and shoot synched sound footage. In 1964, Shea and his soundman, Gordon Quinn, spent 16 Sundays at the Maxwell Street Market with And This Is Free being the result.

The film showcases the people hawking goods & the hordes of people who went there to buy, the buskers, the street preachers, and some of the characters, all of which made the Maxwell Street Market special, something beyond stores in a city's main shopping district throwing up a table outside and trying to pawn off their overstock.

Here are a couple of the men of God out preaching to shoppers.

There were many bargains to be had at the Market. After all, they cheated you fair. This guy was selling 8 pairs of socks for a buck

When I see a pile of pipes & pipe fittings on State Street in July, then I'll reconsider Maxwell Street Days.

And This Is Free is a cult classic mainly because of the music. Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Robert Nighthawk – they all played down there. The film showcases Nighthawk, Carrie Robinson, Fannie Brewer, Jim Brewer, and others with some wonderful performances, many of which got people shakin' their booties.

YouTube has some footage from the film as well as some that could be outtakes. Take a gander.

This is some random footage of the Market:

This is Robert Nighthawk performing "Cheating & Lying Blues":

Carrie Robinson doing "Power to Live Right":

Now here's the Chicken Man in action:

|| Palmer, 9:48 PM || link || (0) comments |

Chilies Are in Season

Earlier this week a co-worker gave me a clutch of chilies from his garden and they sat in the refrigerator until today when I turned them into hot sauce.

Like a total maroon, I cut and cleaned the peppers by hand. It wasn't too bad cutting them open as I don't have any cuts or open wounds on my paws. But when it got to cleaning them out at the sink, it was terrible. Chili fumes cut through the water and into my nose, mouth, and lungs. Between coughs, all I could smell or taste was chili pepper.

In addition to garlic, I also threw in some coriander and cheap booze. A bit of rye, in this case.

The kitchen got hot and steamy with my water bath heating and the chilies boiling in vinegar made a cloud of noxious gas which ate away all my mucus membranes depite my best effort in venting the kitchen.

When it was all done, I ended up with a pint of sauce. Once it cools off, it'll be sent to the cellar for aging. Three months minimum but 10 is, in my limited hot sauce making experience, even better. The garlic and coriander take their time in consummating the marriage of the flavors. Perhaps this winter I'll bust it open for a bit of summer flavor to cut the cold.

|| Palmer, 3:16 PM || link || (1) comments |

The First German Meal at the New Place

The first German meal at the new place was Graupeneintopf or Baked Barley Casserole.

I thought it would be a good, cheap dinner with leftovers which would last for a few days. We didn't have any barley so I was going to prepare it with buckwheat. The Dulcinea ended up making it while I was at work and after a trip to the store so it ended up having barley after all.

It's really a pretty simple dish. Brown some ground meat, saute a bit of onion & celery, and then throw it all in a pot with the barley, broth, and some basic seasoning.
|| Palmer, 2:54 PM || link || (1) comments |

29 August, 2008

Dems Not Keen on Godless

I've written about Leah Daughtry, Howard Dean's chief of staff, previously. Earlier I expressed my disgust that she is leading the Democrats' PR campaign to make the them the party of Yahweh. And she showed her colors once again at the convention.

Bob Tiernan is an agnostic… On Sunday, Tiernan attended the first event at the Democratic National Convention, an Interfaith Gathering attended by some 2,000 people at the Colorado Convention Center. Speaking were distinguished priests, rabbis, imams and religion scholars. "I sat through, I guess I'd have to call it, a service," says Tiernan. "People were responding in unison. In the middle, Leah Daughtry (a pastor and CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee) spoke and said that despite what the media says, Democrats are people of faith."

Tiernan says he couldn't stand it any more. "I stood up and said, 'I'm a democrat but I'm not a person of faith.' I said, 'This looks like a church service to me and I never thought I would see the Democrats doing something like this." At that point, the police came and escorted Tiernan from the hall. They told him he could leave or stay and see what the Democrats wanted to do with him, so he stayed but nobody did anything so he left.

The author of the above, Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn, concludes:

The Democrats know that they have a large non-believing constituency and they also know that to not accept them is the height of hypocrisy. On the other hand they realize that to recognize them formally would be the kiss of death.

It's so nice to know that we non-religious folks are second-class in the eyes of the Democrats. (Lower than whale shit in the eyes of the Republicans.)

You can catch Mr. Tiernan on Freethought Radio tomorrow. It will be broadcast a half hour earlier this week at 10:30 a.m. on The Mic 92.1 here in Madison.
|| Palmer, 5:24 PM || link || (2) comments |

Convention, Conshmention

I began a post earlier this week in the following manner:

"I feel the need to be blunt: I don't give a rat's ass about what Michelle Obama said at the Democratic convention yesterday."

There. I said it.

I wrote those words, not because I have anything in the least against Michelle Obama. Indeed, I know next to nothing about her and, frankly, don't care. This is because it's her husband who, if elected, is going to get intelligence estimates from the CIA and have to deal with Putin when tensions flare and tanks roll in the Caucasus.

I read about how coalition airstrikes recently killed 50 children (along with 45 more adult civilians) yet everywhere people were agog with excitement over Michelle Obama. She's lovely, she "nailed it", the Obamas are just like us, blah, blah, blah. It's amazing how otherwise smart, sober people get so incredibly wrapped up in a dog & pony show.

All this attention focused on heartwarming stories and platitudes obscures the fact that the sausage is being made right next door by big money and the politicos. Lobbyists and members of Congress get to whoop it up away from the gaze of the camera eye. (Two John Dos Passos puns in a row!) I don't care about the Obama family narrative; I want to know which Congressmen and Congresswomen are rubbing elbows with which lobbyists because that's how deals are made that affect which bills pass and which ones never make it out of committee. The warm fuzzies of Michelle Obama's story will fade soon enough, but the influence of lobbyists can have implications that will last decades.

So will all the Lefties out there please stop drooling over members of the ruling class telling you what you want to hear on the TV? As of yesterday evening, there had been precious little mention of the Bush administration's disregard for the rule of law and, quite frankly, it feels like 1992. Clinton did his populist shtick and what happened? NAFTA, deregulation, welfare reform, and Cruise missile sorties whenever Newt Gingrich and his arsewipe pals brought up Monica Lewinsky. And let's not forget that Clinton couldn't even donate some armored personnel carries to the U.N. to help save victims of the genocide in Rwanda. Despite Obama's nomination, there's still a hard row to hoe.

Still, it was a momentous week. Contrary to my fellow blogger Emily, Obama's nomination was more than forty five years in the making. Slavery ended in 1865 as did the Port Royal Experiment which proved to incredulous white people that blacks could, in fact, play the market game too. So that's 143 years, by my count.
|| Palmer, 1:21 PM || link || (0) comments |

28 August, 2008

Yes, Virginia, They Had Silverware Back Then

Madison beer blogger Kent Palmer made a trip to the medieval-themed restaurant, Medieval Times, recently and he blogged about the experience. Kent notes, "There were great similarities to what people believe of times gone by: princesses, chivalry and regality." I can only hope that neither he nor anyone else in his party came away believing that the cuisine they were served has any similarity to what was found at the regal dining table in medieval times.

The vegetarian meal was extra-special: a roasted kabob of potato, red pepper and onion plus a portabella mushroom stuffed with wild rice, and a slice of garlic bread.

Extra-special it may have been but blatantly modern as well. Potatoes, Bell peppers, and wild rice are all native to the Americas which means that no medieval chef would have been serving these vegetables to his lord nor a grain native to the Great Lakes area. Instead vegetarians would have been enjoying something like skirret pie or roasted turnips.

‘Dragon soup’ – vegetarian -- preceded it all, a tart tomato bisque. I guess dragons are really flowers or plants or something and not giant treasure-hoarding lizards with the power of fire, ice, or psionics.

There was no tomato soup in the medieval times because all the tomatoes were still in the Americas awaiting the arrival of the Spanish, who would kill off the natives and bring the venerable fruit back to Europe. And, as near as I can tell, soups back in the day weren't named after mythical beasts. Instead they had rather normal names like "cinnamon soup", which was essentially chicken soup seasoned with common medieval spices like cinnamon, clove, and grains of paradise.

The carnivores carried on over carrion of chicken, half-a-one each.

They gave no one any silverware; it’s part of the shtick. You drank the soup from your pewter bowl and used your hands to rip through the chicken. Just like you can’t get a plastic fork in an airport, maybe they were trying to prevent terror attacks on the King.

Chicken was certainly a part of the medieval diet (but not turkey!) but you'd have probably had help when eating it. The Joe and Jane Six-Packs of the Middle Ages usually ate with their hands. However, those dining with the king would have had silverware. The fork came to Italy from Byzantium in the 11th century but it took a few hundred years before Italians really took to them. It wasn't until the 16th and 17th centuries that the fork began to be used in other parts of Europe.

While medieval diners wouldn't have been using forks, they would have had spoons and knives. However, those at the lower end of the totem pole at a royal feast were probably found to be sharing a knife. This is not to say that people wouldn't put a little manual effort into their dinner, but there was decorum to be upheld when dining with the king; he wouldn't have stood for his courtiers to be all slovenly, parading around his hall with their doublets soaked in soup and gowns adorned with bits of chicken.

By the way, napkins were generally worn over the shoulder.
|| Palmer, 2:31 PM || link || (2) comments |

27 August, 2008

The Crimson King Holds Court at The Malt House

Yesterday evening was spent with my lovely lady at The Malt House. They now have Capital's Autumnal Fire available so the available pool of lagers has increased by one since my last visit. I asked the proprietor, Bill, if he had any plans to carry mead this winter. This led to a conversation with the other bartender about the White Winter Winery who said that she was originally from Ashland, a mere hop, skip, and a jump away from White Winter. Thusly she was familiar with their luscious elixirs. By the end of our stay, Bill was investigating how to order their meads. So now it seems I can look forward to warming myself up at The Malt House this winter with some fine mead. He also said that he'd be getting a cider on tap from AEppeltreow Winery. I was impressed with their beverages at the Great Taste earlier this month.

Being a beer dork, I also asked if there were any "retro" beers available. By this I didn't mean the 1960s formula for Schlitz or some pre-Prohibition brew from 1900. What I meant was those really retro beers that replicate recipes from the days before hops were used to flavor beer. Mankind has brewed suds for millennia but the now ubiquitous hops didn't come into general use until about 500 years ago. Before that various botanicals were commonly mixed together in a blend called "gruit" and used to flavor beer. Bill said that he didn't have any…yet. So there might be a heather ale in my future.

A bit before we left, I found another reason why The Malt House is one of the best taverns in town. In addition to the fine selection of beer and the absence of televisions, they have a good jukebox. In fact, I'd wager it's probably the only one in town that plays King Crimson. And not just the 1980's incarnation with all its Discipline and Three of a Perfect Pair goodness – we're talking the mid-70s Hendrix/Bartok hybrid. "Easy Money" from Lark's Tongue in Aspic was playing yesterday and that probably won't happen anywhere else in town. Life is good when you're drinking a Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen and being regaled by Robert Fripp's geetar.

My comments led to a conversation between Bill and myself about prog. I discovered that there was some Tull on the jukebox as well and that he'd first seen Genesis live in 1976 on the A Trick of the Tail tour in Milwaukee. (That would have been 21 April at the Riverside Theatre, if anyone cares to know.) I offered him some free bootlegs so perhaps there will be a little live prog in The Malt House's future.
|| Palmer, 10:33 AM || link || (0) comments |

26 August, 2008

Attacking the Clones Redux

Last night I took the boys out to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I'm an old school Star Wars fan and it was fun to take the next generation out to the cinema and indulge in George Lucas' whims.

Predictably, the film is generally getting mediocre to bad reviews. I went into the theatre expecting laser shoot-outs, light saber battles, a whiny teenager, and Yoda throwing predicates, subjects, objects, and modifiers into a blender until they come out all wizened-sounding. And that's exactly what I got.

I'd read some reviews of the film prior to seeing it and by far the worst was Roger Ebert's. I am forced to ponder what exactly he thought he'd be getting from this movie.

Exempli gratia:

The two armies attack each other, for some reason, only on a wide street in a towering city. First one army advances, then the other. Why not a more fluid battle plan?

Was Ebert expecting the screenwriters to study Patton's tactics?

The Separatist droid army executes a series of lateral obliques…

Kenobi: "Dooku you magnificent bastard – I read your book!"

Ebert hates the animation as well.

The characters have hair that looks molded from Play-Doh, bodies that seem arthritic, and moving lips on half-frozen faces -- all signs that shortcuts were taken in the animation work.

I thought the animation was great. Interviews with the film's makers reveal that they designed the look by starting with the 2003 Clone Wars cartoon series and crossed it with Thunderbirds, the 1960s TV show featuring chain-smoking puppets. The movement isn't as smooth as it is in other animated movies but who cares? It wasn't distracting. The only true Thunderbirds moment I can recall is when Obi Wan is jumping into his proto-A-wing fighter. Here it genuinely does look like he's a marionette being moved about on strings. Personally I loved the style of the animation. It was a nice change of pace to see something that didn't look like Shrek or Finding Nemo.

Another element of the animation that I liked was the use of darker colors. It's almost as if Darius Khondji shot the thing. Latsly, there's some really nice shot composition to be had as well. Take the shot above with Obi Wan in the foreground. It's a cartoon so you can have as much depth of focus as you want. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying its worthy of Gregg Toland but it adds to the 3D effect and sure looks pretty.

OK. Enough bitching about Roger Ebert.

Plot-wise, it's standard Star Wars fare. With the Clone Wars raging, Jabba the Hutt's progeny has been kidnapped by the Separatists. The Jedi vow to rescue the Huttlet in order to gain the Hutt clan's favor and the hyperlanes they control. Count Dooku looks to exploit the situation to get the Hutt's on his side. There are epic scenes of clone troopers duking it out with droids, light saber duels, and lots of cheesy dialogue ala Flash Gordon. Plus Anakin gets his own padawan, a whiny/sassy teenager named Ahsoka Tano who is, truthfully, pretty annoying. Just like Luke and Anakin.

Along the way we also get to me Ziro the Hutt who made me laugh. Ziro is Jabba's uncle and he speaks in English instead of Huttese. Ziro is clad in tattoos and hangs out in one Coruscant's seedier neighborhoods. Oddly enough, Ziro speaks with a New Orleans accent. I now read that Lucas himself wanted the character to sound like Truman Capote. Why he should want this is beyond me and I guess I'm a horrible person for not having been offended. Truth be known, I didn't view Ziro as this weak, effeminate gay stereotype; instead I was just amused at having a slice of The Big Easy in the Star Wars universe.

The filmmakers decided to not address Anakin and his move towards the Dark Side. Palpatine's maneuvering behind the scenes is virtually absent save one scene where he appears in his stylish dark robe on one of those hologram message hoolies. Anakin is the loose cannon we know from the prequels but he shows no signs of his Sithy future. What you do get is lots and lots of action. If you go expecting to see the rivers of Christophsis choked with the bodies of the dead and the Jedi bringing Hell with them, then you won't be disappointed.

Star Wars: Clone Wars is the introduction to a TV series of the same name due this fall on the Cartoon Network.
|| Palmer, 12:13 PM || link || (5) comments |

22 August, 2008

Sunday Mornings at the Gigglesnort

Via Chicagoist, comes this trip down memory lane - Gigglesnort Hotel.

While mom was getting ready for church, I was watching Bill Jackson and his friends Blob, The Dirty Dragon, and the rest. Wasn't there an evil lemon guy who flew around in a biplane too?

|| Palmer, 11:06 AM || link || (0) comments |

Dear Messrs. Obama and McCain: TMI

Kathleen Parker has a nice piece up at The Washington Post called "Pastor Rick's Test" in which she laments Barack Obama and John McCain submitting themselves to the questions of "mega-pastor" Rick Warren. Parker's main point is this:

This is about higher principles that are compromised every time we pretend we're not applying a religious test when we're really applying a religious test.

It is sad that the candidates feel the need to essentially prostrate themselves before a representative of one particular flavor of Christianity and declare how great Jesus is. Obama: "Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him." McCain felt his faith in Jesus "Means I'm saved and forgiven."

Reading Parker's piece, I was reminded of something Jonathan Rowe pointed out in one of his blog posts. He points to an article at Christianity Today called "We Shall Answer to God" which notes that our presidents refer to one kind of higher power or another in their inaugural addresses. The entirety of the text is no longer available online and the list of the presidents' religions is now hidden. Rowe captured the first part of the list:

George Washington 1789-97 Episcopalian (theistic rationalist*)
John Adams 1797-1801 Congregationalist; Unitarian
Thomas Jefferson 1801-09 Episcopalian (theistic rationalist*)
James Madison 1809-17 Episcopalian (theistic rationalist*)
James Monroe 1817-25 Episcopalian (deist?)
John Quincy Adams 1825-29 Unitarian
Andrew Jackson 1829-37 Presbyterian

Rowe says of the it, "What's striking is according to Christian Nationalist standards, the first 'Christian' President was probably Andrew Jackson." Personally I think it's striking to most Americans. We live in a time when presidential candidates must profess just how Christian they are yet none of our first six presidents had any orthodox Christianity about them.

Take the example of George Washington which stands in stark contrast to Obama and McCain. As Rowe says, "Washington never admitted to being an orthodox Trinitarian Christian and simply refused to answer the question when a group of pious ministers asked him to put his explicit religious cards on the table." When Reverend Abercrombie, the rector of the church Washington had attended, was asked about our first president's religious views, he replied, "Sir, Washington was a Deist".

As an atheist, I would like to see non-religious candidates. Barring that, however, it would be really swell if those who seek office could do a better job of emulating Washington and keeping their religion to themselves.
|| Palmer, 10:12 AM || link || (0) comments |

21 August, 2008

Journalists Across the Spectrum

If Bill Lueders were dead, he'd be rolling in his grave with news that ever more people are eschewing newspapers in favor of getting their news online. Despite the migration of newshounds to the Net, a Pew poll shows that television remains the "leading source of news" for Americans.

My interview with Mr. Lueders noted the decline of the newspaper here in Wisconsin. However, I now read that the Chicago Tribune has laid off 80 people recently with one guy who'd been given walking papers claiming the layoffs included a "a disproportionate number of journalists of color".

Does anyone know how many journalists of color there are at the papers here in Madison? I'm thinking of the State Journal, Cap Times, and Isthmus. I honestly have no idea how many there are. Capital Newspapers won't disclose any information about minority journalists on their payroll but did say that they did not lay off any minority staff members involuntarily when The Cap Times stopped being a daily. However, our self-described "progressive" paper doesn't appear to have a single columnist of color. Why is this? Ditto for the State Journal. Remember when copy editor Raymond Johnson left The Cap Times this past spring as the paper ceased daily publication? He said, "Madison's not my kind of town, and I didn't want my daughters to grow up there. Smug, phony-liberal, deep-seated prejudice...obvious to any black person or non-white minority." I'd be interested to know how many co-workers of Mr. Johnson's were people of color.

Do I think our papers are racist for their lilywhite cavalcade of columnists? No. However, I would love for Madison to have someone like Eugene Kane. I don't agree with his every point, but it would be great to have someone helping generate the kind of conversations he does. It would just be nice to have a greater mix of voices.

What got me going on this was the absence of any reports about Africa Fest last weekend. I attended but only for a couple hours and was hoping to find out what it was that I had missed. The only post mortem I've seen is in this week's issue of The Madison Times. I was very disappointed as the organizers of the fest invested a lot of time and effort to put on an event which puts cultures very different from our own on display and to reach out to the community. It would have been nice had more of us reached out to them.

While having journalists of color is no guarantee of a heterogeneity of views, moving towards a plurality of voices is a worthy goal. As it is, we're left with The Madison Times, The Capital Hues, and other small papers to give a consistent voice to Madison's minorities.
|| Palmer, 1:32 PM || link || (5) comments |

18 August, 2008

Cooking Polish at the New Place

I made my first Polish meal here at the new place:

That is bitki w śmietanie or beef callops stewed in sour cream which I served over egg noodles. It turned out OK but I know to add more allspice berries and another bay leaf next time. That and less flour as the gravy turned out a bit too thick. Not exactly the ideal summer dinner so I'll give this a go again come winter.
|| Palmer, 8:22 PM || link || (0) comments |

17 August, 2008

The Malt House Improves the Lager Quotient

On Friday I made a trek to The Malt House to meet up with a couple friends. I found that it was about a 25-minute walk and would have been a bit less had I not stopped to talk to a guy pulling weeds and petted his neighbor's dog.

Walking in, I found a seat next to my compatriots and took a look at the printed beer menu. Much to my surprise and delight, there were several more lagers available, bringing the total to around 30. Looking down at the other end of the bar, I saw that the third set of taps was now fully armed and operational. Imagine my delight when I discovered that there were, not one, but two lagers on tap whereas before there were none - Fauerbach Export and Fox River Pils.

I began the evening with an Export and it wasn't log before Dogger and Old Man Standiford had hopped on the Fauerbach bandwagon. At one point we noticed Bill moseying over to the big board and erasing Fauerbach. We had finished the barrel.

Considering my post about The Malt House's opening is one of my most popular ever, I've found it odd that the place has usually been so empty. On Friday, however, the joint was quite crowded, a very good thing. Those Belgians aren't cheap. Dogger and Dan came to the conclusion that the only thing missing was some food. Not pizza but some nice cheese sandwiches like I had at the Great Taste this year from Baumgartners. All you need is a rye bread, a small selection of cheeses, and some sausage. The perfect meal to compliment all the fine beers.

I am hoping that the place is doing alright financially. If anything ever becomes of Union Corners, I'm sure that would help business. As long as they don't put in televisions or electronic dart boards, I think it'll be alright.
|| Palmer, 2:56 PM || link || (0) comments |

First Footsetps in Africa Fest

Yesterday was Africa Fest 2008 and The Dulcinea and I brought the kids down to Warner Park to enjoy the festivities.

Unsurprisingly, we started off by satiating our appetites. I had the meat pies from the new Africana Restaurant over on Atwood which, I must admit, I have not yet frequented. They were quite tasty and I really loved the hot sauce.

This was also an opportunity for me to see the youth of today in action. Here's D, The D's eldest son (12) attempting to eat while fumbling with his cell phone:

I've read about the arguments of people like Mark Bauerlein and Susan Jacoby who say that the Internet and the "Digital Age" generally is taking an intellectual toll because people have no attention span and are too preoccupied with cell phones, iPods, and Facebook. Well, I have now witnessed a 12-year old attempt to text message and eat jerk pork simultaneously and fail.

While we ate under a tree, there was a drum circle just off of the path.

As folks ate and shopped, the main tent was alive with the opening ceremonies which included a visit from some royalty.

I believe they were from Ghana by way of Chicago.

"When you are a tribal chief in Africa, you are a tribal chief wherever you go in Africa. When you are a tribal chief in Chicago, you are a tribal chief only in Chicago."

Because of circumstances beyond my control, we weren't able to stay long. Here's a few observations.

I'll start with the most superficial by saying that I loved the African garb. The colors and the patterns were just wonderful. I know nothing about African haberdashery but the clothes were beautiful.

Both Buraka and Africana make some very tasty food. The former's dorowat with the wonderfully sour injera bread is a staple at Madison festivals. Plus their lentil & onion salad is the perfect summertime complement. And never let it be said that the extra hot sauce isn't genuinely extra hot. From the latter's stand we had the aforementioned meat pies but also the fried chicken which was also great. Nothing fancy, just lightly-seasoned chicken legs with a good dose of hot sauce.

One thing that was emphasized during the introductory ceremony was that Africa is a very large continent with many distinct cultures. Such comments reminded me that I am woefully ignorant of African cultures. If no one had told me, I wouldn't have known that Buraka serves East African food while Africana serves West African. The African Association of Madison has quite a task before itself to teach people here about the diversity of African heritages and cultures. While not everyone here may be as dumb as Kellie Pickler, it seems like the only time Africans make the news here is when they are dying. Famine, war, AIDS - these are the primary things which would catapult Africans onto our television screens, those of sub-Saharan Africa, anyway. Gaddafi gets the odd mention and we hear about extraordinary renditions to Egypt, but North Africa doesn't fare much better.

I want to attend Africa Fest next year. I'd like to catch some of the music & dancing, photograph the great duds, and be able to dispel some more of my ignorance.
|| Palmer, 12:53 PM || link || (0) comments |

16 August, 2008

"Get yer hop juice here and leave a testimonial"

The wicked wiles of the Hop Whore were on full display last weekend for the 22nd Annual Great Taste of the Midwest. My new best friend Page managed to score two tickets for The Dulcinea and me and we were able to hand M off to his father early which meant we were would not be accompanied by a nine-year old who would have no doubt been interminably bored.

Arriving a bit after 1, we found ourselves very far back in the line. But what can one do if folks arrive at nine in the morning for a prime spot?

Ahead of us in line was one of the guys from Star Liquor and his thirsty party. I got word from him that the resurrected 1960s formula for Schlitz would be coming to the shelves of Madison's purveyors of beer in the first week of September. (If memory serves.) Why this was deemed necessary has me buffaloed. Presumably this is about trying to find the next retro cheap brew to appeal to the next generation of hipsters who improbably haven't taken to Pabst.

It wasn't too long before the line started moving and soon we were in amongst the thirsty hordes.

The adventure began at Tent 400, for some reason I cannot recall, with a Norwegian Wit from The Grumpy Troll. Next up was Viking. The D went with one of her faves, the Hot Chocolate, while I gave the Mjød a go. Mjød is one of their bracketts and I've never seen either of them for sale down here in Madison so it was a no-brainer. It was a great summer drink as it was fairly dry and a bit tart, unlike the sweeter varieties I've had from White Winter Winery. Our initial sortie at Tent 400 ended with samples from Detroit Rivertown Brewing Company. I had the Vanilla Java while The D started her trend of drinking any beer she saw with double-digit alcohol content by going with their Voodoo Doublebock.

While standing around & drinking was the main attraction, there were other things happening to complement all the quaffing. For instance, there was plenty of music including this pulchritudinous pair from The Pints.

If there was actually anyone who didn't have at least a cursory knowledge of how beer is made, then the folks from Zymurgy Outfitters were there to demonstrate the magical, mystical art of brewing.

One tent was, as far as I could tell, dedicated to the art of pairing food with beer. I happened to walk by when local chocolatier Gail Ambrosius was matching various brews to her tender nuggets of chocolate goodness.

Moving onwards through the teeming masses, we noticed that there were a couple gentlemen hovering over grills so I presume the next seminar was going to pair beer with BBQ or grilled meat of some ilk.

I was getting a bit peckish and so wandered up the hill to the Baumgartners tent for a cheese sandwich. One could choose from 3 or 4 cheeses and have a slice of large diameter beef sausage thrown on for good measure. I opted for the sausage and topped it all off with a generous squirt or two of mustard. A perfect mid-fest snack.

After chowing down, The D and I continued our walk and happened upon the Real Ale tent.

Page had said that he would be working there and I'd hoped to say hi to him but, alas, there was no sign of him. I didn't let this get me down though, as John Barleycorn beckoned. The D tried out Rock Bottom's Peanut Butter Brown Ale which was smooth and very tasty while I gave Surly's Teabagged Furous a go. I enjoyed it greatly.

At the far side of the tent were a couple local breweries, Esser's Best and Fauerbach. Admittedly, Esser's Special isn't particularly special, but the crisp lager made for a nice change of pace and was refreshing on a hot summer day. At the Fauerbach table I had my first taste of their CB Bock with which I was mightily impressed. It had a nice grainy base with caramel overtones which melded well but was not heavy. A great summertime bock.

The D and I then headed back to the other side of the festival grounds where we eventually met up with her friend, Jennifer. Jen tends bar at Tyranena and her shift at the brewery's table had ended. And so she joined us, clad in her stylish pretzel necklace.

The three of us wandered around and I ran into my ex-boss, Amy. It was good to see her as I hadn't in ages. Along the way, we sampled some good beers. The D loved the tripel from Gottberg Brewpub while I became enamored of Short's Nicie Spicie. Nicie Spicie is a wheat ale "spiced with fresh zest of lemon and orange rind, coriander, and black peppercorns". Local brewers, Furthermore, have Knot Stock which is also brewed with pepper but this stuff was quite different. The pepper in Knot Stock tends to sneak up on your palate from underneath. With Nicie Spicie, the bold, aromatic flavor of the pepper is right up front, yet it wasn't particularly hot. This stuff would make a great autumn brew – something to wind down with after a day of apple picking and corn maze wandering.

Another brew that impressed me was from Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. Their Smoked Helles was a wonderful surprise and would have gone well with my sandwich. Most rauchbiers I've had are on the heavy side but this stuff was not. Light and with a medium of amount of smoke flavor, the beer was refreshing in a simple way yet it also had heft for the tongue.

The event also provided the opportunity to try some Wisconsin products that don't get distributed down here in Madison. The first on this list was Duzy Piwo from O'So Brewing. It was a nice, big pilsener. Rush River was also there. I asked the guy behind the table if they were ever going to be distributed here in Madison and he said "Next month!" Hopefully the first week of September.

Towards the end of the fest, I made sure to hit White Winter Winery and try some mead. They had a plum mead which I'd never seen for sale anywhere previously so I had to give it a go. I loved it. Not too sweet, not too dry – just perfect.

I told the gentleman behind the counter how much I enjoyed it and he pointed me to Jon Hamilton, the man behind the honeyed fermentation. I gushed like a school girl and told him how much I loved his mead as well as his bracketts, especially the oak variety. Inquiring about its availability here in Madison, he replied, "That would be none." He continued, "I can't ship it either because it's a malt beverage. I learned that the hard way."

The D had wandered over and found me. She sampled the plum mead as well before we decided to check out the ciders of AEppelTreow. In my mirthful drunkenness, I accidentally stumbled into the wrong area and got a smack in the face. That'll learn me for walking into the path of the bean bag game. Despite this setback, we made it to the AEppelTreow line just fine. The Berry-Apple & Cran-Apple ciders were incredibly tasty and refreshing. They were lighter-bodied than I had expected and not overly sweet, both big pluses in my book. Spiced cider was also on tap which was heavy on the clove. Good but not quite the right season.

This was my first Taste in probably 11 years. I began attending when I became of age and went a few years in a row. Back in the day, tickets didn't sell out in a matter of hours. Then it started to be held on moving day and I was moving every year. Ergo it was quite a treat to be able to make it this year. A hearty thanks to Page for scoring us the tickets.
|| Palmer, 8:03 PM || link || (1) comments |

15 August, 2008

Katjusa Cisar Shows a Little Love

Katjusa Cisar reviews Bottle Shock today at The Cap Times. After the less-than severe chastising I gave her for crediting the cinematography of Mister Lonely to the film's director instead of the cinematographer, I am pleased to read her latest review which contains this:

Cinematographer Michael J. Ozier uses a grainy, color-rich scheme that makes the screen as inviting as a glass of wine on a summer afternoon. When Spurrier bites into Kentucky Fried Chicken, you can practically smell the fried goodness.

Thank you, Ms. Cisar, for showing a little love for the cinematographer.
|| Palmer, 7:51 AM || link || (2) comments |

13 August, 2008

The Old Homestead

I recently moved back to the isthmus after a decade-long absence. The main consideration was being near the Marquette Elementary School so that The Dulcinea's youngest son wouldn't be changing schools for the second year in a row. We found a flat near the school in an old house surrounded by other old houses. I like the neighborhood quite a bit because I love old homes and they're all different from one another, unlike new subdivisions which are just cookie cutter crap where all the houses look alike. It's all siding with no brick and you can have your siding in one of three shades of grey or tan.

My love of old homes and my attraction to my new neighborhood is probably the result of luck as I grew up in an old house in a neighborhood full of them – The Villa.

The Villa is a district within the larger Irving Park Neighborhood on Chicago's northwest side. Last fall, the Chicago PBS affiliate ran a segment about the The Villa on the program Chicago Tonight. Luckily the station is able to burn copies of the program onto DVD and sell them to nostalgic folks like me. (This stands in stark contrast to Wisconsin Public Television which, I found out a couple weeks ago, is unable to afford to sell copies of its programs.) It made for some interesting viewing as I got to see my old stomping grounds and learn about the history of district.

The Villa is now in its 101st year. The land was sold to developers Albert Haentze and Charles M. Wheeler in 1907 but came with some restrictions. A preservationist interviewed for the program explains, "What city planners were finding was that, um, a lack of planning was creating neighborhoods that were not attractive to live in. They would quickly become overcrowded, you didn't have sufficient greenspace…"

The restrictions imposed were:

1) Only single-family homes were to be built.
2) A minimum of 15' of frontage for each property.
3) Houses be set back at least 38' from the lot line to prevent crowding.

Haentze and Wheeler added two more restrictions: that the minimum home price be $2,500 and that all homes had to be bungalows. If you don't know anything about architecture, especially that of Chicago, then know that the city has tons of bungalows. There's even a "bungalow belt". The Villa was ahead of the curve in this respect as the so-called Bungalow Boom of the 1920s was still more than a decade away.

The district was originally your typical slice of Chicago grid pattern but got replatted. This changed the streets and added parkways.

There are two flavors of bungalows in The Villa: the Chicago and the California.

Let's start with the Chicago bungalow:

They're relatively narrow, have brick exteriors, and the gable is parallel to the street. You can't swing a dead cat in Chicago without hitting one of these.

Now here's a California bungalow:

Notice how it's wider. It looks like it's stuccoed, as was the house I grew up in, as opposed to being made of brick.

The show noted that the most common architectural style in the district is the Craftsman style with eaves that have exposed rafters which extend far beyond the wall. Frank Lloyd Wright was big at the time and his Prairie Style is also present in the Villa.

It was also noted that some homes built in the late 1910s and early 1920s have elements of Colonial Revival.

In all, there are 126 homes in The Villa and the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in1979 and became a Chicago landmark four years later. It's a lovely neighborhood and, as you can see from the photo above, street corners have these neat stone flower boxes which are about six feet tall. I was last in The Villa a few years ago and the parkway that my friends and I had played football on as kids is now overgrown. The saplings are now trees and the bushes cover much of the grass. I also found that the railroad embankment along Avondale had a shiny new fence but I hope this doesn't prevent the neighborhood kids from putting pennies on the tracks to have them flattened by trains. Plus asparagus grew on the embankments as well.

These are minor changes, really, as The Villa hasn't really changed much at all over the past 80 or so years. I also hope that the basement of the house I grew up in hasn't changed much. A young couple bought the place when we moved to Wisconsin and their kid deserved to have the wonderful basement to play in as I did. While I cannot recall all the details, the house was built by a German immigrant and he modeled the basement after a Trinkenhalle or drinking hall. (No wonder I love beer so much.) There were high footings that were painted to look as if they were made of stone and the walls were painted with rafters and braces. The doors were made to look as if they were these big oaken portals and had rings instead of doorknobs. There was a small windowed crawl space in one wall that had a triptych inside of a German village. Of course there was a beautiful wooden bar, all darkly-stained. I inherited some of the glassware and steins that were in that bar and put them in our new hutch this past weekend. The basement was dark and had tons of crawlspaces which are perfect for kids.

Ah, the memories. But now I have a new house to get used to and a new neighborhood to explore. My basement is slowly being transformed into my office, along with storage, and I'll no doubt add an antiquarian touch.
|| Palmer, 10:48 AM || link || (0) comments |

12 August, 2008

I'm 150% Fashion

This is the look I get from my girlfriend, The Dulcinea, for being on the leading edge of fashion. People who know me and are reading this are no doubt guffawing but it's true. I'll prove it.

I was at the laundromat over the weekend - the one by Burrito Drive so it was full of hipsters who have an iPod ear bud in one ear and a Bluetooth cell phone ear piece in the other and drink PBR. I pulled some clothes out of a dryer and was folding them when a woman asked me if a sock lying on the floor was mine. Indeed it was.

"If it wasn't, I was going to look for the other one," she said. "Those are great socks."

See? My Kermit the Frog green argyle socks are the height of fashion.

So why I have to suffer looks as above has me buffaloed. The D's visage was prompted by another of my great sartorial practices:

The D says that only children and old duffs are allowed to wear suspenders and that no respectable gentleman in his mid-thirties should be caught dead in them. Why she thinks this is beyond me. I think they make me look rugged and this particular pair belonged to my dearly departed father. Suspenders keep my shorts from falling down and complement my farmer's tan.

So, dear reader, tell me: are suspenders not suitable fashion accessories for people of all ages in addition to being great at keeping one's trousers properly at the waist? Personally, I hope to start a trend. Just wait until sexy screen goddesses such as Uma Thurman and Jennifer Jason Leigh start wearing them and all you doubters out there will realize that I am actually on the bleeding edge of fashion.
|| Palmer, 9:41 PM || link || (6) comments |

The Facts Matter: An Interview With Bill Lueders

Newspapers here in America have fallen on hard times. (Although they are apparently doing very well in India.) Here in Madison, The Capital Times ceased daily publication this past spring and just last month the Daily Telegram in Superior did the same. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is "downsizing" both the staff and the paper itself. Presumably this means that lengthy pieces such as the ones MJS reporters did on the chemical Bisphenol A which garnered the attention of Bill Moyers will be fewer and further between. The pain is also being felt by weekly papers with Madison's Isthmus losing three people.

Isthmus News Editor Bill Lueders is none too pleased with this state of affairs and he expressed his anger last month in an opinion piece called "For the love of newspapers" in which he decried the decline of the newspaper. As I read it, I alternated between nodding in agreement and feeling that I had to defend the "new media". Wanting to know more, I asked him if he'd submit to an interview over e-mail and he kindly agreed.

(Photo from Mr. Lueders' website.)

FS: What was the impetus for your opinion piece, "For the love of newspapers"? Did one event set you off or was this a long time in coming?

BL: Two things. One was the talk I gave at the east side rotary (mentioned in the piece); the other was a conversation I had with the mayor about newspapers. Plus I needed a column topic, which is always a motivator.

FS: In your piece, you express anger that newspapers are "falling into disrepute". How is this fall measured – by circulation? Why do you think they are increasingly getting a bad name?

BL: I thought I addressed this in the piece. Papers are losing readership and revenue and are seen as anachronistic by stockholders. Worse, people now blithely assert that newspapers are not to be trusted. I dispute this; I think newspapers are far more reliable than some other media. I think many of the people saying this are just making excuses for being too damn lazy to read the paper.

FS: I asked because I was hoping that you'd have some polls results or the like to backup the assertion that newspapers are falling into disrepute. It was an opinion piece and not an exposé so I wasn't expecting it to be full of statistics. You've got the anecdote of the gentleman at the Rotary Club but, from my experience, he is in a minority. (Did the whole audience nod in ascent to his comment? Or did you perhaps detect disagreement?) While most of my friends and I generally do not read the paper version of newspapers, we do read the online versions. Sure, we are critical of some things, but I wouldn't say that newspapers in general have fallen into disrepute with us. Furthermore, as a blogger, I certainly owe a debt to newspapers as I often cite them. I can understand the drop in circulation and the effect that might have on shareholders, but, anecdotally, I don't see a great number of people saying that newspapers are not trustworthy.

BL: Good point. I think the lack of trust issue is a minority view but the decline in circulation and profitability is a fact. As I said, I think the complaints about lack of trust is a façade for people who don’t read papers because they just don’t think it’s important to stay informed.

FS: Do the papers themselves have some culpability in this? I ask because I'm one of those people who feels that newspapers (and much of the news media, generally) deserve opprobrium. That's not to say I dispute your assertions that newspapers get "an amazing number of things right", as you wrote, and that reporters do a lot of work. But when the New York Times issues a mea culpa for its reporting about the lead up to the Iraq War, which was mirrored in other papers, I think that some criticism is due. This wasn't an incorrect date of a press conference or the attribution of a home run to the wrong player at a baseball game – this was the build-up to war.

BL: Yep, the media, especially at the national level, tend to be lamentably unskeptical regarding the official version of events. And yes, the NY Times allowed itself to be used to make the case for war. But the Scripps-Howard news service did seminal reporting debunking the case for WMDs; Newsweek reported that Saddam Hussein had suspended his weapons program. Not everyone was duped. And reporting on this level has very little to do with what reporters like myself do day after day and week after week. If anything, we’re maybe too quick to criticize people in power.

FS: In the first half of the piece, I got the impression that you lamented the decline of the newspaper as a thing made of wood pulp. Is that fair to say? If so, what it is about the medium of newsprint that is valuable and not available in electronic versions of the same material? i.e. - is it a big deal if people get their news from the online counterpart to a paper instead of the print version?

BL: I personally think that having a paper in hand allows for better absorption of content than looking at stories online. I think people read faster and grasp less online. But the bigger and more immediate problem is that a paper is something you have to pay for and there is not yet an economic model that allows newspapers to succeed online. Thus reporters are losing their jobs.

FS: You are critical of "blowhards on cable TV and the bloviators of the blogosphere" but isn't comparing them to newspaper reporters unfair? The blowhards and bloviators don't practice reporting, they purvey opinions just like people such as John Nichols and William Safire do via newspapers in print.

BL: Maybe I AM being unfair. Write a post about me. The bloviators rehash what reporters dig up; as less news is generated they become more of a mob and an echo chamber. And the perceived need for scintillating content distorts that significance of certain sensational stories. Look at the story about John Edwards’ extramarital affair. It ran in most papers as an inside story, or two, along with dozens of more important stories. But (I’m guessing at this because I’ve been gone for a week) I bet it dominated the cable news channels and blogosphere.

FS: I thought it was unfair of you to essentially portray the denizens of the Internet as bloviators or "idiot(s) with Internet access". To be sure, there are plenty of those, but isn't it a tad disingenuous to take some of the worst of what the Internet has on offer and contrast it with the what print gives us?

BL: I think that in compacting my sentence you are distorting my meaning. Not everyone who posts online is an idiot. I didn’t say or mean that. But the idiots have just as large a presence as more thoughtful and responsible commentators. It matters that newspaper costs money and people have historically been choosey about what they print as a result. Online the only filter is whether on not a person has access to a computer.

That said, it’s probably true that better writers cultivate larger audiences; there is some sifting and winnowing going on. But when you consider that a sizable portion of the American public believes Obama is a Moslem because they read this online, it’s clear something is wrong.

FS: I wasn't trying to distort your meaning and perhaps I inferred something I shouldn't have. Sorry about that. My point was that you refer to the Internet three times in the piece: "bloviators of the blogosphere", "idiot(s) with Internet access", and "go all viral spreading ridiculous lies". (At least I take this last one as a reference to the Internet.) And by omitting anything positive the Internet has to offer, you're stacking the deck.

BL: Okay. Let me say that I use the Internet and like it. But it is a much less reliable source of information than newspapers. Don’t believe me? Do a Google search for common misspellings and you’ll get hundreds or thousands of hits.

FS: There have been several books lately which argue that Americans, especially young Americans, are "stupider", i.e. – more interested in pop culture than more "serious" pursuits and have no mind to examine things in-depth. A lot of the blame is laid at the door of the Internet. I'm thinking here of Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason and The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein as well as Nicholas Carr's piece for The Atlantic, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?". (See here: http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2008/08/2008080101c.htm.) Do you buy these arguments? Are newspapers in decline because we're becoming more intellectually shallow?

BL: Yes. No doubt about it. That’s also why our political system is being corrupted by special interests. Politicians need money to run commercials because a huge and decisive share of the public is so shallow it actually decides how to vote based on TV ads. That gives specials interests an “in” to control the process.

FS: I'll cop to being one of those idiots with an Internet connection but don't you see anything positive about the Web, bloviators aside?

BL: I see much that it positive about the web, just that I see much that is positive about cable TV news. All forms of media outlets add to the vitality of the flow of information. But the decline of newspapers is an ominous thing.

FS: What about the Web is positive to you? Has it made your job any easier or enabled you to do it better/quicker/more efficiently?

BL: Yes, it is much easier to find information of all sorts. When I began as a reporter, I spent many an hour going to the library to find stories on microfilm. I still have to do that on rare occasion, but pretty much everything written in the last decade and a half is available online. The Web and other technological improvements have made reporters much more productive, which makes it all the more unfair that they must work even harder and fight for their jobs.

FS: The Rubicon has been crossed and there's no going back. The Internet is here and it's not going anywhere. Do you see any hope for newspapers? Is there anything they can do to help stave the wound that they're not currently doing?

BL: Yes, I think newspapers will recover once people realize that there is value to the quality of information they provide. I don’t care if it’s online or in print but there is a place for trained and seasoned observers. There is a place for professional standards. The facts matter. Good reporting matters. Someone has to uncover the stories that set the blogosphere ablaze.


In researching this post, I came across Fading to Black, a blog which links to articles about the decline of the newspaper industry, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in this topic.
|| Palmer, 12:20 PM || link || (0) comments |

Rath's Rants Redux

Something was amiss at POST last night. After following a link at The Daily Page to one of Jay Rath's rants that had disappeared in June, I discovered that the prodigal post had returned on Sunday. (It can be found here sans most formatting.) In addition, the Recent Posts column was populated with material from about six months ago. Refreshing the page brought up current stuff including the Rath's early summer defense of James Madison Park as well as a new one on some living stereotypes that populate our local TV.

I find this morning that history has repeated itself as another of his wonderful rants has undergone an extraordinary rendition. It was posted yesterday and had to do with certain blonde hostesses of a local TV station's morning news program and their general airheadedness.

Emily Mills found Rath's first rant which had disappeared in Google's cache but, unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if this second one got scooped up for posterity. A Google search brings up a hit at this link but, as of now, it returns "Story not found". All that remains is "I am far more uncomfortable when the weekday blondes make jokes about common…" I think the sentence finishes with something akin to "…words on the teleprompter that they don't understand". He criticizes these women for reveling in their ignorance and he also draws a distinction between reporters and presenters who merely read a teleprompter. I looked for blonde morning anchors at the websites of Madison's TV stations and I presume he was referring to Christine Bellport and Sarah Carlson of our NBC affiliate but I'm not positive. I believe he did mention the name of the meteorologist of the station which gave it away but, alas, I cannot recall.

Did anyone else catch it? Emily, do you know something about Google's cache that I don't?
|| Palmer, 10:50 AM || link || (0) comments |

08 August, 2008

Hey Boyfriend! Leave That Beer Alone

I promise not to drink my goodly girlfriend's beer after reading this story about a woman in Chicago who killed her boyfriend because he was drinking her beer

About 6 p.m. Wednesday, the two were sitting in Anderson's car outside his home when Williams became angry that he was drinking her beer, authorities said. They began to quarrel, and Williams allegedly pulled a knife she carried for protection and began stabbing Anderson.

Anderson yelled for help, but Williams continued to stab him, Assistant State's Atty. Susanne Groebner told Desierto.
|| Palmer, 9:58 AM || link || (0) comments |

How About a Little Love for the Cinematographer?

Honestly, I don't want to make a cottage industry of criticizing the film reviews of Katjusa Cisar of The Cap Times. I swear on my father's grave. But, being a film geek, I just can't let some stuff go.

This week she has reviewed Mister Lonely, directed by Harmony Korine. While she didn't write a terrible review, there is one bit that annoyed me. To wit:

The cinematography is at times breathtaking. The way Korine sets up the composition in many scenes brings out a rare, stark beauty that accentuates the loneliness of the characters. For instance, the image of a group of nuns holding hands as they fly in formation is a beautiful sight.

If you look at the film's credits, you will find that the cinematographer is this guy, Marcel Zyskind.

Another term for a cinematographer is Director of Photography so Zyskind was in charge of the picture taking. Lighting, lens selection, camera movement, and, yes, shot composition are the purview of the cinematographer. There's a reason for a separate Academy Award for cinematography. There's a reason why film geeks mourn the death of a Sven Nykvist or Conrad Hall. Cinematographers fret over film stock and its grain; they ponder lens lengths; color temperature occupies their minds more than is safe for a human being; they open cameras and futz with the shutter to get the right effect; DPs send lenses back to optics companies to have the coatings removed for just the right look. To be sure, a DP and director are a team but can we give some credit where credit is due? Zyskind spent years pulling focus rings and running around with a SteadiCam (60+ pounds!) harnessed to his frame before he was put in charge and Cisar attributes his hard work and skills to Korine.

So, the next time you see a film and are impressed with the cinematography, try thanking the cinematographer.
|| Palmer, 9:34 AM || link || (0) comments |

06 August, 2008

Back to School for Blaska

In a post at this blog today David Blaska criticizes the ACLU for being partisan. He quotes Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, and snorts, "So much for the notion that the ACLU is non-partisan."

Here's Blaska:

I think the majority of groups are here because they really want to demonstrate to the delegates that they want to see some sort of changes in the party platform," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota in an AP report published on CNN. So much for the notion that the ACLU is non-partisan.

Here's what Samuelson said as quoted from the AP story that Blaska mentioned:

There are some groups that are going to be here just because this is a big stage," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. "But I think the majority of groups are here because they really want to demonstrate to the delegates that they want to see some sort of changes in the party platform.

What's partisan about Samuelson's comments? He said nothing that couldn't apply equally to those who would demonstrate outside the Democratic National Convention nor did he say anything that was supportive of the demonstrations to come. He expressed no support for the changes he thought the demonstrators wanted to see in the party platform.

Marc Eisen's last act as editor should be to send Blaska back to remedial English.
|| Palmer, 1:27 PM || link || (0) comments |

05 August, 2008

My Friends Don't Read Francis Bacon

Last night I spent a few hours unpacking at my new apartment. I reassembled my bookshelves and began filling them up with countless tomes of printed goodness. Two shelves were dedicated to the Great Books of the Western World – all fifty-some-odd volumes. There are critics of the set who say that it's more of a showpiece than anything. These people say that most people never read it, they put it on a shelf to impress people. I don't doubt that this is true for most of the purchasers. I inherited these books from my father and I can tell you that he read many of the volumes.

For my part, I've read a handful of them – some Machiavelli, Dewey, Shakespeare, and a couple others. Homer is in the set too and it's always nice to read The Odyssey. It's a strange feeling to know that one of the foundations of Western Literature includes a scene where the protagonist rams a spear into a suitor's groin. Something Quentin Tarantino would be proud of. Now, I would have read this in Volume 4 of The Great Books had it been a translation from sometime in the last millennium. Instead, I ended up reading Robert Fagles' translation. This is the big problem with the series – editor Mortimer Adler made no attempt to use contemporary translations. The one of Dante's Inferno reads like it's from the 1340s while Milton's contribution is the same as it was in 1667, with only the minor change of the esses printed as "s" instead of "f", so it's "Paradise Lost" instead of "Paradife Loft". Adler even wrote somewhere in the bowels of the first three volumes, which are all introductory, that the average middle class person of 1952 (when the set was originally published) should have no problems with near pre-historic English.

About 11 years after The Great Books were published, a companion series debuted – Gateway to the Great Books. It was 10 volumes that collected excerpts from novels and essays which covered the same themes at its parent series. It's much more accessible and I personally have read quite a bit of the Gateway. One of the great essays included is "Of Friendship" by Francis Bacon and it's been a favorite of mine since I first read it at the age of 15 when I was newly moved to Wisconsin and without friends. "A principal fruit of friendship," Bacon tells us, "is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart." I am proud to say that my friends excel in this area. Should my heart be full, I can always discharge it on them. The second fruit of friendship is that it "maketh indeed a fair day in the affections, from storm and tempests; but it maketh daylight in the understanding, out of darkness, and confusion of thoughts." If I need faithful counsel, my friends are there for me with their collective wisdom.

Bacon describes the third and final fruit of friendship as being like a pomegranate because it is "full of many kernels". He continues, "I mean aid, and bearing a part, in all actions and occasions." I am going to send the essay to my friends with this part highlighted and in bold because they failed miserably with this third fruit. The proof lies with my back which is killing me. I alerted my "friends" to my move and 7 or 8 people helped my girlfriend get her stuff in and out of a U-Haul truck. But, when it came time to move mine, not a single person lent a hand. Not a single so-called friend gave aid or bore a part in the occasion of my move.

Why? Why did they forsake me? I lent one money lest he find himself out on the street; I helped another move into his house a few years ago; when yet another found that his house needed a new roof, I gladly overcame my fear of heights and got up there and started removing shingles. Oh, I got excuses alright. One claimed to have had a bad back. Even if this were true, did he really have to offer the use of his hand cart after I'd moved 95% of my stuff and was ready to keel over? Another said he'd hurt his knee "fishing". Oh, I'll bet he did. How do you hurt your knee fishing? I suppose dropping a 1.75l of Tanqueray on it would do the trick. If you happened to be out at Cherokee Marsh this past weekend, you'd have seen a couple of my buddies out canoeing and, in general, not helping me move. They're all evil, I tells ya. Luckily someone is going to help me with my bed and dining room table tonight. And he's from Illinois.

The new place still looks like a tornado has gone through – but with a modicum of clean-up having been done. The women who had the apartment before us left it a mess so The Dulcinea has had to clean the refrigerator, kitchen drawers, window sills, etc. It's been a lot of work and there's much more to go. The flat has no air conditioning and trying to unpack with your eyes stinging from sweat gets really old very quickly. Earlier this morning I called my cell phone provider to notify them of my new address…

"Hi, I'm calling to report a change of address."

The gentleman at the other end helpfully asked, "OK. What's your cell phone number?"

"Five one….six…No! Five one three…wait. I don't know what it is."

Man did I sound like a total maroon. I'm still not sure what my cell number is. This is probably for the better as I really want to get rid of my service. I spend $45/month for a phone I barely use. My last bill showed that I made about 30 minutes of calls which means I paid roughly $.1.50 per minute for talk time I could have done with a landline. And then last week I got a notice that the price for text messaging is going up. Luckily I don't text so it's no big deal. However, it reinforces my prejudice against cell phone companies.

If all goes well, my move with be official tonight. I'll misss my roommates, cable TV, and TiVo, but I'll miss the A/C more. I gave some thought yesterday to buying an air conditioner but eventually thought better of it. I decided against doing so as most of my clothes were soaked through with sweat and I'd just be bait for the sharks at Best Buy. "Have I got a deal for you!"
|| Palmer, 1:44 PM || link || (1) comments |

Obama Recognizes America is Not a "Christian Nation"

Earlier this week I wrote about how a couple comments by Barack Obama regarding religion make me feel that the Democratic Party mirrors my own values less and less. To give another side, here's Obama explaining that America is not a "Christian nation":

|| Palmer, 10:38 AM || link || (0) comments |

03 August, 2008

Feeling Like Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan famously said in 1962, "I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." I begin to feel that way when I read stuff like this. It's a profile of Howard Dean's chief of staff, Leah Daughtry, who is Pentecostal preacher. (Part-time, that is.) While I find her belief in divine healing and speaking in tongues to be ridiculous, her religious convictions are her own. What irritates me is her patronizing anti-intellectual tone. With regards to faith healing, she says:

“The eggheads will say her chemotherapy worked, but everyone who uses chemotherapy isn’t cured.”

Honestly, I don't know if she means that chemotherapy doesn't work for anyone or if it only works for some and not others. So, a member of her church gets breast cancer which is treated by chemo. This woman then goes to church and does the whole laying of hands or whatever it is Ms. Daughtry does. Cancer goes into remission and Daughtry claims that her ceremony did the trick. If religion weren't involved, we'd be calling Daughtry a confidence trickster.

She addresses the issue of her rising prominence in the media by saying:

“The intellectuals, the egghead types — Pentecostalism is incomprehensible to them. They don’t understand the spirit-driven. I can make the trains run on time, and they have a hard time reconciling that with my religion.”

Here's what I got out of the article besides the fact that Ms. Daughtry likes to insult doctors and other educated people: the Democratic party is out to show Americans that they can imitate the Republicans, that they're all faithful too. They want to follow in the footsteps of the politicos who convened Congress to meddle in the affairs of the Schiavo family, fund abstinence education that doesn't work, etc.

This attempt to out religious the Republicans is exactly what I don't want to see the Dems doing. The article notes the role of John Kelly, a man who trains "the communications directors of the party’s state organizations in approaching the religious media".

And when in April the National Catholic Register published an op-ed article headlined, “The Soul of the Democratic Party Is Still Secular,” Kelly made sure the paper ran his reply: “Democrats have been and continue to be people of faith. . . . The core values of the Democratic Party are in line with key Catholic teachings — creating a society that meets the needs of the poor, caring for the sick, supporting families, promoting peace and sustaining our environment for the health and life of us all.”

No, the proper reply is to say "You're absolutely right that the Party is secular. Thus was the intention of all that 'shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…' business in that thing called the Constitution. Separation of church and state benefits both." But you can't court the votes of people who think this country is or was a "Christian nation" and want to enforce their version of Christianity by saying that.

Thankfully the Democratic Party isn't going to nominate Ms. Daughtry for president. Unfortunately, their nominee, Barack Obama, prays that he will be an "an instrument of God's will" and has said "I am confident we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth". Honestly, I don't want a Kingdom nor a kingdom. We got rid of kings back in the 18th century and I am not keen on a president attempting to move the country towards his particular notion of a "Kingdom" involving his chosen deity. This is exactly the kind of crap I expect to hear from the Right and it worries me to hear the Democratic presidential nominee sounding exactly like a Republican. I see little difference between these statements and those of George W. Bush who sees himself as Yahweh's messenger boy bringing democracy at the barrel of a gun.

The Democrats want to portray the party as being a big tent. If all this rhetoric is simply about courting voters, then it's deceitful; However, this could be a genuine move to infuse the party with religion and not just appear so. Either way, I'm not so sure I want to be in that tent.
|| Palmer, 7:26 PM || link || (2) comments |

No More Days in the Life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Russian author and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn has passed away.

I recall my dad reading The Gulag Archipelago when I was a boy and as soon as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich appeared on my 8th grade list of books we could read for book reports, I immediately chose it. I still have that copy of the book too.
|| Palmer, 6:04 PM || link || (0) comments |

02 August, 2008

Something's On the Move

It has been about six years since I boxed up all my stuff and humped it all to a new home and here I am doing it again. You see, The Dulcinea and I are moving in together. Earlier this week we put all of her earthly possessions into a large truck and then emptied this truck yesterday. Our new home on the isthmus is now a complete disaster with boxes strewn about in every corner and we haven't even begun to move any of my stuff. Looking around, I see boxes, boxes everywhere. Not everything is packed, though. For instance, there are two six-packs of New Glarus Tail Wagger barley wine that has been down here for a couple years and is now nicely aged. It should be a nice bulwark against the cold this winter.

Despite having disposed of quite a bit, I've still got a lot of stuff. Does anyone want a film projector? It can handle 8mm and 16mm. I've also got an 8mm film editing hoolie. They're free but I make no guarantees about the availability of bulbs. And books. When they're on the shelves, they don't look like a lot but I've filled up numerous boxes with them. Ugh.

I'll be very glad when we're all settled into the new place. It will be a fully-armed and operational gaming den. I've got a Call of Cthulhu adventure that I'm readying for the maiden gaming night. We'll have to wait and see where my framed map of Middle Earth ends up. And I hope the neighbors like progressive rock because I have a feeling that they'll be getting hefty doses of Jethro Tull and King Crimson in the near future. If you're wandering the isthmus and hear the strains of "Lark's Tongue in Aspic", stop in and say hi. There's beer in the frig already.
|| Palmer, 7:50 AM || link || (2) comments |

01 August, 2008

Let Them Eat Salads

How long will it take for this to migrate to Madison? The City of Los Angeles is looking to halt the spread of fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods.

The war on fat has just crossed a major red line. The Los Angeles City Council has passed an ordinance prohibiting construction of new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area inhabited by 500,000 low-income people.

We're not talking anymore about preaching diet and exercise, disclosing calorie counts, or restricting sodas in schools. We're talking about banning the sale of food to adults. Treating French fries like cigarettes or liquor.

The author of the piece at Slate, William Saletan, notes that supporters of the legislation point to a higher concentration of fast food joints in poorer neighborhoods and that some of them "call this state of affairs 'food apartheid.'" With all the racial overtones of the word "apartheid", Saletan says:

Opening a McDonald's in South-Central L.A. is not government-enforced racial discrimination. But telling McDonald's it can open franchises only in the white part of town—what do you call that?

USC sociologist and author of The Gospel of Food said in an interview with Salon last year:

…the poorer you are, the more likely it is you will have food regulations imposed upon you. That's not to say these regulations are bad overall, but we should look at who's affected and in which ways. We should do that as well when we criticize eateries that provide low-cost meals to people on limited income. The fast-food industry deserves a lot of criticism and I level it in the book, but at the same time, to be able to get a complete or nearly complete meal for a few bucks, with distractions for the children thrown in at no extra cost, is not in itself a bad thing.

If you want to understand why people of low income tend to be more overweight and obese, it's a complicated story. But we shouldn't leave out the effect that food insecurity itself has; in the book I go into this in some detail, but basically there's a parallel pattern to binge eating, where people who periodically run low on food resemble people who are on diets. When food stamps run out, or the kids' medical expenses take precedence, or the local food bank shuts down or runs out of food, you're not going to eat a lot. And when food becomes available again, you binge.

We know that this pattern, this binge pattern, contributes to overweight and obesity. Yet we've come to have this odd notion that it's what people eat, it's what low-income people eat, rather than what they don't eat, or when they don't eat, or which options are not available to them, that explains their weight.

Saletan ends his article by saying that "the majority leader of New York's city council wants to adopt food zoning, and several cities have phoned L.A.'s planning department to request copies of the ordinance."

With a recent report on increasing obesity rates amongst African-Americans here in The Land of Cheese, I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of those cities who phone the L.A. planning department was from Wisconsin.
|| Palmer, 1:23 PM || link || (0) comments |