Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 July, 2008

Plunging to Despair

Bill Lueders of Isthmus had a revealing article yesterday in which he described a meeting of the minds wherein representatives of the Madison Police Department and The Media found common ground in their abstinence from doughnuts. Mr. Lueders also noted:

Lt. Joe Balles followed by noting that it’s easier for police to trust reporters if they sense they are doing an in-depth story (like the sort Isthmus often does, which he neglected to say), not a wham, bam, thank you man. He urged media managers to allow reporters to do this kind of story, without an imposing deadline. Wray asked if this was a problem and several reporters agreed they are under more pressure than ever to produce at a high volume.

I asked Mr. Lueders if he felt any pressure to "produce at a high volume" and here's what he told me:

Yes, but in my case this is mainly with regard to writing for the Web…Web writing is usually done pretty fast, amid other duties.

Another local reporter, Dustin Christopher, writes in reflection on the same meeting:

In today's Modern American Mediascape, being competitive means every passing minute is another deadline, and that doesn't leave a lot of time to sit down over a coffee or a brew and catch up. That doesn't leave time for personal understanding. That doesn't leave time for trust.

This relates to something I wrote earlier this week in which I complained that The Cap Times lacks investigative reporting, especially with regards to following any money trails. Investigative reporting is surely an expensive and time-consuming process and The Cap Times' reporters (and, no doubt, those of other newspapers) presumably have a small budget and not enough time. They are mainly an online entity due to fiscal considerations and their webpage must cry for a near constant stream of news and updates.

The absence of an imposing deadline must be anathema to web publishers. The Web seems like a leviathan with an insatiable appetite, its maw perpetually open demanding to be fed. Is the move from print to web helping to kill good reporting by coveting quantity over quality?
|| Palmer, 8:51 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

29 July, 2008

At the Sinny: Encounters at the End of the World

Encounters at the End of the World is Werner Herzog's latest film and is currently showing at Sundance here in Madison. I took it in last night and came away in awe and feeling ever so small & insignificant.

Herzog and his crew venture to the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica and find the station populated by an assortment of dreamers who are surrounded by some very beautiful, though very dangerous terrain. The South Pole is quite literally the end of the world as the only place you can go is north. But it also a terminus in other ways. For one, it was the last bit of the earth to have been explored. The Amundsens, Scotts, and Shackletons, of the world ensured that final terra incognita was opened to the probing eyes of humanity and that there were no blank spots left on maps. In another, even more terminal sense, the signs of global warming, some of which are studied at McMurdo, portend mankind's ultimate fate.



While "research station" is singular, McMurdo is really a sprawling complex of buildings and pipes. Herzog notes the station's ugliness and that it resembles a construction site. Indeed, there is a constant flow of machinery digging up the earth. Our narrator also notes his distaste for life in the complex which includes aerobics & yoga classes and an ATM. I was reminded of canoeing down the Wisconsin River and seeing people camped along the shore (probably from Illinois) with all the amenities of home – big camping trailers with beds and toilets, portable TVs, etc. Herzog cannot wait to get away from McMurdo, infested as it is, with all the trappings of modern civilization.

Moving away from the station, the filmmakers encounter vulcanologists studying an active volcano as well as a group who has set out to learn how a particular type of seal survives the harsh conditions. Elsewhere, cell biologist Samuel Bowser is found in a pensive mood as he prepares for his final dive before moving on and ceding his pursuit to a younger generation of researchers. Bowser describes the microbial life below as if they were monsters – with vicious-looking mandibles, tentacles just waiting to ensnare prey, et al. It is a brutish and violent life for them, he observes. Herzog asks him if this is why creatures, such as our distant ancestors, left the sea, to escape the Hobbesian world of the oceans. Bowser says it is quite probable. However, there is also a unicellular organism which the biologist says exhibits all the traits of intelligent life that we humans use to distinguish ourselves from lower forms. Depending on how you look at it, this can be an amazing tribute to a small creature or an ego-shrinking revelation for a hairless ape. There's little doubt that Herzog, who once opined "I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder" found a kindred spirit in Bowser.

But the director also found himself equally at home with other "professional dreamers" that he encountered. Stephan Pashov may be a philosopher and fork lift driver but he's at McCurdo driving a Caterpillar. A young PhD candidate in linguistics tends the greenhouse and relates how languages are being lost and no one seems to care. For his part, Herzog bemoans the general acceptance of tree huggers while the death of languages, of culture goes on almost uncontested. But this will all be moot if mankind destroys the environment and itself. Herzog spends some time wondering what some future alien archaeologist would make of what we leave behind.



We meet several people and a common refrain for their presence at the end of the earth is that they were refugees from their former lives. These people just have a deep seated need to be somewhere else. In addition to the cast of characters, there is, of course, the land and seas. There are mountains, the aforementioned volcano, glaciers, and the water. The underwater scenes are incredible in their stark beauty but also their cold remoteness. They sustain life in a variety of forms yet are inhospitable to humans who abandoned it long ago in favor of solid ground.

A lot of viewers will surely latch onto the "insane" penguin who wanders away from his own kind to die alone on the icy wasteland. However symbolic this scene may be, the one that really stuck in my head as reflecting Herzog's dour take on things was the survival training sequence. Before leaving the camp, everyone must take a survival training class where intrepid adventurers learn to build igloos and how to affect a rescue of someone lost in a blizzard. One exercise involved a group going out to search for a colleague who has not returned from the outhouse. To simulate whiteout conditions, the trainees have white buckets over their heads. One by one they file out of a shack holding onto a rope. The leader is supposed to head towards the outhouse but ends up veering way off course. Had this been done under extreme weather conditions, their colleague would probably have frozen to death as the group wandered aimlessly in a circle.

Admittedly, a scene of several people blindly struggling in the midst of a training exercise has none of the fatal beauty of a lone penguin waddling towards an ominous mountain range on the horizon where his fate is most certainly death. Nor does the scene compare to the shot of the bioluminescent sea cucumber thingy that ends the film. But there was just something about a group of smart people with buckets on their heads aimlessly bumping into one another as global warming rages on.
|| Palmer, 4:23 PM || link || (3) comments | links to this post

The Return of the 80s & A Message from Pierre Chang

A trailer for Oliver Stone's next film, W., has been leaked. W. is a biopic of the life of our current president and it looks to be fun. The DP is Phedon Papamichael.

Darren Aronofsky presumably needs an influx of cash as he's signed onto the revival of RoboCop. I like Aronofsky's work so I trust that the remake won't be horrible. However, the article ends on an ominous note:

Revamps of "Red Dawn," "Fame," "Poltergeist" and "Death Wish" are all in the works.

*Shudder*

Plus I hear that there's a sequel to Tron in the works as well. The 80s are new again, I guess. I can only hope parachute pants don't find themselves in vogue once more.

Lastly, LOST fans are rejoicing after Comic Con as we got another teaser to help tide us over until February when the show airs again.



Marvin's real name is apparently Pierre Chang. He was sending a video message about 30 years into the future which he ominously described, noting as he did, that George W. Bush is the president. Chang also implores the viewer to see the value of restarting the Dharma Initiative. With the Purge soon to be upon them, the cameraman complains that their effort is futile. Many people identify his voice as being that of Daniel Faraday…
|| Palmer, 9:29 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

27 July, 2008

Detritus

Whenever I hear people complain about how unsafe Madison is these days, I feel thankful that we don't have the violence problem that Chicago has. On Wednesday night, there were three shootings there which left three people dead and two injured.

While David Blaska's blog is in a constant state of admonishment with regards to Madison's Homeless Menace, I do have to give him credit for not running over those with no fixed address. This stands in stark contrast to Robert Novak, the guy who outed Valerie Plame.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Despite having a cover story in this week's Isthmus and an interesting three-part look at Madison's kink scene over at Dane101, John Mendel(s)sohn is preparing to leave our fair state. I guess he just couldn't handle Pam Barrett of the Motor Primitives calling him an "L.A. reject" and barking "shut the fuck up". Other invectives can be found in The Daily Page forum. (Especially amusing for me is jammybastard's comment on page 3: "As much as I love Laskin and Ken Burns, they would never ever risk something like this. Would Kiki or the other local indie music blogerati? No way." That made me chuckle. A couple hours after I publicly called one of his band's songs a Pearl Jam knock-off, he took the MP3s he gave me and went home.)

~~~~~~~~~~~

Isthmus has fallen on hard times and folks are leaving and/or being laid off Farewell to Marc Eisen, Dean Robbins, and Tom Laskin. I hope there's milk and honey just around the bend.



Bill Lueders of Isthmus is angry about the decline of newspapers and he's not taking it lying down. He recently expressed his anger and called on us to fight for them.

I'm angry that newspapers are falling into disrepute. I'm angry that people don't respect the quality control that goes into news reporting; they seem to think any idiot with Internet access [that's me] is worth listening to.

It's not enough to hope that newspapers stick around. We need to fight for them.


While I agree with much of what Lueders has to say and have great respect for the hard work that is reporting, I was also struck by the words of one David Steiner who wrote in a letter to the editor at The Cap Times that the new incarnation of the paper is a "shadow of [its] former self" and he describes the paper as being "sad and pathetic, with none of the Cap Times' wit, integrity or passion".

Looking through this week's paper, I realized what I'd like from The Cap Times – investigative reporting. I'd gladly sacrifice an article about laws Madison won't enact to have one in which a reporter follows a money trail. There's lots of interesting material in the paper but you'd think our politicos had direct lines to St. Peter because there's a paucity of reporting on those in power. This is Madison, the seat of state government – is anybody at TCT watching the politicians and their minions? While a recent profile of a Madison fire station was a good read, what I need as a taxpaying voter is for someone at the paper to start asking why WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi is out promoting rail to the people of Kansas City but is more interested in spending money here on highways. Luckily there are people like Michael Horne, Gretchen Schuldt, and James Rowen who are looking critically at what WisDOT is doing in these days of high gas prices.
|| Palmer, 8:58 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

25 July, 2008

Are You There Kent Williams? It's Me, Palmer

I am beginning to suspect that I'm the only person in this country that has absolutely no desire to see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. (That's pronounced "kuh-nig-it".) Nor have I seen director Christopher Nolan's previous Batman flick, Batman Begins. Lots of the blogs I read regularly have reviewed it and there's much speculation about the film as a commentary on life in the reign of Dubya. Plus Heath Ledger's performance is drawing all sorts of posthumous praise.

Fair enough.

It's just that I have no interest in Batman as a character – plain & simple. As far as Ledger goes, his performance may be great, but I'd have been more interested in what he could have contributed to Terry Gilliam's next film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Sing in Kent Williams, Muse, and through him tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of filmmaking




If I'm to spend a week's pay at the cinema, then I shall do so to watch a film about which I am excited: Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World. And so I sighed when I discovered that Katjusa Cisar of The Cap Times has penned a review. Last month I noted my disappointment with her take on Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure. In her review, Cisar complained that Morris didn't make the film she had wanted. Well, at least she is in good company as Michael Atkinson did the same thing in his own "review" for In These Times. Morris just isn't anti-Bush enough for Atkinson who needs every documentary relating to our venture in Iraq to be an explicitly anti-imperialist philippic.

And so, with some trepidation, I read Ms. Cisar's review. It's pretty harmless for the most part but I have to wonder what it was about the film that inspired her to write the following:

This all might seem like a crushing downer if it weren't for Herzog's obvious love for and faith in people, combined with a childlike wonder in the natural beauty of the world.

I'll admit that I haven't seen the movie yet but I am inclined to think that an encounter with Herzog's previous works would do wonders for Ms. Cisar. A "childlike wonder in the natural beauty of the world"? Seriously? This is Werner Herzog we're talking about here, the same man who said, "I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder" and "Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness".

While I wouldn't argue that Herzog doesn't find beauty in, say, any given landscape, what parts of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, etc belie Herzog's view that nature is cruel and punishes men who would engage in the Sisyphean task of trying to control her? Ms. Cisar seems to believe that Encounters is a companion piece, of sorts, to March of the Penguins. For decades Herzog's films have been about people – people who are "Conquistadors of the Useless" and wrapped up in madness & chaos – and I am incredulous of the notion that he's now developed some kind of Ansel Adams-like desire to showcase how pretty nature is.

I'm laying my money down on the side that says Herzog still views nature as chaotic and hostile. In addition, I would argue that Herzog is no stranger to asking his audiences to use nature as a mirror for themselves, to see at least some inner states reflected. For most, if not all of, his career, Werner Herzog has documented turbulence is one way or another and I find the idea that he has suddenly stopped to be very dubious. Ms. Cisar's review ends up coming off as the written equivalent of that mash-up trailer for The Shining which portrays the horror film as a heart-warming father-son tale.

|| Palmer, 10:29 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

22 July, 2008

Should I Bring My Orgone Accumulator to Class?

I received my course catalog for the UW's continuing education program yesterday and perused it this morning. I was happy to see some more interesting music and history courses with which I can feed my brain. Then, much to my dismay, I discovered that the UW is peddling Newage. There are a couple courses taught by one Beverly Crane.



Her bio is interesting for what it leaves out and how little is tells us. It begins with noting that Ms. Crane "has a PhD in humanities with subspecialties in psychology and anthropology". A PhD in humanities? The whole thing? Her "subspecialities" are very specific fields but her PhD is described with only the most broad term. What, does she have a degree in English Lit?

It continues: "she gained research experience at Harvard University and teaching experiences at universities and educational institutions in both the United States and Europe". She apparently didn't graduate from Harvard but it's always nice to put such a prestigious name in there. What kind of research did she do there? What did she teach and where? And what are these anonymous "educational institutions" referred to here?

Go the listing of mental health workshops and check out the bios of the other instructors. They are much more specific.

Ms. Crane will be facilitating two courses (two that I noticed, anyway):

"The Language of the Soul"

"Exploring the Energy Dimension"

Soul communication often goes unperceived largely because it is transmitted energetically through the right side of the brain using metaphor, symbol and association rather than the literal and linear processes of logic, categorization and cause and effect that we have studied in school. The language of the soul is multidimensional and multilayered. It follows quantum rules and is holographic in scope.

That sounds like something Alan Sokal would be proud of. I'd love to know if Ms. Crane knows anything whatsoever about quantum mechanics. When you hear New Agers invoking the word "quantum", beware! Such people generally know absolutely nothing of what they speak and are sometimes prone to be members of a cult which makes really awful films.

The human energy field is an aspect of each of us that affects everything we do. Long held to be an actual physical fact in eastern culture, most people in the western world are just beginning to notice this subtle dimension of reality.

Upon what evidence does the author of this description make his/her claim? What scientific studies show the existence of this "human energy field"? Hasn't Wilhelm Reich and orgone already been discredited?

Ms. Crane is also a believer in synchronicity – a star fall, a phone call, it joins all – synchronicity. So you can pay her money for her to explain these supposed "meaningful coincidences". Perhaps she suffers from apophenia.

Skeptical as I am, I'll remain open-minded. I've sent an e-mail to the program coordinator and await a reply. But your bullshit detector's warning klaxon should be doing defcon 3. And, if you believe in a collective conscious, synchronicity, human energy fields, etc. please – tell me why. How did you come to believe these things? Do you use the word "quantum" in describing any of your ideas? Talk to me because I'd love to understand.
|| Palmer, 1:28 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

19 July, 2008

"Lost" Metropolis Footage Found

Despite F.W. Murnau having been dead for more than three quarters of a century, it looks like a director's cut of his classic 1927 film Metropolis is on the way. About 25 minutes of footage that didn't make the final cut and had disappeared has been discovered in Argentina.

Staff members of the Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken in the Argentine capital found the missing scenes--about 25 minutes' worth, or 25 percent of the original film--in a 16mm negative. The footage had been cut after the film's original release and was thought lost forever.

The Wiesbaden-based Murnau Foundation, which holds rights to Metropolis, plans to incorporate the scenes--which reportedly enhance narrative logic and clarify the film's story--into a new restored version of the movie, in cooperation with the Argentine film museum.


|| Palmer, 9:32 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

18 July, 2008

Watchmen Trailer

You can watch it here. I look forward to reading interviews with Alan Moore about how crappy it is.
|| Palmer, 11:27 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Jenny's McCarthyism



It's nice to see Amanda Peet standing up against the celebrity fear-mongering machine of Jenny McCarthy and her beau Jim Carrey. "I was shocked by the amount of misinformation floating around, particularly in Hollywood," Peet said.

McCarthy's son Evan was born in 2002 and diagnosed with autism a couple years later. She claims that Evan's father, John Asher, just couldn't deal with the boy and his predicament and that this led to their divorce. Much to her credit, the diagnosis spurred the mother into action and so began treatment. Evan's recovery was documented in McCarthy's book Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism.

McCarthy is to be lauded for her actions and dedication towards her son. The problem is that she started a campaign which linked vaccinations to autism.



An appearance on Larry King's program garnered a lot of attention as did one on Oprah. A post on LeftBrainRightBrain details the sad events which led her to her crusade:

No joke: McCarthy was cheered lustily by the studio audience for announcing that, after her son was diagnosed, she typed the word “autism” into the Google search engine, launching a courageous and audacious search for the truth.

McCarthy spoke particularly of clicking on a link “up in the corner” (I believe those are what are known as “advertisements”) and learning about the wonders of biomed.

And naturally, vaccines had to come up. McCarthy said she had invoked what she calls her “mommy instinct” to finger the MMR in the case of her son.

Then Oprah read a response she had received from the CDC (at least she took a stab at social responsibility by contacting the agency) that talked about the lack of scientific support for the idea that thimerosal triggers autism.

McCarthy scoffed and said, speaking of her son: “He is my science.”

Well guess what, Prof. McCarthy? MMR doesn’t contain thimerosal. Never has.

She apparently didn’t know that. Oprah also either didn’t know it or didn’t bother to correct it.


Great. Just what we didn't need – a celebrity spreading misinformation and a TV hostess who does nothing to stop it. It shouldn't be surprising, though, considering that Oprah has pushed the patent BS of The Secret while McCarthy is a self-declared "Indigo mom". I had no idea what one was until I looked it up. It is sheer Newage bullshit featuring the evolution of consciousness and even telepathy. How curious that McCarthy's webpage on the subject was taken down just before her big book came out.

Last month McCarthy and Carrey led an antivaccination march in Washington D.C. with the slogan "Green Our Vaccines" which continued the fear-mongering and the spreading of bullshit.



All of this despite multiple studies which show no links between autism and vaccinations. David Gorski of the Science-Based Medicine blog has been tireless in not only debunking the claims of the antivaccination crowd, but he has also looked behind their rhetoric and at their motivations.

Although she certainly cannot be blamed for the antivaccination movement, she is surely contributing to it mightily. Using her celebrity status, she is peddling BS and contributing to the increase in the number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, a situation which puts those kids at risk as well as those who were dutifully vaccinated by their parents. Even Barack Obama has pandered to this crowd.

As the above linked article notes, there have been small outbreaks of diseases that are staved off by vaccines. Hopefully these will grow neither in size nor frequency. Reading about the parents who have been overcome by irrational fear, I wondered how their health insurance works. Surely insurers would not want to foot the whole bill for treatment of a childhood disease that could probably have been prevented. Do companies charge higher rates to cover non-immunized children? Do they refuse to pay for some or all of the bills? And then there's the parents who vaccinated their children only to have them become victims due to other parents not immunizing theirs. Do these folks get shafted by the insurance companies?
|| Palmer, 11:27 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

17 July, 2008

Shed No Tears For Budweiser

People who think as I do that Budweiser is total shite ought to check out "The rise and fall of an American beer"> over at Salon. The best part:

Adolphus Busch, the dynasty's founder, called his beer "dot schlop" and drank wine instead. During taste tests, St. Louis drinkers spat it back over the bar.

How little things have changed.
|| Palmer, 8:07 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

"I don't mean ya no harm"

This week's Isthmus features a story about familiar faces around town. I recognized a couple of them. Everyone should recognize JoAnn Pow!ers and I worked with Raul at Sitel back in the day. Here's someone you may recognize from the streets:



This is Dave. He's one of Madison's homeless and I had the opportunity to chat with him during the Madison Senior Scenester potluck. As I sat on one of the stairs having a smoke, he approached me and said for the first of many times, "I don't mean ya no harm." He was very friendly and very open about being homeless and an alcoholic as well. Dave didn't come across as one of David Blaska's vagrants. Instead he was kind, although troubled. What he wanted more than one of my smokes or another beer after he finished his silo of malt liquor was to simply talk to someone "normal", as he described me.

"You don't know me very well," I replied.

Regardless, he told me his story.

Dave was born in New Mexico and his parents gave him up when he was very young. A foster home ended up being the next stop for the child. His new home was that of a Mexican-American family. Spanish flowed effortlessly from his lips and I thought it a shame that he was struggling so when he had a very marketable ability. He recalled with a smile and a laugh his stepgrandmother disallowing any English to be spoken to her and demanded Spanish being the lingua franca of the house.

Fast forward to the early 90s. Dave was a strapping young man and he told me that he served in the first Gulf War. With a resigned tone he said, "Yeah, I killed some people."

"I was stabbed several times," he continued almost offhandedly. Pulling up his sweater revealed a very large scar starting at his navel and going down.

"Give me your hand," he continued looking down at my paws. I offered my left hand which he took and put to his head, a couple inches above his left temple. There was a deep depression in his skull which I was told came from a bullet ricocheting. Dave was very lucky. Had it careered at just a slightly different angle, he might very well have come home in a body bag. Instead he is one of many homeless veterans.

Pulling out a silo of malt liquor, Dave admitted quite openly that he was an alcoholic and quickly followed this up with yet another trademark, "I don't mean ya no harm." Why did he drink so much?

"If I don't drink, I can't sleep good. I have nightmares." Dave's sober mind takes nocturnal excursions into memories he'd probably rather forget. His face lost its cheerfulness as he explained how being drunk is the only way to stave off the visions of the war, of the killing. I couldn't help but think of the thousands of soldiers who have returned and will return from our current conflicts and suffer the same.

"I don't understand how people can be like that," he told me earnestly. Dave had spent some time as a carnie until he slapped his boss and that was the end of that. Upon finding out that Dave's girlfriend was black, the guy started making racist remarks. While I cannot recall the exact phrase which really set my interlocutor off, it was something to the effect of "What it's like to fuck a monkey?" I can't say I blamed Dave for his reaction. "I had to stand up for my old lady," he pleaded.

By far the saddest part of our conversation was when he told me that his wife, Karen, had died six years ago. "I still miss her," was a constant refrain. Dave went on at length about how Karen had made him a better person – she'd tamed the soldier in him. A cloud of despair settled over him and I was transported back several years when I was trying to console my father after my stepmother had died. The sullen face, the slumping back – you look different when in the depths of despondency.

To Dave's credit, he didn't fall too far and instead returned to talking about what a wonderful person and companion Karen had been. There was sidewalk chalk there for the kids and he took a stick of it and drew a picture which he had drawn for her. Just as he finished Little William B. wandered over with a bone in his mouth. Dave greeted him with a smile and proceeded to draw a picture for him.

Dave told me that he'd recently been given a bicycle which made his treks out to the temp agency much quicker. I offered him my unused bike lock and gave him my cell number. I spoke to him on Monday but we were unable to rendezvous so I could hand it over to him. And then on Tuesday, along with my car and my alarm clock, my cell phone died. So now I must have it repaired so I can get the bike lock to Dave and relieve him of having to sleep on it.

For my part, I eventually returned to the festivities. Dave left a short while later but I'm not sure where he went. If you see him, let him know that I haven't forgotten about him nor that bike lock.
|| Palmer, 8:04 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

16 July, 2008

Dispencing With Ashley: The Decline of Dane101

Poking around Dane101 yesterday I was struck by how low the site has fallen. What started over three years ago as a "collaborative news and arts blog for Madison and Dane County" has degenerated into a shell of its former self. While the site has never had much interest in Dane County outside of Madison except when an outlying community seeks to enact a smoking ban, Dane101 was able to muster a goodly number of posts about our fair city's government and arts scene.

Yesterday we were treated to the quotidian dose of links to other sites ("Breakfast Links") and regaled with the story of a woman's friend who brought a boy toy back to her parents' home, behavior which was strictly verboten. So much for news and arts.

Look at the early posts at the site. They were plentiful and often political. Today the posts chronicling our fearless representatives and public servants are all but consigned to the memory bin. Sure, there's the occasional foray into this arena but they're nowhere as common as they once were. Obama gets mentioned for running a television commercial here but going back on his promise to filibuster a bill that weakens our Fourth Amendment rights escapes with nary a comment. Is co-founder and editor Jesse Russell not involved with Labor Radio News? Why is there nothing about local labor on Dane101?

I suppose we'll have to wait for New York to ban something again before local politics becomes worthy of mention once more.

The site, however, does do a pretty decent job with the music scene. If you're white and in your twenties, odds are your band will get coverage. But woe betide the musician of color. I think the only time you'll get a nod is if you cancel your show as did Lee "Scratch" Perry recently.

Perhaps if I were 10 years younger I'd get a kick out of Ashley Spencer's posts. As it is, though, her contributions speak volumes about the degeneration of Dane101. The concept of a "collaborative news and arts blog for Madison and Dane County" has been defenestrated with her amazing adventures which are the Madison blogosphere's equivalent of Beverly Hills 90120. How a quest for casual sex in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago qualifies as news or art is beyond me. Lincoln Park 60614! I sure hope Ms. Spencer is bestowing favors upon someone on the Dane101 editorial board in exchange for this kind of stuff.

So, how to explain the peregrine nature of the site?

I don't know. Maybe the paradigm shifted when co-founder Kristian Knutsen defected to The Daily Page; or perhaps it was when the site started to sponsor trivia contests and concerts with a music festival and a drag king show being the latest recipients of Dane101's good graces. I'm sure helping plan a multi-day music festival takes time. The problem is that maintaining a quality news & arts blog does as well.

POSTLUDE (The Day After)

I am compelled to add a few things here now that the name calling has started.

1) To be clear, I am NOT accusing Jesse Russell, Dane101's editorial policy, nor any contributors of being racist. Please see this post for further elaboration of this line of thought on race & the Madison blogosphere as regarding music.

When I whine about this, it is common for folks to retort by saying that I/we/they support the Madison music scene. And this is to miss the point. It is also to miss the point to say that I don't like certain bands that are promoted being promoted at whatever website. I am not griping about quantity, but rather quality. (To be hyper-clear, I mean "quality" as in the composition or nature of and not an aesthetic judgement.) Dane101 promotes and reviews concerts by many bands whose music I enjoy. While there have been a couple folks that have agreed with me on this point, none of the people who respond by calling me names (and they are more numerous) ever address the dramatic disparity I point out. If you think I'm wrong and that there is no disparity or if you don't think the disparity is a problem, then say so. I'm not going to call you a racist. But pointing out all the wonderful white musicians being touted doesn't address the core issue.

2) I apologize for having neglected to mention some things about Dane101. Please understand that the site is a non-profit labor of love and staffed by volunteers. Having said this, I admit that I don't think that these things completely explain (N.B. - I used "explain" and not "excuse".) what I consider to be an unfortunate change in focus at the site. These are certainly limitations but they've always been present. Also note that Kristian Knutsen departed three months after the site launched.

3) Curiously enough, no one has leapt to defend Ms. Spencer's chronicles of her exploits in Lincoln Park. She is certainly a good writer but her posts seem like filler given the context.
|| Palmer, 7:01 PM || link || (12) comments | links to this post

Liquid News

Earlier this month Starbucks announced the closure of 600 stores nationwide. A list of those locations has finally been released and none of them are in Wisconsin. Many Madison baristas are resting easier.

I'd imagine that, with the prices of everything going up, folks are cutting back on their latte consumption. Then again, maybe not. While the Federal Reserve Chairman sees economic grey skies and and Robert Reich has declared, "Consumers have no money left", things can't be all bad: Apple shipped 1 million shiny new iPhones on opening weekend to stores that had folks sleeping outside their doors just to be one of the first to have the gadget.

Our neighbors to the south have given MillerCoors $20 million in incentives to move the new corporate headquarters to Chicago. Take that Dallas! The report notes that the "joint venture will move 150 to 175 jobs to Chicago from each of its two headquarters". Presumably some Milwaukeeans will be moving south or will start taking the Hiawatha to work.

This will certainly be a blow to the pride of many to the east but Miller hasn't been a strictly Milwaukee concern for decades.

Lastly, the InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch is complete. So all the big American breweries are now owned by businesses in other countries. On the upside, the shelves of your local purveyor of beer may see some new faces as I'm sure InBev will try to push their brands here. Since InBev was created by a merger including the Brazilian AmBev so perhaps we'll see more Brazilian beers here in the States. You can view a list of all 200 or so of their brands at Wikipedia.
|| Palmer, 7:01 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

09 July, 2008

To Make a Tart

My tart making experience is based on a couple recipes from A Propre new booke of Cokery, dated 1545. The tart recipe is for gooseberries but I used some blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries that I had in my refrigerator that needed to be eaten. The first thing to do is make a "shorte paest" or pie crust.

Take fine floure and a curtesy of faire water and a disshe of swete butter and a litle saffron and the yolkes of two egges and make it thin and tender as ye maie.

As you can see, there are no measurements. This practice was still a couple centuries away. And so I adapted what you see above with the help of a recipe for pie crust in The Joy of Cooking. The only major difference between what we have here and a crust that you might make at home today is the addition of saffron.



I'm not good with dough and so I'm not going to show you how it turned out. However, I will say that it was something of a patchwork.

To make a tarte of goseberies.

Take goseberies and parboyle theim in whyte wyne / claret or ale / and boyle with all a litle whyte brede / then take them vp & drawe them through a strayner as thicke as you can with the yolkes of vi egges / then ceason it vp with suger / half a dissh of butter / so bake it.


The filling begins with boiling the berries in white wine.



Once they're a mushy mess, add some bread crumbs to thicken.



Cook the stuff a bit longer and then remove from heat. I didn't "drawe them through a strainer" or use a food processor; instead I just whisked the bejeezus out of the stuff. At one point, I was standing there contemplating how to sweeten the berry blob. Should I use honey? Maple syrup? Barley malt? After re-reading the recipe, I added sugar and continued whisking. It does, after all, say to add "suger". The sweetener we all know and love was not unknown in the England of 1545 but it was pretty rare until the 17th century. This recipe was from the kitchen of a wealthy individual. Like a total maroon, I didn't read the recipe correctly when it came to the egg yolks. The recipe clearly says "yolkes of vi egges" but I was still in my post-work haze and wasn't up to Roman numerals. Ergo I added only iv yolkes. At least they were from some very large eggs so I don't think this was a mortal blow.

With all mixed, it was into the crust followed by the oven.



And here it is out of the oven.



Yeah, I know it looks like a big glob of fruit roll-ups, but understand my ability with a still camera just isn't what it should be. But I also now realize that I neglected the "half a dissh of butter". D'oh!

We'll see how it tastes…
|| Palmer, 8:36 PM || link || (1) comments | links to this post

I'm A Renaissance Man

For lunch I had a peanut butter and quince marmalade sandwich. I had made the marmalade myself according to a Renaissance-era recipe.

I got home only to find a stash of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries that needed to get used. So I've gone and modified a Renaissance recipe, "To make a tarte of goseberies".

My kitchen smells like berries and wine...
|| Palmer, 7:30 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

08 July, 2008

Iranian Cows Love Our Bull Semen

There must be a press conference/photo-op for Jim Doyle in here somewhere.

Despite being a third of Bush's Axis of Evil, Iran has seen its imports from the United States rise during the Bush years.

U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold during President Bush's years in office even as he accused Iran of nuclear ambitions and helping terrorists. America sent more cigarettes to Iran — at least $158 million worth under Bush — than any other products.

Other surprising shipments to Iran during the Bush administration: brassieres, bull semen, cosmetics, fur clothing, sculptures, perfume, musical instruments and possibly even weapons. Top states shipping goods to Iran include California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of seven years of U.S. government trade data.


Woo hoo! That bull semen has to be from the Land of Cheese. How much bull semen has been sent over to Iran in the past several years? $18 million worth of the stuff.

Iran is a top customer of Alta Genetics Inc., a Canadian company with an office in Watertown, Wis., that sells bull semen, used to produce healthier, more profitable cattle. "The animals we're working with are genetically superior to those in many parts of the world," said Kevin Muxlow, Alta's global marketing manager.

Since the Feds have no problem with companies selling aid and comfort (and F-14 parts) to Iran, why is Governor Doyle not touting the fact that we here in Wisconsin have the best experts on animal husbandry and the finest bull chowder in all the land?
|| Palmer, 8:17 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

06 July, 2008

Wheat Beers, Wheat Beers Everywhere

Midsummer's Day has come and gone so what's Sir John been up to?

There are changes afoot at Capital. Sadly, the Fest beer has been retired as the summer seasonal and been replaced by this:



Prairie Gold is a Belgian blonde ale and is on tap at my current drinking establishment of choice, The Malt House.

Brewmaster Kirby Nelson's decent into ale madness continues with a new year-round brew.



Rustic Ale is an American amber ale which should appeal to locovores with its use of grains from Washington Island just like Capital's Island Wheat.

Lastly there's the latest entry in Kirby's Capital Square Series, the Baltic Porter.



The brewery describes it as "a dark hybrid of British and Baltic persuasion. Part porter. Part lager." I believe that both this and the Rustic Ale have been around for a while but it wasn't until the past couple weeks that I actually saw bottles of the stuff at Woodman's.

The folks out west in Spring Green at Furthermore have a new brew out which was introduced to an innocent public on 28 June.



Check out the first look over at the Madison Beer Review. It's described as a "Mexican-style, warm fermented lager" with an infusion of coffee from Nicaragua. Furthermore is to be commended for almost never being in the middle of the road and instead preferring the ditch on either side. It's also a great testament to the beer drinkers of the area that the brewery can get away with an A.P.A. containing pepper and a smoky stout as year-round brews.

Up nort at Viking Brewing are offering Dim Whit this month.



It's a Beglian Wit with coriander with ginger replacing the more typical orange essences.

It's probably my lack of motivation but I want to point out that, while Viking's year-round offerings are easy to find, their seasonals are more of a hit-or-miss proposition here in Madison. As I said, perhaps this is just where I go to purchase beer. I've never seen their bracketts for sale here nor most of their fall/winter beers. And it seems that I've seen less of the spring/summer brews this year than in the past. Admittedly, beer distribution is a bit of an enigma to me.

Wheat beers seem to have captured the imagination of Point with two new beers this year, both of which indulge in the grain.



Firstly we have Horizon Wheat which will be available year-round.



Secondly there's Nude Beach, a wheat ale. It's a summer seasonal and features a slightly prurient label with sunbathers laying about the beach with their naughty bits strategically covered. I am forced to wonder if this beer came about because of the runaway success of Capital's Island Wheat. Regardless, fans of Capital's brew should enjoy this stuff.

Sprecher takes a slightly different tack than most breweries during the summer months with their Mai Bock being the seasonal.



However, they do offer a Hefe Weiss for consumption any time of year. As well as a pair of African style brews.



Both Mbege and Shakparo are brewed with sorghum and millet. The absence of barley and wheat means that Cheeseheads who cannot stomach gluten have more local beer options. To my knowledge Lakefront's New Grist was the only beer brewed in the state that was Celiac-friendly. I bring this up because not only are Mbege and Shakparo pretty tasty but also because they've got from Limited Release status to year-round.

Speaking of Lakefront, here's their summer seasonal:



Their White Beer is a Belgian wheat with the traditional coriander and orange.

To the south in Swiss country, Dan Carey is making July a fine month for beer.



The Edel Pils has been my de facto beer of the season so far this summer and will be around until the end of the month.



Taking over will be the Dancing Man Wheat, a potent Hefe Weizen. Honestly, I am not a big fan of wheat beers but will indulge occasionally and I must admit that I really love Dancing Man with its shades of clove.

Also due this month is another wheat beer, this time from the limited edition Unplugged series - Berliner Weiss. The sour/tart profile of the beer is tempered with grapes.

From the Chippewa Valley comes Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy.



It's a Weiss bier with lemonade. I've read that it has proven quite popular along with their Sunset Wheat. Indeed, the Sunset Wheat is now being offered on Delta Air Lines flights. They just know how to mix beer with citrus fruit and make it appealing to a mass audience. I've not had the Summer Shandy but have had Sunset Wheat and I found the orange to be cloying. Still, these beers could make a name for the brewery on the other side of the Mississippi so more power to 'em.

Sand Creek does their thing up in Black River Falls. It has been a long time since I've had one of their brews, much to my shame.



Woody's Wheat would, I am sure, make a nice drink on a hot July day. But I'd also like to point out their Hard Lemonade.



Truth be known, I am not a big drinker of hard lemonade nor ciders so I have few points of comparison. Having said that, I really enjoyed Sand Creek's take on the stuff. It wasn't nearly as sweet as the other brands I've had and so it retained more of the tartness that lemonade should have. Good stuff.

River Falls is home to Rush River Brewing. Unfortunately, they aren't distributed in these parts.



If you find yourself up in the River Falls or parts north, check out their beer. The Small Axe Golden Ale is brewed for summer quaffing.

Another brewery with limited distribution that doesn't include Madison is the rather new O'So Brewing Company. They're in Plover, which is near Stevens Point. They brew several beers with Summer Storm being their summer seasonal. It's described as "a unique light bodied, easy drinking Belgian style wheat thingy".

O'So is available in the central parts of the state.

In nearby Amherst is Central Waters. (Folks around Stevens Point are just being inundated with microbrews.) Luckily their beers are distributed around here.



Whitewater Weizen is their summer brew, although I haven't seen it on shelves here in Madison.

Returning to Milwaukee, the Cream City is now home to another brewery - Buffalo Waters. At this point, they have only one beer.



The folks behind Buffalo Waters are apparently simpatico in that they, like myself, love spicy food. They sought the perfect beer to complement Buffalo wings and came up with Bison Blonde lager. While I've had the brew, I've not had it with Buffalo wings.

Heading back towards home, Tyranena presents it own seasonal.



Also look for brewmaster Rob Larson's next entry in his Brewers Gone Wild! series: Scurvy. It is an Extra IPA with orange peel.

I'll round things out close to home.

First the summer seasonal at the Ale Asylum is, unsurprisingly, a wheat beer – Hatha-Weizen. I hear that they also have a bock available too but, since I've not been there in ages, I cannot confirm this. (Despite not having gone there, I have, however, had a fair amount of their brew this summer.)

Lastly, Fauerbach's CB Bock is available. Not sure where, exactly. It is the result of the Fauerbach Challenge Brew competition which was won by Fred Gray and his Dark American Lager. Get the skinny from the Madison Beer Review.

Some random beer notes:

** Joe Walts' plans for the RePublic Brewpub continue. His mint porter was unleashed on an unsuspecting public last month at the Furthermore Barn Party. Here's Joe's recap.

** The Angelic Brewing Company has closed. Not that beer has been brewed there in ages.

** Stone Brewing has moved into Wisconsin.

** The Miller (SABMiller) and Coors (Molson Coors) merger is complete. I don't think the location of the corporate headquarters has been announced but odds are it's not going to be Milwaukee.

** The Belgian company InBev continues to pursue Anheuser-Busch. In fact, they're selling stock to raise cash for the takeover bid. In fending off InBev, A-B is cutting costs including spending $38 million less in radio advertising. This can't be good for the prospects of Budweiser American Ale, to be released later this year.
|| Palmer, 12:52 PM || link || (9) comments | links to this post

03 July, 2008

The Wrath of Caan

The Dulcinea, M., and I watched the penultimate episode of this season of Doctor Who last night – "The Stolen Earth".

Holy #$@%&*!!!

SPOILERS AHEAD













The first big shock was the return of this "man":



Holy bejeezus, it's Davros! He's looking better than he was in Remembrance of the Daleks. He and his creations have mended the fences and have let bygones be bygones, thanks, in no small part, to the Time Wars. Despite his absence on the screen for some 20 years, Davros has not been absent from the Doctor Who universe. I highly recommend Davros, a great Big Finish audio drama.

If the return of the Dalek creator was surprising, then I was absolutely shocked to see this:



I was stupefied to see that The Doctor started regenerating. While I realize I haven't been keeping up on Doctor Who news to avoid spoilers, but is David Tennant really leaving?

Wait, wait! Don't tell me.

With Daleks running around creating pandemonium and the return of Davros, it was easy to overlook the cameo by Richard Dawkins.

It was also great to see the return of Dalek Caan.



Poor Caan lost his mind. Now he just sits there in his broken Dalek shell mumbling to himself, "He is here...the Dark Lord has come!" Insane Dalek – brilliant! Another great bit is when all the ships approach the Earth and there's a message for the human race. Eagerly all our heroes adjust their volume knobs only to hear "EXTERMINATE!" This was Doctor Who at its best.

We shall see how the season closer turns out…
|| Palmer, 3:22 PM || link || (2) comments | links to this post

01 July, 2008

Redux: The Prisoner & Life On Mars

While the remake of The Prisoner has been a go for a while, yesterday brought the official press release. The Guardian in the UK has the straight dope:

ITV1 has confirmed that Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel will star in the network's reinvention of the 1960s thriller, The Prisoner, to be broadcast next year.

Caviezel, who shot to fame playing the role of the idealist private Witt in The Thin Red Line, has been cast in the Patrick McGoohan role as Number Six, the hero who finds himself trapped in a mysterious and surreal place known as The Village, with no memory of how he arrived.

McKellen, who is best known globally for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, will take the role of Number Two, the sinister head of The Village.




Sir Ian seems a great choice for Number Two and I have to admit that Caviezel was good in The Thin Red Line. However, I don't know anything about the writer, Bill Gallagher, nor his previous projects. All in all, it doesn't sound like a disaster from the get-go, at least.

If you're like me and are a fan of the BBC series Life on Mars, you'll probably be disappointed/excited at the prospect of an American remake. LOST fans may recall a commercial for it during the season finale. Set to air this fall, the show is now reportedly undergoing a bit of retooling. The location is being moved from Los Angeles to New York to take advantage of new tax credits and, presumably, to be able to appeal to the stereotypes of New York's mean streets of the 1970s. (Were Sam Tyler to find himself waking up in the 1940s, no doubt LA would have worked perfectly.) This triggered the show's producer/writer David E. Kelley (he of Ally McBeal infamy) to bail. It is also being reported that Rachelle Lefevre's (Annie Cartwright) and Colm Meaney (Det. Gene Hunt) are gone as well.





Unsurprisingly, what is purported to be a copy of a DVD screener of the Kelley-penned pilot episode is now available on the Internet. I've watched the first 15 minutes or so which was enough to set up Tyler's life in the present, get him back to 1972, and meet the Gene Genie. Sam Tyler is played by Jason O'Mara, a man of no small talent. I assume so, anyway, as he was in the Royal Shakespeare Company. I'll admit I'm highly biased in this matter being a big fan of the BBC series but O'Mara does a good job. He's a bit more stoic than John Simm's portrayal, from what I've seen. But, if nothing else, he hasn't ruined anything in the first 15 minutes of the show. Again keeping in my bias, I will say that Meaney didn't cut the mustard. Nothing against him as he seemed like a good badass but his verbal sparring was shite. Maybe he gets better as the episode goes on – I'll find out soon – but he shot off no great barbs. My preliminary report indicates that this Gene Hunt would never say something like "The dealers are all so scared we’re more likely to get Helen Keller to talk. The Paki in a coma’s about as lively as Liberace’s dick when he’s looking at a naked woman, all in all this investigation’s going at the speed of a spastic in a magnet factory." Philip Glenister is a hard act to follow, to be sure, but having some good dialogue would go a long way in helping matters.

Perhaps the worst part here is that there's no Ray! There's some old duff substitute but we need Raymondo!

Here's a trailer:

|| Palmer, 5:10 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Dear Obama - Please Stop Giving Handouts to Christians

Ralph Nader keeps looking better all the time.

The last thing that irritated me about Obama was his support for the recent FISA act. Before that was his support for the coal industry and the amount of money he's gotten from the nuclear power industry. (See the Harper's profile.) Now I read that he wants to expand Dubya's faith-based funding programs:

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support some ability to hire and fire based on faith.

Obama does not support requiring religious tests for recipients of aid nor using federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet. He also only supports letting religious institutions hire and fire based on faith in the non-taxpayer funded portions of their activities, said a senior adviser to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe the new policy.


The article notes that Bush "conducted the program through administrative actions and executive orders" and the Supreme Court ruled that taxpayers have no say on how our money is spent when it's done via executive fiat. Despite being a godless heathen, I'm not theoretically opposed to the government helping religious organizations help the poor and the meek. For instance, if some church or synagogue or mosque served food to the homeless, I'd have no problem with our tax money buying some of the food that's served there or subsidizing the heating costs of a homeless shelter. The problem is that, in practice, the government gives religious groups money and it often goes towards Christian proselytizing.

The article describing Obama's plans for faith-based programs also notes that he "planned to talk bluntly about the genesis of his Christian faith in his work as a community organizer in Chicago, and its importance to him now". Speaking as someone who doesn't believe in old bearded white men up in the firmament, I have to say that I don’t give a rat's ass about the genesis of his faith. What I want to know is what's going to happen that first day in office if he's elected. How will he approach Iraq? Coming from a state that mines a buttload of coal and having taken lots money from the nuclear power industry, exactly what kind of energy policy can we expect him to put forward? With gas prices rising and the economy in the gutter, I want him out there talking about the economy, not his faith. And I want to know what cogs will start spinning his head that first day in the Oval Office if he's elected. The Director of the CIA, the head of the NSA and who knows who else is going to drop by for a visit. He's going to have a desk full of papers detailing lots of stuff that goes on that doesn't get elaborated upon by the Tim Russerts of the world. In addition to revealing the truth about the Roswell Incident and the face on Mars, he's going to learn about Iran, the increasingly less democratic Russia, unrest in Africa, South American countries who are not happy with us right now, et al. In other words, as the leader of the free world, he's going to have a lot on his plate and I want to know what he's going to do besides pray.

If Obama is as keen on change as he says he is, how about leaving Yahweh out of the race for office. That would be real change.
|| Palmer, 11:32 AM || link || (2) comments | links to this post