Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 May, 2009

Bad Lieutenant Redux

We now have a trailer for Werner Herzog's remake/reinterpretation of Bad Lieutenant called Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. To wit:

I'm not sure what to make of it. It looks goofy but not overly Herzogian. Then again, the trailer for Lars von Trier's Antichrist made it come across as a standard horror flick. Not so.

Speaking of Antichrist, it will have U.S. distribution courtesy of IFC Films.
|| Palmer, 12:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

25 May, 2009

I <3 Zombies: The Revenants by WildClaw Theatre

If Edward Albee was a horror fan, he might have concocted The Revenants wherein a man and a woman try to plumb the depths of their affections for one another and for their undead spouses. Instead it was Scott T. Barsotti who penned the play which The Dulcinea and I saw in Chicago yesterday as staged by WildClaw Theatre.

Unlike the troupe's previous performance, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House, The Revenants features a small cast and takes place in an alternate present where the zombie apocalypse rages. Things start with a bang as a car crashes and shakes the walls of an anonymous house. Gary & Karen take refuge in the basement. With them are their spouses, Joe & Molly, who have received the zombie touch and are now to be counted among the living dead. Not quite sure what to do, Gary & Karen tie their loved ones to a pipe which gives them room to roam yet restrains their flesh-eating madness.

The set was nicely done – a basement with framing on the walls, the typical armament of tools, and some nice touches like an Easy Rider poster and a Bozo the Clown punching bag. It was suitably cramped yet large enough for the living to stay out of the clutches of the undead. Both the lighting and the sound were rather austere but they served the purpose of creating mood and letting the actors retain center stage. The make-up was quite good with some wonderful bites taken out of the flesh and appropriately pale, blood-stained zombification. Lastly, the acting was similarly great with Laura Hooper's ability to stare bug-eyed without blinking for an inordinately long period of time being particularly impressive.

Most zombie stories have people running away from them. The Revenants, however, reverses this with the characters keeping them around and, at times, actually running towards the zombies, if not physically, then emotionally. Gary has seemingly let go of Molly and makes his affection for Karen known to her. While Karen's head understands that her husband is, for all intents and purposes, gone, her heart is unable to let go as what remains of him stands but a few feet away staring and growling. What is really left of Joe & Molly? At times they lunge after some tasty flesh while at others they seem to react as if they were jealous. My seat in the second row afforded me a great view in one part where Gary & Karen are standing opposite one another rather closely. Between their heads there was just enough space to see Molly's face, her eyes open wide and readying for a jealous rage to spew forth.

The zombies here are both the recipients of Gary & Karen's anger and anguish as well as mirrors for them. The living can heap invective on the undead about their relationships but there's nothing a zombie can do to atone. Instead they only groan and lunge at their dinner. Similarly, the memories of Joe & Molly haunt the survivors but all they can do is whip up sound and fury. Ultimately Gary & Karen prove unable to let go and all parties, all relationships hit a (ahem) dead end.

The Revenants was a nice break from the more traditional horror that WildClaw has done thus far. My only quibble was how the zombies were focused upon. The first half seemed to give Joe the spotlight with the second half belonging to Molly. This seemed especially apparent in the latter part of the show when Joe spent most of his time lingering in the shadow at the back of the stage. I wish that there wasn't this kind of rotation and that some way would have been found to keep both at the forefront more often. But this is a minor offense and distract me from enjoying myself.

Sunday's was the last performance of The Revenants. Next up on WildClaw's docket is Deathscribe 2009, live performances of horror radio plays. Look for it this autumn.

|| Palmer, 10:39 AM || link || (0) comments |

21 May, 2009

Will Madison Cops Inform Citizens of Zombie Attack?

Photo by Zac Shipley.

They will in Boston.
|| Palmer, 10:08 AM || link || (0) comments |

20 May, 2009

Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Omelet Don't

On Monday Linda Falkenstein brought us a first look at the new Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery which recently opened on Atwood Avenue. Upon reading it, I was astonished that they offer omelets for $8. What are these omelets made of? 20 eggs from a rare breed of chicken only found in a small county in Luxembourg and wrapped in gold foil?

Discussing this with a friend of mine, he said, "I'd like to see their business plan. Who thought it would be a good idea to invest in a place that sells $8 omelets in the middle of a recession?"

Best of luck to the proprietors of the Daisy, but, to quote a favorite TV character, "When I eat an omelet worth eight bucks, I'm not for paying for it. You got me?"

My buddy also said to keep an eye out the next couple of months for some restaurants to close that you wouldn't expect. I guess liquor licenses need to be renewed in July and it is rumored that some prominent eateries aren't going to do so.
|| Palmer, 12:23 PM || link || (8) comments |

An Infusion of Asian

A friend and I had lunch the other day at the new Asian fusion restaurant, Fugu. We walked in and were pleased that the interior had been completely redone. The décor wasn't ostentatious and the place had a relaxed atmosphere which was due, in part, to the television, although on, having its volume muted.

We each received a copy of what I'll call the "standard" menu with a single copy of a rather thick tome adorning our table. The latter had Fugu's Chinese specialties and their Thai dishes while the other, thinner menu had everything else. It wasn't long before we had glasses of water before us and a gentleman serenading us with examples from the dim sum cart. My friend and I opted out of dim sum but Fugu is probably the lone restaurant in Madison to serve it daily as opposed to merely on Saturdays or weekends. The selection was not huge like I've seen in Chicago's Chinatown, but just knowing that it's available during the week brought me comfort.

Not knowing what "Asian fusion" was exactly, our orders reflected the pan-Asian-all-over-the-map attitude of two Teutonic eaters. As I was finishing my decision making, my companion related his order to the waitress which included a couple appetizers: Pig ears with Chili Oil Sauce and Ox Tongue and Tripe with Chili Sauce. He ordered the Yaki Udon with beef while I went for the Singapore noodles with chicken. In addition, we both had a bowl of Tom Yum soup. Thusly our waitress walked away with a slip full of Sichuan, Thai, and Japanese goodness.

The meal started out less than promising when my iced tea was dispensed from a Nestea can. You'd think that a place with an extensive menu priced beyond broke college kids, a dim sum cart, and a shiny new interior would brew their own. It wouldn't have been so bad had it been unsweetened but it wasn't.

Soon enough our appetizers arrived. To our surprise, the pig ear was served cold. And don't let the menu fool you - "chili sauce" is the same as "chili oil sauce"- i.e. – chili oil. We were also surprised by the portion sizes which were family-sized. The pig ears were good but there is only so much cartilage I can eat in one sitting. We also couldn't finish the tongue and tripe as it seemed like we were given a whole stomach and tongue. The oil wasn’t very hot and instead gave just a hint of heat. While it gave a nice flavor, the oil was a bit too much and we thought a proper sauce would have served well. Also, we felt that more green onion & cilantro would have been nice.

My friend and I agreed that the Tom Yum was very good. It had a great balance of the hot & the sour and the fish & the citrus.

Our entrees were served to us in large, shallow bowls. The food was very hot (in temperature) and we were given forks to complement the chop sticks which we'd been using up to this point. I was told that the Yaki Udon was good but nothing particularly special with the taste being like other udon noodle dishes he'd had. The fusion part here was presumably the inclusion of asparagus and red pepper in addition to red onion. My Singapore noodles were very good, although not a radical departure from other versions of the dish I've eaten. Again, I presume the addition of red pepper made it a fusion. Of what, I remain unsure.

In the end, our venture to Fugu proved to be a tasty one. Although on the expensive side, the portions were, on the whole, rather generous. Now, if they would only start brewing the iced tea.
|| Palmer, 11:55 AM || link || (0) comments |

A View From the Undeveloped Western Spiral Arm

Here's a really neat time-lapse video of the center of our galaxy floating overhead.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

|| Palmer, 10:12 AM || link || (0) comments |

19 May, 2009

WORT Block Pary '09

Ladies Must Swing got things going.

LMS were followed by Chris Plata with Extra Hot who did a rockin' version of "This Land Is Your Land". Clyde Stubblefield was on drums.

Chicks dig hula hoops.

I call this one "Popping Corn With Welding Mask".

Next up were Cajun Strangers who got folks two-steppin'.

The last band I caught was Queenie and the Blue Cats.

My one minor gripe: how about putting some lagers on tap?
|| Palmer, 4:20 PM || link || (0) comments |

16 May, 2009

Common Joy Redux: Fu Dog Lantern

Back in the winter, I bought a copy of Frances W. Hurst's small tome, A Common Joy: Outdoor Art in Madison. Published in 1991, it bills itself as a "map for self-guided walking tour". To my surprise, I was familiar with the majority of works in the book. However, it was nice to find out the names of the statues, sculptures, etc. that I know and see often and to find out how they came to be.

But the book is now 18 years old and there are works that were erected after its publication so I thought I'd try to complement Common Joy with a periodic series of blog posts. People interested in outdoor art may also enjoy Emily Mills' blog Madison Street Art which chronicles the, shall we say, less formal works to be found here in town.

Living in the Marquette Neighborhood, my first post was a no-brainer.

This is "Fu Dog Lantern" by Sid Boyum and it stands in Yahara Place Park. Boyum's story was chronicled by Nadine Goff at her blog so I'll avoid doing so here. But know that Boyum was an east sider himself and, upon his death shortly after Common Joy's publication, he left a back yard with dozens of sculptures. His son Steve donated 60 pieces to the city and several were given homes in the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood in 2000. They will certainly be appearing in future posts.

|| Palmer, 12:37 PM || link || (0) comments |

Down By the River

The Friends of the Yahara River were out today laying down mulch walking paths, planting, and, in general, tidying up the shore. The mulch smelled pretty bad so I assume it was red oak.

|| Palmer, 11:57 AM || link || (0) comments |


I identified some birds in my neighborhood last month and I took a couple snaps today.

There was a coterie of red-winged blackbirds out today and a male was kind enough to perch on a nearby branch for a bit.

On my way home, there was a robin in my backyard with a beak full grass clippings. It looks like a male to me as there doesn't appear to be a lot of white on its head.

|| Palmer, 11:53 AM || link || (0) comments |


This is my next door neighbor's tree. Not sure what kind it is but the flowers are sure pretty.

Since I rent a flat, the yard is the product of the indifferent landlords and vagaries of tenants through the years. Thus everything is a mish-mash with hostas scattered about as well as numerous flowers that I am unable to identify. There are a few of these yellow ones around my yard and they are all readying to bloom. No doubt they will be highly unamused by tonight's chilly temperatures.

This is a pretty bush which skirts the neighbor's driveway.

And there are tons of these on the shady side of the house.

Any botanists out there to identify all this flora?
|| Palmer, 11:42 AM || link || (0) comments |

13 May, 2009

Trying To Get On the Other Side of Town

A couple days ago I received the latest issue of the Williamson-Marquette Gazette which is the newsletter of the Marquette Neighborhood Association. Scott Thornton, the president of the MNA wrote in his column about a meeting, which I believe was held in March, dedicated to the group's Traffic Plan.

Four "concepts" were discussed:

1) "Eliminating the commuter lanes on Williamson Street so that parking would be retained during the 'rush' hours.

2) "Adding additional stop signs to Jenifer, Spaight and Rutledge Streets to discourage 'cut-through' traffic.

3) "Moving Madison Metro bus service to Williamson Street."

4) "Closing Eastwood Drive."

Let's take the first concept of eliminating the commuter lanes on Willy Street. I presume this would cause a lot of congestion, especially if left-hand turns were still allowed, and that this is the whole point – make Willy Street an undesirable route for those looking to pass through the area. The second states its intention boldly – to discourage traffic on those streets east of Willy. In concert, these would move much non-local traffic out of the neighborhood.

I've always wondered why some buses go down Jenifer only to take Baldwin back to Willy Street. Walking one block is not a great burden for riders so I am left to believe that it has to do with parking on Willy from Jenifer to Baldwin. However, route 38 and some sorties of route 3 go the other way down Baldwin to Spaight and eventually Rutledge which turns into Division. So folks by Yahara Place Park would have a slightly longer walk to the bus stop. The object seems to be to get traffic off the side streets and onto Williamson and then off of Williamson.

What puzzles me the most is their desire to close Eastwood Drive, which we just spent thousands of dollars to repave. Why? In addition to Russell Street, is Division just supposed to dead end? I'm sure trucks going to and fro the Schoep's factory would love that. The first three concepts can address traffic on residential streets which is certainly a legitimate concern. However, closing Eastwood just pushes all of this into let-someone-else's-neighborhood-have-the-traffic territory for me.

Let it be noted that the newsletter does not say if the MNA wants to achieve all four goals or if some are perhaps contingency plans should the primary ones not be achieved. It also does not give any reasons for them.

As Madison grows, so does traffic. And the narrow isthmus with the Yahara River to be crossed is a major route for traffic heading to the east side and beyond. These proposals to limit traffic in the neighborhood come across as having a definite NIMBY aspect to them.

I have e-mailed the MNA board of directors asking about the motivation behind these concepts and will await a reply before casting my final judgment.
|| Palmer, 4:32 PM || link || (4) comments |

12 May, 2009

The Onion: Vindictive Movie Studio Threatens To Make 'Coyote Ugly' Sequel

"I swear to God, I will personally dig up Stanley Kubrick's rotting corpse and attach him to this project myself if I have to."

|| Palmer, 11:51 AM || link || (0) comments |

Punishing the Vilest of Thoughts

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (a.k.a. – the Matthew Shepard Act) recently passed in the House by a margin of 249-175. It is designed to eradicate "bias-motivated violence", i.e. – so-called "hate crimes" – by giving out money to local authorities for the purpose of prosecuting such crimes, stipulating sentences for those found guilty, and the like.

You can read the act here. Generally speaking, hate crimes in the bill are violent "offenses involving actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability" and committing one gets you two punishments. So, if a white person stabs a black person and the former doesn't like black people, then that person will not only be punished for assault or attempted murder, he/she will also be punished for holding certain thoughts in their head.

This second punishment doesn't amuse Nat Hentoff who inveighed against the bill as giving the government the ability to prosecute "thought crimes". Hentoff argues that the bill violates the 14th Amendment as its intent is to create rules which don't apply equally.

Corey adds that the state "hate crime" law - like the newly expanded House of Representatives federal bill - "does not apply equally" (as the 14th Amendment requires), essentially instead "criminalizing only politically incorrect thoughts directed against politically incorrect victim categories."

He also notes that the bill would violate the 5th Amendment's prohibition against double jeopardy: "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb". So when "the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence," then the U.S. Attorney General or any minions thereof can haul the defendant into a federal court to be tried for the same crime.

I agree with Hentoff here and the Denver criminal defense lawyer Robert J Corry, whom he quotes. When someone "willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse [sic] weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person", there is already plenty of malice involved regardless of whatever category you want to place the victim into and there are already laws to punish such behavior.

Unfortunately, my representative, Tammy Baldwin, voted in favor of this bill. And while President Obama is a Constitutional scholar, it seems likely he'll sign it if/when the Senate approves it. Hopefully someone will challenge this and hate crimes will go the way of the dodo. Freedom of conscience and the right not to be put into double jeopardy apply even to the lowliest and most wretched amongst us.
|| Palmer, 10:39 AM || link || (2) comments |

11 May, 2009

Sie können dieses nicht berühren

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

09 May, 2009

Malort of Sort Is My New Cohort

Last month I read an article in the Chicago Reader about malort, a liqueur native to northern Illinois. I spent last weekend in the burbs of Chitown and bought a bottle. From The Reader:

For nearly three quarters of a century Jeppson’s Malort, Chicago’s native wormwood-based spirit, has been both reviled and celebrated for its powerful, sustained bitterness. Malort—the name is Swedish for wormwood—descends from a family of bitter schnapps said to be good for digestion. But in the late 30s, after Chicago attorney George Brode purchased the formula from Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson (essentially the dried botanical macerated in grain-neutral alcohol), he began marketing it on the basis of its aggressive unpalatability. It’s never been available outside of northern Illinois. But here it persists in many watering holes as a tool of cruel pranksters or a test of one’s appetite for punishment.

Fans of absinthe may be familiar with wormwood. They aren't kidding with that "sustained bitterness" comment. When drinking the stuff straight, you get a floral, herbal flavor quickly followed by a bitterness as potent as any known unto man. And it's like herpes – the bitterness just won't go away. When I opened the bottle, my friend Andrew was the first to take a pull. Recoiling in horror from the taste, he immediately reached for a beer to chase it away. Five minutes later, he was still cursing the stuff.

So I returned home with a near-full bottle of malort and no idea what to do with it. I could just drink it straight after a meal as I suppose it was originally intended. Then again, The Reader has a list of some malort-based cocktails. In the end, the decision was made to try and mix it but to try and avoid buying more booze. Most of the cocktails that the mixologists down south came up with involved citrus juice and, with that in mind, I came up with this:

What's in it?

Take tumbler and fill with ice. Add about a jigger of malort, an equal amount or slightly more of tonic, and then fill the rest of the glass with Fentiman's Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger. Top with a slice of fresh lime.

My thought was that you can't get rid of the bitterness unless you engage in homeopathy and dilute it completely with something sweet until there's one part of malort per 10 billion. Instead you have to embrace the malort and make it your friend. So I tried to find complementary flavors with a bit of sweetness to at least cut the malort a bit. And I thought it turned out pretty well.

The lip-puckering pungency is still front and center - don't get me wrong - but it's not quite as potent as it was and it has friends competing for space on your palate. In addition to the citrus, the Orange Jigger provides other gustatory pleasures: ginger, speedwell, and juniper berry. There are a lot of wonderful taste sensations to be had with botanicals & citrus, bitter & sweet.

Overall, I was pleased with my first malort-based cocktail. It proved to be quite refreshing on a warm spring evening. I am generally to be found drinking beer instead of spirits but I've gotten tired of the Hop Wars – the race to create the hoppiest, most bitter pale ale – and a drink with malort is a nice substitute that satiates my taste for the bitter while allowing me to explore different avenues.

Are there any bartenders out there who have ideas for mixing malort? What do you folks do with other bitters?
|| Palmer, 7:33 AM || link || (0) comments |

08 May, 2009

Christopher Lee, Rock Star

|| Palmer, 11:27 AM || link || (0) comments |

07 May, 2009


In the wake of Teabagging party up at the Capitol, some gentlemen were handing out anti-tax info out on Library Mall a couple weeks ago. I got a booklet which contained, amongst other things, the Constitution as well as Christian Nation garbage. But these guys were serious. They also gave me a DVD and a CD-ROM with a PowerPoint presentation and documents galore.

The CD-ROM had a wonderful document describing how the Illuminati are descended from Satan himself but, alas, the one entitled "Are You a Communist" was corrupted and unable to be opened.

The DVD was a copy of America: Freedom to Fascism, a conspiracy-mongering loony toon's wet dream. In it, director Aaron Russo posits all kinds of crackpot theories such as that the 16th Amendment was not truly ratified and that there is no law saying that you have to pay taxes, Title 26 of the United States Code be damned. Thusly federal income taxes are mulcted from us every spring.

Despite the sheer crackpottery of these people, it got taxes on my mind. I did some reading about Rep. Terese Berceau's bill to raise the beer tax in our fair state. Here's a link to her PowerPoint presentation on it. Since PP presentations are all forged by Lucifer himself, I'll spare you by noting that her main argument is that drinking beer leads to a lot of costs that taxpayers in Wisconsin have to bear. Berceau's proposal calls for raising the tax on what comes out to $0.024 per 12 oz. bottle with some proceeds going to fund treatment programs.

I suspect the beer tax will be raised before this decade is out. Since it is all but inevitable, can we earmark a portion of the funds for alcohol treatment so we can at least pretend we're raising taxes for the stated purpose? Remember the big tobacco settlement about 10 years ago? After the dust settled, all the talk about money for helping people quit and preventing folks from starting dissipated as states paid off debt. Wisconsin, you'll remember, decided to forego $5 billion paid through 2025 for a one-time lump sum of $1.6 billion. It is now estimated that only 3% of the money from the settlement is used for helping people quit:

From the start, the tobacco settlement money was intended to help states pay for health care costs related to smoking illnesses and to fund smoking-cessation programs, though the agreement not bind the states to use it for those purposes.

But to date, only about 3 percent of the tobacco settlement money has gone to cessation efforts, such as "quit smoking" marketing campaigns. Meanwhile, 10 times that amount has been used by state legislatures to plug budget gaps, or by governors to offer tax relief.

But, even if a provision to direct money to treatment programs were enacted, that still wouldn't stop the government from pillaging the funds and redirecting them to shore up the state budget. Look at what happened in New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, for example, lawmakers in 2000 required that 5 percent of profits from sales of alcohol through state liquor stores be deposited in an Alcohol Fund to pay for treatment and prevention.

However, New Hampshire lawmakers have suspended those payments in each biennial session since, replacing the earmark with their own (invariably lower) appropriation. Furthermore, Gov. John Lynch reduced appropriations for the fund by executive order in 2009, and is calling for further cuts in 2010 and 2011, even though he has supported raising alcohol taxes to raise revenue for the state.

Anti-smoking groups in Ohio had it worse:

Ohio’s smoking rate in 2001 was 28 percent, well above the national average. But thanks in part to foundation-funded projects like the state’s toll-free Ohio Tobacco Quit Line, it had fallen to 22 percent by 2006.

But by that time, Ohio’s economy was reeling and the tobacco money was too tempting for new Gov. Ted Strickland. In 2007, Ohio traded in its future payments for a one-time sum of $5 billion – the largest tobacco bond issue to date. The money paid for a massive property tax relief program for senior citizens and helped build schools.

It did not, however, shore up the state’s economy. This year Strickland pushed through a $1.4 billion economic stimulus package funded in part by money from the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation trust fund. The bill authorized seizure of most of the $300 million in the foundation’s accounts, leaving it with $40 million – less than one year’s operating expenses. The foundation rebelled and tried to shift the money to an anti-smoking nonprofit agency. In retaliation, the Legislature voted to close the foundation. Dozens of anti-smoking programs around the state were shut.

So hopefully you'll understand why I'm skeptical about all the rhetoric purporting that money from beer taxes is going to help people with alcohol problems. It sounds nice but I'll believe it when I see it.

Here's more rhetoric that I'm skeptical of and it comes from my state senator, Fred Risser. With regards to the immanent statewide smoking ban, Risser said, "As soon as this bill takes effect, it will start saving lives of our citizens and saving money for our taxpayers."

Citizens wishing to weigh in at a public hearing about the ban were given a whopping 24-hour notice by Democrat Jon Erpenbach. If the Republicans had done such a thing, the whole of downtown Madison would have been up in arms. But, since he's a Dem and, well, smokers are awful people, it's OK to pull a fast one like this.

But back to Risser. Is his statement true? Will taxpayers save money? Researchers such as Robert Leu and Thomas Schaub, Willard Manning, A. Raynauld and J. Vidal, and Jean-Jacques Rosa find that it is non-smokers who live longer and thusly cost taxpayers more money.

Economists who looked at the figures in many discovered that net transfers go the other way around if one factors in tobacco taxes paid by smokers plus the savings that their early deaths brings to public pension plans and other kinds of old-age care. Not only do smokers pay their way, but they actually subsidize non-smokers.

According to one economist, smokers help taxpayers reap a savings.

Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.

"It looks unpleasant or ghoulish to look at the cost savings as well as the cost increases and it's not a good thing that smoking kills people," Viscusi said in an interview. "But if you're going to follow this health-cost train all the way, you have to take into account all the effects, not just the ones you like in terms of getting your bill passed.

A couple comments from Willard Manning:

"We were actually quite surprised by the finding because we were pretty sure that smokers were getting cross-subsidized by everybody else," said Manning, who suspects the findings would be similar today. "But it was only when we put all the pieces together that we found it was pretty much a wash."

"Surprisingly, the lifetime external costs of a sedentary life-style are actually higher than the external cost of smoking. ... We estimate that lack of exercise imposes external costs of 24 cents for every mile that sedentary people do not walk, jog, or run."

So, if the costs to taxpayers is a large issue here, would it not make sense then for Risser to introduce a bill which would tax exercise equipment, health club memberships, organic produce, and all the things that prolong life and burden the taxpayer? More generally, if money is the issue, it's in the interest of the government for force people to maintain a certain lifestyle.

Remember when Isthmus' Bill Lueders called bars and bowling alleys "cancer-friendly" back when patrons could smoke in them? Well, I hate to tell him but those places are still dens of carcinogens.

The National Institute of Health has a "Report on Carcinogens" which lists "Consumption of alcoholic beverages" as a "known human carcinogen".

Also listed as a baddie is "Solar UV radiation and exposure to sunlamps and sunbeds". All those college students on Bascom Hill taking in the sun – they're putting themselves at risk for melanoma and must be stopped.

So when are we going to ban those cancer-friendly tanning salons and prevent people from going out in the cancer-friendly outdoors?
|| Palmer, 4:05 PM || link || (2) comments |

05 May, 2009

Lunch at Sofra

Recently I took lunch at Sofra Family Bistro in Middleton which was formerly Bavaria Café. It looks much the same as its predecessor and the menu hasn't changed drastically. There was even some familiar faces amongst the staff.

My friend had Sofra's Bistro Burger with the cabbage salad while I ordered the Chicken Panini, cabbage salad, and a bowl of the chicken dumpling soup. The burger is a mix of lamb and beef which impressed my friend by having a fairly large amount of lamb in it. The soup was quite good, if not exactly teeming with bits of chicken, with the broth a million miles away from tasting like prison base. It could have used more carrot and celery, though.

We both agreed that the cabbage salad was bland and in need of salt and some vinegar tartness. My Chicken Panini was laden with gorgonzola, roasted red peppers, red onion, and artichokes but, as with the salad, it needed a bit of salt. Still, it made for some good noshing. With the iced tea being served in large volume, my friend and I agreed that it was a good meal.

A quick word on the menu. Wiener Schnitzel is available at Sofra's. It is described on the menu as "Pan-fried pork cutlets lightly breaded…" No. Wiener Schnitzel is veal, Schwein Schnitzel is pork.
|| Palmer, 4:43 PM || link || (0) comments |

01 May, 2009

In the Dawg House with Samara Kalk Derby

Last week I read Samara Kalk Derby's review of The Dawg House, a "Chicago style eatery" down on State Street and was inclined to agree with her assessment. I didn't write anything then but, now that I've been there a second time, I am so inclined.

I've had the Maxwell Street Dog (a.k.a. – a Chicago dog) and Italian beef while a friend had the Coney Island dog. Starting with the last, my friend reported that the Coney sauce tasted like it had been poured from a Hormel can. Enough said.

The Chicago dog's bun was missing the requisite poppy seeds while the relish was not the customary preternatural shade of green nor was it sweet. Dill relish and a dill pickle slice? Hello?! The idea is to have several flavors at once – the warm bun and hot dog contrasted with the cool vegetables and spicy peppers. Not a mouth full of dill-laced cucumbers. As for the meat itself, it was your average dog. I didn't find it questionable, but nor was it a quality kosher beef tube of lips and assholes.

As Derby said, the Italian beef wasn't bad but it was quite good for a town that doesn't have an Al's. Unlike the FIBS cart, it came on the normal slice of bread instead of a funky roll hoolie. Plus they actually filled the bread up quite full, whereas the Library Mall food cart is quite skimpy on the beef. On my first visit to The Dawg House, I asked for a beef and to have it hot and wet. While I got the hot giardiniera, my sandwich was dry, much to my disappointment. On my second go round, I made sure to have them dip the thing.

For some reason, Derby writes: "I chose hot, and ended up with giardiniera -- a mix of peppers and other veggies that was mainly carrots and celery. It detracted from the sandwich and I wished I had gone with the sweet peppers."

Maybe it's because I'm from the north side of Chicago and she from the south side, but I've always gotten hot giardiniera on an Italian beef when I've asked for hots. I certainly did the last time I had one down there which was from Jay's. When my mother visits and brings some beef for me, she always brings a jar of giardiniera. My Italian uncle from Chicago would serve it with giardiniera or sweet peppers. Hell, if I go look at Al's menu, I see the same options as The Dawg House: hot giardiniera or sweet peppers. So why is Derby writing as if she is shocked to see giardiniera on her sandwich?

Lastly, when I was in there earlier today, my friend and I were the only ones in the place yet it took several minutes for us to get our food. Why is this? You dip the beef in the hot gravy, let it sit for a short time and then put it on a bun. A dog? Put the thing in hot water for a spell and let 'er fly.

My last gripe here is how expensive Italian beef costs in this town. Both The Dawg House and the FIBS cart both charge $6.50. In Chicago, the sandwiches are generally a dollar plus cheaper. Here are some online prices I found:

Portillo's: $4.35
Luke's Italian Beef: $4.65
Jay's: $4.85
**Al's charges about the same as The Dawg House, I believe.

Here in Madison, Rosati's charges $5.95. Poppa Coronofoulos Gyros over on Buckeye is also much cheaper but it's so bad, that it merely illustrates that you get what you pay for. So what does the extra money go for? Location? Shipping?

For more on the Italian beef sandwich, check out this episode of Outside the Loop Radio featuring Ed Zotti, editor/confidant/personal trainer to Uncle Cecil of The Straight Dope.
|| Palmer, 1:49 PM || link || (2) comments |