Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

29 September, 2011

Roasting Coffee at Home

Our first stop is in Yirgacheffe
To check Ethiopian fields
The natives smile and pass along
A sample of their yield
Sweet Jamaican blue mountain
Golden Mexico nights
Then Sumatra, and the East,
Fly by morning light

The other day The Dulcinea spotted an air popper at a ridiculously low price and brought it home for me. A couple days later I tried my hand at roasting coffee at home for the first time. With coffee prices having shot up over the summer, perhaps roasting my own could save me some geld. (My favorite, Just Coffee's Yirgacheffe, went up about $1.80 per pound. Stupid speculators.) My beans weren't exactly fresh, but why let them go to waste? They were from Ethiopia and I got them at a Ethiopian grocery store in Chicago.

The websites I looked at all said that roasting coffee at home wasn't particularly difficult to do. Just pre-heat the popper, throw in your beans, and let 'er rip. Also, put a bowl beneath the exhaust port to catch all the chaff. After a couple minutes, there was a noticeable change in the beans' color.

I can't recall how long we roasted the beans but I'd guess it was around 12 minutes as I personally prefer a darker roast.

Twelve minutes was a lot longer than the websites said I'd be roasting. I'm not sure why but I suspect that it's because I put more coffee in there than recommended. When the beans were sufficiently dark, I tossed them around in a colander for a bit before throwing them in a baking pan and putting it outside to cool them off.

You're supposed to let the roasted beans sit for several, if not 24, hours before grinding. I let mine sit overnight and brewed some joe the next morning. It turned out pretty well. The coffee had that nice earthy flavor that I like in African coffees but didn't have the depth that I'm used to. I am putting this down to the fact that the beans were old which means I have to get some fresher ones to try my hand at roasting.

Anyone know where to get green coffee beans in Madison?
|| Palmer, 11:37 AM || link || (4) comments |

27 September, 2011

What Else to See at Sundance This Fall

Rob Thomas has a look at Sundance's upcoming Screening Room calendar up at 77 Square. There are a couple movies on it that I am looking forward to but, overall, it doesn't do much for me. (I refuse to see films described as "quirky" on principle.)

On the other hand it's worth noting that there are some flicks (supposedly) destined for Sundance this autumn that aren't on the SR calendar.

First there's Another Earth which was originally scheduled to play here on 12 August but disappeared from the theatre's website but recently returned. (I presume there just wasn't any room with Midnight in Paris still on the bill.) It's scheduled to open this Friday.

Next is Gus van Sant's latest, Restless which is due here in Madison on 7 October.

Lastly, scheduled to open on 4 November is Take Shelter. I saw the trailer this past weekend and it looked good. Apparently this guy sees storms and other weather phenomenon that others cannot. I'm not sure if it's an extended metaphor, a sci-fi ploy, or a little of both.

|| Palmer, 8:22 PM || link || (0) comments |

Frau Bier

A woman out in Maryland decided to create a beer for women. The result is Chick Beer, a light brew that comes in pink 6-packs with a design that looks like a purse. With only 97 calories it sure sounds like complete and total swill. I post this because Minhas contract brews the stuff.

Oh, and ignore the reporter here. This is not the first beer created **by** a woman but rather the first beer created **for** women.

|| Palmer, 8:10 PM || link || (0) comments |

Auf Wiedersehen Avol's Books?

Word is that Madison's feminist bookstore, A Room of One's Own, is going to move into Avol's space by next August with Avol's becoming an online concern exclusively.

This blows. Majorly.

I've been going to Avol's on a fairly regular basis lately and hate to see it go. On the other hand, I have not stepped foot inside ARoOO for about 20 years since my Y chromosome was highly unwelcome there. Heck, maybe the clerks are friendly now that the store is, last I heard, skirting some financial straits.
|| Palmer, 4:26 PM || link || (2) comments |

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

The PSA thingy at the theatre reminded me to silence my cell phone, buy lots of candy, and that movies are a great escape. Phone was off, I had two boxes of Goobers, and a short while later I discovered that Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame was indeed some fantastic escapist entertainment.

It is 690 and Wu Zetian is soon to be crowned empress. However, there is discontentment amongst various lords who are not keen on having a woman ascend to the imperial throne. Heedless of their protestations, plans for the coronation continue unabated and they include a massive effigy of the Buddha which stands near the imperial palace. It is 66 yards tall and hollow inside so the view from the statue's eyes is fantastic. Only days before the coronation one of Wu's mandarins is giving a couple of Arab delegates a tour of it. They take an elevator to the top and marvel at the view that the clear, sunny day provides when one of the mandarins suddenly bursts into flames. The stunned onlookers can only watch in horror as his body is consumed and the charred remains tumble to the ground.

Since any delay in the construction of the statue would interfere with Wu's coronation plans, solving the mystery is of the highest priority. When the supervisor of the building project bursts into flames as well on his way to update the empress-to-be on what has happened, the situation only gets more desperate.

Detective Dee had previously crossed Wu who in turn had him arrested and jailed. However, she has him released in order to utilize his superior sleuthing skills. Dee is teamed up with the albino Donglai, a rather splenetic man who is basically the equivalent of a federal marshal and Jing'er, a beautiful young woman that serves as Wu's Praetorian guard and trusted confidante adroitly wielding a whip all the while. Dee is older than both of them and is thusly wiser and more patient than his confrères who are rash and eager to prove themselves.

The trio's investigation takes them to such fantastic places as the Phantom Bazaar, which is the remains of a long-buried city where they meet what appears to be the Imperial Chaplain but is really a bizarre puppet that is animated by a series of small clockwork creatures sporting some sharp blades of their own. Director Hark Tsui is a veteran though I've never seen anything else by him. Here he keeps a tight rein on the story by focusing on our investigators and only rarely cutting away from them to show what devious plots are being hatched elsewhere.

As is to be expected, the scenery and the costumes are very stylized and colorful. Empress Wu's ever-changing series of baroque hair styles are Oscar worthy alone. The movie was shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and so the aerial shots swooping over the city are gorgeous. The widescreen is also put to good use in the abundant fight scenes such as when someone gracefully flies 30 feet and lands on a log only to kick it back almost effortlessly to the other side of the screen where the bad guy awaits. With all of the recent debate about "intensified continuity" amongst cinephiles, I am happy to report that Tsui and his crew mostly avoid that pitfall. While there are some quick cuts and handy protrusions just perfect to wrap a whip around appear out of nowhere, the editors aren't afraid to let a shot linger for a little bit and Tsui gives us plenty of long shots to show where everyone is leaping from and flying to.

Although there was one pretty large plot hole and much of the acting was sheer scenery chewing, it shouldn't distract you from the great fun of watching Dee and a half-naked Jing'er escape from an unremitting barrage of arrows.

|| Palmer, 12:20 PM || link || (0) comments |

26 September, 2011

Help Dale Escape the Black Lodge

Also from Dangerous Minds comes news of this ditty:

One Jak Locke has created a retro 8-bit Twin Peaks video game in which you are the good Dale in the Black Lodge and you're having a helluva time trying to leave. Dale's doppelgänger is here as is The Man From Another Place, Bob, Laura, that statue, and those red curtains. The only thing missing is cream corn.

You can download the game for free here.

|| Palmer, 4:36 PM || link || (0) comments |

Return the Favor

Dangerous Minds has a good idea: buy the Wall Street occupiers some pizza. I mean, lots of people bought pizza for the protestors down at the Capitol earlier this year so we should return the favor.

Remember, if you're from Wisconsin and you order a pie for the protestors, be sure to get extra cheese.

If you’d like to show some support for the brave and persistent protestors who are occupying lower Manhattan to call attention to rapacious finance capitalism run amok, why not consider sending some… pizza?

Some local pizzerias listed by Get Smart News who’ll deliver to the anti-capitalism protestors. Liberatos Pizza & Parmigiana at 17 Cedar Street are offering a “Stand-Up-for-Your-Beliefs” special, “The Occu-Pie,” but you might want to consider ordering some meatless (if not vegan) options for this bunch—call Liberatos at (212) 344-3464

For some healthier options click here; below, some lower Manhattan pizzerias:

Adrienne’s Pizza Bar Restaurant, 54 Stone Street, (212) 248-3838
Harry’s Italian Pizza Bar, 2 Gold Street, (212) 747-0797
Papa John’S Pizza, 21 Maiden Lane # 23, (212) 608-7272
Underground Pizzeria, 3 Hanover Square, (212) 425-4442
Zeytuna, 59 Maiden Lane, (212) 742-2436
Big Al’s Chicago Style Pizza, 9 Thames Street, (212) 964-3269
Caruso’s Pizza & Pasta140 Fulton Street, (212) 267-2927
Cucina Bene Pizza, 41 Exchange Place, (212) 635-0345
Grotto Pizzeria & Restaurant, 69 New Street, (212) 809-6990
Caruso’s Pizza, 42 Broadway (212) 785-7747
Friendly Gourmet Pizza, 59 Nassau Street, (212) 791-180

Some non-pizza local restaurants that will deliver to the protestors:

Lemon Grass Grill, (212) 809-8038
Toloache Taqueria, 212) 809-9800
Alfanoose, (212) 528-4669
|| Palmer, 4:21 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Interrupters

Many thanks and a garland of Martian fire flowers to the folks behind the Spotlight Cinemas series at MMoCA for bringing The Interrupters here to Madison last week.

The movie follows a trio of "Violence Interrupters" who are individuals that go out into their communities and attempt to defuse volatile situations before they escalate into violence. They are part of an organization called CeaseFire which was founded by an epidemiologist named Gary Slutkin who thinks that violence spreads in a way similar to diseases. A mobile camera crew follows Cobe Williams, Ameena Matthews, and Eddie Bocanegra as they attempt to mediate conflicts in their neighborhoods and go out in the communities to help however they can, whether it be buying someone a meal or lending an ear.

Early in the movie as a group of Interrupters are having a meeting, a fight breaks out right outside their offices and everyone rushes out to help. Not only do we get to see these people step right into the middle of conflicts and put themselves in harm's way, but we also learn that they're not just working against gang violence. A lot of the fights that plague the neighborhoods of Chicago's south and west sides don't involve gangs and are over menial disputes such as a $5 debt or some disrespectful comments.

While I'm sure each of the Interrupters deals with many people in a single day, here we see them attempt to help out a handful of people over the course of many months. Williams is a pretty big guy but he comes across in an avuncular way as opposed to threatening. One person he attempts to help out is a guy named "Flamo". Someone ratted out his brother and he was arrested on weapons charges and now Flamo is ready to shoot someone. Williams works to calm Flamo down as he stands on his porch venting his frustration. An appeal to Flamo to think of his children fails and what him ending up in jail would do to them fails as he protests that he's been in jail for almost half his life so who cares? However, over subsequent visits, Williams helps Flamo change his attitude, and he eventually gets a job.

Bocanegra is clean cut and seems very humble, very gentle. He doesn't raise his voice or impose. He regularly talks with young children at a school or day care center about the violence in their neighborhoods. I almost started balling when one of the girls, who was about four years old, started crying as she described the gun violence around her house. Bocanegra also spends time consoling a Hispanic family who lost a son to violence and make doleful treks to the cemetery every day.

Matthews is short but spunky. She's not afraid to get in the middle of a group of young men much larger than her if she thinks it will help. But she also has a big heart. She gets a lot of screen time where she mentors a teenage girl whose journey out of life on the street goes in fits and starts. Matthews alternately offers hugs and the cold, hard truth which the girl is not always inclined to hear. She also helps the family of Derrion Albert, a high school student who was killed in an after school riot and whose death was infamously captured on cell phone video and posted on the Internet.

As we watch the Interrupters do their job, we also get to learn about their pasts and about their lives now. All three of them were gangbangers in their former lives. Matthews is the daughter of Chicago gang leader Jeff Fort and she got into that life as well. But becoming a mother and a Muslim set her on a new path in life. Williams' father was murdered and he too fell into gangs. He spent many stints in jail but finally tired of it and devoted himself to his family and his community. Bocanegra still deals with the fact that he murdered a man several years ago. For these people, being an Interrupter is perhaps one part good deed and one part dealing with personal demons.

While the movie is littered with plenty of heart-wrenching scenes, there are also some signs of hope. Flamo gets a job and thanks Williams for all he's done. In another scene, a young man is released from jail and Williams takes him to the barber shop that he held up with a friend when he was just a teenager to apologize. This latter example is particularly important. Most of The Interrupters takes place on an interpersonal level whether it be one of the Interrupters tackling personal demons or counseling an individual. But the barber shop scene provides one of the rare instances in the movie when violence moves out to a larger context and away from an individual one.

The Interrupters doesn't try to address the problems plaguing the neighborhoods portrayed in the movie from a wider angle. Explaining the violence is a massive undertaking and I think the movie wisely narrows its focus to the personal stories in the streets instead of trying to draw in larger, society-wide issues like segregation, poverty, &c. This approach personalizes the issue of violence by showing us individuals who have engaged in it and those who have suffered because of it. It also reminds viewers that each individual has a story and his/her own problems and strengths. A look at the larger view would certainly be instructive and is necessary but can only do so much. The Interrupters hints at this braoder view, however, when we hear of broken homes, poverty, and the like. Viewers know that there's more to the story than the movie tells us, but it is beyond its ken.

Regardless of the movie's scope, The Interrupters is a great slice of human drama and it's all true.

|| Palmer, 4:05 PM || link || (0) comments |

A Barbecue History of Chicago

Have a mop ready.

Sky Full of Bacon 17: A Barbecue History of Chicago from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

|| Palmer, 11:16 AM || link || (2) comments |

Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse

While this isn't exactly the season for drinking this kind of brew, I was very thirsty the other day and craving a nice bier on the lighter side. It was time to bust open the Berliner Weisse. This is Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse. I presume the word "style" is present because the brewery is in Leipzig and not Berlin.

The stuff looks a lot like a crappy American macrobrew with its light straw color. It is highly carbonated with big bubbles. The head lasted a little while and left some nice lace on the glass. Berliner Weisse is a sour beer due to the addition of lactic acid and you can smell it the sourness in addition to yeast and a faint wheaty-malty scent. (There's wheat in the bier as well.) Notably, there's no hop in the aroma. Some iterations of the style have Brettanomyces, a particular type of yeast, that does its thing in the bottle during a secondary fermentation. From what I've read, this fungus imparts a smell somewhere along the lines of wet hay but I detected none of that here. Any brewers care to weigh in? Joe?

Weighing in at only 3.0% ABV means that there isn't much of a grainy backbone here. You get a bit of malt and wheat but it's mostly the sour that comes through. To my taste, it was moderately tart. Not just a faint hint of the stuff in the background nor overwhelming to the point where you'll look like Homer Simpson after eating the Super Sour Lemon Ball. The flavor was also on the dry side and this, coupled with all the bubbles, reminded me of a nice dry sparkling wine. As with the aroma, there's no hops here.

I didn't have any syrup on hand as is common in Germany. I personally prefer the woodruff flavor. As it was, the bier was very refreshing and quenched my thirst.

Junk Food Pairing: Sans syrup, I think Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse would go well with French fries or potato chips dipped in bleu cheese dressing.
|| Palmer, 11:08 AM || link || (4) comments |

23 September, 2011

Geology Was Invented Here

This is Van Hise Rock.

It was named after Charles Van Hise and, if you live in Madison, that name probably rings a bell as there's a building on the UW campus named after him. Van Hise was UW president and a geologist by trade. It's probably not too far off the mark to say that structural geology was born right here. College students still come to the area to check out the rocks and see what they've only read about first-hand. Indeed, there was a caravan from some college in the UP there while we were.

Now here's another angle with Des posing.

Here's a close-up. On the left is more of that quartzite while the lighter stuff on the right is phyllite.

A neat bit of history. The older I get, the more interesting geology becomes to me. Perhaps this is because I can appreciate the vast amounts of time that come into play. However, I've still got a lot to learn about geology generally and the geologic history of Wisconsin specifically.
|| Palmer, 2:52 PM || link || (0) comments |

Ableman's Gorge

With winter fast approaching, it will soon be time to hole up inside with strong brews and fondly recall the summer and all the outdoor activities therein. One new spot I went to this year was Ableman's Gorge up by Baraboo. There are a couple parking areas on Hwy 136 and one of them has a nice artesian well where you can fill up your water bottles before venturing. It was some fine tasting water.

Across the road is a path which leads to the entrance.

Here's a description of the place from the DNR:

Ableman's Gorge is a classic gorge cut by the Baraboo River through Baraboo quartzite, Cambrian sandstone, and conglomerate. The cliffs and rocky slopes rise about 200 feet above the river to form a wall nearly three-fourths of a mile long, oriented east-west, which then abruptly turns south for a similar distance. ..The site tells a fascinating geological story of changing conditions in an ancient sea that first rose quietly against a cliff of quartzite and then, as layers of sediments gradually decreased the relief between sea floor and land, surged against the top of the cliff, wearing away quartzite and depositing a layer of cobbles and boulders across its upturned edge.

After walking down a short wooded path, you finally see the 500 million year-old rock.

There's just something awe-inspiring about looking at cliffs and knowing that it took millions and millions of years for that rock to form and that it's been there for hundreds of millions of years. It has witnessed ancient seas, asteroids impacting the Earth, the rise and slumbering of the Silurians, &c. They were sitting here back when my ancestors were wee bivalves. In short, these rocks are really old and the mind reels when trying to contemplate just how old they are.

I'm no geologist but according to my friend Dogger who reads such tracts, some of this stuff…

…is quartzite which is used for railroad ballast. (I.e. – the rocks between the ties.) In the distance, we could see derelict mining equipment on the other side of the Baraboo River.

We took a walk along the rock faces and found some holes dug into the ground that had stone facades attached to them. These were apparently storage areas for dynamite back in the mining days.

The trail emptied out onto the highway and across from a very significant rock.

Doggers says, "There's Van Hise Rock. He basically invented geology there."

"No shit?"

"No shit."
|| Palmer, 2:49 PM || link || (0) comments |

21 September, 2011

Ich nichts funktionieren ohne Bier

Sprecher recently announced a new limited edition brew called Wisconsin Fresh Hop Amber Lager which pairs their Amber with some recently harvested Wisconsin hops.

We used the just harvested 200 lbs of WI grown Cascade hops to dry hop our 40 barrels of lager beer and it is still resting on all those nice looking hops. These WI hops were not as strong as those we receive from the west coast, Oregon’s Willamette valley, my birth place (Eugene, OR). Tasting from the tank I get a nice crisp character from these hops and slight floral bouquet. I can not describe exactly what flavor is coming across except that it is nice and refreshing and of distinct and subtle cascade profile. The hops do not add much in the way of aroma but their acids do impart a nice change in the mouth feel and slight resin character to the finish. Drinkability is very good and I suspect that it will improve a bit upon final filtration and with its full carbonation. We are looking forward to quaffing a lot of this special brew.

As of now, the only place in Madison which is set to receive some of the brew is the Sprecher's Restaurant out in Middleton.

According to the Vintage Brewing Company's Facebook page, the House of Brews' second beer will be on tap there starting tomorrow:

Fan of local brews? Vintage Brewing Co. is honored to host the WORLD DEBUT of the 2nd ever beer from Madison's newest microbrewery, HOUSE OF BREWS! "Full House" is a malty, full-bodied strong pale ale, and we'll be tapping the first keg at 5pm on Thursday, 9-22-11. Their inaugural brew, "Prairie Rye" will be on tap as well...a perfect chance to sample the entire lineup of HOB brews (so far!).

Point's latest beer, Drop Dead Blonde, now has a label. According to their website, DDB will be available year-round but only on draught, at this point. At 110 calories, I assume it's aimed at Miller Lite and Bud Lite drinkers. I was up in Point a couple weeks ago but didn't see it on tap anywhere but did indulge in some Nude Beach.

Lastly, I saw this article up at Slate called "Beyond Oktoberfest" which highlights some tasty German biers that aren't Bavarian Märzens. Among them are rauchbier, gose, and Kölsch. Unfortunately, I've only ever seen one of the brands in the article for sale here in Madison, though a couple of the styles mentioned are readily available.

|| Palmer, 11:14 AM || link || (0) comments |

20 September, 2011

Terrence Malick in Public

Holy crap! Here's something you don't see everyday. Well, actually ever. Terrence Malick tends to shy away from public exposure so I was very surprised to see him shooting his next flick with Christian Bale at this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival. It is also very surprising to see him shooting another film so soon after Tree of Life as there's usually a space of a few years, if not decades, between his movies.

CB @aclfestival shooting Terrence Malick film by falcounderground
|| Palmer, 9:23 AM || link || (0) comments |

19 September, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I walked out of Sundance last week after having watched Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams both in awe of the Cave of Chauvet featured in the movie and angry at myself for not having gone to Chicago to see it in 3-D. The lesson here is to assume the movies I really want to see won't make it to Madison.

The Cave of Chauvet is in southern France and was discovered by a trio of spelunkers in 1994. Jean-Marie Chauvet was the leader of the group or did the bulk of the work or something because the cave bears his name. They discovered a draft emanating from the cliff which gave them their first clue. Some digging later they exposed the mouth to the cave which had been covered in a rock fall for tens of thousands of years. Once inside they found some exquisitely preserved cave painting.

With the discovery reported, the French government sealed the cave and today entrance is through a steel door which makes that part of the cliff look a bit like the fortress on Navarone. Access to the cave is very limited but Herzog managed to get permission to film. He and his small crew had only a short amount of time to get their footage but they seem to have made the best of it.

When I first saw the charcoal drawings on the wall, I marveled at how well they were preserved as they are somewhere in the neighborhood of 32,000 years old. But that was soon replaced by more complex sense of awe when I contemplated that people made those drawings. What were the lives of these people like? What did the drawings mean to them?

While we'll never really know the answers to these questions, it sure is fun to have Werner Herzog speculating on the answers. His narration is a joy in all of his documentaries. Herzog's near monotone is almost plaintive with its thick German accent. He keeps some distance between his subject and himself and ponders what kind of truths can be culled from the subject onscreen. In Cave of Forgotten Dreams he views the drawings as messages from the past to the future and stands in awe of them. One drawing features a bison with eight legs and another has four consecutive drawings of a horse's head. Herzog views these particular drawings as representative of movement and labels them examples of "proto-cinema". He imagines how the images would have appeared to our Paleolithic ancestors by torchlight.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a departure from Herzog's more recent documentary work and indeed from a lot of his narrative work. There's no cruel and uncaring universe mocking the futility of existence and our lives ephemeral. Instead he marvels at the ur-art in Chauvet and lets the marvel of the archaeologists and paleontologists who work inside the cave shine through too as they explain their findings. But no Herzog work is complete without some unconventional characters. One archaeologist who works with the cave and its drawings used to work in a circus. This man was also plagued by dreams of lions after seeing the drawings of them in the cave. A mighty testament to the power of the art there. Another is dressed in skins and demonstrates a replica of a pre-historic bone flute found at another site but dating to roughly the same time. And then there's the perfumer who is brought in to sniff the air of the cave so it can replicated at a theme park simulacrum of the place.

While Herzog is convinced that the cave contains communications from the past, he isn't sure what they say. One scientist posits that the paintings are a manifestation of the human desire to communicate. Perhaps this is Herzog's injection of futility. Two parties want to communicate with one another but tens of thousands of years have left them unable to do so. There's a coda in which we learn of a tropical refuge not too distant from the cave that was created with the heated waste water of a nearby nuclear power plant. As we watch albino alligators swim about, Herzog wonders what they would make of the paintings. This sequence felt superfluous but it reinforced his questions about the message from the past. Things change and meanings get lost in the drift of time.

If this is Herzog pointing out yet another example of futility in the human experience, it takes a back seat to the wonder of the cave and all that lies inside. For those not inclined to hear his imagination running in the narration, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is still worthwhile to see what's inside the cave. Despite have a small crew and minimal equipment, the footage is amazing. In addition to the drawings, there are lots of bones and some of them have been covered in calcite over thousands of years. In one corner are the footprints of a boy right next to those of a wolf. Plus there's one particular stone covered in the handprints of one individual. He dipped his hand in some kind of red dye and put his print all over one section of rock. Why would he do this? Was it the artist signing his work?

While we'll never know what the Paleolithic people were trying to say, Herzog is surely communicating to his audience the wonder he experienced inside the cave and that the human desire to communicate through imagination and artistry is age-old and will be with us for a long time to come.

|| Palmer, 3:22 PM || link || (0) comments |

16 September, 2011

The Saddest Thing You'll See on TV This Fall

I don't know if I'll be able to watch Ken Burns' latest without crying my eyes out.

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.

|| Palmer, 8:48 AM || link || (0) comments |

14 September, 2011

Save Our Research Business

A couple days ago the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an op-ed inveighing against two Republican bills which could stymie stem cell research in Wisconsin. And when I say "in Wisconsin", I mean in Madison.

An effort has been launched in the state Legislature that could cripple dozens of research projects in Wisconsin and exile that work to other states - work that may lead to new therapies for such dreaded diseases as diabetes and heart disease.

Identical bills introduced by Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate would make it a crime for researchers in Wisconsin to use cells derived from fetal tissue. A ban would put an end to research in labs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin and would almost certainly lead to an exodus of both scientists and the companies that are putting their research to work.

Sometimes I think Republicans are really intent on just screwing over Madison. Last month I found this interesting map showing where venture capital went during the first half of this year. Check out Madison.

And here's Milwaukee, the only other Wisconsin city on the map.

Little old Madison garnered $44 million in venture capital over the course of the first six months of this year while the entire Milwaukee area got only $8 million. (I wonder how much of this money came here because of Walker's policies.) Now the Republican assholes in the state legislature want to put that in jeopardy. I thought we were open for business.

I now await Scott Walker's seneschal Cullen Werwie to tell me how banning various lines of research and driving it to California and elsewhere will create more certainty for businesses in the state. And I suppose it would, in a sense. Some biomedical companies can be absolutely dead certain that their business is not wanted here. But how much certainty can other businesses expect when Wisconsin's government apparatus simply careers from one special interest to the next? The road builders got their turn at the trough, then the realtors, then the NRA, then Miller-Coors, and so on. Now it's time for Julaine Appling, an awful woman who is counting the days until she can start up her coal-fired Jack Rabbit and bring herself to orgasm while watching gay people fry in the electric chair, to get hers.

I guess the only way to get some certainty is to contribute money to campaigns.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, and UW chancellor David Ward have both made their opposition to the bills public.

The last word goes to Jesus and Mo:

|| Palmer, 3:22 PM || link || (0) comments |

Wisconsin State Journal Can't Even Cover It's Own Backyard

The FBI showed up at the Madison home of Scott Walker's knight-errant Cynthia Archer today. The State Journal's article about this is from the AP and it mentions the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's report.

Woe betide the newspaper that can't even cover its own backyard.
|| Palmer, 12:43 PM || link || (0) comments |

We're Really Edumacated

According to Men's Health magazine, Madison is the most educated city in all the land. Milwaukee placed 74th. Uff da!
|| Palmer, 11:55 AM || link || (2) comments |

I Take It There Aren't Many Black People Over There

This was apparently seen in Ukraine.

(Found here.)
|| Palmer, 9:56 AM || link || (0) comments |

13 September, 2011

Wisconsin Brews on TV and a New Brewery Up Nort

Some Wisconsin brews got some Al Roker love recently.

Al samples a brew from Black Husky Brewing which I've never heard of. Or maybe I have and just don't recall. It's up in Pembine, which I've driven through on numerous occasions but never stopped in. I haven't been up that way in a while so now I have a new reason to do so.
|| Palmer, 1:22 PM || link || (0) comments |

Viking Reemerges As Valkyrie Brewing Company

Cue the Wagner! The former Viking Brewing Co. up in Dallas has transmogrified into Valkyrie Brewing Company.

I'm glad they went with a Nordic name instead of Five Star as they had originally planned.

The first of Valkyrie's beers will be Rubee. Release date of this beer is September 25. Watch for it in stores throughout Western Wisconsin.

I presume Rubee is just the old Viking Copperhead lager in a new guise. Hopefully the beer will makes its way to Madison soon.
|| Palmer, 12:50 PM || link || (0) comments |

12 September, 2011

Bringing Bamberg to My Dining Room

A few years ago The Dulcinea and I were watching some travel show where the host went to Bamberg, Germany and toured the Schlenkerla brewery. This immediately made us thirst for some rauchbier. Then this person stopped in at some hole-in-the-wall restaurant and had a Bamberg Onion. This had two results: 1) I vowed to go to Bamberg someday and 2) we got really hungry and probably ordered a pizza. Since I can't go to Bamberg, I decided to bring a little of it to my home and made the titular onions.

The first thing you do is peel some onions and then scoop out their guts. I cried and cried doing this. Next time I hope to have a nice serrated melon baller with a comfy ergonomic grip to speed things up and make it easier on my finger.

I took the onion guts and pureed them I did the same with a smoked pork chop. Then I mixed it all with some ground pork, eggs, bread crumbs, and seasoning. Aside from salt and pepper, I added mace and marjoram. What you're doing is essentially putting a smoked brat in an onion.

I went to the Jenifer Street Market to get my meat for this venture and was disappointed to find that, not only did they not have any of Nueske's smoked chops but that they were also out of ground pork. So I went to Jim's. I got some smoked chops and they ground the pork for me on the spot. It was so nice to be able to go to a butcher shop on a weekend when there was actually a butcher around instead of simply someone who can weigh and wrap meat. I suspect that there are no real butchers at the big grocery stores these days and perhaps a slight chance of the Jenifer Street Market employing one.

Unfortunately Jim's has succumbed to the brat craze. By this I mean having only a smattering of cuts of meat and instead filling the display case with funkily-flavored sausages. If I hear one more word about how "sophisticated" Madison is in a culinary way, I am going to vomit. There are shopping days when I have a problem finding a simple cut of meat like a rump or chuck roast because meat departments and butchers are spending all their time combining ground pork with bulk powdered seasoning mixes from Sysco so all the sophistos can have their gyros, chipotle & sun dried tomato, and mac & cheddar brats. Meat counters across the land are inundated with these sausages as well as pre-stuffed this and marinated that. So I call bullshit on any notion that Madisonians are any more culinarily sophisticated than folks in Richland Center.

With the filling done, you stuff those bad boys.

After about 45 minutes in the oven, you apply bacon and pop the root end of the onion that was hacked off earlier on top and return to the heat to finish.

I fucked this meal up twice. Firstly, I added too much mace to the meat. It wasn't inedible by any means but very strong. My second cock up came in the choice of beer for use in the gravy. One is supposed to use Schlenkerla's Märzen or one of their other common rauchbiers but I used the Oak Smoke which is much too hoppy for gravy. To add to my gustatory crime, I will also say that the pork was too fucking lean. No fat = crappy pan drippings. Due to circumstances, I ended up with ground pork from Woodman's instead of using the stuff from Jim's. Next time I need to have Jim's grind the stuff and make sure they add plenty of fat. And so I had to improvise and ended up making gravy that was passable. I can imagine what it must taste like when prepared correctly - smoked pork, bacon, rauchbier gravy - a cornucopia of smoky goodness.

On the plus side, two 12-year old boys, whom I didn't think would be too thrilled about Bamberg Onions, enjoyed the dinner.

Live and learn.

|| Palmer, 3:33 PM || link || (0) comments |

Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche (Schlenkerla Oak Smoke)

Last month a wooden keg of this stuff was tapped at Brasserie V. I wasn't able to make it but I did pick up a bottle of the Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche (Schlenkerla Oak Smoke) over the summer in Milwaukee. I've seen the Märzen, Urbock, and Wheat around Madison but never (until the keg announcement) this nor the lager.)

Schlenkerla Oak Smoke is a doppelbock that uses malt dried over an oak wood fire instead of a beech wood fire like all of their other brews. Until yesterday I'd never had it before and was expecting something along the lines of the Märzen but it was quite different.

I got a nice frothy head when I poured it and it lasted a fairly long time instead of dissipating right away. You can see the nice deep reddish-brown color above. Unsurprisingly, it had a smoky scent but it wasn't quite as dominating as I thought it would be and swear some malt sweetness peeked through. Maybe my nose was stuffy.

Completely unlike the Märzen, which is the rauchbier I've had the most of, the Oak Smoke didn't assault the tongue with the first sip. Don't get me wrong, the smoke flavor is very prominent but not nearly as strong as the Märzen. Another contrast was that this stuff felt way less viscous on the tongue. Not as syrupy. For a doppelbock, it had a surprisingly agile mouthfeel. It also had much more hoppiness, especially in the finish. This is probably the most balanced of Schlenkerla's offerings that I've had.

As far as the beech vs. oak smoked malt, the difference is subtle. Rauchbier is often described as being like liquid bacon and, while the oak retained that general flavor, to me, it tasted less like bacon than the beech and just woodier, if that makes any sense. Many people are put off by the flavor but your tongue's smoke shock goes away pretty quickly and you're left with it as one of many flavors, albeit the dominant one. And, as I said above, the Oak Smoke has more hops than I'm used to and achieves a really nice equilibrium.

Junk Food Pairing: I find that rauchbier goes well with lots of fat. For Oak Smoke I suggest some Vegetable Thins crackers (or a generic equivalent) smeared with some good cheddar cheese spread.
|| Palmer, 2:02 PM || link || (0) comments |

Boatilla Amber Ale by Big Bay Brewing

Over the weekend I finally drank that bottle of Big Bay's Boatilla Amber Ale that's been in my refrigerator. I liked their Wavehopper Kölsch quite a bit so I was looking forward to tasting Big Bay's other brew.

Boatilla poured a nice head which lasted a long time. With its deep amber color, it sure made for a pretty glass which I think you can see despite my piss-poor photography skills. It had a very sweet aroma – like smelling caramel – with just a hint of the German hops.

Right out of the cooler the taste was just like the aroma. The sweet malt was prominent along with those caramel overtones. I had to wait until the finish before I could really taste the hops. BB says it uses Hallertau Perle and Hersbrucker varieties which are on the herbal/grassy side of the hop spectrum. The beer left an aftertaste of hoppy bitterness. Since I drank the beer out on my porch, it warmed up a bit and, as it did so, the hops began to assert themselves.

Boatilla seems to be brewed to style with an emphasis on the malt but I still found it a very refreshing beer on a hot day. It's not heavy or cloying on the tongue and the hops balance the sweetness. I suppose that, if you're going to go with a summer fun theme, you can't brew a particularly heavy beer. Perhaps, if they brew more substantial beers, they'll introduce an ice fishing theme.

Junk Food Pairing: Pair Boatilla with pungent root vegetables. I suggest Jays Onion & Garlic Ridged Potato Chips.

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|| Palmer, 1:14 PM || link || (0) comments |

New Lakefront Brew and Something for Dia de los Muertos

Lakefront is introducing a new line of beers called "My Turn" which highlight employees of the brewery.

This is Dan. Dan is the tax and Compliance/Transportation Manager at Lakefront, which basically means he does two important things: One – he keeps the feds happy so we can stay in business, and Two – he makes sure the beer gets to distributors so you can get your hands on it. Dan’s important.

Dan brewed a Baltic Porter. Expecdt this thing to be dark and robust with a malty sweetness. A touch hopper than the typical porter, the medium bitterness balances the malts and a deep chocolate or coffee aroma stops just short of burnt. If we did it right, this one oughta be one big, full bodied beer

Style: Baltic Porter
Availability: 220z bombers
Arrival: TBD
6.5% ABV, 60 IBUs

Last week I read about a new fall brew which sounded quite tasty. It's from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria down in Chicago and it's called Vida y Muerte Ale.

The brewery will release a specialty beer in the October for Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). It will be an Oktoberfest with dulce de leche and hoja santa (an herb common in Oaxacan cuisine) that will be called Vida y Muerte Ale.

Brewery co-founder Isaac Showaki said by email, "We did our first test batch and it came up incredible. A few people had the chance to taste it for a supperclub event we did ... and everyone was raving about it. We were curious to see the reaction because it was only a test batch, but it came out great."

The beer will be draft only, Showaki said. Vida y Muerte Ale will be the fourth beer for Chicago-based 5 Rabbit, which bills itself as the nation's "first Latin craft brewery."

I'm not sure how an Oktoberfest can be an ale. I think of them as being Märzens, i.e. – lagers. But I guess the term is a bit generic and simply means a fall seasonal. Regardless, it sounds tasty. I might have to schedule a trip down south to try it and see if I can get a growler.
|| Palmer, 10:40 AM || link || (2) comments |

07 September, 2011

Troll Hunter and Free Beer

Troll Hunter played at the Wisconsin Film Festival this past spring but oddly never returned for a theatrical run. You'd think that it would have considering all the Norwegian-Americans around here and the fact that it was a fun flick. Luckily it is returning next month as part of the pre-party for the Madison Horror Film Festival which takes place on 7 October.

Along with Troll Hunter, the party will also feature The Giant Rubber Monster Movie plus guests, music, and get this: FREE BEER (and popcorn)!


|| Palmer, 4:00 PM || link || (0) comments |

My New Favorite Video Game

Tea Party Zombies Must Die!
|| Palmer, 3:05 PM || link || (0) comments |

Why Sylvester McCoy Rules

Here is his doing the "Pandorica Opens" speech from last year's season of Doctor Who. While I like Matt Smith, he just doesn't roll the R's like McCoy.

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|| Palmer, 11:26 AM || link || (0) comments |

02 September, 2011

House of Brews Debuts Prairie Rye

Yesterday evening brewmaster Page Buchanan debuted the first House of Brews brew - Prairie Rye, a Kölsch. Having had it at Page's house before several times, it wasn't new to me, but it was good to see his nascent business take its first steps. There were two barrels there and the first sold out in 90 minutes. The House of Brews taproom should be fully armed and operational by the end of month which is good news since a friend of mine has made me responsible for filling growlers for game days.

I heard from Joe Walts that this year's batch of Mercy Grand Cru is coming along swimmingly as apparently is a book about Wisconsin taverns and breweries by Jim Draeger who was also there. Plus I got to chat with Jeff Glazer of Madison Beer Review. A very nice fellow despite being a Cleveland Browns fan.

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|| Palmer, 8:57 AM || link || (0) comments |