Friday, September 28, 2007
Oh Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, you so crazy. Apparently all it takes to be a state politician is some cash and a fifth-grade level of maturity.
According to the State Journal, Huebsch released a sample press release to his fellow Republicans with the strong suggestion that they contact media and lambast Doyle for not wanting to pass the budget in bits and pieces. In that sample press release, he refers to a figurative Democratic Senator by the name of "Jim Schmoron." Huebsch has since conceded that it was "inappropriate" for him to do so, which is very big of him.
So Wisconsin's still without a state budget. The Republicans are against proper health coverage for their constituents, don't seem to understand that you can't provide public services without a degree of taxation, and absolutely abhor the thought of taxing oil companies ("estimated to raise $275 million in the next two years")...but they don't mind throwing childish names around at one another. Brilliant.
In the meantime, we the waiting public are left to endure behind-closed-door negotiations between leaders from both parties, completely left in the dark as to what on earth they're talking about and what deals are being made. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't good government based on a fair degree of transparency? Still, I suppose you can't blame them too much for simply following the example of our Dear Leader in DC.
Way to rise above, state politicians!
(photo credit: curiousparents.com)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Good lord, I hadn't realized our fair state was the Wild West of puppy breeding (see: almost totally unregulated) until I read this article in today's State Journal. The good news, however, is that legislators, though still incapable of passing a decent state budget, are moving to make significant changes to the laws:
A bill to be introduced today by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would require all dog breeders who sell at least 60 dogs a year or have at least eight breeding females to register with the state, meet minimum breeding and sanitary standards and be subject to state inspections. It would require the state to establish those standards and impose penalties on breeders who violate them.
The bill would also let dog buyers seek financial or other penalties from breeders who sell unhealthy dogs.
I guess I'm just somewhat appalled that there wasn't already some type of regulation on the books in regards to breeding. Puppy mills are disgusting and the people who run them are deplorable. It seems well within reason and the jurisdiction of the state government to impose basic standards on the people who breed dogs. Especially since "designer" pups have become so popular in recent years.
My family had a similar experience years ago when we bought a "purebred" shih tsu puppy from a local pet store (that, it later turned out, used puppy mill breeders for its dogs). The poor thing was a complete runt and was so sick that she nearly died just months after we brought her home. Happily, our story has a good ending in that we were able to get her cared for by an amazing vet who basically saved her life. She ended up being the weirdest but most personable dog you could want, but lived a long and happy life (though we're fairly certain she wasn't at all a "purebred" shih tsu--there appeared to be some pekingese in her as well, at the very least).
Unfortunately, there are far too many stories that don't end so well for the dogs or their owners. You can learn more about puppy mills and those organizations working to stop them at the following links:
(photo credit: Dane County Humane Society - and you can adopt that very dog, or any of the other deserving animals through their adoption program)
Sure, they're not as cute as the baby ducks you can help buy for families in need through Heifer International, nor do they pull at the heartstrings as much as the children you can "adopt" through programs like Christian Children's Fund.
But it's still a great idea. And if you look really, really hard, those boxes are kinda...I don't know...stalwart and true?
Anyway, Just Coffee, a 100% fair trade company right out of Madison (that delivers all of their product via tricycle!) is hosting an "Adopt-a-Box" program called The Seed Project:
The Seed Project is looking for people willing to Adopt-A-Box. We now have over 20 (twenty) boxes of seeds waiting to be mailed to Timor-Leste (East Timor). The cost per box to send Global Priority Flat Rate is $37 per box. These boxes hold approximately ten (10) pounds of non-hybrid seeds which have been donated by various individuals and seeds companies. These seeds are desperately needed by the Timorese. With the Adopt-A-Box program you as an individual will receive a photograph of the box which you have adopted, as well as a 12oz. bag of coffee compliments of Just Coffee. And you will be able to check updates on our website to see pictures of people growing food, directly benefiting from your generous donation. Please think of this as not only a box, but as a way of helping people desperately in need of food sovereignty.
Programs like these are so much more effective at fighting poverty and the like than just regular charitable donations. It's the whole "give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for the rest of his life" philosophy. Providing ways for people to have a sustainable way of making money and/or food has long-term positive effects. We should be looking to support and create more programs like Adopt-A-Box and, on a larger scale, things like micro-credit and micro-loans.
It's good to see local organizations jumping in and doing what they can. Just Coffee already does a lot to foster fair business practices, so kudos to them for finding new ways to help out, too.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I have some affiliation with Mercury Players, a local theatre troupe here in Madison that makes a habit of breaking out of the usual community theatre confines (case in point: their current run of "Reefer Madness: The Musical").
Next door to the Bartell Theatre, where MPT makes its performance home, is the Mercury Lounge. There's no official relation between the two, just a happy coincidence that's turned into quite the symbiotic relationship. The Mercury Lounge is where all of the actors and tech folk from the shows next door come to kick off their shoes, as it were, before and after rehearsals and shows. In turn, the Mercury Lounge has allowed MPT to host "Tuesdays at the Mercury," a monthly night of very short, locally written plays and the occasional concert or party.
It' a great, free way to spend time with friends and friendly strangers while being entertained and staying close to drinks and food (the Mercury boasts some really tasty Greek dishes, including my favorite, baklava). Last night the tradition continued with four very short scenes and general merrymaking, with a plug for next month's Halloween-themed event. Add it to my list of Halloween related activities for the month, including dane101's Hallow-Rockin'-Ween bash at the High Noon Saloon.
(poster credit: Daniella Maria)
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Further information is slowly being leaked, though, including a slightly more promising line-up of bands that will likely include Ky-Mani Marley, Mighty Short Bus, Rob Dz and possibly even War (the latter of which might actually compel me to check the whole thing out). Plus, we are being reassured that, in deference to the already low cost of tickets, the Ticketmaster service fee will only be $1.50.
So I stand somewhat assuaged. Still, I don't doubt there will be yet more discussion and debate over the fate of the State Street shindig (rhyming unintentional, I swear). For whatever reason, it's an issue near and dear to the hearts of (mostly younger) Madison residents.
Well now this is just the sort of news item to catch a person's attention on a gray and dreary morning. From TCT:
While the Badgers were scoring frequently in the second quarter of their victory over Washington State on Sept. 1, a young couple was scoring on their own in a stall in the women's restroom in the upper deck, resulting in a court appearance today on charges of disorderly conduct.
The two were pulling up their pants when the officer arrived. "I asked them quite loudly to get out of the stall," Pehler says in his report of the incident. the woman still had her pants down and was struggling to pull them up, the officer said. "It should be noted that she was unsuccessful in the attempt because her pants were inside out," the officer said.
What I love is that the officer made a point of noting that the woman put her pants back on inside out (which is an important detail for the purposes of prosecuting them, but still hilarious).
It's worth scrolling down to read some of the comments left by keen readers, too. The replies range from bemoaning the "drug culture" associated with football games (apparently drunks are worse than acid heads), congratulating the couple for getting it on in a "kinky" location (personally I'd argue against a public restroom being all that "kinky," but maybe that's just me), and wondering why it's such a big deal.
While I must come out in favor of spicing up ones love life by taking it out of the bedroom from time to time, I must also come out against the use of public restrooms when doing so. As an adult, it would give me the creeping heebie jeebies to walk in on the sounds of two strangers rutting, but then I'd probably just laugh it off. But children are known to frequent public restrooms, too, and though I'm not one of those "we must protect the children from every damned thing in the world because they're too fragile to handle anything" people, I still don't think it'd be a particularly grand idea to have them walking in on the sexy time.
So that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don't allow random Badger game hookups to transpire in public places. Even if they do result in hilarious news articles.
(photo credit: health.com)
Monday, September 24, 2007
Now this sounds delicious: REAP food group is putting on "Local Night Out," where participating restaurants in the area offer specials on locally grown and produced foods. It's this Thursday evening, and a list of the restaurants is available on REAP's website.
It looks like there are choices for every pallet and every wallet, so most definitely worth checking out. Special attention should be paid to L'Etoile's offering, which only costs $35 and means this might be the perfect occasion to finally go and try out Madison's nationally acclaimed establishment.
This is a great chance to not only eat yummy, local food, but to show your support and appreciation for the places that offer it!
And if we really care about saving our community, we need to move past law and order and find a way past all this violence. If we want peace in Madison, we must have justice. So let’s add police and resources and address this fear. But let’s also come together, recognize that we must be in this together, and focus on the root causes of poverty that often lead to crime in the first place.
Right on. The debate has made its way into the current budget crisis, with The Capital Times publishing an editorial in Saturday's paper making the argument that the Republican's proposed cuts would make it nigh unto impossible for Mayor Dave to add the 30 police officers (among other things) that everybody's been clamoring for. Forgive me, but you could add 100 officers to the force here and the impact on crime would ultimately be negligible. Sure, there'd likely be an increase in people getting caught--and I'm all for that--but it will do little to stop the crimes from happening in the first place. Addressing that problem, like Solomon points out, requires multiple concerted efforts to deal with the problems before they begin.
Improved educational opportunities for low-income residents, both by bettering the public education already available and by creating and improving apprenticeship and trade programs like the one Solomon mentions in his post, are just one method:
Just around the corner from Allied Drive resides the Madison Apprenticeship Program (MAP), the brainchild of one woman whose drive for change makes more difference than a dozen new police. One graduate entered the class homeless and jobless. He secured housing and now manages an apartment complex and paints as an independent contractor. Another graduate spent the last dozen years dealing drugs. He now works at an area service station, signing up for every extra hour of overtime he can find. There is a second generation drug dealer who graduated and now works as a sales clerk and attends MATC, working to become a lab technician. Another graduate fought with others regularly, used drugs, and was always involved with police. Now she is employed as a technician with a communications company and is taking computer classes at MATC. She hopes to have her own computer business one day. Just four examples of how, for both the individuals and for our community, engaged participation can trump incarceration.
That's the kind of thing we should be looking to create and fund. You can build thousands of prisons, employ millions of cops, create the strictest rules and laws possible--but you won't put a very large dent in the hard numbers. And you won't improve the lives of those people whose lives most need improving. Is it entirely up to the city? Is the individual free from blame? Absolutely not. We each need to ante up and do our part, make the decision to grow and improve ourselves and our neighbors. But the city needs to chip in, too, by providing the infrastructure necessary to accomplish the goals set forth by the people. They can start by passing a decent budget. Then they can continue by making sure the money goes to worthwhile programs that get to the root of the problems, instead of throwing it solely at short-term bandages.
I'm a silly bean. A Catapult Western is playing with Elsinore tonight at the High Noon Saloon, so if you "missed" them last night (because they weren't actually on), there's still time! They go on at 8pm at the High Noon Saloon.
Also, I'd like to congratulate our fair state of Wisconsin for finally gaining membership in the United Nations of Beer. A high honor, indeed.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
A call to arms, I suppose, courtesy of Riot In the City:
It's very simple to make this a great event, and I believe an annual Halloween bash is worth pursuing for a variety of reasons. But it can't continue with the limited amount of constructive input it's been receiving this year and in years' past, and I speak from frustrated first hand experience. This event needs you... To whatever ends, this event happens because of you. You should be the ones taking interest, taking charge of what goes on at the event, and my arguement [sic] is your number one concern should be the entertainment (nevermind the gating, never mind the tickets... you let the SoCo people scan your ID to put you on a mailing list for Christ's sake...) the end (a fucking awesome concert) will overshadow the means (a wristband or ticket for $5-7)
At any rate, here is your notice: you have 35 days until Saturday, October 27th. Make the most of it. Make this your party. Your Event. Your City's gleaming pride. While you should fight not to lose the debaucherous nature (who wants a halloween with no naughty nurses? no rhinestone encrusted push-ups?.. no track team in thongs?) , this is a most serious call to fight for your right to party. Because believe me, it will be a fight to make this a real party, the market economics are working against it.
OK then. I'll be snotty and mention that I didn't go to the SoCo Music Experience (as much of a draw as the bands were) and if I did, I certainly would have turned around the minute someone asked to scan my ID. Secondly, I apologize, but I can't get past the use of Ticketmaster for the Halloween event. Seriously, it's just a ridiculous call. And I don't remember anyone being solicited for input about that before the decision was made.
Now we're being urged to speak up for the type of entertainment we'd like to have at Freak Fest. Makes sense to me. It's hard for one production company to figure out what "the kids" are listening to these days, so making suggestions makes sense. Still, I see very little excuse for the booking of predominantly Christian rock bands at an event that celebrates a holiday with extremely non-Christian roots and, specifically to the State Street tradition, wildly non-Christian antics. Hey, at least it'll be funny.
Ultimately, however, it's true that an event like this needs a group of dedicated and knowledgeable organizers who can put together a fun, safe and still crazy night of shenanigans--people who know Madison, know music and know that Ticketmaster pretty much sucks big ones.
Since I'm not willing to be one of those people for this specific thing, I'll stop my criticisms here and content myself with thoughts of jack-o-lanterns, hot apple cider and, God willing, a Halloween entirely free of naughty nurses.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Democrats offered Friday to drop their $15 billion universal health care proposal as long as Republicans agreed to a variety of tax increases they have vowed to oppose.
The move is a sign that Democrats are willing to negotiate to get the budget done within a week, said Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit.
"We're willing to give if you're willing to give," she said at a meeting of a bipartisan committee of lawmakers who have been trying to reach a budget compromise.
But Republicans balked at being forced to accept tax increases on hospitals and cigarettes, and a $175 million fund transfer, in exchange for Democrats' withdrawal of the universal health care plan known as Healthy Wisconsin.
"I am providing you nothing in return," Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, said after accepting the withdrawal of the universal health care plan. "I am not saying in any way that I will trade all of these items so Healthy Wisconsin can come out of the state budget."
And a big screw you right back at ya, Mr. Huebsch.
Apparently, getting as many people as is possible reasonably covered for health care in this state isn't that important to the Republicans in the legislature. Nope, gotta fight tooth-and-nail against things like gay marriage and notaxincreaseseverbygodnomattertheconsequences. The public good be damned!
I am by no means taking all of the blame for our current budget woes off of the Democrats' shoulders. They've contributed their fair share of ridiculousness to the mess, but this kind of crap from the Republicans is just shameful. Expanding Badger Care, of which I was for many years a grateful recipient, to include 98% of Wisconsin residents (including all children) would have been a fantastic move, something the rest of the country could have pointed to as a good example of what the nation ought to be striving for.
Instead, the Republicans are just dragging their feet in the dust, pouting, throwing little temper tantrums and refusing to budge on pretty much anything they don't like. So, decorum out the window, I send the following message to 'em: Fuck all y'all.
Thank-you, good night.
Ah, Freak Fest--formerly known as the Halloween free-for-all held annually down on State Street in our fair city. A bastion of drunken, be-costumed college students and those rascally out-of-town hooligans (because it's always people from other cities--Madisonians are such angels) who show up to start fires and break windows. And flash their boobs. And climb trees.
I admit, I was fascinated and wildly entertained for most of the two years I went to the unregulated street parties of yore. The crush of the crowd usually got to be too much, but the costumes were varied and hilarious. Still, I haven't been to the event in, oh, four years now? And I don't intend to go now that it's a gated, ticketed event. Especially now that it's been announced that the organizers will be funneling all ticket sales through that bastion of fair business practices, Ticketmaster.
In theory, tickets will cost $5 per person. I'll be most curious, however, to see how much of a "convenience charge" TM adds on, along with any other little fees they feel might be necessary.
According to Isthmus Daily Page's article, the Downtown Coordinating Committee, the group that made the decision to use TM, claims that it "wasn't an easy decision for the city and Frank Productions, given the former's ongoing campaign to rebrand the event as locally-focused in an effort to discourage attendance by the proverbially raucous out-of-state student contingent. They decided to go for it, though, in order to utilize the online sales for direct marketing, emailing ticket-holders in advance of the party to communicate and reinforce event rules, details, and so on."
Did they bother to shop around at all? For instance, there's Brown Paper Tickets, a fair-trade ticketing service utilized by a number of groups around town. They offer the ticket selling feature free-of-charge and without any "convenience fees" tacked on (just a minuscule service charge of .99 cents). Why didn't the DCC go with them? I have no clue, but it seems like a bad move. Not only will the use of TM likely cost the organizers money, but it's going to add unnecessary cost to the price of tickets and probably lessen the amount of people who buy them and attend the event.
Hey, maybe that was their intent all along?
P.S. I can't say that the so-far leaked entertainment line-up is terribly thrilling, either. But that's just one woman's opinion.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
This isn't local news, but it made me feel so dang warm and fuzzy inside that I just had to spread the word.
Via the DownWithTyranny! blog:
Yesterday, by a 5-3 vote, the City Council of San Diego passed a resolution supporting marriage equality. Jerry Sanders, the Republican mayor-- who campaigned opposing marriage equality-- announced this morning that he had changed his mind and would sign the resolution instead of vetoing it. A former Chief of Police, Sanders, tearfully also announced that one of his daughters, Lisa, is gay and that he would lead with his heart. "The concept of a separate but equal institution is something that I cannot support," he explained, tearfully, with his wife standing at his time."
They include a link to the video of the press conference, which is definitely worth watching, especially if you need something to cheer you up today. Not that I have any delusions of him ever reading this, but I still want to express my deep appreciation and admiration for Mr. Sanders' change-of-heart. It's no easy thing to completely reverse your opinion on an issue that is still so contentious. And even though it took personal relationships with GLBT folks, including his own daughter, to get him to see the light, as it were, I say better late than never.
Cheers to San Diego's mayor and City Council. Let's hope the trend continues to spread.
I'm going to be in Chicago this weekend, rehearsing with my "crew" for our upcoming performance at IDKE Vancouver, so I'm going to miss most of the fun planned around town over the next few days. That doesn't mean you have to, though! There are more than enough shenanigans to choose from:
"Reefer Madness" at the Bartell, courtesy of local theatre hooligans Mercury Players Theatre. It was so entertaining when I saw it last week that I'll be in attendance, a couple of friends in tow, at this Friday night's showing.
Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School: it's just killing me that I've yet to make it to one of these fabulous events (Sunday afternoon at the High Noon Saloon). They are, by all accounts, a raucous good time and feature Madison's hostess with the mostess, Olive Talique. Drawing, drinking and debauchery are the themes of the day and you get to ogle/sketch two super sexy ladies from local "caburlesque" group, Sexy Veronica's Peach Pies, so don't miss out!
A Catapult Western playing with Elsinore at the High Noon Saloon on Sunday (the 23rd), starting at 8pm. Why should you go see them? Because a few members of ACW are good friends of mine and I know for a fact are fine musicians. They opened for my own band this summer and were quite delightful.
Live music not your thing? Rather view or screen one of your own genius short films? Wis-Kino is having their regular monthly screening at Escape Java Joint this Sunday evening at 7pm. It's cheap, fun, local entertainment.
And of course, there's always the wonderful Dane County Farmer's Market on the capitol square Saturday morning. It's a great place to load up on some delicious local food to help you out with your own Eat Local Challenge. How's that going, by the way?
But I'm going to rely on wiser blogger's than I to make the case. Paul Soglin has this crazy idea that fighting crime in Madison involves fighting the root causes of poverty and disenfranchisement. What on Earth is he smoking? (You can read my take on it in the comments section)
I don't place all my faith in Mr. Soglin to solve the problem--it takes many ideas and many people to make something effective--but he does a good job of summing up the issues. He also does a good job of drawing the right-wingers out of the woodworks to expose their prejudices and poorly conceived ideas to the world. So that's fun.
Be sure to read his follow-up posts (and related posts about Milwaukee) here and here and here, too.
P.S. Apparently I'm not the only blogger who thinks so.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Per an article over at Isthmus Daily Page, there's some controversy a-brewin' over how and by whom the Badger State Trail should be used. The trail, just opened in July of this year, currently runs from Paoli to the Illinois border (with plans to connect it to the Capitol City Trail in Madison). While cyclists, hikers, and casual strollers are all allowed on the trail year-round, ATV riders are restricted to only using a small portion of the trail and only during the few months when the ground is frozen but snow-free during the winter. This apparently has the ATV folks all in a tizzy because, let's face it, people should be allowed to do whatever they damn well please and wherever they damn well please, consequences be damned.
I'm being sarcastic, of course, which I admit is a poor way to make a good argument. I'll switch tactics, then, and say what everyone who's ever studied this sort of thing has already said: ATVs and other motorized recreational vehicles cause extreme damage to trails and their surrounding environments, generate a great deal of noise and air pollution and can make conditions very unsafe for those people sharing the trail on bike or on foot.
ATVs should have (and do have) their own separate places to ride, locations removed from residential areas and well-maintained so as to avoid too much negative impact on the soil, etc. ATVs should not be allowed on trails built for and frequented by pedestrians and cyclists. This keeps the majority of people happier and safer.
As is often the case, however, a few ATV activists have taken it upon themselves to try to push through changes to the rules governing trail usage. These vocal few don't appear to speak for the many, though: "A study by Bob Smail, a graduate student in the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources, found that fewer than 175,000 ATV owners — less than 6% of the state's population — take their machines on public land. And, of those who do, most were satisfied with the quantity and quality of available trails." (TDP)
So why the need to gain access to the Badger State Trail? Why can't it be left alone for the enjoyment of people whose hobbies are less taxing on the land, air and neighbors? What's with this selfish "I should be free to do anything I want even if it impedes on the freedoms of others and destroys the world in which I live" attitude?
Speaking of less heavy things relating to the trail, I'm adding this to my list of things to do next spring: biking the Badger State Trail and staying at Earth Rider Cycling Boutique and Hotel. I'll also be waiting for the city of Madison to finally get around to connecting the BST to the Capitol City Trail here in town.
(photo credit: State DNR)
Our fair city/county has just received its "environmental health report card" for 2006, and apparently, we're that really smart kid who just won't always do her homework.
The five objectives listed as being achieved in the report include reducing toxic air emissions to 25 percent of 1993 levels; reduce asthma hospitalizations to 8.5 per 10,000 people; reduce waterborne illness outbreaks from drinking water to two outbreaks per year; increase the percent of homes tested for radon to 20 percent; and increase the proportion of smoke-free workplaces to 100%, achieved in the city of Madison but not the full county.
Objectives listed as not achieved in the report card include reducing the proportion of children who are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke at home to 10 percent or less; reducing the percentage of vendors that sell tobacco to minors to 5 percent; eliminate childhood lead poisoning; increase the percent of homes built before 1950 tested for lead hazards to 50 percent; and increase recycling of municipal solid waste by 40 percent from 1996 levels.
Ongoing work on objectives include reduce infections caused by contaminated food; decrease contaminant levels in fish to reduce human exposure to persistent chemicals; increase the proportion of lakes and rivers checked for safety; reduce the number of people exposed to air that violates federal air quality standards; increase the use of alternate modes of transportation and the use of alternative fuels as a means to improve air quality; and increase the number of people receiving drinking water that meets the Safe Water Drinking Act requirements.
So the report isn't all doom and gloom, but there's plenty more to be done. The incomplete goal of reducing how much tobacco kids are exposed to in the home is especially tricky because the government can't (and rightly so) just walk into a house and tell the residents what to do. But I admit, when I see an adult smoking near a child, I have to resist the urge to slap the cigarette out of their mouth and the stupid out of their head. And I realize that, in the end, such a reaction would probably do more harm than good. It would just make me feel better.
Anyway, I'm happy to see that we've been able to make such improvements in air quality. It seems like the issue of water and soil quality are the tougher things to tackle. Every time I pass the people who regularly fish from the lakes, I can't help but think about how much mercury and other crap there will be in their catch. We should be able to eat fish from our lakes without fear of being poisoned. Same goes for our ability to even just swim in them.
But it's a giant and many faceted problem involving everyone from homeowners who use chemical fertilizers on their lawns to developments with poor soil erosion controls to farmers who cover their crops with pesticides. And while there are plenty of immediate solutions to the first two examples, we can't just make farmers stop using these pesticides outright--there'd be a huge food shortage. The plan has to be long-term, slow but steady phasing out of the old and phasing in of the new, more environmentally farming techniques. And we have to make sure it doesn't put the family farmers out of business.
So, no easy task. I'm glad it's on the agenda, though, and that someone is keeping track of the progress (or lack thereof). It's a start, even if a little overdue.
(photo credit: me)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants to convene a hearing on whether The New York Times violated campaign-finance laws when it granted a discounted rate for MoveOn.org’s “General Betray Us” ad.
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) asked committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) Tuesday to convene a hearing on the issue, saying that any rate change “for political advertising could constitute an unlawful campaign contribution.”
Seriously? Aside from this being one of the most transparently catty moves by a politician in recent memory--and there have been lots to choose from--it's also so wildly baseless and useless that I don't even know where to begin. Instead of, y'know, addressing the important issues brought up by this ad (or, better yet, most of the country), he's resorting to stalling, name calling and blame shifting. Nicely done, congressman, you do your state proud when you spend time on things like this instead of actual constituent concerns.
I'm happy that someone bought the very cool Majestic Theatre, renovated it and started booking live music there again. It's a great old building (built in 1902 as a vaudeville theatre) with a storied history, some of it more notorious than others. In the final months of its last incarnation, there were several incidents of brawls and stabbings happening out front. The media usually pointed the finger at the hip-hop DJs and acts playing inside, blaming the allegedly "violent culture" that went along with the music for all the riff-raff and associated criminal activity.
I'm pretty sure that's a load of horse shit, but enough people bought into it that eventually the reputation was set and the venue's future looked extremely gloomy.
Then Scott Leslie and Matt Gerding came to town, bought the place and decided to give it a new lease on life. In the process of renovating the historic space, the new owners decided to tear out the DJ both entirely. An article on dane101 sums up the potential reasons and ramifications of the move nicely:
As Scott Leslie and Matt Gerding petitioned city leaders and community members who were nervous about once again allowing music in the historic theater they had to repeat over and over that they would not be hosting DJ parties. For better or for worse, the letters "D" and "J" used in succession with the word "party" in Madison have become synonymous with "bad scene." While the dismantling of the booth was aesthetically necessary to achieve the goal of increasing the capacity of the venue to 600 - it can also be viewed symbolically as a new era for the controversial Majestic.
Regardless of their actual motives, the equation of DJs (and, by proxy, hip-hop music) with "bad scenes" has taken root in the public conscience. It's a shame, really, because there's nothing inherently wrong with DJs, the music they play or the crowds they attract. Madison also suffers from a dearth of venues that will play host to DJs and MCs who play/perform hip-hop and rap, so the loss of one has far-reaching reverberations.
In the end, though, it's well within the rights of the new owners to book whatever kind of music they damn well please. I'm happy to note that a number of the acts in their initial line-up are local Madison bands. Support of homegrown groups is always welcome. But I noticed another, perhaps less exciting trend (at least for me): the vast majority of the acts in the initial line-up are Top 40 rock and/or singer-songwriter acts. For instance, the much hyped kick-off show on Sept. 29 boasts headliner Mandy Moore with bland alt-rocker Ben Lee as an opener.
No offense to Ms. Moore, (I admit to being strangely intrigued by the idea of seeing her perform--could be like watching a train wreck, could be cheesily entertaining), but I'm a little disappointed. The other slice of white bread in this musical sandwich comes in the form of The Verve Pipe (Dec. 14), who I didn't even know were still touring.
I can only wonder, was it really necessary to go so far to the other side of the musical pendulum to appease concerned city and local officials? Maybe it was, which means there's still a lot of work to do to show the public that one specific type of music does not equal one specific type of person associated with it, and that all forms of musical expression should have their fair place in our city.
(photo credit: Madison Trust for Historic Preservation)
It's not something most people (both outside of the state and many within it) associate with Wisconsin: vineyards and high-quality wine. Heck, I didn't know we had so many of them until fairly recently. First, I started to notice more and more of the vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market carrying concord grapes. "OK, so we have vineyards." Then, I started to pay attention to all of the signs I was passing on my bike rides through the country: signs indicating not only grape growing, but wine making. Lots of it.
Today, I stumbled onto a post over at the Cheese Underground about helping to harvest grapes at Botham Vineyards near Barneveld. Though it seems like a lot of hard work, it also strikes me as a great way to get involved with local food/drink production.
France? California? Add Wisconsin to your list. As of April, there were 39 licensed vintners in the state. Apparently the climate is all right for it, but not suitable for growing large amounts all year-round. This drives most, but not all, wineries to import their grapes from outside the state.
Still, taking a tour of a winery isn't a bad way to spend a day: you get to see some lovely countryside, get an education about something fun, and sampling the goods ain't bad either.
For a list of wineries that give tours, check out the Wisconsin Dept. of Tourism's big list (they also list breweries and cheese makers).
In the meantime, there's apparently an effort underway to find a variety of table grape that could weather our cold winters. It's all part of an initiative to make more foods available locally, instead of having to import them from other states and countries. Plus it would bring in a great deal more money to the state economy. Sounds like a good plan to me.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Courtesy of el guante and guest blogger majnoon:
Western Union is one of many remittance companies....but they are by far the largest and have the highest fees. For them to send a wire costs between $3 and $4, but they charge anywhere from $15 to $30 or more per transaction.
The best part of all of this is that they don't have to adhere to the Community Reinvestment Act. One of the few corporations that can proudly shout "We're worse than Wal-Mart!" For every $100 of profit, Western Union invests 41 cents. Wal-Mart invests $2.30 and Ben & Jerry's invests $7.50...
It's one of those things that, as someone who has never had to use services like WU, I just hadn't thought about. Boo on me. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with all of the underhanded dealings in the world, but we should do our best to try. See boycottwesternunion.net for details.
On a somewhat more positive note, I was driven to ridiculous happy giggling after watching this video taken at the Willy St. Fair this weekend. It shows a whole gaggle of kids learning (with mixed results but great enthusiasm) how to do basic breakdancing moves. So many tiny future b-boys and b-girls!
This comes courtesy of Elements of Change, a group started here in Wisconsin but with national ambitions. They incorporate the many positive aspects of hip-hop culture (of which, contrary to mainstream vilification efforts, there are many) into the education of "disadvantaged" kids in the hopes of cutting their drop-out, incarceration and suicide rates. Seems like a pretty noble goal to me--and definitely a creative, more effective way of going about it.
The Wisconsin State Journal has an interesting article (something worthwhile on the front page? I do declare!) about a housing development threatening the Ice Age Trail and surrounding areas. So far, I'm definitely siding with the locals who have taken it upon themselves to organize against the proposal. Well thought out, sustainable, multi-use development obviously has its place, but I don't understand our drive to build over every piece of land we can possibly get our hands on. It's just not worth it and usually does more harm than good not just to the ecosystem in the area, but to the people who end up moving in.
It's short-sighted, and when it threatens an area specifically designated as being high-worth in terms of agricultural assets, history and ecosystem it becomes a special kind of stupid.
Do what you can to educate yourself about what's going on and (hopefully) make the decision to support efforts to stop it. For more info about the Ice Age Trail, visit iceagetrail.org and learn what you can do to volunteer or just enjoy.
I don't make a habit of ranting about national politics too much (but sometimes I crack and give in) on here because, let's face it, this is a local blog and the few people who read it don't come here for something they can get at far more qualified and comprehensive outlets. So in this case, I'll just point out a post on one of those outlets that sums up my feelings on a topic pretty well: Firedoglake on the MoveOn.org ad and its backlash.
I got busy:
The Madison World Music Festival pretty much rocked my butt. I "covered" it for Isthmus Daily Page, but the whole thing was free so anyone could have done what I did--which was kind of a marathon of awesome music. I took a crap-ton of photos, some of which are online at my Flickr page, of course. Special recognition goes to the Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan, who made me feel like I was right there on stage with them--mostly because I was almost right on stage with them and ended up covered with a few bits of broken glass and splatters of whatever flammable fluid their performer guy was using to breath fire.
Sunday was band photo shoot day, so my morning was taken up by prancing around Yahara Park in various strange costumes and having my picture taken in compromising positions. I did, however, manage to make it over to the thirtieth annual Willy St. Fair for a short while in the afternoon, and snapped me a few choice photos. Thanks to the People's Bakery, I was also well fed on a delicious falafel sandwich and a piece of baklava (my favorite dessert of all time).
All-in-all, I think I did a decent job of keeping up with my Eat Local goals. Hit the Dane County Farmers Market on Sunday for some staples and (the best) scones (ever) from Sugar River Bakery, ice cream from Babcock Hall while at the Union for the festival Saturday night, food at the fair on Sunday and a home cooked meal Sunday night. Not bad!
(photo credit: me)
Friday, September 14, 2007
For resources on where to find local food in your area, check out the Savor Wisconsin website, or use the guide on the WELC site itself.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Just noticed this over at Atrios' corner o' the web: Bicing, a great public bike sharing program in Barcelona (a beautiful city for pedaling, by the way).
"Bike stations are placed strategically throughout the city, and subway stops usually have signs pointing to them. Members have a card which they swipe, they're told which bike to grab, and off they go. It isn't necessary to return the bikes to where you got them; they can be dropped off at any bicing station. The first half hour is free, and after that there's a bit of a surcharge. When the program began they set the annual membership fee at some absurd low figure like 7 Euros, causing most of the city to sign up. That's now been increased to 24 Euros.
It's apparently become quite popular with seniors, who use them for leisurely afternoon bike rides."
Seems like a pretty excellent idea to me. Here in Madison, we do have the Red Bikes program, courtesy of Budget Bicycle. Though you get the deposit back in the end, the initial cost is a bit too steep for many folks to afford. There's also the Bikes At Work Program, though I have doubts about its effectiveness, seeing as how they only provide a whopping five bikes for use and qualifications for use are pretty narrow.
With all the recent hubbub over Mayor Dave's now defunct Street Car proposal (no comment), this sort of program seems like a cheap, clean and good way of adding to the city's public transit options. That and actually expanding the Metro's service areas and times to make it an option for people who work second or third shifts.
1) Pick-your-own apples and pumpkins! There are a number of farms all over the state and many near to Madison that allow folks to come in and gather their own goodies. It's a fantastic way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning/afternoon and the bounty is delicious. This site, though the layout is a bit wonky, is a very decent resource of local PYO farms: http://www.pickyourown.org/wigo.htm
A yearly favorite for me and my friends is the Eplegaarden, just down Seminole Hwy into Fitchburg. They've great swaths of apple orchards, pumpkin patches and hay rides. Plus I'm told there's a haunted barn, too, though I haven't braved that adventure just yet.
2) Corn mazes! It seems kind of schlocky, I know, but how often do you get the chance to wander around in a castle or Bucky shaped maze made of corn? dane101 has a good list of local-ish mazes to check out.
3) Autumn bike rides: summer's great for a ride, sure, but there's all that sweating and humidity and mosquitos to worry about. The fall colors up here are gorgeous, more-so when see from the saddle of a bike instead of trapped inside a fast-moving vehicle. There are lots of organized rides through the state, but you can also tour independently. Some great organized rides for both mountain and road biking are:
- The Fall Color Festival - (mountain bike) Saturday, Sept. 29 at the John Muir Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest (Southern Unit). I've been on these trails and they're amazing; extremely well kept, smooth single track for both beginner and advanced riders. Good obstacles but nothing too crazy if you don't want it. The colors in the park are bound to be amazing.
- Sugar River Bike Tour - (road) Saturday, Sept. 29 starting at Veteran's Memorial Park in Brodhead, WI. Supported ride with 15, 30, 50 and 100 mile route options.
- Maywood Earth Ride - (road) Saturday, Sept. 15 through Sheboygan County, with 12, 25, 50, 65 and 100 mile route options.
- Rural Hill & Valley Experience - October 13 & 14, Elroy, WI. With routes for road, mountain and family bikers, this looks like quite the event. The bike trail from Elroy to Sparta is world-class and incredibly scenic. Plus there's a bluegrass festival in the evenings that registered riders can get into for free.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The Capital Times has a piece about NFL player Chad Johnson filming a potential Super Bowl ad in Middleton on Tuesday. Which is, y'know, pretty neat.
"ProVideo, a Madison-based video production firm, makes commercials for GoDaddy.com, a Web site domain registration company, and was in charge of the Middleton shoot."
(side note: I wonder if this one will include scantily clad women growing more scantily clad as the ad progresses. Does Middleton's new status as the "#1 town in the US" mean they disallow sexual innuendo on their high school football field? Because that would be a shame.)
Now that we've finally gotten around to passing legislation to create funding and incentives for film companies to come to Wisconsin, this sort of thing is likely to start happening a bit more often (though a lot of the action so far seems to be in Milwaukee, which is too bad).
There are a number of independent movies recently filmed in the area and now looking for distribution and/or making the festival rounds, most notably "Madison," starring long-time American Players Theatre favorite James DeVita. For the super-independent fare, you can turn to internet superstars Blame Society Productions, who brought you the "Chad Vader" series. Hilarious horror more your style? Check out "Zombie Hero" from Digital Mad Videos or, and I'm a little biased here for being involved in the production but I swear it's completely awesome, "Massacre! The Musical" from Graveside Productions. No attention span? There's always Wis-Kino, the scrappy film making group open to anyone with a camera and a dream.
Before I leave you with the current "Massacre" trailer, I'll just sum this all up by saying that damn, this state sure has a lot of talent floating around, waiting for the harsh light of the national spotlight to fall upon its pasty features. I can't name all of the projects here, but you get my point. The coasts have their benefits, but seriously, stop hogging all the attention, eh?
“The president will ask the nation to pay for the next 11 months in
Here’s my list, in no particular order:
1) The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM): "RESULTS will press for $1.3 billion, the
2) UNICEF: “Thirty one attacks against schools, mainly torching schools and explosions were reported in all parts of Afghanistan during 2007 up to June. Deliberate attacks on girl students and women teachers resulted in at least 4 deaths and 6 injuries. Only in the four southern provinces of Helmand,
3) Heifer International is "dedicated to our goal:
$800 million by the year 2010 to lift 5 million families to self-reliance. With 800 million chronically hungry people in the world, 1 billion living on less than $1 a day and 30 million chronically hungry in the U.S. Heifer has a real challenge in ending hunger and poverty. Heifer's simple but sustainable model incorporates a community-building approach to ending hunger so families and entire communities work holistically to gain self-reliance."
4) Money for the rebuilding of
5) I have a sneaking suspicion that, even after all of that, we’d still have a sizable chunk of the $100 billion left over. Why not use that to fund a system of universal health care here at home? People smarter than I have come up with good, realistic plans that could be self-sustaining and save/improve countless lives. Once we’ve got a handle on our (currently horribly broken) health care system, then we too can focus on things like bettering the education and job training systems in this country.
It seems like obvious, non-pie-in-the-sky thinking. Businesses of all sizes would benefit tremendously from universal health care, taking the burden of paying for their employee’s skyrocketing health care costs off their shoulders. Businesses would also benefit from a more educated and happy (see: leads to better productivity) workforce. Everyone would benefit from greater security (less impoverished, oppressed people all over the world usually means fewer recruits for violent extremist groups), better health care, better education, etc.
Instead, we’ll continue to miraculously find billions of dollars to fund aggressive and failing wars, but falter when it comes to finding a few million for proper reconstruction efforts in places like
(P.S. Added this blog to Technorati, because why not: Technorati Profile)
I took an extremely truncated ride around part of Lake Monona yesterday afternoon. It felt a little strange to be donning the long-sleeved jersey and full-fingered gloves so soon after I'd been sweating it out in 80 degree weather for our Labor Day ride (a reunion of Team Takin' It Easy from the ACT Ride). While the cool air was invigorating, it made me wistful about summer's passing. I'm sure we'll have a few warm days yet before the frost really gets kicking, and I do love autumn, but there were so many rides I wanted to get in before the weather changed that I just haven't been able to do. Though with the ACT Ride under my belt, I suppose I don't feel too lazy.
On a side note, unrelated to biking but definitely relating to my love of all things cheese, I was excited to read about a new, artisan cheese and goodies shop opening downtown. Fromagination, despite its wacky name, promises to bring locally made, very delicious cheeses and associated snacks to our appreciative Wisconsin pallets. Not only that, but they're offering cheese classes, too! Yours truly will be attempting to attend at least one, all in the name of journalism, mind you, on behalf of dane101. We like to offer our support to local stores offering local fare. It's certainly a far better trend than all of the chains that have gone up downtown in recent years (Gap, Cozi, Starbucks--I'm lookin' at you).
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Courtesy of madpoetry.org:
9/15, Saturday; 5:30–7 pm: Open Mike; musicians, poets, & artists of all ages and influences are welcome. 10 minutes & one free PBR allotted to each performer. RP’s Pasta Company Café, 1133 E. Wilson St.
9/15, Saturday; 7 pm: Urban Spoken Word Slam. Genna's Lounge, 105 W. Main St. on the Capitol Square.
And then, of course, there's the annual jamboree of music, art and hippies that is The Willy St. Fair! Always a good place to score tasty grub, listen to great music and see lots of brightly colored people.
Me? I'll at least be covering Friday and Saturday nights of the World Music Festival at the Memorial Union Terrace, on behalf of Isthmus Daily Page. Looks to be an awesome line-up. I'll be the girl up front, taking lots of pictures.
As a side note, I just discovered the Bombay Bicycle Club of Madison, which holds regular touring bike rides open to anyone. I may have to go check out one of their trips sometime soon, especially as fall foliage starts kicking.
Monday, September 10, 2007
We called the city and, to their immense credit, they had a crew out to check the main sewer line within 30 minutes (a snarky friend made the astute observation that yes, of course they'd act quickly, because "Tax payers remember shit in their basements."). Unfortunately, it's not the main line, so that leaves us to call in Roto-Rooter to unclog the pipes leading out of our house. Until then, no water usage for us. Which bodes for a somewhat smelly day at work for me.
But I'd like to take this time to (sincerely) recognize some of the unsung heroes of the municipal employment world: Vactor operators. The Vactor is that big green truck you see around town, snaking a long tube down into our crap-filled underworld to dislodge and suck up all of our unwanted filth. It's not a fun job, nor a particularly sweet smelling one. My sister did this for a summer some years ago and told many tales of nastiness (and sometimes hilarity).
So to the crew that hurried out to our 'hood at 11:00 at night after just 30 minutes and checked out the situation, I extend my gratitude. I hope your showers are long, hot and luxurious.
Seriously though, thanks.
(side note: when I did a Google image search for "Madison Wisconsin vactor", why did this come up and what the heck is that thing he's holding?)
I love organic food. I try to buy as much locally produced organics as possible both because they're delicious and because I believe it's important to support local, sustainable agriculture. There are many, many people who believe the same thing, both in and around Wisconsin. We dutifully haul our canvass bags to our favorite co-ops and load up. Some folks use CSAs and have a closer relationship with the farms that provide the food. Regardless, those farms are important to everyone, whether they know it or not.
Unfortunately, many of the organic farms in our area were devastated by the flooding that occurred last month. Quite a few of them didn't have crop insurance, either, and are now facing extremely dire circumstances where tens of thousands of dollars worth of crop have been wiped out. Even more unfortunate, one of the major purchasers of organic produce in the area, Whole Foods, has dropped orders to all farms, even those unaffected by the floods. I understand their need to screen out damaged goods, but they've done nothing to help out these local producers (who they claim to support).
Thankfully, many co-ops and other natural food stores are banding together to raise money for Sow the Seeds, a fund to help local organic farmers recover their losses. You can donate at your local co-op or through the website, and I strongly encourage everyone to do so. These are the people that work hard to provide us with our yummy, healthy local food. Without them, we'd all be in a serious bind.
You can also view a short documentary about the flooding.
Please consider helping out in any way you can. We're lucky that floods like this only come around every hundred years or so, but that shouldn't stop us from pitching in when they do (especially since weather patterns seem to be changing for the worse, but that's a topic for another post).
On a related note, you can check out some of our local farms, eat great food and go on a lovely bike ride by registering for the first ever Bike the Barns tour, as hosted by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
From the Balcony - Korcula
Originally uploaded by Lost Albatross.
I love Madison, don't ever doubt that. But I've also got a healthy sense of wanderlust that sometimes makes me a bit twitchy. So, as a way to assuage the urge, at least for a little while, I'm conjuring up fond memories of my trip to Italy and Croatia (last summer).
I mean, look at that view! We Americans are seriously lacking in old walled port cities and Adriatic Seas.
Of course, that will likely still involve bike related things (and on a fairly regular basis). I can't help it. It's in my blood! And right now, I'm eying this lovely little trip: Bike the Barns
A beautiful bike ride through Wisconsin, tours of family owned farms and delicious, homemade and locally produced food? How could you not want to do this?
In other news, I was sad to learn of the passing of one of the world's great opera (and music in general) singers, Luciano Pavarotti. He died from complications due to pancreatic cancer (yikes) at the age of 71. But not before helping to bring opera to the mainstream by singing with everyone from James Brown to the Spice Girls to none other than Barry White himself:
He sold 100 million recordings during his lifetime. That's no small feat. Reminds me that I've got to get crackin'--I think I've only got something like five. Also I can't sing opera to save my life.