Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lombardino's chef is dreaming of beef

Lombardino's Chef is Dreaming of Beef
I always used to wonder what the chef in that wonderfully wacky Lombardino's billboard here in Madison was ogling. But ever since the Best Western Inntowner across the street installed this sculpture, it's been self-evident. The sculpture? It's the "Cow Parade Wisconsin" entry that was sponsored by the Inntowner last year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Taking care of business by killing off the Freddy Krueger of California initiatives

Lord knows, like anyone who hates this war, I've long had issues with Hillary Clinton, and I hardly need to spell them out here. Not as if they aren't talked to death every day in the blogosphere. I've had my flirtations with other candidates for 2008. Mostly Edwards. A few nods in Richardson's direction. The occasional nostalgic pang of longing for "the real president," Al Gore, to step forward and (re)claim the White House.

But lately, I've been thinking that the only candidate that can possibly stand up to the likely Republican attempt to once again steal what they can't get from the voters is Hillary. She's tough enough. She's been there. She knows what these guys are like. And she doesn't take anything for granted. Ever since Edwards caved to right wing pressure to fire two women bloggers, Melissa McEwean and Amanda Marcotte, I've thought he was a babe in the woods who could never survive in next year's political jungle. And I don't see anyone else who could. (Richardson himself lost his job as Energy Secretary through the vast right wing conspiracy's assault on Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, who turned out to be innocent of the charges lodged against him.) We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We need a Democrat who can actually win the White House in reality, not just theory.

Take for example, the stealth attempt to throw half of California's electoral votes to the Republican candidate, pretty much dooming any Democratic chances in 2008. It sounds absurd, until you realize it's about as absurd as the Supreme Court throwing the election to Bush in 2008, and that if passed in a June, 2008 initiative, the measure would probably result in sending the 2008 election back to an even more conservative set of Supremes. But now the campaign has apparently died, according to Andrew Malcolm blogging for the LA Times, in part due to opposition from some of Hillary's supporters.
The initiative began in July with an air of mystery. Its text and paperwork were filed by a Republican law firm in Sacramento -- Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk -- but the actual identity of the backers was unknown. Observers noted the initiative would have helped independent candidates because its text specifically provided for third-party or independent candidates to win electoral votes by district.

Supporters said the initiative would increase California's role in presidential politics and better represent the state's diversity.

Opposition was led by Democratic consultant Chris Lehane who received financial backing from donors such as Stephen Bing, like Lehane a Hillary Clinton backer who saw any threat to keeping all of California's electoral votes as unacceptable.

"We want to to make sure this is not the Freddy Krueger of initiatives," Lehane said today, "that comes back to life. We'll continue to monitor it." Morain's full story is available here.
I was hoping Hillary would address this threat after she safely emerged from the primaries. Looks as if she decided it would be dangerous to let it drag on that long. Exactly the sort of attention to detail a strong, experienced political team can bring to the table -- and that's what we need.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is the U.S. dollar the new Schrute Buck?

Schrute Bucks, you'll recall, were the dubious currency created by Dwight Schrute on last season's final episode of "The Office," when he was briefly promoted from his position of assistant to the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin to regional manager. Along with other bright ideas like painting his office black to intimidate subordinates, he came up with Schrute Bucks as an incentive for his minions. They stood to get an additional five minutes for lunch if they accumulated 1,000 of the pseudo bills.

They came up when T and I were reading the New York Times yesterday morning and came across a couple of stories touching on the weakness of the dollar and what it means. The one that addressed the issue directly was the Op-Ed by Stephen S. Roach , the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia. His view was dire enough, but the real eye-opener was the front page story Outsourcing Works, So India Is Exporting Jobs. It was about how India is outsourcing jobs that it received from the U.S., among other places, to less developed parts of the U.S., among other places. One reason is the weakness of the dollar.
Wipro, another Indian technology services company, has outsourcing offices in Canada, China, Portugal, Romania and Saudi Arabia, among other locations.

And last month, Wipro said it was opening a software development center in Atlanta that would hire 500 programmers in three years.

In a poetic reflection of outsourcing’s new face, Wipro’s chairman, Azim Premji, told Wall Street analysts this year that he was considering hubs in Idaho and Virginia, in addition to Georgia, to take advantage of American “states which are less developed.” (India’s per capita income is less than $1,000 a year.)

For its part, Infosys is building a whole archipelago of back offices — in Mexico, the Czech Republic, Thailand and China, as well as low-cost regions of the United States.
That's when T turned to me and said, "It looks as if the dollar is the new Schrute Buck." She had a point. The way things are going, soon we'll all be working for Schrute Bucks. Could be worse -- everyone can use an extra five minutes for lunch.

Wednesday Henry Miller Blogging

Partington Cove
Partington Cove, Big Sur, California. Henry Miller once lived about a thousand feet up above here. I love these lines from his Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch:
On a clear, bright day, when the blue of the sea rivals the blue of the sky, one sees the hawk, the eagle, the buzzard soaring above the still, hushed canyons. In summer, when the fogs roll in, one can look down upon a sea of clouds floating listlessly above the ocean; they have the appearance, at times, of huge iridescent soap bubbles, over which, now and then, may be seen a double rainbow. In January and February the hills are greenest, almost as green as the Emerald Isle. From November to February are the best months, the air fresh and invigorating, the skies clear, the sun still warm enough to take a sun bath.
One of the most beautiful places on earth, and still relatively unspoiled six decades after Miller wrote those lines.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

After such a quiet, modest start, it closes with a crescendo of over-the-top colors

Late Summer Meets Early Autumn at Owen Park
Autumn sort of slips in through the cracks and begins imperceptibly. This weekend at Owen Park, that gorgeous 93-acre oak savannah on Madison's West Side, a few trees in the background were just starting to turn, while the prairie was still an impressionistic lacework of late summer wildflowers and prairie plants.

That will change all too soon, when Mother Nature throws away the delicate Renoir palette of summer and once again starts painting with a more vibrant, expressionist brush. One of the best places to see the peak colors of autumn once they reach southern Wisconsin is the Baraboo Hills. This preview of coming attractions was shot on a gorgeous October afternoon, looking south from the top of East Bluff in Devil's Lake State Park, near Baraboo, about an hour from Madison.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Making room for another condo at Hilldale

Joseph Freed and Associates have plans for your soul. They want to elevate your interior landscape, at the corner of Segoe Road and University Avenue. Live at Hilldale, they suggest, starting "from the low $200,000's." The website for Freed's newest condo project, The Heights at Hilldale, urges you to "cultivate a new perspective."
In the past, residents of urban areas have faced compromises at every turn. Including the very living spaces they inhabited. Often bleak, cramped, and lacking any sense of community with others, these monolithic structures epitomized the soul-crushing skyline of the city. By bringing a new perspective to urban living, by redefining the very look and feel of city life, Joseph Freed and Associates has elevated not only the physical surroundings of one’s life, but also the interior landscapes.
Sounds wonderful. Meanwhile, the units in neighboring Weston Place are far from sold out. Do we need another new condo in the same place? Is that really the sunset blazing in the windows of the ruins? Or is it actually the flames of greed?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

MMoCA's Favre exhibit: pandering, pompous and patronizing

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is like a god to me. Much of my childhood conditioning has worn off, and I'm no longer that fond of football -- and, as the Iraq war drags on and on, the attractions of this quintessential war game have begun to pall. But Favre keeps me watching -- the Packers at least, especially in this, perhaps his last, season. He's about to celebrate his 38th birthday and just today had another monster game against San Diego, complete with one of his patented come-from-behind scoring drives to win in the closing minutes.

In his 16th season, the Packers are off to their best start in years (3-0) and, for the moment, there's a at least a theoretical possibility that he will lead an otherwise mediocre Packers team to a last hurrah at the Super Bowl, or if not that, at least make the playoffs one more time, through strength of will and sheer, aging athleticism. At an age when most quarterbacks have retired, Favre is off to his best start in years, is playing with joy and exuberance, and is an inspiration to those people everywhere who are supposedly over-the-hill.

So does that mean I think it was a great idea for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to put on a big show this fall celebrating the career of Brett Favre, with an installation that adds another piece for every game (that circular installation in the photo is made up of little , blank plaster TV sets, and one will be added for each game Favre plays)? Um, no. I think it's pandering, pompous and patronizing. Some examples from the web page for Tim Laun: Sunday, September 20th, 1992:
Pandering: On September 20, 1992, Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majkowski was tackled to the ground and suffered a strained ligament in his ankle. Louisiana-born Brett Favre took over as quarterback. Initially, Favre’s novice colors showed through his green and yellow Packer uniform as he fumbled the ball and threw interceptions, but he soon took control. The Packers won the game, and Favre has started every game since.
Pompous: Laun says his role in creating Tim Laun: September 20th, 1992 was akin to a curator’s, honing and packaging Favre’s career for the thinking fan. Using scale and seriality, Laun asks the viewer to consider new questions about how we experience, perceive, and adore sports—to be at once believers and critics.
Patronizing: Express It! Workshop, Friday, October 5, 6–8 pm: The Superbowl is a pinnacle of achievement for a football player such as Brett Favre. Players from the winning team receive a special ring to commemorate their triumph. Adults and kids ages 8 and up are invited to stop by the museum’s classroom to make a “championship ring” to celebrate their accomplishments at home, work, school, or on the playground.
Call me a grinch, but I just think this is the most cynical and exploitive museum show in Madison in recent years, or should I say wannabe cynical and exploitive? Judging from the size of the crowd (nonexistent) this weekend, maybe it's not even working for them.

Murdering trees on the Capitol Square

Tree Murder on the Capitol Square
The old, big trees on the outside terrace of the Capitol Square are being removed. Having cleared South Carroll Street, the city can now move on to North Carroll and clear those big, old pesky trees in the background.

Call me an old-fashioned tree-hugger, but I think this is a crime. What's the hurry? There's no major problem with the trees now. They provide shade and beauty, and removing them totally destroys the character of the Square. Sure, there may be long-term problems with these trees because of what has been built around them. That doesn't mean they have to be destroyed now, en masse, as some weird kind of preventive measure.

Whatever happened to the idea of doing some judicious replacement and letting new trees grow naturally to replace the older ones. What's this totalitarian impulse to landscape the Square by clearcutting it?