Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Kitty learns to swim

Kitty Learns to Swim
This seems appropriate for a rainy Friday -- graffiti on a Highway 26 bridge pylon where the bridge crosses the Rock River. The river's waters are still high, partially submerging the concrete bridge support.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Somewhat shaky start for the new Cap Times

I'm receiving the Wisconsin State Journal for eight weeks as a free trial substitute for the former daily print edition of The Capital Times, which ceased publication April 26. Its weekly successor, The Cap Times, tumbled out of the morning paper yesterday morning.

A quick read left me underwhelmed. The cover story by Mike Ivey and additional features by Anita Weier and Steven Elbow were decent newspaper stories, but seemed to lack a sense of what makes for good copy in a weekly, as opposed to a set of randomly selected daily newspaper stories (in which case, why just once a week?). The graphic design was terrible, boxed in by a rigid three-column layout that dooms the inside pages to a complete lack of visual variety and interest. Has anyone there ever bothered to look at Isthmus? They should.

But what really caught my eye was the 1/2-page "Week in Review." It contained three short items, and half the space was given to one that read as follows in its entirety:
Quote of the Week
'I was shaking. I just ran over a big-assed cow.'

Helen McCollum of Cambridge, explaining why she failed the "straight walk" portion of the drunken driving test administered to her by a Dane County Sheriff's deputy on April 23.
The "old" Capital Times also covered this story, back last week on April 24. The first time around it was a poignant, ironic story by Bill Novak about a woman who tried to be a Good Samaritan late at night by helping another motorist who had struck a cow, only to end up getting an OWI ticket herself. In the new, improved Cap Times, this gets played for laughs at the woman's expense, making her sound like an uncaring drunk. Maybe they were imitating The Onion -- forgetting that The Onion writes about imaginary people. This just came off as cheap and callous.

Maybe it's unfair to judge from the first issue, but this one definitely looks as if it was slapped together without too much thought or much of a vision of what the new Cap Times was trying to accomplish. Here's hoping they step up their game.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is this the most photographed sign in Madison?

Is This the Most Photographed Sign in Madison?
Probably. Especially if you have a camera with you when you come out at twilight feeling mellow after a couple blackened tilapia tacos and an ice-cold frozen margarita. The sign glows against the darkening sky in all its splendid neon glory. It's almost psychedelic. It feels as if you looked long and hard enough, you might discover the meaning of life. Since it doesn't reveal itself immediately, you take a picture and hope revelation will strike later. Tex Tubb's Taco Palace on Atwood Avenue .

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lighting a funeral pyre brings closure to my long relationship with The Capital Times

Funeral Pyre for the Death of the Print Edition of The Capital Times
The Capital Times, the liberal daily started by William T. Evjue in 1917, ceased to be a daily print newspaper yesterday. As an afternoon paper The Capital Times has been dying for years, and its condition became terminal some weeks ago with the announcement that April 26 would be its last day as a print daily.

I've been in mourning for weeks. Partly, it's a personal connection. The first photograph I ever sold was sold to the Cap Times. The first freelance writing I ever sold was to the Cap Times. As a reader, the newspaper has been part of my life forever. But that's just the personal stuff that doesn't matter to anybody but me.

The real loss is that Madison is losing a unique liberal voice that appeared every day but Sunday for more than 90 years, and which gave Madison some of its unique character as a city. Madison had been unusual for a city its size in having a liberal daily newspaper. Now it doesn't. Nothing lasts forever.

They say it's not the end, and maybe it's not. The Cap Times hopes to be reborn as an internet newspaper with 2x weekly free print distribution. But so many people have taken voluntary or involuntary severance packages that, under the best of circumstances, it won't be the same paper. And, really, who ever spends more than a few minutes a day with even the best internet newspapers? Millions of people read newspapers online -- but a lot of that traffic is search engine driven, and most gets funneled right to the big national dailies with their multimillion-dollar websites.

I was eagerly awaiting the last print edition -- partly so the long deathwatch would finally be over. But I was also curious what sort of closure they would bring to their history as a daily, and what sort of sendoff they would provide to launch their journey into the unknown on the Web. Would they appeal to a different, younger audience that never reads daily newspapers anymore?

The final paper that arrived yesterday was a distinct anticlimax. There was no real closure, and not much of a sendoff. Less a bang than a whimper. The front page, their last real chance to drive traffic to their new incarnation on the Web, was a dud. It featured a picture of an unidentified dead white guy surrounded by men in funny paper hats.

Longtime readers recognized founder Bill Evjue, of course. But everyone else had to read Dave Zweifel's column on the editorial page to find out that it was Evjue pushing the button on a new printing press at their Carroll Street plant in 1961. To the kids who didn't read it, the man was just a white-haired old guy. And the headline "Beam Us Up," came off as a lame attempt to be -- what? hip and high-tech?

Since the Cap Times was not going to provide this subscriber any real closure (except for an offer to try the Wisconsin State Journal free for a few weeks), I decided to provide my own. A funeral pyre seemed appropriate. I would have set the funeral conflagration yesterday, but it was so windy I might have burned down the neighborhood in the attempt. So I nursed my grief and waited for the winds to die down.

Tonight after dinner the time seemed right. With the aid of a match and some charcoal lighter fluid, the Cap Times burst into one final, incandescent blaze of glory. The flames danced around the white-haired face of the indomitable Bill Evjue, and his visage continued to preside serenely over the middle of the page as the flames had their way all around. For an instant it seemed to flicker like a spirit, and then he was gone.

Waiting on a bench for the train to St. Moritz on Madison's Glenway Street

Waiting for the Train to St. Moritz on Glenway Street
Waiting for the fabled Zermatt-St. Moritz train outside Madeleine's Patisserie at the corner of Glenway and Speedway in Madison. OK, it's a few thousand miles away, but a guy can dream, can't he?

I don't know who painted the trompe l'oeil mural. It predates Madeleine's and was painted when the building housed Michael's Cyclery. The Madeleine's Patisserie website doesn't mention it. Anybody know who the artist was? Inquiring minds want to know.

Late afternoon at Olbrich Gardens

"Fiddleheads" at Olbrich
I've always loved the serene simplicity of this sculpture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. There's a wonderfully expressive tension between the the sheer mass of the stone and the delicacy of the ferns that it portrays. The sculpture is called "Fiddleheads," and it's by Sylvia U. Beckman.