Archive for June, 2009

Mermaid Cafè, a Crown Jewel of the Eastside; Nay, of Madison; Better Yet, of Wisconsin

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Eastsiders are loving their Mermaid Cafè, and this just in from the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Ass’n President, Dan Melton, proves it:

Lisa, owner of The Mermaid, on Winnebago, guarantees her Sunday Special this Sunday will ‘knock your socks off’.  A regular at the counter asks, ‘Any kind of socks?  Even wool socks?’. ‘Yes, Lisa assured him, even winter socks. I ask, ‘On Sunday do you have to wear socks?’ ‘Only if you want ‘m knocked off,’ Lisa said.

This sock-off-knocking special, apparently, will be a Singapore Curry, involving local potatoes, mint, and a mango pickle on the side. Atwood area restaurant owners are taking their food creations to a sublime, whole nuther[*] level.

Yaaaaaaa, the sandwiches are supreme. But the espresso drinkies ascend to otherworldly. My über-finicky friend from Milan declared their cappuccino to be superior to any he had ever had anywhere in Italy. Mind you, nothing ever pleases him. So the fact that he’s been singing the praises of Mermaid’s cappuccino ever since should say something about their espresso eminence!

Oh, and, btw, there is no free parking available. Yet the place is packed 7 days a week. Hmmmm. City planners, Transit & Parking Commissioners, Zoning Administrators, Economic Development Gurus, are you taking note? The number one means of access to the shop? Walking. #2? Bike. #3? Probably a tie between bus & deathmobile. Time to wake up to the new possibilities O Ye Powerbrokers of Madison.

*I always wondered how to spell “whole nuther”!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flat Flyover Country…INDEED! And How Bicycling Adds Juice to Any Economy

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Whenever I meet someone from either of the coasts who sniffes* about the flatness of flyover country, I invite them for a bike ride in western Dane County.

ESPN has picked up on the prime biking country out there. It is now apparently being seriously considered as the site for the Olympic Bicycle Road Race. That is, if the Olympics should go to Chicago.

Oh, and for you economic developers out there, take note that Madison’s fervent cycling community is proving to be as much of a draw for Olympic organizers as the terrain itself.

Um, Mr. Cooley? Are you taking notes? Mr. Cooley?

For everyone else, Cooley was the planner behind Madison’s Economic Development Plan (proposed) who derided Madison’s “character” in his presentation of the Economic Development Plan. It is a plan that repeats all the bromides that brought you economic miracles like, oh, Flint, Michigan and Rockford, IL.

This would be news to the technocrats like Cooley, but the culture, er, character of Madison is the only thing that sets it apart from the likes of Rockford, IL, all of 90 miles away from Madison. Do we really want to follow Money Magazine’s perennial dead last entrant in its Best Places to Live Sweepstakes? According to Brenda Konkel, it’s pretty much looking like we are still lacking an imaginative Econ Dev Plan (and here). Pitiful. But as usual, the “experts” expertly dismiss suggestions from Madison’s highly educated populace. Too much character, I guess.

*Yes, that would be sniffe with an ‘e’ as in to sniff not only with condescension, but maximum derision in between sips of a saccharine Napa Chardonnay.

James Hansen: The Saint of Our Age

Friday, June 26th, 2009

This guy is amazing.

I don’t know what the planned civil disobedience is, but I hope it is huge.

Mountaintop removal is a barbaric act.

[Update: I read in a tiny article safely tucked away on p. 7, that they got arrested for blocking the road to the mine. The arrestees included Hansen and Daryl Hannah.]

A: Carbon Tax

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Q: What do Ralph Nader, James Hansen and The Wall Street Journal agree on?

Why? I mean, how on earth could these three unlikely curmudgeons–one representing political progressives, another a defender of science’s role in society, and an economic editorial board known for denying global warming–actually agree on a solution to a vexing problem?

Well, from an economic efficiency argument (the Wall Street Journal), it all makes sense–you tax a product and the economy will produce less of that product. It is simple and requires little government intervention over & above that which already exists.

From a scientific efficacy argument (James Hansen, the NASA scientist who has been railing against GW gases, profiled in the New Yorker), it captures *all* emitters of GW gases. From the big smokestack polluters down to the average homeowner/car driver. (Cap & Trade only captures the huge, single point emitters; i.e., smokestacks).

From a social justice/progressive viewpoint (Nader’s Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal here), you tax the stuff we, as a society, don’t want, and, if the tax is implemented fairly, we get the pent-fecta: Lowered GW gases, higher taxes on rich energy gluttons, lower taxes for more productive pursuits, new jobs in energy efficiency & alt-energy production, and redistribution for the poor.

It’s simple, tax carbon til we don’t use it. Or at least til we use a lot less of it.

Highway Bloatitecture: A Cancer on the City Center

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Here’s another example of how the fetish of bigness–of buildings, of roads–is an efficient way to kill a city. This situation in Brussels is reminiscent of Madison’s recent experience with the Overture Center for the Arts. The Overture could have been a net positive for the city by either, a) locating in one of Madison’s ugly surface parking lots (exhibit A: Brayton Lot behind GEF 1) and thus building something positive out of negative space, or b) Building at the current site in harmony with the existing mix of cool urban uses (grocery store, world-renowned burger joint, sandwich shop with hippie-60s cred, Indian restaurant, etc). The place had depth of character, variety of architecture and an air of eclecticism. Instead, mega-moneyed slammed down an obscene work of megalithic bloatitecture in the middle of this erstwhile eclectic block, sterilized it, ziplock sealed it, and made it visually appealing only to those with a 65 mph imagination.

Walk by the place and visions of jumping out in front of the next bus come to mind.

It is no wonder the place is bust.

The genius architects & highwaymen did the same thing with the Carter Center in Atlanta, the Clinton thing in Little Rock and on & on. Try walking to these places. It is a supremely alienating experience. There is a certain imperial vaingloriousness in this sort of architecture. Highway accessible only. Though sited in the middle of the city, isolated from it. Imposing in a way to make people feel small. Approaches that are monotonously landscaped in a way that welcomes only those who voluntarily jail themselves in speeding steel & glass cages. Prison-like entrances that induce one to happily submit to a full body search (yeah, that’s what they do at these places). Indeed, there is an air of airport to them.

And Stalin would be pleased.

It’s Official: NYT declares Obama a Protégé of Bush

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Wow. I didn’t think the NYT would have the guts to publish the likes of this. Herbert rails on Jesus H. Obama for continuing to carry out Herr Busch’s brutal Staatssicherheits policies. You know, torture, über-secrecy, rendition, unconstitutional spying on US citizens, blitzkrieg–er, shock & awe–forever, etc.

The Hopers had better get crackin’ and start holding His feet to the fire. Wrong is wrong, people. Even if the wrongdoer is The Messiah Himself.

Horribly Hilly’s Graveyard

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This article is a hoot. Pay particular attention to Lehman’s quotes. What a character!

I guess the Horribly Hilly 100 was particularly brutal this year, given all that tropical humidity. Maybe they should add another couple of ‘H’s’ in there: The Hot, Humid, Horribly Hilly Hundred.

Guardian UK: Fair Weather Cyclists v. Bike Ragers

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This article cracked me up. Apparently even the stiff-upper-lipped Brits get plenty irritated with clueless fair weather cyclists wandering all over the bike paths. Heh!

Next up: Using one’s rights, not the sidewalk.

Mayor Pave Hogwild For Highways

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Another data point in Mayor Pave’s continuing pursuit of pork and a more perfect Schaumburg:

The whole S & M (county highways S & M, that is) debacle hasn’t gone over well locally. These massive road projects (at the junction of Mineral Point Rd./County Highway M/Junction Rd.) are so ugly that even the highway-oriented common council has balked at the costs & the sprawl.

It is widely recognized that any road development that is so massive in scale will waste city resources for decades to come. Worse, it will undermine any hope of actually building a city as opposed to suburban sprawl. Contrary to his assertions that these massive highway expansions are necessary for healthy economic development for the city, the fact of the matter is, the benefits accrue entirely to people who live far outside of the city limits. City residents pay the price. In dollars and in health.

I’ve already seen the plans, and any hope of accessing the area by bike, walking or transit will be impossible. And this has been the heart of the criticism.

So the Pavin’ Mayor is backed into a corner: He’ll have to go for federal pork to make his project happen. Right now he’s spending precious lobbying time begging Representative Baldwin, Senator Feingold and Senator Kohl for highway bacon to make this highly unpopular project happen.

Schaumburg here we come!

Mayor Pave: Keeping up with the Schaumburgs

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Shady Wood won”t be shady for long. Mayor Pave’s minions have just slated it for paving.

And so more hills will be bulldozed. Farms razed. The Ice Age trail will wind through scenic cul-de-sacs. The very setting that gives Madison its character–a city surrounded by well-kept farms- is actively being destroyed.

Our Green Mayor. Visionary. Keeping up with the Schaumburgs.

As per usual, Ivey provides no details about the development except a few titilating controversies without content (Madison sprawl vs. Verona sprawl–which is better?). Rest assured though, Mayor Pave’s pliant plan commissioners have ensured that this development will militate against biking and walking. They don’t have a clue as to how to do anything different.