Wednesday, Sep. 10th, 2008

Local Presidential Campaigns Taken to Actual Streets

A whole new political fight has busted out in downtown Eau Claire. We’ve all seen the TV commercials, the yard signs, and the bumper stickers – but the latest weapon in the arsenal of the local political foot soldier? Stencil art. This form of subversive (and illegal) political advertising isn’t necessarily new to Eau Claire, but this is the first I’ve seen it this go around. This one was spotted just outside the Acoustic Café – but as with all stencil art, if there’s one there’s bound to be several more nearby. As can often be the case with stencils like these – it’s dark in its imagery and message. The stencil, sprayed on with black paint, shows John McCain above the words: “Don’t believe the lies.” 

Though I’m sure it’s a pain-in-the-ass for property owners and city workers, personally, I love this stuff. Anytime I spot some street art in this town I love it whether its temporary paste-up posters, spray stencils, or even simple stickers. But to be clear, I’m talking about the art stuff, the smart stuff, not the idiot-tags all over town (though I’ll admit it can be a fine line and that the whole issue is pretty delicate). The good stuff feels like a pedestrian’s reward for walking down the street rather than driving. And if it has some political or social punch, all the better. All those cars can keep their massive billboards, I’ll take some subtle street advertising any day.

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Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll Arrives

Our big, giant, massive, Valley-wide Best of the Chippewa Valley reader poll is now up and firing on all cylynders. It covers everything from local restaurants to local media to news issues to arts & entertainment and eveything inbetween. Basically, it gives you  way to tell the rest of the Valley what you like – and don't like.

This year, the Best Of poll is using the same engine that powers our web poll (bottom of this page) – It allows you to simply vote "Yay" or "Boo" for the responses that your fellow citizens have provided. A yay vote helps your choice move towards the top of the list, and a boo does the opposite. And! You get to add your own responses that can, in turn, be voted on by everyone else. We hope you like it.

Another change we made this year is that you don't need to complete the poll start to finish – you can just skip around, "yaying" and "booing" all willy-nilly in whatever order you want. You can keep voting over the next few weeks, and the only limitation is that you can only yay or boo something once per 24-hour period.

So have fun, and shoot us an email if you have any questions.

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Tuesday, Sep. 9th, 2008

Local Boys Get Pitchfork Praise

Music mega-site Pitchfork sure loves them our Chippewa Valley exports. On Tuesday, the often-critical opinion maker posted a rather impressive review of Megafaun’s new effort: Bury the Square. Megafaun, currently based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, is made up of longtime Chippewa Valley music scenesters Phil Cook, Brad Cook and Joe Westerlund –known around these parts as 75% of the former local supergroup DeYarmond Edison (the other 25% appeared on Conan earlier this week). Making a serious name for themselves in their own right with a brand of banjo-based hootin’, hollerin’, and harmonizin’ art-folk, Megafaun has been managing to grab the attention of blogs like Pitchfork (known as a tough one to crack) for some time now. The band will appear later this month with our own Daredevil Christopher Wright at the Mabel Tainter in Menomonie. Details here.

Megafaun’s myspace is here, and you can buy Bury the Square here.

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Chick Has Three Legs In Good Workin Order

Chick Has Three Legs In Good Workin Order
– Eau Claire Leader | September 9, 1909

Great is the excitement on the North side these days. When P.T. Barnum traveled around the world with a circus full of all manner of freaks from a stuffed mermaid to a goat with the tincaneatis, he did not believe the day would come when Mrs. Anna Schwartz, a widow, living at 1304 Richards Street this city, would be exhibiting a three-legged chicken.

Looks like a mix between a bantam and an absinthe frappe, said one of the admiring throng yesterday, as they gathered about in the rear yard of Mrs. Schwartz’s home and gazed in wonder at the freak, each one with a theory to advance, but the three-legged chicken strutted about the crowd with utter disdain. Its three perfect legs work progressively thus adding materially to its pedestrian capacity. “It’s a rooster chicken, too,” said the small boy, this intelligence bursting upon him when the three legged freak tossed back its head and crowed in a most alarming manner. The chicken’s modus operandi does not differ from that of the other members of the flock, except that one foot follows the other progressively back and forth, the extra leg growing out between the two. Mrs. Schwartz is quite proud of her new possession, and it has become the object of joy and envy to every small boy in the entire neighborhood.

It is on exhibition at any all times and the owner is very glad to display it for the amusement of those who wish to get a glimpse of the freak. B.A. Giese, Mrs. Schwartz’s son-in-law, who lives next door, has become press agent for the fowl, and never tires of telling of its wondrous performance. When the chicken struts around the yard it affords infinite amusement to the youngsters and the adults stand by and try to figure it out. The chicken arrived one day with a dozen other chicks over the same route. It kicked and pecked its way through the shell and after its tiny eyes had ceased blinking, and becoming accustomed to the daylight, it lifted its tiny wings, stretched forth three perfect chicken legs, uttered a tiny squeak, and from then on proceeded to grow and develop in a most satisfying manner.


Chad’s Take: This Was Their American Idol
A three-legged chicken, what is the big deal? Well keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of people of the day lived on farms, meaning that agricultural and animal information was big news. I have hundreds of stories of two-headed or three-legged animals that truly amazed the community. Also remember that this was a time without TV or the iPod so people sought out their entertainment with what was around them at the time.
In many cases when a freak of nature like this was discovered, some dime museum operator would offer the owner a nice chunk of money to display the creature in his museum. The fact that this chicken was discovered on the north side of town is no surprise to me as it seemed like a lot of strange stories from the paper took place out on the north side. Having spent many years living out on the planet streets of the north side I can honesty say that things haven’t changed all that much.

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Taxpayers Challenged with Massive Upgrades

More news of community project fundraising efforts possibly falling short this morning in the Leader-Telegram. It’s looking as though the $6 million Hobbs Ice Center renovation plans may need a bigger contribution from the average taxpayer than originally planned since the UWEC-led fundraising effort sits at $1.2 million short of its $2 million goal. But efforts continue.

Our community groups are struggling here people. Similar shortfalls have been reported by the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in their efforts to remodel and expand their old, out-of-date building. That, and other major groups including the YMCA and possibly the State Theatre are looking to make some major changes and upgrades (not to mention the County Courthouse/Jail). Then you have people who want a convention center/arena.  All these upgrades and the fact that we need them are great, but as a community we’re facing some challenges to make it all happen, as the recently completed Clear Vision project has explored.

Personally, I think our library and education systems should be the top priority here, but we know that "quality of life projects," things that greatly enhance the livability and enjoyment of our community (such as the YMCA, Ice Center, Arena, etc) are playing a bigger and bigger role in not only the day-to-day lives of happy residents, but in economic development efforts as well.

There’s quite a bit of prioritizing, strategizing, and organizing to be done if we’re all going to get what we want here. Hopefully, short of John Menard just bankrolling all of it, some more good ideas will surface soon.

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Sunday, Sep. 7th, 2008

Unique Find In Digging A Well

Unique Find In Digging A Well
Strange Specimens Brought To The Surface In Shawtown
– Eau Claire Daily Leader | September 2, 1910

Can it be that once upon a time giant animals and human persons roamed about in the vicinity of Shawtown, only some two hundred feet lower down. And it can be that all of a sudden a land slide rushed down and buried everything. Anyhow something strange has came to pass in the digging of a well below Shawtown and which has caused many to look in the pages of history.

It is this way-Chas. Jones, 1637 Menomonie Street, who is foreman for Mrs. Oliver Sweet, owner of a well-digging apparatus, has been sinking a will on the place of Chas. Fleming in a Town of Union and which comes up to Shawtown. When down 158 feet we thought there were queer things in sight. He hauled up everything and to his surprise found clogged in the sand-bucket chunks of wood, pieces of limbs of trees and a mineral resembling silver growing onto one of the limbs.

Now the question arises as to how such things could be so far below the surface and when all traces of anyone sinking a well there before have proven futile. Many examining the specimens, some well-versed in historical specimens, say they must belong to a period before the flood. No doubt, they sat strange animals roamed the face of the earth in those days, millions of years ago, and browsed on these trees. Many of the specimens appeared to be petrified and the wood much resembling the cedar.


Chad’s Take: Where is the follow up article?

First of all for those of you who have never heard of Shawtown it is a small neighborhood located on the west side of Eau Claire. If you take Menomonie Street to the west and pass over Clairemont Ave you will be going into Shawtown. The Shawtown Neighborhood Park is located right off of Ferry St.

The main drawback with this article is the basic fact that no follow up articles were even written. The poor reader is left on their own to ponder what just the heck was really dug up in this well. Was this find the buried remains of some prehistoric animal? Was it evidence of previously unknown settlers to the area? Perhaps it was simply just a bunch of underground wood chips? Unfortunately the Daily Leader never solves the mystery and we are left one-hundred years later to decide for ourselves. My take is that since nothing big was ever mentioned of this find, that it was simply determined to be nothing out of the ordinary. However, I certainly could be wrong, so grab a shovel and start digging because the archeological find of the century could be sitting in Shawtown waiting for you to rediscover it.

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Eau Claire Band Played Conan O’Brien Monday Night

Eau Claire's music scene will officially hit the big time when Bon Iver takes the stage on Late Night with Conan O’Brien at about 12:20am on Monday night. With a mostly local musician and management line-up, the relatively new act Bon Iver is led by longtime and much-loved local musician Justin Vernon. You may know him from his days on the stages of Eau Claire in DeYarmond Edison or Mount Vernon (or even Differing Opinions of Good for those of you really in the the know). If you still haven’t heard some of the tunes from the project's debut release “For Emma Forever Ago” on tons of radio stations across the country, or at one of the major festivals they’ve played around the world, or during their ABC News interview, or on the best of European television, or in the back of a London cab (this could seriously go on for paragraphs) – well then are you in for a treat on Monday night. The whole local gang will be hangin’ with Conan in the green room before they play a song, rumored to be "Flume," at the end of the show. If you just can't make yourself stay up that late to catch one of Eau Claire's finest artistic exports, then perhaps you could fly to Europe and catch one of these remaining shows in their fall tour. Or you could cross your fingers and hope they put on a big EC gig before year's end.


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Friday, Sep. 5th, 2008

Your Saturday To-Do List

Head downtown and stop by the grand opening of the Chippewa Valley's only teahouse.

Starting at 1pm, Altoona's Whiskey Dicks is gonna get, ahem, dreadful. Check out our first-ever Reggae Fest with Natty Nation, Dred I Dread, Irie Sol, and The Jones Tones.

Hunker down from 2-10:30pm for the annual Yeshuapolooza – sprawling across the south lawn over at UW-Stout.

Grab a coffee and listen as Anna Johnson releases her debut CD at the Living Room Coffee House.

Spend an evening at  the State Theater and see conductor Nobuyoshi Yasuda whip the 60-member Chippewa Valley Symphony into a frenzy at their annual Pops Concert.

Rest up for White Light Riot (shown above) who's gonna shake up the Stones Throw with Polydream and Laarks at 10pm.

And if you acted early enough to get tickets, have fun at CVTG's production of The Rocky Horror Show – which just extended it's run because all the shows sold out.

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Let's Get Political!

Calling all closet political pundits! Now that you’ve witnessed both the Republican and Democratic national conventions this week and last, we want to hear what you’re all thinking, feeling, and worrying about here in the Chippewa Valley. Western Wisconsin is clearly a hotly contested battleground for this election. With two solid months yet to go, we’ve already seen both candidates in our own backyards. Barack Obama was here for a huge primary appearance at UWEC’s Zorn Arena this winter, and just a few weeks back at a much smaller, private appearance at Rod and Gun Park. John McCain made his surprise stop at the Altoona Family Restaurant, of all places, and will no doubt be coming through again at some point. Even Ralph Nader will be in town today at UWEC.

So let’s do it, let’s get this party started. What’s the vibe out there in the Chippewa Valley? What’s been the most outrageous campaign tactic you’ve witnessed so far? What predictions do you have for election results in our area? Whose got the best political coverage out there? Are we digging Palin? Let it out Chippewa Valley, tell us whatchya got.

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Thursday, Sep. 4th, 2008

Lead Guitarist Seeks Band - Loves Metallica, Green Day is a website seeking to unite the nation’s (partial) bands with the nation’s (bandless) musicians and singers. You can search by geographic area, and Eau Claire’s listings contain a modest three pages of rockers looking for a crew with which to rock. There’s only a few bands on the site looking for that perfect drummer / guitarist / bassist / pianist / screamin’ vocalist, which makes one wonder why all the individual dudes don’t just team up and form their own ensemble.

Kinda like Act 3 of this.

We could have a local super-group to rival Toto’s supergroupitude. Anyway, is supposed replace all those “Drummer Wanted” photocopied posters stapled to all the telephone polls along Water Street. Great concept – and if more local musicians get on the site, it might actually be helpful.

Musicians can also check out our local Craigslist. Or this.

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