Zodiac sent into orbit

A 13th constellation throws horoscopes into upheaval.


Hi. My name is Amber, and I’m a Pisces... or, at least I was.

For centuries people have identified with the cosmic cycles in the night sky — the stellar signs of the zodiac. But a Minnesota astronomy professor’s comments in a January Star Tribune article threw a wrench in the traditional belief that the horoscope is a tool for defining the self and even in predicting the day ahead.

Professor Parke Kunkle, who teaches astronomy at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, believes that not only is the zodiac inaccurate according to the current condition of the earth compared to the heavens, but astrologers are just plain wrong.

“I’m not an expert on astrology. I don’t know much about it other than it’s wrong,” he said.

Kunkle pointed out a 13th zodiac character called Ophiucus, “the snake charmer,” which he says throws the entire system into upheaval. However, Jo VonStein, spiritual mentor at Ancient Ways, 1700 Woodland Ave. and 3029 Ingersoll Ave., calls Kunkle’s simplistic viewpoint “the classic disconnecting and misunderstanding between science and symbolic systems.”


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GOP and labor, Judge Bennett (again), Van Gogh and Bin Laden


The attack on labor by Gov. Terry Branstad and the Republicans in the Iowa House is starting to backfire. In the first place, even though the bill shackling labor passed easily, it will go nowhere. The Senate Democrats — who are showing remarkable unity to hold their 26-24 edge — will kill it. Second, and more important, it is turning out to be a pretty good recruiting tool for AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union is signing up dozens of new members each week, an AFSCME person told Skinny last week.

Third — and most important — is this: The anti-labor sentiments of the GOP have energized labor and other Democrats, who now are gearing up for the 2012 elections. The state is in remarkably good shape (thanks, ironically, to Chet Culver and the Democrats) so the anti-labor speeches and bills look to be based more on ideology than economics. Indeed, the state’s net revenue is up $217 million so far this fiscal year, compared to a year ago, and it is already $75 million ahead of where the Revenue Estimating Conference predicted it would be. Mike Gronstal told some Democrats last week that the state will have $900 million in the sock by mid-year.

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7 Walkers merge Grateful Dead rock with New Orleans funk


Though the concept of the supergroup isn’t new, it’s difficult to imagine one forming as organically as the 7 Walkers, a seamless blend of San Francisco Bay Area rock and New Orleans funk, featuring Grateful Dead co-founder/drummer Bill Kreutzmann; Austin, Texas roots-rock guitarist Malcolm Welbourne, a.k.a. Papa Mali; legendary New Orleans bassist George Porter Jr. (The Meters, Funky Meters); and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson).

The seeds for 7 Walkers were planted in July 2008 when Kreutzmann went backstage to meet Welbourne after one of the guitarist’s sets at a festival. The two men hit it off, hung out together for a couple of days and closed their weekend-long journey with an impromptu set at the festival.

“It’s all been very natural, which is the best way,” said Welbourne en route to a New Orleans studio two weeks ago to record an album with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux during Mardi Gras. “Bill and I met as friends and became good friends before we talked about doing a band together. That makes a big difference.”

After the festival, the two musicians went their separate ways, but met up again for a show in Hawaii. That’s when Kreutzmann asked Welbourne if he would be interested in writing songs with Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead’s legendary lyricist who penned classic Dead tunes like “Truckin’” and “Terrapin Station.” Naturally, Welbourne agreed and 7 Walkers leaped to its collective feet.

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HA strange interlude at Kirkwood Lounge


Restaurants are subject to the same whims that bedevil other segments of the economy. Success and failure are as often determined by zip codes, synergies and dumb luck as they are by food and service. In 1929 Boston banned Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize winning play “Strange Interlude,” which dealt with an abortion. The play moved to Quincy where large crowds followed. It ran five hours with a dinner break, and the closest restaurant to the theater was a place called Howard Johnson’s. Word of mouth spread so quickly that HoJo’s became a franchising pioneer during the Depression, growing into a major chain of hotels and restaurants that flourished into the 1980s when Marriott bought it and let it slide into obscurity.

Four years ago, Mike and Carter Hutchison opened the fine dining Azalea Restaurant on the street level of the Kirkwood Civic Center Hotel with spectacular designs and food by Jeremy Morrow, then as hot as any chef in Iowa. Perceived to be a destination for special occasions, the place looked like an instant classic. Big crowds filled its linen covered tables before shows at the Civic Center and Wells Fargo Arena. Caught, though, in a no man’s land between the skywalk system and Court Avenue revelry, the place always struggled on weekdays when there were no big events in town. Such inconsistencies never work well in the restaurant business. Last year Azalea, then under talented chef Sean Wilson, downsized its prices to little avail though the food was better than ever.


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