'Ugly' dumping

Cringe-inducing photos of a guy in a Borat Speedo, a baby sucking on a wine bottle, an ear pierced with a safety pin and lots of badly scarred faces hardly seem like good fodder for promoting an album, but that's exactly what Minneapolis hip-hop kingpins Atmosphere are using to tout the expanded reissue of their 2002 breakthrough CD, "God Loves Ugly." The group set up a website this week, YoureSoUgly.com, where fans can superimpose their least-flattering mug shots onto the album cover (an especially buffoonish photo of frontman Slug graced the original sleeve). Some of the photos already posted leave us a little scared to hit the next Atmosphere show. The George Bush pic that somebody put there seemed like a low blow, too.


Taste of Tejas

The Vikings might not have made it to the Super Bowl, but Minnesota is still part of the party with the help of chef Mark Haugen, who will prepare a dish at Taste of the NFL, a Jan. 31 fundraiser in Tampa, Fla. Haugen, who whips up Santa Fe-inspired dishes at Tejas in Edina, will concoct "chocolate tamales," a mixture of butter, chocolate, eggs, dried cherries and corn flour. The tamales will be wrapped in dried corn husks, steamed and served with vanilla ice cream and dajeta, a caramel sauce made with goat's milk, which Haugen says tastes like melted Sugar Babies. Did we mention he'll be creating the dish with the help of a current or former NFL player? Proceeds from the event benefit food banks around the nation, including Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul.


Frozen goodness

It was a big weekend for music here on the tundra, with festivals at both the Minnesota Orchestra (Lenny Bernstein) and at the SPCO (International Chamber Music). New York Times critic James Oestreich was in the house for a bunch of concerts last week. His review of Friday's "Bernstein in the Concert Hall" show began with a "Mary Tyler Moore Show" reference and went on to sing the praises of Osmo Vänskä and the orchestra ("they played splendidly") as well as solos by flutist Adam Kuenzel and clarinetist Burt Hara. Oestreich also wrote about concerts by the SPCO and the visiting London Sinfonietta. He admired the latter's rendition of "Cortege," by British composer Harrison Birtwistle, as did I.W., which caught the Sunday performance at Ted Mann. In it, musicians take turns rising to approach the middle of the stage and play brief duets and solos. What could have been gimmicky was instead simple, dramatic and affecting. And when was the last time we got to see a strolling bassoonist?


Pop art

While today's CD covers often fall victim to ridiculous amounts of Photoshop and tired concepts, record albums once were little pieces of art that one could spin around the turntable. This week, Macy's in downtown Minneapolis has a collection of these vintage beauties to share with curious folks, ranging from the Beatles to Tony Bennett, along with gold records, scribbled lyrics and doodles from such legendary artists as Jimi Hendrix. While you browse, an artist will be whipping up a Beatles-centric mural. The free touring show, cosponsored by KQRS, runs through Saturday (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily). See Rockartshow.com for more info.


Burning for change

While we're still stuck trying to absorb the female firedancer who lit her nipples on fire during T-Pain's set at Target Center on Monday night -- that's not what the feminists meant by "burn your bra" -- many of the night's performers were already starting to absorb the momentous occasion of that day's holiday (MLK Day) and the next day's presidential inauguration. "Tomorrow's a big day," said T-Pain. Headliner Lil Wayne, decked out in a "Purple Rain" T-shirt, wished Barack Obama well, but then got silly when he introduced "a very important message from Martin" (actually a clip of comedian Martin Lawrence). Third opening act Keyshia Cole probably didn't express her excitement for fear she'd burst right out of her ultra-fitted tap-pants outfit, but the Gym Class Heroes also had fun with the occasion, leading the crowd through a two-finger (peace sign) salute to the new president while the old guy got one finger.