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weblog,   n.    1. A collection of links with accompanying writing and commentary that reflects the personality and interests of its author.   2. An evolved "hotlist" that's fun to read.   3. A microportal.

looka,   v.   (Yatspeak)  
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  
2. My weblog - news, movies, food, music, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, and whatever else tickles my fancy. Please feel free to contribute.

Chuck Taggart
icq: 8591604

Looka! Archive

July 1999  

Weblogs I like:

Bifurcated Rivets
The BradLands
Bring the Rock
Have Browser, Will Travel
the nubbin
Robot Wisdom


Made with Macintosh
  Stuff worth reading
   Updated (almost) daily | August archive edition

  Tuesday, August 31, 1999
I saw "The Sixth Sense" Sunday night.

Go see it now before anyone around you starts talking about it and thereby giving away crucial plot twists. Now, I'll let this much slip out...

It's a terrific movie -- understated, unpredictable, and restrained, something Hollywood horror movies just aren't. Bruce Willis redeems himself for countless lousy movies and demonstrates that he can really act when he wants to, and young Haley Joel Osment is astounding as the film's pivotal character. After all the Blair Witch hype, it's a genuine treat to see a movie that's genuinely creepy as well as one that creeps up on the public, becoming a sleeper hit without the hype. I'm not going to link to any reviews -- they're either all good (and as usual giving away too much), or so astonishingly off the mark (like the one in Mr. Showbiz, where you just want to look at the reviewer with pity and say, "Well, you're wrong, of course.") that it's pointless. Just go see it. And while I'm noodging you, see "The Iron Giant" too, before it disappears.

The second season barely started shooting, and already I got agita!   Someone's calling for a boycott of HBO's superb series "The Sopranos" again, for allegedly reinforcing negative Italian-American stereotypes. If this mook actually watched the show, he'd see that it breaks these stereotypes; in fact there is an episode where the characters discuss this very idea, and where it's made clear that the Mafia only represents the tiniest percentage of 40 million honest Italian-Americans. Funny how people who call for boycotts of TV shows almost never watch the shows that supposedly offend them so.

In other "Sopranos" news, Sandra Bernhard and Janeane Garofalo (yay, Janeane!) have been signed to guest-star in one of next season's episodes as "a motorcycle-ridin' lesbian couple" who provide some agita for Tony and crew. I can hardly wait. Shooting on the new season started in July and debuts in January. (Heads up from Laurel)

Want secure email?   Then don't use web-based email (like Hotmail, for instance) under any circumstances. Meanwhile, a group of hackers claims credit for discovering and publicizing the appalling Hotmail security hole:

"We did not do this hack to destroy, we want to show the world how bad the security on Microsoft really is, and that company nearly have monopoly on [all] the computer software"

Speaking of agita...  I've got some problems with

Yes, I know that The Gumbo Pages is an Amazon affiliate. I've been seriously considering switching my web site's bookselling affiliation to BookSense once it opens; it's a consortium of independent booksellers around the country who pool their inventories in a shared database. I've always been a supporter of independent booksellers, and if this looks viable I'm switching.

I also recently emailed Amazon with qualms about the appalling privacy violations involved with their new "Purchase Circles" program. I think they're being arrogant and flippant about how they use this data, and it bothers me. There's a wonderful article in the Seattle Weekly that appropriately skewers Amazon for this, giving them a taste of their own medicine.

But then ... lo and behold, over the last two weeks someone has ordered over $1,500 worth of books from Amazon via my site, giving me a commission of almost $90 for these two orders alone. Seeing that I do this website for free and don't sell advertising and can use all the help I can get to run it, can I turn my back on potential income, no matter how minimal? Am I willing to compromise my principles for a quick buck? What's my price?
  Monday, August 30, 1999
Jesus of the Week by Peter Gilstrap. This week: Was He somehow related to Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard?

"Come and knock on our dooor ..."   Wow. So first it's an IE 5.0 security flaw that lets anyone take control over your machine via ActiveX, then a Windows email security flaw involving Java and Javascript, and now it seems that there's a backdoor in Microsoft's Hotmail where anyone can read anyone else's mail without a password. Sheesh. (Heads up from Netsurfer Digest and Userland)

It's about time.   An African recipes page.

  Saturday, August 28, 1999
I know who killed Josh, Michael and Heather.   It was Not Me.

Talkin' to Taj.   Taj Mahal has just released a fantastic new album, Kulanjan, a collaboration with Malian kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate, exploring the links between the blues and West African traditional music. There's a great interview with him in the current edition of OffBeat magazine.

Recipe of the week.   Comfort food: Red flannel hash, from Rick & Ann's Restaurant in Berkeley, and Pear and ginger upside-down cake, from Red Sage Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

  Friday, August 27, 1999
Finnegan finally meets Adona.   For months I've been following a series of stories on National Public Radio that were produced by Youth Radio, about a high school student named Finnegan Hamill and the emails he's received from his Albanian pen-pal in Kosovo, a 16-year-old girl who wrote under the pseudonym of "Adona". On Wednesday night, Finnegan and Adona finally met. I'm really glad.

My dawlin' New Orleans.   I'm a French fry fanatic. It's one of my few vices. I'm very particular about them -- I want them hot, crisp and freshly fried. If they've been sitting under a heat lamp for a half an hour, if they're greasy and limp, I"ll send 'em back, even at McDonald's (not that I eat at McDonald's frequently). However, when I'm dissatisfied with my fries, my reaction tends not to be quite as extreme as that of this fellow New Orleanian. (New Orleans Times-Picayune

Gefilte Phish?   A bizarre story from Salon about how thousands of young Jews seek God by dropping acid and following a really, really shitty hippie noodle rock band.

  Thursday, August 26, 1999
Neat neat neat.   The first images from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Telescope are released today.

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles...   I've updated the Down Home/Gumbo Pages recommended records list for the first time in three months. They don't call me God Emperor of Procrastination for nothing.

Hey McCain! How 'bout some butter on that waffle!   Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain first advocates a more moderate stance on abortion, then immediately capitulates when the right-wing starts screaming; off goes the retraction to the anti-abortion groups. Typical candidate. Is there a single one of them in either party who has a spine?

Do svidaniya.   The last full-time crew prepares to leave Mir behind.

You can get lots of cool freeware and shareware fonts   and lots more at a nifty site I came across, CoolArchive.

Ugh.   Product placement from hell.

The Straight Dope on the Iranian airport refugee.   Cecil Adams, that ultra-cool know-it-all, gives us the scoop on that Iranian guy who's been stuck in the Paris airport for 11 years.

Wooo! Hey baby! Nice laptop! *whistle*   SFGate examines the furor over John C. Dvorak's moronic comments about the iBook. Their researches seem to confirm some of his assertions: " of the new iBook were met with plenty of head-shaking and 'no way' from several male construction workers."

Take that, roach!   From my beloved hometown comes welcome news on a powerful new roach repellent found in a familiar source. It's only appropriate that this was announced in New Orleans, a city where they have roaches the size of small dogs.

Sissy boy caught playing with dolls.   From the Landover Baptist Church Newsletter:

In accordance with Landover's Biblical school guidelines, Geoffrey's schoolmates will be commanded to continue to taunt, trip, slap and spit upon him to encourage him to see the error of his evil lifestyle choice. The child's image will also be placed around the schools, framed in mock "wanted" posters explaining in easy-to-understand terms why God hates sodomites. "We believe this will be a most effective deterrent," said Landover Psychologist Dr. Michael Tolliver. "The child will eventually come to his senses. I'm sure of it."

Get rich quick!   You too can head to Femundsmarka and get in on the Norwegian Gold Rush of '99.

  Wednesday, August 25, 1999
I saw Steve Earle and the Bluegrass Dukes last night.   It was one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. All acoustic, three solid hours. Steve's most recent album is an all-original, all-bluegrass album recorded with the Del McCoury Band called "The Mountain", and it's a contender for my Top Ten list this year. Del finished the tour and moved on, but Steve kept touring with a pick-up band; at first I was disappointed I wouldn't be hearing Del, who's my favorite bluegrass musician, but this band was definitely the next best thing (if not just as good) -- Tim O'Brien on mandolin and vocals, Darrell Scott on banjo, guitar and vocals, Casey Driessen on fiddle (who was great) and Dennis Crouch on upright bass. They did about 45 minutes of bluegrass songs and covers together, then Steve left the stage to the Bluegrass Dukes -- we heard some stuff from Tim and Darrell's own recent albums. Then Steve came back for a fairly long solo acoustic set, then the rest of the boys returned to finish it off, including a great version of "Copperheard Road".

Now for the bad part...

I nearly strangled any number of people in the crowd last night, and only didn't because 1) I'm a pacifist, and 2) I'm not big enough to actually get away with it anyway. The number of obnoxious assholes talking incessantly through the entire show was beyond belief. I don't think it was the usual record industry weasel problem this time, either -- the usual outrage of just about any show in L.A. where the weasels get in for free, then sit on their asses and talk the whole time. (Steve had a great comment early on: "Okay, those of y'all who came here tonight to be seen ... we seen you. You can go home now.")

This was just blatant, outright disrespect, for both the performers and the concertgoers. Why do people pay $25 to get into a show, particularly one this great, and stand there and talk the whole time? Why do people pay to have Steve Earle be the background music for their shouted (and often drunken) conversations? "Oh gee! I'm sorry that Steve's playing too loudly; why don't we ask him to turn the volume down so that you don't have to shout to be heard over his playing?!?"

The lack of courtesy and consideration for those around these people who paid good money to listen to great music is unconscionable. So listen and listen good -- if you go to a concert, whether it's in a theatre or in a stand-up club ... shut the feck up and listen! If you want to talk, go outside. And those of you who do insist on talking during a show... count your blessings that I'm not 6'6" and 275 pounds, or I'd have ripped your lungs out.

We love to fry, and it shows.   Another reason why fried food is bad for you.

While we're at it...   Here's a good recipe for French fries. Actually, it'd be better if you omit their seasoning mix and use my Creole seasoning blend, but definitely use that two-tiered frying approach -- it's the only way to do it.

Meet DIRK.   He's "the lovechild of Alan Turing and sixdegrees", and is best described as an experiment in database relations rather than an actual AI engine. Tell him some new stuff. (Heads up from Wes.)

  Tuesday, August 24, 1999
Woohoo! New Richard Thompson album today!!   RT's new album "Mock Tudor" finally comes out today. I don't mean to gloat, but I've had an advance copy since June, and it's totally fabulous. Just get it.

RT was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" on August 17; you can listen in via Real Audio, at 28.8 and ISDN speeds.

Longer does not mean better.   (Okay, get your minds out of the gutter!)

Sometimes a work of art can be very beautiful, very profound, and very small. In film school at LMU, I had a fantastic teacher, the late Ian Conner; I was very fortunate to be his student and T.A. for four years. One of the classes he taught was an intermediate filmmaking class, where the students produced films under 5 minutes with non-synchronous soundtracks. One year he changed the requirements of the class, and called for two films, each exactly one minute long. You should have heard the pissing and moaning. He quietly and firmly stood his ground. After the naysayers were weeded out, many of the students who remained in the class that year made astonishingly beautiful and moving little films, absolute gems in only 36 feet of 16mm film. It was a great idea.

I've always been a fan of the short short story as well. The first ones I remember reading were by sf author Fredric Brown, who was the master of the short short story, many of them just a couple of paragraphs long. The UK Telegraph goes even further in their "mini-saga" competition, calling for stories that are exactly 50 words in length. Brian Aldiss "patented" the idea years ago, and he remains one of the judges in the competition. Now, sit back and enjoy reading 15 very good short short short stories. (Heads up from Robot Wisdom.)

Arigato, e buon appetito!   Y'know, some of these actually look pretty good.

  Monday, August 23, 1999
I saw "The Iron Giant" yesterday.   Took me long enough -- my friend Gregory had raved about it ("I saw it one night, then got up the next morning and went to see it again first thing."); plus Laurel and Jason had been raving about it too. It's absolutely wonderful -- well-written, beautifully voice-acted, gorgeous animation without being too flashy (i.e., the animation served the story and didn't show off). It was funny and heartwarming and sad and had wonderful lessons and themes to offer. Naturally, it's sinking at the box office. Go see it while you can (like, this week).

Leave Gus alone.   Now someone feels the need to say, 37 years later, that Gus Grissom screwed the pooch after all. So what? He was a great astronaut, so leave the man alone and let him rest in peace.

I love "Lost and Found Sound".   It's a weekly series, aired every Friday as part of NPR's "All Things Considered", and is a national collaboration involving independent radio producers, artists, journalists, sound collectors, film sound designers and stuff sent in by plain ol' folks amongst the public radio listenership. The subject ranges from sounds we don't hear in life anymore, like clinking milk bottles and old electric fans, to the 78s you never knew your grandmother sang on before she had a family, to old home recordings on obsolete formats.

So far my favorite episode was this one, which described recordings in myriad obsolete formats that people from all over the country owned and called in about. There was advice on restoration, what not to do with them, and one amazing recording -- the restored voice of a woman's sister, singing a song at age 6 in the early '60s. The little girl later died at age 11, and the only recording they had of her voice was this little paper record that they didn't know how to play. When the show ended the restored version, I bawled.

B-92 is back ... as B2-92.   My friend Dule grew up in Belgrade listening to a very cool radio station called B-92. Besides playing great music, they were a beacon for the opposition, broadcasting real news and doing their best to exercise freedom of speech. Naturally, they got in trouble a lot, and got shut down several times, only to rise again. Slobodan Milosevic shut them down for the last time this past April, firing everyone and replacing them with his lackeys and yes-men to broadcast pro-Milosevic propaganda. If you tune in to what used to be B-92 now, or go to their old web site, it's pretty appalling compared to what it used to be.

Now, they're back, but it's now B2-92. Don't get confused. Here's the press release:

After 4 months off the air, Radio B2-92 resumed broadcasting news and music on 99.1 FM, the third frequency of Belgrade's Studio B Radio, on Monday August 2 at 08.00 CET. The program is a continuation of the real Radio B92 and its news and current affairs programming is produced by the team that was evicted from Radio B92 on April 2, when the station's management was replaced by a government appointee. The B2-92 program is on air daily from 08.00 - 20.00 CET and provides national news coverage to audiences in Belgrade, and throughout Serbia and Montenegro via the ANEM radio and television networks. Real Audio and MP3 netcast will be available soon.

Computer gaming reaches new heights.   "Talk Show Riot" puts you right in the middle of the action on a "Jerry Springer"-like talk show, where you use fists, beer bottles, chairs, baseball bats, and more to knock out the competition... which includes such typical guests as a fat lady, a pimp, an out-of-control teen, a drag queen, and a member of the KKK. Download a trial version for Win 95/98/NT, and it's $15 shareware. (I am not making this up.)

  Sunday, August 22, 1999
Heheheheheee.   "The Bewitched Project" - my favorite of the parodies so far.

I know I've said this before, but...   These people really, really don't get it. I started looking at more of their film "analyses" -- for example, that of a movie I really liked, "The Shawshank Redemption" -- and their approach to this movie is to vivisect it, taking all its little component parts out of their proper context and placing them into their own bizarre context. It reminded me of that scene in "The Dead Poets Society", where Mr. Keating shows his students that the concept of analyzing poetry by charting it on an X-Y graph is "doo-doo". The people who run this site call it "Christian Analysis of American Culture". I know quite a few Christians, and most of 'em actually use their brains and think... unlike this lot.

Jesus of the Week.   by Peter Gilstrap (New Times, Los Angeles).

  Saturday, August 21, 1999
"Wake up... time to die."   Brion James died last week.

I first saw him in Walter Hill's "Southern Comfort", a part-excellent, part-appalling movie about Louisiana National Guardsmen hunted down and picked off by some renegade backwoods Cajuns who didn't take kindly to having a machine gun full of blanks fired at them. He portrayed the one-armed trapper who showed the dumb soldiers mercy, and his accent was so good I thought he was local. Cajun accents are hard to do for non-Cajuns, and I've only heard one other non-Cajun actor get it right. I was impressed.

I was even more impressed when I saw his portrayal of Leon, one of the replicants in one of my all-time favorite movies, Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner". So long, Brion. Your incept date came way too early.

Barnum was right.   There's a sucker born every minute, especially ones who'll cough up $10.95 for this.

Latin, shmatin.   Jody Rosen in FEED talks about Ricky Martin's überhit "Livin' La Vida Loca", and that the so-called "Latin pop explosion" seems to consist of merely one hit song that bears none of the attributes of great Latin music.

"...the only thing remotely "Latin" about "Livin' La Vida Loca" is its Spanglish title. Calling the song Latin pop on that basis is roughly comparable to calling Chic's disco classic "Le Freak" a French chanson."

Got some time on yer hands?   Push The Big Green Button!

Didja ever wonder who actually eats this stuff?

How dare you?!?   So this is what Tracy Flick from "Election" ended up doing...

Mmm, what a sweet tune.   The subject of Ken Burns' monumental documentary "The Civil War" came up recently, and somebody referred to the beautiful melody used as the show's theme as a "Civil War period tune". Nope, sorry. It was actually composed in 1982, in the style of a Scottish lament, "by a Jewish guy from the Bronx." Read more about it at composer/fiddler Jay Ungar's website.

Looks I've got some readin' to do.   A while back, in the middle of bitching that I hadn't been reading much good sf lately, I decided that I'd start looking backwards. I resolved to read every Hugo Award-winning novel since they started giving them out in 1953. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of them I'd already read, but I've still got a ways to go. In fact, I think I'll track down the short stories, too.

  Friday, August 20, 1999
Oh jeez ...   How in the world did I not hear about this? So long, Dick. Thanks for everything. May the four winds blow you safely home.

Good, George, good.  Keep going.   George "Dubya" Bush now says that he hasn't been a drug-crazed maniac since at least age 28. Thanks for finally saying so. Now, this media intrusion into the private lives of political candidates is as absurd as ever, and I don't begrudge anyone their past drug use, but ... even though we might want to hear him say he did it, Jon Carroll says "let's find another stick with which to beat the mealymouthed little twerp."

Good, Jerry, good.  Keep going.   Jerry Falwell says he's willing to "lower the volume" of his anti-gay rhetoric and harrassment. Y'know, if you keep turning that volume knob to the left until it clicks, it'll turn off completely.

Hackers 1, Phelps 0.  :^)   This is just delicious. Here's more.

Soo-EEEEEE!   I'm from New Orleans, therefore I've eaten like a pig. In fact, I've eaten pigs. But do I really want to be part pig?

Sue-EEEEEEE!   Apple sues eMachines for their blatant and shameless ripoff of the iMac design.

Aww.   Another George's guitar gently weeps.

Buy CDs from this page! Here's why.   We interrupt this weblog for a music-buying heads-up for Looka! readers who might be surfing in directly from elsewhere instead of through my home page.

For quite a while now, I've had The Gumbo Pages signed up as a CDnow affiliate. Any CDs (or tapes, LPs, videos, DVDs or whatever) bought through this page gets me a lil' kickback, all of which goes back toward maintenance and upkeep of this page, and the production of my non-commercial radio program (for which I get paid nary a penny).

Some people have asked, "How can you get in bed with a corporate monster like CDnow?!?" Well, the company was started in 1994 (same year I started the first version of this site) by two guys in their 20s, on a PC in their parents' basement. Unlike me, they've actually managed to make millions of dollars from their web effort. More power to 'em. I don't feel compromised by siphoning off microscopic amounts of that filthy lucre. (I guess i didn't inherit an entrepreneurial gene from anyone in my ancestry. Here I am on the web, giving stuff away for free. Sheesh.)

There's a CDnow search box over on the right, underneath the listing of weblogs I read. If you'd like any buying advice from me, there's my supposedly current listing of recommended records, plus my annual Top "Ten" lists from 1997 and 1998 available for your perusal. (I have lists from 1995 and 1996 up too, but they don't have the easy, one-click links to CDnow. Feel free to check 'em out anyway.)

So buy, buy, buy!

  Thursday, August 19, 1999
Ohhhhh ... The French Laundry.   No, it's not a fancy place to get your clothes washed. It's quite possibly the finest restaurant in North America. Yesterday's LA Times Food Section features an article about the restaurant, and its chef Thomas Keller.

On March 7, 1998, I dined at the French Laundry with my friends Mark and James. They only accept reservations two months in advance, and at exactly 10am when their lines opened, James began auto-speed-dialing. He finally got through at 3pm, and we got a 5:30pm seating. It was worth the effort, for one of the finest meals I've ever had.

At the time, the five-course meal cost $65 (it's gone up since), and you had a choice of a set vegetarian meal, or a selection of dishes in five categories: starter, fish, meat, cheese and dessert. In addition, they keep bringing you little bites of other things between courses, and they were always a surprise. Here's what I got:

Starter: Marrow Bean Agnolotti enriched with Mascarpone cheese, white truffle oil and Périgord Truffles.

Bite: Salmon Tartare on a sesame cornette (cone-shaped wafer), filled with red onion crème fraîche. (It was gone in three bites.)

Fish course: "Pavé" of Atlantic Salmon with a "Fricassée" of Ronninger Farms Organic Potatoes, Melted Leeks and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce. (It was a small piece of salmon, maybe five or six bites, but it was the best piece of salmon I've ever had in my life.)

Bite: Broiled Sardine topped with Watercress, with Citrus Vinaigrette and Balsamic Reduction.

Meat course: Ris de Veau with Caramelized Cauliflower, Cauliflower Mousse and French Winter Truffles. ("Ris de veau" is sweetbreads, y'all. Stop grimacing, they're fabulous.)

Cheese course: "Vacherin", with a Vol Au Vent of Cinnamon Poached Fresh Prunes and Baby Greens. (It was a delicious soft French cheese, draped over a small puff pastry shell filled with spiced prunes that had been poached in Armagnac.)

Bite: Tiny apple, pear and banana tartlets with caramelized meringue.

Dessert: Best Ever Pear Sorbet, with Champagne Gelée and Poached Pear Salad. (It was garnished with a paper-thin, perfectly crystallized pear slice, right from the center of the pear.)

Bites: Chocolate truffles, and meringues filled with chocolate ganache.

With the meal, I drank a half-bottle of 1995 Cristom Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Mt. Jefferson Cuvée.
By the way, there's an accompanying photograph, and the article ends with some of Chef Thomas Keller's recipes from the restaurant: "Macaroni and Cheese" (a.k.a. Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo), and Parmagiano-Reggiano Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse. Oh my God.

And at the opposite end of the culinary spectrum,  there's this.

Bruuuuuuuuuuuce!   I was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan in high school. He was my rock 'n roll hero, my fiery sword that I could wield against the evil encroachment of "Frampton Comes Alive", the Bee Gees and "Saturday Night Fever" into my little high school world. I'm not as rabid a fan these days, and it had actually been years since I had put one of his albums on. I got into a conversation about his music not long ago, then went home and dug out my old half-speed mastered LP of "Born to Run". I put it on, heard the opening notes on harmonica and piano, sat there and sang along with "Thunder Road", and didn't miss a single lyric.

For a long time, the coolest Bruce Springsteen story I had heard was this: back in college at LMU, my friend Damian was having a birthday dinner at a small restaurant near the beach in Playa del Rey. They've got the cake out, and they're getting ready to sing "Happy Birthday", when a guy who had been eating quietly at a darkly lit booth came over to the table. He apologized for interrupting a private dinner, but he just wanted to come over and wish him a happy birthday, and would they mind if he sang along with them? He belted out "Happy Birthday to You", mostly solo ... because everyone else's jaw had dropped. It was, of course, Bruce.

Yesterday my friend Tom Krueger sent me another incredibly cool Springsteen story, which he said "reinforces why Springsteen's right up there with Brian Henneman on my list of rock 'n roll heroes."

Gotta love capitalism.   SF-News reports on the latest way to separate Trekkies from their money:

Canadian Cool Clear Wtaa and Starbase-1 Coffee are teaming up to launch a new brand of bottled water based on the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In the film, Dr. McCoy mentions "Altair Water," which is supposedly bottled in the mountains of planet Altair VI and "is widely regarded as the galaxy's finest natural beverage." Wtaa says it will use state-of-the-art water purification systems to create its 24th century Altair Water brand, which will carry a label that has been designed using various Star Trek icons. The bottled water will be available in the United States and Canada in sizes ranging from 12 ounces to 1.5 litres. Starbase-1 Coffee is a company that makes, markets and distributes Star Trek themed gourmet food.

  Wednesday, August 18, 1999
Attention-seeking teenage loser achieves goal.   So on the first day of school at Columbine, they found a swastika scrawled on the bathroom wall. One or two decidedly non-Nazi but decidedly stupid teenage geeks think to themselves, "Ya know, I bet if we scrawl a couple of swastikas on the bathroom wall, there's be a huge stink and a media uproar and it'll be all on the news and CNN and stuff, and we'll go home and lock ourselves up in our dirty, smelly, underwear-laden rooms and laugh." And the media gave them exactly what they wanted.

My boycott worked.   As soon as I heard about their opening, I said, "I loathe Sylvester Stallone, and I won't eat in any restaurant he co-owns." Plus, I was annoyed that about half of the historic Jax Brewery in the French Quarter was taken up by one of those places. Now they're going under.   HA-ha!

Mr. Jenkins' Last Martini.   An alcoholic haiku contest.

The food at my high school sucked.   The cafeteria director must've had a book entitled 365 Ways to Prepare Cheap Ground Beef Mixed With Textured Vegetable Protein, 'cause that's what almost all of it was.

We'd generally get a hamburger-oid thing still bearing the finger marks of the ladies who had squashed them into shape that morning, served on a heavy, coarse bun made out of some kind of Bisquick-oid stuff, a pile of vegetables right out of the big 7-pound #10 cans that were put through the de-flavorizing machine before serving, and if we were lucky, some French fries that were so limp you could tie them into intricate knots.

We never had anything like this.

NC-17 and the Evil MPAA Empire   Former Miramax exec Mark Lipsky talks about the useless pseudo-X rating and the useless MPAA.

Return of the iron-clads.   Wanna get your big break on TV by signing your life away to an iron-clad contract that'll have a ball and chain around your ankle for up to 12 years? Easy! Just join the cast of "Saturday Night Live".

Shouldn't it be illegal to sell buggy software?   On the heels of last week's announcement that Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 has a hideous security bug that displays your username and password every time you access a password-protected ftp site, SFGate offers an interesting article on the questionable legality of knowingly selling a defective software product. For instance, the auto industry is legally obligated to recall defective cars, and spends millions on it. Why should we have to put up with, for instance, endlessly buggy versions of Microsoft applications and OSes?

I'm not terribly fond of airports.   They seem to go out of their way to maximize your discomfort if you have to wait there longer than just a little while. I couldn't imagine being there as long as this guy:

In 1988, Iranian Merhan Nasseri, then 46, landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris after being denied entry into England because his passport, and United Nations refugee certificate, had been stolen. No country would take him without papers, including France, and there he has been ever since, in Terminal One, luggage at his side, reading, writing in his diary, studying economics, receiving food and newspapers from airport employees. News of the Weird reported on Nasseri in 1991, 1995 and 1998. On July 2, 1999, Belgium granted Nasseri refugee status, but at press time, he had not decided whether he wanted to leave the airport or not.  (From News of the Weird)

  Tuesday, August 17, 1999
Go, Cassini, go!   Today's the day when NASA's Cassini spacecraft does a fly-by of Earth, after having gotten a big boost from Venus' gravity and a little boost from ours. Doomsayers who fear its plutonium fuel supply think it'll crash into the Earth and poison us all.

Could happen. Then again, I could be walking down the street tomorrow, and someone could be hauling a giant safe up the side of a tall building, and the rope could break, and it could fall 20 stories and squash me flat as a pancake. That doesn't mean that I'm going to stay inside all the time just to be safe. Life is not risk-free. And the risk-free life wouldn't be terribly interesting.

Mine, mine, mine!   Heheh, no ... I'm afraid not. Turns out that AOL doesn't own the phrases "you have mail", "buddy list" or "instant message" after all.  HA-ha!

Awwww ... poor baby.   That L.A. institution, the pink horror that is Angelyne, apparently got her "Pepto-pink" 'Vette torched by an irate neighbor that she had been mean to one too many times. (Scroll down a bit on that last link for the bits about herself, which is in the latter part of the article.)

The guy who invented the mouse never made a penny from it, even though about a billion of them have been sold. (From The Scotsman, Edinburgh)

Bush's Death Watch.   "On June 17, George W. Bush signed his hundredth death warrant. His addiction to the death cult touches on every important aspect of his politics." By Christopher Hitchens, from The Nation.

George keeps mum in this week's installment of "This Modern World", by Tom Tomorrow.

  Monday, August 16, 1999
No Looka! yesterday, as you may have noticed. I had a busy weekend, which included lots of eating out and another trip to The Gamble House, one of my favorite structures on the planet.

Sign me up!   The BBC reports on the birth of a nation. The nation is "Cyber Yugoslavia", started by Yugoslavs "harking back to a golden age of tolerance and intellectual freedom", and it's a virtual country existing only on the Internet. They're so swamped with applications for citizenship that they've had to close the passport office down until they catch up. My friend Dule (who's from Belgrade) and I are already in line.

Donal Lunny, Irish music guru.   I've been a HUGE fan of his since I found my first Planxty album when I was 19. He's been involved in almost every major Irish music group since the early '70s, from Planxty to The Bothy Band to Moving Hearts as a musician, and then as a producer of just about everything. That, plus he's almost singlehandedly responsible for the proliferation of the bouzouki in Irish music, after it was introduced into the tradition by Johnny Moynihan.

His most recent album under his own name (and his first in 11 years) is called "Coolfin", and was in my Top 10 Albums of 1998 list. He's on tour at the moment (no L.A. dates listed, d'oh!), so see if he's playing near you and GO! There's an article about the current tour in the Boston Globe; check out his biography on Han's Irish Bouzouki Homepage, plus his entry at the Ceolas Celtic Music Archive.

Oh, and buy "Coolfin", too. It's fantastic. Here's a bit about it from Hummingbird Records, its Irish label. (Agus léirmheas as Gaeilge, freisin.) Actually, you should buy every album by every band he's ever been in. It might get a little expensive, but it'll be totally worth it. Email me if you want some help with this. And thanks to Jason from Bring the Rock for the heads up on the Globe article.

Jeeves doesn't always tell you what you ask him.   I went to the Ask Jeeves search engine page and asked, "Where can I find weather maps to put on my home page?" This is one of the results it returned.

You will win this soccer match...   or it's off to the torture chamber.

Bleuccchh.   Wes and I watched "Armageddon" on DVD last night. I managed to successfully avoid seeing it all these months, then succumbed 'cause it wasn't going to cost me anything other than my time. Gawd, what a big stinking piece of crap it was. It was a near-complete insult to my intelligence, but after having spent my entire childhood wanting to be an astronaut (and being a space geek to this day), at least I was able to have some fun picking apart how wildly inaccurate almost all the science in it is. Its only saving grace is that lots of stuff blowed up real good.

Should I?   Adam at has a review of a Weird Al Yankovic concert on his site; the guy who went had a great time. Weird Al's touring now, going to at least 34 cities, including a 9/26 date at the Greek in L.A. Something tells that that I'll grumble and procrastinate and say I don't wanna go, but if I do, I'll enjoy the hell out of it. Heck, I used to listen to Dr. Demento all the time when I was younger ...

  Saturday, August 14, 1999
Gag.  Retch.   Contemplate revenge.   My delightful next-door-neighbor has chosen today, a Saturday, when I'll be home all morning, to have his roof re-tarred. He could have done this on a weekday when nobody's home all day. Consequently, I have to sit in here and prepare for my radio show while my house fills with the stench of boiling tar. Alternately, I could close all the windows and slowly roast inside my own house. Lovely.

Maybe I could spread some manure on my front lawn next time he's having a dinner party. My landlord actually did that to me once; last Thanksgiving day, when I had eight people coming over for a dinner I'd slaved over for two days, he hired some guy to spread stinking cowshit all over my front lawn. It was thoughtless rather than malicious, but that didn't stop me from wanting to go over to his house and bury him up to his neck in the stuff.

Blair Barf-O-Rama!   Jerky handheld camerawork + motion sickness-prone moviegoers = big stinky messes for poor underpaid theatre ushers to clean.

The anti-deep-linking snit gets deeper.   DaveNet reports that InfoWorld is apparently quite serious about their prohibition of linking into their site. This sums up the foolishness of this policy rather succinctly: "Bottom-line, could the web get by without InfoWorld? Yes. Could InfoWorld exist without support from the web? I think not."

Altavista offers Internet access for free.   But of course, nothing is free.

1. AltaVista FreeAccess includes a banner ad window which must remain on your desktop at all times; if closed, it will drop the connection.

2. It's only for Wintel systems, not for Macs.

3. Big Brother is watching you. From their help page: "Q:  Are you able to track my web usage?   A:  In order to provide you with customized advertisements, AltaVista FreeAccess monitors your web surfing patterns. This is done to make sure you see advertisements that are suited to your tastes and preferences." (Yeah, plus they want ideas for new porn sites to look at!)

4. They're in bed with CyberSitter. After you give them lots of personal information about yourself, their download screen offers you a free trial of the CyberSitter censorware product, with a 25% off purchase if you like it. This is the worst and most notorious of all the censorware products, with a CEO and staff who mailbomb people who write to them with a complaint. This is also the product which, when you run the installer, scans the browser cache on your hard drive to see if you've visited anti-censorware sites like Peacefire; if you have, it aborts.

Smells pretty bad to me.

Great idea - another womanizing President.   Actually, I think he should just wrestle Jesse for the job.

Iridium bites the dust after losing tons of money from lack of customers, and defaulting in US$1.5 billion (with a "B") in loans. From Glassdog's Memo: "Who knew that no one would really want an $1,800 phone to use with a $50.00 a month service that costs $6 a minute? Really? Who could have guessed? Well, obviously whomever loaned Iridium $1.5 billion that they will not be getting back. That'd be our guess."

I hate Starbucks.   1) Their coffee sucks. 2) Their stores are ubiquitous, and are usually placed in neighborhoods with an apparent strategy to drive locally-owned coffeehouses out of business. 3) Their coffee sucks. 4) Their service and atmosphere suck. 5) Their coffee sucks. 6) They just bought out a small San Francisco-based coffee chain called Pasqua, which I actually kind of liked (they may have been a chain too, but they had good sandwiches right downstairs from where I work), and immediately started screwing it up by eliminating products, discounts on end-of-the-day pastries and leftover sandwiches, and the express lunch. 7) Their coffee really, really sucks.

I could go on. I encourage all of you to support independently-owned coffee establishments whenever possible, and to just say no to corporate monoliths like Starbucks who are gradually wiping out regional diversity in this country. Others feel more strongly than I, apparently; SFgate reports about a man who's mad as hell at Starbucks, and who isn't going to take it anymore. Check out the guy's website, Starbucked.

Terry Pratchett (one of my favorite writers) talks about the magic of The Lord of the Rings.

  Friday, August 13, 1999
Booooo, scary!   Friday the 13th, kids! If this doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.

And this (particularly the listing under the heading "Practices").

And this (he goes on for 33 pages).

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins have nothing on these people. This is real-life scary.

Happy birthday, Hitch.   Alfred Hitchcock was born 100 years ago today. (How appropriate for Friday the 13th ... go ahead and say hi, Hitch.) TVLand is rerunning several episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", and Turner Classic Movies is showing "Marnie", "Suspicion" and "Dial M for Murder" today. American Movie Classics is running "The Wrong Man" and "Stage Fright" tonight. Universal Studios released many of Hitch's best -- they'll be touring some of them at art houses around the country. Test your Hitchcock knowledge with a trivia quiz. (Cue Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" ... or play it yourself).

More scariness.   Here's a spooky little cautionary sf story about a future in which we have lost any vestige of privacy. Still want that Pentium III?

Happy birthday, Danny.   The Partridge Family's Danny Bonaduce was born 40 years ago today. (Perhaps even more approprite for Friday the 13th.) He's had such a great career, hasn't he? And it's only getting better.

(I am two degrees of separation from Danny Bonaduce. Jeremy Gelbwaks, a resident of New Orleans and the first drummer of the Partridge Family before said drummer mysteriously transmogrified into a blond-haired boy, emailed me once.  Woo.)

Retrofest!   Rhino Records, "the worlds leading pop culture label" (for whom I've done a few things) will present their first Annual RetroFest tonight at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Catapult yourself back into the '70s and '80s with a tribute to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and musical performances from Missing Persons and Berlin. If you can't make it to the Civic, treat yourself to the live webcast via streaming Quicktime 4 video.

I love North Carolina barbecue.   And it's damned impossible to find anywhere else. It's awful-looking, a shredded mess of pork in a thin, vinegary sauce that lots of people find unappealing. I find it very appealing, although I've never seen it anywhere near where I live. Fortunately, I have lots of friends in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area whom I visit them at least once a year, so I can get my fix of 'cue. But to the rescue comes July's issue of Bon Appetit, which has a feature story on how to do barbecue (also called "pulled pork") their way. It's just about perfect, and worth all the effort. Here's how ya do it.

We don't get fooled again.   Tim Scanlin at Ink Blot was appalled to hear three Who songs being used in commercials recently. That sort of thing is happening a lot lately, leading to cries of "sell out" to some of the musicians whose songs are being used. 1) It's not always their idea. 2) Even if it is, a songwriter who controls his or her publishing has a perfect right to use that work to generate income, as long as he or she is comfortable with it, and 3) If this bothers you, why don't you just do as I do, and avoid watching commercials altogether?

Speaking of which...   I hate billboards too. Raise your fists and shout, "Liberation!"

I had a burger at Burger King the other day.   I don't normally do such things. My now-rare burger indulgences tend to be at cool little local places, like L.A. Burger on Pico and Stearns (best avocado bacon cheeseburger I've ever had). And if I do succumb to fast food, it's almost always El Pollo Loco, or In 'n Out if I want a burger. But I was heading to a concert right after I finished my shift at the radio station, there weren't any other places around, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get dinner until after the show. I got a 1/4 pound Classic Cheeseburger, and y'know ... it was actually pretty good. Nicely broiled, tasted like a real hamburger, and didn't make me feel icky like that nasty McD*n*ld's food does. I don't usually praise megacorporations, but if you're jonesing for a burger and there aren't any In 'n Outs around, I'd say definitely go for the Burger King rather than the Golden Arches.

Only one time in my life did I truly enjoy a McDonald's meal.

Oh, and if the icky food (save for the fries) wasn't enough, here's another good reason to avoid McDonald's, if this trend continues.

From The Onion:   Christ 'Categorically Denies' Speaking To Lutheran-College Administrator. Also, from this week's News Briefs ...

Home-Schooled Student Opens Fire On Breakfast Nook
OCALA, FL--In the latest act of youth violence to shock the nation, 14-year-old home-schooler Jeffrey Kunz opened fire on the family breakfast nook Monday, killing three and injuring two. "We were just about to start Jeffrey's algebra lesson when I heard several loud pops," said Iris Kunz, 44, the assailant's mother/teacher and one of the injured. "But then I saw blood on Jeffrey's sister Melissa and realized someone was shooting." The gun-wielding teen, who was eventually subdued by SWAT-team agents, was said to be angry at his mother over a science grade.

  Thursday, August 12, 1999
Une Fête Sur La Prairie Acadienne!   Tune into today beginning at 12 noon Central Time (10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern, 2000 GMT) for The Eunice Folklife Festival, a day-long musical celebration in conjunction with Le Congrès Mondial Acadien. The entire day's performances will be broadcast locally by KJJB 105.5 FM and webcast live on LouisianaRadio. Here's a rough schedule: Noon - Jo Jo Reed & The Happy Hill Playboys (zydeco); 3:30pm - Blou (an Acadian band from Nova Scotia); 6:00pm - The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band (traditional Cajun); 8:00pm, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys (traditional and contemporary Cajun). Écoutez, et laissez les bons temps rouler!

Kansas prepares students for 19th Century.   The Kansas Board of Education (which seems to be comprised of four humans and six apes, oddly enough), has voted to remove all mention of evolution from Kansas school curricula. I predict a battle brewing amongst the religious conservatives who form the majority of the board; there'll be schism over whether to alter the biology curriculum to teach that babies come from the stork, or from the cabbage patch. Keep it up, folks ... next year, make sure the kids know that the Earth is flat, and the sun revolves around it!

Pat Robertson sez, "Thou Shalt Kill"...   but only if you're a troublesome world leader. Pat says he doesn't see "anything un-Christian about it." I wonder which Bible ol' Pat is reading? "Then, lobbest thou the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch toward thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it." Oh no, wait ... this isn't a Monty Python sketch. He really said that.

And now ...   But then again, God doesn't really hate anybody. Maybe somebody could write that on a 2x4 and insert it somewhere where Fred and company might notice it. (Heads up from Kikaze.)

Post-"Mars Attacks" redemption?   The other night, we saw a trailer for the new Tim Burton film, "Sleepy Hollow". Yep, as in "The Legend of", with Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, with Christopher Walken, Jeffrey Jones and Christina Ricci. This looks totally cool.

More nifty webloggage.   A neato new weblog has come to my attention (well, I'm not entirely sure how new it is in the grand scheme of things, but it's new to me) -- Medley, brought to you by Lynnette Millett. She's a lot of fun to read, and besides ... anyone who puts recipes in his or her weblog is aces in my book. :^)

Whoa, Nellie!   I met Alison Arngrim last night. Wes and I went to the monthly Catalyst potluck, where she was the guest of honor. This was a hoot, having grown up watching "Little House on the Prairie", and delighting in each week's installment of what that awful little snot Nellie Oleson would do to wreak her own little brand of havoc in Walnut Grove. Alison is a thoroughly delightful person -- a great storyteller, funny as hell, very down-to-earth, and has been a tireless worker for AIDS education and related organizations since 1986. Fix your curls, practice making mean faces in the mirror, then head on over to Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, the Allison Arngrim/Nellie Oleson Website.

I miss the Skyvue.   It was the local drive-in movie theatre closest to my folks' house, out on the Chef Highway near Downman Road. I remember seeing quite a few movies there, along with my parents in their old Ford. It's long-gone now, and I'm not even sure what's there now (they tore it down so they could build more eastern New Orleans urban decay, I think).

In the Los Angeles area where I live now, there have been more and more drive-ins meeting the wrecker's ball. The most recent casualty was the Culver City Drive-In by my old house, which made way for a condo development, and the last drive-in I actually went to, in Pacoima, is gone too. I went with my friends Rick, Kevin and Guy to see "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Kevin and Guy insisted on hiding in the trunk to get in for free, even though I thought they were idiots for doing it. It was totally obvious, too; in the rear-view mirror after we paid for our two tickets, I saw the guy look at us and take the license number down. Half an hour later, after we had bought $25 worth of god-awful food at the concession stand, we got kicked out after failing to come up with the other two ticket stubs.

Relive your old drive-in memories and make new ones, with a visit to The Drive-in Theater, a really nifty site where you can check for the locations of drive-ins near you, by state.

  Wednesday, August 11, 1999
Clifftop was fabulous.   I'm baaaack ... well-rested and musically invigorated after having a fantastic time at Clifftop.

We were lucky enough to have camped in a great location -- tons of fantastic old-time jam sessions all around us, including The Ill-Mo Boys across the path from where we were camped. Kevin Wimmer from Balfa Toujours was behind us playing Cajun music the whole time, and an uilleann piper had set up camp just to the left of my tent on the second day (waking up to the sweet tone of the Irish pipes is one of life's great ways to get up). Plus ...

My friend Ellen Bloom from KPCC had told me to look for her brother Ken Bloom, who plays and builds various traditional instruments and who told her he'd be there. Not only did I find him, I discovered that the Civil War-era-looking canvas tent next to mine was his, and I got recruited to sing and play tin whistle in his band before I even realized who he was. The band, called Tunesmith, went on last in the Non-Traditional Band Contest, playing a great old Civil War tune called "As We Go Marching Along". It was a total blast, and as Ken put it, "The best thing is that we have no chance in hell of placing, so we'll just go up there, we'll have fun, and we won't have to worry about having to learn two more songs for the finals." I didn't even meet two of the band members until 20 minutes before we were supposed to go on stage. Finest kind, as pickup old-time bands go.

I was happy to get a chance to see The Mando Mafia again, and this year they won the Non-Traditional Band Contest (I was proud to lose to them). They play a combination of old-time, bluegrass, Eastern European and other types of music from around the world arranged for mandolin, octave mandolin, mandocello, fiddle, guitar and bass. (They're amazing. Buy their CD.)

Besides lots of regular folks playing old-time music, there were lots of well-known faces and amazing musicians too -- Mike Seeger, Rafe Stefanini, Bruce Molsky, Walt Koken, Dan Levenson, J. P. Fraley, and many more wonderful musicians ranging in age from 90-year-old Melvin Wine to 13-year-old Jake Krack. Although I missed them this year, in past years I'd seen folks like Alice Gerrard, Brad Leftwich and Jody Stecher there too. But this year there was one musician I had been waiting for all year to see...

I finally heard Dwight Diller play for the first time. He's an amazing man, simple and humble but extremely talented. He's a storehouse of knowledge of the traditional music of West Virginia, and perhaps the man single-handedly responsible for preserving and helping to pass along the music of the revered Hammons family. He played lots of fiddle and banjo tunes, sang some songs, told us stories and the history behind the music and some of the tunes, and also told us this: "For those of you just learning to play this music, this is very important. This is homemade music. This is music of the folk. There are no stars in homemade music. I might be able to play better than you, technically. But if you play honestly, your music is just as good as mine."  Amen.

$1500 very well spent.   OffBeat (the Louisiana music magazine) have finally completed their listing of The 100 Essential Louisiana CDs.

The Devil's Music!   As my friend Steve Kelley put it, "if I was forced to listen to Dave Matthews, I might start destroying shit too."

More on the War Against Ticket Booth Tyranny.   Jon Katz continues his rant against the R-movie carding crackdown, and warns that not only is it doing no good, it's pissing people off to the extent that they'd be happy to wait for the DVD rather than put up with power-crazed, martinet theatre managers.

Bag the MPAA.   Yesterday's Los Angeles Times gives us an article on the growing opposition to the useless MPAA movie ratings system. The rebuttals from MPAA President "Clueless" Jack Valenti demonstrate how completely out of touch he is regarding not just movies but with what parents really want in a rating system. I think it's time for him to retire.

Speaking of tyranny...   The FBI wants to rule the world, it seems, and aims to block global satellite telephones 'cause they can't tap 'em easily.

Sacre bleu!   The French are at it again. It seems that while lots of 'em are partying, some of 'em are all freaked out about today's total eclipse of the sun in Europe, because fashion designer Paco Rabanne has predicted that the Russian space station Mir will fall out of the sky and destroy Paris. Glassdog's Memo says that a good comparison would be "if Calvin Klein declared that New York was going to be destroyed by an earthquake based on his interpretation of an Edgar Cayce dream as told to Jeanne Dixon." (By the way, Paris is still there.)

Leakage? No thanks.   Seems that Olestra, Procter and Gamble's fat substitute, isn't catching on. (SFGate)

Yessss, Preciousssssss ...   Peter Jackson's upcoming film of "Lord of the Rings" has an official site, plus there's a FAQ site. (Yes, I know that quote is from The Hobbit and not LOTR...)

More "don't link to me" foolishness.   First it was Universal Studios banning direct links to their trailers, now someone who should know better -- -- is requiring permission for putting a link to one of their articles. Why are these people, of all people, so unclear on the concept of how the Web works?

Awwwww.   I hope they used the nicest, cleanest loo in the house to flush him.

  Tuesday, August 3 - 10, 1999 - Off to Clifftop!
Woohoo, vacation!   No updates until August 10, 'cause I'm out of town. I'll be visiting some friends in North Carolina, and then we'll head up to West Virginia for the Appalachian String Band Music Festival, at Camp Washington-Carver in Clifftop, W.V. Three-and-a-half days of camping, relaxing, and listening to lots and lots of old-time music, including an Appalachian masters' showcase by the legendary Dwight Diller. Aaaahhhhhhhh.

I'll try to give you plenty to read in the meantime.

"It's not nice to stand on people's graves."   "The Blair Witch Project" opened nationwide last weekend, and made $28.5 million in three days. (Wow.) I'd say that this more than recoups its miniscule budget, which I've heard as being either $20,000 or $60,000 (does it even matter at this point?) However ... some of the people of Burkittsville, Maryland (pop. 200) are not amused.

For your listening pleasure...   My good friend Chris Clarke will be DJing on cool new Internet radio station Spike Radio this week, from 8 to 10am Pacific Time. He'll undoubtedly play a mix of wacked and wonderful stuff, so check him out.

Congrès Mondial Acadien opens.   The World Acadian Congress, a huge cultural festival uniting and reuniting people of Acadian ancestry from Louisiana, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and elsewhere, opened this weekend in towns throughout southern Louisiana. It looks like such a cool festival, and I really wish I could go. Waaah. The fest runs through August 15, and will close with Cri du Bayou, a huge concert at the Cajundome in Lafayette, featuring Zachary Richard, BeauSoleil, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie, Feufollet, Bruce Daigrepont plus a host of French-Canadian musicians. I know I'll be having fun in Clifftop, dammit, but I wanna go! Oh well.

Oooo!   Sir Ian McKellen has been cast as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's forthcoming "Lord of the Rings".

WOMAD hits the road.   Peter Gabriel's World of Music Arts and Dance festivals began in 1982. WOMAD caught my interest immediately, since I was (and still am) a big Gabriel fan, and was very unfamiliar with the kinds of music from around the world that Gabriel was championing. (This was long before the "worldbeat" explosion.) Nine years later I'd be playing this kind of stuff as a DJ on public radio, and I got my jump-start from Gabriel and his WOMAD project. WOMAD kicked off its current tour this past weekend in Seattle; CNN has a mention.

Google! is my new favorite search engine.   There was an interesting article in the L.A. Times yesterday about search engines, and how some people spam them or "optimize" their pages by inserting lots of invisible keywords, etc., in order to raise their ranking in the search engines. Feh. I hate that.

There's a relatively new search engine I've been using lately called Google! that has a way around that -- Google! ranks sites based on the number of other sites that link to them, which is pretty cool. They've also got a nifty additional feature -- the "I'm feeling lucky" button. There's a regular "Search" button like on every other search engine, but if you press "I'm feeling lucky", Google! will take you directly to the topmost ranked site based on your keyword entry. So why are they my favorite search engine? Well, I have to admit that I'm partial to sites whose titles consist of one word followed by an exclamation point. But the main reason is this:  go to Google!, enter the keyword "gumbo", and press "I'm feeling lucky." :^)

Can't we all just get along?   More in this dopey instant messaging war between Microsoft and AOL. Apparently Microsoft now wants a meeting with other online service providers to discuss an IM standard. But it seems that they neglected to invite AOL.

More on Los Lobos.   Salon talks to the "wolves in sheep's clothing" about their career and their fabulous new record, "This Time".

Spammer scum nailed in court.   Slashdot reports on a small ISP who sued a spammer in a California small claims court, and won. YAY! The law includes spam sent to a California address as well, so I'd like to see lots and lots of people sue that scumbag sonofabitch from Benchmark Print Supply in Atlanta, who is the worst spammer on the net. Better yet ... I'd like to see him boiled in toner.

Wackos burn Canadian flag in front of Supreme Court in Ottawa.   The utterly vile, utterly nuts Fred Phelps clan are at it again. You know them, the ones who picket the funerals of people with AIDS, the ones who picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral, the "God hates fags" sign-wavers. That lot. They were inexplicably allowed into Canada so that they could protest the Canadian Supreme Court's recent decision favoring the rights of same-sex couples, and then proceeded to burn the Canadian flag flag on the Court's front steps. These loonies had the gall to complain about having been interrogated at the border. As this PlanetOut article points out ... can you imagine what U.S. Customs and Immigration would do to a bunch of foreigners coming to the U.S. to burn the American flag on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court? Sheesh. (The Phelpsloonies' new "God Hates America" site is even crazier than the other one.)

Two left feet.   I am a member of a very large and much-aligned group of people who seem to suffer unchecked scorn. We are the dancing-impaired. Sure, there's music that makes me want to move my body, but for me to do it in any organized fashion is a complete impossibility. I usually avoid any embarrassment by merely avoiding such activities altogether. Unfortunately, many of the dancing-impaired don't; they actually think they can do it, and subject themselves to public ridicule.

Can anybody wade through this??   I like and use ICQ, but their home page has got to be one of the worst, most cluttered and essentially unusable pages on the net. Whoever designed this site needs a good whoop upside the head with a 2x4.

Recipe of the week:   Chilled Lime-Coconut Pie with Macadamia-Coconut Crust. (Oh my.) "You put de lime in de coconut and eat 'em both up ..."

See y'all next week!   Okay, time to publish ... it's 1:45am, I'm still not packed, and the cab gets here in three hours. Typical.

  Monday, August 2, 1999
Well heck, what can one guy do with $100 billion anyway?   The London Sunday Times reports that Bill Gates is giving away his fortune, leaving his kids with $10 million each, so that the world can be rid of plagues like malaria and AIDS. Very noble; fair play to him. Glassdog's "Memo" also reports that "Gates reportedly will be spending his retiring years learning how to use soap and shampoo." (Okay, that part isn't true. Well, probably not.) In the meantime, I can't help but wonder ... y'know, $100,000 would only be .0001% of that amount. He could give that much to me and he wouldn't even miss it; it'd pay my debts, set me up with a nice down payment on that old Craftsman house in Pasadena that I want and leave enough left over for a nice little nest egg. That'd leave the world $99,999,900,000.00 to eradicate those diseases. I bet that'd still be enough.

The Internet Antichrist Index.   This is what happens when you stumble into enough weird sites. My friend Michael built this site, which is a riot. He has no mail-to link, so if you find another funny Antichrist page and want to contribute to it, send it to me. So far he's missing the entry for my own personal Antichrist -- Martha Stewart. (Oh, speaking of whom ... here's the answer to that question that I know has been burning in your intensely inquisitive minds for years now. What if Martha Stewart was a goth?)

Another amusing "South Park" anecdote.   Speaking of Michael ... when I told him about my little "South Park" movie carding experience, he told me another story. A co-worker of his took her 14-year-old son to see "South Park" last week. It was a matinée, and there were only a few people in the theatre. As she sat down, she mused aloud, "I'm probably going to Mom Hell for this." One of the two guys sitting in front of her turned around and said emphatically, "Yes. You are." Her son replied, "Oh, she's not really my mom. She's just some homeless woman I got to buy the ticket for me." As it turned out, that's exactly how Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman got in to see the "Terrance and Philip" movie in the movie. Life imitates art without even realizing it.

Heads up, Irish music fans.   RootsWorld, the best online magazine of world roots and folk music, presents an interview with Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of the band Altan (one of my very favorite Irish traditional bands) about the group's past and future. Check out the band's discography and listen to sound samples too. By the way, her Irish Gaelic name would translate into English as "Margaret Mooney", and it's pronounced "ma-RAID nyee WEE-nee".

"Mystery Men" opens on Friday.   I know very little about this movie, except from having seen and enjoyed the trailer. All I can say so far is that I really want to see it; any film that has William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo and Paul Reubens in it has got to have something going for it. (I'll go see just about anything that has Macy in it.) I'm glad to see Reubens in a movie again, too; he never quite got over that silly, wanking incident.

  Sunday, August 1, 1999
July's Looka! is now archived, if anyone wants to do any catching up.

Landmark goes live.   Landmark Theatres, one of the few theatre chains devoted to independent and foreign film, goes live with their new web site today. One of my oldest friends (and former roommate) Perry Glorioso works for them, editing their film calendar among other things, and encourages everyone to visit and vote for your favorite foreign-language film of all time.

Jesus of the Week,  by Peter Gilstrap. Plus this week's special, the origin episode!

Uncle Forry!   When I was a kid, I read Famous Monsters of Filmland with near-religious devotion, and Forrest J Ackerman was that world's high priest. It's been a while since I read that mag (and the now-departed Warren horror comics Creepy and Eerie), but Forry's still around, in his memorabilia-stuffed museum-home in "Horrorwood, Karloffornia". Peter Gilstrap profiles the Ackermonster, who's still with us and going strong at 83; may he keep having fun with monsters long after he's undead.

More Ender! Yeah you rite...   Orson Scott Card has written another novel in the "Ender" series. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are two of my all-time favorite sf books; Xenocide and Children of the Mind, the subsequent two books in the series, didn't do quite as much for me. Now we have Ender's Shadow, which is actually a re-telling of the first novel, but from the perspective of another character -- Bean (remember him?). I'm really looking forward to this one. CNN has a review.

Rrumm dee pucketyyy, num ting p'TOO! NI! NI! Niiiii! Yaoowwwwwwwww!   Last year, during the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival's "Tribute to Monty Python", broadcast on HBO, the surviving members of MP (and an urn of Graham Chapman's purported ashes, which they spilled onto the floor and into which they poured sips of tea) said they'd be "doing something" for their thirtieth anniversary, which is this year. I'm hoping it'll be something other than the forthcoming book called Monty Python Speaks!, the first chapter of which you can read here.

KPFA post-mortem.   Kate Coleman's article counts the casualties in the ridiculous mess of inter-leftie squabbling. (LA Weekly)

Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Slave Chicks!   Boooooo, scary kids! Okay, not really, but a nifty cheap 3-D effect you can see on your computer without 3-D glasses, even though it just looks like someone barfed an abstract painting all over your screen, but with a Citroën logo floating in the middle of it.

Speaking of scary...   It's 2am as I publish this, kindasorta putting off heading to bed. Michael, Kris and I just got finished watching "The Blair Witch Project" again, this time on tape (that one I got at work, after Sundance) in my living room with all the lights turned out. They just left, and now as I'm sitting alone in my room writing this, all the dogs in the neighborhood just started howling simultaneously. Jesus.

(They actually do this every night, more or less, but usually not this late; plus tonight their timing is ... impeccable.)

Thanks to regular Looka! contributors Wesly Moore, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Tom Krueger, Michael Pemberton and Steve Gardner.
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