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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, my opinions and whatever else tickles my fancy. Please feel free to contribute.

Chuck Taggart
icq: 8591604

Looka! Archive

December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999

Recent Epinions:

1. Wusthof: Knives for Serious Cooks

2. The Isle of Skye

3. The French Laundry (Wine Country, CA): Meal of a lifetime

4. Sanamluang: Best Thai food in L.A.

5. Volkswagen New Beetle: Fun fun fun!

Weblogs I like:

The BradLands
Bring the Rock
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Lake Effect
Mr. Barrett
the nubbin
One Swell Foop
Robot Wisdom
The Other Side
Whim and Vinegar

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  Stuff worth reading
   Updated (almost) daily | last tweak @ 12:01am PST, 12/31/99

    My opinions are contained herein.
    If you don't want to read 'em, feel free to go elsewhere.

  Friday, December 31, 1999
Y2K hits tomorrow.   Gee, I hope my shoes still work.

Have a happy and safe New Year, y'all.

  Thursday, December 30, 1999
'Member these?   Last week when I was home for Christmas, my dad was up in the attic looking for something and couldn't find it. In his frustration, he kept throwing things down through the attic door, shouting "Get rid of this crap ... throw it all away!" But in some of the boxes was some of my old stuff, so I started going through it...

I found a couple dozen record/filmstrip sets for my old General Electric Show 'n Tell Phonoviewer set. It looked like a TV with a record player on top, and you'd synchronize the record with these little filmstrips you'd shove in a slot in the top, and it'd tell a kid's story. It is truly stone knives and bearskins compared to what kids see on their computers nowadays, but I liked it (their version of "The Fall of the House of Usher" used to scare the bejesus out of me), and I hadn't thought of this thing in years.

"Geez, I can't throw this out!" says I. "Stuff this old will sell for gazillions on eBay!"

Uhrm. Guess again.

Daily catharsis:   Got frustrations? Take it out on an Ewok. They need to make one of these with Jar-Jar, too. (Via NTK)

Brrrrr ... scary.   Clowns have given me the creeps since I was a kid. I didn't have too much of a problem with Bozo and such, but ones I'd see in real life just didn't seem ... right. My friend Tracy, on the other hand, was completely terrified and revolted by clowns. I guess she's not the only one. While randomly Googling, I came across this anti-clown site, featuring a truly terrifying site logo.

By the way, how many of you have seen Bobcat Goldthwait's magnum opus "Shakes the Clown", the "Citizen Kane" of alcoholic clown movies?

  Wednesday, December 29, 1999
Yum!   The Los Angeles Times' excellent Food Section recaps their Best Recipes of 1999.

The Mother of all Y2K bugs?   Apparently Iraq is extremely Y2K non-compliant. Pity Saddam's brain won't crash too.

Feliz Navidad this!   A gaggle of ungrateful little bastards attack Santa.

Oops.   A Wired News story about the spectacular failures of the century mentioned one that I missed when it happened:

Expensive finger slip (1994): Juan Pablo Davila, working for the Chilean government-owned Codelco Company, accidentally types "buy" when he means to type "sell" while trading commodities on his computer.

After realizing his mistake, Davila tries to rectify it with a frenzy of buying and selling, ultimately losing approximately 0.5 percent of the country's gross national product.

His name has since entered the language: "davilar," meaning "to screw up royally."

Welcome back, Adam. is back, now with its own domain, after AOL unilaterally and without notice deleted his entire directory because they didn't like some of his content. I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but just say no to AOL.

Quote of the past 99/100 of the century:   "Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe. Sometimes I think we're not. In both cases the thought is equally shocking."  -- Arthur C. Clarke

  Tuesday, December 28, 1999
Hope y'all had a nice Christmas.   I had a nice visit back in New Orleans, and everybody in the family raved about my new glazed sweet potatoes and pears dish, as well as the wild mushroom and tasso bread pudding (recipe forthcoming).

L.A.'s local TV news = abysmal.   Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. I've long since sworn off all local L.A. news except for riots and earthquakes (and it still sucks even then, but what else are you going to do?). Take an indepth look at how bad it is in this past week's L.A. Weekly. You'll read the examples, and you won't believe it.

In another great L.A. Weekly story, Harold Meyerson talks about a truly meaningful New Year's Eve.

  Sunday, December 26, 1999
Medicine Show 3 Live!   In what is becoming a wonderful annual tradition in Lafayette, Medicine Show 3 will be taking place tonight at Grant Street Dancehall, benefitting the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Fund for Traditional Music. The concert will feature The Garth Alper Trio, Rufus Jagneaux, The Chris LeBlanc Band, Filé and Balfa Toujours, and will be webcast live via tonight beginning at 8:00pm CST (0200 GMT/UTC on 12/27). Tune in, buy the fabulous CDs of the Medicine Show 1 and 2 concerts, and all your money will go to benefit the fund.

  Saturday, December 25, 1999
Merry Christmas!   Joyeux Noël, Nollaig shona dhaoibh, Feliz Navidad, &c.

For a dose of the true meaning of Christmas, listen to once-blacklisted storyteller John Henry Faulk's Christmas story, courtesy of National Public Radio.

  Friday, December 24, 1999
I kinda like Christmas Eve better than I like Christmas Day. Usually we have a small family gathering and I make gumbo, but we're skipping that this year since we're having the entire extended family over tomorrow and have quite enough to cook. I think I'll take it easy, watch part of the 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story" on TNT, make some eggnog, season it liberally with brandy, and relax...

  Thursday, December 23, 1999
Today's cooking tip: Lobster   Love eating them but are squeamish about cooking them? Take this advice:

Everyone loves these delectable crustaceans, but many cooks are squeamish about placing them into boiling water alive, which is the only proper method of preparing them. Frankly, the easiest way to eliminate your guilt is to establish theirs by putting them on trial before they're cooked. The fact is, lobsters are among the most ferocious predators on the sea floor, and you're helping reduce crime in the reefs. Grasp the lobster behind the head, look it right in its unmistakably guilty eyestalks and say, "Where were you on the night of the 21st?", then flourish a picture of a scallop or a sole and shout, "Perhaps this will refresh that crude neural apparatus you call a memory!" The lobster will squirm noticeably. It may even take a swipe at you with one of its claws. Incorrigible. Pop it into the pot. Justice has been served, and shortly you and your friends will be, too.

-- "Cooking: The Art of Using Appliances and Utensils into Excuses and Apologies"
Speaking of recipes...   Let's get in a few.

I'm generally a humble, modest kinda guy, but I must confess that my recipes for gumbo and jambalaya are among the best you'll find anywhere. (*ahem*)

And if you're in the mood for a shrimp po-boy (or "poor boy", to use the original term), here's how ya do it:    First, you start with the right kind of French bread -- not always easy to find outside New Orleans. It has to be crisp on the outside but not too hard, and soft on the inside. Not too wide, either. Slice it lengthwise. Then ya fry ya shrimp. My grandma would peel and devein, then dip each shrimp in Creole mustard (yellow mustard, Dijon or whatever mustard you like also works well), then roll in seasoned (salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper) cornmeal. Fry until just done, then pile 'em up on the French bread, lots of 'em. If ya like ya po-boy dressed, add mynez, lettuce and tomato, and pickles. Slather it with hot sauce (Crystal or Tabasco) and a little ketchup if you insist, and dig in.

  Wednesday, December 22, 1999
Didja think I woulda shot my eye out??   If I had to pick a favorite Christmas film, it'd probably be "A Christmas Story" (apologies to Frank Capra, George, Mary and Zuzu). It's a shame that the new DVD release is such a bad job, such a botched transfer, that it's apparently almost unwatchable.

I first showed that movie to my dad several years ago, predicting he'd love it -- he'd have been roughly Ralphie's age, since he's around the same age Jean Shepherd was. As I predicted, he loved it, laughing that big laugh of his and rolling around on the sofa in hysterics.

After it ended, he said, "Be right back," and went out into the back yard. I heard him open and close the shed, and then he came back into the living room, carrying ... a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Lightning-Loader Range Model Air Rifle with a shockproof High Adventure Trail Compass set right in the stock. In perfect condition. In the same box, even, that Ralphie's came in.

To use a nice old traditional Irish Catholic term ... I plotzed.

"Where the ... what the ... I never saw this before!" I sputtered. "How come you never gave this to me??"

Dad looked at me, mildly amused, and matter-of-factly said, "Because it's mine."


Well, it still wouldn't have been better than my favorite Christmas present of all time, the metallic blue bike with the steering wheel instead of handlebars, with the banana seat, drag brake and sissy bar. That bike rocked.

And don't forget... if you're a big "Christmas Story" fan, the best present you could get would be that Major Award. It may be too late for this year, but it's not too early to hint for next year.

Dammit!   So much for my longtime plan to spend New Year's Eve in an elevator. Suppose I'll have to find some feckin' party now...

  Tuesday, December 21, 1999
Oh, I dunno, Sparky...   There was a letter in today's Los Angeles Times which said:

An open letter to Charles Schulz:

As a 91-year-old Charlie Brown, I don't think anyone can appreciate what I have endured over the years. I was Charlie Brown long before Charlie Brown became Charlie Brown, so I think that this is owed all us older Charlie Browns: Before he retires permanently, PLEASE LET HIM ACTUALLY KICK THE DAMN FOOTBALL! OK?

-- Charles P. Brown, Sylmar

Oh no. That would just be ... wrong.

Speaking of the Times...   The paper has finally officially responded to their egregious breach of journalistic ethics, which occurred in October. The 10/10 Sunday magazine was a three-times-larger edition completely devoted to the new Staples Center arena in downtown L.A., with whom the Times had a sponsorship deal; turns out that they secretly agreed to split the advertising profits from the issue 50/50 with Staples. Outrage ensued from hundreds of Times reporters as well as the retired publisher emeritus. Yesterday the paper published an independently written and edited special report on the fiasco.

The paper's odious new CEO vowed that he would "take a bazooka" to the traditional wall separating the paper's editorial content from its business and advertisers' interests ... looks like this ethical disaster might disarm his bazooka.

Good for the soul?   New Orleans' Gambit Weekly tells us about what happens when you go out to Jackson Square, hang a banner that says "Confessions Heard Here", sit beneath it ... and wait.

  Monday, December 20, 1999
Wow.   The Vermont Supreme Court ruled today that gay couples must be granted the same benefits and protections given married couples, the first decision of its kind in the nation.

Oh yeah, baby.   New Orleans' Gambit Weekly names Louis Armstrong as "Best New Orleanian of the 20th Century". (Well hey, I'm sure that nobody who comes along next year will do better...)

Speaking of whom, visit when you get a chance.

Keep talkin', y'all.   I'm really enjoying this ongoing dialogue on film between Roger Ebert, Elvis Mitchell and a few other film critics.

Missed Q.   English actor Desmond Llewelyn, who portrayed "Q" in 17 James Bond films, died in a head-on collision.

Golden Globe noms out.   "The Insider" and (yay!) "American Beauty" get the most nods for these awards given out annually by a bunch of ... um, well, nobodies called The Hollywood Foriegn Press Association.

Time magazine's 1999 Man of the Year is ... uh, who?   Amazon's Jeff Bezos, apparently. Would that award be for the canned, impersonal customer service, lack of ability to show a profit, lousy pay for workers, or obtaining patents on things he has no business obtaining patents on? Well, congratulations. Can't wait for Person of the Century, me.

Unsafe sax?   Scientists with nothing better to do have determined that jazz musicians, saxophonists particularly, are more prone to die young because of their practice of circular breathing techniques.

They might have done better studying elderly Australian aborigines who play the didgeridoo, which cannot be played properly unless you learn circular breathing. The technique, which is essential for didgeridoo, is not essential for the sax.

First it's sax, and now they'll undoubtedly find probelms with violins...

  Saturday, December 18, 1999
Welcome the Ramblin' Rover   I'll have two distinguished guests on "Down Home" today:   the outstanding Scottish traditional singer and songwriter Andy M. Stewart, formerly of Silly Wizard, and Irish multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Gerry O'Beirne, formerly of Midnight Well, Patrick Street and the L.A.-based Irish band Train to Sligo in the mid-1980s.

They'll be visiting, chatting and performing during the program between 3 and 5pm, so tune in if you're in the L.A. area (we're not on the web yet, but we're working on it). After that, you can catch them in concert as part of the Acoustic Music Series at the Neighborhood Church, 301 N. Orange Grove, in Pasadena. But first catch 'em between 3 and 5 on 88.5 FM, KCSN, Radio for Music Lovers!

  Friday, December 17, 1999
Wow ... this could keep me busy.   A soon-to-be-complete online archive of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcasts. I'd have to hide the computer speakers behind one of my radios for the proper effect, though. (Via Metascene) = telephone spammers.   I just got a telephone solicitation call at my place of business from the aforementioned company, who abused the whois lookup to get my number. They want me to sell their product on my site. Not only am I not going to do that, but I'm going to discourage people from using products that are pushed by unsolicited telephone sales calls. Boy, do I hate that.

AOL adds to a spam-sodden Friday.   I guess AOL never read about how much I loathe them -- they sent me the following spam today, which began:

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 18:22:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Try AOL Again - For the First Time!

AOL 5.0 is the fastest, most powerful, and most feature-rich AOL ever! Try the ALL NEW AOL 5.0 with our best offer yet -- 250 Hours FREE in a month! [blah blah blah...]

I reported them to their own abuse department. Just say no to AOL.

Quote of the week:   "The Casino, when it goes belly up, could be used to warehouse [New Orleans mayor] Marc Morial's huge ego."  -- From a post to NOLA Live's "Sound Off" forum.

Harrah's New Orleans Casino, that bloated blight at the foot of Canal Street, finally opened in October. I count the days until it goes belly-up. Contribute to that by skipping any visits to the casino. It is not New Orleans.

For example: when you click "enter" at the bottom of the web site's splash screen, text at the bottom of the browser window says, "Welcome to Harrah's New Orleans, Bonjure! (sic)"

"Bonjure." Jeezus Gawd.

(Gee, do I seem like I'm in a crappy mood today? Sheesh.)

  Thursday, December 16, 1999
Vive Les Beatles!   The French name the Fab Four as singers of the century. (L'Academie Française undoubtedly has conniption fit.)

Hrmmmm.   Mixed feelings and lots more are raised by the decision of the Directors Guild of America to remove the name of cinema pioneer D. W. Griffith from their annual achievement award because of the content of his visually groundbreaking film "Birth of a Nation".

Obviously no decent human being is going to be watching this film and rooting for the Klan; the film's content and portrayals are odious and beyond disturbing. However, does that discount Griffith's contributions to the medium as arguably its first great director? Food for thought. (The DGA have issued a press release of their own as well.)

Why online polls are useless.   There are apparently a lot of eejits on the net with far too much time on their hands.

From the perfect almost-ends department:   Boy George was nearly killed by a falling disco mirror ball.

Today's birthdays (and it's a distinguished lot):   "Lovely lovely" Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 ... No more shopping days left 'til Beethoven's birthday, sorry. Given that this will be the last birthday of Beethoven's while "Peanuts" is still being drawn, it would have been nice if we had gotten a little music from Schroeder today; however, "This Day in Peanuts History" takes care of it for us), Arthur C. Clarke (1917 ... one of my very favorite writers since I was a kid) and Noel Coward (1899).

  Wednesday, December 15, 1999
Jelly Roll just can't be beat.   The Chicago Tribune has been running a terrific series on Jelly Roll Morton, a native of my hometown and one of the inventors of jazz. I'm particularly glad that they're covering the newly-discovered compositions that Jelly Roll wrote toward the end of his life but which he never showed anyone. Those charts were written as he prepared to make his transition into the Big Band era that was so immensely popular at the time -- something his contemporaries (and sixty years of jazz historians) mistakenly thought he wasn't capable of doing.

Unfortunately, when RCA Victor worked with Morton in 1939, the label recorded mostly the oldies from his '20s repertoire and no big-band material. Had RCA and General been interested in his new orchestral sound, jazz might have progressed differently than it did.

That's because jazz, perhaps more than any musical art form, is built on the idea of constant change. Its elements of improvisation and its close ties to popular culture have meant that jazz constantly adjusts to the mood of the moment, unlike European classical music, which generally never changes after the composer puts pen to paper.

Jazz, like America itself, is always searching for the next innovation, and Morton was creating it at the end of his life.

Boy, do I hate holiday travel.   I pretty much refuse to do it for Thanksgiving, but it's almost inevitable for Christmas. I look forward to seeing my family, but I dread the process of getting there. Airline service gets worse and worse, the seats get smaller, the meals (such as they were) nonexistent. Delays, cancellations, stress ... feh.

With the service plummeting and the airlines getting ridiculously nitpicky about everything, you have to wonder if they're not deliberately trying to alienate and anger their passengers. On the other hand, airline personnel counter that it's no picnic dealing with the irate general public, and I do have a bit of sympathy. But you'd think that if we're being treated like cattle, we're gonna get fed up and stampede sometime. (Me, I'm looking forward to the quick invention and implementation of matter-energy teleportation, so that I'll never have to sit in a horrid cramped airline seat again.)

Digital shmigital.   When we saw "Toy Story 2" last weekend it was at a theater in Burbank that boasted of its new Texas Instruments digital projection system. Frankly, I was less than impressed. Sure, it was bright and there was none of the jitter and scratching associated with out-of-adjustment projectors and damaged prints. But ... I could see the video scan lines. It was most obvious in large patches of light colors, or with white-lettered titles on a dark background, and although it was pretty sharp, it sometimes looked like a big TV. Not good.

Roger Ebert dislikes digital projection and says why, while also talking about a revolutionary new film projection system under development that would look many times better than digital video projection at 1/10th the cost, and would still use film (and could still run "a century of old prints", as he puts it). Fascinating.

  Tuesday, December 14, 1999
Good grief.   "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz will be retiring in January to concentrate on his battle with colon cancer.

I grew up on "Peanuts" -- we all did -- and I love those characters. I spent a significant portion of my childhood actually being called "Charlie Brown" (Chuck and I had some issues in common). My favorite picture of myself ever taken was of me and Charlie. So will I miss "Peanuts"? Yes and no. Those characters will always be around and will always by with me, but it's primarily in memories from childhood -- frankly, I must say that the strip hasn't really been funny for many years, and perhaps it's time for its creator to retire anyway.

Get well, Sparky.

Yes!   Neil Gaiman has announced that the film version of the novel he wrote with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens (one of my all-time favorites) will be written and directed by Terry Gilliam. Yeah you rite! (via Lake Effect)

17 days and counting until End of Civilization, woohoo!   I just got a Christmas card from my old friends Bill and Linda Sturgeon, who did it as a late December/early January calendar sent back in time, with handwritten entries done thusly:

12/29 - Stockpile: Twinkies, Lunchables, hot dog buns, more Twinkies, and BEER
12/30 - Last episode of "Friends"!
12/31 - Tragic ball malfunction takes out Dick Clark
1/1, New Year's Day - Worldwide collapse hardly dampens party spirit
1/4 - Political pundits and psychics forced to get real jobs; medieval French grammar Ph.D.s very nervous
1/6 - No gasoline, cars a thing of the past. SMOG MUCH BETTER!
1/7 - End of civilization; NO WORK TODAY!
1/8 - Disneyland - FREE! (Don't forget bolt cutters.)
1/10 - New food supply! Artist Wyland unveils dolphin burger franchise
1/11 - Hungry CIA workers trade JFK and Area 51 secrets for case of Tic-Tacs
1/12 - Finally meet neighbors. Very nice. (Hope do not have to shoot to protect home.)
1/13 - Viewmaster collection VERY POPULAR after 2 weeks with no TV
1/14 - Dollar devalued - average wage soars to $50,000/hr.
1/15 - Imperishable Twinkies now used as money. FIND I AM FILTHY RICH!
1/18 - Linda visits folks across town, walking; back in 2 weeks. (Bring gun.)
1/19 - No more Thomas Kinkaide paintings; artist eaten by hungry cannibal mob
1/20 - "To Serve Man" runaway best-seller
1/21 - Food low, neighbors twitchy ...
The calendar ended there. I guess they got eaten.

Awwwww.   I just found out that Shirley Hemphill died. You may remember her, as I do, from the old sitcom "What's Happenin?". I remember her more recently and fondly from having seen her do standup at the Ice House in Pasadena a few months back. She was so funny that I nearly busted the proverbial gut. Thanks for all the laughs, Shirley.

Heh.   Suck lampoons /.

  Monday, December 13, 1999
Yeah, yeah, yeah.   Sir Paul McCartney's gonna do a gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. A scant few will get tickets, but it'll be globally webcast. (I can hear the servers crashing already.) If he sticks to Beatles stuff and old rock 'n roll rip-it-ups like his last record, it should be pretty cool.

That's some catch, that Catch-22.   Joseph Heller died at the age of 76.

So we're at peace with Russia, right?   Then how come both the U.S. and Russia still have thousands of missiles pointed at each other? (Gee, hope they're all Y2K compliant, eh what what?) Scientific American makes the case for "de-alerting" the missiles. I'd prefer we just get rid of 'em, me.

Japanese pop culture is fascinating,   if a little bewildering to me at times. For instance, I never had a clue that there was such an obsession with souped-up toilets. (The turlet with the ejector seat is pretty nifty.)

We saw "Toy Story 2" yesterday.   It was fantastic. The animation has gotten even better, the writing sparkled, the voice acting was top-notch, and it was funny. There was so much going on that I'll need at least two more viewings to catch all the gags that went by. I also loved how lovingly detailed all the "vintage" toys and tchotchkes from "Woody's Roundup" were - it looked like a real-life eBay nightmare.

Trivia question: Who caught the "Spinal Tap" reference in the movie?

We also saw "The Green Mile" this weekend. It was a bit ponderously long, but paradoxically didn't seem so during the movie. I enjoyed it, but afterwards thought that it could have done with a bit of trimming. It was very true to King's serial novel, and the performances were uniformly excellent.

I'm still reeling from an incident that took place during this film. We saw it on Friday night in a packed house in Alhambra. Astonishingly, right in the middle of the movie, some boorish Neanderthal next to us accepted a cell phone call and sat there chattering away. We couldn't believe it. Wes said after he was finished, "Uh, could you do that outside, please? You're in the middle of a movie theater." Alley Oop said, "You got a problem with that? Move on." To our amazement, he then placed a call and chattered away, saying "Oh yeah, I'm in the movie theatre". I was furious. I hissed at him, "Will you please put that fucking thing away before I call the manager?" Zurg replied as before, "You got a problem with that?" He then proceeded to play with the little melody-making ringer chime for several minutes just to piss us off.

To her credit, his girlfriend looked mortified. (I hope you're not married to him yet, honey. I'd dump him yesterday.) The complete lack of manners, courtesy, civility and consideration for others I saw in this idiot (and others) just boggles my mind. It makes me wish I was big enough to actually look threatening. I wanted to turn that phone into the world's first Motorola Star-Tac suppository.

  Friday, December 10, 1999
Another Man's Done Gone.   Rick Danko of The Band has just passed away at age 56. The infamous and ubiquitous "they" say that these things happen in threes ... after Doug Sahm and now Rick, I'd just as soon it be twos.

The sky is falling! It's the end of the world!   The Bermuda Stock Exchange has been bitten by the so-called Y2K bug! Their daily report spent two days listing dividend payout dates as 1900 instead of 2000. And guess what? No planes fell out of the sky. No power grids shut down. There were no runs on the bank. Nobody died.

Take Jon Katz's Y2K pledge, don't buy in to all the misinformation and hysteria, and never mention it again. My Y2K preparations -- I bought my champagne early.

Why ... it's a major award!   "Fra-GI-le ... must be Italian!" I want one.

Vive le Petomane?   Update on my link below to "Mr. Methane" and his contributions to the decline of civilization -- apparently civilization has been declining since 1870. Voila Le Petomane. (They trashed the theatre at the premieres of "Rite of Spring" and "L'Age d'Or", but laughed uproariously at this? And they revere Jerry Lewis? I just don't get the French. If it weren't for Burgundy, Périgord truffles and foie gras, I swear...)

Unsettling web search discovery of the day:   A little Googling yesterday revealed that David Duke and I went to the same elementary school. Pardon me for a minute while I go scrub and then throw up.

  Thursday, December 9, 1999
You GO, Heavy Girl!   Over the last several years I've lived my life by a motto, a comment that I heard uttered by a customer of Clifton Chenier's barber in Les Blank's film "Hot Pepper", and that comment is this: "Whatever you is ... BE that!" This woman does that and then some.

Award season begins.   "American Beauty" is the best film of 1999, according to the National Board of Review.

My new favorite screensaver -- dressed, wit extra mynez.   The New Orleans Times-Picayune's site NOLA Live offers a nifty free screensaver for W*nd*ws and Mac computers that builds po-boy sandwiches almost good enough to eat. Me, I'd rather go to Johnny's or Domilise's for real po-boys, but you can download the screensaver and drool at the thought of po-boys all day.

Quote of the day:   "A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground. As a journalist, you are expected to know the difference."  -- UPI Stylebook (courtesy of correspondent Dave Williams)

  Wednesday, December 8, 1999
Yeah, right.   The National Security Agency has promised that its spy satellites and listening devices will not be used to spy on Americans. As Col. Potter might've said on M*A*S*H, "Horse puckey!"

Speaking of horse puckey...   You can add Dan Gillmor's outraged rant from the San Jose Mercury News to my own screed on why I loathe AOL.

The horse puckey piles up so fast here you need wings to stay above it...   "Tarzan" and (more importantly) "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" have been shut out of Academy Award consideration for this year's original score category. What a stupid, petty decision.

If I were a voting member of the Academy, my vote for Best Song would go to either "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" or "Uncle Fucka" from "South Park" -- I challenge you to come up with any better songs from any movie this year! Well, maybe "Blame Canada" ... see below.

Oops, eh?   Seems that when Canada de-weaponized and sold an old Navy destroyer to a private citizen for scrap, they failed to notice the still-operational 10-foot anti-submarine missile launcher on the deck. Those hosers.

Heeheeheeee ... hehheh ... oh dear.   Here's a really great example of why irrational, hysterical Y2K wigging-out is bad.

  Tuesday, December 7, 1999
I love my readers.   Just the other day I declared Looka! to be 100% free of anything to do with Wu-Tang names or anything else, and asked if anyone knew of a bluegrass name generator. Well sho' nuff, someone pointed me to The Random Bad Bluegrass Band Namer at the Mandolin Cafe. (They must have some lawyers; check out that disclaimer.)

So... if I start a bluegrass band, it will be called "The Smokey Creek Drifters". (Thanks to Greg Harness for the link! He's got a blog called Mandomonger Farm, which I instantly realized was cool as soon as I saw that he had a quote by Hazel Dickens under the title.)

This is America?   Some appalling photographic evidence of what those brave Seattle police wrought upon unarmed, seated protesters during the WTO summit. Gee, I guess they just had to try out all that nifty neato keen riot gear they'd spent so much money on. (Thanks, Michael.)

This just in: The Seattle chief of police has resigned in the wake of his force's brutal treatment of the protesters. Good.

Looks like the Mars Lander is kaput.   I've got a couple of friends who work at JPL; I keep trying to get them to admit that there was one signal, a video image of a bunch of little guys approaching the Lander with cudgels and hammers, then static ... but they must be really sworn to secrecy.

So you like performance art?   I may now have seen everything. (From the Further Evidence of the Collapse of Civilization Department.)

I haven't bought gasoline from Exxon for years.   Ever since the Exxon Valdez debacle, in fact. However, I used to buy gas from Mobil all the time. Looks like I won't be buying gas from Exxon Mobil now.

Don't piss me off...   or I might just have to engage the services of these people. (Further Evidence of the Collapse of Civilization, Part Deux; I cannot believe that this exists.)

  Saturday, December 4, 1999
The man with the blue guitar's coming.   My guest on "Down Home" today is Chris Smither, a wonderful folk-blues singer-songwriter who wrote (among many others) "Love Me Like a Man", which was a hit for Bonnie Raitt. He has several excellent albums of his own, and his new one is called "Drive You Home Again", on Hightone Records.

We'll be chatting and he'll be playing his blue guitar, singing and stomping his feet today between 3:00 and 5:00pm on 88.5 FM, KCSN Northridge-Los Angeles, Radio for Music Lovers!

Quote of the day:   "Good evening, Mr. Smith. I'm so delighted you've decided to have dinner with us tonight, and I mean that sincerely."  -- Douglas Leman, former maitre'd of the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans for over 40 years, who passed away last week at age 74.

New Orleans food writer Tom Fitzmorris said he was "one of the two or three greatest dining room professionals in the history of the New Orleans restaurant business... Beyond hospitality, Douglas knew his stuff. He was always up on what the kitchen and the wine cellar had in store. And if ever service bogged down, he knew how to get it moving again. As for chapter and verse on how to serve a table properly -- well, he was the authority. We will not see the likes of Douglas again." (Via The New Orleans MenuLetter)

  Friday, December 3, 1999
The last word on the so-called millennium.   Some of my friends and I have been email-squabbling about the whole century/millennium thing; some of us are sick of people being wrong about it, others are just sick of hearing about how sick we are of it. Let's just let Mulder and Scully sum it up:

Scully:  "2001 is actually the start of the new millennium."

Mulder:  "Nobody likes a math geek, Scully."

By the way, it was recently reported that in the coverage of this issue over 4000 newspapers have been misspelling the word "millennium". So much for dictionaries, spell-checkers and style books.

Wowzers.   Transparent CD-ROMs that hold 140GB of data are on the way.

Testy justices.   Things not to say in front of the Supreme Court. It's looking bad for the FDA and good for Big Tobacco, unfortunately.

Birth of a New Ireland.   A wonderful editorial from the front page of yesterday's Irish Times (thanks, Barry):

At today's end Ireland will stand as never before in its long political history. The representatives of the people who live on this island, nationalist and unionist, men and women of all religions and of none, have forged an understanding as to how they will live together within the territory they share...

Future generations of historians may conclude that this was a more momentous day than December 6th, 1921, when the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. Some of them may find that today was more significant than December 6th, 1922, when the Irish Free State came into being...

On this day we witness nothing less than the birth of a new Ireland. It is an Ireland which rejects the simplistic and majoritarian politics of the past. It acknowledges the diversity of culture, of race, of religion, of identity, which span this island. The arrangements and institutions which now come into place are the product of many years of patient, wearing, sometimes heart-breaking struggle by political leaders, officials, religious leaders, security personnel and activists in political parties, voluntary organisations and groups of every kind.

Everyone who voted for this new day - and those who voted against it but who accept the democratic verdict - can claim a share of what now becomes possible in conditions of peace and prosperity. There are literally hundreds of thousands of heroes and there can be more than five million winners in this story.

  Thursday, December 2, 1999
Quote of the day:   "Phil Collins should be required by law to distribute 40% of his income to unemployed musicians."  --Peter Blegvad. (Taken from a recent interview.)

Speaking of whom ... I unfortunately do not own one of my favorite albums of the 1990s -- Peter Blegvad's "King Strut and Other Stories" (co-produced and with several songs co-written by XTC's Andy Partridge). They had it in the library at that Santa Monica public radio station I used to work for (not that they'd play it these days, thppt), but I never ever managed to find a copy of my own. I'll offer my eternal gratitude and name my next pet cat after anyone who can track down a copy of this out-of-print CD (Silvertone Records, UK, 1990).

Tá siocháin ag teacht.   The government of the United Kingdom formally handed over power of home rule in Northern Ireland to a joint Loyalist/Nationalist 12-member cabinet yesterday. Ár mbuiochas.

I hope lots of folks besides me are appalled at the overreactive conduct of the Seattle police during the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization summit, and additionally appalled at the ability of the behind-closed-doors WTO to affect hard-fought environmental, safety, labor and other people-oriented laws in the United States and other countries, whose citizens did not elect them, in the name of "free trade" (read, "free profit for big business"). There's a good summary of the protester's position on yesterday's Melty, with a link to an excellent site featuring grassroots advice for how you can learn about, protest and perhaps change the way the WTO works.

You couldn't pay me to see a Stallone movie.   It's not just that I think he sucks as an actor, I dislike him personally. I've never met him, but having had lots of friends in the motion picture industry over the last 13 years I've heard lots of stories like this . (via Obscure Store)

I knew it.   I knew those hosers were up to no good.

Need more good reasons not to buy from   How about the neo- sweatshop conditions in which their email and phone support personnel toil, and their seeming lack of desire to provide the truly meaningful and helpful customer service in which, say, independent bookstores excel.

As a Customer Service rep, the half of your daily shift not spent on the telephone is consumed by grinding out responses to customer e-mail inquiries. These can range from requests for help in finding a particular out-of-print title to suggestions that the company shove a particular policy up its corporate ass. One of the first surprises you encounter on the job is that you almost never respond to these queries from scratch. Instead you learn to troll the Blurb Index -- a roster of pat responses, or "blurbs" -- designed to address practically every conceivable scenario a customer might present. If a genuinely new situation arises more than once, there will probably be a blurb written for it.

As my trainer explained, the use of blurbs saves Customer Service reps time and helps impose a consistent voice (in terms of both tone and policy matters) on official interactions with customers. Naturally, we were encouraged to tailor the blurb to fit the specific situation in question, as well as to disguise the more obvious signs of blurbosity. But to respond to the questioner as a person rather than simply a customer, to insert a genuinely personal -- much less quirky, off-beat, or engagingly eccentric -- tone into the transaction was deemed to be crossing the line and was emphatically discouraged.

I soon discovered that there was an unwritten three-strike rule where this category of violation was concerned... evidently it violated department protocol [for me] to provide extemporaneous suggestions about topics and titles that the rep found relevant to the customer's topic of interest. If someone expressed interest in historical fiction about the Civil War period, for instance, and mentioned James Michener's Centennial, it was apparently out of our purview to suggest that perhaps Gore Vidal's Lincoln might better suit her purposes -- even though this is precisely the kind of helpful human input expected of employees in any quality bookstore.

A fascinating and revealing article from the Seattle Weekly.

  Wednesday, December 1, 1999 - World AIDS Day
A Day Without Weblogs In observance of World AIDS Day, Looka! is participating in A Day Without Weblogs (DW^2). The weblog ordinarily found on this page will return tomorrow.

DW^2 is the brainchild of Brad L. Graham, and was inspired by A Day Without Art, which was created by the group Visual AIDS in New York City. Each December 1, World AIDS Day, the creative community observes DWA in memory of all those the AIDS pandemic has taken from us. Theatres around the world sit dark and empty. Paintings and photographs are draped with black cloths in galleries. Symphonies are silent. Dancers take no steps.

Today, please take a few minutes to learn about the global AIDS crisis and find out how you can make a difference.

A comprehensive database of AIDS information, updated hourly.

AIDS Project Los Angeles
A non-profit community-based organization that provides vital services to men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County.

California AIDS Ride 7
This year, my friend Jon Fish will be participating in the California AIDS Ride, a 7-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit LA Gay & Lesbian Center's Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic and other HIV/AIDS Services of the center. Lend your support and pledge.

CDC National AIDS Prevention Information Network
From the Centers for Disease Control.

Children With AIDS Project
Information about HIV, AIDS and kids.

Gay Men's Health Crisis
The nation's oldest AIDS service organization.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt
Remembering those we have lost, using the world's largest community art project.

National Minority AIDS Council
How AIDS affects peoples of color.

Needle Exchange & Harm Reduction
Reducing the spread of HIV among IV-drug users.

PAWS-LA! (Pets Are Wonderful Support)
A nonprofit organization in 1989 the greater Los Angeles Area dedicated to brightening and easing the lives of those with HIV/AIDS and their pets, and helping them to live more powerfully and independently by providing compassionate assistance with the care and feeding of their animals.

Links to other online resources and national AIDS service organizations
From The NAMES Project website.

Thanks to regular Looka! contributors Wesly Moore, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Tom Krueger, Michael Pemberton and Steve Gardner, and Gregory Nussbaum for the parting comment of the 90s..
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