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looka, ('lu-k&) Yatspeak. v.
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. --n. My weblog, focusing on food and drink, music, Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, my life, my opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles my fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 3:51pm PDT, 8/30/2000

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Chuck Taggart

Looka! Archive

July 2000
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Cocktail hour:


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Let's eat!


Food Network

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In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Recent Epinions:

1. John O'Groats: Home cooking, better than home

2. Bombay Sapphire: Gin haters, repent!

3. The Cajun Bistro, WeHo: Skip it

4. Absolut Kurant: I'd sooner drink Robitussin

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

6. Volkswagen New Beetle: Fun fun fun!

Now reading:

Magic Terror, by Peter Straub.

Jumping Off the Planet, by David Gerrold.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip José Farmer.


Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

by Peter Blegvad

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Lookin' at da TV:

"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"The Simpsons"
"Star Trek: Voyager"
The Food Network

Weblog watching:

The BradLands
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Hit or Miss
Jonno (if you must know)
Lake Effect
LanceLog 2000
Mister Pants
MonkeyFist (+ MF Food)
Mr. Barrett
the nubbin
One Swell Foop
Q Daily News
Robot Wisdom
Running Tally
Slightly North of Tomorrow
Strange Brew
The Other Side
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wild Oats

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< | webloggers | >>


The Fray (stories)
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
The Deduct Box (La. politics)

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weblog and (almost) daily blather

  Wednesday, August 30, 2000
Eating, linking and being merry.   I have accepted Jen Kitchen's gracious invitation to become a team member for the collaborative food-related blog Eat, Link and be Merry, which she recently resurrected (yay!). Regular Looka! readers can skip most of my posts, since it'll be a rebroadcast of the food-related posts you see here, but don't miss everyone else's delectable tidbits.

Dubya is chicken.   That's apparently why so far he has declined to commit to any prime-time presidential debates, and he would only want them in a "conversational" format with "non-adversarial" moderators.

Why? Because the dim-witted, malaprop-prone mushmouth knows that Gore will undoubtedly slaughter him in the standard debate setting. Add Ralph Nader to the mix (which I hope they do) and there'll be nothing left of Bush but a greasy little pink smear.

My favorite remark so far regarding Bush's chickenosity (neologism alert!) is from Gore spokesman Chris Lehane:

George W. Bush's ideal debate would take place on a local cable access channel in Austin during the Olympic finals of the women's gymnastic contest.

Mmmm, sammiches.   Today's Los Angeles Times Food Section gives us lots of nifty ideas for non-run-of-the-mill sandwiches, for your picnicking pleasure this forthcoming holiday weekend. Arugula, prosciutto and fig on hazelnut bread ... Vietnamese banh mi with pâté, pickled carrot and daikon and strips of jalapeños ... grilled chicken with peach-fennel relish and mint mayonnaise ... oh my.

The pure drop.   There's a dying art still being preserved by a determined few in Appalachia ... making moonshine whiskey. Having sampled homemade whiskey and applejack before, I think I'll just pay the federal tax and drink Maker's Mark.

"The world is turning into a cesspool of imbeciles."   The guys at the AV Club over at "The Onion" bravely undertake an interview of one of my very favorite authors, Harlan Ellison. I feel for them. I think Harlan's a great man and I love his writing, but the prospect of having to interview him scares the crap out of me. (Visit his website if you've never done so.)

I've met Ellison on a number of occasions, mostly book signings, and we once had a brief chat about a mutual friend -- a writer collegue of his and teacher of mine, the late Milton S. Gelman. I've always found him to be completely charming and amusing. That said, you don't EVER want to tangle with this man, verbally or otherwise. Many years ago I was at the late, lamented West L.A. bookstore Papa Bach's, squatting down reading a book at the bottom of one of the stacks. Someone walked up next to me who was smoking a really foul-smelling pipe. I hate pipes (and cigars and cigarettes, for that matter), and I had just prepared a devastatingly witty and cutting remark about the foul-smelling smoke he was exuding. I looked up, drawing a breath to make the remark ... and saw that the pipe smoker was Harlan Ellison. Instantly I knew I was about to make the worst mistake of my life, and fortunately was able to strangle my remark before it left my mouth. I ended up making some kind of gurgling noise, whereupon he looked down at me quizzically. I just said, "'Scuse me," and beat a hasty retreat.

I'm convinced that my having swallowed that nascent remark is the reason I am still here, writing for you today. :-)

  Tuesday, August 29, 2000
I (heart) Charles Nelson Reilly.   Sunday afternoon Wes and I went to the Falcon Theatre to see Charles Nelson Reilly in his one-man show, "Save It For The Stage: The Life of Reilly". It was HUGELY entertaining and absolutely hilarious. Reilly's had a fascinating life and career, and if you only know him from "Match Game", you missed some of his greatest talents. He's had a long career on stage, both on and off-Broadway (he originated the roles of Bud Frump in "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and Cornelius in "Hello Dolly"), has been for many years a widely acclaimed opera and theatre director, as well as a Tony award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor and a master acting teacher. True, you're probably more familiar with him from game shows (but he was funny in them!) and from his myriad TV appearances, ranging from "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" to over 100 guest spots on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" to his unforgettable turn as José Chung on "The X-Files". If the play ends up at a theatre near you, by all means go see it.

Eat more chocolate!   Not only is it good, but it's also good for you, too.

Just forget Hershey's. That stuff's really disgraceful when you compare it to European or other truly well-made chocolates. In a pastry class I took we once did a blind tasting of 20 different chocolates in one evening, and Hershey's came in dead last. While many of the other chocolates we tried melted on our tongues like butter, releasing intense, almost aphrodisiacal flavors, Hershey's just sat there like a lump of wax.

For American-made chocolates, Ghirardelli came in ahead of Hershey's in our voting but still far behind brands like Valrhona from France and Callebaut from Belgium. Since then a new artisanally-made American chocolate has hit the shelves, and it's truly fabulous -- Scharffen Berger. You can get their chocolates, in several varieties, in amounts ranging from small eating bars to huge blocks for professional chefs. My first taste of it was in a mousse at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar in San Francisco, and it made my knees weak.

Fear no okra!   Today I pulled off what may be one of my proudest culinary achievements -- I converted a former okraphobe to the One True Way with one bowl of my grandmother's okra and tomatoes.

As an expatriate Louisianian living in California, I frequently encounter people who respond to the mere mention of okra with something like "Ewww! I hate it! It's slimy!" Well boys and girls, it ain't slimy if ya do it right.

I learned how to make okra and tomatoes from my dad, who uses his mother's recipe. That recipe was the first thing I thought of last Sunday at the Hollywood Farmer's Market when I saw the absolutely beautiful okra one stall offered for sale. And only a dollar a pound! I got two, and whipped up a batch last night. As usual, I ended up with enough food for myself for days, plus leftovers to give away. Those leftovers accompanied me to work today for some serious okra proselytizing.

This afternoon our okraphobe, hesitant but not wanting to offend me by refusing my offer, agreed to try a "small taste". I gave her a Louisiana-sized taste, which filled up an entire bowl. She grimaced before her first bite, then her face lit up and she emptied her bowl at a frightening pace, then asked for more. Yes!

Add a ham hock to your pot for a little extra smoky flavor, and serve it alone as a side dish or over white rice for a main course. If you follow the recipe and do it properly, there'll be no slime to speak of. If you're insistent on slime, though, either undercook it or rent "Ghostbusters".

Baby, you're the greatest!   The entrance to the New York Port Authority bus terminal now features an eight-foot, 4,000 pound statue of the Great One himself ... Ralph Kramden.

  Friday, August 25, 2000
Happy birthday, Jon!   Okay, so I'm a day late, but that's because I'm Mr. Absentminded (what day is it today, anyway?). My friend Jon turns mumblety-mumble today. Take a day off, dammit!

PETA continue to outdo themselves.   The nutcase animal-rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has sunk to new lows of bad taste. Their new billboard, intended to discourage consumption of milk, features a photo of New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani with a milk mustache, in a parody of the "Got Milk?" advertising campaign. However, the caption reads "Got Prostate Cancer?", drawing a parallel between milk consumption and the disease. As you may recall, Guiliani is currently being treated for prostate cancer.

Y'know, I quite dislike Guiliani, but I'm with him on this one -- he's 100% right in being outraged over this. I wouldn't want to see anyone's life-threatening illness being exploited by a bunch of wingnuts to further their political agenda. Perhaps the group should change its name to "Animals for the Unethical Treatment of People".

Can you stand it?   I (and I suspect many others as well) have been suffering from a massive overdose of Robin Williams. From the wonderfully nuanced performance as T.S. Garp in George Roy Hill's adaptation of "The World According to Garp" he has slid into the awful pattern of "The Treacly Robin Williams Movie" -- from "Patch Adams" to "Bicentennial Man" (which was a brilliant Isaac Asimov story before Chris Columbus got ahold of it) to "Jacob the Liar" ... ugh. He's a brilliant comedian, but as an actor he needs to give it a rest for a while. Making better movies wouldn't hurt, either.

But here he comes again -- supposedly he's just been cast in the lead role in Philip Kaufman's forthcoming biopic of ... Liberace. He's also been asked by Steven Spielberg to be the narrator of his forthcoming film of Stanley Kubrick's "A.I." project. So much for that rest. (Interestingly, the story on "A.I." contradicts the story on Liberace.)

Quote of the day:   "I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to."

-- Elvis Presley

(Maybe not, but the boy could sing.)

Quote of the week:   "Must-flee TV."

-- An interviewee on the street, referring to the finale of CBS' "Survivor".

  Thursday, August 24, 2000
A cappella sounds good to me.   My friend Dule (who's about to move to Michigan to eventually become a famous AI scientist ... waaaah!) invited me at the spur of the moment last night to see a performance by the a cappella group Spiral Mouth at Luna Park. Until recently Dule sang with a Caltech-based men's a cappella group called Ecphonema (who are quite good) and managed to turn me into a fan of a cappella singing at an all-day festival at the John Anson Ford Theatre a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately I had missed Spiral Mouth at that festival and saw them for the first time last night. In a word, they rocked. They were terrific. I've never heard such amazing percussion and instrumentation done by voices only (well, the used pedals too, but it was all vocal and no instruments). They sounded like a rock band. One of their number, Tony Fields, even managed Hendrixesque guitar solos solely with his voice. Truly amazing, and lots of fun.

You've also never lived until you've heard an a cappella cover of Trent Reznor's "Closer" (the one that goes, "I want to fuck you like an animal.")

So much for bartending schools.   Today they seem to be too busy teaching bartenders to make bullshit drinks like Sex on the Beach instead of tried-and-true classics that every bartender should know ... like the Old Fashioned.

During the Spiral Mouth show last night, I went up to the bar and ordered a Cosmopolitan for Dule and a Maker's Mark Old Fashioned for me. The bartender said, "We only have regular Maker's Mark." I said, "No no, I'd like an Old Fashioned, and please use Maker's Mark as the whiskey." "An old fashioned what?", said the bartender.


I grew up watching my dad make these, and eventually making them for him myself. It's a drink as classic as a Manhattan or a Martini, and I'm pretty disgusted that the last half-dozen bartenders I've ordered one from had either never heard of it or made something completely wrong (like that one I was given which had sweet vermouth and about twice as much soda water as whiskey ... yuck).

Bartenders, LISTEN UP! Here's how you do it. Simply put a teaspoon of sugar (or preferably sugar syrup) in the bottom of an Old Fashioned (or "rocks") glass. If you're using granulated sugar, put maybe a tablespoon of water to help it dissolve. Add three healthy shakes of bitters. (The bartender last night was carefully trying to apply tiny drops of bitters as if it were liquid white truffles. Bitters are cheap. Shake away.) Stir. Add ice, then whiskey, then stir again. Garnish with a cherry. If you want to get fancy, muddle half an orange slice with the sugar and bitters, then garnish the drink with the other half-slice.

How appalling.   I had only heard this morning that on August 8, a lesbian couple were ejected from Dodger Stadium during a baseball game because they kissed one another and "someone complained." It's astonishing to me that such things are still happening in the year 2000.

The couple and their lawyer were planning a discrimination lawsuit (a heterosexual couple they were with also kissed during the game) if the Dodgers didn't apologize. Fortunately for the Dodgers they did apologize, and to their credit they apologized profusely, invited the couple to sit behind home plate at a game, donated five thousand tickets to gay and lesbian advocacy groups, and ordered sensitivity training for their ushers.

In my humble opinion, this sensitivity training should include ushers telling people who have the gall to complain about a couple kissing to mind their own feckin' business. And speaking of appallingly rude behavior...

Road rage is not something which I succumb to, although I do holler when I'm driving as almost everyone else does. Yesterday, though, I came close.

For at least the sixth time, I was entering the underground parking garage at the building when I work when I nearly ran into the back of a car that had stopped right in the middle of the lane, blocking the entrance, so that he could finish a cell phone call. I didn't want to try to go around him, as the entrance is after a curve and I might not see someone barreling down the other entrance ramp. So I honked. And he motioned for me to go around him.

I decided to lean on the horn until he stopped blocking the flow of traffic. Astonishingly, not only did it not do any good, but he kept motioning me around. Finally, I had to risk getting hit to get around him, and he actually flipped me off as I went by. Self-important, rude, inconsiderate, arrogant son of a bitch.

As peaceful and laid-back a guy as I am, though ... the next time somebody nearly plows into my car because they're talking on a cell phone and not paying attention to the road, I just might snap.

Ewwwwwwww!   Think you know a lot about cockroaches? (I know very little, except that I despise them.) Test your cockroach knowledge with this handy little cockroach quiz courtesy of Inside New Orleans. Know what state has the most cockroach species? What the word "cockroach" is derived from? How they have sex? What they supposedly taste like? (Ewwww! Eww ewwwwwww!)

  Wednesday, August 23, 2000
Dubya's hope: "Your policies stink, but you're nice, so you've got my vote."   Former president George Bush's son revealed in an interview last Monday his opinion on what the real issue is in the upcoming presidential election:

[Bush] indicated Monday in the interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that winning the presidential race in the state and among swing voters nationwide will depend more on what voters think of the person they are voting for than on specific policy stands.
My favorite comment was this howler:

I'll tell you what the key is: Our Republican Party went from such a hopeful and optimistic image to one where we were scolding people. People felt like ... we were against things. That we were against education or that we were against immigrants, for example.
Ah, you're right there, George. The Republican Party just loves immigrants. That's why they were so wholeheartedly in favor of Proposition 187 and Proposition 227, among other things.

O Lord, to Hell with the law. Amen.   Hell-bent on public praying before football games, a group of Southern Baptist Texans reveals their new plan:  they'll all pray "spontaneously". Sounds to me like this is a complete contradition of the meaning of the word "spontaneous".

A booming voice was heard emanating from a nearby burning bush, and was quoted as saying, "I heard your prayer. I just don't give a crap who wins your stupid football game."

  Tuesday, August 22, 2000
President Mushmouth?   One of the things I want to ask Bush supporters (particularly the ones who say they're voting for him because he "seems nice", or "has charisma") is, "My God, have you ever heard the man speak?"

D.I.Y.   It's cheaper and thriftier (plus you get the exact cuts you want) to buy a whole salmon and fillet it yourself. It's easy. All you need are a good knife and instructions.

Yay!   They found Pete Seeger's banjo.

  Monday, August 21, 2000
So long, and thanks for all the blobs.   Edward Craven Walker, the inventor of the lava lamp, died last week in London at age 82. One of his late-sixties' era creations sits on my desk next to my computer.

I grew up watching the lava lamp on top of the TV at my grandparents' house. My grandpa bought one not long after they first hit the market, and my family would make fun of me because they'd all be looking at the TV, but I'd be looking at the lava lamp. (The programs on the lamp were better, believe me.)

Unfortunately, I don't have my grandparents' original anymore. I had hand-carried it on the plane from New Orleans one year so it wouldn't get broken, and not long after one of my best friends accidentally broke it while he was housesitting for me. Poor guy, he felt terrible and dreaded having to tell me about it when I got back. He replaced it with one purchased at a flea market, and it's almost exactly the same as the old one; I can't really tell the difference. It still makes me think of the old house back in Bywater.

Quote of the day:   "If you buy my lamp, you won't need drugs."

-- Edward Craven Walker

Fukui-san!   "Yes, go ahead."

I asked the Iron Chef what he thought about the idea of factory-made sushi produced by robots, tailored for the American market, and he said it was even more of an appalling disgrace than that smug little gobshite Bobby Flay and his Leap of Contamination onto his cutting board. (Rice balls with ketchup? Fake seaweed made of flour? Somebody needs to commit seppuku really soon now.)

  Friday, August 18, 2000
Molto bene.   Thumbs-up to Celestino in Pasadena. Oddly enough, I had passed it a hundred times but had never dined there. I'll be dining there again soon.

For the appetizer I had "Timballo di Funghi", a small timbale of finely chopped wild mushrooms, which was rich and earthy. It sat in a pool of "cheese fondue", a not-too-rich cheese sauce, and the menu description ended with "tartufi". Woo! Black truffles! It didn't occur to me that they wouldn't be fresh this time of year; rather than the few slices of fresh truffle I pictured in my mind, there was maybe 1/4 teaspoon of chopped truffles, probably from an Urbani jar. Still a good dish, though. Mark (who was being treated for his birthday) had fried calamari -- perfectly good but not spectacular. I'm not a huge calamari fan, but I ended up eating 1/3 of his dish anyway.

As I am often wont to do, I went for one of the specials -- seared halibut with a marvelous carrot-ginger sauce. Not very Italian, but very good, and accompanied by crisp-tender sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. Mark had stewed rabbit with Sicilian "sweet and sour sauce" which tasted of wine and balsamic vinegar, and lots of little vegetables in the stew. Yum yum. I love rabbit!

For dessert I went for another special, the fresh peach tart. It was lovely, but I have to confess that it wasn't as good as the fresh peach pie Wes and I had last weekend at Pie 'n Burger, around the corner on California St. Mark's dessert was spectacular, though ... Panettone and Nutella Bread Pudding! Madonn'! I finished the meal with a glass of Averna, a Sicilian after-dinner digestive liqueur -- very herbal but not as overwhelming as Fernet Branca, with a touch of sweetness. It's impossible to describe its flavor otherwise, but it was tasty; first time I'd tried it.

The staff at Celestino were friendly and helpful, but perhaps a bit too much so. When I'm dining with someone and trying to have a conversation, I really don't need to have the waitress, the hostess and the genial manager interrupting us every five minutes to ask if everything's okay. Tone it down a little, folks. Watch us rather than ask us. If the water glass is nearly empty, just fill it without a word. The meal is still going to be good five minutes after the first time you ask us if it's good.

I do highly recommend the restaurant, though, if you're looking for fine Italian dining in Pasadena. I can't wait to try the risotto next!

Intermezzo.   This is a content-free and meaningless entry, only here to provide a bit of separation between the previous entry and the next. You'll see.

Oh ... my.   This nationally-reported news article, right up there in the headlines with the doomed Russian submarine and Al Gore's presidential nomination speech, is the greatest advertisement for upgrading to indoor plumbing that I have ever seen. "I done a lot of hollering, but nobody couldn't hear me," said the poor bastard, now nationally infamous due to the generosity and intrepid reporting of the Associated Press.

And your little dog, too!   "The Wizard of Oz" was released to theatres 61 years ago today.

  Thursday, August 17, 2000
Eureka!   I have found THE application for my new Handspring Visor, the one that makes the expense of replacing my wheezing old Palm Pilot Personal (it still had a US Robotics logo on it, fer Chrissakes) worth it and what all that memory was made for.

It's the Zagat Restaurant Guide for the Palm OS. For a mere $29.95 it includes database files for 11 cities/regions (L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Boston, Las Vegas, New Jersey, London, Paris and Washington, D.C.). You can search by restaurant, cuisine, price, location and a number of other criteria, and you're only limited by the amount of memory you have for the databases. It's fabulous.

Woo! It's here!   Panasonic's put out a consumer-level recordable DVD machine! It's about time! This will revolutionize everything! (Too bad it's not even remotely affordable, except for the idle rich.)

Mmmmm, Sriracha!   I truly pity you if you are not in an area where sriracha sauce (made by Huy Fong Foods) is available. It is super-yummy, and has taken its rightful place right next to the Tabasco sauce in my pantheon of godlike, must-have sauces. The sauce is s bright red (all-natural color, too), made from chiles, garlic, sugar, salt, a touch of vinegar and very little else. It's great stuff -- and as Asian as this stuff is, try it on a burger sometime.

Look for the squeeze bottle with the green tip and the big rooster on the front.

Attention!   The webmaster would like to apologize for the overabundance of exclamation points in today's entry! He swears he'll cut down!

Quote of the day:   "When I'm good, I'm very good. But when I'm bad ... I'm better!"

-- Mae West, born 108 years ago today.

  Wednesday, August 16, 2000
Morimoto RULES!   Last night I finally watched "Iron Chef: New York Battle", which I'd had on tape for the last few months. It was both a hoot and a bit of a disappointment, as well as providing a predictable but still shocking ending, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Here's another terrific review of the show.)

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! If you haven't watched it yet, don't read the next couple of paragraphs. (Pay no attention to the headline, I just like him. :-)

The "pre-game show" was okay, watching the Iron Chefs being taken on Food Network promotional gigs "without having been consulted", as the narrator remarked oddly. Two of the Iron Chefs were whisked away to be the guest chefs on Door Knock Dinners" on the Food Network, where the host and crew show up at someone's house unannounced and have a chef prepare a "gourmet meal" with whatever they happen to have around the house. The Iron Chefs seemed a bit befuddled by the fact that there were no fresh vegetables in the house and that they couldn't read the labels on the jars in the cabinet. This all seemed rather beneath their dignity, given what they had to work with. The two other Iron Chefs went to the Culinary Institute of America, where they lectured and demonstrated to a couple hundred star-struck cooking students.

Perhaps the most surreal moment of the pre-game was Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's visit with a six-year-old boy who's his biggest fan, dresses up in mom-made Iron Chef costumes and prepares gourmet meals of "dinosaur eggs" for his uncooperative little sister. He and his parents had flown in from Arizona to be in the audience for the New York Battle.

The two chosen contenders were Morimoto (my favorite Iron Chef, who cooks at Nobu in New York) and Bobby Flay, my least-favorite chef on the Food Network. His food usually looks good, but he's got a smug arrogance that makes me want to eat his food but then bitchslap him. (I've also heard stories, which I won't repeat here, that confirm monstrous arrogance on his part.) He reinforced my view of him by not behaving in the dignified manner that is expected of a challenger to an Iron Chef; he was more like Stallone entering the ring in Rocky IV. Iron Chefs and their challengers behave with deference, humility and respect, but not this turkey. Feh.

To make a long Looka! entry as short as possible, I'll skip to the end, except to say that the big disppointment for me was that Ota, the regular floor commentator, wasn't there, and that there was much less description of what was going on in this makeshift Kitchen Stadium than there usually is. There was way too much Gordon Elliott, an obnoxious Food Network host, and not NEARLY enough Takeshi Kaga. Things perked up when Bobby Flay kept getting electric shocks from the electric cooktops (compounded by the fact that he was standing in an inch of spilled water ... duh.) As things went along, though, I had to admit that Flay's creations looked pretty good, and Morimoto's looked amazing. Flay even finished a minute or so early and arrogantly twiddled his thumbs while Morimoto worked to the last second.

As the final buzzer sounded, I was appalled to see Flay leap up onto his cutting board, of all places, and raise his arms triumphantly (even though the verdict had yet to be announced). Gee, I thought, I guess that now that he's finished he feels free to contaminate his work surface. They cut back to Morimoto, who looked extremely agitated. I was worried that maybe he hadn't finished something, or that he didn't think he was going to win. The floor commentator asked him how he thought it all went, and Morimoto muttered something, gestured towards Flay, then said with contempt, "He's not a chef."


What? An Iron Chef has dissed a challenger? The floor commentator seemed as shocked as I, and asked him what he meant. "He's not a chef," repeated Morimoto. "He stood on his cutting board. That just isn't done. The cutting board and knives are sacred to us."

Wooooooo, you GO, Morimoto! He delivered the bitchslap that I had cooped up in me for so long. I am now the world's second-biggest Masaharu Morimoto fan (after that little boy in Tucson).

The tasting judges this time were former Food Network host Donna Hanover, Tim and Nina Zagat, and a very articulate and discerning young man who was picked from the audience at random. They raved so much about Flay's food that I was worried he'd win (I'm sure the food was good, I just didn't want him to win); additionally, Morimoto's food was very Japanese, contrasting with Flay's Southwest- and Latin-influenced but very American food, and I was also worried that the judges might not understand it. (For example, one of Morimoto's ingredients was katsuobushi, or dried bonito; it had been aged for three years and presented to him by his predecessor, former Iron Chef Japanese Rokusaburo Michiba, in a wooden box on which Michiba had hand-calligraphed "Respect the old, but seek out the new." Is that cool, or what?)

Finally, the verdict was announced ... MORIMOTO!!! The look of relief and triumph on his face was amazing, and he let himself express his feelings more so than one usually sees on regular Iron Chef shows. This is good. He deserved it. Flay gave a cursory congratulations and slinked away. HA-ha! Then Morimoto gave his Iron Chef hat to the little boy ... what a classy guy.

The hell with sports. Give me an Iron Chef battle any day.

Mmmmm, risotto...   Here's a recipe for wild mushroom risotto, as served at Celestino Drago's eponymous Celestino in Beverly Hills. I should be able to sample something quite similar tomorrow night, as I'll be dining at Celestino in Pasadena. They, like their sister restaurant in Beverly Hills, make each dish of risotto to order. Fantastico!

Obscure songs, we like 'em.   Looka! reader Cathy Cole was kind enough to write in and tell me where the boys from They Might Be Giants got the song "Why Does The Sun Shine", which I quoted yesterday in reference to my Weird Email of the Week. It came from an album called "Space Songs" by Tom Glazer and Dottie Evans on Motivation Records; a little Googling tells me that it was part of a series of science-related records for children, and this one came out in 1959. She said she wore it out as a kid, and also listened to Ken Nordine's Word Jazz (what a cool kid she must've been!).

Home Depot = Deathtrap?   Today's Los Angeles Times starts a report on highly dangerous "sky shelving" in huge discount stores by telling the story of Mary Penturff.

The 79-year-old Santa Monica woman was [in a Home Depot last year], looking for lattice to stake her morning glories, when a 19-year-old forklift operator accidentally tipped a load of lumber stacked several feet above her. She was crushed to death in front of her horrified daughter.
This does not surprise me at all. The last time I was in a Home Depot was several months ago, looking for lumber and hardware to build my liquor cabinet. I went at 10:30pm, thinking that it'd be less crowded then. Not only was it less crowded, but all the 19-year-old forklift operators must have been very bored; they raced their forklifts through the aisles, honking at startled shoppers who happened to be in their way. I had to leap out of the way on several occasions, enough to make me extremely unsettled. That's as if it wasn't unsettling enough being inside a Home Depot, wondering if The Big Earthquake is going to hit while I'm in there and all of the "sky shelves" will deposit their contents onto my head.

Y'know, I know they have everything, but I think I'll just stick to the safer, smaller, independently-owned hardware store up on Santa Monica Blvd.

Award! Award!   No, it's not the Golden Cleric ... I'm not a priest! (Even though I was a subscriber to priest-chatback a while back.)

I've made a somewhat retroactive discovery that my "404 - File Not Found" page was named a "Cool 404 of the Week" by the 404 Research Lab, and I even get a little award .gif to put on the site. (See, there it is.) Be careful following this link; you could spend hours at this site, going through everyone's nifty 404 pages. They have it listed at the very top of their "Creepy 404s" section as the "toilet duck 404". (Creepy? I thought it was funny, myself.) Father Jack would be so proud (if he were awake and/or sober). ARSEBISCUITS!

  Tuesday, August 15, 2000
Woo! Drinkboy updated!   Robert Hess, who does the superb DrinkBoy: Adventures in Cocktails site, finally updated for the first time in three months. The newest essay:  "Why Do We Drink?", on some of the underlying issues about drinking and the appropriate appreciation of the cocktail. Plus, there's a new drink recipe of his own creation:  The Black Feather, a personal signature cocktail for his new home bar. (Damn, why did it have to have vermouth in it? I do not like vermouth. I do not like it in a bar, I do not like it in a car. Robert said he'd experimented with Lillet ... maybe I'll try this drink with Lillet instead of vermouth and see how it goes.)

Le snip.   Apparently it's all but illegal to get a vasectomy in France, under a 200-year-old Napoleonic Code law that prevents "self-mutilation" (I guess there aren't too many pierced people in France, then.) In step the charitable British; a U.K. charity now runs a "vasectomy tourism service". Boy, doesn't that sound like a fun trip!

Weird email of the week:  

Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2000 12:15:01 EDT
Subject: question

why can't the sun be powered by a chemical process such as the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen to form water? Thanks for any help you can give me. John

Well John, it works like this ... (everybody sing along now) ... "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas / a gigantic nuclear furnace / Where hydrogen is built into helium / at a temperature of millions of degrees." (They Might Be Giants)

  Friday, August 11, 2000
Lunacy in Long Beach.   There is chaos and craziness at the Reform Party Convention(s) today, which has split into opposing camps - the Perotista founders of the party, and the right-wing wingnut Pat Buchanan, who has "hijacked" the party, in the words of the longtime Reformers.

Today Buchanan declared his campaign pledges, none of which have anything to do with the Reform Party's stated goals, and which make him sound like a lunatic hell-bent on imposing his personal agenda on an entire nation. I'd be concerned if this fruitcake had even the slightest snowflake's chance in hell of getting elected; Mr. Wingnut is polling about 1% right now.

Voters gained and lost.   Well, the bigots have unleashed themselves, on the Net and elsewhere. Looks like the Gore-Lieberman ticket won't be getting votes from the rabid, drooling, Australopithecine knuckle-walking redneck asshole constituency, but they were all going to vote for Buchanan anyway.

Where is that darned Mir right now, anyway?   Track your favorite space station, satellite or orbiting object at a nifty website called Heavens Above.

  Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Zoinks.   Sorry about the lack of updates in the last 5 days; I've been hideously busy. And thanks to the thousands and thousands of readers (okay, three) who wrote in wondering why they weren't getting their daily dose of Looka! since last Friday.

"Vice President Lieberman"... hmmm.   I'm sure you've all heard about Gore's choice for veep by now. I must confess that I'd barely heard of him until I heard the news on NPR Monday morning. After reading up a bit, I have to say that it's a pretty smart choice. Given Lieberman's quick denunciation of Clinton after the L*w*nsky scandal, his presence on the Dems' ticket will tend to 86 any effort Bush and Dick might make to run against a Clinton legacy rather than Gore himself.

He's a fair bit more conservative than I'd like, particularly with regards to his obsession with "objectionable" content in music lyrics, movies and TV shows, and his advocacy of government control over media content disturbs me. And while I think the fact that he's Jewish is definitely a plus (and adds something this election sorely needs ... INTEREST!), his orthodoxy initially worried me -- I tend to be wary of religious conservatives of any kind.

But his voting record on the civil rights, GLB issues and the environment has been pretty stellar, and he's pro-choice. Suddenly, an election I was dreading is finally starting to look interesting.

Quote of the day:   "With all due respect, I think that's like saying the veterinarian and the taxidermist are in the same business because either way you get your dog back."

-- Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, referring to the Bush campaign's suggestion that he had more in common with Dubya than with Al Gore (as reported in the New York Times).

Blam.   Funny coinkydink ... right on the heels of an argu-- erm, discussion I'd been having with a friend in email about the high prices of CDs and why I think it's bogus comes the announcement that the Attorneys General of 28 states are suing the five major label record conglomerates as well as three large chain retailers, alleging they have illegally conspired to inflate the price of CDs. Go, A.'s G.!

Woo!   I bought a Handspring Visor last week, and it arrived yesterday. For the last 3 years I'd been using a wheezing Palm Pilot Personal with 512K of memory. Now I've got a cool translucent blue gizmo with 8MB of memory and an expansion slot where I can add anything from another 8MB of memory to a six-in-one card with wired and wireless modems, voice recorder, vibrating alarm and more, to a GPS to a digital camera and more. What's next? The Handspring Phaser Module! (Stun only with the built-in AAA batteries).

Fabriqué en Russie.   I bought a shirt at Old Navy the other day, and was surprised to see "Made in Russia" on the tag. I guess they're another source of cheap labor now. The shirt looked okay, but I tend to be wary of Russian-made products after my visit there in '93. The toilet paper, for starters ... well, you don't wanna know. And now I know that I'll never buy Russian-made medical glue.

  Friday, August 4, 2000
Chattin' with Uncle Bill.   My friend Rick Cornell was recently lucky enough to get a chance to interview Billy Bragg, one of my favorite musicians. He later said that Billy was incredibly warm and giving, and that he had some very interesting things to say about Woody Guthrie, from an interesting perspective and on several levels. Take it all in, and then if you haven't already done so rush out and buy Mermaid Avenue, Volume 2.

Quite a ride.   Today is a good day to plug my friends' web sites. Jon Fish finished the California AIDS Ride a couple of months ago (an astonishing achievement, if you ask me). I highly recommend the AIDS Ride portion of his web site -- read his journal of the trip, see the pictures, and think about doing it yourself one year.

Dare I poach a peach?   Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in Yountville, CA tells us in his monthly column for the L.A. Times' Food section about the miracle of poached fruit; or, how to turn some leftover fruit into a fabulous dessert with just sugar, water and heat.

Quote of the day:   "It defeats the entire purpose of Napster, which is to be able to get any type of music you want when you want it, without paying. If I had to pay a fee for Napster, I might as well just buy the CDs."

-- Tiffany Kayes, a 17-year-old Napster user from Hillsbourough, N.J.

  Thursday, August 3, 2000
Um...   Y'know, my mixological experimentation and voyage of further discovery through the world of cocktails and spirits will only go so far, and will never include The Pork Martini.

However, it most certainly will include a glass of Lillet Blanc over ice, with a slice of orange. Lillet is a marvelous French aperitif wine, fortified with brandy and flavored with fruits and herbs. The bouquet and flavor are redolent of oranges, honey, a hint of lime and even a tiny wisp of mint, and the flavor is wonderfully bright. It also has the dubious distinction of being the preferred aperitif of Dr. Hannibal Lecter; he may have been a monster, a psychopath and a completely remorseless and cunning murderer, but did have exquisite taste ... ya gotta give him that. There's also a Lillet Rouge which I haven't tried yet, but at about $12 a bottle, it's not too big a bite out of the wallet to give it a try.

Lillet Blanc is not nearly as herbal-tasting as vermouth -- in fact, I really don't care for vermouth at all -- and I find it far more agreeable both as an aperitif and even as the flavoring in a Martini.

In fact, the Vesper -- the infamous "James Bond Martini" as described in Casino Royale -- uses Lillet as its flavor base. Agent 007 said, "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made." Although I do like to shake my Martinis, because you'll never get them as cold by stirring them, Bond was full of hooey about that "stirring bruises the gin" crap. You can't bruise gin.

The Vesper (or, "The James Bond Martini")

3 ounces gin (I prefer Bombay Sapphire)
1 ounce vodka (I prefer Stolichnaya)
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
Large twist of lemon

Add the liquors to a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, then shake for at least 30 seconds, until the drink is extremely cold. Strain into a large Martini glass, garnish with the big twist, then go see Q for your latest batch of gizmos.

My own experimentation led me to my own take on the Vesper. It's still a work in progress, but it's progressing well so far; it still may need a wee bit of work on the proportions. I reduced the amount of gin, as I'm still not that huge of a gin fan, added an element from My Favorite Cocktail, the Sazerac, and named it for one of my favorite streets in New Orleans, one that stretches from the French Quarter all the way to Bywater:

The Royal Street Martini

2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
1 ounce Stolichnaya vodka
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/4 ounce Herbsaint or Pernod
Twist of lemon

Add the Herbsaint to a cocktail glass that's been in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Swirl the Herbsaint around the glass to coat it completely, then discard the excess. Add the gin, vodka and Lillet to a cocktail shaker half-filled with cracked ice; shake, then strain into the Herbsaint-coated glass. Twist lemon peel over the drink, then drop it in.

Martini shmartini.   There are those who say that there is only one drink that can be called a Martini. That drink would be gin and some quantity of vermouth (from a 1:1 ratio to fanciful notions such as "rinse your mouth with a shot of vermouth, then spit it out and breathe on the ice cubes" and Buñuel's "allow a ray of sunlight to shine through the vermouth bottle onto the gin"). There are those who say that there is no such thing as a vodka Martini (and to be an even greater stickler, such a vodka/vermouth drink is actually called a Kangaroo). But for those who allow for a "Martini family" of cocktails, you may want to look at the concotions at Martinis Online, which includes over 300 recipes -- from the classic to the modern and trendy to the absolutely ghastly.

Darwin in action.   In a delicious example of the weak and stupid being removed from the food chain (so to speak), intelligent voters in Kansas dumped two anti-evolution school board members who had spearheaded the drive to "downplay" teaching evolution to public school kids.

Would you like some Vaseline?   It might make things go a tad easier for you when I take that cell phone out of your hand and shove it up your ass. (Oh my, do I smell a rant coming on? :-)

Cell phone rudeness almost seems de rigueur these days for users of that little chirping scourge. In the interest of full disclosure, I do have one, and it's come in very handy. But I don't use it in restaurants, I don't bring it into the theatre with me, and I don't chatter on it while trying to negotiate traffic in my car. I don't keep it on all the time, I don't accept calls when I'm with someone, and if I need to use it, I excuse myself to find some privacy.

It absolutely astonishes me that so many people seem to have every single thing they've learned about manners and courtesy since childhood completely erased from their minds when they purchase one of these things. Yesterday I was nearly broadsided by some idiot in a Mercedes who turned right on a red light without stopping (in fact, without even slowing down), while babbling on his cell phone. If I had had a large phaser-like energy-beam weapon mounted on my car, I would have vaporized him. Then there was the Neanderthal man sitting next to me in the movie theatre who took a call during the show, then placed two more just to annoy us because we shooshed him in astonishment. A couple of years ago I was in the middle of a dinner date when my dining companion proceeded to accept four lengthy cell phone calls. Needless to say, there were no more dates after that.

My cell phone is for my convenience only, not anyone else's, and I almost never give the number out (maybe three or four people have it). I don't need to be that available, and frankly neither do you, most likely. Keep it out of sight, preferably with vibrate mode instead of ringer mode, and if you need to use it, GO AWAY! Nobody wants to hear your one-sided and almost always shouted conversation.

(Okay, done ranting now. Thanks.)

Score one for the fish!   A Mexican fisherman was impaled by a swordfish last weekend, and lay in his boat for two days before being rescued, as revenge-minded vegans everywhere snickered. I would expect that after two days in the hot sun with a fisherman stuck on his nose the fish probably wasn't terribly edible, robbing the impalee of his own revenge.

Seriously though, it's astonishing that the man survived. Moral of the story -- don't go swordfishing by yourself.

  Tuesday, August 1, 2000
Jeez.   I can't believe it's August already.

"Compassionate conservatism", my ass.   The Republicans, to their credit, did not invite Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan or their ilk to speak at their National Convention this year, instead featuring speakers like retired Gen. Colin "Everybody Loves Me" Powell. However, one look at their newly-adopted platform shows that, as usual, the party is controlled by the religious right. The anti-gay language that was mostly removed from the 1996 version by the platform subcommittee was reinstated (although not as shrill as before) by conservative members of the platform committee, people described by an alternate GOP delegate and Bush supporter as "some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party". Also noted was a pre-convention poll that showed that GOP convention delegates are far more conservative than the average Republican.

Me, I missed the convention coverage last night. I had to clean my grout.

Cough up, you tightwads!   Sales of Stephen King's (semi-recycled) new horror tale "The Plant" haven't been as brisk as those of "Riding the Bullet", his very successful "e-book" from several months ago. He's resolved to keep writing the tale as long as at least 75% of the people who download it actually pay for it, otherwise he stops writing it. So far, about 76% have paid for the story's first installment or promised to pay ... and that's pretty close. C'mon, ya cheap bastids!

If'n I were King, I'd just forget about letting anyone download it for free and just make everyone pay. It's only a buck a chapter, fer Gawd's sakes. I like the whole Dickensian aspect of waiting with bated breath for the next installment (provided the story turns out to be any good, that is). I just paid for and downloaded the first chapter, but haven't read it yet. More on this story as it unfolds.

Quote of the day:   "Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets and then teams up with three complete stangers to kill again."

-- TV listing for "The Wizard of Oz" in a Marin County, California newspaper.

July Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

Several of my friends and loved ones contribute regularly to this blog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Steve Gardner, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Tom Krueger, Eric Labow and Michael Pemberton.
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