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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 @ 1:44pm PDT, 9/28/2000

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Chuck Taggart

Looka! Archive

August 2000
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February 2000
January 2000

December 1999
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October 1999
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August 1999
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Cocktail hour:


Cocktail Time

Bar Asterie

Ardent Spirits

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

The Sazerac Cocktail

Let's eat!



Food Network

The Global Gourmet

The Online Chef


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.

Papal Sins, by Garry Wills.

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"
"Iron Chef"
"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
Slightly North of Tomorrow
Strange Brew
The Other Side
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wild Oats

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>


The Fray (stories)
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
The Deduct Box (La. politics)
Spaceflight Now (just like it says

What's in Chuq's Visor? (My favorite Palm OS applications)

AvantGo *
Launcher III *
Showtimes *
WineScore *
Zagat Guide *

(* = superfavorite)

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weblog and (almost) daily blather

  Thursday, September 28, 2000
CHEESE ALERT!   I'm not kidding about this one. Food and Drug Administration scientists are mulling over whether or not to ban cheeses made from unpasteurized milk -- like Roquefort, Emmenthaler Swiss, Parmagiano-Reggiano and even some Cheddars -- because they might "make people sick". (Oh please.)

This would indeed be the end of civilization as we know it. We've got to FIGHT for our RIGHT to eat non-bland cheese! You can start by signing the petition at the Cheese Society's web site, and write your Congressional representatives to help prevent this idiocy.

  Wednesday, September 27, 2000
Yum!   We had an event at work last night that was catered by my friends Tracy and David's company, Rhubarb. (They're fabulous, by the way.) For dessert she made Scotcheroos. They're so 1950s traditional that they're revolutionary. And delicious. And incredibly addictive.


1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup smooth peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup butterscotch chips

In a 3 quart saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter; mix well. Add Rice Krispies, stirring until blended. Press mixture into buttered 13x9x2-inch dish. Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in a double boiler. Remove from heat and spread over Rice Krispies mixture. Cool until firm. Cut into squares. DO NOT REFRIGERATE!

Let my information flow.   Heads up, Deadheads. The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics web site will keep you busy for weeks. Just the page on "Terrapin Station" helped make a boring morning at work zoom by.

  Tuesday, September 26, 2000
Spooooooooooky.   Cue that Theremin music, kids. The driver who ran over and nearly killed Stephen King has been found dead in his trailer.

Friedkin! Your mother sews socks that smell!   Peter Bracke of DVDFile tells us why we shouldn't go see the new, George Lucas-esque "souped up" version of "The Exorcist".

Freedom to read.   This week is Banned Books Week. Read a challenged or banned book or better yet ... give one to someone who can't get it because it's banned where he or she lives or goes to school.

Meanwhile, some inbred, thinking-challenged people in Arkansas are trying to get a local school board to ban Where the Red Fern Grows because one of the characters says "damn".

Ni!   A newly discovered play co-written by the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python finally received its premiere at an Atlanta theatre last friday.

I really hope this play makes its way to Los Angeles. By all accounts it's hilarious.

David Sherlock, Chapman's partner of 20 years, who sent a small vial of Chapman's ashes to the auditions and rehearsals, also sent another vial of ashes to attend opening night. (Hee hee.)

My cat's name was Vic, not Imhotep.   Y'know, as much as I loved the various pets I'd had, I would hope that if I had ever actually spent $4,500 on this then someone would have kindly tossed me into the nearest nuthouse.

  Monday, September 25, 2000
¡Viva Oaxaca!   Last night we had dinner at Guelaguetza, one of my very favorite places. It's Mexican food, but unlike any you've ever had before. The cuisine of Oaxaca (wa-HA-ca), in the south of Mexico, bears no resemblance neither to the Americanized Tex-Mex that most people are used to (and to the inedible, execrable crapola served at places like Taco Bell) nor to the true and authentic cuisines of northern Mexico.

To illustrate:  When I first visited Guelaguetza, they were new and had only one tiny restaurant in L.A.'s Koreatown. My friend Luis, who lived nearby, suggested we try it. When we went in and sat down, I saw that the menu and the signs on the wall were entirely in Spanish, and the waiter didn't speak any English at all. No problem, I thought. Louie was born in Mexico and Spanish is his first language. I know a bit of restaurant and culinary Spanish, but I didn't recognize anything on the menu. "So what is all the stuff? What looks good?" I asked. He said, "I have no idea. This is not from my part of Mexico! I don't even know what some of these words mean!"

Fortunately, we just asked the waitress (um, well, Louie asked) to bring us the best and most typical dishes, and we were blown away. First off we had a clayuda, which is large, very thin and very crispy corn tortilla that's cooked on an ungreased clay cooking disk. It's then spread with aciento (or "special pork fat" ... Lordy Lordy Lordy) and and a bean purée, then topped with fresh cheese, onions, cilantro and your choice of meat -- chorizo (Mexican fresh sausage, this type lean and meaty rather than gloppy with fat like grocery store chorizo, and tied into little balls), cecina (leg of pork marinated with a chile paste rub and then thinly sliced) or tasajo (a salted round of beef, thinly sliced then grilled). Those three meat choices are offered with several dishes.

Then I was served a chicken in green mole dish called estofado con pollo; this one was made from tomatillos, chiles, raisins, spices and green olives. I had never tasted any mole so amazing in my life.

I was also smugly pleased to have discovered this place weeks before Jonathan Gold, a local food critic who excels at finding amazing little ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants, wrote it up in his column. :-) Gold rather eloquently described Guelaguetza's moles -- especially their black mole -- as being "so much better than other moles locally available, it's like seeing a Diego Rivera mural up close for the first time after years of seeing nothing but reproductions."

The folks at Guelaguetza import a lot of ingredients from Oaxaca themselves, from members of their family who still live there. This has been part of their tremendous success, as now they have three restaurants in the Los Angeles area, and have had their menu translated into English (which I find a bit helpful, I must admit).

Last night we had enchiladas con mole coloradito (red mole), mine with cecina and Wes' with chorizo, plus a tamal de rajas (a cornhusk-wrapped tamale stuffed with chicken, strips of chile poblano, onions and herbs) and some lovely tortilla soup.

Wes also ordered a beverage called agua de chilacayota, which hadn't been available during any of our last half-dozen visits to the restaurant, but which they finally had last night. It's made from a type of Mexican squash (called a chilacayota, apparently), plus pineapple, cinnamon and piloncillo, which is Mexican-style dark brown raw sugar. Sorry that the above link is only in Spanish, but it's pretty simple and you should be able to get it translated without too much bother. (Beware, though ... Babelfish translates "piña" not as "pineapple" but as "fragmentation hand grenade".)

I hope Oaxacan food will be the Next Big Thing, so if you have lots of Mexican folks living in your city, keep an eye out for signs that say "Comida Oaxaqueña", then go in and order your clayudas and moles like a pro.

Incidentally, we've got a nickname for Guelaguetza. A while back Wes wanted to go there and couldn't think of the name, and said "You know, that place where we had that great Mexican food ... the Oaxacateria!"

Consider the Lillets...   (Stop groaning. It's only going to get worse from here.)

Wes and I were browsing yesterday at a nifty antique shop and, naturally, stopped to peruse the barware section. They had a book on vintage barware, and in it was a recipe for a cocktail that sounded fascinating, and not only because I loved the name -- the Tiger Lillet.

Lillet blanc is, of course, the French aperitif white wine with hints of citrus and spice, and I'm quite fond of it. The recipe they printed didn't quite add up, though -- it called for 1/3 Lillet, 1/3 Van der Hum (a South African tangerine liqueur based on brandy) and 1/6 "Maraschino syrup". Hmm. That's only 5/6 of a drink. And what do they mean by Maraschino syrup? Do they mean Maraschino liqueur, or the thin sweet "juice" that the maraschino cherries come in? Was there a cocktail flavoring product back then that was a low- or no-alcohol cherry syrup? Despite this hole in the recipe, I thought the drink sounded very promising.

The web to the rescue! I found a site that had a more complete recipe which stated, as did the book, that the drink was the winner of the World Cocktail Championship in London in 1952, and was created by a barman named Mr. J. Jones (now that's an unusual name). Here's the actual recipe:

Tiger Lillet

1/3 Lillet.
1/3 Van der Hum.
1/6 Dry Vermouth.
1/6 Maraschino.
Shake and Strain. Serve with small piece of Orange Peel.

BZZZZZT! The dry vermouth just killed it for me. I do not like vermouth of any kind. I do not like it in a bar, I do not like it in a car. I do not like it in my drink; tastes quite nasty, that I think.

So ... how to go about changing this drink to suit my taste? Well, for starters, in all my digging through the two finest wine and spirits shops in Los Angeles, I'd never once seen Van der Hum liqueur. Fortunately, right there in my bar cabinet is a bottle of Mandarine Napoléon, another tangerine liqueur that's based on brandy, which I thought would make an excellent substitute. We're also fine for the Maraschino -- I love Liquore de Maraschino, and I have a bottle of Luxardo's fine product right there in my bar.

Now, to replace the vermouth. For a 3-ounce drink, I'm really only substituting one tablespoon's worth of liquor. I think the 1/3 Lillet content takes care of the aperitif wine flavor without adding more from vermouth, so I thought a bit about what might complement the flavor of both the Lillet and the Mandarine Napoléon. Cointreau and Grand Marnier were out, because I thought we had the citrus flavor covered. How 'bout ... Cognac? Hmmmmm. Complimentary flavor, keeps it all French ("IT IS BELGIAN!" shrieks Poirot predictably, while sipping a cordial glass of Mandarine Napoléon) and gives it a slight extra kick. I like it. I liked it even better when I mixed one up and drank it last night.

Now, to name the drink. I can't call it a Tiger Lillet anymore, since one ingredient has changed. That's one of the cardinal laws of cooking -- if you steal a recipe, you can get away with it by changing an ingredient or two, and then changing the name of the dish.

What's Up, Tiger Lillet? I like Woody Allen, but that's too close to the original. Calla Lillet? Kate Hepburn might like it, but I dunno... Gilded Lillet? Hrmm. Lillet Munster? Too silly! Lillet of the Valley? Lillet of the Field? Bleuchh. I really didn't consider Consider The Lillet, either.

Finally, it struck me. I named the drink for someone I've really liked for a very long time and whose work has given me a great deal of enjoyment over the years. And that's the truthhhhhh.

Lillet Tomlin

1 ounce Lillet.
1 ounce Mandarine Napoleon.
1/2 ounce Cognac.
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur.

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry WITH STEM, and a thin slice of orange perched on the rim of the glass.

Garnish additionally with two ringy-dingys and serve to the party to whom you are speaking.

BASHing the ex-BASHer.   The infamous Betty Bowers (who is a better Christian than you!) of the Landover Baptist Church and head of the BASH (Baptists Are Saving Homosexuals) Ministry has her way with John Paulk.

On a more serious note, officials at Focus on the Family (who don't get a link from this web site ... focus on your own damn family, you lot) will spend the next week or so deciding whether or not they'll give Paulk the sack. I hope so. His "job" as their spokesman causes harm to people, and he needs to find more honest work.

Mort interdite.   Mayor Gil Bernardi of the small French resort town of Le Lavandou has issued a municipal decree:  "It is forbidden for anyone who does not have a burial plot to die within town limits."

I wonder what the penalty is. Life?

The hell with Itchy and Scratchy.   Toward the dictatorship of the proletariat, here's Worker and Parasite!

  Friday, September 22, 2000
Gotcha!   John Paulk, the notorious and self-righteous "ex-gay" activist featured with his "ex-lesbian" wife on the cover of Newsweek magazine to tell his tale of "overcoming homosexuality", was spotted and photographed inside a Washington D.C. gay bar Tuesday night after socializing with the patrons and offering to buy drinks for nearly three-quarters of an hour before he was confronted and fled.

Paulk later admitted being there, but said he had only wandered in "to use the bathroom" (mmmm hmm, uh huh ... right, Mary).

"Until I tried to photograph him, I would say he was having a gay old time," [associate director of communications Wayne] Besen [of the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign] said. "I didn't know that using the bathroom involved 40 minutes of socializing in a bar and offering drinks to strangers."
Quelle surprise. Quelle hypocrisie.

Catch this movie.   I saw an astonishing, wonderful film last night -- "Songcatcher", written and directed by Maggie Greenwald and starring the wonderful Janet McTeer. It's the story of a musicologist (McTeer) who leaves the frustration of her academic position's glass ceiling to visit her sister, a teacher in a remote part of the Appalachians ... and discovers the incredible wealth of the locals' ballad singing tradition.

This is one of those films that's Right Up Chuck's Alley, both musically and filmically. It's a beautiful story, beautifully done, and it's chock-full of amazing traditional singers from the venerable Hazel Dickens to a knockout performance by singer Iris DeMent (who sang one of the most gorgeous and powerful songs in the film) to 14-year-old actress Emmy Rossum, whose performance as a traditional singer (not to mention as an actress) was breathtaking.

Check out the initial reviews on and the IMDB. The film received a standing ovation at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and is slated for a limited US release on December 1. Go see it.

"Honey, I am so buzzed."   Researchers have learned that bees will voluntarily drink alcohol. (Hmm ... I should concoct a cocktail that has honey in it.)

The researchers who have noted this behavior are pleased, since not only does it mean they might be able to use nonvertebrates for their clinical testing, but that the bees might be ideal candidates for the testing of drugs to curb alcoholism.

"We can even get them to drink pure ethanol, and I know of no organism that drinks pure ethanol, not even a college student," said Charles Abramson, a comparative psychologist at Oklahoma State University.
Close enough, though. I've known college-age idiots to knock back shotglasses full of 190-proof (95% alcohol) Everclear. Undoubtedly some of those organisms I went to school with would have tried pure ethanol if it were available. Sheesh. (Headline gleefully purloined from the SF Gate Morning Fix.)

  Thursday, September 21, 2000
¡Ay, que no!   Apparently there's a shortage of blue agave, the giant lily used to produce tequila, and some tequila distilleries have shut their doors.

Not to worry, though; there won't be a true shortage of the devilish liquid. (In fact, there seems to be a worldwide glut of José Cuervo "Gold".) This isn't stopping distributors from raising prices, though. Grr.

I had a very tasty tequila the other night with which I wasn't familiar -- Tequila Cazadores Reposado. It's only just now becoming common in the states, after apparently being the long-favorite and best-selling tequila in Mexico. It's got a good body and complex enough flavor for sipping, but not so complex that you wouldn't want to use it for cocktails, too. I think it beats the crap out of the higher-end Cuervo 1800 and is a lot cheaper, too.

The tequila tasting capped a marvelous dinner at Yahaira's Café in Pasadena, the little sister restaurant of El Portal. Chef Armando Ramirez offered adobado pork chops, fabulous stuffed roasted chiles, shrimp in a light mole, marinated grilled quail and grilled vegetables plus a lemon tart for dessert, in a terrific event that included an art show by painter José Ramirez and music by Quetzal.

Oh, by the way, I found an excellent tequila page with reviews, tasting notes and ratings of many different blanco/plata, reposado and añejo tequilas, and another one that's a couple of years old but describes the many new ultra-premium tequilas that have been hitting the market in the last couple of years.

Ooo, more figgy figgy!   I love semi-mindless web browsing. Today, I found recipes for roasted figs with blue cheese and ham (I really like blue cheese and ham, I like them lots lots more than SPAM) and a salad of figs with arugula and prosciutto.

Happy birthday, you wascawwy wabbit!   Genius animator Chuck Jones was born today in 1912. I wish I could say I was named for him, but I wasn't.

"Dr." Laura tv show not long for this world, methinks.   Laura Schlessinger, the Ph.D. in physiology who thinks she's a counselor and therapist, and whom the Washington Post describes as someone who is "of the opinion that gay people hadn't suffered enough bigotry and ignorance over the years and so she volunteered to offer yet more", is a tv turkey. (Quelle surprise.)

The audience seems to agree. The local L.A. station which runs the program reports that it garnered the lowest ratings ever in its time slot.

The Post, which among other things referred to the program as "off-putting", had many interesting and amusing things to say, including:

Suppose there had been no controversy; how would a reasonable person react to the "Dr. Laura" show? Probably with drooping eyelids. It's not a distinctive and certainly not a dynamic addition to the daytime talk show population. Mostly it's Dr. Laura preaching, hammering home her dogmatic beliefs, trotting out people who support her and dismissing or bullying those who don't. The woman's ego is an entire solar system unto itself -- vast, limitless and appealing to only the bravest explorers.

[She] looks, well, creepy. Her speaking style is strident, she rarely shows compassion, and she is anything but a comforting presence.

She's the anti-Oprah.

Vintage quote of the day:   "Don't believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me."

-- The Hon. Victor H. Schiro, then-Mayor of New Orleans, during the Hurricane Betsy disaster of 1965

  Wednesday, September 20, 2000
Homer's Choice.  

Khlav Kalash guy: Fresh Khlav Kalash! Get your Khlav Kalash!

Homer: Hey uh, could you go across the street and get me a slice of pizza?

Khlav Kalash guy: No pizza. Only Khlav Kalash.

Homer (moaning): Oh shooo... All right, all right, give me one bowl.

Khlav Kalash guy: No bowl. Stick! Stick!

Homer (tasting): Aaargghhhh, geeez ... that's just awful! (*smack*smack*smack* ... mmmm!) Now, what do you have to wash that awful taste out of my mouth?

Khlav Kalash guy: Mountain Dew or crab juice.

Homer: Blecchh! Ewwwww! Sheesh! I'll take a crab juice.

(Don't miss the recipe.)

Fun with Organic Chemistry.   As a companion to The Periodic Table of Rejected Elements I blogged on the 11th (my favorite is Imodium), we present you with a table which I personally find extremely useful:  The Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad.

Favorite word of the day.   susurrant (su-'s&r-&nt, -'s&-r&nt), adj. Having the quality of a whispering or rustling sound; root word susurrus (su-'s&r-&s, -'s&-r&s), noun: a whispering or rustling sound.

I came across this word today in a passage from Poppy Z. Brite's novel Lost Souls, in reference to the beautiful, green-eyed vampire Zillah:

But none of those men mattered now. Steve, Eliot, Simon -- they were just names receding into her past, names with none of the susurrant magic of Zillah. She whispered his name to herself constantly. It was like the smooth taste of whipped cream, like a deep tongue kiss.
Big Brother is watching you.   A 19-year-old student at Oklahoma State University is facing felony copyright infringement charges for trading MP3 files. The part that sounds ominous is that the RIAA somehow "detected a high volume of music downloads" to the campus network and notified university officials. "It does not appear he was selling the files or profiting in any way," added an official.

Cue "The Blue Danube".   Nifty pic of the International Space Station, which is being prepared for its first permanent crew. I know it's not finished yet, but still ... you'd think they could have gone with a more elegant design.

Speaking of which...   Unless someone's throwing a supremely good party, this is what I might like to do on New Year's Eve this year.

  Monday, September 18, 2000
Viva Asturies!   Friday night we went to the most recent concert from the Acoustic Music Series in Pasadena -- Llan de Cubel, a folk group from the autonomous principality of Asturies in northern Spain.

Not unlike its western neighbor Galicia, Asturies is a Celtic region, and this heritage is reflected in its traditional music. It's sung in Asturianu, the language of Asturies, but its instrumentation will be familiar to aficionadoes of Irish, Scottish and Breton traditional music -- Asturian bagpipes (similar to the Scottish Highland pipes, but with only two drones and a pitch closer to that of Breton pipes), flute, guitar, bouzouki, fiddle and various percussion. This was their second Pasadena appearance, and they were as wonderful as ever (although I wish that the venue had been more than half-full).

If you can find their CDs anywhere, I highly recommend them all. At the moment, I'm enjoying their fifth and most recent recording, "Un tiempu meyor", on the Fono Astur label.

Chuck sells out.   Yep, you've heard me rant and rail against advertising. Well, today I enter that big smelly place known as Hypocrisy Central -- I just signed a contract with a company called MusicVision so that they could provide my site with ... banner advertising.

Why? Simple. I need the money.

I've been doing The Gumbo Pages for nearly seven years now (eons in web time). I do it because it's fun, and because I love sharing things like Louisiana culture and the music featured on my radio program with the roughly 13,000 people who wander in here each week.

But as the years went by and the traffic increased, this big behemoth kept staring me in the face as a potential revenue source. Given how much I hate ads myself, I didn't want to think about it, and wondered if there were some way I could make a little extra money from my efforts and while still giving away everything for free. Well, I couldn't think of anything. While the three donations I've received through PayPal have been wonderful and highly appreciated, they're not going to go terribly far toward my buying a house.

MusicVision initially approached me last year about setting up advertising on my music-related pages, primarily my Uncle Tupelo, Wilco and Son Volt sites. I told them I wasn't interested, particularly if I couldn't put them on any non-music sections of the site. They said that was OK. I also asked LOTS of people what they thought. Most people said they're used to ads and don't care, and others filter them out and don't have to see them. After several months of agonizing I've decided to give it a try.

Here's the deal. The banners will appear on the three aforementioned bands' sites, on the recipe pages, and a few others. I'll probably have to put one on the home page, but they will never appear on my personal pages, nor will they ever appear on THIS page. Most of the hits come from the recipe and music pages, and that's where the banners will go. If you don't like banners, then you undoubtedly already use ad-filtering software and you won't see them anyway.

Don't worry too much about my character, though. While I might try the banner ad thing for a few months to see how it goes, you'll never see me in front of a Senate committee, naming names.

  Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Those bastards.   They finally came up with an idea for one of those so-called "reality" shows that I'm going to have to watch.

NBC have made a deal with the Russians for a show called "Destination Mir", in which a group of American contestants will train to be cosmonauts at Russia's Star City training facility, with Russian officials eliminating one contestant each week. The winner will then board a Soyuz spacecraft and be blasted into space for a stay aboard the Mir space station, all of which will be followed by the cameras.

For a kid who spent his entire childhood wanting to be an astronaut, this is one that I won't be able to pass up. If I were in better shape, I'd apply.

Today's Times.   The current edition of the ever-luscious Los Angeles Times Food Section gives us a chef and his recipes for dishes containing tequila; a fig redux with Saturday Karp on fig varieties, their history in California, and the peculiar sex life of the fig wasp; and recipes for ropa vieja, shrimp club sandwiches, good vegetarian chili and easy food-processor flaky pastry.

Award! Award! Award!   The British Film Institute recently named "Father Ted" as Number Fifty in the Top 100 British TV shows of all time (even though it's mostly Irish). "Fawlty Towers" was, of course, named Number One. It's no Golden Cleric Award, but hey, it's something. Tea, Fathers?

Quote of the day:   "As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate."

-- Sandra Boynton, "Chocolate: The Consuming Passion"

  Tuesday, September 12, 2000
Yet another reason for the destruction of advertising.   A production company filming a beer commercial in Peru at the ancient Incan shrine of Machu Picchu damaged a 500-year-old stone sundial when a tall crane which they did not have permission to use toppled over onto the monument. Their permit specified only light equipment and specifically forbade the crane, but the company snuck it onto the location at dawn. Charges were filed against the production crew which could result in 2-4 years in prison. Good.

  Monday, September 11, 2000
Yeah you rite.   Last night we headed to UCLA to see the "Acura Music Festival: Destination New Orleans", as the new primary sponsor of Jazzfest called it. What Acura are doing is sponsoring a touring micro-Jazzfest, featuring tidbits of Jazzfest-style music and food. The music was wonderful -- Jazzfest director Quint Davis was there himself emceeing, and if he knows how to do anything it's to put on a great music festival. We were treated to Irma Thomas, The Soul Queen of New Orleans; Dr. John the Night Tripper, aka Mac Rebennack; and rock 'n roll legend John Fogerty (a cow orker of mine remarked this morning, "Really?! I didn't know he was still alive!" Jesus, the man's only in his early 50s.)

Seeing Miss Irma and The Doctor was like seeing old friends; they were as great as usual. And Fogerty ... he rocks. His energy and the quality of his amazing voice have not changed or diminished one bit since the Creedence days.

Where this festival was severely lacking was in organization. There was ONE food area for the entire place, and we waited in a Gargantuan line for over a half an hour to get food. Not good. Fortunately the food itself was good, provided by chefs from New Orleans and Marksville, Louisiana -- jambalaya, red beans 'n rice with hot sausage, outstanding fried chicken, boudin, crawfish étouffée and crawfish bread.

I was grumpy in the food line, but once fed I was happy. These people have got to actually learn from the Jazzfest people how it's supposed to be done, though. There must be more than one food booth. If this event had been even 2/3 full, they'd have been screwed. (Unfortunately, it was slightly less than half full; I presume that poor promotion and a $50-70 ticket price for decent seats kept people away). Acura, get your act together.

Holy bejeebies!   Images like this do not make me feel confident about flying during inclement weather.

Headline of the day:   Man convicted of smuggling lizards in underwear, from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Fun with chemistry.   The Periodic Table of Rejected Elements. (Swiped from Brad.)

  Friday, September 8, 2000
Old Fashioned drinkers of the world, unite!   If you enjoy imbibing that classic cocktail called the Old Fashioned, and if you can get a bartender to make you a decent one, email me. I'd love to hear from people who (unlike me) seem to be able to order it in a bar and actually get something potable. So far seven of the last seven bartenders from whom I've ordered this drink have struck out.

Fortunately, I make dynamite Old Fashioneds at home. I've been experimenting a little bit with bitters, and since I don't always have an orange slice to muddle in the drink I thought about using orange bitters instead. It makes for a very interesting Old Fashioned.

Chuck's Old Fashioned

1 teaspoon simple syrup or superfine sugar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
1 dash orange bitters
3 ounces good Bourbon whiskey (like Maker's Mark)

In a large old fashioned (or rocks) glass, add the sugar syrup and bitters. Muddle together a bit (particularly if you're using granulated sugar), then fill the glass with cracked ice. Add the whiskey, then stir the drink with a long bar spoon, twirling it so that not only are the ingredients mixed, but the ice melts a bit and adds a slight dilution to the drink. When the ice has melted slightly and settled a bit, add a maraschino cherry for garnish and enjoy.

Remember that for chilled drinks calling for sugar, it's always better to use simple syrup than granulated sugar. It's already dissolved, and you won't get a gritty drink.

Chicken George backs off.   In a development which indicates that presidential candidate George Dubya Bush might indeed have a spinal column, he has stopped insisting that he will only debate Al Gore once on national multi-network tv and then only on an early morning talk show and a cable talk show. He's said to be "ready to discuss terms" with the Gore campaign. Hey George ... get up off your yella ass and debate the man on national tv like everyone else has done for the last 40 years.

In other news, it seems that GOP vice-presidential candidate Dick Cheney has skipped voting in 14 of the last 16 elections in the Dallas precicnt where he's registered. Now that's a believer in the power of Democracy, eh?

Our God wins.   Another column from SF Gate columnist Mark Morford on the Vatican's recent chest-thumping announcement, which is entitled "Our God Wins: The Catholic Church and its glorious gall", which one may sum up thusly:

So then, the Vatican would simply like to let it be known to all you billions of Hindus and Buddhists and Taoists, pagans and Jews and even you errant Christians who think you've got a lock on this whole Jesus thing: Your religion is no damn good. Just a friendly reminder.
By the way, Morford's excellent and acerbic columns are now being archived.

Oh, feck.   A United Nations interpreter got into a bit of hot water when he lost his place while doing a simultaneous translation of the Sudanese President's speech and swore. "God feckin' dammit, I might lose my feckin' job!", the unfortunate interpreter wasn't overheard to say.

  Wednesday, September 6, 2000
Deep-fried deviled eggs!   The Times-Picayune wonders why we New Orleanians didn't think of it first, since we proudly confirm the accusation that we'll batter and deep-fry anything that isn't nailed down. Here's how they do this dish, Thai-style -- kai kwam, or fried eggs stuffed with pork and seafood.

Poor boys.   Today's issue of The New Orleans MenuLetter features an excellent article the subject of poor boy sandwiches, and Tom Fitzmorris explains why he refuses to call them "po-boys" like everyone else does. He also reveals the secret to the heavenly roast beef from the late but venerated neighborhood restaurant Clarence and Lefty's, and lists the top ten places to get a roast beef poor boy in New Orleans. Be sure to read and save the article today, as there'll be a new issue up tomorrow and he doesn't archive them.

Vatican flips off the world.   The ultra-conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Inquisition), penned a document which received the Vatican stamp of approval yesterday. This document declares the Roman Catholic Church to be the "sole path to spiritual salvation".

In declaring themselves the "one true religion", the "bluntly worded" declaration (a strong reiteration of what has been long-standing Catholic doctrine) states that followers of non-Christian faiths have "gravely deficient" chances for salvation and that other Christian churches have "defects", primarily because they do not recognize the authority of the pope.

Mark Morford, editor of the SF Gate's "Morning Fix" summarizes the document as the Catholic Church's statement that "its own version of a spiteful, angry God who's pretty much anti-everything and makes you feel guilty all the time for just being alive is the only way to go."

Billions of Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other faiths around the world were predictably and quite understandly unamused by this assertation. Several were seen to roll their eyeballs and were also overheard to say, "Yeah, I got your one true religion right here, pal."

Given that the current pope, while astonishingly conservative, has always been a crusader for ecumenical dialogue with other Christian churches and world religions, the timing of this document seems odd. Some are speculating that ultra-conservative would-be successors to John Paul, whose Parkinson's disease and frail condition seem to be advancing, are jockeying for power and position to succeed him. The recent beatification of the ultra-conservative 19th Century pope Pius "Jews are dogs" the Ninth is yet another example of the advance of the conservatives. The current pope justifies the beatification by saying that Pius' intolerance and anti-Semitism were just "human limitations". Time magazine recently featured an interesting article on the life of this deeply flawed and rather un-saintly pope.

New Orleans Adopts $10 Cover Charge.   From The Onion:

New Orleans announced plans Monday to impose a $10 cover charge on all nonresidents seeking to enter the city. "For $10, visitors will receive unlimited access to all bars and nightclubs, three drink tickets, and a free 'Certified Muff Diver' T-shirt," said Mayor Marc Morial, flanked by a pair of the city's bouncers. "Those who want to leave the city and return before 2 a.m. can get their hand stamped for readmission." Women who flash their breasts will be admitted at the reduced rate of $8.

  Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Yay, no Commie calls.   I had a lot of fun with "Down Home" on Saturday, doing my almost-annual Labor Day special. The whole show was all union songs (like "There is Power in a Union", by Billy Bragg, some songs by and about Joe Hill, lots of coal mining songs (as it turned out, I had a ton of 'em in my collection), and other songs about working and labor.

I half-expected calls accusing me of being a commie pinko Wobbly, but the feedback from the listeners was great. My favorite call was from a woman whose parents had been union organizers from the 1920s to the 1950s, and whose mother had actually died on Labor Day several years ago. "Isn't that perfect?" she said.

Yum yum yum!   After sleeping wonderfully late yesterday, we headed out to Rancho Cienega Park for the 15th annual African Marketplace and Cultural Faire for the day. The admission price was right (three bucks), with hundreds of artists and craftspeople displaying their wares, and there were 6 stages of entertainment featuring African, reggae and even some Brazilian bands.

One of the main things we were after was the food, though. There was lots of Jamaican food, plus dishes from over west Africa. We couldn't decide what to get, so (of course) we got a staggering number of things and split them. From the Jamaican stall came jerk chicken, spicy stewed vegetables and rice, which was okay.

But the best stuff by far came from a restaurant called Saaris African Foods in Inglewood, which specialized in dishes from Nigeria -- chicken suya, which is grilled, spicy-but-not-hot chicken and was fabulous; jollof rice, a red rice made with meat broth, onions and peppers ... kind of like jambalaya without the meat. (In fact, the first time I served jambalaya to my friends Solomon and Ade from Nigeria, they shouted excitedly, "It's jollof rice! It's jollof rice! But with meat in it!") There were also wonderful fried plantains, called "dodokido" or just "dodo" for short; a really yummy black-eyed pea stew which they called bean porridge; fried bean cakes called akara, and little puffs of fried dough called, oddly enough, puff-puff. We tried to save room for the fabulous-looking meat pies, but we were too stuffed to do anything except find dessert.

After you've prepared your Nigerian feast from the above recipes, set aside another night to head down to Cameroon with one of my favorite African dishes of all, called folon. I got the recipe from Georges Collinet on his public radio program "Afropop Worldwide several years ago. It's a stew of chicken and shrimp with collard greens substituting for the bitter folon leaf found only in Cameroon, in a peanut-chicken-coconut broth and, as Georges said, "all the hot pep-air you can stand!" (That got my attention.) It's out of this world.

It's not weird ... go with me on this one.   Peanut butter with hot pepper, that is. It's very African, and that's where I got the idea ... although I don't think there are too many Africans who put cayenne or crushed habanero pepper on a peanut butter sandwich like I do.

Besides the peanut-and-red-pepper gravy I had in my folon as I described above, I had one other memorable peanut-pepper experience. Years ago my friend Solomon, who is of the Ibo people of Nigeria, invited me to his newborn daughter's naming ceremony. It was great fun, with incredible food and music, plus Nigerians are lots of fun to hang out with -- I don't think I've ever met folks from any other place who are so full of joy and enthusiasm for life. Anyway, at one point one of Solomon's friends started gathering up people to meet over in the corner -- "Men only!" -- for a special kind of toast to the new baby.

He started passing out chunks of some kind of nut with what looked like peanut butter spread on it. The nut was a kola nut, and a special kind that had apparently been imported from Nigeria. The peanut butter-looking stuff was exactly that -- "groundnut paste", as they called it -- homemade, and chock-full of cayenne pepper to boot. The toast was made, and the tradition was to pop the whole thing into your mouth and eat it. I was a little wary, because all those guys kept making sideways glances at me (one of the few non-Africans in the circle), with this little twinkle in their eyes. I hesitated, and one of the guys leaned over to me and said, "It will make you a better lover ... for a long longer! Aah, hahahahaaa!" Well hey, why not? I popped it in and crunched it up.

Within about ten seconds it felt like the top of my head was just going to pop off, splattering my brains all over those nice Ibo guys. This kola nut had the highest caffeine content of just about anything anywhere, and I had a buzz for quite a while afterward. It was only later that it occurred to me how great that peppery groundnut paste tasted.

And now, one of my favorite sandwiches ... toasted bread, crunchy peanut butter, apricot preserves, and ground cayenne or habanero pepper. Yum yum yum!

Gee, that's real compassionate all right...   Would-be president "Chicken" George Dubya Bush was overheard calling a New York Times reporter who was critical of his record "a major league asshole". Astonishingly, he only apologized for the fact that his remark was overheard, and not for the remark himself. This "compassionate conservative" has, ironically enough, been flouting civility as one of his major campaign issues, too.

What a cesspool of morons, to paraphrase Ellison. A vigilante band of drooling, illiterate idiots vandalized the home of a doctor in Wales after confusing the word "pediatrician" for "pedophile". The terrified doctor has since left town.

  Friday, September 1, 2000
Heavenly.   Fresh figs, that is. I've been practically O.D.'ing on them lately, and yesterday's L.A. Times was making me swoon with descriptions of fig dishes that were being served up by local chefs:  a salad of baby arugula with Spanish blue cheese, lightly candied walnuts and sliced figs in a balsamic vinegar and macerated fig dressing; an appetizer of foie gras braised in 10-year-old Port and covered with pistachios and figs, or a main dish of duck breast and roasted figs served on polenta in a fig and tart grape juice sauce; or sautéed foie gras tossed with roasted figs, apple-smoked bacon and aged balsamic vinegar. *moan*

I love 'em. Try 'em with whipped rosemary-flavored mascarpone cheese, or for breakfast over warm, creamy polenta with real maple syrup, in a salad with gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and a warm Port vinaigrette, as an appetizer of split fresh figs wrapped in slices of Prosciutto di Parma, or just plain figs all by themselves. Little bit o' heaven, yeah you rite...

A hole in the radio dial.   Last Monday Channel 103.1, also known as "World Class Rock", a local AAA-format station, went off the air and their new owners switched formats to all-Spanish (shades of KSCA). They sort of made history at the same time, though, as they are generally thought to be the first station ever to move from the FM dial directly to the Web.

It's a noble deed, and a ballsy move. Despite that, I find it all very unsatisfying. I don't listen to the radio at home very much (oddly enough, for a public radio guy), and when I do it's NPR news, and if it's net radio then it's always WWOZ 90.7 FM in New Orleans ... the best radio station in the world.

While Channel 103.1 were easily the best and most listenable commercial radio station in L.A. for music despite their flaws, I'm still not convinced that their mix of music is unique or daring enough to survive competition from the entire planet's worth of web-broadcasting radio stations. Also ... where I need them is in my car, when I'm commuting. That's where I listen to the radio the most. I wish them the best of luck, but we'll have to see if they survive.

Good God.   While it's tragic that a police officer was killed in the performance of his duty, I have to question his judgment. Surely there was a better way to resolve this crisis than to shoot a 12-year-old boy in the chest and kill him. Why not just shoot out his tires, for God's sake?

Sing it for me, HAL.   From an interesting collection on the Vortex Technologies site comes a very nifty recording. Surely you remember the scene in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" in which HAL sings "Daisy" as Bowman is dismantling him, his synthesized voice slowing hauntingly. Now listen to the original recording that inspired that scene -- it's "Daisy" being sung by a Bell Labs IBM 7094 computer, way back in 1961. (The vocal was programmed by John Kelly and Carol Lockbaum, and the accompaniment was programmed by Max Mathews.)

Have a great weekend!   And be safe, y'all.

August 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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