the gumbo pages

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, New Orleans and 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 @ 3:19pm PST, 1/31/2001

Blame this page on:
Chuck Taggart (who?)

Looka! Archive

December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

Friends with pages:


Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail


Cocktail Time

Bar Asterie

Ardent Spirits

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily


Food Network


The Global Gourmet

The Online Chef

Slow Food Int'l. Movement


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:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling.

The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, by Diana Kennedy.

The Hole in the Flag, by Andrei Codrescu.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris.


Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

by Garry B. Trudeau

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
Father Ted

Weblogs I read:

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

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>

Must-reads: (Progressive politics & news)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (stories)
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
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)

Number of votes by which George W. Bush lost the national popular vote on November 7, 2000

Number of votes to which Bush's lead had dwindled in Florida when the hand recount was stopped

(Just what do you think you're doing, Chuck?)

Made with Macintosh

hosted by pair Networks

weblog and (almost) daily blather

  "There ought to be limits to freedom."
  -- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

  Wednesday, January 31, 2001
Feck.   Three days after I buy one, Sega decides to dump the Dreamcast platform. Typical.

I've been having extreme difficulty finding the maraca controllers for Samba de Amigo, and I ended up ordering a 3rd-party-made set from a video games store in Hawaii. Presumably the game will be ported to Playstation at some point, but I want to start playing now.

Do what to the vegetables?   WWL-TV, the local CBS affiliate in New Orleans, published a wonderful recipes on its web site recently -- Duck and Foie Gras Sausage Stuffed with Glazed Quail and a Demi-Jus, from Chef Scott Varnedoe of Café Marigny. It looks yummy, and it's part of food writer Tom Fitzmorris' wonderful idea of making foie gras the official food of Mardi Gras (they've got the same second word, even). Foie gras represents indulgence, and that's what Mardi Gras is all about.

There's a mildly amusing typo in the recipe, too. Check that spelling, boys! Otherwise I'll have to send a martian-arts expert over to teach you a few lessons.

Mmmmmmmm, foie gras.   Read a little bit about it in the Foie Gras FAQ, with recipes and links to where you can get it, too.

Do yourself a favor -- if you're at a nice restaurant, if you see foie gras on the menu, if you haven't had foie gras before (and even if you have) ... order it. Splurge. Luxuriate.

O, the compassion.   The Catholic Church has refused to allow a little girl to take her First Communion because she has celiac disease, which makes her ill if she ingests gluten -- which is found in all wheat bread, including communion wafers. The idea of a wafer made from rice flour was rejected.

It's been a while since I've read the Bible, but I don't recall the words said during the Last Supper as being, "Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body, which has been given up for you -- well, almost all of you except for you poor unlucky Hell-bound bastards who can't digest wheat gluten."

The Catholic Church, all the way back to the Vatican, refused to make an exception. The girl's family are now Methodists. Her mother said, "I believe Jesus would have made an exception."

Fear and Loathing at Pacifica Radio.   Pacifica reporter Juan Gonzalez, co-host and co-founder of the news program "Democracy Now!", heard in Los Angeles on KPFK, abruptly resigned on-air this morning, saying that "the current management situation at Pacifica has become intolerable... the last straw being the Christmas Coup at this station, WBAI, last month" -- a reference to the recent unexplained firings and bannings of top staff. "I've come to the conclusion that the Pacifica board has been hijacked by a small clique that has more in common with modern-day corporate vultures than with working-class America," he said.

Gonzalez ended his on-air resignation by announcing a "national corporate campaign" to oust the Pacifica Foundation's embattled new board leadership, which he accused of "illegally chang[ing] the Foundation's bylaws." He said the campaign would call on listeners, instead of donating to Pacifica, to contribute money to groups challenging the board's legitimacy and working to democratize the network.

Gonzalez said the current leadership group "does not respect free speech; it does not respect labor or civil rights; it doesn't even practice due process for its own managers."

Pacifica's Washington, D.C. station, WPFW, censored most of Gonzalez's statement, cutting away to taped programming.

  Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Watakushi no kioku ga tashika naraba...   The ever-creative folks at The Icon Factory have come up with a winner -- "Iron Chef" icons for your Mac! Who takes it?! Whose icons reign supreme?!

And to add a nice finish, The Desk Stop folks also offer two "Iron Chef" desktop background pictures.

The Further Adventures of Pizzle and Bung.   Gee, sounds like a 1970s buddy-cop TV show, doesn't it?

Continuing our scintillating look at the lower end of the "variety meats" spectrum, let's just say that I wouldn't even feed these to my dog. ("It's what dogs chew naturally"?? Since when?!) I'm also really, really glad I'm not a sheep.

Today's pearl of wisdom from the Oval Office.   This is exciting! Undoubtedly it means that Dubya is going to ask Congress to appropriate billions of dollars for research into time travel!

"I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well."
-- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., January 29, 2001
They'd better watch that paradox thing, though.

Wacky.   Y'know ... I like Brad Pitt 'n all, but not this much. (I'll bet this guy doesn't get a single bid.)

  Monday, January 29, 2001
Woo-hoo!   I finally bought my Sega Dreamcast yesterday. (I've never owned a video game console in my life, and at age thirty-mumble I buy one that's under threat of discontinuation. Lovely.) I also found a used copy of Samba de Amigo for five bucks cheaper than new, but ... no maracas! The game store was out, so I'll probably get them online somewhere.

<voice="veruca">But I wanna play it tonight! I want it now!!!</voice>

Big deal. (Popeye's fried chicken is MUCH better.)   A couple in Shelbyville, Kentucky who bought a house from Col. Harlan Sanders in the early 1970s found something interesting in the basement. Seems there was a box they had never looked through before, containing old books. In it was a leather-bound journal dated 1964, which contained a recipe for fried chicken that used 11 herbs and spices.

The couple contacted an auction house to have the journal appraised for sale, and were immediately sued by Kentucky Fried Chicken, who are apparently quaking in their chicken-feather-caked boots. As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford put it, they seemed to sue "of a very simple fear that someone might actually discover the recipe basically consists of huge amounts of lard and mountains of salt and generous dollops of rat feces and some of the scariest, most diseased industrial-farmed chicken-like animals known to humankind."

We loved it; 1.3 billion Chinese hated it.   We finally saw "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" this weekend. I thought it was stunning, and Wes was very impressed as well. Amazing storytelling, cinematography, fight choreography and wire-effects work, unlike anything I'd ever seen. We were impressed by the care that Ang Lee and his screenwriters took to develop the characters and story, and were surprised that 20 minutes went by before one of the touted fight scenes took place.

Things like this, though, have apparently been a huge problem in China, where the film is getting lousy reviews.

An "exquisite film," raved Newsweek magazine. "As unrealistic and exaggerated as a video game," scoffed a popular Beijing consumer weekly.

"You can't take your eyes off" actor Chow Yun Fat, declared Vanity Fair. Not so, countered the Beijing Evening News: "Chow's performance is... laughable. It seems he is still unable to shake his midlife crisis."

Hollywood studio chiefs, take note: The same elements that had U.S. critics and moviegoers swooning fell flat with viewers in the world's biggest potential movie market. American reviewers praised the film for its historical authenticity, which required the input of experts on everything from furniture styles to wedding customs in the Qing Dynasty. Chinese watchers -- used to TV period dramas full of anachronisms -- were not impressed.

"Who cares?" said Zhong Gang, 27. "As long as it's not totally absurd."

Complaints also abound about the film's slow pace, which American critics have called lush and poetic, and unrealistic characters whose grasp of Mandarin Chinese is shaky. Both Chow and Yeoh are used to Cantonese-speaking roles. Added to that are action scenes that Chinese moviegoers label as fake and subpar compared with the kung fu mastery displayed in such classic as "Shaolin Temple." Shanghai audiences hissed at a scene -- a fight atop bamboo trees -- that has had Western moviegoers gasping in delight. ("Gorgeous," gushed the Sacramento Bee.) "The action scenes weren't as good as the old kung fu movies... People flew around way too much. If you put me on wires, I could fly around too," said Zhong, a mild-mannered bank employee. "There was no real martial-arts skill."

Well, it looked pretty feckin' impressive to me. We were wondering, though, how this would go over in China to an audience used to martial-arts movies done their way. (Not well, apparently.)   Disney announces they'll shut down their portal, citing it as a huge money black hole. I'm beginning to wonder if the Web will get back to what it was when it started -- free information provided by academic institutions and private individuals, once all these big corporations realize that they can't make money on it.

Uh, right.   The world has not seen a greater orator since Marcus Tullius Cicero:

"My pro-life position is I believe there's life. It's not necessarily based in religion. I think there's a life there, therefore the notion of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."
-- George W. Bush, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 23, 2001
He may be lousy at speaking, but he seems to excel at issuing constitutionally questionable orders, like creating a program for federal funding of religious-based charities.

Amusing typo of the day.   For about the first half of today, the above article about "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" contained a reference to "martian-arts movies", before I noticed and corrected it. (Ehh, I still don't like spell-checkers.)

"Being disintegrated makes me ve-ry an-gry!" *huff*huff*
-- Marvin the Martian

  Friday, January 26, 2001
But does it know Asimov's Three Laws?   Wow ... I now have a use for my old Palm Pilot Personal -- it can power a robot, and so can any current Pilot (and they're working on a Handspring connector, too). This is way cool, although I'm not sure how practical it'll be until I can program it to clean my house.

Caveat emptor.   Here is a very good reason why you should very carefully read eBay auction item descriptions, and email the seller with any questions or doubts that you may have. (Make sure you read the seller's feedback profile.)  [Via NTK]

More patent nonsense.   When will the country's stupid patent office stop issuing patents for things that it shouldn't? Some food company has apparently patented a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich in December of 1999, and is suing another company for selling crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches themselves.

Screw 'em both, I say. My mom was making me crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as early as 1967. Why don't I just turn around and patent roast beef po-boys, dressed? Sheesh.

"We shoot him in the head at noon, and there's nothing but bones left by six."   I was once privileged to have been invited to an old-fashioned Cajun boucherie at the home of Marc and Ann Savoy in Eunice, Louisiana. Marc enjoys keeping alive the old traditions of the home-based pig slaughter, where a pig farmer will enlist the help of his neighbors to slaughter and process a pig at home, and every part is used. (They were very thorough in the old days. Although Marc and his friends didn't go quite that far, in olden times they'd also make hog's head cheese and blood sausage, and the even bones would be used, ground up for bone meal.)

You get a lot more involved with your food when you see it prepared this way. While this kind of thing might cause lots of vegetarian conversion experiences, I found that the process was done quickly, humanely and reverently, with the people involved honoring the pig that gave its life to provide sustenence for everyone who gathered that day. (I harbor no illusions, though, that the commercial slaughterhouse provides the same experience, nor the same reverence.)

I also have to say that that particular pig provided the very best boudin that I had ever had in my entire life. There was also backbone stew, cooked in a huge black iron cauldron over an open fire, and enough barbecued pork to feed the 60 or so people who had been invited to the boucherie.

Hey, it's a dying skill. After the fall of civilization, you might find yourself wanting or needing some pork, and you'll have no idea how to turn a pig into pork. Fortunately, the World Wide Web comes in handy, with step-by-step instructions on home slaughtering of pork. There are photographs (although black and white ones), so the squeamish might want to skip this link. It's all quite fascinating, though.

To put some of you off your food even further, (or at least off your pork), here's a page that explains all those mysterious by-products of pork, and what they're used for.

And just how the hell did all of this come up? You may well be asking by this point. Well, a while back Wes and I were shopping at 99 Ranch, a huge and fabulous Asian supermarket in San Gabriel, and at the meat counter we saw one item we had never seen at a supermarket meat counter before:  PORK BUNG, 89c/pound.

Bung? Bung? Is that what we think it is?

1bung, 'b&[ng], noun
Etymology:  Middle English, from Middle Dutch bonne, bonghe, 15th century
1 : the stopper especially in the bunghole of a cask; also : BUNGHOLE
2 : the cecum or anus especially of a slaughtered animal.
(Um, yep.)

What in the world does one do with pork bung, we wondered. Bung stew? Bung on a bun? Bung à la King? Bung 'n Beans?

The Web comes to the rescue, as usual. (Sure, that makes sense.)

And if you didn't want to hear about pork bung...   I'll bet you really really don't want to hear about the item that's #1 on the USDA list of red meat products that are eligible to be exported to Japan "as edible product". It's a product that I had never heard of, and a word whose definition I did not know, until tonight ... beef pizzle.

I hope you're not having breakfast or lunch as you're reading Looka! today.

Okay, okay...   I promise to stop talking about pork and variety meats. Let me toss you something else, a little recipe I dug up out of my files after seeing some huge, beautiful Asian pears at the farmer's market today:

Buy some big, juicy Asian pears. Cut them in half and core them. Chop 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 pound, or 1 stick) and put in a baking dish. Put in the oven until the butter melts. Remove from oven and sprinkle 1.5 cups sugar over bottom of pan. Place the pears cut side down into pan. Cover tightly w/foil and bake at 450°F for 20 minutes.

Check to make sure sugar isn't burning. Once pears begin to give off juice to mix with the butter and sugar to form syrup, begin basting the pears. Recover tightly after each basting. Once there's liquid in pan, feel free to add herbs of your choice, like lavender, cinnamon, allspice or cardamom. As syrup concentrates it'll caramelize. Continue basting until pears are fork-tender. Serve pears drizzled with caramel sauce.

Amusing Google search result of the day.   This one wasn't from my referrer logs, but apparently if you go to Google and enter the search term "dumb motherfucker", the Number One result you get is ... The George W. Bush for President On-Line Store for Campaign Materials, Wearables and Gift Items. (Thanks to Tammy Coombs for the contribution.) Furthermore, that site looks awful in Netscape (dunno about IE), with graphics placed over text, and an overall design almost as awful as the new White House design.

There's a story on Wired about it as well.

Lest I get more hate mail from Republicans ... hey, I can't make this shit up. Try it for yourself.

Is Larry Gatlin on crack?   Can you help me find some other explanation for why he introduced Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris at the state's Inaugural Ball by comparing her to Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks? Jesus H. Kee-rist.

The final outrage comes from a quote from Jeb Bush, who said:

"I'm pleased and proud," Bush told Reuters of his older brother's inauguration as 43rd President. "I'm also pleased to be here with all of my friends from Florida because we made it happen."
In other words, as my friend Steve put it, "the fix was in and they made goddamn sure that he won, even if he lost the popular vote and probably lost Florida. So he, in essence, fucking admitted that the Republikans in Florida rigged the goddamn election, but this angle gets no play."

So much for "liberal media bias."

  Thursday, January 25, 2001
Um ... ick.   Get a grip on your iron stomachs and visit James Lileks' Gallery of Regrettable Food, featuring unbelievably ghastly recipes from cookbooks from the 1930s to the 1960s. Stuff like this one, found on a soc.motss post, from the October 1950 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine:

Jell-O Mincemeat Mold

2 packages Cherry Jell-O
3 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup broken nut meats
2 cups moist mincemeat (or one 9-ounce package condensed*)

New dessert for Autumn...spicy mincemeat molded in Cherry Jell-O! Notice the heightened flavor of Cherry Jell-O these days. A new Jell-O formula captures the full flavor of fresh-picked cherries as never before.

Dissolve Cherry Jell-O in hot water. Pour 3/4 cup mixture in to 1 1/2 quart mold. Chill until firm. Chill remaining Jell-O until slightly thickened. Fold in nut meats and mincemeat. Turn into mold over firm Jell-O. Chill until firm. Unmold. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and mint leaves. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

*Prepare as directed on package. Cool.

(Jell-O is a registered trademark of General Foods Corporation.)

Believe it or not, this one looks positively palatable next to the ones Lileks found. Bet you didn't know that "for truly distinctive desserts, cook with Ketchup!", did you?

Owwie owwie owwie ow ow owwww...   Y'know, if I ever accidentally sever my hand with a power saw, rather than doing this I think I'll just call the paramedics and have them bring some morphine.

"Bush starts off by defying the Constitution."   From a Los Angeles Times commentary by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz:

The very first act of the new Bush administration was to have a Protestant Evangelist minister officially dedicate the inauguration to Jesus Christ, who he declared to be "our savior." Invoking "the Father, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ" and "the Holy Spirit," Billy Graham's son, the man selected by President George W. Bush to bless his presidency, excluded the tens of millions of Americans who are Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists from his blessing by his particularistic and parochial language.

The plain message conveyed by the new administration is that George W. Bush's America is a Christian nation, and that non-Christians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully equal citizens. In effect, Bush is saying: "This is our home, and in our home we pray to Jesus as our savior. If you want to be a guest in our home, you must accept the way we pray."

But the United States is neither a Christian nation nor the exclusive home of any particular religious group. Non-Christians are not guests. We are as much hosts as any Mayflower-descendant Protestant. It is our home as well as theirs. And in a home with so many owners, there can be no official sectarian prayer. That is what the 1st Amendment is all about, and the first act by the new administration was in defiance of our Constitution. [more]

Don't hold your breath, Fidel.   Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in a speech last Sunday that he hopes George W. Bush is "not as stupid as he seems". Um...

  Wednesday, January 24, 2001
Goodbye, Deirdre.   It was announced this morning that legendary Los Angeles DJ Deirdre O'Donoghue has died of "undisclosed causes"; she was found dead in her home by police last weekend after failing to show up for a broadcast and not returning phone calls.

She began her career at KKGO and rock station KMET, was still doing her KLSX program "Breakfast With the Beatles" on Sunday mornings, but truly made a mark during her 11-year tenure at my old station KCRW as the host of the "avant pop" program "SNAP".

She turned me on to an incredible amount of music, was responsible for one of the greatest musical experiences of my life (sitting in the control room of KCRW's performance studio during an impromptu live acoustic performance by R.E.M. with Peter Holsapple), and she gave a big boost to my then-fledgling radio career. I was a brand-new green kid in his mid-20s, doing my one-hour Louisiana music specialty show "Gumbo Ya-Ya", and Deirdre had enough respect for me as a music programmer to ask me to be a substitute host for "SNAP" on several occasions. It was a big deal to be asked -- I was very grateful then and still am now.

Thanks for everything, Deirdre. We'll miss you.

It has not been a good week.   Cajun accordionist and singer Eddie LeJeune passed away last week of a heart attack at age 49. He was the son of the great accordionist/singer Iry LeJeune, who also left us way too early.

I had the privilege of hosting a live radio performance with Eddie, D. L. Menard and Ken Smith about 10 years ago, and he was brilliant. He played and sang in a very old traditional style, and there aren't many left who still play like he did.

Isleys 1, Bolton 0   The U. S. Supreme Court, done something right for a change, refused to hear "singer" Michael Bolton's appeal in which he sought to overturn a $5.4 million civil plagiarism judgment against him. The jury found that he ripped off parts of an Isley Brothers song for one of his... but his songs are so insipid that apparently even the Isley Brothers can't help.

Just... put the gun down...   Wingnut hard rocker Ted Nugent, who seems to have one handgun permanently attached to his hand and another surgically implanted up his nose, is being sued by a Nebraska couple who foolishly paid $1,535 for "unrestricted backstage passes" and dinner with the heavily armed rock star. Instead, they got seats 30 rows back, "limited access" passes and no dinner.

Defendant Nugent couldn't be reached for comment, as he was probably busy out in the woods somewhere, running around naked, making grunting noises, and slaughtering small animals.

The fast-food nation comes full circle.   They'll take you from the cradle to the grave.

Oh great, thanks.   Weird search term and result of the day... a Yahoo search for "pictures of maggots" yesterday took some websearcher to a page featuring pictures of me. I am not maggoty!

  Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Horror stories from the fast food nation.   One other very good point made in Eric Schlosser's new book Fast Food Nation is the fact that your fast food meal is prepared by a minimum wage worker (chances are, a teenager) who knows nothing about food handling practices, and who might be adding certain other ingredients to your burger -- anything from spit to urine to oven cleaner.

They're in the money.   Turns out that most of the members of Dubya's cabinet are millionaires, and all of them have net worths of at least six figures.

"Of the 100 million Americans who don't vote, the overwhelming numbers are lower middle class or poor who think government doesn't represent them," [watchdog organization] Center for Public Integrity's [Charles] Lewis said. "News like this doesn't exactly encourage them."
Will it ever be possible to send Mr. Smith to Washington again?

*snicker*   While there may be one new Dubya in the White House, there are apparently lots of missing "W"s.

Weird search request of the day.   Yesterday some wingnut found the February 2000 edition of Looka! by entering the follwing search terms on Yahoo!:  "free black audio sex sites featuring the sounds of sex that do not need special software or browser ware to hear". This search term pinged me because apparently Google deftly summarizes that page as ""... of MP3 audio on ... the Black Student ... same-sex couple ... personal sites, so I ... item sounds particularly ... a site featuring true ... caffeine-free for ... does not, and ... can do on ..." Sheesh.

  Monday, January 22, 2001
Towards a slow food revolution.   The New York Times recently ran a review of a book that's been next on my list since I first heard of it a few weeks ago -- Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser. I've flipped through it a bit, plus read excerpts from it in that Atlantic Monthly article I wrote about on the 5th, and it's a must-get. You'll think twice before eating fast-food again, and you'll have lots to think about with regards to the entire processed food industry as well.

Fast food is bad for you in so many ways. Stop thinking that way. Think Slow Food.

Brilliant.   The real reason behind California's rolling power blackouts finally bursts forth in an unparalleled burst of mental power, expressed in sheer poetry:

The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants." -- George W. Bush, from an interview with the New York Times, January 14, 2001
My God, why hadn't I or anyone else thought of that? The man's a feckin' genius.

  Saturday, January 20, 2001
I've decided what I'm going to do.   I'm going to start watching "The West Wing" religiously, and I'm just going to pretend that Josiah Bartlett is the president, not You-Know-Who (and I don't mean Voldemort).

Quote of the Day:   "God forbid the American people should have a president who appears to be smart!"

-- Josiah Bartlett, the should-be 43rd President of the United States (sure, he's fictional, but nobody's perfect)

Today on "Down Home":   Andy Irvine and Patrick Street play Woody Guthrie; more from "Journey: The Best of Donal Lunny", new on Rounder; plus more of the "Best of 2000" retrospective - today it's reissues and compilations.

Listen to our live streaming audio today from 3:00 to 5:00pm Pacific Time (Windows Media Player required).

  Thursday, January 18, 2001
Merci, Floyd.   Floyd Soileau of Ville Platte, Louisiana, who has been producing, manufacturing, distributing and selling Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop and other Louisiana music recordings for over 43 years, has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award by OffBeat, the world-renowned Louisiana music magazine. In this article Floyd talks about the early days as well as the future -- can Cajun music keep the Cajun French language alive?

Mmmm, critters.   Well, the haute cuisine term is more along the lines of "wild game", 'cause you can't charge $38 a plate for marinated and grilled critter. But if you have an interest in wild game, you might want to have a look at Fisher's Wild Game Recipe Site, where you can find recipes for quail, duck, goose, dove, pheasant, elk , moose, bear, antelope, boar, rabbit, venison, partridge, turtle, frog, snake ... you name it. (I've had 10 of the aforementioned critters, incidentally.) [Link nicked from the New Orleans Menu Daily]

I'm no expert on the Torah or anything, but I seem to recall there being lots of wine consumed, not beer. Despite that, G-d has seen fit to give us He'brew: The Chosen Beer, and my friend Fred says it's pretty good (never tried it myself). Love that URL, too.

"Bush:  'Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over'"   From The Onion:

WASHINGTON, DC--Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street. [more]

  Wednesday, January 17, 2001
Ernest and Julio grow up.   I must confess that I've been avoiding them over the years, but apparently Gallo wines are not just jug wines and Hearty Burgundy anymore. In fact, some of their newer Estate Bottled and Single Vineyard wines are quite good, according to the L. A. Times Food Section.

Still, you'd do well to keep avoiding any wine that comes in a gallon-sized box.

"Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there."   I saw John Ford's film of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" last Saturday, on a huge screen at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, a beautifully restored 1920s-era movie palace; it was this month's presentation by the Alex Film Society. I don't know how I've managed to miss seeing it all these years (and with a M.A. in film and all!), and by the time the lights came up I was thinking that it was one of the best movies I'd ever seen. I'm going to have to amend my list.

It was superb, better than most films being made today. Henry Fonda was brilliant, perfect as Tom Joad; in fact, the cast was uniformly excellent. It was hard-hitting, too; while not so grim as the book, it had almost none of the schmaltzy Hollywood sentimentality of the period (1940). Gregg Toland's cinematography was, as always, masterful. I could go on and on, but I'll just encourage to you see this movie any way you can, and do not miss any opportunity to see it on a big screen.

As an additional treat, the Alex Film Society followed the screening with a panel discussion between moderator Leonard Maltin and three actors from the film -- Darryl Hickman and Shirley Mills, who played the children Winfield and Ruth Joad (who were 8 and 10 when the film was made), and Dorris Bowdon, who played Rosasharn Joad and who was also married to the film's screenwriter, Nunnally Johnson (she's a frail but sparkling 86).

Woody thought so too.   I've been a fan of Woody Guthrie's song "Tom Joad" for a mighty long time, particularly the version by Patrick Street, which had a new melody written by Andy Irvine.

It's an amazing song, one of the best Woody ever wrote. Find Woody's version on "Dust Bowl Ballads, and the superb Patrick Street version on "No. 2 Patrick Street".

I found a page about the history of the song, and it excerpts some of Woody's comments after having seen the movie:

Seen the pitcher last night, Grapes of Wrath, best cussed pitcher I ever seen.

The Grapes of Wrath, you know is about us pullin' out of Oklahoma and Arkansas, and down south, and a driftin' around over state of California, busted, disgusted, down and out, and a lookin' for work.

Shows you how come us to be that a way. Shows the dam bankers men that broke us and the dust that choked us, and comes right out in plain old English and says what to do about it.

It says you got to get together and have some meetins, and stick together, and raise old billy hell till you get youre job, and get your farm back, and your house and your chickens and your groceries and your clothes, and your money back.

Go to see Grapes of Wrath, pardner, go to see it and don't miss.

You was the star in that picture. Go and see your own self and hear your own words and your own song.

The page also tells the story of how Woody came to write the song, which compresses the entire story of "The Grapes of Wrath" into 20 verses. You can also read all the lyrics, and you'd be doing well if you learned to sing it.

(The "Tom Joad" page is part of a site entitled "The unofficial Doc & Merle Watson and semi-official Woody Guthrie and Almanac Singers Site". Whew, that's a mouthful.)

Yee-HAW!   Mark Morford, author and editor of the SF Gate's "Morning Fix", comments on an AP story about how Texans are swelling with pride over Dubya thusly:  "Adorably obnoxious Texas pride roars off the charts with ascension of the Lone Star state's new golden boy, President George W. Bush, the least intelligent, coherent, and capable president in American history." (Well, that's putting it succinctly.)

"The last job Ashcroft should be given is A.G., writes Los Angeles Times contributing editor Robert Scheer. He continues,

Ashcroft represents the extreme flash point of the culture wars that are threatening to tear this country apart. He's of the school that interprets Christianity as a mandate for condemnation and exclusion rather than tolerance and inclusion. He's so imbued with his own personal connection to the Almighty that he interprets his electoral defeats as "crucifixions" and his return to public life as "resurrections." His religious arrogance allows for no other interpretation of God's will.

Bush has betrayed the vast majority of Americans who voted for the politics of inclusiveness and moderation advanced by both him and Al Gore. Why is there not a single Republican senator, let alone more Democrats, who are willing to condemn this obvious disaster of a nomination? [more]

  Tuesday, January 16, 2001
Eating for a living? Okay!   Ever wanted to know how to get a job as a restaurant critic? Here are a few pointers. Among other things...

According to Tim Zagat, author of the Zagat Restaurant guides, there are nine steps to being a food critic:  write well; be knowledgeable about food; attend a culinary school or work in a kitchen; be enthusiastic; cultivate your palate; know how a restaurant works; detail every aspect of the restaurant and the service; and (my favorite) do something else professionally while being a food critic -- "food critics usually don't last more than five years." Don't tell that to Mike Kaylor, restaurant critic for the Huntsville, Alabama Times, who's been doing it for 18 years, or Craig Claiborne, who was food editor at the New York Times for almost 30 years.
Tom Fitzmorris points out one more -- "Be willing to spend a tremendous amount of your own money to dine in the restaurants you write about." I'll add another:  Be prepared to be fat. Richard Collin, "The Underground Gourmet", New Orleans' first real restaurant critic, gained 75 pounds during his food writing days.

Nauseating interview with George W. Bush.   The man who will be sworn in as President on Saturday speaks to Tom Brokaw of NBC. Some gems:

Tom Brokaw: The fact is that you did get fewer popular votes and you had a razor-thin win in the Electoral College. Will that in some fashion cause you to pull back a little bit on the promises you made?

George W. Bush: No, not at all.

Tom Brokaw: One of the things (Bill Clinton) did was keep an eye on the polls. And your new Defense Secretary, Don Rumsfeld said, "No President can govern without the consent of the people."

George W. Bush: Well, I think -- here's the way I view that -- I view that I've got some political capital. I earned it during the course of the campaign. It'll be enhanced when I get sworn in and I'm going to spend it.

And I'm going to spend it on a focused agenda. And it'll be an agenda that I firmly believe is the right agenda for the country. And it's not going be an agenda as to -- cobbled together by a bunch of polls and focus groups.

(In other words, he doesn't give a crap about what the people think, and he's going to try to do whatever he wants. We must swiftly disabuse him of this notion.)

Tom Brokaw: But were you surprised to learn that [your nominee for Attorney General, John Ashcroft] said to the Southern Progressive Magazine that he feels that he needs to speak up on behalf of Robert E. Lee because too many people feel that that was a perverted agenda, and it was not?

George W. Bush: Well, I don't think -- I don't think he was talking -- and I haven't read the article, so it's hard for me to respond to that. I just know that...

Tom Brokaw: That's what he said.

George W. Bush: Well, I know, but he doesn't -- if he's -- the inference is that somehow he thinks slavery is a -- is a noble institution I would -- I would strongly reject that assumption -- that John Ashcroft is a open-minded, inclusive person.

(Can't you just hear Ralph Kramden on "The Honeymooners", blabbering as he did every time he was tongue-tied? "Hommina-hommina-hommina homma-homma-ah-ah-ah ..." Oh,I would also reject the assumption that John Ashcroft is an open-minded, inclusive person.)

Tom Brokaw: President Clinton is going out of office with an approval rate of 64 percent, higher than Ronald Reagan or any other outgoing president in modern memory. That says the country likes what he's been doing.

George W. Bush: Well, maybe so, but he's not going to be the president on January 20. I am.

Good Lord. What an arrogant jerk. I hope he gets humbled very quickly, by the Senate declining to confirm Ashcroft, and with the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill blazing through Congress, and much, much more. I'm also grateful to NBC for making this transcript reflect exactly what he said -- every stumble, every tongue-tied er, um, ah and "I mean". As Wes so succinctly put it when he sent me the URL, "Every answer, to any question, simply plays up what an idiot and political suck-up he is." What a truly nauseating four years this is going to be.

Rest in peace, Boo.   I've never really noticed this anywhere else, but in New Orleans people are so attached to their (often silly) nicknames that they even get included in their obituaries (e.g., "Edward 'Tiny Butt' Smith, Sr., beloved father and husband ...").  An article in "Red Beans and Rice", a New Orleans-related net magazine I recently came across, compiled what must be months' worth of nicknames culled from Louisiana obituaries. (Fortunately for me, I've managed to avoid being nicknamed. I don't even wanna think of what I'd get stuck with. Well, my mean sixth grade teacher Mrs. Howe used to call me "Charlie Brown"; I've always loved Charlie Brown, but she didn't mean it in a nice way.)

I'm not the only one who's been having fun digging through referrer logs. I initially got the idea from Jason, but now a reader informs me that there's a whole weblog devoted to Disturbing Search Requests (thanks, Owen.)

Most of mine are pretty normal, and the search engines are working the way they're supposed to most of the time (e.g., lots of requests for gumbo and red beans 'n rice recipes, Uncle Tupelo tabs, etc.). Every now and again, though, I get a rather disturbing search request (this one led straight to this page, and I have no idea why).

  Monday, January 15, 2001
New shows on KCSN.   We've got a bunch of new music shows at KCSN, and I think you need to know about them!

360° of Music - A pan-African show including everyone from Mapfumo to Coltrane to Hendrix, hosted by Oba and Shamuzo. Saturdays from 8:00 to 10:00pm, Pacific Time.

Soulful Sunday - Soul, R&B and beyond, hosted by Les Perry. Sundays from 8:00 to 10:00pm, Pacific Time.

The KCSN Grateful Dead Mix - We've dropped "The Grateful Dead Hour" (sorry, David) and we're now producing our own homegrown (so to speak) program of Dead tunes, hosted by Pat Baker. Sundays from 10:00pm to midnight, Pacific Time.

Also, in an effort to programming that better serves the local community, KCSN has stopped airing MPR's "Marketplace", replacing it with a different show each weeknight under the umbrella title of "California Focus". The half-hour 6:30pm will include three shows created at KCSN:

Monday - "QuintesseniaLA", an offbeat look at life and culture in Southern California, hosted by KCSN program director Freddie Johnson.

Tuesday - "On the Town", a local architecture survey hosted by Mary-Margaret Stratton of the Los Angeles Conservancy and co-producer of the marvelous "How Modern Was My Valley", the self-guided architectural driving tour of the San Fernando Valley.

Wednesday - "Local Flavor", a local food news show hosted by Patricia Greenberg, "The Fitness Gourmet".

Thursday - "Pacific Time", produced at KQED San Francisco, hosted by Nguyen Qui Duc, will explore life on the edge of the Pacific Rim.

Friday - "The California Report", also produced at KQED, featuring news from around the state, will continue to air Friday nights as before.

You can listen to all of these shows (as well as, ahem, my own show) with the Windows Media Player via KCSN's live audio stream. Let me know if you do!

It's not the other white meat anymore.   Hog farmers have voted by a margin of 52% to 48% to end the "Pork: It's the Other White Meat" advertisements. The $54 million program, financed by a fee on hogs, supports the advertisements as well as research, but the farmers decided that "it has done little to stimulate pork consumption".

Bummer. Although the commercials will disappear, I think the phrase is already well-entrenched in popular culture such that it won't go away anytime soon.

Besides, who needs pork promotion anymore?   We've got to get busy on the Next Big Thing ... it's nutria! Maybe we can start calling it The Other Other White Meat.

Referrer logs are A Wonderful Thing.   Now that I have convenient access to them as a happy new pair Networks customer (as well as the superb Analog web log analysis tools), I'm learning all kinds of fascinating things.

I've always been curious as to how people find me, from search engine hits (one of the advantages of having been on the web since 1994 is that lots of sites have already linked to me, therefore I come up high in Google results) to links from relatively obscure pages (like the Friends of Poland and the "How We Got Our Name" page from the official Hush Puppies Shoes site -- 1 referral from each so far this January).

My favorite referrers so far this month:

Result:  The Carnival FAQ.  (I don't wanna know.)
Result:  The April 2000 edition of Looka!.  (No, I don't think former Louisiana Governor Dave Treen ever posed for porn.)
Result:  The February 2000 edition of Looka!.  (Um, I believe I was referring to certain female revelers' antics on Mardi Gras Day. Honestly.)
Result:  An amusing trifle from my Refrigerator Door page.  (So what exactly was this Norwegian guy looking for, anyway? Last-minute advice for what to do on his wedding night?)

Result:  The Absinthe Page.  (*eyeroll*)

Result:  The September 2000 edition of Looka!.  (I think it means "Don't drink this straight.")
Result:  A few of my vacation snaps.  (I've never been in a bar fight in my life. Well, I did accidentally break down the front door of the Derrybeg Hotel in Co. Donegal, Ireland in the wee hours of one morning in 1990 after way too much Guinness, but I swear to God I didn't mean to...)
Result:  Looka!.  (I'm so proud ... *sniff*)

Result:  What else?.  (I love it when the web works this well!)

And that's just from New Year's Day! This is endlessly entertaining. (Okay, so I'm a geek. Plus, this is way too time-consuming and I'll never have enough time to do this every day, but it's fun for now.)

  Saturday, January 13, 2001
Happy Birthday, Charles!   Today is Charles Nelson Reilly's 70th birthday. As he was fond of pointing out with great comic frustration in his one-man show "Save It For the Stage: The Life of Reilly" last year ... he's not dead!

In fact, right now he's on tour through April with the Laguna Playhouse's production of "The Belle of Amherst", starring Julie Harris ("The First Lady of the American Theatre"), and directed by Charles. The above link also includes a pretty good bio of him, with what he's been up to over the last several years (it's not all just game shows, you know!).

Today on "Down Home":   If I can get up off my lazy butt and finish prepping, I'll be going over my favorite records of 2000 on my radio program today. Tune in to our live audio stream (Windows Media Player required) from 3:00 - 5:00pm PST (2300-0100 GMT), and maybe you can get some record-buying ideas for things you might have missed last year.

  Friday, January 12, 2001
Awwww ... poor Katherine.   Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris' testimony was called "laughable" by the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights. Members of the election probe panel said that she had presided over a "disaster", and were apparently incredulous that Harris deferred most of the questions to Florida's elections director, placing the blame on him.

"We want to make sure the will of every voter is self-evident," she said.
Oh, that's why she worked so hard to make sure there were no hand counts of every vote. Sheesh.

Love live the Soggy Bottom Boys!   The Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou" opens nationwide today. Go see it as soon as you can. It's liable to be at the top of my "Favorite Films of 2000" list (it was released in Los Angeles in December of last year, to qualify for Academy Awards). It's got the best music of any film I've seen all year too, so have a gander at the film's music site. Also, check out excerpts from the musical performances at the premiere party, featuring Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch.

I'd also kinda like to see "Thirteen Days"...   not necessarily to see the movie (which I hear isn't bad, despite the presence of Kevin Costner), but also to see the trailer for "Lord of the Rings", which New Line are releasing only with prints of "Thirteen Days". I've heard that, à la "Phantom Menace", people are lining up just to see the trailer, and then bail on the feature (which I wouldn't do myself ... I skipped the "Phantom" trailer until it happened to show in front of a movie I wanted to see).

Bushism of the Day.   (Emphasis mine.)

"I want it to be said that the Bush administration was a results-oriented administration, because I believe the results of focusing our attention and energy on teaching children to read and having an education system that's responsive to the child and to the parents, as opposed to mired in a system that refuses to change, will make America what we want it to be -- a more literate country and a hopefuller country."

-- He Who Would Be President, Washington, D.C., Jan. 11, 2001.
To paraphrase Stephen King ... Jesus H. jumped-up Christ in a chariot-driven sidecar.

  Wednesday, January 10, 2001
The heck with Heimlich...   it's the Hoover Maneuver!

From the "Useful Stuff" Department.   Math professor and origami whiz-kid Tom Hull tells us how to make origami CD cases.   [PDF version]

Nostradamus predicts the coming of Dubya!   Okay, I've gotten three of these in my email now, claiming that in 1555 the alleged soothsayer Michel de Nostradamus wrote the following quatrain, roughly "translated":

Come the new millennium, twelfth month,
In the home of greatest power,
The village idiot will come forth
To be acclaimed the leader.
Quite obviously too good to be true, but it made me laugh so I couldn't help posting it. I even went so far as to look at a few loony Nostradamus-related websites, just checking to see if it was even remotely authentic (as if anything that gâteau de fruits ever wrote could be called "authentic", but you know what I mean).

Even though it's bullshit, it did give me a good idea for a new nickname for the President-unelect. :-)

  Tuesday, January 9, 2001
New recipes, finally.   Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Chuck put new recipes on his page ...

I know, I've been slacking off adding new stuff to The Creole and Cajun Recipe Page, and I beg your forgiveness. I've just added two that'll make a dynamite meal together. First, from the legendary Uglesich's Restaurant we have Shrimp Uggie, which Anthony Uglesich was kind enough to share with a magazine this month -- shrimp, onions, bell peppers and lots of red potatoes in a super-spicy sauce that'll make your scalp tingle (it's the spiciest dish at Uglesich's). Finish up and cool off with my mom's fabulous recipe for Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with two sauces -- a custard sauce and a banana-rum sauce. Woo! Let's eat!

Grammy Awards plummeting further into nadir of insignificance.   The very idea that the vile Eminem has been nominated for four Grammys, even after NARAS president Michael Greene called his record "the most repugnant of the year" brings them back down to the level of "Best New Artist - Milli Vanilli", in my not-so-humble opinion.

It begs only one question -- will these bullshit records that Marshall Mathers makes stand the test of time? Will anyone be listening to them after he's had his fifteen minutes of fame (and I'm convinced that the only reason behind his lyrical content is that he craves attention), much less in 20, 30 or 50 years? Pshaw.

Easier omelettes and fried eggs! (And staying out of jail?)   Scientists at North Carolina State University have recently developed a true nonstick polymer superior to any that's been previously made. These guys are pretty unimaginative when it comes to potential use, though:

Potential applications include covering adjacent disk-drive components to prevent scratching, improving the biocompatibility of medical implants by eliminating interactions with surrounding cells and coating airplanes with a water repellent that would automatically de-ice wings.
How about the most obvious usage that will be for the greatest betterment of humankind? Better nonstick pots and pans! Sheesh, what are they thinking? Disk drives, airplane wings. (*roll eyeballs skyward*) Looka! contributor Greg Beron notes wistfully that such a development comes too late for former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, who could have used it to coat himself before his latest trial.

Quote of the day.   "If you just try long enough and hard enough, you can always manage to boot yourself in the posterior."

-- A. J. Liebling

  Monday, January 8, 2001
He's in the jailhouse now.   Actually, not quite yet ... but this afternoon former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for extorting payoffs from businessmen applying for riverboat casino licenses. Mais, dey finally got him, yeah.

Edwin hasn't lost his sense of humor, though. He quipped, "I have to find Candy a new husband, and pay my bills."

Although he's been ordered to report to federal prison on February 5, he may well avoid the hoosegow -- he's still smart, and so are his lawyers. Doubtless he'll remain free on bond, and they're already working to have the conviction overturned.

Sheesh. End it already, Edwin, and just go to jail where you belong. Check in with us from your cell every now and again, though ... we'll still need a few laughs.

I like cake!   (Who are you? Are these my feet?)  Now now ... calm down, Father Jack. I like cake too.

In fact, I love it. I got rather good at baking cakes in my pastry classes at UCLA. Trouble is, I now insist on making them from scratch (which is time-consuming) and worse, I completely suck at cake decorating (my worst subject). Kinda made me want to just throw in the towel on the whole cake-baking thing.

You may ask, "Hey, what about a cake mix from a box?" A box?? The very idea! What an outrage! Well, not so any longer, now that The Cake Mix Doctor is in the house. I just picked up the book of the same title by Anne Byrn, and it looks fabulous. Simply put, it's how to use other ingredients to turn a boxed cake mix into something spectacular, and there are plenty of spectacular-looking recipes in the book. The website also features some new ones not in the book, like Chocolate-Cream Cheese Pound Cake.

The one I want to try first (and the one I heard when the book was first coming out, the one that made me want to get it) is the "Incredible Melted Ice Cream Cake". It couldn't possibly be any simpler, and takes 5 minutes to make (plus baking time). All you need are a box of plain white cake mix, 3 eggs, and 2 cups of melted ice cream (flavor of your choice, but the author's favorite is Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, and I concur). That's it. All the liquid, fat and sugar you need is in the melted ice cream. Mix 'em all up in a mixer, pour into a nonstick Bundt cake pan, and bake. Drizzle with the icing of your choice, if you like.

Mmmmmmmmmm, Cherry Garcia cake. Nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile.

I got da baby!   Speaking of cake ... it's now officially Carnival season, now that the Twelfth Night has passed, the Twelfth Night Revelers and the Phunny Phorty Phellows have had their Carnival celebrations in New Orleans (traditionally, they're the first). Among many other things, this means it's King Cake season. King Cake parties will be happening all over town, and when the cake is served for dessert, whoever gets the baby in his or her piece has to throw the next King Cake party.

Today's New Orleans Menu Daily has a feature on King Cakes, what they've been in the past (dry, generally, but I like those dry coffee-cakey ones from McKenzie's; or else too sweet with overly rich fillings ... I don't like the filled ones), where to get the best ones in the city, and some good ideas for making King Cakes better:

1. King cakes with fresh fruit (instead of glop from a can).

2. Savory king cakes. They'd kind of be like pizza. (It's been done widely with bread pudding, so why not this?)

3. Creampuff-style king cakes, filled with flan or chocolate mousse or even ice cream.

4. A cake with a baby made in the likeness of a famous Orleanian. Fats Domino, Bienville, Joe Canizaro, Dutch Morial, Chris Owens, Lee Harvey Oswald, Harry Connick Jr., Paul Prudhomme. . . hey! this could be fun!

5. A plain old king cake with the right amount of sugar, cinnamon, and eggs, with a crusty crust. In other words, the classic, done right.

Whatever new twists we can come up with for King Cakes, for me it MUST have one thing -- purple, green and gold sugar or icing on the top. Those are the colors of Carnival, and it ain't a King Cake without 'em.

Who is George W. Bush?   Is he a man? Or is he a robot, or a cardboard cutout, or does he only exist in Photoshop?

That's some tuna.   A new price record was broken in Japan last week as a 444-pound bluefin tuna (honmaguro) was sold at auction for about $391 a pound.

Gee, I only paid $8 tonight for two pieces of toro (fatty tuna) at Zono Sushi in Pasadena. If I had had a piece of that big record-breaking honmaguro I'd have paid three or four times that at least. Such a deal!

Speaking of sushi ... after my amazing omakaze experience at Shibucho, I've been trying to learn more about sushi. The Sushi Reference Page is very helpful, as is their glossary of sushi terms.

All that jazz.   Ken Burns' new epic documentary "Jazz" debuts tonight on PBS. I'll be glued to the set during as much of this program as I can, at least until it gets to bebop and beyond (which is where jazz kinda lost me ... I'm a huge fan of early and traditional jazz, though). I was amazed to see that it's already available for purchase on DVD, even though the series hasn't debuted yet.

Carnival Season quote of the day.   Yat #1 -- "When I wuz a kid at St. Rita's, I got da King Cake baby five pawties in a row. My mamma almos' died."

Yat #2 -- "Ya shoulda swallowed 'em!"

As overheard by Bunny Matthews, from the book "F'sure! Actual Dialogue Heard on the Streets of New Orleans"

  Friday, January 5, 2001
Bushism of the Day.   Have a gander at the latest pearl of wisdom from the man who will in 15 days be inaugurated as President of the United States. All I can ask myself when reading this is, "What the fuck is he talking about?"

"Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods."
-- Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2000
Mmmmmm, nothing like a bucket of methyl-2-pyridyl ketone to munch on at the movies...   With butter flavoring, natch (which contains partially hydrogenated and winterized soybean oil, artificial flavoring and anti-foaming agents).

The Atlantic Monthly has a fascinating new article entitled "Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good". Y'ever wonder why that is, as vile as most McDonald's food is? Well, ever since they quit frying their fries in beef tallow, they needed to figure out how to put that flavor back in when frying in pure canola oil. The answer? "Natural flavoring", meaning a chemical compound that tastes like beef fat, and can be detected in miniscule amounts of only a few parts per trillion. Bad news for hardcore vegans who like McDonald's fries, though ... this "natural" flavoring comes from animal sources.

The article is a fascinating (and disquieting) look into the world of the food science of flavorings, including the difference between "artificial" and "natural" flavorings (not much, apparently). Y'ever wonder, for instance, how they make something taste like a strawberry without putting a strawberry anywhere within a mile of it?

A typical artificial strawberry flavor, like the kind found in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, contains the following ingredients:   amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), alpha-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, gamma-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.
(Solvent? Like acetone? Bleurgh.) Incidentally, methyl-2-pyridyl ketone is the flavor compound that makes something taste like popcorn, and is present in every single popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly you eat.

Think about this as well:

About 90 percent of the money that Americans now spend on food goes to buy processed food. The canning, freezing, and dehydrating techniques used in processing destroy most of food's flavor -- and so a vast industry has arisen in the United States to make processed food palatable. Without this flavor industry today's fast food would not exist. The names of the leading American fast-food chains and their best-selling menu items have become embedded in our popular culture and famous worldwide. But few people can name the companies that manufacture fast food's taste.
Think as well about reducing your intake of processed foods as much as possible. Eat fresh food that you prepare yourself at home. I guarantee that once you start doing that, you'll find things like frozen dinners and canned foods to be exceedingly unpalatable (as happened with me).

Desperation?   The Inside New Orleans website urges their readers to help put the Saints "one game closer to the Super Bowl" by sending an email curse to the Vikings. Perhaps they've been reading and re-reading the Harry Potter books too much. Expelliarmus! (and the football instantly zooms out of the Viking quarterback's hands in into those of the Saints wide receiver, who runs it in for a touchdown!)

As if I could really give a crap about football, though. Still, the Saints are a New Orleans phenomenon, for better or for worse, and if they actually do make it into the Super Bowl, be prepared for sightings of snowball fights between Hellish demons.

Beyond kitsch.   Y'know, I think highly enough of Jesus to think that He'd take one look at this thing and say, "Good Lord (oh, that would be me) ... that's the tackiest thing I've ever seen."

  Wednesday, January 3, 2001
Mysterious black monolith appears in Seattle.   An alien intelligence left a large black monolith atop a hill in Seattle sometime in the wee hours of New Year's Morning.

The mysterious monolith, the measurements of which are in the mathematically interesting proportion of 1:4:9 (the squares of the first three integers), had an amazing effect on passers-by. Local resident Rebecca Sargent declared that it had a "vibe" not unlike one she felt at Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan ruins in Peru. Her husband touched it with awe and said, "I feel my intelligence increasing by the moment."

I think the aliens blew it this time, though. They should have left it in Washington, D.C. ... in front of the White House, for Dubya to touch when he gets there.

Pork fat rules!   I wonder what Chef Emeril Lagasse, who's fond of making the above statement, would think of this. Those daffy Ukrainians have come out with a new candy bar called Fat in Chocolate -- "what may be the stickiest, richest and most fattening holiday treat on the market: pure pork fat covered in chocolate. Cracking open a finger-sized stick of the dark chocolate candy bar reveals a vein of white fat where most candies conceal butterscotch, caramel or other traditional sweets. The product pokes fun at the traditional Ukrainian snack of salo, or salted pork fat, usually consumed with vodka and pickles." (So do you eat the candy bar with vodka and pickles too, or what?)

As much as I enjoyed preparing my Thanksgiving by rubbing the outside and underneath the skin with a mixture of minced sage, apple butter and bacon fat, this might be a bit much.

An offer I can't refuse.   My most-wanted and most long-awaited DVD is on the horizon. Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios are set to release "The Godfather" trilogy on DVD this coming fall. WOOHOO!

Most reassuring is the above-linked article's quote that Coppola is "personally involved in every step of the process" of the encoding, authoring and design of the DVDs. Zoetrope have just released "The Conversation", another favorite of mine, which I just picked up and which I'll watch as soon as I have a spare moment.

Francis Ford Coppola-related anecdote of the millennium.   A few days before Christmas my aunt, uncle and cousins were having dinner at Antoine's, New Orleans' oldest restaurant (since 1840), when they recognized the gentleman at a nearby table -- none other than The Godfather's godfather himself, Mr. Coppola. They wanted to have a family picture taken in front of the huge Christmas tree in Antoine's dining room, and Mr. Coppola gladly complied with their request that he take the picture. He was also kind enough to pose for a picture with them as well.

How cool is that? Imagine being able to point to a family photograph on the mantelpiece and say, "Francis Ford Coppola took that picture."

Good Gawd.   My good friend Luis turned me on to an amazing site called The Grateful Palate (thanks, Louie!) that seems to have a staggeringly delectable selection of foods and wines for sale. They specialize in artisanally-made foods, and have a semi-official slogan of "where everything is touched by human hands".

One of their offerings that staggered me was the Bacon of the Month Club, where every month for a year you get 1 or 2 pounds of a different artisanally-made bacon. Sweet Jeezus.

KNOW who you vote for!   I read with astonishment about a newly-elected Republican state legislator in New Hampsire who, among other things, advocates killing cops. Tom Alciere told a local newspaper that "he loves it when someone kills a police officer. 'It's unfortunate that cops do make it necessary (to kill them) when they're waging a war on drugs, and I view cops as enemy officers.' He said he is 'too chicken' to do it himself." The most astonishing thing was this:

"I'm rather embarrassed I voted for this guy," said Larry Lesieur, who voted a straight Republican ticket. "This guy is kooky."
While it's true that this candidate hadn't put these views into TV spots, he had been posting them at a variety of Internet chat sites for months, and a modicum of research would have revealed them. I can't believe that someone would vote for a candidate without knowing a single thing about him or her except the party affiliation. If you blindly vote a straight Republican ticket (or straight Democratic ticket, for that matter) without knowing anything about whom you're voting for, you're a fool.

  Monday, January 1, 2001  ::  New Millennium's Day
Happy New Year!   And Happy New Millennium, while we're at it. Yes, it's really the new millennium this year, finally. I may be a math geek, Mulder, but I hate perpetuating popular (and willful) ignorance.

I went to my first Tournament of Roses parade today, after living in the area for over 18 years. It was ... nice. Beautiful floats, that's for sure, but ... jeez, they don't even throw anything! What kind of parade is that? Now that I've seen it once, that might just be enough.

No constant sorrow here.   Although I still haven't seen the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou" yet (due to a last-minute change of plans that had us seeing "Shadow of the Vampire" instead), I ran right out and bought the soundtrack album as soon as I heard about.

It was produced by the estimable T-Bone Burnett, and features folks like the amazing Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, Norman Blake, John Hartford and a fantastic unaccompanied version of "O Death" by Ralph Stanley that, as an NPR reviewer said, "stops time". And speaking of reviewers ... whichever reviewer said that George Clooney "should keep his day job as an actor" due to his singing voice is an idiot. Dan Tyminski (a marvelous bluegrass musician and superb singer) dubbed Clooney's voice. Sheesh.

December Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this blog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Steve Gardner, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Tom Krueger, Eric Labow, Michael Pemberton and Greg Beron.
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