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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, 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 @ 9:54am CDT, 4/30/2001

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  Monday, April 30, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 4
Time to relax a bit.   Sleep late, have a nice, leisurely day in the city, head ot Uglesich's for lunch, and tonight we'll drive to Eunice for the barbecue at Geno Delafose's place. I have no doubt that DJ and grillmeister extraordinaire Todd Ortego will be there handling the barbecueing of the pigs and chickens (and he makes the best barbecued chicken I have ever had in my entire life), which makes me happy. The inevitable jam sessions ain't gonna hurt, either.

We stayed out too late last night, so no time for a big update this morning, sorry. Time's a-wastin'!

  Sunday, April 29, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 3
Today's Jazzfest highlights.   In my humble opinion, at least. Print out da schedule for today and make ya own mind up, but here's what I'll most likely be seeing:

The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, John Boutté, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Miss Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Snooks Eaglin, Wendell Brunious, Henry Butler, The Iguanas, Marcia Ball, ReBirth Brass Band, the Armstrong Alumni All-Stars, and maybe the last five or ten minutes of Van Morrison.

Yesterday's recap.   Pretty darn good first day of fest. The only bad thing was that they had completely sold out of the posters on the first day, with nothing left but the frightfully expensive signed ones. I think it's ridiculous that they sell so many online that there are none left for 6/7 of the people who come to the fest, so I think they need to seriously curtail those online sales (probably all going to people who didn't even go, or to people who want to gouge prices on eBay).

Food recap:

Creole's Stuffed Bread. Natch.

Strawberry lemonade. My favorite thing to drink at the fest after good ol' unsweetened Luzianne iced tea.

Alligator sausage po-boy with Creole gravy. Another old favorite; plump alligator-pork sausage and a very spicy red gravy (but not too spicy).

Mango freeze. Perfect in the blazing sun, and another good way to support WWOZ-FM with your proceeds.

Smoked boudin and fried boudin balls. I'd never had smoked boudin before, and the flavor was terrific. Boudin balls is an old favorite, just boudin out of the casing, rolled into balls, breaded and fried. I placed my order at the tent, and the guy yelled back, "SMOKED, WITH BALLS!"

I had had a couple of out-of-town girls stop me a few years ago and ask me "what's boo-dinn balls?" I gently corrected their pronunciation, showed them mine, and said that they were "the breaded and deep-fried testicles of the wild freshwater boudin." Their eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. I said, "Just kidding!" and told them what they really were, but I think they were still put off.

Fried blueberry pie from Elizabeth's in Bywater. I still owe my friend Louise one of these, from when she kindly offered me a bite of one last year, and I instinctively took what my sisters call "a Chuck bite", meaning that I removed one quarter of the pie in a single chomp. Louise was ... not pleased.

Music recap (we did a fair amount of stage-hopping):

SUROÎT, an interesting but strange French-Canadian band that was a cross between Québecois trad music, Celtic music and rock, with touches of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Ashley MacIsaac. They were joined by Cajun trad/bluegrass fiddler Hadley J. Castille, but we left before Hadley started playing much.

DON VAPPIE AND THE CREOLE JAZZ SERENADERS -- Don's one of my favorite jazz musicians, even reaching back to when lots of traditional jazz was sung in Creole French. He regaled us with originals, King Oliver tunes from the '20s, and a virtuoso banjo piece by a '20s banjoist and composer named Henry Reaser. Wonderful stuff.

LITTLE JIMMY SCOTT -- At age 75, he's still going strong, and still has one of the most beautiful voices in jazz. The WWOZ Jazz tent was packed, which I was glad to see.

FREDY OMAR con su BANDA -- The popular New Orleans-based pan-Latin bandleader pleased a huge crowd at the Fais-Do-Do Stage, doing music from all over Central and South America. He's got a second album due next week, too.

THE WALLFLOWERS -- We succumbed, and sent to see them. It felt like the whole 79,000 population of the fest yesterday were there, although it was probably more like 20-30,000. They were pretty good, and were enjoying the whole fest experience (and we were enjoying Jakob, too). We left early so that we could get to Liuzza's for dinner. I'll write that up later, 'cause we gotta get to the Fairgrounds.

  Saturday, April 28, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 2
I hate Dallas-Forth Worth airport.   And I hate American Airlines, too. Our trip was nothing short of miserable, due to that horrid airport and the customer-unfriendly overbooking policies of that lying hound of an airline (with a slogan of "Oneworld - doing it all for you", or some such crap). I'll go into detail later, but all I've got to say is that I hope Dante has reserved a special oven in the tenth circle of Hell for 1) the designer of DFW airport, 2) the inventor of the hub system, and 3) the greedy pigs responsible for overbooking flights, so that they can all roast in it for eternity.

Today's Jazzfest highlights.   Finally, we hit the Fair Grounds today. The first thing I want is a Creole's Stuffed Bread. Then music.

I probably won't have time to write long commentaries, so I'm just gonnna print out da schedule, stick it in my pocket, and go see:

Suroit of Canada with Hadley Castille, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Little Jimmy Scott and the Jazz Expressions, Super Rail Band of Mali, Papa Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders, One-A-Chord at da Gospel Tent, da funky Meters, Fredy Omar con su Banda, the Nicholas Payton Louis Armstrong Centennial Celebration, and then we might make a lil' concession to my strong lack of desire to see mainstream rock acts, and finish the day by seeing The Wallflowers (Jakob Dylan, woof!)

Dinner at Peristyle last night.   Oh. My.

One of the first things we noticed when entering Peristyle was a relic of their past -- the cracked, shattered and scorched main door glass that was salvaged from the devastating fire that closed them down for months. I'll try to avoid the inevitable phoenix comparisons, but rise they have, and better than ever.

We started (natch) with a Sazerac, and got right down to business with our dinner:


(Chuck) Crispy Sweetbreads, wrapped with Prosciutto di Parma and drizzled with a port wine syrup, served over toasted Yukon Gold potatoes and port-braised shallots.

What a flavor. This was a first for me, and the flavor of the prosciutto was perfect with the deep, rich veal sweetbreads. They had been sautéed until crispy outside, then wrapped in the prosciutto and baked just long enough to bring out a little more flavor from the ham, but not too long. The sweetness of the shallots balanced the richness perfectly.

(Wes) Louisiana Oysters au Gratin, in a rich Pernod velouté sauce with wilted spinach and applewood-smoked bacon, topped with herbed bread crumbs and baked untl golden.

Another masterpiece. The erstas were like butter, melting in your mouth, and the Pernod flavor was a brilliant but subtle accent to the velouté. We shared these two dishes, and it would have been tempting to order two each, so we could both have a full serving.


We both got the soup special -- Roasted tomato soup with crawfish tails, garnished with a big dollop of pesto, extra virgin olive oil and pickled garlic. The soup alone was delicious, but that little accent in the middle, swirled around with every bite, made it perfect. What a beautiful marriage of the flavors of the Mediterranean and Louisiana.


(Chuck) Armagnac-Glazed Pork -- a boneless pork tenderloin grilled to medium and served with an Armagnac-prune reduction sauce, with baked goat cheese polenta and a relish of brandy-braised shallots, roasted red peppers and grilled apples.

Just bonkers. Every flavor complemented the other beautifully, with the heady sauce, the rich polenta, the sweet shallots and perfectly tender pork with a touch of crispiness around the edges. I wanted to get up and shout.

To drink I chose a 1998 Gewürtztraminer "Reserve" from Pierre Sparr. Crisp apple and pear flavors predominated, with a light finish and just enough sweetness to balance the big sauce. Lovely, lovely wine.

(Wes) Lemon-Fennel Tuna -- grilled fennel-marinated tuna steak atop a crispy potato cake, with wilted spinach, pickled fennel relish and a preserved lemon-chive fumet.

The flavor of this was so bright it was almost jarring in comparison to the dense flavors of the pork. I love fennel (and so does Wes), and he was really overjoyed with this dish (the waitress said it was her favorite sauce on the menu). Anne Kearney does wonders with preserved lemons, and works the flavors into several of her dishes.


(Wes) Gâteau Basque -- tonight's special, a sweet brioche-like cake filled with pastry cream and served in an anise-vanilla mousseline sauce, topped with whipped cream. The flavors were grand, but this would have put me under tonight. It wasn't what you'd call light, but was very delicious.

(Chuck) Milk Chocolate Gelato, swirled with tart cherries and brandy caramel, served with homemade cookies (chocolate chip, shortbread and lemon-anise). This was intensely chocolatey but not too rich or heavy (like gelato should be), and just what I needed to finish this meal.

The capper was a wonderful Hungarian dessert wine, a 1993 Royal Tokaji Aszu "Red Label", 5 puttonyos. Very heady and intense honey-apple flavor, with a crisp apple finish. Beautiful color as well, the color of amber and wildflower honey. Boy, do I love Tokaji wine. I wish I had had more of it when I was in Hungary.

We had contemplated going to the Funky Butt to see the Wild Magnolias, but we were pretty exhausted after the hellish day of travel. Off to bed, and tomorrow we'll report in on the fest and its food.

Sazerac No. 1   We've decided to continue with the Sazerac tasting project from last year, having as many as we can in New Orleans to see who makes the best in town.

The one at Peristyle was quite tasty, and big, at least a 4-ounce drink. It had slightly less of a whiskey bits (lots of shaking/stirring), wasn't as sweet as we're used to (perhaps the same amount of sugar in a larger drink), and had a dash or two less Peychaud's bitters. The notes of anise from the Herbsaint came through very clearly, and we think they may even have shaken it with the rye. Still, it was good, and its size made up for any attributes that might've been different from what we're used to. "Full of rye-ey and anise-y goodness," says Wes.

  Friday, April 27, 2001  ::  Jazzfest, Day 1
"It's Jazzfest time in New Orleans...   Come on down, lemme hear ya scream!" Whooooooooo! Sing it, Dave Bartholomew.

Friday, first day of the 2001 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and man is it gonna be good to be home.

I probably won't have time to do this for ever day's entry (in fact, I think I'll be lucky if I have time to do any more than the most cursory updates while I'm away; most of that will have to wait until I get back), but here are my picks for today's musical highlights at the Fair Grounds, all of which Wes and I will miss 'cause we don't even get into town until about 5:30pm (argh!), are as follows:

Richard Thompson - Sprint PCS Stage, 1:20 - 2:10
I saw Richard in a solo acoustic performance at the Troub a month or so ago, and he was amazing. Doubtless this will be the same. Don't miss him.

Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen - Economy Hall, 1:30 - 2:25
The first conflict of the day (at least for me, if I were gonna be there). Tuba Fats, the funkiest tuba in the world. Maybe you can split the slot between Richard and Fats.

Charmaine Neville, with Amasa Miller and Reggie Houston - Sprint PCS Stage, 2:35 - 3:35
One of the best and and most fun and entertaining acts in town, Charmaine and the boys pop over to the Fest from their usual digs at Snug Harbor for what'll promise to be a blast of a show. She's a terrific, sassy singer (and those Neville genes of hers, courtesy of papa Charles, don't hurt either), with one of the best bands in town. See her if you haven't already, and even if you have.

BeauSoleil, with special guests Richard Thompson, Sonny Landreth and Cindy Cashdollar - Sprint PCS Stage, 4:05 - 5:25
For my money, this will be the show for Friday, and perhaps for the entire Fest. The mind boggles. This amazing Cajun band with two of my most revered guitar gods sitting in ... whew. Whatever you do, don't miss this.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Sprint PCS Stage, 5:55 - 6:55
Hell, you could spend the entire day at the Sprint stage, really. Gatemouth's mix of blues, folk, and even touches of bluegrass and country have always been a favorite of mine (and I love it when he brings out his fiddle).

The final performance of the day'll be a tough call, 'cause playing at the same time as Gatemouth at the House of Blues stage is Anders Osborne, the boy from Sweden that you'd almost never know wasn't from the Crescent City. Also at the same time, in the Economy Hall jazz tent, is the great Dr. Michael White and his tribute band, "The Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven", featuring special guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton. (There'll be lots of tributes to Pops this year, as it's the 100th anniversary of his birth.) Also also on the so-called Acura Stage is the pastor of the First Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee ... the one ... the only ... Reverend Al Green! Tough, tough call, and fairly typical of the hair-tearing decisions one must make at Jazzfest. Me, I'd recommend catching a half-hour of each of 'em.

Pick up the current issue of the free local alternative weekly Gambit, which always has really good Jazzfest picks and ratings of the acts. And, as always, don't forget The Gospel Tent, which is always good.

"We gonna jump ... and shout ... let the good times roll, that's what it's all about..."

Lookin' forward to dinner!   Tonight we'll saying hi to Nancy and her gang at Napoleon House, then heading over to Peristyle for a late dinner.

Chef Kearney was reaching her peak of acclaim when a devastating kitchen fire gutted the restaurant. She's recently reopened, after a floor to ceiling redo, to packed houses and notices that say things like "one of the best restaurants in the city, if not the best". I haven't eaten there since 1997, and I'm really looking forward to this. Not a bad way to start a visit home, dinnerwise.

Yes, we must know.   And very soon after we get into town, we're very much looking forward to a visit with Jonno and Richard, and knocking back a Sazerac or three.

  Thursday, April 26, 2001  ::  1 Day Until Jazzfest
*scream*   10:40am. I am so busy and stressed out at work today that I'm about ready to go completely bonkers. I can't get the hell outta this place and into a Sazerac fast enough.

The pepper sauce Top Ten.   I'm pleased to report that my day eased up and brightened considerably by mid-afternoon, which gave me time to read my email and find a very interesting list in today's New Orleans Menu Daily. Tom Fitzmorris lists his favorite pepper sauces in this edition, some of which I use, others I don't: red Tabasco (THE pepper sauce for me, which goes on so many things I've lost track), plus the green version (I've never been a fan of Tabasco Green, myself -- too much xanthan gum, or whatever it is, that gives it a sort of gooey consistency, like a low-fat salad dressing, and I find it disquieting that this sauce separates into two layers. I've never tried it in guacamole, for which Fitzmorris recommends it, so perhaps I'll give it another go) and the chipotle version (which is so good I use it on countless things, but generally not the same things as the red; try it on a baked sweet potato!); Crystal (the other great N.O. hot sauce, fruitier and less peppery than Tabasco red. I like it on red beans.); Melinda's XXXtra Hot Habanero Sauce (Melinda's is made in Honduras, but has always been bottled and marketed out of New Orleans, so I've always felt that it's one of the locals. Melinda's is also the sauce that Anthony Uglesich calls for in his Shrimp Uggie recipe); Panola (which I don't think is made anymore); Louisiana Gold (a tad less heat than Tabasco red. Chef John Folse calls for this sauce in all of his cookbooks); Trappey's (now apparently owned by Tabasco); Pickapeppa Pepper Sauce (not the brown stuff you use on cream cheese ... I've never tried this stuff); and Cholula from Mexico (I like Cholula too, but I find its flavor more similar to Tapatío than Crystal, to which Fitzmorris compares it).

I love all those sauces he mentioned (with the exception of Tabasco Green), but I'd like to add a few more favorites of my own to this list. The comments below are all mine:

Tuong Ot Sriracha. This Thai-style chili sauce, made by a Vietnamese family in southern California in a wonderful business success story, has become indispensible for me; I almost use it like ketchup. Like Tabasco, I've gotten addicted to its flavor such that its heat is almsot incidental. My house and office are never without a bottle.

Tapatío. This sauce is as ubiquitous on the tables of Mexican and many other Latin American restaurants as Tabasco is in Louisiana. It's got a thicker, more cooked, less vinegary flavor than Louisiana-style hot sauces, with a solid pepper flavor and just enough heat. It's perfect for authentic Mexican tacos (which come from King Taco or from catering trucks in the right neighborhoods, not from any horrid American fast-food joints like T*c* B*ll).

Tabasco Habanero Sauce. Of all the habanero sauces I've ever tasted and enjoyed, this is one of the very best. The Tabasco folks did a fantastic job with this one, blending the sauce with a variety of ingredients that perfect balance the fruity flavor of this mindbogglingly hot chile (only one step below Guatemalan Insanity Peppers) -- mango, papaya, tamarind, banana, and a touch of ginger and black pepper. Absolutely outstanding, and damned hot ... but not deathly so.

Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce. I am opposed to prepared garlic products of any kind. Garlic pastes, pre-peeled garlic cloves, garlic juice, garlic powder ... it's all crap. Almost without exception, I never use garlic in any form other than the form which the earth provides. (In the interests of full disclosure, though ... garlic powder still appears as one of the ingredients in my Creole seasoning blend, which I use 'cause that's how I learned to make it; I'm working on reformulating without it.)

Therefore it was a surprise, and almost a shock, to taste this sauce which comes from a bottle but has such pure and wonderful garlic flavor. I don't know how they did it, but they did it brilliantly. It's got all the bite and heat and flavor of regular Tabasco, with the addition of the perfect amount of garlic juice. I rescind my moratorium for this stuff.

The problem with all this is ... I'm running out of room in my refrigerator for everything else. If you start having a pepper sauce collection, I'd recommend you get one of those little bar refrigerators to keep them in.

Good news for Louisiana food fans in L.A.   Or at least in the Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley area. There's a little place in Sierra Madre we liked called the Cajun Way Café, run by some nice folks from Louisiana. The food is generally very good (except they have a tendency to slop Thousand Island dressing on their sandwiches; just ask for it without), and we've been there several times. Wes reports that he headed there for lunch today, and ... oh no! They're gone! Turns out this is more good news than bad, though. From an online review he found:

Since this restaurant is one of my personal favorites, the review needed to be updated! Cajun Way Cafe has recently (Dec. 2000) relocated to a much larger building with an extended menu and a full liquor license. They are now located at 110 East Colorado Blvd. in Monrovia. (From the 210 Freeway, exit Myrtle Avenue North and turn right at the corner of Myrtle and Colorado. They are the first freestanding building on the right-hand side.)

They have added a wonderful steak, fish & pasta dishes! The full bar allows for Cajun favorites like Hurricanes and their house drink: Gator Bite (comes with a shot of Cinnamon Schnapps on the side)! If you haven't tried Cajun Way before (or if you have, but it's been a while) you owe it to yourself to stop by!

RECOMMENDED DISHES: Grilled Steak, Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

The full bar sounds good; as for the drinks mentioned by name... um, ohh ... I dunno, Crow ... that cinnamon schnapps thing worries me. (Wes quite aptly remarks, "So, now a Hurricane is a 'Cajun favorite?'") Oh well, the guy just didn't know any better. The food's still pretty darn good.

Monrovia is close! We can go there after we get back! Yay! After the big dose I'll get at home over the next 10 days, I'll be seriously jonesing for Louisiana food when I get back to L.A.

  Wednesday, April 25, 2001  ::  2 Days Until Jazzfest
Woohoo, crawfish!   I am pleased to pass on the report that crawfish season is looking up this year. Last year was a near-disaster in Louisiana, as dry weather and pesticide problems caused the wild crawfish catch from the Atchafalaya Basin to drop to nothing, and even farm-raised crawfish were scarce. The crawfish crop in 2000 was over 70% down from '99, and this was bad. Scarce, horrendously expensive crawfish that were tiny, the size of your finger.

Nowadays they're bigger, cheaper and more plentiful. This, plus prospects of good weather next week, make my heart soar in anticipation of the big crawfish boil we'll be going to in Eunice next week. Suck da head and squeeze da tip!

Tasty fish heads.   I still haven't got the new Radiators album; I figure I'll pick it up at the Louisiana Music Factory this weekend. It got a pretty good review in the Times-Picayune, though.

Parlee-voo Mexican, amigo?   Dubya was a sparkling representative of this nation at the vile FTAA summit in Quebec City.

Bush watchers were amused when he called the French-speaking Chrétien "amigo," and when he tried to engage the nonplussed Canadian in a discussion of baseball. He also suggested, with Chrétien at his side, that he would not answer questions in English, French or "Mexican."

Actually, it's Spanish, Mr. Bush. You know, the language the "little brown ones" down there speak.

Asked at today's news conference about Central America, Bush replied: "My first meeting here in Quebec City is with my -- actually, not my first meeting, I had a meeting early, how quickly we forget, with our friends from Central America." In a session with Mexican President Vicente Fox, Bush declared that "it's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce." Asked what Bush meant by that, aides replied that he was speaking Mexican.

Actually, it's gibberish.

Still, the malapropism prize went to Colombian President Andres Pastrana, speaking in English, who declared at today's news conference: "I think that President Bush is also very committed in drug addiction."

Hah. I'll bet he is.

Creepy elevator experience, Part One.   For the past 12 years I've been working in an office that's on the 43rd floor of a 44-story building. It actually takes two elevators to get up to my office, so I've been taking a fair number of elevator trips all that time. Despite some stories I've heard, I've never gotten stuck in one or had anything truly weird or disquieting happen.

At the end of the work day yesterday I was in the 42nd Floor elevator lobby, waiting with a few cow orkers for the elevator to arrive so that we could all go home. We chatted as we waited what seemed like a very long time for an elevator to arrive. Strangely, after a while the "down" light on one of them lit up, but didn't go "ding!", nor did the elevator arrive for what seemed like at least two or three more minutes. Michael, the V.P. of Business Affairs, remarked "That's odd."

Finally the elevator arrived. We all got in, and I noticed that the little red light for the emergency speakerphone was lit. Just as the doors started to close, a woman's shrill voice, disturbingly tinged with panic, shrieked "DO NOT LET THE DOORS CLOSE! DO NOT LET THE DOORS CLOSE! STOP THE DOORS FROM CLOSING NOW!!" We stood there for a split second, completely nonplussed, and then Michael and I went for the doors at the same time and stuck our hands in to stop them just as they were about to close.

The voice, now tinged with what sounded unmistakably like relief, said forcefully, "EXIT THE ELEVATOR NOW! GET OUT OF THE ELEVATOR NOW! TAKE THE NEXT ELEVATOR!". We exited hastily, the doors closed, and a few seconds later another one arrived. We all got on it and said, "What the hell was that all about?" I was tempted to push the call button to ask security what was up, but suddenly thought better of it.

When we got to the ground floor, there was already a sign in front of the elevator we had initially gotten in that said, "ELEVATOR OUT OF ORDER." I can't help but wonder what might have happened if that woman from security had been one or two seconds later with her shrieking. Would we merely have spent the next several hours in that elevator? Or would there have been a 42-story plummet?

I'm not sure whether to be relieved or disturbed that the very same Otis Elevator repair guys are at our building every day, and one of them I remember from when I first started there in 1988. What I did find disturbing was several years ago when someone at work said (as if he had had some experience in the matter), "You don't wanna go have beers with any of those guys and get them to start telling any stories."

  Tuesday, April 24, 2001  ::  3 Days Until Jazzfest
Central Europe or bust!   Laughing in the face of deadlines and three days early, I've finished the page for Nancy Covey's Central Europe Music Tour 2001!

I host the web site for Nancy's marvelous (and very "down home") little company called Festival Tours, which is best described by their slogan, bestowed upon them by their clients -- "Tours not for Tourists". Nancy's been in the roots music biz for years, among other things running the concert series at the legendary McCabe's in Santa Monica many years ago, and is married to songwriter, singer and guitar god Richard Thompson. She's friends with great musicians all over the world, and is generous enough to share her friendships with us via her very handmade music-based tours.

When you take a trip with Nancy, you get to go to places and do things that the garden-variety tourist would never get to see and do -- musicians' private homes, private back-room jam sessions, and special events organized with musicians just for her guests. Nancy's tours to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and out to Acadiana are legendary, featuring a big barbecue at the ranch of zydeco musician Geno Delafose, a crawfish boil at the home of Cajun musicians Marc and Ann Savoy (where any number of legendary musicians have showed up to jam, from Dewey Balfa to Wade Frugé to Michael Doucet to Richard Thompson) and the home and chair factory of "the Cajun Hank Williams", D. L. Menard.

Nancy's other trips have taken folks to England and Scotland (featuring the annual Cropredy Festival and Fairport Convention Reunion show), a trip to Russia and Georgia, one to Zimbabwe a few years back (which featured private concerts and jam sessions with Biggie Tembo and members of the Bhundu Boys), and now ... we're off to Prague, Budapest, Slovenia and Vienna. Musical events during this trip will feature the 2001 WOMAD festival in Prague, visits and special private concerts and jams with Daniel Hamar, Márta Sebestyén and Muszikas, beloved Slovene musician Andrej Sifrer, and Viennese folk music coordinated by the former director of the Vienna Folk Festival ... and lots, lots more.

If you've ever wanted to go to these places and hear the local music, get down with local musicians and bask in the beauty of these places (not to mention food and drink) without feeling like a clueless tourist, then think about going on Nancy's trip. I've been to all these places but didn't get to do all this, and wish I could go with her this year (schedule conflicts, alas). If you wanna go, call or email her early, because the trip is limited to 25 people.

I couldn't recommend a Festival Tours trip highly enough. Not because Nancy's my friend and not because I host their website, but because I've gone on some of them and they kick butt.

Meal plan.   Okay, I think I've got most of our meals planned out for Jazzfest, leaving a little room for spontanaiety.

Friday night -- drinks at Napoleon House, dinner at Peristyle. Saturday lunch -- eating at Jazzfest all day; dinner at Liuzza's. Sunday -- eating at Jazzfest all day; dinner at my parents' house. Monday -- lunch at Uglesich's, dinner in Eunice at Geno Delafose's barbecue. Tuesday -- breakfast at Estorge House in Opelousas, lunch at the Pig Stand in Ville Platte, dinner at the crawfish boil at the Savoys. Wednesday -- breakfast again in Opelousas, lunch at Galatoire's back in New Orleans, late dinner at Irene's Cuisine. Thursday -- lunch at the Fest, dinner at Brigtsen's. Friday -- lunch TBD, dinner at Cafe Giovanni. Saturday -- breakfast and lunch TBD, dinner at our friends Dean and Becky's house (which was mind-boggling last year). Sunday lunch at the fest, dinner TBD.

I'm not weird. Well, I am, but lemme tell you, all New Orleanians are like this. We plan meals carefully. When we're at a meal, we're discussing the one we had last, and planning the one we'll have next, while we enjoy the one we're having now. Our friends from out of town think this is weird. They need to get with the program (and they usually do within a day or so).

We don't eat to live, we live to eat.

"Down Home": Shaken, not stirred.   Yay! Good news has just arrived via email that my substitute-host crisis for the next two weeks (three usual subs were unavailable) has been averted. The lovely and talented Kat Griffin, host of KCSN's "Madly Cocktail" on Friday nights from 7-9pm, has graciously assented to sit in for me. She's a lot of fun, so make sure not to miss a second of the show in my absence. "Down Home", as I've reminded everyone until they're sick of hearing about it, is on Saturdays from 3-5pm Pacific time, and can be heard via Windows Media streaming audio (and soon via streaming MP3) at KCSN's listening page.

More farewells for Davy.   Scottish folk singer Davy Steele, who passed away almost two weeks ago, receives a lovely tribute in his national newspaper, The Scotsman, from his mates in Battlefield Band as well as from the BBC. There are also tributes from his many fans on the Davy Talk message board.

  Monday, April 23, 2001  ::  4 Days Until Jazzfest
Firewater.   We had a few friends over for cocktails on Saturday night, and everyone had an absolute blast. Tony was kind enough to bring over a couple of bottles, including some stuff I'd wondered about for a while (but was a little too chicken to try):  Aguardiente Cristal, from Colombia.

Aguardiente translates as "firewater", and is simply a sugar cane brandy that's found all over Latin America. The quality varies wildly, from the finest cachaças of Brazil to absolutely vile potions suitable for external use only (though people drink it anyway). Cristal comes in a very simple bottle and it worried me that it fell into the latter category. I'd started to see billboards for it, though, and rather nice ones at that, and not only in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.

Tony describes the stuff as "hallucinatory", and while I didn't consume it in enough quanitities to prove or disprove that (I'll take his word for it), I was surprised to find that it's an anise-flavored spirit. I had assumed it was a pure sugar cane brandy. The neat stuff ya learn, lemme tell ya.

I'm in the process of doing a little web research, and found a site that's 404 but still in Google's cache (a Colombian site with the delightful base URL of that describes Cristal's maker, Industria Licorera de Caldas, as "producers of the finest rums and liquors in Colombia" and having "long since been part of Colombia's tradition, and in the process has earned prestige". (Well, that's how the translation came out, anyway.)

[Aguardiente Cristal is] a liquor derived from the sugar cane and produced with an extra neutral base of 96% of alcohol to which we add water from the famous Nevado del Ruiz Springs, which gives our aguardiente its exclusive and appealing secret flavor.

Not to mention the anise. Apparently even the American distributor of Cristal admits this stuff's "an acquired taste". I only had one taste of it on Saturday, so I'll report back later once I've had more of a chance to sample it. (I managed to find a site of Colombian cocktails, all in Spanish; I'll pull a few and try them, then put the more interesting ones up here.)

Water on fire.   Just for the hell of it, at the last minute I added the Combustible Edison to the menu for last Saturday's cocktail party. Ever since I read about it I thought it'd be fun to make, but I'd never gotten around to makign one. I'm still not a huge Campari fan (although I'm working on developing more of a taste for it), but I thought that maybe someone else might be adventurous and order one. Sure enough, when our friends Gregg and Michael mentioned that they were both Campari fans, I suggested this drink, and their eyes lit up. Pretty soon, the counter where I was mixing the drinks lit up too.

The story behind the drink is at the Drinkboy link above, and I reproduce the recipe for you here.

The Combustible Edison

2 ounces brandy (we like Hennessy V.S. for cocktails)
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Add the Campari and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Heat the brandy on the stove or in a chafing dish. If the heating vessel doesn't have a pouring spout, put the brandy into something that does.

Lower the lights, carefully ignite the brandy, and pour it into a flaming stream into the cocktail glass. Aim well. If you're a klutz, have a friend standing by with a fire extinguisher. (I'm a klutz, but I managed to do this perfectly last Saturday.)

If the brandy is shaken with the ice instead of being set aflame, the drink is called an Edisonian.

It's even more fun when you make two of them at the same time.

Don't let them take the trout away.   An appeal from Tom Fitzmorris, from the New Orleans Menu Daily:

On Wednesday, the [Louisiana] state legislature will consider a bill to remove speckled trout from the menus of all New Orleans restaurants. Not just Louisiana speckled trout (of which restaurants and markets now get less than two percent of the total eight million pounds caught), but trout from any other state or country, even if catching it is legal in those places.

Why this Draconian move? It's another chapter in the relentless effort on the part of the deceptively-named Coastal Conservation Association -- a lobby group for operators of charter boats, fishing resorts, and those with boats more expensive than your home -- to claim all the popular food fish for themselves.

The Senate bill is #875; the House bill is #1487. Other bills in this package attempt to remove pompano entirely and greatly diminish black drum in restaurants. This is a real threat, folks. Please contact your state senator and representative to let him know your feelings about this. His address can be found at

Repeat until you remember.   Now, just because Dubya is the President of the United States doesn't mean that we really expect him to remember all those pesky countries and heads of state. Salon's Lance Gould suggests harnessing Dubya's "talent" for giving people nicknames (from Secretary of State Colin "Balloonfoot" Powell to Russian President Vladimir "Ostrich Legs" Putin to his wife, "First") to help him remember all those foreign place names:

"Help Me" Rwanda
"Shake" Djibouti
"Milk of" Malaysia
"Electric" Qatar
"Belize" Navidad
"Sir Thomas" Malawi

  Saturday, April 21, 2001  ::  6 Days Until Jazzfest
Today on "Down Home":   I'm featuring musicians from the 2001 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival's first weekend (that's NEXT weekend, woohoo!): Richard Thompson, Charmaine Neville with Amasa Miller and Reggie Houston, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, Dr. Michael White, Anders Osborne, The J. Monque'D. Blues Band, Papa Don Vappie and his Creole Seranaders, The funky Meters, The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, John Boutté, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, The Iguanas, Marcia Ball, The ReBirth Brass Band, Snooks Eaglin, One-A-Chord, Little Jimmy Scott, Mem Shannon Blues Band, Keith Frank, Buckwheat Zydeco and Fredy Omar con su Banda. Listen live at, 3-5pm California time.

  Friday, April 20, 2001  ::  7 Days Until Jazzfest
Go down to da Quawtuhs!   The French Quarter Festival begins today in New Orleans, a great little "mini-Jazzfest" that's geared toward locals. Stages all over the Quarter, food everywhere, and it's free. If the weather is good, it's one of the best festivals New Orleans has to offer, 'cause it's not as crowded and there aren't so many tourists.

New Orleans food writer Tom Fitzmorris, in yesterday's New Orleans Menu Daily, gave his recommendations for the top 20 things to eat at the French Quarter Festival (plus a caveat that the quality of the food booths varies wildly, from restaurant-quality dishes on paper plates to rock-bottom offerings like Lucky Dogs). I'll excerpt the Top Ten for you here. Food booth location designations are JS for Jackson Square, WP for Woldenberg Park (along the riverfront from St. Louis to Bienville) and KL for Kohlmeyer Lawn (along the riverfront near the Aquarium of the Americas). All comments are Tom's, unless they're in brackets [like this, in which case they're mine].

1. Mrs. Wheat's Natchitoches-style Cajun Meat Pies.
Two for $5.50, and believe me, you will want to eat two of these. JS and WP. [Although Chuck still doesn't think they're as good as Creole's Stuffed Bread!]

2. Baby back ribs -- Royal Cafe.
Easily the best ribs anywhere near the Quarter. $4. JS.

3. Crawfish cake, and Corn and Crawfish Bisque -- Sclafani's.
Even though they're gone from the Quarter, they come back every year with this. $3 each. JS. [I've always loved Sclafani's; they're one of the only reasons to go to New Orleans East, to their Hayne Blvd. restaurant.]

4. Crabmeat and Shrimp-stuffed Mirliton, and Boiled brisket of beef with Creole horseradish sauce -- Tujague's.
[One of the classic Quarter restaurants, and they're justifiably famous for their brisket.] $4 each. JS.

5. Crab cakes and crawfish cakes (each with remoulade sauce), and Shrimp-stuffed dumplings -- Dakota.
Wow. That sounds elegant. A steal at $4 each. WP.

6. BBQ Baby Shrimp and Rice -- 827 1/2 Toulouse -- The Restaurant.
This is a very good, hidden restaurant. The dish is somewhere between a real barbecue shrimp and a spicy shrimp stew. They also have an andouille and artichoke pasta. Each is $4. JS.

7. Couscous -- Jamila's.
The great little Tunisian restaurant on Maple Street is making three different kinds of couscous in an authentic couscousière. $4. JS.

8. Grilled chicken livers with hot pepper jelly sauce -- Praline Connection. $4. WP.

9. Hot sausage poor boy -- Vaucresson's.
Vaucresson's is a butcher shop that's always made the definitive Creole hot sausage, also known as chaurice. [And a hot sausage po-boy is one of the absolutely best things on the entire planet.] $4. JS.

10. Chicken-andouille gumbo, red beans and rice -- The Gumbo Shop.
(Think they know anything about those dishes?) [I'll bet they know a thing or two!] $4 each. WP.

Gear up for Jazzfest next weekend. Eat, dance and enjoy!

Speaking of Creole's Stuffed Bread...   I just discovered that it's now available via mail-order by the case. WOOHOOOOO!!! Thank you, Uncle Jesus!

It sounds so simple -- an absolutely delectable blend of ground beef and pork, sliced smoked sausage, sliced jalapeños and cheese inside a homemade bread roll, brushed with butter and baked until golden brown. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the greatest handheld snack food in the world, and one of the large ones with a couple of sides (like collard greens, yams or red beans 'n rice, as you get it at Creole's Lunch House in Lafayette) makes a fantastic meal.

I eat at least one of these every day that I'm on the Fair Grounds for Jazzfest, and I would be truly happy if I could have one or two of these every single day for the rest of my life.

The politics of Dune.   It's just just a struggle between the Atreides, Harkonnens and Fremen. It includes Artisan Entertainment, Betafilm, New Amsterdam and disappointed fans.

I'm a big fan of the SciFi Channel's production of Frank Herbert's Dune. I waited for the DVD with great anticipation, but was disappointed that it didn't have nearly as many extras as was promised, nor did it contain a promised director's cut. Here's why, and not that they may eventually release a Special Collector's Edition with all the missing extras later on. This royally pisses me off, because I've already bought the damned thing. I would have preferred to wait until a Special Edition was ready and just bought that. (This is a rapidly growing trend in DVD releasing that I find infuriating.)

I didn't think it possible that the Food Network could have managed to find a host for "Ready, Set, Cook" who is even more annoying that Sissy Biggers. Lo and behond, they've done it; in fact, they've outdone themselves with Ainsley Harriott. He's not just annoying, he's super-annoying.

And what's with this "coveted" Golden Toque Award? Whoop-dee-doo, a little trinket. I'll bet it's not nearly as coveted as an "Iron Chef" win.

  Thursday, April 19, 2001  ::  8 Days Until Jazzfest
Do I still have the stamina?   Seven years ago I wrote up an account of how I did a "typical" Jazzfest. People would write to me and wonder if I was a Yat Hunter S. Thompson, or something. "We would have collapsed in exhaustion if we had done that much stuff!", etc. I didn't think it was all that big a deal; I mean, if you're gonna do Jazzfest, do it.

Last year, though ... we'd eat a huge dinner, go out for drinks afterward, and then it was a mere 1am and we were so tired all we wanted to do was crash. We hardly saw any music late at night in clubs last year. Confronted with the whole "you're getting too old for that shit" scenario, Wes and I have resolved to do our best to make sure we get to some clubs this year. Maybe I should have a Jolt Cola after a round of after-dinner cocktails ...

Love Potion No. 9?   Lia kindly filled me in on what that mysterious "blue beverage that's better than sex" might be. Turns out that it's not really better than sex, but supposedly makes the sex better -- one swig and you're apparently hornier than a bunnyrabbit. It's blue and its name rhymes with "Viagra" ... sheesh. I have to admit, it's tempting, though. :-)

Speaking of which...   There's a question that may have been racing through the minds of many people during Passover last week -- Is Viagra kosher for Passover?

Hit by a train.   Last week I picked up the new Old 97s album, "Satellite Rides". It took a few listens to settle in -- I didn't love it as immediately as I loved "Fight Songs" -- but I love it now. Rhett's a great songwriter, and once again just about every song is a gem. It struck me as even popper than "Fight Songs" was, but there's still enough of a touch of twang to keep me happy.

And of course, once again, just my friggin' luck ... their L.A. tour date is on the last day of my trip to New Orleans, so I'm going to miss them  again. FECK!!!

Fish Head Music!   The venerable and long-beloved New Orleans band The Radiators have a new CD coming out next Tuesday ... mark your calendars!

Keeping in touch with Dubbelin City.   An interview with Irish writer Roddy Doyle, who has added an original film screenplay to his body of work -- "When Brendan Met Trudy" recenttly opened in L.A. -- and who talks about not losing contact with the working- and lower-middle-class roots that have fed much of his writing.

  Wednesday, April 18, 2001  ::  9 Days Until Jazzfest
The countdown to Jazzfest begins.   Nine days now until my annual pilgrimage back home for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Three thousand musicians, food galore from all over Louisiana and the world, arts and crafts from contemporary and traditional artists, evening concerts, workshops, and every club in town jam-packed with musicians until the wee hours of every night.

It won't hurt to mention again ... food, glorious food! Peristyle, Liuzza's, Irene's, Brigtsen's, Cafe Giovanni, Elizabeth's, my momma's house and our friends Dean and Becky's house are the meals we've got planned so far, not including all the festival eating, the Monday night barbecue at Geno Delafose's and the big crawfish boil in Eunice chez Savoy. By the time Wes and I leave next Friday we'll probably have most if not all of our meals planned in advance.

I should just buy bigger pants now. *sigh*

Uh oh. Is Eric Idle losing it?   I noted with glee that an old favorite of mine, "The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash", has just been released on DVD. Today we have an anecdote from Greil Marcus:

After a screening [at the Directors Guild of America Theatre Complex in Los Angeles on March 9, 2001] of the 1978 TV film about the Bizarro World version of the Beatles, Rutles Neil Innes, Eric Idle and Rikki Fataar came out for a panel discussion and questions from the audience. Idle was asked if it was true that Jermaine Jackson had bought the rights to all the Rutles songs. He didn't get it right away.

Wacky search request of the day.   The other day someone found my site by going to Google and entering "blue beverage from England that's better than sex". I still don't know what this blue beverage is.

If it seems too good to be true, it is.   Y'know, I have to express my opinion that the guy who wired $24,500 to a complete stranger to buy a Jaguar off eBay -- in what seemed to be a "great deal" -- without going through an escrow service has got to be a complete idiot.

Terrorist and mass murderer turns down PETA request to be their new poster boy.   Timothy McVeigh has declined the PETA wingnuts' request to eschew animal products from his diet during what remains of his life so that they can suck some free publicity for their cause out of his execution. While waiting to see what their next asinine publicity stunt will be, I think I'll throw another batch of ribs on the grill...

Reading between the lines of his response, he basically said, "Leave me alone, you nutty bastards. I only have a month to live, for Chrissakes. Go bother Ted Kaczynski, you lot oughta get along with him just GREAT."

Fun with linguistics.   The U.K. is taking their census this year, and provide localised forms for England, Scotland, etc. Presumably there are forms in Gaelic and Welsh, but it was fascinating to try to figure out this one, in Ulster Scots. (Interesting, I didn't know there was still much of any Scots at all spoken in Northern Ireland.)

2/3 ig'nant rednecks, and damn proud of it!   66% of the voters of the state of Mississippi voted to retain the Confederate emblem on their state flag, every single one of them proud as punch of their state's segregationist heritage, their neo-Confederate attitudes and their rock-bottom literacy rate. Cue that Randy Newman song...

  Monday, April 16, 2001
Cruisin' around in his GTO...   Joey Ramone, who may have had no idea how much impact "Rock 'n Roll High School", "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Teenage Lobotomy" had on our culture, died of lymphoma at age 49.

Spiffy!   There's been a great deal of spiffening up going on at KCSN's web site, which finally looks like it has a design! There's also MP3 streaming of our signal coming soon, and a new custom-designed Windows Media player (don't cringe at the grievous misspelling in it, though ... I've already emailed Freddie about it). Come by and check us out!

  Friday, April 13, 2001
It's Friday the 13th.   Boo.

Doug Ross has nothing on Jason Levine.   I was catching up on my weblog reading this morning and came across Jason's sole entry from yesterday. He had had an incredible day, and reading about it made my morning. What a fantastic story, and I hope he ends up with countless more like these to share with us.

This helped make up for how very uneven "ER" has been lately (and I'm a longtime addict), except this is ten thousand times better because it's real.

Way, way too much testosterone.   Actors Steve Buscemi and Vince Vaughn were in a bar in North Carolina during the off-hours of a movie in which they're starring. Vaughn began chatting with a woman at the bar; unfortunately, her boyfriend was a Neanderthal man. The air suddenly became thick with testosterone, and a melée broke out. Buscemi was stabbed three times, and Vaughn is in jail (although presumably he was defending himself). The Neanderthal man was charged with assalt with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

It strikes me that you never hear about this kind of thing happening in gay bars.

Pickle from Hell. (Our Litigious Society, Part Umpty-Ump)   The McDonald's Corporation have settled a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed she was permanently scarred by a hot pickle slice that spurted from her burger and landed on her chin.

The amount was undisclosed, but as part of the suit the woman's husband sought $15,000 for "losing the services and consortium of his wife". In case you hadn't heard that particular term in that particular context before ...

Main Entry: con-sor-tium
Pronunciation: k&n-'sor-sh(E-)&m, -'sor-tE-&m
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural  con-sor-tia /-'sor-sh(E-)&, -'sor-tE-&/;
     also  -sortiums
Etymology: Latin, fellowship, from consort-, consors
Date: 1829

3 : the legal right of one spouse to the company, affection, and assistance of and to sexual relations with the other.

So, cap ... uh, you're saying that your wife got an ouchie on her chin, and now she won't put out? Too bad it was settled; I would have loved to watched this one on Court TV.

I've eaten battered and deep-fried dill pickle slices at Liuzza's in New Orleans which were probably seconds out of the deep fryer, and which were undoubtedly far more incendiary than anything that could possibly be on a McDonald's barfburger ... and, um, I do just fine.

Not a bad idea.   There are probably a bunch of people who are fasting around this time, primarily for religious reasons. Tom Fitzmorris of the New Orleans Menu Daily offers some non-religious reasons why fasting every now and again might be a good idea:

1. We're too fat. For both years that this statistic has been compiled, it was found that New Orleanians are America's fattest people. (Although I find it hard to believe that we beat out the Hawaiians by much.) Unless you have a model's figure (and you probably don't, if you're reading this), there is no reason why you can't skip a meal or two. (Drink water and juice, however, and keep up your vitamins.)

2. You're in a hurry. People usually give, as their excuse for going to fast food restaurants, a shortage of time to eat a real meal. Not good enough. If you're in that big of a rush, just skip the meal. There's almost nothing you can eat that's worse -- in every sense of the word -- than fast food. It destroys your self-respect even as it momentarily kills your appetite.

3. It makes you feel good. There's something both physically and psychically appealing about getting hungry. You just have to place a positive cast on it -- make friends with that hunger. Know that the hungry feeling is, for most of us, triggered by the demands of our fat cells (I am not making this up). Welcome the feeling, and think that you're killing the fat.

4. It makes the first meal after the fast taste incredible. A few years ago, I underwent an appendectomy with complications, and for four days I could neither eat nor drink anything -- not even water. On the fifth day, the doctor allowed "clear liquids." My first meal was hot tea, chicken broth, and orange Jell-O. I went for the Jell-O first. I don't think I ever tasted anything quite so delicious in my life. (The principle behind this also explains why it's a good idea not to eat things like crawfish out of season, but that's another issue.)

5. It makes us men feel sexy. I don't exactly understand why this should be, but I think it has something to do with a reptilian aspect of desire. We want... something. If we get the food first, it lessens other desires of the flesh. Unfortunately, this effect seems to be reversed in women, who in my experience want to have the dinner taken care of before anything else comes to mind.

  Thursday, April 12, 2001
40 years into the Space Era.   On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin opened a new chapter in human history by being the first person to leave Earth's atmosphere and fly in space. His 108-minute orbital flight was about three weeks before American astronaut Alan Shepard's first flight for NASA.

Here we are, 40 years later. Humans haven't been back to the moon since Apollo 17 over 30 years ago, and have never ventured beyond its orbit. Now the Bush administration have scuttled plans for the next generation of orbital shuttle, as well as one of the planned modules for Space Station Alpha. *sigh*  I'm waiting for that Marvelous New Invention that'll revolutionize space flight by making it less expensive. Any day now, all you Scientific Geniuses.

Cocktail of the day.   Someone forwarded this one to Wes the other day -- it had no attribution, so I don't know where the "here" is that's referred to in the description. I hesitated to post it because I hadn't tried it yet, as we don't stock pepper vodka. I'm curious, so I'll probably pick up a little airline size bottle of Absolut Peppar at Wally's next time I go; I can't see myself getting a whole 750ml bottle of it, though.

Even if it ends up being interesting, I can't say that I'll add it to my regular cocktail rotation. Of course (I being me), I changed it even without tasting it. The original recipe called for a dash of Rose's Lime "Juice", but that bottled swill is awful, so squeeze a fresh lime wedge into it instead and put in a dash of sugar syrup if it's not sweet enough for you. The main reason this drink is here is because the description cracked me up.

The Ricky Martini

1 oz Absolut Peppar vodka
1 oz Absolut Mandrin vodka
1 splash Cointreau
1 splash Cranberry juice
Squeeze of lime wedge

Shake with ice until frothy. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a jalepeño-stuffed olive.

"This drink is the new sensation here -- like Ricky Martin, it's spicy and a little fruity."

Why you should make your own hamburgers.   And why you should think twice before 1) eating a fast-food hamburger, or 2) eating ground beef that comes from a big plant and not from a butcher you know by name.

First off, it tastes TONS better. Buy some nice fresh chuck and sirloin in equal amounts, grind it yourself in your food processor (it's easy easy easy), and you'll make heavenly burgers that'll kick the multiple asses of whatever global fast food conglomerate you might have been getting them from before.

Another reason is food safety. When you grind your own ground beef, or if you have your butcher grind it for you from good fresh meat, you know where it's coming from. If you get it preground in a plastic-wrapped package, frozen in patties or from a fast-food restaurant that gets theirs that way, you could be getting a hamburger that's been ground up from a whole lotta different cows, and just about anything can get into it when it's ground at the processing plant (i.e., slaughterhouse). Given the rapidly dwindling standards of sanitation in many meat processing plants these days, this is something you do not want.

An excerpt from Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal --

A nationwide study published by the USDA in 1996 found that 7.5 percent of the ground beef samples taken at processing plants were containated with salmonella, 11.7 percent were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, 30 percent were contaminated with Staphyhococcus aureus, and 53.3 percent were contaminated with Clostridium perfringens.

All of these pathogens can make people sick; food poisoning caused by Listeria generally requires hospitalization and proves fatal in about one out of ever five cases. In the USDA study 78.6 percent of the ground beef contained microbes that are spread primarily by fecal material. The medical literature on the causes of food poisoning is full of euphemisms and dry scientific terms:  coliform levels, aerobic plate counts, sorbitol, MacConkey agar, and so on. Behind them lies a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill:
There is shit in the meat.

I don't think there's any reason to freak out and become a vegetarian -- I like meat and I always will. This is just another very good reason to do your shopping at small neighborhood markets if you have them nearby, and to get to know your butcher by name. Besides being safer, it'll make your food taste better.

Another horrifying statistic.   Did you have any idea that over 600,000,000 of the little pink, purple and yellow horrors known as Marshmallow Peeps will be consumed this Easter season? *shudder* I can think of some better uses for them than actually eating them ... scientific experiments!

Back to 48 states?   Ever since November, I've been more than ready to just cut Florida loose and let it be an island down there next to Cuba. The only big difference would be that you'd need a passport to go to Disney World, and everyone should have a passport anyway.

After reading this headline I thought that next we can get rid of Utah, too -- just teleport into the middle of the Pacific Ocean:  Student council candidate bounced from race after fake kiss during a stage skit.

  Wednesday, April 11, 2001
Sad news.   Scottish folk/trad singer and songwriter Davy Steele, formerly of Ceolbeg and Battlefield Band passed away this morning after a long struggle with brain cancer. He was a brilliant singer, outstanding songwriter and wonderful personality, and will be missed very much.

"The Parting Glass".   A song for Davy, learned from the singing of Gerry Cullen, Fran McPhail and Phil Callery (The Voice Squad):

O, all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that e'er I did,
Alas, it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

O, all the comrades e'er I had,
Are sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had,
Would wish me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile.
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own, she has my heart enthralled;
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

(Available on the CD "Good People All", on Shanachie Records)

Do not call me a "coonass".   Some of you know this term, some of you don't. Some of you think it's not insulting. You should disabuse yourself of that notion quickly.

I am not alone among Louisianians who dislike this word very intensely.

The term is generally recognized as a synonym for "Cajun", and very uncomplimentary one at best. Others (like my brother-in-law Jeff) claim that it's a term for a non-Cajun from a Cajun area, or that it's this, that or the other, although the former definition seems to be the most well-known. There are those who use this word as a "reclaimed" word, proudly calling themselves "coonass" to reflect their Louisiana heritage. You can even see bumperstickers and signs featuring a raccoon raising his hindquarters with a slogan like "Coonass Pride" (although I give thanks that the number of such things seems to be dwindling). I think that people who refer to themselves in this way really need to think long and hard about what they're saying.

Widely respected Louisiana folklore and history professor Barry Jean Ancelet has written an excellent essay on the history, use and misuse of this word, which bears reading for every Louisianian and every non-Louisianian who thinks it's okay to call someone this. Asteur, the bilingual Cajun magazine which published the original essay, also published some responses to Barry's article, as well as his own response to the respondents.

People (generally well-meaning) have used it in my guestbook, and have used it in emails to me. People who don't know better use it to try to be funny, or cute, or seem like they're insiders, or with a "smile when you say that" attitude. I wish they wouldn't. Though the amount of actual Cajun blood in my veins is small, I am a proud Louisianian, and the Cajuns are a very big part of my Louisiana culture. To quote Barry, I myself find the term to be vulgar at best, and vulgar and highly insulting at worst.

I remember an incident from Jazzfest a while back. Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil were being introduced prior to their performance. The ignorant and rather unfortunate emcee on the stage shouted to the crowd, "Hey, any coonasses out there today?" A few people cheered. "Well, we've got a real coonass band for y'all comin' right up! Put ya hands together for BeauSoleil!" Mike gave this man a look that could have melted solid steel, then went up to the microphone and said, "Let's get one thing straight right now. We're not 'coonasses'. We're Acadians." Yeah you rite, Mike.

I'm not going to argue with anyone over where the term came from -- some say it came from Louisiana oil workers and wasn't initially an ethnic slur, others say the French-speaking Cajun soldiers themselves picked it up in World War II and applied it to themselves (of course, during a time when people were told they shouldn't be proud to be a French-speaking peasant from the prairies and bayous). Brian Gabriel Comeaux put it very well in a post to Usenet's alt.culture.cajun:

I was always sceptical of the "conasse"-"coonass" connection ... I doubt seriously that anyone will ever be able to prove the origin of the term as applied to Cajuns with any certainty. All in all, It is no more useful than trying to determine the "intent" of the founders of the US Constitution when the words at issue have a clear and unambiguous meaning. A coon's ass is a coon's ass is a coon's ass, and the etymology hardly matters.
Quote of the day.   "As far as I am concerned, a coon ass is a little brown spot under a raccoon's tail. And if anyone cares to push the issue further than that, then the only difference I can see between a coon ass and a horse's ass is the Sabine River."

-- Legendary Cajun musician Dewey Balfa, when asked what he thought of the term "coonass".

  Tuesday, April 10, 2001
My contribution to the death of Netscape.   I finally deleted it this weekend. Quit using it altogether. I've had it. Enough already.

I tried upgrading to the new Netscape 6, which had the distinction of doing something no other program has ever done to me in all my years of using a Mac -- it crashed my machine during installation. Three times.

It was bloated, clunky and slow. I hated the design, I hated what it didn't do (you couldn't even turn off the stupid pictures on the toolbar anymore). Feh. In several moments of what-was-I-thinking-of, I even tried to "upgrade" my old copy of Netscape 4.72 to the more recent 4.77 release. It was even worse than its predecessor, if that can be believed. It's just broken. So is Netscape in general. AOL bought it and then killed it. By this point it deserves to die.

I also finally broke my years-long moratorium against installing any Microsoft products on my machine and installed IE 5.0. Y'know what? As much as I've disliked Microsoft products in the past, I gotta say that this one is pretty good. Damned good, in fact, and about ten thousand times better than Netscape (and so far I even like it better than Opera's preview release). The team that coded this browser for the Mac did a stupendous job, and until something better comes along, it's my default browser at home.

Not your garden-variety lollipop.   This past weekend I was shopping at the fabulous Farm Fresh Market (a VERY well-stocked Latino supermarket) at Orange Grove and Los Robles in Pasadena and came across an item I couldn't resist -- Vero Mango lollipops.

They're tart mango lollipops coated with a layer of guajillo and ancho chile powder and salt. You're getting sweet, tart and hot all in the same lick, and it's ... quite an experience. (Puckery!) Wes liked them a little more than I did, but I'm thinking they'll grow on me a bit. Find them at your local Latino market or buy them online.

Watch him fall.   Predictably, the honeymoon is over. After an approval rating that began in the low 60s, Shrub begins what I predict will be a long plummet, according to a new Harris poll:

After approximately two months in office, George W. Bush's overall job rating has slipped to a current 49 percent positive and 38 percent negative, with 13 percent of the public still undecided about his performance. Since The Harris Poll began asking this question in 1964, no other president at an equivalent point in his first term has had such a low positive standing.

The term is young.

*splash*   I feel this woman's pain. When I was a kid I accidentally dropped my orthodontic retainer in the toilet, and I completely wigged out. I refused to use it again until my dad (who's a dentist) took it to his office and put it through a one-hour sterilization cycle in his autoclave. He and my orthodontist thought the whole situation was hilarious (I don't recall it being that goddamned hilarious, myself). Fortunately, there was no subsequent plumbing and money drama as in the above story.

  Friday, April 6, 2001
Vive les fraises!   The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival takes place this weekend, April 7 and 8, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Since you already know that the best strawberries anywhere come from Ponchatoula (you do know this, right?), I can rest assured that that's where you'll be this weekend if you're within a day's drive.

There'll be musical entertainment, 50 food booths featuring Ponchatoula strawberries prepared and served in every way, shape and form (plus other great local food), and about 300,000 of your fellow strawberry lovers. To get there from New Orleans, take I-10 west toward Laplace, then I-55 north. Get off at exit 23 towards downtown, and follow the signs.

Do ya have a valediciton, boyo?   A private memo from the office of California Governor Gray Davis, described as "a utility wish list", reveals that he is planning a massive utility rate hike on top of the recently authorized 46% increase, but it will not take effect "until after he is re-elected".

"This memo demonstrates the worst side of politics," said Doug Heller, consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "Governor Davis will betray the consumers of California with a massive bailout tax on utility bills, but he will withhold the charges until after the next election."

What makes him think he's going to get re-elected? It's not too early for him to start writing that valediction.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric, California's largest utility, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

There are Italians in the Mafia? No way!   The American Italian Defense Association is suing the producers of HBO's superb TV show "The Sopranos" for defaming and offending the dignity of Italian-Americans by portraying them as mobsters and suggesting "that criminality is in the blood or in the genes of Italian-Americans." One wonders whether or not the strunz who said that even watches the show, in which several non-mobster Italian-American characters frequently decry how this tiny minority of 40 million Italian-Americans (99+% of whom are honest and hard-working) color the rest as mobsters.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia mob boss Ralph Natale has turned informant (or "flipped", in mob parlance), and is testifying for the government against his successor Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and family consigliere George Borgesi. The FBI says with glee that Natale is the only mob boss ever to flip, and the mob themselves grumble that Natale is an even worse rat than Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who turned on his former boss John Gotti. Natale, a close friend of legendary Philadelphia mob boss Angelo "The Docile Don" Bruno, initially bonded with Merlino while in prison over their shared dislike of John Stanfa, who took over the mob in the 1980s after Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo after he went to prison. Natale then took over once Stanfa was himself imprisoned. (Note again, these men represent about 0.0125% of the Italian-American population.)

"So yeah," as my friend Steve Kelley put it, "I can see where the American Italian Defense Association has a real case for arguing that it's offensive to have a TV show about the Mafia featuring Italian-American characters. It's just not realistic."

I wonder if they'll sue Francis Coppola and the estate of Mario Puzo as well; they started This Mob-Fascintion Thing of Ours, after all. (Thanks to Steve for the links, and for providing me with the headline which I gleefully stole.)

Next, we plan to shoot all flu patients in the head.   Six times. Just to make sure they're cured.

Microsoft are apparently planning to ban several types of email file attachments in their new email software Outlook 2002, so that they won't transmit any of the nasty viruses that spread around the world like wildfire because of their awful security and their near-monopoly on personal computer operating systems.

Aren't you glad they don't operate hospitals?

Uh, no, he didn't, actually. Sorry!   A story in the Miami Herald the other day was trumpeting their findings that Bush would have actually won had the recounts been completed. It got picked up by the national media, who ran with it all the way to the shit-eating grins on the staff of the White House.

Turns out that it was wrong, and the paper effectively recanted the next day. Oddly enough, the recantation didn't get picked up by the media at all.

In a new story in Thursday's editions, the Herald acknowledged what we also pointed out: that a careful examination of the Herald's own data would have led to a conclusion that Al Gore was the choice of Florida voters under a reasonable standard judging the "clear intent of the voters."

The Herald's data revealed that by looking at the so-called "undervotes" in all 67 counties and counting various markings for president, Gore would have won Florida and thus the presidency.

While I'm at it, I'd also like to cheerily invite everyone who's sneered at me to "just get over it" and "quit being such a sore loser" to take said unsolicited advice and ram it up their respective arses, sideways. *smooch*

Quote of the day.   "You know, I'm finally getting in sync with Bush's beliefs on the greenhouse effect. He's right. I mean, what have future generations done for him anyway?"

-- My cow-orker Brett, being paraphrased by my cow-orker Shari

  Thursday, April 5, 2001
Morford returns!   The cheery, sneery smartass delight of my morning, the SF Gate's "Morning Fix", has returned after writer Mark Morford was suspended for a week after a column he had prepared for the Fix cheesed off the new Vice President of Digital Media for the newly-acquired San Francisco Chronicle. After his involuntary vacation, Mark says of The Fix:

Edge and wryness and happyfun journalistic blasphemy fully intact, hopefully, only better and richer and more pointed but with the same grammatical gyrations and quirky innuendo and disparaging verbiage directed at the pope and Shrub and Jennifer Lopez, simultaneously.

Welcome back!

Delirious.   For fans of Luka Bloom there's now a superb lyrics and guitar tab site called Bloody Fingers, with images of the chords and .gif and .pdf files of the exact tab for advanced players. Very impressive.

It's almost enough to get me to dig my old guitar out of the garage, change the rusty strings and try it again ... 'cept all my calluses have healed up and gone away.

When rednecks reproduce.   A couple in Corpus Christi, Texas (natch) have named their new baby boy "Espn" (pronounced "ESS-pen"), after the ESPN sports network that the father sits on his big ass and watches all day and all night, thus condemning the poor child to an entire childhood of schoolyard taunting, as if being the son of parents who would be so moronic as to name a child after a television sports network isn't bad enough.

  Wednesday, April 4, 2001
Make sure ya get dat wit' extra mynez, Mistah Vee-Pee.   Dick Cheney cast his first tie-breaking vote in the Senate yesterday, voting for an amendment to the 2002 budget that scuttled the Democrats' hopes of using federal budget surplus money for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. The money will now go toward Bush's tax cut.

I think the Vice President should celebrate this milestone in his Vice Presidential career by heading down to New Orleans for a few special meals, beginning with one of the great po-boy sandwiches of New Orleans -- a Peacemaker.

Named for the intentions of men who'd bring one of these home to their wives for dinner when they were in the doghouse over something, the Peacemaker is ten inches of pure hedonistic, sensual delight that consists of piles of fried oysters and fried shrimp, with plenty of just-melting Cheddar cheese and several slices of smoky, crisp bacon, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, hot sauce and lots and lots of real mayonnaise. What could go better with than than a double-sized order of golden-brown fried onion rings from Liuzza's, that come in the famous foot-tall loaf?

For dessert I recommend another New Orleans classic. How 'bout a huge serving of Bananas Foster -- bananas cooked in butter, brown sugar and rum, served over several big scoops of rich vanilla ice cream. (And hey, why not top that with a few dollops of fresh whipped cream, too?)

Hey, what the heck. We live once. Enjoy.

U.K. pol: Bush and family "appalling".   Don't ya just love the sunny image of benevolence and love the Bush administration is projecting as the representatives of you and me, babe? America is being denounced by British politicians from the Liberal Democratic and Labour parties, some of whom are calling for a boycott on U.S. goods, because of the Bush administration's stand on carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. (Hey lads, don't forget to denounce our Republican-controlled Senate too, for failing to ratify the Kyoto treaty.)

Aren't you glad that the man you didn't elect as your president is going to be (among many worse things) causing you to have people start arguments with you as you travel abroad? I remember being in a pub in Galway, Ireland in 1990, and as soon as I revealed myself as an American -- I pass for Irish quite easily -- several people pounced on me regarding the odious policies of Bush Sr. "You Yanks just don't understand that the rest of us in the world all have to put up with and suffer from what ye do!" I kept assuring them that I didn't vote for the son of a bitch, and hey ... could I get them another pint?

Horrendous classical music joke of the day.   A-one, and a-two, and a-three ... (*bomp*bomp*bomp*)

You say Carmina, I say Carmana,
You say Burina, I say Burana,
Carmina, Carmana, Burina, Burana.
Let's Carl the whole thing Orff.

-- Robert Feiertag, posting on soc.motss

Quote of the day.   "'Cause I'm a guy who's the hand model for the Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage Company."

-- Chef Mario Batali, describing himself during an episode of his Food Network program "Molto Mario", on why his hand-made tortellini tend to be fairly large rather than the usual tiny ones.

  Tuesday, April 3, 2001
Bliss, and heaven.   Today is the tenth anniversary of one of the greatest musical experiences of my life:  seeing and hearing R.E.M. do a 90-minute acoustic performance on live radio, about ten feet in front of me, during the late Deirdre O'Donoghue's legendary avant-pop radio program "SNAP", back in the Golden Era of KCRW.

We had just finished a very successful pledge drive, and some of my friends and I were celebrating at the annual end-of-drive party. I was chatting with Joan, one of the engineers, and after a bit she excused herself and said she had to leave the party early. "Sorry to cut out, but we've got to get back and take all the pledge phone desks out of the Performance Studio and get it all ready in two days. Apparently Deirdre's having some kind of big hush-hush live performance -- nobody knows who it's going to be, but I've heard that she's getting a bouncer to stand guard at the station entrance and nobody's going to be allowed in."

Instantly I thought, "It's R.E.M." I don't know how I knew, I just knew.

Deirdre and I got along famously, and I had never had a problem coming in to watch a live performance before, but I was worried about this one. If security was going to be tight (a bouncer, for Chrissakes!), then I might not be able to get in unless I had business being there that night.

The next day I got a mysterious phone call from Bob, the station's production director. He declined to identify himself, but I knew it was him as soon as he spoke. "Chuck?" "Hi Bob," I said. "What's up?"

He hesitated. "It would ... behoove you to be at the station tomorrow night at six-thirty p.m. Sharp."

My heart pounded. "It's R.E.M., isn't it? Isn't it?"

A long pause. "You never received this call." *click*

I felt like I was in a spy movie. I kept waiting for the next step, like instructions on where to make the drop, and what the secret password would be.

I did what he said, and showed up exactly at six-thirty, worried about how I'd bluff my way past the bounce. I figured that if Bob leaked to me when to show up, that it wasn't going to be a problem. Turns out that it wasn't at all.

As I approached the door, I saw my friend Dennis, one of the station's most loyal and intrepid volunteers, trying to look big and intimidating. "YOU'RE the bouncer?!" I gaped. "Yeah!" he said. "Get your ass in here!"

Turns out that there were quite a few folks who had gotten a mysterious call. I looked through the glass into the performance studio ... and in there were Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, plus Peter Holsapple (of the dB's and the Continental Drifters) helping out on accordion and guitar.

Holy friggin' bejeebies.

The people who happened to be tuned into "SNAP" that night were just about the luckiest radio listeners anywhere. This event was completely unannounced until it was ready to happen. At promptly 7:30, Deirdre introduced each one of them by name, and they started with "World Leader Pretend", and it went on and on from there. Over the course of the evening I heard lots of songs from "Green" and "Out of Time", lots of weird covers from "Spooky" to "Tusk" to "Did You Ever See Dallas On A DC-9 at Night?", goofy ditties like "The Banana Splits Theme" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Theme", to the most spinetinglingly beautiful versions of "Half a World Away" and "Fall On Me" I had ever heard. All acoustic.

I still remember nearly every detail and every note of that night, and I still listen to my tape of it fairly often. (No, it's not available for trade, so please don't ask). Things like this keep me feeling grateful for how lucky I was to stumble into this radio gig, and how enriching it is to my life and my soul, even though I don't make a penny from it.

Thanks to Bill, Peter, Mike, Michael and Peter H. for making that evening magical, and thanks especially to Deirdre, for making that evening happen in the first place. Thank you too for giving me so much of the music that I still listen to today, all these years later.

Quote of the day.   "I am so much enjoying the passing of the years, learning to ride the horse a little better, to play the violin of life more beautifully."

-- Deirdre O'Donoghue, Paris, 1990

  Monday, April 2, 2001
Not-so-subliminable seduction.   I only got the reference to this background image and didn't see where it was used on the site, but Pepsi's Australian site seems to have some subtly, um, titillating graphics to help seduce you into drinking their overly sweet fizzy swill. (Check to the right and slightly below the logo.)

March 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, Greg Beron and Andy Senasac.
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