the gumbo pages

looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, 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 @ 4:32am PDT, 9/28/2001

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Now reading:

The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands, by Stephen King.

Inside "The Wicker Man", by Allan Brown.

Juno & Juliet, by Julian Gough.

Listen to music!

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
Red Meat
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Son Volt
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A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
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Ansel Adams
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The Mirror Project


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

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Films seen recently:

"Our Lady of the Assassins" (****)
"Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (*)
"Jeepers Creepers" (***)
"Come Undone" (****)
"The Deep End" (****)
"Apocalypse Now Redux"

Lookin' at da TV:

"Six Feet Under"
"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Father Ted"
"Iron Chef"
"The Simpsons"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
David Grenier
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jonno / now
Lake Effect
The Leaky Cauldron
The Making of a Restaurant
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
The Other Side
Q Daily News
Robot Wisdom
Therapy for the Inner Psycho
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
World New York

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>

Must-reads: (Progressive politics & news)
The Complete Bushisms (Quotationable)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)

The Final Frontier:

ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

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!

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

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

(* = superfavorite)

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

Made with Macintosh

hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS 9.1 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work.

weblog and (almost) daily blather

  Friday, September 28, 2001
Jay Farrar on WXRT Chicago.   Listen to MP3 files of Jay's interview and live performance on September 24, 2001. Live tracks are "Feel Free" and "Voodoo Candle". To quell fears anyone may have about the future of Son Volt, Jay says during the interview that the band have actually not broken up, but he just thought that the time was right for him to do something a little different. Yeah you rite. (Thanks a million to Brian Moore for the link.)

When I wake up, yeah I know I'm gonna be ...   I'm gonna be the mon who wakes up next tae you. (Hi!)

The Proclaimers are coming to the House of Blues tonight. I can't wait! They don't play here very often (in fact, it's been ages since they've toured), and I'm still kicking myself for missing their 1989 show at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles on their Sunshine on Leith tour, a show that by all accounts was hair-raisingly brilliant.

Check their tour dates to see if they'll be anywhere near you. If not, you can get a taste of their live performing by tuning in to their recent appearance on "The Acoustic Cafe".

Last night's "Down Home" playlist is available for your perusal. If you're ever curious as to what I'm up to on the radio, feel free to subscribe to my weekly email playlist service, and don't forget to tune in on Thursday nights at 7pm Pacific!

What American can expect in a war against terrorists.   This letter was written by Dr. Anthony T. Kern, a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and a former Professor in Aviation Studies and Director of Military History at the USAF Academy. I found the link on the page of the Urban Legends Reference Site that takes on myths and rumors involving the terrorist attacks and either confirms or debunks them. The existence and authenticity of this letter were confirmed.

This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not diplomats, politicians or soldiers. Let me briefly explain. In spite of what the media, and even our own government is telling us, this act was not committed by a group of mentally deranged fanatics. To dismiss them as such would be among the gravest of mistakes. This attack was committed by a ferocious, intelligent and dedicated adversary. Don't take this the wrong way. I don't admire these men and I deplore their tactics, but I respect their capabilities. The many parallels that have been made with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are apropos. Not only because it was a brilliant sneak attack against a complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling our new adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over, just like my father's generation had to do with the formidable Japanese in the years following WWII.


Betty Bowers helps keep us safe.   AND she's a better Christian than YOU.

I popped by Landover Baptist the other day. I hadn't been in a while, and after reading this week's Onion I was curious as to what they're up to. They're in rare form, too. Mrs. Betty Bowers tells us how to spot a terrorist, and even provides us with a picture of a bearded man in loose-fitting dress whom she describes as a "typical Middle Eastern male".

There's always one, I suppose.   The BBC report that two people have been arrested for looting $3,700 worth of watches from a jewelry shop beneath the World Trade Center. A former New York corrections officer, posing as a police officer, and his friend were working as volunteers to get access to the site; after their arrest they were charged with burglary, grand larceny and criminal impersonation. (Can they charge them with Having Absolutely No Sense Of Goddamned Human Decency as well?)

Have fun in jail and then Hell, boys!

  Thursday, September 27, 2001
Tonight on "Down Home": Jay and Bob.   (No, not Jay and Silent Bob. Actually, it's more like Bob and Silent Jay in this case...) We'll hear from Jay Farrar's newest, Sebastopol (boy, is it good), Bob Dylan's newest Love and Theft, more from the new Dervish album, zydeco from Sean Ardoin (which we never quite got to last week), Irish piper and former Bothy Band member Paddy Keenan and Japanese-born Celtic and bluegrass guitarist and banjoist Junji Shirota (who performed a brilliant show at McCabe's last Sunday), and lots more. Tune in!

Hijackers Surprised to Find Selves in Hell.   The Onion returns, in rare form. Some will find this brilliant, others will be uncomfortable. I think that while it treads a very, very thin line, it's some of the best writing they've ever done, starting with:

JAHANNEM, OUTER DARKNESS -- The hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon expressed confusion and surprise Monday to find themselves in the lowest plane of Na'ar, Islam's Hell.

"I was promised I would spend eternity in Paradise, being fed honeyed cakes by 67 virgins in a tree-lined garden, if only I would fly the airplane into one of the Twin Towers," said Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, between attempts to vomit up the wasps, hornets, and live coals infesting his stomach. "But instead, I am fed the boiling feces of traitors by malicious, laughing Ifrit. Is this to be my reward for destroying the enemies of my faith?"

The rest of Atta's words turned to raw-throated shrieks, as a tusked, asp-tongued demon burst his eyeballs and drank the fluid that ran down his face.

According to Hell sources, the 19 eternally damned terrorists have struggled to understand why they have been subjected to soul-withering, infernal torture ever since their Sept. 11 arrival.


Oddly enough, in the aftermath of What Happened, I was thinking this exact same thing. (In fact, what I said to Wes was that I'd love to be able to see a still from the Afterlife Webcam to get the looks on those bastards' faces, when they realized that it was not 70 virgins waiting for them in Paradise, but 70 demons with white-hot spikes waiting for them in Hell.) These guys said it far better, though.

Don't miss "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule", where the Almighty has this to say:

"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."
Who knew vicious satire could bring a lump to your throat as well? They've always been good at finding the sad truth in the targets of their satire as well, including the current article that makes us wonder why we ever thought that movies about terrorist blowing people up were entertaining.

Some have said, "Are we joking about this already?" This isn't joking or making light of what happened, it's satire. The guys who write The Onion are satirists, and we can't expect them to stop being who they are because something terrible happened. Through their satire they express their outrage, their brokenheartedness and their moral convictions, and they do it well. If you've ever been a fan of The Onion, you mustn't miss this issue.

"They are bad men, but politics and digestion do not mix. Would you like some tea?"   Leslie Harpold tells of dinner at the Afghan Kebab House II on the night of September 16, in a really tasty site I've just come across called The Hoopla 500.

The Idiot of the Day Award for today is given jointly to the couple who run one of the shops on the ground floor of the high-rise in which I work. I had gone there to buy some potato chips (okay, I was being bad) to go with the perfectly healthy sandwich I had bought at the sandwich shop next door. Our exchange went like this:

Woman (eyeing me warily):  Sooo ... are you guys working the whole day today?

Me (baffled):  Um, yeah ... any reason why we shouldn't?

Man:  Well, I don't want to spread any rumors...

Me (pissed off):  Then don't.

I then spin on my heel and exit.

If there is some legitimate security threat to the building, then they need to inform our security department at once and let them handle it. If they are spreading any bullshit rumors amongst their customers that imply that there's some security threat to the building without knowing exactly what the feck they're talking about, then they need to be gobsmacked as soon as possible. Jesus.

Gee, nice to meet you too, pal.   Reporter Edward Girardet talks about covering the war in Afghanistan in 1989, and meeting a group of Arab fundamentalists and their very unpleasant leader:

The leader of this group -- a young, arrogant Saudi -- stepped forward demanding in fluent English to know who I was and what I was doing in Afghanistan. Wearing a military fatigue jacket and billowing trousers, he was flanked by 20 fellow Arabs from various countries armed with AK-74 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

It's crucial to retain face in Afghanistan. So for the benefit of my Afghan companions, I deliberately turned to my interpreter and spoke in English. Amused, my interpreter repeated my words -- in English: "I am a guest in this country just as you are." It was important to show that, as a foreigner, this Arab had no business demanding to know who I was.

To this he retorted: "This is our jihad, not yours. Afghanistan does not want you. If I see you again, I'll kill you."

Throughout my years of reporting in Afghanistan, I'd been welcomed with extraordinary hospitality. Whether in comfort or under fire, I had shared tea, food, and water with numerous Afghan hosts, and even slept in mosques -- strictly forbidden today under the Islamic extremism of Taliban rule -- as guests of villagers struggling to survive in war-torn Afghanistan. For me, it was hard to imagine Afghans being any other way. So I was taken aback -- as were the Afghan guerrillas accompanying me -- with the behavior of this tall, bearded Arab.

As I later learned, he was a wealthy Saudi, a certain Osama bin Laden...


<voice="Comic store guy">Worst theme song ... ever.</voice>   We actually rather enjoyed "Enterprise" last night. Bakula was good, the show was reasonably well-written and -plotted, and the interesting Vulcan character (who doubles as this series' Seven-of-Nine-style babe) brought up interesting points about humans' need to be more objective in dealing with alien species, something they have rather little experience with in this early stage of the "Trek" future history timeline. The characters are tired of being patronized by the Vulcans, whom they feel have held them back, they're all very new to space travel, and all wary of new technologies like their new "phase pistols" and that spooky new transporter thingy ("I'd rather not have all my molecules compressed into a data stream."). That's a slick-looking ship, too.

But my God ... that has got to be the absolute worst, cheesiest, lamest excuse for an opening theme not only in "Star Trek" history, but in recent television history. Maybe they wanted to get away from grandiose instrumental themes, but if you're going to use some kind of pop song, at least make it a good one. Pooey!

"Warning: John Travolta inside."   From today's SF Gate "Morning Fix", by Mark Morford:

Blockbuster Video plans to place disclaimers on movies and games featuring terrorism, with executives saying they want to be sensitive to those still traumatized by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They will also begin labeling all Jerry Bruckheimer flicks with a sticker identifying them as "incredibly, patently awful," any movie featuring Saturday Night Live cast members who take lame 3-minute skits and turn them into 2-hour brain-melters, and any movie featuring cameos by either Matt LeBlanc, Whitney Houston, or pro athletes, "for the general betterment of the nation." However, rumors that Blockbuster might actually become a decent video store at any time in the near future are, unfortunately, false.
  Wednesday, September 26, 2001
More than a restaurant.   Windows on the World was a swanky, prestigious restaurant that until September 11 had the best view in New York, perhaps in the country. It was located on the 107th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers.

Chef Michael Lomonico, formerly of New York's "21" and someone whom you may remember from his Food Network TV shows, only survived the attacks because he had happened to go downstairs to get his glasses repaired. Seventy-five members of the restaurant's 400-person staff were on duty the morning of September 11, from their award-winning pastry chef Heather Ho to cooks, servers and dishwashers from countries ranging from Bangladesh to Mexico to Egypt, Pakistan, Ghana, Yemen and 20 other countries; all are missing and presumed dead. According to Chef Lomonico and all the surviving staffers, the restaurant was more than just a business, it was more like a family.

At work, "you'd hear a dozen languages a day. It was so exciting," said the Brooklyn-born Lomonico. As much as he enjoyed being the top dog atop the tallest building in the city, Lomonaco cherished his job's private perks, such as the informal meals the staff sometimes prepared for themselves before the dinner rush. He would brighten whenever Junior Jimenez -- who is among missing -- decided to whip up some Puerto Rican specialties. "He would get some plantains, some chicken and rice .... He just had a touch," Lomonaco says, his voice quavering with emotion.

The restaurant's staff came from seemingly every background and part of the globe. Chefs and sommeliers with their own television shows and books worked alongside union-scale wage earners.

Even low-paid employees took advantage of a 50% discount to treat relatives visiting from their home countries, Vogt says. When they did, "they got VIP treatment. We made sure they had an amazing experience so their families knew why they were working so hard."

On holidays, colleagues liked to come to work in the traditional garb of their home countries and cook for one another. Lomonaco recalls a buffet of curries and flat breads laid out by his Muslim co-workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Some of those friends were trapped in the building collapse.

Many of the lower-waged workers at the restaurant were the sole breadwinners for large families, and a fund has been established for them and all of the restaurant's staff who were lost. Windows of Hope is accepting donations and seeks them in particular from friends and colleagues in the foodservice and hospitality industries. Restaurants worldwide are participating in a "10 percent" donation night, in which 10% of all proceeds will be donated to the fund. If you want to mail in a donation, contact Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, c/o David Berdon & Co., LLP, 415 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Checks should be made payable to: Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund.

"Enterprise" premiere tonight.   The new Star Trek series "Enterprise" hits the airwaves tonight at 8pm. The übergeeks over on Usenet's* newsgroups have been frothing at the mouth over this (in the bad way) since they were frothing at the mouth over how much they all hated the "Voyager" finale. I myself will reserve judgment until we see it tonight.

Wes is skeptical of Scott Bakula (I never watched "Quantum Leap", but I think he's OK), and I'm wondering about seeing all these alien races they'll be throwing at us and wondering "why haven't we seen any of these guys before?" More than anything, the show is going to live or die on the quality of its writing, and the chemistry of its cast. I wish them Godspeed.

Kenny G Christmas album? Christ on a bike.   Wally Ray gives us many reasons why he's very glad he no longer works for the vile Starbucks "coffee" chain. They include not having to lie about how "fresh" the coffee is, no more corporate memos about the inappropriateness of classical music at night and rock 'n roll ever, and not having to sell the aforementioned CD-borne horror.

Quote of the day.   "Starbucks is OK if you like a pint of milky froth on top of a teaspoon full of gritty water for £1.80. If you actually like coffee go to Spain or Italy."

-- Caroline Gilmour, posting in a recent Metafilter thread. (If you can't afford Spain or Italy, go to any good independent coffee house; Starbucks is a rigidly-controlled chain selling mediocre product at inflated prices, and should be avoided at all costs.)

  Tuesday, September 25, 2001
Finally!   Jay Farrar's new solo album Sebastopol finally arrives in stores today. I'll have to decide whether I can wait until after work to pick it up, or if I'll give up my lunch hour to head over to Rhino.

If you need a sneak preview, here's an MP3 of one of the songs, "Voodoo Candle" Keep an eye on tour dates as well.

Land of the free?   Arianna Huffington comes to bat for Bill Maher, host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect", who's being attacked by patriotic Americans who don't seem to believe in that annoying freedom of speech thing:

A small group of zealots have intentionally distorted comments made by Bill Maher, and succeeded in putting the show's future in jeopardy. If you agree that we can simultaneously rally around the flag and allow dissent and free speech to flourish, please email comments directly to ABC at

Also, if you know anybody in the ABC or Disney hierarchy, please give them a call. This is not just about one show -- it's about avoiding the first step on a really dangerous slippery slope.


Packing heat in the cockpit.   The nation's largest pilot's union wants Congress to allow its members to carry guns in the cockpit.

They'll be deputized as law enforcement officials and will receive special ammunition that is "very destructive" to human flesh but won't pierce the fuselage. (Umm, that's a relief.)

Sizzle? (Fizzle.)   NBC's new "sitcom" starring Chef Emeril Lagasse (a really, really, really bad idea) premieres tonight. The television critic of the New York Daily News begins his review thusly:

The good news is that tonight's premiere episode of "Emeril" is better than the original pilot, which was all but unwatchable.

The bad news is that it's still labored, lacking a solid core and just not very funny. And since nobody but TV critics and ad execs saw the pilot (now being revised for later airing), viewers have no reason to credit the show for the improvement.

Oh dear.

I have to say, with all due respect to Chef Emeril, who's served me some of the most spectacular meals I've ever had, that I'm glad the show is awful, and hope it goes away soon. Emeril Lagasse is a brilliant chef, not a television sitcom actor. His gifts and talents lie in the kitchen, and he really should stick to the kitchen, particularly if a recent email I got is any indication of the state of his restaurants. (A woman who had an expensive yet thoroughly mediocre experience at Emeril's took exception to my glowing review and suggested that Chef is spread too thin and isn't spending enough time in his restaurants.)

Heads up, all you "Freaks and Geeks" fans!   "F&G" creator Judd Apatow's new series "Undeclared" starts tonight, and I'll definitely be tuning in. Here's an idea of what to expect, from critic David Bianculli:

Don't be fooled by the on-air promos that make the new Fox series "Undeclared," which premieres tonight at 8:30, look like just another silly, stupid, youth-appeal comedy. It's not silly, it's not stupid and its appeal is a lot wider than to teenagers.

"Undeclared" in fact, is about as smart, charming and clever as comedy can get. Three episodes were provided for preview, and I've seen and enjoyed them all several times. If my family is any indication, the show has equal appeal to high-schoolers, college kids and weary old parents.

I declare "Undeclared", by far, the best new comedy of the fall season.


Set your VCR and go to the movies.   Over 80 theatre chains nationwide are donating 100% of proceeds from today's ticket and concession sales to the disaster relief funds of the American Red Cross and United Way. That makes today and tonight really good times to go to the movies.

  Monday, September 24, 2001
A new hope?   David Grenier writes of having attended an interfaith service for prayer and healing which turned into a procession down the streets of Seattle, and what he saw there:

There were moving prayers and appeals for peace by Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics, and Protestants. Along the procession a fire truck drove by and everyone cheered. Along the procession no one insulted our calls for peace, the way they had during the buildup to the Gulf War. No one screamed at us and called us cowards. No one threw anything. In fact, the opposite is true. A few thousand more people joined us along the way. By the time we got to the intersection of Broadway and Madison, the procession took up half the road and stretched back past Seattle Central.

I've realized that almost no one wants the war the government and media have been trying to sell us on for a week. My own father, a supremely patriotic man and an avowed conservative who joined the Navy back in the early 60s, does not want this war. Every veteran I've talked to does not want this war. No one wants terrorists to be able to kill more people, but no one believes this garbage that our only two options are doing nothing and going to war.

And no one I know wants six thousand dead in New York to turn into six million dead in the Middle East.


David also provided a link to an open letter to the New York Times written by parents who lost their son in the World Trade Center, and they don't want a war either.

I got yer new hope right here, pal.   A telephone poll of New Yorkers revealed that over one-third of them supported the idea of internment camps for "individuals who authorities identify as being sympathetic to terrorist causes". Apparently these people neither remember what we did to Japanese-Americans in World War II, nor did they see "The Siege".

I myself support the establishment of internment camps for people who support the establishment of internment camps ... but I guess that'd mean I'd have to go too, wouldn't it?

  Friday, September 21, 2001
Dindins!   Can't say that there's much that makes me feel better than the company of good friends, with plenty of good food and drink in the picture. That's what we'll be up to tonight. If you're looking to have some friends over and make a nice, comforting New Orleans meal, may I suggest this evening's menu?

Sazerac Cocktails

Pecan Soup,
with Sour Cream and Snipped Chives

Shrimp Remoulade
with Roma Tomatoes and Asparagus

Pasta Jambalaya with Chicken and Andouille

Apple-Tarragon Sorbet

Well.   George W. Bush never sounded so presidential as he did last night. He gave the speech of his life (he had to, really), and he pulled it off very well. It was strong, reassuring for the most part, and full of quotable quotes -- kudos to his handlers, and especially his speechwriters. "Terrorism will follow Fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism into history's unmarked grave of discarded lies." Dang.

That said, I was troubled by a couple of things. I can't say I disagree with any of the demands he made of the Taliban, but I can't for a minute think that Bush or anyone else in the administration thinks that the Taliban will accede to those demands. Impossible ultimatums make me nervous. Also, I had a strange reaction to his establishment of a Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security. Half of me felt relief and comfort, and the other half is spooked, big-time. Office of Homeland Security? It sounds too much like "Securitate", and makes me wonder more about hearing "Your papers, please" far too often, or worse. (Somewhere in the back of my head, I heard George Orwell clearing his throat.) Maybe I'm being paranoid, but a little healthy paranoia can't hurt. I guess we'll have to wait and see how it turns out. I have no idea what to expect of Tom Ridge, as I known almost nothing about him. I'm also troubled by how nebulous all this talk is of a long, protracted war which will no doubt end up with a lot of kids getting sent home in body bags. I myself support an all-out effort to get the people who did this without starting some huge war somewhere against an enemy we can't even see.

One good thing, at least. Bush now sounds like he's in charge, and the difference between the man we heard last night and the scared, tranquilized little boy we heard last Tuesday is like night and day. He looked good at the WTC ground zero site too, with his arm around the fireman's shoulders. Again, we'll see how it goes.

Encouraging.   The U.S. and the U.K.'s "secret plans for a 10-year war" apparently do not include a D-Day style invasion, so far:

America and Britain are producing secret plans to launch a ten-year "war on terrorism" -- Operation Noble Eagle -- involving a completely new military and diplomatic strategy to eliminate terrorist networks and cells around the world.

Despite the mass build-up of American forces in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean, there will be no "D-Day invasion" of Afghanistan and no repeat of the US-led Operation Desert Storm against Iraq in 1991, defence sources say.

The notion that a US-led multinational coalition would attack Afghanistan from all sides for harbouring Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi dissident leader and prime suspect for the terrorist outrages in New York and Washington, has been rejected in Washington and London. The sources also say that the planned campaign is not being focused on just "bringing bin Laden to justice."

Upholding the long, venerable tradition   of idiot Louisiana politicians, U.S. Rep. John Cookesy (R-Monroe), on the heel of President Bush's direct appeal not to blame all Arabs or Muslims for the attacks, had this, among other things, to say:

"If I see someone (who) comes in that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over."
If a diaper belongs anywhere, it should be stuffed into Cooksey's mouth (preferably a dirty one). He went on and on in justifying his views, then said that he had had no complaints from his constituents. This speaks poorly of the people of Monroe. (Hey Arkansas ... ya want 'em?)

God bless the child.   I subscribe to A Word A Day, and in the past few issues of their AWADmail newsletter they've been publishing lots of email from folks around the world regarding the Current Situation. The one that gave me the proverbial lump in the throat came from Julie and Alex Hudson:

Here in Cleveland, there is a large Muslim population. There have been racial remarks and aggressive attacks. Many business people fear for their shops. In our efforts for "united" we heard about this incident.

A small boy, named Osama, was afraid to go to school. He stayed home for two days - Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday evening, his second grade class mates called him on the phone saying, "Do not be afraid to come to school. We will protect you and not let others hurt you".

Bless the adults who guided the seven year olds and helped them find a way to express their caring.

Bless the children too. I'll bet the the adults didn't need to give them much prompting. Children love naturally; it's their parents who teach them to hate. Sounds like a great batch of parents and kids out there. Learn from them.

Quotes of the day.   "War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses."

-- Thomas Jefferson, author, architect, and third President of the United States (1743-1826).

"He's still spouting 'love the sinner, hate the sin,' isn't he? Of course, some such folks are perfectlly happy to fire the sinner, beat the sinner, imprison the sinner, even kill the sinner. Given that, it's hard to tell the difference between loving the sinner and hating his guts. Both seem to lead to the same outcome for the 'sinner.'"

-- Bill Lindemann, on soc.motss, regarding Jerry Falwell, September 19, 2001.

  Thursday, September 20, 2001
Tonight on "Down Home".   We'll be featuring music from Woody Guthrie (including "This Land Is Your Land"), plus Billy Bragg and Wilco, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Buddy & Julie Miller and the new album "Midsummer's Night" from Sligo-based Irish band Dervish.

Keeping up the musical end.   Yesterday a friend of mine said, "I think it would be a lot easier for me to endorse mainstream patriotism if it didn't involve such crappy music." With the disclaimer of de gustibus non disputandum est, I'll agree with him that Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." makes me gag too. I'll bet that there are many of us who are digging through our collections for music that's more personally meaningful to us.

Derk Richardson of Berkeley's KPFA writes in today's San Francisco Chronicle about finding solace and a sense of direction in old favorites such as Dylan and Ochs, and in new voices such as Ani DiFranco and Dan Bern.

Please, God, no.   So-called King of Pop (but really a very strange creature from a very alien planet) Michael Jackson is writing a sequel of sorts to "We Are The World", a soon-to-be-unleashed pop song called "What More Can I Give?" which will also feature Britney Spears and members of NSync and the Backstreet Boys. It will be used to raise money for the survivors and families of victims of the attacks.

From Derk Richardson's article above:

More power to him. But I fear the King of Pop will fabricate a ditty that will become another superficial emblem in the ongoing branding of "America's New War," as CNN calls it.

Others would probably share my fears. As musician and pop historian Ian Whitcomb told the Chronicle... "We don't have songwriters who can write songs of cultural cohesion anymore." [Not entirely true, as the article goes on to discuss Dylan's new album.]

I share his fears. In fact, my initial gut reaction was this: I will give you all the money you want. I will double my donation to the Red Cross. Maybe you could just give them the proceeds of just one of your concerts; you have more money than any human will ever need. Just keep the song. Please.

Russians: "Like nothing you've ever seen."   Russian veterans of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan tell what it was like to fight there, and warn the U.S. to "expect daily deliveries of coffins" if we fight there.

"When I hear people talk about terrorist 'bases' I have to laugh," said Vyacheslav Izmailov, who commanded a battalion in Afghanistan. "Terrorists don't sit in bases waiting for bombs to drop. They live in houses. They live with families... If America begins to drop bombs, all they will do is convince the anti-Taliban population that the United States is their enemy."

Moreover, there are few targets other than villages, the veterans warn. There are few bridges, no factories. Most of the country's infrastructure has been destroyed in decades of civil war. "Even in Iraq you had something to bomb," [veteran Igor] Lisinenko said. "But there are no targets in Afghanistan. There's nothing there to bomb."

"The Afghans will stop fighting each other and join together to fight you," said Izmailov... "You need courage, but not to drop bombs. What you need courage for is to not drop bombs. Otherwise, your war will be endless."

Racial profiling now unofficial policy?   Many Arab-Americans are simply giving up flying, to avoid having to endure what Ashraf Khan did. He's a 32-year-old San Antonio businessman who owns a thriving cellular phone business, and last Monday he tried to fly to Dallas via Delta Airlines on the first leg of a two-day journey to his brother's wedding in Pakistan.

There came an announcement from the cockpit: The flight would be delayed for a moment. Khan thought nothing of it. "After a few minutes," he recalled later, "the pilot came up to me... He told me that he's not safe with me flying to Dallas."

"What do you have against me?" the incredulous passenger asked.

"He just said, 'I'm not going to take you. Myself and my crew are not safe flying with you. They don't feel safe.'"

Khan -- an 11-year resident of Texas, dressed for travel in slacks, dress shoes and a T-shirt promoting his cellular telephone business -- was handed his carry-on bag and escorted back to the terminal. Humiliated and confused, he declined a ticket agent's offer to search for a seat on another airline. Instead, he called for a ride home. His brother will be married on Friday without him.

"I'm really, really embarrassed," Khan said in an interview from his business. "I can't even work or anything. I don't know what to do."

Officials with Delta Air Lines, the carrier involved, did not return calls from a reporter.

So is the attitude, "Oh well, you're brown. Too bad, pal," now? If you have a beard and a turban, or if you're wearing a veil, you're now a automatically assumed to be a terrorist. I've also heard that it's not just confined to Arabs or Muslims -- two Mexican students at San Jose State University were beaten up on the assumption that they were terrorists. I guess it's open season on brown people. God bless America.

Quote of the day.   "What's the use of sending a $2 million missile into a $10 tent to hit a camel in the butt?"

-- President George W. Bush, during a private meeting with members of Congress

  Wednesday, September 19, 2001
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot!   Wilco, who recently got dumped by their erstwhile label, are streaming their new album in its entirety from their web site. Yeah!

Oh, that's bloody typical.   The U.S. Department of Defense now say that it's okay to serve if you're gay or lesbian, as all such discharges have now been suspended due to potential wartime. (And of course, once they're finished, such troops would then be discharged.) But if their excuse for their anti-gay policies has been to prevent "breakdown of unit cohesion during combat", then it seems that the policy is just outright bullshit, now, don't it? Why don't they just come right out and say "it's because we don't like queers"? At least it'd be honest.

Now there's an idea.   From the New Scientist:  Autopilots could land hijacked aeroplanes.

Aeroplane hijackings could be halted in progress with existing technologies, say aviation researchers, but the attempt would be risky. "Most modern aircraft have some form of autopilot that could be re-programmed to ignore commands from a hijacker and instead take direction from the ground," says Jeff Gosling of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

No radio censorship.   There's a story flying around that a group of nearly 1,200 radio stations nationwide which are owned by Clear Channel Communications are being forbidden to play songs from a list of over 150 titles. These songs are supposedly "too upbeat", or contain references to crashes, fire, etc., and are alleged to be banned from airplay.

This is untrue.

One program director at Clear Channel took it upon himself to begin compiling such a list along with a few other PDs, and it's been circulating internally in the form of a memo of "suggestions". No official management-mandated ban of these songs exists, and many if not most PDs (including ones in the New York area) are ignoring it. When you look at most of the titles you almost have to laugh, as many of the choices would be ridiculous if such a ban were to exist.

Still, lots of radio program directors are voluntarily rethinking parts of their playlists. My take -- I think that after the first day or two, it's absurd to keep saying "no upbeat music". We can't listen to funereal music forever. Music heals, and that includes upbeat music too.

"Your papers, please."   Representative Dick Gephardt, a Democrat, calls for the introduction of national ID card for all citizens and non-citizen residents in the form of a "smart card". Such a card could carry your fingerprints, retina scan, other biometric data, and even your travel records. (No word yet on mandatory installation of telescreens in each room of each household.)

Yum yum yum.   Get a load of this ... Crabmeat-Crusted Diver Scallops with Chorizo Potato Salad. I'd serve this for dinner on Friday, 'cept we've got non-seafood eaters coming over. (Hmm, rise to the challenge...)

Egad.   After reading Matt's blog entry about what's been hitting his servers today, I checked my own server logs, grepping for "root.exe". Results began as such: - - [18/Sep/2001:09:22:08 -0400]
"GET /scripts/root.exe?/c+dir HTTP/1.0" 302 214 "-" "-" - - [18/Sep/2001:09:22:08 -0400]
"GET /MSADC/root.exe?/c+dir HTTP/1.0" 302 214 "-" "-"

If this is the Nimda worm, it made 376 attempts to hit my server between 9:22am yesterday and midnight. Fortunately, my host runs on BSD Unix and my home machine on Mac OS 9.2, and are thereby non-susceptible to Microsoft worms. Creeps me out anyway.

Squid squid.   Now unleashed upon the world is a website for a Little Caesar's Pizza in Kobe, Japan; first of its kind, apparently. It's of interest because you ain't gonna see any pizza toppings like this in Schenectady, Peoria or Fresno (like the squid, mushroom, corn and mayonnaise pizza).

All squid aside, one thing I thought was really weird was that almost all these pizzas have corn on them. I also noticed this on my first trip to Ireland in 1988, and remarked to my friend Theresa how weird I thought this was. She looked at me as if I were insane and said, "Corn is lovely on a pizza." What do I know? They like mandarin orange slices on corn pizzas in Ireland, too; at least they do for the packaged ones I saw at the market in Athy, Co. Kildare. (Thanks to Chris T. for sending this in.)

Sober restraint in responding.   AlterNet offers a little animation which advocates reason and justice to break the cycle of violence, fear, anger, hatred and the desire for revenge, which leads to a page from Working for Change that offers some sobering thoughts, and what we can do:

[W]hat happens now is up to the United States. These criminals deserve to be identified, tracked down, and brought to justice, along with any backers than can be clearly identified. But already there are calls for war against unnamed enemies, for funding of missile defense systems that do not work, and for imposing limits on hard earned civil liberties.
The page facilitates sending an email to the President to urge sober restraint in responding to the attacks. You might want to back that up with a postcard, telegram or paper letter as well.

I know I said   I'm not much for flag-waving, preferring to express my patriotic feelings in my own way, but I must say that I was moved by this striking image by photographer Noah Grey.

Patriotism at its finest.   Speaking of flags ... there's such a demand for them now that stores are having trouble keeping them in stock. Fortunately, we have some true-blue Americans who are stepping right in to help out ... like the guy I saw on the street corner on the way home from work last night. He was selling flags, little bitty ones about the size of a postcard, and larger ones that I guessed were about 9" x 12" or so. Here's how the overheard conversation went:

Guy in car: How much for the big one?

Patriotic flag salesman: Forty dollars.

Guy in car: WHAT?!?

It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to see how the Current Situation brings out the best in some people.

The world mourns (and that includes Palestine).   Correspondent Greg B. sends in a page of some very moving images of a wide variety of members of the world community grieving at the massive loss of life last week. Included among them was this shot of two Palestinian women; one piece of video footage of a handful of refugee camp wretches cheering doth not an entire people make, methinks.

Palestinian women grieving

  Tuesday, September 18, 2001
One falafel ball at a time.   One way to fight hatred that may be perpetrated against your neighbor in this time of crisis is to patronize your local Arabic or Middle Eastern restaurant -- let the restauranteur know you care about him or her, and enjoy their food and hospitality. This is a great suggestion from the Chowhound site; these two posts on their message boards outline a plan to fight hatred one falafel ball at a time.

A pretty good guy.   Twangy roots-rocker Chris Knight, of whom I'm a big fan, has got a new record out, called A Pretty Good Guy, on Dualtone Records. I haven't heard it yet, 'cause someone hasn't sent it to me yet (and maybe knows who she is ... *nudge* :-)

The web site is new, so check him out; given what he's put out in the past, and given the demos I heard two years ago (songs which I hope made it onto this record), it's going to be absolutely phenomenal.

Speaking of phenomenal...   Jay Farrar's first solo album Sebastopol is coming out one week from today. I'm trying not to plotz in the meantime. Given that Jay is one of the very few musicians who has ever actually made me weep (both in performance and on record) ... well, I'm really really looking forward to this one. I've been a good boy and haven't downloaded a single song off of Aimster or Gnutella, either. I want to hear this one on the day of its release, after buying it myself and taking it home.

So long, Sam.   Samuel Z. Arkoff, founder of American International Pictures, a producer who flooded American cinema with exploitation movies and schlock and then encouraged young filmmakers, and he of the ever-present smelly stogie, died on Sunday at age 83.

Besides giving us films ranging from "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" to "Beach Blanket Bingo" to "Panic in Year Zero" (which I always liked) to "The Amityville Horror" and countless more, Sam was also a bigger-than-life figure beloved by me and all my fellow film students at Loyola Marymount University. Sam endowed our School of Film and Television with funds for the annual Arkoff Awards, cash awards given to the best student-produced film and screenplay. (I'm not sure who's judging them now, but when I was there they were judged by Roger Corman and critic Peter Rainer, respectively.)

Sam's family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Samuel Z. Arkoff Scholarship Fund at Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, care of the dean, One LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

What air travel is like now.   A colleague of my uncle's flew from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California (suburban to the Los Angeles metro area) to St. Louis last Friday, September 14. Here are a few of his experiences, as related to a mailing list:

Mercifully I flew from a small airport: John Wayne airport in Orange County, California. It has a total of only 14 gates. At LAX one person had arrived at 4:00 a.m. and still had not made it to the American Airlines ticket counter by 7:30 a.m.! Still, the delays were sizeable even at a small airport like John Wayne.

We all have great sympathy for the victims of the terrorist actions in New York and in Washington D.C. and for their families. Still, I dread future flights if each check-in is like what I experienced on Friday. Frequent air travelers will be exhausted just by the check-in experience.

AUTO SEARCH:  Police examined the trunk of every rental car upon arrival (I'm not sure of other cars). That adds a time delay.

CHECK-IN COUNTER:  There were very long check-in lines to get a boarding pass -- I counted 79 people at Delta, the airline that I flew. The Medallion/First Class line had 15 people in it.

LUGGAGE SEARCH (THE CHECKED LUGGAGE; NOT CARRY-ON):  After getting a boarding pass, some people were selected at random -- including me -- to have the contents of their checked baggage examined by hand before it was sent to the baggage handlers for placement in the cargo bays. The wait in that line was over 30 minutes. Each and every item was removed and examined, and then the owner had to repack everything. All they found, of course, were many, many blushing faces. I had spent two hours at the airport and had not even gotten to the metal detectors (and I had been in the shorter line for Medallion status).

MEALS:  Stopped to get a bite to eat. There are no plastic knives at McDonalds or other restaurants. It doesn't matter whether the restaurant is on one side of the metal detectors or the other. The restaurants will have to delete steaks and such from their offerings, or will have to pre-cut them or something.

METAL DETECTORS:  For me, the easiest part was the metal detectors. As I approached the metal detector, the security staff had flight lists and matched my name with the flight. One security person at the metal detectors asked me to present a photo ID in addition to my boarding pass, but another security person said "We don't need to have them show photo IDs here no more." Apparently it was enough to do it once at the check-in line. The metal detector process took about the same amount of time as it always has -- no more, no less.


1)  Try to avoid the ticket counter. Best I can tell, in the future it will be best if I don't check in any luggage (carry it all on board) and travel very light. Going through the metal detectors took much less time than the luggage check-in, especially if you might have to go through one of the random checks of the suitcases before they are sent to the baggage handlers. If you don't have any luggage to check, than at least on Friday you could still go directly to the gate and get your boarding pass at the gate like you could before the events of September 11. Leave your pocket knives and wine corkscrews at home if you decide to carry everything on board.

Rumor has it there may be a one-piece limit for carry-ons. If so, I plan to travel very light if I can still get a boarding pass at the gate.

2)  Consider a taxi or shuttle van to avoid the line for the auto search.

Niel from Monkeyfist adds a sad tip: "Don't have dark skin. I received a message from a friend of a friend recounting his trip from Newark to Atlanta. The trip was fine, but he was repeatedly singled out for questioning and ID checks." Ugh.

L.A. residents -- remember that private cars are now indefinitely banned from entering LAX. You have to either take a taxi or shuttle service, or leave your car at one of the remote lots far outside the airport and take their shuttle bus to the terminal.

Quote of the day.   "I say to you all, once again -- in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."

-- Prof. Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; from J. K. Rowling's Hugo Award-winning novel Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Seems quite apropos this week. (Thanks to The Leaky Cauldron, who blog for Harry Potter.)

  Monday, September 17, 2001
Brilliant idea.   Artists Paul Myoda and Julian LaVerdiere propose a new art project:  a temporary monument called "Phantom Towers", consistsing of two powerful beams of light rising from a reflecting pool, refilling the void left by the Twin Towers with incandescence until something is built to take its place. (Via Jason)

Whatever you is, BE that.   My favorite motto, that. It came from a Creole gentleman who was hanging out in the barbershop in Opelousas, Louisiana in which Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco, used to go to get his hair cut, and was featured in Les Blank's film about Clifton entitled "Hot Pepper".

It's had several quite profound meanings for me over the years, but in the last week or so, I've also begun to think it has come to mean this: don't let anyone tell you how or how not to be patriotic in the face of the past week's events. Do it in whatever peaceful way that makes you and your loved ones feel better. (Of course, this does not include shooting people who are wearing turbans, harassing Arab-Americans or firebombing mosques.)

Many people want to donate blood or money. Lots of others want to wave or display American flags (perfectly fine and welcome; as for me, not particularly my style). Others go to church, others talk to each other and tell stories, others find someone and hug them, others stay home and cuddle with loved ones, and lots of others are generally a lot nicer to people than they may usually be.

It's inappropriate to tell someone they're not being patriotic because they're not reacting to the crisis in the same way you are. It's inappropriate to tell someone they're "un-American" or "unpatriotic" because their house or car happens not to be festooned with flags. It's inappropriate to say awful things to somebody because you disagree with their peaceful yet honest reactions. It's entirely appropriate to support your government in the quest to do the right thing in response to this, but it's inappropriate to accuse someone of being a "traitor" for criticizing your government -- even in a time of crisis -- if you feel that they're not doing that. In fact, it's your patriotic duty to speak your heart and mind in such a case (for instance, an example of The Wrong Thing would be the bombing of civilians.) A big part of us all sticking together and supporting one another in this time of crisis is remembering this, and respecting this.

Bill had a pretty good idea, too. If you're looking for a patriotic song to sing, start up a few choruses of "This Land Is Your Land". Where Woody saw wrong, he tried to right it in his own way -- that makes him a patriot in my book.

Whew.   Our friend Shirish finally emailed in. We were worried since we hadn't heard from him, but figured he was up to his eyeballs in work, as he's a physician in New York. This morning he reported in, and said he had actually been on a short vacation in Hawaii! It took him about 30 hours of travelling to get back home. I'm really glad he's okay.

Very scary scenario.   My friend Barry sent this in from St. Louis Today; he describes it as "one of the most sensible things I've read so far, and one of the most frightening".

I'm flat worried. I can't believe this guy Musharraf has pledged Pakistan's cooperation with us in our latest crusade. I don't even want to think about a coup or a popular uprising in the country that happens to be the proud owner of the only bonafide, field-tested nuclear bomb in the Islamic world.

But apparently, our president is telling a lot of these countries to "choose sides." Whoa. Slow down here. We're demanding these leaders to jump, right now, either to the right or to the left when their political survival requires them to walk a very high tightrope with no net.

[It] has dawned on me that there is a better metaphor than Pearl Harbor for all of this. I'm thinking about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

I seem to remember that an unexpected act of terrorism resulted in an Austrian ultimatum, much like ours to the Arab nations and that because of mutual defense alliances and because people all over the world reacted independently in what must have seemed like their own best interests or political expediency, things quickly catapulted out of anybody's control into a general world war that resulted in the death of millions and the birth of the chemical warfare industry.

What would it take for things to really go haywire now? Let's say a NATO expeditionary force is sent to capture bin Laden from a staging point in Pakistan. (One of those additional requests?) Civil war ensues in Pakistan, and a Taliban-like, 14th-century crowd gains the upper hand. Considering the country has the Bomb, we couldn't let those fellows win. As hard as it is to deal with people who are still fighting the American Civil War, these guys haven't gotten over the Crusades.


Something to think about.

Love and Theft.   The Los Angeles Times' Robert Hilburn interviews Bob Dylan on the heels of his brilliant new album.

Eat red beans for health! (And comfort.)   In today's New Orleans Menu Daily Tom Fitzmorris tells us about how to eat healthier meals. It may surprise you somewhat. (Words his, links mine; subscribe to N.O. Menu Daily here.)

My favorite way to [cut down] is to return to one of the first principles of New Orleans dining: red beans and rice.

It's indeed lucky that we eat red beans here. Of all the beans, it's thought that red beans may be the most salubrious. Loaded with soluble fiber, they're thought to have the ability to actually absorb and remove fat from your body -- perhaps even from your blood.

And even though we counteract those good effects by cooking beans with the likes of bacon grease and topping them with sausage, they remain one of the healthiest meals we eat all week.

We had red beans and rice at home, and at my grandmother's house, all the time, so I almost never had them anywhere else. One of the few places I'd get them was at the Camellia Grill, where they came with either a pork chop or a hamburger patty. Oddly enough, Popeye's red beans are really, surprisingly good; I get them all the time nowadays.

My take on red beans -- season them with a smoked ham hock and sliced hot smoked sausage. Serve with crackly grilled fresh Creole hot sausage on the side, plus Yogi red pickled onions (any pickled onions will do, but those are my favorite). I like garlic in them, lots in fact, but as part of the symphony of flavors of the gravy. The red beans should be intact and distinct but incredibly soft, never chewy or hard inside. The gravy should be not too thin, but not too thick either; after a while it becomes instinctual. Red beans taste better the next day, but get far too thick in the fridge and must be thinned out with a little warm water until you achieve the proper consistency. They should be spicy as in well-seasoned, but never so hot that it burns your mouth; you can always do that yourself by adding more Tabasco to your own serving. The rice should never be sticky; good Louisiana long-grain rice with the grains intact. I've come to think that converted rice (e.g., Uncle Ben's) should be avoided, and NEVER use Minute Rice or other instant rice products (good only for throwing at weddings). Popeye's red beans are okay for fast food, but are not 1/100th as good as what you can make yourself at home.

It's the best. If you need comfort food, eat some today or tomorrow. Works for me.

Why Google is my favorite search engine #136.   Via Need To Know:  "[NTK] reader JOHN KING thought we'd be somehow reassured to know that he always types in "horse's arse" whenever someone trumpets a new image search engine: Google wins again!"

Quote of the day.   "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

-- Benjamin Franklin, 1759.

  Saturday, September 15, 2001
Festivals Acadiens in Lafayette this weekend.   The world's largest free Cajun music and cultural festival is happening this weekend at Girard Park in Lafayette, Louisiana. The decision to continue with the festival was, in the words of the organizers, "made with consideration of the grief that the world feels for the hundreds and thousand of people affected by the acts of terrorism that have occurred. In the words of Rev. [Ed] Boyd [of Asbury Methodist Church in Lafayette], 'Evil does not have the last word.' It is the feeling of the festival organizers that the contributions of the musicians and craftsmen have made to our local culture should not be diminished."

The festival's musical performances are being broadcast live on KRVS Radio Acadie at 88.7 FM in Acadiana and via streaming Windows Media.

Laissez les bons temps rouler... wherever you can find them.

Missing Pieces.   Nine stories of New York and Washington, from people who were there, on Derek Powazek's ever-wonderful Fray.

  Friday, September 14, 2001
Jesus wept.   I got this news story in an email this morning and felt like throwing up.

According to religious right-wing leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the attack on this country and its citizens was the fault of liberal advocacy groups, feminists, gays and lesbians, and that America got "what we deserve".

These are the comments they made on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" television program yesterday:

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," hosted by Robertson.

"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen,'" Falwell said on the program, which was broadcast nationally.

"Well, I totally concur," Robertson told Falwell, "and the problem is we have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government."

How low will these men sink? Low enough, apparently, to spew hatred -- for it was hatred compounded with religious extremism that was behind the attacks, nothing less -- to further their agenda. These are not religious men, they don't represent any God I believe in.

Usually I just ignore these two bastards; their frequent outrageous statements usually elicit a response that's nothing more than my eyeballs rolling heavenward. Not this week.

I hope the backlash to Robertson and Falwell because of these remarks is monumental. I hope that they have finally shot themselves in the foot, that the spew from their own mouths will finally outrage enough people such that their un-Christian agenda will be destroyed.

Despicable. Despicable. (I don't accept Falwell's bullshit apology, either.)

Amen.   Yesterday evening, as I was driving to the radio station listening to "All Things Considered" on NPR, I heard a very moving commentary by Marion Winik, who's thinking of founding a few new political action groups. I was just going to post an excerpt, but I thought it best to reproduce it in its entirety.

How does this sound? Mothers Against Symbolism. Mothers Against Religion and Ideology. Mothers Against the Afterlife. And finally ... Mothers Against Indiscriminate Revenge.

Mothers Against Symbolism is dedicated the proposition that the World Trade Center was a building, not a symbol of American power or riches or world domination. It was a big building full of people. So, for that matter, was the Pentagon. If the terrorists wanted to destroy a symbol, they should have gone for the Statue of Liberty. At night. They could have paintballed the Washington Monument. But even if they destroyed those symbols, they could not have destroyed the ideals they stand for. What can be destroyed are buildings. And people. And that's what they have done.

By this act, the terrorists have destroyed what's most sacred to me -- that is human life. To me, any ideology or religious belief that makes something more important than human life is anti-sacred, and I am against it. If the belief in an afterlife makes people more inclined to kill and die, I am against that too.

At the college where I teach, people are walking around with red eyes and broken hearts asking each other, "Did you lose someone?" For so many of us, the answer is no, but yes. As members of what turns out to be an American family, we are wondering who's going to read the bedtime stories, who's going to walk the dog, who's going to kiss the boo-boos, not to mention ... who's going to explain all this? This is why people are waiting for hours to give blood, why former New Yorkers like myself keep feeling that we need to go home and clean up. Why almost no one can think without tears of the children of New York and Washington, the husbands and wives of the flight crews, the passengers with the cell phones in their hands.

I beg our President ... please, for God's sake, don't kill any more innocent people. Don't attempt to relieve our suffering by spreading it. Don't make our freedom the equivalent of whatever those conspirators believed in. Families in Kabul are no more guilty of this crime than families here in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, and we are all part of a bigger family ... a world family.

I do not mean this in a symbolic way.

Find them. Get them. Just them. Nobody else.

Survivor check-in.   Another new web site has launched -- "The site is forum-based and will have 3 components, a registry of survivors, a registry for people searching for the missing (gathering description and other pertinent information), and a discussion forum which will allow people to share their experiences with each other." There's also a huge World Trade Center survivor database as well. Just passing it along...

Back to work.   Everybody was, quite understandably, a little jittery at work yesterday. The idea of working at the top of a high-rise building just didn't have the appeal that it once did. The great thing about the workday yesterday was ... everybody was really, really nice to each other. I'm hearing the same thing as being endemic across New York; people who once wouldn't even bother to make eye contact are stopping, reaching out and talking to people. (I once had a New Yorker tell me, "If you made eye contact with me on the street, I would instantly assume one of two things -- you're a psycho, or you're gay and trying to hit on me.")

When I left work yesterday, there was a guy from the building staff at the parking ramp exit, waving and smiling to everyone as they left. As I pulled into the parking garage this morning, there he was again, grinning broadly and waving to every car that came in.

We're all being nice to each other. I like it. Gawd, is something like this what it takes? I wonder how long it'll last. (Forever, I hope -- life is too precious and too damned short to waste time being rotten to each other.)

Remembrance service at CSUN.   California State University Northridge President Jolene Koester will lead students, faculty, staff and members of the CSUN community in a Day of Remembrance on the steps of Oviatt Library at noon today, in response to President Bush's request that Americans take time to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks this week.

The service will be broadcast on KCSN, at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles and via our MP3 audio stream.

Concert in Torrance, 11:30am.   Lisa Haley and the Zydekats will be performing a free concert as part of the Day of Remembrance at Harbor UCLA Medical Center Plaza in Torrance, behind the hospital, 1000 W. Carson St. from 11:30am to 1pm.

Wow!   I've had this ongoing fight with my boss for years now. He hates my desk chair, which is old, ugly, threadbare, and has chunks of foam falling off the armrests. Thing is, it's insanely comfortable, mostly because it fits my back and bottom perfectly. Over the years that chair has become molded to my body, as if it were Norman Bates' mother's bed. (Um, bad example, maybe, but you get the drift.) My boss seems to feel a measure of personal embarrassment when outside clients come into my office and see my beloved chair, thinking that they see my chair and its intense cheesiness as somehow being representative of our company as a whole. He's been trying to convince/cajole/threaten me to get rid of it for years.

The evil bastard has finally called in the nuclear weapons. He kidnapped it. This morning it was just gone. In its place was a brand-spanking-new Herman Miller Aeron chair, just sitting there in front of my desk, quietly waiting for me. I was flabbergasted. People weep pitifully in front of their bosses to get one of these chairs (they're expensive!), and are given a booming, resounding NO! and told to get their asses out of his/her office and skulk back to their cubicles if they know what's good for them. My boss just ups and buys me one unbidden. Ain't that somethin'?

Thanks, David! From the bottom of my bottom!

Take the train, take the bus.   I also heard another very interesting story on NPR yesterday. Apparently ridership on Amtrak is up over 50 percent, and Greyhound report a huge spike in ridership as well. A Greyhound spokesperson said that this is likely to be permanent, particularly among their older clientele who are now "truly afraid to fly".

I've always loved taking the train, but I never do it in this country as it's always been too slow (3 days to New Orleans) and too expensive (a one-way ticket from L.A. to Albuquerque for a 2-berth compartment was almost $700!). I wonder how our travel habits will change now. Will trains come back? How 'bout we make some more great Deco-styled Pullman cars?

Um ... I think I'm with Roger.   The owners of the World Trade Center's 99-year lease are already vowing to rebuild. Writer and film critic Roger Ebert has other ideas:

Let it be a green field, with trees and flowers. Let there be paths that wind through the shade. Put out park benches where old people can sun in the summertime, and a pond where children can skate in the winter.

Do not build again on this place. No building can stand there. No building, no statue, no column, no arch, no symbol, no name, no date, no statement. Just the comfort of the earth we share, to remind us that we share it.

(Via Lynette at Medley)

Finally achieving motion?   Robert Wise's epic of the graduation of the starship Enterprise from the small screen to the large, a film referred to by many as "Star Trek: The Motionless Picture", has completed its revamping process and is being released on DVD as "Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition". It's a complete digital restoration of the film with enhanced visual effects (which apparently they had neither the technology nor the money to do upon the film's initial production 21 years ago), two discs including over two hours of supplemental material.

Okay. I'll get it. (Damn, there's so much great stuff coming out on DVD in the next two months ... I'm gonna be broke.)

Quotes of the day.   This one is for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

"God cares for us, whatever our religious, ethnic or political background may be."

-- Rev. Billy Graham, at this morning's memorial service at Washington's National Cathedral.

"The terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation, and indeed the entire global community, is the sad byproduct of fanaticism. It has its roots in the same fanaticism that enables people like Jerry Falwell to preach hate against those who do not think, live, or love in the exact same way he does."

-- Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"CNN indulged in the stunt of interviewing novelist Tom Clancy simply because he had written a thriller about a similar attack. I was braced for the worst -- Clancy is, after all, a wannabe Rambo -- but he launched into a monologue about how Islam is a religion of love, like Christianity and Judaism, and we shouldn't believe that the actions of a few madmen actually represent such a religion. 'My God,' I told my wife. 'Tom Clancy has become the voice of reason.'"

-- John Powers, writing in the LA Weekly

  Thursday, September 13, 2001
Life goes on,  I guess. Back to work, back to weblogging as before (more or less), back to the radio. There's food to talk about, and drink, and new CDs, and more on sf and fantasy novels to come.

We'll see how things change due to the events of this week (probably manifesting itself in a big way next time I fly). Until then ... onward.

Solas concert cancelled.   The Irish music group Solas, who were scheduled to perform at the CSUN Performing Arts Center on Sunday night, had to cancel their concert. They're based in New York, and are stuck there due to the lack of air travel this week.

Dang. I had tickets to give away tonight, too.

No word on the Andy Irvine show on Saturday, and so far I'm presuming that's happening on schedule. He's been in the Bay Area since before the attacks, and even if he has been flying to get from place to place it wouldn't be much of a stretch for him to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles in time for his gig. Here's hoping.

Tonight on "Down Home".   I'll be featuring a big set of music from Solas anyway, plus music from Andy Irvine, performing Saturday at An Claidheamh Soluis, The Celtic Arts Center. Also music from Louisiana Red, Chris Thomas King, Bill Kirchen, Buddy & Julie Miller, Sean Ardoin and ZydeKool, Dennis McGee & Sady Courville, and a few tracks from the re-mastered and re-released albums by The Band.

Zoinks.   When I got to work this morning, security guards were checking everyone's bags before they'd let us go up in the building. I guess we'd all better get used to this sort of thing.

Let's be careful out there.   My friend Shane is currently travelling through Europe. My advice to him (as well as the State Department's) -- keep a low profile. Say "aboot", "hoose", "eh?" and "I'm from T'ronno" a lot. Express a longing for poutine and say how much you miss it..

Yum.   (I had meant to make this entry on Tuesday morning, and needless to say got distracted; I offer it as a little tidbit of more mundane White House activities than what's undoubtedly going on there now.)

It's pretty much a given that the food at the White House is pretty good. They usually have a world-class executive chef; John F. Kennedy had Jacques Pepin, and G. W. Bush has Walter Scheib, and pastry chef Roland Mesnier. Here's the menu for the state dinner served in honor of Mexican President Vicente Fox last week (via Newsweek):

Maryland Crab and Chorizo Posole
Summer Vegetables

MiSueno Chardonnay "Carneros" 1999

Pepita Crusted Bison
Poblano Whipped Potatoes
Fava Bean and Chanterelle Ragoût

Apple Chipotle Sauce
Shaler Cabernet Sauvignon "Hillside Select" 1994

Salad of Gold and Red Tomatoes, Mâche and Micro Greens
Sherry Dressing

Mango and Coconut Ice Cream Dome

Red Chile Pepper Sauce   --   Tequila Sabayon
Schramsberg "Cremant" 1997

Since I won't be dining at the White House anytime soon, I guess I'll just have to wait until this chef's next gig to taste his cooking.

Put-down of the day.   "So there I was, trapped talking to an idiot. So I came up with this...

'I'm sorry, I'm afraid I subscribe to the theory of intellectual osmosis. As such, I must now cease our conversation and move away from you before my intelligence begins to drop. Good day.'"

-- "The Gord", the Basil Fawlty of Canadian video game store owners (although one must admit that some of his customers actually deserve his barbs).

Giuliani shines.   Until two days ago, I could safely say that I had no respect whatsoever for Rudy Giuliani. I loathed the man's policies and actions -- indeed, the man himself -- pretty thoroughly.

Then on Tuesday, he rose to the occasion when his city was attacked; frankly, he's been doing a great, great job. I was having lunch at John O'Groats yesterday (a comforting meal which made me feel a lot better and "back to normal") and overheard a diner at the next table with the same sentiments: "I can't stand Giuliani," he said, "but boy, was I glad to see him yesterday." As this Salon article by Joan Walsh points out quite succinctly, it was he who turned out to be the reassuring leader I too was very glad to see. Some excerpts:

[I]t wasn't President Bush calming Americans all day Tuesday. It was New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who emerged as the leader the nation yearned for...

[Giuliani] was speaking, again, without notes or teleprompter, at this, his fourth or fifth press conference of the day. It was hard to know how to count his appearances -- he was everywhere, all day long, answering every question -- but that seemed right: In a crisis like this, a leader has to be visible, accessible, sharing our grief but reassuring us we'll come through the tragedy, together. He was back at it early Wednesday morning, reporting the latest rescue news and urging his fellow citizens to pick up their lives, recover their sense of normalcy.

This isn't the time to bash President Bush. To be fair, he has responsibilities far more crushing than rescuing trapped survivors and preventing despair and panic in New York ... but for the moment, at least, Bush missed a crucial opportunity to show he's ready for a role that has, since the 2000 campaign, just seemed too big for him: being a leader who can reassure and rally Americans, with his self-confidence that he knows exactly what's needed and that he can provide it, and with his unswerving connection to his own feelings and values -- in this case, grief and anger and a determination to prevail, side by side.


I'm certain that this nation's law enforcement authorities will figure this out, and this nation's forces will act swiftly to do what's right. I'm ready to get behind our President, but I just wish he'd make it easier. Make me feel confident.

New York Times: "Demands of Leadership".   Yesterday someone also flamed Cam about his views of President Bush and his lack of leadership qualities. (I should have done as he did and ignored it, but it was an emotionally trying day and I allowed myself to become incensed. Wonder if it was the same guy who flamed me.)

Read what the New York Times has to say on the issue. They (as well as the rest of us) are ready to support him, but as they describe in the editorial they need to see certain things that they haven't seen yet.

George W. Bush is facing multiple challenges, but his most important job is a simple matter of leadership. The nation, reeling from this week's terrorist attacks, needs to see its president in control, ready to make tough decisions for the right reasons. Expressing determination to punish the people who organized the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is important, but not nearly enough.

The administration spent much of yesterday trying to overcome the impression that Mr. Bush showed weakness when he did not immediately return to Washington after the terrorists struck. That is not the issue that most concerns the American people. If the Secret Service felt the President would be safer somewhere else, the country is prepared to accept that and move on. What matters now is what Mr. Bush plans to do next. The disturbing part of the administration's performance on Tuesday was the refusal of the President or any member of his Cabinet to field questions about the fast-moving and frightening events. For most of the day, while the nation watched pictures of the World Trade Center towers toppling, the only visible figure in Washington was Karen Hughes, counselor to the President, who declined to take questions.


I strongly urge the President to be the leader we need him to be now.

  Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Donate blood.   Call the American Red Cross at (800) HELP-NOW to find your nearest donation center. You don't have to live on the East Coast. If you're in NYC, New York Blood Center, or see below.

NYC blood donor locations:

Manhattan: 310 East 67th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues) and 150 Amsterdam Avenue (66-67th Streets)

Brooklyn: 120 Lawrence Street near MetroTech

Staten Island: 1625 Forest Avenue

Long Island: 2500 Marcus Avenue in Lake Success, 3125 Veterans Highway in Bohemia, 333 Merrick Road in Rockville Centre, and Route 110N in Melville/Huntington

New Jersey: 167 New Street in New Brunswick

Westchester: 525 Executive Blvd in Elmsford

Thanks to Wes, Joan, Peter, John and Carrie at for sending this along.

Donate money.   Via Amazon (fees waived), PayPal, Red Cross.

Best weblog coverage.   Read World New York.

There are suspects.   The Boston Herald reports that authorities in Boston have identified five Arab men as suspects in the hijackings used for the attacks. Authorities were led to a rental car by a civilian who got into an altercation with several Arab men as they were parking their car, identified by sources as a Mitsubishi sedan. The car was parked at the airport, was seized, and was subsequently found to contain Arabic-language flight training manuals. Two of the men had United Arab Emirates passports and were brothers, and one of the brothers was a trained pilot.

Further information has arisen regarding the cell phone calls placed by some of the passengers. Apparently the weapons used to hijack the planes were plastic handles embedded with razor blades, which were smuggled onto the plane in shaving kits. They hijackers used them to start killing flight attendants; the pilot came out to help, which is how the terrorists got into the cockpit.

Jesus. [12:02am]

Not reassuring.   I watched Bush's "address to the nation" last night. I was not reassured. All I heard were empty platitudes recited by something that may as well have been an animatronic from Disney's Hall of Presidents. He said absolutely nothing of substance, with the possible exception of his threat to nations who may have harbored the terrorists. He was fixated on the mediocre words on his TelePrompTer, and they were only words -- no meaning, practically no feeling. He was an empty shell. It scared me. I felt better watching Giuliani, actually.

We need a leader, badly. Who's it going to be, I wonder? [12:15am]

Waiting.   I help run a small private mailing list of friends who are scattered around the country. One of us is a physician who's in New York, and we haven't heard from him yet. Shirish, I know you're probably busier than you'll ever be, and I hope you're okay. Let us know when you can. [12:15am]

Dark.   As I was flipping around the dial looking for different news reports, I came across my usual favorite channel, The Food Network, showing nothing but a title card. They've suspended programming in memory of those who were lost and their families. Their offices are in midtown Manhattan, just below Central Park, about 4-1/2 miles from the WTC. [12:38am]

We're open.   The building where I work (itself a tasty-looking landmark) is open for business today. I have to confess that the only thing keeping me from having complete creepy-crawlies about going to my office on the 43rd floor is that the airports aren't open yet. [8:32am]

Uh, we're closed.   Well, so much for that. Even though the building is open, our company has decided that the staff should have "one more day at home". I'm going to have to get out of the house for a while today so that I don't go stir-crazy. [9:12am]

Hate mail?   Normally I'd just call this an email flame, but what this guy said was just unconscionable. I just got an email from someone whom I'm assuming is a conservative Republican (suggested by the you-liberals this and you-liberals that in his letter). He says that because I was not reassured by Bush's speech last night, because I didn't hear what I thought we all needed to hear and because the emptiness of it all actually scared me, "I find you to be the only American I have heard of (thusfar) callow enough to openly insult the President of the United States in a time of national emergency. In my mind that places you in the same category as the dumbasses in the Middle East waving flags and firing guns in the air and barking at the moon and whatnot because potentially tens of thousands of Americans met an unimaginably horrific fate." He then launched into a spate of Clinton-bashing (!).

I would have had the same reaction had the same speech been delivered in the same manner by Al Gore, and in my brief post above I said not one word about the man's party or politics, only how he seemed to me as a leader. Presumably the writer doesn't understand the difference between merely hurling an insult and reacting honestly to what I saw as an insubstantial speech and an insubstatial amount of confidence and leadership, and apparently has nothing better to do today than attack me personally and on a partisan basis because I didn't hear what I needed to hear from our President.

What do you do with people like this? [10:22am]

What I needed to hear.   I couldn't put it better than a guy on Metafilter did, so I'll quote him:

- The speech didn't calm anyone down
- The speech didn't mention that we needed to remember that all Americans are American, and that we can't single out Arab-Americans
- He didn't express disgust at the Jihad and Hamas who expressed no condolences
- He didn't mention that we needed financial restraint in this time when the world's markets are in dire straits
- He didn't say that our civil liberties would be protected, no matter the cost
- He didn't say that America's government is level-headed and would not do anything to harm the innocent in other countries, though we would use all of our power to rein in the perpetrators
- Unlike Guiliani and Pataki, he didn't convince me that he believed anything he was saying.

We need a leader. I hope he (or somebody) fills the bill soon. I hope he tells us very soon that they got the bastards who did this, and more importantly, they got the right bastards. [10:36am]

Sick, sick, sick f*cks.   Someone pointed out yesterday that within minutes of the New York disaster, there were an incredible amount of World Trade Center-related "memorabilia" being offered for auction on eBay, from postcards of the towers to alleged photos and videos of them collapsing. I couldn't believe it, and followed a link to an eBay search on the terms "world trade center". There were 613 items for auction. I wanted to throw up. Fortunately, in the first half-dozen pages I scrolled through before closing the browser in disgust, I saw that out of maybe 300 items, there was only 1 bid amongst the whole lot. By this morning eBay had pulled them all.

Wes put it well when he sent me this link. "It makes me want to slug somebody." [11:03am]

What I really don't want to hear:   Stories about people going around beating up Arab-Americans, or people they think look like Arab-Americans, like my former classmate Omar who was from Colombia but whom everyone thought was Arab, and who was always getting harassed because of that. From MonkeyFist:  "Refuse and Resist Anti-Arab Racism". [11:15am]

Powell speaks up.   Colin Powell is back from South America, and started off on the "Today" show early this morning. He just gave a pretty good press conference that I heard on NPR. That's more like it. [12:26pm]

Scary, scary.   I've seen a few articles like this one, in which pilots say that given current airport security it's very easy to smuggle knives and box cutters onto airplanes.

I sure as hell don't want to hear this, but I guess I need to -- we all need to. What's going to happen to airport security, and how are they going to implement what they need to do before all the air travel starts up again? The way I feel right now, I'm going to need a general anesthetic to get onto my next flight, which is coming up in about seven weeks. [12:34pm]

Heroes on Flight 93?   Via Steve comes an astonishing post from author Jerry Pournelle's web site; this is still unsubstantiated, but apparently someone Pournelle trusts contacted him with a personal story of a phone call from the doomed flight:

When the Hijackers took control of flight 93, Jeremy called my niece who in-turn conferenced him to 911. Jeremy relayed to the police what was happening as the hijacking unfolded. As our niece Liz listened, Jeremy told the police there were three Arab terrorists with knives and a large red box that they claimed contained a bomb. Jeremy tracked the second by second details and relayed them to the police by phone. After several minutes of describing the scene, Jeremy and several other passengers decided there was nothing to lose by rushing the hijackers. Although United Flight 93 crashed outside of Pittsburgh, with the loss of all souls, Jeremy and the other patriotic heroes saved the lives of many people on the ground that would have died...
This makes a lot of sense, considering what happened. The flight was on a direct path to D.C. when it suddenly veered off into a full-power nose dive toward the ground, which I can't imagine the hijackers doing. My God. (Update - Just reported by the Washington Post) [12:55pm]

I'm gettin' outta here.   Stir-craziness has set in. I'm going to go out and get some lunch, and take a break from posting. I'm going to come back home, read or watch a movie, and leave the TV off for a while. [1:00pm]

Typical.   We gave money and weapons to Saddam Hussein when he was at war with Iran, because we didn't like Iran at the time, and we used that fallacial argument of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Seems that we also gave money, arms and training to Osama bin Laden in the 1980s because he was prominent in the struggle of the Afghan mujahedeen against Soviet invaders, and we didn't like the Soviet Union at the time.

Yes, the West needed Josef Stalin to defeat Hitler. Yes, there were times during the Cold War when supporting one villain (Cambodia's Lon Nol, for instance) would have been better than the alternative (Pol Pot). So yes, there are times when any nation must hold its nose and shake hands with the devil for the long-term good of the planet.

But just as surely, there are times when the United States, faced with such moral dilemmas, should have resisted the temptation to act. Arming a multi-national coalition of Islamic extremists in Afghanistan during the 1980s -- well after the destruction of the Marine barracks in Beirut or the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 -- was one of those times.

I hope that one of these days they learn to quit doing things like this. [4:15pm]

Don't start, people.   Jish, who's the founder of the webloggers' web ring, is a Canadian of Indian descent, and lives in Pacifica, in the San Francisco Bay area. He wrote a heartbreaking post in his weblog today.

God dammit, I'm Canadian.

I was doing better today, until a short while ago when I was at a cafe for breakfast. As I stood in line, someone (very loudly and in a very accusing tone) asked: "Are you from Afghanistan??" All eyes turned upon me, burning, each one accompanied with accusatory frowns. Needless to say, I very sheepishly said: "I am not from Afghanistan.", then I quietly left ... with an empty stomach and almost crying.

I felt so small and I now feel so unsafe and uncomfortable.

*glerp*   I just read that the building I work in was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the same architect who designed the World Trade Center. Eerie coincidence. [5:46pm]

bin Laden under house arrest.   "Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia had placed alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden under house arrest in the wake of the suicide attacks on the United States, an Arabic online newspaper reported", as of 4:14pm PDT. [8:31pm]

Quotes of the day.   "We are far from selecting any particular military targets or how to go after those targets at this time. We have to go build a case."

-- U. S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

"Man, I bet they couldn't get Colin Powell on the phone fast enough this morning."

-- Sparky

  Tuesday, September 11, 2001

What did we do to deserve this?   My mother just called me at 7am and woke me up to tell me that we were being attacked by terrorists. I turned on CNN and watched the World Trade Center collapse. I've never seen anything so horrible in my life. I just sat there and cried. Thousands of people must have died.

CNN seems overwhelmed, so get your coverage from the BBC -- right now theirs seems to be the best, at least on the web.

In Los Angeles, most major skyscrapers (including the one in which I work) have been closed. LAX is closed and evacuated; American Airlines passengers aren't being allowed to pick up their baggage. The Port of Los Angeles is closed. The LAPD is on tactical alert, and emergency operations centers have been activated throughout California.

My mind is spinning. This country is never going to be the same. Will I ever feel safe in an airplane or a tall building (like the one I work in, on the 43rd floor) ever again? Are we going to war? Jesus Christ. [8:11am]

If you're watching TV now, MSNBC's coverage is better than CNN's at the moment, with more footage from the streets of New York. CNN seems to be running the same clips over and over.

Mindboggling series of video captures showing the plane hitting the second tower.

If you're in New York, let us know you're okay.   You can use this site to enter your name and a brief message that you're all right. The messages will be automatically alphabetized based on first name (or whatever name you put first). It's apparently already a big help for lots of folks who don't publish their own sites, so please use it if you can. (Via Laurel)

Stop. Think.   Adding to how much this all scares me is the very low level of confidence I have in our President. I'm afraid that he and his hawk administration will start carpet-bombing people and make it all worse. People are starting to compare this to Pearl Harbor, but at least after Pearl Harbor we knew exactly who to hit back. Please, please wait and think before you act.

Jesus.   The Pittsburgh Channel reports that a man locked in the bathroom of United Flight 93 called 911 to report that the plane was being hijacked, about 15 minutes before it crashed. There have been other reports that the military shot it down because it wasn't responding, and its trajectory was toward Washington, D.C.

Be human.   Wes called a little while ago and said he had seen footage on TV of some Palestinians dancing and rejoicing in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. There are supposedly ordinary people in Egypt applauding the attacks as well. How can anyone who calls himself or herself a human being rejoice in the face of all this death?

I'm hoping this reaction is from a very small minority; that seems to be the case. Yasser Arafat as well as a spokesman for the Taliban have condemned the attacks, and several known militant Islamic groups have denied involvement. DON'T BLAME THEM. We have no proof of who did this, and won't have any for a long time. It's also worth remembering that the Oklahoma City bombing was initially blamed on Islamic terrorists. I keep thinking of the beautiful mosque down on Washington Boulevard in Culver City, and I worry that a bunch of wingnuts are going to show up there with bricks and baseball bats.

Rebecca, from the MeFi thread on the attack: "It could be crazy Christians who want to bring on Armageddon or Israeli zealots who want the US to wipe out Palestine or American militiamen who think the government has betrayed them or anti-WTO-types or just anyone. WE DON'T KNOW."

Eyewitness shot of Pentagon damage.   Via a music mailing list I'm on comes a photo from Dwight Yoakam's keyboardist Skip Edwards. The band were staying at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon, less than 1/4 mile from the building. They're fine, and the hotel was not harmed.

Numb.   I'm sitting here at around 3pm, watching the news, and I am still unable to wrap my mind around the enormity of all this.

One of the networks actually showed a telephoto shot of people clinging to the outside of the buildings moments before it collapsed. I don't want to see that. They should not show any more images like this.

3:11pm PDT -- Kabul under attack.   CNN are reporting that Kabul, Afghanistan is under attack from "large incoming missiles". It is unclear whether the missiles are coming from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance (perhaps a retaliation for the assassination attempt on the rebel leader) or if this is already an American retaliation for the Taliban's harboring of Osama bin Laden. (Subsequent reports -- U.S. denies involvement.)

Questions.   How did the hijackers get the pilots to crash their planes into a building? From the moment I could think clearly, I didn't think they could. The mind boggles further to realize that it's quite likely that the pilots were killed by the hijackers, who were themselves skilled pilots.

How did the hijackers bypass airport security, getting weapons pass the security checks into the planes? Barbara Olson, wife of U. S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, was aboard one of the doomed planes. She called her husband on her cell phone and told him that the hijackers "were using knives and cardboard cutters". Were these instruments not made of metal, and did they not set off metal detectors? If they were made of metal, were packed in carry-on luggage and were allowed to pass through, then somebody seriously screwed up. Olson also described during her call that how the hijackers had herded everyone, passengers and crew including pilots, to the back of the plane, lending credence to the former theory. Of course, all is still speculation at this point.

Update -- Apparently FAA regulations allow knives with blades up to 4 inches in length to be carried on to planes. Unbelievable.

How will things change?   An ACLU report on the civil liberties implications of counter-terrorism measures. We must be vigilant, but we must not let our Constitutional liberties be compromised.

Barlow: "Prepare for the coming police state."   Electronic Freedom Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow fears that the government may use the attack as an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties. I hope he's wrong.

As most of you know, I believe that the United States has gradually, subtly, invisibly to most of us, become a police state over the last 30 years.

This morning's events are roughly equivalent to the Reichstag fire that provided the social opportunity for the Nazi take-over of Germany.

I am not suggesting that, like the Nazis, the authoritarian forces in America actually had a direct role in perpetrating this mind-blistering tragedy. (Though their indirect role deserves a much longer discussion.)

Nevertheless, nothing could serve those who believe that American "safety" is more important than American liberty better than something like this. Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives.

Within a few hours, we will see beginning the most vigorous efforts to end what remains of freedom in America. Those of who are willing to sacrifice a little -- largely illusory - safety in order to maintain our faith in the original ideals of America will have to fight for those ideals just as vigorously.

I beg you to begin NOW to do whatever you can -- whether writing your public officials, joining the ACLU or EFF, taking to the streets, or living visibly free and fearless lives -- to prevent the spasm of control mania from destroying the dreams that far more have died for over the last two hundred twenty five years than died this morning.

Don't let the terrorists or (their natural allies) the fascists win. Remember that the goal of terrorism is to create increasingly paralytic totalitarianism in the government it attacks. Don't give them the satisfaction.

Fear nothing. Live free.

And, please, let us try to forgive those who have committed these appalling crimes. If we hate them, we will become them.

May God -- or Whatever you want to call It -- bless us all. We'll need it.

New Yorkers' weblogs:   Cam, Damien, Grant, Jason, Anil, Sparky.

Quote of the day.   "In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior."

-- Sir Francis Bacon.

  Monday, September 10, 2001
Umm ... next.   We saw "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" this weekend. My two-word review:  "Oh dear." Let's just say that I've had enough of Jason Mewes to last me the rest of my life, plus three subsequent reincarnations.

It had very funny moments (intermittent though they were; my favorite being Ben Affleck's Holden character explaining the Internet to Jay and Bob thusly: "It's a place used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography..."), and yes, lots of clever Hollywood and View Askew in-jokes, but it was wildly uneven and stupefyingly infantile. As for the objections of GLAAD over the gay jokes in the film, said jokes were submerged in a large tapestry of occasionally funny but mostly stupid and offensive jokes of every shade; in such a context, why even bother complaining? Look at who's making the jokes, too; as director Kevin Smith said himself: "I'm not sorry, because I didn't make the jokes at the expense of the gay community. I made jokes at the expense of two characters who neither I nor the audience have ever held up to be paragons of intellect. They're idiots."

That said, while we know Smith isn't a bigot or a homophobe, in their bad review of the film Newsday pointed out:

[C]loseted 15-year-olds who have felt personally assaulted by every teen comedy they have ever seen are not going to feel suddenly comforted by an 11th-hour cameo in which James Van Der Beek chastises Jason Biggs for gay-hostile comments.

To be fair to Smith, a director whom I like, there have been many relatively positive reviews, including three-out-of-four-stars from Roger Ebert, who compares the characters of the View Askewniverse to Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. (With regards to this film, I don't know what he was thinking of.) Ebert also wisely points out, " GLAAD should give audiences credit for enough intelligence to know the difference between satire and bigotry," although by my definition satire is a lot more intelligent than this.

I'm very glad that this is the film that retires the two title characters (who were always amusing as minor walk-ins, but who shouldn't have attempted to carry an entire film). In fact, in a recent interview, Smith says that his enthrallment with his new baby daughter will probably mean that parenthood will be a major theme in his subsequent work. This is good.

[Smith] disparages the Catholic League not for assailing his unorthodox "Dogma," but for dropping the issue once Disney subsidiary Miramax withdrew from its release.

"Once Disney was out of the picture, there was no press to be reaped," Smith says. "I would have kept up the pressure straight through the video release, if only to look consistent.

"I still get a lot of e-mail from Catholics who loved 'Dogma,'" he says, with undisguised pleasure. "Priests write to tell me it's a great teaching tool."

It's refreshing to know that there are still some open-minded people who will actually watch or read something before criticizing or condemning it, and are willing to use their own brains and their own critical thought to judge a piece of art rather than forfeiting their minds to shrill loudmouths who declare such art to be "trash" or "filth".

Gee, chefs!   There's a really nifty new culinary web site out of Japan (fortunately with an English version as well) called g-chef. It's a collaborative effort of several of the top chefs in Japan, including Iron Chefs Chen-san, Sakai-san, Kobe-san, Ishinabe-san and Nakamura-san.

I've only just started to explore it, but what I've seen so far is great. For instance, they list lots of recipes and feature one recommended dish per month (currently an interesting dessert, Black Sesame Pudding); the recipe includes step-by step instructions, annotations and photographs of the process as well. Very nice!

Earthquake casualties.   We had a 4.2 earthquake yesterday, epicentered about two miles from my house. I hardly felt it, as I was in Altadena at the time, but apparently people in the Beverly Center (a large, monolithic, icky shopping center a few miles from me) were wigging out. There were no injuries and no serious damage.

There was a casualty at my house, though. Comrade Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev is no more. Part of a set of matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls) of former Soviet leaders plus Yeltsin, Leonid Ilyich fell from his position on the shelf and landed on the floor. He survived the initial fall after the quake, but this morning as I walked bleary-eyed to the bathroom after rising, I felt a sickening crunch under my right foot. (D'oh.)

Fortunately, the big ceramic pot my friend Peter (a very talented ceramic artist) made for me for my birthday last year survived a six-foot fall from its perch completely unscathed -- nary a crack or scratch. Not only is his stuff beautiful, it's sturdy too.

  Friday, September 7, 2001
Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beierhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!   A team of British scientists, apparently desperate to keep their grant money flowing, are on a search for the U.K.'s funniest joke. The team will spend months analyzing thousands of jokes sent to a Web site, before testing the most humorous contribution on a human guinea pig wired to a brain scan. They say that the funniest joke will be released in September of 2002.

I think this is very silly, as jokes are not necessarily universal, even within a single country. Plus, as most comedians know, you start dissecting this stuff and you kill it.

Besides, we've already known for years what the funniest joke is. Right up there in the header of this article, it is. (I'm sorry for all the Germans I just killed, by the way.)

Welcome back, Lawrence!   One of my favorite comic strips, "For Better or Worse", is bringing back the character of Lawrence, who hasn't been seen in quite a while. He's a close childhood friend of Michael, the son in the family who are the main characters of the strip, and about 8 years ago a lot of very silly people had conniption fits because Lawrence came out (gee, just like life ... you find out people you know and love are gay, you still know and love them, big deal).

[Author Lynn Johnston, who is Canadian, said] "Most of the complaints I got when I introduced Lawrence were from right-wing religious people in the United States who probably don't read the strip and were told to write, which is crazy."

United Media also got some flak when Lawrence made a brief reappearance in the late 1990s. "But it was from one group that got together and sent a bunch of e-mails and letters," [Amy Lago, vice president of comics for United Media] said. "They were all form letters.

One the biggest concerns could come from parents who may be caught off guard if their child starts asking questions. What happens, for instance, if a 6-year-old reads the strip and asks a parent, "What does homosexual mean?"

"I think if a child is old enough to form that question, they're ready for an answer," Johnston replied. "This is a reality-based strip. This is your neighbor next door. It (homosexuality) is nothing to fear. It's a part of life. My father-in-law is gay. Some of my closest friends are gay...

Johnston is preparing for more ridiculous flak as Lawrence is asked by Michael to be the best man at his upcoming wedding, and the bride's mother objects to having a gay person in the wedding.

"But Deanna," he woman says to her daughter, the bride-to-be, "this is a church!!"
I'm looking forward to this series in the strip. This should be interesting, and I hope a lot of people will learn some valuable lessons about life and people. That is, all of them except the people in the little redneck towns whose editors will decline to carry the strip due to the subject matter.

In a related matter, Johnston has announced that she'll be retiring, and the strip will be ending in 2007. It'll be bittersweet, but I'm sure she'll wrap it up beautifully. One of the things I've always loved about this strip is that it progressed in real time -- we got to see the kids grow up, April be born and plow through her own childhood, John and Ellie head into middle age, all accompanied by lots of the kinds of events we all deal with in real life, dealt with in a funny, graceful and compassionate way. Well heck, we've got six more years to go. Let's enjoy it. (Links purloined from Steve)

White wine.   Josh Kun reviews Loudon Wainwright III's new album Last Man on Earth in the San Francisco Bay Guardian with a lovely essay.

Go away, Jack Valenti.   I'm also tired of the completely arbitrary and often unfair way in which the MPAA issues film ratings, particularly in how they frequently allow films with hideously violent content an "R" rating while giving non-pornographic films with sexually-related adult themes an "NC-17" and the de facto censorship that comes along with it (for instance, many if not most newspapers refuse to accept advertising for films rated NC-17, including the Los Angeles Times Calendar section, part of the major newspaper that serves the major city of motion picture industry.)

The people behind one film have decided to fight back. The forthcoming film "L.I.E." (which stands for "Long Island Expressway, and metaphorically much more), has been given an "NC-17" rating, and the filmmakers are not happy. They believe, as many other people do (including film critic Roger Ebert) that there should be a rating between "R" and "NC-17" for films of an adult nature that are not pornographic or ultra-violent, and they're starting a campaign to make it so.

I fear that all this may have to wait until Valenti finally dies and is replaced by a non-dinosaur.

Weird email of the day.   It doesn't appear to be a mass mailing, either.

Date: Fri, 07 Sep 2001 08:47:08
To: chuck@etc.
Subject: help

i have recently been discharged from bankruptcy and am desparate to get back onto my feet

any help would be greatly appreciated

sort code 20 78 42

account 70 79 89 24

reference 60 05 67 00 4

Umm ... go get a job, dude. (A dictionary, too ... "desperate" is spelled "d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e".)

Sheesh. I don't get nearly as much great weird email as Jonno does; having your domain name misspelled by many doofuses (doofi?) who think they're writing to "" addresses probably helps.

  Thursday, September 6, 2001
Tonight on "Down Home".   New music from former Solas members John Doyle and Karan Casey, plus Los Super Seven, Gram Parsons, Brian Hall, The Del McCoury Band, Delbert McClinton and the sountrack to "Down From the Mountain", a Nashville concert performance featuring artists from the soundtrack of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Tune in to KCSN at 88.5 FM, or listen to our streaming MP3 webcast.

Recommendations for good fantasy.   Y'all rock. I've been getting a whole bunch of recommendations for fantasy novels that according to my correspondents are most certainly not wretched. If I get all this stuff, I'll have months' worth of reading added to my already huge pile. Then again, I asked for it! Here's what's come in so far, with comments by the contributors (updated at 11:44am today):

Discworld novels, by Terry Pratchett. Yeah, I know, he's written The Science of Discworld, but the stories themselves appropriate, tie up and tickle merclessly many of the fantasy and sword and sorcery conventions.

I've read most of them by now in random order (whatever looked good in the bookstore or library), but as with any collection, there's peaks and valleys. Don't feel that you have to start reading from the first book (The Colour of Magic) as Pratchett did take a while to warm up. To start: try Hogfather, Small Gods, Soul Music, or Guards! Guards!

Thomas the Rhymer and Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner. These are clever, witty and sensual books that you should be able to find in your library. She's got a few poems and short stories out in various collections too, but she seems to show up more as an editor these days. There's more about her here.(Mary)

*       *       *

Tim Powers. Just about anything he's written as it least very good, and some of it is amazing. Powers is probably fantasy's best rebuttal to Campbell's dismissal of the field as a place where the writers just make things up. Start with Last Call or The Anubis Gates or (if you want to try something shorter) The Drawing of the Dark. Don't read Expiration Date until after you've read both Last Call and Earthquake Weather -- it's a sequel to those two books. His latest book, Declare, is supposed to be very good, but I haven't gotten around to it yet; I need to read up a bit on Kim Philby first.

Graham Joyce. Emotional fantasy set in the modern world. Try Requiem or The Tooth Fairy. (I haven't yet read his latest book, "Indigo.)

Steven Brust. He's best known for his Vlad Taltos novels, about an assassin in a fantasy world where resurrection magic exists. Keep in mind that most of his books are narrated by his characters, who may be unreliable. (This is especially worth remembering with the Dumas pastiches -- The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After.) Start with Jhereg. Also try Agyar (which stands on its own, not part of a series), but try to avoid reading anything else about it first.

China Meiville's Perdido Street Station is fantasy steampunk, full of fantastic creatures and nasty consequences. (Avram)

*       *       *

I'll offer a hearty "me too" on the recommendation that you read R.A. Lafferty. His stuff is mostly (and, I suspect, briefly) back in print. He's one of the best genre writers of the '60s, imho. Gene Wolfe's massive Book of the New Sun series is also well worth reading, although I'm not sure it strictly counts as "fantasy"; Wolfe's Soldier of the Mists and Soldier of Arete is more classic fantasy fare (pun not particularly intended), and his "Universe"-esque Book of the Long Sun kind of blurs the lines (as does Zelazny's Lord of Light, which was previously mentioned).

Outside those -- and the usual children's books and quasi-children's books fare, like Rowling or Lloyd Alexander or LeGuin's Earthsea books -- I don't particularly read a lot of fantasy. Rebecca (The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid, Gaia's Toys) Ore's Slow Funeral was a nice one -- it struck me as somewhere between a "urban fantasy" novel and an attempt to rework magic realism in a more distinctly American idiom. I was also fond of Warren Norwood's True Jaguar, another "urban fantasy"-ish thing (although better written than the usual of same, as that subgenre has rapidly gotten almost as bad as the Tolkien knockoffs) rooted in Aztec mythology.

Tim Powers is also good, although a bit twee and prone to providing neat wrapping-ups. My favorite book of his is his Campbellian (Joseph, not "Amazing Stories") Fisher King in Las Vegas novel Last Call, which riffs on "The Wasteland", chaos theory, "The Golden Bough", and gangster history. He tends to write somewhat affected literary (but quite likeable and largely good) fantasy novels about historical figures; see The Anubis Gates, featuring Byron and Coleridge, or On Stranger Tides, featuring Blackbeard.(Steve)

*       *       *

Just off the top of my head, and realizing you may already have read these, I'd strongly recommend Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore). Also Patricia McKillip, notably The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. As carl said, R.A. Lafferty -- though a little Lafferty at a time is often enough, in part because he mostly writes short stories. (Vicki)
I've been meaning to give Pratchett's Discworld stuff a try for a while now, actually; I'm a big fan of Good Omens, the novel he wrote with Neil Gaiman. Since it looks like just about everybody has been recommending RA Lafferty, I'll most definitely check his stuff out.

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in!

O Lord ... you are so big... so absolutely huge...   Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.

I suppose it's an indication of the way my mind works that when I'm confronted with one of the most staggeringly massive and awesomely beautiful things in our galaxy, the first thing that comes to mind is a Monty Python quote. Oh well ... I still think it's pretty staggering.

What is it, you ask? Why, nothing other than the best evidence yet of the massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, which is now thought to be approximately 93 million miles wide, with the mass of 2.6 million suns.

The Dubya Strikes Back.   Alarmed by the recent spate of shark attacks off our nation's shores, the President pushes his latest defense initiative through Congress -- the NDD (National Dorsal Defense Shield). The goal for the NDD: "To make sharks explode before they chomp them some peoples," Mr. Bush explained.

ISP tech support hell.   My friend Sheldon works for an ISP in Calgary, Alberta. On his worst days, when his customers are driving him completely batshit, he can rest assured in the knowledge that despite what he puts up with he gives them far better customer service than this.

I'm really glad I'm not an Earthlink subscriber.

Neologism of the day.   From Steve Bogart's Now This:

goo·gu·lar, ('gü-gy&-l&r) adj. 1. Referring to the importance or popularity of a web page or site in the Google search engine's page-ranking system. -- goo·gu·lar·i·ty, n. the quality or state of being googular.
If you'll allow me a little bit of fairly infrequent but nonetheless entirely shameless ego-boo, I'll admit that I'm rather pleased with my own googularity; go there and type in "gumbo" or "Cajun recipes" or "Uncle Tupelo". (Well, it's mostly because I've had the site since late 1993, giving people plenty of time to link.)

No more ga-ron-tees.   Justin Wilson, Louisianian humorist and cook, passed away yesterday in Baton Rouge at age 87.

I must confess that I wasn't a fan of Mr. Wilson. Many Louisianians, myself included, found him to be a caricature of the culture, and found it frustrating that people all around the country thought we were all like his broken-English shtick. (I can't begin to tell you how sick I was of introducing myself to someone, saying I was from Louisiana and having them shout, "Hey, how y'all are! Got any ohn-yawns? Hahahaha!") Still, as a few folks like Eric pointed out, he was their first exposure to Cajun food and music, so I guess he's done some good.

Cajun music, food and humor.   If Justin was your start, move beyond him into the heart of the culture.

For one of the truest experiences of Cajun music you could ever have, go to Eunice, Louisiana on Saturday mornings for the Cajun music jam session at the Savoy Music Center. Bring some beer and boudin and you'll score big points. For one of the truest experiences of Cajun food, go to Ville Platte, Louisiana and have lunch at The Pig Stand on Main Street, where you'll get a staggering amount of incredibly delicioius food for five bucks. If you're there on a Sunday you're lucky, 'cause you can get the roast duck. For one of the best experiences of Cajun humor, go back to Eunice, find a music store called The Music Machine, introduce yourself to Todd Ortego, the owner, offer him a beer, and get him going. You'll be doubled over laughing before too long.

Ya got da blues? Get da blues!   If you live in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, you need to be at the 12th Annual Bull Durham Blues Festival this weekend. My friend Dave is going to the kick-off event tonight, and I'm envious; he'll be seeing Algia Mae Hinton, Etta Baker and Eric Bibb at the St. Joseph Performance Hall in Durham tonight, and I wish I could go.

Also appearing this weekend will be James Cotton, Maria Muldaur, Rosie Ledet, Bobby Womack, Irma Thomas, Chubby Carrier, Cephas & Wiggins, and many more.

Bumpersticker of the day.   Seen on a big white pickup truck parked outside the Cinema Bar in Culver City last night:


Thad Cockrell was great last night, by the way. The Cinema Bar's a cool little place, with live music and The Tip Jar every Wednesday night. All this and the bartender made me a damn fine Old Fashioned, too.

Quote of the day.   "Recently, for the first time in a quarter century, I returned to the area [in Scotland] in which "The Wicker Man" was shot and that truly was a bizarre experience. Visiting the pub we used for the Green Man Inn, I felt as if I had popped out for ten minutes, twenty-five years passed and I had come back in. Nothing had changed, nothing. At the graveyard in which Howie fashioned a wooden cross to ward off the Summerisle voodoo, I raked through the grass and found the same sodden crucifix; it had lain there untouched since I had discarded it at the end of the scene twenty-five years earlier."

-- Actor Edward Woodward, who portrayed Sgt. Neil Howie in "The Wicker Man", in the foreward to Allen Brown's book Inside The Wicker Man

  Wednesday, September 5, 2001
Thad Cockrell plays Culver City tonight.   Country singer-songwriter Thad Cockrell (that's the good country, based in traditional American music, with emotion and feeling and sweetness and heartbreak and great melodies, not the crap pop country that's played on "country radio") is performing a FREE show tonight at The Tip Jar, at the Cinema Bar in Culver City, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd. between Washington Place and Venice Boulevard. He'll be performing solo, with guitar and harmonica, doing mostly his own gorgeous songs and maybe a cover or two. I dunno about you, but free is my favorite price, and when you can get some great music for free, I say go for it. See you at the Tip Jar.

What is science fiction?   I must confess that neither Wes nor I (both sf fans from childhood) had any idea that the official Hugo Awards nomination form specifically mentions "science fiction and fantasy" stories and novels as being eligible for the award. (Doesn't that make me feel like a doof?)

We've both had fairly rigid definitions of what science fiction is, and it's never included the subgenre to which many people refer as "fantasy" and seem to use as a synonym for "sword and sorcery" stories. Neither of us ever lumped those two together, and tend to avoid using the phrase "fantasy and science fiction", even though The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has been around since long before I was born (I grew up reading Analog, Galaxy and occasionally Isaac Asimov's myself). This has led us to (perhaps unfairly) dismiss the subgenre we define as "fantasy", although I must say that I find many if not most of the novels and stories that are lumped into this category to be unappealing. Despite this, and despite the fact that the Harry Potter novels can undoubtedly be described as fantasy, I still like them a lot.

During last evening's web reading I came across a wonderful page which collected the definitions of "science fiction" from many celebrated sf writers. Interestingly, not much in the way of "fantasy" is discussed, with the major exception of the first definition I'll quote here:

John W. Campbell, Jr.:  The major distinction between fantasy and science fiction is, simply, that science fiction uses one, or a very, very few new postulates, and develops the rigidly consistent logical consequences of these limited postulates. Fantasy makes its rules as it goes along...The basic nature of fantasy is "The only rule is, make up a new rule any time you need one!" The basic rule of science fiction is "Set up a basic proposition--then develop its consistent, logical consequences." (Introduction, Analog 6, Garden City, New York, 1966)

Kingsley Amis:  Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terrestrial in origin. (New Maps of Hell)

Ray Bradbury:  Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together.

Isaac Asimov:  Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions... that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings. (1952)

Then again, there's one major sf writer's definition which in the context of this discussion could easily be extended to fantasy as well:

Damon Knight:  [Science fiction] means what we point to when we say it.
Read the rest of them, they're all fascinating. Wes opined that his definition of sf specified that the stories had to pivot on the importance of human technology to the story, meaning that an alien visitation story like Robert J. Sawyer's excellent Calculating God (itself a close contender for the Best Novel Hugo) did not automatically qualify as science fiction.

I got an interesting and thoughtful letter from reader carl juarez, who opines that sf is a subgenre of fantasy, a view with which I must quibble somewhat. Freely admitting that this is my own terminology and not the world's in general, I'd say that both sf and fantasy are subgenres of "fantastic literature". In any case, here's what carl had to say, which I reproduce here with his kind permission.

You might want to take a look through the Hugo records, especially the nominations. Fantasy novels have been nominated before. It may be simply a historical artifact that F and SF (the name of one of the longest-running magazines, BTW) are yoked together in english literature as genres -- "weird tales", like those by Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle (the Professor Challenger stories, not the Sherlock Holmes ones), were published in mainstream magazines before Hugo Gernsback started the first genre magazine, Amazing. Gradually fiction about imaginative science and fantasy was "ghettoized" into the genre magazines. (Ray Bradbury's work and Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, both of which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post I believe, are the major exceptions.)

Some have suggested the term "speculative fiction" as an inclusive term for both (like "queer" for gay, lesbian, bi &c.), partly because most of the "science" in sf is pseudoscience anyhow, and largely what we'd now call enabling technologies, like faster than light drives or nanobots or time travel, that allow the author to create an imaginative world and situation for a story. Generically, science fiction is a subsection of fantasy that uses the trappings of science as furniture -- quantum breakthroughs instead of witchcraft or a mummy's curse, but still imaginative rather than mundane. It's even arguable that fantasy that features an organized system of effective action (i.e., magic, a la Potter) is a form of sf, just written in less scientific rhetoric. (See Zelazny's Lord of Light or RA Lafferty's work for example, where the distinction is mute.)

Another common misconception is that sf is a predictive literature, which it isn't. In terms of technology there have been a few good guesses but sf's major contribution has been (in John Shirley's words) "a mirror you can edit" -- a projection of the modern world into a putatively future construct that can be manipulated into a critique of present-day mores or society. (This is why sf was the genre of choice in the MacCarthy era for social commentary, which led Kingsley Amis [New Maps of Hell] to believe Frederik Pohl was the best sf writer of his era. The same was true for Stanislaw Lem in eastern Europe later on -- no one would take that stuff seriously, especially the censors, eh?)

Indeed. I like Shirley's definition, and I do use the term "speculative fiction". As far as sf not being predictive, it's interesting to look what Bradbury said:  "things the writer believes are going to happen." Wonder where that crosses the line from speculation into prediction. According to a recent Salon article, Bradbury was pretty spot-on in predicting the world of Fahrenheit 451, which except for the names of the technological developments is spookily right-on when you look at today's world, "kerosene-spraying firemen aside".

Regarding my dismissal of what I've been classifying as "fantasy", carl adds:

Both sword and sorcery (sometimes called "thud and blunder") and sub-Tolkien regurgitation are a blight on the field. Likewise in "hard" sf the libertarian/authoritarian/militaristic stuff gets on my nerves, as does the comfort-culture (i.e., future culture will be just like your adolescent dreams but better) stuff like Allen Steele.

There's lots of cool fantasy out there that doesn't suck on Howard's and Tolkien's teats. Thorne Smith's Night Life of the Gods is back in print, for example.

I'm a fan of hard sf myself, and I also don't care for the "militaristic" stuff. I'm always looking for recommendations on new and good sf, but in the light of recent discussions on the fantasy and sf issues I'd particularly appreciate any reader recommendations for works in the fantasy subgenre that do not include sword and sorcery, thud and blunder, Howard teat-sucking and Tolkien sub-regurgitation.

Regarding the questions of what is sf, fantasy, and/or fantastic literature, carl also recommended:

I can HIGHLY recommend the Encyclopedia of SF, second edition, which treats these questions in depth and tons more besides. It's indispensable and, with its British viewpoint, a good corrective to those who see sf only through American eyes. (The same folks did an Encyclopedia of Fantasy that I haven't read yet.)
Sounds like the latter would be worth a look as well, particularly for someone like myself who's developed a fantasy prejudice.

Bottom line of all of this? Well, there really isn't one, except ... listen to Damon Knight if you want, call the genre(s) what you want, just read more sf!

New KCSN programs!   We've got new stuff popping up all over the place, especially in the way of live overnight programming, which'll help give our hard-working KCSN Jukebox an occasional rest. Ashley Pripp kicks off our late night on Thursdays through Friday mornings, midnight to 4am, with "The Red Eye Special"; he'll keep the Great American Songbook alive as well as delve into R&B, be-bop, free jazz to classic jazz, plus lots of other interesting music. John Minnacucci's new show "John's Attic" runs Friday nights through Saturday mornings from midnight to 4am and features lots of great blues and R&B, plus Dave Cameron, a veteran of the commercial rock 'n roll scene, replaces "Soulful Sunday", guess which night at 8pm, with his new program "A Long Long Time Ago".

Plus, some great news for more student involvement at the radio station -- tonight at 7pm, KCSN will present the inaugural broadcast of "Music From Northridge", Great Music from a Great Department. It's been described by our general manager Freddy Johnson as:

[A] one-hour program featuring a complete melange of live performances by our distinguished CSUN Music Department Faculty and student ensembles. The host is Jerry Luedders, Chair of the CSUN Music Department. Mr. Luedders, besides being a professor and department chair, is also a well-known composer and saxophone soloist himself. CSUN's music department is an award-winning, world-renowned entity and we are proud to broadcast performances by the Wind Ensemble, CSUN Symphony, The Northridge Singers, The Jazz 'A' Band, and much more.

Please join us in welcoming Jerry Luedders and "Music From Northridge" to the KCSN family. This program is part of our continued commitment to strengthen the ties between ourselves and the CSUN community at large. Besides, they are all great musicians and their performances should be heard by everyone. Listen in and enjoy David Whitwell's "Civil War Reflections", Rossini's "Overture to La Gazza Ladra", and Johnny Green's "Body and Soul", plus much, much more.

Thanks, jefe. Tune in, y'all!

Nifty.   As much as I love my iBook, I've been grousing somewhat about the fact that I can't use the new Apple flat panel displays with it, as no Apple portable computers have the ADC (Apple Display Connector, which relays video, power and USB) that the new displays require.

Thanks to Damien, I've found a solution (albeit an expensive one). Mobility Electronics makes a FireWire expansion chassis for $250 -- you just plug it into any FireWire-equipped iBook or Powerbook and it provides 3 full-length PCI expansion slots, enabling you to add video, SCSI, USB or anything that fits on a PCI card. From there you add an ATI Radeon PCI video card, which adds 32MBB SDRAM and a DVI connector, then a Dr. Bott DVIator DVI-to-ADC adapter ($150 each) and you're in bidness.

Unfortunately, your wallet is $550 lighter, plus the cost of the display, but at least it can be done. (I wonder if Dr. Bott is related to Bertie Bott, the guy who makes Every Flavour Beans.)

  Tuesday, September 4, 2001
Wow.   The 2001 Hugo Awards were announced at the World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia over the weekend. The winner of the Hugo for Best Novel was J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Now, I loved that book. I thought it was terrific. I offer my warmest congratulations to Ms. Rowling for her achievement. However, I was a bit startled at the choice, as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is most certainly not science fiction. I was always under the impression that the World Science Fiction Convention gives Hugo awards to science fiction novels, novellas and short stories, but I guess that nebulous, undefined category of "fantasy" is now being included too (I must confess I haven't been paying close attention to what's getting nominated over the last several years). That said, I wouldn't lump Harry in with what usually passes for "fantasy" (much of which I find very uninteresting). Very strange choice indeed. Still, this is pretty cool for Rowling, and helps send out a nice, loud thbptht! of respectability to anyone who dumps on Harry or dismisses it as a "kid's book".

(Expect some forthcoming chatter on the nature of science fiction, and whether it should or shouldn't be lumped in with the "fantasy" genre.)

Mac Users: Get rid of web ads.   With about two minutes' work you can rid yourself of over 90% of all web ads (and probably nix all of them with regular updating). It's easy. As a side benefit, you will foil DoubleClick's monitoring of your surfing patterns, plus you'll speed up your web surfing considerably. For instance, if you use Yahoo heavily, you will approximately triple your surfing speed.

First, copy the contents of this link and save in the Preferences folder in your System Folder as a plain text file called Hosts (it's case sensitive, so make sure you use a capital H). Then open the TCP/IP control panel, click "Select Hosts file", and choose this file. Reboot. Ads will go away.

If an ad gets through, extract its server host from the URL and add it to the text file in a similar manner as th e others. (PC users, follow the instructions found on this page, as your Hosts file configuration is slightly different from those on Macs.)

"I regard criticism as an art."   Influential film critic Pauline Kael of The New Yorker (of whose work I read a great deal in school) died yesterday of Parkinson's Disease. With her, part of an era passes forever, as she was a writer and critic who gave us true criticism, involving thought and consideration of her subject matter; whether you agreed with her or not, this was a good thing. It seems to me that today most so-called film "critics" are mere sources of one-liners to be blurbed to death on movie ads, or write things like the awful pieces by the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Thomas, offering almost nothing but plot summary at best and suspiciously glowing reviews of obviously putrid movies at worst.

They're still around, though.   Good film critics, that is. My friend Tom Krueger reminds me of the excellent Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, whose pieces I've enjoyed in the past whether agreeing with them or not, and I agree with him more often than not. Thanks for the reminder, Tom; sometimes even the stuff I bookmark gets forgotten (it doesn't help when you have eleventy thousand bookmarks).

Read Rosenbaum's recent reviews of Woody Allen's "Curse of the Jade Scorpion", "Apocalypse Now Redux", "Ghost World", "The Deep End" and Spielberg's "A.I."

"We call it 'Martian accounting.'"   From the Guardian:  "The sound of the summer has been the crash of box-office records being broken with a run of big opening weekends for films. But these figures often mean very little. The studio may not know if a movie is profitable for several years -- the director and cast may never find out. Gary Susman investigates the weird and highly secretive world of Hollywood finance."

There's been a particularly interesting phenomenon this year as well -- huge opening weekends that break box office records, followed the next weekend by a dropoff in business between 50% and 70% due to bad word of mouth from audiences who thought the movies were horrid (e.g., Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes", Steven Spielberg's "A.I.").

Grand Royal, RIP (1993-2001).   What a bummer. Grand Royal, the label founded by the Beastie Boys and which featured artists like Luscious Jackson, Sean Lennon and the excellent Ben Lee, has decided to cease operations and close due to mounting debts and consistent money loss.

Remember to support independent labels whenever you can.

Zero tolerance, zero thought, zero common sense.   More on the infuriating subject of mindless "zero tolerance" rules and laws: from "This is True", read Randy Cassingham's excellent piece "Losing My Tolerance for Zero Tolerance".

  Saturday, September 1, 2001
I've got the weekend off! WOOHOO!   I'm outta here for a few days. There are lots of cocktails to be sipped, lots of barbecued critters to be eaten, and lots of lazing around to be done.

See y'all on Tuesday. Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend!

August Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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