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 @ 9:18am PST, 2/5/2002

Blame this page on:
Chuck Taggart (who?)
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Looka! Archive

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

How to donate to this site:

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Friends with pages:

mary katherine
pat and paul
roxi and merck
tracy and david

Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   "Down Home" playlist
   Live MP3 audio stream

   Subscribe to the
   "Down Home" weekly
   playlist email service

WWOZ (New Orleans)
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   Live audio stream

Alive and Picking
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail


Cocktail Time


Bar Asterie

Ardent Spirits

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

La Fée Verte

Ingredients & substitutions

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Chef Talk Café



Food Network

The Global Gourmet

The Online Chef

Pasta, Risotto & You

Slow Food Int'l. Movement

So. Calif. Farmer's Markets

Zagat Guide


Click here for a new daily recipe from Chef Emeril!
In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Wally's Wine and Spirits

The Wine House

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Now reading:

Black House, by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

Juno & Juliet, by Julian Gough.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Red Meat
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Uncle Tupelo

Miles of Music

No Depression


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival

Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project


Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

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:

2001: A Space Odyssey (*****)
Vanilla Sky (*-1/2)
Brotherhood of the Wolf (**-1/2)

Lookin' at da TV:

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

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
Considered Harmful
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
Therapy for the Inner Psycho
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wil Wheaton Dot Net
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 (your 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)

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

  "This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island,
  From the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me."
  -- Woody Guthrie

  Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Be neighborly, dammit!   I usually don't have to be told to be neighborly ('cause I generally am anyway), but I completely forgot that I was in this webloggers' webring thingy, and got the following suggestion from Jish. Happy to oblige, me ...

Jish asked me to say HI! to my webloggers webring neighbors.
» to the left of me: Fredo.
» to the right of me: Eugene Goh.

Bye bye, Rexx.   I tried, really I did. I believe in supporting local businesses, particularly if they're intrepid little local ISPs. Despite the fact that I'm blazing along on a cable modem, I still maintain a UNIX shell account and have for years. When Netcom finally went kerflooey, I went with a little West Hollywood-based local company called, with a nice cheap little $9.95/month telnet-only shell account. I'd have my mail server reflect copies of my email there so I could read and reply to email while I was away from my home machine, plus I could do all sorts of other useful things as well.

Thing is ... Rexx had lots of problems. On and off Usenet news feed, for one (they're on their fourth since I've been with them), and most annoyingly, they've been bouncing mail. I'd get my emails at home, but the copies I was reflecting over to Rexx would bounce 'cause their goddamn mail server was down AGAIN, making people think I hadn't gotten their email at all. Today Wes said, "I gave up mentioning the bounces a long time ago. I was getting tired of getting a delivery failure notification almost every time I e-mailed you."

This is bad. And yesterday they bounced my email for the last time. I dumped Rexx this morning, and signed up with Panix. That'll cost me an extra 5¢ per month; I think I can afford it.

Rexx, if you can't get your shit together, it's time to hang it up.

John Ashcroft's perilous nipples.   An article from today's "Morning Fix":

Sometimes it's the small stabs of meaty, ugly irony that provide the strongest jolts of pleasure, the most potent whiffs of toe-curling perspective and soul-curdling karmic vinegar.

Sometimes it's stories as tiny and seemingly insignificant as Attorney General and noted McCarthy sycophant John Ashcroft, a ferociously religious and wildly troubled, apparently sexless, desperately conservative ball of walking disgust with no discernable pulse but that's just an opinion, ordering his very own Justice Department to spend $8,000 to purchase heavy blue drapes to cover the two large, noble, partially naked statues that have adorned the department's Great Hall since the 1930s.

Because he doesn't like to be photographed in front of them, is why. Because they're partially naked. Because the female statue, the Spirit of Justice, has a single, full, apparently very lawless breast exposed, unashamed and openly nipply and dwarfing our dear militant anti-everything Power Ranger when he's trying to look all serious and asexual and tough.


Quotes of the day.   "It sometimes occurs to me that of all the indignitities the Acadians of Louisiana have had visited upon them -- being booted out of Nova Scotia, being ridiculed as rubes and swamp rats by neighboring Anglophones for a couple of centuries, being ridiculed for speaking their own language in the schoolyard -- nothing has been as deeply insulting as what restaurants outside South Louisiana present as Cajun food."

-- Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker, January 28, 2002. (Yeah you rite.)

"And do you know those ads for The Olive Garden which show big, noisy Italian-American families all talking over one another and picking food off each other's plates? Well, my family is nothing like that."

-- Jonno, January 28, 2002. (Might I add that I wonder what self-respecting Italian-American family would be caught dead in an Olive Garden anyway? Madonn' ...)

  Tuesday, January 29, 2002
When stoners do something useful instead of sitting around stoned ...   they invent virtual pot. Who said getting high was a waste of time?

Fun with Flash.   Y'know, sometimes I feel like this guy, especially at work. (Gee, he would've come in handy when I had to draw walk cycles in animation class, way back when ...)

Bite my Lott, suck my Daschle.   Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle accuses the Bush administration of "Enronizing" the economy -- raiding retirement and health funds to enrich the affluent. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott fired back with his own new verb: "Daschle-ize."

Or, as the SF Gate "Morning Fix" describes the war of non-words:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle accuses the Bush administration of "Enronizing" the economy -- raiding retirement and health funds to enrich the affluent. Senate Minority Leader and noted sexless lump of hair dye and pig gristle Trent Lott, fired back with his own new verb: "Daschle-ize," meaning to raise taxes and coin unclever terms that pretty much any 5-year-old would agree is childish and lame especially since he didn't think of it first which makes him a copycat loser dinkweed.

Daschle fired back with the term "Lott-a-palooza," which presumably means to dream about being a real human and also to regularly gyrate your creaky hips in front of Congress' large reflective windows when you think no one's watching and thereby nauseate small children and force-sterilize any female in a 500-meter radius for a month. Lott then came up with "Daschle-whacker," which was quickly followed by Daschle's "Lott-itis," then "Daschlectomy" and "Trentuberculosis." Then they rolled around on the ground punching and kicking and squealing and all the other dirty little snot-nosed boys gathered 'round and cheered and picked their noses and voted to prolong the war and quadruple the sinister homeland security budget because they're all paranoid kowtowing locksteppers with tiny penises.

"Senate Minority Leader and noted sexless lump of hair dye and pig gristle Trent Lott"? *guffaw*

Quote of the day.   "President Bush seems determined to resurrect the disastrous borrow-and-spend policies of his Republican predecessors, Ronald Reagan and dear old Dad. The U.S. already spends more on its military than all other nations on this planet combined; where is this money going? If $331 billion a year is insufficient to defend the country from a dozen guys armed with razor blades, then I'm afraid another $48 billion isn't going to help.

"Bush's fiscal irresponsibility has already caused him to come up an astonishing $106 billion short on this year's budget; rather than further cripple the U.S. economy with yet another ill-advised spending binge, Bush should tell hios cronies in the Carlyle Group, Lockheed and Boeing: 'Sorry, I already spent your $48 billion on that tax cut I gave you last year.'"

-- Randall Smith of San Diego, in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2002

  Monday, January 28, 2002
Rober Ebert with more on aspect ratios.   As a tie-in to our little tale of Willy Wonka and the Confusing Aspect Ratios, here's an article from Ebert entitled "Movies the way God meant them to be", where he begins, "What do Fred Astaire's feet, Kirk Douglas' dimple and Willy Wonka's hat have in common? Boneheaded studios and incompetent projectionists are cropping them out of the picture." Apparently one film festival showing "An American in Paris" ran it with a 1.65:1 matting and lens, thereby chopping off Gene Kelly's feet in the dance scenes (the film was originally shot at 1.33:1, or 4:3 ... thanks to Ray for the link).

But you can call me "Merry".   Hi. Meriadoc Deepdelver here. Would you like to know what you'd be called if you lived in the Shire? Well, if you've got time between second breakfast and elevenses, find out!

How MusicVision are going to screw me out of what little money they already owe me.   Why did I ever bother experimenting with banner ads? *insert utterance of foul curses here*

Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 16:12:43 -0500
Subject: MusicVision Accounting Memo




RE: 2001 Bad Debt Write-off

As part of our year-end accounting review, MusicVision is calculating its 2001 bad debt write-off.

Due to the unusually poor economic climate, several of our advertisers filed for bankruptcy, and defaulted on their payments.

Accordingly, MusicVision is finalizing the bad debt amount attributable to each site and the method for recovering such bad debt. This will be communicated within the next 2 weeks.

The December Revenue posting, which will be posted by the end of this week, will NOT reflect this bad debt write-off.

PLEASE NOTE, a significant portion of this bad debt will be applied against December 2001 revenues.

We look forward to a successful 2002!

Oh please ... just go away already.

Quotes of the day.   "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, 1967

"Blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed."

-- Bruce Springsteen

  Friday, January 25, 2002
The "Willy Wonka" aspect ratio controversy.   I was excited to see "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", one of my favorite childhood movies, scheduled for DVD release several months ago. However, Wes and I were both extremely dismayed at the anouncement that it would be released in full-frame, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the size of a TV image. This is a major bone of contention for film lovers when it comes to DVD and video -- the image is cropped off at either end, and "pan-and-scanned" from side of the frame to the other. We much prefer the "letterbox" image, where the entire widescreen frame is shown, with black masking bars at teh top and bottom of the image on a 4x3 television.

Like many others, I refused to buy the full-screen DVD. Finally, monts later, Warner announced that a widescreen letterbox version would be released. Hooray!

We went to a film screening of "Wonka" at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, eager to see it on the big screen (which I hadn't since I was 10). Imagine our surprise, then, when we saw that the film was projeted in the Academy 1.37:1 ratio! (This is very similar to the TV aspect ratio.) What's up with that?!

Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the evening screening, which also featured the film's director Mel Stuart for Q&A after the film. We were at the matinée, so Wes sent of an email of inquiry to the Film Society. Here's the first reply:

Thanks for your note. You know, I wasn't at the 7pm to ask the director that very question. We took a look at the print in 1:85 and it cropped a tremendous amount of information. There were no marks on the print as to aspect ratio.

George the projectionist told me that the frame lines were very narrow and it appeared to be a 1:37 print.

We elected to run it in 1:37 and were wondering the same as you. Unfortunately I guess the question wasn't posed to Mel Stuart so we don't know the intentions.


(Btw, 1:33 is actually silent film ratio and that of TV. When they added an optical soundtrack and format of Academy, the aspect changed to 1:37 which is the aspect of most of the prints we show.)

Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Within the hour came another email from Randy Carter, AFS president:

We were very concerned about this issue. When George Crittenden, our projectionist looked at the film on the bench, he saw that it had been photographed FULL FRAME. When he tested a reel with the 1:85 aperture plate, a lot of information was direction that someone had spent a long time setting up. We made the decision to show the film 1:37. We held our breath since the director would be in attendance for the evening performance.

We had a wonderful conversation with Mel Stuart in the lobby and he confirmed that he had indeed shot the film FULL FRAME although it has traditionally been shown 1:85 and minus a lot of image detail. In this case the old format was the appropriate one and he was delighted that we had made the effort to screen it that way.

Thanks for your interest and keen sense of detail... you are the audience we're aiming for.

As is usually NOT the case, the studio was right all along to release it in full-frame format. I wish someone had asked Mel about this in the first place! Now I'm thinking of trading in my widescreen version for the full-frame. They both have the same features, including a terrific 30-year retrospective documentary, and a commentary track done by all of the Wonka kids, now grown and in their 40s (which is brilliant and lots of fun).

By the way, if you live in Los Angeles (or Glendale, Burbank or Pasadena and environs) and you love movies, join the Alex Film Society. They're wonderful.

A few other Wonka-related links -- As corporate web sites go, Mr. Wonka's is worth a look. The Brunching Shuttlecocks rate the personalities of the Wonka kids. Some sound samples from the Gene Wilder fan site.

Live Louisiana music, tonight!   If you're stuck at home listening to Internet radio tonight (or if you're in New Orleans and can get WWOZ on your radio), here's a suggestion for later on:

WWOZ will be broadcasting live from the Best of the Beat Awards tonight (Friday, January 25) from 9:00 to midnight [Central time; 7-10pm Pacific; 0300-0600 GMT] . If you can't go the the Awards, then here is your chance to hear some of Louisiana's best musicians playing some of the world's rootsiest jazz, blues, zydeco and funk LIVE!

9:10 Rosie Ledet
9:30 Eddie Bo
10:10 Henri Smith
10:30 Anders Osborne
11:10 Mem Shannon

To Listen go to: or tune in to 90.7 FM in New Orleans and vicinity.

Offbeat Magazine's Best of the Beat Awards honors Louisiana musicians, bands and music businesses. The 2001 Best of the Beat Awards will be held Friday, January 25 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at Generations Hall, 310 Andrew Higgins Blvd. in the Warehouse District. Tickets will be available to the public to attend the awards ceremony with two stages of music and food from over 20 New Orleans restaurants. Artists scheduled to perform at this celebration of local music include Eddie Bo, Bonerama, Papa Grows Funk, Rosie Ledet, Anders Osborne and many more. Ticket proceeds benefit the WWOZ Building Fund. More information and general ticket information is available at 944-4300 or at

Find your corrupted CDs here.   A fellow named Fat Chuck (no relation) has on his web site a database of data-corrupted CDs from the major labels; corrupted deliberately, of course, in the interests of "copy protection". Very handy.

I'm pleased to report that I own almost none of the CDs listed. Of the few I do have (Billy Bragg and Wilco's "Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2", the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" compilation, the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack and Pete Yorn's "musicforthemorningafter"), I haven't had problems with a single one. They play fine in my Mac, and I've successfully ripped tracks from all of them for listening on my iPod and for inclusion in my year-end "Best Of" mix CDs.

Ill treatment?   Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite claims that the Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are being treated the same way he was treated while a hostage. I wasn't aware that these prisoners at Guantanamo are being chained to the wall in darkened cells and beaten on the soles of their feet. Are they? (via Eliot)

Today's Googlewhack:   (Okay, every now and again I come across a meme I don't mind spreading.) Ahem ... macaw colonoscopy, for a score of 8,143,320,000. Yesterday I had found "cockatiel colonoscopy", but in the space of one day that combination went from one Google hit to two. Pity, that, as it had a far better score. Feck! (via Matt).

  Thursday, January 24, 2002
The proper uses for technology.   All of our scientific advances have led, with great joy, to this:  a wristwatch that detects the location of the four nearest pubs, and the wearer's distance from them. Two pints o' Guinness and a packet o' crisps, please!

  Wednesday, January 23, 2002
Spam from Microsoft?   Okay, not really, as it turns out. (Damn ... a perfectly good rant, wasted.) The very spam-like email I got from MS certainly looked like spam, and my highly annoyed reaction burbled right out because there is precedent -- Microsoft have already telephone spammed me after freely admitting looking up my phone number in the whois database, as I reported earlier.

Glen informed me via email that the above type of email is "a pretty standard Microsoft newsletter", and that he used to get them all the time. You have to sign up for them at Microsoft, and he says they're pretty good about removing you if you don't want them any more. "My suspicion is that someone signed you up for one of their lists," says he. I have to confess that I was still skeptical, being inclined to believe that they're spamming contact addresses mined from whois 'cause they've already done it with phone numbers, and I generally decline to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then Michael called and assured me that he got the same email, because he had opted in to the list, and that Microsoft was very good about netiquette, and would never sign up someone for such a list, and is very good about honoring opt-out links and requests. (He was, however, unable to explain the telephone spamming incident.) His conclusion was the same as Glen's -- someone manually signed me up for a Microsoft mailing list, apparently as some extremely lame kind of practical joke. Pretty stupid, if you ask me.

Quote of the day.   "Uh, Ari? We beg to differ."

-- Mike Doonesbury, in reply to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's (real-life) contention that the American public couldn't be less interested in the Enron scandal.

  Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Ugh.   Go home, Gennifer. Or at least, move it to Bourbon Street.

Capsule film review of the week.   Instead of seeing "Gosford Park" or "A Beautiful Mind" this weekend, we saw "Le Pacte des Loups" ("Brotherhood of the Wolf"). Wes' and my capsule comment ... it's the "Godfather III" of 18th-Century French anachronistic martial-arts Church conspiracy monster movies. It was overly long, and had no idea what it really wanted to be. In short ... a huge mess. Avoid.

  Friday, January 18, 2002
Drink up!   From the New Scientist, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Alcohol * ... (but were too drunk to ask).

Six Blind Women and the Elephant.   Judith Lewis, in the LA Weekly, writes about what the Koran really says about women, an issue that goes much deeper than Laura Bush might think.

"The Koran says it very clearly: Beat women," says Parvin Darabi, an Iranian-American activist and author of Rage Against the Veil, which she wrote after her 54-year-old sister self-immolated in a Tehran square to protest the treatment of women in Islamist Iran. "It says, If your wife does not obey you, first give her notice, then separate your bed from her, then beat her. What is ambiguous about that?"

Nothing -- Chapter 4, Verse 34 does indeed say exactly that. Then again, at least one feminist scholar of Judaism, Naomi Graetz, contends that Maimonides said the same thing in the Mishneh Torah. And Exodus 21:7, notes an Internet satirist who responded with an open letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger s Leviticus-based proscription of homosexual Jews, gives fathers the right to sell their daughters into slavery ("In this day and age, what would be a fair price for her?" asked the writer). Neither is the New Testament perfect when it comes to women: The influential apostle Paul, whose letters make up 11 books of the modern, agreed-upon version of the Christian Bible, advises Timothy that women should be forbidden to teach. And [Lt. Col. Martha] McSally [currently suing the military for forcing her to wear a veil when off-base in Saudi Arabia], who claims that covering herself with the traditional Saudi Arabian abaya conflicts with her own religious practice, might be surprised to learn that Paul also advised women to cover their heads with a veil.

Most Jews and Christians have long accepted that the practice of religion and its historical origins bear only a passing resemblance to each other: There's very little in Jerry Falwell's rantings, for instance, that sounds like Jesus Christ. But many Muslims manage to avoid the text, too: When I ask a Sufi woman, a whirling dervish whose sect traditionally accords more power to women than Sunnah or Shi'a traditions, about a specific passage in the Koran that values the testimony of two women as equal to that of one man, she is outraged and insulted. "Where did you come up with that?" she scolds. "I ve never heard of such a thing. You d better check your facts." When I tell her where in the book the passage could be found, she angrily and abruptly ends the conversation.


Opening Band Upstaged By Pre-Show Music.   From The Onion:

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vic Taybacks, opening for Superchunk at 400 Bar Tuesday, were upstaged by the pre-show music on the venue's sound system. "While we were setting up our stuff, [Hsker D's] Flip Your Wig was playing, and the crowd was going nuts," said Vic Taybacks bassist Geoff Davis. "Then we started playing, and it got quiet and everybody just sort of drifted off to the bar." The band has previously been upstaged by Queen's Greatest Hits and the Repo Man soundtrack.
Infographic: Features of the new iMac.   Um, also from The Onion. But hey, we have to link to this, 'cause the Time magazine article left out lots of nifty features and The Onion tells it all. My favorite:

Sprouts set of cybernetic insectoid legs and scuttles away when threatened.
Why you should buy your own domain.   You can get one of your own, with good customer service, from (based in France) for [12 (ten bucks and some change).

From: customer care <>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 14:58:44 -0800
Subject: Important AT&T Broadband Internet Information

Dear Valued Customer,

In an effort to keep you fully informed and to provide excellent customer service, we are writing to notify you about upcoming changes that will impact your AT&T Broadband Internet service.

As a result of a legal settlement, AT&T Broadband is required to discontinue use of the domain. Therefore, as of March 15, 2002, your based e-mail and personal Web pages will be changed to Additionally, customers with an e-mail and personal Web Page domain will also change to


Look Ma, I'm illuminated!   The Steve Jackson Games web site chose the "Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide! environmental activism page on my site as their Illuminated Site of the Week. (I didn't write it; it was forwarded to me by a colleague on the Chefs' Professional Mailing list several years ago.)

  Thursday, January 17, 2002
Well, that's it.   Can't say I'm surprised. Actually, it should have ended last season. I hope they wrap things up properly.

Feck.   Great. Just great. (Then again, as Wes pointed out, "Yeah? How many Springboard modules did you buy for it?" Touch.)

However, on the PDA front,   This looks interesting, as does this in particular. (Yes, Chuck wants a 20GB iPod.) What I'd love to see from Apple is some integration of PDA-type characteristics into the iPod. Apparently its OS is set up for it.

  Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Best. Spam. Ever.   Y'know, I wouldn't mind all the spam if it were all this entertaining.

Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 21:45:01 +0100 (CET)
From: (Frank Young)
To: zea***, rme***, r***,
     tra***, mpo***, chu**@***
Subject: Time Travelers PLEASE HELP!!!!

If you are a time traveler or alien disguised as human and or have the technology to travel physically through time I need your help!

My life has been severely tampered with and cursed!!
I have suffered tremendously and am now dying!

I need to be able to:

Travel back in time.

Rewind my life including my age back to 4.

Be able to remember what I know now so that I can prevent my life from being tampered with again after I go back.

I am in very great danger and need this immediately!

I am aware that there are many types of time travel, and that humans do not do well through certain types.

I need as close to temporal reversion as possible, as safely as possible. To be able to rewind the hands of time in such a way that the universe of now will cease to exist. I know that there are some very powerful people out there with alien or government equipment capable of doing just that.

If you can help me I will pay for your teleport or trip down here, Along with hotel stay, food and all expenses. I will pay top dollar for the equipment. Proof must be provided.

Please be advised that any temporal device that you may employ must account for X, Y, and Z coordinates as well as the temporal location. I have a time machine now, but it has limited abilitys and is useless without a vortex. If you can provide information on how to create vortex generator or where I can get some of the blue glowing moon crystals this would also be helpful.

Also if you are one of the very, very, few beings with the ability to edit the universe PLEASE REPLY!!!

Only if you have this technology and can help me please send me a (SEPARATE) email to:

Please do not reply if your an evil alien!

Please, dear readers, I implore you ... do not help this guy. I really don't want the hands of time rewound in such a way that the universe of now will cease to exist. There are still books I haven't yet read, and I'm saving for a house.

That's one big whoops.   I certainly wouldn't want to be the guy who was responsible for this appalling mistake. Fortunately, I never would have been. Yeesh.

  Tuesday, January 15, 2002
New Gumbo Pages content partner ... Chef Emeril Lagasse!   I'd much rather have him help me cook than watch him in a sitcom.

So here's Chef, to the rescue. Check out the new little graphic box featuring Chef's smiling face, both on the Creole and Cajun Recipe Page as well as in the right-hand sidebar of this page, just beneath the "Let's Eat!" section (or follow this link), and with one click you'll get a little pop-up window with a different recipe from Chef Emeril's test kitchen, every single day. Pretty cool, eh?

Ding dong, the ads are dead.   Some of you may have noticed that a little over a year ago, I placed (*shudder*) banner ads on certain portions of my site (primarily the most heavily accessed recipes). They were through a company called MusicVision that initially approached me because of my fairly popular music-oriented pages for Uncle Tupelo, Wilco and Son Volt. I hated having ads on here, but I was at a loss to think of any other ways for this site to make even enough money to break even. Plus, the revenue from these ads (a dying market, to be sure) was dwindling every month to the point where I didn't think it was worth it. Get a load of this:

MONTH		AVERAGE CPM (rate per thousand ad impressions)
-----		-----------

09/2000		$.46.6
10/2000		$.48.8
11/2000		$.46.8
12/2000		$.33.9
01/2001		$.22.3
02/2001		$.18.3
03/2001		$.23.1
04/2001		$.11.4
05/2001		$.19.7
06/2001		$.32.3
07/2001		$.28.5
08/2001		$.16.4
09/2001		$.15.3
10/2001		$.12.9
11/2001		$.11.8
Problem was, I had to do all kinds of silly legal paperwork to break the contract, then wait 90 days.

The other day I got this email from them.

Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 12:24:49 -0500
Subject: IMPORTANT MusicVision Network Message - re: 468 Inventory

Dear Site,

Over the last few months, revenues from banner inventory has declined considerably forcing MusicVision to evaluate our 468 Banner Network. Many of the banners that you are currently seeing are $0 - $0.10 CPM banners. Unfortunately, our serving costs associated with delivering these creatives have not declined, and are well above $.10 CPM, forcing us to cut inventory.

Given this, we intend to terminate our Advertising Agreement with your site(s) effective Monday, January 14th. At this time, your ad code will be invalidated. Should you fail to remove our ad code from your site, it will serve blank images. You will receive all revenues generated under your Network Agreement up until January 14th.

These moves, while difficult at times, have helped MusicVision maintain its fiscal stability which has remained strong since the company's inception in 1997. Should the demand for 468 banner inventory improve, we hope to work together in the near future.


MusicVision, Inc.

"Dear Site." How touching.

Of course, they get to break their end of the contract in an instant, whenever they want, but if I were to want to break it, it involves paperwork and a 90-day wait. Pfeh.

This is good news, though. I gleefully removed the ads, and now this site is once again banner ad-free. I humbly apologize and beg your indulgence for the 16 months that they sullied this site. (The pitiful amount of money really wasn't worth it.)

Fortunately, lots of folks have stepped in with donations to the tip jar, which has helped tremendously. Thanks to each and every one of you who tipped over the last several months, and thanks to everyone else who hasn't done it yet but plans to!

  Monday, January 14, 2002
Yeesh.   They're already starting to refer to Stephen Ambrose, New Orleans' own darling of the history publishing biz, as "The Plagiarist".

Be a pack rat sometimes.   I've been accused of being one, and it's true, I'm guilty ... there's far too much crap I need to throw away. Sometimes, though, there are great rewards to being a pack rat, at least for the smaller stuff that doesn't take up so much room. The other night I reached into a drawer and took out a stack of postcards that friends of mine had sent me from around the world -- part of a somewhat larger pile of correspondence that I'd saved over the years -- and spent over an hour going through them.

I'm so very glad I never threw this stuff away.

The oldest one I could find was from early 1982, all the way up to ones I'd gotten last year. I marveled at some of the memories, I frequently laughed my ass off ... and a couple of times I cried. There were some from friends with whom I've completely lost touch (I must remedy that this year), and I found both postcards and birthday cards from a few friends who aren't here anymore (like from my friend Jeff, who died of lymphoma several years ago, in his early thirties).

I found one postcard that Deirdre O'Donoghue had sent me from Paris on October 30, 1990. Those of you who recognize that name will understand why I treasure this one, and why I'm glad I kept it. I hope she won't mind my sharing it with you.

Tuesday morning, 30 October.

Well Chuck, I thought of writing this in French (I've been delighted at how well and quickly it's come back to me!), but decided not. Found a swell local band called VRP that I think you'll like -- sort of skiffle-y, bluegrassy with French music hall roots & a deliciously warped sense of humour. The Waterboys' show here was superb! Rocking. And Prefab Sprout in London were just celestial. I've been so happy, and I'm so rested.

See you soon,

Don't ever throw away correspondence.

  Saturday, January 12, 2002
Big toque to fill.   The New Orleans Menu Daily reports that the Brennans have named a new Executive Chef at Commander's Palace, to replace the late Jamie Shannon:

Tory McPhail was named Executive Chef at Commander's Palace. He takes over the large toque left behind by long-time chef Jamie Shannon, who died in November.

Tory worked with the Brennans for about nine years, beginning with a stint at the Palace Cafe. After some time at Commander's, he most recently has been at the new Commander's Palace in Las Vegas. He's originally from a small town in Washington State. That represents a coastal switch, since his two predecessors both came from New England.

"The crew was very positive when we told them we'd picked Tory," said Ti Martin, who runs Commander's with her cousin Lally Brennan. "He's a good guy and we think he's the right one."

Tom adds, "Of course, there's no telling what differences this will make at Commander's, but I doubt there'll be anything drastic. Momentum is very powerful over there, even though chefs have always been encouraged to be innovative."

Black-eyed peas, New Year's Day and good luck.   Many of us never know the story behind some of our traditions; we just carry them on. Here's a little bit more about eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck the rest of the year. In some parts of the country the mixture of black-eyed peas and rice is called "Hoppin' John" -- courtesy of John Thorne's Outlaw Cook site, here's the most traditional Hoppin' John recipe, and the story behind the dish.

  Friday, January 11, 2002
Jesus, I'm such a lemming...   B8 d++ t++ k s- u f i o+ x-- e l- c--.

Fun with spam.   Who said that spam only advertised worthless products and services?

Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 07:56:46 -0300 (GMT+3)
Subject: Bust Enhancement!

Formulario preenchido por ( on Friday, January 11, 2002 at 07:56:46
: Increase Bust Size Safely And Naturally In Just Two Months Have you heard about the latest rage,Capsules and Cream that will increase cup size?Well, It's True!Increases can be realized within six to eight weeks by takingone capsule every morning and one capsule every night.It is that simple!In addition, using the all-natural breastcream will not only firm, moisturize, and fade stretch marks,but will contribute to natural breast growth.The growth is permanent and there is absolutely no need foradditional usage after desired results are achieved. Join the thousands and thousands of women whohave experienced these amazing changes.To Opt-in and receive more info:Hit REPLY and type "IMAGINE" in the >SUBJECT< Box.-

Bigger boobs with a pill! Fulfilling the dream of every straight American male and his breast fixation! What more could you ask?!

Today's most "inspired" spam:

From: Tim Charter <>
Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 08:27:18
Subject: Christian Golfers Wanted

We are looking for Christian Golfers who love to play the Game of Golf and will Play With Purpose!
We have a Special Offer on Inspired Golf Balls. Buy Today your Inspired Golf Balls and receive Free an Inspirational Golf Handbook!
Membership is FREE !
3% of every purchase you make will be donated to the church or ministry of your choice.
With your response today you will be entered to win a golf vacation for four!
If you would like more information send your request for information to

Further transmissions to you by the sender of this email may be stopped at no cost to you by sending a reply to this email address with the word "remove" in the subject line.

Your email address was obtained from an opt-in list Reference # 10023387. If you have previously unsubscribed and are still receiving this message, you may email our Abuse Control Center at, or Call us at 1-888-763-2497, or write us at:, 177A Old South Path, Melville NY 11747"

I don't know what an "inspired golf ball" is, but as Wes said, if their courses have holy water hazards, we've got to check it out!

(Psst. Tim. About that "we got your address from an opt-in list" thing ... it's a sin to tell a lie.)

  Thursday, January 10, 2002
Chef Emeril is coming...   So let's hope that that NBC sitcom is gone for good, and Chef is back to what he does best ... cooking! Keep an eye on these pages, as a new feature is being added. I'll let you know more when it happens.

In the meantime, Chef had his people have been kind enough to wish us good luck for the New Year by providing his recipe for the one dish you need to assure you'll have good luck all through the coming year. Why, black-eyed peas, of course! (Remember, it's black-eyed peas for luck, and cabbage for money.)

Provided by Chef Emeril Lagasse

     1 pound dried black eyed peas (rinsed and picked over)
     5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
     1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into chunks
     2 tablespoons butter
     1 medium onion, chopped
     1 cup chopped celery
     1 cup chopped carrots
     Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation instructions:
Soak the peas for one hour, rinse and put in a large pot.

Cover with water, bring to a boil, then drain the beans in a colander and discard the water. Put the beans back in the pot and add the broth and pork. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

In a large skillet melt butter and add the onions. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add celery and carrots and continue cooking until they are soft. Add to the bean mixture and simmer for one hour. Optional -- You can serve with a tablespoon of ketchup placed in the center. This adds color and a nice flavor.

Chuck's method -- Dice 8 strips of bacon. In the large skillet, fry the bacon until it's not-quite-crispy. Remove the bacon and add to the pot with the pork and beans. Drain off most of the bacon fat, leaving a tablespoon or so. Then add the butter, onions and continue with Chef Emeril's recipe from there. The bacon adds a nice smoky flavor, and I'm sure Chef would approve the additional pork products. As he says ... "Pork fat rules!"

So you covet an iPod, but you use Windows.   Get EphPod, freeware that allows you to use an iPod with your Wintel computer. (Also requires a program that allows you to read Mac drives via Windows, such as Mediafour's MacDrive). Mediafour also make a similar presumably non-free program called XPlay (formerly XPod).

If you really wanna get intense, here's a page that tells you how to use an iPod with Linux.

Caganer origami.   If you read Tuesday's little ditty about caganeres (Spain's little statues of pooping people) and covet your own, look no further! No trip to Catalonia is necessary ... just get a piece of paper and make your own.

(Thanks to John M. for sending the link!)

Yes, but when can it do Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian and Ferengi?   Ectaco, Inc. gives us the world's first universal translator:  an English-French-German-Spanish phrase bank with multi-language voice recognition.

Oh dear.   You'd think that Maya Angelou would be above this sort of thing.

  Tuesday, January 8, 2002
Brass balls the size of doorknobs.   One of my favorite cartoons is Aaron McGruder's "The Boondocks", which has been particularly brilliant since September 11. For example, here's a bit from the Thanksgiving Day strip, in which a black grandfather sits at dinner with his two grandsons, one of which, "9-year-old would-revolutionary" Huey, is asked to say grace:

Huey:  Ahem ... In this time of war against Osama bin Laden and the oppressive Taliban regime ... we are thankful that our leader isn't the spoiled son of a powerful politician from a wealthy oil family who is supported by religious fundamentalists, operates through clandestine organizations, has no respect for the democratic electoral process, bombs innocents, and uses war to deny people their civil liberties. Amen.

Grandfather:  This is the last time you say grace, boy.

In a recent L.A. Weekly article, McGruder says that he was prepared to lose his career over the 9/11-related strips. For this especially, in addition to his superb writing and cartooning, he has my enormous respect.

Hey, everybody poops.   Even Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Today's "Morning Fix" presented me with an article whose first few paragraphs I had to read twice, and then I had to double-check the URL to make sure I was reading the Chronicle and not The Onion.

Placing statuettes of defecating people in Christmas Nativity scenes is a tradition so old, so strong and so widely enjoyed in the Catalonian region of Spain that even the Roman Catholic Church doesn't dare try to ban it.

So it perhaps should be no surprise that while an exhibit of the figurines in a Napa, Calif., museum sparked angry denunciations from Roman Catholics in the United States, Catalonians couldn't understand why critics couldn't appreciate a little irreverent fun.

"Unfortunately, there are intolerant people who are offended by any little thing," said Josep Maria Joan, director of the Toy Museum of Catalonia. His museum has a permanent collection of the figurines, known as "caganers."

Those wacky Spaniards.

  Monday, January 7, 2002
Luxo, III.   Drool.

Carnival time!   Last night was Twelfth Night (a.k.a., the Twelfth Day of Christmas), marking the end of that season and the official beginning of Carnival season in New Orleans, leading up to the madness that we call Mardi Gras. The first groups to celebrate are the Twelfth Night Revelers and the Phunny Phorty Phellows (with their traditional streetcar ride), and that's already done with. Now it's time to get busy.

We've got a King Cake party to plan. Gotta call Accent Annex and Randazzo's Bakery!

If you want to plan your own, read the above links, as well as a back issue of the New Orleans Menu Daily from a year ago, where Tom Fitzmorris talks about his favorite king cakes (Gambino's, Maurice's French Bakery, Randazzo's, Victoria's Café and Bakery, and the now-closed McKenzie's), plus a recipe to make your own.

Unbelievably pathetic losers with no lives.   That would be John Guth (32) and Jeff Tweiten (24), who since January 1 have been camped out in "line" outside the Cinerama Theatre in Seattle so that they could have the "widely coveted first and second planes in line" outside the theatre for the opening of "Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones" ... four-and-a-half months from now. And neither they nor the theatre's management even know for sure if the film will be playing there.

Feckin' eejits.

(To the theatre manager's credit, he is declining to allow them to use the theatre's bathroom during their idiotic self-imposed ordeal. "We don't encourage anyone to spend five months outside a movie theater.")

  Friday, January 4, 2002
OffBeat's Best Louisiana CDs of 2001.   Despite my having come up with a playlist for a "Best of 2001" show on my radio program last night, the actual list is still incomplete. Close, but I got a bunch of stuff over Christmas that I haven't listened to yet, so the final list still needs some tweaking.

In the meantime, check out the "Best of 2001" list from OffBeat, the Louisiana music magazine. They restrict the list to CDs by Louisiana artists, and there's tons of great stuff in there (an a fair amount of overlap with my own proto-list). They started with 300 albums and carefully winnowed it down to this list of "exemplary works".

Say hello to the rumor mill.   Macworld is on Monday. Something's going to happen. Nobody knows what, but Apple, for once, is feeding the rumor mill like crazy. A rundown of the slogans that have quite uncharacteristically appeared on their own web site:

This one is big. Even by our standards.

Beyond the rumor sites. Way beyond.

It's like a backstage pass to the future.

Count the days. Count the minutes. Count on being blown away.

To go where no PC has gone before.
I feel like Heywood Floyd, talking to the Dave Bowman entity in "2010" ... "What? What's going to happen?"   "Something wonderful."

The rumor mill is working overtime, and some of it's getting really absurd. Don't get me wrong, I love speculating as much as the next guy, and wondering what's going to come out (my favorite speculations so far come via Damien). By this point, though, I think we all just need to relax over the weekend ... and wait and see what happens. (With all those countdown quotes on their site, Apple are definitely fecking with our heads. This had better be good!)

"Nick Carter disappoints already shattered nation."   A little gem from today's SF Gate "Morning Fix":

Backstreet Boy Nick Carter was arrested on suspicion of refusing to follow police officers' orders to leave a Florida nightclub after a fight broke out. The youngest of the quickly fading pop group at age 21, Carter was charged with a misdemeanor count of resisting/opposing a law enforcement officer without violence, of being an incredibly mediocre singer, and also of being not nearly as cute in person as all those airbrushed videos and posters would have you believe.

He was handcuffed, placed in a squad car, released on his own recognizance, and allowed to continue assisting with his band's rapid New-Kids-on-the-Block-esque downward spiral toward the welcoming maw of the pop culture dustbin, which by most all account absolutely cannot be followed soon enough by the glorious drug-addicted incestuous flameout of 'N Sync.

Heh. The Smoking Gun, one of my favorite websites, actually has his arrest documents. The police report lists a lone witness, Jennifer Guggino, who described the earth-shattering event thusly:

"The cops arrested him, put him in handcuffs, and then put him in the police car. Nick wasn't belligerent, but he started bawling. He said, 'You just want to arrest a Backstreet Boy. I've never been arrested. I don't know what to do!' He was crying hard. Tears were streaming down his face. People were laughing at him. The cops were chuckling."
Poor baby.

George Lucas makes himself seem even sillier.   Speaking of boy bands, it seems that our Lucasfilm visionary, while filming his next Star Wars opus, has agreed to give cameo roles to the five members of NSync. As if Jar Jar wasn't bad enough.

Maybe the chunky one with the awful goatee can get eaten by a bantha. That'd be cool.

Quotes of the day.   Both courtesy of characters from Fox's "King of the Hill", via my friend Mary, who used them to frame an astonishing 41,781 bytes of New Orleans food porn she just sent me.

"I always wanted to eat fried dough in the most corrupt city in the world."

"The Louisiana diet will kill a man as surely as a sword."
  Thursday, January 3, 2002
My favorite films of 2001.   End-of-the-year listmania. I love it. Wes made the point that he usually forgoes his list until February or March, after all the nominations come out and he catches up with everything he missed last year. Point taken, so I'm saving a spot for something I haven't seen yet. I'm still working on my albums list, and I hope to have that up by tomorrow. Until then, some listy goodness ...

THE BEST - Tough going, but if I had to narrow it to 10, these are the ones that did it for me, the most brilliant of the movies I saw last year.

Amores Perros
The Deep End
Ghost World
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Man Who Wasn't There
Moulin Rouge
Mulholland Drive
The Others
Presque Rien (Come Undone)

Plus ... I'm saving a spot for The Royal Tenenbaums, which I had planned to see before the end of '01 but didn't get around to it, and I suspect that it will end up here after I do. This is the first time I've put a movie on the list on faith ... we'll see if it stays here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS - I liked these a lot too, so we can call these "second-favorites".

The Dish
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Hearts in Atlantis
In the Bedroom
Jeepers Creepers (Okay, okay, a guilty pleasure...)
Monsters, Inc.
THE WORST - The winners of the "What Were They Thinking of?" and "Who Green-Lit This?" Awards... The thing that kills me about this list is that I was let down this year by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Kevin Smith and Cameron Crowe.

A.I. (The biggest disappointment of the year, in that it originated as a Stanley Kubrick project, had flashes of brilliance and many memorable images, but was a failure. Steven Spielberg did not understand the source material.)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Kevin, let's just forget this movie ever existed. The flat-out worst film I saw in 2001. Two hours of my life, gone forever.)

Jurassic Park III (Some nifty dinosaurs, more annoying kids, and an even worse script than "Jurassic Park II: The Lost World". Lest we forget, people ... bad screenplay = bad movie.)

Pearl Harbor (Appalling historical revisionism, horrible bloat, an even more horrible screenplay, a wretched mess that can't even be saved by the presence of the radiant Josh Hartnett ... all for, as Roger Ebert said, "a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire them." Well put, Rog.)

Planet of the Apes (What the feck?!)

"Vanilla Sky" (Actually, it's the first film I saw in 2002, but it was a 2001 release. Execrable. Cameron, Cameron, Cameron. Wes' comment was something like, "My God, what an unbelievable train wreck." I simply shook my head and summarized the movie thusly:  "No." To make up for this, I now have to go out and buy the Special Edition DVD of "Almost Famous".)

Cooking with spirits.   I was chatting about food with a cow-orker yesterday, and the subject of vodka sauces came up. He wondered what the point of such a thing was, as vodka is by definition flavorless, odorless and colorless. Flavored or infused vodkas, sure ... but why put plain tasteless vodka in a pasta sauce (which is where you usually see it)?

I must admit I never gave it much thought; although I frequently cook with wine and spirits, I've never used vodka in a sauce or savory dish. A little Googling led me to one of my favorite food scientists, Shirley Corriher, explaining it all for you in an excellent article on cooking with spirits.

So why the vodka? Nigh-on flavorless vodka, when mixed with the milange of flavors from the other ingredients, must just disappear in the sauce, right? Well, almost right. Vodka, like other distilled spirits, beer and wine, contains a not-so-secret ingredient known to us all as alcohol, and alcohol, according to Shirley Corriher, the acclaimed food scientist, is a flavor enhancer: It grabs the flavors of all other ingredients in a dish and heightens them to the max.
Something to think about if you're stuck having to buy those awful flavorless supermarket tomatoes .. ugh. I'd use canned in a second before those. Grow your own if you can. And every now and again, think about the contents of your bar when you're cooking dinner.

Professional chefs might not be aware of the scientific attributes of alcohol, but they know that when they add spirits, something magical happens. Brandy brings a lush richness to a sauce; Scotch can add a wisp of smoke; Bourbon enhances dishes with vanilla; and rum coaxes out the fruitiness of a dish. But more than that, the alcohol brings together all the ingredients in almost any dish in perfect harmony.
Not to mention cocktails. Speaking of which, I've been meaning to try a dish called Oysters Sazerac for quite a while. We all know that oysters and anise go together wonderfully, but what about a sauce made with a heady anise-scented cocktail? Chef Kevin Curran (of the now-closed restaurant Flagons) made double-battered fried oysters, flambéed them with rye whiskey, Peychaud's and Angostura Bitters and Herbsaint, then napped them with a beurre blanc sauce. Hmm!

The worst movie of 2002.   Well, so far, anyway, although it's a 2001 release. We have a con-TEN-dah, ladies 'n gennulmen, right out of the gate on New Year's Day! Just to reiterate, it's the absolutely wretched mess they call ... "Vanilla Sky". Avoid it as you might avoid anaesthesia-free groin surgery.

  Wednesday, January 2, 2002
Happy New Year!   Hope the hangovers weren't too terribly bad yesterday.

Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Rye Whiskey.   Or, one of the best things to come out of 2001.

I had heard about this last year, but unfortunately I didn't find any during my April-May trip home. It seems that the Sazerac Company acquired the distillery in Kentucky that used to provide rye whiskey to the original Sazerac Coffeehouse on Exchange Alley in New Orleans in 1850. The marketing blurbs make it sound like putting this whiskey out had been the plan all along, but a story I heard in Wine Enthusiast said that the Sazerac folks were wandering through their warehouses and stumbled across barrels of old rye that they didn't even know they had. (This worries me, as I have to wonder if this whiskey will be an extremely limited edition.) The first batch came out recently, and is being marketed as Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, which I found for the relative bargain of $34.99 at Martin Wine Cellar in New Orleans.

This is an absolutely spectacular whiskey. It's got the depth and character of a Cognac, but with a mind-spinning symphony of aromas and spice flavors, from honey to vanilla to cinnamon and roasted coffee, nuts and black pepper. It's certainly fine enough to be drunk on its own, but it makes a Sazerac cocktail that is simply stunning. I'm actually going to have to experiment with ingredient proportions, as this whiskey is so powerful that it tends to overwhelm all else that may be mixed with it. In fact, I have to think about whether or not this whiskey is actually too good to be used in Sazeracs (probably not, but still...). Given that the first Sazeracs were made with Cognac, with a switch to rye in the middle of the 19th Century, it makes historical (and poetic, for this whiskey is liquid poetry) sense to have a Cognac-like rye as the basis for this King of Cocktails.

If you appreciate fine whiskeys, and if you're a Sazerac aficionado, you simply must seek out and find this rye. I'm pretty sure Martin does mail-order -- (800) 298-4274. For what it's worth, Whisky Magazine named Sazerac Rye its "American Whisky of the Year".

Sln leat, punt.   Today the Irish punt (pound) officially goes away, along with guilders, francs, lira, drachma, pesetas and marks. It's Euro time! (So far, so good.) It'll be fun and easy to spend the same currency around lots of Europe, but I'm really going to miss some of it... particularly the beautiful Irish pounds. (My friend Paul is currently visiting from Galway, and he's got different money to look forward to when he gets home.)

If you say "faith-based anything" to me, I'll clock you.   Here is a list of words banned for use in 2002, courtesy of Lake Superior State University, to which they refer as "Words and phrases BANISHED from the Queen's English for Mis-, Mal- or Over-Use, as well as General Uselessness."

Here are a couple of examples, with my (comments):

FAITH-BASED. ("Faith-based organizations" is just bullshit rhetoric to get around Constitutional restrictions of state-supported religion.)

SURGICAL STRIKE. "As in bombing a Red Cross building by mistake?" (How about a surgical-strike-ectomy?)

FRIG or FRIGGING. A sneaky way of getting a version of the dreaded "F-word" onto radio and TV. (Just say "feck".)

REALITY TV or REALITY-BASED TV. (It ain't.) "Banish the words, banish the shows, banish the people who came up with the shows, because there is nothing real about this form of television."

EVILDOER. (This is one of mine. Don't ever say this word.)

December 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, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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