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. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 11:15am PDT, 9/30/2002

If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author.
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Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002

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.

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You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

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)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete shows!)
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
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

   (A work in progress; Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Alcohol (and how to mix it)
   (David Wondrich)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

Bar Asterie
   (Martin Doudoroff)

DrinkBoy and the
   Community for the
   Cultured Cocktail
(Robert Hess, et al.)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (Kallisti et al.)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

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

My adventures on Mardi Gras Day 2002


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:

The Soul of a Chef, by Michael Ruhlman.

A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel.

At Swim, Two Boys, by Jamie O'Neill.

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
The Red Stick Ramblers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
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

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

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 this year:
(with ratings):

One Hour Photo (***-1/2)
Cube (***-1/2)
Jackie Brown (****)
The Good Girl (***-1/2)
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (****)
Signs (****)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (***-1/2)
Road to Perdition (****)
Men in Black II (**-1/2)
Notorious C.H.O. (****)
Reign of Fire (**-1/2)
Minority Report (****-1/2)
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (**-1/2)
The Bourne Identity (****)
Insomnia (***)
Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Spider-Man (***-1/2)
Donnie Darko (****)
Murder by Numbers
The Time Machine
Y Tu Mamá También
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (****)
Training Day (**-1/2)
A Beautiful Mind (**-1/2)
Gosford Park (****)
The Count of Monte Cristo (***)
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Black Hawk Down
Vanilla Sky (*-1/2)
2001: A Space Odyssey

Lookin' at da TV:

"Six Feet Under"
"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"Odyssey 5"
"The Simpsons"
"Iron Chef"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

Chuck's Daily Crawl (IE sidebar)

The BradLands
Considered Harmful
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jonno (on hiatus)
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
Simmer Stock
This Modern World
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wil Wheaton Dot Net

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

Must-reads: (progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (your stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs) (not the actual White House, but it should be)

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

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 4.0.1 on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS 9.2.2 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

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

  Monday, September 30, 2002
No need to get homesick.   Just don't live anywhere where you gotta make a long-distance call to talk to ya mamma, as many Cajuns in Vacherie, Louisiana believe. Excellent New York Times story (userid annoying, password annoying).

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 27, 2002
Yay!   Looks like Internet radio might be getting a reprieve. A new bill introduced yesterday introduced by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, aims to give webcasters a six month reprieve from online royalty rates set by Librarian of Congress last June until the matter can be studied further. Apparently many Congresspersons have been getting lots of feedback from their constituents who do not want Internet radio to be killed off.

Yay! Yay!   WXDU in Durham, North Carolina, is going back on the web-air! Now I can spend Sunday mornings listening to "Topsoil" again! Here's more on the latest developments in Internet radio from Save Our Streams.

Tibetan salsa?   Sure. It's called achar, and according to the Chowhounds, it's "vinegary, smoky and painfully hot." (Sounds great!) For more smokiness use chipotles instead of jalapeños.

Poaching pears.   Another neat tip from Chowhound. Given that poaching pears in good wine can get rather expensive, one of the 'hounds suggests approximating a good dessert wine for poaching by adding honey or maple syrup to a lesser white wine. You can also try broiling the pears with a bit of white wine and honey/maple syrup mixture. The resultant caramelized pears are said to be amazing. Save the expensive dessert wine for sipping along with this luscious dessert.

"Hello," he lied.   During last Wednesday's White House press briefing, reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press asked Press Secretary Ari Fleischer the same question six times in attempt to get a straight and truthful answer. Unfortunately for Mr. Fournier, that lying sack of steer manure couldn't give a straight or truthful answer to save his life.

Quote of the day.   War with Iraq. This time it's personal!

"There's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time."

-- U.S. President George W. Bush, speaking of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein

(Thanks for this one, Dule!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 26, 2002
They're tryin' to wash us away ...   New Orleans is pretty soggy today. I'm not entirely sure of the level of the flooding, but I'm hoping it's more like the May 3rd flood of 1978 than a hurricane. I haven't talked to anybody at home yet, but all I know so far is that it was just rain in Lafayette. I heard on NPR this morning that "parts of New Orleans are under several feet of water", but I'm hoping that part doesn't include my parents' house.

However, most New Orleanians, who are used to this sort of thing, remain resilient, as this AP story reported:

New Orleans' French Quarter, usually aglitter all night, was empty with many bar fronts boarded up before midnight. One of the open bars was Molly's at the Market, where about a dozen people holed up against the rain.

"It's all hardcore locals -- the people you knew would be here," said bartender Jolie Meaux.

"The owner specifically said we don't close -- ever -- unless they make us. Better to be stuck in a bar than at home watching TV."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Jaaaysis, I'm such an awful eejit.   Okay, so ... up at 6:30am, into work at 8, at work until 9:30pm. Then head home briefly, then head to Spaceland to see a fantastic band from Ireland called The Frames who aren't scheduled to hit the stage until 11:30, which is closer to midnight, and who don't finish until 1:15am. Some might call me crazy (in fact, one did). It was so, so worth it, though.

Last time I saw The Frames was at Whelan's in Dublin, about 10 years ago. They were amazing then, and are still amazing. Their sound has evolved quite a bit, with less of the anthemic rock songs of "Another Love Song" and more of the quieter, more contemplative (still with great noisy moments) of later albums like "For the Birds" and "Breadcrumb Trail". Glen Hansard is an amazing, passionate vocalist, and his guitar work builds from delicate melodies to raging walls of sound like a rougher-edged Kitchens of Distinction, plus Colm Mac an Iomaire's fiddle giving amazing texture to the sound ... oh yes. Seek out and find The Frames if you can, and here are a few incentives. Listen:

Fitzcarraldo (live, with Czech violinist Jan Hruby; MP3, full song)
Lay Me Down (RealAudio)
Santa Maria (RealAudio)
Rent Day Blues (RealAudio)
You Were Wrong (MP3)
Right Road (Wrong Road) (MP3)
And check out the entire "Another Love Song" album, which is available for download.
Good luck, Louisiana.   My folks and grandmother have headed for the hills, and my sisters, other relatives and friends are battening down their respective hatches. Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isidore is expected to his sometime in the wee hours of tonight, and I hope everyone's okay. It isn't expected to be a bad one, primarily just lots of rain and possible power outages, but there is worry that the flooding could be bad. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this one's easy.

Life is uncertain.   Eat dessert first!

This is just ... wrong.   Entering a single word into Google just for the hell of it lands one in the strangest places. Yesterday my cow-orker Brad and I discovered the existence of ... Velveeta fudge. Yes, the American loaf of plastic cheeseoid substance, with cocoa, as fudge. We were aghast, and thought it was a joke. Apparently not. (Faire le barph...)

Some incredibly sick and twisted part of me actually wants to try to make a batch of this ... just to see.

The Velveeta Rabbit.   No, not a Welsh rabbit variation, but a sort-of children's story. (Somehow I think that velveteen would be more edible. Velveeta couldn't possibly be real cheese anyway ...)

Do any of these words embarrass you?   "Are you embarrassed easily? I am! But it's nothing to worry about ... it's all part of growing up and being British. This course is designed to eliminate embarrassment, to enable you to talk freely about rude objects, to look at awkward and embarrassing things, and to point at people's privates. Lesson 1: Words. Do any of these words embarrass you?"

Shoe. Megaphone. Grunties. Wankel rotary engine. Spotted dick.
(I'm with 'em ... possibly the worst name for a dessert, ever. Still, I'm a stickler for tradition. I say let the dick stay!)

Okay, so the Space Station doesn't suck.   We just wanted to be perfectly clear on this. And can someone tell me why we don't have a supercool spiffy wheel-shaped space station like the one Kubrick had in 2001? It's 2002, after all.

Let us now praise bold and curious men.   It takes people like these to truly extend the breadth of human knowledge, to boldly go where no one has gone before, to answer the burning question, "What's inside a Magic 8-Ball anyway?" by dissecting one.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Good eats!   It was a weekend full of good eatin', although some of us didn't get to enjoy it as much as others. Saturday night we paid a visit to Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, sort of a casual, mini-Commander's Palace in, of all places, Downtown Disney in Anaheim. (The location is the main reason why we don't go more often.) However, since we had tickets to see Jonny Lang at the Anaheim House of Blues across the street, Brennan's was de rigueur for dinner.

They've got a tremendously exciting bar menu, chock-full of New Orleans specialties -- the Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, French 75, Milk Punch, Herbsaint Frappé Hurricane (with fresh juices) and lots more. I started with a Sazerac ("You must be from New Orleans," said the waitress. "Hardly anybody every orders that; I think it scares them." No need to be scared!), since this is one of the few places in southern California (outside my place and Cinnabar) where you can get one. Unfortunately, it wasn't all that great; not enough sugar or sugar syrup, not enough Peychaud's bitters and too much Angostura. It wasn't bad, though, I guess. My second drink was a mint julep, something I'm not usually inclined to order. It was even more disappointing, being very watery, regular ice instead of crushed, a glass that was way too big, and even though there was fresh mint in the bottom of the glass, I couldn't taste it at all. Someone needs to buy that bartender a muddler.

Things looked up considerably once we started talking food. There was an interesting and very yummy-looking selection of appetizers and main courses on the menu, plus a set of frequently changing dinner specials -- you choose the entrée, then you get gumbo or salad plus dessert for a price based on the entrée choice. I chose the Pannéed Veal, topped with a mixture of Louisiana blue crabmeat, artichoke hearts and oyster mushrooms. This was served atop brabant potatoes with roasted garlic, and the whole thing was drizzled with olive oil. Pure Creole-Italian, and the pannéed veal was some of the best I'd ever had. Poor Wes, unfortunately, began feeling poorly that morning, we suspect as the result of a bad batch of Popeye's chicken (this is the third time he's gotten sick from that particular Popeye's, so we think we may be calling the Health Department). Things looked rather worrisome for a few minutes, but I was glad he managed to get some food down at least -- the soup du jour was butternut squash, absolutely lovely, creamy and with a touch of brandy, and the spinach salad with brie and fresh strawberries was tasty as well. I felt bad that he couldn't deal with even a bite of the pann&eeacute;ed meat, so we'll have to go again soon.

Dessert was perfectly good, although my selection didn't quite blow me away. I had a very good pecan pie topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and Dave had "Chocolate Decadence", a huge layer cake filled with chocolate mousse and bits of English toffee. That was pretty spectacular, but was more than I wanted; in my case, the pecan pie was perfect.

If you find yourself going to Disneyland or anywhere in the Anaheim area, you'd do very, very well to have dinner at Ralph Brennan's. We've just got to whip that bar into shape.

Free speech in the Boondocks.   Here's a one hour and 48 minute speech given by Aaron McGruder, cartoonist and writer of "The Boondocks", speaking on free speech in time of war.

The CD of the year!   The one you've been waiting for! The one that'll change pop music as we know it! Yes folks ... Tony Danza is releasing a CD.

(Press release) -- Indisputably one of America's most popular and multi-talented performers, Tony Danza has just released his debut album, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, to stores nationwide. The album, which puts Danza on the map as a viable and talented recording artist, includes his well-received single of the same name and which Billboard Magazine named as the adult contemporary pick of the week when it was released in May. A longtime fan of the song, which was originally released by Frank Sinatra in 1949, Danza calls "The House I Live In" one of America's greatest songs. "It speaks of who we are and what we hold dear," said Danza.
Oh dear. Need a drink coaster?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 21, 2002
Today in radio, 63 years ago.   This is extremely cool: "On September 21, 1939, WJSV, an AM radio station in Washington, D.C., recorded the entire 19 hours of its broadcast day. The CBS affiliate picked that day in large part because of the address Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to Congress. The other big news story of the day concerns the assassination of the Romanian premier. Along with the news coverage, the station ran the standard stream of music, soap operas, sports, and other programming. WJSV broadcasted from a transmitter in Wheaton, MD, on 1460kc (now 1500kc) with a 50,000 watt signal."

Dang, if I weren't so busy today ... I couldn't think of a better way to spend 19 hours. (Well, actually I could, but this is still very nifty.) I'll take it in shifts.

The Stepford Citizen Syndrome.   Or, top ten signs that your neighbor has been brainwashed:

10) "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction!"

This phrase has replaced, "Saddam gassed his own people!" as the #1 mantra of war-mongering dittoheads. But despite former weapons' inspector Scott Ritter's assertion that there's no proof Hussein has amassed weapons of mass destruction, Dick Cheney says there's "no doubt" he's got them and plans to use them. During the Cuban missile crisis, John F. Kennedy relayed photographic evidence proving the Soviet Union was up to no good. Where's the proof now? Why hasn't the administration won over our allies? Why do so many doubt there is "no doubt?"

*     *     *

Latest polls indicate that nearly half of all Americans believe the First Amendment "goes too far," proving that Stepford Citizen Syndrome is now a national crisis. We have an obligation to rouse our loved ones out of their stupor. If we don't, the thugs who've stolen America will steam-roll right over us. And if you can't see that, chances are, you're brainwashed.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 20, 2002
Meals make us human.   "Never mind obesity," writes Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in The Guardian, it's the loneliness of the fast food eater that matters."

Mealtimes are our oldest rituals. The companionable effects of eating together help to make us human. The little links which bind households together are forged at the table. The stability of our homes probably depends more on regular mealtimes than on sexual fidelity or filial piety. Now it is in danger. Food is being desocialised. The demise of mealtimes means unstructured days and undisciplined appetites.
Some of the most memorable and wonderful times of my life are spent at the table with people I love. I try to do it as often as I can. You should too. (Thanks for the link, Paul!)

Thanks!   A bunch! "Down Home" did pretty well in the pledge drive last night, and a big thanks and hugs and smooches to Gregory, Tom, Elaine, John and Betsy, Erik and all the other folks who called in to pledge last night. Remember, the drive lasts until Sunday, you can still call (818) 677-5276 or go to and make the commitment to support the best and most musically diverse public radio station in the city (and points beyond too, I'll betcha).

Quote of the day.   Yes, this is the President of the United States. Can you imagine this one being carved in marble on a monument one day? Nope, me neither.

There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.

-- George W. Bush, in his remarks on teaching American history and civic education, East Literature Magnet School, Nashville, Tennessee, September 17, 2002.
It's even worse when you hear him say it with your own ears.

Emails of the week.   The vast majority of the emails I get from readers of various parts of this site are delightful. Then every now and again I get a coupla real winners... "The People Who Come Across A Website Put Up At No User Expense For The Benefit Of The Public Yet Who Feel Compelled To Send Abusive Email To Its Author". Yeah, them. Perhaps they didn't notice my posted policy regarding this: "If you send me abusive email, I'll probably post it."

From: chris <>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: 16 Sep 2002 03:05:45 -0000
Subject: bourbon chicken

i think you are a moron... this is to the post about bourbon chicken. the person didnt ask u about loisianna or whatever... noone cares. they asked for a recipe u dum@ss

As I explained very nicely in the referenced "post", I have no interest in posting recipes for ersatz "Cajun" dishes that aren't, really aren't, authentic. Some people continue to take personal offense at this ... 'cause it's all about them, I suppose.

From: Raual boobain <rgbuben@***.net>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: 19 Sep 2002 06:41:06 -0000
Subject: Wut gumbo it be

EH! you bookoo no got gumbo f you doan got okra foo.

If I've managed to parse that jumble of letters into something resembling English, I can only respond this way ... "You're wrong, of course."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 19, 2002
Nonsense. Surely there was a cave painting.   A Microserf claims to have found the original email message in which the "smiley" was invented. Twenty years ago today.


KCSN Pledge Drive tonight!   Yes kids, it's time to send some buckage to your favorite public radio station (and KCSN surely is, isn't it?). We're having a shorter drive this year to increase your radio listening bliss, and your dollars are the only way we can pay for the marvelous programming you've come to love.

Our basic membership is a mere $10 a month on your credit card (or heck, we'll take anything you want to give, really), and we have oodles of thank-you gifts for your membership -- the new albums by Nickel Creek, The Hot Club of Cowtown, Ralph Stanley and more, plus spiff KCSN t-shirts and caps.

Call now! Actually, call tonight during "Down Home", 7-9pm PDT, or pledge online at And please do tune in tonight -- just 'cause we're asking for your support doesn't mean there won't be plenty of great music tonight, and there will be! Brand-new stuff from Buddy Miller, The Chieftains, Guy Clark and more!

Quote of the day.   She, of course, knows everything.

There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered: entertainment, food, and affection. It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection. As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately. When the affection IS the entertainment, we no longer call it dating. Under no circumstances can the food be omitted.

-- Miss Manners

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Duck degradation, à l'orange.   Not two minutes after seeing a funny AFLAC commercial on the Food Network yesterday, I read this link on BoingBoing:

Please contact AFLAC Incorporated (a supplemental medical insurance company) and urge them to stop running TV commercials that represent ducks in dangerous, unnatural, and degrading situations."

-- United Poultry Concerns

By sheer coinkydink, earlier in the day while I was having lunch, I watched Chef Michael Symon of Lola Bistro and Wine Bar in Cleveland degrade a duck in the most fabulous way -- breasts with skin scored, seasoned with kosher salt and paprika, pan-seared until the skin is crisp and finished in the oven, with an orange-duck fat vinaigrette sauce with cooked endive. Holy moley, did that look good.

Choco-mystery solved!   For several days now, I've been smelling chocolate in my front yard.

When I'm in the yard I can smell it on the wind; it smells like chocolate cake batter baking, and it was driving me crazy trying to tell from which nearby kitchen window it was wafting. Someone's started up a little home-based business baking chocolate cakes or cookies, I thought. What was driving me crazy is that I smelled it morning, noon and night. Somebody's busy!

Yesterday, when Wes and I were getting out of our cars, I pointed it out to him. "Smell that? One of my neighbors has been baking chocolate every day," I said. At that, my next-door neighbor, who had been in her front yard playing with her little boy, laughed. "That's my cocoa shell mulch!" she said. I've never heard of such a thing! Cocoa bean shells are discarded in the chocolate-making process, and apparently they make great mulch, and it smells like chocolate. What a cool idea! It'll make your neighbors a lot happier than if you spread cowshit on your lawn, believe me.

Quote of the day.   "When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movement becomes headlong - faster and faster and faster. They put aside all obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to a man in a blind rush until it's too late.

-- Bene Gesserit proverb, from Dune, by Frank Herbert.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Woohoo!   Nickel Creek play tonight at the House of Blues ... I can't wait! Their new album This Side is threatening to become my favorite of the year so far; get it now if you haven't. It's supremely wonderful.

The Real Things fight for their names.   When I was a kid, all I knew of allegedly Italian cheese was something called "Parmesan", which was made by a huge food conglomerate, came in a green shaker can and smelled vaguely of old socks. When I grew up, I finally tasted the Real Thing -- Parmigiano-Reggiano, made in Parma, Emiglia-Romagna, Italy by artisans who've done it for hundreds of years. It knocked me out. It truly is, as Mario Batali is fond of saying, "the undisputed King of Cheeses."

There's a fight brewing among makers of traditional European foods, to prevent things like ersatz "Parmesan" from being sold under that name. Works for me; the stuff that passes for "Parmesan" cheese in this country is an abomination when compared to the real thing. Go to a high-end grocery or Italian deli and buy some true Parmigiano. Just flake off a chunk of it and eat it at room temperature, or drizzled with a little aged balsamic vinegar, or shave it over a salad ... ooooohhhhhhh. Heaven.

Bush administration gutting health, scientific advisory committees.   It seems that everything these people do makes my head want to explode. The appalling politicization of the administration's health advisory committees being the latest...

In the past few weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services has retired two expert committees before their work was complete. One had recommended that the Food and Drug Administration expand its regulation of the increasingly lucrative genetic testing industry, which has so far been free of such oversight. The other committee, which was rethinking federal protections for human research subjects, had drawn the ire of administration supporters on the religious right, according to government sources.

A third committee, which had been assessing the effects of environmental chemicals on human health, has been told that nearly all of its members will be replaced -- in several instances by people with links to the industries that make those chemicals. One new member is a California scientist who helped defend Pacific Gas and Electric Co. against the real-life Erin Brockovich.

The overhaul is rattling some HHS employees, some of whom said they have not seen such a political makeover of the department since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.

It was Ronald Reagan who refused to say the term "AIDS" for ... gee, how many years was it? Science needs to progress in the public interest, not exist simply to serve the religious views of a one-term president. Here's the clincher, absolutely astonishing doublethink:

[Department of Health and Human Service spokesman William] Pierce said the committee remains balanced overall, and no prospective member of any advisory committee is subjected to political screenings. "It's always a matter of qualifications first and foremost," Pierce said. "There's no quotas on any of this stuff. There's no litmus test of any kind."

At least one nationally renowned academic, who was recently called by an administration official to talk about serving on an HHS advisory committee, disagreed with that assessment. To the candidate's surprise, the official asked for the professor's views on embryo cell research, cloning and physician-assisted suicide. After that, the candidate said, the interviewer told the candidate that the position would have to go to someone else because the candidate's views did not match those of the administration.

Asked to reconcile that experience with his previous assurance, Pierce said of the interview questions: "Those are not litmus tests."

Ceci n'est pas une pipe. Is this really a surrealist administration? We should only be so lucky.

A Crack House Divided.   Yes, Noelle Bush's drug problems are terrible, and we should all feel sorry for her. But as Arianna Huffington points out, "the youthful indiscretions of the rich -- and of Bush family members -- are routinely treated with a slap on the wrist and a ticket to rehab while poor kids are shipped off to prison."

While Noelle has been given every break in the book -- and then some -- her father has made it harder for others in her position to get the help they need by cutting the budgets of drug treatment and drug court programs in his state. He has also actively opposed a proposed ballot initiative that would send an estimated 10,000 non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail. I guess what's good for the goose, gets the gander locked away.

Of course, Jeb's wildly inconsistent attitude on the issue -- treatment and privacy for his daughter, incarceration and public humiliation for everyone else -- is part and parcel of the galling hypocrisy that infects America's insane drug war on every level.

Our hoose is a very very very fine hoose.   A fascinating exercise in linguistics, in which not only do we learn how Canadians really pronounce "house", but we learn to follow a few simple pronunciation rules to be able to pass for Canadian anywhere we go. Could be handy for European travel these days.

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  Monday, September 16, 2002
Attack of the middlebrow chains.   Or, "The Enemies of Chowhoundism". (Nicked from Luke at The Making of a Restaurant)

Nine out of ten of the most popular restaurants in Orange County, California are nationwide corporate chains, and the Number One restaurant is The Cheesecake Factory. (This is telling, and ties into one of the reasons why I can't stand Orange County, but I digress.) Slate takes a look at some of the chain restaurants, with mostly predictable results (although The Olive Garden fared very well, and I must say I enjoyed my meal the last time I was part of a group that decided to go there).

Casual dining restaurants serve a very specific function in American dining. In general, you don't take a date to one, unless you are on the way to the prom. What chain restaurants do splendidly is feed awkward groups of people -- extended families, business associates, high-school basketball teams, etc. With big tables, efficient service, splittable checks, and plenty of sharable appetizers and booze for camaraderie, corporate restaurants know how to serve the herds. Timid eaters can always find something plain, restless eaters will find something new, and unrepentant food snobs can always find potent, fruity drinks.
Yeah, 'cept chains use lots of bottled margarita mix in their potent, fruity margaritas, rather than fresh fruit. Meh. With few exceptions, these places are thoroughly unexciting to me, and you won't see me eating in one unless I'm in a group and the decision is not mine. What kills me about the Cheesecake Factory #1 thing is that Orange County is home to an enormous Asian community, with countless little holes-in-the-wall places that are terrific. I guess there aren't a lot of adventurous diners in O.C. (which is unsurprising, as O.C. is an unadventurous kinda place).

I am in 100% agreemnt with Luke when he said in his post:

Are diners wising up and losing their taste for chains? One can only hope. No, wait: One can (and should) do more than hope! One can (and should) patronize independent restaurateurs! Three cheers for dining diversity! Yum, yum, yum!
Yeah you rite.

Cinnabar heaven.   For not much more than people might spend at a Cheesecake Factory (after waiting two hours to get in; it never ceases to make my head spin when I hear the waiting times for big and popular CF locations, and why people would wait so long for such bland food), we had a fabulous meal at Cinnabar in Glendale last night. One thing Cinnabar does that I love is to offer several entrées in "half order" sizes, where you'll pay $15 instead of $22 or $24, and what you get is more like a 2/3 sized meal which I have always found to be more than enough.

After having Bob or Doug take care of you at the bar with one of the very best cocktail menus in town (lots of old 1930s and pre-Prohibition stuff), Chef Damon Bruner offers an Asian-influenced and highly eclectic menu that often serves to create agonizing indecision. Everything looks so good I can rarely make an easy decision.

Last night was easy, though -- I felt like light dishes, and like trying things that I'd passed over too many times. Starting with their signature Nori Rolls is de rigueur; they're not on the menu, but they almost always have them. Sushi-grade tuna is wrapped around two asparagus spears, then wrapped in sheets of nori (seaweed), then lightly tempura battered and fried just long enough to crisp the batter and cook only the very outer edge of the tuna, leaving it mostly rare. It's served with a spicy dressing/dip and shredded greens and scallions, and we get it almost every time we're there. I finally tried the Asian Bouillabaisse, a rich seafood broth alive with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and ginger, chock-full of bay scallops, two or three chunks of lobster tail, rock shrimp and whatever fish or seafood is fresh and on hand that day. Glass noodles on the bottom and copious amounts of cilantro on top finish it off. The half order at $15 was enormous, and I was advised not to talk much or I'd never finish it all. Sure enough, when everyone else's plates were empty, I was still working on it. I can't imagine how huge the full portion would be, and it was only $20.

Wes had the evening special, filets of John Dory with a macadamia crust, potato purée and tempura asparagus, with a flavor that was out of this world. Robb and Jaason were very pleased with their dishes as well, sea scallop sand prawns, and a gorgeous filet with an au gratin potato cake made with paper-thin sliced potatoes and a silky cheese filling.

You can have fabulously elegant meals here without breaking the bank. Half orders are plenty if you're on a budget, and if you're not ... indulge. I've never had a meal here that was any less than wonderful, and this has become our favorite local restaurant. Angelenos, take note -- Cinnabar is not only your restaurant of choice when you're anywhere near Glendale, but is worth a drive from wherever you are.

Enemy of public radio.   Reactionary religious right wingnut Donald Wildmon doesn't like National Public Radio. He thinks they're "too liberal", so using a little-known provision of broadcasting law, he basically attacked and destroyed public radio in Lake Charles, Louisiana, now the largest community in the U.S. where "All Things Considered" cannot be heard. What's even more infuriating is that the NPR stations could have prevented it, but got caught with their pants down and failed to react. (Fortunately, things seem to be looking up for Lake Charles.)

Community radio needs to wake up -- Wildmon's network is targeting community radio frequencies on the left side of the dial, resulting in stations with absolutely no local community content or involvement, only spreading their point of view from a central broadcast location. This is not what community radio is all about.

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  Friday, September 13, 2002
Owwwwoooooooo, booooooo, scary kids!   All you triskaidekaphobics, watch your asses today.

Actual elevator conversation.   Wednesday, September 11, 2002. The occupants of the elevator were me and a strange little man of indeterminate foreign origin. (He was vaguely Asian, vaguely Latka Gravas-like, but could also have been from Leutonia and lived next door to Yosh and Stan Shmenge.) I was holding that day's Los Angeles Times, which on its front page featured a panoramic photograph of the skyline of Lower Manhattan, taken the day before. We begin our ascent.

SLMOIFO: (gesturing at my paper) Look nice. New York look nice.

Me: Mmm hmm ... yeah, I guess so.

SLMOIFO: (leaning over and tapping the photograph) Where Twin Towers?!

Me: (completely nonplussed) Uhh ... bad guys blew up the Twin Towers last year, today. Remember?

SLMOIFO: (lightbulb appearing over his head) Ohhhhh! That new picture!

I half-expected him to then unzip the rubber human mask he was wearing to reveal himself as a green- or grey-skinned alien, and would I then be so kind as to take him to my leader.

A lil' sugar in my bowl ...   A confessed sugar snob does some taste testing -- sugar versus many different sugar substitutes. Predictable results, with one surprise. (I don't sweeten my iced tea anymore anyway, so that one won't make much difference to me.)

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  Thursday, September 12, 2002
Dammit, dammit, dammit.   Bad news. Warren Zevon has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He's been a favorite of mine since I was in high school and Excitable Boy came out. Wes and I saw him when he was touring for Life'll Kill Ya, and I'm really glad we saw him when we did; he's a major, major talent and I'll surely miss him when he goes. At least his illness hasn't taken much of a toll on his sense of humor:

I'm okay with it, but it'll be a drag if I don't make it till the next James Bond movie comes out.
Hang in there, man. James Bond in "Die Another Day" opens on November 22.

He plans to spend the rest of his days with his children, and writing and recording as many songs as he can while he still can. Peaceful journey, Warren.

Tonight on "Down Home".   Nickel Creek-O-Rama! The terrific young bluegrass-folk-pop band whose new album "This Side" is threatening to be my favorite of the year has a gig at the House of Blues on Sunset Strip next Tuesday, and I'll be doing a big set of their music tonight, including one rare live track. Plus new music from Guy Clark, the Blind Boys of Alabama and ... Anders Osborne! With Big Chief Monk Boudreaux! Woohoo!

Tune in at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles, or at on the web.

Buzz kicks butt.   If you're a nutball conspiracy theorist who insists that nobody ever landed on the moon, and you're chasing Buzz Aldrin around, poking him, calling him a liar and waving a Bible in his face, trying to get him to swear on it that he walked on the moon ... you deserve to get knocked on your ass.

What? Election glitches in Florida again?   Voter irregularities? Inaccurate vote counts? Faulty voting equipment? Immediate calls for recount? Nawwwww ... I don't believe it! (What the hell is wrong with that state?)

Turkey-Like Crap Actually Ham-Like Crap,   reports our pal Mark Morford in yesterday's "Morning Fix", continuing to wit:

Kraft Foods Co. is recalling 12,600 pounds of "Oscar Mayer Lunchables, Cracker Stackers, Lean Turkey Breast & White Turkey Cured" turkey lunch kits because they contain ham, or something resembling some sort of ham-like reconstituted meat substance, they think, though no one is quite sure just what the hell is in those noxious Lunchable things, basically an amalgam of leftover pulverized chemically blasted animal carcass remnants and some rat feces and maybe some Cheez-Whiz aerosol byproducts, with pretty much the entire Kraft company still rather dumbfounded that anyone would actually put this Lunchables garbage into their mouths in the first place, much less parents who buy it for their increasingly obese and chemically saturated kids.

The Avon, N.Y.-based company notified government officials after it discovered the problem. "If it says turkey but it looks sickeningly reddish-orange and tastes vaguely like something made from pig entrails we scraped out of the slaughterhouse air filters, it's probably the 'ham,' if you really want to call it that," one Kraft exec did not say, squirting Cheez Whiz between his toes and moaning softly. "Also, our Kraft Lunchable MegaPizza kit is actually hunks of precut lard-injected cardboard and surplus industrial Dow sheep emetic we buy in bulk and make into a nice red sauce. Shhhh."

Speaking of vile processed meat products ...

Watch dem weenies, bra.   I perused the ingredients of several brands of supermarket hot dogs the other day, out of idle curiosity, and found several whose first or second ingredient was mechanically separated chicken or turkey.

Do you know what "mechanically separated poultry" is? Well, I'll tell ya, from the page linked above:

Mechanically Separated Poultry (MSP) is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue. Mechanically separated poultry has been used in poultry products since the late 1960's. In 1995, a final rule on mechanically separated poultry said it was safe and could be used without restrictions. However, it must be labeled as "mechanically separated chicken or turkey" in the product's ingredients statement. The final rule became effective November 4, 1996. Hot dogs can contain any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.
It's stuff you'll also find in various potted meat food products, something humans should never have to eat unless the choice is eating the stuff or starving to death. Ick. Ick ick ick. If you're inclined to eat hot dogs, read the ingredients carefully. Make sure you're not getting any paste-like and batter-like poultry products. You're likely to be better off with kosher brands (and you can always make them treyf by bacon-wrapping them!).

You VILL upgrade!   Apple announced on Tuesday that as of January 2003, their hardware will no longer boot into OS 9. Classic app support will still be available, but only through OS X. Umm. I suppose I'd better stop clinging to OS 9 and upgrade to Jaguar soon, as Apple's shift of total commitment to the new OS is inevitable.

For dinosaurs like me, though, being dragged away from OS 9 with my clawed fingernails making ragged furrows in the plastic case of my iBook, there's another solution. Yesterday Damien posted a great link for those such as I -- OS X tools for that OS 9 feel. I'll definitely be using FruitMenu, as I rely on my Apple menu, I will not stand to see it go, and I despise the Dock. Still, I suspect that after a little interface tweaking, I'll adore OS X (I can't wait for that UNIX terminal!) and wonder how I ever got by with 9 and earlier.

Meeeem-o-reees ...   but memories like this make my gorge rise.

My high school cafeteria food was awful, but it doesn't hold a candle to the profound and utter vileness of my elementary school cafeteria food. "Turkey on toast" (with melted plastic sauce), "tuna pie" (good for dropping on your enemies), and the ever popular S.O.S. I shudder at the thought. I never thought it could be worse until I saw photographs of the food from Waterman Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Those poor kids. (Via Cory)

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  Wednesday, September 11, 2002
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  Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Happy birthday, Barry.   Top story in this week's issue of The Onion -- "Second Birthday in a Row Ruined by Terrorism":

HOBOKEN, NJ -- In what threatens to be an annual ritual, Rob Bachman, born Sept. 11, 1973, braced himself Tuesday for yet another birthday ruined by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"My birthday's gonna suck for the rest of my life," Bachman said on the eve of his 29th birthday.

It's typical Onion satire, but hits a little close to home, as tomorrow is my friend Barry's birthday. I hope you have as happy a birthday as is humanly possible, bro.

(In other Oniony news, Bush Won't Stop Asking Cheney If We Can Invade Yet: "Vice-President Dick Cheney issued a stern admonishment to President Bush Tuesday, telling the overeager chief executive that he didn't want to hear 'so much as the word "Iraq"' for the rest of the day.")

Do you know your classical composers?   According to the Guardian, "a recent survey found that 65% of children under 14 cannot name a classical composer, while only 14% knew that Mozart and Beethoven wrote music." (Sheesh ... I'd bet that a large percentage of adults over 18 couldn't name a classical composer either. Can you do better than that? Take this quiz and find out!

I got 9 out 11, which they said was "Fortissimo! Impressive -- you can tell your Traviata from a trattoria, and probably know where the music you hear on adverts comes from, but disdain to buy classic ads collections." Not bad, considering that the two questions I missed were feckin' difficult, and that I listen to very little classical music, preferring twangy indie rock and lots of fiddles, banjos, accordions, washboards, lap steel and the like. Give it a whirl. (Via FMH.)

The sights and sounds of schizophrenia.   A couple of weeks ago, as I was driving to the radio station, I heard a terrific report about schizophrenia on NPR, to wit:

The textbook description of schizophrenia is a listing of symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and behavior. But what does schizophrenia really feel like? NPR's Joanne Silberner reports on a virtual reality experience that simulates common symptoms of the mental illness

Janssen Pharmaceutica, a company that makes a drug treatment for schizophrenia, has created a multimedia simulation that it says lets a participant see the world through the eyes and ears of a person with schizophrenic illness. Janssen created the simulation as an education tool for doctors and others who want a more visceral understanding of the illness.

Try the simulation. It's really, really scary.

I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say ...   Speaking of schizophrenia, psychiatrists have speculated that without his mental illness, Charles "Buddy" Bolden -- widely recognized to be the man who created jazz -- might never have started improvisation, and ragtime might never have evolved into jazz. Very interesting.

Unfortunately, we have no surviving recordings of Buddy Bolden (who, incidentally, was born 125 years ago last Thursday), but we do have Jelly Roll Morton's composition "Buddy Bolden's Blues (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say)".

Don't watch television tomorrow.   Don't listen to the radio. Don't read the newspaper. Don't surf the web. Avoid all media and their bullshit. (The winner of "Americal Idol" is going to sing the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow, just in time to plug her new album? The very idea of this makes every cell in my body want to rupture in loathing and disgust.)

Just be quiet. Put on some quiet music, or maybe Springsteen's "The Rising". Read a book.

Just remember.

Quote of the day.   "We're aware of what happened. We know it's the anniversary. What more is there to say?"

-- Shannon Allen of Raleigh, North Carolina, interviewed for an AP story.

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  Monday, September 9, 2002
Kicking cancer in the butt.   My good friend Mary recounts her second highly annoying go-round with breast cancer in today's Los Angeles Times, and we'll spoil the ending only by saying it's extremely happy. Five years ago Mary wrote a series of terrific articles about the first go-round, which she said were described alternately as "'brave and inspirational' by some and 'obliviously and freakishly cheerful' by others." They had disappeared from the web site but are now back ... for a limited time only! Act now! (Seriously, you must read these before they disappear again.) They are, in order:

"The Buddy System"
"The Diagnosis"
"Chemo and Tuna Cravings"
"Inside the Healing Circle"
"Thank You, Dr. Love God"
"She's Feeling Fine, Thanks"
"Sharing the News, Reading Reactions"
"Goodbye, Chemo. Hello, Radiation. Hello, Bliss"
"The Who, What and Why Behind Her Treatment"
"That Was Then, This is Now"
"Getting So Much Better All The Time"
That's a lot of reading (and again, you must read them all, like, today), so I'll take it easy on you and won't throw too many more entries today, if any. If there's anybody in your life that you think could specifically benefit from these articles, print them out and send them along.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 6, 2002
The U. S. Constitution -- into the shredder, apparently.   The Associated Press reports on the changes to our fundamental American rights that seem to have gone by the wayside of late. Any of you who have had family members who have died to protect and preserve these rights need to give this some thought.

Some of the fundamental changes to Americans' legal rights by the Bush administration and the USA PATRIOT Act following the terror attacks:

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigation.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and has encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records requests.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.

RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION: Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients, and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.

FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES: Government may search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation.

RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.

RIGHT TO LIBERTY: Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.

The land of the free and the home of the brave, with a president who swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. What galls me to this day is that the son of a bitch didn't even really win the election.

What changed?   I'm compelled to reprint this short essay from in its entirety. It was written by Kenneth R. Olson, a Portland, Oregon-based writer and photographer. I don't agree with all of his points, but he makes several very good ones.

The conventional wisdom is set, and most pols and pundits agree: 9/11 changed everything. But did it really?

Hijackers armed with boxcutters attacked the nation's financial and military headquarters, so the White House increased funding for missile defense.

We were told it was a time for sacrifice. We were told to go shopping.

The attack was launched by a gang of thugs operating out of many countries, including our own. So we invaded Afghanistan.

According to President Bush, the terrorists hate our "love of freedom." But now, the president can declare any American an "enemy combatant" and detain them indefinitely without charges, counsel, or contact with anyone. Maybe he thinks the attackers will stop if we no longer have our Constitutionally protected freedoms.

The CIA and the FBI both failed miserably to protect the American people, so they got enormous budget increases. Meanwhile, if our schoolchildren get failing test scores, we slash their school's budget.

We know about the CIA and FBI failures thanks to employees who courageously blew the whistle. So, the White House and Congress made sure the new Homeland Security Agency excludes whistleblower protections.

America had been acting unilaterally in the world, causing rifts with our allies. Then we asked them to help fight our War on Terror. Maybe they'll forgive us for abandoning the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, rejecting the International Criminal Court, trashing multinational environmental agreements, and withholding our UN dues. Maybe now they won't mind if we ignore their objections and go to war against Iraq.

Americans have a lot on their mind, but the President isn't worried -- he still gets a month off every summer to relax.

Agenda interrupted? Hardly.

Quotes of the day.   "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

-- Samuel Johnson

("Patriot Day"? What an awful, awful idea.)

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

-- Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting, in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928).

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  Thursday, September 5, 2002
Yountville or bust.   The Cosmos is trying to tell me that it's time for me to dine at The French Laundry again.

The apparitions of Chef Thomas Keller that have repeatedly appeared in my life over the past few days began with a trip to Vroman's last Sunday, where two interesting looking books of food writing (Hardbacks! For four bucks each!) appeared on the clearance shelves -- Pass the Polenta, by Teresa Lust and The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection, by Michael Ruhlman. I had heard of Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef, to which this was a sequel of sorts, and had a look at the flap. It was divided into three main parts: an account of the grueling ten-day Certified Master Chef exam given by the American Culinary Federation and the Culinary Institute of America; Chef Michael Symon and his Cleveland restaurant Lola; and a visit to Keller's French Laundry. (Ruhlman subsequently became a co-author of The French Laundry Cookbook as well.)

I've been enjoying Ruhlman's book immensely (despite the bizarre presence of an extraordinary number of typographical errors). The tale of the seven professional chefs and the CMC exam was exciting, and exhausting; I can't even imagine taking it! Michael Symon and his restaurant sound like good reasons to visit Cleveland (plus, there's the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, I guess). But it was the descriptions of Thomas Keller's food that made me weep. Perhaps I wept because the very idea of food that luxurious, that perfect, evokes an emotional response. More likely it was because Ruhlman was served about three times as many courses as I was, plus that entire foie gras poached in truffle juice ... sweet Jesus. I'm still working on the book, but I'm trying to read it slowly, so as to savor every word about the French Laundry almost as much as I once savored each bite of its food. I just want it to last longer.

Then today I got an email from Jonas, who recently took a trip to Napa and prepared for his visit to the French Laundry by finding accounts of other webloggers who had dined there (including my own), and then told his own tale of culinary debauchery.

Not two hours later, Mary forwarded me an article from today's New York Times in which author Guy Trebay finds that after interminably frustrated efforts at getting a reservation at The French Laundry, the easier way to get in was to pay a pile of money for an internship program in Thomas Keller's kitchen.

The Cosmos is trying to tell me that it's time for me to dine at The French Laundry again, and to bring Wes this time. I'd better go out and buy an automatic speed dialer, put a few coins on Marie Laveau's tomb and ask her to give me a nudge.

Another Internet radio casualty.   This is really pissing me off. KBON in Eunice, Louisiana -- a terrific station featuring Cajun music, zydeco, swamp pop, blues, oldies, gospel and country -- has killed its streaming Internet broadcast due to the absurd royalty structure imposed on net radio by CARP.

Write to your Congressional representatives, and find out what you can do to help save Internet radio. This must be stopped. With enough public outcry, maybe it can be.

UPDATE - I just got an email from my friend Steve Gardner stating that WXDU in Durham has just killed its Internet stream as well, which means that I can no longer listen to Steve's show "Topsoil", as is my Sunday morning habit. FUCK!

The $23.8 million question.   Molly Ivins wonders about the enormous amount of business that Halliburton did with Iraq back when Dick "Underground" Cheney was its CEO.

Excuse me: I don't want to be tacky or anything, but hasn't it occurred to anyone in Washington that sending Vice President Dick Cheney out to champion an invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is a "murderous dictator" is somewhere between bad taste and flaming hypocrisy?

When Dick Cheney was CEO of the oilfield supply firm Halliburton, the company did $23.8 million in business with Saddam Hussein, the evildoer "prepared to share his weapons of mass destruction with terrorists."

So if Saddam is "the world's worst leader," how come Cheney sold him the equipment to get his dilapidated oil fields up and running so he to could afford to build weapons of mass destruction?


That's a good question.

The Beltway hawk.   Salon examines Richard Perle, "arguably the Beltway's most influential foreign-policy hawk," a man who is not even a member of the Bush administration yet has "an immense amount of power" therein, and is constantly pushing for war with Iraq. Apparently you don't have to be a member of the administration to wield power, and it's chilling to think what this guy and his cronies are up to. "What people are not adequately grasping here is that after Iraq they've got a long list of countries to blow up," says [John] Pike, [director of Global Security, a defense policy group]. "Iraq is not the final chapter, it's the opening chapter."

Pullman on Gaiman.   Philip Pullman, author of "His Dark Materials" trilogy (which Wes just read and loved, and which I'm looking forward to reading ... once I work my way down to it on The Pile), reviews Hugo Award-winner Neil Gaiman's newest, Coraline.

Yes, please.   ICANN, the Internet's governing body, is threatening to yank VeriSign's contract to sell domain names unless the company does a better job.

Just go ahead and do it. VeriSign is a blight on the net -- they allow domains to be hijacked and refuse to do anything about it, they engage in confusing subterfuge by sending domain renewal notices to people whose domains are with other registrars, and as ICANN's complaint states, they ignore requests to correct incorrect Whois data (small potatoes, in comparison to their other crimes). My domains are with and, and it's a cinch to log on and change my contact info, as it should be. I also don't feel the least bit worried that someone can steal my domains via forgery, only to have the domain registrar who took my money just sit back and say, "Oh well, too bad." Bastards. I'd like to see them bankrupt and out of business.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Pro-bully conservatives?   A conservative group in West Virginia by the name of "The West Virginia Family Foundation" is targeting an anti-bullying school program, claiming that "a gay agenda" is behind it.

So these people think that it's acceptable to bully and harass students who are different from them? Is this what they call "family values?" I sincerely wish all these people would focus on their own damned families.

Ehh, who needs the Russians?   Poor Lance Bass isn't going to get to go into space after all, it seems. The Russians gave him the boot after the necessary US$20 million failed to be coughed up, although his backers claim that the money's coming. Oh sure. Real Soon Now.

Still, all is not lost. Flesh-eating rocker Ted Nugent, after hearing of the demise of Bass' space flight, made him a tempting offer, according to this report:

For only $1 million, the legendary guitarist and outspoken outdoorsman is inviting Bass to his Michigan ranch to be trained in bow hunting basics before joining him on a week-long hunt, "where he'll be taught a greater appreciation for nature and gravity as he hunts, kills, cleans and cooks for himself", says Nugent. "Bass needs to quit worrying about going into outer space and embrace and celebrate life by learning how to kill his own food. A slab of flesh on the back of a deer is the finest source of protein on the planet." The Nuge adds that hell sweeten the offer by throwing in a few guitar lessons.

Nugent is currently touring the U.S. and has his first studio album in seven years, the fittingly titled "Craveman", due in stores September 24 on Spitfire Records. His current book, co-authored with wife Shemane -- Kill It &Amp; Grill It (Regnery Publishing) -- made the Los Angeles Times' Top 10 Cookbook List... The hardcover guide to preparing and cooking wild game and fish includes recipes for Maple-Bourbon Wild Boar, Bar-B-Que Black Bear, Sweet 'n Sour Antelope, Pheasant Chow Mein and more.

I suppose the guitar lessons could only help. (Hey, that boar dish sounds pretty good.)

Doublethink.   As Tom Tomorrow pointed out today, "doublethink" was defined by Orwell in 1984 as "the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one's mind and simultaneously believe them both to be true." What brought that to mind was this quote from Jon Carroll's column in the San Francisco Chronicle today:

It is interesting that the oligarchy presents Iraq as (a) a terrible threat to the world with unlimited capacity for raining down death and (b) a nation with a demoralized and scattered army that we can take over in a matter of weeks using our fine new weapons systems and maybe a soldier or two.
Order of fries, hold the trans-fatty acids.   McDonald's is once again reformulating their French fries, this time using a new type of oil that cuts the deadly trans-fatty acids in half and raises levels of polyunsaturated fats.

It's a good thing, I suppose. I almost never eat at a McDonald's, so it's not going to do me any good. Apparently the chain is worried about lawsuits from obese people who blame their health problems on fast food (which is absurd; if you have a weight problem, eat salads, not Big Macs), yet they still say hilariously absurd things like this:

"We'll proudly defend the McDonald's hamburger," said company spokesman Walt Riker. "It represents the most basic building blocks of the American diet."
Um, yes ... if those building blocks are saturated fat and sodium.

Caffeine me, babe!   Well ... actually, I'm more or less off the caffeine. A couple of years ago when my doctor heard that I was drinking two quarts of iced tea a day, I got fussed at, then ordered to stop. Completely. Cold turkey. *gulp*

Once we got my blood pressure stabilized at a nice low number, he then allowed me to have one serving of iced tea a day ("And I don't mean drinking right out of the two-quart pitcher, either," he said.) I don't have caffeine daily anymore, which means that I don't get the withdrawal headaches anymore, either.

I never had any problems sleeping, but if you do and you're concerned with how much of America's most popular drug you drink, drop, smoke, shoot, snort, rub into your belly or whatever ... try the Sleep Foundation's caffeine calculator.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 3, 2002
What the?!   It's September already! Who's in charge of this whole time-passing thing? Somebody needs to ask the Ticktockman to slow things down a bit.

Recommended reading.   A while back we met a wonderful person named Haven Kimmel, who is a friend of our friend Mary. Haven's a published author with two books to her credit -- a fabulous memoir of small-town America called A Girl Named Zippy, and recently her first novel, The Solace of Leaving Early. I'm working my way through Zippy now, and can't wait to get started on the novel.

Haven got a nice boost this morning, too. NBC's "Today Show" has a relatively new on-air Book Club, which came into existence once Oprah's Book Club went the way of the passenger pigeon ("because it was becoming harder and harder to find books to recommend on a monthly basis," says Mary, because during the few years Oprah's Book Club existed, "she had apparently exhasted 3000 years worth of literature"). Bestselling author Elizabeth Berg chose her absolute favorite book of the last year or so ... A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel. Yay!

Haven's segment was on "The Today Show" at about 8:30 this morning, and she'll be making another appearance with the book club folks on the 26th. Do tune in, and do read this excerpt from Zippy to whet your literary appetite. Incidentally, The Solace of Leaving Early was the Number One pick in the Booksense 76 last month.

As controversial as Oprah's Book Club became (Jonathan Franzen rejecting his selection as Oprah's book of the month),these book clubs are a good thing. I particularly like how "Today" does theirs, allowing other authors to choose authors they think deserve more attention. We can hope this efforts like this keep America reading literature, rather than the printed swill from people like Ann "Thrax" Coulter that now chokes the bestseller lists.

And the winner is ...   Speaking of things to read, it's time to pick up Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which won the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel. I'll also have to pick up Gaiman's latest, Coraline, plus I'd like to read some of the other Hugo nominees I haven't read yet (Perdido Street Station and Passage especially; I read The Chronoliths, which I thought was okay). Then there's those two books of food writing I just picked up, The Soul of a Chef and Pass the Polenta, and Jeff Weinstein's now out-of-print book of food writing, Learning to Eaton the way from ... yeesh. The Pile keeps getting bigger and bigger.

What happened to Jerwin?   Since last Thursday, both his domains ( and redirect to some cheeseball domain reseller. A look at the whois records leave one with the sinking feeling that his domains have been hijacked. I don't have his email address ... anybody got the scoop?

Mistah webring, he dead.   Jish's Webloggers' Webring has bitten the dust. Presumably one or more of the sites disappeared and broke the chain, which is usually the case with webrings. If you were a member and had code that rendered « webloggers », you may remove it.

August Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

[ Link to today's entries ]

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