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, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, 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 @ 11:19am PDT, 4/30/2004
If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse. Search this site:
(99 and 44/100% link rot)
2003: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2002: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
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.
Regime change for America, 2004. How to donate to this site:
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Friends with pages:
pat and paul
tracy and david
KCSN (Los Angeles)
"Down Home" playlist
Live MP3 audio stream
Subscribe to the
"Down Home" weekly
playlist email service
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
Air America Radio
(Talk radio for the
rest of us)
Grateful Dead Radio
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
The Sazerac Cocktail
(The sine qua non
(A work in progress, by
Martin Doudoroff &
Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
(A few things we like to
drink at home, plus a couple we don't, just for fun.)
Alcohol (and how to mix it)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
(Robert Hess, et al.)
DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog
news & insider info)
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
Fine Spirits & Cocktails
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
New Orleans Menu Daily
Mise en Place
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
In vino veritas.
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wally's Wine and Spirits
The Wine House
The Wine Spectator
Reading this month:
One Voice: My Life in Song, by Christy Moore.
The Ultimate Egoist: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. I", by Theodore Sturgeon.
Humans, by Robert J. Sawyer.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Miles of Music
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
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy
Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
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
L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
Xquzyphyr & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
Films seen this year:
Cold Mountain (****)
The Last Samurai (****)
Lookin' at da TV:
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
The Food Network
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
The Daily Kos
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
More Like This
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
This Modern World
Under the Gunn
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Matthew's GLB blog portal
My Darlin' New Orleans:
New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.
AlterNet.org (progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Daily Mislead (BushCo's lies)
The Fray (your stories)
Izzle Pfaff! (my favorite webjournal)
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)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
Whitehouse.org (not the actual White House, but it should be)
The Final Frontier:
Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Locus Magazine Online
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS X 10.2 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.)
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to
stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918
Friday, April 30, 2004
Pigs and cows. Seems to be raining more than just cats and dogs back home in New Orleans -- they're under severe weather watch, and Jazzfest was cancelled today due to torrential rain and flooding at the Fair Grounds, with hopes that it'll resume tomorrow. Ohby wellby.
I actually like it when it rains during Fest. It keeps the amateurs away, and does away with the typical Jazzfest sweltering heat. Some of the best shows I've ever seen have been in the middle of pouring rain (standing there admist sparse crowds, holding an umbrella in a rather futile gesture, which served only to turn me into a potential lightning rod). Of course, I don't particularly care for it when they cancel a day.
I did get an interesting report from Michael, though, who says that there's something new afoot at Creole's Lunch House's stall -- the home, of course, of Creole's Stuffed Bread, The World's Most Perfect Food:
Creole's Lunch House is selling a "new" stuffed bread this year in addition to the original. I think the main ingredients were Italian sausage, pepperoni, and mozzarella, which makes it disturbingly close to a pizza roll. I tried one and it was okay but lacked the alchemistic properties of the original recipes.Hmm. I'll try one next time, but it's true, there's no improving on the original.
Steve who? Miller? My old high-school bandmate, famed jazz clarinetist Tim Laughlin, submits to being interviewed by Chris Rose, demonstrating his love of music and a very good (and familiar) sense of humor ... hey, anyone who steals lines from Woody Allen is a friend of mine.
Tim's latest album, "The Isle of Orleans", is outstanding and consists entirely of original compositions.
(Incidentally, the Steve Miller Band is neither jazz nor heritage, and doesn't belong at Jazzfest.)
Let freedom ring. Via BoingBoing: "Great headline from the Washington Post: 'Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act'. It has to do with the ACLU filing a lawsuit challenging something in the Patriot Act, but a different provision in the Patriot Act made it illegal for the ACLU to reveal the lawsuit."
Yeah, 'cause that provision will really protect us from terrorists.
Eleven questions. SF Gate's Mark Morford writes one of his best columns yet, asking 11 questions of George W. Bush. As much as I hate to give away and ending, here's the last one:
What will your contribution be? With what sort of divine openness and creative energy are you choosing to pass through this world? What will you lay at the feet of the divine besides a small mountain of dead bodies and an oil-rich stock portfolio?
Thank you for your time, Mr. President. Enjoy your vacation.Link via Wes, who said, "For such a supposedly 'historic' meeting, under such extraordinary circumstances, the secrecy level is equally astonishing."
Via Lyn there's a link that "summarizes Bush's activities with respect to the 9/11 Commission ... lest we forget." I tacked the last five onto the end.
* He tried to block the formation of the commission.<voice quality="grandmotherly">But it's really none of our business, dear ... if they government says it should all be secret, we should trust them.</voice> (Sorry, lady.)
* Failing, he then appointed a patsy chairman, Henry Kissinger.
* Then he refused to testify.
* And he blocked them from getting key documents.
* Then he agreed to talk with them.
* But not under oath.
* And only for an hour.
* And only with the chair and deputy chair.
* And then he insisted on having Cheney go with him.
* And agreed to a single notetaker.
* Then he refused to grant the commission a time extension.
* Then he tried to stop Rice testifying.
* And he blocked the release of papers from the Clinton era.
* Then tried to stop the August 6, 2001 PDB being released.
* Then he flip-flopped on the extension, Rice testifying, the Clinton papers and the PDB.
* Then he ran ads saying Kerry was a flip-flopper.
* Then he changed his mind about the notetaker.
* And then he decided to have his legal counsel along.
* Then he agreed to testify.
* But only with Cheney at his side, which is viewed as highly bizarre and suspect by just about everybody.
* And refused to do so under oath.
* And refused to allow transcripts to be taken.
* And refused to allow television cameras or reporters or witnesses inside.
* And in fact clamped a lock of secrecy so tight that one reporter remarked that it was as if this meeting took place in the 18th Century.
And then, funniest all, his spokesman can say this with a straight face:
McClellan said Bush "appreciates the job the commission is doing. He strongly supports the commission's important work." He said the president "very much looks forward to sitting down with the commission and answering whatever questions they may have."
Quote of the day. (Thanks, Sparky.)
Linus: I guess it's wrong always to be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today.
Charlie Brown: No, that's giving up. I'm still hoping that yesterday will get better.[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Nat Decants: The Spirit of Cape Breton. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, is a breathtakingly beautiful place. I've never been, but I'm a fan of their music (evolved from and a sibling to the Scots fiddling tradition) and their culture (still Gaelic-speaking, as it was settled by refugees from the Highland Clearances, a little bit of English ethnic cleansing around 1790-1845). My friend Steve went a few years back, and showed me some great pictures. It's definitely on my list of travel destinations.
Today Natalie MacLean's ever-delightful column is a nostalgic recollection of a trip to Cape Breton, featuring her impressions of tasting Glen Breton Rare, North America's only single-malt whisky.
My husband Andrew and I both order a glass of Glen Breton Rare. (Our four-year-old son Rian has apple juice in a tumbler so he too appears to be drinking the local specialty.) No other drink, not even wine, so completely expresses its environment as whisky. (A wheel chart categorizing the spirit's many aromas was developed several years before its vinous equivalent.) I dab a spot on the back of my hand, the traditional way of smelling its essence as it evaporates, and it makes for a lovely cologne too. Glen Breton Rare has aromas of honeysuckle, apple, maple, butterscotch, spice and ginger -- and there's even a hint of the biscuits my grandmother used to bake.Slàinte!
The locals claim that speaking Gaelic improves the taste of whisky. But I discover the reverse: after just three drams, I seem to be speaking my ancient language without any instruction. Perhaps an ancestor has joined us at the table.
Ginny gin gin. We tried a relatively new gin last night -- Broker's Premium London Dry Gin. It doesn't list the botanicals involved, but tasters reported flavors of lemon zest, coriander and orris root. (I have no idea what orris root tastes like, but I'll take their word for it.)
What it is is a bloody fine gin, not shy with the juniper but with a complex flavor that doesn't make you think you're gnawing on a chunk of pine bark. It was Gin of the Year in 2003, according to Food and Wine magazine, noting its bold flavor. It is definitely not one of those "soft" gins like Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray No. 10, although I like those too. It does flaunt its Englishness quite a bit -- each bottle wears a plastic bowler hat -- but I'm enough of a friendly, 21st Century Irishman to find that more amusing than anything else. (Now, if it had a plastic Margaret Thatcher purse, that'd be another story.)
I whipped up a couple of Martinis last night, in my favoured proportion of 7:1 plus a dash of orange bitters. In deference to Wesly's taste I shook the hell out of it instead of stirring, 'cause he really likes that little flotilla of tiny ice chips on the surface of his Martinis. *sip* ... man, there's a lot going on in there. The citrus and spice definitely come through, but this is no wimpy gin -- the juniper practically slaps you in the face and challenges you to a duel. I accepted ... and after the glass was drained and olive consumed, considered myself the victor.
Yeah, and ketchup counts as a vegetable, too. With a great and terrible loathing ... (thanks, Wes).
Hatchery Salmon to Count as WildlifeOf course, farmed salmon is so bad as to be actually bad for you, and its pale flesh is actually dyed pink so that it'll look like salmon caught in the wild. And of course, instead of listening to environmentalists and people who actually know about these things, the Bush administration only listen to the big-business interests who complain that the protections for wild salmon cost them money.
SEATTLE, April 28 -- The Bush administration has decided to count hatchery-bred fish, which are pumped into West Coast rivers by the hundreds of millions yearly, when it decides whether stream-bred wild salmon are entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act.
This represents a major change in the federal government's approach to protecting Pacific salmon -- a $700 million-a-year effort that it has described as the most expensive and complicated of all attempts to enforce the Endangered Species Act.
The decision, contained in a draft document and confirmed Wednesday by federal officials, means that the health of spawning wild salmon will no longer be the sole gauge of whether a salmon species is judged by the federal government to be on the brink of extinction. Four of five salmon found in major West Coast rivers, including the Columbia, are already bred in hatcheries, and some will now be counted as the federal government tries to determine what salmon species are endangered.
Well, I hope they're all happy when there are no more fucking salmon left.
"Computer, where is my chicken sandwich and coffee?" When I was three years old, you could buy a Honeywell "Kitchen Computer" to store your recipes, which took weeks to program, cost ten grand, and was presumably better than looking them up in your Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, for some reason. (Fortunately, people had a bit of sense back then; apparently nobody ever bought one of these things.)
Of course, today one's Palm Pilot can run lightspeed rings around this thing ...
Return to The Gallery. The Gallery of Regrettable Food, that is. James Lileks can be a wonderful writer, and is far better at this stuff than he is at current affairs and politics -- his writings on those subjects frequently make my gorge rise. Then again, the sight of this so-called "food" makes my gorge rise as well, so I guess they go hand-in-hand, in a strange way ...
In this round, Lileks takes on Knudsen's Very Best Recipes from 1959. (Not that long before I was born, but fortunately few of these dishes were ever inflicted on me as a child. I may have had awful tuna casseroles with cream of mushroom soup like the rest of us did, but I did grow up in New Orleans.) Learn the joys of white food, lots of icky-looking things drowned in cream and containing nary a grain of seasoning and high crimes against Jell-O (like Meat Jell-O, and I don't mean a savoury aspic either). *glorg* Check out the rest of the gallery if you can; there have been lots of wonderfully vile additions ... for instance, the very idea of an entire cookbook of recipes featuring Knox Unflavored Gelatin. The mind boggles.
(Lileks also has the best 404 (not found) page I've ever seen.)
Revenge. A depressing prediction of U.S. failure in Iraq. It was unfortunately predictable, given that we have an administration that seems to refuse to study or learn from history, or to learn about the cultures they're invading (such as tribal cultures who live by "an eye for an eye").
The United States is in a no-win situation in Falluja. Yesterday, fighting increased in and around the city of 300,000, the place where four civilian contractors were burned to death last month. Even if American forces storm and subdue the town, it is unlikely that there will be peace there anytime soon.
It didn't have to be this way. Had the United States taken more time to understand the city -- a place where even Saddam Hussein ventured cautiously -- it might have been able to avoid the current showdown. Part of the misunderstanding can be seen in the way the Pentagon talks about the situation in Falluja, describing those holed up there as either die-hards of Saddam Hussein's regime or foreigners promoting the ideology of Al Qaeda. What the Pentagon is neglecting is a third group, one that could prove more deadly to the occupation: the tribes of central Iraq. They are a tough lot with a long history of resistance to any outside authority.
[more]Quote of the day. *sigh* ...
The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "Hey -- don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride." And we... kill those people.People who would dismiss that last bit by saying we could never do it because there are terrorists continue to ignore the root causes of terrorism. "Because they hate freedom" isn't it.
We have a lot invested in this ride. "Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real." Just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.
-- Bill Hicks.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Good luck getting reservations now. Restaurant magazine has come up with its list of the top 50 restaurants in the world (a spot on which is apparently quite coveted in some quarters), and the one that came up on top as The Greatest Restaurant in the World ... Yountville's The French Laundry, a place that to this day makes me dream of the meal I had there six years ago.
It's been closed for several months; Chef Thomas Keller has been working on the new place he's opened in New York, called Per Se (because he kept having to say about the new place, "Well, it won't be The French Laundry per se ...") His original creation reopens on May 15, and the crush for reservations will probably be worse than ever. They take reservations two months to the day before you come in, and we got ours after one of our party spent five hours with an auto speed dialer, starting precisely when their lines opened at 10am. When he finally got through, there were only 5:30pm and 10:30pm seatings left. We took the former, and I had the greatest restaurant meal of my life.
When I last dined there in March of 1998, your choices were a five-course meal from which you'd select a dish from four or five choices for each course (and they keep bringing you little bites of things between each course, sometimes twice between each course), or a fixed five-course vegetarian meal, which then cost $65 not including wine. Nowadays that meal would cost me $115. The nine-course tasting menu which then cost $95 now costs $135, and the vegetarian meal is now a nine-course vegetarian tasting menu at the same price as the regular. (*begin to save*)
Although it's not the kind of thing I could afford to do often (i.e., more than once every couple of years), given the chance I'd spend the money in a second. (I can eat very cheaply for a good while after such a meal... a mere three bucks for three fantastic tacos al pastor PLUS a small jamaica or tamarindo agua fresca at El Huarache Azteca No. 1, five minutes from my house.)
I posted this about 4-1/2 years ago, but let's revisit the meal I had the night of March 8, 1998, during which we were in the restaurant for over three-and-one-half hours amidst their friendly, nurturing staff and all this food:
Starter: Marrow Bean Agnolotti enriched with Mascarpone cheese, white truffle oil and Périgord Truffles.I need to buy an auto speed dialer.
Bite: Salmon Tartare on a sesame cornette (cone-shaped wafer), filled with red onion crème fraîche. (Their signature amuse bouche. It was gone in three bites. Absolutely delightful and thoroughly delicious.)
Fish course: "Pavé" of Atlantic Salmon with a "Fricassée" of Ronninger Farms Organic Potatoes, Melted Leeks and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce. (It was a small piece of salmon, maybe five or six bites, but it was the best piece of salmon I've ever had in my life.)
Bite: Broiled Sardine topped with Watercress, with Citrus Vinaigrette and Balsamic Reduction.
Meat course: Ris de Veau with Caramelized Cauliflower, Cauliflower Mousse and French Winter Truffles. ("Ris de veau" is sweetbreads, y'all. Stop grimacing, they're fabulous, with a rich, meaty flavor. These were, predictably by this point, the best I'd ever had.)
Cheese course: "Vacherin", with a Vol Au Vent of Cinnamon Poached Fresh Prunes and Baby Greens. (It was a delicious soft French cheese, draped over a small puff pastry shell filled with spiced prunes that had been poached in Armagnac.)
Bite: Tiny apple, pear and banana tartlets with caramelized meringue.
Dessert: Best Ever Pear Sorbet, with Champagne Gelée and Poached Pear Salad. (It was garnished with a paper-thin, perfectly crystallized pear slice, right from the center of the pear.)
Bites: Chocolate truffles, and meringues filled with chocolate ganache.
With the meal, I drank a half-bottle of 1995 Cristom Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Mt. Jefferson Cuvée.
If memory serves me right ... (Give up on that, bra. Memory never serves you right.) Oh yeah, never mind.
Well, I would have said "watakushi no kyoku ga tashika naraba", except I'm talking about "Iron Chef America", which ran last weekend. I found an interesting-looking article on eGullet, a behind-the-scenes interview with the show's director, but I haven't read it yet, because I still haven't watched the shows, which are all still safely ensconced on our TiVo. This week, sometime, I hope.
No spoilers yet! (Although if Chef Sakai had snapped and stabbed B*bby Fl*y in the throat, I'd probably have heard about it on the news by now ...)
"Eating at the Best Restaurant in the World: Degustation Chez Jazzfest
Another article from today's eGullet, feckin' torturing me. It's this bad already, and Mary still hasn't sent in any food porn (probably because she's too busy eating stuff in order to generate carnalary experiences to inspire said food porn ... yes, I just made that word up -- "carnal" (which derives from "flesh") and "culinary". Works for me.)
I look at it this way ... if I were at Jazzfest this week, I'd never be breaking into the 160s, pound-wise. I might just get there this week if I'm good.
(Goddammit, I want a Creole's Stuffed Bread!)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Cocktails of the day, go leor! (Galore, even!) So a nice reader wrote in a few weeks ago and told me how much he loved the "Cocktail of the Day" feature here on Looka!, but that it was difficult to go back and browse through them all. Wouldn't it be a good idea, he suggested, if I gathered them up on a single page and archived them?
Meddling bastard! Busybody! How much work is that gonna be?! Um, er, I mean ... good idea, O Lord! ("Of course it's a good idea!")
So here ya go ... every single drink featured in Cocktail of the Day is now located on the Beverages and Cocktails page admidst The Gumbo Pages' recipes section. I'll do my best to create a new page for the archive for every drink I feature in here. Browse away!
Boggles of the day. Two links nicked from BoingBoing:
* An astounding video clip that clearly shows President Bush wiping his eyeglasses on an unwitting woman's clothing [while on a commercial break] during his appearance on The David Letterman Show.Quotes of the day. These are only two of a long series, posted by Billmon under the title "Puppet Acts". Go there and read them all.
* A 15-year-old boy drew some anti-war posters that were critical of Bush's policies, and his art teacher alerted school administrators, who in turn called the police. The cops went to the feds, and the Secret Service questioned the boy about his art.
The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, according to administration officials.[ Link to today's entries ]
-- New York Times, "White House plans limits to Iraq sovereignty", April 24, 2004.
In 1932 Manchukuo was proclaimed an independent state. The last Qing emperor was brought out of retirement and made Manchukuo's ruler, but the state was actually rigidly controlled by the Japanese, who used it as their base for expansion into Asia.
-- Brittanica Concise Encyclopedia, entry on Manchukuo
Monday, April 26, 2004
Quote of the day. "Oh my God, are you losing weight like mad, or what?"
-- A cow-orker, to me, today. (*self-satisfied grin*)
Of course, wearing a slinky, clingy black shirt today didn't hurt. (The nifty thing is, I now can wear a slinky, clingy black shirt, and I've got 13 more pounds to go.
(Busy weekend, and even busier day at The Day Job. Updates soon.)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, April 23, 2004
D'oh. I know I have no right to complain, but Jazzfest starts today, and where am I? Am I on the Fair Grounds? No. My ass is in a chair in my office at The Day Job. The rest of The Fat Pack is down there, in addition to our friends from England for whom the Hoskins Cocktail was named, and they called to assure us that they'd refrain from having fun in our honor ... for at least 60 seconds.
(Listening to Jon Cleary, Dr. John, Galactic and Deacon John, and planning ahead to a big feckin' drink tonight.)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, April 22, 2004
The War Zone. Nope, not talking about Iraq today. I'm talking about the kitchen and offices at Rocco's on 22nd, once again featured on the new season of NBC's "The Restaurant", which I just started watching again.
It seems that the restaurant's partners, superstar chef Rocco DiSpirito (who begs the question, "Will he be the new Bobby Flay when it comes to TV chef dicketry?") and high-powered financier Jeffrey Chodorow are suing each other, and it's actually not looking good for Rocco.
"Rocco claims I cooked the books," says Jeffrey Chodorow ... "I didn't, but if I had, I would have been the only one of the two of us cooking at that restaurant."From all appearances, that seems to be the sad truth. Rocco has spent far too much time out of the kitchen, from constantly schmoozing in the front of the house (a little bit of which is to be expected), to his constant rounds of television and personal appearances. If you don't spend time in your kitchen, keeping the reins of your operation very tight indeed, it's going to get away from you.
"Galactica" launches! Very good news indeed ... the SciFi Channel have announced that a 13-episode series of "Battlestar Galactica" is in production, to debut sometime in 2005.
To recap -- I hated the original. I thought it had interesting premises (and a delicious villian in John Colicos), but stupid execution. The retooled "Galactica" for 2003, however, was in my opinion outstanding -- well-written, well-acted and constructed in a way that helped your average early-21st-Century TV viewer truly identify with the characters and their situation. (The scenes of the Cylon destruction of their homeworlds was horrifying, in no small part due to how close our world has been to destruction before, and may well be again.)
Slightly related and mostly irrelevant personal note -- one of my fellow passengers on my Southwest flight to Sacramento to see Mozaik was none other than Edward James "Cmdr. William Adama" Olmos.
"This Modern World" was particularly good this week ... this strip is entitled "Actionable Intelligence".
Obituary of the day. From the Rumors-of-my-death-have-been-greatly-exaggerated Department, this rather interesting obit from Telluride, Colorado:
A denizen of the local coffee shops, the Free Box and the hiking trails surrounding town, Schmidt would regale incredulous coffee bar customers with his claims that, through molecular rearrangement, he could walk through solid objects. Allegedly fluent in Klingon, Schmidt was also notorious for his nude rambles on the Bear Creek Trail, much to the shock of unsuspecting hikers and the consternation of local law enforcement officials. He had in a keen interest in the work of Nicolai Tesla and favored scientific and technical material for his casual reading.Only to be followed the next day by this ... oops.
Schmidt's Free Box finds were legendary, and included sartorial treasures such as velvet capes, outrageous caps, fishnet stockings and once, he crowed, a complete uniform from the original Star Trek series. He wore them all with aplomb, especially to renowned cross-dressing events like Ralph Dinosaur concerts at the Fly Me to the Moon and, appropriately enough, to the party/wake for flamboyant costumer Robert Presley.
I have always heard that Telluride is a very interesting town.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
I guess it isn't just me. Last year Flak Magazine published an article about one particular Food Network host, most of whom they seem to like, even though they find Rachael Ray "unbearably cheerful", Emeril "benignly bumbling, catch-phrase spouting and ... dangerously close to copulating with the food he preapres" and supercook Tyler Florence "sweet and earnest". Then there's "The Staggering Dicketry of Bobby Flay":
Host of the long-running programs "Hot off the Grill with Bobby Flay" and "FoodNation," Flay is the successful chef-owner of Manhattan hotspots Bolo and Mesa Grill, and a core member of the Food Network's stable of talent.Now Flay and Morimoto will be together on a tag team battle this weekend. I do seem to remember back when I was a kid, when "Championship Wrestling" from the St. Bernard Civic Auditorium was on TV, seeing the organizers arrange tag team matches in which they put two people who despised each other on the same team. I wonder if that's what this weekend's "Iron Chef America" tag team battle will be like. (Thanks, Ray!)
He is also a total dick.
Bobby Flay is arrogant and unpleasant, cocky and dismissive. He isn't just the biggest dick on the Food Network, he is the only dick on the Food Network, and the absence of others makes his offenses seem all the more egregious.
Flay's dicketry is never more evident than on "FoodNation," a series in which, according to FoodTV.com, he "explore[s] cities and regions across the U.S., examining local culinary history and character."
Impatient and bored, desultory and mocking, Flay hosts "FoodNation" like an eighth grader who is too cool for his choir concert. He fulfills his duties, but makes it clear that he is just going through the motions, as if the hosting gig is some sort of court-mandated community service or the result of a bitterly lost bet.
[...] The presence of a small studio audience [on "Hot off the Grill with Bobby Flay," a boring, subpar, instructional cooking show] whose members are called on to participate in the food preparation affords Flay ample opportunity to be a dick. On a recently aired episode, after instructing a volunteer to julienne some vegetables, Flay jeers at her inferior knife-work, inciting the rest of the room to laugh at her expense.
Flay honed this type of social brutality during his storied appearances on "Iron Chef". At the end of his first battle against Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, a smack-talking, posturing Flay jumped triumphantly onto the counter. Standing on his cuttingboard and doing that dorky "raise the roof" hand gesture, Flay lead the crowd in chanting "U.S.A! U.S.A!" All of this, but primarily the standing on the cutting board part, grievously offended Morimoto and the rest of the Japanese contingent.
Hilariously, Flay lost the battle, and afterwards took every opportunity to complain to the press that it was unfair, that his equipment was inferior to his challenger's and that the odds were stacked against him. A year later, he was afforded a rematch, which he ended up winning. As the final buzzer sounded, Flay jumped up and stood on the counter once again. In typically obnoxious fashion, he pointed out that this time he wasn't standing on the cutting board cause he didn't want to offend anybody. "He's so American!" the young Japanese actress on the panel of judges tittered nervously. Morimoto just shook his head in disbelief.
Nat Decants: A Spirited Race. In this week's wine (and occasionally spirits) newsletter from Natalie MacLean, she looks forward to the first Saturday of May, which will feature not only the Kentucky Derby but lots of mint juleps.
Adieu to the manse, and to New Orleans. Apparently the Crescent City is aghast -- Anne Rice is selling her house and moving to the suburbs. Even her own son Christopher can't believe it.
Yes, I know, the house is a character in many of her stories, and her presence there and in the city is all part of the city's character and history. But things change. It's an 11,000 square foot house in which she's now alone, surrounded by all the memories of her dead husband. Let the woman have some peace.
Credibility. He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means. (Thanks, Wes!) William Saletan writes in Slate:
One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this: When I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.[ Link to today's entries ]
That's the summation President Bush delivered as he wrapped up his press conference Tuesday night. It's the message he emphasized throughout: Our commitment. Our pledge. Our word. My conviction. Given the stakes in Iraq and the war against terrorism, it would be petty to poke fun at Bush for calling credibility "incredibly important." His routine misuse of the word "incredible," while illiterate, is harmless. His misunderstanding of the word "credible," however, isn't harmless. It's catastrophic.
To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you promised yesterday. "A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon," he argued Tuesday night. When the situation is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush's most useful trait. But when the situation is unclear, Bush's notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Allez cuisine! I'm really, really looking forward to "Iron Chef America" this weekend -- the promos look pretty cool, and me little TiVo is all primed and ready to go.
From what I've heard, they did a pretty good job with it, unlike the last debacle involving Shatner and filmed in Vegas (a bad omen from the start). The chefs they got that time were good (Todd English, Jean-François Meteigner, et al)but the producers really didn't know how to pull it off, overdid the camp to the googolth power, hired Shatner (oy) and had idiotic judges to boot.
This time it was filmed in a soundstage in Los Angeles (and who would I have had to have known to get into that?! ... arrrgh), there are two real Iron Chefs, Sakai and Morimoto, plus Mario Batali! (My hero!) Oh, and Wolfgang Puck, who along with his chef Lee Hefter are responsible for one of the three best restaurant meals of my life at Spago a few years back. And, unfortunately, that smirking, arrogant putz Bobby Flay (who apparently can cook, even though you want to accept a dish from him and them immediately slap him). Apparently he's made his peace with Morimoto, because they two of them battle together as a tag team in one of the episodes. Ultimately I have to say that that's a good thing (even though I still think he's a putz, and thought that even before his appalling conduct during his first Iron Chef battle with Morimoto).
The role of Dr. Yukio Hattori is being filled by Alton Brown this time (which is brilliant!), and some other guy from the Fine Living Network is filling Fukui-san's shoes. Now all we need is a good Ota and we're stylin'.
My must-eat restaurants list includes Babbo in New York (which will be sooner than later), Morimoto's eponymously-named restaurant in Philly, and one day, if I can ever afford to go to Japan, Sakai's La Rochelle. Ah, one day ...
Heart attack on a plate. Ah, but you'll die smiling.
In today's New Orleans Menu Daily, Tom Fitzmorris talks about one of the dishes that I am not allowed to have these days -- Fettuccine Alfredo and its cousins. It's just so feckin' good ... and the reason? Well, a lot of heavy cream and a lot of the undisputed King of Cheeses, Parmagiano-Reggiano. Duh.
There's another great variation for which he gives out the recipe, and I just had to pass it along. Maybe one day I'll be allowed to eat it again (once a year).
RIGATONI QUATTRO FORMAGGIFor all my fellow WeightWatchers, an appetizer-sized portion of this is 12 points, and an entree is 24 points (which is two more than I get all day these days). *glerp*
Rigatoni with four cheeses
What you want here is a combination of cheeses from different animals. So you have Parmigiano (cow), Romano (sheep), Gorgonzola (cow) or Roquefort (sheep), and Fontina (cow).
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/2 pint half-and-half
3 ounces grated Parmigiano cheese
3 ounces grated Romano cheese
3 ounces grated Fontina cheese
1 ounce crumbled blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked and drained
In a large saucepan, combine the cream and half-and-half over medium-low heat. Let it simmer for about ten minutes. Be very careful not to let it boil and foam over.
Add the cheeses and whisk into the cream until the cheeses melt completely and blend into the cream. Return to a simmer, then turn off the heat.
Put the cooked, drained pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss with the pasta to coat.
Serve with freshly-ground black pepper to taste.
YIELD: 4 entrees or 8 appetizers.
Ignorance is strength. Journalist and author Ron Suskind offers some severe critiques on the way the White House is managing press conferences:
For each press conference, the White House press secretary asks the reporters for their questions, selects six or seven of the questions to answer and those reporters are the only ones called upon to ask their questions during the press conference, Suskind said.The truth shall make you free.
This system makes it so that the president has answers already prepared for questions that he knows will be asked, Suskind said.
Suskind also said that the White House uses intimidation to force writers into only writing favorable stories about the administration.
"If you write something the White House doesn't like, they take you in and say, 'If you ever write something like you did today, nobody from the White House will ever talk to you again,'" Suskind said. "(The White House is) pissed, and ... angry."
"I am not pro-Bush or anti-Bush," Suskind said. I am pro-facts."
Monday, April 19, 2004
"It kinda, sorta worked ... just like New Orleans." In the wee hours of the morning, a piece of New Orleans' history, long-lost, has finally returned ... and it'll be useful history as well. Forty years after being torn down, the newly-rebuilt (man, did that seem to take forever) Canal Street streetcar line, which runs down the center of New Orleans' main drag all the way to City Park, finally had its maiden voyage this morning at 3am, and the intrepid were there to be the first:
The [first] car was greeted by the standard mishmash of New Orleans people: old and young, black and white, local and tourist, drunk and sober, all standing around slurping coffee and noshing on beignets. They had amassed on the neutral ground at Canal and Salcedo streets for the better part of two hours, taking numbers for a ride to nowhere in particular and trading life stories with friends and strangers alike.And of course, we New Orleanians love to reminisce ...
All of a sudden, the red car rolled up. A man named Alan Drake, a volunteer who gave out numbers because, he said, he just knew the scene would otherwise devolve into madness, started hustling people into a line.
"Only if you have a No. 90 and below, get in line! Respect the people who have been here for hours!" he ordered.
The streetcar ignored Drake and his line, pulling up in the middle of the crowd. Its doors parted to reveal a police officer.
"We got no numbers," the officer barked.
For a moment, outrage spread. "Can you believe this?" snapped local public relations professional Warren Bell.
"This is the RTA, remember?" another man griped. "They're the ones that destroyed these things in the first place."
Wearing his father's white Mayer Israel suit, the same one he wore 40 years ago, [local preservationist Jack Stewart] remembered the streetcar's last roll down Canal Street [40 years ago] as "torture, like your insides were being torn up." People crammed onto the car with dour faces, he said. But one couple boarded carrying grocery bags and wearing smiles.As y'all locals may recall, Vic Schiro sticks in our memories for about two things: his famous quote during Hurricane Betsy ("Don't believe any false rumors unless you hear 'em from me."), and for the fact that when he was introduced during the very first New Orleans Saints game to be broadcast on national television, he was roundly booed by the crowd.
"The man pulled out these wieners and he said, 'Look at these hot dogs,'" Stewart said, waving an imaginary sausage in a stranger's face. "When we got back to the bus barn, Mayor Vic Schiro came out and the guy said, 'These are for you, Vic,' and he started throwing the hot dogs at the mayor."
Don't forget Ed Branley's new book about the history of the Canal streetcar line, available at his site, in bookstores and via Amazon.com.
I'll be home in two months. I can't wait to ride it!
Only in Los Angeles ... can one have an encounter such as the one Christen Nelson had at The Grove last Thursday. (We were at The Grove on Saturday and had a fabulous time with some wonderful people, but didn't meet anyone quite like this.)
A Confederacy of Scammers. Via Sean comes the most brilliant of the let's-reply-to-the-Nigerian-419-spammers scenarios, in which "Mrs. Wininie Mandela" gets a reply from Ignatius J. Reilly of Constantinople Street, New Orleans. Winnie-scammer, may you feel the sting of the lash across your pitiful shoulders!
And then ... depression set in. I did have fun this past weekend (insanely busy as it was), and I did have some rather pleasant links to post this morning, but a not insignificant portion of the weekend was spend sinking into a blacker and blacker funk, just by making the mistake of reading the news. Between what may well be the death of the last chance for peace in Israel/Palestine and the rise in terrorism it will bring about, and the latest compoundings of the debacle in Iraq (see the quote below), the fact that Cheney and Rumsfeld had already briefed Saudi Prince Bandar about Iraq war plans before Bush even told his own Secretary of State, and finding out that Bush had made a deal (or at least attempted to do so) with the aforementioned reptilian Saudi prince to control oil prices before the election, keeping them high and then dropping them before the election, thereby hoping to help guarantee his winning it ...
It's enough to bring one closer to despair, not only for the state of this nation but for that of the world, as never in my lifetime.
Regarding the passing of state secrets to the ambassador of a nation known to support terrorism, and with that nation's ambassador agreeting to manipulate oil prices in an attempt to influence the American presidential election, Tom Tomorrow asks a very good question: "Why is Bush not facing impeachment proceedings? It's a hypothetical question, I'm not actually asking for responses, but it's not meant as hyperbole -- in any sane universe, these would be impeachable offenses."
Quotes of the day. The first two are lifted from Billmon -- I think more people need to see them, particularly in that juxtaposition.
"When the fighting is over in Fallujah, I will sell everything I have, even my home," said a resistance fighter who gave his name as Abu Taif Mashhadani. He wept as he recalled his 8-year-old daughter, who he said was killed by a U.S. sniper in Fallujah a week ago. "I will send my brothers north to kill the Kurds, and I will go to America and target the civilians. Only the civilians. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. And the one who started it will be the one to be blamed."
-- from the Washington Post, "Revolts in Iraq Deepen Crisis In Occupation", April 18, 2004.
"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."
-- from the Christian Bible, Book of Hosea, Chapter 8, Verse 7.
"History. We'll never know. We'll all be dead."
-- George W. Bush, when asked how history will judge him and his war in Iraq.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, April 16, 2004
Cocktail of the day. Okay, I have a confession to make -- the only reason I posted the Income Tax Cocktail yesterday was because of its name, not because it's one we particularly like. (We're not really Bronx fans; we much prefer Brooklyns, actually.) In fact, during cocktail hour at the house, we didn't even drink one. "I'm not too excited about that one," Wes said. "The whole gin-and-juice thing is not appealing to me at all." So we drank something else.
This is what we drank -- a surprising combination of ingredients, a gorgeous, peach-like color and an amazing flavor. Unsurprisingly, it's a Dr. Cocktail creation, culled from Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology (always head to one's cocktail library or to CocktailDB when you're looking to try something you've never tried before; you almost can't go wrong).
The Lewis & Martin CocktailIt's really, really good. Ah, that amazing alchemy of mixology strikes again. There was a bit of controversy in the book with regards to this drink's preparation -- Gary advocates that this drink should be stirred, as it's made entirely with clear liquors. Doc shakes his, saying something about being a savage and shaking everything. Wes chimed in that he prefers his drinks shaken as well, as they're colder that way. I decided that this one might benefit by being a few degress warmer, to let the complex flavors develop, and I stirred. That's my recommendation.
2 ounces Bourbon.
1 ounce Lillet blanc.
3/4 ounce crème de banane.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters.
Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass; stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the lemon peel to express the oil onto the surface of the drink; garnish with the peel.
Guinness is good for you! Well, we all knew that, particularly those of us who are Irish or of Irish extraction -- the toucan has been telling us for years, as have Irish doctors. We already know it tastes great (ah Jaysis, mother's milk, the pint is), but now we know for sure -- it's lower in alcohol, has fewer calories and carbohydrates, and is full of the flavonoid compounds that prevent blood clots and heart attacks.
Guinness, in fact, is lower in alcohol, calories and carbohydrates than Samuel Adams, Budweiser, Heineken and almost every other major-brand beer not classified as light or low-carb. It has fewer calories and carbohydrates than low-fat milk and orange juice.Incidentally, those "major-brand" American beers that are classified as "light" or "low-carb" ... I wouldn't pour them into a potted plant. I love my plants more than that. *
Another pint, please!
The other, other white meat? In Louisiana they've been trying to get people to eat nutria for a while now, primariliy to thin them out because of the incredible damage they do to our coastal wetlands. They even got Chef John Folse, one of Louisiana's finest, to prepare a multi-course meal with nutria meat. Supposedly, it's good eatin'. Most people I know take one look at a nutria and say, "It's a giant rat," and decline.
Now some folks think we've got a once-in-17-years opportunity for more so-called good eatin' ... they'll be chomping down on the cicadas that are due to rise from the earth in buzzing hordes next month.
Cicada-eating has a long history on this continent. The original inhabitants ate them. The current population is less enthralled, or maybe less hungry. Either way, some people are trying to revive human cicada consumption.Er, no.
Jacques Tiziou, a Frenchman-turned-American who lives in a tree-fringed colonial in Northwest, will gather as many as he can, eating a few right away and saving the rest for later. Silver-bearded and gentle of disposition, he speaks in accented English that makes even bugs sound irresistible.
Tiziou offers a guest two ways of consuming a few of the cicadas he still has in his freezer from 1987, the year of their last emergence in the Washington area. Some he sautes, leaving them enrobed in parsley and butter. And some he presents plain, black things about as big as the top half of your pinky, wingless but still leggy, on a little white saucer.
"You're going to grab one and put it in your mouth alive," he says with a twinkle in his eye. "You have to."
A good question. Josh Marshall asks, "In the last six weeks, how many documents has the Bush administration declassified for the exclusive and explicit purpose of attacking a political enemy?"
Somewhere, in an alternate universe ... this happened. (Via Patrick):
In a parallel universe far, far away (that has MSNBC)Unfortunately, we live in this universe ...
November 10, 2004
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming to "Hardball", Publius. I love your blog. Well, Bush has just won in a landslide, and you of all people voted for him. Republicans love him. Democrats love him. The world loves him. How did Bush pull it off?
PUBLIUS: Well, Chris, I think Bush obviously got a lot of capital for his response to 9/11. He calmed us. He took out the Taliban and sent fifty thousand troops into Tora Bora to finish off the top al Qaeda leaders (which is a lot more than Rumsfeld wanted). But all that's a familiar story by now. What really solidified my support for Bush was the path he chose to take in early 2002, after the Afghanistan war.
As we now know from various insiders who have since left the administration, there was a fierce internal battle within the White House during the spring of 2002. Bush was faced with a historic choice. He could concentrate on strengthening America, or he could concentrate on strengthening the Republican Party. On the domestic front, Rove and others were putting a lot of pressure on Bush to use his 9/11 capital to create a new Republican majority and punish Democrats. He wanted Bush to ram through a new round of tax cuts and make the war on terror a distinctly Republican issue. On the foreign policy front, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were clamoring for a war with Iraq. They also wanted to free America from the constraints of the UN and world community. Rove immediately sensed the political possibilities and he joined the hawks in pushing for the war too. What won my absolute support, Chris, was that Bush had the courage to tell them all to go to hell.
You see, Bush had a different vision than the ideologues. 9/11, he said, changed him. It changed his entire outlook on life. He saw that he had been given one of those rare, once-every-hundred-years opportunities to unite America and channel its collective energy toward making the world a better place. Thus, even though he lacked the expertise of the people in his cabinet, his instincts were telling him that 9/11 presented an even greater opportunity than Rove was offering. It offered something more than partisan gain. It was one of those rare existential moments when a single individual has the power to change the world for the better. So, rather than moving to the right and squandering that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Bush moved to the center. After 9/11, Bush decided to stop being a Republican president, and start becoming an American president. And just look at what followed.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Cocktail of the day. I expect a lot of us might need one of these tonight. Or six. If it seems familiar, it is -- it's basically a Bronx Cocktail with bitters added.
Income Tax CocktailPour me another one ...
1-1/4 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce orange juice.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1 dash Angostura bitters or other aromatic bitters.
Shake & strain, serve in a cocktail glass. No garnish.
We're smarter than they think. An Associated Press poll shows that American prefer balancing the budget to cutting taxes, by a margin of nearly 2 to 1...
... even though many believe their overall tax burden has risen over the last three years.As I pointed out in a comment yesterday, the tax cut has certainly been a boon for two very wealthy men -- George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. In 2002, Bush paid about 31 percent of his ~$856K of adjusted gross income; in 2003, he paid 28%. Cheney made out like a bandit -- in '02 he paid 29% on an income of $1.2 million, and last year paid a mere 20% on an income of $1.3 million. (Why is my tax rate higher than Cheney's?)
As the nation's tax deadline of April 15 approaches, people's lukewarm feeling about tax cuts may be influenced by a belief that recent cuts haven't helped them personally.
Half in the poll, 49 percent, said their overall tax burden -- including federal, state and local taxes -- had gone up over the past three years. That's almost four times the 13 percent in the poll who said their overall taxes had gone down.
"Every time you turn around, there's a new gasoline tax, more property taxes, a library tax -- because they don't have enough money," said Tom Artley, a 52-year-old supervisor at a manufacturing plant in Williamsport, Pa. He was referring to increasing financial problems faced by many cities and states.
"I'd like to retire in the next five years," Artley said. "It's scary for people like me who are going to be living on a fixed income."
Even when it comes to federal taxes, most in the public don't feel their taxes have gone down over the past three years. Twenty-five percent in the poll said their federal taxes had gone up during that time, while 43 percent said they had stayed the same.
Among those most likely to say their taxes had gone down were the wealthy and investors.
Yep, those tax cuts sure worked ...
War analysis. Today's NPR "Morning Edition" featured an interview with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey (commander of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf War) and retired Lt. Gen. William Odom (director of the National Security Agency from 1985-1988). It's a remarkably reasoned and informed analysis, and is a highly recommended listen.
McCaffrey says the United States entered Iraq with a "grossly anemic" military force and probably will need a United Nations-led military presence for a transfer to succeed. He says it probably will take a year or two for Iraqi institutions to be built and security and stability to come to that country. "I can't imagine why they would think that soveriegnty for Iraq on 1 July ... it's being almost brooded about as, well, it's symbolic, it doesn't make much difference. On 1 July, some political leader is the legal representative. What happens to our contractors on 1 July? Are they subject to arrest by Iraqi police? I think the political situation is very tricky, and inadequately thought out."These guys might just know what they're talking about, ya think?
Odom says the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein has had the unintended consequence of making Iraq safe for terrorists and other anti-U.S. movements "and they're breeding them rapidly."
Out of town, out of touch. (Thanks, Wes!) Fred Kaplan writes in Slate about a bit of testimony yesterday that made my jaw drop when I heard it. CIA Director George Tenet testified that he received a report from the FBI's Minnesota field office that an Islamic jihadist, Zacharias Moussaoui, had been taking flying lessons, saying he only wanted to learn 747s; the flight school and the field office found this very suspicious. Tenet was briefed in August of 2001, and was asked if he mentioned this to Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings.
Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, "I was not in briefings at this time." Bush, he noted, "was on vacation." He added that he didn't see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. "You never talked with him?" Roemer asked. "No," Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, "on leave."Quite.
And there you have it. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has made a big point of the fact that Tenet briefed the president nearly every day. Yet at the peak moment of threat, the two didn't talk at all. At a time when action was needed, and orders for action had to come from the top, the man at the top was resting undisturbed.
[...] Roemer asked Tenet if he brought up the Moussaoui briefing at that meeting. No, Tenet replied. "It wasn't the appropriate place." Roemer didn't follow up and ask, "Why not? Where was the appropriate place?" Perhaps he was too stunned. He sure looked it.
(On Wednesday evening, after the hearings, a CIA spokesman called reporters to tell them Tenet had misspoken: It turns out he did brief Bush in August 2001, twice -- on Aug. 17 and Aug. 31. Assuming the correction is true, it doesn't negate the point. The first briefing, which the spokesman described as uneventful, took place before Tenet learned about Moussaoui. The second occurred after the president returned to Washington.)
The official story about the PDB is that the CIA prepared it at the president's request. Bush had heard all Tenet's briefings about a possible al-Qaida attack overseas, the tale goes, and he wanted to know if Bin Laden might strike here. This story is almost certainly untrue. On March 19 of this year, Tenet told the 9/11 commission that the PDB had been prepared, as usual, at a CIA analyst's initiative. He later retracted that testimony, saying the president had asked for the briefing. Tenet embellished his new narrative, saying that the CIA officer who gave the briefing to Bush and Condi Rice started by reminding the president that he had requested it. But as Rice has since testified, she was not present during the briefing; she wasn't in Texas. Someone should ask: Was that the only part of the tale that Tenet made up? Or did he invent the whole thing -- and, if so, on whose orders?
The distinction is important. If Bush asked for the briefing, it suggests that he at least cared about the subject; then the puzzle becomes why he didn't follow up on its conclusions. If he didn't ask for the briefing, then he comes off as simply aloof. (It's a toss-up which conclusion is more disturbing.)
Quote of the day. "I'm proud that I live in a country where witnessing two hours of bloody, barbarous torture in gloating detail is considered indicia of religious piety, whereas a mere second gazing upon a woman's breast is cause for outraged apoplexy."
-- Mrs. Betty Bowers
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Artisanal bread. Part two of Bruce Cole's series of essays on artisanal foods is about bread ... "not dat bread! Da good bread, like-a you grandmother make!"
Artisan bread does not come in a cellophane bag, twisted shut with a shiny gold tie, and labeled with the words wonder, health, pride, earth goddess, or (gag) Parisian.I'm lucky enough to be able to get artisan bread fairly easily -- in my beloved little community we're blessed with the Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli, where the fresh baguettes and loaves of Italian bread cost barely more than a dollar, where the semolina bread is out of this world and where I can also get great deli sandwiches, olive oil, imported pasta and all the prosciutto crudo and pancetta I can eat. 1726 Colorado Blvd, (323) 255-8224. A short drive into Pasadena takes us to Roma Italian Deli and Grocery, 918 N. Lake Avenue at Mountain. Signor Rosario, one of the two elderly Italian gentlemen who run the place is the source of the quote above, when we asked for bread and his checkout girl reached for a loaf he deemed substandard for us (we're regulars, and it seems he likes us.) "Not dat one! Da good bread, like-a you grandmother make!" (Molto grazie.) The ciabatta bread is what he was referring to, unbelivably good and unbelievably cheap. There's also another bread they make; I forget what they call it, but it's an enormous, chewy loaf that always looks like some kind of mutant alligator. You'll also find plenty of Italian groceries, pasta, produce, wines and an amazing selection of meats and cheeses. My favorites are the 4-year-old aged imported Provolone ("the domestic stuff, it has no taste") and the creamy, nutty Fontinella, which always draws raves when we serve it to family and friends. More often than not, when I ask Signor Rosario for, say, three-quarters of a pound of cheese, he'll take the wheel and the knife, eyeball it, make one quick thrust, then weigh the piece he just cut off on the electronic scale, which will say ... .75 pound. I'm always astounded when he does that.
Artisan bread does not contain calcium that can improve children's brain function and memory. (You think I'm kidding?)
Artisan bread is as hard as a brick when it's a couple days old, unless you have a fancy bread box to store it in, which might extend the shelf life another day or so. In other words, no preservatives.
Artisan bread contains these mysterious and magical ingredients: flour, water, salt, and wild wild yeast.
Artisan bread is usually gone from the shelf by about 3 p.m.
Another great one I pass every day on the way to work is Tbilisi N Yerevan Bakery, 7862 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood. Russian rye, whole wheat and black bread, pastries galore, peroshki and khachapuri and many other joys of Mother Russia ... mmmmm, khorosho!
Further west and a bit beyond the pale for me at the moment (but not when my feckin' day job moves to Santa Monica, oy) is Le Pain du Jour, 828 Pico Blvd. at Lincoln in Santa Monica. They make the best, lightest and most perfectly crispy-not-chewy-crusted French baguettes I've had outside of New Orleans -- the only locally-baked loaves I've found appropriate for authentic New Orleans poor boys (with the possible exception of Vietnamese bakeries). Oh, just about any Vietnamese bakery you'll come across makes fabulous French bread -- it's the one positive aspect of French colonialism I can think of offhand.
It's not hard to find good bread (and don't worry about the no-preservatives thing; bread freezes beautifully), and Bruce also points to primers on making it yourself.
A jug of wine (er, bottle of Bourbon), a loaf of bread and thou ...
Truism of the day. "Life is too short to drink cheap booze."
-- Ted Allen, Food and Drink Guru of the Fab Five, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
Amen, my brother. Life is also too short to eat bad (and processed) food, and too short to rush through it. Take your time, savor your meals, and stop and smell a feckin' rose every now and again. You get to know things better when they go by slowly.
"This has been tough weeks in that country": Quotes of the day. My favorite (i.e, most jaw-dropping, and most embarrassing to me as an American) bits from last night's debacle of a press conference:
Q: Mr. President, Why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? And Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30?Thank you for not answering the question. Next ...
A: We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And secondly, because the the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions. That's why we're meeting, and I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
Q: Mr. President, I was asking why you're appearing together rather than separately, which was their request.
A: Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them.
Q: Looking forward about keeping the United States safe, a group representing about several thousand FBI agents today wrote to your administration begging you not to split up the law enforcement and counterterrorism because they say it ties their hands. Yet you mentioned yesterday that you think, perhaps, the time has come for some real intelligence reforms. That can't happen without real leadership from the White House. Will you and how will you?The reporter asked him about intelligence reforms and strong leadership -- what will he do, and how will he do it. As The Daily Howler put it, "by the time Bush concluded his stream-of-consciousness reply, he was praising the American people for feeding the hungry in Asia ... 'I think the American people find it interesting that we're providing food for the North Korea people who starve.' There's a phrase for that: Deeply embarrassing. Let's just say it: That's what happens when a president who is wholly out of his depth runs out of scripted points which are even vaguely relevant."
A: Well, you're talking about one aspect of possible. I think you're referring to what they call the MI-5. And I heard a summary of that from Director Mueller, who feels strongly that we -- and he'll testify to that effect, I guess, tomorrow. I shouldn't be prejudging his testimony. But my point was that I'm open for suggestions. I look forward to seeing what the 9/11 commission comes up with. I look forward to seeing what the Silverman-Robb commission comes up with. I'm confident Congress will have some suggestions.
[415 words of meaningless platitudes later...]
A: ... And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. We have an obligation to help feed the hungry. I think the American people find it interesting that we're providing food for the North Korea people who starve. We have an obligation to lead the fight on AIDS, on Africa. And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That's our obligation. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I'm concerned.
My favorite one of all (i.e., most depressing and demoralizing for this country):
Q: In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say? And what lessons have you learned from it?(Patrick added, "As Dave Pell observed, this fantastically challenging question is 'right out of every job interview in American history.' Oh, that's right, he's probably never had to do one of those.")
A: Hmmm. I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I'm sure historians will look back and say, Gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet. [...] You know, I hope I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick, as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
Well, I'd actually like to have a president who can, in fact, work under pressure and think on his feet. Thinking on one's feet is an example of what I call leadership.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Whoops, almost forgot. As expected, Mozaik were phenomenal. In addition to all the songs from the album, there were some solo sets as well. Nikola Parov played a long, amazingly complex piece on the gaida, the Bulgarian bagpipe -- this opened the second set, also serving the purpose of killing time while the rest of the band figured out how to get their instruments out of the dressing room, which someone had inadvertently locked. Bruce Molsky did a great set of Appalachian tunes, and Dónal Lunny's replacement, Scottish guitarist Tony McManus, did a virtuoso set of Scottish strathspeys, reels and pipe tunes adapted for guitar. (I ended up buying one of his solo albums at the swag table, one he did with former members of La Bottine Souriante.)
My question of "Why the hell did I have to come to Folsom to see these people?" seemed to be answered by Andy's initial thanks to the people who run the music series at the Folsom Community Center -- apparently there are folk and roots concerts there all the time. Andy said he had played there many times before, and was very fond of it. (There ya go.) Well, I might just have to keep an eye on that place -- it was only about three hours from door to door, my house to the Folsom Motel 6 (which was ... Spartan, to say the least; you don't get much for $45.99 anymore).
A moment of silence for Weird Al. As you might have heard, Weird Al Yankovic's parents died last Friday, from carbon monoxide poisoning. Al's statement on his website is heartbreaking. Keep him in your thoughts.
Daddy, why did we have to attack Iraq? Here are some questions and answers about United States foreign policy. Perhaps we should put some kids in charge. (Thanks, Brian!)
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Monday, April 12, 2004
What, me worry? On Saturday the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.", was released. His reaction? (Via Tom Tomorrow, who said it best and most simply:)
"I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America -- at a time and a place, an attack," Mr. Bush said after attending Easter services in Fort Hood, Tex."And what did President Serious About Terror do after reading the memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US," since after all it did not indicate that there was any cause for alarm?
Well, he went golfing, of course.
President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Texas."Meanwhile, Jim Pinkerton, who Josh Marshall describes as a somewhat alienated Republican, asks the right question":
The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing -- the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night -- warning "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.
"No mulligans, except on the first tee," he said to laughter. "That's just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I'm walking out here, I'm fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy -- I hit the speed limit on July 6th." [...]
But if top officials were at battle stations, there was no sign of it on the surface. Bush spent most of August 2001 on his ranch here. His staff said at the time that by far the biggest issue on his agenda was his decision on federal funding of stem cell research, followed by education, immigration and the Social Security "lockbox."
If you knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received a memo a month before Pearl Harbor entitled, "Japanese Determined to Attack the United States in the Pacific," and that he had done nothing about that information, would that knowledge change your perception of FDR as a wise war leader? Roosevelt received no such memo, of course, but President George W. Bush got a blunt warning five weeks before 9/11 and he did little or nothing. He even presided over a stand- down in preparations, concentrating on other concerns.He's incompetent at the one point on which he's running his campaign, and he's a liar besides. Why do so many people in this country simply accept what he says, instead of having the more natural reaction -- to smack oneself in the forehead and swear?
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Saturday, April 10, 2004
"I'm a uniter, not a divider" quote of the day. "When the United States invaded Iraq a year ago, one of its chief concerns was preventing a civil war between Shiite Muslims, who make up a majority in the country, and Sunni Muslims, who held all the power under Saddam Hussein.
"Now the fear is that the growing uprising against the occupation is forging a new and previously unheard of level of cooperation between the two groups -- and the common cause is killing Americans."
-- Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, April 9, 2004
(Once again, well done.)
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Friday, April 9, 2004
"I hear that train a-comin' ... It's coming 'round the bend / and I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when ..."
I'm headin' to Folsom this weekend -- with luck, not to the prison, but to see Mozaik. They play the Community Center in Folsom tomorrow, and the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz on Sunday. If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you go. Ireland, America, Bulgaria and Eastern Europe, and the Netherlands meet in a true musical mosaic that is an absolute delight. The new album "Live From the Powerhouse" is now out on Compass Records, and it's wonderful.
Our fearless "leader". Via Cursor: "A Washington Post article on Sec. of State Colin Powell's 'sober assessment' of rising U.S. casualties also reports that President Bush, who toured his ranch Thursday with the head of the NRA and various hunting groups, has spent 'more than 40 percent of his presidency' either at his ranch, at Camp David or in Kennebunkport."
[On Thursday, April 8] Bush spent the morning watching national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups and gave an interview to Ladies' Home Journal.Via the Associated Press:
On Saturday, Bush and his father were to go fishing at the ranch's bass pond with a crew from the Outdoor Life Network's "Fishing with Roland Martin." The White House approached the network about coming to film Bush, who is eager to cultivate an image as a sportsman with the millions of voters who hunt and fish. The crew was to bring its own boat for the shoot on the small pond."Yep, while our soldiers and Marines are getting killed on a daily basis in Iraq, while the situation there continues to deteriorate, while the normally squabbling Sunni and Shi'a Muslims are now actually uniting to fight against the U.S. occupation ... he's on vacation again. If he's such a "wartime president", as he keeps proclaiming while he dresses up as a pilot and pats himself on the back, then his ass belongs in the White House. As Josh Marshall put it, "It's a full-time job, comes with a decent salary."
Ehh, what's so good about it? Some (if not many) folks in Ireland have a somewhat less-than-reverent reaction to government intrusion into a religious holiday. From Hot Press magazine's newsletter:
Now, for those of you that DON'T live in good old Ireland, it's time to let you in on a rather quaint tradition we have. Good Friday is one of just TWO days per annum when alcohol, in any of its forms, cannot be sold in Ireland.Ah, Ireland, mo mhuirnín. :-)
Why? Lord only knows -- but as opposed to encouraging people to abstain from alcohol (one assumes that this is the idea), what invariably ensues is:
1. Panic buying at off-licenses. (That's "liquor stores", Yanks. -- Chuck)
2. More drinking then humanly imaginable.
3. A mess on Saturday that takes 'til Monday to clean up.
You don't have to be insane to live here, but it helps!
Early Happy Easter! Once again, I've let another Easter weekend creep up on me without ordering any Gold Brick Eggs from Elmer's Candy in Ponchatoula, Louisiana (makers of the finest Easter candy on the planet). It's just as well, me working to lose weight and all. (Oh, 173.5 this morning. I'm not plateauing, but I'm slowing down, mostly because I've been kinda bad the last few weeks.)
I'll re-post this bit from a couple of years ago in honor of the holiday. Unfortunately the story is no longer online, so I urge you to seek out the whole thing and all the other stories in David Sedaris' book Me Talk Pretty One Day. It's a hilarious Easter-related story not necessarily about the celebration of the religious holiday, but about trying to explain it in French class. The scenario: David's moved to Paris with his boyfriend and is attempting to learn the language, in a beginners' French class along with people from all over Europe and North Africa. The dialogue below is all in French, none of it fluent except for that of the teacher (who is condescending, dictatorial and feared by our hero). She asks the class...
"And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?"It only gets funnier. Wait until they start talking about the Easter Bunny.
The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"
Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."
The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.
The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and ... oh, shit."
She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
"He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two ... morsels of ... lumber."
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
"He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father."
"He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."
"He nice, the Jesus."
"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."
Now that it's Eastertime, here's the question you've all been waiting for. Why? Why?! Why why why why why? Why Peeps?!?!
Why, I ask you, why?
Sanctified and sealed! Dan Savage got a marriage license in Seattle the other day. Unfortunately it was not one which allowed him to wed Terry, his partner of 10 years, but was one that was granted to him to marry an acquaintance whom he did not love.
Amy Jenniges lives with her girlfriend, Sonia, and I live with my boyfriend, Terry. Last Friday I accompanied Amy and Sonia to room 403, the licensing division, at the King County Administration Building. When Amy and Sonia asked the clerk for a marriage license, the clerk turned white. You could see, "Oh my God, the gay activists are here!" running through her head. County clerks in the marriage license office had been warned to expect gay couples sooner or later, but I guess this particular clerk didn't expect us to show up five minutes before closing on Friday.Now that's what I call "sanctity."
The clerk called over her manager, a nice older white man, who explained that Amy and Sonia couldn't have a marriage license. So I asked if Amy and I could have one--even though I'm gay and live with my boyfriend, and Amy's a lesbian and lives with her girlfriend. We emphasized to the clerk and her manager that Amy and I don't live together, we don't love each other, we don't plan to have kids together, and we're going to go on living and sleeping with our same-sex partners after we get married. So could we still get a marriage license?
"Sure," the license-department manager said, "If you've got $54, you can have a marriage license."
It's absurd, isn't it? And completely arbitrary, based on prejudice. Religious people maintain that church marriage is the only thing that matters (to them, at least) and for the most part their churches will never perform or sanctify same-sex marriages. That's fine. But the churches and their flock should really mind their own business when it comes to the social contract of civil marriage, because it's really none of their business.
Amy and Sonia and I didn't show up at the county building last Friday because we were planning to sue. We came to make a point about the absurdity of our marriage laws. Amy can't marry Sonia, I can't marry Terry -- why? Because the sanctity of marriage must be protected from the queers! But Amy and I can get a marriage license -- and into a sham marriage, if we care to, a joke marriage, one that I promise you won't produce children. And we can do this with the state's blessing -- why? Because one of us is a man and one of us is a woman. Who cares that one of us is a gay man and one of us is a lesbian? So marriage is to be protected from the homos -- unless the homos marry each other.People who go on about "thousands of years of tradition" need to do a little bit more reading about what marriage was really like thousands of years ago, or even a couple hundred. I don't think they'd like to go back to those days.
Is it putting too fine a point on it to say that this is a pretty fucked-up situation?
Anyway, we're happy there's finally been some action. And I'm happy to have a "marriage license." It's not the marriage license I'd like to have, of course. But, still, let me count my blessings: I have a 10-year relationship (but not the marriage license), a house (but not the marriage license), a kid (but not the marriage license), and my boyfriend's credit-card bills (but not the marriage license). I don't know what a guy has to do around here to get the marriage license. But I guess it's some consolation that I can get a meaningless one anytime I like, just so long as I bring along a woman I don't love and my $54.
Bad job. Fred Kaplan writes in Slate on why Condoleezza Rice is a bad national security adviser: "[She has been] passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do."
The key moment came an hour into the hearing, when former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste took his turn at asking questions. Up to this point, Rice had argued that the Bush administration could not have done much to stop the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yes, the CIA's sirens were sounding all summer of an impending strike by al-Qaida, but the warnings were of an attack overseas.Indeed.
Ben-Veniste brought up the much-discussed PDB -- the President's Daily Briefing by CIA Director George Tenet -- of Aug. 6, 2001. For the first time, he revealed the title of that briefing: "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States."
Rice insisted this title meant nothing. The document consisted of merely "historical information" about al-Qaida -- various plans and attacks of the past. "This was not a 'threat report,'" she said. It "did not warn of any coming attack inside the United States." Later in the hearing, she restated the point: "The PDB does not say the United States is going to be attacked. It says Bin Laden would like to attack the United States."
To call this distinction "academic" would be an insult to academia.
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Thursday, April 8, 2004
The Cocktailian. Time for our fortnightly installment of Gary Regan's tales of the adventures of The Professor, our favorite cocktailian bartender. Today we're offered a simple but delicious cocktail called The Peachy Keen, the first French-based cocktail named after a Texan country singer.
Suffering the indignities of high school. Geekboy (and -girl) fans rejoice: the six- (and eight-) DVD box sets of the short-lived but legendary series "Freaks and Geeks" is now out. The release was a long time coming, and was a labor of love for the show's creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow.
Being both a freak and a geek (and having suffered many indignities through four years of Holy Cross High School in New Orleans during roughly the same era as the show (so I can relate, as can many of us), I bought the eight-disc Special Edition, with about a zillion extras and packaged as if it were a high-school yearbook (just about the best DVD packaging I've ever seen).
What took the longest, and which was the most difficult, was securing all the music licensing. The series "memorably scored its characters' ups and downs to the time-specific sounds of The Who, Billy Joel, Van Halen and Supertramp ... [for such a series] music was essential." Paul and Judd wouldn't compromise on the music, and their perseverence paid off -- every song on the DVD version is as it was when the show was aired.
Potential good news, too ... if the "F&G" DVDs sell well, then next year they'll release "Undeclared" as well, another great show from the same team, given even less of a chance by Fox than "F&G" got from NBC. Woo!
Deconstructing Condi. The Center for American Progress has complete coverage of Condoleezza Rice's testimony this morning before the 9/11 Commission, and kicks it off with an analysis of the claims of her opening statement, versus the facts.
The power of art. This portrait of George W. Bush is entitled "The War President", and was made by Joe of American Leftist. It is a photo-mosaic comprised of individual photos of some of the 638+ Americans who have died in Iraq during the last year-and-a-bit.
A powerful and thought-provoking image, indeed.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2004
Cocktail of the day. This is another "forgotten" cocktail that comes to us courtesy of Dr. Cocktail. It's a creation of a bartender whose name escapes me, but it's from 1934 and the drink, its creator and the story behind it will appear in Doc's forthcoming book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, due out in October. Don't worry about making a note; we'll be talking about it a lot in here when the time comes.
The thing that made Doc's drink so much better than the one we made at home the other night was his use of Smucker's brand raspberry syrup, right from the grocery store, instead of the Torani raspberry syrup we used. Now, don't get me wrong -- I love Torani products; we use them all the time. But man ... that Smucker's stuff had an fabulously fruity, aromatic and intensely jammy quality (unsurprisingly) that really put this drink over the top. It's as simple as can be -- enjoy it, and don't worry about the silly name.
The Blinker CocktailTo quote Wes, "What the world needs is more rye cocktails." Amen.
2 ounces rye whiskey.
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice.
1 teaspoon raspberry syrup.
Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for no less than 10 seconds, until very cold; strain into a cocktail glass.
Doc didn't garnish this, and I don't know if the original recipe called for a garnish, but we like garnish in our drinks so we added a stemless maraschino cherry.
A beautiful restoration. The Gamble House, Charles and Henry Greene's masterpiece and one of my favorite buildings in the world, is undergoing a face-lift (sorry for the L.A. Times' annoying registration requirements). Some of it's being done with Q-tips, single-hair brushes and tiny tools, painstakingly, as is proper when one restores an aged work of art. The article about the process is fascinating and I can't wait for the July completion date so I can go back and see it in its newly pristine state.
I've been many times, and I'll be there many times more. Hell, if my spare time wasn't already so limited, I'd volunteer to be a Gamble House docent. Maybe one day ...
A Cold mountain man on Bayou Têche. From Gambit Weekly, the story of one of my very favorite musicians, multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, on his journey from Kentucky mountain roots and an Ohio upbringing, to the Louisiana bayou to the mountains of Transylvania, where he supervised much of the music in the film Cold Mountain.
That's fair, don't you think? This jaw-dropper nearly had me dribbling my tea onto the tablecloth while I read the Los Angeles Times at breakfast this morning. I had no idea it was this many of them. (I found another link to the story, so that you won't have to deal with the Times' annoying registration.)
More than 60% of U.S. corporations didn't pay any federal taxes for 1996 through 2000, years when the economy boomed and corporate profits soared, Tuesday's Wall Street Journal reported, citing the investigative arm of Congress.How much tax did you pay last year? How much tax are you going to pay this year? If this pisses you off, listen to what John Kerry says about eliminating this, and requiring huge corporations to pay their fair share, just like you and I have to. (Scroll down from the above link to priorities, point five.)
The disclosures from the General Accounting Office are certain to fuel the debate over corporate tax payments in the presidential campaign. Corporate tax receipts have shrunk markedly as a share of overall federal revenue in recent years, and were particularly depressed when the economy soured. By 2003, they had fallen to just 7.4% of overall federal receipts, the lowest rate since 1983, and the second-lowest rate since 1934, federal budget officials say.
The War in Iraq: Point-Counterpoint. As usual, The Onion is right on the money. All that's missing is "Jane, you ignorant slut!" (My, why does that article have such a ring of familiarity, one that seems to echo through some weblogs' comments sections?)
Woo-hoo! Way to win those hearts and minds, boys! Cheney and Rumsfeld's predictions will indeed come true. They'll be welcoming us on the streets, giving us kisses, and throwing rose petals in our troops' path.
U.S. hits mosque compound; 40 said killedMeanwhile, a dozen of our guys were killed yesterday by hearts-and-minds-won Iraqis, and that's only just in one day. In adition to that, two soldiers from other countries died, as did at least 66 Iraqis.
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. Marines in the third day of a battle to pacify this Sunni Muslim city fired rockets that hit a mosque compound filled with worshippers Wednesday, and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed.
And they're just going to hand over control to a puppet local leader while this is going on? That they're going to do it while the country is this unstable and shows no sign of increased stability in sight? Do we really think that this is going to get better and go away for them to make their arbitrary date in time? (A date which, incendentally, smells suspiciously timed for political purposes.)
As so often happens with me, a line from a movie popped into my head: "You got us into this mess and you can't get us out 'cause you don't know where the hell you're going, do you? Do you, you son of a bitch?!" ("Apocalypse Now", Chief to Capt. Willard, seconds before he's run through by a spear.)
Quote of the day. "The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone."
-- Harold Meyerson, writing in the Washington Post, April 6, 2004.
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Tuesday, April 6, 2004
The Sturgeon Project. (Nope, it has nothing to do with caviar.)
"There are stories within me that have to be told but which cannot be slanted at any market, because they are as they are."Ted Sturgeon has always been one of my favorite science fiction writers (favorite writers, period), but y'know, there's so much of his stuff I still haven't read that I really should be ashamed of myself. A lot of this lies in the area of short stories, and while I have read a a fair bit of short Sturgeon work, it really only scratches the surface. This man was a amazingly talented writer, genre notwithstanding, and produced a huge number of short stories during his nearly fifty-year career. (For all you Trekkie/ers, Sturgeon also wrote two of the best-ever episodes, "Amok Time" and "Shore Leave", and introduced the concepts of the Prime Directive of cultural non-interference as well as the Vulcan pon farr mating cycle to the Trek universe.)
Theodore Sturgeon wrote these words in a letter to his fiancée Dorothe, in May 1939. He was twenty-one years old, five months into his first intense, energetic, joyful and despairing hardscratch year as a professional writer of fiction... A pulp science fiction audience was growing; John W. Campbell, Jr., publisher of Astounding and Unknown, would buy the first stories from this period, partly determining the audience for this wonderful storyteller who didn't set out to become a science fiction/fantasy writer.
-- from the jacket flap copy, The Ultimate Egoist: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. I (North Atlantic, 1994)
Ten years ago (goddamn, time flies at Mach 21) North Atlantic Books began a project in conjunction with the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust to put his entire works back into print. The first batch of these books have been coming out for ten years, and over the last few years I've been slowly accumulating them -- out of order, of course, and watching them disappear into my Everest-sized pile of yet-to-be-read books. Today I finally got a pristine, first-edition hardback of the first of these (annoyingly out of print even in paperback), I'm going to start a project -- I want to read every single Ted Sturgeon short story, in chronological order, until I run out of them. (This will take a wee while.)
Here are the books out so far:
I: The Ultimate EgoistIt's supposed to be a twelve-volume series, and Vol. IX was just published six months ago (I'll order that one in a month or so; there's no rush, since I won't be getting to it before then). You can still get most of these in either hardcover or paper (and if you can't, just check out ABE Books.com, which is where I recently got the first two volumes.
II: Microcosmic God
IV: Thunder & Roses
V: The Perfect Host
VI: Baby is Three
VII: Saucer of Loneliness
VIII: Bright Segment
IX: And Now the News...
Today, if I can sneak some quiet time at work, I'll begin with "Heavy Insurance", published in the Milwaukee Journal on July 16, 1938 (before my mom was born) and syndicated by the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, thought to be Sturgeon's first professional sale and his first published story.
"You ain't got much time to talk to him, you know," said my blue-uniformed guide.Once upon a time ...
"I know," I told him. "I"ll cut it short."
Quote of the day. "I'm just bitter because I can't surf the web on a 1933 adding machine."
-- Dr. Cocktail, March 20, 2004, while waxing poetic about the joys and pleasures of "the ancient, the dust-covered, the wrinkly, the hoary, the long of tooth" with regards to music, automobiles ... and cocktails.
Nice job. The Washington Post reports on repercussions of Bush's Folly:
Spread of Bin Laden Ideology CitedOh, well done.
Iraq Invasion Said To Alter Dynamics Of Local Militants
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has accelerated the spread of Osama bin Laden's anti-Americanism among once local Islamic militant movements, increasing danger to the United States as the al Qaeda network is becoming less able to mount attacks, according to senior intelligence officials at the CIA and State Department.
At the same time, the Sunni Triangle has become a training ground for foreign Islamic jihadists who are slipping into Iraq to join former Saddam Hussein loyalists to test themselves against U.S. and coalition forces, these officials say.
Islamic militant organizations in places such as North Africa and Southeast Asia, which were previously focused on changing their local country leadership, "have been caught by bin Laden's vision, and poisoned by it... they will now look at the U.S., Israel and the Saudis as targets," a senior intelligence official said last week. "That is one manifestation of how bin Laden's views are expanding well beyond Iraq," he said.
J. Cofer Black, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism and a former head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, gave the same message to a House International Relations subcommittee last Thursday, saying that bin Laden's "virulent anti-American rhetoric . . . has been picked up by a number of Islamic extremist movements which exist around the globe."
The result, according to the senior intelligence analyst, is that the U.S. war on terrorism after Iraq "may transition from defeating a group to fighting a movement." Black said the spread of bin Laden's ideology "greatly complicates our task in stamping out al Qaeda and poses a threat in its own right for the foreseeable future."
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Monday, April 5, 2004
Cocktail of the day. Ooh, this is a good 'un, and brand spanking new. Wes and I were very pleased to be guinea pigs in trying this creation, straight from the laboratory of Dr. Cocktail, its creator.
The inspiration from this one came from the venerable Algonquin cocktail, about which Doc said, "I really like the idea of Bourbon with pineapple juice, but that white vermouth just seemed to water it down." I agree; when Wes first started making these a few years ago, we liked the same idea, but after trying one we cut the vermouth by half on the second go-round. Doc wanted to take that base and layer the flavor with a multitude of bitters, finally balancing that with a touch of maraschino. The result is absolutely lovely.
Of course, you all now have a bottle of Torani Amer on hand for making my (if I do say so myself) lovely Hoskins Cocktail. If you don't have any, you need some -- it's a lovely bitter orange aperitif, and you'll need it for the classic Picon Punch, the Hoskins, and now this one as well. Doc also recommends Evan Williams sour mash Bourbon, a great flavor for a great price.
La Tavola RotondaYou get a lovely balance to the bitters from the maraschino and the sweetness of the juice, plus a tiny bit of tartness from the latter. The bitters-loving cocktailian will love this one. Thanks, Doc! (If any of y'all try this one out, leave a comment and let Doc and me know if you liked it.)
2 ounces Evan Williams Bourbon (or your favorite).
1 ounce pineapple juice.
1/2 ounce Campari.
1/2 ounce Torani Amer.
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters.
Combine all ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds, until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy.
Speaking of bitters, there's an excellent thread in progress on the eGullet Fine Spirits and Cocktails forum, with heavy participation from Doc (including this stunning photograph of his collection of various orange bitters dating from the 1930s to about 1960:
There's also discussion on ingredients, recipes and ways to make your own that might well be better than what's out there now. Join in!
Mmmmmmmmmmmm ... *moan* I found four exposed but unprocessed rolls of film in my desk drawer the other day, and couldn't remember what they were. An hour later at Target, they were revealed to be snaps from last year's Jazz and Heritage Festival. Lotsa good stuff there (including some good shots of Vernel Bagneris, Thaïs Clark and Topsy Chapman performing in the cast reunion of "One Mo' Time"), but there was one stunningly beautiful picture that I had to post, just because ... it's so stunningly beautiful.
That, my friends, is a soft-shell crawfish poor boy. Crawfish molt, just like crabs, and when you farm them and catch them at the right time, they're just as edible -- shell and all -- as a soft-shell crab (which is, as we know, one of the Greatest Foods in the Known Universe). They're battered and deep-fried, of course, and served on a poor boy loaf with pickles and the crowning touch of battered and deep-fried jalapeñ slices. A few dashes of Crystal hot sauce on that puppy and it's heaven right there in your hands.
Quote of the day. "Here we are again in this alternative universe in which it's front page news that Colin Powell has conceded that some of his testimony before the UN Security Council early last year was based on intelligence that was 'not that solid.'
"I also hear that Pope has conceded that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and not vice versa. But I'm not sure that development garnered equal press coverage.
"Since it has been a given for months that none of the speech's intelligence assessments about current programs were correct, this would seem to be a rather limited concession."
-- Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, April 3, 2004
(Not that solid? If he'd been walking across a frozen pond where the ice was as "not solid" as his assertions to the UN, he'd have long since been a frozen corpsicle.)
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Saturday, April 3, 2004
Cocktail of the day. I know you shouldn't be anywhere near your computer (and certainly not anywhere near a feckin' weblog) on the weekend, but just in case ... a quick one I wrote up for y'all yesterday, because this weekend I think we need a drink.
There's a page for this one elsewhere on the site, but it hasn't been mentioned in here in over three years, and I've never posted the recipe here either. It's time. Use your favorite Bourbon for this one; we like Maker's Mark in this drink, but something more powerful would work well too. Luxardo is the typical brand of maraschino and the first we used, but now we prefer the Croatian Maraska brand, as it's a little drier.
Fancy-Free CocktailOf course, if you're going to keep this one in your cocktail repertoire, you really do have to learn to make the Footloose cocktail as well (an original of Wes'). They go together like, well, footloose and fancy-free ...
2 ounces Bourbon whiskey.
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
1 dash orange bitters.
Combine in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Stir for no less than 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a stemless cherry.
Quote of the day. "I think it speaks to the lack of confidence that the administration has in the president going forth alone, period. It's embarrassing to the president of the United States that they won't let him go in without holding the hand of the vice president of the United States.
"I think it reinforces the idea that the president cannot go it alone. The president should stand tall, walk in the room himself and answer the questions."
-- House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), April 2, 2004, on why it's baffling and embarrassing that President Bush is appearing before the September 11 Commission with Vice President Dick Cheney at his side, instead of by himself. (Via Atrios)
My least favorite night of the year. If you are here today (yeesh, copy the cocktail recipe down, read the Pelosi quote and go outside and play, dammit!), don't forget to turn your clocks back an hour before you go to bed. Urrrr, I hate losin' sleep ...
(Erm, forward. I mean forward. You know, the other back.)
Friday, April 2, 2004
Uh, oops. (Psst. What's that pizza delivery number?) There's an entertaining topic over on Tom Fitzmorris' "Talk Food" message board on NewOrleans.com's fora: what's your biggest cooking blunder?
Oh boy, I've had a few.
- Perhaps my most heartbreaking one was when I threw a huge dinner party for friends, one that we called "Little Big Night". I found a recipe (although not the recipe) for the timpano featured in one of my favorite films, "Big Night". Unfortunately, the recipe called for the wrong kind of dough (a short, crumbly dough instead of elastic pasta-style dough) for the drum, and when I served it the whole thing fell apart into an unattracive, unrecognizable mess. My friends were very good about it, and still said it tasted great. It looked like dog food, though, and I was not happy.I know I can think of some more in a bit. What about yourselves? What were your most spectacular cooking disasters?
- Then there was the time I had this great sautéed banana dish that I had tried and loved, but at the last minute substituted an exotic, small red banana from the weird-and-exotic section of the produce department. Little did I know that when cooked those bananas became leathery and extremely astringent; I served it to my dinner guests, and it tasted absolutely horrible...
- There was an incident of using a habanero pepper without understanding how truly how a habanero pepper is, plus having absentmindedly rubbed my eye after chopping up half a dozen serranos without a rubber glove (good thing I didn't go to the bathroom).
- Making a zabaglione (sabayon) with spirits instead of wine, and not realizing that due to higher alcohol content you need to reduce the amount to make it work. The egg yolks got claylike and dark, and turned green like the yolks of an overdone hardboiled egg ... and of course, this is a dessert that needs to be made right before serving.
Abuse of power. I feel another attack of outrage overload coming on ...
Medicare Secrecy Inquiry Is SilencedI can hear that voice again ... "We've got to stonewall it, cover it up ..." John Dean is right.
House Republicans stop Democrats from delving deeper into why the prescription drug bill's true cost estimates were kept from Congress.
Los Angeles Times
House Republicans on Thursday shut down an inquiry by Democrats into whether the Bush administration acted illegally or inappropriately last year when it withheld from Congress its estimates of the true cost of the Medicare prescription drug bill.
At issue are allegations that then-Medicare Administrator Thomas A. Scully threatened to fire his top actuary if he gave lawmakers his analyses showing the costs would be much higher than administration officials were saying publicly.
Thursday's conclusion of a Ways and Means Committee hearing all but ensured that two individuals central to the controversy -- Scully and White House aide Doug Badger -- would not testify before Congress.
Separately, the Health and Human Services Department is conducting an internal investigation into the matter, and Democratic lawmakers have requested civil and criminal inquiries.
While we're on the subject of abuse of power, here's an excerpt from Sen. Daschle's recent floor statement on the abuse of government power by the Bush administration:
In recent days leading congressional Republicans are now calling for an investigation into Mr. Clarke. As I mentioned earlier, Secretary O'Neill was also subjected to an investigation. Clarke and O'Neill sought legal and classification review of any information in their books before they were published.And more abuse of power ...
Nonetheless, our colleagues tell us these two should be investigated, at the same time there has been no Senate investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a deep cover CIA agent; no thorough investigation into whether leading Administration officials misrepresented the intelligence regarding threats posed by Iraq; no Senate hearings into the threat the chief Medicare Actuary faced for trying to do his job; and no Senate investigation into the reports of continued overcharging by Halliburton for its work in Iraq.
Throughout the long day that ended with the president's WMD joke, the White House directed strikes on Clarke's integrity. It declassified an off-the-record background briefing given by Clarke in 2002, when he had been ordered to put a "positive spin", as he put it, on Bush's pre-September 11 terrorism record in response to a critical report in Time magazine. The White House press secretary read out portions of the briefing out of context. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser whose neglect of terrorism was among Clarke's revelations, summoned reporters to her office to point to the background briefing and call his story "scurrilous".Once again, exploding the myth of "the liberal media" ...
While she was putting a stiletto into Clarke, the background briefing paper was shuffled by her press office to Fox News to broadcast as Clarke testified. Republican members of the 9/11 commission waved the paper at him, and much time was taken up by his explanation of how, as a staffer, he had been acting properly, like a lawyer representing a client, and why his briefing was not at odds with his information now.
This selective declassification signalled to professionals in government that anything they said to reporters could be held against them if they ever in the future contradicted the Bush line. Yet not one news organisation tried to uphold the old rule by threatening to reveal sources of off-the-record briefings unless the White House reverted to the accepted convention that makes informed journalism possible.
What next? The outrage overload continues to build ... arrrghhh.
White House Undermined Chemical Tests, Report SaysA secretive, dissent-suppressing, authoritarian government working hand-in-hand with big industry to combine their power sounds suspiciously like the definition of fascism to me.
A report released by a House committee on Thursday describes how the Bush administration worked with the United States chemical industry to undermine a European plan that would require all manufacturers to test industrial chemicals for their effect on public health before they were sold in Europe.
The administration had said publicly that the proposal last year would threaten the $20 billion in chemicals that the United States exports to Europe each year because the cost of testing would be prohibitive. Five years in the making, the proposal, which was revised and is still under consideration, would shift the burden to prove the safety of chemicals onto manufacturers instead of governments.
Behind the scenes, the administration was working with the chemical industry to devise a plan to undermine the proposal, according to e-mail messages and documents released in the report.
The Bush administration said the proposal was unsound science ...Give me a goddamn break. What this administration knows and cares about actual science wouldn't fill a teacup.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, April 1, 2004
"What Would Real Homeland Defense Cost?" Ted Rall asks a very good question, and makes an interesting point:
In my column this week, I argued that the United States Air Force should keep fighters in the air at all times to defend our soil and reduce response time in the event of a 9/11-style emergency. On 9/11, you may recall, not a single fighter jet was in the air -- which is why NORAD wasn't able to intercept any hijacked passenger plane before it struck its target.Sounds affordable to me. How 'bout we cut back on the Egyptians' handout to fund it?
Air Force honchos have written to inform me that keeping planes in the air at all times in sufficient quantities to cover the entire mainland United States would cost $1 billion per year. Too expensive, they say.
To which I would like to point out: We spend $2 billion a year just to prop up the government of Egypt.
Bad news for carbs. (Via N.O. Menu Daily) Dietician Elaine Magee doesn't think the whole "wipe out all carbs" diets are a good idea at all. She encourages us to learn the difference between "good carbs" and the not-so-good ones.
When you start focusing on making smart carb choices, which means eating carbohydrates that aren't as high in their glycemic load and contribute fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, you end up moving toward beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you want to know where the health protective phytochemicals are, they're in these plant foods.Watch out for those overly-refined carbohydrates, particularly high-fructose corn syrup and refined sugars. Fresh fruits, vegetables and grains, mmmmmmmm.
(This morning I saw "SuperSize Me", Morgan Spurlock's documentary on what happened to him when he ate nothing but McDonald's food, three meals a day, for a month. It's actually pretty sickening to watch.)
March 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, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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