the gumbo pages

looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community, 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 @ 1:11pm PST, 12/31/2004

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Now available!

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order from

Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

"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

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004

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.

How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

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

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
pat and paul
tracy and david

Talking furniture:

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

   Subscribe to the
   "Down Home" weekly
   playlist email service

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits, Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.

*     *     *
The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

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

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

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

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Wally's Wine and Spirits

The Wine House

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Reading this month:

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth.

The Cat's Pajamas, by Ray Bradbury.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Shade, by Neil Jordan.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

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

Miles of Music

No Depression


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival

Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


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

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

The Mirror Project

Chuck's Photo of the Day Archive


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

Cold Mountain (****)
The Last Samurai (****)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
Father Ted
"Iron Chef"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
The Daily Kos
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Right Hand Thief
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Under the Gunn
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

My Darlin' New Orleans:

Gambit Weekly


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

Must-reads: (progressive politics & news)
Media Matters for America (debunking media lies)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (your stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (not the actual White House, but it should be)

The Final Frontier:

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


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 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.)


Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

  Friday, December 31, 2004
Doc on NPR.   This morning NPR's "Day to Day" featured an epic length (4 minutes!) interview with our good friend Dr. Cocktail, a.k.a. Ted Haigh. That four minutes was culled from a five-hour interview, and as far as I'm concerned they should have given him his own two-hour special. They talked about "cocktail archaeology", about Doc's 1300 bottle collection of vintage booze going back 100 or more years, and about making a Corpse Reviver No. 2.

One thing the interviewer, editor and/or producer of the piece failed to emphasize, however, is the true accessibility of these decades-old cocktails to all of us -- you don't have to have a priceless collection of decades-old booze to make them. One thing they did well, though, is portray Ted's intense passion for the history and cuisine of the cocktail, and we can hope that that'll spark some more interest in the listeners. Good piece altogether.

Auld lang syne.   That's it for 2004, y'all. Be safe tonight, take care of yourselves, and I'll see you next year.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 30, 2004
Jamaican pimento (allspice) liqueur: take two.   Our experimentation with a homemade version of this fantastic and rare liqueur continues, and according to Dr. Cocktail, "you're almost there."

As it turns out, there is a source for the real stuff (and thanks to Barry for finding out that the source, which once couldn't or wouldn't get the stuff, now does once again). It's still the Wray & Nephew product made and sold only in Jamaica, although it's been renamed "Berry Hill Jamaican Pimento Allspice Liqueur." The source only gets shipments in 2 or 3 times a year at the most, so while I'm going to continue to pursue them I'm also going to work on refining my own recipe.

I made a batch that was different from the earlier one of a few weeks ago, eschewing the lime juice, and taking into account Doc's suggestions for the flavoring of the syrup. Here was that version:

Jamaican Pimento (Allspice) Liqueur No. 2
(Good, but not quite there)

1/3 cup whole dried pimento (allspice) berries.
2-1/4 cups Lemon Hart 151 proof Demerara rum.
3 cups water.
1 ounce cinnamon sticks.
1 pound dark brown sugar.
4 ounces (by weight) molasses.
4 ounces (by weight) cane syrup.

Crush allspice berries and place with rum in a jar. Cover and leave for 10 days.

Strain the infused rum through a fine sieve, then strain again through a coffee filter. This may take a while, and will involve frequent stirring to help the liquid drip through the allspice sludge that'll collect at the bottom of the filter.

Boil water, sugar, molasses, syrup and cinnamon for about 10 minutes to make a thin syrup. Add rum infusion to syrup and stir.

Cool, strain and bottle. Age at least 1 month.

Tasting notes: Doc said that the sweetness, viscosity and body were just about perfect. When comparing it to the Wray and Nephew product, we noted that the bottled product was lighter and seemed to have far less of a molasses flavor. Also, he said, "There's cinnamon in this, isn't there?" Yes, indeed. I kept that in from the Jamaican recipe I'd found, but Doc assured me that there is none in the bottled product; in fact, when we tasted the bottled product I detected only allspice, rum and brown sugar in the flavor. Next batch we ax the cinnamon.

We also noted that the pimento/allspice flavor was more muted than I'd hoped, possibly because it was being overpowered by the cinnamon (I got good stuff, Indonesian stick cinnamon from Penzey's). Next batch we'll up the crushed allspice berries, probably to 1/2 cup.

I'm tempted to try a batch with just brown sugar, and light brown sugar at that, but Doc encouraged me to keep the molasses and cane syrup as my own spin on the product. He had no problem with the flavor of the Demerara rum (which is from Guyana, not Jamaica), but suggested for authenticity's sake making a batch with Myers' dark rum, and bringing the proof up with Wray and Nephew's Overproof Rum, which is a good idea (Myers' is also a lot less expensive than the Demerara). Next time I'll make a half-batch of this and a half-batch of my next incarnation, and see which one's better.

Stay tuned -- a few weeks from now, I think the third time might just be the charm.

The Cocktailian.   The year's final visit from Gary Regan's cocktailian bartender, The Professor, involves adding a liqueur to a Manhattan, and the ensuing chaos.

The liqueur in question is a new herbal liqueur called Elisir M.P. Roux, which I believe was once called "Elisir du Dr. Roux." It's fairly complex, with flavors of star anise, ginseng, damiana, marjoram, hyssop, fennel, cinnamon, nutmeg and more. I haven't tried it, but I'm very keen on herbal liqueurs (Chartreuse, Bénédictine, et al.) and I'm pleased to see a relatively new one on the market.

Ethics? We don't need no stinking ethics.   This is your government.

G.O.P. to Make Ethics Inquiries Harder to Begin

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 - In the wake of back-to-back ethics slaps at the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, House Republicans are preparing to make it more difficult to initiate ethics investigations and could remove the Republican chairman who presided over the admonishments of Mr. DeLay last fall.

A House leadership aide said a package of rules changes to be presented to the House when Congress convenes on Tuesday could include a plan that would require a majority vote of the ethics panel to pursue a formal investigation. Now, a deadlock on the panel, which is evenly split between parties, keeps a case pending. The possible change, the aide said, would mean that a tie vote would effectively dismiss the case.

The aide said the change would instill more bipartisanship in ethics cases. But Democrats and outside groups said the proposal would dilute an already weak ethics process.

I despise these people, with a great and terrible loathing.

Are we stingy? Yes.   A New York Times editorial, via Wes, promoted from the comments:

President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy." "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.

We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.

Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.

Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that the $35 million we've now pledged "is only the beginning" of the United States' recovery effort. Let's hope that is true, and that this time, our actions will match our promises.

Incidentally, the "stingy" quote came from an article in the right-wing, Moonie-owned Washington Times, and its headline that said the U.N. official was specifically accusing the U.S. is bullshit (and the rest of our media, unconcerned with trivialities like integrity or fact-checking these days, picked it up and ran with it). Jan Egeland, the official in question, referred to "wealthy states" and "donor states", refused to name these states when questioned, and in fact never once singled out the United States. You'd never know that, though, from watching, reading or listening to our media.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Humans?   Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today, opined in his weekly column last Thursday that the U.S. should start bringing our troops home from Iraq "sooner rather than later."

Here is a sampling of the letters he received (via AmericaBlog via Atrios; emphases mine):

George Wyman: "Mr. Neuharth is simply UnAmerican."

Jeffrey A. Norris: "Cowards and traitors like Al Neuharth want all the comforts they know and enjoy, without a sacrifice to buy it."

Frank Butash, West Hartford, CT.: "Apparently it's easier to run with jackals than to stand up for your country when it needs support."

Kenneth Genest: "They had two of these in World War 2. One was called Tokyo Rose and the other Axis Sally. Their job was to discourage the American soldiers. I see they have one now at USA Today."

Walter Scott. Jr.: "You simply suck! Merry Christmas."

Jerry Martin, San Francisco, CA.: "Yet another self-defeating fool with a large bank account shoots himself in the foot. Their dissent equals treason. The terrorists got him just like all the other rich liberals who side against our victory. They forget that wars end, and then the country takes stock of who was where. I encourage the fool to keep mouthing against our victory over the Muslim jihad, he'll pay the social price in the end."

T. Conway: "Mr. Neuharth has made a serious business mistake. Watch the circulation drop over the next year. The Los Angeles Times experienced the same drop after they attacked Gov. Schwarzenegger...some never learn. P.S. What side did Mr. Neuharth fight for in WW II?"

Peter Kessler: "And as for the good war, WW II, the lefties were four-square for that one. Yes sir, they were saving the USSR, Stalin and Communism. It's sad we didn't join Hitler until he wiped out the USSR. Alger Hiss and the Uptown Daily Worker (The New York Times) be damned. I see you've joined the club. Well, you're probably a founding member."

Joe McBride, Fort Dodge, Iowa: "Mr. Neuharth, thanks to you and your ignorance the terrorists are probably booking their flights to the U.S. now! If we pull out of Iraq with the job unfinished the terrorists will be bombing McDonalds, and blowing up malls and schools here, killing our innocent men, women and children."

Craig Wood, Waianae, Hawaii: "Today's press undermines our troops and supports our enemies. They convince parents that supporting your President is dangerous. They concentrate their ire on any fight that involves the United States and ignore all others. Like the sex scandal in the Congo with United Nations forces... But, let some Army private put panties on an Iraqi's head and all hell brakes loose...I hope that the people of the United States will ignore or, at least, recognize the agenda of those that choose our enemies over our fine military."

Duggan Flanakin, Austin, Texas: "Neuharth should be tried for treason along with a lot of other blowhards who should be spending their energies condemning the barbarism of our enemies, the same people who destroyed the Twin Towers. Evidence is pouring in that Saddam financed Al Qaeda with Oil for Food money, and that puts Kofe Annan into the line of fire as well for blame for September 11th."

Boots Harvey, Brentwood, CA: "One must recall that Churchill had to put up with the likes of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce, and his propaganda during WWII. In the end William Joyce was executed for giving aid and comfort to the enemy during war time. Would that the same fate befall Al Neuharth!"

Mel Gibbs: "The Patriot Act will put both of you (Al Neuharth and Greg Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...You two guys are evil bastards... This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial."

It makes me wonder if I'm the same species as these individuals, much less a fellow American.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Priorities.   Via Atrios:

The Bush administration yesterday pledged $15 million to Asian nations hit by a tsunami that has killed more than [63,000] people [...]

The war on terror will take center stage at next month's second inauguration for President Bush in Washington, D.C. ...

The estimated budget for the event is $30-40 million, but that will not cover security costs.

Well, I'm glad Bush has his priorities straight.

[UPDATE: Apparently after having it pointed out to them that they're cheap bastards, BushCo seems to have upped their offering to $35 million -- still less than the cost of the coronation inauguration, about 21% of the daily cost of the Iraq invasion, 41% of the cost of the last missile defense test that was shut down by a "system anomaly" (and is uselessware anyway), and not quite 27 minutes' worth of interest accumulation on the national debt. (Figures provided by]

I'm having difficulty fathoming the magnitude of this disaster. The death toll increases by several thousand every time I check, and the latest reports are that disease caused by, among other things, the decomposition of tens of thousands of unburied bodies, could increase the toll by tens of thousands more. The quake was so strong it caused the Earth to wobble on its axis, and permanently changed the regional map of Asia. It's staggering, unbelievable. Don't miss the Wikipedia coverage at the above link -- it's outstanding.

Here are some disaster relief agencies where you can help (nicked from Eliot):

* American Red Cross, 800-HELP-NOW; International Response Fund, PO Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013

* Oxfam, 800-77OXFAM; or to Asian Earthquake Fund, 26 West St., Boston, MA 02111

* The American Jewish World Service Emergency Relief Fund

* CARE, 800-521-CARE

* Direct Relief International, 805-964-4767; 27 South La Patera Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93117

* Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières, 888-392-0392; PO Box 2247, New York, NY 10116-2247

* International Medical Corps, 800-481-4462; 11500 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 506, Los Angeles, CA 90064

* Mercy Corps, 800-852-2100; PO Box 2669, Portland, OR 97208

* Operation USA, 800-678-7255; 8320 Melrose Ave., Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90069

Please do what you can.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, December 26, 2004
Quotes of the day.  
"When I said I wanted a white Christmas, I just meant I hoped I'd score an eightball."

-- A New Orleans cook "who shall remain anonymous", quoted in N.O. author Poppy Z. Brite's journal after an extremely rare New Orleans (almost) white Christmas.

"I hate cold weddah! Bustid pipes! Cars dat don't woik! My lil' dead urnge tree!"

-- Vic Broussard, from Bunny Matthews' "Vic 'n Natly"

My family, rather than head to my uncle's on the North Shore for the big family Christmas meal, instead all stayed in their respective homes, as snow, sleet and freezing rain closed bridges and the Causeway.

Meanwhile, in southern California where I live, it was bright and sunny blues skies, and about 70°F. Ah well.

No peace on earth during unjust war.   I know I said I wouldn't be posting much, but I had to share this Christmas Eve sermon from Father Andrew Greely, published in the Chicago Sun-Times:

One reads in the papers that the Pentagon expects the war in Iraq to continue till 2010. Donald Rumsfeld will not guarantee that it will be over by 2009. How many dead and maimed Americans by then? How many sad obituaries? How many full pages in the papers with pictures of all the casualties?


The reasons change: weapons of mass destruction, war on terror, freedom and democracy for the people of Iraq, American credibility. All are deceptions. This cockamamie and criminally immoral war was planned before the Sept. 11 attack in which Iraq was not involved. It has nothing to do with the war on terror. American-style freedom and democracy in Arab countries are hallucinations by men and women like Paul Wolfowitz and Condi Rice whose contribution to the war is writing long memos -- Republican intellectuals with pointy heads.

One must support the troops, I am told. I certainly support the troops the best way possible: Bring them home, get them out of a war for which the planning was inadequate, the training nonexistent, the goal obscure, and the equipment and especially the armor for their vehicles inferior. They are brave men and women who believe they are fighting to defend their country and have become sitting ducks for fanatics. Those who die are the victims of the big lie. They believe that they are fighting to prevent another terror attack on the United States. They are not the war criminals. The "Vulcans," as the Bush foreign policy team calls itself, are the criminals, and they ought to face indictment as war criminals.

There is an irony in the promise of a prolonged war. The Vulcans believed that, as the world's only superpower, the military might of the United States was overwhelming, irresistible, beyond challenge. In fact, the war into which they tricked us has become a quagmire, 130,000 American troops are at the mercy of perhaps 5,000 true-believer guerrillas and an Iraqi population that doesn't like Americans any more than it liked Saddam Hussein. It is a war in which there is no possibility of victory -- whether it ends in June 2005 or June 2010, whether there are 2,000 American battle deaths or 50,000, whether there are 10,000 wounded Americans or 500,000, whether those with post-traumatic stress are 10 percent of the returning troops or 30 percent.

One of the criteria for a just war is that there be a reasonable chance of victory. Where is that reasonable chance? Each extra day of the war makes it more unjust, more criminal. The guilty people are not only the Vulcans but those Americans who in the November election endorsed the war.

They are also responsible for the Iraqi deaths, especially the men who join the police or the army because they need the money to support their families -- their jobs eaten up in the maw of the American "liberation." Iraqi deaths don't trouble many Americans. Their attitude is not unlike the e-mail writer who said he rejoices every time a Muslim kills another Muslim. "Let Allah sort them out."

This time of the year we celebrate ''peace on Earth to men of good will.'' Americans must face the fact that they can no longer claim to be men and women of good will, not as long as they support an unnecessary, foolish, ill-conceived, badly executed and, finally, unwinnable war. If most people in other countries blame the war on Americans, we earned that blame in the November election -- not that there is any serious reason to believe that Sen. John Kerry would have had the courage to end the war. Perhaps if he had changed his mind, as he did about the war in Vietnam, and opposed the Iraqi war, he might have won. Too late now. Too late till 2010 -- or 2020.

Note: Some conservative Catholics -- Republicans, I assume -- are spreading the word on the Internet that I am an "unfrocked" (sic) priest. That is false witness. I am and have been for 50 years a priest in good standing of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Call (312) 751-8220 if you don't believe me. False witness is a grave sin and must be confessed before Christmas communion. Moreover, those who commit it are bound to restore the reputation of the one about whom they've lied.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me, with you, with all of us.

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  Friday, December 24, 2004
Merry Christmas.   Belated Happy Hanukkah. Joyous Kwanzaa. Happy Solstice. Merry Saturnalia. Anyway, have a great holiday, no matter which one you're celebrating, and no pathetic feckin' whining about not getting the greeting you want.

Let's have a carol!

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alleygaroo!
Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby, Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boolaboola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly welly cracker n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, 'lope with you!
Hunky Dory's pop is lolly-
gaggin' on the wagon, Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Ninky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!
Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

May your holidays be filled with warmth, love, joy, cheer, booze and presents. May the new year be filled with prosperity, good luck, and a round of indictments for every major member of the administration.

I've been on vacation for the past week (as you can probably tell), and will be on vacation until January 3. I probably won't be posting, and you shouldn't be reading. Go outside! Make some cocktails! Spend some time with friends and loved ones!

Love, Chuck

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, December 20, 2004
One bad apple.   I have nothing to say at the moment. [Emphases mine.]

FBI E-Mail Refers to Presidential Order Authorizing Inhumane Interrogation Techniques


Newly Obtained FBI Records Call Defense Department's Methods "Torture", Express Concerns Over "Cover-Up" That May Leave FBI "Holding The Bag" for Abuses

NEW YORK -- A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.

"These documents raise grave questions about where the blame for widespread detainee abuse ultimately rests," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Top government officials can no longer hide from public scrutiny by pointing the finger at a few low-ranking soldiers."

The documents were obtained after the ACLU and other public interest organizations filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander -- Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.

Another e-mail, dated December 2003, describes an incident in which Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo Bay impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" against a detainee. The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the 'FBI' interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."

The document also says that no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by the "FBI" interrogation, and that the FBI's Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) believes that the Defense Department's actions have destroyed any chance of prosecuting the detainee. The e-mail's author writes that he or she is documenting the incident "in order to protect the FBI."

"The methods that the Defense Department has adopted are illegal, immoral, and counterproductive," said ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer. "It is astounding that these methods appear to have been adopted as a matter of policy by the highest levels of government."


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, December 19, 2004
The conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.   I'm lazy today, but I will quote a post from Roy Edroso at alicublog:

Nostalgie de la boue. Bush floats Social Security reform, and Jonah Goldberg gets to work on discrediting the New Deal. Kofi Annan has a scandal, and Cal Thomas resuscitates the John Birch Society slogan: Get the U.N. Out of the U.S. and the U.S. Out of the U.N.!

The Right's gone retro! Any day now we're going to start hearing about the fluoride in the water.

As with everything else, though, our conservative brethren don't know when enough is too much. What else explains the recent lively interest in the evolution issues visited in the Scopes Trial? Perhaps straw boaters will become the new fedoras!

Eventually I suppose we'll be hearing that the Bill of Rights (excepting perhaps the Second Amendment) was overreaching, the Constitution a step down from the Articles of Confederation (libertarians, be still), and the Enlightenment from which these documents sprang a terrible deviation from the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, if you listen very closely, you can hear all this stuff now in the subtext.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, December 18, 2004
What a pair!   Today's surprising food pairing comes from Chowhound's L.A.-area ChowNews:

A pairing of aged Scotch and a Krispy Kreme donut works! The Scotch was a 14 year old Oban, the donut was a seasonal pumpkin flavor. Says *Limster*: "Pumpkin and fall/winter spice flavors of the donut weave nicely into the woodsy and faintly smoky flavor of the Scotch. And the dry finish from the scotch takes away the usual cloying sweetness of KK donuts."
Hmm, wonder if it would work with a 10 year old Macallan or a 10 year old Glenmorangie?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, December 17, 2004
"Pricey?" Only if you're cheap!   I know, I know, I shouldn't be quibbling with reviews of the box set, but in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times (and now apparently syndicated as far as New Jersey) Robert Hilburn did an article about box sets that are "too much of a good thing ... so thorough they're probably overkill for the average listener, and for collectors only." Our nice little box set was included, and as it's my adopted-hometown paper I feel compelled to respond. Although he said some nice things, let me point out that this set was specifically intended for the average listener, for someone planning to visit New Orleans or who recently visited, and for Jazzfesters -- not for "collectors only" (although I did put a few gems in for collectors and compiled it to appeal to locals as well).

Here's proof there are new things in the record bins after all. It's a music-cum-travel guide, and New Orleans is an ideal subject because of its great musical heritage and its inviting tourist offerings. The music includes songs by the usual suspects (Louis Armstrong and Professor Longhair to Fats Domino and Dr. John), and the lavish booklet tells you where to go in town to have a good time and a good meal. It's pricey if you want only the music, so you need to be in a traveling mood to make it work.

-- Robert Hilburn

You can find this set for sale from anywhere between $46 and $49 (nobody should be paying full retail of $59.95, Robert). In fact, my mom said she saw it at Tower in New Orleans for $47, and the Louisiana Music Factory for $49 (I'd pay the extra few bucks at the Factory just so as not to buy it from Tower). That works out to about $12 per disc (less than 6¢ per track), with the 84-page book essentially thrown in for free.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't really fit into my definition of "pricey". Go buy it anyway!

Quote of the day.   Feeling safer?

The reason every crime, failure, sleazy connection and indiscretion of Bernie Kerik is so important is that it illustrates just how little Bush cares about homeland security. Bush sees Director of Homeland Security as a patronage job to give to a patently incompetent political crony for campaign services rendered rather than a position which requires a competent and ethical professional. Even if Bush could justify his ignorance of all Kerik's other corruption (which he can't), he can't claim ignorance of Kerik's utter failure in Baghdad. And, with all the resources at his disposal, Bush's background check of Kerik was less thorough than would be any sane person's background check when hiring a (non-fictitious) nanny. By nominating Kerik, Bush proved that his rhetoric about being the better choice to protect America from those nasty wolves was nothing but hot, malodorous air.

-- Roger Ailes (the good one), December 17, 2004.

Add do this the latest about George Tenet -- he was wrong about WMDs in Iraq, but now Bush is giving him the fucking Medal of Freedom:

Maybe it's old-fashioned, but shouldn't the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, have something to do with extraordinary achievement or even an act of physical or moral courage?

Granted, there are no formal guidelines on eligibility. Since President Truman established it at the end World War II, the honor has been bestowed on politicians, scientists, business leaders, artists, scholars and clerics. If there's been a common thread, it's that of exemplary accomplishment that has benefited the American public.

So it seems more than a little surprising that President Bush on Tuesday presented the Medal of Freedom to George W. Tenet for his contribution to the war on terrorism and to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the same George W. Tenet who presided over the Central Intelligence Agency during the time it was responsible for two of the most catastrophic intelligence failures in U.S. history.

This is the Peter Princle of government. Members (and would-be members) of this administration rise to their level of incompetence, and their incompetence is richly rewarded.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 16, 2004
The Cocktailian.   The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, serves up a batch of Kew Clubs -- spicy marmalade in a cocktail glass.

I've been really curious about those relatively new Scots whiskys from Compass Box, such as "Peat Monster" (smoky; "a balanced and approachable monster but a monster nonetheless") and "Orangerie" (the orange-infused Scotch that's the basis for a Kew Club). From what I've read it's all pretty damned good stuff.

... um ...   I stumbled across a Flash cartoon site called Home Star Runner this morning, and found a piece with one of their characters -- Strong Bad, a guy in a Mexican wrestler's mask -- doing what's got to be the funniest and most perfect parody of college radio I've ever heard. Sums it all up in five words, in fact. (Disclaimer: some college-based stations are better than others, of course -- like KCSN, for instance, one of the best radio stations anywhere!) -- but man, lots of the ones that are all student-run really do sound like the cartoon sometimes. Learn some announcing techniques, dammit!)

Refreshing tarragonny goodness!   My friend Robb visited a deli near his office that carries "a lot of weird Armenian food products" and ended up becoming fascinated with a brand of tarragon-flavored soda. I'm fascinated by this, and am very curious to try it (although the fact that most of Robb's soda ended up in a potted plant isn't a terribly good sign).

McBrain?   Y'know, when I see pictures like this my first thought is "Um ... no." Then I think of when I had to make this particular "variety meat" in class (poached in a classical courtbouillion, then sliced, breaded and pan-fried). Then I think of the "Return of the Living Dead" movies. "BRAAAAAAAAIINNNNNNNSSSSSSS!"

("Send more cops.")

Nanny who?   Josh Marshall asks an interesting question: Did Bernard Kerik really ever have an undocumented nanny working for him? Josh thinks not, and the New York Times finds no solid evidence that such a woman ever existed.

Quelle surprise. After all the dirt I read on Kerik immediately after his nomination, I thought the nanny story was horseshit from the moment I heard it. Funny thing, though ... the question is actually being asked in the mainstream media now. Do you think it's possible that those people are finally ready to start doing their jobs after four years of kowtowing to BushCo?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Cognac or Armagnac?   Well, I'll take both, me. Actually, I'm still learning about Armagnac, having sampled far less of it than the more well-known of the two famous French brandies. Today's Los Angeles Times Food Section has an interesting article about the difference between the two, and the thorny question wondering if one is better than the other. Is duck better than goose? Is velvet better than silk? Apples? Oranges? Not quite. They're the same thing, only different.

Four out of five foodies surveyed actually said they prefer Armagnac. These data were compiled not through a structured tasting -- in fact, it couldn't have been less scientific -- but rather by ambling around the Food section asking those writers who happened to be at their desks, Which is better, Cognac or Armagnac?

None took more than a nanosecond to answer. "Armagnac," "Armagnac," "Armagnac," "Cognac," they barked. "Armagnac." It felt like a liquid duck-duck-goose.

There was one lone voice, a writer who refused to commit to one or the other. "They're different," she ventured brightly. And I have to say, after several tastings, and having spent just about every spare moment ruminating over a glass of one or the other, that I'm with her.

It's commonly said that Armagnac is more soulful, more profound than Cognac. That you have to be over 40 to appreciate Armagnac.

That may be true. But the best Cognacs have unequaled elegance, amazing finesse. And these days, you can easily find Cognacs with plenty of character from smaller producers.

Both are made from wine that's destined to become brandy. Cognac is distilled twice, but Armagnac is distilled only ones, in a continuous still, and retains more of the fruity character of the wine. This fascinates me, and I'm definitely keen to try more Armagnac. Problem was, I never knew which one to get -- it's more expensive than taking a crapshoot at a $15 bottle of wine. Fortunately, the Times article offers several suggestions with tasting notes, so maybe I'll take some of my Christmas money and see about that Château de Pellehaut Réserve Armagnac Ténarèze ("Beautiful plum tart aromas with hints of fig, vanilla and ginger. Delicious. About $41 at the Wine House", which is conveniently located within a lunch-hour trip from work!).

Symbolism.   I'm going to lift this Atrios post in its entirety, because a mere excerpt would spoil its beauty:

Truer words were never spoken: "[O]ne presidential adviser pointed out that Kerik "brings 9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet."

How right we was: "An apartment in Battery Park City that former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik secured for his personal use after Sept. 11 was originally donated for the use of weary police and rescue workers who were helping at Ground Zero, according to a real estate executive who has been briefed about the apartment.

"After the cleanup had settled into a routine that fall, the executive said, Mr. Kerik, who was still police commissioner, asked to rent the two-bedroom apartment for his own use. During his use of the apartment, Mr. Kerik and Judith Regan engaged in an extramarital affair there, according to someone who spoke to Mr. Kerik about the relationship. Ms. Regan published his best-selling autobiography in 2001."

They didn't even vet this guy before nominating him. One thing I find to be a hopeful sign is that these arrogant swine are already fucking up before the second administration is even sworn in.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The Cocktailian.   The current edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly cocktails column features a customer with that age-old joke punchline: "Bartender ... there's a Monkey Gland in my glass!

By the way, try a Monkey Gland (easy to talk a bartender through) for any of your gin-fearing friends. It might just convert them. (Oh, and as much as I like Bénédictine, this drink cries out for the "English version" using the pastis, absinthe or absinthe substitute.)

Find of the day: The Barack Palinka is mine!   Our cocktail of the day (coming up next) is one I came across in Charles Baker and immediately wanted to try. Problem is, I had a little bit of trouble finding its key ingredient -- dry apricot brandy, also referred to as an apricot eau de vie or Barack Palinka as it's called in Hungary (where the best examples of it are made). This is not to be confused with "apricot-flavored brandy", a sweet, brandy-based liqueur (one of the best examples of which is Marie Brizard's Apry). A little Googling led me to one of my favorite spirits and culinary finds of the year -- Ernie's Deli in Inglewood. It's actually reachable from work in about 20 minutes, has a great selection of Hungarian, German and other harder-to-find European wines, plus central and eastern European products, meats, sausages, etc.

The key find, though, was a ready source of eastern European spirits, especially those made by Hungarian spirits giant Zwack. I found dry apricot brandy, plus pear (Poire William) and cherry (Kirsch), all for about $16 for a 750ml bottle. There were also rare liqueurs like St. Hubertus (orange/herb flavored) and their signature product Unicum (bitter and medicinal, and which once cured my hiccups immediately after taking a single shot of it), plus Bärenjäager (German honey liqueur) and lots of stuff I didn't even get to.

I ended up walking out with a big bottle of Zwack Pecsétes Barack Palinka, a 50ml taster of Pecsétes Körte Palinka (pear brandy), a 50ml taster of Bärenjäger, a bottle of Carpano Antica Formula red vermouth (best in the world), some Hero Jam (red currant and gooseberry) and a half a pound of spicy Hungarian salami. This could get expensive (but it'll be fun).

L.A. area folks should check him out -- take the 405 South, exit at Manchester, left on Manchester, left on Crenshaw, then a right on 8th Ave. and it's right there.

Cocktail of the day.   I dug this one out of Charles Baker's The Gentleman's Companion, 'cause it looked intriguing just from the description. It's delicious too, but not for the person who craves sweet drinks. It's painfully dry (which I love), but I suppose nobody would drop dead if you put 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar syrup in it, or maybe just a dash.

Baker (whom I love but who was prone to exaggeration and florid descriptions) described this as "one of the five or six most important cocktails". I might not go that far, but it's damned tasty. Remember, DO NOT use "apricot flavored brandy" or Apry or any apricot liqueur for this drink.

Too lazy to take a picture last night, sorry.

The Grande Bretagne Cocktail No. 1

1-1/2 ounces dry gin.
1/2 ounce dry apricot brandy (apricot eau de vie or barack palinka).
1/2 ounce lemon or lime juice (we used lemon, but lime might smooth it out a bit).
1 teaspoon egg white.
1 dash orange bitters.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker; shake for 30 seconds, or until your hands hurt from near-frostbite (whichever comes first). Strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy. No garnish specified.

To make a Grande Bretagne No. 2, substitute kirsch for the apricot.

Mad carb disease on the wane?   Apparently many people are experiencing spontaneous remission.

Last July, executives of the American Italian Pasta Company decamped at the Atkins Nutritionals office in midtown Manhattan, determined to cook up a new blockbuster product. They spent several days hammering out a deal to put the Atkins name on a line of low-carbohydrate, soy-based pasta.

It was the latest food group to be Atkinized. The two companies seemed certain that soy pasta, with 5 to 10 grams per serving of what manufacturers call "net carbs," would be a hit. Regular pasta contains up to 45 grams of carbohydrates, so the new product would offer a great way for people on Atkins and other low-carb regiments to indulge -- free of guilt -- in fettuccine Alfredo and baked ziti. Atkins allotted $15 million for a campaign to announce the introduction.

Today, boxes of the stuff are gathering dust in warehouses in Excelsior Springs, Mo. Evidently, consumers never quite cottoned to the unusually chewy pasta. "Low-carb pasta is an oxymoron," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University.

Atkins and American Italian, the largest maker of dry pasta in North America, have been forced to admit defeat. A month ago, American Italian said that it didn't ship any soy pasta in the previous quarter and that sales of its own line of reduced-carbohydrate pasta were 50 percent below projections. The company's stock plunged 23 percent on the news.

This is because (fortunately) it didn't take people all that long to figure out that nothing made of soy flour tastes good. I can't wait until all this Atkins-branded crap goes away, and people who want to do low-carbohydrate diets go back to being the reasonable numbers of people who do it with real food.

In the meantime, let's all patronize a neighborhood bakery that's seen its sales slump over the last couple of years.

I suppose changing the channel is out of the question.   Here's a contribution from guest weblogger Michael, who sent in an impressive rant:

It turns out that the Parents Television Council has generated over 99% of indecency complaints to the FCC during the past 2 years, ignoring the statistical anomaly that is/was Janet Jackson's left boob. (Mediaweek: Acctivists Dominate Content Complaints).

Ironically, the PTC is hosting this clip from a recent "South Park" episode. I missed the episode, but thoroughly enjoyed the clip. Thanks, PTC! And by the way, change the fucking channel if you don't like what you see. Or turn off your TV, even. Every episode of "South Park" has a TV-MA rating just for uptight people like you. Install a fucking V-Chip and leave the rest of us alone.

I agree completely, but given the tenor of the time my first response to that is "Good luck with that!" Although it's been fairly widely reported so far, it won't hurt to spread the story that the $1.5 million fine levied against Fox for one of their stupid "reality" shows was based on what turned out to be only three actual complaints.

Turn off the TV. Buy a TiVo, use the parental controls and only record what you want. They're inexpensive, it's easy.

Problem is, people like Brent Bozell and the PTC aren't really interested in democracy. They're not interested in giving people the freedom to make their own choices. They, like so much of the nutjob right wing these days, don't believe in freedom -- they believe in making the choices for everyone themselves.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 8, 2004
"Get Fuzzy" shaved by the Times.   I missed this when it happened last month, as I got behind on my newspaper-reading, but it seems that the Los Angeles Times (and other newspapers, presumably) pulled a week-long run of "Get Fuzzy", one of my favorite comic strips, because of potentially offensive content. You can see the first one here, and click through subsequent dates until the following Saturday.

These strips are all hilarious, and as funny or funnier than the strip's usual high standard for writing, drawing and humor. It's ridiculous that the Times is so afraid of potentially offending a few people that they won't run one of the best strips out there. Wes adds, "Are people so afraid of offending someone these days that no one is willing to take a chance? Free and cheap media gets blander all the time. How long before people who can't afford to pay for premium media and entertainment can't get anything decent? Or are we already there?" If not, we're almost there. Don't want to offend anyone in the White House or amongst its occupant's wingnut troops, do we?

Welcome to the blandification of America, where it's okay to offend some, but not others.

UPDATE -- Apparently there's been some confusion. My source at the Times now says he "may have been mistaken", but is sure something was up, that one or more strips were substituted or changed in some way. As I myself didn't see the paper that week, I'm not entirely sure myself and just went with his report. If nothing else, the strips were so funny that they at least deserved the extra attention.

You can't handle the truth!   And you don't want reform, either. Slate's Fred Kaplan calls the newly-created position of national intelligence director "a toothless figurehead." (Thanks, Wes.)

The intelligence-reform bill, which the House and Senate seem finally on the verge of passing, doesn't really reform much. Certainly it falls far short of the measures urged by the 9/11 commission, which set the legislative process in motion. The basic reason for this shortfall is simple: The Bush White House doesn't want reform. The commission's main proposal was to create a new national intelligence director, who would coordinate and control the vast, disparate, and sometimes quarrelsome array of federal departments, agencies, and sub-agencies that comprise the U.S. "intelligence community." Initially, the Senate passed a bill that closely reflected the commission's suggestions, which a handful of Republicans in the House firmly rejected. House Speaker Dennis Hastert refused even to bring a similar bill to the floor for a vote. The compromise bill that's about to pass -- and that President Bush, at last, has endorsed -- establishes a national intelligence director but one with scant authority.

The key passage in the bill making this so notes that this director will not "abrogate the statutory responsibilities" of the Department of Defense. A story in today's New York Times quotes a supporter of the bill who describes this language as "minor." In fact, it is anything but.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, December 6, 2004
The holy grail of liqueurs.   It's extremely difficult to get. I've looked. Even Dr. Cocktail looked. We've (nearly) given up. The problem is, we want it. We want it very badly.

What is it? Wray & Nephew Pimento Liqueur. "Pimento?" you say, your mouth twisting into a moue of distaste. "You mean they make liqueur out of those little red squiggly things inside an olive?" No no, not that pimento. In Jamaica, "pimento" is the local word for one of that country's greatest exports (besides rum, reggae and ganja) ... allspice.

There are lots of misconceptions about allspice, one of the most amazing members of the spice continuum. It's not, in fact, a blend of lots of different spices, it's only one, which grows as small green berries on trees in several areas of the world, the best of which is in Jamaica. Allspice got its name because of its amazing flavor characteristics, which taste like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and black pepper. Versatile, an absolute must in Caribbean cooking, and really wonderful stuff.

Now, imagine a liqueur with the intense, aromatic, complex flavor of allspice. Imagine a few dashes of that in any number of Caribbean or tropical drinks. The possibilities are endless.

Dr. Cocktail says it's quite possibly the world's most important liqueur. And we can't get it. It's made in Jamaica, and only sold in Jamaica. It hasn't been exported in many years, and no liquor importers in the U.S. (or anywhere else, for that matter) seem to be interested in it. The only way to get it is to go to Jamaica, buy it and bring it back. With current fares from L.A. to Kingston running around $700 ... well, given my current income level that's a bit much to pick up a case of liquor. (Jamaica's pretty far down on my list of places to go at the moment too, I must confess.)

So. What to do? Wait for a friend to go to Jamaica. Or ... try to make an approximation of Pimento Liqueur yourself.

Some simple Googling, or looking in home liqueur making books, call for macerating 3/4 teaspoon of ground allspice in 1-1/2 cups of vodka, straining and adding 1/2 cup of simple syrup. That sounds to me more like a weak sweetened tincture. Furthermore, Wray & Nephew's product isn't made from vodka, it's made from rum, and we'd like to think it's a little bit more complex than that.

After nearly two hours of fairly intensive Googling I found a better looking recipe in Google's cache (although not the best; check in again in a month or so for more), from a two-year old article in the Jamaica Gleaner. The recipe called for a fairly large quantity to be made, and also called for fresh, ripe pimento (allspice) berries; that is, in fact, what Wray & Nephew make the liqueur from. We're unlikely to find those in the States, so we'll have to make do with the dried product. For the purposes of this first batch I've applied the general culinary truism of dried herb/spice being about 1/3 the volume of the fresh item, and cut their recipe down to 1/4 of the original. This is what I came up with, and all the ingredients will go into the jar this week.

Don't just use Bacardi 151 for this. It's pretty rank stuff. CocktailDB describes most 151 proof rums thusly: "Most brands are awful." They do, however recommend Demerara rums from Guyana as being both high-proof and eminently palatable, and they recommend Lemonhart as being one good brand. Remember -- Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Jamaican Pimento (Allspice) Liqueur
(Recipe provided by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.)

1/3 cup whole dried pimento (allspice) berries.
1/2 cup lime juice, strained.
2-1/4 cups 151 proof rum (preferably Demerara rum).
3 cups water.
1 ounce cinnamon sticks.
1-1/2 pounds brown sugar.

Crush allspice berries and place with rum and lime juice in a jar. Cover and leave for 10 days.

Boil water, sugar, and cinnamon for about 10 minutes to make a thin syrup. Strain liquid from berries, add rum mixture to syrup.

Cool, strain and bottle. Age at least 1 month.

Doc's stash of Pimento Liqueur was down to less than 1/3 of a bottle, but he was still kind enough to give me the tiniest sip so I could see what it tasted like. The stuff is marvelous, and I'm clinging to the memory of that flavor to see if the above approximation even comes close. If it's in the ballpark, it'll do in a pinch until we can get someone to Jamaica.

And if any of you are going to Jamaica anytime soon, I have a small business proposition for you.

UPDATE: Doc has informed me that he's skeptical of the lime juice, and as it turns out I was too -- when I began the infusion of the allspice in the 151 rum I left it out (although I might put in a strip of lime peel for a little while before I decant and strain). He also noted that in the original recipe the rum was listed as "proof rum", which means 100 proof rum. I thought it was a typo and that they meant 151 or overproof rum, so I went with the Guyanese Demerara. Doc suggests that a combination of Myers' dark and Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum might have lent a more authentic flavor. Preliminary tasting of the above result, sans lime juice, leads us to think that the cinnamon should be left out. I'll update soon.

The Concrete Isle?   Not long after a BBC article named Ireland (one of my favorite places) to be the best place to live in Europe, a Guardian article begs to differ. Specifically, it names Ireland as one of the world's biggest polluters, and describes how the economic boom of the "Celtic Tiger" is destroying the gorgeous landscape and environment with motorways, construction projects and "McMansions".

Wes and I saw some evidence of this while we were there. We still saw plenty of pristine areas (north/west Clare and the Burren, although Doolin is getting overrun with McMansion B&Bs), but the rush hour traffic we experienced driving into Dublin from Westmeath at around 5pm is about the worst I've ever been through in my life, and this is coming from someone who's lived in Los Angeles for 22 years and commutes from Eagle Rock to the Westside and back. Jaaaysis.

Oy to the world.   That's the title of my one of my favorite Christmas albums, by The Klezmonauts (and my second-favorite klezmer album title after The Klezmatics' "Rhythm and Jews"). This isn't about that, though, it's about the latest round of songs from the Woody Guthrie Archive. The first wave resulted in two outstanding albums by Billy Bragg & Wilco, writing new music to a carefully chosen selectoin of Woody's archived lyrics, totaling about 3200 songs. Now the brilliant Klezmatics have been asked by Nora Guthrie to write new music for the Hanukkah songs Woody wrote.

Nope, he wasn't Jewish, but his wife Marjorie (Arlo's mom) was. My friend Steve wrote a terrific article about it in the Los Angeles Times this weekend, but of course you can't read any feckin' entertainment related stories in the Times online unless you pay, which really cheeses me off. So, here's a little fair use:

The story of Arlo Guthrie's "hootenanny bar mitzvah" is a colorful episode in folk music mythology, perhaps more so than the singer would like at this point.

"It was not typical," he acknowledges, noting that the event had more to do with his father, musical giant Woody Guthrie, who was hospitalized for the Huntington's chorea of which he would die seven years later.

The 1960 New York gathering featured such fellow folkies as Pete Seeger and radical rabbi Meir Kahane, who had been the boy's instructor.

"It was mostly a bunch of guys having fun, mostly my dad's peers who had shown up," Guthrie says. "My dad was brought in from the hospital. Luckily for me the attention was on him, so I was spared." [...]

The thing is, Woody Guthrie wasn't Jewish. His second wife, and Arlo's mother, Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, was. But in recent years, explorations of Woody's archives overseen by Arlo's sister Nora have revealed a wealth of lyrics for unrecorded songs dealing with Jewish themes.

The man best known for "This Land Is Your Land," Depression-era Dust Bowl ballads and such songs of social protest as "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" had also written songs ranging from children's holidays ditties ("Hanukkah Tree") to contemplations of Old Testament and Talmudic matters ("What Will It Profit a Man?").

"The songs range from the point of view of people in concentration camps during the war to children's songs," Arlo says.

This material comes from the period when the Guthries lived near Coney Island in Brooklyn, where Arlo was born. Some reflects the great influence of -- and even collaborations with -- Marjorie's mother, noted Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt.

"They had a kinship of spirit, which I also had with her," Arlo Guthrie says. "She was the poet of the family, and her spirit was very close to mine"

Arlo, his son Abe and The Klezmatics will be performing Woody's songs tonight at Disney Hall, and it's a shame I won't be able to go.

Quote of the day.   Oh, the things you learn watching the funniest show on TV.

If you knew anything at all about food, you'd know that fats and oils are the vehicles by which flavor travels. Fat is what makes things taste good. That's why a wise and loving God created fat in the first place.

-- Reese, "Malcolm in the Middle", December 5, 2004

Last night's episode was one of the funniest ever, by the way.

Spam From: header of the day.   I might have to steal this for a character's name if I ever write a novel: Falconry R. Slouching. Right up there with Rufus T. Firefly and Jethro Q. Walrustitty.

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  Friday, December 3, 2004
Whiskey reinvented.   Wednesday's L.A. Times Food Section had a terrific article on the new crop of single malt and single barrel whiskeys being made in the West, all of which I'm very eager to try (budget allowing). St. George Spirits in the Bay Area, who make some of my favorite fruit eaux-de-vie that are both delicious and very affordable, as well as the outstanding Hangar One infused vodkas, have a single malt that's described as "delicate fruit aromas of orange blossom, litchi, tangerine and roses; its nose reminded us more of an Alsace Gewürtztraminer than a whiskey... smooth on the palate, with a hint of peppermint on the finish." Wow. Sounds lovely.

They also describe the whiskey-making process, reminding us that whiskey actually starts as beer (also called "wash"); St. George, for instance, describes theirs thusly: "Our whiskey starts as a smoky brown ale. Heavily roasted barley provides a mixture of dried cocoa and hazelnut in the aroma, while a measure of the barley has been smoked over alder and beech for added complexity."

Another one I really want to try is made by Domaine Charbay, another maker of infused vodkas and an amazingly complex pastis. Unfortunately their current release, a barrel-strength hopped whiskey, has what's perfectly described as a "staggering" price tag of $325. They'll be releasing an 85 proof version next year at $85, which is at least within the realm of possibility.

I don't have any of these tantalizing tipples on hand at the moment, but I hope to try at least a couple of them soon. In the meantime ... maybe a wee glass of that magnificent 15-year-old barrel strength George T. Stagg Bourbon ...

Killer tipple.   (Via Wes.) Why killer? Because this particular cocktail's got a $10,000 price tag, and because you could choke on the completely inedible garnish.

No one has yet purchased this cocktail (an otherwise ordinary Martini, presumably, with a $9,988 garnish)) since it was added to the Algonquin's menu. Maybe someone will, but it's really just silly rich people's wankery, if you ask me.

Speaking of which, until I read of this the most expensive actual cocktail I'd ever read about was Colin Field's "Ritz Sidecar", which he serves at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. At first glance it looks like any other Sidecar, made with Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice. However, this particular Sidecar is made with Cognac produced before the epidemic of phylloxera destroyed France's grape crops in 1854, such as an 1853 E. Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac. Sometimes he makes it with 1834 or 1818, according to Dr. Cocktail's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. The price tag? €400 ($538.52 at the current lousy exchange rate).

Y'know, I'm all for the whole concept of "Garbage In, Garbage Out" when making a cocktail. Use the best ingredients available to you, and not bottom-shelf well crap. This is just ridiculous, though, and I have to roll my eyes. Even Colin admits that 99.99% of such Cognacs on hand at the Ritz are consumed neat (as they should be), and I'd have to laugh at someone who'd put lemon juice in such a rare treasure and call him a fool. I'd be more than happy with a 10-year-old Pierre Ferrand in my Sidecar.

A return to America's founding principles.   Joe Trippi talks about the direction the Democratic party needs to go -- not to the left or right, but to lift itself up to the high principles on which our nation was founded.

To do so will require rebuilding the party from the ground up, returning much of the power in the party to the grassroots, and building new institutions that empower more Americans to participate and have a say in the decisions that effect them.

Gary Hart, the former Senator from Colorado, in his excellent book "The Restoration of the Republic" wrote that to Thomas Jefferson "The most effective protection of individual rights, civil, legal, and political was widespread democratic participation in the affairs of governance. The greatest danger to rights was citizen detachment and in the political resolution of public concerns by interested forces dominating a remote central government."

The Republicans have diagnosed the problem of a remote central government in Washington and rallied against it, offering no real alternative other than to dismantle it.

The challenge for Democrats is to empower the grassroots of our republic -- the people -- to actively engage and be involved in their self-governance, and to return to the principle that the people are the sovereign and not the special interests.

Gary Hart wrote that the founders concern for corruption of the republic "holds that a national government dominated by special interest lobbyists paying huge sums in campaign cash for access to the corridors of power is unacceptable."

If only one of the parties has the courage to break away from this corrupt system, for the sake of my party, I hope it is the Democrats.

The broken system we now operate in works to the Republican Party's advantage. As lobbyists and corporate interests gain more power Washington becomes more remote to our citizens, and a more remote central government becomes more despised by the people.

"For Jefferson, the more remote government became and the more dependent the citizen became on elected representatives, the less republican the government and the greater the danger of corruption, narrow self-interest, and the erosion of democratic rights" according to Hart.

Jefferson was right.

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  Wednesday, December 1, 2004
OffBeat speaketh.   This is the review of the box set I was most anxious about. I really, really wanted them to like it. December issue, with Brian Stolz on the cover, reviews section, scroll down to the third review, past Bonerama and Craig Klein. (I know, it's crass to post reviews of one's own work, but this is a big one, and I can't help it.)


Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans
(Shout! Factory)

Remember those make-your-own CD services? Sure you do; it wasn't that long ago. Essentially, you the consumer looked over a list of famous songs, paid the service a certain amount for each song (more popular hits cost more, naturally), and they burned a completely legal custom mixtape for you. Well, the rise of the mp3 quickly killed that off, but Doctors, etc., feels like one of those discs, made by someone in town for someone out of town. (Of course, you wouldn't actually burn a CD, because that's illegal.)

The compilers of this four-disc box set aim for both locals and visitors in the track selection, featuring 84 songs from every single era and genre of New Orleans music, and not surprisingly omitting bounce and hip-hop, which hasn't reached their demographic just yet. Disc 1 alone starts off with an introduction from Theryl "Houseman" de'Clouet. "Welcome To New Orleans Louisiana, home of the hits," he says with a cackle, "and if you from out of town, welcome to the Third World" and then careens through legendary original jazz (Louis Armstrong's Hot Seven, Jelly Roll Morton), funk (Dr. John, Meters), rock and R&B (K-Doe, Fats, Frogman), and soul (Johnny Adams). In between, there's some more recent Crescent City artists, or artists beloved to same (Marcia Ball, Jon Cleary, Radiators, Kermit, Rebirth) and a few nods to the Cajun and zydeco of the surrounding river parishes (BeauSoleil, Clifton Chenier), as well as the city's Latin influences (Iguanas). Remember, this is just the first disc we're talking about.

The whole box demonstrates the same excellent taste, even if the compilers' need to keep things occasionally current leads to a few substitutions, you get Anders Osborne's version of "Meet The Boys On The Battlefront," not the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and Troy Andrews' take on "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," which may at least clear up the lyrics of Jessie Hill's original. But you have to wonder if any but the most hardcore New Orleans music fan really wants to listen to, say, Kid Ory's "Royal Garden Blues" sandwiched between Anders' "Stoned, Drunk, and Naked" and Little Richard's "Rip It Up." Granted, it's not exactly easy to make a comp like this yourself, since some of these cuts are extremely hard to track down on CD. But, well, you have them now. Far be it from me to suggest you rip these and make your own disc, but a little reprogramming is definitely in order. And if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn.

-- Robert Fontenot

Um, I guess they liked it. (Yay!)

November Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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