the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is 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, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, 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 @ 12:08am PST, 1/31/2006

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New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"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 directly from Shout! Factory Records, where all profits will be donated to New Orleans disaster relief through the end of March 2006.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. 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

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

Digital Dish is the first ever compilation volume of the best writing and recipes from food weblogs, and includes essays and recipes contributed by me. Find out more and place an order!

U.S. orders:
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!

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

January 2006

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
Home of the Groove
Hurricane Katrina Aftermath
Library Chronicles
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
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 in 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.)

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters.
   Skip the mint variety, though.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

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

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

The Cocktailian Gazette
   (The monthly newsletter of
   The Museum of the
   American Cocktail.)

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)

Martini Republic: Drinks
   (featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

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

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

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
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.

Reading this month:

The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy.

Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman.

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

Best Food Writing 2005, edited by Holly Hughes.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
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
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

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

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Syriana (****)
Match Point (****)

The Frighteners (***1/2)
Eating Out (**)
Dead and Buried (***)
Heavenly Creatures (****)
Minority Report (****)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The West Wing"
"Battlestar Galactica"
"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"
The Food Network


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
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


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

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

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

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
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 (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Creek Running North
Ethel the Blog
Un Fils d'un État Rouge
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
Martini Republic
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
Suspect Device
This Modern World
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Your Right Hand Thief

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.
tracy and david

The Final Frontier:

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


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site


"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

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.)

LOOKA!Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

  Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   It was Wes' turn to mix last night, and looking for something new (because everything old is new again) he visited CocktailDB and hit the Random Recipe Button. The first one that came up made him say "Ehh," and push the button again. This was the second one that came up.

Headlong Fall Cocktail

1 ounce gin.
1 ounce dry vermouth.
1/4 ounce Bénédictine.
1/4 ounce pastis (we used Herbsaint).

Stir with ice for no less than 30 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass of civilized size.
No garnish.

Pale, greenish-straw color. Gorgeous bouquet. Wonderful balance. Heck, it's almost enough to get me to try a 1:1 Martini (with orange bitters, of course).

"It should," Murray pointed out in email, "be perfect while watching the State of the Union. Coincidence?"

If you build it, they will come.   Well, I now know what I want my future restaurant to look like. Via BoingBoing, who posted a link to a site they describe as a gallery of vintage food advertisements in which children leer demonically at food, in which I found a scan of this 1933 patent application:

The Pig Stand!

Surely the patent has expired by now, and I can steal that idea!

I think some of my friends and I have had very similarly demonic leers on our faces, as the bacon-wrapped things go onto their plates and out to the table. Don't miss all the other links at that gallery, especially the non-leering-child food ads nearer the bottom. They're in that classic garishly colored, 1940s-1950s photo-illustration style which was perfect for the invariably gag-inducing recipes they represented, some of which are not to be believed. That style excelled at making even bacon-wrapped hot dogs look unappetizing.

You can buy high-quality giclée prints of all those images and many more at the Plan 59 site. Some of those food ads would be perfect for your kitchen (and I'm gettin' me that pig stand).

What's not going to happen tonight.   William Rivers Pitt, one of my favorite political essayists, last week came up with a wild and crazy idea:

George W. Bush's delivery of the State of the Union address will take place on Tuesday, January 31, a little more than a week from now. It is my strong belief that every single Democrat present in the House chamber for the speech should, at a predetermined moment, stand up and walk out. No yelling. No heated words. Every Democrat should simply stand silently and leave.

Crazy, I know. Crazy, and possibly the best idea ever put before a body of Democrats since the New Deal.

Well, maybe not. Some friends and I discussed it in email, and despite our all wanting desperately to be able to see such a thing, for the dramatic impact if nothing else, we all agreed that it'd probably be a bad idea. As good of an idea as it is, they'd never pull it off, and it would likely make them look petty rather than united in strong protest, and disrespectful of the constitutional mandate of the State of the Union address ("He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient" *). Unless, of course, they all immediately march up to a waiting press conference, deliver a scathing, point-by-point repudiation of everything Bush and the Republicans stand for, and deliver an exact, point-by-point outline of how they're going to do things differently.

But that's not going to happen either.

First, what the Democrats in Congress need to get through their thick skulls is what Pitt has to say in the rest of his article, which is far more important than his fun-but-nutty walkout idea:

Understand this, congressional Democrats, and understand it well: you are not dealing merely with a body of political opponents in the GOP. You are dealing with a group of people that want you exterminated politically. The days of walking the halls of the Rayburn Building, sharing a bourbon with a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and hammering out a compromise are as dead as Julius Caesar. Collegiality is out. Mutual respect is out. They want you gone for good. Erased. Destroyed.

And you have been far too polite about this. The writing has been on the wall for a while now. Back in 1995, Republican Senator Phil Gramm said, "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." That was eleven years ago. If you listen close, you can hear the beasts baying in the distance, waiting to slip the leash. Your limp tactics in the face of the assault upon you, your vacillation, your strange hope that maybe the GOP will be nicer tomorrow, has left you all smelling like Alpo.

For the love of God, you are being compared to Osama bin Laden all over network television because some within your ranks have had the courage to question the war in Iraq. It hasn't been subtle. Bin Laden, according to the right-wing talking heads, is getting his talking points straight from Howard Dean. These are the out-front spokespeople for the folks running the GOP right now. If you think there is compromise to be had with these people, if you think there is quarter to be given to you, then I have a nice, big red bridge to sell you in San Francisco.

I know you believe the Abramoff scandal is going to be your bread and butter in the upcoming midterm elections. I hate to break it to you, but you have already been outflanked. The television nitwits have flooded the airwaves with the meme that this is a "two-party scandal," despite the fact that Abramoff would have sooner lit himself on fire than give money to a Democrat. As you have been collectively incapable of setting the record straight in public, with the exception of a two-minute crunch between Howard Dean and Wolf Blitzer on CNN that left Blitzer spluttering impotently, understand that "this scandal affects both parties" is now commonly accepted fact all across the land.

Oh, yeah, P.S., the investigation is being run out of the Department of Justice. If this scandal does touch some sixty Republican officeholders, as Abramoff's donation history indicates, do you really think this White House is going to let the investigation get far enough to do real damage? If so, I again need to mention that big red bridge I have for sale. [...]

You've been outflanked, Democrats. Abramoff won't help you, and the noise machine is preparing to terrorize the American people into such a distracted state that anything you say in the next ten months will be lost amid the howling. The midterms are pretty much a done deal, and your continued marginalization will proceed at speed.

You can stomp your feet and yell at the wall. You can put your head in your hands and weep. You can sit silently and be simply satisfied that your own job-for-life is secure, thanks to your friendly district back home, and be damned to actually doing anything of substance. In other words, you can continue to do what you've been doing since this outrageous assault on basic American democracy began.

Or you can stand up.

It takes a spine to stand up. Find yours. Get up and walk out of the State of the Union speech. Turn your backs on the blizzard of lies and empty promises that are sure to pour forth from that podium. Give it exactly what it deserves.

Walk outside to the steps of the Capitol Building and hold a Counter-State-of-the-Union. Lay out your plans for a better future. Explain how you will reform the system that spawned Mr. Abramoff. Demand answers and explanations about what is happening in Iraq, what is happening over at the National Security Agency, and why this administration believes itself to be completely above the law.

I can even offer a bit of text for your opening statement. "Three years ago during this very speech," your leading spokesperson can say from those steps, "Mr. Bush told us that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al Qaeda connections, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program. He said all this three years ago, during this all-important annual address, and all of it was a lie. The American people deserve an explanation."

See? It's easy. All it takes is courage.

Yeah, I know, there he goes with the walkout again. But he's got a point. This is what the Dems need to say, if not do. Will they? What will the Democratic response be like? What will the Governor of Virginia, the Democrat who just won in a red state, say? Will he grow a spine and say what needs to be said? Or will he play it "safe"?

I fear the latter. I guess we'll find out tonight.

(* - The final phrase of Article II, Section 3 quoted above, also says, "he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed"; in fact, in Section 1 his oath of office is specifically mandated: "Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:-- 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'" I don't believe it says anything about the laws being faithfully ignored, or that either of these sections of the Constitution can be ignored at his will. Just as an aside.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, January 30, 2006

Offers of post-Katrina aid ignored by FEMA.   today's Washington Post as well as the Times-Picayune:

Post: Hundreds of federal search-and-rescue workers and large numbers of boats, aircraft and bulldozers were offered to FEMA in the hours immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, but the aid proposals were either ignored or not effectively used, newly released documents show.

The Interior Department, which made the offers, also proposed dispatching as many as 400 of its law enforcement officers to provide security in Gulf Coast cities ravaged by flooding and looting. But nearly a month would pass before the Federal Emergency Management Agency put the officers to work, according to an Interior document obtained by The Washington Post. [...]

Acting in the "immediate aftermath" of the hurricane, Interior officials provided FEMA with a comprehensive list of assets that were "immediately available for humanitarian and emergency assistance," according to the memo, dated Nov. 7, 2005. Those assets included more than 300 boats, 11 aircraft, 119 pieces of heavy equipment, 300 dump trucks and other vehicles for clearing debris, as well as Interior-owned campgrounds and other land that could be used as staging areas or emergency shelters.

Also offered were rescue crews from the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, teams specially trained for urban search-and-rescue missions using flat-bottom boats. "Clearly these assets and skills were precisely relevant to the post-Katrina environment," the memo said. Yet, the rescue teams and boats were not considered in the federal government's planning for hurricane disasters [...]

T-P: Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency called off its search and rescue operations in Louisiana three days after the Aug. 29 storm because of security issues, according to an internal FEMA e-mail given to Senate investigators.

The documents, expected to be the focus of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Monday, highlight further evidence of FEMA's inadequate response to Katrina.

They also detail breakdowns in carrying out the National Response Plan, which was issued a year ago specifically to coordinate response efforts during disasters.

This is further evidence of what happens when a wholly unqualified political crony is appointed to head the nation's disaster response agency, instead of hiring the best possible person for the job ... such as, oh, say, an experienced disaster-response and -management official.

I wonder if the White House will also stonewall further investigation into this part of the post-Katrina fiasco due to the divine right of kings "executive privilege" ...

Saying no to a filibuster.   By this time I think we all know that it ain't gonna happen, and Alito's as good as in, God help us.

John Aravosis offers his reasoning on why there shouldn't even be a filibuster attempt without the certainty that it can be sustained. Pay particular attention to the final point.

Cocktail(s) of the day.   'Cause we really need a drink.

Julia, who gave me her recipe for the Brooklyn cocktail variation that I dubbed the Bensonhurst, asked in the comments the other day, "I'm grooving on Murray's Porteño right now and I just made it with plain simple syrup; I wish I had a Japan source for falernum. Do y'all think another sweet/syrup might work, like grenadine? Or [is it] too weird with the cherry... hmm. Maybe more lime plus more cherry heering to imitate the sweet/sour of falernum more?"

Well, I wouldn't use grenadine to substitute falernum -- not only the wrong color, but the completely wrong flavor profile. Grenadine (the good stuff, anyway) tastes strongly of pomegranates; falernum, which originates in Barbados, is a more tropical concoction that tastes more subtly of lime, almond, allspice, vanilla and ginger. The most widely available brand is Velvet Falernum, although it still may not be all that easy to find. Velvet Falernum is slightly alcoholic, but there are two non-alcoholic versions made by Fee Brothers (available via mail order through them or through">Surfas Online in Culver City, CA) and DaVinci Gourmet.

If you're living in Japan and have difficulty mail-ordering things from the States, I'd say that for Murray's cocktail go ahead and stick with plain simple syrup as a substitution. Or ... just make your own falernum!

Robert Hess offers falernum recipe that Dale DeGroff came up with, but (I know, sacrilege) I'd probably mess with that a bit. I'd substitute cracked allspice berries for the cloves, and add a few slices of bruised fresh ginger. Give that a try!

Julia also asked, "Anybody got any fun things to do with Suze and/or Strega? I got one of each in a fit of experimental splurging but haven't figured out how to mix them with much."

Suze is a gloriously bitter (some might say monstrously bitter) French apéritif which I happen to like. If you like Campari, it's not that far of a jump to Suze, but it might take some getting used to. Its primary flavor is gentian, a bitter root that's also used in making aromatic cocktail bitters (although Suze is a drinking bitters); it has a variety of herbs for flavoring as well as a citrusy component. For an idea of its level of bitterness, think raw horseradish root without the burn. It's got a very bright flavor, and mixes as well as Campari does, and in similar ways. It may not be all that easy to find (larger wine and spirits stores would be your best bet), and it's a bit expensive (around $35), but if you like bitters it's definitely worth trying.

I found this recipe after a little Googling; I haven't tried it yet, but it looks pretty good.

Suze Cocktail

1 ounce orange juice.
3/4 ounce Suze.
1/2 ounce lemon juice.
1/2 ounce orange curaçao.
1/4 ounce grenadine.

Shake with ice and strain into a Champagne flute.
Garnish with a cherry.

I found several others on the Suze website, which I present here with their original names from the website, but in English and without all the pretty but frustratingly slow Flash animation you have to sit through before you can read each recipe:

Suze couture

1 part Suze.
1 part spring water 2 dashes Monin violet syrup (or crème de violette if you have it).
Build over ice.

Suze tonique

1 part Suze.
2 parts tonic water.
Build over ice.

Suze caliente

1 part Suze.
1 part banana nectar.
1 dash grenadine.
Squeeze of lemon juice.
Build over ice

Suze insolite

1 part Suze.
2 parts orange juice.
1 part crème de cassis.

Build in tall glass. From the illustration it looks as if the Suze and O.J. were stirred together with ice, and then the cassis poured in so it settles into a layer a the bottom. Pretty!

Suze mojito

2 parts Suze.
3 parts Champagne.
20 drops (NOT dashes!) Angostura bitters.
1 soup-spoon of sugar.
1 squeeze of lemon juice.
7 large mint leaves.

No instructions, but I'd bruise the leaves with the sugar, add Suze, lemon juice and bitters and shake. Strain into a Champagne flute, add Champagne and stir gently to mix without deflating the bubbly. Garnish with mint sprig.

Suze florida

1 part Suze.
2 parts red grapefruit juice.
Dash or two of sugar syrup.
Over ice

Suze sensuelle

2/3 Suze.
1/3 cassis.
Over ice..

"Original et sensuel, un cocktail plus sucré pour les amoureux de nouvelles sensations." ("Original and sensual, a sweeter cocktail for lovers of new sensations." Or something like that.)

Suze ensoleillée

1/3 Suze.
2/3 orange juice.
Over ice.

"Toutes les saveurs de Suze se révèlent dans la simplicité de ce cocktail ensoleillée." ("All the flavors of Suze reveal themselves in the simplicity of this sunny cocktail." Or something like that. The recipe on the site said to use 1/3 of each ingredient, which doesn't make sense, so I extrapolated.)

Suze extrême

1/3 Suze.
2/3 gin.
Over ice.

"Servi givré, il révèle à l'extrême les arômes d'agrumes de Suze." ("Served frosted, it reveals to the extreme the citrus fruit flavor of Suze." Or something like that. The recipe on the site said 1/3 Suze and 1/4 gin, which also doesn't make any sense. I'm therefore guessing again here. Some silly French webmaster has had a few too many Suzes. :-)

Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur, not a bitters, which I've never actually tried. From what I've read about it I'd put it in the same category as Bénédictine or Chartreuse, although far milder than the latter. CocktailDB, in its entry for Strega, lists 23 cocktail recipes containing the liqueur.

That oughta keep y'all busy for a while!

Next on Cocktail of the Day (or maybe day after tomorrow) ... one of the best drinks I've had in recent memory. It's been mentioned before, but we tried it for the first time last night. It was so good that there was no way I was going to stop and set up a photograph. That'll have to wait until at least tomorrow ...

Palace revolt.   A current Newsweek article describes "a small coterie of Bush administration lawyers" engaged in nothing less than an insurrection, and the price they paid for it.

These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss [former deputy attorney general James] Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.

No truly good deed goes unpunished in this administration.

Beware The Crinkler!   As much as I love the collective moviegoing experience, I despise paying ever-rising ticket prices and then being forced to sit through commercials at my own expense, I despise the people who sit there and talk the whole time, I particularly despise the people who do anything with their mobile phones (from checking text messages and thereby creating an extremely distracting and annoying light, to actually taking calls and holding conversaions -- "What? No, I'm in the movie now." -- or, when you shoosh them, sit and play with all their ring tones for ten minutes). Sometimes I think we can't get that home theatre fast enough. (We're currently coveting this Panasonic HDTV plasma monitor.)

While our local art house, the Laemmle Playhouse in Pasadena, doesn't seem to have quite the same problems as these NYC art houses referred to in Slate today ... we do have The Crinkler.

While I've publicly come out against the death penalty, I think I'm on the verge of advocating that the mobile-phone-in-the-cinema people and The Crinkler should simply be killed. Preferably by public impalement.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bring New Orleans Back commissioners' campaign contributions: 94% went to Republicans.   Via Scout Prime. Given that bigshot real estate developer Joseph Canizaro is one of the main commissioners, I don't suppose this is surprising. But seeing all the details all lined up right there in a row ... it gives one pause.

Scout asks the all-important question, "Given all of that and the above information I think it is right to question if the BNOBC will represent the best interests of the people of NOLA... or George Bush and big business." Why do I get this sinking feeling that the people of New Orleans, already getting shafted, will continue to get the shaft?

Well, ain't this innerestin'?   Via Oyster, who entitles his post "I did not know this" (me either, bra) ... it seems that a state legislature can set in motion proceedings for the impeachment of the President. And it only takes one state.

See pages 314-315 of the House Rules for the 109th Congress.

In the <<NOTE: Sec. 603. Inception of impeachment proceedings in the House.>> House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion:
[...] by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State (III, 2469) or territory (III, 2487) or from a grand jury (III, 2488)

Hunh? More from Oyster:

Why is Congress' Katrina investigation being stonewalled? Where has the $87 billion been spent?

Our state reps can demand answers for such questions, unlike our GOP-dominated U.S. Congressional delegation, who continue to "hope" that they can "change the president's mind". After every disappointment, they'll continue to "hope" and try to soothe their constituents by saying they're "working hard" to convince the President to not oppose crucial legislation like the Baker bill.

This is fascinating. Is it really true? Constitutional scholars, any of y'all know anything about this?

Flop? I said flip. Definitely flip.   We're at war! We're a nation at war! The war on terr'r! It's indefinite! It's important!

That's what Bush and Cheney have been ramming down our throats for the last four years. So how are they shoring up that all-important effort? By proposing in the new budget that defense spending be cut, exactly what cannibal Vice-Preznit Cheney falsely accused John Kerry of wanting to do during the '04 campaign, thereby showing that Democrats just don't get the War on Terr'r. (Via Hoffmania.)

President Bush will use his new budget to propose cutting the size of the Army Reserve to its lowest level in three decades and stripping up to $4 billion from two fighter aircraft programs.

The proposals, likely to face opposition on Capitol Hill, come as the Defense Department struggles to trim personnel costs and other expenses to pay for the war in Iraq and a host of other pricey aircraft and high-tech programs. Bush will send his 2007 budget to Congress on Feb. 6.

The proposed Army Reserve cut is part of a broader plan to achieve a new balance of troop strength and combat power among the active Army, the National Guard and reserves to fight the global war on terrorism and to defend the homeland. [...]

Under the plan, the authorized troop strength of the Army Reserve would drop from 205,000 -- the current number of slots it is allowed -- to 188,000, the actual number of soldiers it had at the end of 2005. Because of recruiting and other problems, the Army Reserve has been unable to fill its ranks to its authorized level.

Army leaders have said they are taking a similar approach to shrinking the National Guard. They are proposing to cut that force from its authorized level of 350,000 soldiers to 333,000, the actual number now on the rolls.

Reaction from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America was swift:

"This President isn't dedicated to the men and and women he has sent to war. The Reserves and National Guard have been overextended, resulting in less enlistment and less retention in the force. Cutting their ranks will hurt morale, and make our military less able to respond to security concerns abroad and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

"We should be increasing the size of our volunteer force by providing members of the National Guard and Reseve health care, increasing the benefits of the Montgomery GI Bill, and increasing pay by 5%.

"This decision will hurt the military and make our nation less secure."

Remember, he was against the idea before he was for it.

Scathing NYT editorial.   The Times breathes fire about spies, lies and wiretaps.

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The first was that the domestic spying program is carefully aimed only at people who are actively working with Al Qaeda, when actually it has violated the rights of countless innocent Americans. And the second was that the Bush team could have prevented the 9/11 attacks if only they had thought of eavesdropping without a warrant.

[Read the rest.]

Atrios quips: "[Times editorial page editor] Gail Collins sounds almost as mad as [former editor] Howell Raines did when he was freaking out about a land deal in which the Clintons lost money."

It begins?   This morning CNN is reporting that three Republican senators and representatives are calling on Bush to release records and photos regarding his relationship with Jack Abramoff.

No, Scotty, it's not "partisan politics."

Poll: Majority in U.S. Say Bush Presidency Is a Failure.   A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans say the Bush presidency has been a failure, and that they would be more likely to vote for congressional candidates who oppose him.

Fifty-two percent of adults said Bush's administration since 2001 has been a failure, down from 55 percent in October. Fifty- eight percent described his second term as a failure. At the same point in former President Bill Clinton's presidency, 70 percent of those surveyed by Gallup said they considered it a success and 20 percent a failure.

Good news for us, not so good news for ShrubCo. Something tells me that those numbers will rise over the course of the next several months.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, January 28, 2006

Baker: Bush "misunderstood" recovery plan; offers us "death blow."   Rep. Richard Baker, Republican of Louisiana, in today's Times-Picayune:

Calling the Bush administration's approach to hurricane recovery in Louisiana a potential "death blow to the state's economy," Rep. Richard Baker vowed Friday to continue fighting for his legislation to bail out homeowners and help the region rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

That begins, Baker said, with educating the White House and the nation about the bottom-line wisdom of restoring an area crucial to the U.S. economy as a key port for wheat and other agricultural products, as essential to the growth and harvesting of seafood, and as a center for offshore oil and gas production.

Baker, R-Baton Rouge, said the administration's proposal for targeting Community Development Block Grants to 20,000 uninsured homes outside the flood plain would abandon almost 200,000 more homes needed for workers in those industries and more.

"Those things are important to our nation, but those things cannot occur if we lose 185,000 homes" in the New Orleans area, Baker said. "There is a price to pay for blind neglect. The current plan would be a death blow to the state's economy."

At the same time, Baker said his plan is widely misunderstood and that it would be far less costly than skeptics claim. Creating a corporation backed by federal bonds to buy out and redevelop housing under a more unified approach, he said, is the better way to assure the area comes back -- and quickly.

Meanwhile ...

A day after President Bush rebuked local and state officials for not producing a hurricane recovery plan, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said his administration is just weeks away from delivering a voluminous document that will detail the city's strategy for rebuilding neighborhoods, restoring public services and resurrecting the region's wrecked economy.

Nagin's promise came on Friday after his Bring New Orleans Back commission accepted the last of six reports from subcommittees advising the mayor on education, culture, health care and other matters.

The economic development subcommittee recommended increasing housing for workers, creating tax incentives for businesses in the disaster zone, developing new worker-training programs and launching an aggressive marketing campaign to repair the damage done by negative media reports since the storm.

Nagin said he will spend the next two weeks meeting with focus groups that will discuss each element of the commission's recovery plan. At the same time, members of the public will be able to submit comments to the commission.

The commission will debate recommendations made by the subcommittees during its final public meeting in February then deliver its report to the mayor, who will publish a final version soon after, Nagin said.

Bush on Thursday suggested that more federal money to finance the region's massive recovery from Hurricane Katrina will be slow to arrive until the city and state produce a comprehensive recovery plan.

Nagin said Friday that Bush's comments overlooked the progress that the commission has made since being created in October.

"I want to remind everyone that New Orleans has a plan, and our plan is very well put together. It's in good shape," he said. "We're ready to go."

It's good to hear Da Mayor sounding like he's got his head back together, doing good work for the city rather than giving speeches, which, as we've seen, is not his forte. C'mon Ray ... all you have to do is hang in there and do a decent job until April, and then maybe you can have a nice, long rest.

Cocktail of the day.   It's a classic cocktail, on its second substitution.

We're huge fans of the Brooklyn Cocktail, which calls for rye whiskey, dry vermouth, Maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon. Of course, you can't get Amer Picon in the States anymore, and even if you could, it bears no resemblance to the Amer Picon of old, the vintage 78-proof version that existed when this cocktail was invented. Torani Amer has been an excellent substitute, but despite its availability at Beverages and More and other places in-store or via mail-order, it can also be a little tricky to find.

In the comments section a while back, Julia said that she makes her Brooklyns with an Italian bitters called Amaro Ramazzotti, as Torani Amer isn't available in Japan where she lives, and that it works beautifully. Last night we finally tried it, and man ... she was right!

Of course, we had to come up with a new name, as "Brooklyn Variation" didn't really cut it. I chose a name from Brooklyn's largest Italian neighborhood (which actually dwarfed the size of Manhattan's Little Italy). It may have a slightly different ethnic makeup these days due to shifting demographics, but historically when you think of Italians in Brooklyn, you think of this place.

The Bensonhurst Cocktail

2 ounces Wild Turkey 101 proof rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur.
1/4 ounce Amaro Ramazzotti.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass. Stir for no less than 30 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass; garnish with a stemless cherry.

Thanks for the great idea, Julia!

Robert Heinlein, on theocracy.   Via Wes, promoted from the comments. This is from the explanatory afterword to a collection called Revolt in 2100, consisting of one novella (If This Goes On--) and two short stories ("Coventry" and "Misfit") set during and in the aftermath of an early 21st Century despotic theocracy in America.

As for... the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture; it is rooted in our history and it has broken out many times in the past. It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in this country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian.

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country--Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva's Zion, Smith's Nauvoo, a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.

Could it be otherwise here? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not -- but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday's efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti-'furriners' in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening -- particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington.

... Impossible? Remember the Klan in the 'Twenties -- and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. Remember Karl Marx and note how close that unscientific piece of nonsense called Das Kapital has come to smothering out all freedom of thought on half a planet, without -- mind you -- the emotional advantage of calling it a religion. The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.

Heinlein wrote these words in 1952.

Flip? I meant flop.   Via Digby, who says, "The Carpetbagger reports that preznit Bush has adopted candidate John Kerry's "ignorant" and "dangerously wrong" proposed policy toward Iran. And some of the preznit's supporters are all confused:. Apparently they were under the misapprehension that Junior Codpiece had some sort of coherent philosophy."

President Bush's endorsement of a plan to end the nuclear standoff with Iran by giving the Islamic republic nuclear fuel for civilian use under close monitoring has left some of his supporters baffled.

One cause for the chagrin is that the proposal, which is backed by Russia, essentially adopts a strategy advocated by Mr. Bush's Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Senator Kerry of Massachusetts.

"I have made it clear that I believe that the Iranians should have a civilian nuclear power program under these conditions: that the material used to power the plant would be manufactured in Russia, delivered under IAEA inspectors to Iran to be used in that plant, the waste of which will be picked up by the Russians and returned to Russia," Mr. Bush said at a news conference yesterday. "I think that is a good plan. The Russians came up with the idea and I support it," he added.

The punch line is beautifully delivered by Carpetbagger ...

Maybe so, but he was against the idea before he was for it.

They continue, "Just out of curiosity, any chance we'll see National Review blasting Bush's new approach to Iran as 'ignorant' and 'dangerously wrong'? Or maybe Condi Rice will explain why the idea rewarded Iran for bad behavior when Kerry recommended it, but it's brilliant leadership when Bush recommends it?"

Atrios: "This will be largely ignored, of course."

Mind the (income) gap.   (Via Steve.) CNN Money reports that the gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically.

The authors of the report point to several factors that have contributed to the widening income gaps since the early 1980s. Among those they cite as having disproportionately hurt the earnings of low- and middle-income households are: long periods of high unemployment, globalization, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the growth in low-wage service jobs, and a stagnant minimum wage. The federal minimum wage -- $5.15 an hour -- has remained unchanged since 1997. Only 17 states and the District of Columbia have set their minimums higher.

Don't expect to hear much about this from Bush in the State of the Union address next Tuesday. We can hope, however, that we'll hear about it, forcefully, in the Democratic response. (If said response doesn't grab Bush and his administration by the balls and hold them over hot coals, then there may be no hope for the Democrats' ever growing a spine.)

Too many straight lines ...   Also via Steve. Some stories just write their own punch lines ...

Fox News Employees Sue Over Alleged Mold

Two Fox News employees have filed a lawsuit alleging they were sickened by toxic molds and pesticides in a building where some of the network's top shows are produced.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges the employees fell ill in the building where "The O'Reilly Factor" and "At Large with Geraldo Rivera" are produced, as well as "Hannity and Colmes" and "Dayside." It seeks unspecified damages from Fox News and the building's management company.

The employees said in court papers that the molds and the "inappropriate" use of cleaning agents and pesticides caused headaches, dizziness, weakness, anxiety and blurred vision.

Mold? You don't need no stinkin' mold! You can suffer from headaches, nausea and anxiety just from watching Fox News.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, January 27, 2006

"My head just exploded."   When I caught up with yesterday morning's presidential press conference later in the day, I was keen to hear what he said about New Orleans. One reporter asked a very good question about Bush's lack of support for the bill to help flooded-out homeowners in the city, and this was the insufferable prick's response:

We'll continue to work with the folks down there, but I want to remind those people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot and suddenly we were concerned about feeding additional federal bureaucracies, which might make it harder to get money to the people.

My jaw hit the floor. I was actually a bit numb, having been nearly exhausted from all the outrage drawn from me of late. Then I didn't know whether to cry or erupt in rage and go around breaking things. That motherfucker hates us, I thought. The other day I said he just doesn't give a shit about us, but the only thing that makes any of this make sense is that he just really hates us.

Before my numbness wore off, I got an email from one of my friends back home, one whose head tends to remain cooler while I'm sputtering with rage about the administration:

"That part of the world?" "THAT PART OF THE WORLD?!?" Where the fuck does the goddamn President of the United States get off calling the Gulf Coast, which is PART OF HIS FUCKING COUNTRY, "that part of the world" like it is some remote island off the coast of Greenland?? Last time I checked my history books, the United States BOUGHT "this part of the world" 200 years ago, and they got it really fucking cheap. It drives me fucking crazy that this is being spun as the United States doing us a fucking favor, when it is absolutely the RESPONSIBILITY of the United States to take care of its own.

What he said.

I haven't seen any local coverage on this remark yet, but Wes asks, "How come Nagin gets more grief for his 'chocolate city' remarks than Bush is getting from every resident of New Orleans, southern Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast? Why aren't they rising up and shouting, 'What do you mean by "that part of the world," motherfucker?' Why isn't every Democratic congressperson asking, 'Why are you referring to homeless Americans, people who've lost everything, in some cases our own families and loved ones, as "that part of the world?"'"

Good questions.

Photo of the day.   The family Bible at my parents' house, New Orleans East, October 13, 2005.

Family Bible, New Orleans East, 10/13/2005

What part of the world is this? New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States of America.

What does the U.S. have in common with Iran?   Opposition to equal rights and voice for gays, in case you were wondering.

Human rights organizations and the co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus protested on Thursday a decision by the Bush administration to back a measure introduced by Iran denying two gay rights groups a voice at the United Nations.

In a vote Monday, the United States supported Iran's recommendation to deny consultative status at the United Nations' Economic and Social Council to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians and the International Lesbian and Gay Association, based in Belgium.

Nearly 3,000 nongovernmental organizations have such status, which enables them to distribute documents to meetings of the council.

Among countries with which the United States sided were Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe, nations the State Department has cited in annual reports for their harsh treatment of homosexuals.

We backed Iran's anti-gay measure. Aren't you proud?

Quote of the day.   Why does anyone listen to this piece of shit? This college actually paid her for this?

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' crème brûl´ee. That's just a joke, for you in the media."

-- Arch-conservative commentator lunatic Ann Coulter, speaking to an audience at Philander Smith College, a traditionally black college in Little Rock, expressing her wish that there could be more conservative justices on the Supreme Court to outlaw abortion. (Stevens is generally regarded as the Court's most liberal justice.)

Gee, that's a funny joke. If someone were to make such a joke about the president or vice-president, they'd be arrested by the Secret Service.

To the audience's credit, they booed her several times during the speech.

Why Hillary won't save us.   God, I'm glad it's not just me. Molly Ivins says what needs to be said:

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to relearn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines, who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes. The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. Who are you afraid of?

Read the rest of it.

Bishop Spong on God and patriotism.   Via Wes, here's a Q & A with Bishop John Shelby Spong:

Niklas from Sweden writes:
"Why are Americans so preoccupied with the abortion issue when other ways of protecting human life are ignored? For instance, the infant mortality rate is more than twice as high in the US compared to my country (Sweden). It's even higher than Cuba's. How embarrassing that should be for one of the wealthiest countries in the world! (I guess it must be related to poverty and the social model that the U.S. has embarked upon).

Secondly, when you point this out to Americans, they just won't believe it; they think it's some kind of propaganda. Where does all this misdirected patriotism come from? Is it Christian to believe that God has a special relation to the United States?"

Bishop Spong replies:

Dear Niklas,

America is a religiously schizophrenic nation. We have in our history been able to combine religion with the practices of slavery, segregation, lynching and violent racism. We have in the name of the God we claim to worship oppressed women, Jews and homosexuals. The public negativity about abortion, to which you have referred, is acted out against the background of an unwillingness to embrace the fact that millions of poor children in this land do not have access to health care. That is surely one more illustration of this schizophrenia.

Religion is the way some of our citizens seek personal security. That kind of religion always demands conformity to stated religious values no matter how contradictory they might be in practice. This kind of religion always seeks to impose narrow definitions on the whole society. Although history reveals that this practice never works, whenever the levels of fear become high enough this nation seems to walk down this same old road again and again. Once the society discovers itself under this kind of pressure and feels close to being overwhelmed by th is kind of religious mentality, there is always a revolution to restore balance.

On three occasions, in 1896, 1900 and 1908, America turned back the evangelical presidential bids of Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan. In 1988 this nation rebuked Pat Robertson's bid for the Republican nomination. There is also still present in the American psyche a deep reservoir of the ancient Puritanism out of which so many found their way to these shores. The puritan work ethic does proclaim that if you are poor, it is because you deserve it. This means that in this nation we are always engaged politically in a class warfare struggle.

Class warfare is visible when conservative administrations like the present Bush presidency lower taxes on the wealthy and simultaneously cut welfare and medical care for the poor. That is nothing but class warfare and the wealthy are winning. At the same time, when this nation passed legislation calling for a graduated income tax and created the Social Security Program, that represented victories in the class warfare struggle for the poor. While in the political propaganda that both sides mount in this struggle declares that everyone seeks 'fairness,' the fact is that the way we tolerate unfairness in America is by denying its existence. Then something like the hurricane in New Orleans rips of the facade of that untruth and makes us face anew that this is a class oriented society.

Your letter, for which I thank you, will also raise consciousness, for most Americans do not travel outside this country frequently enough to have any sense of how we are viewed by the other nations of the world, so I appreciate your letter as one that holds up a mirror so that we can look at ourselves through your eyes. History reveals that these attitudes that you describe will pass away in time. It will take an aroused electorate, however.

My sense is that there is at this moment a growing negativity about the road this nation is presently walking. It is being fueled by an increasingly unpopular and perhaps an unwinnable war in Iraq, the bulging national deficit, the issue of corruption with lobbyists in the Republican controlled congress and the administrative disasters in handling both the crisis in New Orleans and the introduction of the Medicare prescription drug plan. An aroused public is growing. The beneficiary of this dis-ease may not be the minority party; it might be a more moderate part of the present majority party. We will have to wait and see.

Let's hope and pray that the minority party is not permanently spineless, and that the more moderate part of the present majority party hasn't been killed off by power-crazed neo-cons and related wingnuts.

Who doesn't want to be Pork Queen?!   From an amusing article on CNN Money about what they consider to be "The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business in 2005". This one struck me particularly:

63. "The Other White Meat Queen" probably wouldn't fit on the sash.
The Iowa Pork Producers Association announces that it may retire a contest used to promote its product -- due to the lack of interest among young Iowa women in being designated "Pork Queen." These days, surprisingly, only a handful of hopefuls enter the porcine pageant, which started back in 1960.

What's wrong with these people? I can think of at least four women right this minute who would knock each other down to compete for the title of "Pork Queen." They'd all kick, claw and gouge whoever it takes to have the opportunity to hang a "Pork Queen" sash on their bedpost. (At least one of 'em is liable to sound off in the comments right about now ...)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, January 26, 2006

"I want you to stonewall it."   Josh Marshall writes that their reporting at Talking Points Memo suggests that the White House is actively involved in covering up and possibly destroying photographic evidence of the president and Jack Abramoff together.

As Tom Tomorrow so aptly illustrated ...

More here and here.

Sweet on bitters.   Ah, one of my favorite subjects! I was delighted to see that the Los Angeles Times Food Section yesterday devoted an entire page to a story about the resurgence of bitters in the cocktail world (something to which we here at Looka! are passionately dedicated).

It's a pretty terrific article, giving a brief rundown of cocktail history and the place aromatic bitters have in it, plus talking about aperitif and digestivo bitters as well (Campari, Fernet Branca, etc.) and how they get you salivating and stimulate appetite and digestion. It's all very much worth reading.

Of course, as seems somewhat typical for the Times, when they actually give out recipes for cocktails some of them are pretty wacked. For instance, their "Savage Sazerac" recipe, a version described as having "turned up the volume" is pretty much a regular Sazerac with a little more rye, not enough bitters (one-half teaspoon of Peychaud's bitters is only about two good-sized dashes, so ignore teaspoons and give it four big dashes) and about nine times too much sugar. 3/4 ounce of simple syrup, for Christ's sake?! Make that one teaspoon, MAYBE two for such a big drink. I guess their definition of "savage" is "so sweet it makes your teeth hurt."

One really terrific thing they've done, though, is given a recipe for grapefruit bitters. I've been wanting to try something like that for a while, and I might just give it a go in the next week or so. Before I do, though, I'll do a little studying; their recipe only has one background flavor, that of coriander, and I might try to make it a little more complex. Still, it's really great that they may actually have people making their own bitters from this.

There's an excellent thread in the eGullet Fine Spirits and Cocktails Forum entitled All About Bitters, with participation from DrinkBoy, Dr. Cocktail and many more. Don't miss it; you'll likely go mad and end up making several batches of your own bitters!

Here's our own bitters collection (not counting amari, digestivi, aperitivi), in descending order of ready availability:

Angostura Bitters
Peychaud's Bitters
Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
Fee Brothers Old Fashion Cocktail Bitters
Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
Homemade orange bitters (based loosely on Charles Baker's recipe)
Homemade aromatic cocktail bitters (based loosely on Robert Hess' "House Bitters" with some of my own additions; lovely flavor but, alas, not terribly bitter ... back to the drawing board)
Abbott's Bitters

Angostura is everywhere, and you have no excuse for not having a big bottle of this stuff. Peychaud's is now pretty easy to get, the Fee's reasonably easy, the Regans' is easy to mail order, homemade bitters just takes time and desire, and Abbott's ... well, good luck with that. :-) Other than that, though, you could have a world-class cocktail bitters collection in your bar for relatively minimal effort and less than $30 (a bit more if you make your own, and way more if you find 60-year-old vintage bottles of Abbott's).

Then there's the drinking bitters ... Torani Amer, Campari, Averna, Amaro Ramazzotti, Amaro Cora, Fernet Branca (the medicine cabinet in my bar), and next time I go liquor shopping I'm coming home with some Cynar, the artichoke-based Italian bitters. I'm tellin' ya, this stuff's addictive.

The Cocktailian.   In today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, offers us a drink created by master bartender Murray Stenson of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle (and a Looka! reader and occasional comment-poster as well!). Murray created The Porteño Cocktail for someone who spent time in Argentina and came back to the States with a love for Fernet Branca, which is quite popular down there.

Fernet Branca is one of the Italian amari, or drinking bitters, mentioned in the article above. I've had a bottle I've been working on for a good while now, although generally not in cocktails. I refer to it as "the medicine chest in my bar." If you've overinduged, eaten too much, had just one barbecued rib too many, a hot sausage and cheese poor boy that was just a little too big ... drink a shot of Fernet Branca (neat, on the rocks, with soda or with hot water and honey) and I guarantee you'll feel better in less than five minutes. Those herbs in digestive bitters have a very real medicinal efefect, and they work.

The problem for me is that although I love much of the complex, bitter flavor of Fernet Branca, it has a very medicinal undertone that reminds me a little too much of the nasty allergy medicine I had to take all through my childhood. I'm trying to work it through, and I think I can do it given the right cocktails. (Heck, years ago I didn't even drink gin or vermouth, and now I'm joyously swilling both by the 55-gallon drum).

A few weeks ago Wes decided to try the classic Fernet Branca Cocktail when it was his turn to mix. It's simple -- a jigger of gin and a half-ounce each of sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca. The Fernet pretty much took over the drink for me, wiping out most of the flavor profile of both of the other ingredients. "Yep, nasty medicine," I said, reverting to my six-year-old self.

Murray's cocktail look like a completely different ballgame, though. Gary's article reminds us that aside from drinking it straight as a digestivo it can be wonderful in cocktails if used sparingly, and if carefully balanced with other flavors that can stand up to its power. Between the bourbon, the cherry brandy (I've plenty of Heering), the lime juice and the falernum (and this boy loves drinks with falernum!), I'm more than intrigued by this one.

We'll most definitely try this tonight if not tomorrow, not only because I want to develop a taste for Fernet Branca but because I would drink anything Murray put in front of me ... and I'm looking forward to doing that in person one of these days! (Congratulations on getting your drink in Da Paper, Murray!)

Eat your vegetables with your chocolate.   Well, I'm kinda doing that now. Lunch is pretty well-behaved today -- a bowl of Progresso Tuscan-Style Meatball Soup (hey, the Progresso stuff is not bad at all, and only about 3 points a serving), a little salad of spinach and arugula with a little sprinkle of crumbed feta and a low-fat balsamic vinaigrette, an apple ... and a square of Valrhona Le Noir Amer chocolate, 71% cacao.

I eat chocolate every day, usually a square of high-quality stuff like Valrhona or El Rey or something like that. Sometimes I stick with that, other times I'll indulge a little bit after dinner (right now I'm addicted to Williams-Sonoma's Fluffernutters, which have apparently been discontinued ... aarghh!). The confection aside, let me remind you that chocolate -- plain, high-quality dark chocolate -- is good food. Besides its antioxidant content, it just makes you feel good. It makes you happy.

This morning I got an email from the Scharffen Berger Chocolate folks, suggesting the very thing in the header of this post. What they meant was to find a way to enjoy chocolate while at the same time ramping down from the overindulgence of the holidays, and how they meant it was to give a recipe for ... Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake.

(Ohhh ... I dunno, Crow ...)

In the recipe they say, "[t]he addition of sauerkraut to this cocoa-based chocolate cake provides an attractive texture, especially when made in a bundt pan. The flavor of the sauerkraut is undetectable. Top with this easy glaze for a delicious, everyday cake." This is so wacky that I might just have to try it.

The Power-Madness of King George.   Jacob Weisberg's article in today's Slate asks, "Is Bush turning America into an elective dictatorship?"

It's tempting to dismiss the debate about the National Security Agency spying on Americans as a technical conflict about procedural rights. President Bush believes he has the legal authority to order electronic snooping without asking anyone's permission. Civil libertarians and privacy-fretters think Bush needs a warrant from the special court created to authorize wiretapping in cases of national security. But in practice, the so-called FISA court that issues such warrants functions as a virtual rubber stamp for the executive branch anyhow, so what's the great difference in the end?

Would that so little were at stake. In fact, the Senate hearings on NSA domestic espionage set to begin next month will confront fundamental questions about the balance of power within our system. Even if one assumes that every unknown instance of warrant-less spying by the NSA were justified on security grounds, the arguments issuing from the White House threaten the concept of checks and balances as it has been understood in America for the last 218 years. Simply put, Bush and his lawyers contend that the president's national security powers are unlimited. And since the war on terror is currently scheduled to run indefinitely, the executive supremacy they're asserting won't be a temporary condition.

This extremity of Bush's position emerges most clearly in a 42-page document issued by the Department of Justice last week. As Andrew Cohen, a CBS legal analyst, wrote in an online commentary, "The first time you read the 'White Paper,' you feel like it is describing a foreign country guided by an unfamiliar constitution." To develop this observation a bit further, the nation implied by the document would be an elective dictatorship, governed not by three counterpoised branches of government but by a secretive, possibly benign, awesomely powerful king.

[... T]he president's latest assertion that he alone can safeguard our civil liberties isn't just disturbing and wrong. It's downright un-American.

Read the whole thing.

Well, isn't this interesting?   Glenn Greenwald discovered that four years ago the Bush administration rejected a proposed law that would make it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases. Why? Turns out their Justice Department thought it'd be unconstitutional.

The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard.

The proposed legislation by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) would have allowed the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants for non-U.S. citizens if they had a "reasonable suspicion" they were connected to terrorism -- a lower standard than the "probable cause" requirement in the statute that governs the warrants.

The administration has contended that it launched a secret program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency in part because of the time it takes to obtain such secret warrants from federal judges under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The wiretapping program, ordered by President Bush in 2001, is used when intelligence agents have a "reasonable basis to believe" that a target is tied to al Qaeda or related groups, according to recent statements by administration officials. It can be used on U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals, without court oversight.

Democrats and national security law experts who oppose the NSA program say the Justice Department's opposition to the DeWine legislation seriously undermines arguments by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, who have said the NSA spying is constitutional and that surveillance warrants are often too cumbersome to obtain.

How 'bout that?

The administration's response? "The FISA 'probable cause' standard is essentially the same as the 'reasonable basis' standard used in the terrorist surveillance program. The 'reasonable suspicion' standard, which is lower than both of these, is not used in either program." Really? Well, it turns out that there are a couple of problems with that, for starters -- It completely contradicts what the administration said earlier this week, and the legal analysis is wrong. Oops. Try again.

New York Times: Filibuster Alito.   Via Joseph at Martini Republic, who said, "It's easy to tell: he?s a pig. He won't answer questions that should be answered; he favors an executive that shelves civil liberties. His past track record is abundant with conservative kowtowings. He needs to be blocked, and the New York Times says so too":

As it stands, it is indefensible for Mr. Specter or any other senator who has promised constituents to protect a woman's right to an abortion to turn around and hand Judge Alito a potent vote to undermine or even end it...

Judge Alito's refusal to even pretend to sound like a moderate was telling because it would have cost him so little. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who was far more skillful at appearing mainstream at the hearings, has already given indications that whatever he said about the limits of executive power when he was questioned by the Senate has little practical impact on how he will rule now that he has a lifetime appointment...

A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

Arlen Specter, who claims to be pro-choice, is a blind fool to vote for this man, and don't get me started about Ben Nelson and the two other idiot Democrats who've said they'd vote for him too (and will probably regret it after Alito's first decision). Oh, and by the way, the Constitution doesn't say anything about any judicial nominee being guaranteed an up-or-down vote.

UPDATE: Sen. John Kerry is now officially calling for a filibuster.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 25, 2006

White House stonewalling Katrina investigation.   The outrage builds daily. 'Splain me this one, Bush apologists:

The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

[...] The White House's stance on storm-related documents, along with slow or incomplete responses by other agencies, threatens to undermine efforts to identify what went wrong, Democrats on the committees said Tuesday.

"There has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said at Tuesday's hearing of the Senate committee investigating the response. His spokeswoman said he would ask for a subpoena for documents and testimony if the White House did not comply.

[... E]ven Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, objected when administration officials who were not part of the president's staff said they could not testify about communications with the White House.

"I completely disagree with that practice," Ms. Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

According to Mr. Lieberman, Michael D. Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cited such a restriction on Monday, as agency lawyers had advised him not to say whether he had spoken to President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney or to comment on the substance of any conversations with any other high-level White House officials.

The "national security" and "Osama bin Boogeyman" excuses won't work this time, not for keeping this secret. What possible motivation could the White House have for declining to cooperate and for the mindboggling secrecy in this matter?

In 1953 Robert Heinlein published a novella called If This Goes On-- which tells the tale of an early- to mid-21st Century theocratic society in America, in which a preacher-turned-president elected in 2012 becomes a dictator, with no elections in 2016 or thereafter. (Wes is reading this now, finding it frightening and almost eerily prescient; not too prescient, we can only hope.) In it, Heinlein writes,

Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives.

We would all do well to heed this statement. Those who blindly trust the government (particularly now) might find it in their own best interest to start asking questions. What possible good, or bolstering of our safety and national security, could come from withholding documents and testimony about the government's incompetent response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the committee who's investigating the government's incompetent response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? What don't they want us to know? Why won't they tell Congress what it wants to know?

Aside from "because we don't want to tell you," it would seem that it's to conceal their culpability. I hear a voice from the past ... "I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up, or anything else."

White House refuses to support Baker bill.   And so it goes ... the Bush administration has refused to support the bill proposed by Rep. Richard Baker, Republican of Louisiana, to bail out Louisiana homeowners and mortgage lenders.

In a severe blow to state and local plans for rebuilding hurricane-devastated areas, the Bush administration Tuesday came out against a homeowner bailout proposal that many Louisianians say is the key to economic recovery and the rebirth of a redesigned New Orleans.

Donald Powell, President Bush's choice to oversee the Gulf Coast's recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said grant money already appropriated by Congress would be "sufficient" to take care of homeowners who suffered the most in the storm. As much as $6.2 billion of that money is slated for Louisiana.

Powell said the administration prefers the specifically defined financing of the grant program over an open-ended proposal by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, to set up a governmental agency to buy flood-damaged homes and pay off the mortgages for possible resale and redevelopment.

The administration has been coy about its position on the Baker bill since late last year, when it stalled in the final days of the congressional session. Public opposition by the White House now dramatically handicaps the bill's prospects.

[...] The administration's opposition to the Baker bill drew sharp criticism from Louisiana officials who say the Community Development Block Grant financing isn't enough to cover the state's critical housing needs.

"Clearly the $6 billion isn't enough," Baker said. "It ignores the vital recovery in the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard, Cameron and parts of Plaquemines. That is unacceptable.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority, the panel established by Gov. Kathleen Blanco to oversee the state's recovery plans, estimated that 217,245 homes were destroyed during Katrina and Rita. Baker's bill would have drawn on federal financing to pay owners of flood-damaged property at least 60 percent of the equity in their homes and also would have paid off their mortgages.

New Orleans recovery officials had planned to use the Baker plan, or something like it, to help homeowners who want to move from more flood-prone areas into the smaller swath of higher ground that did not flood during Katrina.

But Powell said the administration is encouraging the state to focus on a much smaller subset of flood-damaged homes: about 20,000 outside the flood plain whose owners lacked flood insurance. The administration thinks those are the hardest-luck cases because their owners had no expectation of flooding and now find themselves without insurance money to pay for repairs.

And because ... they don't want a quarter of a million registered Democrats moving back to New Orleans?

This basically puts the Bring New Orleans Back Commission plan back to the drawing board, and stagnates the recovery of the City of New Orleans. As Michael said in email, "I can't imagine that this is the end of it, they just HAVE to have some relief for at least those west of the Industrial Canal where the levees were not topped. YOu can argue that the flooding on the east side of the Canal was a somewhat 'legitimate' flood in that the storm surge was larger than the design standards, but west of the Canal you have government failure, pure and simple." They just have to offer some relief, but that's presupposing that they're decent people, that they care, that they're not lying when they say they'll do what it takes to rebuild New Orleans. I won't take that as a bet.

Cocktail of the day.   New Orleans singer-songwriter Paul Sanchez wrote this opening lyric to his wonderful Christmas song, "I Got Drunk This Christmas":

I see a stocking hanging
But I don't know whose it is
I hope Santa's bringing
An icy sloe gin fizz.

I've always loved that song, but I couldn't quite identify with his cocktail reference ... as until last night, I'd never had an icy sloe gin fizz. In fact, until last night, I'd never even tasted sloe gin. An odd gap in my cocktailian background, true; it was never around much during my earliest drinking days, and every time I saw the stuff in the store (which was not all that often), it tended to be a bottom-shelf liqueur. Real sloe gin is made from sloe berries, the blueberry-like fruit of the blackthorn plant (a member of the plum family) and grows primarily in Europe, along with sugar and real gin. I doubt that most domestic brands would contain both real gin and real sloes.

Sloe gin started popping up more and more as an ingredient in various drinks during my later cocktail education, and I began to get curious. After I became a devotee of Plymouth Gin, I found out that Plymouth make a sloe gin as well! The bad news is that it's not exported to the United States (bah). Well, I'd never let that stop me before. After effusively enthusiastic recommendations from Doc that Plymouth Sloe Gin is indeed The Best There Is, and then reading this taste test in the Guardian ...

The best way to drink sloe gin is neat (it is not as alcoholic as ordinary gin, with an ABV of 26%), in a small glass, so that's how we first tasted it. There were two samples. One was purply, intensely sugary and tasted confected and sickly, like a syrupy cough remedy -- that was the Gordon's. It went straight down the drain. The other had more russety tones, like clotting blood. A waft of bitter almonds and damsons (the sloe is a member of the plum family) came off the glass. Enough sugar had been added to take the edge off the rampant astringency of the fruit, but not so much as to domesticate it. It was delicious -- grown-up and very addictive. This one was made by Plymouth (?9.99, from Asda and Safeway).

"Russety, like clotting blood"?! Oh my. Well, the rest of it sounded fantastic, and I knew I had to have some to add to our bar.

Plymouth Sloe Gin

I really wanted to try Paul's icy sloe gin fizz, plus there was still a cocktail in Doc's book that I couldn't make because I didn't have any sloe gin and didn't want some syrupy, sickly, artificially-flavored bottom-shelf brand. I wanted the best, and Plymouth is the best. One easy internet mail order from Royal Mile Whiskies in the U.K. and one shocking credit card charge later (it cost £1 more to ship the bottles than it cost to buy the bottles, oy), I am now the proud and happy owner of one liter of Plymouth Sloe Gin.

Beautiful tartness, not too sweet and not too powerful, only 52 proof. The waft of bitter almond definitely comes through, and what they said about it being addictive ... oh my. This stuff is way too good for me to have to spend £41 for a liter of it with shipping from the U.K., especially at the rate at which we're likely to be drinking it. Doc recommends Mohawk as an acceptable domestic version (sadly, I don't recall noticing that brand at any of my usual hooch-buyin' haunts); I usually only see Hiram Walker, and I'm suspicious of their quality.

The good news is that I've heard tell that Plymouth might finally be exporting their sloe gin to the U.S. in the next year or so. I'm certain that my two little 50cl bottles won't last nearly that long.

Okay, I know that Christmas was a month ago, but look what Santa brought me ...

An icy Sloe Gin Fizz ... two of them, in fact!

Sloe Gin Fizz

1-1/2 ounces sloe gin.
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice.
1 teaspoon simple syrup.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 8-10 seconds.
Strain into an ice-filled 5-ounce Delmonico glass, top with soda and stir.

The closest equivalent to a Delmonico glass is described by CocktailDB as a "diner or coffee shop breakfast juice glass." For taller drinks, double the ingredients and use a Collins glass. By volume, the amount of soda in this drink should be just over 1/3 once the ice is in the glass. Don't over-soda it!

Oh man, talk about good ...

Speaking of Paul Sanchez ...   If you're not familiar with him, Paul is a member of the band Cowboy Mouth and has been since its start over 15 year ago (I was at the first offical Cowboy Mouth show at Carrollton Station, Christmas 1990, and man, I'll never forget it). He's a fantastic songwriter and singer, and for many years has been one of my very favorite New Orleans musicians. You don't really tend to think of New Orleans music as one guy with an acoustic guitar who frequently refers to himself as a "folksinger", but there's a wonderful, deep essence and love of New Orleans that course through his songs. (His song co-written with John Boutté, "At the Foot of Canal Street", which is quoted in this month's Looka! tag line, is featured on my New Orleans box set project, Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans.) Here are a couple of recent posts from the message board on Paul's site:

Wanted to thank all who have written to voice love and support. Freddie [LeBlanc, lead singer/drummer of Cowboy Mouth] found out that his house made it through the storm without flooding and I'm pleased for him. Shelly and I, like most people in the New Orleans area, have lost our house. Like I say everyday now, a home isn't what you keep in your house, it's what you keep in your heart. We have the love that we've shared for the last twelve years, we can build from there. Please continue to pray for the people of the City That Care Forgot.


All six Paul Sanchez CDs were lost in the flood; there went the Nineties for me. Getting e-mails from folks trying to order ... I wanted to say thanks, but I lost all the stock and the master recordings of my six solo releases so I'm out of business unless there's a record label looking for a songwriter who can write underwater.

Thanks for trying to get the music, and I apologize for any confusion. Please spread the word for me and if you know of someone looking for the songs, burn them a copy with my blessing.

One thing you can do right now is buy his album Wasted Lives and Bluegrass on iTunes. Do it today.

I've emailed Paul to suggest that he do the same for the rest of the discs, with the assistance of anyone who's got them, and there are plenty of them out there. I'll keep y'all posted.

Oh, my.   A very interesting tidbit regarding a once-powerful former Louisiana politician, from Josh Marshall:

Hmm. Can't say that's an angle that would have occurred to me. This off New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams' column today:

Jack Abramoff's partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston's private life. Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom DeLay's man Denis [sic] Hastert. Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay's behest.

For now I'll stick with 'hmmm'. But I'm eager to hear more.

Yeah, me too. I know, it's a gossip columnist and so far we have to take any such reporting with a truckload of salt. But wouldn't that be interesting? (And unsurprising.)

Your tax dollars at work.   (Via Wes.) And you thought the $216 screwdriver was bad ...

A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

[...] Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker. One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed. More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.

This prompts the question (among about a thousand others) ... what the fuck are we doing spending a hundred grand to refurbish an Olympic swimming pool in Iraq with tens of thousands of New Orleanians still homeless?

Bush the Incompetent.   Tying in with the first two posts today as well as the one just above, here's an editorial by Harold Meyerson from today's Washington Post:

Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday's New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government's special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, "by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy." At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That's when you'd think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq's reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq -- indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn't require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

It's the president's prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn't had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running. [...]

This is, remember, the president's signature domestic initiative, just as the Iraq war is his signature foreign initiative.

"Trust me," he says. He must take us for fools. (Sadly, some of us are.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 24, 2006

White House had early warning on Katrina.   I want to break something right now. From this morning's Washington Post:

In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.

The NISAC analysis accurately predicted the collapse of floodwalls along New Orleans's Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, an event that the report described as "the greatest concern." The breach of two canal floodwalls near the lake was the key failure that left much of central New Orleans underwater and accounted for the bulk of Louisiana's 1,100 Katrina-related deaths.

The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration's foreknowledge about Katrina's potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm," Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Let's hear that again.

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

You fucking lying sack of shit.

You knew, and you and Brownie and all your buddies sat there and did nothing, and then tried to blame it on our weak governor (who has enough to answer for), saying that she wasn't specific enough when she called to beg for "everything you've got."

We don't buy your bullshit recasting of that statement as "He said A, but what he really meant to say was B, which we would have never said he said until you called us on A." We can't believe that the warning you got also wouldn't have mentioned the storm surge up MR-GO which wiped out St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans East (including my family's home), either. You knew, 48 hours in advance, what was going to happen, and where were you and your people? Playing guitars, seeing Broadway shows, shopping for shoes, working on your vacation homes, eating in Baton Rouge restaurants and bitching about needing at least a full hour to do so and about your FEMA attire.

Michael provided some pictures that help illustrate these people's level of concern (I nicked them to my server so as not to tax his bandwidtdh). Here's what the President was doing on August 29, the day Katrina struck the city:

Bush and McCain on the day Katrina struck ... 'Let them eat cake!'

Remember, here's what the President was doing on August 30, the day that 80% of New Orleans flooded after the floodwalls and levees gave out:

Bush plays the guitar while New Orleans drowns

Do this man and his cronies finally have to kill and eat a small child on live television before we can get rid of them? (As a start to this process, November 2006 can't come quickly enough for me.)

We came, we saw, we got a roofer.   Mary and Nettie were back home in New Orleans for a week, working on the house, eating magnificently and sending me taunting emails about it to boot. Here's Mary's wonderful, final briefing upon her return to L.A., a snapshot of New Orleans five months post-K:

The City

This is the hardest section to write, as I'm not sure I can do justice to the place of contrasts that is, more than ever, the city of New Orleans. It is at once the same and utterly changed, in high spirits and deeply depressed, moving forward and stuck in late August.

Nettie, who drove around a bit in hard hit areas like Lakeview and the 9th Ward, and I made a point our last two mornings to go to the Lower 9th Ward, the most devastated portion of the city. Due to our geographic failings, we started in a relatively visually intact section; while the buildings there were damaged, to the naked eye they looked salvageable. Many had "Do Not Bulldoze" signs on them, and you could see why residents want to fight to save their homes, assuming said homes are structurally sound, which is a big assumption. But then we got oriented and headed towards the North and everything changed.

House after house after house was reduced to a rubbish heap of piles of random lumber, unrecognizable as anything much less someone's home. Other houses were pushed into each other; three homes that once lined up in a row now smashed at various angles into each other. We passed by many large vacant lots before realizing they were anything but; two, three, four homes were literally blown away. Sometimes, concrete cylinder pilings were left behind, making the lot look like a cemetery, which it was, of sorts; a graveyard of hopes and a certain way of life. Sometimes just the steps were left, leading to nowhere, which is a metaphor that doesn't bear explication. Drive down any regular block and houses line up with more or less geometric precision; here, when the houses remained, they were no longer in a straight line but a zig zag, as if a kid had been playing with a toy set and then kicked it around. Cars are tilted up on their ends or up over fences. A giant truck was perched on a house. Houses push into other houses, breaking down walls, and sometimes, incredibly, are sitting on top of other houses. We saw a deck chair dangling from a telephone wire, and a roof that had landed in someone else's backyard, with no roofless house within sight. And finally, there was this; the front wall of a house completely gone, exposing not just the house itself, but also the interior of a closet, with a line of neat suits hanging tidily from hangers, all in a row on the rod, all ready to go, except for the film of brown filth coating each one.

I am going to say a lot of positive things about New Orleans in the course of this story, and they are all true, but believe me ... if you go, and I am looking in the direction of DC when I say this, please go and walk those streets, and get the oily mud on your shoes, and look at the rubble of this neighborhood, and that row of suits. I don't really understand what we saw, and I certainly don't claim to know what to do, but I do know there is a great deal to be done, and we must bear witness.

Our own section, Mid-City, "got clobbered," as the owner of Parkway Bakery said, though not as dramatically as the worst hit areas of town which is why you don't hear about it as much. As a result, much of it remains depressingly dark and silent. Many stretches of flooded areas look like small economically floundering small towns these days rather than part of a major city, with dark boarded up or smashed glass storefronts and empty interiors, abandoned, dusty and sad. In some cases, owners are waiting for pokey insurance companies -- insurance woes are a constant theme, with tales of elusive agents and roofers replacing discussions of mold reduction -- but in some cases, occupants have given up. The area is holding its breath; it touches all the dry, unflooded areas of town, and so has a chance at civic revival, but conflicting proposed plans leave its fate unresolved.

The exception is our particular neighborhood, Bayou St. John. Up and down our streets and those nearby are signs of a busy, active 'hood. Sodden interiors have been ripped out and thrown into piles, which are picked up with semi-regularity by cleanup crews. Renovation is constant; parking is hard to come by, thanks to all the trucks. Restaurants are back, so is the local Italian market, with another bigger name getting ready to open a brand new market. Nearly every house appears to be occupied or is on its way. Buildings along our main thoroughfare look like regular picturesque New Orleans; coming after the Lower 9th, it reminds us of how lucky we were. Meanwhile, the Quarter and the Garden District and the portion of Uptown just above it look more or less like they always did, absent a few details (like the St. Charles streetcars, sidelined indefinitely due to lack of funds to repair them). Some stores have closed -- our local bakery has shut down, and we saw a few shops on Magazine that have given up -- but many more are back in business. Restaurants are booming and more than one business has said they had their best December and January ever. Everyone is hurting for lack of staff; nearly every business has a "help wanted" sign up. The littlest thing could reduce us to tears of gratitude for the pleasure of normalcy; Central Grocery, even if it was closed today so we couldn't get our sandwiches, the Wild Magnolias at Rock N' Bowl, who had to get new suits having lost theirs to flood, Joe at Faulkner House Books, all gracious and calm and courtly.

One of the most discouraging details from our late September visit was the vegetation. Tropical, verdant NOLA was painted in shades of brown and gray, having spent weeks and months drowning underwater. There hasn't been much rain -- just as well, considering the roofing problem -- but enough to make the neutral grounds (that's the median to you) green again, and to start to encourage more plant life elsewhere, like droplets of clover flowers in our yard. The hard hit oak trees seem to be regaining their footing, even though most look like they got pruned by a drunk.

Best of all, many of the streets looked oddly clean; back in September, every street was covered in various forms of trash, blown there by storm or placed there by flood or flung there by an owner trying to clean up. It seems there are a number of volunteer groups, who meet once or twice a week, and take over a stretch of road, and clear it. I hope they get the very best throws on Mardi Gras and are bought many, many drinks. There is so much left to be done -- in addition to endless trash and debris, many streets like ours have mud leftover from the flood waters, and after a rain it gets a bit pungent (let the record show Nettie did not notice, so maybe it was just my imagination) -- but that these people refuse to consider this the Augean stables makes them quiet heroes.

And all over, there are tales to be told, and people eager to tell them. The man next to me at the donut shop said his house in Gentilly was fine, but unfortunately, he evacuated to East New Orleans, where it got six feet and more of water, and was trapped there for a week. "All that time, I could have been in my own house!" he said, wryly. And everyone is eager to help, from the neighbors who offer to come over when we aren't in town to let in delivery people or contractors, to the guy sitting next to me at the cable company, offering advice on termite protection and drywall installation.

But still, electricity remains out in parts of the city, and phones remain out all over. We heard from one of our neighbors that the phone company is predicting December (!!) for the return of phone service. There is no mail delivery in many parts of the city, including ours. Trash pickup is erratic and strange. Looting is happening in the devastated areas, adding injury to injury. And on it goes.

And yet, while everyone we talk to acknowledges all that, their eyes also burn with a passion about the possibility and hope for the future of their city. When they say that in the end, there will be not just a New Orleans, but a better New Orleans, we tend to believe them.

The House

Owning a 100 year old house that you don't live in full time means any visit commences with the search for The Thing That Is Broken This Time (various candidates in the past have included roof leaks, heater failure, electrical funkiness and squirrel infestation). At least this time, we already knew what was broken. For those who chose not to delve into the multipage earlier report on the house, the summary is that our two story house took on less than two feet of water (we think), and since our living quarters are on the top floor (the first floor is garage and basement), this was largely good news, except for the parts about the moldy drywall, the washer/dryer/water heater massacre and all of my cousin Craig's belongings, which he stowed down there during his year medical research trip in Africa. Also, we lost some of our roof, and thanks to Hurricane Rita, the ceilings in one half of the house (it's a double shotgun; Steve and I are on one side, Nettie, Diana and Dave on the other) look very very interesting, and by "interesting" I mean "stained brown and falling down." In short, nothing special; the same story is told by everyone else in that middle ground between "We did fine," and "We had a house in Lakeview/New Orleans East/Ninth Ward." (Emphasis on "had.")

Huge was our relief when we went inside and took big whiffs -- no moldy, mildew smell, proving our mold eradication efforts (bleach, drywall ripping-outing, treatments by Mold Guys) were effective. Everything else looked pretty good, with the introduction of a mystery; the bed in Steve's and my back sunroom showed signs (dirt, fur, smushed down sheet) of an unauthorized feline visitor. The mystery is this: given that the room in question was locked, with no holes for access, how did the cat get in or out? It's Schrödinger's Cat crossed with Sherlock's Locked Room. We don't mind giving a refugee shelter, especially since it didn't leave any other traces (well, apart from the amputated squirrel tail in the basement, but let's not discuss that), but we surely do wonder how it came to stay.

Our big goal for the trip were finding a roofer, which we accomplished thanks to Ti and Jill, who directed us to their roofers, both of whom remarkably returned calls and came and gave estimates within a couple days, all of which was really efficient and thus totally bewildering behavior for New Orleans. And while I don't want to jinx anything, it's looking like one of them may be starting on said roof in a couple of weeks, which would be rather nice, given how Nettie and I sat around her side of the house on Friday watching water splash into a bucket from a leak in her hallway ceiling. Or we would have watched it, had the electricity been on.

There we were, Nettie in her shower and me in my tub, both of us couldn't have been more naked if we tried, rejoicing in the new water heaters and what they do, and FWAP! the lights went out in the whole 'hood. And our house is very, very dark. After considerable comic bumbling on our respective sides, we met up at Nettie's, lit some candles and I commenced to fret that this wouldn't be a simple power outage, given how long it took Entergy to restore power to the area in the first place, and that it could be weeks before came back again, a whine I felt heartily ashamed about when the power came back on around 1am. But that's how it is just now; a one-time pleasure, the combination of a New Orleans rain storm and a power-free candlelit night becomes a cause for anxiety and a reminder that things aren't there yet.

Food Porn!

All work and no caloric play makes Nettie and Mary really cranky, and we got things off to a most satisfying start with dinner with Ti at Cafe Adelaide. The all-too-dreamy Chef Danny simply fed us, beginning with Tabasco-soy glazed tuna with celery root puree, then Louisiana boucherie, ultra-tender (could almost cut it with a fork) slices of pork with a swish of blackberry honey, plus a white boudin crepinette and tasso braised cabbage; then seared duck breast with a sunny side up quail egg, savory duck cracklin' cornbread and sweet and tart roasted tomato jam, one of the most outrageous duck dishes I've ever had. Dessert was a sampling platter: two cheeses (Fleur de Lis and Fleur de Teche with kumquat marmalade), drunken fig and bleu cheese tart (best savory dessert I've ever had), chocolate molten cake with a heart of white chocolate ganache, creole cream cheesecake and pecan pie.

We discovered that Chuck's friend Ted, aka Dr. Cocktail, was in the house and a pal of Ti's, and he came over and we couldn't resist taunting Chuck via a note on Nettie's Blackberry. "Tell him to make Nettie a Corpse Reviver No. 2!" came back the response. Nettie shouted this to Dr. Cocktail, by now at the next table, and he promptly got up, went to the bar and did just that. And it was divine. Many were the cocktails, and even more the laughter, and it was brilliant welcome back, even if I did miss the chance to tell local Congressperson William Jefferson and two visiting, Katrina Committee Congresspeople, who were also dining there, a thing or two (they slipped out while I wasn't looking, probably because I was too intent on mopping up the last of the blackberry honey).

Friday we went to The Galley, a seafood place in Metairie we ate at during our trip back in August, and fell in permanent love with. Fried shrimp, plus a plate full of two large crabcakes topped with more crab lumps and creamy angel hair Alfredo, plus a stop for cupcakes and pieces of caramel doberge cake from Gambino's, a decades-old institution that had an outlet in Mid-City that they don't plan to reopen, a decision we strongly hope they will reconsider. Errands ran late on Friday and with no plans we opted to run into Parkway Bakery, our local po-boy shop which reopened to great (1000 people attended their opening party) acclaim a few weeks ago. Reports were they were only serving their roast beef sandwich, but a handwritten menu showed multiple choices, so I asked the owner Jay, which should I get -- the roast beef or the hot sausage? After confirming I knew what hot sausage was, and liked it, he said, "How about hot sausage with cheese, and roast beef gravy with debris [the bits of beef that fall off when the roast is sliced}?" Yes, I said, that. Definitely. "Okay. And it's free." Just another act of random culinary kindness, this from a man who told me he was so tired, from battling hurricane aftermath, living in a FEMA trailer next to the store, and roasting beef seven days a week, that he was starting to stutter. Minutes later, he slipped on some grease and dropped an entire tray of roast beef and gravy over himself, head to toe, an accident that would have been very bad had the stuff been hot, but since it was only lukewarm, he simply shook his head and wished he had a large loaf of bread he could lie down in, for a photo op. Still, he's taking a vacation at the end of February and no one begrudges him.

Saturday we got shrimp po-boys from Broad Street Seafood (our local seafood place, home to the best shrimp po-boys I've had, remains closed), which were too salty. That night, Poppy joined us at the newly reopened and bustling Galatoire's, where we started with plump shrimp in a spicy remoulade sauce, some turtle soup (okay, but it has nothing on Commander's, was the consensus), and some souffléed potatoes. Poppy and Nettie had Crabmeat Sardou, hollandaise sauce covered crabmeat on artichokes. "It tastes like my childhood," said Poppy, as she sighed with pleasure over the dish that was her earliest Galatoire's memory, while I had sauteed pompano meunière, the fish sitting in just the right amount of butter sauce topped with lump crabmeat, while we all shared spinach Rockefeller.

Sunday we split a Parkway roast beef po-boy (our lunches were ad hoc affairs during Tree Dissection). Jill and Yasmin brought us homemade gumbo and jambalaya, but I felt the call of Frommer's work, and we went to the Quarter to check out Stanley, a new cafe from the Stella! people. Naturally, it's not open for dinner. We were tempted to return to our neighborhood since we noticed our local Spanish place, Lola's, which usually has an hour wait was mostly empty. Guilt won, and we went to the Clover Grill, since I hadn't eaten there in some years, mostly because whenever I tried, it was late at night and I wanted a shake, only to be told each time that the ice cream machine was broken, to do a new review. It's lovely to have a constant in a changing world, and so I said "Of course it is," when I asked for a malt and they said "The ice cream machine is broken." The hamburgers were excellent, and so was the floor show as the manager threw out a belligerent drunk guy, calling out "BITCH!" and chasing him down the street. We finished up with beignets at Cafe du Monde, because I was wearing black pants.

Monday we tried a half a small olive loaf topped with blue cheese, bacon and red sauce from La Boulangerie, and then took a muffuletta from Nor-Joe's Italian grocery in Metairie for the plane ride home.

And then we thought about a place where the past isn't ever really past, and where the neighbors say "Welcome back! What can we do to help?" and our next-door neighbor fires up his chainsaw to help you get rid of your tree.

Home is where the heart is.

Yeah you rite.

Katrina by the numbers.   These statistics, updated as of January 14, 2006, were posted to the Hurricane Katrina Aftermath weblog by poster "Evacuee":

136 Days since landfall

9 visits by President Bush

5% Open public schools in New Orleans (Orleans Parish Schools)

24.6% Percentage of all mortgages 30+ days past due in LA, Q3 2005 (Mortgage Banker's Assn.)

29% Open cultural attractions in New Orleans (LA Ofc of Cultural Recreation & Tourism 12/05)

32% Open retail food establishments in proportion to pre-Katrina (LA Restaurant Assn.)

53% Percentage of major hospitals operating in Orleans, Jefferson & St. Bernard parishes (LA Hospital Association, 12/21/05)

77% & 75% Percentage of homes that have been restored Electric & Gas service (City of New Orleans, 12/28)
*Note, many connections between the house and street remain broken and inspections must be performed before utilities can re-connect

1,576 Number of cruise ship cabins being occupied (FEMA LA Field office)

1,975 properties deemed "in imminent danger of collapse" and recommended for demolition

22,994 Number of travel trailers operational (FEMA LA field office)

37,424 Number of hotel units being occupied (FEMA LA field office)

46,103 Average daily vehicles on Huey P. Long bridge (LA DOTD, 11/05)
*Note, pre-K levels were 32-39K

96,797 Number of departing passengers from MSY Airport (New Orleans Aviation Board, 10/05)

97,538 Number of arriving passengers from MSY Airport (New Orleans Aviation Board, 10/05)

I'm sure that open hospital statistic would plummet if it were just Orleans Parish. What hospitals are open in Orleans besides Touro and Children's right now? Where's the nearest trauma center? What about emergency services? Evacuee notes in another post that 911 service in New Orleans is "a joke" right now -- 10 minutes just to get a 911 operator to pick up, and an additional 26 minutes before police arrived. As he points out, it's a good thing nobody was having a heart attack.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, January 23, 2006

Crawfish catastrophe.   Don't develop any serious cravings this season. The Times-Picayune reports that Louisiana's crawfish crop was nearly wiped out, and not being able to have a crawfish boil this year may be the least of our worries:

Farmers, fishers and buyers say only about 20 percent of the state's crawfish crop survived the salty water brought inland by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and a drought in the Atchafalaya basin.

Crawfish lovers are unlikely to find the live Louisiana delicacy for less than $3 a pound wholesale in coming months. And processed crawfish meat, which is unlikely to show up at all, is likely to fetch $30 a pound.

The crawfish-starved consumer is at the end of a long list of people who will be affected by the scarcity of mudbugs. Without the extra income that crawfish brings to rice farmers, some may hang up their traps, agriculture experts say. And about 5,000 seasonal jobs are likely to be eliminated if the state's 15 to 20 crawfish-processing plants don't open. Additionally, an untold number of independent fishers who catch wild crawfish may see their crawfish income disappear this season.

"I've never seen it this bad," said David Savoy, past president of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association, who raises rice and crawfish about 30 miles northwest of Lafayette. He said his production in December was about one-third of, or 11,000 pounds below, his December 2004 harvest.

It's estimated that the majority of the 78 million pounds of crawfish produced last year came from the areas damaged by severe weather: Rita, Katrina and a drought in the south-central part of the state.

Crawfish aren't considered an agricultural crop, so there's no crop insurance to be had. Crawfish processing plants won't reopen (in fact, none have so far). And if you see crawfish on the menu anywhere before late season, they're almost certain to be the inferior Chinese ones.

I've got two pounds of Louisiana crawfish tails in my freezer from just before Katrina. We'd probably better eat them in the next couple of weeks. Sigh.

Bush approval rating watch.   Today, from a scientific poll conducted January 19-22 by The American Research Group:

Overall, 36% of Americans say that they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president, 58% disapprove, and 6% are undecided.

When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 34% approve and 60% disapprove.

I'll bet he doesn't get a bump from SOTU, either.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   Sipping and really enjoying as I write. It was chosen almost at random; I opened up Larousse des Cocktails and there it was. Use a nice, big, spicy rye and the best sweet vermouth you've got (Carpano Punt E Mes or Antica Formula).

Tipperary Cocktail

2 ounces rye whiskey.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse.

Stir with ice; strain into a cocktail glass.

Version français, Larousse des Cocktails

4 cl de rye whiskey
2 cl de vermouth rosso
1 cl de liqueur Chartreuse verte
5 ou 6 glaçons

Mettez les glaçons et les ingrédients dans le verre à mélange.
Remuez à l'aide d'une cuillère à mélange pendant 8 à 10 secondes.
Filtrez au-dessus du verre martini à l'aide d'une passoire à glaçons.
Servez aussitôt.

Lest anyone accuse this weblog of being America-centric!

'Taint nobody's business if I do!   We're finally starting to get caught up with this week's episodes of "The Daily Show" that have been piling up on the TiVo. After watching Tuesday's edition, I can't recommend enough that you join Republican Congressman John Shadegg, MSGOP's Chris Matthews, and finally, TDS's Jon Stewart and Ed Helms for the funniest six minutes of television I've seen in quite a while.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, January 20, 2006

John's okay!   We were thrilled to hear about the reopening of Galatoire's, and had wondered how our regular waiter John Fontenot was doing -- he lived in Chalmette, and surely lost everything. He turns up today in a story on WWL (thanks, Michael!). Odd that it didn't occur to any of us to just friggin' call the restaurant when they reopened ... duh. Maybe I thought they'd be busy. (They were, in fact.)

Five months after Hurricane Katrina, civic leaders and foodies alike say restoring the city's rich mix of culinary treasures and traditions and having restaurants like Galatoire's and Willie Mae's back in business is vital to New Orleans' recovery.

It's not about the money. Yeah, we need the money to survive. But this is about bringing life back. The customers coming in, that's like a shot in the arm. Brings us back alive," said John Fontenot, a waiter at Galatoire's for 35 years.

"When Galatoire's closed up, you might as well close up New Orleans."

Mr. Fontenot, 59, was among several waiters who lost homes. He said he is hoping to get a FEMA trailer installed so he can stop making a 2-1/2 hour daily commute from temporary quarters in Hammond, La.

His struggle is only one small part of what it will take to bring back New Orleans' once-vibrant restaurant scene.

Somehow I knew he'd be okay. I'll definitely be eating at Galatoire's at some point while I'm home next month, and I look forward to being taken care of by John again.

White House Adventure!   It was my first computer science class, taking BASIC with a really nice guy (and recent graduate) named Pat Burke, way back in my sophomore year at Lye-ola. I got my account on the mainframe computer system, the HP-3000, and was immediately introduced to what would be my obsession for the next several months -- Willie Crowther and Dan Woods' Adventure, set in the (almost) mythical Colossal Cave, the very first text-based interactive adventure game.

It's a miracle I managed to get an "A" in the class (well, BASIC was easy), given the fact that for most of the semester about 90% of my computer time was spent playing Adventure and creating an incredibly detailed map of the cave instead of doing my classwork. (All bets were off when I discovered another game they installed, one called Mystery Mansion, which changed every time you played it and therefore obsessed me even more. I ended up taking FORTRAN solely to have an account on the HP-3000 so that I could play this game. Suffice to say that the teacher I was assigned wasn't as nice as Pat, and decided that the types of programs the other classes were assigned for their finals were better suited toward our midterms. My two Mansion-obsessed friends and I were the only non-CS majors in the class. Suffice to say I struggled to get my "C". But I digress.)

Those of you who were (or maybe still are) fans of text-based adventures (ah, Infocom!) will love this, a little text adventure jaunt through the last five years in the White House.

Oval Office
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.

There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

It's not that kind of seal.

They are two several chairs arranged around the center of the room, along with two couches. Under one couch you find Clinton's shoes.

You are unable to fill Clinton's shoes.


You are not able to do that, yet.


You are not able to do that, yet.


You enter the Iraqi capital of Bagdad, having toppled the government and captured the nation's key cities in only 21 days. You can't seem to find the promised throngs of citizens greeting you as liberators, but the footage of the Saddam statue being pulled down looks great on Fox!

Who do you want to give the contracts to?

What kind of contracts do you wish to give to Halliburton?

You give the no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

You put on the flightsuit.

"Mission accomplished."

The mission is not accomplished.

The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

Some insurgents arrive.

The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

I laughed until I cried. (Quite literally.)


Cocktail of the day.   Danger, Will Robinson! It's an obscure ingredient!

Actually, it's not that obscure. You can get the currently available brand at Beverage Warehouse if you're in the L.A. area, or anywhere you've got a nicely-stocked spirits store, I'd imagine.

I found mine in a rather unlikely place ...

Kümmel is a spirit from Germany that's complex and herbal, with its primary flavoring agent being caraway. Nowadays the brand you'll tend to find is Gilka, from Berlin, but that stuff's $28 a bottle and it was a little low on my liquor-purchasing list.

Then I spotted an ancient-looking bottle just like this in the liquor cabinet at our friends' Gregg and Mike's house, as we were invited to just dig in and mix.

"Where'd you get this?!" I asked.

"At the little liquor store up on Colorado, across the street from Fatty's, believe it or not." Right in our neighborhood. "There was another bottle left, too!"

I sped to the little liquor store the next day, and there it was, very bottom shelf behind the counter, marked $9.99. The ladies behind the counter seemed befuddled that I wanted it, and even more so because that bottle had probably been sitting on their bottom shelf since long before they bought that store. They argued briefly as to whether or not to give me some kind of discount -- "Who would want that?" I heard the younger one say. However, Big Mama won out, and said to charge me as it was marked. I didn't care ... if I was going to experiment with a new liqueur (and caraway is one of those tastes I've always disliked but have barely begun to acquire), $10 was better than $28. And a vintage bottle, no less! I was feeling very Dr. Cocktail, realizing, of course, that an old bottle of Hiram Walker anything is pretty much worthless.

That's one old bottle of kümmel       That's one old tax stamp.

The contents were far better than worthless, though. I still haven't tasted the good stuff from Gilka, but this stuff wasn't bad at all -- the caraway predominated, but it was pretty complex, and wasn't all that sweet (which, for me, is good).

This led us to finally be able to try one of the cocktails in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails that we hadn't gotten to yet -- The Vowel Cocktail.

Assembling the ingredients The Vowel Cocktail  

The Vowel Cocktail

1 ounce blended Scotch.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce kümmel.
1/2 ounce orange juice.
2 dashes Angostura Bitters.

Shake and strain. No garnish.

It looks a little brown and murky, but the flavor of this drink is like nothing you've tasted before.

Wes and I took a sip and our eyebrows shot up. It was very caraway-y, and I probably shouldn't have liked it. But there was a lot going in in there ... My first impression was to say, "This is weird," as in, "This is really different, which it was.

Second sip. "What do you think?"

"I think it's really good."

"I think it's really good, me too!"

Lots and lots going on in this drink, from rye bread to a hint of smoke to spice and a little citrusy tang. We immediately wanted pastrami sandwiches after this drink but alas, had to wait until the next day for that.

UPDATE: (From the comments) ... Apparently the recipe for the Vowel Cocktail is the ONE publisher's misprint in Doc's book! The text reads as 1-1/2 ounces kümmel, which seemed strange to me but I went ahead and made it anyway, and ended up liking the result. I'm now eager to try it again, with less assertiveness and more subtlety from the kümmel, which will likely be a good thing. The good news is that this is another step towards my acquisition of the flavor of caraway, which I had never liked in the past.

It's the Pork Signal!   We need to find someone talented with graphics (Rick?) to come up with our own eqivalent of the Bat Signal. "A pig snout? A flying pig?" asks Mary. Well, whatever it is or isn't at the moment, I'm shining it now.

ChowNews L.A. reported this morning of a pretty good looking BBQ joint in the Valley called Mom's Bar-B-Q House, which not only looks like it has good barbecue but is apparently the only place in town that makes and serves fresh boudin. This is one of the aspects of Louisiana cuisine that I miss the most, and one that you'll even be hard-pressed to find in New Orleans. If this pans out, I'll be heading up to Van Nuys for hot boudin as often as I can!

Again, Chartreuse with envy.   Nettie and Mary flew back to New Orleans yesterday, started right in on getting estimates for the new roof for their house in Faubourg St. John, and emailed this update last night via Blackberry:

Mary and I are sitting at Café Adelaide with Ti Martin and Dr. Cocktail.

*whine* ... When I got that I was sitting alone in a radio studio, eating nothing and expecting a bowl of cereal for dinner when I got home at 10. Then,

We're now sitting here with the chef, who's telling us how to make blackberry honey for the fab duck we just had. By the way, I am now sipping a Corpse Reviver No. 2. It was fabulous.

Then, relayed from Dave,

Get this: tonight they're seeing The Wild Magnolias at Rock 'n' Bowl, and it's Bo Dollis' birthday! And this: they are at this moment purchasing tickets to HOB tomorrow night, for Offbeat's Best of the Beat Awards, where lifetime achievement awards will be presented to Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas, and everyone and his brother are performing.

(*knock head against wall*) Why do I live out here again? Oh yeah. Job. House.

I could do with a nice Lotto win right now. Nothing too greedy, just enough for me to not have to work and to buy a house back home too. Sigh.

"Well I wish I was in New Orleans / I can see it in my dreams / Arm in arm down Burgundy / A bottle and my friends and me."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, January 19, 2006

We're gonna mourn in the midnight hour.   Wilson Pickett, 1941-2006.

The speech that should have gotten coverage on Monday.   Sorry Ray, not yours. On MLK Day last Monday, New Orleanian trumpeter Wynton Marsalis delivered a speech at Tulane University which should have been quoted on the front page of the Times-Picayune and every other newspaper that ran with "chocolate city" instead.

It's good to be home. It's especially good to be home in a time of crisis because tough times force us to return to fundamentals. And there is nothing more fundamental than home. Many of you are visitors to New Orleans, but it won't take four years for the Crescent City to be forever in your blood. So I feel in a way, that we are all home tonight. [...]

Look around this room and realize that the final chapter of that movement still waits for a generation with the courage to write it. That's why I say we are all home tonight. We are all home because Dr. King led the charge to victory over regressive, ignorant traditions that had long gone unchallenged -- because he was unwavering in presenting compelling arguments to make real the promises of the Constitution -- because he never succumbed to hopelessness and showed us what one citizen can achieve when armed with an evangelical zeal for freedom and a first-class education, it is most fitting to re-open our city's finest institutions of higher education on the day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Though he is almost always reduced to a dreamer today, Dr. King was an achiever, a most powerful exemplar of action. His last book is entitled Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? It is a question that is most appropriate for us in this moment. [...]

Through a tireless single-minded campaign to expose lies and sanctioned injustice, Dr. King never lost faith in the ability of humans to behave better. He didn't settle. He succeeded. Certainly his single-mindedness is what is required of us, at this time, to rebuild New Orleans. Don't settle. Succeed.

Catchy slogans aside, when we look around here, we see destruction, anguish, and uncertainty. Let's look deeper into ourselves and find possibility. That's why it's important to mark the reopening of New Orleans with the triumphant return of Tulane, Xavier, Loyola and Dillard Universities. Through first-class education, a generation marches down the long uncertain road of the future with confidence. After all is said and done, education's purpose is to lead students to who they are, what they can be, and who they want to be. The best way to be, is to do. And when we pass on the best of what we do ... that is quality education. [...]

I always laugh when people my age complain about their college-age and teenage kids by talking about how much better we were. I laugh because I have absolutely no idea what my generation did to enrich our democracy. What movement have we been identified with that forced our elders to keep their promises ... that challenged their failures or built upon their successes? For me, we dropped the ball after the Civil Rights Movement. We entered a period of complacency and closed our eyes to the very public corruption of our democracy.

As we have seen our money squandered and stolen, our civic rights trampled, and the politics of polarity become the order of the day, we have held absolutely no one accountable. From us, you inherit an abiding helplessness.

If you realize the unfortunate consequences of inaction, hopefully you will understand even more the importance of holding both your elders and your peers accountable when it comes to the rebuilding of New Orleans. Stay up on the facts.

What, other than injustice, could be the reason that the displaced citizens of New Orleans cannot be accommodated by the richest nation in the world? You, along with the entire world, saw the bureaucratic fumbling and lack of concern inflicted on those very same citizens at the Superdome and the Convention Center. Who is being held accountable now?

This should have gotten all the news coverage, not Ray's stupid gaffe (an entirely idealistic and unrealistic expectation, of course, but still). Marsalis for Mayor?

Noisy pork lovers, we hates them, we hates them forever!   Last Sunday the Fat Pack gathered for another Pork Consumption Expedition. Little did we know it would end up as a battle of wills. The battle was mostly won, with a slight retreat, but the war is not over! (I'm appalling myself with all these war metaphors ... Gawd, our culture is fucked up.)

This time the object of our desire came from a random conversation some friends were having back in December. Mary and Steve were at a show with Another Steve, who said, "Hey, you know that place on Beverly near Western, called something like 'The Toad House ... Pork BBQ?'" Indeed, they had, having driven by it many times. "We needs to go there," he said. "Apparently it's best to do it in a group, as they don't have menus, you just sit down and the plates of food start coming, so maybe it could be--"

"Stop," Mary said. "You had me at 'pork.'"

That went for the rest of us, too. A plan was devised, a date was chosen, and there ended up being nine of us. We armed ourselves with a couple of reviews so we'd know what to get, braced ourselves for the fact that apparently unless you speak Korean you may have grave difficulties communicating with the staff. Steve had the name right -- it was indeed Toad House Pork BBQ, 4503 E. Beverly Blvd. at Serrano, two blocks east of Western. (Here's the whole set of photos, with a few examples below.)

Yeah! Eat me!

Heh. I love it when restaurants have pictures or cartoons of the thing we're about to eat, apparently happy and celebrating the fact that we're about to eat it. Yeah you rite! Come in and eat me! Woohoo!

Most of the place is a covered outdoor patio, which was packed at 6pm on a Sunday, but there were two large tables in the entry area, right next to the kitchen, and with the constant danger of being run down by the harried-looking Korean woman who flew back and forth between kitchen and patio, arms laden with food and drink. She tersely gestured for us to sit, and did indeed give us menus.

The menu

The thing to get, from what we'd read, was black pork belly, sort of a super-thick, high-quality bacon which comes to your table in big slabs and is grilled on portable grills that are set right in the middle of the table. The lady eventually comes back and snips the slab o' pork into bite-sized pieces, then you brush it with some sort of powdered bean condiment, roll it up with shreds of a spicy scallion salad and then roll it up in a big rice noodle, dip it in a spicy kind of Korean ponzu sauce and chow down.

Oh, my.

Thing was ... we began to wonder if we'd ever see our pork. We sat there for probably twenty minutes, trying to get the harried lady's attention, but every time we tried she'd just look at us, nod and scowl. When she finally came to wait on us, it was worse. It seemed that from the moment she laid eyes on us she hated us, and wanted nothing to do with us.

Good luck with that, sweetheart. You think you're going to stand between us and our pork? Think again.

We asked for two Number 3 combinations, and she said, "NO!" and fussed at us in Korean for what seemed like a full minute, then said, "NUMBER SIX!" and stormed off.

Well, we didn't want the Number Six, goddammit, we wanted the Number Four, the one with the pig trotter, described thusly by Jonathan Gold:

[The pig trotter is] red-cooked with spices and served in cool slices reassembled back into the shape of a cloven hoof. If you've ever loved the cold beef-tendon appetizer at a northern Chinese restaurant, you will probably recognize the firm, slightly rubbery texture, the anise-scented meat, and the speed with which a big platter of the stuff seems to evaporate into air -- you dip the hoof into little sauces of salty vinegar.

Oh, man. All over that, babe, and that's what we wanted. It began to seem as if that's not what we were going to get. From her scolding, condescending tone we assumed that she meant that it's not the kind of dish we would like, wimpy Westerners that we were, and that it was more suited to Korean tastes, and that we weren't getting any. I've gotten that exact same attitude in other restaurants of various cultures before, in plain and very direct English on occasion, and always did my best to diplomatically assure the server that I (and we) are adventurous eaters, have a high pain threshhold when it comes to spices, and we want the real, authentic stuff and not the stuff you dumb down for white people.

In fact, to aid in this, I carry my Chowhound Passport with me at all times. It says, idiomatically translated into Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic and Korean, something along the lines of "Please bring me the serious, authentic food ... not the tourist stuff!" In fact, the first time I flashed the Chinese version at Ocean Star Seafood in Monterey Park, which actually said, "I may have a foreign face, but I have a Chinese stomach!" the manager who was serving us cracked up laughing, said "Okay!", swept away the menus we couldn't read anyway and spent the next two hours just bringing dishes out. It was one of our more fabulous meals in recent memory.

I brandished my Passport, beckoned the Dragon Lady (which is what how we began referring to her after her breath singed my eyebrows off) over and showed her the Korean version. From her reaction, it appeared as if the Korean version read as "Your mother is a skanky, 500-won whore and your father is her pimp." You wouldn't believe the look I got.

Fortunately, we were rescued by a fellow customer who came up to our table and offered to help us communicate with the Dragon Lady. A brief conversation in Korean later, he said that she said that they were out of pig trotter, and she was recommending a similar platter that substituted beef brisket instead. We felt slightly chagrined for thinking what we thought, but with the look she was still giving us, I had to wonder if she was telling the guy the truth or not. She clearly didn't like us, but whatever. Bring on the pork.

And that she did, along with the brisket and mushrooms, as soon as the grill was hot.

Waiting to go

The table gets crowded

We also ordered another dish, spicy barbecued pork tenderloin, which was cooked back in the kitchen. All of this, along with the little banchan, or side dishes, that are famous in Korean cuisine, were fantastic. There was some kind of bitter green with a spicy sauce that no one seemed to like but LeeAnn and me, and we loved it. A sweetish potato salad, some white noodles, and darker noodles with bean sprouts and a spicy peanutty sauce, then some kind of mostly flavorless white jelly with yet another spicy sauce. Then came the pièce de resistanace ...

Black pork belly!

Spicy pork tenderloin

It was like God's Bacon, not smoky but intensely porky, cooked on the grill until it sizzled to just this side of crispness, pork fat drizzling down the grill to help baste the mushrooms, until it was ready to eat. It was ... beyond wonderful. Thing was, we never got those rice noodles or bean powder, just the salad and the sauce. We tried to make ourselves understood, but she just shook her head and went back into the kitchen. Sigh. No matter, the pork belly was what mattered, and we just rolled up the pieces with the salad and dipped. It was still great. The spicy pork tenderloin we'd ordered came around the same time, and it was so wonderful that we inhaled it and immediatelyi ordered another serving.

Apparently were also supposed to get steamed eggs (which never arrived), leek pancakes which we had to insist upon (and only got one), spicy soybean soup which we had to insist upon (and only got one for the whole table, but which was incredibly good), and no soju, the Korean sweet potato liquor, to wash it all down. We at least got the soup and pancake, and decided not to press our luck with he soju.

We have no idea why she seemed so disdainful of us. She had apparently been having a rotten day when we got there, and the presence of the big, loud pork-lovin' crowd that we are might have put her off. Whow knows? In any case, the food was fantastic, and the service was abysmal. We've vowed to go back, because I want that goddamn trotter and more of that black pork belly and barbecue tenderloin, but I won't put up with service like that again.

Law, shmaw.   Haw, faw, paw, craw, hey what the heck, it's only a law!

The Bush administration appears to have violated the National Security Act by limiting its briefings about a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program to congressional leaders, according to a memo from Congress's research arm released yesterday.

The Congressional Research Service opinion said that the amended 1947 law requires President Bush to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" of such intelligence activities as the domestic surveillance effort. [...]

The only exception in the law applies to covert actions, Cumming found, and those programs must be reported to the "Gang of Eight," which includes House and Senate leaders in addition to heads of the intelligence panels. The administration can also withhold some operational details in rare circumstances, but that does not apply to the existence of entire programs, he wrote.

Unless the White House contends the program is a covert action, the memo said, "limiting congressional notification of the NSA program to the Gang of Eight ... would appear to be inconsistent with the law."

But hey, screw the law, as long as it keeps us terrified folks safe from terr'sts, and delivers more and more unilateral power to the executive branch, in violation of the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution. That thing about Benjamin Franklin saying that those who would give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither ... why does Benjamin Franklin hate America?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ray's bad day.   Poor Ray. (It's been a bad day; please don't take my picture ...)

The mail to the T-P has been pretty negative, unsurprisingly. What's bothered me is the (idle?) threats from people outside the city who now say the won't come to visit and spend money because of what Nagin said, and worse, relocated natives who now say they won't come back home because of what Nagin said. (I think those people are full of shit, me. If they really cared about New Orleans, and they're really upset about what Nagin said, they'd come back home, make sure their voter registration is up to date, and then vote him out of office. Idiots.)

Da Mayor has apologized rather profusely, at least for the "God" and "Uptown" remarks, and really looks as though the stress of his job has gotten the best of him. He's dealing with the fallout well, I see -- he cancelled a promised appearance on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 at the last minute because of "an emergency", but during the time he was supposed to have been giving the interview he was spotted by another CNN crew having dinner at Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House in the Quarter.


I've been talking a lot with friends about this the last couple of days, and we're pretty much agreed that it's the "God" remarks that bother us even more than the "Uptown" ones. Oyster has been ruminating on those things as well, things that are still bothering him about Nagin's unscripted words on Monday. When you start thinking about what he said (as he apparently didn't), it just sounds even crazier.

For a city going on three hundred years old, why did God wait until 1970 or so before fulfilling his desire for New Orleans to become a "black-majority city"? And why did God employ the white flight occurring after public-school desegration to achieve his ends? One wonders: Were civil rights advocates like Martin Luther King who spoke of racial unity and harmony actually hindering God's "chocolate city" plan? Further, if so-called "white" New Orleanians like myself move to the Northshore, are we acting in accordance with the Divine order?

What is God's definition of "black" and "white", anyway? Racial categories seem like a rather crude tool for an omniscient Godhead to use. Does God go by the "one drop" rule, or is the Creator a bit less stringent? What about all those light skinned Creoles who can "pass" as white? Is God in favor of a mere 51% black majority for New Orleans, or is his will a veto-proof 66%+ supermajority? So many questions come to mind.

Poor Ray. I don't think he's a racist, but I think he's become the kind of pandering politician that he said he wasn't when he was elected, and that he might be off his nut with post-traumatic stress disorder. In any case, the damage has already been done with what he said, whether he intended to say it or not. He's done.

One friend back home thinks we should have a completely clean sweep of local politicians next election, and I'm inclined to agree. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to keep Mitch Landrieu around for a while.

As for what kind of city we are, and we should be ... taking off from what Mike and Louis said in the comments, I think we're a spumoni city -- multiple colors and flavors, with lots of nuts mixed in.

Purple upside-down car.   Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose has, as y'all have probably noticed, been doing superb, absolutely world-class work since Katrina. I'm hoping that the T-P gets a group Pulitzer Prize for all their post-K work, but Chris deserves one all on his own. He particularly excels at telling people, both inside and from outside the city, why New Orleans matters.

He's been doing some great commentaries for NPR as well, and this morning's was perhaps his best yet. After four months of evacuation, he was finally able to bring his wife and children back home, get the kids in school, and sees "the new New Orleans" through his children's eyes.

[O]ver the weekend we took a drive to the Lower Ninth Ward, a once-obscure community now known the world over as the site of the worst destruction from the flood. It is nuclear; a lunar wasteland. Most of the city's destroyed neighborhoods still have the shells of houses in them, but the flood just shoved the Lower Ninth out of the way -- houses and oak trees stacked one atop the other, and washed five blocks away.

My kids thought it looked more like a movie set than a real place. My four-year-old looked outside his window and said, "Purple upside-down car!" He captured the perfect metaphor -- New Orleans is a purple upside-down car.

So what the hell are we doing, then, enrolling in school here and laying claim to an environmental, political and financial wasteland? "It's home" would be the simple answer ...

Listen to the rest.

Mayor Wonka and the Chocolate City.   Chris Rose's T-P column today is hilarious, too. Here's an excerpt, accompanied by a photo Michael sent around yesterday, with the comment, "I've already heard from several people that their Mardi Gras costume is going to look a lot like [this]."

The Mayor of Chocolate City

I wake up
in the Chocolate City
mad as hell

It's like this: I'm supposed to be on vacation this week, cooling my heels, and then our mayor, Willy Wonka, loses his grip in public again and that's hardly headline news in and of itself, but this time he really lets one go.

I mean, he really gasses the place up, if you know what I mean. Now, how am I supposed to sit this one out?

First thing I do, I follow the mayor's lead and call Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, it takes a while to get through because he died in 1968 so he still has one of those avocado green rotary dial phones on his kitchen counter and no call-waiting.

As you might imagine, his line was pretty tied up Tuesday morning.

"King!" I holler when I finally reach him. "What in blazes are you thinking? You're writing speeches for Wonka, and the best you can come up with is 'Chocolate City'? Meet me at CC's Coffee House, bruh. Pronto. We gotta talk."

"I'm tired," he complains. "I had a big day yesterday."

"We all had a big day yesterday, King," I tell him. "Eleven o'clock. Be there."

Then I call God.

Of course, my call gets answered on the first ring, but it's some lackey working out of a phone bank in Singapore. We tangle a bit; she's giving me the runaround about him being busy and can she help me, and I'm wondering: What's with authority figures these days?

[...] Anyway, I wear him down and he finally admits that he thinks Robertson is a lunatic blow-hard who's always asking God to take out some foreign leader or burn down a place like Oklahoma because there are sodomites reportedly living there, so he says to me: "All right. Chill, amigo. I'll be there."

So me, King and God all meet up and I'm ready to tear into these guys about the advice they're giving Mayor Wonka, who's gone all Shirley MacLaine on us and has had almost five months to compose himself since his multiple-meltdown and the best thing he could come up with was this?

We're standing in line to order, and I let loose: "All right, you knuckleheads, which one of you wrote the 'Chocolate City' thing?"

They are aghast at my strong language, "knucklehead" being the harshest term our mayor can come up with to describe the dirtbag, scumbag, dope fiend gangbangers who have run roughshod over this town for the past decade making us the Killing Fields of America.

Knuckleheads. Yeah, that's great, like they're the Three Stooges now. "Hey, I'm gonna cap yo ass with my 9. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk."

Anyway, King waves me off. "Can we order before we get into this?" he says.

The barista, one of those bright and perky UPTOWN people -- and I think you know what kind I mean -- says "Hey, guys, what can I getcha?" and sure, she acts all Ladies' Auxiliary toward us but we all know -- me, King and God -- that all this white girl really wants is to grab up as much property as possible in the Lower 9th and build a couples resort and day spa.

Me, King and God -- we're not stupid.

King orders first. "Coffee," he says. "Black."


There is no place I know to compare with pure imagination ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Choco-mo-fee-na-ney.   Or, "Who can take a nutbar, dip him in a dream?" I think Hizzoner Da Mayor has a screw loose:

Speaking to a fraction of the crowd typically drawn to a holiday parade honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday predicted that displaced African-American residents will return to the rebuilt city and it "will be chocolate at the end of the day."

"This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be," Nagin said. "You can't have it no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

Nagin's remarks were tucked into a wide-ranging speech, delivered on the steps of the federal courthouse, in which the mayor related a dream conversation he had with the slain civil rights leader.

In addition to discussing New Orleans' reconstruction, unity and numerous issues in the black community, in his speech Nagin attributed the recent hurricanes striking the United States to a God who is "mad at America" for waging a war in Iraq based on false pretenses. Nagin said God also is upset at the black community for not taking better care of its people.

His comments, especially those meant to address the concerns of some black residents that white New Orleanians don't want them back, touched off a firestorm of reaction. [...]

"We ask black people... It's time for us to come together," said the mayor, who is black.

"It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," he said. "And I don't care what people are saying in Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day."

Nagin also said that last year's devastating hurricanes were signs of God's wrath.

"Surely God is mad at America," he said.

The remarks, which prompted a storm of angry callers when Garland Robinette played them repeatedly on his talk show on WWL-AM, also drew fire from some black leaders.

"Everybody's jaws are dropping right now," said City Councilman Oliver Thomas, who is black. "Even if you believe some of that crazy stuff, that is not the type of image we need to present to the nation."

(Nagin's entire speech is here. He explains his comments here. Today, he apologizes for his comments here.)

Perhaps everyone's misinterpreting him. Perhaps the mayor really meant this:

"If we turn New Orleans into a world of pure imagination," Nagin continued, "there's no telling what we can accomplish."

Nagin was asked how the Chocolate City could protect flood prone areas from future storms.

"We're talking caramel levees to withstand a Category 5. You know, the kind they put around apples and sell on the street at Mardi Gras. That shit'll break your teeth. It sure as hell can take a storm surge. What part of 'pure imagination don't you understand?"

[...] Among the projects Nagin said are slated to make the dream a reality are affordable homes fortified with peanut brittle and raised eight to ten feet by peppermint stick pillars.

"And when we figure what they use in fruitcakes, you bet we'll use it," Nagin assured.

Addressing the issue of storm surge, Nagin advocated filling the Industrial Canal with fudge. "Y'all know chocolate is thicker than water."

But the crown jewel of his vision to kick start the economy is the construction of an enormous Chocolate Factory to be built in the city's most devastated region, the Lower 9th Ward.

"Not only will we produce and sell candy, we're going to have all kinds of transportation devices in there," Nagin said. "Forget boats and buses next time. We're talking about elevators that go sideways and diagonal, high pressure tubes. And while environmental restrictions prevent us from being able to supply enough fizzy water for every resident to float on out of here in an emergency, my friends in the telecommunications industry tell me we're not far from human miniaturization through television waves. You want to talk evacuation plans? Imagine fitting an entire residential zip code into a carry-on bag!"

Okay, well, maybe not.

Da Mayor's explanation for his comments? "How do you make chocolate?" the mayor said afterward to a reporter from WDSU. "You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink." (Um.) Nice try, Ray (actually, pretty absurd you've-got-to-be-kidding-me backpedaling try), but I don't think that's what you were saying.

Mr. Mayor, while your speech did have some good stuff, about how there needs to be more unity in the black community, and about rebuilding the city, how can you stand there on the day that honors Martin Luther King, say "I don't care what people are saying in Uptown or wherever they are, this city will be chocolate at the end of the day" and then claim you're not using racially divisive language? You might have dreamt that you had a conversation with Dr. King, but I'll bet he sure as hell didn't tell you to honor his "I have a dream" speech with your "chocolate city" speech. And far worse than that ... how can you stand there and spout all this "God is angry at us", Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell bullshit? What were you thinking? Are you nuts? Drunk? Tired of being mayor? (As one local observed on MetaFilter, "It's easy to make jokes about the mayor's comments, but I've heard more than a few people worried that his instability seems to be caused by untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." That's believable; for the past five months I wouldn't have wanted Ray Nagin's job for all the whiskey in Ireland.)

As I mentioned above, today the mayor apologized for the 'chocolate city' remarks, adding that "if there were two things he could change about his remarks, he would remove his references to the people living Uptown and God." If yesterday the mayor really meant that he hopes for a return to New Orleans by everyone who left (or as many as possible, at least), and hopes for a racially and culturally diverse city, then I'm with him on that. If that's what he meant, though, that ain't what he said, and the race for the upcoming-whenever mayoral election just changed, big-time.

(By the way, here's an excellent post by Schroeder on racial attitudes in New Orleans.)

UPDATE: I wanted to add something to the main post rather than start a second one. I'm catching up on my weblog reading from yesterday, and Poppy weighed in with eloquence on the whole thing. I hope she doesn't get annoyed at me for quoting too much, but I thought it should be read. Head to her journal to read more:

Aside from the claim of "talking to Dr. King," which is obviously a speechifying device, he pretty much makes sense until the last couple of minutes; then he just sort of loses his mind. I'm not particularly offended by the "New Orleans will be a chocolate city again" comment that has so many locals atwitter today. I think the "whiteness" of post-K New Orleans has been somewhat overreported; it seems to me that there are still lots of black people here and that they are taking an active role in reshaping the city. I certainly hope more of the black population returns, as I've little interest in living in a majority-white city. I'm somewhat more dismayed by his comment that he doesn't care "what they think Uptown"; neighborhoods blaming each other for their woes is something of a New Orleans tradition, but Nagin has apparently forgotten that he's meant to be mayor of the whole city. The God stuff, though ... now, while I'm all in favor of the separation of church and state, I'm not inherently opposed to politicians being guided in part by their faith as long as they don't try to force it on their constituents. However, when they presume to know what God is thinking and whether he's sending hurricanes to spank us, then we're edging into AIDS-is-God's-punishment-for-fags territory; Nagin just has different priorities than those people (though I've always wondered how different, given that he endorsed the rabidly anti-gay Bobby Jindal for governor).

Nagin has no chance of being reelected. But if this is where his head's at, I dread what he will do to New Orleans in the several months that remain in his term.


You know, I'm not sure I've ever been as committed to anything else as I am to this city. I'm not claiming I do a lot for it or anything. I've just never doubted it. My relationship with Chris, my role as a cat rescuer, my writing -- I've had doubts about all those, and probably will again. But I've never seriously doubted that New Orleans was my home and the place I needed to be, and despite the difficulty and sorrow that always lurk in the background and sometimes flail their drunken way right up to the front row of post-K life here, this has felt like an essential, occasionally even magical time to be here. Every possibility is open to the city now. We could fix so many of the things that were wrong. We could have public schools that make kids smart and teach them that they matter. We don't treat each other with kid gloves, and that's kind of nice after being pitied so often in exile; no one here feels sorry for each other. We've been treating each other well, though. Now people out trying to have a good time are getting shot at [in] second-lines again, and thanks to a seven-minute speech by a damn politician, New Orleanians are squabbling and feeling the old, ugly tensions. White people didn't like hearing about a "chocolate city," because they heard the mayor saying there were too many whites here. Black people feel that this white response means they aren't welcome here. People of other races probably feel completely ignored, and quite a few Uptowners feel as gutpunched as I do by the mayor's disregard. And I suspect most everybody fears that this will be yet another rip in the decaying fabric of our chances to be taken seriously, remembered, and helped by the rest of the country and world. Suddenly it's harder to use the word we, because there are a bunch of different wes again. Of course I am generalizing wildly, but these are my impressions at the end of a very trying day for the city.

Clancy DuBos of the Gambit apparently speculated yesterday that Nagin's remarks might have cost us up to $1 billion in aid and business. I hope he's wrong.

Dr. Cocktail is a bitter man.   Actually, he's one of the sweetest human beings in the universe. But when it comes to a subject near and dear to his (and my) heart, that of cocktail bitters, Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh is a bitter man unto the end.

He's got a recent column in Martini Republic giving an overview of bitters, especially the orange bitters that are currently available (and remember, up until the middle of the last century, Martinis had not only a decent amount of dry vermouth but orange bitters as well; that's how we make 'em). He also made a delightful appearance on KCRW's "Good Food" radio program last Saturday (his segment begins around 7:40 and is almost eight minutes long).

I've said it before, I'll say it again -- bitters are an incredibly important component of every bar. They're cheap, the bottles last forever, and if you make drinks at home you have no excuse not to have Angostura (absolutely indispensible), Peychaud's and either Fee's or Regans' Orange Bitters (if not both, as they're different and each can work better than the other in different drinks). We're talking less than $20 to stock up on all of them, so money is no object!

Cocktail of the day.   I had a day off yesterday. What did I do? Liquor shopping! (Idle hands, etc.)

I did some surveying of wine and spirits establishments in my area that I hadn't frequented or even visited before, just to check out their selection and prices. The true revelation, which made me smack my head for spending the last six years passing it by and thinking it was a garden-variety corner package liquor store, is Mission Liquors, on the corner of Washington and Allen in Pasadena. Their selection is jaw-dropping for such a small place, including things I'd never seen before (brand after brand of Lebanese arak, Armenian and Georgian brandies and eaux-de-vie), and pretty decent prices on most items I'd be getting.

From there I finally got a chance to pick up something I'd first tried last month chez Dr. Cocktail, who had been sent a free bottle by the liquor company (Heaven Hill, I believe). It's a brand-new product called Pama, and it's the first true pomegranate liqueur. It's gorgeous too; ruby-colored, and in a gorgeous bottle that they seem to have pinched from my favorite gorgeous-bottle people, Modern Spirits Vodka in Monrovia (whose products are extraordinary, but we'll talk more about them tomorrow).

Doc first described Pama to us, and later on in a Martini Republic article, as being made, according to the liquor company, with "pomegranate juice blended with imported Tequila and super-premium vodka."

"I immediately wanted to triangulate my way to any handy vomit bags," said Doc. I don't blame him.

Then we tasted the stuff. Dang. It's good. Mo' better than it has any right to be, given that description. Tart and well-balanced in its flavor, and Doc started to thinking ... why not use this stuff in classic cocktails that call for grenadine? He served us an experimental version of a classic, the Jack Rose, made with apple brandy, lime juice and grenadine, substituting Pama for the grenadine.

It was good.

Here's our New Orleans-ized version of the drink (with a nod to Stanley Clisby Arthur), with the lovely Pama substituted for the grenadine, and a little lagniappe besides. The name tweak is mine. If you can't find the Pama, you can always just make this drink the way we usually do, with a good, real pomegranate grenadine.


The Jacques Rose Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces applejack or apple brandy.
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice.
1/2 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur.
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters.

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lime wedge.

Pama is currently being test-marketed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, and will be rolled out nationwide starting in spring of 2006.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, January 16, 2006

Good day, bad day, cocktail of the day.   The good thing about today is that it's the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a great American who, among many other profound things, said:

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

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, 1967

I'd say that's particularly true of wars that were started based on misdirection and lies.

The bad thing about today is that ... well, not everybody gets the day off (Wes has to work today, pfeh), but I was thinking more along the lines of this:  it's the 86th anniversary of the day that Prohibition began in the United States, January 16, 1920. The "noble experiment" was, fortunately, a disastrous failure, and we can celebrate that at least, both today and on December 5, which was the Day of Repeal. In the meantime, here's a celebratory cocktail that might be worth trying:

The Prohibition Cocktail

2 ounces Plymouth gin.
2 ounces Lillet blanc.
1/2 teaspoon Apry (sweet apricot brandy).
1 teaspoon orange juice.

Shake with ice for 10-12 seconds, and strain into a cocktail glass.
Squeeze a lemon twist over the drink, and garnish with the twist.

I haven't tried this yet, but it seems to cry out for a dash of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6.

Photo of the day.   Napoleon House No. 2, October 13, 2005.

Napoleon House, New Orleans

This is the companion piece to the shot from the other day, taken at the same drinking session.

Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.   I bought a flag the other day.

It's harder to find than most, and tends to be expensive, so I'm happy to have gotten one at a great price on eBay. It got added to my little flag collection (a Mardi Gras flag for Carnival season, an Irish flag for St. Patrick's Day or whenever we're drinking lots of Guinness or Murphy's, and a couple of others) and I think it's my favorite one of all -- the flag of the City of New Orleans:

The Flag of the City of New Orleans

Here's the story behind it:

The Official Flag of the City of New Orleans was adopted by the Commission Council February 5, 1918 in honor of the City's Bi-Centennial. The white field is the symbol of purity in government; the blue stripe is liberty and the red is fraternity. The white field is five times as wide as the stripes of liberty and fraternity (or Union) because it is the mother of both; the combination of these three fundamental principles of good government constitutes DEMOCRACY.

The three fleurs-de-lis grouped in triangular form represent the birth of New Orleans under the banner of the three fleurs-de-lis; but these having since been snatched from the blue field of the banner of autocracy, now rest upon the field of purity and equality and symbolize DEMOCRACY triumphant over autocracy.

The red, white and blue are the colors of the United States but are also the colors of France, and as New Orleans is the daughter of both, they are so grouped as to constitute a new and separate entity, which is now the flag of New Orleans.

"Purity in government." That's funny.

It's still a really cool-looking flag, and I've always thought so; now we've got a big one to fly. If we could only get that flagpole installed, like we've been procrastinating doing for the last three years ...

The Music Game!   I had fun doing this last time, and I've thought about doing it more often. Monthly, or even fortnightly ... we'll see how the participation goes. Y'all seemed to have fun too, so let's give it another go.

Okay, you know how our game is played!

I turn on my iPod and set it to random shuffle. I then write down the first line of lyrics from each of the first 25 songs that come up. (Instrumental pieces, and songs that give away the title in the first line are skipped.) Let people guess, and then underline or strike out songs as they are correctly identified.

I got a good batch as I was listening at work on Friday, and there are a few stumpers; I think I'd have even missed some had they not been on my own iPod.

Use the comments for your answers, title and artist please! If the song's been done by a jillion people, don't worry so much about the artist. And as before, if you Google the lyric you're a great big cheatin' bastard.

Okay, and away we go!

UPDATE, 1/18: Okay, two days is long enough. Y'all did pretty damn good, and I'll go ahead and reveal the un-guessed answers for the curious (they're the ones that aren't struck out). Maybe we'll try again in a couple of weeks.

1. "I know a man who lives under his covers, uh huh huh huh, lost his mind from the TV, now he's playing God"
Pete Yorn, "Murray", from musicforthemorningafter

2. "Joe the barman's cleared the boozer, he's made everybody leave"
Battlefield Band, "One More Chorus", from Leaving Friday Harbour

3. "Walking on the water in a van, tryin' to think of everything I can"
The Reivers, "Almost Home", from End of the Day

BONUS 3a. "Hé, 'tite fille, moi, je me vois, après partir mais pour aller donc te rejoindre"
Iry LeJeune, "La Valse de Pont d'Amour" ("Love Bridge Waltz")

4. "Ye listening nations pray give ear while I give you the truth declare"
Tim Eriksen, "John Colby's Hymn", from Every Sound Below
(Tim is the lead singer and guitarist of the band Cordelia's Dad, one of my favorite bands in the world.)

5. "Look at me, I'm Mr. Spaceman, out of control again"
The Bottle Rockets, "Gravity Fails", from The Brooklyn Side

6. "I'd thought I'd found the man of my dreams; now it seems, this is how the story ends"
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, "Can't We Be Friends?", from Ella and Louis

7. "I met my old lover on the street last night. She seemed so glad to see me; I just smiled"
Paul Simon, "Still Crazy After All These Years"

8. "My head is reelin', oh what a feelin', and something hurts my brain"
Mamie Smith, "Goin' Crazy With the Blues"

9. "Thrown like a star in my vast sleep I open my eyes to take a peep"
Donovan, "Hurdy Gurdy Man"

10. "MacNeal, MacNeal, don't steal my automobile"
Louis Jordan, "Salt Pork, West Virginia"

11. "Ain't a good liar, never been, people always sayin' my pants are on fire"
Frog Holler, "Berks County Boy", from The High, High's and the Low, Low's

12. "I went on down to the Audubon Zoo ..."
The Meters, "They All Axed For You", from Fire On The Bayou

13. "When the night shows, the signals grow on radios"
Peter Gabriel, "Here Comes the Flood"

14. "Won't you come along with me down the Mississippi? We'll take a boat to the land of dreams ..."
Louis Armstrong, "Basin Street Blues"

BONUS 14a. "Oh chère, oh yaie, moi j'suis gone, moi j'suis gone"
Canray Fontenot, "Bernadette"

15. "Don't hold yourself like that, you'll hurt your knees"
Damien Rice, "Volcano", from O

16. "Who'd ever thought it would all turn around? Even in the square, embracing the sound"
Sonny Landreth, "Orphans of the Motherland", from South of I-10

17. "There's a black-tinted sunset in the prettiest of skies / lay back, lay back, rest your head on my thighs"
Will Oldham (Palace Music), "New Partner", from Viva Last Blues (also brilliantly done by The Frames)

18. "Happiness is in your own bed, baby"
Dr. John, "Make Your Own", from The Essential Recordings

19. "If you see Rose Mary, tell her I'm coming home to stay"
Fats Domino, "Rose Mary", written for his beloved wife

20. "Some people say a man is made out of mud, a poor man's made out of muscle and blood"
The Red Stick Ramblers, "Sixteen Tons", from Bring It On Down

21. "I go down into the water, dive as deep as a man can go"
Luka Bloom, "Exploring the Blue", from The Acoustic Motorbike

22. "You're in the pub at half past ten, the money for the cure all spent again"
Christy Moore, "Hard Cases", from Ordinary Man

23. "So they sent you to Afghanistan to have you working for their master plan"
David Lindley & El Rayo-X, "Talk To The Lawyer", from Win This Record!

24. "Oh Johnny rose on a May morning, called for water to wash his hands"
Planxty, "Johnny of Brady's Lea", from The Woman I Loved So Well

25. "I've been so sad since you said my accent was bad"
The Proclaimers, "Throw the 'R' Away", from This Is the Story

Hmm, it'd be fun to think of a way someone could actually win this, and for me to come up with some token prize. It's also be cool to, after the contest is over, offer some kind of podcast so that you could hear the songs. That is, if I don't end up disappearing after being taken from my bed in the middle of the night by a black-ops team from the RIAA, never to be seen or heard from again ...

Zogby poll: Americans support impeachment of Bush.   In this months most widely under-reported and misrepresented issue, Americans are very upset with the president for authorizing wiretaps on Americans without a warrant. A new poll by the highly regarded, non-partisan pollster Zogby International shows that [b]y a margin of 52% to 43%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval.

Conversely, in August and September of 1998, 16 major polls reported that only 36% of Americans supported hearings to impeach President Clinton, and only 26% supported actual impeachment and removal.

Scott McClellan, as well as countless right-wing toadies, keeps misreporting another poll allegedly showing that 63% of Americans support wiretapping of fellow Americans suspected of terrorist activities, without any mention of doing it illegally. When people are polled about the spying being done in violation of the law and judicual oversight, a considerable majority is opposed to it.

Somehow I doubt that the former poll result will get much coverage by our supposedly "liberal media."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bars of rare spirit.   (Promoted from the comments ... thanks, Brooks!) In yet another article that makes me insanely jealous of New York, given the fact that the number of places like this in Los Angeles is zero, the New York Times talks about the Pegu Club (again) and other bars like Employees only and Uovo that only stock unusual and small-scale liquors, eschew brands like Absolut and Jack Daniel's and ban the mention of Cosmopolitans from their premises.

In putting together the bar and wine list at Uovo, a restaurant in the East Village, the beverage manager and sommelier Richard Ervin has made it a policy to carry only small-scale liquors and wines that come from mom-and-pop vineyards. With bigger brands, he said, "the marketing works so well that you think the quality is better."

Instead his shelves are lined with High Wine rum from Guyana, made from Demerara sugar; jenever from the Netherlands; and Zubrowka vodka, made with bison grass culled from the last primeval forest in Poland and Belarus. "People get excited because they haven't seen these labels in liquor stores," Mr. Ervin said. "It makes it more fun."

Few well-known bottles are stationed behind the bar at other new spots, like the Pegu Club and the Double Seven, as well as Employees Only restaurant and the cocktail lounge Milk & Honey -- places where the guiding spirit is decidedly pre-Prohibition. Instead of Absolut, Jack Daniel's, Bacardi and Tanqueray, you'll find Tito's vodka from Austin, Tex.; small-batch Rittenhouse rye whiskey; the Italian aperitif Aperol; and gin made by Plymouth, the oldest operating still in the world (which, truth be told, is now owned by Absolut).

[... The Pegu Club's owner Audrey] Saunders is determined to resurrect such forgotten spirits as pisco, Madeira, Chartreuse herbal liqueur ("Only three monks know the recipe for it!"), maraschino liqueur, sloe gin, rhum agricole from the French Caribbean islands and Laird's AppleJack from New Jersey.

With the demise of Cinnabar, and with the exceptions of single specialty drinks at certain places (like the best mojito ever at Xiomara in Pasadena), Los Angeles is like Death Valley when it comes to finding drinks like these. Other than at Dr. Cocktail's house (where alas, we can't drink every night), events catered by Dan Reichert's Vintage Cocktails and the homes of a few other dedicated cocktailians, you can forget about this kind of imbibing around here. Fortunately, however, we are blessed with an abundance of great wine and spirits stores.

This is why Wes and I always keep a very well-stocked bar, and 95% of the time we just drink at home. (This also eliminates the potential for nasty DUIs, or avoiding DUIs by taking a cab home and having to retrieve the car the next day.) Among the items mentioned in the article, here's a sampling of what we keep in our bar (and then some), most if not all of which was purchased at either Beverage Warehouse, The Wine House or Wally's in Los Angeles, Topline Wine & Spirits in Glendale or Martin Wine Cellar in New Orleans:

Plymouth gin (our favorite, pretty much)
Lemon Hart Demerara rum from Guyana (80 and 151 proof)
Zubrowka (both the American version with the "neutralized" buffalo grass that has the anticoagulant removed, and the Real Thing that friend brought us from Europe. Our friend Gregory so loves this stuff that every other time I see him he gives me a $20 and asks me to pick up another bottle for him on my next liquor run.)
Chartreuse (yellow and green)
Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo from Italy and Maraska from Croatia; it's criminal that this stuff isn't easier to find)
Laird's Applejack (and Laird's Straight Apple Brandy too, which is even better)
Torani Amer (the American version of Amer Picon, which you've heard me speak of on many occasions; the bitter orange aperitif that's the basis of the Hoskins Cocktail and Picon Punch. Mail-order from Beverages & More)
At least six different kinds of rye whiskey (Old Overholt, Wild Turkey, Hirsch, Pappy Van Winkle 13-year-old, Michter's and Sazerac 18-year-old, and we can't wait for the Sazerac 6-year-old to come out this month!)

Plus ...
Crème de violette (violet-flavored liqueuer from France, not exported, and a key ingredient in the Blue Moon cocktail. Mail-order from Sally Clarke's in London)
Farigoule (a French liqueur made from thyme and other herbs)
Absinthe (New Orleanian Ted Breaux's Absinthe Nouvelle-Orléans and some clear Versinthe from France)
Abbott's Bitters (not made since the late 1940s; we were lucky enough to find a few bottles)

And a lot of other weird stuff too, plus homemade stuff like my pimento dram and an attempted batch of homemade bitters that Dr. Cocktail declared to be "um, not terribly bitter" yet unbelievably tasty when shaken into a good blended Scotch on the rocks. (My homemade bitters project is a years-long work in progress I'd love to revisit.)

I also love driving out to obscure delis and groceries to find unusual stuff. We went to a place called Ernie's Deli in Inglewood for our Zwack barackpalinka (dry apricot brandy), plus they have tons of obscure liquors from Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe. Incidentally, in a liquor store right in our neighborhood, I found what looked to be a 40+ year old bottle of kümmel! (More on that later.)

Lest you boggle, assembling a bar like this isn't as difficult as you think. If we did it, you can do it too. It just takes the interest, the knowledge you accumulate from reading books and articles while pursuing your interest, time, money (preferably spent over time, or else it gets pretty expensive) and enough room to store all the bottles you end up with, because if you're a cocktail fan whose interest gets anywhere near mine, you're going to need plenty of cabinet space. It also helps in maintaining a home bar that you'll only use a lot of this stuff a tablespoon or an ounce at a time; the bottles will last you for years, and liquor doesn't go bad if stored properly. I've been working on a "how to set up a great bar" page, which is still very incomplete and now out of date, but I hope to have it up one of these days.

This, as you can imagine, is lots of fun. Y'know, though ... we still have fun going out to have drinks. And we hardly ever do it, because we can hardly ever get the kind or quality of drinks we want out at a bar. When we have friends visit us in L.A. we certainly take them out to some of the fantastic little ethnic places to eat, but with the demise of Cinnabar we generally don't bother taking them out drinking. They just come over. Which is cool, but we're still jealous of y'all New Yorkers. (I'm already worrying that once I get there I won't want to leave.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, January 13, 2006

Triskaidekaphobics, under the bed, NOW!   Or we'll show you something really scary.

Extraordinary photos.   New Orleans author Poppy Z. Brite took her camera to the small St. Bernard Parish fishing community of Shell Beach and took a series of amazing, heartbreaking photographs. Part of her yet-to-be-written novel Dead Shrimp Blues was going to be set there (and probably still is, although how it will be portrayed, pre- or post-storm, is uncertain at this point), and the place means a lot to her. That really comes through in these photographs.

With all the talk of the devastation of New Orleans, a lot of people forget about St. Bernard Parish. The people of Arabi and Chalmette feel as though they've fallen off the radar; how do you think the people of Meraux, Violet, Delacroix, Poydras, Yscloskey and Shell Beach feel?

Photo of the day.   One of Los Angeles, for a change (since I actually, like, live there).

1st Street Bridge, Downtown Los Angeles

Taken on October 22, 2005 at about 1:00am, after seeing Miss Mickey Champion and Eddie Bo at Little Pedro's Blue Bongo Bar nearby.

Well, that was useless. Again.   Shrub made yet another pointless visit to New Orleans (well, not entirely pointless; it was quite the photo op). Here's what he didn't do while he was there:

* He didn't tour the Lower Ninth, Lakeview, Gentilly or in fact any other flood-ravaged area of the city, choosing instead to remain in the mostly pristine Garden District.

* He didn't endorse Rep. Baker's bill to create a federal commission to buy out damaged properties.

* He didn't commit to Category 5-level levee protection for the area.

* He didn't go anywhere near Jackson Square, the site where he made a speech and promised to commit to do whatever was necessary to protect and rebuild New Orleans, because a group of several hundred Catholic high school girls were mounting a protest against his lack of commitment to Category 5-leve levee protection.

What did he do? Well, he got his pitcher took. He said "heckuva", again. What did he do for us? Looks like a lot of nothing.

Oh, and by the way, I'm really sick of hearing defeatist bullshit like this. Yes, the city's going to change, that's inevitable, and yes, we should all do everything we can to make it possible and desirable for every single evacuated New Orleanian to come home, and yes, the Commission's plan has good points and bad points and we must all hash out the best possible compromise, but I swear ... next time I hear some outsider blowing another fucking requiem for New Orleans, no matter how well-meaning he may be, I'm going to break something.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, January 12, 2006

The stupidest comic strip in the world.   A letter sent to the editor of the Los Angeles Times this morning:

To the Editor:

"Mallard Fillmore" is a terrible comic strip. Today it was so terrible that I felt compelled to write.

It's not that it's right-wing. It's not even that it's mindlessly, simplistically, knee-jerk right-wing. That may be forgiveable, but this not: it showcases the author's bitterness, outright meanness and utter contempt for just about everyone; it is insulting to the intelligence of the reader, and it is simply not funny. Ever.

Reading this strip leads me to believe that its author has all the mental faculties and sophistication of a boiled turnip, and the personality of a junkyard dog. Is this what you think of your readers? You do them and yourselves a disservice by continuing to run this awful, awful strip.


Chuck Taggart
Los Angeles

And today it wasn't as awful and mean as it usually is, it was just so fucking stupid that I snapped.

The state of the food supply.   Looking for New Orleans food staples, both back home and abroad? Well, there's good news and bad news:

First, the good news: Leidenheimer French bread is available for po-boys once more. Zatarain's is up and running again on the West Bank, with Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers for some employees. Chisesi hams made it back in time for Christmas.

The bad news: Crystal hot sauce continues to be in very short supply, and the company will not return to its World War II-era plant in New Orleans.

And there's some good news and bad news in one package: In late September and October, shoppers were standing in store aisles and openly grieving for Patton's hot sausage, but, Dorignac's Assistant Manager Ray Bordelon said, "We finally started getting it back in again... It's in limited supply."

I had heard bad rumors about Baumer Foods, the maker of Crystal. Right after Katrina, thinking myself both cautious and fatalistic, bought half-a-dozen bottles of Crystal Hot Sauce. Now I'm glad I did. In October, homesick New Orleanians stripped the shelves of every Northshore grocery store (as far as I could tell) of Crystal Hot Sauce and Zatarain's Creole Mustard. The mustard is back, but the hot sauce ain't. Even now out here in Los Angeles, the hot sauce section of the grocery has a big hole where they used to keep the Crystal, with shelf tags that say "TEMPORARILY OUT OF STOCK".

Follow the above link for news on Angelo Brocato's Italian cookies, ices and ice cream (whew, good news!), Crawfish Monica (we had some at the New Year's Turporken Feast), Hubig's Pies (back as of Monday!), Luzianne, Blue Plate, CdM, Patton's Hot Sausage (essential, but fortunately I make my own hot sausage, and it ain't bad, so that'll tide me over), Vaucresson's Sausage and Mrs. Wheat's Meat Pies.

If you're jonesing for meat pies, by the way, here's a recipe, by which you can help rebuild New Orleans, one meat pie at a time.

I am Chartreuse with envy.   Because "green" simply won't do.

Jealousy is such an ugly thing, but I am positively Chartreuse at the moment. (Again, not green, lest someone mistake me for a Sour Apple Pucker "Martini", in which case I'd have to get nasty.) Why? Because New York City kicks our everlovin' ass out here in Lost Angeles when it comes to cocktailian bars.

Places like Bemelmans, the legendarily secretive Milk and Honey, Employees Only, and Libation Goddess Audrey Saunders' shrine to the cocktailian arts, The Pegu Club, put just about every L.A. watering hole to shame. I want them or places like them to be here very badly, but I've almost given up hope.

Our pal Vidiot made his second pilgrimage to The Pegu Club the other night, and and describes it with all the joy and fervor as one would expect from a visit to a Holy Site. Not only is it a bar when you can actually order a Corpse Reviver No. 2 (one of the greatest drinks ever), but it's also a showcase for Audrey's amazing original creations, truly pushing the outside of the envelope of the cocktailian arts.

I read Vidiot's tale and found myself seething with jealousy, which fortunately I quickly transmogrified into an intense desire to visit New York. Not that I haven't wanted to go there for years anyway (and why, I ask, have I reached this age without visiting New York City? Beats the hell out of me; I guess I'm just an awful eejit), but now I really wanna go.

Just when I wondered what it was going to get me to the city so nice they named it twise ... well, it looks like we're goin' in November (details at a later date). We're gonna eat at Babbo, and we're gonna go out drinking like we've never done before. Woot!

Incidentally, the only other bar where I've been able to order a Corpse Reviver No. 2 was the French 75 Bar at Arnaud's in the French Quarter. Chris, one of my two favorite bartenders there, met Dr. Cocktail when he was there setting up the Museum and became a friend, fan and devotee. He kept Doc's book behind the bar, and was always eager to concoct something from it. We asked for one of these, and he was thrilled to make it, and on each subsequent visit he asked us if we wanted one. (That's a silly question!)

Corpse Reviver No. 2, Arnaud's French 75 Bar, New Orleans

I hope Chris and Bobby and the rest of the Arnaud's staff made out OK after the flood (I know that Charles, their maître'd did). I can't wait to get back there and have another Corpse Reviver, and a Ramos Gin Fizz, and a French 75, for that matter.

"Waiter, this wine is corked."   "No it isn't ...

I just uncorked it! That's how I got it out of the bottle and into your glass."

Well, let's hope you won't be served wine by a waiter or sommelier like Basil Fawlty anytime soon. In case you do get a funky one, though, yesterday's Los Angeles Times Food Section gives a few tips on how to determine if you've got a bad bottle of wine, and what to do. A lot of the time it's not too difficult to tell; if it smells like mildew, Band-Aids, or "a barnyard/compost funkiness" ... well, I don't think I'd have any problem sending that back.

So long, Jesusland?   The nation of Israel has a message for Pat Robertson ... and it sounds like "Zdayen mi po".

Israel has suspended contact with evangelist Pat Robertson for suggesting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.

The controversy has cast doubt on plans for a Christian tourism center that would showcase the growing flow of money and influence from U.S. church groups.

Awww ... and we were so looking forward to riding the Holy Roller Coaster.

Tourism Minister Abraham Hirchson said he gave instructions to "stop all contact" with groups associated with Robertson. Last week, Robertson implied Sharon's massive stroke was a blow for "dividing God's land" with the withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

But Hirchson said the order did not apply to "all the evangelical community, God forbid."

No, God forbid. (What a putz.)

Apparently in Japan men do not like to be seen eating elaborate and dainty cakes and other desserts in public, so one entreprenurial confectioner now sells what looks like "burgers" and "fries" and other fake junk food, all of which are actually ... cakes.

Mary, who sent me the article yesterday, says "I totally want some." The article continues ... "The French fries look like the real thing but are actually custard cream covered in starch powder and deep-fried."

"'Custard cream covered in starch powder and deep fried?!'" she gushed. "Can we do that at home?? Chuck, any thoughts?"

Yeah, I got some thoughts. I think I'd probably end up with a huge, inedible mess! I'll have to draw the line at making beignets at home, which I almost never do.

In fact, I'd love to make real French fries at home, but ideally that would involve buying some kind of countertop deep-fryer, which Wes and I have been avoiding doing for obvious reasons. Yeah, I know I can deep-fry in a Dutch oven, but that's a big mess I'd just as soon do without. Besides, there are numerous places in our 'hood that make great fries.

None that make "fries" that are custard cream covered in starch powder and deep-fried, however.

(Oh, and Japanese men don't want to be seen eating desserts in public, hence all this? Can I be culturally insensitive for a moment and say that this leads me to think that Japanese men are weird? Get over yourselves and have a frackin' eclair already!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The soul of New Orleans food.   Excellent story in today's New York Times about the city's food, and how its most essential elements haven't been protected.

Willie Mae Seaton and her wet-battered fried chicken were honored last year in New York in front of thousands of the nation's food elite. Bob Iacovone of Cuv?e was enjoying his own measure of success, drawing national notice for his continental Creole food.

A few weeks ago, Willie Mae Seaton, 89, sat sweating on the stoop of her moldering New Orleans restaurant. About all that was left were a few gallons of unopened vegetable oil, a hulk of an old stove and a shrine to Jesus.

About a mile away, in a part of the city Katrina left intact, Mr. Iacovone was in crisp chef's whites, combining Louisiana lump crabmeat with Brie and orzo. He had a full house coming to dinner.

Race and money have long separated this city's po' boy counters from its white-tablecloth restaurants. But the line between the two was easily crossed in pursuit of something that tasted good. Mandina's and Henry's Soul Food were New Orleans institutions as surely as Antoine's and Galatoire's.

They were equally loved, but, it turns out, not equally protected. Among those who care about New Orleans food, the debate is whether the high can survive without the low.

This is very, very important. Yeah, it's great that Galatoire's and Cuvée and high-end places like it have reopened, but as my NOLA friends and I have been discussing the last few months, what about the little mom and pop poor boy shops? What about the little fried chicken places like Miss Willie Mae's? (And given our adventurous, sprawling eating across the whole city, why the feck have we never eaten there?) What will the loss of little places like this mean to our city and our culture? (Their loss, in a word, would be catastrophic.)

The good news ... a group of Habitat for Humanity-style volunteers, led by local columnist Lolis Eric Elie and "a mix of out-of-town writers, food historians, chefs and local people who want to help" are banding together to help Miss Willie Mae clean up and reopen her restaurant. Chef John Besh of Restaurant August will be feeding the crew, and incidentally Besh, among others, have started stripping "culinary school flourishes" from their dishes and are serving more traditional local dishes on their menu, prepared more simply and authentically.

Cocktail of the day.   Wes always does a great job of picking the evening's cocktail when it's his turn, and last night was no exception. This one was in Food and Wine's Cocktails 2005, was created by Robert Hess, and is served at the Zig Zag Café in Seattle.

La Rosita Cocktail

La Rosita

1-1/2 ounces reposado tequila.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce Campari.

Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass; no garnish.

The flavor of the agave along with the bite of the Campari make for a delightful drink and an inspired combination of flavors. Definitely give this one a try. The world needs more Campari cocktails!

The shitstorm begins.   The Bring Back New Orleans Commission releases its plan today.

Residents of New Orleans areas hardest-hit by Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters would have four months to prove they can bring their neighborhoods back to life or face the prospect of having to sell out to a new and powerful redevelopment authority under a plan to be released today by a key panel of Mayor Ray Nagin's rebuilding commission.

In perhaps its boldest recommendation, the panel says Nagin should impose a moratorium on building permits in shattered areas covering most of the city, while residents there meet to craft plans to revive their neighborhoods. The proposals are spelled out in the final report of the land-use committee of Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission, which was obtained by The Times-Picayune.

[...] Practically since the day the storm passed through New Orleans, the question of whether all of the city's neighborhoods can or should be resettled has been the most contentious issue in play. The idea of "shrinking the footprint" has been particularly unpopular among African-American leaders and residents, who made up nearly 70 percent of the city's pre-Katrina population and who were much more likely than white residents to live in areas devastated by flooding.

The reaction to the plan? "Over my dead body", said one local.

As hard as it's going to be for a lot of people, I think "shrinking the footprint" is inevitable, and I've thought so since the first weeks after the flood. The compromise in which people from the hard-hit neighborhoods the chance to demonstrate their motivation to revive their neighborhoods and make them viable is a pretty good idea (many people in the Lower Ninth, despite their devastating personal and property losses, seem highly motivated). It's all going to get very ugly before anything's settled on, though. As Michael pointed out in email this morning, "Anyone who even suggests that some parts of the city shouldn't be rebuilt is already being called a racist."

One of the best recommendations: "It asks for the closure of the controversial Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or MRGO, blamed for much of the flooding in eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish." I think it might be too late for New Orleans East, though. My parents sensed this immediately, and after the first look at the neighborhood and surrounding area declared that they didn't want to go back there. Although last time we looked there were a few people gutting and considering moving back, one has to wonder what they're moving back to. None of the businesses or infrastructure in that area seem to be coming back, and many declared right after the flood that they wouldn't. Sure, you could gut and move back into your house, but what kind of life is it with three neighbors, no grocery stores, no drug stores, no doctor's office, no hospital, no bank, no police or fire stations?

The commission's entire presentation is available here, in a PowerPoint file.

In his house in R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.   The wacky and wonderful folks at The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have made a feature-length film. In fact, a feature-length silent film, shot and produced as if it were made in the 1920s, entitled, The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu

Wes showed me the trailer last night, and for a second or two I was a bit bewildered.

While watching this trailer it would be very easy to say, "I didn't know there was an old epic silent movie based on Lovecraft," until you realize you're looking at the trailer for a newly-made film.

It's really, really cool, and from the looks of the trailer they've achieved near-100% success in making this film look as if were made during the silent era. (Filmed in "Mythoscope" ... ha!) The image quality, the "soft" look as if it were photographed through older optics and with the heavy diffusion of the era, the makeup, the props, even the look of (most of) the actors. Apparently there have been some criticisms of the fake scratches and occasional image jumpiness -- "Silent films didn't look old and damaged in the 1920s, they looked new!" (Well, let's just pretend it got shown a few times before it was banned, or stolen and hidden by members of the Cthulhu cult, or something like that. I think I can successfully suspend my disbelief in this case.) Others have said that due to its technique and style that it's the most successful film adaptation of Lovecraft, ever.

The site has lots of downloadable "props" and other goodies, and the movie is available on DVD; we've already ordered it. Here's the review on; an excerpt:

Always considered one of his stories least likely to be able to be brought to film, the fact that an entertaining, engrossing and accurate adaptation was made is fairly astounding. The fact that this small group of enthusiastic fans has been able to craft such a quality film with a minuscule budget is amazing. This film looks and plays much better than it has any rights to.

[...] I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I read the story this was based on years ago, and while I was confident that the images could be filmed, I really doubted that the atmosphere that Lovecraft created with his prose could be reproduced on film. I was stunned at how well writer Sean Branney and director Andrew Leman were able to do just that. Made on a shoestring budget and with a non-union crew, they have created a film that is very eerie and enjoyable. A true testament to what can be accomplished with a lot of work and passion, but with limited funds.

This should be a blast.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn...

Building a dumber Army.   Your tax dollars at word. This is troubling, to say the least. Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

Three months ago, I wrote that the war in Iraq was wrecking the U.S. Army, and since then the evidence has only mounted, steeply. Faced with repeated failures to meet its recruitment targets, the Army has had to lower its standards dramatically. First it relaxed restrictions against high-school drop-outs. Then it started letting in more applicants who score in the lowest third on the armed forces aptitude test?a group, known as Category IV recruits, who have been kept to exceedingly small numbers, as a matter of firm policy, for the past 20 years. (There is also a Category V -- those who score in the lowest 10th percentile. They have always been ineligible for service in the armed forces and, presumably, always will be.)

The bad news is twofold. First, the number of Category IV recruits is starting to skyrocket. Second, a new study compellingly demonstrates that, in all realms of military activity, intelligence does matter. Smarter soldiers and units perform their tasks better; dumber ones do theirs worse.

Until just last year, the Army had no trouble attracting recruits and therefore no need to dip into the dregs. As late as 2004, fully 92 percent of new Army recruits had graduated high school and just 0.6 percent scored Category IV on the military aptitude test.

Then came the spiraling casualties in Iraq, the diminishing popularity of the war itself, and the subsequent crisis in recruitment.

In response to the tightening trends, on Sept. 20, 2005, the Defense Department released DoD Instruction 1145.01, which allows 4 percent of each year's recruits to be Category IV applicants?up from the 2 percent limit that had been in place since the mid-1980s. Even so, in October, the Army had such a hard time filling its slots that the floodgates had to be opened; 12 percent of that month's active-duty recruits were Category IV. November was another disastrous month; Army officials won't even say how many Cat IV applicants they took in, except to acknowledge that the percentage was in "double digits."

Do you feel safer yet? More importantly, if you have a loved one overseas in Iraq, do you think they feel safe?

Unnecessary gadgets.   It seems as though we're forever being assaulted with a never-ending supply of new gadgets, particularly kitchen gadgets, that only do one thing. I'm not a fan of these, and one of the more stupid ones I've seen of late is a $15 avocado slicer. Gee, I've always had luck with a paring knife, but someone thinks I should drop the cost of three packs of Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon on a gizmo that's specifically designed for cutting avocadoes, and nothing else..

Here's what Cook's Illustrated had to say:

We recently tested the new $15 Progressive avocado slicer. Although its makers claim that this tool "makes perfect slices or cubes",we found it doesn't. The slicer's cutting end is an oval loop; 12 short stainless steel wires extend from the center of the handle to points around the rim of the loop. Avocados, however, are not perfectly oval, and while the slicer worked well at the fat end, it either cut off or disfigured the slice at the leaner end.

Great. A gizmo dat only does one thing, and it don't even woik rite.

Here's a little demo on how to slice an avocado with ... a paring, knife, and one good idea for getting the slices out cleanly.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Photo of the day.   After the third day spent helping to muck out my folks' flooded, dark, wet, moldy and stinking house in October '05 I headed down to the Quarter to do some serious drinking.

Napoleon House had just reopened, and this gentleman's Sazeracs were much better than Napoleon House's usual. He also mentioned that they lost all but four of their waiters and most of their restaurant staff, including the chef (who was a friend of my sister's, and who already had a new job out of state).

Napoleon House, October 13, 2005

He had a rather unusual name which, alas, I'm afraid I've forgotten.

Holy crapola.   Chris Wiseman at the excellent World Class New Orleans weblog did a little poking around the Army Corps of Engineers website. Wanna know how close Uptown New Orleans might have come to looking like Lakeview and the Lower Ninth? About four-and-a-half feet, Chris thinks.

Freedom of the press.   Apparently that whole "spreading democracy" thing we're supposed to be doing in Iraq has encountered a few bumps. Jeanne d'Arc writes in This Modern World:

A prize-winning Iraqi journalist, working for the Guardian, was investigating claims that the US and Britain misused and misappropriated tens of millions of dollars belonging to Iraq. (I assume that's on top of the $9 billion in Iraqi money an audit last year said we "lost.")

A few days ago, the director of his film informed US authorities about what he had learned, and asked for an interview.

Yesterday, American troops stormed into his home, firing into the room where he, his wife, and children were sleeping, and took videotape that he shot for the film.

If that isn't an attempt to intimidate a journalist asking dangerous questions, I can't imagine what it is. But American journalists ought to demand some answers.

Hmm ... well, our own Constitution provides for freedom of the press, right there in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. But what kind of rights do they have in Iraq now that we've "liberated" them?

Article (36): The state guarantees, as long as it does not violate public order and morality:

1st - The freedom of expressing opinion by all means.
2nd - The freedom of press, publishing, media and distribution.
3rd - Freedom of assembly and peaceful protest will be organized by law.

-- From the Constitution of the Republic of Iraq, ratified by popular vote on October 15, 2005.

Okay, Iraqis! We're spreadin' democracy here! You're free now! (Except when we say you're not.)

I wonder if we'll hear one peep about this in the American "liberal media."

*drool*   I want one, and I want it now.

Quote of the day.   From this morning's Los Angeles Times Calendar section's roundup of what went right and wrong at the box office in 2005 (via Wes):

"...when there are a multitude of other easily accessible leisure options, people aren't going to spend two hours in a theater, subjected to ridiculously expensive popcorn and endless commercials, not to mention that rude cellphone-toting guy in the next row, unless they believe that there's something irresistible on the screen. [...]

"The bombs of 2005...were, if nothing else, eminently resistible. When their trailers came on screen, you could almost hear a collective hiss, like air from a tire: 'Perhapsssssss ... on video.'"

More often from Wes and me it's a flat-out "Oh no," or "Well, there's $9.75 and two hours I just saved."

That article also provides the Question of the Day:

"...would 'King Kong' have done 600-pound gorilla business if it had been 117 minutes instead of 187 minutes long?"

I loved "King Kong", me. It was a little long, yes, but I have great tolerance for long movies as long as they maintain interest, and "Kong" developed the characters well and gave us plenty to look at. Perhaps it'll have better success on video.

Speaking of better success on video ... here's potentially great news about one of my favorite TV shows of the last several years:

Loni Peristere, visual-effects supervisor for the SF movie Serenity, told SCI FI Wire that there's hope for future flights of the cast and crew of the movie, which just came out on DVD. Director Joss Whedon -- who also created the canceled Fox TV show Firefly, on which the movie is based -- expected that the movie might draw the low numbers it did in its theatrical release, Peristere said in an interview. But he added that the movie's sales on DVD, which came out on Dec. 20, are running neck-and-neck with the hit comedy Wedding Crashers, which bodes well for a possible Serenity sequel.

We're huge Firefly/Serenity fans, and are most definitely hungry for more. (And for the record, Joss, we were there opening weekend!) The new Serenity DVD sits atop the television, waiting for the right evening to watch it (although frankly, it's one of those movies I'd kinda like to wait to watch until we have our 42" plasma TV hanging on the wall ... who knows, maybe this year after tax refunds. *hope*).

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, January 9, 2006

Photo of the day.   We got together with our friend Robb this Saturday to celebrate the anniversary of his 24th birthday (and he can still pass too, that so-and-so), along with his partner Jaason, his mom, and Jaason's parents and sister. After the World's Greatest Pastrami Sandwiches from Langer's Deli downtown we were invited over to their house, and the suggestion was made to bring cocktail fixins.

We obliged, of course, bringing ingredients to make Widow's Kiss and Hoskins cocktails, plus we knocked off a round of Cinnabar Negronis too. We made these for everyone except birthday boy Robb, who doesn't drink, and for whom I had forgotten to bring syrups and fizzy water and such to make nonalcoholic concoctions (d'oh, schmuck!)

In his book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh describes this drink thusly:

"As the scene opens, you are up in your grandmother's attic opening the dusty steamer trunk she brought from Europe in 1914. You reverently turn back layer upon layer of old lace and brocade ... unveiling a packet of old love letters tied in silk ribbon. Ancient dried rose petals flutter down from between the envelopes.

"This is what the Widow's Kiss is like. Sweet, complex and darkly golden, thought-provoking and introspective. It is a cocktail of fall turning toward winter, and it wins Doc's award as the most evocative drink ever. Have one by the fire."

Seven Widow's Kisses

If you've never had one, click on the photo for the recipe. Now's the perfect time of year for them.

(P.S. -- Happy birthday, Robb!)

Rebuilding NOLa.   From yesterday's New York Times:

All Parts of City in Rebuild Plan of New Orleans

The city's official blueprint for redevelopment after Hurricane Katrina, to be released on Wednesday, will recommend that residents be allowed to return and rebuild anywhere they like, no matter how damaged or vulnerable the neighborhood, according to several members of the mayor's rebuilding commission.

The proposal appears to put the city's rebuilding panel on a collision course with its state counterpart, which will control at least some of the flow of federal rebuilding money to the city.

The primary author of the plan, Joseph C. Canizaro, said teams of outside experts would try to help residents of each neighborhood decide whether to rebuild or relocate. Those teams would help increase the odds of success for those residents who decided to return, Mr. Canizaro said.

The commission will propose that the city should discourage homeowners from rebuilding in the hardest hit areas until a plan can be hammered out, but will not forbid them from doing so.

But ultimately, the areas that fail to attract a critical mass of residents in 12 months will probably not survive as residential neighborhoods, Mr. Canizaro said, and are likely to end up as marshland as the city's population declines and its footprint shrinks.

People who rebuild in those areas will be forced to leave, according to the proposal. Though such a requirement would be emotionally wrenching, the commission will propose a buyout program to compensate those people at the market price before Hurricane Katrina, but it is not clear whether there will be federal financing for such a program.

I don't think this will sit well with the people who want to return to the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East. While it may be unwise to rebuild in the latter area (at least) without elevating the homes, I don't think h istoric neighborhoods should be written off in a time frame as short as 12 months, and I don't think anybody should be forced to leave in such a short time, either. Nothing is going to happen quickly, and we need to give the city time to recover.

Greetings from New Orleans!   Via Carl McCaskey (thanks!), here are two really nifty online art projects out of New Orleans by artist Justin Lundgren. Greetings from New Orleans involves the artist's photographs, printed up as postcards, filled out and stamped by him but written as though coming from actual (yet fictional) people, then left in various places around the city.

As much as I like the one above, I think I like his next one better -- it's called Didn't He Ramble, and is a little slice of New Orleans cultural history -- clips of obituaries from the Times-Picayune where each deceased person's name contains a nickname, such as James W. "Mumbles" Swindell, Melvin "Roundhead" Roussell, and Phillip "Monkey Do" Gilbert. The artist says,

As my friend Ian McNulty recently confessed to me in a moment of clarity, many of us live in New Orleans not by choice but because we can't function anywhere else. The reality is not that extreme. The pre-Katrina city was unique because it allowed people to be their true eccentric selves. A lot of the New Orleans evacuees will certainly succeed in moving on and finding jobs and creating successful lives in other cities, but will those cities allow them to be "Snake" or "Baudy Man" or "Betty Boo"?.

Probably not, unfortunately.

I know there's no way for Justin to know, and for the most part no way to glean them from the obits, but I'd really love to know how all these folks got their nicknames.

Just a partisan vendetta, not.   A "rogue district attorney" and "unabashed partisan zealot" engaged in "blatant political partisanship" by filing "one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history"? Not so fast, Bugman DeLay:

AUSTIN, Texas - The state's highest criminal court on Monday denied Rep. Tom DeLay's request that the money laundering charges against him be dismissed or sent back to a lower court for an immediate trial.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the requests with no written order two days after he announced he was stepping down as House majority leader. DeLay had been forced to temporarily relinquish the Republican leadership post after he was indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges in September.

Somebody's going down.

Tom Tomorrow's Predictions for 2006.   Who needs the latest Edgar Cayce wannabe or all those trailer-park psychics that the tabloids hire? We've got a round of predictions from our favorite political cartoonist, Tom Tomorrow:


1. Bad things will happen in the world.
2. Good things will also happen.
3. Conservative bloggers will blame liberals for the former.
4. Conservative bloggers will take credit for the latter.
5. Winter will be followed by spring.
6. Bill O'Reilly will act like an egomaniacal buffoon.
7. Spring will be followed by summer.
8. New revelations will prove the Bushies to be even more corrupt and incompetent than we already thought, and we already thought they were pretty darned corrupt and incompetent.
9. Americans will be afraid of something.
10. George W. Bush will pull off his human flesh-mask on live TV, revealing his true identity as the ancient and monstrous entity, Cthulhu.

(Okay, that last one is kind of a wild card.)

Tom points out that number six (an ongoing thing, really) has come true already. "Yes, that would be this Bill O'Reilly."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, January 8, 2006

Fats Domino's birth home scheduled for demolition.   This arrived in my email yesterday:

I am Rick Coleman, the author of Fats Domino's forthcoming biography Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn Of Rock 'N' Roll, tentatively scheduled to be released by Jazz Fest time 2006 by DaCapo Press. I just read in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which can be viewed at, that Fats Domino's birth home, at 1939/1937 Jourdan Avenue is in the list of homes scheduled to be demolished by the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Here is the link for the homes to be demolished -- scroll down to 1939 Jourdan Avenue.

The city previously demolished the birthplace of Louis Armstrong and NO ONE was very happy about that afterwards. Please spread the word so this does not happen. The house should instead be a city landmark with a plaque on it.

Domino, who Quint Davis of Jazz Fest fame called in an interview with me "the 1-A music legend" out of New Orleans after only Armstrong, told me in my first interview with him over 20 years ago that he was born there on February 26, 1928, delivered by his grandmother Carmelite Domino, a midwife who had been born into slavery in 1857. He was the only one of the eight Domino children born in New Orleans, as the family had recently moved from Vacherie in St. James Parish.

As Fats' older cousin Freddy Domino revealed to me in a videotaped tour of the Ninth Ward a few years ago, the house was actually a duplex -- 1939/1937 Jourdan Avenue -- and, indeed I possess a photograph of the wood frame house (then painted pink with white trim and black wrought iron on the doors and porch) with both addresses clearly visible on the front of the house. According to Freddy, Antoine "Fats" Domino was actually born in 1937 Jourdan, as 1939 Jourdan was then a small store serving the tiny, isolated, and then very rural community immediately facing the levee of the Industrial Canal.

Fats Domino remembers that there were few houses and no street lights or even electricity in the area when he was growing up. And he would walk over a mile on the dark street down to the lighted "civilization" of St. Claude Avenue at night to meet his sister Philomena, who returned on the streetcar from her job as a domestic with bags of food for the family.

If you need further proof, please note this email excerpt from Domino's good friend Haydee Ellis.

Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 21:15:50 -0500
Hi, Rick

I took Fats to the doctor yesterday. I mentioned something about house where he
was born, and he blurted out, without hesitation, "1939 Jourdan Ave."

The small good news is that Domino's best known homes, the adjacent properties at 5525 Marais Street and 1208 Caffin Avenue are not on the list, as the city knows better about those landmarks. We MUST make them aware of the birthplace of city's greatest living legend.

Rick Coleman

I agree with the importance of preserving important cultural landmarks, but the one thing is ... anybody seen the property at 1937-39 Jourdan? Is it salvageable? Is it splintered? Off its foundation? 'R what?

Phunny!   Friday night the Phunny Phorty Phellows kicked off Carnival with their hijacked streetcar ride, and from the looks of the photos I've got my work cut out for me when it comes to making a costume for Mardi Gras this year:


In case the satire escapes you, "Le Grand Enfant" (a.k.a., "The Big Baby"), sucking on a FEMA bottle, doesn't want FEMA trailers in his backyard. Katrina satire is going to be THE Carnival theme this year, and the above picture is an example of how good my costume is going to have to be to keep up. I have good friends in Krewe du Vieux, whose theme this year is "C'est Levee!", and I've got their extremely high level of satire to stand up to when I'm thinking of my costume.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, January 7, 2006

Galatoire's returns!   They reopened New Year's Day, and it's been packed every day since. New Orleans native Quin Hillyer of the Mobile Register paid a visit and reports that the food and service is as perfect as ever.

Regarding the service, though ... I keep wondering about our regular waiter, John Fontenot. I wonder if he's back and if he's all right. He lived in Chalmette, and is quite obviously homeless now.

I'll be standing in that line on Friday, February 24 for my Sazerac, souffléed potatoes with Béarnaise sauce and whatever John (I hope) tells me is good that day.

Sure, we're against torture, unless ...   In case anyone wasn't sure where Bush stands on the issue of torture, and his apparent continued views that his is an imperial presidency where he rules by decree:

3 GOP senators blast Bush bid to bypass torture ban
Reject assertion he has right to waive rules to protect US security

Three key Republican senators yesterday condemned President Bush's assertion that his powers as commander in chief give him the authority to bypass a new law restricting the use of torture when interrogating detainees.

John W. Warner Jr., a Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, issued a joint statement rejecting Bush's assertion that he can waive the restrictions on the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against detainees to protect national security.

"We believe the president understands Congress's intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees," the senators said. ''The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration's implementation of the new law."

Separately, the third primary sponsor of the detainee treatment law, Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Globe in a phone interview that he agreed with everything McCain and Warner said ''and would go a little bit further."

"I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any ... law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified," Graham said. "If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations' leaders from doing the same."

The White House did not return calls yesterday about the senators' statements. On Friday, in signing the ban on torture, Bush issued a "signing statement," saying he would interpret the restrictions in the context of his broader constitutional powers as commander in chief. A "signing statement" is an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law. A senior administration official later confirmed that the president believes the Constitution gives him the power to authorize interrogation techniques that go beyond the law to protect national security. But in enacting the law, Congress intended to close every loophole and impose an absolute ban on all forms of torture, no matter the circumstances, Graham said.

In other words, Bush asks Congress for the right to torture people, they say "Hell, no," he signs their bill but then turns right around and says that he can do whatever he wants, law be damned, with the perennial excuse that it's "for national security."

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

In today's world, that duty begins in the June primaries, and on Election Day in November. Then we can talk indictments, impeachments, imprisonment.

Services for Republican congressmen.   The organization Friends Beyond the Wall has a unique and wonderful photographic service -- they'll use the photos of you that were taken in a prison visiting room and with their spiffo Photoshop skills will put you in a variety of exotic locations, from fancy hotel suites to a lakeside vacation to poses next to a Jaguar to a nice Italian restaurant.

This could come in handy for scores of GOP politicians in the next couple of years.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, January 6, 2006

It's Twelfth Night ... Carnival begins tonight.   It ain't just the few days or weeks before Mardi Gras day. By tradition Carnival season begins on the Twelfth Night of Christmas -- Da Mayor along with Rex and Zulu leaders, officially announced Carnival today -- so it's time to start ordering those King Cakes!

Gambino's Bakery
Haydel's Bakery
Manny Randazzo's Bakery
Maurice's French Pastries

The first group to celebrate Carnival every year is the Twelfth Night Revelers, and I'm not sure what they're doing this year; I hadn't heard one way or another. The Phunny Phorty Phellows, another Twelfth Night krewe, will "hijack" a streetcar on Twelfth Night as usual, although their route will be altered this year, of course.

Keep an eye on the T-P's Mardi Gras weblog for daily Carnival news.

Stage almost set for N.O. Musicians' Village.   The neighborhood for musicians that was proposed by Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis among others, featuring a performing arts center, is on the verge of approval.

One of the major questions about Habitat for Humanity's proposal to create a New Orleans "musicians village" -- its location -- might be answered today. The local chapter of the nonprofit group is poised to buy eight acres of vacant land in the Upper 9th Ward.

The land is owned by the Orleans Parish School Board, which is scheduled to vote on the $676,500 deal at a meeting scheduled to begin today at 2 p.m. in the City Council chamber. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity was the only bidder for the advertised property.

"If the School Board approves the sale, we ought to be able to break ground there in March," said Jim Pate, director of the local Habitat for Humanity.

Last month, Pate, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, pianist Ellis Marsalis and others announced that a village with a music center would be built in the city in part to house artists displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They declined to provide other details at the time.

The latest plan for the village, which organizers have said is a work in progress, calls for 74 single-family homes to be built on the eight acres near Bunny Friend Playground as well as seven two-family homes for older musicians and a music center, which might be named after Ellis Marsalis.

The property was a residential area for decades. It also was the site of Kohn Junior High School, which was razed. The land covers two city blocks bounded by North Roman, Alvar and North Johnson streets. It also includes parts of three other blocks along what once was Bartholomew Street -- the stretch between North Johnson and North Derbigny streets. Plans call for rebuilding that section of Bartholomew.

The plan also calls for building at least 150 other homes in the area surrounding the vacant tract, said Pate, who noted he has been cautious about providing too many details for fear of inflating real estate prices in the area.

Construction of some of those off-site homes could begin before work starts at the eight-acre site, he said.

This is (almost) great news, and will be once it's approved. You can make your donations to Habitat For Humanity - New Orleans here.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, January 5, 2006

More sad news.   Musician Barry Cowsill, a longtime resident of New Orleans and member of the musical Cowsill family, has been missing since Hurricane Katrina. This morning news came in that his body was found.

In a forwarded email from his sister-in-law Vicki Peterson of The Bangles and the Continental Drifters:

Yesterday morning John and i learned that our brother Barry Cowsill has indeed perished in New Orleans. There are few details at this time.

It was not a complete surprise to us, as Barry has not been heard from since immediately after Hurricane Katrina, and it has marked the end of a long family vigil with incredible sadness. Barry is the gentlest soul i've met so far in this life, and his huge musical talent was both his savior and torturer. He didn't have an easy run, and i pray that he has found peace at last.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and concern. Barry is deeply missed by us all.

With love,

It just keeps comin' and comin' ...

Attention, Chicagoland!   Also, anyone who listens to WXRT, "Chicago's Finest Rock", either on the air or online. (Thanks, Tom!)

93XRT in Chicago wants you to program all the music on the radio station this Friday, January 6th from 9am to 5pm. We are soliciting song requests from anyone who donates $50 or more to Habitat for Humanity to help them continue their building efforts in the Gulf Coast. This special day of programming, XRT's Request for Help, is devoted to supporting the ongoing relief efforts to re-build the Gulf Coast from the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005.

You are encouraged to e-mail or fax XRT your song request along with a receipt of your donation. Beginning this Friday at 9:00am, at the conclusion of Lin Brehmer's morning show, 93XRT will pre-empt its usual programming and all commercial messages and devote the entire day to fundraising efforts by playing nothing but listener requests until 5:00pm. You can pick literally any song by any artist, from any genre and era, and we will attempt to play as many of them as time allows, since each song represents a significant donation. "Chicago's Finest Rock" may well become a hybrid of rock, classical, Hip-hop, Broadway show tunes, and/or country music - playing only what its listeners want. Even if there's not enough time to play every recording that's requested, the station will acknowledge every donor by mentioning their name on the air. Only two rules: no songs longer than 5 1/2 minutes maximum (in order to accomodate as many requests as possible), and the lyrics must not be in violation of FCC guidelines.

Song requests will be accepted starting immediately, with XRT's Requests for Help being played on the air this Friday, January 6th between 9am and 5pm. If you would like to participate in this fundraising effort may do so by visiting , making a minimum $50 donation, and forwarding the receipt for the donation along with their name, phone number and song request to or via fax at 773.427.3505.

Wondering what your donation will buy? Here's how much you'll be helping Habitat for Humanity!

$10 = Box of Nails
$35 = Roof Shingles
$50 = Low Flow Toilet
$75 = Window
$100 = Kitchen Sink
$150 = Front Door
$500 = Siding
$1000 = Wallboard
$2000 = Flooring

If you would like to donate to Habitat for Humanity, visit

Sounds like a great way to help out, and a lot of fun too. Be a DJ for a day (a song at a time, at least.) This could be really neat to listen to as well, and I think I'll tune in tomorrow.

Top 50 Spirits of 2005.   Ah, the lists keep coming. I'll be adding to the madness later on, but I'm keen to read this one myself. F. Paul Pacult of Spirit Journal gives his picks for the finest spirits of 2005, in 16 categories. There are some surprises there (Starbucks Coffee Liqueur rates as "superb" with 90-95 points), and many delectable-looking things to try.

We were pleased to see Citadelle Gin on the list as the outstanding gin (it's a favorite of Wes', although he happily quaffs Beefeater these days as well), and we were happy to see a rye whiskey on there (I've never seen Michter's 10-year-old, though, and it looks expensive. Fortunately we get Sazerac 6-year-old rye this year!). The one Calvados he mentions happens to already be my favorite (Busnel Hors d'Age 12-year-old), and his latest rave of the new 10 Cane Rum from Trinidad makes me want to add it to the must-get list next (we've really been getting into sipping rums over the last year).

Plenty to keep us happy with a warm inner glow, and there goes your money, too!

Remember Eddie.   My sister Melissa sent me this last night. I didn't recognize the name at first, but the instant I read on I knew who he was ...

For 67 years, Eddie Gabriel has entertained millions in the piano bar at Pat O'Briens in the French Quarter by playing along with the dueling pianos using thimble-covered fingers tapping a silver tray. The 95-year-old legend died in the 9th Ward during the storm and was laid to rest at St. Augustine Church in New Orleans this past Monday.

Why this was not at all publicized, I'm not sure. But I wanted all to know that this man, a great part of New Orleans, is no longer with us, and to please remember him. It's people like him that help make up the fabric of this great city. He never missed a day of work, and played up to final days before the hurricane. When urged by friends and family to evacuate, he simply replied, "This is God's business. I'm not going anywhere."

So long, Eddie.

UPDATE: A rememberance by Eddie's grandson Keith Gabriel Darbonne

Jesusland?   I'm just ... boggled by this story.

The Israeli government is planning to give up a large slice of land to American Christian evangelicals to build a biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus is said to have walked on water and fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

A consortium of Christian groups, led by the television evangelist Pat Robertson, is in negotiation with the Israeli ministry of tourism and a deal is expected in the coming months. The project is expected to bring up to 1 million extra tourists a year but an undeclared benefit will be the cementing of a political alliance between the Israeli rightwing and the American Christian right.

What ... the ...

Didn't we see this on "The Simpsons", except it was Ned Flanders opening Praiseland, and it was a joke? King David's Wild Ride, Whack-A-Satan, and the holy ice cream parlor that sold these flavors: Blessed Virgin Berry, Command-Mint, Bible Gum and Unitarian (which was an empty bowl).

"There is so much that is upsetting about this," said Mary in email, "I don't even know where to begin. Perhaps I shall start with aesthetics, to wit, what kind of hapless nimrods are these 'Christians' that the land itself isn't holy enough, that we need a THEME PARK (help me, I'm faint and nauseous) to appreciate it?" Pretty much exactly what I was thinking. "[A point] about Israel and their land issues ... seriously, the place isn't that large to begin with such that they can afford to give up a portion of it to Pat Robertson ..."

Jesus frackin' wept.

The first of the two most telling comments in the article, and the most telling of all, is this:

Yossi Sarid, a former government minister and member of the Knesset, said he was wary of the friendship of the American Christian right and projects such as the Galilee centre. He said: "I am not enthusiastic about this cooperation because I have no desire to be cannon fodder for the evangelists.

"As [I am] a Jew, they believe I have to vanish before Jesus can make his second appearance. As I have no plans to convert, as an Israeli and a Jew, I find this a provocation. There is something sinister about their embrace."

Yossi is a wise man.

Then there's this:

Avraham Hirschson, the Israeli tourism minister, said: "I'm not a theologian, I'm the minister of tourism, and I'm not interested in the politics of our tourists as long as they come here. They come here as tourists, and they're friends of Israel."

Avraham is a fool.

Amidst being appalled, we did manage to have some fun with this today. What attractions can we expect in this theme park? Wes, Dave and Steve weighed in:

The Water Into Wine Bar ... If the wine isn't very good -- hey, your faith isn't strong enough.

The Holy Roller Coaster

The Iscariot Chariot

The Lazarus Rising Parachute Drop

Each public restroom can have a sink dedicated to Pontius Pilate.

The Pillar of Salt Lick BBQ

Meschach, Shadrack & Abednego's Tandoori Oven

The potential list is nearly endless.

Cartoon of the day.   Via Mary.

Sadly, we all know someone like Joe Smith, don't we?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Cry me a New Year.   I've been getting behind on my Times-Picayune reading the past few days, with all the New Year's revelry and everything, and Peter pointed out yet another fabulous Chris Rose column, in which he advises us that "whether you're looking back on 2005 or ahead to 2006, the advice is the same: Keep a tissue handy. And keep the faith." As the link will go away in two weeks, I reproduce the entire column here:

When I look back on the year 2005, nothing comes to mind more than the opening line of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Except for that "best of times" part, it describes New Orleans perfectly.

How did we get here? What happened to my tough-lovin', hard-luck, good-timin' town?


I have cowered in fear this year from the real and the imagined. The fear of injury, the fear of disease, the fear of death, the fear of abandonment, isolation and insanity.

I have had seared into my olfactory lockbox the smell of gasoline and dead people. And your leftovers.

I have feared the phantom notions of sharks swimming in our streets and bands of armed men coming for me in the night to steal my generator and water and then maybe rape me or cut my throat just for the hell of it.

I have wept, for hours on end, days on end.

The crying jags. I guess they're therapeutic, but give me a break.

The first time I went to the Winn-Dixie after it reopened, I had all my purchases on the conveyer belt, plus a bottle of mouthwash. During the Days of Horror following the decimation of this city, I had gone into the foul and darkened store and lifted a bottle.

I was operating under the "take only what you need" clause that the strays who remained behind in this godforsaken place invoked in the early days.

My thinking was that it was in everyone's best interest if I had a bottle of mouthwash.

When the cashier rang up my groceries all those weeks later, I tried, as subtly as possible, to hand her the bottle and ask her if she could see that it was put back on the shelf. She was confused by my action and offered to void the purchase if I didn't want the bottle.

I told her it's not that I didn't want it, but that I wished to pay for it and could she please see that it was put back on the shelf. More confusion ensued and the line behind me got longer and it felt very hot and crowded all of a sudden and I tried to tell her: "Look, when the store was closed . . . you know . . . after the thing . . . I took . . ."

The words wouldn't come. Only the tears.

The people in line behind me stood stoic and patient, public meltdowns being as common as discarded kitchen appliances in this town.

What's that over there? Oh, it's just some dude crying his butt off. Nothing new here. Show's over people, move along.

The cashier, an older woman, finally grasped my pathetic gesture, my lowly attempt to make amends, my fulfillment to a promise I made to myself to repay anyone I had stolen from.

"I get it, baby," she said, and she gently took the bottle from my hands and I gathered my groceries and walked sobbing from the store.

She was kind to me. I probably will never see her again, but I will never forget her. That bottle. That store. All the fury that prevailed. The fear.

A friend of mine, a photojournalist, recently went to a funeral to take pictures. There had been an elderly couple trapped in a house. He had a heart attack and slipped into the water. She held onto a gutter for two days before being rescued.

It was seven weeks before the man's body was found in the house, then another six weeks before the remains were released from the St. Gabriel morgue for burial.

"Tell me a story I haven't heard," I told my friend. Go ahead. Shock me.

When my father and I were trading dark humor one night and he was offering advice on how to begin my year in review, he cracked himself up, proposing: "It was a dark and stormy night."

That's close, but not quite it. "It was a dark and stormy morning" would be closer to the truth.

What a morning it was.

I was in Vicksburg. I had just left the miserable hotel crackhouse to which my family had evacuated -- it must have been the last vacant room in the South -- and was looking for breakfast for my kids.

But the streets and businesses were abandoned and a slight but stinging rain was falling, the wind surging and warm, and while my kids played on a little riverfront playground, I got through on my cell phone to The Times-Picayune newsroom, where scores of TP families had taken refuge, and I remember saying to the clerk who answered the phone:

"Man, that was a close one, huh? Looks like we dodged another bullet."

I suppose around a million people were saying exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. What I would have given to be right. Just that one time.

I was trying to get through to my editor to ask: "What's the plan?"

By late afternoon, that's what everyone in the Gulf region was asking.

Of course, it turns out there wasn't a plan. Anywhere. Who could have known?

The newspaper was just like everyone else at that point: As a legion of employees and their families piled into delivery trucks and fled the newspaper building as the waters rose around them, we shifted into the same operational mode as everyone else:

Survive. Wing it. Do good work. Save someone or something. And call your mother and tell her you're all right.

Unless, of course, your mother was in Lakeview or the Lower 9th or Chalmette or ... well, I've had enough of those horror stories for now. I don't even want to visit that place today.

This was the year that defines our city, our lives, our destiny. Nothing comparable has ever happened in modern times in America, and there is no blueprint for how we do this.

We just wing it. Do good work. Save someone or something.

You'd have to be crazy to want to live here. You'd have to be plumb out of reasonable options elsewhere.

Then again, I have discovered that the only thing worse than being in New Orleans these days is not being in New Orleans.

It's a siren calling us home. It cannot be explained.

"They don't get us," is the common refrain you hear from frustrated residents who think the government and the nation have turned a blind eye to us in our time of need. Then again, if they did get us, if we were easily boxed and labeled, I suppose we'd be just Anyplace, USA.

And that won't do.

We have a job to do here, and that is to entertain the masses and I don't mean the tourists. They're part of it, of course, but what we do best down here -- have done for decades -- is create a lifestyle that others out there in the Great Elsewhere envy and emulate.

Our music, our food, yada, yada, yada. It's a tale so often told that it borders on platitude but it is also the searing truth: We are the music. We are the food. We are the dance. We are the tolerance. We are the spirit.

And one day, they'll get it.

As a woman named Judy Deck e-mailed to me, in a moment of inspiration: "If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom."

Yeah, you rite.

That, people, is the final word on 2005.

"Our New Orleans" on NPR.   Nick Spitzer, New Orleans resident and host of the wonderful radio program "American Routes", wrote the liner notes for the incredible "Our New Orleans 2005" benefit album and on Monday talked to Melissa Block of NPR's "All Things Considered", giving a terrific 13-minute interview on how the album came together.

NPR also kindly provides some other related links both newer and older, including a story on how Allen Toussaint (who's becoming the musical soul of the revitalization of New Orleans, and who's been doing some absolutely astounding work lately) recently recorded an album in New Orleans with Elvis Costello. Oh, they top that list with that lil' ol' interview I did with them last year about "Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans", which was nice of them.

Turporken-o-rama.   Our friend Robin is amazing.

She's one of the original "Fat Pack", a group of friends, all New Orleans natives, residents or just plain New Orleans lovers, who among other occasions always gather back home for Jazzfest each year. Robin lives in New York and we get to see her the least, and she also hadn't managed to get back to New Orleans after the flood. So this year she decided to send us all rather extravagant Christmas gifts, with the thought that we'd put them all together and have a big party (and she thought right). Here's what we all got:

Mary and Steve got a lemon-chocolate doberge cake from Gambino's Bakery. (Doberge cake is an old Creole tradition, a tall cake of anywhere from six to nine layers, filled with rich frostings and creams.) Diana got a praline cheesecake from Haydel's Bakery. Nettie and Dave got a huge batch of Crawfish Monica from Kajun Kettle, the company that makes it at Jazzfest for nearly endless lines of hungry people (it's one of the top favorite dishes among Jazzfest-goers). And Wes and I got a Turporken from La Boucherie (yes, it's a turkey stuffed with a pork roast stuffed with a chicken, and jalapeño cornbread stuffing between each layer).

Holy crapola. (Thank you, Robin!!) Okay, let's have a pawty! The appointed day was the offical New Year's holiday on Monday the 2nd.

First crisis ... well, I hadn't read the turporken directions very carefully. It had been thawing in the fridge for the past 3-1/2 days, but the instructions said to remove it from its box, place the bagged pigbird on a pan and then put it in the fridge. I just transferred the whole box from freezer to fridge, and consequently on the morning of the event it was still partially frozen. (Oops.) An hour in tepid running water in the sink seemed to do the trick, but just as we were getting that going ... the power went out. (Ah, good old L.A. rainstorms.) Given that the gas oven's ignition and thermostat are electrically controlled, we were in a bit of a tight spot. Since the event was happening at Mary and Steve's anyway, we rang over there and they said, "C'mon over!" Their oven was a fine stand-in, and although we had about an hour and a half delay, we were still going strong.

There's a whole series of snaps of the event, but I'll put the highlights below:

Da dishes on da stove
The turporken's in the oven, and on the stove are the blackeyed peas, smothered cabbage and Crawfish Monica.

Crawfish Monica
Enough Crawfish Monica for 12 people, or 24 appetizer servings.

A top-shelf latke
A top-shelf latke, topped with sour cream and caviar.

Spiff Champagne
1989 Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin. Lovely stuff.

The New Year's bounty, part 1
We chowed down while the turporken was still in the oven: Crawfish Monica, blackeyed peas and rice with andouille, smothered cabbage with bacon and a green salad with lemon-garlic vinaigrette.

The magnificent beastie!
Ta daaa! The turporken in all its glory, after about five hours in the oven (and another 45 minutes of resting).

Cut that sucker open!
I want me a big slice with plenty of pork ...

Attacking the Doberge Cake
We've already dug into the Doberge cake here, with equal enthusiasm for both the chocolate and lemon sides.

A little slice of heaven
Ah, a little slice of heaven.

Boy, were we full afterwards. I didn't even show all the other desserts we had, including tons of Italian cookies from the Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli, left over after our Holiday Hooley last Friday, plus Fluffernutters and Peppermint Bark and I don't know what all else. (Urp.) 'Scuse me. We finished off the evening with a rousing game of Therapy (rules), which was screamingly funny and occasionally dangerous, then it was time to go home and collapse into bed.

It's a helluva way to celebrate the New Year, but I think I'll be on the Austerity Diet for the forseeable future ... or at least until the 15th, when the Pack gets together in Koreatown for barbecued pork belly at Toad House Korean Pork BBQ House!

Lip-smacking liqueurs.   Gary Regan writes in Wine Enthusiast about how liqueurs are no longer sipped from cordial glasses after dinner for the most part, but are turning up in tons of classic and especially new cocktails.

I'm a little skeptical of some of these (I cringe at anything containing the new Day-Glo liqueurs like Hypnotiq or X-Rated, the latter of which looks like Pepto-Bismol), but there are some interesting looking new products out there, like Charbay Green Tea Vodka and green tea liqueurs. There are some ... interesting cocktail recipes in the article, but I'm still unsure about most of them. One of them is a modern classic, though ... the Nicky Finn. Basically it's a Sidecar with a dash of Pernod (or Herbsaint) in it, and it completely changes the character of the drink. Try it sometime.

Spygate myth debunking.   Via Rick, here's some important information from Media Matters to allow you to debate with any right-wing idiot about why Bush actually did break the law with regards to domestic spying.

Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

Summary: Media Matters presents the top 12 myths and falsehoods promoted by the media on President Bush's spying scandal stemming from the recent revelation in The New York Times that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on domestic communications without the required approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.

As The New York Times first revealed on December 16, President Bush issued a secret presidential order shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on international phone and email communications that originate from or are received within the United States, and to do so without the court approval normally required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Facing increasing scrutiny, the Bush administration and its conservative allies in the media have defended the secret spying operation with false and misleading claims that have subsequently been reported without challenge across the media. So, just in time for the holidays, Media Matters for America presents the top myths and falsehoods promoted by the media on the Bush administration's spying scandal.

Read them all and learn them well, grasshopper.

Dogblogging, Gawd help us.   Y'know, this only a preview of the horrors that await you when Wes and I finally get dogs (which has been on the agenda, but we have fencing issues to deal with in the yard first). Yes, as stomach-churning as it is, I'm so eager to dogblog that I'll even post pictures of friends' dogs long before we get our own. Why? Because they're so sweet and beautiful and clever and everything.

Bessie's the black Lab, and Hayley's the Golden Retriever, and they're our friends' Mary and Steve's dogs and therefore canine co-hosts of the Turporken Feast. They even managed to get a few trimmings of the flying pig itself ... ah, such happy dogs.

Bessie and Hayley


They know just when it's appropriate to pose, too.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Bonne année!   Athbhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise dhaiobh! Feliz año nuevo! Happy New Year!

Can you think of a better way to start '06 than with the news that Abramoff's gonna sing?

Embattled U.S. lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to plead guilty on Tuesday in a corruption probe that implicates several top Republican lawmakers including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Justice Department official said.

Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion before a federal judge in Washington. His lawyer said Abramoff would plead guilty to other charges in Miami on Wednesday.

The long-expected plea will give prosecutors extra ammunition as they seek to link the activities of DeLay of Texas, Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, and other top lawmakers to favors paid for by Abramoff's lobbying clients.

It begins.

Blackeyed peas 'n cabbage.   I certainly hope y'all followed that old New Orleans tradition of eating blackeyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day -- that's to provide good luck and money, respectively, for the coming year. Why? I dunno, don't ax no questions, ya just do it! I'm very much into following New Orleans traditions nowadays, so on New Year's Day I got to cooking.

Blackeyed peas are dead easy to make, don't require any precooking or overnight soaking and only take an hour. They have a delicious smoky flavor naturally, but that's always enhanced by throwing in a ham hock or some smoked sausage. (My grandmother made hers with pickle meat (pickled pork) this year, though, which is not smoked but which I bet was fantastic; we usually put that in red beans in New Orleans).

Blackeyed peas

Blackeyed Peas 'n Rice with Andouille

1 pound dried blackeyed peas, rinsed and picked over
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, minced (remove ribs and seeds for less heat)
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 small smoked ham hock (optional)
6 cups water
Creole seasoning, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sauté the onions, garlic, peppers and celery until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beans to the pot, then all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. Check seasonings and add more if necessary.

Serve over hot white rice with plenty of French bread and Crystal hot sauce or Tabasco, and have luck for the rest of the year.

(Another great version is to chop about a pound of bacon and partially render it, pour off all the fat except about 2 tablespoons, use that bacon fat to sauté the vegetables, then add the bacon back with the rest of the ingredients and cook as before.)

YIELD: 8-10 servings

Lots of people don't like cabbage. "It stinks!" is the usual whine. Well, the way I make it will convert even the most diehard cabbage haters (and I did so over the last two days, several times). Look at the ingredients. How can you go wrong? You can cook shoes in a cup of bacon fat and they'd taste good.

Smothered cabbage

Smothered Cabbage

One package bacon, 12-16 ounces (I like Nueske's or Niman Ranch, but Oscar Meyer will do fine)
One large sweet onion, sliced
One head of cabbage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the bacon into 1/2" pieces and place in a large pot. Cook over medium heat until crispy, then remove bacon and put aside. Reserve all the resultant bacon fat.

Cut the onion from pole to pole, cut off stem and root ends and slice the onion. Cook the onion in the bacon fat until it's translucent and somewhat tender.

Quarter, core and coarsely shred the cabbage. Add to the pot and toss with the onions and fat until coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, then uncover, toss again to mix and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook a minute or two more until the cabbage is barely tender. Eat, moan with pleasure and make some money this year.

YIELD: 6-8 servings

This is unbelievably good. Make sure you use sweet onions if at all possible.

Here's what your dinner plate should look like on New Year's Day:

New Year's dinner

Whether we'll actually have good luck and plenty money this year remains to be seen, of course, but we always hold out hope. If you haven't had your proper New Year's meal ... well, hurry up and make it tonight or tomorrow, and maybe the Powers That Be won't have noticed.

Shop New Orleans!   In last month's edition of Looka! I had a list of links to New Orleans businesses where you could do your Christmas shopping online. That way you could really help the city, whose local businesses badly need revenue, while getting lots of neat stuff for yourself. I decided to make this a permanent fixture of the site, and now the list of links to New Orleans online shopping has its own page.

There's tons of unique music, art, food, jewelry, clothing, gifts and much more, so help the city by shopping there, feel good about helping out and earn many cosmic karma points. Thanks!

December Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog, providing links, comments and sometimes lots more. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Mary Herczog, Steve Hochman, Dave Schmerler, Nettie DeAugustine, Diana Schwam, 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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