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looka,   v.   (Yatspeak)  
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  
2. My weblog - news, movies, food, music, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, my opinions and whatever else tickles my fancy. Please feel free to contribute.

Chuck Taggart
icq: 8591604

Looka! Archive

October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999

Recent Epinions:

1. The Isle of Skye

2. The French Laundry (Wine Country, CA): Meal of a lifetime

3. Sanamluang: Best Thai food in L.A.

4. Frontier Restaurant, Albuquerque, NM

5. Volkswagen New Beetle: Fun fun fun!

Weblogs I like:

The BradLands
Bring the Rock
Lake Effect
Mr. Barrett
the nubbin
One Swell Foop
Robot Wisdom
The Other Side
Whim and Vinegar

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  Stuff worth reading
   Updated (almost) daily | last tweak @ `1:47am PDT, 11/16/99

    My opinions are contained herein.
    If you don't want to read 'em, feel free to go elsewhere.

  Tuesday, November 30, 1999
Looka! is Certified 100% Free of Wu-Tang Clan names and links thereto, or anything else remotely related to Wu-Tang Clan, the sound of which could be used to torture me for information (I'd tell 'em everything, too).

If anyone finds a site that comes up with a bluegrass name, lemme know.

Oh dear.   Yesterday I got an email update from Len Vlahos, director of BookSense, saying that they're delaying the launch of the web site until after the new year. I'm afraid that by then it'll be too late, and some of the indie bookstores who participate in the BookSense program might suffer the same fate as the ones who went under last year.

This Christmas, if there's an independent bookstore near your home, please try to shop there instead of Amazon ... otherwise they might not be there next year.

Telephone exchanges are cool.   I might be dating myself a bit here, but when I was a kid I remember phone numbers being referred to with their exchange names. For instance, my grandparents' longtime number was WHitehall 7-8587 (i.e., 947-8587). It's very classy, and very retro, and even though the telephone company doesn't use exchanges anymore, lots of folks still like to do it.

If you'd like to refer to your telephone number in a cool and retro way, check out The Telephone EXchange Name Project. You can look up the first two digits of your phone number and find the actual historic exchange names that the phone company used. Neat neat neat! (My current number would have had the exchange WEbster back in the good old days in L.A.)

Bad guys, don't ride into eBay...   there's a new sheriff in town.

I don't care if you're sick of hearing about it, but everyone who keeps saying that it's a new century/millennium in a month is wrong.

Despite how whiny the author of this highly annoying article gets about how much he's annoyed by people like me who keep pointing out that the new millennium and century don't begin until next year ... well, that's TRUE. They DON'T. Yeah yeah yeah, we know, you all say ... but it's cooler to see, like, all the numbers change, like an odometer rolling over. Yes, that's cool. But it still isn't a new millennium or a new century. When you count to 100, you don't feckin' stop at 99.

Geez, I feel like a high school kid trying to stand his ground in the face of peer pressure. "C'mon, everyone else is saying it'll be a new century ... you're not cool if you don't say it too!" Well, everyone else is wrong. Feh!

  Monday, November 29, 1999
Tá sé go h-iontach!   Today Loyalist/Protestant and Nationalist/Catholic parties began choosing cabinet ministers for a joint Northern Ireland government, preparing for the granting of home rule tomorrow for the first time in 25 years (it didn't go so well last time). Wonderful. May there finally be peace.

Congratulations, Jim and Julie!   On Saturday my old friend Jim May married his beautiful bride, Julie Carson May. They were married amidst solemnity and humor, to the words of e.e. cummings, William Shakespeare and Neil Young, and to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (two of my favorite Bach pieces, in fact: "Sheep May Safely Graze" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire"), Tracy Chapman, Jorma Kaukonen and Beethoven. Most of our old friends from gradual school were there, and we had a complete blast. Have a great life together, y'all.

  Friday, November 26, 1999
(*moan*)   I hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving yesterday. I did, although I was so tired and sore afterward I'm beginning to wonder if I've become ... An Old Man.

Actually, preparing twelve separate dishes (most of them fairly labor-intensive) all by oneself for a single meal can tend to make someone a bit sore. I guess. Anyway, it was a relatively small affair this year, despite the overabundance of food (I like having lots of dishes) -- Gregory, Dule, Matt and Sufi came over and we all had a blast.

I was particularly pleased by two of the dishes I served, so I thought I'd share the recipes. I grabbed a few ideas from other chefs plus added a few of my own and came up with a Cornbread, Andouille and Celery Root Dressing to serve alongside the turkey. The celery root added great flavor as well as texture, and the dish looked really great with the bright red bell pepper all through it. Then I adapted a recipe from Bon Appetit for butternut squash and apples in maple syrup, played with that basic concept (mostly for the arrangement of the vegetables and fruit in the dish), changed it around and made it my own, to arrive at Baked Sweet Potatoes and Pears in a Bourbon Cane Syrup Glaze. This was fabulous and really pretty, and I highly recommend it for your holiday cooking. (I use the orange-fleshed yams that we grew up calling sweet potatoes).

My sister Melissa gave me a recipe for Peanut Butter Pie a while back, which I adapted slightly, using mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese. It kicked major butt. I also served a Chocolate Pecan Tart that was my final exam a couple of years ago in Pastry & Baking II at UCLA.

  Thursday, November 25, 1999
Happy Thanksgiving!   I've been cooking since Monday night. (Oy.) This year we're having ...

Orange-Sugared Pecans

Root Vegetable Chips with Chipotle Dip


Roast Turkey with Garlic-Ancho Chile
Paste and Giblet Gravy

Cornbread, Andouille and Celeriac Dressing

Spiced Baked Sweet Potatoes and Pears
with Bourbon Cane Syrup Glaze

Fennel Mashed Potatoes with Pancetta

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Lemon

Triple Cranberry Sauce

1998 Fetzer Gewürtztraminer, Redwood Valley, Mendocino County
1996 Lorane Valley Pinot Noir, Oregon


Cream of Walnut Soup

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Pie

Chocolate Pecan Tart
with Kahlua Whipped Cream

I hope everyone has a great meal today, and that everyone enjoys their time spent with friends and family.

Tomorrow is "Buy Nothing Day".   Sponsored by Adbusters, Buy Nothing Day is a 24-hour moratorium on consumer spending, which "draws attention to the global consequences of First World excess, and proves how empowering (and surprisingly difficult) it is to step out of the consumption stream for even a day." Keep your money in your pockets and don't buy a single thing tomorrow.

  Wednesday, November 24, 1999
My baby! *sob!*   On the way to work Monday morning, I stopped at the cleaners to drop my suit off. I parked right in front on Pico, opened the driver's side door of my beloved brand-new 1999 VW Beetle ... and then BAM!

In about a millisecond my door was hit by a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus that was speeding by, WAY too close to the parked cars. The initial impact knocked it all the way open, and then some other slightly jutted-out part of the bus hit it again, bending it back toward the front of the car. It very nearly came off its hinges.

The door is completely ruined, plus there's slight damage to the left front fender from where the door bent back, and God knows what else. The car's completely driveable, but I can't close the door; it won't get close than about 6 inches from being completely closed.

It seems that the L.A. Vehicle Code is not going to be on my side; apparently it states that anyone who opens a car door on the traffic side is always responsible. That said, the driver was recklessly close to my car. I had hardly had the door open more than 2 feet or so, and while I stood there for an hour waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I watched no less than 2 dozen other buses pass by, and none of them would have hit me.

Goddammit. (My poor wee bairn ... *cry*)

Look out, A.C. Nielsen.   Now that the world of blogs is being rated, we here at Looka! can't help but be caught up in just as much of the ratings frenzy as are the three major broadcast TV networks. Our present ranking at 38 out of the top 50 (a score of 6.0, with a 16 count) is enough to send our programming department into a panic. Obviously we're not reaching out to the Teeming Masses quite enough.

Henceforth, major programming changes are in store. We'll be concentrating our news linking to sensationalistic stories -- lots of Y2K hysteria, blood and gore (webcams near major freeway accident-prone spots!) and crimes of passion. We'll also consider more links to exciting sites with content that'll get our ratings way up!

Any linking to thought-provoking sites will be cancelled; what the public wants isn't too much braininess. More naked flesh is what we need. That, plus animal attacks, barfing college kids, faboo new game shows, and Mahirmania all the way. I'll get a webcam, and I'll become the new Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Web! (Except I won't get shot at the end.) We'll also launch our ad campaign -- banner ads, bus benches, supermarket checkout counter conveyor belt dividers ... the sky's the limit. Looka! will be a household word, just you wait.

Oh, speaking of game shows, Tonight I finally saw "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" for the first time, quite by accident. Here are my observations:

o The questions are unbelievably easy. I didn't see anyone get past the $64,000 level, but even that one was easy.

o These people use their crutches WAY too early.

o Regis Philbin is an idiot.
There was a question as to whose portrait will appear on the 2000 U.S. dollar coins. Choice D, the correct choice, was of course "Sacagawea", which ol' Rege pronounced, after a very obvious hesitation, "Sock-a-woggy". He then proceeded to mispronounce "Dom Pérignon" and "baguette". At least Alex Trebek actually reads his questions ahead of time and knows how to pronounce everything.

I can't wait for this show to return; I'm really looking forward to next year's brainteasers. "There's an thing called a hand at the end of your forearm. It has smaller things on it called fingers. How many fingers are at the end of your hand? Is it ... A. Three, B. Six, C. Five, or D. None, it's actually a hook."

Is that your final answer?

  Monday, November 22, 1999
No, really ...   Fun with magic pillows, head transplants and the neighborhood's spookily gullible kid, which you can recreate with Quicktime, even.

Thanks, Katy!   Last Saturday on "Down Home" I had country/folk singer-songwriter Katy Moffatt as my guest. She brought her guitar, sang four songs and we talked for almost an hour. It was fun. One of these days I'm gonna have to encode stuff like this in mp3 or RealAudio or Quicktime so y'all can listen. Anyway, her new album is called "Loose Diamond", produced by roots music guru Dave Alvin, and it's grand, lovely, pure country music (the real thing, not pop crap). By the way, if you visit Katy's web site and send in an email, you could win her new CD.

Uh, chill dude ...   All this fuss over Taco Bell food? It's inedible and always has been, despite the presence of that ubiquitous and annoying chihuahua.

  Friday, November 19, 1999
Aw, dammit ... R.I.P., Sir Doug.   Doug Sahm, of The Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados, died of natural causes yesterday. I was a big fan of both bands, and I thank my old friend Matt Brown for giving me my first Sir Douglas record (LP, of course) to listen to. His longtime bandmate Augie Meyers put it best: "The good Lord wanted to hear some Quintet and they weren't playing enough on the radio, I guess." I plan to play plenty on the radio tomorrow -- "Down Home", 3-5pm, KCSN 88.5 FM Los Angeles ... Radio for Music Lovers!

You bastards!   Mary Kay Bergman, the voice-over actress who portrayed almost all of the female characters in "South Park" has also died, apparently by her own hand. Mary Kay, for what it's worth, you cracked me up.

Chuq jumps on the latest Epinions bandwagon and becomes an affiliate ... voilà! Can someone else besides me nag them to add a Folk/Roots category to their Music section? I've got tons of reviews to write, none of which fit into their current genre categories.

New recipe added.   My sister Melissa Willmon sent me a fabulous recipe for Peanut Butter Pie ... have a go at it. If you really wanna be decadent, instead of 1 cup of peanut butter, use 1/2 cup p.b. and 1/2 cup Nutella. Jeezus Gawd.

Number, shmumber ...   My good friend Jon is annoyed that he took that semi-Czech IQ test and "only" scored a 144. Never mind that he was valedictorian of both his high school and college classes, plus he can calculate orbital paths of satellites and I still can't balance my checkbook. Oh well, better luck next time. By the way, check out the black and white photography gallery on his page -- it's great.

Psst. It doesn't work.   At least not in my experience. Years ago, my old friend and then-roommate Matt tried this with Ruby, his cat. It was a resounding failure on many levels, not the least of which was that I did not care to share my facilities with Ruby.

Speaking of cats...   You especially don't want 'em at your keyboard if they've just been at your turlet. (Via NTK.)

  Thursday, November 18, 1999
Buíochas arís ... maithiúnas inniu, siocháin amárach?   Another major step in the peace process in the North of Ireland, as the IRA have agreed to begin negotiations for disarmament. Sources say that the person who'll be doing the negotiating toward disarmament is the one who's in the position to do it -- the IRA's senior commander Brian Keenan.

As Luka Bloom sings in the best song on his wonderful new album "Salty Heaven", this idea will be what's needed next to cement peace in the North:

I open up my eyes
to the sunlight shining through
in the dream that takes me back
a single word rings true.
My memory awakens
to the horrors come to pass
one word in the morning light
brings freedom home at last.


for the ancient wounds still hurting
for the wrongs I've never known
for all the children left to die
near fields where corn was grown
like the ones who braved the ocean
in the fever sheds to burn
let all the hatred leave these shores
never to return


Don't get me started...   NBC is running this bullshit TV movie "Y2K" this weekend -- I was unfortunate enough to see a trailer for this tripe which depicted planes falling from the sky. Sheesh. I truly believe that exploitative crap like this will exacerbate the worries of all the people who are already wigging out over all this, and I truly believe that the worst problems caused by Y2K will by by people wigging out unnecessarily.

Oh, speaking of Y2K...   I had been meaning to pick up a good bottle of champagne for New Year's Eve early, because I expect that if I had waited until the last minute, there'd be nothing left on the shelves but André Cold Duck (feh). I popped into Wally's in Westwood the other day and after musing over the selections, prices, and store recommendations, I settled on a bottle of Roederer Estates 1993 Brut Anderson Valley L'Ermitage. It was highly recommended by the folks at The Wine Spectator (a "93", even though I think the idea of assigning a numeric 100-scale value to a wine is silly); here's what they had to say, which was seconded by the guy at Wally's:

Rich toasty aromas lead off, introducing a muscularly structured California bubbly that features a fine blend of citrus, hazelnut, spice and green apple flavors. Despite its power, it has plenty of finesse, finishing crisp and clean, with a lingering touch of lemon-lime. Drink now through 2004. (5700 cases produced)
Yummers. Sounds like we'll be doing well on New Year's Eve. Actually, I think I'd like to pick up another bottle of this to serve with a good meal sometime, in addition to swilling it at a New Year's party.

"A remarkably sinister drink."   Despite the unwanted notoriety that came from my having co-written an innocent little article about the liquor absinthe and its history in New Orleans' drinking scene, plus its sordid aftermath, I must confess a fascination with the subject. I'm fond of the current generation of pastis drinks (Herbsaint, Pernod, Ricard, et al.), and fortunately they lack the brain-melting toxin thujone that caused Verlaine, Poe and Van Gogh all their absinthe-related difficulties. There was an interesting article in Salon a while back about one traveller's experience quaffing the Actual Stuff in Barcelona (where it's always been legal), served properly with all the required accoutrements (that swill they serve in the Czech Republic apparently doesn't come close).

  Wednesday, November 17, 1999
Woohoo!   The most recent album by La Bottine Souriante, one of the best bands in the world, has finally been released in the U.S. It's been retitled "Rock and Reel", and the song titles have been translated into English, but other than that it's exactly the same as its difficult-to-find import-only version from Québec (previously titled "Xième", or "Tenth" in English). It'll be a contender for my Favorite Album of 1999, and its blend of French-Canadian traditional songs and tunes and a jazzy horn section (plus newly composed tunes and a gorgeous rendering of a suite of music by Finnish composer Arto Järvelä) is best described as "instant happy music". Buy it now. Thank me later.

What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?   Oh, jeezus gawd ... it only gets worse. (Gee, I didn't know that entertainment became a shallow image of its former self when "Diff'rent Strokes" went off the air...)

Mmmmm ... new blog = tasty morsel.   I'm delighted to see that Jen of Whim & Vinegar fame has started a food-related blog called Eat, Link and Be Merry (Dangit, why didn't I think of that? Prolly 'cause I just glom all the food stuff in here with everything else.)

Lynette (who also talks about food in her blog every now and again), in an email in which we were talking about extra-virgin olive oil, mentioned that she thought of me as the resident chef among bloggers. I'm pleased to be thought of as such by at least herself, but I'm doubly pleased to see that there's at least one more blogger who'll be talking about food regularly. Go visit!

Speaking of food and computers...   An amusing anecdote from Tom Fitzmorris:

The WordPerfect spell checker on my new computer just flagged "muffuletta." Do you realize just how local a word that is? Speaking of that, when I spell-check a document that has Emeril's name in it, the suggestions the spell checker offers are "immoral" and "amoral." It's a good thing I know the chef is neither.
The above arrived in my emailbox courtesy of Tom's "New Orleans MenuLetter", a daily must-read for me and for anyone remotely interested in New Orleans cuisine (and it's good for foodies in general, too). It's not just that I feel obligated to encourage people to subscribe every time I quote from it -- I really do recommend it. And it's free! (My favorite price!)

By the way, if you're craving a muffuletta, visit Progress Grocery.

Buíochas mór le Dia.   Finally, the hard-line position of the Loyalists in the North of Ireland has softened, and a huge step has been taken toward the establishment of peace in the North. Predictably, Ian "Belfast Says No" Paisley won't have anything to do with any aspect of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, but he won't live forever. Having spent time in both Belfast and Derry (two thriving, amazing cities full of amazing people, despite all their "Troubles"), I truly believe that the only road to peace is reconciliation. The Nationalist/Catholic and Loyalist/Protestant communities of the North of Ireland have so much more in common than what sets them apart (which is very little, when you get right down to it).

Dump it all! Dump it all!   Arthur Louis of the San Francisco Chronicle advocates dumping at least some of your Microsoft stock.

If I only had a brain...   A while back Jason posted that he'd come across an online IQ test, some of which was in Czech. I've always found IQ tests to be annoying, but for some reason I followed the link and gave it a try. True to form, it began annoying me right after the first section (which was kinda fun). I got a 159. If I'm so damn smart, how come I can't balance my checkbook?

I commemorated this achievement by re-reading Woody Allen's "The Whore of Mensa".

  Tuesday, November 16, 1999
Just when you thought the Patent Office couldn't get any screwier... they grant a patent for an idea on how to fix dates on non-Y2K-compliant computers, and now the patent holder wants millions.

Just when you thought people couldn't behave any worse... there's Etiquette Hell.

Just when you thought you'd seen everything... there's LeoFest.

  Monday, November 15, 1999
"Dogma" reviewed, mostly favorably, in the L.A. Weekly, the L.A. New Times and with a thumbs-up by a 71-year-old Catholic grandmother.

My favorite one is "clank!"   New Orleans food critic Tom Fitzmorris came up with this amusing entry in his series of Top Ten lists -- an occasional feature of his excellent free week-daily New Orleans MenuLetter:

Ten Ways To Tell You're In A Restaurant Where They Don't Work Very Hard

1. Patty melt. The only distinction between this and a cheeseburger is that it's served on wheat toast instead of a bun. Wow. . . the creativity!
2. "We proudly serve Campbell's Soups." It's nice to know that they're proud about something, even if the pride has to be canned and shipped in from Camden, New Jersey.
3. Today's special: Hamburger steak. Tomorrow's special: salisbury steak. Day-after-tomorrow's special: meatballs and spaghetti. Day-after-that's special: shepherd's pie. When will that batch of ground meat run out?
4. Crust. Not on the top, but around the edges.
5. Hamburgers hit the grill with an audible "clank!"
6. Fried cheese available in any form. There is no known instance of a restaurant actually buying cheese, slicing it, breading it, and frying it for this dish.
7. "We proudly serve Imperial Margarine." Only the best for their customers!
8. Hash browns with everything. They can be cooked on the same grill with the burgers. A lot less trouble than French fries. The advantage to you? Well. . . keep thinking, we'll come up with something.
9. Open face roast beef. This is a roast beef poor boy gone terribly, terribly astray. In some places, it's called a sandwich, but I can't figure that one at all.
10. Melted cheese on apple pie. How did this ever get started? Why do people keep thinking it's good? Because the counter card says so, is why.

To number 6 I'd add "jalapeño poppers", those now-ubiquitous cheese-stuffed jalapeño peppers that are exactly the same everywhere they're offered (usually a bar or a place with a bar menu), 'cause I think they're all made at the same factory, then frozen and shipped nationwide. And I totally agree with number 10; I just don't get it. Wes says it's wonderful, but ... ick. Must be an east coast thing; I remember Travis Bickle ordering pie with cheese in "Taxi Driver", and look how he turned out.

By the way, you can subscribe to Tom's excellent email newsletter for free, and I recommend it.

  Saturday, November 13, 1999
British Mac users - colo(u)r them red.   Apparently speakers of the Queen's English are seeing red due to Apple's decision to scrap British-English localization for Mac OS 9. From now on it'll be center, Daylight Saving Time and the Trash instead of centre, British Summer Time and the Wastebasket. I'm with them on this one. Those changes will render the OS completely unintelligible and utterly unusable.

  Friday, November 12, 1999
Pasties and a G-string, beer and a shot!   Fun with strippers, girly bars, and The Supreme Court of the United States. (From Slate, via Wes)

How trustworthy is TRUSTe?   Privacy watchdog group TRUSTe has declined to investigate RealNetworks despite the appalling recent revelation that their RealJukebox contains and transits a unique ID number and clandestinely reports your listening habits to the company ... despite the fact that's website displays the TRUSTe logo and will apparently be allowed to continue to do so.

Nice people, slightly unclear on the concept.   Yesterday I received the following email, my favorite non-birthday-related one of the day:

Can you accommodate 150 people for a luncheon on December 17th. Your website doesn't indicate banquet rooms. I'm new to the area.
My reply:

I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, and I'm afraid I cannot accommodate more than about five or six guests for luncheon or dinner (and then only if I extend the dining table with a card table).

Unfortunately, luncheons and dinners at my home are by invitation only.

Kind regards,


Hmmm ... but if I rented a few tables we could probably fit about 25 people in the back yard. Well, maybe we just ought to wait until I open my own restaurant some day. :-)

I love the Millers.   Buddy Miller and Julie Miller, that is. My friend Bill Tolbert turned me on to them a couple of years ago, while I was at a barbecue at his then-residence, the famous and palatial Pine Hill Farm in Durham, N.C., site of many great house concerts (thanks, bro!). They're a married couple, singers and songwriters, who are two of the best American roots musicians around today. (I describe them thusly without using the word "country", because there is so much automatic prejudice against anyone remotely twangy or described as country because of the preponderance of really crappy mainstream Nashville crapola. Believe me, there's a whole world of great country music, American roots music, out there under the glitz and the gloss of icky pop country. Do yourself a favor and listen to trustworthy people like me when we recommend great musicians like them, despite the fact that it's country music. Okay? Okay. I'm done ranting now.)

Anyway, I heard a fabulous interview and live performance today on NPR's "Fresh Air", and I highly recommend it for listening while you surf. Their two new albums are both fantastic too, btw ... Buddy's new one is called "Cruel Moon", and Julie's is "Broken Things", both on Hightone Records.

Me? Pure? As the driven mud!   Having read myself described as a purist in a blog bit about affiliating oneself with an online business (heya Foopmeister!), let me just clarify my position.

Hey, I ain't got nothin' against anybody making a little money. In fact, you may notice that I'm still a CDnow affiliate and don't have any immediate plans to change that. (I wish *I* had had the idea to start such a business in my parents' basement when I was in my early 20s.) In my screed of October 22 I resolved (specifically) not to buy from anymore, to eventually change my site's book links from them to BookSense when it's finally possible, and I urged folks to support independent booksellers (and I still do ... do it whenever you can). This is a purely personal decision and a purely personal view, though. If you prefer to shop there, or if you're an Amazon affiliate, that's entirely your choice and none o' my business. No, I wouldn't think you're Evil Incarnate or a stinky person or a tacky dresser with a bad haircut. Heck, I'd still buy you a beer (as long as I was previously inclined to do so in the first place. :-)

Quote of the day:   "I took a course in speed reading and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It's about Russia."  -- Woody Allen

  Thursday, November 11, 1999
Okay, so ...   It's my birthday today, and I'm taking the day off. I hope a few other people get the day off too, as it's a national holiday here in the States. (Veteran's Day is what's celebrated, not Chuck's Birthday. Not yet, at least.)

Lots of cool, interesting, famous or infamous people were born today: novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (my favorite shared birthday and one of my favorite writers, born 1922), Russian novelist Fëdor Dostoevsky (1821), Academy Award-winning cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp (1922), former Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega Saavedra (1945), some kid named Leonardo DiCaprio (1974), beloved comic actor Stubby Kaye, who not only played patty-cake with Jessica Rabbit but also played the "Fat Writer" in "Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?" (1918), XTC singer/songwriter/guitarist/god Andy Partridge (1953), Swedish actress and Ingmar Bergman stalwart Bibi Andersson (1935), Gen. George S. "I shoveled shit in Louisiana" Patton (1885), mafioso Salvatore Luciana, AKA Charles "Lucky" Luciano (1896) and the current King of Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1955 ... Hey, we have the same name! Well, sort of ...)

Quote of the day:   "The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough is love."   -- Henry Miller, writer

  Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Dubya ... cee.   George Dubya might've flunked that foreign policy quiz the other day, but he was kickin' academic butt at Yale, with grades mostly in the 70s. His highest grade was an 88, his lowest a 69. Hmph. If I had brought home grades like that my folks would've grounded me until I was 38.

Head for the hills!   The end of the world is nigh ... or so saith this doomsayer wingnut. There's this rebuttal site dedicated to him, as well as this one and an article in Wired. (Further evidence of this guy's wingnuttiness is that he's a regular guest on Art Bell's radio show. 'Nuff said.) Some people really need to take a pill. (Note to self: Buy bottle of Dom Perignon for New Year's Eve this week, before it's too late and they all sell out.)

Don't get ripped off when buying spices.   You can do this by simply declining to buy the criminally overpriced spices you see in your local supermarket, packed by companies like McCormick and Spice Islands, who mark them up between 500% and 2,000% from what you'd pay if you bought them in bulk. Russ Parsons talks about this in today's L.A. Times Food Section (which will go into their pay-for-access archive in a week). L.A. residents can get great bulk spices for CHEAP at All Spice at 507. N. Fairfax between Melrose and Beverly, and you can buy them in 1/4 ounce increments (it smells great in that store). You can also look on the web at Penzey's Spices for home-cook quantities and an amazing selection, or The San Francisco Herb Company for bulk supplies to chefs.

Hey Doug! Remember me?!   Um ... we met at Clifftop ... for about fifteen seconds? No?

I wonder if Doug Van Gundy is hearing a lot of that nowadays. Doug's a old-time fiddler in West Virginia, and for the last several years I've been attending he's been the main stage emcee at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, W.V. (one of my favorite music festivals).

Well boy howdy, I was reading Newsweek the other day and came across an article that said Doug had just won a quarter of a million dollars on that Regis Philbin game show, "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire". (That's about 23 times what he makes in a year.) Go Doug! An old-time musician with money ... what a concept!

By the way, Doug has recently made a fine album of traditional Appalachian fiddling with young fiddler Jake Krack called "Two Far Gone", which you can order online from Elderly Instruments, a stalwart and trustworthy company you see at most of the folk/trad music festivals.

Hmm ... Brad Pitt on the cover of Webster's Unabridged?   My friend Sean gets another letter published in this week's Suck about how to boost dictionary sales.

Bummer.   Bassist Billy Horton has just quit The Hot Club of Cowtown, my favorite Western swing/jazz band. Just as I was hoping he'd sing more, too. Here's hoping Whit and Elana find another good bassist/singer soon.

These blues are all mine.   South Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit is profiled in this month's OffBeat.

  Monday, November 8, 1999
Happy birthday, Mike!   It's my uncle Mike's birthday today. He's only a few years older; we grew up together, and among other things he turned me on to a lot of great music when I was younger. (I'm doing my best to return the favor nowadays.) I can't wait to hear about the meal he'll have in whichever great New Orleans restaurant he and Rhonda go to celebrate.

House concerts rule.   Perhaps my favorite way to hear music is at a house concert, where a musician performs unamplified (or minimally so) in someone's living room with a small group of listeners. We used to have a series of these in L.A., but they're sadly departed; now, though, Ron Stockfleth and Ed Barnum have got a new and wonderful series of them going in Altadena. But the ones that for the last few years have seemed the most exciting are the ones in the Triangle area of North Carolina, in Durham and near Chapel Hill, that are put on by my friend Steve Gardner and his nonprofit corporation Forty Acres. (If'n I was rich I'd fly out there for every one.) House concerts get a writeup in today's New York Times, including a great mention for Steve's shows, and a quote, no less (go, Gardner!).

I'm the what? (But I haven't got a thing to wear!)   Jeffrey Goldberg ruminates on his being a suspected Antichrist in the eyes of Jerry Falwell. Amusing, although the underlying events and attitudes are appalling -- especially the anti-Semitic comments from one of the wingnut authors of the popular "Left Behind" series of novels, about life on Earth after the "Rapture". In a related article, Alex Heard writes about more Apocalyptic nuttiness in "My Son, The Antichrist". (From Slate, via Wes.)

Quote of the day:   "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."  -- 19th century British writer, artist and designer William Morris, one of the early forces behind the Arts and Crafts movement.

  Saturday, November 6, 1999
Microsoft is a monopoly which has abused its monopolistic power to stifle innovation and hurt consumers by limiting consumer choice, says de judge. Like, duh.

Dubya ... eff.   The Governor of Texas and would-be President flunked a foreign policy quiz administered by a TV reporter. His campaign replies that he's "not a Jeopardy! contestant". Then he opined that the coup in Pakistan was good for Asia. Or, to put it this way ...

"White," said the candidate. "I definitely think white." His campaign spokesman said later, "Black. He most definitely thinks black. White was merely an interpretation of events." Uh huh.

I work on the 43rd floor of a Los Angeles high-rise. I do lots of elevator travelling. This makes me glad I've always got my Palm Pilot with me, loaded with a chess program and some short stories to help pass the time, and now I think I'll start carrying my cell phone too.

  Friday, November 5, 1999
Yahoo über alles.   Yahoo have begun to pro-actively censor their discussion boards, even if there are no complaints from other users. You may not say anything controversial, or you will be shot and sent to the Russian Front, etc.

Never thought I'd hear myself singing the praises of Usenet (after I gave up on it years ago), but at least you can say what you want to there. Hone that killfile and go for it.

Old fart, that's me.   As my mumblety-mumblth birthday approaches, it keeps getting driven home how out of touch I am with what's going on in kidworld these days, other than the fact that all their Top 40 music sucks.

Several weeks ago I went to see The Ranchero Brothers, a.k.a. Rhett and Murry from The Old 97s (one of my favorite bands, incidentally), and Rhett was wearing a Pokémon T-shirt that said "Pikachu" on the back. An audience member commented on it, and I had very little idea what it was all about, other than it's "some kid thing".

Not long after I was enjoying a superb avocado bacon cheeseburger at L.A. Burger, a teeny-tiny burger and Japanese food stand near my hood (ain't L.A. grand?), whereupon in a conversation with the owner's 6-year-old son I had the entire Pokémon menagerie, hierarchy and hegemony recited to me. I couldn't have been more clueless if I had just arrived from another planet. Now the masses of kid-dom are crashing the phone system of a major studio in an attempt to get free tix to the forthcoming Pokemon motion picture epic.

Y'know, I think I'll just stay out of touch, go sit in my backyard and listen to some old-time fiddle tunes.

"Dogma" uncurbed.   Writer-director Kevin Smith talks about his forthcoming film, and about how certain "splinter" quarters don't like how he expresses his own faith experience in his work.

Back to EMT school, lads.   I know these guys' hearts were in the right place, but not necessarily their minds. They're never gonna hear the end of the razzing.

Quote of the day:   "Don't take life so serious, son -- it ain't nohow permanent."  -- Walt Kelly

  Thursday, November 4, 1999
Good news; bad delivery.   First off, he's guilty. (We already knew that, but it's good to hear a jury say it.)

However, the delivery of the McKinney verdicts were tainted by, once again, irresponsible reporting from nearly everyone. The news media sat waiting with bated breath to instantly report a verdict, any verdict, before hearing all the verdicts together in their full context, and immediately reported that the jury found McKinney guilty of "only" second-degree murder. Various media outlets immediately declared it to be "stunning"; CourtTV has a commentary on the issue, even though they're just as guilty as MSNBC and Fox.

I was watching CourtTV for the delivery of the verdict(s). Their immediate, shrill report was thought out for about a fifth of a second before it was shouted to the world by anchors Clara Tuma and June Grasso:

"A stunning decision from this jury. This jury has decided that Aaron McKinney is not guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder. They did not go with the prosecution. They've also decided that Aaron McKinney is guilty of aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Aaron McKinney has also been found not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, meaning that the death sentence is not an option. Sentencing will go to the judge, who has the option of giving McKinney between 20 years to life in prison ..." (Tuma)

"If they found him guilty of second-degree murder, and robbery, how could they not find him guilty of felony murder. How could they separate the fact that the murder took place during a robbery, which is a felony?" (Grasso)

This debate over the non-facts, which seemed to the non-thinking anchors to indicate a gross miscarriage of justice on the part of the jury, went on for minutes. Claims from the talking heads that "the jury didn't buy the prosecution's case" came out even though these people had no idea what the jury did or didn't buy. Finally, it was interrupted by cries of "Misinformation, misinformation!" from Tuma as the collective of reporters managed to take their heads out of their asses for a few minutes and find out what was really going on.

McKinney was found guilty of second-degree murder in the commission of the felonies of kidnapping and aggravated robbery, and THEREBY was also found guilty of first-degree felony murder. It makes much more sense than what was being reported before, so why did they report what had happened before they were sure what had happened? They leapt to unreasonable conclusions and reported their conclusions as fact based on the verdicts having been read out of the order in which they were expected to be read.

This is just the latest example of what absolutely infuriates me about television "journalism" today, the reason why I have for years refused to watch local TV news for any reason other than for earthquake information or local disaster information, and why I'm sick of the national TV media as well. In their lust to report anything, even when they have no real news, even when they're reporting rumors and hearsay, and in their frenzy to get what they think are the facts onto the air first without pausing for so much as a second to verify their information, they abrogate their responsibility as journalists.

At least CourtTV seems to own up to its role in this:

Our coverage of McKinney's verdict was initially confusing, but never intentionally so. Sometimes, as shown by Court TV and other networks, the rush to bring a story almost tramples the story itself."
In other words, we didn't intend to offer you misinformation; it just happened that way. How ironic that that defense of their shoddy reporting almost mirrors Aaron McKinney's shoddy defense of his actions -- he didn't intend to kill Matthew Shepard, just to rob him and beat him up.

My lack of trust for these people is beginning to know no bounds. I don't really mind getting my news ten minutes later, an hour later, a day later, or as long as it takes for them to check their goddamn facts and get it RIGHT.

  Wednesday, November 3, 1999
He's alive! (Barely, though.)   'Member Brother Theodore? I sure do. He used to freak me out when he appeared on the David Letterman show, but I loved every minute of it. He hasn't appeared on that show in 10 years, nor has he done much else, but he's still around. His background is fascinating, and although I wish it were more exhaustive, I found an interesting article about him yesterday. Someone should do a book or a TV special about him. (from Getting It, a new [to me] webzine I came across)

Those Germans have got one kooky language.

Ooo ... "Ender" movie update.   I'd been hearing for quite a while about a film version of the marvelous sf novel Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Here's some news from Card about the progress of the script, including an excerpt thereof. I hope they can pull this one off.

Today's birthdays:   Photographer Walker Evans (1903), my old classmate Tony's dad Charles Bronson (1922), cousin of famous actress Olympia Dukakis (Gawd, she was brilliant in "Moonstruck") and son of Greek immigrants Michael Dukakis (1933), and recently fatwa'ed playwright Terrence McNally (1939).

  Tuesday, November 2, 1999
"I never drink ... wine."   Actually, I do, but our friend "D." doesn't. We watched Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" on laserdisc the other night. It's only the first time I'd seen it since its initial theatrical release, and I'm still annoyed that the critics slammed it so badly. It's creepy as hell, visually stunning with all of the effects done the old-fashioned way, "in-camera", without complicated opticals or digital effects, and Gary Oldman is perfectly over-the-top as the title character. I think that years from now when they're writing textbooks about Coppola's work, they'll treat this film with the respect it deserves. There's an interesting profile on Coppola in Salon that's worth reading.

Speaking of Dracula, there's a newly composed score by Philip Glass that's been put to the 1931 Tod Browning film "Dracula", performed by the Kronos Quartet. I've never been a big fan of Glass' in general, but I've always loved his work for films. It'll be out on DVD soon, and despite the misgivings of the Chronicle's reviewer, I can't wait to see/hear it.

Oh, fer Gawd's sakes...   I put up with an incredible amount of crap from teachers and principals in elementary school, from corporal punishment and public humiliation as discipline to general meanness, and they all got away with it scot-free. Now in Cincinnati a music teacher has been officially reprimanded for letting a bunch of seventh-graders sing a Weird Al Yankovic song that some kid's momma didn't like. Oh please. (Via The Obscure Store)

Quote of the day:   "While it may be true that a watched pot never boils, the one you don't keep an eye on can make an awful mess of your stove."   -- Edward Stevenson. (I can personally attest to this.)

  Monday, November 1, 1999
Doing the right thing.   District Judge Barton Voigt has disallowed the "gay panic" and drug-induced diminished capacity contentions of Aaron McKinney's defense. I hope this trial will now be brought to its swift and inevitable conclusion.

Sowwy Wudy.   U. S. District Judge Nina Gershon issued a 40-page opinion granting the Brooklyn Museum's request for an injunction against Mayor Rudy "Fear No Art" Giuliani's attempt to strip the museum of millions of dollars of funding because it exhibited a painting he didn't like.

It's been a good day for judges.

October entries for Looka! have been archived.

Thanks to regular Looka! contributors Wesly Moore, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Tom Krueger, Michael Pemberton and Steve Gardner.
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