the gumbo pages

looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  
2. --n. My weblog, focusing on food and drink, music, New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, my life, my opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles my fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 1:40pm PDT, 4/30/2002

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2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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My adventures on Mardi Gras Day 2002


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In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Wally's Wine and Spirits

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Now reading:

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

Everything's Eventual, by Stephen King.

The South American Gentleman's Companion: Exotic Drinking Book, by Charles Baker.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

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

Miles of Music

No Depression


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

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Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


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

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

The Mirror Project


Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

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

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Films seen recently:

Donnie Darko (****-1/2)
Murder by Numbers (**-1/2)
The Time Machine (**-1/2)
Y Tu Mamá También (****)
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (****)
Training Day (**-1/2)
A Beautiful Mind (**-1/2)
Gosford Park (****)
The Count of Monte Cristo (***)
Brotherhood of the Wolf (**)
Black Hawk Down (***-1/2)
Vanilla Sky (*-1/2)
2001: A Space Odyssey (*****)

Lookin' at da TV:

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

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
Considered Harmful
David Grenier
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jonno / now
The Leaky Cauldron
The Making of a Restaurant
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
The Other Side
Q Daily News
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wil Wheaton Dot Net

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

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

The Final Frontier:

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


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Epinions I've written:

1. John O'Groats: Home cooking, better than home

2. Bombay Sapphire: Gin haters, repent!

3. The Cajun Bistro, WeHo: Skip it

4. Absolut Kurant: I'd sooner drink Robitussin

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

6. Volkswagen New Beetle: Fun fun fun!
and more...

What's in Chuq's Visor? (My favorite Palm OS applications)

AvantGo *
Launcher III *
Showtimes *
WineScore *
Zagat Guide *

(* = superfavorite)

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Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS 9.1 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work.

weblog and (almost) daily blather

  "This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island,
  From the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me."
  -- Woody Guthrie

  Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Da winnah!   Yesterday's visit to Clementine (yes, I found their web site, finally) for the penultimate grilled cheese of the day -- Mozzarella, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Herb Pesto on Olive Bread -- wasn't quite enough, of course. I had to go back today to try their Grilled Cheese Recipe Contest Winner and see if it would be good.

As I may have mentioned before, three of my favorite words in the English language, when combined in this order, are "applewood", "smoked" and "bacon". Therefore, you might completely understand my squeal of delight to see the sign announcing the contest winner (Suzanne Blackburn) and her creation being served today:

Cheddar and Applewood-smoked Bacon
with Green Apples on Organic Whole Wheat Bread
Oh my. It was good. :-)

One quibble, though -- I'm a crispy-bacon person, and the bacon on the sandwich wasn't. Still, the flavor was so good that I didn't really mind, but when I make this one at home I'll probably like it even more since the bacon'll be nice and crispy.

(Slight tangent -- the best and least messy way to make bacon is to forget about the frying pan and stovetop. Get a sheet pan and line the bacon up on it, then place in a 350°F oven. Flip the slices over after 8-10 minutes, and let it roast slowly until nice and crispy. Drain on towels as usual, and don't forget to save the drippings.)

Although I'll miss the Grilled Cheese of the Day, the happy news is that some of the sandwiches went over so well that they'll be added to the regular menu.

Oh, about that prescription that appears in this month's title bar ... well, you can only do that if you're a resident of Lafayette, Louisiana; if you're attending ... that big festival in New Orleans right now, the mere mention of which will get me grumpificating again; OR ... if you're willing to do a little mail-ordering.

Creole's Stuffed Bread is one of the great, underrated foods of southwest Louisiana. It seems so simple -- a blend of ground beef and pork, sliced smoked sausage, sliced jalapeños, cheese and spices stuffed inside homemade bread -- a little bunlike savory pastry with plenty of room for the stuffing. The above Rx is what I tell anyone attending Jazzfest (dammit, I wasn't going to say that word) or anyone visiting Lafayette. I could wax poetic for hours, but instead I'll just say that it's incredibly, incredibly good. If I may borrow two superlatives from my friend Dean, "It's one of the best things I've ever put into my mouth ... so good it'll make ya slap ya mamma." That sums it up rather well.

Fortunately, it's now possible to mail-order Creole's Stuffed Bread in case-sized quantities. The thing to do is go in with some friends and order a few cases to save on shipping, stick them in the freezer, and whenever you want one just take one out, brush it with melted butter and pop it into a 350°F oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. One of the big ones along with some mac and cheese and some good spicy greens makes a great meal. One of the little ones is The World's Greatest Snack Food.

Have one. Spread the word. I wanna see this stuff in supermarkets, dammit!

That's right, blame the 6-year-old victim.   Just when you thought the Catholic Church abuse/coverup/blamemongering scandal couldn't get any more appalling, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston (who is being called on to resign by nearly half of his flock) said in court documents that "negligence" by an abused child and his parents contributed to the abuse.

The church hierarchy, in their arrogance apparently willing to blame anyone but themselves, have gone too far with this one. This man needs to be ministering to a flock of caribou in northern Alaska, or else perhaps to fellow prisoners in the pokey after being convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Constitution? What Constitution?   Roy Moore, the Neanderthal Man who currently serves as Chief Justice of the State of Alabama, apparently wasn't content with posting the Ten Commandments in schools and courtrooms, and with making shockingly homophobic and blatantly discriminatory comments in denying a lesbian mother custody of her child. Now he's suspended jury trials in Alabama until October 1, in an effort to "save money".

U. S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2, Clause 3
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

U. S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Last I heard, Alabama was a member of the Union and still obliged to honor the above words.

Quelle surprise.   A U. S. Senate probe has determined that collusion amongst the oligarchy of oil company and refinery owners has intentionally reduced the supply of gasoline to increase profits. Somebody hurry up and invent cold fusion, please.

  Monday, April 29, 2002
Enough, already!   <rant>I'm really getting sick of getting a dozen or more Klez virii every single goddamn day. Fortunately, being a Mac user, I'm completely immune, but I've had enough of having to download these damned things every time I check my mail, particularly if I'm on dialup. You Windows people really need to get your crap together and make sure you don't get infected, and make doubly sure that you don't pass your diseases on to other people. Keep your anti-virus software up to date, or else don't connect to the net!</rant>

Oh, and it goes without saying that the pimply little bastards who write virii like this should be boiled alive in oil when they're caught.

Can you tell that I'm in a shitty mood this week due to my non-presence in New Orleans? I warned ya's! I really need to go to Stevie's and get some gumbo.

Okay, I'll try to relax now   and talk about food and music. That usually helps.

Pastrami!   I'm having a newfound love affair with this stuff. I'm a born-again pastrami lover!

In my quest to try to have as many of Clementine's Grilled Cheese Sandwich of the Day offerings until the end of the month (tomorrow, ack!), Wes and I went on Saturday. He'd heard me raving about the place for months now, so I figured it was time he got to enjoy it himself. I suggested the place and he looked a little indecisive, so I said, "The Grilled Cheese Sandwich of the Day is pastrami and Swiss with sauerkraut on rye." His eyes twinkled and he said, "That sounds doable!" It was not only doable, it was delicious.

I'm wondering why I managed to attain adulthood without ever having tasted pastrami. I guess that New Orleans isn't much of a pastrami town, at least not around where I grew up, and it's always seemed to be an East Coast thing to me. In fact, the first time I ever tasted pastrami was after the astonished reaction of my friend Hiroki Takiguchi (yes, he of the Crawfish-Sea Urchin Battle fame), who couldn't believe that I was in my twenties and had never tasted the stuff. He immediately took me to the legendary Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City (favored by my pals in the band Red Meat) and ... well, it was good, but I don't recall a compulsion to have more. At this point, I can't imagine why.

We were at a party recently where catered sandwiches were brought in, and Wes gave me a bite of his pastrami sandwich. It was heavenly. I don't know what I was thinking of in 1985, but better late than never.

For those of you who wondered (like me, for a while) what the hell pastrami actually is ... no big deal, just smoked corned beef. Ah, but it's all in the spicing and the cure!

The pastrami at Clementine was beautiful -- perfectly seasoned, perfectly smoked, just the right amount of fat but not greasy in the least. As with everything at that place, it wasn't overdone. The small amount of 'kraut on the sandwich was the perfect amount to complement and not overpower, the cheese was perfectly gooey without smothering the meat, and the meat ... well, like I said. Heaven. The only thing ... I like rye bread, but I don't care for the flavor of caraway, which I find does tend to overpower other flavors. I love the Russian-Georgian-Armenian-style rye that they make at Tbilisi & Yerevan Bakery in West Hollywood -- no caraway!

It occurs to me that pastrami, Swiss and sauerkraut on good French would make a great, although decidedly non-traditional, poor boy.

Sickening net.fact of the day.   Wanna know what happens when you do a Google search for "pastrami"? Wanna know what comes up as the first link?

Some horrifying recipe for "a vegan version of pastrami" made of seitan, "a meat analogue made from mixing equal parts vital gluten flour and water, and flavouring it". Seitan is very appropriately named, being a homonym for "Shaitan", which is both Hebrew and Arabic for Satan. Trying to make some faux-pastrami from a mixture of flour and water (that sounds like library paste) is the height of blasphemy and hellishness! Get thee behind me, seitan!

Here's something I don't get.   Why do so many vegans, some of whom eschew the very idea of meat with a jihad-like ferfor, try to create all these bastardized products that are supposed to be like meat?

Batties, strong as ever.   We went to see Battlefield Band at McCabe's on Saturday, who were great, as usual. They've had yet another major lineup change, and I don't think I've ever known any other band that's had so many changes of membership yet still stayed true to their sound, while absorbing great new things from the new members all along.

I was looking forward to the three-lineups-ago lineup lasting for a while, as the great Davy Steele, formerly of Ceolbeg, had joined; I was a huge fan of his. Sadly, he was only with the band for a couple of years when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and subsequently died about a year ago.

He was replaced by Karine Polwart, who fit in quite well yet added the new dimension of female vocals to the band. She decided to leave after about a year and a half, as did the amazing John McCusker, who joined the Batties at 17 and was with them for 11 years, enriching their music immeasurably. He's now getting married to his longtime sweetheart Kate Rusby, who is perhaps England's most accomplished traditional singer. Quite a busy lot, this lot.

The Batties managed to find themselves another astonishing 18-year-old fiddler, Alasdair White, from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides ("Which are some islands off the West Coast of Scotland, not another planetary system," founding member Alan Reid quipped during the show). He was already a master of his instrument at 13, and as it worked out Battlefield Band producer/manager Robin Morton heard him playing at Temple Records studios, accompanying on recording sessions for the new album by Gaelic singer Christime Primrose. As John had just left the band, Robin suggested the idea of Alasdair to the lads, who approved immediately. Robin passed the suggestion along to Alasdair, who apparently went into shock and nearly had to be revived. An hour or so later, he was in.

He's a very accomplished and mature musician, more traditionally-oriented than John and seemed to be well beyond his years. I'm looking forward to seeing his further contributions to the band as the years go by. A multi-instrumentalist as well, he played cittern at the show as well as fiddle, and on the last number picked up a set of pipes and joined piper Mike Katz for a pipe duet! That's a first for me with this band. One piper is already as loud as two other musicians, so with this it was like having four more people!

The last new member of the band wasn't new at all -- Kildare-born Irish musician Pat Kilbride had been a member of Battlefield Band in the 1970s, and rejoined in January of this year. "He wandered outside one day," recounted Alan Reid, "and then twenty-three years later he came back." A brilliant guitarist and excellent singer and songwriter, he fit back in as though he had never left.

I've seen this band many, many times over the years, and it holds the dual joys of giving me something comforting and familiar as well as something new and exciting almost every time I see them. If you've any interest in folk music, Celtic music in general, and contemporary Scottish folk/trad music in particular, you owe it to yourself to go see Battlefield Band. They'll be touring again this summer once the new record's out, and until then you've got two new records to chew on -- "Under the Blue", by Alan Reid and Batties' sound man Rob Van Sante, and a new solo album by Pat entitled "Nightingale Lane".

  Friday, April 26, 2002
And then ... depression set in.   Today is the first day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Where am I? In Los Angeles.

I can't go home for Jazzfest this year, and I'm going to be really feckin' grumpy and cranky and unhappy and strung-out homesick for the next 10 days. Be nice to me.

Here are all the musicians I won't be seeing today:

The Red Stick Ramblers, C. J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, The New Orleans Nightcrawlers, The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, Robert "Barefootin'" Parker, The funky Meters, my old high school bandmate Tim Laughlin, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Sonny Landreth, The Creole Zydeco Farmers, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland, Balfa Toujours with Bois Sec Ardoin, a 1920s jazz and blues review, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and everybody in the Gospel Tent.
My one consolation is the live coverage on WWOZ, but I've heard rumors that the fest's new megasponsor Acura won't let 'OZ webcast live during the Fest, like they've been doing for years, because they've snatched up the exclusive rights to all TV and internet broadcasts (bastards).

I'm going to go off and be miserable and self-pitying now. Maybe I'll join that line of chanting monks ...

Die Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.
*whap self on forehead with plank*
In your face, Mayonnaise Barons!   Sean notices weirdness on the Best Foods website, in particular their Mayonnaise FAQ, in the "Ingredients" section almost halfway down. It'll likely be fixed soon, but points out the perils of search and replace (screenshot):

What is the difference between Best Foods and Best Foods?
The products are basically the same. Both trademarks evolved simultaneously -- Best Foods in the East and Best Foods in the West. Taste preferences vary; some people find that Best Foods mayonnaise is slightly more tangy.
Not me. I actually find Best Foods to be a little less tangy than Best Foods. (They, of course, should replace one of those "Best Foods" with a "Hellman's".)

Sean also points out that he lives the Rocky Mountains and has seen both Hellman's and Best Foods at the store at the same time. "It's surreal, but in a barely noticeable way." Ah, life's little surrealities ...

Ash nazg durbatúluk, ash nazg gimbatul ...   I always knew he was mad for power. (Via Cam)

Actually, if he were really wearing the Ring of Power, wouldn't he be invisible? You know, like in "Doonesbury". (Yeah, wishful thinking, bra.)

It's National Nappy Week!   Apparently a wee bit jealous that they don't have National Grilled Cheese Month in Britain, Christine wrote in to remind me (and all of you) that this week is indeed "National Nappy Week in the U.K.

Remember what Eddie Izzard said: "America and Britain are two countries divided by ... the Atlantic Ocean." So if you speak American and not the the future King William's English (the Queen's just so tired, isn't she?), "nappy" means "diaper".

It's a good cause -- disposable diapers do not degrade and are horrendous for the environment. However, I find this a lot less appetizing than National Grilled Cheese Month.

Can you say "hypocrisy" and "double standards"?   William Saletan in Slate examines the hypocrisy and contradictions of the Catholic hierarchy in attempting to blame their troubles on gays.

  Thursday, April 25, 2002
Tonight on "Down Home".   Brand-new old-time music from sensational 17-year-old West Virginia fiddler Jake Krack; funkin' it up New Orleans-style with the ReBirth Brass Band; more from the Cajun music tribute album "Evangeline Made"; a new one from the original Flatlanders -- Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely; new Irish trad from the north of England with Cúig ... and lots more! Tune in from 7 to 9pm at KCSN 88.5 FM in Los Angeles or listen anywhere in the world at

C'est Festival International!   An incredibly cool music festival which unfortunately tends to fall under Jazzfest's shadow began yesterday -- Lafayette's Festival International de Louisiane, celebrating the music and culture of French Louisiana and the Francophone world.

Musicians from all over Acadiana, as well as elsewhere in the U.S., Québec, Europe and Africa will gather and perform, and there'll be arts and crafts plus great food as well. Oh, and did I mention that it's free?

KRVS Radio Acadie in Lafayette will begin broadcasting and webstreaming live from the Festival's stages beginning tonight at 6pm Central Time and going all through the fest until April 28. Perfect thing to flip back and forth with WWOZ for ... the other festival in New Orleans that I can't quite bear to mention at the moment.

April is National Grilled Cheese Month!   Um ... okay, I know I should've posted this three weeks ago. I get sidetracked.

Clementine, one of my favorite new restaurants (and fortunately about five minutes from work) has been doing a different grilled cheese special every day since April 1. Unfortunately, I've only had a chance to try a few of them, but I'm going to try to stack up the rest of the month's weekday lunches with grilled cheeses from Clementine.

Here's the list of what I had, what we missed, and what's still to come. Hey, you can crib this for ideas and make 'em at home!

4/1 - Fontina with bacon.
4/2 - Classic Reuben.
4/3 - Pepper jack with avocado on organic wheat.
4/4 - Provolone with pepperoni and olives.
4/5 - Gruyère with leeks and whole grain mustard on organic wheat.
4/6 - Roasted peppers, basil and goat cheese on rosemary bread.
4/8 - Grilled cheddar with chili. (Messy, but GOOD!)
4/9 - Cream cheese and dates on whole wheat.
4/10 - Chorizo con queso.
4/11 - Grilled cheddar with chow-chow.
4/12 - BBQ chicken with pepper jack on country white. (This was fabulous).
4/13 - Grilled cheddar with tomato, avocado and bacon on organic wheat.
4/15 - Havarti with grilled onions and mustard.
4/16 - Gouda with caramelized onions on seeded wheat.
4/17 - Brie and apples on pecan raisin bread. (Oh MY.)
4/18 - Mozzarella, basil and proscuitto on focaccia.
4/19 - Gruyère and turkey with cole slaw.
4/20 - Panino with cheddar, bacon and scrambled eggs.
4/22 - Cheese steak sandwich with grilled onions and peppers.
4/23 - Manchego and quince paste on walnut bread.
(Holy bejeebies! I wasn't able to go this day, but we serve cold manchego and quince paste (crema de membrillo) as nibblers at our cocktail parties. It's divine. I've GOT to try this grilled!)
4/24 - Fontina, salame and roasted cherry tomatoes on country white.
4/25 - Tuna melt with Swiss cheese on rye.
4/26 - Quesadilla with sautéed mushrooms and squash blossoms with the fixins.
4/27 - Pastrami and Swiss with sauerkraut on rye. (Hmm, isn't this a Reuben minus the Russian dressing?)
4/29 - Mozzarella and roasted tomatoes with herb pesto on olive bread.
4/30 - Cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon with green apples on organic wheat.
(The National Grilled Cheese Month at Clementine's Sandwich Contest winner!)
I met some friends there today, and we each had the fontina, salame and roasted tomatoes. This was absolutely lovely, those tomatoes particularly. We also split a lunch special, which was 1/2 an egg salad sandwich (with cornichons, the crunchy little French gherkins), a cup of chicken soup and an absolutely divine strawberry tart filled with sweet, rich, sweetened whipped cream. And a roasted red and golden beet salad. And those great little pickles with onions they serve with all the sandwiches. And house-made fresh limeade. And a cookie. Ooooh, we were baaaaad. It was goooood!

Clementine is at 1751 Ensley Ave., right off Santa Monica Blvd. in Century City (between Avenue of the Stars and Beverly Glen. They're open 7am to 7pm every day but Sunday. I'm lucky enough to work practically within walking distance, but they're worth a drive from anywhere in the city.

Speaking of contest winners...   The Dairy Council (who presumably made up this whole National Grilled Cheese Month thing) sponsored a contest of their own, and the grand prize winner (unsurprisingly) is from New Orleans. Her sandwich of grilled andouille, pepper jack and Muenster with pepper jelly sounds fabulous. See all of the prize-winning recipes.

  Wednesday, April 24, 2002
No more red beans 'n rice?!   Well, fug dat, bra.

Researchers in Sweden report new findings that claim that the heating of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as potatoes, rice, beans or cereals, formed acrylamide, a substance classified as a probable human carcinogen.

"Everything gives you cancer", sang Joe Jackson. The hell with all this crap. I'm not going to stop eating red beans 'n rice, nor will I stop eating potatoes or any other carb. The low-carb fanatics say eat all the meat you can, then some science wag says that broiled or pan-cooked or grilled meat has carcinogens. What are we supposed to do, boil it? This is getting ridiculous. Some scientific types are even saying that good stuff like broccoli, apples, onions, oranges, strawberries, lemons and mushrooms have carcinogenic compounds in them too.

Screw it. I'm going to keep eating and living well, and when my time comes, it comes. Pass the taters.

Musically frustrated.   And you thought being sexually frustrated was bad! Aieeee!

My tight budget hasn't allowed me inside a record store in weeks, and I'm beginning to get the shakes. I still don't have the new Bob Mould or Elvis Costello yet, just to name two. Thank Gawd for the nice people who send me promo copies or I'd be sitting in the gutter drinking from a bottle of Woolite by now. Must ... get ... to ... Amoeba ... tonight ...

Stone knives and bearskins.   This morning at work I had the (mercifully) brief opportunity to use an ancient Macintosh Powerbook 540c. It was released only eight years ago as of next month, and it was the most powerful Powerbook of its time. It had a blazing 33Mhz 68LC040 chip (I used to salivate over the prospect of a 68040 in my old Amiga 4000, but I only had an '030), a whopping maximum 36MB of memory and a Gargantuan 40MB hard drive. It ran System 7, and it cost $4,840.

Eight years later, it seems rather quaintly Bronze Age when compared to my 500 Mhz iBook with 256MB of memory and the 10GB hard drive. I bought that sucker last year and it's been supplanted already.

I know the whole Moore's law thing has been discussed to death, but ... yeesh.

Think different.   By the way, that Apple History site is pretty nifty. I just watched the famous "1984" commercial that was directed by Ridley Scott. Eighteen years later, and that thing still sent me into shivers. One of my favorite commercials ever (and I hate commercials).

The Vatican goes Chapter 11,   declares Mark Morford in today's "Morning Fix" editorial; "maybe the Catholic Church should pull and Enron, declare (moral) bankruptcy." A most amusing passage:

The Enron parallels are far too obvious and impiously cute to ignore and the irony is just too delicious and you just know the Mormons are salivating like dogs at the thought of snapping up the Church's mailing list at the holy garage sale.

A godlike CEO, sequestered away in his powerful little Roman city, now ducking and covering and embarrassed, his army of red-robed managers revealing itself to be a pompous cadre of pampered liars and shrouded powermongers, shuffling their tormented emissaries from job to job, parish to parish to avoid prosecution and the long profane arm of justice. Just like Microsoft!

Countless abused shareholders in their cute altar-boy outfits, guilted and threatened into silence over the years, unable to cash in their options and diversify and buy shares of more stable, progressive companies like, say, the Unitarians.

With every passing day, I believe more and more in the congregational model. Gee, who'd'a thunk that I was a latent Protestant?

What he said.   What Choire posted yesterday regarding his declaration of holy war bears quoting:

Dear Catholics: There can be no liberal Catholicism. This is the viewpoint of the people who represent your infallible Pope. Either you are with him or you are not with him. Buy what they're selling or don't. Also? Shit or get off the pot. Good day.
When the American Catholic hierarchy engages in that sort of despicable scapegoatism, it makes recent events and their longtime coverup activities doubly reprehensible.

  Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Finally, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is released.   WIlco's brilliant new album hits stores today, after lots of drama. It was worth the wait (well, actually, I've had a promo copy since last fall. I'll be off to the store after I get paid tomorrow and buy a proper one.) New York Times music critic Jon Pareles gushes appropriately.

À bas avec les écrevisses chinoises!   Louisiana state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom and his cohorts have begun cracking down on the mislabeling of crawfish meat in Louisiana. For the last several years there's been an influx of packaged crawfish tails of inferior quality coming in from China, undercutting the prices of local crawfishermen. Louisiana crawfish are immeasurably better than the Chinese ones, but with labels like "Louisiana Brand Crawfish", people have been fooled into buying the smelly, rubbery ones.

No more. Weekend before last state inspectors seized 117,000 pounds of mislabeled tails that did not conform to Louisiana's crawfish-labeling law, which states that the packaging must plainly and clearly state the country and city of origin of the contents.

Yeah you rite. While we're at it, choose Louisiana crawfish. They might cost a few cents more, but they're way better.

Cocktail of the day.   This is one I came across thanks to David Wondrich, who writes about cocktails for Esquire magazine. Apparently this was created at the Waldorf-Astoria Bar by some of William Randolph's old "minions", although I don't know if the Old Man ever drank them himself. It's a delightful cocktail, good for those who still say they don't like Martinis (um, like me). If I'm going to drink a cocktail named after Hearst, though ... I feel compelled to create a cocktail called the "Welles". Stay tuned.


2 ounces London dry gin (or Plymouth gin, if you can find it)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
One dash orange bitters
One dash Angostura bitters

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice,
stir until ice-cold and strain into a cocktail glass.

Wondrich describes this one as "suave", and that it is. I'd be able to walk any bartender through this one too, except for the criminal lack of ubiquity of orange bitters. Let's hope Regan's changes that within the next couple of years.

Gee, you mean it might not suck after all?   TIME magazine takes an early look at the latest Star Wars flick, and seems to think it's way better than "Phantom Menace" (well, that wouldn't take much). I won't be waiting in any long lines to see it, although I must confess I'm looking forward to seeing Hayden; who knows, he might end up being my new favorite Canadian.

An amusing moment in the article came when Lucas tried to defend Jar Jar Binks:

Lucas blames the anti-Jar Jar sentiment on "37-year-old guys who spend all their time on the Internet. But you have to remember that when we did 'The Empire Strikes Back', some people hated C-3PO. When we did 'Jedi', they just loathed the Ewoks."
Psst. George. We still hate the Ewoks. They were stupid. And that godawful song you had them sing at the end was so stupid that you replaced it in the revisionist "Special Edition".

"Fans are very opinionated, and that's good. But I can't make a movie for fans."
Psst. George. Fans are the ones who are going to be shelling out eight or nine bucks (ten feckin' fifty at The Bridge Cinema de Lux on the Westside, if you can believe it) for tickets. Pissing them off is not smart.

Oh, the heck with George. I will be waiting in line to see "Spider-Man", however!

I know there's no statute of limitations for murder,   but this is ridiculous!

  Monday, April 22, 2002
This is why you need to get your ass out to the polls and vote EVERY election day.   A record low voter turnout in France, coupled by the vote being split among the left due to a field of 16 candidates, resulted in extreme right-wing nutball scumbag Jean-Marie Le Pen coming in second; now he'll be in the May 5 runoff with Jacques Chirac.

This is a whole lot worse than the David Duke/Edwin Edwards gubernatorial election in Louisiana in the early '90s. The very idea of Le Pen getting into office is almost unthinkable. This is a man who advocates the forced repatriation of all immigrants from France back to wherever they came from. This is a man who is a Holocaust denier, referring to it merely as "a detail of history".

Fortunately, all of France is horrified by this news, and seem to be banding together to vote for Chirac; even his political enemies are endorsing him, because "we have a responsibility to society".

Now, think of this next time you have an opportunity to vote. Think of Greg Stillson in "The Dead Zone" ("My destiny!"). Think about how you don't want your voter apathy to result in a right-wing wack-job in the White House, with staffers who think they have a divine mandate and who has his finger on The Button. (Uh, wait a minute ...)

Cocktails with the Childs.   Can you imagine being invited to a dinner party at Julia Child's house? Holy bejeebies!

You can already guess how good the food would be. However, at the Childs' dinner parties, Julia handled the food, but her husband Paul handled the cocktails.

With Julia's blessing, the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead hotel's head bartender is now serving his "versions" of many of Paul Child's original cocktail recipes. Unfortunately, many of the "versions" bear little or no resemblance to the originals. If a Ritz-Carlton's "head mixologist" is having a hard time finding orange bitters, he's really not trying terribly hard. I'm just me, and I get 'em at Wally's Wine and Spirits, right by work. Sheesh.

I'd really love to see the rest of Child's original recipes, not the Ritz knockoffs. I hope someone makes all of them available. Heck, Julia got to write so many books ... Paul should get one too, if only posthumously.

Speaking of orange bitters ...   very, very good news in this area!

Gary Regan, who with his wife Mardee Regan runs the most excellent Ardent Spirits website and authors many books and regular articles on cocktails and spirits, is the proud papa of a new brand of orange bitters scheduled to hit the market sometime in the next year. Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6, produced in collaboration with the Sazerac Company of New Orleans, has been two years in the making. Looks like Fee Brothers will have some competition, and maybe we can see a rise in the use of orange bitters in today's cocktails, as they were a century ago through Prohibition. Go, Gary!

This is long overdue,   primarily due to my having a crazy week last week, but I neglected to mention the passing one week ago today of one of my favorite SF writers, Damon Knight; he died in Eugene, Oregon at age 79.

Even if you've never read any of his novels or stories, I'll bet you vividly remember one episode of the original "Twilight Zone" series that was very faithfully adapted from one of his most well-known stories -- "To Serve Man".

"Mr. Chambers! Mr. Chambers! Don't get on that ship! The rest of the book ... To Serve Man ... it's a cookbook!"

Yep, that one.

Speaking of SF ...   the 2002 Hugo Award nominations are out.

I doubt that I'll get time to read many of them. I'm embarrassed to say that that I've heard of almost none of them but Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which I've had on my list for a while. Fictionwise usually has the nominated short stories available for free downloads, but not (yet) this year, apparently. You can still get one of the nominated novelettes, "The Diamond Pit", for free until after the awards, though.

Today's little irony.   Driving to work this morning, I was stuck for almost the entire route behind a huge, hulking, gas-guzzling, atmosphere-polluting SUV (brand-new to boot) with a license plate frame that said, "GO VEGAN!"

Hey sweetie ... the cute, adorable little veal calves choke on your exhaust fumes, too.

(Mmmmmmm, veal ...)

  Sunday, April 21, 2002
It's 10:01pm.   I've almost had it. I really have to decide whether I'm going to watch any more of this crap. Unfortunately, stopping now is like stopping 26 miles and 100 yards into the L. A. Marathon.

They must have had a gun pointed at Gillian Anderson's head, just out of frame, in order to get her to say those lines during that awful, awful final scene. And that's just the tip of tonight's iceberg of awfulness. (Oh, oh, don't tell me ... sometime in between the series finale and the alleged forthcoming movie, The Lone Gunmen will be buried on the Genesis Planet, right?)

Chris Carter, John Shiban, Vince Gilligan and Frank Spotnitz are very, very bad boys and deserve to be severely punished. If I had anything to do with them, they wouldn't get another morsel of dessert for the rest of their lives, and would be grounded for at least nine seasons.

  Friday, April 19, 2002
Bastard.   With only five "X-Files" episodes to go (and after week-before-last's episode having possibly been The Worst Episode Ever), there is mounting suspicion that Chris Carter is going to renege on his pledge to wrap up all loose ends by the finale.

RT this weekend, fo' free!   I found out yesterday that there's this big Earth Day shindig, the Whole Earth Festival, taking place this weekend in at Lake Balboa in Van Nuys. My main reason for being there -- it's free (my favorite price), and there'll be musical performances by Michelle Shocked as well as Richard Thompson! Any chance to see Richard for free is A Good Thing (TM), so check the link for details and directions.

Richard and Michelle both perform on Sunday, at 2:25pm and 4:50pm, respectively. Unfortunately, John Tesh is also performing, but just wait until after 11:30am to show up and you'll miss him entirely.

New tent at da Fest.   Here's a press release from The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival:

Blues fans from around the world can rejoice as the Festival establishes a new performance area dedicated to presenting the seminal American music that spurred the development of jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, and zydeco. Introducing... The Blues Tent! Located in Heritage Square adjacent to the Gospel Tent, this new venue will be the largest performance tent at Jazzfest, with a capacity of over 3,000. Scheduled to appear in the Blues Tent are Delbert McClinton, Elvin Bishop, Deacon John, Shemekia Copeland, Snooks Eaglin, Roy Rogers, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Lonnie Brooks, John Mooney, Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials, Earl King, Sonny Landreth, Marva Wright, Kenny Neal & Diane Coleman, Spencer Bohren, Luther Kent, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and many more artists.
That's great. Too bad I won't see it until next year at the earliest. (Don't feckin' talk to me about Jazzfest this year ... *sob*.)

Corporate scum, perhaps at their worst.   Just when we look at all of Shrub's Enron buddies and think that corporate moral bankruptcy couldn't get any worse, we find out that Wal-Mart (as well as many other corporations) take out secret life insurance policies on the teeming masses of their employees, payable to the company and not to the employee's family.

We're not talking high-powered executives here; we're talking janitors and cashiers. Such insurance policies (illegal in some states) are referred to by the insurance industry as "dead peasant policies". The companies use them as a tax dodge, then profit off the deaths of their workers, with not a penny of the money going to the families.

Scum, scum, scum.

Jeez.   Well, I certainly can't afford to buy a condo on Bourbon Street, and I most certainly am not a priest. Then again, I wouldn't want that; I'd prefer a Creole cottage or camelback in Faubourg Marigny or Bywater.

Something to try.   I am a French fry connoisseur. I like them hot, crisp, golden-brown, NOT soggy or limp or looking and tasting like they've been sitting under a heat lamp for half an hour. I don't allow myself the luxury of fries all that often, so when I do get them, they have to be perfect. Or I send 'em back.

The one big drag about In-N-Out Burger, arguably the best fast-food burger in Southern California (or anywhere else), is that their fries suck. Sure, they take real potatoes. Sure, they cut 'em on the spot, and right into the fryer they go. But proper French fries have to be cooked in a three-step process -- cut and soaked in cold water to remove excess starch, then into the oil at a lower temperature, about 325°F, to cook the fries without browning them, then they can be drained (even stored and refrigerated or frozen), THEN into oil at around 375°F for the final crisping. In-N-Out does their fries in one step, and they're always limp and soggy, although hot, and they just don't come close to achieving Frency fry perfection.

However, Ken Rudolph in soc.motss reports that if you go to In-N-Out and order, FRIES WELL DONE!, "in a firm tone," the fries will achieve "a crispy excellence rarely encountered in a fast food place. Outstanding, and far superior to their regular order of mushy, cardboardy fries."

Worth a try, as long as they're not too dark brown.

Speaking of In-N-Out,   here're all the secret code words to get your burgers prepared in a wide (and delectable) number of varieties that are most decidedly not on the menu.

If it were my restaurant, I'd rip their lungs out.   In my Food and Beverage Management class at UCLA, two of the things we learned were to keep your back door locked, and to keep an eye on your staff. Quite a few restaurants have gone under because their kitchen workers, waiters and/or bartenders have robbed them blind, with anything from cases of liquor or steaks to silverware and fixtures going out the back door and into someone's trunk.

Apparently this problem isn't confined to staff. It seems that customers are also robbing restaurants, stealing everything from silverware and glassware and cocktail shakers to photographs, paintings and statuary. What the feck is with these people?! The thought of taking anything more than a matchbook from a restaurant has never once occurred to me. Jesus.

Picture of the day.   "BBC stuntman bravely defies Pythagoras' Theorem". (Via NTK)

  Thursday, April 18, 2002
Tonight on "Down Home".   The newly re-released album "End of the Day" by one of my all-time favorite band, Austin's late lamented group The Reivers; new music from Jim Lauderdale with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys; more from the Cajun music tribute album "Evangeline Made" plus more from Shirley Bergeron and Austin Pitre; old time music from the second album inspired by the film "Songcatcher", produced by my pal Fred Jasper ... and more!

Sizzling, with butter.   Ruth Fertel, the first name in "Ruth's Chris Steak House", died in New Orleans on Tuesday at age 75.

37 years ago Ruth was a divorced mother looking for a way to support her kids; she mortgaged her house and bought a restaurant called Chris' Steak House. Now it's a New Orleans institution, plus there are nearly 75 of them worldwide, and in each one you can rest assured you'll get a terrific steak. Thanks, Ruth.

Be jealous, New York.   Why? Because the Los Angeles area has the best Asian food in the world, even better than in Asia (so say many who've actually eaten over there). Apparently lots of the best cooks and chefs have moved here.

The folks at the New York Times have learned this, and wrote about their "Asian Odyssey in Los Angeles", in the San Gabriel Valley, where a number of my favorite restaurants lie, and a few other areas of the city. Sanamluang (best Thai in the city), Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in Arcadia, Yazmin (a Malaysian joint) in Alhambra, Soot Bull Jeep in Koreatown and more.

The delights are endless. Let's start with the legendary "pork pump", about which the Times says,

The meat, encased in a thick layer of fat, simmers for hours in soy sauce, star anise, ginger, orange peel and rock sugar, causing some fat to melt into the meat, giving it a miraculously unctuous texture. A quick probe with chopsticks is rewarded with strands of sweet, lush pork, as perfectly piggy as prime Carolina barbecue.
Then there's more, all over the San Gabriel Valley and beyond. Scallion pancakes (or as "Mastro Food" in Alhambra calls them, "Sea Lion Pancakes"); the spicy sweet Malaysian rojak salad; pad kee mow, my favorite Thai noodle dish, with ground chicken or sliced pork or shrimp, plus onions and tomatoes, pungent with Thai basil and fiery with chile (I usually add either dry ground chile, chile-garlic paste or fresh pickled green chiles, or a combination, plus a sprinkle of sugar, and a Thai iced tea to help cool the burn); com tam, which is Vietnamese broken rice, with everything and anything on top; Chinese sausage, any style (God, I love Chinese sausage); banh mi sandwiches with barbecue chicken or pork meat loaf seasoned with fish sauce or meatballs, and a milk tea with black tapioca (or "boba") ... my oh my oh my.

Another bit from the article, to demonstrate why we eat at Sanamluang and other places like this, often:

[T]he General's Noodle Soup -- a stirring, garlic-laced broth with egg noodles, duck, bits of ground pork and shrimp, to which you add as many nam prik (green chilies) as you can take. If you don't overdo it, you can taste each ingredient. Several dishes are made with scrumptious deep-fried belly pork; fish sauce or kaffir lime leaves spike others. But unlike many Thai chefs, this one doesn't dump lemon grass and coriander milk into everything.

Don't order too much. You must, on pain of excommunication, save room for irresistible coconut-flavored griddle cakes, the size of a silver dollar, crisp on the outside, molten on the inside, which a guy cooks on a grill outside the restaurant. Buy a dozen, and devour them on the freeway.

For as much as we could eat: $18.56 plus tip. Astounding.

When in doubt, eat dessert first.   That old rule of thumb has certainly inspired some indulgent moments in my past, but I haven't been to Barcelona yet. If I couldn't wait to go before, I really can't wait to go now.

Among the many delights of Antonio Gaudi's city, there's a restaurant called Espai Sucre, a formal restaurant where nothing is served but desserts.

However, if you're expecting baked Alaskas and pies and tarts and cakes, you're way off the mark. These desserts are the most unconventional, unusual, and some might say weird that you'll see anywhere. Imagine this five-course dessert tasting menu, offered at $28 per person:

1. Black tea sorbet scented with lemon and cardamom on top of cardamom and lemon creams with diced fresh passion fruit and pineapple, the entire thing covered with cool Darjeeling tea that was infused with cinnamon, clove and cardamom.

2. Cubed and spiced milk pudding with matchstick slices of green apple, arugula, black-peppered caramel, lemon curd and lime kefir, with a toffee sauce.

3. Manchego cheese covered with a crispy tart shell flavored with thyme, with pineapple sorbet and cubes of fresh pineapple.

4. Warm apricot cake with mascarpone and coffee cream, with candied kumquats and cinnamon nuggets, with the waiter pouring milk infused with lemon and cinnamon over it all.

5. Black sesame seed and caramel tuile with a small scoop of chocolate ice cream, a piece of flourless chocolate cake in a pool of Lapsang souchong tea sauce with plumped up currents, the whole thing covered with unflavored yogurt.

Okay, well ... they had me until that fifth one. That's just weird. But hey, I'm willing to try anything.

Raw Bits.   Yes, it's the all-natural cereal made from oat hulls and wheat chaff, the stuff most cereal companies throw away!

It's also what you get at the most fabulously chic restaurant Roxanne's, in Larkspur, California, where pretty much all of the food is raw. At least, nothing is heated above 115 degrees, "the point at which enzymes begin to die. Raw foodists believe the more live enzymes remain in the food we eat, the healthier we will be."

Yeah, but how does it taste? As one member of a foodie email list I'm on said, "Oh, ick." Regarding Chef Roxanne spending half a day trying to find the proper layers of spice for a tagine, said listmember also said, "Isn't a tagine a stew? And isn't a stew usually cooked?" (Yes, it is.)

I'm skeptical. There are lots of things I enjoy eating raw, but cooking and heat do so many things for flavor, and I'm not fond of eating a New York steak raw, either. The true evil of this chef is that she's got Charlie Trotter convinced, and now he's apparently considering giving up his trademark foie gras dishes. Unheard of! Absurd!

Decrypt this!   A fascinating article on the subject of encryption based on quantum physics, and in particular the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. (Via Wes.)

Ashcroft put in his place.  A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Justice Department cannot interfere with Oregon's law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients end their own lives, declaring that Attorney General John Ashcroft overstepped his authority in trying to personally overturn the law, and rebuked Ashcroft for "trying to 'stifle' nationwide debate on the issue."

Thank you, Your Honor.

  Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Ban this, sweetheart.   A stress management expert wants to US to have a special day where people are banned from being grumpy.

Anybody who tries to ban me from being grumpy today will have my foot in his or her ass before he or she knows what hit 'em.

Very, very scary.   Yesterday at work I saw a terrifying film, a mock documentary called Smallpox 2002. It's a very, very realistically portrayed scenario of a bioterrorist attack on the United States in which one terrorist infects himself with smallpox, then spends the next hour and a half walking around busy areas of New York City, methodically bumping into, touching and coughing on people.

Quarantines, panic and Draconian restriction of movement ensue, and vaccine distribution boggles down in the morass of bureaucracy. Four months later 70,000 people in New York, 1 million people across America and 60 million people worldwide are dead. Creepily enough, the day of the attack in the film was portrayed as April 11, 2002 -- the day I stayed home last week, sick as a dog.

This was a BBC production, and I wager they'll never have the gumption to show this in the States. People would freak out too much. Thing is, we need to see something like this, so that we're ready if something like this ever happens.

Ninety-nine and a half will have to do now.   Alabama born and bred gospel singer Dorothy Love Coates died last week at the age of 74. I was just listening to her the other day, too.

  Monday, April 15, 2002
All I can say is ...   thank Gawd for Form 4868. Let's hope the newly-hired accountant can help me get a lil' bit back. (Feck, I hate income tax.)

He's dead, Jim.   If not, he will be after sitting through this.

Actually, I have a great deal of respect for Leonard Nimoy, and I'd love to hear what he has to say. I'm not sure I could suffer through Shatner, though. (That said, I can't wait to see "Showtime".)

I wonder if Shatner liked "GalaxyQuest".

Right-wing whining.   During the last 12 years the right have not been known for their gentility, particularly when it comes to attacking (while supposedly debating) members of the left. The attitude could best be described as bullying.

This is why I find it highly amusing that now that CNN's "Crossfire" is co-hosted by James Carville and Paul Begala on the "left", both of whom flout the spineless liberal stereotype and look forward to "kicking some right-wing ass", conservatives are avoiding the show in droves and it's all but an official boycott.

You can dish it out but you can't take it, eh boys and girls?

  Saturday, April 13, 2002
A treatise on the Old Fashioned.   Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess has the same problem I do. He has a hard time ordering a decent Old Fashioned at a bar.

They kill it with soda, they leave out the bitters, they muddle the cherry, for God's sake. For their and our benefit, Robert has written an exhaustive essay on the Old Fashioned, its history and development, and the proper way to make it (as well as how not to), including recipes from over two dozen sources, some going back over a century.

I'm going to print a few of these out and stick them in the trunk of my car. Next time some bartender tries to insist that the crappy watered-down Bourbon spritzer with a shredded cherry he's just served me is a "traditional Old Fashioned", I'm going to politely excuse myself, go to my car, fetch the papers, go back to the bar and present them to the bartender with my compliments.

It's fascinating reading, but if you don't have the time to go through the whole 36 printed pages' worth, learn from this:

For myself, the key concepts I think are important to the Old Fashioned are as follows:

Water is only intended to aid in the dissolving of the sugar, and should be kept to a bare minimum. In fact, it can be omitted entirely if you use simple syrup.

A fresh slice of orange, when muddled in the drink at the beginning, adds some interesting and useful flavor notes that play nicely against the bourbon or rye.

A cherry adds a nice visual touch when used as a garnish at the very end, but is nothing but an ugly mess when its crushed carcass lies at the bottom of your glass.

Soda water has no place in this drink. Ever.

Yeah you rite.

Diplomacy.   I once read that bartenders "hate having customers tell them how to do their job." Well, that's probably true for bartenders who are true mixologists, who know their art craft the same way a chef knows his or her art and craft. But what about these people who really want to act or direct, and took a six-week bartending course one night a week and now think they know everything? It's well-known in medicine that after four years of medical school, you're officially an M.D. and get to be called "doctor" but really don't know crap until you've gotten practical, clinical experience during internship and residency.

Bartending, like any other honorable profession, is one where continuing education is key. You keep learning all your life, and that's what makes you better at what you do. One of America's great chefs, André Soltner of Lutèce, said right before his retirment that he's still learning things. That's just the right way to do what you do.

Even though I may watch in horror as a bartender tries to fill my Old Fashioned with soda or omit the bitters from my Manhatta, I don't want to be rude; I just want my drink made the way I like it and I want to share what I've learned along the way in my own studies.

I've arrived at what I think should be the proper thing for me to say to a bartender who insists that topping an Old Fashioned off with soda is "correct" or "traditional", or that "nobody wants bitters in a Manhattan anymore". Perhaps I'd say,

"My friend, whoever taught you to make an Old Fashioned that way has done you a disservice. I'd be annoyed at them if I were you."
I dunno, whaddaya think?

French Quarter Festival continues.   The second day of Louisiana's largest free music festival, and a few highlights (or, what I'd be doin' if I wuz dere...):

Dr. Michael White's Liberty Jazz Band
Woldenburg Riverfront Park, Sears Stage, 11:00am - 12:30pm
(Perhaps my favorite living jazz clarinetist; pure, joyful traditional jazz doesn't get much better than this. Louis and the Hot Five would have to resurrect!)

Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
Jackson Square, Southern Comfort Stage, 2:00 - 3:15pm

Tim Laughlin & Tom Fischer
Bourbon Street, Bank One Stage (500 Block), 3:00 - 5:00pm
(Tim's another of my favorite clarinetists, and is my old bandmate from high school. He's a terrific musician, and has Fishcer, another clarinetist who also plays alto and soprano saxophones, along with him this time. They did an excellent album together called "New Orleans Swing". Check 'em out.)

Charmaine Neville with Reggie Houston and Amasa Miller
Jackson Square, Southern Comfort Stage, 5:00 - 6:30pm
(One of the best acts in town, and for free! Not to be missed! Well, unless ...)

Ann Savoy & the Evangeline Made Band, featuring
the Magnolia Sisters and Mitchell Reed

Zatarain's Cajun & Zydeco Showcase, U.S. Mint, 5:30 - 7:00
(Okay, if you're into Cajun music, this is really not to be missed! I mean it!)

"You're surrounded! Come out with your hands up!   This is the New Orleans Public Library!"

Okay, I may have stolen an old Woody Allen routine, but when I was growing up (and well into college), that scenario would have had me right in the middle of it ... not unlike Theresa Dawn Keller, who last week went to jail because of three overdue library books.

Mrs. Landry, our very nice librarian in elementary school, liked me but was exasperated over me. Her replacement, Mrs. West, loathed me and had no use for a boy who didn't bring his library books back on time, no matter how much he loved to read. She practically had wanted posters with my picture on them in her library. You'll be happy to know, Mrs. West, that I haven't gotten any better in the last 30 years.

  Friday, April 12, 2002
French Quarter Festival starts today!   The biggest free music and food festival in Louisiana, that's what it is, and if you're within a decent drive of New Orleans, you need to go. Hundreds of local musicians, 14 stages throughout the Vieux Carré, bringing you jazz across the spectrum, Cajun and zydeco, brass bands, New Orleans R&B and funk, gospel and even classical. Somethin' fo' everybody!

Check out today's schedule, but here are a few musical highlights:

Richard Crosby & the Jazz Beaux Six
Bourbon Street, Bank One Stage (500 Block), 3:30 - 5:30pm
(If this is the same Richard Crosby I'm thinking of ... well, besides being one of New Orleans great trumpet players, Richard Crosby was my French teacher in high school, sat in occasionally as my music teacher as well. Sometimes I wished he had taught music full-time instead of French, because he's a fantastic musician, and just one of the greatest teachers I ever had. He'd be disappointed to see how rusty my French has gotten!)

Lenny McDaniel
Jackson Square, Southern Comfort Stage, 5:15 - 6:30pm

John Boutté & Uptown Okra
Woldenburg Riverfront Park, Harrah's Stage @ Hibernia Pavilion, 6:45 - 8:15pm
(New Orleans' greatest male jazz vocalist ... vocalist period. He's amazing, and I could listen to him sing for days.)

There's tons more music, kilotons of great food and megatons of fun to be had. Did I mention it was free?

Sampling the cardboard bouquet.   This is from an old clipping I found stuck in a drawer the other day. It's from the Los Angeles Times Magazine, a fabulous gag perpetrated on several high-end Los Angeles restaurants by writer Leslee Komaiko. This opening statistic is horrifying, by the way.

More than 15% of wine drunk in this country is dispensed from a cardboard box. Does that mean the stuff is socially acceptable? To find out, we called some restaurants celebrated for their extensive wine lists and presented the following fiction: A father-in-law with a passion for wine-in-a-box would like to bring his own supply. OK?

L'Orangerie:  "I can't have that in the restaurant. It's a five-star restaurant. I can't have boxed wine in here. I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious. But I just think it doesn't go along with the mystique of the restaurant."

Valentino:  "That's fine. That's fine. Corkage fee is still $20."

Michael's:  "We have no policy regarding that, but I imagine it wouldn't be acceptable. What you could do, if I may suggest, is put the wine-in-a-box into a bottle and cork it and bring it in. I mean, it just wouldn't look good in a restaurant of this caliber to have a box wine sitting on a table. That's all. I'm not trying to be a snob about it, and I'm theorizing here."

Spago Beverly Hills:  "Let me see if I can get ahold of the sommelier. (Musical interlude.) Hi. That's no problem. There would just be a corkage fee, and ... uh, it's not like a giant box, is it?"

Campanile:  (Restrained laughter.) "If he wants to bring the box in, I'm sure that he could. If that's what he loves and that's what he enjoys, then we're certainly not going to stop that. We're going to do our standard restaurant charge of $12."

Cicada:  (Unrestrained laughter.) "Um, um. Well, gee. I've never heard that after being in restaurants for 20 years. I can't put the box on the table because we're a very upscale restaurant. If there was a way of having another wine that he liked... It just makes the whole wine experience a little better."

Heeeeeeee. As much as I might disdain box wine, I have to agree with the folks at Campanile, who have the same outlook as the teacher of the wine courses I took at UCLA Extension's Culinary Program (when it still existed) -- "drink what you like". If you like jug wine, then drink jug wine, because appreciating wine isn't nearly as difficult as the wine snobs would have you believe. That said, the guy at Cicada had a point, too. There's a whole world of winey wonder outside the box.

A week of spam.   I kept track. Seven days' worth, from Saturday through Friday. This was an easy week, too -- only 125 spams. I saved all the subject lines; here are but a few, with a link below to the whole sordid lot of 'em. Note the preponderance of exclamation points. Gee, this offer must be exciting!

Let this investigator get on Your case!
USA Patent Approval: Proven Anti-Aging Formula        33
Refinance and Save $$$
mLife is here ... ADV
re: new domain extensions now available
Viagra Without The Embarrassment
chuck , Your first targeted e-mailing is FREE
No Joke! A Bigger Penis Can Be Yours!


May all the people who sent these become infected with a horribly itchy, painful, disfiguring skin disease. May they lose their senses of taste. May their sexual organs shrivel up into little raisinlike vestigials. May they have their own special cast-iron oven in hell so that they may roast until the end of time.

Gawd, I hate spammers.

Letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters...   This one arrived from a Mr. Clyde from Paradise Vendors in New Orleans (a disreputable hot dog dispensing firm employing shady characters and transients), who says:


Although I am pleased that you are slowly but surely conquering your gin phobia, I must take exception to your use of the redundant term "gin martini." The term "martini" presupposes that gin is the main ingredient. If someone wishes to alter the drink by using vodka as the main ingredient, it should then be called a "vodka martini." Most of my fellow lovers of gin aren't nearly as open minded as I am on this point. The majority would regard the use of "vodka" and "martini" in the same sentence as sacrilege, but I am not that much of a purist.

Alas, would that the term were still redundant. I fear that in this blighted metropolis, where a truly great bartender tends to be as rare as the Pope's grandchildren, one needs to specify gin when ordering a Martini or one is liable to get vodka. If one orders a martini from one particular old fart who tends bar in the banquet room at the Sportsmen's Lodge, one is even liable to get a vodka martini served on the rocks when ordering a "Martini", as that very thing happened to Wes a while back. How appalling.

In fact, one needs to specify every single nuance and detail of how one wants one's drink, or one is liable to get a glassful of swill. I can't just order an Old Fashioned, I have to say "An Old Fashioned, please. No water. No soda. Just whiskey, sugar and bitters only, please ... and healthy dashes of bitters, not microdrops. Muddle an orange slice if you've got it, but please ... don't muddle the cherry." (I have to make this, or something like it, sound polite, too.)

I firmly believe that a bartender who muddles a maraschino cherry in an Old Fashioned has got to have his or her head way up his or her arse. The purpose of muddling an orange slice is to release a little bit of juice and aromatic oil from the orange for the purpose of flavoring the cocktail. What the hell good does it to do turn the cherry, which is a garnish, into some shredded mess that doesn't release anything?


(There'll be LOTS more on Old Fashioneds tomorrow.)

Why Harry Knowles should go away forever.   Oh, there are a thousand reasons -- being a horrendously bad writer, giving away the plots and endings of movies he or his minions have seen in test screenings, juvenile observations rather than true criticism -- but this takes the cake. Ladies and gentlement, may I present ... the worst. Review. Ever. I'm not talking about a negative review of a film, I'm talking about the worst piece of writing about a movie, in the history of film criticism. (Warning -- it's most definitely NC-17 material.) This is from a grown man with the brain of an adolescent boy, who's undoubtedly never gotten laid once in his entire life. Good God.

(Incidentally, he's writing about "Blade 2", which I rather enjoyed in a gross, gory, high-budget-cheesy kinda way.)

  Thursday, April 11, 2002
Put this man to work!   My friend Robb Briggs got laid off several weeks ago. He'd been working for a multimedia company and survived six rounds of layoffs, but the next one was not lucky seven for him. He's been producing and coordinating the production of custom multimedia training software for the last seven years, and is a crack Flash programmer too. Check out his page of arcade-style and other games he's written in Flash -- be impressed, look at his slightly outdated resume, and hire him, dammit!

"Laid Off: A Day in the Life"   is a hilarious autobiographical little short animated film in Flash about the life of "Odd Todd", yet another victim of the dotcom debacle, and what his life entails. My friend Shari, who got laid off from our company last year, sent this in saying, "Such is my life. Okay, not exactly, but God, it's close." (Hang in there, hawt.)

I guess this film is making the rounds, because Todd was apparently on "The Today Show" recently. Somebody oughta hire this guy.

Hire Robb first though, okay? Thanks.

One apple-infused vodka, coming up ...   in about five weeks. I started a new batch last night using three lovely Granny Smiths and a fifth of SKYY. We'll decant on the 24th, which'll be easy to remember 'cause that's the day I'm meeting friends at Clementine for grilled cheese sandwiches! It's Grilled Cheese Sandwich month at Clementine, y'know.

Tonight on "Down Home".   New music from Doc Watson along with Frosty Morn, Merle's old band; perhaps a dash of Québec from La Bottine Souriante's latest; more New Orleans R&B from the new "Crescent City Soul" series; Cajun music from Iry LeJeune and Dennis McGee; plus I'll be bringing along a pile of blues and gospel and who knows what all. Tonight at 7pm Pacific time, at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles and worldwide at

Quote of the day.   "You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

-- Albert Einstein, describing radio.

  Wednesday, April 10, 2002
I got yer "apple martinis" right here.   Sour Apple Pucker and its ilk, the scourge of every bar, is artificially colored, artificially flavored grain alcohol with lots of sugar syrup added. It doesn't deserve to pass your lips. Just say "no".

Early last month I cored and thinly sliced three good-sized Granny Smith apples. I placed them into a 2-liter jar with a rubber seal, then covered them with 750ml of SKYY Vodka. I sealed the jar and let it sit for two weeks, shaking it when the thought occurred to me. I decanted and strained the liquor through several layers of cheesecloth and bottled it. It tasted good. Then I gave it to my friend Ted ('cause when I'm invited somewhere, whether it's for a dinner party or an extraordinary cocktail party, I never wanna show up empty-handed), and before drinking it he let it sit for about three weeks. Here's what he said it tasted like after that, and after I wondered if it might need something else, like more and longer apple infusion or a cinnamon stick:

It lost quite a bit of that vaguely unpleasant acid-apple scent. Its clarity became complete. I've decided it is PERFECT as is.

Shaken, strained, up as one might drink a vodka martini if one did not understand the core nature of the Martini - that's how. It is, however, a prime and excellent manner in which to drink well-infused vodkas. At best such infusions are a phrase; the best-remembered in a beloved song. Drinking them this way allows a pure celebration of this simple connection.

The stuff is clean, and has melded seamlessly with the vodka. It travels right down the center between tart and sweet in the sense in which such characterizations are useful in any unsweetened spirit.

I think the apples give more, not less, than we imagine. The more they give the longer the spirit must settle to dominate the offending acidity. Any sense of "not flavorful enough" will vanish along with the acidity. It isn't a question of enough flavor but rather of the acid dominating the tasting experience and so minimizing the flavor characteristics in competition. It's like drinking a nicely-aged genever now.

Unlike the other fine lovely-to-love infusion [of strawberries, pineapple, kiwi and vanilla bean], it is NOT a party in your mouth. It is, in its maturation, a single bell-like note... a clear and lovely tone. If I had unlimited supplies of both iterations, eventually, I think I would actually settle on the apple, because, as has been said, in simplicity is profundity.

-- Dr. Cocktail


You can do this. It's easy. Three apples, a bottle of vodka and five weeks is all it takes.

When I make a batch for myself (which I think I'll do, starting tomorrow), besides just drinking it shaken and up -- probably the best way to drink infused vodkas -- I can't help being tempted to try to make something martini-like ... perhaps with a splash of Lillet and a dash of Fee Brothers Aromatic Cocktail Bitters. I'll let you know.

Email of the day.   One of my best friends is from Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia, the part of which that's now called "Serbia and Montenegro" (gee, I'm glad I didn't buy an expensive globe last year). He sent me this email yesterday. I laughed.

From: Dule
To: Chuck
Date: Tue, 9 Apr 2002 10:22:29 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: what is wrong with my country

Our main embassy in the US has an AOL e-mail. No wonder nothing is working! :-)

Quote of the day.   "When you die and go to heaven, everyone who ever lived will be walking around having cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and introducing themselves, and when they say, 'Oh, what time period are you from?' and you say 'Early twenty-first century America,' everyone will laugh.

-- Unknown, quoted from Esquire (and purloined from Scott)

  Tuesday, April 9, 2002
Cocktail of the day.   This one is a testament to conquering fear. Fear no gin! Fear no sweet vermouth! Fear no Campari!

I have at various times feared all of these ingredients, and have since made great progress. I still can't drink a classic, traditional gin martini (although I'm working on it), but there are now myriad gin cocktails that I absolutely adore. My former dislike of vermouth has been abating, due to my love for Manhattans (when properly made) and other cocktails in which a modicum of vermouth lends great spiciness and complexity. And Campari ... well, I can't do it on the rocks like some hardy Italians can, and a Campari and soda is still a wee bit bitter for me. If it's balanced with something sweet, though, even just a touch, it's truly amazing stuff.

Given my previous fears, a Negroni was one cocktail I just wasn't going to attempt. I was afraid of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, and here's a drink that's made with all three. Zoinks. Even as I made my progress and thought to myself, "Gee, y'know, one of these days I oughta just try one," I never quite got around to it.

Chance intervened. Sunday evening I was having drinks with my friends Gregg and Michael at the Traxx Bar, located in L.A.'s fabulous 1939 Art Deco masterpiece, Union Station, right across from its parent restaurant of the same name. The bartender was cheerful and friendly, although fortunately I had my crop with me; she attempted to serve my Manhattan on the rocks, and with no bitters! That's one of those drinks that is always served up, unless the customer asks specifically for it on the rocks. Then I watched her make the drink (which I always do now, so I can shout a warning before he or she tries to do something like squirt soda into my Old Fashioned), and it was just Maker's Mark and Martini & Rossi, shakeshakeshake.

When I ordered it, I had specifically said, "And don't be shy with the bitters!" ... and she had put none. "Uh, Angostura bitters, please!", I interjected. She looked at me and said, "Oh, okay ... I always leave them out because nobody likes bitters anymore!"

Such utter sacrilege. Coming from a professional bartender! Dear, without bitters it is simply not a Manhattan. It's just whiskey and vermouth, thank you. The things we cocktailians have to put up with days, sweet sufferin' JAY-sus ... but I digress. The subsequently corrected Manhattan was lovely, thank you, but then Michael ordered a Negroni.

Wham, there it was. Right in front of me. He sipped it and smiled a beatific smile. "Hey, can I have a taste of that?" Sure thing! *sip*

Complex. Spicy. Bitter, although not overly so. The tiniest bit of sweetness to offset that. A perfect aperitif, a drink to wake up your taste buds and shout "Ciao, ragazzo bello! Come stai?"

Bene, grazie!


1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with half an orange wheel, or a cherry if you don't have any oranges.

As usual, if you're in the Long Island Iced Tea or Sex on the Beach crowd, don't bother with this; you've got a long way to go. If you drink "Appletinis" made with that vile Borg-green Pucker crap, ditto. If you have a palate and you're adventurous and want to try something that may surprise you, give this one a shot next time you go out to a decent bar. Paul Harrington says you'll either love it or you'll hate it; I'm hoping you'll love it.

Why it sucks to work for Arthur Andersen.   Well, aside from the Enron debacle and the downsizing and layoff of 7,000 employees and potential collapse. A friend of mine use to work for Arthur Andersen in Chicago, and found this bit in another article which sums up why they were apparently such a crappy company to work for:

Employees in Chicago were told in an e-mail to check their voice mail Monday night to learn if they should report to work Tuesday.
As her hubby put it, Arthur Andersen "care so much for their loyal, committed, and hard-working employees that they notify them by e-mail that they might be laid off via a voice mail message. Now that's class."

The best eclectic radio show in L.A.   Despite that word being included in the title of a certain weekday morning radio program, by my reckoning and frequent listening the most truly eclectic (and wonderful) radio show in the city is Tom Nixon's "The Nixon Tapes" (a.k.a. "Cosmic Barrio"), Saturday afternoons from 1 to 3pm on KPFK. I hear something amazing many times, every show.

I don't think this is what Jesus had in mind.   A Chilean clothing factory owner is leaving the factory behind to become a full-time preacher after seeing the face of Christ in a stained pair of jeans.

Juan Carlos Arellano says the image in the dyed fabric spoke to him -- advising him to preach the gospel of true love.

He says he noticed the image when one of the workers at his Santiago factory said the jeans were stained.

He says he now plans to leave his family and the factory to spread the word full-time... [and that] the image "told me to leave here, leave my five children and all my friends".

So the Son of God allegedly told this man to abrogate his responsibility to his family, to leave his wife without a husband, his children without a father and the lot of them without a source of support, to go out and preach for him. Methinks Señor Arellano has been inhaling too much blue jean dye fumes.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?   From, of all places, the University of Tampere in Finland comes "31 Ways (for Southerners) to Annoy a Yankee". Some of 'em are obviously jokes, but some of 'em ain't.

19. "Mash" the switch to turn on a light.
My paternal grandmother, who was from Mobile, Alabama, was constantly saying this. You mash buttons, you don't push 'em.

I love these two:

18. Use the word "reckon" in a sentence and watch their reaction.
20. Never simply "do" something. Be "fixin to do" something.
The one near and dear to my heart:

14. Put Tabasco on everything.
Yeah you rite.

Most of these (with the exceptions of at least #1 and #14 above) do not apply to New Orleans. Remember that New Orleans is south of The South. From where I'm from, you have to drive north to get to The South.

Quote of the day.   "I have made an important discovery... that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, produces all the effects of intoxication."

-- Oscar Wilde

  Monday, April 8, 2002
Deep-fried crap, all you can eat!   Plates and plates full of wings and French fries, that's the general lot of the "all you can eat" restaurant, growing in popularity in America.

Much has been written in recent years about the increasing sophistication of the American palate. This story isn't about that. This is about the growing popularity of all-you-can-eat restaurants, a cultural phenomenon that feeds off the belief that you can get anything you want in this bountiful land as long as you have a clean plate. Never mind that well over half of Americans are considered overweight.
As vile and gluttonous as this can be (particularly at the low end of this spectrum), I have to admit that I love the buffets in Las Vegas, now that they've got good-quality food in them, for the most part. I like this guy's approach, if not his amounts:

The pinnacle of all-you-can-eat excess may have come last year at a Chinese buffet in Holiday, Fla. Bob Middleton, a 40-year-old security guard, consumed eight to 10 plates of snow crab legs before management encouraged him to leave and then assessed him a $10 surcharge (or was it an environmental impact fee?). The police were summoned and sided with Middleton, who has been known to devour 25 lobsters at a time at another buffet, where, incredibly, he is still welcome.
That boy is a pee-eye-gee pig!

Wake me up when it gets exciting again.   From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, KCRW was the most exciting radio station anywhere. Not anymore, according to the New Times, as they describe the long-running morning music show in its current incarnation as "Morning Becomes Somnambulistic".

I have to agree. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at KCRW from 1988 to 1998 and to my great dismay watched the overall music programming move to a level where I can react with little other than complete apathy. Pop-electronica-techno-ambient? Please. Musically they sound less like public radio than ever, and the turning point there was when they stopped referring to themselves as "" and started referring to themselves as "". (How long 'til they start selling commercials, I wonder.)

[KCRW music director Nic] Harcourt's evident strategy -- though he denies having any such thing -- at maintaining "eclecticism" without alienating the Audience that Electronica Built, is to ensure synchrony in the aural characteristics of the music he plays, and the defining characteristic of Morning Becomes Eclectic these days is soft. The show eschews most everything exuberant, youthful or loud in favor of sedate sounds that, while superior to standard adult contemporary fare, wouldn't be out of place at a very hip dentist's office.
This "synchrony" has also spread across the board to many if not most of the station's musical programming, and results in an intensely boring sameness, a homogeneous sound that is the polar opposite of eclecticism.

When's the last time that show's played any soukous? Any exuberant African music at all, for that matter? What happened to the vanguard of world music that that station used to be? Where's the excitement? Where is their passion? You listen to DJs like Tom Schnabel and Deirdre O'Donoghue and you get people who love music so much that they're about to burst. I haven't felt that kind of enthusiasm come out of my radio in the morning in over 10 years. However, over 10 years later I'm still listenening to the bands that Deirdre turned me onto on "SNAP"; I can't say the same for the last two incarnations of "Morning Becomes Eclectic".

Fortunately, they still have a few great shows -- Gary Calamar's "The Open Road", or Eric J. Lawrence's "Dragnet" or the fabulous Tricia Halloran's "Brave New World" if I'm up that late (the great indie rock shows have been relegated to overnight). Ironically, as much of a music freak as I am, the only show to which I consistently listen on KCRW is Chef Evan Kleiman's "Good Food", a foodie chat show.

It's a pity, really. It used to be such a great station.

Quote of the day.   "I'm a dancer, trapped in the body of a tree."

-- Ardal O'Hanlon

  Friday, April 5, 2002
Rebirth of jazz history.   A fried chicken restaurant owner in New Orleans has acquired four dilapidated, ramshackle buildings along South Rampart street. Why is this important?

Here's what was in those buildings a century ago.

1. The Eagle Saloon. This was where Buddy Bolden's band played regularly. As you may know (or, as you should know if you're into traditional jazz), Charles "Buddy" Bolden is believed to be the first musician and bandleader to play the syncopated, improvised music which became known as jazz.

2. The Iroquois Theater, which was an African-American vaudeville and movie theater circa 1910.

3. Karnofsky's Store, which was owned and operated by the Jewish family that employed and mentored the pre-adolescent Louis Armstrong.

4. The Little Gem Saloon, which was a hangout for early jazz musicians and the start and stop point for the jazz funerals of members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.

The new owner, with the full approval and support of the National Park Service and the New Orleans Jazz Commission, plans to restore the buildings, turning them into a jazz museum, shops, clubs and a theatre and will try to "recapture the turn-of-the-last-century feel of the South Rampart musical corridor."

Wow. This is incredibly cool. More revitalization for the S. Rampart corridor will be great, and let's hope the cops can get the crime rate down in that area while they're at it. I really hope they pull this off, and it doesn't become yet another patented New Orleans disaster.

From the Life-Is-Surreal Department:   Ozzy Osbourne has been invited to visit the White House. Apparently Shrub is a fan of the MTV show "The Osbournes". I guess he relates to a show about a house where there's lots of cacophony and the dad just wanders around in a daze, not knowing what's going on.

Luxurious Laundry.   New Orleans restaurant writer Brett Anderson has dinner at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, where I myself had one of the three best meals of my life. He doesn't do too bad, either.

More on shiny pretty drink coasters.   Wes sent me this article from the current issue of Sound and Vision magazine which compares and contrasts the various CD copy-protection schemes currently being marketed and identifies offending CDs that use them. It trumpets the problems associated with the practice and basically blasts the whole thing for the rip-off that it is. You go, boys.

Optimism for library censorship trial.   As reported by PeaceFire: The trial over the Children's Internet Protection Act, the law that requires blocking software to be enabled (for all users, of all ages) in libraries that receive federal funds, ended [yesterday] with the judges sounding skeptical about whether blocking software works accurately, according to a Reuters story.

Quotes from the judges indicated that by the end of the hearings, they were convinced the software was not accurate enough to be relied upon. One of the three judges was quoted as saying, "Every witness has testified that the statute can't be applied according to its own terms," referring to the requirements of the law to block sexually explicit Web sites without violating the First Amendment. A great body of evidence was presented demonstrating the extremely sloppy accuracy of such blocking software, all of which ended up blocking far more than it should have.

Email of the day.   This is apparently regarding the "Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!" page on my long-neglected Refrigerator Door.

From: K.
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: 5 Apr 2002 15:43:21 -0000
Subject: dihydrogen monoxide

I'm totally confused. If dihydrogen monoxide is H2o, then what are people talking about it's ban?

<voice="Foghorn Leghorn">That was a, I say, that was a joke, son.</voice>

  Thursday, April 4, 2002
French Quarter Festival coming up!   Next Friday brings us the largest free music festival in Louisiana, The French Quarter Festival, with 13 other stages of live local music (from New Orleans blues, jazz, folk, funk, even classical), themed crafts and artisans, family activities and contests, authentic Creole cuisine ... geared toward locals, and it's all free!

This year they're debuting a new stage, the Zatarain's Cajun & Zydeco Showcase, co-sponsored by OffBeat, the Louisiana music magazine. The Zatarain's/OffBeat stage will feature Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, The Bluerunners, Ann Savoy with the Evangeline Made Band plus Mitchell Reed and the Magnolia Sisters, Jimmy Thibodeaux, Sean Ardoin 'n Zydekool, Amanda Shaw avec Amis, Jeremy & the Zydeco Hot Boyz and Jay Cormier. Check the web site for schedules.

If you're in or near New Orleans, you really ought to go. It's a great festival, it's free (my favorite price) and not nearly as sawdeen-craowded as Jazzfest is getting to be.

New Celine Dion CD = drink coaster.   Here's a big reason not to buy the new Celine Dion CD (well, other than the fact that it's undoubtedly complete and utter shite). It's specifically designed not to play on computer-based CD players.

Epic/Sony released "A New Day Has Come" embedded with Key2Audio copy protection in Germany and several other European countries. According to a spokeswoman for Sony Music Entertainment, it is clearly stated on the front of the booklet and on the back of the jewel box that the CD "will not play on a PC or a Mac" in the language of the country in which it is sold. Besides those notices, which the spokeswoman said were readable before purchase, the disc itself bears the same warning.

Should the consumer try to play Dion's CD on a PC or Macintosh, the computer likely will crash.

Just don't buy these copy protected CDs. Write Sony and make sure they know you're not buying them, and why.

Coolest. Web clock. Ever.   The Industrious Clock, by Yugo Nakamura. It's even in perfect sync with my menubar clock. Neat neat neat.

Life's small pleasure of the day.   The way the purple clove-flavored NECCO Wafers make your tongue go just the tiniest bit numb.

Quote of the day.   "No, sugar was not cocaine, but Roland could not understand why anyone would want cocaine or any other illegal drug, for that matter, in a world where such a powerful one as sugar was so plentiful and cheap."

-- Stephen King, The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three

  Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Hell.   In my world view, this is where you go when you die if you're bad: The Village at Hiddenbrook, a Thomas Kinkade "Painter of Light™" Community. Sweet Jesus H. Christ in a fucking sidecar. According to this article, it ain't all it's cracked up to be, even to the Kinkade-lovers:

The Village at Hiddenbrooke bills itself as the culmination of Kinkade's vision: an actual manifestation of the quaint cottages, charming gazebos and inspiring landscapes in his artwork.

Except that it isn't. What you find in the rolling hills behind Vallejo is the exact opposite of the Kinkadeian ideal. Instead of quaint cottages, there's generic tract housing; instead of lush landscapes, concrete patios; instead of a cozy village, there's a bland collection of homes with nothing -- not a church, not a cafe, not even a town square -- to draw them together.

Your first glimpse of Hiddenbrooke features four enormous satellite dishes and a radio tower, nestled in a green valley next to an oblivious troop of grazing cows from the adjacent farm. The second thing you see upon arrival in Hiddenbrooke is an endless stretch of the community's semi-identical greige tract homes, squeezed in close.

I never want to meet any of the people who live there.

Me 'n my pal Tinkerbell.   We were over at our friends Mary 'n Steve's place for Easter, noshing on a fabulous ham with pineapple glaze, cream sage biscuits (*moan*), asparagus, Hungarian cucumber salad, lots of Easter candy ... and a petting zoo.

No, we didn't eat the petting zoo ... that was after dinner. Steve called her outside, and stacked up outside the front door were all these plastic containers full of little snakes, lizards, skinks and tarantulas (Mary thinking at the time something like, "Um, I know Steve knows I love animals, but I think I'm going to have to let him down gently here with these here Easter presents," and then she noticed three tortoises lumbering around the front yard, and some rabbits, and an ornery angora goat, and two really jabbery ducks, and a big dog that looked exactly like a wolf.

She couldn't stop laughing for five minutes.

And for the next two hours we played with the animals! I myself had a six-foot, forty pound albino Burmese python named Tinkerbell draped on my shoulders (and for a few anxious moments, around my neck) for most of that time. She was very sweet and cuddly and really beautiful, looking just like this -- all white and yellow. I was nervous at first, but once I got used to the fact that when the snake was "hissing" it was really just a long exhalation I was fine. (You haven't lived until you've had a really big snake wrap around your neck and hiss right outside your ear. Really.)

They also brought out a little Australian marsupial flying squirrel who was trying to sleep inside a pseudo-pouch (well, a big sweatsock) and since it was nocturnal greeted our attempts to pet it with the same attitude I have when I'm awakened in the morning -- lots of eye rubbing and "Gimme a break, I'm tryin' to sleep!" looks. The ducks, who didn't stop yammering for so much as a minute, should have been named Moe and Shecky and gotten jobs as a comedy team playing the Catskills, and the mean old goat picked on the wolf-dog, shedded expensive sweater material and ate the Calendar section of the Times. It was loads of fun. Hire a petting zoo sometime -- in fact, if you're in L.A. call Teresa Pollock at (818) 757-0905

But how are they going to fit a chicken into the bottle?!   Finally! There's a new edition of Gary and Mardee Regan's Ardent Spirits newsletter, this month talking about terms for a group of bartenders (a la "a murder of crows", "a pride of lions", etc.); chicken-flavored mezcal (*glaq*), tippling on "The West Wing", and the premier issue of The Cocktailian Gazette, which will "not only publish cocktail recipes and other related items, we will also discuss each drink, and let you know why the formula works."

I love this bit of the entry on "West Wing":

More recently though, we were dismayed when Roger Rees, playing British Ambassador Marbury, mentioned that he wanted a glass of 16-year-old Lagavulin, and described it as an Islay single malt, totally mispronouncing the word Islay. We doubt that there are any subscribers to Ardent Spirits who don't know the correct pronunciation "EYE-luh" but wasn't there just one person in the whole cast and crew of West Wing who couldn't have corrected him when he pronounced the s and said, "Is Lay"? Tut, tut.
Heh. Cocktailians. Drinking geeks! These are my people!

Definitions are called for, by the way.   I believe that it was Gary Regan of Ardent Spirits who coined this term, and let's get people used to using it, shall we?

cocktailian, [kok-TAY-lee-un]
1. n. A person well versed on the craft of mixology.
Example: He mixed a Manhattan as well as any cocktailian I've ever seen.

2. adj. Used to describe anything involved with the craft of mixology.
Example: She used a cocktailian muddler, not a pharmacist's pestle.
And: He was a cocktailian bartender, but was forced to pull a couple of shifts in a shot-and-a-beer joint.

New Orleans restaurant revival.   The New York Times thinks that the Crescent City eating scene has been in a slump. Hard for me to be objective, I must confess; I'm always so happy to be home, and so happy to be eating in my old haunts as well as the new places, that I am in some ways easy to please. (Not that my palate is undiscriminating, mind you.)

Today they've written about a lot of the great new restaurants in New Orleans that have been cropping up in the last year or two, several of which I have yet to try -- August, Cuvée, Herbsaint, Victor's at the new Ritz-Carlton. I also want to try Cobalt (Susan Spicer's new venture) and Indigo. It's hard to get to all these new places when I keep wanting to revisit my favorites, and it's even harder when I end up having to cancel my annual trip home for Jazzfest. *sigh* Well, maybe we'll come home a little later in the year. (Thanks, Jonno!)

Now playing.   My friend Michael turned me on to Ben Kweller, indie rock singer/songwriter who's all of 20 years old and had a band when he was 13. His debut album "Sha Sha" is really, really good and has barely left my CD player in a week. (An' it don't hurt dat he's kee-YOOT, too.)

Letter of the day.   Not to me, but to Locus, the science fiction news magazine, in their current letters section (via Steve):

OK, here's the idea. The "Left Behind" series is about what happens after the Rapture, right, when all the righteous get taken up? And everyone who sticks around gets to have nifty adventures? Well, check this out. In my series, 10 volumes outlined already, all the righteous get taken up, and in their absence the rest of us enact fair tax laws, pass constitutional amendments guaranteeing the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and craft a sane, non-apocalyptic Middle East policy. Plus we get, like, all their cars and stuff. I call it the "Left Alone" series. I pitched it to Tyndale House, but Jeez Louise, I won't repeat what they said, and them Christians.

-- James Morrow

(Hee hee.)

Why I'll keep using Google and not Teoma.   There are many reasons, actually (like image search, Usenet, news search, dictionary links, map links, translations, all of which Teoma does not have), but to me here's the big one. If you create a new web site and you want to manually add it to Google's index, you can do so, and you can do it for free. Teoma will apparently charge you for that, $30 for the first URL and $18 for each subsequent URL, which they say will remain in their database for "15 months". (Oh please, bite me!) Otherwise, you have to wait until they get around to spidering you, whenever that is.

I'll keep my Google, thanks.

  Tuesday, April 2, 2002
Just say "Uncle"   There have been endless interviews with Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy over the years, about Uncle Tupelo and their subsequent bands Son Volt and Wilco. Now it's time to hear from UT drummer Mike Heidorn, an integral part of the band, who in a recent interview talks about his days with the band and the new anthology.

Ann Savoy - Cajun music's cultural ambassador.   The acclaim continues for "Evangeline Made", with a terrific profile of Ann in this month's OffBeat and an excellent review as well.

Don't fo'git da locals!   Reader Amy wrote in to respond to my post yesterday about the company that cleans up after death scenes, saying "Hey, don't push a national corporation! We've got a New Orleans man who does the same thing. His small company is called Clean Scene, and he's even gotten coverage on A&E, I believe, with a testimony on the need for his services from Frank Minyard, no less." Frank Minyard's been our coroner for ... well, as long as I can remember, anyway.

The New Orleans man is Tommy Boudreaux, and I completely missed that he was featured in a Gambit Weekly cover story last August. It's a pretty harrowing tale of harrowing work, but somebody's gotta do it. Many people find out to their horror that after a messy death scene, the family or friends are left to clean it up. Brrrrr.

Who greenlights this stuff?   Business 2.0 magazine is running a feature on the 101 dumbest business decisions of recent times. There are lots of predictable ones, like Enron, Microsoft, Fox and Geraldo, and many more. Still, there are some that I missed when they came around, my favorite being this one:

75. Unilever subsidiary Lipton approves an ad in which a man standing in line for communion holds a bowl of onion dip, presumably to improve the taste of the body of Christ. Under protest, Lipton withdraws the ad.
Was nobody along the corporate line, from copywriter to ad executive to client corporate executive, aware for even a millisecond that such an ad would elicit entirely predictable howls of protest? Geez, who runs these companies? People are such idiots.

Oh, I liked this one too:

78. After two years of hype, Dean Kamen unveils Ginger, a.k.a. the Segway HT scooter. To understand why this is on our list, kindly refer to the table below.

COST About $3,000 $100
RANGE 15 miles on a single battery charge How far do you feel like going?
TOP SPEED 12.5 mph How fast can you pedal?
WEIGHT 80 pounds 44 pounds
WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE WHILE ON IT A total dork who's too lazy to walk A fit, active human being

Quote of the day.   "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

-- Justice Louis D. Brandeis

  Monday, April 1, 2002
"Evangeline Made" taking off!   Josh Caffery, who is the cultural editor for the Times of Acadiana as well as being the mandolin player for Red Stick Ramblers, wrote the most recent cover story in the Times about the making of the "Evangeline Made" Cajun music tribute project and how well it's doing:

Last week, millions of Americans heard something on their radio they may have never heard before.

Whether stuck in traffic on the Oakland Bay Bridge, driving a farm truck down an empty Nevada highway or buzzing around a Manhattan penthouse, getting ready for work, people heard a peculiar convergence of accordions and fiddles, half-familiar melodies and stories enclosed like gifts in a wrapping of French words, all propelled by a rhythm that is felt more as momentum than speed.

Although David Dye is about as Cajun as a cornflake, he's been playing Cajun music on his nationally syndicated radio program, The World Caf´. Granted, he isn't spinning scratchy, old Iry Lejeune records or the 200-proof twin fiddles of Dennis McGee and Sady Courville. The world at large might not be ready for that anyway. But it's a start.


By the way, you can hear lots of scratchy Iry LeJeune records and 200-proof Dennis McGee and Sady Courville each week (with lots of other great stuff too) on my program "Down Home", Thursday nights from 7-9pm Pacific Time on KCSN 88.5 FM, webcasting worldwide at! (Leave it to the boy to work in a shameless plus anywhere...)

Scalpel!   It's after Easter. You have leftover Marshmallow Peeps. This means, of course, that it's time for the Medical Experiments.

One of the great mysteries of the Peep species is that these creatures are always born as conjoined quintuplets. Some scientists have theorized that this arrangement, much like pack behavior in other species, serves as a natural protection against predators. As evidence, note that Peeps are most often consumed by predators only after they have been separated from their siblings. Conversely, Peeps which remain attached to their siblings are rarely preyed upon.

Nevertheless, as Peeps integrate into modern society, there is no ethical reason they should be denied the benefits of individualism, freed from the bonds of their sticky, marshmallow kin.

We thus applied the advances of modern medicine to attempt this miracle separation of these 5 brave volunteers.


The truly depraved may seek to look into further research, including Peeps' reactions to cold, heat, solubility and low-pressure environments.

Yahoo: How 'bout we send you some spam!   Yahoo have made some major changes to their privacy policy, including the fact that they'll share your personal data with any company that may acquire it in the future. Worse still, if you have a Yahoo ID or if you subscribve to anything on Yahoo Groups, also set itself up to send you lots and lots of spam:

Yahoo users will now automatically have their marketing preferences set to accept updates from a smattering of Yahoo's businesses. Previously, users were offered one option to either accept or reject product notices when first registering on the site.

Users will have to click "no" to opt out of receiving e-mails from a selection of 13 Yahoo products, ranging from job listings to new media products to inclusion in Yahoo's user surveys, among other things. The page also has an option for users to opt in to the Yahoo Delivers service, which sends product pitches from third parties.

Yahoo users will have 60 days upon receiving notice to opt out of these promotions.

My friend Steve refers to this as "a grand screw-up", but I have no doubt that this was a deliberate plan. Here's how to opt out of all this crap:

If you have a Yahoo! account you may want to re-set your marketing preferences ASAP. Yahoo! changed their policy and signed everyone up for ALL of their email lists by default. There are over a dozen lists, as well as selections for PHONE and snail mail contact. You can change these here:

Click on this link and log in. Then look in the middle of the page in the email address section. There is a link called "Edit your marketing preferences". Click on this. You will see about a dozen Yahoo! mailing lists, as well as selections for outside mailing lists, phone, and snail mail. By default- these are all set to YES. Change them to NO or you'll receive junk mail.

They are supposedly sending out messages to everyone, but are saying it may take several weeks. In the meantime, they can happily release your contact information to others in accordance with their changed policy.

Sneaky bastards.

Bizarre web site of the day.   Crime Scene Cleaners, Inc. -- Homicide/Suicide/Accidental Death Remediation. Apparently it's a nationwide company. (Not an April Fool's joke.)

March Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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