looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.
2. --n. Chuck Taggart's (almost) daily updated weblog, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.
Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting. If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.
Page last tweaked @ 12:25am PDT, 6/28/2002
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KCSN (Los Angeles)
"Down Home" playlist
Live MP3 audio stream
Subscribe to the
"Down Home" weekly
playlist email service
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
Grateful Dead Radio
(Streaming complete shows!)
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
The Sazerac Cocktail
(A work in progress; Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)
Alcohol (and how to mix it)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
Cultured Cocktail (Robert Hess, et al.)
La Fée Verte
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
New Orleans Menu Daily
Chef Talk Café
The Global Gourmet
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
My adventures on Mardi Gras Day 2002
In vino veritas.
At Swim, Two Boys, by Jamie O'Neill.
The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, by JT LeRoy.
Café Royal Cocktail Book, (Coronation Edition, 1937), by W. J. Tarling.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Miles of Music
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Get Your War On
by David Rees
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
Films seen recently
Minority Report (****-1/2)
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (**-1/2)
The Bourne Identity (****)
Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Donnie Darko (****)
Murder by Numbers
The Time Machine
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
Vanilla Sky (*-1/2)
2001: A Space Odyssey
Lookin' at da TV:
Weblogs I read:
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
More Like This
Neil Gaiman's Journal
The Other Side
Q Daily News
This Modern World
Whim and Vinegar
Wil Wheaton Dot Net
Matthew's GLB blog portal
New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.
AlterNet.org (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)
Whitehouse.org (not the actual White House, but it should be)
The Final Frontier:
What's in Chuq's Visor? (My favorite Palm OS applications)
(* = superfavorite)
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS 9.2.2 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)
"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
Friday, June 28, 2002
So long, Ox. John Entwistle, 1944-2002.
John was an amazing bassist. I was a huge Who fan since early high school, and I didn't have to listen all that closely to realize that John was one of those bassists you noticed, who wasn't just part of a generic rhythm section but an integral part of the band's music.
I remember seeing them perform (my only regret being that Keith Moon was gone by then), Daltrey wildly swinging his mike, Pete thrashing his guitar, and the Ox standing there like a statue -- solid, the anchor around which the rest of them revolved, unmoving except for his fingers, flying across his bass so fast they were almost a blur, creating pulsing and complex bass lines for one of the greatest rock 'n roll bands ever. I'll miss him.
A new Cordelia's Dad album!! I've been waiting for this for five years. Good things come to those who wait.
A super-condensed version of the record's history -- in 1996 Cordelia's Dad, an amazing acoustic traditional/noisy rock band that I absolutely love, did a very memorable live performance on my radio show, half acoustic and half electric. Some from a nascent label heard the broadcast, called the station and wanted to sign them. Deals were drawn up, huge advances were offered. Literally at the eleventh hour, it all fell apart due to a severe health crisis on the part of the label's head. The band decides to make the record anyway, even though they have no label for releasing it. Steve Albini is hired to do the recording. We wait five years.
The wait is over.
"What It Is" is now out on Kimchee Records, and I just got it in the mail today. I'm still not done listening to it yet, but my first listen has caused my jaw to drop several times. It's a rich, complex, astonishing record that is going to take several more listens for me to take it all in (and I will listen with great pleasure). It ranges from very, very noisy original rock songs with lots of guitar feedback to two pure unaccompanied voices singing a song learned from the October 1803 issue of the American Musical Magazine. For now, I'll quote from the email I got from the band yesterday morning, announcing its release:
Our most adventurous CD yet, what it is features Tim, Peter and Cath in songs ranging from noisy RAWK to unaccompanied harmony vocals recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago and Mark Alan Miller in Amherst, MA. Sing along choruses, horrendous feedback and Tim's overtone singing are joined by Laura Risk's fiddle on an acoustic rendition of an old love song, and Mike Heffley's trombone on two songs with a more atmospheric/experimental vibe. The bottom line: what it is is WHAT IT IS. We're very excited about this release, and invite you to check it out.There are some early reviews in the All Music Guide, and High Bias that cover the bases for now. The key words from the above are "definitive album" and "genuine breakthrough".
Other Cordelia's Dad news. The lead item here made my eyes bug out. I had been looking forward to the forthcoming film version of Charles Frazier's superb novel Cold Mountain for quite a while, pictured a younger Brad Pitt as Inman as I made the movie in my mind while I read, heard a vile rumor of Tom Cruise being attached to the project to play Inman (No!), then kinda forgot about it. Peter Irvine to the rescue:
Tim Eriksen just returned from Nashville where he was working with T-Bone Burnett and director Anthony Minghella on music for the upcoming Miramax film "Cold Mountain," starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Among other things, Tim had the curious experience of recording a track with Ralph Stanley and Jack White of the White Stripes. He and T-Bone plan to work together to produce a CD of Sacred Harp singing in conjunction with the film.This is great news on several fronts. Jude Law will be perfect as Inman, and Nicole Kidman will be perfect as Ada, although she's a tad older than I pictured Ada as I read. No matter; I loved her performance in The Others, and I'm sure she'll be fabulous here too. T-Bone's building quite a career as soundtrack producer for pictures with American roots music soundtracks, and given the good job he did coordinating O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, I know he'll do well here too. I hope he calls Dirk Powell and John Herrman, who did the superb album Music From the Mountain, all songs and tunes either inspired by or mentioned in Cold Mountain.
According to IMDb, "Cold Mountain" starts shooting in July, and look at the rest of that cast -- Renée Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Brendan Gleeson, Charlie Hunnam, Donald Sutherland, Kathy Baker, Jena Malone. Wow. Good news all around.
Chocolates to die for. Okay, I might actually consider dying for these, given the three wee bites I had last Tuesday, courtesy of Mary. (Very generous of her; I might have been rather reluctant to share stuff like this, greedy bastard that I can be sometimes.)
Rococo Chocolates are a chocolatier in London, England who make some of the most exquisite chocolates I've ever seen. I haven't been lucky enough to visit their shop, but as I mentioned I've tased their wares. Their artisan chocolate bars (among their other large selection of chocolate confections) are a minimum 70% cocoa solids for the dark chocolate, 37.5% for the milk, and are flavored with things like caramelized almonds, cardamom, chile pepper, black pepper, earl grey tea, lavender, mint leaves, coffee, mocha java, orange confit, orange and geranium, crystallised ginger, cinnamon, rose, sea salt, white cardamom, basil & Persian lime, cocoa nibs, rosemary, and pink peppercorn.
There are also delights like "Oranges and Lemons" (Say the bells of St. Clements) -- crystallized orange and lemon peel rolled in ground almonds and dipped in milk or dark chocolate, sold by the 225g bag; whole lavender flowers in rough slabs of white chocolate; "Frutti di bosco", which are blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries in slabs of white chocolate (oh, Madonn'!). Their current major attraction is a special Jubilee Bar to commemorate the Queen's 50th anniversary as a tourist attraction (sorry, I'm such a smartarsed colonist): a gold-foiled artisan bar (22 carat gold leaf on top of the bars, in fact) with rose petals on the bottom, and a 70% cocoa solids organic dark chocolate flavored with rose geranium oil. (Dead pukka!)
I've mail-ordered spirits from overseas before, and now I think I'm going to add chocolates to my adventurous long-distance ordering. Beware, though -- those artisan bars are £3 a pop for 65g, and postage is likely to be upwards of £12-15. (Bloody hell.)
Screw all that "Clones" stuff. The trailer and preliminary web site for "Star Trek: Nemesis" are up.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Okay, everybody rise ... "I plead alignment to the flake of the untitled snakes of a merry cow, and to the Republicans for which they scam, one nacho, underpants, invisible, with licorice and jugs of wine for owls."
-- Bongo, via Matt Groening.
A grill to die for. Okay, let's not get hasty ... I wouldn't actually shuffle off this mortal coil to eat there, but I'd certainly drive across town on a moment's notice. Seafood platters piled with shrimp, scallops and Gargantuan king crab legs; mixed grills of chops and sausages; steaks sizzling in butter the way the Cosmos meant them to be; and French toast for dessert! All this and more awaits ye hungry and carnivorous Los Angeles chowhounds at Hillmont, a terrific new grill in Los Feliz.
Evangeline Made dans la radio. There was an excellent profile of the album and interview with Ann Savoy on NPR's "Morning Edition" this morning (gleefully linked without permission!). Gee, it's probably the first time Cajun music has been heard on KCRW since, oh, March of 1998.
A remedy for French fry carcinoma. Sue wrote in with a sure-fire cure:
It was pointed out on the Chicago Chowhounds board that the folks who are currently dead set on making us afraid of French fries are the same ones who have been extolling the cancer-fighting properties of cooked tomatoes.Okay, that's an edited version -- Sue and the Chicago Chowhounds actually said "catsup". They speak a different dialect up there, and I can't quite get my Ninth Ward tongue to cooperate. As I've said in the past, there are two types of people in the world: those who say "catsup", and those who say "ketchup". I'm in the latter category.
Obvious precaution, therefore: drench your fries with ketchup!
Tonight on "Down Home". New music from Los Lobos, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Dolly Parton and Mike Ireland, plus Cajun music from The Magnolia Sisters, zydeco from "Zydeco Joe" Mouton and lots more. Tune in at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles, or worldwide via www.kcsn.org.
Cocktail of the day. A welcome contribution from Malika Henderson, who describes this long drink as "a perfect summer drink".
Lavender Vodka LemonadeMalika and Catherine publish a quarterly newsletter called "Food Notes and Stories" which looks really good. You can see what it's all about, including excerpts, on their site. I might just have to become a subscriber.
1 ounce lavender syrup
Juice of one lemon
1-1/2 ounces vodka
To make the lavender syrup: bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and the zest of one lemon to a boil; remove from heat, then add 1 cup lavender blossoms. Let steep overnight, then strain and bottle.
Fill a highball glass with ice, add the syrup, lemon juice and vodka, then top with sparkling water. You may leave out the vodka to make it nonalcoholic, and it's also great with white rum instead of vodka (I'd try it with gin, too).
Quote of the Day. Thanks to Mary for sending this in.
"And then on the way home, a right onto Elysian Fields, in quick succession one passes New York, Vienna, Burbank, and Pressburg, four streets in a row, one can't make this up, only in New Orleans, why aren't you here, you deserve this strange and literary place, begging for your mind and your curiosity? And then just a little further down on Elysian Fields, a man stands in the middle of traffic selling candied apples.
"A Man Stands Selling Candied Apples In The Middle of Elysian Fields Between Pleasure and Humanity. I swear, I could not make this up."
-- Tim Sommer, on life in New Orleans.
Under a clear blue sky. An amusing tidbit from today's "SatireWire":
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATESFrom childhood I never understood why Congress got away with the 1954 law adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance (the addition of which was spearheaded by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization), and I never understood how they got away with adding the motto "In God We Trust" to the money, in a country where the first article of the Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". The idea of a pledge or loyalty oath is kind of creepy to begin with, and I also never understood why we were pledging allegiance to a flag. It would stand to reason that if we were pledging allegiance to anything, it should be to the Constitution, upon which this country was founded. (Pledge links purloined from Jason.)
OF AMERICA, AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS,
ONE NATION, (SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE),
INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
Yes, it's probably de minimis, but I still never thought it was particularly appropriate.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Good friends and good food are a great way to spend one's time. We got together with a few of our regular Louisiana-visiting crowd (a.k.a. "The Fat Pack") last night to welcome some friends from Lafayette who were in town for the Long Beach Cajun & zydeco festival, and a good time was had by all -- eating, drinking, laughing and telling stories are things I love to do.
Starting with homemade guacamole and salsa with chips and quaffing a few of those wonderful Blue Moon cocktails I mentioned yesterday did well to hold us off as we were tantalized by the aromas coming from the bread machine (garlic and Romano bread, I believe) and the grill. We then moved on to thick, gorgeous slices of lamb that had been marinated for 24 hours in a purée of plums right of the tree, plus rosemary and garlic. Grilled to a rosy medium rare, they were perfection, some of the best lamb I've had in recent memory. The accompaniment was Moroccan-style carrots, which I liked well enough; I don't need my vedge-a-tibbles to be too fancy. Mary, who had made them, was disappointed, though ... and Emily, our teenaged nascent food critic, declared them to be "underconfident", which we all loved. Wes made the main part of the dessert, a beautiful Meyer lemon sorbet, topped with the cherry compote I made Monday night (and yes, my fingers are still stained ... not with Duncan's blood, mind you, but cherry juice).
I think y'all should do this sort of thing as often as you can.
Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce! You can go to The Boss' web site and listen to the title track of his forthcoming album "The Rising" via RealAudio. Well, if you want.
Making doilies in the pokey. A while back Comedy Central ran a hilarious promo spot that featured a Martha Stewart lookalike, visiting a Snoop Dogg lookalike in prison, saying, "... and you can save some of the blueberry cobbler from the mess hall to make beautiful paints for the wall of your cell. And remember -- don't let anyone make you their bitch; you make them your bitch."
Will Martha get to dispense prison decor advice from the inside? The Maven-of-Everything, accused of insider trading, doesn't seem to think so. Investigators, however, seem to think her recent stock sale was very fishy indeed. Ain't no amount of lemon juice gonna take that fishy smell away.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Today's lesson: Cherry juice semi-permanently stains your fingertips when you manually pit four pounds of cherries. I've gotta get one of those cherry-pitting gizmos.
The result of all that pitting should be worth the effort and finger-staining:
CHERRY COMPOTECocktail of the day. This one might take a little effort, but if it sounds intriguing to you, it's more than worth it. If you've ever loved the aroma and flavor of violets ... if you ever enjoyed C. Howard's Scented Gum or Violet Candies, imagine what real violets and not artificially violet-flavored things might taste like.
2 pounds ripest Bing cherries (or other tart, flavorful variety)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon Kirschwasser
Stem and pit the cherries. (Wear gloves if you don't want stains on your fingers.)
Place the cherries and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan, preferably all in one layer, and sprinkle with the sugar. Cook on high heat, shaking and tossing occasionally to coat, for about 5 minutes. The cherries will immediately give off their own juices when they start to heat up. Don't overcook or they'll turn into mush. Remove from heat and let sit a while, and they'll give off more juice. When cool add the brandy and Kirsch and stir in, then refrigerate for at least an hour.
Serve with lemon sorbet, whipped cream to which grated lemon zest has been added (let sit for a couple of hours in the fridge if you do this), Italian macaroons or other type of cookie. Yum.
YIELD: 6 - 8 servings
I first tried this at Dr. Cocktail's place, and thought it was incredible. "I need to be able to make these all the time," I thought. Unfortunately, I couldn't; the primary flavoring ingredient is no longer made (which is not atypical of drinks from Doc's bar). The drink called for gin, a touch of lemon juice, and a violet-flavored liqueur called Crème Yvette. Crème Yvette used to be made by Charles Jacquin et Cie (the people who make Chambord), but has been defunct for years; Doc gets his batch from someone who knew how Jacquin made it, and now makes his own for himself and his friends. Sigh ... what to do?
Fortunately, there's a very similar liqueur still made in France called Crème de Violette -- not quite the proprietary formula of Crème Yvette, but close enough. It's made by Benoit-Serres in Villefrance-de-Lauragais, southeast of Toulouse in the south of France. They don't seem to export (bad news), but there is a great online mail-order source (good news!).
Renowned London chef Sally Clarke has a shop next to her restaurant which sells Benoit-Serres' "Liqueur de la Violette". It runs £14.99 for a 375ml bottle, which isn't all that expensive until you take shipping into account; that'll run you a little over £12, so it's be more economical to get two bottles (go in with somebody). You only use a tablespoon of this elixir per drink, so you'll get a little more than 23 cocktails out of this little bottle (less if you use greater amounts in other drinks). They're extraordinarily nice people; if your email is from Sarah at the shop, tell her I sent you and that I'm enjoying my Liqueur de Violette very much.
This is an absolutely exquisite cocktail.
Blue Moon CocktailIncidentally, I'd love to eat at Sally Clarke's. It's sort of the Chez Panisse of Britain, as she's very inspired by the cuisine of Alice Waters (who wrote the introduction to Sally's new book). Yes, there is indeed good food in London.
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Crème de Violette
1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained
Shake or stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass;
garnish with a twist of lemon.
Other violet cocktails. The bottle of Liqueur de la Violette came with a little pamphlet entitled "Suggestions de Cocktails", so I thought I'd pass them on as well. Some of them may sound intriguing, but they're all fairly lightweight. I'd hazard to guess than many older (or just sexist) bartenders would use the term "ladies' drinks" to refer to these. I've always thought that to be a misnomer, because I know some ladies who can certainly drink me under the table.
Les Amis de la VioletteThe only one of these I can see myself making is the one with sparkling wine, which might be good before a brunch or something. I think I'll stick with the Blue Moon, me.
3/10 Crème de Violette
7/10 Crémant sparkling wine
7/10 Crème de Violette
Float a layer of crème fraîche (ooh!) on top, or whipped cream
5/10 Crème de Violette
2/10 Crème de Cassis
5/10 Crème de Violette
1/10 Crème de Banana
4/10 club soda
Everything gives you cancer, Part Deux On the heels of recent findings by Swedish scientists that starchy foods cooked at high temperatures form a cancer-causing substance, World Health Organization scientists are now having a three-day conference to probe reports that French fries cause cancer.
Great, just great, says the boy with the incredible weakness for French fries, one of his favorite things in the whole wide world. How can they do this to me? The un-French-fried life is not worth living!
Chuck is. From the "Surely You Must Have Better Things to Do" department ... we have a little Google-based game that's meme-ing its way around the world (via Shel and Jerwin, among others). One goes to Google and enters "________ is", filling the blank with one's first name and making sure you enter the quotes as well. Lots of amusing things come up, some of which I'd be more than happy to say about myself, and others ... well, not.
Chuck is a handsome young man with a great sense of humor.[ Link to today's entries ]
Chuck is the biggest freak of them all.
Chuck is cool.
Chuck is the man.
Chuck is busy.
Chuck is an inventor.
Chuck is no exception.
Chuck is a madcrazy performer.
Chuck is totally unprepared for Buck's awkward attempt at a bathroom come-on.
Chuck is an incredible musician.
Chuck is one of the most active and innovative musicians working in the field of jazz today.
Chuck... is that your pager?
Chuck is fluent in Spanish.
Chuck is a big part of the roots and all...
Chuck is NOT Your Ex.
Chuck is NOT Marcus.
[At 38 years old,] Chuck is pretty long in the tooth.
Chuck is 40 years old and is a realtor.
Chuck is a former North American national kickboxing champion, and also held numerous IKF and WKF titles.
Chuck is not just nervous but downright terrified of everything from cats to pigeons to stuffed animals to paper bags.
Chuck is death.
Chuck is a serial killer.
Chuck is not the killer.
Chuck is a Born-Again-Rocketeer.
Chuck is an outstanding member of Mansfield First Assembly of God.
Chuck is known all over the world for his songs "Sometimes Alleluia", "Be Enthroned, Oh God" and "The Name Above All Names".
Chuck is doing something he loves, working hard, traveling Iowa, recruiting good candidates, and talking about our Republican vision.
[The] chuck is quickly and effortlessly removed to expose a screwdriving bit.
Saturday, June 22, 2002
Second day of summer! It's hot in my house! I've got all the windows closed! Why?
Because this morning a truck drove up and blocked my driveway as it dumped a mountain of shit in front of my next-door neighbor's house.
Apparently he wants a new lawn. Apparently in this very bizarre part of the country, when people want a new lawn they buy a huge pile of shit to spread all over it. (This is a foreign and bizarre concept to a New Orleanian; there, a lawn will grow a foot a week whether you want it to or not.) This might be processed and treated shit, but it's still shit, which means it smells like shit. It'll smell even worse once the day gets hotter and they water it.
My brilliant landlord once saw fit to hire some gentlemen to dump a load of shit on my lawn a few years ago ... on Thanksgiving Day. (Shit-spreader rates must be cheaper on holidays.) It was hot that day too, even hotter inside due to my having the ovens going full blast. We couldn't open the windows that day, either. We sat and sweltered, because if we had opened the windows the smell of the shit on the lawn would have put us off our food (which took me three days to prepare).
You California people are weird. Surely there must be some other kind of fertilizer. Isn't there any way to grow a lawn without shit?
(Later in the day, Wes kindly informed me that "No, you cannot grow a lawn in a semi-arid desert climate without shit. Sorry.")
Friday, June 21, 2002
Well, I did always want to be an astronaut... Just when I was ready to drop Showtime because "Queer as Folk" is so god-awful, it looks like I might have to keep it to watch their newest show:
Weller Back to Sci-Fi in "Odyssey 5"Damn, they even spelled it properly!
Peter Weller hates to fly and, despite his "RoboCop" fame, he's "not a sci-fi person."
But Weller eagerly signed on to play space shuttle commander Chuck Taggart on "Odyssey 5," a new science-fiction series on Showtime (Fridays, 10 p.m. Eastern).
Taggart is on a routine flight when the Earth implodes miles below him. The Seeker, a space alien, projects him and his Odyssey crew back into the past, returning them to Earth five years before its destruction.
Peter Weller as me? Hmm ... well, I would have preferred Robert Sean Leonard, but I guess he'll do. I must confess a great deal of curiosity as to how that character got his extremely cool and distinguished-sounding name.
Cajun & zydeco music in Long Beach this weekend! Plenty of fine Louisiana music to be had this weekend (as well as a big dose of Louisiana food) down in Long Beach at the Long Beach Bayou Festival, the evolution of what started as the L.A. Cajun and Zydeco Festival 15 years ago, at the John Anson Ford Theatre. I was at that festival, and I've continued going year after year as it's changed venues and changed management hands ... oddly enough, with all those changes, the festival's still a lot of fun every year, and they always do a great job lining up prime Louisiana musical talent.
It'll be both Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 8pm at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach, and will feature music by The Magnolia Sisters, Zydeco Force, Kevin Naquin & the Ossun Playboys, Paul Daigle and Savoir Faire, and The Louisiana Old-Timers.
There'll be plenty of good Louisiana food, a big dance floor, activities for the kids including a Mardi Gras parade, and much more. Y'all come pass a good time, yeah!
Good and bad news for Internet radio. The Library of Congress have accepted additional royalty rates (which are, remember, above and beyond the ASCAP/BMI licensing fees that radio stations already pay) for streaming Internet radio, and the rates are half of what was initially proposed.
While this isn't as heinous as the initial proposition, some Internet radio stations are already going under. These stupid record industry people do not understand that artists are only going to gain promotion from Internet radio, they're not going to lose sales. They think that Internet radio is like MP3s, when in fact most Internet radio for most people is barely better than AM quality. Nobody's going to record that (and I know of nobody who does). This could conceivably endanger KCSN's stream as well. Sigh.
First day of summer! And it's gray, overcast, gloomy and rainy in my part of Los Angeles this morning. Weird.
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Have a Neanderthal man over for dinner. (Hint: Fire up the grill -- he'll like barbecue.)
I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Canadian science fiction writerRobert J. Sawyer at Dangerous Visions on Tuesday. I was a big fan of his novel Calculating God, which probably would've won a Hugo if not for "that boy wizard". I was eagerly awaiting his latest, entitled Hominids, the first in a trilogy called "The Neanderthal Parallax". It envisions a parallel Earth in which the dominant species is Homo neanderthalis, not Homo sapiens, and tells us what happens when a quantum physics experiment gone awry brings a Neanderthal physicist named Ponter into our world. We see the Neanderthal world as well, and their culture is fascinating (and delightful).
I devoured the novel in a little more than a day, and already I'm grousing that I have to wait until next February for the second book in the trilogy. In the meantime, I'll just have to keep myself satisfied by buying and reading all of Sawyer's other novels. I read sample chapters of several on his staggeringly huge web site, and I'm intrigued by everything I read. It's hard SF, but like all good SF it uses the technology and the science to tell illuminating stories of the human spirit. He's a damned good writer ... Canada's best SF writer! (Well, Canada's only SF writer, at least on a full-time basis ...)
"It's that same sing song, and the DJ sucks / It makes me sad." Yep, commercial radio sucks. It's truly, truly awful. And it's only getting worse. I'm a public/freeform/community radio kinda guy, so I've been saying that for years. Looks like the teeming masses of the public are finally saying so too.
They should know better. Although apparently this has been a "requirement" for quite a while now, Wired News is reporting that National Public Radio requires special permission for any web site to link to any part of their web site. (Here's the permission form.) I'm not surprised by this sort of thing from a huge, stupid, faceless corporation, but I'm surprised to hear this coming from NPR, a group of people you'd think would have a better understanding of how the Web works. As a member of the public radio community, I'm particularly irritated by this.
It's been said a thousand times before, elsewhere as well as in this article, but it bears repeating -- if you don't want people linking to you, get off the Web. Linking is what the Web is all about.
A nifty little label, and an NPR link to boot! Last Monday's edition of "Fresh Air" featured a cool story by rock historian Ed Ward about Frisco Records, a New Orleans soul label run by a female fry-cook. (It's the last listed story; RealAudio required.)
Near-miss? More like a near-hit! Okay, we can afford to be jovial now, stealing a George Carlin line for it. But on June 14, an asteroid the size of a football field passed within 75,000 miles of our planet (that's 1/3 the distance to the moon, within its orbit!), and we didn't even know about it until 3 days later. If it had indeed plammed into us, it would have had the effect of tens of megatons of TNT, with a destructive force nearing that of the Tunguska meteor in Siberia in 1908. *glerp*
The most important thing you'll ever read on the Net. Well, so says this page's author, as he describes "How we cook hawgs in Mississippi". Thanks to Bernie for the link; regarding this he says, "This is a glimpse into another planet I don't ever expect to visit." Hell, I'd go ... as long as they gave me some pig. (Mmmmm, pig ...) I just probably wouldn't stay very long.
Quote of the day. "How tragic it is that we live in a world where the 'alternative' radio station plays Dave Matthews. That's an alternative the way CBS is an alternative to NBC."
-- Tony Mastrogiorgio, disgruntled former radio listener, referring to the multi-platinum rock band.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Sorry, no sausages and peas with chips here. It's a tiny English town of 9,000, not far from the Welsh border. Most people outside England probably haven't heard of it. It's not well-known for much ... except for the amazing fact that it contains three Michelin-starred restaurants within its limits and is now an English dining destination. (Try not to have trouble with the presence of the words "English" and "dining destination" in the same sentence; the English are rapidly overcoming their reputation for lousy food.)
Hibiscus: "An assortment of sparkling amuse-bouches -- tiny but sublime potato croquettes scented with vanilla, and a single bite of creamy onion quiche -- perfectly fulfilled their function.Hmm. Well, after Barcelona and Italy, we might have to make a trip to England one day, if we can stop in Ludlow and spend a weekend dining there. At least we're in store for better food than bangers and curry chips!
"They set the scene for a lovely meal: snails coated in a lively garlic-lime foam, followed by succulent baby lamb and a dessert of strawberries with celeriac jelly and whipped cream scented with Sichuan peppercorns, a brilliant combination of wildly unexpected flavors."
Underhill's: "Our meal began with Champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the little sitting room off the dining room: buttery, crisp cheese strips; tarts of Brie, chives and tomatoes, suffused with flavor; tiny sushi. Anyone would have to be careful not to make a meal of the sourdough and its accompanying butter.
"The cooking here is very straightforward, so the ingredients must be impeccable, and they are: a perfectly cooked piece of brill (a sort of English turbot, with spots) with a touch of lime and cardamom delights, while the silky dauphinois potatoes and creamed celeriac are habit-forming. Offered a choice of desserts, my dining companion heard Highland parfait and said she could not live without it. It is ice cream with praline oatmeal, a tribute to [Chef] Bradley's place of birth, Scotland."
Merchant House: "There was a perfect and subtle sauce for the lamb; delicate, perfectly cooked sole; perfectly cooked asparagus, artichokes and morels with a hollandaise sauce light as foam.
"And Mrs. Hill's cardamom ice cream with apple tart is a stunningly spicy harmony of flavors, while her crème caramel received its own superlative in my book -- the creamiest ever made."
Today's tidbit of literary history. Although I have steadfastly refused to see the current film version, I'm compelled to pass on a tidbit of history about what Eddie Izzard calls "one of the most amazing characters in American literature". The legendary Scooby-Doo got his name from a bit of Frank Sinatra scat singing in "Strangers In The Night". Seriously. (Via Matt)
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Recipe of the day. We had this for dinner on Sunday (and lunch on Monday). It's gooood. I initially found it as only one part of a much larger recipe for timpano di maccheroni, but I adapted it as a pasta dish in its own right, and it's absolutely lovely and easy to make.
No, really. It only looks complicated. Take the meatball recipe in the first part. You just take all the ingredients listed, dump 'em in a big bowl, mix 'em up with your hands then roll it into meatballs. How easy is that? The sauce recipe requires several steps, but they're all easy, and if you make the meatballs in advance you can get this done in about a half an hour.
If you don't want to deal with the veal/pork mixture, you can just substitute one pound of ground beef (but it's much better the other way). Use any pasta you like; I like penne, or else pappardelle or tagliatelle. Anything will do.
Pasta with meatballs, pancetta and peasSupremes OK estimating tips for tax bills. A 116-year-old San Francisco restaurant lost its 10-year court battle over a $23,000 back tax bill, setting a Supreme Court precedent that means the IRS will be able to estimate an "average tip" based on credit card receipts in order to bill for payroll taxes. They claim they won't be auditing individual servers, but this ruling could have a chilling effect on restaurants, determining whether many will even be able to stay in business.
Meatballs:Cover mushrooms with hot water and let sit for 30 minutes until reconstituted and soft. Drain and reserve soaking liquid (you might want to strain it).
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley (Italian flat-leaf, of course)
1 cup bread crumbs (make your own, or use Progresso Italian-seasoned)
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (optional)
4 ounces pancetta, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces tomato paste
1/2 can (28 ounce size) whole Italian plum tomatoes
Few pinches dried oregano
1/2 pound sweet petite peas (frozen and thawed
A few pinches red chile flakes, to taste (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound pasta
4 quarts salted water
Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. Add some salt and pepper, then fry a tiny bit so you can taste for seasoning. Roll into walnut-sized meatballs (not too big). Heat olive oil in a large skillet until just about smoking, then add meatballs. Shake pan so they don't stick; brown on all sides and reserve.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan, then add the pancetta. Cook until pancetta is just beginning to crisp, then remove and reserve. Add a little more oil if necessary, then add onion and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes to caramelize the sugars in the paste; you'll see it get a little darker. Stir to coat the onions, then add mushrooms and soaking liquid; simmer until the liquid is almost entirely reduced. Add wine, continue cooking until wine is almost entirely reduced. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands, and a little bit of the tomato purée from the can. Add pancetta and meatballs, and optionally the oregano (don't overdo it) and simmer for 10 minutes. If it looks too dry, add a little bit more of the tomato purée from the can. Check seasonings and adjust.
Have the water for the pasta already boiling when you add the meatballs and pancetta; it'll help the timing work out. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just barely al dente. Drain, then add to the meatballs and sauce mixture. Toss so that the sauce coats the hot pasta (this helps the pasta absorb more flavor). Cook for another minute or so, then put the pasta into a large serving bowl. Add the peas and toss.
"We think it's devastating to the industry," [restaurant owner Bob] Larive said. "Basically, it gives the IRS carte blanche to come in and throw these bogus numbers at people and scam us out of taxes we don't owe."(Unfortunately, tipping is the way it works in this country. Tip your server 20% routinely, 15% if the service was iffy. Never tip less than 15% unless you were actually abused by your server.)
[R]estaurant lawyers argued the IRS system doesn't account for tip sharing or stiffs who leave no tip at all. Besides, the restaurant's lawyers told the court, the IRS should audit individual workers if it suspected them of underreporting instead of going after the employer.
Fior d'Italia waiter Matthew Herman said the estimating shows the IRS doesn't understand the social hierarchy of tipping.
"American Express customers tip better than Visa or MasterCard customers, and they all tip better than cash customers," he said.
Ask anyone who waits tables for a living and they'll tell you -- the Supremes blew it on this one.
And the "smacking upside the head" portion of her sentence was apparently suspended. The assistant principal who forced girls to submit to an underwear inspection before a school dance to make sure they weren't wearing things has been demoted to a teaching position at another school. Seems a fairly light punishment, in these days when so many school officials think they have absoulte power and zero accountability.
Monday, June 17, 2002
This'll knock Cherry Garcia down! Vanilla? Chocolate? Strawberry? How pedestrian. Cherry Garcia? Chunky Monkey? Chubby Hubby? Soon to be passé! I can see Ben & Jerry's and Baskin-Robbins falling all over themselves to launch this new flavor -- bacon and egg ice cream, among other horrors. (Via Sean)
Bacon and egg ice creamOhh ... I dunno, Crow ...
This forms part of a dessert served at the restaurant. It's a twist on breakfast: caramelised brioche in place of toast, tomato and red pepper compote for jam, chewy salted butter caramel with wild mushrooms, and this ice cream, all washed down with a small cup of jellied Earl Grey. The idea stemmed from thinking about why some ice cream tastes of egg...
300g sliced streaky smoked bacon
1 litre full fat milk
25g skimmed milk powder
24 egg yolks
50g liquid glucose
175g unrefined caster sugar
Roast the bacon in an oven at 180C until slightly browned. Place in cold milk and leave to marinate overnight. Tip the milk and bacon into a casserole, and add the milk powder. Put the egg yolks, glucose and sugar in a mixing bowl and, using an electric whisk, mix at high speed until whiteand increased in volume.
Heat the milk and bacon mix to simmering and, with the whisk still going, pour a little on to the yolks. Tip this back into the milk pan, and cook over a lowish heat until it hits 85C. Hold at this temperature for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat. Cool the mixture down by stirring it over ice, tip into a blender and liquidise until smooth. Pass through a sieve and churn.
Quote of the day. "We're normal teenagers -- except we travel more and we run a company."
-- Mary-Kate Olson, who with her sister Ashley is worth $300 million, and whose merchandising company will gross $1 billion this year. (*glaq*)
Friday, June 14, 2002
There goes your money, honey. In today's DVD News ... Ken Burns' "The Civil War" is due, but the big'n that I've been drooling over is the forthcoming deluxe "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" box that's coming out in November. Have a look at the box art, and what comes in the box! *drool*
Quote of the day. Sent in today by Wes, who along with me has noted that lots of movies with great poster art end up with crappy DVD cover art.
"Are DVD covers designed by mentally challenged monkeys trying to use Photoshop?"
-- "Soggy Bagel's Revenge", a poster on the DVDfile.com site. Incidentally, the resounding consensus on the forum seems to be "Hell, yes!"
This month's features are on Tift Merritt, Tommy Womack, Florence Dore, The Star Room Boys, Rodney Pyeatt, Rick Cornell's "Ten Swell Alt.Country Songs By Non-Alt.Country Artists" plus Michael Pemberton's marvelous piece on Jazzfest's culinary doomsday of 2002.
Also, reviews of new albums by $1000 Wedding, From Hell to Breakfast, Jesse Dayton, Clem Snide, Songs:Ohia, Supersuckers, Superchunk-Teinosuke Kinugasa, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Josh Rouse, Caitlin Cary, Billy Bragg, Radio 4, Porter Hall, TN, Tom Waits, Paul Westerberg ... and lots more!
"Chicken con Broccoli?" Jesus, I hate those feckin' Olive Garden commercials. The guy talking about his favorite dish there, which they actually call "Chicken con broccoli". No. It's either "Pollo con broccoli", or "Chicken with broccoli". Mishmashing English and Italian that way when naming a dish is ... molto stupido!
While Googling for something entirely different yesterday, I happened to come across one man's version of an Olive Garden commercial that we'll never see ...
This is my cousin Giorgio from Italy. Word has it that he knows Italian food like nobody else! So last night we took him to Olive Garden. He orders the Capellini Pomodoro, with Roma tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.Funny, funny, funny.
He takes a bite and throws his fork down. "What the fuck is this shit?" he says. "What are you talking about?" I say, "It's fuckin' Capellini Pomodoro!" He says, "Che cazzo stai dicendo? You gotta be kidding! This shit I wouldn't feed to my dogs!"
(I must confess, though ... despite how much I hate their stupid commercials, I recently ate at an Olive Garden -- no, I didn't pick the restaurant that day -- and it actually wasn't bad, for a chain.)
It's hatred, not fear. A group of psychologists has presented research to the American Psychological Society's convention in New Orleans last weeking, asserting that the term "homophobia" is a misnomer.
Their research indicates that homophobia isn't a true phobia; the findings "suggest that social conditions and attitudes, not psychological factors, create homophobia, the researchers said. In other words, homophobia is closer to racism than it is to a phobia."
Thursday, June 13, 2002
Tonight on "Down Home". I've got the night off, and our Fearless Leader, KCSN General Manager Freddie Johnson, will be sitting in. We don't get to hear nearly enough of El Jefe doing music shows these days, so this'll be a special treat. Tune in! 88.5 FM in Los Angeles, kcsn.org worldwide.
Mmmmm, Bourbon. King of American whiskey ... these days, at least. While I have a special fondness for rye, I do love Bourbon. The Washington Post takes a look at our favorite whiskey, with a little history, a fair bit about production and distillation process, a look at the various brands and the more-or-less friendly camaraderie amongst all the various master distillers.
Mmmmm, pig. My friend Steve's friend Peat likes to do an annual pig roast. )I'm a big fan of pig roasts, having been to a Cajun boucherie or two.) Peat's now got a website up so you can watch him in action. Maybe it'll be inspirational enough for you to do your own Hog in a Hole.
Fresh-baked weblog! Kristie has got a new weblog that went PLUNK right into my daily reads list. i-dabble is "kitchen ruminating" and, as she said more specifically: "I love to cook but am strapped for time, so most of my dabbling is focused on producing tasty food quickly. I have two goals: (1) to eat more healthfully, and (2) to eat in ways that are more environmentally friendly."
I'm always looking for ways to produce tasty food quickly. As for the second two goals ... well, I try to aspire to #1 when I can (but frequently fail), and I do my best toward #2 by shopping at local organic farmer's markets rather than eating factory food and processed fast-food crapola (which in turn helps feed #1). I'm hoping I can get some help from this blog. (Via Medley ... thanks for this one!)
Liberal? No, progressive. Oh, one more thing. The aforementioned Kristie wrote and posted a very interesting essay entitled "Why I Am Not A Liberal" on her site. Worth reading.
"Cold Sanctuary." Writer, former seminarian, "failed priest and questionable Catholic" Thomas Keneally writes in The New Yorker on his views of the Roman Catholic church's propensity for secrecy, arrogance and coverup; the absurdity of the celibate life for priests and the "hysterical, all-male grimness ... the 'toxic, tomblike' atmosphere" of such a life, and how the Church lost its mission.
My now intermittent practice of Catholicism is more akin to that of Jews who observe the major holidays for tribal, cultural, and historic reasons. I still feel the pull to meditation and prayer inspired by the old symbols -- the sanctuary lamp, the tabernacle, the Stations of the Cross. But I have been unable to find my way back to regular observance and obedience, past the strictures, the follies, and the hypocrisies of the official Church. Meanwhile, my archbishop in Sydney, George Pell, has declared that homosexuality is not an "inescapable" condition, and that only "a few" homosexuals have no choice about their sexuality. With such men in charge -- men who wield their authority as an instrument of exclusion -- I cannot return to the generous mystery of my boyhood faith.His last paragraph is quite moving -- it demonstrates how the true body of the Church lies not in its monolithic, authoritarian, arrogant and self-preservationist corporate institution, but in the simple acts of kindness and charity by its individuals.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Permalinks! Finally! (Well, sort of.)
As I've griped before, I just don't think I can get used to the idea of using Greymatter or Movable Type, as nifty as they are. I don't think they're nearly as easy to set up as a lot of far more savvy web-programmer types think they are, and I'm really used to doing all this by hand. Trouble is, doing it by hand makes it more difficult to have links to each entry. (I had to think as well -- do I really want a separate page for each and every entry in the archives? That's a pretty big and unwieldy archive.)
So ... a compromise. I do all this by prescripted macros that I just insert for date headers, etc., so I made another one. I'll have a link to each's day's entries, rather than each individual entry, at the bottom of each day's posts, that'll look something like this:
Maybe I'll switch to Movable Type one day, but in the meantime ... that'll do, pig.
Ah, you're right there, Ted. No, not Father Ted ... but a different Ted.
My friend Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh has, in his own words, finally got up off his butt and made himself an online portfolio ... and how can I not link to such a thing?! As I mentioned earlier, he's a world-class graphic designer, with particular talent in period illustration, logos, signage and labels from the 1920s to the 1940s. Great, great stuff.
You've probably seen some of it before -- I don't mean just my Pure Old Apple Vodka label, but things like the Dapper Dan and Fop hair pomade tins and various political campaign posters and lots more from from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", among many others. There's also a sneak peek of the forthcoming label for Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6, too! (Boy, I can't wait for that stuff to come out.)
If you're a movie producer or anyone else with an interesting project, put this man to work!
Act now! Operators are standing by! Well, of course they are. That's what they're paid for.
ABC's "Good Morning America" and experts from the Good Housekeeping labs tested a bunch of those products you see in infomericals. Apparently a few work as well as the claims, but lots of them are (big surprise) utterly worthless.
The only infomercial product to which I ever succumbed was "the authentic hand-hammered wok from the People's Republic of China". It was a decent wok, actually ... although the wood handle didn't fit in all that well, and I had to wonder if the hand-hammering was done by prisoners or sweatshop workers. I've never succumbed since. (Although I must admit, that inflatable guest bed looks kinda cool ...)
Oh, and if you hear that "if you all within the next 10 minutes, we'll add as a special extra bonus" line, it's horseshit. The operators who are standing by have no idea when stations run those commercials, and they run around the clock. See, that's how they get ya ...
More on the casting of Ignatius. Letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters ...
Donna wrote in with some suggestions -- "If he could bulk up enough, and could get the accent right, Jack Black could do a credible Paradise-gas-passing, Dr. Nut-belching Ignatius." Perhaps. Perhaps. I'm still keen on the Hoffman idea.
"What about Shirley McLaine as Ignatius' mother (Irene)?" Umm. I dunno. It is essential that she get the accent right, and if I were the director I'd make her spend a month in the Ninth Ward listenin' to Ninth Ward ladies to get it right.
"If Nicolas Cage isn't too tall, he has the sad and suffering eyes to be Patrolman Mancuso." He has the eyes, but he's too buff and tough, in looks as well as in reputation. Mancuso really has to be a sad sack, and will need a skilled comic actor for the role. A younger Bruno Kirby type could do it ...
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
The Case for Cocktails. Margaret Berry writes in The Morning News that she thinks we should drink more cocktails. This is a good thing.
If we don't cultivate the demand for complex drinks -- cocktails that require a commitment to acquiring certain tastes -- we must prepare to relinquish gambling, prostitution, and perhaps even sex.Hm. A bit of a leap there, perhaps. This presupposes that we consider cocktails to be naught but a mere vice, when in fact I think of it as one of life's sublime pleasures.
When we cast aside even our vices, how can we hope to preserve the very fiber of our society? Without morals, we are still a decadent and exuberant people. Without vices, we are troglogdytic hunches, scraping at the earth and mewling at the sky. For the good of mankind, we must stop ordering stupid drinks.I'm with ya there, hawt. Let's start off (as she mentions later on) by categorizing any drink that refers to sex or a sexual act of any kind in the name as a "stupid drink."
She goes on to make a number of drink suggestions with ingedient listings, which is also a good thing. However, when I spied this one I nearly had a patented Conniption Fit™:Old-FashionedOh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear ...
Ingredients: Whiskey, sugar, bitters, soda
What it says: My grandpa drinks this. My grandpa is a helluva guy.
Ideal setting: Any bar that's been open more than twenty-five years.
Repeat after me, please. There is no feckin' soda water in an Old Fashioned. There is no feckin' soda water in an Old Fashioned. Keep repeating this, ye Teeming Masses of Imbibers, until it completely sinks in, then repeat it to any bartender that tries to serve you some crappy watered-down Old Fashioned that's been topped off with soda. There is no soda in a proper Old Fashioned. Now, if you wanna drink a sweetened Bourbon Spritzer with bitters, fine. Enjoy. Just please don't call it an Old Fashioned and thereby allow ill-informed bartenders to promulgate the mistaken idea that that's what an Old Fashioned is. And yes, I will be a pain in the ass about this until I die.
Update: George, AKA "Sidecar Sid" wrote in with a detail I failed to notice while I was apparently too busy having a seizure over the word "soda" -- he quite correctly points out that a Sidecar does not, in fact, contain Grand Marnier and is not supposed to be served in a brandy snifter ("Gadzooks!" said he.). Cointreau, rather, and a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass, please. Thanks!
Quote of the day. "Soda water has no place in this drink. Ever."
-- Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess, referring to the Old Fashioned cocktail in an amazing piece of research and scholarship into the history of this drink.
Cocktail of the day? Ummmmm ... I don't think so.
I think I'll stick with the Tequila por mi Amante (which we decanted and strained last Sunday; it's a gorgeous shade of red, and now it'll age until July). However, if I were to extract the recipe for Mr. Francisco Dario's infused tequila from the linked article, it'd look something like this:
Tequila con ViboraUm. No. Definitely not. No thank you.
Specialty of the house, Rancho Agua Caliente, Ensenada, Mexico
1 gallon (or so) of cheap white tequila
1 small rattlesnake (red diamondback preferred)
Catch the rattlesnake with a "special stick". Place the rattlesnake into a gallon jar, then fill with the cheap white tequila. As the snake drowns, it (allegedly) emits "minute amounts of compounds with certain medicinal properties." When the snake is dead, remove from jar, gut snake, then put back in jar. Put the jar in the sun for three months, then in the shade for three months. Serve as shots. "It calms the nerves," says Francisco, "and is a fine remedy for arthritis, kidney problems and cancer."
Life's small pleasure of the day. Those little candy-coated fennel seeds that they serve you in Indian restaurants after dinner, for breath-freshening and as an aid to digestion.
I picked up a huge bag of them at the Indian grocery around the corner. Set me back all of a buck. I've got a little dish of them on my desk now, and they're incredibly addictive. Crunchy, sweet, spicy, aromatic. I'd better watch it, though. If my digestion gets too much aid, there could be trouble.
What's under the streets of Moscow? Lots of fascinating and creepy stuff, apparently.
Monday, June 10, 2002
Casting Ignatius. New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Angus Lind muses on possible casting choices for the role of Ignatius J. Reilly. Some of them are very scary. He also invokes the spectre of "The Big Easy" (a huge, steaming pile of crap when it came to true New Orleanian authenticity), which made me feel as if a goose had just walked over my grave (which, not being dead at all, is a very creepy feeling).
[H]ere's what I'm worrying about more than the actors:I remember. (*shudder*)
In the book, and in the stage adaptation, the N'Awlins dialect was an enormous part of the success. Toole was magnificent in capturing authentic dialogue from people who sat out on their stoops. The colorful black vernacular of the character Burma Jones, a porter in the Night of Joy cat house, was fabulous. No less than Walker Percy said Burma Jones "may be the best black character in American fiction. It is an extraordinary achievement for a white man to create him."
So let's just hope that Ignatius, Irene and Burma don't turn up with Cajun accents, calling each other "Cher."
It's happened before.
It will be very easy for them to make this movie suck. I'm still keeping faith in Soderbergh, though ...
Hard of Heering? I've had the worst time finding Heering Cherry Liqueur lately. Have you?
As cherry liqueurs go, it's the best there is. It's also an essential ingredient in the Singapore Sling, among others. I suppose you could use a cheap substitute like Bols Cherry Flavored Brandy, but why use an inferior product if you want a superior drink?
I'd see it pretty much everywhere, but now nobody has it. Not Wally's, not the Wine House, not Wine Expo, not Beverage Warehouse, not Red Carpet, nobody. I checked several internet sources ... none that I checked had it in stock. One said that it was "no longer available in the U.S.", and the spirits buyer at Wally's said he could no longer get it from his distributor.
Gulp. I like this stuff!
Fortunately, an email to Danish Distillers in Copenhagen sets our worries to rest -- the reply:
Thanks for your support of Heering Cherry Liqueur. Have no fear, The Absolut Spirits Company is now importing the product into the U.S. and we should have it back on the shelves in Los Angeles very soon. Thanks for your patience and support of our fine products. As soon as we have information concerning which stores will be handeling Heering in your area, we will pass that information onto you.Ah, a mere change of distributor. I can hardly imagine it "no longer being importer", so this is a good thing. Just in case you were wondering.
The Internet makes you stupid, says Carol van Houten in the Constant Reader. Her assertion is that the Internet is robbing students of the ability to do true research, and that using the net requires more work than using a library.
The latter part is true enough, but don't blame the Internet for the former -- blame the lazy student!
Friday, June 7, 2002
A Comedy of Eros: Ashcroft's Justice Department on the ball! September 11 and terrorists? Pfeh. Alien invasion conspiracies? A mere trifle. As we learned the other day, the FBI have been busting their bottoms on the really important cases and collaring the true dangers to homeland security, to wit ... nabbing a dozen hookers in New Orleans. Jonathan Turley offered an amusing commentary in today's Los Angeles Times:
In New Orleans, houses of ill-repute are some of the oldest institutions in the French Quarter and are often cited on tours as virtual cultural landmarks. Prostitution itself is a misdemeanor, a law universally honored in the breach. This is a view not shared by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's Justice Department.Turley's commentary is entertaining but also provides some insight as to where one can find the mind of our intrepid Justice Department head, when said mind should really be occupied with more important things.
This week, the Justice Department announced the results of a long investigation of a French Quarter bordello that serviced a virtual who's who of New Orleans elite, including at least one judge.
For more than 13 months, the Justice Department has conducted a major investigation of this bordello, producing hundreds of pages of surveillance transcripts and reports by 10 FBI agents. With considerable fanfare, the Justice Department touted its "catch" in a news conference: 12 prostitutes.
Only the FBI could go to the French Quarter and find just a dozen prostitutes after a year of investigation. Given the roughly one-to-one ratio between agents and prostitutes, the FBI could have produced a hundred times this number by having agents walk down Bourbon Street.
Incidentally, New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick doesn't appear to give a crap about any of this. Offered the case for prosecution by his office, Connick declined. "This is their case. I just told them, 'Thanks for the offer, but I think it would be more suitable for you to proceed with any such prosecutions.'" Thing is, prostitution isn't a federal crime, nor is being a prostitute's client. Not one of the clients, including a judge, several respected lawyers, stockbrokers, bankers and civic leaders, have been charged.
Oh, by the way, Mr. Turley ... it wasn't a French Quarter brothel, it was on upper Canal Street, well outside da Quarters.
Thursday, June 6, 2002
Eau d'Orleans? The Times-Picayune reports that "bottles of filtered New Orleans water, direct from the city's water system, one day could line shelves next to Perrier, Kentwood, Abita Springs and Dasani."
Y'know, I remember when taking a drink of New Orleans tap water was an adventure. You never knew what it'd taste like, but it was a pretty safe bet that it'd taste like whatever had been spilled into the river that day. I also particularly remember a nasty phenol spill that affected the local tap water so much that you could turn on the faucet and smell it from three feet away. While Sewerage and Water Board officials assured us that the water was still safe to drink, I remember taking a drink and having to spit it out immediately because it tasted so horrible (imagine water flavored with concentrated essence of Chloraseptic sore throat spray). At the time I was working at the Village Aurora Cinema 6 across da river in Algiers as a movie usher*, and we couldn't even sell any drinks from the concession stand. Tap water was carbonated and mixed with the syrups for their soft drinks, and they reeked of foul-tasting phenol as well.
Just about everyone I know in New Orleans (including my family) uses tap water for washing and Kentwood Spring Water for drinking. Paying a premium price for bottled New Orleans water? Only to the most gullible tourists, methinks.
The City that Care Forgot, online. New Orleans now has its own official website, something that new mayor Ray Nagin promised during his campaign. You can't do much with it yet, but you can report potholes or apply for a business license so far. It was produced by a massive staff (of three) and no expense was spared ($4,800!).
Design's a little dull, y'all. I know this is an official city thing, but jeez. This is New Orleans! Let's spice it up a little, shall we?
Tonight on "Down Home". Featuring tunes and songs from legendary fiddler Bruce Molsky, who's appearing this Saturday, June 8th at First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica at 8pm. Call (818) 785-3839 for reservations. (Produced by FolkWorks.)
Also new music from the second solo album by Jill Olson of San Francisco-based honky-tonk country band Red Meat; Country songs from former Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen; Latin R&B from The Iguanas, recorded live at Wolf Trap; Nasty blues from Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson, and ... the very latest from Dr. Ralph Stanley. Tune in locally at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles, or listen to our worldwide streaming audio at www.kcsn.org!
* Movie theatre memories. That old phenol story provided a quick jog to the old noodle about my days as a movie usher, between the ages of 18 and 20. It's when I came up with my own corollary to Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap."), which went something like "90% of the human race are stupid." God, the people we'd get in that place. I could go on for hours, but won't.
My favorite customer question was "Which theatre is (Movie Title) in?" Each side of the cinema complex had three theatres. Above the entrance to each theatre was a large lighted sign bearing the title of the movie. Usually the question was asked while the person had the signs within his or her field of vision. My favorite answer to that question was one I'd borrowed from Basil Fawlty: "It's the one right there that says (Movie Title). I'm sorry if it's confusing."
What one would (or wouldn't) do for $3.35 an hour.
Wednesday, June 5, 2002
A confederacy of nightmares. My uncle Mike emailed me this morning with an account of his terrifying experience yesterday, prompted by his not having done a terribly good job describing one of his favorite literary characters to my aunt Rhonda:
SIRS:I'm afraid that the only two exorcists I know, Fr. Lancaster Merrin and Fr. Damien Karras, died under mysterious circumstances a while back. I do know a good therapist, though -- Dr. Jennifer Melfi, of Montclair, New Jersey. Just make sure you don't make your appointments for Tuesdays at 4pm. You won't want to chance running into her 3:00 when he's leaving.
Something horrible happened. I had lunch out with Rhonda yesterday. I told her about the plans to begin filming "Confederacy," and that the key decision will be who is cast as Ignatius. She has never read the book. I started to very briefly describe the exterior and interior of Ignatius. (I guess I did an extremely bad job.) Rhonda then uttered a terrible word. It could in fact have been the single most repulsive word in the English language when used in this context. The word was... "Newman."
I felt as if a Scenicruiser had just rolled over my chest. I gasped for breath for about 30 seconds. Finally, I was able to speak (or, more accurately, to scream) "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" This brought unwelcome attention at the restaurant, but that wasn't the worst of it. The worst part is the nightmares. I kept experiencing agonizing visions of Newman as Ignatius. I'm afraid to try to sleep again. Do you know a good shrink, or a good exorcist who could help?
Zorro the Insomniac
I have to admit ... when trying to think of corpulent comic actors, Wayne Knight does come to mind. Rhonda was exactly on the right track when thinking of the right physical type for Ignatius, although if she had read the book I don't think she would have wanted to cast him. I don't think he has the skill necessary to play a character like Ignatius without turning him into an overblown caricature, plus at 48 he's too old -- Ignatius is 30. I still think that Josh's suggestion of Philip Seymour Hoffman is just about perfect. He might have to put on a little weight, though ...
Quote of the day, Part Un. "It took me half a dozen tries to get through A Confederacy of Dunces until I moved to New Orleans and realized it was less a work of fiction than a documentary."
-- Jonno, Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans.
Quote of the day, Part Deux. Elaine: "Maybe there's more to Newman than meets the eye."
Jerry: "No. There's less. I looked into his eyes once. Pure evil."
-- from "Seinfeld"
Tuesday, June 4, 2002
Let's do a project. How about a participatory "Cocktail of the Day"?
This isn't actually a cocktail, just another infused spirit. If you've been reading regularly you probably know I'm a big fan of infused spirits, and I've been doing quite a few of them lately. As I mentioned a few days ago, I've got one going now that I'm more excited about than any of them so far.
I read about this one in Charles H. Baker, Jr.'s The Gentleman's Companion: Exotic Drinking. As soon as I saw it I thought it looked fantastic and immediately wanted to try it. Why don't we all find out?
What I'd like to do is to encourage as many of you as possible -- those of you into spirits and cocktails, at least -- to try this along with me. It doesn't require much work, and I think the rewards will be well worth the effort. I've got about a week's head start on you so far, but no worries. I'll taste it first and let you know what you can expect. I think this'll be a perfect summer drink, so start this week and let me know how you like it when it's done.
Tequila por mi AmanteI'm trying to imagine what this is going to taste like, and so far the imagination is saying it'll taste great. Besides drinking it alone and up, I'm thinking it might also make a great un-frozen strawberry margarita (I don't care much for frozen drinks). Three parts of this, two parts Cointreau, one part lime juice, shaken and up or on the rocks.
Collected by Charles H. Baker, Jr., Mexico City, 1937
Three pints strawberries
One 750ml bottle of your favorite reposado tequila (I used Sauza Hornitos)
Go to a local farmer's market and buy the best, reddest and most flavorful strawberries that you can. They're right at the peak of their season now. Avoid any strawberries that aren't completely red, particularly those with white "shoulders". Wash, hull and halve the strawberries, quartering the really big ones.
Place into a 2 liter/quart jar with a seal, and cover with a good quality reposado tequila. I recommend Sauza Hornitos for this, but any really good 100% agave tequila will do. (Do not use Cuervo Gold or any of that cheapo stuff.) I suppose a good silver one would work as well.
Allow the strawberries to steep in the tequila for at least two weeks. Every day, when you think about it, give the jar a gentle shake, turning it upside down a few times. After about 2 weeks strain the tequila through several layers of cheesecloth, squeezing all the liquid out of the strawberries. By this point the strawberries will be bleached, lifeless hulls. Toss them.
Funnel the gorgeous rose-red infused tequila into a bottle (the same one it came in will work), seal and allow to age for at least three weeks. At the end of the aging period, you can filter it again if there's any sediment at the bottom, or else just pour off the clear spirit and leave the sediment behind.
To serve, pour 3 ounces of the tequila per drink into shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve up with a lime wedge, which you may optionally squeeze into the drink.
Try it yourself, and do please let me know what you think.
Jews in space! No, this isn't Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part 3". It's actually a fascinating question. An Israeli astronaut who'll be flying in the Space Shuttle next month asks his rabbi, "How and when does one observe the Sabbath when the sun rises and sets in orbit every 90 minutes, and the seventh day occurs every 10.5 hours?"
Apparently the Talmud never covered space travel.
I don't know about you, but I'm really sick of getting daily spam from Mobutu Sese-Seko's widow.
Monday, June 3, 2002
Oh, my valve! After 20 years of options and abortive attempts, it seems that a movie version of A Confederacy of Dunces, perhaps my favorite novel, is finally being made. (Many thanks to Josh for the link.)
The good news is that Steven Soderbergh is attached to the project as a "salaried executive producer". The not-so-good news is that he's apparently not directing it. The only other name mentioned in the article is one Scott Kramer, who according to the only relevant-looking IMDB entry has only produced two previous Soderbergh projects, but has never written or directed anything. Is he the producer, or did he work on the script as well? Who's directing? It seems to me that the adaptation of this novel belongs in the hands of a very experienced writer-director (or combination thereof). It makes me nervous, although if Soderbergh is actually co-scenarist that makes me feel a little better..
The casting of this film will be crucial. When the novel was first optioned, perhaps a year after it won its author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, it was said that John Belushi would be playing Ignatius J. Reilly. This would have been bad. A few years later John Candy was mentioned. He was of the right girth, but he was too broad of a comedian, I think. Ignatius may be funny as hell, but he takes himself 100% seriously. (It was also beginning to look like being mentioned to play Ignatius was akin to becoming the drummer in Spinal Tap.)
My opinion was always that they'd have to find a very talented unknown for the role, or else perhaps cast John McConnell, a local New Orleans actor who's played Ignatius on stage and elsewhere for years. Today I read Josh's suggestion ... Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is a great idea. Could be brilliant. Could be. My valve is relaxing ... just a little ...
This will be the most significant novel-to-film adaptation of my lifetime. They must not screw this up. I recall how appalled I was when I saw the Books on Tape version of the novel, for which they hired as reader ... Arte Johnson. Yeah, you remember, the "Verrrrrry eenteresteeng" guy from "Laugh-In". I heard that he didn't even pronounce local place names properly. I felt like Ignatius, standing up in the back of the Prytania, shouting, "What degenerate produced this abortion?!"
O Fortuna, where will your wheel take us now?!
So, what's the FBI been up to lately? Trying to find Osama bin Laden? Trying to find Fox Mulder? Well ... actually, dedicating 10 agents to wiretapping 5,000 phone calls over a period of many months and busting a very high-end, exclusive whorehouse on Canal Street in New Orleans.
In a city where turning tricks has been part of the culture since Louis XIV shipped over fallen women to entertain the French colonists, the unveiling of a brothel might have been greeted with a yawn. But this was different. The keen interest of the federal government in prostitutes, in pre- and post-Sept. 11 America, has baffled the local legal community.Isn't this sort of thing left to the NOPD Vice Squad? Surely all these FBI agents have better things to do, particularly nowadays.
"The whole thing is an incredible waste of federal resources," said Arthur A. "Buddy" Lemann III, one of the most experienced of the city's criminal defense lawyers. "To make a federal offense out of it is like using an elephant gun to kill a fly."
Bye-bye, Springboard. When I first bought my Handspring Visor, I was very excited about the possibilities of their Springboard expansion modules. Then I saw the prices, and thought ... well, I'll wait a while on that. Then I never quite got around to getting one. Looks like lots of other people did the same thing. (Thanks to Wes for the link.)
An Ghaeilge, inniu. For anyone with an interest in Irish culture and/or minority languages, you might be interested in reading the Gaeltacht Commission of the Republic of Ireland's reports on the current state of the Irish language (.pdf file in English; as Gaeilge). "Gaeltacht" is the Irish word for the areas in Ireland in which the Irish language is used as a first language and the daily language of the home and of commerce. Fascinating stuff (if a bit dry; it is a government report, after all), which includes both positive and negative public feedband on the efforts to promote Irish usage in the country.
Saturday, June 1, 2002
How the apple vodka tasted. Um ... it was exquisite, actually.
We served it just as Dr. Cocktail recommended -- shaken with ice, strained, straight up. No modifiers, no accents, no garnish. The liquor was a pale straw color, not quite as deep as apple juice, but redolent with the aroma of fresh, crisp apple. Shaker 2/3 filled with ice, 3 ounces Pure Old Apple Vodka (aged one whole month!).
Upon the first sip, you find that the flavor is paradoxically both subtle and assertive; it starts gently, but rapidly builds on your palate. It's fairly dry, but just sweet enough, and it's like biting into the flesh of a Granny Smith apple. It's not cloying or overpowering like that green crapola -- it's a real, true and good apple flavor. The finish is even more surprising, as Wes observed; you get a tartness just like you'd get from the skin of the apple, but with none of the bitterness.
This is lovely, lovely stuff. It's so easy to make that you can't not make it. Remember, all you need is a 2-liter sealable jar, a bottle of decent vodka (we use SKYY), three Granny Smith apples, 2-3 weeks of steeping, 3-4 weeks of aging. You'll never touch the Pucker again.
May Looka! entries have been permanently archived.
Friday, May 31, 2002
Pure Old Apple Vodka, homemade by yours truly, gets decanted tonight after three weeks of infusing (750ml of SKYY vodka and 3 sliced apples; two Granny Smith, one Golden Delicious) and three weeks of mellowing. I'm going to shake it with ice and maybe a few dashes of Aromatic Cocktail Bitters No. 2, then serve it up in a cocktail glass, perhaps garnished with an apple slice on the rim. I'm excited.
I'm thinking that this is something I'm always going to want to have in my bar. Only real "apple Martinis" at my place! (Of course, if I'm going to call it a Martini in front of Wes, I'll have to put in at least a drop of vermouth.) I hope I can use this elixir to convert at least a few folks away from that vile "sour pucker" stuff. The taste of real, crisp, sweet and tart apples as opposed to Borg-green artificially flavored Jolly Rancher candy with grain alcohol in it? Yes, please.
To crown it all, my very generous and talented friend Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh was kind enough to make me a gorgeous label for my bottle:
Hmm ... "Chas." I rather like the sound of that. My grandfather used to abbreviate his name that way.
Next project rolling. I might want to start another batch of apple vodka soon, as I suspect this batch won't last long (particularly if we serve it at a cocktail party). There's already been a new project steeping for the last week, though. Five days ago, three pints of deep red, beautiful, fragrant strawberries near the height of the picking season went into a 2-liter jar and were subsequently submerged in a fifth of Sauza Hornitos reposado tequila. Coming for the Fourth of July ... Tequila por mi Amante. Stay tuned.
Movin' on up ... to the Eastsiiiide ... Congratulations to Kevin on a new domain of his very own, www.ghostinthemachine.net. I'm always happy to see someone liberated from the slums of Geocities (although his abode was certainly one of the spiffiest in that particular slum).
"S-E-P-A-R-A-T-E." That's the word that knocked me out of a spelling bee in fourth grade, making me the runner-up rather than the winner. (The old "seperate" bugaboo; I have never once misspelled that word since.) It's a commonly used word, one I should have known. However, I'm not too sure how many people use the word "prospicience" on a daily basis. Or "kakemono" (Should this even count? This is not an English-language word per se, but a direct import of Japanese), or "caulicolous," or "stultiloquence" (one which I rather like, actually), or "culgee" ("A jewelled plume surmounting the sirpesh or aigrette upon the turban"), or "hermeneutics," or "soavemente," or "toreutics," or "throstle," or "roriferous," or "tiralee," or "objicient," or "icteric," few of which are in my Webster's Collegiate and many of which aren't even in my Unabridged. Sheesh.
My favorite word in English, by the way, is "defenestrate".
Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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