the gumbo pages

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

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, 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 @ 1:27pm PDT, 11/27/2002

If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author.
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Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002

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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Radio Free New Orleans
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Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail

   (A work in progress; Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

The Alchemist
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Alcohol (and how to mix it)
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Ardent Spirits
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Bar Asterie
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DrinkBoy and the
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(Robert Hess, et al.)

King Cocktail
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La Fée Verte
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Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Chef Talk Café



Food Network

The Global Gourmet

The Online Chef

Pasta, Risotto & You

Slow Food Int'l. Movement

So. Calif. Farmer's Markets

Zagat Guide

My adventures on Mardi Gras Day 2002


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

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Wally's Wine and Spirits

The Wine House

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Reading this month:

The Babbo Cookbook, by Mario Batali.

The Shadow of the Hegemon, by Orson Scott Card.

The Craft of the Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff.

The Martian Child, by David Gerrold.

Pass the Polenta, by Teresa Lust.

The Kingdom of Zydeco, by Michael Tisserand.

Learning to Eat, by Jeff Weinstein.

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
Richard Thompson
Uncle Tupelo

Miles of Music

No Depression


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival

Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


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

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

The Mirror Project


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

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

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

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

Far From Heaven (****)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (****)
Punch-Drunk Love (****)
Food of Love (***)
The Ring (***-1/2)
8 Women (****)
Red Dragon (***-1/2)
One Hour Photo (***-1/2)
Cube (***-1/2)
Jackie Brown (****)
The Good Girl (***-1/2)
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (****)
Signs (****)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (***-1/2)
Road to Perdition (****)
Men in Black II (**-1/2)
Notorious C.H.O. (****)
Reign of Fire (**-1/2)
Minority Report (****-1/2)
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (**-1/2)
The Bourne Identity (****)
Insomnia (***)
Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Spider-Man (***-1/2)
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:

"Six Feet Under"
"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"Odyssey 5"
"The Simpsons"
"Iron Chef"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

Chuck's Daily Crawl (IE sidebar)

The BradLands
Considered Harmful
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
The Leaky Cauldron
The Making of a Restaurant
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
Q Daily News
Simmer Stock
This Modern World
Web Queeries

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs


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

Made with Macintosh

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Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 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.)

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

  Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Ardent They!   Gary and Mardee Regan's Ardent Spirits website has undergone a nice revamping, due to some assistance from Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess.

Read the latest newsletter (with articles on Macallan cask strength, liquor product placement, and making the 150-year-old cocktail, the Tom & Jerry), their adventures on cocktail safari with Dale DeGroff, reviews of Mardee's new book, and lots more.

My new favorite gin.   Nope, it's not Bombay Sapphire (although that's good) ... it's Plymouth Gin. The favorite of Ian Fleming, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and especially Dr. Cocktail as well (so I'm in good company), it's just about perfect. It's not as "soft" as Sapphire or Tanqueray No. 10, not as assaultively junipery as Boodles (which is like biting into a pine cone). I think this one's it... enough juniper without overwhelming you, complex with botanicals. Yum yum yum.

NPR's Alex Chadwick bravely samples some Plymouth Gin whilst in the line of duty on a piece on the storied gin and its history on today's "Morning Edition", featuring our pal Gary Regan, the aforementioned Ardent Spirit. Listen to Gary describe it:

Juniper nose with a fresh herbal backdrop, a highly perfumed body, very dry palate with complex, fresh juniper-herbal floral notes, and a crisp, dry finish.
Alex suggests bringing cocktail fixins (for instance, a Plymouth Gin Martini) instead of a covered dish this Thanksgiving, and especially instead of the overly long-lived NPR holiday tradition that involves making a vile, Pepto-Bismol-colored cranberry "relish" with horseradish. Much better idea.

Bye-bye, Britney.   The restaurant world really didn't need you anyway, dear. Stick to bubblegum pop and your novel-writing career. From the New York Post (who expire links daily, apparently):

Britney Spears has washed her hands of Nyla, the embarrassingly bad eatery she opened in the Dylan Hotel just five months ago.

Now that creditors are going after Spears to settle Nyla's debts, the pop tart has pulled out entirely, and says she was never really that involved anyway. Spears, who only visited the restaurant three times, even canceled plans to hold her 21st birthday bash there next month.

"It's completely absurd and exploitive," Spears' lawyer, Michael Friedman, told PAGE SIX's Jared Paul Stern. "She clearly doesn't have any personal responsibility for the restaurant's debts. To drag Britney into this is completely baseless and a misuse of the judicial process. They're obviously trying to exploit her celebrity."

The Post's Cindy Adams reported Sunday that Nyla's creditors claim in court that Spears looted the eatery's assets for her own personal gain. They hold her responsible for stacks of unpaid food bills. Friedman calls the allegations "spurious," "concocted" and "fictionalized."

"She got involved hoping it would be something to be proud of, and believed that the people she was dealing with were professionals who could operate it at the highest level," Friedman says. But soon, "issues and problems arose."

From the minute it opened last June, Nyla was a fiasco. The chaotic opening party left hungry celebs standing outside in the rain. In July, three college students got food poisoning. In August, Post restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo wrote that Nyla's gumbo was so congealed, it "must have been seasoned with glue."

Veteran manager Bobby Ochs quit a month later. A customer stabbed another outside after they'd argued at the bar. Nyla was cited by the Health Department for using food from "swollen, leaking, rusted" cans, and for "contaminating" a bottle of Johnnie Walker with an infusion of fruit.

Nyla is now on its third chef, Modern-American wizard Larry Forgione, and the cuisine has been converted from quasi-Cajun to Italian. A name change is under consideration as well.

"Britney was a passive investor," Friedman insists. "She never put any money in and has never taken any out. She's very disappointed with the way things were handled, but ultimately she had no choice but to withdraw."

"It's not easy to deal with a powerful celebrity such as Britney," Nyla's owner, Morris Moinian, responds. "We all decided she should stay out. But we still have a very good, cordial relationship."

Ochs said he jumped ship because the eatery was "undercapitalized and in debt" from the start. Moinian counters, "We had millions of dollars. Ochs just made some bad business decisions."

I think her lawyer's full of it. If she was a primary investor and co-owner, then she does have responsibility for its debts, even if she didn't have much of anything to do with its operations. She named the place, fa Gawd's sake. It's no wonder they see it as hers.

I have to quibble with the New York Health Department, though ... saying that they "contaminated" a bottle of Scotch with an infusion of fruit? Fruit infusions in liquor are quite common, and are even the cornerstone of such places as the Infusion Bar and Restaurant in San Francisco. I'll bet now that she's out and Forgione's the chef, they'll change the name pretty quickly to remove all associations with its former owner.

BRAAAAAAINS! I want to eat your brraaaainsss!   No, it's not "Return of the Return of the Living Dead" (best horror movie line ever: "Send more cops.") ... you too can eat brains. With a delightful cherry center.

Ho ho hmmm?   Hey, who says that a bunch of wacky Norwegians shouldn't let Santa Claus get the same perks that the 42nd President got? (The accompanying photo is not necessarily work-safe. I'd say they could have done a better job with the window display, eh?)

Jethro goes to Sin City.   Max Baer Jr., who once played Jethro Bodine on "The Beverly Hillbillies", became typecast and couldn't get any roles after the series ended, so he's going to capitalize on his persistent image by plastering his face all over penny slots in Vegas. Well sure, why not?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Happy anniversary, Mom 'n Dad!   Have fun today!

Oops, I'll serve something else.   From yesterday's New York Post, via email from Meredith. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the link, but here's the relevant snippet:

No mo' gumbo

As some predicted, watered-down Louisiana gumbo didn't go over well with New Yorkers. Britney Spears has decided to turn her eatery, Nyla, into an Italian restaraunt.

"Britney said she wanted the best, so we hired Larry Forgione," said Morris Moinian, owner of the Dylan Hotel which houses Nyla. "The new cuisine will be continental with an Italian flavor."

Actually, Larry Forgione is a great chef. Considering that he still runs his signature restaurant in New York, An American Place, I'm assuming that he'll be consulting chef, or some such role.

My TiVo thinks I'm gay!   Or else it thinks you're a Nazi aficionado, or a Korean-speaker, or some classification based on what you ask it to record, and it records other programming that it thinks you'll want to watch.

When we move into the new house, we'll be getting the DirectTV/TiVo combo. Among other things I'll be recording half a dozen shows on the Food Network, plus "Smallville", "Will and Grace" and "Six Feet Under". The TiVo will definitely be "looking at me funny."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, November 22, 2002
Mmmm, chocolate bubble bath.   Chocolate. It's not just for candy bars anymore.

Wanted: Dead or ... Dead.   The effort to convince Louisianians that nutria are actually good eatin' (tastes like farm-raised rabbit, apparently) has been a smashing failure, and the nutria overpopulation problem has reached a critical point, as they destroy our wetlands and eat the plants that help keep the coastline from eroding. The solution? The State of Louisiana now offers a bounty for dead nutria -- $4 a tail. Here's your chance to be a bounty hunter ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, November 21, 2002
Mr. Darwin? You're wanted in reception.   This guy was trying really, really hard to remove himself from the gene pool, apparently. Mostly, I'm relieved he survived, but a small part of me wonders if, as a species, we really need a guy who thinks it's a good idea to kiss poisonous snakes.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, November 20, 1984
Secret U.S. court OKs electronic spying.   From c|net: "A secretive federal court on Monday granted police broad authority to monitor Internet usage, record keystrokes and employ other surveillance methods against terror and espionage suspects."

In an unexpected and near-complete victory for law enforcement, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review overturned a lower court's decision and said that Attorney General John Ashcroft's request for new powers was reasonable.

... Robert Levy, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute said: "Because the FISA now applies to ordinary criminal matters if they are dressed up as national security inquiries, the new rules could open the door to circumvention of the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirements. The result: rubber-stamp judicial consent to phone and Internet surveillance, even in regular criminal cases, and FBI access to medical, educational and other business records that conceivably relate to foreign intelligence probes."

Encrypt your email.   From the New York Times: "Internet providers such as America Online could give the government more information about subscribers and police would gain new Internet wiretap powers under legislation creating the new Department of Homeland Security. Provisions of the bill tucked into a section about "cyber-security enhancements" received scant attention during debate.

Another part of the Homeland Security bill gives U.S. authorities new power to trace e-mails and other Internet traffic during cyber attacks without first obtaining even perfunctory court approval. That could happen only during 'an immediate threat to national security," or an attack against a "protected computer." Prosecutors would need to obtain a judge's approval within 48 hours.

Experts have noted that U.S. law considers as "protected" nearly any computer logged onto the Internet. And civil liberties groups have frequently complained that obtaining permission from a judge is too easy for this type of e-mail tracing; if an investigator merely attests that the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation, a judge cannot deny the request.

PGP is a very good way to encrypt your email, which, as you should know if you don't already, is as easy to intercept and read as a postcard. Using email encryption is no different than putting a personal letter inside a sealed envelope.

I got yer turducken right here, pal.   New York Times reporter Amanda Hesser tries to track down the primary ingredients -- a completely boned turkey, duck and chicken -- for a turducken ... in New York City. ("New ... York ... City?!")

At Hébert's (pronounced ay-BEARS), which has locations in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, the butchers can bone a turkey in two and a half minutes and a chicken in a minute and five seconds. Still ... I am not a masochist. I have boned birds before. It's about as much fun as stripping paint. I called Staubitz, a butcher shop that's been in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, since 1917.

"I'd like to know if you can bone a turkey, duck and chicken for me," I said.

"Say that again, nice and easy," John McFadden, the owner, said. So I did.

"I know we're a butcher but that's artwork."

I pressed my case. I offered to pay extra.

"Nope," Mr. McFadden said. "Can't do it. They do it in Louisiana. They don't do it here in New York."

I called another butcher, who said you need special equipment to bone poultry. A sharp knife? Another said he wouldn't do it because it was "a royal pain in the neck."

(Annoying NYT registration: userid annoying, password annoying.)

No, I don't think so.   The Charlotte News-Observer asks a bunch of parents, including my pal Dave, if they're going to allow their under-17 kids to see the new Eminem movie "8 Mile".

Although I do like Curtis Hanson a lot, I have absoutely no interest in Eminem or anything he does. In light of that, I found it interesting that despite good reviews, second weekend box office dropped 58% from opening weekend. Seems that most of the people who wanted to see it saw it right away, and it's dwindling fast.

Food quotes.   Me and all my Louisiana-traveling, pork-eating pals, a.k.a. "The Fat Pack", have been coming up with some mottoes, as well as collecting favorite food-related quotes this week. Anyone else care to contribute?


"Make mine bacon-wrapped!" -- Steve Hochman

"The Fat Pack ... livin' large!" -- Diana Schwam

"The Fat Pack ... livin' large, gettin' larger!" -- Wesly Moore

"We don't eat to live, we live to eat!" -- Miss Ella Brennan

"You gonna finish that?" -- Steve Hochman

And we can't neglect the great sage, Homer Simpson: "Mmmmmm... pig fat. (drooling noises)


"To eat good food is to be close to God." -- Primo (Tony Shalhoub), "Big Night"

"God damn it, I should kill you! This is so fucking good I should kill you!" -- Pascal (Ian Holm), "Big Night"

"Leave the gun... take the cannoli." -- Clemenza (Richard Costellano), "The Godfather"

"Fuck off... I'm full!" -- Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones), "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" (This would be an excellent Pack motto: "The Fat Pack -- fuck off... we're full!" -- Dave Schmerler. Diana Schwam's corollary: "The Fat Pack: Never Say Full.")

(The great food writer M.F.K. Fisher was taken, as a teen, to a really nice restaurant by her uncle, who had been treating her the whole week, putting a lot of effort into a visit she was making, and who had been trying to show her how important it was to experiment with food. But when asked what she wanted, she said "anything." Her uncle looked at her with a somewhat disgusted look, as if to say, "You ninny, what a thoughtless thing to say, when I bring you to such a special place." It was a defining moment for her, and she sat up, and for the first time ever put her whole brain into considering the menu, and then carefully ordered. And then she wrote this:)

"And never since then have I let myself say, or even think, 'Oh, anything', about a meal, even if I had to eat it alone, with death in the house or in my heart."

If James Bond weren't so svelte.   Of course, the above exchange set off a frenzy of gustatory excess with regards to jokes and puns ... Steve weighed in with:

"OK, with 'Never Say Full', now we're heading into Bond territory, so:

Pie Another Day
Live and Let Pie
On Her Majesty's Secret Room Service
Dr. Dough
The Pie Who Loved Me
You Only Eat Twice (Between Lunch and Dinner)
The Man With the Golden Deep-Fried Twinkie
The Dessert is Not Enough
Pork Rinds Are Forever
and of course: Baconwrappedfinger

And then Dave kicked in, causing me to spew iced tea all over my monitor and making my cow-orkers think I had gone insane:

(with apologies to Steve Hochman, Shirley Bassey, and Barry & Bricusse)

He's the man, the man with the sizzlin' crunch
A built-in brunch...

Such an apt fingah
Beckons you to swallow more deep-fried grease
'Til you're obese!

Greasy pork he will force down your throat
On your diet he surely will dote
And a frightened sow
Knows how they'll treat her
When the guests arrive to eat her

Pretty girl, beware of with whom you dine
For he's a swine!
... he'll ply you with wine
... your weakness he'll mine
... you'll sign on the line
... he's a SWINE!

I'll eat pork for Christmas ...   Finally (I swear I'll stop ... soon), Rick offered the crowning touch, which will undoubtedly be sung during the upcoming holiday season and way beyond:

The Bacon Song
(to the tune of Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song",
as sung by Nat King Cole)

Bacon cooking in a frying pan
Strips lined up in twos and threes
Collecting grease in an old soup can
All things the Fat Pack knows will please

Everyone agrees
Some bacon cooked up crisp and moist
Helps to make the morning bright
Bacon strips on the food of your choice
Will take you through the longest night

They say that bacon's on it's way
It's loaded with high fat
And calories they say
But we don't care about the diet flap
Because a life without bacon is crap

And so, I'm offering this recipe
For folks from one to ninety-two
Although it's been said
Many times many ways
Cook some bacon
Add some bacon
Eat the bacon, we do!

Okay, I'll (probably) stop now.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Al-Qaeda to National Rifle Association: Thanks, dudes!   Last Friday on NPR's "All Things Considered" I heard a blood-boiling report on Attorney General John Ashcroft's singularly insane defense of the privacy of gun purchase records, while at the same time the FBI is happily violating the privacy of every other kind of record in the name of the "War on Terrorism". Ashcroft's statements regarding a captured Al-Qaeda terrorist training manual are hideously disingenuous, to say the least:

Ashcroft testifying before Congress, 12/6/01: "In this manual, Al Qaeda terrorists are now told how to use America's freedom as a weapon against us."

NPR host Deborah Amos: "But what Ashcroft did not point out: these manuals show Osama bin Laden's foot soldiers how easy it is to buy assault weapons in American gun stores and gun shows."

Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have exploited numerous loopholes in American gun laws -- loopholes that exist because of consistent lobbying by the powerful National Rifle Association to stop any restrictions on gun purchases. Since September 11th, critics say, the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has chosen to side with the NRA at the expense of the war on terrorism.

Interesting times ahead.   My home state of Louisiana is, as this article puts it, as important to the 2002 election as Florida was to 2000. And what of McCain and Chaffee? It ain't over yet, apparently.

From The Onion: What Do You Think?   A bit late, but last week's "quotes" were brilliant. Our topic: Republicans Take The Senate.

In last Tuesday's midterm elections, Republicans retook the U.S. Senate, giving them control of both houses of Congress. What do you think?

"You know, they say people get the government they deserve, but I don't recall knife-raping any retarded nuns."
-- Jared Andruss, Shipping Clerk

"Don't blame me, I voted for the Green Party. Hee hee hee! Aren't I the dickens?"
-- Melissa Kendall, Student

"On the bright side, the Democrats did triumphantly retake the Kansas governorship."
-- Thom Abboud, Cashier

"I'm confused. It was my understanding that the Democrats had already rolled over and died after Sept. 11."
-- Elaine Dorner, Speech Pathologist

"The American people have spoken. And they have said, 'Duhhh, I likes chockomut ice cream.'"
-- Rodney Garn, Systems Analyst

"Gosh, that election really sucked. Well, at least it'll probably be the last one we ever have."
-- Raymond Thatcher, Architect

Valediction.   David Fricke interviews Warren Zevon for Rolling Stone, perhaps for the last time.

Our military, taking care of what's really important.   Via Patrick, via Tom Tomorrow:

It's official: Your government has no interest in protecting you from terrorism. In fact, the supposed "war on terror" is of completely secondary importance to the much more important task of ejecting homosexuals from the military.
Ick. Ick Åck Øck!   A customer in an international hamburger chain outlet in western Sweden lost his appetite when he discovered the restaurant's toilet seats were being washed in its dishwasher alongside the kitchen utensils.

I wonder which McChain it was.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, November 18, 2002 Killed by spammers.   The email address "", which I've used to handle email generated by this web site for nearly the past six years, is gone. It will no longer work, and all email to that address will be automatically discarded from today on.

The spam has gotten so bad that I just can't take it anymore. On any given morning I'll have fifty emails and at least a half-dozen Klez virii, in addition to maybe six or eight legit emails. And they keep piling up all day long, every single day. Enough. Basta!

Those of you who have my private, personal email address can just keep using it. If not, please use the email contact form on this website to send me email. That address will never be publicized, and if the spammers somehow find that one out, I'll just change it again.

It really pisses me off that I have to go through this because of shitbag spammers. Bastards.

Dare we?   How dare we not?


1 sheet puff pastry
1 2.07-ounce Snickers bar, frozen
Oil for deep-frying
1 scoop favorite ice cream
Hot fudge or caramel sauce
Powdered sugar

1. Unfold the pastry and cut it into a 5-inch square. Cover and refrigerate the remaining pastry for another use. Unwrap the candy bar and place it diagonally across the sheet. Fold one of the long points over the bar. Lightly wet the other points with water until gummy. Fold up the short sides of the pastry onto the candy bar and press to seal them, making sure not to leave gaps at the corners. Bring up the remaining side of the pastry and press gently to seal the edges of the covered candy bar. Place in the freezer for 1 hour.

2. In a small, deep saucepan, heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Carefully slide the prepared candy bar into the oil and fry until it is crisp and golden and floats. Remove it with tongs, and drain it briefly on a paper towel. Place the bar in a shallow serving bowl. Place the ice cream to one side of it, drizzle the sauce over all and sprinkle with powdered sugar placed in a fine sieve.

Yield: 1 serving -- which will never be forgotten.

Mother of God ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, November 15, 2002
One person's disease is another person's delicacy.   Black fungus. Corn smut. Merely two of the names American farmers have for what the Mexicans call huitlacoche (or cuitlacoche), and what many call the black truffle of Latin America. It grows on ears of corn, and farmers up here would throw away corn that was affected. The very idea!

It's fabulous in tacos, soups, quesadillas; I'll eat it served almost any way. Get it in Los Angeles at the various Guelaguetzas (my favorite Oaxacan restaurant), Casa Antigua in West L.A., Lupe's Antojitos Y Comida in East L.A., Mexico City Restaurant in Anaheim if you're behind the Orange Curtain, or if you're popping south of the border try the Adobe Café in Puerto Vallarta or Cicero Centenario on Republica de Cuba in Mexico City. Check out the huitlacoche thread on Chowhound.

Smut! Give me smut and nothing but!

Imminent death of the Internet predicted, again.   This time you might raise an eyebrow, though. Given the fact that at least 75% of the email I get every day is either spam or a Klez virus, it wouldn't hurt to think about the possibility of spam potentially killing off email, and the 'net in general. Whether this guy is right or wrong, it warrants some serious thought.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, November 14, 2002
You are a suspect.   A New York Times editorial, by William Safire.

If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:

Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend -- all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you -- passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance -- and you have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.

This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks.


Even if you voted for George Bush, even if you voted Republican in last week's election ... you couldn't possibly want this. And if you're one of those idiots who keep saying, "Well, if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about," then you truly don't understand what liberty and freedom and what it means to be American are all about. If you want to learn firsthand what it was like to live in the Soviet Union or any of the last (and this) century's delightful police states, just encourage your legislators to pass this bill unamended. The so-called "war on terrorism" is not worth this.

Quote of the day.   It bears repeating.

"They that can give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."

-- Benjamin Franklin
Some prissy old guy in the French Quarter, redux.   Maggie Magnolia Ferrara, the world's stupidest shar-pei, is back in the news again.

My complications have had complications, redux.   The hideous metamorphosis of Michael Jackson continues ...

Rick sends in this appalling photograph with the subject of his email being "What the hell?!??!!" (That's interrobang, interroterrobangbang.) He asks the first question that pops into most of our minds, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what in the name of all that's holy is that thing?"

Mary provides the play-by-play: "Okay, look carefully at his 'nose' and note how the tip is totally not attached, and also how there is clearly a sheet of something, like a Band-aid or something plastic, laid across the bridge (giving it a dimension it has lacked lately, so it's not so needle sharp) and going all the way under his right eye (the left side fo the picture)... note also how you can see the sheet of plastic, or whatever it is, scrunched together at the tip of his nose, the same effect you get when folding a Band-aid around the tip of a finger. And the putty (or is it scar tissue?) lumped up on the sides of the nose. Oh my god."

Well, that just about says it all. Yeesh. If he weren't so stinking rich I'd feel a little sorrier for him. Obviously money can't buy you a face.

In other news, Jackson failed to show up this morning for the trial in which he's been called to testify.

Reclusive superstar Michael Jackson mysteriously failed to appear in court on Thursday for a second scheduled day of testimony in a $21 million breach-of-contract lawsuit as the Internet buzzed with gossip about his bizarre appearance.

The self-styled King of Pop spent much of Wednesday on the witness stand in the courthouse at Santa Maria -- the central California town nearest to his Neverland Valley ranch -- even signing autographs afterward for some of the scores of screaming fans outside.

He still has screaming fans? Well, screaming in horror, maybe. Yeesh.

This man is about to start a war.   So, is the photo real? Faked? Real but photoshopped? You tell me.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Welcome to the runoff!   Dennis Persica of the Times-Picayune addresses some issues about the national press corps' descent upon Louisiana for the runoff in the Senate race (via Josh, who speculates that every reporter will gain at least 10 pounds while there):

Please try to avoid food metaphors when discussing Louisiana. Howard Fineman of Newsweek referred to our open primary as a 'jambalaya primary' -- whatever that's supposed to mean -- in an interview on MSNBC. You also may be tempted to throw in words like cayenne, Tabasco and spicy when you're talking about our politics to a national audience. Please don't.

You also should keep in mind that although New Orleans has a French history, it's wrong to think of it as a Cajun city. Despite what you may have seen in some movies and TV shows, people in New Orleans don't usually call each other 'cher.'

New Orleans is in the South, but not really of the South. Except for y'all, you're not likely to find much in the way we talk that sounds like what you'd hear in Mississippi or Alabama or on reruns of 'The Andy Griffith Show.'

But if you go north of, say, Alexandria, you may come across areas that seem more 'Southern' to you. Northeastern Louisiana may seem like a westward extension of Mississippi, while northwestern Louisiana may seem like eastern Texas. Boy-howdy, you might even find some people up there who cheer for the Dallas Cowboys instead of the Saints. We are constantly looking to see if there's any legal way to revoke the Louisiana citizenship of Cowboys fans.

"Any Venezuelan beaver cheese?" "Not today, sir."   The joys of stinky cheese, and what it truly takes to run a cheese shop.

Chokehold on knowledge.   A Los Angeles Times editorial on the Bush administration's continued undemocratic obsession with secrecy and the control of information (userid annoying, password annoying):

Since it's the threat of obscurantism we're hoping to thwart, let's be blunt: The Bush administration's plan to strip the Government Printing Office's authority is a threat to democracy.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels wants to transfer control of information management from the printing office to individual Cabinet agencies. That would spell the end of the current system, in place since the Jeffersonian era, which requires executive branch agencies to send their documents and reports to neutral librarians, who then make them available to the public both online and in 1,300 public reading rooms nationwide.

Daniels would replace that system with a more secretive one in which individual agencies would manage -- and possibly sanitize -- their own electronic databases.

Currently, a federal agency such as the Pentagon can't delete an embarrassing passage from a historical document without first going through the hassle of asking each reading room to obscure the passage with a black marker.


The Pentagon wants to spy on you.   The New York Times reports that "[t]he Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe -- including the United States." The director of this program? Retired Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, former National Security Adviser under Ronald Reagan, who was convicted of conspiracy, lying to Congress, defrauding the government and destroying evidence in the Iran-Contra scandal, which he also spearheaded.

... Poindexter has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.

Historically, military and intelligence agencies have not been permitted to spy on Americans without extraordinary legal authorization. But Admiral Poindexter, the former national security adviser in the Reagan administration, has argued that the government needs broad new powers to process, store and mine billions of minute details of electronic life in the United States.

"This could be the perfect storm for civil liberties in America," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington "The vehicle is the Homeland Security Act, the technology is Darpa and the agency is the F.B.I. The outcome is a system of national surveillance of the American public."


Get ready for the rapture.   Bill Moyers, on the current state of the federal government:

Way back in the 1950's when I first tasted politics and journalism, Republicans briefly controlled the White House and Congress. With the exception of Joseph McCarthy and his vicious ilk, they were a reasonable lot, presided over by that giant war hero, Dwight Eisenhower, who was conservative by temperament and moderate in the use of power.

That brand of Republican is gone. And for the first time in the memory of anyone alive, the entire federal government -- the Congress, the Executive, the Judiciary -- is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate.

That mandate includes the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives.

It includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich.

It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable.

And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine. Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming.

And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture. These folks don't even mind you referring to the GOP as the party of God. Why else would the new House Majority Leader say that the Almighty is using him to promote 'a Biblical worldview' in American politics?

So it is a heady time in Washington -- a heady time for piety, profits, and military power, all joined at the hip by ideology and money.

Don't forget the money. It came pouring into this election, to both parties, from corporate America and others who expect the payback. Republicans outraised Democrats by $184 million dollars. And came up with the big prize -- monopoly control of the American government, and the power of the state to turn their ideology into the law of the land. Quite a bargain at any price.

Right now I'm thanking God that the Democrats (weak and ineffectual as they are) control California.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, November 11, 2002
Happy birthday to me, etc.   Whaddaya know, I'm still 39. What a coinkydink.

I was planning to take the day off today, but I managed to come up with a couple of interesting things when reading the paper this morning (login for the Los Angeles Times' highly annoying registration with the userid "annoying" and the password "annoying"):

That's some shroom.   Commercial director and restaurant owner Joe Pytka paid $35,000 for a single 2.2 pound white truffle. Pretty excessive, but it was for a charity auction. It'll arrive at his new French restaurant Bastide in West Hollywood tomorrow, and will be used in a variety of dishes made by chef Alain Giraud. Get ready to mortgage that house if you wanna eat there.

Licuados, por favor!   It's a longtime culinary tradition in Latin America, but licuados (also called batidos in Portuguese) -- milk blended with fresh fruits -- are starting to take off with a wider audience. I like the Portuguese version, made with condensed milk and with a couple of shots of cachaça added!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, November 8, 2002
Danger! Fish of Death!   Last night the local NBC affiliate ran a somewhat sensationalistic report on the supposed harmful effects of eating escolar, which is in fact one of my favorite fish. (It's delicious -- light and buttery.)

The report talked about how escolar is practically fat-free because it contains oils that cannot be metabolized by the human body, as one doctor explained:

"Your body can't metabolize them. They can't be broken down so they remain there in that state. And so your body is going to eliminate them rapidly just like any other kind of roughage. So they will cause some diarrhea," explained Dr. William Mellon of the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.
I had no idea, actually. I myself have never gotten the trots after eating escolar. A little Googling revealed that escolar is a type of fish called a gempylid, which produce oil that can have a purgative effect. Escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum) was misidentified in the KNBC report as "castor oil fish", which is in fact another species, Ruvettus pretiosus, but apparently the FDA did ban escolar briefly in the early 1990s, "but reversed itself a few years ago and allowed it back on menus after deciding escolar wasn't "toxic." After all, not everyone got diarrhea and it isn't lethal."

Despite this, some restaurants refuse to serve it -- "Too much of a crap shoot," says the chef of the Water Grill in downtown L.A., delivering a major groaner. Also, they reported that an elderly man is suing a restaurant and its fish supplier after his wife died a few days after a meal of escolar, blaming the fish even though there's no evidence to support his claim. Still, Santa Monica Seafood, who supplied the restaurant with its fish, no longer carries escolar. Covering their butts, I suppose. KNBC doesn't seem to be covering their butts, though, as they offer two recipes for escolar on the page for their news report.

Unless I receive any, um, negative reinforcment, I'll order escolar again. It's tasty!

Britain: "We may all bear the cost of the Democrats' failure."   Reaction to the election from The Guardian:

[T]he Republicans' victories, sweet as they may be for them, are no cause for wider celebration. Suddenly all sorts of measures that could have been blocked in Congress can be pursued by the White House. As well as his tax cuts for the wealthy, Mr Bush can hope to see his conservative slate of judges for the Supreme Court approved and legislation to allow drilling for oil in Alaska's wildlife refuge. He might try to relax business regulation, although in the light of Enron and other scandals that remains problematic. And his so-called Homeland Security programme will continue to assault the civil liberties of American citizens.

Most dangerous of all, however, is what these elections mean for Mr Bush's foreign policy. This can be overstated, because few Democrats would in any case oppose the President at a time of war. But these results will undoubtedly embolden Mr Bush as he pushes the United Nations towards backing his plans for a war on Iraq. The incalculable damage that such a conflict would do to peace throughout the world, rather than the tally of governorships and Congressional seats, represents the true scale, and the real price, of the Democrats' failure.

"Darkness falls across the land, flowers wilt, the GOP takes full, and frightening, control."   An editorial by Mark Morford, of the San Francisco Chronicle's SF Gate:

... [T]he basic upshot being that Congress will now have almost zero struggle or balanced counterargument when the GOP chooses to ram through more generally invidious resolutions and white-power laws.

Laws that further its famously mean-spirited schema of war, oil, corporate cronyism, CEO inbreeding, heartlessness, artlessness, cultural molestation, giddy homophobia and really awful fashion sense.

Let us not also forget anti-choice misogyny, racism, gluttony, support for Big Agribiz and Big Tobacco and a general antipathy toward anyone who makes less than six figures or who really cares about the environment or enjoys true religious freedom or alternative viewpoints or authentic orgasms or honest laughter.

In short, it is an agenda that contains much sneering about anything that doesn't gibe with rich white-bread American doctrines of money and power and the earnest care and nurturing thereof. Yay, Republicans! Suggested GOP slogan for 2004: "More SUVs in more private gated communities now!"

... And really, when you step back just a little, in the grand and even not-so-grand scheme of things, it really doesn't make that much difference who runs the nation. The balance always seems to shake out, the people only suffer the party in power for so long ... the pendulum swings.

But not this time. This time is different. Few people of any subtlety or intelligence really want either party to rule completely, to take full control of both the presidency and Congress, to be given a blank check to, say, launch perpetual wars and drill for negligible amounts of oil in nature preserves and roll back women's rights and install new conservative justices and pass a horrific new $37 billion Homeland Security bill the sole purpose of which is to invent and then destroy perceived enemies of the state, forever and ever, amen.

If you are female, gay, bisexual, atheist, black, immigrant, poor, progressive, intellectual, open minded, open hearted, if you hold alternative views, dress funny, dance, enjoy sex, read seditious literature, believe in peace and funky spirituality and don't particularly care for a sneering angry self-righteous well-armed anti-everything deity, you are about to find out. The hard way. And so is everyone else.


"President Bush is a liar."   The Nation's Eric Alterman says what no one else is apparently willing to come right out and say in print -- that the current acting President of the United States tells lies (and even better, has a tell when he's doing it). Alas, he's but only one of a long line of official liars.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, November 7, 2002
Ciao! Don't let the door, etc.   Rep. Richard Gephardt is stepping down as leader of the House Democrats. This is good. Dick, don't ever let me see you run for president again, either.

This Modern World.   Tom Tomorrow on "Morality, American-style" and "Profiles in Democratic Courage: A Flight of Fantasy."

Ever wanted to buy a fainting goat?   Today is your lucky day. Jon Carroll talks about the goat fainting phenomenon:

I know I am not taking this as seriously as I should. The fainting-goat people certainly don't see the humor; I urge you to explore the "Breed Standard" section of the Web site for some taste of the divisive two-teat versus four-teat controversy.

Currently, four-teat fainting goats are barred from taking home blue ribbons at fainting-goat shows. There are about nine jokes that could go in this sentence, and I will not lower myself to write any of them.

But I do picture a Monty Python sort of barnyard, with two stumpy rustics walking through it discussing the possibility of rain in the next week, while all around them goats are dropping to the ground, their limbs stiff and motionless.

"Aye, your goats are fainting nicely today, Jim," says one.

"Ah, Ronnie, thank you," says the other. "We do our best." Plop! Plop! Plop!

Wank your way to solvency!   The men at an auto factory in Romania have devised a rather novel (and fun) way to get their plant out of deficit and thereby save their jobs -- they're going to donate sperm to a fertility clinic, earning $50 a pop. Gee, the things one's willing to do for one's company ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, November 6, 2002
The Democrats are pathetic, and Dubya's wings take dream.   The Republicans didn't take control of Congress last night because of any sweeping national mandate. They hold the House by only nine seats out of a total of 435, and the Senate by two out of 100. As Tom Tomorrow pointed out, "keep in mind how many of these races were decided by a statistical handful of voters -- as of this writing, it appears that Dole won by 9%, Chambliss by 7%, Coleman by 4%, Talent by one percent. These aren't exactly huge mandate-style numbers. And keep in mind that 61% of eligible voters didn't even bother to drag their asses off the couch for this one."

The Republicans took control of Congress not only because of massive voter apathy, but primarily because the Democratic Party have utterly failed to provide vision, leadership and a true opposition. Republicrats, Demicans, whatever you want to call them ... they failed to show another way. I'm ready for the Democratic Party to sweep out all of their spineless, so-called "leaders" and find someone to build the party up and take it through to win the next election. Do I think this will really happen? Pfeh. Not with the likes of Gephardt and his ilk leading the Democrats.

Bush and Lott: "The parties now need to work together." Translation: The Democrats will do whatever the Republicans say, and the tyranny of the majority will rule. Can't wait!

As much as I dislike Gray Davis, I'm glad Simon didn't get in. At least Davis has signed some good legislation (domestic partnerships, etc.) which Simon never would have.

"Slinking out the back door."   SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt resigned yesterday, as Kevin pointed out, "right after the polls had closed in the East. After all, we wouldn't want to remind anyone of how thick the corporate corruption surrounding Dubya and his minions runs until after the election now, would we? As it turns out, the GOP-controlled Congress probably won't look into SEC malfeasance anymore anyway."

*snicker* ... "Daschle, Gephardt: 'Political strategy is working'"   A sadly hilarious bit from Busy Busy Busy, a site I might just have to add to my daily rounds:

Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Richard Gephardt plan
to disarm GOP criticism by offering no opposition.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As cable networks projected continued Republican
dominance of the House and a Republican takeover of the Senate, two
leading Democrats met with reporters to announce that 'everything is
going according to plan' and the future of the Democratic Party looks

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle expressed optimism about
Democratic prospects for the next elections, saying that "our
strategy of leaving no daylight between ourselves and the president
is clearly working. Although in today's election the voters were still
able to distinguish Republicans from Democrats, resulting in some lost
seats for us, I'm confident that by 2004 we will regain our lead by
becoming utterly indistinguishable from Republicans."


(Via MeFi.)

Piss off Ryan Adams, win a prize!   Robbie Fulks (a great musician and by all accounts a great guy) still offers a prize for anyone who yells out a Bryan Adams request at a Ryan Adams show and then gets personally ejected by the puerile rock star. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to happen again. A friend of mine, via a contact at Adams' label, recently told me that those fan-ejection incidents were staged.

Gee. Now Adams looks like an even bigger idiot.

Hm, I guess we shouldn't invite Moby to our Thanksgiving turkey fry.   Hip musician Moby, a vegan activist and PETA member, has taken aim at the Butterball company just in time for Thanksgiving:

The ever-controversial artist and known vegan has created a voice-mail message for animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA) that singles out the practices of ConAgra Foods, the makers of the Butterball turkey brand.

Moby says, "Hi, this is Moby for PETA's holiday hotline. Each year the Butterball turkey company sponsors a turkey talk line to answer questions about proper cooking techniques. Please join me in calling Butterball to let them know that there is no proper way to kill and cook these beautiful birds."

Actually, turkeys are ugly and stupid ... and they taste really good! Especially when injected with a marinade and then deep-fried! Or rubbed with a great glaze on and underneath the skin, stuffed with a dressing or with fruits and vegetables, and then roasted, or when made into a turducken (all of which are quite proper ways to cook those birds). Yum yum yum!

Quote of the day.   For the pessimist's view:

Dark stormclouds of sadness and pain passed over the collective soul of the United States and indeed much of the universe today as the Republican Party won control of American government and will hence have much less trouble passing more invidious laws that further its adorably sniveling and very, very mean-spirited agenda of war, big business, corporate inbreeding, heartlessness, artlessness, cultural degradation, homophobia, misogyny, racism, fear, dread, gluttony, and uptight sexless puling about everything that doesn't gibe with rich whitebread Americana doctrines of money and power or vague karmic misery and sneering fear of anyone who makes less than six figures or has genuine orgasms or really loves the environment or personal freedom or alternative viewpoints or laughter. "Hail Satan!" giggled a heavily shellacked Elizabeth Dole as she stepped into Jesse Helms' crusty, moldy, homophobic pink slippers. "Let the Dark Days !"

-- Mark Morford, SF Gate Morning Fix

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, November 5, 2002  ::  Election Day
Quote of the day.   "Before we bring democracy to Iraq, how about we bring it to Florida?"

-- Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show". There are early, unconfirmed reports that some Florida electronic voting machines are registering votes for Bush when the box for McBride is touched.

Finally, no more feckin' projections.   Voter News Service, the people whose exit polls are responsible for the highly annoying (and frequently inaccurate) projections of who's going to win an election, have abandoned their plans to provide predections of the outcome of today's election. They screwed up in 2000, and they decided that the same computer problems they blamed for the screwup would probably happen again.

I think these widely broadcast projections should be illegal, actually. I don't want to know the goddamn outcome before the votes are counted. Count the votes and then tell us who won. I can't believe it took them this long to learn that projections are bad.

If you haven't voted yet, and you're approached by an exit pollster after you do, I recommend you politely tell them to buzz off, that you don't talk to exit pollsters, and that whom you voted for and why is your own private business. That's what I'll do.

The "bumbling bag of bolts" will be rusting now.   Jonathan Harris, the character actor who among many other roles Jonathan Harris and the bumbling bag of bolts was most famous for portraying the villainous and delightfully prissy Dr. Zachary Smith in the original "Lost in Space" TV series has passed away at age 87. As you can see by the illustration, Smith has already been honored by the Republic of Guinea, who put him on a stamp a while back. My favorite bit from the obituaries:

Born Jonathan Charasuchin in the Bronx to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Harris adopted the stage persona of a classically trained British actor with his grandiloquent accent, crisp enunciation and professorial manner.

When people would ask him if he was from England, Harris would confess: "Oh no, my dear, just affected."

Have a look at a collection of Dr. Smith's insults, most if not all of which were aimed at the robot.

It ... could ... WORK!   Very encouraging news on the Ignatius front, as in who's going to play him in the "Confederacy of Dunces" film -- it's looking like it'll be Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's a great actor, has the right stature, but needs to be more flamboyant and less mumbly than he's been in several of his roles. I know he can do it. Whoo!

Shake the hand that shook the hand ...   I am now two degrees of separation from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Why? 'Cause I met their bartender last night.

Dale DeGroff, perhaps America's most renowned bartender and cocktail expert, has just written and published a fabulous book entitled The Craft of the Cocktail, which is "everything you need to become a master bartender, with 500 recipes." It's beautifully designed, with the requisite basic information on spirits, glassware, technique, plus Dale's insistence (which was an early inspiration for Wes and I and our similar insistence) of using only fine quality ingredients and especially fresh juices in cocktails. There are also interesting and amusing anecdotes from his many years as a bartender, but the true treasure of this volume is the collection of Dale's definitive recipes, including many of his own creations.

He was in town last night, signing books and (especially!) making cocktails at a restaurant and bar called Linq, on W. 3rd Street near the Beverly Center. Wes couldn't make it, but I made a beeline after work and got there as soon as I could. There were a decent number of people in the small bar area, a photographer from Daily Variety, and I moved amongst the assorted minglers. It was a friendly crowd as well, as a couple of people came up and introduced themselves, and we began chatting about cocktails, naturally. Dale was concentrating on a handful of special drinks last night, and those were all on the house. (Free! My favorite price! And remember ... if it's free, take two!)

Turns out that they were friends of the publicist for the event, and didn't really know much about Dale or about cocktails. Their drinks were very tasty-looking, yellow with a frothy head, but they didn't know what was in it other than pineapple, nor what it was called. "This is one of his specialties," said the woman, "and he's making a couple of others, including this Flame of Love Martini."

My eyebrows went up. "Really," I said. Given the fact that I'd never had the opportunity to dine at the late, old-guard-star-studded Chasen's, I'd never had an opportunity to be served a Flame of Love by anyone, much less the likes of its venerable inventor Pepe Ruiz, bartender at Chasen's for over 35 years. I'd tried to make a few at home, but haven't quite gotten the hang of flaming that orange peel.

"In fact," she went on, "apparently the guy who invented it is over there somewhere." She gestured toward the opposite end of the bar.

I think I let out a sound that was somewhere between "Hunh?!" and "Glerp!", excused myself so quickly that she was probably miffed, and headed in the opposite direction. There at the end of the bar was a sharply dressed, older Latino gentleman chatting with three other older gentlemen, all of whom were dressed in red jackets bearing the crest of the United States Bartenders' Guild.

"Mr. Ruiz?" He turned. I introduced myself, told him it was an honor and a pleasure to meet him, and would he mind signing inside Dale's book next to his recipe for the Flame of Love, and the story of how he came to invent it especially for Dean Martin, and how Frank Sinatra tasted it and liked it so much he threw a party at Chasen's and ordered two hundred of them. He seemed surprised and pleased that someone would even recognize him. He was a lovely man, and full of stories; he also said at one point, with a trace of sadness, that the drinks I was talking about as my favorites are ones he never hears of anymore. Sigh. I shook his hand to take my leave, and a familiar voice behind me said, "Only you would go right to this guy and get his autograph!" or words to that effect. It was, of course, my friend Dr. Cocktail, whom I just knew would be there.

I was thrilled to meet Pepe and Dale, and I had an absolutely fabulous time, chatting with Doc and the old bartenders and sampling Dale's wares. He made me a Caipirissima, a Millenium Cocktail (one of his award-winning specialties), and I also sampled an absolutely perfectly made Martini -- Bombay Gin, Noilly Prat vermouth, stirred for at least 15 seconds with a great deal of ice, garnished with an olive and a twist. It was exquisite.

Cocktail of the day.   A few years ago Dale DeGroff was commissioned by Courvoisier to create a new cocktail featuring their Millennium cognac bottling, which he then called the Millennium Cocktail. He later figured he needed to change the name, as he was very happy with the way the cocktail turned out and he'd hate to see it relegated to the trash heap of millennial merchandise. Later on, he discovered that an out-of-print book called The Roving Bartender, written by Bill Kelly in 1946, had a cocktail called the East India Cocktail that contained the same basic ingredients. Dale's version has some subtle but important differences that make for a wonderful flavor, and as far as I can tell, he's still calling it the Millennium (he was last night, at least). It was absolutely lovely.

The Millennium Cocktail
Created by Dale DeGroff

1-1/2 ounces Cognac
1-1/2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce orange curaçao (I use Cointreau)
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Flamed orange twist, for garnish
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Shake all the ingredients vigorously with ice and strain into a
chilled cocktail glass. To flame the orange peel, cut a thin, oval
slice from the peel of a thick-skinned orange, about 1-1/2 inches by
3/4 inch long. Hold a lit match in one hand, and carefully pick up
the peel in the other, "as if holding an eggshell." Don't squeeze
the peel prematurely. Hold the peel by the side, between thumb and
forefinger, skin side facing down, about four inches above the drink.
Hold the match between the drink and the peel, closer to the peel. Snap
the peel sharply, propelling the orange oil through the lit match and onto
the surface of the drink. Be sure to hold the twist far enough from the
drink to avoid getting a smoky film on the glass.

This takes practice. Once you go through a few oranges' worth, though, you
could be on your way to being almost as much of a pro as Pepe and Dale.
(Well, let's not aspire to cocktail godhood just yet, but you can definitely
get the hang of it with practice.)

Email of the day.   There was only a subject line, no message body:

From: W. Jones <JJones****@AOL.Com>
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: 2 Nov 2002 03:00:57 -0000
Subject: Where is the Lea&Perrins
Did you check in the right-hand cabinet, behind the soy sauce?

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  Saturday, November 2, 2002
Shit.   I can't help but feel that I should share the responsibility for this, as I only went three or four times a year. This arrived from my favorite sf bookstore, Dangerous Visions, in yesterday afternoon's email:

From: Dangerous Visions <>
Date: Fri, 01 Nov 2002 14:41:54 -0800
Subject: Urgent Dangerous Visions news

Dear Friends,

Several months ago, Art and I wrote asking for your renewed support. The events of 9/11 and a declining economy were taking a terrible toll on our 21-year old bookstore. Some of you called, a few wrote, and others began frequenting DV more often. The response was less than overwhelming, but we continued to fight the good fight, determined to bring you the best science fiction, fantasy, and horror books as we had for decades. But the wave of support was fleeting and autograph party attendance took a dramatic dip. Even big name authors failed to attract a crowd. Moreover, few of those coming to get books signed bothered to visit the store in between signings.

And yet, even as our walk-in clientele decreased, our on-line customer base was growing. As the writing on the wall became more pronounced, our course of action became clearer. Faced with increased operating costs and falling walk-in revenue, Art and I have decided to take Dangerous Visions to the next logical level: a purely virtual storefront.

Beginning Monday November 3rd, we'll be packing up the store. It will be put into storage where it will be inventoried for listing online. (and yes, we can use all the help we can get-- especially on the following Saturday when we move the boxes and take down the cases.)

On Sunday, November 10th, Dangerous Visions will close its physical doors for the last time.


At least they're not going out of business completely, but I'll miss going in there to browse, even if I didn't go all that often in between signings. Sigh. This is the last sf bookstore in the Los Angeles area, after the long-ago demise of the lamented and sorely missed A Change of Hobbit.

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  Friday, November 1, 2002
And so begins the Noble Experiment.   I abused book clubs when I was a wee lad. It's quite possible that the Science Fiction Book Club and the Book of the Month Club still have contracts out on me. For years I lived in mortal terror of walking down the street one day, having a well-dressed heavy-set man in see-through socks come up to me and say, "Da boys from Camp Hill say hello," then pumping six bullets into me.

It's the typical thing. Get the monthly flier. Forget to send in the card. Get the selection of the month in the mail, which I don't want. Mark it "REFUSED" and give it back to the mail carrier. Goes back to the book club at their expense. Book club gets pissed off, sends threatening letters. Ignore threatening letters. Book club capos say to their button men, "I've got a stone in my shoe."

Apparently I've been redeemed among the Book Club Five Families, because several weeks ago I got an invitation to join The Good Cook, a book club for all food-related books and cookbooks. Thing is, I got it at my work address, meaning they probably don't realize that I'm that Chuck Taggart. I decided to give the book club thing another try, though ... mostly due to the introduction of the fabulous World Wide Web as a response method. That, plus the fact that the quality of book club editions is much higher than when I was a kid, and that I could get some staggeringly expensive cookbooks for a buck each:

Simple Italian Food, by Mario Batali
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 40th Anniversary Edition, by Julia Child et al.
Rao's Cookbook, by Frank Pellegrino
Chez Panisse Fruit, by Alice Waters

plus a bonus selection for only $20 ($45 list):
Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

I saved $160.95 over the regular editions, and these editions appear to be exactly the same, glossy paper and all. I logged on The Good Cook website, declined this month's selection and paid for my five books online. It took about a minute.

<voice="Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein">It ... could ... WORK!!</voice>

Man, that book is right on.   If you're even merely considering the notion of buying a house, buy Home Buying for Dummies, by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown. It's fantastic, and contains everything you need to know. One of the things it said is that you will freak out after the home inspector hands you his report. Boy, were they right about that.

Have you no sense of decency, sir?   The National Rifle Association, personnified by their reptilian leader Charlton Heston, decided to go ahead with a pro-gun rally in Tucson only two days after three university professors were murdered by a gun-toting lunatic just four miles from the site of the shootings.

Quote of the day.   "Ronald Reagan may have been a hard line conservative, but had [Sen. Paul] Wellstone died during his watch you wouldn't have heard liberals asking whether the Gipper had had him offed. Bush is different. Asking mailmen to spy on ordinary Americans, creating military tribunals for anyone deemed an "enemy combatant," locking prisoners of war in dog cages, spending a decade's worth of savings in six months, allowing journalists to die rather than provide them with help in a war zone, smearing Democratic politicians as anti-American, invading sovereign nations without excuse -- these are acts that transgress essential American reasonableness. A man capable of these things seems, by definition, capable of anything. "

-- Ted Rall, in a recent op-ed piece which seems to herald the emergence of conspiracy theories. However, I must say that the apparent lack of installed black boxes in a plane which required them is rather eyebrow-raising ...

October Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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