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 @ 10:18am PDT, 1/31/2003

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)

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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

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

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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Friends with pages:

mary katherine
pat and paul
roxi and merck
tracy and david

Talking furniture:

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

   Subscribe to the
   "Down Home" weekly
   playlist email service

WWOZ (New Orleans)
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   Live audio stream

Grateful Dead Radio
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KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail

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

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

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

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

Bar Asterie
   (Martin Doudoroff)

DrinkBoy and the
   Community for the
   Cultured Cocktail
   (Robert Hess, et al.)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Food-related weblogs:
Hacking Food
Honest Cuisine
KIPlog's FOODblog
The Making of a Restaurant
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu

à la carte
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

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 Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel.

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, by Mil Millington.

The Bartender's Best Friend, by Mardee Haidin Regan.

Esquire Drinks, by David Wondrich.

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
The Reivers
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):

Chicago (****)

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:

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
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
Q Daily News
This Modern World
Web Queeries
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?

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)
Izzle Pfaff! (my favorite webjournal)
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

Hosted by pair Networks

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

  Friday, January 31, 2003
Cocktail of the day.   'Cause goddamn, we all need a drink.

This one is named after the hotel in Havana, Cuba where it was created (the hotel's still there, too). It's not exactly common, so don't expect to be able to order it in your run-of-the-mill bar; fortunately, it's easy to make at home. Also, if you're fortunate enough to live near the fabulous restaurant and bar that is Cinnabar in Glendale (less than four miles from my house, baby!), it's on their outstanding cocktail menu.

Make sure that the apricot brandy you use is the dry, Hungarian style (like barac palinka), not the sweet "apricot flavored brandy" made by people like Bols and Leroux.

Hotel Nacional Special

2 ounces golden rum (Cuban, if you can get it)
1-1/2 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon dry apricot brandy

Shake with cracked ice until cold and frothy,
and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with anything
from a maraschino cherry to a "flag" (orange wedge and cherry
speared with a cocktail pick or a paper umbrella).

In his time of dying.   A non-maudlin, quite moving article about Warren Zevon from last Sunday's New York Times Magazine (the usual access drill applies: annoying/annoying).

Is this who we want to be?   As I'm sure many of you did, I read the recent newspaper article outlining the Bush administration's strategy should they actually attack Iraq. I was appalled, and actually felt nauseated.

800 missiles to hit Iraq in first 48 hours

The US intends to shatter Iraq "physically, emotionally and psychologically" by raining down on its people as many as 800 cruise missiles in two days.

The Pentagon battle plan aims not only to crush Iraqi troops, but also wipe out power and water supplies in the capital, Baghdad.

It is based on a strategy known as "Shock and Awe", conceived at the National Defense University in Washington, in which between 300 and 400 cruise missiles would fall on Iraq each day for two consecutive days. It would be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War.

"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," a Pentagon official told America's CBS News after a briefing on the plan. "The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before."

... George Bush has been displaying increasing impatience with the pace of inspections and is eager to start the bombing. But according to UN sources he has resigned himself to the fact that the US lacks enough votes on the Security Council to wage a military campaign.

I was at a bit of a loss for words after thinking about this, and given that I've been quoting the Nielsen Haydens a fair amount this week, I thought I'd just refer you to Teresa's post on the subject:

Didn't we use to believe we were the good guys? What kind of heroes will we raise up among ourselves if we start doing things like this?

That's not the style of bombing you use when you're specifically going after Saddam Hussein, or industrial facilities that might produce weapons of middling destruction, or the Iraqi military. If US planners expect to leave no safe places in Baghdad, they're planning to hit the civilian population.

No one should ever be eager to start a bombing campaign like that, no matter what the cause or circumstances.

... I find the proposed method of attack profoundly disturbing.

This is bad. This is so not like us.

I don't want this to become like us.


Quel surprise.   ShrubCo's new economic plan will cut taxes for businessmen who buy massive SUVs like Hummer H2s and Lincoln Navigators, benefitting both ShrubCo's big oil cronies as well as the drivers of these $100,000+ gas-guzzling vehicles, most if not all of whom are presumably Republican voters. (Via Kevin)

Analysis of Bush presidency suggests a nation overthrown.   A letter by Bill Petz to the Asheville Citizen-Times, August 9, 2002 (referenced in yesterday's post regarding tinfoil hats).

Consider this: An inarticulate, politically inexperienced man with family links to a previous national regime comes to provincial leadership. Subsequently he gains the highest national office without winning the popular vote. The election in which he was declared the victor is considered compromised by his brother's province. He appoints a chief law enforcement officer who has repeatedly called for constitutional revisions. Regulatory agencies are filled with those previously regulated. Soldiers patrol transportation centers. International treaties are abrogated. International legal organizations are shunned. Roles of police and military are blurred. Law enforcement agencies are centralized. Individual civil rights are reduced. A "shadow" government is created.

Domestic surveillance is increased. People are encouraged to spy on each other. Military budgets are increased. The military establishes a disinformation program. Media access to government is limited. Consultations with the legislative branch decline. Connections to corrupt corporate sponsors are disavowed. Efforts to further plunder natural resources for profit are initiated. Access to past administrations' documents is limited. A war mentality is established with imprecise enemies. Nebulous fear-inducing alerts are periodically released. National level profiling is introduced. People are imprisoned without public charges and unknown others are "disappeared." Does the word "coup" come to mind?

Quote of the day.   We're all livin' in Egypt-land ...

Pharaoh he sits in his tower of steel
Around his feet the princes kneel
Far beneath we shoulder the wheel
We're all workin 'for the pharaoh ...

-- Richard Thompson, from his song "Pharaoh", on the album Amnesia
[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, January 30, 2003
Britney Spears: Cineaste.   Via Cheesedip, my favorite Sundance anecdote yet. La Britney and her entourage chattered nonstop for 45 minutes during a screening of Robert Downey Jr.'s new film version of "The Singing Detective", thereby "royally pissing off Robert Redford (and rightly so)." She intones:

"The official line is we had our schedules mixed up, so we had to leave, but I didn't like the movie... Sundance is weird. The movies are weird - you actually have to think about them when you watch them."
I couldn't put it better than Lia did: "Could you make this shit up if you tried? I don't think so!"

Wear your tinfoil hat with pride.   Patrick Nielsen Hayden posts the following facts (source: Fortune magazine) on Electrolite today:

(1) Prominent Republican Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey, is the new chairman of the 9/11 commission.

(2) Kean is also a director of petroleum company Amerada Hess.

(3) In 1988, Amerada Hess formed a joint venture with Saudi company Delta Oil.

(4) One of Delta Oil's backers is Khalid bin Mahfouz, who is - -here's where you need to clap your hat firmly to your skull -- married to one of Osama Bin Laden's sisters. And suspected of financing Al Qaeda. Oh, and named in one of the lawsuits brought by 9/11 victims. Did we mention that he's also been involved in deals with the Carlyle Group, the ultra-secret investment group that includes, among others, George H. W. Bush? And also in deals with -- yes, your tinfoil hat, properly adjusted, plays 1980s popular music! -- BCCI?

(5) Three weeks before Kean's appointment, Amerada Hess severed its ties with Delta.

He comments further:

I realize that only unreasonable people would make anything of the above. Why would anyone possibly worry about the fact that every time we turn around another prominent Administration member turns out to be up to his ass in business connections with shadowy Al-Qaeda supporters? Certainly I'm not worried. That would be tinfoil hat stuff. Not for me! I dismiss my misgivings with a stern flick of my Rational Mind! Also, monkeys fly out of my butt.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden chimes in with, "I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist." You're tellin' me!

Looking for an excuse.   Adam Hochschild wonders in AlterNet what the meaningless pretext for war -- a long-standing American tradition -- will be when it comes to Iraq:

The United States has long found its own share of war pretexts. Eager to seize the crumbling overseas empire of Spain, President William McKinley had no convenient excuse until, providentially, the U.S. battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor. The Spaniards apparently had nothing to do with this -- historians think that spontaneous combustion in a coal bunker ignited the ship's powder magazine -- but it didn't matter. Crowds shouted, "Remember the Maine!" as the United States took over Spanish possessions around the world, grabbing even Hawaii, which had no connection to Spain whatever.

In 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was eager to escalate the war in Vietnam, he pointed to attacks on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. This provoked a stern Senate resolution and the first big bombing raids on North Vietnam. Only much later did it emerge that one destroyer was sailing provocatively close to the North Vietnamese coast, and the second of these attacks had never happened at all.

As the truth dribbled out over the years, many senators complained bitterly of having been misled, and turned against the war. But by that time nearly 60, 000 Americans, and a vastly larger number of Vietnamese, were dead.

One of the aircraft carriers that launched bombing raids after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the U.S.S. Constellation, is now in waters off Iraq. What will be the Gulf of Tonkin episode of this coming war?


Quote of the day.   "Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

-- Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, to intelligence officer and psychologist Gustave Gilbert, during his war crimes trial in Nuremberg. [op cit. Gilbert, G. M. Nuremberg Diary, New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1947 J (pp. 278-279).]

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 29, 2003
The state of the union? About as sound as a house of cards.   Wes put it best: "Listening to the whole speech last night made me sad, angry, and just wore me out." To paraphrase one weblog from earlier this week (which one I forget at the moment), "lies, damned lies and Bush administration statistics."

We lost count after 14 utterances of the non-word "nucular", and simply sputtered at the bullshitting, chest-thumping, an unconvincing case for war and a complete lack of mention of Osama bin Laden. All that, and there's still no evidence for attacking Iraq (we can list a litany of many countries' dictators and their tortures committed on their people, none of whom we've attacked). William Saletan on Slate offers an interesting analysis: "A Reveille, not a record: The state of our union is... unmentionable."

If you went to the refrigerator during the first three minutes of President Bush's State of the Union address, you missed the part where he discussed the state of the union. After a few words about his record on the economy, education, corporate responsibility, and homeland security, Bush spent the rest of the hour outlining plans and promises. It was the kind of speech a president gives when he's been in office two weeks, not two years.

Why didn't Bush talk about the state of the union? Because the state of the union is nothing to talk about. The stock market is in the toilet. The economy is going nowhere. Unemployment is up. The deficit is out of control. Remember those State of the Union speeches Bill Clinton gave? The guy couldn't stop quoting happy numbers. That's one problem Bush doesn't have.


"This is the worst president ever."   Venerable White House journalist Helen Thomas, who's actually known nine presidents, rather than the eight mentioned in the following article, offers her press veteran's take on the state of the presidency to John Bogert of Torrance, California's Daily Breeze.

As veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas signed my program Thursday evening at the Society of Professional Journalists' annual awards banquet, I said, "First time I ever asked a reporter for an autograph."

"Thank you, dear," she said, patting my arm. "Don't lose heart."

She seemed to have sympathy and affection for [each of the presidents she's known] but George W. Bush, a man who she said is rising on a wave of 9-11 fear -- fear of looking unpatriotic, fear of asking questions, just fear. "We have," she said, "lost our way."

Thomas believes we have chosen to promote democracy with bombs instead of largess while Congress "defaults," Democrats cower and a president controls all three branches of government in the name of corporations and the religious right.

As she signed my program, I joked, "You sound worried."

"This is the worst president ever," she said. "He is the worst president in all of American history."

The woman who has known eight of them wasn't joking.

Let's examine this, shall we?   My friend Rick Garman offers an indepth analysis of Shrub's comments on AIDS in last night's speech, reproduced here with his kind permission. (Thanks for being my guest weblogger today, Rick.)

I'm a little annoyed. During the State of the Union address, the President spent a big chunk of time trying to show how compassionate he is -- you know, just before he talked about going off and bombing the crap out of Iraq -- by talking about AIDS. Here's what he said:

"Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus, including 3 million children under the age of 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than 4 million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims -- only 50,000 -- are receiving the medicine they need.

"Because the AIDS diagnosis is considered a death sentence, many do not seek treatment. Almost all who do are turned away.

"A doctor in rural South Africa describes his frustration. He says, 'We have no medicines, many hospitals tell people, "You've got AIDS. We can't help you. Go home and die."' In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words.

"AIDS can be prevented. Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year, which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp.

"Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.

"This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS.

"I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

"This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature."

Let's take a little look at the details of what he said and some interesting notes about each point:

What he said:
30 million people in Africa have the AIDS virus.

Interesting note:
Around the globe there are an estimated 40 million people with the AIDS virus. Countries in eastern Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim havenew infection rates are rivalingand in some cases exceeding those found in Africa, and all experts believe that the by 2010 there will be more than 70 million people infected, mostly from those areas.

What he said:
Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year.

Interesting note:
Although I have not had the time to research it fully, the cheapest effective anti-retroviral drug that I was able to find was Combivir, currently priced at around $800 per year in Africa. This is not to suggest that there isn't a drug that costs under $300 per year but if there is I haven't been able to find it and it is most likely one of the older AZT based drugs that has only a minimal, short-term efficacy -- meaning it may help for a year, maybe two, but then these people will be right back where they started and will need the more expensive drugs.

By the way, Combivir -- the exact same drug that is around $800 a year in Africa -- currently costs more than $10,000 per year in the United States and other developed nations. The drugs that I am on, Trizivir and Viread, cost about $19,000 per year in the United States.

What he said:
This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections...

Interesting note:
There are approximately 3 million new AIDS infections in Africa alone each year. Extrapolating the numbers on this 5 year plan indicate that the President's plan will prevent nearly half of all new AIDS infections in Africa, a country where vast sections of the population would need direct, personal education since they are unable to read educational material that may be produced.

What he said:
This comprehensive plan will...treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs...

Interesting note:
If there are 30 million people in Africa with the AIDS virus and only 2 million people will be treated that means that 28 million people will be left to die. Who gets to decide who gets the drugs and who doesn't?

And if that 2 million is spread out over 5 years that means 400,000 people a year -- less than 15% of anticipated new infections, not to mention existing infections.

What he said:
I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money.

Interesting notes:
$15 billion over five years if $3 billion per year. By the end of the 5 year plan there will be an estimated 45 million people in Africa with the AIDS virus. Even using the President's 7 million infections prevented, that's still 38 million people. Let's split the difference and say 40 million.

40 million people and $3 billion. That's $75 per person.

There is also no indication as to where that money will go. Critics are already suggesting that the bulk of it will probably wind up in the hands of the African governments who have already squandered billions while allowing their citizens to die.

In the United States we spend:
$50 billion a year to promote health and decrease obesity in Americans.
$45 billion over the next 4 years for farm security and rural investment.
$30 billion over the next 5 years in tax credits for the President's Faith Based Initiatives.
$2 billion apiece for a B-2 bomber.
$1 billion a year to seek out and destroy cocaine fields in South America.

What I Say:
The President's numbers on this subject don't add up, which means that he is either mistaken, exaggerating, or lying. How then are we supposed to believe anything he says about any other subject?

Well ... I don't.

Rick offers one postscript to his analysis:

My only caveat on the whole thing is the mystery $300 drug deal. There may be a drug out there that I don't know about that only costs $300 in Africa, but even if there is it only changes the argument slightly.
And we haven't even gotten started on Iraq yet, have we?

[Permanent link to this post.]

Dinner at Caffé Citron.   You wouldn't think of Monrovia, California -- a sleepy little town about 15-20 minutes east of Pasadena -- as a restaurant destination, would you? Well, certainly not, if all you think of are hoary old places like "The Monrovian", a place in Old Town Monrovia where I had the worst restaurant meal of 2002 -- a roast turkey dinner with gravy and stuffing, where the "gravy" was a terrifying quantity of thick, flavorless, toxic-looking bright yellow glop over dry turkey covering a so-called stuffing made of unrecognizable ingredients (except for the fact that they started out as something dessiccated that came out of a pouch). Vile, vile, vile.

Don't ever go to The Monrovian. Go instead to some of the best-kept restaurant secrets in the greater northeast-of-L.A. area, like the outstanding Restaurant Devon, where Wes took me for my birthday last year. Like Cajun Way Café, run by folks from New Iberia, Louisiana and with some fine examples of southwest Louisiana Cuisine. Like Caffé Citron, where we dined Friday night and had a fantastic meal for comparatively little money.

It's pretty small, probably seating no more than 20 or 25 people. The night we were there everyone was being taken care of by only one waiter, who was knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic and made sure no one was wanting for anything. Same goes for the two assistant waiters/buspersons, who kept the water glasses and bread baskets filled and who cleared the plates promptly after we were done. A+ on service, most certainly.

We started out with a smaller appetizer, since we didn't want to go overboard both on budget and belly bloat (we were, after all, having Saturday Sandwiches the next morning). We split the Danish Blue Cheese and Black Olive Tapenade, served with lightly baked cheese-herb pita triangles. The quantity was enormous, far too much for one person, making it a perfect starter to split. The flavor was intense, perfectly balanced, and absolutely delicious. This was a relatively simple but skillful dish, as both blue cheese and tapenade are very strong flavors by themselves. My only nitpicky observation was that we could have used three or four more pita triangles to accommodate the huge serving of tapenade. No big deal, really, 'cause we just dipped into the bread basket (filled with tasty rosemary bread) to fill in as soon as we ran out of pita.

We also split one of the two tastiest-looking salads on the menu, the Insalata Roquette -- spinach and arugula, red and yellow teardrop tomatoes, sliced peaches, shredded smoked chicken tossed with a perfect amount of a marjoram vinaigrette. Very, very tasty, although the peaches were a little hard -- it's January, after all. I love it when restaurants toss salads properly, something you only seem to get in higher-end places nowadays. I hate being served a bowl of iceberg lettuce and quartered tomatoes with a big glop of bottled dressing on top, which is what a lot of restaurants seem to consider "salad". It was $12 for the two of us plus a buck to split the plate, which was fairly reasonable considering that each half-serving was plenty enough for one person. That would have been a meal-sized salad by itself.

The specials sounded great, including smoked sea bass, but then the waiter told us about the main special, which he had tasted and described as "absolutely incredible": filet of ostrich, sautéed gnocchi and a red raspberry and fig sauce. He was right on the money. Ostrich is wonderful, but very difficult to cook. It has very little fat, although eating it is like eating rich red meat like beef. Its low fat content also makes it very easy to dry out if overcooked, and this ostrich was perfectly seared on the outside and a deep, rosy medium rare on the inside. The red meat flavor was powerful enough to stand up to a big, tannic Cabernet, had I decided to order one. The soft gnocchi were a perfect foil for the meat, and that sauce ... oh man, that sauce. It was a dual sauce, as far as I could tell -- the raspberry was a reduction with a little stock, and the fig sauce was lightly creamy. They were swirled together in big pool surrounding the slices of meat ... and by the way, there was plenty of meat. The cost for this feast? Fifteen dollars. *boggle*

I decided to go with something a little fruitier and less tannic than a Cab, so I got a nice big glass of a 2000 Renwood Zinfandel, one of my favorites. It was perfect with both the meat and the sauce.

Wes had the pork chop (that boy rarely passes up a good pork chop) -- 1-1/2 inches thick, grilled, and stuffed with prosciutto and Fontina cheese. It was served with a cherry reduction sauce atop a pile of braised greens, and topped off with a grilled peach half. Also wonderful, and there was nothing left afterward but a denuded bone.

We were pretty stuffed, but skipped dessert even though we don't generally let the fact that we're stuffed deter us. They didn't have a huge selection -- house-made tiramisù and gelato. I'm sure both were good, but we decided to behave ourselves for once. The bill was about $64, which is not bad for appetizer, salad, two fabulous entrées and wine. If you're ever in Monrovia, I can't recommend them more highly.

Let's eat sum mo'! More food weblogging.   Long, long overdue linkage needed for this one -- my pal Kendall Clark of MonkeyFist fame has had a food weblog for a few months now, where he "writes about his food adventures: from reading MFK Fisher to perfecting spaghetti aglio y olio." It's called Hacking Food, and is easy to add to your rotation; posting frequency is about once a week. Enjoy!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 28, 2003
The Saturday Sandwich.   He'd been promising me this for going on four years, actually.

"One of these days," said Wes, back in the olden days, "I'll have to make you my mom's famous sandwich that we'd have for breakfast on Saturdays."

Recently the promise was revised to "Hey, how 'bout I make that sandwich on our first Saturday in the new house?" Well, as it turned out, that had to be revised to "Um, how 'bout our first Saturday in the new house after the stove's been delivered?" It's not terribly easy to make such a sandwich with a microwave oven and a toaster.

Last Saturday, I finally got my Saturday Sandwich. It was worth the wait.

Two large slices sourdough bread, toasted and slathered with mayonnaise. Thick-cut bacon, fried until crispy, three or four slices per sandwich. Two eggs, fried in some of the bacon drippings, with the yolks poked so that they cook hard ("blinded eggs", one friend's mom calls them). Thick-sliced Cheddar cheese, placed on the eggs while they're still in the pan so they get a little melty. A thick layer of mashed avocado (with a little salt and lemon juice). Assemble: eggs with cheese, bacon, avocado. It's enormous. It's very, very messy. It's a quintuple-fat threat to your health.

It is also incredibly, almost orgasmically, good.

If I ever manage to open a little poor boy shop one day, this is definitely going on the menu. In the meantime ... have it for breakfast next weekend, and you might not need any dinner.

Let's eat! New (to me) food weblogs.   I've added a couple more sites to my daily rotation, and if you know what's good for you, so will you. Alan Powers' Mise en Place features lots of recipes for his gustatory efforts (and his ISP account's userid is "sazerac", so we love him immediately). Hillel Cooperman's Tasting Menu features lots of restaurant visits and musings about everything from wine to bagels and beyond. Paul's KIPlog has a spinoff called FOODblog that I've been enjoying as well. Read on!

Spiff!   My nifty salt cellar arrived from Alton Brown dot com today. I like! It'll also look classy on my kitchen counter (as much as anything can look classy on the counter of a kitchen that was redone in the 1950s with salmon-colored Formica with amoebas and boomerangs on it; that said, I do adore my Formica and its considerable kitsch value, but I digress).

The packaging also has some nifty facts about salt on the top flap, which I felt compelled to share:

* The word "salary" comes from salarium, the pay Roman soldiers received for the purchase of salt.

* Salt is the only edible rock.

* In Iran, to break an oath is to be "untrue to salt".

* Many American roadways began as paths blazed by buffalo traveling to natural salt licks.

* During the Middle Ages the size of the saltcellar indicated the wealth of a household.

* A salt tax called the gabelle led to the French Revolution.

* In small amounts, salt makes sweet foods taste sweeter.

Salt (kosher, if you please) -- required for good eats.

Breaking news.   CNN have just reported that a matzo ball eating contest was recently held at Ben's Kosher Deli in New York City. The winner of the contest consumed 21 baseball-sized matzo balls in a little over five minutes.

I predict that this hapless gentleman won't be having a bowel movement until 2006.

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  Monday, January 27, 2003
Ego-boo.   There's a new PBS special which premiered a couple of weeks ago called "Sandwiches That You Will Like", chronicling the great sandwiches of America from coast to coast. I didn't get to see it, since the day it started running I was collapsed into an exhausted puddle of tapioca after moving, and have been rather distracted since, but I hope KCET runs it again soon.

It looks pretty good, and seems to make all the requisite stops. In New Orleans they do particularly well, stopping for poor boys at Domilise's (just about the pinnacle of the poor boy art) and for muffulettas at Central Grocery. (Insert tired, never-ending debate amont New Orleanians as to whether or not Central Grocery has gone downhill here, plus the name of whatever muff place each person insists is better.)

Oh, and the ego-boo part? The companion book to the series, written by Becky Mercuri, contains a contribution from yours truly -- a simply marvelous recipe for New Orleans-style roast beef poor boys. That said, it's not one of my original recipes but a contribution from a Gumbo Pages reader, but it's nice to get a mention and it'll be good exposure for the web site. All in all it looks like a great book, so pick it up, whydontcha? Apparently right now you can only get it as a premium for becoming a member of your local PBS station, which is cool, but I assume it'll be available for the teeming masses before too much longer.

Roux, and more ego-boo.   Um, not quite poetry, but one does what one can.

Dick Chase, he of one of my favorite food-related sites, Simmer Stock, offers an article about the joys of roux from his spinoff site Honest Cuisine. We get a little history, a little instruction, a little food science and a sense of humor, just how I like my food writing. There are also two recipes that nicely illustrate how roux works -- chicken fried steak with cream gravy, and a chicken and sausage gumbo. Dick got the gumbo recipe from me and, bless him, immediately tweaked it to his own tastes (adding some tasso instead of all the andouille) -- a man after my own heart.

It can happen here.   On Electrolite, Patrick quotes an observation from his editorial colleague Beth Meacham:

When, 17 years ago, I read the manuscript of Kim Stanley Robinson's first novel, The Wild Shore, I loved the book but I had a big problem with the basic premise -- that the United States had been devastated, forced into economic and technological primitivity by a sudden, overwhelming, tactical nuclear attack, and was now interdicted by the rest of the world. It seemed to me to be an unbelievable premise, the kind of thing where you just had to hold your breath and jump in for the sake of the story and the writing. How could we possibly get from here (20 years ago) to there?

This weekend I read a story in the Los Angeles Times, and was overwhelmed with the sudden knowledge that I now knew the answer to my question so long ago.

I read the same article this weekend, and I was horrified. The article detailed how the administration's current plans for the possible use of nuclear weapons in a war with Iraq:

In a policy statement issued only last month, the White House said the United States "will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -- including through resort to all of our options -- to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States."

One year ago, the administration completed a classified Nuclear Posture Review that said nuclear weapons should be considered against targets able to withstand conventional attack; in retaliation for an attack with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons; or "in the event of surprising military developments." And it identified seven countries -- China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria -- as possible targets.

The same report called on the government to develop smaller nuclear weapons for possible use in some battlefield situations. Both the United States and Russia already have stockpiles of such tactical weapons, which are often small enough to be carried by one or two people yet can exceed the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II.

"In the event of surprising military developments"? Russia? China? Are these people out of their fucking minds?

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  Friday, January 24, 2003
No domestic spying ... at least not for a while.   The Republican-controlled Senate, in a surprising bout of doing-good, voted by voice vote to ban funding for the Total Information Awareness program, run by Iran-Contra mogul John Poindexter. The ban will remain in effect until the Pentagon can explain the program and its impact on civil liberties (I doubt that they'll be able to provide a sufficent explanation).

As things began to look more and more bleak in this country, this particular bit of news is more than welcome.

Hand-picked money?   It seems that Los Angeles public radio juggernaut KCRW is in a wee spot of trouble. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting audited the station and is demanding that the station return $224,000 in CPB funds for overreporting its nonfederal financial support (NFFS); the higher the NFFS, the more grant money awarded the station. The CPB's Inspector General has found that KCRW overvalued its NFFS by $2.5 million over the past three years.

This should be interesting. A few other such audits at other public radio stations have resulted in criminal charges, although this outcome seems unlikely in this case. KCRW's general manager is fighting the CPB on this, and has hired a lawyer to appeal. Stay tuned.

The Cocktailian.   In Gary Regan's column this week, the Professor discovers what happens "When Scotch Lies Down With Vodka". (I must confess skepticism until I try this drink, but hey, I'll try anything.)

Super Bowl, Shmooper Bowl.   Given my complete apathy toward team sports, I'll not one of the ones watching that big helmet-crunching extravaganza on Sunday. (It's perhaps the only show I'd record on TiVo, then watch the commercials and skip the programming.)

For several years we'd go do things on that Sunday that are usually crowded, like Magic Mountain or something, counting on the fact that most of the crowds would be home watching football. No plans this year, but maybe we'll do a TV-watching marathon of another kind. I just got the DVD of the ABC production of "Stephen King's The Shining", which I completely missed when it was broadcast and which clocks in at 4 hours, 38 minutes. This is the version King said was "done right", with himself exercising lots of creative control. I'll be very curious to see it, having liked Kubrick's version (but having to mentally separate it from King's book and let it stand on its own).

Then again, we might just end up gathering with some friends and making Peacemaker poor boys -- that's fried shrimp and oysters, crisp bacon and Cheddar cheese, toasted just enough to crisp the bread and droop the cheese. It's a souped-up version of a New Orleans classic that was originally just a mix of fried oysters and shrimp, named because a husband would often bring such a poor boy home for dinner when his wife had him in the doghouse (also sometimes called a "Pacemaker", for obvious reasons).

Crisp, fried shrimp and oysters ... crisp, smoky bacon ... melted Cheddar cheese ... slathered with mayonnaise, topped with lettuce and tomatoes, dosed with hot sauce, all on lightly heated French bread. One day in the distant future, doctors will realize that this kind of food is the best thing for you.

Quote of the day.   "You know you've been invited to a gay Super Bowl party when everyone is just as excited about Celine Dion singing in the pre-game show as much as the home team being in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1984."

-- Ernie Hsiung, posting on Little Yellow Different.

Bush slaps your sanctity.   Mark Morford on George W. Bush's so-called "National Sanctity of Life Day":

... 100,000 more US troops have just been shipped to the Gulf to prepare to kill roughly 500,000 Iraqis and generate roughly 900,000 refugees, with millions more destitute and in need of aid (as estimated by the U.N.'s recent analysis of an Iraq attack called "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios"), the sanctity of whose life, apparently, don't matter in the slightest.

Dubya actually said it. He actually went so far as to pledge his administration's commitment to "build a culture that respects life" ...

Is this an appropriate time to mention the so-called sanctity afforded the lives of all the millions of destitute women living in some of the world's poorest countries, places where ShrubCo just recently cut paltry $34 million in U.S. funding (click here to help the United Nations Population Fund defy the cuts) that went toward women's health services, money that would have helped prevent hundreds of thousands of unwanted pregnancies, induced abortions, maternal deaths and infant and child deaths? Sorry dead mothers and dead babies. No sanctity for you.

Are you dying of cancer? Suffering from Parkinson's or Multiple Sclerosis or some other devastating, heart wrenching disease? Well gosh, shrugs Dubya, too bad for you. National Sanctity of Life Day means bitterly and severely restricted stem-cell research that could've someday saved your sanctity-less life. Oh well.

Or maybe you're suffering from some horrible ailment as a result of medical malpractice? How about imminent death from flawed vaccines from major scowling pharmaceutical companies? Nope, not much sanctity for you -- just restricted malpractice suits and zero liability on the part of the drug manufacturer, thanks to new legislation, the latter ram-rodded though with the draconian Homeland Security bill. How sweet.

Can a tree vote? Can a nice herd of caribou grazing on the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve where ShrubCo wants to drill for oil make a nice hefty campaign contribution to the Republican party? Man, the GOP sure hopes not.

Perhaps this is some newly coined definition of the word "sanctity" of which I was not previously aware.

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  Thursday, January 23, 2003
Our government cannot function without free swag, apparently.   A Republican-controlled Congress is good for the country, isn't it? I'm glad their leadership in the House is already doing great things to help the little guys and regular folks in our great nation ... like eroding their own ban on gifts and free meals. (Via Kevin)

House Republicans -- who instituted a total ban on gifts in 1995 with great fanfare after capturing Congress -- have incrementally relaxed the ethics rules so that members and their staffs can accept $100 in meals each year from each lobbyist and watch Washington Wizards basketball games and rock concerts from luxury skyboxes valued to fit just under their $50-per-event limit on tickets.

A new rule passed by House Republicans this month on a party line vote might stretch the loophole considerably further. It allows lawmakers and their aides to once again accept free trips to golf courses and free meals catered to their offices from corporations and other special interests.

Chuck's Favorite Albums of 2002.   I should have done this three weeks ago, but I was a wee bit busy with the house and packing and moving and all. My apologies.

A few years ago I stopped doing a numbered, ranked list, but I do still have a few divisions. I usually provide a special category for best compilation album and best reissue as well, the latter if I've been paying attention. I do an alphabetical list of my favorite records of the year, but I do single out anywhere from three to five albums that stayed in my CD player for a particularly long time.

Let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first.


Bob Mould, Modulate (Granary Music)
Not so much an album, but a personal betrayal.

Here's my horrified Looka! entry of July 3, 2002 on the topic.

Now, for more pleasant offerings:


Various Artists, Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music (Vanguard)
Ann Savoy produced, picked a killer backup band featuring her husband Marc and son Wilson, members of Beausoleil and Balfa Toujours and more, chose a wonderful range of musicians and helped them through marvelous interpretations of classic Cajun songs. Richard Thompson, Linda Ronstadt, Linda Thompson, Maria McKee, David Johansen, Nick Lowe and more. Priceless.

Runner-up: Uncle Tupelo, 89/93: An Anthology (Columbia-Legacy)
I had already had most of the tracks on this record, but then again most of them had been out-of-print for years, unavailable to a new generation of people seeking UT's music after having heard Wilco and Son Volt. Nicely remastered, generally well-chosen, some interesting previously unavailable tracks and an exciting preview for the remastered reissues of their first three albums, due out in March.

Okay, here are 25 (or so) records I really think you should get if you haven't gotten them already:


1. Rhett Miller, The Instigator (Elektra)
I'm still listening to this. The first solo album from the lead singer and principal songwriter of Old 97s, and it's thoughtful as well as unbelievably catchy.

2. Nickel Creek, This Side (Sugar Hill)
I'm still listening to this, too. No sophomore slump for these guys; their second album is even more adventurous than their first, ranging from the also unbelievably catchy title track to several terrific originals to covers of Pavement, Carrie Newcomer and an achingly gorgeous rendition of an Andy Irvine song from the Planxty days. I can't wait for their third.

3. The Red Stick Ramblers, The Red Stick Ramblers (
Authentic Cajun Gypsy Swing! These guys cover the ground from Western swing to 1920s and '30s jazz to traditional Cajun music to a Louisiana-influenced Scottish bagpipe tune (I kid you not, and it's great). Great fun from a group of immensely talented young southwest Louisiana musicians, already wonderful and with no way to go but up.

4. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
    Jay Farrar, ThirdShiftGrottoSlack (Artemis) [tie]
It's just coincidental, really. Two Uncle Tupelo alumni bands had releases this year. I had been hearing YHF since 2001, when the tracks were released on the band's website, and have been enjoying it ever since. Farrar's EP was primarily leftover tracks from his first solo album, all of which I'd also heard previously. Great (and very different) stuff from both.

5. Anders Osborne & Monk Boudreaux, Bury The Hatchet (Shanachie)
Anders, who had my favorite album of last year in Ash Wednesday Blues, teamed up with the Big Chief and lead singer of the Golden Eagles black Indian tribe of New Orleans for a rootsy and very funky followup, with songwriting contributions by Monk as well.


Altan, The Blue Idol (Narada-Virgin)
One of finest Irish traditional ensembles today, and they've still got it. I could listen to Mairéd Ní Mhaonaigh sing all day.

Norman Blake & Peter Ostroushko, Meeting On Southern Soil (Red House)
Technically this was a 2001 release, but I only got it in 2002, therefore in my book it's a 2002 release. My list, my rules. Gorgeous traditional and original acoustic music from two of the masters, on guitar, mandolin, mandola and fiddle, with Nancy Blake on 'cello.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama, Higher Ground (Real World)
Together for over 60 years, this group's recent albums keep getting better and better. Originals plus covers of songs by Curtis Mayfield, Ben Harper, Stevie Wonder and George Clinton.

Ken Bloom, The Bowed? Dulcimer (New Timey)
My pal Ken, besides fiddle, zither and who knows what all else, plays the Appalachian mountain dulcimer upright with a 'cello bow, and it sounds great. Lots of great traditional material here, plus Harry Bolick on fiddle.

Clarence Bucaro, Sweet Corn (Burnside)
This was a sweet little surprise that came in right at the end of the year. Clarence has a very down-home, relaxing and comfortable style that brings together many flavors of American roots music -- jazz, blues, folk, New Orleans music, gospel, jug band and ragtime. It's music that feels like an old friend from the first time you hear it, and makes you sit back and smile as you listen. Anders Osborne produced, and I appreciate the touches he gives to the album. (On top of all that, he's adorable besides.)

Solomon Burke, Don't Give Up On Me (Fat Possum)
The legendary soul singer's first album in many years, produced by Joe Henry. It was worth the wait.

Caitlin Cary, While You Weren't Looking (Yep Roc)
When it comes to Whiskeytown alumni, this is the one I'd pick.

Cordelia's Dad, What It Is (Kimchee)
This is their long-awaited rock album, recorded and engineered by Steve Albini, that has been sitting in the can for years. It's amazing record, taking us from blazing rock songs to a desperately sad a cappella hymn to a bawdy acoustic ballad about fucking a preacher's daughter for money and getting the clap in return. Some people have accused this band of multiple personality syndrome for maintaining a loud rock side along with the acoustic American and traditional music they play, but on this record they fold their two sides together so well you don't even notice the seems. And lest I sound misleading, this album rocks. Hard.

Domingo Siete, Domingo Siete De Los Angeles (Self-Release)
My friend Ricardo, co-proprietor of the most excellent Yahaira's Café in Pasadena (right across the street from Vroman's, y'all) gave me this record a few months back, and I loved it instantly. I can't describe it better then the band themselves do in the liner notes, offering to take us in a rickety old bus with music blaring over the AM radio, on a journey that will take us up from the heart of México D.F. through to Texas and out to East Los Angeles.

Snooks Eaglin, The Way It Is (Money Pit)
The quirky, legendary and extremely talented blues guitarist lets loose with a gem that I enjoyed even more than Live in Japan.

Fiddlers 4, Fiddlers 4 (Compass)
From old-time music, Bruce Molsky. From Cajun music, Michael Doucet. From newgrass, jazz and whatever else, Darol Anger. Add a monstrously talented newcomer on the 'cello, Rushad Eggleston, and you've got one of my two favorite albums of acoustic music this year (right up there with Nickel Creek). These guys have been around and know their stuff, and bring their specialties together in a joyous celebration of American music. See them live if you can.

Corey Harris, Downhome Sophisticate (Rounder)
Acoustic bluesman Harris didn't just get on the list because I like the album title. This is an astonishing record, taking his roots in acoustic blues and brashly mixing in the sounds of African music, hip-hop, samba and more. Your trip with Corey is all over the map this time; sit back and go where he leads you, and you won't regret it.

The Iguanas, The Iguanas Live At Wolf Trap (Blowout Records)
Iguanas fans have been lamenting the unavailability of the band's first three albums for ages now (they're working on it, be patient), and this fine live record will help fill in the gap until they can be re-released, with live versions of many longtime favorites from the early days, plus some new tracks as well.

Ben Kweller, Sha Sha (ATO)
I have to thank my friend Michael for turning me on to this one. Ben's an alumnus of the alternapunk band Radish (which he founded at age 14 or so), who were signed and then ignored by the label, a familiar story. Now at 20 (even though he still looks 14) he's got a solo album out that's full of great, catchy, sweet/cynical songs. This kid bears watching, which I'll gladly do as I thorougly enjoyed this record.

Ted Leo / Pharmacists, The Tyranny of Distance (Lookout)
I've got some friends of mine (although I can't remember which; Rick, Steve, Steve, and a few others) to thank for turning me on to this guy. This is another 2001 release which I only got last year (my list, my rules), and it blew me away. This would be my choice for pop/rock album of the year, if only I had gotten it before December and had listened to it more than I did other albums.

Maldita Vecindad, Mostros (BMG)
My favorite rock en español outfit for about 12 years now. They have a great punk sensibility as well as a deep respect for Mexican folk traditions, incorporating that into their sound as well as influences from reggae to soca to Algerian rai. Their lyrics area often highly political and very socially conscious as well. I have a special place in my heart for these guys -- they ended up doing a live performance on my radio show about 11 years ago, after their manager's husband heard me play them on the air and nearly lost control of the car in his surprise. I was granted the honorable title of "the first pink person to play Maldita on the radio", of which I'm very proud. Besides that, they're great guys too. (Actually, "Mostros" is a 1998 release, which for some bizarre reason I missed until now ... my dopey list, my dopey rules.)

Buddy Miller, Midnight And Lonesome (Hightone)
More great, soulful roots country music from Buddy, with great originals and a really interesting mixture of covers (Everly Brothers, Percy Mayfield).

Sinéad O'Connor, Sean-Nós Nua (Vanguard)
The title means "New Old-style" in Irish, and Herself takes a very new approach to a lot of the very old songs (two of which are in Irish) that she grew up hearing as a girl in Dublin.

Los Pinguos, Magia (Self-Release)
I first saw this Argentinian band (from Buenos Aires) on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. There were nine of them, with nylon guitars and percussion, playing exuberant Latin music that had me heading over to buy their CD within about two songs.

Paul Sanchez, Hurricane Party (Paul Sanchez Music)
My New Orleans homeboy Paul is another one of those songwriters whose songs seem like old friends, sometimes from the minute you hear them. This album's more electric than most of its predecessors, even including a rock anthem ("Invincible"), plus Paul's trademark little acoustic gems like "All of My Might." One of my favorite singer/songwriters ever.

Linda Thompson, Fashionably Late (Rounder)
I love the title of this record, an allusion to the fact that she hadn't sung on record for about 17 years when this record came out. Beautiful, gentle folk-pop of the finest kind.

There are honorable mentions up the wazoo, including Steve Earle's Jerusalem and George Harrison's Brainwashed, but this list took a fair bit of work and I'm tired and I'm knocking off. I'll add the H.M.s when I archive it permanently.

Okay, so! Go buy some records!

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  Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Eno: "Regime change begins at home."   An interesting "European perspective" on the current state of America, from composer and musican Brian Eno, in TIME magazine. (Thanks, GreggO!)

When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious. "They want what we've got," the thinking goes, "and if they can't get it, they're going to stop us from having it." But does everyone want what America has? Well, we like some of it but could do without the rest: among the highest rates of violent crime, economic inequality, functional illiteracy, incarceration and drug use in the developed world... Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got.
What, you don't like mango lollipops covered with chile and salt?   Learn of the delights (not, according to the authors) of salted tamarind paste with a lemon gumball inside, fizzy drink tablets ("What if your milk was fizzy, blue, had a two inch-thick foam head, and tasted like salty fruit?") and Egyptian Tiger Eyes at The Ultimate Bad Candy Web Site. (Thanks, Dule!)

Granted, almost all of these candies are non-American in origin, and folks from different food cultures have different ideas of what good candy is. I'm sure that locals love 'em. These guys sure do pick on Mexico a lot, home of many of the bad candies on their list. For a different perspective, Wes loves those mango and watermelon lollipops that are coated with ground chile and salt. (Umm, I'd rather eat goat's milk cajeta out of the jar with a spoon, me.)

Six Worst-Case Scenarios.   I don't usually link to Salon articles, nor do I usually think in a worst-case-scenario matter, but our current administration makes me sufficently worried/paranoid to move in that direction. Here are six nightmares for George Bush, and everyone else:

Two years into his presidency, on the eve of his second State of the Union address, almost exactly a year before the 2004 presidential primary season begins with the Iowa caucus, President Bush faces trouble everywhere he turns. War with Iraq seems inevitable even as crises in Venezuela and North Korea simmer, and al-Qaida remains menacing and elusive. On the domestic front, unemployment is still rising, the stock market continues to slump, budget deficits are climbing again -- and the president's only answer is a massive tax cut for the rich, while states and cities slash funds for public safety, healthcare and education. A broad spectrum of scientists agree that global warming is getting worse, but the administration insists the issue needs more study.

It's hard not to notice a disconnection between the challenges facing the U.S. and the Bush administration's response. And what if, against this already gloomy backdrop, things get worse on several fronts at once?

What if deficits mount and the war with Iraq is messier than expected? What if joblessness continues to rise but states' unemployment insurance funds collapse? What if al-Qaida rebuilds while the Palestinian situation festers?

The Middle East: The White House's reckless, one-sided policies could lead to a global catastrophe.

The Fiscal Crisis: While Bush cuts taxes for the rich, states are cutting prosthetics for the poor.

Iraq: Chemical weapons, civil war and Arab rage could turn an invasion into a disaster.

The Economy: If Bush's radical tax cuts are approved and spending continues to soar, the U.S. could be headed toward Japanese-style stagnation -- or worse.

The Environment: Bush's pro-industry policies are hastening the end of the polar bears -- and maybe the planet.

Reproductive Rights: American women take their right to an abortion for granted. They shouldn't anymore.

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  Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Al Hirschfeld, 1903-2003.   The ever-delightful artist, who called himself a characterist rather than a cartoonist or caracaturist, died peacefully in his sleep yesterday at age 99. (NY Times login: annoying/annoying).

I was first exposed to his art as a very small child, from his illustration of the cast of "My Fair Lady" (you remember the one, with the marionette strings) on the cover of the cast recording LP my parents had. I've loved his work ever since.

I had an opportunity to buy a litho of one of his drawings last year, a great image of Charlie Chaplin with the dinner rolls from "The Gold Rush". I hemmed and hawed, and decided after much teeth-gnashing that at $1500 I really couldn't afford it, even on credit. I'll bet that I really can't afford it now ...

Alton Brown clears the building.   I'm a big fan of his, and "Good Eats" is tied for my favorite Food Network show (along with "Molto Mario" and "Iron Chef", of course). John wrote in this morning with the tale of an appearance Alton made in Rochester recently, where a demonstration of his meat searing technique had, er, unexpected results.

I just bought a kitchen tchotchke from Alton's site (like I need another one, when I still haven't unpacked all the kitchen boxes and found places for things). Trained as I was by Blake, Cecelia, Pascal, May, Denise and all the other great chefs I studied under at UCLA, I add salt to dishes I'm cooking by using my hands, picking up pinches of kosher salt and sprinkling it by hand. (Try it sometime. It really works better than using a shaker, which is best suited for table use.) Alton sells a really nifty little salt cellar that's perfect for this, with about a 1 cup capacity and a flip lid.

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  Monday, January 20, 2003
Grumble.   At work. Two and one-half hours before I'd normally have to come in. On a company holiday, no less, when I shouldn't have to come in at all.

Some people have a really overinflated sense of what's truly important (my sleep is, dammit!).

Mutual of Eagle Rock's Wild Kingdom.   A few nice folks have sent in nice emails wondering how the new house is coming along. Splendidly, thanks very much!

Aside from the usual "Oh my, that's going to take much longer than we thought, not to mention hundreds or thousands more dollars" syndrome, and the "We have more stuff than we have places to put stuff!" syndrome, and the "I don't know. It's in a box somewhere, along with everything else that will remain in boxes for at least three months" syndrome ... we have earwigs and cats.

Earwigs have got to be some of the creepiest insects ever, second on my gorge-rising revulsion scale right behind flying cockroaches. I think it was that old Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/Whatever episode in which the guy has an earwig crawl into his ear and burrow through his head. He suffers excruciating pain and nearly goes insane, only to have it finally emerge out the other ear ... whereupon they discover it was a female who laid hundreds of eggs inside his head. (EEEEEEEEEE!!!).

Oddly enough, I don't think I've seen an earwig since I was a kid. They've been keeping a low profile, obviously, apparently spending twenty years planning their assault on my new house. They're literally crawling out of the woodworks; not inside, fortunately, but all over the front porch, attracted as far as we can tell by the porch light. They just kind of hang out on and around the porch, getting little carapace tans, barely moving and yet completely grossing me out. U.N. resolutions, U.N. shmesolutions ... I'm on the verge of chemical warfare.

Then there are the cats. The neighborhood is lousy with feral cats, and they're constantly on our property, making sure they spray truck-stoppingly smelly urine all over the perimeter just to remind us that despite the fact that we just paid a lot of money for the house and lot, it really belongs to them. They've also graced us by turning the front garden and the back yard into a great big litter box, and boy are we honored ... to the point where we're ready to respond to the honor by hefting some rocks in our pitching arms and practicing place-kicking. No no, we don't really advocate cruelty to animals, but we're highly annoyed and planning our strategy of attack. Being awakened multiple times during the night by caterwauling makes us say, "Of course you know, this means war."

I refer to the one that has taken residence in our attic. We're not sure how it got in there, but it apparently can't get out, and it's been up there for over ten days now. It first alerted us to its presence by yowling, almost like clockwork between 5:00 and 5:15 in the A.M., beginning the first morning we moved in. We went up into the attic the next day and actually spotted it briefly, but it ran and hid and won't come anywhere near us no matter how much we "Here kitty kitty kitty!". As the days have gone by, it now yowls more frequently, and more pathetically as it must be fairly hungry by now. But it's stupid, fucking stupid, because we've tried on numerous occasions to let it out but it refuses to take the opportunity, despite how hungry it must be.

After several sleepless nights we've moved from "Oh, poor thing," to "I'm going after that fucker with a flamethrower tomorrow." We're making an appointment with County Animal Control, but in the meantime ... I'm going to try going up there with some work gloves and a long sleeved sweatshirt -- to prevent cat scratch fever, of course -- and a can of tuna. (I can hear it now -- before it comes out it'll cautiously meow, "Is the tuna fresh?") If it's hungry enough, it'll come over to me, then I'll grab it by the scruff of the neck just like mama cat would, shove it in a box, then off to the animal shelter we go.

The sad thing is that it's not the animal's fault, it's humans' fault. From what we heard from a neighbor, someone fed a couple of strays and didn't get them fixed, they stuck around and boinked, and now we've got feral cats everywhere. Get your animals spayed or neutered, people, particularly if they wander all around like cats do.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, January 19, 2003
Butt out.   Via Patrick at Electrolite, who posted this yesterday:

"Journalist Charles Pierce, a frequent contributor to Eric Alterman's Altercation, is particularly glorious today":

You probably saw the story where the Vatican put the knuckle down on American Catholic politicians -- read John Kerry and (maybe) Nancy Pelosi -- about hewing to the company line regarding certain issues on which a "well-formed Christian conscience" does not permit them to take a certain position. Now, ever since John Kennedy gave his speech to the Baptist ministers in Texas back in 1960, we American Papists have taken comfort in the fact that this peculiar "double loyalty" issue had been put to rest.

Now, with their institutional church possessing on issues of human sexuality the approximate moral credibility of a barnyard goat, the bureaucrats in red beanies have decided to raise it again. If Kerry has any brains at all, he'll make a speech this week telling these ermined layabouts to go climb a tree. My own informed Christian conscience won't rest until a battalion of them are hauled off to the sneezer on conspiracy charges.

He continues, "This Boston Globe piece suggests that, by and large, modern American Catholic politicians aren't taking much guff from the Curia. It concludes":

Some scholars said the Vatican's ability to impose its moral views on American politicians has been lessened by the clergy sex abuse crisis.

"One of the lessons of the sex scandal is that lawyers and prosecutors and politicians can't automatically defer to the church on legal and moral questions," said Leslie Griffin, a legal ethics professor at the University of Houston Law Center, who studies the relationship between law and religion. "On all these questions of sexuality, of marriage, of peace, the lay people have expertise."

Patrick says, "You could light a match on that." His weblog is terrific, by the way, and so is his wife Teresa's. Read them!

Oh, and speaking of Teresa, here's a terrific-looking recipe for Bacon and Egg Soup she posted the other day. I can't wait to make it. My only suggestion would be to use a homemade stock instead of Campbell's canned (but then again, even I haven't had time to make any these days, so I shouldn't preach ... that said, make homemade stock whenever you can. You won't believe the difference it'll make in your cooking.)

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  Friday, January 17, 2003
Silence and forgetting.   Jon Carroll's column from last week:

The lesson of Munich is that it is necessary to speak out against tyranny, no matter how dangerous that becomes. It is hard for us to think of our own government as the villain; in today's fervid atmosphere, such talk is almost treasonous.

We have forgotten that democracy is a dangerous business. Built into the Constitution is the notion that a free people should thwart its leaders if necessary. This is our duty, the price of our freedom. Leaders hate to be thwarted; it is in the nature of power to consolidate itself.

It is clear that the Democrats, the so-called opposition party, are unwilling to accept the dangers of democracy. It is clear that the Congress of the United States, conceived as a brake on the dangers of an imperial presidency, will continue to be a rubber stamp for the Bush imperium. It is clear that the Supreme Court will be willing to suspend any civil liberty that thwarts the plans of the supreme leader of what is often referred to as "the greatest nation on earth."

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  Thursday, January 16, 2003
Cocktail of the day.   I'd read about this one for years, but had only gotten the chance to enjoy them fairly recently. The Moscow Mule kicked off the "white whiskey" (i.e., vodka) craze back in the 1950s, concocted at the Cock 'n Bull Pub in Hollywood by people with lots of poorly-moving vodka, homemade ginger beer and a truckload of copper cups to move. It's a perfect example of making lemonade from life's lemons (or limes, in this case).

Now "traditionally" served in the specially made copper cups (which are really cool), it's icyyummyspicy and very refreshing. Spectacular in summer, I find it just as tasty in January. Better yet, I'm able to enjoy them even more thanks to our friends Robb and Jaason, who gave us a wonderful set of copper Moscow Mule mugs as a housewarming gift! (If you can't find the copper mugs, a highball glass will certainly do.)

Don't use plain old ginger ale for this recipe; that makes for a wimpy mule. Use real ginger beer, made with actual ginger juice or extract -- the pepperier the better!

Moscow Mule

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (and NEVER Rose's!)
4 ounces good, spicy ginger beer

In an 8-ounce copper mug, add ice and the ingredients in the
specified order. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge.

And yes, of course,   I have pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

According to the press release from the publisher, the book begins with these words:

The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive. The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four.
Later in the novel, she writes:

Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses. 'It is time,' he said 'for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything.'
Oh my.

"Another knight is considering it."   From The Leaky Cauldron comes another amusing Harry Potter anecdote: "In answering a fan letter about the possibility of his playing Dumbledore, Sir Ian McKellen had this to say (dated Jan 11, 2003)":

Dear concerned mailer,

I have not been offered Dumbledore, but another knight is considering it.

Best wishes
From the actor who plays Gandalf for God's sake,
Ian McKellen


But when will it be on the menu at Spago?   Big Mama's Rib Shack and Soul Food in Pasadena, a good BBQ and fried chicken joint with mediocre Creole dishes, advertises some of their take out and self-catering menu items. I was struck by the description of their chitterlings, a.k.a. "chitlins" (boiled small intestines of a pig), not to mention the picture (scroll down a bit):

Our chitlins are hand cleaned - $14.95 per lb.

We Strip and Skin the Inner Lining Out, Then We Season Them
With Big Mama's all-purpose seasoning, then we boil them until
tender and delicous, a gourmet's delight!

It is the first time I've ever heard chitlins described as "a gourmet's delight." I once dined with Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys, a zydeco band that performed on my radio show. We went to a BBQ joint in west L.A., and the bass player ordered chitlins. "Hey, this is great!" he said. "This reminds me of dinner at my grandma's house!" They smelled so bad that nobody would sit at the same table with him. I didn't see what all the fuss was about and remained at the table with him ... until the wind changed and I got a noseful of the aroma-- er, odor. I quickly got up and went to sit with the rest of the band.

They smelled rather like that fetid andouillette I was served in Paris that time ...

Sad stories of note to L. A. chowhounds.   The first, and most bizarre and disturbing, was the murder-suicide committed by the son of the founder of the Zankou Chicken chain of Armenian-style roast chicken restaurants in L.A.:

Authorities today identified the victims of Tuesday's double-murder suicide in an upscale Glendale neighborhood, where a man killed his sister and mother during an argument, then turned the gun on himself.

Mardiros Iskenderian, 56, founder of the popular Zankou Chicken restaurant chain, shot and killed his sister, Dzovig Marjik, 45, and his mother Marjarit Iskenderian, 75, during a heated argument at the family home about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

"This was a culmination of family tensions. We have been unable to find any other motive," Glendale police Sgt. Kirk Palmer said today.

Zankou is a terrific roast chicken place, fast food-style in ambience and speed of service, but with superb food. The chicken is tender, very well-seasoned and served with a little cup of garlic paste that's out of this world -- incredibly pungent and smelly, and is probably made of puréed raw garlic and lard (finest kind). I love this place. I hope the family will be able to carry on with the business after all this; they give a lot to the community through good food.

I'd also heard yesterday that Francis Fosselman has died. He was the son of Christian Fosselman , founder of Fosselman's Ice Cream, an outstanding handmade product made in Alhambra. Chris and John Fosselman are the third generation running the family business, and they still make all the ice cream themselves using the same family recipes that have been around for over 80 years. Of all their great ice creams and sorbets, I think my favorite is the wonderful banana sorbet. Yum yum yum! So long, Mr. Fosselman, and thanks for all the ice cream.

A Republican dissent on Iraq.   This appeared as a full-page ad in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (PDF file). Let's hope this sentiment grows among many more Republicans.

To President Bush, his advisors and the American People:

Let's be clear: We supported the Gulf War.

We supported our intervention in Afghanistan.

We accept the logic of a just war.

But Mr. President, your war on Iraq does not pass the test. It is not a just war.

The candidate we supported in 2000 promised a more humble nation in our dealings with the world. We gave him our votes and our campaign contributions.

That candidate was you. We feel betrayed. We want our money back. We want our country back.


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  Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Supremes crush the public domain.   The United States Supreme Court has rejected the challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Law, meaning that it's doubtful we'll see any works created in the U.S. after 1920 enter the public domain in our lifetimes. Gotta protect those big corporate profits, after all.

Current soundtrack to my life.   "The Sidney Bechet Story", four-CD set, 93 tracks with a 56-page booklet, on Proper Records out of the U.K. For only $23! Such a deal! I've been listening to it almost constantly, and it's helped enormously during the last two 12-hour workdays.

Listening to Bechet play the clarinet and soprano saxophone is pure joy, and in a proper universe should make Kenny G. just want to jump into the nearest volcano.

I think we have a winner.   Today's commute: 47 minutes.

2 Freeway south (left lane!) to Glendale Blvd., down a few blocks to Alvarado, down Alvarado to Olympic, and Olympic all the way into west L.A. It wouldn't even have taken this long if it weren't for the inevitable congestion on Olympic west of Doheny, exacerbated by street construction into February. I already have a great backstreets shortcut around that which I'll try tomorrow. Thanks a million to my cow-orker Ben for suggesting this, and thanks as well to Steve for his suggestions.

If I can get this commute down below 45 minutes, I'll be a happy boy. It ... could ... WORK!

Wackiest. Restaurant. Ever.   It's the celebrated Fat Duck, in the tiny town of Bray, about an hour outside London. Mark Furstenburg writes of his adventures there in Slate:

I have heard so much about the restaurant -- its experimental chef, Heston Blumenthal, his daring combinations, and intensely expressed philosophies. The chef, via a table card, invited us to create our own childhood fantasy foods. He mentioned one of this own: Sardines and toast, which he offers improbably as a sorbet flavor.

Anne imagined a dispenser of Pez that would shoot little foods into our mouths and those soft wax "Coke bottles" that as children we bit to get at a horribly sweet, incredibly bad liquid. François imagined a food made from Pop Rocks, those little granules that, in his childhood, kids placed on their tongues to feel the sputtering and crackling.

Then, incredibly, after we had tasted amuses-bouches of white chocolate sorbet in carrot juice and little jellies of beet and orange, they arrived -- Pop Rocks sprinkled over tiny cubes of beet that accompanied François' guinea hen; umami broth with mackerel; cauliflower risotto dusted at the table with cocoa powder.

For dessert, we passed over the smoked bacon and egg ice cream in favor of mango and Douglas fir puree with beets and green peppercorn jelly.

It was fascinating. Too much of the food was sweet, much of it was bizarre, and some of it was horrible. We realized that the food we found most compelling was the food closest to tradition, like my duck breast atop buttery mashed potato.

Why complain about a meal like this? They asked for it! Pop Rocks. Jaysis, what did they expect? It's like Iron Chefs, regressed to sophomore year in college, cooking after having a half-dozen bong hits.

The United States of America has gone mad.   An opinion by author John Le Carré in the Times of London.

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world's poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer's pocket? At what cost -- because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people -- in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy. Which is odd, because I'm dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam's downfall -- just not on Bush's terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.


I frequently see anti-war protesters at a major intersection near my home, which is a good sign. I'm not sure if the following would happen at my local supermarket, but the fact that it happened bothers me. Le Carré again:

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: "Peace is also Patriotic". It was gone by the time he'd finished shopping.
[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Savvy commuter advice needed.   I'm trying to get my commute to work down to under an hour. So far it's not working terribly well. If there are any L.A. types in the readership who might know a good way to get from the Verdugo exit area of the 2 Freeway to west L.A. (say, near Westwood Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd.), please do drop me an email.

So far I haven't been able to get it down below 54 minutes. I think it's pretty safe to nix anything involving any freeway other than the 2, because they all seem horribly congested until well after I have to be at work. The most successful route so far has been the 2 (left lanes, to avoid the 5 backlog) to Glendale Blvd. to Alvarado to 3rd Street, stay on 3rd until Doheny, drop down a block to Burton Way, then Burton becomes Little Santa Monica. That's 54 minutes, 53 on a good day. (Hey, every minute counts with an L.A. commute.)

Whoo! New RT!   There's a new album due from Richard Thompson in February in the UK, and April in the US. Title is "The Old Kit Bag", and the Cooking Vinyl link also includes some sneak previews in RealAudio. Yay!

Bush Lite?   Sen. Joe Lieberman has announced his candidacy for the presidency. takes a look at Lieberman's potential candidacy against Shrub and finds more of an echo than an alternative.

Dump Ashcroft now.   The Better Rhetor, a newish weblog, calls for the Attorney General to follow in the footsteps of Trent Lott and be removed from office:

Ashcroft's history is well documented. If anything, it's worse than Lott's. According to the website of the People for the American Way, Ashcroft's record reveals a long and sordid history of playing the race card. Both as attorney general and governor of Missouri, Ashcroft fought school desegregation in St. Louis, refused to endorse a bi-partisan report calling attention to racial discrimination in the United States, and thwarted efforts to reform voter registration for minorities. As U.S. Senator, Ashcroft worked to gut affirmative action programs, opposed federal hate crimes legislation, and distorted the records of minority nominees for the federal judiciary. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that Ashcroft, as attorney general and governor of Missouri, and as U.S. Senator, "built a career out of opposing school desegregation in St. Louis and opposing African-Americans for public office."

Nasty as these are, there are other, darker stains on John Ashcroft's record that cannot be rationalized or explained away.

The article goes on to relate Ashcroft's acceptance of an honorary degree from Bob Jones University while claiming ignorance of their racist policies; his maintenance of connections with a white supremacist organization; his praise of a pro-slavery agenda in a notoriously racist publication that "celebrates slavery, secession and the Ku Klux Klan", and more.

Better Rhetor author John Duffy posts much more, including sample letters to be sent to both Republican and Democratic senators, calling for Ashcroft's removal. Snowball's chance in hell, probably, but anything's worth a try.

Quote of the day.   "Five bucks says ain't nobody showin' up to Strom's birthday party next year."

-- Aaron McGruder, "The Boondocks", 12/28/2002 (Thanks, Brennan!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, January 13, 2003
Twenty things you must eat before you die:   a list from the Guardian. Nigella bolts right out of the gate with deep-fried shredded pig's ear. My gut reaction is to say she's got way more balls than I do, but then again there's that motto of mine ... if it's pig, it's good. One listing was "hot sausages and raw oysters. I haven't had that combination, although I'm getting an idea for a poor boy with hot sausage and fried oysters.

From this list I've had strawberries off the bush, veal marrow in ossobuco, Peking duck, black truffles and durian. I'm looking forward to the rest.

Food site of the day.   Sauté Wednesday, by Bruce Cole. As well as the blog, one truly amazing thing about this site is the list of links, including weekly newspaper food sections from around the U.S. and the world, which will keep you busy for days and days and days.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, January 10, 2003
New bi-weekly cocktail column!   Ardent Spirit and dedicated cocktailian Gary Regan will now have a regular column on cocktails in the San Francisco Chronicle, appearing every other Thursday. More cocktail awareness is, as you know, essential in our culture. The more we educate people, the less accepting they'll be of poorly made drinks by poorly trained bartenders. Two weeks of "bartending school" consisting of little more than a list of incorrect drink recipes does not a bartender make. Gary begins thusly:

A cocktailian behind the bar is akin to a saucier in a great restaurant. He or she knows classic recipes back to front, is aware of the flavors in each ingredient and isn't afraid to alter recipes a little to put a little soul into whatever is being concocted.
The first column concerns a drink you may have never had properly made: the Margarita. Let me tell you what a Margarita isn't: it isn't "gold tequila" mixed with "margarita mix" out of a bottle. (That's not a Margarita, that's just crap.) He gives you what's perhaps the perfect recipe, but there are still many decisions to make ...

Swan song for Werlein's.   It truly is the end of an era.

Werlein's for Music, the venerable New Orleans music store that kept almost eight generations of New Orleanian musicians supplied with horns, reeds, lessons, sheet music and much more, will close at the end of the month.

In New Orleans since 1852, Werlein's survived "the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression and the oil bust," and is another one of many local businesses to bite the dust in the last decade. My favorite living jazz clarinetist comments:

"That's terrible," clarinetist Michael White said. "We seem to be losing so many stores that characterize New Orleans and the spirit of New Orleans -- Maison Blanche, K&B, Imperial Shoe Store, Gus Mayer, Godchaux's."

For musicians, Werlein's was more than a retailer. It was the place they gathered, bought their instruments, had them repaired, met other musicians to talk shop, gave lessons and took lessons.

"We won't be the same," White said. "Really it hasn't been the same since they closed the store on Canal Street. It was a New Orleans landmark, but it was a meeting place for musicians."

White got his first clarinet at Werlein's on Canal Street about 1970, when he joined the St. Augustine High marching band. "I started out on an old metal clarinet that my aunt had, and she took me to buy a new one," he said. "It was a LeBlanc clarinet. Noblet model. Cost $230. That was a lot of money back then."

Trips from White's boyhood home in Carrollton to Werlein's to buy sheet music, method books and records were memorable. "That was always an exciting trip to go down to Werlein's," he said.

Beyond personal toll, Werlein's is a major loss for an important music town such as New Orleans. "It points out that we have a major problem in a town where we have so many musicians but we don't have as strong a support industry as we need in terms of business and services. This is another glaring symbol that we don't really have the support mechanism to back up all the music and all the talent we have," White said.

Like many New Orleanians who played music, I had lessons at Werlein's and bought bought my flute and alto saxophone from them. In their back rooms I had lessons on both from a great old jazz musician named Bill Bourgeois, and I was in the place every week. Although I have to admit it's been many years since I've visited (I did move away, after all), I'm really going to be sad to see them go.

I think they need to give Werlein's a jazz funeral.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, January 9, 2003
Drink! Drink! Drink!   Calm down now, Father Jack. The doctors are only talking about one or two drinks a day, not twenty. What are they talking about, you ask? Oh, that tipplers have about 35% fewer heart attacks than teetotalers. Can I fix you a brandy? (No, we're out of Dreamy Sleepy Nighty Snoozy Snooze.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 8, 2003
We're in.   We finally finished moving last night (or, technically, in the wee hours of this morning, at 2:07am). I'm exhausted. My fingertips are trashed; dry, cracked, peeling, sore. My knees hurt. I've never worked so hard at anything in my life, but I don't think I've ever worked at anything so rewarding, either. We love our house!

The garnish is key.   Don't just use any olive for your Martini. How about a Niçoise olive? Or one that's been cooked and pickled à la grecque in chicken stock, white wine vinegar, bay leaves and fresh thyme? As the New York Times recently pointed out, the garnish on a cocktail is like the pearl in the oyster.

Uncle Tupelo reissues!   From Billboard:

Three of the four albums recorded by pioneering alt-country act Uncle Tupelo will see re-release March 11 via Columbia/Legacy. As previously reported, the remastered editions will come complete with bonus tracks and new liner notes. The reissues were compiled with the assistance of the band's former members, which include Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Son Volt's Jay Farrar.

The reissue of Uncle Tupelo's 1990 debut "No Depression" will include six bonus tracks... Previously unreleased demos of "Blues Die Hard" and "No Depression" will accompany "Won't Forget" (originally released on the soundtrack to "A Matter of Degrees") "Left in the Dark" (which was included on the vinyl edition of the recently released anthology), and "Sin City" (a B-side to "I Got Drunk").

For the group's "Still Feel Gone," Columbia/Legacy has added five tracks, three of which are previously unreleased demos: "Watch Me Fall," "Looking for a Way Out," and "If That's Alright." The set will also come with rare tracks "Sauget Wind" and "I Wanna Destroy You," the latter a Soft Boys cover.

The Peter Buck-produced "March 16-20, 1992," a critical hit that featured a number of Uncle Tupelo interpretations of traditional country selections, will be bundled with six extra tracks. The goodies include previously unreleased demo recordings of "Grindstone," the Louvin Brothers' "Atomic Power," the Stooges' classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and the Jerry Goldsmith-composed theme to "The Waltons." A live rendition of country standard "Moonshiner" and the B-side "Take My Word," will also be added to the album.

Yeah you rite!

Only in New Orleans ...   Well, this is Jefferson Parish, which is close enough. We got da wacky politicians, and apparently da wacky prosecutors, too.

Two assistant district attorneys were rebuked for wearing ties decorated with a hangman's noose and the Grim Reaper at a hearing in a capital murder case.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said he told Donnie Rowan and Cameron Mary that the ties were inappropriate, and that they should never wear anything like them to work again.

"They were a joke, although a poor joke," Connick said. "People do those kinds of things. I saw one defense attorney wear a tie that said 'not guilty.'"

Hmm. If it's who I think it is, I know one of those prosecutors.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, January 3, 2003
KCSN: Movin' on up, to the Westsiiiide ...   The Los Angeles Times reported on our application for a transmitter boost this morning. If all goes well, and no evil bastards file a Petition To Deny by January 27, then before too long KCSN (the home of truly eclectic radio in Los Angeles) will have a signal that's strong and clear all through the Westside and through to West Hollywood, Hollywood, Silver Lake and beyond. Ahh, not too much, just a coupla million more listeners in our future. Woohoo!

In the meantime, as always, anyone outside our signal range can listen to our signal via our webcast, in both dialup and broadband flavors. It's great 24 hours a day, but I particularly recommend my own show, "Down Home", Thursday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00pm Pacific time. Tell all your far-flung friends and relatives, too!

UT on NPR.   Elitsa Stoitsova from NPR was kind enough to drop me a note so that we'd all know that Uncle Tupelo, my all-time favorite band of yore (official site, my site) are featured on Episode 14 of NPR's music program "All Songs Considered". Have a listen!

The tentative release date for UT's first three albums, the long out-of-print No Depression, Still Feel Gone and March 16-20, 1992 is March 11, 2003.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Happy New Year!   I think 2003 is going to be a very, very good one. (Well, personally, at least. I can't speak for any world events sparked by our dry-drunk president and his enemies.)

Cocktail of the day.   A fabulous drink, spicy with a hint of sweetness, served to me courtesy of my friend Dr. Cocktail and Dave Wondrich of Esquire magazine, whom I was very pleased to finally meet last weekend. Doc says it's a very old drink, but I don't have any details handy, as all my cocktail books are packed away for the move.

Widow's Kiss

1-1/2 ounces Calvados or applejack
3/4 ounce Bénédictine D.O.M.
3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with cracked ice; strain into cocktail glass.

Dave's got a terrific new book out, Esquire Drinks: An Opinionated and Irreverent Guide to Drinking. I think you need a copy.

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