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, public radio, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 12:37pm PDT, 9/29/2003

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)

August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003

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.

Regime change for America, 2004.

Dean for America

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Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

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)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete shows!)
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)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

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

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

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
A Muse for Cooks
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:

Endless Feasts, by Ruth Reichl.
A Hidden Place, by Robert Charles Wilson.
Straight Up or On the Rocks, by William Grimes.

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 Xquzyphyr & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

The Pianist (****-1/2) 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
The Carpetbagger Report
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
Real Live Preacher
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 Daily Mis-lead
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 X 10.2 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

  Monday, September 29, 2003
Die, spammers, die.   The email form on my contact page is down, thanks to a spammer attack this weekend. I have no idea how they did it, but thousands of spams went out bearing my email address as the return envelope and (normally hidden) custom X-mailer lines in the header indicating that they were sent via my form-to-email cgi script, something that generally only I see, since that script is hard-coded to sent the emails directly to me. My web/email host says it was only a forged return address, but how did they know to forge those X-mailer header lines, if they didn't actually hijack my form?

So, now that I've removed my mailto: links thanks to spammers, and removed any text mention of my email address thanks to spammers, and now have to remove the email contact form thanks to spammers ... exactly how the feck is anyone supposed to email me?

Well, my (current) address is still on the contact page, buried in the second-to-last paragraph amidst lots of blather and burble, and easily findable by anyone with at least half a brain. Just drop that into your email software, and brownie points if you spell my surname correctly (hint: T-A-G-G-A-R-T). Sorry to put everyone through this, but it's the only way I've been able to keep my email box free of the hundreds of daily spams I used to get.

Spammers should be publicly flogged, confined to a public pillory for at least a month, jailed in solitary confinement for at least 50 years, after which they should be boiled alive in a vat of molten chewing gum, then consigned to hell to spend eternity roasting in their own private oven. (Can you tell that I really, really hate spammers?)

New toy? Hmm.   Sharper Image, your one-stop shop for frightfully expensive (and mostly useless) items, might just be on to something, although my natural reflexive skepticism kicks in at once. It's the Bar Master, an "ultra-hip" flask-shaped gizmo that claims to contain 500 cocktail recipes, searchable by drink name, category, ingredients or alcohol type.

Sounds nifty! But Wes already has the entire DrinkBoy database in his Palm Pilot (as did I, before my Handspring died), plus our own custom list of umpty-ump recipes, so we don't particularly need this. Doc carries the entire CocktailDB database in his Pilot, which only takes up about 475K ("Hey, it's all just text!"). Plus, who knows if these recipes are accurate? Are all the classics and great pre-Prohibition ones in there? Is it Widow's Kiss and Clover Club and Sazerac? Or is it all Sex on the Beach, Screaming Orgasm and Long Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against The Wall? Well heck-ola, we might just have to pop over to a Sharper Image and see, as curiosity beckons.

Weapons of mass drunkenness.   Oh, for Christ's sake ... the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency has been monitoring the Bruaichladdich Scots whisky distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay, because all it would take is "a tweak" for them to convert from producing whisky to producing chemical weapons. From The Scotsman, via BoingBoing, from the "You Can't Make Up Shit Like This" Department.

Hell, certain liquors are already weapons of mass destruction ... like all that Sour Pucker crapola. That vile swill is destroying masses of otherwise healthy taste buds and palates as I write. In the meantime, terrorists are welcome to drop cases of Bruaichladdich at my house whenever they like. Non-poisoned, preferably.

The Revision Thing.   A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies, from Harper's Magazine. (All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 27, 2003
Things on sticks.   Yesterday I took the day off, and we went with some friends to the Los Angeles County Fair, primarily to commune with furry and barnyard animals, and to spend the entire day eating nothing but food on sticks.

"This year we'll have 31 food-on-a-stick items," said a fair spokesperson, and we tried as much of it as we could stomach. Here are the reviews from the Stick Gourmets:

Deep-fried Macaroni and Cheese with Polish Sausage On A Stick: We wanted to try this most of all, because none of us could imagine how you'd put mac and cheese on a stick. We didn't assume it was deep-fried; all we knew was that someone at the fair was selling "mac and cheese on a stick." It was, in fact, deep-fried: little rounds that sort of looked like chicken nuggets, alternated on a stick with slices of Polish sausage. The whole thing went into the fryer, so that you got lots of lovely crispiness with the sausage, and the cheese melted nicely and was perfectly gooey when you bit into the fried-mac-and-cheese nugget. It was surprisingly good, although served with a completely superfluous little tub of ranch dressing. Deep-fried Mac and Cheese with Polish Sausage On A Stick needs no accoutrements, and is best eaten naked.

Pork Chop On A Stick: This was wonderful. The pork chop was thick, juicy, tender, decently seasoned (I'm spoiled for life by the barbecued pork chops from The Pig Stand in Ville Platte, Louisiana, as well as similar chops served at the Louisiana Swine Festival in Basile), and could have easily fetched double or triple the fair price had it been served in a nice restaurant, on a plate, instead of at a county fair, on a stick. (I confess that I cheated a bit here, and got a side of French fries with the chop; you can't really do that on a stick, although I would have been willing to insert a toothpick into each fry and subsequently eat it off the pick.)

Deep-fried S'Mores On A Stick: This wasn't exactly deep-fried, as in battered-and-deep-fried. Four marshmallows were threaded onto the stick, dipped into hot fat to make them melty and gooey, then they were rolled in chocolate chips and dusted with Graham cracker crumbs. Okay, but not spectacular.

Deep-fried Snickers Bars On A Stick: This was what we had been wanting all day.

We found that there were two separate outfits offering this delicacy, and we decided to do a taste test. The first proprietor hand-dipped and -fried our Snickers bars to order, thrusting the stick into the bar and and dipping it into what appeared to be a pancake batter. It fried for a couple of minutes, was dusted with powdered sugar and served. The resultant bar was ... really, really good! The batter was perfect, less than 1/4" thick, crispy outside and perfectly fluffy, encasing a candy bar that had a melted chocolate layer and slightly more solid insides. This is what county fair dining is all about, and for a measly $2.50 to boot. (That proprietor also served deep-fried Twinkies, served with powdered sugar and either raspberry or chocolate sauce, but we decided that that was just wrong, and besides it wasn't on a stick.)

The second purveyor of deep-fried Snickerosity was 50¢ more expensive, which raised an eyebrow, and the concoctions were already made, sitting under a heat lamp, which raised the other. We tried them anyway. Bzzzzzzzzzzt! Sorry, no dice. The stick was flimsy, constantly threatening to deposit the extremely gooey mess into your lap or onto a loved one; the batter was corn dog batter, inappropriate for the flavor of the Snickers and way too thick and corndoggy; the Snickers inside had melted so much from its having sat underneath the heat lamp for however long sent cascades of goo out of the top, sides and stick-hole every time you took a bite. Thumbs down. If you're going to the fair today or tomorrow (it's the final weekend), make sure you get your deep-fried Snickers from the people that sell the deep-fried Twinkies (but don't get the Twinkies; that's just wrong.)

There was lots more -- Portuguese sausage on a stick, chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick, shrimp tempura on a stick, spicy pickles on a stick, and the ubiquitous corn dogs sold by Hot Dog On A Stick stands that seemed to be every twelve feet throughout the Fairplex (damned good fresh-squeezed lemonade at those places, though). Wes actually intended to get a corn dog, but by the time we had consumed all of this we realized that we were bloated, all with severe cases of puppy belly.

I think that'll do it for me for another year, at least with regards to food on sticks. That deep-fried Snickers, though ... mmmmm.

My one disappointment in our quest for food on sticks was that there was no khlav kalash.

Allez on bois un petit pastis?   Here's the first of two articles from this past week's Los Angeles Times Food Section to which I wanted to bring your attention: an excellent article entitled "A Paris Afternoon in a Tall Glass", all about pastis, the French apéritif that's (sort of) the heir to absinthe. Herbal, primarily anise-flavored and extremely refreshing, it'll wake up your palate like little else, and for many it instantly invokes memories of lovely days in Paris or the south of France. They offer taste tests of domestic and imported brands, but glaringly omit what I consider to be America's primary pastis, New Orleans' own Herbsaint, which I believe has a flavor superior to that of the well-known Pernod and is 1/2 to 1/3 the price of all the other pastis brands listed. Find it anywhere in New Orleans, or in Los Angeles at Wally's Wine and Spirits in Westwood, The Wine House in West L.A. or Beverage Warehouse on McConnell Street in Marina del Rey, right off the Marina Freeway Culver Blvd. exit; elsewhere, consult your local spirits purveyor.

Ooey gooey, rich and chewy inside ...   Forget Fig Newtons (although I do like them). How about fig, prosciutto and blue cheese pizzas? (Ooohhhhhhhh ...)

The other Food Section article was about the joy of figs, in all their sweet and savory glory. Our fig tree, as it turns out, is providing more figs than we can keep up with, more than we've been able to get organized to give away, and is providing nutrition for our property's sixteen trillion black ants. If we don't pick figs every day (even twice a day), they end up fermenting on the tree or splattering on the ground. We've gotta get organizized next year, as Travis Bickle would say.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 25, 2003
Squash thing.   Hell, I don't know what to call it. (The dish, I mean, not the potential comic book one could write using that as a title). I improvised a simple vegetable side dish last week with some of the ingredients that appeared in last week's delivery from L.A. Organic Vegetable Express. Wes really liked it, and this week he said, "Hey, can you make that squash thing again tonight?" Happy to oblige.

"This is reeealy good," he said. "You should put it on your website."

Happy to oblige! I don't suppose I can really call it "Squash Thing" now, can I? I'll have to come up with a name.


Cherry tomatoes could be substitute for the grape-sized variety, but the smaller ones (grape or teardrop tomatoes) work much better. I love how they just explode in your mouth when you take a bite.

1 yellow squash, medium (about 6-8")
1 green squash/zucchini, medium (same size)
1 small yellow onion
1 cup red grape or teardrop tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Several dashes Chipotle Tabasco, to taste
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Slice the squash into 1/8" thick coins, or if they're large cut them lengthwise first and slice into half-moons. Remove the stem and root ends from the onion, peel, halve lengthwise and slice to 1/8" thickness.

Heat skillet, melt butter and add olive oil. When it's heated, add the onions, season with some salt and black pepper and sauté until translucent and slightly browned. Add the squash and combine thoroughly, season again with salt and plenty of pepper. Add a few to several dashes of Chipotle Tabasco to taste. Add the grape tomatoes, then the basil (crush the basil with your fingers to release more aromatic oils) and toss to combine. Cook at medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until the squash is barely tender and the tomatoes are heated through and just before the bursting point. Check for seasoning, then serve immediately.

Yield: 2-4 servings.

Chocolate sandwiches, part deux.   We haven't tried them yet, but they're on the agenda for a Fat Pack gathering weekend after next. We've got a bunch of friends coming in from out of town (two of whom are coming from England and are Jazzfest veterans), so naturally the order of the day will be fine cocktails and pork-based gluttony. We've got an entire suckling pig on reserve at Ocean Star in Monterey Park, plus we're planning a turkey fry accompanied by such side-dish delights as Pork 'n Pork 'n Pork 'n Beans and Opelousas Lesbian Yam Crunch (still gotta get the recipe for that one).

But for breakfast that day, we're going to do the chocolate sandwiches I mentioned a while back. Before whipping out our George Foreman Grills to do so, however, we got a caveat from Haven:

Please be forewarned that if one uses the George Foreman grill to make chocolate sandwiches, there's the danger that it will taste a little like a pork chop. I know some of you believe strongly in the combination of chocolate and bacon, but this might be going a bit far.

Ooooohhhh my ... that's ... tempting, isn't it?

... I assembled (such as I was able) the ingredients and put them in the GF grill (which I had thoroughly cleaned the last time I used it), and put said sandwich on to cook and the kitchen was immediately filled with the smell of chocolate-coated turkey cutlets. I know, I know, it SOUNDS delicious. But there was a hint of something completely displeasing, and I was unable to actually eat the sandwich.
Content to think that a chocolate/bacon experiment is best kept for another day, we are pleased to discover that at least two of us have virgin George Foremans, ready to become dedicated solely to the preparation of chocolate sandwiches. A full report will, of course, be forthcoming.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Louisiana Proud!   The Washington Post did an excellent article on one of my favorite Internet radio stations (and one of my favorite radio radio stations, when I'm driving around back home) -- KBON, 101.1 FM in Eunice, Louisiana. (Thanks, Josh!) Wes and I -- along with a bunch of our friends -- visit Eunice once or twice a year to see local friends and attend various events, mostly involving music, beer, crawfish and lots of pig meat. While there I keep the radio dial locked on KBON, which I almost always enjoy (yesterday's playing of "Disco Inferno" notwithstanding).

The author of the article hit pretty much all the hangouts, and stayed in the right place (we love the Seale Guesthouse), but, as Josh pointed out in his post, the writer still needs help with the spelling and pronunciation of local names and places. If you're even in or near Eunice, don't miss the Saturday morning jam session at the Savoy Music Center, and stop by Johnson's Grocery at 700 E. Maple St. It's my favorite boudin in the world.

Speaking of which ... I knew KBON had a large Internet listenership, but oddly enough I never visited the station in person, like many of the long-distance KBON addicts have. If I'd known it would have meant free boudin, gumbo and cornbread, I'd have been over there in a heartbeat. Next time ...

Greatest. Dog toy. Ever.   A couple of days ago, an email from our friend Steve revealed the presence of the greatest inventing genius since Edison (or at least the Edison of the dog toy world):

Okay, so I'm in Target yesterday, looking at dog toys, and they have a thing called "Bubble Buddy," a soap bubble gun that it says is to be used to make bubbles for dogs to chase... all good fun, etc.

But the clincher: the soap bubbles, it says, are "SIZZLIN' BACON SCENTED"!!!

Well, needless to say, Mary is in the backyard playing with it right now. I think she's letting the dogs play too, but I'm not sure. She may be just chasing the bubbles herself...

Oh, they also make the soap bubbles in peanut butter and chicken scents, but who would get those when they have SIZZLIN' BACON??

Dogs? The hell with the dogs. I want one of these for me!!

Harri Potter a Maen yr Athronydd.   The first novel in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has been translated into Welsh. The four houses of Hogwarts became Llereurol, Wfftiwff, Crafangfran and Slafennog. (Can you guess which is which?)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 22, 2002
"Quiet darling, your Auntie Mame is hung."   Ooh. New rule: no more quaffing more than two cocktails on a school night unless we invest in a second alarm clock. I did manage to awaken at the normal time this morning, then thought "Oh, I'll just streeeeetch and put my head back on the pillow for just another minute." Then I awoke with a start. Groggy. Looked at the strange device on the nightstand which was displaying some kind of writing that I later interpreted as meaning "8:55 am" (i.e., five minutes before I had to leave). "I don't understand what those symbols mean," I thought, "but I don't think it's good." Yeesh.

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."   As you probably know, that's a quote from Benjamin Franklin, one of this country's founding fathers. We should keep it fresh in our minds; it's a pity that the Bush administration doesn't.

Today's Sacramento Bee begins a four-part look at the state of civil liberties in this country, post-Sept. 11. It's not a pretty picture. (Via Patrick)

The FBI is counting mosques, and law enforcement has asked hundreds of libraries about your reading habits.

There are secret lists governing whether you can get on an airplane, secret surveillance of e-mail and the Internet, and new warrants allowing the government to search your home, your bank records and your medical files without your knowing it.

When FBI agents were told last year that terrorist training included scuba diving techniques, the agency asked for -- and got -- the names and addresses of more than 10 million Americans certified as divers.

Immigrants nationwide have been jailed indefinitely over visa violations that in the past would have been ignored, and about 13,000 face deportation.

Others have languished in cells while officials lied to their families about where they were.

And thousands have fled the United States, seeking refuge in Canada.

I have friends who are now in an FBI database for no reason other than because they're certified SCUBA divers. Where does this end? (It ends, I hope, with the ousting of the Bush administration in 2004.)

A kindred spirit.   An article in last week's LA Weekly tells us about a commodity as rare as blue diamonds, white truffles and honest politicians -- a bartender who cares about quality and who is dedicated to the classic, vintage cocktails. His name is Daniel Reichert, and he's opened a new business called Vintage Cocktails -- a cocktail catering company that offers only the best. He's got a beautiful website, and when Wes and I read what he has to say on the subject, we said, "Wow! He's one of us!"

I wish Daniel the best of luck with his business. I hope we can afford to hire him one day; the lack of prices on the site bring up that old saying, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." What he does for a living is basically what we do at home, but there are some parties where we just want to socialize with our guests and not spend the whole evening stuck behind the bar, as much as we enjoy making cocktails (we have a big housewarming party in the not-too-distant future). I'll have to give him a call.

Atlas Bar and Grill: Skip the "bar" part.   Unfortunately, the likes of Daniel Reichert are not to be found behind the bar at this hip Wiltern Theatre-adjacent joint (AKA The Atlas Supper Club). I can't speak for the food, but we were pretty appalled by the bar and expected much, much more for a place that has the reputation that it does.

First warning sign: not a wide variety of spirits behind the bar, and lots of Sour Apple Pucker "appletinis" being made. Second warning sign: I ordered a Manhattan from the bartender, specifying the only Bourbon I could see other than Wild Turkey 101, which was Maker's Mark. He "wasn't too sure" how to make one, he said, as he free-poured too much bourbon into the shaker, then put in what must have been a half-teaspoon-sized splash of sweet vermouth. "Uh, excuse me," I said, "but you need to put in half as much of that as you did the whiskey." He put in another couple of teaspoons.

I had specified a couple of healthy dashes of Angostura bitters, and where I stopped this procedure is when he had picked up the bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and appeared to be preparing to put it in my drink. "Uh, excuse me ... that's Lea & Perrins," I said, barely able to maintain my veneer of politeness. There was a little demon inside of me that wanted to say, "A bartender who doesn't know how to make a Manhattan is like a chef who doesn't know how to cook an egg. It's basic. Do you, in fact, know what you're doing at all?" But I tend not to say things like that to people, because I'm a nice guy.

"We don't have any bitters," said the bartender.

"No bitters? None at all? Anywhere in this enormous bar?" I asked with some incredulity.

"Nope, sorry."

"Well, if I had known that beforehand, I wouldn't have ordered this drink," I said.

"Hey, no problem!" the bartender replied merrily. "You don't have to have this one." He tossed the whole thing down the drain. "Hell, it ain't MY booze!" I hope the bar manager wasn't around; then again, he might not have cared either.

The only gin they had besides the bottom-shelf well brand was Tanqueray -- not my favorite, but it'll do. "A Martini, please," I said, "with a good splash of vermouth, and stirred for half a minute."

That proved a difficult proposition, as ... they had no barspoon.

A bar. Any bar. Which serves drinks to you, and for which you give them money, which makes them purportedly professional. That. Doesn't. Have. A. Barspoon.

He stirred the drink with a plastic straw which, being that such a stirring implement is inclined to bend, didn't really do a very good job stirring a shaker full of ice and booze. The resultant Martini was tepid, insufficiently diluted, and poorly measured -- we ordered two, and it seems he only poured enough for one and a half. For this, nine dollars.

I don't think we'll ever be darkening their doors again.

The Cocktailian.   In this edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, the Professor plays with falernum. No, it's not a body part. It's a "low-alcohol liqueur" (actually, a flavored syrup with a tiny bit of alcohol to preserve it) that's primarily a product of Bermuda and is flavored with lime, almonds, cloves and other things. It's very tropico-Carribean in flavor, and wonderful stuff, if difficult to find. There's a new brand out there, though, and we hope it'll become easier. Otherwise, there's a decent falernum offered for sale via mail order by Da Vinci Gourmet.

The Dale DeGroff concoction featured in this fortnight's column looks superb, but if you're looking for a simpler one, and one that is a showcase for the flavor of falernum, try one that the Mr. Lucky folks came up with -- the Mardi Gras Sour, where you simply make a whiskey sour but substitute falernum for the simple syrup. It's not particularly New Orleanian, but if you think of New Orleans as the northernmost port of the Caribbean, it works beautifully.

I found Nemo!   I'm not in the habit of posting email jokes, memes or the latest Photoshop gags, but I nearly coated the surface of my monitor with orange juice when I saw this one. I didn't make it, original Photoshop artist unknown; I got it in my email this morning. Click to make it look bigger and tastier! (Thanks, GreggO!):

Click on me to make me look bigger and tastier!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 19, 2003
Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrr!!!   Avast, ye scurvy bilge rats! What, ye didn't have it in ye're weak, landlubber minds that today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day? Well, it is. So go for it, or walk the plank. Arrrrrr!

Tom was kind enough to provide some of his (and my) favorite pirate talk from this year, via email:

First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I must do nothin'. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate's Code to apply, and you're not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.

That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?

A wedding? I love weddings! Drinks all around!

Gents you all remember Captain Jack Sparrow. Kill him.

You seem somewhat familiar. Have I threatened you before?

Stop blowing holes in my ship!

Me? I'm dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest... Honestly. It's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they're going to do something incredibly... stupid.

Why is the rum gone?!

Oh, my valve!   (Or rather, "ARRRRRRGGGHHH! Me bloomin' belly is vexin' me smartly! Get me rum!")

I don't think there's really a pirate way to say what needs to be said, so I'll forget what day it is and just say ... Will Ferrell? Will fucking Ferrell? Fresh on the heels of having recently performed in his magnum opus "The Elf"? This is perhaps the most egregious violation of theology and geometry I have ever witnessed! What degenerate is responsible for this abortion?! He must be dragged forth and beaten to death with his casting couch.

Back in Honky Tonk Town.   Gawd, I love the Internet.

One of the tracks I desperately wanted for the New Orleans box set project I've been working on was "Down in Honky Tonk Town", a vaudeville-era song written by Charles McCammon and Chris Smith in 1916, as performed by Vernel Bagneris and the cast of "One Mo' Time: An Evening of 1920s Black Vaudeville". I've had the soundtrack since I was 18, after rescuing it from the trash can at the student radio station down in the basement of Loyola New Orleans. It's been out of print almost since then. My record was in pretty good shape until, about three weeks ago ... it warped.

It didn't just warp, either -- it shrunk. Not only would the needle bounce up and down, but side to side as well. Well, that's what the needle would have done, if the record hadn't been instantly flinging the tone arm off of it.

I needed to make an MP3 of this song for the sample disc, but more than that, dammit, I wanted my record back.

A week ago today I decided I wasn't going to bed until I found another copy of the record. Five minutes of Googling led me to ("16 million CDs, LPs, 45s and more from thousands of sellers around the world!"). Five minutes later I had found a copy, in mint condition (from a very nice place called Records By Mail, and ordered it. It arrived Wednesday. It looked as if it had just been taken out of the shrink wrap, and had obviously sat completely unused and unplayed since 1980. For twelve bucks.

I love the Internet.

Oh, speaking of the New Orleans box...   "Don't Mess With My Toot Toot" has been defeated. Thank you for your input.

Cutting down an initial list of over 150 songs and artists down to 84 songs that'd fit on four CDs was an incredible amount of hair-tearing work. That, plus making sure certain songs owned by certain licensors were spread around across the four discs and that there weren't too many tracks from one licensor on one disc, plus dealing with the demands of the label who insisted that certain songs had to be on the set ... whew. Fun, but exhausting and occasionally maddening.

The box went to licensing on Tuesday, so let's keep our fingers crossed that we get to use as many songs as possible. It's almost inevitable that they won't be able to license some songs, but I'm hoping that's only a few. Let's all send our positive energies to the owners of the aforementioned "Down In Honky Tonk Town" and Little Queenie and the Percolators' "My Darlin' New Orleans", which are the ones that've been out of print the longest, and I really really want 'em both.

Sorry, no posts yesterday.   Outrage overload (a Tom Tomorrow term that I think might catch on).

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 17, 2003
It's like the Simon and Garfunkel song, you remember, "The Boxer". If I may be allowed to take one of the lyrics out of context ... "Lie la-lie, lie la-lie lie lie la-lie, lie la-lie, lie la-lie lie lie la-lie, la la la la, lie."

(You see where this is going.)

Last Sunday on ABC's "Meet the Press," Vice President From Seclusion Dick Cheney repeated a number of the Bush administration's ongoing misleading statements and outright lies, to wit, as listed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (via Atrios and Tom Tomorrow):

*   Cheney repeated the mantra that the nation ignored the terrorism threat before Sept. 11. In fact, President Bill Clinton and his counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, took the threat very seriously, especially after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000. By December, Clarke had prepared plans for a military operation to attack Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, go after terrorist financing and work with police officials around the world to take down the terrorist network.

Because Clinton was to leave office in a few weeks, he decided against handing Bush a war in progress as he worked to put a new administration together.

Instead, Clarke briefed national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Cheney and others. He emphasized that time was short and action was urgent. The Bush administration sat on the report for months and months. The first high-level discussion took place on Sept. 4, 2001, just a week before the attacks. The actions taken by the Bush administration following Sept. 11 closely parallel actions recommended in Clarke's nine-month-old plan. Who ignored the threat?

*   Cheney said that "we don't know" if there is a connection between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. He's right only in the sense that "we don't know" if the sun will come up tomorrow. But all the evidence available says it will -- and that Iraq was not involved in Sept. 11.

*   In trying to make that link, Cheney baldly asserted that Iraq is the "geographic base" for those who struck the United States on Sept. 11. No, that would be Afghanistan.

*   On weapons of mass destruction, Cheney made a number of statements that were misleading or simply false. For example, he said the United States knew Iraq had "500 tons of uranium." Well, yes, and so did the U.N. inspectors. What Cheney didn't say is that the uranium was low-grade waste from nuclear energy plants, and could not have been useful for weapons without sophisticated processing that Iraq was incapable of performing.

To explore every phony statement in the vice president's "Meet the Press" interview would take far more space than is available. This merely points out some of the most egregious examples. Opponents of the war are fond of saying that "Bush lied and our soldiers died." In fact, they'd have reason to assert that "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." It's past time the principals behind this mismanaged war were called to account for their deliberate misstatements.

Now to sauce the dish: in this morning's Los Angeles Times -- on page A-8, not on the front page -- was this story:

No Proof Linking 9/11 to Hussein, Officials Say
From Associated Press.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said Tuesday that they had no evidence that Saddam Hussein had a direct hand in the Setp. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The two officials' rejection of a direct connection between Hussein and the attacks comes on the heels of a Washington Post poll showing that nearly 70% of respondents believed the ex-Iraqi leader was probably involved in the plot.

The Bush administration has asserted that Hussein's government had links to Al Qaeda, the terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden that masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks. And in various public statements over the last year or so, administration officials have suggested close links.

Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, said Sunday that success in stabilizing and democratizing Iraq would strike a major blow at the "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

It gets better. Condi says:

U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday the Bush administration had never accused Saddam Hussein of directing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Her statement, in an interview recorded for broadcast on ABC's "Nightline," came despite long-standing administration charges the ousted Iraqi leader was linked to the al Qaeda network accused of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Democrats have accused the administration of creating a "false impression" at the heart of a widespread U.S. public belief that Saddam had a personal role in the attacks.

"We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein ... had either direction or control of 9/11," Rice said when asked about the public perception of a link.

Translation: "We're full of shit, people. Honestly, how can you believe a word we say? It cracks us up. You must have an attention span of, like, ten minutes. And you really must be as stupid as we think you are."

Y'know ... the people of this country can't be fooled forever, and they're starting -- slowly but surely -- to pull the wool from their eyes.

Sorry ... it's filthy, actually.   Research into prevention of disease, cheap sources of energy and interstellar space travel pale at this recent scientific exploration, as our top scientists weigh in on the "five-second rule", which states that if you drop a piece of food on the floor, if you pick it up within five seconds it's okay to eat it. Unfortunately, it's a load of peanut butter, but the study left us lots of interesting and amusing statistics.

I didn't learn about the five-second rule until I moved to California. When I was a kid in New Orleans, its rough cultural equivalency went like this: "If you drop a piece of food on the floor, then pick it up and make the Sign of the Cross over it, it's okay to eat it."

When I learned that at age five or so, I had been unaware of the magical antiseptic effects of waving one's hand in a plus-sign pattern and murmuring a prayer, but apparently such a ritual made nasty, disease-causing germs disappear in an instant. (Where did they go? Limbo?) I'm pleased that surgeons didn't employ this technique...

Patient about to be anaesthetized: "Um, doctor? Aren't you going to establish a sterile field? And why aren't you wearing a mask, gown and surgical gloves?!"

Surgeon: "Oh, don't worry, we won't need all that stuff. All I need to do is make the Sign of the Cross over your abdomen and you're sterile!"

Patient: "Uhhhhhh ..." (screams)

"Relations break down between U.S. and Them."   From The Onion. The graphic is my favorite part.

My Han Solo action figure can kick his ass.   As if the George-W.-Bush-in-a-flight-suit doll wasn't enough ... a new company called Toy Presidents (if it's for real) apparently plans a whole line of presidential dolls-- er, "talking action figures." So far, the only entry in their collection is George W. Bush. (Or, as Haven put it in email, "The most interesting thing is that when you click on 'Our Collection,' you discover that W. is the only Toy President there is.'" Indeed.)

But hey, he talks! Just press the American flag lapel pin! He supposedly says 25 things, which I think should include the following:

"More and more of our imports are coming from overseas."

"I know how hard it is to put food on your family."

"I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy."

"I know the human being and the fish can co-exist peacefully."

"Rarely is the question asked, 'Is our children learning?'"

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream."

(Collected by TeamFranken)
That's a doll I'd buy in a second.

Me, I want William Henry Harrison (shortest-lived president), Millard Fillmore (our most neglected president) and Rutherford B. Hayes (president with the biggest beard). Wonder what they'll say?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 16, 2003
It's pronounced "BEE-chay".   Bice, an upscale group of 20 restaurants spread around the world (does one actually call a pricey restaurant like this part of a "chain?") opened in the Paseo Colorado in Pasadena last year, and we've been meaning to try it. Wes pointed out that we hadn't had a really nice dinner in a while, so we called a couple of good friends we hadn't seen in too long and went for it last Saturday.

The verdict: not too shabby indeed. The antipasti of beef carpaccio with black truffles, crimini mushrooms and shaved Parmagiano was incredible (although I suspect the truffles were preserved rather than fresh; if they had been fresh I might have passed out). I opted for bresaola (air-dried beef, thinly sliced) with an arugula salad and more shaved Parmagiano. Not quite as fabulous as the carpaccio, but very good.

We were determined to go all out, but when we began thinking about getting gnocchi as a primo the maitre'd (who was taking care of us himself) suggested we share, which was a great idea considering the dish's richness -- the perfectly light and airy gnocchi (which Jaason said were the best they'd had outside Italy) were served in a mushroom and endive cream sauce liberally dosed with white truffle oil. Oh, yeah. (If any of us had gotten that dish by himself, we would have ended up like Mr. Creosote by the end of the meal.)

There was a minor disapointment with the secondo -- they were out of a key ingredient. Therefore the filet of beef with foie gras and a Barolo wine and black truffle sauce was going to be minus the foie gras. Grrrr. We ordered it anyway, and it was one of the more wonderful pieces of steak I've had in a long time -- perfectly cooked, rosy pink medium rare inside, crusty and well-seasoned outside, and that sauce .... oh, madonn'! We decided to truly splurge on a wine to complement the dish, a 1996 Ca'Bianca Barolo which we deemed affordable after a little haggling that came about thanks to our missing foie gras.

The other secondi were highly gorgeous as well: a house-made fettuccine with lobster and mushrooms in a creamy bisque-like sauce, and a grilled halibut with a caper sauce. By the time we'd finished antipasti, primi and secondi there wasn't much room for dessert, but we all split their signature dark chocolate torte and I capped my meal with a lovely grappa.

Just as important as the food was the service, which at Bice was wonderful -- friendly, even playful, without being overly smothering, everything coming at just the right time. In fact, we commented that as we'd been enjoying our cocktails for at least 15 minutes, nobody came by with menus ... which was perfect. We were having a wonderful time sipping our drinks and talking, and the staff sensed that. They watched to see when we looked like we were ready for our menus, and when we were they were there instantly. They were busy but not overwhelmed, which meant that we were left alone to enjoy our meal at our own pace, which that night was 3-1/2 hours from start to finish. Now that's what I call going out to dinner.

I wouldn't quite elevate Bice to the hallowed levels of experiences like Trattoria Tre Venezie, but it's not far off. Great food and perfect service, with a staff that really cares that you have a great evening out, is more than enough. For a nice evening out in Pasadena, give Bice a try. You'll enjoy it, particularly if Roberto is taking care of you.

In the end, I did manage to get my soul back, though.   For a while a few years back, the tag line on one-or-another weblogs I was reading was something like "God save us from Swedish furniture." I now know what he meant.

Last Saturday I set foot into an IKEA store for the first, and, I sincerely hope, last time. We had heard that they sold nice-ish, ready-made Roman shades there, so we thought we'd give them a try. I've never had a more oppressive, soul-sucking shopping experience in my life.

It wasn't so much the furniture (95% of which I hated, in all its metal tubing and wobbly, veneered particle board glory) as the whole experience of the place (including the near-storewide smell of meatballs, which reminded me of the canned ones from childhood). If you've never been in an IKEA, well ... it doesn't have aisles like normal stores. You can't just go directly to what you're looking for, get it and get out. It's laid out like a maze; you have to start at the beginning and walk through the entire store, past everything they sell, to get out. (I kept wondering if we'd eventually encounter a Minotaur.) It's pure evil genius, I must admit, but by the time we found out they didn't have what we had wanted, the burning question in my mind was, "How the fuck do I get out of here?"

The trip wasn't a total waste, as it did involve a 9-mile drive to Burbank and leaving completely empty-handed would have been even more annoying. I bought two packs of eight wooden coat hangers at $3.49 per pack, some 3-packs of no-brand 60-watt lightbulbs for 99¢ each, and a two dollar paper lantern for the office, which saved me a trip to Pier One. The checkout girl yammered with another employee who was on break and never once made eye contact with either of us, and finally we were free. Escape! Sunlight! Parking lot! Freedom!

Never. Again.

UPDATE: Read about some other folks' lovely IKEA experiences, via Keithers. My favorites:

"We've had a bed delivered with no mattress -- the deliverymen didn't think we'd need it. Also, a sofa was delivered, almost. As it wouldn't fit through the door of the flat, they left it in the hall. Never again."

"Just looked around a house with a view to buying. We were proudly shown the Ikea kitchen and both decided at that point not to buy."

"I am an Ikea fool. It promises one stop solution to your home deco needs and delivers frustration and terrible quality goods. Definitely my most hated shopping experience. Aside from the awful queues, lack of stock, and misplaced stock and the time it takes to find anything, all the goods are badly made. My desk cracked as soon as I put a screw in and is the most wobbly desk I have ever had -- cabinet door split within a week. No wonder they're environmentally friendly -- no tree has ever been involved in their products, just some form of flexible syntho-chipboard... At least their towels work."

"Ikea -- the Swedish word for 'parts missing.'"

(The one I identify with the most:) "The last time I was in an Ikea store I got a bad attack of claustrophobia and couldn't find the way out -- they should be charged with unlawful imprisonment of their customers." (Whew... it isn't just me!)

Cheney defends Iraq stance.   From yesterday morning's Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, among others, the Vice President emerged from his undisclosed location to stand by pre-war claims of weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda in Iraq, despite his having neglected to provide any concrete evidence of this.

In other news -- black is white, up is down and, apparently, wrong is right.

Website launch:   The folks at offer a new public service to the American people -- MisLeader: A daily chronicle of Bush administration distortion. A few samples:

On the economy (from the State of the Union adddress):
Bush: "We will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents and other generations."

The truth: Factoring in the cost of reconstruction in Iraq and other laws that are set to be enacted, the federal budget deficit is close to $5 trillion over the next 10 years. The President's latest request to make his tax cuts permanent would add another nearly $1.6 trillion to the federal debt through 2013. That's $41,300 for every man, woman and child.

On tax cuts:
Bush: "The tax relief is for everyone who pays income taxes... Americans will keep, this year, an average of almost $1,000 more of their own money."

The truth: Nearly half of all taxpayers get less than $100. And 31% of all taxpayers get nothing at all.

On the environment:
Bush: "[My] Clear Skies legislation...mandates a 70% cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years."

The truth: The Bush plan will allow more than 100,000 additional premature deaths by 2020 than alternative legislation developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan does not regulate carbon emissions and allows far more sulfur and mercury emissions.

Sounds worth checking every day.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 12, 2003
The Man in Black: 1932-2003.   Early this morning, of respiratory failure. Watch the video for "Hurt", from his final album -- an extraordinary song and an extraordinary piece of filmmaking.

The Man in Black
I sure hope we don't lose any more great musicians anytime soon.

"Warren Zevon"   A short story by Michael Swanwick. It begins thusly...

Warren Zevon was dying, and everybody in the werewolf community was pretty broken up about it. I know because my paper sent me out to get their reaction to the news.

"He's our Elvis," one werewolf said. We were in a werewolf bar in the Northern Liberties. There's a lot of night-life thereabouts, and most people are too involved in their own stories to hassle minorities. "He's like a god to us. But fuck you if you don't get it."

It's not what you think, though. (Thanks, Laurel!)

Making a Mojito.   Heikki Vatiainen shows you how, step-by-step, with illustrations. (Nice technique!).

Quote of the day.   "And now the administration which has so cynically used the attacks of 9/11 to pursue goals the PNAC crowd had been fantasizing about for years beforehand will try to use the war on terror to maintain their grip on power for another four years. The Democrats will try to point out how ineptly the Bushies have handled these past two years -- Osama bin Laden is, after all, still apparently alive and well and sending us video postcards, while we've committed massive resources to conquering a country whose sum and total involvement in the events of 9/11 resides entirely in the fertile imaginations of the easily misled -- and those Democrats will be portrayed as hating the West, hating America, all for stating the truth, assuming they have the courage to do so.

"But this country's split pretty evenly down the ideological divide, and I think that refrain will ultimately prove self-defeating -- the average American who happens to lean toward the Democratic side is going to grow tired, at a certain point, of being told that he hates his country and wants the terrorists to win."

-- Tom Tomorrow

If only.   We can dream, can't we? We can be helped through modern times by cultivating a rich inner fantasy life (even if such fantasies should be reality).

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 11, 2003
Tonight on "Down Home".   I've got the long-awaited brand-spanking-new album "Bring It On Down" by The Red Stick Ramblers, and it's brilliant. Also, new stuff from Robert Earl Keen and Chris Knight, old stuff from Gene Autry and the Dixon Brothers from the new release "Down in the Basement" from the massive 78rpm collection of Joe Bussard, and some not-so-old stuff from Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen and the Chosen Few Brass band, plus Fredy Omar con su Banda.

We'll be listening to lots of Warren Zevon, too.

Tune in to KCSN tonight from 7-9pm Pacific time (0200-0400 GMT) at 88.5 FM in the Los Angeles area, or worldwide via And enjoy every sandwich.

Using the date.   This Washington Post story mostly speaks for itself; it sickens me, too. (Via Jason).

President Bush paused in his Labor Day remarks about jobs and told his audience of union members, "I want you to think back to that fateful day, September the 11th, and what happened afterwards."

Usually his reminder is more subtle, but Bush is invoking the terrorist hijackings frequently as he ramps up his reelection campaign and tries to defuse the political risk posed by persistent joblessness, setbacks in Iraq and accusations that he exaggerated evidence on the road to war.

In the past six weeks, Bush has cited "9/11" or Sept. 11, 2001, in arguing for his energy policy and in response to questions about campaign fundraising, tax cuts, unemployment, the deficit, airport security, Afghanistan and the length, cost and death toll of the Iraq occupation.

Because if you're not with us, you're with the terrorists.

Also, we should look at how the Bush administration has destroyed most of the international goodwill that poured into America after 9/11/2001. Niiiice job. (Via Kevin)

Grilled chocolate sandwiches!   Ohhh, my Gawd ... I can't wait to try this, but I have to tweak it already. The plain white bread must be replaced with brioche (one listed variation) or Hawaiian bread (my idea), and then it will be perfect. However, if you're in New Orleans, use Bunny Bread, which is almost like cake anyway.

They wisely suggest that the George Foreman Grill is made for this sort of thing, and it is indeed. I've been wanting one of those things; despite how cheesy it seems, everyone I know who has one loves it. Our friend Haven said she has one already and would like to get a larger one, "however, owning TWO such grills would make me a person I don't want to be." Heh. I understand.

Nicotrol for right-wing weblog addicts.   As a public service, the folks at the VeryVeryHappy weblog "are proud to offer the following generic entries to several popular Right wing blogs to stave off whatever twisted cravings you might have to read the real things." Hee hee hee. (Via Atrios)

Quote of the day.   "The actions taken by the New Hampshire Episcopalians are an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the [Anglican] church's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, his wife Anne Boleyn, his wife Jane Seymour, his wife Anne of Cleves, his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on our 'traditional Christian marriage.'"

-- Letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2003.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 10, 2003
I can always tell when it's a full moon out.   Driving the streets of Los Angeles is an experience that provides its own almanac. It happened yet again today, during a hellish morning commute that took 25% longer than usual and was a constant stream of encounters with homicidal/suicidal lunatics.

For instance, there was the guy in the grey pickup truck with lumber sticking out at least four feet from the back of his truckbed. Being behind such people makes me nervous, so I changed lanes and accelerated slightly to get in front of him. He floored it, speeding up so that I couldn't get in, and then when the lanes turned into two left turn lanes on the left, he kept swerving to make sure that I continued to be trapped behind him. If I tried to move to the next lane, he changed in front of me. After we made the left turn and were on Hyperion, he kept an eye on me in his mirrors and blocked any attempt I made to change lanes, even if it meant nearly hitting me or someone else. This continued until he finally turned right to go where he was going.

Then there was the scumbag in his SUV who, while blithely chattering on his cell phone, merged into my lane without looking and nearly broadsided me; I had to swerve almost up onto the sidewalk to avoid him. Then there were at least three pedestrians who ran into the street or tried to cross while the crossing signal was red, only a few seconds before my light changed. Then there were the people who'd just stop in the middle of the road for no apparent reason, or the people who thought that blocking an entire lane of traffic was okay, because they were waiting in line to get into the McDonald's.

"It must be a full feckin' moon today," I said. Sho' 'nuff. Whenever I'm prompted to say this by the lunatic behavior of an astonishing number of my fellow humans, it turns out to be true. I just hope I don't run into any lycanthropes on the way home from work tonight (unless he's got a Chinese menu in his hand, or is drinking a Piña Colada at Trader Vic's).

Aaaaaaack! Pthpt!   One reacts as only Bill the Cat can at the joyous news that our beloved Opus the Penguin will be returning to the Sunday comics pages beginning November 23. Thank you, Berkeley.

Mark Morford's comments on this news were, as they frequently are, highly entertaining:

[Cartoonist Berkeley] Breathed's return will mark the first time the cartoon page has been remotely funny in about eight years, when Breathed and Gary Larson and Bill Watterson all split, leaving only the aging convoluted Doonsbury and the uneven savage un-PC bite of Boondocks to keep the page alive. Meanwhile, Cathy, Garfield, the Wizard of Id, Hagar the Horrible, and about a dozen others, none of which has been funny, well, ever, all filed a petition to keep "Opus" out, fearing they might actually have to try and be remotely clever at some point in the future. "First Opus, then your mother comes over and you pig out on chocolate and get all fat and disgusting and bitch about men and how you look in a bathing suit!" screeched Cathy for like, the 18 billionth goddamn time.
My newspaper comics reading these days has been reduced to "The Boondocks", "Get Fuzzy" and "Doonesbury", pretty much. This is very good news indeed.

(By the way ... Bill Watterson, wherever you are ... we really, really miss you.)

«Ô Jour frabbejeais! Calleau! Callai!»   Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", in 29 languages.

My favorites are the French (natch),

Il brilgue: les tôves lubricilleux
Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave.
Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux
Et le mômerade horsgrave.
Esperanto (a nonsense poem translated into an invented language), and tlhIngan Hol (or Klingon, to you non-geeks, speaking of invented languages...):

puqloDwI' ja'pu'vawq Dayep
pe'vIl chop Ho'Du'Daj; pe'vIl Suq pachDu'Daj
Ha'DIbaH puv juchyub yIyep
bInDepSuHach vaQeHmuS ghombe' DanIDjaj
and from what little I know of the language, the Welsh version sounds beautiful:

Mae'n brydgell ac mae'r brochgim stwd
Yn gimblo a gyrian yn y mhello:
Pob cólomrws yn féddabwd,
A'r hoch oma'n chwibruo.
Okay, we need one in Irish. Gaelgeoirí, pull your socks up!

Journalistic responsibility and damned liars.   In the Columbia Journalism Review, David Greenberg examines why George W. Bush's lies have seemed, for the most part, to slide off him, and how the unwritten rules of today's journalists end up "encouraging media hysteria about personal lies of scant importance and deterring inquiry into topics that matter incalculably more."

On close inspection, the Iraq claims [of WMDs and attempts to buy uranium] turned out to be no more spurious than other statements Bush had made:

* On the economy, Bush said that the middle class would reap the gains of his tax cuts, which in fact were regressive.

* On the environment, he said that the science was incomplete about the reality of global warming, when in fact a scholarly consensus knows the phenomenon to be real.

* On abortion, he claimed that he banned funding for family-planning groups overseas because he didn't think public dollars should finance abortions -- a statement that couldn't possibly be true since the money wasn't actually paying for abortions.

* On stem-cell research, he stated that the strictures he imposed still gave scientists more than sixty usable lines of such cells, when they had only one.

For all that, Bush's lying has yet to metastasize into a full-fledged scandal, and it may not. And that seems peculiar -- not just because of Bush's track record, but also because the press normally will make hay of anything approximating a political lie.


"I did not have sex with that woman" pales in comparison, methinks.

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  Tuesday, September 9, 2003
Mint condition.   I used to really not like mint juleps. In fact, I once wrote a screed about them, after getting emails saying "How come you don't have a mint julep recipe on your web site?" Part of it was my anti-mint bias -- I had to take a horrid allergy medicine all through childhood, and the faux-mint syrup they used to flavor it didn't help mask the fact that it tasted like liquid bread mold; it just made me associate mint with bread mold.

Also there's the fact that I don't consider the mint julep to be a New Orleans cocktail in the way that Sazeracs and Ramos Gin Fizzes are -- it's a drink of the Deep South, of Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee. Still, they are consumed by some in New Orleans -- Ella Brennan is a fan, and they've always been on the menu at Commander's Palace. Thing is, you could almost never get a decent one. Pat O'Brien's used to make them with a mint syrup, as I remember, which tasted like a mixed drink comprised of Bourbon and Scope. Not good.

I have since revised my opinion about mint juleps; if you can get a good one, properly made, it's a fine drink. Oddly enough, I was moved back into the julep fray by my discovery of the mojito, which is very trendy nowadays. This week's issue of Gambit describes the sorry state of the mint julep in New Orleans, and its journey back to being available and properly made thanks to the mojito.

I was interviewed via email by the author of this article, who was intrigued by my greatly rewritten screed linked above, and of my own journey from the mojito to the julep. Unfortunately I'm not directly quoted (oh well), and the article isn't terribly critical (apparently I was correct in my memory that very little fresh mint goes into a Pat O'Brien's mint julep, but you won't find that mentioned). Interesting article, still.

They're just questions, Leon.   In one of the more entertaining articles on politics I've read lately, a team of reporters administers the Voight-Kampff Test to San Francisco mayoral candidates. Major kudos to Tom Ammiano for being the only one to spot it (he's definitely not a replicant).

However, weUre stopping short of recommending that you vote for them or not. After all, though a replicant mayor may be more likely to gouge a supervisorUs eyes out with their thumbs, they have another quality that could be great in an elected official: a four year life span.

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  Monday, September 8, 2003
His ride's here.   Warren Zevon left with his ride, yesterday afternoon, in his sleep. I only wish that when my time comes I can go out with as much grace, dignity and good humor as Warren has had since he was diagnosed as terminal a year ago.

Finding something to do in Denver.
Keep him in your heart for a while.

New Robert Heinlein novel to be published.   "As of this writing, August 31, 2003," says Deb Houdek Rule in the press release, "there are only about half a dozen people in the entire known universe who can accurately claim that they have read every novel Heinlein has written."

In November, a previously lost Heinlein novel (his first, in fact) entitled For Us, The Living, written in 1938-39 and never published, hits the stands in the exact same condition in which Heinlein left it -- a polished final draft, needing only a few minor edits and spelling corrections. It was deemed unpublishable at the time not because it was bad (it isn't; apparently it's quite good) but because of "racy content": "the mores and culture of the time would not allow it."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 5, 2003
Evan Christopher, tomorrow.   For all y'all L.A.-area residents who are aficionadoes of traditional jazz, my new favorite clarinet player will be performing tomorrow night at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, 490 E. Union St. in Pasadena at 8pm as part of the Pasadena Jazz Institute's "Jazz on the Terrace" series. Call (626) 398-3344 to see if there are any tickets left (there were only a few dozen left as of Wednesday).

Evan's an amazing, elegant performer with a rich tone and an ear for interpretation of the works of past giants (from Louis Moreau Gottschalk to Sidney Bechet and much more) to French-Creole and Caribbean tunes and much more. If you're a jazz fan, this is not to be missed.

All the lies that're unfit to print.   Mark Morford of comments on the forthcoming book by Jessica Lynch and disgraced (and subsequently fired) ex-New York Times reporter Rick Bragg.

Jessica Lynch. You know the one. The sweet, American-pie 19-year-old soldier and kindergarten-teacher wanna-be whose army squad took a wrong turn in Iraq and was, apparently, ambushed.

And some of her comrades were killed and she was taken prisoner, full of stab wounds and bullet holes, and she was whisked off to a ragged Iraqi hospital and held for eight days by vicious Iraqi guards and ostensibly abused, and later supposedly "rescued" in the most daring and macho made-for-TV moment of the war by elite teams of hunky U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Navy SEALs. Wow.

Except that it never really happened that way. Except that Lynch herself doesn't remember a single thing and all the nurses and doctors and eyewitnesses on the scene say the Iraqi fedayeen guards had fled the day before the "rescue," and there was no danger whatsoever, no resistance of any kind, the U.S. forces could just walk right in, and they knew it.

And the hospital doors were wide open, and the nurses and doctors had gone out of their way to provide decent care for our precious Jessica, considering the circumstances, and doctors even tried to return Lynch to U.S. forces themselves.

And despite U.S. claims, Lynch had no knife wounds or bullet holes at all, just a few broken bones, and the dramatic and violent "rescue" was really just inane and silly and entirely faked and yet America bought it, hook, line and Rumsfeld, because it was on TV.

'Course, those doctors and nurses are only Iraqis, so they must've been lying. Right?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 4, 2003
The Mysterious New Orleans Cocktail.   This is the tale of the most intriguing -- as well as one of the best -- New Orleans cocktails I have ever tasted. I'll tell you the whole story to date, plus offer you the original recipe as well as the one we've slightly tweaked for the Twenty-First Century. I hope that this little experience will spark a renaissance in its imbibition ... once we figure out what to call it.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a gentleman by the name of Brooks Baldwin, who said:

As a man who knows his way around Crescent City cocktails, I wonder if you'd mind looking over the ingredients in this very old, unnamed recipe from pre-Prohibition New Orleans. Does it resemble any cocktail you've come across in your stumblings? I'd love to give it a name.

My grandmother, Mrs. Monte M. Lemann (born in New Orleans in 1895), inherited the recipe from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Lucien E. Lyons, shortly before the beginning of the First World War. As specified in the original recipe, my grandmother concocted this libation by the quart and stored it in an antique lead crystal decanter. Informed that science had linked lead crystal with lead poisoning, my grandmother said: "It's a pretty bottle, so hush."

"The Mysterious New Orleans Cocktail"
Original version

2-1/2 teaspoons Peychaud's Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Amer Picon
1 jigger Orange Curaçao
1 jigger Simple Syrup
1 jigger Maraschino Syrup

Mix the first six ingredients, then add Bourbon to make one quart.
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I'm all for using Luxardo Maraschino in place of maraschino syrup (thank you for turning me on to a great product!) and adding extra simple syrup if necessary. Torani brand Amer could pinch hit for the Amer Picon. I'm pretty sure I read that Torani Amer more closely resembles the original Amer Picon than the Amer Picon available today. Do you know anything about this? Apparently, the original formula got messed with a while back -- the flavor changed slightly, and the proof dropped from 78 to 39. In any case, Torani Amer is easier to find.
I responded enthusiastically -- this drink sounds fantastic -- and assured Brooks that I'd be mixing up a batch as soon as possible. I'd test it out on Wes and myself, plus a few other friends. He replied, "I'm stunned that you've taken up the gauntlet on behalf of the venerable mystery cocktail. My beloved grandmother, if only she were still among us, would be pink and giggling with delight." Let's do our part to make a nice departed lady giggle.

I've seen sweet, red maraschino syrup still for sale, usually from the dreaded Reese brand (just about everything I I've tried of theirs tastes terrible, including the worst maraschino cherries I've ever had) and I think this drink cries out to be drier. We'll use maraschino liqueur, still with a nice touch of sweetness but not too much. Luxardo is the standard, or use the Croatian brand Maraska if you'd like it a touch drier (the bottle's not as pretty, but it's much less expensive).

Similarly, we decided to use the drier Cointreau (a true triple sec, with the French word "sec" meaning "dry") rather than the typically über-sweet curaçaos that are out there. Use curaçao if you like 'em sweet (try to find Marie Brizard orange curaçao and avoid all of those bottom-shelf brands), but I highly recommend a drier cocktail. You get enough sweetness from the simple syrup and Maraschino. Go for Cointreau or the excellent new Mexican triple sec called Citrónge.

Brooks is indeed correct about Amer Picon; not only is it nearly impossible to find anymore, but the makers have changed the formula so much that it bears little resemblance to the original. Torani brand Amer is a wonderful product, and one that's been thoroughly embraced by the Basque-Americans who use it in their signature national drink, Picon Punch.

Still curious and in need of a cocktail historian's view on this, I forwarded the email and recipe to Dr. Cocktail, who replied:

My feeling is, this was a home-made cocktail, not a bar cocktail. No bartender would use such measurements -- I mean, the proportions are fine and it sounds delicious, but no barkeep would speak in terms of quarts, teaspoons, etc. I'd say this was a glorious product of the "My home is my castle" aficionado class prevalent at the turn of the century. And of course NOLA had more free-thinkers than most places...
I mixed up a batch last weekend. Wes and I tried it, plus had the opportunity to serve it to a couple of guests who had impeccable cocktail chops. Their verdict? "Superb" ... "exquisite" ... "wonderful." I agree. Now our job is to spread this cocktail far and wide.

We're still waiting to hear back from Brooks as to what he's going to call it. Doc said it'd be very cool to name it after Brooks' grandmother, but when I pointed out that she herself had gotten the recipe from her mother-in-law, he immediately (temporarily) dubbed it ... "The Mother-In-Law Cocktail." It's got a great additional New Orleans connection, given that that's also the title of one of our classic R&B songs, as performed by Ernie K-Doe, Emperor of the Universe.

Here's the revised version. When we decide on a name, I'll let you know.

The tentatively named
Mother-In-Law Cocktail
A pre-prohibition lost New Orleans classic, now found

2-1/2 teaspoons Peychaud's Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Torani Amer
1-1/2 ounces Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo or Maraska)
1-1/2 ounces Cointreau or high-quality orange Curaçao
1-1/2 ounces simple syrup
One 750ml bottle Maker's Mark Bourbon (or your favorite Bourbon)

Combine ingredients thoroughly and pour into a clean one-quart bottle.
To serve, pour three ounces into a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
Stir for no less than thirty seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a stemless cherry.

If you like Bourbon-based cocktails with a subtle yet extremely complex flavor, then this is most definitely for you. It is a bit of a commitment, as it's ideally mixed as a quart-sized batch, the way Brooks' grandma did it. I've got a very similiar version worked out for individually made ones, but the proportions are not exactly as they would be with the batch version (although close). I'll publish that one a bit later on.

The Cocktailian.   In today's edition of Gary Regan's regular column, the Professor mixes up an original from bartender Murray Stenson of Seattle, a bourbon-based libation called The Chas (hmm, I rather like that name).

The Ardent Spirits' Mojito Madness!   Speaking of Gary and Mardee, the Regans' latest cocktail newsletter is up at their website, including pics of their visit to the new Bacardi Visitors' Center in Puerto Rico.

August Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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