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, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, 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 @ 11:44am PST, 3/31/2004
If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse. Search this site:
(99 and 44/100% link rot)
2003: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
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. How to donate to this site:
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You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!
Friends with pages:
pat and paul
tracy and david
KCSN (Los Angeles)
"Down Home" playlist
Live MP3 audio stream
Subscribe to the
"Down Home" weekly
playlist email service
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
Grateful Dead Radio
(Streaming complete shows!)
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
The Sazerac Cocktail
(A work in progress;
Martin Doudoroff &
Alcohol (and how to mix it)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
(Robert Hess, et al.)
DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
New Orleans Menu Daily
Mise en Place
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
In vino veritas.
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wally's Wine and Spirits
The Wine House
The Wine Spectator
Reading this month:
One Voice: My Life in Song, by Christy Moore.
The White Plague, by Frank Herbert.
Y: The Last Man, Vols. 1-3, by Vaughan, Guerra, Marzan Jr et al.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Miles of Music
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley
Get Your War On
by David Rees
L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
Xquzyphyr & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
Films seen this year:
Cold Mountain (****)
The Last Samurai (****)
Lookin' at da TV:
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
The Food Network
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
The Daily Kos
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
More Like This
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
This Modern World
Under the Gunn
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Matthew's GLB blog portal
My Darlin' New Orleans:
New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.
AlterNet.org (progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Daily Mislead (BushCo's lies)
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)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
Whitehouse.org (not the actual White House, but it should be)
The Final Frontier:
Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Locus Magazine Online
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.)
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to
stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Liberals go live. This morning marks the debut of the liberal talk radio network Air America, kickstarting with Al Franken's morning show.
Their signal streams live over the web, and so far they're on the air in these markets:
New York - WLIB 1190 AMThe server was so jammed I had difficulty getting through for a while, and I guess that's a good sign. Enjoy!
Los Angeles - KBLA 1580 AM
Chicago - WNTD 950 AM
Portland, OR - KPOJ 620 AM
Inland Empire, CA - KCAA 1050 AM
Minneapolis - WMNN 1330 AM
XM Satellite Radio - Channel 167
The artisanal diet, part one. In the ever-excellent food weblog Sauté Wednesday, Bruce Cole writes about what he calls "the artisanal diet", one that "derives immense satisfaction from the pleasure of eating and drinking only the finest hand-produced foods available, anywhere. Yeah, ok, so it's a food snob diet. Whatever."
The first article is on artisanal coffee, in which he assures you that finding artisanal coffee roasters, grinding your own beans and making your own coffee beats the living crap out of your $800 per year mediocre latte habit from your local nationwide coffee chain, "he one that burns, er, roasts their beans beyond recognition, just so they can call it a Full City Roast."
Having grown up on dark French roast coffee and chicory au lait in New Orleans and preferring that, I more or less gave up on coffee when I moved to California. I'm a tea man now, for the most part, having been forcibly addicted to strong tea on my first trip to Ireland in 1988. ("Would you like a cup of tea, Chuck?" is not a request that can be refused, even if I've already had ten cups of tea that day. "Oh you will, now, just a drop. Will you not just have one cup?" It was not unlike the scenes in "The French Connection II" when they tied Popeye Doyle down and forcibly addicted him to heroin, except without the irony.) Consequently, I'm particularly fond of Irish tea (Barry's is my favourite, Gold Blend, loose if I can get it, bags if I can't), a monstrously strong blend of Kenya, Assam and other teas that will kick your arse so that you'll know it's been kicked. I love it.
We've now got a proper teapot with a rigid, copper cosy and always keep a selection of loose teas from the Bamboo Tea House in Pasadena -- currently we've got a black Zimbabwean tea, a slightly vanilla-scented Mauritius blend that's really lovely, and a few flavoured ones -- coconut, ginger-peach and Indian chai (I like flavoured teas, as long as it's not iced tea and especially not Paradise Tropical Tea, feh.) For a buck you can also get a nice metal container with a rubber seal for storing your tea and keeping it fresh.
The difference between brewing up a cup or pot of these teas and using a teabag of third-rate powdered Lipton's tea-leavings is like day and night. If you like tea, give artisanal tea a shot as well. It's easy -- just about any loose, full-leaf tea of good quality will fit the bill -- relatively inexpensive and very much worth the effort. I really enjoy having a nice, proper cupán tae, and I highly recommend the experience.
How E-voting threatens democracy. A long, fascinating and scary special report from Wired magazine. Kim Zetter reports:
Electronic voting is supposed to streamline the process and rid us of the hanging chad. But the technology is rife with problems, creating the specter of botched returns and deliberate election rigging. Although many election officials defend the system, e-voting still can't be trusted. Nor, apparently, can many of its more ardent boosters.Its more ardent boosters include, oddly enough, all the manufacturers of electronic voting machines, all of which contribute heavily to the Bush campaign, and one of whom has even promised to deliver his home state to Bush in the next election? (God, it reeks like an unrefrigerated fishmonger's in here ...)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Condi the patsy. Well, whaddaya know. She's testifying! (About feckin' time, too.)
Thing is, there are strings attached (of course). White House counsel Alberto Gonzales sent a letter to the commission, giving them the terms under which she'd be allowed to testify (via Lyn):
Second, the Commission must agree in writing that it will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice. [...] Other White House officials with information relevant to the Commission's inquiry do not come within the scope of the Commission's rationale for seeking public testimony from Dr. Rice.Which means, she takes the fall in public, and Bush/Cheney never have to face their nation. (They'll be "meeting" the Commission in private, and not under oath.)
Brave, brave, brave Bush and Cheney. Gee, that sounds like that Neil Innes song from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" about brave Sir Robin ...
When danger reared its ugly headBut what's he afraid of, I wonder?
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes brave Sir Dubya turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat!
He's packing it in and packing it up
And sneaking away and buggering off
And chickening out and pissing off home,
Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge!
Thou shalt not criticize the President. MoveOn.org report that the Republican National Committee is pressing the Federal Election Commission to adopt new rules that would cripple and silence any group "that dares to communicate with the public in any way critical of President Bush or members of Congress." (Apparently the First Amendment is beyond these people ...)
Here are MoveOn's talking points regarding this issue:
- These rules would shut down the legitimate activities of nonprofit organizations of all kinds that the FEC has no authority at all to regulate.These rule changes have been put forth for public review and comment until April 9. Make your comments to the FEC at email@example.com. Let your Senators and Representatives know how you feel, too.
- Nothing in the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law or the Supreme Court's decision upholding it provides any basis for these rules.
- In the McConnell opinion upholding McCain-Feingold, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that the law's limits on unregulated corporate, union and large individual contributions apply to political parties and not interest groups. Congress specifically considered regulating 527 organization three times in the last several years -- twice through the Internal Revenue Code and once during the BCRA debate -- and did not subject them to McCain-Feingold.
- The FEC should not, in a few weeks, tear up the fabric of tax-exempt law that has existed for decades and under which thousands of nonprofit groups have structured their activities and their governance. The Internal Revenue Code already prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from intervening in political candidate campaigns, and IRS rules for other 501(c) groups prohibit them from ever having a primary purpose to influence any candidate elections -- federal, state, or local.
- Under the most draconian proposal, the FEC would "look back" at a nonprofit group's activities over the past four years -- before McCain-Feingold was ever passed and the FEC ever proposed these rules -- to determine whether a group's activities qualify it as a federal political committee. If so, the FEC would require a group to raise hard money to repay prior expenses that are now subject to the new rules. Further work would be halted until debts to the "old" organization were repaid. This rule would jeopardize the survival of many groups.
- The 4 year "look back" rule would cause a nonprofit group that criticized or praised the policies of Bush, Cheney, McCain, or Gore in 2000, or any Congressional incumbent candidate in 2000 or 2002, to be classified as a political committee now, even though the group has not done so since then. This severely violates our constitutional guarantees of due process.
- These changes would impoverish political debate and could act as a de facto "gag rule" on public policy advocacy. They would insulate public officials from substantive criticism for their positions on policy issues. They would actually diminish civic participation in government rather than strengthen it. This would be exactly the opposite result intended by most supporters of campaign finance reform.
- Any kind of nonprofit -- conservative, liberal, labor, religious, secular, social service, charitable, educational, civic participation, issue-oriented, large, and small -- could be affected by these rules. A vast number would be essentially silenced on the issues that define them, whether they are organized as 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 527 organizations.
Republicans ... go to the top of this weblog and read the fucking quote. This is further confirmation of what I've come to believe with every passing day since this administration took office -- the Republican Party does not want to govern, it wants to rule. First duty of a despotic ruler -- quell dissent.
Oh yeah ... I want me a Trunk Monkey! (Via August)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, March 29, 2004
Cocktail of the day. My new issue of Saveur just arrived, the April '04 one. In it you'll find a nice little article about single barrel and high-end bourbons (with a tasting guide), plus another about the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles, which lends its name to the orange-flavored liqueur also known as triple sec (Cointreau being perhaps the best, and certainly the most expensive, example). Curaçao suffers in reputation a bit from many brands being cloyingly oversweet, but now the island has its own line of liqueur. "Senior & Company is the only producer making curaçao from real Curaçao-grown [bitter] orange peels, and its version of the liqueur is now available in the United States for the first time."
Dale DeGroff provided the editors with a recipe suggestion for showing off this liqueur, a mid-20th Century concoction named after the grandsire of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit. Looks like it has a nice balance, and I'll give it a go soon.
Man O'WarSenior & Co.'s line of curaçaos appear to come in a rainbow of colors, including orange, red, green and two shades of the ubiquitous blue. There's also apparently a really nummy-looking chocolate curaçao as well. For more information, visit their distributor, Preiss Imports.
1-1/2 ounces Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon whiskey.
1 ounce orange curaçao.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 orange slice.
1 lemon slice.
Place the orange and lemon slices in a cocktail shaker and add cracked ice to fill. Add the other ingredients and shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds, until very cold. Add a couple of ice cubes to a cocktail glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with a cherry and a fresh orange slice.
Quote of the day. "As long as war is regarded as wicked it will always have its fascinations. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular."
-- Oscar Wilde
A new era in Ireland. As of today, the Republic of Ireland institutes a ban on smoking in all public buildings and workplaces, and this includes pubs. "Smoke spies" will be sent around to check as well. Hoo-boy.
I can't say I'm against it, because I think smoking is vile (and I wouldn't have a problem with it, if smokers simply declined to exhale, and were able to prevent their dangling cigarettes from trailing smoke). Yes, I know that everyone should be able to choose their own bad habits -- I drink (although in moderation), and I eat pork and rich food (nowadays, also in moderation), but those habits generally remain within my bubble. I don't spit my drink at your table, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't blow your smoke at mine.
The smoking bans worked like a charm in California -- people now routinely go outside to smoke, and it's a joy to be able to go to a club or bar or concert and not be choking on smoke, and having to have my jacket cleaned. This could be one of the tricker institutions of this ban, though. Smoking is such an ingrained part of pub culture, though, that we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. Ádh mór libh. (Good luck to yis.) Some thoughts from locals, from the Irish magazine Hot Press:
* "As somebody who started smoking when he was 12, I am looking forward to the ban. Anytime I have tried to quit I have done grand until about 3 hours in a pub. I can drink at home or in mates' places if there are no smokers about, without a problem. But after a few pints the will power gets put to the test. A test which I never could pass.I must confess, my attitude is one of "it's about time," but I'll be quietly encouraging to anyone who wants to quit smoking. I know, it's hard. I might not ever truly understand just how hard it is, but I know it's hard. If you're quitting, you've got all my encouragement.
I started smoking through peer pressure and thinking it was cool. I was 12 and all my mates were about 3 to 4 years older than me so I did it to fit in. But I have to say that I do enjoy smoking and always whenever I tried quiting knew at some point I would be back. The ban gives me a reason to really try, as I am fucked if I am standing outside the pub in Irish weather."
* "I've changed my mind on it a few times since the whole debate started. As a non smoker I'm looking forward to it and hope it's successful, but that's not to say I'm convinced it's a good thing.
Now, I'm completely aware of how contradictory it is saying that, but my fears lie in the "what next" factor. How far can we police health really? I've no sympathy for publicans losing money, drop the prices and the people will come, but I would hate to see smaller businesses like coffee shops getting badly hit by business falling, but then again the benefit does outweigh that threat to a small number of businesses.
I surely wouldn't want to be policing it, but I am looking forward to being able to go out for a few drinks on an evening and not have to wash all my clothes because they stink. It's a pickle really."
* "Would non-smokers ask smokers to stop in a pub? I would in the cinema, train etc. where it's accepted that you just don't, but I'm not sure that I would in a pub just yet. Don't want to get stabbed. "
* "Pint of Guinness and a tub of snuff, please."
* "Yea, a couple of months from now we might be wondering what all the fuss was about."
* "I quit on Thursday and have not had one since.
If any non smokers say 'well done you' or something I will feel more tempted to start again. Also the attitudes of many non smokers regarding the ban make me want to light a gigantic cigar and blow the smoke through their fucking letterboxes.
It's the hardest thing ever, giving up."
Well done you, says I to meself.
badno answer. Yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation", Bob Schieffer asked Secretary of State Colin Powell a question. You can watch his answerresponse here.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a group called the Center for American Progress has posed this question ... "If as the administration claims, the White House did make terrorism a priority, why did Vice-President Cheney wait five months to establish a terrorism task force, which then never met?"I'm looking forward to a future scenario where questions like these are asked to people like Powell and Rice by a judge, grand jury or Congressional committee which is legally empowered to say, "The witness is directed to answer the question."
Powell: With respect to the task force, I ... I-I ... can't answer the specific question.
You've got to be feckin' kidding me. <rant>First off, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't watch "American Idol". I have friends who do, and who are almost obsessed with it, and fair play to them -- I'm glad they enjoy it. However, on Friday I checked into the iTunes Music Store to see what was new, and I was greeted on the front page by the new album by that silly engineering student who humiliated himself on that program, William Hung -- the kid whose fifteen minutes should have ended a long time ago.
Yes, he's plucky and indefatigable, and didn't let his humiliation on national television get him down. He's the dictionary definition of the fifteen-minutes-of-fame thing, and good for him. However, what in the name of all that's good gave him the idea that anyone actually wanted to spend money to listen to him sing? He got signed to KOCH Records (a label that I normally respect), and I suppose they're doing it so that they can cash in on his fifteen minutes.
Have a listen, if you will, to the four sample tracks from his forthcoming debut album (as I was unfortunate enough to do when my annoyingly insatiable curiosty once again got the best of me) and you'll either 1) groan with genuine pain, 2) hit the "stop" button so violently that you'll likely damage your computer, and 3) say something like "what, forfuckssake, makes this foolish boy think for a minute that anyone would pay real money to listen to his god-awful caterwauling?" (Incredibly, it was listed as the #4 most popular track on iTunes that day. I guess if you sold cans of cowshit after hawking it on a popular TV show, someone would buy it.)
He's said that he's just being himself, that he won't change himself for anyone's sake, for the sake of his newfound
infamyfame, and I admire that. He lives by my life's motto, "Whatever you is, be that." What he is, though, is someone who can't sing his way out of a wet paper bag, someone who can't sing to save his life, someone whose singing might well endanger other people's lives by causing them to choke on something while they're unfortunate enough for his miles-off-key warbling to enter their ear canals.
William, be an engineer. I bet you'll be great at it. But unless you're going to be honest and say you're only in it for the money, trying to cash in on your fifteen minutes, put a cork in the singing and feck off back to class, will you? (Good Gawd.) About the only actual use I can think of for such an audible assault is that "The Annoying Music Show" needs song fodder, and that said, I'd listen to Nimoy sing before I'd listen to this. (I don't buy the "it's so awful it's great" argument, either. It's just awful.)
Then again, if someone's stupid enough to pay money for this stuff, then fair play to him -- take the money and run while you can. Still, It offends me that this eejit was given a record contract when there are so many struggling and far more deserving musicians out there who can't get signed. I've had it up to here with the fifteen-minutes thing ...</rant>
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, March 26, 2004
Look out, Westside ... we're coming! I've seen it. I've touched it. I've even kissed it. (Thus fulfilling the requirements of the age-old phrase, "I'll believe it when I can kiss it.")
What is it? Why, it's KCSN's new transmitter!
I've been allowed to talk about it publicly since at least two pledge drives ago, but then it was still a big, expensive piece of vaporware. Now it's here. All the red tape has been vanquished. All the money is in. All the licenses and permits are taken care of. Consequently, I think I can safely say that KCSN will go live on the west side of Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Silverlake and points beyond (we hope) between April 1 and April 15. (This is, of course, not official and I do not officially speak for the station. This is just a heads-up.)
The new transmitter will be referred to as a "booster", and it fills in a gap in our legally mandated broadcast footprint that's blocked by the annoying presence of the Santa Monica Mountains and Hollywood Hills. Rather than having those things torn down, we decided it would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to put a new transmitter up on top of a building in West Los Angeles, in order to fill in the shadow.
It's no ordinary transmitter, either. We'll be one of the first public radio stations in the area to be broadcasting in Digital High Definition radio, as part of a special pilot program partially funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here's a bit more about it, from our Chief Engineer Mike Worrall:
Briefly, HD (for 'high definition') Radio (otherwise known as IBOC and / or Ibiquity Digital) is a method of transmitting a digital signal coincident with the traditional analog FM signal. Listeners with new HD Radio receivers will experience a 'CD-like' quality from our over-the-air broadcasts, free from the noise and interference that often plagues our modest signal. Traditional analog FM receivers will not be impacted by the addition of HD Radio -- it is 'invisible' unless one has a receiver capable of decoding the digital modulation.Pretty cool, huh? Good Gawd, I've been waiting for this since the day I set foot into KCSN. I miss having the ability to broadcast to the entirety of the Los Angeles area (one of the only things I miss from my ten years at that other radio station, next to my old colleagues), and not having listeners on the Westside and in Hollywood, etc. I'll be very glad to have those folks tuning again.
KCSN is the home of truly eclectic radio for music lovers in Los Angeles. Our broadcast schedule consists almost entirely of music programming, featuring classical, opera, bluegrass, classic and alternative country, blues, R&B, roots, Americana, Latin, folk, traditional, Louisiana and Irish, jazz, swing, film scores and soundtracks, Broadway, cocktail and lounge, surf, New Age, alternative rock and hip-hop, as well as shows devoted to The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and 1960s and '70s British Invasion rock. There's something for almost everybody.
We also feature KCSN's multiple award-winning student-produced news program "Evening Update" plus arts, cultural and public affairs programming weeknights from 6-7pm, and the BBC World Service from 2-6am weekdays, 3-6am weekends.
For public radio listeners (especially those on the Westside) ... we offer a lot of music that you just don't hear on KCRW or KPCC anymore. Those of you who were fans of shows past on those stations will be happy to find programmer/DJs like Ann the Raven, John Minnicucci, Kat Griffin, Betto Arcos (formerly of KPFK), "Cowboy Nick" Stahl (formerly of KXLU) ... oh, and lil' ol' me. (Okay, I will allow myself to toot my own horn every now and again.)
You can already hear us worldwide via our live audio stream in both dialup and broadband flavors. Now ... get ready to set 88.5 on your car stereo presets, if you're an L.A. resident. Within the next two weeks (or so, pending successful testing).
We're coming ...
Prints for sale! G. Harvey, American Impressionist. Warning! Shameless hucksterism alert!
Wes has some rare, out-of-print art prints by American impressionist and Western artist G. Harvey for sale. A little bio:
Gerald Harvey Jones, the celebrated impressionist, better known to his peers and patrons as G. Harvey, is a modest man whose humility belies his unqualified success.If you or someone you know is already a Harvey fan, or would be interested in Western art and in Harvey's style of impressionism and use of light, then you're in for a rare treat. These images are special editions and have been unavailable for years. Visit the eBay store to learn more.
His original paintings and bronze sculptures are in collections of major corporations, prestigious museums, the United States Government, American presidents, governors, foreign leaders, and captains of industry. He has been the recipient of innumerable awards and the subject of three books.
G. Harvey grew up in the rugged hills north of San Antonio, Texas, and graduated cum laude from North Texas State University. He began painting full-time in 1963 and just two years later won acclaim for his first show, The Grand National Exhibition in New York, and for winning the New Master's Award from the American Artists' Professional League.
Since then, Harvey's art has intrigued and captivated a generation. His skilled use of light in dramatic settings, his considerable talent and persistent quest for perfection have placed him and his work at the forefront of late twentieth century American art.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled weblog.
New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line Okay, I'm shamelessly huckstering again. This time, though, it's on behalf of an old friend and might well be of interest to residents and fans of the Crescent City.
Ed Branley, whom I virtually got to know way back in the olden days when he ran the New Orleans Mailing List, has a new book out about the history of the Canal St. streetcar line. This is very cool, given that the streetcars are a living, working symbol of the city's history, and that new streetcar lines along historical routes are under reconstruction. Check it out, and if you buy one tell him I sent ya.
So long, and thanks for all the glassware. On the heels of Wednesdays article and post about Riedel glassware vs. upstart Spiegelau, we sadly note that Claus Josef Riedel, the glassmaker who developed Riedel's first line of stemware tailored to different wine varietals, has died at age 79.
During his tenure at his family's company, Claus Riedel pioneered the application of the "form follows function" concept to wineglasses, which historically had been designed with aesthetics in mind. "He changed stemware from traditional, colored, cut glass to plain, thin-blown, long-stemmed beautiful wineglasses," said his grandson, Maximilian Riedel, who is executive vice president of Riedel Crystal U.S.A.Keep up the word work, Riedels. (It'd be nice, though, if your glassware were a little more difficult to shatter; I'm both eager and terrified to drop the big bucks on some of those Sommelier glasses.)
In 1957, Claus began experimenting with different shapes and sizes of stemware, and discovered that the aroma and taste of a particular wine could be altered -- and deliberately enhanced -- by the design of the glass. A year later, he released the Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru stem, a 37-ounce whopper of a glass, which was jokingly referred to as the "goldfish bowl." It is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
That design became the first in Riedel's Sommelier collection, which hit the market in 1973 and consisted of 10 different glass shapes, each fashioned to enhance a particular varietal. Although initially greeted with some skepticism, the collection has since grown to include 31 styles and is widely used by wine connoisseurs and professionals in the wine industry.
Umm, good luck on that one, Karol. The Pope said that Sundays should be reserved for God, and not for "secular diversions like entertainment and sports." This will quite probably leap to the top of the most-ignored Catholic admonitions list, disloging even the hoary old chestnut, "no putting that little rubber thing on the end of your willy."
I think there's plenty of room on Sundays for both worship services and watching a football game or going to the cinema. People work hard during the week, some of them working six-day weeks, and the weekend is important to sanity (I'd be in a rubber bedroom without my weekends, believe me). I don't believe God intended everyone to spend every minute of their spare time on their knees.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
The Cocktailian. The Professor indulges a Southern belle with a drink reminiscent of her cruise ship quaffs. It might look ladylike, but with 2.5 ounces of Cognac it's liable to knock any delicate flower of a Southern Woman (or man, for that matter) on her keister.
Nat Decants: A multitude of Zins. Gawd bless her, she can pun, too. The consistently excellent (and our new weekly obsession) Natalie Maclean newsletter has hit our inboxes for the week, and I couldn't be more delighted. I'm a Zinfandel fanatic, and I can't get my hands on enough of them. (I'm talking about proper red Zinfandel, of course ... not that horrid, poxy white zin.)
Nat talks about the "R" zins -- Ravenswood, Ridge, Rosenblum, Rafanelli and Rochioli as being some of the big ones, but don't forget another favorite: Renwood. Mmmmm.
I'm still stunned by the Edmeades 2001 Zeni Vineyards Zinfandel we picked up a while back, at a stunning 17.1% ABV. The guys at Chronicle Wine Cellar in Pasadena (one of our favorite wine shops) said, "Better be sitting down when you drink this one ... It'll knock you on your butt." Indeed. Huge, jammy cherry, berry and spice, and a feeling that you're almost drinking a nice big ruby Port rather than a California Zin. And of course, when we finished the bottle we fled to find more ... and of course, there isn't any more. The whole supply seems to be sold out. Ah well. We've still got a Ciapusci Vineyards and a Late Harvest Zin from them in that year. Plus, we found some of their regular Mendocino Zin still available. If you can find that Zeni Vineyards stuff, though ... get it now. It ran us about $18 a bottle.
Aw, that prez'nit, he funny! George W. Bush publicly mocked 585 dead and over 3,000 wounded American soldiers last night.
Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses. There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.That prez'nit, he funny. (Not. At all.)
Quel surprise. (Via Wes.) "As we thought, suspected, believed, knew all along, the White House of course knew the actual cost projections on the Medicare bill, but suppressed them until after the bill had passed."
The chief Medicare actuary, Richard S. Foster, told Congress on Wednesday that last June he provided the White House with data indicating that prescription drug legislation would cost 25 percent to 50 percent more than the Bush administration's public estimates. That information did not make its way to Congress for six more months.Oh, but he's such a strong and steady leader, we have to re-elect him! (Shite.)
Mr. Foster said he had shared his cost estimates with Doug Badger, the president's special assistant for health policy, and with James C. Capretta, associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. But he said that Thomas A. Scully, who was then administrator of the Medicare program, directed him to withhold the information from Congress, citing orders from the White House in one instance.
Quote of the day. "In the 15 hours of testimony, no one asked me what I thought about the president's invasion of Iraq. And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president of the United States is because by invading Iraq... the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."
-- Richard Clarke, testifying before the 9/11 Commission, March 24, 2004.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Cocktail of the day. Yes, it's newish, but not particularly new, having been based on another cocktail with only the base spirit and proportions changed, and it's very similar to three cocktails found in CocktailDB.
A while back a cocktailian and longtime reader sent in a recipe that I'd never seen anywhere else, but which he said was the preferred cocktail of Rat Packer Peter Lawford, who'd talk Vegas bartenders through it. I love finding stuff like this, and the drink, called the "Preview", was pretty darn good. I substituted Irish whiskey for the gin, brought the liqueur proportion down and thought of a perfect name. As for those other cocktails with similar ingredients ... well, they'd be far more difficult to talk a bartender through these days due to general lack of some of the ingredients, plus I think that anyone who garnishes an Irish whiskey-and-liqueur-based cocktail with an olive is a mad feckin' eejit.
This drink isn't terribly sophisticated in flavor, but is actually quite nice and might be a way for people who find Irish whiskey to be a bit pungent to enjoy it in a lovely drink. Let's raise our glasses to Van the Man ...
St. Dominic's PreviewYeah, it's a long way to Buffalo, and a long long way to Belfast city too ...
2 ounces Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.
1/2 ounce Cointreau or orange curaçao.
Few dashes Herbsaint, Pernod or other pastis.
Shake a few dashes of pastis into a cocktail glass, then swirl around to coat. Pour most of it out, leaving a little puddle of it in the bottom of the glass. Combine the whiskey and liqueur in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, stir for no less than 30 seconds and strain into the coated glass. Twist the peel over the drink and garnish with the peel.
Glass warfare. Riedel stemware, long at the top of the heap, is facing a little competition these days. I love Riedel myself -- we've got several of them, including the finest cocktail glasses I've ever owned -- and the wine really is better from a high-quality glass with no lip and a properly-shaped bowl. But they're expensive, and they're fragile; restaurants are finding that 100% of their inventory ends up in shards. In comes Spiegelau, who also make fine wine glasses, but ones that are cheaper and sturdier. Does it really make a difference? Only your nose and tongue can tell ...
Questioning Rummy. Gail Sheehy's column in the current New York Observer is about for 9/11 widows, their quest to have the right questions asked by the 9/11 Commission, and their grumbling over Donald Rumsfeld's lame performance yesterday:
They were not especially impressed with his testimony. In Mr. Rumsfeld's opening statement, he said he knew of no intelligence in the months leading up to Sept. 11 indicating that terrorists intended to hijack commercial airplanes and fly them into the Pentagon or the World Trade Center.Here's what the American people need to say to Rumsfeld and his bosses this November: "You're fired."
It was his worst moment at the mike. Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste ran through a list of at least a dozen cases of foiled plots using commercial airliners to attack key targets in the U.S. and elsewhere. Mr. Ben-Veniste cited the "Bojinka" plot in 1995, which envisioned blowing up Western commercial planes in Asia; that plot was foiled by the government and must have been on the mind of C.I.A. director George Tenet, who was having weekly lunches with Mr. Rumsfeld through 2001. In 1998, an Al Qaeda-connected group talked about flying a commercial plane into the World Trade Center.
"So when we had this threatened strike that something huge was going to happen, why didn't D.O.D. alert people on the ground of a potential jihadist hijacking? Why didn't it ever get to an actionable level?" the commissioner asked.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he only remembered hearing threats of a private aircraft being used. "The decision to fly a commercial aircraft was not known to me."
Mr. Ben-Veniste came back at him: "We knew from the Millennium plot [to blow up Los Angeles International Airport] that Al Qaeda was trying to bomb an American airport," he said. The Clinton administration foiled that plot and thought every day about foiling terrorism, he said. "But as we get into 2001, it was like everyone was looking at the white truck from the sniper attacks and not looking in the right direction. Nobody did a thing about it."
Mr. Rumsfeld backed off with the lame excuse, "I should say I didn't know."
He said that on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he was "hosting a meeting for some of the members of Congress."
"Ironically, in the course of the conversation, I stressed how important it was for our country to be adequately prepared for the unexpected," he said.
It is still incredible to the moms that their Secretary of Defense continued to sit in his private dining room at the Pentagon while their husbands were being incinerated in the towers of the World Trade Center. They know this from an account posted on Sept. 11 on the Web site of Christopher Cox, a Republican Congressman from Orange County who is chairman of the House Policy Committee.
"Ironically," Mr. Cox wrote, "just moments before the Department of Defense was hit by a suicide hijacker, Secretary Rumsfeld was describing to me why I Congress has got to give the President the tools he needs to move forward with a defense of America against ballistic missiles."
At that point, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Secret Service, the F.A.A., NORAD (our North American air-defense system), American Airlines and United Airlines, among others, knew that at least three planes had been violently hijacked, their transponders turned off, and that thousands of American citizens had been annihilated in the World Trade Center by Middle Eastern terrorists, some of whom had been under surveillance by the F.B.I. Yet the nation's defense chief didn't think it significant enough to interrupt his political pitch to a key Republican in Congress to reactivate the Star Wars initiative of the Bush I years. (Emphasis added)
Richard Clarke terrorizes the White House. Excellent interview in Salon with the former national counter-terrorism coordinator, in which he back at the Bush administration, blasting its "big lie" strategy and "attack dog" Dick Cheney.
"Out of the loop"? He was the loop.
Why we'll never know. Because what Bush knew is contained in the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs), prepared for him by the CIA amidst claims of extreme sensitivity, even though more than 40% of what's contained in them comes straight out of headline news.
In order to find out, the pertinent PDBs leading up to 9/11 need to be declassified (with sensitive information, such as individual sources, etc., blacked out). However, as Thomas Blanton points out in Slate, "Releasing the PDBs would tell us what Dubya knew and when he knew it. That's the real reason you won't see them anytime soon."
Yadda yadda yadda, huh? Yesterday's piece from Billmon was one of the finest pieces of weblog writing I've read in ages. Don't miss it.
Before it gets completely lost in the Clarke-o-mania, I just wanted to repost something that Terry Holt, the chief spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign was quoted saying in the Washington Post today:I have a dream ... Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaims her support for same-sex marriage, calling it a civil rights issue.
"John Kerry's campaign seems to be summed up this way: I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president."Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I know nothing about Terry Holt. I don't know whether he ever served in the military, or whether he was even old enough to have served in Vietnam. But I thought it was a very revealing quote -- a kind of political Freudian slip, so to speak. Because it revealed the degree to which the Republicans no longer feel it necessary to pander to (or even show much respect for) those who served in Vietnam.
This is a big change from back in the day -- my day, the early '80s, when I first came to Washington. Then the war was still a fresh wound, and the Republicans were gouging it for all it was worth. Fawning over the vets (rhetorically at least), and attacking the left's supposed contempt for them, proved an incredibly effective tactic for the New Right. It allowed them to attack liberals for opposing the war without, at least initially, defending the war itself -- which was still very unpopular.
I have a dream that we will one day live in a nation where people will be not be judged by whom they love, but rather by the content of their character ...
[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
White House response. Wes sent me an article from this morning's Washington Post about how the White House is stumbling over itself to counter Richard Clarke's insider reports of the Bush administration's lack of responsiveness to mounting terrorism threats. So far, they haven't come up with much; if "This is Dick Clarke's 'American grandstand'" is the best they can do, they may well be in very deep water indeed.
Wes adds, "Be sure to note, if you haven't already, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's stern observation: 'This is a serious book written by a serious professional who's made serious charges, and the White House must respond to these charges' [rather than merely question his credibilty]. Much more reasonable than any of McClellan's ridiculous statements, particularly his lame, embarrassing attempt to connect Clarke's book to Kerry's campaign. And suddenly Condi Rice is making appearances on all five of the major morning shows? Methinks the lady doth protest too much." Indeed.
Incidentally, responding to the charges should mean something more substantial than a stupid American Bandstand pun, or quickly disprovable claims that Clarke, a thirty-year civil servant under Republican presidents as well as Democratic ones and the national coordinator for counter-terrorism activities, was "out of the loop" (or, as Kos put it, "the administration is reduced to calling in Rush Limbaugh to plead their case. Cheney [said] our top counter-terrorism official was 'out of the loop' on terrorism matters. And that's their defense!)" Clarke sounds mighty credible to me, particularly in light of all these non-denial denials.
Clarke testifies before the 9/11 Commission tomorrow. I can hardly wait. (Billmon's right, though -- after tomorrow, the squealing from the right-wing stuck pigs is going to be deafening. That's okay; I've got good earplugs.)
Here we go loop de loo, here we go loop de lie ... Speaking of Billmon, he had a brilliant and highly amusing post yesterday, blending fact and speculation, about the serious problems that BushCo seem to have with their loopage:
Faith-Based Aide's Charges DeniedLet us pray. (I'll have to be talked into supporting a pardon, though.)
WASHINGTON, January 21, 2003 -- Bush administration officials today denied allegations that the White House lacks a coherent policy-making process and is dominated by a small clique of conservatives aides known as the "Mayberry Machiavellis."
The charges, reported in the current issue of Esquire magazine, were made by John DiIulio, Bush's former top advisor on faith-based initiatives. However, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said DiIulio was "not in the loop."
* * *White House Denies O'Neill's Charges on Iraq
WASHINGTON, January 14, 2004 -- Bush administration officials today criticized comments from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who claimed in a recent 60 Minutes interview that President Bush and his top aides began planning for an invasion of Iraq within days of taking office.
O'Neill was "not in the loop," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
* * *Cheney: Clarke's Charges Not Credible
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2004 -- White House officials reacted with anger today to charges by President Bush's former top counter-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, that the president has badly bungled the war on terrorism.
Clarke, who blasted the Bush administration in a 60 Minutes interview Sunday, "wasn't in the loop," Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview Monday with radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
* * *Former President Under Fire After Interview
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2007 -- Top aides to former President Bush reacted with scorn to his claim that he was manipulated by top administration officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, into invading Iraq.
In an emotional 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Bush blamed the disastrous war (now in its fourth year) on a small cabel of neo-conservative officials, who played upon his ignorance of world affairs and his obsessive desire to destroy the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Former administration officials derided Bush's claim, saying the former president was in an alcoholic stupor through most of the period in question, and couldn't possibly have detailed knowledge of the key decisions that led to war. "He was out of the loop," said former Vice President Dick Cheney, currently serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for his role in the Carlyle Group scandal.
President Kerry pardoned Bush for his role in the affair last year.
Sloganeering. Last Friday on that Santa Monica station's program "Left, Right and Center", host Matt Miller read off some wonderful campaign slogans he'd collected that'd be entirely appropriate for the Bush/Cheney campaign and their bumperstickers. Here they are, plus a few more I've picked up:
Bush/Cheney '04: Four more wars!I like that last one particularly.
Bush/Cheney '04: Don't change horsemen mid-apocalypse.
Bush/Cheney '04: Malice in Blunderland!
Bush/Cheney '04: Because the truth just isn't good enough.
Bush/Cheney '04: Compassionate colonialism.
Bush/Cheney '04: Putting the "con" in conservatism
Bush/Cheney '04: This time, elect us!
[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, March 22, 2004
My, how time flies. Months ago I had thought about mentioning this in January, and now January has come and gone, as has February and about a third of March. Wes is right, I have absolutely no sense of time passing. Sometimes I can make a minute last for what seems like an hour, then I'll get engrossed in something and hours or days whoosh by.
Anyway, it occurred to me that after putting a list of my radio show playlists in an FTP directory on my old Netcom shell account starting back in October of 1993, and then reading all about Mosaic (remember that?) and simple HTML and things like that, and then getting tired of having to constantly write down and then later on keep printing out my Creole food recipes and list of recommended New Orleans restaurants, I decided that a web site was what I needed. The exact date is obscure, but I put my first web page up sometime in mid-January of 1994 and named it after my then-radio show ... and so was born The Gumbo Pages (which, before long, had this neatonifty logo designed for me by my pal Lee Williamson, followed by the color-tweaked version).
That makes this site ten years old now, which is eons in Internet time. I'm flabbergasted that it's lasted this long, and still going strong, due in no small part to this weblog (and to my fairly high rankings in Google; when you're around this long, people have had lots of time to link to you). In fact, thanks also to Google and their AdSense program, the site's actually making money for me now, for the first time ever.
For all you web paleontologists: Unfortunately I didn't save any mirrors of what the site looked like back when its URL was the horribly unwieldy "ftp://ftp.netcom.com/pub/ea/eamon/welcome.html", although there is a screenshot of the old image back in a (presumably) out-of-print book called Food and Wine Online, by the late Chef Gary Holleman. The oldest version that's still in the Wayback Machine is from March 29, 1997, which is still interesting-looking for its très early-to-mid-1990s look.
So anyway, thanks for the ten years, y'all. Feel free to break out into a chorus of that "Happy Anniversary" song from "The Flintstones". Let's see what happens after another ten. (Jeez, I'll be in my fifties then. Let's not think about that, actually ...)
The Christy Moore Box Set is out! Okay, fans of Irish music ... this is a big one. I've been waiting for this for at least three years, and longer to hear some of these songs that I'd either heard only in concert or only heard about. Christy Moore is one of the biggest names in Irish music, both as a solo artist and as a member of Planxty and Moving Hearts. His long-awaited box set has finally hit the stores in Ireland -- six CDs, price ranging from €49-55, and officially titled, THE BOX SET: 1964-2004. 101 Songs taken from outtakes, b-sides and sleepless nights, from rehearsals, live takes, and deleted recordings.
It's unlikely to make it over here except as an import, but if you want it now, you can order it directly from Christy or ... I suspect you'll get a better price if you order it from my friend Mike Larkin at Mulligan Records in Galway city. Drop him a note at mulligan AT indigo DOT ie, and tell him I sent you.
My friend Paul is picking it up for me in Galway this week, then posting it to me this weekend when he's in New York. I should have a full report not long after. He's also kindly provided a song list, for ye fanatics like me:
Disc 1: Yellow Triangle, Dunnes Stores, They Never Came Home, Nuke Power, Who Cares?, Mullaghmore, Hey! Ronnie Reagan, St. Patrick's Night in San Fernando, Tim Evans, Goose Green (Taking tea with Pinochet), In Zurich, The Powdered Milk Brigade, Folk Tale, The Two Conneeleys, Don't Forget Your Shovel, Quiet Desperation.Ehh, feckin' Amazon.uk didn't have the listings for the sixth disc, and Christy's site isn't caught up yet with the discography. Ah well, that's certainly enough to keep one drooling with anticipation until it arrives!
Disc 2: January Man, Poor Old Earth, Tippin' it up, Poitín, 1945, Little Musgrave, Johnny Jump Up, Radcliffe Highway, John O'Dreams, Cold Blow, The Raggle Taggle Gypsy, El Salvador, Jack Doyle, Joxer (Original), Lawless.
Disc 3: Different Love Song, Changes, Ballindine, Anne Lovett, Dalesman's Litany, Farewell to Pripchat, The Lakes of Pontchartrain, Cricklewood, Strangeways, Wise and Holy Woman, Veronica, Cry Like a Man, Viva La Quinte Brigada, The Auld Triangle, Brown Eyes (for Joe Sheeran), Johnny Connors.
Disc 4: Lay with Me, This is the Day, Among the Wicklow Hills, Aisling, Grey Lake of Loughrea, All I Remember, Someone to Love, Trip to Carnsore, Danny Boy (Derrylondon Air), Ships in the Forest, 100 Miles from Home, Smoke and Strong Whiskey, The Way Pierce Turner Sings, The Hamburg Medley, Tyrone Boys.
Disc 5: Hey Paddy, On the Blanket, Southern Winds, Don't Hand Me Over, Shoot Out The Streetlights, The Bridge of Killaloe (Scariff Martyrs), North and South, At the G.P.O. 1980, 90 Miles to Dublin, Wicklow Boy, Ballinamore, At the Rialto in Derry: January 1993, Armagh Women, On The Bridge, Scapegoats, They Fouled the Ball Daddy, No Time For Love, On a Single Day.
Let the music keep your spirits high...
Cocktail Q&A this week. Ardent spirits and noted cocktail and spirits authors Mardee and Gary Regan will be answering questions all week long on eGullet; just follow the link, click on "Forums" and it'll lead you right to them.
What wasn't done, and what was. I'm sorry I missed 60 Minutes on Sunday; apparently it was a good one. Former U.S. counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke was on, and among other things provided a timeline of Bush administration counter-terrorism activity before September 11, which Uggabugga kindly graphed for us. Here's a text version:
Jan. 24, 2001 -- Four days after the Bush inauguration: Clarke sends memo to Condoleeza Rice urgently requesting a cabinet-level meeting to deal with al Qaeda. Wasn't acted upon.Hm.
Three months go by.
April 2001: Meeting without the president or cabinet. Was with the number twos in each relevant department.
Two months go by.
June 2001: Still no cabinet level meeting. U.S. intelligence was picking up an unprecedented level of ominous chatter. The CIA Director warned the White House.
Three months go by, including a month-long Bush vacation from early August until early September at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
September 4, 2001: Cabinet level meeting. Clarke proposed a plan to bomb al Qaeda sanctuaries in Afghanistan and to kill Osama bin Laden.
September 11, 2001: World Trade Center destroyed, Pentagon attacked.
Further news, via Atrios:
The Center for American Progress today released a series of internal government documents showing how the Bush Administration tried to cut and deprioritize counterterrorism in the lead up to September 11 -- and after. The cuts came even as the Administration was receiving more and more warnings about an imminent Al Qaeda attack.Hm.
The documents, from the FBI, OMB and Justice Department, confirms the picture counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke painted last night on CBS' 60 Minutes. The documents can be found online here.
Headline of the day. From Reuters, via MeFi:
Zombies Push Jesus from Top of North American Box OfficeIncidentally, we saw "Dawn of the Dead" yesterday, and thought it was terrific.
The combined might of Jesus and Mel Gibson was no match for a plague of ravenous zombies at the weekend box office in North America. "Dawn of the Dead," a remake of George Romero's 1978 cult horror, grabbed the No. 1 slot in its first weekend by selling a better-than-expected $27.3 million worth of tickets, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday...
[ Link to today's entries ]
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Quotes of the day. Via MetaFilter:
It was so cool, I always accepted that "Yeah, they're my moms," but they were actually getting married. I felt thick inside with happiness. Just thick.From the New York Times article 'For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy.'
-- Gabriel Damast, age 13.
It is something I always wanted. I've always been around people saying, 'Oh, my parents' anniversary is this week.' It's always been the sight of two parents, married, with rings. And knowing I'd probably never experience it ever. The atmosphere was just springing with life, I just couldn't hold myself in. It was oh my god oh my god oh my god. I felt so happy I wanted to scream.
Alex Morris, age 11
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, March 19, 2004
Happy feckin' anniversary. Here's today's editorial in the New York Times. Read and think.
One year ago, President Bush began the war in Iraq. Most Americans expected military victory to come quickly, as it did. Despite the administration's optimism about what would follow, it was also easy to predict that the period after the fall of Baghdad would be very messy and very dangerous. In that sense, right now we're exactly where we expected to be.Yes, it's good that Saddam is in jail and that Iraq has a new constitution. However, "the end justifies the means" was the policy of Lenin and Stalin, and shouldn't be the policy of this country.
It's nonetheless important to remember that none of this might have happened if we had known then what we know now. No matter what the president believed about the long-term threat posed by Saddam Hussein, he would have had a much harder time selling this war of choice to the American people if they had known that the Iraqi dictator had been reduced to a toothless tiger by the first Persian Gulf war and by United Nations weapons inspectors. Iraq's weapons programs had been shut down, Mr. Hussein had no threatening weapons stockpiled, the administration was exaggerating evidence about them, and there was, and is, no evidence that Mr. Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
In the short run, the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of its leader have done virtually nothing to stop terrorism...
Cocktail of the day. Today's weigh-in came in at 176 (whoo, 22 pounds down!); I seem to have settled in comfortably to the two-pounds-per-week safe weight loss rate. Tonight my points reset, and I want a drink when I get home. I want a nice, big, pungent, spicy rye, but I do want it tempered with a little bit of sweetness.
As ever, CocktailDB came to my rescue with an interesting idea. I like cocktails with a good apricot brandy (I use Marie Brizard Apry), and instead of curaçao I'll use Cointreau, as it's somewhat drier. It tasted good in my head when I did a mental mix; tonight we'll see how it really tastes.
Evans CocktailI'll have to see whether or not this cries out for a a dash of bitters of some kind, but my gut tells me it does. Although I know it wasn't named for him, in my head I name this cocktail for my old high school classmate Randy Evans, who has run for Louisiana State Senate several times but unfortunately never won. As a self-described "social progressive and fiscal conservative", he might well be the only Republican I'd ever consider voting for, given the opportunity. :-)
2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/4 ounce apricot brandy.
1/4 ounce orange curaçao or Cointreau.
Stir and strain, garnish with a stemless cherry.
Mother-in-Law hits the big time! Excellent news! For the first time that we know of, the Mother-in-Law Cocktail (which I was proud to have had a hand in resurrecting) has ended up on a bar menu. Not just any bar menu, either; it's the rather tony-looking Match Bar, with three locations in swingin' London, England. Go to their site, click on "Drinks Menu" and it's on page 10, under the category "New, stupid, expensive, complicated or just plain dangerous." (Heh.) They give its brief history and describe it as "basically ... made with lots of bourbon and other delicious and invigorating potions and elixirs" and sell it for £10. Whoo! Congratulations, Brooks! And thanks a million to Doc and to Dale DeGroff (who helped the Match Bar create their menu) for all their help in spreading the word.
Essential new cocktail books. For a good while now, copies of the long out-of-print books The Stork Club Bar Book and The Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book have commanded prices high enough to give one an aneurysm at the mere thought. Now there are some very spiff (and very affordable) reproductions available from New Day Publishing. $26.99 each, or there's still apparently a "holiday special" where you can get both of 'em for $50. I just sent my order off, and highly recommend you do the same if you have an interest in classic cocktails.
The crumbling foundation. Further cracks in the "Coalition of the Willing" seem to be appearing, now from the president of Poland.
The Associated Press reports that Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski -- a strong White House ally -- now says he was "misled" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before the war. Poland, which has about 2,400 troops in Iraq, has been touted by President Bush for its leadership, and the Administration has repeatedly cited Poland as one of the key allies in Iraq.This reminds me of a snippet of a lyric to a Paul Brady song I was listening to yesterday, called "Nothing But The Same Old Story." The subject matter is unrelated to the matter at hand -- Paul's song is about Irish emigration in the late 1960s and early '70s to a hostile and prejudiced Britain -- but this passage makes me think of some of the comments that have popped up in here of late:
Kwasniewski told a small group of European reporters, "I feel uncomfortable [about Iraq] due to the fact that we were misled with the information on weapons of mass destruction." The remarks come just a few days after the House Government Reform Committee released a comprehensive database of "237 specific misleading statements" before the war about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq.
I'm sick of watching them break upAh yeah, it's nothing but the same old story.
Every time some birdbrain puts us down
Making jokes on the radio
I guess it helps them all drown out the sound of the crumbling foundation
Any fool can see the writing on the wall
But they just don't believe that it's happening.
Nothing But The Same Old Story. By the way, that song I mentioned above is fantastic. I'm a huge Paul Brady fan; he's an amazing songwriter and singer. In my not-so-humble opinion, the finest version of this song is on the soundtrack to the BBC Northern Ireland/RTÉ miniseries "Bringing It All Back Home", about the Irish music diaspora, where it went, what influences it both left and picked up, and how it all came back home. This version of Paul's song is acoustic, just himself on guitar and vocals and the ever-amazing Irish music wizard Dónal Lunny (Planxty, The Bothy Band, Moving Hearts and about a million other groups and projects) on bouzouki. It's one of those scalp-tingler songs I keep talking about.
The series was wonderful (unfortunately, only a "condensed" version is available on Region 2 DVD, and I understand the quality isn't good). The soundtrack album, a 2-CD set, is essential, however. Mary Black, Dolores Keane and Emmylou Harris singing "Sonny" together. The Everly Brothers, doing an old Irish balled called "Rose Connolly" that made its way to Appalachia, accompanied by Liam O'Flynn on the pipes. Ricky Skaggs, along with a bluegrass band from Spiddal, Co. Galway. Need I go on? Get this record!
Iraq's horrid, treasonous constitution. A pithy quote has been going around in email; I don't know who wrote it (it's likely that many people thought of it more or less simultaneously), but Steve sent it in email this morning: "They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and hell, we're not using it anymore.
No, that's not necessary ... apparently Iraq already has a new constitution. And good lord, what group of America-hating traitors wrote this document? You'd think it was a bunch of Democrats or progressives, or something, as Jack Balkin points out. Some excerpts:
Article 14.Psst. Hey, Iraq! Can we borrow your new Constitution for a while? We'll give it right back, we promise.
The individual has the right to security, education, health care, and social security. The Iraqi State and its governmental units, including the federal government, the regions, governorates, municipalities, and local administrations, within the limits of their resources and with due regard to other vital needs, shall strive to provide prosperity and employment opportunities to the people.
Article 15 ...
(G) Every person deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall have the right of recourse to a court to determine the legality of his arrest or detention without delay and to order his release if this occurred in an illegal manner.
It shall not be permitted to possess, bear, buy, or sell arms except on licensure issued in accordance with the law.
The enumeration of the foregoing rights must not be interpreted to mean that they are the only rights enjoyed by the Iraqi people... They enjoy all the rights that befit a free people possessed of their human dignity, including the rights stipulated in international treaties and agreements, other instruments of international law that Iraq has signed and to which it has acceded, and others that are deemed binding upon it, and in the law of nations. Non-Iraqis within Iraq shall enjoy all human rights not inconsistent with their status as non-citizens.
Interesting developments in Spain. Via Atrios: Kevin Drum informs us that Spain's Aznar government wasn't only misleading the people and the press, they also misled the German federal investigative bureau in an attempt to maintain their story that the bombings were carried out by ETA, despite massive evidence to the contrary.
Germany was reminded of this last weekend. Its federal criminal bureau said the Spanish authorities intentionally withheld information and misled German officials over the explosives used in the Madrid bombings. The Spanish conservative government had insisted the Goma 2 Eco dynamite for the explosives had been frequently used by Eta, the Basque separatist movement. On Monday, it admitted that was not the case.As Atrios asked, could someone in the right wing explain how "impeding an investigation of a massive terrorist attack is, actually, being strong on terrorism. Who are the real appeasers?"
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
Tonight on "Down Home". My Umpteenth Annual St. Patrick's Day All-Irish Extravaganza, featuring Liam O'Flynn and Séamus Heaney, Mozaik, Dervish, De Dannan, The Bothy Band, sean-nós singer Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola, Patrick Street, Planxty, Brendan Ring, Skara Brae, Kíla, Willie Clancy, Séamus Ennis, and whatever else I have time for.
88.5 FM, KCSN, 7:00 to 9:00pm Pacific Time (9 Central, 10 Eastern, 0300am 19 Mar GMT), as always streaming worldwide via our web site.
I feel a draft coming on ... More about what I posted last November regarding the quiet revival of local draft boards. Has anybody else heard about these developments? This is very worrisome. (From Dave, via email)
There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so [that a military] draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed NOW, while the public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately. Details and links follow.I'm hoping this'll go away once Kerry's elected (but I don't trust the Democrats on this issue either; Carter is the one who revived Selective Service after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and Charles Rangell is the one who's all gung-ho behind this bill in Congress). Remember what happened to this country the last time draftees were sent to fight a mistaken, immoral war? (I'll bet Sen. Kerry does, which makes me distrust him on this issue a bit less.) If you oppose it (as I do), write and telephone your Senators and Representatives today.
Even those voters who currently support U.S. actions abroad may still object to this move, knowing their own children or grandchildren will not have a say about whether to fight.
(Not that it should make a difference, but this plan, among other things, eliminates higher education as a shelter and includes women in the draft -- also crossing into Canada has already been made very difficult.)
ACTIONS, ACTIONS, ACTIONS:
Please send this on to all the parents and teachers you know, and all the aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents.... And let your children know -- it's their future, and they can be a powerful voice for change!
Please also write to your representatives to ask them why they aren't telling their constituents about these bills -- and write to newspapers and other media outlets to ask them why they're not covering this important story.
$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. SSS must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation.
Please see website: http://www.sss.gov/perfplan_fy2004.html to view the SSS Annual Performance Plan - Fiscal Year 2004.
The Pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of Congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan [and a permanent state of war on "terrorism"] proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft. www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5146.htm
Congress brought twin bills, S. 89 and H.R. 163 forward this year, entitled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, "To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons [age 18-26] in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes."
These active bills currently sit in the Committee on Armed Services. Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam era remember. College and Canada will not be options. In December 2001, Canada and the US signed a "Smart Border Declaration," which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Manley, and US Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan which implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter.
Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year.
For more information about the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee visit our website at: www.nlg.org.
Noted bumpersticker(s) of the day. I saw something very interesting yesterday as I was driving to work.
As I was slogging along in a molasses-drenched crawl of L.A. traffic, I noticed a pickup truck that was parked to my right. It looked like a typical good ol' boy pickup truck, and prominently placed in the back window was a well-weathered sticker that said "BUSH/CHENEY 2000".
However ... plastered above that sticker was a new sticker, placed at a dynamic, oblique angle. That sticker said, "VOTE BUSH OUT."
Isn't that interesting?
Also interesting ... Who are some of the big names speaking out against the Bush tax cuts? Why, some of America's wealthiest billionaires, that's who. Seems to me you don't get that rich without understanding a little bit about how to handle money, and they don't like what BushCo are up to.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 :: Na Féile Pádraig
Lá Fhéile Pádraig faoi shonas dhaoibh! Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's a national bank holiday in Ireland, with parades in the big cities, and it's also the day when everyone's Irish. ("Sure! Ain't ya evuh hoid o' da O'Broussards?" -- Vic Broussard, Ninth Ward, New Orleans.)
Do me a favor, though. Don't eat corned beef and cabbage, which is no more a real Irish dish than "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" is real Irish music (and in case you wondering, the latter isn't real Irish music, it's shite.) More importantly ... don't drink any green beer today. (Drink black beer.) Asking you that reminds me of an anecdote from my late mentor, teacher and friend Ian Conner when I was in gradual school. It was St. Patrick's Day, and someone mentioned he was going to go out that night and find a bar that had green beer.
"Is that what St. Patrick's Day means to you?" said Ian in full Scots burr. "That's not what St. Patrick's Day means to me. On St. Patrick's Day we'd start crawling the Irish pubs at noon, being with Irish people, and sharing the bounty of their black beer and decent whiskey until we couldn't crawl anymore." Some of us pointed out that we were pleased that Glaswegians would celebrate an Irish holiday so ardently, and Ian added, "Well, that's not exactly how my grandfather would celebrate it. He'd put orange ribbons on his clothing and march through the Catholic parts of town, shouting anti-papist slogans!" (Well, no need for that.)
Drink some Guinness lionn dubh or Murphy's fine Cork stout. Have a glass of Jameson's, or John Power's if you can find it (perhaps the best of the most well-known Irish whiskeys). Listen to Planxty or The Bothy Band, Willie Clancy or Séamus Ennis, Danú or Kíla, Dervish or Altan. Make a pot of Irish lamb stew, or find some Irish bacon and sausages and have breakfast for dinner. Most of all, be safe and don't drive if you've had any drink.
My heart's tonight in Ireland. This is one of Andy Irvine's greatest songs. I first heard it on one of his solo records, then again with Dónal Lunny in a full band version, again still when Planxty did it last month, and now there's a new one. It's one of those songs that really strikes a chord with me. Although I didn't have quite the same experiences in Clare as Andy did, not having been in a seminal Irish band at the time (Sweeney's Men, then Planxty, Patrick Street and Mozaik) and never being lucky enough to actually see Willie Clancy play, I have had some fantastic musical experiences in Clare.
Here are the words; I'm sure they'll strike a chord in you as well, if you've spent so much as a day in the County Clare. Sing along if you know it ... if not, buy one of the recorded versions, including the new Mozaik album.
In the town of Scarriff the sun was shining in the skyIf you can't find the new Mozaik album in a fine independent record emporium near you, try this link as a last resort. Who are Mozaik, you ask? Oh ...
When Willie Clancy played his pipes and the tears welled in my eyes.
Many years have passed and gone since the times we had there
But my heart's tonight in Ireland in the sweet County Clare.
(chorus) My heart tonight is far away, across the rolling sea
In the sweet Miltown Malbay, it's there I love to be.
So long ago and far away but nothing can compare;
My heart's tonight in Ireland in the sweet County Clare.
That August in Kilrush when the rain was lashing down
And our hotel was that hay barn on the outskirts of town.
We were all sick and feverish, and Dolan had the flu,
But Johnny produced some whiskey, and the sun came smiling through.
Those nights in Sixmilebridge when the songs and music flowed
And when it came to closing time, sure the lights were turned down low.
And the sergeant from Kilkishen, he would buy us all one more
And we never left that pub before the clock was striking four.
Lahinch and Ennistimon, Liscannor and Kilkee,
But best of all was Miltown, when the music flowed so free.
Willie Clancy and the County Clare, I'm ever in your debt
For the sights and sounds of yesterday are shining memories yet.
My heart tonight is far away, across the rolling sea
In the sweet Miltown Malbay, it's there I love to be.
So long ago and far away but nothing can compare,
My heart's tonight in Ireland in the sweet County Clare.
In the days of Sweeney, in the sweet County Clare.
Mozaik! A couple of years ago Andy Irvine was driving around in New South Wales, Australia, when he had The Big Idea -- get a bunch of your very favorite musicians together, tour this beautiful country and see what happens. What happened was Mozaik, a band perfectly fusing the traditions of Irish, Eastern European and American Old-Time and Appalachian music (which all have more in common than you might think). Andy recruited Dónal Lunny, his old Planxty bandmate; Bruce Molsky, one of America's finest old-time traditional musicians; Bulgarian multi-instrumentalist Nikola Parov and Dutch guitarist/mandolinist Rens Van Der Zalm, and they toured Australia ... but nowhere else!
I'd first heard mention of them from Bruce, when he was in Fiddlers 4 with Mike Doucet and Darol Anger. I was tremendously excited at the idea of this band and the prospect of hearing an album, plus hoping against hope that I'd be able to see them. Well, there's a new album due out on April 6 from Compass Records called "Live from the Powerhouse", recorded at a concert in Brisbane. My copy arrived day before yesterday, and it's brilliant. They'll be touring the States starting in Carrboro on Friday, and ending up in California next month. Unfortunately, the only places they're playing here are Folsom and Santa Cruz, which'll involve either driving for 6 hours or flying. Hell, I'll get a cheap Southwest flight to Sacramento and drive to Folsom; if I can fly 6,000 miles to see Planxty, this is nothing!
The war on empiricism. Timothy Noah in Slate writes about how nowadays information is treason, and why Bush II is worse than Reagan.
"Facts are stupid things," President Ronald Reagan said in a famous self-parodying moment. (He'd meant to say "facts are stubborn things.") At the time, a common criticism of the Reagan presidency was that the Gipper tended to ignore facts and act instead according to the dictates of ideology. Since then, sentimental revisionists have come to praise Reagan for paying facts little heed.
Although it flatters President George W. Bush to suggest he possesses anything so grand as an ideology, Dubya emulates the Reagan technique. But he's advanced it one bold step further. Rather than simply ignore information, Bush and his minions have resolved to suppress it or, better yet, to prevent it from being created in the first place. The following three examples illustrate Bush's unique contribution to the war against empiricism, which continues to escalate.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Oh, this is rich. Someone who's been getting nothing but bad press has backed down with her tail between her legs, and someone else replies by essentially raising her extended middle finger. I cheer for the latter, and enjoy schadenfreude toward the former.
KCRW PRESS RELEASEUPDATE: The Los Angeles Times Calendar section weighs in, with some comments from Sandra that didn't appear to make it into the joint press release:
For Immediate Release: March 15, 2004
For KCRW: Sarah Spitz (310) 450-5183
For Sandra Tsing Loh: Allan Mayer, Sitrick And Company (310) 788-2850
KCRW RESCINDS DISMISSAL OF SANDRA TSING LOH
SANTA MONICA, March 15, 2004
KCRW and Sandra Tsing Loh have released the following joint statement:
KCRW-FM and Sandra Tsing Loh announced today that the station has decided to reverse its decision to take Loh off the air after an indecent word was inadvertently broadcast during one of her taped commentaries. But Loh has turned down General Manager Ruth Seymour's invitation to resume "The Loh Life" on KCRW.
"When I made the decision to cancel 'The Loh Life,' I was not in possession of all the facts regarding this unfortunate incident, specifically that it had been Sandra's practice to leave instructions for her engineer to bleep out certain words, and that this practice had never before gone awry," said Seymour. "I regret having jumped to conclusions about what happened and for erroneously accusing Sandra of an 'intentional' breach of our broadcast standards."
"I appreciate the station's willingness to acknowledge that it was wrong to cancel my show as well as its invitation for me to return," Loh said. "And while I do wish KCRW well, I personally don't think I could be comfortable working there anymore."
"With the exception of Harry Shearer, who did a very funny bit on his Sunday show, not one of my friends or associates at the station contacted me with a word of condolence after I was fired," [Loh] said. "There just seemed to be this culture of fear there."Heh. (If the truth be told, I think the only actual "regret" in operation here is for all the personally-directed bad press toward General-Manager-for-Life Seymour, and the potential loss of membership income from outraged subscribers.) Go Sandra!
"I will never set foot inside KCRW's studios again... It's a personal statement of how badly I was treated. That place is toxic ground for me. Other than that, I wish them well."
Loh said she was considering offers from other NPR stations interested in airing her show.
Quote of the day. There's all this talk about the possibility of dropping Cheney from the ticket, and having Condi Rice be Shrub's new running mate. I think this is way off the mark ... it appears that Shrub's new running mate is going to be the Almighty.
"God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear."
-- George W. Bush, Los Angeles, March 3, 2004
(Reported in Slate's Bushisms)First they came for the shock jocks ... Ted Rall speaks up for Howard Stern, himself, and others.
Citing three separate FCC sources, Stern says he expects to be hit by a huge fine -- then fired. "It's over for me as a broadcaster," he said last week. "I'm checkmated. All they gotta do is fine [Infinity Broadcasting, Stern's employer] and then we're gone. And there's nothing we can do about it." On March 5, he added: "I'm guessing that sometime next week will be my last show on this station. There's a cultural war going on. The religious right is winning. We're losing."I've never been a Howard Stern fan (in fact, I can't stand him), but the timing of these actions against him stink to high heaven. Who will speak up for him, and for Ted Rall himself? And when they come for you, will there be anyone left to speak up for you?
If Clear Channel truly had a true zero tolerance policy on decency, Stern points out, it wouldn't have hired foul-mouthed right-wing Republican Michael Savage at its KPRC-AM in Houston. (Savage infamously shouted that homosexuals should "get AIDS and die" on MSNBC.) The real reason he's being attacked, Stern says, is that he dared criticize George W. Bush.
The Right is running scared. Their wars and economic schemes are revealed to be as fraudulent as their fake president, whose poll numbers are plummeting as he turns to face uncharacteristically unified Democrats. Because they have no record worth defending and no ideas anyone will believe, the new McCarthyites have only one line of defense left: censoring their opponents. The question this time is, will anyone stand up for free speech?
(Friday, February 20, 2004 :: Dublin)
Cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o. Wandering, shopping and being touristy today. After sleeping way too late (again), we headed for Christ Church Cathedral, the largest Protestant church in Ireland and an architectural treasure. Flying buttresses, stained glass go leor and beautiful details from ceiling to crypt.
We grabbed a quick takeaway lunch at a little café called The Queen of Tarts, a bit east of the Cathedral on Dame Street -- lovely ham and cheese sandwiches on brown bread with beautiful Irish butter. Hmm ... and there were spectacular looking pastries and savory tarts in the window ... this place warrants further investigation! Later on we spent a great deal of the afternoon at Trinity College, primarily in the Library and in the new Book of Kells exhibit adjacent to the spectacular Long Room. When I first visited the Library many years ago, I remember feeling a bit ripped-off; I paid my admission fee, stood in a long line and was walked past the book in the constantly-moving line, only getting to see it for about ten seconds. Now there's a wonderful exhibit on the Book, other surviving bound Gospels such as the Book of Armagh, the life and techniques of the scribes who would copy and illuminate the manuscripts, and much more. It was fascinating, and we spent a good hour in there before we even got to the Book of Kells ... and this time we got to spend as much time looking at it as we liked. Much better. Now you can even purchase your very own copy of the Book, on a rather affordable CD-ROM edition of all 340 folios, to a leather-bound, hand-painted vellum facsimile that I understand can be had for about €35,000. (A wee bit out of my price range.)
Across the street from the College, we finally met up with one of Dublin's most famous characters, the venerable Molly Malone. You know Molly -- she's the one who pushes her cart up and down the streets, and is the subject of the classic song:
In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone.
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o!"
Right, herself. Now, Dublin can't let such a famed and beloved character go without a statue being raised in her honour, and before you know it a statue of Molly went up outside Trinity. Thing was, though ... she seemed to have a bit of a plunging neckline. In fact, she's dangerously close to Janet Jackson territory, one cockle away from exposing yet another civilization-destroying nipple. Given the infamous talent of Dubliners for naming such representations, it wasn't long before beloved Molly was being referred to as ... The Tart With the Cart.
Beautiful chocolate! We fell in love in Dublin. The object of our affection? Butler's Irish Chocolate, in all its varieties, in flat bars, thick bars, filled bars, and in truffles ... and especially in hot chocolate. We'd first gotten some on the Aer Lingus flight over, and read about the sprinkling of Butler's Chocolate Cafés in our Lonely Planet World Food Ireland book. Now, here we were, on a freezing cold day ... and let me tell you, that cup of hot chocolate was just about the best I've ever had. The only thing that came close was the hot chocolate from Clementine's in Century City, Los Angeles, and that might have only seemed better because of the big homemade marshmallow plopped on top. This was thick, rich, unctuous, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, intensely chocolatey hot chocolate, at the perfect temperature, just hot enough to warm a trembling body thoroughly without scalding the tongue, cascading down and starting a nice, comforting, then gently roaring fire in the belly while filling the head with the flavor of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
We ate chocolate raspberry truffles with it, too. Despite indulgences like this, I've yet to suffer fatal overdose.
Good news for you and for me -- Butler's Irish Chocolates are available via mail order but, unfortunately, only in 500g boxes of the same flavor or variety; no mixing. Ah well. So I'll have to eat an entire half-feckin'-kilo of milk, or white, or honeycomb, or dark chocolate. Believe me, I'll survive that.
Now that's Italian! If you're looking for a good Italian meal in Dublin, look no further than Boccaccio's, at 18 Dame Street just below Temple Barf. The owners, chefs and even wait staff are all from Italy, and the dishes and service are extremely authentic, with a few Irish touches that I didn't mind one bit.
We had a lovely shared starter of Speck, smoked cured ham from the north of Italy, served with sour pickles. Wes had the house specialty, Tortellini Baccaccio; the tortellini were filled with prosciutto di Parma and Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese and bathed in a tomato-cream sauce with Irish baacon, peas and mushrooms. Spectacular! When Wes ordered this, the waiter smiled with genine glee and nodded his head saying, "Ooh, are you going to enjoy!" They also offered what's just about my favourite pasta dish, Penne all'Amatriciana (although my absolute favorite is to have this dish with bucatini rather than penne), so that was a no-brainer for me. I doubted they'd have actual guanciale in this dish, so I asked if it was that or pancetta, and he said, "Yeah, like pancetta." What they brought was an Amatriciana made with ... smokey Irish bacon. It worked beautifully! Again, a nice local touch that works perfectly with an established classic from a foreign cuisine. Expect no complaints from me on this one ... I'll eat all the Irish bacon I can get my hands on.
No dessert, as we were headed for cocktail-land for dessert, but the waiter wouldn't hear of it -- we were each given an ice-cold glass of Limoncello, compliments of the house.
Our compliments to Chefs Nadia Spennato and Damieno Aspil, owner Anna Vorcella, our effusive bald-as-an-egg waiter whose name escapes me, and the entire staff of Boccaccio for another grand dinner.
Cocktail of the day. As much as we love drinking in Ireland, as much as we love the Guinness and the Murphy's and the Beamish and the Smithwick's by the pint; the Power's, Jameson's, Paddy, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Tyrconnell, Connemara and Midleton Very Rare by the glass; it's a bit of a shame that Ireland is not much of a cocktail country.
We had heard that there were good cocktails to be had at the tony Clarence Hotel, one of the nicer hotels in Dublin city, which is now owned by the lads in U2. We ventured to the Octagon Bar (aptly named, as the big room and the bar are octagonal) and had a look at their cocktail menu.
It was pretty impressive, and that night was the very first time, in seven days in Ireland, that we heard the sound of a cocktail being shaken, that we even saw the presence of a cocktail shaker, in any pub or bar. (Actually, we had a cocktail last night at Tante Zoe's, but we didn't see or hear them made.) Not that there's anything wrong with that, as we love pints and drams, but boy, were we jonesing for a cocktail.
They were high-priced cocktails, too; this was unsurprising, given the typical clientele of the Clarence. However, if the value of our currency weren't so low, thanks to the current administration, they'd only be slightly expensive. We saw prices of €10-€15.50, but at the current exchange rates that made a drink run between $13 and $20. Glerp.
Our barman Seán (who'd worked as a barman in New York as well) recommended the Clarence Cosmopolitan (made with both Absolut Mandarin and Citron, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and a flamed orange peel), but we picked the following one from the menu. Unfortunately, we didn't feel we could afford more than just one drink that night, but fortunately these were quite good.
1-1/2 ounces gin (they used Gordon's).
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
3/4 ounce crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur).
In a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, combine the gin,
lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into an
8-ounce stemmed tulip glass, top with soda and float the
crème de mûre.And then (what else?), it's off to the pub. We'd tried a number of pubs all through Dublin, most of which we rather liked. Tonight, however, we found the one we liked best.
Hughes' Pub, on the Chancery just behind the Four Courts, in a neighborhood that actually looked a bit dicey at night due to all the construction about and the seeming lack of people around, was an oasis. Friendly people, not crowded but just busy enough, superb pints and the best traditional Irish séisiún we'd heard in Dublin so far. It's full of barristers and solicitors and judges during the day, but at night they're all gone, and the musicians turn up. The Hughes family are very musical themselves, with many fine players amongst them. The night we were there the session consisted of fiddle, flute, guitar, bouzouki, accordion and bodhrán; the tunes were cracking and it was nonstop for the entire time we were there. We headed back to the apartment as closing time drew near, but something told me we'd be back.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, March 15, 2004
I, Who? Can someone please tell me what this movie has to do with any actual Isaac Asimov story, or anything from Asimov except for the title and nicking the Three Laws of Robotics? Why is it even called "I, Robot"?
I managed to find this tale of how this particular film came about, and more:
[The forthcoming film entitled] "I, Robot" is derived from a Jeff Vintar script called "Hardwired," an Agatha Christie inspired, stageplay-style murder mystery that features a human detective investigating a death, where all of his suspects are robots, computers, or holograms. The script was purchased by Disney in 1995 for Bryan Singer, then several years later Fox bought the rights for Alex Proyas and the script was transformed into a big budget studio film. After Fox acquired the rights to Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot," an anthology of nine stories penned in the 1940s, the film was re-envisioned as a prequel to a series of I, Robot films and was rewritten to incorporate many of Asimov's ideas.So it's not even "I, Robot" at all, it's some turned-around reject that's been through five screenwriters, and turned into another Will Smith vehicle in which he plays the same character he played in "MIB", "Independece Day" and those awful movies with Martin Lawrence. Feh.
"God, they've fucked it up again," said Wes. Sigh.
Bienvenue à la Belgique! Welcome to Belgium! Roman Catholic Belgium, for that matter, where it seems that gay marriage, which has been legal and with completely equal rights for all since last year, is really no big deal at all.
(Gee, I never heard anything about the entire fabric of Belgian society disintegrating, did you?)
Quotes of the day. As reported and quoted by David Corn in the LA Weekly, March 12-18, 2004 issue:
"Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence... The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves."
-- James Webb, Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration
"[The Iraq War was] an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the [global war on terrorism], but rather a detour from it."
-- from a report by the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, December 2003.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, March 12, 2004
Goooooooooooaaallllllllll!!! Now imagine that header being read by that fantastic Spanish-language soccer announcer Andrés Cantor, and I'll do a little victory jig.
Morning weigh-in ... 178. There is now 10% less of me than there was on January 8.
20 down, 20 more to go. I think the next part is gonna be the hard part.
Let's torture the AFA! The so-called American Family Association, who tried to operate a poll on gay marriage to send to the President, then tossed it in the bin when the results weren't to their liking, now have a poll on whom we want to be President. Go vote!
Nat Decants. I recently subscribed to Natalie Maclean's weekly wine newsletter, and it's outstanding. She's a wonderful writer, and is a multiple award-winner for her work, including a James Beard Award. It's free, and sent to your email inbox each week.
Nat also archives articles on her web site, so this week I'll start posting links to the articles I get, as available. This week she talks about the delicate balance of matching wine with food.
Those lovely Republicans. Lovely, just lovely. Thanks to emails from Wes and link-nicking from Atrios, we've got lots of interesting stuff on the Get them Out of Power party. Let's start with Medicare:
WASHINGTON - The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan.Next, how about their pot-kettle-black, only worse, regarding Kerry and the intelligence budget:
When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.
In terms of accuracy, the parry by the president is about half right. Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting.Next, Atrios asks, "Why do the Republicans hate America?" (Heh.) Last Sunday, RNC Chairman Mark Racicot said, regarding Kerry:
The $1.5 billion cut Kerry proposed represented about the same amount Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told the Senate that same day he wanted cut from the intelligence spending bill based on unspent, secret funds that had been accumulated by one intelligence agency "without informing the Pentagon, CIA or Congress." The NRO, which designs, builds and operates spy satellites, had accumulated that amount of excess funds.
"He proceeded thereafter to try and decimate the intelligence function of this country. Although he now condemns the intelligence function, he set about in 1996 to decimate it with a $300 million cut per year over five years."Atrios: "Now we know that Racicot's Republican colleagues voted to cut almost $800 million per year from that same budget. Why do they hate America?" Good question.
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Thursday, March 11, 2004
Cocktail of the day. Not unexpectedly, we've got lots of Irish whiskey around the house. I mean, I had plenty to begin with, but we came back from Ireland with whiskey go leor. While we do enjoy sipping it neat (particularly the good, old stuff) we also enjoy Irish whiskey cocktails, and there ain't a whole hell of a lot of them.
I found one in CocktailDB called "The Donegall" (which is the Belfast spelling, not the spelling of the actual county in the Republic of Ireland). It looked very interesting, but I needed to make some substitutions. First, it called for an ingredient called "Aurum", which is (or was) an Italian brandy-based orange liqueur. It also called for dry vermouth, and we were out (oops). I made another substitution, made the drink ... and it was lovely. It also wasn't a Donegall anymore. Wes provided the new name, with the more conventional spelling, and recalling a lovely Connemara sunset we watched which undoubtedly would have been as lovely from the coast of Donegal.
Donegal SunsetWe used Bushmills whiskey, as we had lots of it open. I bet it'd be good with any of the other major blends (Paddy, Power's, Jameson's, et al.)
1 ounce Irish whiskey.
1 ounce Lillet blanc.
1/2 ounce Mandarine Napoléon.
1/2 ounce Maraschino.
Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker.
Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, strain into a cocktail glass
and garnish with an orange or mandarine peel.
The Cocktailian. In the current edition of his fortnightly column, Gary Regan tells us how our intrepid cocktailian bartender The Professor got into a Scottish spirit. Most people don't think much about using Scots whisky in cocktails, other than in a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail, and particularly don't think about using single malts; they can be fabulous. Work with those flavors, and remember -- garbage in, garbage out! (Note to all ye picky Scots bastards ... I spelled "whisky" properly for yis! ;-)
Must-read: "Pentagon cooked WMD books." You may have already seen this; it's been floating around the blogosphere for a couple of weeks. But now it's in Salon, and yesterday I saw it quoted on CNN for the first time. Suffice it to say that it's enlightening, stunning, appalling.
As introduced by the folks at MoveOn.org:
Salon.com has just broken a major story detailing how the Pentagon created a special office to manipulate intelligence data on Iraq and WMDs. It's written by Karen Kwiatkowski, a military offer who was part of this unit, telling us the inside story in her own words.If getting a blowjob in the Oval Office and then fibbing about it is an impeachable offense ... what about this?
The Salon story makes it even clearer than before that the Bush administration deliberately misled us in the run-up to the war in Iraq a year ago. The problem was not bad intelligence -- it was deliberate distortion of the facts.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Musical instruments as weaponry. The great Highland bagpipes of Scotland were played during battle, and in fact in Ireland are sometimes called the "warpipes" (although actually, that name probably derives from the Irish term "piob mhór", which is pronounced "peeb war" but really means "big pipes").
I've been doing a lot of thinking about getting more serious about playing Irish music -- I'm unearthing my old sets of whistles, contemplating upgrading my Irish flute to a newer and better instrument, and even considering performing the astonishing act of practicing frequently. (Flute's always been my primary instrument, since I was about 12.) I'd better be careful, though ... if I were to travel with my flute, I might end up getting branded as a terrorist. (Sheesh. Good thing the guy wasn't an uilleann piper -- they'd have thought his set of pipes was a planet-killer weapon, or something.)
Nuns! Nuns! Reverse, reverse!! Except this wasn't Father Jack retreating in his wheelchair at the sight of a gaggle of nuns ... this was George W. Bush, seeing the handwriting on the wall.
President Bush backed off yesterday from one of the major limitations he had set for cooperating with the independent commission looking into the terrorist attacks of 2001 and will now submit to open-ended questioning instead of setting a one-hour limit.Which isn't true.
The reversal came 36 hours after his opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), seized on the restriction in remarks that accused Bush of "stonewalling and resisting the investigation into what happened and why we had the greatest security failure in the history of our country."
The new flexibility, which White House press secretary Scott McClellan acknowledged under questioning at two briefings, came as Bush argued that Kerry tried to undermine the intelligence services during his 19 years in the Senate.
McClellan said the White House still considers a single hour before the commission to be "reasonable," but he pledged that Bush "is going to answer all the questions that they want to raise."Mr. Pot McClellan, may I introduce you to Mr. Kettle? (Psst. Don't look now, but you're both black.)
"Nobody is watching the clock," McClellan said.
Asked whether Bush was responding to Kerry's charges, McClellan said, "I don't think [Kerry is] someone who lets the facts get in the way of his campaign."
How can this president who takes month-long vacations (and who in fact has spent at leaste 27% of his presidency on vacation) justify spending only an hour before the commission which is investigating the worst attack ever on American soil?
Gotta love this highly entertaining press conference on the subject, too. Poor McClellan.
CIA says Cheney is wrong. Knight-Ridder News reports, "CIA Director George Tenet on Tuesday rejected recent assertions by Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq cooperated with the al-Qaida terrorist network and that the administration had proof of an illicit Iraqi biological warfare program." Ooh, internecine squabbling.
(Thursday, February 19, 2004 :: Dublin)
Lovely accommodadtions. Last time I stayed in Dublin in 1992, I was desperately trying to find accommodation in Dublin city centre that wasn't an expensive hotel. I tried calling Bord Fáilte (the Irish Tourist Board) to find a B&B and was told, "There are no B&Bs in Dublin 2." (Well, feck.) I really wasn't in the mood for one of those dormitory-style hostel situations, either. Wandering around wondering what I was going to do, I quite literally stumbled upon a brand-new hostel that had just opened -- Avalon House, in a building that had once housed a medical school during Victorian times. I had my own ensuite room, it was simple but nice, and cheap!
We didn't stay there this time.
Not for lack of trying, though ... it turns out they were full up (so much for it being easy to find accommodation in Dublin in the dead of winter) and could only give us two of the four nights we required. A little more digging was in order ...
To the rescue came the Mount Eccles Court Hostel and Apartments, not far off O'Connell Street, north of the Liffey in Dublin 1. They had several different styles of multi-bed accommodations, from 3-person rooms to 19-bed dormitories. I'm 42 years old, and as I was saying before, I'm way too old to put up with that kind of accommodation. We really liked the sound of the self-catering apartments, though; they had four of them, required a four-night minimum stay (perfect), and it worked out to $49 per night per person. There was a bed in the loft upstairs, a fold-a-bed downstairs amongst the living room furniture; big, sunny windows (when the sun was shining, at least); a little kitchenette with a (diabolical) washer/dryer; and, unfortunately, a bathroom that runs out of hot water for the shower in about 12 minutes.
Still, it was a fine enough place, conveniently located, and the people who worked the desk couldn't have been nicer. We were a five-minute walk from O'Connell Street (the GPO, Eason's, the Moore Street Market, and some local monuments; e.g., The Stiletto in the Ghetto, the Prick with the Stick and the Floozy in the Jacuzzi), and a half-hour walk from just about everywhere in Dublin we wanted to go. There's also a 24-hour car park a block and a half away in Marlborough Street which was never full -- good to know if you're crazy enough to try to hire a car in Dublin. (Expect to pay a max of €21 per day to park there.) We recommend them very highly, and would certainly consider staying there again ... if they do something about the hot water situation. In the meantime, if you stay there, you might want to think about staggering shower times.
With lovely lunch right across the street. The folks at Lonely Planet, just about my favorite travel guides, have put out a terrific series called "World Food", concentrating on the cuisine and food/drink culture of one country and making it easy for visitors to grasp. The countries covered so far are France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Thailand, Viet Nam, New Orleans (the only one in the series not an actual country, although it's kinda like one) ... and Ireland. It was written by a native Dubliner who knows and loves his city, and one of the cafés he recommended as perhaps his favorite for lunch on the north side of the Liffey was right across the street from where we were staying, on North Great Georges Street.
The Cobalt Café and Gallery, 16 North Great Georges Street, beckoned warmly -- full of pieces by local artists, stylishly appointed and well-regarded locally by more people than just the book author. It was packed, but fortunately we didn't have to wait for the last remaining table for two. Lots of neighborhood and business folk filled the place, well-dressed and energetic. There was a lovely menu of sandwiches, soups and pastries plus daily specials. We ended up getting the same thing -- Corn Chowder and plenty of it, served with fresh-baked Irish brown soda bread, and Roast Chicken, Stuffing and Cranberry Sauce on Grill-Pressed Ciabatta Bread, which was wonderful. The funniest part of the meal, though was the accompaniment ... three, exactly three, Pringles' Potato Crisps, right out of the oul' can, arranged artfully as if it were the Triple Spiral at Newgrange. I certainly didn't have to worry about getting too much fat or carbs in today's diet as I would with a big bag of crisps or a huge pile of chips!
I was trying to behave myself, so I didn't partake of the fine-looking selection of pastries and cakes (the women at the table next to us all ordered enormous pieces of chocolate cake, but to their credit most of them ate less than half of it, which I suppose I could have done). We're still running about 100% with the food on this trip -- the piping-hot, well-seasoned soup was perfect for setting out on foot on this cold Dublin winter day, accompanied by a crispy chicken sandwich that actually reminded me more of home at Thanksgiving than a typical Irish meal. Bellies warmed and filled, we set out.
Guinness is good for you! There's nothing like a lovely, slightly chilled (55°F, if you please), perfectly pulled pint of Guinness. Today, as touristy as it might seem, we were going to get the world's most technically perfect pint.
Today we decided to visit the mind-bogglingly huge Guinness Brewery at St. James' Gate, the largest brewery in the world, on the south bank of the River Liffey. They've converted an old fermentation plant across the street from the huge complex into The Guinness Storehouse, which is apparently the #1 tourist attraction in Dublin. Normally I despise touristy things like this, but ... well, there were a few buts. We both love Guinness, and dammit, we wanted to take the tour. We'd also heard it's actually very interesting. We'd also heard that at the end of the tour you're shown to a lovely bar where you're given a free pint that was brewed that very day, served under perfect conditions. We also saw and heard lots and lots of Irish people in there once we got in, so we ended up not feeling quite so touristy.
The tour was primarily self-guided, but there were many friendly and enthusiastic Guinness employees ready to help. The whole thing was actually fascinating, with a multimedia presentation about the life of Arthur Guinness, the man who started it all; the brewing process explained in exhausive (but not uninteresting) detail, including everything you wanted to know about the four ingredients -- water, yeast, barley and hops; one room featuring another multimedia presentation of amusing pub stories and anecdotes and many examples of the Irish people's superior use of the English language, all related over points, of course; the history of Guinness labelling, bottling, advertising, and lots more.
The bar was actually very nice, although there wasn't nearly enough seating (we figured this was to help cut down on lingering by people who were there for their free pints; it was a cash bar as well). I have to grudgingly admit that Dublin isn't the world's greatest city to see from a great height -- lots of smokestacks and construction cranes, unfortunately -- but it was still a rather nice view. There was a singalong while we were there, and all the older Irish folks in there joined on the hoary old classic "The Rose of Tralee". It was full of tourists, but we were again surprised to see a fair number of locals in there as well.
And then there was that pint. They were right. It was perfect. Temperature, flavor, everything. While that's not a bar I'd want to hang out in the same way I'd want to hang out in a nice, warm, cozy pub, I have to say that it was the best pint I'd ever had. Still, the enjoyment of a pint isn't a standalone thing; the craic is important too.
Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Time for dinner...
Cajun and Creole food ... in Dublin?!? The very idea! The horror! The horror!
For kicks, I once walked into a restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland, which described itself as having "authentic Mexican cuisine." When the waiter came by after I sat down, he asked me if I'd like some "tor-TIL-la" chips (rhyming with "Godzilla") and "SAL-sa" (first syllable as in "Sal", short for "Salvatore"). "Uh, okay," I said.
He brought me a bowl of Doritos and a dish of ketchup. I left.
I'm always extremely suspicious of anyone outside Louisiana claiming to serve Louisiana cuisine, because 9+ times out of 10 it's lousy. Usually I insist on someone from Louisiana being in the kitchen. There's a restaurant in Dublin called Tante Zoé's Cajun and Creole Cuisine which begs instant suspicion. The very idea of Creole food in Ireland. Unheard of! Absurd! There's just one catch ...
The existence of Tante Zoé's wasn't a surprise to me; I'd found it on my third trip to Ireland in 1992, rather by accident. I'd heard from a few locals that there was a new Louisiana restuarant in Dublin, but one lad told me that "Oh, that'd be very expensive, now ... the likes of Bono and such hang out in there." Another confirmed that it was pricey, and the last thing I wanted was pricey and bad Creole food.
So one day, as I was walking down Dame Street away from Trinity College, I saw an advertising board on the street, pointed in toward a small, cobblestone street in Temple Bar. I'll be damned, there it is. Well, it certainly couldn't hurt to go look at the menu. And hey, it's not expensive at all! At that time the most expensive dish on the menu was about IR£10, and most were between IR£6 and IR£9. Heck, even I could afford that on my limited travel budget. I decided to stick my head in, got one whiff of the food ... and was drawn right in. I was mightily impressed. That's not a small feat, impressing a New Orleanian, but I loved my seafood gumbo (despite the presence of tomatoes in it; it's authentic, but there are two types of people -- people who like tomatoes in their gumbo and people who don't, and I'm one of the latter).
In fact, a few years later I even sent my infamously persnickety parents there when they visited Ireland. When it comes to Louisiana food they're extremely difficult to please, and when they came back and told me how much they'd enjoyed their meal, I knew that it wasn't just me -- Tante Zoé's had something.
We kicked things off with cocktails, and I had a Hurricane which kicked the pants off of anything I'd ever had at Pat O'Brien's in the Quarter. Sure, the craic can be mighty at Pat O's, but their Hurricanes are made with an artificially-colored and -flavoured bottled or powdered pre-mix. Pfeh, Kool-Aid. Tante Zoé's Hurricane was made with all fresh juices, not unlike my own Hurricane recipe (recently published in Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology ... sorry for the shameless self-plug). They make theirs with Bacardi dark and light rums, Galliano (an interesting touch), passion fruit purée (which absolutely makes this drink), orange and pineapple juices with a dash of lime. It was gorgeous. Our bartender (whose name I didn't quite catch, but which sounded like "Morand") was tremendously pleased to be serving a Hurricane to a New Orleanian. Wes had a nicely spiced Bloody Mary, but it needed Worcestershire Sauce. Still good, though.
My starter was what the menu described as Shrimp Rémoulade, which I have to say was really, really good. There was just one thing ... it wasn't exactly Shrimp Rémoulade. It was different, and a not-unpleasant surprise. The shrimp were warm, for one -- just cooked. They were plump, juicy and very well-seasoned, served on a bed of lettuce and served with a drizzle of the rémoulade sauce which wasn't bad, but it lacked the Zatarain's Creole mustard that gives a New Orleans rémoulade sauce its unmistakeable tang. A proper rémoulade back home is cold, has a wealth of sauce that coats the shrimp and isn't served warm. That said, the dish was very good, and I enjoyed it very much. I'd just call it something else ... "Shrimp Zoé", maybe? Wes had a gumbo very much like the one I'd had on my first visit to Tante Zoé's, Dooky Gumbo, undoubtedly named after the great Dooky Chase's of New Orleans. It was full of turkey, ham, beef and a beautifully spicy, house-made chaurice sausage, rare these days even in New Orleans.
My main course was Shrimp Creole, served with yellow rice and hush puppies, and it was really, really good. Lots of enormous shrimp, chunks of red and green bell peppers and a very well-seasoned, spicy red gravy. You know they're doing well when it doesn't even occur to you to ask for Tabasco.
Wes had Lou-Lou Mae's Jambalaya, with similar ingredients as his gumbo -- pork, ham, chicken and more of that delectable chaurice. The portion is served in an iron skillet, brought sizzling to the table, and in an absolutely eye-popping quantity. The both of us could have easily split that, and it was probably enough for three, given my new smaller-portion eating habits. Also spicy and very, very tasty. It'd be applauded on any Louisiana table.
It was at dinner when we had the truest Irish touch to this Creole meal ... Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, and they use the venerable local favourite Jameson's Irish Whiskey to make the sauce. I'm not entirely sure, but I think they used Irish-style brown bread as well. There was a huge dollop of fresh whipped Irish cream on the side, and a highly unusual but very tasty garnish -- a fresh gooseberry. It was very different from a New Orleans bread pudding, but it was outstanding. I approve of local touches being added to our cuisine when it's done this well.
We had so much food left over that I hated to waste it, figuring that I could stick it in the fridge back at our apartment and have it for breakfast the next morning. I asked our waiter for a take-away container, and he was a bit nonplussed -- I remembered then that the American practice of asking for a doggy bag is almost unknown in Europe. They tried, though, wrapping up our leftovers in several layers of aluminum foil which unfortunately leaked in Wes' jacket pocket by the time we got home. I was right, though ... it was great the next morning.
The prices had gone up somewhat since 1992 (big surprise), and were a little steeper than they might have been due to our tanking dollar. The final bill without tip came up to €67.30, which was about $85. Forty bucks for a dinner where a had a big cocktail and walked home stuffed to the gills and happy? Sure, why not?
My advice -- be suspicious of every Louisiana restaurant you see outside of Louisiana, but when in Dublin, go directly to Tante Zoé's and enjoy your dinner without reservation (but it'd help if you made a reservation, 'cause they're busy.)
Hmm, I'll have to figure out how to say "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" in Irish ...
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Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Cocktail of the day. This isn't anything truly new; it's an old classic, in fact. But I'd never had this particular cocktail made this way before, with those particular ingredients. Wes made it for me last week, and it blew me away.
Top-Shelf Manhattan No. 3It knocked me on me arse, too ... given the fact that the base spirit is 137.6 proof; i.e., 68.8% alcohol.
2-1/4 ounces George T. Stagg 15-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
1 dash Peychaud's bitters.
1 dash orange bitters.
Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker.
Stir vigorously for 30 seconds; strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Arianna's campaign tips. Arianna Huffington offers John Kerry six things he needs to do to win in November. I'll recap the main points below, but read the whole article.
1. You may share JFK's initials, but you need to campaign with RFK's passion...I'd also include pointing out all the evidence of Bush's lies to the American people, working our way back from...
2. Don't pick a VP by looking at the map...
3. Don't fall back on the tried-and-untrue swing voter strategy that has led to the prolonged identity crisis of the Democratic Party...
4. Don't run away from your voting record. Don't run away, as you did in the New York debate, from being called a liberal. Embrace it, and define it as the foundation of the great breakthroughs in American history...
5. Remember: He who controls the language defines the political debate. Bush Republicans' control of certain magical words, starting with "responsibility," has been a key to their success. You need to take back "responsibility" from the grossly irresponsible GOP...
6. Strike a new bargain with the American people. Tell them, "Let's put an end to the tyranny of low expectations. You can expect a lot more of me, and I will ask a lot more of you"...
Shame, shame: Bush lies about Kerry's record. I used this quote a mere eleven months ago with regards to the current claimant to the presidency. I refrained from overusing it, despite numerous opportunities, but sometimes you just have to. "The bullshit piles up so high," said Martin Sheen's character Capt. Willard in "Apocalypse Now", referring to the war mentality in Vietnam, "that you need wings to stay above it." I know how he feels, 'cause there he goes again.
Bush Insults Kerry's IntelligenceHis money may talk, but sooner or later it won't be able to talk him out of the mountain of bullshit he's piling up.
The president's latest attack is even more dishonest than the last.
said. "He's for good intelligence; yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services. And that is no way to lead a nation in a time of war." Bush further charged that Kerry's bill was "so deeply irresponsible that he didn't have a single-co-sponsor in the United States Senate."
Bush and his operatives are making a practice of mischaracterizing the voting record of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Two weeks ago, the Republican National Committee put out a "Research Brief" that flagrantly distorted Kerry's votes on weapons systems. (Click here for the real facts.) Bush's remarks yesterday are more dishonest still.
First, would such a reduction have "gutted" the intelligence services? Intelligence budgets are classified, but private budget sleuths have estimated that the 1995 budget totaled about $28 billion. Thus, taking out $300 million would have meant a reduction of about 1 percent. This is not a gutting.
Second, and more to the point, Kerry's proposal would have not have cut a single intelligence program.
On the same day that Kerry's bill was read on the Senate floor, two of his colleagues -- Democrat Bob Kerrey and Republican Arlen Specter introduced a similar measure. Their bill would have cut the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office, the division of the U.S. intelligence community in charge of spy satellites.
According to that day's Congressional Record, Specter said he was offering an amendment "to address concerns about financial practices and management" at the NRO. Specifically, "the NRO has accumulated more than $1 billion in unspent funds without informing the Pentagon, CIA, or Congress." He called this accumulation "one more example of how intelligence agencies sometimes use their secret status to avoid accountability."
The Kerrey-Specter bill proposed to cut the NRO's budget "to reflect the availability of funds I that have accumulated in the carry-forward accounts" from previous years. Another co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., noted that these "carry-forward accounts" amounted to "more than $1.5 billion."
This was the same $1.5 billion that John Kerry was proposing to cut -- over a five-year period -- in his bill. It had nothing to do with intelligence, terrorism, or anything of substance. It was a motion to rescind money that had been handed out but never spent.
In other words, it's as if Kerry had once filed for a personal tax refund -- and Bush accused him of raiding the Treasury.
"It's nice to be able to say you have a friend like Justice Scalia." First there was the hunting trip with Dick "Undisclosed Location" Cheney before Cheney's case came up before the Court, then the story about the hunting trip with the Kansas governor and the guest speaking engagement at U. of Kansas Law School when the school's dean had two cases before the court, and now this:
As the Supreme Court was weighing a landmark gay rights case last year, Justice Antonin Scalia gave a keynote dinner speech in Philadelphia for an advocacy group waging a legal battle against gay rights.How many instances of conflict of interest and lack of impartiality do we need before somebody does something about this? Scalia is still far too arrogant to admit to his lack of impartiality (and I don't think for a minute that he is truly impartial). I don't remember from my civics class days, but who's in charge of slapping Supreme Court justices who thumb their noses at impartiality? Somebody needs to be slapped.
Scalia addressed the $150-a-plate dinner hosted by the Urban Family Council two months after hearing oral arguments in a challenge to a Texas law that made gay sex a crime. A month after the dinner, he sharply dissented from the high court's decision overturning the Texas law.
It pays to be a Republican. Sure, we're uniters, not dividers. We want to build a bipartisan America. It's all so fair and balanced, isn't it?
A little-known Washington court that oversees the investigations of presidents has approved more than a million dollars in legal-fee reimbursements for Republican administration officials caught up in the probes while rejecting similar requests from Clinton-era officials.Mmm hmm.
The three-judge panel has in recent months rejected the bulk of five requests for reimbursements totaling $5.5 million from former president Bill Clinton and associates involved in the Whitewater independent counsel investigation. It has granted small parts of three requests worth $114,000, or about 2 percent of the total.
After the Iran-contra independent counsel investigation of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, the court ordered government repayment of $1.5 million to 17 Republican officials and associates. It rejected five requests worth about $1.5 million, mostly from people who did not qualify because they had been indicted.
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Monday, March 8, 2004
Happy birthday, Wesly!!! Don't worry, I won't reveal your age ... half of which is a prime number below 23. We'll leave it at that. :-)
Favorite clothing logo seen in Ireland. If this were on a t-shirt instead of a stocking cap (which I never wear), I would have bought it in a second. (It is, of course, a parody of the French Connection UK logo...)
f c e kEither you get it or you don't.
the irish connection
Attack of the Iron Whim. After six years on KCRW, commentator Sandra Tsing Loh (one of my very favorites) got the boot for uttering "an obscenity" ... fierce stuff, the "F" word, the bad "F" word, worse than feck! You know the one I mean. (Here's Sandra's take on it all.)
As someone who was fired twice by Ruth Seymour ... I feel her pain. I hope she pops on local radio again soon. Let's see.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, March 5, 2004
Well, it's official. As of this morning, I have been officially diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. (Well, at least now I know.)
The sleep study showed that during my annoyingly abortive 6-hour sleep session at the clinic, I stopped breathing 24 times per hour (which apparently qualifies as a "mild" case, although at the upper limit of mild), and my blood oxygen level went down to 77% ("I don't like it," said my otolaryngologist.)
I also had a delightful new experience today: for the first time, I had a camera stuck up my nose. There was some kind of fiber-optic snake camera with a light at the end that greeted me in a second exam room after the doctor used some kind of machine to blow some incredibly potent "medicine" -- something like super-thermonuclear Afrin -- right up me nose, nearly taking the top of me head right off. Man ... that stuff was intense. My nasal passages had never been that open, ever. Once the smell and post-drip taste of the medicine wore off, it was kind of cool. I could breathe cubic miles of air, it seemed, and my sense of smell was even heightened. Unfortunately, all that served only to help get the camera up my nose, which was a tolerable but decidedly unpleasant procedure. It only lasted a few minutes, though, as long as he needed to evaluate my breathing passages. Don't expect to see MPEG he took end up circulating the P2P networks anytime soon, though. ("Hey, screw that Paris Hilton video -- I wanna see up Chuck's nose!")
My options are severalfold: 1) The dreaded CPAP machine, which involves wearing a face mask while I (attempt to) sleep, connected to a noisy machine that forces air at high pressure up my nose. Everyone I've known or known about who had to use one of these fecking things hated it. In confirmation, "Everybody hates it," said the doctor, "particularly in your age group, although if you got it it would solve your problem completely." I don't want to solve the problem this way. This treats the symptoms, not the underlying causes, and I'd rather sleep in an iron maiden.
2) A dental device, the one the doc recommended being a modified Herbst mandibular advancement device. Success rate on these is 60-90%. I'll try this first. If any of y'all have any experience with a device like this, I'd love to hear about it, particularly any unpleasant side effects (e.g., TMJ pain, drooling, etc.)
3) Radio-frequency surgery for the soft tissues in the soft palace, rear throat and far back of the tongue, in order to open the airway, which is done under sedation (probably IV Valium, like when I had my wisdom teeth out -- it's good stuff). I recently found out that my ENT specialist is one of the top otolaryngologists in Los Angeles, and a pioneer in surgical techniques for the treatment of apnea. This is good. If the device doesn't work, this is what we do next. Success rate in my age group -- 60-70%.
4) Surgical removal of my tonsils and uvula under general anaesthesia, to open the airway. (*glerp*) This is what we try last, and one I'd hope to avoid if at all possible. Tonsillectomy is a much bigger deal for adults than for little kids. (Plus, do adults also get all the free ice cream and sorbet the way? This is an important question that needs to be answered.) And my uvula ... who knew that my problem lies in my uvula? This reminds me of a skit from my childhood.
Sis (Laraine Newman): Gee, Babs ... you look like something the cat just dragged in.Jeez. I've let my uvula go to the dogs. Now I might have to get it hacked off, and be some kind of uvula-less freak! (One of us, one of us, we accept you, we accept you, gooble gobble!)
Babs (Gilda Radner): I know. I feel rotten, but I can't seen to put my finger on what's wrong.
Sis: I have a hunch. Has it ever dawned on you that it might be your uvula?
Babs: Why, no... I must have stupidly glossed right over my uvula!
Sis: That's too bad, Babs. That's why I lined you up with a top uvula specialist ... (*ding*dong*) ... who makes house calls!
Doc (Chevy Chase): (enters) Hello, I'm the doctor. (examines Babs' throat.)
Doc: I won't beat around the bush, Babs.
Babs: Is it bad, Doc?
Doc: In a nutshell, your uvula is on the fritz ... which reminds me of a joke: Knock, knock.
Babs: Who's there?
Doc: Babs' uvula.
Babs: Babs' uvula who?
Doc: I don't know, Babs ... but I do know this. You've really let your uvula go to the dogs.
Sis: I'd like to share with you something, Sis ... 'To Babs: It'll behoove ya, to care for your uvula! Love, Sis.
Babs: Boy, do I hear ya, Sis! For now on it'll be good clean fun -- for me, and my uvula!
Doc: Which reminds me of another joke: Knock, knock!
Don Pardo: (off-camera) Who's there?!
Doc, Babs, and Sis: Aaaah, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Don Pardo: The preceeding announcement was brought to you by the National Uvula Association.
There was a jar of Tootsie Pops at the reception desks, presumably for the kids. I took one. Dammit, if I'm going to have to get a camera shoved up my nose, I want a sucker on the way out.
(Wednesday, February 18, 2004 :: Kilbeggan to Dublin)
The devil uisce beatha. We departed Loughrea this morning (not nearly getting the early start I would have preferred), and headed east for Dublin. The initial plan was to just stop for lunch, but Amanda recommended we stop in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, for two reasons -- Locke's Distillery Museum, and the nice little cafe next door. She thought we'd enjoy the museum, and she was right.
Locke's was one of the more popular brands of Irish whiskey up through the 1920s and 1930s, but demand declined due to high taxes and economic depression (beer was a lot cheaper than whiskey). The loss of the American market due to Prohibition was one of the final death blows, and the distillery finally closed in 1957. Locke's and Kilbeggan, the two main brands of whiskey from Locke's Distillery, and still made, although they're now made at the Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth and shipped to the old Locke's site for maturation in barrels.
They've done a rather nice job restoring the distillery into the state it was throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and they self-guided tour was actually very interesting. The whole operation must have been very impressive in its time, and although most of the equipment would have been made of wood, with some cast metal parts and might seem primitive by today's standards, it was and still is a perfectly efficient way to process barley mash into whiskey. We were also impressed by the stories of how John Locke treated his employees -- he was a good man to work for, paid his people well and treated them as human beings and valued assets of the company, not as slave labor as was so common in the 19th Century. In fact, when the company fell on hard times and Locke was in danger of losing his business, the employees all kicked in along with many of the townspeople of Kilbeggan and bailed him out.
The tour finished up with a free dram of Locke's Irish Whiskey at the little bar behind the cooperage, served by two gentlemen who were a delight to talk to. (There was also a paid bar up front, where we sampled the Kilbeggan; both were lovely.) There were several varieties of whiskey available at the distillery, most of which had once been made there, but are now being made in Louth -- there were several varieties of Locke's, blends and single malts of varying ages and ascending prices, plus Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell and a couple more. Unfortunately we didn't want to lay out too much cash for too much whiskey, and we couldn't taste any more because I had to drive another hour-plus to Dublin. Finally, a decision -- to bring home we ended up buying a bottle of Locke's 8-Year-Old Single Malt, which we'll crack open one of these days.
After a lovely lunch of smokey bacon and cheese sandwiches with a huge bowl of perfectly crisp chips, we resumed the journey toward Dublin. Planxty minus four hours.
Fáilte go Baile Átha Clíath! We're here. The concert is tonight. In just a few hours. It's getting dark already. Holy fecking crapola.
It had been 11 years since I'd been to Dublin, and even when I was there before I'd only spent a couple of days there total. I'd forgotten what a big city it is, and hadn't taken into consideration how much bigger it had gotten since I was there last. We spent a lot of time farting around in Kilbeggan, and when leaving I foolishly said to Wes, "The timing is perfect. It's about 4 now, so we should be hitting Dublin between 5 and 5:30."
Yep, perfect. Just in time to hit rush-hour Dublin traffic. And to put us in a traffic jam the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen even in Los Angeles.
It was unbelievable. Un-fecking-believable. It slowed to the consistency of chilled molasses when we were approaching the city from the N4, but once we hit Dublin city limits, it just stopped. Complete fecking gridlock. What might have made it worse is that we found ourselves on a road I didn't think we should have been on, and I didn't quite know how we ended up there. Somewhere in Chapelizod I missed a sign, and when I had been hoping to be on the Chapelizod Road just south of Phoenix Park, I ended up on a series of roads (St. Laurence, Sarsfield, Con Colbert, St. John's West) that were just jammed. I might have taken a picture for you, just to document how bad it was, but I was too busy shrieking "FUCK!" (no, Mrs. Doyle, not feck, the actual F-word), pounding on the steering wheel and perspiring. It was so bad, and we were so far behind the schedule I'd hoped we'd be on, that for a while there I thought it might actually be possible that, after all this expense and travelling, I'd miss the show (at least the beginning).
My expert reading of the Dublin city map left a lot to be desired, too -- it'd been over a decade since I'd been there, I hadn't spent that much time in the city to begin with, and I'd forgotten how the streets tended to be one-way when you didn't expect, and how hard-to-read the street signage was. Once we got past the traffic and into Dublin 1, I ended up taking a half-dozen wrong turns on the way to the apartments. We ended up stopping at a petrol station at a frighteningly busy intersection way the hell up Drumcondra Road to ask for directions. Apparently the gentleman inside seemed to think Wes was quite mad, but he headed us back in the right direction, which was, of course, back the other way ... and it was impossible to go that way from where we were. "Can't get there from here, though!"
Somehow, we made it ... 42 North Great Georges Street, the Mount Eccles Court Hostel and Apartments, checked into apartment #2, looked around (okay, it was nice; not quite as nice as the impression the photo gave, but perfectly nice enough), double-checked the showtime (8:30 instead of 8 ... thank CHRIST!), threw our stuff inside, left immediately, got back into the car, and drove to the venue. It didn't take long to get there at all ... but parking the car was another matter. Did I mention that it's a relative nightmare to have a car in Dublin? If you're thinking about it, don't. It'll cost you more to park it than to hire it, the disc parking system can be diabolical (buy a parking disc-permit from a machine on the street for between €1.60 and €2 per hour, with a three-hour limit, there are evil clampers everywhere who'll clamp your car if you're so much as a minute overtime, there are only 9 multistorey carparks in all of Dublin, and only four of them are open 24 hours. Jesus.
Finally, after more wrong turns and U-turns there was the beautiful sight of the multistorey car park on Usher's Quay, a mere 10 minute walk from the venue ... and there we were, a whole 40 minutes early. There was a nice lady outside who handed me our tickets. The bar had just opened. We were there. Good Christ, do I need a pint.
Planxty. Andy Irvine told a story before Planxty played their third song of the evening. It was inspired by a past experiece in the 1960s when he was a young man -- he and some friends were in Miltown Malbay in Co. Clare, and headed to a local pub with great anticipation and excitement upon hearing that legendary piper Willie Clancy would be playing there. Upon the pub descended all these young musicians and music enthusiasts, long-haired and bearded, and Mrs. Cooley, the pub owner, panicked at the sight of them; she threw the lot of them out and barred the door. From somewhere a chair was procured and provided for Willie, and he sat there and played his pipes for the small crowd, right there in the middle of the street. "The music was so beautiful," he said, "and such an intensely emotional experience for me, that I just cried, unabashedly."
I know exactly how he feels. I had the same experience, from my seat about 25 feet away from Andy, Dónal, Liam and Christy, above their heads and to their right. To answer my friend Paul's question, yes ... I cried right into my Guinness.
Twenty-four years is a long time to wait to see a band, a band that's grown in stature not only in my head, heart and soul, but in the annals of Irish music. As I related before, Planxty is a band that changed my life in ways that probably no other band has (with the possible exception of The Bothy Band). This concert was an intensely emotional experience for me too and was absolutely, positively, without exception a complete, ecstatic joy from its beginning to its all-too-soon end, two hours and fifteen minutes later.
There was a support act opening for them, an Irish singer-songwriter by the name of Albert Niland. You almost had to feel sorry for the poor bastard; it's almost a thankless job being an opening act at such a show, as he himself acknoweldged: "Jesus, what do you do when you're opening for Planxty? I mean, come on."
"YER DOIN' GRAND, LOVE!" cried a womon sitting in front of me. Everyone cracked up. "Thanks, mammy!" Albert replied with a cheery wave.
His mammy (or whoever she was) was right -- he was wonderful and gave a very engaging performance, and fortunately for him and for those who were trembling with anticipation, his set was only fifteen minutes long. (In different circumstances, I would have been happy to hear him do an entire show, and I hope I get the opportunity to do that someday.) My own anticipation didn't involve much trembling (that I was able to notice, anyway), but it was definitely physical, in a way that I'd never felt before. There was a fire in my stomach, not at all unpleasant, but one that kept growing, growing, and wanting to be extinguished by music. My head felt tight. My fingers were restless. I took another draught from my Guinness.
Then, before even two minutes had passed, they took the stage, sat down, and let loose with an incredible blast of tunes. My scalp is tingling just writing about it.
"The Starting Gate": The Woman I Never Forgot / The Pullet / The Ladies Pantalettes. Electrifying. And the crowd went absolutely wild when Liam O'Flynn kicked in with his pipes. In some ways he is the King of Planxty, the glue that ties the whole band together. Mostly, though, he's arguably the greatest uilleann piper alive, and despite that his contribution to Planxty helps make a whole that is greater than the sum of its truly remarkable parts. This set originally appeared on 1980's "The Woman I Loved So Well".And after that ... the lads stood up again, embraced, bowed and were gone for good. At least until the following Tuesday and Wednesday, when they'd be playing the last two days of this run of shows.
The Good Ship Kangaroo. As I said before, this is the song that changed my life -- the first Planxty song I'd ever heard. I literally could not believe I was hearing it being performed live, and I cried like a little girl (or a great big drama queen). Christy's voice was incredibly powerful, as strong as I'd ever heard it; Andy and Dónal's mandolin and bouzouki sparkled just as it did on the 1979 recording that I first heard when I was 19 years old, and when Liam's pipies kicked in again ... the crowd cheered even louder than before. That was the moment when, hearing the song for the first time in 1980 or '81, when my jaw dropped. It did again.
My Heart's Tonight In Ireland, in the sweet Country Clare. That's the song I was talking about earlier, with Andy talking about hearing Willie Clancy play in the street in Milton Malbay. This wasn't a Planxty song originally, so it was a joy to hear them do it together. The original solo version is on Andy's 1996 album "Rain on the Roof" (independently produced and released, and only sold at shows). I think another run of the CDs may be available in the US, but if you can't find it, email Andy and get one directly from him. There's also a full-band version of it including and produced by Dónal Lunny on a 1996 compilation of Irish called "Common Ground", on the Premier label.
Merrily Kissed the Quaker. This tune, a slide, appears on Planxty's first self-titled album from 1972, featuring Liam on the pipes and Christy on bodhrán.
Little Musgrave. This one got an "ooooohhh" from the entire audience, myself included. It's a truly epic ballad, twenty-eight verses strong, from Planxty's 1980 album "The Woman I Loved So Well". Christy found this song discarded on the ground, quite literally -- someone had torn pages from a book, and Christy found the lyrics on the ground at his feet. The song itself is Child Ballad #81 and dates back to 1611, and has been done by people from Fairport Convention to Nic Jones (who provided the tune to the version Christy sings). This song, which cannot be easy to sing, provided the only little detour of the evening -- at one point, about a quarter of the way in, the lyrics went a bit awry, and Christy winced, and drew back from the mike. "Dónal," said he, "I'd love to start this over. Y'know, I started listening to the words, and started t'inkin' about t'ings I shouldn't've been t'inkin' about ... and I got kinda lost. And y'know, we're supposedly recordin' all this, so it'd be nice if I got the feckin' t'ing right!" Happy to oblige, the lads started over, and all was well, and we were captivated for the next eleven minutes by this tale of desire, adultery and murder. (In the album notes Christy says the first verse of this song appealed to him, because he also used to go to Mass to look at girls.)
Jigs: The Clare Jig/Nora Críona. Another new set of tunes, not from any previous Planxty album.
As I Roved Out (Andy). One of two songs of the same title, originally from the 1973 album "The Well Below the Valley", which Andy learned from a singer in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. It's very sad, and comes from the time of the Famine, when times were so hard that a man could be tempted to leave his true love for "the lassie that had the land", or rather the Queen of England; if you joined her army, at least you'd be fed.
Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór is a fabulous tune, supposedly the first tune composed by the famed blind travelling harper Turlough O'Carolan in the 18th Century. As with many Carolan compositions it's got a bit of a classical feel, but is thoroughly in the Irish tradition. Liam shone on this, of course, and really got the audience going. His playing is so beautiful and exciting that it makes you want to run right out and get a set of pipes. (Should you be considering such a thing, consider also that a full set of pipes is shockingly expensive, that they're perhaps the world's most difficult instrument to play, that a full set contains seven reeds and is extremely difficult to keep in tune, and then there's the old saying, "Seven years learning, seven years practicing, seven years playing, before you're a piper.")
As I Roved Out (Christy). This was one of many songs Christy learned from the singing of John "Jacko" Reilly, a settled member of the Travelling community from Co. Roscommon. Christy pointed out later on that this particular Traveller gave many great gifts to Irish culture with the songs that he knew, that had been preserved in his family and community for generations, including some that had never been collected in Ireland or Britain before (including "The Well Below the Valley" and "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy"). We all owe Jacko a great debt.
The Death of Staker Wallace. Another "new" piece, never before appearing on a Planxty album. It's a slow air, played solo on the pipes by Liam, and named for the rebel leader Patrick Wallace, a member of the United Irishmen who was tortured and executed for his part in the 1798 rebellion. It was ordered that he be beheaded after his hanging and his head placed on a stake outside the Kilfinnane gaol in Co. Limerick ... hence the nickname "Staker". "Despite the grim story behind it, it really is a lovely tune," said Liam to great giggling from the audience. He was right, of course.
Reels: Lord McDonald's / The Chattering Magpie. The audience was set aflame once more, with this set of reels originally appearin gon 1979's "After the Break", my first Planxty album.
Arthur McBride. An anti-recruiting song from Donegal in which the singer and his cousin Arthur, whilst walking along the beach, meet a British army recruiter. He promised gold guineas and a life of excitement, but the two lads declined. The sergeant got testy and was goign to force his hand, but before he could draw his sword the lads produced their shillelaghs and clobbered the bastard over the head. This turn of events drew great cheers from the crowd. Andy was the singer on this one, and it's from the first album.
Only Our Rivers Run Free. This song, written by Michael MacConnell of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in 1964, was on Planxty's first album and was also in Christy's solo repertoire. In this one he sings of Ireland before independence, during its 700 years of bondage.
The Blacksmith/Blacksmithereens. Andy on vocals on this one, an English ballad collected in the last 19th Century and in a minor key that lent itself well to the transition to the Balkan-flavored tune of Andy's which he called "Blacksmithereens", which featured Liam and Dónal.
Reels: Jenny's Wedding / The Virginia / Garret Barry's Reel. Jesus, I lost track of them all ... a huge blast of reels, one of which was on "The Well Below the Valley", another of which I thought I recognized but couldn't place the name, and another that was entirely new to me (I got the titles later). Liam ruled on the pipes, and Christy's bodhrán plused and pounded. Musical moments like this are rare and transcendent, and as I listened to this set of tunes the rest of the world was a million miles away.
The West Coast of Clare. Another song from Andy, an original composition that's delicate, beautiful and sad. Andy seems to take great inspiration from West Clare, as two of his best songs (both of which he performed tonight) sing of Clare, and the times he spent there. He started writing this song just after the last gig from his first band, Sweeney's men (also consisting of Johnny Moynihan, Joe Dolan and Terry Woods, the latter of whom would be in The Pogues 15 years later). He left for Eastern Europe, listening to and learning Balkan music, and finished the song while busking in Ljubljana, Slovenia (a city I love). Just gorgeous.
The Raggle Taggle Gypsy / Tabhair Dom do Lámh.This song first appeared on Christy's 1972 solo album "Prosperous", on which Andy, Dónal and Liam played and which proved to be the genesis of Planxty ("we had such a grand time that we figured we'd try to make a go of it full-time"), and then again kicked off the first official Planxty album. It's another song Christy learned from John Reilly, and it leads directly into a terrific tune, "Tabhair Dom Do Lámh" ("Give Me Your Hand"). Although it might seem commonplace today, in 1972 it was new and daring to segue directly from a song into a tune like that, and Dónal and Andy had to work at it for a while to get the transition right (of course, it sounds like the most natural thing in the world). Liam kicked major arse on this tune, as usual.
And then it was over. Seventeen songs and tune-sets had gone by, and it felt like it had lasted as long as the snap of a finger. Fortunately, after a couple of minutes of screaming myself ragged and pounding on the wall, back they came ...
Seán Ó Duibhir a Ghleanna. Another tune we hadn't heard from Planxty before, not appearing on any of their albums. Liam played this gorgeous melody on the tin whistle, accompanied by Dónal on bouzouki, and described it as "something we worked out a little earlier", which could very well have meant earlier that day.
True Love Knows No Season. This is an American song, actually, written by Norman Blake, and appeared on "The Woman I Loved So Well". Yet another example of Christy's uncanny ability to take someone else's song and make it completely his own. It's a gorgeous tune, and on the record Christy described it as "the first cowboy song I ever heard in a Cork city pub."
The Jolly Beggar / Ríl gan ainm. This one was grand fun, and was probably the jolliest sing-along of the night. It's from the first album and features Andy on vocals, another tale of a randy "beggar" who turns out not to be what he appears, and engaging in that centuries-old tradition of roving beggarmen -- diddling the farmer's daughter. The song came from Scotland, and it's been suggested that the protagonist was actually King James V, who apparently was in the habit of wandering the countryside dressed as a beggar (it's good to be the King). It was followed by a reel, the name of which was long-forgotten.
The Cliffs of Dooneen. Not what I expected. Ya'd expect them to end on a big high note, another fiery blast of tunes, but this was not so. We finished up with the very first song ever released under the band name Planxty, as a single on Polydor issued right after they signed to the label, and a huge hit in Ireland (it first appeared on "Prosperous"). Christy gently introduced the song, and the entire audienced gasped -- it was partly a gasp of surprise and shock, accompanied by a peaceful, joyous sigh of pleasure and delight. There probably isn't a word in either Irish or English to describe that sound, and that reaction. And what a show-stopper it was, too ... everyone sang along, myself included, most folks with their eyes closed and their heads somewhere else, singing and swaying and smiling. This wasn't just a band, and this wasn't just a song -- this was Ireland, this was part of their tradition, their history, their culture. I felt very, very lucky indeed to be a part of this intimate, cultural moment with all these people.
I waited nearly 24 years. I travelled 6,000 miles. I spent €110 on the concert tickets, $742 on the plane tickets plus another $200 for accommodations in Dublin, plus all the petrol, food, drink and other expenses, just to come to Ireland to see this show. Was it worth it?
Feck, yes. Every single minute of waiting, and every single penny.
And if that wasn't enough ... There'll definitely be a live recording and concert DVD coming, and the latest rumour from Dublin is that Liam O'Flynn has told the rumormonger that after the Vicar Street gigs they'd be going into the studio to record an album of new material. WHOO! (One wonders when there'll be time, looking only at Andy Irvine's schedule.)
Speaking of flip-flops ... Apparently John Kerry is not the only person in the race to change positions, although I'd see this less as changing one's mind and more as "he said he wouldn't do it, then he turned around, went ahead and did it anyway." A reminder of that, from two of this week's Daily Mislead:
REVERSING POSITION, BUSH USES 9/11 IN POLITICAL ADGo ahead, George and Dick and Karl. Wrap yourselves in that bloody flag. You just keep it up. Seriously, I want you to.
Less than 19 weeks after the tragic attacks of September 11th, President Bush reassured America that he had "no ambition whatsoever to use [the war on terror or 9/11] as a political issue." Today, however, "President Bush's re-election team unveiled his first campaign advertisements [which] in part use the events of Sept. 11, 2001...Two ads refer to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001...One ad, entitled 'Tested,' shows, among other images, a damaged building from the World Trade Center ruins behind an American flag." The ad is already provoking outrage among 9/11 victims' families as well as firefighters who were at the scene that day.
Of course, this is only the latest chapter in the president's efforts to politicize 9/11 for his own personal political gain. Less than 19 weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove urged Republicans to "go to the country" on national security issues, claiming Americans "trust the Republicans to do a better job" of "protecting America" against another 9/11-like attack. AP soon reported that the "White House is advising GOP candidates to focus on the War on Terror."
Then, nine months after the attacks, CNN reported that "the White House approved of the Republican congressional campaign committee's plan to use a photograph of President Bush taken on September 11 as part of a GOP fundraising effort. The photograph shows Bush aboard Air Force One, talking to Vice President Dick Cheney hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon" and was given to "donors who contributed at least $150 and attend a fund-raising dinner with Bush and the first lady next month."
To top it off, the president took the extraordinary step of making the 2004 Republican National Convention the latest in party history in order to have it come three days before the 9/11 anniversary. Even White House advisers admit "they are wary of being portrayed as exploiting the trauma of Sept. 11, a perception that might be particularly difficult to rebut as Mr. Bush shuttles between political events at Madison Square Garden and memorial services at ground zero."
BUSH EXPLOITS PHOTO OF DEAD BODIES, DESPITE BAN
As the nation headed for war last year, President Bush "clamped down" on the media, extending and expanding a controversial policy that banned reporters from photographing flag-draped caskets of soldiers killed in combat. The White House said the policy was enforced to "spare the feelings of military families." Yet, in the very first television advertisement of his 2004 campaign, the president has blanketed the nation's airwaves with an image of "firefighters carrying a flag-draped body" from the 9/11 wreckage at Ground Zero.
The hypocrisy of preventing Americans from receiving a "reminder of the toll of war" at the very same time the president exploits an image of a dead body for his own political gain has caused an outrage among victims' families. Chris Burke, whose brother Tom died in the attacks, said, "Using my dead friends and my dead brother for political expediency is dead wrong. It's wrong, it's bad taste and an insult to the 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11."
Reuters reports, "Ron Willett of Walnut Shade, Missouri, said he was disgusted when he saw the ads. Willett, who lost his 29-year-old son, John Charles, said he is now so upset, 'I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Bush.'"
[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, March 4, 2004
Wow! Guitarist Nels Cline has joined Wilco! That's pretty astonishing news, and will probably mean yet another direction for the ever-changing, ever-amazing band.
Quotes of the day. Are we really surprised? Bush is showing images of the flag at Ground Zero in his very first campaign commercials. If you need a barf bag, I find that the heavy-duty Ziplocs work well.
"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin towers, told the New York Daily News for its Thursday editions. "It is unconscionable."The Kerry team would do well to remember that the focus of his campaign will have to be on the failures, lies, deceit, complicity and broken promises of this administration, because BushCo are wrapping themselves in the flag already (and one can only wonder what dirty tricks are currently fermenting inside Karl Rove's vile little head).
"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place," said Firefighter Tommy Fee of Queens Rescue Squad 270. "The image of firefighters at ground zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics."
Quote of the day, part deux. What the f...?
If the Democratic policies had been pursued over the last two or three years, the kind of tax increases that both Kerry and Edwards have talked about, we would not have had the kind of job growth that we've had.Gee, the "undisclosed location" must be a wonderful land where everybody are fairies and elves, and you can have all the comic books and chocolate and wax lips that you want...
-- Vice-President Dick Cheney, March 2, 2004
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Food, glorious food! The Food Section of the Los Angeles Times was particularly good today:
Per Se: The French Laundry's Chef Thomas Keller launches his new New York restaurant after lots of work and a huge setback.Plus the wine of the month, L.A.'s certified farmer's markets, and more.
Your own private wine wonk: A profile of some of the smaller, quirkier and wonderful wine shops in the Los Angeles area, where you're more likely to get personal advice and service, including one of my very favorites -- Chronicle Wine Cellar in Pasadena, right behind Pie 'n Burger.
We come to bury Caesar (in dressing): The truly original original Caesar Salad.
We're on a Mission from God. Another fabulous writeup of Monterey Park's Mission 261. I don't think we can wait for our friends to come in from Ireland; we have to go to this place NOW!
Marriage: A Biblical perspective. The following was entered into the Congressional Record on February 25, 2004, by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).
[Congressional Record: February 25, 2004 (House)]Oh my. That Bible is one wacky book.
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
(Mr. McDERMOTT asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. McDERMOTT: Mr. Speaker, the President's presidential prayer team is urging us to "pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles."
With that in mind, I thought I would remind the body of the biblical principles they are talking about.
Marriage shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. That is from Genesis 29:17-28.
Secondly, marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. That is II Samuel 5:13 and II Chronicles 11:21.
A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. That is Deuteronomy 22:13. Marriage of a believer and a nonbeliever shall be forbidden. That is Genesis 24:3.
Finally, it says that since there is no law that can change things, divorce is not possible, and finally, if a married man dies, his brother has to marry his sister-in-law.
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Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Gasp! A redesign?! No, don't panic. It's just a little change, not a redesign. I'm not a web designer; I can't design or redesign a damn thing, anyway. However, you may have noticed that Looka!'s permanent tagline, "weblog and (almost) daily blather" is now gone, replaced with ... huh?
Looka! gets a new tag line every month, and I try to make them witty, clever and/or culturally relevant. For March of 2004, since it right after I returned from my first trip to Ireland since 1992, I chose a tagline line in Irish: "Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic." This, of course, prompted a phone call from my friend Mary, demanding "Okay, what's that gibberish at the top of my free content?"
I explained to her that it was a line in the Irish language I'd seen outside many traditional pubs, informing those who might wish to come inside that "food and drink, music and convivial good times" are to be had within. "Gee," said Mary, "that sounds just like what your weblog's all about." She was right, of course ... hey, that's not a bad idea ... and as of March 1, 2004, we've got a new, permanent tag line. (I'll still change the ones in the title bar every month, though.)
Tar isteach ... tá fáilte rómhat anseo.
Cocktail of the day. I first came across this one in Stanley Clisby Arthur's Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em (1937); it's a close relative of Walter Bergeron's fabulous Vieux Carré Cocktail, which he created at the Monteleone Hotel in the 1930s. We added it to our in-house cocktail menu but kinda forgot about it and haven't been going out of our way to offer it to guests. Fortunately, Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess reminded me of this one in email, having had one himself recently and being struck by how damn good it is. It's also barely two ounces, a quite civilized size and perfect for an apéritif, and will fit beautifully in your spiffy Riedel cocktail glasses.
Stanley says, "This is the special cocktail served at Restaurant de la Louisiane, one of the famous French restaurants of New Orleans, long the rendezvous of those who appreciate the best in Creole cuisine. La Louisiane cocktail is as out-of-the-ordinary as the many distinctive dishes that grace its menu." That restaurant is, sadly, long gone, but fortunately we can still quaff its signature drink.
Cocktail à la LouisianeBy the way, those Riedel "Martini" glasses are the most perfect, elegant cocktail glasses I've ever had. You can usually find them for arond $11 each if you look hard enough, and they're just superb -- perfect weight and balance, thin but strong, no lip and they're small. Three-ounce cocktails, max. That way you can finish your cocktail while it's still ice-cold and, as Harry Craddock said, "while it's still laughing at you." (Thanks, Robert!)
3/4 ounce rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce Italian vermouth.
3/4 ounce Bénédictine.
3 dashes Herbsaint, pastis or other absinthe substitute.
3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters.
Mix in barglass with lumps of ice. Strain into a cocktail glass
in which has been placed a maraschino cherry. Savor.
It's not just boiled dinner anymore. As I said earlier, the restaurant scene in Ireland is getting very, very good indeed. Although you'll undoubtedly still be served plain boiled bacon and cabbage at some folks' houses (and the ingredients for that very traditional dish would be a chunk of raw pork, a cut-up head of cabbage, and water ... nary a grain of salt or pepper), if you go out to eat it's likely you'll get a terrific meal.
Maureen Fant of the New York Times tried a half-dozen restaurants in Sligo, Donegal and Antrim and seemed to have a very lovely time. Fortunately, she got to expense her meals and have the paper pay for them, because with our current wilted Bush-league dollars, paying for your meal in euro can get expensive. Let's hope it'll be cheaper to dine in Europe next year, once he's out on his arse.
God hates shrimp. Next time a self-proclaimed Christian, whether by him- or herself or in a rabble, starts spouting decidedly un-Christlike homophobic ranting, waving around signs with Bible verses and spitting Leviticus at you amidst a spray of saliva and potato chip crumbs, be forewarned and forearmed. If they're going to throw Leviticus at you, throw it right back.
9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.
Shellfish are also an abomination (a word which, in the original Hebrew, actually means something more like "ritually unclean"). Crawfish too, apparently ... pity, that.
(Monday, February 16, 2004 :: Cois Fharraige)
Connemara sunset. Before heading into Galway city to see "Playboy of the Western World", we decided to take a drive along the Connemara coast in Co. Galway, west of the city. It was yet another instance of an 8-day trip being maddeningly short, as I would have liked to have spent a day or two in Connemara, one of the most beautiful regions of Ireland and a Gaeltacht area where the Irish language is still strong and spoken on a daily basis (the Irish-language radio service Raidió na Gaeltachta is based in Connemara). As it turned out, we had a couple of hours; barely that, really. We drive through An Spidéal (Spiddal) and ended up pulling over between Indreabhan and Ros an Mhíl to catch a pretty gorgeous (albeit freezing cold) sunset.
(Tuesday, February 17, 2004 :: Doolin)
My heart's tonight in Ireland, in the sweet County Clare. That's a line from a song written by Planxty's Andy Irvine (which we'll discuss in more detail a bit later). It pained me to know we only had four days to spend in the west of Ireland on this trip (three, really, writing off Saturday as a travel/jet lag day), because the west is my favorite part of the country -- the most beautiful, the most remote, and it's where the majority of the Gaeltacht lies (perfect, given my interest in the Irish language).
We'd been spending time with our friends in Loughrea, plus a fair amount of time in Galway city, leaving us only a day to spend in Clare. It's maddening, really; Clare is full of great little towns, nooks and crannies to explore, with great traditional music and, especially, the wonders of the Burren. If we were short on time, we were long on weather -- it was spectacular, brisk but not cold, bright and sunny with only occasional interventions from ultimately hesitant clouds. We headed south from Órán Mór (Oranmore), heading right at the Mother Hubbard's (Ireland's most famous truck stop chain) in Cill Cholgan (Kilcolgan), made a brief stop for a leg-stretch outside Dungaire Castle in Cinn Mhara (Kinvarra), then stopped for a while at the beautiful little town of Baile Uí Bheacháin (Ballyvaughan).
It was today that we finally learned the disadvantage of coming to Ireland off-season in February and taking advantage of those brilliant Aer Lingus $300 roundtrip fares ... everything's feckin' closed. Aillwee Cave was closed, the Burren Exposure and Visitors' Centre in Ballyvaughan was closed, various other historical sites were also closed. It kinda tends to put a bit of a damper on sightseeing, so we were more or less on our own. Given more time we might have taken in one of the self-guided walks through the Burren, but nighttime was rapidly approaching, and we settled for a drive-through this time. Dinner plans were afoot, and we were due to head to the coast.
(Incidentally, regarding visitors' centres for the Burren ... they're fine if they're in villages, where there are already services, plumbing, etc.; the one in Ballyvaughan was supposed to be excellent. Some very foolish people, however, wanted to build visitors' centres right smack in the middle of the Burren, a unique and fragile environment, and right at the foot of An Mullach Mó, Mullaghmore Mountain, the gorgeous site that's the heart of the Burren. A group called The Burren Action Group fought it for years, and were ultimately successful, for which we all owe them our thanks.)
I wanted to spend the evening in Doolin (Dúlainn), on the west coast of Clare, one of my favorite little towns in Ireland. It sits right between the Burren and the Atlantic Ocean, is quiet and picturesque and beautiful. It's quite tiny, too; with only three pubs, and with Ireland's general formula of one pub per one hundred or so people, that works out with its permanent population being about 350 or 400 souls. Their pubs have also been famous for traditional sessions for years, and I've enjoyed many a seisiún in that town.
There was only one potential hitch ... we stopped at a little place in Lisdoonvarna (Lios Dúin Bhearna), primarily because we were despereate for a toilet. We pulled into the car park in front of a tiny place called Sweet Dreams, advertising "cookies, scones and cakes". It wasn't even a café, really ... just a very nice lady's place of business. It smelled wonderful as soon as we walked in, and I immediately wanted to purchase some of her creations. We chatted for a while; her name was Nancy, and she had lived in the area for many years (interrupted by a stint living in the States). We thoroughly enjoyed our chat (and she was kind enough to let us use her toilet), but we were dismayed by one thing -- she thought Doolin had been ruined.
"It's nothing but big, ugly, two-storey bed and breakfasts now," she said. "They've been sprouting up for the last 10 years, spoiling the view." She was also down on the traditional music scene, and told me that the scene was just beginning to die when I was there last. "Musicians came to sessions because they wanted to; now the publicans hire them for the tourists."
I saw what she meant about the B&Bs. Sure, in the two pictures above Doolin looks as tiny and lovely as it always has, but if you look around you see them -- two-storey houses that weren't htere last time I visited, enough accommodation for twice the town's population, it seems. I hate that awful paradox of how a wonderful place can be spoiled by all the people who come to see it -- fortunately, though, I don't think Doolin was quite as spoiled as Nancy was telling us. The new housing developments are annoying and sometimes seem too many, but the place is still so spread out and quiet and lovely that it does retain a good bit of what it once had ... as long as it doesn't get any worse, Doolin will get by.
After a nice long walk through town over to the other side of Doolin to watch another lovely sunset (I had a thing for sunsets on this trip), he headed into the world-famous Gus O'Connor's Pub to warm up in front of their intense, roaring turf fire and have a pint. O'Connor's is the most well-known pub in Doolin, and has become quite the little cottage industry. It's a lovely pub, still frequented by locals, but for me it tends to be overly touristy these days (kinda like what Nancy was saying). It was about evenly mixed between locals and tourists that night, but the only music they had, or seemed like they would have all night, was coming out of speakers from the CD player. Nope, that won't do. We finished our pints and headed back out into the cold.
Ever since I first started going to Doolin, McGann's has always been my favorite pub in town. Smaller, more frequented by locals and less by tourists, and for me the music has always been better there -- fantastic sessions, and the music was still great even when it wasn't Irish. One night several years ago I stopped in there and they were setting up electric equipment. "Who's playing tonight?" I asked the barman. "Chris Meehan and his Redneck Friends!" said he. "Country and western!" Oh Jayyyyyyyysis. This was most certainly not what I came to Ireland for. I resolved to finish my pint and find another pub. Fortunately I was savoring it, because the band started before I finished ... and I stayed until the pub closed several hours later. Chris and his band were brilliant and lots of fun, and they particularly endeared themselves to me when they launched into a set of Cajun songs. (Nancy in Lisdoonvarna remembered that gig, too!)
McGann's was pretty sparsely populated, mostly locals and maybe a couple of visitors -- we ordered John Power's whiskey, a couple of pints, a huge bowl of Irish stew and a plate of fried haddock and chips. We enjoyed unobtrusively eavesdropping on some locals' conversations, and as we did ... I noticed one sitting to the left of the fire. "Y'know," said I to Wes, "yer man over there next to the fire is the spitting image of Barry Moore, a.k.a. Luka Bloom." Lo and behold ... it was. Unfortunately I was too shy to go over and say hello, even though I should have; he and I had met briefly a couple of times at KCRW and at gigs in L.A., although I was sure he wouldn't remember (although I'm sure he would have remembered my old KCRW colleague Deirdre O'Donoghue, who isn't easy to forget). Still, we enjoyed our celebrity encounter from the privacy-respecting distance of the next table. I wished very hard that he was there to participate in a session, but he said he was on "a break", staying in town and taking it easy. Fair play to ya, Barry.
Later on, the place started to fill up, with the balance tipping over to the side of the natives, and musicians began to show. I didn't quite catch the fiddler's name, either Yvonne or Siobhán, but the banjo player was the incomparable Kevin Griffin, one of the best in Ireland. Sorry that the pictures are so similar, but I was really, really trying to be unobtrusive; I try veryy hard to balance my enjoyment of photography with not wanting to spoil moments by taking pictures. (above left picture: our new pal Garret, listening and enjoying; fiddler Yvonne/Siobhán; banjoist Kevin) The musicians were brilliant and the music was grand, although I was a bit disappointed it wasn't a fuller session with more musicians; that's unsurprising, though, as it was in the middle of feckin' February, not exactly the height of the tourist season, and below freezing outside.
Another musician sat down and took out his guitar, fortunately -- he was a local who had that very day flown back from Thailand, driven all the way back to Doolin from Shannon Airport and was still rarin' to go, despite all that travelling. That was Niall Sheedy, who co-owns a local cafeé (as I recall Garret telling us), and is a wonderful singer. (above right; Niall on the right-hand side of the session) His guitar fleshed out the session perfectly, and he sang several great songs by people from John Prine to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to Johnny Mulhearn. They were later joined by an American folk fiddler named Colin, and his wife whose name I don't recall; he played along, and she sang a Gillian Welch song as well as a lovely one of her own.
(Incidentally, you can hear Niall's singing and Kevin's playing on a wonderful compilation put together by the Burren Action Group to raise funds to stop the interpretive centers from being built next to Mullaghmore. It's called "The Sound of Stone", and may still be available from the BAG's web site. Email P.J. regarding availability and current price; the page is so old it's still listed in Irish pounds. Alternately, try Mulligan's in Galway, and tell Mike I sent you.
We stayed until after midnight -- well past normal pub closing time (but out in the country, the pubs generally close when they feel like it), and after an entirely grand evening. The musicians were still at it, but were beginning to wind down, and we had a long drive back to Loughrea. Garret laughed at us when we said we thought we'd make it in an hour. "Try two!" he said. "Eh, if yis like I can tell you about a great shortcut back to Loughrea that'll take you straight through the middle of the Burren ... ah, but I'd probably end up being responsible for your crash." We politely declined the shortcut. He was right about the time, though. After two hours of driving from town to town on on tiny roads (Doolin to Liscannor to Lahinch to Ennistymon to Ennis to Gort to Loughrea) in the pitch black (being unable to imagine the roads being much tinier), we arrived back at the house in Loughrea at about 2:15am.
I'd be seeing Planxty in about 18 hours.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, March 1, 2004
Say No More. Excellent article from the New York Times Magazine on endangered languages (including some with only a handful of native speakers remaining, or just one), the effort to save them and the debate over whether we should.
According to Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine, authors of Vanishing Voices, the last time human language faced such a crisis of collapse was when we invented farming, around 8000 B.C., during the switch-over from highly mobile hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture. Then the multitude of idioms developed on the run cohered into language families, like Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Elamo-Dravidian. The difference this time is that with each language gone, we may also lose whatever knowledge and history were locked up in its stories and myths, along with the human consciousness embedded in its grammatical structure and vocabulary.Tir gan teanga, tir gan anam.
What would He say? I'm right with Wes in his opintion that "I'd support a federal 'Defense of Marriage' amendment, as long as that amendment included marriage licenses that required testing and renewal, as driver's licenses do, and particularly a prohibition of divorce." After all, the latter is what Jesus would have wanted.
Were Jesus to return to Earth, he might be excused for guessing that the Defense of Marriage Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 had something to do with the prohibition of divorce. Back in Galilee, Jesus had been fierce in his condemnation of divorce. "What God has joined together," he said, "let no man put asunder" (Mark 10:9). And he allowed for no exceptions to his rule. A man could divorce his wife if she committed adultery, but he could not remarry without committing adultery himself; nor could his ex-wife remarry without repeating her sin.I'd say that the chances of all those adulterin', divorcifyin' conservatives truly protecting marriage by adding these points to their wannabe amendment is just about nil.
His disciples objected: "If that's the way it is, then it's better not to marry at all" (Matthew 19:10). But Jesus would not back down. He grounded his opposition not in law (what God said on Mt. Sinai) but in nature (what God did when he created the human race male and female). Thus, even though the Law of Moses permitted divorce, Jesus, arguing in a very Jewish way, trumped Exodus with Genesis to forbid it absolutely. He quoted Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." In effect, he maintained that a man who divorced his wife after becoming "one flesh" with her would be committing an unnatural as well as an immoral act if he married another woman.
How disappointed, then, Jesus would be to discover that the Defense of Marriage Act had nothing at all to do with repealing no-fault divorce or otherwise returning the United States to the era when divorce was culturally as well as legally stigmatized and millions of Americans voted against Adlai Stevenson in 1948 and 1952 because -- and only becaus-- they did not want a divorced man in the White House. Jesus would be surprised to learn that the Defense of Marriage Act had nothing whatever to do with criminalizing divorce but was, instead, a law that criminalized the creation of new marriages -- namely, gay marriages. The Savior, who never spoke a word about homosexuality, would need to have a young conservative activist explain to him that Congress regarded gay marriage just as Jesus regarded divorce -- namely, as a crime against nature.
February Looka! entries have been permanently archived.
Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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