the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> 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 of the reality-based community, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

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

Page last tweaked @ 1:32pm PST, 12/31/2005

RSS Feed (such as it is):
RSS Feed

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:

New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order directly from Shout! Factory Records, where all profits will be donated to New Orleans disaster relief through the end of March 2006.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

Digital Dish is the first ever compilation volume of the best writing and recipes from food weblogs, and includes essays and recipes contributed by me. Find out more and place an order!

U.S. orders:
How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

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

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans:

Gambit Weekly


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home:

Home of the Groove
Library Chronicles
Metroblogging N.O.
Da Po'Blog
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief

Cocktail hour:

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits, Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.

*     *     *

The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters.
   Skip the mint variety, though.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

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

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

The Cocktailian Gazette
   (The monthly newsletter of
   The Museum of the
   American Cocktail.)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Martini Republic: Liquor
   (featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wally's Wine and Spirits
The Wine House
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Reading this month:

In the Upper Room, by Terry Bisson.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Best Food Writing 2005, edited by Holly Hughes.

Dante's Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, modern translation by Sandow Birk & Marcus Sanders.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

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

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)


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

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

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Chuck's Photo of the Day Archive


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

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

by Walt Kelly

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Lookin' at da TV:

"The West Wing"
"Battlestar Galactica"
"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Creek Running North
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
Martini Republic
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Your Right Hand Thief

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.
pat and paul
tracy and david

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site


"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

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 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.)

LOOKA!Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

Shop New Orleans! Help the city of New Orleans and its people by doing your Christmas shopping there, online, from these links. You'll be adding much-needed dollars to the local economy. Thanks!!

  Saturday, December 31, 2005

Auld lang syne.   It's been a rough year.

The debacle of this nation's government and its behavior notwithstanding, for the first eight months it was a pretty damned good year, actually.

The last four months have been ... difficult.

In part, this weblog has served as great therapy for me, allowing me to feel as if I was doing something for my city, no matter how small. Helping keep people informed and in touch with the local situation, if by no other means than pointing them in the right directions, helped me and from the volume of email I've received, helped a lot of other folks too. Thank you all.

Thanks to the participants in the comments section, too. (Well, all but one or two ... for those others, who seem intent on wallowing in their own blindness and hatred, I can feel pity, but that's about it.)

In New Orleans, they're partying in the Quarter and lowering the gumbo pot at midnight. At our place, we're going to spend New Year's Eve at home, in the company of some of my oldest friends from New Orleans and their kids, eating and drinking and talking about old times and the new challengess we all face, and being thankful for all that we have; everyone's safe and healthy, and that's what's important.

Have a happy, safe and healthy New Year, y'all. Be good.

Punch!   If you're going to throw a party, make punch.

It's easy, tasty (if you pick the right one), and you don't have to spend all night mixing drinks for people. The key is finding the right punch. As our friend Dr. Cocktail points out in his excellent recent post on punches, simply go to CocktailDB, enter the word "punch" in the search box and you come up with 98 of them. I found even more looking through some of my old cocktail recipe books. Still, as interesting as many of them looked, I wasn't exactly lighting up with excitement.

We had some folks over for a holiday party last night, and the punch was the talk of the living room. This is yet another of the pleasures of life for which we must thank Dr. Cocktail, who in the above article finally provided the recipe for the best punch I've ever had, one that dates back to the early 19th Century and which in 1893 was named "Columbian Punch" at the first world's fair, the 1893 Columbian World Exposition in Chicago, which celebrated the near-quadricentennial (so they were a year late, big deal) of Columbus' "discovery" of America (Natives: "Um, you can't discover us, we already live here!" Columbus: "Do you have a flag?").

I'll research and attempt a few other punch recipes that looked interesting, but out of at least two dozen recipes I studied this week, none was as interesting as this. It's fantastic.

Columbian Punch

1 quart Jamaican rum.
1 pint brandy.
4 ounces Green Chartreuse.
1 pint freshly brewed oolong tea.
The juice of 2 lemons.
The juice of 2 oranges.
1 cup superfine sugar.
750ml Champagne.

Combine the boozes, juices and tea in a large punch bowl. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add ice (a small bag from the supermarket is about right), then add the Champagne and stir. Ladle into small punch glasses and allow your guests to serve themselves until it's gone (and I guarantee you'll have none left).

(Recipe originally published in Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband's Friends, by "One Who Knows", 1893.

This is unbelievably good, and not for the faint-hearted either (i.e., it's mostly booze). Rather than shriek, "J'accuse! You stole me idea, you young cur!", Doc was, of course, flattered that I had made the punch, as to the best of his knowledge no one other than him had made this stuff in the last hundred years or so.

For the rum I used a fifth of Appleton Estate, topped off with some Myers' Dark to make a quart. For the brandy I used Courvoisier VS, which was on sale for $19.99 for a 750ml, in a lovely gift box with two narrow brandy-and-soda glasses (such a deal).

You, of course, have a bottle of green Chartreuse in your bar (along with a bottle of the yello variety) because, although pricey, they last a long time and are indispensible for any number of truly extraordinary cocktails. Green Chartreuse makes an excellent post-prandial digestivo as well.

"How long did it take you to find that tea?"   Oooo, long.

(God, that was bad. You are allowed to strike me now.)

That was, in fact, one of Doc's questions last night ... "And where did you manage to find the oolong tea for the punch?" "Well, it was kind of a bitch, actually."

In my ignorance, I kept looking for little boxes of it in supermarkets, actually expecting to find oolong tea bags. No go. Even the big, expensive yuppie grocery paradise that is Gelson's didn't have any (although white tea seems to be the big trendy thing now). I knew that there was only one place that'd take care of me, and should have gone there in the first place: Bamboo Tea House in Pasadena.

Not only did they have oolong tea, they had eight different oolong teas for me to choose from. Fortunately, the nice lady behind the counter was an expert, and helped me choose the Amber Oolong from Taiwan, after describing the characteristics of the different teas and allowing me to smell all of them. I admitted that it didn't have to be particularly delicate or special, as it was an ingredient in a punch (she seemed a bit nonplussed at that), and a standard, garden-variety oolong would do just fine.

I was fascinated by the tea's appearance; it seemed to come in little dark green rocks. The "rocks" were actually tightly curled whole tea leaves, which unfurl beautifully after the boiling water hits them. About a tablespoon per cup, she advised, and give it several minutes in the leaves. The leaves are also apparently good for four batches of tea. "Drink the first cup," she said. "It's good ... but second cup is better."

She was right. We saved the leaves in the fridge and brewed another pot this morning. Lovely, lovely stuff. We'll have more later tonight.

The Green Family tree.   "Imagine this was your mother," said Rena in her dKos diary highlighting CNN's extraordinary story of the Green family of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. "Every scourging lash Hurricane Katrina could hurl landed on the Green family's back. Broken levees, shredded houses, a dead matriarch, a drowned baby, Convention Center cruelty, sniper fire, oblivious officials -- across four generations, they lived it all. Theirs is a story of loss and love."

The Green Family, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans

From Rena's diary:

Look especially at the left-hand side of the picture. Already Joyce Green and Shenae Green are lost to the hurricane. The family's tale is harrowing -- when a barge smashed through a levee close to Robert Green's home, the area quickly flooded with 20 feet of water. Green and his twin brother ran into the attic of the home and kicked a hole in the roof. They pulled themselves, three small chidren, a 51-year old mentally disabled cousin and their ailing 73-year old mother onto what they thought would be the safety of the roof.

Then their house ripped free of its foundation.

This forced them all to be on the move to escape the peril of a house floating (and sinking) in the flood waters. The family members moved from rooftop to truck beds to other rooftops. Along the way, 3-year old Shenae and 73-year old Joyce fell into the water. Shenae wasn't seen again. They pulled Joyce out of the water and tried to revive her to no avail. The placed her on the roof and forced themselves to move so that surviving family members had a chance at life. [...]

Robert Green had a simple wish: to bury his mother and say a proper goodbye. Shenae's body was located in early November by recovery workers.  His mother is and was a different issue. He left her body on the roof of a 9th ward house, a house that you could see from the Claiborne Bridge, a house upon which anyone could clearly make out the body of Joyce Green.  Robert Green even managed to ascertain the exact address of the house on which his mother's body lay: 1617 Tennessee Street.  He told everyone -- National Guard, Red Cross, Federal emergency officials, police officers - the exact location of his mother's body.

Robert Green naturally assumed that his mother's body would be found in the recovery effort and would be taken to -- well, to wherever the bodies of the victims of Katrina were taken. The process he had to go through to even get that information was ridiculous.  For weeks after the hurricane he literally got the runaround. Finally, they provided Joyce's X-rays and their own DNA samples to what seemed like the right agency to locate his mother's remains.  They called the Coroner's office every day. Nothing. No Joyce.

Finally Robert's twin, David, had had enough. Enough of being forgotten, enough of the runaround, enough of being told that their mother's body couldn't be located. He loaded up on shovels and a pick axe and tools and returned to the vicinity in the 9th ward where he thought his mother's body may be located. He recognized a landmark from that harrowing day and, not three minutes later, found the remains of his mother. This happened today. He didn't have to dig -- he didn't need the pick axe or saw or shovel.

All that was left of Joyce was her skull, clothes, and skeleton - the ravages of four months of being the abandoned dead had taken its toll.

There are many, many more like Joyce.

The Greens lay the blame equally on Federal and State officials. While they didn not express anger in their tone or words, they simply say that they had to come in and do the job that others were supposed to do for them. The only solace the Green brothers have, in having lost everything and having been through hell, is that they will get to bury their mother and put her as well as their minds at peace -- at least on this issue.

This horror, and all the other stories like it, prompt the biggest question of 2005 for me: How are we ever to be the same after this? (The short answer: We won't be.)

George Bush's "moral clarity".   Via Greg Saunders at "This Modern World" weblog, and Atrios: "Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray is defying a gag-order and publishing torture memos on his blog relating to the coordination between the Uzbek, British, and American governments. As Kos says, it's brutal."

Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.

Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid -- more than US aid to all of West Africa -- is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He -- and they -- are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West? [...]

The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;

"The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless -- we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

Saunders: "Here's what the partnership looks like in action."

At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

Saunders again:

And this is the standard that we're living under with a President who looks the other way while children are being tortured.

To the fools out there who routinely praise the President for having the "moral clarity" to call terrorists evil, how can you reconcile that with the chummy relationship he's made with tyrants? The lesser of two evils argument doesn't really work when you chide anyone whose view of fighting terrorism is more nuanced than "smoke them out of their holes" and you verbally fellate the President for being "right on the only issue that matters". You're either in favor of moral relativism or you're not.

Of course, coming up with a worldview that's logically consistent has it's troubles, since it would naturally lead to having an open, honest debate about whether or not the United States should be torturing people. Which is why the Administration (and their sycophantic toadies) ignore the substance of the seemingly-neverending stream of torture memos in the hopes of running out the clock (i.e., news cycle) with their vehement denials to misstated questioning.

But to take things back to square one, it should be repeated again and again that this would all stop if the President wanted it to. With a phonecall to the Uzbek government, he could threated to eliminate foreign aid until human rights abuses ceased. With a stroke of his pen, he could fire Donald Rumsfeld and replace him with a Defense Secretary serious about curbing detainee abuse. Working with Congressional leaders, he could cooperate with stymied investigations into torture. For the most powerful man in the world, the torture of innocent people could be eliminated tomorrow if he cared enough.

Why he hasn't done any of these things leads us back to the eternal debate about the presidency of George W. Bush. Is he so isolated from bad news that he has no idea about the abuses that are happening on his watch? Is he a callous monster who thinks the torture of innocents is justified by the "greater good" of whatever the hell he's trying to accomplish? Or is it a combination of the two? Either way, I don't know how much longer we can afford to have the reputation of the United States tarnished while we ponder the endless "idiot or asshole?" debate.

Answer these questions, apologists.

It's gonna be a bad year for the Bugman.   An outstanding piece of reporting by the Washington Post tells us more of the things Tom DeLay is going to have to answer for in 2006:

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.) [...]

But the records show that the tiny U.S. Family Network, which never had more than one full-time staff member, spent comparatively little money on public advocacy or education projects. Although established as a nonprofit organization, it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to Buckham and his lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group.

There is no evidence DeLay received a direct financial benefit, but Buckham's firm employed DeLay's wife, Christine, and paid her a salary of at least $3,200 each month for three of the years the group existed. Richard Cullen, DeLay's attorney, has said that the pay was compensation for lists Christine DeLay supplied to Buckham of lawmakers' favorite charities, and that it was appropriate under House rules and election law.

Some of the U.S. Family Network's revenue was used to pay for radio ads attacking vulnerable Democratic lawmakers in 1999; other funds were used to finance the cash purchase of a townhouse three blocks from DeLay's congressional office. DeLay's associates at the time called it "the Safe House."

DeLay made his own fundraising telephone pitches from the townhouse's second-floor master suite every few weeks, according to two former associates. Other rooms in the townhouse were used by Alexander Strategy Group, Buckham's newly formed lobbying firm, and Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), DeLay's leadership committee.

They paid modest rent to the U.S. Family Network, which occupied a single small room in the back.

And they say it's all legal.

Uh huh ... well, DeLay's a genius at laundering money, but then the money from this so-called "grass-roots advocacy group" was used to buy attack ads aimed at Democrats? And paid a bullshit salary to his wife? And he bought a house to hang out in? And he was bought off by the Russians? And Abramoff is in the middle of it all?

"When Abramoff sings," said Steve M. in an email this morning, "it's going to be Wagnerian."

Squash him, Brunnhilde.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 29, 2005

O'Neil Broyard, 1937-2005.   I had heard a rumor of this a few days ago, and was waiting for confirmation before I said anything. Sadly, that confirmation came this morning from the Times-Picayune via Michael. O'Neil Broyard, the owner of the legendary Saturn Bar on St. Claude Ave. in the Ninth Ward, passed away on December 22, five days shy of this 68th birthday. He had been sick on and off for the past four to five years, and had been known to close the bar as early as 8pm on a Saturday night because he wasn't feeling well.

Saturn Bar, Ninth Ward, New Orleans.

According to a report from the Southern Foodways Alliance, O'Neil Broyard, the wonderfully eccentric owner of New Orleans' well-known Saturn Bar, passed away on Thursday, December 22nd.

The following posted on the SFA website on Friday, December 23:

"The SFA heard from O'Neil's nephew, Eric Broyard, who said that O'Neil's heart just gave out. Last we knew anything about O'Neil, he made it through Hurricane Katrina and was in the process of cleaning up his beloved Saturn. He will be missed, and our condolences go out to all of his friends and family--at home and at the bar. O'Neil's family is in the process of organizing a gathering to be held in his honor at the Saturn Bar sometime in the New Year. We'll be sure to post more details as they are available."

Back in October I posted a wonderful, long interview with O'Neil from the Southern Folkways Alliance, and it's time to read it now if you haven't before. Here's the excerpt I posted in October:

Q: Do you get many tourists over this way?

Broyard: Oh, yeah, yeah. I get a lot of tourists from all over.

Q: Yeah? How do they hear about you?

Broyard: Well, it's on the Internet. You know, travel guides and stuff like that. Word of mouth. [Sniffs] New York--had some people in from New York the other day. Atlanta, Chicago, Frisco, uh, [short pause] no. I think it was Wisconsin. Colorado. All over the continent. Well, you know, you ask everybody, you can tell a tourist when they come inthat they--they're not regulars. [Laughs]

Q: [Laughs] Yeah. You have a lot of regulars?

Broyard: No, not as many as I used to. They--it--well, you've got to look at it this way. I don't open up until four o'clock in the evening. Now years ago, I used to open at nine--nine o'clock in the morning. We still got--the old-timers still living in the neighborhood before used to come wait for you to open up in the morning. They come over there, they'd sit down and play a little Knock Rummy [card game] or something all day long, you know, to pass the time away. They all died or moved off, when everybody moved out of the neighborhood. So you don't have too many regulars.

Q: What did those regulars like to drink?

Broyard: Mostly beer. Ah, you get to the college kids and all that come in and want--they get a beer with a straight shot or something. "I want Jagermeister," or something like that, which I don't handle anymore. Because they get too stupid on that stuff. You know, they want to throw their glasses up against the wall and all that stuff, you know. [Clears throat] And I just don't put up with it. I just don't. If they say, "Jägermeister," I say, "I don't have any." [They'll say,] "Well, what you got? Can you make a B-51?" I say I don't make none of that stuff. They want the layers, you know?

Q: Yeah, for shots?

Broyard: Oh, what the hell. Like the--I can't even think of half the stuff I have over there to make it but, uh, I quit handling it. Irish--Irish cream--what the--Bailey's Irish Cream, you know? They used to order three layers, you know, in this shot.

Q: Do you mix many cocktails?

Broyard: Oh, yeah, a few. Yeah. The regular ones. You know, I make like a Bloody Mary or a Whiskey Sour, uh, Tequila Sunrise or vodka orange juice, you know. Uh, [if they] want cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, you know. Little Martinis once in a while. Manhattans, you know. Something plain and simple like that. All them shake drinks and all that stuff like that. Phew. I used to make the--like a, uh, Black Russian, you know, with the milk, the vodka, and the Kahlua. I tell them you got to go Uptown if you want a fancy drink.

Q: Yeah? [Laughs]

Broyard: [Laughs]

Q: How do you think times have changed? Maybe you did some more of that a couple decades ago? Did some more cocktails or, no?

Broyard: Ah, well you get different people, baby. You know, people come in and ask youwant a, uh, uh, what the hell are those--about four drinks--what--what do you call--a sting--not a Stinger. A Long Island Iced Tea. You know, you got to put your white rum, white gin, and vodka and all that stuff in it, you know. I make that once in a while. Got to have a tall glass and all that shit, you know. But, uh, I--I like everything plain and simple. You know, come in--like I mean, like--"What kind of beers do you have here?" Just like asking me, "What kind of cigarettes do you have?" I said, "What kind do you smoke?" And see, he was going to tell me that--that one brand. And me naming all fifteen, twenty brands, you know?

Q: Right.

Broyard: Same thing with the beer. I got thirty-five, forty beers. You want to know what kind of beers we have? I say, "What kind do you normally drink? You just starting to drink or what?"

Q: [Laughing]

Broyard: [Laughing] You know? You had to drink something somewhere.

Q: What do you think about those fancy drinks that they serve down in the Quarter?

Broyard: It's a gimmick to getthat's athat's a drawing card, that's all.Youlike thethe Hand Grenade, you know? Now they got four different placesit's all one clique, you know? [Sniffs]

Q: Well, people come to New Orleans to drink.

Broyard: Oh, I hear they're partiers. They stay open all night, but I'll close it down. But I don't like to stay open all night.

Q: Do you know about the history of cocktails in New Orleans and like Southern Comfort being a ... liquor that came from here and that kind of history?

Broyard: Southern Comfort? I don't know that it came from here. I wouldn't know, to be honest with you. The only-the only thing I know of that came [from] here, like a, uh-- [short pause] oh, that new rum they got out, New Orleans rum. I forget the name of it. The guys who make it here. God, they used to have--Absinthe, I believe, was from here, but they quit making that because it had opium in it. Uh, like the Sazerac come from the, uh, [coughs] I can't even think of the bar's name right now. Uh, uptown there. I don't know, shit.

Q: [Laughs]

Broyard: They make them fancy drinks with the--like you go to Pat O'Brien's, you get the Hurricane. Come to Saturn Bar, you get what you like. [Laughs]

Thanks for the Saturn Bar and all those beers, O'Neil.

Meme time.   Bored at work? Me too.

I ain't got no vacation time left, so I'm stuck here; the place is nearly deserted and my phone hasn't rung once all week (except for Mom and Dad calling yesterday, and that certainly wasn't work-related). I meant to bring in a few DVDs to watch today, but I forgot, so I crave distraction.

I rarely participate in these blog-meme things that keep going around like common cold viruses and their resulting phlegm, but unfortunately found myself sucked in. I saw this one on Poppy's journal, and it looked like fun.

Here's how our game is played: Open your music player and set it to shuffle. Write down the first line of lyrics from each of the first 25 songs that come up. (Skip any instrumental pieces.) Let people guess, and then underline or strike out songs as they are correctly identified. Well, I cheated a little, 'cause I just went backwards from the current song I was listening to on my iPod through the previous 25, instrumentals excluded.

I weeded out songs that give away the title in their opening line, to make it more challenging. I've also included songs that are in languages other than English as bonus items. I'll still count it if you guess a song that has a zillion versions, even if you don't guess who did the version I was playing (as if you'd have any way of knowing anyway). And no Googling the lyrics, or else you're a big cheatin' bastard. Ready? Okay!

UPDATE, 12/31: As-yet unguessed answers revealed:

1. "Well she's up against the register with an apron and a spatula"
Tom Waits, "Invitation to the Blues"

2. "People see me but they just don't know what's in my heart and why I love you so"
Earl King, "Come On"

3. "I think I'm sophisticated 'cause I'm living my life like a good Homo sapiens"
The Kinks, "Apeman"

4. "After the show you walked right past, arms reached out for your autograph"
Wilco, "The Lonely 1"

5. "Even the most familiar face can disappear without a trace"
The Lucksmiths, "After the After Party"

6. "I will write you letters that explain the way I'm thinking now"
The Frames, "Lay Me Down"

7. "I've heard there was a secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord"
Rufus Wainwright (song by Leonard Cohen), "Hallelujah"

8. "You call it the law / we call it apartheid, internment, conscription, partition and silence."
Moving Hearts, "No Time For Love" (The band Christy Moore and Dónal Lunny formed after Planxty, fusing Irish trad, jazz and rock, often with heavy political content)

9. "Now is the time for all good men to get together with one another"
Lee Dorsey, "Yes We Can Can"

10. "Well I thought about the Army / Dad said 'Son, you're fuckin' high'"
Ben Folds, "Army"

BONUS 10a. "Si tu voudrais, mon chère bébé, reviens avec moi"
Balfa Toujours, "La Valse de Bayou Lafourche"

11. "If I ventured in the slipstream between the viaducts of your dream"
Van Morrison, "Astral Weeks"

12. "I'll be there to get you in a taxi, honey / better be ready 'bout half past eight"
Fats Domino, "Darktown Strutter's Ball"

13. "We can share the women, we can share the wine"
Grateful Dead, "Jack Straw"

14. "The angel cried 'You bastard!' as we analyzed the accents"
The New Pornographers, "The End of Medicine"

15. "There's a guitar leaning on a Marshall stack"
Uncle Tupelo, "We've Been Had"

16. "I can't stand to see you sad / I can't bear to hear you cry"
Marshall Crenshaw, "Someday, Someway"

17. "Had we never come across the vastness of pavement, the barrenness of waves and the grayness of the sea?"
Ted Leo / Pharmacists, "Biomusicology", from The Tyranny of Distance

18. "That's great it starts with an earthquake"
R.E.M., "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"

19. "I need your love so badly, I love you oh so madly"
The New Orleans Jazz Vipers (and countless others), "Ghost of a Chance"

BONUS 19a. "Ayoú les temps à passé / oui, les chères, chères années"
Bruce Daigrepont, "Les Temps est Aprè Marcher" ("Time Is Marching On")

20. "Tonight I'm gonna give a supper, we'll eat food that's rare"
Danny Barker, "Save the Bones"

21. "McCormack and Richard Tauber are singing by the bed / there's a glass of punch below your feet and an angel at your head"
The Pogues, "The Sick Bed of Cú Chulainn"

22. "Although my lover lives in a place that I can't live, I kind of find I like a life this lonely"
Franz Ferdinand, "Come On Home", from their debut album, 2004

BONUS 22a. "Mo bheannacht le na buachaillí a dimigh uain thar sáile"
Clannad, "Na Buachaillí Álainn" ("The Beautiful Lads"), from Fuaim

23. "Heaven, please send to all mankind understanding and peace of mind"
Percy Mayfield, "Please Send Me Someone To Love"

24. "Richard Wagner's letters to his lover Mathilde were a mess"
Rhett Miller, "Our Love"

BONUS 24a. "Moi et la belle, on avait été-z-au bal, on a passé dans tous les honky-tonks"
D. L. Menard, "La Porte d'en Arriè" ("The Back Door")

25. "What can I say? Why do we starve a thing that's near extinction?"
XTC, "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)", from English Settlement

Okay, there are a few hard ones in there ...

Game of four.   Argh! More meme madness! Everyone must be seriously bored this week; even Tom Tomorrow is doing it. Okay, well, this'll fill three minutes:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Clerk and delivery boy at a Ninth Ward neighborhood grocery, dental assistant, movie theatre usher, singularly untalented drywall installer.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Local Hero, Lord of the Rings, The Godfather, La Jetée (and I could have four others tomorrow).

Four places you've lived: New Orleans, Los Angeles, Culver City, Hollywood.

Four TV shows you love to watch: Battlestar Galactica (the new one), The West Wing, Malcolm in the Middle, The Daily Show (and many others).

Four places you've been on vacation: St. Petersburg, Russia; Ljubljana, Slovenia; The Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Four websites you visit dailiy:, Eschaton, DailyKos, Salon.

Four of your favorite foods: Bacon, red beans 'n rice, Creole hot sausage, chocolate.

Four places you're rather be: New Orleans, New Orleans, Ireland, Italy.

Four albums you can't live without: Peter Blegvad, "King Strut and Other Stories"; Planxty, "After the Break"; Uncle Tupelo, "Still Feel Gone"; Beausoleil, "Parlez-nous à boire" (and about six thousand others).

Okay, now what?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Can the restaurants save us?   You know, that hoary old saying that New Orleanians don't eat to live, we live to eat, has probably never been truer than it is now.

New Orleans began tasting like its old self well before some areas ever started to look it.

Not long after the rain stopped, right around the time MREs lost their novelty and Finis Shelnutt dished out his first free batches of jambalaya and cold beer in front of his Kelsto Club in the French Quarter, owners and employees of places such as Stanley, Royal Street Grocery, Bella Luna and Slim Goodies Diner found ways to serve hot food. Workers, supplies and, in some cases, electricity and clean water were hard to come by. Still, they opened, and the city's inhabitants followed their noses, begetting what you expect to find around good food in New Orleans: crowds.

Soon thereafter phrases like "signs of normalcy" entered the local lexicon. Corpse-haunted and still half-submerged in flood water, the city, feared dead, was breathing, and eating.

New Orleans is doing more than that today. Why? Visionary political leadership? Its quickly rebounding school system? Fair and compassionate insurance companies? FEMA? Entergy?

That New Orleanians live to eat is one of the city's most enduring clich?s, but the fact that they've been able to do just that in the wake of the country's most devastating natural disaster has been one of the few reliably positive story lines to emerge from a city that remains on life support.

Reports of restaurants shuttering forever are rare compared to those about restaurateurs doing everything in their power to serve their customers. The boost that their efforts have given New Orleans' weary citizenry is hard to quantify, but impossible to deny.

Getting a table in one the city's top restaurants is among the countless tasks that has grown more difficult since the storm. And people don't seem to mind.

Read the whole thing, about the crowds outside Parkway Tavern, the daily party that is dinner at Clancy's, the restaurant regulars tearing up and telling wait staff how much it means to them that they're there, open and that everything -- at least inside the restaurant -- is perfect.

Food goes a long way toward healing the soul, now more than ever.

Yum yum yum.   Ah, it's time for those endless year-end Top Ten lists (I'll undoubtedly add one or three of my own), but it's okay when they're as luscious as this. Here's the list of the top ten recipes from the Los Angeles Times' Food Section:

Lentil and duck salad with hazelnut dressing
Slow-roasted shoulder of pork
Sugar snap pea soup with Parmesan cream
Bhel puri (snack mix with vegetables)
Tortilla Española with shishitos
Nancy Silverton's burgers
Pear and cardamom upside-down cake
Slow-scrambled eggs with prosciutto
Mushroom and winter squash gratin
Sage risotto bites

I remember reading several of these and thinking, "Ooh! I want to try this!" and never getting around to doing it. Now's my second chance (man, I wanna do that pork shoulder next weekend after New Year's).

Quote of the day.   From Roy at Alicublog:


"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

HAW HAW HAW! AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! Thassa good one! Yee-haaa!


"I'm from the government, and I'm here to spy on you and perhaps indefinitely detain you without charges."

That sounds reasonable.

How things change ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mr. Bingle saves Christmas.   Over the last four months the Los Angeles Times has been doing a great job keeping New Orleans in their headlines, pointing out the still dire situation there and making sure that their readers don't forget what New Orleanians are still going through. Today they posted a surprising and touching story of our beloved Mr. Bingle, and how he helped save what would have been a pretty dismal Christmas this year.

Jingle jangle jingle, here comes Mr. Bingle, with another message from Kris Kringle!

We also come to find out that the voice of Mr. Bingle, the symbol of Christmas to three generations of New Orleanians, was Jewish. How 'bout that? (Oscar Isentrout died 20 years ago, alone and penniless, and was buried in an unmarked grave; just this month, a donated headstone, engraved with the image or Mr. Bingle, was placed at his grave in Hebrew Rest Cemetery.)

And then, there's this.

Happy holidays.

Fear destroys what bin Laden could not.   An op-ed by Robert Steinback from the Miami Herald:

One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marine Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path.

What is there to say now? [...]

President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or congressional mandate to protect the American people.

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, "What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?"

Bush would have us excuse his administration's excesses in deference to the "war on terror" -- a war, it should be pointed out, that can never end. Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every person guilty of a terrorist act, we still wouldn't know where tomorrow's first-time terrorist will strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue the fight or it will strike again.

Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?

I'd give almost anything to hear a presidential candidate speak like this.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, December 24, 2005  ::  La veille de Noël

Cocktail of the season: It's official!   The yet-unnamed holiday cocktail I came up with the other day now has an independent taster, a thumbs-up and a name!

Paul Clarke at The Cocktail Chronicles was kind and trusting enough to give my new drink a whirl and came away impressed. (Thanks!) He doesn't think I should tinker with it any more, so I won't. Given that it has a similar development history to the Hoskins Cocktail, in that I wanted no one ingredient to predominate and for them all work together toward the whole, and that in both cases Wes tried the first attempt, said "ehh" and suggested swapping proportions between two ingredients whereupon the bell rang, the lightbulb lit and we shrieked "Eureka!", I ain't touchin' it no more. I wanted the holiday season in a glass, and I guess I did all right. (I like it, anyway.)

The acid test, of course, will be when I make one for Dr. Cocktail next Friday.

Oh, and the name? Just as I was about to bestow upon this drink the well-intentioned yet supremely dopey name "Bingle Cocktail" (named, of course, for Mr. Bingle, beloved New Orleans Christmas mascot), Wes thought better of it. The name he suggested evokes Christmas, especially Christmas eve, but also the recent New Orleans spin on the old tradition that expands the feasting of la veille de Noël all season long ...

The Réveillon Cocktail

2 ounces Calvados (or other apple brandy).
1/2 ounce pear eau-de-vie.
1/2 ounce homemade pimento dram (allspice liqueur).
1/4 ounce Carpano sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes, or Antica Formula).
1 dash Fee's Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters (or Abbott's Bitters, if you've got them).
Cinnamon stick, for garnish.

Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir like hell for no less than 30 seconds, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the cinnamon stick.

Serve on Christmas Eve, throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas ... or whenever you want.

"And why the feck are you posting to your weblog on Christmas Eve?!   Flat on my back sick since I got home from the radio station Thursday night, all day yesterday (killing my plans for my day off) and although feeling a tad better today, still staying inside and taking it very easy. Going a little stir-crazy to boot.

I'm medicated up the proverbial wazoo, resting rather intensely and hope that I'll be able to drag my slightly-recovered carcass out of bed in time for Christmas Eve services tonight, and dinner at Saladang Song (gotta love the ethnic restaurants that are open Christmas Eve ... beheaded ducks optional).

Joyeux Noël! Nollag shona dhaiobh! Feliz Navidad! Mele Kalikimaka!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays to everyone!   (Well, almost everyone.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Good Solstice, Joyous Kwanzaa ... whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a happy one (except if you're Bill O'Reilly).

And to all my fellow New Orleanians ...

Seasoned greetings!

(Thanks to Peter for sending the picture.)

"All right, that's it ...   everybody get dressed. We are going OUT ... to eat!" (In the immortal words of Darren McGavin.)

For the first time in my life, that's what we're doing on Christmas Day. (Nobody felt like cooking.) No, we're not going to the Chop Suey Palace for beheaded duck, but behind the Orange Curtain for New Orleans food. Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen is open, and this is the guy behind Mr. B's, Bacco, The Red Fish Grill and Ralph's on the Park -- great stuff. We've been to the Jazz Kitchen a number of times (and I still dream about that Pannéed Veal topped with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Artichokes), and I love it. It'll make me feel better to be there, since I couldn't make it home to New Orleans for Christmas this year.

I'll have food porn on this by next week. Y'all have a great holiday meal!

New Orleans foodblogging.   Via Robert, a new food weblog called On the Line in New Orleans offers a behind-the-scenes look at the state of food in the city. It's written by Betsy Andrews, a writer for Food and Wine magazine who's on assignment to do this in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. What a fantastic idea.

In a city that dislikes things to change, everything has. The Savvy Gourmet's chef, Corbin Evans, has landed here after shuttering his own place, Lulu's in the Garden. (For one thing, he couldn't find staff -- staffing's become everyone's chronic problem.) The Savvy Gourmet itself was only two weeks old when the storm hit. This party, and the café part of its business altogether, are innovations designed to keep business afloat. The conversation around our table, where Savvy Gourmet partners Aaron Wolfson and Peter Menge, produce purveyor Jim Bremer, Emeril Lagasse Foundation Director Kristin Shannon, my friend Kristen Remeza, her husband Rimas and others have gathered, centers on the hurricane and its complicated aftermath, its effects on the culture and its food. Should there be a Mardi Gras? Which restaurants are re-opening? Which restaurants should re-open? Where was Emeril?

She ends up volunteering in many restaurants, spending a day or more working the line and finding out how the scene survives. It looks great, and I've got some catching up to do!

Cocktail of the day.   Brandy's a particularly wintry spirit, and sipping it during the holiday season makes perfect sense. However, if you're not in the mood for sipping the pure drop neat, try one of the most classic of cocktails, The Sidecar.

The link's to an article from, where it's the featured Cocktail of the Month, and the subject of argument (of course) about proportions between King Cocktail, Dr. Cocktail and Drinkboy (a.k.a. Dale, Ted and Robert).

I've often had it in the "classic" proportion of 4:2:1, but we are reminded by the scholarly gentlement in the article that the original proportion was equal parts (only 3/4 ounce each!) of brandy, lemon juice and Cointreau, back when cocktails were a civilized size rather than in cocktail glasses so large they could keep a goldfish alive for days.

Try a wee cocktail sometime, sip it and enjoy it. And you'll be finished with it before it's done laughing at you.

Not-tequila from Temecula!   J.B. Wagoner, who's from wine country in Temecula, California, is about to release Temequila, the only 100% pure agave spirit made in the United States, which by law he cannot call "tequila". Fascinating story, but at $58 per bottle for the silver, I think I'll stick with the Mexican spirit for a while.

Uncivil liberties.   Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wonders why the Bush administration won't obey the law. The answer is appalling, but unsurprising.

Does the Bush administration refuse to honor its legislative and constitutional bargains with Congress, the courts, and the American people because it believes we are all just getting in its way? Or does it sidestep us because it believes that all these trappings of a democracy -- he courts and the laws and public accountability are broken and unfixable? The first possibility is grandiose and depressing. The latter is absolutely breathtaking.

For me, the slogan of 2006 (or beyond, if we need it that long) is:

Impeach Bush. Impeach Cheney First.

Resumed development?   The cable network Showtime is currently in talks to rescue "Arrested Development", after it was cancelled by the idiots at Fox who don't know a good thing when they have it (cf. Firefly, Profit, etc.).

That'll be great if they do, but as we don't get Showtime I guess I'll have to wait for DVD ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas in Louisiana tonight on "Down Home".   Tune in to my radio program tonight, locally in Los Angeles on KCSN 89.9 FM, or via our online stream at

We'll feature Christmas music from New Orleans and southern Louisiana, including such artists as Allen Toussaint, Art Neville, Aaron Neville, Charmaine Neville, the subdudes, Fats Domino, Michael Doucet, Clifton Chenier, Paul Sanchez, Dr. John, Johnny Adams, Louis Armstrong, plus a few visits from The Pogues, Ella Fitzgerald, John Lennon, some Hanukkah blues, and more. And of course, the immortal Benny Grunch and the Bunch. It's going to be very difficult to fulfill my annual tradition of playing "The 12 Yats of Christmas", because half of the places they sing about in the song, as Benny himself would say, "ain't dere no more."

So tonight, get yourself some hot wassail or a rum toddy, snuggle up and listen to some great Christmas music from down home.

Cocktail of the day.   I wanted to come up with something original that evoked the flavors of the holidays. This is still a work-in-progress, but we rather enjoyed the latest incarnation I came up with. In order to make it you'll need to have made a batch of pimento dram, or Jamaican allspice liqueur. (This is because these days I seem pathologically incapable of concocting new cocktails unless they contain one or more very obscure ingredients.) Go ahead, it's easy; all you need are whole allspice berries, 151 proof Demerara rum, brown sugar, water, a sealable jar and 40 days. Make some; you won't regret it.

You can use regular sweet vermouth in this, but if you use one of Carpano's high-end vermouths like Antica Formula or Punt E Mes, you'll get even more wintry, spicy nuances in your drink. Angostura bitters will be easiest to find, but Fee Brothers' "Old Fashion" aromatic cocktail bitters work a little better. As Dr. Cocktail said, "Fee's Bitters have one note, and that note is cinnamon." That note happens to work very well for this drink. Of course, if you happen to have any Abbott's Bitters -- which haven't been made in over 50 years but are obtainable if you're obsessed and look -- which are redolent with the "apple pie spices", the flavor is beyond amazing.

Chuck's yet-unnamed holiday cocktail

  • 2 ounces Laird's Straight Apple Brandy (substitute Laird's Applejack or your favorite Calvados).
  • 1/2 ounce pear brandy (make sure it's a clear eau-de-vie, not a liqueur).
  • 1/2 ounce pimento dram.
  • 1/4 ounce top-shelf sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula or Punt-E-Mes).
  • 1 dash aromatic cocktail bitters (Angostura is good, Fee Brothers' Old Fashion Bitters are better, Abbott's Bitters -- if you can get any -- are spectacular).

Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir like hell for no less than 30 seconds,
and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

I still may tweak this some. Once I finalize it, I'll give it a name.

Happy Holidays, from your government.   Billions in tax cuts for the wealthy, immediately followed by a big "fuck you" to the poor and middle class.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a $602 billion bill that cuts funds for health, education and labor programs on the same day the Senate approved two separate rounds of cuts to health care programs for the poor.

By voice vote, the Senate approved the fiscal 2006 spending bill for the Health and Human Services, Labor and Education departments. The bill, which now goes to President George W. Bush for signing into law, cuts $1.4 billion from last year's spending.

Some high-profile programs would suffer spending cuts in the labor, health and education bill, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC? Are they insane? The CDC were Shrub's best friends a few weeks ago, when he could use the avian flu to keep the nation's fear level up (his favorite pastime).

and the "No Child Left Behind" education program that had been a priority of President George W. Bush. Job training programs also would be cut, as well as children's health and Head Start preschool programs for poor children.

Remember, he's the Education President!

Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said the bill carries out "unconscionable cuts to the programs that American families deserve."

But he and other Democrats who had vowed to try to kill the bill were unable to as the Senate rushed to wrap up its work for the year.

These social programs would suffer additional cuts of one percent because of a nearly government-wide across-the-board spending cut contained in a separate fiscal 2006 spending bill the Senate approved.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Senate passed yet another bill, a budget measure that would cut spending by $39.7 billion over five years, including reductions to Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor. This bill only cleared the Senate after Vice President Dick Cheney, the president of the Senate, broke a 50-50 deadlock. The House must vote on it again.

Nice of Cheney to take a break in his busy schedule of roasting and devouring small children to cast a tiebreaker to stick it to the poor and elderly.

What I have to say to these people who hold the power in our goverment and the majority in Congress, and to the people who voted for them, would be characterized as "unprintable" by most newspapers, and is something I'm reluctant to utter three days before Christmas. One friend, who for the moment shall remain nameless, put it rather succintly in an email late last night:

"I seriously spit on those people who voted for this asshole, who bought his fear-based rhetoric, who couldn't get their heads out Fox News' rectum long enough to see that this man, and his entire party, don't give a shit about anyone but themselves."

I have nothing to add.

All this on top of this administration's other lovely Christmas present to the nation, a president who belligerently declares that he has violated the law by using super-secret foreign intelligence agencies to spy on American citizens without warrant, and says he'll keep doing it as long as he damned well pleases with no oversight from Congress or the courts, wiping his ass with the Constitution all the while. Jim McDonald at Making Light points out:

There is still one remedy left to us. Despite the sour taste left by the frivolous use of this article by the Republicans a few years back, the Constitution, which Bush swore to preserve, protect, and defend, provides:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Speaking of Bribery ... I can't wait until they flip Abramoff.

Cartoon of the day.   Tom Toles, via Steve (thanks!):

Tom Toles

Yep, that whole "spreading democracy" thing is really working out well for you, isn't it?

Aaron Sorkin, on John Spencer.   Via Rick (thanks!), posted on Television Without Pity's "West Wing" message board:

Tommy Schlamme, John Wells and I wanted to thank you for all your many expressions of sympathy and sadness at the death of our friend, John. He never took those who appreciated his work for granted--always happy to read and respond to a letter from a stranger--and somewhere in Heaven he's baffled and delighted by an outpouring of affection from people who who had never met him but felt like they had. You've also provided a great source of comfort to the people he left behind, including the cast and crew of "The West Wing". Several of your posts will be read out loud at his memorial service.

John was the ultimate team player. He was mortified at the notion of doing anything that might detract from the collective goal or disturb another member of the company. The other night, Tommy said, "Leave it to John to die at the beginning of the Christmas break so as not to disrupt production." After a table read of an episode called "Bartlet for America", John stepped over to me and said, "I want to serve this script. Stop me in the middle of a take if it seems like I'm trying to win an Emmy." Of course he went and did both.

All he ever wanted to be was a working actor, and he was a working actor until the day he died. He was beloved and revered by everyone who ever worked on our show, and he will be missed and remembered every day.

Thank you again.

Aaron Sorkin

Thank you Aaron, and everyone else on "The West Wing" (and John Spencer especially). I wonder if Sorking will return to write the episodes dealing with the inevitable -- the death of vice presidential candidate Leo McGarry.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Vegas, baby, Vegas!   Hey, our friend Rick wrote a book. It's called Moon Handbooks Las Vegas, which makes perfect sense since Rick is a giga-expert on Las Vegas and truly loves the city.

In an email yesterday he pointed out the review in the book of which he's most proud, of a nightclub called "The Beach", near the Las Vegas Convention Center:

Remember back when you were in college and there was this one bar that everyone used to go to because it was like this total party spot and they'd have, you know, like really hot chicks in bikinis serving beer and this totally awesome dance floor and games and these kick-@#$ drinks and appetizers and there was that one time when you and your buddy Weezer (The Weez-Man!!) went there and got so totaly wasted that you woke up in, like, Omaha? Yeah, it's kinda like that only in Vegas and open 24 hours.

You can see you're not going to be in for a staid, dull, or God forbid, typical travel guide. Rick's a riot and tons of fun, and undoubtedly his book will be too. I'm ordering mine today, and if you're thinking of heading to Vegas anytime in the foreseeable future, order yours too!

"Our New Orleans" video.   I never noticed this before, but when I was catching up on Josh's weblog last night I saw a pointer to a website for the "Our New Orleans 2005" benefit album, which includes a 20+ minute video on the record's production and interviews with several of the musicians involved (including the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's John Brunious' harrowing tale of his rescue and its aftermath).

I also saw at the end of the liner notes booklet that "Our New Orleans, Volume II" will be released next year, featuring performances from Jon Cleary, Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris (love ya, dawlin'!), Chris Thomas King, Kermit Ruffins, Marva Wright and many more. Can't wait fo' dat!

Réveillon, la veille de Noël.   Today's Los Angeles Times Food Section writes about the old French tradition of réveillon, a sumptuous, luxurious meal served on Christmas Eve after midnight Mass. Typically the meal features oysters, caviar, foie gras and ends up with bûche de Noël, the fabulous chocolate cake decorated to look like the Yule log. There are tons of recipes in the article as well -- braised chestnuts with fennel and onion; scallop ceviche with caviar; truffled capon; orange-date salad from Joël Robuchon; and of course, bûche de Noël.

Of course, this old French tradition became a long-standing old Creole tradition as well, and in recent years it's taken on a slightly different identity. For years New Orleans restaurants have had their own adaptation of the réveillon tradition, which some clever person thought up back when tourism tended to dry up during the winter holidays. Restaurants developed special multi-course menus for a low to reasonable price, and hotels offered specials, and it turned out to be extremely popular. At its height there were up to forty restaurants with réveillon menus. Unfortunately, this year there are only fourteen, but given the circumstances that's still plenty of choice -- Begue's at the Royal Sonesta, Bacco, The Bombay Club at the Prince Conti Hotel, Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House, Café Adelaide, The Gumbo Shop, La Côte Brasserie, The Bar & Bistro at La Louisiane, Muriel's at Jackson Square, Ralph's on the Park, The Red Fish Grill, The Rib Room at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Tujague's and Upperline. Not bad at all.

Check out most of the menus at French Quarter Festivals Inc.'s Réveillon 2005 page.

Category 4? Um, no, not so much.   As we had heard before, new data confirms that Katrina was only a Category 3 storm when it hit New Orleans.

New data shows that Katrina's top winds were about 125 mph at landfall, and that New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain were likely spared the storm's strongest winds, according to a report by the National Hurricane Center.

New Orleans' storm levees were believed to be able to protect the city from the flooding of a Category 3 storm. But portions of the levee system were either topped or failed, leaving up to 80 percent of the city under water.

An investigation into why the system failed is under way. Jim Taylor, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the storm's category downgrade won't affect any proposed changes under debate.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, said: "This news further highlights the need for a full federal commitment to build the highest level of protection through levees and coastal restoration for New Orleans, South Louisiana and the Gulf Coast."

Let's write this on the side of a two-by-four and apply it forcefully upside the heads of the Army Corps of Engineers people who kept saying that our levees were supposed to withstand a Category 3 storm, and to the federal officials who think that rebuilding them to supposedly withstand another Category 3 storm -- they didn't woik, you idiots.

Mary points out that this bolsters what her friend Rob back home said to her: "The thing is, Mary, this storm itself was NOT THAT BAD." (I.e., the real problem was not the hurricane proper.) He and others said that they had more physical damage from Dennis. The directness of the hit didn't help, certainly, but we can't help but recall what a neighbor in their Faubourg St. John neighborhood said -- no water on their street at all, until the levees broke.

So much of this disaster was man-made.

A step toward justice.   Yes! Via the Times-Picayune:

The New Orleans Police Department today fired two officers in connection with the videotaped beating of a 64-year-old man. The department also suspended Officer Stuart Smith for six months for an assault on an Associated Press cameraman.

Officers Robert Evangelist and Lance Schilling are accused of battery on 64-year-old Robert Davis in front of a French Quarter nightclub on October 8 at the corner of Bourbon and Conti Streets.

Excellent news. It's only part one, though ... now those two need to go to jail.

(Updated story from CNN.)

Comic strip of the week.   This week's edition of Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World" entitled, "The Year in Review 2005, Part One: A Heckuva Job".

I particularly like the sixth panel, featuring a very familiar face behind bars, and the caption, "May 1: Downing Street Memo is published, pretty much proving that Bush lied us into war. In a parallel universe somewhere, he is impeached and imprisoned.

"But not here."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yay! The streetcars are back!   Limited service on New Orleans historic streetcar lines resumed on Sunday, with Car No. 930 rolling out of the barn and down Canal Street. This is great news.

Unfortunately the red streetcars on the new Canal line were badly damaged by floodwaters, and will require extensive repairs. More good news, though -- $70 million in federal money is available for streetcar repairs. That'll get the city looking and feeling a few more steps towards itself.

Now, if we can get $70 million for streetcars, we ought to be able to get lots more for housing, shouldn't we?

UPDATE: Although eight of the cars from the St. Charles line are currenly running down the Riverfront and part of Canal, the main St. Charles line won't be back until at least next fall, perhaps as late as next December.

Cyril Neville: Why I'm not going back to New Orleans.   Now for the bad news (although this story is several days old): Cyril Neville has bought a house in Austin and says he's never going back home.

I know a lot of people who are mad at him about this, but ... all I can feel is sadness.

"The press has moved on too fast."   Editor and Publisher, the journal that covers the newspaper industry, goes to New Orleans:

New Orleans is a devastated city. I know, that's not exactly breaking news. But I just got back from there, and all I can say to everyone I've talked to since is: New Orleans is a devastated city, almost beyond belief.

You've got to see it, I told people again and again this weekend, back home in Chicago. Everyone in America should see it.

Because you're not seeing it in your newspaper. Not really.

The press, of course, is famous for rushing to disasters, and then moving on. But it's moved on too fast in New Orleans, with the result that Americans either figure the city has descended into anarchy, or is doing just fine.

Instead, block after block, mile after mile, New Orleans is a landscape of houses bumped off their foundations, spray-painted by National Guardsmen with big X's, inscrutable markings except for the bottom number that signifies whether a body, or two or three were found inside.

New Orleans is a pile of TVs on every other street. It is a highway underpass converted into a graveyard of flooded cars. It's a New Yorker magazine poking up from the silt a few hundred yards from the breach in the London Avenue levee, the really bad breach that nobody outside of New Orleans has heard about. It's a city of refrigerators duct-taped and dumped on the sidewalk, some of them converted into advertisements for itinerant demolition crews: "Gutting," the spray paint legend will say, followed by a phone number.

A New Yorker magazine poking up from the silt, or maybe a Pam Grier DVD. (Don't miss my friend Michael's post-Katrina photos of New Orleans, taken primarily during long bike rides through the city from his Marigny home and beyond.) I'm glad they wrote this article, as it seems these days that people in this country (including the media) have the attention span of a two-year-old.

I agree with the writer -- everyone in America should see the destroyed neighborhoods of New Orleans. We need people to come back to the part of New Orleans that survived relatively unscathed and partake of what we still have to offer you with regards to food, music and history. (We need the money.) We also need people to see what happened, to keep it fresh in their minds, and to tell everyone they know, and to attach themselves to the backs of their congressional representatives and not let go.

That's why I'm so torn about these Grey Line bus tours through neighborhoods like Lakeview that are going to start in January. I think people should see the destruction, but I'm offended by the commercialization of it, and if I were a Lakeview resident trying to gut my house, save what few possessions I could or, God forbid, remove a body from my home, and I saw a bus full of gawking tourists come by pointing cameras out the window, I'd reach for the nearest rock and throw it as hard as I could at that bus.

I might have to let up on that a bit.

A victory for science and the Constitution.   The judge in the Dover, PA case has ruled that so-called "intelligent design" is a poorly camouflaged way to attempt to teach religious creationism in schools, couched in fake science, and has ruled that it may not be taught in public school biology classes.

It wasn't just a win; it was a huge win. From now on, if you want to teach "ID", fine -- teach it in church, not public school.

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote. "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

That's unsurprising, really; the right-wing, religious or not, seems to have no qualms about lies and misdirection in order to further their agendas.

Comic strip of the day.   Sunday's "Doonesbury". Here's the dialogue, in a medical examination room, between a doctor and patient:

Patient: TB? My God! Are you sure?

Doctor: Afraid so. But we caught it early.

Patient: So my prognosis is good?

Doctor: Depends. Are you a creationist?

Patient: Why, yes, yes I am. Why do you ask?

Doctor: Because I need to know whether you want me to treat the TB bug as it was before antibiotics, or as the multiple drug-resistant strain it has since evolved into.

Patient: Evolved?

Doctor: Your choice. If you go with the Noah's Ark version, I'll just give you streptomycin.

Patient: Um ... what are the newer drugs like?

Doctor: They're intelligently designed.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, December 19, 2005

The joy of the season?   God, what I wouldn't give to be able to post pleasant, holiday-themed posts all this week. If it weren't for the fact that we're currently governed by a president who, according to Reuters, was just surveyed as the worst president out of the last ten and who perpetrates new outrages on a near-daily basis.

However, I shall try ...

Weeski!   I've been remiss in keeping up with the excellent weblog Martini Republic, which keeps us abreast of its writers' thoughts on arts, music, life in Los Angeles and especially ... drinks! They're a tasteful, hard-drinking lot, and we mustn't forget occasional contributions by our dear friend Dr. Cocktail.

His most recent missive, posted way before Thanksgiving, is an entertaining treatise on the current status of whiskey in America, whiskey being one of my very favorite things.

Quote of the day.   Nope, no anti-Semitism here! (Via Steve M., in this morning's email.)

"A cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists, and liberal, guilt-wracked Christians -- not just Jewish people."

-- John Gibson of Fox "News", on who is waging "the war on Christmas".

"All I can say is, 'Whew!'' said Steve. "For a minute there I was worried."

Quote of the day, part deux.   Via Tom Tomorrow:

"We've got to give the President the flexibility to protect me. I use my cell phone all the time and I don?t have any problem with the folks listening to the conversations I have because they're appropriate conversations. [Audience bursts into applause.]

-- Audience member on "Dayside", Fox "News".

Tom: "If our democracy survives the next three years in any recognizable form, it will be in spite of morons like that."

Back in the U.S.S.R.   You don't know how lucky you are, boy ... (via Billmon)

Bush declined to discuss the domestic eavesdropping program in a television interview, but he joined his aides in saying that the government acted lawfully and did not intrude on citizens' rights.

"Decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people," Bush said on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

-- The Washington Post, December 2005.

*     *     *

Citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed inviolability of the person. No person may be placed under arrest except by decision of a court or with the sanction of a procurator.

The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.

-- Constitution of the U.S.S.R., December 1936

Constitutions are not to be ignored.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, December 17, 2005

RIP John Spencer, a.k.a. "Leo McGarry".   The actor who portrayed President Josiah Bartlet's Chief of Staff on "The West Wing" died suddenly yesterday, of a heart attack, four days shy of his 59th birthday.

John Spencer, 1946-2005

I was a huge fan of his, and of his "West Wing" character. We're badly behind on the show, unfortunately; we never got in the habit of watching or taping it when it was on, and are now watching the DVDs. (The other night we just watched the season finale of Season 2, when President Bartlet began his press conference to annouce that he had MS.) I've been trying to avoid finding out what's going on with the show now, but I do know that Leo was the current Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

I'll really miss him.

Quote of the day.   During his first State of the Union address, President Josiah Bartlet participated in an old ritual -- picking a member of the cabinet to watch the speech from a hidden location, in case something happened to everyone in the joint session of Congress, so that he'd still be alive to assume the presidency. The Secretary of Agriculture is chosen, and Bartlet briefs him while, unbeknownst to him, his chief of staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer), has returned to his own office next door to retrieve his coat and overhears:

President Bartlet: Roger, If anything happens, you know what to do, right?

Secretary of Agriculture: I honestly hadn't thought about it, sir.

President Bartlet: First thing always is national security. Get your commanders together. Appoint Joint Chiefs, appoint a chairman. Take us to Defcon 4. Have the governors send emergency delegates to Washington. The assistant Attorney General is going to be the Acting A.G. You got a best friend?

Secretary of Agriculture: Yes, sir.

President Bartlet: Is he smarter than you?

Secretary of Agriculture: Yes, sir.

President Bartlet: Would you trust him with your life?

Secretary of Agriculture: Yes, sir.

President Bartlet: That's your chief of staff.

Again, we wish that the wonderful characters these wonderful actors such as John Spencer portrayed could have real-life counterparts who were wonderful people. Alas.

Now, moving on from (sadly) fictional, honorable men in the Bartlet White House to the (sadly) real men in the real-world White House ... and those who do their bidding without thought to the consequences.

Bush vows to continue secret eavesdropping.   Posted this morning at DailyKos:

In his radio address this morning, Bush acknowledged authorizing warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens more than a dozen times --- and he vowed to continue to do so.

WASHINGTON Dec 17, 2005 -- President Bush said Saturday he personally has authorized a secret eavesdropping program in the U.S. more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks and he lashed out at those involved in publicly revealing the program. [...]

"This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States," Bush said. [...]

Appearing angry at times during his eight-minute address, Bush left no doubt that he will continue authorizing the program. "I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related groups," he said.

This appears to me to be a true "line in the sand" moment for America, with a president openly and defiantly declaring himself ready to continue a program that legal scholars, members of Congress and -- according to the Friday New York Times article that started this all -- several NSA analysts themselves believe to be unconstitutional.

There appears to be no acknowledgement whatsoever of concerns voiced by critics of the program. There is the feeling in the air about all this -- and perhaps it's just me -- that we are being forced to a constitutional crisis by a president who no longer believes he needs to wear a mask to court public opinion. This reeks of raw will and power.

Lest we forget:

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush, on CNN, December 18, 2000.

[Don't miss the rest of the Bush "quotationables" on the right-hand sidebar.]

I sincerely hope America is up to the challenges I sense ahead. Or let's hope I'm reading this wrong.

Do we have a president, or a king? Do we have a president and a government that's answerable to the people, or do we have authoritarian rulers? Can they just crumple up the Constitution whenever they want to, with the excuse that it's "for your own protection", and will you just sit there and buy it?

New York Times self-censorship, AKA "The President's Press".   The Times may have broken the story about Bush's unconstitutional orders to spy on American citizens on American soil without warrants, and that may ultimately do some good, but the Times has had that story for a year, before the November 2004 elections. I have very little doubt that if they had published this story when it was fresh, as was their journalistic duty to do, that we might very well have a different president right now.

However, they didn't do that. They caved to White House demands, and sat on the story ... for a year.

Read this post, lifted in its entirety from DailyKos (with blanket permission):

Whether Bush's secret order to eavesdrop on Americans constitutes an impeachable offense is debatable. Whether the New York Times has betrayed the American people is not.

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted. (Link)

Let's get this straight. The New York Times has this story which, as it reports, has been confirmed by a dozen officials. It possibly had this information prior to the election. And when the White House asks pretty please can you not let the American people know we're destroying their civil rights, the Times says "sure"? Because, you know, Americans don't need to be informed as they go to the polls. Better to keep them ignorant and scared -- and Republican.

The New York Times and the White House yank out the tired "national security" excuse for delaying the article's publication. But does disclosing the fact the government is spying on its citizens really tip off terrorists? Does the New York Times or the White House for that matter expect us to believe that terrorists actually have an perpetual expectation of privacy in this nation? Fuck no. The government can search our houses, our effects, our communications -- but only after following those procedures established to protect one of our most fundamental rights: the right to privacy.

In a failed attempt to excuse its actions, the NY Times has released a statement:

Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions.

Well, if the Bush Administration says it's legal, it must be! When did the Fourth Estate adopt the policy of accepting government statements as gospel? Since when did the press decide that it would forfeit its duty to hold the government independently accountable? Oh yeah, back in 2001.

Justice [Hugo] Black wrote that "The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have [to] bare the secrets of government and inform the people." Our soldiers have spilled their blood time and time again to preserve that freedom. And now, the New York Times goes and pisses all over the First Amendment. Apparently, the press doesn't want to be free; it wants to be leashed and led by the administration. It wants to be the President's lap dog, trotting behind the President as he stomps through his presidency, gleefully licking up whatever shitty pieces of "news" the administration decides to drop.

If we are a nation destined to have a government-controlled media, then for fuck's sake, have Frist lead the charge to repeal the First Amendment and let's get it over with. But if we are to have that independent press protected by our Constitution and owed to the American people, then the New York Times must apologize. Not only to its readers, but to all of America for being complicit in this moral crime.

God, what happened to journalists? Or, to use a somewhat sexist and outmoded term, what happened to newspapermen? What happened to the quest for the truth, led by writers who wouldn't be intimidated by the likes of a bunch of bullies who want to rule by intimidation and fear rather than govern ... of the people, by the people and for the people?

What's going to be left of this country, its history and traditions, and what it stands for, in another three years, if these people and their ilk aren't removed from office before then?

Think about this every time you head to the polls between now and 2008, and for that matter every time you vote, for the rest of your life.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, December 16, 2005

Actual scientists: "NOLA levee repairs impossible in one year."   While Mayor Nagin is dancing in the streets, telling New Orleanians to come on back home after the White House offered the city a Band-Aid (i.e., less than 10% of what the region actually needs, and nothing to restore the wetlands and marshes). BushCo reconstruction czar Donald Powell says the levees will be "better and stronger than in the history of New Orleans." However, according to an NPR report yesterday, actual non-governmental scientists say that it will be impossible to rebuild the levee system by next year or strengthen it within two years.

After being presented with the opinions of scientists and experts that say it'll take a minimum of five years to reconstruct levees, especially along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers replied that he's "heard all the critics, but the Army Corps has can-do spirit, and we will make New Orleans safe by next year."

"Can-do spirit"? That makes me feel ever so safe.

Bad news.   I got an email from Mary Katherine yesterday ... Stevenson Palfi, the New Orleans-based documentary filmmaker best known for his amazing film "Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together" (featuring performances from Tuts Washington, Allen Toussaint, and Professor Longhair two days before his death), took his own life a few days ago. He had lost his home, his office and almost all of his possessions, presumably including several years worth of work he had done on an unfinished in-depth biography of Allen Toussaint.

This isn't the first suicide I've heard about in post-Katrina New Orleans. Another New Orleanian wrote a while back about a friend of hers, father of three, who hanged himself. The Gambit currently has a story on how New Orleanians are wigging out with stress, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Speechless, and unsurprised.   In case you hadn't heard yesterday ... this was in the New York Times. Read it.

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

One more little tiny detail ... this was illegal.

President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.

The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night...

The law governing clandestine surveillance in the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, prohibits conducting electronic surveillance not authorized by statute. A government agent can try to avoid prosecution if he can show he was "engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction," according to the law.

"This is as shocking a revelation as we have ever seen from the Bush administration," said Martin, who has been sharply critical of the administration's surveillance and detention policies. "It is, I believe, the first time a president has authorized government agencies to violate a specific criminal prohibition and eavesdrop on Americans."

The president of the United States has unconstitutionally ordered violations of the law. Furthermore, the Times had this story for an entire year, but held it at the insistence of the White House.

And there lies the real story behind the story. Because it appears it may have been possible for the Times to publish at least some of the details of the Bush-ordered domestic spying before Nov. 2, 2004, the day that the president nailed down four more years. Although Bush won by 2 percent nationally, a switch of just 59,302 Ohio voters from Bush to John Kerry would would have put the Democrats back in the White House.

Would Bush won the election if the extent of his seemingly unconstitutional domestic spying had been known? We'll never know. For roughly a year, the White House successfully leaned on the Times to keep the story under wraps. It's not known when the Bush lobbying of the Times began. But it is clear that the warning signs about the program -- the alarm bells that likely triggered the Times investigation in the first place -- were going off by mid-2004, months before the vote.

This is big. Presidents have been impeached for less. If this report is true (and according to inside sources, it is), then he should be impeached and removed from office. No American, liberal or conservative, should tolerate this.

Quote of the day.   From a former president of the United States:

"When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal."

-- Richard M. Nixon, explaining his interpretation of Executive Privilege to interviewer David Frost.

Oh yeah? Look what happened to him.

Quote of the day, part deux.   Jack Cafferty, on CNN today. (Transcript, video)

Who cares about whether the Patriot Act gets renewed? Want to abuse our civil liberties? Just do it.

Who cares about the Geneva Conventions? Want to torture prisoners? Just do it.

Who cares about rules concerning the identity of CIA agents? Want to reveal the name of a covert operative? Just do it.

Who cares about whether the intelligence concerning WMDs is accurate? Want to invade Iraq? Just do it.

Who cares about qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court? Want to nominate a personal friend with no qualifications? Just do it.

And the latest outrage, which I read about in the New York Times this morning: who cares about needing a court order to eavesdrop on American citizens? Want to wiretap their phone conversations? Just do it.

What a joke. A very cruel, very sad joke.

(Via Atrios.)

Republicans lied? I don't believe it!   'Member how Bush and all of his GOP stooges have been repeating ad nauseam all along that the Congress always saw the same intelligence as the president when it came to determining whether or not to go to war?

Well, guess what. They all lied.

Color me surprised.

Novakula joins FOX under their rock.   The winner of the most-amusing-news-of-the-day award ... TV pundit and planarian Bob Novak is leaving, who haven't let him on the air since his outburst of profanity a few months back, and joining the intrepid team of hatemongers, right-wing shills and bullshit-spewers at FOX "News", apparently his true native habitat.

He'll feel right at home, no doubt.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush, Feds announce $3.1 billion for levees.   Nagin apparently met with Bush in the Oval Office and later announced the levee reconstruction/strengthening package.

Officials dodged the question of whether the levees would be built to a Category 5, using broader language instead to promise that the city's citizens would be safe and the levees would be "stronger and better." [...]

"It's time for you to come back to the Big Easy," [Nagin] said. "This action today says come home to New Orleans."

Well, it's a start, but it's $31.3 billion less than what we actually need. Levees alone aren't enough, if they're going to ignore and refuse to fund the plan to rebuild the marshes, wetlands and barrier islands.

And Ray ... nobody from New Orleans calls it "The Big Easy."

"Our New Orleans" tonight on "Down Home."   Tune in to my radio program tonight from 7-9pm PST, locally in Los Angeles at 88.5 FM or streaming live on the web at I'll be featuring the entire album "Our New Orleans 2005", featuring fantastic New Orleans and south Louisiana artists, all proceeds from which will benefit Habitat For Humanity's forthcoming work in New Orleans. If you haven't bought one (or several) yet, here's a chance to give it a listen and you'll hear how superb it is.

Listen tonight, then buy lots of them from the Louisiana Music Factory. It's the perfect Christmas gift!

Exploring the tequila trail.   In this week's column, Gary Regan gives our cocktailian bartender, The Professor (a.k.a. Gary's alter-ego), a break. Gary himself embarks on a trip with Julio Bermejo ("The tequila ambassador to the United States"), a co-owner of the new Tres Agaves Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Lounge in San Francisco. They head down to Jalisco, touring distilleries, sampling agaves, and coming back with lots more knowledge of tequila and a new recipe featuring blanco tequila, lemon juice, agave syrup and avocado!

Perhaps the most tantalizing part of the article, though, was a passing mention of Tres Agaves bartender Charles Vexanat, who makes his own grapefruit bitters ... I want some!!

Incidentally, my favorite new tequila is called El Charro, but I have yet to find it anywhere. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Our New Orleans 2005".   The best benefit album of the year is now out. Best album period, probably.

Our New Orleans 2005: A benefit album

"Our New Orleans 2005" features a host of the top New Orleans (and a couple of southwest Louisiana) musicians, some of whom no longer have homes. Studio time was donated, and the musicians recorded these songs in less than a month. The result by no means sounds rushed -- it sounds joyous, melancholy, sad, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful. All net proceeds from this album are being donated to Habitat for Humanity, whom I hope we'll be seeing lots of in New Orleans over the next several years.

Here's the lineup of talent:

Allen Toussaint -- Yes We Can Can.
A reworked version of his wonderful song originally written for Lee Dorsey (and covered to hit status by the Pointer Sisters) gets this album off to a hopeful, optimistic (and funky) start.

Dr. John -- World I Never Made.
A soulful, laid-back version of a number Mac co-wrote with Doc Pomus, originally done by the late Johnny Adams./p>

Irma Thomas -- Back Water Blues.
The Soul Queen of New Orleans, singing the blues; a Bessie Smith song.

Davell Crawford -- Gather By the River.
An original gospel-blues song, just vocals and piano.

Buckwheat Zydeco -- Cryin' in the Streets.
A sad soul number done in a zydeco-blues style.

Dr. Michael White -- Canal Street Blues.
A Joe "King" Oliver song, joyous 1920s traditional jazz. Dr. White's Gentilly home, a veritable museum of jazz, was destroyed along with all its contents.

The Wild Magnolias -- Brother John is Gone / Herc-Jolly-John.
The Mags in typical form (i.e., at the top thereof) in a raucous medley of Mardi Gras Indian classics. Even songs that are meant as laments (as "Brother John" is) are done with joy.

Eddie Bo -- When the Saints Go Marching In.
Eddie, on solo piano and vocals, in a song we're both thoroughly sick of (except when it's done as beautifully as this) and which we also insist on having on collections such as this. I'm glad we did, too.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band -- My Feet Can't Fail Me Now.
The Dirty Dozen, most of whom lost their homes as well, do a frenzied, urgent reworking of their first recorded number.

Carol Fran -- Tou' les Jours C'est Pas La Même.
Fran, née François, is a soul-blues diva from Lafayette, giving a bluesy/R&B feel to this old Creole song, sung in French and English.

BeauSoleil -- L'Ouragon (The Hurricane).
An original tune by Michael Doucet, first appearing on their album "La Danse de la Vie" in 1993, and sadly topical now.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band -- Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?.
A spare, almost minimal version of this classic. Mostly just vocals (John Brunious), bass and banjo. Gorgeous and heartbreaking.

Charlie Miller -- Prayer for New Orleans.
A few improvised a cappella lyrics, followed by a stunning trumpet solo.

The Wardell Quezergue Orchestra featuring Donald Harrison -- What A Wonderful World.
Gorgeous again, with Harrison on saxophone and a full orchestral backing.

Allen Toussaint -- Tipitina and Me.
One of the standout tracks on the album. Professor Longhair's classic "Tipitina" is a burst of joy every time it's played, no matter who's playing it. Here Toussaint transposes it to a minor key and improvises around the theme, bringing a beautiful melancholy to the melody you'd never expect. Amazing.

Randy Newman and The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with members of The New York Philharmonic -- Louisiana 1927.
Just when you thought you'd heard this song too many times (and I rarely feel that, I must confess), you hear a version like this, a perfect capper to this superb record.

Buy it now from the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans, which will help the city even more.

"We're having Mardi Gras, and that's final."   I hadn't gotten to the Times-Picayune yet today when my old friend Peter sent along this opinion piece by Chris Rose, with Peter's own introduction:

"For those of you not down here, there's a debate going on about whether or not we should 'hold' Mardi Gras this year, what with all the people still displaced, the devastation still in evidence throughout the city, and so forth.

"That's like debating whether or not the people in this country should 'hold' Christmas because we have troops in Iraq. Mardi Gras IS Mardi Gras, whether we have parades or not.

"The article below sums up my attitude. I remember the year that Mardi Gras was 'cancelled' in Orleans because of the police strike. Yeah, there were no parades; but people still came out on St. Charles, dressed up, promenaded, did the open house thing, etc. Truth be told, it was one of the best Fat Tuesdays I remember, 'cause the only people there were the real natives. I walked all the way downtown and back and everybody there was having a good time.

"People outside of N.O. think that Mardi Gras is one big debauch. That's mainly the idiot tourists and college kids who come here to make asses of themselves. For most of us, Mardi Gras is a big street party, the New Orleans equivalent of what July 4th used to be everywhere else, the day on which we come together to affirm the essence of life here, to celebrate our membership in the great big Social Aid and Pleasure Club which is New Orleans. And we don't need cops, and we don't need garbage collectors, and we don't need tourists or college students to have ourselves a good time ... but I can guarantee you that any cop or National Guardsman or soldier or Cajun-out-da-bayou-wit'-his-boat or first responder from anywhere in the world who came down to help out after Katrina will be shown a good time."

Thanks, Peter. I couldn't have said it better myself, and in fact you said it considerably better than I could have. Now, here's Chris Rose's column, in its entirety (because it's important; emphases mine).

The Mardi Gras thing. It's not on the table. It's not a point of negotiation or a bargaining chip.

We're going to have it and that's that. End of discussion.

Folks in faraway places are going to feel the misery of missing it, and that is a terrible thing. In the past, I have missed the season a couple of times because of story assignments elsewhere, and it sucked to be away from the center of the universe and not be a part of this city's fundamental, quintessential and indelible cultural landmark.

But we can't turn off the lights and keep the costumes in storage and ladders in the shed for another year just because we are beaten and broken and because so many of us are not here.

In fact, we have to do this because we are beaten and broken and so many of us are not here.

Katrina has proved, more than ever, that we are resilient. We are tougher than dirt. Certainly tougher than the dirt beneath our levees.

The social and celebratory nature of this event defines this city, and this is no time to lose definition. The edges are too blurry already.

Some folks say it sends the wrong message, but here's the thing about that: New Orleans is in a very complicated situation as far as "sending a message" goes these days. It's a tricky two-way street.

On one hand, it is vital to our very survival that the world outside of here understand just how profoundly and completely destroyed this city is right now, with desolate power grids and hundreds of thousands of residents living elsewhere and in limbo.

Jobs, businesses and the public spirit are all about as safely shored as the 17th Street Canal floodwall. We're leaking. And we could very well breach in the coming year or two.

We very well could.

On the other hand, we need to send a message that we are still New Orleans. We are the soul of America. We embody the triumph of the human spirit. Hell, we ARE Mardi Gras.

And Zulu can say they're only playing if they get it their way and Rex can say nothing at all and the mayor -- our fallen and befuddled rock star -- can say that he wants it one day and he doesn't want it the next day, but the truth is: It's not up to any of them.

It's up to me now. And we're having it.

And here's a simple, not-so-eloquent reason why: If we don't have Mardi Gras, then the terrorists win. The last thing we need right now is to divide ourselves over our most cherished event.

If the national news wants to show people puking on Bourbon Street as a metaphor for some sort of displaced priorities in this town, so be it. The only puking I've seen at Mardi Gras in the past 10 years is little babies throwing up on their mothers' shoulders after a bottle.

To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.

Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CDs in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year -- people whose names you may or may not even know but you've watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they're not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now, that part, more than ever.

It's mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under the Claiborne overpass and thrilling on the years you find them and lamenting the years you don't and promising yourself you will next year.

It's wearing frightful color combinations in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who -- like clockwork, year after year -- denies that he got the baby in the King cake and now someone else has to pony up the 10 bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods and our joy of living. All at once.

And it doesn't really matter if there are superparades or even any parades at all this year. Because some group of horn players will grab their instruments and they will march Down the Avenue because that's what they do, and I, for one, will follow.

If there are no parades, I'm hitching a boombox to a wagon, putting James Booker on the CD player and pulling my kids Down the Avenue and you're welcome to come along with me and where more than two tribes gather, there is a parade.

We are the parade. We are Mardi Gras. We're Whoville, man -- you can take away the beads and the floats and all that crazy stuff, but we're still coming out into the street. Cops or no cops. Post-parade garbage pick-up or no garbage pick-up -- like anyone could tell the friggin' difference!

If you are stuck somewhere else, in some other town, then bring it to them. If you got a job somewhere else now, take off that Tuesday and get all the New Orleanians you know and gather in a park somewhere and cook up a mass of food and put some music on a box and raise a little hell.

And raise a glass to us, brothers and sisters, because we're in here fighting this fight and we'll raise a glass to you because you cannot be here with us and we know you want to. Let the whole damn country hear Al Johnson yelling "It's Carnival Time" and let them know we're not dead and if we are dying, we're going to pretend like we're not.

Fly the flag. Be in that number. This is our battle to win or lose. Hopefully, of one mind and one message. That we are still here. And that we are still New Orleans.

Yeah you rite, bra.

Rally for New Orleans at the White House tomorrow.   Two New Orleanian evacuees have organized a rally in Washington D.C. tomorrow, the same day that Congress reconvenes to take up the supplemental appropriations bill that could fund the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Here's the bit that I like:

Sen. Landrieu has threatened to keep the Senate in session until it approves a $35.4 billion relief package that would fortify the city against a Category 5 storm, rather than Category 3 as proposed by the Bush administration.

If they won't do what needs to be done, then they need to be whooped upside their heads until they do.

Via This Modern World, an update from organizers: Rally has been rescheduled from noon to 2 pm. Sen. Landrieu tentatively scheduled to speak at 1 pm.

If you're anywhere near D.C. tomorrow, GO.

"I've heard a few people say New Orleans is below sea level, it shouldn't have been there in the first place. But it's been there 200 years. [287 years, actually.] What are we doing to do after the next earthquake hits San Francisco, just leave it? We're supposed to be taking care of each other.

"If the Netherlands can protect their country from the ocean, surely the United States of America can protect New Orleans from a lake."


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, December 12, 2005

Bush advisor to reporter: Katrina "has fallen so far off the radar screen, you can't find it."   This according to Washington Post reporter Mike Allen yesterday on "Meet the Press".

This unnamed shitbag is lucky he didn't say this in front of a New Orleanian, because if he had he might not have gotten out of the hospital for a long, long time.

The outrage is building to a level of overload such that I have never experienced in my life. This president is about to kill a major American city. MY city.

Call the White House today. If you've already called them, call them again. Call your senators and congresspersons. If you've already called them, call them again.

We are about to lose New Orleans.   An editorial in the New York Times warns its readers what New Orleanians already know: the city is being murdered as we speak by Bush administration and congressional neglect.

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.

The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed.

The price tag for protection against a Category 5 hurricane, which would involve not just stronger and higher levees but also new drainage canals and environmental restoration, would very likely run to well over $32 billion. That is a lot of money. But that starting point represents just 1.2 percent of this year's estimated $2.6 trillion in federal spending, which actually overstates the case, since the cost would be spread over many years.

And it is barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.

Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

Losing a major American city.

"We are about to lose New Orleans."THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN.

Why the fuck is this president so much more interested in rebuilding Iraq than in rebuilding New Orleans? Because 77% of them didn't vote for him? Because it's predominantly black? Because it's a "city of sin"? Why are they balking at spending $32 billion to protect a major American city from further destruction while they seem to have had no trouble passing four tax cuts in the last week that totalled $95 billion?


Hope this helps.   I was thinking about something like this, but a bunch of Lakeview residents of course thought of it already.

A full page ad designed by a group of Lakeview residents will run in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

The piece is titled, "A message from homeless New Orleanians" and is designed to impress upon lawmakers in Washington DC that residents from all over the New Orleans area want to return to their homes.

Several Lakeview residents came up with the idea last month while chatting online. Within two weeks the group raised more than $10,000 required to pay for the ad. Cherie Franz said the Lakeview group wants members of congress to know that the future of the city is in their hands.

"I'd like to explain the fact that we're not complaining. We just want to raise awareness and make sure that the promises made by our president in front of the cathedral are going to be honored," Franz said.

The ad will run sometime this week.

If the ad doesn't work, then perhaps a large club upside their heads ...

Rename the storm: Katrina USACOE.   Jarvis DeBerry writes in the Times-Picayune.

We know things the rest of the country does not. We know that we lost our homes because of human incompetence and gross negligence. We know that had the floodwalls done what they were designed to do, most of us would never have flooded. We know that the federal government is culpable.

The rest of the country knows there was a hurricane named Katrina.

The name will be never be used for another storm, but I say we stop using it even to explain the destruction that we still see before us.

If we must use a name, the obvious choice is USACOE, an acronym that obviously stands for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

USACOE wasn't malicious. I'll give them that. Just bumbling. But malice isn't always required. People entrusted their lives to the structural integrity of the floodwalls. Those walls turned out to be flimsy.

Some people will argue that the flimsiness of those walls would not have been made evident without Hurricane Katrina, and that therefore the hurricane itself, and not USACOE, deserves the blame. Don't fall for that line of reasoning. It's faulty. If I buy a new car, get cut off in traffic and slam on brakes that don't work, I'm more upset at the automaker than I am at the jerk who cut me off. Aren't you?

Katrina raged, but not so fiercely that we should have been drowned. USACOE sold us a bill of goods. USACOE said, "Hey, trusting public, this here model floodwall is the top of the line. Safe and reliable. You can depend on its safety features. Winds may reach 130 mph, and it will still hold back the water. Believe me. It won't fail."

On Aug. 29, the maximum sustained winds in New Orleans measured 105 mph. USACOE's floodwalls fell apart. We're supposed to blame Katrina for that?

As long as we talk about what happened here as a weather event, some outsiders will view our situation as doomed. So let's not say Katrina did this.

Turns out it wasn't just USACOE, though. Keep reading.

Canal dredging doomed New Orleans.   More depressing news ... and this time it wasn't the Army Corps of Engineers, it was the Sewerage & Water Board, Orleans and Jefferson levee boards. The dredging of the 17th Street Canal in the early 1980s contributed to the failure of the levee.

This is a .pdf file showing how the disaster happened.

Jesus Christ.

Holy Cross School's campus: 1879-2006.   And the final blow of bad news in the last few days ... my high school, although it will reopen in January with about 60% of its previous student body, will abandon its 126-year-old campus in the Lower Ninth Ward as of the fall 2006 semester and seek a new campus elsewhere in Orleans or Jefferson.

This represents a possible death knell for the Lower Ninth, as that school was the cornerstone of the neighborhod, not to mention the loss of all that history on that campus where I spent five years, starting in the 8th grade.

I can't even think about this.

Richard Pryor, 1940-2005.   Quote of the day:

When I was in Africa, this voice came to me and said, "Richard, what do you see?" I said, "I see all types of people." The voice said, "But do you see any niggers?" I said, "No." It said, "Do you know why? 'Cause there aren't any."

Thank you for everything, Richard.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 8, 2005

To Mardi Gras or not to Mardi Gras?   There's a huge stink controversy brewing in New Orleans right now, and a growing movement (mostly led by poorer folks whose neighborhoods were destroyed) to cancel the pending Mardi Gras festivities in '06

I heard a story on NPR last night during which they interviewed an evacuated New Orleans resident named ChiQuita Simms, who's now living in Atlanta. She's vehemently against the idea of a Mardi Gras celebration and thinks it's "insulting," and that we should be rebuilding New Orleans intead of having a party. She's followed by the president of the New Orleans Marketing and Convention Visitors Bureau, who reminds us that the city can't rebuild itself with no income, no revenue whatsoever, and that in a normal year Mardi Gras brings $1 billion into the New Orleans economy.

Then there's this view: a New Orleans native who's now a newspaper editor in northwest Indiana wrote in the Times-Picayune, "As a native of New Orleans who has had to watch from afar the pain of his city, I don't want to see tax dollars go toward fun and frivolity when people are suffering and struggling,", to which New Orleans author Poppy Z. Brite replied, "THEN STAY THE FUCK IN INDIANA AND LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE, YOU MONGOLOID."

As you can see, things can get a lil' touchy.

Yes, I know that tens of thousands of people are hurting. To some it might seem insensitive to have a parade. But y'know ... having parades is who we are. There were impromptu parades in New Orleans as soon as people started coming back home; in fact, there were parades thrown by some who never left. God knows the people remaining in the city need a little joy and celebration in their lives, something to let off some steam and allow them to both have a little fun and be grateful for anything they've got right now. I also can't help but notice that the anti-Mardi Gras complaints tend to come from people who haven't come home yet, mostly because they have no homes to come back to. I can understand why they're bitter, certainly, after spending a week mucking out the house where my family has lived for the past 25 years as well as seeing the house we lived for 15 years before that, which was got six feet of water and not "only" 4-1/2.

I think, though, that those folks are forgetting the people who have come home and started to rebuild, and those folks need a break. If you don't want to celebrate Mardi Gras, then don't -- stay home, stay away, stay wherever you are. If people who are back want to celebrate Carnival, let them. And as one local points out, "We plan to have Christmas, too."

Frankly, though, it all boils down to this -- we need the money. We need tourist dollars, and we need to rebuild our tourist and hospitality industries as soon as possible, if this city is to survive and become self-sustaining at any point in the foreseeable future. We need warm bodies in the Quarter, Garden District and Uptown, any place where the damage was minimal. We need them to see that part of the city is very much alive, and we need them to tell people that New Orleans is not a place for them to write off when it comes to tourism. If the city needs help with support, infrastructure and funding for police overtime, well ... they're actually considering seeking a corporate sponsor to underwrite costs for the first time ever. As much as I want to react against that, and against the encroachment of any corporate sponsor for what has been a private party open to the public for the last 150 years, I'm beginning to think that we should consider doing whatever it takes to make it work, and hope that the corporate sponsorship won't be needed once the city is back on its feet again.

Yes, great swaths of the city are still without power (about half, although it's supposed to be up to about 80% by the end of the year), and a lot of people haven't come home yet. However, the people who are offended by the idea of Mardi Gras have to realize that a city without revenue, with no tax base, ain't gonna last. If those folks want a home to come home to one day, we need to have as big a Mardi Gras as we can manage, and we need to hav an even bigger Jazzfest.

The Cocktailian.   In today's installment of Gary Regan's fornightly column, the Professor, our cocktailian bartender, notes that 1838 is a very good year for rum and yellow Chartreuse.

Hmm ... rhum agricole, yellow Chartreuse, falernum, pineapple and lime juices ... that sounds good!

Obituary of the day.   Eric "Alberta Slim" Roberts died in Canada the weekend after Thanksgiving at the age of 95. He was a "cowboy crooner", the Yodeling Cowboy of Canada who pioneered the early days of Canadian country music (hey, they have prairies in Alberta and Saskatchewan, too). I'd never heard of him, I must confess, and neither had Mary Katherine, who sent me the obit today. She pointed to one particular paragraph:

In the late 1940s, Mr. Edwards started a travelling circus and used Regina [in Saskatchewan] as a home base while he toured the country with his menagerie, including his fortune-telling horse Kitten, an elephant who played the harmonica, a dog who sang harmony and a bicycle-riding chimpanzee.

"I mean," she said, "does this not sound like my kinda of guy?!"

Mine too, sweetie. Rest in peace, Alberta Slim! Yodel-ay-yee-HOOOOOOOOO!

(Hey, I've actually been to Regina!)

Propaganda vs. spin.   Via Wes, who asks, "Does Dubya really believe his own bullshit?" Jacob Weisberg writes in Slate: "Beyond Spin: The propaganda presidency of George W. Bush".

A frequent complaint about the Clinton administration was that it tried too hard to "spin" everything in its own favor. Clinton's spin doctors had a variety of individual styles but shared a grating habit of relentlessly coloring the news to support their side in any argument. George Stephanopoulos, with whom the technique was closely identified, once defined spin as "a hope dressed up as an observation." In practice, Clinton-era spinning meant that officials seldom conceded the obvious or acknowledged losing, failing, or being wrong about anything.

George W. Bush arrived in Washington avowing an end to all that. He promised he would never parse, shade, or play nice with the truth the way that Clinton had. But if Bush has shunned spinning, it has been in favor of something far more insidious. If the Clintonites were inveterate spinners, the Bushies have proved themselves to be thoroughgoing propagandists.

Though propaganda and spin exist on a continuum, they are different in essence. To spin is to offer a contention, usually specious, in response to a critical argument or a negative news story. It does not necessarily involve lying or misleading anyone about factual matters. Habitual spin is irksome, especially to the journalists upon whom it is practiced, but it does not threaten democracy. Propaganda is far more malignant. A calculated and systematic effort to manage public opinion, it transcends mere lying and routine political dishonesty. When the Bush administration manufactures fake "news," suppresses real news, disguises the former as the latter, and challenges the legitimacy of the independent press, it corrodes trust in leaders, institutions, and, to the rest of the world, the United States as a whole.


Pardon me for Godwinizing this post, but everytime I hear the word "propaganda", I can't help but think "Joseph Goebbels."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 7, 2005

White House abandoning New Orleans.   This editorial made me so angry I could barely speak, not so much for what it says but for why it says what it says. What does it say? "Giving up on New Orleans: We may as well abandon the Big Easy because the White House is killing a plan to protect the city from the next Katrina." Mike Tidwell, author of Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast, writes in the Los Angeles Times:

As we near the 100-day mark since Hurricane Katrina hit, it's time we ended our national state of denial and abandon New Orleans for good.

We should call it quits not because New Orleans can't be made relatively safe from hurricanes. It can be. And not because to do so is more trouble than it's worth. It's not. Instead, the hammers and brooms and chain saws should all be put away and the city permanently boarded up because the Bush administration has already given New Orleans a quiet kiss of death.

Although he has encouraged city residents to return home and declared "we will do whatever it takes" to save the city, President Bush last month refused the one thing New Orleans simply cannot live without: a restored network of barrier islands and coastal wetlands.

Katrina destroyed the Big Easy -- and future Katrinas will do the same -- because 1 million acres of coastal islands and marshland vanished in Louisiana in the last century because of human interference. These land forms served as natural "speed bumps," reducing the lethal surge tide of past hurricanes and making New Orleans habitable in the first place. A $14-billion plan to fix this problem -- widely viewed as technically sound and supported by environmentalists, oil companies and fishermen alike -- has been on the table for years and was pushed forward with greater urgency after Katrina hit. But the Bush administration has turned its back on this plan. [...]

[T]he White House in effect killed the plan [to rebuild the wetlands] by authorizing a shockingly small $250 million out of the $14 billion requested in the spending package sent to Congress. Tens of billions of dollars have been authorized to treat the symptoms -- broken levees, insufficient emergency resources, destroyed roads and bridges. But next to nothing for the disappearing land that ushered the ocean into the city to begin with.

How could this administration, found totally unprepared for this disastrous hurricane, not see the obvious action needed to prevent the next Katrina? My theory is that Bush hears "wetlands" and retreats to a blind, ideological aversion to all things "environmental."

"Either they don't get it or they just don't care," said Mark Davis, director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. "But the results are the same: more disaster."

So stop the repairs. Close the few businesses that have reopened. Leave the levees in their tattered state and get out. Right now. It's utterly unsafe to live there.

As someone who dearly loves New Orleans, it pains me immeasurably to call for this retreat. I mean what I say. Shut the city down. To encourage people to return to New Orleans, as Bush is doing, without funding the only plan that can save the city from the next Katrina is to commit an act of mass homicide.

Anyone who doesn't like this news -- farmers who export grain through the port of New Orleans, New Englanders who heat their homes with natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico, cultural enthusiasts who like their gumbo in the French Quarter -- should direct their comments straight to the White House.

They must not be allowed to get away with this.

Obviously we cannot abandon New Orleans. The very idea is unthinkable. Yet Tidwell has a point -- for Bush and his administration to abandon New Orleans by abandoning the entirely affordable project that will protect it is tantamount to murder -- the murder of an entire city and its residents.

They must not be allowed to get away with this.

Call the White House today -- (202) 456-1111. Call and write your senators and representatives today.

UPDATE: The Pentagon is now asking for another $100 billion for Iraq, bringing the total to $420 billion. And they won't allocate $14 billion, three and one-third percent of that total, to protect not only a major American city but the entire surrounding metropolitan and rural areas and three states' worth of coastline.

This has got to stop.

Cocktail of the Day.   This wonderful drink was supposedly created at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, and has become a favorite of ours. While you may certainly use an absinthe substitute/pastis such as Herbsaint or Pernod, it's at its best when you use real, quality absinthe. We like native New Orleanian Ted Breaux's Absinthe Nouvelle-Orléans, made by his company Jade Liqueurs, available from Liqueurs de France, Ltd.

Don't let this drink's name become something more meaningful. Reread the above article and do what I say.

The Obituary Cocktail

2 ounces gin.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1/4 ounce absinthe.

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker.
Shake vigorously for 13 seconds, or stir vigorously for
no less than 26 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass;
no garnish.

You really should visit the Jade Liqueurs site, and I can't recommend their products more highly. They're expensive, but worth it -- a truly handmade product that's the result of years of miraculous research (revist the articles about Ted in the Gambit and Wired to learn about how he did it). Ted also could use the income, as he lost his New Orleans home to Katrina.

Friends of the Times-Picayune.   I got an email the other day from Susan Feeney, who's a senior editor at National Public Radio. She's an alumna of New Orleans' sole daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune (or as we say back home, "Da Papuh"), with which you are undoubtedly familiar. You may also have noticed that in the last three months that little picayune of a newspaper has been doing some absolutely stunning, world-class reporting and editorializing both during and after Hurricane Katrina. A lot of their folks, as is the case with tens of thousands of locals, are hurting. She and three of her colleagues have set up a web site and trust fund called Friends of the Times-Picayune, and I'll let her do the talking ...

We are four TP alumni; we all worked there in the 80s. So far more than 400 journalists and others who appreciate great journalism have given. I tell folks, "If you read the web site, then give."

This is a trust fund set up at a Houston bank which is donating its services. Every penny goes to TP families. We asked them to register to share in the relief fund and nearly 180 of the hardest hit families did. That is so many more in dire straights than even the TP management knew. People don't wear their woes on their sleeve. But you can see the pain in their eyes.

The people who lost their homes include senior reporters and editors as well as sports writers, copy editors, folks who work in advertising, marketing, many pressmen and back shop folks -- everyone it takes to make a newspaper. They lived in St. Bernard, New Orleans East, Lakeview -- across the spectrum. Their stories are heartbreaking. Yet the paper continues to produce stellar journalism in the face of unspeakable personal hardship. They aren't good at being victims, as you might imagine. They never imagined they'd be the ones in need of help.

Which is the long way of saying, they need our help. Even small contributions are much appreciated. They add up.

Thanks for considering,
Susan Feeney, Bridget O'Brian, Nan Varoga, Wendi Schneider.

I know you may be Katrina'ed out when it comes to parting with money for donations, but ... if you read the website, then give.

Mid-City restaurant news.   The Gambit's Ian McNulty has a mixed bag of news from Mid-City and Faubourg St. John. Lola's, Café Degas and Ralph's on the Park are open and doing well, but there are whole neighborhoods just blocks away that still don't have electricity yet. The future is very uncertain for places like Angelo Brocato's too, sad to say.

Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide online!   Professor Jerry Thomas was the first professional bartender to write a book about his profession, the first edition of which came out way back in 1862. It's very collectible; I've got a couple of vintage copies, as well as a couple of excellent modern reproduction/facsimile editions.

However, if you don't want to go through the trouble of acquiring one of those, we find out today via the Ardent Spirits newsletter that Darcy O'Neil has put the entire contents of the book online.

The rest of the site is worth checking out too, and regularly.

This just in: Bill O'Reilly still batshit insane.   Via Media Matters: "'The Radio Factor' host stated that he would 'use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people' who 'diminish and denigrate the [Christmas] holiday.'"

Um, yeah ... that's exactly how Jesus would have wanted it.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Dinner last night.   We'd gotten these lovely kabocha squashes in our box from Organic Express, and the thought of that fantastic roasted kabocha squash and braised bacon was still fresh on my mind. I knew I'd roast them with some lovely seasoning (Chinese five-spice came to mind) and sprinkle them with bacon, but I didn't want to serve it on greens, and decided to Google for some accompaniment ideas.

To my surprise, I found inspiration at some vegan food site. I've always been put off by vegan food, not because it contains no meat but because it frequently fakes meat and dairy ingredients, becoming what I consider to be "fake food." The idea I got for accompanying the roasted squash was a tzatziki sauce (the tangy Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce) but made with zucchini instead of cukes. Hmm, sounds interesting.

However, the vegan recipe called for the tzatziki to be made with "soy yogurt" and "Tofutti sour cream". (Er, no.) It was also missing some key ingredients, like the lemon juice and dill. Real yogurt and sour cream were called for (but in a concession to my Weight Watchers' methods these days, I used a nonfat yogurt and "light" sour cream, which when combined actually tasted lovely). The garlic was tripled, of course, the juice of half a lemon added, and since I didn't think that dill would go with the spices on the squash, I added some tarragon instead. Perfect.

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Bacon and Zucchini-Tarragon Tzataiki

1 large Kabocha squash, halved, seeded and peeled
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chinese five-spice (I use Penzey's, which contains China cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves)

Four slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and broken into pieces (artisanal bacon is best when you've got it, but we used Oscar Meyer thick-cut)

1 cup plain yogurt (full fat, lowfat or nonfat)
1/2 cup sour cream (regular or light)
1 small zucchini, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Salt, cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Honey (optional)

Heat oven to 375°F.

Combine yogurt, sour cream, zucchini, garlic, lemon juice, tarragon and seasonings, stir until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate while the squash is roasting to allow time for the flavors to combine.

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and peel. Drizzle with olive oil and rub/toss until just coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground red pepper, and season with Chinese five-spice to taste (not too much), tossing to coat. Roast at 375°F for about 55 minutes to an hour, until done.

Cut each squash half into four crossways slices, and cut each slice in half. Optionally drizzle with a little honey (we like Bernard's Acadiana Wildflower Honey, but any dark, aromatic honey will do). Sprinkle squash with 2 slices crumbled bacon and a heaping side serving of tzatziki. Serve with crusty toasted bread.

YIELD: 2 servings.

This was good. Sorry, no photos ... we were hungry.

Hmmm ...   Hey, I think I like this idea.

Singer Harry Connick Jr. and saxophone player Branford Marsalis are working with Habitat for Humanity to create a "village" for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.

More than $2 million has been raised for the project dreamed up by Connick and Marsalis - a neighborhood built around a music center where musicians can teach and perform, said Jim Pate, executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.

In a telephone interview Monday, ahead of the planned announcement Tuesday, Connick said he and Marsalis -- both honorary chairs for the national Habitat's hurricane rebuilding program -- returned to their hometown several weeks after the storm and were trying to think of ways to help.

"I had been kind of coming up blank. The problem is so massive, it's hard to know where to begin," Connick said. "As we talked, we both realized we should really stick to what we know, which is music."

Connick said four or five of the 16 musicians in his own band lost their homes. "There's a ton of musicians who have no place to go," he said.

Pate said the organization hasn't decided on a location and doesn't yet have money for the whole project, which would include a music center named for Ellis Marsalis, the jazz pianist and educator who is father of the musical family that includes Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. Habitat is looking at several locations in New Orleans, he said.

Habitat cannot reserve houses for a specific group, and non-musicians would also live in the musicians' village, Pate said. However, musicians who lost their houses and have no or too little insurance - and will provide labor for a Habitat house - will be asked if they'd like to live there.

"We'd hope some of our musician partner families could do some of their sweat equity by doing performances or concerts for some of our volunteers who are coming from all over the world," Pate said.

It's a fantastic idea, said Banu Gibson, who sings '20s and '30s jazz.

"So many musicians have moved out of town, and a lot of the good ones, too, which is really depressing," she said.

Yeah ... this is a great idea. I think they should get started on it as soon as possible. The only thing we have to insist on is that those houses look like New Orleans houses, and not generic Habitat boxes.

Ginny gin gin.   (Good lord, I wrote this post ages ago, never posted it and just found it in my /looka directory. Sheesh.)

We tried a relatively new gin a while back -- Broker's Premium London Dry Gin. It's got a lovely assortment of botanicals as the source of its flavor -- juniper, lemon peel, coriander, nutmeg, cassia, cinnamon, orange peel, angelica and orris root. (I have no idea what orris root tastes like, but I'll take their word for it that it's in there.) At 94 proof it packs quite a punch, too.

What it is is a bloody fine gin, not shy with the juniper but with a complex flavor that doesn't make you think you're gnawing on a chunk of pine bark. It was Gin of the Year in 2003, according to Food and Wine magazine, noting its bold flavor. It is definitely not one of those "soft" gins like Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray No. 10, although I like those too. It does flaunt its Englishness quite a bit -- each bottle wears a plastic bowler hat -- which is fairly amusing. (Now, if it had a plastic Margaret Thatcher purse, that'd be another story.)

I whipped up a couple of Martinis to take this gin on its maiden voyage in our house, in my favoured proportion of 6:1 plus a dash of orange bitters. In deference to Wesly's taste I shook the hell out of it instead of stirring, 'cause he really likes that little flotilla of tiny ice chips on the surface of his Martinis. *sip* ... man, there's a lot going on in there. The citrus and spice definitely come through, but this is no wimpy gin -- the juniper practically slaps you in the face and challenges you to a duel. I accepted ... and after the glass was drained and olive consumed, considered myself the victor (but only just; two of these and I'd flat on me arse).

Broker's is a welcome addition to our pantheon of gins; at last count, we also had Plymouth, Bombay, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Tanqueray No. 10, Citadelle, Hendrick's and Magellan (the blue one, tinted with iris petals).

GOP Justice Department "Fixing the Game".   The New York Times takes a look at Alberto Gonzales "de Torquemada"'s Justice Department.

The rules of American democracy say every president may install his own team of like-minded people in the government - even at a place like the Justice Department, which is at its root a law-enforcement agency and not a campaign branch office. But the Bush administration seems to be losing sight of the fact that the rules also say the majority party of the moment may not use its powers to strip citizens of their rights, politicize the judicial system or rig the election process to keep itself in office.

There are sections of the Justice Department that are supposed to be dedicated to enforcing the laws that protect the rights of all Americans, not just Republican officeholders and the people who give them money. The Civil Rights Division, for example, has enforced anti-discrimination laws, including the sacred Voting Rights Act, since the 1960's, under more Republican presidents than Democratic presidents.

But The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported last week that the Justice Department has been suppressing for nearly two years a 73-page memo in which six lawyers and two analysts in the voting rights section, including the group's chief lawyer, unanimously concluded that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003 illegally diluted the votes of blacks and Hispanics in order to ensure a Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation. That plan was shoved through the Texas State Legislature by Representative Tom DeLay, who abused his federal position in doing so and is now facing criminal charges over how money was raised to support the redistricting.

[...] The administration's abuse of its narrow electoral majority extends to other areas. Mr. DeLay's requirement that lobbying firms contribute only to Republicans and hire his loyalists comes to mind.

Mr. Bush and his team don't understand that they merely hold the current majority in a system designed to bring periodic changes in the governing party and to protect the rights and values of the minority party. The idea that the winners should trash the system to make sure the democratic process ended with them was discredited back around the time of the Bolsheviks.

This is because the current majority party, no matter now much they love slinging the word around, really don't care one iota about democracy.

The Bugman's about to be squashed.   Things are looking bad for Tom Delay, and the age-old scenario of extreme hubris leading to a catastrophic downfall never seems to stop working. He's been ordered to stand trial, and now according to a new Gallup poll he trails a "generic Democrat" hypothetically running his his district by 13 points. Latest speculation is that he might not even run again; he'd have to file by January, and he hasn't done it yet or shown signs that he's going to. He's going to have a hard time running for re-election while preparing a defense and being on trial.

So much for "the most powerful Republican in Washington." As they said on dKos, "stick a fork in him, he's done."

Supreme strategy.   From Slate, via Wes, by Dahlia Lithwick:

Pretend, for a minute, that I am not completely paranoid and that there is truth behind my sense that we are all missing the real story of the new Supreme Court nominations. My fear is that we are all snoozing through an elaborate plan to pack the court for the Bush administration's war on terror. What if all the obsessive talk about whether candidates are for or against overturning Roe v. Wade is a strategic head feint? What if I am right, and Samuel Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court without ever substantively answering a question about torture, enemy detentions, the rights of foreigners, or civil liberties during wartime?

I think we will, all of us, be very sorry. Not just the edgy civil libertarians or the ACLU types, and not just Jose Padilla, or his attorneys, but everyone who believes there is a place for the rule of law even in the midst of a war, especially when that war threatens to go on forever.

This president -- for reasons that hardly warrant repeating here -- doesn't really want to be remembered as the guy responsible for the court that overturned Roe. (Although he certainly wants us to think he wants to be remembered as that guy.) No, Roe is not what keeps George W. Bush awake nights. What he wants to be remembered for is winning the war on terror. He wants to be seen as the president who carried the great torch of democracy into the world's darkest corners. And he believes -- of this I am certain -- that the courts are standing in his way.

This country gets scarier by the day, and more people need to wake up. It's starting, but we have a long way to go. Call or write your senators and insist that these questions be raised of Alito, and insist that those senators vote "no" if they're not answered adequately. Do you think any end justifies the means of this country being known around the world as a country of torturers? Land of the free? Yeah, right.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, December 5, 2005

Cocktales.   No, it's not porn ... get yer minds out of the gutter, ya daerty feckers! It's the latest article by Gary Regan for Cheers, the beverage industry trade publication, subtitled "the stories behind the world's classic drinks (by someone who should know)."

Learn the (mostly) true stories behind the creation of such classics as the Sazerac, Manhattan, Martini, Margarita, Negroni, Rob Roy, Bronx and even the Cosmopolitan (which I myself would prefer to leave back in 1992).

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, December 3, 2005

Café Adelaide.   Since we're celebrating the reopening of Café Adelaide, I thought I'd post some long-overdue food porn generated during my last two visits there. It's quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans, and you'll soon see why.

This first visit was back during Jazzfest (yep, there's still stuff from Jazzfest, eight months ago, that I haven't yet posted. I am not called Gawd Emperor of Procrastination for nothing.)

Swizzle Stick Cocktails

The Swizzle Stick Cocktail, Café Adelaide's original house cocktail and namesake of their Swizzle Stick Bar -- amber rum, fresh lime juice, bitters, soda and a "secret ingredient". They brought us these nifty little trees with sample-sized servings so we could all get a taste. It's that great trick behind the old New Orleans concept of lagniappe (i.e., "a little something extra" for free). You give 'em their first taste for free, and they keep coming back for more (which, I suppose, is the same principle used by crack dealers, although restauranteurs are much nicer and more fun). I, of course, quaffed two more, as they were so delicious, and kept trying to guess the secret ingredient (Cane syrup? Vanilla?). Café Adelaide owner Ti Martin just kept smiling, shaking her head and saying, "I'm not gonna tell ya." Well, fine then. I'll show her. I'll just keep drinking them until I figure it out!

Oysters B.L.T.

Corn Fried Oysters "B.L.T." -- Perfectly crunchy oysters with an oyster and bacon velouté sauce, crushed tomato ragout and a chiffonade of Romaine lettuce, served on a fried green tomato. It has since become a signature dish of the restaurant, although I don't know what'll happen to it now that Chef Kevin is leaving.

This was an amazing dish; essentially simple, but very creative and clever. You almost want to giggle while you're eating it. It reminds me of how well the flavor of fried oysters and bacon go together (as in Oysters en brochette), and the lettuce and tomato touches are perfect. It also reminds me of how much I loves me some bacon on an ersta poor boy ...

Foie Gras

"Liver and Onions" -- Pan-seared foie gras with caramelized spring onions, red wine syrup and truffle cream. The serving is "modest", alas, and Wesly declined to give me a bite. In fact, when I got my hand too close to his plate I nearly got stabbed with his fork. Suffice to say that this dish is wonderful enough to defend it with whatever weaponry is at hand.

Hot Island 'Daiquiri' Shrimp

Hot Island "Daiquiri" Shrimp -- from Chef Kevin's "Cocktail Menu", dishes inspired by the flavors of classic cocktails. This mindbogglingly wonderful dish featured pepper-sautéed "lacquered" shrimp with diced bacon (ahhhhhh) and a salsa made of watermelon, mango, red onion and cilantro, in a rum-lime sauce with some sweet potato hash. This is one of the best dishes I've tasted in New Orleans in recent memory, and I really hope we see it again somewhere.

Pannéed Veal with Crabmeat

Pannéed Veal and Crabmeat -- One of my favorite dishes, in its infinite variations, and I get it almost anytime I see it. In fact, I love pannéed veal just plain, nuttin' on it. If you're unfamiliar with the term, to "panné" something means, in New Orleans, to coat it with seasoned bread crumbs (and often with grated Parmigiano cheese mixed in) and pan-fry it. Veal is the classic, quintessential such preparation, and it's a a Platonic dish. I loved this version, too -- topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and a garlic crostini, drizzled with pesto sauce. Lovely.

Then ... there was the dessert bomb. This is a thing we always love at Brennan restaurants, and it helps to get one when one of your party knows one of the owners. In case I haven't mentioned it before, a "dessert bomb" is when they bring one of every single dessert on the menu (and then some) and plop them all down on the table at the same time. The dishes then begin orbiting the table; everyone takes a bite and passes it on, and lingering excessively or bogarting a dish is an invitation for assault. (In fact, I'll tell you that I've taken my very life into my hands by taking the time to photograph these dishes, and I only mananged to get a few of them before the threats of bodily harm were hurled in my direction.)

Creole Cream Cheese Crème Caramel

Creole Cream Cheese Crème Caramel, with fresh berries. Monumentally good, and a wonderful use of that almost-lost, quintessentially New Orleanian ingredient, Creole cream cheese.

Creole rice calas

Creole Rice Calas, with strawberries and cane syrup. Calas are the little fried rice fritters that are a grand old Creole tradition in New Orleans, and one that almost died out. A hundred years ago and more, you could hear the Creole women pushing their calas carts up and down the streets of the Quarter, shouting, "Ca-LAAAAAAAS! Ca-LAAAAAAAAAS!! TOUT chaud, TOUT chaud!" The restaurant also sometimes serves this dish as "Coffee and Doughnuts", a takeoff on another great New Orleans tradition; the calas are served with a cappuccino mousse and biscotti.

Marshmallow Chocolate Turtle Pie (Cake?)

Marshmallow Chocolate Turtle Pie -- Chocolate mousse, cookie crust and topped with a thick layer of browned housemade marshmallow. Fabulous. They call it a "pie" but it looks more like a cake. Cakepie? Or piecake?

Pineapple Upside-Down Bread Pudding

Pineapple Upside-Down Bread Pudding with Tahitian vanilla sugar and vanilla bean ice cream. Oh my.

A few months later I made a return visit, this time with my parents and grandmother. They're big fans of the Brennan restaurants (on both sides of the Brennan family) and had never tried Café Adelaide. I knew they'd love it, and I wasn't wrong.

These are mostly just my own dishes in the photos; as is often the case with New Orleanians, the folks attacked their dishes before I could get any shots off.

Creole Crab Traps

This is another signature dish from Chef Kevin, and I hope it sticks around after he's gone, 'cause it's superb. Jumbo lump crabmeat, green onions and sautéed mushrooms in "eggplant buckets", topped with Béarnaise sauce. Well, how can you go wrong starting off with jumbo lump crabmeat and Béarnaise sauce? Everything in this dish comes together so perfectly well, and it's yet another of the whimsically-themed dishes that are as delightful to look at as to eat.

What, pannéed veal again?

Pannéed Veal. Here I go again. What can I say, I'm a breaded-and-pan-fried-baby-cow fanatic. This preparation was slightly different from the last time I had pannéed veal there, a little simpler, with grilled Creole tomatoes, asparagus and a beurre blanc sauce.

Blueberry bread pudding

Blueberry bread pudding with créme anglaise. Dad's serving. I didn't get any. (*grump*)

'Cookies and Cream'

"Cookies and Cream" -- Brandy milk punch ice cream served with assorted cookies and (usually) a chocolate swizzle stick (although not this time). Mmmm, brandy milk punch ice cream. I'm totally stealin' that idea.

It'll be a while before we get Mr. B's Bistro ("Spring 2006", they say) and Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse back (April 1, 2006 on the latter). The Palace Café will be reopening New Year's Eve (yay!), Commander's by Jazzfest we hope! In the meantime I'll be chowing down at Café Adelaide as often as I can, whenever I'm in town. I wish the best of luck to Chef Kevin, and I'll be checking out his own new place as soon as I can, and I'm excited for Chef Danny too ... hey, if we can get two good restaurants out of this, that'll be a double bonus!

Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar ... and Shrub.   Quote of the day, from Thursday's New York Times editorial regarding the first in a series of speeches on Iraq (about which Salon comments, "Nobody likes reruns.):

That may be the most grandiose set of ambitions for the region since the vision of Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar, who saw the hand writing on the wall. Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans -- except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.

A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.

Salon asks, "How many times can the president deliver a "major" speech on Iraq?" As many times as it takes for him to transmute lead into gold, maybe?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, December 2, 2005

Cocktail of the Day.   Ever since I began experimenting with my Pimento Dram (a.k.a., allspice liqueur) recipe I'd been wanting to play more with the lovely, rich, sumptuous, dark and caramelly Demerara rum that I used to make it. Demerara rum is made exclusively in the nation of Guyana, with Demerara sugar -- large crystals, golden-colored, rich with molasses but not as moist as typical American brown sugar. The most readily available brand is Lemon Hart, which is fine stuff (and, as Dr. Cocktail points out, the makers of the only palatable 151 proof rum on the American market; the only cocktail for which Bacardi 151 is suitable, by comparison, is the one made by Mr. Molotov). I picked up a bottle for a mere $16 at Topline Wine and Spirits in Glendale, and it was off to CocktailDB to look for interesting suggestions for the use of this fine rum. Here's the first one that came up. It's good.

The Atlas Cocktail

1 ounce Calvados or apple brandy.
1 ounce Demerara rum (Lemon Hart).
1/2 ounce Cointreau.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Stir in mixing glass with ice for no less than 30 seconds.
Strail into a cocktail glass. Optional orange twist garnish.

It didn't specify a garnish; you could plop in a cherry (although that's easy), but I think an orange twist would suit the drink better. When I'm feeling extravagant I'd love to try this with a dash of vintage Abbott's Bitters.

Commander's Palace: Worse than I thought.   When I went home in October for my first post-Katrina visit, I drove over to Washington Ave. to see what was what and shoot some pictures. I did notice some roof damage, but most of the outside of the building looked pretty good, and I even managed to get a shot of the inside, which almost looked as if it was ready for service.

It turns out that the roof damage was far more serious than it looked, and now it turns out that the best-case scenario for the reopening of Commander's Palace is March, at the very earliest. :-(

For nearly three months, Ti Adelaide Martin has performed none of the tasks she was essentially born to do.

She's greeted no guests, conducted no tableside charm offensives, fielded no customer compliments or complaints. At least not in New Orleans, which, as suggested by the sign outside Commander's Palace, her family's still-shuttered restaurant, is where it really matters.

The sign reads: "We know what it means."

Indeed. Until last week, the branch of the Brennans that runs Commander's Palace, the family flagship, Garden District fixture and hothouse of famous culinary talent, have watched helplessly as restaurants reopened all over New Orleans' high ground. That waiting game ended Thanksgiving Day when Caf? Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar, a Commander's spinoff, reopened in the Warehouse District.

Martin, homeless courtesy of the tree that fell on her house in Mid-City, is now living with her mother, Ella Brennan, in the family matriarch's residence adjacent Commander's, which has seen better days.

An overflowing trash bin sits in the spot where valets usually choreograph a jam of luxury cars. The structure dates to the 1880s, when Emile Commander opened his restaurant at a site that was once a part of the J.F.E. Livaudais Plantation. "It's an old building, and we're always basically rebuilding it," Martin said.

The Brennans' tenure as Commander's proprietors, during which the restaurant served as a launching pad for Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, has left an indelible mark on New Orleans' recent history. But its long past did not serve it well during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"Water came in through the ceiling and I guess the wall," Martin said. "There was some kind of weird sideways rain. And then along came Rita. We pretty much have to rip everything out and put it back in."

Martin calls a March re-opening a "best-case scenario."

Sigh. This is sad in so many ways. That beautiful old building, the ambience inside, some of the best food in the city, and this can't help but make me think about Chef Jamie, Commander's former exec chef who passed away a few years ago. At least we know they're rebuilding and reopening, and that's comforting. Chef Tory is keeping busy and isn't going anywhere. If we're lucky, maybe they'll be open by Jazzfest, but we'll be content to wait as long as it takes. Better to take their time and do it right than rush it.

That's also great news about Café Adelaide, which I adore (and it's the restaurant's namesake, Aunt Adelaide Brennan, from whom I stole this weblog's current below-the-title tag line). Actually, it's good and bad and good news about Café Adelaide. They've reopened. However, they're losing their wonderful chef, Kevin Vizard, who's bailing after only a year to open his own restaurant on St. Charles. What, we moan, will become of such great dishes as the Daiquiri Shimp and the Crabmeat Traps?! I'm a bit annoyed at him, actually, 'cause I love going there and I love his food, but I'll still love his food at his new place, plus there's this... His replacement will be Commander's Palace chef de cuisine Danny Trace, whom we remember well from our last big group visit to Commander's -- he came over to our table and asked us where we had eaten and a bunch of other questions and nearly ended up coming to Jazzfest with us, as Mary reminded us yesterday. I'm excited to see what his menu will look like.

I neeed a visit to Commander's in Vegas, and I can't wait to get back to Café Adelaide. That reminds me ... I'll be posting some food porn from both Commander's and Café Adelaide in the next few days.

Scotty on the way out?   Via Cursor: "Wondering what happened to Scott McClellan [who hasn't given an on-the-record press briefing in three weeks], ThinkProgress refers to a PR Week article in which a former White House correspondent said: 'I've been through a lot of press secretaries. There are some really good ones ... some average ones ... And there are a few who have no business there. I would put Scott in that last category.'"

I hope the door hits him in the ass, really hard, on his way out.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 1, 2005

Shop New Orleans!   "Jingle jangle jingle, here comes Mr. Bingle, with another message from Kris Kringle ..."

Mr. Bingle, the little snowman and Santa's helper, has been our city's own symbol of Christmas season for decades -- not so much the spiritual portion of the holiday season but certainly the shopping portion, as he was created for the late, lamented Maison Blanche department stores in 1948.

I think it'd be a great idea if you did some (if not most or all) of your Christmas shopping in New Orleans this year. The city's businesses badly need your patronage and your dollars, and you'll be doing your part to help keep the city afloat. You can do it online, and if you need some help, look no further. Here's a sampling of local businesses with online sales, compiled by my friend "Baconwrapped" Mary with several additions from me.

Louisiana Music Factory: The best record store in New Orleans, concentrating on local artists. Indispensible!!

Basin Street Records, featuring Kermit Ruffins, Los Hombres Calientes, Irvin Mayfield, Jason Marsalis, Dr. Michael White, Henry Butler, Jon Cleary and more.
Tim Laughlin, superb jazz clarinetist (and my old high school classmate)
The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, one of the city's finest jazz ensembles and a staple of Frenchmen Street. Two excellent self-produced and -released albums for sale.
OffBeat: New Orleans and Louisiana's Roots Music Magazine. Indispensible. Subscribe at $29/year, and right now a $200 donation to keep them afloat will get you a lifetime subscription!
Quintron and Miss Pussycat, "Swamp-tech / Noise / Mood" music from beloved local characters of the Spellcaster Lodge, St. Claude Ave., Bywater.
Jim Russell's Rare Records: Rare LPs, 45s, 78s. Can be expensive, but can also be a last-chance treasure trove of vinyl.
STR Digital, contemporary New Orleans music.
Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders, Traditional New Orleans Jazz.

A Gallery for Fine Photography: Joshua Mann Pailet's gallery is one of the finest photography galleries in the nation. Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Yousuf Karsh, Jan Saudek, Jerry N. Uelsmann, Herman Leonard, many more.
The Bywater Art Market: Original works of art from local and regional artists.
Derby Pottery and Tile: Beautiful ceramic art based on local motifs. (I have several of Mark Derby's pieces.)
Hanson Gallery, local and international artists: Adrian Deckbar, Peter Max, Malcolm Liepke, Frederick Hart, Raymond Douillet, Michelle Gagliano, Patterson & Barnes, Thomas Arvid, many more. Currently offering 10% discounts on pieces under $5000 through Dec. 31!
LeMieux Galleries, Louisiana and Gulf Coast artists: Shirley Rabé Masinter, Leslie Staub, many more.
Photo Works New Orleans: A gallery of New Orleans photographs by Louis Sahuc. Ask for the poster version of Louis' wonderful photographs of Napoleon House proprietor Joe Impastato and his lady friend Margi, a true New Orleans delight and a wonderfully affordable gift.
Christopher Porché West Photography, "A Studio on Desire": Porché West documents the cultural life of the city, including jazz, Mardi Gras Indians, African-American subjects and more.
Arthur Roger Gallery, local and international artists: Debbie Fleming Caffery, Mitchell Gaudet, Greg Gorman, Francis X. Pavy, Michael Willmon, many more.
Stone + Press Gallery, specializing in mezzotints and fine art prints.
Studio Inferno: Glass art by Mitchell Gaudet, James Vella, Erica Hauben, Morgan Graff and Patti Meager. The unique history, culture, traditions, music, and architecture of the city influence the design and color palette of all Inferno's work, creating an unparalleled reputation throughout the United States and Europe. Many extremely affordable pieces by one of the most popular exhibitors at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival!

Beckham's Books: Used and new titles, in the French Quarter.
Faulkner House Books, Pirate's Alley, French Quarter. A National Historic Landmark.
Garden District Book Shop, "New Orleans' signature book shop", lots of local authors and lots of signed volumes.
Maple Street Book Shop, Uptown.
The Neighborhood Story Project: Home-grown young New Orleans writers, mostly high school kids, writing about their neighborhoods in the Crescent City. A unique partnership between UNO, the Literary Alliance and John McDonough Senior High School. Wonderful!
Octavia Books: Independent bookshop at the corner of Octavia and Laurel, Uptown.
Pelican Publishing: Home of the Friends of the Cabildo's New Orleans Architecture Series and myriad books about New Orleans history and culture.

House of Lounge: Luxurious designer lingerie and loungewear, Magazine St.
Jazzy Knits: A one-woman shop featuring unique, colorful handmade scarves, hats, belts, purses, etc.
Kabuki Design Studio's fun original hats: From straw hats for Festivals, to fabric hats for both men and women, to costumes and wigs for Mardi Gras & Southern Decadence, to fringed velvet shawls and bags - a visit to Kabuki is a unique experience!
Leontine Linens: Monogrammed heirloom-quality linens.
Andrea Loest: Unique Art Clothing.
Metro Three: Locally-themed t-shirts and clothing for adults and kids.
Meyer the Hatter: The South's Largest Hat Store, since 1894! Where Chuck and his dad shop for their hats.
Orient Expressed: Children's clothes and gifts.
Perlis: Traditional men's wear, featuring the famous Crawfish Polo Shirt.
Trashy Diva: Vintage and retro women's fashion.
Yvonne LaFleur: Women's clothing and fragrances.

Aunt Sally's Original Creole Pralines, gift baskets, much more.
Blue Frog Chocolates: Chosen "Best Candy Shop In New Orleans" by the readers of the Gambit, five years and counting.
Café Du Monde: Famous coffee and chicory, beignets and gifts.
Evans Creole Candy Factory: Pralines and more.
Loretta's Authentic Pralines. In business for 22 years, Loretta is the first African-American woman to successfully own and operate her own praline company in New Orleans.
Louisiana Caviar, from local Choupique roe harvested in freshwater Louisiana bayous, used in restaurants throughout New Orleans.
Southern Candymakers: Pralines, turtles, toffee, classic candies, New Orleans specialties, much more.
Tabasco Gift Baskets: email
Uglesich's Restaurant offers the Uglesich's Restaurant Cookbook, t-shirts, aprons, pot holders and more.

Mignon Faget: New Orleans-inspired jewelry and gifts. In New Orleans, anybody who's anybody has something from Mignon Faget, beloved local designer and artist. (And anybody who wants to make me really happy can get me a set of the fleur-de-lis cufflinks!)

Katy Beh Contemporary Jewelry.
Ruby Ann Bertram-Harker: New Orleans jewelry designer.
Anne Dale's "I Love New Orleans" Badge: Mandeville-based jewelry designer's tribute to the city, a lapel pin or pendant featuring a crescent, heart and fleur-de-lis, saying "I know what it means" around the crescent and "New Orleans" below.
Heather Elizabeth Designs: Unique jewelry, Christmas ornaments, nightlights based on local motifs.
Thomas Mann Design: "Techno-Romantic Jewelry and Sculpture".
Sabai Jewelry Gallery: Art to wear.

Hazelnut: Fine gifts and elegant home accessories, featuring their exclusive, fabulous New Orleans toile fabric and related products!
KK-Nola: Handmade eco-friendly gifts from reused and recycled materials.
Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl: Bowling shirts, t-shirts, zydeco CDs and souvenirs from the world-famous Rock 'n Bowl!
The Milk Bar: Clothing, accessories, jewelry, and other items made by New Orleans artists.
Vive la France, French imports: tablecloths and quilts, clocks, glassware, home décor, HB-Henriot Quimper, bath & perfumes, Laguiole knives, Dubout cats, absinthe and pastis accessories, French CDs, repro vintage posters, lavender & sachets, and much more. A terrific little shop! Royal Street, French Quarter.

Aidan Gill for Men: World class, top quality luxury shaving supplies, accessories, skin products and gifts. My super-nifty New Orleans Water Meter cufflinks came from here. (Currently not accepting web orders but apparently accepeting phone orders. Call to confirm.)
Earthsavers Skin Care: Skin care products, gifts and spa. Uptown, Metairie, Mandeville.
Rouge Beauty: Cosmetics, fragrances, bath & body accessories. French Quarter.

New Orleans Craft Mafia: A loose collective of craftspersons making a wide variety of items!
New Orleans Business Listings
French Quarter Merchants
Magazine Street Merchants

For more history about Mr. Bingle, see the Gambit article entitled "In Search of Mr. Bingle", and especially the history page from the Mr. Bingle Fans site. Mr. Bingle's "assets" have been taken over locally by Dillard's department store, and although unfortunately you can't buy plush Mr. Bingles online, you can get them at local Dillard's in Kenner, Slidell, Hammond, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles (are there any open in Orleans Parish yet?). Mr. Bingle will also be appearing at the Celebration in the Oaks in City Park this year!

I know it's too early for this, and the my inner Scrooge (who is already thoroughly sick of the Christmas music he's been hearing on the radio and in every feckin' store I've entered since the day after Thanksgiving) rebels at the idea of saying it this soon, but I wanna get some shopping going back home, so ... early Merry Christmas, y'all! (And early Happy Hanukkah ... buy eight gifts from eight N.O. vendors!)

Why New Orleans Matters.   From this week's Gambit Weekly (and promoted from the comments; thanks, growler!), an excerpt from local author Tom Piazza's new book Why New Orleans Matters, in which "the author argues that forsaking the hard work that it will take to make New Orleans great again will cause irrevocable harm to the city's -- and America's -- soul."

And what about New Orleans? What is the future of the culture that came from all those neighborhoods with their own sense of being, formed over decades and decades, where parents and grandparents and great-grandparents had lived? Former first lady Barbara Bush, visiting the Astrodome, told a radio interviewer, "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." How could they possibly miss a place where they were, you know, underprivileged?

How could they miss a place where they knew everyone on the block? Or where they could walk to the grocery store and buy food and seasonings out of which they could prepare meals that were unique to that place and which they had eaten since childhood and which made them happy? How could they miss a place where there was music all the time, and where they could sit out in the evening on their front steps talking to people they had known for years, and joking in a way that everyone understood, or where their son had gotten dressed in his high school band uniform that they had saved hard-earned money to buy, and then went out to play in the band for the Mardi Gras parade? How could they miss the place where their granddaughter took her first steps, or their father had kept his uniform from World War Two in a cardboard suitcase lined with newspaper?

How could you even say such a thing unless you assumed that people who were -- you know -- underprivileged had no past, no sense of life, no memories and no feelings -- in short, weren't really people at all, as we know them? That they were incapable of finding dignity and a reason to live even in the teeth of a hostile situation? The "underprivileged" people of New Orleans spun a culture out of their lives -- a music, a cuisine, a sense of life -- that has been recognized around the world as a transforming spiritual force. Out of those pitifully small incomes and crumbling houses, and hard, long days and nights of work came a staggering Yes, an affirmation of life -- their lives, Life Itself -- in defiance of a world that told them in as many ways as it could find that they were, you know, dispensable.

This may seem obvious to you if you are reading this, but it bears saying over and over again: They are not dispensable. Not to New Orleans, not to America. And any scenario of a rebuilt New Orleans that does not embrace the fact of their centrality to New Orleans, that does not find a way to welcome them back and make jobs and a new life for them, will be an obscenity.

Another good book to get for yourself and as Christmas gifts -- important Christmas gifts. I just ordered mine from Octavia Books in New Orleans. Skip Amazon this time.

December 1, 1955 ...   our freedom movement came alive.

Fifty years ago today, Rosa Parks of Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus when ordered to do so by the bus driver, who actually had the law on his saide at the time. We all know what happeend then. It's a shame she couldn't be here for the anniversary.

Sister Rosa Parks

Seems like I was just saying this the other day, but ... thank you, Miss Rosa.

The "speech" and the "plan".   Fred Kaplan of Slate analyzes Shrub's P.R. release-- er, speech yesterday, and the "plan for victory" it described, and pronounces them both failures.

The most remarkable thing about the document President George W. Bush released today, titled National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, is that it was released today (and written not much earlier -- it's authored by the National Security Council and dated November 2005).

It is symptomatic of everything that's gone wrong with this war that, after two and a half years of fighting it (and four years after starting to plan it), the White House is just now getting around to articulating a strategy for winning it.

To put this in perspective: From December 1941 to August 1945, the U.S. government mobilized an entire nation; manufactured a mighty arsenal; played a huge role in defeating the armies, air forces, and navies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; and emerged from battle poised to shape the destiny of half the globe. By comparison, from September 2001 to December 2005, the U.S. government has advanced to the point of describing a path to victory in a country the size of California.

It's all downhill from there, nothing but what Kaplan describes as "an ill-defined muddle". Finally:

This is the bottom-line failure of President Bush's campaign to persuade the public: He has still not outlined just what this war is about, what winning it means, and what it would honestly take to do so.

What did this country do to deserve someone so thoroughly full of shit as its current leader? How much worse will it get in the three more years he'll be leading? (Unless he's impeached, of course.)

November Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

[ Link to today's entries ]

Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog, providing links, comments and sometimes lots more. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Mary Herczog, Steve Hochman, Dave Schmerler, Nettie DeAugustine, Diana Schwam, 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.
chuq's links | the gumbo pages
creole and cajun recipe page | search this site

chuck taggart | email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com
This site ©1994-2005 by Chuck Taggart.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
This means that you may not copy my writing onto other web pages or anywhere else without my specific written permission. (Quotes of short passages, properly attributed, may be considered fair use.) If you do copy my work, it's called "stealing".

People who steal my stuff will be étoufféed and served to Dr. Lecter, with a nice Chianti. (I'm serious. Just don't do it. Thanks.)