the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is 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, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally 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.

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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)

April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Greater N.O. Community Data Center

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Hurricane Katrina Aftermath
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
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 in 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)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

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: Drinks
   (featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)

The Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

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

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

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

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
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
Chowhound (L.A.)
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
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

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

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.

Reading this month:

The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories, by Philip K. Dick.

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

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

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (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)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Syriana (****)
Match Point (****)
Underworld Evolution (**)
Munich (****)
Transamerica (****)
The New World (****)
V for Vendetta (****)
The Frighteners (***1/2)
Eating Out (**)
Dead and Buried (***)
Heavenly Creatures (****)
Minority Report (****)
Tarnation (***)
Crash (**)
The Constant Gardener (***-1/2)

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


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, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


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

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


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
Ethel the Blog
Un Fils d'un État Rouge
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!
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
Suspect Device
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.
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

  Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The dilemma this summer.   Residents of New Orleans will have to decide, as Mick Jones sang, "Should I stay or should I go?"

New Orleans sinking faster than expected.   Great.

Parts of New Orleans are sinking far more rapidly than scientists first thought, more than an inch a year, new research suggests.

That may explain some levee failures during Hurricane Katrina and raises more worries about the future. The research, being published Thursday in the journal Nature, is based on new satellite radar data for the three years before Katrina struck in 2005. The data show that some areas are sinking -- from overdevelopment, drainage and natural seismic shifts -- four or five times faster than the rest of the city. And that, experts say, can be deadly. "My concern is the very low-lying areas," said lead author Tim Dixon, a University of Miami geophysicist. "I think those areas are death traps. I don't think those areas should be rebuilt."

I'll bet somebody brings up Da East here. Apropos of this, to anyone who brings up the Lower Ninth and thinks it shouldn't be rebuilt because it flooded so badly ... the Lower Ninth Ward is actually at a higher elevation than Lakeview, and nobody's suggesting that the area where lots of rich white folks live shouldn't be rebuilt. The Lower Ninth was destroyed because the levee and floodwall at the Industrial Canal failed. Back to the article:

For years, scientists figured New Orleans on average was sinking about one-fifth of an inch a year based on 100 measurements of the region, Dixon said. The new data from 150,000 measurements taken from space finds that about 10 percent to 20 percent of the region had yearly subsidence in the inch-a-year range, he said.

As the grounds in those rapidly sinking areas shift downward, the protection from levees also falls, scientists and engineers said.

For example, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, built more than three decades ago, has sunk by more than 3 feet since its construction, Dixon said. That, he added, explained why water poured over the levee and part of it failed.

"The people in St. Bernard got wiped out because the levee was too low," said co-author Roy Dokka, director of the Louisiana Spatial Center at Louisiana State University. "It's as simple as that."

Actually, the people in St. Bernard and Da East got wiped out because the goddamn MR-GO existed in the first place and, as predicted, the storm surge went right up it and over the levees.

The federal government, especially the Army Corps of Engineers, hasn't taken the dramatic sinking into account in rebuilding plans, said University of Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea, part of an independent National Academy of Sciences-Berkeley team that analyzed the levee failures during Katrina.

Oh, big fucking surprise.

"You have to change how you provide short- and long-term protection," said Bea, a former engineer in New Orleans. He said plans for concrete walls don't make sense because they sink and can't be easily added onto. In California, engineers are experimenting with lighter weight reinforced foam-middle levee walls, he said.

How much ya wanna bet they don't do that, and rebuild concrete walls instead?

Jazzfest, Day 2.   I've been getting behind. After a glorious first day of the most important Jazzfest ever, we plunged right into Day 2. Always the first questions, "Whatta we gonna eat?"

Jazzfest, Day 2: Shrimp and Sausage Maquechoux

Today's first answer came from Michael, who recommended Shrimp and Sausage Maquechoux. Pronounced "MOCK-shoe," it was a dish that supposedly the Cajuns learned from local Native American tribes, and gradually Cajunized over the years. It's basically corn sautéed in butter with black and a little red pepper, plus sweet peppers and whatever else you want to put in it. (Here's my own recipe.) This was a very good example of the dish, with lots of plump shrimp and a good smokey flavor from the sausage.

Next, a New Orleans standard little-known outside the city, which I wanted despite my lack of hangover:

Ya Ka Mein (Old Sober)

Ya ka mein (say "ya-ka-MAIN" or "ya-ka-MEEN") has been a staple in New Orleans black community for years, served at bars and corner groceries and at second-lines. The Times-Picayune ran an article about the stuff a month or so ago, and in the interview with Linda Green, the city's best and most proficient "Ya Ka Mein Lady," she said that it probably came back with black soldiers returning home to New Orleans from the Korean War (it's "Seoul food!" ... ahem). Asian noodles gave way to good old spaghetti, topped with chopped meat, green onions, a half a hard-boiled egg and a beef-soy sauce broth ladled over the top. You can additionally season your serving with Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, more soy sauce or ketchup. Unfortunately Miss Linda's momma told her not to give the recipe out, so she gives out a "basic" recipe that omits the seasonings added to the broth that make it "special." I'll start working on my own version in the next week or so, and we'll see how it goes. I'll post it when I'm happy with it.

Oh yeah, there was music, too.

Voices of Distinction

We hadn't been to the Gospel Tent at all yet, so we headed there first. Wes remembered Voices of Distinction from previous fests, although oddly enough I didn't. I wish I had, though -- they were terrific (who isn't, really, in the Gospel Tent?), with glorious harmonies and pure power. Man, those ladies can sing.

Tim Laughlin George Porter, Jr. with Snooks Eaglin

Back to Economy Hall for some tradidtional jazz. I'm a huge fan of jazz clarinet, and there are a bunch of really great players in New Orleans right now. One of my favorites is my old high school classmate Tim Laughlin, who sat behind me at band practice. I, of course, haven't touched my horn in years, and now looka dis guy. An amazing clarinetist, and outstanding composer as well. Several years back Tim got tired of playing standards over and over and began composing; his second most recent album The Isle of Orleans is entirely original compisitions. Check that out, along with his newest album Live in Germany and all the rest, at his web site.

We bounced over to the Southern Comfort Stage (packed with about 40,000 people) and managed to sneak in the side for a pretty good spot near the stage for Snooks Eaglin, one of the city's greatest blues guitarists and a repertoire of over 2,500 songs committed to memory. To my delight he was accompanied by George Porter, Jr. of The Meters, The Funkiest Bass Player In The World, and John "Papa" Gros of Papa Grows Funk on organ. Smokin', smokin' set.

Wishing we had the ability to teleport ourselves, we fought our way out of the crowd and went over to the Fais Do Do stage to see Eddie Bo, where we had a good spot to listen and a lousy spot to take photographs. Eddie's a legend of blues, R&B and funk, and I was looking forward to his set. Unfortunately it wasn't all that special. "It sounds like he's phoning it in," said Michael, and I agreed. It was lightweight stuff, aimed at the tourists, and none of the terrific funk we've heard him do one some of his more recent albums. Don't get me wrong, he's still a great player, but he wasn't exactly on fire that day.

Back to the Gospel Tent, for one of the Absolutely Positively Must-See Acts of Jazzfest ...

Singer, The Electrifying Crown Seekers

The Electrifying Crown Seekers

The Crown Seekers, recently re-dubbed The Electrifying Crown Seekers, are a group I'd rearrange flight schedules to see if necessary. The energy, the intensity, the sheer joy and exuberance of this group is nearly unparalleled anywhere on the Fair Grounds. I've been a huge fan for years, but I've only ever seen them at the Gospel Tent, and I was embarrassed that I didn't even know the names of any of the members of the group, including the bald-pated singer that puts the electricity in "electrifying," and has enough electricity in him to power a small city. To the best of my knowledge they still have no recordings available (and sadly very few recordings are made available by the Munck Music/Jazzfest Live folks from the Gospel Tent, so you just gotta head down to New Orleans and buy tickets to Jazzfest and see these guys for yourself. You'll never forget 'em. Praise Jesus!

Okay, now I'm hungry again, but not all that hungry, and we hadn't had anything to eat sine the ya ka mein around noon, but we shouldn't fill up 'cause we were going to Café Adelaide that evening, but I want something now, dammit ...

Jama Jama

The perfect solution -- Jama Jama, or African-style sautéed spinach with lots of hot sauce apparently made with African Insanity Peppers (absolutely delicious with the spinach, but I had put on too much, and Wes began to complain when my exhalation singed the hair off his forearms). Bennachin Restaurant, longtime purveyors of West African cuisine in New Orleans, mans one of the most dependable food stalls at Fest, serving this along with piles of sweet and delicious fried plantains (which we skipped this time, as they're really filling). They had apparently served me some kind of bottomless serving, as I ate my fill from the plate you see above, but by the time I was finished there seemed to still be a whole serving of jama jama left on the plate. Nobody wanted it, so I had to toss it. It broke my heart, and I thought too late that maybe that plate was meant to feed the multitudes ... oh well.

We had to leave early in order to get home, shower, dress and make it to the restaurant on time, so back to Fais Do Do to catch some of The Iguanas' set. Again, in a lousy place to get a good picture (I've got a good shot of them from the Mermaid Lounge that's in the book in my Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens box set, so it didn't bother me too much, plus a lot more from previous shows) but a great place to hear. I've loved these guys' music for about 15 years now, and listening to that set, the great new stuff as well as the old, was like listening to an old friend.

It kills me to leave Fest early, but oh well ... ya gotta eat. More later.

Welcome to Alito's America.   In the first Supreme Court decision that shows what our country will be like after Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation, Samuel Alito's vote turned out to be the key vote in yesterday's decision restricting the free-speech rightsof the nation's 21 million public employees, ruling that the First Amendment does not protect them from being punished for complaining to their managers about possible wrongdoing.

The case was argued last October, then reargued in March after Alito joined the court. As this NPR story reports, the dissenting opinion was written by Justice Souter, clearly worded as if it were a majority opinion ... which suggests that Justice Souter was assigned the majority and that O'Connor was inclined to vote the other way. "Thus making this case," reports Nina Totenberg, "the first to mark the change caused by O'Connor's retirement." And that first case restricts speech protections. Just great.

Pathetic.   I've been living in California for over 20 years, and never has there been a worse choice for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate than there is now. At first, Phil Angelides and Steve Westly were merely lackluster, but they get worse with every passing day.

I was just expressing to Wes my disgust over the race when I came across this post by Markos. I'm glad it's not just me.:

So what do you do when your two gubernatorial aspirants, Steve Westley and Phil Angelides, let their primary battle degenerate into a disgusting, slimy pit of bullshit attack ads and surrogate whisper smear campaigns?

I quit. I hate them both. Someday, California Democrats will have the option to choose from candidates who inspire, not the Gray Davises, Cruz Bustamantes, and the two candidates currently stinking up the Democratic side of the ticket.

The sad thing is that we need a strong turnout for this race to help Francine Busby win in CA-50. But the way this is going, if I want to vomit and throw out my absentee ballot, I can't imagine what it's doing to less tuned-in and political Californians, especially in that district.

The two of them, and Schwarzenegger. Worst. Choice. Ever.

"You must smell like feet wrapped in ... leathery, burnt bacon."   I'm not usually wont to post this sort of thing, but it's feckin' funny. Click on the image below to play the video, which is a must for "Star Wars" fans, and everyone who had to sit through the last three movies (okay, the third prequel wasn't as bad). No, it's not the Triumph the Dog thing. (Thanks, Steve!)


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A separate grief.   Memorial Day takes on a new meaning in New Orleans, remembering the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Army Corps of Engineers' flood.

This is sacred ground, these Lower 9th Ward streets still covered with rubble and wreckage months after the lethal floodwaters finally left.

This is where Iris Smith's two daughters drowned, in an aunt's house on Flood Street, where the family had gathered to ride out the storm. Kendricka Smooth, 18, and her 16-year-old sister Kendra survived Hurricane Katrina's winds.

But then the water came, rising fast and taking lives at will.

The Smooth sisters died in that water, along with their aunt, Smith's sister Ersell Smooth, 33, and her niece Doneika Lewis, 15.

"This is where I raised my children," Smith said Monday morning at a memorial service at the site of the Industrial Canal levee breach, where a brass band played a bittersweet hymn on the dusty, sun-baked ground. "I'm here to honor my children."

Memorial Day is meant for soldiers. But in New Orleans on Monday, a city grieved for the dead of the storm.

Brooks Family, Lizardi St.

We met a man, Mr. Willie (I forgot his last name, I'm sorry), on this street. He lived on that block, and told us that the Brooks family was safe, that he and his family were safe, but pointed at a number of neighbors' houses (or spaces where their houses used to be) and said, "I used to hang out with him at the barbershop ... he's dead now ..." This went on and on.


UPDATE: What the--?! From Poppy's journal: "I just heard some wingnut on the Garland Robinette show say it was 'disrespectful' for these people to march for storm victims on Memorial Day, and that he believed legislation should be passed making it illegal to march on Memorial Day for any reason other than honoring veterans. This was a local wingnut, mind you, not some ignorant freak from elsewhere who doesn't understand how many people died here and what we've been through since. Sometimes I really understand why greygirlbeast has chosen to secede from the human race."

As John Prine said, "Some humans ain't human."

Meanwhile ...   The Army Corps of Engineers is keeping at it:

With hurricane season only three days away, the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday announced that a 400-foot section of earthen hurricane protection levee being rebuilt near Buras High School in Plaquemines Parish slumped by more than 6 feet overnight Saturday, and repairs could take three to six weeks.

I feel safer already.

Where is the outrage?   Right here. Join

For Louisiana citizens, their families and friends.

We are a non-partisan non-sectarian grassroots group formed in November 2005.

The federal government had a central role in the destruction that the citizens of New Orleans and southern Louisiana suffered. Our loss is primarily due to disastrous design and planning mistakes by the US Army Corps of Engineers. These errors are the result of cultural and institutional problems within the Corps that go back decades.

We hold the US Army Corps of Engineers accountable because the responsibility for the design, construction and performance of Louisiana's flood protection belongs exclusively to the Corps. Furthermore, Congress has historically under funded Louisiana's urban flood protection. These two factors combined and created what is inarguably the worst engineering disaster in American history.

Our mission is to send America the facts about the metro New Orleans flood and we will not stop until this information becomes mainstream.

Right now, Congress must approve the President's request for community block grants and levee construction. These funds are the bare minimum necessary to begin compensating homeowners and to provide the level of flood protection that was authorized pre-Katrina. In the longer term, the US Army Corps of Engineers must be reformed, and Louisiana's flood protection needs to be funded from royalties on Louisiana's oil and gas production.

You don't have to live in Louisiana to join. All you have to do is care.

The life of a pig.   Tamara Murphy is the chef of Brasa Restaurant in Seattle, and has been keeping a weblog about the value of small, sustainable family farms using the example of pigs that are raised on such a farm, following their lives from piglet to pork. It's fascinating, and helps you connect in a very real way with the food you eat -- something people who are used to shrink-wrapped cuts of meat should understand. This is how humans lived and ate until very recently, and it's something we shouldn't forget about.

Note especially her findings that "the meat on these pigs, was incredible. The loins were big enough to create an entire dish. The legs and shoulders were big. The factory farmed pigs I was so used to, even of the same weight, offer less than HALF OF THE MEAT of Whistling Train Farm's pigs. There was absolutely no comparison. My conclusion was that pigs that get to run around develop muscle (meat) in all the right places. Factory farmed pigs get fat in the belly, just like us. Muscle weighs more than fat, just like in us. These pigs were all muscle, which meant all meat."

Y'know, I was just talking to Wes about this yesterday -- give me pork over beef any day.

I'm so sorry I missed her all-pig menu on last April 20, too ... good lord, look at it:

( skins )

Everything Pig Pate
( pork trimmings, fat, heart, liver, kidney, tongue )

Smoked Riblets
( ribs )

Traditional Posole, Roasted Chilies, Tomatillos, Tortillas
( pork shoulder, head, trotters, hocks )

Grilled Loin, Chorizo and Clams
( loin, chuck, fat, trimmings )

Roast Pig
Whistling Train Farm's Greens, Greek Potatoes

( whole pig )

Heirloom Navel Oranges, Jicama, Watercress, Cracklings
( fatty skin )

Bacon Baklava
Vanilla Ice Cream, Maple Flower Crème Anglaise
Bacon Brittle

( belly )

I'm squealing in delight at the mere thought of it.

Speaking of pork over beef, next on my must-buy book list is Peter Kaminsky's Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them, which among many other wonderful things tells us exactly why pork tastes so good.

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  Monday, May 29, 2006  ::Memorial Day:: 

Worth it?   Bob Herbert (behind a paid firewall, unfortunately), via Tom Tomorrow:

The point of Memorial Day is to honor the service and the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the nation's wars. But I suggest that we take a little time today to consider the living.

Look around and ask yourself if you believe that stability or democracy in Iraq -- or whatever goal you choose to assert as the reason for this war -- is worth the life of your son or your daughter, or your husband or your wife, or the co-worker who rides to the office with you in the morning, or your friendly neighbor next door.

Before you gather up the hot dogs and head out to the barbecue this afternoon, look in a mirror and ask yourself honestly if Iraq is something you would be willing to die for.

There is no shortage of weaselly politicians and misguided commentators ready to tell us that we can't leave Iraq -- we just can't. Chaos will ensue. Maybe even a civil war. But what they really mean is that we can't leave as long as the war can continue to be fought by other people's children, and as long as we can continue to put this George W. Bush-inspired madness on a credit card.

Start sending the children of the well-to-do to Baghdad, and start raising taxes to pay off the many hundreds of billions that the war is costing, and watch how quickly this tragic fiasco is brought to an end.

At an embarrassing press conference last week, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain looked for all the world like a couple of hapless schoolboys who, while playing with fire, had set off a conflagration that is still raging out of control. Their recklessness has so far cost the lives of nearly 2,500 Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, many of them children.

Among the regrets voiced by the president at the press conference was his absurd challenge to the insurgents in 2003 to "bring 'em on." But Mr. Bush gave no hint as to when the madness might end.

How many more healthy young people will we shovel into the fires of Iraq before finally deciding it's time to stop? How many dead are enough?

2,465 aren't, apparently.

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  Friday, May 26, 2006

Here's your new CIA director.   Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden was confirmed by the Senate as the 20th director of the CIA. Hayden, who as the head of the NSA since 1999 administered the BushCo warrantless domestic spying program, has been dodging questions about domestic surveillance on many occasions of late; here's what he had to say (or rather, not-say) at the National Press Club in January:

At a public appearance, Bush's pointman in the Office of National Intelligence was asked if the NSA was wiretapping Bush's political enemies. When Hayden dodged the question, the questioner repeated, "No, I asked, are you targeting us and people who politically oppose the Bush government, the Bush administration? Not a fishing net, but are you targeting specifically political opponents of the Bush administration?" Hayden looked at the questioner, and after a silence called on a different questioner. (video, audio)

Okay, then.

Recipe of the day.   The idea for this came from Wes' sister Melody; I'm not sure where she got the orignal recipe, but I futzed with it and added some stuff, and it makes a lovely dessert topping for cake or berries or what have you. The Fluff keeps it from being too highbrow, while you get to coo and brag about the other ingredients.

The vanilla bean paste is perfect for this dish -- you get the lovely vanilla bean specks in the topping, and it's a lot cheaper than using an actual vanilla bean (which you can certainly do if you're into conspicuous consumption; it's a dessert topping made with Marshmallow Fluff, for God's sake).


8 ounces mascarpone cheese
8 ounces whipped cream cheese
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 jar Marshmallow Creme or Marshmallow Fluff
2 teaspoons Trader Joe's Vanilla Bean Paste (or vanilla extract or, if you're feeling overly extravagant, the seeds and paste scraped from 1 fresh vanilla bean)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or whisk until combined, smooth and creamy. Serve atop cake, berries, etc.

We used it atop some Trader Joe's Mini Vanilla Bundt Cakes, with fresh blackberries and some chocolate syrup ... yum.

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  Thursday, May 25, 2006

This just in!   Chocolate is good for your brain.

I think I'll have some right now.

The Cocktailian.   In today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, tells us that there's more than one way to skin an advocaat. That's the Dutch eggnog liqueur, of course, mixed with rye (and what the world needs now is more rye cocktails, even if they're fattening ones like this) to produce a Golden Rye Flip, which actually looks quite good. I tend to avoid drinks containing cream or half-and-half these days, but this one looks worth a try.

"Greentinis?"   I'm not a fan of appending the suffix "-tini" to all the myriad new cocktails out there, nor am I a fan of calling anything a "Martini" or a "____________ Martini" unless said drink contains gin and vermouth and maybe orange bitters and nothing else (rendering any "____________" superfluous anyway). That rant aside, there was an interesting article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times Food Section on cocktails containing fresh herbs, such as basil, chervil and cilantro. It's a step beyond the mint in your Mojito or Julep, and a couple of them look worth trying.

There's something called a "Cucumber Martini", which I might allow because it does in fact contain both gin and vermouth, but I'd be less grouchy calling it a "Cucumber Cocktail." (The five minutes of infusing might make this one difficult to serve in a busy bar, though.) There's Honeydew-cilantro agua fresca with tequila that sounds perfect for Memorial Day weekend, plus a Basil-berry wine punch that could be doubled for a good party punch bowl. Check 'em out.

A while back I was working on a drink with lemongrass- and lime-infused vodka with a muddle of cilantro, but now that my vodka days are mostly behind me I think that experiment needs to be revisited with some gin.

The golden age of cocktails.   I missed posting this article since it was right in the middle of Jazzfest, but a few weeks ago the Times' Food Section did a huge spread on the Museum of the American Cocktail, displaced from New Orleans for the time being and now set up at Commander's Palace in Las Vegas.

As I mentioned a while back, our items are still in the Museum's collection, this time with a lovely plaque acknowledging us among their contributors, and it's great to see the collection so nicely laid out at Commander's. (If you go, say hi to Santino, the maître'd, for me.) The Times article is excellent, interviewing Dale and Doc and several other members of the museum's board, plus some excellent cocktail recips by Audrey Saunders, Dale DeGroff, Tony Abou-Ganim and Jacques Bezuidenhout.

Fresh from fields to a street corner near you.   Times Food Section again ... yesterday there was an excellent series of articles about farmer's markets, starting with the idea that shook the world, when 27 years ago four farmers brought strawberries and zucchini to sell in a Gardena parking lot, not realizing that it would be the start of a movement that would change the way we cook at eat -- straight from the farmer to you with no middleman (which is the way I like it). Chefs from great restaurants all over town are seen at their local farmer's markets, and love to go wild (check out the recipes for Polenta Cake with Roasted Cherries; Market Vegetable Pizza; and Pan-roasted halibut with grits, morels and spring onions). At your local market, keep an eye out for Laurent Bonjour, the roving cheesemonger -- he'll delight you with peppered Cabecou, a good English Cheddar, Maytag Blue or Tomme de Savoie.

If you don't know where your nearest farmer's market is, then consult the complete list of Los Angeles-area farmer's markets. (I'll be shopping, plus having a meal of some carne asada tacos and a strawberry-banana-Nutella crêpe, tomorrow at the Eagle Rock Farmer's Market, which is small but I love it anyway.) If you're in New Orleans, the Crescent City Farmer's Market is the place to start.

That's ... guilty, guilty, guilty!   (With apologies to Garry Trudeau.) Ken Lay convicted on all counts, plus guilty on additional counts of bank fraud. Skilling guilty of fraud and conspiracy, 20+ counts. Justice, finally.

The cronies begin to go down.

Photo of the day.   America, it hasn't gone away.

Halves, Reynes St. #2
Halves, Reynes St. (#2), Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, 4/27/2006

There are 17 more photos added to my Lower Ninth Ward set on Flickr.

Beyond belief.   Steve K. sent this in from his friend Doug, and we're all just boggling ...

I can't actually believe it. At this site [called "Defend DeLay"], which appears to be legitimate, DeLay's supporters have a clip from Stephen Colbert's show, showing Colbert "roasting" Robert Greenwald, whose new film is "The Big Guy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress".

God in heaven, there's nothing to indicate this site is a joke. DeLay's supporters do NOT understand Colbert; they slept through the White House Correspondents' Dinner and ensuing controversy. They truly think Colbert is defending DeLay.


From the Think Progress link:

This morning, DeLay's legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie "The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress," by "Outfoxed" creator Robert Greenwald.

The email features a "one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood?s the Big Buy," and the lead item is Colbert's interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O'Reilly-esque character). The headline of the "fact sheet":

Hollywood Pulls Michael Moore Antics on Tom DeLay
Colbert Cracks the Story on Real Motivations Behind Movie

DeLay thinks Colbert is so persuasive, he's now featuring the full video of the interview at the top of the legal fund's website. And why not? According to the email, Greenwald "crashed and burned" under the pressure of Colbert's hard-hitting questions, like "Who hates America more, you or Michael Moore?"

Apparently the people at DeLay's legal fund think that Colbert is actually a conservative. Or maybe they're just that desperate for supporters.

That, plus they're apparently really, really stupid.

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  Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Photo of the day.   A cactus flower, from our front garden.

Cactus Flower

Out of 50 I took the other day, this was the only one I remotedly liked. There are now five of those flowers open, and I hope I can get a few more good photos; they only stay open for a couple of days, so time's a-wastin'.

Negroponte Can Waive SEC Rules for "National Security"   Via Daily Kos: "Tell America once again, Mr. President, how your secretive, spying national security policy is for the benefit of citizens and not of your corporate cronies - or to cover up your administration's illegal and unconstitutional acts."

From Business Week Online this morning:

Now, the White House's top spymaster can cite national security to exempt businesses from reporting requirements.

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.

Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.

More: "Security-law experts speculate in the Business Week article that such waiving of reporting requirements for companies could be used to mask the funding of secret CIA or Pentagon assignments."


Holy bejeebies.   Startling yet unsurprising:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level official sources.

Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

Maybe he and Jefferson can share a cell one day.

UPDATE: Hastert is denying it and accusing ABC of libel. ABC News stands by the story. The right-wing wingnutosphere is howling for more Rather-style blood, and it's been suggested that RoveCo deliberately leaked false information to ABC to set them up for a Rather-like fall. We'll have to wait and see, but I look at that bloated shit-toad in the Speaker's chair and I don't see a good person; never have.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Penguins!   The penguins returned to New Orleans today!

That is, the ones who were rescued from the Audubon Insititute Aquarium of the Americas, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. They'd been another aquarium since then, and FedEx flew them home for free. I'd been looking forward to this for a few weeks, after having met Karen Jeffries (interviewed below) in New Orleans, who said they'd all be home by the 22nd. There's no footage yet, although I assured that they'd be filmed, walking in single file down the plane's ramp as they are wont to do; we'll see it soon. In the meantime, FedEx has a little animation along with the story of how they came home. Karen and everyone at the aquarium were tremendously excited by this. Their funding was wiped out along with most of their animals, and they basically went to FedEx and said they needed this and would they please do it for free. To everyone's relief, FedEx said "Sure," figuring (quite correctly) that they'd get a terrific commercial out of it at the very least, not to mention lots of goodwill. Here's more:

Nineteen African blackfooted penguins and two sea otters that were rescued from a New Orleans aquarium after Hurricane Katrina returned home Monday on a cargo flight donated by FedEx Corp. The creatures, which had been living at the Monterey Bay Aquarium since September, departed Oakland International Airport in a FedEx plane at 8 a.m., said aquarium spokeswoman Karen Jeffries. The 21 animals were evacuated when Katrina forced the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to shut down. The New Orleans aquarium was expected to reopen over Memorial Day weekend.

The evacuees arrived early Monday afternoon at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where they were welcomed on a purple carpet by a brass band, before returning to the aquarium, said spokesman Ryan Furby for Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx, which donated the chartered flight and $100,000 to the aquarium.

"They are in their exhibit now and they seem very happy to be home," Furby said. "They're swimming around. They seem to be feeling well."

The Aquarium reopens this Friday. If you're in town, go and get some penguin love.

Photo of the day.   Lest you forget ...

Forstall St.
Forstall St., Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, 4/27/2006

I'll post more photos (and a full set on Flickr) from the Lower Nine over the next several days.

Whistle-blower on government domestic surveillance.   Wired News reports: "Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class-action lawsuit against the telecommunications company, which alleges that AT&T cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.

"In a public statement Klein issued last month, he described the NSA's visit to an AT&T office. In an older, less-public statement recently acquired by Wired News, Klein goes into additional details of his discovery of an alleged surveillance operation in an AT&T building in San Francisco."

In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities.

"'Smith!' yelled the voice from the telescreen. '6079 Smith W! Uncover your face. No faces covered in the cells.'"

The complete file is available as well.

Quotes of the day.   Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry oscillate in their graves ...

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties.
But you have no civil liberties if you are dead."
-- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), May 18, 2006, during the Senate confirmation hearings for Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA

"None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."
-- Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), December 19, 2005, during the Senate debate over the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.

"Give me liberty or give me death."
-- Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), quoting American patriot Patrick Henry in response to Cornyn.

I'll take the liberty, thanks, and take my chances with terrorists. Out of a population of 295 million people we've had 2,752 killed by terrorists in this country in the last five years, all from one incident, which averages out to about 550 per year. Frankly, with 41,000+ traffic accident deaths per year I'm much more afraid to get in my car and deal with my daily commute (and I don't get worked up about that all that much either). 30,000+ deaths from firearms, about 15,000 pedestrian deaths, 14,000 deaths by falling, 8,200 deaths in residential fires, 8,700 deaths from bad medical care or drug reactions, 8,600 deaths by poisoning, 6,000 from choking, 700 from carbon monoxide gas, 350 from industrial or farm machinery and 67 by lightning strike. (Hell, 440,000+ deaths per year from smoking, for Christ's sake, which is a fucking holocaust, and a self-inflicted one at that.) Yep, I'll take the liberty ...

Quote of the day, part deux.   RIP, Sen. Bentsen:

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.
Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
-- Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), 1921-2006, in an artful putdown of Sen. J. Danforth Quayle, after Quayle foolishly compared himself to President John F. Kennedy during the vice presidential debates, 1988.

Too bad that '88 ticket couldn't have been flipped around.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, May 22, 2006

Disappointed, with hope.   Sigh. Ah, New Orleans politics ... plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose. Appealing to reason and to the necessity for change never seems to work anyway, at least not these days. (Here are a few observations on the Republican smear machine and how the race swung, from Schroeder.) You can lay it all on them, though ... Mitch should have put forth a stronger image in his campaign, and should have pointed out lots more of Nagin's failings. Jeffrey said that at least "now Mitch can run for governor and stop Jindal." (Well, good luck with that.)

All that said, I think Nagin's more or less a good guy, a decent guy ... I just don't think he's competent to lead the city post-Katrina. (As another local commented, Nagin's just as mentally unstable as a lot of people in New Orleans right now, but I wouldn't vote for those people either.) Well, we've got him until 2010, so I hope he does a good job. Nagin got more votes in the areas that were hardest-hit by the flooding, so I guess the people most affected trust him, for some reason (and it really didn't seem like a vote-by-race election, either; there was a fair bit of crossover voting). Let us all, New Orleanians and everyone else, do everything we can to help him (and the city).

The really good news with this election is lots of new blood in the City Council. Jackie Clarkson is out. Jay Batt is out. (I lost count of the red-circle-slash-BATT "Anybody but Batt" signs I saw in the Carrollton neighborhood over the last few weeks.) As Mr. Clio pointed out, "the City Council -- not the mayor -- was the major source of problems before the storm." Let's see the Council do some good work now.

Army Corps of Engineers incompetent; we as a nation are unsafe.   Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, there's this headline in today's Los Angeles Times:

Corps' Levee Work Is Faulted
Report says barriers in New Orleans may fail again and mistakes by federal engineers raise questions about their competence nationwide.

A wide range of design and construction defects in levees around New Orleans raise serious doubts that the system can withstand the pounding of another hurricane the size of Katrina, even after $3.1 billion in repairs are completed, a team of independent investigators led by UC Berkeley's civil engineering school said Sunday.

The findings undermine assurances by the Bush administration and the Army Corps of Engineers that the federal levee repair program due to be completed in June will provide a higher level of protection to New Orleans, which sustained 1,293 deaths and more than $100 billion in property loss from Katrina.

The team's 600-page report disputed most of the corps' preliminary findings about what caused the levee breaches, saying the investigators had made critical errors in their analysis.

The mistakes raise concerns about whether the corps is competent to oversee public safety projects across the nation, said Raymond Seed, a UC Berkeley civil engineering professor who led the investigation, which the National Science Foundation sponsored shortly after Katrina struck.

"People think this is a New Orleans problem," Seed said. "It is a national issue."

The Berkeley team found that the defects that caused breaches during Katrina -- including thin layers of soil with the consistency of jelly and sections of levees built with crushed seashells -- had gone undetected and could be widespread.

"The rest of the system is unproven," Seed said. "The entire system needs a serious reevaluation and study."

Though the report questions the corps' competence, Seed said that Congress needed to authorize a comprehensive evaluation of the system and that the corps should conduct it.

The team's report makes 11 major recommendations, such as creating a national flood defense authority and increasing the corps' technical strengths.

According to Seed, the corps' formal investigation has missed critical evidence and has reached incorrect conclusions.

The corps "is conducting the most important engineering analysis in its history" in determining why storm walls and levees around New Orleans failed, Seed said, "and they got it wrong."

"When the entire world is watching and a city has been destroyed, you want to get it right."

Uh, yeah. Even if they want to, they apparently aren't capable.

And "Seed said that Congress needed to authorize a comprehensive evaluation of th system and that the corps should conduct it"?! Is he insane? You have a massive organization whose incompetence threatens not only the safety of New Orleans but safety projects nationwide, but you want that organization to investigate and evaluate itself?

I'm a firm believer in hiring the best person to do the job, not giving the job to your brother-in-law because he's cheap and readily available. We need to hand the entire thing over to the Dutch and pay them whatever it costs. Lives are at stake.

I weep for our children.   And, as Mary said, I want to slap some of them upside the head. This blog post, reproduced in its entirety from a group history blog at George Mason University, was written by Professor James C. Cobb of the University of Georgia:

After 34 years of college teaching, I thought I had heard just about every imaginable student complaint. Last week, however, a freshman in my 300-seat US History Since 1865 course came in to discuss her exam with one of the graders and proceeded to work herself into a semi-hissy over the fact that we had spent four class periods (one of them consisting of a visit from Taylor Branch) discussing the civil rights movement.

"I don't know where he's getting all of this," she complained. "We never discussed any of this in high school." One might have let the matter rest here as simply an example of a high school history teacher's sins of omission being visited on the hapless old history prof. had the student not informed the TA in an indignant postcript, "I'm not a Democrat! I don't think I should have to listen to this stuff!"

Given the current student and, in some places, administrative, pressures to put absolutely everything -- notes, study guides, all potential exam questions and answers, etc. -- on the Web, I can envision the day when the Web pages for our classes might read: "In order to insure that the professor's lectures will not offend your political sensibilities or challenge any of your other beliefs and perceptions in any way, please indicate by clicking the appropriate box below whether you prefer the Republican or Democratic version of this course."

You can't just blame the student, though. This is what the right-wing witch hunts against universities and professors who don't preach their views have wrought. This is what nutcases like David Horowitz and his ilk have wrought. This is what threatens academic freedom in this country. Outrage over having to hear about the civil rights movement in a US History post-1865 class? I can just see Snidely Horowitz rubbing his hand with glee at the mere thought of it.

Well he's movin' on out ...   from Dee Cee / to a dee-luxe federal prison / in the Mid-weeeest ...

Okay, that was a seriously feeble attempt to rewrite the theme song of "The Jeffersons" for Rep. William Jefferson, who's finished -- they found $90K in his freezer, all of which came from $100K in marked bills from an FBI informant, which Jefferson took in order to bribe the vice president of Nigeria. They have the whole transaction on tape, too. In order to spare the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the Democratic Party any further pain, he needs to resign today.

Unfortunately, the fool doesn't realize that he's been nailed, and is saying that "there are two sides to every story" and that he intends to run for re-election (what, from prison?). He fails to explain how there's a side to the story of $90,000 of bribe money being hidden in his freezer that could possibly exonerate him. (More from the Times-Picayune and Los Angeles Times.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, May 19, 2006

$1,487!   That's how much money we raised during "Down Home" for KCSN last night. Wow, not bad! That's nearly triple whad I pulled in last drive, and that doesn't count the >$100 pledges that were matched by Our Generous Benefactor From Chatsworth, nor the pledges that he tripled during the last 15 minutes of the show. I know that at least two of y'all Looka! readers kicked in, and I really appreciate it. Thank you.

I know you can (and should) get your New Orleans music from WWOZ, and thanks for moving over to my show for those two Thursday evening hours. (Thank Gawd I'm not on opposite Billy Delle.)

Rump states.   Gleefully lifted from Billmon:

President Bush ... has a positive job approval in just three of the 50 United States. This according to 50 separate but concurrent statewide public opinion polls conducted by SurveyUSA for its media clients across the country. Only residents of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho view the president favorably.

Bushlandia vs. Reality

It's an image to make me very happy, and help (slightly) distract me from the developing stomachache about the commencement of hurricane season in 13 days.

Bayona.   I got a little ahead of myself the other day, in my eagerness to share the first day of Jazzfest with you. Besides the meal at Cuvée we had a lovely, lovely lunch at Bayona the day before Fest started; I walked away with a smile on my face, a full belly and a nice lil' pile of food porn.

Oddly enough, neither Wes nor I had a food hangover from our extraordinary meal at Cuvée the night before; we were hungry and more than ready for lunch, but I kinda wanted to take it a bit easier, and to perhaps eat some lighter seafood dishes. We asked to be seated in the courtyard, one of my favorite lunchtime dining spots in the Quarter, and ordered two Sazeracs, excellent as always. It's a bit of a tradition for us to lunch and drink Sazeracs there; Bayona was the first place we had lunch in New Orleans, and the first time Wes ever had a Sazerac (as well being the site of our cocktail epiphany, all those years ago, thanks to that Sazerac). They're a bit non-traditional as they're served in a cocktail glass rather than the standard rocks glass, but it's their own touch which we don't mind at all. Wes still maintains it's the best Sazerac in the city (well, it's certainly one of the best).

Bayona:  Jumbo Lump Crabmeat Salad with Tomato, Avocado and Green Goddess Dressing

This more than filled the "lighter" bill without making me feel as if I was missing out on anything: Jumbo Lump Crabmeat Salad with Tomato, Avocado and Green Goddess Dressing. I love crabmeat, and could eat it night and day; this dish was just what I needed. The crabmeat was sweet and tender, and I'm a big fan of Green Goddess dressing. There was enough of it to season the greens but not so much that it overwhelmed the crabmeat. Yum.

Smoked Duck, Cashew Butter & Pepper Jelly Sandwich

This is one of my favorite Bayona dishes, a longtime staple of their lunch menu which I hadn't had in a while: Smoked Duck, Cashew Butter and Pepper Jelly Sandwich, grilled with caramelized red onions, and served with a cucumber slaw. Perfect combination of flavors, and the grilled whole-grain bread is a refreshing change from the poor boy bread I was having pretty much every day (not that there's anything wrong with that, oh no).

Lemon-Parmesan Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms,Pancetta and Sugar Snaps

This was Wes' entrée: Lemon-Parmesan Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms,Pancetta and Sugar Snaps. He said it was very good and the gnocchi, while not the lightest he'd ever had, were certainly light enough (and he's particular about that).

Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake with Strawberry Jam and Rose Petal Meringue

Of course we have room for dessert. Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake with Strawberry Jam and Rose Petal Meringue, which was good but not quite what the menu described (a "rose petal jam" was mentioned). The strawberry sauce was very good, though, as was the little rose meringue.

Espresso and Bittersweet Chocolate Dome with

This was Wes' dessert: Espresso and Bittersweet Chocolate Dome with "Milk Confit". This was also slightly different from the menu description. I'm not sure what that little tart on the side was, and I think the "milk confit" was the cooked, caramelized sweet milk sauce around the plate (which did look really good, but I can't tell you how good it was or wasn't because I didn't get any).

The rest of the afternoon was very, very sobering, as we spent a few hours driving around the Lower Ninth Ward. I had only been to the part of the Lower Ninth closest to the river, to see what was left of my high school; what faced me above St. Claude was almost not to be believed. More on that later.

Deadeye Dick in the Red Stick.   Had y'all heard that Darth Cheney was going to be the commencement speaker at LSU's graduation ceremony in Baton Rouge today? (I hadn't.) Michael at 2 Millionth Weblog caught a bit of his speech:

"It used to be 'greed is good.' Now, it's 'greed, stupidity, mendacity, and just plain evil' -- after all, look where it got me. Now go fuck yourselves before I shoot you in the face. Thank you."

Apparently he got big cheers and standing ovations from the graduates, who keep making a certain Randy Newman song go through my head ...

Quote of the day.   You really can't make up shit like this. (Via ... um, whoever I nicked it from the other day, I forget.)

"The only person President Bush needs approval from is Jesus Christ."

-- Actual quote from a thread about Bush's delightful new 29% approval rating

WTFWJVF? (We heard Jesus voted for Kerry, but He voted in Ohio and his ballot was "lost" until three days after the election.)

Beached.   Hee hee. What kind of idiot would actually try to drive one of these in San Francisco? Furthermore, what kind of idiot actually builds or rents one of these? (Nobody I want to know.) Maybe they should blow it up, as when they blew up that beached whale in Oregon ... (thanks, Dule!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, May 18, 2006

Moneygrubbing time.   KCSN are in the middle of our semi-annual Pledge Drive, and as we're the little guys (unlike the Behemoth of the Westside), we need all the pennies we can get. If you happen to be a fan of the radio station, and of my little radio programme in particular, be a dear and kick in a fistful of dollars this evening between the hours of 7 and 9pm, Pacific time. (800) 795-5276, that's 1-800-795-KCSN, is the number to call, or you can pledge online via our secure server.

Our Stupendous Anonymous (well, I know who he is but you don't) Benefactor is matching every pledge of $100 or more, so if you're feeling generous your money will be doubled! In fact, if you kick in $120, you can receive as our thanks for your pledge the Down Home CD Five-Pack:

Various Artists - Our New Orleans 2005
The Red Stick Ramblers - Right Key, Wrong Keyhole
Charivari - A Trip to the Holiday Lounge
Sonny Landreth - Grant Street
Lúnasa - Sé
Bonus: Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys - Dominos

That's actually six. A five-pack in which you get six things. How great a deal is that?

Pledge tonight, or online now!

When gifts come back to haunt you.   "Memento Mori", a new story by David Sedaris.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New Bush memo allows telcos to lie about phone records. has the story:

In recent days, AT&T, Bell South and Verizon have all issued statements denying that they've handed over phone records to the NSA, as reported by USA Today.

There are three possibilities:

1) The USA Today story is inaccurate;

2) The telcos left enough wiggle room in the statements that both the USA Today story and their statements are accurate; or

3) The statements from the telcos are inaccurate.

Ordinarily, a company that conceals their transactions and activities from the public would violate securities law. But an presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))

There is no evidence that this executive order has been used by John Negroponte with respect to the telcos. Of course, if it was used, we wouldn't know about it.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the May 5 document as an "executive order." It is a presidential memorandum.

UPDATE II: Greg Sargent unpacks the Verizon and Bell South denials.

Partial text of the memo, via dKos:

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby assign to you the function of the President under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)). In performing such function, you should consult the heads of departments and agencies, as appropriate.

(A) With respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States, no duty or liability under paragraph (2) of this subsection shall be imposed upon any person acting in cooperation with the head of any Federal department or agency responsible for such matters if such act in cooperation with such head of a department or agency was done upon the specific, written directive of the head of such department or agency pursuant to Presidential authority to issue such directives. Each directive issued under this paragraph shall set forth the specific facts and circumstances with respect to which the provisions of this paragraph are to be invoked. Each such directive shall, unless renewed in writing, expire one year after the date of issuance.

"Boom," said the author of the dKos post. "Negroponte was given the power to excuse the Telcoms from lying about this very act, so long as he gives them the order. So the Telcoms can lie about this (notice it took them a few days) and you, as a shareholder, can't do a damn thing about it. They are immune from lawsuits, and exempt from prosecution."

"Constitution and laws of the United States," my ass.

What kind of idiot is Chris Matthews?   An uninformed troll, a poor excuse for a so-called "journalist," and, most astonishingly and yet sadly unsurprisingly in this case, a political debate moderator who has a Republican agenda of his own.

In a nationally televised mayoral debate Tuesday, candidates Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu ended up debating less with one another than with the two moderators, Hardball's Chris Matthews and WDSU's Norman Robinson, who grilled both candidates harshly on such subjects as whether New Orleans should be rebuilt at all.

Not surprisingly, both candidates believe the city they hope to lead should be rebuilt, despite extended arguments to the contrary put forth by Matthews and at one point, referring to specific neighborhoods, by Robinson.

"They're going to think it's crazy," Matthews said at one point, referring to citizens outside New Orleans view of using federal tax money to reconstruct a city below sea level.

The slate of questions -- often more like accusations -- seemed geared to a national audience, which Matthews suggested largely opposed the rebuilding of the city, or at least blame local politicians for the bungled, plodding post-Katrina rescue and rebuilding efforts. Only occasionally did the moderators' questions elicit differences between the candidates that might matter to local voters.

At one point Matthews sparred with Landrieu, for instance, on the question of whether the federal government bears responsibility for the failed levee system, which has been under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 80 years.

"Nobody out there thinks the problems are with the levees," Matthews asserted, but rather with corrupt local officials.

Let me repeate that last bit:

"Nobody out there thinks the problems are with the levees," Matthews asserted, but rather with corrupt local officials.

It's a good thing I wasn't watching the debates, because I would have teleported to New Orleans by sheer force of will, just so that I could whap that fucking moron upside the head with a telephone book. Repeatedly. Perhaps until he was no longer able to speak. (Rendering him unable to speak would have been a great gift to humanity.) As Mr. Clio said, "NBC could have plucked a guy off of a barstool at Parasol's and gotten a better performance from a debate moderator." (Here's a clip to illustrate Matthews' inappropriate "moderating", which is also a good example of how good a job Mitch Landrieu did fending it off and getting his own points across). I'd suggest to him that it'd be in his best interest never to set foot in New Orleans again.

Robinson wasn't much better; maybe he wants Tweety's masters to give him a job too. I'd like to see a coalition of people from some of the neighborhoods he mentioned run his ass out of town on a rail, after suggesting those neighborhoods shouldn't be rebuilt -- "even Lakeview" -- right on the heels of Matthews' dismissing federal responsibility for levee construction and maintenance, and when most of those areas were destroyed by the failure of the Army Corps of Engineers' defective levees (except for the East and St. Bernard, which were destroyed by the Army Corps of Engineers' near-useless shipping canal).

Chris Matthews is a disgrace, but he's par for the course on the "24-hour 'news' networks" now, and there are many who are far worse than him. Why do we tolerate any of them? Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and thank-God-he's-still-with-us Walter Cronkite are undoubtedly weeping now.

"Never forgiving" the Landrieus.   Oyster has an excellent couple of posts about what's behind a great deal of the opposition to Mitch Landrieu as mayor. He's "the politics of the past," they keep saying. (As Mitch pointed out, his dad was mayor 40 years ago, he's running now, and he's not his dad.) A lot of people are basically blaming the entire Landrieu clan for "the fall of New Orleans", beginning in the 1960s, because of Mitch's father Moon's tenure as mayor. Vague charges of "incompetence" and "corruption" are bandied about with little, if anything, to back them up. So what is it, then? It's lots of code-talk for being angry at Moon for desegregating City Hall and the public schools, and for "handing the city over to them."

Nobody'll say it out loud (at least not to anyone they don't think is in agreement with them). They'll say things like "I'll never forgive the Landrieus for destroying this city," things like that. I hadn't thought about it much until I started hearing it on my visits back home, and then reading more from folks who live there year-round. It certainly fits with the attitude I've heard from a lot of white people over the years, including the code-talk I heard from several people on my first visit, about how Katrina and the flood "solved a lot of our problems for us," etc.

Part-time NOLA resident Harry Shearer's hearing it too:

[...] Then, there was my friend who told me late that evening that all her "uptown white country club friends" were voting for... Nagin. The reason: they could never bring themselves to vote for a Landrieu. I bounced this report off a number of friends and acquaintances over the weekend, and only one looked askance at it. Several others sighed knowingly, and spoke in lowered voices of the "real reason" for this seemingly counter-intuitive response: those folks, it is alleged, have never forgiven Mitch Landrieu's dad, Moon (the last white mayor) for desegregating City Hall."

Add to that the ridiculous irony of punishing the Landrieus for opening City Hall and the schools to blacks by voting for a (weak and incompetent) black mayor, the claim of a distrust of political families by people who undoubtedly voted for the Bush dynasty three times, the cutting off their noses to spite their faces ...

It's disgusting, and shameful.

Fortunately, I don't believe these people exist in sufficient numbers to tip the election. Mitch Landrieu is intelligent, articulate and cares deeply about New Orleans. I think he can get things done, and I think he's going to win.

In another dimension to all this, there's the mindboggling doublethink position now being taken by conservatives and Republicans who back the re-election of Nagin for mayor, after unleashing hellfire torrents of criticism upon him for his lack of preparation before and inaction and incompetence during Katrina and the resultant Army Corps of Engineers flood. Oyster has another must-read article on the Republican support for Nagin, and why Nagin must not be reelected:

In New Orleans' first election since Katrina, Republicans are working to reelect Mayor Ray Nagin.

Beg your pardon?

I said, many Republicans believe Ray Nagin should be reelected Mayor of New Orleans. They want him to lead New Orleans for the next four years, and some are doing everything they can to assist this effort. According to the Gambit Weekly "several sources say former Gov. Mike Foster... has been working behind the scenes to drum up Republican support -- and money -- for Nagin as part of an organized GOP move to weaken the state's Democratic infrastructure, which would help Jindal in his expected bid for governor next year."

So: Republicans want to reelect Ray Nagin because it will hurt Democrats, and help Bobby Jindal statewide in 2007. They would reelect someone that most (conservatives) view as an incompetent embarrassment, because defeating Mitch Landrieu is more important to them than what's best for New Orleans, a city reeling from catastrophe. GOP political objectives must come first, and if that means sabotaging New Orleans-- and exacerbating the national perception that we are hopeless, stupid and not worth helping-- well, then, so much the worse for the Crescent City.

[... T]his is beyond despicable. For Republicans to support Nagin in New Orleans and slam him in the rest of the state is filthy-- especially considering the city's dire circumstances. This is the most important mayoral election in the city's history, and the Republicans top concern is electing a candidate who would most weaken the state Democratic party's "infrastructure"!

Think about how twisted and insidious that is.

Read all of it. Then read Adrastos' comments, and Jeffrey's comments. Then read the timeline of Nagin's record as mayor. Then think about it for a while. If you're voting for Nagin because you're mad at Moon for desegregation, or because you want to help the Republicans to a statewide win later on, then you don't really give a shit about New Orleans, do you? You'd vote for the guy who let the buses sit there and flood, who rejected a contract that would have paid the city $100 for each junked flooded car removed from the streets and instead spent $23 million to have it done after having so little money in the city budget that he had to lay off 90% of city workers, with the list going on and on, to satisfy a racist vendetta and/or Republican agenda without thinking or caring about what's best for the City of New Orleans.

Harry also observed:

Flying back into New Orleans from Boston last Friday morning, I overheard the fellow in front of me saying to his seatmate: "Chevron executives tried four or five times to call the mayor's office to share their concerns, and they never got their calls returned." On landing, I saw the headline in that morning's Times-Picayune: "Chevron to Leave N.O."

Ray Nagin had his chance, blew it and should not be mayor of New Orleans anymore. If my Ward 9 Precinct 44 voter card were still active, I'd be voting for Mitch this Saturday.

Incidentally, the Times-Picayune officially endorsed Mitch Landrieu for mayor today.

"Katrina fatigue?"   Ashley (who has been on fire lately ... well, always, pretty much) posts the following, with which I concur a thousand times over. [Reformatting mine, for emphasis.]

Markus wrote about how much of the country has Katrina Fatigue.

Well, rest of the country, Fuck you.

Ever think [how] those of us who can't buy groceries after 8:00 at night or find a friggin' drive-thru fast food restaurant open after sundown or can't have a conversation without ax'in How'd y'all make out feel? Sheeshhh.

I had to bitchslap (figuratively, sadly) a cow-orker the other day who, after asking me how my trip home to New Orleans was, had the foolish audacity to wonder aloud why the city should be rebuilt at all. A witness to my lengthy, passionate and fire-breathed response could only say, "... Whoa." I would recommend that one should cure oneself of any innate ignorance, indifference or foolishness which might prompt one to make such an unwise statement in my presence.

The jewel of the Kalahari.   Ahh, the earthy black truffles of Périgord, France ... the astonishingly perfumed flavor-blast of Italian white truffles ... and !nabas from the Namibian Kalahari? Yep, African truffles. Not quite as aromatic as the French ones, but dirt cheap and (usually) plentiful. Thing is, ya gotta go to Namibia to get 'em. If I ever do, I know what I'm having for dinner ...

Restaurant Cuvée.   I did have a brief mention earlier, and this is a bit out of order, but it's time for a more in-depth look at the first meal of our visit back home to New Orleans, at the stupendous Restaurant Cuvée.

We landed at about 6:30, picked up the car and were on the road to our humble abode, a studio apartment Uptown near the Riverbend owned by some old friends of ours; they live on the Northsore but do business in the city, and use the apartment as a daytime base of operations and business plus as a place for them and their kids to crash without having to drive across the Causeway -- a very good idea. It was perfect for us, and once there we dropped our bags, leapt into some nice clothes and made it to Cuvée just in time to be prompt for our 8:30 reservation.

Restaurant Cuv´e, 322 Magazine St., New Orleans

They were suffering from the same thing everybody else in the city suffers from -- a lack of help. 250,000 people yet to return means that every establishment in the city is understaffed. They were sharing their valet with a hotel down the street, so it took a few minutes to get the car parked, and there was a brief wait inside, but hey, no problem. We were so happy to be there, and to see them open and busy, and we were certainly in no hurry whatsoever, that little if anything could take us down.

Jason, the maitre'd, recognized me from my last visit to Emeril's Delmonico a couple of weeks before the flood (he'd been an assistant manager there at the time) and took brilliant care of us all night. Apparently the people at our table had been presented with their bill but were lingering, so we had to wait in their lovely bar for a while. Jason kept checking on us and made our wait most pleasant by presenting each of us with a glass of sparkling rosé, Alain Renardat-Fache "Demi Sec" Vin de Bugey, which was superb and kept us very happy.

The bar at Restaurant Cuvée

Restaurant Cuv´e, Interior, 9pm

The lingerers finally buggered off and we were ushered to our table with apologies, quickly seated, served with Sazeracs and presented with the staggering menu. Between gawking at other people's food while we were waiting and seeing the whole bill of fare, we quite literally wanted to try everything. (As our surname isn't Creosote, however, we decided that that would be impractical at the very least.) Cuvée was already one of my favorite (and by many others' accounts, one of the best) restaurants in the city, but we'd been hearing over and over that Chef Bob Iacovone has been truly outdoing himself since reopening after the storm and flood. We were about to find out.

Amuse Bouche #1: Terrine of Foie Gras, Brie and Praline Bacon on a Brûléed Apple

We ordered starters, entrées and wine, and within a few minutes out came the amuse bouche: Terrine of Foie Gras, Brie and Praline Bacon on a Brûléed Apple. It was the first time in my life I have ever been served foie gras as an amuse bouche (which, in the unlikely event you're not familiar with an amuse bouche, it's a little bite sent out by the chef to whet your appetite, wake up your taste buds, "amuse your mouth," and it's also lagniappe, as in free). We immediately added an entry to our List of Rules, Observations and Mottoes To Live By: "Free foie gras is a good thing." (Sadly, we weren't able to make it work with one of the others near the top of this list, "If it's free, take two," but I digress.)

It was a moan-and-pound-on-the-table moment. I was unable to stop myself from finishing it in two bites, but I thought Wes was going to make his last for a half an hour. He just kept moaning and giggling and oh-my-Goding, and didn't want it to be over. I understand, as it was fabulous. We've already referred to the New Orlens dish of Praline Bacon as being perhaps "better than sex," and certainly one of the best things one could ever put in one's mouth (minds out of the gutter, please ... okay, stay there, but just for a little while). Imagine that paired with foie gras and a rich Brie, a real Brie from France and not from the supermarket, all that richness and smokiness and sweetness perched on top of a crisp, tart apple. If you can't, well, I'm sorry. Go to Cuvée and get one. The amusements were not over, however.

Amuse Bouche #2: Serrano-Chèvre Peppadew

To our amazement, a second amuse came out, we suspect as a gesture for having to wait for our table. (But we were happy! We had wine! Oh, okay.) It was a component of a larger dish on the menu, and listed as a Serrano-Chèvre Peppadew. "Peppadew"? I'd never heard of that before. Jason explained, "It's a kind of pepper from South Africa, sweet but with a hot finish. We fill that with an herbed goat cheese, wrap it in Serrano ham and flash-fry it." We just giggled. It was fabulous, and although I tried to make this one last it was also gone in two bites. I want me some more of those peppadews.

There were a couple of dishes on the chef's tasting menu that looked really good, but we wanted our entrées from the regular menu, and we couldn't help but notice that the special items on the tasting menu were also available a la carte, and we were going to split them, so what the hell ...

Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Avocado-Ranch Dressing, Tomato Sorbet, and Baby Romaine in a Parmesan Tuile

Well, at least this one was light and non-fattening (as if that would have made that much of a difference over the course of this meal, yeah right). Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Avocado-Ranch Dressing, Tomato Sorbet, and Baby Romaine in a Parmesan Tuile. The tuna was perfect, exactly how I like it, and that dressing was Absolutely Out Of This World. We immediately declared that we wanted a vat of it to take home, but decided that the TSA might object ("Obviously they intend to attack someone with it!"). Now that I think about it, I should have asked the chef for the recipe, but ah well. The tomato sorbet accompaniment was also amazing; intense and bright and not sweet at all, but not acidic or really savory. A serving of that on its own would probably be the best palate-cleanser ever.

Foie Gras and Duck Boudin Cake with Pickled Cabbage Slaw and Raspberry Mustard

Hmm, foie gras twice in one meal? That hasn't happened very often, but what the hell. We were celebrating our return, Wesly's first sine the flood, our first night in town, the rebirth of Jazzfest and much more. Why not more foie gras? In fact, why not two of our favorite things together, foie gras and duck? It was perhaps the world's best boudin ball, not as rich as you might fear (although the foie gras was certainly present), with the tangy slaw and the fruity pungency of the raspberry mustard cutting through the richness and balancing it perfectly. We just kept moaning and giggling, and were complete suckers for Jason's suggestion of a wine to go with it (hell, we wouldn't be driving for hours anyway). He presented us with a terrific 2004 Rosato from Miner Family Vineyards in Mendocino, a rosé made from Sangiovese grapes and tangy-fruity-perfect not only for a dish like this but for outdoor summer grilling, or just drinking on its own. (We'll be picking up some of this for the summer.)

Okay, now for the solo appetizers, as in "sorry babe, I ain't splittin' this one":

Grilled Sweetbreads with Roasted Beets and Aged Goat Cheese

We're both big fans of sweetbreads, and Wes got the chef's "daily sweetbreads preparation" (!), which that day was Grilled Sweetbreads with Roasted Baby Beets and Aged Goat Cheese with a couple of other accoutrements I forgot to write down because I was busy boggling over my own starter. Wes declared the sweetbreads to be superb, but at the time I wasn't hearing him ...

Deux Foie Gras: Cr´me Brûlée of Foie Gras, Roasted Apple and Chèvre; Seared Foie Gras on Watercress Salad with Boursin and Crispy Serrano Ham

I had just been presented with Deux Foie Gras: Chef's Two Signature Preparations (!!), which that day were a Seared Foie Gras on Watercress Salad with Boursin and Crispy Serrano Ham, with a touch of Demiglace alongside one of the chef's more notorious (and notoriously fun and delicious) preparations, Cr´me Brûlée of Foie Gras, Roasted Apple and Chèvre;. (Okay, that's four foie gras dishes, but hey, they were all really small. Sorta.)

The seared dish was really good -- sliced and seared with some creative accompaniments and sauces has usually been my favorite way to go with foie gras -- but that crème brûlée ... my God, that crème brûlée ... it was insane. Insanely good. Faire le boggle. I'd never had anyhing like that. It wasn't sweet, it was most certainly savory, but it still had the delightful caramellized sugar crust that you break through to get to the joys beneath the surface. It's such an inventive and fun dish that you're laughing while you're moaning while you're eating it. I loved it. (That night I missed one of the chef's other signature foie gras preparations, which is the foie gras "twinkie" -- a not-too-sweet cake in the shape of a Twinkie, with a foie gras and goat cheese (a pairing that pops up frequently) filling; as New Orleans Magazine said, "someone's having fun with their food!") I was looking for a Sauternes or good late harvest wine to accompany this, and Jason suggested a 2001 Château Pierre-Bise Quarts de Chaume Late Harvest Chenin Blanc that was, of course, perfect.

Saut´ed Speckled Trout topped with a Crown of Lump Crabmeat, with Sweet Corn & Crawfish Relish, Polenta Fries and Louisiana-style Barbecue Sauce

I was a little jealous of Wes' entrée, because it looked so good. It was also considerably lighter than mine, and given that this was the first meal of the trip it might have been a good idea to start slowly and build up. After a moment's thought of what we had just eaten and what we would be eating over the next couple of weeks, I just laughed it off after a second and dug in to my own meal after a few moments' more eyeing Wes' dish: Saut´ed Speckled Trout topped with a Crown of Lump Crabmeat, with Sweet Corn & Crawfish Relish, Polenta Fries and Louisiana-style Barbecue Sauce. The "crown of lump crabmeat" came from another dish that offered it; the trout didn't include it, but they were happy to add it on. The sauce wasn't what he expected, which is for the best -- it wasn't sweet or heavy, just tangy with a little bit of spice. A more typical barbecue sauce would overwhelm the fish, but this one didn't at all. The crawfish and corn relish was a bit like a crawfish maque choux, and those polenta fries were fantastic -- herby and cheesy inside as well. Along with it he drank Jason's recommendation, a Basque wine from Spain that neither of us had ever tried, Txomin Etxaniz, Txakolina 2004. (Say that five times, quickly.) It was white and crisp and dry and lovely with the fish. On its own too, as the wine outlasted the fish (the pour was, shall we say, extremely generous; "Aah, there's not all that much left in that bottle ... why don'ch'y'all just finish it?" Okay!). As for me, there was only one choice: pig.

Kurobuta Pork Belly with

Kurobuta Pork Belly with "Sweet Heat" Glaze, Pancetta-Plum Pie and Baby Vegetables. (Oh my.) Berkshire black hog, or "Kurobuta pork" as the trendy Japanese name goes these days ("kurobuta" meaning "supreme"), is very high quality pork, with darker meat, a more intense flavor, and more fat marbling than the lean "other white meat" pork that's bred so often today. This breed of pig hearkens back to the days when pork wasn't as good for you but tasted better. (And of course, this is the belly, from which bacon is made -- the fattiest part of the pig other than the fatback, I guess.) The "sweet-heat" glaze was just that, the red pepper offset by the sweetness (I suspect some "Steen's syrup and a little brown sugar as well), and we were both eager to try the pie. "Pancetta plum pie ... it's fun to say!" It was an interesting accompaniment, like a little quiche. I did like it, although it was probably my least favorite component of the meal. As good as it was, that's saying a lot for the entire meal.

I had been looking for a wine to go with the pig, but Jason ended up recommending, to my surprise and delight, a porter instead. I love porter and had never tried this one, a St. Peter's Porter from London. It was the right choice, as the crispiness/smokiness/richness of the pork along with that glaze might have made a wine pairing a little too challenging; there was a lot in that dish to overwhelm. The porter was great, dark as night with a complex flavor that stood right up to the charging pork and danced with it. (Hmm, I wonder if Galco's carries that ...)

Candied Macadamia Nut Bombe with Dark Chocolate Sauce The bombe's innards

Dessert? Of course. I must confess that we hesistated, though -- if we didn't commit the Deadly Sin of Gluttony during this meal, we certainly skated along the border thereof. As long as there's one cubic inch in the old belly for dessert, though, I'm in. We decided to split one, our fallback choice in such a situation (and our main strategy at Jazzfest, so that we could try more dishes). We had seen it at another table, and couldn't resist: Candied Macadamia Nut Bombe with Dark Chocolate Sauce. I love bombes! You could call me the Mad Bomber! (If I'm still here after Homeland Security hauls me away for saying so, leaving me to spend the rest of my life in prison without charge or legal representation and attempting to explain to Big Brother that a dome-shaped serving of layered ice cream is not in fact a Weapon of Mass Destruction, but I digress again.) From a distance it looks like one of those deep-fried ice creams you get at some chain restaurants, but the "deep-fried" coating consists of candied and crushed macadamia nuts. The ice creams inside were milk chocolate and caramel, and the sauces dark and white chocolate. Oh my. As we had already had about half a winery to drink that night, no port or armagnac or eau-de-vie was to be had with dessert. Alas.

The understaffing issues everyone's going through didn't seem to affect Cuvée much at all; as soon as we sat at the table the service was snappy and friendly and we felt very well taken care of. The food was world class, as were the cocktails and wines and porter. Cuvée is surely one of the top five restaurants in town right now, maybe the top three. Right up there with the outstanding Café Adelaide, which I'll write about later.

If you go to New Orleans, you gotta go see the Mardi Gras ... and besides what Professor Longhair says, you've gotta go have dinner at Cuvée.

(P.S. -- Lest you think the whole city is like this, it's not. This is an oasis. There are many more, but there are far, far more scenes like this, a 17-minute video of a drive-through of the Lower Ninth Ward. I'll be posting my own pictures from the Lower Ninth tomorrow, which were taken the day after this meal.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another step toward the dissolution of our democracy.   A group of Republican senators has blocked judicial review of the NSA domestic spying program:

A front-page article in this morning's The Hill reports that Sen. Specter has finally made enough concessions to secure the support of the more right-wing members of the Judiciary Committee for his legislation that (along with a bill from Sen. DeWine) would render legal the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. As part of this negotiation, what were these Bush allies (Hatch, Sessions, Cornyn, Kyl) holding out for? The removal from Sen. Specter's bill of a clause that would mandate that the FISA court rule on the legality and constitutionality of the NSA program. As usual, the thing which Bush supporters fear most -- and which they most desperately seek to avoid -- is a judicial ruling on the legality of the administration's behavior.

More from Glenn Greenwald:

Could anything be more obvious at this point than the fact that the Bush administration deeply fears having the legality of its eavesdropping activities adjudicated by a federal court? They have engaged in one maneuver after the next to prevent that adjudication.

One would think that if they really believed that they had the clear-cut legal justification for warrantless eavesdropping which they claim to have, they would be eager to have a court rule on this issue so that this unpleasant controversy -- with all of these mean-spirited and utterly baseless allegations of lawbreaking -- can finally be put to rest. And yet, time and again, they do precisely the opposite: they desperately invoke every available measure to prevent any judicial ruling as to the legality of their behavior.

So much for Arlen Specter, the spineless bastard ... eh, Cafferty?

Yet more from Salon via dKos: "Salon has posted its interview with Matthew Aid, a historian who has written extensively about the NSA. In the interview, Aid paints a frightening picture of how 'the NSA replaced the FBI as the nation's domestic surveillance agency after 9/11.' The whole interview is a must-read. Aid hints at a disturbingly wide-ranging scope of surveillance:"

We should be terrified that Congress has not been doing its job and because all of the checks and balances put in place to prevent this have been deliberately obviated. In order to get this done, the NSA and White House went around all of the checks and balances. I'm convinced that 20 years from now we, as historians, will be looking back at this as one of the darkest eras in American history. And we're just beginning to sort of peel back the first layers of the onion. We're hoping against hope that it's not as bad as I suspect it will be, but reality sets in every time a new article is published and the first thing the Bush administration tries to do is quash the story. It's like the lawsuit brought by EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] against AT&T -- the government's first reaction was to try to quash the lawsuit. That ought to be a warning sign that they're on to something.

"On how the law was deliberately ignored:"

The USA Today article doesn't cover how the NSA convinced all of the phone companies to cooperate. Did General Hayden [former NSA director and current nominee to run the CIA] pick up the phone and call the CEOs? (Yes, as noted previously, Hayden testified that he personally met with several telecom executives.) Or were they presented with National Security letters saying you will turn over all your records to us and keep it quiet within your organization? But it does seem clear that the Justice Department was excluded from all of this, or at least the parts of the Justice Department that would normally have some oversight over this. For example, they didn't refer the case down to the Civil Rights Division for their approval. They kept the number of people within the Justice Department who had knowledge of the program to a small number of people. I think they feared that if they passed it down to other departments that might have some purview over the program they might have encountered a stream of objections.

It's all coming out now in dribs and drabs, but when it all becomes clear, we'll find out that the key oversight functions -- those functions that were put in place to protect the rights of Americans -- were deliberately circumvented.

For all you idiots who keep saying, "Why should I worry about this? I'm not a terrorist, I'm not doing anything illegal, and why should I worry if they're listening to my calls? I have nothing to hide," ask someone who lived in East Germany if that's the way the felt about the Stasi. Ask someone who lived in Romania under Ceausescu if that's the way they felt about the Securitate. Listen to what they say, then think about it.

Then think about the Constitution, what you learned in your ninth grade civics and government class. If you have any relatives who died in World War II, think about how they died actually protecting our freedom, and what they'd think about a president and administration who trample and shit all over the Constitution they died defending. Then think some more about how the criminality of this administration is putting the Nixon administration to shame, and that until now the Nixon administration was probably the low point of the history of the presidency of this nation.

Quotes of the day.   (Thanks, Wes and Mary!)

"Americans, especially conservatives, are beginning to tune the president out."

-- Richard A. Viguerie, a longtime conservative activist, from a statement quoted in the Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2006.

"Of course the administration wants to know who journalists are talking to. This is an administration that wants access to all kinds private information to learn everything except who outed Valerie Plame and where the WMDs are.

--Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)

The problem with tuning the president out is that if nobody's paying attention, he and his minions will continue to ignore and circumvent our laws until it's too late to do anything about it.

The Cocktail Bicentennial.   Well, not quite -- only the 200th anniversary of the first mention of the "cock tail" in print, in The Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, N.Y.

"Cock tail, then, is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters -- it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion," went this inaugural mention. "It is said also, to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else." A snarky birth, to be sure, but hallelujah for it.

And because we really really need a drink, here's Dave Wondrich's version of a classic, "sucked down in vast numbers by the dudes, swells and sports of [New York City] from around 1800 to the late 1880s."

The Holland Gin Cocktail
Improved by and adapted from David Wondrich

2 ounces Holland gin (also called genever gin; Zuidam is a good brand).
1/2 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur.
1 scant teaspoon simple syrup.
1 dash absinthe, or substitutes like Pernod or Herbsaint.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
1 thinly cut lemon twist.

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well (or stir) and strain into a chilled martini glass. Twist the swatch of lemon peel over the top, rub it around the rim of the glass, and drop it in.

Mr. Wondrich recommends a richer-tasting simple syrup made by dissolving two parts Demerara sugar, available in specialty shops, in one part boiling water.

Off to the Wine House for some genever ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, May 15, 2006

Lord, here comes the flood.   Check out this amazing interactive animated Flash graphic on which shows exactly how and when the flooding happened in New Orleans. Levee failure after levee failure after levee failure ...

The land of the free.   Reported this morning by ABC News:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

Just in case you had any lingering doubts about what this president and this administration really think about freedom, the rule of law and the Constitution. As Tom said, "If you always assume that the administration is lying and that things are much worse than you?re being told, you will rarely be proven wrong."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, May 13, 2006

Quotes of the day.   (Thanks to Steve M.)

[There was] a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process.

-- Statement released by the lawyer of Joseph P Nacchio, former chief executive of Qwest, on why the company rebuffed government requests for his company's calling records.

As Steve said, "Let me repeat: any legal process. Not cut corners, but simply ignore them. That's the way I imagine all constitutional governments work."

Then there was the line from Bill Maher on Real Time last night, which I wish I'd seen but only heard about (gotta set up the TiVo to catch the repeat). He said that Bush is doing all this to foil Osama -- "he can't hate us for our freedom now.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, May 12, 2006

Outrage.   Just as I was getting around to posting some photos and tales from the triumph that was Jazzfest '06, I read about this, which shook be back to the reality of what's going on around the city for untold thousands of people. From WWL-TV, via Oyster and The Third Battle of New Orleans.

This'll make you so proud to be an American.

71-year-old man becomes a hero during Betsy,
now forced to sleep in a tent post-Katrina

After Hurricane Betsy, a New Orleans man became a hero when he rescued others from the flooded areas of the city.

Ed Wragge has been forced to sleep inside a tent that he pitched inside his gutted house. He's been waiting weeks for the keys to his FEMA trailer.

Then after Hurricane Katrina, the same man asked FEMA for a trailer to live in until his flood damaged home could be rebuilt. On Wednesday, Eyewitness News found him living in a tent.

Ed Wragge, 71, has been sleeping on a cot inside a tent that has been pitched in a room of his gutted Gentilly home.

"It's been real frustrating, I give up. The government should do well for people. I don't know what to do," cried Wragge.

Wragge doesn't have a kitchen, so he eats meals from cans and drinks bottled water. He does not have a bathroom, yet outside his home sits the FEMA trailer he had asked for in October.

He said it has been there seven weeks, and he has yet to receive the keys. Wragge had been staying with friends, but couldn?t any longer.

"I got to sleep in this house. I have no place else to stay, everybody died. They died on me," Wragge said as he tried to hold back his tears...

Wragge said there was still mold in the house he and his nephew were gutting. He has lived there since 1960, and his parents before him. Wragge said Katrina was the first time it had flooded.

Among his belongings he was trying to save were the water damaged uniforms that he wore when he was a Sergeant in the 1960s. He said he wore those uniforms during Hurricane Betsy when he was on duty.

While I take a walk around the block and try not to break something, here's more commentary from the original post:

Eight fucking months and this guy -- a hero following Hurricane Betsy, no less -- has to "make do" living in his car and in camping in a tent within his moldy house???? What the fuck is wrong with this country? This shit makes me livid. And you know what the worse part is? This isn't an isolated situation ...

I am so sorry this bores you, America.

Aren't you proud to be an American?

Army Corps of Engineers to NOLA: Too bad, we lied.   From The Times-Picayune:

Floodgates to block tidal surges out of the weakened 17th Street and London Avenue canals, and auxiliary pumps to help prevent inland flooding when the gates are closed, will not be ready as promised when the hurricane season opens June 1, Army Corps of Engineers officials confirmed late Thursday.

Corps commanders said braced-steel sheet piling will be installed at canal bridges to turn back high water, and portable pumps will be used to provide limited stormwater drainage if an early-season storm surge threatens the city before the work is complete. And they added that the work probably won't be finished before early- to mid-July.

And even by then, the work still wouldn't protect us against another Katrina-level storm surge. Big fucking surprise.

A good friend of mine drives right by the 17th Street Canal breach area at least twice a day, and says she's lucky to see two people working out there at the site. Some days she sees nobody, no work being done. Who will answer the question of why aren't there large crews there, working 24/7? Whose head will we have on a platter for this? (No one, of course.)

Jazzfest, Day 1.   Wes and I waited in the line at the Gentilly gate of the Fair Grounds, almost jumping up and down with excitement. It was a good-sized crowd, and we were all very, very happy to be there. The gates opened, our tickets were scanned, and ... YEAH YOU RITE! Jazzfest '06 had begun.

Sadly, though, I felt a little lost, somewhat bereft. Every time I enter the Fair Grounds for Fest I make a beeline for one food booth to start each day -- Creole's Stuffed Bread. I say hi to Miss Merlene ("Hey baby, good to see you!" she says, or something similar), get my bread, and then I can go. This year, there was none. I didn't know what to do.

Fortunately there was an idea to try one of the tastiest-sounding new items first, and that ended up being our first of three mini-meals with Andouille Calas with Green Onion Sauce, from the new restaurant Calas Bistro and Wine Cellar in Kenner. Calas are deep-fried rice fritters that were a traditional food in New Orleans in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and are making a comeback. This unusual savory version, with the smoky-spicy flavor of andouille sausage, was outstanding.

Andouille Calas with Green Onion Sauce Andouille Calas, close-up

Then there was the meat of the matter, so to speak. What was going to be our (first) main course of the day? Easy decision -- an annual favorite, particularly among us pork-loving fanatics of The Fat Pack. There was nothing other than Cochon de Lait Po-boys, with cabbage slaw and white rémoulade sauce. Tender, smoky, porky ... ooooohhhhhh, my.

Pig! Pig! Pig!

Then it was time to get down to the music. First up on the list was one of my favorite bands in the city, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, who play '20s- and '30s-style traditional jazz and swing. It was also the first of two Vipers gigs where we got to hear their marvelous new song that I wrote about the other day, "I Hope You're Comin' Back to New Orleans".

Charlie Fardella of the New Orleans Jazz Vipers

Next up was the Panorama Jazz Band, whom I'd never seen but had been hearing about. Their self-description: "Imagine that Serbia and Macedonia are next to Louisiana with Martinique and Manhattan off the coast and Ukraine and Poland to the north. Mexico is due south with the Bahamas and Venezuela near at hand. New Orleans is the cultural hub ..." That's what these guys sound like, not forgetting to mention the klezmer as well. All that plus a blast of New Orleans jazz, right up my alley.

Panorama Jazz Band

Jane Harvey Brown of the Panorama Jazz Band

Mealtime again! On Michael's recommendation, we had one of his favorites, and a longtime Jazzfest favorite of many that I hadn't tried before: Palmer's Jamaican Cuisine's Caribbean Fish, a jerk-marinated fish with steamed cabbage over rice. A few shakes of Scotch Bonnet hot sauce, and mmmmm ...

Caribbean Fish

Next set -- Charmaine Neville and her band, featuring saxophonist Reggie Houston and pianist extraordinaire Amasa Miller. It was so great to see Charmaine up there on stage, so vibrant and full of life and energy, after her horrendous ordeal during the hurricane and the Army Corps of Engineers' flood. She's back and strong and was absolutely on fire, as Steve wrote:

On stage she embodied that tragedy, yet with hope. Starting by invoking Louis Armstrong with "What a Wonderful World," sliding into "Over the Rainbow." To end her set, hope was matched with anger. First, she turned Stevie Wonder's reassuring "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" into an indictment of the post-Katrina management, launching a voodoo-like screed against "the Bushy Man," paraphrasing the President's promise that the people in the ravaged city would get everything they needed and then asking the none-too-rhetorical question, "Can you say 'swim'?" That then flowed into the Undisputed Truth's bitter "Smiling Faces Sometimes" ("they tell lies"), with Neville ultimately collapsing to the stage, chanting cathartic but powerful primal soul. The ground was dry, but a lot of eyes in the audience were flooded.

Mine were, and my scalp was tingling.

Charmaine Neville Amasa Miller

Reggie Houston Charmaine Neville

With all the energy we expended cheering for Charmaine and band, we were hungry again. (Fortunately, Wes and I split everything, which meant that we got to try more things without becoming Mr. and Mr. Creosote. In fact, in two weeks we only put on four pounds each, which is astonishing for a Jazzfest-time feeding frenzy, but I digress.) Mary had heard that the Pecan Catfish Meunière was good, and it was, sorta ... it was well-spiced and the meunière sauce (a brown butter and lemon sauce) with pecans was excellent, but we all found the fish to be too salty. The combo plate featured the other dish from that booth, Fried Crab Cake with Smoked Tomato-Jalapeño Tartar Sauce and was very good, although spoiled as I am by Commander's Palace's mindbogglingly good crab cakes (seemingly 99 and 44/100% crab), I'm invariably disappointed by crab cakes with filler and those encased in a carapace of fried breading. That said, it was still pretty good, and that sauce was terrific.


The next must-see event offered a bit of indecision -- Dr. John was playing opposite BeauSoleil, and they were both stage-closers for that day of the fest. As much as I love BeauSoleil (as a twenty-plus year "BeauHead", as Mike Doucet once called me), I was fiercely determined to see and give priority to as many New Orleans artists as possible, so off to the Acura Fess Stage to see Mac. He put on a great show as ever, with his big band (and I spotted the most excellent Charlie Miller on trumpet), and although we could hear well we were so far back that the only photo I could manage was of the big Jumbotron screen ... oh well. As much as I was loving Mac's set, though, I started feeling the call of the Cajuns right as Mac finished up playing "How Come My Dog Don't Bark When You Come Around?", and we headed to Fais Do Do to finish the day's music with the last 20 minutes of Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, exuberant as they've ever been. It was the first of many occasions over the six days of Jazzfest when I wished I could copy myself, Kiln People-style, send them to every stage of Fest and to every food booth, and download all their memories and experiences at the end of the day. Now that's the way to do Jazzfest.

Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John Michael Doucet, dit BeauSoleil

All in all, a most excellent first day of Jazzfest. And as we've seen the last few years, it wasn't over when we left the gate to walk back to the car. Lest anyone worry about the survival of young neighborhood brass bands, there was at least one right outside the Fair Grounds, at Gentilly and Sauvage, putting their heart and soul and balls into a street performance that gladdened my heart.

Brass band outside the Fair Grounds

Trombone player outside the  Fair Grounds

I feel like funkin' it up, feel like funkin' it up ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, May 11, 2006

Comin' back.   Ooh man, laaaaaaaazy. We got home Tuesday night, but I guess I wasn't exactly rarin' to go back to hittin' the weblog right away. I might have had plenty of energy for two weeks back home, all six days of Jazzfest, late night meals and later night music shows, but there's nothing like airports, shuttles and eight hours of plane travel to really wipe me out.

It may have been the best Jazzfest ever. I don't know, I didn't go to all of them (only about 25 or so), but it'd be difficult if not impossible to top this one, certainly on an emotional level. It was certainly the most important in the history of the Festival -- the one that showed we could do it, that we could begin our recovery, and was a testament to, as this year's Fest t-shirts said, "the healing power of music." It was full of strong emotions, love for the city and its people, anger over what happened that didn't have to happen, and a big display of resilience and a strong determination to rebuild -- not just a New Orleans for the well-off few, but for everybody. As Big Chief Fi Yi Yi (and numerous others) said, "Come home, come home, everybody come home."

There have been several new songs written since the Army Corps of Engineers' flood destroyed most of the city, but I think my favorite one was written by Joe Braun of the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, and it's the lead-off track on their new album Hope You're Comin' Back. It's called "I Hope You're Comin' Back to New Orleans" (free RealAudio download), and it's fantastic. Make sure you buy the album too; you can get it directly from the Vipers' site.

I hope you're comin' back to New Orleans
You know it really is a land of dreams
There's no other city like New Orleans.

I knew that I just couldn't stay away
So I came back and I am home to stay
And rebuild my life in New Orleans.

Stormy weather may come and go
Mother Nature may put on her show
Still in my mind there's nowhere else to go
So baby won't you please come home?

In New Orleans where they still say hello
To the music and the culture and all the people that you know
There's just nothing more than New Orleans.

(Everyone takes a solo or two, then repeat the first three verses)

New Orleans is where I want to stay
Where I can play my music every night and day
There's just nothing more than New Orleans.

Yeah you rite.

As you probably heard, there was one big disappointment -- Fats Domino wasn't feeling well and didn't play. He got a clean bill of health at the hospital, but only the man can say how he's feeling, and if he ain't feelin' well he ain't feelin' well. A few friends wondered how much of that was nerves -- Fats has always been "a notoriously reluctant performer," as Da Paper said -- but I'm just glad he's okay.

Rather than do a big Fest wrap-up I'll just be even lazier and link to Steve's (he's a pro, after all) and Steve M.'s ('cause he's a pro too), but I'll have some comments along with the pictures I'll post over the next several days, starting tomorrow.

The Cocktailian.   In today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, gives us an Austrian Martini, the old Tanqueray and Noilly Prat classic spiked with a dose of Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, which tastes like ... well, pine. ("Ever drink a pine tree? Many parts are ... um, drinkable!") Not sure how soon I'll be adding this stuff to my bar, but the drink sounds fascinating.

Privacy? No, not so much.   The Empty Suit in the White House assured us that they'd only be engaging in warrantless spying on people who are talking to al Qaeda members overseas. "You have nothing to worry about," he and his minions crowed. Well, as you've likely heard by now, the NSA "has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth," according to people "with direct knowledge of the arrangement."

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans -- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

Bush personally assures us that they're not actually listening. Uh huh, I believe that. The man lies about cheese and fish, why should I believe him about this?

Rick put it very well in this imagined conversation with the administration, sent via email this morning as he wondered, "What I'm waiting to hear is how they are going to explain that they are not doing something completely, totally, and horrifically illegal."

BUSHCO: We're just collecting the phone numbers of the people you call but we're not doing anything with them.

WE, THE PEOPLE: Well, then why are you collecting them?

BUSHCO: If we see something suspicious we will investigate.

WE, THE PEOPLE: So you are doing more than collecting them... you are analyzing them?

BUSHCO: Well... yeah, but...

WE, THE PEOPLE: And if you are analyzing them that means you are cross-checking the numbers against some database of who those numbers are associated with, right? I mean, it's not like you've got guys sitting there going "Hmmmm, 323-555-0123 ... that number sounds suspicious!"

BUSHCO: Well, there are certain numbers that flag as being associated with terrorists.

WE, THE PEOPLE: Really? So like, you have Osama's phone number? Zarqawi's? You have the phone number of every single suspect person, organization, group, business front, and shady operation in this entire country?

BUSHCO: Well, no, but...

WE, THE PEOPLE: So basically you are finding out who those numbers are associated with and trying to detect suspicious patterns... for instance, if I suddenly started calling a bunch of companies that produce ammonium nitrate fertilizer and dynamite you might get a little worried about that.

BUSHCO: Of course we would!

WE, THE PEOPLE: So what you're saying is that while you are not invading the privacy of the person making the call (because all you've got is a number supposedly) you are invading the privacy of the person RECEIVING the call becuase you know who that person is? Isn't that illegal?

BUSHCO: Well... uh... you see... terrorists!! Look out!!! Bird Flu!!!! AIIGGIAHHAHHAAAAAA!!!!!

Jesus H. Christ.

Quote of the day.   Read the whole transcript and email it around, and watch the video:

We all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cause he might be all that stands between us and a full blown dictatorship in this country.

-- Jack Cafferty, CNN, March 11, 2006

Do not remain silent.

OMGWTFCAPRICA!!   That was the subject of Wesly's email to me yesterday, delivering the following news item announcing a new series called Caprica ... a spinoff from Battlestar Galactica (!):

From exec producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), writer Remi Aubuchon and NBC Universal Television Studio, this new series is set over a half a century before the events that play out in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The people of the Twelve Colonies are at peace in a society where high technology has changed the lives of virtually everyone for the better. But a startling breakthrough in robotics is about to occur, one that will bring to life the age-old dream of marrying artificial intelligence with a mechanical body to create the first living robot -- a Cylon. Following the lives of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas (the family of William Adama, who will one day become the commander of the Battlestar Galactica), CAPRICA weaves corporate intrigue, techno-action and sexual politics into television's first science-fiction family saga.

WOW! My little geek fanboy heart flutters. If the writing, acting and production values of this show are equal to that of BSG, we may be in for a winner here. (Goddammit, as if I didn't already have enough TV to watch ...)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, May 7, 2006

Coming home when you have no home.   Day after day, stage after stage, club after club, we keep hearing about musicians up there performing; someone'll whisper, "Did you hear? He/she lost everything."

A lot of folks like that are in town for Fest from wherever they evacuated to, but there are lots of questions about the future. Some of them are answered by the almost unopposable pull this city has on people, but there are practical questions, like "Where ya gonna stay?"

Evan Christopher has been living out of a suitcase for eight months.

He has clothes and instruments stashed in Paris, Los Angeles, Omaha, Neb., and a New York City hotel.

Ever since a wall of water ran up the stairs of his Broadmoor apartment, whirlpooling his life into a helter-skelter heap of CDs, books, clarinet reeds, rare sheet music, overstuffed furniture and swollen grand piano parts, Christopher has been on the road.

The woman who shared the apartment in this once-idyllic, shady New Orleans neighborhood, dancer Nina Bozak, is moving to Brooklyn.

The rest of his friends are so scattered that Christopher started a Web site to help them find each other.

One night in Europe, Christopher confessed to old-guard New Orleans singer Lillian Boutté that he was thinking about finishing his master's degree at Rutgers, in New Jersey, instead of Tulane, in New Orleans. Something cracked.

"She told me to go home," said the clarinet and saxophone player. "She said the responsibility lies in the hands of the musicians to see that things get rebuilt the way they should be. When I heard that, I just started bawling."

One of the more depressing lines: "Some musicians who have tried to find housing report that rents have doubled." This isn't just musicians, it's everyone who's coming back. Wes and I were talking about this last night. I'm not so sure I could sleep at night if I owned an apartment and doubled the pre-flood rents just because I could. Sadly, I don't think many New Orleans landlords think the same way.

Blogging Jazzfest, wit pitchas!   Thanks to Steve Hochman, who's one of the writers covering Jazzfest for AOL Music, plus editor Brad Hill, a couple of the stories up there are now illustrated by my photographs (Thanks, y'all!). In addition to the rest of his excellent stories (as well as those of his colleagues), check out the posts on Big Chief Victor "Fi Yi Yi" Harris of the Mandingo Warriors, and longtime Gospel Tent denizen Wing of Life.

I have a story about Big Chief Harris on Mardi Gras Day, but I'll save that one for later.

Now, off to the Fair Grounds ...   we gotta go see Mr. Fats today.

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  Saturday, May 6, 2006

Yeah you rite!!!   Liuzza's is reopening today. Sorta.

In March, Shanette Edler still could barely bring herself to talk about the future of Liuzza's, her family's beloved Mid-City restaurant.

The broken levees left her homeless. Ditto most of her relatives. The floodline at Liuzza's was a foot higher than the top of Shaquille O'Neal's head.

It was, and still is, a lot of bad news to digest. But time, as everyone in the area is slowly realizing, heals. On Saturday, customers are invited to see what time has done to their favorite outpost for fried pickles when Liuzza's hosts its Preopening Post-Katrina Party.

What will they see?

"The restaurant sat for over 2-1/2 weeks under 8-1/2 feet of water. Edler said of the corner building at 3636 Bienville St. "There was nothing salvageable. If it wasn't glass or stainless steel, it had to go in the trash. Everything they see is going to be new."

Close-reading Liuzza's devotees have likely already noted that Liuzza's famous, globe-shaped (and sized) frosted beer mugs were in fact glass. Edler said the fact that they were stored in the freezer when the storm hit saved them from breaking.

"I'm on my way right now to sanitize them," she said earlier this week.

The party begins Saturday at 3 p.m., and runs "until." There will be free jambalaya and a cash bar where, yes, you will be able to buy frosty mugs of beer.

While the refurbished kitchen in the nearly 60-year-old restaurant isn't quite yet ready to churn out Creole-Italian soul food, Edler said the staff is past ready to punch in -- both blood relatives and non.

"We had one of our employees tell her (new) boss that she couldn't come in to work on Saturday because she was going to a family reunion," Edler said.

Liuzza's, August 6, 2005
(Liuzza's on Bienville, 8/6/2005, with my parents and grandmother)

Liuzza's, September 8, 2005
(Liuzza's on Bienville, 9/8/2005, under water)

Sadly, we can't make it today, but this is GREAT news! I'll be there in July.

Now, gotta go ... off to the Fair Grounds.

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  Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Wizards of 'OZ.   From the Times-Picayune: "While showcasing New Orleans culture, radio station WWOZ became a cultural icon itself. General Manager David Freedman and his colorful collection of music devotees are hellbent on saving it."

[Longtime WWOZ DJ "Black Mold"] was known as The Doctor for most of the 16 years he has been on the air at WWOZ. The new nom de disc is a sardonic post-K comment on the condition of his flooded home.

"I think Katrina firmly entrenched WWOZ as the keeper of the groove. When our artists were scattered throughout the country, that was the one thing that bound them all together."

For the first several months he was back on the air, Black Mold, now residing in LaPlace, played only CDs he'd rescued from the muck inside his Lakeview home.

"My whole CD collection was underwater, maybe 2,000 CDs," he said. "I was downright militant about only playing CDs I'd recovered from the house, which had sat under 5 feet of floodwater. It was just my way of thumbing my nose at Katrina. It destroyed my house, it destroyed the city, but Katrina cannot kill the great culture we have here.

"Plus, I got a lot of calls that asked, 'How'd you wash your CDs?'"

I can tell you from experience ... with a sink sprayer to get the grit off, then in mild soapy water, and dry with a soft cloth, wiping from center to edge.

Listen to WWOZ, the greatest radio station in the world, and give them your support.

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  Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Stephen Colbert: American Hero.   In case you hadn't seen this (primarily because it's not being reported by mainstream media), Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report roasted President Bush, several members of his administration, the press and others during his appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. This is, as you may recall, the same dinner at which Bush joked about not being able to find WMDs a few years ago, and went around looking under people's tables for them (very funny to the 2400+ dead soldiers whom he sent to look for them, and their families, no doubt).

Colbert's performance was astonishing, hacking them to shreds, all while standing just a few feet away from the President (who was observed as looking "visible uncomfortable" and who left with the First Lady soon after). Colbert has the balls to say what no one else will during this Emperor's New Clothes presidency, and he deserves a medal.

More from dKos and Atrios (here and here) and Crooks and Liars (who have a downloadable file of the complete video).

Now, back to my vacation ...

April 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.
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