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.

Page last tweaked @ 2:10pm PDT, 6/30/2006

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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)

May 2006
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
New Orleans Wiki

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Humid City
Hurricane Katrina Aftermath
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
Suspect Device 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.)

Angostura Bitters
   (The gold standard of bitters,
   fortunately available everywhere
   worldwide. Insist on it.)

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

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

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:

Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n Roll, by Rick Coleman.

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!
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

  Friday, June 30, 2006

Oh hey ... George?   In your face, motherfracker.

How, piss off and find a copy of the United States Constitution, then read it. Then find someone (not a toady neocon yes-man) to explain to you what it means.

Of course, the Republicans are already starting to talk about bending over backwards to give the Tinpot everything he wants.

But we'll never see them tried.   According to this crosspost from SCOTUSblog, the Supreme's Court above-referenced decision seems to show that "the Administration appears to have been engaged in war crimes, which are subject to the death penalty." On a practical level, though, will these people ever have to face justice for what they've done?

Quote of the day.   Typical of their gorge-rising spin and histrionic fear-mongering, on the heels of the Supremes' decision we get this from The Empty Suit:

"The American people need to know that the ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street."

Well, let's start with the possibility that maybe a few innocent people who are wrongly imprisoned at Guantánamo might be put out on the street, for starters.

This is rich, too ... coming from the leader of a party who seem to be all for this whole amnesty-for-insurgents thing in Iraq. They seem perfectly willing to offer amnesty to the people who've killed over 2,500 American soldiers and let them keep being out on the street. Just so long as it's not our street it's okay, is it?

Better quote of the day,   from an actual human being (and a good human being, unlike the one quoted above). From Poppy's journal, talking about her recent fabulous meal at Cuvée (as if there's any other kind there):

I have been heard to say on more than one food forum that, while I think [Cuvée's chef] Bob [Iacovone] is one of the two or three best chefs in the city, I disagree with his predilection for pairing cheese with foie gras. Apparently these remarks have found their way back to him, for, as an intermezzo, he personally delivered to me a plate that held a tiny piece of seared foie gras sandwiched between a piece of Port Salut and a blue cheese whose identity I have forgotten. What's even worse is that, in the instant before he whisked it away and gave me my real course, I thought he wasn't kidding.

Just because a chef is serious about his food doesn't mean he can't have a sense of humor about it.

Heheheheeeee ... I nearly spat iced green tea all over the monitor at that one. I {heart} Bob Iacovone!

Cheese shmeese, he can give me this dish anytime he wants.

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

Oh my God, it was good.

Ardent Spirits and The Cocktailian.   Gary and Mardee have a new issue of the Ardent Spirits Newsletter out (because in the midst of all the stuff I'm posting today, we need a drink), featuring at least three new cocktail recipes!

Actually, it's not Mary's turn after all.   (Via Wes.) A couple of weeks ago, Dick "go fuck yourself before I shoot you in the face" Cheney's daughter Mary, America's most self-loathing, cognitively dissonant lesbian, was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air". I couldn't get past the first ten minutes of it ... she infuriated me so much I wanted to jump out of the car window. I switched off the radio and turned the iPod back on instead. Miriam said I've got to listen to it all, as it gets worse (!), so I probably will later.

You probably heard that she wrote a book called Now It's My Turn, for which Simon and Schuster (via their new "conservative imprint") paid an advance of one million dollars (that's $1,000,000.00, in all its count-all-those-zeroes glory). Supposing that all copies of the book sold at the full retail price of $20, and supposing that the entire cover price went to the publisher (they don't, and it doesn't), they'd have to sell at least 50,000 copies to recoup that advance, much less make a profit when you consider how much they actually make with each copy sold.

The book has sold fewer than 6,000 copies to date. During the week of June 3, for example, the book sold only 574 copies worldwide.

Apparently not that many people want to read her sad, delusional foolishness.

Here's a tidbit from TPMCafe:

Cheney's push to sell books started the same way most right-wing pushes go: Lash out at Democrats. Cheney criticized 2004 Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry and his vice presidential candidate John Edwards for mentioning her during the debates. When Edwards discussed her during the vice presidential debate with her father, Cheney went so far as to mouth the words at Edwards that her father made famous a few years ago: Go fuck yourself. Looks like the quail didn't fall too far from the hunter. She also accused the pair of playing "sleazy" politics by mentioning her sexual orientation.

That Cheney thinks the Democrats use sexual orientation as a political ploy is a notion as laughable as her book sales. Which party used statewide gay marriage bans to lure conservative voters to the polls in 2004? Which party is actively seeking to keep gay Americans from adopting? Which party spent valuable time last week proclaiming as their top priority a constitutional ban on gay marriage, a priority shared by only 3 percent of bigoted Americans? Oh, that's right, the Republican Party.

The Republican Party, Mary, isn't your party. It's the party of Rick Santorum. It's the party of James Dobson. It's the party of Pat Robertson. It's the party that thinks cartoon characters are turning young Americans into young gay Americans. It's the party that says movies like "Brokeback Mountain" try to "humanize homosexuality". It's the party that would rather take up a doomed amendment that would take away your rights than address Iraq, Iran, terrorism or immigration.

These people don't like you, Mary. If you weren't Mary Cheney, daughter of the vice president, and instead were Mary Jones, lesbian American, you would be treated with the same disdain your peers are every day. It's not like it's good for you now, even, seeing that Alan Keyes considers what you do "selfish hedonism". Tell me, do you consider yourself a selfish hedonist, Mary? Or do you simply consider yourself a human being, one worthy of the same rights, privileges and dignities afforded everyone else in this country? Now, ask yourself which party is actively trying to deny you those rights, privileges and dignities. Think about your answer the next time you consider calling Kerry a "son of a bitch" or Edwards a "total slime".

Don't miss the comments on that post, my favorite hiss-claw comment being this one:

I do hope to see her and her sleazily treacherous lover booed and hissed every time they so much as drive by a gay neighborhood for the rest of their miserable self-loathing lives. And I'd offer this word of advice to them: stay together. Neither of them are ever going to get another date ever again.

She doesn't need a book deal. She needs some serious therapy.

Peeve of the day.   I just rode up the elevator with someone who had been working out at the gym adjacent to our office building. In lieu of taking a shower, he instead doused himself with what must have been a quart of cologne ... making him smell exponentially worse.

It was a good thing I hadn't had my lunch yet, or the unbelievably vile stench he was giving off would have prompted me to throw up on him.

DUMI.   Speaking as someone who's almost been turned into a smear on the concrete more times than I care to count by idiots yapping on cell phones while they're driving, I think the above acronym (Driving Under Mobile Influence) should be illegal. Now there's some evidence to back it up -- a study has shown that mobile phone talkers behind the wheel are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than drunk drivers, and that more study participants rear-ended cars while talking on the phone than while drunk.

Just like many people who have been drinking, the cell phone users did not believe themselves to be affected, the researchers found.

Of course.

Hang up and drive, for feck's sake.

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone!   Have a safe and fun holiday, and I'll see y'all next week after the break.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   It's one of my favorites, the Aviation Cocktail. We've visited this one before, but here's a big of a twist -- according to a new article by Dave Wondrich in Drinks Magazine, the recipe we're used to isn't the original:

The first recipe for the Aviation is found in Hugo Ensslin's 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks, the last cocktail book published in New York before Prohibition. Ensslin's recipe calls for an extra ingredient: a half-teaspoon of crème de violette, a violet-flavored liqueur that tints the drink a pale sky blue and, incidentally, explains its name.

That's fascinating, and I had no idea. (That sidebar is also strangely omitted from the online version.) We had to try it.

Crème de violette is going to be difficult to find, but for this drink and especially the exquisite Blue Moon Cocktail (substituting for the completely unavailable Crème Yvette), you should get some; you'll find it one of rarest and most exotic ingredients in your bar. It can be mail-ordered from Sally Clarke's in London, UK.

The Original Aviation Cocktail
(Adapted from Hugo Ensslin, 1916)

2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1-1/2 teaspoons Maraschino liqueur.
1/2 teaspoon crème de violette.

Combine with cracked ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a stemless cherry.

It doesn't get the drink nearly as sky-blue as the Blue Moon does, but it does lend a really interesting, floral dimension to the drink. We enjoyed it, and it's very much worth a try.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Drive.   I stumbled across this on YouTube last night, and was glad I did. The New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) is back in business and currently spreading the word about their new one-hour documentary entitled "The Drive," described thusly:

In many respects, New Orleans is alive and kicking. People are moving home, schools are opening, cultural activities have returned and, in many neighborhoods, life has a sense of near normalcy; however, all it takes is a short drive outside of the French Quarter or Uptown to witness extensive loss and devastation. The magnitude of flooding was incomprehensible and New Orleans has many challenges to overcome. Through this community-based documentary project, stories are presented from a local point-of-view. We hope this effort will garner continued support for the rebuilding of a great American city.

The only way to experience the magnitude of the post-Katrina destruction is to physically walk or drive through the affected areas... This one-hour program provides a raw visual tour through four of the most devastated neighborhoods in New Orleans. Viewers are guided through the devastation with ongoing footage of the neighborhoods, contextual maps, and visual samples of the breached canal levees. In addition, interviews with neighborhood residents provide a point-of-view from those most affected as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

I've said it before, I'll say it again -- a lot of people in this country still really don't get what happened in New Orleans, they don't understand the devastation because they never saw it. They can visualize some water in the house, they might be able to visualize a flooded neighborhood, but they're never going to be able to imagine anything like the Lower Ninth Ward or Lakeview or Gentilly untill they see it. Now, if they haven't gone to New Orleans and seen it up close, they can see it on film.

The trailer for "The Drive" is here, and at the above embedded video you can watch the first 15 minutes, as they drive through the Lower Nine and Lakeview. This first segment, along with over an hour of other recently-produced NOVAC documentaries, will be released on DVD tomorrow and is a steal at $4.75. Buy it.

Summer cocktails.   The New York Times regales us with some summer cocktails (thanks to Vidiot for the heads-up), and apparently there was a contest that I missed, soliciting ideas for the best summer cocktails. D'oh ... I mighta come up with something good. (Like my Nilsson Fizz below.)

Some of their contest winners do look worth a try, though ... especially the Gingino (a Campari and ginger beer highball, garnished with limes and crystallized ginger), The Cuke (a cucumber, lime and gin highball -- do NOT use vodka, for Chrissakes) and the L'Alhambra (a punch with fino Sherry, Spanish cava, orange juice, orange flower water and orgeat).

I came up with this one a couple of years ago and found it quite refreshing. It was inspired by song, and named after the song's author.

The Nilsson Fizz

2 ounces cachaça (Brazilian sugar cane spirit) or white rum.
The juice of one lime.
1-1/2 ounces coconut syrup.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
Sparkling water.

Build in a tall highball glass; top with the the sparkling water and stir.
Garnish with a lime wheel. Now dat you got de lime wit' de coconut, drink 'em
both up, and relieve de bellyache.

You could substitute coconut-flavored rum for a stronger and less sweet drink, but I think it'd probably knock you on your ass.

Screw AT&T.   This fucking company has been chasing me for years, and I can't seem to escape them. Now they're gleefully violating my rights on top of a long history of shitty service, and there might not be anything I can do about it.

When I first moved here I signed up for cable TV service with a little local company called Jack Barry Cable (yep, owned by the "Joker's Wild" host), who were then swallowed up by Continental Cablevision, who were then swallowed up by MediaOne, who were then swallowed up by the dreaded AT&T. The service was horrid, and compaints about it and/or attempts to have it rectified plummeted me into customer service hell. Between the atrocious cable TV and internet service and how they ripped me off for hundreds of dollars of long-distance phone service (and were nasty about all of it), I swore I would never do business with them again.

Now SBC, the local "baby Bell" phone company who provide my landline and my DSL (as "SBC Yahoo! DSL) has merged with the tattered remnants of AT&T, adopted their more famous logo and, apparently, all of their malevolence.

You've heard it in the news by now, no doubt -- AT&T's gleeful compliance with the NSA's illegal domestic spying program, according to the EFF's lawsuit:

AT&T Corp. ... maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.

Yesterday Salon reported the account of two whistleblowers, both former AT&T employees, who say that AT&T has maintained a second secret, highly secured room since 2002 where government work is being conducted, in addition to the secret spy facility AT&T maintain(s)(ed) in San Francisco.

Now it's being reported that as of tomorrow AT&T will change the terms of their privacy policy -- your personal information and data is no longer yours, it's theirs ... to do with as they please; or, as the new policy will state:

AT&T.  Your world.  Delivered.  To the NSA.

"While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process... [The company] may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process," omitting the earlier language about such processes being "required and/or permitted by law."

The new policy states that AT&T "may also use your information in order to investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud (or) situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person" -- conditions that would appear to embrace any terror-related circumstance.

Or almost any other circumstance that this administration wants to impose, an administration that's actually talking about prosecuting investigative reporters for espionage.

Fuck AT&T.

I no longer wish to do business with them. I didn't before, and now I really don't.

Problem is, my options are limited. Unless anyone out there knows of any alternative for landline service in southern California, I'm stuck with them unless we go for VOIP (Internet-based phone service). A look at Vonage first reveals that we'd lose our phone number, and would have to get another one. Furthermore, Wes is uncomfortable with VOIP's 911 service, which has improved but is still less reliable than landline. We could get DSL from Earthlink or other providers. Then again, what happens when AT&T helps the senators and congressmen in their pocket push for an anti-net neutrality bill, then assert their ownership of the fiber optic backbone and impose horrendous fees on VOIP providers to put them out of business? How long until it's a big Ma Bell monopoly again, this time working hand-in-hand with the most secretive and privacy-hostile administration in memory?

So far it seems as if my only options to switch are an independent DSL provider and VOIP. Any ideas?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Da foist day o' da summa.   It's the summer solstice, the first day of summer, and time for an Anders Osborne song. Download it from eMusic (What, you're not a member of eMusic? All independent artists and no DRM!) and sing along.

On the front stoop of my house
Watchin' folks go by
Lazy days, chewin' on ice
We all just waitin' on July.

And 'OZ plays Irma
We all know what it means
Rag-a-tag rain, city's so low
It's summertime in New Orleans.

Yeah, fellas gettin' drunk on a Sunday
We all know they're just keepin' cool
And I'm hangin' out playin' card games
With my new best friend who's got a pool.

And 'OZ plays James Andrews
We all know what it means
Rag-a-tag rain, city's so low
It's summertime in New Orleans

The garbage truck just passed you up
And the potent smell of seafood shells
And sweet bloom magnolia trees
That's summertime in New Orleans.

Yeah, gallons o' Daiquiris, snowball cones
Slow drive by the lake
Yeah I'm drivin' 35 through all the school zones
But my brand-new A.C. unit just broke.

And 'OZ, they're playin' Kermit
We know he's barbecuein' up the bones
Rag-a-tag rain, smokin' a joe
It's summertime in New Orleans.

Yeah, a buggy ride through the Quarter
Drinkin' Hurricanes and listenin' to Tuba Fats (Kirk too, now)
Little kids splashin' water
We got gutter punks and gentlemen in straw hats.

And 'OZ, they're playin' Satchmo
We all knowin' who dat is
Rag-a-tag-a rain, the city's so slow
It's summertime in New Orleans.

Yeah you rite.

Singing the praises of homemade hooch.   Dr. Cocktail's latest epistle at Martini Republic is a paean to the joys of making one's one boozy concoctions at home, from the homemade bitters made by several wonderful folks (dang, I'm going to have to revist my own experiments in this area) to Paul Clarke's experiments with homemade falernum (I can't wait to read about his latest batch) to my very own pimento dram (a.k.a. allspice liqueur, the description of which makes me blush intensely).

On a related note, we had drinks last night (well, natch), but I won't give it a separate "Cocktail of the Day" header because 1) it was just a Manhattan (well, hardly "just"), and B) it contained an unfair ingredient. I did want to give it a mention, though, as to how a "standard" drink like a Manhattan can undergo drastic and wonderful changes in flavor merely by varying the brand of whiskey, sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters you use, plus the proportion.

I usually make Manhattans at a 3:1 when using good ol' Martini & Rossi and a good, assertive rye, but last night Wes was feeling experimental and tried something new. The whiskey was Sazerac Rye, the new 6-year-old stuff, which I think is wonderful -- spicy, cinnamony, orangey -- and could drink it all day, despite the fact that one person I know (hi, Louis!) thought it tasted like "mold." (Tsk tsk.) The vermouth was Carpano's Punt E Mes, the most bitter of the sweet vermouths of my acquaintance, kind of like a poke in the ribs with a vermouth stick, except quite pleasant. The bitters were the legendary and long-defunct Abbott's Bitters, incredibly rich and lush with "apple-pie" spices like clove and cinnamon and ginger plus cardamom and more. The proportion of whiskey to vermouth was 5:1, given the power of the Punt E Mes, and the extravagant nutter put TWO big dashes of Abbott's in each drink!

All I could say upon my first taste was, "Wow!" This was a one-man brass band of spice, with so much going on it made my head spin (and paradoxically I wanted to temper the spin by immediately taking another sip). You could almost say it was too much, until you thought about all the flavors going on and felt the balance between the spices and the bitterness and the smoothness of the whisky, with the citrusy elements of the rye helping as well. It was like getting to know a Manhattan all over again, and I enjoyed every drop.

Like I said, it's a bit unfair as Abbott's is going to be rather difficult to procure. A not-too-close-but-in-a-neighboring-ballpark substitute could be made by using a dash of Angostura and a dash of Fee's Aromatic, or by making up a batch of Robert Hess' House Bitters (scroll down).

Pig, pig, pig!   Today's feature story in the Los Angeles Times Food Section is about the bustling 24-hour foodfest that is L.A.'s Koreatown, featuring "barbecue pork belly, fiery kimchi, late-night noodles and Crown Royal" (that all sounds great, except for the Crown Royal part ... booooring).

My eyes immediately drawn to the "pork belly" part, I see the place that's a shoo-in for our next Koreatown pork outing, yet another hidden mini-mall gem:

At Yissi HwaRo, you can get spicy pork belly, wine-marinated pork belly, smoked pork belly, bean-paste pork belly or beer-marinated pork belly, brought to the table in bamboo cradles by a team of young waiters with perfectly spiked hair. It's hard to decide what to order, but we get slabs of wine-marinated pork belly and bean-paste (miso-marinated) pork belly. They start to sizzle as soon as they hit the grill on our table, and we wrap up pieces of cooked meat bo sam-style in disks of thinly sliced radish tinged with wasabi mixed with a little vinegar.

The restaurant's at 3465 W. 6th Street (at Kenmore, three blocks east of Normandie), in a minimall called Chapman Plaza, and it sounds perfect. I'm also much more keen on the idea of the "team of young waiters with perfectly spiked hair," instead of that awful sneering bee-yotch who deigned to serve us (barely) at the Toad House a few months back. Yissi HwaRo, here we come.

GOP blocks renewal of Voting Rights Act.   Yep, you read that correctly. The landmark 1965 act, which enfranchised millions of black voters who were being stopped at the polls by everything from illegal and racist poll taxes to "literacy tests," is now in limbo thanks to Republian congressmen who blocked and postponed its renewal, saying it "unfairly singles out" nine southern states ... who have a historic pattern of racist voter discrimination.

Who spearheaded this in the House? Why, none other than "do-nothingest" Congressman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, mentioned below as the idiot who never introduced a single piece of legislation in 2 years and who wants to force the display of the Ten Commandments all over courtrooms and legislative chambers, but can't even name them. Yes, that fucking idiot.

And what day did he choose to do this? Why, on the 42nd anniversary of the murder of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Mickey Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi ... three young men who were murdered because they worked for voting rights.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"The Green Room is smokin' and the Plaza's burnin' down ...   throw the baby out the window, let the joints burn down ... awwww, because it's ..."

It's Al "Carnival Time" Johnson's birthday today, y'all. If you're in New Orleans, the party is tonight at 8pm at Vaughan's, Dauphine at Lesseps.

Will we still need him? Will we still feed him?   Over across the pond, another famous musician turned 64 years of age last weekend, which is a bit of a milestone for him. Although he doesn't have the stature of Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, who wrote one of New Orleans' most famous Carnival songs, he was once lucky enough to have New Orleans legend Clarence "Frogman" Henry open for him and his band back in 1964, and he once recorded an album in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint on piano. That's pretty good.

Outrage overload.   I had more to post about this week -- the N.O. firefighters who first witnessed the levee breach at the 17th St. Canal and were told to keep quiet about it by Congressional investigators; Blanco's bullshit anti-abortion trigger law, and Atrios' and Kos' and the "fair weather friends" of the liberal blogosphere's bullshit response to it (and to whom I say, "Fuck all y'all"); the cable from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq detailing horrible conditions there -- but I'm in the midst of some serious outrage fatigue. More later, maybe.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 16, 2006

Why New Orleans Is Still Worth It.   Poppy (who's been on fire lately -- God, I can't wait for D*U*C*K to come out, not to mention Soul Kitchen), in a must-read post on her blog:

I've received something that is not so much a reader question as a reader cri de coeur:

Forgive the intrusion, my dear Mz. Brite, but I just had to ask:

Living in N.O. these days requires, like most religions, a leap of faith. And I think we all, like most religious people, must question our faith from time to time, and in particular when we perceive that our god/our city doesn't care about us/is abusing our trust and allegiance.

A shocking number of friends are having a pointedly rough week, not the least of whom is me.

I have nominated you as our Collective Voice. You love the city. It's in your blood. But you don't advertise it as a utopia. You are no zealot. You 'get it' as only a true New Orleanian can, and you have the talent to speak about it in an intelligent, passionate and unique way that reaches both locals and people who have never been here, equally.

If the spirit moves you, might I humbly petition a few words on Why New Orleans Is Still Worth It? For those of us who are having a really, REALLY bad time of things just lately, it may prove an invaluable pep talk.

For those of us questioning our faith. As it were.

You will not be graded.

[...] Being a New Orleanian right now is a lot like going through a rough spot in a long-term relationship you want to save, but which is currently causing you a great deal of pain. You want to give up. You don't give up. You want to give up. You don't give up. You want to give up. You don't give up. Maybe you even have an affair (I guess the equivalent would be taking a vacation or even moving elsewhere for a little while), but once the newness wears off, the affair feels sad and inadequate and shameful, because your fling isn't the person you ultimately want to be with. You go back to your relationship, and maybe the other person has done things that hurt you too, but because you still want to be with them, you find a way to get past it.

Don't kid yourself into thinking I am some unquestioning New Orleans booster who never has a doubt or a bad thought about the place. I have cursed it, particularly after Nagin was reelected. I have had daydreams of moving ... I cry all the time, most recently at David Vitter's letter to the editor today, because I can't believe I am represented by someone who has such contempt for what I am and what many of the people I love are...

But, see, here's the thing: I believe New Orleans is a sentient entity in and of itself. Not the clichéd glamorous, decadent courtesan it's often depicted as, but an old person, somebody who can't get around as well as s/he used to but still has a wicked sense of humor and a deep love for life. More than this thing has happened to any of us individually, it has happened to New Orleans as a whole. When I feel sorry for myself, I try to remember that someone I love (the city) is hurting more than I ever could, because I'm just one person. If too many of us leave, that someone will die, and just as when anyone dies, there will never be another.

I'm reticent to post all of this, because I don't want to exceed the boundaries of fair use, but it's just so fucking good ... just read it all.

She's nailed it, perfectly. This is exactly how I've felt about New Orleans for a very long time, how I've written about the city, how I've tried to describe the city to people. This helps explain my own verging-on-breakdown mental health status between the landing of Katrina and the day I was able to set foot in the city again and see it, deeply wounded as it was, and to see my family and friends again. I think what I was feeling was grieving, not that different from how one grieves for a person. I had to see that person of a city again, and see that despite near-mortal wounds that it was still alive, even if only 20% alive, before I could calm my spirit and move on.

Now I've got another bout of homesickness to get over ...

(Don't forget to follow the link to Vitter's letter to Da Paper. God, what an unbelievable prick that man is.)

"Dollar Bill" gets the boot.   New Orleans' Rep. William Jefferson was removed from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee by vote of the full House of Representatives.

The move, by unanimous consent, came just hours after the House Democratic Caucus voted 99-58 late Thursday to recommend Jefferson?s ouster from the tax-writing panel.

Jefferson, who has not been charged and has maintained his innocence, said he is disappointed with the vote. He said he believes he could fight the ouster in court, but probably won't.

Jefferson, who is black, predicted that the decision will hurt the party with African-American and Hispanic lawmakers, most of whom supported his view that the action isn't justified. Jefferson said the ouster breaks with House precedent and penalizes his constituents who need their representative on Ways and Means to help rebuild from the damage of Hurricane Katrina.

Historians said it was the first time in the 217-year history of Congress that a rank-and-file member had been removed from a committee. Party leaders and committee chairmen have been forced to step aside in the past.

He also claimed to be thinking of his constituents when he had a National Guard truck (soon to be two trucks and a helicopter) take him to his house three days after the flood so that he could retrieve belongings from his house. I'm really looking forward to his "side of the story" about how that 90 grand got into his freezer. It'll be very entertaining.

America's dumbest congressman?   (Via Steve M.) From the Must-Be-Seen-To-Be-Believed Department ... although the competition for the above title may be tough, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) takes a pretty impressive lead with his appearance on "The Colbert Report." He's introduced no legislation, although he co-sponsored a bill requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in the House and the Senate. (Perhaps he wants them there as a reminder, as he can only name three of them. Sorta.) And how does this idiot want to balance the budget? Why, cut the Department of Education, of course.

Crooks and Liars has the video (QuickTime, WMP), which you absolutely must watch. Here's a partial transcript:

COLBERT: What is your responsibility as a congressman?

WESTMORELAND: Well, I feel like my responsibility is to not forget, uh, what I put in my campaign literature,
to keep up with that, to read it, to make sure that I am doing what I told the people I would do when they elected me.

COLBERT: Let's talk about your legislative career for a moment, sir.


COLBERT: You have not introduced a single piece of legislation since you entered Congress.

WESTMORELAND: That's correct.

COLBERT: This has been called a "do-nothing Congress." Is it safe to say you're the do-nothingest?

WESTMORELAND: I, I ... Well there's one other do-nothiner. I don't know who that is, but they're a
Democrat. So there's one Democrat do-nothiner, and one Republican.


COLBERT: You co-sponsored a bill requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in the House and the
Senate. Why was that important to you?

WESTMORELAND: Well, the Ten Commandments is, is not a bad thing ... for people to understand and to
respect. Where better place [sic] could you have something like that than in a judicial building, or in a courthouse?

COLBERT: That is a good question. Can you think of any better building to put the Ten Commandments
than in a public building?

WESTMORELAND: No. [Pause, with Colbert's expectant look all but saying, "A church, perhaps?"]
I think if we were totally without 'em we may lose a sense of our direction.

COLBERT: What are the Ten Commandments?

WESTMORELAND: (looks stricken) (long pause) ... What are all of 'em?

COLBERT: Mmm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: You want me to name 'em all?

COLBERT: Yeah, please.

WESTMORELAND: (looks heavenward) Mmmmmmmmmmm ... uhh, don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal...
... uhhhhhhhhhhh ... I can't name 'em all.

Emailer Ruth asked at C&L, "Does this guy deserve a $3,300 pay raise?" Only if he uses it to pay for a few years of remedial classes at his old high school. And a new hat.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 15, 2006

Café Adelaide.   Okay, time for a massive dose of food porn. A mere six weeks after the fact (hey, not bad for me), I'm back to recapping the food, drink and music of Jazzfest.

We actually left the Fair Grounds a bit early on the first Saturday, after The Iguanas' set, happily eschewing the mobs of Dave Matthews Band fans, but missing out on Etta James, Terence Blanchard, Banu Gibson, C. J. Chenier and/or Ben Sandmel's interview with Elvis Costello at the Heritage Stage (oh well). We had big plans afoot or else we wouldn't have missed out on this, and those big plans were dinner and cocktails at Café Adelaide, not only a favorite of mine since the day it opened, but now truly one of the very best restaurants in New Orleans.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chef Kevin Vizard's cooking in the restaurant's early days, but now he's off on his own; under current Chef Danny Trace, it's even better. Every visit to Café Adelaide is a delight, and it keeps getting better; it was a must-visit, as soon after our collective arrival in New Orleans as we could manage. Most of The Fat Pack assembled there for a celebratory back-in-New-Orleans meal, plus a belated celebration of John and Fiona's birthdays (namesakes of Hoskins Cocktail, and happy we were to see them, as they were over from England for the first time in a couple of years). Wes and I were ready for some cocktails, as were most of everyone else, and fellow cocktailian Ti perked up some interest at the rest of the table by sending out one of their nifty wrought-iron trees bearing several little shotglasses filled with Corpse Revivers No. 2. This resulted in at least four full-sized Corpse Revivers being ordered (for the first round), and we were all quite happy. We were even happier when the amuses bouche came out ...

Amuse bouche: Andouille-Crusted Oysters with Green Salad and White Rémoulade Sauce

Andouille-Crusted Oysters with Green Salad and White Rémoulade Sauce, good sized serving for an amuse, and just loverly. Perfectly fried, crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and gone in a little over two bites. Put some oysters in front of me and I'm happy. Put some perfectly seasoned and cooked FREE oysters in front of me, and I'm even happier. Add a cocktail or three to that, and ... well.

We ordered a flurry of starters, and I only managed to get photos of one of them besides my own. Missed was the Pontchatoula Strawberry Salad, which was baby spinach, sweet onions, spiced pecans, black pepper chère, dressed with a balsamic-molasses vinaigrette and topped with an abundance of local strawberries, beautifully and deeply red, and, being Louisiana strawberries, the best in the world. (A few weeks ago I attempted to recreate this dish on my own at home, and came up with a more than passable version, in my humble opinion; more on that later). Given that crabmeat (especially jumbo lump blue crab meat, and especially if that crabmeat is local) is one of my favorite things to eat, naturally I was drawn to this starter:

Fleur de Lis Blue Crab Tart

Fleur de Lis Blue Crab Tart, made with Des Allemands blue crab, melted leeks, oyster mushrooms, spinach and Bittersweet Plantation cheese. Oh my. My my. Puff pastry holding it all together, crabmeat piled to the heavens, and just a touch of that artisanal cheese that Chef John Folse and his people make in Gonzales, Louisiana. The pastry was light as air, which was a good thing as this was a very generous portion for a starter; anything heavier might've filled me up.

Barbeque Wild Shrimp Shortcake

Wes had the Barbeque Wild Shrimp Shortcake, with toasted garlic, crushed lemon, Abita beer cream and classic New Orleans barbeque sauce. Looked fantastic (Wes assured me that it was), but ... did I get a bite of that? No, I did not. (To be fair, Wes didn't get any of the crab tart, either.)

Jaws began to drop as the mains came out, and they were being attacked without hesistation, so I had to be fast with the camera. First off, the other ones around my part of the table:

Muscadine Lacquered Duck Breast

Wes got the Muscadine Lacquered Duck Breast, which came with duck cracklin' cornbread, Muscovy duck confit, kumquats, chicory greens, foie gras sabayon and Muscadine duck sauce. Muscadines are the sweet grapes found all over the South, and make a perfect complement for duck. Just as good as the duck itself was the incredible duck cracklin' cornbread that came with it; it was soft, crumbly and came in a pile rather than in a solid square. Mary was so nuts about this stuff that she pleaded for a side dish of it on its own, which Chef Danny was kind enough to bring out himself. We all got a couple of bites ... man, that stuff's dangerous; i.e., I could eat it all day.

Bob White Quail and Foie Gras

Robin got the Bob White Quail and Foie Gras, which was filled with a Chilton peach & foie gras stuffing, atop tasso braised red cabbage, a Buffalo Trace Bourbon-molasses syrup and itself topped with a sunny side up quail egg. I also didn't get a taste of this one (but boy, was it gorgeous-looking). Robin didn't leave much behind, so I'm surmising that it was just as scrumptious as it looked. I don't usually order quail, because they're so small and generally a lot of trouble, but this was one big-ass quail, and quail preparations here (and at Commander's as well) have always been boneless (save for the legs) and stuffed with something fabulous, making them a joy to eat.

[UPDATE: Mary pointed out later, "Please let the record show that I ordered the quail and I did so give you a bite. I said it was the best quail I've ever had, though one hates to use superlatives. But quail is so often dry and thankless, and this was moist and juicy and, oh..." I think I can weasel out of this because Robin had the quail also. I honestly didn't remember getting a bite, but Wes helpfully pointed out, "We were pretty buzzed by the time the entrées came out -- we had two little glasses of Corpse Reviver, because not everyone had one, plus a big Corpse Reviver, plus the Sazeracs as well." Oh yeah, I forgot about the Sazeracs.

[UPDATE II: Mary replies to the above: "Nice try, but no. Robin and Diana split two entrées: the veal (I think; some read meat dish that was not pork, anyway) and the duck. Mine was the only quail on the table. I ordered it because Chef Danny told me to and he has long eyelashes." Did I not mention how many drinks I had? Okay, Mary had the quail, and I had a bite, which I absolutely remember, every second of it, because I wasn't drunk at all, honestly!]

I don't remember who got this (Mary informed me later that it was Steve):

Speckled Trout and Blue Crab

Speckled Trout and Blue Crab, with butternut squash purée, roasted shallots, Roma tomatoes, sugarcane wilted greens and Louisiana blue crab butter. This looked great; I love trout, and more crabmeat! I would have gotten this if I had intended to behave myself, but I had no intention of behaving.

Now, my turn ...

Veal with Breaux Bridge Crawfish

This was Veal with Breaux Bridge Crawfish, a black skillet-seared tenderloin of veal atop stone ground grits laced with Bittersweet Plantation's Fleur de Teche cheese; a big handful of bit, fat crawfish tails, spring greens and a truffled woodland sauce (a veal demiglace-based sauce flavored with wild mushrooms and black truffles, a little red wine and various seasonings). This was fantastic, beautifully put together, seemingly simple yet complex in flavor, and immensely comforting. I love stone-ground grits, with their chewy texture, and I particularly love cheese grits. This is the first time I've had grits with a cheese like this, too -- Fleur de Teche is a triple-cream cow's milk cheese, very buttery, creamy and rich (and with a layer of vegetable ash, if you get it in its original form). The veal was perfectly cooked, the crawfish almost as big as my thumb. This dish made Chuck a very happy boy.

Time for dessert.

Creole Cream Cheesecake

Creole cream cheese is a New Orleans delicacy which was almost lost to time. Some dedicated local chefs, with the help of the Slow Food movement, helped resurrect it, and now it's easier to find than ever. (As I recall, Dorignac's was one of the last places to carry it consistently; now it's one of several.) It's a fresh, farmer's style cheese, kind of a cross between cottage cheese and sour cream but with a fresh, tangy flavor and, if you let it sit long enough, a whiff of yeastiness. Traditionally Creole households served this for breakfast with sugar and/or fruit, and it lends itself to desserts beautifully. It makes a great ice cream, and of course, the perfect Creole Cream Cheesecake, served here with just a drizzle of caramel sauce. Here's a recipe for making your own Creole cream cheese, provided by Dorignac's longtime cheesemaker.

Pontchatoula Strawberry Shortcake

Mmm, those Pontchatoula strawberries again, this time in Pontchatoula Strawberry Shortcake, with a real buttermilk biscuit, thick Chantilly cream and sprinklings of Dixie Crystal sugar (love it when they call out the local brands). Finally, the dessert that Fiona and I had ...

Drunken Fig and Blue Cheese Tart

This was the Drunken Fig and Blue Cheese Tart, with spiced raisins, candied pecans and a tawny Port syrup. I liked the idea of finishing the meal with a similarly-themed dish to the one I started with. A feather-light puff pastry tart base. Just a little sweet, just a little savory. Figs, one of my favorite things. A little tangy blue cheese. That lovely sticky syrup. Happy.

And before we knew it, hours had gone by and the meal was over. We were still in a pretty great mood, though ...

(Most of) The (Blurry) Fat Pack

and it set the stage for the evening's final event, an adventure with Fiona, John, Wes and myself.

We offered them a ride back to their hotel, as it was pissing rain and, though within walking distance, it wasn't the best night to walk. We walked out the front door of the Loew's Hotel (where the restaurant is located), and I handed my ticket to the valet. He nodded, and left to fetch our crappy little blue rental car.

A few minutes later he drove up, got out of the crappy little blue rental car and nodded to me; we huddled together under our umbrellas and braved the downpour, hurriedly getting into the car. John first, then Wes, then I walked Fiona over to her door and ran around to the driver's side door and leapt in.

We settled in, brushing off the exceess moisture, and I adjusted the seat back to fit my legs. Goddammit, I thought, I hate it when valets do egregious seat adjustments in MY car, when they're only in it for maybe thirty seconds. Then I noticed that something was wrong with the armrest. It wasn't like that before. In fact ... it wasn't something he adjusted. It didn't look right. I looked up at the instrument panel. It looked weird. I looked down at the eyeglasses resting in front of the armrest and thought, um, whose glasses are those?

About ten or fifteen seconds had gone by since we got in, then I said, "Um, this isn't our car. Everybody out."

Fiona shrieked and giggled, and out we poured back into the pouring rain ... just in time for me to look up at the nice little Tourist Family Of Four who were gaping at us, absolutely gobsmacked. At this point Tourist Wife whirled on Tourist Husband, smacked him on the arm (hard) and wailed, "You SEE?!! I TOLD you they were getting into our car! And you just stood there!!" Oh dear. Poor Tourist Husband. "Sorry 'bout that," I said, but didn't get a word from the put-out little Tourist Family of Four, as they climbed into their crappy little blue rental car.

Finally the valet brought our crappy little blue rental car, and that was much better. Fiona and John found this to be hugely entertaining, and I still haven't heard the end of it. "It's the Wrong Car, Gromit! And it's gone wrong!!" I'm always happy to add to the evening's entertainment.

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  Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Damn Yankees.   I don't use that word much. It's too much a word of the Deep South, and I'm not from the Deep South; I'm from south of the South. Then again, I do have to chuckle along with whoever said that a Yankee was anyone from north of Lake Pontchartrain (although I think I have to extend that border up past St. Tammany Parish, now that my folks live on the Northshore). In any case, there's been another rash of northern outsider companies buying out local brands, and snuffing at least one of them out.

Our beloved Boudreaux's Butt Paste has been bought out, by Hoosiers, no less. Fortunately the brand will continue as is, and Dr. Boudreaux will continue to run the company locally, increase its production and use the new capital to create new products, and that's a good thing. (I had no idea the stuff was and still is made in New Orleans East; for some reason I had the idea that they were making it up on the Northshore, but I have no idea where I got that idea.)

The bad news is that Kirschmann's, the nearly 100-year-old local furniture store chain, has been bought, and the name will disappear.

Kirschman's, a 92-year-old home furnishings company that was one of the metro area's leading local furniture dealers, abruptly closed Wednesday night after agreeing to be acquired by Rooms To Go Inc., the nation's largest furniture retailer, for an undisclosed amount.

[... As of last Thursday], the stores included in the deal will close for two weeks while inventory is assessed. They will reopen, still under the Kirschman's name, for a two- to three-month liquidation sale, said Peter Weitzner, vice president of Rooms To Go. Then the stores will close again, will be redesigned and will reopen one by one in the fall, beginning with the Metairie location on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, as Rooms To Go.

More bits of hope for the local business: "The Kirschman family is retaining the rights to its name and has not ruled out opening a separate business in the future. [... Company president Arnold Kirschmann] said the Kirschman family does not intend to leave the industry, but plans to pursue a niche market. 'We don't see this as the end of Kirschman's in any way," Kirschman said. "We see it as a change of direction.'"

It'll be sad to see Kirschmann's go. I do hope they come back, and don't become another one of the many local business that became part of the local culture and ain't dere no more ... wearing a purple K&B name tag up in the big Schweggmann's bag in the sky.

A pitcha is woit' 1000 woids.   Via Steve M., the news photo of the day:

Why is the man on the left smiling? More importantly, why is the man on the right -- Nouri al-Maliki, the new Iraqi Prime Minister -- not smiling? Which one of them do you think has a better grasp on the reality of the situation in Iraq right now?

Oh, the things I miss ...   I'm not a regular viewer of WE-TV, the "Women's Entertainment" network, although I must confess I was briefly tempted by the 2-minute preview for their upcoming "reality" series "Bridezillas" that appeared in the main menu of our TiVo last night. Wes may succumb, but I'm gamely fighting against it (I've got too much "Hell's Kitchen" to watch).

I'm sad to say, though, that I missed what was apparently the jaw-dropping train wreck that was the finale of the "Mrs. World 2006 Pageant", hosted by none other than Alan Thicke (that should tell you something right there). It's perfectly summed up by Mrs. New Zealand, who walks up to a cameraman at the side of the stage, looks right into it and says, "Fi-AS-coooo." Read through the description at the link, then enjoy the YouTube video in all its glory.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   This one was a surprise -- oh so simple, yet oh so complex, depending on the quality of the base spirit you use. Wes found this in CocktailDB (love that "random recipe" link), and splurged with a 20-year-old Pierre Ferrand we had nestled in the back of the bar. It was superb.

Mrs. Solomon Cocktail

2 ounces brandy (the better the brandy, the better the drink).
1/2 ounce orange Curaçao.
2 dashes aromatic cocktail bitters (we used Angostura).

Stir in a mixing glass with ice for no less than 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink, then add the peel as a garnish.

I don't know who Mrs. Solomon was, but she can come over anytime.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Damn Yankees.   I almost never use that word. It's too much a word of the Deep South, and I'm not from the Deep South; I'm from south of the South. Then again, I do have to chuckle along with whoever said that a Yankee was anyone from north of Lake Pontchartrain (although I think I have to extend that border up past St. Tammany Parish, now that my folks live on the Northshore). In any case, there's been another rash of northern outsider companies buying out local brands, and snuffing at least one of them out (for the time being).

Our beloved Boudreaux's Butt Paste has been bought out, by Hoosiers, no less. Fortunately the brand will continue as is, and Dr. Boudreaux will continue to run the company locally, increase its production and use the new capital to create new products, and that's a good thing. Incidentally, I had no idea the stuff was and still is made in New Orleans East; for some reason I had the idea that they were making it up on the Northshore, but I have no idea where I got that idea.

(My friend Michael has a string of Boudreaux's Butt Paste Mardi Gras beads which I coveted shamelessly when I saw them on him in the Quarter on Mardi Gras Day. That trumps my SpongeBob beads I got at Proteus, and even the pair of plain purple beads I caught directly from the hand of Josh Hartnett at Orpheus. Well, almost.)

The bad news is that Kirschmann's, the nearly 100-year-old local furniture store chain, has been bought, and the name will disappear from the stores.

Kirschman's, a 92-year-old home furnishings company that was one of the metro area's leading local furniture dealers, abruptly closed Wednesday night after agreeing to be acquired by Rooms To Go Inc., the nation's largest furniture retailer, for an undisclosed amount.

[... As of last Thursday], the stores included in the deal will close for two weeks while inventory is assessed. They will reopen, still under the Kirschman's name, for a two- to three-month liquidation sale, said Peter Weitzner, vice president of Rooms To Go. Then the stores will close again, will be redesigned and will reopen one by one in the fall, beginning with the Metairie location on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, as Rooms To Go.

There's a bit of hope for that business, though: "The Kirschman family is retaining the rights to its name and has not ruled out opening a separate business in the future. [... Company president Arnold Kirschmann] said the Kirschman family does not intend to leave the industry, but plans to pursue a niche market. 'We don't see this as the end of Kirschman's in any way," Kirschman said. "We see it as a change of direction.'"

It'll be sad to see Kirschmann's go. I do hope they come back, and don't become another one of the many local business that became part of the local culture and ain't dere no more ... wearing a purple K&B name tag up in the big Schweggmann's bag in the sky.

A pitcha is woit' 1000 woids.   Via Steve M., the news photo of the day:

Why is the man on the left smiling? More importantly, why is the man on the right -- Nouri al-Maliki, the new Iraqi Prime Minister -- not smiling? Which one of them do you think has a better grasp on the reality of the situation in Iraq right now?

Oh, the things I miss ...   I'm not a regular viewer of WE-TV, the "Women's Entertainment" network, although I must confess I was briefly tempted by the 2-minute preview for their upcoming "reality" series "Bridezillas" that appeared in the main menu of our TiVo last night. Wes may succumb, but I'm gamely fighting against it (I've got too much "Hell's Kitchen" to watch).

I'm sad to say, though, that I missed what was apparently the jaw-dropping train wreck that was the finale of the "Mrs. World 2006 Pageant", hosted by none other than Alan Thicke (that should tell you something right there). It's perfectly summed up by Mrs. New Zealand, who walks up to a cameraman at the side of the stage, looks right into it and says, "Fi-AS-coooo." Read through the description at the link, then enjoy the YouTube video in all its glory. (Thanks, Audrey!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 12, 2006

What was that noise Curly used to make   when something scary happened on "The Three Stooges"?

Oh yeah, something like, "Ngaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Hurricane Alberto

It's going to be a long, stomach-achey hurricane season.

Your tax dollars at work, part 8,423,994.   Via Poppy, from an AP item in the Times-Picayune but apparently without an online link:

Under a spending bill President George Bush is expected to sign this week, the Army Corps of Engineers will be given more than $3 million to study whether the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet should be closed to ships.

The outlet, commonly known as MR-GO, was built in the 1960s as a shortcut between the heavily industrialized eastern portions of New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. At 76 miles, the channel is longer than the Panama Canal.

But since construction, the channel has turned into a monster, scientists say, by eating at the freshwater marsh amd swamp forests that once thrived southeast of New Orleans. As the channel widened, it became a conduit for storm surge and acquired the name "hurricane highway" ...

Given that the vast preponderance of evidence shows that the presence of MR-GO to channel the Katrina storm surge is exactly what destroyed New Orleans East and St. Bernard Parish, let's save the taxpayers a lot of money by just saying this bit of common sense: CLOSE THE FUCKING CANAL. Good Lord, what is wrong with these people?

UPDATE: Promoted from the comments, Wes offers two illuminating links, and notes this stupefying statistic: "The ship channel [MR-GO] is blamed for eroding one acre of wetlands every 36 hours." *boggle*

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  Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bush could have gotten Zarqawi ages ago.   I'm still catching up on things that piled up while I was away last week, but regarding the news of a few days ago of the big kill in the Iraq war ... good. They got a big bad guy who killed lots and lots of people. Well done; the bastard deserved it. Pity they couldn't have done it years ago when they had the chance. This Salon piece from last Thursday that enlightens us as to how and why The Decider could have nailed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as long as four years ago, but let him kill lots and lots of people instead, because it served his purposes:

Salon: "As NBC News reported back in 2004, U.S. military planners drew up plans to take out Zarqawi three times in 2002 and 2003, but the Bush administration killed the plans each time. Why? Because, military officials told NBC, the Bush administration feared that destroying Zarqawi's terrorist camp in Iraq 'could undercut its case for war against Saddam.'"

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

"Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn't do it," said Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

"People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president's policy of preemption against terrorists," according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

That's one more nail in the coffin of their claims that this war has anything to do with an actual "war on terror" and everything to do with BushCo's obsession over removing Saddam no matter what.

The scary thing is that while we may have eliminated Zarqawi, he'll only be replaced, and probably by many more, given the conditions we've created in Iraq.

On a related note, here's Molly Ivins:

I realize it's silly to let really stupid people upset you, but I have had it with the wingnuts who go about claiming that liberals are delighted about Haditha or want to use it for nefarious public relations purposes. Listen, twits, if you can't stop your petty little partisan political games long to enough to recognize Sad when you see it, then shut up.

You may substitute "upset about Zarqawi" for "delighted about Haditha", and please feel free to insert an article and an f-word between "shut" and "up."

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  Friday, June 9, 2006

Good news!   I seem to have missed this article in the Gambit four months back, so this came as a pleasant surprise to me. After hearing about the Bistro last week, this announcement, posted in's FoodFest message board, is from a relative of the late Neil Broyard, owner of the Saturn Bar, who passed away several months ago:

Hey everyone, I'm Bailee Broyard. My Dad is the new owner of the Saturn Bar. I just wanted to let everyone know that the Grand Re-Opening will be on Saturday, June 17, 2006.

I read that some of you are concerned about the decor on the walls and what not. We kept everything, so don't worry. Also, there is a new ice machine. It makes 100 lbs of ice a day, so you don't have to beg for it. Haha.

The bar is really clean now. My Dad changed the floors in the front and the ones on the balcony, so it doesn't smell like cat or dog urine anymore. You can actually walk in the place now. The pool table has been uncovered along with the back bar. The women's bathroom has been painted (kind of), and a new toilet and sink have been put in. The men's bathroom has a new toilet and a new urinal.

If anyone wants to see any recent pictures of the place, go to Or if anyone has any questions or comments e-mail us as Thanks!

Yeah you rite! Thanks to the Broyard family for keeping a delightfully weird and wonderful slice of New Orleans culture alive. I don't mind the changes at all -- lack of cat urine smell and a clean bathroom I'll take any day. Just don't make none o' dem fancy Uptown drinks ... I'll take me an Abita.

I'm not sure, since I've only seen him once in 28 years and didn't even know him well back then, but I think that Neil's nephew Eric Broyard, the bar's new owner, was in my class at Holy Cross. Awrite, Eric.

Da King speaketh!   Via Metroblogging New Orleans, here's a letter from Walter Williams, the 2006 King of Krewe du Vieux, perhaps better known as the creator of Mr. Bill:

If you want to help New Orleans, don't send money to the Red Cross or United Way, get your butt down here and have a blast. You'll be contributing money directly to people who desperately need it this summer; the small local businesses, restaurants, galleries, antique shops, night clubs, the core of what makes New Orleans unique and the foundation of the economic recovery.

If money actually does arrive someday from the Federal government, it won't be until at least fall or winter. Many of these local businesses won't make it until then, so they are totally dependent on visitors this summer. And from the look of things here in the Quarter today, (6/04) they're coming. Cafe Du Monde was packed and that's a great barometer.

This summer is a great time to visit. Sure it's hot and humid (what the Tourism Commission refers to as sultry) but it won't be too busy, so you can have the run of the place. You can stay at a first class hotel or quaint B&B in the Quarter or the Garden District, dine at a five star restaurant or grab some beans and rice in a neighborhood diner. And the music here is as fantastic as ever and everywhere. Then you can take a five minute cab ride over to the world famous 9th Ward and witness utter devastation. You'll then be a qualified messenger to bring your experience back home across America. I know this sounds like a broken record, but there is no way to comprehend the scope of the catastrophe without actually seeing it and driving through the miles and miles of broken ghost towns.

But people in this town are gritty and have retained their unique humor. If this had happened anywhere else, people would be suing each other, fist fights, cannibalism. I went to two neighborhood festivals yesterday in devastated areas and they carried on as if nothing had happened. There was no electricity, but they ran a generator so there could be live music. Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross organization opened a resource center here yesterday to help people rebuild in a green and smart way. The opening was packed. NOMA, the museum in City Park, opened a Katrina photo exhibit which is highly praised and attracting droves, and thousands of Saints fans packed the practice field to get a first look at Reggie Bush; finally a Bush that might save New Orleans.

Things are coming together and if we can catch a break this hurricane season, this place will explode this winter and next year. Even if we do get some flooding in the neighborhoods already destroyed, it will only help focus the rebuilding plans and may lead to returning some areas to their natural state, wetlands, which would serve as an area to drain flooding into. Now if a cat 5 comes barreling in, then all bets are off, but at least everyone will be evacuated this time and no one should get hurt. But let's all toss some gris gris and hope for the best.

This town broke is still more interesting than anywhere else, so don't be bashful, come spend some money and have the time of your life. You can't take this place for granted anymore, so get it while it's hot.

Peace and love to all.

Please pass this on to anyone still figuring out what to do this summer.

His Majesty hath commanded.

The Emperor's dinner.   Just got my new OffBeat, which has one of the best covers ever. To illustrate its entertaining article on musicians' favorite restaurants, the cover photo is of Miss Antoinette K-Doe at Galatoire's with the Ernie K-Doe statue. Man, I want me a poster o' dat.

More outrage as thieves steal New Orleans' soul.   I read this in the Times-Picayune the other day, and it infuriated me. I wasn't sad, I was enraged and wanted to catch one of these people so I could put a 2x4 upside their head (and I haven't committed a violent act since I feebly but successfully punched a fat would-be bully named Fred who was trying to steal my sandwich in the Huddle at Holy Cross when I was in the ninth grade). New Orleans has been plagued with looters and thieves since the moment the city partially emptied out for Katrina's arrival, but now they're stealing pieces of the city's soul: irreplaceable architectural details.

In Holy Cross, the corner of the Lower 9th Ward given the best shot for rebirth, a silent rage rises up from the still-empty houses at the latest indignity of post-Katrina life.

"Keep Out Grave Robbers," blares one in a collection of hand-painted signs scrawled on houses in the neighborhood, reflecting both its defiance and despair.

With looters having stolen what they can from in and around the houses, residents say thieves are now picking apart the houses themselves, making off with architectural detail work.

On a house where three of four foundation vents have gone missing, the sign reads: "Hey thief. You forgot one," with a spray-painted arrow pointing to the lonely remaining vent.

On some blocks, the human buzzards have hit nearly every house, picking them clean of the authentic details that make New Orleans homes known the world over: doors, cornices, brackets, shutters, wrought iron fencing, decorative gingerbread work on porches -- anything that will fetch a few bucks on a black market that police and even preservationists don't fully understand. In many cases the thieves, sometimes posing as contractors, have invaded the homes to lift the interior fixtures as well, including the giant pocket doors that bisect shotgun parlors.

"They're like termites, just eating and destroying everything," said John Koeferl, a Holy Cross homeowner whose French doors recently disappeared in one of countless thefts on his street.

From the moment the storm hit, looting of all stripes has infected the city, but the continuing and widespread theft of architectural details strikes many homeowners as the final insult. One stolen shutter might not be such a big deal, but collectively the pillaging amounts to theft of the soul and character of the city's most heavily damaged historic neighborhoods, such as the 9th Ward and Mid-City.

Stephanie Bruno of the Preservation Resource Center fears that much of that character will be lost forever, particularly in low-income neighborhoods such as Holy Cross, where homeowners and landlords might not have the money or the will to replace what has been looted. Though architectural theft has cropped up citywide, the combination of Holy Cross' architectural richness and the inability of its residents to return have made it uniquely vulnerable.

This kills me. It might sound insignificant to some, but these architectural details are what makes New Orleans New Orleans, what makes it look and feel like no other place on Earth. It's the kind of thing you take for granted all your life, then you miss it when you leave (like I do every day) and when you see it again it's an instant source of comfort. As you'll see in the article, people dealing with the kind of devastation that occurred with the Corps' flood can't afford to have the gingerbread and cornices and shutters custom-remade; it's all they can do to get the house gutted and liveable again.

It makes me want to try to find some of this stuff at unscrupulous dealers so I can get it back, have the dealer busted and then give the stuff back. Man. This just burns me.

Stewart dismembers Bennett.   If you didn't catch "The Daily Show" on Tuesday (and I caught it last night, thanks to the magic of TiVo), watch the segment (via Crooks and Liars) during which Jon Stewart disassembles the bloviating William Bennett on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Favorite moments:

BENNETT: Look, it's a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a woman.

STEWART: I disagree, I think it's a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.


STEWART: Divorce isn't caused because 50% of marriages end in gayness.


David Vitter is an idiot.   I missed some of this as it was happening, as I was elsewhere for the last few days, but Louisiana's junior senator proves to be an embarrassment and an outrage for saying, regarding the recent massive waste of time in the Senate over the same-sex marriage issue, "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one."

Um ... what?

You represent the state of Louisiana, you're from the New Orleans metropolitan area (specifically, Metairie), no less, and after what's been happening there over the last nine months, you think that gay marriage is the most important issue? Good Christ, what did we do to deserve this grandstanding fool?

(More from Oyster here, here and here, plus Loki and Mr. Clio.)

According to what I've read from many people who call his office to challenge him on this statement ... if you get a certain male aide in his D.C. office, he'll hang up on you. Otherwise you're liable to get a young female intern who will first tell you that that's not what he said. When you say you have the quote in front of you, she'll say either that Vitter was misquoted, or that it wasn't what he meant to say, that he meant to say that it was the most important social issue. When you raise the social issues of tens of thousands of New Orleanians and other Louisianians still displaced, people still living in FEMA trailers while battling their insurance companies, the frightening shortage of healthcare in the area, they'll counter that Vitter's "working" on a big bill to provide money for the area, but they won't address the issue -- that he needs to shut his pandering pie-hole about all this right-wing purity and political maneuvering, and concentrate on representing the people and their real issues that he was sent to represent ... although "sent" might be a bit of a stretch.

Read this Salon article from 2004 on the widely-disliked Vitter and the road he took to get into the Senate.

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  Monday, June 5, 2006

Hiatus.   Gotta go for a few days. Posting will (probably) resume Thursday.

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  Sunday, June 4, 2006

Buried outrage of the day.   Contributed by Steve M. via email:

In [yesterday's] New York Times, there's a story on the front page, but below the fold, headlined "Rise of Lobbyist Shines A Light On House Ties." It's about Letitia Wright, a former aide to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) turned "queen of earmarks." Interesting story, but after the jump, fifteen grafs into the story (and the middle of a long graf, to boot) you reach this sentence: "The Republican leadership had begun assigning chairmanships in part based on how much campaign money a member had raised for other members."

Stopped me dead in my tracks. In case you missed it (or thought perhaps you misread it), here it is again:

"The Republican leadership had begun assigning chairmanships in part based on how much campaign money a member had raised for other members."

If you needed any more (or clearer) proof that the GOP has decided to turn government into their own personal ATM, I'd say you have it.

"The Republican leadership had begun assigning chairmanships in part based on how much campaign money a member had raised for other members."

Because I don't know about you, but putting the guys most beholden to the oligarchs in charge of the writing budgets, tax code, military appropriations and government regulations just doesn't seem like a good idea to me. It makes the Congress of the United States of America -- one of the three co-equal branches of governments, as they're so fond of saying these days -- look like they're running a fund drive for the local temple of girl scout troop: whoever sells the most chocolate bars (or boxes of cookies) wins.

Another Steve replied:

This is outrageous, and calls for serious investigation and exposure.

The cynic in me (and he grows day by day) wonders just how new a development this is, and how different in impact it is from past practices that saw loyalists and toadies rewarded with key appointments (whichever party was in charge).

It certainly SEEMS worse for it to be on a cash basis...

Steve M. again:

I'm as cynical as the next guy, but I think this is a real sea change. Sure, there were always jobs set up as plums to be handed out -- the kind of make-work or no-show assignments that are the slagheap of corruption. (It's no different from Tony Soprano dickering with Phil Leotardo about his desk gig for the NY waste management company; it's not so much the money, but he needs it to keep up his health insurance.) Someone's idiot cousin or son-in-law always needs a job, and where are you going to put them if the assistant city manager in charge of, oh, puppetry or a seat on a Congressional Commission in charge of stationery purchases doesn't exist?

But when Tom DeLay turns the Speaker's office into a satellite of K Street and chairmanships, policy writers and department heads -- like, say, FEMA -- become patronage positions... well, we've all seen the results.


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  Saturday, June 3, 2006

Welcome to the Republicans' gay bashing weekend.   The Republicans are desperate.

They're coming apart at the seams. The country's approval rating of the Republican-led Congress is as low as I can remember, and the presidential approval rating is approaching that of Nixon during Watergate. So what are they doing this weekend? Are they addressing the problems that really concern the American citizenry right now? The war? Gas prices? Katrina recovery? Health care? The economy, jobs, inflation? Nope, they seem to think the most important issue right now is to declare themselves to be the self-appointed protectors of good Christian Americans from the threat of the icky gays.

Via AmericaBlog:

The President used his weekly radio address today not to talk about Iraq or gas prices or global warming or Katrina or even his favorite subject, "September the 11th." No your President used his radio address to do some gay bashing. This issue is not about "protecting marriage." It's about using gay and lesbian Americans as a political weapon:

"Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society," Bush said in his Saturday radio address. "Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society."

Democrats say Senate floor time is being wasted on the issue, and accuse Republicans of making a pre-midterm election appeal to social conservatives whose votes were key to Bush's re-election.

It's amazing that the media covers this like it's an issue with any policy merit. It's pure, unadulterated hate politics.

Jack Cafferty, on CNN:

Guess what Monday is? Monday is the day President Bush will speak about an issue near and dear to his heart and the hearts of many conservatives. It's also the day before the Senate votes on the very same thing. Is it the war? Deficits? Health insurance? Immigration? Iran? North Korea?

Not even close. No, the president is going to talk about amending the Constitution in order to ban gay marriage. This is something that absolutely, positively has no chance of happening, nada, zippo, none. But that doesn't matter. Mr. Bush will take time to make a speech. The Senate will take time to talk and vote on it, because it's something that matters to the Republican base.

This is pure politics. If has nothing to do with whether or not you believe in gay marriage. It's blatant posturing by Republicans, who are increasingly desperate as the midterm elections approach. There's not a lot else to get people interested in voting on them, based on their record of the last five years.

But if you can appeal to the hatred, bigotry, or discrimination in some people, you might move them to the polls to vote against that big, bad gay married couple that one day might move in down the street.

Yeah, ooooooh, scary.

From the Washington Post:

"[The president] believes the institution of marriage is between a man and a woman," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. "The president's made it clear what he wants. He would like to see the Senate pass the bill."

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the amendment along party lines after a heated session on May 18. Because the measure seeks to change the Constitution, it must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority and then be approved by at least 38 states.

The full Senate will take up the measure on Monday with a vote expected later in the week, but the bill's sponsor, Colorado Republican Wayne Allard, has acknowledged he has far fewer than the 67 votes needed to win passage.

[...] Defending Bush's decision to speak out, Snow denied the president was acting out of "political expedience" and insisted he was taking up the issue because it was "politically ripe."

How do you reconcile "the bill's sponsor... has acknowledged he has far fewer than the 67 votes needed to win passage" with "Snow denied the president was acting out of 'political expedience' and insisted he was taking up the issue because it was 'politically ripe'"? Wes asked, "How can you tell if it's too "politically ripe" and you should just make banana bread?"

Bastards. It's truly repugnant.

(If these self-proclaimed "pro-marriage" people really put their money where their mouths were regarding "saving" and "preserving" "traditional marriage," they'd introduce a constitutional amendment banning divorce, which is a far greater threat to the "institution of marriage." Why don't they?)

Oh, by the way ...   The lame duck (who, remember, is "a uniter, not a divider") went on to say:

A constitutional amendment will put a decision that is critical to American families and American society in the hands of the American people, which is exactly where it belongs. Democracy, not court orders, should decide the future of marriage in America.

Georgia points out, "The President couldn't have made his position any clearer. Courts should not be overturning the will of the people when it comes who should and should not be allowed to marry. Now, which enterprising White House reporter will ask whether the President thinks that Loving v. Virginia should be overturned?"

One who has the spine to do his or her job? (I.e., not one, I expect.)

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  Friday, June 2, 2006

Bad news.   Just in, via an email from Mary -- a local food writer has just reported that The Bistro at Maison de Ville, one of the best restaurants in New Orleans (and one of my favorites), has closed forever.

Goddammit. They just reopened, right after Mardi Gras! Chef Greg Picolo makes some of the best food in town, and maître'd Patrick van Hoorebeek (also one of the best in town, if not the best) is a local icon as well as being the King of the Krewe of Cork, which is based at the Bistro as well. I also keep thinking about the Bistro's greater importance in the New Orleans restaurant scene, as their past chefs are Susan Spicer of Bayona, Dominique Macquet of Dominique's and the late John Neal, founder of Peristyle.

This might be a sign of the times, which makes it even sadder. The Bistro had a high provile primarily among locals, and if any place -- even a small one -- can't turn a fast profit, it's going to be gone.

Now, the hotel's web site says this about the Bistro:

Bistro is Closed for the Summer

The Bistro staff is taking a well-earned vacation for the summer. Be sure to ask the hotel staff for other fine dining recommendations.

I called the hotel, and asked the lady who answered about what was going on. "The website says the Bistro is closed for the summer, but I'm hearing reports around town that it's closed forever. Which one is true?!" She would only confirm that the Bistro was closed for vacation, and said she didn't know about anything beyond that. I don't know whether I can take any hope from that, but Chef Greg, Patrick and the staff are still out of work, unless "vacation" means "paid vacation," and I wouldn't count on that.

This is so very disapppointing. Wes and I had a fabulous meal there a few weeks ago, and were going to go back there again before we left, but didn't get the chance. That day was, of course, the day I forgot to bring the memory card for my camera, so I have no pictures of what may be our last meal there. I'll write it up in due course.

"Please tell the hotel management," I said to the lady on the phone, "that I'm a New Orleanian and I speak for several more when I implore them to reopen the restaurant as soon as possible. We would be devastated if it were gone forever."

Army Corps of Engineers confesses ... kinda.   After spending nine months trying to blame everyone but themselves, the Corps has this to say (read the whole article, but here are the highlights):

The Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged Thursday that design defects in the levees protecting New Orleans caused the majority of flooding during Hurricane Katrina and that the disaster would almost certainly trigger reforms in how the federal government protected the American public.

The corps said its 40-year effort to construct a hurricane protection system for southern Louisiana had resulted in a set of piecemeal projects that "was a system in name only," a recognition that a wide range of errors, weak links and incomplete construction was at the heart of the massive damage that occurred Aug. 29.

[...] The primary breaches at the 17th Street, London Avenue and Industrial canals occurred when storm waters were still several feet below the tops of the walls, meaning they failed well below the maximum forces they had been designed to withstand. [...]

Southern Louisiana is sinking much faster than generally recognized, and levees were at substantially lower elevations relative to sea level than they were designed to be. In some cases, levees were 2 1/2 feet below their designed elevations. Moreover, as other federal agencies recognized the problem in recent years, the corps decided not to reexamine the issue.

The city's pumping system, the only way to remove water from below sea level, was not designed to operate during a major storm.


If the levees had held, the flooding would have been about one-third of what occurred.

Outside experts, including a team of investigators from UC Berkeley, said in a report last week that the corps had ignored its own research that predicted such failures could occur.

And finally ...

The report does not attempt to explain why flawed decisions were made.

Walk around the block ... count to ten ... don't break anything ...

Hansen's Sno-Bliz!   The Gambit has a terrific article about Hansen's Sno-Bliz, the best sno-ball stand in town (in their restaurant review section, no less!). Miss Mary and Mr. Ernest may have passed on, but their granddaughter Ashley is carrying the torch for her family and her city.

Ashley is opening the shop this year for the first time without Ernest and Mary, but it's not quite right to say they aren't there. Their personalities and work ethic defined the place, and the little shop is saturated with their memory like a benevolent haunting.

"I can't imagine not being here," says Ashley, who planned to reopen Memorial Day weekend. "It's everything. The way the flavors smell, the sounds of the machines, the sound the screen door makes when it shuts."

Ashley began working at the shop during summers at an early age, helping her grandparents clean up and later getting the nod from Mary to begin serving customers.

"I remember that moment feeling honored but also scared, because I was so shy. But they taught me how to be with people just by watching how they treated everyone," she says.

Ashley left home for college and returned after graduation in 1996. Ernest and Mary, then in their mid-80s, were considering not opening the shop that season, but Ashley was determined to carry on the business.

This bit was especially heartbreaking:

[Eventually] Ashley was essentially running Hansen's, but because the shop was such a part of her grandparents' identity they could never simply turn the business over to her. "Dad and I had to sneak around even to get me a key to the shop," Ashley says. "They wanted to be here at every turn."

Eventually, as age and illness advanced, Mary was no longer able to make the syrups herself, but her granddaughter says she was too stubborn to admit it. So the family played along, making the syrups on the sly and allowing Mary to believe she was still creating them as usual.

"Luckily, I had watched how she made them since I was a little girl," Ashley says. "Dad and I experimented until we got them just right."

I'm so glad she watched. LONG LIVE HANSEN'S!

Mid-City: Revival and Rebirth.   This, also from the Gambit, makes my heart soar:

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit, a friend and I used forged credentials to sneak past the machine-gun-toting military contingent at the parish border and return to New Orleans. We found an abandoned skiff on the banks of Bayou St. John next to the wreckage of a crashed helicopter. We picked up broomsticks and palm tree branches off the ground and used them to pole ourselves through the inundated streets of Mid-City. When we passed Liuzza's on Bienville Street, the floodwater was still chest deep around the 59-year-old restaurant.

[One more time, a reminder of that image that puts a huge lump in my throat every time I see it:]

Liuzza's, on September 8, 2005

Back to the story ...

Flash forward to the second weekend of Jazz Fest and I found myself sitting at the bar inside the same restaurant drinking Abita beer from the frosty, globe-shaped mugs for which Liuzza's is known. The interior looks just as it did before the federal levee failure, with the addition now of a framed photo on the wall showing the restaurant when the floodwater was at its highest and the prospects for its Mid-City neighborhood seemed at their lowest.

Liuzza's building was tightly boarded up right up until its Jazz Fest reopening, and offered no hint that enough work was going on inside to make it ready for customers and commerce by early May. It turns out that was on purpose.

Michael Bordelon -- one of the owners -- did much of the reconstruction work, but in the beginning he could hardly get any work done because of the stream of customers and well-wishers dropping in to ask about the landmark restaurant's status.

"Without the boards up, everyone who drove past wanted to stop and check in on us," Bordelon says. "Even still, the brave ones would start banging on the boards and I'd have to stop work and they usually got a tour anyway."

[...] That's the spirit being celebrated at this weekend's Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo, a festival to be held along Bayou St. John on Saturday, May 27, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jared Zeller, whose home-based business Mothership Entertainment promotes a stable of local musicians, had wanted to hold a music festival in the neighborhood for years. This year, with the neighborhood crawling back from the flood, he decided to go for it. The Mid-City Neighborhood Organization got involved, as did the nonprofit Mid-City Art Market.

I cannot wait to get back to Liuzza's, and so many more places. Our planned trip back home in July is looking bad due to finances and inexplicably high airfares (in July, one of two months when no sane person would fly to New Orleans, they should almost be paying us to go!). I'm really ready for cheap and readily available teleportation technology.

I heard the Mid-City festival was great; I wish I had been there. (Goddammit, I've never been so homesick in all my life.) And Brocato's reopens this month!!

The Delachaise.   Wes and I have been fans of The Delachaise ever since Cary at Vive la France on Royal Street turned me on to it a couple of years ago. Really nice space, very long bar with an excellent selection of beers (bottled and on tap), wines by the bottle or glass and spirits, plus they do a fair shake at cocktails too (it's the only bar where I've ever seen a bottle of Regan's Orange Bitters, and right up front next to the register, if you please). Besides libations they also offered a small but yummy menu, which was recently taken over by Chef Chris DeBarr (who's also Poppy's hubby). He'd been the chef de cuisine at Christian's for a while (I hadn't been there in a good long while; sadly, they haven't reopened since the flood) and this is the first time he's the head chef, putting out his own dishes -- I really, really wanted to get there while we were home.

Besides what I'd been hearing, I was also very encouraged by this bit from New Orleans Magazine:

He mixes in sharp tastes -- a bite of garlic or a little bitter endive -- the way an expert bartender mixes cocktails. His cooking is the ideal complement to a place where wine and drinks are as prominent as food.

Oh, yeah you rite. My kinda place.

We went Friday night after the first day of Jazzfest, and went late; fortunately, the Delachaise serves food until late late. Sadly, one thing put a big crimp in our evening there -- Wes had started feeling ill earlier in the day. It was weird; he had just gotten over a cold, and this had similar symptoms but didn't feel like a cold to him. "Aw, you just got da same crap everybody gets when they come here for the first time afta da storm," said our friend Cherie. (Or, as Malcolm at Hanson | King Gallery said the next day, "Ah, Katrina catarrh.") I stopped by da K&B (which has become my generic term for "the drugstore, any drugstore," because it's fun to say) to get him some over-the-counter cold medication, which unfortunately got him so stoned and groggy that I might as well have given him a handful of Quaaludes.

Another slight hitch was that the place was packed. Don't get me wrong; this is a good thing. Thing was, the better tables that were more suited for dining were all full, as was the bar, and there were four of us who had to settle with one of those small, round, tall bar tables upon which to balance our plates. Not my ideal situation, but I didn't mind too much -- I was glad to see them busy, I was hungry, and who am I to complain about a packed restaurant and bar in the city right now? Besides, it was Jazzfest, and everyplace is more crowded.

I ordered a Lindeman's Lambic Framboise, a lovely Belgian ale that I usually have for or with dessert (aah, life is uncertain; drink dessert first). Deep red, intensely fruity and very nice indeed, served in a flute in my preferred manner. First thing that caught my eye on the long menu of appetizers, small plates and desserts was Chef Pete's Charcuterie Plate. I immediately assumed this was Chef Pete Vasquez of the late and lamented Marisol (never got around to asking, though; I just dove in), so that was our first order. The selection changes daily, and that day it was Duck and Foie Gras Terrine with Prunes.

Chef Pete's Charcuterie Plate

Gorgeous. (I've got a bunch of photos from what ended up being our last meal at Marisol last year, which I'll post later on after I get through the recent stuff.)

Next, we were after something we could split easily, and a sandwich looked like the thing to try: The "Boz" Sandwich:

The 'Boz' Sandwich

It's made with Saint-André cheese (a triple-cream soft cheese with an edible rind, very very rich and buttery), prosciutto and arugula, grilled on ciabatta bread. It came with something else I really wanted to try -- Pommes frites that are fried in duck fat.

Oh my.

Yeah, you ain't losin' no weight today, bra. Rich but not overpoweringly so, the sandwich was terrific. Saint-André is not a cheese I would have expected in a grilled cheese sandwich, and this would probably have kicked the ass of just about every sandwich on Clementine's National Grilled Cheese Month menu, as good as they all are. And those fries were little sticks of heaven. Fries are my great weakness, even crappy old bagged frozen Ore-Ida ones. I'm a hopeless French fry addict, and I really have to watch myself. But fries that are fried in duck fat, oh man. I could eat those every day ... although if I did, I'd probably start quacking before I keeled over from my heart attack. (Aah, screw it. We live once.)

I ordered a lovely Grüner Veltliner and proceeded to the next dish, the restaurant's signature dish: Oysters Delachaise.

Oysters Delachaise

The oysters are served in a horseradish cream sauce that's delicious -- assertive without flying up your nose and shoving a hot needle into your brain (which I actually kind of like, but never mind), with butter-braised lettuce, crossed strips of perfectly crisp applewood-smoked bacon (and as I've asked before, are there three words in the English language that sound more beautiful together? "I love you" ... "applewood-smoked bacon" ... it's a tough choice) and served atop a thick slice of toasted ciabatta. I loved the butter-braised lettuce in this dish too, which is something I never would have thought of. (The following weekend I got to meet Chris at the Fair Grounds, and he's fond of that touch too.) I'd probably order a double serving of this as an entrée, except that next time I come in I want to try more things from the long menu.

Melissa and Cherie got the excellent cheese plate, where you choose two or more selections from a dozen or so very interesting choices (none of which I can remember, unfortunately, because I didn't write any of them down, and it was late, and I had two glasses of wine and was sleepy). There was a manchego and a garlic-scented goat cheese and something else ... d'oh. They came with accompaniments of membrillo (quince paste, usually from Spain), spiced pecans and crusty bread, and even though it was their dish I snagged as much from it as I could. I love cheese courses.

I thought we might have to carry Wes out of there, poor thing, but he managed to make it back to the car under his own power, and fortunately it was a five-minute drive to our humble little Uptown abode. There's never enough time to do everything we want to do when we come home -- besides the Bistro, we didn't manage to get back to the Delachaise either. We certainly will next visit, and you should too, especially if you like to eat late. The meal can be as small or large as you want to make it, and you'll like it. A lot.

Don't forget to save some room ...   today is National Doughnut Day!

Good idea, though I'm not a fan of the Salvation Army. Still, any excuse to stop by Krispy Kreme (or Tastee Donuts or Café du Monde, as the case may be).

Mmmmm, doughnuts ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 1, 2006

Hurricane season starts today.   Is New Orleans ready? Stay tuned to's Hurricane Center for articles and updates. Don't miss this 1.5MB .pdf file showing the current status of the levees around New Orleans and vicinity; note the frighteningly high number of red "not complete" dots, denoting levees and floodwalls that are currently unsafe.


The New Orleans area hurricane protection system "was a system in name only" that was compromised by Hurricane Katrina because it was incomplete, inconsistent in its levels of protection, and lacked levels of redundancy that would have limited the effects of flooding, the head of an Army Corps of Engineers' investigative team said in remarks prepared for delivery at a news conference this morning.

Ed Link, chairman of the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, released the group's findings in a massive nine-volume report. Link warned that repairs have strengthened the parts of the levee system that failed, but that until undamaged parts of the system are improved, "the New Orleans metropolitan area remains vulnerable to any storm creating surge and wave conditions similar to those of Katrina."

Link said Hurricane Katrina exceeded the criteria, under which the levee system was designed, "but the performance was less than the design intent."

Thus, while a combination of record high storm surge and waves overwhelmed levees and levee walls in many areas, the devastation that it caused "was aided by incomplete protection, lower than authorized structures, and levee sections with erodible materials."

Ya might wanna keep some important things handy, like papers, prescriptions, etc., just in case you need to get out fast, 'cause you certainly can't yet trust the levees to keep you dry.

Happy ... birth ... day ... dear ... Marilyn ...   As Daniel reminded me in email this morning, today would have been Marilyn Monroe's 80th birthday.

Marilyn Monroe

"What an utterly adorable, neurotic, sad, sexy woman," he said. Indeed.

Was the 2004 election stolen?   Hot off the (virtual) presses, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes in Rolling Stone that his careful examination of the evidence has convinced him "that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004."

Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush -- and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush's victory as nut cases in ''tinfoil hats,'' while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ''conspiracy theories,'' and The New York Times declared that ''there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.''

But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations. In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes, malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots. Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.

Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ''We didn't have one election for president in 2004,'' says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ''We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.''

But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush.

Gee, what a coinkydink.

Read the entire article, plus the accompanying documents, sources, charts and commentary.

May Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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