the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

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

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New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

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

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

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

*      *      *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

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

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

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

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

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

Buy stuff!

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

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

August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
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.
   (Their weblog.)

*     *     *

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.)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

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)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass)

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
The Hungry Passport
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:

Soul Kitchen, by Poppy Z. Brite.

The Value of X, by Poppy Z. Brite.

Liquor, by Poppy Z. Brite.

Prime, by Poppy Z. Brite.

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

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, September 29, 2006

Commander's Palace reopens Sunday!   We certainly need some good news first, on an awful day like today. New Orleans' grandest restaurant is back with us.

Here are some pictures, which Mary forwarded in email but which originally came from Lorin Gaudin:

The photos were taken early this morning; apparently there's still a lot of work to be done in the next couple of days, but they're close, "and it's very, very pretty. The kitchen is incredible; 1.3 million BTUs of burners on the line!" Woohoo!

Again, I'm tearing my hair out not to be there. Nettie and Diana will be there tomorrow night, representing the Fat Pack. Eat a crab cake for me, dawlins!

In other news ...   a United States Congress both rabid and cowardly casts its vote to help give birth to a peculiarly American fascist state. Tristero:

Well. Now what?

The first thing to do is apparently quite controversial, why, I have no idea. But it is imperative that we fully recognize how seriously godawful the situation is.

I'll say it again: Americans are living in a fascist state. Don't like the word "fascism?" Neither do I. So what? It's ludicrous to call the gutting of habeas corpus, etc, etc, by near unanimous consent merely "authoritarian." We are living in a fascist state.

[...] This country's government has been transformed and is no longer recognizable as a working democracy. That's simply a fact and we better accept it.

Because when you're dealing with fascism, "We can beat this, people if we just fight harder!" is naive win-one-for-the-Gipper fantasy-land. It's gonna get a lot worse than it is now before it gets better. We're gonna be lucky if more of us don't end up "persons of interest" to the Bush administration. Remember, if you're not with Bush, you're objectively pro-terrorist and I can't tell you how many times when commenting on rightwing blogs I've been accused of "aiding and abetting" the terrorists.

[... Some] have disputed my use of the F word here. Among the arguments: fascist states don't have elections. Well, in fact they do. But they're rigged. Computerized voting machines, anyone? Another is that free speech is curtailed in a fascist state. Well, in fact it is. What matters freedom of speech in an era of megachurches if you don't have access to a significant microphone?

I deliberately chose one the most "extreme" words available because it sets off alarm bells. I am aware that this eruption of American fascism is quite different than classic examples. I am also aware that the extent of fascistic repression is small compared to other countries. American fascism doesn't resemble European models, or Asian, or Middle Eastern totalitarian states. But that doesn't make it any less fascistic.

If the cult of a leader inspired by God and Manifest Destiny, deeply beholden to corporate interests, which condones torture, heaps contempt on habeas corpus, plays the race card whenever it can, passes laws based upon the whim of the leader, and severely restricts the free discourse of ideas on the truly mass media isn't fascism, then please tell me what is.

More active use of the repressive powers Bush has seized? More censorship? That's simply a quantitative argument. The "quality" of fascism is undeniably here.

Digby explains exactly how seriously godawful the situation is, and how it could happen to you:

As we ponder how this torture legislation might develop in the future, it's probably a good idea to check out how the intelligence community of the United States sees the threat of terrorism developing in the future. From the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate):

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age.

Let's hope that our leaders in Washington don't decide that the war on terror has expanded to such groups any time soon. (Although all the hoopla about Hugo Chavez's remarks may just be a precursor to such designations.) But keep in mind, that the generic term "terrorism" is the word used in the new bill that:

blesses detainee abuse and looks the other way on forms of detainee torture; it immunizes terrible acts; it abridges the writ of habeas corpus -- in the last, most egregious draft, it strips the writ for alleged enemy combatants whether proved to be so or not, whether citizens or not, and whether found in the U.S. or overseas.

For those in America who think that this only applies to dark skinned foreigners who don't really deserve the rights that God gave Americans, this should give them pause:

Most of the attention in the press has focused on subsection (i) of the definition, which would designate as an UEC any "person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces)." And that subsection is, indeed, broad, and fairly indeterminate, depending on how "materially supported hostilities" is interpreted (something that the Administration apparently could do without much or any judicial review).

But the really breathtaking subsection is subsection (ii), which would provide that UEC is defined to include any person "who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense."

Read literally, this means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to "hostilities" at all.

This definition is not limited to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It's not limited to aliens -- it covers U.S. citizens as well. It's not limited to persons captured or detained overseas. And it is not even limited to the armed conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, authorized by Congress on September 18, 2001. Indeed, on the face of it, it's not even limited to a time of war or armed conflict; it could apply in peacetime.

Therefore if, as everyone is assuming, this definition does establish who may be detained by the military outside the civilian justice system, it would quite literally give the Secretary of Defense the statutory authority to detain just about anyone he wants, indefinitely. And if that's the case, then the habeas-stripping provision would really be the least of it, because even with all the due process and habeas protections in the world, it would be almost impossible to challenge the grounds on which someone is detained if the Executive itself can establish what the permissible grounds for detention are.

And that bastard in the White House is going to sign this into law in a few days.

Habeas corpus, R.I.P. (1215 - 2006).   Molly Ivins:

In Illinois Sixth Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of planning to "cut and run" on Iraq.

Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. "I just could not believe he would say that to me," said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane.

The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The White House has since reinserted a number of "technical fixes" that were the point of the putative "compromise." It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.

This bill is not a national security issuethis is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.

Death by torture by Americans was first reported in 2003 in a New York Times article by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The "heart attack" came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had "basically been pulpified," according to the coroner.

[...] The version of the detainee bill [just passed by] the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administrations first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to "examine and respond to" all evidence used against him. The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word "examine" and left only "respond to."

In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words "outside the United States," which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.

The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who "has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States". Quick, define "purposefully and materially." One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.

The bill simply removes a suspects right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.

As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture "soon degenerates into a playground for sadists." But not unbridled sadism -- you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving "severe pain" and substituted "serious pain," which is defined as "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain."

In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: "The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."

Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary -- these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.

The government of this country has very little to do with "basic decency" anymore.

Democrats for Torture.   A new congressionial caucus, although an unofficial one for the moment. Here are the Democratic senators and representatives who voted to gut habeas corpus, who voted to allow the president to authorize the torture of human beings, who voted to authorize secret trials where the defendants are not allowed to confront their accusers or examine the evidence being used against them, who voted to give the president and other officials the power to imprison people indefinitely and without charge, without the possibility of review by the courts. It's not surprising that the rubber-stamp Republicans voted for this, but these Democrats should be challenged by Democrats with consciences and a sense of human decency as soon as the polls allow. Did they really think the bill they voted to make into law was only going to be restricted to brown people with radical ideas of what Islam means? Are they really that naïve?

Tom Carper (DE).
Tim Johnson (SD).
Mary Landrieu (LA). I take back every good thing I ever said about her.
Frank Lautenberg (NJ).
Joe Lieberman (CT). Big fucking surprise.
Robert Menendez (NJ).
Ben Nelson (NE).
Bill Nelson (FL).
Mark Pryor (AR).
Ken Salazar (CO).
Debbie Stabenow (MI).
Jay Rockefeller (WV).

Robert E. Andrews (NJ).
John Barrow (GA).
Melissa Bean (IL).
Sanford D. Bishop (GA).
Leonard Boswell (IA).
Allen Boyd (FL).
Sherrod Brown (OH).
Ben Chandler (KY).
Bud Cramer (AL).
Henry Cuellar (TX).
Artur Davis (AL).
Lincoln Davis (TN).
Chet Edwards (TX).
Bob Etheridge (NC).
Harold Ford (TN).
Bart Gordon (TN).
Stephanie Herseth (SD).
Brian Higgins (NY).
Tim Holden (PA).
Jim Marshall (GA).
Jim Matheson (UT).
Mike McIntyre (NC).
Charlie Melancon (LA).
Mike Michaud (ME).
Dennis Moore (NB).
Collin Peterson (MN).
Earl Pomeroy (ND).
Mike Ross (AR).
John Salazar (CO).
David Scott (GA).
John Spratt (SC).
John Tanner (TN).
Gene Taylor (MS).

Steve offered two new defining attributes of the parties:

Republicans = For Torture

Democrats = Too spineless to stop the Republicans from torturing, but feel really bad about it.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 28, 2006

Our new motto?   I know, I know ... we come up with a new motto every other day around here, it seems. Actually, this is the same motto as before -- "Make mine bacon-wrapped" -- but in a more "classic" rendition, shall we say. I was considering designing a heraldic crest for me and Wes, perhaps a shield divided into fourths with the quarters having an Irish harp, a fleur-de-lis, a cocktail glass and a bacon-wrapped hot dog respectively. The dividing bars would be strips of bacon. It would be topped by a swine rampant, and the motto ...

Fac meum involutum in lardo.

That, according to a friend of ours, is "Make mine bacon-wrapped" in Latin, or at least as best as he could manage; we have yet to check it with another friend who actually has a classics degree. Works for me, though!

Keepin' it goin' on.   Somehow I got behind on a couple of my favorite blogs, including Dan Phillips' superb site Home of the Groove, all about New Orleans R&B. About a month ago he did a feature on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's superb remake of Marvin Gaye's album "What's Going On?", and the piece features a nice interview with Dirty Dozen co-founder Roger Lewis.

Baghdad Police Academy.   (Contributed by Wes.) No, it's not another Steve Guttenberg comeback attempt. Would that it were that funny.

Heralded Iraq police academy a 'disaster'

A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."


Wait ... you mean the Army Corps of Engineers and Parsons Corp. have effed up again? I don't believe it!

We are truly the greatest country in the world.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 27, 2006

America: Rogue State.   "Lawbreaker and torturer," says Matt Yglesias. "That's America, loud and proud."

"The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture," George W. Bush explained in a June 2003 speech, "and we are leading this fight by example. Oh, the irony!

Intriguingly, at the time he seemed to have a good grasp of the relevant issues. "Freedom from torture," he said, "is an inalienable human right." True. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments from "deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control." Also true. And lastly, a straightforward recognition of who the torturers of the world are, and why they do it: "Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."

Last week, we learned that among those spirit-crushing rogue regimes was the government of the United States of America, which is now "leading by example" in the field of hair-splitting and wink-nod authorizations of torture. Thanks to the recent "compromise" between the hard-core torturers in the Bush administration and "moderate" Republican torture opponents, we continue to live in a country that does not officially endorse the infliction of "severe pain." That would be torture, you see. "Serious pain," however, is fine. That's merely cruel and degrading treatment. (The president used to be against that, too, but, well, things change.)


[T]he rule of law is now off the table as far as Bush is concerned. What's more, insofar as national-security policy is at issue, the United States increasingly doesn't look like much of a democracy. As the congressional Republicans march in lockstep behind the White House's torture agenda, they don't even know what that agenda's composed of. The Boston Globe reported Saturday that 90 percent of members of Congress don't know which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act. Which is just to say that, in practice, absolutely everything would be permitted, since the only people capable of overseeing the interrogation program haven't done it, won't do it, and have no intention of doing it in the future.

Consequently, the United States now presents itself as what amounts to the globe's largest and most powerful rogue state -- a nuclear-armed superpower capable of projecting military force to the furthest corners of the earth, acting utterly without legal or moral constraint whenever the president proclaims it necessary. The idea that striking such a posture on the world stage will serve our long-term interests is daft. American power has, for decades, rested crucially on the sense that the United States can be trusted and relied upon, on the belief that we use our power primarily to defend the community of liberal states and the liberal rules by which they conduct themselves rather than to undermine them.

An America prepared to casually toss out the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian diplomacy -- along with basic human decency and the rule of law as side helpings -- is not a country others are going to want to cooperate with. It will constitute a threat to their own interests and values. [...] It's a grim future brought to us by grim and deranged men -- by people who seem to have developed an unhealthy level of admiration for America's enemies. (They want the country they run to transform itself into a facsimile of its evil adversaries.) It's a future in which it may become increasingly hard for decent citizens of this country to say truthfully that they're proud to be Americans.

At the moment, one of this country's favorite interrogation techniqes is waterboarding, described by Porter Goss, the CIA director until last May, as "a professional interrogation technique." It is, in fact, torture, and is described thusly:

The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt. According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last over two minutes before begging to confess.

[...] Some victims were still traumatized years later, he said. One [such torture survivor] couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained.

The technique was only specifically banned for military interrogators three weeks ago. The CIA is not subject to this ban, and can still employ waterboarding at will.

This particular torture technique was used by the Japanese against American and Allied soldiers during World War II. Then, it was considered a war crime. Those who used it were in fact found guilty of war crimes, and some were executed.

At this moment, I'm not proud.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Who day sayin' we bouncin' back? WHO DAT?!   Well, if I'm gonna watch a football game every 10 years or so, it might as well be a good one.

New Orleans Saints!

I'm so happy the Saints won. Everyone is. Even the Falcons, congratulating some of the Saints afterward, seemed happy for them.

Great game. But in the midst of all the frenzy, Da Po' Blog makes some excellent points:

Imagine 70,000 people on one city block, on one special day, all there for one purpose. Imagine over $100 million going into bringing those people together. Imagine a Super Bowl atmosphere, complete with the media frenzy and global interest in what is happening on that day on that block.

Sounds magical, doesnt it?

Now, imagine that the city block the masses have come to is in Gentilly, or Mid-City, or Lakeview, or the 9th Ward, or New Orleans East. Imagine that they are not there to sit in a comfortable seat and watch grown men play a game on artificial grass, but have come together to be part of the action and participate in the rebuilding of that neighborhood. Imagine how much work could get done.

Yeah, I know. I dont believe in magic either.

[...] I can not pretend like this Mondays game is the best thing that has happened in the recovery of New Orleans. I felt the same way about Mardi Gras. People want to make this a symbol that the recovery is going just fine:

Joe Horn said that the quick repair of the Superdome should give people a sense of hope that the rest of the city can bounce back.

"If you can rebuild a place that's 1.9 million square feet," Horn said, "you should be able to come back here and rebuild a 3,000-square foot house."

I am not so sure that a functioning Superdome is a symbol of a functioning city. If the city were functioning properly, this game would not be such a big deal. It would be expected.

Make a list of all the services a city needs to function. From health care, to police, to firefighters, to electricity, to sewerage and water, to small businesses, to infrastructure upkeep, to housing -- none of them are bouncing back. Limping back, maybe. But no bouncing.

This Monday we will prove to the nation that we can still put on a world class show -- even when we haven't yet recovered. But the next day, will anybody be trying to prove to the city's residents that we can put on a world class recovery? Anybody?

[... T]he rest of the country lives in a pre-Katrina world. They will be sitting on their fat surpluses Monday night distracted, deluded, amused, and insulated from the totally different picture we see down here every day.

I am not saying don't enjoy the Saints or don't go to the game. I know I'll be enjoying the game. I'm just saying that this game will not change my opinion of the recovery.

Only a recovery will change my opinion of the recovery.

Yep. The game was very important for New Orleans, I think, for the whole region, and subsequent ones will continue to do so. It was a good thing, and made everybody feel good. God knows everyone needed to feel good, and that's part of recovery too. Po' Blog wrote this before the game, and I hope he was satisfied with its results and its coverage. I loved the clips they showed set in a church, with the preacher telling the congregation about all that still needs to be done, with Miss Irma singing, and later on with the announcers repeatedly imploring viewers to come visit New Orleans. People coming back, even short-term, is going to help with the recovery.

Now let's get those houses rebuilt.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 25, 2006

The reopening of Angelo Brocato's!   Fat Pack denizens Nettie and Diana, currently residing in New Orleans in Faubourg St. John, attended the gala, and Diana served as intrepid Looka! field reporter for the day:

Not to understate the symbolic hugeness of [tomorrow's Saints game], but for some (including, naturally, your local Fat Pack representatives) the bigger story of the weekend was the opening of Angelo Brocato's. Nettie and I joined the festive and humidified throngs shortly after noon on Saturday. We were well entertained by Benny Grunch (of "Twelve Yats of Christmas" fame), and shared tales of generations of gelato-eating with our neighbors in the two-block line. Passing cars honked, reporters reported, and we all discussed our favored selections as the anticipated moment neared. Finally, a welcome waft of conditioned air signaled proximity and then, lo, we were in the door. Glory be. The parlor looked the same if slightly spiffier, the old-fashioned "flavor" signs were hung, the portrait of Angelo presided over the whole splendid sight, and it tasted better than ever, in every sense.

Nettie and I both had the perfect lemon ice and to pay proper respect, we each had a second scoop. She the panna cotta -- divinely creamy and lush; I the stracciatella, because it has chocolate. Good, dark, properly flaked (not chunked) chocolate in perfect vanilla ice cream. We sat at a table overlooking the entire scene and blissfully took it in -- the scene and the scoops.

We came home and watched the televised presentations of the neighborhood rebuilding planning committees (see Nettie's email) for a while -- all worthy and ambitious (and for some aspects, a wing and a prayer, given the enormity -- but no better reason to shoot for the moon).

(Photos below by Diana)

Angelo Brocato's reopens!

Angelo Brocato's Reopens: The Gelato Mob

Angelo Brocato's Reopens: The Media Frenzy

Angelo Brocato's Reopens: The Keepers of the Flame

THey can't invent teleportation soon enough for me.

New Orleans must not be banned.   From the nation's consciousness, that is. During the readings and events in New Orleans to mark Banned Books Week, Poppy Z. Brite read this original essay at an event at the House of Blues:

I never in my life thought I'd say this, but: Some things are more important than books. In South Louisiana and on the Gulf Coast last year, books didn't have to be banned by fundamentalism, political correctness, ignorance, or hate. They were reduced by water and oil and sewage to a foul, wordless pulp. Whole walls and rooms and buildings full of books disappeared when the federal levees broke. Who here hasn't met a person who lost a lifetime's book collection? Who hasn't met someone seeking a lost recipe or a letter that will never be read again?

We as a city and a region have been censored. We're cut out of the news and the public consciousness, not by way of any sinister cabal so much as for the fact that we're no longer interesting. Disasters are interesting when CNN can show pictures of old ladies dying in wheelchairs in the heat and looters carting big-screen TVs out of Wal-Mart. They're not so interesting months later, when there's nothing to look at but rotting hulks of houses and people living in FEMA trailers or tents on their slabs because the insurance hasn't paid out yet. We as a city and a region are in danger of being banned by further federal neglect and incompetence, by our own political blundering, by the departure of our talent, and by the indifference of our former countrymen and women. I say former because I am no longer sure whether New Orleans is part of America or whether my government considers me a full citizen worthy of its protection.

If you have lived in New Orleans or visited here, you know the sudden spangle of a trumpet on a spring afternoon, the golden light of a fine restaurant at dusk, the smell of jasmine and sweet olive in the night, the unforgettable voices of our people. If you've never been here, maybe you've read our books or listened to our music. You've always loved the romantic idea of us, but maybe now you think it would be smarter, kinder, certainly cheaper to let us die. We will not die easy. We will not be driven away from the places that are in our blood, because any of us can die any damn minute of any damn day of our lives. If youre ever lucky enough to belong somewhere, if a place takes you in and you take it into yourself, you don't desert it just because it can kill you. There are things more valuable than life. Please don't let New Orleans be banned. If you live here, stay and give it all you can. If you live elsewhere, please don't let people forget us. Don't let your government forget us. Tell them to put money into wetlands restoration, to give us the levees we were told we already had, to rebuild the homes and businesses destroyed by their lying negligence. Tell them we are as valuable as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or A Confederacy of Dunces or A Streetcar Named Desire. Tell them those three banned and cherished books would never have existed without us. Tell them we will never die easy, and if we do die, we will be the most haunted place in the world.

Talk about us, and if you are here, if you are local or thinking of becoming so, please keep loving New Orleans even when it would be easier to hate it. Wear the fleur-de-lis. Fly the flag of the 504. Survive. Buy local. Do the thing you were put on this earth to do, and do it here. The people still here, or planning to come home, are our only real hope.

Thank you.

You're so welcome, and as always, thank you.

Neighborhood redevelopment plans.   As Diana mentioned above, the day before yesterday saw the long-awaited release of New Orleans' citywide grassroots planning efforts, where all the district and neighborhood associations presented their plans for how they want to see their neighborhoods rebuilt. First problem -- it's gonna cost $2 billion to do it all as planned. That aside ... I think the plans look pretty damn good. I need to study them more closely, but so far it give me a lot of hope (which I hope shall not be dashed). Basically, people are just asking for basic services like well-paved streets, working stop lights, good schools, etc., but they're encompassed in a wide-ranging rebuilding vision that looks like it'll make every area better. I just hope they don't forget the lower-income people who still haven't been able to come home.

Nettie reported that the guy who presented the plan for her area, Plannign Area 4, was great -- he's a consultant (aah, the dreaded "C" word), but apparently he really got the neighborhoods and the feel of the area, and got a rousing hand from the area people when he finished presenting.

Here are all the plans for your persual:

2: Milan

3: Hollygrove/Dixon, Leonidas/West Carrollton, Marlyville-Fountainebleau, Freret, Audubon/University

4: Treme/6th Ward, Historic 7th Ward, Fairgrounds/Desaix, St. Bernard, Faubourg St. John, Mid-City, Gert Town

5: Lakeview, Lakeshore, Lake Vista, Lakewood, City Park, Parkview, Country Club Gardens

6: Dillard, Filmore, Gentilly Terrace, Lake Terrace/Lake Oaks, Milneburg, Pontilly, St. Anthony

7: St. Claude, St. Roch, Desire Area, Florida Area

8: Holy Cross, Lower Ninth Ward

9: Edgelake/Little Woods, Pine Village, West Lake Forest, Plum Orchard, Read Blvd East, Read Blvd West

10: Village de l'Est

11: Viavant, Venetian Isles

Just make sure it still looks and feels like New Orleans, OK y'all?

Quote of the day.   Today provided by Mary:

"A young pig roasted is bright in color, and agreeable in smell, and pleasant in taste. Here is a perfect evidence of the presence of the divine substance."

-- St. Augustine

"Well, YEAH," she said. "And here I thought Augustine was just a humorless grump." Well, he at least scores one point for this!

Dear Gawd,   not like I ever give a crap about sports, but can we please, please have the Saints win tonight? Amen.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 22, 2006

Angelo Brocato's reopens tomorrow!!   In the Grand Scheme of Things, the Big Picture, whatever you want to call it ... it may seem to some to be a small thing. It's a tiny little Italian bakery and ice cream parlor in Mid-City.

Despite the fact that huge swaths of the city of New Orleans still lie in ruins, tomorrow's reopening of Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream and Italian Desserts is a big, big deal for the wounded collective psyche of New Orleans. Like so many others, I grew up on those cookies and lemon ice and spumoni, and I can't wait to get some more. Sadly, in my case, mail order will have to do; they've been baking the cookies elsewhere for a while now, but I didn't want to order any until their store on Carrollton was ready to reopen. Now I find out that they're not geared up for that until the beginning of November, so hopefully the NOLA contingent of the Fat Pack will put a lil' care package together for me.

Here's what it looked like on October 10, 2005.

Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream and Pastries

Angelo Brocato's, October 10, 2005 - Inside, the counter

Angelo Brocato's, October 10, 2005 - Inside, the shop

I'm hoping Nettie or Diana can send a picture of what it looks like tomorrow.

In our kitchen I still have a coupla bags of cucidata (Italian fig cookies) and assorted biscotti that I bought at Brocato's about two weeks before the flood. Afterwards I devoured most of them but left a couple in the bag. I couldn't bear to eat them, even though I left them in there so long they became stale, because to have eaten them all made me feel as if I'd never see any more again, ever. Now, I can finally throw those rock-hard things away.

There's gonna be a huge party on Carrollton at the tiny Brocato's, starting tomorrow from noon until the last body drags itself home. Dance to the music of Benny Grunch and the Bunch from noon to 3, then Bobby Lonero from 3 to 7. You might want to get there early, because I'm getting the feeling that the entire city is gonna show up.

They're also celebrating one hundred years of delighting New Orleanians' taste buds ... go in and help 'em celebrate, and may they have one hundred more.

Cent'anni alla famiglia Brocato!

Yep, we're ready for some football!   Now now ... don't worry. Upon reading those words just about everyone who knows me is either going to rush up to me, feel my forehead and submit me to a battery of medical tests, or else look at me suspiciously and finally with hostility and demand, "Where is my friend Chuck, and what have you done with him?!!" This is because I am perhaps the most apathetic person in the world when it comes to sports. I really, really don't give a crap about any of it (except the Olympics, and the primarily the opening/closing ceremonies ... oh, and swimming, diving and gymnastics of course).

However, last week in email our friend Michael, a Marigny resident, reminded us:

Any time the Saints play arch-rival Atlanta, it's already a big game. Make it the home opener, and it's an even bigger deal. Make it a Monday Night Football game, and it's bigger yet. Then make it Reggie Bush's first home game as a Saint. Then make it the first event in the Superdome since Katrina, following a year when it wasn't always certain that 1) the Saints would remain in New Orleans, and 2) if the Superdome would be rebuilt or demolished. We're talking about a huge night of epic proportions. Scalpers on eBay are having a field day.

And now this:

Hunkered down in a London studio as they start to work on -- albeit tentatively -- a new album, U2 has recorded a special duet with Green Day that both bands will debut live in New Orleans on the Sept. 25th edition of Monday Night Football, when the Superdome reopens for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. The song they've chosen for their first-ever collaboration is "The Saints Are Coming" by the Skids. "It really is a slice of pure post-punk rock," U2 guitarist The Edge says via phone from the band's studio during a break in recording. "It's pure 1978, a song that was a big inspiration to us at the time and couldn't be more in the sweet spot of what Green Day are about. It perfectly intersects our mutual interests in musical terms. It's been great fun to play that tune with Green Day, who are great players and have the right stuff."

Both bands hope to release "The Saints Are Coming" as a single, with proceeds going to Music Rising, the fund started by The Edge and others to provide relief to New Orleans' musicians. So far Music Rising has provided more than 2,000 people with instruments and aid, and has designs on helping churches and schools replace thousands more lost and damaged instruments.

Jeezus Gawd. Even I'm gonna have to watch this game!

Geaux Saints! Who dat sayin' dey gon' beat dem Saints? Who dat? WHO DAT?!!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 21, 2006

All hail the deep-fry guru!   "How was your trip?" someone asked my friend Chris after I took him to New Orleans for the first time. "Battered and deep-fried," he said.

Yeah, we'll deep-fry the normal stuff (seafood, of course), and some slightly strange stuff (fried pickles at Liuzza's, mmmmm), and some really wacky stuff (I'm not sure, but there's someone out there deep-frying muffulettas). However, I have to admit that New Orleans has nothing on Charlie Boghosian, the man who really will batter and deep fry anything that isn't nailed down, and then put it on a stick.

He runs Chicken Charlie's at the L.A. County Fair and elsewhere on the fair circuit. We've had his deep-fried macaroni and cheese on a stick, and he's also deep-fried pickles, avocados, Oreos, Twinkies, churros (which are already deep-fried, but he stuffs, batters 'n deep-fries 'em again), cauliflowers and more. There's even deep-fried Cosmopolitans (which aren't really Cosmopolitans, but a cranberry-lime cheesecake pastry) and, apparently, deep-fried Coke (I must know what that is).

The Fat Pack asks, "Why hasn't THIS guy gotten a MacArthur Grant?!" And, "I heard a rumor that next year he's going to offer deep-fried globs of MSG. On a stick. With powdered sugar." And, "Oh, I'd gladly eat that if, as he did with the churros, they're 'coated in pancake batter,' then 'doused in chocolate syrup, powdered sugar and rainbow sprinkles.' I think I'd eat shoe leather if it were prepared in that fashion." And, "This guy needs a Food Network show. I'd gladly scrap Rachael Ray to make room. Goodbye EVOO, hello PUVO." And, "I was excited by his savory churros stuffed with sweet Greek cheese and walnuts, then fried. The man is a GENIUS, I tell you! Why isn't he our friend?"

Some who encounter Boghosian's stand walk away disgusted.


But people who track fair food say that indulging in the forbidden food only seen once a year has long been part of the fair experience.

"If you go to the county fair, you're deciding that you're not going to eat well," said Jorge de la Torre, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University's Denver campus "This is your time to cheat and have fun. People like to tell stories. It's their personal 'Fear Factor.'"

Friends Crystal Padilla and Marianne Zacher come to the L.A. County Fair every year. "I'm proud to say I tried the deep-fried Snickers two years ago," said Zacher, 22, of West Covina. "We're big food people."

We are too, as you know. And that deep-fried Snickers is damn good. We didn't think the Twinkie was as successful, though.

This year, Boghosian's new item is the Krispy Kreme Chicken and Swiss sandwich with a side of honey. Imagine a jelly doughnut hollowed out, cut in half and garnished with a fried chicken patty and slice of gooey Swiss cheese.

[...] The reaction has exceeded Boghosian's expectations. He sold nearly 1,000 of them his first weekend at the L.A. County Fair at $5.95 apiece.

Susan Johnston and Tina Wright said they scoured the fair's website to see what strange foods were being sold this year. They immediately decided that the Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich would be on their list.

"I can feel my arteries tightening," Wright, 29, of Ontario said after taking a bite.

[... One vendor from Texas] said he was intrigued by Boghosian's Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich, saying he'd heard of grilling a Krispy Kreme doughnut with a burger patty but never with chicken.

"You have the healthier one in California with the chicken on it," he said.

Uh huh.

We'll go to the County Fair and we'll sample his wares. Because we must.

One wouldn't think it possible for right-wing TV pundit Tucker Carlson to be able to embarrass himself further; everything from his movie-usher bow tie to being reduced to Jon Stewart's bitch on "Crossfire" to ... well, almost every utterance that spews forth from his mouth makes him more ridiculous each day.

However, this self-proclaimed journalist has decided that enough is indeed not enough, and decided to appear on a TV program called "Dancing With The Stars." I can see how he might not have expected what he got when Jon Stewart appeared on his program (although he should have), but he voluntarily marched right into this one.

How did it go? Well, apparently he sat in a chair for a large part of the dance before he finally stood up and lumbered around; the judge told him, "Well, the problem started when you stood up."

Ladies and gentlemen, for your amusement, here he is:

Next time he tries to interview anybody, I just wanna hear James Carville call out, "Hey, can we run that clip again please?"

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Best excuse for quitting drugs EVER!   Keef's awright ... really, no damage here, perfectly fine ... (Thanks, Steve 'n Audrey!)

Keith Richards has quit drugs, claiming they're not strong enough anymore.

The Rolling Stones guitarist is famed for a history of narcotic experimentation across a rock 'n' roll career that has spanned some 40 years.

However, in a new interview, Richards, who underwent brain surgery earlier this year after an accident in Fiji, said he was finished with drugs.

"I think the quality's gone down. All they do is try and take the high out of everything," he told Q magazine.

"I don't like the way drugs now are working on your brain area instead of just through the blood stream. That's why I don't take any of them anymore."

I know how he feels. I wasn't all that fond of Jack Daniel's, but it's total crap now that they've lowered the proof to 80.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Journalist arrested for filming Katrina refugees.   Yep, Greg Palast apparently has federal charges pending against him for Journalism in the First Degree:

Its true. Its weird. Its nuts. The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, has finally brought charges against... Greg Palast. I kid you not. Send your cakes with files to the Air America wing at Guantánamo.

Though not just yet. Fatherland Security has informed me that television producer Matt Pascarella and I have been charged with unauthorized filming of a "critical national security structure" in Louisiana.

>{?On August 22, for LinkTV and Democracy Now! we videotaped the thousands of Katrina evacuees still held behind a barbed wire in a trailer park encampment a hundred miles from New Orleans. Its been a year since the hurricane and 73,000 POWs (Prisoners of W) are still in this aluminum ghetto in the middle of nowhere. One resident, Pamela Lewis said, "It is a prison set-up -- except there are no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have homes."

To give a sense of the full flavor and smell of the place, we wanted to show that this human parking lot, with kids and elderly, is nearly adjacent to the Exxon Oil refinery, the nation's second largest, a chemical-belching behemoth.

So we filmed it. Without Big Brother's authorization. Uh, oh. Apparently, the broadcast of these stinking smokestacks tipped off Osama that, if his assassins pose as poor Black folk, they can get a cramped Airstream right next to a critical infrastructure asset.

So now Matt and I have a criminal complaint lodged against us with the feds.

[...] After I assured Detective Pananepinto [of DHS], "I can swear to you that I'm not part of Al Qaeda," he confirmed that, "Louisiana is still part of the United States," subject to the First Amendment and he was therefore required to divulge my accuser.

"Still?" (Thanks, Oyster.)

Yarrrr!   Ahoy, me little darlins ... ye'll be wantin' to read this parchment with an actual conversation that scullery wench Mary had with her professor this mornin':

Mary: Good morning. It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Professor: What?

Mary: International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Professor: I don't understand what you are saying.

Mary: Oh, you are Austrian. Never mind.

Other Student: Yarrrrrrr!

Mary: Arrrrr!

Professor: No really, what are you talking about?

Mary: Well, there are pirates. And they have their pirate lingo. And today... you talk like that. It loses something when you have to explain it.

Professor: Who decided this?

Mary: Some guys with nothing better to do. Bless their watery hearts.

Professor: Are you making this up?

Mary: No! It's been going on for several years.

Professor: And who knows about it?

Mary: Well, anyone listening to NPR this morning. Or Stephanie Miller on Air America. Or 103.1. Or-- oh, never mind. You scurvy bilge rat.

Now mateys, forget you not t' be talkin' like a pirate all day, fer it is yer sworn duty to do so, aye. Otherwise ye be hoisted to the yardarm for a dose o' the cat, which be awfully nasty unless ye be likin' that sort o' thing, yarrr.

Quote of the week.   In Trader Joe's the other day, some woman had the audacity to complain about the lack of spinach, somewhat absurd given the 20-state E. Coli outbreak caused by contaminated California-grown fresh spinach. The Trader Joe's guy replied to her, Jack Webb-like, dead pan and dry as a bone ...

Whiny customer: Could you not have found some other spinach from somewhere else?!

Trader Joe's guy: Well ma'am ... in a post-9/11 world, Americans demand safe salad.

I near sprayed them with my free samples (Caerphilly with chives, and Dixie Peach juice, yum).

Quote of the day, part deux.   From the No-you-really-can't-make-this-shit-up Department, in the form of last Friday's White House press conference:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier this week, you told a group of journalists that you thought the idea of sending special forces to Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden was a strategy that would not work.


Q: Now, recently you've also --

THE PRESIDENT: Because, first of all, Pakistan is a sovereign nation.

Q: Well, recently you've also described bin Laden as a sort of modern day Hitler or Mussolini. And I'm wondering why, if you can explain why you think it's a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden, wherever he is?

THE PRESIDENT: We are, Richard. Thank you. Thanks for asking the question. They were asking me about somebody's report, well, special forces here -- Pakistan -- if he is in Pakistan, as this person thought he might be, who is asking the question -- Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.

Umm ... *facepalm*

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 15, 2006

The shame of our government.   If this is allowed to keep going, the America you'll be living in at the end of George W. Bush's reign will bear little resemblance to the one you grew up in. Via Kevin, here's Sen. Russ Feingold:

"Despite the Administration's stonewalling, the Judiciary Committee, which knows even less about the program than the Intelligence Committee, today approved legislation that would not only legalize a program that the Committee does not understand but would also completely gut the FISA law... Expanding executive power at the request of a president who has shown such deep disrespect for the rule of law is exactly the wrong thing to do."

Go ahead and flush those constitutional checks and balances down the toilet. "At Dubya's mandate -- and despite Democratic attempts to limit the damage -- Spineless Arlen Specter and the GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee approve legislation legalizing the NSA's warrantless wiretap program."

As the ACLU summed it up: "Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee acted as a rubber stamp for the administration's abuse of power."

He wants the power to wiretap without warrant, without supervision by a judge. He wants the power to set up kangaroo courts where people can be tried, convicted and even executed based on evidence they're not allowed to see. He wants to be able to torture suspects. Does this sound like any America you grew up in?

Heroes yesterday, spat upon today.   Remember the Republican hero-worship of the 9/11 rescue responders, all the firefighters and cops and rescue workers who worked long and tireless hours at Ground Zero in the hours, days and weeks immediately following? The responders were called heroes, the finest kind of Americans, and the sun shone eright out their arses. However, now that the 'Thuglicans used them for their own political gain, it's apparently time to discard them. Many of those rescue responders are now seriously ill due to the toxic nature of the rescue site, and yesterday Republican senators rejected funding for their medical treatment.

Aren't you proud?

Yay, a Democrat with balls.   Maybe she can teach the rest of them how to grow a pair. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana:

"In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion [dollars] a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did. Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of.

"I'm not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about Democrats not making us safe. They're the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still at loose."

Tell it like it is ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 14, 2006

Quote of the day.   This is a salad truism:

"It's hard not to like a restaurant ... that lists fried chicken livers as a salad."

-- Todd A. Price, "Tabletalk", New Orleans Magazine, September 2006 issue, in his short review of Cochon Restaurant.

Fried erstas make a good salad too, as does a warm bacon vinaigrette that uses the bacon fat instead of oil, and pieces of bacon too.

Ann Richards, RIP.   The former governor of Texas (and the last good one) has died at age 73. As Rick said last night, "She was a Democrat, a liberal and a broad in the best sense of the word."

From the AP story comes the other Quote of the Day: "Asked once what she might have done differently had she known she was going to be a one-term governor, Richards grinned. 'Oh, I would probably have raised more hell.'"

Shall we mention that this wonderful lady's defeat in her run for reelection in the 1988 1994 Texas gubernatorial race was brought about in large part by lesbian rumors spread in push-polls engineered by Karl Rove? Nah, kinda futile at this point.

Wingnut of the day.   (Via Josh) Batshit insane senator Rick Santorum thinks that terrorists are more dangerous than Hitler, Stalin and Soviet nukes.

Because he represents a Republican party that has nothing to offer but fear itself.

The myth of the omnipresent enemy.   (Via Corrente) Follow the above link to Corrente's excellent introduction to the primary article to which they link, one in the staid, bipartisan, establishment publication Foreign Affairs, which has the balls to finally ask the unasked question, "Is there still a terrorist threat?"

For the past five years, Americans have been regularly regaled with dire predictions of another major al Qaeda attack in the United States.

But if it is so easy to pull off an attack and if terrorists are so demonically competent, why have they not done it? Why have they not been sniping at people in shopping centers, collapsing tunnels, poisoning the food supply, cutting electrical lines, derailing trains, blowing up oil pipelines, causing massive traffic jams, or exploiting the countless other vulnerabilities that, according to security experts, could so easily be exploited?

One reasonable explanation is that almost no terrorists exist in the United States and few have the means or the inclination to strike from abroad. But this explanation is rarely offered.

The Emperor has no clothes. "If there were a terrorist threat," writes Corrente post author Lambert, "they should be here by now (and not as result of an October surprise)." Foreign Affairs continues:

Instead, Americans are told -- often by the same people who had once predicted imminent attacks -- that the absence of international terrorist strikes in the United States is owed to the protective measures so hastily and expensively put in place after 9/11. But there is a problem with this argument. True, there have been no terrorist incidents in the United States in the last five years. But nor were there any in the five years before the 9/11 attacks, at a time when the United States was doing much less to protect itself. It would take only one or two guys with a gun or an explosive to terrorize vast numbers of people, as the sniper attacks around Washington, D.C., demonstrated in 2002. Accordingly, the government's protective measures would have to be nearly perfect to thwart all such plans. Given the monumental imperfection of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, and the debacle of FBI and National Security Agency programs to upgrade their computers to better coordinate intelligence information, that explanation seems far-fetched. Moreover, Israel still experiences terrorism even with a far more extensive security apparatus.

If al Qaeda operatives are as determined and inventive as assumed, they should be here by now. If they are not yet here, they must not be trying very hard or must be far less dedicated, diabolical, and competent than the common image would suggest.

Lambert: "What about Afghanistan?"

Another popular explanation for the fact that there have been no more attacks asserts that the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, although it never managed to snag bin Laden, severely disrupted al Qaeda and its operations. But this claim is similarly unconvincing. The 2004 train bombings in Madrid were carried out by a tiny group of men who had never been to Afghanistan, much less to any of al Qaeda’s training camps.

Lambert: "What about Iraq?"

It is also sometimes suggested that the terrorists are now too busy killing Americans and others in Iraq to devote the time, manpower, or energy necessary to pull off similar deeds in the United States. But terrorists with al Qaeda sympathies or sensibilities have managed to carry out attacks in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the past three years; not every single potential bomb thrower has joined the fray in Iraq.

Lambert: "Is Al Qaeda biding its time?"

Another common explanation is that al Qaeda is craftily biding its time. But what for? The 9/11 attacks took only about two years to prepare. The carefully coordinated, very destructive, and politically productive terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 were conceived, planned from scratch, and then executed all within six months; the bombs were set off less than two months after the conspirators purchased their first supplies of dynamite, paid for with hashish. (Similarly, Timothy McVeigh's attack in Oklahoma City in 1995 took less than a year to plan.) Given the extreme provocation of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, one would think that terrorists might be inclined to shift their timetable into higher gear. And if they are so patient, why do they continually claim that another attack is just around the corner? It was in 2003 that al Qaeda's top leaders promised attacks in Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Yemen. Three years later, some bombs had gone off in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan (as well as in the unlisted Turkey) but not in any other of the explicitly threatened countries. Those attacks were tragic, but their sparseness could be taken as evidence that it is not only American alarmists who are given to extravagant huffing and puffing.

Lambert: "So why no attacks?"

A fully credible explanation for the fact that the United States has suffered no terrorist attacks since 9/11 is that the threat posed by homegrown or imported terrorists -- like that presented by Japanese Americans during World War II or by American Communists after it -- has been massively exaggerated. Is it possible that the haystack is essentially free of needles?

Lambert: "This would certainly explain why we keep releasing arrested "terrorists" for lack of evidence. Look at the numbers:"

Intelligence estimates in 2002 held that there were as many as 5,000 al Qaeda terrorists and supporters in the United States. However, a secret FBI report in 2005 wistfully noted that although the bureau had managed to arrest a few bad guys here and there after more than three years of intense and well-funded hunting, it had been unable to identify a single true al Qaeda sleeper cell anywhere in the country. Thousands of people in the United States have had their overseas communications monitored under a controversial warrantless surveillance program. Of these, fewer than ten U.S. citizens or residents per year have aroused enough suspicion to impel the agencies spying on them to seek warrants authorizing surveillance of their domestic communications as well; none of this activity, it appears, has led to an indictment on any charge whatever.

In addition to massive eavesdropping and detention programs, every year some 30,000 "national security letters" are issued without judicial review, forcing businesses and other institutions to disclose confidential information about their customers without telling anyone they have done so. That process has generated thousands of leads that, when pursued, have led nowhere. Some 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants have been subjected to fingerprinting and registration, another 8,000 have been called in for interviews with the FBI, and over 5,000 foreign nationals have been imprisoned in initiatives designed to prevent terrorism. This activity, notes the Georgetown University law professor David Cole, has not resulted in a single conviction for a terrorist crime. In fact, only a small number of people picked up on terrorism charges -- always to great official fanfare -- have been convicted at all, and almost all of these convictions have been for other infractions, particularly immigration violations. Some of those convicted have clearly been mental cases or simply flaunting jihadist bravado -- rattling on about taking down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch, blowing up the Sears Tower if only they could get to Chicago, beheading the prime minister of Canada, or flooding lower Manhattan by somehow doing something terrible to one of those tunnels.

Lambert: "So, why no second 9/11? Because 9/11 was bad for terrorists in Europe and Asia:"

The FBI may not have uncovered much of anything within the United States since 9/11, but thousands of apparent terrorists have been rounded, or rolled, up overseas with U.S. aid and encouragement.

The post-9/11 willingness of governments around the world to take on international terrorists has been much reinforced and amplified by subsequent, if scattered, terrorist activity outside the United States. Thus, a terrorist bombing in Bali in 2002 galvanized the Indonesian government into action.

Lambert: "Of course, under the Republicans rule, we create our own reality, and that is exactly what is happening with the "war" on "terror":

The results of policing activity overseas suggest that the absence of results in the United States has less to do with terrorists' cleverness or with investigative incompetence than with the possibility that few, if any, terrorists exist in the country. It also suggests that al Qaeda's ubiquity and capacity to do damage may have, as with so many perceived threats, been exaggerated. Just because some terrorists may wish to do great harm does not mean that they are able to.

Lambert: "'Policing activity,' eh? Turns out it's a law enforcement problem!

"So, how dangerous is terrorism, really? (Absent the loose nukes scenario which, as we know, the administration has done nothing to protect us against.)"

It is worth remembering that the total number of people killed since 9/11 by al Qaeda or al Qaedalike operatives outside of Afghanistan and Iraq is not much higher than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States in a single year, and that the lifetime chance of an American being killed by international terrorism is about one in 80,000 -- about the same chance of being killed by a comet or a meteor. Even if there were a 9/11-scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would number among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent (or one in 5,000).

Lambert asks,"So, what's it all about?" For starters, it's about keeping everyone in America afraid, in a constant state of fear, because that's the only thing that cna get them reelected. Lambert goes on: "Well, we're dealing with Republicans, so... Give me a minute... Oh! It's all about the money!"

The massive and expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists

Lambert: "Of course, no Beltway politician -- Democratic or Republican -- can say such things aloud."

Somebody had better say it. Somebody better read this article aloud to the rest of the country, too.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quote of the day.   From the "You've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me" Department ...

"One of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."

-- George W. Bush, in an interview with Katie Couric on CBS, September 6, 2006

I am not making this up.

Todd Gitlin continues at TPM Cafe:

Then the President of the United States hesitated for a fraction of a second -- perhaps he half-realized what had just come out of his mouth -- and so he went on: "I believe it, but the American people have got to understand that a defeat in Iraq, in other words if this government there fails, the terrorists will be emboldened, the radicals will topple moderate governments. I truly believe that this is the ideological struggle of the 21st century. And the consequences for not achieving success are dire."

The truth came first. Spontaneously.

Wonder what brought that on? Maybe a drink or three before the interview?

Olbermann's reply to last night's speech.   I turned it off halfway, myself. I'm at the point where the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard is less teeth-grating than the sound of that man's voice. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann stuck it out to the end, though, and had this to say (an excerpt):

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government, by its critics.

It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nations wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused; as appeasers; as those who, in the Vice Presidents words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated Al-Qaeda as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had something to do with 9/11, is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase, is "impeachable offense."

People need to start using the impolite phrase more often, from the person on the street to the news media to the new Democrats we elect in November.

Who knew that Saddam Hussein was a Kids in the Hall fan?

(Thanks, Michael!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 11, 2006

This day in history.   100 years ago today ...

On September 11, 1906, Mohandas K. Gandhi launched the modern nonviolence movement. On that day, one century ago, a gathering of 3,000 Indians in Johannesburg, South Africa, was challenged by Gandhi's call for Satyagraha, or "the force that is born of truth and love." His message of "non-cooperation" with an oppressive law, the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, has inspired countless civil disobedience actions for justice and peace in our time.

Justice and peace in our time ... now there's an idea.

And in my own personal history for today ... Happy Birthday, Barry! Happy Anniversary, Kat and Allen!

The Hungry Passport!   Okay, I am long overdue in linking this site, because I am The Absentminded Weblogger and God Emperor of Procrastination as well. Our friend Carol, who came by for some of our figs the other day and posted a bit of fig porn on the fig topic below, has a wonderful website called The Hungry Passport. She's a trained chef, but is channeling her talents primariy toward food writing and culinary travel, starting off with a guided food-oriented trip to Ireland next year. Check it out!

Bitters fanatics, rejoice!   The bitters subculture amongst the cocktailian world has something else to be happy about. A couple of guys in Germany, Stefan Berg and Alexander Hauck, had the same problem as all German cocktailian bartenders -- aside from Angostura Bitters and a local product called Riemersschmied Bitters (which I'd never heard of and now, of course, want), they had no other bitters resources for making new and classic cocktails. No Peychaud's, no Fee's or Regans' Orange, nothing. So, enterprising lads that they are, they made their own.

Their company is called The Bitter Truth, and they are currently offering three products -- an orange bitters, an "old-time" aromatic bitters, plus orange flower water (essential for Ramos Gin Fizzes and more). Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess reviewed them in his online forum thusly:

I've got my order of bitters from "The Bitter Truth", and they are indeed excellent. Rich and robust of flavor, with good spice and character.

Their orange bitters are closer to Hermes then they are to Regan's or Fees. I suppose it might be safe to say that theirs tastes sort of like mixing Regan's and Hermes 50/50.

Their aromatic bitters are less robust than Angostura, and are probably closer to my "Home Bitters", although not as heavy in the anise.

(Folks in Seattle... I've dropped of bottles of each at Zig Zag.)

They also carry Orange Flower Water, which I also think is quite well done. It has more character and flavor than the commonly used A. Monteux (small blue bottle), With all of the OFW I have, I'm going to have to find/create more recipes that properly use it.

This is great news for the cocktail world, and especially for those of us with, as DrinkBoy forum poster Andy called it, "The Sickness." :-) I'll be ordering some today.

Plucky Survivors See America, Days Eight and Nine.   In which we see Birmingham, Vulcan's butt, Selma and have fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe on Day 8; and in which the home of To Kill A Mockingbird is visited, we covet the car with the giant chicken head, then head back along the still-devasted Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coasts back to New Orleans as their amazing trip comes to a close.

[A]s we read at the Clinton library, "There is nothing wrong with America that cant be fixed by what is right with America." Further, something is always possible; your actions may only chip away at a problem, but that still means there's less of it.

Whether it be Civil Rights, recovery from a hurricane, poverty, or just a road trip, Plucky Survivor or your own, Dr. King's words are there: "If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving."

Yeah you rite. Welcome home, y'all.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 8, 2006

Plucky Survivors See America, Day Seven.   In which doughnuts are had, plus a visit to the Ave Maria Grotto at St. Bernard's Monastery in Cullman, Alabama (which, by great small-world coincidence, is where my dad went to a boarding prep high school in the late '40s-early '50s), as well as the U.S. Space and Rocket Museum in Huntsville (where aspiring astronaut-Chuck was in hog heaven when he visited there at age 12).

Figs!   You gotta love a Food Section story about one of my favorite fruits in the world that starts like this:

It is almost impossible to describe a fresh fig without veering into pornography. The skin is nearly human in its tenderness. And the pulp within is as luscious as some exotic cross between fruit jam and honey. You don't so much bite into a fig as engage it in a long, sweet kiss.

Nice one, Russ.

Great article too, and it makes me feel bad and guilty because we've been remiss at harvesting the figs from our 60+ year old fig tree right outside the back doors. Some of them are starting to PLOP! on the ground, and one very bold and cheeky blue jay keeps eating them and chirping incessantly into our open doors, "Hey! I'm eating your figs, motherfeckers!" Little bastard.

So this weekend I'm gonna see if our crop has improved from the leathery, tasteless figs we got last year after what was probably half a century of Best Figs Ever. (Seriously, that tree had a reputation in the neighborhood long before we ever bought that house.) Let's hope for some figgy goodness.

Oh, and in the unlikely event you were actually thinking about it ...   Don't bother with ABC's bullshit 9/11 "docudrama"-cum-GOP-propaganda they're spewing out this weekend (read about it on Atrios; start there and scroll down), unless you really enjoy history being replaced by made-up-shit.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 7, 2006

A Change is Gonna Come.   This month's issue of OffBeat features a superb interview with John Boutté, who's been my favorite male singer in New Orleans for years, and who, in the opinion of the article's author Geoffrey Himes, "the most important artist of post-K New Orleans music." His current repertoire of songs, which he reinterprets with regards to the city's current situation, is nothing less than brilliant.

Don't say "K" or "storm" in front of John, though. "I never use the word 'storm'," he says. "I always say, 'When the levees failed.' The problem wasn't the storm; the problem was the levees."

Incidentally, if you look around, there's a decent-quality tape of the WWOZ broadcast of John's astonishing performance at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival floating around; check

Quote of the day.   From the above OffBeat article and interview:

"When is a change going to come? I keep hoping a moral change is going to come, so we can see each other as human beings. I keep hoping a political change is going to come. But if people don't go out and do the right thing, the powers that be will conclude it's okay to treat people bad and we will get what we deserve. Sometimes people keep a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn't love them because they're afraid of change. Sometimes a person keeps an apartment with a landlord who's unreasonable because they're afraid of change. Sometimes they keep a president or mayor for the same reason. Change is not always bad. Things are going to change anyway; you have to try to make it for the better."

-- John Boutté

Yeah you rite.

Plucky Survivors See America, Day Six.   In which they are stunned by what they see at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, get the blues and eat fried chicken (among many other things).

Despite the fact that our stomachs were in knots over what we had seen [at the Museum], it didn't prevent us from stopping at two different recommended local favorites. First was Gus' Fried Chicken.

A local said this was the best fried chicken in the south, and therefore, in the whole universe. We would never think to challenge local pride like, nor did we want to, after scoring some golden brown bird that was so juicy it was like biting into a ripe piece of fruit. Spicy, crispy, perfect. Wow.

Ten minutes later we were ready for lunch number two. If that is even the least bit surprising to you, you obviously have not read days one through five of Plucky Survivors See America. Or met us.

I am not in the least bit surprised.

Poor Rick has a cold now, though! Take your Airborne and Vitamin C an get well soon!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Plucky Survivors See America, Day Five.   In which they go to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, they go to Graceland ... poor boys and children with families, and they are goin' to Graceland ...

Also Little Rock and Central High, also fried chicken 'n BBQ 'n pie (pie!), and, sadly, dying towns.

Thats what it boils down to. When towns like this finally die, who will make the pies? Thats not a selfish question, but a cultural one, and one of grave importance that goes beyond pastry.

We dont pretend to be saying anything new here, but its one thing to hear about it, and another to see it in action.

Oh, and a reminder that they went back and expanded their account of Day Three too, so go back and catch up!

Utah ... who knew?   This is a speech given by Salt Lake City Mayor Ross "Rocky" Anderson on August 30, in SLC's Washington Square. If you haven't seen this already, make it today's must-read. (Via Wes.)

Let no one deny we are patriots. We love our country, we hold dear the values upon which our nation was founded, and we are distressed at what our President, his administration, and our Congress are doing to, and in the name of, our great nation.

Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.

A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president.

That is not a patriot. Rather, that person is a sycophant. That person is a member of a frightening culture of obedience - a culture where falling in line with authority is more important than choosing what is right, even if it is not easy, safe, or popular. And, I suspect, that person is afraid - afraid we are right, afraid of the truth (even to the point of denying it), afraid he or she has put in with an oppressive, inhumane, regime that does not respect the laws and traditions of our country, and that history will rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.

In response to those who believe we should blindly support this disastrous president, his administration, and the complacent, complicit Congress, listen to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, a great president and a Republican, who said: "The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.

"Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

"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. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

We are here today as truth-tellers.

And we are here to demand: "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"

We are here today to insist that those who were elected to be our leaders must tell us the truth.

Oh my. My. Utah. There's more, much more ...

No more lies, no more hiding of the truth, no more wars that more than triple the value of stock in Dick Cheney's prior employer, Halliburton - and which, as of last September, has increased the value of the Halliburton CEO's stock by $78 million.

We are patriots. We're deeply concerned. And we demand change, now.

No more lies from Condoleezza Rice about whether she and President Bush were advised before 9/11 of the possibility of planes being flown into buildings by terrorists.

No more gross incompetence in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

No more torture of human beings.

No more disregard of the basic human rights enshrined in the Geneva Convention.

No more kidnapping of people and sending them off to secret prisons in nations where we can expect they will be tortured.

No more unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans.

No more proposed amendments to the United States Constitution that would, for the first time, limit fundamental rights and liberties for entire classes of people simply on the basis of sexual orientation.

No more federal land giveaways to developers.

No more increases in mercury emissions from old, dirty, dangerous coalburning power plants.

No more backroom deals that deprive protection for millions of acres of wild lands.

No more attacks on immigrants who work so hard to build better lives.

No more inaction by Congress on fixing our hypocritical and inconsistent immigration laws and policies.

No more reliance on fiction rather than the science of global warming.

No more manipulation of our media with false propaganda.

No more disastrous cuts in funding for those most in need.

No more federal cuts in community policing and local law enforcement grant programs for our cities.

No more inaction on stopping the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

No more of the Patriot Act.

No more killing.

No more pre-emptive wars.

No more contempt for our long-time allies around the world.

No more dependence on foreign oil.

No more failure to impose increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

No more energy policies developed in secret meetings between Dick Cheney and his energy company cronies.

No more excuses for failing to aggressively cut global warming pollutant emissions.

No more tragically incompetent federal responses to natural disasters.

No more tax cuts for the wealthiest, while the middle class and those who are economically-disadvantaged continue to struggle more and more each year.

No more reckless spending and massive tax cuts, resulting in historic deficits and historic accumulated national debt.

No more purchasing of elections by the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country.

No more phony, ineffective, inhumane so-called war on drugs.

No more failure to pass an increase in the minimum wage.

No more silence by the American people.

Do not be silent.

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  Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Plucky Survivors See America, Day Four.   In which they discover that the evil Branson, Missouri is a city that doesn't want to let you leave ("I won't be ignored!"); plus a visit to the Clinton Presidential Library, and ducks ducks ducks!

Go, Krewe!   The Arabi Wrecking Krewe, a group of amazing volunteers who've been helping to bring musicians back to New Orleans and gutting their flooded homes for them, most recently took on the wrecked New Orleans East home of legendary saxophone player Kidd Jordan; the photos are here.

It's amazing people like this who are going to save New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, not stupid, useless politicians.

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  Monday, September 4, 2006  ::  Labor Day

Plucky Survivors See America, Day Three.   In which age and decrepitude set in. (Okay, not really, but there will probably be some minor sulking along those lines.)

So here's the deal, we've had a long day and Rick is old now, officially. And we have to be up at Insane-o'clock to go to a Labor Day Parade in a small Missouri town. As a result, tonight's edition of Plucky Survivors See America will be the Reader's Digest Edition, but we promise we will come and tell the whole story with many, many more pictures.

Rick woke up on the morn of his 40th birthday in a depressing Rodeway Inn in Arkansas with a suspicious stain on the wall, which in many ways was exactly how he always thought it would be. But then things looked up when he took PluckyMobile to get a bath and it involved bubbles and a light show. We're not going to tell you anything more about that right now, because we want you to come back and read the whole thing when we get around to doing it and we know of anything, THAT is what will bring you back.

Either that or the story about how Mary broke the Internet in all of Hot Springs, Arkansas. We actually don't think we're kidding although we may be overestimating our importance.

I can hardly wait for the rest. :-)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, September 3, 2006

Plucky Survivors See America, Day Two.   In which Mary eats, Rick gets grumpy, Bonnie and Clyde are reckoned with, Mary breaks Uncle Sam, pigs are wiggled (well, not really), the blues were had (in a good way), BBQ was consumed and Rick wiped Mary out in Cow (you'll see).

Nothing like starting your day fueled by two breakfasts -- or at least Mary was, which, as you will see as you read, didn't stop her from eating more, soon. She had to have breakfast at her B&B before walking over to collect Rick at his, and it would be downright ungrateful to turn down offers of food. So: fruit and sweetened yogurt parfait, Mama's French toast, and sausages at the one, biscuits and ham and eggs at the other, and the Plucky Survivors were fortified for Day Two (aka, Rick's Last Day In His Thirties. Dun dun duuuuun).

(Rick: Shut up, shut up, shut up.)

Out of Natchitoches and on to Gibsland ... read on!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 2, 2006

The Adventures of Cancer Chick.   Boy, am I behind on this.

OK, quick recap ... our friend Mary put up a website a little while back, with a short bio on the front page, a compendium of articles she's written for the Los Angeles Times, a sub-section called "Merrie Maladies" ("It's kind of a blog about breast cancer, except it's not depressing. Much, anyway ... plus detailed lists of whatever food I was eating at the time, because the unexamined cuisine isn't worth consuming." Ooh, food porn!), and then ... The Road Trip!

Road trip? What road trip?   Oh yeah ... The Plucky Survivors See America!

This all began a while back when Mary asked her good friend Rick, whose mumbletieth birthday was approaching (okay, it's a fairly round number that ends with a zero and is divisble by 20 ... no, it's not 20. Or 60. OK Rick, you're forty, might as well get used to saying the number), what he wanted to do for said birthday. "Anything you want," she said, "let's do it."

Almost immediately, Rick said, "I wanna go to Branson and see The World's Largest Ball of Twine."

Mary and her good friend Rick, both esteemed travel writers, will be embarking on a 2,300 mile journey through the south central portion of the United States in September and this is where you'll be able to read all about it.

Every day during the trip, Mary and Rick will be posting daily updates, photos, and even reviews of the things they see and do - everything from the Britney Spears Museum to Graceland and a few more serious things along the way.

[The route] will begin in New Orleans and head north to our first stop in Kentwood, Louisiana, home of the Britney Spears Museum. Why? Can you think of a better way to start a road trip? [Then Ferriday, Natchitoches and Gibsland, Louisiana; Hot Springs, Eureka Springs and Little Rock, Arkansas; Branson and Doniphan, Missouri; Natchez, Clarksdale, Holly Springs and Tupelo, Mississippi; Graceland; Huntsville, Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama; Monroeville, home of Harper Lee; the devastated Mississippi Gulf Coast; then back to New Orleans.]

[...] Our mantra: "The first cheeseburger will taste like freedom."

Thus was the idea behind The Plucky Survivors Roat Trip, which began day before yesterday and the begining of which I missed. "I didn't think it was starting this Thursday!" I wailed to Wes. "Well," he replied, "when Mary was here this past Tuesday and said 'We're leaving on Thursday!', which feckin' Thursday did you think she meant?!"

So that was day before yesterday, Chuck, you dumbshit, and they've already got Day One up, which brought us "Britney Spears, barbecue, burgers, and the disturbing realization that Rick didn't spend enough time looking at the legend of the maps when he planned the route."

The drive out of New Orleans is both a humbling and exciting one, a city still damaged in so many ways but obviously deep in the rebirthing process. Everywhere you look are signs that big things are happening, slower than it should be of course, but happening nevertheless.

If we haven't stressed it enough, you need to come to New Orleans for a vacation and soon, not only because the bulk of the tourist areas that you'll see are just fine now (thank you very much) and you can have a typically wonderful Big Easy time of it but because it's a great way to support the city.

Anyway, armed with our local favorites Hubig's pies and some powdered donuts, we hit the road and aimed the PluckyMobile toward Kentwood, Louisiana, just off Interstate 55 near the Mississippi border...

There's food porn too, of course, and the ferchrissakes Britney Spears Museum (?!?!). How can you not read and get hooked? I will provide daily updates and links!

August Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

[ Link to today's entries ]

Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog, providing links, comments and sometimes lots more. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Mary Herczog, Steve Hochman, Dave Schmerler, Nettie DeAugustine, Diana Schwam, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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