the gumbo pages

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

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

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

Page last tweaked @ 4:40pm PDT, 10/27/2006

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New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

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

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

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

*      *      *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

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

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

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

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

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

Buy stuff!

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

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

September 2006
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
The New Orleans Menu
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:

World War Z, by Max Brooks.
Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them, by Peter Kaminsky.

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 Idirlíon
   (Irish language & music)
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, October 27, 2006

More Planxty.   The clip I posted yesterday seems to have gone over well. In the event you haven't gone and found the rest of them yourself, here's an old black-and-white recording of the lads performing "The Blacksmith" for Gay Byrne on RTÉ's "Late Late Show" back in the '70s (as if you couldn't tell from the forty pounds of hair in the shot ...)

Speaking of Planxty ... well, I don't think I've ever mentioned this, because I'm not generally one to toot my own horn (except for cooking contests and the like, heh), but last year Christy Moore asked me for permission to publish my review of one of the 2004 Planxty shows in Dublin on his website. Several breathless boggles later, here it is.

There's very little about anything else I've ever written that's made me prouder and more honoured than this.

Incidentally, last year Christy, deeply moved by the images he saw on TV coming from New Orleans, started ringing musicians and put on a benefit concert at Vicar Street in Dublin featuring himself and Declan Sinnott, Damien Rice, Mary Coughlan, his brother Luka Bloom and more, during which they performed "Louisiana 1927". I'd give anything to hear a recording of that show, and I'm gonna start looking for it today (don't know why I didn't before). If you've any leads please let me know!

Six words.   Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story that he called his best work, and it was only six words long:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

It's amazing how much heartbreak can be conveyed in six words, and how it's not the six words that tell the story, but the story you build yourself, in your mind.

There's a great bit in Wired magazine where they asked 33 science fiction, fantasy and horror writers to make their brief contributions. Here are a few favorites of mine:

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

I'm dead. I've missed you. Kiss... ?
- Neil Gaiman

"Cellar?" "Gate to, uh... hell, actually."
- Ronald D. Moore

Epitaph: He shouldn't have fed it.
- Brian Herbert

I might try that myself, but I'm afraid it'd be lame.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Oh, but the IRS isn't political, no.   The Internal Revenue Service has announced a delay in collecting back taxes from Katrina victims until after the November 7 election "to avoid negative publicity... four former I.R.S. commissioners, who served under presidents of both parties, said that doing so because of an election was improper and indefensible."

Rotten, rotten people.   The sheer heartlessness and lack of humanity of those on the right who are attacking Michael J. Fox and claiming he's "exaggerating" or "faking" or "acting" his horrible illness are beneath contempt, and are seriously pissing me off.

Digby had a great post on this yesterday:

If Rush Limbaugh and his pals in the media still think that Michael J. Fox is acting, they should check out this video clip from ABC News from last July. The guy is so clearly trying to do something good here. It just kills me that these heartless bastards are attacking him and saying that it's exploitive for him to be an activist for a disease that's killing him.

Actors are vain people. It cannot be easy for him to expose himself in public knowing that when the public sees him in this condition they are uncomfortable and pitying. He is rich enough to live out his days in in comfortable privacy, getting the best of care and giving money for the cause. But he's put together a very serious and productive foundation that has funded 70 million dollars in Parkinson's research and he works constantly on the issue.

This transcends politics and it's beyond petty partisanship. (After all, Fox did a very similar commercial for Arlen Specter in 2004.) Stem cell research has the support of the vast majority of this country of all political persuasions but it's being held hostage by the same minority group of religious extremists who staged that sideshow over Terry Schiavo. There you had a woman with no brain and no hope who the extremists were willing to go to the ends of the earth to "save." Here we have a 45 year old man who is fully funtional intellectually but whose body is beginning to fail him because of a terrible disease and they are rudely dismissing him as a fake and saying that his life is no more important than a smear in a petri dish.

[...] Fox was on CBS tonight and said:

The irony is that I was too medicated. I was dyskinesic," Fox told Couric. "Because the thing about being symptomatic is that it's not comfortable. No one wants to be symptomatic; it's like being hit with a hammer."

His body visibly wracked by tremors, Fox appears in a political ad touting Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's stance in favor of embryonic stem cell research. That prompted Limbaugh to speculate that Fox was "either off his medication or acting."

Fox told Couric, "At this point now, if I didn't take medication I wouldn't be able to speak."

He said he appeared in the ad only to advance his cause, and that "disease is a non-partisan problem that requires a bipartisan solution."

"I don't really care about politics," Fox added. "We want to appeal to voters to elect the people that are going to give us a margin, so we can't be vetoed again." [So far, Bush's sole veto was against stem cell research.]

The portion of the interview they broadcast was quite decent. But you can see the whole interview here -- and listen to Katie Couric push him over and over again on the burning question of whether he manipulated his medication and ask him whether he should have re-scheduled the shoot when his symptoms were manifested as they were. And she does it while she's sitting directly across from him watching him shake like crazy. Her questions imply that it was in poor taste or manipulative as if he can magically conjure a film crew to catch him in on of the fleeting moments where he doesn't appear too symptomatic. The press seems to truly believe that it is reasonable to be suspicious of him showing symptoms of a disease that has him so severely in its clutches that if he doesn't take his medication his face becomes a frozen mask and he cannot even talk.

Oh, and Matt Lauer is an asshole, too.

Wanna know the real reason the right wing hates Fox's commercial? 'Cause it works..

A new national study revealed that American voters' support for stem cell research increased after they viewed an ad featuring Michael J. Fox in which he expresses his support for candidates who are in favor of stem cell research.

Among all respondents, support for stem cell research increased from 78% prior to viewing the ad, to 83% after viewing the ad. Support among Democrats increased from 89% to 93%, support among Republicans increased from 66% to 68% and support among Independents increased from 80% to 87% after viewing the ad.

[...] Republicans who indicated that they were voting for a Republican candidate decreased by 10% after viewing the ad (77% to 67%). Independents planning to vote for Democrats increased by 10%, from 39% to 49%.

They have reason to be worried. Get rid of 'em.

Dick Cheney, torturer.   The vile, evil thug who is currently vice-president of the United States (and its de facto shadow president, for the most part) has declared that the United States indeed carries out torture on other human beings.

Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called waterboarding, which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated the Bush administration doesn't regard waterboarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview Tuesday with a conservative radio talk-show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human-rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider waterboarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture.

Some intelligence professionals say it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the waterboarding stop.

The White House, via Snow Job, of course denies that Cheney was confirming that we use torture. When asked if "a dunk in the water was a no-brainer if it could save lives," Cheney replied, "Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in." When asked to define "a dunk in the water," Snow Job replied, "It's a dunk in the water." And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I would make one brief exception in my otherwise unequivocal opposition to torture -- I'd like to see this "technique" applied to Mr. Cheney himself. I'll bet he'll change his mind in less than 14 seconds.

Let us reiterate:

Waterboarding is torture.

This is what waterboarding looks like.

It is a war crime; the Allies executed Japanese interrogators who used it on us during World War II.

Meanwhile, Larry Wilkerson, Chief of Staff under former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says that from his on-the-job observations he believes that 35,000 people are in Bush's secret prisons, and that probably less than 5% have anything even remotely to do with BushCo's "War on Terror."

Some of you may not be letting this into your heads, but thanks to this administration we are not The Good Guys anymore.

Sadly, Walt Kelly's words have never been truer: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, October 26, 2006

He's alive.   Me, that is. Sorry. I do enjoy doing this weblog, but sometimes I have to make sure I don't get burned out or, like now, sometimes I have to take a break to recharge my batteries. I haven't been feeling terribly inspired lately. I'm coming out of it, and I hope it'll pass completely soon.

In better news, Emeril's Delmonico reopened in New Orleans last night. On August 6, 2005, 23 days before the flood, I had one of the best meals in recent memory at that restaurant. Everything was perfect -- the friends, their company, the atmosphere, the food, the service ... perfect. They had a hard time later on, especially with regards to gallons and gallons of liquified, putrified beef that poured forth from their dry-aging room after the power went out and stayed out. (They had to break up the foundation and remove a foot of topsoil to get rid of the smell, I heard.) The good news is that a lot of the old staff is back, since Emeril kept them on at Emeril's and NOLA, and Chef Shane is still running the kitchen. (And I hope he's still amenable to that all-pig dinner we talked about for the Fat Pack a couple of weeks before the flood.) They're doing dinner Tuesday through Saturday so far, and I'm already planning my reservation for my Christmas/New Year's trip home.

Forget the worm.   Mezcal has a bit of a bad reputation. I've heard it described as "rotgut tequila" (which is a description I'd say more accurately describes Cuervo Gold), but it's a close relative of tequila. In fact, tequila is just mezcal made in the Tequila region of Mexico, to certain standards; along the same lines, all Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac, unless it comes from the Cognac region of France.

There's one major difference, though. Both spirits are made from the fruit of the agave plant (called a "piña" for its resemblance to a pineapple), and for both spirits the agave fruit is cooked to convert its starches to sugars, but in tequila-making the fruit is steamed and in mezcal-making it's roasted in a fire pit, giving the distillate a wonderful smokiness.

There are some great mezcals out there, with price tags to match, such as the Don Maguey I was introduced to at Topolobampo in Chicago. A fine article in the San Francisco Chronicle today talks all about mezcal, including a new one made by the co-owner of the Hangar One distillery in Northern California that sounds fantastic.

Give mezcal a try, I think you'll like it. But if you see a bug in the bottle, skip that brand.

Music clip of the day.   I've been going a bit mad for YouTube lately. I've been using it fairly often all along, it just never occurred to me to search for certain things, and lo and behold, they pop up, one after the other. There doesn't seem to be anything you can't get on YouTube. (I'm waiting for videotaped proof that Dick Cheney does indeed devour the flesh of live infants; if it shows up anywhere, it'll be on YouTube.)

In the meantime, here's a clip of Planxty from 1980, during their second incarnation and with the original lineup of Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Christy Moore and Liam O'Flynn, recorded at The Pavilion in Dún Laoire, Co. Dublin, performing a song called "The Jolly Beggar" followed by a reel called "The Wise Maid."

Caffeiney tipples.   Today's Los Angeles Times Food section is mostly about coffee and its delights, and is well worth a look. In particular, though, I wanted to call your attention to one particular article about coffee-based cocktails; it's not just Irish Coffee anymore.

A coffee drink is only as good as the coffee you use, so brew a fresh pot. Brad Owen, chef instructor of beverage courses at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, recommends pairing coffees with spirits that have similar flavor notes.

"Coffees are often described as nutty, chocolaty or spicy, so choose spirits with similar profiles to complement your roast," says Owen. "Pair nutty coffees with amaretto or hazelnut liqueur, chocolaty roasts with cr?me de cacao and spicy blends with coffee liqueur and cinnamon. The goal is to complement the coffee, not compete with it."

... To make his Mex-Ital Coffee Cooler, Opus executive chef Josef Centeno combines espresso (or substitute strong coffee) with Patr?n XO Caf? liqueur, a coffee-infused tequila liqueur, and Tuaca, a Tuscan brandy-based liqueur with vanilla-citrus notes. Patr?n XO Caf´ is a whopping 70 proof (versus the 50 proof of some coffee liqueurs) so the flavor is drier, more robust.

"The coffee is really concentrated in the tequila version," says Centeno. "It's not as sweet as standard coffee liqueurs, so it has a punchy, pure coffee flavor." And like good tequila, this coffee cooler goes down strong and smooth. He uses both liqueurs in his Azteca Latte, a combination of cinnamon-spiced Mexican chocolate, espresso, steamed milk, Tuaca and Patr?n XO Café.

[Mixologist Vincenzo] Marianella shakes up his Vanilla-Bean Coffee Cocktail with freshly ground coffee beans, rum, cream and simple syrup infused with vanilla bean. The coffee beans release their oil into the spicy rum, infusing it with a pleasant bitterness that's softened by the sweet cream. Spicy, sweet, and creamy with a kick, these are coffee beans, corrected.

Yum. There are recipes. (I'm not entirely sure yet, but I think that Rum-Coffee Meltaway, a rum, Heering and lemon bitters concotion on coffee rocks, is genius.)

Quote of the day.   Or the millennium, really.

Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence:
wealth without work,
pleasure without conscience,
knowledge without character,
commerce without morality,
science without humanity,
worship without sacrifice,
politics without principle.

-- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).

The current regime is incredibly guilty of most of those, with a few differences ("science gutted by ideology" would better describe them). They'd do well to practice this, and preach it, as would we all. Then again, look what happened to the Mahatma ...

Our delusional president.   I only say "our" because we're stuck with the bastard for another two years, unless the impeachment hearings (and war crimes trials) he so richly deserves come to pass. Nicked from Atrios, here's Bush to his media sycophants:

"My attitude about our -- look, I'm into campaigning out there: People want to know, can you win? That's what they want to know. I mean, there's -- look, there's some 25 percent or so that want us to get out, shouldn't have been out there in the first place and that's fine. They're wrong. But you can understand why they feel that way. They just don't believe in war, and -- at any cost. I believe when you get attacked and somebody declares war on you, you fight back. And that's what we're doing." [Emphasis mine. - CT]

Atrios: "[Actually,] a strong majority support getting out. But more than that, we weren't attacked by Iraq.

"No wonder they hate us."

Uncharacteristic post of the day.   (From the I-Couldn't-Help-Myself Department, via Mary.) Okay, I never post stuff like this, I don't even pay attention to these kinds of current events, since for the most part I despise the cult of celebrity. This is some funny shit, though.

4:02:34 "That's the amazing thing about children," says Madonna. "They don't ask questions." Unlike all those horrible people who are trying to figure out what, exactly, I told the illiterate African man before I took his baby away.

Liveblogging the Oprah / Madonna interview about her purchased-- er, adopted kid.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Your words are lies, sir."   Welcome to Amerika, a country where now, if the President doesn't like you, he can have you declared an "enemy combatant," imprison you indefinitely at his pleasure, denying you the ability to challenge your detention in a court of law and even have you put to death based on hearsay evidence you're not allowed to examine... and that goes for American citizens, too.

Here's Keith Olbermann's commentary. Watch the entire thing.

We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived as people in fear.

And now -- our rights and our freedoms in peril -- we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy.

For on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

[...] In times of fright, we have been, only human. We have let Roosevelt's "fear of fear itself" overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said "the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass." We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists. Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets, was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons. And, always, always wrong.

"With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?"

Wise words. And ironic ones, Mr. Bush. Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act. You spoke so much more than you know, sir.

Sadly, of course, the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." But even within this history, we have not before codified, the poisoning of Habeas Corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital the most urgent the most inescapable of reasons. And -- again, Mr. Bush -- all of them, wrong.

[... I]f you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?

"These military commissions will provide a fair trial," you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. "In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them."

"Presumed innocent," Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain "serious mental and physical trauma" in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

"Access to an attorney," Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

"Hearing all the evidence," Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions Act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, sir.

They are lies, that imperil us all.

"One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," you told us yesterday "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The moral force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush ... they would be "the beginning of the end of America."

We get the first opportunity to change things in three weeks. Vote the Republicans out, and when the new Congress is sitting, demand investigations and hearings.

Terr'r! Terr'r! Boo, scary!   It's funny, ain't it? We've gone by for ... oh, what, two years now, without any kind of "terror alert," and now just three weeks before the election, DHS dutifully rolls out the FEAR FEAR FEAR! If this is their idea of an October surprise, it's pretty lame ...

The Department of Homeland Security has sent an advisory to the National Football League and local officials advising of a possible, uncorroborated bomb threat against some NFL stadiums.

The threat, posted on a Web site, alleges that dirty bombs could be used this weekend against seven stadiums -- in Miami, New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland. The bombs were to be delivered by truck, the posting said.

Of course, they immediately disclaimed it as being "not credible," but do you broadcast every not-credible alleged threat all over the front pages, on CNN at via their buttboys at FOX? Idiots.

We did this.   Billmon wrote an astonishing post about his, yours and my complicity in what's being done in Iraq, after reading heartbreaking posts from an Iraqi blogger and what her life and country are now like.

Everything I dreaded has come to pass -- for the Iraqis, if not for us.

The point deserves frequent repetition: We did this. We caused it. We're not just callous bystanders to genocide, as in Rwanda, but the active ingredient that made it possible. We turned Iraq into a happy hunting ground for Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. If Iraq is now a failed state, it's because of our failures. [...]

I've opposed this war since it was just a malignant smirk on George Bush's face. I've spoken against it, written against it, marched against it, supported and contributed to politicians I generally despise because I thought (wrongly) that they might do something to stop it. It's why I took up blogging, why I started this blog.

But the question Riverbend has forced me to ask myself is: Did I do enough? And the only honest answer is no.

I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans.

My question to myself, in other words, is like Thoreau's famous question to Ralph Waldo Emerson when Emerson came to visit him in jail after he was arrested for not paying his poll tax as a protest against slavery:

Emerson: What are you doing in there, Henry?

Thoreau: No, Waldo, the question is: What are you doing out there?

It's easy to think up excuses now -- we were in the minority, the media was against us, the country was against us. We didn't know how bad it would be.

But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were:

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.

We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.

But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.

Read every word. Make sure you follow the link to Riverbend's post to which he was referring, and read every word of that too.

Then, if you're not ashamed of what we've done, I'd have to doubt your basic humanity.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, October 12, 2006

AWARD! AWARD!   No, it wasn't a Major Award, merely a minor one, but a fun one nonetheless. On Sunday I entered a Macaroni and Cheese Cookoff, and I won! It was the second annual event, held by some friends of friends of ours, and I got an invite because last year I had provided the winning recipe to Steve (Chef Emeril's Maytag Blue Mac and Cheese). This year I got to compete myself, and won with a variation/refinement of the dish I made for Mary's birthday several months ago. (Hey, when you take something that's already good and then add whiskey and bacon to it, how can you go wrong?) From what we heard, it won by a landslide.

Dubliner Macaroni and JAYsis
(a.k.a. Cheesus, Mary and Joseph, McAncheese, or just
Feckin' Macaroni!)

For the pasta and cheese sauce:
1 pound/450g rotini, cooked just past al dente until tender.
5 tablespoons/75g Kerrygold Irish butter
     (substitute whatever good brand of butter is available).
6 tablespoons/45g flour.
1-1/2 teaspoons Colman's dry mustard.
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
5 cups/120cl whole milk or half-and-half
     (i.e., half milk and half cream) if you want it extra-rich.
     It'll even work with 1% or 2% lowfat, but with all this cheese, what's the point?
12 ounces/340g Dubliner cheese, grated and 4 ounces/115g Cashel Blue, crumbled
     (or 1 pound/450g Dubliner cheese if you can't find Cashel Blue)
1 large or 2 small leeks, white part only, split, washed thoroughly, finely diced
     and sautéed in Irish butter until tender.
8 ounces/225g Irish-style bacon, pan-fried until slightly browned, and julienned.
2 fluid ounces/60 ml Irish whiskey (I like John Powers)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (white pepper if you have it).

For the topping:
About 6 slices Irish brown bread, torn into pieces (substitute whole wheat bread).
3 tablespoons/45g cold Irish butter, cut into chunks.

Preheat oven to 350F. Adjust oven rack to lowest 1/4 of the oven.

For the cheese sauce, heat the butter in a large pot until it foams. Add the flour, mustard, cayenne (if desired) and whisk until no lumps remain. Add the milk gradually, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil, continuing to whisk constantly, scraping the bottom of the pot so it doesn't stick. (This makes a classic bechamel sauce.) Slowly bring the bechamel to a boil, which is necessary so that it'll thicken properly, whisking all the while. Add the julienned bacon, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, whisking frequently, until the sauce is the consistency of very heavy cream (sauce coats the back of a spoon). Remove from heat, add the cheese(s), saut´ed leeks, salt and pepper and stir until the cheese is completely melted. While stirring, add the whiskey and stir until combined.

Add the pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 5-6 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour into a buttered 9x13x2" baking dish.

For the topping, place the brown bread and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbed and combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta.

To finish, heat in a 350F oven for 10 minutes, then pop the dish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the bread crumb topping is deep golden brown and crispy. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn't burn. Serve immediately, and listen for comments. "What's this? Macaroni and ... mmmm, Jaaaaaaysis!"

YIELD: 6-8 main course servings, 12 side-dish servings.

Kerrygold Irish butter is available at Trader Joe's.
Dubliner cheese is available at Trader Joe's and Ralph's.
Irish bacon and brown bread is available at the Irish Import Shop, 738 N. Vine Street in Hollywood, just north of Melrose, or via a number of mail order sources.

My prize? An Icebat!

Tower's demise, LMF's boon?   I'm sure you've heard about the death of Tower Records, which is a sad thing (but I must confess I haven't shopped at one in years, and I think you'd have to be nuts to pay $17.98 for a CD). There's a different way of looking at its effects on New Orleans, though ... via OffBeat:

Adios to Tower Records in New Orleans...and everywhere. New Orleans' music scene received a painful blow when Tower Records was sold to Great America Group, a Los Angeles liquidation firm. Tower had more than 90 stores including one in the French Quarter, but they will all begin going-out-of-business sales this Friday. Virgin Megastore didn't return to its Jackson Brewery location after Hurricane Katrina, so New Orleans will not have a major record retailer, leaving Louisiana Music Factory as the largest retailer in the city. OffBeat also reports that Odyssey Records may reopen its location on Canal Street. These, along with smaller stores in the Quarter, and Mushroom Records on Broadway, will be the only remaining music retailers in Orleans Parish.

There isn't an official closing date for Towers French Quarter location, but the store expects to be open through the end of the year.

This is good news for the Music Factory, my favorite record store and a local business that has become part of the culture of the city, and which must survive and thrive. But this is still bad news all around ... the NOLA Tower location had a superb local music section as well as a knowledgeable staff, and with its demise local music fans will have no where to shop for classical music (and most world music that isn't carried by LMF in their small section) other than online. (No idea what may still be available in Jefferson Parish, other than Barnes and Noble stores whose record sections are more or less an afterthought.)

I'm glad to see the Mushroom is still around, too. I spent lots of money there in my younger days (and even more at the late, lamented Leisure Landing).

Back to the Times article, hooray for our friend Dave, getting quoted and gettin' his name in da papuh! Of course, he suffered the standard peril of being quoted by a newspaper -- they took quotes out of context and edited what he said down so far that the article made him sound like little more than a miserly bargain hunter. (In fact, the quotes came from a forwarded email rather than an actual interview.) Dave would have loved the opportunity to be more positive, to talk about all the amazing music he'd purchased at Tower over the years, special memories like meeting The Boss at the Sunset store several years ago, and explaining his years-long, slow migration from Tower to Amoeba and why Amoeba knows how to do it better ... but alas. Fortunately I got to point that out here!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, October 9, 2006

Give peace a chance.   Happy 66th Birthday, John Lennon! (And happy 31st to Sean.)

War is over, if you want it.

Ardent Spirits.   The latest edition of Gary and Mardee Regan's newsletter is out, chock-full of good stuff -- pisco and asparagus (?!), links to recent Cocktailian columns (and I've been getting behind on that ... there's an ouzo-spiked Margarita, turning Scotch and Galliano into a gift from God, and wondering if we can keep the doctor away with an apple brandy a day), and much more. Dig in!

The new threat is pronounced "NU-clee-er", you fool.   So now North Korea has nukes, apparently. Josh Marshall explains why this didn't have to happen.

For the US this is a strategic failure of the first order.

The origins of the failure are ones anyone familiar with the last six years in this country will readily recognize: chest-thumping followed by failure followed by cover-up and denial. The same story as Iraq. Even the same story as Foley.

North Korea's nuclear program has been a problem for US presidents going back to Reagan, and the conflict between North and South has been a key issue for US presidents going back to Truman. As recently as 1994, the US came far closer to war with North Korea than most Americans realize.

President Clinton eventually concluded a complicated and multipart agreement in which the North Koreans would suspend their production of plutonium in exchange for fuel oil, help building light water nuclear reactors (the kind that don't help making bombs) and a vague promise of diplomatic normalization.

President Bush came to office believing that Clinton's policy amounted to appeasement. Force and strength were the way to deal with North Korea, not a mix of force, diplomacy and aide. And with that premise, President Bush went about scuttling the 1994 agreement, using evidence that the North Koreans were pursuing uranium enrichment (another path to the bomb) as the final straw.

Remember the guiding policy of the early Bush years: Clinton did it = Bad, Bush = Not whatever Clinton did.

All diplomatic niceties aside, President Bush's idea was that the North Koreans would respond better to threats than Clinton's mix of carrots and sticks.

Then in the winter of 2002-3, as the US was preparing to invade Iraq, the North called Bush's bluff. And the president folded. Abjectly, utterly, even hilariously if the consequences weren't so grave and vast.

[...] Hawks and Bush sycophants will claim that North Korea is an outlaw regime. And no one should romanticize or ignore the fact that it is one of the most repressive regimes in the world with a history of belligerence, terrorist bombing, missile proliferation and a lot else. They'll also claim that the North Koreans were breaking the spirit if not the letter of the 1994 agreement by pursuing a covert uranium enrichment program. And that's probably true too.

But facts are stubborn things.

The bomb-grade plutonium that was on ice from 1994 to 2002 is now actual bombs. Try as you might it is difficult to imagine a policy -- any policy -- which would have yielded a worse result than the one we will face Monday morning.

[...] The Bush-Cheney policy on North Korea was always what Fareed Zakaria once aptly called "a policy of cheap rhetoric and cheap shots." It failed. And after it failed President Bush couldn't come to grips with that failure and change course. He bounced irresolutely between the Powell and Cheney lines and basically ignored the whole problem hoping either that the problem would go away, that China would solve it for us and most of all that no one would notice.

Do you notice now?

All you people who voted for Bush, or who voted to keep the Republicans in power, for that matter, whose of you who voted because you were afraid, because you had allowed Bush and his minions to manipulate your fear ... do you feel safer now?

UPDATE: The nuke might have been a dud, or even a phony. That still doesn't negate the points made above.

Keith Olbermann's audience up 69%.   Since Olbermann began his series of five incendiary anti-Bush commentaries recently, the size of his viewing audience has increased dramatically.

"As a critic of the administration, I will be damned if you can get away with calling me the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser," Olbermann told The Associated Press. "No one has the right to say that about any free-speaking American in this country."

Since that first commentary, Olbermann's nightly audience has increased 69 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research. This past Monday 834,000 people tuned in, virtually double his season average and more than CNN competitors Paula Zahn and Nancy Grace. Cable kingpin and Olbermann nemesis Bill O'Reilly (two million viewers that night) stands in his way.

Olbermann stood before Ground Zero on Sept. 11 and said Bush's conduct before the Iraq war was an impeachable offense. "Not once, in now five years, has this president ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space and to this, the current and curdled version of our beloved country," he said.

His latest verbal attack, this past Thursday, criticized the president's campaign attacks on Democrats.

"Why have you chosen to go down in history as the president who made things up?" he asked.

Right-wing trolls have come onto this site and accused me of being a "Bush-hater," blithely and ignorantly ignoring the issues I had brought up. My extremely negative feelings toward Bush aren't personal (although with that smirk and that attitude I would undoubtedly despise him if I knew him personally). I despise him because of what he's done to this country, what he's done to this country's reputation, and because he's taken everything I've ever learned and felt about what's great about America and being American and perverted it, turned it on its head and made me ashamed of my country. This is why I share Olbermann's outrage.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, October 6, 2006

Thirty-seven cents.   Diana's fabulous writeup of her inaugural Commander's Palace meal from a couple of days ago has the restaurant and its food still swirling around my mind, and especially their divine garlic bread. Today Poppy posted another delicious anecdote about that fabulous garlic bread ...

One of the better-known aspects of Commander's Palace is that the wait staff constantly circulates with plates of thinly sliced, crisp, heavily buttered, lightly dill-sprinkled slices of garlic bread. I've long been particularly aware of this bread because when [my husband, Chef Chris DeBarr] first worked there, he was a pantry bitch (he soon graduated to hot apps) and had to spend hours every day preparing huge trays of the stuff. When we ate there back then, the cooks would make sure to send us big plates of extra garlic bread just to torment him. Sometimes they still do.

The other night our waitress told us that during the preparations for reopening, the kitchen had COSTED OUT THE PRICE OF EACH PIECE OF GARLIC BREAD. This was partly a measure to keep the wait staff and runners from snacking on it -- nobody wants them breathing garlic fumes on the customers anyway -- but I think it was also simply because the Brennans like to know where every penny of their money is going. I've seen Chris do some pretty heavy-duty costing out of ingredients and dishes before, but this leaves me in utter, jaw-dropping awe.

By the way, the garlic bread costs 37 cents a slice.

My wonderful Food and Beverage Management instructor in school taught me that if you want to have a succesful restaurant, one of the things you MUST do is cost out every single item, including garnishes and things like garlic bread. Among his other advice was to do daily inventory, keep your back door locked (because inventory has a way of sailing out the back door and into people's trunks) and pay your dishwasher a living wage, because he is probably the most important person in the kitchen after the chef. If you're a busy restaurant and end up having to do service without a dishwasher, you are well and truly in the weeds.

Why, Ray? Why?   *facepalm*.

Nagin embraces Jefferson campaign
Mayor returning a political favor

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who rarely misses an opportunity to tout his efforts to rid City Hall of corruption, said Thursday that he will enthusiastically urge voters to re-elect U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, the target of a sprawling federal bribery probe that has cost the veteran congressman his seat on an influential House committee.

When he was locked in a tough re-election campaign last spring, Nagin said, Jefferson was one of the few local elected officials to stand by him. As an embattled Jefferson prepares to face a dozen challengers in a Nov. 7 bid for a ninth term to the 2nd Congressional District seat, Nagin said he is returning the favor by agreeing to appear in campaign ads and literature.

"I've told the congressman that since he supported me during the mayor's race, that I would reciprocate," Nagin said.

No matter what it'll do to the City of New Orleans and its national image, I expect. Gee, thanks Ray ... thanks so much for everything.

This "Suspect Device" cartoon pretty much says it all.

Bush: We don't need your stinkin' laws!   Josh Marshall: "Let's not mince words: President Bush is a profound threat to the US Constitution." This is (yet another example of) why.

President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency's 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."

Josh: "His contempt for the rule of law needs to be ended."

In email this morning Steve M. said, "Once again, Bush decides that as King... oops, unitary executive, he can do whatever the hell he wants, even after signing a bill into law. Remember when Republicans were screaming about 'the rule of law'? I guess this means that DHS can run roughshod over a citizen's rights, breaking the 4th, 5th, 7th and (hey, why not) 8th Amendments, and when the report comes out, that information can just 'disappear.' and if you want to complain about it, well, you're just an 'enemy combatant.'"

Audrey, after hearing about this and reading Shakespeare's Sister's post detailing the huge case against the Republicans, asks, "Why is the country not up in arms? Seriously, what do they have to do for America to get truly upset?"

Yes, what? I want to know too. What more would they have to do to outrage those who aren't already outraged?

Olbermann: "It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you fear."   Via Crooks and Liars, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann offers another stunning commentary. Watch the video at the link, or read this transcript. Every word.

And lastly tonight, a Special Comment, about... lying. While the leadership in Congress has self-destructed over the revelations of an unmatched, and unrelieved, march through a cesspool... While the leadership inside the White House has self-destructed over the revelations of a book with a glowing red cover...

The President of the United States -- unbowed, undeterred, and unconnected to reality -- has continued his extraordinary trek through our country rooting out the enemies of freedom: The Democrats.

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona Congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, "177 of the opposition party said 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists."

The hell they did.

One hundred seventy-seven Democrats opposed the President's seizure of another part of the Constitution.

Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn't be listening to the conversations of terrorists.

President Bush hears what he wants.

Tuesday, at another fundraiser in California, he had said "Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism. That means America will wait until we're attacked again before we respond."

Mr. Bush fabricated that, too.

And evidently he has begun to fancy himself as a mind-reader.

"If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party," the President said at another fundraiser Monday in Nevada, "it sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is wait until we're attacked again."

The President doesn't just hear what he wants. He hears things that only he can hear.

It defies belief that this President and his administration could continue to find new unexplored political gutters into which they could wallow.

Yet they do.

It is startling enough that such things could be said out loud by any President of this nation.

Rhetorically, it is about an inch short of Mr. Bush accusing Democratic leaders -- Democrats, the majority of Americans who disagree with his policies -- of treason.

But it is the context that truly makes the head spin.

Just 25 days ago, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this same man spoke to this nation and insisted, quote, "we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us."

Mr. Bush, this is a test you have already failed.

If your commitment to "put aside differences and work together" is replaced in the span of just three weeks by claiming your political opponents prefer to wait to see this country attacked again, and by spewing fabrications about what they've said, then the questions your critics need to be asking, are no longer about your policies.

They are instead solemn and even terrible questions about your fitness to fulfill the responsibilities of your office.

No Democrat, sir, has ever said anything approaching the suggestion that the best means of self-defense is to "wait until we're attacked again."

No critic, no commentator, no reluctant Republican in the Senate, has ever said anything that any responsible person could even have exaggerated into the slander you spoke in Nevada on Monday night, nor the slander you spoke in California on Tuesday, nor the slander you spoke in Arizona on Wednesday nor whatever is next.

You have dishonored your party, sir -- you have dishonored your supporters, you have dishonored yourself.

But tonight the stark question we must face is -- why?

Why has the ferocity of your venom against the Democrats, now exceeded the ferocity of your venom against the terrorists?

Why have you chosen to go down in history as the President who made things up?

In less than one month you have gone from a flawed call to unity, to this clarion call to hatred of Americans, by Americans.

If this is not simply the most shameless example of the rhetoric of political hackery, then it would have to be the cry of a leader crumbling under the weight of his own lies.

We have, of course, survived all manner of political hackery, of every shape, size, and party. We will have to suffer it, for as long as the Republic stands.

But the premise of a President who comes across as a compulsive liar is nothing less than terrifying.

A President who since 9/11 will not listen, is not listening, and thanks to Bob Woodward's most recent account evidently has never listened.

A President who since 9/11 so hates or fears other Americans that he accuses them of advocating deliberate inaction in the face of the enemy.

A President who since 9/11 has savaged the very freedoms he claims to be protecting from attack. Attack by terrorists, or by Democrats, or by both -- it is now impossible to find a consistent thread of logic as to who Mr. Bush believes the enemy is.

But if we know one thing for certain about Mr. Bush, it is this:

This President -- in his bullying of the Senate last month and in his slandering of the Democrats this month -- has shown us that he believes whoever the enemies are they are hiding themselves inside a dangerous cloak, called the Constitution of the United States of America.

How often do we find priceless truth in the unlikeliest of places?

I tonight quote not Jefferson nor Voltaire, but Cigar Aficionado magazine.

On September 11th, 2003, the editor of that publication interviewed General Tommy Franks, at that point just retired from his post as Commander-In-Chief of U.S. Central Command, of Cent-Com.

And amid his quaint defenses of the then-nagging absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, or the continuing freedom of Osama bin Laden, General Franks said some of the most profound words of this generation.

He spoke of "the worst thing that can happen" to this country:

First, quoting, a "massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western World -- it may be in the United States of America."

Then, the general continued, "The western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years, in this grand experiment that we call democracy."

It was this super-patriotic warrior's fear that we would lose that most cherished liberty, because of another attack, one, again quoting General Franks, "that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution."

And here we are, the fabric of our Constitution being unraveled anyway.

Habeus Corpus neutered; the rights of self-defense now as malleable and impermanent as clay; a President stifling all critics by every means available and when he runs out of those, by simply lying about what they said or felt.

And all this, even without the dreaded attack.

General Franks, like all of us, loves this country, and believes not just in its values, but in its continuity. He has been trained to look for threats to that continuity from without.

He has, perhaps been as naive as the rest of us, in failing to keep close enough vigil on the threats to that continuity, from within:

Secretary of State Rice first cannot remember urgent cautionary meetings with counter-terrorism officials before 9/11. Then within hours of this lie, her spokesman confirms the meetings in question. Then she dismisses those meetings as nothing new, yet insists she wanted the same cautions expressed to Secretaries Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld, meantime, has been unable to accept the most logical and simple influence of the most noble and neutral of advisers. He and his employer insist they rely on the "generals in the field."

But dozens of those generals have now come forward to say how their words, their experiences, have been ignored.

And, of course, inherent in the Pentagon's war-making functions, is the regulation of Presidential war-lust. Enacting that regulation should include everything up to, symbolically wrestling the Chief Executive to the floor.

Yet -- and it is Pentagon transcripts that now tell us this -- evidently Mr. Rumsfeld's strongest check on Mr. Bush's ambitions, was to get somebody to excise the phrase "Mission Accomplished" out of the infamous Air Force Carrier speech of May 1st, 2003 ... even while the same empty words hung on a banner over the President's shoulder.

And the Vice President is a chilling figure, still unable, it seems, to accept the conclusions of his own party's leaders in the Senate, that the foundations of his public position, are made out of sand.

There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

But he still says so.

There was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.

But he still says so.

And thus, gripping firmly these figments of his own imagination, Mr. Cheney lives on, in defiance and spreads around him and before him -- darkness like some contagion of fear.

They are never wrong, and they never regret. Admirable in a French torch singer. Cataclysmic in an American leader.

Thus the sickening attempt to blame the Foley Scandal on the negligence of others or "The Clinton Era", even though the Foley Scandal began before the Lewinsky Scandal.

Thus last month's enraged attacks on this Administration's predecessors, about Osama bin Laden a projection of their own negligence in the immediate months before 9/11.

Thus the terrifying attempt to hamstring the fundament of our freedom, the Constitution; a triumph for Al-Qaeda, for which the terrorists could not hope to achieve with a hundred 9/11s.

And thus, worst of all perhaps, these newest lies by President Bush about Democrats choosing to await another attack and not listen to the conversations of terrorists.

It is the terror and the guilt within your own heart, Mr. Bush, that you re-direct at others who simply wish for you to temper your certainty with counsel.

It is the failure and the incompetence within your own memory, Mr. Bush, that leads you to demonize those who might merely quote to you the pleadings of Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you fear, sir.

It is your own -- before 9/11 (and you alone know this), perhaps afterwards.

Mr. President, these new lies go to the heart of what it is that you truly wish to preserve.

It is not our freedom, nor our country your actions against the Constitution give irrefutable proof of that.

You want to preserve a political party's power. And obviously you'll sell this country out, to do it.

These are lies about the Democrats piled atop lies about Iraq which were piled atop lies about your preparations for Al-Qaeda.

To you, perhaps, they feel like the weight of a million centuries. As crushing. As immovable.

They are not.

If you add more lies to them, you cannot free yourself, and us, from them.

But if you stop -- if you stop fabricating quotes, and building straw-men, and inspiring those around you to do the same -- you may yet liberate yourself and this nation.

Please, sir, do not throw this country's principles away because your lies have made it such that you can no longer differentiate between the terrorists and the critics.

Good night, and good luck.

He's absolutely, 100% right. Sadly, Bush will never hear his words, much less heed them.

Now that's the way to campaign.   (Via MyDD) More from the always-busy You-Really-Can't-Make-This-Shit-Up Department, Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY), whose biggest claims to fame have been getting arrested for drunk driving and losing his license, having his now ex-wife divorce for being abusive including getting drunk and pulling a shotgun on her at a party, somehow managed to get elected in 2004 anyway. (Apparently being an abusive drunk driver and assaulting your wife with a firearm wasn't enough to truly upset the constituents of his distruct.) Now, he's running for re-election.

He was giving the closing arguments in his debate with "Fighting Dem" Eric Massa at a Rotary Club. After rambling on for quite a bit, he decided to start talking about how much the Republican government does for the people. His example? Katrina. The money quote:

"You can see that when, in fact, this government needs to react, like it did with Katrina with immediate appropriations to help out people who were dying."

The Rotarians laughed at him. Watch the video.

Yeah, what a guy.

Yet another reason to love Neil Gaiman.   Well, besides being a great writer and from all accounts a truly great guy. One of my favorites of his books is the one he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, entitled Good Omens. There has been talk of a Terry Gilliam film adaptation for years (and how perfect would that be?!), and now it looks as if it may be happening soon. As heard in an interview with Gaiman done by R.U. Sirius, Gaiman has sold Gilliam an option to adapt the book. The price? One groat.

RU SIRIUS: You're doing something with Terry Gilliam, who is absolutely one of my favorite directors.

NEIL GAIMAN: Bless! I hope that it happens. Terry has been working for many years on Good Omens, which is the novel that Terry Pratchett and I co-wrote about the end of the world

Terry Gilliam has loved the book for years. He has been working on it for awhile. He recently came to us and said, "OK. I'm going to get the rights back to the script that I wrote with this guy called Tony Grisoni a few years ago. What is it going to cost me to get the option for myself?" Terry and I put our heads together and thought, well, we really want Terry Gilliam to make it -- we want this to be a Terry Gilliam film. We've said no to lots of people who want to make it into a cool, big commercial film... We decided that it should cost him a groat. And I don't believe they've actually made groats, which is an old English coin worth about fourpence, since about the 1780s. Which means he is going to have to go to eBay.

RU: He's going to have to do some searching... a magical quest.

NEIL: I mean frankly, they're really cheap. We figured out we were going to need Farthings [obsolete English coin worth 1/4 of a penny] to pay the agent commission on a groat. I went to eBay and picked up a farthing for practically nothing.

Heehee. I can't wait for this!! I hope it works out. (Via BoingBoing)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Commander's Dry Run: The Epic Miniseries.   Our intrepid Fat Pack correspondent Diana (along with Nettie) reports from the night-before-official-reopening "dry run" at Commander's Palace (for which, even though we love her, we have to hate her just a little bit for just a little while), which by this account makes me even more sad I wasn't there.

By now it seems a bit anticlimactic, what with the worldwide media attention and all, but since it was climactic for us (not to mention filling), we'll share our "Commander's Dry Run Recap" nonetheless. I'm no real reviewer type like y'all pro-fessionals, but I'll do my best.

We were greeted with genuinely warm welcomes starting with the valets, to the reception desk staff, followed by about 15 servers who formed a receiving line as we entered the main dining room. They're a fresh faced, overwhelmingly youthful crew whose excitement at being part of this was visible. Nettie also remarked on how everyone there seemed to be so happy to see all of us. It was all a big mutual love fest. The room filled quickly after our 6pm arrival, and the mood among the diners was naturally convivial.

In contrast to the exterior (which is newly painted and awninged (?) in their traditional turquoise/white but otherwise exactly the same), the interior, as you may have already seen or heard about, has been completely redecorated. It's the same floor plan though, and we were seated in the main dining room. But we're getting ahead of ourselves already.

Commander's Palace, Reopening Night: Reception Wallpaper
Commander's Palace, Reopening Night: Wallpaper Detail Commander's Palace, Reopening Night: Main Dining Room

Even as you enter, the small reception area makes a big impression. The floor tile still has the big Commander's name and logo, but that's the only remnant of the old room. The reception desk is of gleaming blonde wood, there's an angular overhead light fixture and a new grand, arched picture window with elaborate black iron grillwork between reception and the main dining room. But the main event is the wall covering. It's hand-painted paper (I think), black on ivory, showing tranquil Louisiana plantation and pastoral scenes (almost toile-ish)... with teensy splashes of primary colored, hand-embroidered threads woven here and there. Yes, hand-sewn wallpaper. We were both flabbergasted and delighted.

[Co-owner] Ti [Martin] described the main dining room as whimsical, and the Times-Picayune also picked up on that term. It's a good one. It's not jaw-dropping, but it's utterly rich and distinctive. A few details of note: the chandeliers are a modern take on a classic shape, with flat metal plates bent into curls, strung with strands of crystal beads. We debated whether the flickering flames in the "candles" were wax, gas or fake, and finally decided on fake done well. A shadow pattern of the chandelier's shape is ever-so-faintly outlined on the ceiling above the fixture -- which you only notice when you realize the physics are out of whack -- hmm... there's no uplighting so how can there be chandelier shadows on ... the... CEILING?!! (With paint, that's how).

The carpets and chairs are smartly done (fun chair fact: originally they were done incorrectly, with fabric covering the entire seatback. Ti and Lally sent them back, and as you can see in the photo, the fabric now only goes partway up the seatback; there's wood at the top. The designer balked at this, 'til the ladies explained about their renowned garlic bread, and how the resulting greasy fingers common to Commander's diners and servers quickly stains upholstery). But I won't get into those much more because the really important story is, once again, the walls.

Commander's Palace, Reopening Night: Birds

It's another handpainted design made into paper in the Gracie wallpaper style; a soothing pale violet blue gray with a graceful white graphical pattern I'd call "Asian cameo ivy" (cause that's what it reminded me of), painted here and there with small, brightly colored birds. Lovely. But that's just the beginning. Every hither and yon, a little wood perch sticks out 4" or so from the wall, with an actual wood-carved bird sitting on it. It sounds weird but was utterly charming. Sadly, I don't know from birds but I believe they are all common to Louisiana, and apparently hand-carved and painted locally.

There are also two semi-private, sconce-lit nooks in opposite corners of the room, enrobed and topped with a bronze fabric awning -- nouveau Moorish. These are definitely the Big Chief tables.

Then there's the winking banquette. I call it that because, though it can accommodate a large party, it's tucked in the corner of the room so you don't really notice it -- until you do. And you do notice it, because it's covered with a shock of very royal purple fabric that seemingly makes no sense in the context of the rest of the room -- until you realize that it's just right and you sort of smile, because you're in on the joke and the shocking purple corner banquette gives you a sly, knowing wink. There's another splash of purple on the stairs to the upstairs rooms. Everything bold is inconspicuously so. Genteel Southern belles telling dirty jokes behind their fans.

What I love about the new décor is that they truly managed to capture the perfect tone for Commander's -- elegant but playful; sumptuous but not stuffy; comfortable but, well, commanding is probably the right word.

It's definitely updated, but there are these clever little throwbacks, and they work without lording it over you. Kinda the way Chuck & Wes take a century-old cocktail recipe and recreate it exactly, cept for one modern ingredient that makes it juuuust right for today's palate.

Commander's Palace, Reopening Night: Upstairs

We only very quickly poked our heads into the upstairs rooms, because people were eating and waiters were training, after all. So not much detail to impart. The smallish room at the top of the stairs, and the long room to the left of the stairs, were tonally similar to eachother but completely different from the downstairs. Light turquoise, ivory, gold, and pale tangerine seemed to be the color palette, with large vertical stripes on the walls and fabrics; crystal chandeliers and sconces, and crisp white crown mouldings were featured. These rooms reminded me of the Manhattan hotel apartments of my grandparents and their friends that I used to visit as a child, which were probably decorated in the late 50's-early 60's. All very swellegant (I didn't notice the same types of playful accents as in the downstairs room, but again we just peeked. I did check the upstairs ladies loo, and found the combination of the original fixtures, classic marble, and the new, padded, polka dotted silk fabric wall coverings to be très amusant).

The garden room is still under construction but we snuck a look anyway. The new, chrome cross-backed chairs were still wrapped in plastic and there wasn't much to see except for one outrageous feature: the leopard-skin carpet. Yup, you read it right. Gin will be drunk in this room, oh yes. I can't wait to see it when it's done.

Okay okay already. Now for the FOOD. First of all, because it was their rehearsal dinner, we were each handed a pre-set, 3-course menu, which was also printed with a brief questionnaire. This ensured that the kitchen and waitstaff could train on the full gamut of the menu. No problems: it all sounded yummy.

We both started with a Swizzle Stick Cocktail (Cruzan aged amber rum, fresh lime juice, Peychaud's Bitters, soda and A Secret Ingredient). There are a few new items on their cocktail menu (including one named for Lally), but I won't go into to that so we can leave a little mystery for those who must know. But the Swizzle, sans monkey perched on the rim à la Café Adelaide, was delish.

And then... (cue angelic voices, shaft of heavenly light)... the garlic bread. Here's the thing about the New Orleans bread. It's so fresh and airy you can basically eat a loaf in the time it takes Bush to be stupid. Put their garlic butter concoction on it and crisp it just so, and it becomes legendary. If Pavlov were around, he'd probably find a whole other theorem of self-control (or lack thereof) just by observing Commander's diners' relationships with their bread plates.

Nettie had their classic gumbo which was loamy-rich and lovely of course. Her entrée was the Lyonnaise Encrusted Gulf Fish (snapper) served with Cane-Cured Tomatoes (which even I, not being a tomato eater, liked just fine, thank you), with toasted garlic, grilled onions and crispy capers in a citrus beurre blanc. The crust was crispy and the flesh light and moist. She gave it four out of four stars, even though as she says, "I'm not even that big of a fish fan."

I had the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, which is in fact both jumbo and lump-y. It was served on a Jack Daniels, jalapeño and sweet corn ragout with a marinated crab claw and Creole ravigote sauce. I dunno ravigote from ravioli, but make no mistake, Commander's knows crab cakes. You can bury me now, this was stupendous. The corn ragout and the sauce were pure sweet/spicy yum, and the crab cake is pretty much all crab, no cake. I can't say enough how much better the gulf crab and shrimp are compared to our West coast equivalents. The flavor and texture do not compare.

My entrée was the Mustard-crusted Rack of Colorado Lamb with Salt Roasted Shallots and Fall Vegetables with House Cured Pork Belly and Lamb Jus Rosti. That's some good eatin there. The lamb was tender and flavorful, and the mustard of the Creole variety. Now as you all know I'm admittedly sieve-brained, and since it had been over two minutes since I'd read the menu at first I thought there was a lot of extra fat on the meat. I eventually realized that was the freakin' house cured pork belly (which, well yeah, actually is a lot of extra fat, but on a vastly different plane) and commenced to savoring it and appreciating the way it enhanced the lamb. The roasted shallots were mmm, the string beans and carrots lovely, and it was on a bed of blessedly buttery mashed turnips (I think).

Now as we all know the Fat Pack Dessert Decree of 1997 states that everyone gets something different and we all share tastes. But since we got fixed menus, we were forced, FORCED I tell you, to both have the signature Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce. Comment tragique, but we put on our game tastebuds and persevered. I swear it was better than I remembered it, and I remember it quite fondly. Good coffee and chicory with warmed milk and satiated smiles finished us off.

The surveys asked basic questions about the atmosphere, service, and food. I'm sure most people flattered unconditionally, deservedly so. Coming from a marketing background, I definitely appreciate the need for authentic, constructive input from actual users of your product/service. Ti reiterated when she table-hopped that "We wanted friends who we knew would be honest in an unthreatening environment." And in this situation, we were essentially a (generously, deliciously) paid focus group so I felt it was right to include whatever observations I could, amidst my plethora of praise. I dutifully reported some minor observations -- as I said, I was trying to find things, and had to look pretty hard to find anything at all.

Ti, Lally and Dottie were all working the room, and graciously visited our tables along with those of people they actually knew. Well, Ti knew us and stopped by for hugs, which was so nice of her. She was her usual magnetic self, thoroughly witty and adorable, utterly composed, and no doubt in full control. She sends love and regrets that you all couldn't also be there, and we sent your love & bigger regrets in return (and shared that you expressed just a little bit of hatred towards us, justifiably). We left a "congratulations & welcome back" card from all of us.

We ran into Chef Tory [McPhail] as we were taking our quick tour and fawned appropriately and authentically. He was kindly and didn't seem too frazzled, though I may have detected autopilot nodsmile. I said something like, "Congratulations and enjoy your sleep, whenever you might get it," to which he replied, "Maybe in November."

Well, sorry this became such a novel. I had no idea I would get so effusive. I just asked Nettie if she had anything else to add, and her simple summary could easily have sufficed as the complete recap: "It was a great evening, we were just so glad to be there." But all in all, it was truly a memorable shebang. Much as I'd love to be an old school Commander's regular, I'm certainly not nor am I likely to ever become one. But in thinking about it, I've now had quite a few remarkable meals there, and this was definitely another to add to that treasure trove of remembrances. I eagerly anticipate the next one ... hopefully with Pack en masse.

P.S. -- The accompanying photos were shot very hastily so as not to disturb others, so sorry if they're not too terrific. Come see for yourself.

There was one other photo I omitted, but which made me laugh ... not one picture of the actual food, but there was a picture of the bathroom. (Gorgeous and sparkling, of course.)

Fox News: We distort, you're deceived.   (Via Steve K.) Last night on Bill O'Reilly's daily blitherfest, they showed a graphic of disgraced would-be teenboy seducer and former Republican congressman Mark Foley that identified him as a Democrat. Not once, but three times.

Once would be a mistake. Three times means an intentional deception. Scumbags. And their brain-dead followers who noticed will probably start insisting that the guy's a Democrat now ...

Hastert countdown.   Associated Press: Aide Says He Reported Foley 2 Years Ago, said aide being a longtime involved party now apparently turned whistleblower:

A senior congressional aide said Wednesday he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in 2004 about worrisome conduct by former Rep. Mark Foley with teenage pages the earliest known alert to the GOP leadership.

Kirk Fordham told The Associated Press that when he was told about Foley's inappropriate behavior toward pages, he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene."

The conversations took place long before the e-mail scandal broke, Fordham said, and at least a year earlier than members of the House GOP leadership have acknowledged.

So who are we going to believe? Hastert, who says he didn't know and has already denied this latest statement, or everybody else who says he did?

I hope we can look forward to a nice plate of Deep Fried Republican Toad Legs soon ... but not until after the election, I hope. In the meantime the voters need to be reminded what Republican "values" are all about.

Meanwhile, we're now hearing the sounds of scapegoat bleating ...

ABC News' Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper reports that Kirk Fordham has resigned.

The chief of staff for Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds, Kirk Fordham, resigned after questions were raised about his role in the handling of the congressional page scandal, according to Republican sources on Capitol Hill.

Those sources said Fordham, a former chief of staff for Congressman Mark Foley, had urged Republican leaders last spring not to raise questionable Foley e-mails with the full Congressional Page Board, made up of two Republicans and a Democrat.

"He begged them not to tell the page board," said one of the Republican sources.

People familiar with Fordham's side of the story, however, said Fordham was being used as a scapegoat by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

They said Fordham had repeatedly warned Hastert's staff about Foley's "problem" with pages, but little was done.

It doesn't appear that Fordham is going to accept his new animal role very kindly. And what did his former boss do in an attempt to deflect uncomfortable questions about his own role in covering up for Foley? He borrowed the "human shield" strategy from Saddam, surrounding himself with children (for no particular reason) at yesterday's press conference in the hopes of avoiding embarrassing questions. Fortunately, reporters saw right through it:

Reporter: Congressman, do you mind asking the children to leave the room so we can have a frank discussion of this, because it's an adult topic. It just doesn't seem appropriate to me.

Reynolds: I'll take your questions, but I'm not going to ask any of my supporters to leave.


Reporter: Who are the children, Congressman? Who are these children?

Reynolds: Pardon me?

Reporter: Who are these children?

Reynolds: Well, a number of them are from the community. There are several of the "thirtysomething" set that are here and uh I've known them and I've known their children as they were born.

Reporter: Do you think it's appropriate for them to be listening to the subject matter though?

Reynolds: Sir, I'll be happy to answer your questions, I'm still, uh ...

Um ... *speechless*.

Hastert's latest volley? You're either with his Foley cover-up, or you're with the terrorists. (Via Bob Harris at This Modern World)

SPEAKER HASTERT (to Rush Limbaugh): There were two pieces of paper out there, one that we knew about and we acted on; one that happened in 2003 we didn't know about, but somebody had it, and, you know, they're trying -- and they drop it the last day of the session, you know, before we adjourn on an election year. Now, we took care of Mr. Foley. We found out about it, asked him to resign. He did resign. He's gone. We asked for an investigation. We've done that. We're trying to build better protections for these page programs.

But, you know, this is a political issue in itself, too, and what we've tried to do as the Republican Party is make a better economy, protect this country against terrorism -- and we've worked at it ever since 9/11, worked with the president on it -- and there are some people that try to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country, and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well. [Audio here.]

"So really," asks Bob, "how much further is there left to fall?"

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House.   (Promoted from the comments ... thanks, Jill!). Watch this lovely little 9-minute video produced by the New Orleans Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, all about Miss Willie Mae Seaton, owner and chef of the legendary neighborhood restaurant Willie Mae's Scotch House, what she meant to her community, and the efforts of the community (and beyond) to save her flood-ravaged restaurant.

I can't wait to get there and eat as soon as she's ready. It's not quite there yet; here's the latest. In the meantime, here's some food porn.

Here come the Karma Cops.   The Washington Times, perhaps the most conservative mainstream newspaper in the country, a Moonie-owned bastion of right-wingnuts so conservative that they make Archie Bunker look like a flaming pinko, calls for the resignation of Dennis Hastert as Speaker of the House.

Remember this?

"It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with The Daily Herald of Arlington, Ill.

As Maude Findlay would have said, "God got you for that, Denny." Son of a bitch.

Interestingly, the Washington Times suggests Rep. Henry Hyde as Hastert's replacement. Wikipedia has this to say about Hyde:

As Hyde was publicly pursuing the impeachment of Clinton, the Internet magazine published a story about Hyde entitled "This Hypocrite Broke Up My Family." According to the story, from 1965 to 1969, Hyde conducted an extramarital sexual affair with Cherie Snodgrass. At the time, Snodgrass was married to another man with whom she had had three children. The Snodgrasses divorced in 1967. The affair ended when Snodgrass' husband confronted Mrs. Hyde. The Hydes reconciled and remained married until Mrs. Hyde's death in 1992. The Snodgrasses remarried in 1969 but re-divorced shortly thereafter. Although Hyde was 41 years old and married when the four-year affair began, he dismissed it as one of his "youthful indiscretions."

Quite the role model.

The repugnant toad Hastert says hell no, he won't go. We'll see how long that lasts.

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  Monday, October 2, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   I embarked on a project this weekend -- making homemade pineapple syrup to make a modern version of a delightful 19th-Century concoction, the Fix. In this case, a Brandy Fix. It was a delicious, refreshing combination of brandy, lime juice, pineapple syrup, Chartreuse, sugar and "fruits in season."

The story and recipes were in the current issue of Imbibe Magazine, which I've been enjoying immensely since its debut a few months ago. The story of the Fix and the flavored syrups used to make it (and homemade is best) are from a regular column in Imbibe by our dear friend Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh, and is worth the price of admission ... and in addition you get all their other wonderful articles about the world of drinking, both alcoholic and non-.

What're the recipes for the syrup and the Brandy Fix? Well, go out to the newsstand and buy a copy of Imbibe and find out! Better yet, subscribe. A magazine like this is too cool to let slip away from lack of public support, so support it.

Quote of the day.   From the ever-expanding You-Really-Can't-Make-This-Shit-Up Dept. ... (Thanks, Steve!)

"It's vile. It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

-- Former U. S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), commenting on President Clinton, following the release of the Starr Report, September 12, 1998. Foley resigned his seat in Congress last Friday after it was revealed he had sent predatory, sexually-explicit emails and IMs to teenage boys who were Congressional pages.

Cue foreshadowning music, maestro ... methinks the lady doth protest too much.

And the Republicans knew about it for months, perhaps years. More linky goodness from Vidiot here, here, here, here, here and here.

It's not the crime, it's the cover-up.   Don't these people ever learn anything? Josh Marshall on Foleygate (emphases mine):

Early this evening I was starting to think that Foleygate might truly be the scandal that dare not speak its name. I don't mean whatever Mark Foley himself did. He's apologized, resigned and, I imagine, will soon face criminal indictment under laws he helped write. In a sense, that scandal has run its course. The scandal I'm talking about is the mix of cover-up and enabling that reached its way through the highest reaches of the House Republican leadership. Early this evening neither the Post nor the Times had devoted a story specifically to the contradictory stories coming out of the House leadership. Now, though, that seems to have changed.

... I'm not sure I've ever seen this big a train wreck where leaders at the highest eschelons of power repeatedly fib, contradict each other and change their stories so quickly. It's mendacity as performance art; you can see the story unravel in real time.

Just consider, Denny Hastert has repeatedly said he didn't know anything about the Foley problem until Thursday. But two members of the leadership -- Boehner and Reynolds -- say no, they warned him about it months ago. Hastert got Boehner to recant; Reynolds is sticking to his guns.

Rodney Alexander brought the matter to the Speaker's office. And Hastert's office tonight put out the results of a detailed internal review of what happened in which they revealed that no member of the House leadership -- not Hastert or Shimkus or the House Clerk -- had actually laid eyes on the emails in question.

Only Hastert's office apparently didn't touch base with Rep. Shimkus, since as Hastert's crew was writing out their statement, Shimkus was over giving an interview to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in which he described how he and the Clerk had read the emails.

(Ed. note: 2:19 AM, 10/1/06 ... What makes this even more comical is that, according to the AP "Shimkus, who avoided reporters for hours, worked out his statement with Speaker Dennis Hastert's office." Didn't seem to help.)

So the centerpiece point of the Hastert statement this evening appears to have been a fabrication.

It stood up for maybe three or four hours.

At present, the Speaker is committed to portraying himself as a sort of Speaker Magoo. We're supposed to believe that pretty much everyone in the House GOP leadership knew about this but him.

These fibs and turnabouts amount to a whole far larger than the sum of its parts. Even the most cynical politicians carefully vet their stories to assure that they cannot easily be contradicted by other credible personages. When you see Majority Leaders and Speakers and Committee chairs calling each other liars in public you know that the underlying story is very bad, that the system of coordination and hierarchy has broken down and that each player believes he's in a fight for his life.

How are they going to get themselves out of this one? Invade Iran?

Pirates of the Mediterranean. (A little ancient history.)   Via Steve, this is a op-ed piece in the New York Times by writer Robert Harris, who points out some disturbing parallels between the current U.S. condition and the Roman Empire near the end of its meaningful life -- the aftermath of a daring terrorist attack in 68 B.C. led the Romans to make decisions that led to the destruction of their constitution and the Republic.

In the autumn of 68 B.C. the world's only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome's port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped.

The incident, dramatic though it was, has not attracted much attention from modern historians. But history is mutable. An event that was merely a footnote five years ago has now, in our post-9/11 world, assumed a fresh and ominous significance. For in the panicky aftermath of the attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty. One cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself...

Read the rest, remember your history, and start thinking of the two historical contexts. Then worry.

"Get it right this time."   Man, I've got to order Bob Woodward's new book today. Here's a tidbit about some of its revelations, via Digby, who first says:

In the midst of all the excitement over the GOP congress's under-age cyberstalking, I hope that we don't lose sight of the other white meat --- Woodward's astonishing revelations in his new book State of Denial.

[...] We've all discussed the Shakespearean dimensions of this bizarre presidency, but I had no idea about this particular plotline ... Woodward:

Cheney had suggested Rumsfeld to Bush in late December 2000. Rumsfeld was so impressive, Bush told Card at the time. He had had the job in the Ford administration a quarter-century before, and it was as if he were now saying, "I think I've got some things I'd like to finish."

But there was another dynamic that Bush and Card discussed. Rumsfeld and Bush's father, the former president, couldn't stand each other. Bush senior didn't trust Rumsfeld and thought he was arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian. Rumsfeld had also made nasty private remarks that the elder Bush was a lightweight.

Card could see that overcoming the former president's skepticism about Rumsfeld added to the president-elect's excitement. It was a chance to prove his father wrong. And Rumsfeld fit Cheney's model of a defense secretary who could not only battle things out with the generals but who also had as much gravitas as the rest of the new national security team.

Bush would nominate Rumsfeld, he told Card. Cheney had been selected for his national security credentials. He was the expert, and this was the sort of decision that required expertise. Still, Bush wondered privately to Card about pitfalls, if there was something he didn't see here. After all, his father had strong feelings.

"Is this a trapdoor?" he asked.

Man, that vaunted "gut" of his sure is imprssive, isn't it? From the very beginning the sly old weasel Dick Cheney muscles out the former president (whom everyone in America assumed would be a valuable and valued advisor to his dimbulb son) using Junior's adolescent need to reject his father. He and Rummy became the "good" fathers to the idiot dauphin and successfully shut out all the voices of reason from the (too prudent and cautious) old guard establishment that would have lined up with him. They were radicals who cleverly managed to make themselves appear to be wise old men. Junior knew no better --- and wouldn't have cared if he did.

(Who would have thought this could become such a huge factor in a modern representative democracy? It might as well be ancient Rome or the Borgia era in renaissance Italy.) [Ed. note -- Where have we just read about this, eh? -- Chuck]

The extent of Rumsfeld's screw-ups is well known by now, but this book seems to be asserting something about the war that is quite startling at this late date --- the real reason they were so anxious to go into Iraq come hell or high water. Yes, we know it was about oil and it was about Israel and it was about PNAC wet dreams and seven thousand other things. But I'm talking about the Big Reason, the one that united all these people: Iraq is their long-awaited chance to do Vietnam right.

Woodward writes:

Back in the days of the Ford presidency, in the wake of Watergate -- the pardon of Nixon, the fall of Saigon -- Cheney and Rumsfeld had worked almost daily in the same Oval Office where they once again stood. The new man in the photo, Bush, five years younger than Cheney and nearly 14 years younger than Rumsfeld, had been a student at Harvard Business School. He came to the presidency with less experience and time in government than any incoming president since Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

Well into his seventh decade, many of Rumsfeld's peers and friends had retired, but he now stood eagerly on the cusp, ready to run the race again. He resembled John le Carre's fictional Cold War British intelligence chief, George Smiley, a man who "had been given, in late age, a chance to return to the rained-out contests of his life and play them after all."

"Get it right this time," Cheney told Rumsfeld.

In order to get Iraq right, they brought in another one of their old pals:

A powerful, largely invisible influence on Bush's Iraq policy was former secretary of state [Henry] Kissinger.

"Of the outside people that I talk to in this job," Vice President Cheney told me in the summer of 2005, "I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and, I guess at least once a month, Scooter [his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby] and I sit down with him."

The president also met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making him the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs.

Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

Jesus Christ. Keep reading, it gets worse and worse. You should probably pick up Woodward's book, and if you missed it, Crooks and Liars has video of Woodward's 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace, with a full transcript.

Command(er's) Performance!   Now, for some good news ... even if it's old news as of yesterday. The better news is that it was apparently wonderful (more on that to follow), and that the news is also now national news. (Hi, Ti!)

On Sunday morning, another slice of life is scheduled to slide back into place as New Orleans slowly regains its cultural balance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Commander's Palace, a mainstay of haute Creole cuisine and elegant dining, has been closed since Katrina's wind and rain tore off sections of its roof and swamped its interior. The award-winning restaurant plans to reopen after 13 months and a $6 million renovation for a jazz brunch.

"It has been an amazing process," said Ti Martin who, with cousin Lally Brennan, manages the Garden District restaurant known as the training ground for chefs Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.

[... C]hef Tory McPhail said. "I can't tell you how happy I am to be back here cooking again."

The building's famous turquoise, turreted exterior looks much the same as it has since 1880; the interior has been changed extensively.

Most of the building had to be gutted to the studs because of water damage and mold. Among the things lost were hand-painted murals.

In the kitchen, giant coolers had to be torn out once the rotted food was removed. More than 80 percent of the kitchen equipment had to be replaced.

"Who knew that steak would turn to liquid and seep through the floors and walls?" Martin said.

[...] "This restaurant is going to go the way of the city," Martin said. "If the city does well, we'll do well. It's as simple as that."

We have a preliminary report from Diana and Nettie, with extensive food pr0n and pictures forthcoming. In the meantime, Diana writes via text message, in response to my "What are you eating?" message during her meal:

A lot. Actually we're done, and very full, and somewhat buzzed and tired, so full write-up tomorrow with pix. It was all fab, except you weren't there."

Awwwww ... we wanted to go! Stupid money ... be more plentiful! (*whack*)

Updates to come.

And yet more national coverage ...   (Thanks, Vidiot!) More national coverage of how a seemingly small thing like a restaurant or ice cream parlor reopening can be incredibly important for the city's collective psyche.

Ice creams restorative powers are well known. Just ask any 4-year-old.

But the question here is, can ice cream help restore an entire city?

For a whole week now, long lines have been forming inside and outside a small, newly painted establishment on a derelict block in the Mid-City neighborhood, demonstrating that there may be something to that question. Tastes, collectively remembered, underpin the social fabric here, as much as any precious monument or institution.

The reopening of Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream Parlor, which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina after a century of operation, has brought an outpouring of relief and euphoria. On the shops first day back in business, for which a band was hired, people drove from miles and stood for three hours in a line that stretched far around the block. Even five days later, on a midweek afternoon, customers lined the inside of the prim, old-fashioned parlor.

Mid-City seems deserted. Weeds grow lustily through the cracks in the sidewalk, and none of Brocato's neighbors on Carrollton Avenue has returned. The five-foot-high waterline is still visible next door, and a light fixture dangles in the frame of what was once a store sign. But inside Brocato's, there is a hub of vigorous activity. At one table, a group is celebrating a bar exam triumph; at another, a French Quarter bartender is toasting a day off.

In line, the faces are patient; nobody complains about the wait, and for solid reasons.

First, there is the taste. Zuppa inglese, amaretto, stracciatella and other flavors are creamy, not too sweet and custard based, with fresh fruits and flavorings often imported from Italy. No store-bought ice cream can erase the sumptuous memory.

"I've been spumoni-less for a whole year," said Pat Graham, who works at a downtown car dealership.

Then there is the ritual of visiting Brocato's, a ritual passed down through ice cream-loving families over five and six generations. The shop opened in 1905 in a tiled establishment in the French Quarter and migrated here several decades ago to what was then a thriving neighborhood near City Park.

The announcement last fall that Brocato's might not reopen was a moment of consternation for some New Orleans families. Should the children be told? Best not add that trauma to their small psyches.

On Friday, children were again dripping with zuppa inglese, and the solemn portrait of Angelo Brocato, the mustachioed Sicilian founder, was once again peering out over the counter. The response to the reopening has been "incredible," said Arthur Brocato, Angelo's understated grandson.

Mr. Brocato said that before seeing the crowds here, he had had no idea so many people were left in New Orleans (though many of them seemed to have driven in from somewhere else). Customers are still outside the door at closing time, he said.

"They have a void that everyone is trying to fill," Mr. Brocato said. "They want that comfort, that everything is back to normal, some sense that their lives are back in place. They're not just coming here to shop."


Can ice cream restore an entire city? No, not alone. But it can help, a lot.

September Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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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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