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Saturday, May 31, 2003
 
This is a pretty good discussion of cocktail garnishes. You'd be amazed how hard that is to find. You'd probably be amazed someone would look.

The site promises that if you go through all the articles, you'll be a "competent bartender." As Ben likes to say, they may well be right. Of course, he says this when he thinks you're wrong. But it's a good site. Not perfect, but then, you can't have nice things.

(The purpose of this post if primarily to spur Ben into a defense of his trademark quotes).


 
I'll post these two links without comment:
Article from January predicting 500,000 casualties in Iraq
Worst case estimate of actual casualties
(Well, one comment: IraqBodyCount's methodology is pathetic, and is probably overstating the number).


 
I was taking a walk today, and noticed something--there's a lot more litter around. It had been in the back of my mind for a while. I'm always seeing cans or potato chip bags. When I was a kid, dammit, we had respect. Well, really, we just had it drilled into our heads that someone who littered was as bad as a serial killer. Of course, now kids have tons of messages like that--drug buyers are serial killers, SUV drivers are serial killers, smokers are secondhand serial killers...littering must not seem so bad. Maybe they need to bring back that crying indian.


 
So last night I stumbled across the Stanley Tucci flick "The Impostors" on Bravo. That's right, I have nothing better to do on a Friday night than sit home and channel surf. Anyway, having really enjoyed the comedy, I decided to check out its entry at IMDB. After the usual check of Crazy Credits, Goofs, Movie Connections, and Recommendations didn't turn up much info, I wondered if I could find any suggestions of similar films in the User Comments section. What I found instead was this justification (scroll down to Alice Liddell's User Comments) of anti-intellectualism. (The third paragraph really says it all.)


 
On Friday, Dennis Prager was referencing the news story about how some scientists are lobbying for chimps to be upgraded into the same genus as humans. They base the claim on their discovery that the chimps share 99.4% of humans' DNA. (Insert Dove soap joke here.) What made Prager's coverage of the story worthwhile was the wording of his dismissal of the scientists' Darwinian implications. He referenced the recent Plymounth University "research." Prager said, "The monkeys showed them what they thought of their theories. They pooped on them." Then Prager, the observant Jew, author, journalist, classical music conductor, and usual bastion of reserve and good taste, unwittingly veered into Triumph territory by exclaiming, "I poop on them too."


Friday, May 30, 2003
 
Oh yeah, Touch my monkey!

Touch him!

Love him!


 
I wish I could proudly say I Want A Monkey!. So I clicked on the link, and found this:

"Primates are one of the most attractive animals in our animal kingdom.  But, they are unpredictable, destructive, expensive and they need a lot of care and attention."

Okay, kind of off-putting so far. Beautiful, yet unpredictable, destructive, expensive, and needy. Hmmm. Sounds like I've already got at least two monkeys living in my house right now (not counting myself). Let's see what else they've got to say:

"Since some of them can live for over 40 years, they truly are a life-time commitment.  Are you the person that is willing to spend most of his free time with his monkey?"

I used to spend most of my free time "with my monkey", which is one of the reasons I started blogging...


 
Monkeys for sale! If you've got five grand or so burning a hole in your wallet, one of these cute primates can be yours!


 
The angels will continue to get their share in Kentucky. And it's a good thing, too. If these regulations had taken effect as originally conceived, it would have been cause for a second Whiskey Rebellion!


 
So comedian Bob Hope turned 100 years old this week. For years I've waiting for this guy check out. Y'know you'd get those false alarms, like a couple years ago and they announce he's dead, but it turns out he's NOT really dead. And it annoysme, because Bob Hope shoud be dead already. And it irks me, it really does. Everyday that Bob Hope takes a breath of life is an affront to me, an act of spite and defiance directed squarely at me. Anyhow, Happy Birthday Bob-- you animatronic bastard.


Thursday, May 29, 2003
 
Because I'm all about confession, I am here to tell you that I once destroyed the mid-ranges of my cheap stereo speakers by playing William Shatner's version of "Tambourine Man" at an absurdly high decibel level. I was in college, what can I say? I got better speakers and life went on. Since then, however, I've harbored a peculiar affection for the sonic stylings of Shatner. So you can imagine my glee yesterday when I received an e-mail containing this link. As far as covers go, Natalie Merchant ain't got nothin' on our crooning Captain. (Props to F-Rock.)


 
A friend of mine in law enforcement alerted me to a great news story out of Linden, Texas. A policewoman had her Glock snatched by a belligerent subject, who was about to shoot her with it when a Catholic monk (that's right, a monk) bursts on the scene, grabs the pistol, and subdues the would-be cop-killer.

As if the suspect was not in enough hurt already, after being taken at gunpoint and forced to the ground by Brother Patrick Coughlan, a very large woman comes and sits on his head.

All of this was caught on videotape. You can watch it by clicking here. I think you will find Brother Patrick to be an engaging man, and a very fine citizen. God bless him.


Wednesday, May 28, 2003
 
My friend Sheri Annis has an interesting article on NRO about the ascent of a vocal conservative minority at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her piece comes as a nice compliment to the cover feature in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. (Link requires registration.) The gist of it is that a couple of students at UCSB got fed up with the imperious left-wing bias of the main campus organ, the once-great Daily Nexus, and decided to found an alternative paper, called the Gaucho Free Press.

Reading this, I couldn't help but reminisce about my own experience at the University of California, San Diego, in the early '90s. Looking back, I think we right-thinkers had it pretty easy. In my freshman year, when I joined the staff of the main campus paper, The UCSD Guardian, the paper's editorial stance was moderately liberal. Their liberal fantasies were held in check by the fact that the editor of the opinion section at the time was a libertarian-conservative. (His beliefs have not changed much in the interim, despite an ill-advised affection for McCainiac progressivism. But I attribute that to the booze.) This made for some odd editorials once in awhile. I edited the opinion section in my sophomore and junior years, and was editor-in-chief my senior year. I had conservative columnists and liberal columnists in my stable, but it the bias of the page, for once, was rightward. (Sadly, this is no longer the case.)

Of course, we had a few skirmishes with the campus multicultural and feminist left, but there was never any serious threat of administrative censorship. Why? Because unlike the UCSB Nexus and other University of California student newspapers (with the notable exception of UC Berkeley's Daily Californian), the Guardian was and remains independent of the student government and is funded solely by advertising.

So, "dangerous right-wing elements" controlled the major campus paper at an up-and-coming University of California campus. Whodathunk? We also published an alternative conservative journal called The California Review, where we engaged in all sorts of reactionary flights of fancy, as well as style reviews. (I'm happy to report that the Review is still going strong, though minus the style feature.)

Truly, those were heady times for a young man eager to make his mark on the world.

But I do envy the campus conservatives at places like Santa Barbara and Bucknell a little bit. They're up against some serious opposition from some very powerful forces. They're forced to hone their arguments under difficult circumstances. I only had one lousy death threat in my college career, and some nasty letters. These kids not only get death threats but risk serious discipline from hostile administrators. That kind of experience will prove invaluable later in life. Wish I'd had more of it. But I'm something of a glutton for punishment in that regard.


Monday, May 26, 2003
 
Robb, your assessment of Vincent D'Onofrio is wrong. Just look at the record. Here are the films he's done. And here is David Caruso's filmography. Let me put it another way: "Full Metal Jacket" or "Jade"? Or even more simply: "L&O: Criminal Intent" or "CSI: Miami"? The answer, in either case, is clear.


 
This is neither a boast nor a confession, just a statement: I have never seen a single episode, or portion thereof, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This has not really been intentional: I bow my head in shame when I admit how many episodes of The Gilmore Girls I've watched in hotel rooms during my travels. But never Buffy, never Angel. And, for that matter, never reality TV. If you don't count clips which air on other shows, I literally have not seen a single minute of any reality series since the second season of The Real World back when I was young and stupid(er). I don't know how this Survivor compares with the last, or the original, because I haven't seen any of them. For me, reality television is watching the Diamondbacks lose to the Padres AGAIN.

So, if I'm not watching reality TV or campy sci-fi, what HAS been filling my TiVo? Well, a cursory review of my "Now Playing" list and season passes will lead you inevitably to two conclusions:

1. I have young children.
2. I am NBC's bitch.

Although I successfully weaned myself from "Must See" Thursdays and Tuesdays years ago, I am completely at the mercy of all three Law & Order franchises. And the newer the franchise, the better. Vincent D'Onofrio of L&O: Criminal Intent SHOULD come off as the consummate actor/narcissist, shoving David Caruso violently from that mountaintop. I rue the day he finally shows up on Inside the Actor's Studio and I have to hear him talk about his research and preparation process. But on Sunday nights, he is the perfect 21st century combination of Columbo and Sherlock Holmes.

Oh, and don't get me started on The West Wing. I know I'm SUPPOSED to be over my "Aaron Sorkin" phase. I'm SUPPOSED to be disappointed about how much worse the last two seasons of tWW have been than Sports Night was. And I'm definitely NOT supposed to be disappointed that CSI: Miami (oh, there's another group of shows that I've not watched an episode of) stole the actress who played the only sympathetic Republican character on the show. But I am. Pity me.

Is there anything on my TiVo (other than, of course, my girls' episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, Powerpuff Girls and Dora the Explorer) that I'm NOT ashamed of? Well, I do manage to squeeze in The McLaughlin Group every Friday evening (before L&O: SVU, of course), and The Daily Show still fails to disappoint. Unfortunately, I think it's fair to say that the positive effects of both of those shows are easily offset by my nightly dose of Jimmy Kimmel.

So, in deference to James, I feel an obligation to form:

* The Coalition of Viewers Who Know Better But Watch Anyway

I need a hug. Rory, dump that loser Jess and get back together with Dean before it's too late! [sigh]


Wednesday, May 21, 2003
 
So I've decided to take the example of the Bush administraton and start my coalitions and stuff. Here they are:
* The Coalition of the Willing But Unable
* The Coaltion of the Vodka Drinkers Who Like to Get Really, Really Drunk and Discuss the Writings of Noam Chomsky With Their Cats
* The Coalition of the People Sick and Tired of That Fat Guy on American Idol
* The Coalition of Beer and Beefbaby Back Ribs
* The Coalition of the Black and Sassy
* The Coalition to Bring Back the Shamrock Shake on More Than a Limited Basis
* The Coalition to Explain the Artwork of matthew barney
* The Coalition of People of Who Look Down at Their Feet When a Pregnant Woman Gets on the Subway Train-- And Sure We Feel Awful About it-- But Goddamn It, We Didn't Knock Her Up, Why Should We Have to Give Up Our Seat!!!

Anyhow, if anybody is interested in joining any Coalitions, let me know.


Tuesday, May 20, 2003
 
In addition to echoing David's praise for Apple's iTunes Music Service, I would like to add an endorsement of my own favorite on-line music service, eMusic. While eMusic doesn't have the extensive major label support that Apple has gained (and likely never will - they're currently owned by Universal), they also have over 200,000 songs available for download and, according to their website, music from over 900 label partners.

eMusic is a subscription service, charging $15/month if you make a three-month commitment, or $10/month if you commit to a full year, but the downloads are unlimited and they are distributed in an unencrypted MP3 format, so you are not limited to using the files only on registered Macs and iPods. This is valuable to me, because I have a 20GB Neo Car Jukebox in my car that won't play the AAC files used on the Apple service.

They don't have anywhere near the "popular new music" selection that Apple has, but I don't like the music those damn kids listen to these days anyway. So far, I've downloaded six songs from the iTunes Music Service. In the two years I've been an eMusic subscriber, I've probably averaged around ten full albums per month. Because there's no incremental cost "per download", I am much more inclined to download an album by an artist that I've never heard before and give them a chance. For jazz fans, they've got lots of "old school" jazz like Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, etc.

This week, they released over a hundred records from the "Beggars Group" of independent labels, including 4AD and Beggars Banquet. So, lots of independent music from Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Love and Rockets, Kristin Hersh/Tanya Donnelly/Throwing Muses, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, The Pixies, etc. Yippee!

Other bands I've downloaded from eMusic: Camper Van Beethoven, Frank Black and the Catholics, They Might Be Giants, Yo La Tengo, Negativland, Steeleye Span, Jello Biafra, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Residents, Dave Brubeck, Violent Femmes, The Posies, Patsy Cline, John Hiatt...

For me, I find the services complimentary - by using a combination of eMusic, iTunes Music Service, and half.com, I can get just about any music I ever want to listen to without having to shovel $18 a disc to Tower Records or Virgin Megastore, and I don't have to deal with the attitude from Zia Records
employees, either.


 
I do know what you mean, Dave. But "Buffy" lost me in the fall. I guess I'll catch the finale in syndication or on DVD or something. We're an American Idol household now. Go Ruben! 205! 205! (Oh, and the big "24" finale is tonight, too!)


 
It's the last day of Buffy. If you know what I mean, go check out Teevee. If you don't, move along, there's nothing to see here.


 
From chimpan-a to chimpanzee, you'll never make a monkey out of me!


 
What better way to break the silence than with a chimp story.


Wednesday, May 14, 2003
 
"If this young man ever learned how to act, he'd be dangerous." --Stephen Hunter on Keanu Reeves in his review of "The Matrix Reloaded".



 
It was funny to see David Horowitz included in the hand with Coulter, Michael Savage, and Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly is plainly a charlatan. I'm not sure about Savage, except that I know his show is not my cup of tea. (It's a shame he cuts off Hewitt's last hour in L.A.)

Horowitz gave me my first job, for which I am eternally grateful. But, boy, could I tell you stories. I will not, however, as I wish to avoid litigation.

(Search engine fun! A Google search with the phrase "David Horowitz lawsuit" led me to a blogsite called "Horowitz Watch". I've never seen the site before, and I doubt I will ever again. I don't know what's worse: the rank amateur "gotcha" writing, or the fact that Horowitz has actually taken time to respond to the writers' charges. I'll leave that for the historians to decide. In any event, I was really looking for stories such as this and this.)

As long as we're throwing Latin around, here is the unofficial motto of the Claremont Review of Books, usually uttered after we put an issue to bed: "Nunc scripsi totum. Pro Christo, da mihi potum!"


 
I think it would be more "hip" (although considerably less effective) if Hugh would just have everyone use the Latin phrase for "Carthage must be destroyed!" as CODE for "the power of the Democratic party must be destroyed".

Perhaps a little too subtle for talk radio. Hugh's a good guy, though. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the horrifying Ann Coulter, the Republicans' hideous answer to James Carville.


Monday, May 12, 2003
 
Well, learning (and now teaching) Latin has finally paid off. Today Hugh Hewitt asked his listeners for help in translating the phrase, "the power of the Democratic party must be destroyed" into a proper Latin slogan. (Of course he was referring to the famous line with which Cato the Elder ended every one of his Senate speeches, no matter the topic: "Carthage must be detroyed!")

The first caller (some grad student, I think) was way off. Before I could call in, another Latin teacher got on the program and straightened things out with the suggestion, "potestas democraticorum delenda est." So, I put down the phone and emailed Hugh to confirm the translation.

AND HE EMAILED ME BACK! TWICE!

Yes, I'm giddy. He's my radio hero. Well, it's not just that. A guy with a nationally syndicated radio show, who happens to be coming to town in a few days for a book signing, wanted me to tell him about my fledgling, cash-poor private school. Boy, could we use some pro bono promos...


 
Suppose your wife is in a foreign film class. And suppose she is required to watch a Japanese "comedy" involving a poor schlub and a poor mousy nurse girl who get caught up in some bad business with the Yakuza (they'll kill you five times before you hit the ground, you know) and end up with something like 260 million Yen. Much wackiness is said to ensue, but I can't say for sure because I'm in another room typing this. But, naturally, one is bound to ask: "Why is this slow-paced and poorly shot film considered funny?" Then, you may be curious just how much 260 million Yen really is, you know, in American currency. I can't answer the first (it's a Japanese thing, you wouldn't understand, gaijin!!!) but I may be able to help with the second.

Yes, yes, I know the currency converter is pretty much ancient web history. But I keep forgetting to bookmark crap like that. So the next time you or I run a Google search on "Yakuza," "Yen," and "conversion," maybe this site will come up and you'll have the link.

Yeah. More likely, you'll get something like this.


 
If we formed a brotherhood of unread blogs, I'd want Rich Toscano on board. Any other nominations?


 
A good friend of mine, speaking on the occasion of my 29th birthday, said that I was the youngest 55-year-old he knew. That was a few years ago. After taking this test, I'm frankly surprised to learn that I'm only 1.4 years older than my chronological age. What am I doing wrong?


Sunday, May 11, 2003
 
The recipe I posted here is as close to one as I have. This place calls it a Hi-Fi, but I haven't seen that anywhere else. I forget what Ciudad called it. It's a good looking drink--a whole sliced orange in an old-fashioned glass, with superfine sugar in between, crushed ice and Cachaca to the top.


Saturday, May 10, 2003
 
Evidently, the 400-year-old Cachaca is the new vodka... in Brazil, at any rate. The story includes more than you could possibly want to know about this particular spirit, along with several interesting recipes. But I couldn't identify the one Dave wrote about. Maybe you could post the recipe, Dave?


 
The drink I describe below is similar to the Caipirinha, only using oranges instead of limes. I don't know its name. It's a surprising drink--bright, refreshing and tropical. It's nothing like a screwdriver, probably because it's using fresh oranges muddled with sugar instead of Minute Maid. And the hot Cachaca (hot in the sense of alcoholic, not temperature) offsets the sweetness perfectly.

Ciudad has good Caipirinha too, but their Mojitos were disappointing. They are good, but the mint is finely chopped and mixed in the drink. They are far better at Memphis in Costa Mesa; there, as the name somewhat suggests, they make it is a Southern muddled-mint julep style. They are excellent, but it is also the case that the bartender there is outstanding.


Friday, May 09, 2003
 
What did you make with the Cachaca, Dave? Perhaps the most famous cocktail made with Cachaca is the Caipirinha, a Brazilian drink that's a bit like the Mojito. I confess that I've never had a Caipirinha, so I can't vouch for it. But I will attest to the virtues of another drink of South American origin: the Pisco Sour. The chief ingredient, as you may surmise from the name, is Pisco, a kind of brandy. Use a real egg. You'll be glad you did.


 
Some people believe free trade is the solution for almost all problems.

I am one of them.

This proposal is brilliant.


 
Then I made a drink with Cachaca (the second "c" should have one of those little Portuguese squiggles under it; Cachaca means "burning water" in Portuguese, and man is that true) which is a Brazilian cane sugar alcohol. That site I just linked to is right about not drinking it straight. But I made a variation on a drink I had at Ciudad last week, made with sliced oranges, stacked with superfine sugar in between, crushed ice on top, a couple of shots of Cachaca, muddled and leisurely sipped. It's very good, especially after a martini. Now, my girlfriend is making margaritas.

I love my girlfriend.


 
I just got back from Hi-Time and made a martini with Sarticious and Vya in a four to one ratio, with two pimentos stuffed olives. It was good. And all Californian.

P.S. I guess the Blogger ads are determined by words in your blog. Because before, it was advertising those Iraq wanted playing cards. Now, it's showing an ad for martini glasses. I'm O.K. with that. Then I got an ad for a site (which I won't link to) advertising vermouth sprayers. Bleh.


 
My girfriend is a librarian. She sent me this.

I love my girlfriend.


 
"It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!? Stupid monkey!"

Hey, fortune cookies!


 
Confirmation: before my wife went to bed, she reported that pulling one's belly button into one's spine does, indeed, "hurt like a bastard." Or words to that effect.


 
I hear the authorites in New York City are frisking people for cigarettes. Doesn't the city have bigger problems? Apparently not. My, my, how things have changed.


 
Now that we know the wherabouts of Raed (or, rather, Salam), I am left to wonder, where the hell is James? Maybe the Santorum people got to him.


Thursday, May 08, 2003
 
Erratum II: In my erratum on refrigerated vermouth, I wrote that I was "100% sober" when I wrote my post on frozen gin. That is not, strictly speaking, true. I regret the error. But only because the applejack is so very good.


 
The TV is on in the other room. I think my wife is watching. I just heard a woman say, "pull your belly button into your spine." Jeez, that must really hurt.


 
Erratum: in my post on frozen gin, below, I meant to write "combined with refrigerated vermouth," not combined with refrigerated gin. Obviously, you aren't going to combine frozen gin with refrigerated gin. Unless you want very cold gin. I regret the error. Especially since I was 100% sober when I wrote it.


 
Look, I'm not going to lie to you. I like my brandy like my computers: apple all the way. The best apple brandy in the world comes from Calvados, in the Normandy region of France. But France, obviously, is contemptible. What to do? Buy American, that's what. I was surprised at just how good, and how versatile (cocktail mixing-wise) applejack really is. And it's not impossible to find good, American apple brandy, bottled in bond.



 
The Spring 2003 issue of Bartender magazine features a centerspread on what the editors dub "Springtinis." (The feature, alas, is not online, but the website has lots of interesting resources and links). Now, some of these drinks, like the Breakfast Martini (this [scroll down], not this, and definitely not this) sound pretty good. Some are cheap corruptions of classic cocktails. Some you wouldn't drink in a thousand years. But all of these drinks have one thing in common: they are martinis in name only. They aren't really martinis. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Now, I don't want to sound like a booze pedant here. "Affront a man with cultish snobbery," Bernard DeVoto cautioned, "and you may turn him, God forbid, to rum." Then again, it was DeVoto who wrote:

There is a point at which the marriage of gin and vermouth is consummated. It varies a little with the constituents, but for a gin of 94.4 proof and a harmonious vermouth it may be generalized at about 3.7 to one. And that is not only the proper proportion but the critical one; if you use less gin it is a marriage in name only and the name is not martini. You get a drinkable and even pleasurable result, but not art’s sunburst of imagined delight becoming real.


Words to live by.

Dave asked me a couple of questions the other day that I thought would be worth answering here.

Where should vermouth be stored? In the fridge? What alcohols are acceptable to be stored in the freezer? Do any alcohols have shelf lives (like wine does)?


Vermouth always should be stored in the refrigerator. Otherwise it oxidizes very, very quickly. Even in the fridge, you can expect a bottle of vermouth to last two, three months tops. Except, strangely, Noilly Prat. It's made to last about six months. If your vermouth has a particularly pungent odor, throw it out. It's bad.

Most spirits do not have shelf lives. They're distilled, not fermented. Eighteen year old scotch is aged in a barrel for 18 years. Once it's in a bottle, it doesn't age anymore. Now, once the seal is broken, you're going to get some oxidation and even a little bit of evaporation. That's chemistry for you. A notable exception: cream liquors (e.g., Baileys).

You can store vodka and gin in the freezer. Certain liqueurs, such as Jagermeister, are usually stored in the freezer. Here's the catch, though: the colder the alcohol, the less dilution you get when you're mixing drinks. Gary and Mardee Regan argue, persuasively I think, that a martini should be about 25% water. Well, if you have really, really cold gin or vodka, combined with your refrigerated gin, depending on the temperatures of your respective alcohols and ice, you will get less dilution than if your gin/vodka is stored at room temperature. Or so I have read.

For what it's worth, I don't store booze in the freezer.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003
 
Ben mentions below that a martini requires vermouth. This is more than tradition; the flavor is critical. But why does vermouth have such a bad reputation? For example, this gallery of abominations has a recipe that make the tired joke about waving the vermouth bottle over the glass. But vermouth is really good stuff; I doubt most people who follow fashion have ever tried vermouth by itself. It's a spiced fortified white wine, and its flavor isn't very complex, but it's not bad.

I suspect that part of the problem is that there aren't really any fancy vermouths. The wonderfully odd Bonny Doon made something like a vermouth, Montonico, but it's a stretch to call it vermouth even though it makes an interesting martini. Cook's Illustrated conducted a tasting of dry vermouths, and the winners were Gallo and Noilly Prat, both less than $7 for a 750ml bottle. It's hard to get snobby about that. I urge you to buy a new bottle of Gallo Extra Dry Vermouth, a good gin, and make a 3 to 1 martini to see why vermouth was there in the first place. It may not convince you to always use that ratio, but it should convince you that 35 to 1 is silly, and drinking straight gin is no martini.

Update: So I had TVLand on in the background, and just heard Mr. Howell say "The perfect martini must be 15 parts..." then he trailed off. Then he said "And now for the vermouth..." and he picked up a little sprayer, and sprayed it around and up in the air.
What a damn savage.

Another Update: Of course, someone is making an upscale vermouth. Maybe it will be the next vodka.


 
Salam Pax is back!


Tuesday, May 06, 2003
 
I'm a big fan of Apple's new iTunes Music Store. Or I should say that I'm a big fan of its potential; it does seems to be off to a roaring start, but I hope Apple keeps improving it to keep the momentum going.

The pricing is perfect--I've been suggesting the $1/song price for a long time. My friend Robert pointed out the concern: this is just a starting price. But I doubt the price will go up soon, especially if some competition starts up (speculation is that Apple gets about 40 cents of the 99 cents, on average--less for newer songs).

It is still is a little clunky. It has a few bugs (although remarkably few) and the pricing is a little odd in some cases--like paying 99 cents for a very short song, and then being able to buy both sides (each is one track) of Firesign Theater's "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" for $1.98 (this is good, because you'll need at least $20 worth of marijuana to find the album really funny).

The biggest flaw, though, is the lack of selection. 200,000 songs is a heck of a lot, but the selection is skewed towards baby boomer favorites (with some big gaps, like the Rolling Stones). If Apple really wants to be on the cutting edge, they should look other places. For example, I just went to the store and Coldplay is the big picture on the home screen. If Apple wants the next Coldplay, they should go to where Coldplay was first played (try to say that three times fast). They should check out the KCRW playlists. KCRW is one of L.A.'s Public Radio stations (and not even the best one, except for music). I listen to KCRW streaming audio and archived shows through iTunes almost as much as I listen to my own music. If Apple gets some of these songs--or even better, negotiates better rates to put these artists on the iTunes store before they break big--I'd buy a lot more music there.

One reason that KCRW is important is that stuff that gets played there is often picked up by KROQ, L.A.'s big alternative station (where Carson Daly, Kennedy, Jimmy Kimmel, and some other VJs I forget got their start). KROQ playlists are imitated by MTV and alternative radio across the country.

The other place that Apple should be looking is in songs used in commercials. I have no shame in hearing about bands from, say, Mitsubishi (find a list of their songs here) because the music directors of advertising firms have a lot more freedom than a Clear Channel disk jockey. They are out finding the really innovative stuff that people will be listening to in a few months. Apple should be doing that too, if they want to realize the real potential of the iTunes Music Store.


Sunday, May 04, 2003
 
The rule is, never lead off a piece with a quotation from a dictionary. Whenever you read an article that begins, "Webster defines blah blah as . . . " you are allowed to throw that article in the garbage. Well, it just so happens that I looked up the definition of "Sarticious" in Webster's and I couldn't find it. I looked it up in The American Heritage Dictionary (Third Edition), and couldn't find it either. I also looked up www.sarticious.com, but contrary to what the bottle said, the damned website didn't seem to exist. Sarticious is a gin, made in California, on or about Alameda Island. I happened to find it at a little place in Newport Beach the other day. It isn't cheap. But, as Californian gins go, it ranks right up there with Junipero. High Time in Newport says that Sarticious is so flavorful that you can make a martini with it and leave out the vermouth. This is a damnable lie. Well, the flavorful part is true. If you have the bucks, and if you can find it, give Sarticious a try.


Thursday, May 01, 2003
 
Oh, delicious irony. Delight in this quote from the Associated Press via Netscape:

Kozer said she only agreed to pose for Playboy if the photos entailed no full-frontal nudity. ``I was a women's studies major,'' she said Monday night at a party celebrating her appearance.

Congratulations, Sarah. Because of your staunch commitment to not displaying every square inch of your nakedness, I'm sure not a single Playboy subscriber will look at your photos, spank the monkey, and think of you as a sex object. This dovetails nicely with your work as the "slurp and gulp" girl on Joe Millionaire. Oh, and the fetish film. Make sure you keep your calendar clear for that Ms. magazine woman of the year photo shoot...