UK’s Guardian coming to US?

What a breath of fresh air this would be were it true! The respected PR Opinions blog has reported on media scuttlebutt that the Guardian‘s amazing Iraq war coverage may lead to a U.S. edition. Which would be great. David’s birthday present from me this year was a subscription to the weekly international edition, which turned out to be an amazing window on UK and European sentiment about, well, everything. The gap between their reporting and US coverage was huge. The US could so use a daily with its politic slant undisguised– there are times when it’s just painful to watch the wild contortions of the US media as they try to appear “objective.

Kontua mesedez

So Slate has June Thomas writing dispatches from her trip to the Basqueland. First of all, what is it with Slate and copying my ideas? At least I scooped them on this one, posting my journey through the Euskara-speaking world on FANS back in May. But still, I get the feeling that Michael Kinsley is bugging my cell phone and using my ideas for stories. It’s unnerving, and it needs to stop.

I do have more of a point to make, however, than to grouse about Slate’s lack of ability to come up with their own damn story ideas (or lack of paying me for the ones they seem to steal from me). I want to take issue with a statement Ms. Thomas made in her first “dispatch” (yeah, they didn’t even bother to use a different term than I did in mine). On Monday’s post, she said, “The Basque Country smells like Spain—a mixture of wine, sweat, eau de cologne, olive oil, and “black” tobacco. And the locals’ food fixation is quite French.”

You see, she’s right about the smell. Which was fine. Good human smell, really. Although I’d kind of add lavender to that as well. And salt air. But the idea that a food fixation is French, now that I have an issue with. All over Spain, food was extremely important, though nowhere near as much as I found it to be in the Basqueland, that’s true. But I have to say that, although, yeah, the French are kind of food obsessed, they go about it very differently than the Basques.

For one thing, I could live on Basque food if I had to. It rivals Italian food for good, homey, lovely, innovative, and interesting morsels. I could never live on French food. I mean, sure, it’s good. But would you really want to live on it? All that butter and cream and aspic? The thing about classical French cuisine, which distinguishes it from most of the other ethnic cuisines I love (Italian, Basque, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Oaxacan, and Japanese in that order) is that French cooking is not about appreciating local abundance and living well off what the nearby land and sea have to offer, but about making something rich and oppulent to impress nobility (and using those rich combinations of flavors and textures to hide the less-than-entirely-fresh meats and fish that were raised or caught far from the castles which house the dinner tables those ingredients were destined to grace.)

Now admittedly, there are Basque dishes that are based on using non-local ingredients, most notable salt-cod, but the salting process was never about fancifying anything for the sake of impressing anyone, but for preserving the fish for the long ride home as overfishing near the European contintent made it increasingly more difficult for medieval fisherman to find cod. Salt cod is peasant food. It keeps. It’s not about gooping stuff all over something spoiled to pretend it’s not, but, like salting and curing hams and bacon and olives, etc. to preserve them for use during less abundant times of year. In fact, the official dish of Viscaya is bacalao al pil-pil, a dish that was invented while the city of Bilboa was under siege during the first Carlist wars and they were running out of food, nearly everything, as a matter of fact, except olive oil and salted cod. The Carlists lost, in the end, and never overran the city, which they expected to take when the food ran low. The good people of Bilboa, for their part, invented one of the most artistic and simple dishes ever created.

The most famous dishes of classical French cuisine, on the other hand, were invented by chefs in the employ of kings and nobles who were tasked with always outdoing the grandiosity of previous dinners or others’ dinner parties. Sure, this resulted in plenty of tasty and inventive dishes, many of which are still part of the lexicon of French cookery (and many of which were just too unnerving, too extravagant, or too unpleasant to have survived), but they lack soul, in my opinion. They were created to impress, not nourish. And that, as I see it, is still the essential difference between French and Basque food, and why I have an issue with equating the French conception of food as an object of art and the Basque conception of food as an object of worship.

Not quite Rosie from the Jetsons, but…

I want one! I want one!

What it is I want? A Robotic FloorVac!

While it sounds very sci-fi, these have been around for a few years (and known mostly as the most dangerous part of a visit to Brookstone, where I have almost tripped over one multiple times). But really, what task is better suited to a robot than vacuuming? There is little need for human intelligence in this tiresome task, and lots of reasons not to do it (clouds of allergens being at the top of the list for me).

The Roomba is by most accounts quite adept at wending its electronic way over the floor of a room; its small size and ingenious features actually make it better at cleaning under stuff and in corners than a big vac. The Pro Elite model can even clear multiple rooms at once.

As I think about all the hardwood floors at Casa Nonfamous, I can’t help think how cool it would be to turn this thing on after the last guest leaves the dinner party, go to bed, and wake up to a clean floor.

Does wanting one make me a terrible geek? Or just a neat freak?

Look at the baaaaby!

Oh, sure. His best friends in England have a baby and he’s all smiles. OK, fine. So I run like a mad dog when you drop the leash. And I’m occasionally anti-social and maybe need some medication. But there are no pictures of anyone holding me like this! And of course, Tall Dad loves this picture. Apparently he likes babies. So do I–just not raw ones. (Just kidding there– I have no idea what babies taste like, but if they taste like BBQ ribs I’m in big trouble.)

Boxed wine consumption: A mark of sophistication?

Copied straight from my newsletter (a great marketing trend site):

Boxed Wine. One in five glasses of wine consumed by Americans comes from a box, reports Frank J. Prial in The New York Times. “We’re third,” he continues. “In Australia, boxes have half the wine market and in Norway…they claim a third.” In Britain, “the market for boxed wine is growing twice as fast as that for bottled wine.” Ryan Sproul, who markets a three-liter, Napa Valley 2001 Chardonnay called Black Box, says boxed wine is growing in popularity “because consumers have come to realize that the wine is more important than the packaging.” The quality of the wine inside does count, of course — Black Box actually “won a silver medal in a competition sponsored by The San Francisco Chronicle.”

The truly surprising thing here, however, is that boxes make great wine vessels. That’s because the “triple-layer clear-plastic…bag that holds the wine” inside the box is airtight. The bag contracts as the wine is dispensed, keeping remaining wine in “perfect condition, for a surprisingly long time.” It’s an innovation claimed by the Australians, which they say dates back 30 years. It is most associated in America with cheap, sweet wines, sold mostly in “supermarkets and working-class liquor stores.” The typical American box of wine, marketed by vintners such as Almaden and Franzia, holds five-liters and sells for “$8 to $12 , or $1.35 to $1.75 a bottle.”

Labels like Black Box, however, are selling for 25 bucks a box. Australia’s BRL Hardy has a line of chardonnay, shiraz and merlot priced at $16. A “magnum-size, organic bag-in-the-box wine called Our Daily Red,” actually depends on boxing — because it contains no sulfites it “soon becomes unstable in an opened bottle.” In London, “a recent tasting…featured 30 bag-in-the-box wines, all of them serious entries from France, Spain and Italy.” Mr. Prial concludes: “We Americans are still pretty insecure when it comes to wine. We still place undue importance on the bottles, labels and corkscrews. But, as the figures show, we’re changing.”

Fun with cryptoepidemiology

Jon and Zoe might have more insight into this, but the Zombie Infection Simulation provides an interesting look at the epidemiology of mass zombification. For extra edification about zombie etiology and morphology, you can consult the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency site. The write-up of “zombie sociology” is especially informative, and the marketer that I am loves to know all about zombie demographics. (Links courtesy of

Fashion Fascista

Are the kids trying to look like their favorite rap star? Maybe the little miss is turning herself out like Christina Aguilera? Well, Mumsy and Dads, now you can go to and pick out the latest in Kid Gear from the President’s online store. You can make sure that you won’t be embarrassed at the next fund raiser and that the profit will go to enriching the campaign for the re-election of W and Cheney. This Internet thing is just great.

It isn’t bad enough that POTUS and his campaign staff have jumped on the blogging bandwagon (although the site is really more of a personal spin site for the W campaign) now they want to condemn millions of upper-middle-class teens to perpetual loserdom. I understand the campaign bumpersticker, hat and button. But a knit hat that should have the name or logo of a band or skateboard company is not the place for a W.

Pollitt defends The Doctor

The Nation’s Katha Pollitt is not always my favorite colmnist (nor is The Nation always my favorite poltical rag), but she’s for Dean– and how. In her article Selling Dean Short she has one of the best and most rousing grafs in recent memory:

Every time the press pooh-poohs his chances, every time they gloat over some trivial misstatement, every time they make fun of Vermont and describe his supporters as “Birkenstocked” “Deanyboppers,” I think about the free ride the media give Bush, who says more false and foolish things in an afternoon than Dean has said in a lifetime, who is unmaking everything good about this country from Head Start to habeas corpus, who is stacking the government with faith healers and fanatics, my fingers itch to write Dean another check.

She fairly well debones the current media idée fixe that liberals will defect from the Dean camp when the realize that he’s actually a centrist. (Which creates, in the big picture, this weird contradictory argument when you think about it–the mainstream media deem Dean “too liberal” to win, but it is his “centrist thinking” that will eventually scare away his hard-core supporters. Hmmm.)

Anyway, Pollitt closes with this point, which can’t be made too forcefully to anyone who doesn’t get Dean’s appeal:

Right now, Dean is the only viable candidate who speaks to the anger, fear and loathing a large number of ordinary citizens feel about the direction Bush has taken the country, while the mainstream media blandly kowtow and the Democratic Party twiddles its thumbs. He has gone out and actually asked for the help of these citizens, rather than taking them for granted. That is why 70,000 people have sent him money, and why 84,000 have shown up to work for him, and why tens of thousands of volunteers wrote personal letters to Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats and independents urging them to support Dean. His willingness to challenge Bush without looking over his shoulder at the last undecided voter in Ohio is the big story–not whether he signed Vermont’s civil union legislation in a private ceremony to avoid publicity, or even whether he insisted on balancing Vermont’s budget at the expense of worthy social programs.

In other words, Dean is so engaging–and so threatening to the status quo that has the media so blinkered–because he has based his campaign around truly democratic (that’s small-“d” democratic) principles instead of poll-tested tinctures of party platform. Perhaps the best model for this is not an American politician at all, but Lula, the former labor-union leader now running Brazil. Both are reformers who are rescuing human-scale politics from the jaws of media spectacle, and both have policies that put the needs of real people ahead of the niceties of ideological categorization.

spam poetry

I’ve been noticing lately that an awful lot of the spam I get consists not of enticements to enlarge body parts that my combination of chromosomes excludes me from possessing, but random strings of words, as if someone just copied the results of the magnetic words combinations on their fridge after a particularly wild party. And I’v begun reading these strings of random words, because, apparently, I have nothing better to do with my time. Sometimes they are quite interesting combinations, too. So I’ve decided to copy them and make them my own, in poetry format, not unlike Marcel Duchamp and his urinal. The rules will be thus:

  • The title will always be the subject line in the spam mail
  • I can break lines whereever I please to create associated words strings
  • I cannot change, remove, or add words
  • I cannot add punctuation or capitalization that doesn’t already exist
  • I will give partial author credit to the sender of the spam
  • I am eligible for poet laureate status as a result, because this is art

So without further ado, my first spam poem:

“Pomposity” by Paulette McKay and Lilia Adell


second adler testing
secede adherence
bovine excretions horrify postmaster polemics
screeching political exothermic
boeotian teeth courageously hurtle housewares countrywide

activator bogota hoydenish
hovering accusingly


meringue counterfeiter scoreboard
adaptability branched ibis hyacinth admirations

ak millimeter
posterity creeks creating etymology bramble

hospital branded hungering
postwar postoffice hose
metamorphic howdy bolting
idealized excelsior teet
crater bombings


alhambra adjudication
idiom scored criminal
additivity tenseness
boomtown thawing bowl

aaa excreting

hyphenate theorem