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Never Closed

Posted by Ogged
on 01.03.04

Following links from this cry for help, I wound up at a page of 24-hour eateries in the Chicago area. Few things in life are better than 24-hour greasy spoons, and this list makes me think two things. First, what kind of list doesn't have Susie's on it? Second, Jack's Restaurant, way down near the bottom of the page, was the scene of some unforgettable two-sentence exchanges. There was me, like a complete moron, saying exactly what I meant:

Me, to waitress: You're the hottest waitress I've ever had here.

Waitress, with seven helpings of sarcasm: Thanks a lot.

And there was Mike, the seater, an extremely curmudgeonly old man with whom I saw someone speak just once.

"You look tired Mike."

"I've been tired since 1969."

God I miss that place.


 

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Barbie, In Repose

Posted by Ogged
on 01.03.04
You might have heard that yesterday Mattel, the makers of Barbie, lost a copyright suit in which they sought to keep Barbie from being used in parody. But you probably didn't see any of the parodies in question. So, this is...what? Feminist? Misogynist? Feminist misogyny? Anti-corporate humanism? Corporatized trans-human art? Dunno. Kinda like it though.

 

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Informed Dissent

Posted by Ogged
on 01.03.04

Juan Cole lists his "Top 5 Tasks Remaining in 2004 in the War on Terror." I'm intrigued by the idea that "For the Muslim world, Palestine is the Alamo," and nonplussed at the omission of Saudi Arabia. But, truly, what do I know?

Actually, this being the second time I've linked to Professor Cole, it's worth noting that on the US spectrum of political views on the Mid-East, he's quite far to the left. There's this, for instance.

September 11 was deeply intertwined with the expulsion of the Palestinians from their land and the resentments it has fostered. The idea that the hijackers did not care about the Palestine issue is pure propaganda. The occupation of Jerusalem by the Israelis is a constant, recurring theme in al-Qaeda communiqués. We Americans are friends of Israel and will stand by it in the face of aggressors who want to destroy it. But Israel does not own the West Bank and Gaza. The UN never granted them to it. They are mere spoils of war, and territorial conquest is forbidden in the United Nations Charter. We don't need any more US buildings blown up because our government is coddling cuckoo settlers who are stealing other people's land to fulfill some weird religious power fantasy.

Truth be told, my instincts (if not my more fully-formed views) are probably nearer to Cole's than to the "center," but, even so, and even from my position of relative ignorance, I have to say that his commentary sometimes slides from scholarly explanation into advocacy. Just something to be aware of when reading.


 

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Frood

Posted by Ogged
on 01.02.04

Before the good professor fixes it:

statutory rape under the common lay definition of the term

UPDATE:A phone call, no less, to ask me why "common lay definition" can't be correct. Well, it might be correct, but then it seems it would be redundant. I guess we'll know for sure if it gets corrected.

MORE:Damn it. The more I look at it, the more reasonable it seems that it's not even redundant. There could be, after all, common and uncommon lay definitions. Maybe my "Frood" was just projection?


 

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Plame Strategy

Posted by Ogged
on 01.02.04

The latest on the Plame case is in this Washington Post story, the gist of which is that what transpired might not have been a crime. It's a very odd story, and I think Josh Marshall and Mark Schmitt are trying so hard to read it as coherent that they're confusing the issue a bit.

Here's the thing to keep in mind: what Victoria Toensing says in this story, and what Scott McClellan has said in the past have nothing to do with one another. It's quite true, as Mark writes, that "the wording of McClellan's denial is not actually consistent with the argument [suggested by Toensing] that the leaker did not know that Plame was undercover." But ignore Toensing. Here are the key paragraphs, the last three in the story.

"The subject of this investigation is whether someone leaked classified information," McClellan said. Another time, he said, "The issue here is whether or not someone leaked classified information." McClellan left open the possibility that White House aides had discussed Plame with the media.
A senior administration official said Bush's aides did not intend to mount a legalistic defense, but two GOP legal sources who have discussed the case with the White House said the careful, consistent wording of McClellan's statements was no accident.
"If they could have made a broader denial, they would have," said a lawyer who is close to the White House. "But they seem to be confident they didn't step over the legal line."

A senior administration official says there won't be a legalistic defense, "but" (I think we have to read that "but" strictly, as introducing a contradiction of what came before) two GOP legal sources say that McClellan's very careful statements were "no accident." In other words, there is a narrow legalistic defense strategy. It's true, but irrelevant, that saying the leakers didn't know that Plame was undercover is both unlikely as a matter of fact and inconsistent with McClellan's careful wording. So what's the alternative defense strategy?

McClellan's key phrase is that no one "leaked classified information." I'll assume that the defense is not going to be that something was leaked and that it was classified, but wasn't "information." The question then, is whether the White House will argue that it wasn't a leak, or that it wasn't classified.

Unless there's some definition of "leak" of which I'm unaware, I think we can also rule out the possibility that the defense will be that there was no leak. Someone in the government spoke to Bob Novak, after all, and told him things he wasn't "authorized" (in the language of the relevant statute) to know. It seems pretty clear, then, that the White House defense strategy is to claim that the information that was leaked was not classified.

Recall the September NRO piece by Clifford May, referenced by Josh Marshall, in which May wrote,

On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.
That wasn't news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

Given what we know, this seems to me the most credible remaining defense strategy (which is not to say I believe it). It changes the key issue from what the people who spoke to Novak knew and what they told, to what can be shown to have been something like "common knowledge." Legally, this works, because the question of what's common knowledge is so murky and easily confused; subject to reasonable doubt, in other words. In terms of public relations, it's a victory to change the question from "did they do that bad thing?" to "who else already knew?".

What keeps this reading of the facts from being perfectly neat is Mark Kleiman's point that while the Intelligence Identities Protection Act stipulates that the information divulged must be classified for a crime to have been committed, the Espionage Act has no such requirement; because under the Espionage Act, re-divulging classified information already improperly made public is still a crime. I don't know what the White House is thinking about the Espionage Act, so I don't know how it weighs in their calculations. Personally, as I've argued, I think using the Espionage Act is a horrible idea.

I'm sure there's much more to come on this. Stay tuned...

MORE:All that said, Josh Marshall's perspective here is exactly right.


 

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Charity

Posted by Ogged
on 01.01.04
Interesting news from relatives in Iran: apparently, working people have authorized sending five days' wages to aid relief and reconstruction in Bam. Amazing, if true. I'll post an update if I hear more about it.

 

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Foreign Lands

Posted by Ogged
on 01.01.04

How did I miss this site? You've heard about Hollywood stars making Japanese commercials, but you can see them all on the web. You haven't lived until you've seen the Simpsons in Japanese, and there's the Sean Connery ad (bottom right) that must have been the inspiration for Bill Murray's Suntory Times spot, and don't miss the clips that could have kept Schwarzenegger out of office. Gadzooks. Even Jodie Foster?


 

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2004

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03

Happy New Year to all. Thanks for reading and commenting. Special thanks to Matthew Prince of Unspam for basically teaching me HTML when we were starting the site, to Gary Farber for his help and advice when we started, and to resident bomb-thrower Magik Johnson, who was the entire commenting community before there was a commenting community--I hope he's enjoying his retirement from provocation. See you all back here tomorrow.


 

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Don't Twist My Picture

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03
First, you'll need to look at the picture of Howard Dean accompanying this article. Mark Kleiman writes,
The rules of visual discourse are much less demanding when it comes to intellectual honesty than the rules of verbal discourse, but even by those loose standards the photo is a low blow.
A great point, too infrequently made. It's impossible to articulate rules for visuals with the same specificity with which we articulate rules for our words, so usually we trust editors and just harrumph when something strikes us odd. But sometimes there are clear and, as the lawyers would say, prejudicial, violations. The Dean picture is one, this picture of John Kerry is another (and here's a great catch, from Monica days). It's easy to say that what's pictured happened and therefore any unretouched picture is fair game. But the photography editor, no less than any other writer or editor, has a duty to select what's roughly representative. In a political campaign, the standards should be even more stringent. Follow anyone around with cameras and you'll be able to catch them looking ridiculous and stupid at least five times a day. When so much in an election depends on "image," it's up to editors not to abuse their considerable power. Leave that to the web.

 

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Community Service

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03

You probably ought to know that these comments from tough guy Jason Reed and inquisitive mind Mike Arens both come from the same IP address, which traces back to...sigh...the Sisters of Mercy Health System. Less mercy, more health, please.


 

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History Lesson

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03

A very important look at the similarities between Rich Girls and Silver Spoons. Actually, I'll link to just about anything about Silver Spoons.


 

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Responsibility

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03

Glenn Reynolds has always been perfectly gracious to me personally, but I just plain object to this post. (Note, this isn't Glenn's summary of a linked page, it's his statement of his own views.)

THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT TRY to play a "neutral arbiter" in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. We should, in fact, be doing our best to make the Palestinians suffer, because, to put it bluntly, they are our enemies ... These folks are our enemies, and deserve to be treated as such. They don't deserve a state of their own. It's not clear that they even deserve to keep what they've got ... But let's stop pretending that what's going on between Israel and the Palestinians is some sort of family misunderstanding. It's war, and the Palestinians -- and their EU supporters -- think it's a war not just against Israel, but against us. We should tailor our approach accordingly.

First, note Glenn's approach to foreign policy: we should make our enemies suffer. This is in the interest of...what, exactly? Not peace, certainly. Satisfying as it may be for the world's lone "hyperpower" to inflict suffering on a refugee population, it should be obvious, and not just from our experience with this conflict, but also in Northern Ireland, and the Balkans, and with the Kurds, and etc., that quelling such grievances by force is untenable in the long-run and that even decades of suppressive quiet can quickly give way to renewed violence.

Second, as I've said here before, it's just morally and historically wrong to provoke a reaction and argue that the reaction justifies the provocation. We don't need to rehearse the recriminations of the entire Israeli/Palestinian debate to see that US policy has contributed to Palestinian suffering (and the facile response that the US has also prevented some Palestinian suffering, or that the US has the power to inflict far greater suffering is no response at all). Given our burden of responsibility, acting now as if the primary responsibility rests with the weakest of the three main actors in the conflict would be false and, simply, uncivilized.

Finally, I'll make this a bit more personal for Glenn, and I hope I'm not stepping over a line here. Glenn has noted (proudly) his own Native American heritage. I remember renting a room from a crusty woman who told me of a relative many years ago who had gone West to live among and help Native Americans. One night as he slept, his throat was slit by a Native American bandit. Surely that wasn't an isolated incident. In fact, it was just the sort of incident that underwrote, so to speak, the dehumanizing rhetoric and actions of the American government with respect to its native population. Those actions are rightly and universally seen today as a raw black mark in the nation's history. The US and Israel may be able in the end to break the Palestinians as America broke the Native Americans. But that's not what anyone should wish for.

(Late note: if you jump into the comments on this, don't bother with the "Glenn Reynolds is a hack" "Instanitwit" stuff; I don't think it's true and it won't get us anywhere.)


 

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You Blinked

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03
I'm very grateful to the Bushies, and particularly Mr. Ashcroft, for reminding me regularly that they're bad people and I have to do what I can to make sure they don't stay in power.
...in the nation's first terrorist trial after the Sept. 11, 2001...Federal prosecutors acknowledged this month that they did not turn over at least two key pieces of evidence that defense lawyers said would have helped their cause. [presiding judge Gerald] Rosen issued a rare public rebuke of Attorney General John D. Ashcroft for violating his gag order and exhibiting "a distressing lack of care" in his public statements about the case.
...
"It looks pretty bad for the government," said David A. Moran, an assistant professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit. "It's clear that Judge Rosen, who tends to be on the government's side, is disturbed by what happened. What he has to decide now is whether there would have been a reasonable probability of a different outcome."
And it sure looks like it could have been very different.
One piece of information withheld was a December 2001 letter, obtained by prosecutors, from a convicted drug dealer who wrote that a key prosecution witness, Youssef Hmimssa, told him while they were in jail together "how he lied to the FBI, how he fool'd the Secret Service agent on his case."
Equally significant, Soles said, was an FBI interview with a former roommate of two defendants who said the men never talked about religion, were lazy, and often drank and smoked. That was in direct contrast to the picture painted by lead prosecutor Richard G. Convertino, who said they were devout Muslims. "That was the heart of our case," Soles said. "We have layers of prosecutorial misconduct."
Amazing. (Though I'm glad to see drinking and being lazy finally get their due as defense strategies.) Terrorism is an odd weapon, in that it relies on the victim to harm himself out of fear. That's also its weakness: the victim can always refuse to panic. So when I say that John Ashcroft is a bad person, that's exactly what I mean: his character is weak, he acts from fear, and does the terrorists' bidding.

 

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Girl Earring

Posted by Ogged
on 12.31.03

A decent movie review is no piece of cake to write, so let me say of Girl with a Pearl Earring: liked it; made me appreciate the painting; excellent acting; couldn't dislike any of the "villains," who just wanted a bit of control over their lives in the artist's vortex; good score (and I don't think movies should even have music); uncover Scarlett's head already!. The End, as they say, though I'm happy to answer questions...


 

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Plame, Moving

Posted by Ogged
on 12.30.03
Well well well.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft will recuse himself from the investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name and the Justice Department will name a special prosecutor, department officials said Tuesday.
This is appropriate, so good for Ashcroft (and the administration). But I wonder what's going on. MORE: Ted Barlow has links to information about the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.

 

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Gaming Google

Posted by Ogged
on 12.30.03

The Google folks really need to get the blog links under control. It didn't take long for "unelectable" to point to GWB, and looking through the referrers, I see that Unfogged is the top result for:

how to dress if you're gay

5 course meals

and, of course

"brian leiter" moron


 

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Coercive Enlightenment

Posted by Ogged
on 12.30.03

There's been some discussion of one neat way to conserve flu vaccine, but nothing to beat this idea.

Here's my proposal for rationing this vaccine. Rank the 50 states by the percentage of people who claim not to believe in evolution. Kansas and Alabama would presumably be near the top, and Minnesota and Massachusetts near the bottom. Start from the bottom, giving states as much vaccine as they need, until you run out. Then say to the states above the cut-off point: "Hey, what's wrong with last year's vaccine? It's not like viruses can "evolve" into "new subspecies", like these so-called "scientists" would have you think.

Surely this method of provisioning has wider applicability...


 

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Extra Toppings?

Posted by Ogged
on 12.30.03

Words to live by, from the Apostropher.

For about a year in the late eighties, I delivered pizzas to keep my college student self properly armed with beer, cigarettes, and what have you. I've never been a poster child for clean living. Anyhow, the lamest, most insulting tips ("$19.75...Here's a twenty; keep the change.") consistently came from McMansions with Bush/Quayle-stickered BMWs in the driveway. Without fail. Every time. And so little has changed.
According to the survey of 630 drivers, [...] people with "Dean for President" bumper stickers on cars in their driveways tipped 22 percent higher than people with "Bush for President" bumper stickers.
No surprise here. Cheapskate Republicans, should there be any reading this, should heed my words and heed them well. We always remembered those addresses. Trickle-down economics can go both ways, if you catch my meaning. Never, ever insult anybody who might bring you food (or should I say, "food") in the future.

There's almost never a reason to undertip, but if you do, don't go back. I've left no tip once, and walked out of a place once, but both times only after deciding that I'd never go back. It's bad enough what you find in your food when the folks in the kitchen are trying to do good.


 

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I'm So Alter, I'm the Same

Posted by Ogged
on 12.30.03

Ok, everyone is doing it. Click on over to the PoMo title generator. Here are a few I like.

George W. Bush, Let's Roll, and The Queer: Colonizing Promiscuous Otherness
George W. Bush, Let's Roll, and The Native: Resisting Suppressive Boundaries
The Attraction of Fury and the Male in George W. Bush's Let's Roll
The Native Oppressing The Penetrated: William J. Clinton, Slick Willy and Advocacy
Protest as Territories: Producing Homoerotic Performatitivy in William J. Clinton's Slick Willy
Intercourse and Community in It Depends on Your Definition of Frigid: Hillary Clinton Fetishing Sexual Periphery
Phallus as Politics: Aestheticizing Testicular Poetics in Tom Cruise's Tall, Not Gay
Tom Cruise Interpreting Madwomen: Tall, Not Gay and the Reclamation of Autobiography
Identifying Danger: Oriental Monotheism in Glenn Reynolds's I Said Heh, Motherfucker

I got carried away; I think you get the idea.


 

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Stick em Jays!

Posted by Unf
on 12.29.03

Are you a supporter of Clarkson University, Colorado College, Hartwick College, Johns Hopkins University, College at Oneonta, Rensselear Polytechnic, Rutgers-Newark or St. Lawrence University? Of course you are, silly. So go to this site and send an email to the NCAA expressing your extreme displeasure with this so-called Proposition 65.

That way Johns Hopkins can continue its proud tradition of choking in the later rounds of the NCAA Div. I Men's Lacrosse Tournament.


 

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Qwerty

Posted by Ogged
on 12.29.03

I don't know if there's a "how big a loser are you" quiz on the net somewhere, but this might be a very good approximation. How big a loser am I? Well, I kept forgetting to look at the pictures because I was so anxious to do the next level. I flamed out at Level 11 with a score of 107. Just think how good I'd be if this had been available when I was thirteen.


 

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Paris, In Lights

Posted by Ogged
on 12.29.03

Kara Baskin (subscription only) seems to think that if she can't articulate something, there's really nothing there.

[Paris] Hilton, the 22-year-old "celebutante" whose name merits an appeal to Mike Myers's kvetching Linda Richman...has elevated vacuousness to an art form: Descendent of the family responsible for the Hilton hotel chains...she's notorious for appearing at parties wearing designer clothing the size of cocktail napkins and occasionally disrobing, which commands the kind of media attention formerly reserved for heads of state. In a sense, Hilton is the superficial spawn of Jerry Seinfeld: the human embodiment of a show about nothing. For her, celebrity is not the consequence of a career; it is the career.

This is all true, of course, but there is something special about Paris Hilton: she's the cool kid. It's not easy to say what makes her (or anyone) a cool kid (that's why they're fascinating), so it's tempting to attribute her fame to her name and skankiness, but really, does anyone think she's unique in those ways? Of course not. And we shouldn't confuse the fact that she's cashing in on her fame now for some master plan: she was an object of fascination before she capitalized on the fact that being that object could be a career.

Paris Hilton is the kind of woman that people want to talk about, figure out, fuck, hate, be with, or be. But that's not her fault. And it's fine to say that she's spoiled and vapid--certainly there's evidence for that--but it's absurd to write an article about someone who's famous and alluring arguing that she's not really alluring and shouldn't be famous.


 

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Drip Drip

Posted by Ogged
on 12.29.03
This is supposed to be a good thing?
Ad campaigns for Louis Vuitton, YSL Beauty and H&M stores have all purposely highlighted models with racially indeterminate features. Or consider the careers of movie stars like Vin Diesel, Lisa Bonet and Jessica Alba, whose popularity with young audiences seems due in part to the tease over whether they are black, white, Hispanic, American Indian or some combination.
"Today what's ethnically neutral, diverse or ambiguous has tremendous appeal," said Ron Berger, the chief executive of Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners in New York, an advertising agency and trend research company whose clients include Polaroid and Yahoo. "Both in the mainstream and at the high end of the marketplace, what is perceived as good, desirable, successful is often a face whose heritage is hard to pin down."
Frankly, as a pure-blood, I'm feeling marginalized, unloved, and unwanted. I'm grateful to finally have it explained just why no one has ever approached me on the street to offer me a modeling gig, but I'm not happy about the reason. It may be time to have a sit-down with the fiancee, to fix some designations for our potential children, since children need firm boundaries. I'm a Third-Wayer in these matters. I'm Muslim, she's Jewish, the kids, I think, should be Catholic. I'm Iranian, she's some now-apparently-chic mix of Russian, German, and other Western European; I see no reason why we can't have Swedish children. I could be convinced to settle for Moorish, what with their appropriately pre-amalgamated Jewish/Muslim heritage. My fiancee, the biologist, assures me that our children will exhibit "hybrid vigor" and generally be a light unto nations. I'll be happy just to minimize the Iranian, because, holy moly, Iranian kids are spoiled.

 

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Doonesbury can't add

Posted by Unf
on 12.28.03

Now that I'm back to blogging, I just can't stop myself. Two posts in as many days!

I have never understood why Slate, when it wanted to run a cartoon (an entirely admirable goal, in my view), chose Doonesbury. Its like reading a dumbed down version of the New York Times editorial page, brought to life by a group of characters who stopped being interesting around the time Gerald Ford left office.

I'm only prompted to offer this observation because of today's strip. No doubt this strip is the first of several that will blame G.W. Bush for yet another failing - in this case the erosion of people's retirement savings. But the premise is that this woman's portfolio is down 20% on the year. Which is odd if you consider that the S&P 500 is actually up about 15% for the year. Which means either this woman got some really bad investment advice, or Garry Trudeau (sp?) is even lazier than I thought.


 

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The Very Beautiful American

Posted by Ogged
on 12.28.03

Proof, if proof were needed, that there's no necessary correlation whatsoever between being educated and being a decent human being.

The U.S. Customs Services runs not a risk of standing guilty of intolerance of religious dissenters (not that the Arab mind is capable of grasping Islam as dissent), but rather a grave danger of giving quarter to Islamic enemies out of a miscontrual of the notion of toleration. Some Muslim woman in Florida sued the Dept of Motor Vehicles because she didn't want to remove her veil for her driver's license picture. And this went to court and up several levels of appeal. I don't ask that we go as far as the French, but, hello! Take off your goddamn face rag or do like your Saudi sisters and hire a licensed driver to shuttle you around. It's very considerate of you to hide your ugly, whiskered face from the photographers, but the DMV employees on very rare occasions must and can put up with worse.

Note, for the record, that Ben H.'s example of the woman at the Florida DMV involved an American convert, and not one of the Arab demons that dominate Mr. H's mind.


 

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Woof!

Posted by Ogged
on 12.28.03
Zagat, as all real foodies know, is for sissies. Ok, not quite true. Unlike the Invisible Adjunct, who says, "I don't always find the Zagat Survey a reliable guide" (did I mention that I "don't always" catch a ride on Halley's comet when it's in the neighborhood?), I've found Zagat to be remarkably helpful and just plain wrong only a few times. Nevertheless, the place to go for the real skinny on restaurants is the Chowhound message boards. If you just lurk and search there, odds are you'll find that someone has already asked a question you have, or posted a very good review of a place you're curious about. But, because they're message boards, you can post a question and get a good answer. I have a few regular lunch spots, all of which were found through Chowhound and none of which are listed in Zagat (that's "like cat in the hat," by the way).

 

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