Month: May 2005

Buying Binoculars 

Seeing through the numbers

On a recent trip to Yellowstone with a group of bear scientists, our caravan would screech to a halt and all would pile out. Telescopes would be set up on tripods and binoculars uncapped to try and see what our guide spied, sometimes miles off on a mountainside. His eyesight was legendary. One grizzly, a large male on top of a ridge, could not be seen by most of the group with the naked eye. Those of us with our own binoculars realized the inadequcy of our glasses brought from home. They may have worked great at the opera or concert, but my little compact binoculars were woefully inadequate to see a grizzly bear a mile up a mountain.

Binoculars come in all shapes and sizes. But what did those funny numbers mean? Is an 8×30 better than a 12×50? The answer depends upon what you are using it for.

There are several things you need to know about binoculars before you consider which kind you should buy. Things like power, focus, a diopter or not, the physical size and the objective lens size are critical in the selection process.


You’ll notice most binoculars have two numbers. The first number is the power. For instance a 10×50 binocular will have a power of 10. This represents the factor by which things will be magnified. An 8×40 will magnify a bird eight times. You can get power ranges between 4 and 25. For bird watching, you might want to look at a low power binocular in tight brush conditions, whereas if you want to use your binoculars for astronomy, you might want to consider a 25 power. The larger the magnification, however, the harder it becomes to hold the binoculars steady, unless you have a tripod, monopod or tree to balance it on. For wildlife watching, hunting and NASCAR racing, you might want a range between eight to 12. A higher power may seem like the macho thing to go for, but when you are looking through your binoculars with a high power set, the field of view may be smaller, making it more difficult to find what you are looking for. There are zoom binoculars that allow one to adjust the power, but critics say they rarely offer good quality views.


Some binoculars, usually on the cheaper scale, are permanently focused, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Others have a center rocker-arm focus, a dial in-between the lenses which allow the user to adjust the focus. A third type is the barrel focus, where one twists a knob. When speed may be a factor, as in birding or hunting, the barrel focus will be slow. Choose for speed.


A diopter is a focus adjustment, usually on the right eyepiece. Because people rarely have both eyes exactly the same, this allows the user to individually adjust focus to match your eyes.


A pair of binoculars might be attractive if they can fit in your shirt pocket but they might not be so great for distance or field of view. On the other hand, a huge set of binoculars might impress your buddies, but your arms will complain later. For the same power and objective lens, you generally will pay more for smaller, lighter binoculars.

objective lens

It is very important to know the second number in a pair of binoculars, this represents the size of the lens and how much light it will let in. The greater the ratio between the two numbers the sharper your image typically will be. If you’re going for a set of NASCAR glasses, you don’t necessarily need a lot of light since racetracks are lit pretty well. On the other hand, for astronomy, you’ll want as much light as you can get. You might find that viewing through an 8×40 you will see better than through a 10×36. Generally, if you had to choose between power and objective lens, go with the latter.


New stabilizer binoculars are really groovy, especially if you have a natural tremor in your hands. Battery powered and often with a little computer inside, these types of binoculars stablize the image in view. Oftentimes they have all kinds of additional features as well. They’re a little bulkier, but you’ll find the stability is just what you need after a hard night of drinking.


A Full-Fledged Retreat 

A couple of times each year, my publisher and I take the entire staff away for a weekend for an official Boise Weekly retreat. While it’s not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged. Putting out a newspaper once a week is challenging enough, but organizing this same happy dysfunctional group to meet at point B on the map within a few hours of each other is a feat of organizational skill.

The purpose is a simple one-to get everyone together to learn a little more about their fellow employees outside of the office walls. We had several rules, as one must in these types of situations. First, you could only bring your significant others. No fly-by-night boyfriends or girlfriends. Certainly no “for-hire” companions, despite the annual threats from those over on the advertising side of the company. Second, no dogs. At first we were going to allow dogs, but then it got really complicated. Then when someone announced their allergy to the dogs, well, that option was out. Third, because management was going to provide the food, the employees would need to provide … the “refreshments,” if you will. BYOB makes everyone happy with their own choice.

This spring’s retreat was at Twin Springs, about halfway to Atlanta on a dirt road. Last Friday was still quite rainy and the road was slick and slow, but we made it up there. We rented out all four cabins and basically had the place to ourselves … that is, until the massage folks showed up.

Apparently-information has been pieced together from our collective drunken haze-just up the road camping at Loftus Hot Springs was the annual local massage school campout. They brought their massage table down to the bar at Twin Springs and were offering free massages most of Saturday. (Tips, of course, were accepted.) A couple of the young masseuses visited our private patios, and, being neighborly, a few of the friendlier employees invited them to play some cards.

Then, things got weird. They kept hanging out. They kept drinking. We finally had to ask them to leave, feigning a “staff meeting,” but later that night they came back and were caught prowling around our cabins looking for either 1) more free-flowing booze or 2) available ladies. The latter was probably the result of an answer by our news editor, who responded to one of the young men’s questions with “All ladies are single until they tell you they’re with someone.” We dubbed our new uninvited buddies “the massagynists.” (I guess you had to be there. It was funny when we came up with it.)

Not that the BW staff are drunks, but I am amazed at how much beer, bourbon, vodka, Jaegermeister and tobacco products were consumed during the 60-hour marathon. Our saving graces were the nearby hot tubs and natural sauna to purge the toxins from our body. Despite the consumption, (almost) no one vomited-a sign of an experienced crew. Sometime next fall-about the time we finally recover from this retreat-we should be ready for the next one.

Star Wars: Epithet III-Revenge of the Right 

The epoch is over for Lucas, but the battle has just begun

Hollywood knows how to pick its battles. No other studio even attempted to open a movie the same weekend as George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith. Without competition, Sith has broken the record for a new movie opening, amassing a four-day $158.5 million box office take in the U.S. alone. The former record holder it destroyed was The Matrix Reloaded‘s $134.3 million four-day box office bonanza. Sith also broke the opening day record of $50 million and has grossed an estimated $303 million worldwide. Never before have five of the major box-office records been broken by one film. It’s no wonder. Not only is it allegedly the final movie of the Star Wars saga Mr. Lucas plans on making, but it opened on an amazing 3,361 screens. Also of note is that illegal DVDs of the movie are making record sales for movie pirates on the streets of Beijing, China.

Perusing press clippings of post-weekend reviews, we find quotes from all sorts of people such as Thom Stanly, age 39, who said on Sunday in Fairfax, Canada, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for 27 years.” Of course, you can’t help but think that three years ago, Stanly probably said, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for 24 years,” while waiting in line to see Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones.

When Lucas premiered Sith at the Cannes Film Festival, the first reports out were about how “dark” it was, though it received a PG-13 rating in an era of R-rated films. Sensitive soccer moms everywhere thought this was really bad, because compared to every other Star Wars movie which received a PG rating, this one might have too much violence. While the dismemberment count was quite large, what disturbs us most is that R2D2 becomes a killer-of other droids. C3P0, thankfully, is still a gold-plated dandy that gets a memory wipe.

But that isn’t the “big” story within Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith.

A few hours after the Cannes premiere, the comments regarding Lucas’s alleged hidden allusions in the movie to the current political climate started to seep out. When watching the movie, sometimes they are in your face and easy to spot, such as when Darth Vader says, “You’re either with me or against me” to Obi Wan Kenobi, sounding eerily familiar to a post-9/11 President speech. Other lines stand out in the script:

“So this is how democracy dies, with thunderous applause … ”

“Only the Sith (dark side of force) sees life in black and white … ”

“What’s the point of putting him on trial if he controls the Senate … ”

“Through destruction I will bring peace and freedom to the galactic empire … ”

Liberal pundits say it’s the perfect metaphor for the right-wing takeover of our own republic and the dark forces that threaten our democracy. It has been widely noted that Lucas based his film on the good vs. evil, white hats vs. black hats of ’50s Westerns, with perhaps a little Vietnam intrigue thrown in. Lucas also admitted being influenced by Joseph Campbell, one of the 20th century’s great mythologists.

Whether good vs. evil, fathers and sons, youthful ignorance vs. aged wisdom, all stories tend to be a mirror of what happens in our world. But does Hollywood (of which everyone agrees Lucas is not a part of) reflect what it sees? Or do we see what we want to through colored glasses? There is evidence of Lucas’s personal politics, however. He was quoted in a New York Times article saying, “The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.”

“When I wrote it, Iraq didn’t exist,” Lucas said to journalists before leaving for Cannes. “We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t think of him as an enemy at that point. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate.”

Yep, he’s a flaming liberal for sure, even though Lucas wrote the entire storyline-longhand-years ago, before even the Sith Lord … I mean George W. Bush, was in charge.

Other organizations are banking on the popularity of the Star Wars saga as a metaphor for the current political climate and to bring attention to their political points of view. was said to be spending $150,000 for advertisements on CNN and on leaflets distributed among lines at theater multiplexes comparing Republican Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee (the majority leader) with the evil Chancellor Palpatine (Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord). Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood (PABAAH) has added Lucas to their list of boycotted entertainers, which includes Jane Fonda, Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks. The Drudge Report compared the White House press corps to The Revenge of the Sith as they slammed the administration’s press secretary for telling Newsweek to “fix” the problem in the Muslim world caused by their retracted report about soldiers flushing copies of the Koran down the toilet. (‘Scuze me? It seems it got screwed up over there by other means first.)

What is ironic is that Star Wars, a movie franchise that has been around for 27 years, has been the source for many of the ideas and metaphors used in politics today. Take, for instance, Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense system. Then there’s the Senate handing over power to the leader who aspires to be emperor. Then there’s John McCain comparing himself to Luke Skywalker during his 2000 primary campaign. Lastly, there’s the inevitable “I am your father” issue. But we won’t go there.

No empty weekends 

Yes, that’s my real name-o

Before I expose myself (figuratively, not literally) to what I’m doing in those rare in-between, non-BW moments, here’s what our little camarilla has got planned for you readers:

June 1-Idaho Arts Quarterly; June 6-the Pride Issue; June 15-the Black & White Photography Contest Issue (get your entries in!); July 6-Fourth Annual Coldest Beer in Boise Issue; July 13-Boise Weekly’s Bar Mitzvah (We officially turn 13 years old but we still haven’t had our bris.) Then sometime in August we have tentative plans to do our annual Local Heroes and an architecture issue.

So what am I going to do in-between, in those rare, private moments? Plenty. As president of BOSCO, I’ll be spending quite a bit of time June 2 through 5 helping to coordinate BOSCO’s Open Studios Weekend, which includes the reception and weekend studio visits. I’ll be taking the spawn with me to other artists’ studios to show them there are other people who, like Daddy, hide in their garages and make art.

Then we’ll have a couple weekends where we baptise the spawn by floating the Boise River, atRoaring Springs Water Park or perhaps community pools. I’m thinking that the Boise Parks & Recreation’s Swim and Skate pass might be perfect to keep the spawn entertained. For just $59 for age 11-and-under ($67 ages 12-18, $84 adults, $172 for a family of five) Boise residents can enjoy any of the city’s outdoor pools, which open June 2. Not only that, they can cool off at Idaho IceWorld and skate away their pent-up energy on not one, but two ice rinks.

In mid-June I’ll be taking a trip to San Diego for the annual Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Convention. Basically the annual event is just a drink-fest for editors and publishers of America’s most liberal newspapers and this year it poses a unique danger-the proximity to Tijauana, Mexico. I’ll actually be running for one of the national board of directors at-large seats. What does that mean if I get on the board? Other than a few meetings over the next year, pretty much diddly-squat.

Sometime in early July we’re packing the spawn and the dog into our 1971 aluminum Streamliner trailer and heading off for a true American summertime trip-we’re going to Yellowstone. Geysers, buffalo, bears and a little flyfishing for Papa Bingo will keep us busy for at least a few days. At only six hours to West Yellowstone, if you haven’t taken advantage of Boise’s proximity to the wonder’s of nature, well, poo-poo on you.

I’m really excited that in late July the spawn are flying down to Texas to see their grandparents. This means my publisher and I will be spawn-free for a few weeks. While we’d love to take the opportunity to enjoy our freedom, we’ll be busy with a huge event at Boise Weekly. We are moving BW’s office to our new digs at the corner of 6th and Broad Streets. During the summer we’ll be remodelling the space (next door to the Venue) and by late July should be moving in. It effectively triples our office space and if you’ve ever visited our tiny office, you’ll know how excited we are to expand. At my first job that I considered a professional position, I had my own office with a door. Now-almost 17 years later-I’ll have one again.

After the kids come back spoiled rotten from the grandparents, we’ll take them up to the South Fork of the Salmon River where we have a forest ranger cabin rented for the weekend. If you have never rented one of these, ( you need to. But, hurry. They tend to fill up early.

It’s the end of August, however, I’m looking forward to most. In the aforementioned Streamliner trailer, I’ll be heading down to Burning Man for the second time. I’m preparing for the trip now. I’m going to fix my hair up, perhaps Predator style, work on my godlike physique all summer (right now I look like Buddah, but hopefully I can morph into a chubby Dionysus by Labor Day), fix up the rikshaw and collect wearable art. I think I’m going to try and go with a combination of Kung Fu satin jackets, doctors’ scrubs and sarongs.

I’ve already got my goggles updated with prescription lenses and now I’m working on the art project. I was fascinated last year-some say obsessed-with the dust devils and I plan on interacting with them in a unique way. Since this year’s Burning Man art theme is “Psyche: the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious,” I plan on exorcising the dust devils of Mother Nature’s mind, an ablution by smoke. I’m going to attempt to inject copius amounts of industrial (non-toxic) colored smoke into the dust devils . Imagine pillars of swirling red, blue and green dust marching across the playa. Perhaps I’ll add an array of religious vestments to my wardrobe, then I could call my project Holy Smoke, if you will. Anyone got some extra XXL robes?

What a tangled Web we weave 

Part of my role here at Boise Weekly is to be the head webmaster. If you haven’t checked out our new and improved Web site, I implore you to do so. Some key features have gone online in the past few weeks and I’d like to share them with you.

Our Boise Band Roster is up and running. You can view band bios, photos, links and listen to 15-second MP3 samples of their music. But that isn’t what is so cool. Over time, as more articles, reviews and news gets posted to our Web site, those stories are cross-linked to bands and locations. So, if see a band you want to go check out in our listings, you can view past reviews and maybe listen to a sample of their music. Then you can see all their upcoming scheduled shows.

All that is great, but it’s up to the bands to be a little proactive and send us their information. We make it easy; there’s a link right there. Anyone can also submit an event. Also new are links to other great stories from alternative papers across the country. Scroll down on the right hand side and you’ll see the latest articles. Happy reading.

Bingo’s Excellent Ice Cream Adventure 

In one cone, then the other and another and another…

During this wet Boise May, it’s hard to fathom how hot it will get this summer. The sun is expected to beat down like never before and drain your precious bodily fluids faster than you can say “electrolyte.” There’s only one fix for when you can’t take anymore heat: frozen bovine lactose. Over the past week, I’ve been taking the spawn to help me test frozen treats across the city. (We decided to include food joints only when the name of the establishment focused on the frozen treats served.) We’ve been gathering information and expanding my middle.

Now I have only one question left: Where can you get wholesale insulin?

Baskin Robbins

With over 4,500 locations and international recognition of its 31 flavors, this granddaddy of all ice cream parlors is a classic. They’re constantly trying out new things on their menu, but you’ll also find all the traditional stuff. As a kid, I always enjoyed the sample spoons, testing new flavors each time we went in. (My goal was to see how many of the 31 flavors I could try before the server behind the counter cut me off.) Try any of the five locations in Boise and Meridian. 5204 W. Franklin Road, 4740 W. State St., 7172 Fairview Ave., 350 N. Milwaukee St., 1770 E. Fairview Ave. (Meridian).

Coldstone Creamery

Made in-store, the ice cream and chocolate-dipped waffle cones here generate lines out the door in the summer. If you tip the servers who are “softening up” your ice cream and folding goodies into the mix, they’ll sing you a song. We like to sit there with a roll of nickels. Each time their song ends … plink… we want another song. There’s no small-medium-large here. They go with the Like It, Love It and Gotta Have It sizes. Heck, it’s so good you’ll want to molest it. 577 E. Park Blvd. Suite 120, 3640 S. Findley, 1400 N. Eagle Road (Meridian), 664 S. Rivershore Suite 160 (Eagle).

Dairy Queen

No scoop ice cream here. Dairy Queen serves up their signature curly-Q soft-serve cones straight out of a machine, just as Mother Nature intended. Did you know that the Blizzard is celebrating it’s 20th birthday? This is the place that got the whole chunky-ice-cream-shake-you-eat-with-a-spoon craze. And no summer road trip would be the same without a large dipped cone melting all over the back seat. 5711 Franklin Road, 550 E. Boise Ave., 5251 Glenwood Road (Garden City), Boise Towne Square 350 N. Milwaukee St., 10264 Overland Road, 107 E. Water Tower (Meridian).


With 33 flavors on the board, Delsa’s is hometown, homemade, pure goodness. An array of sundaes, including an all-sherbert Capitol Sunset, the old-fashioned Tin Roof and ice cream flavors like cake batter and swiss orange chip. Also offering burgers and a shaded patio to enjoy your treats. 7923 Ustick Road.

Fanci Freez

This State Street drive-thru makes great burgers and tots, but for a quickie, on-the-go soft-serve cone, it’s hard to beat. The spawn love the swirls and we noticed a few strawberry dipped cones handed through the window to the carload of preteen demons in front of us. One day we’re going to go get the Boston Shake-a milkshake with a sundae on top. 1402 W. Boise.


No summer would be complete without a visit to Goody’s, a traditional candy store and soda fountain where you can get a float, a shake, a hot fudge sundae and a jawbreaker. Sit underneath the Hyde Park shade trees then go get a pizza and beer at Lucky 13. Who says you have to have dessert last? 1502 N. 13th St.

Maggie Moos

With a big creepy-eyelashed cartoon Holstein as their mascot, Maggie Moos is one of the fastest growing ice cream franchises since Baskin Robbins. Two locations in Boise (and we hear a third is coming, once BODO opens for business) make over 40 flavors fresh every day in the store. The gimmick, other than the fem-cow mascot, is the mix-ins with the server hand-folding your ice cream with treats such as mini M&Ms, nuts, fruit or chocolate chips. Every cone is a waffle cone here. Eat up. 8073 W. Emerald and 13601 W. McMillan Road #103.


We like TCBY, and it’s as much fun to come up with what this acronym might stand for as it is to eat there. Perhaps it refers to the color of the vanilla yogurt-“That Could Be Yellow”-or what frozen yogurt is-“Taint Cow Bladder Yolk.” It could stand for “Totally Contrary Bovine Yummyness,” “Tasty Cans of Boiled Yams,” “Tall Cannibals Boiling Yetis” or “This Christmas, Buy Yule-logs.” Back in the mid-80’s yogurt wars, a yogurt franchise called I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt sued TCBY because the acronym stood for “This Can’t Be Yogurt.” Undeterred, TCBY changed their acronym to “The Country’s Best Yogurt.” Made famous as an alternative to ice cream saturated with fats, low-fat frozen yogurt was the “other” choice. Now that we discovered it’s not the fat, but the carbs which make you obese, TCBY rolls out their low-carb yogurt. Man are these guys on top of the trend. 1790 W. State Street, 7103 Overland Road, Boise Municipal Airport 3201 Airport Way, 111 Broadway, 7300 W. State, 415 E. Parkcenter Blvd., 1517 N. Milwaukee St., 1800 W. Locust Grove (Meridian).

Bugs in your bush 

When the neighbor notices, it’s time for action

In college, during wilder and looser times, a “friend” told me a tale about his current sleeping partner. She had called him up and casually mentioned that she had crabs. Being wilder and looser times, she wasn’t sure if he was the giver or givee, but whatever the case, he probably shared her experience. Hey, it was college. At least it wasn’t a more permanent affliction.

Dejavu in 2005.

Last week my neighbor and I were talking on my front steps and she casually looks at a tree branch hanging over my porch. She scrunched her face up and told me, “You’ve got aphids.”

How embarrassing. Gardening shame overwhelmed me. Sure enough, the leaves were curled inward and the whitish coating all over the branches was-upon closer inspection-moving and made up of a mass of small insects. Inspecting another tree in the backyard that had yet to push its leaves out, I discovered the aphid problem again, only worse. They were so numerous on this particular tree it was sucking the life right out of it. Sticky dew coated the ground under the tree and when the neighbor returned to my yard and told me her bush had aphids too, I knew I needed to take action.

Every gardener has had to deal with aphids at one time or another. They are the scourge of the plant world and one of the most common pests in any garden. Aphids form colonies and love feeding on new shoots, twigs and branches. They cause leaves to curl and become deformed and once this happens, it becomes difficult to treat them because the curled leaves create safe areas inside. They are plant vampires, sucking the juice and life out of plants. Some of the little bastards even sprout wings, allowing them to move around the neighborhood. They have a high reproductive rate and some females can even give birth to nymphs without mating.

I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.

But no matter how extensive your problem, options are available. While most people prefer not to use chemicals, sometimes it is the easiest option. Insecticides such as acephate malathion, diazinon, permethrin, or chlorpyrifos will kill aphids, but they also kill the aphid’s natural enemies and can potentially contribute to the problem. Choose an insecticide that may have a lower impact on the environment. Insecticidal soap is an option but for large areas, it can be difficult to apply. In my yard, there are aphids at the very top of my trees, so even a spray might not reach up there.

Although it may be a little late to treat the aphids using imidacloprid, known commercially as Merit, it will eventually treat the entire tree. This liquid control is applied in late winter to the base of a tree trunk and is transported to the leaves, where it makes the tree taste bad for the aphids. The only thing is, the aphids will probably go find something else to eat. It also moves up the tree about a foot per day, so by the time it reaches the top, it will be mid-summer and the tree might already be dead.

High pressure spray from a garden hose is a good option on smaller plants. Blowing them away with H2O can work, but again, you’re just moving them around. Some aphids will make their way to other plants.

Another method is a trap. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and you can make yellow sticky traps. Put petroleum jelly on yellow index cards and place them around areas with aphids. Also try yellow pan traps with soapy water. Some gardeners recommend the Soviet retreat method-in other words, if a plant is completely infested, destroy it. If you can’t enjoy it, then no one else should either.

In my case, I believe in the natural cycle. If something dies … well, it wasn’t tough enough to live anyway. I chose to go with nature’s fury, albeit with a little assistance. I bought $60 worth of ladybugs and praying mantis eggs. A single ladybug will eat 80 aphids a day, so I figure if I’ve got a million aphids on my tree, that will feed my ladies most of the summer. They scrambled up the trunks of the trees and began their feast. I was entertained for hours and giggled as I watched each little aphid’s life being sucked out. Revenge is sweet, ya’ little bastards. You can also treat aphids with parasitic wasps, an even more enjoyable form of aphid torture. The wasps lay eggs inside the aphid and when they hatch, the cute little babies eat the aphid from the inside out. While you can buy ladybugs (I got mine at Zamzow’s), you can also plant marigolds, which will attract beneficial insects. Whatever you use, just kill the buggers.

Evolution and Extinction 

Are purists who believe the martini is not a glass being left behind?

If you look at the ape evolutionary tree, there are many branches resulting in a variety of primates, including humans. Some are extinct, such as the Neanderthal, while some are rapidly approaching extermination, like the orangutan. As the martini evolved along its evolutionary tree, an entire branch broke off from the trunk and became the contemporary martini. The differences were subtle at first-change the garnish, play with proportions of flavorings, but today what is called a martini has evolved into a multi-branched bush.

I have given much thought over many a long-stemmed chalice regarding the edible garnish vs. the non-edible garnish-lemon twist vs. olives. What purpose does a garnish serve? Is it to flavor? Is it for looks? Is it to eat? These thoughts cross my mind as I nibble on an olive. Should you eat the coffee beans in your Sambuca? Should you chew up the cranberries in a properly made Cosmopolitan? It’s something to think about.

For years, garnishes in martinis always varied between the olive and the lemon twist. And for years, this was a happy disagreement among martini purists, one they could agree to disagree over. So it is no wonder that one of the first major evolutionary changes that occurred in the martini with the garnish-and the biggest lasting change-was the Gibson. The Gibson creation myth goes like this: In the 1920s, a State Department officer named Gibson found he had a low tolerance for alcohol, so he devised a plan when he was out socially to have the bartender make his drink with water, not gin. To differentiate the drink from others when serving, the bartenders put in a cocktail onion instead of an olive. Gibson’s tolerance to alcohol had miraculously increased and astonished his friends. He attributed his newfound stamina to the magical qualities of the onion. Hence, the Gibson was invented.

As with other cocktails, there is not just one creation myth. There are other stories about the Gibson. Purists know that Gibsons should be served with two cocktail onions. This is because twin sisters in Chicago hated olives but loved martinis. When they went out on the town, they would ask bartenders to substitute cocktail onions for the olives. The twins’ last name? Gibson, of course. The most likely story, according to Barnaby Conrad III in his all-encompassing tome, The Martini, is of the illustrator Charles Dana Gibson’s request to the bartender at The Players, a New York club, for a “better martini.” The bartender, Charley Connolly, substituted a cocktail onion for an olive and presto.

Further evolutionary changes came mostly as a result of marketing and martini competitions. A black olive substituted for a green olive has been called a Midnight Martini or Buckeye Martini, among other things. Seagram’s suggested a drop of Sake for an Asian-themed martini in the 1970s. Restaurants such as Morton’s in Chicago put forth a martini-only menu, with drinks divided into the classics, the contemporaries and the new contemporaries, further dividing the newer martini concoctions from the older evolutionary descendents. Marketing of flavored vodkas and ever-improved distilling techniques such as “distilled five times” or “filtered through quartz crystals, not charcoal” are common ways to entice drinkers to order not just a martini, but a Stoli martini, Absolut martini, Sapphire martini or any of the new boutique spirits. Dessert martinis, aperitif martinis, sweet, sour, bitter-today anything served in a martini glass is labeled as a martini on bar menus worldwide.

The Martini Mix-Off Rages On

One of last year’s big winners at the May Martini Mix-Off was Bardenay’s bartender Michael Rowe with his specialty martini, the Desert Rose. This Thursday the judges (Boise Art Museum Executive Director Tim Close, The Idaho Statesman‘s Jeanne Huff, Doug Allen of the Idaho State Liquor Dispensary, Cassis owner Molly Griffin and myself, Bingo Barnes) start out at Bardenay at seven. Mr. Rowe will serve up the Bardenay Bond, the Ginger Rum Cocktail and the Absolut S’mores, which is expected to taste just like a, well … you guessed it.

At eight o’clock, the judges ride in their stretch limo to Lock Stock & Barrel, a new competitor this year. Bartender Melissa Ellenberger will woo the judges palettes with the Dirty Tanquerey, theLock-Hoppin-tini (a grasshopper-ish concoction) and the Blueberry-tini for the Absolut entry. From my recollection, the dirty martini is not one served up over the last two years by bartenders for the contest. It’s a nice departure from the tried and true.

At nine o’clock, the judges stagger in to their final bar for the night, Ha’Penny. There mixologist Anthony Catalano will prepare the Poor Man’s Pub Martini (a Vesper-like concoction with a Neopolitan array of olives), the Buena Vista (a definite departure from the other modern martini entries, using Jameson Irish whiskey. (Irish and American whiskey is spelled with an “E”. Scotch, Japanese and Canadian whisky does not have an “E”. However, Maker’s Mark prefers to spell their brand without an “E”. It can be confusing, especially after a few whiskies/whiskeys.) The ninth cocktail of the evening will be the Tarragon Citrus Cooler, using Absolut Mandarin.

Martini Mix-Off tickets are available for $60 at any participating restaurant. A ticket entitles you to one martini of your choice at all 12 bars and restaurants. Not only that, it gets you into the gala event on June 4 and a final 13th drink at the Boise Art Museum Martini Gala. Enjoy your martinis at each participating restaurant during the entire month of May or join the judges this Thursday night. Proceeds go to benefit the Boise Art Museum.

Simultaneous Statehouse Rallies Generate Verbal Barbs, No Bloodshed 

Muckracking media out in full force

Meanwhile on the front steps of the Idaho State Capitol, a select audience, well-decorated with signs reading “Praying is talking to yourself”, “Religions are just cults with more members” and “One nation under the Constitution” listened not only to atheist leaders, but local humanists, tolerant Christians and others supporting separation of Church and State. They won their lawsuit determining which group, the Idaho Atheists Inc. (IAI) or the National Day of Prayer, got to hold their rally on the front steps of the Statehouse when U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Wednesday in the IAI’s favor.

Speakers on the south steps rally included IAI director Susan Harrington and Boise Weekly regular atheist Mail contributor Gary Bennett, who referred to KTVB Channel 7’s coverage of the controversy as coming from “Idaho’s religious station.” And, as anyone could predict, the media was out in droves to witness any potential protests, actions, or potential fights between the God-faring and the Godless.

The crossover protesters were few and far between, lacking the gusto to disrupt either rally. On the atheist side, several men half-jokingly made heckling comments to speakers punctuating their talks with “Amen” and “Thank God.” They were closely observed and at one point spoken to about their outbursts in a friendly way by the numerous security officers keeping an eye on the whole situation at both rallies. One woman sat silently on the south steps throughout the hour long atheists rally, mouthing silent prayers and frequently displaying tented hands.

Near the west steps, a lone, anti-Christian protester silently held a cardboard sign reading,”Yeah, you better pray.” (The “A” in “Pray”, a cute anarchy symbol.) Looking for controversy, local television cameramen flocked to him like flies while he stood their stoically with a black hooded sweatshirt and matching colored bandanna covering his face.

With the numbers of faithful on the West side steps far outnumbering the lone protestor, the full weight and power of the Christian community was evident by the clear government presence in attendance, including the military color guard, numbers of suited government officials on the steps and frequent references to the importance of Christianity in government.

While the Idaho Day of Equality rally’s speakers on the south steps touted separation of church and state, stating how the founding fathers purposely avoided the mention of religion in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne made it a point to comment that George Washington had, in fact, included the word “God” in his inaugural address. Both rally’s speakers took every opportunity to spout constitutionally based insults at the “other rally” on the “other” steps.

Both sides seemed to use variances of the phrase “It’s not freedom of religion, but freedom from religion,” each twisting it in their own ways to suit their beliefs.

From an audience perspective, the West side steps hosting the National Day of Prayer was much more entertaining, including a rousing National Anthem by Sally Tibbs, a six-part male gospel harmony by The Faithful Men, hymn singing, enraptured swaying with hands held high, a louder and clearer PA system, and shelter from the elements for the guest speakers. It was in marked contrast to the South steps, where the atheists spoke at a bare podium with a sign that kept spinning in the wind and accentuated their recent court victory by repeatedly ringing the Capitol’s large Liberty Bell replica. While no singing was heard there, two men did hand out smiley face balloons to attendees with an attached card that said, “On behalf of Christian believers who have ever treated you with contempt, disregard, or arrogance, please accept this apology. Peace to you in Jesus Name.” While lacking in musical entertainment, attendees on the southern steps got a civics lesson and a balloon.

Running well into, ironically, the the second hour over on the west steps, Governor Kempthorne went on to say, “There are people who claim to be tolerant who are intolerant of an hour of prayer. Who does it hurt, this hour of prayer? It hurts no one, but it sustains millions.” As the rain slowly quit, perhaps prayed away by the faithful, Kempthorne went on, “Today I choose to side with those who believe, because I do believe.”

Former Idaho Governor Phil Batt, acting as emcee for the National Day of Prayer event lead a prayer in which he prayed for the media to be able to report this event fairly and unbiased. He said that because religion had founded the country, reporters should reflect that “fact” in their reporting. (Yes, the devil makes us write bad things about people.) He then included in his prayer comments about the “liberal judiciary” and “activist judges,” although it was uncertain if they were being prayed for or not.

Pastor Orvil Stiles, Idaho coordinator for the National Day of Prayer said that at 93 years of age this would be his last year organizing the event. He commented it was the best attended National day of Prayer Idaho had ever seen, in part, perhaps because of the recent controversy and media attention. Then they ended the rally with a rousing “God Bless America” lead by Sally Tibbs.

Ironically, the view from the west side of the capitol gave the National Day of Prayer attendees a nice view of the 10 Commandments monument moved this past year from Julia Davis Park. One observer noted it allowed them to be “Closer my God to thee.”