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Doug Psaltis

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531 replies to this topic

#511 chuckyoufarley

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 11:06 AM

I just finished the book.
Interesting read for sure.

Personally, the only fault I found in the book was feeling robbed that my previous perception of the French Laundry has changed.

I worked in a restaurant then overextended group that had a meteoric rise and fall in the 90's and after reading the chapter I was left with the same sinking feeling I had back then.

I understand that the book was one person’s account be it factual, faulted, biased or jaded.

My previous perception of the French Laundry was infallible in a world of average restaurants.

There is a part of me now that wishes I could have that back.
Shaun

Edited by chuckyoufarley, 15 November 2005 - 11:23 AM.

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#512 JayBassin

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Posted 19 November 2005 - 07:43 PM

Chefworld Hardball can be addictive.

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To paraphrase Henry Kissenger, perhaps the reason the politics here are so vicious is because the stakes are so low.
He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau

#513 Carrot Top

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 12:19 PM

Chefworld Hardball can be addictive.

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To paraphrase Henry Kissenger, perhaps the reason the politics here are so vicious is because the stakes are so low.

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:smile: I remember a similar line being used for academic politics. Maybe what this shows is that everyone is getting "smarter", becoming more like the academics? :rolleyes:

......................................

It *is* interesting once the brouhaha dies down to see who is left standing, and what stances they each hold individually. I still say it is impossible to ever know this thing called truth when one is so very far from being able to personally measure the facts.

I can appreciate, though, the concept that some have of "what is right" and "what is wrong" to do in any given situation. Doing the "right" thing does not always bring profit, though - - - and doing the "wrong" thing may bring acclaim, depending on whether the public cares about intent or not.

My interest was in the piece of writing. I've learned a lot in reading this thread how a piece of writing can be looked at by people as something other than "just a story", that's for sure. :wink:

And in a year, it will be even more interesting to see where everyone that was politically or personally involved in this thing is standing and how (or if) this furor of questioning has affected them. Can't wait. The saga continues.

Edited by Carrot Top, 20 November 2005 - 12:20 PM.


#514 JayBassin

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 05:15 PM

Chefworld Hardball can be addictive.

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To paraphrase Henry Kissenger, perhaps the reason the politics here are so vicious is because the stakes are so low.

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:smile: I remember a similar line being used for academic politics. Maybe what this shows is that everyone is getting "smarter", becoming more like the academics? :rolleyes:

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Carrot Top, you're right about Henry Kissinger's reference to academia. I also assume your "smarter" in quotes also is tongue-in-cheek.

I read Psaltis's book last week on a plane ride and greatly enjoyed it as one cook's coming-of-age story. I came here to see what the consensus was among people who may have known the stories first hand. What I didn't anticipate were the ad hominum attacks and innuendo---going on for 18 pages! Not knowing any of the players personnally, it still seems to me to be more than a little overkill.

So far, the only people who have shown any restraint on this forum are Psaltis and Keller.
He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau

#515 silverbrow

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 08:36 AM

I'm not sure if this has been posted previously, but I just came across a podcast from The Restaurant Guys on which they interview Doug. They make very clear that they disagree with many of his views. The interview is from 26 Oct 05, so apologies if a link is already posted on this thread.

#516 frdagaa

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Posted 09 April 2006 - 06:09 PM

Ok, so I'm a few months late. I just finished the book, and I tried reading this thread. I adored all the back-and-forth, but I just couldn't wade through 18 pages of tangential, albeit entertaining, innuendo.

The French Laundry chapter clearly galvanized the community here, but to me (not being in the business) the key thing was that the book kinda sucked. I appreciated the inside view, and didn't mind the problem of perspective (OF COURSE it's just view and the "real" truth is more complicated! Duh!), but I just found the writing...actually, the editing...to be horrendous. The whole book is " I did this, then I did this, then I did this (and worked really hard at it), then I did this (and worked really hard at it), etc., etc." There was just no special magic to the prose, no wittiness or insight that could salvage it for me.
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#517 tan319

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 06:57 PM

If you're not in the business it probably would be an excruciating read...
And for many in the business it was too.
I rather liked it, found everything after the first two chapters readable.
2317/5000

#518 Bux

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 06:43 AM

If you're not in the business it probably would be an excruciating read...
And for many in the business it was too.
I rather liked it, found everything after the first two chapters readable.

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As for people in the industry, I am not one, but I am close to many who work in the food industry and particularly to many who toil in kitchens, one of the most telling aspects of the media follow up to this book is that just about no one mentioned in the book had much good to say about Psaltis when pursued by the media for follow ups, and that includes those he praised in the book. The book was clearly an attempt to be selfserving, which many who read memoirs don't find susprising. The degree to which the authors attempted to spin the truth and make friends as well as seek revenge on those they feel stood in Doug's divine path to chefdom was surprising and didn't seem to pay dividends.

Equally surprising is how poorly written the book was, since the co-author, the chef's brother, is a literary agent.
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#519 FoodMan

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 08:11 AM

Ok, so I'm a few months late. I just finished the book, and I tried reading this thread.  I adored all the back-and-forth, but I just couldn't wade through 18 pages of tangential, albeit entertaining,  innuendo. 

The French Laundry chapter clearly galvanized the community here, but to me (not being in the business) the key thing was that the book kinda sucked.  I appreciated the inside view, and didn't mind the problem of perspective (OF COURSE it's just view and the "real" truth is more complicated! Duh!), but I just found the writing...actually, the editing...to be horrendous.  The whole book is " I did this, then I did this, then I did this (and worked really hard at it), then I did this (and worked really hard at it), etc., etc."  There was just no special magic to the prose, no wittiness or insight that could salvage it for me.

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Exactly. That was my main critique of this book. It is normally a type of book I would buy and read, but after reading the 3 excerpts in the Daily Gullet and was very much less than impressed with how boring content was and how amateurish the writing, I decided my money is better invested somewhere else. I guess I should thank tDG for posting the excerpts and saving me a few bucks :smile: which if I am not mistaken went to buy another Harry Potter book. Now that was a an awsome read...

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#520 Mikeb19

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 08:39 AM

As for people in the industry, I am not one, but I am close to many who work in the food industry and particularly to many who toil in kitchens, one of the most telling aspects of the media follow up to this book is that just about no one mentioned in the book had much good to say about Psaltis when pursued by the media for follow ups, and that includes those he praised in the book. The book was clearly an attempt to be selfserving, which many who read memoirs don't find susprising. The degree to which the authors attempted to spin the truth and make friends as well as seek revenge on those they feel stood in Doug's divine path to chefdom was surprising and didn't seem to pay dividends.

Equally surprising is how poorly written the book was, since the co-author, the chef's brother, is a literary agent.

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As a cook who cooks at a high level (at least for the area I'm located in), I'll say this: why care if you've insulted a few B-list chefs (or even the almighty Thomas) if you've got someone like Alain Ducasse in your cornor. And regardless of what he said in the book, the guy can cook, you don't become the Chef de Cuisine of a Ducasse restaurant if you can't cook. From what I've heard about the fine dining restaurant Country (not the cafe), the food is excellent, and it will be successful.

#521 angrykoala

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Posted 15 April 2006 - 09:20 AM

Bux didn't say Psaltis can't cook. In fact, no one has said that. You're right; I think it's pretty obvious that you need to have some kitchen chops in order to reach the heights Psaltis has in his career. The main thrust of the negative feedback towards the book has been essentially that Psaltis is a huge, arrogant, self-serving ass. And if that doesn't give you pause, great. If the fact that it's poorly written doesn't make you pause a little further before opening your wallet, that's great too. Good for you, you've got no conscience and have money to burn. Celebrate.

Edited by angrykoala, 15 April 2006 - 09:22 AM.


#522 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 15 April 2006 - 09:37 AM

By coincidence, last night I just happened to catch the episode of Opening Soon (Fine Living Channel) which documented the opening of Country. It was interesting to me that Psaltis was never mentioned once, even though he appeared throughout the episode. The focus was entirely on Zakarian, the over-thought manipulation of his public image and the fact that the budget for Country swelled from $7M to $12M during the process.

But even as Psaltis was shown turning out prospective dishes for Zakarian to taste, he received no mention, verbally or graphically. Perhaps this is some indication why the book was written in the first place. I guess that if chefs don't toot their own horns, no one else will either.

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#523 Timh

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Posted 15 April 2006 - 11:52 AM

As for people in the industry, I am not one, but I am close to many who work in the food industry and particularly to many who toil in kitchens, one of the most telling aspects of the media follow up to this book is that just about no one mentioned in the book had much good to say about Psaltis when pursued by the media for follow ups, and that includes those he praised in the book. The book was clearly an attempt to be selfserving, which many who read memoirs don't find susprising. The degree to which the authors attempted to spin the truth and make friends as well as seek revenge on those they feel stood in Doug's divine path to chefdom was surprising and didn't seem to pay dividends.

Equally surprising is how poorly written the book was, since the co-author, the chef's brother, is a literary agent.

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As a cook who cooks at a high level (at least for the area I'm located in), I'll say this: why care if you've insulted a few B-list chefs (or even the almighty Thomas) if you've got someone like Alain Ducasse in your cornor. And regardless of what he said in the book, the guy can cook, you don't become the Chef de Cuisine of a Ducasse restaurant if you can't cook. From what I've heard about the fine dining restaurant Country (not the cafe), the food is excellent, and it will be successful.

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Just being a good cook is not enough, hell, there are fantastic new cooks produced everyday. But what separates good cooks from great chefs are (aside from management skills) are intangibles like maturity, the ability to keep ego in check, mental stability, physical and mental stamina, consistency, etc..

Edited by Timh, 15 April 2006 - 11:53 AM.


#524 Mikeb19

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Posted 16 April 2006 - 02:24 PM

Just being a good cook is not enough, hell, there are fantastic new cooks produced everyday. But what separates good cooks from great chefs are (aside from management skills) are intangibles like maturity, the ability to keep ego in check, mental stability, physical and mental stamina, consistency, etc..

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I wouldn't call the new cooks being produced today 'fantastic'. Hell, I've worked with dozens of culinary school grads (from reputable schools) over the last 3 months who have made me lose sleep. The restaurant I work for is horribly understaffed, it's impossible to find even somewhat qualified cooks, despite the STACK of resumes we've got. I would be hesitant to call some of these culinary school grads a 'cook' of any kind these days...

Anyhow, back to the book. To me, I didn't get a feeling that the book was anything more than 1 cooks story. Didn't sound like he was trying to talk himself up, just sounded like he was telling his story.

And finally, I'd like to dispute one of your characteristics of what makes a great chef. No one who works 80+ (thats EIGHTY in case you think its a typo) hours a week, in a 110+ degree kitchen, non-stop all the time for the wages we do, is what I'd consider 'mentally stable'. No, the longer I work in fine dining restaurants, the more I realize good chefs are crazy (I'm not saying I'm not either). Any sane chef would be more than happy to work in a large institution, anonymously, making his 6 figure check working only 50 hours per week.

It's the mentally unstable who go for broke, put their name out there, risk everything for the glory of being the best. Just look at what happened to Bernard Loiseau, yes that's an extreme case but it's certainly not uncommon among the best chefs.

#525 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 06:49 AM

By coincidence, last night I just happened to catch the episode of Opening Soon (Fine Living Channel) which documented the opening of Country.  It was interesting to me that Psaltis was never mentioned once, even though he appeared throughout the episode.  The focus was entirely on Zakarian, the over-thought manipulation of his public image and the fact that the budget for Country swelled from $7M to $12M during the process.

But even as Psaltis was shown turning out prospective dishes for Zakarian to taste, he received no mention, verbally or graphically.  Perhaps this is some indication why the book was written in the first place.  I guess that if chefs don't toot their own horns, no one else will either.

=R=

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Hey, I'm all for horn tooting (no one else knows the notes), but there could be lots of reasons he received no mention, that had nothing to do with his [comment reserved] book. Maybe he didn't do as much for the restaurant as one might have thought ... maybe Zakarian is the one with the stake in the place and Chef is an employee, maybe the investors and TV people though Zakarian had better hair. :hmmm: I wonder if this episode will be in the next book?
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#526 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 06:51 AM

And finally, I'd like to dispute one of your characteristics of what makes a great chef.  No one who works 80+ (thats EIGHTY in case you think its a typo) hours a week, in a 110+ degree kitchen, non-stop all the time for the wages we do, is what I'd consider 'mentally stable'.  No, the longer I work in fine dining restaurants, the more I realize good chefs are crazy (I'm not saying I'm not either).  Any sane chef would be more than happy to work in a large institution, anonymously, making his 6 figure check working only 50 hours per week. 

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Mikeb, if I may, Timh knows, and has lived this. He gets it. :smile:
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#527 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 12:01 PM

Hey, I'm all for horn tooting (no one else knows the notes), but there could be lots of reasons he received no mention, that had nothing to do with his [comment reserved] book.

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Agreed. It just stood out, relative to many of the other episodes of Opening Soon that I've seen.

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#528 Bux

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 03:10 PM

As a cook who cooks at a high level (at least for the area I'm located in),

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I like a guy who can stand up for his own talent and abilities. Honestly, and I'll take your word that you cook at a high level for wherever the hell you are.

I'll say this:  why care if you've insulted a few B-list chefs (or even the almighty Thomas) if you've got someone like Alain Ducasse in your cornor.  And regardless of what he said in the book, the guy can cook, you don't become the Chef de Cuisine of a Ducasse restaurant if you can't cook.  From what I've heard about the fine dining restaurant Country (not the cafe), the food is excellent, and it will be successful.

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Insulting Keller, Barber, Ducasse or anyone else has very little to do with a person's ability to cook, as angrykoala noticed, but it may speak about a person's character. And we speak of a chef's character in this forum because affects others who may eventually work with or under said chef. I believe Doug can cook. I saw some evidence of this at Mix. Although the food was not subjectively to my taste, it was technically excellent.

By the way, having once been entrusted to run one of Ducasse's restaurants is not at all the same thing as saying he's got Ducasse in his corner. As I recall, when the media went looking for reactions to the book, Ducasse would not comment, and comments issued by his staff were not flattering. It's my opinion that comments made to the press by such staff would have been approved by Ducasse, or not uttered in public. I'm not sure of the point you are trying to make, but I sense you are defending the "memoir' by taking our attention from the book to other aspects of the author. My apologies if I'm not following your arguments here.

While I've admitted that Psaltis can cook, the nature of the negative comments appearing here--I'm reminded of posts by Mimi Sheraton and Ya-Roo Yang--it's my personal guess that he's not always motivated to do his best. Consistency is what will carry a fine restaurant in the end.

- -

Ronnie, one of the things that I've sensed is that over time, Psaltis' presence as executive chef at Country seems to have been downplayed. Even assuming I'm correct in my observation, it would be far to much for me to speculate why, though I suppose that's the kind of thing messages boards promote.

- -

. . . . The restaurant I work for is horribly understaffed, it's impossible to find even somewhat qualified cooks, despite the STACK of resumes we've got.  I would be hesitant to call some of these culinary school grads a 'cook' of any kind these days...

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So much for the area in which you are cooking.

Anyhow, back to the book.  To me, I didn't get a feeling that the book was anything more than 1 cooks story.  Didn't sound like he was trying to talk himself up, just sounded like he was telling his story. 

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Sounds like? What does it sound like when I write? I'm familiar with some of the situations in the book and, to me, it sounded like a vengeful pack of lies.

And finally, I'd like to dispute one of your characteristics of what makes a great chef.  No one who works 80+ (thats EIGHTY in case you think its a typo) hours a week, in a 110+ degree kitchen, non-stop all the time for the wages we do, is what I'd consider 'mentally stable'.  No, the longer I work in fine dining restaurants, the more I realize good chefs are crazy (I'm not saying I'm not either).  Any sane chef would be more than happy to work in a large institution, anonymously, making his 6 figure check working only 50 hours per week. 

It's the mentally unstable who go for broke, put their name out there, risk everything for the glory of being the best.  Just look at what happened to Bernard Loiseau, yes that's an extreme case but it's certainly not uncommon among the best chefs.

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We all thank you for defining "great chef" for us, although I'm not exactly sure that Loiseau's instability or suicide are all we need to look at to understand what makes a great chef.

It may be that sane men choose to spend too much time with family to become "great chefs" in today's society. I'm reminded of Alex Lee, ancien du Daniel, taking a position at a country club some time ago. I was one of the few who said I'd not be surprised to see him happy spending more time with his kids rather than undertaking a restaurant of his own back in Manhattan. My guess is that he works considerably less than 50 hours a week. I can give you a list of chefs who do brilliant work and are crazy enough to work the 12 hour days, but who are respectful to those who have taught them along the way and who don't fall into the "huge, arrogant, self-serving ass" category mentioned above.

In any event, one needs to separate whatever talents a chef has from what he writes and sells as non-fiction. Being crazy doesn't make you a great chef, nor does it mean your books tell the truth.
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#529 Miami Danny

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Posted 22 April 2006 - 07:11 PM

a young runner

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That's 'celebrity' runner, please

#530 docbrite

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 08:46 PM

I enjoyed The Seasoning of a Chef and was almost entirely innocent of the controversy surrounding it until I came upon this thread. The writing was no great shakes, but Anthony Bourdain is a rare creature; most chefs aren't wonderful writers. (Neither, for that matter, are most literary agents -- they just think they are. :raz: ) What I liked about it was the fact that, unusually among chefs who write, Doug Psaltis more interested in the work itself than the after-work debauchery. Kitchen Confidential is a terrific book, but we don't need several dozen imitations of it. Whatever else he may have done, I found Doug Psaltis' single-minded work ethic refreshing. It is seen too seldom, both in restaurant kitchens and in the body of literature that has begun to emerge from them.

To blurb a book -- particularly a work of nonfiction -- without reading the whole thing is lazy and irresponsible, and the concept of "retracting" blurbs is absurd. What next -- "I didn't write that blurb; my sous chef did"?

Edited by docbrite, 27 April 2006 - 08:53 PM.


#531 Bux

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 05:46 PM

. . . (Neither, for that matter, are most literary agents -- they just think they are.  :raz: ) . . ..

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I'm not one to call for full disclosure in most situations, but given the nature of this thread and your support here, I think you need to disclose just who your literary agent is.

As for the absudity of blurbing unread books, life is often absurd, but it's common practice, or so other authors tell us.

Edited by Bux, 01 May 2006 - 05:52 PM.

Robert Buxbaum
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#532 docbrite

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 10:04 AM

I'm not one to call for full disclosure in most situations, but given the nature of this thread and your support here, I think you need to disclose just who your literary agent is.


I don't "need to disclose" something that isn't a secret. My agent is Ira Silverberg of Donadio & Olson, and as far as I know, he doesn't write anything other than contracts.

As for the absudity of blurbing unread books, life is often absurd, but it's common practice, or so other authors tell us.


Yes, unfortunately it is. That doesn't change the fact that it's an invitation to trouble. If you'll read my post more carefully, though, you'll find that I didn't say the practice itself is absurd; I said the concept of retracting such a blurb (or any blurb, for that matter) is absurd.

Edited by docbrite, 02 May 2006 - 10:06 AM.






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