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Alka-Seltzer, Anyone?

Has Howard Seftel, the restaurant critic for the Millennial Arizona Republic, lost his mind? Or is a hacker impersonating him on the Republic's Web site, Azcentral.com?

The "Ask Howard Seftel" message board has contained a couple of hilarious -- or troubling, depending on your point of view -- passages since last Friday. The message board has Seftel calling his correspondents "morons" and making cracks about some innocent querier's wife. To wit (the Flash has deleted the names of the messagers, with the exception of the "critic" himself):

. . . 12:10pm Jun 8, 2000 . . .

Dear Howard,
Can you suggest a great Fried Chicken place here in the Valley. We just moved here from Texas . . .

Thanks for your help . . .

. . . 12:31pm Jun 14, 2000 . . .

If Mr. Seftel's digestive system is so vulnerable as to be upset by the sight of someone he doesn't like while he's eating, perhaps he should refrain from writing culinary reviews when what he really means to do is to chastise the person he deems responsible for presenting him with that image.

After all, we're not talking about an infringement of space in his own dining room. Perhaps Mr. Seftel should rather devote himself to reviewing interior decoration in public establishments in downtown Phoenix and leave culinary reviews to those who are more focused on the quality of food than on how a proprietor has chosen to decorate his or her restaurant . . .

. . . 06:50am Jun 15, 2000 . . .

Mr. Seftel is just an insecure Jewish snob who only favorably reviews the restaurants that bribe him. To be reviewed by this poseur means absolutely nothing.

. . . 11:29am Jun 15, 2000 . . .

Richardson's definitely a problem -- you can smell the attitude that place has -- not the food. How do they stay in business?

Howard Seftel -- 11:23pm Jun 16, 2000 . . .

I hate all of you. You dont like my reviews, dont read them you morons.

I am back from vacation and pissed. That Cuban resteraunt was horrible, and that is the last I say on that topic.

For the fellow who likes fried chicken. . . . I heard your wife makes great fried chicken! I have her beeper number if you want it.

Please keep the messages coming, I will be happy to respond as long as you are nice to me.

Howard Seftel -- 11:48pm Jun 16, 2000 . . .

I sincerely aplogize for saying that about Mr Fried Chickens wife, I was typing as a joke (to let off some steam) and for some reason I am not able to delete that post. I did not mean any harm.

I have never been to Richardsons and after the scathing review that [the correspondent] posted, I do not think I will go. There is no excuse for poor service. Food is so subjective or personal, that there is alot of room for critisism. Bad service, however, I can not tolerate. The was I see it, I can eat at home, but I choose not to because I like other people waiting on me.

Seftel, who used to nosh for New Times, claims the text on the Web site is not his. He wasn't even aware it existed until the Flash called to ask him about it.

The Flash's computer guru advises that it would be simple for someone to masquerade as the critic himself on the message board.

But isn't someone supposed to be minding the store?

Seftel vowed to notify the "responsible authorities."

Whoever it is -- pardon the pun -- is out to lunch.

Pump Price Pleasantry

Great news for all you Ford Excursion-driving ecothugs: Last week, the Valley of the SUV sported the cheapest gas in America.

That's according to the Lundberg Survey, which charts prices at more than 10,000 pumps across this great gas-guzzling republic. Gasoline is going for an average $1.39 in the Phoenix area, about 70 cents cheaper than in Chicago and Milwaukee and about 10 cents cheaper than the national average.

This is particularly odd given Phoenix's gas-price history. Phoenix has typically been in the top half of gas prices nationwide and was one of the highest-priced cities as of three years ago. That year, 1997, the state attorney general's antitrust lawyers were investigating Phoenix suppliers for possible price-fixing.

According to experts, though, it's not so much that Phoenix prices are dropping. It's that prices elsewhere are rising.

What's happening, generally, is that suppliers in other parts of the country are stumbling as they try to meet a bulge in demands for cleaner-burning Phase Two gasolines. On June 1, several air-pollution hotbeds around the country, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, were forced to start using the new fuel, said Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg Survey. So, all of a sudden, she said, those areas are now dealing with complicated supply issues and manufacturing-price increases that the Phoenix market has already dealt with.

The Flash recommends you use this fuel-price lull to get a decent trade-in price for your Excursion or Suburban. If history teaches us anything, it's that gasoline suppliers will soon find another vaguely plausible excuse to jack up your price at the pump. And to paraphrase H.L. Mencken, once prices hit $2 a gallon in the Valley, that gratuitously massive status symbol won't be worth the gasoline it takes to fry it in hell.

Name Blame Game

Name identification is the mother's milk of politics, which might explain why state Senator Chris Cummiskey, a Phoenix Democrat, is crying foul over his new Republican opponent -- Patrick Kaminsky.

". . . Republican leaders went right up to the buzzer to qualify an individual named Patrick Kaminsky as their nominee," Cummiskey carps. "This came after dumping James Faulkner, another candidate who had filed for the Republican nomination back in January.

"They say that imitation is the greatest form of praise, yet I think this has more to do with confusing the voters than flattery.

"It is too bad that Republican leaders have such little respect for the voters; however, it doesn't change my plans to continue intensive door-to-door efforts over the next five months."

Cummiskey is seeking his fourth -- and he says final -- term in the state Senate.

The Flash wonders if there are any Democrats named Bluster in Dewey.


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