Wednesday, July 21, 2004

TOUGH TIMES FOR THE MISTRESS...

...of Sarcasm.  These last three days have been hell on Younger Daughter, starting Monday when, for no apparent reason, the City of Savannah shut off her water.  Seems something got overlooked (what, we have no idea) in early May when her erstwhile roommate decided to split and the service was transferred over to her name.  After merrily supplying water for almost three months, suddenly the Water Boys wanted a deposit... but rather than notifying the M of S that they needed her to bring in a check, they simply cut off the H2O.  Frantic phone calls ensued.  A breakneck trip to the Water Boys’ offices before closing time Monday - to no avail, since they wanted her to bring a copy of her lease.  So no water Monday night.  Tuesday, deposit paid, but still no water.  It seems a leaky toilet valve (we think) was causing water to flow, in which case the Water Boys will not reestablish service for fear of causing a flood.  It took until this afternoon to get matters set straight... whereupon Younger Daughter’s printer ran out of ink... and, icing on the cake: her car would not start.  DOA. 

All of this with a frantic studio schedule and midterms going on.  It’s always something, innit?

It’s hard to offer much consolation from 260 miles away.  J knows that we will all laugh about this one day.  But not right now.  Life is no fun without water - or transportation.  The only comfort is in knowing that, like a kidney stone, “this, too, shall pass.”  

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

IS NOTHING SACRED?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course.

Take, for example, Tisha B’Av, the most mournful day in the Jewish calendar - this year, observed at sundown on Monday, July 26. Commemorating the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem as well as numerous other calamities which are said to have befallen the Jews on the ninth day of the month Av, this is not your “have a nice day” kind of holiday. Customarily, you don’t even greet people with “good morning” on Tisha B’Av - there is nothing good about it. And what fun - you sit on the floor reading the Book of Lamentations, not to mention fasting for 25 hours. Oh yeah - and no sex. Sex might be pleasurable, and pleasure ain’t on the agenda.

I know you’re thinking, “What is it with Jews and food, anyway? I mean, don’t they fast on Yom Kippur (or whateverthehell that holiday is)?” Well, yes. But we fast for a different reason then. Yom Kippur is solemn - the Day of Atonement on which we are weighed in the balance and (we hope) not found wanting. It’s like going to court for a trial. Your trial. So you dress up nice and act serious, and you avoid distractions like food. But Tisha B’Av is different. You’re supposed to be too depressed to eat on Tisha B’Av. It’s just plain sad.

And because it is sad, I will make light of it:

The Rabbis tell us Tisha B’Av
Is not a day for making love.
On other days, when making love,
It’s nice to have the tush above.

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
revisited

More stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

shtupperware (n) - Sexual devices and toys. May be purchased from retail outlets, on the internet, or at the increasingly popular shtupperware party.

bozo (n) - Pubic hair that protrudes simultaneously from both sides of the knickers, reminiscent of a certain redheaded clown’s hairstyle. Also known as beauxzeux in Louisiana.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

BATCHIN’ IT...

On my own again this weekend, as She Who Must Be Obeyed (along with friend Laura Belle) is visiting Elder Daughter in Cambridge (Massachusetts, not England). This means it’s quiet in the house... a perfect chance to get some useful naps work in (as if). It also means that Hakuna and Matata, the cats, will be especially attentive to me, with Matata in particular being completely insufferable. If ever a dog were to be born in a cat’s body, it would have been Matata.

So... what have I done with my spare time?

Well, yesterday afternoon I made the obligatory trip to Harry’s Farmer’s Market to get some exotic grindage. Harry’s is the kind of place in which a foodie manqué like me can spend hours just looking at all the international foods. You want fresh gooseberries? Basmati rice? Indian mango pickle? German ketchup? Tea oil? Garam masala? Okoboji? Asafetida? Go to Harry’s. Sure, it’s a little less interesting (and a lot cleaner) since it was bought out by Whole Paycheck Whole Foods Market, but it’s still a damn sight more fun than the local Kroger. My problem is, it can be too interesting. Yesterday, however, I was a man on a mission, so I refused to get distracted. At least, not very distracted.

The mission: get a fresh duck. When the Missus is out of town, it's my opportunity to cook things that would send her screaming out of the house. And duck is one of those things.

So I got my duck... along with a few other items. Some fresh herbs. Some fart balls. A little chunk of wild salmon, which I will season and cook on a cedar plank over a hot grill. Some Mediterranean tuna salad, loaded with cool stuff such as capers and artichoke hearts. Some grilled asparagus salad. Some wacky-ass milk chocolate with ginger and chai in it. And some nice Belgian beer. Now that Georgia has finally repealed its stupid law that limited the alcohol content in beer to 5%, a whole crop of tasty new brews is beginning to appear on the shelves. I selected Orval, a flavorsome Trappist ale (with 6.9% alcohol, in case you cared) and also grabbed a bottle of Kriek (superb accompaniment to Chinese food, amazingly enough).

Took all this stuff home, and of course was too lazy to actually cook anything, so the tuna and grilled asparagus salads were the first things to go, washed down by a bottle of that yummy Orval. Then I went out on the deck and read a book, while enjoying a cigar and a few fingers of absinthe. Mmmmmmm.

Next thing I know, I’m stumbling up the stairs to bed. The only thing that kept me from sleeping through until the morning was the phone call from Elder Daughter, who had had a wonderful day running around with SWMBO and Laura.

And now it’s Sunday, and I gotta cook that goddamned duck.

So much for the bachelor life. All y’all bachelors can keep it. I like having Mama around!

Friday, July 16, 2004

WHY DO I TORTURE MYSELF?

Just returned from a two-day Customer Appreciation Golf Boondoggle at Château Élan in Braselton, Georgia. Golf in Georgia is an iffy proposition during the summer months, thanks to occasional pop-up thunderstorms, high humidity, and oppressive heat. And to someone with sweaty palms like me, this means summer golf can be downright obnoxious. Still, it’s not Texas, and sometimes we get beautiful summer days with low humidity... and that’s what we had here after Wednesday night’s violent cold front.

So, Thursday afternoon and Friday morning were devoted to what the techies call an “impact effects seminar.” You could not ask for better weather. You could, however, ask that all the years you have practiced this stinking Scottish torture be good for something. But I’ve been making that request for years, and so far, the Big Guy isn’t acting as though He plans to grant it. If I’m getting off the tee, I can’t putt to save my life, and if I’m draining 20-footers, I’m whacking banana balls into Mirkwood or the Grand Canyon. Foo.
I play my pestilential game
Without a single speck of shame.
I hack my way around the course
With absolutely no remorse.
The fairways, I have rarely seen —
I struggle once I’m on the green.
My drives will hook, or maybe slice.
They do not follow my advice.
My shots all seek the woods and water.
They do not travel where they orter.
O, I’d forgo all worldly goods
If I could play like Tiger Woods
For just one game. ’Tis not to be;
I guess I’ll have to play like me.
Oh, well. The meals were excellent (and for once, dinner was accompanied by a wine that was not produced at Château Élan, thank Gawd) - and the customers mostly behaved themselves. Didn’t lose too many balls in the woods, lakes, and ravines. Got home just in time to beat the traffic. And now it’s Friday, late afternoon. Aaaaahhhh, weekend.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

MY CHILDREN’S MINDS ARE WARPED (THANKS TO ME & FZ)

Now that both our daughters are over 21 and out of the house (OK, the Mistress of Sarcasm is still on the payroll with one more year of college to go), I can confess: I have warped their minds.

An illustration. Last year, the girls and I went to a Project Object concert at the Variety Playhouse. Project Object, in case you have never heard of them, is a “tribute group” whose repertoire consists entirely of Frank Zappa’s music. But to call P.O. a “tribute group” does not begin to describe them, nor does it do them justice, as the term (also see “cover band”) implies a semi-skilled band that coasts along by playing (generally poor) versions of the songs they cover, “sorta” in the style of the original groups that made them popular. Not these boys, though. P.O. has several semi-permanent members (and occasional guests) who have actually played with FZ at one time or another. At the show we saw last year, for example, the lineup included Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ike Willis, and Don Preston... real honest-to-God FZ alumni of the first water... and except for the fact that FZ himself was missing, they did a remarkable job of recreating the sound and feel of the Zappa concerts of the 1970’s and 80’s. When Zappa died, I had thought that sound was lost forever, and here I was, listening to it again. The feeling of having been transported back in time literally brought tears to my eyes.

So here I am with my (then) 23- and 20-year-old daughters, listening to this amazing-yet-strange music and all of us enjoying it immensely. Elder Daughter decides to go get a beer during the break. While waiting in line at the bar, a fortyish bystander asks her what a person her age was doing at this concert - thinking, I guess, that nobody under the age of 30 would have even heard of Zappa or the Mothers. Elder Daughter responds, “Oh, I’ve been listening to this stuff all my life.” (Which is true.) Fortyish bystander then says, “God bless your parents!”

What other kids can join Dad in a rousing sing-along of “Florentine Pogen”?

OK, so exposing the kids to Zappa at an early age may have warped them a little. But there’s more.

Maybe it’s having read a lot of MAD magazine as a kid, but I have a habit of inventing silly lyrics to songs. This would probably be harmless, except for the fact that, growing up, the girls didn’t always know whether ol’ Dad was singing a real song or was making up some silly crap.

Here’s Elder Daughter, attending a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Boston with a group of friends. And they’re all singing along:
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ -
Who are you, what have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ, superstar -
Who in the hell do you think you are?

At this point all eyes swivel toward Elder Daughter.
“Hey, those aren’t the lyrics!”
And she responds, “Yes, they are! I learned them from... (growing realization that she has been duped)... my Dad! Aaarrrrgggh!”

Warped, I tell ya...

Sunday, July 11, 2004

I AM AN APOSTROPHE PEDANT

I can get a little obsessive and nitpicky when it comes to punctuation. Sure, we’ve all heard that old chestnut about the man who is murdered in a bar, ostensibly by a panda who had just eaten dinner. “How did you know it was a panda?” a witness is asked. “Well,” he responds, “ it says right here in this (poorly punctuated) book I just read: a panda eats, shoots, and leaves.”

Har har.

But apostrophes really will drive me right around the bend. Never mind the legions of idiots who use apostrophes improperly to form plurals, or the boneheads who confuse “it’s” (it is) with “its” (of it). Those kinds of mistakes can be attributed to ignorance or sloppiness. However, there’s an apostrophe-related snafu that has become very widespread despite good education and best intentions – and it has been aided and abetted by our good friends at Microsoft. I’m talking about when the apostrophe is used to indicate omission – as in ’04, where it indicates the omission of the digits “20” in the year 2004.

Notice I wrote ’04, NOT ‘04. The first one is right; the second makes my skin crawl. Now, if you can’t distinguish between the correct ’04 and the incorrect ‘04, then either your font does not display properly on your computer screen, or you may not be aware that there is a subtle difference between an apostrophe (’) and a single opening quotation mark (‘). If that’s the case, stop right here: the rest of this post is wasted on you.

The problem is that our friends at Microsoft want to be helpful. Really, they do. So they have a “replace as you type” feature in Word that automatically replaces straight quotation marks with “curly quotes.” Whenever you type a single quotation mark that is preceded by a space and immediately followed by a letter or number, Word assumes that you want a single opening quote. And, to be fair, once in a rare while, you do…especially if you type a lot of dialogue that includes internal quotes. But most of us are just as likely to want an apostrophe…for example, when we want to type “ ’74 ” instead of “1974.” But we will not get our apostrophe. We will get a single opening quote, which is WRONG. Unless, that is, we take matters into our own hands.

Simply hold down the “ALT” key and type 0146 on the numeric keypad. Presto – apostrophe. Or single closing quotation mark, which is pretty much the same thing. And that way, you need never inflict ugly, ignorant looking crap like “ ‘98 ” on us ever again.

And if this is too much trouble, then... I guess you’re not a stinking, obsessive pedant like me.

NICE WEEKEND SO FAR...

Well, this has shaped up to be a good weekend so far. It started early when our younger daughter (the “Mistress of Sarcasm”) decided to come in for a quickie visit... she arrived late Thursday night and we got to spend a day with her before she split and headed back to school. Amazing how much mother-daughter bonding (read: “shopping”) can take place in one day.

And then, tonight, a wonderful concert at Chastain with T’s and F’s. Chastain Park, for those unfamiliar with Atlanta, has an outdoor amphitheatre that serves as an excellent concert venue. Atlanta has the advantage of being at a slight elevation, so even the hottest summer days generally settle down and become pleasant, temperate evenings. Of course, the trick with any outdoor concert is the weather, which ideally should be dry. Considering what we’ve been going through this spring and summer, a dry evening is a rare blessing... and tonight we were blessed.

The ritual at Chastain is to pack a picnic dinner, to be consumed (mostly) before and during the opening act. Opening at Chastain is therefore a little like dinner theatre - you do not have the audience’s undivided attention. And these dinners can be pretty elaborate affairs, complete with tablecloths, candles, wine, et al. Tonight we were celebrating the birth of the T’s first grandchild, so we had Champagne and a wretched excess of food: boiled shrimp, bruschetta, Caesar salad, gazpacho, yada yada yada. And then, the headliner: Mary Chapin Carpenter, who delivered a solid, heartfelt performance. I’m more of a Zappa fan myself, but I enjoyed the music thoroughly... and even more, enjoyed the way Mary connected with the crowd. And it didn’t hurt that we sat at Table 1 - front row, right - thanks to the T’s having had a subscription of 20 years’ standing. This meant that we were “up close ’n’ personal” with the Flamingo Conga Line of MCC fans.

All in all, a delight. Now I may have to actually get some of MCC’s tunes...

Thursday, July 08, 2004

MORE LISTS ’n’ SUCH

A few random collections for your delectation.

REJECTED NAMES FOR EXCEPTIONALLY LARGE HOUSES OF WORSHIP.

1. First, Second and Third Presbyterian, Conjoined

2. Basilica Godzillica

3. Christ the King Kong

4. Jeezus, That’s One Honkin’ Big Church

5. Dharma Buddharama

6. Shitload O’ Sholom

7. Cathedral D’Extremis

8. Little - Naw, Who Are We Fucking Kidding, Humongous - Church Among the Pines

9. Mucho, Mucho Mosquo


PROPOSED NAMES FOR TEAMS IN MY THURSDAY NIGHT MEN’S BOWLING LEAGUE.

1. The Pinheads

2. Gutterless Wonders

3. Strike While the Iron is Hot, Spare Otherwise

4. Headaches (Not Splitting)

5. The Pinworms (Itchin’ to Win)

6. Cerebral Ballsy

7. Brother, Can You Spare a Strike?

8. Lane Brains

9. The International Brotherhood of Amalgamated Bowling Workers: Striking Again, as Usual


BONE THUGZ, NO HARMONY.

1. Bone-Thugz-N-Cart’lij

2. Bone-Thugz-N-Baked-Spudz

3. Bone-Thugz-N-Grease-Cuttin’-Sudz

4. Bone-Thugz-N-Butt-Plugz

5. Bone-Thugz-N-Chocklit-Fudz

6. Bone-Thugz-N-Type-A-Bludz

7. Bone-Thugz-N-Chicken

8. Bone-Thugz-N-Tha-Sound-Of-Nails-On-A-Blackboard

9. Bone-Thugz-N-Counterpoint

10. Bone-Thugz-By-They-Ownselves

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY

Stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Magnum eppis (n) – It’s really something... whatever it is.

Packaroni (n) – the foamed polystyrene “peanuts” used as cushioning material when mailing fragile items.

Poopla (n) – Much adoo-doo about nothing.

More entries will be posted as fast as I can think of ’em.

MEAT, MEAT, ’n’ MORE MEAT

Brazilian steakhouses are popping up in Atlanta like mushrooms after our interminable late spring / early summer rains. Never mind that “churrascaria” sounds like some kind of intestinal disease - the attraction of these places is based on the ability to dive into a bottomless pit of meat.

Sure, there’s a salad bar. What’s the point? I mean, you don’t go to Fogo de Chão, Fogão Gaucho, Sal Grosso, Fogo on the Gogogo, Boi na Braza, Meati Hungri Boi, or any of the six hundred other permutations of “Fogo,” “Carne,” “Gaucho,” “Brasil,” or what-not, to eat a stupid-ass salad.

The hearts of palm are an exception. It ain’t Brazilian if they ain’t no hearts of palm. OK, so we go to the salad bar.

But it’s the meat you came here for, innit? Mmmmmm, meaty meat. Lots of meat. And they keep it coming until you cry “uncle” by turning the little indicator wheel on your table to the red “If you bring one more chunk of dripping flesh to this table, I will ralph up everything I have eaten so far” position.

Hey, I can rationalize this. It’s protein - not a lot of carbs - the tariff at lunchtime is not as steep as it is at dinner - I’ll eat yogurt tonight. Whatever... it beats the ass off of that stinking lump of chicken salad that Jason’s Deli delivered the other day.

Burp.

YET ANOTHER REJECTION

I keep sending submissions to the McSweeney’s website, but so far I’ve only managed to get a couple of Lists and Brain Exploder answers published. Boo.

Here’s one I sent in the other day - a Review of New Food. All right, so they didn’t like it. Fuck ’em if they can’t deal with my crisp, incisive writing style.

REVIEW of NEW FOOD:
KELLOGG’S ALL-BRAN APRICOT BITES

Stop a random stranger on the street and chances are you will find a devotee of Atkins, South Beach, or some other form of sugar and starch denial. Based on my own experience, the low-carb regimen is OK as far as it goes, but as with any good thing there are tradeoffs. Like breakfast. Froot Loops, pancakes, last night’s pizza? No more, brother. Unless you’re a ham-and-eggs person, or German (which is pretty much the same thing), you will not be enjoying your Atkins-friendly breakfast. And far worse is the side effect on digestion, which I discreetly choose to call the Tar Baby Syndrome.

Enter Kellogg’s All-Bran Apricot Bites. It’s not exactly a low-carb cereal, but the high fiber content (equivalent to eating about a half-cord of hickory logs) means the net carb count is acceptable. But how does it taste? After all, most of us who have had experience with high-fiber cereals in general, and with All-Bran in particular, think of wet shredded newsprint when we see that ominous looking box on the supermarket shelf. Well, I’m pleased to report that All-Bran Apricot Bites are actually pretty good.

Pour ’em in a bowl and douse with milk. Let ’em sit for a few minutes to soften up. The little squares retain just enough grit to stay interesting, and each one has a mini-load of apricot filling to offset what would otherwise be excessive branliness. This is nothing less than an inspired spin-off of another Kellogg’s product consisting of sweet goop in a cardboardy casing: the Pop-Tart. But, unlike the Pop-Tart, these little squares kick ass.

Literally. “Tar Baby? Aww, you won’t see him no more.”