Tuesday, May 31, 2005

CATS ARE NOT LIKE DOGS

in that they don’t travel in packs.



However, they do occasionally come in boxes.

DEEP THROAT

The Watergate kind, that is. Get your mind out of the gutter.

One of the great mysteries of the Watergate scandal may have, at long last, been revealed. According to a Reuters report today,
Mark Felt, a former FBI deputy director, claims to be "Deep Throat," the legendary source who leaked Watergate scandal secrets to the Washington Post and helped bring down President Richard Nixon, Vanity Fair magazine said on Tuesday.
Felt is now 91 years old, and it may be that after all these years, his family has convinced him that he will be seen by most people as a hero for his role in the scandal that brought the presidency of Richard Nixon crashing down in 1974. That, plus he can maybe generate some coin and fatten up said family’s inheritance...or am I being cynical?

Well, never mind. I think Deep Throat, whoever it may be, performed a tremendous service for this country. Politics aside, I could not stand Richard Nixon. My biggest concern during his administration was that he seemed to consider himself above the law, as evidenced by his disgraceful conduct during the “Saturday Night Massacre” when he fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Just the kind of thing that happens when the guy checking out the henhouse reports to the fox. It took the revelation of an extraordinary pattern of improper conduct to put Nixon in a position where he had to resign, and Deep Throat provided those revelations.

As for the reportorial side of the whole affair, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and Benjamin Bradlee of the WaPo continue to uphold their vow to keep silent on the matter of Deep Throat’s identity until after his death. So all we have right now is Felt, who was in a high enough position in the FBI to have known what was going on.

This “Extremely Late-Breaking News” reminds me of the story of a couple, both well along in years, who show up in a courtroom one day. The presiding judge asks the husband what his business is with the Court, and gets this response: “We want a divorce.”

The judge thought this a bit unusual - such an elderly couple! – and so he asked the husband how long the two of them had been married.

The old man answers, “Next September, it will be seventy-six years.”

So the judge says, “Seventy-six years! You don’t say! Tell, me, sir, why is it that, after having been married for such a long time, you’re asking for a divorce now? Why now?”

“We wanted to wait until all the children were dead.”

[Update: Bob Woodward has confirmed that Mark Felt is, indeed, Deep Throat. Thus endeth one of the Last Great Mysteries of the Twentieth Century.]

Monday, May 30, 2005

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE

This weekend the Clan d’Elisson celebrated not one, but two – count ’em, two – major Life-Cycle Events.

We converged in Savannah, AKA The Beautiful Lady with the Dirty Face, to watch as the Mistress of Sarcasm was graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The graduation ceremonies were split into two chunks: the first, in which the degrees were formally conferred and all the speeches made, and the second, in which the various schools handed out diplomas to the individual students. In Chunk One, the keynote speaker and honorary degree recipient was Joel Siegel, he of Morning Television fame, whose speech had just the right balance of seriousness (very little) and warm humor (plenty). And in Chunk Two, we found out that the Mistress received her degree Magna Cum Laude. Way to go, kiddo!


The newly-degreed Mistress (L) with her big sister.

But we had another Major Occasion to celebrate as well. On the very same day that the Mistress received her degree, the Dad d’Elisson – Eli his ownself – marked the completion of eighty Voyages Around the Sun.


Elder Daughter and the Daddy d'Elisson.

Eli his ownself is a vigorous, physically active (newly-minted) octogenarian. He plays racquetball three times a week, grinding many a younger player into the dust with his wily moves and deadly killshots. He, along with his Lovely Missus, travels the world. Their last peregrination, in early May, took them to Paris, where they spent a week getting acquainted with the city in the context of a small, intimate tour group.

One of their tour companions was the legendary Kitty Carlisle Hart, widow of even-more-legendary playwright, director, and producer Moss Hart (do the names My Fair Lady and Camelot strike a familiar note?). Miss Carlisle played herself in Six Degrees of Separation, Radio Days, and others too numerous to count – you may also remember her from the Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera, in which she was the young female lead. She also appeared on every version of the quiz show To Tell The Truth, from 1956 to 2002.


Kitty Carlisle in her younger days.

Dad made an impression on the 94-year-old Miss Carlisle right from the start. When they were introduced, he took her hand and kissed it, ever the gentleman. But, smiling, she corrected him, saying that when a gentleman kisses a lady’s hand, he interposes his thumb so that while it appears that he is kissing her hand, he is really discreetly kissing his thumb. To this, Eli his ownself responded, “But if I were to do that, then I would be unable to suck the precious stones out of your rings.”

This, Esteemed Readers, is where I get my twisted sense of humor.

Life is a fragile, ephemeral thing, and there are no guarantees. Five years ago, when Dad had a heart attack on the racquetball court (where else?), it was only the fast thinking of his friends and the rapid availability of the Jumper Cables o’ Life that kept him on the planet with us. There was no assurance that he’d see 75, much less 80.

But here he is, watching his granddaughter receive her college degree.

And here I am, surrounded by family. Counting my manifold blessings, and running out of numbers.

CARNIVALS, WE GOT CARNIVALS

We got all kinds Carnivals.

Carnival of the Recipes is up at Fresh as a Daisy. Yumyum eatem up!

And as if that is not enough, Carnival of the Cats is up at Ripe Bananas. Hmmm, cats and fruit? Interesting concept.

Friday, May 27, 2005

HAVE YOU FRUITED YOUR CAT TODAY?


Matata likes her some berries.

I don’t know how unusual it is for a cat to like fruit, but Matata is downright insufferable about it. Here, She Who Must Be Obeyed performs the Ritual Cat-Fruiting.

Oh, yes - this week’s Friday Ark is up at The Modulator, so check out some Non-Fruited Cats and other lifeforms as well.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

EAT WELL, MY KITTIES



Excellent.

Eat, my kitties. Eat well. Enjoy your Pelleted Comestibles.



If you clean your bowls every day, perhaps you will grow up to be Large, Fuzzy Grumpuses!

WHAT THEY DRINK WHEN THEY DRINK IN N’AWLINS

In N’Awlins, as far as I can tell, they will drink any damn thing they please, thank you very much. You gotta give serious Drinkin’ Props to a state where drive-thru daiquiri stands are still legal, as they are in Lousy-Ana Louisiana. Beer, wine, all kinds of hooch...all fair game in N’Awlins.

But there is one Adult Beverage that, to me, really captures that magical Creole essence of the Crescent City. And that Adult Beverage is the Sazerac cocktail.

When She Who Must Be Obeyed and I, along with our friends Steve and Sue, spent Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans two years ago, one of the Extremely Pleasant Experiences we had was lunch at Commander’s Palace, one of the Serious Dining Establishments of the city. And that is where I ordered up several Sazerac cocktails, all perfectly executed by the Commander’s Palace barkeep. The view was beautiful, the companionship estimable, the food superb – and those Sazeracs were the spot-on perfect accompaniment to it all.

My version of the Sazerac starts with a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Into this, put two jiggers of rye whiskey, a teaspoon of simple syrup, and three or four dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. [I’ll point out that Commander’s Palace uses Bourbon, not rye, for their Sazerac. It’s a great drink with Bourbon, but it’s not completely authentic. Use rye if you can get it.]

Now, take a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Pour in a half-jigger of Herbsaint or Absente. Swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass, then pour out the excess, leaving a little in the glass. (You want to taste the Herbsaint, but you don’t want it to dominate the drink.) Now, grab the cocktail shaker and shake that bad boy until the contents are thoroughly iced down. Strain into that Old Fashioned glass. Take a piece of lemon peel and twist it over the drink, then rub it on the rim of the glass. Drop it in if you wish (I do) - and you’re good to go.

At the risk of disappointing Zonker, I will tell you that there are no peyote buttons in this Fine Beverage, but you don’t need ’em. They say that if you use enough Herbsaint, you’re likely to start hallucinating, and they very well might be right. These drinks do make me see and hear things.

When I drink a Sazerac, I see cypress trees heavy with Spanish moss reflected in my lady’s blue eyes. When I drink a Sazerac, I hear the sounds of Dixieland jazz and the Brooklynesque patois that’s unique to this corner of Louisiana.

When I drink a Sazerac, wherever I am, I’m back in N’Awlins.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

CLIMBING THE WALLS

He’s a big deal now, and he doesn’t have a lot of time for his old friends, but that’s usually the way the world works. I don’t resent him for it.

We grew up together, Ken and me. Grade school, middle school, Hebrew school, then high school. We saw less of each other after we went our separate ways – he to one of the SUNY campuses in upstate New York, me to an Ivy League school in New Jersey.

[You’re probably thinking, what kind of Ivy League guy says “Ken and me”? Fuck you, Mr. Grammar Pedant.]

The best times might have been during those late-afternoon Hebrew School classes. The class cutups used to sit in the back, out of the immediate steely gaze of Mr. Feld. Me, Bobby Spiegelman, Heshy Weitz, Jerry Kaufman, and Ken. Ken Spiderman.

When Mr. Feld wasn’t looking, Ken would climb up the back wall of the classroom and hang himself from a little web in the corner of the ceiling. It used to drive Feld nuts. “Where’s Ken?” he would ask, growing more frustrated and teed-off every time it happened…but not even once did he think to look up. And meanwhile, the rest of us would be busting blood vessels trying not to crack up.

Ken wasn’t a jock or anything in high school, although he did go out for some of the more offbeat teams. Cross country, lacrosse, tennis…never anything like football or baseball that might have earned him some respect. You always got the feeling he was holding back, that he could excel at anything physical but wanted to keep a low profile.

Jeez, was he ever deadly at handball, though, ’cause he could climb up the wall to get almost any shot. And four-wall? Forget about it. After a while, nobody would play with him – you just couldn’t score points against him. I mean, we all liked him, but it just wasn’t fun to get the crap beaten out of you every single time.

We used to shoot pictures for the school paper, and he was big-time into the yearbook. That’s where he met MJ, working on layout. They were hot and heavy for a while after that, and I guess that’s when I started seeing less of Ken.

But he was always a cool guy. Not like they say in the books. A nerd, he wasn’t. Fun to hang out with, he was, and he’d always be playing practical jokes with those web-shooters of his. I can’t tell you how often I almost pissed myself laughing at some of the stunts he’d pull.

That whole “Peter Parker” backstory, that was all bullshit. Aunt May? Uncle Ben? Complete bullshit. But I guess someone thought he needed a more interesting bio. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and all that crap. What, being a Long Island kid wasn’t “sexy” enough?

But I’ll tell you one thing, and it’s not something you’ll hear from Ken. Not these days, anyway.

I’m the one who told him to start using the hyphen.

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES #140

This week’s Carnival is up at Alarming News. Go and get your fill of the best the Bloggy-Sphere has to offer!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #99

Ninety-nine blogposts of crap on the wall,
Ninety-nine blogposts of crap,
Take one down and link it around:
Ninety-eight blogposts of crap on the wall...

Oh! Ahh, er, sorry - I was just contemplating the sheer enormity of it. Ninety-nine Bonfires. That’s a whole lotta heat and smoke and very little light. And it’s yours to peruse this week at Pajama Pundits.

And I’m so proud. I am the King of Dorks!

Mea dorkus. Mea maxima dorkus!

Monday, May 23, 2005

SAD NEWS

I was in the midst of my meeting at the Headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine in Sweat City when my cell phone began vibrating. I don’t interrupt meetings to answer my cell phone, but the caller ID told me that it was She Who Must Be Obeyed. That meant trouble.

No, don’t get the wrong idea. I loves me my SWMBO, and I never miss a call to her when I’m on the road. It’s just that it is unusual for her to call me during the day when we are both at work...and the fact that she left a voicemail (rather than just rely on the “Missed Call” function to announce that she had tried to reach me) told me that it was a serious matter of some kind.

Over the years, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have noticed that some of our little traits and foibles have gradually rubbed off on one another. We complete each other’s sentences. SWMBO will come out with a crude/funny/snarky remark even as the identical thoughts are forming in my head. And I have become paranoid, having learned from her the ability to construct the most horrifying scenarios imaginable in virtually every circumstance.

What was this call about? A car wreck? A disaster involving the kids? Dead relative? I catalogued all of the possibilities and did not care for any of them.

Fortunately, the meeting had only a few minutes more to run. As soon as we adjourned, I slipped away to the office where I was temporarily camped out in order to call the Missus back. But first, I checked the voicemail...and it was indeed Sad News. Our friend JoAnn had just lost her mother.

Sad News indeed...but not completely unexpected. JoAnn’s mom had been ailing these past few weeks, although most recently it looked as though she was beginning to come around. But for the greater part of a decade now, Betty had had Alzheimer’s Syndrome. Living in a long-term care facility, unable to recognize her daughter, her old life had been burned away.

Alzheimer’s is a paradoxical disease, merciful to its sufferers but cruel to their loved ones. The sufferers are unaware of what has happened to them as the condition escalates; eventually, their mental condition devolves in a kind of perverse reversal of normal aging, as their consciousness returns to its original, inchoate state. But the people they loved – and who still love them – suffer the grief of the blank, unrecognizing stare, the uncomprehending gaze.

JoAnn was the model of a good daughter, visiting her mother regularly and caring for her as best she could. Occasionally, the spark of recognition would return, only to vanish once more into the fog. But Jo bore up, never complaining. It was what she would want for herself, or for anyone she loved. When Betty took a turn for the worse, she knew that, as she put it, “it was time.” But that does not make it any easier when the inevitable finally comes to pass.

I remember Betty the way she was in the 1980’s, when we first became friendly with her daughter. She had been a teacher, with a Ph.D. in special education earned back in the day when a woman with a Ph.D. was a distinct rarity. Back then she was a vivacious, attractive, intelligent woman, the kind who would brighten any room she entered. Tough as nails, yet with a twinkle in her eye. That’s how I will remember her...and how I hope JoAnn will be able to remember her.

I will have a full day of Corporate Activity tomorrow, and early Wednesday I will board the Silver Aerial Bus that will take me home. And I will be there with SWMBO to help our friend JoAnn bury her mother.

Eil malei rachamim, shokhein bam’romim...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

FROM THE ELISSON ARCHIVE


Tokyo, 1980.

These traditionally-garbed young ladies were attending their high school graduation party at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo. In my rudimentary Japanese, I asked them to pose for a picture, and they happily obliged. [As a general observation, Nihon-jin like to have their pictures taken - no matter by whom.]

DORKS “R” US

A recent post by my friend Ivan Shreve (Thrilling Days of Yesteryear) brought back deeply repressed memories of my infamous High School Existence. Ivan, you see, was a veteran of the well-known television quiz show, College Bowl…and I, similarly, was a veteran of its junior equivalent, It’s Academic.

Yes, I was on our high school’s “It’s Academic” team.

“It’s Academic” was a local (New York area) quiz show, broadcast on Channel Four, the NBC affiliate that was, at the time, the Big Swinging Dick of East Coast television. The show itself, now 41 years old, is still being broadcast in some eastern markets: then, as now, it was a high school version of College Bowl. Schools competed not only on television but with each other, in a sort of Asshole Olympics. And my high school somehow managed to field a team.

For the most part, we competed against local schools. We would get on a bus and be schlepped to some other high school, where we would be marched into some sweaty classroom, there to face the Opposing Team in a head-to-head session that involved Answering A Whole Bunch Of Questions About Obscure Shit. We win! Whoop-de-fucking-do.

Being on the “It’s Academic” team was fun in its own perverse way, but it was remarkably like wearing a big, honkin’ sign around your neck that said, in glowing neon letters, NERD NERD NERD. Not something that would, say, impress wimmin. But even nerds get a certain amount of grudging respect, and we earned ours when we hit the Big Time.

We managed to get on TV three times: call it our ninety minutes of fame. The first two times were in the spring of my junior year, the third in the fall of senior year. One smashing victory, one squeaker loss, and one ignominious defeat. In the spring, we won our first match by a huge margin, and I suppose it made us cocky – as the picture shows. When we came back for our return match a few weeks later, we faced tougher competition…and narrowly lost. And when, that fall, we came back yet again, we got our clocks cleaned.


The Berner H.S. team kicks ass, March 1969.
Check out the douche-bag with the “V” sign. Jeez.

But strangely enough, afterwards, we were treated less as brain-boxes and more with the Honor Due Those Fallen In A Noble Cause. Yes, we were still heinous nerds – I mean, c’mon, a quiz show, fer Chrissakes? – but we were heinous nerds who’d taken one for the advancement of our school’s glory. And that’s something, I guess.

PAGING ROCKET JONES



Yes, Ted, I used to fly rockets, too, back when I was a clueless high school freshman.

We had a huge undeveloped park-like area near our house - huge being a relative term. Any open area was “huge” on the south shore of Long Island, even in the mid 1960’s. It’s not like we were living in Colorado, where there were miles of completely open land. A strip-mall parking lot was the “wide open spaces” for us.

But this place was big and open enough for us to fly our rockets, which would reach altitudes anywhere from 250' to 1500'. The higher flights always had a greater chance of disappearing into Greater Suburbia.

The picture below shows one of our rocket-camera flights in August, 1966. (Note the twelve-volt battery we used to fire our igniters.) It was a primitive affair, this camera, but it took a snazzy 1.25" circular black-and-white negative. One of the local papers got wind of our aerial reconnaissance activities and published an article showcasing some of our pictures. That led to a full page in Newsday in December 1966...which in turn led to the Nassau County constabulary coming a-knocking at our door.



Seems that our rocketry activities were, ahh, fairly heavily regulated in fairly heavily populated Nassau County. We could fly our rockets, all right - but only in the context of official National Rocketry Association activites at Mitchel Field, a good half-hour drive away. As opposed to the large, empty acreage within a short bike ride of our respective houses. We kept flying...but it was no longer as much fun. Because now it was “official.” Now it was an “organized activity.”

Bull. Shit.

My first experience with Big Government Interference! Then, as now, it sucked.

CARNIVAL OF THE CATS #61

For its sixty-first edition, Carnival of the Cats returns to home base at This Blog Is Full Of Crap. Lair has put together a superb Carnival - no surprise, even given the demands on his time created by the Titanic Daily Output of Bloggy Crap he must generate to feed the IFOC Empire. Speaking of which...

Anyone who has trouble understanding the deep, intimate connection between Cats and Crap need look no farther than our litterbox. Feh.

OFF SEASON

Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I joined a group of friends for Movie Night. And since the movies we wanted to see were at the Local Cheap-Ass Cinema, it was an inexpensive evening out.

While everyone on the planet seems to be rushing off to see the latest Star Wars installment, we, being the contrarians we are, went to see Hitch, that Will Johnson romantic comedy from a few months ago. It wasn’t bad, falling somewhere in that pleasant zone between being a Chick Flick and a Dick Flick. Something to appeal to both sexes.

As we were leaving the theater, my attention was drawn to a short, roly-poly man a few paces ahead of me. What was striking about him was his snow-white hair – just a touch of Male Pattern Baldness – and his flowing white beard. But I was tipped off to his True Identity by the red T-shirt and Frosty the Snowman suspenders.

Yes, kids – it was Santa Claus. The real, no-shit, honest-to-Gawd, gen-yew-wine Santa Claus.

Now I know where the old dude spends his off-season. In Georgia!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

WHAT KIND OF GUY

drives a Pontiac Aztek?


2005 Pontiac Aztek.

This kind of guy.


Friday, May 20, 2005

THE MISTRESS MAKES A BRIEF VISIT

Huzzah! The Mistress of Sarcasm has favored us with her August Presence this weekend.

She made the four-hour drive up from Savannah to catch a concert and to spend a little time with the ’Rents. We’ll see her again next weekend, when it is Graduation Time, but things will be much more hectic then. Right now, at least, we don’t have to share her with two sets of grandparents, assorted aunts and uncles, and family friends...not to mention Elder Daughter.

The Mistress has had a busy quarter, what with her final series of courses and a whole wad of studio time. She has been working on production techniques and economics, and in the process has generated a whole mess of Interesting and Beautiful Stuff. Here’s a sampling:



Ya like this Fine Jewelry? Send me an e-mail and we can work something out.

Why, Elisson! You whore, you!

Hey, if I can’t pimp my daughter’s crap on my blog, then what good is it? (Aside from satisfying my need to Distribute Mass Quantities of My Bullshit to an Unsuspecting World, that is.) I gotta pay those tuition loans off somehow...

CARNIVAL OF COMEDY - WEEK 4

Epithode IV of the Carnival of Comedy is up at IMAO. Heh. Indeed.

MY FIRST REAL DRINK

All of the recent booze-blogging by Acidman, Pawpaw, and, most recently, the Velocimeister his ownself, got me to reminiscing yet again.

This time, it was about my First Real Drink.

Well before my high school discovery of Southern Comfort. Well before the infamous Drunken Miami Lunch...but that’s another story.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1961. My parents were out, having left me in the care of the teenage girl who lived across the street. On their way out the door, they did the incredible, giving me permission to fix myself a drink with which to celebrate the New Year.

Now: What to drink?

I dragged out our dog-eared copy of The Joy of Cooking and searched eagerly through the mixed-drink section. (That book had everything). What’s this? A Brandy Alexander, you say? What’s that have in it? Brandy? Crème de Cacao? Cream? Sounds good to me!

A digression. Many years later, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were in Houston at one of those big “Taste of Houston” foofaraws at the (old) Convention Center. It was one of those deals where all the restaurants had set up booths and you would go around from booth to booth, sampling the various wares. Face-stuffing fun. As we were sitting at our table, a fellow from Schepp’s, one of the local dairies, brought us a nice treat: individual Brandy Alexanders, sealed up in little thermoformed cups – like those coffee creamers, except holding a good four ounces. He left a whole fuckin’ dairy case full of the little bastids, and we proceeded to get sloppily, deliciously wasted on Brandy Alexanders. It’s a miracle we didn’t puke our brains out that night...but that is one tasty beverage.

Back to 1961.

So now it’s getting to be about 11:30 or so: the Zero-Hour approacheth. Time to make my drink!

Brandy. Hmmm. Well, there’s B&B in here, which is Benedictine and Brandy. Close enough.

Crème de Cacao. Got that.

Cream. Nope, no cream. Hey, how about that Crème de Cacao? That’s “cream,” isn’t it? Close enough.

So, into an Old Fashioned glass goes a liberal slug of B&B and two liberal slugs of Crème de Cacao. Stir. The resulting Evil Brew bore no resemblance whatsoever to a real Brandy Alexander, of course, but what did I know at the time?

And when that ball dropped, and it was 1961!!! it was drinkin’ time. I promptly guzzled that whole sumbitch right down. It was kinda sorta tasty, too.

And, Damn! if I didn’t feel seriously woozy. Because, after all, I was all of eight years old.

What the hell was I thinking? For that matter, what the hell were my parents thinking?

CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES #40

What’s that? Another Carnival, you say?

Yes! It’s this week’s Carnival of the Recipes, hosted by the lovely and gracious Jordana Adams at Curmudgeonry.

I can thank Ted at Rocket Jones for introducing me to the Carnival of the Recipes. As if I didn’t already have an unhealthy obsession with Good Food...

FRIDAY ARK

What’s Friday without the Friday Ark?

Head on over to The Modulator for this week’s Celebration of Life, Mammalian or Otherwise. If it’s got DNA, Steve will post a link to it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

DIGITAL CLOCK

Check out my new Digital Clock:


Nifty, huh?

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Zeldie]

BUILD A LITTLE BIRDHOUSE

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
Who watches over you
Make a little birdhouse in your soul
Not to put too fine a point on it
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Make a little birdhouse in your soul

- They Might Be Giants, “Birdhouse In Your Soul” (from Flood)
This is my birdhouse.

There are many like it, but this one is MINE.

My birdhouse is my best friend. It is my life.

I must master it as I must master my life.

My birdhouse without me is useless. Without my birdhouse, I am useless.

I must run to my birdhouse quickly.

I must get there faster than my sister who is trying to kill me.

I must bite her on the ass before she bites me. I will...



...start referring to this thing as a cathouse.

I’D WALK A MILE...

...for a CamelToe.

ETHANOL

Several people have written posts recently having to do with that noble intoxicant, C2H5OH, also known as ethyl alcohol. Ethanol. Drinkin’ alcohol.

Acidman recently discussed his plans to make something from all of them blackberries he’s been picking – something a little more interesting than blackberries and cream. And that got me to reminiscing about an old story that involved me and my friend Walter, and our completely misguided attempt to make Vermont Applejack.

And that inspired Pawpaw to put up a post about learning to make ’shine from his daddy, in an attempt to preserve Folk Tradition. This was not too far removed in time from my little adventure with Walter and the pressure cooker.

Walter and I, of course, did everything completely wrong, which is why our story reads more like an “I Love Lucy” script than a recipe for real schnapps. But that was 35 years ago, back when I was a stupid-ass high school kid.

I could do a respectable job of it today. Unlike 35 years ago, now I have the benefit of a chemical engineering degree and professional experience designing and operating chemical plant distillation processes. None of which, of course, is as useful as Pawpaw’s hands-on experience making, er, ah…products, with his daddy.

And I have the glassware. Boiler, condenser, thermometer, the works. I even have a Soxhelet extractor, which doesn’t much help if all you want to do is distill a mixture of water and ethanol – but it is one cool–looking piece of glass.

Glass equipment is, of course, not useful if you are serious about making your own supply of (strictly illegal!) potables. It’s too damn small. It’s suitable for lab work, a few ounces at a time. But mainly, it’s neat looking. I have this crap all in boxes in the basement, but I ought to unpack it and put it together just to admire its Technological Beauty.

Yes, I’m a Chemical Engineer. People who know me casually are surprised when they learn that, but it’s true. I was one of a class of twelve chemical engineers (we started with 24 and lost half of ’em between sophomore and junior years) – we called ourselves the Dirty Dozen. Half of us made it to our 25th Class Reunion six years ago...


The Dirty Dozen’s 25th reunion, 1999. [Elisson is 2nd from the right.]

ChE was a brutal major, involving a huge amount of the dreaded Math and Science. Pre-med students dreaded courses like Organic Chemistry; we ate stuff like that for lunch. Fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, differential equations…and Separation Processes.

Ya gotta know separation processes if ya wanna distill something.

One of the things we learned was that water and ethanol form a mixture at 95% ethanol-5% water that has a lower boiling point than pure ethanol. What that means is, when you distill a mixture of ethyl alcohol and water, the strongest alcohol you can get is 95%. If you go to your local Dram Shoppe and get a bottle of Everclear grain alcohol, you’ll see that it is 190 proof – 95% alcohol.

There is a way to get pure, 100% ethanol, but it’s tricky. You take your 95% ethanol and add benzene. Then you distill off the benzene, which carries away the water and some of the ethanol. What’s left in the bottom is pure, 200-proof ethanol. Reagent-grade ethanol.

There’s a reason people don’t make drinking alcohol this way. Benzene is extremely toxic. The few parts per million of benzene left in the ethanol won’t kill you, but it would be a real bad idea to get in the habit of consuming reagent-grade ethanol on a regular basis. Plus, that extra ternary distillation step is costly. There’s no point in removing that last 5% of water – at great expense – when you’re just going to add some form of water to make the stuff drinkable.

One day, one of my Demented Engineering Buddies got into the lab supply lockers and found 16 gallons of reagent-grade ethanol. Good night, Irene! It was time to par-tay!

My friend asked each of us how much we weighed. He then measured out an exact amount – one cc per pound of body mass – and mixed it half-and half with Pepsi. What you had, in effect, was Pepsi with the kick of bonded bourbon – and no taste of alcohol.

I had two of those “Chem E Cocktails,” after which I was seeing double and speaking in tongues. I have no idea how I managed to get back to my room on the other side of campus…but I did. The next day, absolutely no hangover or other ill effects. That shit was pure.

Good stuff, if you could get it. But too much would get you in trouble. One of the guys ended up in police custody after running into the lake, screaming, stark naked, drunk out of his mind. One too many Chem E Cocktails – for the guy that found the 16-gallon stash in the first place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

LAME-ASS BAR JOKE

Television set walks into a bar and orders a drink.

Bartender says, “We don’t serve television sets here. Get out.”

Television set says, “Damn. I knew you were gonna say that. I have ESP...N.”

TUNES? WE GOT TUNES

What’s with the memes all of a sudden? I got this one handed to me by Cowtown Pattie, who in turn got it from Bunker Mulligan, who sports two of my most overused Golf Nouns. Since I’m in a “what the hell” kind of mood, I’m just gonna dive right in.

1. What is the total volume of musical files on your computer?

Right now, I’m at The Great Corporate Salt Mine, where .mp3 files are verboten. On my home computer, I probably have about a hundred or so song files. On my last ’puter, I had somewhere north of 1,100 files, but I offloaded them all to CD-ROM to free up disk space. Unlike my iPod-toting daughter, the Mistress of Sarcasm, I don’t usually listen to tunes on the computer.

2. What song are you listening to right now?

Nothing right now. Yes, I can play CD’s on my office computer, but since I rarely do, I took my good speakers home to use on our new machine. So most of my listening is in the car. Today’s selection: Linton Kwesi Johnson, Reggae Greats. Linton is not your “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” kind of reggae performer - he is serious.

3. Last CD I bought?

The last music CD I bought was the original Broadway cast album of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Accompanying it in the nice big box from Amazon was a comedy CD/DVD set, Mitch All Together - the late Mitch Hedberg’s swan song.

4. Five songs you listen to a lot and which mean something to you:

Only five, huh? You realize that this is ridiculous.

Onyonghasayo, Skankin’ Pickle - Infectious and fun, but otherwise meaningless - with incomprehensible Korean lyrics.

Inca Roads, Frank Zappa - Picking just one piece out of the Zappa oeuvre is practically impossible, but this one has got everything: demented vocals, a science-fictiony subtext, and a synthesizer solo that’ll curl your hair.

Strawberry Fields Forever, The Beatles - Same comment applies. A Day In The Life, A Little Help From My Friends, In My Life are just a few of the Beatles songs that just never seem to get old.

Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen - When Born To Run came out, I used to love coming home from work and listening to Thunder Road at earsplitting volume. There’s something about the combined effect of the plaintive intro, the thunderous conclusion, and the lyrics, which speak of breaking away from our mundane, ordinary lives to seek love and adventure, that make this the Quintessential Springsteen Tune.

We Used To Know, Jethro Tull - From Jethro Tull’s superb second album, Stand Up, comes this song that instantly transports me back to the spring of my freshman year in college. “The bad old days, they came and went, giving way to fruitful years.” Yeah, they did.

5. Five people to pass the baton to:

I am not much of a baton-passer in these matters, but I will pass this one on to Karen, Rox, and Jim. Why them? Because they often write about the tunes they listen to. And Jim, in particular, shares some of my demented musical taste. Karen, sorry about two tags in two days - if you set phasers to “ignore,” I’ll understand.

Oh, and Donna, who hates memes. Donna, ignore this one if you think it smells like last week’s fish - but you’re a Musical Mama and...well, I am curious.

You wanted five? Sorry. Five is getting a bit aggressive in the Meme-Propagation Area...four is just gonna have to do, Tex!

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES #139

Commonwealth Conservative, who claims to be the world’s first elected blogger, hosts this week’s Carnival of the Vanities. Go on over and check it out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

HOME BREW

Once upon a time, I discovered that I was not cut out to be a moonshiner.

Wind the clock back to 1969 or early 1970. I’m a senior in high school, and my friend Walter has hit upon a venerable technique for making a Homemade Alcoholic Beverage.

Walter and his family spend a lot of time in Vermont, where it gets wicked cold in the dead of winter. Supposedly, the old-timers will take some hard cider, set it outside on a cold night, and the water will freeze out, leaving a core of unfrozen concentrated alcohol: Vermont Applejack.

We just had to test this theory out.

Step One. We procure several gallons of unfiltered apple cider and dump it into a tub in Walter’s basement. Because this stuff has been pasteurized, we decide to throw in a packet or two of Fleischmann’s yeast. We let this stuff sit…

…and after a week or two, we take a look. A handful of sugar thrown in to this bubbling witch’s brew causes an almost instantaneous volcano of foam. We figure the stuff is just about ready for…

Step Two. We fill a couple of gallon jugs with the evil Apple Wort and put it in Walter’s back yard on a cold, cold night. The next morning, we are dismayed to find that the stuff has refused to freeze. So: how to separate the alcohol from the rest of the mixture?

Simple (said Mr. Smart-Brains Elisson). We distill it. Now, as to the still, it never occurs to us that the best technology involves a pot with a nice long coil. That might actually involve Labor and Materials. No, we figure that since steam condenses on a cold plate, we can simply boil the mixture and condense the precious Booze Vapor on a cold plate.

To boil the mixture, we take Walter’s mother’s pressure cooker. We figure on using the pressure release valve opening to direct the flow of the steam right on to the cold plate.

So we put the pressure valve on and start the brew a-boiling. Once we get the thing up to five pounds of pressure, we figure it’s ready to go. So I get ready with the cold plate, and Walter yanks the little weight off the valve stem.

What we learn in the next three minutes is worth a whole semester’s worth of college lectures on the physics of superheated liquids.

Because (as anyone who is not a moron should know before messing with a pressure cooker), when you have five pounds of positive steam pressure on that pot, the liquid is considerably hotter than 212°F, the boiling point of water at room temperature. That’s the whole point of a pressure cooker: the higher temperature cooks food much faster.

And when you suddenly drop the pressure to One Atmosphere, every ounce of the superheated liquid in that pot starts to boil instantly.

What this meant is, suddenly there was a jet of superheated Fermented Apple Mash mixed with steam, rocketing through that valve opening at roughly the speed of sound. All I could do was control its direction by holding my ridiculous Cold Plate over the opening like a rocket’s blast deflector. By turning the plate, I could aim the stream anywhere I wanted. The kitchen sink was clearly preferable to the Living Room…

…where Walter’s dad, a retired Water Cop, was asleep on the sofa.

To this day, I have no idea how Walter Senior slept through the violent events of that afternoon, what with the screaming (of Walter’s mother and sisters), the hysterical laughter (of Walter and me), the jet-aircraft sound of the Boiling Mash Jet, and the dense, steamy, pungent fog of Fermented Apple that permeated the whole house. Perhaps the alcohol had affected his dad’s higher nervous system or something…but Walter and I knew that if he woke up and saw what we were up to, we were certifiably Dead Meat. Walter Senior was a no-nonsense guy, and this was nonsense of the highest order.

Somehow or other, we got the mess cleaned up without having been scalded to death…and without waking Walter Senior, which would have been just as bad. For weeks afterward, there was an unmistakable apple pong in the house.

The net fruit of our labors was about 5 cc’s of a clear liquid. It did not taste like applejack – or what we imagined applejack to taste like. It did not taste particularly good. After a few days, the remaining few drops grew some strange green fungus and we threw it out.

And when the weather is cold, perversely enough, I still smell apples.

Fermented apples.

MY NEW RIDE



is the Anti-Chrysler.

YOU LIVE BY THE MEME...

...you die by the meme.

It’s only fair that I got nailed with Karyn’s Fridge Tag. Despite the fact that I normally don’t truck overmuch with memes, I confess to being the responsible party behind the distasteful Punchbowl Meme. And since Karyn was kind enough to play my stupid game, I suppose I should just suck it up and deal with this:

Take a picture of the contents of your refrigerator (as it is right now) and post it. If you’re digitally challenged - or if the spirit so moves you - then you can describe the contents of your fridge in poetry form (or a combination of pic and poem for you high achievers). Then pass the baton to three other bloggers.

OK, then.



The kitchen fridge is loaded with crap,
In order that we may eat.
The left side is the freezer part:
That’s where we keep the meat.

The frozen veggies also lurk,
The ice-cold vodka too,
And all of the ingredients
For a Tasty Fungus Stew.

The right side has a thermostat
That acts a little wonky.
And that is why our orange juice
Might be a little “chonky.”

There’s beer and wine stuffed in the door
There’s ketchup and there’s capers.
Mysterious green shit lurks in back...
Do we need rolling papers?

We don’t stock everything in here.
You’ll search in vain for shrimp or ham in
The fridge d’Elisson. The
Bottom drawer? Some nice smoked salmon.



The overflow goes to the Basement Fridge.
There ain’t much in there: just a smidge.
Assorted types of wine in bottles,
And SWMBO’s pickled axolotls.

Yes, there is a lotta crap in there for two empty-nesters. You should have seen it a few weeks ago, before She Who Must Be Obeyed cleaned out both refrigerators in preparation for Passover. Jeeminently, but you can accumulate a lot of Seriously Old Food if you don’t wade in there and throw out the Extra Shit once in a while.

Anyway, that’s our Below Room Temperature Food Inventory. Now, to complete my Memely Obligations, I will pass the baton to Karen (Verbatim), who sucked me into Bloggy World with her Ultimate Roast Duck recipe; Jen (the estimable Bakerina), whose own fridge is probably stuffed with Scottish Goodies; and Ted over at Rocket Jones. Ted is the one who introduced me to the Carnival of the Recipes...I’m not sure if I’m repaying the favor properly, but...it is what it is. Go get ’em!

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

This week marks the end of the school year here in Jawjuh. It’s a strange time, so close to the last school day of the year, to be thinking about the first day of school...which makes me strange, I suppose.

The first day of school is one of those Watershed Events.

Before you get on the Academic Treadmill, life is pretty uncomplicated. You get up, you eat, you play, you take a nap, you take a crap, you eat some more...nothing too demanding. But then, one day, the Powers That Be bundle you off to a strange new place - a place where, in one form or another, you are expected to spend the next 13-17 (or more) years of your life. From then on, you will be Punching the Timeclock, whether it’s in the world of school or in the Corporate Salt Mines to which so many of us exile ourselves.

My first day of school was back in the fall of 1957. It was September: my fifth birthday, the day Sputnik was launched, was still a month in the future. And for me, it was time to enter the strange new world of kindergarten.

Adventure Number One was riding the school bus, which picked up a small mob of snot-nosed tykes, myself included, perhaps half a block from my house. In the bus, we were transported all the way across town to the Raymond J. Lockhart School. It was my only year attending school in that particular building: for some strange reason, the much closer Unqua School, where I would attend Grades 1-5, did not offer kindergarten. As it was, the district’s resources were stretched thin enough in those baby-boom years such that we had split-session kindergarten. This meant I was on the hook for only half a day that first year.

I don’t remember a lot of details from that first day, but the few I do remember stand out clearly in my memory even today, almost fifty years later. And all of them seem to revolve around Stupid Shit.

I remember being yanked into the wrong classroom by a girl who must have wanted me to be in her class...but the teachers managed to sort out that potential snafu fairly quickly.

I remember lunch-hour recess on the playground, where I managed to fall onto an outcropping of rough, unfinished concrete, making a bloody mess of my thumb. I’m sure I made a screaming nuisance of myself.

But the biggest Near-Snafu of the Day came when it was time to board the bus for home.

There were two buses: one that would take kids to the eastern and southern reaches of town, and another for the north and west. In their wisdom, the school administrators named the buses, ostensibly to help the kids remember which one was theirs. One bus was the Mickey Mouse bus, the other the Donald Duck bus.

I was supposed to ride the Donald Duck bus.

When the time came for us to get on the buses to head for home, almost all of the little friends I had made that day ran straight for the Mickey Mouse Bus. Well, that was the bus I wanted to ride, too. Not only were my friends on that bus, but everyone knew Mickey Mouse was cool and that Donald Duck was a hot-tempered asshole. Screw Donald Duck, I thought, I’m ridin’ with Mickey!

[Editor’s Note: No, I didn’t really think in terms such as “screw” and “asshole.” But I knew what I liked, and I knew what I didn’t like.]

But before the bus could leave, I was unceremoniously hustled off Mickey and shuffled onto a seat on the Donald Duck bus. And a good thing, too, because at the tender age of four, I would have been a complete basket case without an Elissonian Parent being right there to meet me at the bus stop. I was oblivious to this at the time, of course, but I was thoroughly embarrassed at having been made to change buses. Yes, even at the tender age of four, I could feel the emotion that She Who Must Be Obeyed would eventually refer to as “Fu-Na.”

“How did they know?” you are probably asking yourself. How did they know little Elisson (and only little Elisson, I might point out) was on the wrong damn bus?

Simple. It was the color-coded cardboard tag affixed to every child’s clothing. The Mickey people had a hot Pepto-Bismol pink, while we Donalders had a dark, loathsome green...which was the other thing I hated about the Donald Duck bus. My green tag stuck out like a sore thumb on the wrong bus - and I was thus prevented from wandering off to the wrong side of town, there to be sold into eternal servitude cleaning the grease traps at the yet-to-be-constructed All-American Burger stand.

But that, Esteemed Readers, is another story for another time.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #98

It burns! It burns!

Of course it burns, ya feckin’ eejit - it’s a bonfire.

And a whole pile of stupid and/or useless blogposts are going up in flames at The Conservative Cat. Go visit Ferdy and roast a couple marshmallows, willya?

Monday, May 16, 2005

THE DESIGNER: A 100-WORD STORY

It was only a matter of time before she branched out into a new business.

Name recognition? She had that - in spades. Her online journal was massively popular: on the rare occasions when she accepted comments, hundreds would sprout, like mushrooms after spring rain. She was eagerly sought out for interviews. Television. Newspapers.

But writing was becoming a bore, so she now turned her prodigious talents to the world of fashion design. Within months, her pocketbooks were being introduced in the hottest salons of Beverly Hills and Salt Lake City.

Yes, ladies: Now you, too, can own a DooceBag.

MORNING ROUTINE ON A ROUTINE MORNING

Morning approaches, and in this house, like Robert Frost’s fog, it approaches on little cat feet.

I often wonder why we bother owning an alarm clock when our Wake-Up Device is more effective and persistent than any mere mechanical contrivance. The alarm clock enjoys only one advantage: we can set it for any time we wish. Our Wake-Up Device has but one setting, and her morning routine is as inflexible as that of your average drill sergeant. The only variable - and a minor one, at that - is its timing, but its reliability is unchallenged.

At 5:15, give or take 15 minutes or so, Matata will begin Preparations for Breakfast. This means rousing the Great Bifurcated Gods from their slumber, that they may fill the Kitty Bowls with provender.

Step One: Begin sticking face and ass into Elisson’s face. Purr loudly.

Step Two: Mufficate on the pillows and on the respective heads of Elisson and She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Step Three: Begin playing with the telephone cord, should it be dangling off the edge of the nightstand.

Step Four: Knock eyeglasses off nightstands. This will usually get the attention of the Bifurcated Ones.

Step Five: Enter the Small Room wherein resides the Porcelain Appliance. Unroll the toilet paper.

Step Six: Resume operations at Step One, repeating as necessary.

Step Seven: When provender delivery has been completed, take representative samples from both bowls.

There are times when the attentions of our Wake-Up Device are unwelcome. This was the case Sunday, when SWMBO and I were struggling to metabolize the remains of the Entire Side of Beef and the bathtub full of Cabernet we had consumed the night before. In such rare events, I will take the unusual step of locking the cats out of our bedroom. It’s relatively simple; I just head for the stairs as though I were heading toward the Monstrous Bin o’ Kibble, and when Hakuna and Matata follow me out, snap-snap, I duck back in the bedroom and lock the door. Matata was suspicious this time and she was loath to leave the bedroom, but her hunger got in the way of her Feline Intuition, and she fell for my ruse at last.

But she had her revenge...


The Wrath of ’Ta

(Cue Edward G. Robinson voice) “Where’s your bunwad now?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

CARNIVAL OF THE CATS #60

Aptenobytes hosts this week’s Carnival of the Cats...and it’s up already! Woo Hoo!

Even better, it’s not just links...it’s linked photos. Way to go, m0nkyman!

A TRULY BEEFY WEEKEND

Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I spent an evening of Wretched Excess with our friends Wylie and Janet. You could call it “Meet the Meatles Redux.”

Wylie’s idea of “Dinner for Four” is to smoke an entire beef tenderloin. And as if that were not enough, he had prepared a pile of sliced, barbecued beef brisket…just in case. All of which was washed down by copious amounts of fine McManis Family Vineyards California cabernet. And I do mean copious. SWMBO and Janet were downright tipsy by evening’s end, and I was glad I had slacked off in the Wine-Consumption Department early enough so that we could get home safely.

Did I mention the appetizer? Softball-sized crab cakes, sautéed in butter and served with a tasty rémoulade? No? OK, then. How ’bout the salad, a perfect wedge of iceberg lettuce, smothered in bleu cheese crumbles and vinaigrette? Sweet potatoes, kissed by a blend of butter and maple syrup? Asparagus with sauce Hollandaise? Mushrooms, sautéed in butter?


Meaty, meaty goodness.

Yes, we had all this and more. A veritabobble Groaning Board of goodies.

For dessert, I pulled out one of my favorite Maida Heatter recipes: Torte Soufflé au Chocolat. It’s a scary-sounding, Frenchy sort of name for what is essentially a dense, flourless chocolate cake.

In case you want your own Torte, here’s how to make one:
Torte Soufflé au Chocolat

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Cut a round of parchment paper or wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan and put it in…then butter the paper. Dust with flour and shake out any excess.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1¼ sticks butter
7 large or extra-large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1¼ cups plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/3 cup Cointreau (Maida Heatter specifies Grand Marnier, but I prefer the more bitter Cointreau for this cake)

Break or chop the chocolates into small chunks. In a double boiler over hot (not boiling) water, or on low power in a microwave oven, melt the chocolates together with the butter. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Reserve ¼ cup of the sugar. In an electric mixer at high speed, beat the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar about five minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. On low speed, add in the Cointreau and then the melted chocolate (which should be tepid by now). Beat to mix, then transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites and salt until the whites begin to hold a shape. Gradually add in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, then continue beating until the whites form soft peaks. Don’t beat the crap out of ’em – you do not want the egg whites to be too stiff.

Now, working quickly, stir about a cup of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Now, using your (clean!) hand or a large rubber spatula, fold in about 1/3 of the remaining whites. Then fold in the rest of the whites.

Turn the batter out into your prepared pan and level the mixture. Stick it in the oven for one hour, then turn the temperature down to 250°F and bake for 30 more minutes.

Maida says to turn off the heat and let the cake cool in the oven, but you really don’t have to. Once the cake is cool, remove the sides of the pan, cover with a plate, invert, and peel off the parchment or wax paper. Now invert onto a serving plate.

The cake will not look pretty, resembling either a collapsed soufflé or a round brownie. But that’s OK. Dust it with confectioner’s sugar if you wish, and serve it with a liberal slug of Schlag:

Beat 2 cups of ice-cold whipping cream or heavy cream with ½ cup confectioner’s sugar and 1½ tsp vanilla extract until soft peaks form. As with the egg whites, you don’t want this stuff to get too stiff: it’s supposed to taste like whipped cream, not butter.

I think this cake tastes even better the second day. Hell, it tastes good any day.

Did I say this was a Truly Beefy Weekend? Yes, I did.

As if trying to do major damage to a whole tenderloin last night was not enough, today I’m cooking Beef Brisket for 120 people.

Yum. Now, where’s the Maalox?

[Postscript: 45 pounds of brisket (plus hamburgers, hot dogs, etc., etc.), enough for 150 people - and 185 show up. Yowza!]

Friday, May 13, 2005

DON’S NIGHT IN: A 100-WORD STORY

He had been waiting a long time for this evening.

Everything was ready; he’d seen to that. The chilled Champagne, the candles, the flowers, the scented oil. The freshly laundered sheets.

And now she was in his arms.

His chest pounded with desire. He forced himself to breathe.

She nestled her head in his lap, sought him greedily. He moaned, pleasure building within him like a breaking wave.

AFLA-A-A-A-A-CK!

Afterwards, Donald lit a Mallardboro and exhaled slowly, blowing flattened smoke-rings. The night would not be cheap, but so what? His credit was good. She would put it on his bill...

[Hat tip: Lair Simon]

WE GOT YA ADVICE RIGHT HERE

Pronounce the title of this post in a loud, derisive tone, preferably with a Brooklyn accent and while grabbing your crotch.

Now you’ve got the spirit.

The spirit of Dear Abby Is Full Of Crap.

Every day, the fine wordsmiths and Advice-Mavens of Dear Abby Is Full Of Crap take real letters to Dear Abby, steam them open, snarf up the best questions, and cleverly reseal the envelopes so that the “real” Dear Abby is none the wiser. [I use quotation marks because the “real real” Dear Abby, Pauline Phillips, is dead, and her daughter Jeanne writes her useless, flabby advice column today.]

Once our fine Editorial Team has Dear Abby’s letters in hand, we proceed - completely at random - to write our own advice. The kind of advice you can really use. The kind of advice the papers won’t print. Or, as Lair Simon puts it, honest from-the-heart answers instead of Abby’s lame play-it-safe advice.

And it’s just a mouse click away!

Update:
DAIFOC was taken down in June, 2005 after Lair Simon got a nice thick envelope from Dear Abby’s crack legal team. All traces of its existence were wiped clean...except you can still find it at the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. For now.

CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES

This week’s Carnival of the Recipes is hosted by the lovely Boudicca over at Boudicca’s Voice.

Gotta love the Bou. She’s compiled a terrific collection of Good Things to Eat, complete with her inimitable commentary...plus, she has a sense of humor, as evidenced by her participation (albeit reluctant) in the Infamous Punchbowl Meme.

Hmmm. I wonder if anyone has posted any recipes for punch this week...

FRIDAY ARK

What? Friday already?

Most people say Thank Gawd It’s Friday, and I can’t argue with that. (I look forward to Friday so much, I have been known to say, “So Happy It’s Thursday.”) Friday is the gateway to the weekend, and it’s the day Steve at The Modulator posts the Friday Ark.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

PAT THE ASSHOLE

Sounds like the title for a perverse children’s book, no?

No.

It’s a working description of beyond-wingnut Pat Buchanan, who now asks whether World War II was worth it, given the subsequent subjugation of eastern Europe by the Soviet Empire for almost fifty years.

For a thorough demolition of Mr. Buchanan, go to this excellent piece by InstaPunk, which says it all better than my lazy ass can.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Laurence Simon for the link.]

CARNIVAL OF COMEDY, EPISODE III

IMAO has posted this week’s Carnival of Comedy, using a clever, never-seen-it-before Revenge Of The Sith theme. Heh.

I predict we’ll be thoroughly sick of George Lucas’s latest steaming pile long before we stop chuckling at the pile of posts the Spacemonkey has served up.

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, JAY

The Zero Boss has decided to go with a new banner that features Copulating Waterfowl, thereby reminding me of this old shaggy-dog story:

It seems a young man - the only son of a desperately poor woman, and not the sharpest knife in the drawer - was sent to town on a Critical Family Mission: In order to raise cash to meet the month’s rent, he had to go to the Town Fair and sell off the household’s last remaining livestock. Said livestock consisted of one mallard duck that had seen better days.

The young man set off on foot for the town, a lengthy trek, carrying the mallard under his arm. As he entered the outskirts of the town, he passed through an Unsavory Neighborhood and stopped a young damsel to ask for directions. The young damsel, engaged as she was in the World’s Oldest Profession, convinced the young man that he should go with her forthwith and have his ashes hauled. And this, Esteemed Readers, he proceeded to do, being a Naive but Randy Young Man. The fee? Since our hero had no coin, the Painted Woman accepted the mallard in lieu of cash.

But our hero had done his Manly Labors exceptionally well, and his ladyfriend offered to entertain him a second time. So pleased was she with his amorous skills (no doubt honed to a fine polish on the family farm’s ovine and bovine mammals) that she even returned his mallard.

Eventually, remembering his Critical Family Mission, the young man set out once again for the Town Fair, this time armed with directions from his young damsel friend. As he approached the center of town, however, he was so busy gawking at the splendid buildings and elegantly-attired passersby that he nearly was run down by a passing brougham. Narrowly escaping serious injury, he saw to his horror that his precious mallard lay crushed and lifeless on the paving-stones. Immediately he began wailing and sobbing in a manner most piteous...for now his poor mother and he would certainly be evicted from their humble residence!

The young man’s distress, fortunately, did not escape the attention of the brougham’s passenger, a wealthy gentleman. Upon hearing the youth’s tale of woe, the gentleman offered him a ten-dollar indemnity for having killed the mallard. In those days, this was a princely sum, and the young man’s tears gave way to joy.

Upon his return home, our hero’s mother was pleased with the bulging sack of coin. She inquired as to his adventures: How was the fair? and how did you realize such a fine price for our old mallard?

And the young man replied: (wait for it)

“I got a fuck for a duck, a duck for a fuck, and ten bucks for a fucked-up duck.”

[Ba-dump-bump.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

THE REWARDS OF BLOGGING

sometimes show up late...but eventually, they show up.

My book from Jay (The Zero Boss) arrived in today’s mail. OK, it was just a few months late, but it was worth the wait - if for no other reason, because the delay provided some nice blogfodder. Thanks, Jay!

That makes two books I’ve scored off Jay - this one, and the one I won in March in Blogging for Books. If you have not tried Jay’s monthly contest, you should look into it. It’s a great way to hook up with some really good writers, while giving you an incentive to write good material instead of the usual Blog-Crap.

Not that that’s what you usually write. Aah, you know what I mean.

If I add those two books to the little box of Adagio Tea I scored two months ago, that makes a grand total of...two books and a little-ass box of tea. Hell, at least the books are hardbound.

So, if Blog-Whoring were my sole source of income, I would have starved myself to death by now...but at least I would have something to read as my body wasted away to a nubbly skeleton.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT FOODBLOGGING

Since She Who Must Be Obeyed is usually off attending classes Wednesday evenings, it’s Bachelor Food Night for Elisson.

Tonight I did a little multitasking. SWMBO was on the hook for a couple of pans of Breakfast Strata, so I volunteered to prep them while she was at class. That way, all she has to do is fire up the oven in the morning and she’ll be good to go.
Breakfast Strata

5 cups day-old bread, cubed
4 links sweet Italian sausage
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
6 oz Monterey Jack, Cheddar, or Colby cheese, shredded
1 ½ cups milk
6 eggs
1 tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Spray a 9 x 9 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and throw in the cubed bread. Remove the sausage from the casing and brown well; scatter the crumbled, browned sausage over the bread.

Using about 1-2 tbsp of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, sweat the chopped onion until it is soft and translucent. Chop up the sun-dried tomatoes and add them to the onions. Add in the rosemary and stir together to mix. Remove from the heat and scatter the onion-tomato-rosemary mixture over the sausage and bread.

Cover the whole mess with the shredded cheese.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until blended well. Dump this on top of the stuff that’s already in the pan. Now, cover the pan and refrigerate at least ten hours, or overnight.

When you’re ready to prepare the strata, allow it to come to room temperature and bake in a 350°F oven for ~30-45 minutes, or until the eggs are set. Serve it forth and enjoy.

Will feed a small army, or two desperately hungry individuals.
While I was throwing this together for SWMBO, I decided to have a Small, Yet Manly Dinner. Sliced heirloom tomato, with scattered bleu cheese crumbles on top and a healthy squirt of olive oil. A puddle of balsamic on the plate and a twist or two of fresh pepper – so much for the Salad Course.

The entreé consisted of an inch-thick slab of sirloin, seasoned, oiled, and grilled until a perfect medium-rare. For plate decoration and Starchy Goodness, buttered green peas.

All of this washed down with a cool Orval Trappist Ale.



For dessert? Fresh strawberries with a little drizzle of half-and-half, followed by a healthy shot of Fernet Branca to help move this whole Bolus o’ Goodness through the kishkes. And perhaps a small cup of coffee.

And the best part of all this is, She Who Must Be Obeyed ditched class and came home early, so I didn’t have to eat this whole mess by myself. Yay, Wednesday!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELDER DAUGHTER

It’s hard to believe our little girl is not so little any more. Elder Daughter turns 26 today.

Twenty-six years ago, she was a tiny little thing, only six pounds at birth...


Mother and daughter.

who would soon develop her own unique personality.



No, this was not taken when SWMBO and I got married. She was simply trying on her wedding dress one last time before we sent it off to be heirloomed...and Elder Daughter was mighty impressed with all the beads and lace.


Elder Only Daughter - 1981.


An introspective moment.


Here, Elder Daughter (still at this point Only Daughter) enjoys a visit with her uncle Morris William in Texas, summer 1981.

Fast forward a few years...


Eye-rolling in Cambridge.

They (whoever “they” are) say Elder Daughter has my looks and personality. I beg to differ: she’s far better looking than I ever was. But they’re right about the personality, at least to the extent that she shares my twisted sense of humor and my even more twisted taste in music and books.


Elder Daughter, 2005.

She is our Elder Daughter, and we love her. Happy birthday, sweetie!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

WOULD YOU LIKE...PUNCH WITH THAT, SIR?

I thought I was a sick bastard for concocting the Punchbowl Meme, but it seems that I’m a mere amateur in Matters of Excrement.

From PoopReport.com (yes, that’s a real website) comes the story of a restaurant in Taiwan that is, er, ahhh...unique:
Common wisdom would suggest that to encourage people’s appetites, you’d want to avoid associating the food they’re about to eat with the shit it will become. A new restaurant in Taiwan seems determined to stand that assumption on its, um, head.
The mind boggles.

A WELL-TRAINED CAT



will help the Mistress of the Manor put away the china.

FROM THE ELISSON ARCHIVE


T minus 4 hours and counting...

This photograph shows She Who Must Be Obeyed as she was exactly twenty-six years ago this evening.

About four hours after this shot was taken, SWMBO’s water broke and we were off to our small-town western New Jersey hospital for a long, grueling night of labor. The next morning, we had a baby daughter...

...and our lives were forever, and marvelously, changed.

SEARCH ME...

Or, better yet, search for something bizarre, and find me.

It’s always amusing to see the search terms people stick into Google or Yahoo or...whatever, that somehow direct them to Blog d’Elisson. Here are the top 25:

aieee (Google)

ho bag (Google)

enema blog (Google)

how to read fast (Google)

bell shaped curve picture (Google)

tornado dreams (Google)

plumbing problems (Google)

di tri berrese (Google)

"weird music" (Google)

what is moishe pipik (Google)

"cream pie" +history (Google)

fast of First-Born (Google)

seinfeld enema (Google)

carnival of the recipes 34 (Google)

mcsweeney's creationism (Google)

airplane windows (Google)

how to use wahl clippers (Google)

what kind of car did jerry own od seinfeld (Google)

"enema blog" (Google)

fast of the first born (Google)

Spoon Coffee House Eatery lindenhurst (Google)

Cats wuth Kidney failed (MSN)

meet the new boss same as the old boss (Google)

anyone related to the defeos (MSN)

I-Mac reggae (Google)

It’s not on the list above, but if you Google the words “latkes constipation,” this blog comes up first on the list of results. It’s no Googlewhack, but...latkes? Constipation?

And I’m here to tell ya, I’m not quite sure what to make of someone who types the words “Seinfeld enema” into a search engine. I mean, what is it exactly that these people are looking for?

Whatever it is, I’m not sure I really want them to find it. They sure as hell won’t find it here. Yeef.

ARRRH! YE BONFIRE OF YE VANITIES #97

This week’s Bonfire is hosted by The Pirate’s Cove, a blog with which I became acquainted thanks to the propagation of my evil Punchbowl Meme.

I’m not sure what the deal is with his blog’s piratical theme, but the good Captain Teach has done an exceptional job compiling the Heap o’ Self-Admittedly Purulent Postings. He has even spun the whole mess with a Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith gloss, which I am not sure bodes well for George Lucas’s latest Magnum Opus.

Anyway, go visit the good Captain. Read and retch!

Monday, May 09, 2005

THE WOMAN I LOVE



The mother of my children.
The light of my life.
I call her SWMBO* -
She is my wife.

*On this blog, anyway.

THROW A SCARE INTO ’EM

This morning, a post by The Famously Constipated Dooce™ caught my eye:
Today as I was driving to the grocery store I stopped at a four-way intersection near an elementary school. It’s a four-way stop as well as a cross-walk, so I had to stop anyway, but before I even pulled to a stop two kids just walked across the street having full faith that I wouldn’t hit them. I had to think, am I doing them ANY favors by letting them get way with that? Don’t they know you just can’t go around trusting people?
Heather decides, quite wisely, that it just might not be a good idea to “nudge” the kids with the front of the truck...because she’d be incapable of delivering a gentle nudge.

Heather’s story reminded me of one the Dad d’Elisson - Eli his ownself! - told me a few years ago.

Back in the 1970’s, when we lived in our old neighborhood on the south shore of Long Island, there was a family that lived at the end of the next block. They lived in a rundown house with a Yard-Full of Crap and had a swarm of kids, the oldest of which was a couple of years younger than the Bro d’Elisson. And the boys - all four of ’em - were a rowdy, swinish lot. One of them, by way of a Regular Prank, had gotten in the habit of climbing on our roof at night (we had a 1960’s contemporary house with a low, sloped roof, so this was easier than it sounds) and running around, to the enormous consternation of my parents.

My Dad loathed those little snot-noses.

One day, he was on his way to run an errand, and he had just pulled out of the driveway. At the far end of our short street, about 100 yards away, was a knot of kids on bicycles. Those kids. The whole lot of ’em, with a few assorted hangers-on.

And the Old Man gets it in his head that he’s going to throw a scare into them.

So he starts accelerating. Not that there’s a lot of room on this short street...but his idea is to zoom down the street and then come to a screeching stop just short of the Crowd o’ Budding Juvenile Delinquents. Make ’em shit their britches.

Faster, faster, down the street.

And that’s when the little light bulb goes on in his head. The little light bulb that starts flashing, “What the fuck am I doing?!!?

Because one little miscalculation, and one or more of those kids would end up dead, with two families shattered - theirs and ours. One little miscalculation, and my father would never have been able to forgive himself, all as a result of a momentary spasm of General Pissed-Offedness.

So he slowed down, and gave the kids time to get out of the way...which they did in the grudging manner of all kids who have to yield their Rightful Place in the Middle of the Street to automobile traffic.

And thus it was that Alec, Billy, Danny (the Roof-Climber), and Stephen lived to adulthood.

The Baldwin brothers. Perhaps you’ve heard of them...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A BOY AND HIS DOG


No, wait. How ’bout A Man And His Cat?

What it lacks in Two-Fisted Romance, it more than makes up for in practicality. A cat, you see, will crap in a box.

This is as good a time as any to mention that Edition #59 of the Carnival of the Cats is up at The Conservative Cat. There are (as Ferdy says) over 40 links in this week’s Carnival, and Ferdy has taken the time to comment on them all...so enjoy.

FROM THE ELISSON ARCHIVE


The Ginza, Tokyo, 1980.

I took this photograph on my first visit to Japan, back in 1980.

The Ginza was like New York with the volume and speed knobs turned up to 11 - but in Tokyo, cab drivers dusted their spotless vehicles with feather dusters and would refuse to accept tips. You could leave your wallet on the street and it would show up in your hotel room a few hours later, completely intact. And you could buy a can of the unfortunately-named “Calpis” soft drink from a curbside vending machine.

So you knew you weren’t in New York, if the above scene were not clue enough.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

A big shout-out to the Mothers In My Life:

To Ceil, the Mom-in-Law d’Elisson, who has been a veritable mother to me since I married She Who Must Be Obeyed all those many years ago. This is the lady that brought SWMBO into the world, and for that (and much else!) I am eternally thankful.

To Toni, the Stepmom d’Elisson (which would make her the Wife d’Eli), who has made my Daddy’s life so sweet these last 14+ years. She and The Old Man are returning from a week-long trip to Paris today; you can see by this that the two of them are not content to sit around and play Scrabble.

To She Who Must Be Obeyed, who earned the title “Mother” by giving me the most precious gifts I can imagine: Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm. I loves me my SWMBO, yes I do, for more reasons than I care to, or have time to, enumerate in this forum.

And to Bernice, the Mom d’Elisson, who, alas, is no longer with us to celebrate the day. She’s been gone 17 years now, but I still chuckle when I remember her salty sense of humor, her love of mysteries and science fiction, and her prodigious golf ability (of which I inherited very little).


Mom d’Elisson, age 20.

To these Moms and to all others: I salute you!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

WHO’S YOUR MAMA?

Tucker has been cutting our hair for almost seven years now. She Who Must Be Obeyed discovered her shortly after we moved back to the ATL in 1998 - at that time, she worked in a place that was about a mile away.

It wasn’t long after that that Tuck moved her base of operations to a neighborhood just a little north of Midtown. That meant either switching to a new Haircut Person, or driving 20 miles. Each way, mind you.

We’ve been driving the 40 mile roundtrip for all these years now, and we don’t regret it. I’ve tried a few people that are more local, but I’ve never been satisfied with the results. When you don’t have too much hair left, you have to be careful who you let monkey with it.

One of the strange things about Tucker (not like there are a lot of strange things) is her astonishing resemblance to SWMBO:



People who see the two of them together are convinced - nay, adamant - that SWMBO is Tucker’s mother. But no.

Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm do not have a “secret sister” that we haven’t told them about. But look at the picture. Is that a resemblance, or what? The Tuckster looks more like SWMBO than our own kids do.

Weird...

But even though Tucker is not a blood relative, she shares the Elisson Perversity of Mind. Who else would give a client Twat-Shaped Candy for a birthday gift?


Friday, May 06, 2005

TEN POUNDS OF CRAP


in a five-pound sack.

Well, “Old Porko” might be closer to eleven...maybe even twelve pounds, but now that I’ve met Edloe over at Chez Simon, Matata doesn’t seem all that big...even if she thinks she’s the King Shit.

Matata: I’m big. Looka how big I am.

Edloe: I crap bigger than you. [Tip o’ th’ whisker to the late Jack Palance]


CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES #38

Techno Gypsy has this week’s Carnival of the Recipes up and running.

Interestingly, TG has used the unifying theme of the “Pascha Basket,” Pascha being the Eastern Orthodox Easter. The parallel between Pascha and Pesach (the Jewish Passover) is, of course, too obvious to go unremarked.

And how appropriate, because my contribution to this week’s Carnival is a perversely un-Pesadik twist on a beloved Passover recipe.

Go thou, and find Good Things to Cook!

THERE IS NO BOOK

The Biblical Book of Lamentations was written to mourn the first exile of the Jews, when they were carried off into captivity in Babylon. But there is no book in the Canon to bewail the fate of the Jews in the twentieth century C.E. at the hands of the Nazis. That book deserves to be written while some of the people who survived that ordeal still walk the Earth.

Today is Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. There’s no special liturgy for this day - not yet, anyway. We say the usual morning prayers, just as we would on any weekday. But today, when I led our morning minyan’s service, I added a prayer for the Six Million - and an extra Mourner’s Kaddish, recited by everyone.

The prayer is Eil Malei Rachamim (Exalted, compassionate God), and its distinctive, plaintive melody is normally heard at funerals, unveilings, memorial services, and Yahrzeits. [Many congregations have the custom of not saying this particular prayer during the month of Nisan (which ends Monday and Tuesday of next week) - but ours does. Go figure...]
Eil malei rachamim, shokhein bam'romim, ham'tzei m'nuchah n'khonah tachat kanfei hash'khinah b'ma-alot k'doshim u-t'horim k'zohar harakia maz-hirim, et nishmot kol acheinu b'nei Yisrael, anashim nashim v'taf, she-nit'b'chu v'she-nech'n'ku v'she-nis'r'fu v'she-nehergu, b'gan eiden t'hi m'nuchatam. Ana ba'al harachamim, hastireim b'seiter k'nafekha l'olamim utz'ror bitzror hachayim et nishmoteihem. HaShem Hu nachalatam, v'yanuchu v'shalom al mishk'voteihem. V'nomar amein.

Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and the pure, to the souls of all our brethren, men, women, and children of the House of Israel who were slaughtered and suffocated and burned to ashes. May their memory endure, inspiring truth and loyalty in our lives. May their souls thus be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.
It has been sixty years since the fall of the Nazi death machine. A mere tick of the cosmic clock...a tick that encompasses my entire lifetime. And since then, our collective cries of “Never Again!” resound uselessly in the halls of the United Nations.

Cambodia.

Bosnia.

Rwanda.

Darfur.

The list goes on. None of them come anywhere near matching the Holocaust of the European Jews for sheer magnitude, but try telling that to one of the victims. The human capacity for hate and cruelty still manages to find expression.

There is no Book of Twentieth Century Lamentations yet, but someone needs to write it...and a thousand, two thousand, three thousand years from now, may there still be someone who will say a blessing and then chant its words...so that our children’s children’s children never forget.

FRIDAY ARK

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