Sunday, July 31, 2005

RELOCATION AND REFLECTION

We spent most of the day today dragging Weighty Shit from the ginormous U-Haul truck with which we had transported the Mistress of Sarcasm’s belongings from Savannah.

Thank Gawd the Mistress and her boyfriend Mickey were around to help me and the Mistress on Schlep Patrol. I’m getting too old and cranky to do this very often as it is, and having to perform under the lash of a deadline just adds to the Performance Angst.

Deadline, you say?

Yes, deadline. Hadda have the truck back to the drop-off spot by three this afternoon, else I would be dealing with Vile Logistics to get it done tomorrow morning, at a time when I am in the Great Corporate Salt Mine and the Missus is at the doctor.

But we succeeded, which left us a few hours to get ready for the evening’s activities. She Who Must Be Obeyed was marking a solemn moment in the calendar, and she wanted to do it right.

This evening marks the thirtieth yahrzeit of SWMBO’s sister. The yahrzeit is nothing more or less than the anniversary of the passing of a loved one, according to the Hebrew calendar. Younger Sister’s yahrzeit falls on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Tammuz, which corresponds to August 1, 2005 on the Gregorian civil calendar this year.

On this sort of occasion, it’s traditional to attend religious services in the company of at least ten fellow Jews, the quorum required to permit recitation of the Kaddish, which is the prayer recited by mourners and those observing yahrzeit. And so we headed off to evening minyan, where I led the service and the Missus said Kaddish for her sister, gone these thirty years.

By way of thanking the people who attended the service (thus ensuring the presence of a quorum), She Who Must Be Obeyed had arranged a Post-Davening Get-Together. We therefore repaired to Chez Elisson, where there was much Eatage and Drinkage among good friends.

Now the dishes, leftovers, and Associated Crap are all put away, and it’s time to repair to the Old Fart-Sack. Given the physical labor quotient of the day, perhaps some Preventive Medicament is in order. Another wee dram of The MacAllan, anyone?

CARNIVAL OF THE CATS #71

The 71st edition of Carnival of the Cats is up at Your Moosey Fate, where Gir provides a distinctly Canajan perspective on the World o’ Kitties.

Next week, visit the Carnival at its original home, This Blog Is Full Of Crap. Laurence Simon will be doing the Blogathon thing, raising money for The Cat Welfare Society of Israel.

The Great Grumpus

This is all in memory of Edloe, the Late Great Grumpus, so make your pledge and be sure to visit TBIFOC. Lair’s output on a normal day is pretty fearsome; it will be a wonder to behold when he’s wired up on a round-the-clock basis.

UNEXPECTED EMOTIONS

Celebrate we will
Because life is short but sweet for certain
We're climbing two by two
To be sure these days continue
These things we cannot change
- Dave Matthews

Six years ago, on a sunny Saturday morning in late May, the Elisson gang - me, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Elder Daughter, and the Mistress of Sarcasm - were motoring from Somerset, New Jersey, down to Princeton, there to enjoy another day of Reunions Festivities.

We were staying in Somerset because rooms closer in to Princeton were difficult to secure, especially for one such as myself who insisted on using Marriott Freebie Points to pay the Room Tariff. This meant a half-hour drive to get to the Princeton campus in the morning, and a half-hour drive to return in the evening after a full day of Reunions Debauchery. Crap, yes, but SWMBO and I are at the point in life where staying in a sweaty campus dorm room and sharing a bathroom with twenty other people holds no deep attraction...so Distant Hotel it was.

Princeton Reunions are a serious affair, taking up the greater part of four days. They are held every year, although most alumni tend to return every five or ten years. And, yes, there are a few real diehards who manage to attend every single year. These people are Exceptionally Devoted Alumni, otherwise known as Fucking Psychos. (Except you, Alan.)

Reunions are also a family affair, and so it was only logical to have the Offspring along. Elder Daughter attended her first Reunion weekend when she was three weeks old (it was my fifth reunion year, and at the time we lived a mere hour’s drive away) and has been back every five years until 2004, my thirtieth. And the Mistress of Sarcasm has been along with us for every trip, starting when she was not quite two.

But I digress. Six years ago, it was the morning of my twenty-fifth Reunion. The big one, the one in which our very own class would lead the Saturday afternoon P-Rade, the Honored Guests, as it were.

And then a song came on the radio - a Dave Matthews song, of all things! - and I just Completely Fucking Lost It.

The song was “Two Step,” the second track on the Dave Matthews Band Crash album. (Do people still call them albums anymore?) The song had been getting very heavy play during the summer of 1996, when I had traveled to New England with Elder Daughter to scout out colleges, and it got to where I unconsciously associated it with that few days of being on the road.

But it was the lyrics that set me off.

“Because life is short but sweet for certain...”

For some reason, this simple line hit me like a ton of bricks as I piloted our car through New Brunswick. I got a lump in my throat the size of a baseball, and my eyes filled with tears.

There are other songs that smack me right on the “Feeling the Passage of Time” button. “In My Life” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Green Day’s “Time Of Your Life.” But that spring day in 1999, the words of “Two Step” seemed to resonate within me. Not only did they draw me back to those few days in the summer of 1996 - the Father-Daughter Road Trip - but they also seemed to speak to that Deep Reunion Nostalgia that is awakened every five years when we go back to Nassau Hall.

Remembrance of Things Past. But in my case, it wasn’t some Cookie-Like Pastry that triggered that awakening.

“Because life is short but sweet for certain...”

Twenty-five years ago - a quarter century! - my friends and I had been fresh-faced kids, ready to take on the world. Ready to step off into the Great Unknown. Yes! Those were the days when everything was possible, when the future lay before us like an unopened book.

A lot happens in twenty-five years. Dreams grow, change, fade, take different shapes. Love comes into your life in many different ways...love, and loss as well. And babies become Big People, with lives of their own.

They hit me all at once, all of these thoughts, and I wept.

And then I smiled, for I was in the car that day with the greatest of gifts. Gifts that I could never have imagined twenty-five long years ago.

“Because life is short but sweet for certain...”

Short...but sweet.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

THE MISTRESS, A LADY OF TASTE

Every so often, I find evidence that my Years of Parenting have not been a colossal waste of time, and that I, along with She Who Must Be Obeyed, have indeed loosed a pair of Fine Offspring upon an unsuspecting world.

The Mistress of Sarcasm, along with main squeeze Mickey, drove in from Savannah today. Hot on our heels, so to speak, with SWMBO and I having made the same trip only scant hours earlier. SWMBO drove the Big Red Box, and I the Humongous U-Haul Truck, crammed to the rafters with Mistressoid Crappage. Somehow I managed to beat the Missus to Atlanta...must’ve been all of them Feminine Pee-Breaks.

As dusk fell, I grilled a massive pile of Meat-Steaks and set them before us and our friends - the Usual Gang o’ Buddies - and we all had a fine evening, with Mickey holding his own amongst our Extremely Refined (hah!) Crowd.

But why do I credit the Mistress so highly? Well, among other things, she is nice to her Daddy. The other day, she presented Mickey and me with a couple of fine cigars - a Romeo y Julieta torpedo, and a cute little Avo. Now, how many of you guys out there have daughters who will treat you to a Fine Cigar? And if you do, have you thanked your Deity of Choice for your great good fortune?

WHICH IS WHICH?

Submitted for your approval...these photographs from the late 1950’s.

One shows She Who Must Be Obeyed, the other her friend Laura Belle.




Now, which one is which?

Update:

Well, this one wasn’t all that hard to figure out, was it? She Who Must Be Obeyed is in the bottom picture, while our friend Laura Belle is at the top.

Of course, what’s unexpected - or red herringlike - about the photos is the presence of the decorated pine tree in the picture of SWMBO, and the electric Chanukah menorah in the shot of Laura Belle.

We know why there’s a decorated pine tree: SWMBO’s daddy Bill was a Baptist who eventually converted to Judaism after several years of marriage. But we’re still trying to figure out what that menorah is doing in the picture of Laura Belle, who is an Italian Catholic.

You may be able to discern that SWMBO is wearing yellow cowboy boots, good Texas child that she is. We still have those boots tucked away in a cedar chest, and perhaps one day - but not too soon! - they will Ride Again.

BE VEWY VEWY QUIET...

...I’m twying to twap a kittycat.

Trapped!

Oh, boy! I think I got one!

Matata Escapes

Aw, cwap - she’s getting away!

Friday, July 29, 2005

FULLY LOADED

Savannah residence.
Former Savannah residence of the Mistress of Sarcasm.

The U-Haul truck is packed, and now it’s time to soothe them aching muscles in a warm bawth. Or perhaps a few laps around the pool.

U-Haul has a way of giving you more truck than you ask for, especially on a one-way move. I ordered one of those little-ass trucks, but they gave me a 24-foot monster. Plenty of room for the Mistress’s Voluminous Piles o’ Crap, but a pain in the ass to drive. Ah, well.

Piles o’Crap
Voluminous Piles o’ Crap. Note the creative labeling.

I had been hoping to hook up with Rob, the Acidulated One his ownself, but it seems that he has been feeling a mite puny these last few days. Accordingly, the Doctah Man fixed him up with some Powerful Medicaments, rendering him incapable of a safe drive down to Savannah. Such is life. We’ll be back, though, and I have the Rain Check.

Funny thing about this blogging business. I’ve had lengthy telephone conversations with people I’ve never met in Meatworld, and it’s as if I’ve known them for years. That’s the nature of the connections people forge in Bloggity World, I suppose...and that, Esteemed Readers, is a Good Thing.

Our original plan was to drive back to Atlanta tonight. Screw that. We will want to eat a Serious Dinner, followed by some Serious Log-Sawing. (And who knows? Perhaps some Serious Monkey-Business as well!) Tomorrow morning, I will be in much better shape to tackle the drive.

And now, the Swimming Pool calleth.

CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES #50

The inimitable Christina of Feisty Repartee is the host of this week’s Carnival of the Recipes. Lip smackin’ good!

As good a host as she was to the happy attendees of last weekend’s N’Awlins Blogmeet, so The Feisty One is an excellent host for the Carnival, providing that extra little bit of Linky Love to other posts on the blogs contributing recipes. Makes sense: after ya eat, ya gotta read something!

BACK IN SAVANNAH

After the usual five-hour trek from the northern reaches of Atlanta, we arrived in Savannah yesterday evening at 8:30.

That damn trip would be a lot shorter were it not for the fact that we have to drive through Atlanta in rush-hour conditions. That can add an hour to the drive on a good day. Feh.

But once we arrived, we shook off the road grit and took The Mistress of Sarcasm and her main squeeze, Mickey, to dinner at Rancho Alegre, a hole-in-the wall Cuban restaurant on Posey Street hard by Abercorn.

We’ve eaten there a few times before, and in fact had the Mistress’s post-graduation celebration dinner there. That was quite the occasion, what with it being both a graduation, and my Daddy’s 80th birthday, and Rancho Alegre performed in grand style. Hole-in-the-wall it may be, but they serve some damn fine food there. Real home cooking, Cuban-style.

I had a tall, cool glass of passion-fruit juice and a dish of ropa vieja - shredded beef in a mellow Creole sauce. The name calls to mind “old clothes” - I guess because if you wear your pants long enough, they end up looking like shredded meat. Or maybe in Havana, they actually wear clothing made of meat - who knows? But it was delicious.

I always try to save those sweet nuggets of platanos maduros - fried, ripe plantain - for last, but I rarely succeed. They’re irresistible.

The Missus had herself chicken in a spicy tomato-based sauce, and the Younguns both ordered churrasco steaks, a pounded-flat cut of skirt steak marinated in chimichurri sauce. Nice, with lotsa garlic. I love lotsa garlic. Bam!

A couple of sweet Cuban coffees later, and we were off.

SWMBO and I headed back to our hotel for a night of sweet repose. We needed our rest, for Today is Moving Day!

(I frickin’ hate Moving Day.)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

CARNIVAL OF COMEDY #13

The 13th Carnival of Comedy is up at Right Hand of God.

Citizen Grim and Patriot Xeno have done a fine job assembling the Bilgewater of the Bloggy-Sphere, even if they did relegate my own post to the Poop-Deck. Ahh, fuck me if I can’t take a joke.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

WHERE TO HAVE YOUR NEXT LOW COUNTRY BOIL

The Mistress sent us this picture, taken when she and her boyfriend Mickey paid a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, just up the road from Savannah. Did you know there was an aquarium in Charleston?

Jellyfish

Now you do.

And did you know that they eat them sumbitches in China? I’ve been there and done that. Not especially tasty, but not bad, either. Surprisingly, you get a nice crisp “crunch” when you might be expecting a “squish.”

And no, they’re not kosher.

MOVING THE MISTRESS

The Mistress of Sarcasm.
The Mistress of Sarcasm.

Well, now that all the shouting is over and the Mistress of Sarcasm has her degree, it’s time to pack up the U-Haul and schlep all of her crap back home.

To our home, at least. How long it will be her home is anybody’s guess. She doesn’t have to worry about us sawing her corner off the table and breaking her plate - at least not just yet, but we know she will want to move on.

That is the most painful moment in a parent’s life - and the happiest. For as much as we want our children to be children forever, we also want them to be Fully Functional and Happy Adults, which means establishing their own lives and making their own way in the world. We did it, back in the day - and now it’s their turn.

Now, all I have to do is not rupture anything major whilst humping furniture down a narrow flight of stairs in a vintage-1917 building. Boy, oh boy.

A TASTEFUL OBSERVATION

I, the Ever-Tasteful, Rarely Vulgar Elisson*, must convey some distressing news: Popular Culture continues its unfortunate march in the direction of Ever-Increasing Coarseness.

We’re so used to hearing “sucks” and “blows” on network television (even cartoons!) that we have conveniently forgotten the Fellatioid Origins of these terms.

Peter Boyle says “crap” regularly on Everybody Loves Raymond, and nobody seems to give a shit care.

And now, the funny pages. Garry Trudeau has broken new ground.

Doonesbury, 7/26/05
Universal Press Syndicate ©2005 G. B. Trudeau.

Agghh. How teddibly, teddibly vulgah. How...nekulturny.

I’m reasonably confident that Doonesbury is the first comic strip to incorporate the expression “Turd Blossom.” About 10-12 U.S. newspapers pulled the strip, but most of the 1,400 papers that run it didn’t bat an eye.

Huh. Here I’d been thinking all along that Mac invented it.

I tell you, it’s disgusting. One of these days, someone is liable to flash her titty at the Super Bowl, and then our society is Doomed to Extinction! ’Cause Gawd’ll be all Pissed-Off an’ stuff!

*Note: Feel free to laugh quietly to yourself. Raucous guffawing, however, is not a sign of Refined Behavior.

PANEM ET CIRCENSES

“The people who have conquered the world have only two interests – bread and circuses” - Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Feed ’em so they don’t starve, and keep ’em entertained...and you won’t have to worry about public unrest. It was true in Roman times, and it’s at least as valid today.

I was meditating on this issue as a result of having been in Los Angeles recently, a town thoroughgoingly devoted to the creation of big-E Entertainment. Movies. Television. Circuses of the first water.

As if that were not enough, we spent a day at the Universal Studios theme park. And that was an entertaining day. Plenty of people were there along with us, all being Entertained in Grand Style.

We had a great time at Universal, but for me, one day was plenty: I don’t have the desire to rush right out and do it again. My tolerance for Theme Parks is modest at best. Yes, they’re fun. They are the apotheosis of American Fun-Generating Technology, by Gawd! They’d better damn well be fun!

Walt Disney, of course, wrote the book on Theme Parks, and his influence was especially apparent this month as Disneyland celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. In my runny-nose days, I would have committed murder if it would have gotten me into Disneyland, not-so-subliminal advertising for which was hammered into our brains every day as we watched the Mickey Mouse Club on TV. In third grade, one of our classmates actually went to Disneyland, causing the rest of us to suffer paroxysms of Insane Jealous Rage. But after having seen both Disneyland and its newer, more gargantuan sister operation, Orlando’s Walt Disney World several times over the years (the most recent being almost two decades ago), I have little desire to go back and revisit the land of “a thousand catchpenny engines” (to use Cyril Kornbluth’s delightful phrase). As enjoyable as these places are, there’s something about their artificiality that sticks in my craw. She Who Must Be Obeyed may disagree with me on this point, but why go to EPCOT and see a fake version of Canada or Morocco when you can see the real thing?

And let’s not forget the Fine Dining Options available at these places. At the Disney Empire’s outposts, you can get everything from the most churlish, nondescript Fast Food to the finest international cuisine served on white tablecloths...and you’ll love it, provided you’ve never had any of the real cuisine from any of those countries to compare it to. At Universal, the food options are not complicated – not much different from what you would see at your local shopping mall’s Food Court. You gotta love the creative names, too. Frank ’n’ Stein! Hah!

Hell, even Las Vegas has reinvented itself as a sort of Theme Park. Think Excalibur, New York, New York, and all the other hotels built there in the last fifteen years. Think of Treasure Island and its goofy Aquatic Street Show. It’s almost like Las Vegas wants to Disnefy itself.

[Now, if Disney would only add gambling and whores to the mix at their parks, they’d really have something. Screw Tomorrowland - we’re going to Bordelloland!]

But if you really want to appreciate the place Bread and Circuses hold in American society, just look at Professional Sports.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been to baseball games on opposite sides of the country: at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, and at the Ted in Atlanta. Aside from the huge amounts of wealth tied up in building these Palaces o’ Sport, think of the humongous salaries the players are paid. And this is just baseball – we haven’t begun to scratch the surface. Football - the Super Bowl! Basketball! The Olympics!!!

Think also of the Vast Quantities of beer, soft drinks, hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers consumed at a ball game. All to be converted into Body Mass, Frantic Screaming Energy, Carbon Dioxide, Piss, and Shit. Multiply it by, say, 44,000 people, and that’s a Whole Lotta Hot Dogs – and a Whole Lotta Shit.

None of this stuff is cheap at a modern ball park – hell, the peanuts cost six ducats at the Ted! – but it all feeds that Gigantic Engine that keeps the Bread and Circuses flowing.

And when the Bread and Circuses are flowing, we are a happy, complacent people. Aren’t we?

ELISSON AND THE GIANT PEACH

With apologies to Roald Dahl, author of James and the Giant Peach.

Today’s post by the most estimable Bakerina got me to thinking about peaches - and how difficult it is to find really good ones, even in the heart of the Peach State.

Thanks to the demands of Modern Stoopidmarkets, who require a bruise-resistant, easily transportable fruit, most peaches these days are picked firm and unripe. The problem with this is that they never develop that wonderful texture and aroma that a tree-ripened peach should have.

The last really good peach I had was at a farmer’s market in California a couple of weeks ago. Bursting with flavor, it was, and it reminded me why I fell in love with the surprisingly sweet and delicious Raritan White Peach when we first discovered it in the wilds of western New Jersey a quarter-century ago.

I long to find some really good peaches. Serve ’em up with a pile of bright, fresh raspberries, and it’s a little slice of Heaven on Earth. Whoever first thought to pair those two flavors - Peach Melba! - was a bloomin’ genius.

Once upon a time, Good Humor - yes, that Good Humor - used to sell a Creamsicle-like affair called a Humorette. It was ice cream on a stick, coated with a layer of hard sherbet. In addition to the traditional orange sherbet/vanilla ice cream combo, they offered one with raspberry sherbet enveloping a core of peach ice cream. Dastardly, that was.

But right now, I will sit here and dream of peaches. And, since I started this mess by talking of Giant Peaches, here is a real Giant Peach:

The Great Gaffney Peachoid

This baby sits alongside Interstate 85 in Gaffney, South Carolina, just a few miles up the road from the Greenville-Spartanburg mini-metroplex. Looks luscious, no? And from the right angle, it’s downright...sexy. Hoo-Hah!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #108

For this week’s Heapin’ Helping of Roast Post on Toast, head over to Holly Aho’s Soldier’s Angel. This is the Bloggy-Sphere’s Clogged Drainpipe, the place where all vile posts go to die...for now, anyway.

Enjoy.

PUTTING A NEW FACE ON THINGS

2005 Jefferson Nickel Obverse

I really like the bold new profile of Jefferson on this year’s Five Cent Piece. I’m still waiting to get one of these bad boys in my pocket change, but it’s just a matter of time.

I can’t say I care much for the image of the “Buffalo” on the reverse (actually, of course, it’s an American Bison), because James Fraser did it so much better with his beloved Indian Head nickel design back in 1913. (That’s the design that was used for a commemorative dollar in 2001, sorta like reissuing a prime porterhouse steak as a porterhouse-shaped hamburger.) Alas.

But the “Ocean in View” reverse that will come out later this year is Damn Fine.

The U.S. Mint has become an expert merchandiser, but what I’d really like to see is a reimagining of our circulating coinage. This new nickel is a step in the right direction, and I hope they don’t backtrack next year, when (by law) they restore the image of Monticello to the back of the coin. Maybe a nice three-quarter view of the building instead of the boring Piece o’ Crap elevation we had from 1938 until 2003...that’s sixty-five years, people!!! And let’s keep that dramatic portrait from this year’s model, OK?

And would it kill ya to have some kind of Panel of Real Artists to make sure that 80% of the current Statehood Quarter designs never see the light of day? There have been a handful of beauties, but most of ’em are as ugly as a Cancer-Eyed Cow. That’s what happens when the creation art is relegated to a committee.

Ahhh, I could rant on and on about this subject for hours, but SWMBO never fails to remind me that excessive interest in Coins and Stamps is a veritable Hallmark of Excessive Nerdliness. So I will drink deep the draught of Shut the Fuck Up.

Carry on.

Update: One of the 2005 nickels showed up in SWMBO’s change today. Boo-Yah!

BACK TO THE SKIES

STS-114 Liftoff

The Space Shuttle Discovery is back in orbit with today’s liftoff, the first mission to fly since the tragic loss of the shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

Godspeed and safe return, Brave Ones.

Monday, July 25, 2005

CHOCOLATE FACTORY REDUX

Last Saturday evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I descended on the local cinema to see director Tim Burton’s take on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I normally take a dim view of remakes, no doubt due to years of disappointment. It’s mostly a no-win situation. Who in their right mind sets out to remake a bad movie? And if a film is good to begin with, why bother to remake it?

Old Willy
Gene Wilder, AKA Willy Wonka the First.

The answers are semi-obvious. Hollywood likes the safe bet, which is why sequels are so (excessively) popular. Why risk a huge investment on an unknown property when a sequel will be, if not as good an investment as the original, at least a predictable portion of it? Similar logic applies in the case of remakes.

Films based on The Classics, of course, are remade frequently, and nobody bats an eye. That’s why they’re the Classics, stories robust enough to withstand being told in many voices and with many visions. Nobody makes too much noise when Yet Another Version of Les Misérables, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, or Frankenstein surfaces, because there’s always a little more meat that can be gnawed off those Old Bones.

And, once in a while, the evolution of technology, or changes in society, add value to a new envisioning of old subject matter. War of the Worlds comes to mind. Here, the story itself (a Classic, true) has a different resonance today than when George Pal made his 1953 version. We’re no longer in the Cold War; we’re in the post-9/11 period, the initial stages of World War III. The same story affects us differently, and new effects technologies make the 2005 version very different from the earlier film.

But mostly, remakes suck. Think Psycho. Think King Kong (although I still hold out some hope for the Peter Jackson film currently in the works). Think The Time Machine, remade in 2002 with excellent effects but with a ridiculous, pumped-up backstory. Feh. And think Rollerball. Now, there’s a movie that was crying out to be made yet again.

So it was with some trepidation that we bought our tickets and entered the Local Cinema.

Our verdict? Not bad...but disappointing.

As a visual feast, Tim Burton’s film works well. Love him or hate him, he is (to me, anyway) the exact right director to take Dahl’s book and slap it up on the Big Screen. And the film captures Dahl’s book well: in many subtle ways, it is a more faithful rendition than the Mel Stuart “classic,” Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Gotta love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homage to Edward Scissorhands, too.

New Willy
Johnny Depp, AKA Willy Wonka the Second.

Freddie Highmore is an excellent Charlie, effectively conveying the essential sweetness of the character, and David Kelly (from Waking Ned Devine) makes a wonderful Grandpa Joe.

But it’s with Johnny Depp that the picture makes its big miscue.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Depp is a genius. But his portrayal of Willy Wonka lacks the core of warmth that Gene Wilder brought to the role back in 1971. His is a cold, weird Wonka, haunted by inner demons thanks to a backstory of Parental Chocolate Angst that was not present in the novel. And the physical and vocal resemblances to Michael Jackson, whether intentional or no, are...disturbing. More than a little creepy, his Wonka gives me the Willies.

In the last analysis, the newer Chocolate Factory is still very much worth a visit, but it’s not the same place you may remember. It’s missing some warmth and feeling. It’s missing a neshumah – a soul.

I walked out of this movie feeling pretty good...but the old Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory never fails to moisten my eye and bring a lump to my throat at the end. This one did not - and that, Esteemed Readers, is all the difference.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

CARNIVAL OF THE CATS #70

The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
What are you laying around for?

Get up and go visit the Carnival of the Cats! Edition #70 is now up at The Oubliette.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON HERONBLOGGING

Yes, Blog d’Elisson has it all. Cats, rabbits...and now Herons!

Our friends Laura and Don were spending a few days in Hilton Head when this Big Fella happened to park himself nearby.

Don’s Heron.
Beautiful creature. I wonder what it tastes like, given its largely fishy diet...

SILLY PANTS

SWMBO and Deborah.
She Who Must Be Obeyed and our friend Deborah. The picture was taken at Yamashiro, in the Hollywood Hills, where you have an excellent view of the city spread out below. If you have your Infra-Violet Haze-Zapping Glasses, that is.

SWMBO is wearing a pair of slacks that a random passer-by in New Orleans once dubbed “Silly Pants.”

And, serendipitously enough, Deborah is wearing what one might choose to call a “Dopey Top.”

Yeah, they make quite a pair.

CALIFORNIA SUNSET

Sunset over Hollywood last Monday evening.

Hollywood Sunset.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

NOT FANCY - BUT DAMN TASTY

Nothing will give me a Home Cookin’ jones like spending a lot of time on the road.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I got back from our latest peregrination last Tuesday. Once home, what with all the Rigors o’ Travel, neither of us felt much like cooking, so it was Take-Out Chinese that night. Wednesday, SWMBO made some excellent chicken breasts with artichokes. Thursday was our weekly Men’s Club Night Out.

And then on Friday, SWMBO hit a Grand Slam Home Run with a simple, off-the-cuff creation, thrown together with (mostly) stuff that was already residing in our pantry. Nothing fancy-pants, strictly improvised. It was so good, I thought I would share it with you, my Esteemed Readers.

Here, then, is...

Chicken-in-a-Pot in the Style of She Who Must Be Obeyed

For this recipe, you’ll need a crockpot or other slow-cooking device big enough to fit a whole chicken.

First, get hold of a whole chicken. Broiler, fryer, roaster, whatever…just make sure you remove that little package with the giblets (if there is one). Wash the chicken and pat dry, then stick it in the crock pot.

Add one large can of diced tomatoes, along with the liquid. Then add two standard (14.5 oz) cans of whole green beans, draining and discarding the liquid before adding the beans. If the idea of using canned green beans horrifies you, get over it. Or use fresh ones. It won’t make a big difference in the final result.

Now throw in one cup of dry pearl barley and one cup of water. This is roughly half the water you would normally use to cook the barley. Do not freak out. You do not want chicken barley soup, you want everything to cook down to a nice, thick, porridge-like consistency.

Season to taste. The Missus used Tastefully Simple Seasoned salt, but feel free to use any combination that works for you. Thyme works well with chicken, and don’t forget the freshly ground black pepper.

Now set on the crockpot’s “high” setting and cook that bastard down about five hours. Then turn it down to “medium” and let it stew until you get that porridge thing going on. By that time, the chicken will be falling off the bones and the barley will have taken on a wonderful tomatoey, chickeny flavor.

Serve with a green salad, and you’re good to go.

When we had this yesterday evening, I remarked on how, with that slow-simmered richness, this dish was a little reminiscent of cholent, the Eastern European bean stew traditionally served on the Sabbath. But absent the beans, this Chicken-in-a-Pot will not generate the Extreme and Deadly Flatulence that afflicts cholent lovers. And it’s even better the second day.

Enjoy.

ON THE MANLY ART OF FACE-SCRAPING

Some of my earliest memories are of watching my Daddy shave with a double-edge safety razor. You remember the kind: a cylindrical handle attached to a head that held a double-edged razor blade. When the blade got dull - which it would after maybe two or three shaves - you would twist the little knob at the base of the handle and the head would open up so you could extract the old blade and drop in a new one.

Those were simpler times. Those old razors didn't give you too many good shaves before needing a new blade, and you had to be vigilant against nicks. Nevertheless, they beat the even older straight razors to hell and gone. Just ask anybody who has ever mastered the death-defying feat of shaving with a hollow-ground straight razor. Definitely not for sissies, that.

Razors were one of the first products to inculcate a sense of Brand-Name Loyalty in a typical Budding Adolescent. You were either a Gillette man or a Schick man...unless you were some kind of weirdo beatnik with the Personna or Wilkinson Sword blades.

Me, I’m a Gillette man like my Dad - have been for years. Schick, to me, is an Also-Ran, although I will admit that this mindset is probably due to the effect of relentless advertising more than anything else.

But I have to admit that those rat-bastards geniuses at the Big G do a great job of advancing Razor Technology.

I speak, of course, of the M3 Power razor, successor to the Mach 3 Turbo, the one that boasts the triple blade with lube strip, the one that vibrates when you push the Buzzy Button.

Expensive? Hell, yes. Gillette is the past master at the old “sell ’em a cheap razor and expensive blades” routine: low initial cost and high operating costs are their mantra. Kinda like your neighborhood Crack Dealer. With the M3, the low initial cost ain’t even that low...and the blades are downright dear, running close to two bucks a pop even at CostCo.

But damn, does that razor give a good shave. And I appreciate it: I, who develop two o’clock shadow.

And, according to the nefarious Bane, it has other uses. [His post made me laugh hard enough to piss blood. And had I written it, I can assure you that my own M3 Power would right now be residing somewhere in my Descending Colon, courtesy of the Flashing Fists o’ SWMBO.]

So what’s next in Razor Technology? If you look at Schick’s latest offering, the four-bladed Quattro, you’d think that the next step would be five blades. Hell, why not just have a fucking Big Flat Pad o’ Multiple Blades? How many blades can you cram in there before you make it impossible to shave without slicing off your nose?

So far, I’ve confined myself to a discussion of the razor itself: the hardware, if you will. The software (the Shaving Cream) is probably worthy of a separate post.

What are your Shaving Experiences?

Friday, July 22, 2005

BUNNYBLOGGING IN MALIBU

A couple of days ago, I posted this picture of She Who Must Be Obeyed:



Now, look again:



Yes! It’s a Covert California Bunny, lurking amongst the bushes!

FRIDAY ARK

It’s Friday, which means that the Friday Ark is up at The Modulator.

Don’t forget to visit the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday evening. Edition #70 will be hosted by The Oubliette...which, ironically enough, means “a little place of forgetting.” Heh.

THE DON: A 100-WORD STORY

After all these years, you think they’d finally figure it out. But no.

If I had to blame somebody, I’d blame that Cervantes fellow for getting it backwards. But what do you expect from one of these “creative” types? I’m a busy man, and I don’t have the time to explain the intricacies of my profession to every Tomàs, Ricardo, and Hernàndez that comes along.

Especially when that profession is unusual.

Don Quixote is my name. Agricultural architectural restoration is my game.

What do I do?

I restore correct vertical alignment to air-powered size reduction equipment.

Yep. I untilt windmills.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 5.

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

[See Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the Archives.]

Frint [frint] (n) – The female genitalia.

There’s a little history behind this exotic coinage.

Memorial Day weekend of 2003, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were enjoying a weekend of drunken debauchery and consumptive excess fine meals and entertainment in New Orleans with our friends Steve and Sue from Northern Virginia. We were staying in the French Quarter at a fine little hotel, the Soniat House.

One evening, we happened to wander down to Bourbon Street, which was fairly lively owing to it being a Long Holiday Weekend. Even though it was not Fat Tuesday - or anything close to it - the street was packed with ethanol-fortified revelers. Women who flashed their kalamatunis were rewarded with showers of bead necklaces tossed down from wrought-iron balconies.

Hell, I even scored a bead necklace by flashing my Man-Boobs...probably because I did it while sporting the requisite Happy Leer. Hey, I’ll do most anything for a laugh; I’m not proud.

We walked past Larry Flynt’s club, and Sue made some sort of snide remark about the Publishing Genius who brought us Hustler. But somehow, the name got mangled and “Flynt” came out “Frint.” We decided right then and there that “Frint” was a perfect word for the Ol’ Burgooly, given Mr. Flynt’s line of work and all.

Let’s use it in a sentence, shall we?

“Damn, I hate going to the beach. I always end up with a sunburn, and sand all up in my frint.”

And, speaking of frints, what’s the difference between a Brazilian Landing Strip and a Panamanian Landing Strip? (Don’t ask me how I know this...)

Why, the Panamanian Landing Strip has more jungle...and of course, it has a canal running right through the middle.

*sounds of Elisson being bitch-slapped*

ATTA BOY

I posted this yesterday as a comment over at 100 Words or Les Nessman, and now it’s time to inflict it on you.

The theme for the day was “judge.” I will admit to stealing the idea for the post itself from Terry Bisson’s brilliant short story “macs.” That story, and many other excellent pieces of Bisson’s short fiction, is available in his second such collection, In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stories. I recommend that book to you, along with his first collection, Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories.

Anyway, the piece, which clocks in at exactly 100 words:

Somehow, they were able to find a few scraps of DNA amidst the smoking wreckage.

It wasn’t much, but they didn’t need much. The hardest part was making sure it was the right DNA, with so many possibilities.

They made two thousand seven hundred fifty two clones. Each one a perfect Muhammad Atta, down to the cell structure. Each one handed over to the family of a Trade Center victim.

Each family had thirty days to dispose of their “Atta-Boy,” in whatever manner they wished.

Amazing what kind of justice you get when the judge has a Molecular Biology degree.

WALKING ON THE MOON


Giant steps are what you take
Walking on the moon
I hope my legs don’t break
Walking on the moon
We could walk forever
Walking on the moon
We could live together
Walking on, walking on the moon

(The Police, 1979)


I watched it on a little black-and-white set, sitting on the floor of Aunt Marge and Uncle Phil’s bedroom in North Miami. The images, coming across all of those miles of space, had a ghostly, ethereal quality to them, befitting the subject matter.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

Ahh, what humans can achieve when they direct their energies to a goal. Never mind that we did it to beat the Commies. Never mind that we did it to show the world that our collective American Dick was bigger than that of the Russians. The fact remains: We did it. We humans did it.

And worthy goals remain.

Explore the universe. Feed the hungry. Create peace.

Yet here we are, thirty-six years later, and what do we have? Shitheads with bombs.

Agghh! Silly, puny humans. When will we get our fucking act together?

THEY MISS US WHEN WE’RE GONE

Rahel, of Elms in the Yard, wondered whether the cats miss us when we’re away:
I bet the kittycats were very glad to see you when you got back. Maybe you’ll tell us how glad?




Very glad. Very glad, indeed.

CARNIVAL OF COMEDY #12

The fledgling Bird o’ Comedy Carnivals has left its figurative nest at IMAO (“Nuke the Moon!”) and flown off to roost (temporarily) elsewhere. Probably scared off by all that moon-nuking.

Where? You might well ask. And I will answer.

At no place other than Laurence Simon’s estimable site, This Blog Is Packed With Excrement Loaded With Feces Saturated With Shit Drenched In Doody Full Of Crap. (Somebody stop me!)

And now, This Blog Is Full Of Funny Crap. The 12th Carnival is up.

A SUBJECT NEAR AND DEAR TO OUR HEARTS

Well, maybe not hearts, per se.

Og, the resident genius at Neanderpundit, is one of the best Stoolbloggers out there. He is not afraid to tackle the deep subjects, the ones that we all think about but seldom articulate so well:
Ok, so everyone, at one time or another, looks at the cable they just laid. As hunters can tell the state, location, direction and speed of their quarry by the scat, so you can tell a lot about yourself by the state of your stool.
Using this criterion, I know more about myself than reasonable expectations would allow.

Og’s post got me to thinking. Years of Cable Inspection have taught me that judicious manipulation of the diet can allow the production of a Veritable Rainbow o’ Poop Colors.

Beets, for example, give a rich, red hue. It’s the kind of color that will have you booking an emergency visit with the Tuchus Doctor if you forget about the two quarts of borscht you snarfed down yesterday.

Spinach, likewise, will give you a dark green - if you eat enough of it, that is. When I whip up a batch of Salade Mort de Vampyr, I am already mentally readying myself to deal with the Great Green Load that will follow. I can only imagine Popeye, the Dean of Spinach Eaters, and the Feats of Greenturdery of which he was capable.

You want black? Take a few spoonfuls of Pepto-Bismol. It may be pink going in, but it will be Charcoal Black coming out. For white, try Kaopectate...and be prepared to wait, as that crap’ll lock you up tighter than Fort Knox.

And for a spin of the wheel in the game of Cable Coloration Roulette, try a couple of scoops of TCBY’s Rainbow Yogurt. All of that food coloring has gotta come out sometime, and the results can be...unanticipated.

Now, Esteemed Readers - go thou and have fun! It’s always good to add a little color to your life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A FAIRY-TALE WEDDING IN MALIBU


I have to give Sid and Debbie M- credit. The little shindig they threw for their son Adam and his bride Aurora was something that could have been lifted lock, stock, and barrel from a Hollywood production.

It was beautiful.

A small horde of Intrepid Wedding Guests boarded buses in Santa Monica Friday night to be whisked up the coast to a rehearsal dinner at Duke’s, a restaurant located hard by the pounding surf in Malibu. The Duke for whom the place is named is, of course, the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, considered by many the Father of Modern Surfing. The food was excellent, especially after an hour or so of Full-Bore Drinkage. A slide show of the happy couple capped off the festivities, and the buses took our jet-laggy asses back to Santa Monica.


Crashing surf outside Duke’s of Malibu.

Saturday, the day of the wedding, we once again got on buses – three of ’em this time – and headed back up to Malibu, this time to the Cypress Bluff Estate. There, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, Adam and Aurora got hitched.


The ceremony was pure California, with a West Coast Reform Rabbi deftly combining the Jewish traditions of the groom with the Christian traditions of the bride. Gotta hand it to the Malibu Rebbe, he did a good job, even managing to quote Saint Paul – and explaining why it made sense to do so.

After the ceremony, we fell to our meat and drink.

And dancing. Let’s not forget the dancing.

And the cigars.


Elisson enjoys a cigar with Godofredo, photog extraordinaire.

All good things must end, and eventually we wended our way up the hill to the buses. How nice to not have to worry about driving. Loosens the drinking muscles a tad, it does.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves.


Elisson and SWMBO.


She Who Must Be Obeyed...my Trophy Wife.


Deborah and Dennis, our traveling companions.

SCHMUCKS “R” US

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I arrived in Los Angeles last Thursday evening to begin a four-day, five-night sojourn in Santa Monica, guests for a weekend wedding. What with the fact that we had not been in L.A. in years, and the length of the trip, we tacked on a couple of days before and after the weekend in order to squeeze a mini-vacation out of the trip.

And it started out with a bang.

A little background is in order here, and it has to do with one of my Great Character Defects. You see, I have a tendency to procrastinate.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everybody procrastinates. Never do today what you can do tomorrow, and all that.

But I’m really good at it, and this time it bit me in the ass.

I go to make hotel reservations at the place where everyone from the wedding is staying, the Parents of the Groom (our friends Sid and Debbie M-.) having blocked a number of rooms at a favorable rate. “Favorable Rate” means something different in California than it does everywhere else: “North of Reasonable.” But, to my horror, I found that I had waited too long to get the Favorable Rate. What was left was the “Way North of Reasonable” rate...and I did not want to pay it.

So Mr. Smart-Brains got on the Information Stupidhighway and secured what appeared to be a suitable lodging via Orbitz. Close to the hotel where everyone else was. Reasonably priced. Near the beach. Wireless Internet access! What could possibly go wrong?

So, here we are, arriving at LAX with our friends Deborah and Dennis. We rented a car and headed off on the 405 towards Santa Monica. No problem finding the Doubletree, where Deborah and Dennis were booked in. We dropped them off and went in search of our hotel.

I pulled up near the corner of Broadway and Ocean, right about where the hotel should have been. There was a Best Western hotel there, and at ground level, a nightclub – Club Maka’i – crowded with noisy, happy, dancing young people, moving to a pulsating beat. And there was a parking attendant, who explained that our place did not have its own parking, but that the Best Western people had an arrangement with them. I needed to talk to the people at the desk there.

Right about now is when SWMBO shot me The Look. You know the one. The “You fucked it up, didn’t you, Mr. Smart-Brains?” look.

I went inside to the Best Western. The two guys at the front desk also gave me The Look. It was a slight variation on the theme, one that I would later define as the “Here comes another schmuck” look.

Yes, these guys handled parking for the property where I had my reservations. They suggested that I look at the room before paying for parking. And that’s when I started to get that “Oh, Shit” feeling deep, deep in my bones.

I went around the corner, leaving SWMBO with the car and bags, following the parking attendant who showed me where the entrance to the “hotel” was: a doorway with a keypad and buzzer. I punched in a code, and moments later, a California Dude (with the obligatory frosted hair) showed up to escort me to our lodgings. A series of mailboxes on the left as we went in. Up two flights of stairs. Carpet that is best described as “well-used,” complete with Mysterious Stain. To the room, which at first blush didn’t look too horrible. Ocean view, nice size bed.

I took the keys and went down to get the Missus and the luggage. “How’s the room?” she asked, and with my best Shit Eatin’ Grin I replied “It’s...a room. It’s fine.”

So up we go with the luggage (punch in code, open door, schlep up two flights of stairs) and into the room. And it was evident that She Who Must Be Obeyed was...not happy.

It was fairly stuffy in the room, and she asked a perfectly reasonable question: “How do you turn on the air conditioning?’

There was, as it turns out, no perfectly reasonable answer. This became more and more evident as I surveyed the room and discovered that there was a wall heater, a tiny gas stove, a mini-fridge, a sink, a coffeepot, a television, a fax machine...and a huge, dust-encrusted fan.

Aaaaaaaaggghhhhhhh!


I turned on the fan, which provided limited relief. It also had the Extremely Useful Function of covering up the throbbing sound of the nightclub immediately below us.

It became all too apparent that there was Absolutely No Way In Hell that we would spend more than one night here in this Retrofitted Efficiency Apartment. The wedding we were to attend on Saturday was a formal affair, and I was going to have to put on a Monkey-Suit. Normally, I sweat bullets when I put on a Monkey-Suit, even in the coolest of climes. Here, in this humid Hell-Hole, I would be soaked to the skin before even getting the tie on. Screw that. So, tomorrow, I would get out the books and start hunting for new lodgings...at whatever cost.

But right now it was late, at least by our metabolic clocks, still on Eastern Daylight Time three hours ahead. Too late to find another place...and besides, the room was already paid for. We would have to endure what would turn out to be – for me, at least – an uncomfortable, sweaty night, punctuated by quiet bursts of rage- and angst-fueled sleeplessness.

We got up, the two of us, at the Butt-Crack of Dawn™, and, having nothing to do right away, took a walk down to the Santa Monica Pier. It was cool and misty, perfect for gathering the thoughts and reflecting on Where I Went Wrong.

Procrastination: my fatal error. Never again, at least as far as hotel rooms are concerned. Fatal error two: using Orbitz. It’s pretty clear that, while you can get the occasional good deal by using sites like Hotels.com and Orbitz, there are considerable risks. Here, the property was definitely not as advertised. It was not a hotel at all, merely an apartment building with a “creative” manager. Rather than a three-star property, it looked like the kind of place you always see at the beginning of a Law and Order episode, where Dennis Farina goes into some cheesy apartment building and finds a dead body. So: Fuck Orbitz to death. Can you say, “Disputed Charge,” kids?

After that night, “Way North of Reasonable” seemed pretty reasonable to me.





THE INTERVIEW, PART 2

Now it's your turn.

Several Foolish Brave and Trusting Souls have volunteered for an interview, so here it is, in Batch Mode.

The first set of questions goes to Hazel, who is a Kiwi transplant living in the States...which would explain the name of her blog, kiwius. Here goes:
  1. Where have you lived? Of the places where you’ve lived, which one did you like the most, and why?

  2. Who are your three favorite music artists? Name a single work that you feel captures the essence of each one.

  3. Imagine that you are condemned to be executed, presumably for a crime you did not commit. What would you select for your last meal?

  4. If you could be a character from TV/Book/Film who would you be, and why?

  5. What is your hometown, and what is special or unique about it?
Update: Hazel’s answers can be found here.

Next up is the Omnibus Driver over at Leslie’s Omnibus. Your questions:
  1. If you could live anywhere you wanted on the planet for a year, where would it be? Why? Would your choice be any different if it were a lifetime move?

  2. What is your favorite restaurant? Why do you like it?

  3. You have the chance to be President of the U.S. for one year. What would your priorities be?

  4. Are you a sonnet person or a limerick person? Why?

  5. If you could wipe one (currently living) human being off the face of the earth - with no sin attached to the deed, no karmic reprisals of any kind - would you do it? If so, who would you make disappear?
Update: And here are Leslie’s answers.

Last (but far from least) we have Teafizz, who tries to grab a few minutes to blog when he’s not involved in Army Shenanigans. Here are your questions:
  1. You must live somewhere on the equator for one year, or at the South Pole for one year. Which do you select, and why?

  2. Was your mother a good cook? (Be honest, now.) If she could fix you a meal right now, what would you ask for?

  3. Who was your best friend in elementary school? Are you still in contact? If not, when did you go your separate ways?

  4. Betty or Veronica? Why?

  5. Nuclear war is imminent. You have only enough time to grab five books to haul into your fallout shelter. What books are they? Did you grab ’em off your own bookshelf, or did you have to pick through the looted rubble of the nearest Barnes & Noble?
Update: My Bloggin’ Homie Teafizz (yes, he’s stationed in Jawjuh at the moment) took the ball and ran with it, big time. Check out his answers here.

And now, a quick recap of the rules:

  • Update your blog or website with the answers to the questions. It’s best if you link back to this post, but that’s up to you.
  • In that same post, you will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else if they leave a comment on your post.
  • When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. Try to think up some new ones!

Have fun, Esteemed Commenters!

THE INTERVIEW

Yeah, smells like a meme, doesn’t it? But it’s strictly “Voluntary Participation,” so keep those torches, axe handles, and pitchforks at bay.

This one was lobbed at me by (or, more properly, I snarfed it up from) Katya Coldheart, who has been patiently waiting from me to return from my California Excursion and answer her questions.

  1. Who would your ideal dinner guest be, past or present?

    By “past” or “present” I’m assuming you mean “dead” or “alive.” Tough question. Leaving historical figures of great antiquity out of the field - no Moses or Jesus here - I would probably want to spend time with someone like Abraham Lincoln (for moral vision and historical perspective), or Dorothy Parker or Groucho Marx (for wit).

  2. What three items would you take to a desert island?

    Item One would be a large, serrated knife. Item Two would be a broad-brimmed hat. Item Three would be a mirror...not out of vanity, but to get the attention of passing aircraft (by flashing the sun’s reflection) in order that I might be rescued. ’Cause living on that desert island gets old after a while.

  3. If you could live in any period/era what would it be?

    Right now seems to be pretty good. We have good medical technology, including anesthesia - don’t sell that short. We live in a world in which men have walked on the Moon and in which more humans than ever have a shot at a decent existence.

    With foreknowledge, though, I wouldn’t mind living in the mid-1940’s and early 1950’s - knowing what was to come, I could amass enough wealth to make putting up with 1950’s attitudes more tolerable.

  4. If you could be a character from TV/Book/Film who would you be, and why?

    Buckaroo Banzai comes to mind...


  5. What would you save from your house if it were burning down (family and pets excluded)?

    Photographs. I’d definitely go after the photographs, because thay are irreplaceable. After that, the wedding contract (because I wrote it myself) and the books.

And now, the rules:

  • Leave me a comment saying “Interview me, please.”
  • I will respond by asking you five questions here on my blog (ideally, not the same questions you see here.)
  • You will update your blog or website with the answers to the questions.
  • In that same post, you will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else.
  • When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Simple, innit?

...BUT IS IT ART?

Sunday morning, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I joined a few friends for a short walk along the beach in Santa Monica...a short walk that turned into a five-mile constitutional all the way down to the heart of Venice Beach.

On the return leg, we elected to go back via Main Street, where we discovered an astonishing piece of Public Art.


What fresh hell was this? Was it a Cross-Dressing Hobo Clown...a sort of Emmett Tranny? Closer inspection revealed that the huge, three-story high sculpture appeared to be a ballerina wearing a pair of white gloves and a clown mask. The building on which this Thing o’ Beauty was perched was vacant, but had obviously been something, once upon a time...but what?

A little Internet Research conducted upon arriving home revealed that the piece actually has a name: The Ballerina Clown, and was created by one Jonathan Borofsky. Now, that is a dude with some serious issues.

The building apparently used to house something called the North Beach Bar and Grill, now defunct. I would have loved to see what the menu for that joint looked like.

As if all this were not enough, when we arrived yesterday afternoon in Atlanta, we saw yet another piece of Public Art, this time in the North Terminal Baggage Claim.


Huge red ants on the ceiling! Again, later research revealed that these (not so) little guys have been here a while, but unless you (1) happen to be at the North Terminal Baggage Claim by Carousel 1, and (2) look upward, you might miss ’em. And as many times as I had walked by that exact spot on the way to catch my Airport Parking Jitney, I had never noticed them before.

Our flight from LAX had arrived right on time, which turned out to be a lucky break. Minutes after we touched down, a huge thunderstorm struck the airport, immediately snarling arrivals for the rest of the afternoon with delays of up to two hours. We didn’t escape scot-free, though, as luggage offloading operations were shut down by the storm. We had a ninety-minute wait for our bags, which gave me plenty of time to think: Where had I seen those big ol’ants before?

And then I remembered a legendary episode of the old Outer Limits TV series...

The Zanti Misfits!


“Lanz trinsini lobe zan a mang lis lanz ob!”

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

Our friends Sid and Debbie married off their son this afternoon on the shores of Malibu. A wedding to remember...

Pictures will follow upon our return to Atlanta. For now, I'm writing this from an executive suite in the Doubletree Suites in Santa Monica, after a full-bore Drunken Debauch.

Many adventures, including the Tale of the Hotel Room from Hell, will follow upon our return. Stay tuned, Esteeemed Readers!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

THE NIGHT OF THE HEEBIE-JEEBIES

What a strange night that was, last night.

Both of us - me and the Missus - went to bed exceptionally early, possibly due to Pre-Travel Anticipatory Fatigue. As is my custom, I read for a while, until I started that old “drop the book” routine, at which time it was lights out.

Switched from the down pillow to the Granite-Block-In-A-Pillowcase, and slept like a baby. At this point I usually add, “Yep - like a baby. Got up crying three times and pissed myself twice.” But not last night. Really slept like the proverbial Dead Body.

Had a few lively dreams, too, although I’d be hard-pressed to recall much about them...until the spot in the last dream where I was standing in a room, and the door suddenly swung open, to reveal...

...I don’t know what. Never got that far. When that door swung open, I was suddenly conviced that whatever was behind it was something I did not want to have to deal with, and so I let out a shriek.

You know how when you try to holler in a dream, you can shout at the top of your lungs, but no sound actually comes out? Well, this was not one of those times. Back in “Objective Reality-World,” I howled like a banshee on steroids:

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

My own yell woke me up. I sat bolt upright, heart pounding.

She Who Must Be Obeyed nearly jumped ten feet straight up, quite a feat considering she was sound asleep when I hollered out. But that scream woke her ass up, big time.

She established that I was OK, the victim of some mysterious Nocturnal Brain-Fart, but now we both were wide awake with no hope of falling back to sleep...at 3 freaking 30 in the morning. Crap.

Well, on goes the TV, and out comes the book. Then, as SWMBO lapsed back into a state of restless slumber, I left the bedroom. A little websurfing, a little Spider Solitaire, then downstairs for an early breakfast, bacause I knew that at this point there was no chance of my getting any more shut-eye.

I sure hope I can catch some Z’s on the Great Silver Aerial Bus tonight...’cause it’s gonna be a Long. Fucking. Day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

N’AWLINS, Y’ALL

The Great N’Awlins Blogmeet of 2005 is a sketchy proposition for me, seeing how I’ve already burned over one week of vacation on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama and on the beach in Destin. As if that were not enough, we’re off to Santa Monica for another ridiculously-extended weekend of carousing and trouble-making.

So it’s a bit, er, ahhh...problematic for The Man in the Panama Hat to make another screaming run to the swamps of southern Lousy-Ana.

My heart, nevertheless, will be with all y’all. Here are some pictures from our last sojourn in the Crescent City to help get you in the mood...




The photos were taken at the Soniat Hotel, what the V-man would call a “fancy crib.” Not the Ritz, mind you, but any place that serves fresh-baked biscuits with sweet butter and homemade jam, thick coffee with chicory, and freshly squeezed OJ leaps up a few notches on the Preferred Hostelry List d’Elisson.

When you are there, fellow Internet Online Journalists and Web-Loggers, should I not happen to be amongst your company, tip back a nice Sazerac Cocktail and I’ll know you are thinking of me.

WISDOM OF THE SAGES

The Gray Line tour bus wound its way through the streets of New York.

From Central Park and the Upper West Side, the bus headed south, through the spires of Midtown, toward Lower Manhattan. Greenwich Village. SoHo. TriBeCa. Chinatown. Little Italy.

Past Battery Park and Ground Zero. Wall Street. Then over the Manhattan Bridge into Williamsburg.

The tour guide delivered a running commentary during the journey, explaining to the goggle-eyed Iowans and Nebraskans that the people filling the sidewalks there, the ones in dark coats and broad-brimmed hats, were Hasidim – Orthodox Jews who continued to maintain a seventeenth-century lifestyle in 21st-century New York.

“These are very religious, pious people, clinging to their traditions, valuing study and learning above all other considerations.

“See on that street corner there, on the left? See that elderly gentleman, the one with the long white beard, holding that little boy’s hand? He is probably instructing the young man in the fine points of Talmud. If we open our windows and listen carefully as we drive past, perhaps we can hear some of the pearls of wisdom that the old man is trying to impart to his little grandson...”

As the bus slowly moved past the corner, the tourists strained to catch part of the old man’s conversation with the boy, and this is what they heard:

Azoy zugt men tzu Zayde? [This is how you talk to your Grandpa?] ‘Fuck you, Grandpa’?”

GOIN’ TO CALIFORNIA

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I will board the Great Silver Aerial Bus tomorrow evening to head out to the Left Coast. Our destination: Los Angeles, where we will be attending the wedding (and related festivities) of the son of Atlanta-based friends. We’ll stay in Santa Monica, hard by the Pacific Ocean at the bitter end of Interstate 10.

I’m sure the event will be Major League. The wedding proper will be held on the beach in Malibu, and I will be packing the old Monkey-Suit for the occasion.

SWMBO, meanwhile, has done the necessary Advance Work to ensure that she will look Appropriately Gorgeous. If I were a complete fucking idiot had rocks in my head were a thoughtless sort of bloke, I could complain about the Vast Sums o’ Scratch the Missus has spent on shoes, dressy attire, etc. , etc. , but one look at her in those snazzy new Dressy Evening Duds washes away any of those black thoughts.

She is one beautiful lady, Esteemed Readers.

As you may know from reading some of my previous posts, SWMBO is not a fan of the Great Silver Aerial Bus. However, despite the long flight time, we will be traveling with friends, and there will be Adult Beverages available on board to help keep the Flight Willies at bay. Now all we have to hope for is a window of opportunity that will get us out of here before the Daily Afternoon Rain Deluges start to close in.

We will have some free time during our trip, and it’s been long enough since my last sojourn in SoCal that I will need to reacquaint myself with the Lay o’ th’ Land. Any of you in Southern California have any comments or helpful suggestions?

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES #147

Bill Wallo of Wallo World (great blog name, that!) is the host for this week’s edition of the Carnival of the Vanities.

No, it’s not a sideshow for bathroom sinks.

It’s a collection of the Best the Bloggy-Sphere Has To Offer™, self-selected by a motley squad of Weblog Authors, Pundits, Comedians, and Link-Whores. And Bill has done an exceptional job in compiling the whole mess, even taking time to extract relevant quotes from each piece. Good show, Mister Wallo! Good show!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

ANCESTORS


Pictured here are my father’s parents, Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Jack.

They came to America in 1922, as the great wave of Eastern European immigration was beginning to peter out. Smartest thing they ever did: all of the relatives who stayed in Europe were wiped out in the Holocaust.

She had been an actress in the Old Country, or so I’ve heard it told. Both of them ended up working in the garment industry in New York, living near Bay Parkway in teeming Brooklyn.

As a runny-nosed kid, I was fascinated by the stories Grandpa Jack would tell of his days serving in the Russian army during World War I, of platoons of soldiers fighting over a single bowl of kasha. He had a lump on the ball of his thumb, a scar left by a German bullet. I was mesmerized. My Grandpa, a War Hero!

In later years, Grandpa Jack would write poetry for the Day-Morning Journal, one of the Yiddish papers. His work would appear occasionally in a column called Der Krimmer Shpiegel - “The Cracked Mirror.” I have them all, in the original Yiddish and in translation, but most precious to me is a single sound recording, now forty years old, of Grandpa reading one of his poems. I can still remember sitting in his living room as he read the poem in his distinctive voice, and hearing it makes him come alive again, though he has been gone 35 years.

Perhaps it is from my father’s father that I inherited the gene for writing poetry. And perhaps it’s from my father that I inherited the tilt towards the humorous type.

Regardless, here’s a piece of Grandpa’s work, in transliterated Yiddish and in (altogether inadequate) translation:
Nisht farges’n ’kh’ken
Mayn shtetele, mayn haymland,
’S’iz ayngekritzt in mayn zikhron
Vi der nummer oyf mayn hant.

Gevehn bay unz a hoyz
Mit a gezindel, groys,
Geblieben bin ikh allayn
Mit’n nummer bloyz.

A sim’n iz geblieben
Oyf ayvig bay mir,
Vu ikh zal nisht gayn
Farfolgt der nummer mir.

’Kh’bin shoyn do-hi
In’m goldenem land,
Dermant mikh altz in khurb’n
Der nummer oyf der hant.

Nishto mehr dos shtetele
Fun mayn geboyren land,
Geblieben iz mir, a zakh’r
A nummer oyf der hant.
I cannot forget
My village, my homeland,
It’s etched into my memory
Like the number on my hand.

We had, back then, a house
With a large family.
I remain - alone -
With the number only.

A mark stays
With me always.
No matter where I go,
The number follows.

Now I am here
In the golden land.
But I'm reminded of the Shoah
By the number on my hand.

No more exists the village
From my native land.
For me a trace, a memory -
A number on my hand.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #106

It burns! It burns!

’Cause it’s a bonfire, ya twit.

Go to File It Under to see this week’s collection of Posts that Mostly Ought Not Have Been Posted.

You have been warned.

Monday, July 11, 2005

VIRTUAL OCCOQUAN

Virtual Occoquan #74 is up.

Go take a look at the World’s Most Fascinating Online Magazine. It’s a Mental Thrill Ride™!

THE QUEEN

’Ta on the Throne
The Queen, she sitteth on her throne
And meows at me with royal tone:
Go thou, varlet - fetch some food
For I am in a peckish mood!
And while you’re at it, Big Galoot,
Don’t forget to add Fresh Fruit.

’Ta on the Throne, Too
I sit upon the Throne of Power!
Lesser beings quake and cower.

’Kuna on the Bed
Hakuna, meanwhile, keeps her counsel,
And should Matata try to pounce, ’ll
Hide herself beneath the bed
Until the last “Good Night” is said.

[This is Blog d’Elisson Post #700. Dang, that’s a whole lotta Useless Crap piled up in one place!]

A BELATED BIRTHDAY SHOUT-OUT

Life o’ th’ Mistress
The Mistress of Sarcasm, even now, is on her way back to Savannah after a week-long visit with Elder Daughter in the Northeast. And it occurred to me that her 23rd birthday having fallen on June 30, in the midst of my Vacationary No-Blog Zone two weeks ago, there has been, thus far, no Bloggy Acknowledgement of that special day.

Well, let me correct that right now.

The Mistress, ahhh, how to describe her? Creative, intelligent, charming, polite...all of these inadequate adjectives come to mind...but the best way to tell you about the Mistress is to tell you, Esteemed Readers, what I have told her on many occasions: If you were not my daughter, I would want you to be my friend.

You got a card already, but let me shout it out to the world.

Happy (belated) birthday, my love!

BURMA-SHAVE

If you’re really old, you may remember the days when Burma-Shave signs festooned the rural roadsides of America.

Between 1927 and 1963, Burma-Shave used to advertise their shaving cream by placing signs along the road. As you drove along, you would read one sign after another, with the signs combining to form a clever verse culminating in the words “Burma-Shave.” An example:

If you neglect
Your face each day
This is all
We have to say
Burma-Shave

The signs came down in 1963, the victim of those new-fangled freeways and modern highway speeds, but plenty of folks remember them fondly. There were over 600 different Burma-Shave jingles, most of them remarkably clever, all of them little windows into the pop culture of the day:

Doesn’t
Kiss you
Like she useter?
Perhaps she's seen
A smoother rooster!!
Burma-Shave

And some are just plain pun-tastic:

My job is
Keeping faces clean
And nobody knows
De stubble
I’ve seen
Burma-Shave

Quite a few had a safety theme, appropriate for the two-lane environment:

Altho insured
Remember, kiddo
They don’t pay you
They pay
Your widow
Burma-Shave

But here’s one that never appeared on any roadside, my own contribution to this Great American Icon of Days Gone By:

Burma-Shave Jingle
Postscript: Even though Burma-Shave signs per se have vanished, the term “Burma-Shave” is now used to refer to that style of roadside advertising sign. So, for example, an advertising director may place an order for 200 Burma-Shaves...to plug anything from politicos to pot roast. Crazy, innit?

THE KING IS DEAD

Or in ancient Persian, shah mat. Checkmate.

Chess is one of the oldest board games in existence, but my own exposure to the game dates back just a little over thirty years, to my early days at the Great Corporate Salt Mine.

As a child I had never learned how to play chess. I didn’t know too many people who played, and, quite frankly, the game always seemed to be too complicated for me. All of those pieces, with their complex and exotic moves, seemed to me to be beyond my grasp.

All of that changed when I started work at the Great Corporate Salt Mine.

My early days in the Mine were spent in Baytown, Texas, a refinery town hard by Galveston Bay. The building in which I worked was a vintage research center, the lunch facilities of which consisted, at the time, of a single small room in the basement in which there were placed some tables, chairs, and vending machines. If you wanted Vending Machine Fare, you could dine on dried-out tuna fish sandwiches, yogurt, or microwaveable sausage biscuits: real gourmet stuff. If that was not to your taste, you could brown-bag it...and if that was beneath you, the only other alternative was to get in your car and go to one of the fine local Dining Establishments. The Brisket Bar-B-Q and El Toro were pretty much all there was.

My typical lunch was a sandwich or can of sardines brought from home, along with a piece of fruit, wolfed down in the company of my fellow Chemical Engineers.

Lunch protocol was uncomplicated. You went down to the basement at noon, and you left at 1:00 pm sharp. One hour. And it’s during that one hour lunch break that I first learned the mysteries of the chessboard, for, as it turns out, almost all of the other guys played chess at lunch.

Because of the time limitation, matches were fast and furious. Often, people brought their chess clocks, playing rapid-fire games that were over in thirty minutes or less. One guy had even built a chessboard on a lightboard, with a built-in timer that would turn the light on and off at ten-second intervals, indicating the time you had for your move. Only the most reckless or skilled would dare to use this Blitz Chess board.

Initially, I would watch the other players, having no idea what was going on. It was only a matter of time before one of my friends began teaching me the game so that I could join in...or at least kibitz intelligently.

First, I had to learn what the pieces were and how they moved. Bishops, Rooks, Knights, Pawns. King and Queen. Each with its own powers, each with its own value.

Then, over time, my mentor taught me tactics and strategy. Pins, skewers, and forks. Discovered attacks. Multiple attacks. How to control the center of the board. How to develop the pieces so that they had maximum effectiveness. How not to waste time with useless moves. How to win.

And then, gradually, I began to play.

At first, of course, I got my ass handed to me regularly. Humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat. But, after months of banging my head against the Wall o’ Superior Abilities ’n’ Experience, I started to win a few games.

And one day, I was able to beat my mentor.

Chess, as many of my Esteemed Readers know, is nothing less than a game of war, played in miniature. Your objective is to put your opponent’s King into a position where he cannot escape from mortal danger – checkmate - at which point the game is over. (Really good players never let themselves get checkmated: when they see that it is inevitable, they resign, often turning their King on its side.)

Winning material is good, but not essential – while having superior forces is helpful toward forcing an outcome, it’s possible to win a game of chess in only two moves, without having captured any enemy pieces. (But only if your opponent is a complete numbskull. They don’t call it the Fool’s Mate for nothing.)

Chess is a game in which there is no secrecy and no element of chance. The pieces are on the board for everyone to see, and there are no dice or cards. Only your intelligence and knowledge guide your moves...and those of your opponent. Compare this to poker, where there is secrecy (you don’t see your opponent’s cards); chance (the cards are dealt at random); and skill (knowing when and how much to bet, when to fold, when to bluff). Or to craps, where there is no secrecy and the outcome is purely determined by chance. Each type of game has its attractions, but chess appeals strongest to people who want to play a game of mind versus mind.

Ahh, you may say, but it’s still just a board game.

True: it is “just” a board game. But what a board game! There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of a good chess game. Remember, you are fighting a war, and there is something about war, even in miniature, that connects directly with our lizard-like hindbrains. There is no satisfaction (outside of sex or good food) that is quite like the feeling you get when you execute a sharp combination, or when you slowly grind your opponent down and crush his nuts into butter.

This ain’t no touchy-feely game. It’s war, and it makes Monopoly and Risk look like Go Fish.

I don’t play much chess these days – it takes time to do it right, and, quite frankly, I’m out of practice. But once in a while it’s nice to take those pieces out.

Nut butter, anyone?