Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 - AVE ATQUE VALE

It’s the last day of 2005.

For many people, it is a year that will live in infamy. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. A major U.S. city brought to its knees. Earthquakes, floods, typhoons, bad juju of all kinds.

In other words, a lot like every other year, but more so. And, as I am wont to say when I think about things like Rotten Years and Kidney Stones: This, too, shall pass.

On December 31, I prefer to spend more time thinking about the year to come than the year just past, for what is past is past. We cannot change it now, but we can affect what happens next.

This New Year’s Eve is special, however, and I will allow myself to indulge in a little reflection. For tonight marks the thirtieth anniversary of the day I met The Woman Who Would Become The Missus. She Who Must Be Obeyed, SWMBO her ownself.

I will not bore you with all the gory details of our first evening together. [If you’re really interested, the whole story can be found in the Archives.] Suffice it to say that we met, we liked each other, things worked out.

And here we are, thirty years later.

This morning, I was upstairs changing clothes after making an early exit from synagogue. The happy voices of a house full of people wafted up the stairs. There was William, our three-year-old nephew. There were Morris William (SWMBO’s younger brother) and his wife Rebecca. Elder Daughter and her boyfriend Khody. The Mistress of Sarcasm and her boyfriend Mickey. And, of course, She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Elder Daughter, the Mistress, and Cousin William.
Elder Daughter, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and Cousin William.

I thought back to that fateful day, all those years ago. Could I possibly have imagined being here today, hearing the voices of my own grown children? The children I would one day have with the lovely young lady sitting on that ratty sofa with me?


She Who Must Be Obeyed, my love for 30 years.

So it’s more than just a New Year’s Eve for me. I’ll spend the evening with the Missus, with my children and their Significant Others, and with good friends. The Texas contingent having gotten on the road this afternoon, they will be here in spirit if not in person. And I will drink a toast to the woman I love and the life we built together, in a three-decade stretch that began thirty years ago this very night in Houston, Texas.

Happy New Year to you, too, Esteemed Readers. May your 2006 be happy, safe, and healthy, without limit to any good thing.

Friday, December 30, 2005

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

It’s Friday, December 30, the penultimate day of 2005. With the year rapidly coming to a close, what’s on the iPod d’Elisson Random Playlist today? Let’s just take a look...
  1. Willy Wonka Theme - Marilyn Manson
  2. Khasene Tantz - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  3. Matchbox - The Beatles
  4. Klezmer - Itzhak Perlman
  5. Act I, Scene 3: “Mr. Premier, distinguished guests...” - Orchestra of St. Lukes with Alice Goodman, Nixon in China
  6. Circus is Coming to Town - Laurence Simon
  7. The Lemon of Pink - The Books
  8. All Together Now - The Beatles
  9. Der Gasn Nign - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  10. Black Satin - Miles Davis
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

CUP O’ TH’ IRISH

With the small army of Relatives and Visitors camping out at Chez Elisson this week, we have evolved a pleasant Evening Ritual.

I have taken to brewing a nice, strong pot of coffee, with which I make a boatload of Irish Coffee. There is no finer beverage on a cold, damp night: it will chase away any and all Wintry Evils. And it’s easy. Here’s how.

Brew up a pot of strong coffee, using freshly-ground beans if at all possible. The coffee must be good enough to stand on its own, and strong enough to walk around the house on its own.

For each cup of Irish Coffee, while the brewing is going on, throw in three or four cubes of Demerara sugar. I use the cubes because it’s more convenient, but suit yourself. Regular turbinado sugar is a (marginally) acceptable substitute if Demerara cannot be found.

On top of the sugar, pour in one good shot of Irish whisky. Jameson’s and Tullamore Dew both work well - the latter is a bit more full-bodied - but any good Irish whisky will work. Let this sit while you prepare the whipped cream.

Take a cup of ice-cold heavy whipping cream and add in a tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip (I use a hand-held drink aerator if I’m making small amounts) until the cream forms soft peaks: do NOT overbeat, or you will end up with something that tastes more like butter than cream. Feh.

Fill each cup with hot coffee, leaving a little head space for the cream. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Spoon on a nice layer of the whipped cream and you’re ready for a few choruses of “Danny Boy.”

Irish coffee is traditionally served in glass cups, the better to show off the color contrast between the dark coffee and the layer of whipped cream. But any coffee cup or mug will do, as long as it is large enough. If you have a really large mug, increase the amount of booze and sugar accordingly, and hand over your car keys.

Do NOT try to take a shortcut and use a can of Reddi-Wip to top off your Irish coffee. To do so is a crime against nature, and you will be called to account for your sins.

FRIDAY ARK #57

The Friday Ark is boarding today for its last voyage of 2005.

Cap’n Steve, the Modulator his ownself, is once again the host for this Weekly Celebration of Miscellaneous Fauna. Visit and enjoy.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

HISTORY MUSEUM

With our entire Family Army o’ Visitation in tow, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I spent a few hours at the High Museum of Art in midtown Atlanta today.

The High Museum is one of the genuine treasures of Atlanta culture. SWMBO and I don’t visit as often as we should, given the fact that it is all of a 40-minute drive from Chez Elisson, but the presence of out-of-town visitors is a powerful impetus to do the Things of Local Interest you don’t always make time to do.

The High has recently undergone a significant expansion, essentially doubling its size. A remarkable piece of architecture in its own right, now it’s downright humongous.

The Big Exhibit right now is a collection of Andrew “Mr. Obsessed With Death” Wyeth’s work. Crusty fishermen. Desolate landscapes. Strange-looking women with glistening eyes. Powerful art, the kind that brings out your Inner Norwegian, making you want to drink a lot of akvavit and commit suicide.

Well, not everybody has an Inner Norwegian. Nevertheless, Wyeth has painted a lot of windswept, elegiac works that resonate with the Rural New Englander in all some a few a statistically insignificant minority of us. Which explains why Andy Warhol made all the money and had all of those New York art scene groupies while Wyeth had cold lutefisk to eat and a weird looking, dried up neighbor lady to paint pictures of.

Me, I wandered off and spent some time perusing the Howard Finster folk art, bizarre Local Stuff that was produced by a divinely-inspired backwoods nutcase. Finster’s work is authentically primitive, but it comes from the heart… or at least it did before the Big Art Money discovered him. Howard no longer walks this planet, but while he did, he certainly made it more interesting-looking.

As I was looking at one of Finster’s pieces – a multimedia extravaganza with woodburning, glued-on chunks of plexiglass, paint, ink, you-name-it, I was gripped by a strange sense-memory: the memory of the smell of burning wood from woodburning. It was clear, unmistakable. Who says art can’t talk to you?

I found my way to the ground floor, where there was a children’s play area – the perfect place for little Nephew William to work off some energy with his Daddy. As I watched the two of them horsing around, I saw an older African-American couple with a little boy, evidently their grandson. And there was something about the man, a tall, slender, well-dressed gentleman with a trim, grey beard, that was familiar.

As I looked at the man, I became convinced that I had seen him before. Only problem was, I couldn’t figure out where, or in what context.

Was he a musician? Was he an actor? He wasn’t instantly recognizable, but there was that nagging sensation of familiarity. I was sure of it.

And so, I walked up to him. What did I have to lose?

“Excuse me, but you look like someone I have seen before, but I just can’t put my finger on where. Is it possible that I might have seen you somewhere?”

And he answered, “Yes, I suppose it’s possible. I was one of the Little Rock Nine. I’m Terry Roberts.”

Indeed. The gentleman was none other than Dr. Terrence Roberts, one of the nine African-American high school students who were the first to attend the historically all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, three years after the Brown vs the Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision that paved the way for school desegregation in this country.

Little Rock Nine - September 1957
The Little Rock Nine (plus one) - September 1957.

What the Little Rock Nine did took amazing courage – not only theirs, but their families’. Imagine it: the Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, called in the Arkansas National Guard to keep these kids out of school, whereupon President Eisenhower nationalized the Guard, sent them back to their barracks, and ordered in the 101st Airborne Division to guard them as they attended classes. Abuse, epithets, threats, loss of family employment – all of these, these students faced and overcame.

I shook his hand. “Nowadays, people have no idea what you went through, how much courage it took. It’s an honor to meet you.”

Dr. Roberts and his wife were in town visiting family – it was indeed their grandchild with them. Currently a resident of Southern California, he holds a degree in clinical psychology and is co-chairperson of the Masters in Psychology Program at Antioch University. He also does management consulting work, functioning as the official desegregation consultant for the Little Rock, Arkansas School District. He and his fellow Niners were in the papers a few months ago – probably that’s where I remembered seeing him – when statues of the group were dedicated in Little Rock, an event that made the national news.

Terrence Roberts
Dr. Terrence Roberts, today.

“Once in a while, I’ll be looking though a history textbook, and all of a sudden, I’ll see my face. It’s a strange feeling…”

What Dr. Roberts and the other members of the Little Rock Nine did, back in September of 1957, was an act of bravery commensurate with Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus. Braver, even, because it was not a one-time act of rebellion, but a day-to-day, moment-by-moment ordeal.

We had gone to the High Museum to see Fine Art… but there we met a man who was a living, breathing part of American history.

ASSEMBLY

The carcasses hang on meathooks, the conveyor slowly winding its way through the processing plant.

Empty skins swing, pendulum-like, in a grotesque parody of the living.

The skins are taken off the hooks, grabbed roughly by inexpert hands. Innards are packed into the skins. Guts, a voicebox, a heart. Brains, cold and slippery to the touch, their convolutions glistening.

Crammed unto the bursting point with guts and other fell assemblages, the skins are sewn up, a Frankenstinian quilting bee. No electrodes protrude from the base of the neck, yet electrodes are there, hidden.

Money is exchanged. The glassy-eyed shambling horrors, fully assembled, are thrust roughly into the hands of their new masters. Their life of slavery has begun.

It is terrible, this Abbatoir-in-Reverse, this backwards slaughterhouse. I have seen enough. I run, screaming.

It is at that moment that I shout at the very heavens, swearing unto All that is Holy:

“I will never set foot in a Build-a-Bear Workshop again!”

CARNIVAL OF COMEDY #35

Motopolitico hosts this week’s Carnival of Comedy.

Moto is an interesting choice for host of CoC. He’s on his way to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a fact that helps explain why he chose not to publish four Carnival submissions on the grounds of “Filth Content.”

I’m surprised he published mine, seeing as how it contained the S-word. That’d be shit, Esteemed Readers.

Mine own opinion: If you want to host a Carnival - a Carnival of Comedy, in particular - be prepared to deal with the down and dirty. If you can’t handle it, back the fuck off and let someone else host.

Repent, Motopolitico!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #130

Get out your marshmallows, kids - it’s time once again for the weekly roundup of All Posts Bad and Bogus: the Bonfire of the Vanities.

This week, your host is Overtaken by Events, and all I can tell you is, you’ll have Iraqin’ Good Time.

LIVEBLOGGING FROM LENOX

The Pink Pig at Lenox Square
Going Hog Wild at the Mall.

I’m at the Apple store at Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead - the heart of Snazzy Atlanta. The machine? A dual-processor, 2.5 GHz Power Mac G5, with a honkin’ gigundo 30-inch Cinema HD Display. If I had a spare five large rattling around in my pocket, I could take this bad boy home.

Back in my Snot-Nose Days, it was model cars and chemistry sets. The toys have gone majorly upscale since then...and this one has enough raw computational power to have coordinated the Apollo moonshot. Yowza.

It’s got a cute little webcam attached to the top of the monitor. Dang - when you have one of these, it’s no longer necessary to use the office Xerox machine to photocopy your butt-cheeks - you can liveblog ’em!

I’d get one of these, if I could...if only to get Morris William, a confirmed Mac Die-Hard, to shut the fuck up about how wonderful they are. Yeah, OK, Morry - they are wonderful. Bite me.

Our main reason for going to Lenox Square was to give our nephew William a chance to ride the famous Pink Pig, a holiday-season institution here since 1953. Originally an attraction at the Rich’s Department Store downtown, the Pig has moved out to Lenox, where it is now associated with Rich’s corporate successor, the all-too-ubiquitous Macy’s.

The Pink Pig

William, as expected, had a blast riding the Pig, which is best described as a Kiddie Railway in the shape of a Giant Mutated Sow. The only hard part was explaining to him that he could not ride the Pink Pig continuously until the Sun expands, engulfing the Earth and becoming a white dwarf star. Kid, life is full of little disappointments like that; get used to it.

[Rabbinic note: It’s OK to ride on pig-shaped conveyances, as long as eating the flesh of an actual pig is not involved. And that, friends, would be perverse.]

After leaving the Apple store, we wandered around a bit, ending up in Anthropologie. Anthropologie is one of those fancy-pants clothing-and-tchotschke shoppes in which Vagino-Americans of all stripes enjoy pissing money away. Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm were busily inspecting the wares there, while Khody (Elder Daughter’s Main Squeeze), Morris William, and I tried to keep each other amused by making Snarky Observations on the mall’s clientele and speculating on how rapidly our continued presence in Anthropologie would drain our testosterone reserves. We figured anything over 35 minutes and our dicks would be in danger of shrivelling up and dropping off.

Eventually, Khody and Morris William wen’ bag - no doubt getting antsy about that 35-minute limit - leaving me to take an impromptu snooze in a rock-hard chair.

Elisson Takes a Nap
An impromptu snooze. Is that a stream of drool?

Damn, but I love these Mall Expeditions.

HOW TO CHARM THE LADIES

Pardonnez Moi

Take some advice from Mr. Debonair:

If you want to be a big hit with the ladies, be prepared to wine ’em and dine ’em in style. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little of the old Quid Pro Quo!

[A tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Morris William for this insightful and beautifully worded caption.]

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

PASS THE CRACKERS, PLEASE

The Last Supper of Jawja

A bunch of us Jawja apostles Blown-Eyed Blodgers got together for dinner a while back with one of our bestest buddies from the Old Country.

Well, it was more than just dinner...it was a whole honkin’ Passover Seder and Texas Jawja Hold-’Em Tournament. Unusual for a Seder, though, because there were only two Jews at the whole table, and I was one of ’em. See if you can guess who the other one was.

I’m easy to spot. I was having my halo dry-cleaned, so I’m the only one without a glowing nimbus around my head. Too bad, ’cause it’s a bitch to read the menu in the Last Supper Café what with the piss-poor lighting.

Of course, I’m the one who got stuck paying the check, which is why you see me reaching for that bag of silver under my robe. That’s also unusual, because Saint Sammy is the one who grabs the check most times, no matter how much we gripe and threaten.

Only problem afterwards - aside from the hangovers induced by the Chatham Artillery Punch - was getting all blocked up from eating all of that Unleavened Bread. Matzoh is famously constipating, you know. From this, Saint Catfish suffered mightily, on account of his ’roids.

And, yes, that was Chatham Artillery Punch in that chalice. Saint Velociman mixed up a Whole Holy Grail full. You were expecting maybe Manischewitz?

How many of these fine Apostles do you know?

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Eric, who knows how to work miracles with Photoshop...]

DARK VISITOR

Neighbor in the Sunroom

The Mistress of Sarcasm arrived yesterday afternoon at Chez Elisson. Along for the ride was Neighbor, her cat.

Neighbor tolerated the four-plus hour drive reasonably well. Both Hakuna and Matata are basket cases whenever I transport them even the shortest distances, so the very concept of a cat that travels well is completely alien to me.

In a couple of weeks, when Dad - Eli, his ownself - and Toni make the trek from New York to Florida with their cat Sammy in tow, we’ll see just how rara an avis Neighbor is.

Meanwhile, we’ve got Neighbor confined to the sunroom for the time being. We want to give Hakuna and Matata - especially Matata, Queen of All She Surveys - a chance to get used to the idea that there's another kitty in the house before we turn Neighbor loose on ’em.

I wonder just how well they’ll get along. Matata came down earlier today and peered at Neighbor through the French doors. There was a lot of subvocal growling going on and some Puffy Tail Action as well. Heh.

Neighbor has a Genuine Fucked-Up Voicebox, which means she is the one cat who can make more noise purring than Matata. 'Ta sounds like a little motor almost 24/7, but when Neighbor gets the purr-box going, she sounds like an 18-wheeler carrying a load of live pigs locking up its brakes on a 45-degree downslope in a hailstorm.

Stay tuned. Things should start getting interesting by this afternoon.

Monday, December 26, 2005

SWEET SISTERS

Matata can be a little feisty, and sometimes she is mean to her sister Hakuna...

Sisters

but then there are times like this.

By the way: the title of this post is an arcane reference to a fantasy novel by a well-known author. If you know it, tell us all about it in the Comments. [Except you, Morris William.]

BOXING DAY

Today is Boxing Day, the day that follows Christmas.

Boxing Day, indeed. Last year, there were a lot of people being put into boxes...the ones that were not lost to the ravening sea. For it was a year ago today that one of the biggest disasters to take place in our collective lifetimes occurred in the Indian Ocean - the Great Tsunami of 2004 that claimed roughly 273,000 human lives.

Even as the survivors continue to try to put their lives back together, it is appropriate for us to remember those lost, and to reflect upon the fragility of our lives. Many of us are with family and friends as we celebrate our manifold Holiday Observances. Let us all be thankful that we are able to share their company.

A HOLIDAY TRADITION IS OBSERVED YET AGAIN

Yesterday evening, a small army of us gathered at the home of our friends Laura Belle and Don to celebrate the unusual confluence of Christmas and the first night of Chanukah.

Unusual, yes. It’s not uncommon for Christmas to fall some time during the eight days of Chanukah. Some years there’s no overlap at all, as was the case last year – but the last time the first night of Chanukah fell on Christmas Day was back in 1959. The next time won’t be until 2024, nineteen years from now - although in 2016, Chanukah will begin on Christmas Eve.

A tradition of long standing in our family is the annual Momma d’Elisson Memorial Chanukah Dinner. On the first night of Chanukah, we eat potato latkes – and takeout Chinese food. My Mom was a big fan of the takeout Chinese, a fine choice of Chanukah Cuisine because it’s fried (stir-fried counts, right?) – but we supplement it with potato latkes because, after all, it ain’t Chanukah without the latkes.

Latkes
Latkes: It ain’t Chanukah without ’em.

And, since it is a Jewish tradition of sorts to go out for Chinese food on Christmas, the fact that the holidays fell on the same day made our observance even more relevant.

Funny thing is, Laura Belle and Don are not Jewish. Anything but. They’re churchgoing Roman Catholics who had enough Jews eating off their Christmas china yesterday to make a minyan, the quorum of ten adult Jews required for public worship. Laura Belle even ordered up special yarmulkes for the occasion – red suede, imprinted especially for the occasion.

Bestest Buddies

Where else but in America? Where else can we, the Varied Products of a tolerant, pluralistic society, enjoy each other’s company and each other’s friendship without losing our own ethnic and religious identities? It’s not the kind of stuff that makes headlines at Fox News - the nation’s premier purveyor of discord and divisiveness - but it’s an everyday part of our lives.

William Fires It Up
Nephew William lights the first candle.

Lighting the Candles
Elisson sings Ma-oz Tzur (Rock of Ages).

We fired up candles on three – count ’em! – three Chanukah menorahs, complete with the appropriate blessings and recitations. The forms must, after all, be obeyed. And then it was time to eat.

Food there was aplenty, with the table groaning under the massive weight of SWMBO’s potato latkes, platters of Moo Shu Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Cashew Chicken, and fried rice. As if that were not enough, Laura Belle made up a couple of troughs full of lokshen kugel – traditional noodle pudding – and I roasted a whole beef tenderloin and cranked out some kick-ass horseradish sauce to go with it. SWMBO also contributed a humongous baked Brie en croute, because nothing says “stop your heart” like a honkin’ big wheel of semi-molten cheese encased in raspberry mustard and a pastry crust.

Meat, Meat, Meat
Meat: It’s (some of) what’s for dinner.

Dessert? Yes, there was some of that, too. Laura Belle is a fiend in the Dessert Kitchen, after all. There were cannoli, dreidel-shaped sugar cookies, sugar-dusted pizzelles, and al manner of miscellaneous sweet stuff.

“Miracle of Chanukah,” my ass. The fact that I am able to walk even now, after gorging like that, is the real stuff of miracles.

CARNIVAL OF THE CATS #92

Watermark hosts the ninety-second edition of Carnival of the Cats...with a holiday theme, yet!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

CHRISTMAS STORY

It’s Christmas morning, as good a time as any to extend my best wishes for a Merry Christmas to my Esteemed Readers of the Christian persuasion.

TBS, as recent custom dictates, is showing A Christmas Story around the clock. Like other Christmas-themed movies, A Christmas Story has entered the American Holiday Movie Canon, along with other seasonal films such as It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, et alia. That has special meaning for me - not because I am a particular fan of Things Christmassy, but because I have been an admirer of long standing of the works of Jean Shepherd.

Shepherd was one of the three credited screenwriters for A Christmas Story, and it is his “novel” In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash that forms the basis for the film’s storyline. I say “novel” in quotation marks because In God We Trust... is more of an assemblage of short stories than a novel per se. And those of us who used to listen to Shep’s nightly broadcasts on WOR back in the late 1960’s were already familiar with many of those stories.

The Red Ryder BB gun story...and the scene at the Department Store Santa.

The fight with Scut Farkas and Grover Dill.

Flick sticking his tongue to the flagpole.

The invasion of the Bumpus Hounds. [Originally published as a short story in Playboy Magazine.]

It’s Shep’s voice you hear providing the narration, and during the Santa scene he does a brief cameo as the guy who tells Ralphie, “The line ENDS here. It begins THERE” as he points to the very end of a very long queue.

Back in 1970, my friend Walter and I attended a press conference Shepherd gave at the Overseas Press Club in New York. Walter is the guy who had turned me on to Shep’s radio show, and there was no way we were going to miss a chance to meet a guy who, even then, was a sort of Cultural Icon.

Here’s the letter we got from Shepherd - our Official Credentials, as it were. [Click to embiggen.]

Shep Letter


Complete with a real, honest-to-Gawd autograph from the guy who later wrote A Christmas Story:

Shep Signature

Flick lives! Yes indeedy.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

THE MYSTERIOUS LADY

Thoughful Hakuna

What is she thinking about, this Mysterious Lady?

Probably “food.” Or maybe, “When will this big ugly yutz the Benevolent Bifurcated God get out of my grille with the damn Picture-Box so I can get me some shut-eye?”

Friday, December 23, 2005

EVIL TIDINGS

Yesterday, I was toiling away in the local outpost of the Great Corporate Salt Mine – now located in Chez Elisson itself! - when, of a sudden, the phone rang. It was my overseer.

The occasional call from the Corporate Overseer is a necessary evil of Big Bidnis Life. As such, I answered the phone with my usual cheery voice.

You know that it’s not going to be a pleasant conversation when Boss-Man’s opening words – after a few perfunctory pleasantries – are “I have some bad news…” Oh, shit, thought I. Evil Tidings are never good, but Evil Tidings from your boss are downright scary.

Hmm. All kinds of possibilities, none of them good.

There’s a problem with my expense account.

I’m being transferred…to Beaumont, Texas.

I need to write a fifty-page PowerPoint presentation by 3:00 pm.

But it was none of these things. It was much worse…

The bad news had to do not with me but with a colleague. Said colleague had, along with his fiancée, gone out to a big holiday dinner the previous evening – one of those black-tie affairs for the benefit of some charitable organization or another. Afterward, they had come back to her townhome, whereupon some twenty-something thug son of a bitch kicked in the door, robbed them, and shot them both down in cold blood. They died on the spot.

The young woman lived in a neighborhood west of downtown Sweat City, a formerly rough part of town that is undergoing a certain amount of gentrification. It’s not very far from where I settled in when I first moved to Houston 31 years ago; it’s also not far from Greenwood Cemetery, where Howard Hughes is buried. Serious crime has not been a big issue there in recent years, but there has been a city-wide upswing in violent crime in recent months. It’s easy to attribute that upswing to the recent influx of Katrina displacees, but there’s probably more to it than that.

Not that the whys and wherefores matter much to my colleague.

It’s purely remarkable how one’s emotions can jump from Huzzah! to Shit! in the space of a nanosecond. The relief at knowing that the bad news had nothing to do with me was instantaneously transformed to grief.

Here was a couple all of four months away from getting married. Here was a guy with a thirteen-year-old daughter by a previous marriage. A guy with whom I had worked closely last year. There was a picture on my credenza not five feet away, a picture taken last December, of the two of us receiving a Great Corporate Salt Mine Global Award for a project we did together.

Gone, in a stupid instant. Gut-shot: a horrible way to die. Did the thug bastard shoot him first? Or did he have to watch as his fiancée was shot in the face?

Damn. I’ve expounded only recently on the matter of Dodging Bullets. But now it was more than a figure of speech; it was a task, a task at which my friend and his bride-to-be had failed.

O, what a world!

May the souls of my friend and his fiancée be bound up in the bond of life, and may they rest in peace.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

PE Nuts

[Click to embiggen.]

Yes, I drew it with a specific business in mind, but haven’t we all had, at one time or another, one of those “Enough Of This Shit!” moments?

A CHANUKAH EDITORIAL

[With Chanukah beginning at sundown on December 25 this year, this previously published Editorial Response is both timely and appropriate to the season.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the electronic-mail communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of Blog d’Elisson:
“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in Blog d’Elisson, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, was there a Judah Maccabee?” - Patty O’Furniture
Patty, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All they care about is that fat red-suited guy who schleps presents to Yenemvelt and back. All minds, Patty, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, goornisht, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Patty, there was a Judah Maccabee.

He existed as certainly as dedication and courage and devotion exist. He kicked some serious ass back in the day, Judah did, throwing the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and reclaiming the holy Temple. His struggle was a struggle against assimilation, against those who would be seduced by the pop culture of the day. He fought his battles so that we Jews would retain our cultural identity and not be swallowed up in the prevailing pagan mainstream. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there had been no Judah Maccabee! It would be as dreary as if there were no Pattys. (Or furniture.) There would be no candle-lighting then, no singing Ma-oz Tzur (or even those stupid dreidel songs), no commemoration of the miraculous rededication of the Temple. No Judah? We would even today be schmearing ourselves with olive oil and burning pig hearts as sacrifices to Zeus. And our Christian friends would have no Christmas - for the culture that gave rise to Jesus would have been wiped out. The eternal light - the ner tamid - with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Judah? You might as well not believe in fairies. Or the Matzohball That Does Not Sink. Or Eliyahu ha-Navi. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the seder tables of the world to catch a glimpse of Eliyahu, but even if you did not see him, what would that prove? Nobody ever sees Eliyahu ha-Navi drink his wine at the Seder table, but that is no sign that there is no Eliyahu ha-Navi. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. (Although those footprints in the grass were more likely made by your Papa as he tried to sneak back into the house with a snootful of booze after the office Xmas party.) Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You can tear apart the knish and see the tasty filling inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Patty, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Judah Maccabee? Thank G-d he lived - and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Patty, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to chase the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and combat the forces of cultural assimilation, making glad the heart of childhood.

Happy Chanukah!

[Originally posted on December 25, 2004.]

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN CATBLOGGING

Friday is the traditional day for Catblogging - at least, it used to be - and it’s the day the Friday Ark sets sail at the Modulator. Friday is also the day when I post a random selection of tunes, dealt out by the capricious whim of the iPod d’Elisson shuffle setting.

Ah! Why not combine the two?

So, here presented for your delectation, is a Random Selection of Tunes, accompanied by a Random Selection of Kitty Pictures from the Archives d’Elisson.

    Hakuna on the Stairs
  1. Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!! - Minus The Bear


  2. The Late, Great Edloe
  3. Wacky Adventures of Abe Lincoln - #9 - Laurence Simon


  4. Loveseat Kitties
  5. When Velma Takes the Stand - Chicago the Musical, London Cast Recording


  6. Sunny Morning Hakuna
  7. Way Back in the 1960s - Incredible String Band


  8. Sinking Feeling
  9. Business Cards - Mitch Hedberg


  10. Day-Bed Kitties
  11. Wild Horses - The Rolling Stones


  12. Bra-Tata
  13. Silverfuck - Smashing Pumpkins


  14. Uncle Matata
  15. Trio for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano - Chick Corea


  16. Basket Case
  17. Wild Night - Van Morrison


  18. Matata in the Bag
  19. Immature - Björk
It’s Friday. What are you listening to? And what cat are you skritching?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

MR. ENTERTAINER

The Missus is having a few of her Teaching Colleagues over for dinner, by way of celebrating the beginning of the Winter Break. And guess who’s cooking?

Yes, I volunteered to prepare Dinner for Four (excluding myself). And here’s what’s on the menu this evening:
  • Hors d’Oeuvres: Mozzarella Balls with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Scallops Wrapped in Bacon, Water Crackers
  • Soup: Choice of Creamy Portobello Mushroom with Fino Sherry, or Roasted Red Pepper Tomato
  • Salad: Mixed Greens, Dried Pears, and Toasted Pine Nuts in a Shallot Blueberry Vinaigrette
  • Entrees: Flank Steak Pinwheels Stuffed with Spinach and Provolone, Roasted Salmon Filet with Potlatch Spices
  • Sides: Asparagus Spears with Fleur de Sel and White Truffle Oil, Roasted Garlic Couscous
  • Dessert: Petits Fours, Dark Roast Coffee
All of this washed down with lashings of Red Zinfandel, iced tea, and miscellaneous Adult Beverages.

SWMBO’s Dinner Party

Good taste. Damn, but we have it by the buttload. I’m not always overly philosophical about Favorite Flavors - unlike this guy - but I know what I like. And all of this stuff is just fine by me. Tasty good.

Of course, I’m not eating any of it. Not right now, anyway. But I am savoring a hearty three fingers of Macallan Cask Stength Single Malt Scotch Whisky, the better to enjoy the roaring fire I have built in the Fireplace d’Elisson.

I know what you’re thinking. “Gee, that’s a lotta work, El. What a sweet guy! What a honey! What a lucky lady that SWMBO must be! This, all of this, done for Love, and the Spirit of the Season!”

Harh.

Completely altruistic, am I? Not on your tintype. I am demanding expecting hoping for certain, ahhhh...rewards as a result of my labors this evening.

Chef Elisson

Now: time to serve the soup. Mr. Entertainer, dat’s me!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

THE JUGGLER

The Juggler

This is what happens when you play with your balls all day long.

THE HYPNOTIST

It was entertainment night at the senior center and the Amazing Claude was topping the bill. People came from miles around to see the famed hypnotist do his stuff.

As Claude went to the front of the meeting room, he announced, “Unlike most hypnotists who invite two or three people up here to be put into a trance, I intend to hypnotize each and every member of the audience.

The excitement was almost electric as Claude withdrew a beautiful antique pocket watch from his coat. “I want you each to keep your eye on this antique watch. It’s a very special watch. It’s been in my family for six generations.”

He began to swing the watch gently back and forth while quietly chanting, “Watch the watch...watch the watch...watch the watch...”

The crowd became mesmerized as the watch swayed to and fro, light gleaming off its polished surface. Hundreds of pairs of eyes followed the swaying watch, until, suddenly, it slipped from the Amazing Claude’s fingers and fell to the floor, shattering into a hundred pieces.

"SHIT!" said the hypnotist...

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Mike Solomon.]

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 6.

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

Previous installments of the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary may be found in the Archives: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5.

Vox Poopuli [voks poop-u-lai] (n) - The noise produced by the expulsion of flatus, especially when said expulsion takes place during a painful act of defecation.

Sure, you can always say “fart while taking a crap,” but I think this Latinate coinage lends the whole stinky affair a certain tone, does it not?

Let’s use it in a sentence:

“When I went to the can at Pappasito’s last night, I could hear the roar of the Vox Poopuli from the stall next to me. Guess the guacamole didn’t sit too well with that poor bastard. Just Damn!”

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

PREPARING FOR THE ONSLAUGHT

The days wind down before the Winter Break.
I don’t know how much more of this I’ll take
Before I go insane. There’s work to be done,
(As there always is) before there’s fun.

The “Honey-Do” list, it groweth apace.
There’s barely time to shit, or feed my face.
Schlep furniture around, down and up the stairs.
Mattresses, computer monitors, and chairs.

Clean up the debris, get rid of all the piles.
Years of paperwork, stacked for (seeming) miles.
Thank Gawd there’s a basement, somewhere I can drag
All the shit, the garbage, and the slag.

You’d think it was New Orleans, with all this detritus.
I haul it out with all my main and mightus.
Unpacking boxes in my ground-floor office,
So hurried, there is no time to drink coffice.

Why all this frantic bustling, without end?
In just a couple days, the mobs descend.
The daughters, coming home from out of town.
(It’s very nice of them to come aroun’.)

And then there’s Morris William and his bride,
Driving in from Fort Worth’s northern side.
Along with them, there’ll be our nephew William,
His Auntie SWMBO will huggim ’til she killiam.

Upon her arrival, expected to be soon,
The Mistress of Sarcasm won’t recognize her room.
And Elder Daughter will likely give a scream:
“What the hell is this? My bedroom’s clean!”

If not for Family Visits now and again,
My Living Quarters might look like a pigpen.
All this redecorating! It seems to me,
It’s like taking a broom to sweep back the sea.

For in a happy home, disorder rules.
The cats shed fur and the baby drools.
If Perfect Cleanliness to you seems fantastic,
Cover all of your crap in a Shroud of Plastic.

Monday, December 19, 2005

HAVEIL HAVALIM #49

Haveil Havalim (Vanity of Vanities) celebrates its first anniversary this week at SerandEz.

Since it’s not #52 this time around, I’m guessing that this roundup of Jewish-themed posts may have missed a week here and there over the past year. No matter. It’s a dose of Chicken Soup for the Bloggy Soul.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

CARNIVAL OF THE CATS #91


Santa, my ass. Feed me.

Carnival of the Cats, Issue the Ninety-First, is up at Music and Cats. Kimberly has done a masterful job with this Litter-Box Full o’ Holiday Kitty Fun.

AMIDST THE DEBRIS

Matata Amidst the Debris

There’s nothing Matata likes quite as much as Dry Cleaning Detritus. Hangers, plastic film, paper shrouds - it’s all Potential Nesting Material to ’Ta. Here, we see her constructing a Comfy Place out of the pile of crap I put on the bed.

Hakuna, meanwhile, prefers to enjoy the morning sun as it streams through the front window.

Hakuna in Morning Sun

“No detritus for me, thanks!”

DODGING THE BULLET

In life, you dodge some bullets; others find their target. All you can do is keep your cross-section as low as possible and hope that the ones that strike home are the ones that are not aimed at the vitals.

Friday evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I went down to Vinings and met the other local employees of the Great Corporate Salt Mine for our annual Christmas party. Yes, Christmas party. I mean, who are we kidding? Of the forty or so people there, there were three Jews (if you counted our Veep of Sales, visiting from Houston) and one Hindu. So, yes, it was a Christmas party.

Unlike past iterations, this party was bittersweet, it being the Last of Its Kind. The local outpost of the Great Corporate Salt Mine was shut down last week, with the employees dispersed to their various residences, there to set up Home-Based Offices.

Gorgeous SWMBO

She Who Must Be Obeyed was dressed to the nines. I can’t recall a time when she looked more gorgeous.

We sat at the end of a long table, SWMBO and I, along with Irish Tommy (he of the Leg that Pissed Blood) and his wife Ellen, and Fresh Meat and his wife Danae. The ladies sat, conspiratorially, next to one another.

Fresh Meat, in case you were curious, is one of the younger members of our Sales team, and the most recent transferee to Atlanta. Given that he is so young and full of Annoying Peppiness, I bestowed his Official Salt Mine Moniker upon him two years ago; he has since borne it with both pride and bemusement. His Better Half, Danae, is a slender, blonde beauty who has, in the past, modeled in Europe and worked as Gwyneth Paltrow’s body double on several of her films. If I were a more cynical sort, I could hate them…

We were having a grand old time, when Irish Tommy – who, atypically for an Emerald Isle guy, tends to talk with his hands – knocked over a full glass of red wine. I was directly in the line of fire, and that Big Purple Bullet found me. To be precise, it found my Vitaliano Pancaldi soup magnet necktie, a necktie that had survived ten years without so much as a gravy stain – and my freshly laundered white shirt. I looked like Dillinger at the Biograph.

Poor Tommy was beside himself. He was so guilt-ridden, you could have mistaken him for one of us Jews. I insisted that my wine-saturated shirt was no big deal and that the dry cleaner could remove the stain – in any event, I did not want Tommy’s evening ruined over his excessive remorse.

A shirt, after all, is just a shirt. It’s no Big Honkin’ Deal.

For I could not help but remember that, earlier the same day, I had gotten a phone call from our friend JoAnn. It was one of those phone calls that starts out with, “Just so you know, everybody’s okay.” Whenever you hear an opening line like that, look out. Invariably, the next sentence tells of some near disaster, and this was no exception.

JoAnn’s daughter Jennifer, a student at UGA, had been driving around in Athens early that morning with several friends when they hit a patch of black ice on an overpass. Her SUV rolled, flipping four times and coming to a dead halt with virtually no glass left intact, completely demolished. Miraculously, no one was hurt save for a few minor cuts and scrapes. Jennifer and her friends had dodged a bullet, but this was a fifty-millimeter round aimed directly at their vitals, compared with the dinky-ass BB that found me.

JoAnn and Gary drove out to Athens in the dead of night to pick Jennifer and her friends up from the hospital and take them back to their several homes in Atlanta. They were shaken, not so much by what had happened, but what could have happened – but which did not, thank God.

In life, you dodge some bullets; others find their target. While mine scored a direct hit, I’m grateful that Jennifer dodged hers.

CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES #70

Caltechgirl, of Not Exactly Rocket Science, hosts the 70th Carnival of the Recipes.

You may remember Caltechgirl as one of the stalwart Replacement Bloggers for The Man of Excessive Hydronium Ions during his stint at the Dry-Out Farm. Now that Rob is back in the saddle, Caltechgirl can see to her Primary Blogging Responsibilities...including Carnival Hosting.

Lotta good stuff there, most of it with Holiday Season spin. Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day...we gotcha covered.

Friday, December 16, 2005

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Time once again for this week’s Friday Random Ten, selected by the Whim of the Electronic Fates from the iPod d’Elisson.

What have we got on the box today, Esteemed Readers?
  1. Three Easy Payments - Mitch Hedberg
  2. Chances Are - Johnny Mathis
  3. Rocket - Smashing Pumpkins
  4. We’re Not Sorry - Urinetown (Original Cast)
  5. Day Tripper - The Beatles
  6. Our Prayer/Gee - Brian Wilson
  7. Hora/Moscowitz Medley - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  8. The Hedgehog’s Song - The Incredible String Band
  9. For You - Bruce Springsteen
  10. Soma - Smashing Pumpkins
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FRIDAY ARK #65

The Friday Ark boards today for its sixty-fifth weekly trip at the Modulator.

And don’t forget to visit Carnival of the Cats Sunday evening, when Kimberly of Music and Cats will be performing the Hostly Duties.

CARNIVAL OF COMEDY #33

The weekly Roundup of The Funny (and the Not So Funny) is hosted by Right Wing Testimonial. Make a visit and enjoy a Hearty Har-Har.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HOLLYWOOD SKY

This evening, I attended a Shiva Minyan.

For those of you who are Jewish-Impaired (that’d be most of my Esteemed Readers, I’m guessing), the seven-day period of mourning that follows the burial of a deceased person is called shiva, from the Hebrew word for seven. The bereaved family stays at home, sitting on crates or low stools, and is visited by friends, who offer companionship and comfort. And food... plenty of food.

It’s traditional to hold worship services in the home of the mourners, thus relieving them of the necessity to leave the house to say Kaddish. Because recitation of the Kaddish takes place only in the presence of a quorum of ten adult Jews (a minyan), it’s considered a special mitzvah – an obligation – to be present at a house of mourning so as to ensure that the necessary number will be present.

The service itself may be conducted by anyone who is familiar with the liturgy. If a rabbi is present, as was the case this evening, he will generally be the shaliach tzibur – the prayer leader. If not, the responsibility will fall to one of the Ritual Committee guys – like me, for instance. In this case, the loss was suffered by a family that we are friendly with, so it was an appropriate time to lend my moral support as well as my physical presence.

The Kaddish Yatom – Mourner’s Kaddish – is frequently thought of as a prayer for the dead. But it does not mention death at all, being simply a prayer that praises God’s name. The traditional association of this prayer with mourning is precisely due to its affirmation of God’s rule at a time when the natural tendency would be to turn away from Him. (“You took Uncle Stanley – see if I pray to You any time soon!”) It’s in Aramaic, with the exception of the final line which is in Hebrew:
May the great Name be magnified and sanctified
in the world that He created according to His will.

May He reign over His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,
and in the lifetimes of the entire House of Israel,
swiftly and soon. Now let us say Amen.

May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, uplifted,
and lauded is the name of the Holy One - Blessed is He –
beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation
that is uttered in this world. Now let us say Amen.

May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life,
upon us and upon all Israel. Now let us say Amen.

He who makes peace in his Heavenly Abode,
may He make peace upon us,
and upon all Israel. Now let us say Amen.
Evening services are not overly lengthy, so it’s only a matter of twenty minutes of davening, followed by any amount of schmoozing, tale-telling, reminiscing, and generally catching up on the Local Poop.

Leaving the house, I was struck by the view I had of the full moon with clouds racing past it. It was the kind of sky you see in the movies sometimes, the low scudding clouds flying past an intermittently visible white orb. There was a blustery wind, one that carried enough chill to make me turn my collar up and tuck my head down, turtle-fashion, during the short walk to my car. All of my senses were alive... and I was thankful. Life, as we all know, is not a Permanent Condition – the evening’s activities brought that into sharp focus, of course – and we need to appreciate the beauty of the Hollywood Sky every chance we get.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

THROWING A CUERVO

My friend Dennis passed along this cookie recipe, and I couldn’t resist the urge to foist it upon share it with my Esteemed Readers.

Dennis is a notorious chocolate-hater, which is fine with me, because it means he will not be competing with me for any portion of the world’s supply. So don’t expect to find any chocolate in this excellent recipe for

José Cuervo Christmas Cookies

1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts (chopped pecans work well)
2 cups dried fruit
1 750 ml bottle José Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again to be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer...Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add one teaspoon of sugar...Beat again. At this point it’s best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK, try another cup .just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit, Pick the frigging fruit off floor... Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of sa! lt, or something. Who giveshz a sheet. Check the José Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cosé Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.

CHERRY MISTMAS

STRANGE EXPRESSIONS

No, I’m not talking about facial expressions.

I’m referring to Strange Idioms, the kind of things that sound just a little...off key.

For instance: This evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I braved the elements and drove to one of the region’s many fine Shopping Malls. It’s a task I dread, particularly this time of year; but, being the Good Husband, I came along to provide Companionship, Moral Support, and Package Schlep Assistance (if needed).

As we approached the dreaded Mall Vicinity, SWMBO announced that, owing to the rotten weather, she was going to park “under the neath.” By which she meant inside one of the covered parking decks.

Now, there’s a good Strange Expression for you. Under the Neath. Not underneath, mind you, but Under the Neath.

The Missus uses this peculiar locution all the time. I had to remind her that she learned it from me, years ago. But where did I get it? Inquiring minds don’t give a shit want to know.

For the answer, let me introduce you to my old friend Walter, he of a certain Very Professional Japanese Dinner in September.

Back in our High School Days, Walter and I both took German classes, and we lost no opportunity to use the Teutonic Tongue to create ridiculous new phraseologies.

In German, unter means “under”: no surprise. But there’s really no equivalent to the English “underneath,” at least, as far as we knew. So Walter made one up: Unter dem Neath, which can be rendered in English as Under the Neath. It was so catchy, here we are still saying it after over 35 years.

Walter also introduced me to another Strange Expression: Side by Each. Whereas most normal English-speaking humans say “side by side” when they are (for example) walking alongside someone else, Walter would always say “side by each.” He always claimed it was a New England thing, an expression that people would use in Vermont. True? I have no idea...but I still say “side by each” every so often, and when I do, I always think of my friend Walter.

Have you ever heard of people saying “side by each”? What other bizarre idioms have you heard?

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES #169

Josh Cohen, the Schizoid Sage of Multiple Mentality, has pulled out all the stops with a Firefly-themed Carnival this week. Whether you’re an SF buff or not, make it a point to go visit - there are some fine posts out there.

What with the pictures, the lengthy introductions to each post, and the well-constructed thematic structure of this Carnival, Josh has raised the Quality Bar a notch or two. Or three.

WHILE I WORK, THEY LURK

Hakuna and Matata Relax

Hakuna and Matata do what they do best: Relaxing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #128

This week, Free Money Finance hosts the 128th Bonfire of the Vanities, the Bloggy-Sphere’s regular roundup of All That Is Crappy.

You wanna know what’s really crappy? (Besides these Bonfire posts, I mean.) The fact that money is, our Esteemed Host’s nom de blog notwithstanding, most assuredly not free.

RIDE ’EM, COWGIRL

Here’s something different: a movie of Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm in Cowtown - Foat Wuth - a few years ago. The girls took turns riding one of those mechanical bull contraptions, much to the amusement of the spectators.

Elder Daughter put her game face on, but she was only able to hang on for a few seconds - like 99% of the people who try riding that thing. [Astute observers will note that my ass was nowhere near getting on it. Stupid, I’m not.]

Next up was the Mistress of Sarcasm...and after a while, that amusement turned to awe as people saw that she could stay on the damn thing.

What they didn’t know was that the Mistress is an experienced Horsie Rider.

After normal measures failed to dislodge her, the operator, wanting to free up his machine for the next victim, resorted to Dirty Tactics: the Death Spiral, which finally knocked the Sarcastic One out of the saddle.

The voice in the background is none other than frequent commenter Morris William.



[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Rory for the YouTube connection.]

Monday, December 12, 2005

JUVENILIA

Being a kid in the 1950’s wasn’t all that different than being a kid in any other decade. Sure, we may not have had computer games, color TV’s, Nintendo, Playstation, cell phones, beepers, buzzers, and Downloadable Poon-Tang, but we had something that all kids possess, no matter what generation they are a part of.

I’m referring, of course, to Dopey Kiddie Songs.

Every kid has, in his or her head, a library of Stupid and/or Obscene Ditties that can be trotted out at Suitable Occasions. Overnight camping trips, pajama parties, long bus trips, you name it – out of the earshot of adults, out come the Silly Songs:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man;
I live in a frying pan.
When they turn on the gas,
It burns up my ass.
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.


There’s another version of this one in which Popeye inhabits a Garbage Can instead of a Frying Pan. Hilarity ensues.

World War II was history when I was a kid, but not ancient history. A perennial favorite:

Whistle while you work
Hitler is a jerk
Mussolini pulled his peenie
Now it doesn’t work


Of course, not everyone knew exactly who the hell Hitler and Mussolini were...but clearly, they were Objects of Derision.

How ’bout:

Milk!
Milk!
Lemonade!
Around the corner,
Fudge is made!


This would be accompanied by appropriate gestures indicating certain Body Parts.

There’s the Insulting Song, used to deliver a hearty bitch-slap to someone who was acting juvenile (well, more juvenile than the rest of us, anyway):

Baby, baby
Stick your head in gravy
Wash it out with bubble gum
And then you’re in the Navy.


That one is still popular with Leathernecks everywhere, I’m given to understand.

Do your balls hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie ’em in a knot?
Can you tie ’em in a bow?
Can you throw ’em over your shoulder
Like a Continental soldier?
Do your balls hang low?
[You betcha!]

So deeply are these stupid little tunes graven on my Reptilian Hindbrain that they pop into consciousness at the slightest provocation, almost always at the most inappropriate moments. But that’s so Me: Mr. Inappropriate. Why should the crap that rattles around in my head be any less so?

Here’s an example. There’s a certain Flavored Malt Beverage that She Who Must Be Obeyed I will enjoy from time to time...but it creates within me an Irresistible Compulsion to revisit – in strangely altered form – the Days of my Early Youth. As much as SWMBO loathes it, I cannot speak the name of the beverage without tacking on that fatal six-word addendum, my eternal Hat Tip to Juvenilia:

Mike’s Hard Lemonade!
Around the corner, fudge is made!


What Stupid Kid Shit do you remember?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

MORE HYPOCRISY

This time (yet again!) from PETA, those wonderful folks who want you to believe that eating chicken is comparable to the Holocaust in terms of its General Level of Evil...and that Oppression of Moo-Cows is equivalent to the treatment of African-Americans in this country prior to the Civil Rights movement.

From the PETA Kills Animals website (which may or may not be an unbiased source of data):
From July 1998 through the end of 2004, PETA killed over 12,400 dogs, cats, and other “companion animals” at its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters.
Seems that PETA talks a big game about saving all the kitties and puppies, but when it comes to the reality (and cost) of caring for animals instead of just killing them, money talks - and no kitty walks.
PETA raked in nearly $29 million last year in income, much of it raised from pet owners who think their donations actually help animals. Instead, the group spends huge sums on programs equating people who eat chicken with Nazis, scaring young children away from drinking milk, recruiting children into the radical animal-rights lifestyle, and intimidating businessmen and their families in their own neighborhoods. PETA has also spent tens of thousands of dollars defending arsonists and other violent extremists.
At PETA, it’s apparently all about ideology and money, not about the animals.

Hey, look: I am - to use the PETA epithet - a speciesist. I think humans are better than animals. I think we have the right to exploit animals for food and other products, by virtue of our hard-earned place at the top of the food chain. We don’t need to be cruel about it, but I see nothing wrong with a nice Steamship Roast of Beef. Just as a polar bear or lion sees nothing wrong with a nice, red Haunch o’ Human, given the opportunity. Ask “Mr. Grizzly.”

But this - this is just plain wrong.

This story has been below the radar for the past few years, but expect a major Mainstream News Media Outlet to hit it hard - very soon.

Yet another reason to Eat an Animal for PETA.

WHY I LOVE HER

Yesterday, She Who Must Be Obeyed gets it in her head to go to Garden Ridge Pottery, the kind of place that is right up there with the Build-a-Bear Workshop on the List of Places I Would Rather Drive Tenpenny Nails Into My Eyeballs Than Go To.

Miraculously, I dodged that bullet. We hooked up with our friends Laura Belle and Don, grabbed a quick bite, and the wimmin went off to Garden Ridge whilst Don and I rented a DVD.

[Fantastic Four, in case you cared. There’s no better time to watch a Comic Book Movie than when the wimmin are not around to be bored and/or annoyed.]

But I gotta hand it to the Missus. While Don and I were loafing around and checking out Jessica Alba’s kalamatunis, she scored a couple of king-size pillows for a humungous bed we had just stuffed into the Mistress’s room - not that the Mistress is ever around to use it much - and ended up paying $1.19 per pillow. Bargains “R” Us here at Chez Elisson.

I offhandedly made a snide comment about the Cheap-O Pillows...something to the effect of, “I guess I don’t wanna know what these pillows are stuffed with, do I?”

Whereupon SWMBO shot back, “Has anybody seen Jimmy Hoffa lately?”

Just Damn! She’s even more perverse than me. Does anybody wonder why I love her?

FUN, FOOD, ’N’ FELINES

Two Carnivals are up for your Bloggity Pleasure:

Carnival of the Recipes, Edition #69 (guaranteed good eatin’!) is at dubious wonder. Trouble in Shangri-La has assembled a fine collection of dishes, and I’m not complaining about her putting up the same recipe I had contributed a week ago - mainly, because I was too slammed to put up any new recipe posts this week.

Sunday, of course, brings the Carnival of the Cats, which celebrates its 90th iteration at Quite Early One Morning. Gotta love a blog that uses a Don Martin cartoon on its header.

And, lest I forget, the latest issue of Virtual Occoquan, Mark Hoback’s fine Online Magazine, is up. This one is Issue #78, and it features seventeen pieces hand-selected by Mark from an assortment of talented (and semi-talented) writers. Go thou and read.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

SEASON’S GREETINGS

Bill O’Reilly – Mr. Falafel his ownself – is off ranting about the supposed War on Christmas, and several retail chains have drawn fire for instructing their employees to favor the more generic “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.” Meanwhile, you have the ridiculous spectacle of Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia throwing the switch to illuminate the “Holiday Tree.”

Political Correctness, meet Exclusion. Exclusion, Political Correctness.

Since this is my Personal Online Journal, I can use it as a Bully Pulpit to give my Esteemed Readers the benefit of my own worthless opinions on the matter. Worthless, because opinions are worth what you pay for ’em, and these don’t cost you a red cent. And, like opinions in general, they are similar to assholes: everybody has one, and everybody else’s stinks.

First off, let me say that it doesn’t make a difference to me how I am greeted by Strangers in Retail Establishments this time of year. This country has a sizable Christian majority, and if someone assumes I am a Christian and says “Merry Christmas” to me, I will respond, “Merry Christmas to you.”

If someone, on the other hand, says “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” to me, I assume they are trying to be inclusive, to cover all the eventualities. This season, after all, includes Christmas (the 500-pound gorilla of holidays) and New Year’s Day, as well as Chanukah and Kwanzaa. Some years, you can even throw Eid al-Fitr into the mix, depending on the vagaries of the Muslim calendar. “Happy Holidays” hits all the bases, without the need for excessive inquisitiveness.

Saying “Happy Holidays” does not “take the Christ out of Christmas,” for those who care about such things. We live in a pluralistic society, folks. Get over it. Nobody is trying to take Christmas away, nobody is “persecuting Christians.” Nobody with an ounce of sense, anyway. But if the occasional reminder that you’re not the only game in town is “persecution,” then welcome to our world.

As for this business of labeling Christmas trees “Holiday Trees,” that is taking Political Correctness way too far.

Christians decorate trees as a Christmas observance. It’s not a religious ritual - it is, in fact, a borrowing from pre-existing pagan culture – but it is a Christmas tradition, not a New Year’s Day tradition – and most emphatically not a Chanukah tradition. It is ridiculous to blur its distinctiveness by calling it something it is not…so knock it off. It is a Christmas tree, people.

The issue gets a little touchier when it comes to what is acceptable in the public schools. I believe religious observance has little if any place in a public school, but I am also a realist. If you’re going to have a Christmas play, or a Christmas choir concert, have one – and call it what it is, not some wishy-washy “Winter Festival.” All I ask is that if you throw in a piece of Chanukah programming in order to satisfy the Inclusion Gods, please make it something with a little soul. Ma-oz Tzur (“Rock of Ages”) would be a hell of a lot more meaningful than a stupid song about dreidels or potato latkes.

Face it. Christmas, to Christians, is one of the Big Two, right up there with Easter in terms of Dates of Religious Significance. Whereas to Jews, Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday. Post-biblical in origin, it commemorates a military victory and the rededication of the Holy Temple. The religious themes are there, but they are not of the transcendent nature of some of our other holidays – or of Christmas, for that matter. Using Chanukah as a stalking horse, trying to compete with Christmas, is absurd - yet American Jews have been doing it for years. Enough, already.

Christians: Enjoy your holiday season. Merry Christmas. Light up that Christmas tree and enjoy the splendor of the day with your families.

And if you want to get pissed off because someone is fighting a War on Christmas, look to yourselves. Look to the retailers, who trot out the Christmas decorations and start playing seasonal music before the Hallowe’en candy has even been sorted through. Look to the people for whom it’s “just business,” not a meaningful religious holiday. Then drive home from the mall and shut the hell up.

Friday, December 09, 2005

TEN RANDOM FACTS

about me that you probably didn’t give a shit about.
  1. I can wiggle my ears...one at a time or simultaneously.
  2. I have translated the Mr. Ed theme song into four languages, including Bahasa Indonesia.
  3. In high school, I won a National Council of Teachers of English award for a short story I wrote...about a guy drowning in a septic tank.
  4. I have 28 of my original set of 32 permanent teeth, having had my third molars extracted two years ago.
  5. My first car was a 1965 Chevy Malibu. It was a piece of crap.
  6. I have visited twenty-one foreign countries on four continents (twenty-six countries if you count drive-throughs and short visits) but have never resided outside the U.S.
  7. I know what it’s like to piss blood. It is not good.
  8. I have owned (jointly with She Who Must Be Obeyed) seven different houses in four different states, all at different times.
  9. I remember Mama.
  10. I have eaten snake. Tastes like chicken. Chicken that has been crawling around on its belly all its life.
Snagged from Kris, the Goober Queen.

WINTER SUN

Winter Sun

It may be as cold as the proverbial Witch’s Tit outside, but the Sunroom at Chez Elisson is plenty warm. Warm enough for Hakuna to relax on the loveseat and leave her usual Deposit of Hair.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Is it really Friday?

My flight from Houston was delayed, so it wasn’t until 2:15 this morning that I finally set foot in Chez Elisson. Gotta love that December weather, am I right?

Fortunately, I had the iPod d’Elisson with me on my trip. Having a vast Library o’ Toonz handy made it a little easier to deal with what turned into almost six hours of Ass-Sittage...not counting the flight itself.

What’s on today’s Random Playlist? Let’s just take a look...
  1. Artilleryman and the Fighting Machine - Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds
  2. Seniors in Love - Bobby Slayton
  3. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head - Ben Folds Five
  4. Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes - Modest Mouse
  5. Pachalafaka - Soupy Sales
  6. Only In Dreams - Weezer
  7. Wild Night - Van Morrison
  8. Mardi Gras in New Orleans - Professor Longhair
  9. Don’t Look Away - Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
  10. Five Fifteen - Phish
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FRIDAY ARK #64

Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

- The Beatles
The Friday Ark is sixty-four editions old, so go pay the Modulator a visit and let him know that you still need him for your Friday Animal Fix.

As for the feeding business, you’re on your own.

SCENE OF THE CRIME

It was this past Sunday, and a Nefarious Crime had been committed.

The Damning Evidence:

Damning Evidence

The Prime Suspect:

Prime Suspect

Don’t be fooled by that innocent appearance. This little kitty has destroyed more Tee-Pee than the Illinois Enema Bandit. It’s her way of saying, “Daddy, feed me!” when, on the weekends, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have the temerity to try sleeping an extra hour past our normal 5:45 am reveille.

The Punishment:

Attacked by Mousies

Mouse arrest!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

CLOUD ATLAS

Having had a few hours to spend during Airplane Trips and Training Downtimes, I was able to finish off a novel I had been reading over the past few weeks, a novel I purchased on the strength of a recommendation by the estimable Bakerina.

And, oh, what a novel it is.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, is one of the most unusually structured, thought-provoking books I have read in a long time. Part historical romance, part mystery, part science fiction, it is all brilliant, a Chinese puzzle of a book, a series of short novels nested into one another like the components of a Matruschka doll.

It was this paragraph in the Bakerina’s post that hooked me:
I won’t even try to synopsize Cloud Atlas - although if you want one, the Amazon link has a couple of nice ones - but I will share a bit of it, as always keeping fingers crossed on that whole Fair Use issue. Considering that the story arc is not so much an arc as it is a boomerang, it feels odd to say that the novel ends on an optimistic note. The novel is actually comprised of six novellas, starting on a Pacific-crossing ship in 1850, proceeding to Belgium in 1931, California in the mid-1970’s, present-day England, a dystopic, hypercapitalistic Korea several hundred years from now, and a postapocalyptic Hawaii; from there, we travel back through time and space: Korea, England, California, Belgium, back to the Dutch ship in the Pacific that starts it all. Once you see Mitchell’s vision for how we end up, it is illogical, at least within the confines of the story, to imagine that anything could change, could be made better, and yet I was left feeling that change was possible, that the course of history could be altered for the better.
Don’t just sit there. Get this book out of the nearest library; if necessary, go buy it. Read it. You will be rocked back on your heels by the sheer audacity of its premise and the beauty of its construction. The power of the story? A bonus.

Thanks, Bake! I owe you one, big-time.

A BAD JOKE FOR ROSCOE

Given that our instructors at my Training Ordeal Course this week are from Penn State, I could not resist regaling them with this Loathsome Joke:

Q: What is the most popular cut of meat at Penn State?

A: The Nittany Loin.


I’ll be here all week. G’night, everybody!

HAPPY DAYS

Yes, Happy Days. Four glorious days in Sweat City.

Following a drive to the Atlanta airport in a blinding hailstorm, followed by a hellacious, bumpy flight to the Land of Schvitz Sunday evening, I spent Monday in the Bowels of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. Now, I am enjoying three days at the SaltmineCo Conference Center, here in the beauteous Woodlands.

Three days of sitting in a conference room, listening to lectures, running supply chain simulations, and trying to keep that thin stream of spittle from getting on my pants when I doze off. Three days of pleasure while my brain turns to cottage cheese.

Envy me not, Esteemed Readers.

Alas, it is one of the benefits of Continued Employment, that my bountiful Employer wishes to enhance my General Usefulness. Thus: training. Like teaching dead dogs new tricks.

I participate. I am attentive. Like a Bottlenosed Dolphin, I leap at the right time, so as to grab the Fishy Treats that are proffered. And I piddle only on the Approved Newspapers.

I can feel my brain getting bigger by the hour.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES #127

This week, the Bonfire is hosted by Special Fried Rice.

Based on the type of posts contained in the typical Bonfire, that means we have here a House Special Fried Rice of the Funkiest Sort. You know: beef, shrimp, chicken, vegetables, and the odd Random Turd. Yum!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The legendary Dax Montana - one of the infamous Jawja Blown-Eyed Blodgers - is a true Renaissance Man.

Sure, the Daxster likes to play the Redneck - hunting, fishing, wearing camo, eating grits - but there’s more to him than meets the eye. Lots more.

For one thing, he’s getting involved in the publishing business. A risky venture to some, but Dax has the drive and determination to succeed.

That’s not all. He is a connoisseur of the Fine Arts. Musical theatre, film, television - these are all home to the redoubtable Mr. M. And if all that were not enough, he’s an aficionado of Jazz-Rock Fusion, well-versed in the great music of the 1970’s.

Nutty, offbeat sports? Dax is your man. Bizarre sex? The guy wrote the book.

And did I mention model rocketry? Dude’s a damn scientist to boot.

Gourmet cooking? Dax has got more BAM! than that skeevy little Emeril fucker.

Only trouble is, he’s wound up a tad tight thanks to all these Varied Interests trying to find a home in that skull of his. There are days when the sight of Yet Another Turkey Sub is likely to send him right over the edge...

Screamin’ Dax

Just Damn!

CARNIVALS? WE GOT CARNIVALS

The Carnival of the Recipes is up - second week in a row! - at Punctilious. The sixty-eighth edition is an Appetizer Party, and appetizing, it surely is.

The 89th Carnival of the Cats is also up at veteran host When Cats Attack!! Go to get your fix of Fuzzy Kitty Goodness.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

ICE CREAM

There’s an old joke in which Mickey Mouse orders an ice cream sundae. The person taking the order asks, “Crushed nuts?” And Mickey Mouse says, “No, I’ve always talked like this.”

Perhaps inspired by this little tale, one of the Minyan Boyz shared this True Story with me today:

It seems my friend - a Master of the Quick-Witted Comeback Line - was at an ice cream parlor, ordering a sundae. The waitress took his order and then asked, “Would you like your nuts crushed?”

To which my friend replied, “No, thank you. Would you like to have your tits shot off?”

She never came back to the table after that...

Friday, December 02, 2005

I EATS ME SPINACH - VERY PROFESSIONALLY

A couple of months ago, I chronicled a memorable Japanese dinner.

The meal was memorable not only for the food - which was superb - but mainly for the fact that it was with my old buddy Walter, whom I had not seen in something like 29 years.

Accompanying Walter were a couple of his business colleagues, two Japanese guys who styled themselves Chris and Carl. A source of continuing amusement for both She Who Must Be Obeyed and me, even unto this day, is the way Chris and Carl reacted to how I navigated my way around the Japanese menu: “Very Professional.”

One of the selections that elicited a “Very Professional” from the Wakayama Boyz was my choice of appetizer: goma-ae, spinach served with a sesame-based sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It’s delicious, and practically Zen-like in its simplicity, unlike those fussy little hors d’ouevres that Martha Fucking Stewart makes.

If Popeye were from Niigata, this is what he’d eat. It would give him the strength to climb Fujiyama, or to cut the grass at the Imperial Palace in a single day.

And now, you can enjoy goma-ae, too.

Goma-ae (Japanese Sesame Spinach)

3 lbs fresh spinach, stems removed
2 tbsp shoyu (soy sauce)
4 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

To toast the sesame seeds, preheat an oven (or toaster oven, if you have one) to 350°F. Put the sesame seeds on a small baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan or stirring the seeds occasionally to ensure that they toast evenly and don’t burn. When the seeds are golden brown, remove them from the oven and transfer them immediately to a plate. Set aside.

Add the spinach to a saucepan of boiling salted water and boil uncovered for two minutes, or until just tender. Dump the spinach into a colander, rinse with cold water, and drain well. Gently squeeze dry by the handful. Gently separate the resulting “balls” of spinach and put on a serving plate in a single layer. If you have small ramekins or timbale molds, use these to shape the spinach into neat little piles.

In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, mirin, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and sugar. Pour over the spinach timbales. Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Popeye-wa, goma-ae-ga hoshii desu, neh?