Tuesday, February 28, 2006

FAT TUESDAY

Invariably followed by Skinny-Ass Wednesday.

Vale, carne! Carnival!
Say bye-bye to meat, my pal.
Next forty days, they call it Lent.
I’ll celebrate by getting bent,
And (tho’ I’m Jewish) wish a hearty
Gras to tack on to your Mardi.

My return flight to Atlanta this evening skirted the northern reaches of N’Awlins, this very day of Mardi Gras, and it put me in mind of the ghost of Professor Longhair.

Fess was a local legend, an inspiration to other New Orleans musicians like Allen Toussaint and Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack. Tipitina’s, the old Cajun dance-hall, is heavily festooned with his icon. Three years ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were two-stepping our way around the floor of that hallowed shrine.

Professor Longhair
Professor Longhair.

Fess’s song “Tipitina” - the inspiration for the dance-hall’s name - is the perfect Mardi Gras music. Take a listen and see if you don’t get a jones on for andouille gumbo, King Cake, and a Sazerac.

MICKEY’S REVENGE

Mickey Rat
Mickey Rat ©1972 Robert Armstrong and Kitchen Sink Press.

The Great Corporate Salt Mine sends out a daily Safety Brief as part of the normal flood of e-mail I deal with. Today’s brief featured a bizarre little story that had come over the newswires in early January.

It seems a New Mexico homeowner found a mouse in his house. He caught the little guy and decided to dispose of it on a pile of burning leaves he had going nearby. He then watched in horror as the flaming mouse ran back into his house and set it ablaze, burning it to the ground. According to the article in BBC News,
Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, found the mouse in his home and wanted to get rid of it.

“I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house,” he was quoted as saying by AP.
Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but our mousey friend had other ideas.

There’s more to the story, of course. Snopes.com lists this story in their “Undetermined” status category, mainly because there are some conflicting accounts of what actually happened. The homeowner later claimed that the mouse was dead when he threw it on the fire, and the house was torched off by wind-blown embers. But it’s not clear whether he concocted that version of the story to appear more humane (throwing a live mouse into a funeral pyre is a tad outré) and later reverted to the live-mouse version in view of the amount of attention the story got, or whether that’s really what happened in the first place.

I would like to believe the mouse was alive and set the fire. Karma, and all.

MAHATMA KANE JEEVES

Octavia Butler, the first African-American author to gain national prominence in the field of science fiction, died last Friday at the age of 58.

Rather than focusing on technology and dystopian future visions, Butler explored themes of identity and race, using science-fictional elements to drive her stories forward.

Unfamiliar with Butler? Read Wild Seed, a novel I first heard of by reading Orson Scott Card’s deconstruction of Butler’s carefully crafted prose. It’s a remarkable book with a scary protagonist: a man - a creature - who can wear other people’s bodies as easily as you or I can put on a T-shirt, killing them in the process.

Hers was a unique voice in a literary genre that is dear to me. Ave atque vale, Octavia, and Godspeed.

Monday, February 27, 2006

THE HIGH PRIEST

The Kohen ha-Gadol
Gravel-Voice Larry, z''l.

Here’s a picture of Gravel-Voice Larry of blessed memory, courtesy of fellow Minyan Boy Mike Solomon.

Here, Larry is in his element – at post-Minyan breakfast at the local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium. On any given morning, there would be anywhere from six to over a dozen of us at breakfast, but on any day that Larry was there – which was most days – it was pretty obvious who was the Grand Panjandrum...the High Priest...the Kohen-ha-Gadol. That last description fit Larry, a real Kohen, to a T.

“Ya wanna do something?”

That was Larry’s invitation to share a fish platter. Sometimes we’d split a baked salmon salad platter, sometimes we’d have a slab of baked salmon, and, when we felt adventurous, we’d go for the sable. Sable is not for the faint of heart; it’s an assertive, “fishy” fish, an acquired taste for some. But when Tommy was on his game (Tommy being the proprietor of the Emporium), it could be heavenly.

Larry was picky about his fish. He would go up and select the finest chunk in the case, not relying on the guy behind the counter to do the choosing for us. Never mind that there might have been an already-opened package of fish – if the best-looking piece were still in its plastic wrappings, out it would come. The Kohen ha-Gadol would rarely screw the pooch when it came to Fish Selection; he’d pick a winner almost every time. Years spent in the Food Service industry helped, no doubt.

For breadstuff (to accompany the fish, of course), Larry favored the Twist, a handsome loaf of bready goodness. Or he might request a bialy – which he invariably pronounced “bye-olly.”

At the breakfast table, Larry would hold court, and woe be unto the nekulturny slob who would dare to read a newspaper at the table. Breakfast was not a time for paper-reading. It was a time for Manly Gossip, for political discussions, for settling Important Religious Issues. We would pick apart the week’s parshah – the scheduled Torah reading – with Larry offering up bits and pieces of arcane knowledge he’d have picked up in his sedra classes with the Rabbi or in endless back-and-forth sessions with his son Reed. There’d be stories of his service in Korea, of which he was justifiably proud. Or his grandkids, of whom he also was justifiably proud. And there would be a sprinkling of filthy jokes, just to make it interesting.

The last time She Who Must Be Obeyed and I saw Larry in the hospital, we brought him a treat, hoping he would be able to enjoy it. It was a chunk of baked salmon and a “bye-olly.” He devoured every bite...and he smiled.

I’ll treasure the memory of that smile.

THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS

Being an update on the latest Elisson Kidney-Stone Epic. Because, face it, you wanted to know.

After getting back from my Weekend Retreat, I spent most of the afternoon writing stupid-ass blogposts resting comfortably in bed while She Who Must Be Obeyed ran a few errands.

As evening approached, we went off to a shiva minyan - a condolence call, Jewish-style - at Gravel-Voice Larry’s house. There must have been at least fifty people packed into Larry’s condo, not counting the passel of grandkids lurking downstairs. Plenty, in other words, to ensure the requisite quorum of ten Jewish men for a full evening service. [Larry's older son is even more of a traditionalist than Larry, who would’ve counted women as part of the minyan.]

The Gravelly One would have been pleased at the huge turnout. Alas...

After the service, we stood around and visited for a few minutes (“stand” is correct: it was, literally, standing room only) before heading off for a Mexican dinner to celebrate our friend Laura Belle’s birthday. Except for the business of getting in and out of the car, I wasn’t experiencing any significant discomfort. Maybe all of those happy pills were working their magic.

After returning from the restaurant, I gulped down a little more Strong Medicine and a whole lotta watta. Adding a shot or two of pomegranate juice made it a little more palatable.

My sleep was intermittent. I had to stay off my back to avoid snoring (and the inevitable poke in the ribs from SWMBO), but there was no way I could lie on my right side. So left side it was, with any changes in position rewarded by the old Ice-Pick Sensation.

And yet, this morning, after a nice, long piss, I felt fine. No aches or pains to speak of. Respite, albeit temporary, from the Ice-Pick.

And so, therefore, I will take my chances and go to Houston this evening.

And I will return Tuesday evening.

And first thing Wednesday, I will hie myself over to the urologist, who will run me through the CAT scan machine to see what all the fuss was about.

Lovely.

And now, I am off to drink yet another huge glass of water. Listen! Listen! Elisson’s pissin’!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

GETTING STONED

In case you were curious (and even if you’re not), I just got back from my Weekend Retreat in the North Georgia Mountains.

Every February, about 50 men ranging in age from 21 to 80+, from various Men’s Clubs in the southeastern United States, converge on Camp Ramah Darom, just outside of Clayton, Georgia, for two days of spiritual renewal, camaraderie, and relaxation. Spiritual renewal, yes; and spirituous renewal as well, for, during the course of the weekend, prodigious quantities of Adult Beverages are consumed.

Except for the fact that the Jewish Sabbath is observed - from just before sundown Friday until after dark Saturday - the whole affair is very like a blogmeet. A blogmeet where almost nobody knows much about blogs, that is; where there is a huge bonfire with fireworks; where there is a Sweat Hut heated with red-hot rocks from the bonfire; where Scholars-in-Residence discuss matters religious and historical; and where kosher food is served. OK, so it’s not your typical blogmeet, except for the Drinking, Cigar Smoking, and Filthy Jokes parts.

One of the major disadvantages of spending two nights in a bunkhouse with 60 men (the event was especially well-attended this year) is that sleeping is a challenge, thanks in part to the thin mattresses but mainly to the cacaphony of Extreme Snoring and Flatulence such a crowd will generate. It’s downright thunderous. I was fortunate, in the sense that I was able to snag a bed in a three-man alcove where I had only two other Symphonic Snorers to deal with.

Of course, they had to deal with me. Fair is fair.

Thus are nicknames like “Chain-Saw Dennis” or “Log-Cutter Lenny” born. Not to mention “Double-Trailer 18-Wheeler Full of Live Pigs Locking Up Its Brakes on a 30-Degree Downgrade To Avoid Crushing a Volkswagen Full of Nuns, But Failing To Do So Irwin.”

I crept into bed late, late last night (early this morning, actually), half in the bag from the heady combination of 12-year-old Dalmore single malt, Aalborg akvavit, and Starbucks coffee liqueur I had consumed over the course of the evening, redolent of the smoky aromas of Cigar and Bonfire. At first my roommates were quiet (surprise!), but as I settled in under the sheets, the sonic volume from the other side of the room began to increase, until the windows were rattling in their frames. Chain-Saw Dennis had struck again.

I could ignore the snoring, but for some reason, I just could not get comfortable.

I can’t sleep on my back; it makes me snore and renders me susceptible to sleep apnea. I therefore will sleep on my side. No problem, except for some reason, it was extremely uncomfortable to be on my right side.

This morning, my right side was unpleasantly painful, alternating between an all-too-familiar dull ache and the occasional ice-pick-like stab. I managed to shower and dress, but later, during morning services, getting out of my chair was a teeth-clenching ordeal.

Unless I miss my guess, I’m dealing with the Return of the Dreaded Kidney-Stone. Three years ago, it was on the left side; this time, it’s on the right.

I dry-swallowed a couple of Vicodins (experience having taught me that it’s a good idea to always carry some strong medicine with you on the road) and ended up turning the return driving duties over to the other guys who were riding with me.

Upon arriving home, I greeted the ever lovely She Who Must Be Obeyed and called my urologist. This being the weekend, one of the other doctors in her practice returned the call and offered me a choice: Go to the Emergency Room right away, or tough it out and call my regular Pee-Pee Doc first thing in the morning.

I have four Vicodins left.

What do you think I ought to do?

What Should Elisson Do?
Get your ass to the Emergency Room. Now.
Tough it out and call the Pee-Pee Doc in the morning.
Drink plenty of liquids and see if you can piss out a blood-clot or chunk of gravel.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

[No matter what the results of the poll, it looks like the trip to Houston I was planning to take tomorrow is doomed, eh?]

Friday, February 24, 2006

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Yes, it’s the Friday Random Ten, in which we tickle the throat of the iPod d’Elisson to see what random tunes it barfs up.

This week, the Randomizer has coughed up three - count ’em, three - Beatles songs. One of them is “A Day In The Life,” which, if I were to pick my single favorite Fab Four tune, might very well be the one. I can still remember hearing it the very first time, when WPLJ, a New York FM station, had gotten hold of an advance copy and aired it before the scheduled release date of the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It was a true revelation, a window into the future of popular music.
  1. A Day In The Life - The Beatles
  2. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) - The Beatles
  3. A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus) - Frank Zappa
  4. Song For Children - Brian Wilson
  5. For No One - The Beatles
  6. The Internet Is For Porn - Avenue Q, Original Cast Recording
  7. To Cry You A Song - Jethro Tull
  8. Zol Nokh Zayn Shabes - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  9. Otherside - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  10. Coffee Song - Skanatra
Update: Commenter Sadie correctly pointed out that I had only posted nine songs. No, I was not checking to see if anyone was paying attention; it was just a Brain-Fart on my part. [Probably part of the same Brain-Fart that caused me to inadvertently delete last week’s Friday Random Ten. Thank Gawd for the cached version of the site I found on Yahoo.] Regardless, I’ve plugged up the gap.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FROM THE ELISSON ARCHIVE

Isro Elisson 1975
Elisson, circa 1975.

Just for shits ’n’ grins, here’s a 1975-vintage photograph of Yours Truly, getting down with his bad self. Check out that Afro Isro. Get down, get funky! Like V-Man’s Monkey!

Thank Gawd I never had the bad taste to invest in a Leisure Suit.

But I did have plenty of those stupid-ass Qiana disco shirts. Just Damn!

WEEKLY MENAGERIE

The Friday Ark is docked at its accustomed place at The Modulator. This one is #75 - the Diamond Edition!

And, of course, the Carnival of the Cats #101 will launch Sunday evening at animal family. Be sure to pay a visit. Majulah Singapura!

Update: The Cats are up. See ’em here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A BIRTHDAY SHOUT-OUT TO MEEM

Momma d'SWMBO
Momma d’SWMBO, 1976.

Today, the Momma of She Who Must Be Obeyed celebrates the completion of Yet Another Trip Around the Sun. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Better yet: Happy Birthday, Meem! For both Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm have always referred to their grandmother as Mimi, and our nephew William carries on that proud tradition. When Elder Daughter first developed the faculty of speech, the title “Grandma” just did not appeal to SWMBO’s Momma, who was too young-looking to carry it properly. Thus: Mimi.

I first met SWMBO’s mother just a little over thirty years ago. Her birthday was coming up, as it does the same time every year, and the future Missus invited me to join her on her weekend trek to Foat Wuth to observe the occasion.

We had been seeing each other for less than two months at that point, but I suppose she thought it was OK for her parents to be exposed to my August Presence. This was not without its risks, as parents of other Companionable Ladies had been known to burst into flames upon my approach.

I suppose I should have been all nervous and such-like. After all, such a Momentous Meeting is fraught - fraught, I tell ya - with potentially Weighty Consequences.

But the weekend turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. SWMBO’s ’rents treated me like a member of the family...little suspecting, perhaps, that in sixteen months’ time, that is exactly what I’d be. Or, perhaps, not suspecting, but expecting. Plans within plans...

I had, for my part, only recently become adjusted to the concept of Jews in Texas. And these were Jews in Foat Wuth, no less! With Texas accents!
“We’re gonna invite the gantzer mushpucker to the barbecue - except for Cousin Sidney, ’cuz he’s a smuck.”
This first meeting was pleasant enough, with us all going out to the Swiss House, with little Morris William (he was nine at the time) hooking up straws end-to-end in order to construct a Drink-Theft Pipeline. This is the same kid who later would demonstrate his ingenuity by tying cicadas with sewing thread lariats, the better to make Flying Buzz-Bombs with.

It’s seriously freaky to realize that when we met, SWMBO’s Momma was eleven years younger than I am right now. Gaaaah!

And now here we are, thirty years later.

SWMBO’s Momma still looks great. In fact, based on all the crap she has had to put up with over the years, I’m thinking that the picture below really captures her essence:

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman ©2006 DC Comics.

THE SPOT



You know that spot between the calf and the thigh, when someone is reclining with legs folded?

Hakuna knows that spot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A GRAVELLY VOICE IS SILENCED

Gravel-Voice LarryWe got the bad news this morning concerning Gravel-Voice Larry.

I’ve written about Larry here before. A former Miami cop who found renewed faith after the loss of his father, Larry was a regular at Morning Minyan. During Shabbat services, he was one of the Gabbaim, standing at the left side of the reader’s table, announcing the page numbers and verses of the reading and correcting the readers when they made their inevitable minor errors. Larry looked and sounded like the rough, tough policeman he had been, but everyone knew that his health was fragile. So many of his joints had been replaced, so many back surgeries had he suffered through, that we referred to him as “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Despite the pain he endured daily, however, he was at Minyan every day, occupying the Left Field position in the front row, attending the Rabbi’s study sessions, and up to his neck in volunteer work teaching kids to read.

Back around the time of Hurricane Katrina, Larry suffered a mild heart attack. Afterwards, he was beset by one health issue, one crisis, after another. Every time he would take one step forward, he would take two steps back. In the last few weeks, things took a decided turn for the worse, with the loss of his ability to swallow...and then, pneumonia.

At our post-Minyan breakfast this morning, we got the sad news that Larry had passed away last night.

I remember the first time I saw him, almost eight years ago. He had delivered a fiery d’var Torah - a sermon - railing against intermarriage, in a gravelly voice that would be perfectly appropriate in a Mob bill-collector. Strong opinions, strongly expressed, were a trademark of his. The Missus and I looked and listened, wondering, “Who is that guy?” Yet several years later, he was a driving force supporting the International Federation of Men’s Clubs Keruv initiative, which recognized that intermarriage was an issue that had to be dealt with without driving intermarried couples away from Judaism. Larry was practical, when it came right down to it.

When I started going to Morning Minyan regularly, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I approached the post-Minyan breakfast table at the Local Smoked Fish and Bagel Emporium...but it was Larry who welcomed me and made me feel right at home. And it was Larry who would always select, from the refrigerated case, the choicest piece of sable or baked salmon for a shared platter, with orders to cut it just so. Serve a dry piece of fish - or, even worse, a dry piece of challah French toast - and you would risk incurring the Wrath of Larry.

Oh, yes - Larry had a temper. He was a stickler in Matters Religious and Ritual, and he loved arguing the fine points with anyone who would listen. And when Larry got fired up about something, look out. And yet, no matter how worked up he might get, he always would listen to another point of view, always be amenable to anyone who wished to exert a calming influence. He could get angry, but he never would stay angry long. Doing the right thing was important to him. He was, in every respect, a mensch.

Larry was a take-charge guy, always. He was the man behind the scenes who got things done, whether it was sending out yahrtzeit reminders for our synagogue members, reviewing Men’s Club scholarship applications for congregants’ children traveling to Israel, or making sure our Shabbat-morning Kiddush Club was properly supplied with Adult Beverages. Whatever needed to be done, he was right there. Not just supervising: doing.

The Mitzvah of Tefillin - wearing phylacteries, little leather boxes containing small pieces of parchment upon which are written words of Scripture - was very dear to Larry’s heart. Once a year, when the International Federation of Men’s Clubs would have a World Wide Wrap - several hundred chapters around the world, simultaneously instructing children about this important ritual observance - Larry would be in charge of the program. His eyes would shine with happiness as he would recount the story of a father and son who came to the World Wide Wrap last year. Larry showed the young man how to put on the tefillin, and the lad proceeded to do so flawlessly. And then, after putting his tefillin on, the son showed his father, who had never worn tefillin before, how to do it. To Larry, this transmission of Jewish tradition between the generations was a singularly precious thing.

It’s said that the correct way to wear tefillin is the way your father teaches you. Well, my Dad never wore tefillin, so I always wore them in the style I had learned in Hebrew school years ago. Larry showed me how he wrapped the leather straps around his fingers one day, and ever since then, I’ve used his method.

And so, every weekday, I will have a physical reminder of Gravel-Voice Larry upon my hand, as I wind those leather straps the way he showed me. I’ll sit in the chapel, in the spot where he used to sit.

During Shabbat services, I will stand at the left side of the reader’s table where he used to stand, performing the duties of the Gabbai in his stead. And as I announce the page numbers and verses, I will be hearing Larry’s voice in my head.
Eil maley rachamim, shokhein bam’romin, ham’tzei m’nuchah n’khonah tachat kanfei ha-sh’khinah, b’ma-alot k’doshim u-t’horim k’zohar ha-rakia maz-hirim, et nishmat Lev Baruch ben Sarah she-halakh l’olamo, b’gan eiden t’hei m’nuchato. Ana, ba’al ha-rachamim hastireihu b’seiter k’nafekha l’olamim, utz’ror bitz’ror ha-chayyim et nishmato, Hashem hu nachalato, v’yanuach b’shalom al mishkavo, v’nomar amen.

Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and pure who shine with the splendor of the firmament, to the soul of Lev Barukh ben Sarah, who has gone to his eternal home. Master of mercy, remember all his worthy deeds in the land of the living. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life. The Lord is his portion. May he rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.
Godspeed, Larry. We’re going to miss you.

BEAR FACTS

My friend Earl is the father of relatively young children, having been blessed with two sons and a daughter somewhat later in life. The boys are eight and thirteen, so it’s entirely understandable that he is involved up to his neck with Boy Scouting.

On a recent camping trip with his younger son’s Cub Scout den, he and his troop came upon an area where construction debris had been dumped in a ravine. There were perhaps eight discarded toilet bowls, tumbled together in a ramshackle row, amongst the detritus.

He called the boys together and directed their curious gaze at the line of toilets.

“You’ve all heard that bears shit in the woods, haven’t you?

“Well, here’s the proof...”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

STEEMPY, YOU EEDIOT

Ren & Stimpy

Fans of Ren & Stimpy, George Liquor, Jimmy the Idiot Boy, Slab ’n’ Ernie, Ripping Friends, and Ranger Smith, rejoice!

John Kricfalusi, the demented creator of (most of) these equally demented characters, is now writing a blog. It looks like he’s trying to demonstrate to potential financial backers that there is a wellspring of interest in his work, the level of which he is gauging by the number of comments he’s getting.

John is a raw, original talent. He’s extremely knowledgeable about animation - technique, history, the business - and knows what makes cartoons cartoons...knowledge that many animation people seem to lack these days. His stuff is generally too edgy to be really commercial, Ren & Stimpy (originally featured on Nickelodeon) a notable exception. But I keep hoping. After all, anyone who could create a cartoon superhero called “Powdered Toast Man” and feature him in an animated short in which he rescues the Pope (voiced by Frank Zappa, with a legendary ad-lib line) could probably do just about anything:
Powdered Toast Man: Cling tenaciously to my buttocks!

The Pope: Both of them?
I’m not sure if Ren & Stimpy will ever come back, but John has several other irons in the fire.
George Liquor
If you’re a fan of Seriously Twisted Animation, it’s worth visiting his site to see what he’s up to. Hell, the caricatures he posts by themselves make his site a worthwhile stop.

And as long as you’re visiting John, stop by Jim Smith’s site (“The Unofficial Spümcø Website”) to check out some of the other deranged crap Jim and John have collaborated on over the years.

THE ERRANT STREAM

Pipi lavan - mitsuyan.
Pipi zakhov - lo tov.
[Hebrew proverb*]
The Errant Stream is something that all males must deal with at one time or another.

You unzip. You whip out the Equipment. You take aim. You let fly.

And the stream, instead of emerging straight from the barrel of the gun, so to speak, takes off at a crazy, random angle. Given the vagaries of reaction time and Micturitive Stream Velocity, even those fractions of a second required for re-aiming can result in Collateral Pissage. Which is why even us guys sometimes need Tee-Pee when we Pee-Pee.

At least we’re not aiming for a moving target...unless we are in Indonesia, amidst the throngs of small children who amuse themselves by striping passing vehicles in the fetid alleys of their villages.

As bad as the Surprise Directional can be, however, it pales in comparison to the disaster of disasters: the Piss-Sneeze.

Friends, let me assure you: Sternutation and Micturition do not mix. If you sneeze when you piss, chances are your bathroom wallpaper will have a whole new pattern on it. I know this; we all know it.

[*A poetic translation: White urine is reassurin’. Piss that’s yellow? No good, fellow.]

THIS BUD’S FOR YOU

Velociman recently posted a photograph of his gargantuan tongue.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. This is a man who has regaled us with Tales of the Brown Tsunami. He has even shared with us the story of his Taint Warhead...so a little tongue (or, in his case, a truly monstrous tongue) should not appall us. No: we should expect it. Be grateful, ’n’ all dat.

[The pose, by the by, is a familiar one. I do it myself to frighten and/or annoy She Who Must Be Obeyed, although I cannot claim to own a Gene Simmons Special like V-Man. We call it the Broad Tongue.]

But his remark about all the tastebuds being in the tip needs correction, and I’m here to do it. As a public service, just so you know.

Let’s hop on the Wayback Machine for a little ride back to, say, 1989 or 1990, when we were living in Trumbull, Connecticut. One day, the Mistress of Sarcasm complained of a sore throat. Being the Good Daddy that I was, I got a flashlight to check on the Gullet Purulence Index.

All y’all Daddies know what I mean. You check that throat, and if you see bright red inflammation and pockets of pus (yech), it’s off to the doctor PDQ. If everything looks more-or-less OK, it’s tea and honey and Get Yer Ass To School, Ya Little Malingerer.

I took a look at the back of the Mistress’s throat, and I nearly keeled over with a stopped heart. At the very back of her tongue (which she had thoughtfully stuck out to permit the Visual Tonsil Check) there were numerous large, flat, knobby swellings. Gaaaah! She’s got the Creeping Crud for sure!

We practically flew to the doctor’s office.

He checked the Mistress out thoroughly and pronounced his diagnosis: a mild sore throat. As we headed for the door, prescription in hand, I remembered those horrible bumps. “Doctor, what the hell were those huge, knobby swellings at the back of her tongue?” I asked.

“You mean those flat swellings?”

“Yes, them.”

“The ones that were about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch in diameter, all the way at the back of her tongue?”

“That’s them, all right.”

“Those? Those are taste buds.”

He didn’t have to add “you dumbass,” but had he done so, I would not have said “Boo.”

Tastebuds. Papillae.

The tip of the tongue is covered with tiny tastebuds that can distinguish the tastes of sweet and salty. The sides of the tongue are carpeted with tastebuds that sense sourness. And those honkin’ big papillae in the very back of the tongue are the ones that are able to sense when something tastes bitter. I give those babies a workout when I drink my Campari or Fernet Branca.

And now, V-man, put that damn thing back in your mouth. ’Cause all you’re doing is arousing the ladies and pissing the guys off...without even saying a word.

ROUNDUP ROUNDUP

The 138th Bonfire of the Vanities is up at Life~Florida~Whatever. The horror...the horror...

Update:
The 179th Carnival of the Vanities is up at A DC Birding Blog. DC, eh? Clearly a good spot to get a glimpse of the Yellow-Bellied Bloviator.

Monday, February 20, 2006

NERDS ‘R’ US

I’ve already copped to having been involved in that most nerdly of youthful activities: Model Rocketry.

It’s hard to imagine anything that will paint you with the Nerd-Brush faster than flying rockets...unless it’s being in the Chess Club (not guilty), the Biology Club (mea culpa), any of the foreign language clubs, or the It’s Academic quiz-show club (mea maxima culpa).

The main thing the It’s Academic club had going for it - aside from the chance to make an ass of yourself on television - was that the faculty adviser, one Miss R-, was downright hot. A few years later (so it was rumored), she lost her job because she was caught shtupping one or more of the seniors on the football team. Not me, though. Damn.

But we were talking about Rocketry, weren’t we?

Aside from using rockets to test the effects of high accelerations on small animals – bugs, fish, and the like, none of which remained particularly healthy after being subjected to sudden decelerations of several hundred gravities – we started taking aerial photographs.

Nowadays, it’s fairly trivial to take pictures from rockets. Advances in small film cartridges and modern camera technology mean you can take razor-sharp color photographs – even movies – with minimal effort. Not so, back in 1966. Things were frickin’ primitive.

Our camera consisted of a small plastic cylinder that had a film holder, a lens, and a rubber band-powered shutter. In the darkroom, you loaded the film holder with a one-inch diameter circular piece of film. You placed it in the camera assembly, cocked the shutter, and removed the protective metal slide from the side of the film holder. You then fired the rocket, which would then activate the shutter at the peak of its trajectory (you hoped). When the thing landed safely, you would pop that protective metal slide back in, take out the film holder, and haul ass to your darkroom, where you would develop the negative. With chemicals ’n’ shit.

All of this was a Royal Pain in the Pachooch - but if things went well, and the rocket’s nose was pointed at something interesting (and identifiable) – you were happy.

Our first effort was a near-disaster. The rocket flew high and started heading straight down. The recovery system finally deployed about 20 feet above ground, barely enough time for the parachute to open before the whole mess augered into the hard ground.

First Attempt
First attempt: a near-disaster.

A later attempt was better, this time snapping a picture from about 150 feet up while aimed straight down. You can clearly see the car at the top of the photograph, about to turn onto the two-lane road.

Car and Road

In the fall of 1966, we got a nice oblique shot of one of the local neighborhoods, having launched our projectile from the parking lot of an elementary school nearby. This photograph was picked up by the community newspaper, which in turn led to its being featured in a full-page spread in Newsday…and our subsequent exile to “Officially Sanctioned National Rocketry Association Launch Activities” once the shamuses found out what we had been up to.

Oblique Aerial Photo

But not before we caught the shot below, which shows the area surrounding the Massapequa River. You’re looking south, with Joey Buttafuoco’s house somewhere on the left and Carlo Gambino (the Mafia don) somewhere off to the right. You can see a boat working its way up the river.

Massapequa River
View of the Massapequa River.

Why, it’s practically a work of art.

Nerds, I’m tellin’ ya. Fuckin’ nerds.

WINTER OLYMPICS ON THE CHEAP

Watching the Winter Olympics in a snow-shrouded Turin – or Torino, if you prefer – has been fascinating. I’m always amazed by the sheer technical difficulty of many of the events. Never mind that you’re not merely trying to avoid being killed, you’re also, in most events, trying to “git ’er done” faster than everyone else.

Downhill skiing, where you’re zooming down that hill at 80 miles per hour.

Speed skating, especially the short-track events, where almost every skating stride is a crossover and you’re leaning into those turns so hard, your knuckles are dragging the ice. Speed skates are fearsome implements, with razor-sharp blades only 1/32-inch thick, extending several inches in front of, and behind, the skate boots. You do not want to be run over by a speed skater, because if you are, you will look like so much sashimi afterwards.

Mogul skiing. Bad enough to deal with those fearsome bumpy slopes, but these nutjobs are careening through them at breakneck speed.

Snowboarding. Extreme sports come to the Olympics. The half-pipe events are scary enough, but the downhill races, complete with aerials, are downright ridiculous.

I can’t claim to be much of a winter sports enthusiast, but I’ve skied in the Northeast and in Colorado. My friend Walter was largely responsible for getting me to ski the first time, that being on a high-school ski trip to a horribly overcrowded Hunter Mountain in upstate New York. He was also responsible for my taking the chairlift halfway up the mountain, where I faced what appeared to be a sheer cliff covered with four-foot high moguls. Getting down the mountain took a long time and resulted in my being coated in a thick crust of snow and ice chunks...surprisingly, with all limbs intact. Years later, I would still be shaking my head in rueful amazement at the sheer foolishness of it all.

But wait: there’s more.

A few years later, when we were both college seniors, I spent a goodly portion of Winter Break with Walter at his rented house on the north shore of Long island. It was, in point of fact, the caretaker’s residence attached to some fabulous Center Island estate, Center Island being a tiny enclave of super-huge mansions accessible only by a single two-lane road that was vigorously patrolled by the local constabulary.

I set myself up in the ground floor bedroom, adjacent to a bathroom so cold that if you had to take a whiz during the night, you had to snap it off as each squirt froze in mid-air. I’m here to tell you that there is nothing finer than sleeping under heavy blankets in a cold room...and nothing that discourages getting out of bed more effectively.

The grounds were buried in snow that winter, and Walter, a twisted genius much like myself, devised an Infernal Contraption that could have doomed us both but for luck and swift reflexes. He took an old bicycle and replaced both wheels with skis, creating a perverse sort of Ski-Cycle.

Elisson rides the Ski-Cycle of Death
Elisson rides the Ski-Cycle of Death, 1974.

Walter and the Ski-Cycle
Walter, the Mad Inventor, careens down the slopes.

The Ski-Cycle provided hours of Stupid Amusement. You could steer it...a little. You could negotiate near-vertical drop-offs and boulders, albeit at great risk to Life and Limb. What you couldn’t do was stop it, once it started down any kind of slope.

Best of all, it was free. You rode down the hill, then you schlepped it back up the hill.

Helmets? We didn’t need no steenkeen’ helmets.

So as I look at all of the snowboarders, the speed skaters, and the downhill racers, I chuckle to myself. “You people may be fast, and you may be athletic. But you never rode on Walter’s Ski-Cycle of Death.”

Sunday, February 19, 2006

PEE-FOOT

- “If your nose runs and your feet smell...you’re built upside-down.”

I’ve mentioned my podiatrist friend Harris before, the one who examined my feet and diagnosed my condition as “Monkey-Shit Feet.” Seriously.

Harris lives up in Connecticut, where he divides his time between several office locations. Many of the patients at one of his offices are elderly people, and some of the stories he tells of them are...interesting, to say the least.

One woman came in with what appeared to be a huge purple bruise on the ball of one of her feet. Walking was painful, and she wanted to know what her problem was.

Harris examined her feet and was able to offer a quick diagnosis.

“You have a blueberry.”

“You mean I have a bunion that looks like a blueberry? Is that a medical term?”

“You have a blueberry.”

“What do you mean, a blueberry?

“You have a blueberry stuck to your foot. You need to do a better job of washing your feet.”

Another patient, an elderly gentleman, came in with feet that were covered with horrible inflamed sores. The gentleman had read somewhere that because the human body does not metabolize water-soluble vitamins completely, urine is chock-full of excess vitamins and thus is an excellent antiseptic. He had been soaking his feet in his own piss for the past several weeks...and yet, for some strange reason, his feet were getting worse every day.

Harris’s recommendation: “Stop soaking your feet in urine. Immediately.”

Is it any wonder I trust this man with the health of my Monkey-Shit Feet?

CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES #79

The Ministry of Minor Perfidy hosts the seventy-ninth edition of Carnival of the Recipes.

Wow, a Recipe Carnival that not only features mouth-watering treats, but also makes mention of atomic bombs and Dread Cthulhu! Schweeet.

COWBOYS

It was bad enough when Roy Rogers had Trigger stuffed and mounted...

...now the cowboys are stuffing and mounting each other.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

WILD KINGDOM

For years, She Who Must Be Obeyed collected hippos.

Not the real thing, of course, which would have put a strain on our closet and shelf space. I’m talking about figurines and related tchotchkes. Cutesy-poo crap.

For a while, the ever-mounting pile of Hippo-Related Stuff threatened to become an issue, but over the years, SWMBO’s interest in Things Hippopotamic gradually waned, no doubt displaced by more practical items - like shoes.

But after reading Eric’s disquisition on the Hippopotamus, I suspect the Quietus Permanente has been placed on any further additions to the collection:
...have you ever seen a close-up of a hippo's face?... great bloody hell... the intricacies and intermingling of horrors expressed on their grimaces is almost overwhelming... pores clogged and bulging with swamp-water puss... hair follicles smudged with pieces of the last crocodile lunch… shades of brown, pink, green, and deathly blue run down their pock-marked necks... tiny carbuncled ears that flick incessantly... cold beady eyes... gaping nostrils jutting out from their purplish hide as if a corpse left in the sun too long had cracked open to reveal the red, working innards... sharp, misshapen, fang-like teeth... wiry whiskers stubbling out from their fatboy jaw-line... Jesus, what an evolutionary train wreck...
Poetry, that.

And here’s some more. An old childhood favorite that will perhaps inspire us to put some of these revolting, dangerous beasts out of their misery...
I shoot the Hippopotamus
With bullets made of platinum.
Because if I use leaden ones,
His hide is sure to flatten ’em.
- Hilaire Belloc

WEEKLY KITTY ROUNDUP

The Friday Ark, as always, is up at the Modulator.

This week’s Carnival of the Cats - the Century Edition, number 100! - will be hosted by Bloggin’ Outloud. Check back Sunday evening for your dose o’ Kitty Goodness.

Matata, meanwhile, enjoys some skritches as she reclines on the Leg d’Elisson. Tough life, innit?

Matata on Daddy’s Leg

Update: The 100th Carnival of the Cats is up.

PHOOD WITH PHREDDY

Our friends Phred and Deley came by yesterday evening for a Big Feed.

Friends? Relatives? Hard to say with these two - they’re both. Not only are they close friends of long standing with my Uncle Phil (my mother’s brother) and Aunt Marge, but Deley is, as best as we can tell, a third cousin of mine on my father’s side. It’s the Flanking Attack of relationships.

After years of living in South Florida, they (re) migrated to the Atlanta area to be near two of their three daughters and their families...which gives Phil and Marge yet another reason to get on the road and visit us here in Georgia.

What was on the menu?

Aside from the obligatory loaf of (store-bought) challah, I ran up a trough of Lil Pachter’s Braised Beef Brisket, cooking the meat Thursday, reheating it and slicing it up right before dinner. My experience is that four hours of braising renders the meat meltingly tender, and that extra day allows the flavors to really come together.

She Who Must Be Obeyed put together a fine salad of baby romaine and miscellaneous field greens, with toasted pine nuts and dried cherries and blueberries thown in to make it interesting.

For Vegetabobbles, I hocked up some carrots, parsnips, and a turnip, tossed them in olive oil and a dab of sea salt, then stuck the whole mess in a 375°F oven for an hour or so to make Roasted Root Vegetables...always a good accompaniment to brisket. I would have thrown in some onions, but the brisket already had a serious quantity of onions in it; it would have been gilding the lily.

The Starchy Veg consisted of Golden Oven-Fried Potatoes. These can be tricky, but I found a great technique that results in the next-best thing (maybe even a better thing) to an honest-to-Gawd french fry. You take Russet baking potatoes, slice ’em into wedges and soak ’em in hot water for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475°F (yes, that’s 475°F) and put the oven rack at the bottom of the oven. Meanwhile, get a heavy industrial-quality baking sheet, sprinkle it with 4 tbsp peanut oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Drain the ’tater wedges and dry thoroughly with paper towels, then toss ’em with 1 more tbsp peanut oil and arrange on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cover the sheet tightly with foil. Bake for 5 minutes, remove the foil, then bake for 20 minutes; then use tongs to flip the wedges over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn the sheet occasionally during the baking process to ensure that they brown evenly. Remove when done and drain on paper towels before serving. Yum!

Dessert consisted of coffee and Chocolate Pots de Crème, for which I turned to my old Chocolate Bible: my vintage copy of Maida Heatter’s Book of Chocolate Desserts. I’ll save that recipe for another occasion, but meanwhile, here’s a picture to set your mouth to watering.

Chocolate Pot de Crème

Friday, February 17, 2006

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Time once again for the Friday Random Ten - a randomized mix of Choons from the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson.

This week’s list leads off with a beautifully twisted number from Tom Waits, the paranoiac “What’s He Building?” The live version is especially tasty because Waits interacts with the crowd, playing with the lyrics, carefully constructing a tone poem of incipient madness.

Also noteworthy is the cut by Matisyahu, who appeared at the Tabernacle here in Atlanta last night. I’ve seen Matisyahu perform here - he was at Smith’s Olde Bar almost a year ago - and I’m sorry I did not get out to see this show. Hip-hop Hasidic reggae? You bettah believe it.

I also must mention the tenth song, from Moonraker’s first CD. Some New York and Boston readers may be familiar with this group, named Best New Band at the 2003 Boston Music Awards. I’m especially familiar with ’em, as they’ve stayed at Chez Elisson - and the bass player is none other than Elder Daughter’s main squeeze, Khody.
  1. What’s He Building? (live) - Tom Waits

    What’s he building in there?
    What the hell is he building
    In there?
    He has subscriptions to those
    Magazines... He never
    Waves when he goes by
    He’s hiding something from
    The rest of us... He’s all
    To himself... I think I know
    Why... He took down the
    Tire swing from the Peppertree
    He has no children of his
    Own you see... He has no dog
    And he has no friends and
    His lawn is dying... and
    What about all those packages
    He sends. What’s he building in there?
    With that hook light
    On the stairs. What’s he building
    In there... I’ll tell you one thing
    He’s not building a playhouse for
    The children. What’s he building
    In there?

    Now what’s that sound from under the door?
    He’s pounding nails into a
    Hardwood floor... and I
    Swear to God I heard someone
    Moaning low... and I keep
    Seeing the blue light of a
    T.V. show...
    He has a router
    And a table saw... and you
    Won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw
    There’s poison underneath the sink
    Of course... But there’s also
    Enough formaldehyde to choke
    A horse... What’s he building
    In there? What the hell is he
    Building in there? I heard he
    Has an ex-wife in some place
    Called Mayors Income, Tennessee
    And he used to have a
    consulting business in Indonesia...
    but what is he building in there?
    What the hell is he building in there?

    He has no friends
    But he gets a lot of mail
    I’ll bet he spent a little
    Time in jail...
    I heard he was up on the
    Roof last night
    Signaling with a flashlight
    And what’s that tune he’s
    Always whistling...
    What’s he building in there?
    What’s he building in there?

    We have a right to know...

  2. Zomby Woof (live) - Frank Zappa
  3. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot
  4. Sesame Seeds - Mitch Hedberg
  5. Suo Gan - John Williams, Empire of the Sun
  6. Interlude - Matisyahu
  7. Knights Of The Round Table - Monty Python’s Spamalot
  8. Penny Lane - The Beatles
  9. Wacky Adventures of Abe Lincoln - Laurence Simon
  10. Night With You - Moonraker
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR BOUDREAUX

There is a secret basement lair deep beneath the Velocihovel, where evil scientists clad in white robes manipulate the very matter of which our genes are composed. To their tasks they bring to bear the most advanced techniques of modern biological research, although whispered rumors mention other techniques, other skills.

Dark Arts, they say, but they dare only to say it sotto voce. Dark Arts bred in the pestilential bayous of the Crescent City. Voudoun. Santeria.

Mongo Santeria.

The twisted, gibbering results of their labors rarely see the light of day; rather, they are jammed into row upon row of squat metal cages, where for a shiny ten-cent piece, small children are permitted a quick glimpse that will scar their brain-pans for life.

Most of these creatures have no names; they pass their short time on this earth underground, unlamented, unloved. But every now and then, one escapes...

Velocimonkey Menagerie

PENCIL PENANCE

Before telling ethnic jokes became politically incorrect, pretty much every ethnic group or nationality had another one that they would hold up to ridicule.

Americans (of non-Polish extraction) would tell Polack jokes.

Canadians would tell Newfie jokes.

Turks would tell Greek jokes and Greeks would tell Turk jokes.

Jews (we’re such comedians) would tell jokes about the Jews of Chelm, a little village in Poland famous for foolishness.

And Texans, when they’re not making fun of people from Louisiana, tell Aggie* jokes:
Q: There are three men on an oil rig. How do you tell which one is the Aggie?

A: He’s the one throwing bread to the helicopters.
[*For you non-Texans, Aggies are people who have attended Texas A & M University.]

However, to paraphrase the Beatles, you’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Serbian truffle.

Yes, Serbia has now provided the most excellent example of stupidity since last year, when a Romanian (?) guy sliced off his putz by accident and fed it to the dog. [I’m pretty sure a post about that story’s buried deep in my archives, but I don’t have the time or inclination to search for it.]

Check it:
Belgrade - A Serbian man needed emergency surgery after sticking a pencil inside his penis to keep it stiff during sex.

Zeljko Tupic, from Belgrade, told doctors he had experienced erectile difficulties in the past.

So as he prepared for a night with his new lover, he decided to insert a thin pencil into his penis.

Tupic had to cut his sex session short when the pencil shifted and became lodged in his bladder, forcing him to call an ambulance, the Kurir newspaper reported.
[As reported in IOL South African News.]

Good Gawd. Gives a new meaning to the term “Pencil Dick,” eh?

But as horrible as this story is, it could’ve been worse. Much worse.

The guy could’ve used a styptic pencil.

SUBJECT MATTERS

In an idle moment, I found myself wondering just what it is I write about here...so I set about finding out.

I took a look at the posts I’ve put up in the last two weeks, all 37 of ’em on the index page, and lumped them into categories, trying not to put too fine a point on things. Almost half of the posts I categorized as “Random Crap.” The others broke down as follows:

Post Summary Chart

Too many Carnival link posts, so I’ll start consolidating those.

Next come “Cats” and “Shit” with four posts each. Hmmm.

No politics, religion, or stories about the offspring. Not this past two weeks, anyway.

Elisson: I’m the guy who put the “anal” in “analytical”!

JUST CHECKING...

...my eyelids for pinholes.

Matata in the Sunroom

Nope. Don’t seem to be any.

YET MORE CARNIVALS

This week’s Carnival of the Vanities - #178, for those of you who keep track of such things - has been posted at A Financial Revolution.

And the Carnival of Satire, which, having hit its 21st edition mark, is now old enough to buy drinks at the Bloggy-Bar, is up at the skwib, with Yours Truly batting lead-off. [How many frickin’ commas were in that sentence, anyway?]

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

WHY I LOVE HER

I really don’t expect the Missus to buy me presents on Valentine’s Day...but nevertheless, she does.

First, I am a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to observing holidays that have been goosed by the American Marketing Machine. Which is most holidays these days...except maybe Shavuos.

Second, I am a master procrastinator. Never put off today what you can also put off tomorrow, ad infinitum.

But I try not to be a total bastard. We exchange cards, and I send flowers. It’s a nice way to tell someone you love that you’re thinking of her. And we went out for a nice dinner, just the two of us, at a local place that had a fine jazz duo.

But earlier that day, She Who Must Be Obeyed had surprised me. I came back from breakfast to find that she had parked a shiny gift package on my office chair, where I’d be sure to see it.

I really didn’t expect a gift, but when I opened the package, what should I find but a beautiful new Skagen dress watch?

The perfect gift is something you need or want but would never think of buying for yourself, and this fit perfectly. I used to have a really nice watch that somehow vanished about two or three years ago. I missed it sorely, but I was never in a hurry to replace it. Perhaps I figured, deep in the back of my mind, that I would find it someday. Right.

So now I have a new watch...and you know what the best thing about it is? (Aside from the fact that my loving SWMBO gave it to me.)

It’s made in Denmark.

THE POOPUL’S CHOICE



The Vox Poopuli has spoken, and we now know who is King Shit.

With over 200 votes deposited in the Ballot Bowl, we are pleased to announce the winner of that most coveted prize o’ th’ Bloggy-Sphere: the Poopul’s Choice Award for Best Crapblogger.

I will preface the announcement by saying that – with the possible exception of Jim, who was nominated on the strength of a single Poop-Post – all of these fine bloggers are excellent Tellers of Vile Tales. (Not that Jim can’t tell a fine Vile Tale, it’s just that he doesn’t make a career out of posting Stool Stories.) And they are by no means the only Crapbloggers out there. Perhaps a renewed Carnival of the Crappers would, er, ahhh...flush a few more of them out into the open.

All of the nominees have proven their abilities beyond the shadow of a Doot, but one stands “head” and shoulders above the others, with a screamin’ 60% of the vote.

So, without further ado-doo, I present to you the Wizard of Wipe (no, wait...that’s me) –

The #1 of #2,
The Sultan of Stool,
The Mack Daddy of Cocky-Doodie,
The Papa of Poop,
Father Feces, the Wearer of the Crown of Brown,
The Duke of Dookie,
The Grand Poo-Bah of Poo,

The Champeen Crapblogger...

Acidman.

Surprised? I’m not. Rob is a Tall Dawg Blodger with a huge base of support, and what’s more, he knows his way around the Nether Nougat. Capable of handling the Big Jobs.

Velociman is the Runner-Up with the Runs, garnering 17% of the vote, and Og takes third place with 9%.

The Official Tally:

Poop Poll

A suitable Awards Certificate and Trophy will be presented to the Acidic One in recognition of his (ahem) achievement.

Let’s give a big hand to Rob. Better wash it first. Hell, better wash it afterwards, too.

[Blog d’Elisson: Cats, recipes, romance, and shitblogging! Schweeeet.]
[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Laurence Simon for the fly-raddled Turd Icon.]

AN OLD MYSTERY - SOLVED AT LAST

There are a few of us - a very few - who have, from time to time, wondered just what Kilt-Wearing Dudes wear under their kilts.

It ain’t pantyhose, brothuh.

I figure there’s at least one guy who knows the answer to this age-old riddle up close and personal-like, but I haven’t thought to ask him...and now there’s no need to.

Caption contest, anyone? Mine’s shown below.


“Nothing comes between me and my Angus MacDuffs. Nothing at all.”

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly for the pic.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

HEAT ME

Hot Tata

Matata is no fool. She knows where all the warmest spots in the house are...and this one, at least, carries no risk of Dutch Ovens.

SANCTUS VALENTINIUS

Old Valentine
Valentine, circa 1938, from collection of SWMBO’s late Dad.

Here comes St. Valentine’s Day again.

Thanks to the Great American Cultural Leveling Machine, the deeply-rooted pagan origins and grafted-on Christian religious aspects of the day have been scraped off clean [nice turn of phrase, that] and the result is a completely secular Hollow-Day that can safely be observed by pretty much everybody. I wouldn’t be surprised if even our Rabbi gave his wife a Valentine’s Day card, so far removed has this day come from its origins.

As a Jew, I could legitimately choose to ignore Valentine’s Day.

As an American, I would legitimately get my ass in Dutch with the Missus should I do so.

For this is a day that celebrates Love. Love in its infinite variety. (Although you can check your inflatable barnyard animals at the door, know what I’m sayin’?)

We can thank DeBeers, the Restaurant Association, the Greeting Card Council, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Amalgamated Chocolate Bon-Bon Trust, the Cheesy Motel Room Operators of America, et alia, for the fact that V-day has begun to mutate...from a holiday that celebrates Romantic Love to a day that acknowledges all Love-Based Relationships. Last year, I dubbed this phenomenon “Valentine Bloat,” that growing tendency to send Valentine’s Day cards, gifts, et cetera, and what-not to all sorts of friends and relatives, not just “lovers.” The Collective Valentine Products Industry has sold us the notion that all loving relationships - parental, filial, romantic, brokeback - should be suitably honored on V-Day. Ridiculous - yet who am I to sweep back the tide with mine own measly broom?

And besides, deep down I have a deep respect for any Celebratory Occasion that involves chocolate. Chocolate and champagne. Chocolate, champagne, a romantic candlelit dinner, and Hot Monkey Love. Yeah, I’m all over that.

* * *
Now, about my Valentine.

When we met, we were both young people, beginning new careers and independent lives. Both of us had had loving relationships before, relationships that eventually foundered because something was lacking. But as early as our third evening together, as I sat across from her at dinner, I thought I saw something in her eyes...some mysterious spark that said that this was going to be different. This was going to be a friendship - nay, a love - that would last a lifetime.

I have known her now for thirty years. Every morning when I wake up to find her beside me, I say a silent prayer of thanksgiving. She has wandered the country with me, given me children - the best frickin’ kids on the planet, in my not-so-humble-and-unbiased opinion - and given me a lifetime of happy memories. She lights up the room with her smile, and she cracks me up with her jokes.

And when I look at the curve of her shoulder in the moonlight, the years fall away, and I am young again.

She is my SWMBO, and I love her.

Monday, February 13, 2006

PIMPING IRON

I’m averse to sweating and heavy breathing – except in certain very specific contexts, you understand – and thus I must force myself to go to the local gym to get my Exercise Ration.

Thank Gawd for the iPod, for without that, I would go out of my mind.

There is something positive about the gym environment, though. Not only do you get to enjoy the sight of all those well-toned young ladies, pumping iron in their short pants, but there’s a sense of camaraderie, of shared misery. All for one and one for all.

Which explains why the equipment I have in the basement tends to sit there, unused. I have a fine recumbent bicycle which works just fine, despite its lacking all the bells and whistles the newer models may sport. And there’s a treadmill, which would be easier to use if one didn’t have to navigate the piles of boxes and Miscellaneous Basement Crap surrounding it…and sitting on it.

I have to admire anybody who is willing to muster the self-discipline to use training equipment at home. It’s even more impressive when someone is willing to go the extra mile and brave incomprehensible instructions and a complete lack of mechanical aptitude in order to assemble one of those medieval torture devices.

But I’m sure the rewards will be worth it. Better muscle tone, cardiovascular fitness, and a sculpted bod – why, I should run out and get one myself!

Eric meets Helga

CARNIVALS!

The 99th Carnival of the Cats (Valentine’s Day Edition) is up at Watermark.

The 78th Carnival of the Recipes has been posted at Physics Geek. As a former Chemical Engineering Geek, I can relate.

And the 47th Carnival of Cordite is at Resistance is futile! I normally don’t have much to do with weaponry, but for once I had a post that seemed to fit with the overall theme. Guns ’n’ Satire, dat’s me!

Update: The 32nd Carnival of Liberty is up at New World Man, and the 137th Bonfire of the Vanities may be found at The Cigar Intelligence Agency. Smmmmokin’!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

SHOW US THAT DOO-DOO VOODOO...

...that you doo-doo so well.

Dealing with Fecal Matters in the context of a blogpost is no trivial task. It’s easy to take the low road, to be gratuitously gross. In the hands of a master, however, you can end up with something that, if not poetry exactly, is both moderately revolting and hysterically funny.

Excrement makes us laugh. Let’s face it – jokes, stories, anecdotes, sagas, and homiletical diatribes having to do with shit, farts, and everything excretory have been around since before the earliest proto-humans even had a language that could be recognized as such.

Australopithecines wandering the fragrant savannas of Africa probably told Shit Jokes in pantomime form. Once language developed, it wasn’t long before you had the first stand-up comics:

“Thag fall in own shit. Ha!”

Feces are funny, no doubt because everyone has to deal with crap, and everybody (well, almost everybody) finds it revolting. It’s that tension between the familiar and the taboo that makes us chuckle. Or laugh out loud.

Now it appears that Rob Smith is making a bid for the title of “King Shit.” Well, “King of the Shit-Bloggers,” to be precise.

Now, I’ll allow that Rob is a Tall Dawg Blodger. He’s been there and done that way before most of us sloppy amateurs. And he was the creator of the Carnival of the Crappers, the late, lamented Stink ’n’ Link-Fest that helped put serious Crap-Blogging on the map.

But there is competition out there.

And I’m not referring to myself, even though I had a hand in (eeewwww) the infamous Punchbowl Meme from a year ago. Yes, I write the occasional Fecal Post, but I tend to be a tad scholarly on the topic.

No, I think we’ve got some serious contenders. You have Velociman, whose occasional Men’s Room Stories are the stuff of legend; witness this Tale of the Brown Tsunami. You have Jim, he of the Place Where You Pull To The Side Of The Road And Crap, who brought us the slightly specious tale of the 26-foot-long cable. And you have Og, the Neanderpundit, who can take a fart on an escalator and turn it into High Prose. I’ve often felt that Og is the past master at Turd-Blogging; you be the judge.

But if you want serious crap, this is your man.

Hey, I’ve talked enough. What do you think? Who Rules the Stools? If you’ve got a write-in candidate, put it in the Comments.

Who is King of the Crapbloggers?
Gut Rumbles
Velociworld
Neanderpundit
Parkway Rest Stop
365 Dumps
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

[In case you’re wondering, I’ve recused myself from being nominated, since I’m hosting the poll. I will, however, welcome write-in votes. And I have not added This Blog Is Full Of Crap to the poll because even though Lair Simon claims to be full of crap, he never seems to write about it.]

Update: Results have been posted here.

SNACKIN’ IN THE SIXTIES

Everybody’s got their favorite things to nosh on when the Snack-Jones strikes.

For some, it’s potato chips. When I was in my Snot-Nose Days, the choice was the salty, full-flavored Wise chips versus the more consistent Lay’s. Then, after a while, you got Ruffles, with those mysterious ridges. And then Pringles, those pseudo-chips made out of Tater-Based Styrofoam. Now, you have 5000 different flavors and styles of chips to choose from.

And you have your Pretzel Partisans. Soft or hard? Philly-style, big, soft, salty pretzels slathered with yellow mustard? Sticks or traditional shapes?

Tortilla chips, too. Tortilla chips eaten outside of a Mexican restaurant will usually fall short, but they’re just what you need to slurp up guacamole or your favorite salsa. Or Seven-Layer Dip, if you’re feeling adventurous.

And popcorn. Plain, cheesy, or caramel-coated? Remember Cracker Jack, with that useless, stupid-ass prize in each box? Oh, how we looked forward to getting deep enough in the box to nail that prize.

I was waxing nostalgic over a favorite from the 1960’s, one that is a Kissin’ Cousin to Cracker Jack. I refer, of course, to Screaming Yellow Zonkers, probably the first snack food that was deliberately marketed to the Freak Generation.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers were tasty enough, consisting of popcorn coated with a thin, mildly sweet, yellow glaze tasting vaguely of butterscotch. But it was that attention-getting name that made them interesting, along with the colorful, sixties-style package. You almost expected to get a free hit of windowpane acid as a prize in every box.

I’m thinking that SYZ’s might be a fun thing to bring to the next big Blodge-Meet. They’d be mighty tasty, washed down with lashings of Chatham Artillery Punch. And didja know they’re kosher? That’d be important if, say, Erica decided to make the journey. Me, I had no idea, until I saw their new magazine ad:

Screaming Yellow Zonker

Saturday, February 11, 2006

(W) RAP ARTIST

Some time back, the question was raised by one of my Esteemed Blown-Eyed Blodger Buddies as to which method of Bunwad Utilization was most efficient.

There is, he posited, a choice between Waddage and Foldage; in his opinion, Foldage was to be preferred from an efficiency standpoint. Especially, quoth he, in the case of Malingerers and Detritus. True, dat: the Infernal Sticky Turd calls for extreme measures.

Of course, as such questions do, this one devolved to a Popularity Contest in the comments. So be it.

My own not-so-humble opinion? I am a Folder from way back. Coefficient of friction? No, it’s all about the surface area. Wad, and one swipe renders the bunwad useless for further action. Fold, and more Abstergent Surface is easily made available at need.

Wadding is the ass-wiping equivalent of lighting a cigar with a C-note. It’s profligacy, pure and simple, made even more wasteful because, unlike with most forms of Conspicuous Consumption, those whom you desire to make envious generally do not get to observe your spendthrift ways.

How you arrange your Bunwad is, of course, the sort of intimate training that is passed down from father to son, from mother to daughter. Strangely, in our family, there has been a fork in the road. The Mistress of Sarcasm is an inveterate Wadder, having learned that appalling technique from She Who Must Be Obeyed at an early age. Yet Elder Daughter is a Folder, owing to her having been caught in the act of wadding by her grandmother, the Momma d’Elisson, at the tender age of five.

“What the hell are you doing with that toilet paper?”

With that, my mother launched into a full-fledged Ass-Wipin’ Lesson, after which Elder Daughter emerged a confirmed Wrapper. Thus she remains to this very day.

“The Wrap?” you ask. That’s when you wrap your hand with paper in lieu of folding it, forming a sort of Shittin’ Mitten. It’s second only to the Fold in terms of Surface Area Utilization.

Herewith a Pictorial Guide to the various methods.

The Wad
The Wad: Not recommended.

The Wrap
The Wrap. Better...

The Fold
The Fold. Versatile and convenient.

The Miser
The Miser: for when Desperate Measures are called for.

Friday, February 10, 2006

FEEDING TIME - WITH A DIFFERENCE

Here’s something you don’t see every day:

Feeding Time

[click to embiggen]

Matata actually allowing Hakuna to eat first. Why, the world is likely to fall right off its axis!

(CON) FIT TO BE TIED

Today, as I was casting about for something to have for lunch, I remembered that I had salted away two Muscovy duck legs, and they were sitting in the back of the fridge waiting for me.

Yes, salted. For these were no ordinary duck legs. These were Duck Confit, and they are to plain ol’ duck as Smithfield ham is to one of those canned Meat-Blocks.

I had prepared these duck legs a couple of weeks ago. Step one was to take the legs and salt them down with kosher salt (about one tablespoon per leg). I then placed them, skin side down, on a bed of fresh rosemary, thyme sprigs, and a full head’s worth of garlic cloves that I had smashed with a hammer. A couple of bay leaves, a couple of cinnamon sticks, and a couple of star anise pods went atop the legs, then a nice coating of black pepper, more rosemary and thyme sprigs, and another head’s worth of smashed garlic cloves. I sealed the container and shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days.

The next step, after the legs had sat in that herbaceous mess for at least 36 hours, was to take the legs out and brush all the salt and herbs off them. Meanwhile, I heated the oven to a pleasant 225°F.

This is where advance prep was helpful. I had saved a big, honkin’ container of clarified duck schmaltz from the last time I roasted a duck, and it came in handy. I threw it all in my sauté pan and got it melted down. In went the duck legs, on went the lid, and then the pan went into the oven as soon as I had brought the whole morass to a low simmer. Now, off to find an errand or two to do while everything sat and cooked for three hours.

The three hours up, I took the pan out of the oven and placed the duck legs in an earthenware crock. I then strained the duck schmaltz that was still in the pan through a fine sieve, being careful to remove anything that was not Pure Duck Grease. This golden, honey-like liquid I then poured over the legs, submerging them completely. Then, after a brief cool-down, the crock went in the fridge.

If the legs are well-covered by the fat – they should be completely buried – the duck confit will keep for months.

Today, when it was lunch time, I took the legs out and scraped off most of the fat. A couple of spoons of lovely congealed Duck Schmaltz in a small skillet, heated until it was nice and hot, and then in went the duck legs, skin side down. Five minutes later, when the skin was golden brown and crisp, I turned the legs over and gave ’em another four minutes. Out of the pan, a quick drain, and onto a plate, with a few spinach leaves and blood oranges for garnish and contrast.

As for the duck schmaltz, I melted down whatever remained in the crock along with the residuum in the skillet and strained it. Useful stuff, schmaltz. I like to throw it on roasted potatoes just to kick up the Heart-Stoppage Quotient. Mad flava, dat!

Now, it’s a Major Indulgence to gobble up two whole legs’ worth of duck confit. The meat is normally used to add a salty jolt to other dishes – it’s great in a salad, for example. But, damn, that meat...falling off the bone tender, full of flavor and with just enough salt to pop the top of the old sphygmomanometer...hoo, boy, was that tasty.

I’m off in search of a gallon or two of liquid refreshment. Maybe some of that fine Vacqueyras Clos Montirius 2003. A fantastic lunchtime wine, so I’m told. Loamy, yet accessible. Four stars!

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

This week’s Friday Random Ten - a random selection of tunes from the iPod d’Elisson, leads off with a cut from Anima Mundi, one of Philip Glass’s works that serves as an excellent reminder to visit the Friday Ark over at the Modulator.
  1. The Beginning - Philip Glass
  2. Mi ricordo (Version 1) - J. Ralph
  3. I Looked Away - Derek and the Dominos
  4. A Different City - Modest Mouse
  5. War Is Over / Eta-Ya - Paul Cantelon
  6. Friday Night, Saturday Morning - The Specials
  7. Dead London - Jeff Wayne, The War of the Worlds
  8. Peace Train - Cat Stevens
  9. Other Side - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  10. Dread Beat an’ Blood - Linton Kwesi Johnson
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT

Liberty Head Dime, obverse
Liberty Head Dime obverse.

Does this lady look familiar?

My younger Esteemed Readers may not remember having seen her face, but old goats like Yours Truly used to see her every day.

It’s Lady Liberty, whose face, in one guise of another, used to adorn many of the circulating coins of the United States. This particular example is the Liberty Head Dime, popularly known as the “Mercury Head” dime, minted from 1916 until 1945, when it was replaced by the Roosevelt dime we know so well.

This dime was part of everyday pocket change up until 1965, when silver coins vanished from circulation almost overnight in this country.

Mercury? Notice the little wings on Liberty’s helmet. People saw those and thought, “Aha! That’s Mercury!” But no.

The wings symbolize Freedom of Thought.

It’s something we value, we who live in Western Democracies. And if we don’t value it and guard it, there are those who would be very happy to take it away from us.

Maybe we ought to bring this coin back. I’m mickle tired of looking at dead presidents on both our paper and our metal money. Symbolic representations of our cherished Democratic Ideals - why not, say I?

Of course, take a peek ’round the back, and whadda ya see? Fasces!

Liberty Head Dime, reverse
Liberty Head Dime reverse.

There’s no such thing as a symbol without baggage, I guess. Hell, if they started minting these babies again, the frickin’ pagans might get up in arms about us disrespecting one of their deities.

[Coin images courtesy Superior Galleries.]