Thursday, March 30, 2006

PEPPER WARS

It’s amazing how an offhand comment about Dr Pepper in one of my recent posts is on the verge of igniting an international firestorm, the likes of which has not been seen since the Mohammed Cartoon Controversy.

Rory, who writes the most excellent What Not To Do In Australia (where else can you go to get a recipe for Fucked Up Soup?), is not a Dr Pepper fan:
I commented over at Blog d’ Elisson, that Dr. Pepper was a fucking foul liquid and that America should apologise for it. This provoked a bunch of emphatic replies stating that it was a wonderful drink and even that I should try drinking it hot.
Tell us what you really think, Rory.

And now, one Peemil, who writes at where are my socks?, throws down the gauntlet with this:

Dr Pepper

So, Esteemed Readers: Where stand you on this bitterly divisive issue?

What do you think of Dr Pepper?
It is the Nectar of the Gods.
It is the bastard get of an illicit union betwixt Coke and prune juice.
It blows dead goats.
Meh.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Stand up and be counted! America, and the Great Republic State of Texas await your verdict!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

MUTUAL RECOGNITION

This post by the estimable Rex Camino [fedora-tip to Big Stupid Tommy for the link] tells of an incident at the Cancun airport in which Mr. and Mrs. Camino stumble upon Ol’ Pointy-Ears his ownself, Leonard Nimoy:
It was then that we heard a family in the next line speaking American English. It was a husband and wife and two women who appeared to be their grown daughters. The husband was asking the wife about a friend of theirs who was going through cancer treatment and then asked if she had remembered to pack the alarm clock and a certain shirt that he didn’t remember seeing laid out on the bed. It was typical married-couple-standing-in-line fare, but I immediately recognized the voice as the narrator to the seventies paranormal TV series In Search Of. Then I remembered that the narrator of that series and Leonard Nimoy were one in the same. I quickly alerted Mrs. Camino, and we went back and forth in a whispering debate for a few minutes until Leonard Nimoy turned around to check the departure time for their flight to Guatemala on the sign just behind us, thus ending all debate.
The closest thing I have had to that sort of experience was at Washington National Airport some years back.

I was in the check-in queue at the main terminal, headed back to Houston after a trip to the Washington area, a trip the details of which are now completely lost to me. There I stood, briefcase in one hand, garment bag in the other, when I realized that the gentleman in line in front of me looked and sounded...familiar.

It was Carl Sagan.

Novelist and Popularizer of Science Carl Sagan, he who wrote (among others) the novel Contact. Carl Sagan, who was the target of countless japeries by people who would imitate his unique diction, invariably saying, “Billyuns and billyuns” in a lame attempt to lampoon his wonder at the immensity of the universe. He probably never used that exact phraseology; it is the Saganian equivalent of “Play it again, Sam,” a line that was never uttered in Casablanca. But never mind.

I looked at him and he looked at me, and I cocked an eyebrow in a subtle sign of recognition; he returned the favor by nodding, as if to say, “Yeah, I know you know who I am.”

And that, Esteemed Readers, is the one thing I remember about that trip, all those years ago.

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 8.

Still 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, Volume 5, Volume 6, and Volume 7.

Ennui-ui [on-you-wee-wee] (n) - State of mind characterized by a boredom so profound, one cannot be bothered even to urinate.

An illustrative example:

V-Man Wears the Fabled White Fedora

SIC SEMPER TYRANNOSAURUS

I don’t always remember my dreams upon awakening, but this morning was one of those mornings that was punctuated by Artifacts of a Perfervid Imagination.

My wake-up call was scheduled for a (late) 6:30, but sometime around 6:15 I began to experience that drifting state of semi-awareness, a sort of twilight sleep. And it’s that sort of sleep that triggers bizarre visions.

I remember wandering around some sort of large ruined building. There were broad pillars located at frequent intervals, pillars for which I was thankful. They were wide enough to hide behind, you see...and I was being stalked.

There was a tyrannosaurus in the building.

Tyrannosaurus Rex
T-Rex: In da house!

Not a big-ass Full-Blown T-Rex. This one was only about 10-12 feet tall, but he was definitely curious. And hungry. And looking for me.

I managed to stay well-hidden behind one pillar after another, always careful to avoid the snap of a stray twig that might betray me.

Then it was that I noticed another mini-Tyrannosaurus on the opposite side of the building’s lower level. This, I saw, would pose a challenge, for I would need to stay hidden from both...and they were in two different places.

It was right about this time that a glimmer of recognition struck me: These beasties looked strangely familiar. What was it about them? Their semi-hunched posture and that Seaweedy-Looking Shit growing along their spines...where had I seen all that before? Why, it was...could it be?...they looked an awful lot like...Godzilla! Mini-Godzillas, they were!

Godzilla

Just as I was beginning to panic - surrounded by Mini-Godzillas! - I realized that I was dreaming, and that it was about time to get my ass out of bed. That damn wake-up call was due, I felt, at any moment...and right then, Room Service tapped on the door to my suite to let me know that my pot of coffee, glass of V-8 juice, and newspaper would be waiting outside for me.

Nothing clears the Mental Cobwebs like a shot of V-8 chased with some jumpstart. Aaahhh.

I breathed a sigh of relief. No dinosaurs chasing me, aside from the ones I would encounter in the normal course of a day’s business at the headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. And especially not this one...

Barney

ELEMENTARY

A good-sized chunk of my day yesterday was spent in a conference room at the headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, engaged in what folks hereabouts call a Cold Eyes Review of a major project. The idea is to bring in people who have not been engaged in said project, but who have the expertise to determine how it will impact their particular areas of business, to Shit All Over It, metaphorically speaking.

The conference room was located in a new, standalone Conference Center, a relatively new facility tricked out with all the latest High-Tech Gizmos. But what caught my eye was the display in the corner of the room, a room which was appropriately dubbed “Chemistry Hall.”

The display was a lucite Periodic Table of the Elements, with each square (well, most of ’em, anyway) containing a small sample of the actual element. It was beautiful.

I’ve always had a fascination with the various elements that make up our world. It dates back, no doubt, to my Snot-Nose Days, when we had one of those dopey Time-Life Books entitled (what else?) The Elements. One of the Science and Nature series, I suspect. It featured photographs of all the natural elements, plus a few of the more exotic manmade ones. It was one of those Seminal Influences, I suspect, that drove me to study Chemical Engineering in college, many years later.

But here was a honkin’ big display, with the Real McCoy staring me in the face. During the breaks, I had a chance to look at it, up close and personal-like.

Of course, there were plenty of empty boxes. Substances like radium, plutonium, and technetium are too expensive - and dangerous, for that matter - to have lying around in a public place. And the higher transuranics only exist in laboratories, a few atoms here and there. But most of the Natural 92 - the radiostable ones, anyway - were represented. Fluorine? Bromine? Gold? Gallium? Cesium? All there.

Amazing what $17,950 will buy.

And then, later, surfing the ’Net, I found this: Tom Lehrer, singing the Periodic Table to the tune of “The Major-General’s Song” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. [Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to a fool in the forest for the link.]

Synchronicity, baby! And elementary, too.

BIG AND STUPID

“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

- Dean Vernon Wormer in National Lampoon’s Animal House

Fat, drunk and stupid may be no way to go through life, but Big and Stupid is another story.

May I refer you to Big Stupid Tommy, on the Blogroll d’Elisson, who posted a tasty piece of writing last Sunday on the topic of Things That I Love.

Big and stupid he may be - at least, that’s what he claims. But the sucker can write.

I discovered Tommy through the fine offices of Eric, the Straight White Guy, another fine writer despite - or, perhaps, owing to - his extreme fondness for italics...and ellipses. Go pay ’em both a visit, why don’tcha?

VENTRILOQUISM

Charlie and Edgar

O, what a subtil art it is,
To stick one’s hand into a wooden block,
And make it talk.

Who is more remembered? Who more loved?

Is it the ventriloquist? Or the dummy?

Bergen? Or Charlie McCarthy?

Winchell? Or Jerry Mahoney?

My money’s on the block of wood.
The guy who moveth not his mouth?

He’s not so good.

A WEIRD VIBE

It was almost eight years ago, and She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were house-hunting in Atlanta.

The Great Corporate Salt Mine, had, in its wisdom, uncovered a sales position that would open up when one of our veteran Resin Pedlars retired in mid-1998. For my part, I had been looking for an opportunity to get back into field sales, away from the Goldfish Bowl cum Asylum that is Headquarters. And so the opportunity presented itself.

It was not a snap decision, despite the fact that SWMBO and I had always wanted to go back to the city where we had spent five years in the early Eighties. The Mistress of Sarcasm was midway through high school, and the move would mean uprooting her from her friends and dumping her in a new, unfamiliar environment in a town that we had left when she was but four years old. We let her have the final word...and her decision was to go with the move. Brave girl, she was.

And so we found ourselves looking at houses during a steamy spring week. Plenty of houses. There were a few that merited return visits, that had...possibilities.

We were in one such house, a spacious manse with four bedrooms (or was it five?) and a full, finished basement filled with gym equipment. It was a nice enough house, but it had a weird vibe to it. Something just did not feel quite right.

No, it wasn’t that old Amityville Horror family-murdered-by-son-on-rampage vibe. My mother used to play bridge in that house, and there wasn’t a thing wrong with it, she would say. Of course, she’s no longer walking the planet...

It wasn’t that. Nothing overtly eerie. But there was quite definitely something strange about that house, something that made my skin crawl despite the fine furnishings, large rooms, and flowing layout.

And then it struck me. There wasn’t a single book in the house. Not. One. Fucking. Book.

One or two videotapes, that was it. No books. Not even any sleazy dime-store novels with tales of True Crime and Throbbing Loins.

The Missus and I got out of that place as fast as we could. A house without books is a house without a soul, and we could not stand to be inside it.

[Inspired by this post by Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly.]

Monday, March 27, 2006

THE CLIMBING TREE

This weekend, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I drove down to Florida to visit Eli (the Daddy d’Elisson) and Toni at their Winter Digs.

As we walked around the neighborhood after breakfast, we saw quite a few beautiful trees. Some were massive hulks, draped in skeins of Spanish moss; others were broad, with branches that spread out almost horizontal to the ground. Some of them looked like good climbing trees, and that observation set me to reminiscing about my Snot-Nose Days.

Back in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, it was our practice to take long vacations in South Florida, there to visit my mother’s family. The maternal Grandma and Grandpa d’Elisson, you see, had migrated from New York to Florida, along with so many other fellow New Yorkers. At first it was a two-household setup, with summers spent on Long Island and winters in North Miami Beach, but eventually the southern home won out, taking over as the permanent pied-à-terre. A few years later, my mother’s brother Phil moved South as well.

And thus it was that, every winter, my mother would fly down to Miami with my brother and me, to be joined after several weeks by Dad - Eli, his ownself. After another week or two, we would all fly back home. The two Elissons (my brother and I) were, as a result, frequent flyers early on, back in the days of four-engine propeller-driven airliners in which the New York - Miami run took over four hours.

Over the years, our vacations grew shorter, shrinking from four weeks to two and shifting from winter to springtime; in the early 1960’s, we also began weaning ourselves away from the airplane. Eventually, we would make the annual trek entirely by car.

To me, the Annual Florida Pilgrimage had several attractions:

  1. It was the only chance I had to enjoy the exotic Coke-meets-prune juice taste of Dr Pepper, which, at the time, was not distributed in the Northeast.
  2. It was a chance to loaf for several weeks, the only nagging distraction being to keep up with homework assignments from school. The tacit agreement we had with our school was that we were given the assignments in advance; if we kept up with the work, we would not be reported as truant.
  3. It was an opportunity to climb the Best Climbin’ Tree on the planet.
There were several kids roughly my age who lived on the same street as did my grandparents. I recall spending many of my carefree vacation days with two boys in particular: Philip and Stewart. Their last names escape me after all these years, but no matter: the thing to remember is that Philip lived right next door to my grandmother’s house, and his backyard contained the Climbing Tree to beat all other Climbing Trees. Huge it was, with a canopy that filled the entire yard - it must have been fifty feet in diameter and forty feet high at its apex.

What kind of tree? I have no idea. It was some sort of monstrous Tropical Flora that did not grow in the New York suburbs. A banyan tree? A pandanus? Who the hell knows? All I knew was that it was large, leafy, and well-supplied with sturdy branches that intertwined and spread out widely from the thick trunk.

Every morning, Philip, Stewart, and I would convene in Philip’s back yard and begin our Sylvan Adventures. We’d grab the lower branches and swing ourselves up, navigating our way amongst the long horizontal spans of the lower limbs, gradually working our way up to the upper reaches, where the limbs became thinner and we could see patches of sky through the thick curtain of foliage.

It was a rare opportunity to grab a crotch and not get slapped for my presumptuousness.

Tree-climbing teaches many valuable lessons, and those who do not learn them suffer mightily. Be sure the limb you stand on is sufficient to bear your weight. Always have an exit strategy, for once you have made the ascent, you must eventually make a descent. Do not overreach, attempting moves beyond your capabilities. These lessons, of course, would find more general application later in life, but in those youthful days, they sufficed to keep our bodies and limbs whole.

We would spend whole days circumnavigating the great branchy bulk of that glorious tree. I can still remember the feeling of accomplishment when I had ascended as far as it was possible to go, to a perch which afforded a view of the neighborhood from a lofty height. I can remember sitting in the shade of that mighty canopy, with the sultry Florida breeze reduced to a cooling whisper. And I can remember the sweating, frosty glasses of lemonade Philip’s mother would give us when we took a break from our arboreal explorations. Those were sweet days.

As evening approached, I would trudge back to my grandmother’s house only to listen to an endless litany of how nasty our tree-climbing activities were. The filth! The bugs! You’ll get a rash! Horrified and revolted my grandmother may have been - and Mom, as well, most likely - but between them they had enough common sense to know that, yes, it was messy, and yes, it was hazardous to the Compleatly Inept, but that it was also an essential part of being a kid. Something that could not, should not, be denied.

Denial, alas, is all the rage in today’s Nanny-World. Climbing trees is a Fundamental Activity of a healthy boyhood, yet it’s an activity sadly absent from the lives of so many boys nowadays. Concerns about safety, liability, and little Johnny getting a skinned knee have eliminated tree-climbing from most kids’ Life-Curricula. What do you expect, in a land where Monkey-Bars - death-traps! - are the modern-day Playground Passenger Pigeon?

This is a shame.

It’s a shame because so many of today’s kids will never know the joys that we knew, back in those hot springtime days in North Miami Beach.

Dr Pepper and a climbing tree. What more could a kid want out of life?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

MEET SAMMY

Sammy
Sammy - Eli and Toni’s kitty.

Sammy - AKA Sam, short for Samantha - is the resident Kitty at Chez Eli.

When we first met Sammy two years ago, she was naught but a tiny, shy kitten. Now that she is older and has weathered a two-day drive from New York to Florida, she is not quite as shy...but still very much a One-Man Kitty, completely devoted to Eli, the Daddy d’Elisson.

Eli and Sammy
Sammy enjoys a skritch from Eli, his ownself.

She will permit Eli to give her Skritchy Worship, but woe be unto any others who so presume!

The strange thing - to me, anyway - is to see that the Parental Unit has somehow morphed into a Cat-Person. It’s not an expected development, not by a long shot...but I can’t say I’m not pleased.

Friday, March 24, 2006

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE...

Colander Borg-Man!

...Quoth Colander Borg-Man.

The latest model comes with a nifty Tinfoil Antenna, the better to detect Bizarro-Rays and repel the thought control force-field that emanates from that section of the supermarket where are kept the Pudding Pops. Looks a little like the feather on one of them red Pimp-Hats, don’t it?

This is the guy that put the “Ass” in “Assimilation.” And what do he use for transportation? Why, this:

My Little Borg-Pony

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Spring is here: the grass has riz.
I wonder where the birdies is?
The birds are on the wing.
Oh, my word -
That’s absurd!
The wing is on the bird.

Yes, it’s the first Friday of Spring, and She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are preparing to make a fast weekend dash down to Florida, there to visit Eli (the Daddy d’Elisson his ownself) and Toni in their winter digs.

In the meantime, of course, I can amuse myself by listening to whatever the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson decides to disgorge. Let’s take a look, shall we?
  1. Around The World - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  2. Kol Nidre - Al Jolson
  3. A Lotus On Irish Streams - Mahavishnu Orchestra
  4. Do It Again - Steely Dan
  5. Pay It Back - Elvis Costello
  6. My Hair - Skankin’ Pickle
  7. Buy Her Candy - Sleater Kinney
  8. Only In Dreams - Weezer
  9. Stairway To Heaven - Dave Matthews Band
  10. I’ve Got A Feeling - The Beatles
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

CARNIVOLOSITY

Friday Ark #79 is boarding at the Modulator - this being Friday, and all. Check it: Blog d’Elisson has a twofer, with entries in both the Cats and Dawgs categories. Woo-Hoo!

Carnival of the Cats will be up Sunday evening. This week’s edition, #105, will be hosted by Scribblings. Don’t forget to make a notation in your Already Overburdened Dance-Card.

Update: Carnival of the Cats #105 is up.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

NOT GUILTY

Jailbird Ringo

I’m innocent, I tell ya!

I didn’t do it! I swear on the shoebox my mother was buried in!

I been framed, see?

I was in the litterbox... wh- what? Of course nobody saw me there! Whaddaya think I am, some kinda poivoit?

Where the hell is my mouthpiece?

HOT FOR TEACHER

Oh wow, man!
Wait a second, man. Whaddaya think the teacher’s gonna look like this year?
My butt, man!


T-t-teacher stop that screaming, teacher don’t you see ?
Don’t wanna be no uptown fool.
Maybe I should go to hell, but I’m doin’ well,
Teacher needs to see me after school.

I think of all the education that I missed.
But then my homework was never quite like this.
Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad,
I’m hot for teacher.
I got it bad, so bad,
I’m hot for teacher.

Hey, I heard you missed us, we’re back!
I brought my pencil
Gimme something to write on, man


I heard about your lessons, but lessons are so cold.
I know about this school.
Little girl from Cherry Lane, how did you get so bold?
How did you know that golden rule?

I think of all the education that I missed.
But then my homework was never quite like this.
Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad,
I’m hot for teacher.
I got it bad, so bad,
I’m hot for teacher.

Oh man, I think the clock is slow
I don’t feel tardy
Class dismissed


- Van Halen, Hot For Teacher

[Personally, I prefer the cover version by Richard Cheese, from his Tuxicity album. Heh.]

Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year Debra Lafave.

According to this report by the Associated Press,
Prosecutors in one Florida county decided Tuesday to drop charges against a former Tampa teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old middle school student.

The decision, announced hours after a judge rejected a plea deal for Debra Lafave, means the victim won’t have to testify.

Lafave’s sentence in another county for having sex with the same boy still stands.
Lafave is 25. Old enough, in theory to know better, but young enough not to feel (apparently) any intergenerational distance with her Boy-Toy.

I’m guilty, as I’m sure many of my Esteemed Readers are as well, of feeling a bizarre combination of Outrage and Envy at this mess. Outrage, sure: the boy was just fourteen, and had it been a 25-year-old male teacher consorting with a fourteen-year-old girl, it’d be Angry Villagers with Flaming Brands and Pitchforks Time™. And there is the whole issue of abuse of the teacher-student relationship, equally serious - if not more serious - in my eyes.

But there’s that little bit of envy, too. I mean, what hormone-raddled fourteen-year-old boy would not give his left nut to prang a honey like Miss Lefave?

No jail time for Little Miss Studentfucker, though. To protect the young man from the pain of testifying in court before a blood-sniffing gaggle of Media Whores, the prosecutors elected to drop the case.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m not sure exactly what it is.

[And I will confess: I, too, am Hot For Teacher. Not my teacher, ya cretin. The one I’m married to, She Who Must Be Obeyed her ownself!]

A tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to GuyK of Charming, Just Charming, for the link.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

GONE TO THE DAWGS

Baby Alexis

Baby Alexis and Riley
Baby Alexis and friend.

Now here’s a relaxed little lady...our friends Hank and Karen’s new granddaughter, reclining comfortably on Riley, their laid-back pooch.

Daddy is a University of Georgia alum. Shouldn’t that be a bulldawg?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

COUNTRY SENSATION

Remarkable as it may be, I’ve been to Nashville many times over the past 25 years, and not once had I set foot near the Grand Ole Opry.

Last Saturday, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I, along with our friends Steve and Sue, finally rectified that Unfortunate Cultural Omission.

The Opry began life as a radio show and gradually morphed into a Big Whoop-Tee-Do. Thirty-some-odd years ago, it outgrew its old home at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville and moved to more spacious quarters a few miles east. The analogy that comes to mind is that of Disneyland, hemmed in by the surrounding city of Anaheim, eventually supplanted (if not replaced) by the roomier environs of Walt Disney World.

Opryland - for the Grand Ole Opry is but the nucleus of Bigger and Better Things - is a little like a Southern-Fried Disney World. It seems to be missing an amusement park with rides (or we just may have missed seeing it), but it has every damn thing else. Shopping malls! Movie theatres! A Fancy Resort-Style Hotel!

And the Grand Ole Opry House itself is...immense. We couldn’t quite absorb just how huge it was, looming up out of the nighttime dark. Bejus!

Hordes of patrons crowded to get in. Whole families with little kids. Wholesome? It was...downright upright.

The show? Two and a half hours, divvied up into convenient half-hour slices, each with its own sponsor. For this, after all, is a Glorified Radio Show, with an advertisement after every song. But we got to see such luminaries as Porter Wagoner (the Liberace of Country, what with that sequined outfit à la Fat Elvis), The Whites (you saw them in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Lorrie Morgan, Vince Gill (filling in for Lee Ann Womack, who was a last-minute dropout), Ricky Scaggs, Riders In The Sky, and many others.

The biggest buzz was reserved for Carrie Underwood, who jumped right from the American Idol winner’s circle into the Unbroken Circle on the Opry stage...right where she belongs. She delivered a powerful “Stand By Your Man,” and followed it up with “Jesus, Take The Wheel (And Drive My Fucking Car).”

I came away impressed with the superb musicianship, the sheer entertainment value. Country music may not occupy a big chunk of my home Music Library, but there’s something infectious about the Opry that will bring out the Bubba in anyone.

And as an extra special treat, there was a new group: Moses and the Three Commandments, all the more surprising because, let’s face it, Jews are sorta thin on the ground at the Opry.

Here they are:

Moses and the Three Commandments

...and here’s what they sang:

When Mama Died
(All I Got Was the Double-Wide)


I’ve never known an easy way of livin’
Had to sweat and bust my butt for years and years
But you know I’ve never thought it’s right to give in
To heartbreak, with all its pain and tears.

When things looked bad, I listened to my Mama
She always knew exactly what to say
To help me deal with hurt and pain and trauma,
Lift my spirit up to face another day.

REFRAIN:
My Mama said to always hold my head up
And shoulder all my burdens with a smile
When your back’s against the wall, no time to let up
That’s when you’ve got to go the extra mile.


Well, Mama never was no Rockefeller -
Her trailer home was all she had for wealth.
She never had two cents to rub together,
But what the hell, at least she had her health.

And then one day, she went to see the doctor
“I’m feelin’ a mite poorly,” ’s what she said.
He ran some tests, and told her she had cancer,
And then, inside of six months, she was dead.

My Mama said to always hold my head up, etc.

Oh, Mama, now what did your suff’rin’ get you?
A hole that’s six feet down and lined with dirt
In fifty years, your grandkids will forget you
Thank Gawd you’ll be stone-dead, so it won’t hurt.

And what have I to show for all your labors?
Your double-wide, with mortgage almost paid -
I can go and get shitfaced with all your neighbors
Whose cars all sit on blocks there in the shade.

My Mama said to always hold my head up, etc.

Monday, March 20, 2006

WE HARDLY KNEW YE

Legions of Monkeys howl into the night.
They know - they sense - that something is not right.
Their scheduled feedings, routine electric shocks,
Have ceased: Quotidian Routine on the rocks.
Their Master’s voice, of late they do not hear.
O Monkeys, shed a bitter Jungle Tear.

Geshtorben V-Man

I don’t know if he’s defunct, but he sure is acting like it.

Is it work-related overload? Terminal? Or just a case of the Beal?

Or...(cue ominous music)...could it be The Rat-Poison Shirley Temple?

ZIGGY STARDUST, WE GOT YA SPIDERS RIGHT HERE

As if Google Earth were not interesting enough, the fine Mapping Technologists have now got even Google Moon beat.

Yes, it’s Google Mars.

Functionality to provide driving directions is, alas, lacking. But who gives a rat’s ass? The false-color altitude maps are worth a visit. Found art!

Google Mars

[Click to embiggen]

So: what the hell is next? Google fucking Jupiter?

Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Fiona of V’s Spot. Terima kasih!

IN SEARCH OF BILL

One thing you notice as soon as you arrive in Nashville: Frist is everywhere.

The Frist family, not content with donating the Frist Campus Center to Princeton University, has managed to associate their name with numerous projects and public works in Nashville, not least of which is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, a museum housed in a gorgeous vintage-1933 Art Deco building that originally was home to the Nashville Post Office. It’s the most remarkable example of Depression-era Art Deco I’ve seen, aside from the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York.

And there’s more. Go to the Country Music Hall of Fame and you will see the Frist Library and Archive. It’s Frist-O-Riffic!

I was almost surprised that there wasn’t a Frist Social Hall at West End Synagogue, although that might’ve been pushing it a bit far.

Maybe the Frist Urinal Bank at the Hermitage Hotel? The Art Deco bathroom there is fancy enough to have been featured in several music videos. It wouldn’t be too outlandish to sponsor some porcelain...

We almost expected to run into Bill or his relatives at every turn. And, come to think of it...

Frist Center for the Visual Arts
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame.

Elvis’s Piano
All shook up over the King’s gold piano.

Hermitage Hotel Lobby
Is this where the lobbyists hang out? In the lobby?

Art Deco Men’s Room
The Art Dicko Deco Wee-Wee Room at the Hermitage Hotel.

Screw “Where’s Waldo?” - let’s play “Where’s Bill?”!!

BAG-BLOGGING IN NASHVILLE

We spent this past weekend in Nashville with our friends Steve and Sue from northern Virginia.

Not everyone can say they spent a Saturday that started in a synagogue and ended up at the Grand Ole Opry...but that’s exactly what we did.

Saturday morning, Steve and I ran off to the West End Synagogue for Shabbat services. Over the years, whenever we’ve spent the weekend with Steve and Sue, that’s been a standard part of the itinerary, whether it be in Naples, New Orleans, or Savannah. This time the girls elected to stay in the hotel while Steve and I handled the davening chores.

Thanks to several years of attending weekend retreats in the North Georgia mountains with Men’s Club members from throughout the Southeast, Steve and I already knew quite a few of the folks at the West End Synagogue. We felt right at home.

There was a Bar Mitzvah there that day, not an unusual occurrence. But by sheer coincidence, I knew the young man’s family.

Between twenty and twenty-five years ago, as a young(er) Account Representative for the Great Corporate Salt Mine, I used to visit Nashville regularly, there to make sales calls at a certain Plastic Bag Manufactory. The Plastic Bag Manufactory was owned at the time by a prominent Nashville family, a family that had been in the bag business since the late nineteenth century. In the early years, their bags were made of burlap and other textiles, eventually displaced by multiwall paper bags. Inevitably, plastic bags became part of their repertoire, and that’s where we came in.

[I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.]

Most of my sales calls were with the purchasing manager of the Plastic Bag Manufactory, but every so often I would visit with Morris, one of the company’s owners. And here, twenty years later, it was Morris’s grandson Max who was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. Talk about synchronicity!

After services, I had a chance to say hello to Morris and offer my congratulations. He’s now the chairman of the family business; his brother Bernard is the CEO.

And you may have heard of them.

For, back in the 1980’s, a gentleman known as Alfred Uhry wrote a play, a play that was later made into an Academy Award-winning Hollywood film, based on his memories of his grandmother and her chauffeur. The setting was Atlanta, the period ranging from the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s. But the names of the characters were pure Nashville, as was the name of the family business: the Werthan Bag Company.

The movie? Driving Miss Daisy, in which the character of one Daisy Werthan was played by Jessica Tandy in an Oscar-winning acting turn.

And “Daisy” Werthan would have been young Max Werthan’s great-great-grandmother Sadie.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

TITS ON A BOAR

As in “Useless...as tits on a boar.”

Braille Playboy

What could be more useless than this Braille edition of Playboy, formerly owned by one Ray Charles?

“I only read it for the interviews. Seriously.”

TWO YEARS BEFORE THE KITTY-MAST

Carnival of the Cats celebrates its second anniversary with Edition Number 104, hosted by the lovely and talented Kimberly of Music and Cats.

Time flies like crazy when you’re having fun! [Fruit flies like a nice, ripe banana.]

Don’t forget the Friday Ark, too, the weekly Floating Menagerie o’ Posts that sets sail every Friday morning. Number 78 is up at the Modulator.

Friday, March 17, 2006

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Friday, sweet Friday.

The Missus and I are getting ready for a pleasant out-of-town weekend with our friends Steve and Sue from Northern Virginia. Our traditional practice is to meet in a Neutral City in the southeastern U.S., there to make trouble and eat a few good meals. Previous stops on our Intermittent & Peripatetic Tour include Naples (Florida, not Italy), New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah; this weekend, we add Nashville to our list.

Steve and Elisson
Steve and Elisson atop Stone Mountain, 2002.

Steve and Sue
Steve and Sue: The Virginians.

Of course, all of this serves as a wordy introduction to this week’s Friday Random Ten, that Eclectic Collection of Musical Amusements barfed up by the iPod d’Elisson:
  1. Soon As I Get Paid - Keb’ Mo’
  2. Bananaphone - Raffi
  3. Glass Onion - The Beatles
  4. Motion Picture Soundtrack - Radiohead
  5. Lady Picture Show - Stone Temple Pilots
  6. Lugubrious Whing Whang - Squirrel Nut Zippers
  7. Reelin’ In The Years - Steely Dan
  8. I’ve Got A Feeling - The Beatles
  9. I Can’t Do It Alone - Chicago, The Musical (Original Broadway Cast)
  10. Tommy - The Who
    Yep - the whole honkin’ thing, in a single, continuous 70.5 MB .mp3 file. Bejus!

    Do you remember where you were the first time you heard it?
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

CARNIVALIA

The Bonfire of the Vanities has given up the ghost, according to a somber little e-mail I received this week from Kevin at Wizbang.

Perhaps, as Kevin suggests, the idea of a self-nominated “Worst Of” linkfest has jumped the shark. Certainly, the best Bonfires were the ones in which the host committed merciless savagery and snarkery upon the submitters and their posts. Maybe the damn thing succumbed to too much gentlemanliness. Ah, well. Ave atque vale, Bonfire. We hardly knew ye.

But there are plenty of other Link-Whore-Fests out there.

The grand-daddy of ’em all is the Carnival of the Vanities, with its 182nd edition being hosted this week at Forward Biased.

And there’s the Carnival of Satire, hosted by Mark A. Rayner of the skwib. This week’s installment is #25, which makes it a Silver Anniversary of sorts. Maybe a Semanaversary, since we’re dealing with weeks, not years.

Anyway, there they are. Visit and enjoy.

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS

Upstairs, Downstairs

No matter where you happen to be at Chez Elisson, you are very likely to run into one of these Little Ladies sooner or later.

A Double-Tread Roadblock is unusual, though.

Good thing we have two staircases, eh?

FACTS OF LIFE

Our nephew William is looking forward to the impending arrival of a sibling.

Three-year-old boys are curious about such matters, which leads to all kinds of Tricky Questions. Questions like “How does the baby come out?” and (better yet) “How does the baby get in?”

In my case, I learned about the Facts of Life at the grand age of eight.

Some unknown wag had circulated a Fake Lunchroom Menu throughout our elementary school. It was jam-packed with grade-school Gross Humor, mostly based on various Unpleasant Substances. Featured items included such appetizing treats as “Mashed Monkey Meat,” “Pheasant Feces Flambé,” “Gopher Guts in Gravy,” retch-cetera. But one item in particular caught my prepubescent eye: “Cooked Canary Cunts.”

Walking home from school one afternoon, a group of us were having an animated discussion about the Fake Menu. And I asked, “What the hell is a ‘cunt,’ anyway?” For, indeed, I was as yet unacquainted with the term.

One of my little friends obligingly filled me in. “You know. It’s a lady’s vagina.”

Ahhh. That term, I was familiar with. But my friend volunteered a little extra information, information that showed he was already a Man of the World:

“Round peg in a round hole.”

I knew exactly what he meant, even though I hadn’t asked him about Sexual Mechanics. It was as though a Cartoony Overhead Lightbulb was suddenly switched on, filling my brain with Knowledge and Illumination. For, suddenly, everything made sense. It was as though I had discovered a Promised Land I hadn’t even known I had been searching for.

But our nephew William got his education a little differently.

Yesterday, William’s Mommy and Daddy took him to the petting zoo in Cowtown, the old touristy part of Foat Wuth. Suddenly, the scream of an animal in distress pierced the air. It was a nanny goat in the throes of labor.

The person running the place had no idea what to do. The goat was in a small pen and was unable to position herself properly to deliver her kid.

Rebecca, our sister-in-law, came to the rescue. She had the (clueless) Person in Charge move Momma Goat to a larger pen...and then she rolled up her sleeves and delivered the baby goat.

“You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“These things aren’t all that different from horses.”

By the time the baby goat had arrived and the stunned Momma Goat had recovered enough to begin nuzzling her new offspring, a crowd of about seventy people had gathered. The rugrats who went to the petting zoo that day got an eyeful they weren’t expecting...and little William got an education.

The rest of the day, William amused himself by playing Baby Goat. He would stagger around on shaky legs, fall down, get up, and wobble off, to the great amusement of all concerned.

So now he knows where babies come from. How soon before he wonders how they got in there?

Update:

Mommy and Baby Goat
Mother and baby, doing fine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

MENU MENAGERIE

With a return flight to Atlanta this evening, I was unfortunately unable to join Lair Simon and his Houston-area cohorts for a Crawfish ’n’ Gumbo Extravaganza at the Rajun Cajun this evening.

The occasion, of course, is International EATAPETA Day: Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA.

In anticipation of the day, I’ve taken great pains to enjoy Tasty Animals regularly.

Last Saturday, I enjoyed Roast Duck.



Tuesday afternoon, at the Houston offices of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, I tucked into several hearty slices of Roast Leg of Lamb, dressed with a glossy demi-glace jus. Fairly serious fare for a company canteen, but the Salt Mine takes its food seriously.

For dinner, I ordered up a nice, medium-rare beefsteak from Room Service. Oooohhh, how I love Room Service.

Today, lunch was a bowl of tortellini in marinara sauce, decked out with various chunks of Animal Protein. Chicken, sausage, a few ex-denizens of the deep.

I left the office at 4:40, just in time to become embroiled in the heinous Houston afternoon rush-hour traffic, which begins at 1:30 pm and ends sometime around 8:00. This got me to the airport with enough time to spare that I could have another Yummy Animal. I selected the Humble Chicken.

Chicken is the perfect Meat-Animal for this day, assuming one has no immediate access to a slab of red-dripping beef. This is because the chicken is portable: you can easily eat it on the run, especially in fried form. It is also because the chicken has political value, having been the focus of an egregiously insulting PETA campaign which equated the raising and slaughter of chickens for human consumption to the murder of European Jews in the Holocaust. And, finally, the chicken’s outer form betrays its origins. You may delude yourself that a chunk of Prime Rib is really some kind of Tofu-Fungus (and I am sure that there are types of Tofu-Fungus available that look remarkably like Prime Rib) - but there is no mistaking where a chicken leg comes from. You bite through the crispy skin (encased in a crispy, spicy layer of breading), taste the spurting hot oil and juices, scrape your teeth against the bone and gristle. When you eat Fried Chicken, there is no avoiding the fact that you are snarfing up an animal.

It was delicious.

So good, I just might eat another animal or two tomorrow.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NOISY NEIGHBORS

A post by Rory (What not to do in Australia) that mentioned a sphincter-faced neighbor’s complaint about Loud Music reminded me of an episode from our own Dim and Distant Past.

Back in late 1976, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I shared a two-bedroom apartment inside the Loop in Houston. It was reasonably pleasant, as apartments go, and the location was perfect, right on Memorial Drive. From there, SWMBO had a 40-minute drive to the elementary school in the nasty south side of the city where she taught first grade, while I had an easy jump onto I-10 for the 35-mile trip out to Baytown, where the Great Corporate Salt Mine operated a huge refinery and chemical plant.

Apartment living is a give-and-take proposition. You live in close proximity to strangers, and boundaries are important. But given the fact that the walls are not of infinite thickness, some conflicts are bound to erupt. In our case, it was with our upstairs neighbors.

Now, I’ll cop to enjoying my music loud. And, in my previous apartment, I had been in the habit of coming home from work and blasting Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” at earthshattering volume. But none of my neighbors complained, whether it was out of fear (that crazy Yankee fucker!) or out of shared Musical Taste.

But in our new place – a different unit in the same complex – I kept the volume to what I thought was a more reasonable level. And that’s when Mr. and Mrs. Upstairs came a knock-knock-knockin’ at our door.

“Could you turn it down, please?”

Alas, it was down. Not loud at all. And when the complainants offered to take me upstairs so I could hear it for myself, I happily complied.

Up in their apartment, you could barely discern that there was any music playing at all. Maybe a whiff of intermittent bass. Not like anything you would hear coming out the closed windows of today’s Thudmobiles, for sure.

This is what you’re complaining about?”

I left in disgust. And on one or two later occasions, a representative from the apartment management office would drop by, as if to humor Mr. and Mrs. Upstairs. Invariably, the representative would shake his head and acknowledge that my Upstairs Neighbors were being assholes.

But all of this came to an end one fine afternoon, when Mrs. Upstairs decided to pay a visit on SWMBO. Of course: our stereo was too loud. Again.

And this was odd, because SWMBO is not a Loud Music Listener. But she was polite, and invited the young woman in.

Mrs. Upstairs started off by saying, “You know, we’ve spoken to your husband about this before...”

SWMBO brought her up short. “He’s not my husband.”

Mrs. U turned beet red. She and her husband were young Religious Baptists, and the idea that they were living right above two Hell-Bound Living-in-Sin Jews must have shaken her to her very core.

And that’s when my future Missus dropped the hammer on her.

“You want to complain about noise? Well, let me tell you about noise.

“I can hear everything that goes on in your apartment. Everything.

“At 5:00 every day, you get home from work. You go into your apartment, and then you go in to the bathroom and take a leak. Your husband comes home at 5:45 and does the same thing. Then you cook dinner. And at 10:15 every night, the two of you get busy, and we can hear every noise you make. Every. Single. Noise.

“And you’re a real moaner.”

It was true. Every night at 10:15, Mr. and Mrs. Predictable would get it on with great gusto. The bedsprings would creak like the doors in the Addams Family manse, and Mrs. Upstairs would moan and groan and howl like a banshee. And almost every night, she would manage to get herself off, with Sturm und Drang befitting a Wagner opera.

Mrs. Upstairs turned bright purple. She practically ran out of our apartment.

The next two weeks, we heard nary a peep from upstairs.

And then one night – I guess they got tired of holding back – the creaking and moaning started again.

SWMBO threw a shoe at the ceiling. “THUNK!”

Followed by dead silence.

Mr. and Mrs. Upstairs moved out a week later. For the sake of their miserable, shrivelled hearts, I hope they found a house with thick walls on a big piece of property.

DRIVING THE SNAKES

Saint Patrick, he drove out the snakes
From Eire. From there,
They travelled, across water
And mountain passes, discovering
How big Eurasia’s landmass is.
Until they arrived, weary, barely alive
In far Cathay, where the locals seized them all,
Tore out their livers and the sac of gall,
Lapping up the drops of bile, spent
In hopes of Penile Enhancement.
The meat, they’d shred and eat.
Perishing, the snakes thought,
“Now see what Padraig wrought.
Bastardly as those Irish’d treat us,
At least they never thought to eat us.
Now we’re well and truly screwed.”
And souped, and stewed.

Thus, when comes March Seventeenth anew,
I’ll break out my bottle of Tullamore Dew.
My Irish friends and I will drink a toast
To good Saint Padraig, whilst on the farthest coast
Of the Earth, stiff-peckered Chinese men will drain
Their cups of Snake-Bile Wine in Paddy’s name.

Yet, let us raise a glass unto the Snake.
He suffered much, for old Saint Paddy’s sake.

ASK MR. DEBONAIR

TB or not TB, that is the congestion...
Consumption be done about it?
Of cough, of cough...

- Woody Allen, Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask)

Dear Mr. Debonair,

Is it more disgusting to “hock a loogie” in public, or to blow one’s nose at the dinner table?

Sincerely,
Just Curious

Dear Just Curious,

What, are we playing a game now? “Quien Es Mas Macho”? “What Is More Revolting”? “Ask Me Another”?

Very well, I shall play along.

I am pleased that you seem to have accepted the implicit assumption that both of these activities are, in fact, disgusting, and that it is only a matter of degree as to which one is more so. There is, therefore, hope for you.

The answer, of course, is that both activities are equally worthy of condemnation. Asking which is worse is a little like asking, “What smells worse, a human turd or a dog turd?” They both stink! Duh!

Expectorating in public is truly revolting. I have this on no less an authority than the redoubtable Velociman, and you can take it to the bank that if V-Man thinks a certain activity is loathsome, you can be sure that it truly, as the Young Folk today say, “blows goats.”

The correct way to expectorate, if one absolutely must, is in the privacy of one’s lavatory. Sink or toilet bowl, no matter, as long as the Offending Wad is rinsed down the drain so that the next one to use the facilities does not have to look at Old Mr. Phlegmbooger staring up at him or her.

Alternatively, one may choose to use one’s handkerchief or a facial tissue, items without which – like a Cocktail Napkin - a Gentleman, at least, should never venture in public. One may excuse oneself from the table, whereupon the Vile Sputumaceous Substance may be discreetly ejected into the handkerchief, to be disposed of at a later, more convenient moment.

As to the horrendous practice of blowing one’s nose at the dinner table, it is to be discouraged in the strongest possible terms. Up to, and including, taking the extreme step of punching the offender right in the fucking head.

When one feels the urge to blow one’s nose at the dinner table, the proper thing to do is to excuse oneself and go to the nearest available Rest-Room. There, one may avail him- or herself of the available Facial Tissues, whether in sheet or roll form. Assuming, of course, that one has been a slacker in the Gentlemanly Comportment department and has forgotten to carry a handkerchief.

As evil as it is to blow one’s nose at table, there is one Variation on the Theme, as it were, that catapults this Unseemly Activity into the realm of the Truly Unconscionable. And that is to blow one’s nose into a restaurant’s Cloth Dinner Napkin.

Think on it. Bad enough that the poor waiter or busboy must deal with one’s greasy plates...but to unfurl a cloth dinner napkin only to find a Wretchedly Gooey Surprise inside? There is no tip big enough to compensate.

An individual who would do such a thing? Why, I suspect that such a person would not even exert himself to get out of the bathtub to take a dump...

BOWLING FOR NOSTALGIA

Sometime around 1960, my mother decided to join a bowling league.

For the Momma d’Elisson, this was yet another in a string of athletic activities. As a young woman, she played tennis, a sport to which she returned once she reached her 50’s. She was also a golfer, playing three to four rounds a week. No country-club snob, she divided her time between the neighborhood course (reachable by a short walk to the end of our street) and Bethpage State Park.

You may have heard of Bethpage, whose Black course was the venue for the 2002 U.S. Open Championship. It’s a state park that, at the time, offered five – count ’em, five – eighteen-hole layouts, ranging in difficulty from the Yellow and Green courses (easy) to Red and Blue (more challenging), and finally to Black (ridiculous). Mom played ’em all. She was an enthusiastic member of a group that called itself the Fairway Women of Bethpage, all of whom would attack the park several times a week.

I still find myself wishing I could play golf as well as my mother did. In the Archive d’Elisson, there’s an old piece of video dating from 1966, in which I had filmed both Mom and Dad demonstrating their golf swings. Now, Dad (Eli, his ownself) was no slouch on the golf course – he was a proficient weekend player – but in the film, his swing looks just a tad awkward compared to Mom’s. She was all smoothness and grace – qualities that I somehow managed to avoid inheriting.

But at some point, golf was just not enough for Mom, so she decided to start bowling.

This was tremendously exciting for me. All I knew was that “bowling” was something I had seen on TV, with guys like Ed Lubansky and Dick Weber heaving those heavy black spheres down long alleys, scattering pins to the delight of a horde of spectators.

“Gee, Mom, does that mean you’re gonna be on TV?” asked Mr. Naive.

“No.”

It was my first lesson in the differences between “amateur” sports and “professional” sports.

When it came time to go to the Bowling Alley, I was a little disappointed, even though I already knew to expect no Peanut Gallery filled with spectators, no TV cameras. It was dim – except for the actual alleys, which were well-lit – and more than a little bit grimy with Bowling Grit. You know about Bowling Grit, the accumulated schmutz composed of Bowling Alley Oil combined with microscopic chips of ebonite. It’s said that you can never wash it off, that it stains one’s very soul. I believe it.

Bowling is one of those sports that managed, in the late 1940’s though the 1960’s, to discard its former unsavory reputation and become a huge growth industry, thanks to the post-WW II economic boom, the advent of the automatic pinsetter, and a brilliant marketing campaign. It was, I suspect, more popular at its peak than golf is today, having the advantage of heavy Blue-Collar Appeal. Even today, bowling is, reasonably inexpensive - unlike golf. Amusement fo’ da Peepul.

Watching my mother bowl, I wanted nothing so much as to bowl, too. And after a few weeks of relentless nagging, she finally allowed me to roll an eight-pound ball down the alley for the first time.

I was in second grade.

Over time, I became a reasonably proficient bowler myself...good enough to earn a JV letter in high school and to help win a few league championships in the mid-1970’s. Big, fat, hairy deal.

Bowling alleys were great places for pissing away hours of adolescent Spare Time. Even if you were sick unto death of bowling proper, you could get hot dogs, Drake’s Cakes (the New York-area competitor of Hostess, nationally well-known purveyor of Baked Crap), and soft drinks. It was a (marginally) more salutary environment than the local Pool-Hall. My hangout of choice was 300 Bowl on Sunrise Highway, but sometimes my friends and I would hike into neighboring Amityville, there to roll a few lines at Amity Lanes – a much lower-rent proposition. The place had character, though; it was worth dealing with the extra filth for some of the old-timey touches, such as above-the-lane ball return.

Today, bowling almost seems to be a relic. The spinmeisters make with the Moonlight Madness, with day-glo lanes, pins, and balls to get the younguns all jazzed up, but the hip young kids are off playing Death-Match Grand Theft Killdozer 3000 on their Sony Playstations. Or playing golf, or robbing the liquor store, or whatever it is kids do these days.

But once in a while, I like to take my 40-year-old bowling ball (I can still get my fingers in it, albeit a bit snugly) and roll a line or two at the local Bowling Emporium. I inhale that smell, an aroma that is unique to bowling alleys, a mellow blend of foot sweat, powdered ebonite, bowling alley wax, and stale French fries. And I remember Mama.

BASEBALL BUGGY

Baseball lovers know that the stats are almost as important - hell, in some cases, they’re way more important - than the game itself. That’s what keeps all of those CBA’s - Certified Baseball Accountants - employed.

In this post, Derek Zumsteg of U.S.S. Mariner deconstructs, in loving and excruciating detail, one of the most unusual baseball games in history. In the process, he finds evidence that certain exclusionary practices - practices that still exist in the game today - may be harming the game by preventing certain extraordinarily talented players from finding employment in MLB.

It’s a long read, but well worth your time. Go and learn.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

SLEEPING BEAUTY

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon at Chez Elisson.

Outside, it’s unseasonably warm. The white blossoms on the Bradford pears are gradually being displaced by new, green leaves. The yellow forsythia is out in force. In a week or so, this place will be a riot of spring color. Dogwoods. Azaleas. Damn, but it’s nice to live in Georgia.

I’m half-watching Top Chef while I scroll through my Bloglines feeds. And of a sudden, I notice the Missus’s almost angelic face, backlit by the sunlight filtering through the shutters, with the warm incandescent light of the end-table lamp providing fill-in illumination.

Sleeping Beauty

I’ve known her for over thirty years, and she gets better looking every day.

DINNER AT EIGHT? GREAT!

Last night’s Ducky Dinner was, in many respects, a replay of a memorable evening we enjoyed a year ago January. Pam (my friend Stefan’s Better Half) ended up AWOL, having gotten stuck in Alabama, but the empty seat was filled by our friend Laura Belle, whose husband is off on a business trip. And thus, four of us sat down to a Kingly Repast. The menu:
  • Baby Spinach and Arugula Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Dried Blueberries
  • “Ultimate” Roast Duck with Sauce Bigarade
  • Chicken Kiev
  • Margaux, Château Palmer 1970
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Mondavi Napa Valley 1980
  • Garlic Roasted Red Potatoes with Scallion Sticks
  • Mashed Carrots and Parsnips
  • Meyer Lemon Curd Tartlets
  • Botrytis Semillon, McGuigan Brothers Personal Reserve 1994
  • Coffee
Stefan provided the wines from his Voluminous Cellar, and once again he batted 1000. The Château Palmer was mellow, the Mondavi Cab was somewhat chewier and more assertive (I’ve always wanted to use the word “chewy” in a sentence about wine), and the Botrytis Semillon was completely ridiculous.

Let me explain, what mean “ridiculous.”

The finest sweet wines in the world are made from the Semillon grape. This particular grape is vulnerable to a fungus called Botrytis that cuses the grapes to develop what the Wine-O’s call pourriture noble: “Noble Rot.” The grapes’ skins develop a complexion somewhat like the Incredible Hulk after a chocolate binge, riddled with microscopic holes that allow water to evaporate. What you end up with is clusters of shrivelled “raisins” on the vine.

These shrivelled-up grapes, looking like Acidman’s ass after a week in a Costa Rican hot tub, are crushed to make an incredibly sweet, concentrated juice. It would be cloyingly sweet, in fact, except for the high acidity of the Semillon grape, which forms a perfect counterbalance to the sweetness.

This is the process - and the grape - used to make the greatest sweet wine on the planet, the legendary wine of Sauternes, Château d’Yquem. Except the stuff we had is made in Australia, where high-end dessert wines have become somewhat of a cottage industry. I’m here to tell you that, while it was no Château d’Yquem, it came close enough to shout “Who’s your daddy?”

The duck turned out dangerously good. Once again, I used Karen’s recipe, and once again, in lieu of using chicken stock to make the sauce, I simmered up a pan of stock from the duck heart, neck, and gizzard. Crispy skin, tender, flavorful meat - it was all Stefan and I could do to keep from tearing the carcass apart with our bare hands and burying our faces in it.

We’re such carnivores.

The ladies, meanwhile, enjoyed a couple of chunks of Chicken Kiev, which I prepared so that they would not starve in the midst of plenty. For both She Who Must Be Obeyed and Laura Belle are notoriously averse to Quacky Dinners.

The dessert was based on a recipe for Meyer lemon curd I had snarfed from the Bakerina last year. Meyer lemons have a warmer, more delicate flavor than the usual supermarket lemon, and the little tartlets I made had just the right amount of sunny acidity to offset their richness.

Wotta meal. That’s one small dinner for four, two Tasty Animals for PETA.

Friday, March 10, 2006

MEAT? NEAT!

Here are a few tasty images to get you psyched up for IEATAPETA Day - International Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA Day, coming up next Wednesday, March 15.


The Ultimate Roast Duck, on tomorrow night’s menu.


Yummy Baby Lamb.

Nutritious Dinner
Brisket de Boeuf - and, buried under the ’shrooms, a whole tenderloin.

Doesn’t all that Meaty Goodness make you hungry? Good.

Eat a Tasty Animal - and stick it in PETA’s eye!

If you’re organizing your own IEATAPETA celebration, don’t forget to register your site here.

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A RUDE TOY

My fellow Morning Minyan Boy Irwin brought this lovely little bagatelle to shul this morning for to show it off:

Throne Lady

As a free-standing work of Sculptural Art, this thing is impressive enough. But push the button, and you get Movement and Sound Effects: straining, grunting, splashing, a cell-phone call interruption, more straining, grunting and splashing, and a Big Finish! Pure class, all the way.

Why, it might even be worthy of a place alongside Velociman’s monkeys. Tallulah Nadine, move over!

BATHROOM WATER

When you’ve known someone for thirty-plus years, you get used to his or her little quirks and foibles.

And when it’s someone you love, those little quirks and foibles can be quite endearing, despite their outward weirdness.

Take She Who Must Be Obeyed, f’r instance.

SWMBO loves her a nice, cold, glass of water, preferably with ice. But if that water comes out of the bathroom tap? Fuhgeddaboudit.

SWMBO refuses to drink water from the bathroom tap. Absolutely refuses, as in “No Fucking Way, Jack!” Even if I ice it down.

I laugh at this. The only time it inconveniences me is when I volunteer - like the good husband I am - to go downstairs and get the Missus a glass of water from the kitchen tap. This usually happens when she’s already in bed and remembers that she needs to take the Evening heap o’ Pharmaceuticals. Gawd forbid she should wash ’em down with Bathroom Water.

[Could she tell if I went downstairs and got it out of the bathroom tap? She thinks so. She’s convinced there’s a discernible difference.]

Now, I, myself, would have problems with drinking water out of the toilet bowl. Or the toilet tank, for that matter. I’d only consider drinking toilet tank water in the event of Nuclear War.

But we’re talkin’ tap water, water that comes from the same pipes as the water in the kitchen. It travels a little farther, is all. It’s exactly the same as all the other water in the house.

Or is it? Does it perhaps pick up Pee-Pee and Doody Cooties from the mere proximity of those pipes to Bathroom Appliances? Is there a Mysterious Cocky-Ray that somehow contaminates Bathroom Water even as it passes though the plumbing?

The Missus says that that’s not the problem. She says the water from the bathroom taps simply tastes different. I could call bullshit and have her do a blind tasting, but what would be the point? It’s like the Evolution vs Intelligent Design issue: SWMBO has faith in her Bathroom Water Tastes Different religion, and all the scientific evidence in the world will not suffice to convince her that her faith is baseless. And besides, I rather enjoy this little wrinkle in her personality, a wrinkle that has been there for at least as long as I’ve known her. I figure her Quirky Personal Crap is no quirkier than mine, when it comes right down to it.

Do you have a problem drinking Bathroom Water? Tell yer Uncle Elisson all about it...

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

This Friday finds me back at Chez Elisson after a week in various parts of Texas. It’s good to be back home, reunited with the Missus after we went our separate ways from Foat Wuth Monday afternoon: I to Sweat City, she to the ATL.

And, because it is Friday, it is time for the Friday Random Ten, that Miscellaneous Mixed-Up Morass o’ Music from the Magical Machine, AKA the iPod d’Elisson:
  1. Way Back In The 1960s - The Incredible String Band

    This is a nostalgic look back at the 1960’s from the viewpoint of someone who “was a young man” back then. What makes it interesting is that it was written in 1967...

    I was a young man back in the 1960s.
    Yes, you made your own amusements then,
    For going to the pictures;
    Well, the travel was hard, and I mean
    We still used the wheel.
    But you could sit down at your table
    And eat a real food meal.

    But hey, you young people, well I just do not know,
    And I can’t even understand you
    When you try to talk slow.

    There was one fellow singing in those days,
    And he was quite good, and I mean to say that
    His name was Bob Dylan, and I used to do gigs too
    Before I made my first million.
    That was way, way back before,
    before wild World War Three,
    When England went missing,
    And we moved to Paraguay-ee.

    But hey, you young people, I just do not know,
    And I can’t even understand you
    When you try to talk slow.

    Well, I got a secret, and don’t give us away.
    I got some real food tins for my 91st birthday,
    And your grandmother bought them
    Way down in the new antique food store,
    And for beans and for bacon, I will open up my door.

    But hey, you young people, well I just do not know,
    And I can’t even understand you
    When you try to talk slow.

    Well, I was a young man back in the 1960s.

  2. Party At Ground Zero - Fishbone
  3. Farewell To Lorien - Patrice Deceuninck
  4. Daisy - Stone Temple Pilots
  5. Saltydog - Flogging Molly
  6. Moon River - Johnny Mathis
  7. Please Mister Postman - The Beatles
  8. What’s He Building? (live) - Tom Waits
  9. Thinking About You - Radiohead
  10. Homeward Bound - Simon & Garfunkel
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

A MEATLOAF IN THE SUN

Actually, two meatloaves.

Two Meatloaves

Hakuna and Matata relax in the sunroom.

I got back from my week-long sojourn in Texas last night. Predictably enough, Matata wouldn’t leave me alone. Once I got in bed, she spent half an hour being insufferably friendly before finally settling down and going to sleep.

She misses us when we’re away.

I’m not so sure about Hakuna, who seems to have a memory like Dory, the Ellen deGeneres character in Finding Nemo. Namely, not much of one. Hakuna seems to have to get reacquainted with us every morning, as though she has never seen us - but by nightfall, we’re old friends again.

Interestingly, after She Who Must Be Obeyed returned Monday evening, Matata had been kind enough to let her sleep, not awakening until SWMBO had had a chance to pound the snooze button a time or two. But now that I’m back, it’s Business as Usual: marching around at the Butt-Crack of Dawn, trying to wake me up half an hour before the alarm goes off. What up wit’ dat?

Be sure to visit today’s Friday Ark at the Modulator to see more animal denizens of Bloggy-World. And remember, Carnival of the Cats #103 launches Sunday evening at Justin’s Random Thoughts.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

KINKY

The rustic cottage stood bathed in a haze of golden light.
Its residents - good peasants - all had turned in for the night.
Sitting ’round the crackling hearth, eating hearty grub,
Washing off their honest sweat in the claw-foot tub.
“Paw, why don’t ye come to bed? Ye’ve finished all your labors,
Ye’ve cut the hay, and thatched the roof, and spoke with all the neighbors.”
“Be there directly, woman, but one thing I must yet do:
I’ve got to whip my pecker out, and urinate on Pooh.”

When people - people less cynical than I - think of Thomas Kinkade, they think of paintings of thatch-roof huts, illuminated from within by the warm glow of a fireplace, from without by a majestic sunset. Or perhaps that glow comes from the Love of God and Man thrown off by the Good Salt-of-the-Earth Folks who reside in said thatch-roof huts.

Kinkade’s paintings have a certain commercial appeal. They’re pictures intended to evoke those warm, fuzzy feel-good emotions in the same people who get all moist contemplating a Big-Eyed Puppy or Kitty Picture.

Feh.

But it’s nice to know that even Mr. Warm-and-Fuzzy has his Dark Side. Quoth the LA Times:
And then there is Kinkade’s proclivity for “ritual territory marking,” as he called it, which allegedly manifested itself in the late 1990’s outside the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

“This one’s for you, Walt,” the artist quipped late one night as he urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure, said Terry Sheppard, a former vice president for Kinkade’s company, in an interview.
So that’s where that characteristic Golden Glow comes from. It’s a Golden Shower!

Or is it just another case of Life imitating Art?

Perhaps an Earthy Discovery like this is best celebrated with a limerick - an appropriately earthy Verse Form:

Thomas Kinkade, as best I can see,
Is not a big fan of Disney.
He says, “Watch what I do
To this Winnie-the-Pooh.
When I’m through, he’ll be Winnie-the-Peeh.”

AN IRONY-RICH DIET

I saw this little tidbit over at Little Green Footballs (tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Denise, resident grandma at Grandma’s House, for the link.) And, as Grandma Denise points out, it’s not a joke:
The Rachel Corrie Memorial Committee of Victoria Invites you to a pancake breakfast at Denny’s Restaurant Sunday March 12, 2006 10 am.

The Public is invited to a memorial pancake breakfast [emphasis mine] at Denny’s Restaurant on Douglas Street near Finlayson, 10 am, Sunday March 12, 2006 to celebrate the life and untimely death of Rachel Corrie, Peace Activist with the International Solidarity Movement.

There will be a reading of selections from Ms. Corrie’s letters and diary, followed by a ceremony at Topaz Park, where a stone cairn will be erected in her honour.

Attendees are encouraged to wear their keffiahs, and to dress in black.

No weapons, drugs, or alcohol please.

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/

ISM offers many ways for you to get involved in the struggle for Palestinian freedom. Whether you’re thinking of traveling to Palestine to work with us, or you’d like to work to educate your community about the reality in Palestine, we welcome your involvement.
Most of my Esteemed Readers will remember Rachel Corrie as the amazingly stupid young woman who, three years ago, lay down in front of an Israeli bulldozer that was in the process of clearing debris and shrubbery in order to expose explosive devices. Whether Corrie was crushed by the slow-moving bulldozer itself or by falling debris dislodged by the ’dozer is a matter of dispute, but it’s hard to imagine how well the operators of the bulldozer could have seen Corrie through the narrow, double-glazed bulletproof windows in the cockpit.

I empathize with Rachel’s parents, who have to mourn the loss of their daughter. At the same time, here was a young woman whose activities gave aid and comfort to terrorists; who burned a (paper) American flag; and whose death has been cynically exploited by the Palestinians to paint the IDF as inhuman monsters. From Wikipedia:
One of the founders of the ISM, George Rishmawi, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as having said early in 2003: “When Palestinians get shot by Israeli soldiers, no one is interested anymore. But if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice.”
Cannon fodder, pure and simple. And why should we be surprised? These are the people who happily send their own children into Israel with explosive belts.

Here’s a clue: Stop building bombs and tunnels with which to smuggle them. Stop sending suicide bombers to blow up civilian men, women, and children. Stop firing Qassam rockets at civilian populations. Then, maybe the IDF wouldn’t need to bulldoze your shrubs, tunnels, and buildings.

Rachel Corrie’s death was tragically unnecessary, but it was her choice to put herself in harm’s way for all the wrong reasons. What a waste. But better to die a pancake than a suicide bomber, I suppose.

And now, here come the fucktards of the ISM, perversely commemmorating Corrie’s death with a pancake breakfast. I mean, couldn’t they have rustled up some waffles instead?

Honestly, you just can’t make shit like this up...and you don’t even have to.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

BIG DAVE: A 100-WORD STORY

My buddy Dave struggled with his weight for years.

Name a diet; he’d tried it, with dismal results. Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig. Atkins. South Beach. Ultra Slim-Fast.

A few months ago, someone told Dave about Transcendental Meditation. Worked wonders, they said. Your guru would assign a mantra, a specific random word that you would repeat to yourself to focus your meditation. Having the right mantra was critical to help you concentrate, avoid distractions, achieve your goal.

Dave’s goal was to lose 85 pounds.

His mantra was “Hersheybar.”

Last time I saw him, he was at 325 and heading north fast.

Monday, March 06, 2006

FOR YOUR SAFETY

<RANT>

Every time I arrive in Houston and ride the bus to the rental car center to pick up my Vehicle o’ th’ Week, I cringe. No, wait. I don’t cringe. I grit my teeth and get pissed off.

Because every stinking time, I have to listen to that stupid recorded announcement that starts off, “For your safety, and those around you...”

Good Gawd. Do these cretins speak English?

American English, Canadian English, English English, any kind of English, no matter. The correct expression is, “For your safety, and the safety of those around you...” Or perhaps, “For your safety, and that of those around you...”

Am I being pedantic? Picky? Neurotic, even? Perhaps...but that frickin’ announcement just frosts my stindeens (to borrow an expression).

And tonight, my stindeens were frosted even more...by the idiot bus driver, who spent the entire five-minute journey from terminal to rental car center with a cell phone glued to his ear. For my safety, no doubt...and that of those around me.

Which totaled exactly one person, since I was the only passenger on the bus. Which meant that I had to listen to this yutz rattle on and on, hoping that at least a few of his brain cells were handling the Bus-Driving Heavy Lifting.

</RANT>

IEATAPETA

Yes, it’s almost time for International Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA Day, March 15.

This is the fourth annual IEATAPETA Day, an occasion originally conceived as a protest against PETA’s ridiculous propensity to appropriate major human-on-human evils such as the Holocaust or America’s pre-Civil Rights Movement treatment of African-Americans to further their agenda.

I don’t have a lot of patience for PETA. A friend of mine who is an executive producer at CNN compares them to Sinn Fein: a political wing that is attached to a violent terroristic movement. In the case of Sinn Fein it’s the IRA; in the case of PETA it’s various far-out ecoterrorist groups. Even putting that aside, I don’t buy their fundamental message: that it’s wrong to exploit animals for food and clothing. We’re not at the top of the food chain for nothing. Cruelty can and should be condemned, but I have no problem with the concept of animals as a source of food and other useful products.

But when PETA compares the slaughter of chickens for human food to Nazi-era atrocities committed against Jews and other humans, they cross the line into Idiot-World.

Read more about IEATAPETA Day at Yourish.com. And start planning your Animal Feast. Don’t like meat? Have some eggs. Or cheese. And be sure to wear some leather, even if it’s just your shoes.

Me, I’m thinking Beefsteak.

And as long as we’re using diet to make a political point, check out the Carnival of the Recipes at Ego. The theme of the 81st Carnival is Danish Recipes...never mind that Mr. Smart-Brains here submitted a decidedly non-Danish recipe for Cajun Cholent.

Ya gotta love Danish food. I can do without all the ham, myself, but any country that can come up with stuff like gravlax, smørrebrød, and akvavit is all right in my book. And not only that...they draw some mighty fine cartoons, too!

Akvavit, for those of my Esteemed Readers who do not know it, is a Spirituous Liquor that combines the delicate flavor of caraway with the Spleen-Kick of vodka. Chill it in the freezer and enjoy shots of akvavit neat, accompanied by smoked fish. Or the Yummy Meat-Dish of your choice!