Saturday, June 30, 2007

THAT TRICKSTER COSMOS

As we arrived in Savannah this weekend to celebrate the Mistress of Sarcasm’s birthday, I could not help but think back to a more somber visit to the Beautiful Lady with the Dirty Face, a visit that had taken place exactly one year prior. For it was a year ago that a crew of Jawja Blown-Eyed Blodgers converged in this quintessentially Southern town to attend the funeral of the one, the only Acidman, Rob Smith hizzownself.

It was only two days ago that I was listening to a 1979 recording of the Fabulous Smith Brothers - Rob and Dave - playing “Fish and Whistle.” Those boys made beautiful music. Last year I had been fortunate enough to hear them both: Rob at the Austin meet, and Dave (a mere month later, alas) at Rob’s funeral. My only regret was that I never got to hear them play together.

This evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I took the Mistress out to dinner at a new place just south of Forsyth Park, Local 11-Ten, arriving there as dark clouds gathered in the sky to the north and lightning flashed threateningly. We settled into our seats and proceeded to enjoy a superb meal. The Mistress and I each ordered the hanger steak, which Local 11-Ten serves with a silky-smooth Yukon Gold potato purée and a bunch of roasted scallions, set off by a glossy demi-glâce. I washed mine down with a couple of Negronis, so by the time the moment arrived for a postprandial coffee, I was a Pleasantly Mellow Fellow.

SWMBO and the Mistress were seated facing the interior of the restaurant while I looked toward the window facing Bull Street, so I did not see the group that came in just as our coffee was being served. But SWMBO did. It was a gentleman and three ladies, and her first thought was that the gentleman looked eerily...familiar.

“Isn’t that Rob Smith’s brother over there?” she asked me.

I took a look. And it was as if I were seeing a ghost, for Rob and his brother Dave bore more than just a passing resemblance to one another. Sure as taxes, it had to be Dave. Had to be.

And it was. He was there with wife Pam and two friends. I went over to say hello, thinking to myself how bizarre it was that he should show up at this same restaurant (it was his first visit there) on this of all days - exactly one year since I had met him under much sadder circumstances.

[OK, I know Dave lives in Savannah. It isn’t as if we were having dinner in Minneapolis and he waltzed in. But still...]

Ahh, this strange old cosmos. It’s always finding new tricks to play on us, isn’t it?

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TWENTY-FIVE

Mistress Birthday
Images of Mistress Past.

She’s twenty-five years old today.

It’s hard to believe...because it seems that not all that long ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were looking at her, freshly emerged from her nine-month home with a head full of thick black hair and wearing a little stocking cap (this last courtesy of Mister Doctor Ob-Gyn). And wailing to beat the band.

Born in Georgia, she’s lived all over, thanks to our schlepping her along on our various Family Relocations. Glastonbury and Trumbull, Connecticut. Houston, Texas. Marietta, Georgia, back to her roots. And now, Savannah, home of SCAD, her Alma Mater, and her choice of residence for the two years since she was graduated. This, despite a childhood promise - we have it in writing! - to always live with her Mommy.

With a quick wit, a quick smile, and a quick laugh, she is everything a Daddy could want in a daughter.

Happy Birthday, my joy of joys - may you live to be 120 (kein ayin hora), all in good health and prosperity. That last part is important, ’cause I’ll be expecting you to support me when I’m old and decrepit.

Serious Mistress
The Mistress of Sarcasm today.

Friday, June 29, 2007

FASHIONABLE HEADGEAR

While in Destin last week, I had a chance to check out some of the latest fashions in chapeaux. And since I already have an adequate supply of Panama hats and fedoras, it was time to see about an upgrade to that other quintessentially Elissonian bit of haberdashery: the infamous Colander.

Yes, it’s Colander Borg-Man!

Colander-Borg Man 1
Nice, but nothing special.

I busied myself with inspecting several non-metallic models. Stealth, baby. Gotta fly below the radar...and, as we all know, the Space Aliens are already on to our Tinfoil Hats.

Colander-Borg Man 2
Not bad!

The hanging price tag helps give it that Minnie Pearl look, am I right?

Colander-Borg Man 3
Raise the antennae!

Turns out this model has retractable flip-up antennae, the better to receive those mysterious communications from the Great Zorg. And that bright red color is its own Fashion Statement. Love it!

Manolo can keep his Shoe Blog. Here, you gots Colander Borg-Blog!

SLEEPWALKING: A 100-WORD STORY

Nick was one of those old guys who walked the mall every morning. A regular amongst the Davenport Mallwalkers, he’d been at it for over fifteen years now.

“I gotta get my exercise!” he’d say, heading past Macy’s at a brisk near-trot.

Last week, all that exercise was no help. Some guy stuck a gun in his face and demanded his wallet, and Nick must not have been quick enough coming up with it.

Nick’s sleeping the Forever Sleep now, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down any. I still see him walking the mall...

...but only at night.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

What? Friday already?

This week, SWMBO and I once again had to readjust to Normal Life after a pleasant time broiling by the beach in Cancún Destin. These beach vacations sure take a lot out of you. And put a lot into you: Mojitos, Negroni cocktails, gin and tonics, and suchlike.

Later today, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I will head down to Savannah, there to celebrate the Mistress of Sarcasm’s twenty-fifth birthday. Holy moley, my baby girl’s gonna be a quarter century old tomorrow!

Once again, it has been two weeks since I have subjected my Esteemed Readers to their regular helping of Miscellaneous Moozikal Madness from the iPod d’Elisson, and I’m sure many of you are champing at the bit. What say we plug in and listen?
  1. Yidl mitn Fiedel - The Barry Sisters with Sam Medoff and the Yiddish Swingtet
  2. Sexy Sadie - The Beatles
  3. The Water Song - The Incredible String Band

    Water water see the water flow
    Glancing dancing see the water flow
    O wizard of changes, water water water
    Dark or silvery mother of life
    Water water holy mystery heaven’s daughter

    God made a song when the world was new
    Water’s laughter sings it true
    O wizard of changes, teach me the lesson of flowing

  4. The AOL Song - Weird Al Yankovic
  5. All My Loving - The Beatles
  6. Sofa - Frank Zappa
  7. Wo Bist Du Gewesen Vor Prohibition - Naftule Brandwein’s Orchestra
  8. Wegene - Maritu Legesse
  9. Act III Scene 2, Attack and Fall - Philip Glass, Akhnaten
  10. Hinokh Yafo - The Klezmatics
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Herding the animals, two by two,
Noah says, “What’s this crap on my shoe?”
While the lions lie and the leopards lep,
Ya gotta be careful where you step.


The 145th voyage of the Friday Ark, AKA the Modulated Menagerie, has set sail at its usual location. Go thou and enjoy the various kitties and doggies.

Carnival of the Cats #171 will be posted Sunday evening at a location Yet To Be Announced. I’ll post an update when I find out...

Update: CotC #171 is up...at its very own Ursprung, its Point of Origin, its Home Base...This Blog Is Full Of Crap!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A KITTY YAHRZEIT

Laurence and the Big Grumpus z''l
Laurence Simon and the late Edloe.

It’s been two years since one of the great lights of Kittydom went dark. Today marks the second anniversary of Edloe’s passing.

Readers of Laurence Simon’s site, This Blog Is Full Of Crap, along with the regular readers of and participants in the weekly Carnival of the Cats, will remember Edlow as a huge furry grumpus who took up an inordinate amount of Houston real estate. But we all loved her, and her absence has left a void in the Kitty Bloggy-Sphere.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the home of one of my fellow Minyan Boyz, only to discover that he has two cats. The younger of the two, one Lucy by name, is a dead ringer (you should excuse the expression) for Edloe. [I will need to get some pictures and post them; I know you are curious.] Upon seeing Lucy, I felt a momentary pang...which was quickly replaced by a warm memory. I thought to myself, “As long as we remember her, Edloe lives.”

Laurence is busy tonight in Second Life inaugurating Edloe Island, a chunk of virtual real estate dedicated to the late beloved Grumpus. I hope everyone has a great time...but it would be appropriate to light a virtual candle in Edloe’s memory, and perhaps to recite the Mourner’s Cattish...

CLOWNING AROUND

I was never a particular fan of clowns in my Snot-Nose Days...but neither was I terrified of them, as so many children apparently are.

Stephen King mined the Scary Clown lode pretty thoroughly in his novel It, a book that bears one of the more creative titles he has used over the years. I wasn’t all that impressed with It, which, to my taste, is not one of the stronger books in the King canon. But the image of Pennywise, the evil clown that lived in the storm drains, must have resonated with many readers.

“And we’ll have Tim Curry play him in the TV miniseries!”

Aggggghhhhh!

I first tasted of the Evil Power of Clowns back in the fall of 1981, when Elder Daughter (at the time, Only Daughter) was a mere seventeen months old. It was Hallowe’en, and we dressed her up in a set of Chinese silk pajamas that I had brought back from one of my trips to Hong Kong. She loved it.

Then I decided to becostume myself. This, alas, was a mistake.

I put on a white shirt and black pants. No problem. But then I put on whiteface, Marcel Marceau style, and committed the egregious error of letting Elder Daughter see me. She almost burst a blood vessel from shrieking in terror.

Months later, SWMBO handed Elder Daughter a magazine so that she could be occupied looking at pictures while Mommy vacuumed the house. When SWMBO turned off the vacuum cleaner, she could hear E.D. wailing. The child had been right there in the room all the time, but the vacuum cleaner had drowned out her screams - when SWMBO picked her up to comfort her, she could see what had triggered the episode of Toddler Fear: an ad for a cosmetic mask that showed several women wearing goop on their faces, looking an awful lot like Daddy did that horrible Hallowe’en night. Gaaaahhh!

To this day, mimes give Elder Daughter the Shit-Willies...and I blame myself. [Of course, mimes give pretty much all rational people the Shit-Willies, even the Educated Mimes with degrees. From the Colorado School of Mimes, natch.]

But aside from this incident, I never had any issues with clowns. I don’t take ’em seriously. After all, we at Chez Elisson use the term “Bozo” to refer to pubes - specifically, the ones that stick out from the sides of the bikini bottoms of Unwaxed or Unshaven Women.

Some folks, alas, still have difficulty getting past their fear of clowns. To those people, I say, “Do not look below the fold!”

Evil Clown
©1997 Georgia Maher.

[More demented art like this is available at the website of Georgia Maher, the Texas Art Chick.]

GREETINGS

Greetings

I saw this shirt in Destin and just had to get it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

MY INNER NEW YORKER

Herewith another stupid Bloggy Quiz, courtesy of RSM via Parkway Rest Stop Jimbo.

You Belong in Brooklyn

Down to earth and hard working, you're a true New Yorker. And your friends in Georgia will never let you forget your roots, no matter how hard you might try (“Yew ain’t from around heah, boah, are yew?”)

Brooklyn’s definitely the borough for you. Lotsa Jews there.

It only makes sense. After all, I was born there...although the thought of living in Brooklyn today makes me want to drive tenpenny nails into my head.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

FILLUM FUN

The Missus and I just finished watching The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s 2006 magnum opus, on DVD.

It ranks right up there with Taxi Driver, as far as I am concerned...and with a comparable level of graphic violence. Full of suspense, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

But the best part might’ve been the bloopers and outtakes, which had me rolling on the floor laughing out loud. I love those DVD extras!

DEAD MEAT: A 100-WORD OBITUARY

Evans RIP

Sausage lovers throughout America were saddened to hear of the recent death of Bob Evans, Ohio breakfast meat icon and restauranteur.

Evans, founder of the restaurant chain that bears his name, succumbed to complications from pneumonia. He was being treated at the Cleveland Clinic.

When supplies of quality sausage for his truckstop became scarce, he began making his own, thus laying the groundwork for a meatpacking and casual dining empire. Employees credited the enterprise’s rapid growth to Evans’s sage advice.

The family plans a private funeral at which Evans’s remains will be ground up and stuffed into a sausage-shaped casket.

ONE YEAR

Rob in Dark Glasses
Rob Smith, AKA the Acidman.

Today, June 26, marks the first anniversary of Rob Smith’s death. His yahrzeit, if you will.

Rob, of course, was known to the Bloggy Community as Acidman, a name that was appropriate not only because of his past employment in a sulfuric acid works, but also because of his acerbic wit and no-holds-barred approach to blogging. Or, as his buddy Catfish might put it, blodging.

I first spoke to Rob in the summer of 2005. I had no idea what he’d be like in a telephone conversation, but instead of the fire-breathing dragon one might expect from (some of) his writing, his voice was that of a pleasant, soft-spoken gentleman. We had a very enjoyable conversation...

...and a few months later, I finally met Rob face-to-face in Helen, Georgia. It was at the 2005 gathering of the Jawja Blown-Eyed Blodgers (another Catfishism), a gathering that had its origins several years before in an impromptu get-together (initiated, of course, by Rob) at Blood Mountain. The Acidic One was not in good shape at the time, to put it mildly; he had traveled a long ways toward drinking himself to death. But seven months later, when I saw him in Austin, he had turned things around 180 degrees. He was sober and lucid, his writing sharper than ever.

Rob at Rancho Alegre
Rancho Alegre, May 6, 2006.

Less than a week after the Austin meet, SWMBO, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and I joined Rob for dinner at Rancho Alegre, the little Cuban place just off Abercorn on the southerly side of Savannah. It was a very enjoyable evening...and, unbeknownst to us at the time, our final meeting. Less than four weeks later, Rob was gone.

Shakespeare famously said (in the guise of Marcus Antonius) that “The evil that men do lives after them / The good is oft interred with their bones.” In Rob’s case, both the good and evil were laid out there for the whole world to see. If it wasn’t right in front of your nose, you could dig for it in the Archives. And it wasn’t always pretty.

But Rob’s legacy - the good stuff - wasn’t interred with his bones...or, more accurately, ashes.

He left behind two beautiful children, children who, it is to be hoped, have inherited Rob’s gifts of language and music.

He left behind a pile of Graphica Electronica, all of which continues to sit out there on the Inter Webby-Net. There are days that I will get more referrals from Rob’s site - still! - than anywhere else. It’s a testament to the power of his writing (and the persistence of his readers).

He left behind recordings of his music, music that still brings a tear to my eye when I listen to it.

And, most significantly, he left behind a motley group of Online Journalists whose greatest shared bond is their friendship with one Rob Smith...and their willingness to do as Rob did: pursue a ceaseless quest for adoration from people who don’t know them. I’m proud to be one of them.

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SCRATCH

Scratch
JoAnn, SWMBO, and Gary in Destin.

Strange, how everyone seems to develop an itchy nose at the exact same time...

MATATIC OBSERVATIONS

Coaster Hat
A beverage coaster is not a hat. Unless I wear one.

Quantata
I am often observed in the quantum state of “cramming my ass into a very small space.”

GOLDEN MIST

It was as we were driving to Destin last week that I made an important observation, an observation that encompassed both the Arts and the Sciences. The Arts: Men’s clothing. The Sciences: Fluid mechanics and hydrodynamics.

The observation: It is distinctly unpleasant to piss in a urinal while wearing shorts.

Why should this be? You may well ask. It’s an example of fluid mechanics and hydrodynamics in action.

When you pee in a urinal, the stream impacts the back of the urinal, inevitably creating a fine dispersion of Golden Droplets. Don’t believe it? Look at the partition between stalls: Inevitably, it will show a corrosion pattern that accurately reflects the dispersion of those Golden Droplets over time.

Micturating into a toilet bowl from the standing position - unless you’re one of those people who aims for the porcelain above the water in a misguided attempt to minimize the Pishy-Noise - does not generate Pee-Mist anywhere near the extent to which a urinal does. This I know from years of observation.

To eliminate Pee-Mist entirely, one would have to sit down while urinating. For men, this is completely unacceptable. That is, unless one is dealing with the dreaded Pee-Boner.

So: I am standing at the urinal, enjoying a refreshing pisheroo, when I notice the unmistakable sensation of Pee-Droplets impinging upon my leg-hairs. Nasty. And don’t tell me it never happens to you.

Which explains, by the bye, why Elisson rarely wears short pants. And why he bathes after Road-Trips.

Monday, June 25, 2007

BEACH BEVERAGES

While the Missus and I were in Cancún earlier this month, my beverages of choice were - as befits the Mexican surroundings - Bacardi Añejo rum (by itself or compounded into a Cuba Libre), reposado tequila, ice-cold cerveza, and the occasional vacation-size Banana Monkey. This last is one of those indulgent tropical drinks made with bananas, chocolate syrup, and Kahlua. I would order mine with an additional shot or two of rum.

But in Destin, we opted for a more Continental summer drink palette.

I had brought along some Pama pomegranate liqueur, on the chance that we’d get a jones for pomegranate martinis. But no.

I had brought some Campari, that bright red, bittersweet Italian liqueur that mixes so well with tonic or soda. SWMBO loves a Campari and soda with a generous squeeze of fresh lime. I’ll drink the stuff on the rocks or with one of the aforementioned Fizzy Waters. It’s a most refershing tipple, but definitely an acquired taste: Most people can’t deal with the bitter flavor notes.

I also brought some Hendrick’s Gin, an esoteric brew that was a gift from Eric. Hendrick’s - a Scottish gin , fercryinoutloud - has an unusual bouquet that includes a hint of cucumber and rose petals: it makes a superb gin and tonic. I enjoyed it that way, but also as a key ingredient in a few Negroni Cocktails.

Never heard of the Negroni? Don’t feel bad; most people haven’t. Moreover, it’s not for everybody...because it contains Campari. In fact, between the Campari and the gin, its two main constituents, it is not a drink for the faint of heart.

Negroni Cocktail

1½ ounces gin (I used Hendrick’s)
1½ ounces Campari
1½ ounces sweet vermouth (or less, according to taste)

Shake vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a Martini glass...or a jelly glass, if necessary. Use any glass that’s handy. Garnish with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. Or don’t garnish it. I don’t really give a crap whether you garnish it or not.

Be careful with these. Assuming you are one of the rare individuals who will actually drink one, you will find that it is a sophisticated libation that is quite refreshing, once you get past the flavor, which is both bittersweet and herbaceous. Drink more than one at your own risk: they’re potent.

CARNIVALIA IN ABSENTIA

Herewith a few links to various Bloggy Carnivals that have been posted during my absence over the past few days:

Friday Ark #144 - Posted, as usual, by the Modulator...with Yours Truly scoring not one, but two Pole Positions.

Carnival of the Cats #170 - This week, the Biggest and best Kitty Carnival of them all is at This, That & The Other Thing.

Carnival of the Recipes - This week’s edition is hosted by Gourmet a Go Go. So, go!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

RATE THIS

Online Dating

Mingle2 - What’s my blog rated?


From the inimitable Velociman comes this latest Stupid-Ass Doo-Dad that purports to give your blog the MPAA Rating Smackdown.

The basis for my NC-17 rating? Here ’tis:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • hell (11x)

  • schmutschkie (10x)

  • crap (8x)

  • ass (7x)

  • fucking (5x)

  • doodie (4x)

  • dead (3x)

  • meat (3x)

  • pee-pee (2x)

  • weenus (2x)

  • pudendum (1x)

  • frint (1x)

  • whoo-ah (1x)

  • ankylosing spondylitis (1x)

  • Zonker (1x)

What a crock of shit excrement doodie poo. It’s censorship, I tells ya!

MAGNETIC PERSONALITY

Sometimes I can’t resist buying the occasional Refrigerator Magnet...

Fridge Magnets
[Click to embiggen.]

RUBDOWN

It looks like Chickie was the only one who noticed my absence from these pages beginning last Thursday. After she wondered in the comments whether a search party should be sent out, I tossed her a set of blog-keys. (Thanks fer fillin’ in, Chickie!)

Where was I? You may well ask. SWMBO and I, having spent the first week of the month on the beach in Cancún, had not fully satisfied our Beach Jones (which could be taken a s a play on “Jones Beach,” the shore of my Snot-Nose Days), and thus it was that we joined our friends Gary and JoAnn as well as Laura Belle and Don on a Long Weekend in Destin, Florida.

While we were in Destin, Gary and JoAnn joined SWMBO and me for a day of unbridled indulgence at Serenity by the Sea, the Fancy-Ass Spa at the Sandestin Resort. We spent the day working out in the gym, lolling in the hot tub, relaxing by the pool, roasting in the sauna, and schvitzing in the steam room...but the best part was the massage. For there is nothing quite like having your fleshy self oiled up and rubbed (mostly) all over by a total stranger.

The massage, be it Swedish, aromatherapeutic, hot stones, Reiki, or Sheiki, and Beiki, is - at least for me - a rare and treasured indulgence, as well as a unique (and completely bizarre) human institution. I heartily recommend it.

Last year, I had opted for the Swedish massage. It was extremely relaxing, but the aroma of the fish oil attracted hordes of feral cats for weeks afterward. And so this year I selected the Brazilian massage.

There’s nothing quite as invigorating as a Brazilian massage. In lieu of the traditional massage oil, the masseuse uses a blend of fine Carnauba waxes. Things got a little tense about thirty minutes in, when she started yanking clumps of hair from several rather sensitive areas, but after a while she got used to the screaming. When I was done, I was aglow...and, moreover, my entire body had the glossy shine most people associate with only the most sophisticated bowling alleys.

Some of the more filthy-minded of my Esteemed Readers will no doubt be sniggering to themselves, saying, “Betcha Elisson got him a Happy Ending on that there massage.” Sorry to disappoint, you prurient bastards, but the local Massage Talent is apparently under strict instructions to keep a safe distance from cracks, twigs, and berries - instructions that are, sadly, hammered in strongly enough so that a clandestinely proffered double sawbuck will not uproot them. (Just kidding, honey!)

If you want to experience some serenity by the sea - or behind the luncheonette - getcha a good old-fashioned rubdown!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Taking Chances

How often do you take chances? Are you a risk-taker? Do you think about things long and hard before you try something new or do you fly by the seat of your pants? In terms of psychology’s “big five” personality traits, the personality trait most associated with risk-taking is known as “Openness to Experience.” I’m finding that, quite often, people aren’t so open, they take the safe route in life, in case something unfortunate might happen. No, I’m not just using this as another way to study for a psych class; I got to thinking about chances and risk when I read about this story yesterday via LL, a sad reminder that sometimes taking a chance does indeed end up disastrous.

I think of myself as a fairly open person. I met my husband via a BBS back in the day, before the Internet was as popular and widespread as it is today (does that make me “open” or just a geek??) At 32, I enrolled in University for the first time and although it was a bit scary at first, I absolutely love it now. I like trying new foods, new activities, traveling, and yes, even going on scary thrill rides.

Another one of my favourite things to do is meet new people. I love everything about people: meeting them, talking to them, getting to know them, figuring out what makes them tick, or even just watching them when I’m in a public place (no, I’m not a voyeur and even if I was, this is Elisson’s pad and I'm trying to keep it clean here). I’m not what you would call shy in any respect. My mother recalls me, as a child, going up to complete strangers when we would go camping and saying, “Hi, I’m ‘Chickie,’ want to be friends?”

So, it was that love of meeting people that led me to a new friendship in the summer of last year. I’d been reading these “Jawja bloggers” for a while - basically, these were the only blogs I read. I really don’t know how I ended up getting addicted to reading a bunch of cats from the southern US, it just kind of happened. When I decided to start my own blog, many of those same writers I’d been reading started to read and comment on mine as well. I believe it was early June when, through the magic of blogging, I found out that Elisson himself was coming to my fair city. Were I the tentative type, I might have been too nervous to venture out to a bar at 10:30 at night to meet someone I’d only known electronically, this Jewish dude from Atlanta who blogged one minute about fine cuisine and the next (and quite frequently) about excrement.

Everything turned out just fine, of course; we had a great time chatting over a couple of drinks and we even had the opportunity to spend some more time together later in the summer. Taking another chance, I decided to schlep my butt onto a plane and fly a mere 2500 kilometres to attend my first-ever blogmeet. A bit nervous? Sure I was, but it was worth it, I was welcomed right into the fold of the Blown-Eyes and was treated like family by E and SWMBO.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, unlike the poor girl in the story I linked at the top, I’ve taken plenty of chances in my life and so far, they’ve all turned out pretty darn great. While I don’t advocate being completely foolhardy when making decisions, I think it is a good thing to be able to trust yourself enough to try new things, even if they seem a little scary or risky at first. You never know what wonderful new experiences (or people) are waiting around the corner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

IN PRAISE OF THE WATER-SODIUM CHLORIDE EUTECTIC

From Wikipedia: A eutectic or eutectic mixture is a mixture of two or more solid phases at a composition that has the lowest melting point, and where the phases simultaneously crystallise from molten liquid solution at this temperature.

Thass a lotta fitty-cent words. But all we have to know is that water ice and sodium chloride - good old table salt - form a eutectic mixture (at 23.3% salt) that freezes at -6°F (-21.2°C).

Who gives a shit? you say. Well, you do, if you’ve ever had to drive on ice-covered roads in the winter. Dump some rock salt on that ice, and suddenly its freezing point drops 38 degrees. Unless you’re in frickin’ Siberia, where -6°F is an average summer temperature, this will help melt the ice, possibly keeping you from racking up your brand-new Chevy Subdivision that uses enough gasoline to supply an entire third-world country or two.

And fatties everywhere also give a shit, for the ice-salt eutectic is what powers the humble Home Ice Cream Freezer. That, and a liberal application of elbow grease - or electricity, for lazy turds like Yours Truly.

Herewith another fine ice cream recipe. I happened to have a pile of apricots, and what with our impending departure for Destin, I did not want to eighty-six ’em. The solution: Make ice cream!

Apricot Ice Cream
Apricot Ice Cream, a happy result of the water-sodium chloride eutectic.

Apricot Ice Cream

1½ pounds fresh, ripe apricots
4½ tbsp water
2¼ cups granulated sugar
3 cups whipping cream
9 egg yolks
1 tsp (approx.) vanilla extract
1 tbsp (approx.) kirsch

Pit the apricots and slice them up. Put the sliced apricots in a saucepan with the 4½ tbsp water and simmer until soft, 30-45 minutes. The water is there to prevent the fruit from sticking until it gets hot enough to release its juices.

Dump the apricots into a food processor, blender, or food mill, and purée thoroughly. Press the purée through a sieve and set aside.

In a non-reactive saucepan or double boiler, add the sugar to the cream. Heat on low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved completely. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to mix and then gradually whisk in the warm cream. Put the egg-sugar-cream mixture back in the saucepan or double boiler and cook until the mixture coats a spoon. (I recommend the double boiler; it makes it much more difficult to overcook the custard. You do not want scrambled eggs!)

Take the custard off the heat and whisk in the apricot purée. Add about a teaspoon of vanilla extract, more or less, to taste, along with about a tablespoon of kirsch. (I rummaged through my Lacquer Liquor Locker and found a bottle that I had brought back from Zug, Switzerland, back in 1989. Boo-yah!) Now put the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours and chill thoroughly.

Time to get out that ice cream freezer again. Freeze the mixture according to the directions that came with your freezer...directions that will, like as not, involve the use of ice and salt. (Unless you have one of those fancy-ass jobs with its own built-in refrigeration unit. Yuppie scum.)

Now taste...and smile. That’s an ice cream you won’t ever see in any stoopidmarket: perfumed with the delicate flavor of one of the summer’s most subtle fruits. Don’t forget to lick the dasher!

LOWLY, JUST LOWLY

Those of my Esteemed Readers with children of a certain age may be familiar with this guy:

Lowly Worm!
Lowly Worm, the infamous “Scourge of Busytown.”

Lowly Worm! Brainchild of the late Richard Scarry, Lowly is surely one of the strangest and most perverse characters to ever appear in a children’s book. Don’t let that jaunty Tyrolean hat fool you. Lowly Worm is one sick son of a bitch.

First, let’s examine the Naming Convention. Just as Jews and Icelanders name their children using the patronymic system (Simcha ben Eliyahu, Björk Guðmundsdóttir), earthworms apparently name their children by using their economic or social status as a given name and their species as a surname. In a society of humans, this could have amusing results: Struggling Lower Middle Class Publicemployee, Wealthy Businessman, Poor Schmuck. But with worms, you get Lowly Worm. Is “lowly” his status in Worm Society, or is it a general commentary on the position of worms within the overall animal community? Is there a fellow worm who calls himself “Exalted Planarian”?

And then there are Lowly’s sexual practices, practices so vile as to even give Velociman pause. Like other earthworms, Lowly is a hermaphrodite. What does he call his female alter ego - Lovely Worm? And when Huckle Cat tells him to go fuck himself, does he just smile and get right down to business? (As a worm, he’s the “bait” in “masturbate.”)

Why any of this should be surprising to anyone is beyond me. After all, you have here a creature who resembles nothing so much as (not to belabor an unfortunate stereotype) a Chinaman’s dick an under-endowed Asian gentleman’s privates. With a hat, yet. Yeef.

Lowly has also been blamed for creating unrealistic body-image expectations amongst prepubescent girls. To these girls, Lowly’s slender torso - come to think of it, Lowly is pretty much all torso - represents the ideal body form, and they are inevitably disappointed when their lumpy, misshapen figures fail to conform to this ideal. How many tender young egos have been irreparably crushed as a result?

Given these grave concerns, I’d have to say that as a cute cartoon character, Lowly Worm leaves much to be desired. He’s worse that unpleasant...he’s Downright Scarry.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SURGE

Last Thursday, one of those late-afternoon thunderstorms for which the South is famous rolled through the neighborhood.

I was toiling away in my home-based outpost of the Great Corporate Salt Mine when the storm blew in. SWMBO and the Mistress were off at the Nail Salon, doing...whatever it is the ladies do at the Nail Salon.

*flash* POP WHAMMO!

You know a lightning strike has been really, really close when you hear the POP! just before the crack of the thunder.

This bolt apparently didn’t hit the house. Good thing, too: We’ve lost all kinds of telephones and miscellaneous electronic equipment to lightning strikes over the years, both here in Atlanta and in Houston. Alarm systems, telephones, garage door openers, television sets, HVAC system controller circuits: you name it, we’ve had it fried at one time or another.

Everything seemed to be in order, though, and the DSL line still worked (after a warm reset).

The next time the phone rang, though, we found out otherwise. The main line was full of static and buzz, enough to where the Caller ID no longer worked. Too bad, because you needed it to figure out who was on the line. The buzzing was so bad, you couldn’t recognize voices.

Strangely, only the residential line was affected. The business line was fine.

We called the phone company, and they arranged to send out a technician. “Monday, between 3 and 7 pm,” they said. He finally showed up this morning and started doing his Detective Thingy. Turns out the buzzing was due to a blown-out surge protector. Problem solved!

That was good news indeed. It means the surge protector did exactly what it was designed to do, saving our telephones, DSL modem, and computer.

We’ll have to buy a new one, of course, but that’s an expenditure I'll be happy to make. It’s a small price to pay for the safety of the Electronica d’Elisson.

Do you have surge protectors? And do they have slots for your telephone lines? If not, what are you waiting for? Get yer ass out to the office supplies or electronics store and buy some cheap-ass protection! Think of it as a Condom for your Electronic Dick. Safe computing!

Monday, June 18, 2007

JUNE GUILD FUNCTION

Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.

Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!

- dialogue from Sideways, 2004


Tonight, Denny and I are going to have to suffer through yet another Sommelier Guild tasting dinner. And we’ll be drinking plenty of fucking Merlot.

The theme of tonight’s tasting appears to be Deathmatch: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ll work our way through a series of bouts in which a Napa Valley Merlot is paired up with a Cab from the same vintage. Which ones will still be standing at the end of the evening?

This one may well be the toughest yet. I’m out of shape, having missed last month’s Guild banquet. That will make it especially difficult to deal with the avalanche of Fancy Food and the flood of Expensive Wine that they’ll be flinging at us at Petite Auberge:

Starter:
2005 Ferrari Carano Chardonnay (the evening’s token white wine)

Assorted Hors d’Oeuvres

Flight 1:
1995 Truchard Napa Valley Merlot
1995 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley

French onion soup with Swiss and Münster cheese

Flight 2:
1996 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Merlot “Crimson Creek”
1996 Hess Collection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Chicken Cordon Bleu served over risotto

Flight 3:
1997 Turnbull Napa Valley Merlot
1997 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Beef Wellington served with bordelaise and béarnaise sauces

Flight 4:
1999 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Merlot
1999 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Artisan cheese platter served with figs, dates, and walnuts

How the hell am I going to choke all this down? I guess I’ll have to force myself. Noblesse oblige, and all dat...it’s the Rich Man’s Burden all us SRF©’s gotta bear...

Update: I ended up preferring the Merlots over the Cabs in every flight...although they were all very close. And believe me when I tell you that it’s fairly difficult for an ordinary slob like me to distinguish a Merlot from a Cab in a blind tasting.

The last two flights were extraordinary...and some of the “lagniappe” was tasty as well. One of the guys brought a bottle of Stag’s Leap Winery’s 2001 Fay Vineyard Cab, a serious, mature bottle that was the perfect finish to the evening.

Bottom line: Either Cabernet or Merlot is fine with me, but the Merlots have a slight edge.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

AVIAN INVADERS!

It was a couple of weeks ago, as we were packing our bags for Cancún, that She Who Must Be Obeyed came into the house in a mild state of agitation. She had been getting ready to water the plants on the deck, it seems, when she saw a bird sitting on the threshold of the door.

Have I told you that SWMBO does not like birds? In fact, she loathes them. It’s a trait she inherited from her mother, who has a deadly dislike of avian critters of any kind. Hell, I’m surprised that the two of ’em eat chicken. I guess it’s the beak and feathers that bugs the crap out of ’em.

One time, we had to have our dryer outlet vent cleaned out after a bird had built a nest in there. The mama bird had cooked to death in the hot dryer exhaust, and the guy who augered out the vent simply dropped the dead bird’s corpse into the laundry room waste can. The Missus nearly crapped a peach pit when she saw it.

And now, there was a bird (Horrors!) perched, as it were, right outside the door.

The problem: How to get the watering can outside without letting the bird in the house.

The solution: Ask Elisson to do it.

The result: As soon as I opened the door, the bird waltzed right in.

Now we had a bird in the house, and SWMBO was not going to rest until it had been removed. And neither would I, for I heard this pronunciamento thundering down from upstairs, where SWMBO had fled: “You’re not going to bed until that thing is out of the house!”

Avian Invader
Our little Avian Invader.

It was a pitiful little thing. I suspect it was a fledgeling that had recently left the nest and that could fly only with great effort. Luckily for me, it never left the kitchen -had it gotten into the high-ceilinged foyer, catching it would have required a professional. But after flitting back and forth across the room a few times, it was exhausted. While it was hanging on to our plantation shutters for dear life, I was able to slip a mesh bag over it. You know: the kind wimmen use to wash their brassieres Delicate Underthings in.

You can be sure SWMBO would boil that bag before putting one of her Delicate Underthings in it again. Bird cooties! Eww! But she was relieved that I had caught it without hurting it. She may not like Real Live Birds, but her dislike stops short of wishing them harm.

I took it outside and gently released it from its Mesh Prison. Next morning, I was half-prepared to find a pathetic little bird-corpse on the deck, but no. Perhaps the little guy was able to recover his strength and fly off to...wherever it is that these guys fly off to in the spring. Cleveland?

FELINE FURNITURE

One of the little...ahh...peculiarities of She Who Must Be Obeyed is that she cannot resist buying Useless Crap for the kitties. Cat beds, in particular, seem to bring out the Purchasing Instinct in her. Never mind that 99% of the time, the only bed our cats want to sleep in - Matata, anyway - is the one in which we may be found.

Yesterday, as we prowled the hallways of Costco, SWMBO’s laser-guided Kitty Crap Detector started zizzing and beeping. What should we find but a Dinky-Ass Sofa, one perfectly sized to fit a dog...or a cat or two? Anything north of standard poodle-size might have trouble squeezing onto it, but for Hakuna and Matata, it was just right.

Of course, we had to buy it. SWMBO insisted, no matter how much I rolled my eyes and ridiculed her.

And - lookee here! - Matata likes it!

Sofa Matata
“Oh, boy! More territory from which to exclude Hakuna!”

And it’s also eminently suited to some of our More Petite Friends...

Laura Belle on the cat Sofa
It’s a perfect fit for Laura Belle!

A DADDY DAY FEAST

The Missus sure do know how to take care of Daddy on Daddy’s Day.

Since, alas, her own Daddy is defunct, and since both my Daddy and her step-Daddy live at a remove of several hundred miles, that leaves me as the only Daddy conveniently situated to enjoy her Father’s Day beneficence.

We’ll be having a Feast of Major Proportions.

SWMBO asked me what I wanted. Normally, I would have specified some sort of beefsteak. Bone-in rib-eye, perhaps? Filets? New York strip steaks? How ’bout a honkin’ big-ass porterhouse? All good...but I have been gorging on red meat all this past week, starting with a few monster rib-eyes that I grilled and sliced up last Monday, continuing through a sliced New York strip roast Tuesday evening, the leftover rib-eye Wednesday (shared with the Mistress), the gargantuan burgers and hot dogs we gorged upon at Gary and JoAnn’s Friday evening, and London broil Saturday with John and Jackie T-. I loves me some beef, but this was beginning to get ridiculous. Enough with the beef already! says the Inflated Gut d’Elisson.

Fish! That’s the ticket. We were pleased to find several huge slabs at Costco – not the usual farm-raised crap, but wild Alaskan salmon. The rich, red-orange flesh was irresistible. We’ll plank those bad boys on the grill with a liberal coating of potlatch seasoning and serve them with generous lashings of blueberry chutney – a batch of which I just cooked up this morning. [Thanks, Kimberly!]

Along with the fish we’ll have grilled asparagus, marinated in olive oil, kosher salt, and piment d’espelette (Basque red pepper). SWMBO just built a magnificent pasta salad, dressed with nothing but garlic-infused olive oil, chopped parsley, and basil. I tasted it. It kicks ass.

What else? Steamed green beans (just in case someone wants Basic Roughage) and a salad of mixed spring greens with strawberries, walnuts, and gorgonzola.

For dessert? Fresh apricots, served alongside scoops of homemade blackberry ice cream.

That blackberry ice cream is simplicity itself to make...and is, in fact, my sole contribution to this Big-Ass Meal. Here’s how to do it yerself:

Blackberry Ice Cream

3 cups blackberries
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp (approx.) vanilla extract

Using a food processor or food mill, purée the blackberries. Press the purée through a sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside a cup of the seedless purée.

In a non-reactive saucepan, add the sugar to one cup of the cream. Heat on low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved completely. Add the remaining cup of cream and the blackberry purée and mix thoroughly. Add about a teaspoon of vanilla extract, more or less, to taste. Then stick the whole mess in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to chill and mellow out.

Now get out your ice cream freezer and freeze the mixture according to the directions that came with that selfsame freezer. Dish it out and spoon a little blackberry purée over it if you have any left over. Beats Ben and Jerry like red-headed stepchildren.

Ya want pictures? We got pictures...below the fold.



Spring Greens with Strawberries, Walnuts, and Gorgonzola
Mixed Spring Greens with Strawberries, Walnuts, and Gorgonzola.

Planked Salmon
Planked Salmon shares the grill with some chicken and apple sausages.

Pasta Salad
SWMBO’s kick-ass Pasta Salad. Green beans and grilled asparagus lurk in the background.

Blackberry Ice Cream
Blackberry Ice Cream with apricots and blueberries.

Eat yer hearts out!

FATHER’S DAY


Elisson’s Dad (L), SWMBO’s Dad (R)

As an Empty Nester Dad, I enjoy the company of my chirrens whenever I can...which, alas, is not as often as I’d like it to be, given that they reside at a distance. Fortunately, within the last three weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with both Daughters d’Elisson. Besides affording me great pleasure, a visit with my girls always reminds me that simply being their father is, without question, my greatest personal achievement.

I remember the near-panic I felt before Elder Daughter arrived, but I have to work hard now to summon up that memory, buried beneath over twenty-eight years of Subsequent Experience. Most remarkable to me is the fact that, upon becoming a Dad, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Even more, it was like opening a window into the soul of my own Dad, Eli hizzownself. Suddenly I felt closer to him than ever before, owing to the bond of shared experience.

As I’ve noted in past posts, being a Daddy is a team effort, and I owe a lot of my Mad Daddy Skillz to the fact that I am attached at hip and shoulder to the one and only SWMBO. But today is Father’s Day, and so I will bask in the limelight while I can. [Does Father’s Day observance include Catholic priests? Just curious...]

“Daddy.” It’s a title I carry with pride, an accomplishment for which I was trained by riding on the shoulders of giants. Look upon their photographs above, and be awed.

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there! You’ve earned it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

LONGEVITY

The Mistress: “How do you stay with the same person for thirty years?”

SWMBO: “Just like you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.”

Friday, June 15, 2007

SHOWDOWN

They stand facing each other in the dusty street, brows beaded with droplets of acrid sweat. Each waits for the other to make the first move, the move that will start a chain of events that will, in all likelihood, leave one of them dead in the dirt within moments.

It’s a showdown: ¿Quién es más macho?


Pablo McCartney, el cantar “Jé Hood”?


O Tim Minúsculo, el cantar “Escalera al Cielo”?

Some people have their money on Pablo...

[For the record, Tiny Tim also has covered “Hey Jude,” turning it into a bizarre cha-cha number. Alas, I cannot seem to find a video version posted on YouTube...]

CONFRONTATION

Confrontation
“Hey, bub - I’d clean your clock if this window wasn’t in the way!”

Matata in rare “Big Tail” mode, confronted with an Invader on her Sacred Turf.

Who is this ginger tabby? Nobody knows...no collar, no ID. The Mistress was just about ready to take her back to Savannah with her...

The Mistress and Pumpkin

...but Pumpkin, here, would get an even frostier reception from Neighbor, the Mistress’s cat, were she to do so. We’ll see if she hangs around the area...

THE ELISSON BOOKSHELF

The Elisson Bookshelf

Or, What I’ve Been Reading Lately.

It’s been ten months since I’ve posted about the Old Book Pile d’Elisson. As I said last time I did so, putting up a list of the books I’ve been reading is nothing more than another great big Exercise in Self-Indulgence, right up there along with my Friday Random Ten. But, of course, that won’t stop me...

So: What has Old Uncle Elisson has been reading over this last couple of months, anyway?

March
  • On The Wealth Of Nations - P. J. O’Rourke

    The premier conservative humorist deconstructs the Founding Document of Western-style capitalism in his inimitable style.

  • Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume II - William Tenn

  • Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume I - William Tenn

    A two-volume retrospective featuring one of the great (and underappreciated) science fiction writers of the twentieth century. Tenn is insightful and sharp-witted in this collection, a must-read for any serious SF reader. Needless to say, I read Volume II first, since I had to jump through hoops to find a copy of Volume I.

April
  • Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: The World's Unhealthiest Cookbook - Steve H. Graham

    The author is none other than blogdom’s own Steve H., proprietor of Hog on Ice and Roller Coaster of Hate. This book, originally published using the tried-and-true vanity press route, will shortly be coming to a bookstore near you, courtesy of a Real Publisher. I recommend it more for Teh Funny than the recipes, which are devastatingly tasty-sounding but which will stop your heart.

  • Nasty Bits, The: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones - Anthony Bourdain

    More Cheffy Fun from the author of Kitchen Confidential.

  • Good, the Spam, and the Ugly, The: Shooting It Out with Internet Bad Guys - Steve H. Graham

    Steve H. takes on Nigerian internet spammers. Hilarity ensues.

May
  • Rollback - Robert J. Sawyer

    What happens when the aliens finally start communicating with us? And how do we establish a dialogue when each message takes thirty-two years to reach its recipient? That premise is intriguing enough, but it’s just the backdrop to the real story: What if you and your True Love of a lifetime can have your youth back...and what if the treatment only works on one of you?

  • Platinum Pohl - Frederik Pohl

    An anthology of some of Fred Pohl’s finest short stories.

  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union - Michael Chabon

    A noirish-Yiddish detective novel set in an intriguing alternate world, a world in which the Jewish homeland is established, not in Palestine, but in Alaska - an idea that actually was considered for a brief time following World War II.

June
  • America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It - Mark Steyn

    A humorous look at a serious subject in the vein of P. J. O’Rourke, this book examines the decline of Europe and the ascendancy of Islamic “Eurabia,” a shift in civilization driven by birthrates, religion, and politics.

  • Enchanter Completed, The: A Tribute Anthology for L. Sprague de Camp - Harry Turtledove (editor)

    A collection of SF and fantasy stories honoring the late author L. Sprague de Camp, writer of Lest Darkness Fall and numerous other tales.

  • Einstein: His Life and Universe - Walter Isaacson

    A detailed and eminently readable examination of Einstein’s life and his contributions to 20th century physics - contributions that have not only changed the way we look at the world, but that have changed the world itself.

What have you been reading lately?

BOWLED OVER: A 100-WORD HISTORY LESSON

Few people know that the modern game of bowling traces its origins to the steppes of Central Asia. To the very court of Genghis Khan, in fact.

His Mongol hordes wreaked cruelty, death and destruction on all who resisted their sweep across Asia. It was after they leveled a particularly recalcitrant village that Genghis took the head of its chieftain - now detached from its body - and, holding it by the mouth and eye sockets, rolled it down a dusty alley, knocking over a pile of villagers’ bones.

But it was his grandson Kublai who invented the Bowling Shirt.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Hoo-hah! It’s Friday!

This week, SWMBO and I had to readjust to Normal Life after a pleasant time broiling by the beach in Cancún. “Normal life,” of course, is a relative thing. For me, it was back to the grindstone at the Great Corporate Salt Mine; for SWMBO, it was back to another week of summer vacation.

As an extra added bonus, the Mistress of Sarcasm drove up from Savannah (in her new Sarcasmobile) in order to grace us with her presence...and in order to visit every Medical Professional she can before she comes off our insurance at the end of the month. Whatever the reason, it’s always nice to have the Mistress around.

It’s been a while - two weeks! - since I have subjected you to a dose of Random Musical Spewage from the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson, so it’s time we got down to business. Here we go:
  1. Honey Pie - The Beatles
  2. Devo Corporate Anthem - Devo
  3. Dead - They Might Be Giants
  4. Cop Song - Urinetown, Original Cast Recording
  5. Call Any Vegetable - The Mothers of Invention
  6. Peaceful Inside (live) - Moonraker
  7. Scene 9: Call Me Elisabeth - Philip Glass, Les Enfants Terribles
  8. These Days - Nico
  9. No One Else - Weezer
  10. Aknot! Wot? - Eric Serra, The Fifth Element
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

The Kitties are happy that Elisson’s home.
And this is the spot where he sticks in a poem
Pimping the Carnivals of the week -
The Friday Ark thus impels him to speak.


The 143rd voyage of the Friday Ark has set sail from the Port of the Modulator. Go and check out the doggies and kitties...and Antediluvian Reptiles.

The 169th edition of the Carnival of the Cats - to be published Sunday evening, as usual - is still, as of this writing, without a home. I will post its eventual location here as soon as I know it.

Update: CotC #169 is up at Strange Ranger.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

LALOLKFATYK

Sounds like an old Soupy Sales song, no? Oh, wait. That was “Pachalafaka.”

No, this is Yet Another Stupid-Ass Meme, this one coming to you courtesy of Erica Sherman, herownself, although the thread has been picked up by several other people with a tenuous grip on reality. And, now, me.

LALOLKFATYK, not surprisingly, is not some unpronounceable Eastern European word; rather, it is an acronym for “Learn A Lot Of Little Known Facts About Those You Know.” Better yet, “…Those You Think You Know.” And here’s how we play this game, boys and girls – after you’ve worked your way through this post, if the mood so seizes you, feel free to answer these selfsame questions, either in a post on your blog or in the comments to this post. If you do write a post, link back to this one so I can laugh at your shit...much as you will laugh at mine.

WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Good question. It is traditional to name children after deceased relatives. The problems set in when the relatives who did the naming are all dead and can’t remember who the hell you were named after. At this point, I’m just glad nobody is named for me.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
I’m pretty sure it was at Yizkor services at Yom Kippur, for reasons I have written about here.

DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
It’s OK. Reasonably neat, nothing special. But you can read it, which is more than I can say about any doctor I know.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
A good kosher pastrami, not too lean, and eaten hot on rye bread (of course) with mustard, maybe some tongue or corned beef, and a little chopped liver. Pastrami on white is a crime against nature. Oh, and don’t forget the Ba-Tampte half-sour pickle.

DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Aw, hell, yes. Two daughters, known here as Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm, and two of the finest human beings I have the privilege to know. Not that I’m biased or anything.

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Should I be?

DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Yes I do, ya gaping asshole. Oh, wait. That’s not sarcasm – that’s a gratuitous insult.

DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes. My adenoids, too.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Only if the other option was a bullet in the brain.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Posthumous Toasties.

Just kidding. Hot, I like McCann’s Irish Oatmeal (the steel-cut type) or Wheatena. Cold, Grape-Nuts has a reassuringly nubbly texture...but Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a guilty pleasure. I could eat a trough of that crap.

DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
If they have laces, yes. Otherwise, no. Duh.

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
What, my breath?

Muscle-wise, I can hold my own. And frequently do.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
That’s a bit like asking, “What kind of tits do you like best?” (Answer: Most of ’em.) But recently, I had a revelation: Nestlé makes a coconut ice cream in Mexico (helados de coco) that is so unbelievably kick-ass rich and creamy, it’s almost worth schlepping down to the Yucatan Peninsula just to get a carton.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
The eyes...right up there with the Bodacious Ta-Tas, in the case of you ladies. Heh.

RED OR PINK?
Red. Unless we’re talking about Pepto-Bismol.

WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
I procrastinate. Hell, I was gonna write this post last year.

WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
I miss my mother. She’s been gone nineteen years now, and my biggest regret is that she never got to see what beautiful, self-assured young women her granddaughters have grown to be.

WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Pants: Black linen. Shoes: Black Crocs, no socks.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Mongolian beef and egg foo yung from the local Chinese take-out place. Yummers.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The sounds of “The Office” playing on the TV as background to the voices of SWMBO and the Mistress, the latter writing a profile to be posted on the Internet.

IF YOU WHERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Prune Danish.

FAVORITE SMELLS?
SWMBO in the morning. (Really.) Drifting cigar smoke. Scotch whisky. Hot coffee. Chicken soup, simmering on the stove. And the old People’s Gas works on Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach, a bizarre, yet pleasant, childhood memory. Oh Captain, Mercaptan!

WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
SWMBO, confirming that she had called our dinner order in to the Chinese place and that it was ready for pickup.

FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Golf and baseball.

HAIR COLOR[S]?
Dark brown, so dark most people think it’s black. But it’s not. And a leetle gray on the temples ’n’ poobz chest hair.

EYE COLOR?
Green.

DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Not any more. I wore hard gas-permeable lenses for years, but when I started needing reading glasses about seven years ago, I figured that it made more sense to get glasses with progressive lenses and bag the contacts. Wearing one pair of glasses all the time beats screwing with contacts and having to carry around a set of readers. Bifocal contacts? No, thankyew.

FAVORITE FOOD?
When all is said and done, it’s hard to beat a big, thick, honkin’ bone-in ribeye steak, charred on the outside with a medium-rare interior.

SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Apples? Or oranges? I like ’em both...

LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
In the theatre? That would be Amazing Grace. The last movie I watched on DVD was The Holiday, when SWMBO and I visited Eli and Toni in early April. I don’t believe I have seen a movie on DVD since then. TV shows, yes: movies, no.

WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
I’m wearing a tropical-style shirt with a fish theme. The predominant color is black, with accents of green, white, and salmon. Yes, salmon.

SUMMER OR WINTER?
Fall.

HUGS OR KISSES?
Blow me.

FAVORITE DESSERT?
For everyday purposes, ice cream. Key lime pie is good too. But the king-hell Best Dessert Ever is the crème caramel at Café Annie in Houston.

MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
Chickie. Of course, she’s already done this.

LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
Velociman doesn’t do memes, and Zonker doesn’t write blogposts.

WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
The Dangerous Book for Boys. Really.

WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
What’s a mouse pad, you Luddite? (You don’t need one with a wireless laser mouse.)

WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT?
The Mistress of Sarcasm and I watched a few episodes of “Kitchen Confidential,” a short-lived series based on Anthony Bourdain’s book of the same name that is now out, in its one-shot entirety, on DVD. Hysterical. Then we watched a couple of episodes of “Fawlty Towers” on VHS, a classic series that has especial resonance for the Mistress, given her current employment. And then, upon retiring, I caught a few minutes of “Robot Chicken.”

FAVORITE SOUND[S]?
The sound of blue Caribbean rollers crashing upon a snow-white shore.
The sound of ice cubes in a glass of gin and tonic.
“Sir, please accept this dinner with our compliments.”

ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Beatles...although there are times I want to slap Paul McCartney upside the head.

WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Surabaya, Indonesia. It’s 10,050 miles away from Trumbull, Connecticut, where I lived at the time of my visit. When it was noon at home, it was midnight in Surabaya.

Strangely enough, while I was in Surabaya, I opened the local English-language paper only to see an article about something that had taken place back in Trumbull. What are the odds of that ever happening?

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I can mimic other people’s writing styles. I have a gift for languages, sufficient to have enabled me to translate the Mr. Ed theme into four different foreign tongues. And...ich kann umfartzen liederlach.

WHAT IS A PLEASANT SURPRISE?
A tit full of whisky.

WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
In Brooklyn, New York, at the now-defunct Madison Park Hospital.

WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK?
Yours. Now, get busy!

LOOKING...

Herewith a brief conversation with the Mistress of Sarcasm:

SWMBO: “What are you looking for?”

The Mistress: “A thumb up my ass and a cigarette in my mouth.”

[Let it be here noted that the Mistress is a nonsmoker.]

FLYING HIGH

Velociman, a connoisseur of Matters both Facial and Spatial, has been posting about the X-15.

Which, of course, inspired me to share the photograph below.

X-15
The X-15.

This is a picture of the Real Thing: the X-15A-1, one of only three X-15 rocket planes ever built. It’s the specimen hanging at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., photographed by Yours Truly last November. I Photoshopped it to remove the museum background and hanging cables, then pasted it into a nice blue-sky background with a little gratuitous motion blur.

There’s something awe-inspiring about standing mere feet away from a machine like that, a machine that has burst the surly bonds of earth and come home (with its living human passenger) to tell the tale. There were giants in those days...

GOOD MORNING TO YOU, TOO

When I pulled into our synagogue’s parking lot for morning Minyan today, I saw Bill, the congregation’s Custodian, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and General Factotum, on his hands and knees in the parking lot, spraying the asphaltum with black spray paint.

“Huh? Wha’?” thought I to myself.

But when I got out of the car, I could see what he was doing. He was attempting to cover up some swastikas that had been spray-painted on the asphalt during the night.

Fortunately, the momzers that left their Stupid-Ass Greeting Card did not deface the building. Perhaps that will come later.

The Rabbi was pretty complacent about the whole thing, apparently because the building itself was not targeted. But we insisted that the police be called - not so much because they will be able to catch the perpetrators, but because they need to know it happened. And they would be the ones to know whether this was a solitary act or part of a larger pattern...a pattern that would be undetectable if individual desecrations were unreported.

So, who did it? A couple of asshole teenagers? That’d be my guess. These morons barely knew how to draw a proper swastika, fer cryin’ out loud.

Were they just having Idiot Fun? Or were they really trying to insult, intimidate, or threaten us? For few graphic symbols pack the visceral wallop of the swastika. It’s the icon of the Nazis, for whom the destruction of all Jews was a matter of official policy, a policy that was acted upon to horrific effect. By rights, the sight of a swastika should send us into a vengeful rage that would make the Danish Mohammed cartoon jihad look like a game of pattycake. But that’s not what we do.

We’re Jews. After a few thousand years, we’re used to the occasional gratuitous insult.

No, we won’t be rioting in the streets. But we will go on with our lives, saying our daily prayers, and every so often shaking our heads and wondering quietly to ourselves, “Why do they hate us?”

[But just the same, I’d love to find the jackasses responsible. I’d make ’em sit through a few days of Diversity Training, hold their hands and sing Kumbaya...and then break their fucking legs with a Louisville Slugger.]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

FUN WITH FLYIN’ FLUIDS

By now, anybody who has traveled by air in the United States is familiar with the TSA (Travel Stupidity Administration) rules concerning liquids in carry-on luggage.

Intended to thwart Terroristic Chemists who might otherwise concoct a dangerous explosive mixture out of easily available household chemicals (or dangerous chemicals that look just like easily available household chemicals), the rules state that liquids intended to be carried on board aircraft must be in containers of no more than 3 ounce capacity, with those containers packed in a transparent plastic zipper bag not exceeding one quart capacity. The zipper bag must be placed separately on the X-ray conveyor belt so its contents may be easily examined.

It’s a huge pain in the ass, but, like all huge pains in the ass, the American Traveling Public has gotten used to it and thus puts up with it. We’ve all bought into the notion that all of this screening for Dangerous Contraband will keep us safe, despite the fact that the only sure route to safety is to screen passengers for suspicious background and behavior. Ah, but that would involve profiling, and so we cannot possibly deal with it.

I generally can deal with the minor inconvenience of having to carry a bag of Tiny Toiletries. If I elect to use a normal-sized deodorant stick or tube of toothpaste, I can simply check my bag. Less to schlep to the gate, anyway.

But coming back from Mexico last Saturday, SWMBO and I had a rude surprise, one that is the result of the Atlanta airport’s unique architecture.

We had had a lengthy layover in Mexico City after an early morning flight from Cancún. All of that time meant that there was ample opportunity to peruse the various duty-free shops there, offering everything from an infinite variety of Tequila to fancy perfumes and electronics to local comestibles. After extensive browsing (and dithering: what to buy?), I settled on a liter of Macallan single malt and the obligatory bottle of Kahlua. Hey - it’s cheap as hell - in Mexico, anyway - and tasty, to boot. I also scored a few bottles of salsa for inexpensive gifts and a bottle of vanilla for our friend Laura Belle, an inveterate cookie baker.

But, you may ask, how do you get the bottles past the security checkpoint? Simple: the duty-free shop delivers the goods to you right at the gate, just as you board the plane. Thus you see stupid contradictions, such as the security people tossing out an unopened can of Coca-Cola (a Forbidden Fluid) moments before you are handed a bag containing a liter of flammable Scotch whisky. Brilliant, fucking brilliant.

So: now we land in Atlanta, go through Immigration, claim our bags, and go through Customs. At any other airport, this is where we walk out of the airport and go home.

But we are not at any other airport. We are in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, an airport with stupidity as long as its name. And we are at Terminal E, the international terminal, and we must now recheck our bags (which will be sent to South Terminal baggage claim) and ride the Underground Choo-Choo to catch up with them. OK, fine.

Well, not so fine. Just as our checked bags are disappearing down the conveyor belt, we find out that we have to pass a security inspection in order to leave Terminal E and get to the transit system. That meant - you guessed it - no liquids in containers larger than 3 ounces, etc. , etc. Which was problematic for us, with our bottles of salsa, vanilla, and two liters of Expensive Adult Beverages.

I was not about to abandon a bottle of 12-year-old Macallan Elegancia. No. Fucking. Way.

And was Elisson steamed? Yes, he was:

Elisson: Fuck fuckity frick frack fuck fuckity fuckin’ fuck!

But while I simmered and fumed, the cool-as-a-cucumber SWMBO figured out a way to git-r-done.

We emptied out my backpack gadget bag, stuffing the camera and accompanying equipment into SWMBO’s (thankfully) oversized purse. We then jammed the bottle of Scotch in there, along with whatever other small bottles would fit, wrapped the whole misshapen mess up in tape, and slapped a bunch of “Fragile” stickers on it.

Next, SWMBO saw a Delta rep about to toss out a cardboard bottle-carrier. She snagged it, and we proceeded to pack the Kahlua in there, using the plastic bags from the duty-free shop as dunnage.

We got both packages tagged and checked them through to the main terminal. I prayed silently that the bottles would survive the transit to Baggage Claim, as I did not particularly relish the thought of having to rinse good Scotch and broken glass out of my gadget bag. During the entire ride from Terminal E, visions of smashed bottles danced through my head. Oy.

As it happens, our luck held; everything arrived intact. But next time, I’ll leave enough space in the checked baggage to shove a duty-free bottle or two.

Postscriptum: I took a peek at the TSA website to see whether I had been an ignoramus. Here’s what it says:

For passengers returning to the United States from an international destination:

On nonstop flights bound for the US, duty-free liquids purchased in an international airport will be permitted through the checkpoint only if they meet U.S. requirements for the use of tamper-evident bags. Duty-free delivered to the aircraft for passenger pick-up, bought on the plane or purchased after the security checkpoint are allowed. [Duty-free purchases in Mexico City are delivered to the aircraft for passenger pick-up in tamper-evident bags.]

If you are flying to the U.S. and have a connecting flight, duty-free liquids that meet U.S. requirements will NOT be permitted through U.S. security checkpoints. If you have a connecting flight, liquid duty-free purchases must be placed in your checked baggage. Since you will be required to reclaim your checked bags prior to passing through customs inspection, you can place duty-free liquids into your bags and recheck them for your connection.

[And there’s the rub. Thanks to the unique design of the Atlanta airport, even though our flight terminated there, it is treated like a connecting flight: Liquid duty-free purchases must be placed in checked baggage before it’s rechecked for delivery from terminal E to the main terminal. Now we know...and now you know, too!]

WOULD YOU LIKE FLIES WITH THAT?

I normally don’t post random Funny Shit that lands in my in-box, but this one was worth sharing, IMBEO (In My Bloatedly Egotistical Opinion):

What happens in a coffee house when a fly falls into a cup of coffee?

It depends on who is drinking the coffee.

An Englishman will throw away the cup of coffee and stalk off, muttering about the bloody rotten hygiene of the coffee house.

An American will take out the fly and drink the coffee.

A Chinese will eat the fly and throw away the coffee.

A Japanese will drink the coffee with the fly, since it was extra.

An Israeli will sell the coffee to the American, the fly to the Chinese, and, with the proceeds, buy himself a new cup of coffee.

A Palestinian...

...will blame the Israeli for the violent act of putting the fly in his coffee; ask the UN for aid; take a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of coffee; use the money to purchase explosives and then blow up the coffee house, where the Englishman, the American, the Chinese, and the Japanese are all trying to explain to the Israeli that he was too aggressive.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to David H- for the Enlightening and Humorous Anecdote.]

FAREWELL, MR. WIZARD

Mr. Wizard
Don Herbert, AKA Mr. Wizard, June 1978. David Pickoff/AP photo.

The world has lost a real wizard.

Not one from the fictional world of Harry Potter, but someone who, back in my Snot-Nose Days, brought the magic of science to the small screen. I refer, of course, to Don Herbert, the Mr. Wizard of television’s Watch Mr. Wizard, who died yesterday from complications of multiple myeloma at the age of 89.

I remember watching Mr. Wizard as a kid, doing his simple experiments and demonstrations - most of which used easily available household chemicals and which he encouraged viewers to replicate at home. In today’s Nanny State, that’d be a troublesome proposition, but back then things were simpler - and people were credited with having more common sense.

Along with the fabled Gilbert Chemistry Set, the Science Service’s “Things of Science” kits, and Estes model rockets, Mr. Wizard helped kindle a lifelong interest in science within Yours Truly, one that culminated in my earning a chemical engineering degree (cum laude!) from a Reasonably Prestigious University.

Harry Potter may be able to wave his wand and convert a turd into a diamond, but Mr. Wizard could show you how molten sulfur could change color from yellow to orange to red to black, all the while making your kitchen stink like Satan’s sphincter. That was real magic.

Ave atque vale, Don. We’ll miss you...

WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?

As if Jimbo didn’t have enough to worry about, an eight-foot long alligator has shown up in the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County, Georgia - within half a mile of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s former offices, and a mere ten miles from Chez Elisson.

Hooch Gator
“Boah, you not from around heah, are yew?”

A fisherman, one Nick Lawrimore, spotted the beast as he was getting ready to wade into the river. The alligator had its beady eyes on a two-foot carp when Lawrimore’s appearance caused him to submerge.

Alligators normally don’t inhabit the rivers this far north; it’s too cold for them to survive year-round. DNR officals are speculating that someone may have dropped this guy off in a local body of water - possibly when he was much smaller - and somehow he found his way to the Big River.

Reptiles like this don’t bother me much, mainly because I don’t spend a lot of time wading in the local riparian waterways. Hell, we got to watch a ten-foot crocodile swim by as we were enjoying an alfresco dinner last week at the Laguna Grill in Cancún. Trolling for table scraps and inebriated diners, perhaps. Jimbo would have had a farookin’ shit hemorrhage.

Dinner Croc
Guess who’s coming to dinner?

State officials plan to catch Mr. ’Gator and schlep him down to south Georgia. On the other hand, with a few well-placed bribes pecuniary donations, why not go the other way and bring him up to a more northerly part of the Chattahoochee - say, perhaps, in Helen? Now, that’d add some extra sparkle and excitement to the next Helen blogmeet...watching tubers and drunk bloggers play ’Gator Roulette in front of the Troll...