Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A LANGUAGE OF OUR OWN

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of artificial languages. Not fascinated enough, I’ll admit, to ever allow me to consider becoming a computer programmer, but what are FORTRAN, BASIC, or COBOL (I’m showing my age here) but made-up languages?

And, of course, there’s that perennial favorite of Trekkies: Klingon, created and designed by one Dr. Marc Okrand, a linguist hired by Paramount Pictures. There have been books published in Klingon, including at least one Shakespeare play; furthermore, there are people who are able to carry on entire conversations in Klingon, generally in the context of trying to get laid at Star Trek conventions. A more futile quest is hard to imagine.

The most widely spoken constructed language is most likely Esperanto (“one who hopes”), invented by Dr. L. L. Zamenhof in the 1870’s - 1880’s. Spoken by between 100,000 and 2,000,000 people today, Esperanto was intended to be a universal second language, a means of creating peace and international understanding. Well, we can see how well that worked out.

According to Wikipedia,
Esperanto is not genealogically related to any ethnic language. Esperanto can be described as “a language lexically predominantly Romanic, morphologically intensively agglutinative and to a certain degree isolating in character.” The phonology, grammar, vocabulary, and semantics are based on the western Indo-European languages. The phonemic inventory is essentially Slavic, as is much of the semantics, while the vocabulary derives primarily from the Romance languages, with a lesser contribution from Germanic. Pragmatics and other aspects of the language not specified by Zamenhof's original documents were influenced by the native languages of early speakers, primarily Russian, Polish, German, and French.
What strikes the non-Esperanto speaker is the European feel of the language, as well as its extreme structural regularity. Zamenhof wanted Esperanto to be easy to learn, an appropriate characteristic of a non-native second language.

Some thirty-odd years ago, the National Lampoon published an article on “How to Talk Dirty in Esperanto,” containing such useful phrases as, “My penis has been struck by lightning” (Mia peniso estas frapita de fulmo), and “Your genitals look like moldy spinach” (Viaj generaj organoj similas ŝiman spinaco). I don’t remember much about the article itself - it’s no doubt buried somewhere in my basement amongst all the piles of old magazines - but I do remember the Esperanto word for “balls”: pilkojn. Nice.

An invented language spoken by one or a very few people is called an idioglossia, a term which was used as the title of the play from which the 1994 film Nell was adapted. Typically, an idioglossia is constructed by children who are exposed to multiple languages at an early age, or (commonly) twins. But not always...

...because when I was in fifth grade, a bunch of us constructed our own idioglossia.

“The Fink’s English,” we called it, and it was mainly a random collection of made-up words that replaced more commonly-used substantives. A bicycle, for example, was a duhknocker. And, for the life of me, that’s the only one I remember, although at one point we even created a dictionary so that we could keep track of our increasingly demented coinages.

Nowadays, as a blogger, I have joined a select fraternity of people who make words up at random, although one could hardly call the sum total of Bloggy Word-Coinage an idioglossia. But just think of how the language has become enriched by such wonderfully evocative confections as craptastic, fucktard, lolcat, cromulent, et alia.

It’s enough to make my pilkojn ache.

Monday, July 30, 2007

JEEPERS, CREEPERS

Where’d you get them peepers?

SWMBO’s New Specs
SWMBO models her new specs.

Here, the Missus shows off her new cheaters (now, there’s a Vintage Slang Expression for you!). The reticulated silver pendant is the handiwork of the Mistress of Sarcasm.

POINT OF VIEW

Hakuna’s POV
The world looks different from Hakuna’s point of view.

To get this photograph of the notoriously easy-to-spook Hakuna from the Kitty’s Point of View, I set the camera on the floor and used the self-timer to catch Old Blue-Eyes sitting with her paws tucked demurely beneath her.

BLACK AS THE NIGHT

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies
Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies.

Give Mexico credit where it’s due. Not only does our Neighbor to the South provide an unceasing stream of Potential New Citizens eager to paint our houses, cook our restaurant meals, cut our lawns, clean our living rooms, and maintain our swimming pools, they also Wrote The Book when it comes to chocolate.

Oh, the Swiss and the Belgians are no slouches when it comes to frou-frou truffles or fine eating chocolate. Hell, in Brussels there’s a chocolatier on practically every street corner. Now, that’s Civilization.

But the Mexicans invented the stuff...and they still put their own spin on it.

Checkit: One of my favorite Hot Chocolate Drinks is Abuelita, which may be rendered “The Little Grandma” in English...or “Bubeleh” in Yiddish. What a great brand name.

Abuelita is simply chocolate, sweetened with coarse sugar and fortified with a goodly dose of cinnamon. It comes in pre-scored hexagonal tablets. You snap the tablet into quarters - one quarter being the right amount to make one cup of hot chocolate - drop it into a cup of hot milk, and beat the crap out of it. Or drop a quarter-tablet into a cup of cold milk and nuke it until it’s steaming hot, then beat the crap out of it. Either way, you’ll end up with a great cup of chocolate...with that extra pong of cinnamon. It’s just like being in the Zona Rosa.

And then there are the infamous Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies that I’ve written about on several occasions.

Don’t let the “Icebox” in the name fool you. These little fellas are baked in the oven...but after you make the dough, you chill it in the fridge and then roll it into a log for slicing and baking: thus the name. Of course, you could hack the raw dough into little bits and mix it into a couple of quarts of vanilla ice cream...but that would be so, so, wrong on so, so many levels...

They are dark little gems, these cookies, each one carrying a load of cocoa flavor and jacked up with cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne. Ridiculously good with cold milk...or dunked in hot coffee.

In the past, I’ve make these Bad Boys with Dutch-process cocoa and gotten excellent results, but lately I’ve taken to using a 1:1 or 2:1 blend of Dutch-process and black cocoas. The black cocoa gives the cookies that Oreo-like “black as the ace of spades” coloration that betokens Extreme Chocolatiness. Black as the very night, they are.

Look upon them...but only if you dare...

DANGEROUS

Inspired, no doubt, by the recently published assemblage of Kids’ Lore, The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, Ted of Rocket Jones and Robert the Llama Butcher (of The Llama Butchers, natch) have started a blog entitled “The Dangerous and Daring Blog for Boys and Girls.”

To use Robert’s words, it’s a blog with “stuff kids oughta know.”

Amen. I just read Ted’s post on Model Rocketry, an endeavor that occupied many happy hours of my Snot-Nose Days. And there promises to be plenty more stuff that will provide hours of enjoyment and enlightenment without recourse to Modern Electronica. Fun without the risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or “Nintendo Thumb.” Fun that might actually involve inhaling fresh Outdoor Air.

I’d love to be a Contributing Author, but I suspect some of my subject matter would need to be screened thoroughly. Probably not a good idea to tell Johnny or Sally how to make nitrogen tri-iodide contact explosive, how to build a Water-Balloon Catapult, how to cook up your own homemade applejack, or how to dissolve coins in nitric acid...all Stupid Stuff I used to do. But information on collecting coins, or making a pinhole camera from an oatmeal canister and then developing your own photographs (chemical magic that is Vanishing Lore in this Digital Age) would fit right in.

Meanwhile, I wish Ted and Robert the best of success with this new venture. Got kids? Tell ’em about it!

Of course, if you want to order a really Dangerous Book from Amazon, you could get this one...

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to the lovely Boudicca for making me aware of this fine new site!]

Sunday, July 29, 2007

UPDATING THE WATERS OEUVRE

This afternoon, the Missus and I went to see the new movie Hairspray, the latest exemplum of Hollywood feeding upon itself. For Hairspray is a movie based on a Broadway musical...in turn based on a movie, the original 1988 Hairspray directed by the notorious John Waters.

Whether you care about the quirky provenance of this film or not, it’s a hoot. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky brings a frothy enthusiasm to the role of Tracy Turnblad, starting right out with the opening song “Good Morning Baltimore” (which features John Waters in a cameo role as the neighborhood flasher). John Travolta, packed into a prosthetic fat-suit to play Tracy’s mother Edna, is amusing...and downright danceariffic as the film progresses. Jerry Stiller is well cast in a minor (but very funny) role, and any movie with Christopher Walken automatically gets fifty Elisson Points. The rooftop pas de deux between Walken and Travolta is, all by itself, worth the price of admission.

Hell, the only criticism I’ll make has nothing to do with the movie.

<RANT> It’s these damnèd concession stands. It’s bad enough that they charge ridiculous Trumpadelic prices for their dried-out popcorn and watery soft drinks, but the Candy Conglomerates’ practice of aiding and abetting the thievery by use of Deceptipackaging is downright insulting. You buy a lousy 3.5 ounce package of Raisinets for three bucks: bad enough, but why does the dinky little packet of chocolate-coated deadfruit have to come in an outer package the size of a refrigerator carton? Who the fuck do they think they’re fooling? </RANT>

Concession issues aside, we enjoyed the hell out of Hairspray. But this film-musical-film thing got me to thinking, for it is a veritabobble Tar-Baby for the entertainment business: a great way to get stuck.

Let me state right up front that I have long had serious misgivings about the incessant recycling of once-creative ideas to generate yet more Entertainment Product. Remakes are the worst example, a case of a rat eating its own turds to extract the last molecule of nourishment from what, at one time, may have been Tasty Food. Sequels and prequels are a close second...but at least those have to advance the story arc. All most remakes seem to do is tell the same old story, replacing charm and soul with better special effects. Need examples? How ’bout The Time Machine and King Kong?

But Hairspray is the product of a new phenomenon, the Transmogrified Entertainment Vehicle. We’ve been familiar for long years with movies that were recast as television shows, material as diverse as Topper and M*A*S*H. Or Stalag 17 inspiring “Hogan’s Heroes.” More recently, we’ve begun seeing the reverse: television series that have been revived in the form of big-screen features, generally with stomach-churning results. The Flintstones. Bewitched. The Beverly (gag) Hillbillies. And then there were all those Star Trek flicks...

Even more recent is this business of movies that inspire Broadway musicals. Disney has done a great job of this with such fare as The Lion King...which means we will be seeing much more of this sort of thing.

With Hairspray, the process has simply come full circle, the movie spawning a musical, in turn spawning another movie. Is this the shape of things to come? Will we see a musical version of Rollerball (a 1974 movie that has already spun off one completely unnecessary remake)?

I have a better idea. How about taking the most challenging film in the John Waters oeuvre, Pink Flamingos, and converting it into a Broadway musical...and perhaps eventually a movie? I can just imagine a few of the songs...

“Let’s Move to Boise”
“(I’m Gonna) Steal This Steak”
“An Eggie for Edie”
“A Special Kind of Package”
“(I Wanna Be) The Filthiest Person Alive”
“Doggy Treat”

No need to thank me. And remember, when they come out with musical remakes of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Trainspotting, and Bubba Ho-Tep, that Elisson saw it coming.

FIESTA!

Last night we had a few friends over for a Mexican Extravaganza. Joining us were Gary and JoAnn F-, and John and Jackie T-.

John and Jackie, like us, have lived in New England, so we could’ve had a clambake or fixed a Yankee Pot-Roast, and everyone would have had a grand evening. But since we had no pot (and therefore could not get baked), we chose a different part of the country’s geography as inspiration.

Or I should say, She Who Must Be Obeyed chose, for this was her show. And she chose Tex-Mex. It was a felicitous choice.

We began the evening with Margaritas. Everyone except me, that is. I elected to avoid the Ta-Kill-Ya-based beverage in favor of a few stout Blueberry Pomegranate Martinis.

By way of appetizers, SWMBO had run up a batch of her famous guacamole, using fresh Hass avocados, cilantro, lemon and lime juices, with touches of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and Pace’s picante sauce. I will put her guac up against anybody else’s on the planet. It is superb, with the perfect amount of chunkiness, tart citrus, and suave avocado flavor.

She also prepared a treat that hearkened back to our early married days in Texas: Ro-Tel Dip. It’s simplicity itself: You melt a one-pound block of Velveeta processed “Cheese Food” and stir in a 10-ounce can of Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies. Used to be you could only get Ro-Tel products in Texas, but now they’re distributed throughout the country. No doubt that’s because Ro-Tel was bought out by ConAgra, the giant Food Products conglomerate, several years back.

Are you shocked to find out that Elisson loves Ro-Tel dip, with its base of Velveeta Pseudo-Cheez? Hey, I like yer Artisanal Hand-Made Sheep’s Milk Fancy-Pants Fromage as much as the next foodie...but I also know what good is. Don’t be a snob. This is what God created Velveeta for. Ro-Tel Dip kicks ass.

The main courses? Chicken enchilada casserole, of which the Missus made enough to feed a battalion, and skirt steak fajitas. Saffron rice and refried black beans completed the picture.

For dessert, we combined Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies with homemade Blackberry Sage Tea ice cream and washed the whole mess down with lashings of steaming hot coffee.

It was a great evening. Not only because of the food (which was superb), but because of the excellent company with which we enjoyed it. John and Jackie are friends of relatively recent vintage, which means they still laugh at my Stupid Shit. And we’ve known Gary and JoAnn for dog’s years: Their continued willingness to put up with my Stupid Shit is the mark of true friendship.

I hope your Saturday evening was as much fun.

Friday, July 27, 2007

KITTY OF DOOM

Oscar
Oscar, Kitty of Doom.
[Boston Globe Staff Photo/Dina Rudick]

Meet Oscar, the Kitty of Doom. The Grim Reapurr. The Malakh ha-Meowvis. The Tabby of Toyt. The little guy that puts the “cat” in Resquies-cat in Pace.

Oscar, who works the dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly when one of the residents is about to shuffle off this Mortal Coil.
In the two years since Oscar was adopted into the third-floor dementia unit...he has maintained close vigil over the deaths of more than 25 patients, according to nursing staff, doctors who treat patients in the home, and an article in tomorrow’s New England Journal of Medicine, written by [Dr. David M.] Dosa.

When death is near, Oscar nearly always appears at the last hour or so. Yet he shows no special interest in patients who are simply in poor shape, or even patients who may be dying but who still have a few days. Animal behavior experts have no explanation for Oscar’s ability to sense imminent death. They theorize that he might detect some subtle change in metabolism - felines are as acutely sensitive to smells as dogs - but are stumped as to why he would show interest.
No, this is not a case of that Old Wives’ Tale - that of cats sucking the breath from babies or sick people as they sleep - come to life. Oscar simply seems to have a remarkable empathy for those in the final stages of dying, strange as it may seem.

Fortunately for most of the people at Steere House, by the time Oscar shows up, they’re pretty much out of it. That’s good, because the sight of Death-Kitty at the foot of your gurney might just be enough to frighten you to death.

I suppose there are far worse ways to be sent to the Cosmic Locker Room than to be in bed with a cat sitting next to your head, purring softly.

Death-Kitty: It’s a good thing, as Martha Fucking Stewart might say.

And owing to El Capitan’s inspiration, I couldn’t resist...

RIPCat
RIPCat!

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

I tried something different with last week’s Friday Random Ten, posting ten sets of excerpted lyrics instead of the usual list of artists and song titles. Shoe, Maeve, and Mark (the Groanin’ Jock hizzownself), at least, were willing to play along, posting their guesses in the comments...but the rest of my Esteemed Readers? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nevertheless, just in case you’re burning with curiosity (hah!) about the songs and performers, here’s last week’s list:
  1. Brand New Day - Van Morrison
  2. Longer Boats (live) - Cat Stevens
  3. Let It Be - The Beatles
  4. Thank You Girl - The Beatles
  5. Zig Zag Wanderer - Captain Beefheart
  6. Evening Blue - Traffic
  7. Andy - Frank Zappa
  8. Ghost Town - The Specials
  9. Mound - Phish
  10. Florentine Pogen (live) - Frank Zappa
Now, on to this week’s Random Ten.

Presented for your consideration, these Miscellaneous Bits of Musicality from the iPod d’Elisson:
  1. Falling Elevators - MC 900 Foot Jesus

    It’s 3 am...
    I turn on the radio
    It coughs up a noise
    That reminds me of the soundtrack to a bad dream

    The rain is hitting my windshield so hard
    I can barely hear the tinny garbled voices

    The cars outside rush by like falling elevators
    My headlights catch fleeting images of ghostly faces
    Pressed up against the glass in silent desperation

    I’m lost in the middle of nowhere
    But I keep my eyes on the road
    And I don’t look back

  2. These Walls - Moonraker
  3. Sunset Road - Béla Fleck & the Flecktones
  4. I Believe My Own Eyes - Tommy, Original Broadway Cast
  5. Beauty Killed the Beast - James Newton Howard, King Kong (2005)
  6. Trapped In The Future - Russell Garcia, The Time Machine (1960)
  7. She Blinded Me With Science (Extended Intro) - Thomas Dolby
  8. Ragas in Minor Scale - Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass
  9. Wished For You - Squirrel Nut Zippers
  10. Rat Tomago - Frank Zappa
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Friday morning. I’m feelin’ fine,
’Cause I’m sailing on Friday Ark 149.
With all manner of kitties and other beasts
From the noble egret to the lowly yeast,
The Ark celebrates the creatures of the Earth
And provides Bloggy-Linkage, for what it’s worth.


Friday Ark #149 is afloat at the Modulator.

Carnival of the Cats #175 will be posted Sunday evening at This, That, & The Other Thing. Looks like last week’s little imbroglio over the Blog Carnival folks dropping CotC off their list has resulted in a bunch of folks signing up to host: good news.

Update: CotC #175 is up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

JACKASS PANTS

Jackass Jacket
Elisson models a classic Jackass Jacket.

Last month, as we were wandering around the Silver Sands Outlet mall in Destin (a favorite pastime when we’re not lounging around on the beach or drinking), I took a quick stroll through Brooks Brothers, long-time home of Notoriously Republican Clothing. That’s where I saw this lovely Jackass Jacket.

Brooks Brothers, it should be explained, is a purveyor of clothing for the Gentleman (or Lady) of Extremely Conservative Tastes. Three-button sack suits are popular today, but at BB, they’ve never gone out of style. Button-down oxford shirts? Get ’em right here. Rep ties? Hell, yes.

If you have a jones for a seersucker suit, the kind of suit that Southern gentlemen have worn on hot summer days for generations, you can find one just for you at Brooks Brothers. You can even get a jaunty straw hat to wear with it, Strom.

And Jackass Pants.

What? You’ve never seen Jackass Pants? Oh, of course you have. Hang out at any country club. Any prep school. Any Ivy League fraternity (or eating club, in the case of Princeton). You will eventually see someone sporting those infamous patchwork bleeding Madras-cloth pants, the kind that overheat the retina and pain the brain. Jackass Pants. Only Republicans need apply.

And here I found a fine Sport Jackass Jacket to go with ’em.

My Daddy used to own a pair of Jackass Pants. I think he may have used ’em to play golf in...at least, until the rest of his foursome told him to knock it off, as the stress of having to hold back laughter on the tee-box was interfering with their play. Or until they suffered an unfortunate Dry-Cleaning “Accident”...

...and it’s just as well, because it’s against the law in most states to wear Jackass Pants if you have voted Democrat within the past four Presidential elections. Believe me: they check.

Now, there’s irony for you: Clothing bearing the name of the symbol of the Democratic Party...yet only Republicans, it seems, would be caught dead in it.

Admit it. Don’t you want a pair of Jackass Pants of your very own?

Jackass is the new black!

HELP

I seem to have a problem with the way my sidebar is displaying in Firefox.

It has shifted to the extreme right of the screen...and everything in it is centered. (Normally, some elements are centered, but not the whole frickin’ thing!) And now the footer has spread across the entire screen, no longer satisfied to stay in its box.

In IE, the sidebar is also all centered, but it drops to the bottom of the index page instead of cramming itself to the far right of the screen. And the footer does the same nutty thing it does in Firefox.

Anyone know what’s going on? Is this a Blogger issue? This all happened without my having made any template edits, so I’m guessing it has something to do with Blogger.

I’m pretty nitpicky about how my site looks, so you can imagine that this issue is driving me nuts. And, friends, it’s a short drive.

Update: All bettah now, thanks to the good offices of one D. J. Sloan, a friend of Erica’s, who discovered the problem...a post lacking a minor snippet of mislaid code, a single <div> marker. I continue to be amazed by the effort people will put forth on behalf of complete strangers in the Bloggy-Sphere, living proof of Will Rogers’s famous statement, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet.”

STING, WHERE IS THY DEATH?

A post over at Baldilocks’s place about dispatching a nest of hornets reminded me of a truly horrifying experience.

Let me preface the tale by stating that while I am no fan of stinging insects, I’m not terrified of the beasties either. I’ve been fortunate in that my last painful encounter was so long ago, I barely remember it: a bumblebee sting when I was not much more than a toddler.

I’m not about to go out and have a hive full of honeybees form a beard on my face, but most of these guys don’t bother me all that much. Yellowjackets are a major annoyance here, especially in the fall, and they can inflict painful stings, but they don’t give me the Screaming Meemies. I’ll make an exception for cicada-killer wasps: they’re supposedly not all that aggressive (unlike yellowjackets), but they’re so fucking huge, just seeing one makes me shake like a dog shitting a peach pit.

Back in 1979-81, the Missus and I were living in northwestern New Jersey. Most people think of New Jersey and visualize tank farms and refineries à la New Jersey Turnpike, but Hackettstown was out in the country. Downright bucolic, it was, with a dinky little Main Street. Our neighborhood lay directly across from the M&M Mars plant, the place where the world’s supply of M&M’s is made, and humid mornings were enhanced by the faint pong of chocolate in the air.

Our house was pleasant enough. With all-electric heat (big mistake) and a couple of window units by way of air conditioning, it wasn’t in any way a palace, but it was comfortable enough...and most summer evenings were cool enough for us to use the Whole-House Fan to keep the air circulating and the temperature manageable.

Yes: this house had a Whole-House Fan, a honkin’ big box fan that sat at one end of the attic and pulled air through the house, exhausting it through a vent on the south side.

It must have been a day in late spring when I went into my closet only to find a woozy, half-dead wasp on the floor. A big one, too. I quickly made an end to him and thought nothing more of it.

But over the next couple of days, several of the wasp’s brethren started showing up in various places in the house. What the hell was going on?

The mystery was solved in short order. For some unrelated reason, I had to go up to the attic...and that’s when I discovered the source of the Waspy Invaders. They had built an enormous nest...right in the housing of the Whole House Fan. Holy Shit!

Upon seeing the nest a mere five feet away, my bowels turned to water. I quickly climbed down and ran for the nearest phone...to call the exterminator. No fucking way was I going to tackle that massive nest - a full three feet in diameter, like some horror out of a Stephen King novel - by myself. Uh-uh.

The exterminator arrived and quickly demolished the nest (after poisoning the little bastards, of course). It resembled an elephant’s brain...an elephant suffering from a serious case of spongiform encephalopathy. Yeef.

I’m glad, in retrospect, that none of us got stung. Especially Elder Daughter (then, Only Daughter). Could have been nasty, that.

And at least it wasn’t a nest fulla cicada-killers. Seeing that might’ve stopped my heart right on the spot.

HAIR ON MY PILLOW...

...generally comes from Matata’s ample butt. Lookee:

Pillow Matata 072507 2

Pillow Matata 072507

“Now, if it please Your Highness, may I get into bed? Without your ass in my face? Thank you.”

A CULINARY INQUIRY

Q: What kind of people eat collard greens?

A: Collard people.

SPELLING BEE

Being a short list of some of Harry Potter’s lesser-known spells, charms, and incantations.
  • Membrum turgidio! - Useful when Harry’s, er, ahhh, “wand” needs a quick stiffening up. Can be reversed by the counter-charm Membrum flaccidio!

  • Colonum evacuatio! - Helpful incantation after too many meals in the Hogwarts dining halls.

  • Brunoculorum wipio! - Generally required after using the Colonum evacuatio! incantation. If omitted, eventually a Launderis jockishortis! charm will be necessary.

  • Orthodontia disentanglio! - After a long “snogging” session with Ginny Weasley, occasionally Harry will find that their braces have locked. This charm solves that nasty problem.

  • Habilimis undishevillium! - When the above-referenced “snogging” sessions become more serious, this incantation is useful for putting clothes back in place quickly in the event of an unexpected interruption.

  • Expellianus! - Spell used to remove undesirable personages from the immediate vicinity.

  • Extortio litterati! - Charm used by Harry to line his pockets with a few well-earned Galleons from J. K. Rowling’s massive Muggle bank account.

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Of course, Elisson can play, too. His incantations Paulie! or Walnuts!, when spoken aloud in the presence of this guy, will elicit a predictable response.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WHOMP...

I read about Eric’s plans to make a Scottish Steak Pie with no small amount of trepidation.

After all, wasn’t this the very guy who had attempted to make a humble Porcupine Meat-Loaf and had ended up with a Beef-Cookie studded with raw rice grains, the better to crack one’s teeth upon? And now, here he was, attempting something so ambitious as to require the use of Phyllo Dough. Me, I would’ve taken the Lazy-Ass Chef’s way out, covering the pie in a shell composed of conjoined whomp biscuits.

You say you don’t know what whomp biscuits are? They’re those biscuits that come in the form of a cardboard cylinder packed with raw biscuit dough. Pillsbury Grands, exempli gratia. To open the package, you whomp it on the edge of a kitchen counter. Ergo: whomp biscuits.

But Eric is a brave man, willing to test the limits of the envelope. Phyllo! I wish him all the best, and I am sure he and Fiona will feast most sumptuously on a Meaty Treat made by his own hands.

I really can’t give the boy too much crap about his cooking. He has seen at least one culinary disaster at my hands, a rum-glazed lemon cake that refused to come out of the pan in one piece owing to my stupidly using spray-on grease instead of flour-dusted butter to coat the pan. The cake was reduced to a pile of (extremely tasty) shards, and Eric, Fiona, and SWMBO had a good laugh - and an unplanned dessert - at my expense.

But all this talk of Steak Pie gave me a hankering for beef...and so the Missus and I stopped by Harry’s and picked up a couple of hanger steaks.

These babies are a breeze to prepare. I coated ’em with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and ground thyme, and then seared them in a pan with a little olive oil. Once they were done, I threw a couple of good-sized shallots, finely minced, in the pan and sweated them down. In a few minutes they were nice and soft, whereupon I deglazed the pan with some rainwater Madeira and let it all cook down until the shallots were well caramelized. Out of the pan, onto the steaks, and then a sprinkling of minced fresh parsley: Dinner! SWMBO complemented the steaks with a couple of baked sweet potatoes and a salad of butter lettuce, heirloom tomato, and pine nuts.

Our dinner may have lacked a pie crust, but I was not in the mood to quibble.

NAME THAT CHOON

Here’s a Musical Quiz for my Esteemed Readers.

What song is this? Leave your answer in the comments.

[Lyrics modified to avoid giving away the obvious answer!]

I should have known you’d bid me farewell
There’s a lesson to be learned from this and I learned it very well
Now, I know you’re not the only starfish in the sea
If I never hear your name again, it’s all the same to me

And I think it’s gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a
DEAD BLOATED DOG

You never care for secrets I confide
For you, I’m just an ornament, somethin’ for your pride
Always runnin’, never carin’, that’s the life you live
Stolen minutes of your time were all you had to give

And I think it’s gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a
DEAD BLOATED DOG

The story’s in the past with nothin’ to recall
I’ve got my life to live and I don’t need you at all
The roller-coaster ride we took is nearly at an end
I bought my ticket with my tears, that’s all I’m gonna spend

And I think it’s gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a
DEAD BLOATED DOG

Oh, I think it’s gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a
DEAD BLOATED DOG


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

STUPID SHIT ‘R’ US

That would probably be a good name for Chez Elisson, were I to give my home a name. You know: like some Ridiculously Wealthy People do. Shady Grove. Mar-a-Lago. Breaking Winds. That sort of thing.

Yep. Stupid Shit ‘R’ Us. How entirely appropriate...for my surroundings are packed to the rafters with Stupid Shit.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were digging around in my nightstand for a flashlight when I espied a pile of these things:

Garbage Pail Kids
Garbage Pail Kids. [Click to embiggen.]

Garbage Pail Kids!

These revolting – yet eminently collectible - sets of stickers came packaged with bubble gum back in the mid-1980’s. Featuring incredibly grotesque caricatures based on the then-popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, these were a huge hit with the prepubescent set, thanks largely to their felicitous combination of grossness and cleverness. I amassed quite a pile of ’em, despite my being a generation older than their target audience.

But the Garbage Pail Kids did not spring full-blown and full-grown into the world. They had their antecedents in the form of Wacky Packs, another set of stickers packaged with bubble gum. Wacky Packs lampooned consumer products, and their arrival circa 1973 was greeted with the same frenzy among the Newly-Pubescent that the Garbage Pail Kids were to inspire a decade later. My ice-cream truck was festooned with ’em, thanks to the generosity of the local kidstabulary.

Wacky Pack
A typical Wacky Pack sticker, 1973.

One could make a case for the Garbage Pail Kids being the bastard offspring of Wacky Packs and the Cabbage Patch Kids...but what inspired Wacky Packs?

I have a theory. It was nothing but MAD Magazine. What else?

Buried in the bowels of the basement of Chez Elisson, there is a pile of old MAD magazines, many of which date back to the 1950’s. Among them are several of their earlier anthology-style issues, among which is a confection called “More Trash from MAD.”

More Trash from MAD
More Trash from MAD, Issue #2, circa 1959.

The second issue of “More Trash...” came with a special insert: several pages of MAD Labels, cut-and-paste pre-gummed stickers that were parodies of then-existing consumer products. Things like “Belch-Not Strained Babies, Made In East Africa, By Cannibals For Cannibals.” Or “Roll Las Vegas Pineappl’d Dice.” Or “Tuna Brand Canned Bumble Bees.”

Belch-Not
A MAD Label from the Collection d’Elisson.

Stuff that was immensely appealing to the third-grade Elisson...and which was the direct inspiration for the Wacky Packs that would appear about ten years later. Or so it seems to me.

Now: Who else besides Old Uncle Elisson can spin theories like this about the Stupid Shit you probably don’t give a flying fuck about?

MATATA REVIEWS POTTER

Potter Matotter
“This book is the cat’s ass!”

Herewith Matata’s take on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final volume in J. K. Rowlings’s celebrated series about the titular wizard:

“An excellent book, one upon which I may park my ass in comfort for hours. A little more padding would have been nice, but that is but a minor quibble. All hail Harry Potter!”

Monday, July 23, 2007

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Well, maybe not this one.

For this evening marks the beginning of that Most Depressing of Jewish Holidays: Tisha b’Av.
“Is there no balm in Gilead?” - Jeremiah 8:22
“Your shit’s fucked up.” - Warren Zevon
According to popular wisdom, the typical Jewish holiday can be deconstructed as follows: “They tried to kill us. They failed. Let’s eat!” But Tisha b’Av - literally, the ninth day of the month of Av - is a notable exception...because even though they didn’t kill all of us, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Without a doubt, Tisha b’Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. It commemmorates all sorts of historical calamities, including the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews...not once, but twice. Traditionally, it’s also a day to mourn the devastation of Jewish communities in Europe by the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries C.E.; the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand; and the seventeenth-century depredations of the Cossacks under Bogdan (may his name be erased) Chmielnicki and his successors.

In fact, pretty much anything rotten that ever happened to the Jewish people happened on Tisha b’Av. Except maybe World War II, which started the day before Tisha b’Av.

Season's Greetings
A well-intentioned but misplaced sentiment.
[Note: this is a fake sign.]

As I have noted here in prior years, this is not your “have a nice day” kind of holiday. Customarily, you don’t even greet people with “good morning” on Tisha b’Av - because there is nothing good about it. And such fun! Fasting for 25 hours. Sitting on the floor reading the Book of Lamentations by candlelight. Dressing up like Donald Duck. [OK, I made that last one up.]

Yessiree, Bob. No food. No water. No leather apparel. No luxurious hot baths. No perfume, massage oil, or Old Spice. And, of course, no Ficky-Fick.

Nuts. I guess the Missus and I are gonna have to postpone that Mazola Party.

For one day, anyway.

Tisha B’Av

Sunday, July 22, 2007

RAPPLE

Dr. Dre and Sam Sneed
Dr. Dre and Sam Sneed, “U Better Recognize” (1995)

Well, I’m here at the mall with the Mistress’s iBook
Sittin’ in the Apple Store so the genius can take a look
Usin’ his mad skillz an’ computer system wisdom
To figure out what kacked her operatin’ system.
Sunday morning, drug it in, now he’s got it plugged in,
I’m checkin’ out the iPhones with a shit-eatin’ grin.

And who should be there (getting’ iMac care) sittin’ next to me,
But the rap producer Sam Sneed, a pal of Dr. Dre,
(Hey, do you know me? You’re my Marietta homie!)
We talk some shizzle ’bout the music bizzle
While the tech tries to fix what made our boxes fizzle.
This dude hangs out with rappers like Snoop Dogg -
While Elisson writes blogs (like V-Man and Ice-Hog).
He’s makin’ videos with Suge Knight and Tupac
I’m writin’ posts about nose-hair and ass-crack.

Yo. The last time I drank up a bottle of Hennessy,
I was so fucked up, I had to sit down to pee.
And the last time I fired up a blunt filled with chronic,
I ordered everything on the menu at the Sonic.
The hip-hop world (fulla gangstas, all having fun)
Probably ain’t the place for a cracker named Elisson.

Elisson and Sam Sneed

ENTROPY

Mechanical things break down. It is a Law of Nature. It’s one of the first things they teach you in Thermodynamics class, the Second Law: Entropy increases; disorder and randomness trump order. More precisely, in an isolated system, a process can occur only if it increases the total entropy of the system.

Which means, in a nutshell, that ice melts, that steam does not jump back into the teakettle, that things break. Mechanical contrivances fuck up.

And that’s why I am at the Apple store, getting the Mistress’s iBook fixed. It choked in the midst of an operating system update, and since then it has been extremely useful...as a doorstop. As a computer, not so much.

Fortunately, the guts of the device seem to be healthy...and so a few tweaks of the software by the resident geniuses at the Apple Store here and it will be good to go.

I wish I could say the same for the air conditioner at Chez Elisson.

Two days ago, our service technician came out for our regular midsummer checkup, and the system passed with flying colors.

Yesterday afternoon, hours before the arrival of a small platoon of dinner guests, the upstairs unit crapped out. Eighty-six degrees and rising. I'm hoping it’s something simple, like a burned out condenser unit fan...and not a blown-out compressor.

But it’s always something, quoth Roseanne Rosannadanna. Mechanical shit eventually turns to shit.

Lucky for us, the downstairs was reasonably cool. Dinner went off without a hitch, after which SWMBO and I slept in the den last night, trading the discomfort of sleeping on the couch and/or the floor for the worse discomfort of sleeping while glazed with a sheen of sweat. Feh.

Update: The HVAC tech is, supposedly, on his way. We’ll just see how long it takes him to show up. And what horrors he’ll find, for the Law of Home Repairs is at least as iron-clad as the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Whatever is wrong with your house, it will cost Too Fucking Much to fix.

Update #2: Good news. The condenser fan was “tight,” in the tech’s words, and was cured with a goodly shot of lubrication. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the fan seizes up for good, whereupon the fan motor will need to be replaced. But that sure as hell beats replacing the whole condenser unit.

WHAT’S FOR DESSERT?

Friday, July 20, 2007

GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL HELEN

Yep, that’s what I’ll be doing...

...if enough people buy this.

PLAN AHEAD

Eclipse

I see that the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979 will take place on Monday, August 21, 2017 - a mere ten years, one month, and one day from now.

The last total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. was in 1991. You had to be in Hawai‘i to see it. Of course, where was Elisson? Running around in New England.

There was a memorable day in late May, 1984 when an annular eclipse was visible from downtown Atlanta. We were living in the Atlanta ’burbs at the time, not too far from the current Chez Elisson, so I made the trek into the city and ended up watching the eclipse from the front lawn of Turner Broadcasting’s campus. It was dramatic, but not nearly as dramatic as a total eclipse would have been: In an annular eclipse, a ring of sunlight is still visible around the Moon’s silhouette, so it never gets completely dark.

A total eclipse is quite another matter. It’s quite probably the most dramatic natural phenomenon a human being can see, and its rarity only adds to the drama.

The total eclipse of August 2017 will be especially exciting for Americans, as it will cut a diagonal swath across the entire mainland of the country, starting in Salem, Oregon and moving into the Atlantic Ocean just north of Charleston, South Carolina.

The best place to see the eclipse? Assuming the weather holds up (blue skies are a necessity!), the best place is probably Eric’s house, which sits right on the centerline of the path of totality.

Sounds like a perfect excuse for a blogmeet, am I right?

ONE SMALL STEP

Did anybody notice that today is the 38th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing?

Yes, indeedy...it was 38 years ago this very day that Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lander’s ladder onto the dust of the lunar surface...and into the history books. It was “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for Mankind,” indeed.

I was sitting on the floor of Uncle Phil’s bedroom along with my cousins Diane and Andy. We gazed in rapt attention at the screen of the little black-and-white television, knowing that we were seeing a Truly Significant Event: Mankind setting his dinky mammalian feet on the surface of another celestial body, Earth’s natural satellite, almost a quarter-million miles away.

I can’t remember whether or not I was stoned at the time.

What was not general knowledge back then was that the landing was a very near thing, with fuel supplies just - just! - sufficient to the job. Armstong had to pilot the lander so as to avoid truck-sized boulders and suchlike obstacles

Only five more times would humans journey successfully to the Moon. With each subsequent moon shot, the photographs would improve and the sense of drama would decrease despite the introduction of New Technology. (Lookee - a moon rover!) The sole exception was the abortive Apollo 13, when a malfunction early in the mission nearly cost the astronauts their lives. Engineering ingenuity and problem-solving ability saved the day, but there was drama aplenty then...

...and now? Nobody seems to give a shit. That adventure was over a generation ago.

But last November I stood there in the National Air and Space Museum, looking at the Apollo 11 capsule that made that historic journey in 1969. I examined moon rocks, chunks of stone that, a mere forty years before, has been sitting peacefully in the Sea of Tranquility minding their own business before being so rudely scooped up and hauled off to a strange world. Now they were inches from my face.

Jeez, people - if that doesn’t awaken your sense of wonder at the natural world and pride in Mankind’s accomplishments, what ever will?

MAINE MAN: A 100-WORD REMINISCENCE

Lobster Boy was just one of the sideshow freaks that made their winter home in Gibsonton, AKA Gibtown, Florida.

It was the perfect place for Unusual People. Where else did the zoning laws allow you to keep a pet elephant, or the post office provide a special counter to accommodate dwarves?

Residents included the Human Blockhead, Monkey Girl, the Hilton Sisters (conjoined twins), Giant Al and Half-Girl Jeanie. And you had Lobster Boy, who sported claws instead of hands.

“Lobby” was a Ladies’ Man. Not handsome, but he made up for it with his renowned “Maine Tickler” and drawn-butter rubdowns...

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Owing to my nutty travel schedule - this is the first weekend I’ve been home in over a month - it has been a while since I’ve been able to post my usual Friday Random Ten.

This past week, just as I was getting reacquainted with the joys of being with the Missus after having been in Chicago five days, she left for Savannah to nurse the ailing Mistress of Sarcasm back to some semblance of health, returning yesterday evening. (The Mistress, in case you’re curious, is doing much better.)

My hermit-like Temporary Bachelor Existence was interrupted mid-week by a mini-blogmeet, occasioned by Velociman's presence in Atlanta. I met up with him at the Mellow Mushroom at Brookhaven Station, along with Denny, Zonker, Richard, Key, and the long-lost Kelley: that merry band of degenerates Blown-Eyed Blodgers. Joining us was John Cox of Cox and Forkum, the noted editorial cartoonists cum bloggers. I hope poor John didn’t suffer brain damage by virtue of being in the presence of so much concentrated lunacy.

I hope nobody has been suffering withdrawal from not having the usual weekly disgorgement of Random Musicality from the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson. Heh. Time for your fix...but just to make things interesting, I’ll post excerpted lyrics from each cut. You tell me the artist and song:
  1. When all the dark clouds roll away
    And the sun begins to shine
    I see my freedom from across the way
    And it comes right in on time

  2. Mary dropped her pants by the sand
    And let a parson come and take her hand
    But the soul of no body knows
    Where the parson goes, where does the parson go?

  3. And in my hour of darkness
    She is standing right in front of me

  4. You’ve been good to me, you made me glad when I was blue,
    And eternally I’ll always be in love with you

  5. You can jump, you can holler
    Never lose what I found
    Heaven’s free ’cept for a dollar
    You can zig, you can zag
    Whoa I’m gonna stay, gonna stay around

  6. Sitting all alone by the fireside
    Listen to the wind in the chimney top
    Haven’t slept for days, and I’m still wide eyed
    Try not to think, but my mind won’t stop

  7. Is there anything good inside of you
    If there is, I really wanna know
    Is there anything
    Good inside of you
    If there is
    I really wanna
    Know
    Is there anything
    Good inside of you
    If there is
    I really wanna
    Know
    Is there?

  8. This town (town) is coming like a ghost town
    All the clubs have been closed down
    This place (town) is coming like a ghost town
    Bands won’t play no more
    Too much fighting on the dance floor

  9. And it’s time, time, time for the last rewind
    For a broken old man and a world unkind
    He buried all his memories of home
    In an icy clump that lies beneath the ground

  10. She was a debutante daisy
    With a color-note organ
    Deep in the street
    She drove a ’59 Morgan
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Bedcats and Boxes
Hakuna and Matata.

It’s Friday, which means it’s once again time for the Friday Ark to set sail on the Bloggy-Sea, captained by the very capable Modulator. This week’s voyage is number 148.

Carnival of the Cats #174 will be posted Sunday evening at a location to be announced. Until then, enjoy the weekend...and don’t forget to skritch your cat!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

MAGGOT-NIFICENT

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
- Groucho Marx

And bot flies like a human head.

The ever-gracious Leslie of Leslie’s Omnibus fame alerted me to this little news bulletin, one that is guaranteed to skeeve you out:
Doctors thought the strange, bleeding bumps on Aaron Dallas’ head might be from gnat bites or shingles. The bumps then started moving.

A doctor found five active bot fly larvae living beneath the skin atop Dallas’ head.
Good Gawd Awmighty.

Bot flies are nasty little bastards. Wikipedia will tell you that “it is one of several families of hairy flies whose larvae live as parasites within the bodies of mammals...There are approximately 150 known species worldwide.” The good news is that only one of those 150 species (Dermatobia hominis) will attack humans. The bad news - for Aaron Dallas, anyway - is that that’s the species he ran afoul of on a vacation trip to Central America.


Morty the Maggot.

Bot flies were a concern to us when the Mistress of Sarcasm had her horse. Bot infestation can create nasty problems for horses: You’d be unhappy too if fly larvae - maggots - grew in your intestines and then migrated to your skin looking for a way out. Feh. We would dose our horse regularly with systemic medications to prevent any infestation, especially important because humans can become infested in the process of removing the eggs.

And an infestation, as Mr. Dallas found out, is not easy to deal with: per Wikipedia, “the botfly maggot cannot be removed easily whilst alive due to the strong, hooked spines that run in circular rings around the midsection of its body.” Break part of it off and the other part remains behind to cause infection. Mmmmmmmm.

But all’s well that ends well. With Mr. Dallas now on the mend, who knows? One day we may find ways to deal with bot flies other than crude methods of extermination. Negotiation, perhaps? Or outright suck-upitude. Perhaps we can take a lesson from the EU’s handling of Hamas...

Bring Some Shit For My Fly
©1976 Estate of B. Kliban. Click to embiggen.

...Take ’em to dinner!

COMMUNICATIONS BREAKDOWN

“What we got here is...failure to communicate.”
- Cool Hand Luke, 1967

While I was getting my hair cut yesterday, the receptionist - a young lady who had emigrated from Thailand five years ago - shared this True Story with me.

Seems she has a friend, a more recent emigrée, with a much more limited knowledge of English. Said friend works as a server in a Thai restaurant (where else?), where her English skills are sufficient to the requirements of the job. Most of the time.

One day, the friend delivered an order to a patron’s table, upon which the patron shouted out a hearty “Fuck You!” by way of expressing his thanks.

“Was the patron pissed off about something?” I interrupted. For this sort of behavior is curmudgeonly, rude, and stupid. Even if a restaurant order is late or otherwise unsatisfactory, you insult the waitstaff at your own peril. Mr. Debonair says: “Always be polite to the people who handle your food.”

But that was not the case. The patron was simply a Major Nutcase, known as such to the owners of the establishment.

And our server friend was unfazed...mainly thanks to her limited English skills. Her response?

“Oh, OK - would you like spoon, too?”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

MISSION OF MERCY

Alas, the Mistress of Sarcasm has been suffering from an especially severe case of acute pharyngitis - that’d be “honkin’ bad-ass sore throat” to all y’all Medical Professionals out there - this last couple of days.

You know you have a bad sore throat when it’s too painful to swallow your own saliva.

I’ve experienced this myself and it’s not any fun at all, having to use a spit-cup because swallowing feels like gargling with ground glass. And it’s devilish hard to sleep under those conditions.

While the Mistress has sought and received medical attention for her condition, even the best professional care lacks a certain homey warmth, especially when you’re living alone. And so it was that She Who Must Be Obeyed went down to Savannah yesterday, the better to coax our baby daughter back to health with her tender ministrations...first on the list of which was homemade chicken soup.

There’s nothing like having your mommy around to take care of you when you’re sick, am I right? Bringing you cups of honey-lemon tea and broth, rubbing your chest with Vicks Vap-O-Rub, tucking you in at night...being a sick kid was no pleasure back in those Snot-Nose Days, but a mother’s love was a powerful palliative. And now, having been under SWMBO’s care on those (thankfully) rare occasions when I am ailing, I can honestly say that the Mistress will get the most loving attention anyone could want.

Refuah sheleimah, kiddo. May you have a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

ALCHEMY

Malty Goodness

The ancients drove themselves nuts looking for a way to transmute lead into gold. The key, some thought, was the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that would accomplish that very magical Value-Added Process. The search for the Philosopher’s Stone - along with its mystic brother-in-law, the Elixir of Life - was a cornerstone of the discipline of al-khimia, the mishmash of physics, astrology, mysticism, philosophy, chemistry, medicine, and metallurgy that we know today as alchemy.

The Philosopher’s Stone, alas, has been relegated to a footnote in the pop culture of the day. Scholastic, the American publishers of the first Harry Potter novel, changed the name of the book from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: they figured American kids would know what a sorcerer was, but they would have trouble with a big word like “philosopher.” Foo.

Alchemy was more than a simple get-rich-quick scheme. It was a way of studying the world with the intention of unlocking its secrets. Eventually it would help give rise to modern science.

And it’s still around, for mankind has never given up on the dream of turning lead into gold. Shit into Shinola. Sow’s ear into silk purse.

We can use nuclear technology to transmute elements from one to another: breeder reactor as modern-day Philosopher’s Stone. But that’s expensive and useless unless you want to glow in the dark when you wear your tennis bracelet.

No, I refer to the true alchemy of the Modern Age. The alchemy of distillation.

Distillation, especially as practiced by those canny Scots, converts relatively cheap materials like peat, barley malt, and water into a magical concoction tasting of the warm grain, peat smoke, and salt air of the land that gave it birth. The name uisce beatha - Gaelic for “water of life,” rendered as aqua vitae in the Latin - gets boiled down to “whisky” in the English. But it could just as well be called nectar: the mythical drink of Olympian gods.

The photograph above depicts two superior examples of the genre. On the left is a bottle of the Distiller’s Edition of Talisker, produced at the only whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye. It’s a rare treat, normally unavailable outside of the United Kingdom but resident in my Lacquer Liquor Locker thanks to the good offices of my friend Eric: a kingly gift. On the right is a flask of the Macallan, in this case the 12-year-old Elegancia, a Speyside whisky brought back with considerable difficulty from (of all places!) Mexico City.

That Talisker...believe me when I tell you that it is not a drink for the faint of heart. Powerfully smoky and peaty - yet smooth as silk - it carries a faint whiff of iodine from the salt sea. Just the right thing to prepare the palate for a slab of grilled beefsteak. Or to sip contemplatively as the evening sun sinks below the horizon.

The gentleman in the framed picture on the right? That’s Abraham, the maternal Grandpa d’Elisson, AKA Eli’s FIL. Dapper gentleman, no? With that pencil-thin moustache, double-breasted suit, up-to-date necktie, and cigar, he looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ.

I’ll bet he would’ve enjoyed a few fingers of that Talisker. I’m sorry he’s not here to share it with me, but he has been gone for almost 39 years. Who better, then, to raise a glass to on a summer evening?

ICE-CREAM SOCIAL 2007

This year’s Southeast Writers’ Conference, Tea Party, and Ice-Cream Social is now officially on the calendar: October 12-14 at the infamous (but extremely tolerant of Rude Behavior) Chalet Kristy in Helen, Jawjuh.

You can get the full poop here from Mr. Cripple.

The one and only Velociman will be tasked with the responsibility of blending and transporting the Chatham Artillery Punch, a pleasant enough tipple that, ingested carelessly, will bring strong men (and lissome ladies) to their knees. And inspire random acts of violence toward the idiots in the river innocent tubers. Be warned.

Hooch on the ’Hooch
Hooch on the ’Hooch.
Note the delicately outstretched pinkie, as modeled by the Pinkie Master himself.

Book your rooms early. Mid-October is the height of Dopey Tourist Season in Helen, a faux-Bavarian village inexplicably tucked away in the northern hills of Georgia, and the leaf-watchers will be out in force. Can’t say I blame ’em...fall is the perfect time to sit on the banks of the ’Hooch and enjoy some hooch. And the company of some fine Online Journalists.

Monday, July 16, 2007

CONVENTION

Yesterday I sat in my window seat on the Silver Aerial Bus, gazing out at the landscape as it slowly slipped by. Cumulus clouds abounded, one looking remarkably like an erect Membrum Virile - complete with scrotal sack - thrusting towards the upper troposphere. As we continued southward, the occasional puffs of white cumulus were replaced by glowering thunderheads, their anvil tops sheared off flat by invisible temperature gradients. Our plane jinked and dodged around them, searching for patches of smooth air.

I was going home after a remarkable five days as a delegate to the biennial convention of the International FJMC.

So many stories. So many faces - some new, some familiar from past meetings.

One of the other delegates was the youngest brother of Gravel-Voice Larry, he of blessèd memory. Seeing him evoked the same sort of feelings I had upon encountering Rob Smith’s brother in Savannah just two weeks prior, for it was strangely like seeing a revenant: The resemblance between the brothers was uncanny, extending even unto the gravelly voice. I showed him the memorial tribute to Larry our club had placed in the convention program, and the tears flowed as I told him how I sat in his brother’s old place every day at morning Minyan.

We listened to a concert that included world-class cantorial talent: Steven Stoehr, David Propis, Alberto Mizrahi, Aaron Bensoussan, George Mordecai, Rebecca Carmi, Alisa Pomerantz-Boro. As the weekend approached, our religious services received an extra dose of musicality and spiritual intensity from several of these most excellent chazzanim.

Saturday morning, I had the honor of reading Torah along with a cadre of seven of the finest ba’alei koreh in the organization. Nothing gets your adrenalin going like reading a 29-verse slab of Torah in front of 500 people...and being the leadoff batter to boot.

We consumed voluminous quantities of Adult Beverages in our late-evening soirées: Mint juleps (mixed by Yours Truly), an assortment of fine single-malt scotches, cask-strength bourbons, Irish whiskies, et alia. And plenty of kosher wine. None of that Manischewitz or Mogen David crap, either. Serious wines, the finest varietals from Israel, including a late-harvest Gewürtztraminer that could melt a heart of stone.

We listened at breakfast Sunday morning as Jerry Markbreit told of his adventures as the first Jewish referee in the NFL, working the Super Bowl not once but four times.

And then, all too soon, it was over. Time to pack the bags, check out, say our goodbyes, and head off in our many separate directions, heads filled with new learning and new programming ideas...all eagerly anticipating the next convention two years from now.

HUSH

My first seduction took place at the tender age of nine, a subtle seduction that set a deep subconscious yearning in motion that would, eventually, result in my becoming an adopted Son of the South.

It was April 1962, and my brother (the other Elisson), my mother, and I were riding the Florida Special from New York to Miami. We had an honest-to-Gawd compartment in a Pullman car, the kind with the fold-down beds and washbasin. Perfect for a twenty-five hour journey.

We had taken the Long Island Rail Road – the fabled LIRR – from our home in Massapequa to New York City’s Pennsylvania Station, where we boarded the Special. And special it was, for although we had often traveled on the LIRR, and occasionally on the New York City subways, riding in a Pullman car was an altogether different experience.

After we had been underway for several hours, it was time for supper – and so the three of us made the trek to the Dining Car. For all I know, most of the menu offerings were absolute shite, but I didn’t care. We were having an adventure, eating dinner in a rolling dining room, the table swaying gently to the muted clickity-clack of the rails beneath.

It was there that I discovered one of the great culinary treasures of the American Southland, a preparation so humble and nondescript, most people pay it no heed, and yet, in its unpretentious way, the model of all that is good about Southern cooking.

I speak, Esteemed Readers, of the Hush Puppy. A simple concoction of corn meal, onions, and grease, magically transmuted by the Fry-Pan into something resembling ambrosia. Whether oblong in shape or spherical, the Hush-Puppy can be, when properly prepared, a transcendent experience.

In this wise, the Hush-Puppy bears more than a passing resemblance to a Matzoh-Ball. For the Matzoh-Ball, like the Hush-Puppy, is another Humble, yet Transcendent Food – and, like the Hush-Puppy, one for which the proper density is all-important. Something between “Insubstantial, Cotton-Candy-Like Fluff” and “White Dwarf Star Matter” is preferred.

Hush-Puppies were the side accompaniment to whatever fried crap I had ordered that fateful evening, and it was love at first taste. Seduction of the innocent. Later that night, as I lay in my fold-down-from-the-wall bed and gazed out as moonlit fields rolled by our compartment window, I marveled at the wonderful new thing I had discovered. I had had nothing like it growing up in the New York ’burbs...but now I knew where to find it. Down South, where, as fate would have it, I would eventually reside...and feel right at home.

Forty-five years later, I don’t eat Hush-Puppies all that often. Face it: most rational adults don’t really need massive infusions of corn meal and grease. And a good Hush-Puppy can be hard to find. All too often, they are dry, bland, overdone. Hock-Puckeys.

But every so often, I luck into the Real Thing. Crisp, golden-brown exterior, moist, oniony interior. And it transports me back to a night in 1962, when dinner was an adventure punctuated by the quiet clickety-clack of the rails under our feet.

DEADZU

Upon my return to the Normal World yesterday, I was saddened to hear of the death last Tuesday morning of Doug Marlette, Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist and creator of the syndicated comic strip “Kudzu.” Marlette was killed in an automobile accident on a rain-slick Mississippi highway.

“Kudzu” was especially meaningful to me because the strip was started in 1981, the same year SWMBO and I moved to the Atlanta area for the first time. For us newly-arrived Georgians absorbing the culture of the Southeast, Marlette’s strip was especially resonant, with characters that were clearly drawn from Real Life (if a bit exaggerated).

Doug, we hardly knew ye. You will be missed.

USELESS FACTS

Being yet another meme. Ocean Guy, the fellow who writes Somewhere on A1A..., was “kind” enough to tag me with this one; however, as he had never slapped one of these upon me previously, I can hardly accuse him of abusing the Memey Privilege. And so I am happy to play along.

Herewith the rules:
  • Write a post enumerating eight facts/habits about yourself. Include the rules at the beginning of the post.

  • Tag eight people, posting their names and links to their sites.

  • Leave comments at the sites you’ve tagged, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
Ah, so we see it’s all about Blog-Pimpage. Well, I’ll not push it quite that far. If you read this and want to play, fine: Consider yourself tagged. Otherwise, just relax, grab a cup of your favorite beverage (adult or otherwise) and read these Eight Useless Facts About Elisson...
  1. Until I got within two months of the age of fifty, I had never undergone surgery or experienced the joys of general anesthesia. Then, within the span of a single year, I had procedures that involved the violation of all four of my Major Orifices - and all four of which involved general anesthesia. If you ask me what I consider to be the greatest single advance in medical technology ever, I’ll tell you it’s anesthesia - and I thank Gawd every day that I was born well after it was discovered.

  2. I can wiggle my ears one at a time. (Big fucking deal.)

  3. I urinate standing up and crap sitting down. Tried it the other way around and found that the results were most unsatisfactory.

  4. I can make a penny (i.e., a United States one-cent coin) stick to a magnet. Without glue. (Can you?)

  5. Embarrassing Moments: I missed winning our sixth-grade spelling bee by fucking up a four-letter word. (No, not that word.) The word was Noah, and Mr. Overconfidence here remembered that it was a proper noun. “Noah. Capital N - O - H - A. Aw, shit.”

  6. I used to keep bottles of dangerous chemicals in my college dorm room. 70% nitric acid, useful for dissolving coins and generating clouds of deadly nitric oxide fumes. 30% hydrogen peroxide, useful for...what? Too strong to be used as an antiseptic, too weak for rocket fuel...but it would have been a great accellerant had there ever been a fire. Iodine, mercury, chloroplatinic acid, pure menthol...what can I say? I liked weird chemicals.

  7. I own a Soxhlet extractor, which I’ve had since my college days. Any guesses as to what I may have used it for?

  8. I have every single regular-issue MAD magazine published between April 1962 and June 1974...plus many other older ones. It’s only appropriate, since MAD and I were born in the same month back in 1952.
Now it’s your turn. Enjoy.

ROSE

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

- Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii
Well, not necessarily.

Yesterday morning I heard the story of a particularly acrimonious divorce. At one point in the proceedings, so it seems, the husband had sent his soon-to-be ex-wife a rose as a token of his Non-Esteem.

The rose was not just any garden-variety rose. This one was painstakingly hand-carved in precise artistic detail...from a human turd.

True story, or so it was presented unto me. And it is a source of wonderment. It would have been bad enough had the guy simply wrapped a Cleveland Steamer in butcher paper and stuck it in the mail, but geez, how much do you have to despise someone to pick up a piece of shit and whittle on it?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

NOT DEAD: JUST BUSY

Indian Lake
Is a scene you should make
With your little one
Keep it in mind
If you’re lookin’ to find
A place in the summer sun


- The Cowsills, “Indian Lake”

I know it looks like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth yet again, but in reality, I have been holed up at the Indian Lakes resort in Bloomingdale, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, at a convention.

“What sort of convention?” you may ask. And I will answer: it is the biennial convention of the International Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, of which I am a minor official. (And no, it’s not that kind of Men’s Clubs, ya poivoit. Getcher filthy mind out of the gutter.)

Leave it to the FJMC to plan this thing for the week after the Ogfest. Crap.

I’ll bore you with a full report after I return home tomorrow. Most of our activities here will be of primary interest to those of my Esteemed Readers who are Jewish - suffice it to say that it has been a busy four days.

But what I will tell you is that among my many adventures was a chance to sing in a choir directed by this guy. Hoo-hah!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A MERCIFULLY ABBREVIATED JOURNEY

Not Arnold Palmer
Definitely not Arnold Palmer. Or Tiger Woods.

Those of you who are wondering how Golfy-Boy enjoyed his Long Weekend on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail need wonder no longer. It was magnificent. Mostly.

“What is this Trail of which you speak?” I hear you ask, and I answer: It is a collection of 432 championship-caliber golf holes, spread out over a network of ten locations in Alabama. Each location has a resort-quality hotel, making overnight stays a pleasure for the out-of-town crowd. And best of all, the greens fees are eminently reasonable, especially when purchased in the context of a three-day all-you-can-play package. There is no better deal to be found in golf...and the course quality-to-value ratio is astronomical.

Of course, the way Elisson plays, the cost-per-shot ratio is also pleasantly low. Feh.

We started off late Thursday afternoon by assembling the multitudes - there were eight of us along on the voyage - and grabbing a barbecue dinner at Jim and Nick’s in Smyrna, Georgia. We packed ourselves with copious quantities of smokèd meats and told countless stupid jokes. Including this one:

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

The Interrupting Pirate.

The Interrup-

Arrrrh!
(It’s better heard than read...trust me.)

That kicked off two and a half days of random outbursts of Pirate Talk, to the consternation of some and the general amusement of most.

Bloated and sated, we got on the road and drove to Prattville, just north of Montgomery. Prattville is the home of Capitol Hill, a Trail location comprising three courses: the Judge, the Legislator, and the Crooked Lobbyist Senator, the last of which is a Scottish links-style layout complete with gorsy tumuli, a constant stiff breeze, and deep pot bunkers. On arrival, we checked in to our hotel, had a few Adult Beverages, and then fortified ourselves for the struggle ahead with a good night’s sleep.

Friday, we played the Legislator in the morning and the Senator in the afternoon. [Two years ago, we had played the Judge, a course more properly titled “Judge, Jury, and Executioner” and definitely not for the faint of heart.] The weather cooperated, with the rain holding off and there being enough of a breeze to keep things from getting unpleasantly tropical. Some fine Hoyo de Monterrey cigars (courtesy of Houston Steve) were the icing on the cake.

The Judge
The imposing view from the first tee at The Judge.

After a lengthy day, we grabbed a steak dinner and got back on the road. Our destination was Opelika, home of the Grand National. Upon arrival - it’s about an hour’s hike from Montgomery up I-85 - we enjoyed a few communal tipples and headed off to bed.

The weather that greeted us Saturday morning was not encouraging. The skies were grey, with a rain that varied from weak spitting to moderate downpour. Fortunately, as our tee-time approached, the weather settled down and we headed for the Lakes course.

Our afternoon round was at the Links course, a layout with a gorgeous - and challenging - finishing hole. As we headed back to the hotel, somewhat damp from the late afternoon showers that had moved in, we were tired but happy. A rainbow appeared in the eastern skies, and we hustled off to see what lay at its end. Imagine our disappointment to find, instead of the fabled Pot o’ Gold, a few boxes of Titleist X-outs. Foo.

Rainbow
Rainbow over Opelika.

A quick shower, and we were off to grab an Italian dinner in Auburn, a dinner punctuated by random Piratical Outbursts: “I would have made parrrrh, but I hit the shot too farrrrh and ended up in a bunkarrrrh. And then the carrrrht ran over my foot. Aarrrrh!”

Sharing the hotel with us was an amateur baseball team, a team with not much to do, given the rain that fell intermittently during the weekend. Also at the hotel was the Miss Gulf Coast beauty pageant. The outgoing Miss Gulf Coast was much easier on the eyes, in my Not-So-Humble Opinion, than her Rattlesnake Roundup counterpart - but you be the judge.

Miss Gulf Coast
Miss Gulf Coast.

Miss Rattlesnake Roundup 2007
Miss Rattlesnake Roundup.

Alas, Sunday morning we awoke to a steady drenching rain. Optimists we, we drove to the course with the intention of checking the weather radar at the clubhouse...but the rain was hard enough so that nobody was willing to get out of the car to run to the clubhouse. Which meant that it was time to pack it in and head back to Atlanta. Given my sore hands and aching body, that was not an entirely bad outcome.

One thing is certain, though. I’ve got to invest in an updated driver. My equipment is almost a decade old, and meaningful innovations in golf equipment are starting to track those in the computer industry. Which means I’m still playing with the equivalent of a 386 processor and a 5¼-inch floppy drive. I need to get me one of them big-ass 460cc head drivers that look like a watermelon on a toothpick...’cause with one of them big-ass drivers, I can smack that pill a good long ways.

Then maybe I can start working on what direction the damn thing goes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

JULY GUILD FUNCTION

This evening’s Guild function at Petite Auberge was a combination Wine Tasting and Annual Meeting, this being when officers are elected and annual dues are payable. Of course, our favorite Cripple-American was there. He currently holds the post of Secretary as well as the even more coveted position of Former President.

Petite Auberge provided a nice array of hors d’oeuvres and the Guild kicked in a supply of Champagne with which to begin the evening. In addition to Veuve Clicquot Brut, there was a bottle of Étoile, a California sparkler. Fizzy.

To supply the rest of the tasting, each attendee brought a bottle from his or her cellar. My contribution consisted of a bottle of Penfolds South Australia Cabernet 2003, an unpretentious little red with good solid peasant-like legs; firm, upright bazooms; and upon tasting, notes of cigar box, currants, dark chocolate, and pitted prunes.

Some of the other wines we had included:
  • Châteuneuf-du-Pape (I don’t recall the vintage, but this was the wine Denny brought. Smooove.)
  • Gigondas Domaine Santa Duc 1998
  • Joseph Phelps Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
  • Château Cos d’Estournel Saint Estèphe 1997
  • Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1986
  • Tinto Pesquera 2003
  • Ojai Vineyards Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Syrah 2002
  • Neyers Cuvée d’Honneur Napa Valley Syrah 2002
  • Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir 2003
  • Mischief and Mayhem Pinot Noir 2005
  • Walter Hansel Russian River Chardonnay 2005
As you can see, most of the selections were red...and surprisingly, almost all were California. Just a couple of French wines and one Spanish.

We elected a new slate of officers. Well, maybe not so new. Denny is once again the club’s Secretary. And that’s just fine with him. Less aggravation than being President and having to listen to people’s pissing and moaning: “Waah! I want
goat cheese!” “More wine, less food!” “More food, less wine!” “These hors d’oeuvres suck!” (The answer to which is, of course, “If you don’t like the tasting I planned, why don’t you plan the next one?”)

All in all, an enjoyable evening. Burp. Denny will agree - Sucks to be we, don’t it?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

ARKS AND CARNIVALS

While I was enjoying my Golfy Holiday in Alabama, the Friday Ark - 146th edition - set sail at the Modulator. Check out the various lifeforms on board: more than just cats, ya know!

But if it is cats you want, then head over to the Carnival of the Cats, appearing in its 172nd incarnation at Mind of Mog as a memorial tribute to the late Krissie. Our condolences to Mog, who has lost a friend of extraordinary beauty, as evidenced by the ethereally graceful photographs of Krissie appearing in the Carnival post.