Friday, November 30, 2007

TLINGONS

I’ve written on the topic of Invented Languages before: on Klingon and Esperanto; and, more recently, on Klingon and Yiddish.

The latter post was inspired by Eric, the Straight White Guy, who was struck by what he perceived to be apparent similarities between Yiddish and Klingon. [I know where Eric found the Yiddish; I’m almost afraid to ask where he came by his knowledge of Klingon.]

Given that Dr. Marc Okrand, the creator of the Klingon language (tlhlngan Hol), is Jewish (according to commenter Qov, who should know), I suspect that some of the sounds shared in common between Hebrew, Yiddish, and Klingon are not entirely the result of coincidence.

But here’s where things get interesting. Just for shits ’n’ grins, I did a Google search on yiddish klingon. My recent post popped up #1, but the third listing caught my eye: a MySpace forum entry by one David, who uses the moniker This is My BOOMSTICK! And it turns out that David is a native Alaskan who teaches Tlingit...

...and who has found that a good way to introduce the sounds of Tlingit to non-Tlingit speakers is to teach them Klingon first.
Tlingit is rather gutteral (sic) and some of the sounds of Klingon actually parallel some of the sounds in Tlingit.
Just Damn!

Wait. It gets even more surreal.

If you follow the thread, you see that David is not only learning Esperanto - another invented language - but he’s monitoring the growing influx of loanwords into Tlingit...from Yiddish (!) and Klingon (!!!). Quoth David,
I’m keeping notes on current usage in Tlingit and am surprised by how much Klingon and Yiddish have made their way into Tlingit. I’ve counted over 250 words in total from Yiddish and Klingon. [emphasis mine]
OK, we now have the confluence of four languages - Tlingit, Yiddish, Klingon, and Esperanto - two of which are naturally-developed languages spoken by relatively few people, and the other two of which are invented languages spoken (also) by relatively few people.

Take the Klingon away, and you have three languages that figure prominently in Michael Chabon’s fascinating alternative history novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which takes place in present-day Sitka, Alaska...in a world in which the Jewish homeland was created on leased land in Alaska after World War II. It’s a world in which Yiddish, not Hebrew, becomes the official language of the Alaskan Jews. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the prominent characters in the book - the protagonist’s partner, one Berko Shemets - is half-Tlingit, or that the book’s central murder mystery is centered around the Zamenhof Hotel, named after the creator of Esperanto.

So: Learn Klingon (an artificial language created by a Jewish linguist) so you can learn Tlingit. Then, go read a book that incorporates elements of Yiddish, Tlingit, and Esperanto (another artificial language created by a Jewish linguist).

I’d love to hear David’s impression of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I truly would.

FRIDAY (ALMOST) RANDOM TEN ELEVEN

Welcome to Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly Exercise in Self-Aggrandizement in which I post a list of ten Random Bits o’ Musical Entertainment straight from the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson.

Today, just for fun, I’ve added an eleventh selection, one not chosen at random. I picked it because I like it. Perhaps you would, too.

Let’s get started, shall we?
  1. The Angel - Bruce Springsteen

    From his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, which still stands up as one of his best works - if not the best. It sounds as fresh and vibrant today as when I first heard it back in 1973.

    The Angel rides with hunchbacked children,
    Poison oozing from his engine
    Wielding love as a lethal weapon,
    On his way to hubcap heaven.

    Baseball cards poked in his spokes,
    His boots in oil he’s patiently soaked
    The roadside attendant nervously jokes
    As the Angel’s tires stroke his precious pavement.

    The interstate’s choked with nomadic hordes
    In Volkswagen vans with full running boards, dragging great anchors
    Following dead-end signs into the sores
    The Angel rides by, humpin’ his hunk metal whore

    Madison Avenue’s claim to fame
    In a trainer bra with eyes like rain
    She rubs against the weather-beaten frame
    And asks the Angel for his name.

    Off in the distance the marble dome
    Reflects across the flatlands
    With a naked feel, off into parts unknown
    The woman strokes his polished chrome
    And lies beside the Angel’s bones.


  2. Penny Lane - The Beatles

    I first heard “Penny Lane” when it was released to American radio stations in late January 1967 as a single backed with “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It was a watershed moment: The Beatles had managed to uncork a completely new sound, a sound that would be cemented with the subsequent release of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that May. Two completely different songs sharing similar themes, each a complement to the other. Mark Lewisohn, in his landmark book The Beatles Recording Sessions, calls this release “arguably the greatest pop single to be issued by anyone at anytime.”

    The version of “Penny Lane” that American stations played that January was slightly different from the one most people remember from the Magical Mystery Tour album. It was Take 11, a mono mix that included an extra trumpet flourish at the end of the song. But that mix was evidently deemed not good enough for the final product, so it was tinkered with a few more times. Mix 14, which omits the final trumpet flourish, ended up being the “definitive” version of the song.

  3. Undone (The Sweater Song) - Weezer

  4. Non Nobis Domine - Patrick Doyle

    The elegiac psalm from Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Henry V, played over scenes of the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt.

    Non nobis, Domine, Domine
    Non nobis, Domine
    Sed nomini, sed nomini
    Tuo da gloriam


    It is, of course, Psalm 115, rendered in Latin. The original Hebrew is:

    Lo lanu Hashem, lo lanu
    Ki l’shim’kha tein kavod...

    (Not to us, Lord, not to us
    But to Your name give glory...)


    Psalm 115 is part of the Jewish Hallel liturgy, a series of psalms in praise of God that is recited during festivals. It is also recited each day of Chanukah, which means that we’ll be seeing this little number in just a few days.

  5. Anxiety Attack - Skankin’ Pickle

    Talk about an abrupt change in mood...I love Random Music.

  6. Fell In Love With A Girl - Richard Cheese

  7. Nokh Ein Tantz - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  8. There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You - Ben Folds

  9. Eve Of The War - Jeff Wayne

  10. All Along The Watchtower - Dave Mason

  11. The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys - Traffic

    This one’s the sole Non-Random Selection, the high point of Traffic’s musical career in the post-Dave Mason days. A lengthy (11:35) jazz-rock tune with overtones of Miles Davis, its cynical lyrics are a slap at the music business. The title was penned by actor Michael J. Pollard (the one on the left in this picture), a friend of band vocalist/percussionist Jim Capaldi.

    If you see something that looks like a star
    And it’s shooting up out of the ground
    And your head is spinning from a loud guitar
    And you just can’t escape from the sound
    Don’t worry too much, it’ll happen to you
    We were children once, playing with toys
    And the thing that you’re hearing is only the sound of
    The low spark of high-heeled boys.

    Chorus:
    The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
    While you’re living beyond all your means
    And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
    From the profit he’s made on your dreams
    But today you just read that the man was shot dead
    By a gun that didn’t make any noise
    But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest - ’twas
    The low spark of high-heeled boys.

    If you had just a minute to breathe
    And they granted you one final wish
    Would you ask for something like another chance?
    Or something similar as this?
    Don’t worry too much, it’ll happen to you
    As sure as your sorrows are joys
    And the thing that disturbs you is only the sound of
    The low spark of high-heeled boys.

    If I gave you everything that I owned
    And asked for nothing in return
    Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
    Or take me for a ride,
    And strip me of everything, including my pride
    But spirit is something that no one destroys
    And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound of
    The low spark of high-heeled boys.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Be thou Hippopotamus or Alligator,
Come take a ride with the Modulator.
His Ark is spacious, and floateth free
Upon the billows of the Bloggy-Sea.

The Friday Ark has set sail once again under the experienced captaincy of Steve, the Modulator, this being its 167th voyage. Stop by and say hello to the Floating Menagerie.

Sunday evening, be on the lookout for Carnival of the Cats, the 193rd edition of which will appear at a location to be announced. Last week’s Carnival showed up at This, That, & The Other Thing a week early, so my guess is that Begin Each Day As If It Were on Purpose will be the host this week...but check back here for an update in case things change. Fulla surprises, those kitties!

Update: CotC #193 is up at This, That, & The Other Thing. Two weeks in a row!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

PIZZA OF THE WEIRD

Years ago, on one of our Family Journeys between New York and South Florida, we stopped at a Holiday Inn where, during the course of our stay, we tucked into a pleasant dinner in the hotel restaurant.

As I perused the menu there, I noticed that one of the dessert items - apparently a signature dish at the Holiday Inn chain in those years - was apple pie with cheddar cheese baked right into the crust.

This struck me as bizarre, and I made a comment to that effect. Whereupon I was informed by my father (Eli, hizzownself) that cheddar cheese was a natural accompaniment to apple pie, and that, in fact, many people enjoyed a slice of good, crumbly, sharp cheddar with their pie. Thus did the young Elisson learn a small lesson in Fine Living.

With age comes a certain sophistication of the taste buds, an ability to appreciate the subtlety of Grown-Up Food. If anything, it has increased the pleasure I take as I contemplate the marriage of fruit and good cheese. Yesterday, for example, I enjoyed a perfect Bartlett pear, just at the ideal peak of ripeness (an all-too-brief window of time for this particular fruit), with chunks of an aged Gouda-like cheese, pungent and salty. The combination was exquisite.

This evening, as I was casting about for something to gnaw on, I thought again about that marriage of sweet fruit and savory cheese. Apple pie and cheddar. Hey, a pizza is fruit (tomato) and cheese (mozzarella) anyway, innit? How about an American-style apple and cheddar pizza?

Why the hell not? Out came the block of sharp cheddar, the microplane, the spare pack of Harry’s pizza crusts we had shoved into the back of the bread drawer. And a couple of nice Gala apples. (Granny Smiths would’ve been just fine, too.)

Fifteen minutes in the convection oven at 350°F, and here’s what it looked like:

Apple-Cheddar Pizza
Apple-Cheddar Pizza.

The verdict? Not bad, although not quite like apple pie with a slice of cheddar. Maybe I’ll play with this a bit. A thin, hand-made crust, sharper cheddar (or maybe even some aged Gouda to kick up the sodium level a tad...some Parmesan, perhaps?), maybe throw in some pears, too...this could end up being a Classic.

Remember where you saw it first.

GEOMETRY

Cheek to Cheek
Hakuna and Matata illustrate a Geometric Principle.

Here sit Hakuna and Matata, demonstrating the construction of a Right Angle.

It’s both reassuring and useless to know that if a third kitty were to come along to form the hypotenuse of this Kitty Right Triangle in the Making, that its length would be the square root of the sum of the squares of Hakuna’s and Matata’s respective lengths.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ANOTHER USELESS MILESTONE

I glanced at my Sitemeter yesterday evening and realized that, sometime during the day, this site had registered its 250,000th visit.

It has taken me three years, four months, and twenty days to hit the quarter-million mark. Whoop-tee-do.

Thanks to all of my Esteemed Readers who have made it possible...even those of you who have cruised in here looking for such diverse things as porta pussy, biloxi ms titty bar, duck grease, and peed in the sink. Hope you found what you were looking for...although I tend to doubt it.

“Another Useless Exercise in Self-Aggrandizement and Time-Wastage” is the tagline for this site. I’m not sure how effective it is as a means of Self-Aggrandizement - Leno, Letterman, O’Brien, and Kimmel still have not called - but it certainly helps chew up those precious hours. Nevertheless, it’s fun, and so I shall continue to foist my Random Bullshit upon whoever cares to read it.

Thanks once again. Excelsior!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

STRANGE TONGUEFELLOWS

This afternoon, I was pleased to receive a phone call from none other than Eric, the Straight White Guy hizzownself, who had a strange question: “Would you consider the Jewish people to be a warlike people?”

The question was not strange prima facie, but because it had been inspired by a nostalgia-soaked post I had written, a post in which I waxed rhapsodic about my late Grandmother’s cooking.

Eric, being about as far removed from the Eastern European Jewish milieu as it is possible to be, saw the unfamiliar Yiddish words, words that described (mostly) unfamiliar foods, and was put in mind of a similar language, one packed with difficult -to-pronounce gutturals and strange glottal stops, a language that is associated with a warlike people. Klingon.

Yes, Klingon.

Never mind that Klingon is a made-up language spoken by a fictional alien society (and not a few Earth-based übergeeks). It sounds - and is meant to sound - aggressive. And if Yiddish and/or Hebrew sounds remotely like Klingon, might it mean that the Jews are a warlike society?

Once upon a time, the Jews were a fairly aggressive nation, the adventures of which are well-documented in the Hebrew Bible. The aggression was limited in the sense that it had a narrow geographic focus, the Israelites being mainly interested in, well, Israel/Judea. But, depending on which bunch of Canaanite locals they were fighting, war with the Jews could be pretty serious. Take no prisoners serious.

But all that changed with the first and second Exiles, and the development of rabbinic Judaism - the type that is practiced by Jews today. Judaism is a belief system that cherishes life and peace. The considerable military might of Israel, the modern nation-state, is used for self-defense - all too necessary for a tiny nation in the midst of a sea of hostile neighbors - while a close look at Jewish society will fail to yield evidence of a bellicose, war-centric mindset. Jews are, emphatically, not Klingons.

So much for Eric’s question. And I don’t know whether the designer of the Klingon language, Marc Okrand, is Jewish, so I can’t speak to any inadvertent assonances.  (Update: He is.)

But it got me to thinking, this notion that Yiddish and Klingon might sound even the slightest bit alike. To me, it’s ridiculous...but then again, I can listen to a Hindi music video and imagine that I’m hearing words like, “Oh shit, I’m a butter head.” So it really boils down to whether you know the language and are familiar with its sounds.

And you may recall the “Star-Mitzvah” episode of Frazier, the one in which Frazier Crane busts his ass studying so that he can deliver a blessing in Hebrew at his son’s Bar Mitzvah. But when he speaks, he is greeted with confused silence - because he has been tricked (by a pissed-off colleague) into reciting the blessing in Klingon.

So: how well do you know Yiddish? Or Klingon?

Why not try this little quiz? (Answers below the fold.)

Klingon Battle Terminology or Yiddish Food Item?
  1. jagh chuHchu’ SuvwI
  2. chremslakh
  3. jup'Iw HIq yltlhutlh
  4. YIHoH
  5. kreplach
  6. XanaX
  7. ghIntaq
  8. Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam
  9. gehokte leber
  10. rugelakh

Answers:
  1. Klingon (“The warrior hits the enemy [with a thrown spear]”)
  2. Yiddish
  3. Klingon (“Friend, drink the bloodwine”)
  4. Klingon (“Kill him”)
  5. Yiddish
  6. Psychoactive pharmaceutical
  7. Klingon (“battle spear”)
  8. Klingon (“It is a good day to die”)
  9. Yiddish
  10. Yiddish

Klingette

EAT MY SHORTS

Bart at the Chalkboard

More Bart Simpson chalkboard fun here.

Hey! Waitaminnit! I can have the little sucker pimp my book!

Bart at the Chalkboard

Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Karen of verbatim for the link.

CHECK YOUR LOCAL NEWSSTAND

If you see this on sale, burn it down.

Time Cover
Elisson makes the cover of Time.

You can create your own stupid-ass Fake Magazine Covers at MagMyPic.com.

Yes, I know: All the Kool Kidz are doing it.

Tip o’ th’ Elisson colander fedora to Karen of verbatim.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A SUNDAY IN BROOKLYN

It’s a random December Sunday in the late 1950’s...a perfect day to visit Eli’s parents, the Grandparents d’Elisson.

We - me, my brother, Mom and Dad - pile into our 1954 Dodge, the one with the two-tone paint job, for the thirty-mile drive. We thread our way through the streets of Massapequa and get on the Southern State Parkway, headed west. I’m not sure what fascinates me more, the dashboard of the car or the familiar scenery as it flies by. Stone overpasses, road signs with white letters on a black background.

We slow down for the tollbooth and Dad flings a dime into the exact-change hopper.

The road bends south here as we transition from the Southern State to the Cross-Island Parkway. A few miles and we turn west once again, this time on the Belt Parkway.

We pass Flatbush Avenue and cross the old-style drawbridge near Floyd Bennett Field. Once in a while, we have to stop when the bridge needs to be raised. Before the bridge operator does so, he pulls a metal gate across the roadway. No railroad-style crossing arms here. Not yet.

Passing Sheepshead Bay, we see the familiar skyline of Coney Island to our left. The Wonder Wheel. The Parachute Ride. And to our right, a mob of subway trains - the Belt takes us right alongside one of the main switchyards. Two footbridges over the parkway announce that we’re approaching our destination.

We get off at Bay Parkway, and minutes later we’re there at Bay 26th Street. It’s a four-flight walkup, and already I can smell the aroma of Grandma’s food wafting though the hallways. And not just her cooking, but everyone else’s as well, combining to create a miraculous pong unique to Brooklyn.

While we wait for dinner, there’s lots to do. I grab the Sunday Mirror and pull out the color comics section: a rare treat. At home, we get Newsday, which doesn’t publish on Sundays...and the New York Times, my parents’ Sunday paper of choice, has no Funny Pages. So I devour them when we’re in Brooklyn. Dick Tracy...the Teenie-Weenies...Pogo...Smokey Stover...Dondi...Joe Palooka...Out Our Way...Mickey Finn. I read ’em all.

There’s a hi-fi, too, with a record player and radio. I love the way the turntable cantilevers out from its cabinet. We pull out South Pacific - a hefty stack of 78’s - and stack the thick shellac discs on the turntable. I watch, fascinated, as the tone arm swings out and each disc drops in its turn.

I look out the bedroom window, past the fire escape, at the Sinclair station on the corner of Bath and 21st Avenues. There’s something reassuringly comforting about that green dinosaur on their sign.

Since it’s a nice day, we go out for a walk, down to Bensonhurst Park at the corner of Bay Parkway and Cropsey Avenue. Dad jokingly refers to it as “Kitzel Park.” I play on the swings as Mom watches my kid brother toddle around. As we walk back to the apartment, I check out the traffic signals. Unlike the ones where we live, the ones in Brooklyn don’t have a yellow light. Red and green: that’s it.

Now it’s time for dinner. Chicken soup for starters. Sometimes, when Grandma is feeling especially industrious, there’ll be kreplach, the ineffable Jewish answer to the Won-Ton, in the soup. Today is one of those days, and I’m ecstatic. I loves me my Grandma’s kreplach, filled with a mixture of chicken and caramelized onion.

There’s gefilte fish, too. Not that crap that comes in a jar - not this week, anyway. Grandma has made her own, grinding up the fish and stuffing it back into the fish skin. It’s a little scary looking. (Maybe that stuff from the jar ain’t quite so bad.)

Next comes the meat loaf, redolent of onions and garlic, along with a roast chicken with crisp, translucent skin. There’s a potatonik, AKA potato kugel, made the way only Grandma can, by hand-grating potatoes and onions and adding just the right amount of egg and matzoh meal, then throwing it in the oven with a 55-gallon drum of vegetable oil. It’s got a dark brown, crusty exterior and a grey interior...and it tastes like Heaven.

I eagerly await the arrival of my own favorite dish, Grandma’s spinach latkes. Yes, spinach latkes, invariably made with Del Monte canned spinach, onions, eggs, and matzoh meal, then fried to a greenish-brown. Ahhh. Imitated, but never duplicated.

On the table, there’s a collection of soft drinks. Though my grandparents don’t keep kosher, the idea of drinking milk at a meat meal is clearly alien to them. The soda comes in thick, heavy glass bottles, and there’s a choice of all sorts of brands: Hoffman’s, Cott (“It’s Cott...to be good!”), White Rock.

Dessert this time is a marble cake - it’s not hamantaschen season yet - baked in a well-worn tube pan. There’s rugelach, too, rolled out with Grandma’s French-style tapered-end rolling pin.

After dinner, Dad and Grandpa have a schnappsl. Sometimes they’ll let me taste a little crème de cacao, giving me a few drops in one of their thick-walled shot glasses, and I feel ever so mature.

By now it’s getting late: time to head home. We bundle ourselves up against the brisk air and get in the car. Off in the distance, we see houses and buildings decorated with multicolored Christmas lights. I sit in the front seat next to my Dad and watch the road ahead, looking for the round yellow lamps that mark the overpasses. Eventually, my eyelids grow heavy and I go to sleep, my head pillowed against my Dad’s leg.

Waking up as the car pulls into our driveway, I peer through half-closed eyes at the shadows cast by the streetlight against the garage door. A thin coating of snow crunches against my boots. We’re home again.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

NEWS OF THE BIZARRE BEZOAR

The Bloggy-Sphere is a many-splendored place.

With tens of millions of blogs out there, the whole range of human interests is represented somewhere out there, if you look hard enough. There are political blogs and religious blogs, fearlessly covering the two subjects that should never be discussed in polite company. There are food blogs, pet owners’ blogs, gun owners’ blogs. Military blogs. Garden blogs. Sex blogs, covering the full gamut of behaviors and desires from shoe fetishism to Boo-Cocky (a condition in which one can only defecate when frightened by a sudden noise).

If you want a freak show, you can go here, the next best thing to News of the Weird. Read all about the freaks in Gibsonton, Florida. Learn about the short, blighted limbs (and equally short, blighted life) of Lobster Boy. Javelin through the foot? Posted a (now-expired) link. Axe in the head? Got it. Octopus-Girl? Hell, yeah.

But this, even V-Man does not have. Yet.

Submitted for your approval, the story of an eighteen-year-old woman who was admitted to the hospital complaining of abdominal pain, weight loss (about 40 pounds in five months), and vomiting after meals.

A quick peek with the old esophagogastroduodenoscope - a tube shoved down your throat until it reaches your small intestine - told the tale. The girl, who had had a lengthy history of eating her own hair, was suffering from a trichobezoar: nothing less than a Honkin’ Big-Ass Hairball.

Our cats get these all the time, since they groom themselves by licking their fur. And when they get one, they will, like as not, harf it up onto the rug. But in this young woman’s case, the damn thing was huge, 15" x 7" x 7", pretty much filling up her entire stomach. The thing weighed ten pounds and had to be removed surgically. Here ’tis, courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine:

Trichobezoar

Bezoars, of which the trichobezoar is but one type, are not all that rare, especially in ruminant animals: cows and the like. They can be composed of organic or inorganic matter. In days past, bezoars were thought to have medicinal properties and were much sought after as a universal antidote for poisons. Some bezoars even were considered gemstones: the Nine Pearls of Vedic tradition are thought to be bezoars that attained the status of sacred objects. And it makes sense, in a way. Pearls, a natural product of the oyster, are considered precious. Why not the even-rarer intestinal blockages of the elephant?

But I digress.

Here you have an eighteen-year-old woman who grew this Monster Hairball - complete with snazzy kink at the end - thanks to a diet that included liberal helpings of her own hair over a period of many years (“Part of this nutritious breakfast! And lunch! And dinner!”) Five days after her surgery, she was reportedly able to eat normally. And it’s now a year later, and she has managed to put back on about 20 pounds.

Sure, she says she no longer eats her own hair. (I should hope not, not after having that fucking thing carved out of her kishkes.) But what about all the other trichophagics out there? What can we do to help them break their revolting and potentially life-threatening habits?

We need a Spokesman.

The USDA Forest Service has Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl. Muscular Dystrophy has Jerry Lewis. We need a Spokesman.

Just as Walt Disney was inspired to create a lovable cartoon character - an American icon, no less - from vermin, so can I create the next great American icon from...a revolting gastrointestinal mass. The spokesman for the Disease that Dare Not Speak Its Name...mainly ’cause it’s hard to talk with a mouthful of hair.

Meet Mr. Beezer!

Mr. Beezer
Mr. Beezer says:

“If you don’t want to die,
Don’t have that second slice of Hair Pie!”

LIVE MALLBLOGGING

It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She Who Must Be Obeyed, Elder Daughter, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and I are at Perimeter Mall, braving the post-Thanksgiving hordes. The ladies are looking at clothing; I’m up to my usual tricks - namely, blogging away at the local Apple store and playing with all the Techno-Toys. I lurves the Apple Store.

Hey, at least it keeps me out of the Godiva and Lindt shops. For a while, anyway.

As is our custom, we parked outside behind Nordstrom, the Class Act amongst Department Stores. Nordstrom often has live music in the form of a guy playing a grand piano; this being the Holiday Season, the piano player was supplemented by a guy on drums - playing discreetly, mind you - and a horn player.

The horn guy and I got into a conversation while he made a minor repair to his flugelhorn, a gorgeous brass-and copper affair. Then he picked up his silver trumpet and played a fine jazz version of “Greensleeves,” the piano player providing the melodic line as he improvised his way through the piece. Beautiful.

Elder Daughter came over and joined me, and we watched and listened for a few minutes, my arm around her shoulders.

As I observed the horn guy’s fingers flying over the valves, I thought back to a time many years ago, when Eli (hizzownself), the Poppa d’Elisson, was roughly the same age as this guy playing the trumpet. Early- to mid-thirties, thereabouts. I was a Little Guy back then, and I would watch in fascination as my Dad would play the trumpet.

Yes, he was a trumpet player, Eli was. Played during the summers in the Catskills, back when he was in his late teens, earning a few bucks and hanging out with the boys up in the mountains of Upstate New York. And even though he was a Married Guy now, a real Family Man, he would still pick up the horn and knock out a few tunes every so often.

He would set up in what would eventually become my kid brother’s bedroom, unfolding his music stand and spreading newspapers on the floor to catch the Spit-Valve drippings. And I would watch his every move, hear his every sound, in complete and utter fascination.

Oh, I was so young then, and the world so full of possibilities.

Four, nay, five decades have passed, and three of those possibilities are walking around right now. I do believe that I will - perhaps after a quick trip to the Lindt store - find them.

Ahh, the phone is buzzing. They, it seems, have found me. And I am smiling.

A BELATED FUZZY FRIDAY

Here’s a sure bet: Sooner or later,
We’ll stop by and visit the Modulator.
This week, later’s better than not at all.
The kitties are patient; they await our call.

The Friday Ark has sailed forth on its 166th voyage at the Modulator.

This Sunday - tomorrow! - you are heartily encouraged to pay a call upon the 192nd Carnival of the Cats, to be hosted by Begin Each Day As If It Were on Purpose, a mouthful of a blogname if ever I heard one.

And in other Carnival-Related News, the 88th edition of the Carnival of Satire is up at The Skwib, Mark A. Rayner’s happily ridiculous site. Stop by for a bracing dose of satire, with an occasional sprinkling of lampoon and parody.

Update: CotC #192 is up...at This, That, & The Other Thing. Surprise!

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN, A DAY LATE

Well, it’s hard to sit down and write blogposts when you have a Happy Army of relatives staying in the house. A matter of priorities.

Thus: A slightly belated welcome to the post-Thanksgiving edition of Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly Waste of Time in which I post a list of ten chunks of music as spewed out at random from the iPod d’Elisson.

Morris William (SWMBO’s kid brother) and Rebecca have just packed up little William and Madison and have begun their lengthy journey back to Texas. The house is quiet...but not completely so, for we still have Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm with us for another day. Joy!

So: What’s playing today?
  1. About To Die - Procol Harum

  2. Real Love - The Beatles

  3. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life - Monty Python’s Spamalot

  4. Samwise The Brave - Howard Shore, The Two Towers

  5. Shnaps-Nign - The Klezmatics

    The title translates to “Booze-Song.”

  6. Free Bird Jam (live) - Ben Folds Five

  7. The Red Weed - Jeff Wayne

  8. So Fucking Stupid - Bickley

    From the album Pogo à Go Go. Bickley was a Houston-based punk band in the 1990’s, one of whose members was a colleague at the Great Corporate Salt Mine. White shirt and tie by day, nipple rings and songs sprinkled liberally with words like “Fuck!” by night.

  9. Miracle Drug - A. C. Newman

  10. Zomby Woof (live) - Frank Zappa

It’s Friday Saturday. What are you listening to?

BIRDZILLA

Or, What We Ate for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Birdzilla
Birdzilla, our honkin’ big-ass Thanksgiving turkey.

Twenty pounds, Esteemed Readers. Twenty pounds.

This year, we tried a new recipe: Crisp apple-scented roast turkey with cider-Calvados gravy, from the latest issue of Saveur magazine. Leave it to me to experiment on a crowd of sixteen friends and relatives. Fearless (or stupid), dat’s me.

But it all turned out for the good. Despite the dark-brown, crisp, caramelized skin, the meat underneath - both white and dark - was remarkably tender. That was, incidentally, SWMBO’s one complaint about the bird: that it wasn’t dried out sufficiently for her taste. The Missus, you see, prefers white meat that has been cooked to the consistency of hard-coat stucco.

[One of the little things that makes our marriage work: She eats the white meat, I eat the dark.]

For anointing the Yummy Turkey-Flesh, we had a potful of delicious cider-Calvados gravy:

Cider-Calvados Gravy
Yummy, yummy gravy.

To accommodate the whole roomful of happy diners - sixteen in all - we swapped the furniture in the dining room with that of the sunroom...

Thanksgiving at Chez Elisson
The Thanksgiving table.

Even the little ones had a good time.

Madison and William
Madison and William scarf up some T-day dinner.

For dessert? Shelly brought a loaf of excellent zucchini bread, JoAnn baked apple and pumpkin pies, and I had this little gem, a cranberry, almond, and cinnamon tart, adapted from a Martha Fucking Stewart recipe by cutting the baking time and temperature dramatically:

Cranberry, Almond, and Cinnamon Tart
Adapted from a recipe by Martha Fucking Stewart.

That tart, or any of those pies, was good enough to make you want to gouge out your eyeballs in sheer ecstasy, especially when served with a dollop of fresh vanilla-scented whipped cream.

Crap. Just writing about this has made me hungry. Guess it’s time to haul out some of the leftovers...

MORNING RELAXATION

As the morning sun lights up our front staircase, Hakuna and Matata seize the opportunity to bask in the warmth.

Here, Hakuna has parked herself on a stair tread.

Stairtread Hakuna
Quoth Hakuna, “Don’t tread on me.”

Matata, with her kittenish personality, is all about the Rolling Around.

Morning Matata
I can has sunbeam?

Both cats have been a little discombobulated this week, given the presence of Human Shorties in the house. William (age five) and Madison (fourteen months) do not fit their preconceived notions of what humans look and act like; they are short and prone to sudden Noisy Exclamations. And so the kitties have been maintaining a low profile, preferring to lurk in the quiet recesses of the upstairs bedrooms.

Alas, Morris William and family will be beginning their return voyage to Texas today. It will be quiet in the house...and it will feel a little lonelier. But the cats will come out of hiding.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

MAKE LIKE A TREE...

Leafplay 1

Leafplay 2

Leafplay 3

...and Leaf.

Nothing says Autumn quite like playing in the fallen leaves, as demonstrated here by Morris William and son William, and photographed by She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Come, my son.

Enjoy the pitter-patter
Of decaying Organic Matter.

I wonder. Do you think it grieves
The tree, to thus lose all its leaves?
Or is it more like cutting hair -
Once shorn, as if ’twere never there?

No matter. I will bury thee
In this detritus from the tree.
We’ll run and laugh and breathe crisp air,
I’ll make a face, as if to scare.

We’ll brush ourselves and go inside,
Still breathing hard from our Leaf-Ride.
These autumn days are precious, Son,
For Fun is Funnest when you’re young.


THANKS

Last year, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I celebrated Thanksgiving with the Mistress of Sarcasm and a small army of her friends in Savannah. This year, in a return to tradition, the festivities will take place here at Chez Elisson.

For the first time in five years, both the Mistress of Sarcasm and Elder Daughter will be here at our Thanksgiving table...certainly something for which we are thankful. SWMBO’s brother Morris William and his family will be here with us as well, along with a horde of Local Friends. It will be stupendous.

As for the food, we are planning the usual groaning board, piled high with seasonal delights. Here’s the menu:Some of these recipes - the sausage-rice dressing, f’r instance - are family favorites. That one in particular we’ve had on our table for almost every one of the last twenty-five years.

The turkey recipe is a new one for us, fresh out of this month’s Saveur magazine. It sounded irresistible, and the photos clinched the deal.

The green beans? Everyone is more than familiar with the infamous Green Bean Casserole of American popular culture, a dish most often made with canned green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Feh. This one, following a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, is made from scratch: The only “convenience” ingredient is the canned French-fried onions for the topping. We made this last year at the Mistress’s, and it was surprisingly good. Amazing what you can accomplish with fresh green beans, mushrooms, garlic, and real cream.

In the meantime, we are amusing ourselves by having Home-Made Pizza. William helps us put it together...

William, the Pizza Man

...and here’s the end product. Half plain cheese, half with sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini, fresh basil, and mushrooms.

Pizza

Hey! The kid’s got potential...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

THE BIG SQUEEZE SLEEP

Dick Wilson
Actor Dick Wilson, R.I.P.

Actor Dick Wilson, who appeared in over seventy different films and television series between the mid-1950’s and 1987, passed away Monday, November 19, at age 91. His family plans a small private service in which Wilson’s remains will be wrapped in polyethylene plastic and squeezed gently into a casket.

Wilson was a familiar face in shows as diverse as “Bewitched,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Disneyland,” yet he became an American icon on the strength of his portrayal of Mr. Whipple, the obsessive-compulsive control freak grocer who seeks to prevent customers from squeezing the Charmin bathroom tissue, yet who cannot resist getting in a squeeze or two himself.

Mr. Whipple reportedly was ranked the third best-known American in a 1978 survey conducted by Charmin brandlords Procter & Gamble, right behind Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. I’m not sure whether that is more a testament to the character’s popularity coupled with the power of modern American merchandising, or an indictment of American popular culture.

Me, I hated Mr. Whipple. His hypocritical “do as I say, not as I do” attitude may have been played for laughs, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps I could see some of the eventual implications of that mindset becoming more acceptable in the broader society:

Mr. Whipple: “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”

George W. Bush: “Please don’t increase the Federal deficit.”

Jim Bakker: “Please don’t fuck the women you aren’t married to.”

Obnoxious as those ads were, however, they got the job done, creating indelible brand recognition. And you gotta feel for Dick Wilson, who (as Laurence Simon puts it) “will forever be associated with a product people wipe their asses with.”

And since the subject of abstergents - products people wipe their asses with - has occupied these Electronic Pages all too often, I needs must salute Dick Wilson.

Mr. Whipple’s job as wipesperson for Charmin bathroom tissue has long since been taken over by the Charmin Bears. All too easy, sez I: For some perverse reason, bears and bunwad form a natural mental association. Grocers, not so much. Yet that is a challenge that Dick Wilson surmounted...with his own inimitable style.

His body of work - over 500 television commercials - will ensure that his memory is never wiped away, that we shall always remember him as an actor flushed with success.

R.I.P.ple, Mr. Whipple. Bye-bye, Baron o’ Bunwad.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

THE TURNING POINT

I can date the beginnings of my Descent Into Madness fairly accurately.

There was the day in April 1962 when, as a tender young lad of nine, I purchased my first Mad magazine.

And there was the Baked Potato incident that took place right around that same time. This probably had nothing to do with Mad magazine, but nevertheless was a cautionary flag indicating that I had a predisposition for Extreme Foolishness.

There was a children’s song, you see, one that was entitled “Desperado.” It predated the (completely different) Eagles song by many years...and the lyrics, best as I can remember them, went something like this:

He was a desperado from the wild and woolly West,
He came into Chicago just to give the West a rest.
He wore a big sombrero and a gun beneath his vest
And everywhere he went he gave his war whoop.


Chorus:
He was a brave, bold man and a desperado,
From Cripple Creek, way down in Colorado,
And he walked around like a big tornado,
And everywhere he went he gave his war whoop!

He went to Coney Island just to take in all the sights,
He saw the hootchie-kootchie and the girls dressed up in tights
He got so darned excited that he shot out all the lights,
And everywhere he went he gave his war whoop!

A great big fat policeman was a-walking down his beat,
He saw this desperado come a-walking down the street.
He grabbed him by the whiskers, and he grabbed him by the seat
And threw him where he wouldn’t give his war whoop.


[Now, thanks to the magic of the Inter-Webby-Net, I don’t have to rely solely on my memory. I actually found the lyrics at this website...amazing!]

I suppose I must’ve been at day camp that summer, and it’s entirely possible that I learned the song there...or perhaps it was on one of my kid brother’s vast collection of Kiddie LP’s. But it was the chorus that stuck in my mind like an earwig:

He was a brave, bold man and a desperado,
From Cripple Creek, way down in Colorado,
And he walked around like a big tornado,
And everywhere he went he gave his war whoop!


Many years later, my own children would discover that their Daddy had a nasty tendency to monkey with song lyrics...and this is where it all began. For in my head, the chorus of “Desperado” was subtly different:

He was a brave, bold man and a desperado,
From Cripple Creek, way down in Colorado,
And he walked around like a baked potato,
And everywhere he went he gave his war whoop!


For some reason, this Minor Lyrical Alteration struck me as hysterically funny. I would think of it at random moments and become doubled over in gut-wrenching, blackout-inducing uncontrollable laughter. Scary behavior in a nine-year-old.

Desperado...tornado...baked potato. From such humble beginnings sprang forth my career of committing High Crimes and Misdemeanors against the English language.

That was over 45 years ago...yet ever since then, I’ve never been able to listen to a song without thinking up ridiculous alternative lyrics. The only difference between me and Weird Al Yankovic is that (1) he has real musical ability, and (2) he’s managed to make a career out of that sort of narrischkeit.

I’m not sure if wearing the occasional Colander Headgear is better or worse...baked potato...baked potato...

BIFF BAM POW

Kung Fu William
William, the rock ’em, sock ’em kid.

Our nephew William, at the advanced age of five, is already becoming a Kung-Fu Ninja Combat Master on the Wii.

Above, you can see him pounding the crap out of his Video Boxing Trainer, to the great amusement of our friend Laura Belle.

Playground bullies, look out!

NAME THAT CREATURE

Unique among the daikaiju - the greatest of the fictional Japanese monsters, this creature is a formidable opponent in combat, having bested opponents as diverse as Gojira (Godzilla); Ghidora (Ghidra), he of the Three Heads; and the space monster Gigan. At the same time, she can roast a turkey; make a Christmas wreath out of holly, pine cones, and the disemboweled bodies of her victims; and bake a mince pie out of her own made-from-scratch mincemeat.

Her insectile lifecycle, in which the next generation of larvae hatch from the egg coincident with the death of the adult, is reminiscent of that of the mythical Phoenix, a bird that is continually reborn from its ashes, or that of a prisoner who has paid her debt to Society and who is welcomed back to the lofty heights of corporate achievement.

Whoever could it be? Look below the fold for the answer...

Mothra Stewart

Why, it’s Mothra Stewart!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

TRANSFORMATION

Transformers

SWMBO’s brother Morris William and his son William arrived at Chez Elisson in the wee hours of this morning, after driving straight through from Denton, Texas. Oy.

It’s amazing how much William changes every time we see him. As a five-year-old, he is worlds apart from the toddler he was last time he was here in Atlanta. And his interests have changed, too.

No longer is he enamored of Thomas the Incredibly Insipid Tank Engine, whose chief attraction to the Training Pants Set is that he and his associates have personalities just like human toddlers. No: William has Moved On. Now it’s the characters from Cars (he’s particularly fond of Lightning McQueen), and the Transformers.

Yes, the Transformers. Fueled by the 2007 movie, Transformers are once again the King Shit among boys’ toys. Proving, I suppose, that the more things change transform, the more they stay the same.

For, you see, they’ve been around a while, these Transformers. The first generation hit the toy store shelves back in 1984, followed closely by the animated cartoons that helped establish the characters...and pimp the hell out of the toys. In this case, the toys came first, but it’s hard to imagine that there wasn’t some sort of Master Plan that envisioned the huge marketing power of what was, essentially, a series of half-hour toy ads.

New generations of Transformers came along as the years passed, and Hasbro gradually built up a backstory that rivals H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos in complexity. And now, with the Michael Bay movie having brought the Autobots and Decepticons to the big screen, it looks like these cyber-critters are going to be with us for the duration.

Back in the day, SWMBO and I missed having any significant involvement with the Transformers. With us having daughters, the adventures of Megatron and Optimus Prime were less compelling than, say, Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, and the Cabbage Patch Kids. (Feh.) And I’m old enough to remember when a “transformer” was something that powered your electric train set.

But William loves ’em, especially the Optimus Prime we got him for his fifth birthday. Ingenious toys, these Transformers. I’ve got an engineering degree from an Ivy League university, and I sit in befuddled wonderment as my five-year-old nephew converts O.P. from Kick-Ass Robot form to Peterbilt Truck form and back with a few quick twists and snaps.

And you can even tell Transformers jokes.

Optimus Prime: Where do Megatron and his evil cohorts get their fuel?

Bumblebee: I dunno. Where?

Optimus Prime: The Deceptic Tank.

Hey, it beats (gasp!) Barney the Purple you should grow like a fossil with your head in the ground Dinosaur.

JACKASS DU JOUR

Welcome to Jackass du Jour, a new semi-regular feature of Blog d’Elisson in which I’ll post photographs of Random Idiots on the Road.

Jackass du Jour
Jackass du Jour.

Today’s Jackass du Jour is Mr. Genius-in-the-Pontiac, shown here driving 80 MPH less than one car length behind a fuel truck on Interstate 85.

Taking a tip from Lance Armstrong and the other folks in the Tour de France, our JdJ is using the time-honored technique of drafting: getting close enough to someone’s ass to eliminate almost all wind resistance. You get a big boost in gasoline mileage that way. So what if you have exactly zero visibility driving mere inches behind a humongous truck? So what if Mr. Fuel Truck, by merely tapping on his brakes, can cause you to jam your car right up into his tank full of highly combustible petroleum distillate? So what if you end up like one of those self-immolating Buddhist monks on Velociman’s sidebar?

Lance Armstrong, man! He beat Nut Cancer! Yeah, be like him!

Update: Astute reader Bob Boobbooey points out that the truck is not a fuel truck; there’s no placard indicating flammable or combustible cargo. Good catch, Bobbo. But our Jackass is no less a Jackass, because if you smack into the back of that truck, you’ll be just as dead, whether it’s carrying gasoline, diesel oil, or milk.

Friday, November 16, 2007

HELLO, DALI: 100 WORDS OF ART HISTORY

The Persistence of Memory
The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali’s masterwork of surrealism.

Salvador Dali, the renowned surrealist painter, is thought by most people to have been Catalonian.

Not true. He was born in Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero state, Mexico, in May of 1904. Mexican to the core. It’s a well-kept secret.

The inspiration for many of his surrealistic works was the local cuisine. His most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, was inspired by a meal, the digestion of which caused hallucinations that lasted three days. Freud and Einstein had nothing to do with it.

Most people look at that painting and see melted watches. But Dali always saw tortillas. No: Distortillas.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Welcome to the pre-Thanksgiving edition of Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly exercise in self-indulgence in which I post a list of ten Random Choons plucked from the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson. As if anyone actually gives a crap what’s on my iPod.

It’s the Friday before the Annual American Eat-Fest. This year, we’re especially excited, as we will have a Full House. Both Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm will be arriving Tuesday...the first time in over a decade that we’ll have both our girls here for the holiday. And as if that were not enough, Morris William (SWMBO’s kid brother) is already enroute to Chez Elisson with Nefoo William. Sis-in-law Rebecca and our fourteen-month-old niece Madison will join us next week.

SWMBO has been putting in overtime at the gym this week, working those Baby-Squeezin’ Muscles. Getting ready. Two youngins to squeeze this time!

Right now, we’re doing what we can to baby-proof the place. Madison is highly mobile, and with a mischievous streak to boot, so we’ll have to block off the staircases, plug up the light sockets, and lock up the various Household Toxins. Oh, boy.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at the Playlist du Jour:
  1. Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode

  2. The Bridegroom Special - Sam Medoff & The Yiddish Swing Orchestra

  3. Mr. Bad Example - Warren Zevon

    I started as an altar boy, working at the church
    Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
    Which led me to a cash box, labeled “Children's Fund”
    I’d leave the change, and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund
    I got a part-time job at my father’s carpet store
    Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
    I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
    And auctioned off every last Naugahyde divan

    I’m very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins
    I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
    I’m proud to be a glutton, and I don’t have time for sloth
    I’m greedy, and I’m angry, and I don’t care who I cross

    I’m Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
    I like to have a good time, and I don’t care who gets hurt
    I’m Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
    I’ll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy

    Of course I went to law school and took a law degree
    And counseled all my clients to plead insanity
    Then worked in hair replacement, swindling the bald
    Where very few are chosen, and fewer still are called

    Then on to Monte Carlo to play
    chemin de fer
    I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
    I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
    Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute

    Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig
    And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
    And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
    Looking through the want ads, sipping Fosters in the shade

    I opened up an agency somewhere down the line
    To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines
    But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
    And whisked away their workman’s comp and pauperized the lot

    I’m Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
    I like to have a good time, and I don’t care who gets hurt
    I’m Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
    I’ll live to be a hundred and go down in infamy

    I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air
    And landed in Sri Lanka, none the worse for wear
    I’m thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
    I’ll see you in the next life, wake me up for meals


  4. Shaman’s Blues - The Doors

  5. Prove Yourself - Radiohead

  6. Untitled 17 - J. Ralph

  7. Cours d’Amours - Tempus Est Tocundum - Christian Thielemann, Orff: Carmina Burana

  8. Smoking - Bill Hicks

  9. I Am Yours - Derek and the Dominos

  10. Reggae fi May Ayim - Linton Kwesi Johnson

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

The Friday Ark hath every kind of creature.
Now, Matata leads off in a Double Feature!


Friday Ark #165 is afloat on the Bloggy Sea, captained by that most able Modulator. Stop by and see who’s along for the ride.

Not enough Fuzzy Fauna for ya? This Sunday evening, be sure to pay a visit over at Pet’s Garden Blog, where the 191st Carnival of the Cats is scheduled to appear. Meanwhile, enjoy the pre-Thanksgiving weekend!

Update: CotC #189 is up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

BUTTER MITZVAH

This time of year, as often as not, our Saturday morning synagogue services will include a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It’s a function of how many kids are in Hebrew school and how many weeks there are in the year. (A few years ago, we were even doubling up as often as not, with two B’nai Mitzvah sharing the service. Now, not so much.)

When there is a Family Occasion like this, there will usually be a substantial number of non-Jews in the congregation. Family friends and such. It’s easy to spot ’em: The men wear no tallit; and both men and women will spend the entire service looking at the little circular that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family hands out - the one that explains the order of service, synagogue customs (“we do not eat cheeseburgers during the morning service,” that sort of thing), and why Uncle Manny is standing on his head in the corner (he’s insane) - instead of looking in the prayer book and trying to follow along in the English translation.

I sometimes wonder what these people make of our prayers.

I mean, Hebrew is gibberish to plenty of Jews, never mind Gentiles. When they hear it, is it just a confusing babble with the occasional familiar liturgical word sprinkled in (“Amen,” “Hallelujah”), or do their minds try to recast the unfamiliar sounds into words that sound like English?

I don’t know...but let’s try to imagine, shall we? In a completely different context, anyway. Instead of Hebrew davening, let’s take a look at...Indian pop music! A richer source of mondegreens would be hard to imagine.

Take your basic Bollywood music video [No, it’s not in Hebrew, in case you were wondering] and try to make sense out of the completely alien words. Transliterate ’em as best you can. You might end up with something like this [Note: NSFW]:



Hmmm. I wonder how “Adon Olam” would look...

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Meryl Yourish - who celebrated her own Bat Mitzvah two weeks ago and who is having a Major Birthday today! - for finding this little gem.]

WHY I LIKE ALTON BROWN

Aside from the fact that he’s a Local Guy, Alton Brown is the most kick-ass chef amongst all the stovewhores on Food Network.

Alton Brown is to cooking what Chuck Norris is to Martial Arts.

(I almost wrote “Marital Arts” in that last sentence. Now I have to scrub my brain out with bleach.)

Don’t believe me? My buddy Charlie Hatton, who has recently gotten back into the Bloggy Saddle at Where The Hell Was I?, has compiled Yet Another List of Facts About Alton Brown. (His original List of Facts is here.)

Just a couple to whet your appetite:
  • Alton Brown’s fudge brownies aren’t simply dark and rich. Alton Brown’s fudge brownies actually exert a mild gravitational pull.

  • Alton Brown doesn’t bother buying elbow macaroni. Alton Brown buys mezzani, and bends it with his will alone.
You get the idea. Go stop by Charlie’s place and read the whole thing.

ATTENTION!

Attention!

What do you suppose she’s looking at?

LEAVES

Autumn Leaves

Last night, a cold front came through. It brought precious little in the way of rain, but the day dawned with crisp, cool temperatures and blustery winds. It really feels like autumn has arrived, just in time for Thanksgiving week.

Leaves are dropping from the trees like clowns piling out of a circus Volkswagen. Our lawn is buried in them despite the wind’s best efforts to blow them away.

As the temperature drops, our eating habits will change. Fewer salads, more rich soups and hearty stews. Rib-sticking food, the kind you want to eat in front of a roaring fire. Hot chocolate is the order of the day.

I love this time of year, the time when Fall really starts exerting its grip. It’s not the dreary Bitter End of the season, not yet. There’s still color on the trees, and the days - today excepted - still balmy. It won’t last, of course...and that’s why I love it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

DAMN! THAT’S SOME YAM

Thai Red Curry Sweet Potatoes
Thai Red Curry Sweet Potatoes.

I’m always looking for ways to deblandify popular dishes. Make ’em more interesting.

Take sweet potatoes, f’r instance. I’m a big fan of the uncomplicated Baked Potato approach: scrub the exterior, pierce with a few tiny holes, stick in a 375°F oven for about an hour or so until done. Split, shove some sweet cream butter in there, and you’re good to go.

Around this time of year, all kinds of sweet potato dishes start showing up. The Thanksgiving classic almost always involves marshmallows, along with various kinds of sweetening agents - as though the noble Sweet Potato were not sweet enough on its own. I’m not a big fan of these cloying, hyper-sweetened affairs. The sole exception is the version our friend Gary makes. It’s sweet but not overly so, and I’ve learned to dodge the marshmallow crust.

A few weeks ago, I found a new way to deal with the Sweet Potato, and in an unlikely place. Not unlikely as in, “What’s that doing there?” Unlikely as in, “What’s Elisson doing there?”

And I will freely admit it. I got this recipe from Martha Fucking Stewart.

(“Why ‘Martha Fucking Stewart’?” you may ask...and I will tell you that that is the name our friend Laura Belle has bestowed upon the Queen of Kitchen ’n’ Crafts. Appropriate, no?)

We were at the Hair-Cutting Place, the Missus and I, and as I awaited my turn in the chair, I picked up a copy of Ms. Stewart’s eponymous magazine. What had attracted me was a stunning photograph of a cranberry-almond tart on the cover. (Hey, if I’m gonna be attracted to a tart, it might as well be a cranberry-almond one. That way, SWMBO’s less likely to break my ass.)

One thing led to another, and I found myself reading the damn magazine. Skipping the Arts ’n’ Crafts crap, I zeroed in on anything that looked edible. Which left out Ms. Stewart but included several potentially interesting vegetabobble dishes. Meanwhile, I’d check myself every so often for evidence of penis-shrinkage.

I ended up purchasing a copy of the magazine. Such is my confidence in my own manliness, that I did not even send SWMBO into the bookstore to buy it for me.

Elisson: “Gimme a copy of... let’s see... Time... National Review... the New York Review of Books... Hustler... this Penthouse ‘Split Beaver Annual’ here... and this Martha Stewart magazine.”

Bookstore Cashier: “Hey Charlie - how much is the Martha Stewart magazine?”

Anyway, the potatoes. They’re baked, mashed, and blended with Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, maple syrup, butter, and a dab of kosher salt. Then you run ’em under a broiler for a few minutes. The curry is a perfect complement to the rich, sweet potatoflesh.

Oh, you want times and proportions? Go out and risk your own dick buy your own damn Martha Fucking Stewart magazine.

OUR DAILY BREAD

Challah
Freshly-baked homemade challah.

A couple of days ago, one of SWMBO’s colleagues made her a present of a freshly-baked challah. It was a kingly gift.

Maybe we were supposed to save it for Shabbat, but that bad boy didn’t stand a chance. As soon as it arrived home, we started whacking away at it. It was superb. Deliciously rich and eggy, with a perfect texture and crumb. Better than anything I’ve ever had from a commercial bakery. It was a challah for the ages.

It’s a damn good thing I don’t know how to bake bread like that. Perhaps I could learn, but - assuming that I could eventually do it as well as SWMBO’s friend - what would be the benefit? I’d end up weighing 450 pounds.

As I ate slice after buttered slice of this heavenly breadstuff, I began, as I so often do, to wax nostalgic. Specifically, I thought back on the Bakeries Of My Youth.

You remember bakeries, don’t you? Stand-alone bakeries still exist, but they’re a lot thinner on the ground since the advent of the modern supermarket’s baked goods section. And there is no way a supermarket bakery is anything like the Bake Shoppes of yore.

The main difference is the aroma.

Back in my Snot-Nose Days, there stood a bakery, name of Lord’s, on Merrick Road hard by Massapequa High School. Every week or so, we’d go in to get our supply of bread and pastries...at least, before my mother began her flirtation with the products sold by the Dugan Man. She would go in and take a number, and we would spend the time awaiting our turn at the counter looking over the incredible assortment of fancy cookies in the display case...and inhaling the Bakery-Pong, that distillation of vanilla, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, wheat flour, and every other pleasant smell on the planet that uniquely filled the air in this, the Local Bakery.

Ahh, that smell. There is nothing else like it. I remember it even today, owing to a prodigious Sense-Memory. For, alas, it is a smell that is all too difficult to find these days. In the modern supermarket, the aroma of baking is relegated to the back rooms, diluted in the cavernous building, where the bakery must share space with the deli counter and the fish market. And even most bakeries today are part-time sandwich- or coffee-shops, with more ambitious menus that may enhance the bottom line, but which diminish the essential bakeriness of the place.

We’d be standing at the display case, my brother and I, our noses pressed against the glass, our jaws slavering in anticipation. When, finally, it was our turn at the counter, we’d watch as our Mom stepped up and ordered a loaf of bread, which they’d throw into the Magickal Slicing Engine that would instantly turn it into a sheaf of perfect slices. If Mom was feeling magnanimous that day, perhaps she’d get a few cookies for us. ..or something really special. For there was coffee cake. New York crumb cake. Chocolate or cinnamon babka. Cheese Danish. The baker would take her selection, slip it into a little white box, and tie the box with that special red and white striped cord that you would see only in the Bakery.

That cord had magical properties: It would keep Little Prying Hands out of the box until it was time to serve the goodies within.

Now, I go to the local Publix and yank a loaf of bread off the shelf. It just ain’t the same...

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE...

...with this list of Unlikely Double Features, courtesy of C. Martin Croker of Arglebargle!

Arglebargle! is chock-full of interesting posts on movies, comic books, animation, you name it. Here, Mr. Croker presents “...a list of Double-Feature Movies that aren’t sequels, [yet] have enough in common that if you watch them back to back you get an enhanced perception (or at least more out) of both.”

Just a few examples:
  • Where The Buffalo Roam paired with Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.

    One, a movie about Hunter S. Thompson; the other, based on his eponymous novel. Bill Murray vs. Johnny Depp.

  • The Last Man On Earth paired with The Omega Man.

    Both films based on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, a third movie version of which is set to come out in the next few weeks.
Too obvious? How ’bout these...
  • King Kong (1976) paired with The Big Lebowski.

  • The Magnificent Seven paired with Westworld.
There’s lots more. Some of the pairings are natural at first glance, others less so...but they all make sense.

Read it all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

JUST WONDERING...

As we headed home yesterday from our mini-vacation in Asheville, we would occasionally see an automobile transport trailer. And it got me to wondering...

You know those Circus Volkswagens that disgorge an army of clowns? When it comes time to transport those Volkswagens, do they use a special carrier? If so, when that carrier arrives at its destination, does an entire fleet of Circus Volkswagens disembark from it, each containing its horde of clowns?

This is the kind of Deep Question I spend my time pondering. A disturbing question, if one fears clowns. Clearly, I am in need of help...

LIVING WATERS

Photographs taken at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Click to embiggen.

Reflecting Pool

Splash

Living Waters

Sunday, November 11, 2007

THE LATEST IN FASHIONABLE METALLIC HEADGEAR

Colanderz
Colander Borg-Man strikes again.

There’s a really huge Kitchen Supply Store in Asheville...

...and you know what that means.

Colander Borg-Man makes a beeline for the department wherein is found his Signature Utensil, while Gary handles the camera and JoAnn keeps chickee for the odd salesperson. No point in getting arrested, you know.

SWMBO? Probably hiding in the rest room...

That pointy one, just in case you’re curious, is a Chinoise, AKA China Cap. It’s used for straining fine sauces and stocks...and it also helps strain Evil Brain Waves from the ether. At $89.99, it’s a bargain.

You cannot resist the Colander-Borg. You will all be assimilated!

ODDLY ENOUGH

You may think it odd o’ me,
But I’m not especially concerned about Sodomy.
For, alas, the all-too-often neglected part of the story
Is how nobody ever seems to care about Gomorrahry.

ELEVEN ELEVEN

Have you hugged a Veteran today?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

POOP ’N’ POLISH

There’s a fine old epithet that applies to Really Stupid People. The kind of people for who the wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead. The kind of people that are dumber than a box of rocks…or a truckload of hammers.

These are the people who Don’t Know Shit From Shinola.

To be unable to distinguish between Shit and Shinola – assuming that one has a rudimentary Olfactory Sense, that is – is a mark of Extreme Stupidity.

Fortunately for me (and the people with whom I associate), I can tell the difference between Shit and Shinola. Between Excrement and Shoe-Polish. Really. Witness my experiences over the past few weeks.

Let’s start with Shinola. This afternoon, we stopped in at a shoe store in downtown Asheville. (Of course. Gary and I have JoAnn and SWMBO with us, so a Shoe Shopping Expedition is sorta unavoidable.) Tops Shoes is reputed to have the largest selection in the Southeastern United States, and I can understand how it came by that reputation. But when we walked into the store, I was hit by a rush of Shoe-Polish Aroma. Kiwi Pong. It was intoxicating.

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh shoe polish. It’s like New-Car Smell, but even more accessible - because to enjoy it, all you need do is open up a convenient, portable can of Shoon-Wax. Kiwi, Shinola (do they even make Shinola anymore?), or whatever, it’s a magic aroma. Foot fetish Poon-Tang.

So much for the Shinola part of the equation. Now for the Shit.

A couple of weeks ago, we were in Savannah visiting the Mistress of Sarcasm, the Kid Brother of Elisson in tow. We took lunch at Back in the Day Bakery, and afterward were in the process of getting into the car when The Other Elisson stepped on a Land-Mine.

In many neighborhoods, Land-Mines - always a hazard back in my Snot-Nose Days - have become a rarity, a thing of the past, thanks to the ever-more-ubiquitous Pooper-Scooper laws. But it seems that there are parts of Savannah where the Pooper-Scooper Laws (assuming there are any) are not obeyed scrupulously. [For that matter, the laws against murder, armed robbery, pillage, and rapine are also not obeyed scrupulously in all parts of Savannah.] And so, in these areas, one must be vigilant, lest one encounter a Doggy Land-Mine. This particular Land-Mine was disguised by fallen leaves and other debris, and so...

...the Other Elisson encountered it, scoring a direct hit. He immediately realized his error, and, fortunately, was able to scrape most of the Offending Substance off before getting in the car. Meanwhile, I chuckled quietly to myself. Sucker, I thought. Ahh, if only I knew.

Later that evening, The Other Elisson and I accompanied the Mistress on an errand. A friend of hers keeps three pet chickens - really - and the Mistress had committed, in her friend’s absence, to go over in the evening and make sure the chickens were secured in their coop.

This was trickier than it sounds, as it involved driving to a very sketchy part of Savannah, creeping through a couple of debris-filled backyards in pitch darkness, and then finding our way back out to the street. A flashlight would have been handy...for this time, it was my turn to discover a Land-Mine.

Unlike my brother’s earlier Land-Mine Encounter, however, I did not realize my Soiled Condition until we were in the Mistress’s car...which promptly was filled with a delicate Shit-Funk.

Upon arriving back at our hotel, I examined my shoes. No mistaking it: here was a Land Mine of Epic Proportions. Fortunately, it confined itself to the shoe sole, being wedged up against the heel-sole joint. But it was unspeakably vile.

It took an entire roll of toilet paper, a gallon of boiling water, six washcloths, a bath towel, and a bottle of bleach to restore my shoe to its former semi-pristine, un-dogstooled condition. Bet the maid had a shit-hemorrhage when she saw that pile in the hamper.

As for the Mistress’s car, I did the right thing and sprang for a full-service car wash, complete with carpet shampoo, first thing the next morning. A fifty-buck landmine, that was.

I blame those stupid chickens. Stupid, yes. They don’t know shit from Shinola.

AN EVENING IN ASHEVILLE

Dinner at Carmel’s
Gary, JoAnn, SWMBO, and I sit down to dinner at Carmel’s in downtown Asheville.

We arrived in Asheville yesterday evening, an evening that followed a glorious fall day of crisp, cool air, blue skies, and bright sun. After checking in to our hotel - right in the heart of downtown - we spent some time wandering around, checking out the surroundings.

It’s an arty little town, Asheville is. Within rock-throwing distance of our hotel, we noted 17,453 galleries, offering everything from exotic textiles, handcrafted jewelry and metallic art, paintings, and photographs to Bizarre Swedish Furniture. The good news is, most of the art is far removed from the usual artsy-craftsy Big-Eyed Puppy, Moppet, and Clown School crap. It is, by and large, really good. The bad news is, the artists know it and price accordingly. Wanna buy Arty Stuff in Asheville? Bring lotsa money.

We stepped into one of the local bookstores: Malaprop’s, an independently-owned, not-affiliated-with-the-usual-big-chains shop, where our main objective was to warm up with a cup of coffee. And who should be sitting there two feet away, one day in advance of his appearance at the Jewish Book Fair in Atlanta, but Robby Benson?

Robby Benson - stage and film actor, television director, and now author - was here touting his latest book, Who Stole The Funny?, a novel based on the travails of making a sitcom. You may remember him in his memorable turn playing a religious Hasidic youth in The Chosen (1981), in which he costarred with Rod Steiger. Or you may know him by his voice: he was the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. He was, in any event, very accessible and pleasant, and I left bearing an autographed copy of his book.

We took our evening meal at a place called Carmel’s Restaurant and Bar, just down the street from our hotel. It was superb. I had a dish of orrecchiete in a Manchego mornay sauce with truffle oil and panko, the kind of pasta I could have eaten a half-gallon of. Gary and JoAnn each had gargantuan platters of rich pot roast, braised to falling-off-the-fork tenderness. And the grilled Caesar salad - yes, grilled - added an extra dimension to what is too often a pedestrian dish.

We had fun...but a peek at one of the guests in the back of the restaurant told us that the party was just beginning.

Cutie at Carmel’s

YET ANOTHER EASTERN DEATH CULT

The newswires were abuzz yesterday with the story of Linda Stein, “Realtor to the Stars,” who was bludgeoned to death by her 26-year-old assistant after being “verbally abusive” following a session with her Transcendental Hygienist.

According to news reports, Natavia Lowery, the alleged murderer, “told police that Stein would hold a ‘yoga stick’ in a threatening way while she spoke to Lowery, using ‘profanity’ in a ‘derogatory’ way.” As if that were not bad enough, Stein would blow marijuana smoke in Lowery’s face. Horrors! I can just picture it:

“Fuck!” (puff)
“Fuck!” (puff)
“Fuck!” (puff)
“Fuck!” (puff)
“Fuck!” (puff)

Lowery snapped, grabbing the “yoga stick” from Stein and striking her with it six or seven times. Later, when police questioned her about the incident, she tried to recall exactly how many times she had struck Stein. “Hmmm. One, two on the neck, three, four right behind the left ear, five, six, seven in the back of the head...aw, just put me down for a five.” [H/T: Gary]

The purported “yoga stick” was described by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as “two sticks that are connected by a cord of some sort,” weighing about four pounds. Nunchucks? Or perhaps a Hillerich & Gupta “New Delhi Slugger” cricket bat?

I’m fascinated by this “Yoga Stick” business. My knowledge of yoga, albeit limited, does not include the idea of “yoga sticks.” And a cursory search on the Inter-Webby-Net reveals that the only mention of the elusive “Yoga Stick” is solely in connection with this story. There are yoga towels, yoga mats, yoga books, and yoga instructors. Presumably, there’s yoga liniment, for when your muscles get all tight ’n’ shit from excessive yoga-ing. But nowhere is mentioned a Yoga Stick. Maybe it’s like Kaballah Water or the Red Kabbalah String - something the glitzy Hollywood Johnny-come-latelies have adopted, but which bears no relationship to the Real Thing.

And that’s probably good, because what we don’t need right now is another Eastern death-cult. You have the Islamofascists, you had the Assassins (the name derives from their practice of eating hashish to bolster their courage), and now, potentially, the Yoga-Stick Killers. I’m hoping this is just a one-off incident, not the precursor to a new wave of terroristic yogis beating people to death with sticks.

Yeah. Stein probably had it coming.