Thursday, January 31, 2008

THE SMILING MONKEY

Princess Tallulah

The other day I passed the zoo,
And thought, “Whatever shall I do?
Buy a ticket? Go inside?
See the hippo’s mouth so wide?”

Thus with ticket firm in hand,
Entered I in Jungle-Land,
There to take a walk and see
The primitive menagerie.

I came alone, without my spouse,
And headed for the Monkey House
To see our Primate Cousins play,
And hear the things they had to say.

But when I’d got there, and gone in,
A monkey with an evil grin
Affrighted me. Up stood my hair
When fixed with his demonic glare!

“O, Monk! Withdraw thy gaze from me!
Did something I did say or see
Create the rictus on your face -
Or do you hate the Human Race?”

This moved the Monkey not one bit.
Instead, he took a piece of shit
And flung it at me, baseball style,
Still smiling that demonic smile.

I ran ’til I was out of breath.
I’m haunted now by thoughts of Death,
Thanks to the Grinning Monkey-Curse.
I doubt that things could be much worse.

There’s but one Ape can cast a spell
That’s stronger than a Baboon’s Smell,
Whose grin strikes fear in all of us:
The dread Rhesus Sardonicus.

[Image credit: Velociworld, of course. It’s a frickin’ monkey.]

GROUNDHOG DAY APPROACHETH

Groundhog Day is only two days away. The excitement on people’s faces is almost palpable.

I don’t know about you, but I’m almost relieved when it’s finally over.

First of all, the relentless hype has really killed a lot of the joy for me. It used to be, you didn’t hear Groundhog Day music in every frickin’ retail establishment in the world - at least, not until right after New Year’s Day, when the holiday season “officially” begins. Not any more. Now, Groundhog Carols are the order of the day, 24/7, starting right after Thanksgiving. It’s relentless.

The malls are packed with people doing their last-minute shopping for Groundhog Day gifts, and post offices burn the midnight oil to keep up with the volume of packages and Groundhog Greeting cards. And it’s almost a given in the retail business that 60% of their business is done in the weeks leading up to Christmas; most of the remaining 40% comes from Groundhog Day. A successful ’Hog Season often means the difference between success and failure for small businesses.

That, of course, means hype. Advertising. A constant barrage of TV ads. Postal workers straining under mailbags laden with massive Groundhog Day catalogs.

And then there are the decorations. It seems that everybody is constantly trying to outdo the Joneses, putting up ever-more-elaborate displays. Lights by the megawatt, inflatable groundhog lairs...sometimes it makes me yearn for a simpler time, a time when every family dug a simple hole in the front yard, and Dad was content with a handmade cardboard top hat.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m hardly a Groundhog-Scrooge. I love this time of year as much as anybody. Holiday parties, the special seasonal foods, Hog Nog - it’s all good. But sometimes I worry that the real meaning of the day has gotten lost amidst all the hoopla.

After all, isn’t the holiday supposed to be about Phil?

Not Phil as we see him today, surrounded by handlers and media flacks. Just Phil, the simple woodland creature, on a mission from God to predict the weather. His message is one of peace and dignity, one that is immune from the cares of the everyday world. Global warming? Kyoto? Photo ops? News reporters? Pfaugh. Punxsutawney Phil cares not for these things.

They are merely temporal - and temporary. But the light of Phil’s love is eternal.

Put the Ground back in Groundhog Day! And may your Groundhog Day be sweet.

80 FILLUMS

Here’s a complete waste of time, courtesy of Oddybobo. It’s a Movie Meme.

The rules are simple: Copy the list of movies below and mark off the ones you’ve seen. Add ’em up, and include the number in your post title. How easy is that?

I’ve highlighted the ones I’ve seen in boldface. Feel free to do the same.

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Grease
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
Boondock Saints
Fight Club
Starsky and Hutch
Neverending Story
Blazing Saddles
Universal Soldier
Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
Along Came Polly
Deep Impact
King Pin
Never Been Kissed
Meet The Parents
Meet the Fockers
Eight Crazy Nights
Joe Dirt
King Kong (1933)
King Kong (1976)
King Kong (2005)

Total so far: 14

A Cinderella Story
The Terminal
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Passport to Paris
Dumb & Dumber
Dumber & Dumberer (filmed right here in May-Retta!)
Final Destination
Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3
Halloween
The Ring
The Ring 2
Surviving X-Mas
Flubber

Total so far: 17

Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
Practical Magic
Chicago
Ghost Ship
From Hell
Hellboy
Secret Window
I Am Sam
The Whole Nine Yards
The Whole Ten Yards

Total so far: 19

The Day After Tomorrow
Child’s Play
Seed of Chucky
Bride of Chucky
Ten Things I Hate About You
Just Married
Gothika
Nightmare on Elm Street
Sixteen Candles
Remember the Titans
Coach Carter
The Grudge
The Grudge 2
The Mask
Son Of The Mask

Total so far: 21

Bad Boys
Bad Boys 2
Joy Ride
Lucky Number Slevin
Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s Twelve
Bourne Identity
Bourne Supremacy
Lone Star
Bedazzled
Predator (featuring two - count ’em! - future governors!)
Predator II
The Fog
Ice Age
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
Curious George

Total so far: 26

Independence Day
Cujo
A Bronx Tale
Darkness Falls
Christine
ET
Children of the Corn
My Boss’s Daughter
Maid in Manhattan
War of the Worlds (1953)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Rush Hour
Rush Hour 2

Total so far: 34

Best Bet
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
She’s All That
Calendar Girls
Sideways
Mars Attacks!
Event Horizon
Ever After
The Wizard of Oz
Forrest Gump
Big Trouble in Little China
The Terminator
The Terminator 2
The Terminator 3

Total so far: 41

X-Men
X-2
X-3
Spider-Man
Spider-Man 2
Sky High
Jeepers Creepers
Jeepers Creepers 2
Catch Me If You Can
The Little Mermaid
Freaky Friday
Reign of Fire
The Skulls
Cruel Intentions
Cruel Intentions 2
The Hot Chick
Shrek
Shrek 2
Shrek 3

Total so far: 51
Swimfan
Miracle on 34th Street
Old School
The Notebook
K-PAX
Kippendorf’s Tribe
A Walk to Remember
Ice Castles
Boogeyman
The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Total so far: 56

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lord of the Rings: Return Of the King
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Total so far: 62

Baseketball
Hostel
Waiting for Guffman
House of 1000 Corpses
Devil’s Rejects
Elf
Highlander
Mothman Prophecies
American History X
Three

Total so Far: 63

The Jacket
Kung Fu Hustle
Shaolin Soccer
Night Watch
Monsters, Inc.
Titanic
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Shaun Of the Dead
Willard

Total so far: 66

High Tension
Club Dread
Hulk
Dawn Of the Dead
Hook
Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
28 days later
Orgazmo
Phantasm
Waterworld

Total so far: 69

Kill Bill, Volume 1
Kill Bill, Volume 2
Mortal Kombat
Wolf Creek
Kingdom of Heaven
The Hills Have Eyes
I Spit on Your Grave, AKA The Day of the Woman
The Last House on the Left
Re-Animator
Army of Darkness

Total so far: 69

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Ewoks: Caravan Of Courage, AKA The Ewok Adventure
Ewoks: The Battle For Endor

Total so far: 75

The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Revolutions
Animatrix
Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2
Team America: World Police
Red Dragon
Silence of the Lambs

Hannibal

Final total: 80

“Supposedly, if you’ve seen over 85 movies, you have no life.” Well, either that, or you enjoy this peculiar excrescence of Popular Culture. I don’t know who concocted the list, but it’s as good as any Useless Random List of Pop Culture Ephemera...and, at least, I have a life.

Too bad I took some of the time I saved by not watching most of these movies and pissed it away writing this post.

(And, no, I’m not tagging anybody.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

WE ARE AMATEURS

By “we,” I refer to the Cadre of Crapbloggers with whom many of my Esteemed Readers are familiar: Velociman, Og, Kevin Kim, and the late, lamented Acidman. And me, of course.

Did I leave anyone out? [Laurence Simon may be So Full of Crap, His Eyes Are Brown™, but he rarely writes about it.]

Yes, we are amateurs.

Now, read a story by a professional. A medical professional.

And then consider: There are normally a couple of big differences between giving birth and taking a dump. You get to keep the baby...and the baby is much larger than your stool. But not always...

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Leslie for the link.]

JANUARY GUILD EVENT

It’s been a while since our last Sommelier Guild event, which means that it is time once again to enjoy eating and drinking like a bunch of SRF’s.

[Anyone familiar with the Grouchy Old Cripple, the estimable gentleman who got me sucked into involved with the Guild, knows that SRF stands for Snotty Rich Fuck. It is a Badge of Honor, for while anyone can be a snotty fuck, it takes Capital Assets to be a snotty rich fuck.]

This tasting ought to be a good ’un. It will be held at the Culinary Institute of Atlanta’s Creations Food Lab. I figure these peeps should know their food...and for damn sure, the Guild folks definitely know their wine.

What’s on the menu? Glad you asked.

Speaker’s Wine
Tokay Pinot Gris, Vieille Vignes, L. Albrecht, 1995

Appetizer
Chambolle-Musigny, Premier Cru, Les Sentiers, Groffier 2000
Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir, 2000

Seared Sea Scallop with Smoked Gouda Grits, Collard Greens and Pot Liquor Jus
or
Fettuccine Carbonara with Housemade Fettuccine, Fresh Peas, Bacon Lardons, and a Cream Sauce
or
Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Warm Apple and Red Cabbage Slaw, “German Potato Salad” Latke
and Grain Mustard Sauce

Soup
Corton-Charlemagne, Girardin, 2000
Martinelli Chardonnay, 1999

Lobster Bisque with Herbed Pâte à Choux

Salad
Silex, D. Dageneau, 1999
Sauvignon Blanc, Walter Hansel, 2005

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Napoleon with Citrus and Micro-green Salad and an Orange Vinaigrette
or
Citrus Marinated Asparagus, Baby Greens, Cucumber-Carrot Slaw, Caramelized Shallot-White Balsamic Vinaigrette
or
Roasted Butternut Squash with Greens, Dried Figs, Blue Cheese, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, and a Cider Vinaigrette

Intermezzo
Blood Orange Sorbet

Entrée
Cabernet Franc, Quilliams, 2001
Cabernet Sauvignon, Quilceda Creek, 2000

Marinated Grilled Teres Major with Melted Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts and Tomato Confit, Herbed Spaetzle, and Mushroom Veal Reduction
or
Oven Roasted Breast of Game Hen, Braised Bok Choy, Sweet Potato Gratin, Port Infused Game Hen Jus Lié

Dessert
Recioto della Valpolicella, Bussola, 1997
Chocolate Molten Cake with Champagne-Cherry Sauce and Almond Praline Ice Cream
or
Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, Disznoko, 1993
Crème Caramel with Churros and Rum Marinated Seasonal Fruit
or
Vin Santo de Chianti Classico, Felsina, Berardenga, 1993
Mulled Wine Poached Pear with Mascarpone Sorbet, Caramel Sauce and a Butter Crisp

Ahh, decisions, decisions.

Update: Possibly the best meal/tasting I’ve had since joining the Guild. The stuff I ate and drank is highlighted in red.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SUSHI BAR MADONNA

Sushi Bar Madonna

I went out to the Sushi Bar,
Because I had a taste
For little chunks of Gizzard Shad
Enrobed in Miso Paste.

They brought my o-shibori, hot
For me to wipe my hands
And stimulate the workings of
The Salivary Glands.

They brought a dish of Pickled Fish
With tentacles ’n’ stuff.
I wolfed it down and smacked my lips.
The portion, just enough.

Then came nigiri-zushi, which
Is Fish on pads of Rice.
Maguro, saba, sake, tai,
All raw - and very nice.

But what’s this in my dish of Soy
That sits beside my place?
Two eyes, a beatific smile -
Why, it’s a Happy Face!

A saintly grin absolveth sin:
A miracle, no less...
The Virgin of the Sushi Bar
Sent here to heal and bless!

[Picture credit: the Mistress of Sarcasm.]

MATATA, MULTIPLIED

Herewith a few pictures of Matata just being her insufferably sweet self.

Linen Closet Matata
“Hey, lookit me...I’m a towel!”

My Little Matata
Matata, the Lap Cat.

Nap Nap Revolution
Let’s play Nap Nap Revolution!

Baluster Matata
Catching some morning rays.

Perched on Mommy’s Shoulder
Not as articulate as a parrot, but definitely hairier. Arrrhh!

AIN’T TECHNOLOGY WONDERFUL?

Last week, when we took our Long Weekend in Destin, our friends Gary and JoAnn provided the wheels. They have a sweet Lexus SUV that gets reasonably good mileage and is plenty comfortable.

And they also have that latest in Technological Marvels: a Garmin GPS navigation device.

There’s something almost magical about having a little box in your car that, somehow, knows exactly where you are. (It’s also a little scary. Because if the little box can figure out where you are, then so can the people who program the little box.)

You can use the thing to help you locate a restaurant on the highway...or to warn you of traffic issues before you’re right on top of them. It’ll even reroute you around trouble spots based on real-time traffic data.

Alas, no Technological Marvel is perfect. The Garmin (I use the term generically here) can get you out of a tight spot if you make a wrong turn in an unfamiliar neighborhood, but sometimes it recommends routes that just don’t make real-world sense. You can avoid a lot of grief if you know how the thing decides how to route you a particular way.

And if the map files are not up-to-date, hilarity can ensue.

Submitted for your entertainment, a story about a Garminesque Techno-Snafu. There’s a stretch of US Highway 431 between Phenix City and Eufaula, Alabama - a particularly horrible stretch of road that I’ve written about before - that is being modernized: the old two-lane deathtrap now has been supplemented by another set of lanes running more-or-less parallel to it. As a four-lane divided highway, it’s not quite so horrible now.

Only trouble is, the Garmin’s map files are based on older data. They don’t have that extra set of lanes in there.

So here we are, tooling down the road...

Garmin 1

...when suddenly the Garmin starts shouting, “Return to the highlighted route! Return to the highlighted route! Return to the highlighted route! Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”

Garmin 2

By which, of course, it means to say, “Get back on the fucking road, you crazy douche!” Or something equally pungent.

It was obvious what had happened. We were driving on the new set of lanes - the ones that had not yet been added to the Garmin’s map database. It must’ve thought we had lost our cheese completely. Take a wrong turn, and the Garmin will recalculate a new route. Drive off the pavement and it’ll blow a gasket.

The Missus was driving when this happened. It got her to laughing so hard, she could barely see to drive.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I DON’T CARE IF IT RAINS OR FREEZES...

...Long as I got me one of these:

Plastic Jesus
Found Art, of the Sacred Variety, from a north Georgia truckstop.

One of the risks inherent in having a Corporeal Deity is that he may show up in the (you should excuse the expression) damndest forms and places. We saw the above piece of Low-Rent Religious Art - a Resinous Rood - at a North Georgia truckstop. Inspiring, no?

The fiber-optic illumination system adds a certain je ne sais quoi. The cross sparkles with color, the clouds below it glow with internal fire.

There’s a story - probably apocryphal - of a piece of kitschy Hong Kong artwork, consisting of the Seven Dwarfs (of Snow White fame) surrounding the manger in which lies the Baby Jesus. I’ve never seen it, but it would make perfect sense coming from an Asian culture in which the Seven Dwarfs and the Baby Jesus share a similar status as Alien Pop Culture Icons.

But none of that is as perversely chuckleworthy as this...

Switched-On Jesus
Hey, Junior - quit playing with that light switch!

File this under “Lofty Sentiments Gone Wrong.” As Houston Steve notes, it gives new meaning to the term “Res-Erection.”

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Jimbo, who found this little gem here.]

Sunday, January 27, 2008

COVER GIRL

The South Magazine, February 2008
The South Magazine, February-March 2008 issue.
­©2008 The South Magazine. [Click to embiggen.]

Above is one of two covers for the February-March 2008 issue of The South Magazine, Savannah’s bimonthly Arts ’n’ Cultcha Periodical. Does that young lady look familiar, or what?

Funny...when our friend Laura Belle saw the magazine, she did not recognize the Mistress of Sarcasm at first, thanks largely to the makeup and hairstyle. Then she allowed that the picture resembled a combination of Elder Daughter and the Mistress.

At first I didn’t agree...but now perhaps I do, because it also resembles this other Close Relative:

The Momma d’Elisson
The Momma d’Elisson, 1943.

Spooky, ain’t it?

Friday, January 25, 2008

GETTING MUGGED

Some people collect coffee mugs the way a pit bull from the Michael Vick Dawgfightin’ Stables might collect fleas. Or toothmarks.

I am not one of those people.

But I do recognize quality when I see it.

Waffle House Mug

Sweet.

NEW HEIGHTS OF USELESSNESS

The Missus had a jones for Chinese food this evening, so I popped over to the local take-out joint and ordered up a few items. While waiting for the food, I wandered over to the adjacent Stein-Mart to pick up a couple of pairs of socks. Sock replenishment is important, because the inventory in the ol’ Sock Drawer tends to diminish with time as socks get sucked into the Gateway to Another Dimension that lurks in the back of the dryer. Perhaps that is where Sock-Monkeys are born...but I digress.

While in the Stein-Mart, I saw a product that struck me as being one of the most colossally useless devices ever to be invented, built, mass-produced, and offered up to an increasingly stupid populace.

It was - get this! - a Watch Winder, for winding self-winding watches.

A watch winder for winding self-winding watches.

Great Googly-Moogly. Is that not gob-smackingly, astonishingly useless-sounding? Useless to a degree that, by comparison, makes Boar-Tits a requirement for everyday living?

How lazy a bastard must you be, that you must have a special device that will wind your watch for you...a watch that requires nothing but to be worn on the wrist for thirty minutes a day, and, failing that, needs only a few gentle twists of the stem?

I didn’t even look at the price; I was too thunderstruck at the very existence of this Fine Product. But a quick Internet search reveals that these babies can easily cost upwards of a couple Benjamins. Luxury models go for thousands.

Send me the money and I’ll wind your fucking watch for you, ya lazy twat.

It’s reassuring to know that the human mind - the mind that has learned to split the atom, to send men to the Moon and back again, to build mighty bridges and skyscrapers, to transplant hearts and lungs - can create such marvels.

I guess it’s time I turned my hand to inventing. At least as much as the world needs a Self-Winding Watch Winder, it needs a device to splatter urine on the floor of the Men’s Room. I have a few ideas.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Greetings!

It’s Friday, which means it’s time once again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly list of ten Random Chunks o’ Musicality as coughed up by the iPod d’Elisson.

It is a bitterly cold day in the northern Atlanta ’burbs, with a (mostly) clear blue sky. When I went to pick up the Daily Fishwrap from the driveway, I noticed that it had a light dusting of snowflakes upon it. A perfect day, therefore, for cuing up th ’Pod and listening to a few Choons as I grind out a few more reams of data for the Great Corporate Salt Mine and await the Sunday arrival of the Mistress of Sarcasm.

What’s on the box today? Let’s find out:
  1. Growin’ Up - Bruce Springsteen

    From his first album, the classic Greetings from Asbury Park, released 35 years ago this month. It’s still my favorite Springsteen.

    I stood stone-like at midnight
    Suspended in my masquerade
    I combed my hair till it was just right
    And commanded the night brigade
    I was open to pain and crossed by the rain
    And I walked on a crooked crutch
    I strolled all alone through a fallout zone
    And came out with my soul untouched
    I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd
    But when they said “Sit down,” I stood up
    Ooh...growin’ up

    The flag of piracy flew from my mast
    My sails were set wing to wing
    I had a jukebox graduate for first mate
    She couldn’t sail but she sure could sing
    I pushed B-52 and bombed ’em with the blues
    With my gear set stubborn on standing
    I broke all the rules, strafed my old high school
    Never once gave thought to landing
    I hid in the clouded warmth of the crowd
    But when they said, “Come down,” I threw up
    Ooh...growin’ up.

    I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere
    And you know it’s really hard to hold your breath.
    I swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared
    I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress
    Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth
    But I got me a nice little place in the stars
    And I swear I found the key to the universe
    In the engine of an old parked car
    I hid in the mother breast of the crowd
    But when they said, “Pull down,” I pulled up.
    Ooh...growin’ up
    Ooh...growin’ up


  2. American Tango - Weather Report

  3. Night and Day - Django Reinhardt

  4. Gimme Dat Harp Boy - Captain Beefheart

  5. Tol’ko s Toboy - Leningrad

    Download this song gratis from Leningrad’s official website.

  6. Beautiful Forest / The Great Hall - Russell Garcia, The Time Machine (1960)

  7. Uncle Remus - Frank Zappa

  8. Parnishka - Leningrad

  9. Song For The Dumped - Ben Folds Five

    We’ve all been there at least once in our lives, haven’t we?

    So you wanted to take a break
    Slow it down some and have some space
    Well fuck you too!

    Give me my money back
    Give me my money back, you bitch
    I want my money back

    Wish I hadn’t bought you dinner
    Right before you dumped me on your front porch

    Give me my money back
    Give me my money back, you bitch
    I want my money back
    ...and don’t forget my black T-shirt


  10. Introduction - Mukhras - Natraj

    Jazz...with an East Indian flavor. Perfect listening while you’re enjoying a plate of chicken korma and garlic naan.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

The cats and dogs and other beasts
All queue up for the trip.
They walk upon the gangplank
That takes them to the ship.
The anchor’s weighed, the sails are set,
The cargo is well-stowed,
As Captain Steve casts off and gets
The Show upon the Road.


Friday Ark #175 is afloat once again over at the Modulator.

Also, be sure to tune in Sunday evening as Carnival of the Cats heads over to Bad Kitty Cats for its 202nd installment.

Have I mentioned the Kosher Cooking Carnival? No? Well, I should. KCC #26, the Extreme Weather Kosher Cooking Carnival, is up at me-ander. You say you don’t keep kosher? No matter: these recipes are fine for anyone. Dont’t forget to check out the Root Vegetable post - plenty of good information on these hearty winter foods.

Update: CotC #202 is up...and so is Haveil Havalim (the Jewish Carnival of the Vanities) #151. You can find it over at Random Thoughts.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A FACE FOR RADIO, YET AGAIN

My low-key love affair with radio might have started when I was in high school, discovering the rich sonic depth of FM on our old Grundig, staying up nights listening to Jean Shepherd on WOR-AM, or checking out the local broadcasts in the small Southern towns we sped through on the way to our annual Florida vacations.

Years ago, when I was a college freshman, I took the training course at the University radio station. WPRB, based in Princeton, New Jersey, broadcast its programming over low-power AM to the dormitories, and over the FM airwaves to the surrounding parts of New Jersey. The listening area reached almost to New York City. The programming was mostly music-related, and eclectic to a degree only possible at a major university. No matter how arcane your musical taste, there was probably a show on WPRB that would accommodate you. Organ recitals? No prob. A capella singing groups? Sure. Frank Zappa? Cecil Taylor? Why not?

I never completed the training, alas - my attention began to be occupied by other foolishness, with the Tiger (the campus humor magazine) figuring large. I sat and watched as my friends went on to run late-night shows, running the board themselves and playing Quality Music (a bizarre mixture of rock and avant-garde jazz) in the wee hours...all in complete anonymity.  No radio for Elisson, except as a listener.

But now here it is some 36-37 years later, and radio rears its ugly head again.

Radio Sandy Springs is a local station that has both a low-power AM presence (1620 on the dial, with absolutely no hope of getting a signal more than half a mile from the transmitter) and an Internet footprint. Shows are streamed live as well as podcasted, which effectively removes the distance barrier and replaces it with a “sit your ass in front of the computer” barrier. Unless you download the shows you like and listen to them at your leisure, that is.

A couple of years ago, my Morning Minyan buddy Richard Smith asked me to appear on his weekly morning show, the Sandy Springs Health Hour, in the character of the infamous Dr. Israel Patel.  It was an excuse to natter on for an hour in my version of a comic East Indian accent, plugging nutty products like Dr. Patel’s Lingam Lotion and Dr. Patel’s Bullet Repellent (Not One Unsatisfied Customer!). This led to Richard asking me to fill in for him when he was away on vacation, a genuine Guest Hosting Gig.

The station owner evidently liked what he heard, because he has offered me a regular weekly slot. Beginning this weekend, you can catch me on Sundays between 4 and 5 p.m., Eastern time, at 1620 on your AM dial, or on the Internet at www.radiosandysprings.com. Plus, I’ll have a chance to lay waste to the station’s blog. Oh, boy!

I haven’t decided what to call the show yet. My previous Guest Shots consisted of a combination of storytelling (i.e., ripping crap out of my blog archives and/or reading my 100-word stories), discussing random medical horrors fresh from the Merck Manual, and just plain foolishness. But I can do anything I damn well please, short of dropping the F-Bomb and laying waste the Genteel Aural Neighborhood of which I will be a part. Perhaps I’ll share some Tender Colonoscopic Moments...or a few recipes...or tales of my demented childhood. Who knows what mood, what impulse will seize me?

In my best dreams, I become a beloved American raconteur, a monologuist somewhat in the mold of Spalding Gray, except without the “dead body found floating in the East River” part. Help me realize those dreams...and give me your suggestion for a show title in the comments!

SNOOZE

One of the hazards of being in the public eye is that embarrassing moments have a way of catching up with you.

I’m not talking about the really stupid shit that inevitably comes back to haunt certain celebrities. Face it, if you’re going to dangle your kid over the rail of a hotel balcony (à la Michael Jackson), or fall into the Britney Spears / Lindsay Lohan Cycle o’ Personal Destruction, you’re throwing raw meat to the Tabloid Lions. No, I’m talking about little stuff...like a celebrity Booger-Shot, or perhaps falling asleep at an inopportune time, as did Bill Clinton at a Martin Luther King Day observance this week.



All kinds of delightfully snarky Humor Opportunities come bubbling up to the surface here. “I had a dream, too...just now!” “Who’s the Nappy-Head now?” But admit it: Who can blame Bill for falling asleep during a frickin’ speech?

I don’t care who was speaking or who was being honored. Fact is, listening to someone standing behind a lectern and bloviating is a more powerful soporific than a fistful of Ambien. Take it from me, an inveterate Speech Sleeper.

I cannot tell you how many times I have dozed off during corporate meetings. Sitting in a warm room full of bored salespeople, listening to someone drone on and on in front of a screen filled with the PowerPoint Page from Perdition - the kind with 800 bullet points and 276 graphs crammed into a single fucking slide - will have me checking my eyelids for pinholes faster than you can say “NyQuil Nightcap.” And after lunch? Fuhgeddaboudit.

It gets downright embarrassing if I start to snore...because I can snore loudly enough to knock picture frames down from the wall. It’s hard to fly under the radar when your mouth drops open and you start sounding like a fully-loaded Boeing 747 at takeoff. The little dribble of sleep-spittle is an added bonus.

One time, during High Holiday services - a time when Lengthy Pulpit Orations abound - I fell asleep so soundly that, had it not been for SWMBO’s lightning-fast reflexes, I would have suffered a Minor Public Humiliation. She reached out and grabbed me just in time to keep me from toppling right out of the pew into the aisle. [At least it wasn’t our rabbi doing the talking.]

On Yom Kippur, when I lead the Musaf service, I have to exert a special effort to keep from being “Clintonized” as I sit on the bimah during the rabbi’s Yizkor sermon. It’s typically a long one: the Rabbinic Money Shot as it were, the Big Deal toward which everything in the previous year has been building, the Tearjerker of Tearjerkers. And as absorbing and emotionally engaging as it may be, I have to fight to keep my eyes open. It just wouldn’t do to fall asleep in front of two thousand people...even if it does not involve toppling over.

[At least I don’t have to worry about being caught napping on the bimah on Yom Kippur and having a video slapped up on YouTube. No photography on Yomim Tovim.]

So have a little rachmones for Bill Clinton. It could happen to you!

Sleeping Beauty
Mr. Debonair takes an impromptu snooze while out shopping.

FACIAL HAIR

I see from the comments to a recent post that some of my Esteemed Readers have noticed the recently-birthed excrescence of fuzz on my Upper Lip.

Elisson and the Pencil=Thin Moustache

Yes, Elisson is now sporting a Pencil-Thin Moustache.

My Grandpa Abe wore a pencil-thin moustache. I remember watching him shave, back in my Snot-Nose Days, and being amazed at how he kept that baby trimmed so neatly. It gave him a certain amount of Movie-Star Brio. Well, it won’t be doing that for me, but it provides a certain amount of personal amusement...and I’m all about the amusement.

How long it’ll remain is anybody’s guess. I’ve been going clean-shaven for the past five years, and I have gotten used to scraping my entire face, without having to worry about trimming around any hairy obstacles. She Who Must Be Obeyed, no doubt, will be the final arbiter on the question of whether it stays or goes.

But the Moustache and I have had a long history together...as I once documented on this very site.

How long? Well, I grew my first moustache when I was a senior in high school...thirty-eight years ago, if anyone gives a Rat’s Ass. And I kept that lip covered, more or less continuously, for the next 32 years. The sole exception was the year Elder Daughter (then, Only Daughter) was born. I shaved it off shortly after she arrived and grew it back a year later, where it stayed (sometimes accompanied by a beard) until November, 2002.

Here’s the evidence, from the Pile o’ Expired Passports:

Elisson’s Passport Pix
Passport photos from (left to right) 1978, 1984, and 1993.

The ’stache, in all its Brushy Glory, is there in all of these pictures. That, and a lot more hair up top. But that’s another story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Love at First Sight
“Oh, boy! For me?

They say cats cannot read, and that they have limited pattern-recognition capabilities. The yappy dog on the television screen holds no interest for them, as their brains do not connect the two-dimensional image of an object with the object itself.

Matata, however, knows when a new shipment of kibble arrives. She knows what’s in that sack...and it’s love at first sight.

I don’t know how she knows...association, perhaps?...but as soon as that sack of Fresh, New Food shows up, you can forget about getting her to eat the aged remnants at the bottom of the Feed Bin.

“That dried out shit? Naw, I ain’t goin’ near that, homes. Hakuna’ll eat it. I’m waiting for the new stuff.”

HIJACKED!

One of the Minyan Boyz - a fellow Online Journalist - came back from a brief hiatus to find his blog overrun by spam.

Not spam trackbacks - he doesn’t have trackbacks.

Not spam comments. We’ve all had to deal with spam comments at one time or another, and keeping up with them can be a major effort, depending on your commenting platform. [Check out Velociman’s archives: you’ll see a veritable treasure trove of Penis-Extension Advertising.] Fortunately, Haloscan makes it relatively simple to catch comment spam, even when it attacks old archived posts.

Not even spam blogs. I’m sure you’ve seen these revolting sites, sites with no original content of their own. They steal excerpts - or even entire posts - from real blogs, slapping them up in order to draw traffic to their own ad-filled crap-ass sites.

I’m talking about spam blogposts.

There are, it seems, spambots out there that can winkle out your password and start slapping spam posts up on your blog. Gaaaah!

My Minyan Buddy changed his password and deleted the pile of crap that had attached itself to his site over the past week...but now new spamposts are showing up. This is scary.

It means that everyone is vulnerable.

Anyone out there seen anything like this, or heard of it happening elsewhere? Has your blog ever been hijacked?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

BLACK DAY ON BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Heath LedgerO, let us lay a Funeral Wreath
Upon the grave of Ledger (Heath),
Who nevermore shall draw his breath
And sleeps in the embrace of Death.


For all that I’m tempted to be sardonic and jokey about Yet Another Celebrity Death, I just can’t bring myself to do it in the case of Heath Ledger, who died today in New York City, apparently as the result of an overdose of sleeping medication. Intentional or inadvertent, it’s too early to say.

Ledger was 28 when he passed on to that Great Soundstage in the Sky. I can relate to that, for I have a 28-year-old daughter. It’s frightening to imagine death at that early an age...but, alas, it happens. Just ask She Who Must Be Obeyed, whose sister died at the age of sixteen. It is beyond painful.

I recall first seeing Ledger on the screen in The Patriot, a 2000 film that starred Mel Gibson before he revealed himself to all the world to be a Gaping Asshole. Ledger had notable roles in Monster’s Ball and A Knight’s Tale, his performance in the former so heart-rending that I could not bear to watch the whole film. More recently, he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, which just had to be a serious acting challenge (a gay what?!!?) any way you slice it. At the time of his death, Ledger had two movies in the can: The Dark Knight, in which he played the Joker to Christian Bale’s Batman; and I’m Not There, a film based on the life of Bob Dylan in which Ledger played one of several fictional characters based on Dylan. He was a talented young actor who, so far, had managed his career well and who had a bright future ahead of him. No more.

My bet is that no foul play was involved, and that Heath Ledger was the victim of carelessness and/or unlucky biochemistry. And that’s even more of a tragedy than if he were the all-too-commonplace victim of Hollywood excess and self-indulgence, in which case we could all complacently reassure ourselves that, well, “he brought it upon himself.” Heath Ledger’s untimely death, instead, reminds us that the Unexpected Visitor is always lurking just around the corner, and that success and vibrant youth cannot dissuade him from his dark mission.

Godspeed, Mr. Ledger.

RESTIN’ IN DESTIN - WINTER EDITION

Seaside View
View from the 12th floor, Hilton Sandestin Resort.

It’s been our tradition, since returning to Atlanta ten years ago, to spend a week at the beach every summer. The beach, in this case, refers to Destin, located between Pensacola and Panama City on Florida’s panhandle. The travel industry folks like to call it the Emerald Coast; it also carries the popular sobriquet “Redneck Riviera.” Destin is an increasingly popular tourist destination - perhaps too much so - but it’s a fine place to unwind, lie on the beach or by the pool, and drink plenty of Adult Beverages. The water is clear and blue-green, the sand a brilliant white.

Beach Fences
Fences serve as windbreaks on the desolate beach.

This year, we decided to check out Destin in the off season, something that our friends Gary and JoAnn have done on several occasions. While we may not have spent any time on the beach - it was way too cold for that - we were able to enjoy the place in the absence of all the summertime mobs. We could get a table at any restaurant we chose, no waiting necessary...and as bitterly cold as it was, it was paradisiacal compared with Atlanta, which got hammered by yet another blast of wintry precipitation within hours of our departure Saturday morning.

We eschewed parasailing and sunbathing, instead spending our time at the local shopping venues and the movie theatres...and at the Hilton’s excellent spa. A lengthy workout, followed by a Swedish massage and sessions in the whirlpool and steam room, and my heart felt like an alligator. Sure, it’s self-indulgent. That’s why they call it “vacation”!

There’s always time for narrishkeit - foolishness - when you’re traveling with Elisson. Hey, check out these fine Jackass Pants!

Jackass Pants
Pants fit for a Jackass.

And there’s the inevitable visit to the Kitchen Supplies store, the perfect place for a Colander Borg-Man Photo Op:

Colander Borg-Man Strikes Again
Fine Metallic Headgear at Bargain Prices!

One of our favorite places is facing the wrecking ball. Favorite not because we’ve ever stayed there, but because I can’t resist bellowing its name in a Sydney Greenstreet and/or John Housman voice whenever we drive past it...

Murmuring Surf
<SYDNEYGREENSTREET> “Murmuring Surf!” </SYDNEYGREENSTREET>

And the surf was indeed murmuring...practically whispering. The Gulf was preternaturally calm until the morning we left, its surface a sheet of sparkling glass from horizon to horizon, its shores bereft of the usual hordes of sunbathers.

Harris Ocean
A becalmed Gulf of Mexico sparkles with multicolored fire in this Harris Shutter image. [Click to embiggen.]

We went downtown to AJ’s for dinner Sunday evening. During the summer months, the place is packed to the rafters and you can barely hear yourself think. Not now.

Magnificent Desolation
Magnificent desolation at AJ’s.

Except for perhaps one or two other tables, we had the whole fucking place to ourselves. Yowza!

Me and the Missus
Me and the Missus.

Gary Looks Serious
Gary, looking unusually serious.

Monday morning, it was off to Baytowne Village for a quick breakfast. There was, astoundingly, a skating rink set up there, where you could skate to your heart’s content for less than a sawbuck. Not too many takers, we noticed.

Gary, JoAnn, and SWMBO
Gary, JoAnn, and SWMBO at Baytowne Village.
“Will you hurry up and take the Gawd-damned picture? We’re freezing our asses off!”

And then it was time to make the five-and-a-half hour trip back home, where a few patches of unmelted snow lingered in shade-protected spots. It had been a good weekend to be away...

...and we’ll look forward to our next Destin sojourn in mid-June.

HDR Seashore
Sunrise in Sandestin.

MOON OVER ALABAMA

Moon over Alabama
The full moon floats in the skies above Alabama.

Photograph taken yesterday evening as we drove home from our long weekend in Destin.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 14.

Yet more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Previous installments of the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary may be found in the Archives: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6, Volume 7, Volume 8, Volume 9, Volume 10, Volume 11, Volume 12, and Volume 13.

Decrapitation [de-cra-pi-tei-shun] (n) - The act of Beheading the Turtle: cutting off the tip of an emerging turd by applying pressure with the anal sphincter.

“I was crimping one off and had to get to my next class in a hurry, so I decrapitated it.”

Decrapitation is hilariously illustrated in this superlative piece of crapblogging by the inimitable Kevin Kim.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson colander fedora to SWMBO, herownself, for this brilliant coinage.]

Crappuccino [cra-poo-chee-no] (n) - 1. The vile beverage served by the minions of the Evil Mermaid; 2. The unfortunate result of an attack of loose bowels whilst wearing casual pants, [see also Cocky-Khaki].

“Holy mackerel, you shoulda seen Charlie the other day. He had an attack of the squirts right after making the turn at Gleneagles the other day - it was a real Crappuccino Moment.”

[This one - Definition 2, anyway - is SWMBO’s, too.]

Friday, January 18, 2008

MONSTER CAKE RALLY

There seems to be an Unwritten Rule that is followed religiously by Diner Proprietors throughout the land: One must have, immediately visible upon entering the facility, a Display of Excessively Large Baked Goods.

Let’s parse this, shall we?

Immediately Visible Upon Entering.

The Baked Goods Display must be the first thing that catches the eye of the Happy Patron. Many diner owners elect to have a glass cabinet with rotating shelves, the better to display the Cakey Wares. In the photograph below, an enterprising Truck Stop Owner has taken this concept and extended it to the merchandising of Meat Products:

Rotating Meat Display
Check out our meat!

Imagine such a case filled with cakes, each the size of a Human Torso, and you get the general idea.

Excessively Large Baked Goods.

The motto of the Diner-Owner is “Nothing Exceeds Like Excess,” and nowhere is this more evident than in the colossally-sized cakes and pies that are proudly displayed at the diner entrance.

The late Bernie Kliban once famously said, “Never eat anything bigger than your head.” Bernie was not a Diner Patron.

Fact it: Everything about a good diner is excessive. The menu is a tome the approximate weight and dimensions of a telephone directory. It reads like War and Peace as written by Chef Tolstoy, with eighty-five thousand, seven hundred and forty-six different dishes, not including the pile of evening specials. The portions are, individually, sufficient to feed an entire third-world country. Yet all that fades into insignificance when it comes to Diner Desserts.

Rectangular cakes the size of tree trunks. Layer cakes standing a foot tall. Eclairs that could satisfy the Fifty-Foot Woman in more ways than one. Looka dis:

Monster Cakes 1

Monster Cakes 2

Monster Cakes 3

This Cakely Bounty is what stares you in the face when you step into the Marietta Diner...just a little ways south of the Big Chicken. One diner, folks.

I have often wondered just who it is that eats this stuff. I mean, most normal humans cannot even contemplate finishing off a Diner Meal, let alone have room for dessert. But then again, a glance around the diner generally reveals a higher-than-normal proportion of Outsize-Americans.

There should be a sign on those display cases: “Save Time - Apply Directly To Ass.”

Maybe ol’ Bernie was right.

EAST COBB-ALISTS

Thursday Night Minyan
The East Cobb-alists: our Thursday Night Minyan Gang.

It’s an honorable Local Tradition: our Thursday Evening Minyan.

There’s an evening service every weekday at 6:30 pm at our local God-Shoppe, a service that I do not routinely attend. But Thursdays are different, having become a Social Occasion of sorts.

Every Thursday, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I show up, along with the other Thursday Evening Regulars. After the brief service (Ma’ariv only takes about fifteen minutes), we pick a local restaurant and head out to dinner. The group ranges in size from week to week, but it usually numbers at least ten.

Last night, we ended up at the Marietta Diner. Reasonably good food - diner food - served in humongous portions. A serious trencherman might clean his plate, but typically, we end up shoveling half of our entrées into Styrofoam containers for later consumption.

I had a Greek salad with grilled chicken, a dinner worthy of the wily Odysseus himself, in a bowl large enough to have given Polyphemos the Cyclops a hernia. Opa!

Prayer and Food. Try some today!

FROZEN FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Welcome to Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, that weekly post in which I put up a list of ten songs puked out at random by the Little White Choon-Box d’Elisson.

We’re battening down the hatches here for another snowstorm, one that may dump as much as four inches of the White Crap on the northern Atlanta ’burbs. Nobody seems to be getting too worked up about it, though: The ground should be warm enough to keep most of it from sticking, and it will have no Morning Commute with which to play havoc. So - hot buttered rum all around!

What’s playing this week? Why not settle back and take a look?
  1. The Last Saskatchewan Pirate - Captain Tractor

    I first heard this nutty little tune on the car radiddio as I was driving from Saint John to Moncton, on the way back from my two-week sojourn in the Canadian Maritimes in mid-2006.

    Well, I used to be a farmer and I made a living fine
    I had a little stretch of land along the C. P. line
    But times got tough, and though I tried, the money wasn't there
    The bankers came and took my land and told me, “Fair is fair”
    I looked for every kind of job, the answer always no
    “Hire you now?” they’d always laugh, “We just let twenty go!” (Ha ha!)
    The government, they promised me a measly little sum
    But I’ve got too much pride to end up just another bum
    Then I thought, who gives a damn if all the jobs are gone
    I’m gonna be a pirate on the river Saskatchewan! (Arr!)

    Refrain:
    And it’s a heave (ho!) hi (ho!), coming down the plains
    Stealing wheat and barley and all the other grains
    And it’s a ho (hey!) hi (hey!), farmers bar yer doors
    When you see the Jolly Roger on Regina’s mighty shores!

    Well, you’d think the local farmers would know that I’m at large
    But just the other day I found an unprotected barge
    I snuck up right behind them and they were none the wiser
    I rammed the ship and sank it and I stole the fertilizer
    Bridge outside of Moose Jaw spans a mighty river
    Farmers cross in so much fear, their stomachs are a-quiver
    ’Cause they know that Captain Tractor’s hiding in the bay
    I’ll jump the bridge, and knock ’em cold, and sail off with their hay

    [Refrain]

    Well, Mountie Bob he chased me, he was always at my throat
    He’d follow on the shoreline ’cause he didn’t own a boat
    But the cutbacks were a-comin’ and the Mountie lost his job
    So now he’s sailing with me and we call him Salty Bob
    A swingin’ sword, a skull-and-bones, and pleasant company
    I never pay my income tax and screw the GST (Screw it!)
    Prince Albert down to Saskatoon, the terror of the sea
    If you wanna reach the co-op, boy, you gotta get by me! (Arr!)

    [Refrain]

    Well, the pirate life’s appealing but you don’t just find it here
    I hear in north Alberta there’s a band of buccaneers
    They roam the Athabasca from Smith to Fort MacKay
    And you’re gonna lose your Stetson if you have to pass their way
    Well, winter is a-comin’ and a chill is in the breeze
    My pirate days are over once the river starts to freeze
    I’ll be back in springtime, but now I’ve got to go
    I hear there’s lots of plunderin’ down in New Mexico

    [Refrain]

    When you see the Jolly Roger on Regina’s mighty shores!
    When you see the Jolly Roger on Regina’s mighty shores!


  2. When I Get Home - The Beatles

  3. Rock ’n’ Roll Stew - Traffic

  4. Silverfuck - Smashing Pumpkins

  5. Soir De Fête - Yann Tiersen, Amélie

  6. Tea for the Tillerman - Cat Stevens

  7. Koeeoaddi There - The Incredible String Band

    I’ve had this in my musical library for forty years now.

    The natural cards revolve, ever changing
    Seeded elsewhere, planted in the garden fair
    Grow trees, grow trees

    Tongues of the sheer wind
    Setting your foot where the sand is untrodden,
    The ocean that only begins

    Listen: a woman with a bulldozer built this house of now
    Carving away the mountain whose name is your childhood home
    We were trying to buy it, buy it, buy it
    Someone was found killed there, all bones, bones, dry bones

    Earth, water, fire, and air
    Met together in a garden fair
    Put in a basket bound with skin
    If you answer this riddle
    You’ll never begin

    Born in a house where the doors shut tight
    Shadowy fingers on the curtains at night
    Cherry tree blossom, head high snow
    A busy main road where I wasn’t to go
    I used to sit on the garden wall
    Say hallo to people going by so tall
    Hallo to the postman’s stubbly skin
    Hallo to the baker’s stubbly grin
    Mrs. Thompson gave me a bear
    Brigitte and some people lived upstairs

    Skating on happy valley pond
    Various ministers and guards stood around
    The ice was nice. Hallo, the invisible brethren
    And there was a tent you played cards with the soldiers in
    “Don't worry, we won’t send anyone after you,” they screamed
    But me and Licorice saw the last of them
    One misty twisty day
    Across the mournful morning moor, motoring away
    Singing, “Ladybird, ladybird, what is your wish
    Your wish is not granted unless it’s a fish
    Your wish is not granted unless it’s a dish
    A fish on a dish, is that what you wish?”

    Earth, water, fire, and air
    Met together in a garden fair
    Put in a basket bound with skin
    If you answer this riddle
    If you answer this riddle
    You’ll never begin


  8. For A Thousand Mothers - Jethro Tull

  9. Salt Slides - Bernard Herrmann, Journey To The Center Of The Earth

  10. Twilight Zone Theme - Bernard Herrmann

    This is the theme music from TZ’s first season, way spookier than Marius Constant’s familiar “doo doo doo doo” intro that was used in the last four seasons.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FROSTY FUZZY FRIDAY

The Weathermeisters forecast is for Snow.
Here in Atlanta? Aaah, what do
they know?
Predictions often fail to meet their mark.
Except for one: “When sails the Friday Ark?”

Well, it may snow here again tomorrow morning...or it may not. But the Friday Ark’s 174th voyage is already afloat - as befits a proper Friday Institution - with Cap’n Steve, the Modulator of Bloggy Renown, at the helm.

The Leadoff Kitty is none other than our own mysterious and lovely Hakuna.

Want more Catbloggery? Carnival of the Cats will go up Sunday evening at Missy, KC and Bear. Mark your calendars!

Update: CotC #201 is up...at last!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A KINGLY SNACK

When the Mistress of Sarcasm was here the week before Christmas, she related to me a lurid tale, a tale of a Limited Edition Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Limited Edition? you may ask. Wuzzat?

This wasn’t just any old Peanut Butter Cup, you see. It had banana creme in it...a tribute to Elvis Presley, the King hizzownself, who favored that unique combination of treefruit and groundnut.

Elvis Reese’s
A hunka hunka burnin’ Peanut Butter and Banana Goodness.

It’s an open question as to whether these chocolate-covered gems are any healthier than the King’s preferred method of PB&B ingestion: in the form of a sandwich fried in butter.

The Mistress told me that these things had sold like hotcakes, and that people were actually selling them on eBay. (I checked. They are.)

Imagine my pleasant, dumbfounded state of surprise, then, when we found an entire display of the damned things in the local CVS. Bought all of ’em, I did.

And I just may sell the ones we have left on eBay. The King would approve.

LET IT SNOW

Snow in San Anselmo
My waitress my waitress my waitress
Said it was coming down
Said it hadn’t happened in over 30 years
But it was laying on the ground
But it was laying on the ground


- “Snow in San Anselmo,” Van Morrison

We don’t get a whole lot of snow in Atlanta. And that’s probably a Good Thing, because on those rare occasions when we do, it becomes a clusterfuck of monumental proportions.

It was our first January in the Atlanta area when we experienced “Snow Jam 1982.” [Yes, big snows here get their own names.] Several days of below-freezing weather got the ground nice and cold...and then, on Tuesday, January 12, the snow started coming down in the midafternoon. Within an hour or two, there were over three inches of accumulation on the ground, with more on the way.

The smart ones had gotten out of Dodge early, but the bulk of the rush hour commuters missed the escape window. By the time most businesses had let their employees leave, the roads had devolved into an impassably slick morass. The freeways were clotted with tangles of wrecked and skidded-out cars. Some people saw their 45-minute commutes turn into six-hour ordeals; others never made it home at all.

In my case, an eight-mile, twenty-minute drive took two hours. Given the slickness of the roads and the hilly topography, it’s a minor miracle that I made it at all. It was touch-and-go for a while on some of the hills. Keep in mind that there are no snowplows here, and only the biggest thoroughfares ever see sand or salt.

That night, the skies put down a layer of freezing rain, enough to convert the surface of the snow to glaze ice. The next day, another three inches of snow provided the proverbial Icing on the Cake. Afterwards, low temperatures kept everything frozen solidly in place for several days.

Travel was virtually impossible. Our neighborhood, surrounded by steep roads, was an island of warmth and comfort...but Gawd help you if you needed a gallon of milk.

The forced neighborhood isolation didn’t bother us. We partied for three days with our neighbors. Finally, on Saturday, things warmed up enough to melt the road-glaze, permitting us to once again make our way to the outside world.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was making ready to head into town to meet SWMBO and get a haircut, the snow once again started falling.

Snow in the Afternoon
Uh-oh...another Snow Jam in the making?

The flakes drifted down gently at first, then more insistently, in big, wet clumps. By the time I had driven five miles, it was starting to accumulate on the cold grass, and I was beginning to question my wisdom in leaving the house. But I was committed at this point; there was nothing I could do but forge ahead. I arrived at my destination - about 17 miles away - after a full hour on the road.

By the time SWMBO and I left the Hair Place, the snow had been replaced by a horrifying mix of sleet and frozen rain. That tick-tickity-tick sound of sleet can loosen the bowels of even the most seasoned highway drivers. Fortunately, we avoided the slick spots and got home with no problems.

The neighborhood was white, white under the glow of the streetlamps.

Snowy Night
A temporary Winter Wonderland.

This was no Snow Jam 2008, though. The accumulation around here was maybe an inch, and, typically for these Southern climes, by mid-day the next day most of the snow was gone. But the Weather Gurus are predicting that more will arrive Saturday morning. Feh.

Sounds like a good time to head for the beach, say I.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

HILLARY IS DEAD

No, not that Hillary. You Republicans can stop dancing now.

I’m referring to Sir Edmund Hillary, the intrepid New Zealander who, with his trusty Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, was the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Sir Edmund passed away last week, succumbing to heart failure January 11 (New Zealand time) at the age of 88.

Hillary and Norgay
Hillary and Norgay, in an Associated Press photo from June, 1953.

Hillary and Norgay conquered Everest on May 29, 1953. Since then, over three thousand Adventurous People with Time and Money have followed in their footsteps, turning the mountain into a sort of high-rent circus sideshow cum mountain resort.

I can’t think about Sir Edmund without recalling this little poem by Gardner E. Lewis:

Poem, Neither Hilláryous Norgay

The Sherpa gasped out as they mounted the slope,
“Our troubles are only commencing!”
Said Sir Edmund, “You’re tired and nervous; relax -
You’ll nEverest if you’re Tensing.”

Farewell, Sir Edmund. May you spend a happy eternity climbing your Forever Mountain.

CRACKING THE LISTS

I’m a fan of the hilarious lists at McSweeney’s, my only objection being that they so rarely publish my submissions.

But, then again, that’s why I have a blog: to publish shit that nobody else cares to.

There are other Humorous Lists out there on the Inter-Webby-Net, however. I recently (that is, last night) discovered Cracked.com, home of some very interesting and amusing lists. Cracked, my Esteemed Readers will no doubt be aware, was the venerable competitor of MAD magazine, the only humor rag that ever gave Harvey Kurtzman’s brain-child a real run for its money.

Back in the day, you either read MAD or Cracked, just as you would be a Beatles fan or an Elvis fan. Few people straddled the fence separating the two camps.

Me, I was a MAD reader, which probably accounts for a good part of my twisted outlook on life. My cronies and I looked down upon Cracked as a poor imitation of MAD, which in fact it was at the time. Even their own people admit it:
Editor Terry Bisson later recalled, “The whole company was about lowball imitations. The publisher, Robert Sproul, wanted to put out some imitations of western, romance and astrology mags, and I was hired (at about age 27) to put them together because of my romance mag experience... The pseudomags did pretty well (this was a very low end market).”
Cracked is now defunct as a magazine (or “mazagine,” as they playfully titled it), but it has been reinvented as a humor website. And it has some chops.

Here are a few of the things that gave me a chuckle. Check ’em out:Of course, the advantage of a website, as opposed to a conventional print ’zine, is that you can include links...which in turn take you to yet more narrischkeit. Like this Japanese advertisement for a potty-training Assistive Device...



Ya gotta give the Japanese credit. They don’t seem to have a lot of our Western hangups about dealing with Bodily Functions. Which should make my upcoming trip with Elder Daughter interesting. Picture me, at large in a nation of potential crapbloggers! Scary, don’tcha think?

Monday, January 14, 2008

A SUNDAY EVENING REPAST

Olives Plus
Appetizy stuff: Olives, edamame, and pickled garlic cloves with red pepper.

Our friends Laura Belle and Don came over for a semi-impromptu Sunday Dinner yesterday evening. SWMBO had espied a package of beef tenderloin steaks buried in the Freezer d’Elisson, the nucleus around which a dinner menu condensed.

I had had some Sauce Madére left over from our New Year’s feast. It was an easy task to convert it into a rich Sauce Poivrade by adding some cracked black peppercorns. (I “bloomed” the peppercorns in a little bit of hot olive oil to tone their heat down to manageable proportions prior to adding them to the thawed-out sauce.)

Poivrade
Sauce Poivrade, asimmer on the stove.

The Missus and I wanted something light by way of a salad course. I took out my mandoline slicer and shredded a couple of Belgian endives, a small head of radicchio (are there any large heads of radicchio?), and a bulb of fennel. Then I shaved some Parmesan cheese and scattered it, along with a handful of dried cherries, on the leafy stuff. A little fresh ground pepper, and voilà! Fennel, Radicchio, and Endive Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Dried Cherries – something that could have stepped right out of the menu at Chez Fancy-Pants. SWMBO, who was not at all sure about this particular salad, ended up loving it, especially when dressed with the vinaigrette she made from sherry vinegar, a little extra-virgin olive oil, some minced raw shallot, salt, and pepper. Superb.

Fennel-Radicchio-Endive Salad
Fennel, Radicchio, and Endive Salad with dried cherries and shaved Parmesan.

By way of vegetabobbles, SWMBO roasted a brace of sweet potatoes, and I roasted some weird cauliflower-broccoli hybrid. Maybe not so weird: Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage all share a common wild ancestor. This stuff looked like regular cauliflower, but with a light green tinge. It cooked up nicely, drizzled with olive oil and with some garlic cloves and fresh thyme sprigs scattered over it.

We threw in a Mojo Chicken we had picked up at the stupidmarket that afternoon – hey, not every damn thing needs to be from scratch – because the steaks were of that ridiculous four-ounce variety. Four ounces of steak is plenty if you’re on a weight-loss regimen, but we wanted to have more protein on the table. Besides, if there ain’t any leftovers, you didn’t serve your guests enough food, am I right?

All in all, a pleasant Sunday evening with good friends. And now SWMBO has discovered a new salad ingredient: fennel!

I’LL BE BACK

Terminator Cameron
Way cuter than Ahhhnuld.

There’s a new Terminator in town, and she’s hawt.

Last night, we caught the premiere of Fox’s new take on the Terminator mythos: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And we were pleasantly surprised.

For the two or three people on Planet Earth who may be unfamiliar with the Terminator opus, the story begins with the 1984 film The Terminator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a relentless cybernetic assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 to kill one Sarah Connor. Said Sarah Connor, it seems, would eventually give birth to a son John, who would grow up to lead a resistance movement against robotic intelligences bent on exterminating all human life. Think of it as a Grandfather Paradox writ large upon the big screen, and with an Austrian accent to boot.

Sarah Connor manages to survive, thanks to the time-traveling intervention of Kyle Reese, sent from the future by her own son – his closest friend - in order to protect her. So well does he protect her, in fact, that he ends up siring John Connor...before dying in the final struggle against the Evil Cyborg.

The Terminator, produced for a shoestring budget (under $7 million), did boffo box office, setting the stage for 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that rarest of rarities: a sequel that exceeds the original.

In Terminator 2, a New and Improved Terminator cyborg (now with Mimetic Polyalloy®!) is sent back from 2029 - but this time to kill young John Connor himself. The direct approach, you could say. Opposing him is the superannuated (but still Majorly Badass) T-101 “Old School” Terminator, played by Arnie, programmed to protect John. (When Sarah Connor first lays eyes on the T-101, she has no idea he’s there to help her - he’s the spittin’ image of the Bad Guy from the last movie, after all - and she just about shits a peach pit.)

The Future Governator is as relentless as ever in T2, but the New Bad Guy is made of this snazzy liquid metal, so shooting holes in him just pisses him off. Somehow, though, Old and Wily defeats New and Snazzy, and John Connor survives to be a character in the next film in the franchise.

The television show wedges itself into the timeframe right after T2, but thanks to that good ol’ Time-Travelin’ Technology, the main characters waste no time getting to 2007. And the “protector terminator” – “Perminator?” – is an attractive young woman. Her name (Cameron) is an obvious homage to James Cameron, who directed the first two Terminator movies. As played by Summer Glau, she captures that Cyborg Consciousness beautifully.  And she looks Damn Good.

Somehow, the show seems to strike that difficult balance between the introspective mother-son touchy-feely stuff, the philosophical (“the future is what you make it”), and a buncha shit getting blown up. You have a mother-and-son team facing a relentless pursuit by an implacable foe, but with the help of a powerful ally. And you have the “Fugitive” angle, with the FBI attempting to hunt down the elusive Sarah Connor. Hey, there’s even the Christian subtext, with someone whose initials are JC saving the world! Something for everyone. I liked it...and even SWMBO managed to sit through it.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ought to succeed for several reasons: It’s well-written; it does not insult the intelligence of the SF-savvy fan; and it dovetails well with the Terminator movie franchise (of which it is the harbinger of new big-screen installments). And if all that were not enough, it’s being plunked down into a writer’s strike-generated desert of reruns and reality shows. As someone who would rather gouge my own eyes out with a Carvel spoon than watch American Gladiators: The Stupid, Useless Remake, I’m perfectly happy to escape into the paranoid world of Sarah and John Connor.

And, even better, there’s a small connection of sorts. If you caught the front end of last night’s episode, you may have seen a building labeled the E. Hadley Public Library. And, while there is an East Hadley, Massachusetts, the storyline takes place far away from there. The building’s name is actually a subtle hat tip to someone whose name does not appear in the credits proper: Hadley Klein, the assistant to Executive Producer Josh Friedman...and our rabbi’s stepson.

We’ll be back.

I GREET THE DAY

Greet the Day
Hakuna glows in the morning light.

I’m quiet and I’m shy: It is my way.
My sister talks a lot; I’ve less to say.
But here, where sunbeams shine their warming ray,
I sit under my chair and greet the day.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

FRIENDS OF LONG STANDING

Some time back, in a post I wrote about a Southern Wedding (where else, I ask you, would you see a Grits Bar?), I made mention of the groom being the son of Friends of Long Standing. “Who are these Friends?” you may have asked yourself at the time. And even if you did not, I will tell you. It’s a story that goes back over a quarter-century, to a time when Elder Daughter was simply Daughter, a toddler two years of age.

We moved to Atlanta in the fall of 1981. It was our second transfer at the behest of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, and it was to a destination with which both of us were unfamiliar. She Who Must Be Obeyed wept when she got the news.

We flew down from New Jersey to look for a house, a house that would become the third Chez Elisson in our married life. Driving to the northwest side of town from the airport, we were struck by the sheer amount of greenery. Later, we’d learn that that greenery had a name: kudzu.

Elder Daughter (then just Daughter) was with us on the trip. At two years of age, she was intelligent and talkative, curious about her new surroundings. Maybe a little too curious at times...but she accompanied us on our rounds with the realtor without complaint. Only one time did we wear her down to the point where, at day’s end, she exclaimed, “No more houses!”

A few days of that home search dried SWMBO’s tears. Compared with West Bumfuck, New Jersey, we could get a lot more house in Atlanta for the money, and in more pleasant surroundings. And, thankfully, the Salt Mine helped us out with the huge differential in mortgage rates...for we were moving at a time when the cost of money hit its all-time peak. The fixed-rate mortgage we ended up with had a rate of 15½ percent, a rate that included a three-point buydown from the homebuilder. Scary.

Several months later, we moved in, and it didn’t take long for us to make friends with our neighbors. Most of us were within a few years of age; most of us were, more or less, at similar points in our lives’ arcs. And many of us were transplants, strangers in a strange land, looking to connect with people with whom to commiserate. And connect we did, over the ensuing months and years.

Laura (AKA “Laura Belle”) and Don lived across the street. It didn’t take long for us to become good friends. Laura and SWMBO shared common interests, as did Don and I. Our bookshelves were lined with almost identical libraries, with a heavy emphasis on science fiction and Stephen King.

Next to them were Michael and Patricia. Michael was a good ol’ Jawja Bulldawg, working his way up the corporate ladder at the Southern Company.

Next door to us on one side were Margaret and Ricky, and on the other side Catherine and Andy. Two houses down from Catherine and Andy were Carol and Joe. One street over, you had Mary and Scott...and on the far end of the block, Margaret and Joe. They had known each other since their snot-nose days, having gone on their first “date” at the grand old age of six. And adjacent to them were Guy and Miriam.

Also down the block were Tom and Sue. Tom was a corporate attorney for Delta Airlines at the time; one unforgettable day, he arranged for us to spend a few hours at the Delta flight simulator center near Hartsfield Airport, augering imaginary 727’s into the dirt. The only thing missing was the screaming passengers.

Out of these ten couples was formed a loose social amalgam, getting together for parties, dinners, and what-not. Then, one by one, we began to move away from our little neighborhood.

Margaret and Joe were the first to move away, down to an upscale neighborhood in Sandy Springs. Then we left for Connecticut...Mary and Scott for Texas...and eventually the others dispersed as well, mostly to other neighborhoods in the northern Atlanta suburbs.

What made this group different was that we all stayed in more-or-less close contact even after everyone scattered to the four winds.

Ya-Yas 1989
Seated, from left: Mary, SWMBO, Margaret W., Sue, Catherine, Carol, Patricia.
Standing, from left: JoAnn, Laura Belle.


This photograph was taken in 1989, three years after we moved away to Connecticut. We would make frequent trips back to Atlanta, not least because SWMBO’s mother and stepfather lived there. And we would always find a way to reconnect with our friends from the old neighborhood. [JoAnn, who appears in the photo above, was not from that neighborhood, but was also, along with her husband Gary, someone we stayed very close to despite our living a long distance away.]

When we moved back in 1998, the Old Gang was remarkably intact, despite having relocated to disparate places all over the Atlanta metropolitan area. Some, like us, had moved to other states and returned. Some simply moved a few miles away. And others, like Tom and Sue, relocated to Peachtree City, all the way on the opposite side of the metroplex. There were life changes, too. Carol and Joe had gotten a divorce, and Joe had subsequently passed away. By the time we moved back, she had remarried.

Children that had been toddlers when we moved away in 1986 were now in high school, getting ready to move off to college. And the older ones - Carol’s daughters, who had been teenagers when we lived here in the mid-1980’s - were now off on their own, grown women.

Ya-Yas 2002
Seated, from left: Patricia, Carol, Catherine, Sue.
Standing, from left: SWMBO, Mary, Laura Belle.


By this time, the girls of the Neighborhood Gang began calling themselves the Ya-Yas, after the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the eponymous novel. And it became a tradition to get together for a Girls’ Night Out at least once a month...a tradition that continues unto this day.

Of course, with the passage of years come the tragedies and infirmities of life. Some of us buried parents...and then we lost one of the Ya-Yas in September 2004. Sue, who had fought ovarian cancer for years, finally succumbed, becoming the first of our number to check out the Invisible Neighborhood.

Life goes on. The girls get together every month, and the various couples meet each other for dinners and other such amusements. There’s been a lot of water under our Mutual Bridge...and there’s lots more (kein ayin hora) to come.

Ya-Yas 2007
The Ya-Yas today.
From left: Catherine, Margaret N., Mary, SWMBO, Laura Belle, Patricia.


For there is, you see, another generation.

From their earliest days, Christopher (Catherine and Andy’s son), David (Michael and Patricia’s son), and Patrick (Tom and Sue’s son) were close friends. When Chris and David went off to college - at two different schools - they nevertheless managed to room together...and they remain close friends today.

And Wendy (Carol and Joe’s elder daughter), gets together frequently with our own Elder Daughter, who, like her, lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Wendy has about ten years on Elder Daughter, but that age difference, once so significant, is as nothing between two grown women...the Petite Ya-Yas.