Friday, February 29, 2008


Meryl Yourish reports that NASA, with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, has managed to find the Eye of Sauron floating somewhere Out There, about 25 light-years away.

Eye of Sauron

The scary-looking Eye is really a debris ring around the star Fomalhaut. (Who comes up with these kooky star names, anyway?)

Debris rings are formed, presumably, when dust and small particulates are blown out during the formation of a stellar system. Which, I suppose, would make this the biggest Blown-Eye known to humans.


Today is February 29, 2008 - Leap Year Day in the Gregorian calendar.

Because it takes roughly 365¼ days for the earth to circumnavigate the sun, it’s necessary to add an extra day to our 365-day year every four years so that the months don’t get out of whack with the equinoxes and solstices. Otherwise, you have April showing up in mid-winter.

The Muslim calendar cares not for these things, being a purely lunar calendar. You have a new month whenever you have a new moon, and time of year be damned. It’s why Ramadan shows up in the spring some years, the fall in others. But since agriculture, with its regular planting seasons, is not a big deal to desert nomads, it was never an issue Back In The Day.

The Gregorian calendar - the most widely used calendar today - adds one slight refinement to the older Julian calendar, which has a leap year every four years. But because the solar year is actually about 11 minutes short of 365¼ days, the Julian calendar suffers from “season creep,” with January moving slowly but inexorably towards summer at the rate of just less than three days every 400 years. And so Pope Gregory proposed a slight modification: every year divisible by four is a leap year, but years divisible by 100 are not…unless they are divisible by 400.

So 1900 was not a leap year, and 2100 will not be, even though they’re divisible by four. But 2000 was a leap year, because even though it’s divisible by 100, it’s also divisible by 400. Got that?

That corrects for three days every 400 years. It’s still not perfect, but it will take about four thousand years to pile up a one-day error…and since the day is slowly increasing in length thanks to tidal drag (Tidal Drag! We’re all gonna die!), the error will actually be less than that. And I don’t expect to be around to worry about it.

For us Jews, of course, things get even more complicated. Since our calendar reconciles a lunar month (months always start with the new moon) with a solar year, seven years out of every nineteen are leap years. And we don’t just add a day, oh, no. We add an entire month. Since this year (5768) is a leap year, we have two months of Adar: Adar Rishon and Adar Sheni.

Which means, I guess, that if there were a Jewish equivalent of Sadie Hawkins day, we’d all be in trouble.

Happy Intercalary Day, Esteemed Readers!


Friday: time once again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly collection of Musical Madness horked out by my Little White Choon-Box.

It’s unnaturally quiet here at Chez Elisson today. Matata is still at the animal hospital, hooked up to an intravenous Lactated Ringer’s drip. We’re hoping that this will flush out enough of the accumulated toxins in her system to allow her overtaxed kidneys - whatever is left of them - to do their job. I miss my happy, eternally purring Meat does Hakuna, who patrols the house, occasionally calling out mournfully for her missing sister.

But music soothes the savage breast, so they say, and so it may serve to soothe the disquieted heart as well. Let’s see what Soothing Sounds we have up this week:
  1. Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink - Frank Zappa

    From the 1970 Chunga’s Revenge album.

  2. Cabin Essence - Brian Wilson

    From Smile, the Great Lost Beach Boys Album of the 1960’s, finally released as a solo project by Brian Wilson in 2004. Originally conceived in 1966, it’s Wilson’s “teenage symphony to God.” My impressions on first hearing it are in this post.

  3. Brick - Ben Folds Five

  4. Cruisin’ for Burgers - Frank Zappa

    This version is from the Zappa in New York live album.

  5. For Good - Original Cast Recording, Wicked

  6. Theme from “Schindler’s List” - John Williams

  7. Tzama L’Chol Nafshi - Matisyahu

  8. Township Rebellion - Rage Against The Machine

  9. Resolution - Mahavishnu Orchestra

    Best listened to with the volume cranked all the way up.

  10. King Kong - Frank Zappa

    A Zappa trifecta today! This one’s from the Make A Jazz Noise Here live album.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


The creatures of the earth,
In their infinite variety -
Whether subsisting on vegetables
Or a meat-filled diety,
Whether loud and in your face
Or retiring and quiet-y
They spend Fridays on the Ark
In the best Moduliety.

Friday Ark #180 is up at the Modulator.

Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats stops off at Momma Grace & Company for its 207th edition. Drop by and say hello to this week’s Panoply o’ Kitties, won’tcha?

Update: CotC #207 is up.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


From those fat fucks that brought you Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, more ridiculous flavors:
  • ONE Cheesecake Brownie (Add inches to your waistline and fight world poverty and disease at the same time!)

  • Imagine Whirled Peace (Enjoy this whirly mixture of toffee cookie chunks and fudge peace signs, carefully blended into a mixture of caramel and sweet cream ice creams. Tastes like Yoko Ono’s ass!)

  • Cake Batter (Yellow Cake Batter ice cream with a chocolate frosting swirl!)
Hey, if I want cake, I’ll eat cake. If I want ice cream, I’ll eat ice cream. (Of course, I said the same thing about raw chocolate chip cookie dough, and look where that got me.)

Who else but Ben and Jerry (Growing America’s Ass Since 1978™) could come up with these ice cream flavor combinations? I’ve gotta hand it to ’em - they know what makes the average American ice cream eater tick. And it ain’t broccoli.

Great. Just fucking great. Another reason to stay the hell out of the ice cream aisle at the Stoopid-Market.

Gawd help me.


Scratch Pad Matata
Matata relaxes on her Scratching Pad Tuesday morning.

It’s déjà vu all over again, and not in a good way.

Tuesday morning, the Missus and I knew right away that something wasn’t right with Matata. Normally, she’s walking around on our bed, shoving her butt in our faces and trying to roust us out of our comfortable Sleepy-Place. Then when one of us goes downstairs to fill the Kibble-Bowls, she will galumph down the stairs, making sure she doesn’t miss a single tasty pellet. But Tuesday, she took her sweet time getting to the kitchen...and for most of the morning, she simply sat under the chair outside our bedroom - a spot favored by her sister Hakuna.

Yesterday, she took up residence under Elder Daughter’s bed (another one of Hakuna’s hidey-holes). Food and water did not interest her, although as the evening wore on, SWMBO got her to eat a small bowl of food.

Normally, Matata will perch herself on my chest and try to nuzzle my face when I’m reading in bed. It makes it nigh-impossible to get through Paragraph One, but it’s the sort of endearing Kitty Behavior that makes Matata so a dog in a catsuit. But last night, as I lay on my back, book in hand, Matata’s absence was palpable.

This morning I loaded her into her Sherpa carrier and took her to the vet. Matata does not put up the same kind of fight Hakuna does when I try to grab her, but today she was even more listless and acquiescent. My attempts at chivvying her out of her hidey-hole were met with only token resistance.

At the vet, the X-rays looked good...but the blood work told the real story. Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine way up...liver enzymes elevated...all signs of incipient renal failure.

Déjà vu all over again...

...because it wasn’t all that long ago that Meryl Yourish was going through this same affair with her Tigger. And I do not want the story to play out the same way.

Matata will be staying with the vet for the next several days, as they pump her full of IV fluids and try to get her BUN and creatinine levels down. They’ve told me the prognosis is 50:50, which sucks. But at least there’s some hope for recovery, the chances of which plummet to zero without treatment.

I’m just hoping that Matata can fight the Good Fight and at least keep herself going long enough to celebrate her Bat Meowtzvah later this year. Your good wishes and prayers on her behalf are greatly appreciated.

Time to go and recite a Meow-Shebeirakh right now...and maybe a couple of Psalmons.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Momma d’SWMBO got an unexpected phone call last night. It was her friend Bernie from Henderson, Nevada, checking in.

Bernie is a friend of relatively recent vintage. Momma and her husband David had met him during their last trip to Las Vegas, having been introduced by David’s son, a full-time resident there. They all must have hit it off pretty well, since Momma and David spent a whole day out at Bernie’s, hanging out, admiring his paintings. (“Weekend” sounded better in the post title.)

David and Bernie are contemporaries, their ages being within a year of each other. [And Bernie is exactly six days younger than Eli, case you wanted another useless piece of data.]

Bernie was fairly well known in his day, as it turns out. No Oscars adorn his shelves, but it’s not for lack of trying: over the past 59 years, he’s been in 110 films. Some of ’em with some Big Names, too. Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe...hell, he even did a Roman bath scene with Olivier that was considered so salacious Back In The Day that it was suppressed for years. Those were days when Hollywood could be downright prudish. Imagine that.

Elvis’s famous DA haircut? Got it from Bernie, he did.

A busy guy, for sure. Busy enough to have been married five times. Five! And he even has a kid in the business. For a while, she was a name in slasher flicks: perfectly understandable, given one of the better-known roles her mother played.

But Bernie is a sweetheart. Calling SWMBO’s Momma just to say hello, and all.

Definitely a mark of Curtis-y.


A post over at verbatim caught my eye the other day.

There’s a website out there that lists an inventory of Obsolete inventory that is growing daily.

Many of the skills or activities listed have been obsolete for lifetimes. Centuries, in some cases. Knapping flint? That one went out with the Iron Age in most places. Swordfighting? Modern projectile weapons have pretty much reduced the role of swords to that of pure ceremonial decoration, even if you can still use one to disembowel an unruly neighbor in a pinch.

Plenty of other items have to do with information technology, recent advances in which make numerous tasks obsolete within a short span of years. Such things as “Tweaking your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files” or “FORTRAN programming” may be obsolete today, but we expect technological advances to sweep this sort of geekery away pretty be replaced, of course, by fresh, new geekery.

But there are plenty of other activities, formerly routine, that truly have become least, as long as you live outside of historical preserves such as Old Sturbridge and Plimoth Plantation. Here’re a few:
  • Crewing a muzzle loading cannon
  • Carving a nib into a quill or pen (what a penknife is for!)
  • Casting lead bullets
  • Starting a fire with a wood drill and block
OK, sure - these activities have been obsolete for a long time. But here are some others that died out within my lifetime:
  • Adjusting a television's horizontal and vertical holds
  • Extracting a square root using pencil and paper
  • Changing a typewriter ribbon (or using a typewriter, for that matter)
  • Calling collect on a pay phone (try to find a pay phone these days!)
  • Replacing burned out vacuum tubes in your radio or TV
  • Counting out change (a useful talent killed off by electronic cash registers)
  • Darkroom photography
  • Dialing a rotary phone (strangely enough, we still use the verb)
  • Editing audio tape with a razor blade and splicing block
  • Laying out magazines using wax and bromides (I’ve done this)
  • Loading film into a 35mm camera
  • Opening a can of beer or soda with a church key
  • Placing a coin on a tonearm to prevent skipping (What’s a tonearm, Grandpa?)
  • Using a slide rule
  • Setting the choke or pumping the accelerator when starting a car
  • Making copies using a mimeograph or a ditto stencil (mmmm, ditto smell)
  • Using carbon paper to make copies
  • Using correction fluid to fix typos (and huffing it to get wasted...)
  • Using a party-line telephone
  • Using paper tape for programming
  • Typing and sending a telex (it’s what people used to send written stuff overseas before the Internet...and faxes)
  • Using Hollerith punch cards
  • Doing calculations using a Table of Logarithms
  • Using an Odhner pin-wheel mechanical calculator (for those occasions when a slide rule wouldn’t be precise enough)
  • Using telephone exchange names
  • Watching a slide show with a slide projector
  • Taking photographs with flash bulbs or flashcubes
  • Applying the coating to a Polaroid photo
There are plenty of others...but what’s bizarre is that I remember many of these activities as being pretty commonplace. Yet, can you remember the last time you used a Logarithm Table...or an old-fashioned slide projector and screen...or a church key?


Harris Snow

The Harris Shutter turns this morning’s snow flurry into a cascade of multicolored flakes.


Dear Reader, observe these words with care:
Wipe when you’re finished on the Porcelain Chair!
A one-swipe wipe for a lump down there,
A two-swipe wipe for a chunk down there,
A three-swipe wipe for a loaf down there,
Wipe when you’re finished on the Porcelain Chair!

Wipe, readers! Wipe with care!
Wipe when you’re finished on the Porcelain Chair!

[Apologies to Noah Brooks, Isaac Bromley, W. C. Wyckoff, Moses P. Handy, and the incomparable Samuel Langhorne Clemens.]


The latest Saveur magazine showed up in the Mailbox d’Elisson a couple of days ago. Every issue has a theme; this one’s focus was on butter.

No, no mentions of Last Tango in Paris, the movie that did more to change the public’s perception of the Noble Fat than the revelation that margarine, rather than being a healthful alternative to butter, was loaded with deadly trans-fats.

But reading about all those butter-drenched dishes (Risotto! Hollandaise! Shortbread!) made me think back upon the day when I encountered an unexpected pleasure:

The Best Fucking Saltines On The Planet.

It was some 22 years ago, and I was having lunch at the Capital City Club in downtown Atlanta, one of the “oldest and most prestigious social clubs in America.” I, along with my immediate superiors, was the guest of one of our customers, the owner of a growing flexible packaging business. Our host was a courtly Southern gentleman of the Old School, and the genteel atmosphere of the Capital City Club reflected his taste and discernment. We were seated; we ordered our luncheon; we discussed Business Matters.

I tried very hard not to release any Wayward Farts as we waited for our food to show up. That would have been...improper. And unbusinesslike, to boot.

But as I sat there, sphincter tension ratcheted up to the breaking point, I noticed a little silver dish of saltines sitting in the center of the table. I tasted one. Then another.

Normally, saltines are Desperation Food. They’re dry and uninteresting, especially without some sort of meaty or cheesy topping. But these - these saltines were marvelous! They had a rich, unexpectedly decadent flavor, one that hinted of dairy and salt.

They were the Best Fucking Saltines On The Planet.

It was all I could do to keep from wolfing down the entire contents of the little silver cracker-dish.

I couldn’t restrain myself. I had to know. What made these saltines so extraordinarily good? I got the attention of the waiter and asked him.

“Well, suh,” he answered, “we take regular saltines and soak them in melted butter.”

Ah, yes. That would explain it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The road to Hell (I’ve heard it said)
Is paved with Good Intentions.
But the route that I’ve been taking’s
Paved with Honorable Mentions.

Monday, February 25, 2008


There’s an economic concept known as the Law of Diminishing Returns, which states that past a certain point, each additional unit of variable input yields less and less additional output. Or, put another way, if you spend more, you get more...but as you continue to pay more, you get less and less socko for your simoleons.

If I pay $50 for VSOP Cognac instead of $30 for VS, I’m getting a big boost in quality for that extra $20. To move up to XO, the next quality level, may run me $50-60 or more above and beyond the cost of the VSOP, yet the difference between XO and VSOP is not nearly as dramatic as that between VS and VSOP. And that $1500 bottle of Louis XIII? Sure, it’s good. Hell, it’s better than good...but that extra $1400 buys an improvement that is more subtle than it has any right to be.

Having said all this, it’s still true that the price of a given tipple is a rough guide to quality. Sure, there’s all that marketing ballyhoo - which is why a product such as “premium vodka” even exists - but there really is a huge difference between that $150 flagon of 21-year-old single malt Scotch and the $20 bottle gathering dust on the bottom shelf at the local Schnapps Merchant.

It’s also true that high quality consumables are best enjoyed with minimal doctoring...and, conversely, why complex recipes are helpful in masking the nastiness of cheap ingredients. I can get away with using rotgut gin and brandy when I mix up a batch of Chatham Artillery Punch...but for a Gin and Tonic or a Martini, only the best will do.

Likewise, I will drink a fine single malt Scotch whisky - or a high-end bourbon, for that matter - neat, or with a splash of water. Soda? That’s for mixing with blended Scotch (if you must). And nobody in his or her right mind makes a whisky sour with Lagavulin or Talisker: It’s stupid and wasteful. Like eating Beluga caviar on a Ritz cracker.

You got Dom Pérignon? Great. Pour me a flute full, and I’ll get a snootful. But don’t you dare make a Mimosa with it. That’s why Gawd invented Korbel Brut. Making a mimosa with Dom Pérignon is like lighting a cigar with a $100 bill. No: it is like wiping your ass with a $100 bill.

It’s like having an Oscar Mayer wiener with yellow mustard, sauerkraut, and chopped truffles.

So imagine my horror when I see that the local Longhorn Steakhouse is offering up a “Gold Dust Margarita,” their attempt at a top-shelf drink. It contains Patrón tequila (nice!), the usual margarita sour mix, and Grand Marnier. But not just any Grand Marnier: this drink contains Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire, a hyper-costly version of GM containing rare old Cognac.

Top-shelf or not, folks, a Margarita is still a fucking Margarita. The quality of the tequila is important, as it is the drink’s main Active Ingredient. But the orangey triple sec component is there to provide a minor flavor note at best. The subtle, delicate quality of Grand Marnier gets lost amidst all that tequila and lime juice like a fart in a windstorm.

With this drink, it’s not even the waste of money that pisses me off. It’s the misuse of a precious natural resource: Expensive Booze.

You want a Margarita? Use good tequila, by all means...but you can get by with Hiram Walker triple sec. If you feel like getting fancy, go with Grand Marnier (the basic Cordon Rouge kind), or, even better, with Cointreau.

But if I see you dumping fifty-buck-a-shot Grand Marnier into a stupid-ass Margarita, I will either want to laugh at you or kick your ass on account of you’re Too Stupid To Drink Like A Human Being.

Now, can you bring me a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese...with a slice of duck Foie Gras and extra ketchup?


Living Harris Water

Step into a swim, Jim.


Last night, the Missus (freshly returned from a weekend in Savannah with the Mistress of Sarcasm and our friend JoAnn) and I (freshly returned from a weekend in the north Georgia mountains) decided to tie the feedbag on at the California Pizza Kitchen that just opened up less than a mile down the road.

After waiting about 20 minutes to secure a table, we sat down and ordered, forgoing the Bizarre Pizza Selection in favor of a couple of salads. Just after we ordered, who should we see stroll in but our Rabbi and his wife. We invited them to join us, which they happily did.

Within minutes, our meals were set down before us. I suppose I should have felt a pang of Religious Remorse, seeing that I had ordered a Cobb salad. Given that we live in Cobb County, it’s not an unreasonable menu selection...

...except that it’s not exactly kosher. In fact, far from it. That’d be a stretch, considering that this Cobb salad contained roasted beets (OK); blue cheese (no problem); chicken (uh-oh); and crumbled bacon (Danger, Will Robinson!).

But our Rabbi is a live-and-let-live kind of guy. And besides, he couldn’t give me too hard a time, seeing as how I was eating my meal under Rabbinical supervision...



...about to die in a Good Cause.

Some of the supplies we brought with us for our annual Weekend Retreat in the north Georgia mountains. Alas, none survived intact.

Spirits and spirituality. Now, there’s a heady combination for you.

Here are a few of the Usual Suspects:

Minyan Boyz
(L to R) Bart, Hank, Josh, Houston Steve, John, Barry, Elisson.

All told, we had roughly 50 attendees this year...and a superb weekend, the weather having been clear and cool (but not cold) most of the time. The night sky was a brilliant canopy of stars, far different from what we see in the ’burbs of Atlanta.

Night Sky
Night sky over the mountains. You can see Orion clearly.

The trees were lit up by the campfire while we were lit up by our various Adult Beverages. In the firepit were the rocks which, when heated to an orange glow, provided a happy blast of heat for the Famous Sweat Hut.


We returned home Sunday mid-day, refreshed and relaxed...and lighter by several fifths. A superb weekend, all in all.

Friday, February 22, 2008


It’s Friday, which means it’s time once again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly Random Assortment o’ Cuts culled from the iPod d’Elisson.

I’m packing my bag for my annual Weekend Retreat in the north Georgia mountains. Rain? Mud? It matters not. We’ll be spending our time reconnecting with old friends from around the Southeast, getting a spiritual (and spirituous) shot in the arm. There will be Single Malt...and the Famous Sweat Hut.

What’s on the box this week? Let’s check it out:
  1. New York Girl - Miles Davis

    Miles at his most funkadelically outrageous, this tune is from On the Corner, a jazz-funk opus that is as far removed from the Cool Jazz of Kind of Blue as it is possible to be. Amazing what thirteen years can do.

    I heard him perform this piece live in 1972...and 36 years later, it still makes my head want to explode.

  2. Wizard People, Dear Reader (Part 2) - Brad Neely

    An alternative soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, you can download it here by right-clicking on the following links (Part 1 and Part 2). Play it while watching the movie on your DVD player with the sound turned off; it will give you a whole new perspective on the world of Harry Potter.

  3. Georgie And Her Rival - Elvis Costello

    From Mighty Like A Rose, one of my all-time favorite E.C. discs.

  4. Sunday Morning - The Velvet Underground

  5. Purpose - Avenue Q, Original Broadway Cast

  6. Bloody Well Right - Supertramp

  7. You Know What You Could Be - The Incredible String Band

  8. That’s The Way - Led Zeppelin

  9. Watermelon - Leo Kottke

  10. Mr. Bad Example - Warren Zevon

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


It’s a rainy Friday, yet I feel fine.
My kitties take the lead spot on Ark 179.

The Friday Ark sets forth on its 179th voyage at the Modulator.

This Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats alights at the House of the (Mostly) Black Cats - be sure to stop by and pay a visit.

Update: CotC #206 is up...with Hakuna and Matata leading the pack. Boo-yah!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Pretty much any psychic can read someone’s palm. And most of ’em can do a decent job on tea leaves.

But Madame Potrzebie carved out a unique spot for herself among the members of the Soothsayers and Fortunetellers Guild. She was the only one who could read Ass-Cracks.

Ass-Cracks, it seems, carry a lot of psychic energy. Moona-mana, you could call it. And Madame P. knew all the secret ways to tease it out.

She could tell you about your loves, your dreams, your desires. How long you would live. Your deepest, darkest fears...and how to deal with them. What you ate yesterday (an especially easy question for her).

Clients came to her with fistfuls of money, wanting guidance in their business and personal decisions. “Should I take this new job?” “Is Jeremy the right man for me?” they’d ask her, and after a careful reading, she would outline the future consequences of all of their possible choices. Whether a customer was famous or obscure, it mattered not; Madame P. would offer up an impartial and accurate prognostication, as long as she was paid her (surprisingly reasonable) fee.

But she drew the line at politics.

The pundits and candidates flocked to her early on, knowing of her prodigious talents. “Who will win the election?” they all wanted to know. But Madame P. turned them all away empty-handed, and no amount of money could sway her from her refusal.

“Politicians!” she spat. “All hole and no crack.”


After sitting through the first day of a two-day course on Late Career Financial Planning (with topics such as “Cat Food: Occasional Treat or Dietary Mainstay?”), I drove into Silver Spring to pick up Elder Daughter at her workplace.

She’s an associate producer with the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership, a not-for-profit corporate arm that donates technology and teacher training to under-resourced communities throughout the world. They also produce educational documentaries for the learning centers they set up, focusing on a range of subjects from math, science and health, to history, culture and media literacy. Here’s a video that illustrates the kind of stuff she does:

Did I tell you I’m a proud daddy, having a daughter who takes the imperative of tikkun olam - repairing the world - so seriously?

We headed down into the District and ate at a hole-in-the-wall Jamaican place, snarfing down plates of jerk chicken and curry chicken roti and washing it all down with pineapple-ginger juice. It was delicious. I can only hope that I will not suffer the painful aftermath that occasionally attaches to the consumption of jerk chicken.

Afterward, we returned to Elder Daughter’s place, where I stayed long enough for her to thrash me in three games of backgammon. (How sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless child child who can beat you like the gong in a J. Arthur Rank production.)

Monument EclipseDriving back to my hotel, I listened (appropriately enough, considering our Evening Meal) to the Easy Star All-Stars Dub Side of the Moon, a reggae homage to Pink Floyd. Hillsides sparkled with a thin layer of freshly-fallen snow. The Washington Monument was a searchlight-washed alabaster spike, the coppery full moon in total eclipse riding in the sky above it. I regretted not having my camera with me.

Cold. Cold as the proverbial witch’s tit. But I didn’t care. I was warm inside, and it wasn’t just the jerk chicken working its magic on my viscera. I had spent a few hours with a beautiful and talented young lady, and on her account I was suffused with Fatherly Pride. A good, good feeling.

[The eclipse photo above is a pastiche combining my November 2006 shot of the Washington Monument with Sissy Willis’s striking image of the blood-red moon at totality.]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Or, our Adventures with UPS.

“What can Brown do for you?” - UPS slogan

Well, they can provide you with a few weeks of irritation and nervousness...and at least one post worth of Blog-Fodder. They are, indeed, a Flock of Ass-Hats.

I’ve had my issues with Brown before, mind you.

Back in the late summer of 1997, when Elder Daughter was preparing to begin her University Education, we had planned to ship most of her supplies to Boston via UPS. We lived in Houston at the time, and we had no desire to schlep E.D.’s crap up to school in a U-Haul trailer in what would have been a three-day marathon drive. Of course, that’s when UPS’s employees decided to go on strike, in possibly the most dramatic demonstration of Murphy’s Law since the Challenger disaster.

E.D.’s stuff showed up at school eventually, but it did make for an exciting several weeks.

Fast forward to early February 2008. I’m sending a small but valuable package to Mrs. Eli, a birthday present intended to commemorate a Major Milestone. I go to the local UPS store, log in, print out my shipping label, hand the package over, and pay the tariff.

“You’ll need to put it in a shipping box,” I told the Genius in Brown Shipping Specialist, almost as an afterthought. As I said, it was a small but valuable package.

A few days later, I got a call from Eli and Mrs. Eli. They had, it seems, received a Rather Strange Package: a Fuzzy Helmet with Bison Horns. And I was the shipper, according to the mailing label.

“Now, why would Elisson send you a Fuzzy Helmet with Bison Horns?” Eli had asked Mrs. Eli. A rhetorical question, of course. Clearly, a mistake had been made. Or I had gone stark, raving bazonkers. (Hey, anything is possible.)

UPS contacted them the next day, asking whether they had received a package (yes), and whether it was something they had expected (no). It seems that, sure enough, the Genius in Brown Shipping Specialist had mistakenly switched my shipping label with one that belonged on another package. The Fuzzy Helmet! And, listening to Eli recount the story to me over the phone, I recalled that someone had indeed been shipping a Fuzzy Helmet with Bison Horns at the same time I was shipping my package. It’s not the kind of thing that’s easy to ignore, you see.

OK, well and good. Now, UPS sends someone over to pick up the Fuzzy Helmet with Bison Horns, so that it may be shipped to the correct consignee.

Getting said consignee to send Mrs. Eli’s package to her, however, took a little more work. UPS, having solved half the problem that they themselves created, dropped the ball, forgetting to arrange the solution to Part 2.

It took a few phone calls from Eli to get the ball rolling again. But imagine the frustration of calling UPS on the phone, giving them a tracking number, only to be told that, “Oh, we already delivered that package.” Sure you did, Chumley - to the wrong frickin’ address. Catch 22, make room for Catch Brown.

After sufficient badgering, UPS sent the Erroneous Recipient a prepaid label, and said Recipient shipped Mrs. Eli’s package. It finally arrived today, fifteen days late, unceremoniously dumped on their front steps. I’d have thought they would have wanted a signature, especially since the package was small and valuable.

At least it got there. Finally.


Les flageolets, les flageolets,
Pour vôtre coeur, la bonne santé.

- Old French Proverb

At 3:15 yesterday afternoon, I was perched in my dentist’s chair, making the acquaintance of Mr. Permanent Crown Restoration. Less than five hours later, I was having dinner with Elder Daughter, almost within shouting distance of the White House. Modern Aerial Bus Technology never ceases to amaze me.

I’m here in the general vicinity of the Nation’s Capital to take a training course at the local Big Outpost of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. It’s my first visit to this particular facility, a place once as inaccessible to me as the surface of the Moon. That’s because this used to be the headquarters of one of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s competitors, and contact with competitors in our industry is permissible only under tightly controlled and unusual circumstances. But then came the Merger, and the formerly untouchable became, well, touchable.

It’s a little like having a family living down the street from you and being told you can’t play with their kids or go into their house. And then, one day, your Dad announces that he is marrying the Widow Woman who lives in that house, and that the kids you weren’t allowed to play with are now your step-siblings. Now you get to check out all the stuff in their basement.

This place, unlike our Sweat City headquarters, is packed with fine art and museum-quality Industry Artifacts. And it’s huge. I’d call it “Battlestar Galactica,” except that name has already been snarfed up to describe another competitor’s headquarters.

But a conference room is a conference room, no matter where you are...and a two-day training session will test your sitzfleisch. The good thing is, I’ve checked my eyelids for pinholes several times, and I haven’t found a single one yet.

Last night, I met Elder Daughter at her D.C. digs, just a few blocks from DuPont Circle. We walked up into Adams Morgan to snag dinner at one of the local French eateries, the cold wind sharpening our appetites all the way.

Elder Daughter recommended the salade Niçoise, so we split one. You can’t go wrong with a salad that includes lettuce, tomatoes, sliced boiled potato, hard-cooked eggs, tuna, tiny Niçoise olives, and the odd anchovy fillet.

I challenged E.D.’s adventurous spirit by recommending that she order the ris de veau - calf sweetbreads. Sweetbreads were a favorite of the Momma d’Elisson, but I resisted ever trying them until they landed on my plate at Chez Panisse, the Berserkely-based temple of American food-worship, twenty-four years ago. They were delicious...and last night, Elder Daughter tasted them for the first time and enjoyed the hell out of them, despite their being Mysterious Organ Meats. (Thymus and/or pancreas, in case you were wondering.)

Meanwhile, I had the cassoulet, the quintessential French comfort food. Simply put, cassoulet is the Gallic equivalent of cholent, the fragrant (and fragrance-inducing) Jewish sabbath bean dish. To describe a cassoulet as a Bean and Meat Stew - which it is - is to do the dish an injustice. This version was rich with sausage, lamb, duck confit, and flavorful, long-simmered flageolet beans. I will leave the question of whether it was wise to eat a plateload of cassoulet before spending a long day in a confined space as an exercise for the reader. Discuss amongst yourselves.

On the way back from the restaurant, E.D. cracked me up with her spot-on Eartha Kitt impression. I’d better start developing some resistance to her sense of humor (which strangely resembles mine), or I’ll be pissing my pants all through Japan in a couple of months.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This morning our Rabbi was back in town after having been away on the saddest errand of his life: burying his beloved father.

It was twelve days ago that the Rabbi got the news that his father had suffered a massive stroke. The family gathered; they said their goodbyes to insensible ears; and the father was gathered unto his ancestors at the age of 91.

It was sad news, and an event our Rabbi had dreaded all his life, for he was exceptionally close with his Dad. Sad news, and yet not tragic, for here was a man who lived a long and productive life; who was sharp and alert, suffering no mental decline with the years; who had children of whom he could be proud; who had a successful son with whom he had a calling in common. His passing was quick and painless, the stroke having brought instant surcease. He would never have to suffer a lengthy, painful decline.

Our Rabbi had been up North to visit his father just a few weeks prior; his valedictory, though he did not know it. They spent days together, telling stories and rekindling old memories. It was a happy time, and now it will be the source of warm memories.

The family sat shiva in New Jersey, and then our Rabbi returned home, home to the embrace of his congregation. This morning, he stood at the back of the chapel and recited Kaddish for his father, his words carrying clearly through the room; afterward, he shared a few paragraphs from one of his father’s books, voice cracking with emotion.

At the age of 59, he has joined a club that none of us wants to join, the members of which have all lost a parent to the Unexpected Visitor. I’ve been a Reluctant Member for almost twenty years now, SWMBO almost twenty-two. Over time, paying the dues gets easier...but it’s never painless.

Over the years, our Rabbi has comforted so many of us in our times of loss. Now it is our turn to comfort him.

Barukh dayan emet: Blessèd is the True Judge.


[The themes for Weekly Challenge #97 at the 100 Word Stories Podcast are Muffuletta and Navel Lint.]

Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, but Hurricane Louis sounded its death knell in 2023. The city drowned, never to recover.

Both the Navy and the Marines sent in frogmen to salvage what cultural artifacts they could. There was a huge demand for experienced Muffuletta Divers.

It was a heartbreaking job, one that was physically demanding. The divers needed concentrated rations that packed a caloric punch. Chocolate filled the bill.

While the Marines favored Godiva at first, it was a Swiss chocolatier that won the hearts of the Annapolis boys. Oh, how the Big Easy salvors loved their Naval Lindt.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Oh, fer cryin’ out loud...’s time for yet another Sommelier Guild wine tasting that Denny and I will have to suffer through. Gad.

Tonight it looks like we’ll be joined by Houston Steve and Stefan, the newest members of the Guild, for the East vs West tasting at Petite Auberge. East vs West, you ask? We’ll be sampling 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from both sides of a particular valley or mountain. Checkit:

Speaker’s Wine
Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2006

First Flight
Merryvale Starmont (West) vs Hess “Allami” (East)
St. Clement (West) vs Luna (East)

Blackened filet of salmon

Second Flight
Mount Veeder (West) vs Steltzner (East)
Turnbull (West) vs Joseph Phelps (East)

Pan seared duck breast

Third Flight
Robert Craig (West) vs Nickel & Nickel “Vogt” (East)

Beef Wellington

Dark chocolate torte

Well, somebody’s gotta do might as well be us.


The Light Fanstastic
The Light Fantastic holds a mystic fascination for Hakuna and Matata.

There’s something spellbinding about that little red dot of coherent light. Matata can take it or leave it, but for Hakuna, the laser is the Light Fantastic, the source of both Amusement and Frustration.

The Light Fantastic: More than just a tagline for Sissy Willis!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


“That Bojangles - Christ, could he tapdance.” - Lenny Bruce, “How to Talk to Colored People at Parties”

Bo, move over. You’ve got competition.

Friday evening, we joined a small army of our friends at the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech to see the McCoy Tyner Trio with Savion Glover.

McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner. [Photo credit: Gene Martin.]

McCoy Tyner, a jazz pianist, first hit my musical radar screen over 35 years ago. He’s a veteran artist, having played with Benny Golson, Hubert Laws, and Billy Cobham. Most notably, he was closely associated with the legendary John Coltrane, having been one of the core members of the John Coltrane Quartet in the early 1960’s. He’s not much of a speaker these days - I’ve heard announcers on the New York subway system who were more intelligible - but his magical hands do all the talking for him. Along with bassist Avery Sharpe and drummer Aarron Scott, Tyner would have constituted a great show without any help...

...but the presence of Savion Glover, the Tony Award-winning choreographer and star of Broadway’s Bring In ’Da Noise, Bring In ’Da Funk, kicked the show into an entirely new dimension.

Savion Glover
Savion Glover.

Glover, possibly the best tapdancer on the planet today, provided a percussive counterpoint to Tyner’s improvisational jazz, using his feet to rap out a rapid-fire rat-a-tat like a syncopated machine gun. Exuberant and joyful, he looked as though there was no place he would rather be, nothing he would rather be doing, than dancing his heart out on that Ferst Center stage.

From our Row A seats, we could see the clouds of dust his shoes kicked up as he executed his amazing steps, the droplets of sweat flying off his forehead. He danced with the energy level of an entire convention of hyperthyroid ditch-diggers, and by the end of the evening, he looked as though someone had doused him with a bucket of water.

Green Shoes
Glover’s signature green tap shoes.

Glover could tapdance better than Dagwood Bumstead at a performance review...or, for that matter, Roger Clemens in front of a Capitol Hill hearing. At one point, he and the drummer were dueling - it was really something to see and hear as they traded polyrhythmic barbs and jousts.

In my last Friday Random Ten post, I mentioned Elder Daughter’s having apprenticed at Ann Reinking’s Broadway Theatre Project in 1996 and 1997. One of the highlights of her time there was the opportunity to take master classes in tap dancing from the late Gregory Hines and, yes, Savion Glover, then hot off his star turn on Broadway. I don’t think he’s the one who told her the most horrible (and funniest) Michael Jackson joke I’ve ever heard, but you never know.

It’s been a great season at the Ferst so far. I’m looking forward to the next show.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Cheese Aisle Logo

The February 3 (“Groundhog Day”) and February 10 (“Food Nostalgia”) installments of Lost in the Cheese Aisle, my weekly show at Radio Sandy Springs, are up on the website for download (or for streaming, if you prefer not to clutter up your hard drive).

The next show is Sunday, February 17 at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I haven’t decided on a topic yet, but it’ll either be about (1) the Dualities of Life, or (2) comic books. In other words, either Philosophy or Nerdly Interests. If you have a preference, leave me a comment...and, of course, feel free to call in during the show at (404) 943-1620 or toll-free at (866) 356-0789 to pester me with your questions and catcalls.

You can catch the show on 1620 AM, but only if you’re one of the few people who live in the station’s 10 square meter listening area. Otherwise, you can listen to live streaming audio at Lucky you.


It’s Friday, time once again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly collection of Musical Selections barfed out at random by the Little White Choon Box d’Elisson.

We’re looking forward to this weekend more than usual, because we will be seeing my Aunt Marge and Uncle Phil (elder brother of the Momma d’Elisson), who have journeyed up from South Florida to hang with us and with the legendary Deley and Phred. Deley and Phred are not only close friends of long standing - conveniently located in nearby Alpharetta - but Deley is also a distant cousin on my father’s side of the family. Further proof that it’s a strange, small world.

Let’s see what’s playing this week:
  1. Prelude (Main Title) - Bernard Herrmann, Vertigo

    The haunting main title music from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, this piece showcases Herrmann’s prodigious talents admirably. My all-time favorite composer of cinematic music, Herrmann scored a huge array of films, including Citizen Kane, North by Northwest, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Obsession (itself an homage to Vertigo), and (just prior to his death) Taxi Driver. He also wrote the eerie first-season theme music for the original Twilight Zone television series.

  2. Hot Honey Rag - New Broadway Cast, Chicago, The Musical

    Back in the summers of 1996 and 1997, Elder Daughter was an apprentice at Ann Reinking’s Broadway Theatre Project at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Reinking, who starred in the original Broadway production of Chicago - The Musical and who choreographed the 1996-97 revival, used the Project’s apprentices to test some of the show’s choreographic concepts. Quite an experience for Elder Daughter, it was.

  3. Magicians/Politics - Bobby Slayton

  4. Prove Yourself - Radiohead

  5. Jou Nou Revolte - Boukman Eksperyans

  6. Act II, Scene 1: This Is Prophetic - John Adams, Nixon in China

    Pat Nixon’s aria opens the second act of this Modern Opera, which I was fortunate enough to see in Boston with Elder Daughter back in 2004.

  7. Star 69 - Fatboy Slim

    They know what is what,
    But they don’t know what is what,
    They just strut.

    What the fuck?

  8. Vasectomy - Doug Stanhope

  9. Anywhere I Lay My Head - Tom Waits

  10. I Believe My Own Eyes - Original Broadway Cast, Tommy

    A song written by Pete Townshend for the Broadway version of Tommy.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


The passengers on this week’s Ark
Know something isn’t right.
The Captain scans the Manifest:
They are one kitty light.
The word is passed - Alas, alas!
That Tigger is no more.
He’s sailing on a ghostly Ark
That plies a Distant Shore.

Friday Ark #178 is up at the Modulator.

This Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats swings around to the Great White North to be hosted by our old friend Mog at Mind of Mog. Drop by and visit, why don’tcha?

Update: CotC #205 is up, and Mog has once again done an excellent job compiling this Mother of All Kitty-Roundups.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Worst Food in America
The worst food in America.

Brandon, who lives in Indonesia and shows off his prodigious photographic talent on his site javajive, posts a link to an article on The 20 Worst Foods in America, according to Men’s Health Magazine.

[The term “worst” being fraught with subjectivity, I should make it clear that here, it refers to caloric and fat content per serving, not taste. There is plenty of Bad Food out there, but if you want a manageable list, you have to have some sort of measurable Numeric Criterion. And the focus of this piece is on the offerings at popular chain restaurants and fast-food outlets.]

The list is done up by categories (worst salad, worst burger, etc.), and some of the entries are, indeed truly heinous. The Carl’s Jr. Double Six Dollar Burger, f’r instance, clocks in at 1,520 calories and 111 grams of fat. But it’s hardly surprising, since Carl’s Jr. deliberately promotes this Meat-Fest as a monument to excess. Aquarius be damned: it is the Age of Baconator.

To me, something like Ruby Tuesday’s Bella Turkey Burger (1,145 calories/71 grams fat) is much worse, because people see the word “turkey” and mentally equate it with “healthier than beef.” So they think they’re doing themselves a favor by ordering up this Calorie-Bomb. Idiots.

And some of this stuff is obviously Bad For You. When you sit down at a Bob Evans and start stuffing a pile of Caramel Banana Pecan Cream Stacked and Stuffed Hotcakes into your pie-hole, you know you will be carrying a goodly portion of it around on your ass for the next few years.

In the Appetizer department, you have Chili’s, with their Awesome Blossom: 2,710 calories and 203 grams (almost a half-pound) of fat. Sure. Take an onion, cut it in a manner that exposes Maximum Surface Area, batter it, and fry the shit out of it. It’s like an oniony Funnel Cake. (Hey, too bad they didn’t look at the Carnival Food category, huh?)

Hey, I like Big Food as much as anybody. But I’d rather eat a honking big bone-in ribeye steak than any of the crap on this list...or, for that matter, any of the recipes in Steve H. Graham’s upcoming book. At least I know what I put in it...unlike all that Chain Restaurant crap.

The worst food in America? What’s your guess? The answer didn’t surprise me.


Valentine, circa 1938, from the collection of SWMBO’s late Dad.

There’s a deeply cynical part of me that resents Valentine’s Day. But before you smack me, you Love-Lovers, let me ’splain...

There is a slew of Modern Holidays that represent the end-stage of a process of evolutionary adaptation. You start with an old-timey pagan celebration: Saturnalia, Lupercalia, Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, Bacchanalia, et al.; then you graft on a layer of Christian theology, and - presto! - a New Holiday is born. Then, add the heady pong of Creeping Commercialism and the smoothing effect of Rampant Secularism to arrive at the current mix of Western holidays.

Thus you have Easter and Christmas, the two most sacred days in the Christian calendar, with their peculiar mix of pagan holdover customs (tree and egg decoration) and Modern Bidnis. Without Christmas, the film and recording industries (just to mention a couple) would shrivel up and blow away, having no need to produce or market Santa Claus Films and Seasonal Music.

Saint Patrick’s Day (formerly Bacchanalia) holds true to its pagan roots as a day of alcohol-fueled debauchery...especially in Boston and Savannah. Kiss me, I’m Irish...but let me rinse the Puke-Taste out of my mouth first, OK?

Saint Valentine’s Day (formerly Lupercalia) has precious little to do with Saint Valentine any more. But it has been subsumed by a flood of Modern Marketing, for products as varied as Romantic Weekend Getaways, greeting cards, chocolate, booze, and K-Y Jelly. (What, you haven’t seen that ad yet? No, I’m not making it up.) It’s been secularized to the point that, as a Jew, I don’t give its pagan/Christian origins a thought. It may have been goyische narrischkeit a few hundred years ago, but now all the potentially objectionable Religious Elements have been completely sanded away. It’

OK, so I’m cynical. And yet...and yet...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside one day a year to celebrate Romantic Love. Especially when it’s concatenated with nice things like candlelit dinners, plenty of chocolate, satin sheets, and all of that other Lovey-Dovey Stuff. But (and there is always a But), one day a year of romance is not going to make up for 364 (365 this year) other days of inattention and For-Granted Taking. Like all men who are in marriages of long standing, I find that it’s all too easy to forget that keeping the romantic fires burning is a job to which attention must be paid every day.

I hope I’m doing a decent job...because my Valentine is special.

SWMBO, January 5, 2008

We’ve shared our lives now, either as brash young lovers or as a married couple, for over 32 years now...and she is as beautiful to me as on the day we met. No: more so, because with maturity comes intelligence, confidence, and radiance; she is blessed with liberal doses of all three.

She has given me two children, the finest children I could ever desire, children that I would be proud to know even had we no blood relationship. My Other Valentines, if you will.

She still makes me laugh at least as much as I do her, and she’s not afraid to use a little salt in her food...and her language. She will go to the Kitchen Device Emporium with me to shop for colanders, even though she knows the nefarious uses to which I will put them. And she makes coming home after an out-of-town trip something to be devoutly anticipated.

I know I tend to repeat myself; it’s an affectation of Advanced Age. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: With my love, every day is Valentine’s Day.

(Which may explain my chocolate-fueled Fat Ass.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Er, make that Kenny and Ziggy.

Specifically, Kenny and Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant in Houston, where I plan to partake of a bit of Homespun Foodstuff this evening at approximately 7 pm Central Standard Time. Or 0100 Zulu, for you miltimers.

Will it be Smokèd Fish? Pickled Lox? Or perhaps some Cured Meat? I do not know...but I suspect it will be tasty.

Any Houston-area blodgers who feel like joining me are welcome to do so. Y’all know who you are.

Update: No blodgers, alas (possibly owing to the incredibly short notice...or my Repellent Personality) - but a plate full of eggs, sable, and onions to die for. Burp!


I’ve been known to take a digge at Chaucer on occasion...but Iowahawk shows us all how it’s Done Right.

Check it out: Heere Begynneth the Tale of the Asse-Hatte, an Archbishop of Canterbury Tale.

It’s topical, too!

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


Somehow or other, Steve H. Graham and I got into a discussion of Useless Objects on his Nowlive show yesterday. It’s as good an excuse as any to have a Blog d’Elisson Poll, it being election season and all.

So here’s the Question of the Day:

What is the most useless object ever?
Ray Charles’s Braille edition of Playboy
Rosie O’Donnell’s diaphragm
Free polls from

And, in case you’re wondering how I think of these things, it’s thanks to keen powers of observation. At least in the case of Ray Charles’s Playboy magazine, which I have actually seen.

How do I stand on the issue? Well, it is a tough question...but I do believe that there is a definite difference between the two Poll Candidates here...

Personally, I think Ray Charles’s Playboy is the more useless of the two. Because at least Rosie O’Donnell can wear her diaphragm as a hat. [At least, so sayeth Steve H.] Me, I think she could also use it as a soup bowl...but that may just be the drink talking. Either way, a lot more useful than a Braille Playboy. Unless, of course, you read it for the interviews.



Those of my Esteemed Readers above a Certain Age may remember a board game, newly invented in the early 1960’s, called Mouse Trap. I’m pretty sure it’s still around today.

The game per se, at least in its original incarnation, is not especially thrilling: your basic advance-pieces-around-the-board sort of thing. What makes it moderately interesting (to those with a nascent engineering bent, anyway) is that, over the course of the game, you construct a Rube Goldberg device - the eponymous Mouse Trap - and then, at the end, you activate it, trapping your opponent’s mouse. Whoop-de-fucking-doo.

I will confess to playing Mouse Trap frequently back when I was a sixth-grader. But after a while, the game lost its luster. It’s not easy to stay fascinated with a Rube Goldberg device, unless it’s a real doozy.

But that’s not really what this post is about.

Every so often, I will make a pilgrimage to the Headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, there to hob-nob with my colleagues and the various Middle and Senior Management wonks. When I spend a day at said Headquarters, I will generally camp out in an unoccupied office, snapping my laptop into the docking station. This hooks me directly into the corporate LAN, as well as providing a handy full-size keyboard and display. And a mouse. (I hate the dinky-ass keyboard and screen of my laptop, but I especially hate the nasty-ass little touchpad mousing device.)

And this is where you can learn a lot about people’s Computer Hygiene...which I suspect is somehow related to their Personal Hygiene. Because some people have Mouse Crap.

Mouse Crap is the gunk that, over time, builds up on the internal rollers of a standard computer mouse. When it becomes thick enough, it interferes with the smooth operation of the mouse, causing the cursor to skip and stutter across the screen.

My borrowed mouse had a bad case of the Shakies ’n’ Skippies, so I opened ’er up.

Gaaaaah. There must’ve been pounds of black grachitz in there, forming a thick incrustation over all the rolling surfaces. Normally, I’d attack the crud with an alcohol-moistened cotton swab, but here it was laid on thick enough to be chipped off with a fingernail. I felt a little disgusted doing it; it was so much like picking one’s nose. Hunting Mouse-Boogers.

I was tempted to leave a note alongside the little heap of Mouse-Droppings, something on the order of, “Check out all the crap I found in your frickin’ mouse, dude!” But that would have been nékulturny. Unprofessional. And too much fun.

At home, of course, I have my own solution to the Mouse Crap problem: I use a laser mouse. Wireless, to boot.

Have you given your mouse an enema lately?

Monday, February 11, 2008


Steampunk Desktop
Image: Sean Slattery.

Doctor Rauchfisch stood over the basin, trimming his muttonchops carefully with his straight razor. He rinsed. A splash of bay rum and he strode out, clapping on his top hat and walking-goggles.

Dodging the press of Stanleys and Vapormatics that clogged the street, he arrived at his office and rode the hydraulic lift to the seventh floor.

Taking a polished mahogany case out of his desk, he unfolded it, snapping the steam hose into the wall outlet. Rapidly clicking clockwork signaled the Difference-Engine’s readiness.

He smiled. Life was so much easier since the invention of the World-Wide Steam-Powered Computational Network.

[Read more about Steampunk here.]


David, the Boss-Man over at Radio Sandy Springs, just shared a story with me about a restaurant in Lubbock, Texas years ago...possibly inspired by the show I did yesterday about Food Nostalgia.

David grew up in Lubbock, and it seems that, like 99.9% of the other Local Denizens, he was a big fan of Mexican food. Tex-Mex or Mex-Mex, no matter: He loved it all.

And it also seems that, back in the day, a new Mexican restaurant opened up, quickly becoming the Toast of the Town. It was an unpretentious hole-in-the wall, a complete dive, but all the Anglos flocked there. It was to Lubbock what Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons is to Savannah, which is to say extremely popular, possibly to an unjustifiable degree.

One day, so David’s recollection goes, a group of doctors and their wives came in for a pre-theatre dinner, dressed to the nines. They ordered; their food was duly delivered unto them; they chowed down.

And then it was that one of the physicians - someone trained in anatomy - found a bone in his food, the shape of which he immediately recognized as having come from...

...a cat.

(Hey, Bill Frist used to dissect ’em in medical school, too...)

The discovery led to people belatedly realizing that cats had become rather thin on the ground since the restaurant had an inevitable (and drastic) fall-off in business...and to the subsequent closure of the restaurant.

But what fascinates me is that plenty of people must’ve enjoyed what they were eating when they didn’t know what it was.

Now, I’m not here to suggest that “Enchiladas de Gato” is a typical Mexican dish, or that Mexican restaurants routinely use protein sources that would horrify most of their customers, Mexican or Anglo. Unlike, say, Korean restaurants. (Just kidding, Kevin!)

And I’m not about to suggest that cats be considered as a protein source. (I know it happens in China, but in China they will eat anything that’s not nailed down.) But I think it illustrates two basic principles of human nature: (1) There are some things you may be better off not knowing, and (2) Caveat Emptor.

Now, excuse me while I go puke.

Sunday, February 10, 2008



The catblogging world mourns the loss of Meryl Yourish’s orange furball Tigger, who had been struggling with chronic renal failure these past several months.

Grief is the price we pay for our ability to feel love. Knowing something is inevitable does not necessarily make it any easier...and the relatively short lives of our Animal Companions mean that, inevitably, our hearts will be broken.

Please visit Meryl and offer up your condolences.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Mom came to see me again last night.

She doesn’t come around all that much these days. Not surprising, since she’s been dead almost twenty years. But once in a blue moon, she’ll come back, a silent presence in my dreams.

Silent, yes. She never talks. None of the revenants who come to visit me at night ever do. They may smile bittersweet smiles, or they may go about their business wearing blank expressions, but never do they speak.

Sometimes it’s not my mother who appears. Most times, in fact, it’s not. Grandparents, mostly. And suddenly they’re back, going through the motions of life as though they were never gone.

Where have you been? I try to ask them. How can you be here now, unchanged? Why did you go away?

They never answer.

My mind invents scenarios, attempting to explain. They disappeared to live another life with another family. They were really here all along, and I simply forgot. They’ve never been away, except in a dream I had…

I’m happy and upset all at once. Happy to see them. Upset at the time we’ve missed together…and at the fact that they never, ever speak. Except with their eyes.

And it’s their eyes that tell me that their absence is not a dream, that they are really, truly gone, except as ghostly revenants that come in the night.

Still dreaming. My life feels empty, like the socket left by a pulled tooth. Something is missing, and it won’t ever - can’t ever - come back. Then I wake up, and as the cobwebs clear from my mind, the sense of loss fades.

But it never goes away completely.


This evening at dinner, Gary announced that he had scored an invitation to play a round of golf at Pinehurst. And not just Pinehurst, but on Pinehurst Course No. 2, site of the U.S. Open Championships in 1999 and 2005.

I played Pinehurst No. 2 back in the spring of 2000. It’s a wide-open course, very much along the lines of Augusta National, with brutal inverted-teacup greens. Hackers like us could never expect to hit a fairway shot to those greens and have the ball hold. Instead, we would aim for the front of the green and then plan to putt or chip on. It was a workable strategy, one that saved us a lot of heartache.

So Gary says, “You played No. 2 once, didn’t you?”

No sooner had I gotten the words, “Yes, I did...” out of my mouth when the Missus chimed in:

“Yeah...and he played like Number Two.”

Damn, she’s good...


It’s Friday, which means it’s time once again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly Random Musical Selection pooped out by the iPod d’Elisson.

This week, we start off with a Cool Jazz selection by the legendary Miles Davis. After that...who knows?
  1. So What - Miles Davis

    From 1959’s Kind of Blue album, a landmark exemplar of The Cool, and the best-selling jazz record of all time. Many critics and jazz aficionados rank it as possibly the best jazz album ever.

    On this album, Davis’s prodigious talents were supplemented by a veritabobble pantheon of all-stars: Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The music was recorded with minimal rehearsal; in fact, the musicians had little idea of what they were about to record (Wikipedia). The results speak for themselves.

  2. Projector - Philip Glass, Kundun

    This cut from the Kundun soundtrack starts with an appropriately ominous note: it plays over a scene in which a horrified young Dalai Lama watches a film of the first atomic bomb test.

  3. Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk - Frank Zappa

  4. About To Die - Procol Harum

  5. Bahn Frei - Boston Pops Orchestra

    This fast-paced polka by Eduard Strauss was the beloved theme music for Jean Shepherd’s radio show. You can hear it here.

  6. Mama Roux - Dr. John

    From his 1968 debut album Gris-Gris, about which Atlantic Records executive Ahmet Ertegun famously said, “How can we market this boogaloo crap?”

  7. I Wanna Be Like You - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

    Here, BBVD covers Louis Prima’s song from the 1967 Walt Disney film Jungle Book. Their version, recorded for the movie Swingers, does not appear in the film but is on the soundtrack album.

  8. Horn - Phish

  9. After The Fall - Elvis Costello

  10. Hello In There (Live) - John Prine

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


The Friday Ark casts off its lines
And moves away from shore.
It’s packed with Cats and Dogs and such:
Now, who could ask for more?

Friday Ark #177 is asail upon the Bloggy Sea. Check it out over at the Modulator.


Hakuna is here to remind us that this Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats comes to Pet’s Garden Blog. Be sure to stop by and say hello to the Assorted Kitties.

Update: CotC #204 is up.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Morning Portrait
Hakuna. [Click to embiggen.]

Hakuna, parked under her favorite Morning Chair.


The worst job I ever had was manager of the U-Store-It unit out on the Wharton Freeway.

It wasn’t the pay (which sucked), or Corporate (which really sucked).

It wasn’t even the clientele, although most of our customers weren’t what you’d call Model Citizens.

No, it was the astonishing number of dead bodies that would appear in the unrented units. Every couple days, we’d find another, chewed up pretty bad. The cops were mystified, and it got to where I wasn’t sleeping too well.

Then one night I saw them, and I understood. “Tekeli-li,” they moaned.

I never came back.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Good Gawd.

Has Steve H. seen this?

Might give a whole new meaning to the term “Hog On Ice,” eh?

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


A gonif, I should explain to the Yiddish-Impaired, is a thief. Hollywood is full of ’em these days - no surprise - but these days, their main stock-in-trade is ideas.

The Missus and I were enjoying a few draughts from the Glass Teat this evening when Fox showed a promo for their upcoming new series New Amsterdam.

We looked at each other. The story, about an Immortal Guy who lives in New York City, seemed strangely familiar.

Let’s just take a look at the description from the Fox Broadcasting Company website, shall we?
NEW AMSTERDAM is the story of a New York homicide detective unlike any other. He is brilliant, mysterious, reckless, magnetic, unknowable. And he has a profound secret – he is immortal...

...Amsterdam has found [immortality] to be a mixed blessing. Over the course of three centuries, he’s experienced endless adventure and honed his many talents. But everyone Amsterdam meets must leave him in time; lovers and children die while he remains young.

Having witnessed its entire history from colonial outpost to mega-metropolis, John Amsterdam is the living embodiment of New York City. He and the island of Manhattan are now part and parcel of each other...
Gee, this sounds a lot like a book both I and She Who Must Be Obeyed have read within the past several years: Forever, by Pete Hamill.

What possible similarities could there be?

Well, the main character in Forever is an Irishman, one Cormac O’Connor, who travels to America and is given immortality by an African priestess for having saved the life of an enslaved prince. The immortality comes with a price: Cormac can never leave Manhattan Island. In New Amsterdam, John Amsterdam is given Life Eternal by a spell cast by a Native American girl whom he saves by interposing himself between her and a deadly sword blow. He cannot die...until he finds True Love. (It never hurts to have a Politically Correct Backstory.) Forever starts about a century later than New Amsterdam, but there seems to be too many similarities to particular, the especial connection between the (respective) heroes and the island of Manhattan.

I will be very interested to see whether Pete Hamill ever receives a scintilla of credit for the TV show. I suspect not; and I further suspect that he would have a legitimate cause of action in that event.

This smacks of the recent film Idiocracy, and its complete lack of acknowledgement of any influence from Cyril Kornbluth’s classic SF short story “The Marching Morons.” The remarkable similarities in major plot points between Idiocracy and “The Marching Morons” were the topic of a post by Yours Truly some time ago. Mike Judge’s failure to credit Kornbluth is reprehensible.

Is this a new trend? Are things in Hollywood not loathsome enough, with studios recycling old ideas in a ridiculous orgy of Sequel- and Prequelitis? Is outright plagiarism now to be the Order of the Day?


There is an old joke - a Shaggy Dog Story - in which a young man hears that a wise guru possesses the secret of Eternal Life. He sets forth to find the guru and learn his secret.

He travels for days, flying to India, then hiking through the treacherous mountain passes of the Himalayas. Finally, after much painful struggle, he arrives at the cave where the ascetic guru is said to reside.

And sure enough, the old man comes out of the cave and greets his visitor happily. (He doesn't get too many of them.)

“How may I help you?”

The young man replies, “I hear that you possess the secret of Eternal Life. Would you be kind enough to share it with me, O Great One?”

“Oh, yes, indeed, yes.

“First, you must refrain from eating rich foods.

“Second, you must abstain from strong drink. You writing this down?”

“Yes, of course, O Great One.”

“OK. Third, you must avoid the company of fast women, women of questionable morals.”

“Right. No rich foods, no strong drink, no slutty women. And if I follow these instructions, I will live forever?”

The old guru shook his head sadly.

“No, my son. But it will seem like it!”

Well, it seems that one guru will not live forever: the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who migrated to another plane of existence earlier today at the (estimated) age of 91.

The Maharishi (“Great Seer”), the world’s best-known advocate of Transcendental Meditation and one-time guru to music industry biggies such as the Beatles and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, died peacefully at his home shortly after his Dogma got hit by a Karma. He apparently did not have Transcendental Insurance.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
“I’m deader than your average Yogi!”

Yogi Bear
“Hey, there, Boo-Boo! That’s my line!”


What do these things all have in common?

New Yorker Cover, September 24, 2001
New Yorker magazine cover, September 24, 2001.

Raw, Issue #1
RAW, Issue #1.

Drawing Blood
Harper’s magazine cover, August 2006.

New Yorker Cover, February 15, 1993
New Yorker magazine cover, February 15, 1993.

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

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Rodent

Wacky Pack
Wacky Pack sticker, 1973.

Maus II Cover (detail)
Maus II (detail).

If you guessed that these are all the creations of one Art Spiegelman, you are correct.

Spiegelman, the child of Holocaust survivors, came to prominence in the world of underground comics back in the late 1960’s. He is perhaps best known for Maus, a graphic novel in two parts that chronicles his father’s experience leading up to and during the Holocaust. He also worked for the New Yorker for ten years, creating some of that magazine’s most memorable (and controversial) covers. (It’s hard to imagine that the same cartoonist who drew scurrilous material for underground titles like Real Pulp, Young Lust, and Bizarre Sex could land a gig with that most staid bastion of New York literary pretentiousness, but, well, there you are.)

I’ve written here about Wacky Packs and Garbage Pail Kids, two of the stranger excrescences of Kiddie Popular Culture of the 1970’s and ’80’s, and how they were, no doubt, inspired (directly or indirectly) by MAD Magazine. As it turns out Spiegelman created both...and he acknowledges that MAD Magazine was a significant Childhood Influence.

Last night, I had the good fortune to attend a lecture Spiegelman gave at the Atlanta outpost of Savannah College of Art and Design. For over two hours, he had the rapt attention of several hundred audience members as he talked about everything from 9/11 (he was close enough to watch the whole thing), to the underground comics scene, to his years at the New Yorker, to the Great Muhammad Cartoon Controversy of 2006, to Dick Tracy and Peanuts, to the work of will Eisner.

He spent quite a bit of time talking about how MAD Magazine - and its sister EC Comics publications, including the entire stable of pre-Code horror comics - helped mold his sensibility and sense of humor. He reminded me of me...except for the fact that he has Artistic Talent.

Afterwards, I had a chance to speak with him briefly and reminisce about some of the shared elements of our New York-area childhoods. It was all too short a dialogue, because I could have listened to his stories for hours.

But thanks to the miracle of the Printing Press, coupled with Spiegelman’s extraordinary vision, I can see his stories anytime I want to.

Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegelman. [Click to embiggen.]