Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NAVIGATION

One of the delights of traveling in Japan is the amazingly efficient network of subways and trains. We found that finding our way around the various subway and train stations was not the horror story we expected. Most stations have plenty of English signage, so if you can read a map, you’re OK.

Not that reading the Tokyo subway map is easy, mind you. Check it out (click on the image to embiggen):

Tokyo Subway Map
Tokyo: Just a wee bit more complicated than New York City.

The voice announcements on the Tokyo subway are - believe it or not - easier to understand than their muddled, half-garbled counterparts on the New York subway. And that’s the announcements in Japanese. In English? Even better.

As long as you can tell Asakusa from Akasaka and keep your Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Shimbashi straight, you can get around in Tokyo. The subway in Kyoto was even easier to deal with.

When it came time to travel from city to city, the superexpress trains, AKA the shinkansen (“bullet trains”), were a delight. Using our seven-day Japan Rail Pass, we had unlimited rides...all we had to do was show our passes at the ticket office to get reserved Green Car seats. Sweet.

On one memorable day, we employed no fewer than nine different modes of transportation, not counting our own two feet. Starting out in the morning:
  1. Taxi from Hotel Ra Kuun (just up the road from Motohakone) to Motohakone.
  2. Boat from Motohakone/Ashinoyu to Togendai.
  3. Ropeway (gondola lift) from Togendai to Shouzen.
  4. Funicular (cable car) from Shouzen to Gora.
  5. Switchback railway from Gora to Hakone-Yumato.
  6. Rail from Hakone-Yumato to Odawara.
  7. Shinkansen from Odawara to Tokyo station.
  8. Subway (Maronouchi Line - Ginza Line) from Tokyo station to Shimbashi station.
  9. Monorail (Yurikamome line) from Shimbashi station to Daiba station.
All of this while schlepping our luggage, too, and without counting the evening journey from our hotel in Odaiba to the Asakusa Kannon shrine, Shibuya, and then back to Odaiba. Footsore? You betcha.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

THE TWO TOWERS

Houston Steve, with whom I share a certain bizarre Mystical Connection, was enjoying a Parisian vacation with his charming wife Debbie right about the same time I was gallivanting around the Land of the Rising Sun with Elder Daughter.

And once again, the Mystical Connection reared its head, for each of us found ourselves simultaneously drawn to strange-looking Metallic Towers on opposite sides of the globe.

The Two Towers

Here you see Houston Steve posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, a piece of architecture reviled in its day but which has come to symbolize the City of Light itself. And you see me in front of the Tokyo Tower, an unabashed knockoff of the Tour Eiffel but which sports an uglier paint job (dictated by Japanese aviation regulations) and which enjoys a few extra meters height advantage.

The view is pretty snazzy, especially from the Special Observation Deck, 250 meters up.

View of Tokyo

And if you really want some Bowel-Clenching Fun, stand over one of the “Look-Down Windows” on the Main Observation Deck...and look straight down. Oh, don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe, judging by the enthusiasm with which little kids jump up and down on the glass.

A Vertiginous View

(But why do those reinforcing wires put me in mind of a French-Fry Slicer?)

I WAS SO HUNGRY...

...I could eat a whale.

So I did.

In my attempt to scale new heights in Politically Incorrect Dining, while in Tokyo I enjoyed an appetizer of kujira na beikon: whale bacon sashimi.

Whale bacon ain’t cheap. You can find it in food markets in various spots in Japan, sold in little packages at a price that works out to about $140 per pound. Not even Zabar’s offers deli that costly.

Whale Bacon
Whale bacon (center) at the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto.

What does it taste like? Well, not like chicken. Or fish, for that matter. It’s a nice, dark-red meat with a sizable layer of tasty fat, bringing to mind nothing so much as pastrami. As I savored the delicate, raw slices, I wondered how it’d be served hot on rye with mustard. Probably pretty good.

Did I have moral qualms about eating one of the gentle giants of the deep? Not really. Whale is a traditional protein source in Japan, and my having three or four slices isn’t going to have an impact on the size of the annual whale harvest - a harvest that is, ostensibly, undertaken for the purpose of scientific research. Research into the question of how to make a tastier pet food, or how to sustain an ever-increasing human population, or how to turn blubber into biofuel - who knows? But I figure whales are probably about as bright as cows, and we eat those. I’ll have second thoughts when one of ’em learns to pick up a harpoon.

Hey, at least I didn’t have horse sashimi. That was on the menu, too. They charge extra for the mane.

Monday, April 28, 2008

TRADITION

Room 33, Open Door
Room 33 at the Hiiragiya Ryokan.

We Jews are very big on tradition, the respect for which is one of the few things we have in common with the Japanese.

In order to experience traditional Japanese culture at its highest, most exquisite level, one must, when in Japan, stay at a Japanese inn: a ryokan. A night at a ryokan is generally more costly than a night at a comparable Western-style hotel, but there is no better way to get the flavor of staying in a Japanese home. And besides, breakfast and dinner are included in the price.

In the classic ryokan, your room serves as both dining room and bedroom. Dinner is served on a low table in the middle of the room; when it’s time to retire, the innkeeper moves the table aside and sets up a futon right there on the floor. Come morning, the futon is removed and the table replaced for breakfast service.

Shoes are an absolute no-no - you remove them as you enter the ryokan, donning a pair of slippers for walking the public areas. You remove the slippers before entering the room itself, the floor of which is covered with tatami (woven reed) mats. There’s a separate pair of slippers provided for use in the toilet - and only in the toilet.

We stayed at the Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto, possibly the finest traditional Japanese lodging in the country. The Hiiragiya occupies a building that has stood since 1818; our room - previous occupants of which include Yukio Mishima (the ultra-nationalist Japanese author and actor) and Charlie Chaplin - was over 150 years old and contained decorative shoji screens painted two centuries ago. Modern touches include telephones, televisions, and electrically controlled curtains - the equipment is discreetly disguised behind cloth covers and operated by cleverly designed, unobtrusive remote control.

Our arrival was on a rainy afternoon, a perfect time to sequester ourselves after a morning spent exploring one of the local department stores. Japanese department stores, it should be noted, are an entirely different species than their American counterparts. The sheer variety of goods, coupled with the obsequious überpolitesse of the salesforce, makes Nordstrom look like a flea market. I could have spent the whole day in the lower level alone - a floor entirely devoted to food in all its bizarre Japanesical variety.

But we had a date at the Hiiragiya, so we extracted ourselves from the depaato and grabbed a cab. I should point out that my foresight in printing up a map showing directions to our ryokan in Japanese turned out to be a major help.

We showed up, removed our shoes in the foyer, and were greeted warmly by what appeared to be the entire inn staff. Within moments of arriving in our room, a kimono-clad server brought in a bowl of matcha (traditional bitter green tea), a cup of bancha (plain old green tea), and a paper-wrapped pastry elegantly presented on a minuscule tray. As rain pattered down on the carefully manicured garden visible through our windows, we changed into our cotton yukata robes. There is no need for street clothes anywhere in the ryokan, as long as you have your yukata.

At 7:30, the hour we had selected for our dinner service, the traditionally clad Inn-Ladies began delivering a lengthy procession of exquisitely-crafted little dishes: a true kaiseki banquet.

What was the food like? Suffice it to say that the menus I post every month or so from the Sommelier Guild don’t even come close to the kaiseki-ryori served at the Hiiragiya. Here’s what we had for dinner:
Aperitif (Shokuzen-shu)
Cherry blossom cocktail

First appetizer (Sakizuke)
Bonito, Canola blossom buds, Sticky soy sauce with Japanese pepper

Second appetizer (Hassun)
Sea bream roe in jellied broth
Hosta seasoned with soy sauce
Eel on tofu ball (crushed tofu, carrot, kikurage mushroom, pea, and egg)
Grilled mugwort tofu pudding
Duck, broad bean, ormer, dried sea cucumber belly

Sashimi Dishes (Mukouzuke)
Japanese spiny lobster
Sea bream
Tuna
Wasabi mizuna cress, yam, wasabi blossom, laver, wasabi leaves

Simmered Dishes (Nimono-wan)
Greenling, uguisuna-spinach, carrot, yuzu citrus

Grilled Dishes (Yaki-zakana)
Grilled trout
Miso wrapped in lotus root, ginger stick

Steamed Dishes (Mushi-mono)
Steamed sea bream in pea bun
Horsetail, bracken, ginger, sticky kudzu and bamboo shoot sauce

Simmered Dishes (Takiawase)
Bamboo shoot, wakame seaweed, butterbur, kinome (young leaves of Japanese pepper)

Deep-fried Dishes (Age-mono)
Fried sweetfish
Koshiabura (edible wild plants)
Gyozyaniniku (a type of long green onion)
Salt, tempura dipping sauce

Vinegared Dishes (Su-no-mono)
Firefly squid
Scallop, Udo (edible wild plant)
Chive, Japanese ginger, vinegared miso

Soup (Tome-wan)
Aka-miso soup with yuba (skin of soybean milk), wild rocambole, agarikusu mushroom, Japanese pepper

Rice (Gohan)
Rice, mixed bamboo shoots

Pickles (Kou-no-mono)
Kyousakura (turnip pickled with cherry blossom, cherry leaves, and salted plum juice), Japanese white radish, canola blossom buds

Dessert (Mizu-mono)
Gyuhi rice cake, mango, strawberry, mint

We washed all these miniature Works of Art down with liberal doses of bancha and warm sake. Yummy? You betcha.

Every window looked out on a tranquil garden with running water and happy, swimming koi. We had our own private Japanese-style cedarwood bath as well. Nothing like a hot bath after dinner to relax aching travel-worn muscles.

Garden
Outside our room, a Japanese garden.

As raindrops splashed outside and we relaxed in our little haven, the innkeepers came in to whisk away the remnants of our dinner and set up the futons. Ohhh, the futons. Who knew that sleeping on the floor could be like sleeping on a cloud?

After a restful night, with sleeping gear stowed away, we breakfasted in our room on the finest delicacies. I ate slowly, not wanting the morning to end.

Checking out was like bidding farewell to old friends. In the best of all possible worlds, I’ll be back one day.

More pix below the fold.

Shoji
200-year-old shoji doors.

Table set for dinner
The table, all ready for dinner.

Futon
Now, that’s Turndown Service.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

THE HONORABLE TOIDY

The Japanese Toilet
Toiletry of Japan. Left: Western style fixture with washlet seat. Right: Japanese Squat-Pot. There’s a small basin on the far left for hand-washing. Note the special slippers for use exclusively in the toilet.

Jimbo, of Parkway Rest Stop fame, predicted that I would, at some point, write on the topic of Japanese toilets.

Of course, anyone who would include the term “Rest Stop” as part of the name of his Web-Log ought to have an interest in the subject...and I would not dream of disappointing a friend and Honored Guest. So here followeth Elisson’s observations on the Japanese potty, variously known as o-toire (“honorable toilet”), o-te-arai (“honorable lavatory”), or, in less polite company, o-benjo (“honorable hole into which one shits.”)

First of all, as with so many things Japanese, tradition and technology coexist side-by-side, creating situations that may be surprising to the Western eye. Public facilities (e.g., parkway rest stops) will often have Japanese-style toilets, consisting of a porcelain basin set into the floor with a drain at one end and a hood (and flush handle) at the other. One squats, facing the end with the hood, and lets fly. Elder Daughter, who had no option but to learn how to use one of these things, soon figured out the correct posture for Efficient Squattage, and decided that the Japanese-style toilet actually had advantages over the Western kind. But I took her glowing recommendation with a grain of salt, since (1) she is younger and far more limber than I, and (2) she never put her Squat Technique to the ultimate test, as it were.

Mad Toire Skillz
Elder Daughter demonstrates the proper Squat Technique.

For gentlemen, the options include not only the Japanese-style squatter, but the honorable Urinal. No explanation is required.

Most places, in addition to the traditional Japanese facilities, will offer a Western-style toilet. The shinkansen (the Bullet Train), for example, offers all three options (Japanese, Western, and urinals for the gentlemen). Interestingly, the gentlemen’s booth has a window: you can see whether the room is occupied, but you cannot see the actual Act of Pissage. Not for the shy.

But it is with Western plumbing that Japan displays its true ingenuity and technological advancement. For, with few exceptions, Western-style toilets are not mere toilets.

They are Washlets.

Yes: Washlets. For each one is provided with a special device that, once one is finished with one’s Personal Business, one may activate, thus causing a stream of warm water to be squirted into the Strategic Location. The more advanced models even provide for aqua-massage and a stream of warm air with which one may dry oneself. And did I mention heated seats? Yowza!

This is all to the good. Japanese toilet paper is, in almost all cases, coarse, flimsy single-ply stuff, and the less of it one uses, the better. And it appears that the Japanese have decided that, rather than improve their toilet paper, it makes more sense to invest in hardware that renders it practically unnecessary.

Some models of the Washlet allow you to control the strength of the water stream. Merely by turning a knob, you can go from an anemic trickle to a full-blown blast with enough pressure to act as an effective (and convenient) Bagless Enema. Oh, boy.

In addition, many toilets (both Western and Japanese) have a useful water saving feature: the ability to choose between a small flush and a big flush - the latter presumably for what the Brits call “Big Jobs.” Why we Americans haven’t adopted this technology is beyond me - it makes way more sense than our stupid low-volume “water-saving” flush toilets that end up requiring 37 pulls on the handle to get rid of anything larger than a thumbtip.

All this Washlet business makes perfect sense in Japan, a land of fastidious people for whom personal hygiene is a matter of honor. She Who Must Be Obeyed has suggested that the flag of Japan - a red circle on a field of white - might very well be symbolic not of the Rising Sun, but of a Brown-Eye scrubbed raw in an attempt to achieve perfect cleanliness.

Indeed. Nippon: Land of the Rising Sun...and the Spotless Bung.

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 15.

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, Volume 13, and Volume 14.

Spootzle [shpoot-sl] (n) - Small, dumpling-like turds; the result of “dropping the kids off at the pool” with an Impacted Intestine.

“Last time I ate at that German place, I got all blocked up. Spaetzle in, spootzle out.”

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to SWMBO for coming up with this most useful term.]

Friday, April 25, 2008

A BRIEF DEBRIEF

Tokyo, Japan is a wonderful town
Asakusa’s up and Odaiba is down
The people crap in a hole in the ground
Tokyo, Japan -
It’s a wonderful town!


Erisson and Eruda Datta
Erisson and “Eruda Datta” go native in Kyoto.

Just two of the 847 photos we took during our ten-day sojourn in the Land of the Rising Sun, a journey that took us from Tokyo to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Beppu, back to Tokyo, to Hakone, and back to Tokyo.

We ate plenty of Interesting Foods, stayed in both Western- and Japanese-style rooms (with quality ranging from spartan-but-clean to magnificent), managed to get everywhere we needed to go, and (in one memorable day) used nine separate modes of transportation - not counting old, reliable Shank’s Mare. No small feat, especially considering that a map of the Tokyo subway system is enough to give the average New York straphanger a splitting headache.

We bathed in natural volcanic springs and even enjoyed a sand bath - being buried in hot volcanic sand for 15 minutes. Not for people with heart conditions, they say.

We stood at the hypocenter of the Hiroshima A-bomb and marveled at the city that has - literally - grown Phoenix-like from the ashes of World War II.

We were awestruck at the myriad contrasts between Old Japan and New, a place where tradition and technology live cheek-by-jowl, often creating bizarre juxtapositions. It’s the country that gave us anime, Godzilla...and Hello Kitty.

It was a perfectly wonderful Father-Daughter Trip...long enough to allow us to see and do many things... and long enough so that I was more than happy to come home to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

More pictures below the fold. Click on any one of ’em to embiggen.

Fuji-san
The elusive Fuji-san, as seen from the Hakone Ropeway.

Shimbashi-dori
Along Shimbashi-dori in Kyoto.

Tenryu-ji
At Tenryu-ji, a Buddhist temple in Arashiyama.

Tokonoma at Tenryu-ji
A sacred alcove at Tenryu-ji. Has Keesie been here?

Ryokan Breakfast
Breakfast of Champions in Kyoto.

Genbaku-Domu
The Genbaku-Domu in Hiroshima.

Asakusa lanterns
Lanterns at the Asakusa Kannon Temple, Tokyo.

Pagoda
The famous Five-Roofed Pagoda at Asakusa, Tokyo.

Kujira-na Beikon
Elisson enjoys a slice of whale bacon. Really.

BOB

Maneki Neko

The above image is familiar to anyone who has spent time in Japan: Maneki Neko, or the Beckoning Cat. The damn things are everywhere you go.

According to Wikipedia, “To Americans and Europeans it may seem as if the Maneki Neko is waving rather than beckoning. This is due to the difference in gestures & body language recognized by Westerners and the Japanese, with Japanese beckoning by holding up the hand, palm out, and repeatedly folding the fingers down and back up.”

Supposedly, Maneki Neko is modeled after the Japanese Bobtail. I can believe it: While Elder Daughter and I were in Japan, every single cat we saw was a bobtailed cat. Here’s one at a shrine in the Kamiyacho district:

Japanese Bobtail
“Maybe in my next life, I’ll finally get a tail.”

Interesting. The Japanese look upon cats as bearers of good fortune - Maneki Neko is a Good Luck Talisman - while Europeans and Americans are more ambivalent, as evidenced by the various superstitions surrounding black cats. The Koreans and Chinese, meanwhile, tend to regard cats as a source of inexpensive animal protein.

Me, I think cats are the ideal Animal Companions. They’re lovable, cuddly, and they crap in a box. They’ve always brought me pleasure; if they bring good luck, so much the better.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

LIVE FROM TOKYO



Coming to you live from the Shibuya Apple store in Tokyo...Elder Daughter and Elisson on our last night in Japan!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Peace.... 3 years ago this spring.....

... I had the windows open last night, most of the lights turned down.... I was enjoying the smell of the damp forest entering the house.. springtime is mild here in Tennessee, and an evening of rain had created the perfect night... a night for letting the sounds and smells of a new season creep into my home... I turned off the television, and began reading a book in the blogroom... The Wife was reclining on the sofa quietly devouring her latest booty - courtesy of the McMinn County library... and after a few minutes of quiet, we both became acutely aware of the outside noises... whippoorwills calling in the distance... the wind in the dogwood trees... even the dripping of rainwater from the damp leaves...


... the whole aspect was calming.. therapeutic... even the breeze was full of perfume.. and then, without warning, something changed...


... a true silence descended in an instant.. I am sure that the other noises actually continued... but something close - and almost unheard - drew the focus of my hearing away from all other sounds.. a steady feeling of dread and a whisper of something outside my window... close... and dangerous... as my ears strained to gather more facts, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand-up.. part of me knew this feeling well... I have felt it before while hunting predators.. luring hungry coyotes with a screaming rabbit... if you let yourself go, you can hear the panic... the terror in the pleas of the prey... and you, as you watch the prowler come close, understand that you are being hunted....


... I eased out of my chair, and approached the open window... leaning forward for a better view into the darkness... just then, the neighbor's Labrador gave a mighty bark from across the road... and from just below my open window, I heard the familiar yelp of a coyote as it bounded back into the woods...


... the call of the coyote echoed through the house, and the Wife appeared at the door of the blogroom... "Eric?.... What in the Hell was that?", she said.. open book still in hand....


... "Nothing, dear... just the dog from across the street... are the cats in the garage?"...


... "uh huh... they are both in"... she shifted her weight, and walked over to the window... "what a beautiful night"...


... "it sure is, babe", I said as I found my way back to my chair... "let's open a bottle of wine"...

Balancing Act

Japanese commodes
instead of sitting pretty
squatting on two feet

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Passover In Japan

Passover is this week having begun at sundown yesterday. I live in Palm Beach County, which believe it or not, has the largest Jewish population in the United States. I know, y’all are shaking your head and saying, “NO! It’s NYC!”, but according to the statistics last year, which may have changed, it is down here at the end of the peninsula state.

I’ve put on my blog a number of times the GREAT benefit of having such a large population of Jews. I think, personally, the biggest benefit is the opportunity to immerse one’s self in another’s religion. In college when I had decided to become Episcopal, as I went through our night classes to study the religion, our priest used to say to us, “And remember, to be a good Christian, first and foremost, you should be a good Jew.”

Many of my friends are Jewish and I’ve had the wonderful pleasures of attending weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, Orthodox and not, and every time I attend, I promise you, there is not a person there enjoying themselves more than I.

I remember when my husband’s best friend got married and his family is Orthodox. We attended everything and our friend’s mother and father took me under their wing explaining EVERYTHING to me. An entire weekend, from Friday night until Sunday night, I was immersed and fascinated. As the bride and groom opened some of their gifts there were mezuzahs. I looked at my husband, understanding the meaning as the groom’s father had spent an hour with me giving me some historical lessons, and I said, “Hunhead. We need these for our doors at home. It is a reminder.”

My husband rolled his eyes and said, “Hun. We are not Jewish. I am Catholic. You are Episcopal. It is not part of our heritage.”

Point taken. I understood what he was saying (and to know my husband is to know he is not a jerk or meant any disrespect to anyone), but honestly, one day he will come home and we will have a mezuzah. That conversation may have taken place 16 years ago, but I have not forgotten. The long memory of a woman… and all that. Heh.

I love that my children are starting to fully understand the roots of their religion. I remember sitting at dinner with a friend of my husband’s whose children are grown. He is Conservative Jew, if I recall. Anyway, we were discussing the plight of the schools here as in… they all suck and what are we to do come high school?

He said to us, “When my daughters were of high school age, I went to all the high schools in the area, private and public. I stopped at the local private Catholic high school and I met with the priests. They told me, that they would never push Catholicism upon my children, but I would find, that when they graduated they would be better Jews than when they started. I chose that school and every Jewish holiday, they called my home to talk to my children. They spoke about the meaning. It was the best education my children could have received and I never regretted it. And yes, they are better Jews, having come to truly understand their religion. The priests and nuns saw to that.”

That is where I know my eldest is going to school. Next year you should see a ramp up in my work hours! Gah! It’s not free...

And before I continue, another great thing about having such a large Jewish community is the fantastic food we have! Gah! The delis and the desserts and the… wow. I remember when we thought my middle son had an allergy to dairy and we had to take him off anything with dairy… including dairy protein. Luckily I had a plethora of bread choices as Kosher bread has no dairy. I was definitely doing the happy dance that we lived where we lived.

Anyway, I have been thinking about how Elisson and his daughter spent their seder dinner. My internet research shows there are only about 1000 Japanese Jews. (That could be wrong as it did come from Wikipedia, whose facts I question mostly.) Spread over an island, the probability of Elisson meeting a Japanese of Jewish faith seems somewhat remote.

So I’m excited to see how they passed this first evening of Passover. Elisson always finds interesting things to do, immersing himself in his surroundings and life. I was happy to see that SWMBO did not spend it alone. In my opinion, it is not a holiday to spend alone and SWMBO and Elisson, they are cut from the same cloth in my opinion. They are people who DO. They don’t sit around and wait for life to come to them.

But now, I want to know... what did the other half do?

Friday, April 18, 2008

A seasonal haiku

sfardi Elisson
while abroad for Passover
rice is kitniot

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Holy.....

.... ’tis a beautiful day here on The Compound.... a day made all the more beautiful by the fact that the Garden Pixies spent most of the afternoon ministering tenderly to my little corner of Tennessee..... and that always makes me happy....

.... when I first moved here, the back yard was immediately named Hell’s Half acre.... for while the front lawn was grassy and civilized, the area behind my home was an evil antithesis mixture of weeds, bushes, briars, and wily forest beasts.....

... if they keep this up every week - the mowing, weeding, watering, feeding, edging, lopping, and trimming - I suspect that I’ll have to finally knuckle-down and think up a new name for my back yard pretty soon.... perhaps Cockaigne..... or Xanadu..... Camelot seems a bit of a push, but who knows?.... El Dorado is too much of a mouthful...... either way, those sweaty gentlemen are working miracles for fifty bucks a week..... I say it’s money well spent....

.... of course, having laborers who are so conscientious also affords one the opportunity to sit out under the umbrella on the patio and explore more polished and gentlemanly pursuits.... indeed, just today, as the weed-whackers whirred, I leafed through one of Elisson’s most precious possessions.... a 1959 copy of “The Fireside Book of Humorous Poetry”..... it is an absolute gem.... 502 pages of some of the most insanely clever stuff you’ll ever read.... new, old, classic, eclectic, American, British.... it’s got something for everyone....

.... actually, I feel quite honored that Elisson offered to let me be Custodian of The Book for a while..... especially when he said that "he’d had the book from the time that he was just a ‘snot-nosed kid’.... and that somehow this thick, dust-jacketed tome had helped turn him into the Man That He Is Today"... heavy stuff, no?..... now honestly, how could anyone shoulder such an august privilege with anything less than an Ultimate Solemnity And Honor?.... and on top of that, there is an inscription on the first page that reads thusly.... “Property of Elisson. Attempts to abscond with this book will be dealt with SEVERELY!”.....

... woe betide the stealer of Elisson’s book of humorous poetry, ladies and gentlemen.....

.... but anyway, yes, I was leafing through his book this afternoon while pondering a gin and tonic, and I found this beautiful little parody of one of Robert Herrick’s poems..... the funny thing is that I had posted a few days ago - quoting Herrick myself - and a commenter had reminded me of the lusty, bawdy, sexy, just-plain-naughty little things that Herrick used to write back in the 1600’s about his “Julia”.... for whom he had developed a SERIOUS case of wannado....

...... so here’s an example of Robert Herrick lusting after his ‘Julia’.... behold......
UPON JULIA’S UNLACING HERSELF, by Robert Herrick

Tell, if thou canst, and truly, whence doth come
This camphire, storax, spikenard, galbanum,
These musks, these ambers, and those other smells
Sweet as the Vestry of the Oracles.
I’ll tell thee: - while my Julia did unlace
Her silken bodice but a breathing space,
The passive air such odour then assumed
As when to Jove great Juno goes perfumed,
Whose pure immortal body doth transmit
A scent that fills both heaven and earth with it.

.... nice, eh?..... and how about this one?
UPON THE NIPPLES OF JULIA’S BREASTS, by Robert Herrick

Have ye beheld (with much delight)
A red rose peeping through a white?
Or else a cherry (double graced)
Within a lily? Centre placed?
Or ever marked the pretty beam
A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?
Or seen rich rubies blushing through
A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?
So like to this, nay all the rest,
Is each neat niplet of her breast.

..... for more interesting poems written by Mr. Herrick to his ‘Julia,’ you can look right here.........

.... but all of this, of course, IS actually winding its way back to the original point, I think.....

..... which is that the first page I opened to in Elisson’s book today, was a spoof of this poem by Mr. Herrick....
UPON JULIA’S CLOTHES, by Robert Herrick

WHENAS in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free;
O how that glittering taketh me!

.... sure, sure, it is pretty tame when compared to the other ‘Julia’ poems..... but what says The Book that practically raised our young Elisson as a child?.... The Book that shaped & molded our beloved Elisson into the blogger extraordinaire that we all know and love?.....

.... well, I have a feeling that this post - while long, rambling, and uninteresting - might shed a little more light on the inner-workings of our intrepid traveler’s mind than y’all might have thought....... I mean, just check this out.....
(Robert Herrick)

WHENAS IN JEANS, by Paul Dehn

Whenas in jeans my Julia crams
Her vasty hips and mammoth hams,
And zips-up all her diaphragms,
then, then, methinks, how quaintly shows
(Vermilion-painted as the rose)
The lacquefaction of her toes.

..... yowza.... the "lacquefaction of her toes"..... mercy, folks, that’s just hardcore literary something-or-other...... and I can now see why our esteemed Elisson emblazoned such a ‘warning to absconders’ on the inside of His Treasure.... His Precious.....

... indeed, if words were religion, then this book would be Holy to all who read..... and I suspect that if anyone were to read the book in its entirety, one would either go completely mad.... or would end up sitting in a room with a colander on his head writing 100 word stories....

... I'm off to read it and find out.....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elisson Visits Hiroshi's Deli.


Elisson: Good morning, good sir! I’d like six of your finest bagels, please. Two salted, two poppy-seed and two pumpernickel.

Hiroshi: Is dat corander on yoo head?

Elisson: Excuse me, sir. I didn’t quite get that.

Hiroshi: You head! Is dat corander on yoo head?

Elisson: Ohhhhh, a colander! Why, yes it is, as a matter of fact.

Hiroshi: Why you weah corander on yoo head?

Elisson: I am Elisson, a well-known blogger and the author of a book of 100-word stories. Would you like to hear one ?

Hiroshi: I like to heah why yoo weah corander on yoo head.

Elisson: It’s my trademark. Everyone knows me as the blogger who wears a colander on his head.

Hiroshi: Seem sirry you weah corander on head. What you want? I forget.

Elisson: Oh, yes. Six of your finest bagels, please. Two salted, two poppy-seed and two pumpernickel.

Hiroshi: Bagers?

Elisson: Yes, six bagels, please.

Hiroshi: No bagers.

Elisson: No bagers? … I mean bagels … This is supposed to be a deli.

Hiroshi: Yoo want noodle?

Elisson: No bagels?

Hiroshi: Noodle.

Elisson: OK, noodles then.

Hiroshi’s Wife: (shouts from back room of the store) Hiroshi! Who yoo talk to for so long?

Hiroshi: Crazy guy wear corander on head.

Hiroshi’s Wife: I told you stay away from sake!

Hiroshi: Oy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Colander Girl

I see we are slowly crawling out from under our rocks, exposing ourselves to Elisson’s unsuspecting readers.

When Elisson asked me if I’d like to take this baby for a ride whilst he was in Japan, I was flattered, but completely horrified at first. Good Lord. Elisson is the epitome of creativity.

I write what I see. Usually it pertains to the absurdity of the life that is mine. Lately it seems to have been mostly about dog poop. Lovely.

But I said yes. I figured, ‘What the hell, live on the edge!’

And then I thought… blogwise… what do we have in common? He writes great short stories, comes up with witty posts and poems, and has a pretty well versed way about him.

I write about my absurd life, dog poop, boy antics and… well… that’s it.

And then it came to me! Something we have in common! The blog Gods were shining upon me as it came to me!

Elisson and I… are you ready? Elisson and I… own the same colander!

I can be the colander girl for his blog while he sups on sushi and sips on sake. I’ve never been the pin up type… just your average girl next door… but hells bells, I can be a colander girl!

.

And for Bob, I’ll test the Whip It Out…
Another Colander picture or two… I crack myself up sometimes. (I am bound and determined to understand this extended entry stuff. Take one failed...)


Whip It Out if You've Got it

Bing! Bing! Bing! I got it!! Whoo hooo!

EVERYTHING EWES’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT ELISSON BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK

Once upon a time, my mother introduced me to the illustrious filmography of one Woody Allen, a man who, for reasons I’m sure we’re all aware, achieved an unwelcome wave of notoriety in the late ’90s for comporting himself according to a questionable moral code, but who is also, unquestionably, a veritabobble™ comic genius.

In fact, Woody Allen supports my personal theory of a rare genius gene, commonly found in the DNA of most Jews born in Brooklyn on December 1, but that’s neither here nor there. All it took was one viewing of “Sleeper,” a futuristic slapstick comedy, and I was hooked. After that, at a mere 22-23 years of age, I took it upon myself to watch as much of Allen’s body of work as I possibly could.

After having seen the staples — “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Bananas,” and “Take the Money & Run” — and most of the dramas (i.e., “Interiors” — don’t waste your time), I sheepishly rented “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask,” something I’m not sure I wanted my mother to even know I rented, and, if I know me, I probably also asked the store owner if I could please have a dark plastic bag with which to conceal the suggestive title as I walked home, lest I get ‘looks’ on the way.

Once inside the front door, I secured the locks, shuttered the blinds, and popped the tape in the VCR. I plopped down on the couch and began to watch the film, which was a series of seven vignettes based on the popular Dr. David Reuben sexual self-help book of the 1970s. All was going swimmingly until one vignette, about a sheep, which I found…alarming.

Gene Wilder portrayed a respectable Jewish psychiatrist named Doug Ross (surely the future influence for George Clooney’s “ER” character) whose life changes when a man enters his office in search of his help for having what he considers an unhealthy sexual attachment to his pet sheep.

WTF?

At 22-23 years-old, I was as pure as the driven snow and naïve to such sordid mating practices. In fact, I was downright shocked (shocked!) and never even considered that the fabled sheep scene was any more than a single isolated gag, generated exclusively for that film. I mean, how could anyone DO such a thing?

Why a sheep, I asked myself? That’s so gross! Are there really men who have experienced and acted upon these longings? I couldn’t come to terms with the idea…my mind raced, but, I put the issue to rest once I returned the tape to the video store, and prayed I’d be spared from further exposure to such debauchery in my life.

And then, 10 years later, I — just an innocent young’n, looking to play a friendly game of Half-Rubber, and knock back a few adult bevies — attended Blogtoberfest in Helen, Georgia and, alas, it was there that the vile practice of sheep heiney humping again reared its sordid ugliness. Behold:
Some people drive Miles to generate smiles and Perverse Sheepish Forms of Amusement
By bringing devices that call to mind Vices and various types of Self-Abusement.
Funny, that…’twas not advertised as a bacchanal, where grown men wore dirndls, and passed around from one person to the next the inflatable Love Ewe, that each may have his or her way with the pasty, vinyl “inflatable barnyard date.”

Of some, I almost expected to see such deviance…but of my pal Elisson, the clean-living, heimishe big brother I always wanted, the Contented Family Man, who loves his wife, two girls, and drives a smart Honda Element…no, Gawd Dammit, no! Perish the thought…never happen, not my Big E.

So nu, you could imagine my horror when I turned around, and saw this**.

Oy, a shandeh! The horror!

**Photo Credit to Richard of Shadowscope.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NIHON-NO BUROGGU-POSUTO

At the risk of giving Mr. Bogner more ammunition with which to make fun of me (Is he gone yet?), I am happy to report that (1) yes, we are gone, and (2) we got here just fine after a 12 hour, 30 minute nonstop flight from Chicago.

A late dinner with a friend of Elder Daughter (it's a damn good thing to know someone when you're a Stranger in a Strange Land), a good night's sleep, and we're ready to go exploring.

More later.

BE AFRAID, PEEPS D’ELISSON

…be very afraid…

Do not attempt to adjust your dials…all Elisson’s Wayback Machines are belong to us.

Checking For Bugs... Got Raid?

Just seeing if this sucker works...

Short post here *Take 2* Hmmm... guess that was supposed to go away.
*Take 3* I am thinking I remember how much more I liked blogger than the stuff I use for my blog. Note to self: Why in the hell did I leave blogger?

Extended post here *Take 4* Crap. Where in the hell did that come from? That needs to go too...
*Take 5* Well damn. Look at that. According to blogger, I can blog in my native Indic script. Hindi anyone? I'm starting to feel at home... all stupid with the blog!

For Shit Sure.


Treppenwitz speculates below about some of the posts we might see from Elisson while he is schlepping around in Japan. I think he may have left out a couple sure shits shots:
  • Toidy usage in Tokyo and its environs
  • Toidy paper in Tokyo and its environs
  • Toidy paper technique in Tokyo and its environs
About this, I have no doubt.

Is he gone yet?

You know the old saw about the difference between Jews and Gentiles?

Gentiles leave but don’t say good-bye... while Jews say good-bye but never seem to leave!

Q.E. frikkin’ D that long teary wave good-bye from Elisson hisself from the hotel in D.C.

I mean seriously, the guy is in a (presumably) decent hotel with hot and cold running room service and two steps out the door to Asia with his daughter, and does he enjoy the moment?

Nooooo.

He'd rather pay double for in-room WiFi what he would have spent on an armful of the stoner-food from the ‘honor bar’ in his room!

So, do you think he’s really gone?

My money's on at least two more posts from airport lounges in transit. Oh, and I’m guessing that since he’s going to the land of the rising microchip, the chances of him stumbling on an Internet Cafe or three are fairly high.

I feel another prediction coming on... bear with me...

Yes, at least three posts devoted to local victuals... with two of them discussing Sushi (the Japanese word for ‘bait’), and the remaining post about consuming vast quantities of Saki (the Japanese word for ‘urine’).

I’m not a betting man, but if anyone wants to pit their oracle against mine, I’m taking action. :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

ENROUTE

I’m writing this from our hotel in Washington, D.C., the first stop in the Troublemakers’ Tour o’ Tokyo. I arrived Friday evening, checked in, and found my way into the District to meet up with Elder Daughter for dinner.

The streets were boiling with young people enjoying the first warm spring night of the year. A brief (but violent) thunderstorm drove everyone indoors for a few minutes, but it was a superb evening for strolling around and people-watching.

We had a pleasant repast at the local French bistro. Smoked salmon, Salades Niçoises, a few Ricards, fresh raspberries with a dab of crème frâiche, and Espresso with Calvados...a perfect start to our Long Journey.

I am so happy to be traveling with Elder Daughter, who is a true Chip off the Old Block. Who else would join me in celebrating the works of the late, great Frank Zappa by singing “Florentine Pogen” in the D.C. Metro?

The next stop on the Tour is Chicago, from where we’ll catch our flight to Tokyo tomorrow afternoon at 12:50, putting us in the Land of the Rising Sun Sunday afternoon at 3:35. We want to get to Reagan National early, just in case American Airlines cancels our connection to Chicago out from under us. We’ve already had to move our departure up from 10:00 am to 8:15, putting us in Chicago at 9:15...a three-and-a-half hour layover. Any Chicago-area blodgers want to visit?

Internet contact from here on out will be sporadic at best. But I’ve recruited a stable of excellent Online Journalists to fill in the gaps while I’m away, so stop by regularly. Especially because the crap they write is generally better than mine.

Enjoy. And sayonara...for now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

FLOWERY, FUZZY FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Azaleas
Spring brings azalea blossoms to Georgia.

It’s Friday, time yet again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the Musical Miscellany horked out by my Little White Choon-Box. As the azaleas above indicate, it is a beautiful spring day here in May-Retta. That means that those competing in the Masters Tournament just a scant 150 miles away should enjoy a pleasant day as well. Golfers, rejoice!

It’s also the perfect time to remind you that the Friday Ark is a-sail once more on the Bloggy Bay: its 186th fauna-filled fun floatation helmed by the estimable Modulator.

Sunday evening, be sure to visit the 213th Carnival of the Cats, to be hosted by The M-Cats Club.

Now: What’s on the ol ’box today? Let’s check it out:
  1. Sesame Seeds - Mitch Hedberg

  2. Elaimet huutaa - Alamaailman Vasarat

  3. Too Long At The Fair - Bonnie Raitt

    Jesus cried, wept and died
    I guess he went up to heaven
    I’ve been downtown such a long, long time
    I’ll never make it home by seven
    Won’t you come and take me home
    I’ve been too long at the fair
    And, Lord, I just can’t stand it any more

    Well I went down to Chasen’s
    Walked ’til my feet got sore
    I never knew what laughin’ was
    ’Til you walked out the door
    Won’t you come and take me home
    I’ve been too long at the fair
    And, Lord, I just can’t stand it any more

    Well, you can give my soul to Abraham
    Give my soul to Saul
    Give my bones to Canada
    My feet they don’t hurt at all
    I don’t know who made the highway
    I guess that’s just my pride
    But I have heard the Prince of Darkness
    On his charger ride

    The silver blade is gleamin’
    The scales are in his hands
    I swear the night is fallin’
    Don’t you lose another man
    Won’t you come and take me home
    I’ve been too long at the fair
    And, Lord, I just can’t stand it any more
    Lord, I just can’t stand it any more


  4. Everything You Did - Steely Dan

  5. Let It Be - The Beatles

  6. Tiny Dancer - Ben Folds

  7. Horsell Common and the Heat Ray - Jeff Wayne

    From Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds.

  8. San Tropez - Pink Floyd

  9. Wave A White Flag - Elvis Costello

  10. I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande) - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

JAPANESQUE

Oh, where the white quince blossom swings
     I love to take my Japan ease!
I love the maid Anise who clings
     So lightly to my Japan knees;
I love the little song she sings,
     The little love-song Japanese.
I almost love the lute’s tink-tunkle
     Played by that charming Jap Anise -
For am I not her old Jap uncle?
     And is she not my Japan niece?

- Oliver Herford

Politically incorrect owing to its age, I always liked the wordplay in this poem. It’s from Oliver Herford’s The Bashful Earthquake and Other Fables and Verses, copyright 1898.

One more day, and I’ll be off on the Troublemakers’ Tour of Tokyo (and Points South-West). Hoo-hah!

MISS SAMANTHA

Sammy

Visiting Eli and Toni in their Florida digs this week meant that we had a chance to visit with Miss Samantha as well.

Sammy is a lot less skittish compared with last year and the year before, when she would make herself scarce around strangers. Nevertheless, she still betrays her Feral Origins by her inability to decide whether to play with you or bite the crap out of you.

That Appearance of Alertness only means she’s in the process of making that decision.

Sammy Again


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

TASTY...

...and good for you, too.

Soylent

Hell, it can’t be any nastier than some of the stuff that’s already out there.

[Blame Mark Rayner from The Skwib. This was all his idea.]

THE MISDIRECTED BIRTHDAY GIFT

You may recall the story I posted a couple months back about the Misdirected Birthday Gift: how the The Resident Geniuses at UPS inadvertently swapped address labels, sending my stepmom Toni’s silver pendant off to Alabama while sending her an object clearly not intended to be her birthday gift.

Funny thing is, it took a full day for Toni and Eli to figure out that they had received someone else’s shipment by mistake...and even then, only with the gentle assistance of UPS, who by then had figured out that they had screwed the pooch. The only other logical explanation would have been that I had completely lost my fucking mind. I guess that was, to them, a more likely possibility.

Here ’tis: the Misdirected Package. A Buffalo Helmet!

Eli the Buffalo
Eli sports the Famous Buffalo Helmet.

Which, in turn, put me in mind of this familiar fellow...

Fred Flintstone

Who could only be attending a meeting of these guys:

Antedeluvian Buffaloes

This is a real lodge in Saint John, New Brunswick, in case you were wondering. I’d drive past it every day on my way to the office during my two-week sojourn there in June 2006.

What can Brown do for you? Why, provide hours of confusion and amusement!

THE UNDEAD

When he first awakened in the grotto’s gloom, a spasm of pain in his side jolted him to his feet. That was when he realized how desperately hungry he was.

Where was he, anyway? All he could remember was being lifted high, being stabbed in the side, the taunting voices. His hands and ankles ached; in his mouth was a lingering taste of vinegar.

Standing up, he could barely see the rock blocking the exit. Ignoring the agony in his feet, he pushed it aside.

Out in the desert sun, all he could think was: I’m famished. “Bra-a-a-ains...” he moaned.

[Inspired by this panel over at Matt Rosemier’s Edible Dirt. (Thanks, Thunderman!)

The theme of Weekly Challenge #104 at the 100 Word Stories Podcast is Zombies. Heads up, Eric!]


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NOT DEAD, JUST AWAY

I’ve been away, as you may have figured out. It’s a reasonable surmise when my posting frequency dies off to the level of, say, this guy’s.

The post immediately below this one had been percolating in my brain since late Saturday night, but I have been away from the Infernal Bloggity Device since then.

The Missus and I zooped down to Florida, leaving early Sunday morning for a quick-turnaround visit with Eli (the Poppa d’Elisson) and his lovely bride Toni. For a while, we were nervous about getting back home this evening per our original plan, given that the SWMBO-Mobile began acting up yesterday afternoon.

When that infernal “Check Engine” light goes on, it can mean something trivial...or something less trivial. But since the light’s appearance was accompanied by some bizarre engine behavior, She Who Must Be Obeyed wisely suggested that we see to the problem before making the 420 mile trek back home. She is all too familiar with my tendency to ignore automotive issues until they can no longer be ignored...with predictable (and unpleasant) results.

Like the time our alternator gave up on the way home to Glastonbury, Connecticut from Princeton, New Jersey after attending an off-year reunion in 1987. I thought we could make it home that day.

I was wrong.

The Missus was not about to let history repeat itself. It’s no fun pissing in a plastic cup when the nearest restroom is miles away. In the dark.

Luckily, there was a Honda dealer a few miles away who accommodated our need for a prompt diagnosis and an equally prompt repair. Luckier still that the necessary part was on hand. I never felt so happy to have my wallet lightened by four Benjamins.

We made it back to Chez Elisson in six hours, thirty minutes. Zoom!

BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A DAIMYO

Mikado 4

If you want to know who we are
We are gentlemen of Japan...

Thus begins Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, arguably the most popular light opera of all time. We saw the excellent Carl Rosa Company production at the Ferst Center last Saturday night, and a fine night it turned out to be indeed. Sitting in our second-row seats, we were close enough to see the orchestra conductor mouth the words to all the songs, see the gouts of saliva fly out of the performers’ mouths, see the details of the gorgeous costumes and props.

Back in my University days, I knew several young men who were knowledgeable Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados. Given that the musical interests of 99.9% of us were focused on rock – with a few tentative forays in the direction of progressive jazz – our natural tendency was to dismiss these individuals as hopeless nerds. Which, by the by, they were...but they knew something many of the rest of us did not: that this stuff was fun.

Mikado 2
Fenton Grey as Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.

As for me, I will state right at the outset that, even though my musical tastes are much more eclectic than they were 35 years ago, I am not much of a G&S fan even today. It’s mainly owing to lack of effort. My affection for opera of any stripe is confined mostly to the work of modern composers such as John Adams and Philip Glass. But Gilbert’s lyrical playfulness and Sullivan’s deft hand with musical composition make for a thoroughly enjoyable blend. In the case of The Mikado, throw in the plotline - a Swiftian satire of English politics and society clothed in a gaudy Japanese kimono - and you have the perfect show for a Saturday evening, a show that stands up beautifully despite being a tad over 120 years old.

And even better, for me, was the knowledge that in one short week, I would be on my way to Mikado-Land itself.

Friday, April 04, 2008

FUZZY FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Peeping Tiny
Tiny, displaying her usual effervescence in this shot by the estimable Sissy Willis.

It’s Friday, time once again for Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly Shufflement of Selected Songs as spewed out by the iPod d’Elisson.

Today’s Random Ten is brought to you by Tiny, one of Sissy Willis’s sparkle-eyed kitties, who reminds us that Friday Ark #185 is underway at the Modulator. While you’re listening to your own Musical Selections, check out the assortment of cats, dogs, and other Miscellaneous Fauna.

This Sunday (Tiny adds), the 212th Carnival of the Cats will be hosted by CatSynth.com. Be sure to visit!

What’s on the box today? Lessee:
  1. Kol Nidre - The Electric Prunes

    From Release of an Oath, a work combining Jewish and Christian liturgy.

  2. Di Mekhutonim Geyen/Tants A Freylekhs - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  3. Rooman ruumiit - Alamaailman Vasarat

  4. Gershwin Medley - Stephane Grappelli

  5. Magicians/Politics - Bobby Slayton

  6. Business Cards - Mitch Hedberg

  7. In Taberna - Olim Lacus Colueram - Christian Thielemann - Orff: Carmina Burana

    Gotta love it: a dead swan complaining about the Current State of Affairs as he roasts on a spit.

    Olim lacus colueram,
    Olim pulcher exstiteram,
    Dum cygnus ego fueram.
    Miser, miser!
    Modo niger
    Et ustus fortiter!

    Girat, regirat garcifer;
    Me rogus urit fortiter;
    Propinat me nunc dapifer.
    Miser, miser!
    Modo niger
    Et ustus fortiter!

    Nunc in scutella iaceo,
    Et volitare nequeo;
    Dentes frendentes video.
    Miser, miser!
    Modo niger
    Et ustus fortiter!


  8. Ships Passing in the Night - Michael Leviton

    I’ve seen you around once or twice.
    We never strayed from the script.
    We were too polite.
    Ill-equipped for pretty sights,
    We’re just ships passing in the night.

    So, in a moment of eclipse,
    You avert your eyes until I’m out of sight.
    Say what etiquette permits.
    How do we requite, passing in the night?

    So, we remain tight-lipped,
    Lips unsatisfied, fantasies untried.
    Seems romance has us gypped,
    Strangers but not quite,
    Passing in the night.


  9. Surrey Mit A Fringe Afn Top - Seymour Rechtzeit

    Oklahoma as you’ve never heard it before.

  10. I Don’t Belong Here - Klaus Badelt, The Time Machine (2002)

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Update: CotC #212 is up.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

LESS OF ME

There’s less of me around these days...which is a Good Thing.

Over the past three months, I’ve managed to drop about 10% of my body weight, bringing me down to my lowest body mass in at least ten years. I still have a good ways to go before reaching my goal: another 25 pounds should do it.

Old Uncle Elisson has always had to pay attention to his weight, which tends to balloon northwards when I get into sloppy eating habits. I love red meat, cheese, ice cream, and chocolate-based desserts, all of which have a tendency to convert themselves into Ass-Fat when consumed in immoderate quantities over a long period of time. And as I get older, I find that it’s all too easy to pack on the pounds.

You can ignore ’em for a while, but they have a way of making you take notice.

Some years back, I used to sport Facial Hair. My beard had its uses, chief among them (besides keeping the face warm in winter) being that it served to hide a Multitude of Chins. More chins than the Hong Kong phone book. But after I shaved it off - it was giving me an excessively grizzled appearance - I could no longer hide that burgeoning Neck-Wattle. Ecch.

And I also found that once my weight got to a certain level, I started snoring. Didn’t bother me, but it annoyed the hell out of She Who Must Be Obeyed. And it developed into a full-blown case of sleep apnea, serious enough to be life-threatening. I was tired all the time...because if you have sleep apnea, you never get a good night’s sleep.

Enough of that shit.

No stupid-ass Fad Diets for me. I’m a lifetime Weight Watchers member (and a former instructor), and I’ve learned that what works best is the classic, tried-and-true method: Eat fewer calories than you expend, exercise more, and choose your foods carefully to get the maximum nutritional punch. For me it means more fish and less red meat, and laying off the blue cheese dressing on my salads. Or having one or two slices of pizza instead of four or five. (Staying the hell out of the Godiva shop at the mall helps, too.) It’s a slow process, but it is less vulnerable to the Boomerang Effect. Who wants to take a bunch of weight off, only to put it right back on?

And it’s not all that tough. You’ll notice I haven’t given up my Sommelier Guild dinners. There’s nothing I can’t eat - it’s just a question of amount and frequency.

It’s also a lot easier for me because SWMBO is right there beside me. And man, does she look good.

Being slimmer is a mixed blessing. I feel much better, and I don’t snore as much, which is good. And I can wear my size 34 pants instead of having to squeeze into 36’s (or flirt with 38’s). Hell, there’s a pair of twenty-year-old pants in my closet that I can now get into comfortably. Who gives a shit whether they’re In Style?

But now I have to start getting my suits altered. They’re beginning to hang on me a little.

Even my Favorite Nutty Headgear is starting to feel a bit loose...

Colander 040308
“Does this colander make my head look fat?”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SALADE À LA SWMBO

It’s hard to eat like a trencherman, bolting down heaps of meat and potatoes, after you’ve spent an hour making yourself schvitz. And so this evening, after our Gymly Workout, I found myself wanting something light. Something that wouldn’t lay on my kishkes like a lead weight.

The last Light Meal we had included a salad that She Who Must Be Obeyed had constructed out of some mâche - lamb’s lettuce - along with some feta cheese, a few bits of leftover oven-roasted salmon, and the remnants of some dressing I had made a few days before. It was excellent...so much so that I immediately started planning ahead for the next time we could have it.

This morning, I picked up another fillet of salmon, along with some arugula. And this evening, the Missus dutifully assembled the various components to make yet another fine salad, this time an Arugula and Mâche Salad with Feta and Oven-Roasted Salmon. This time there was enough of it to serve as a whole meal.

Arugula and Mâche Salad with Feta and Salmon
Salade à la SWMBO: smashing!

The dressing, in case you’re curious, is white wine vinegar and hazelnut oil (we go heavy on the vinegar, about a 5:1 ratio), with some minced shallots, a little coarse Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste. But tonight we were out of shallots, so I used half of a chopped up garlic clove instead. I also substituted walnut oil for the hazelnut oil, just because. SWMBO prefers Version One of the dressing; to me they’re both equally good.

Fish and greenery. Taste good together, they do...and they’re good for you, too. (Unless you eat enough to cause such horrifying side effects as the Dreaded Green Turd.)

THE ELISSON BOOKSHELF

The Elisson Bookshelf

Being another installment in a series entitled “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.”

It’s been another ten months since I’ve posted about the Old Book Pile d’Elisson. And, yes, I’ve admitted several times that posting a list of the books I’ve been reading is nothing more than another great big Exercise in Self-Indulgence, not too different from, say, my Friday Random Ten. But self-indulgent or not, it’s one handy way to fill a blogpost...and my creative energies seem to be at a low ebb these days.

Last time, I didn’t try to list everything I had read since my last Bookshelf post, but this time I will, out of sheer perversity. So here goes:

June
  • Blaze - Richard Bachman

    The last book of the four I read last June, this was nice, lightweight beach reading by Stephen King, using his Richard Bachman alias...an old novel resurrected from the Odds and Ends Trunk.

July
  • Caddy For Life - John Feinstein

  • Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates - Tom Robbins

    Amazingly, the first Tom Robbins novel I ever read, a gift from the Mistress of Sarcasm.

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling

    The concluding volume of the Harry Potter series of novels.

August
  • Master and Commander - Patrick O’Brian

    The first book in the twenty-novel Aubrey/Maturin series.

  • A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O’Brian’s Seafaring Tales - Dean King

    Can’t tell the players - or figure out what they’re saying - without a little help from this companion volume.

  • Settling Accounts: In at the Death - Harry Turtledove

    The conclusion of Turtledove’s Settling Accounts series, an alternative version of World War II as fought between the Confederate States (under a Nazi-like dictator) and the United States. Formulaic...but a guilty pleasure.

  • Post Captain - Patrick O’Brian

  • H.M.S. Surprise - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Mauritius Command - Patrick O’Brian

  • Desolation Island - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Fortune of War - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Surgeon’s Mate - Patrick O’Brian

September
  • The Ionian Mission - Patrick O’Brian

  • Treason’s Harbour - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Far Side of the World - Patrick O’Brian

  • Lobscouse & Spotted Dog: Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian - Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas

    A cookbook written by a mother-daughter team, this was the inspiration for our infamous Jack Aubrey Dinners.

  • The Letter of Marque - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Thirteen Gun Salute - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Nutmeg of Consolation - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Truelove - Patrick O’Brian

October
  • The Wine-Dark Sea - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Commodore - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Yellow Admiral - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Hundred Days - Patrick O’Brian

  • Blue at the Mizzen - Patrick O’Brian

    The final volume in the Aubrey/Maturin series; the last book under the wire in October. I managed to kill the whole series in just three months...it was that addictive.

November
  • Diary of Indignities - Patrick Hughes

  • The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose - Keith Scott

    More than you wanted to know about the Jay Ward animation empire.

December
  • The Sunne In Splendour - Sharon Kay Penman

    An unconventional portrayal of Richard III of England, herein presented as a hero instead of a villain. A thick tome with little, tiny type, it took all month to read.

January
  • Bowl of Cherries - Millard Kaufman

  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies - Jared Diamond

    An attempt to understand why modern Western civilization developed where it did...as opposed, say, to Australia or North America. Fascinating and moderately scholarly, yet not too much for the layman reader.

  • A Dangerous Man - Charlie Huston

February
  • Moon Flights - Elizabeth Moon

March
  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection - Gardner F. Dozois, editor

  • Etiquette Guide to Japan - Boyé Lafayette de Mente

  • Comedy At The Edge: How Stand-Up In The 1970s Changed America - Richard Zoglin

  • Opening Atlantis - Harry Turtledove

April
  • The Japanese and the Jews - Isaiah Ben-Dasan

    Intriguing comparison of two cultures that have almost nothing in common, by an orthodox Jew who was born in Japan and who grew up in that distinctively non-Western, non-Jewish environment.

Whew. That’s thirty-eight books in just over nine months.

I’m working on two more at the moment: Stephen King’s Duma Key, and The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America, by David Hadju. I’ll let you know how they turn out...

So: What have you been reading lately?

SUNBATHING

It’s easy to do in the sunroom.

Sunroom Hakuna Too

Sunroom Hakuna
{Click either image to embiggen.]