Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ELISSON’S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS

We were watching the tube this afternoon when we heard this Eminently Quotable Comment:

“I just can’t keep my hands off the sausage!”

Who said it? Rachael Ray? Or Clay Aiken?

Monday, September 29, 2008

AVE ATQUE VALE, PAUL NEWMAN


Paul Newman


Paul Newman, legendary actor, race-car driver, and philanthropist, has passed away at the age of 83.

Newman was a rara avis in Hollywood circles, an actor who had a marriage (his second) that lasted half a century. His curriculum vitae was packed with enough accomplishments for two lifetimes.

Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother (a practicing Christian Scientist), Newman described himself as Jewish: more of a challenge, he would say. He must have enjoyed challenging himself. How else to explain someone who raced cars competitively into his eighties?

He and wife Joanne Woodward were long-time residents of Westport, Connecticut. Back in the 1988-90 timeframe when the Missus and I lived in Trumbull, we would occasionally shop at Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk. Newman and Woodward were frequently spotted there doing their grocery shopping (Newman was a serious cooking aficionado), but, alas, we never saw them.

He created his line of “Newman’s Own” food products (with friend A. E. Hotchner) and donated the after-tax profits to charity. The total is now somewhere north of $250 million. I always enjoyed reading the labels; they evidenced a sense of humor that was just a little off-kilter.

His epitaph could very well read “Paul Newman: Mensch.”

Alas, those beautiful blue eyes are now closed forever. To the new leader of the “Hole in the Ground Gang,” Godspeed.

An older Paul Newman


THE DARK VISITOR RETURNS


NeighborandBuddy

Neighbor...and a cuddly buddy.

Neighbor is back. For Rosh Hashanah, anyway.

We are pleased. Hakuna is not.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

TITS ON A BOAR DEPARTMENT

I almost did a double-take yesterday when I was in the Stoopid-Market picking up a few goodies.

Everyone is familiar with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, am I right? The kind that comes in the little blue box? Rock-hard elbow noodles, and a little packet of glow-in-the-dark radioactive Cheezy Powder Substance that makes its own gravy (just add milk!)?

I had never had any contact with that little blue box...until I was a college student eating independently (i.e., not in an eating club or on a meal plan) on a shockingly low budget. Ramen noodles... Mac ’n’ Cheese... these became staples.

Sure, we knew it was crap. But it was filling crap...and it had its own perverse, Processed Food charm.

Yesterday, I saw that Kraft now makes an organic version of their Macaroni and Cheese. Yep: Organic Mac ’n’ Cheese in that stupid blue box. Every bit as fake as the original - but organic.

Just what, exactly, is the fucking point?

CAT BOX

When I tell people that the Missus eats out of the catbox every day, they are horrified. But they shouldn’t be.

Kitty Lunchbox


Behold: the Catbox! AKA the Kitty-Encrusted Lunchbox. Ain’t it cute?

YOU ASKED FOR IT

Rahel, of Elms in the Yard, requests equal time for Hebrew puns.

Puns?

Limericks, sure. But Hebrew puns?

Well, perhaps we can come up with something.

***************

Q: How do you catch a jewfish?

A: You use Beit Yisrael.

***************

Q: Why must the greatness of the Lord be spoken of in a very high-pitched voice?

A: Because, according to the words of the Ashrei (Psalm 145), we learn that v’ezuz norotekha yomeiru, u-g’dulat’kha a-soprano.

***************

Had enough? Good.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

SURREAL SAFARI

I went to get my hair(s) cut today...and a goodly number of these pictures (click on “collection” to view) were hanging in the salon.

For some reason, they made me think of this guy.

KNOCKOFF

I read somewhere that now there’s a Mexican knockoff version of the popular prescription sleep aid Ambien, Sanofi Aventis’s brand of zolpidem tartrate.

It’s called Tambien.

How well does it work? Sources say, compared to the original, it’s “the same.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

A FAIRY TALE FOR OUR TIME

I normally don’t post a whole lot of material on the topics of Politics and Economics, but this piece by Houston Steve was irresistible. Enjoy...and read into it whatever you like.

A Fairy Tale for Our Time
(with apologies to George Orwell)
by Houston Steve

Once upon a time there was a co-operative that had a pig farm. The farm had been running for some time with mostly good results - the occasional banner year and the occasional downer - but mostly it was generating a decent return for the co-op members. One day the manager, who had been working the farm for about eight years, said he had to leave. The co-op shopped around for a new manager, and they found a man who had some new, bold ideas about how to accelerate the rate of return the co-op members got on their pigs.

It seems that pigs will fatten up very rapidly if you let them eat to their heart’s content, but if they eat too much they get overweight and sick; therefore, they are much easier to control if you feed them a steady diet. To that end the co-op had devised a series of food dispensers that put out enough food to allow the pigs to fatten up without getting sick. The new manager pointed out that the dispensers were expensive to maintain, so the co-op could save money if they turned them off (and he could give that money – the co-op members’ hard earned money - directly back to the members), and the manager promised that he would keep an eye on the pigs so they wouldn’t get out of control. And “Oh, by the way,” the manager said, “This breed of pigs really knows how to control themselves without the food dispensers anyway.” So the co-op members had some misgivings, but they went along with the new manager.

Shortly after the decision was made to turn off the food dispensers, a coyote managed to get into the chicken coop, which was kept on the opposite side of the farm, well away from the pig pens. The manager was furious, so he dropped everything and went hunting for the coyote. He looked and looked, but couldn’t find him anywhere. Then he heard that two counties over there was a den where some bears were hibernating. He knew that bears don’t eat chickens, but everyone knew bears were dangerous anyway, and he could easily kill them while they were asleep. Besides, he was sure the co-op members would be impressed if he made sure that the bears would never pose any danger in the future. So he went to the bear’s den and killed them. But he didn’t know that there was another bear den just over the hill, and when they heard the gunfire it woke them up. The bears came out and starting chasing the manager all over the place. Pretty soon the manager ran out of bullets for his gun, but the bears were getting tired of all the running around since they hadn’t eaten anything for months, so they decided to go grazing for a while.

The manager pounded his chest and said he had defeated the bears! But then he got word that the coyote got back into the chicken coop, so he ran back to the farm.

On the way to the farm he suddenly remembered the pigs. He hoped they hadn’t eaten too much, but of course they had. In fact, they had eaten so much that they couldn’t fit into the truck, and there was no way to get them to market. So he had to call a meeting and explain to the co-op members that there were a few problems.

“There’s a problem with the pigs,” he said.

As he explained it, it was going to be necessary to keep the pigs on the farm for a while longer until he could figure out a way for the co-op to buy a bigger truck to take the overgrown pigs to market. In the meantime they were going to have to continue feeding the pigs or they would starve to death and the co-op would lose all the money they had spent raising the pigs. And because the food dispensers were turned off all the food was gone, so they were going to have to buy some more, even though they were already over budget on the food expenditures.

“Well then,” they said, “let’s go ahead and sell some of the chickens so we can buy the pig feed with the proceeds, and we’ll eat chicken for a while!” But the manager had to remind them that the coyote was back in the chicken coop and since he had no bullets, it really wasn’t safe to go over there to get eggs or chickens (assuming there were any left). They were just going to have to find some money for him or their pigs would all die.

“So what are we supposed to do for our own food in the meantime?” they asked.

“Well,” the manager said, “We have all this pig shit around here, and it’s nutritious for the plants, so you are just going to have to eat shit sandwiches for a while.”

“But people can’t eat shit sandwiches!” they cried. “It’s not healthy!”

“Well,” he said, “you have a point there, but look at it this way. If you don’t eat the shit sandwiches you know you are going to starve to death. And if you do eat them and you don’t get sick, you’ll get through this.”

“Well, then, how about we eat some of the pig food?”

“Can’t do that,” he said. “If the pigs don’t get enough to eat for their current weight they get cranky and they might run away.”

“Hey,” one of the members said, “remember all that corn we put in storage? We can eat some of that!”

“No can do,” the manager said. We used the surplus that didn’t go into the pig feed to make ethanol for the generators. You know, the ones we used to run the heaters that keep the pigs warm so they eat better. No, you guys are going to have to make a decision pretty quick here. If we don’t get the pigs back to the trough they are going to scatter, and you will lose everything. By the way, the shit sandwiches are in pretty short supply and the price is going up by the minute. Anyone ready to buy a few?”

[©2008 Houston Steve. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.]

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN - ROSH HASHANAH EDITION

Yes, indeedy, Esteemed Readers...not only is it Friday - time yet again for the weekly Menagerie o’ Musical Miscellany spewed directly from the tuneful bowels of the iPod d’Elisson - but it is also the weekend before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Which means doodly-squat vis-à-vis the music on my iPod...but it does mean that there is a certain amount of Hustle ’n’ Bustle here at Chez Elisson, for we are preparing for an onslaught of family, AKA “Mushpucker” in the Texas version of Yiddish.

The Momma d’SWMBO and her husband David will be flying in tomorrow, and as if that were not amusement enough, the Mistress of Sarcasm and boyfriend Gilad will also be swooping down from their central Tennessee aerie.

SWMBO has already baked her ridiculously delicious Cherry Cake for the occasion, to be followed by a braised brisket, chicken soup with matzoh balls, and all manner of other Good Things to be devoured en masse Monday evening as the holiday gets underway.

Meanwhile, however, we got us some Choons to listen to:
  1. Native Son - The Judybats

  2. Too Much Too Young (Live) - The Specials

    You’ve done too much
    Much too young
    Now you’re married with a kid
    When you could be having fun with me

    (oh no, no gimme no more pickni)

    You’ve done too much
    Much too young
    And now you’re married with a son
    When you should be having fun with me

    (we don’t want, we don’t want
    we don’t want no more pickni)

    Ain’t he cute?
    No he ain’t
    He’s just another burden
    On the welfare state

    You’ve done too much
    Much too young
    Now you’re married with a kid
    When you could be having fun with me

    (no gimme, no gimme, no gimme no more pickni)

    Call me immature
    Call me a poser
    I’d love to spread manure
    In your bed of roses
    Don’t want to be rich
    Don’t want to be famous
    But I’d really hate
    To have the same name as you
    (you silly moo)

    You’ve done too much
    Much too young
    Now you’re married with a kid
    When you could be having fun with me

    (gi we de birth control, we no want no pickni)

    You’ve done too much
    Much too young
    Now you’re chained to the cooker
    Making currant buns for tea

    (oh no, no gimme no more pickni)

    Ain’t you heard of the starving millions
    Ain’t you heard of contraception
    Do you really wanna go with the sterilization
    Take control of the population boom
    It’s in your living room
    Keep a generation gap
    Try wearing a cap


  3. Höyhensarjan maailmanmestari - Tuomi Nurmio & Alamaiilman Vasarat

  4. Outro - Matisyahu

  5. Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby - Anita O’Day

  6. Act III, Scene 2 - Attack and Fall - Philip Glass, Akhnaten

  7. Happiness Is A Warm Gun - The Beatles

    Woody Allen’s version of this song is entitled “Happiness Is A Warm Gub.”

  8. Shorty Falls In Love - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

  9. Uncle Walter - Ben Folds Five

  10. The Intermission - Monty Python’s Spamalot
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

EQUINOX

It’s almost as though a Cosmic Switch has been flipped. Coincident with the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox, the weather is in full-tilt boogie Fall Mode. Cool nights, crisp mornings, blue skies, the leaves just beginning to pick up hints of orange, red, and gold. Beautiful.

Fall is my favorite time of year. I know winter’s dreariness lies at the end of it, but I don’t mind.

And besides - when else can you announce the start of a golf tournament with a Shofar Blast?

Golf Shofar


With the holidays that mark the Birthday of the World fast approaching, it is appropriate to toss out some good wishes. For my Jewish friends, l’shana tovah tikateivu v’tichateimu. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year 5769. And for my non-Jewish friends, the same wish applies (minus any religious context that is not meaningful for you, of course).

FUZZY FACETS


Warholkuna


Hakuna shows off her multiple personality. Andy Warthog couldn’t have done it better!

Update: Friday Ark #210 is afloat over at the Modulator. And if that’s not enough to satisfy your Kitty Jones, drop on by Chey’s Place this Sunday evening for the 237th installment of Carnival of the Cats.

Update 2: CotC #237 is up...bright and early!

CRANKING OUT THE NUMBERS

[Even in death, Bane has the capability to fascinate. In this brief post written less than two weeks before his untimely passing, he provides a link to a blogpost about a remarkable object...]

Engineers, scientists, and businessmen often speak of “cranking out the numbers,” a familar idiomatic expression that originated with a unique device.

I speak of the Curta mechanical calculator, a handy little gadget that could do mathematical calculations to fifteen digits of precision. Addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication - all by turning a crank. Cranking out the answers...literally.

Curta

Vintage Curta mechanical calculator.

The Curta was invented by a Buchenwald concentration camp inmate in 1938 and manufactured in the tiny European principality of Liechtenstein up until 1970, when the appearance of new-fangled electronic calculators rendered it obsolete. The machines, which resemble the bastard children of pepper mills and hand grenades, can be found on eBay, where they command prices ranging up to several thousand dollars.

I first made the acquaintance of the Curta calculator back in the hallowed year of 1971.

Back then, the options available for doing mathematical calculations were, ahh, more limited than they are today. You could use a slide rule (AKA “slip-stick” in Engineering Nerdspeak) for most purposes, but you could only get answers with three or four significant digits at best. Fine for most engineering and technical problems, but not good enough if you had lab instructors who wanted, say, five or six decimal places.

Computers? Those were big things...big enough to fill entire buildings. Unwieldy (but usable) for a handful of simple calculations. All you had to do was write out a batch program in BASIC or FORTRAN, keypunch a deck of Hollerith cards, run ’em through the reader, and wait near the printer (a monstrosity the size of a Volkswagen) for your output.

You could do the math by hand, but long division and multiplication are slow, and they get awfully tiresome when you have huge numbers of individual calculations to do.

Hand-held calculators? That was, as of yet, the stuff of science fiction.

Enter the Curta.

I had a friend who owned one of these little beauties, and he was gracious enough to lend it to me (and teach me how to use it). It was like magic. You would set the counters, turn the crank atop the machine, it would click and whir like a living thing, and you would have your answers, with as many digits as you desired. Holy crap!

When the pocket-sized HP-35 electronic calculator appeared a year later - only $395! - it signaled the end of the mechanical calculator era. The HP-35 and its descendants could not only do the four basic math functions; they could perform logarithmic and trigonometric operations at the touch of a button...an engineer’s wet dream.

Comparing these new electronic marvels with the Curta is like comparing the modern digital camera to a vintage Leica, Hasselblad, or Crown Graphic. Functionally, the New Things run rings around the old...but they have no soul.

Try to imagine a world in which mechanical Difference Engines are the primary computational technology...the Curta as computa...and you have the world of The Difference Engine, a 1991 novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Steampunk! It would make for a very different sort of Internet...

But that’s a topic for another post, I figure.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ANOTHER STUPID-ASS MEME

You’ve seen this one before, I’m sure, floating around the ’Sphere like a gassy turd in the Porcelain Punchbowl. I have seen it in any number of places, most recently here at Pammy’s crib. But what the hell: I’ll play.
  1. My uncle once: appeared - as himself- in a Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic book.

  2. Never in my life: have I known the singular pleasure of eating a balut.

  3. When I was five: I remember with crystalline clarity waking up on the morning of my fifth birthday. It was, coincidentally, the day the Russians launched Sputnik.

  4. High school was: mainly lengthy periods of utter boredom broken by occasional moments of sheer terror. Or stupidity.

  5. I will never forget: ol’ What’s His Name.

  6. Once I met: Kitty Carlisle Hart...who, by strange coincidence, actually knew my Dad (Eli, hizzownself) and had had dinner with him and Missus Eli in Paris (as related here).

  7. There’s this girl I know: who can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch. No, I don’t really know her. But I remember her.

  8. Once, at a bar: I drank a Whisky Drink. Shocking!

  9. By noon, I’m usually: ready to start working.

  10. Last night: I attended a wine tasting (the September Guild Event) and gulped down samples of thirteen different wines. All but one were produced from the Zinfandel grape, and all but one were superb.

  11. If only I had: a time machine.

  12. Next time I go to church: won’t be any time soon, unless you count the Jew-Church.

  13. What worries me most: is the relentless march of time.

  14. When I turn my head left I see: a photograph of SWMBO and her family in front of our first house in Houston. It’s an 11 x 14" enlargement made from a 4 x 5" Ektachrome transparency taken with a hand-held Speed Graphic, circa 1978. That was the house we would later sell to Houston Steve, in a cosmically unlikely coincidence described here.

  15. When I turn my head right I see: the daybed in our computer room, and a small table piled with CD’s and blank discs.

  16. You know I’m lying when: my mouth is moving I raise my eyebrows ever so slightly. Which is why I can’t lie to SWMBO.

  17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: my mother and my father-in-law, neither of whom made it into the Nineties.

  18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: Puck...for the double-entendre possibilities.

  19. By this time next year: I'll be another year older.

  20. A better name for me would be: Frunobulax, Lord of the Galaxy...except that sounds too much like a medicament to loosen the bowels.

  21. I have a hard time understanding: people who talk with their mouths full of marbles. Demosthenes, this means you!

  22. If I ever go back to school: Shoot me.

  23. You know I like you if: I spend more than two minutes conversing with you.

  24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: the person handing me the award.

  25. Take my advice: Don’t ever stick your dick in the pickle slicer.

  26. My ideal breakfast is: sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Failing that, smoked fish and bagels at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium. Whitefish, baked salmon, Nova Scotia smoked salmon, belly lox, sable, pickled herring...

  27. A song I love but do not have is: “Shine On Brightly” by Procol Harum. Wait: I have that one. And pretty much all the other songs I love.

  28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: make a pilgrimage to the ancestral home of the Baldwin brothers. Prepare to be unimpressed.

  29. Why won’t people: realize that if I were king, the world would be a better place? For me, anyway.

  30. If you spend a night at my house: you won’t starve or lack for Adult Beverages.

  31. I’d stop my wedding so: I could savor the moment. It was a blast.

  32. The world could do without: Ahmadinejad, militant Islam, and people who take themselves way too seriously.

  33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: lick the bellies of two cockroaches. WTF kind of a question is this?

  34. My favorite blonde(s) is/are: What is this “blonde” of which you speak?

  35. Paper clips are more useful than: tits on a boar. In fact, pretty much anything is more useful than tits on a boar. Remember that.

  36. If I do anything well it’s: quite by accident.

  37. I can’t help but: think that there are better ways to spend half an hour besides writing this tripe.

  38. I usually cry: when I drop an anvil on my foot. Wait - that was the Mistress of Sarcasm who did that. To her foot. Last week.

  39. My advice to my child/nephew/niece: If at work you’d avoid / Creating a stink / Then don’t dip your pen / In the company ink.

  40. And by the way: Should you feel the urge to create your own version of this little Useless Memely Item, don’t blame me. Links, however, are always welcome.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BANE, R.I.P.

The pit bull of the Bloggy-Sphere, Bane, has passed away after a long illness.

Other bloggers - Rob Smith comes to mind - may have been irascible, but Bane could be downright scary. You got the feeling that there was sudden violence lurking just under the surface of the Baneskin.

Love and seething fury. All of us have both, but most of us try not to acknowledge the delicate balance - the dynamic tension - that sometimes exists between the two. But Bane was proud of it. He thrived on it. And it fueled some remarkable writing.

He spawned at least one unlikely blogdaughter - unlikelier still is the fact that she is a schoolmate of mine. Another Minor Mystery o’ Life.

Ave atque vale, Bane. You will be missed.

ARM IN ARM

Twenty-one years ago, we were living in central Connecticut.

It was a big adjustment, moving to the Northeast after five years in Atlanta. But the Great Corporate Salt Mine issued their decree and I obeyed, moving our young(er) family to our fourth house. (We’re up to Number Seven now.)

Connecticut was far more expensive than Georgia from a cost-of-living standpoint, but there were compensations. Glorious fall foliage, for one. And snow. I liked the snow, except when I had to shovel out our immense driveway.

Connecticut was also a lot closer to the ’Rents d’Elisson. A few hours in the car - about the same drive-time the Mistress of Sarcasm has when visiting us these days, except with tolls and a lot more traffic - and we could be on the south shore of Lawn Guyland, or they up at our place.

This was nice. It meant that my parents could be a regular meaningful presence in their granddaughters’ lives, just as SWMBO’s mom and her husband had been in Atlanta.

One day, during one such parental/grandparental visit, we all went to the roller skating rink in Monroe, just up the road. If I recall correctly, the occasion was a birthday party for one of Elder Daughter’s friends. This was in the days before Rollerblades had taken over the world, when the old-school four-wheeled skates were the order of the day. The kids - most of ’em, anyway - all got out on the floor and navigated their way around the rink with varying degrees of success.

It looked like fun.

Mom and I looked at each other. Then we went over to the skate rental counter and grabbed a couple of pairs of skates, laced them up, and got out on the rink.

Unlike my mother, I was (and am) no athlete. Whatever natural grace ever existed in our family seems to have skipped a generation, settling firmly on Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm. But that day, the Coordination Gene that had lain dormant in me for some thirty-five-odd years was miraculously awakened.

Arm-in-arm with my mother, we glided around the roller rink as though we were floating on air, executing perfectly synchronized crossovers through the turns. Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Or (using the skating analogy) like Sonja Henie and...whoever the hell it was she skated with.

Mom has been gone now for over twenty years, and there are some things I still regret not having done while she was around. For example, I never got to play golf with my mother as an adult, alas. Maybe it’s just as well; she would have thrashed me like a red-headed stepchild on any golf course. But when I find myself feeling wistful, I like to remember that one afternoon in Connecticut, when the two of us floated around that roller rink, arm-in-arm.

SEPTEMBER GUILD EVENT

This month’s Guild event - an American Zinfandel tasting - will be at the 5 Seasons Brewing Company at the Prado this evening.

There won’t be any Denny tonight. He’s off in Bonaire, SCUBA-diving his brains out. It’s a privilege of having attained SRF­© status. But I’ll be there, along with Houston Steve, committing all manner of Mortal Zins.

Here’s the menu:

Speaker’s wine
Beringer Sparkling White Zinfandel ½*

First flight
Lake Sonoma 2005**
Sebastiani 2005***
Quivira 2005***

Grilled pizza, prosciutto, goat cheese, and arugula

Second flight
Seghesio “Old Vine” 2005***
Ravenswood “Big River” 2005****
Ridge “Geyserville” 2005****

Smoked brisket and hash with crispy Vidalia onions

Third flight
Ridge “Lytton Springs” 1999***
Ridge “Lytton Springs” 2001****
Ridge “Lytton Springs” 2005**

Georgia suckling pig with seasonal vegetables and demi-glace

Dessert
Montevina Zinfandel Port NV***

Chocolate cake

Lagniappe
Ridge Zinfandel Essence 1991****

I’ve enjoyed my previous visit to this particular outlet of the 5 Seasons Brewing Company, so I have high expectations...even if beer is not on the menu.

Update: My preferences indicated by asterisks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

THE LINE FORMS HERE

We all queue up to buy our gas.
It’s not the first time.
It won’t be the last.

The price, it makes our wallets shrink,
But when there’s none
We’ll
really make a stink.

Shades of 1979! The Mistress of Sarcasm had to wait in a gas line to get fueled up for her drive back to Nashville. Thanks, Ike!

Thanks also go to the mainstream media, especially the breathless teevee reporters who whipped everyone into a panic with their talk of impending gasoline shortages. Look, anyone with a brain knows that a big hurricane in the Gulf will cause supply disruptions and temporary price surges. But when you beat that drum all day long, eventually people will decide to run out and top off their tanks...which, of course, exacerbates the shortage.

Brilliant!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

THE UNSPARING EYE


Crown Graphic

Vintage Crown Graphic 4 x 5 inch press camera, 1947-1955.

It looks at you, this machine of metal, cloth, wood, leather, and sparkling glass. And then it blinks, freezing time in a wafer-thin slice. Unsparing, unflinching.

Cameras - the photographic kind - have changed a lot in the 180-odd years since Nicéphore Nièpce first captured a permanent image on a bitumen-coated plate. Nowadays, they are electronic marvels, recording images on a digital screen. But there is a beauty and precision that the Old-School devices possess that the newer models (however utilitarian) will never approach.


Baby Rolleiflex

This “Baby” Rolleiflex (1957-1961) used 127-size film to create 4 x 4 cm images.


Kodak folding camera

No. 3-H Kodak folding pocket camera, 1900-1915.

This one, with a Kodak ball-bearing shutter, dates from between 1908-15 and used 118-size roll film, producing six 8 x 10.5 cm pictures. It’s a work of sculptural art as well as a precision instrument that still functions perfectly. Too bad 118 roll film has gone the way of the passenger pigeon.

MARIETTA MORN


Marietta Morning

A Saturday sunrise in Marietta.

Rosy-fingered Eos paints the heavens. But she works quickly, and her masterpieces are breathtakingly ephemeral.

Within moments of my having taken this photograph - actually a tone-mapped composite of three sequential pictures taken with different exposures - the orange-, pink-, and purple-painted clouds had vanished, replaced by a robin’s-egg blue sky.

Friday, September 19, 2008

GOOFY: A 100-WORD ANIMATION REVELATION

It’s a little-known fact, but Mickey Mouse and his friends are Jewish. Walt Disney probably would have been appalled.

Don’t believe me? I’m not surprised. I said it was a little-known fact, didn’t I?

I know this because I have discovered records, records that have been kept safely tucked away since before the second World War. Records that show the Hebrew names of several popular Disney characters.

There’s Mickey ben Maus.

Donald ben Duck. It used to be Donald ben Kotchka, but he changed it.

And, of course, Goofy. Goofy ben Kalba.

(In English, that’s Goofy, Son of a Bitch.)

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Beri ben Mendel.]

SCARY TIMES

Do all of the recent scary headlines rattle you?

Hurricanes strike the Gulf Coast. Real estate markets implode, driving a crisis in subprime lending. Large investment banks and insurance companies collapse. And gasoline jumps back to over $4 per gallon in the wake of Ike.

There’s a smartass saying that says, “If you can keep your head when all those around you are losing theirs...then you probably don’t understand the seriousness of the situation.”

No, I’m not panicking. This is probably a good time to buy stock, and in a few months, it’ll be a great time to buy real estate...because you won’t be paying the inflated prices of the last few years. It’s called “readjustment,” folks, and we’d best get used to it - scary though it may be.

The Missus and I, we’ve been through a few Scary Times of our own. We know what it’s like to have bought a new house before disposing of the old one, balancing the load of two mortgages plus a bridge loan and praying for a buyer who will meet your price. That’s scary...but there are things that are even scarier.

Rewind your mental clock to January 1991.

We’re living in Trumbull, Connecticut and are in the process of moving to Houston, Texas. There’s a lot going on in a short timespan. Eli (hizzownself) will be getting married on Sunday, January 6 on Long Island...and the next morning, the movers will swoop in and begin packing up our house. A couple of days later they will load the truck in the midst of a howling ice storm, building an extension on to the back of the truck to cram everything in. We’ll fly down to Texas the next morning, along with Elder Daughter, the Mistress of Sarcasm, Stripes the cat, and Leona Hamsley the hamster, in plenty of time to close on our Texas house on the eleventh.

It was scary enough to watch the movers slipping and sliding on the ice with our possessions, but by that time we were almost immune to excitement...because the really scary shit came down that Sunday, January 6.

The wedding? That went off without a hitch...or, better put, with only the Expected Hitch. But that night, the Feds swooped in and seized Connecticut Bank and Trust Company, AKA CBT. The bank, not incidentally, wherein resided our checking and savings accounts. But thanks to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - the FDIC - the seizure would be no cause for concern for most of the bank’s customers.

When the FDIC takes over a bank, depositors are protected by federal deposit insurance to the tune of $100,000. Way more than enough protection for us...except under an extremely rare set of circumstances. The perfect storm, you could say.

Because we had well more than $100,000 in the bank just then. It was only for the interval between our receiving the equity payout on our Connecticut house and our handing most of it over to the sellers of our Houston house...only three days out of all the years we had lived in Connecticut. But, thanks to a perverse alignment of the stars, every nickel of our home equity was sitting in CBT when the Feds shut it down. What timing!

The worst case scenario? We lose everything in excess of $100,000.

The second worst case scenario? We get paid off at pennies on the dollar for the excess amount over $100,000.

Either way, we’re suddenly short on funds to pay for our Texas house...insult to injury, considering that we’ve lost a nice chunk of change on the Connecticut house. The market was not good in the closing days of 1990, alas.

If you think that She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are trying hard not to shit blood clots right about now, you’re right. But the Feds decided that the economic impact of allowing CBT to default on its depositors would have a devastating effect on the New England, not to mention the national, economy. And so we were able to extract every penny of our money, bright and early that Monday morning. Lines of nervous depositors stretched into the bank’s parking lot, and We Were There.

We tend to think of bank failures as a product of the Great Depression...something of historical interest only. But that frantic day, the day when we had no idea how much of our family’s net worth would be washed away by the nebulous, arcane financial misdeeds of Big Banking, brought it all back home to us. And today, whatever philosophical issues I may have with the concept of the Federal Bailout are necessarily colored by the fact that one such bailout kept our family’s little financial ship afloat, once upon a time. If that makes me a potential hypocrite, so be it.

Postscript: The FDIC, after taking over CBT, operated it as a “bridge bank” called the New Connecticut Bank and Trust Company, N.A. from January 6 through July 13, 1991. On July 13, Fleet Bank of Connecticut converted to a national bank and assumed New Connecticut Bank and Trust Co., N.A., changing its name to Fleet Bank, N.A., Hartford.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN -
SING LIKE A PIRATE EDITION

Piratical Elisson

Arrrh! It be Friday, ye lubbers...and that means it be time for the weekly arrrhsortment of songs and sea-shanties as randomly barfed out by the iParrrhd d’Elisson.

It also be the nineteenth of September, which means it be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. I wonder what Joan of Argghh! and El Capitan be doing on their special day to-day?

This morning, I went to morning minyan, where I davened like a pirate. It be not so farrrh-fetched, matey. The famous buccaneer Jean Lafitte, late of New Orleans and Galveston, was reputed to be a Jew.

And so I worked through the order of service as I do on all weekdays: Birkot ha-Shacharrrh, P’sukei d’ Zimrarrrh (including Barukh she-Amarrrh and Arrrhshrei), the Arrrhmidah (AKA the Shemonarrrh Esrei), and the Arrrhleinu. And, it being the month of Elul, we concluded the service with the sounding of the Shofarrrh.

But enough of this narrrhischkeit for now. It be time to see what be playing:
  1. Silvertown Blues - Mark Knopfler

  2. Selfless, Cold and Composed - Ben Folds Five

  3. Friday Night, Saturday Morning - The Specials

    Out of bed, it’s eight a.m.
    Out my head, by half past ten
    Out with mates and dates and friends
    That’s what I do at weekends
    I can’t talk and I can’t walk
    But I know where I’m going to go
    I’m going to watch my money go
    At the Locarno, no

    When my feet go through the door
    I know what my right arm is for
    Buy a drink and pull a chair
    Up to the edge of the dance floor
    Bouncers bouncing through the night
    Trying to stop or start a fight
    I sit and watch the flashing lights
    Moving legs in footless tights

    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning
    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning

    I like to venture into town
    I like to get a few drinks down
    The floor gets packed the bar gets full
    I don’t like life when things get dull
    The hen party have saved the night
    And freed themselves from drunken stags
    Having fun and dancing in
    A circle ’round their leather bags

    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning
    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning

    But two o’clock has come again
    It’s time to leave this paradise
    Hope the chip shop isn’t closed
    ’Cos their pies are really nice
    I’ll eat it in the taxi queue
    Standing in someone else’s spew
    Wish I had lipstick on my shirt
    Instead of piss stains on my shoes

    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning
    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning
    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning
    I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning

  4. Yes It Is - The Beatles

  5. Hot Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel - A Tribute Band for FZ

  6. Village Of The Sun - Frank Zappa

  7. Goin’ Away To Sea - The Klezmatics

  8. Mardi Gras in New Orleans - Professor Longhair

    Former home of Jean Lafitte!

  9. Spanish Key - Miles Davis

  10. Whisky Train - Procol Harum

It be Friday, ye scurvy Jack Tarrrh. What be ye listening to?

Update:

Google Pirate


Even Google be getting into the act. Arrrh!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

EVERYDAY TERROR

It’s a week after the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an appropriate time to reflect upon how our lives have changed.

Air travel nowadays has a huge PIA component. That’s “Pain in the Ass,” for any of my Esteemed Readers who are acronym-challenged. You have to arrive early to deal with the queues at the security checkpoint. In a large travel hub like Atlanta, those queues can vary from a few minutes to what seems like hours, with Monday mornings being almost intolerable. You take off your shoes and remove your computer from its case, simultaneously making sure that your deodorant, shaving cream, and toothpaste is properly packed in a separate bag...and that the individual packages are small enough. Oh, and forget about that bottle of water you’re drinking. Drink up...or toss it.

Close up parking? Forget it. Too much of a security risk.

Strangely, though, I don’t mind the inconvenience of all this additional security, despite its being largely useless window dressing. What I do mind is the loss of innocence. I miss living in a world in which the notion of men deliberately flying jet aircraft into buildings to murder the people therein is so ridiculous that the only place you would see it is in the pages of a breathless suspense novel.

What got me thinking about all this?

No, it wasn’t the seventh anniversary of September 11, 2001.

It was when I was opening the new bottle of mouthwash we had picked up at the Stoopidmarket a few days ago.

The bottle was shrouded in plastic film. Tamper-evident plastic film. And I thought back to another time of innocence, back before tamper-evident and tamper-resistant packaging became a market necessity. The precipitating event in this case was a 1982 series of Chicago-area deaths - murders - committed by person or persons unknown who spiked random capsules of Tylenol with potassium cyanide. It’s twenty-six years later, and the crime remains unsolved.

Whoever this nutjob was, he or she was a model urban terrorist. There are few things scarier than the prospect of Random Death popping right out of your medicine chest like some sort of thanatological Jack-in-the-Box. It was terror, driven right into the everyday experience of the everyday citizen. Tylenol’s market position dropped like a stone; only an aggressive, proactive response from Johnson & Johnson, the product’s manufacturer was able to successfully reestablish the brand.

But now, myriads of food and drug products come in tamper-evident packaging. And, speaking of drugs, the venerable capsule is a rarity...too vulnerable to invisible adulteration. Caplets and gelcaps are the order of the day.

The days when you could grab a bottle of pills or capsules from the drugstore shelf without worrying that someone might have laced those pills or capsules with poison are long gone now. An entire generation has grown up never knowing that those days existed.

I’m old enough to remember when you could just walk into an airport, walk right up to the gate with your ticket, and board the plane. Never mind today’s terror-driven security measures - there was no X-ray, no metal detector. Nothing.

OK, so occasionally some asshole would hijack a plane - usually to Cuba. But those were different times. Innocent times.

The social contract was different then. It has changed now, changed beyond recognition... and I mourn.

HER LOFTY PERCH


Baluster Hakuna

Hakuna looks down from her lofty second-floor perch.

We all know cats have a superior attitude, an attitude that considers humans to be dirt beneath their feet. Here, Hakuna positions herself in an appropriately elevated location, the better to look down on her Human Companions not just psychologically, but in a very real spatial sense.

Update: Friday Ark #209 is afloat over at the Modulator. And for yet more Fuzzy Fun, be sure to check out Carnival of the Cats, to be hosted at Friends FurEver this Sunday evening.

Update: CotC # 236 is up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

THE WORST JOBS IN TEXAS

El Capitan and I were sharing a reminiscence today concerning the vilest jobs in Texas...a reminiscence that was triggered by this post at his site.

Of course, there are plenty of nasty jobs in Texas right now. Cleaning up after a hurricane - especially a hurricane-driven flood - is unspeakably vile. Floodwaters pick up everything and strew it all around together, and I mean everything. Dead animals. Insects. Snakes. Household chemicals. The crap in Grandma’s attic. Boogers. Turds. Used bandages. Bodies from the local cemetery. All brought together and simmered in the late Texas summer sun to create the Soup from Hell. Piquant...and pungent.

Ye gods.

But aside from disaster recovery, there are plenty of horrible jobs around, jobs upon which some people must depend for their livelihood. And it sucks to be them.

Years ago, Texas Monthly published an article that enumerated the ten worst jobs in Texas. It was, if I recall correctly, in the May 1976 issue, a copy of which I am certain to have stashed away somewhere in the monstrous Archive d’Elisson.

Without digging out the actual magazine in question, I can recall a few of those jobs.

One of them - the worst - was the job of chicken sexer in a poultry plant. Yes: Chicken sexer.

It seems that male chicks, much like their human counterparts, are mostly useless. And so the chicken sexer, working at the breakneck pace of one chick every second, grabs a tiny peeping chick from a bin, sticks his finger up the chick’s ass, and feels for the little nubbin of flesh that indicates a Chicken-Dude. Female chicks are kept. Male chicks are simply tossed into the trash...still cheeping away.

Nice work if you can get it, eh? But there’s more.

How ’bout the guy who glues the ceramic “Botts Dots” onto the highway lane marker stripes in the 100-degree-plus heat of a Texas summer?

Or the guy who works for the rendering plant - you know, the one who gets to pick up all the squashed dogs, cats, and cows from those sweltering Texas roadways? You just know that some of those critters are gonna be majorly ripe by the time you get to them: bloated and stinky. And horribly soft. One entertaining vignette in the article had to do with a roadkill collector who had to pick up a dead cow. He hooked up a rope to the front legs of the cow and started the winch...whereupon the beast’s decomposing corpse split in half, right in the middle. “Dwayne, get me that big ol’ shovel, willya?”

Yeah, it’s rough being a used cow dealer.

Next to some of those jobs, the lot of the poor bastard in Cappy’s post may not be all that bad...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TAKE YOUR MEDICINE

The Missus and I were sucking on the Great Glass Teat - that’s a metaphor for watching television, you that have filthy minds - when yet another advertisement for an Ethical Pharmaceutical came on.

The airwaves are full of ’em these days.

You can tell a lot about the drivers of a country’s economic engine by the ads you see on the Boob Tube. Judging by the ones I’ve seen in the last hour, America is a land obsessed with automobiles and ready-to-eat food. And drugs. Lotsa drugs.

It should be no surprise that advertising for various and sundry medicaments is becoming more and more prevalent. Our country’s population is aging, and with that aging comes a host of age-related afflictions. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better...because it won’t get better until the Boomer Generation dies off.

Anyone who is old enough to remember television in the 1950’s and ’60’s would have predicted that the airwaves of the early 21st century would have been packed with plugs for the same types of products that were being sold to Golden Agers back in the day. Pain medications. Denture adhesives. Geriatric vitamin supplements. Anacin, Bufferin, Excedrin ads. Poli-Grip. Geritol (“My wife...I think I’ll keep her!”).

But no.

Ads for pain remedies, like the poor, will always be with us. Simple OTC preparations like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil) are plugged regularly. And there are also the Digestive Remedies. You don’t see as much advertising for laxatives on TV as you did 40 years ago, but maybe that’s because people aren’t as obsessed with taking a Daily Crap. Or because they’re buying Holistic Colon Cleanser on the internet.

What’s interesting are the ads you don’t see.

More and more people are keeping their teeth, thanks to fluoridation and other advances in dentistry...so ads for denture adhesives have become genuine curiosities. And when was the last time you saw a Geritol ad?

But what you see now - what you never saw in the 1950’s - is the relentless pushing of ethical pharmaceuticals. Prescription medications...for a mind-boggling array of ailments.

Wha’ hoppen?

Legislative changes in the 1980’s happened...changes that opened the door to the direct marketing of ethical pharmaceuticals to consumers. The Reagan-era climate of deregulation created a world in which the old restrictions on advertising by doctors and lawyers evaporated. Whatever restrictions - by law or by customary practice - there may have been on advertising prescription meds directly to Joe End-User were swept away.

At the same time, advances in chemistry, pharmacology, computer analysis, and an improved understanding of human biology at the molecular level fueled an explosion in the number of medications released to the burgeoning market. That explosion is driven by money.

It’s not cheap to bring a new drug to market: it must pass rigorous pre-clinical and clinical trials, generally over the course of many years. Most experimental drugs don’t make the cut, but they nevertheless incur huge developmental expenses. And from a cash-flow perspective, development expenses pile up for years before any revenue comes in...which puts a lot of pressure on the net present value of any potentially marketable drug. But the monstrous piles of money that (eventually) come in make it all worthwhile.

To make that money, you need market share. And it’s not enough to sell to the physicians, the ones who actually write the prescriptions. Now you have to pimp your pharma to the consumer, so they ask the doctor to prescribe a specific drug.

As a result, we are now bombarded by a constant stream of advertising for substances with unpronounceable names, intended to treat diseases we didn’t even know needed a pill to treat.

Forget about constipation or upset stomach. Now we’re getting ads for drugs that alleviate the symptoms of bad blood cholesterol, gastric reflux, urinary urgency, depression, allergies, brain cancer, and most important of all (of course!), Not Being Able To Get A Boner.

Each ad consists of 15 seconds of content and 45 seconds of disclaimers...the stuff you see in fine print on the drug’s package insert. May cause drowsiness, or anal leakage, or uncontrollable barking, or sudden death. Do not take with alcohol, MAOI inhibitors (whatever the fuck they are) grapefruit juice, or prune juice. Be sure your physician knows what other medications you are taking. May be habit forming. May cause a baby arm to sprout from the top of your skull.

Me, I’m thoroughly sick of these ads.

Let my doctor figure out what I need. That’s his job, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s part of what I pay him for.

Bring back the ads for stupid-ass OTC remedies. Geritol. Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. Fuck this Lipitor (Pfizer brand of atorvastatin calcium) shit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 18.

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.

Magazeke [mag-a-zeek] (n) - Periodical of primary interest to the redneck market.

“I was wondering why I hadn’t seen the latest copy of ‘Guns and Ammo’ - that’s when I realized that my magazeke subscription had run out.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NIHON-NO SUPAMU


Supamu


Or: Japanese spam. Comment spam, that is.

I don’t see a lot of comment or trackback spam, thanks to the ever-vigilant efforts by the good people of Haloscan. Once in a rare while, something gets through, whereupon I delete it promptly.

But this evening, I got a couple that were so mind-boggling, so amusingly rendered in flawless Engrish, that I decided to share them with you...sans links, and with my commentary in italics:

If you have Flyff money, you can kill monsters and give present to your girl!

If I have real money, I can give present to my girl and avoid the mess and discomfort of having to kill monsters.

You can earned Flyff gold. Her excitation all over the face relying on has set up that only have halves size small grape purple fruit.

“Her excitation all over the face”? Is that some sort of Boo-Cocky reference? And that’s the only remotely understandable part of that comment.

Japanese Comment Spam - try some today!

LAZY-ASS SATURDAY

The Missus and I are enjoying a rare treat: a truly Lazy-Ass Saturday.

We’ve been loafing all day. Still in our bathrobes at three in the afternoon. Thanks to our having dinner plans, we will get cleaned up...eventually. Meanwhile, our only job has been to pack in as much Sabbath Rest as possible.

There is nothing so sweet as a Lazy-Ass Saturday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

THE BARREL OF THE GUN

For years, when we lived in Houston, I dreaded the possibility of a major hurricane shoving itself up into Galveston Bay and in into Sweat City.

As a kid, I remembered all too well the breathless accounts of Hurricane Carla, which smashed into the Texas coast between Port Lavaca and Port O’Connor on September 11, 1961. Floods! Snakes! Death and destruction!

I had had some limited experience with hurricanes, having lived through Hurricane Donna in 1960 and Esther the following year. However, that was on Long Island. Northeastern hurricanes, while they may be intense, typically blow through very quickly owing to the steering and accelerating effects of the jet stream. We had power outages that lasted for days, and a lot of trees down...but the biggest impact that had was to reduce the amount of shade on our street - and to precipitate a neighborhood grilling frenzy that consumed the contents of every freezer on the block.

But we didn’t have floods. Or snakes.

We managed to dodge the Flood Bullet during both of our lengthy sojourns in Houston. One heavy rainstorm storm in 1993 brought water to within inches of our door (and filled the downtown stretch of Interstate 10 with sixteen feet of water)...but we were lucky on the tropical weather front. No equivalent to Carla struck while we lived in Houston.

One reason for concern was - and is - that since 1961, there has been a massive influx of population to the Greater Houston area. Driven by NASA, the oil economy, and (much later) by high technology, millions now live where only roaches and snakes once tussled for territory in the sweaty, fetid bayous of coastal Texas.

Concurrently with that population increase - and partly because of it - there has been heavy ground subsidence as subterranean water supplies have been pumped away. The entire area was never very much above sea level to begin with, and now it’s even lower. Parts of Baytown have been underwater for years, homes abandoned to the encroaching Galveston Bay.

Now add a monster storm surge, coupled with many hours of winds in the triple digits. Scary.

The Weather Service is using unusually strong language to encourage Galvestonians to beat it out of Dodge: “Certain Death.” That’s more direct than the usual NOAA weasel words.

Sure. We’re all gonna die. But this time, it really looks like Houston is staring down the barrel of a very big, very ugly gun...and the fuse is lit.

Our prayers go out for the safety and well-being of the folks in Houston and the surrounding area. There but for the grace of God, and all that...

Update: Saturday morning, September 13.

Ike

The black dot shows (approximately) where we lived from 1991 to 1998.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Yes, indeedy, Esteemed Readers...it is Friday, which means it’s time yet again for the weekly Menagerie o’ Musical Miscellany spewed right out of the electronical brain of my Little White Choon Box.

How do those things work, anyway? Arthur C. Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic...which, in my eyes, would make the iPod somewhat magical. Mainly because I can’t understand how the damn thing works. Yes, I know there are integrated circuits and microchips and all that crap, but there’s no way I could assemble one, given the parts and tools.

A blender, maybe, I could build. An iPod, no.

Tonight, a nice braised brisket and the company of good friends. But in the meantime, we got us some Choons to listen to. What’s on the box today?
  1. It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) - Stan Getz & Dizzy Gillespie

    A bebop classic.

  2. The Clouds Are Full of Wine (Not Whiskey or Rye) - Captain Beefheart

  3. Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles

  4. Montana - Frank Zappa

    I might be movin’ to Montana soon
    Just to raise me up a crop of dental floss
    Raisin’ it up
    Waxin’ it down
    In a little white box
    I can sell uptown
    By myself I wouldn’t
    Have no boss
    But I’d be raisin’ my lonely dental floss
    (Raisin’ my lonely dental floss)

    Well I just might grow me some bees
    But I’d leave the sweet stuff
    For somebody else...
    But then on the other hand I would
    Keep the wax
    And melt it down
    Pluck some floss
    And swish it around
    I’d have me a crop
    And it’d be on top
    (That’s why I’m movin’ to Montana)

    Movin’ to Montana soon
    Gonna be a dental floss tycoon
    (Yes I am)
    Movin’ to Montana soon
    Gonna be a mennil-toss flykune

    I’m pluckin’ the ol’ dennil floss
    That’s growin’ on the prairie
    Pluckin’ the floss!
    I plucked all day and all night and all afternoon...
    I’m ridin’ a small tiny hoss
    (His name is MIGHTY LITTLE)
    He’s a good hoss
    Even though he’s a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
    Blanket on anyway
    He’s a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
    Blanket on anyway
    Anyway
    I’m pluckin’ the ol’ dennil floss
    Even if you think it is a little silly, folks
    I don’t care if you think it’s silly, folks
    I don’t care if you think it’s silly, folks

    I’m gonna find me a horse
    Just about this big
    And ride him all along the border line
    With a pair of heavy-duty
    Zircon-encrusted tweezers in my hand
    Every other wrangler would say
    I was mighty grand
    By myself I wouldn’t
    Have no boss
    But I’d be raisin’ my lonely dental floss
    Raisin’ my lonely dental floss
    Raisin’ my lonely dental floss

    Well I might ride along the border
    With my tweezers gleamin’ in the moon-lighty night
    And then I’d get a cuppa coffee
    And give my foot a push...
    Just me and the pygmy pony
    Over by the dennil floss bush
    And then I might just jump back on
    And ride like a cowboy
    Into the dawn...to Montana

    Movin’ to Montana soon
    (Yippie-Ay-O-Tie-Ay)

    Movin’ to Montana soon

  5. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City - Bruce Springsteen

  6. Chopsticks (Live) - Ben Folds Five

  7. River Of Collections - Paul Cantelon

  8. Couldn’t Call It Unexpected - Elvis Costello

  9. Romantic Moves/Anniversaries - Bobby Slayton

  10. Barnyard - Brian Wilson

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

BORGKITTY


Borg Hakuna

“Resistance is futile.”

Now that she once again has the house to herself, Hakuna is spending time in places other than the underside of our bed. Evidently, she was out and about long enough to become assimilated into the Borg Collective, as evidenced by the glowing red eye.

Hmph. If those Borg nanobots are so damned smart, why don’t they teach this cat to start crapping in the toilet? And maybe to stop chewing the edges of the carpet?

Update:
When it comes to the Happy World of Fauna, there’s no better way to start your Friday than by taking a cruise on the Friday Ark, the 208th edition of which is up at the Modulator. As our Borgy friends would say, “resistance is futile.”

Also, be sure to stop by Artsy Catsy this Sunday evening to check out Carnival of the Cats #235. It’s Kitty-Riffic!

Update No. 2: CotC #235 is up.

DINNER IN THE SKY

It was hard to decide what was more spectacular: the food or the view from the high, vaulted windows of the restaurant.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were having dinner with my parents and the Other Elisson. It was summer of 1978 - late in the season, if I recall correctly - and we had been married a little over a year.

We did not know it at the time, but SWMBO was already with child, the embryonic Elder Daughter a nascent Bun in the Oven, mere days old.

For the life of me, I cannot remember what I had to eat that evening. I do, however, recall the sommelier visiting our table to discuss the wine list. The place was noted for its extensive selection, as well as for its unusual policy of marking their wines up only 100% above retail, rather than the 200-300% then prevalent in most high-end restaurants. Their philosophy was to price the wines as reasonably as possible, thus opening the wine-drinking experience to a greater proportion of their diners...and, in the end, selling a lot more wine.

My dad - Eli, hizzownself - had to have his fun. He asked the sommelier whether anybody ever asked for Ripple...whereupon the sommelier disappeared into the kitchen for a moment, returning with a bottle wrapped carefully in a towel. It was Thunderbird, favorite of winos and derelicts, and on its label, someone had carefully inscribed (in blue ball-point pen) the vintage: August 1978. A good month, we all agreed, and laughed.

Kevin Zraly, that very same sommelier, would eventually go on to a very successful career. According to Robert W. Parker (no slouch himself in the world of Wine Mavernry), today Zraly is “arguably the best known wine educator on earth.”

As we enjoyed our wine - not, sorry to say, the Thunderbird - and the superb food, we drank in the spectacular view. Our seats were right up against the windows, and we had a clear panoramic vista of Manhattan as the sun sank slowly in the West, from the Brooklyn Bridge (practically below our feet, or so it seemed) to the distant towering spires of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings to the green rectangle of Central Park.

From our vantage point 107 stories up, we could see three states.

It was a magical evening, that dinner at Windows on the World, one never to be repeated. But it still shines in our memories.

Windows on the World, alas, is no more. It was destroyed seven years ago today when the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. Seventy-three restaurant employees perished that morning, along with at least eighty-seven patrons...one hundred sixty souls out of the 2,974 victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Windows on the World

Windows on the World. Ave atque vale.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

STILL LIFE WITH PLATE BLOCK


Thanksgiving Flowers

Fall flowers brighten up the family room at Chez Elisson, Thanksgiving 2005.

After all the recent disgussion discussion about Vertical Turds, I thought it might be a good idea to air this place out. How ’bout some flowers?

With Fall fast approaching, this seasonally appropriate Pile o’ Posies may help redirect your thoughts to your Happy Place. May it be so.

STAND UP AND CHEER

Second time this week.

Yes, it’s definitely an omen...but what sort of omen, I have no idea.

Monday, September 08, 2008

EAT UP

From Anywhere But Here comes this excellent meme: 100 Things You Should Eat Before You Die.

I’m sure some enterprising individual can come up with a list of 100 Things You’d Rather Die Than Eat, but that is a discussion for another time. And besides, de gustibus non est disputandum, which is Latin for “one man’s bone-in ribeye is another man’s Krystal Chili Pup.”

So: Let’s just take a look at this list, shall we? I’ve indicated the things I’ve eaten in boldface.

100. Venison
The Missus won’t go near it, but I loves me some nice, tender Bambi meat.

99. Nettle tea
Not yet, anyway.

98. Huevos rancheros
How can you live in Texas without checking out this classic Mexican breakfast dish?

97. Steak tartare
I was not impressed with the version served at the Russian Tea Room in New York City...but I have had steak tartare elsewhere, and it’s a fine dish. Don’t let the raw eggs and raw meat scare you off, ya wimp.

96. Crocodile
I’ve eaten alligator, but not crocodile. And with both alligator and crocodile, it is better to eat than be eaten. Right, Jimbo?

95. Black pudding
AKA Blutwurst. No, thank you.

94. Cheese fondue
Hell, yes.

93. Carp
Never mind that it’s an anagram for “crap.” Carp is delicious, whether served “as is” or as a component of gefilte fish.

92. Borscht
Whether cold or hot, I like borscht a lot. My mother used to throw cold beet borscht in the blender with a shot of sour cream to make a ghastly looking Pepto-Bismol-colored borscht shake...but it tasted great. And hot cabbage borscht is a superb fall season dish.

91. Baba ghanoush
I’ve tried baba ghanoush and I like it...but alas, it does not like me (as do many other dishes containing eggplant).

90. Calamari

89. Pho
Not only is it delicious, but how can you resist a dish that’s pronounced “Fuh”?

88. PB&J sandwich
No way you could grow up in America in the 1950’s without subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sammitches.

87. Aloo gobi
Indian cauliflower and potato curry.

86. Hot dog from a street cart
Sabrett was the vendor of choice in New York.

85. Époisses
You may be surprised to learn that Mr. Debonair has not yet tasted Époisses de Bourgogne, possibly the stinkiest French cheese on the planet. “Zee Époisses, eet ees like a tourd...a tourd weeth a crust. So tastee!”

84. Black truffle
But of course.

83. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
Blackberry wine, for sure. And I have a bottle of pomegranate wine in my cellar.

82. Steamed pork buns
If char siu bau did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. I’ve had ’em in China and Hong Kong (back when they were two separate political entities) - and, most recently, in Boston’s Chinatown.

81. Pistachio ice cream
Back when Carvel ice cream was soft-serve only, we would eagerly await those days when pistachio was the Flavor of the Week... because Carvel soft-serve pistachio was to die for.

80. Heirloom tomatoes
Just had a brace of these at the Boxwood Bistro in Franklin, Tennessee last Saturday night. Yummy.

79. Fresh wild berries
One of the great treats. I recommend New Brunswick wild blueberries.

78. Foie gras
Can anyone say “Strasburg pie”?

77. Rice and beans
See my comment above regarding huevos rancheros.

76. Brawn, or head cheese
Aw, hell naw.

75. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
Like eating a flamethrower. One that you’ve forgotten to turn off first.

74. Dulce de leche
Dulce de leche is Spanish-style caramelized milk. Hoo, boy, is it yummy.

73. Oysters
Yes, I’ve eaten oysters. No, they’re not kosher. Deal with it.

72. Baklava
A hyper-sweet Middle Eastern pastry. Not to be confused with “balaclava,” which, like a colander, is customarily worn on the head.

71. Bagna cauda
Contains garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. What’s not to love? Just haven’t gotten to it yet.

70. Wasabi peas
Oh, yeah. Snack food of the gods.

69. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
I’ve had Manhattan-style and New England-style clam chowder, although the sourdough bowl is a nonauthentic latter-day add-on that I choose to ignore. Chowdah should be consumed with oyster crackers, not a hollowed-out loaf of bread.

The New England clam chowder at the Boston University student center is one of the best I have ever tasted.

68. Salted lassi
Nope...although doogh, the Persian version of lassi, is pretty good. (It’s a fermented milk beverage. No collies were harmed...)

67. Sauerkraut
I hope Eric and Fiona get to sample the choucroute garni (sauerkraut garnished with various cuts of meat and sausage) while they are visiting in Alsace this week.

66. Root beer float
Root beer. Vanilla ice cream. Sheer simplicity...and sheer heaven.

65. Cognac with a fat cigar
Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.

64. Clotted cream tea
Probably delicious, but I tend to avoid foods and beverages with names containing the word “clot.”

63. Vodka jelly/Jell-O shot
There was a bar in Houston called Richard Head’s (really!) that offered a fine selection of Jell-O shots.

62. Gumbo
We make a mean gumbo over here at Chez Elisson.

61. Oxtail

60. Curried goat
An important prerequisite for “Jamaica doody.”

59. Whole insects
Many cultures consider insects a delicacy. I do not. Feh.

58. Phaal
Sounds like a recipe for ringburn, but I would try it.

57. Goat’s milk
Meh.

56. Single malt whisky
Hell, yes.

55. Fugu
Belongs on the list of “100 Foods You Should Eat Before You Die And That, In Fact, May Hasten Your Demise.” Blowfish, AKA pufferfish, is a costly Japanese delicacy prepared by licensed chefs who remove the deadly ovaries and liver of the fish. Predictably, there are people who buy those organs on the black market. They are called “idiots.”

54. Chicken tikka masala
Oh, go do that Hindoo voodoo that you do so well.

53. Eel
I had a perfectly wonderful una-don (grilled freshwater eel, AKA unagi, served over rice) whilst in Tokyo with Elder Daughter.

52. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
Yeah, I’ve tried ’em, but they impress me not... for I am a Dunkin’ Donuts man.

51. Sea urchin
Many people are revolted at the idea of eating the custardlike gonads of this spiny hermaphroditic sea creature. If you can get past the texture, sea urchin (uni) is damn tasty. But it’s gotta be really fresh, otherwise it tastes like...aw, never mind.

50. Prickly pear
Nopales! Yes, nopales!

49. Umeboshi
Japanese pickled ume plums. Umeboshi are powerfully salty and vinegary, not for the faint of heart. Years ago, when we lived in western New Jersey, there was a couple living across the street from us: an American man with his Japanese wife. Their daughter, three years old at the time, used to eat umeboshi like American kids would eat potato chips. Unbelievable.

48. Abalone
Very expensive shoe leather.

47. Paneer
The Indian version of queso blanco, an essential ingredient in saag paneer.

46. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
I’ll cop to eating a Big Mac, although it has been many decades since I’ve indulged in this not-quite-pleasurable guilty pleasure. If I’m gonna eat McDonald’s crap, give me a quarter pounder. And I can do without the soft drink.

45. Spaetzle
Fetal dumplings.

44. Dirty gin martini
I’ve tried the “dirty” martini and found it wanting. The olive juice interferes with the taste of the gin.

43. Beer above 8% ABV
Georgia law was changed a few years ago to permit high throw-weight beers to be sold here...and I am grateful.

42. Poutine
It sounds like a rude, flatulent gerund, but poutine is a French-Canadian junk-food treat consisting of French fries with soft cheese curds scattered over ’em, then buried in brown gravy. Ballpark food...at least in Toronto and Montréal. Eat enough of it, and you’ll really be poutine.

41. Carob chips
A complete waste of time, created to satisfy chocophobes.

40. S’mores
The best excuse for building a campfire that ever existed, s’mores were invented by rugged Yukon prospectors. These beloved graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow sandwiches served as the inspiration for many of the culinary-themed poems of Robert W. Service, AKA “the Bard of the Great White North.”

39. Sweetbreads
My mother loved sweetbreads, but I resisted trying them until the Missus and I were having dinner at Chez Panisse back in 1984, where they appeared as an ingredient in a salad. Absolutely delicious.

But some of my mother’s other faves? Not in a hurry to try ’em. Calf’s foot jelly? Brains? Feh.

38. Kaolin
Not sure why this ended up on the list. Kaolin is the main ingredient in porcelain...and also Kaopectate, which, alas, I have taken on infrequent occasions.

37. Currywurst
Currywurst is a German dish consisting of hot pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry sauce and curry powder. With luck, I may be able to avoid it.

36. Durian
The topic of this post.

35. Frogs’ legs
Taste like chicken. Chicken that has been living in an algae-encrusted pond all its life.

34. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
All of the above. Having beignets at the Café du Monde in New Orleans is one of life’s fine experiences. As for funnel cake, it is the bastard offspring of a doughnut and sargassum weed...packed with calories owing to its high surface area-to-volume ratio, but tasty nonetheless.

33. Haggis
I would eat this in a New York minute despite its horrendous-sounding ingredients. Plus, you get to drink Scotch whisky with it.

32. Fried plantain
I’ve eaten these...hell, I’ve made ’em myself as recently as four weeks ago.

31. Chitterlings, or andouillette
Three words: No. Fucking. Way.

30. Gazpacho
SWMBO makes a fine version of this chilled soup, using a recipe from her Chefly Brother.

29. Caviar and blini
Sure, it’s expensive. But man, is it good.

28. Louche absinthe
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

27. Gjetost, or brunost
Is it cheese? Is it caramel? Is it toe jam?

26. Roadkill
Perhaps after the Nuclear Holocaust.

25. Baijiu
Baijiu, or shaojiu is a Chinese distilled alcoholic beverage. I’ve had the Japanese version (shochu)...and I have a bottle of the Chinese stuff that has been gathering dust in my Lacquer Liquor Locker for the past 15 years. perhaps I’ll take it to Helen this year and dump it in the Chatham Artillery Punch.

24. Hostess Fruit Pie
“The fruit pies contain a peculiar gelatinous substance that is strangely tasty.” Well, to some people.

23. Snails
Escargot, otherwise known as “Garlic Butter Conveyance Devices.”

22. Lapsang souchong
I tried this smoky black tea when I was too young to appreciate it. I should probably give it another shot.

21. Bellini
Sparkling wine (traditionally Prosecco), peach purée, and (optionally) a shot of raspberry coulis. A fine Sunday-morning tipple, if you are the sort who tipples on a Sunday morning.

20. Tom yum
A spicy Thai soup containing shrimp and lemongrass...and lots of extremely hot “mouse turd” chilies. I was once served a bowl of this stuff at a restaurant in Bangkok. One spoonful was enough to make me pop a sweat...and I polished it all off, only to have a major case of ringburn for the next three days.

19. Eggs Benedict
Not to be confused with eggs Benedict Arnold, which dish was convicted in absentia of high treasoning...and excessive seasoning.

18. Pocky
A Japanese snack food consisting of a biscuit stick, one end of which is coated with chocolate. Named after the distinctive facial scarring suffered by acne-ridden Japanese teenagers, prime consumers of this popular snack treat.

17. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
One day.

16. Kobe beef
A couple of weeks ago, I watched a guy buy a Kobe beef steak at Star Provisions, local purveyors of ridiculously expensive foods. It was priced at $128 per pound. Most high-quality prime beef is muscle tissue marbled liberally with fat; this stuff was fat marbled liberally with muscle tissue.

But I have had Kobe beef in Japan, and it is brain-meltingly good...especially when the Great Corporate Salt Mine is picking up the tab.

15. Hare
Rabbit, yes - but I’ve never had a hare, the rabbit’s big, funky country cousin.

14. Goulash
They used to serve Hungarian goulash to us in grade school. Probably not the finest example of the genre, but it’s the one I remember.

13. Flowers
Edible flowers? Sure...why not?

12. Horse
I have had many opportunities to eat of the meat of the horse, but I have chosen not to do so. The Mistress of Sarcasm would never forgive me.

11. Criollo
Food in the style of Lima, Peru. Not Lima, Ohio.

10. Spam
I have tasted of Spam. I do not care for it.

9. Soft shell crab
The best soft-shell crab I ever had was in New York City.

8. Rose harissa
I have had harissa, a peppery North African chili paste, but not the rare version containing rose petals.

7. Catfish
How many years have I lived in the South?

6. Mole poblano
Mole poblano is one of those dishes that sounds bizarre (chocolate? chiles?) but that is amazingly tasty.

5. Bagel and lox
Has Elisson ever had bagels and lox? Of course he has!

4. Lobster Thermidor
I have had lobster many times, but never the classic lobster Thermidor preparation. I don’t think I’m missing much.

3. Polenta
The Romanian version is called mamaliga.

2. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
If you want coffee that’s even more expensive, consider purchasing some Kopi Luwak, coffee beans that have been eaten, digested, and crapped out by an Indonesian civet cat, then washed and lightly roasted. About $200-600 the pound. (None for me, thanks.)

1. Snake
Tastes like chicken. Chicken that has been crawling around on its belly all its life.

So far, 75 out of 100. Not bad! But there’s more!

0. Whale
I had to add this to the list.

How many of these have you had? How many do you still want to try?