Friday, October 31, 2008


The Mistress of Sarcasm Deviltry, Hallowe’en 1987.

Yes! It is Friday once again. Not just any Friday, either: It is Hallowe’en, or as we Red Sea Pedestrians refer to it, Yom shel Noyische Garrischkeit.

The Missus is all decked out in full-bore Harlequin Mode, the better to entertain her students.

Hallowe'en SWMBO

This evening, in a departure from our usual custom of handing out sweet-meats to the neighborhood youth, we’ll head off to the Ferst Center for a radio show production of War of the Worlds. I’ve always had an abiding affection for Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre production of the story, possibly because the action was set in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey...just up the road from my Alma Mater. But the best part is avoiding having to answer the door eighty-five thousand times in order to fill the extortion-sacks of the local Urchin-Hordes. I mean, the little ones are cute enough (if clueless), but once they get old enough to shave, they probably ought to be finding something else to do. Like drinking and throwing up in the neighbor’s bushes.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Franklin, Tennessee along with our friends Gary and JoAnn, there to spend the weekend with the Mistress of Sarcasm and Gilad. It’s our annual Fall Getaway: last year Asheville, this year Nashville.

With all that exposition behind us, it’s time to take a look and see what random musical goodies are being horked out by the iPod d’Elisson. Lookee:
  1. Straight Up And Down - Chick Corea

    From the mid-1960’s vintage “Inner Space” album - my first exposure to the Chickster.

  2. Journey to the Center of the Earth - Prelude - Bernard Herrmann

  3. Kolmannen lin jan Mona Lisa - Tuomari Nurmio & Alamaailman Vasarat

    From the “Kinaporin kalifaati” album, which for all I know means “Picking Boogers” - anyone know any Finnish?

  4. Gone - Ben Folds

  5. For Lydia - Michael Leviton

  6. Rule Brittania - The Royal Marines

    I used this as part of the musical backdrop for our Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin dinner last year.

  7. Tiger Rag - Django Reinhardt

  8. Carey - Joni Mitchell

  9. The Council of Elrond - Howard Shore, The Fellowship of the Ring

  10. In Limbo - Radiohead

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


This morning, as the Missus and I were performing our respective Morning Ablutions, I released a small I am, alas, wont to do from time to time.

“Was it a stinky one?” asked She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Compared to what? But I understood her point. All farts are stinky, yet some are stinkier than others. There is a Spectrum of Fart-Stench Intensity, ranging from what SWMBO refers to as Sugar Farts on one end...and Zombie Crawled Up Your Ass and Died A Second Time Farts on the other. Everything from “mostly harmless” to “strips paint at fifty paces.”

She must have been reading my mind, because she picked up on the spectrum concept at the exact same time I did. (That’s one of the benefits of having been married over 31 years.)

“It’s like autism,” quoth the Missus, who knows about these things. “There’s a spectrum of intensity...”

“Right!” I responded. “So there are some farts that are like the kid who sits in the corner and rocks back and forth all day...

“ which case I’d say that this one is more like the kid who lacks social skills and talks about vacuum cleaners a whole lot. An Asperger’s Fart.”


Ghosts and goblins roam the streets
Collecting Dog- and Kitty-Treats.
Are they cuddly? Or are they scary?
I cannot say. For sure, they’re

Friday Ark #215 - the Trick or Treat edition - is afloat over at the Modulator.

Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats #242 returns to Chey’s Place. Be sure to stop by and visit while you’re working your way through the humongous pile of goodies that you (or your kids) will have collected tonight.

Update: CotC #242 is up.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


My friend Donnie Joe loathes what he calls “Dead Fruit” - raisins, prunes, and any other sort of desiccated fruity substances.

Raisinets - those chocolate-covered raisins beloved of moviegoers - do not get by him. That chocolate coating doesn’t fool Donnie Joe. Underneath it is the dreaded Dead Fruit.

I can only imagine how appalled he would be had he come upon Sunsweet’s latest attempt to sexify the Ambrosia of the Superannuated.

I speak, of course, of the lowly Prune.

Even people who happily consume raisins and dried currants by the barrelful will treat the Prune with utter disdain. Prunes are Old Man Food. Prunes keep you “regular.” They’re wrinkly, like little portable nutsacks.

Prunes are a joke.

When I speak of the Pomegranate Pile Driver, people wrinkle (ahh, there’s that word again!) their noses in contempt. Never mind that it tastes good. It’s made with prune juice, so it must be loathesome.

Sunsweet knows this...which is why they have gone the Rebranding Route. They have taken to calling prunes “Dried Plums” - as if that somehow will fool us.

“What’s that you’re eating? Is that a prune? Yecch!”

“What prune? This is a dried plum! See - it says so right here!”

“Ohhh...OK. Say, wanna get yer ashes hauled, you big, sexy dried plum-eating lug?”

But that’s not all. Checkit:

Chocolate Covered Prune Dried Plum Chunks!

Donnie Joe would be horrified. Say, we’re eating dinner with him and Laura Belle this evening...perhaps I oughta bring a bagful!

Update: As much as I love the ol’ Wrinkle-Fruit, this crap’ll never replace Raisinets. But still...Chocolate! Prunes!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Big-Eyed Fred
Fred cuddles up with the Missus.

Eric’s cat Fred has a remarkably sanguine, easygoing temperament. Here, he cuddles up to the Missus and manages to look relaxed despite the presence of some twenty-five-odd drunken bloggers pleasantly buzzed Online Journalists in the immediate vicinity.

Of course, he’s seen it all before. Fred is a veteran Blogmeet-Kitty.

The Missus thoroughly enjoyed Fred’s attentions, for Hakuna, as sweet as she is, is by no means a Lap-Kitty. She will sometimes deign to cuddle up next to one of us, but never will she climb aboard as her late sister Matata was wont to do. We miss that.

Lap-Cat Fred
Some serious Lap Time. (Check out that Hallowe’en thumbnail!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Tonight, after a weekend of debauchery at the Straight White Compound, my liver will be subjected to a renewed assault at the October Sommelier Guild event.

It will be at Le Giverny Bistro, over at the Emory Inn. I’ve never dined there before, so I’m looking forward to adding yet another restaurant to my “Been There, Done That” list. The wines were all gold medal winners in last month’s Vino Challenge, which means (in theory, anyway) that they should all be Tasty Good. Over seven hundred wines competed for a relative handful of top slots at the Vino Challenge...which, coincidentally, was held at Le Giverny.

Denny will be there – so he tells me – and I expect Houston Steve will be joining us as well. Here’s what we’ll have to suffer though:

Speaker’s wine
Dante Robino Extra Brut NV

First Flight
Henri Bourgeois Sancerre “Etienne Henri” 2003***
Vins Auvigue Pouilly Fuissé “Les Craye” 2005***
Jarvis Chardonnay Reserve 2006 2004

Sautéed rainbow trout Grenobloise

Second Flight
Maryhill Sangiovese Rosé 2007***
Viu Manent Malbec “Secreto” 2007
Consul Chileno Carmenere Reserve 2005

Suprême de poulet aux capres

Third Flight
Maryhill Zinfandel 2005
Maryhill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005***
Jarvis Cabernet Franc 2003

Bistro steak with three-cheese sauce

Quady Black Muscat “Elysium” 2007 2006***
Campagnola Recioto della Valpolicella 2005*** (Best of Show)

Choice of desserts

Valduero Reserva Premium 2001***

Gee...maybe they’ll have candy corn by way of observing Hallowe’en. Gaah.

Update: My wine preferences indicated by asterisks. And the food was excellent - worth the trip to Le Giverny for a personal outing with the Missus and friends.

Monday, October 27, 2008


A teacher acquaintance of mine recently had a run-in with a parent whose child had failed to turn in an assignment.

When the teacher contacted the parent to express disappointment that the assignment had not been completed - despite detailed advance written communication and instructions - that parent’s response was to get upset. How dare Mrs. Teachy-Pants humiliate little Johnny by telephoning his mother...right in front of him? Why, think of the damage to his precious self-esteem! Intolerable!

I listened to the tale with a sort of bemused wonderment. Ah, self-esteem. Parents these days seem to think children have a right to feel good about themselves.

Bull. Shit.

That warm fuzzy feeling of elevated self-worth is a privilege, not a right. Like respect, it is something that must be earned every day.

Sometimes a little humiliation can be a good thing, especially when it’s unpleasant enough to keep someone from repeatedly doing Stupid Shit. And, applied in occasional doses as needed to the young, humiliation can help a person learn proper behavior in a society of Human Beings. It tends to keep that big, puffy ol’ Wad of Self-Esteem tamped down where it won’t get out of control.

It worked with me.

Rewind the Videocassete o’ Life to sometime in the fall of 1958, when I was a newly-minted first grader. Every day, our teacher would give us a homework assignment, which we would then write down in our little composition book. We were then to take the book home, do the homework, and bring the book back to school.

This wasn’t integral calculus, mind you. It was work appropriate to six- or seven-year-old children. Adding numbers together. Spelling. Basic stuff...and nothing that took hours.

Well, it didn’t take long for Mr. Smart-Brains (Yours Truly) to figure out that the teacher didn’t actually look at that composition book to see whether we had done our assignments. She took it (I supposed at the time) on faith that we would do as we were told. And I, being completely and totally without Personal Honor at the time, reasoned that if the teacher did not check the books, there was no point in my pissing away precious Play-Time by actually doing the assignments. And so for about a month, I coasted.

Life was sweet.

And then one day, my mother collared me where I had been playing with the neighbor kids. “Show me your composition book!” she thundered.

Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I had, in fact, not managed to commit the Perfect Crime after all. For the teacher, relaxed and laissez-faire though she may have seemed, was no dummy. She could see that when the other kids wrote in their books, they were three-quarters through to the end...whereas I, Mr. Smart-Brains, was only a few pages in. The phone call to my mother was not long in coming after that.

Was I punished? I honestly do not recollect.

Was I humiliated? Absolutely...and I remember that feeling to this very day, a half-century later.

Self-esteem? Well, I didn’t know what that was, but if it was the feeling that I was a Good Person who had Done the Right Things, it was mighty thin on the ground.

But it was the last time I tried to pull a stunt like that in school.

Self esteem? We all want it...and as someone who spends a lot of time in search of Bloggy Self-Aggrandizement (don’t we all, Esteemed Ones?), I know how desirable it is. But, like many desirable things in life - thick steaks, expensive wines and spirits, the company of beautiful women, palatial dwellings, and the like - people are not queued up to hand it over to you. Ya gotta earn it...every single day.


Sometime in the next thirty seconds or so, Velociman will reach his millionth hit on Sitemeter.

Got there a bit sooner than expected, too. After averaging 355 hits a day for the past month, he got a month’s worth of visits in a single day, owing to one of his more notorious pieces of wit and wisdom having been picked up by Protein Wisdom...thence onward to James Wolcott at Vanity Fair...thence onward to Andrew Sullivan...and the Drudge Retort. I only discovered this when I figured out that the incessant migraine-inducing whirring I had been hearing all day was the sound of V-Man’s sitemeter drilling its way to the center of the Earth.

He’ll have enough venom in his comments section to supply a century’s worth of Claxton Rattlesnake Roundups, for sure. But we know our Vee-Man, do we not? He thrives on this sort of stuff. Eats it up like a cat nibbles on a turd-encrusted hairbrush.

I wonder if he has any prizes lined up for the lucky millionth visitor? You know, typical V-man swag: guns, monkeys, alcohol...or perhaps a gasoline-powered generator and a four years’ supply of powdered eggs ’n’ biscuits?

Friday, October 24, 2008


Mistress Art Composite

As a Proud Daddy, every so often I’ll put up a few pictures of the Mistress of Sarcasm’s fine artwork. And now I am pleased to announce - because, after all, what is the point of operating this Bloggy Pulpit if one cannot whore oneself out for the sake of one’s offspring? - that, if you are so inclined, you can now purchase the Mistress’s hand-crafted items for your very own.

Yes: the Mistress has her very own Online Craft- and Jewelry-Shoppe. Here’s the link, for your bookmarking convenience:

Jocelyn Gayle Designs

Keep in mind that, in these times of economic uncertainty and jobs moving offshore, that every purchase you make at Jocelyn Gayle Designs supports American entrepreneurship...and helps keep the wolf away from my little girl’s door. Plus, she crafts the kind of items that will have your friends sit up and take notice. Like her Birds pendant or Vertigo brooch, evoking the spirit of the late Alfred Hitchcock...or the “Bite Me” tooth X-ray pendant. Wear it to your next oral prophylaxis appointment and watch your dental professional’s astonished reaction!

Everything the Mistress sells is 100% hand crafted by her, right here in the good old USA. No Indonesian sweatshops! Not yet, anyway.


The week has seemingly flown by, and once again, it is Friday.

The seemingly endless parade of Jewish holidays (some of them fairly obscure, even to Jews) is over, with a two-month Holiday Drought having begun. And that's OK, since, if we need any more excuses for face-stuffing, we can enjoy secular festivities like Thanksgiving in the meantime.

This weekend, we’ll be heading off to the great Volunteer State of Tennessee, in order to help celebrate the birthday of the one, the only Eric, AKA Tennessee Jed. Quite a few of the Blown-Eyed Blodgers will be there, as well as other fine Online Web-Journalists from around the country. Eric’s birthdays draw bloggers like shit draws flies ambulances draw lawyers bright lights draw moths, it seems.

But enough tongue-flapping (keyboard-smacking?) for now. What Miscellaneous Music is being coughed up by the Little White Choon Box today? Let’s find out:
  1. I Was Made To Love Her - The Beach Boys

    A cover of the 1967 Little Stevie Wonder hit. For some strange reason, the background line (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her) sounds like “Hey, son of a bitch” unless you listen very closely. Strange...

    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)
    I was born in Little Rock
    Had a childhood sweetheart
    We were always hand in ha-a-a-a-and

    I wore high-top shoes and shirt-tails
    Suzy was in pigtails
    I knew I loved her even then
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    You know my papa disapproved
    My mama hoo-hoo-hooed
    But I told them time and time again
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    Don’t you know I was made to love her
    Built my world all around her
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    She’s been my inspiration
    Showed appreciation
    For the love I gave her through the years
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    Like a sweet magnolia tree
    My love blossomed tenderly
    My life grows sweeter through the years
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    I know that my baby loves me
    My baby needs me
    That’s why we made it through the years
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    I was made to love her
    Worship and adore her
    Hey hey hey
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    My little baby loves me
    My baby needs me
    And I know I ain’t goin’ nowhere

    I was knee-high to a chicken
    When the love bug bit me
    And I’ve had the fever through the years
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    If the mountain tumbles
    If this whole world crumbles
    I know I’ll still be standing there
    (Hey, hey...yes, I was made to love her)

    ’Cause I was made to love her
    I was made to live for her
    Hey hey hey

  2. Song Of The Nile - Dead Can Dance

  3. Idioteque - Radiohead

  4. Dam Mast Qalandar (Massive Attack Remix) - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

  5. Convalescing In Spain - The Judybats

  6. Angie - The Rolling Stones

  7. More Than One Way Home - Keb’ Mo’

  8. Bade Zile - Boukman Eksperyans

  9. Two-Part Invention in F Major - Wendy Carlos

  10. 3rd Planet - Modest Mouse

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


The Friday Ark sets sail at dawn.
And all of the animals want to get on.
There, nestled in a leafy bower,
Cockatiels meet for cockatiel hour.
And while the
kopi luwak perks,
We see a spaniel in the works.

Friday Ark #214 is afloat over at the Modulator.

Be sure, as well, to mark your calendar for Sunday evening, when Carnival of the Cats will be hosted at Cats in Maryland. Oooh, a new Carnival host...or at least one with which I am unfamiliar!

Update: CotC #241 is up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Breathes there a man
Quite so downhearted
As one who discovers
That he has just sharted?


Swedish Rye slice
Swedish whole-grain rye bread... buttered, of course.

Ask She Who Must Be Obeyed what her favorite food is, and she may surprise you.

Ice cream? Chocolate? Nope.

Potatoes... or bread... that’s another story. Get between the Missus and a hot chunk of freshly-baked bread and you may get a chunk bitten out of you.

And I understand, I really do. Because bread, in all its chewy, crusty goodness, is one of the real pleasures in life.

Like a lot of suburban kids of the 1950’s, I grew up on a diet of vile, squishy Wonder Bread. It’s a wonder I survived. But at least I had access to some good Ethnic Stuff. Jewish rye. Bagels and bialys. Challah, with its golden eggy sweetness. And, from the local German deli, Westphalian pumpernickel - the kind that comes in little loaves with the approximate density of Dwarf-Star Matter. The brownish-black slices (they’re only about 1/8-inch thick) are so moist and heavy, they have to be carefully pried apart with a knife. The Missus calls this stuff “nastybread,” but I love it.

Alas, I am lazy about baking my own bread. It’s a skill I would like to learn, but I have never spent much time investigating the mysteries of flour and yeast. We had a bread machine, but I was too lazy to use it more than once a year or so... and besides, isn’t the point of baking your own bread to get involved in the processes of kneading, proofing, raising, et cetera?

The other day, whilst browsing the food department (yes, there is one) at IKEA, I found the perfect Bready Item. No, it wasn’t the huge discs of Swedish crispbread (although I got some of that, too). It was - prepare to be astonished - Nastybread in a Box.

Yes: Swedish whole-grain rye bread, in the form of yeast, flour, and salt in a convenient gable-topped carton, looking like nothing so much as a half-gallon milk container. And so easy to make. Just open the top, dump in 20 ounces of lukewarm water, shake vigorously, then dump the resulting goop out into a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for 45 minutes, bake for an hour, and - presto! - fresh, hot nastybread! And no need for kneading.

Swedish Rye loaf
Fresh out of the oven. Nastybread!

I am happy to report that this stuff is pretty damn good. It does not taste like the other items IKEA sells, i.e., Scandinavian furniture. It is dense... but not quite as dense as Westphalian pumpernickel, a distinction for which your intestines can be grateful. And if you spread it with butter and Swedish lingonberry preserves, in a day or so you can create your own Lingon Logs. Oh, boy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Today was Simchat Torah, AKA the “Rejoicing of the Law” - the day we complete the annual Torah reading cycle by finishing the final chapters of Deuteronomy...and, almost without a pause, launching into the first verses of Genesis.

I’ve written about it before.

Today, I showed up at shul late, just in time for the Torah reading. But that’s the fun part, anyway.

Too bad we can’t take photographs, it being a holiday. Because photographs would provide hours of cackly amusement.

Picture it: On the right side of the Reader’s Table stands Lou, a spry eighty-one-year-old and one of the Learned Elders of the congregation. He’s wearing a frilly baby bonnet in lieu of his normal yarmulke.

In the center stands our senior rabbi, sporting a gimme cap and a mullet wig. Zonker would be proud. Instead of the silver yad he normally uses to point to the words in the Torah scroll, he has a two-foot-long stick with a plastic hand on the end of it. Looks like a back-scratcher, it does.

On the left - why, it’s none other than Elisson, with his genuine Cowboy Hat, doing his best imitation of Gabbai Hayes. (No, don’t ask me to explain it if you don’t get it.) I grab the rabbi’s pointer and threaten to use it as a nostril cleaner. Hilarity ensues.

Exceptionally this day, the first three readings are repeated over and over, until everyone who wishes to be called up to say the Torah blessings has had a chance to do so. Everyone... including couples and little kids. And afterwards, for those who wish a celebratory shot of Adult Beverage, the necessary supplies are right at hand.

Me, I have a few tastes of the Glenlivet Nadurra, a 16-year-old cask strength single malt. It definitely puts the Simcha - rejoicing - in Simchat Torah.

We move on to the final verses of Deuteronomy, which detail the passing of Moses. Bittersweet, for sure... to come this close to seeing your dream fulfilled, and then to have to look at the Promised Land from across the river, knowing that you will never set foot in it yourself. It’s a powerful image for all of us... for who among us has not had deeply-held, yet unfulfilled, desires?

And then it’s time to begin anew, to start the cycle over. To tell the story of Creation in words of poetry that, after thousands of years, still resonate with the music of the Divine.

Our Holiday Season, having begun at sundown September 29 with Rosh Hashanah, has come to a close. But for each of us, Jewish or not, it’s the beginning of a new year full of new beginnings. May your new beginnings be sweet.


Chicken Dinner
Dinner, courtesy of SWMBO. Clockwise, from top: Spinach salad, kale with avocado, pomegranate salt and pepper shakers (thanks, Hagar and Gilad!), chicken roulades, salt-roasted sweet potatoes.

She Who Must Be Obeyed is never thrilled when I post pictures and recipes.

“Your ‘Esteemed Readers’ think you do all the cooking. They don’t think I can even boil water. Schmuck.”

Actually, I made up the “schmuck” part. My Delicate Flower would never lob such a Vulgar Appellation at me.

But just to set the record straight, SWMBO does indeed cook. She is, in point of fact, a dab hand in the kitchen...and Monday night’s dinner furnished all the proof one could need.

Chicken Roulades stuffed with spinach and provolone...with a delicate panko crust. Recipe? The Missus made it up on the fly, pounding chicken breasts into thin sheets, rolling them up with spinach and provolone cheese, applying the panko coating, and oven-roasting the whole assemblage to a golden, delicious turn.

Gilad and I did our part. I contributed the baked sweet potatoes, which were prepared in the most intricate, difficult scrubbing the skins, coating them with kosher salt, and sticking them in the oven on a rack. And Gilad mashed up a mess of his kale and avocado salad. Excellent... especially when stuffed into the empty sweet potato skin like some sort of Bizarro-Sushi.

For dessert? The remnants of the Chocolate Angel Pie I had made for Gary’s birthday. It was... immense.

Bottom line: The Missus for damn sure can cook. Doubt it at your own risk.

And she’s waaaay cuter than Paula “Emeril with a Vagina and a Southern Accent” Deen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The kids - the Mistress of Sarcasm, Gilad, and Hagar - are on their way back to Nashville.

It’s a lot quieter here, all of a sudden. Almost too quiet.

And so, to liven things up, I present for your amusement the Walken Family Reunion, courtesy of SNL, (hosting the video), and Hagar (who sent me the link).

[Since Gilad and I can spend hours cracking each other up with our Chris Walken routines, it’s a perfectly appropriate sendoff.]

POSITIVELY ANGELIC... this Chocolate Angel Pie, specially made for our friend Gary’s birthday.

Chocolate Angel Pie

Chocolate Angel Pie. Mmmmmm, yummy.

The Angel Pie is basically a chocolate mousse pie; its main distinguishing characteristic is that, instead of a regular baked crust or a Graham cracker crust (that old Chocolate Pie Standby), it has a crust made of delicious, crispy baked meringue. Which makes it sort of like a Pavlova on steroids.

The first time I made one of these, it was for Elder Daughter’s second birthday...over 27 years ago. And it was very good.

I put the recipe aside for a long time, for Elisson does not need to be eating chocolate pie of any description, except on rare occasions. But when I trotted it out a couple of years ago, it was a big hit with Gary, who pronounced it the best pie he had ever tasted. Which is why he put in a Special Request...that I make a Chocolate Angel Pie for him on his birthday.

The recipe comes from one of my favorite Kitchen References: Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. Originally published in 1980, a new 2006 edition is now available...but my stained, dog-eared 28-year-old copy is my Chocolatey Bible, a source of inspiration and comfort in every season.

I have no idea what ol’ Maida looks like these days, but if she actually eats one-tenth of the things she writes about, each of her ass-cheeks must clock in at a quarter of a metric ton.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have pie to eat.

Chocolate Angel Pie

Every slice is nice.


Hakuna On Alert
Hakuna keeps a watchful eye on Neighbor, the Dark Invader.

Neighbor and Hakuna have been together at Chez Elisson ever since the Mistress of Sarcasm, Gilad, and Hagar showed up Friday. And there seems almost to be an agreed-upon détente between them.

So far, there has been only one instance of snarling Kitty-Bitchiness, despite Neighbor having the run of the house. Even more remarkable, Hakuna has not hidden herself away under our bed. She has been uncharacteristically bold, coming downstairs now and again or hanging out in the computer room. She’ll keep her distance from the Dark Invader, but she seems to have accepted the presence of another cat in the house with at least a little equanimity.

The only thing that pissed Hakuna off today was when I had to chivvy her out from one of her Hidey-Holes in order to shove her in her carrier and take her to the vet for her annual checkup. This time I managed to escape unscathed...for once.

I am pleased to report that Hakuna passed her physical with flying colors. Not bad for a thirteen-year-old dowager-kitty. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll come home to find her cuddled up with Neighbor just as she used to do with Matata (z"l).

But I won’t hold my breath. Peaceful coexistence is one thing. Love and kistence is another.

Neighbor and the Mistress
Neighbor gets a few skritches from her Human Mommy, the Mistress of Sarcasm.

Monday, October 20, 2008


It occurred to me recently that the modern Western worldview is heavily colored by the desire to see the hidden good.

Once upon a time, things were a lot simpler. You had your good guys and your bad guys, and there was no ambiguity about who was who. When we as children played Cowboys and Indians, the cowboys were the Good Guys and the Indians the villains. Multicultural sensitivities? Not in those less-complicated times.

It was easy, then.

Our cultural touchstones all reinforced the clear distinctions we all had learned at the earliest stages in our lives. Take “The Wizard of Oz,” for instance. There wasn’t a lot of debate about Good and Evil - it was clear as day, built right into the names of the characters. The Wicked Witch of the West (and her short-lived sister, the Wicked Witch of the East) were, well, Wicked. Duh. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, was Good. How simple does it get?

Many years later, along came “Star Wars,” George Lucas’s homage to the cliffhanger space-opera serials of the 1930’s. The original “Star Wars” - this was back before Lucas had thought to rechristen it “Episode IV - A New Hope” - was populated by classic Filmic Archetypes. The Young Hero. The Cynical Mercenary with the Heart of Gold. The Good Princess In Need of Rescue and/or Salvation. And, of course, the Bad Guys.

Darth Vader was a hella Bad Guy, clearly the Baddest Bad Guy in the Imperium. A dude who was so bad, wiping out entire planets’ populations was all in a day’s work. I’m sure even his vacations would have involved puppy-kicking or kitty-drowning on some resort planet.

“The Wizard of Oz” and “Star Wars” - both tales of worlds with no moral ambiguity. The good was good, the bad was bad, and you knew whose side you ought to be on. Stories that made perfect sense to people who grew up in the period following what Studs Terkel called “The Good War” - the war in which the Bad Guys were genocidal maniacs and the Good Guys...well, they were Us.

But for modern Westerners - Americans, in particular - this black-and-white view of the universe grew unsatisfying somehow. Our ability to believe in the existence of genuine Evil seems to have become compromised...and with it, our ability to believe in Good.

Evil isn’t really evil, you see, in a universe of moral relativism. It becomes a function of one’s point of view.

All of this came to me as I synthesized a few Revisionist Cultural Inputs to which I have been exposed. Viz., Jon Sciezka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, a 1996 book that purports to tell the real story of the eponymous swine...from the Big Bad Wolf’s point of view. I discovered this book through the good offices of SWMBO, who was using it as instructional material in her classroom, and found it both amusing and fascinating. Amusing...because it is written tongue-in-cheek. Fascinating...because it tells a familiar story from an unexpected point of view, leading to a complete reevaluation of the characters and their relative positions on the Good-Versus-Evil Spectrum - if one accepts its central premise.

Perhaps it is coincidence that Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the book upon which the hit musical “Wicked” was based, was published in 1995 - within a year of Sciezka’s magnum opus. Likewise, Wicked tells a familiar story from a new and different perspective, casting characters and their motives in a new (and largely more sympathetic) light.

We saw the musical last week at the Fabulous Fox, and it was a magnificent production...but afterward, I found myself thinking about - of all things - the Star Wars movies, and the devolution of Darth Vader, villain extraordinaire, from the blackest-hearted humanoid in the Galaxy to - what the fuck?!!? - a cute little kid. It was a predictable component of a story arc that went awry as soon as Vader uttered the fateful words, “Luke, I am your father” in The Empire Strikes Back.

Bad guys are so much more interesting when they are three-dimensional human beings, not cardboard cutouts of black construction paper. And everyone loves a good Redemption Story (“Save the evildoers...collect them valuable prizes!”). But Lucas went too far with Vader, who was so deliciously Eeeeeevil in the first Star Wars movie. The real Star Wars movie. Turning him into a misunderstood, heartbroken teenager with lava scars (worse, even, than acne!) made him weak and boring.

It was a little like the cartoon Nazis of “Hogan’s Heroes,” too stupid to be really evil...and bearing little relation to Real Nazis.

What is it about our society that makes us want to reexamine That Which Is Familiar in order to create an alternative narrative? All of this Modern Revisionism...where does it come from? And is it a good thing, or does it diminish the power of our old archetypes?

My suspicion is that a lot of this foolishness got started in the early 1970’s, in the closing years of the Nixon administration. That Watergate business taught us
several lessons that seem to have had a lasting cultural impact, among them that the government can and will lie to you and that things are not as they appear to be. The result is that we have become a cynical society that does not always trust the Official Explanation. And, I suppose, to some extent that is a good thing.

But it has a way of messing with our Sacred Archetypes.

When we know why the Bad Guy is bad, is he as bad? Is he even, perhaps, good? (And is it a good thing if he is good?)

What story is more compelling, the one in which unquestioned good combats unquestioned evil, or the one that purports to delve beneath the surface to find what might be a deeper truth? Can the second exist without the first?

The Missus is fond of saying that where there is a dispute - say, as in a divorce situation - there are at least three sides to the story. There’s his side, there’s her side...and there’s the truth.

In our search for that elusive Truth, do we lose something? Do all those shades of grey make it harder to see the crisp, clear divisions between the black and white, to be able to distinguish between good and evil in the real world?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The islanders’ lives changed forever when the French DC-3 crashed on the northern end of their lonely atoll. Within hours, they had removed everything edible from the smoldering wreckage.

Not even the oldest among them could remember such bounty... such rich, exotic foods. Surely the plane and its contents were gifts from the gods!

The islanders set to work building airplanes of palm fronds, filling them with ersatz snail shells carved from the local coconuts. But alas, no more delicious French food came from the skies.

Perhaps this Escargot Cult business was not what it was cracked up to be.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Every year, I purchase an etrog (AKA esrig), the bright yellow fruit that is a centerpiece of the Sukkot holiday ritual.

You order these things sight unseen here. If I were in Israel, I could do as the locals do, examining the fruit with a jeweler’s loupe, searching for minor defects to use as negotiating points. People have been known to spend a small fortune for a really nice-looking etrog. Kind of like the Japanese, who happily cough up an armload of yen for perfect melons, strawberries, et alia.

As I said, you order these things sight unseen, and hope you get a good-looking one.

This year, when my etrog showed up, it looked a little different:

Etrog Gadol

Bedam! A Runcible Etrog! Humongous, with a sort of groove across the midsection...I had never seen anything quite like it.

All kinds of possible captions suggest themselves. F’rinstance:
  • New and improved Etrog...with Handi-Grip!

  • Israeli Tickler!

  • Big Bird’s “Buzzy Buddy”...Batteries not included
Got any of your own? Leave ’em in the comments!

Update: Haveil Havalim #187 is up at Ill Call Baila.


Friday again. And not just Friday, but Friday right smack dab in the middle of z’man simchateinu, the season of our joy...the festival of Sukkot.

Sukkot is one of those holidays that has roots way back in the time before time, when primitive desert people would celebrate the fall harvest - mainly because a good harvest meant that they were less likely to starve to death during the coming winter. I mean, why else would we wave palm fronds and citrons around? (Aside from the sheer amusement value, of course.) The holiday, upon becoming subsumed by the nascent religion of the ancient Israelites, acquired new layers of meaning, but even today it resonates with something deep in our ancestral memories.

Holiday aside, we’re looking forward to an enjoyable weekend. The Mistress of Sarcasm is on her way down from Tennessee, with boyfriend Gilad and his sister Hagar in tow. And as if that were not enough, our friend Gary’s birthday is this Monday, so we will be celebrating Sunday evening. Oh boy...cake! No: even better than cake. Angel Pie!

Now to business. What Random Choons are being spewed forth by the iPod d’Elisson today? Let’s find out:
  1. Dybbuk Shers - The Klezmatics

  2. Kyle’s Mom’s A B**ch - Eric Cartman, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut

    Kyle’s mom’s a bitch, she’s a big fat bitch,
    She’s the biggest bitch in the whole wide world,
    She’s a stupid bitch, if there ever was a bitch,
    She’s a bitch to all the boys and girls.

    On Monday she’s a bitch
    On Tuesday she’s a bitch
    On Wednesday thru Saturday she’s a bitch
    Then on Sunday just to be different,
    She’s a Super King Kamehameha bitch

    Have you ever met my friend Kyle’s mom,
    She’s the biggest bitch in the whole wide world,
    She’s a mean old bitch, she has stupid hair,
    She’s a bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch
    Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch
    She’s a stupid bitch, Kyle’s mom’s a bitch,
    And she’s such a dirty bitch.

    Talk to kids around the world,
    It might go a little something like this...

    [Sung in three different languages by other children]

    Have you ever met my friend Kyle’s mom,
    She’s the biggest bitch in the whole wide world,
    She’s a mean old bitch, she has stupid hair,
    She’s a bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch
    Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch.
    She’s a stupid bitch, Kyle’s mom’s a bitch,
    And she’s such a dirty bitch;

    I really mean it,
    Kyle’s mom, she’s a big fat, stinking bitch
    Big old fat fuckin’ bitch,
    Kyle’s mommmmmmmmmmm
    Yeahhhhh, Chaaaaa

  3. Exaltation - Matisyahu

  4. It’s Money That I Love - Randy Newman

  5. Alech Taadi - Khaled

  6. Free Country? - Doug Stanhope

  7. Buy Her Candy - Sleater Kinney

  8. Harlem Shuffle - The Rolling Stones

  9. Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory - Traffic

  10. Watching The Detectives - Elvis Costello

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


All kinds of Carnivalic Activities going on this week...

This week’s Friday Ark is up, as always, at the Modulator...edition number 213.

Carnival of the Cats will be hosted by Life From A Cat’s Perspective this coming Sunday...edition number 240.

The latest Carnival of the Recipes has been posted at Everything And Nothing. Eat, bubbeleh!

And, finally, Haveil Havalim (Vanity of Vanities, AKA the Carnival of the Jews) is up at The Israel Situation...edition number 186.

Thassa lotta carnivals. What’re you waiting for...start clicking!

Update: CotC #240 is up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


At morning, or sunk in the depths of night,
I cannot think of anything to write.

Each day with Writer’s Block I have a fight;
I cannot think of anything to write.

Yes, blocked like a rat’s anus: very tight.
I cannot think of anything to write.

Perhaps a Photoshop, my friends to spite?
I cannot think of anything to write.

A Recipe, from which to cook a bite?
I cannot think of anything to write.

A picture of Hakuna bathed in light?
I cannot think of anything to write.

A post ’bout Politicians, left or right?
I cannot think of anything to write.

Rev Wright’s orations on the Evil White?
I cannot think of anything to write.

No, I cannot think of anything to write.
I think I will go out and fly a kite.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Sunroom Hakuna 101508
Hakuna catches some afternoon rays.

Looks downright regal, doesn’t she?


In keeping with her beloved annual ritual, She Who Must Be Obeyed has once again done her nails up Hallowe’en style.

SWMBO do love her some Hallowe’en fun. At least, the superficial, American greeting-card-and-chocolate version we all have come to know. Pumpkins, candy, and little kids in costumes...she’s down with the program.

Real creepy stuff? Dead, moldering bodies? Gooshy intestines hanging from eviscerated bellies? Ghostesses? No thanks, sez she. SWMBO wants as little to do with the Unexpected Visitor as possible. In that wise, she is very like Eric, who has a preternatural fear of zombies.

But unlike Eric, to whom the idea of, say, masquerading as a zombie on Hallowe’en would be completely anathema, SWMBO doesn’t mind the thought of getting dolled up in a creepy costume. What with her being a teacher and all, her kids would eat that stuff up.

And yet...who needs a costume when you can have these?

Scary Nails 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Lulav and etrog, the symbols of Sukkot.

Went to shul on Sukkot, davened hard as I can,
Bring home my
lulav, you take my lulav, wave it with the Rabbi man.
I should have quit you, baby, such a long time ago.
I wouldn’t be here with all my troubles, down by this
sukkah door.

Squeeze my
esrig, till the juice runs down my leg.
Squeeze my
esrig, till the juice runs down my leg.
The way you squeeze my
esrig, I'm gonna fall right out of bed.

- Led Kreppilach

Whether you call it an esrig or an etrog (according to whether you swing with the Ashkenazim or the Sephardim), it’s still the same old Beautiful Fruit...the symbol of the beloved Jewish festival of Sukkot.

Last night, as the harvest moon rose full and bright - Sukkot always begins on the night of a full moon, exactly two weeks after the start of Rosh Hashanah - I thought of how our festivals and our calendar keep us connected with the physical world around us.

Every month begins with the thinnest sliver of the New Moon...and ends with the vanishing Old Moon.

Sukkot, because it is observed by taking meals in the eponymous sukkot - little booths, temporary structures roofed with leaves and branches through which one can see the stars and moon - is the perfect fall holiday. As the leaves begin to change color, we enjoy those crisp, cool mornings and those warm and pleasant evenings (here, anyway) outdoors, rather than at a remove, from the insular comfort of our houses.

It’s my favorite time of year.

And it should be. For I was born on the first day of Sukkot 56 years ago. Yes: It’s my Hebrew birthday!

Anybody got a good recipe for Esrig Meringue Pie?

Monday, October 13, 2008


Back in my Snot-Nose Days, when school lunches cost the grand sum of twenty-five cents, one of the dishes on the Menu Rotation was something called “Hungarian Goulash.”

I don’t remember too many details, but I seem to recall a nondescript mess of beefy matter in a soupy brownish-red gravy, served over noodles. Not horrible, but not especially exciting. Certainly lacking the crispy fishy goodness of Friday’s fried flounder (invariably served with chopped spinach and boiled parsley potatoes, and always tasty)...but better than the nasty porky hot dogs or vile lasagna.

So when the new Cook’s Illustrated magazine showed up in my mailbox, you’d hardly expect me to get all worked up over a recipe for - yep, you guessed it - Hungarian Beef Stew, AKA Hungarian Goulash.

But it sounded so good.

It’s not a very complicated dish, really. Beef, onions, and a shitload of paprika. Anything else is window dressing...or technique. And CI is all about the technique, researching every recipe seven ways from Sunday in order to make it as good as humanly possible.

Since we were going to have Uncle Phil and Aunt Marge over for dinner, along with their bestest buddies Phred and Deley, I wanted something that I could prepare with minimal hands-on time, and that would pack a proteinacious wallop. So the goulash sounded just right.

Literally. It’s an amusing word. Say it a few times. Goulash. GOO-lash. Sounds like something you’d wear on your feet.

But it is, as it happens, easy enough to make. Try it!

Step One: Preheat the oven to 325°F. You’ll be cooking this slowly, and the oven is better than the stovetop as it allows the heat to attack the meat from both top and bottom.

Cook’s Illustrated recommends using a chuck eye roast for this. Eye, tuchus, whetever. I had scored a huge (about 4 pounds) plain old chuck roast at CostCo (where else?) a few days prior. I trimmed it and hacked it up into 1½-inch chunks, which I then sprinkled with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Why kosher salt? Why not? The meat then sat out and absorbed the salt as I prepped the other ingredients.

The biggest job was preparing the paprika. One 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained, goes into the food processor with 2 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp white vinegar, and 1/3 cup of sweet paprika. You process all this for a couple of minutes until you have a smooth paste. No food processor? Try a blender...although I cannot vouch for the results.

OK, so now it’s time to get out your trusty dutch oven. Place it on the stovetop over medium heat and put in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil, followed by four good-sized yellow onions, diced small. [Use real yellow onions, not those ridiculously mild Vidalias that lose all their flavor when you cook ’em.] Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. The onions should soften up nicely but not brown.

Now, dump in the paprika-pepper paste and stir well. Add one bay leaf and four carrots, sliced into one-inch rounds. Dump in the beef - you do not need to brown it first. Stir well until everything is coated with the paprika mixture - then cover and stick in the oven.

Every half hour or so, lift the lid and give the pot a stir. Cook for 2½ hours, during which time the onions will give up their juices and create a wondrous, aromatic gravy.

If the liquid level is low after this time, add about a cup of beef broth - enough so that about a half-inch of meat is above the liquid surface. [I did not have to do this - there was plenty of liquid in mine.] Cook for another half hour. The meat should, by now, be extremely tender.

During this last half hour, make yourself useful by boiling a big pot of water and preparing a mess of curly wide egg noodles. They’ll fit nicely underneath the goulash.

When you’re ready to serve the goulash, skim the (bright red) grease off the surface of the liquid with a ladle and add a teaspoon of white vinegar. If you want a bit of extra richness, add ¼ cup sour cream. [A truly authentic goulash does not involve carrots or sour cream, but what the hell.]

Ladle a nice pile of meat and sauce over those egg noodles. Now, breathe in that paprika aroma and taste that meltingly tender beefy goodness. Not bad for a bunch of Europeans who haven’t figured out how useful vowels can be!

What to drink? I’m sure a nice hoppy ale would work...but I went the wine route. And what better wine to enjoy with a Hungarian beef dish than Egri Bikaver, the famous “Bull’s Blood of Eger”? OK, “Bull’s Blood” is maybe a bit too fanciful of a name for a red wine, but it is, after all, the best-known dry red wine of Hungary, a country known mostly for its sweet Tokaji (Tokay) dessert wines. The 2004 Egri Bikaver was ridiculously modest in price (only $5 the bottle at Trader Joe’s) and full of flavor...just right for washing down what is, at its heart, a lusty, uncomplicated peasant dish.

This makes a perfect Hallowe’en meal, too. Just call it Hungarian Ghoul-Lash and you’re good to go.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Evidently, Velociman is not the only one with Monkey Issues.

We, too, will get our monkey on from time to time. Submitted for your consideration, these fine Simian Acquisitions:

This Sock-Monkey Dracula is the perfect Hallowe’en gift for our friend Donnie Joe, who has a strange sort of Sock-Monkey fixation.


Sockula says, “I vant to suck your...banana.”

And here’s a piece of Fine Art the Missus couldn’t resist...

Painted Monkey

An original oil in an ornate frame. Her eyes seem to follow you...

Monkeys! Gotta love ’em. Like people, except without politics.


A middle-aged dude in a car that’s sporty
Is advertising that he has a “shortie.”

And the man who drives a Lamborghini
May be compensating for a tiny wienie.

When one’s potency is cause for worry,
The cure is to buy an expensive Ferrori.

Concerned about length? Or possibly girth?
A costly vehicle will boost your Self-Worth.


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me...
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

- John Newton
Every so often, I get lost.

When I get lost in my own little Mental World, the Missus says that I’m “lost in the cheese aisle.” But sometimes I get physically misplaced.

It’s not that I wander off, like some Alzheimer Daddy...although that has happened on occasion. One time, a small horde of us visited Dahlonega. At some point in the proceedings, I walked into one of those old country stores on the square, oblivious to everyone else’s frantic attempts to determine my whereabouts. Eventually, we all hooked back up, but not before SWMBO spent several worried moments thinking that I had been abducted by either Space Aliens or a bunch of North Georgia Hill-Williams.

My ability to hide in plain sight may be partially at fault.

One time, the Missus left me at the local Borders as she went off to a few of the neighboring stores. I parked myself in a comfortable chair and grabbed a few books. After what seemed to be a few hours, I started getting nervous. Where had the Missus gone? Had she forgotten me? I started searching the nearby shops, all to no avail.

When I ran into a fuming mad, worried SWMBO in the parking lot, I found out what had happened. The Missus had gone back to the bookstore to find me, but somehow did not see me in what I had thought was a reasonably prominent location. She had me paged, but I (evidently) did not hear the page. After about an hour of fruitless searching, she started to become really concerned. Had I pulled an Elvis, collapsing in the restroom in Mid-Shit?

She called our friends Gary and JoAnn to enlist their help. And just as Gary was on his way into the bookstore, there to look in the Men’s Room for my unconscious body, she saw me striding across the parking lot...looking for her.

We were both tremendously relieved...and mightily pissed off at each other. But in retrospect, I am almost certainly to blame. Usually, I’ll just stand there in the aisles at Borders, devouring book after book. Perhaps I should not have sat down.

Because, apparently, when I sit down, I become invisible.

To wit: Once, the Missus and I were at one of the local malls, in a shop called White Slavery Black Face White House Black Market that specializes in - you guessed it - women’s wear in the basic colors of white and black. While the Missus ducked into a dressing room to try on a couple of items, I sat down on a convenient bench in the store, and promptly fell asleep.

Because being in the seated position renders me invisible, SWMBO did not see me snoozing there...and so she proceeded to spend the next hour and a half running the length and breadth of the mall, looking for me.

Maybe if I had had my cell phone, she could have contacted me. But no.

When I woke up, I had no idea where she was. But just as I began to call her (she had her cell phone) from the store’s land line, she spotted me.

“Where the hell were you? I’ve been looking everywhere!”

She had checked all my usual Mall-Haunts. Godiva. Lindt. The bookstore. All, of course, to no avail...because I had never left White House Black Market.

There is a solution, of course, and it is to be found in Modern Technology.

The same device that foils car thieves can be adapted to help find Misplaced Husbands. Simply attach it to the Wayward Helpmeet, and a radio signal can track him down, enabling rapid recovery.

I call it the Schmo-Jack. Anyone wanna invest?


Charlie sat in the chair in the plastic surgeon’s office. He tensed himself as the needle slid into his facial muscles.

Nothing wrong with having a little work done, he thought.

Charlie was 56 and was feeling every day of it. But the new BMW helped. Some hair plugs, a few nips and tucks here and there, and he could go after all of that sweet, young tail.

The next morning, he stared, horrified, into the mirror. His face was bone white, lips red. Flaming orange hair stood out from his head.

Maybe the Bozotox was a mistake after all.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Ahh, Friday. All the sweeter because it’s the day after Yom Kippur. We’re cleansed of our sins and ready to begin accumulating a whole new year’s worth of ’em.

Just five more days before the next big Hebraic Wingding, Sukkot, AKA the Festival of Tabernacles. It’s unique among Jewish holidays, being the only one named after a French-Canadian epithet (“Tabernac!”)

Meanwhile, we’re getting ready for a frantic, fun, family-filled weekend. Aunt Marge and the legendary Uncle Phil will be arriving this evening, the Other Elisson will join us mid-day tomorrow, and the Mistress of Sarcasm will be returning from her retreat and will stop by here enroute to Tennessee. Good times...but alas, it means that we will have to take a pass on the annual Blogtoberfest weekend in Helen.

So: What’s playing on the ol’ Choon-Box this week? Lessee:
  1. Act I, Scene 3: Mr. Premier, Distinguished Guests - John Adams, Nixon in China

  2. Kyyhylly - Alamaailman Vasarat

  3. Memories of Professor Longhair - Dr. John

  4. Reggae fi Radni - Linton Kwesi Johnson

  5. Karavaani kulkee - Tuomari Nurmio & Alamaailman Vasarat

  6. The Pipe - Mitch Hedberg

  7. Jambalaya - Professor Longhair

  8. Love Athena - Olivia Tremor Control

  9. Big Chief - Professor Longhair

  10. Mama Told Me Not To Come - Randy Newman

Wow - based on these Random Selections, I’m having a Finnish-Cajun Moment here, what with all the cuts from Alamaailman Vasarat (a Finnish band, self-described as playing kebab-kosher-jazz-film-traffic-punk-music band with a unique Scandinavian acoustic touch) and the late, great ’Fess.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Fuzzy tails, or fins and scales,
They’re all aboard when the Ark-ship sails.
Steve’s ecumenical Fauna-Collection
Is an animal lover’s idea of perfection.

Friday Ark #212 is asail over at the Modulator.

Sunday evening, be sure to check out Carnival of the Cats, to be hosted by Artsy Catsy. It’s Cat-terrific!

Update: CotC #239 is up...but at My Big Fat Orange Cat instead. Surprise!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


David Bogner, whose Treppenwitz site is one of the shining gems of the Bloggy-Sphere, has eloquently captured the spiritual journey we Jews undergo during the days leading up to Yom Kippur (which begins at sundown today).

Read and enjoy.

For my Jewish friends and family, an easy fast. And to all, a g’mar chatima tovah - may you be sealed for a good decree, and may this year be sweet.


A tale torn from the annals of SWMBO, Special Education Teacher:


One afternoon, a mother waited at the bus stop to meet her son as he came home from middle school...her normal practice. But this day, when the bus pulled to a stop, her son did not disembark. Instead, the bus driver got off.

The mother knew, instinctively, that her son was In Trouble. Not an especially unusual circumstance these days, alas.

“All right,” she asked the driver. “What did the little shit do now?”

The bus driver looked embarrassed. He cast his eyes toward the ground, unable to look the mother in the eye as he answered:

“He said ‘shit.’”


True story...and exactly 100 words.

Monday, October 06, 2008


It’s not the best job in the world, but it has its little satisfactions. Watching my clients develop and grow, learning to work new muscle groups.

It’s not Olympic gold, but my career options went South after a handful of my prize athletes got nailed by the Steroid Police. At least my work as a personal trainer pays the bills.

“Squeeze! Yeah, that’s it. Ten more seconds.”

My clients are tough, but most of ’em eventually make good progress. I don’t even care when one of ’em pees. In fact, I’m glad.

Hank Stanley, Personal Toilet Trainer. Pleased to meetcha.


Every once in a while, even She Who Must Be Obeyed will get a hankering for some Red Meat.

We were browsing in the Great Big Honkin’ Hunka Protein department at CostCo yesterday. I grabbed a nice big chuck roast, to be hacked up into tasty chunks with which I will make a Hungarian goulash later this week...but SWMBO spotted some nice New York strips and shoved those into the cart.

“How about steak and baked potatoes tonight?”

Man, you gotta love a woman who will suggest a Steak-and-’Tater Dinner.

As soon as we got home, SWMBO turned on the oven, cranking it up to 450°F...nice and hot. I scrubbed a few Russets and rubbed kosher salt on the skins while they were still wet, then set them on a rack over a baking pan. Into the oven they went.

A properly baked potato has a crisp jacket with a thin caramelized layer just underneath, and a fluffy, delicious core that requires naught but a dab of butter to make it perfect. Greasing the jacket with oil does not improve the potato; wrapping it in foil is a grave blunder, resulting in horrible steamed Potato-Flesh. I am always appalled when I see a restaurant wrapping its potatoes in foil. It bespeaks a certain contempt for the clientele.

The microwave has much the same effect. Nuke your ’tater if you must, but recognize that it is a sad, desperate stopgap to be used only when you have no time to devote to a real baked spud.

For the meat, a simple rub composed of black pepper, kosher salt, and paprika.

As the meat sat there, absorbing the rub, I had a brainstorm.

Once upon a time, back in the days when Eastern Airlines was still flying (remember them?), they would, on some of their flights, serve a filet mignon with a little melba-toast crouton underneath. The filets were, almost always, horribly overdone and tasted steamed - what could you expect for food prepared on an airplane? - but that crouton, saturated with the tasty juices of the meat, was Damned Good.

We had a humongous two-pound loaf of challah bread, almost untouched. Slices of that bread would make fine croutons, it seemed to me, and so I proceeded to hack off a few Pullman loaf-sized tranches. A few minutes in the toaster while the steaks sat on the grill, and those monster croutons were a happy golden brown.

After an hour, the potatoes were done. The meat was ready to come in off the grill, and the green beans were nice and hot. Add SWMBO’s salad - butter lettuce with avocado and pine nuts, dressed with a balsamic vinegar and a little extra-virgin olive oil - and Presto! Dinnertime!

I enjoyed my steak with a little garlic butter on top and that nice big toasted challah crouton underneath. It was...immense. Like a giant open-faced Steak Sammitch.

Better than anything I ever tasted on Eastern Airlines, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


The Mistress and Gilad

The Mistress and Gilad in front of “Tanks A Lot,” the Georgia Aquarium’s largest single exhibit.

Last week we went to the Georgia Aquarium with the in-laws, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and Gilad.

While the main attraction was the Titanic Aquatic exhibition, I also like to go look at the fishies, of which there are plenty.

There are little bitty fishies...

Fishies 04

There are great big fishies...

Whale Shark

There are fishies that don’t look like fishies...

Leafy Seadragon

And there are fishies that are not even fishies.


And then there’s my favorite...

Novy and Brie

Salmon. The Nova Scotia kind, here shown with Brie and capers on an English muffin.

Edible fishies!

More fishies below the fold.

Artistic Catfish

Careful! He’d just as soon barb you as look at you.

Fishies 01

Colorful little guys.

Fishies 02

These are Giant Candiru, horrifying parasitical fish that lodge in the urethrae of hippopotamuses. Actually, I just made that up. But it’s something to think about, eh?

Fishies 03

Catching some rays.

Fishies 05

Sea anemones. Not fish, not plants. Coelenterates!

Fishies 08

Giant Japanese crabs. Infestations may be resolved through the use of Permethrin in the extra-large economy size.

Fishies 09

I forget what these dudes are called.

Fishies 10

I forget what these dudes are called, too...but they live in the same tank with that damned octopus. So I’m guessing they’re freaked out most of the time.

Fishies 11

Beluga whale. Looks like a sex toy for the 50 Foot Woman.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


“The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” - Ralph Carpenter

“It ain’t over until it’s over.” - Yogi Berra

“The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sticks a knife in her kishkas.” - Mr. Debonair


We just got back from the Atlanta Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly, proof positive that a good performance has the power to affect your emotions...even when you know exactly how the story is going to turn out.

Madama Butterfly is a musical tragedy. American naval officer marries Japanese girl; she takes the marriage seriously, while he does not. She is in love; he has a case of the Hot Pants. He abandons her, returning three years later (blond American wife in tow) to find that he has a three-year-old son. He asks to take the son so that his new wife can raise him as her own. Butterfly, heartbroken, agrees - and kills herself.

Schmuck, thy name is Pinkerton. Self-delusion, thy name is Butterfly.

Bringing opera glasses (we were in the nosebleed section) may have been a tactical error. The soprano who played Butterfly did a magnificent job, but she was not the sylph-like teenager you’d expect to see in the role. More like Madama Brunhilde than Madama Butterfly, if you get my drift. Downright scary when seen through the Close-Up Lens. But that is neither here nor there.

Mr. Debonair Goes to the Opera. If I had any more culture, I’d be yogurt.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Those of my Esteemed Readers who are of a certain age may remember the days of the reel-to-reel tape deck.

I’m not talking about the Philips compact tape cassette. Cassettes (now obsolete in our world of digital music) were wonderfully convenient, a popular medium for audio recordings back in the days when the only way to record your own mixes or make your own copies was to dub them onto tape. I still have a pile of cassettes that I recorded back in the mid 1970’s off my voluminous LP collection for use in my car stereo.

Cassettes were a hell of a lot easier to use than reel-to-reel tapes, which had to be threaded through the machine and onto a take-up reel...but for sheer sound quality in those analog days, it was hard to beat ¼" magnetic tape running at 7½ or 15 ips. You didn’t need Dolby noise reduction, which was invented to overcome the limitations of the compact cassette - the signal-to-noise ratio was high, and there was little flutter or wow.

The main problem with tape, as opposed to, say, an LP, was that tape is not a random-access medium. With an LP, you can pick the needle up and put it on any spot on the record, any time you want. With CD’s, random access is even easier - just push a button to jump from track to track or to fast-forward. But with tape, you have to wind the tape forward or rewind it to reach a specific spot. And as with audio, so too with video. (Anyone remember videotape? VHS? Bueller? Bueller?)

The written-word analogy to audio- or videotape is a parchment scroll, something with which we Jews are quite familiar. For while we may study Torah from printed, bound volumes, public readings must be conducted using a hand-inscribed scroll of kosher parchment. And while the regular weekly cycle of readings begins “In the beginning...” and works its way to the end of D’varim (Deuteronomy) over the course of the year, special readings for holidays, fast days, new moons, et cetera, tend to jump around. And since a scroll (unlike a printed book) is not a random access-friendly document, it means fast-forwarding or rewinding.

In the beginning...

“In the beginning God created heaven and earth...”
The first panel of Genesis from a ~350-year-old Torah scroll. [Click to embiggen.]

Take Rosh Hashanah, for example. On each day, there is a series of readings from the book of Genesis, followed by a final reading (“Maftir”) from Numbers. After completing the first series, you’d have to roll the scroll from one end to about a quarter from the other end, a time-consuming operation. Rather than force the congregation to sit and twiddle their collective thumbs while the scroll is fast-forwarded, we employ a simple solution: two scrolls, each pre-rolled to the appropriate place.

The operative word here being pre-rolled. Somebody’s gotta do it in advance.

Thus, this morning, there was a whole lotta Holy Rolling goin’ on.

One of our scrolls had been positioned at the end of Exodus for yesterday’s special reading, it having been a minor fast day (AKA “half-fast”). But tomorrow, it needs to be almost at the end of Deuteronomy for the regular Shabbat reading.

Roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll.

Another scroll was near the beginning of Genesis for the second day of Rosh Hashanah, when we read about the binding of Isaac. It, too, needed to be rolled to the end of Deuteronomy.

Roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll.

It’s a two-man job, this Holy Rolling, and it moves quickly once you get the right rhythm going. Good exercise, too. And exercise always is more fun when you can hum a little tune:

Rolling, rolling, rolling,
Keep them Torahs rolling
Rolling, rolling, rolling,

[A note to the observant: The image of the Torah scroll above has been carefully Photoshopped to avoid potential desecration of the Name. While some observant Jews and/or considerate Christians will substitute a hyphen for the “o” - thus, “G-d” - I don’t have a problem writing the word “God” in English. But in Hebrew, it’s another matter entirely. Now, however, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of printing the above photograph and treating same with less than the appropriate respect.]


Friday, sweet Friday, has come round again. Yay!

Things are pretty quiet at Chez Elisson for the moment. She Who Must Be Obeyed is at work...the Mistress of Sarcasm is away at a retreat in south Georgia...boyfriend Gilad is back in Nashville...and the In-Laws have returned to Foat Wuth.

Not that we will lack for entertainment.

Tonight, we’ll head off to the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech to see the Capitol Steps, a musical group (“we put the MOCK in democracy”) that lampoons politicos on both sides of the aisle. There is plenty of grist for their Silly Mill these days...

And tomorrow, the Birthday d’Elisson, it will be music of a more serious nature as we attend a performance of Madama Butterfly at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Love! Hot Asian Babes! Self-delusion! Abandonment! Suicide! I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, let’s see what’s on the box this week:
  1. Kouman Sa T’a Ye - Boukman Eksperyans

  2. Compared to What - Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express

    The Les McCann and Eddie Harris version (from the “Swiss Movement” album, an impromptu session recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969) is my favorite.

  3. Sandwiches - Mitch Hedberg

  4. My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada - Avenue Q, Original Broadway Cast

  5. Zerafewa - Maritu Legesse

  6. Rider in The Rain - Randy Newman

  7. Till There Was You - The Beatles

  8. Blackbird/Yesterday - The Beatles

    From the “Love” remix. Best listened to in Dolby 5.1 surround sound.

  9. Humoresque in G-Flat Major - Boston Symphony Orchestra, Dvořák in Prague

  10. Act II - Braid The Raven Hair - The Mikado, D’Oyly Carte Opera Company

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


It’s Friday morning. I cannot wait
To fire up the ’puter and modulate.
I’ll visit the Ark, a floating city
That’s packed with insect, dog, and kitty.

Friday Ark #211 is afloat at the Modulator.

If you need an additional fix of Fuzzy Fun, set aside some time Sunday evening to visit the Carnival of the Cats (that most venerable of Kitty Carnivals), the 238th installment of which will be hosted by Kashim and Othello over at The Catboys Realm.

Update: CotC #238 is up.