Sunday, November 30, 2008


...the Mistress of Sarcasm tells us about her cat.

No, not Neighbor...or Matata...or Hakuna.

Stripes, 1985
Stripes, in 1985.

Long before any of those kitties became a part of our lives, there was Stripes. I’ve written about him before, but never with quite the same eloquence - and Unconventional Orthography - as did the then-seven-year-old Mistress:

Concerning Stripes

Ah, the Innocence of Yoot™!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Nanner Puddin'
Gilad works Pudding Magic.

In this part of the world, Banana Pudding is more properly called “Nanner Puddin’,” and it is more than a mere dessert. It is a Religion.

There are any number of ways to dessertify a banana. Those inclined to simplicity can simply peel and eat one, but if you crave something a bit more complicated, options abound.

You can slice up a banana and decorate each slice with a clump of peanut butter. Melted chocolate (milk or semisweet) is optional. You can use the banana as a base for a traditional banana split. You can mash bananas and convert them into Banana Nut Bread. You can toss ’em in a skillet with some butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, banana liqueur, and dark rum, cook ’em down, and dump the resulting mess onto vanilla ice cream. Presto: Bananas Foster!

I freakin’ love Bananas Foster.

But if you have even a drop of Southern blood in your veins, you will, first and foremost, think of Nanner Puddin’.

Traditionally, Nanner Puddin’ consists of a layered mixture of Nilla™ vanilla wafers, a vanilla pudding, and sliced ripe bananas, buried under a layer of meringue. Variations abound, some of them unfortunate (Paula Deen’s version, which includes cream cheese; and any recipe that involves prepackaged instant vanilla or banana pudding), some neutral, and some excellent.

When Gilad and the Mistress of Sarcasm were casting about for something to contribute to our Thanksgiving groaning board, they thought of the superb Nanner Puddin’ served at Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah. BitD makes their pudding in individual cups; they use whipped cream in lieu of meringue; and in place of the Nilla wafers, they use their own home-baked shortbread. The result is mind-bendingly good.

Banana Pudding
Shortbread layered with sliced bananas. The vanilla-flavored goop comes next.

Gilad ended up modifying a standard recipe by substituting shortbread chunks for the Nilla wafers, BitD-style. The result? A serious Calorie-Bomb: made-from-scratch vanilla pudding meets made-from-scratch shortbread meets yummy sliced bananas, all buried under a cloud of meringue...and then baked until golden. [An alternative version of the recipe (featuring Nilla wafers) is here.]

Holy Fuckamoley.

It’s the shortbread that elevates this dessert from the sublime to the ridiculously sublime. Shortbread, after all, is nothing but sweet butter, sugar, and a dab of salt...with just enough flour to hold it together in one clump when you bake it. Along with single malt whisky, it’s something for which we must be eternally grateful to the Scots.

If it were not for the fact that my ass expands simply by virtue of our having this stuff in the house, I would want to use this incredible recipe as a jumping-off point. Would the meringue be even better with a few crumbled amaretti cookies in it? Would adding a tablespoon or two of dark rum to the pudding kick the whole enterprise up a notch? Who knows? Anyone wanna find out?


Did you hear about the larcenous baker? They fired him from his job...

...for pinching a loaf at work.


...convert the prosaic into the marvelous.

Roast Turkey

Three hours at 450˚F changed a twenty-pound bird into the crisp-skinned, succulent marvel you see here.

Here’s a baking sheet loaded with (most of) the various ingredients for Saveur magazine’s Roasted Cranberry Sauce. You have here cranberries, sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, kosher salt, orange zest, olive oil...and a sliced-up jalapeño pepper.

Roasted Cranberries - Raw.jpg

After a mere fifteen minutes of 450˚F heat, that pile of raw materials has become something New and Different. And delicious.

Roasted Cranberries - Cooked.jpg

Like everyone else, we have our Family Traditions. No Thanksgiving Day meal is complete without two - count ’em - kinds of canned Ocean Spray cranberry sauce: whole berry and jellied. There’s something about the way that stuff schhhhlurps out of the can in one solid, jellified, easily sliceable chunk that’s irresistible.

But we like to have a few Exotic Variations, too. For years, I’d make a cranberry-orange compote flavored with a shot of Cointreau...a nice change of pace. More recently, we have had peach-cranberry sauce (not bad) and blueberry chutney (excellent). The above Roasted Cranberry Sauce, with its many layers of flavors and its kick of hot pepper, is a welcome addition to our Palette o’ Cranberry-Related Condiments. Perhaps you will like it as well.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Today is Black Friday, the day when the Christmas shopping frenzy kicks into high gear and when merchants hope to pad their balance sheets. It is also Impacted Intestine Friday, when ol’ Mr. Turkey works his slow and painful way through the duodenum.

She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Mistress, and Gilad will no doubt be working to help the American economy in its recovery process, while I go out and smack the Little White Pill around the golf course. To those who deride the game of golf, saying that it is not exercise, I say “Nonsense.” It is too exercise. An exercise in frustration.

Meanwhile, the iPod d’Elisson awaits, with its Random Musical Spewage. Let’s listen...
  1. I’m So Tired - The Beatles

  2. Tande M Tande - Boukman Eksperyans

  3. Woe-Is-uh-Me-Bop - Captain Beefheart

  4. Tea for the Tillerman - Cat Stevens

  5. The Mikado, Act II: There Is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company

    KATISHA: There is beauty in the bellow of the blast,
    There is grandeur in the growling of the gale,
    There is eloquent outpouring
    When the lion is a-roaring,
    And the tiger is a-lashing of his tail!

    KO-KO: Yes, I like to see a tiger
    From the Congo or the Niger,
    And especially when lashing of his tail!

    KATISHA: Volcanoes have a splendor that is grim,
    And earthquakes only terrify the dolts,
    But to him who’s scientific
    There’s nothing that’s terrific
    In the falling of a flight of thunderbolts!

    KO-KO: Yes, in spite of all my meekness,
    If I have a little weakness,
    It’s a passion for a flight of thunderbolts!

    BOTH: If that is so,
    Sing derry down derry!
    It’s evident, very,
    Our tastes are one.
    Away we’ll go,
    And merrily marry,
    Nor tardily tarry
    Till day is done!

    KO-KO: There is beauty in extreme old age -
    Do you fancy you are elderly enough?
    Information I’m requesting
    On a subject interesting:
    Is a maiden all the better when she’s tough?

    KATISHA: Throughout this wide dominion
    It’s the general opinion
    That she’ll last a good deal longer when she’s tough.

    KO-KO: Are you old enough to marry, do you think?
    Won’t you wait till you are eighty in the shade?
    There’s a fascination frantic
    In a ruin that’s romantic;
    Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?

    KATISHA: To the matter that you mention
    I have given some attention,
    And I think I am sufficiently decayed.

    BOTH: If that is so,
    Sing derry down derry!
    It’s evident, very,
    Our tastes are one!
    Away we’ll go,
    And merrily marry,
    Nor tardily tarry
    Till day is done!

  6. Stag-o-Lee - Professor Longhair

  7. Bumblebee - Leo Kottke

  8. Boys - The Beatles

  9. Thunder Child - Jeff Wayne

  10. Suzanne - Randy Newman

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


For pointing this out,
Please don’t think me jerky:
The Ark’s complement
Is minus one Turkey.

Friday Ark #219 is afloat over at the Modulator. Don’t look for any turkeys there, though. The one that had been here at Chez Elisson since early in the week is now nestling snugly in my small intestine.

Lest we, in our tryptophan-induced lassitude, forget - the Carnival of the Cats, in its 246th incarnation, goes up Sunday evening at Nikita’s Place, AKA Musings of a Mad Macedonian. Don’t forget to stop by as you’re cleaning the last meat offa that turkey carcass!

Update: CotC #246 is up.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


As I sit here digesting a magnificent Turkey Dinner, it occurs to me that it seems like only yesterday that it was last Thanksgiving.

Intellectually, I know that there has been a year’s worth of water under the Bridge o’ Life. Emotionally, it seems like mere minutes.

I often say that time flies when you’re having fun, and even when you’re not...and the speed of that flight increases with every passing year. For it is a cruel fact of nature that as one gets older, life seems to speed up.

I call it Elisson’s Law of Proportional Perception. As we age, each year is a smaller fraction of our lifespan; thus, over time, the years seem to shrink, diminishing in apparent length a little bit every trip around the Sun.

It’s a cruel trick of nature. The less time we have left on the planet, the faster it seems to go. When you’re circling the drain, each orbit is more rapid than the one that preceded it...and that drain gets closer and closer.

But enough depressing musing. We’ve had a Big Feed, our collective kishkes are extracting buttloads of tryptophan from all that Turkedelic Protein, and the ladies are already planning the morrow’s shopping expeditions (gaaahhhh). It has been a wonderful day...and had Elder Daughter been here, it would have been perfect.

I hope your Thanksgiving was at least as enjoyable.


Window Neighbor

Hey! Did anybody else just see a really large bird?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


We proclaim that You are the Lord our God and God of our ancestors throughout all time. You are the Rock of our lives, the Shield of our salvation in every generation. We thank You and praise You morning, noon, and night for Your wondrous kindnesses. Our lives are in Your hand; our souls are in Your charge. You are good, with everlasting mercy; You are compassionate, with enduring lovingkindness. We have always placed our hope in You.

For all these blessings we shall ever praise and exalt You.

May every living creature thank You and praise You faithfully, our deliverance and our help. Praised are You, beneficent Lord to whom all praise is due.

The above is the “Modim” prayer, part of the Amidah - nineteen benedictions (seven on the Sabbath) recited thrice daily by observant Jews.

The need to express thanks to a Higher Power is - on this planet, anyway - a uniquely human need. And whether or not you believe in such a Higher Power, and regardless of the form such beliefs may take, it’s probably not a bad thing to acknowledge that the miracles of everyday life are something to be appreciated, something for which to be grateful.

In America, we have a holiday set aside for that very purpose...but in a land where, despite whatever temporary setbacks there may be, most people have it pretty frickin’ good, every day ought to be Thanksgiving Day. Can I have an “Amen”?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The first shot of Thanksgiving has been fired: The stock that we’ll be using as a base for the turkey gravy is simmering away happily on Darth Stover.

Most of the advance work will kick off tomorrow. She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn’t like a last-minute frantic rush in the kitchen, so she will be doing most of the Heavy Lifting much as possible, anyway.

What’s on the menu? Let’s take a look:

The Main Event will be an Apple-Scented Roast Turkey with Cider-Calvados Gravy. We tried this recipe last year and it went over well, with moist white meat perfumed with layered flavors of apples and ancho chiles.

We’ll try something old: the traditional Green Bean Casserole familiar to millions...except ours will be made from scratch with fresh green beans and mushrooms. No canned Cream o’ Mushroom Soup.

And something new: Roasted Brussels sprouts and parsnips. Roasted root vegetables are a fine seasonal choice.

The Missus likes to make two different types of dressing (AKA stuffing). One is a Sausage-Rice Stuffing with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, a family favorite for the past 26 years; the other is a more traditional version made with focaccia croutons, herbs, and celery. Both are seriously yummy.

Not enough starch? There’s more. Corn Pudding...and Sweet Potato Pudding “Gary,” hand made by Gary hizzownself. Still more: Carrot soufflé. Baked acorn squash.

Oh - and the usual assortment of Cranberry-Related Condiments.

In years past (as though one could actually cram a dessert into one’s cake-hole after such an over-the-top feast), we’ve served an assortment of pies, including the infamous Greenwood’s Holy Shit Chocolate By Gawd Cream Pie. But we have not, as yet, decided upon a dessert.

Perhaps a Bromo-Seltzer.

The best news? The Mistress of Sarcasm and Gilad are on their way. They’ll be here tonight (keyn ayin hara) instead of tomorrow. Joy!

Update: The kids arrived safely at about 12:30 a.m. The turkey is now sitting in the brine, where it will remain until tomorrow morning. The Roasted Cranberry Sauce (with jalapeño, cardamom, orange zest, and port) is done...and just for good measure, SWMBO is whipping up a batch of broccoli soup.


From Adam Lawson comes this snazzy little 100 Life Experiences Meme. Simply indicate the things you’ve done (or claim to have done) in boldface...

  1. Started your own blog


  2. Slept under the stars

  3. Played in a band

  4. Visited Hawai’i

  5. Watched a meteor shower

    One of the most romantic moments I’ve ever spent was cuddled up with SWMBO on our deck late, late one night, watching the Leonids. At least, I think they were the Leonids. Seeing those streaks of light painting the sky was sheer magic.

  6. Given more than you can afford to charity

  7. Been to Disneyland

    And Disney World.

  8. Climbed a mountain

  9. Held a praying mantis

  10. Sang a solo

  11. Bungee jumped

    No fuckin’ way, José.

  12. Visited Paris

  13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

  14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

  15. Adopted a child

  16. Had food poisoning

  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

  18. Grown your own vegetables

  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

  20. Slept on an overnight train

    In a real honest-to-Gawd Pullman car, no less.

  21. Had a pillow fight

  22. Hitchhiked

  23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

  24. Built a snow fort

  25. Held a lamb

    In my stomach...does that count?

  26. Gone skinny dipping

  27. Run a marathon

  28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

  29. Seen a total eclipse

    I’ve seen total eclipses of the Moon, but I’m assuming that what is meant here is a much rarer phenomenon: the total solar eclipse. I have seen an annular eclipse (even rarer, but less dramatic), but no total solar eclipse. Not yet, anyway.

  30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

  31. Hit a home run

  32. Been on a cruise

  33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

    I didn’t even get the urge to urinate.

  34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

  35. Seen an Amish community

  36. Taught yourself a new language


  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

  38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

  39. Gone rock climbing

  40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

    Well, sorta.

  41. Sung karaoke

    In Indonesian, too!

  42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

  43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

  44. Visited Africa

  45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

  46. Been transported in an ambulance

  47. Had your portrait painted

  48. Gone deep sea fishing

  49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

  50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

    I have, however, been to the top of the Tokyo Tower...which is a hair taller.

  51. Gone SCUBA diving or snorkeling

    Snorkeling, si - SCUBA diving, no.

  52. Kissed in the rain

  53. Played in the mud

  54. Gone to a drive-in theater

  55. Been in a movie

  56. Visited the Great Wall of China

  57. Started a business

  58. Taken a martial arts class

  59. Visited Russia

  60. Served at a soup kitchen

  61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

  62. Gone whale watching

  63. Got flowers for no reason

  64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

  65. Gone sky diving

    Ahhhh, no.

  66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp

  67. Bounced a check

  68. Flown in a helicopter

  69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

  70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

  71. Eaten caviar

  72. Pieced a quilt

  73. Stood in Times Square

    Not on New Year’s Eve, though. Are ya nuts?

  74. Toured the Everglades

  75. Been fired from a job

  76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

  77. Broken a bone

  78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

  79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

  80. Published a book

    What? You don’t own a copy?

  81. Visited the Vatican

  82. Bought a brand new car

  83. Walked in Jerusalem

  84. Had your picture in the newspaper

  85. Read the entire Bible

    Even that “New Testament” thingy.

  86. Visited the White House

  87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

  88. Had chickenpox

  89. Saved someone’s life

  90. Sat on a jury

  91. Met someone famous

  92. Joined a book club

  93. Lost a loved one

  94. Had a baby

    I assume this to mean, in my case, “fathered a baby,” since actually having a baby is beyond my physical capabilities.

  95. Seen the Alamo in person

  96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

  97. Been involved in a law suit

  98. Owned a cell phone

  99. Been stung by a bee

    Not since my Snot-Nose days, keyn ayin hara.

  100. Read an entire book in one day

    I’ve read entire books while standing up.

Fifty-three out of one hundred: not bad. How about you? Which of these things have you done?


This morning, as I pulled out of the driveway on the way to shul, I saw the thin sliver of a crescent moon riding in the eastern sky. It was the merest wisp of a moon, a curved white line in a sky that was already beginning to feel the illuminating rays of the dawning sun.

As a 21st century man, I can only imagine the wonder and awe with which our distant ancestors gazed upon our Natural Satellite, watching it wax and wane with the relentless progression of month and month.

I have the benefit of Modern Science.

I know that in one day, the Moon will be invisible, and that in fifteen days it will be full, a circle of white light lifting itself over the horizon just after sunset. I know that it shines by the reflected light of the Sun and that its phases are the result of changes in its position relative to Earth and Sun. I know that, in my own lifetime, men have walked upon its surface and returned home safely. I have seen chunks of it, close enough to touch with my own hand.

I know all this, and yet, when I see that silver sliver of light in the sky, all of my modernity peels away, and I am one with my ancestors...regarding this little piece of Creation with awe and wonderment.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

- John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV

A little over seven months ago, I stood with Elder Daughter at the hypocenter of the Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion. It was a powerfully emotional moment, as was our subsequent visit to the Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. Believing as I do that the atomic bombing of Japan was a tragic necessity, given the circumstances of the time, did not diminish the psychological impact of seeing the photographs, hearing the voices...and knowing that this was the very spot where it happened, where over 140,000 lives were sacrificed to nuclear fire.

The performance of John Adams’s opera “Doctor Atomic” the Missus and I saw yesterday afternoon was no less emotionally striking.

Modern Opera is not for everybody. I know that there are parts of Adams’s other masterwork, the acclaimed “Nixon in China,” that make She Who Must Be Obeyed want to yank her hair out by the roots...yet she was brave enough to accompany me to the Atlanta Symphony Hall for yesterday’s semi-staged show. And she actually enjoyed it!

We had excellent seats: fourth row center orchestra, close enough to see every facial expression, every twitch of conductor Robert Spano’s baton. And an extra treat (for me, anyway) was seeing James Maddelena, the baritone who originated the role of Nixon in “Nixon in China,” playing Chief Meteorologist Frank Hubbard.

Gerald Finley, as Robert Oppenheimer, was superb, giving the appropriate weight to his powerful arias, while the other performers (including Richard Paul Fink as Dr. Edward Teller and Eric Owens as General Leslie Groves) more than held up their end. The libretto, drawn from elements as diverse as John Donne (the above sonnet being rendered as an aria by Oppenheimer); the Bhagavad-Gita; various communications and documents from Los Alamos; Charles Baudelaire; and Tewa Indian poetry, at times sounded a bit like the nutty writing on the Eggagog blog (SWMBO cracked me up at one point by pointing that out), but told the story very effectively.

How do you show an atomic explosion on stage? You don’t. But you bring the subsonics up to a tooth-rattling level...and, while the protagonists cover their eyes with welder’s glass, you project an image of the Trinity fireball, followed by a photograph of a Japanese woman and her daughter amidst the chaos of Hiroshima.

The closing voiceover is that of a Japanese victim, quietly begging for water.

Mizu-o kudasai...
Mizu-o kudasai...
Mizu-o kudasai...

I knew those words; I had seen and heard them before, in the Memorial Hall in Hiroshima. They were a fitting and eloquent coda, and they made my heart pound with remembered emotion.

Want a taste? Here you go:

Sunday, November 23, 2008


One of the side effects of advancing, ahhh, maturity is the amazing ability to grow hair in all kinds of unexpected places.

In order to preserve a happy relationship of long duration, I will exclude She Who Must Be Obeyed from this discussion, confining my remarks to my own hair-growing abilities...which are prodigious.

Tufts of hair will sprout at random on my back and shoulders, something that really skeeves the Missus out. But since I don’t see these, they don’t bother me much. The ones that do bother me are the ones that grow in my nostrils. Yes: I speak of the Dreaded Nasal Hair.

There is nothing that will destroy a Romantic Mood - nothing that will let the air out of Mr. Debonair - faster than the discovery of a clot of long Nasal Hairs a-growing out of one or both of my nostrils. I’m reasonably fastidious about keeping my facial hair trimmed up, but once in a while - probably owing to my declining vision - I will miss a newly-grown Nostril-Tuft. Yeef.

The choice is to trim them with a scissors, yank them out with a pair of tweezers, or use a specially designed Nasal Hair Trimming Device. The Device poses the smallest risk of doing actual damage, but it is not always effective. Scissors, on the other hand, are very effective, but there’s that small possibility that one will have an involuntary spasm or an unexpected sneeze, causing the pointy tip of the scissors to be driven into the nostril wall...or directly into the brain. Which leaves...the dreaded Tweezers.

Tweezing one’s eyebrow hairs is unpleasant enough, but tweezing one’s Nostril Hairs is practically heinous. Yanking those bad boys out will make one’s eyes water in pain. OK, it doesn’t compare to being waterboarded at Gitmo, or having wooden splinters driven under one’s fingernails and set alight, but it’s a lot less pleasant than not yanking them hairs out and just leaving them to grow, eventually, into (one hopes) decorative patterns. But sometimes you just have to Man Up and start ripping.

There are also those rare instances when the Missus and I will be out and about, whereupon she will notice a few wayward strands of Nose-Hair. With no Trimming Devices or tweezers (zircon-encrusted or otherwise) handy, there is only one way to deal with the situation: the Two-Fingered Desperation Tweeze.

You simply try as best you can to pinch the offending Nostril-Hairs between the thumb and index finger, then pull them out in a swift (and exquisitely unpleasant) motion. If you succeed, you will be rewarded with an entire tuft of hair, hopefully without any attached boogage.

The casual observer may be revolted, thinking you are picking your nose. But you know that the truth is far worse.

The last time I did this, I will confess that the worst thing wasn’t even the momentary agony.

It was the fact that alla them hairs were white.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Marge and SWMBO
Aunt Marge and SWMBO.

If you like Livin’ Large,
Then hang out with Aunt Marge.

Hendrick’s, the Gin of Champions.

Enjoying Hendrick’s Gin...
Can you still walk? You win!

We always look forward to the times when my Uncle Phil and Aunt Marge will swoop in for a visit. They may be a generation removed from us in chronological age, but you would never know it from their lifestyle.

The last time they were here was right after the High Holidays...but any holidays with Phil and Marge are high holidays...because their presence will give you a contact high. And this latest visit was no exception.

I had my very first Martini in Miami with Uncle Phil. It’s entirely possible (and beautifully ironic) that Marge may have had her very last Martini with me on this visit...because I have a feeling she will go out of her way to avoid Martinis in the future. More than that, I am not at liberty to say.

Thirty years down the road (assuming we’re still walking the planet), I hope we’re half as much fun as Phil and Marge are right now.


Hooray! It’s Friday, time to see what the Little White Choon Box is spewing forth in its happily randomized manner.

We’re planning on a relatively quiet weekend...quiet, that is, compared to the orgy of Cookin’ ’n’ Eatin’ that will be occupying us for the greater part of next weekend. Activity-wise, the big item will be Sunday afternoon, when we go to see a performance of “Doctor Atomic,” the (sorta) new Modern Opera by John Adams, the twisted genius who brought us “Nixon in China.” Gotta love it: an opera about the first atomic bomb test, an opera that will help immortalize the year 2008 as Elisson’s Year of the Bomb.

Meanwhile, what’s playing today?
  1. Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take) - Miles Davis

  2. The Mikado, Act I: As Some Day It May Happen - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company

  3. Vessels - Philip Glass

  4. And So I Know - Stone Temple Pilots

  5. Taxman - The Beatles

  6. Jackson Cannery - Ben Folds Five

    The first piece of Ben Folds music I ever heard. I was browsing in a Borders store in Sweat City, heard this tune, and immediately bought the disc. It was 1995.

  7. Mean Ol’ World - Professor Longhair

  8. Like Spinning Plates - Radiohead

  9. Hallelujah (live acoustic) - Sheryl Crow

  10. God’s Song - Randy Newman

    From “Sail Away,” possibly Newman’s finest album, this song is cynical, tragic...and bitterly humorous.

    Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
    For if the children of Israel were to multiply
    Why must any of the children die?
    So he asked the Lord
    And the Lord said:

    “Man means nothing: he means less to me
    Than the lowliest cactus flower
    Or the humblest yucca tree
    He chases round this desert
    ’Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
    That's why I love mankind

    “I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
    From the squalor and the filth and the misery
    How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
    That’s why I love mankind”

    The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
    The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
    They picked their four greatest priests
    And they began to speak
    They said, “Lord, a plague is on the world
    Lord, no man is free
    The temples that we built to you
    Have tumbled into the sea
    Lord, if you won’t take care of us
    Won’t you please, please let us be?"
    And the Lord said
    And the Lord said

    “I burn down your cities - how blind you must be
    I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
    You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
    That’s why I love mankind
    You really need me
    That’s why I love mankind”

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


The strangest thing I ever saw
Was Nature, red in tooth and claw,
All jammed into the Friday Ark
In peace: no violence to remark.
The cats all get along with dogs
Within the magic world of Blogs.

Friday Ark #218 is up at the Modulator.

This Sunday, be sure to stop by Artsy Catsy for the 245th installment of Carnival of the Cats, one of the longest-running (if not the longest-running) Carnivals in the Bloggy-Sphere. Fun for the whole family!

Update: CotC #245 is up. Not only that, Mog, over at Mind of Mog, hosts this week’s Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


This evening I stepped outside at 6:13 and watched a star-like object rise in the western sky, narrowly skirting a brilliant Venus and traveling the arch of the firmament until it passed directly overhead, continuing onward and finally setting in the east.

This Retrograde Traveler was none other than the Space Shuttle Endeavour, docked with the International Space Station. Having no telescope - merely a set of binoculars held by a shaky hand - I was not able to discern anything in the way of a shape. I certainly was not able to make out the tiny figures of Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Shane Kimbrough in the midst of their especially tricky task considering that they were 220 miles away and moving at about 17,500 MPH.

I’ve seen the Shuttle at least once before as it coasted overhead, but it is She Who Must Be Obeyed who got what perhaps was the most dramatic look at it in flight. It was back in March 1978, when SWMBO was a first-grade teacher in southeast Houston, and the very first Space Shuttle - the Enterprise, from the starship of the same name in “Star Trek” - was being carted to Ellington Field, just a few miles to the south.

Carted? Nay, flown...piggybacked atop a specially modified Boeing 747. It was clearly visible from SWMBO’s school, this impressive Aeronautical Beast with Two Backs.

Here it is thirty years on, and, despite the rare disaster or two, the Shuttle no longer generates the same excitement it once did. Its operations have become, alas, routine...although I don’t know whether that is a Bad Thing or a Good Thing. Bad, in that we are complacent, even when faced with the near-miraculous; Good, because that complacency comes from routine, unexciting, (reasonably) safe operations.

But it still tickles my sense of wonder, seeing that little speck of brilliant white in the darkling sky as it crosses the heavens in four minutes. Godspeed, ladies and gentlemen - our intrepid Astronauts! May you enjoy a successful journey and a safe return home.


Back in 2005, I posted an amusing (to me, anyway) Internet e-mail that purported to explain the world of politics with Illustrative Examples featuring cows.

Courtesy of Houston Steve (who really oughta have his own blog), we have this fine update: Economics, Cow Style.


You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbor.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.

You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows. You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public then buys your bull.

You have two cows. You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called “Cowkimon” and market it worldwide.

You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows. You worship them.

You have two cows. Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. Nobody believes you, so they bomb the shit out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy.

You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I am probably the last person on Earth that you’d expect to be taking a class in yoga...but, then again, I am full of surprises.

I blame the Missus, who takes yoga classes after school...and I blame my friend Barry, who has been taking morning classes once or twice a week. The combined Moral Suasion of both of them was too strong to resist.

Yoga is, simply, a school of discipline for the mind and body. Ask me for a better definition, and I can’t help you. All that Sanskrit makes me want to pound nails into my skull, and you’re not allowed to do that until you have mastered the eight chakras of Kundalini Kackabini.

Basically, the class is an hour-long period in which I listen to brain-numbing Relaxation Music (thank Gawd it doesn’t relax my sphincters!) and, following the dictates of the instructor, contort my body into a series of increasingly painful postures while looking at the tight buns and toned musculature of my female classmates.

I’m really not sure what the ultimate objective is. I think that when you get fairly good at this stuff, you can lick your own nutsack (Q: Why do dogs lick their own balls? A: Because they can.)...and if you get really good, you can climb into your own asshole.

I don’t plan to get that good. But at least it gets me out of the house.

Besides, my idea of nirvana is Taking a Good, Long, Crap (an idea I share with at least one other Online Journalist). If one were to use Yogic Discipline in the process, could you call that process “Groga”? And would the resulting Steaming Output be a “Yogan”?


Sunlit Neighbor 3

Why, it’s Neighbor!

That’s one snazzy-looking pussycat, there. Let’s take a closer look...

Sunlit Neighbor 1

And closer.

Sunlit Neighbor 1

(In case you’re wondering, Neighbor is visiting until the Mistress of Sarcasm and Gilad come for Thanksgiving.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Ya gotta love “Dancing with the Stars.”

On what other television show can you be treated to the sight of Urethra Aretha Franklin – now large enough to have her own zip code – in a muumuu, singing “Respect” just slightly out of tune?

I admire her enthusiasm, her energy, and her remarkable self confidence. All characteristics that are especially handy when you possess your own measurable gravitational field.


You know, I’d like a dime for every time
I’ve heard it mentioned
That the Boulevard to Satan’s Lair is
Paved with Good Intentions.

It is. And as it winds toward Hades’ shores,
Remember that the Eco-Conscious Fellows
Will get out their supplies and make S’mores,
And use the fires of Hell to melt marshmallows!

[I left this, in slightly different form, as a comment at sisu, and then decided it might just stand alone as a post.]


If this guy keeps writing in this vein, we’ll have to start calling him “El Crapitan.”

Seriously, dude (that word may be pronounced “dood” or “doody” at your discretion) - you seem to be making a bid for the Golden Plunger, that fine award once bestowed by Yours Truly on the late, great Rob Smith. Who’s your competition these days? Og? Velociman?

Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I think I will go meditate.

Ommmmmmmmmmmmm (ungggghh) mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Monday, November 17, 2008


It was the week before Hallowe’en, and the Missus and I were cruising down Peachtree Street on the way home from some performance event or another, when I noticed that at least one building was already bedecked with Christmas decorations.

Good Gawd, thought I to myself. The Christmas season gets earlier every year. It’s a phenomenon I call “Christmas Creep.”

It used to be that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade served as the semi-official Starting Gun for seasonal festivities - here in the States, anyway. As soon as that float with Santa Claus cruised down Broadway, the Christmas music began playing and everything took on the green and red shades of Yuletide.

Over time, owing to the increasing greed and desperation of the Merchandising Industry, this perfectly sensible schedule has been done away with. Now, the season’s opening shot is sometime on - or even before - Hallowe’en.

Hey, it’s none of my business; I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. But I have a question to which I sincerely would like an answer: Does Christmas Creep add to the seasonal experience, or does it detract?

We Jews really don’t have anything to use as a basis for comparison. We have our holidays, our own Seasonal Events...but we tend to observe them (or ignore them, as the case may be) when it is time to do so, neither being overly anticipatory as the Big Day (or Week) approaches nor too reluctant to let go once it is over with.

F’r instance, we don’t put up Passover decorations...and if we did, it wouldn’t be a month or two in advance. There’d be some sort of Talmudic prohibition against it, as it would take away from the specialness of the holiday. But that’s us, and I know we’re wacky in our own way.

So: I ask you, my Christian Esteemed Readers. What are your thoughts on Christmas Creep? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Tortellini Elissonolini
Tortellini Elissonolini.

As the weather turns cold – well, cool, anyway – I start thinking more and more about stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods. Hot cereal in the morning, rich legumaceous soups in the evening...and childhood classics like macaroni and cheese.

We had a few friends over for dinner yesterday evening, and I was casting about for something to serve. Flank steak, brisket, beef ribs – all of these sounded good, but the Missus and I were looking for something less beefy. (I never thought I’d ever catch myself saying that...but there you are.) And that’s when the inspiration hit: How about a grown-up version of good ol’ Mac and Cheese?

I had made a superb five-cheese lasagna about a year ago, a perfectly good jumping-off point for what I had in mind. For what I had in mind was not lasagna at all, but something even more serious.


I love tortellini. Like ravioli (or, for that matter, the closer-to-ethnic-home kreplach), tortellini consist of a filling encased in a pasta wrapper. But tortellini look a lot more interesting, like little belly buttons. And a Mac and Cheese with a tortellini base would be some Serious Eatin’. Thus it was that I created...

Tortellini Elissonolini

I started with two 13-ounce bags of Barilla tortellini – one three cheese, one spinach and cheese. The package directions say to cook these babies 10-11 minutes, but I planned to boil them only 8 minutes, since they’d have additional cooking time in the oven. Speaking of which, preheat it to 350˚F.

For the cheese sauce, take three tbsp butter and melt it down in a saucepan until foaming. To this, add one finely minced shallot and one finely minced garlic clove. Cook over medium heat about two minutes, then throw in 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. Cook this, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for another two minutes. You now have a fine, aromatic roux.

Now, whisk in 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups milk. Bring up to the boil and then back the heat off until the mixture is at a simmer. Add in a healthy pinch of cayenne, one bay leaf, and ½ tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan, for ten minutes. During this time the sauce should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Now, stir in, a handful at a time, 5 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (use the real imported kind, not the plastic-tasting crap from Wisconsin) and one ounce shredded Parmigiano Reggiano. The cheese should melt, forming a smooth mixture. Set this aside while you drain the pasta. If you timed everything right, the cheese sauce should be done right about when the pasta is finished cooking. Remember – boil the pasta only 8 minutes.

Dump the drained pasta, along with the hot cheese sauce, into a large bowl. Or use the big-ass pan that you used to boil the pasta. Sprinkle in about 6 ounces of shredded Fontina cheese and a handful of chopped fresh parsley, then stir gently to mix.

Dump this whole mess into a deep 9 x 13" casserole dish and level it off. Put it in the oven on a rack set to the upper-middle position and bake for 30 minutes, after which time the pasta should be bubbling like a volcano.

While the pasta is baking, melt 3 tbsp butter and add in about a cup of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). Mix well.

Now take the panko mixture and scatter it over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle on one ounce of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano. Run it under the broiler until the breadcrumbs have turned a nice golden brown, then scatter a handful of chopped fresh parsley atop the dish.

Serve it forth to a crowd of 12-16 people, along with a side of Lipitor. Mmmmm...cheesy!

AN OPEN LETTER... the Gaping Assholes who left a half-crushed case of empty beer cans on the side of the road in our neighborhood.

I really don’t give a shit if you amuse yourselves by drinking beer of a Saturday evening. Even if it’s crappy mass-market beer. After all, you are not after a Gourmet Beer Experience. You are trying to get loaded, and you’re not quite desperate enough to drink Listerine.

I really don’t give a shit if you stumble home and puke in the bushes.

As long as you don’t even think about driving, I really don’t give a shit about your drinking. That’s between you and your Mommies and Daddies.

But if I catch you trashing up our neighborhood with your Beery Detritus, I will take a three-iron to you. Bank on it.

Have the simple decency to chuck your trash in a garbage can, fuckbubbles. Were you raised by wolves?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


William on the Slide

Nefoo William hangs on for dear life at the top of the slide.

Can’t say I blame him.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Some people are Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs. Me, I’m Mental for Lentils.

It was the Mistress of Sarcasm - now safely arrived in Ann Arbor, by the way - who put the thought of Lentil Soup in my head.

She had been given a split pea soup recipe by Hagar (boyfriend Gilad’s sister) a few weeks ago, one that included such diverse elements as diced sweet potato (!), and had had great success with it.

I didn’t have Hagar’s recipe - yet - and so I decided to hold off on the split peas and make lentil soup (a favorite since my Snot-Nose Years) instead.

Making good lentil soup is not brain surgery. Which is fortunate, because my license to perform brain surgery in the state of Georgia seems to have lapsed. But what I did have is a soup pot, plus all the requisite ingredients.

I started with regular brown lentils. There are about a thousand different kinds of lentils, including the excellent Lentilles Vertes du Puy from France...but I wasn’t in a Fancy-Pants mood. First task was to pick through the lentils, making sure no little stones or clods of dirt were lurking in the bag. Biting down on a stone will, most assuredly, ruin your day. Then the little guys got a good rinsing in three changes of water.

Next step was to chop up a yellow onion and throw it into the soup pot with a little olive oil, there to sweat. I added a couple of chopped carrots and a diced celery stalk, plus a peeled and minced garlic clove, then let all of this sweat down for awhile over medium heat.

Once the onions were translucent and everything was nice and aromatic, I added the lentils (about a pound), a quart of beef broth, two quarts of water, a few twists of freshly ground black pepper, and a small handful of chopped parsley. For additional flavor, I made a bouquet garni by tying up about ten parsley stems, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, and a bay leaf with kitchen twine, dropping it into the soup, and tying the other end of the twine to the pot handle for easy retrieval. Then I brought the whole mess up to a simmer, slapped a lid on the pot, and let it cook.

While the soup was simmering, I cooked up a pound of smoked beef sausage and cut it into small chunks. [Yes, I was lazy and used the microwave, but feel free to grill the sausage, pan-fry it, whatever floats your boat. Or use a different kind of sausage. Or use hot dogs.] These went onto the pot, too.

After about 90 minutes, it’s soup o’clock. Yank out the bouquet garni, and (this is important) stir in 1/4 cup of dry (fino) sherry. Do not use sweet varieties like Harvey’s Bristol Cream or the so-called Dry Sack sherry: they are nasty and nekulturny - in this recipe, anyway. Now serve it forth.

Lentil Soup

The finished product.

Some people prefer a smooth-textured soup. If this is you, take the sausage-chunks out of the pot and use an immersion blender to convert this nice, chunky, rustic soup into a smooth, homogenized, boring purée. Then add the meat back in. [I did not do this.]

Enjoy! Perfect on a chilly fall evening.

Update: But watch out for Dutch Oven Potential later...


It’s Friday - the Sixth Day - which means it’s when
I go to post my Friday Random Ten.
A dozen tunes (less two) from my iPod
All chosen by the Mystic Hand o’ God.
(A question that won’t be, today, resolved,
Is just
how much the Big Guy gets involved.)

Yes, it is Friday, and for once the Missus and I are looking forward to a relatively quiet weekend at home.

Elder Daughter is back home in Washington, D.C., while the Mistress of Sarcasm and Gilad are off to visit his mother and stepdad in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Missus and I have been to Ann Arbor. It was, in fact, thirty years ago this month, when Elder Daughter was newly evident as a just-noticeable rounding of SWMBO’s belly. My souvenir of that visit was a hardbound first edition of John Irving’s landmark novel The World According To Garp, of which I had previously read two chapters that had been published in Playboy magazine. Based on those two dimly-remembered chapters, I fully expected the novel to be brilliant... and I was not disappointed.

But now it’s time to see what the ol’ iPod d’Elisson has on its little electronic brain. What’s on?
  1. A Day In The Life - The Beatles

    Possibly the finest pop song of all time... a mini-symphony. I still remember hearing it for the first time on June 1, 1967 and thinking, “WTF is this? Whatever it is, it’s amazing!”

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

  3. Kyyhylly - Alamaailman Vasarat

  4. Words Of Love - The Beatles

  5. Un Grand Sommeil Noir - Edgard Varèse

  6. (Down With) The Sickness - Richard Cheese

  7. Turn On Me - The Shins

  8. The Blimp (mousetrapreplica) - Captain Beefheart

  9. One Way Out - The Allman Brothers

  10. It’s Ice - Phish

    I press on the elastic sheet, I’m breathing through a slice
    “Are they worms or are they serpents?” bubbles through the ice
    The source was quite invisible, the ever-present voice
    While skating, both legs tracing different shapes, I made my choice

    Mimicking the image in whose radiance I bask
    I’m tied to him, or him to me, depending who you ask
    None the less reluctantly reflections tumble in
    I slide with all the other on the wrong side of the skin

    He’s fallen on the ice, it cracks
    Will he plunge in and join me here?
    He meets my eyes, to my surprise
    He laughs in full light of my frown
    My double wants to pull me down

    Slipping on the friction slide, my skin peels to the bone
    The flesh I leave behind, is something that is not my own
    I beg my mirror image for a moment with my soul
    He’s leaning back, time to attack, IT’S ME who’s in control

    And every move I make he’s got a hand up just in time
    He’s throwing several punches, and he’s blocking most of mine
    Defeated now, I sulk and squirm in mud with frozen mice
    Waiting, calculating till NEXT he ventures on the ice.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


After spiking in the $4.40/gallon range in the days following Hurricane Ike - when gasoline was extremely thin on the ground in these parts - prices have now fallen below the two dollar mark. Lowest one we saw tonight was $1.949.

I realized that the last time we had seen prices below two bucks was before Hurricane Katrina, more than three years ago. They didn’t seem like such a great bargain then.

My Great Corporate Salt Mine stock is hurting - as is pretty much every other stock as well - but I don’t mind. I’m just pleased to see the functioning of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”...and anything that reduces the flow of dollars to the mullahs, imams, and Hugo Chavezes of the world can’t be all that bad, eh?


There’s Neighbor, who is sitting on SWMBO’s computer...

Neighbor and SWMBO

And there’s Hakuna, who is content to sit under the kitchen table...with a weather eye on the Dark Intruder.

Kuna Under the Table

And they ain’t talking. Not a word.

Update: Well, they talk sometimes. And (as just happened when Neighbor jumped up on our bed when Hakuna was already sitting there) it ain’t pretty.


Translation: “Get the fuck offa my momma’s bed, bee-YOTCH!”

Update 2: The Friday Ark’s 217th voyage is afloat over at the Modulator.

And if that doesn’t satisfy your Kitty Jones, Carnival of the Cats #244 will be hosted by Kashim and Othello at The Catboys Realm Sunday evening.

Update 3: CotC #244 is up.


Anyone who has heard the story of Houston Steve and how our paths intersected many years ago - well before we became friends here in Atlanta - knows that I am no stranger to the Bizarre Coincidence.

Big Stupid Tommy’s comment on my last post reminded me of yet another Bizarre Coincidence. And, appropriately enough, it took place in Houston.

It was in early 1991, shortly after we had moved back to Sweat City after a long absence that included living in places as diverse as New Jersey, Atlanta, and Connecticut. One evening, I received an unexpected phone call...from a college classmate I had not seen or heard from in all the years since graduation.

Not just a college classmate: I had hundreds of those. No: This guy was one of the Dirty Dozen - the select group of twelve chemical engineering graduates of the Class of 1974 of which I was privileged to be a member.

Why was he calling me, out of the blue? Was it to solicit funds for the University? No - nothing so prosaic.

He had, it seems, been working his way through his mail. When he opened the envelope containing his bank statement, two statements fell out. One was his; the other, mine. When he saw my name on the statement, he had a genuine Head-Scratching Moment. Say, I went to school with a guy who had that (extremely unusual) name... could it be the same person? Has to be!

Directory assistance did the rest.

And thus it was that we actually got together, we classmates, we fellow members of that Band of Brothers, the Dirty Dozen of the Class of 1974, for a pleasant visit.

As strange as this was, it never could have happened outside of a narrow time window. We had only recently moved to town, and my classmate (along with his business) was within mere days of moving away.

Two people out of twelve in the entire U.S. of A. - and a one-month time window - and somehow, my bank statement gets stuck in the same envelope as his. How crazy is that?


This morning I got a call from SWMBO. Surprisingly, she was calling from the school’s landline, not her cell phone. And the reason for that was rapidly revealed: She had inadvertently left it on the table at the restaurant last night. Could I run over there after breakfast and retrieve it?

I confess to feeling a momentary spike of irritation. “How the hell could you forget your cell which you seem to be permanently attached?” I thought. But I said nothing... and that is as it should be, for I, too, have inadvertently left valuables behind. I, too, know that feeling of panic, the panic you feel when you realized that something that should be in your possession has gone missing.

When Elder Daughter and I were in Japan earlier this year - we arrived there seven months ago today - we spent our first couple of days in Tokyo. After our second night in the Ginza, we vacated our room and checked our bags with the bell desk, with the intention of wandering around by the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park before heading out for Kyoto.

We grabbed a late lunch at a little restaurant in Hibiya Park, taking in the scenery and enjoying the hazy sun of a warm afternoon. And that’s when I noticed, to my horror, that my college ring was missing.

I wear my wedding ring on my left hand and my college ring on my right. The wedding ring (thank Gawd!) was there...but the other ring was, inexplicably, not.

Suddenly, a pleasant lunch with Elder Daughter threatened to turn into a Panic-Fest. Where the fuck was that ring?

It was not loose enough to fall off. It was highly unlikely that someone had yanked it off on the subway. This wasn’t Rome or Madrid, it was relatively crime-free Tokyo. All I could figure was that I had left the damn thing in my hotel room, a snafu that could only be explained away as a jet lag-induced Brain Fart... because I always keep my rings together and put them both on at the same time.

Well, we had to go back to the hotel to retrieve our baggage before leaving town, so I decided to relax and place my trust in the legendary honesty of the Japanese.

In the States, I would have been worried, and rightfully so.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Missus and I had been staying in Savannah, and she inadvertently left her Moon-Boot leg splint in the room. We did not realize it was missing until we got back home, whereupon SWMBO called the hotel to locate it. No soap. But something didn’t smell right... and a few more phone calls established that the housekeeper had, upon finding the splint, simply chucked it out instead of turning it in. [In case you’re curious, that lapse in judgment cost the hotel $200.]

But this was Japan. When we got to the hotel, I explained my situation. Within minutes, the manager brought me my ring, all carefully cleaned and sealed in a little plastic bag. Was I relieved? You betcha.

As if that were not bad enough, when we returned to the States, we stayed in Crystal City, hard by Reagan National Airport. The next morning, we took the jitney from the hotel to the airport, from where Elder Daughter would take the Metro home while I would grab my flight back to Atlanta. But as I was ready to get off the jitney, I realized that my camera bag was missing.

Great Balls of Burning Excrement!

I had put the bag in a chair next to the check-out desk...and had walked away without it. This, after having schlepped my bags all over Japan for ten days. Another jet lag-induced Brain Fart, this time of Massive Proportions. My heart was in my mouth and my anus was all a-pucker as I rode the jitney back to the hotel, where (Hallelujah!) the bag was still sitting right where I’d left it. I had had visions of someone simply walking away with over $1,200 worth of camera equipment...and 850 irreplaceable photographs. Now, just a huge sense of sweaty relief (and a brief frisson of national pride. Hey, Americans are honest, too!)

So, this morning, I couldn’t really be pissed off at She Who Must Be Obeyed... not without being a complete and utter hypocrite. For all of us leave things behind every so often...and in this case, once again, there was a happy conclusion to the story. I picked up the phone (I had to go around to the back of the restaurant by the delivery entrance to collar the manager), and now all is right with the world.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Kaboom Tree
The infamous Kaboom! Tree.

I think that I shall never see
A hazard like the Kaboom! Tree.

A tree that lurks beside a farm,
The sloppy motorist to harm;

A tree that sits astride the street,
To threaten those with leaden feet;

A tree that may in summer wear
A smashed Volkswagen in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Today? A drunken driver’s brain.

Blogposts are made by fools like me,
Watch out for yonder Kaboom! Tree.

[Apologies to Joyce Kilmer.]

What the hell is the Kaboom! Tree? You may well ask. It’s simply a humongous old tree that sits on the side of Zion Hill Spring Road - one of the little country roads near Eric the Blade’s place. The tree is strategically placed at a sharp curve in the road so that any car that misses said curve will find itself coming into violent conflict with it.


The name, by the way, was bestowed by Eric, even though he gives me credit for it. At least, I’m pretty sure he named it. Once the single malt starts flowing, it’s kinda hard to tell who said what after a while...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


What with both Elisson-Daughters having been in town this weekend, we decided to have a few friends over for a home-cooked feast Sunday evening. And a feast it was.

I had picked up a passel of nice, big yellow onions a few days ago, having had French Onion Soup on my mind. It’s hearty enough for those brisk fall evenings, but it doesn’t lay on your kishkes like a lead weight, as sometimes does a split pea or lentil pottage.

French Onion Soup
French onion soup.

For protein, we had simple stuff: grilled flank steak for the Beef-Eaters, Bourbon Salmon for those with Piscine Preferences. Just to be weird, I cooked up a pot of black rice (it’s really more of a blackish purple, but bizarre looking nonetheless) by way of a starch...and JoAnn brought in some green beans and broccoli so there would be a few vegetables.

Did I mention salad? Yes, there was salad - a Fart-Ball Salad I made using thinly sliced Brussels sprouts. You simply slice up a bunch of those bad boys using a mandoline (remove the cores), mix in a couple cups of toasted walnuts, 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano, 1/4 cup olive oil, and the juice of one lemon... a couple twists of the ol’ Pepper Mill... a dash of salt if needed... toss well, then top with a few curls of Romano shaved from the block using a potato peeler. It sounds horrendous, but if you can get over your (inexplicable) loathing of Brussels sprouts, it is actually pretty damn tasty.

[I should point out that the recipe is from the current issue of Saveur magazine...and the term “Fart Balls” comes from Karen Wise (my blogmomma!) who writes at verbatim.]

Fart-Ball Salad
Fart-Ball Salad.

For dessert, Laura Belle contributed an obnoxious, yummy chocolate chip pound cake; John and Chris brought those Harry and David’s Moose Tracks (“Cracker Jack on Crack™”); and I baked up some of these Proud Beauties.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies!

Remember: What it comes to dinner at Chez Elisson, nothing exceeds like excess!

Sunday, November 09, 2008


You may be wondering, in the aftermath of the recent national elections, how the armed services are reacting to the prospect of a new Commander-in-Chief... especially one that represents such a change in direction for matters military.

Wonder no more.

Reports are piling in that our fighting forces are ecstatic over the Obama victory, despite concerns that, under his administration, defense spending may be slashed significantly.

The people who serve our country are not worried. They welcome and honor their new Commander.

Henceforth, residential facilities at military bases will be named for the new President.

They will be called “Baracks.”

Saturday, November 08, 2008


We were standing in front of a shop window at the Galleria, the Mistress and I, when we spotted a particularly repulsive outfit. Fluorescent pink mohair...and was that a clump of feathers? Gaaah.

Me: That looks like something Betty Rubble would wear.

The Mistress: Yeah...but only if Betty Rubble had a stroke and forgot how to dress herself.

[And that, Esteemed Readers, is why I call her the Mistress of Sarcasm.]


Westminster School

The Westminster School campus.

There are some moments in life that have an elusive sweetness that is hard to describe...but I’m going to take a crack at it anyway, for there have been several such moments this weekend. Daddy moments.

I am blessed with a wonderful wife and two fine daughters (keyn ayin hora). Over time, I have been privileged to see both She Who Must Be Obeyed and the Mistress of Sarcasm functioning in their professional capacities – the former as a classroom teacher, the latter as both a jewelry designer and as a concierge – and in both cases, I have been Mighty Impressed.

Da Gurlz at the Renaissance Waverly
SWMBO, flanked by the Mistress of Sarcasm and Elder Daughter.

This weekend, I finally got to see Elder Daughter in her professional element, and likewise, I was Mighty Impressed.

For the past three weeks, Elder Daughter has represented her employer at a series of day-long events targeted at educators. The program – Teach Africa Phase II – was held in Houston two weeks ago, Los Angeles last week, and now in Atlanta at the Westminster School.

The Westminster School is one of those High-End Private Schools, the graduates of which are sure to feel right at home at most Ivy League universities...except fot the fact that the campuses of the Ivy League universities will feel somewhat cramped and undersized.

As one of the featured speakers, Elder Daughter (I am pleased to report) more than held her own amongst a roster that included the Congolese Ambassador to the U.S., a senior vice president of the World Bank (and former Ambassador from Uganda), the director of the Southern Center for International Studies, and the CEO of the Africa Society.

It’s a sweet feeling, to see your little girl, now All Grown Up, speaking – nay, mesmerizing – a big audience of Serious People.

Elder Daughter Speaks

Elder Daughter dominates the lectern.

But the real Daddy Moment was yesterday afternoon, as I was dropping Elder Daughter off at her hotel.

She was booked at the Renaissance Waverly, a lodging establishment over by the Galleria in northwest Atlanta, a mere stone’s throw from the old offices of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. Back in the 1980’s, we used to spend a fair amount of time there – Sunday brunches, et cetera – and later, after we moved away, I would occasionally stay there in the course of visiting Atlanta-area customers...or going to see the Masters Tournament. It was, as they say, a Fancy-Pants Crib.

As I stood at Reception and watched my daughter take out her own Corporate Card and hand it to the desk clerk, I thought back to all the times I had done the same thing. Checking in at the Waverly. The building looked pretty much the same, but in that moment I realized just how much water had flowed under the bridge. How many years it had been.

Enough years to transform Elder Daughter from a little girl into a fully-formed Grown Up Professional Woman. Intelligent. Confident. And beautiful.

And I smiled.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Friday! The Opening Shot of the weekend: Glorious Friday!

Elder Daughter arrives this afternoon, in town to deliver a talk at the Southern Center for International Studies. And sometime this evening, the Mistress of Sarcasm should show up. It will be a Full House.

Tonight, we’ll catch Lily Tomlin at the Ferst Center for the Arts over at Georgia Tech. Maybe I will get a chance to ask her if she regrets nailing John Travolta back when he was a snivelly kid.

Enough of that. It’s time to check out the randomly-selected musical offerings of the Little White Choon-Box. What’s playing today?
  1. It’s Ice - Phish

  2. Champagne Supernova - Ben Folds Five

  3. She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own) - The Judybats

  4. Alice Childress - Ben Folds

    Some summers in the evening
    After six or so
    I walk on down the hill
    And maybe buy a beer
    I think about my friends
    Sometimes I wish
    They lived out here
    But they wouldn’t
    Dig this town
    No they wouldn’t
    Dig this town

    Try not to think about it
    Alice Childress
    Try not to think about it any more
    Try not to think about it
    Alice Childress
    Any more
    No not any more

    Alice the world
    Is full of ugly things
    That you can’t change
    Pretend it’s not that way
    That’s my idea of faith
    You can blow it off
    And say there’s good
    In nearly everyone
    Just give them all a chance
    Give them all a chance


    No it didn’t work out
    No it didn’t work out
    The way we thought it would
    No it didn’t work out
    An arranged marriage
    Is not so good

    Thank God it’s you
    You know your timing is
    I’m not fooling you
    I don’t know what to do
    Some dude just knocked me cold
    And left me on the sidewalk
    Took everything I had
    Everything I had

    Try not to think about it
    Alice Childress
    Try not to think about it any more
    It’s getting light where you are
    Alice Childress
    Any more, no not any more
    Any more, no not any more

  5. Act II - Finale - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, The Mikado

  6. The Royal Scam - Steely Dan

  7. J. S. Bach: Prelude #7 in E-Flat Major (from The Well-Tempered Clavier) - Wendy Carlos

  8. Jackson Cannery - Ben Folds

  9. Taxim - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  10. My Kind Of Town - Skanatra

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Now that the U.S. presidential elections are over, as the winners rejoice and the losers retire to the wilderness to lick their wounds, it’s worth looking at some of the more insightful post-election posts. Here are a few:
  • Skippy ponders the issue of how to get there from here. If I wrote about politics, I’d want to write as well as Skippy does. (Plus, he often posts photos of attractive ladies with big kalamatunis.)

  • Oddybobo writes a thoughtful observation on A Brand New Day.

  • The inimitable Velociman weighs in. (While you’re over there, read all his recent posts. Whether or not you agree with his politics, the man is a twisted genius - a southern-fried Hunter S. Thompson, only better - the kind of writer that makes the English language holler out, “Hoits so good!”)

And some completely unrelated Random Crap: Try to say “Spinach Knish” five times, real fast.


Sisu Cats

Tiny and Baby Cakes, from sisu.

Yourish Cats

Tig 3.0 and Gracie, from

Aside from Hakuna and Neighbor, that is.

You can see these Fine Felines at the Friday Ark, where they are regular boarders. Catch Edition #216 at the Modulator.

And, lest we forget... the Carnival of the Cats #243 will be hosted this Sunday evening by House Panthers. I know you just can’t wait...but keep your panths on!

Update: CotC #243 is up.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Coffee Kuna

Hakuna sits between coffee table and sofa.

The coffee table is the perfect place for Hakuna, resembling as she does an imperfectly stirred cup of Mocha Java. But those blue eyes give her away every time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Hysterics Imagemap
EricElissonDaxJimboDennyJohnGeorgiaFionaOddyboboEricaBou and SWMBOMorriganJerryTommyRedneckTeresaSissy-Morrigan-BouRichmond
[Click on any of the thumbnails above to see a full-size image.]

I’ve been remiss about posting my impressions and commentary on this year’s Hysterics at Eric’s. Chalk it up to a case of the Pre-Election Heebie-Jeebies, or simply accuse me (justly, I might add) of being supernally lazy.

Normally, I would write a piece of Epic Poetry to commemorate the occasion. Think of it: a Horde of Chipmunks Happy Bloggers descending upon the Straight White House in bucolic McMinn County, Tennessee in order to drink a Mississippian flood of alcohol; make loud noises; eat themselves silly; amuse themselves with pool, idle conversation, and the playing of guitars, bongos, and the estimable kazoo; and (not incidentally) to celebrate the birthday of Tennessee Jed hizzownself. But my Poetry Muse is on holiday, so you will needs be content with a Prose Debrief.

Where to begin? So many things happen during the course of a Weekend at Eric’s that it becomes hard to keep track of it all.

The Missus and I arrived sometime around eight o’clock Friday evening, accompanied the whole way by a light (but annoying) rain. We missed the Adventure of the Black Widow Spider (recounted elsewhere), alas...but were greeted warmly by most of the Usual Suspects. Almost immediately, plates of hot baked ziti (courtesy of Bou, Morrigan, and Sissy) were thrust into our hands. This is an Annual Tradition, but one that we missed last time owing to our having arrived Saturday afternoon.

Morrigan, I should point out, is seriously With Child - yet somehow, she manages to look petite. How does that work?

I should also mention that Oddybobo is a dab hand at baking. That apple pie was Off Da Hook, as the youngins like to say.

Zonker, who, alas, no longer keeps his own Online Web-Log, was there, an early arrival. He and John Cox (the Cox half of Cox and Forkum) had driven up from Atlanta together.

Jimbo and Kenny the Bodyguard were there, which meant that there would be Musical Entertainment. It would not be a blogmeet without Denny and Jimbo (the Elderly Brothers) pickin’ some tunes...ably assisted by Dax and - a first! - John Cox on the bongos. (Suggested band name: Cox, Dax, and the Nutsacks.) Another first: Eric managed to stick the correct end of the kazoo into Denny’s mouth during the ceremonial playing of “Rocky Raccoon.”

When Jimbo stuck that duck-beak gadget in his face, though, I almost lost it completely.

Thelma and Joo-Ese (AKA Teresa and Erica) arrived shortly after we did. Their drive was a little longer and wetter than ours, as they had to come up from the Atlanta Airport With The Insufferably Long Name.

There were a few new (to us, anyway) faces, too. Jerry and Richmond both had long drives down from the Upper Midwest. A real pleasure to finally see both of them in Meatworld (as opposed to Blogworld) - and it turns out Jerry’s Corporate Salt Mine is in the same business as mine!

Saturday morning, we all dragged ourselves out of bed and headed off to the Tellico Cafe for a traditional Tennessee-style breakfast. Tommy met up with us there and rejoined us later that afternoon.

After a brief interval of Breakfastly Digestion, we all went out to perforate various objects with high-velocity chunks of metal. Shootin’! Now, I am not especially experienced in the world of firearms - the only gun I ever shot was a CO2 pellet gun back in day camp 45 years ago - but by the end of the afternoon I had tried my skill with a Taurus 9mm pistol (not so good); a Beretta .45 pistol (deadly accurate); a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, and a shotgun. They don’t call them things “boomsticks” for nothing...

Redneck (no link - his site has a virus) was extremely helpful, draining cans of Bud every few minutes in order to provide us with plenty of targets. With the .45, I ventilated one of them cans pretty good.

When we arrived back at the house, we saw that Johnnie Oh and Jennifer had shown up, along with the legendary Recondo32 and Georgia, without whom no blogger gathering is complete. The birthday gifts they brought for Eric and Denny were truly a wonder to see. I’ll leave the description to someone with better writing skills, for I cannot do it justice. I will, however, say that titties were involved.

The evening saw us gathered in the house or in Eric’s garage, while beans simmered on the stove and ribs cooked slowly on the grill. Richmond handed out a killer appetizer, just in case one needed to be appetized...and we all sat down to gnaw on those fine, fine ribs.

SWMBO and I missed the real excitement. The folks staying out at the Sleep Inn were treated to an early wake-up call Sunday morning, thanks to a Fahr in the Drahr. Good grief. Happily, things were brought under control without Denny having to jump out of his second-story window. [Memo to Sleep Inn: Guests who are paralyzed from the waist down should be given first-floor rooms, you dipshits.]

Everyone congregated back at the Casa de Straight White for breakfast, an ecumenical affair that included eggs and whomp biscuits (by Yours Truly), apricot kugel (by SWMBO), bacon (by Eric), and Taylor Pork Roll (by Kenny and Jimbo). And then, faces stuffed, everyone took their reluctant leave...while looking forward to the next gathering.

Oh, you wanted a poem anyway? OK, here it is:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sissy and Morrigan,
Oddybobo and Bou

Richmond and Jerry
From up by the farm
Came to the Soufland
So at least they’d be warm

Jimbo and Kenny
Piled into the car
Equipped with Three Olives,
A real Rolling Bar

Teresa and Erica
The latter from Brooklyn
Stepped into the kitchen
To see what was cooklin’

Recondo and Georgia
They came bearing gifts
An elegant photo
Of a Poan-Stah with “tifts”

Johnnie and Jennie
Came to shoot pool
Give the cue to John Cox -
He will take you to school

Plums, they are purple
Yellow means a banana
Asleep by the fire
Is our own Dax Montana

Denny came rolling up
In his Movable Chair
Oh, thanks, Mister Desk Clerk -
My hotel room is where?

Chitlins are kishkes,
And grits are from hominy
Let’s all give a shout-out
To Big Stupid Tominy

Eyeballs are “peepers”
A nose is a “honker”
No meet is complete
Without Ex-Blogger Zonker

How does Eric put up with
This yearly invasion?
All the booze people bring
Factors in the equation

And Fiona? Watch out:
Lions can’t match her roar
When she sees Mr. Smart-Brains
Has tracked mud on the floor