Saturday, January 31, 2009

BR’ER EINSTEIN

Mammy went out one moonlit night
And grabbed a skillet at the speed of light
Took cornmeal and eggs and (it is said)
Fixed her little baby some Foreshortnin’ Bread.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A WOOKIEE IS NAUGHT BUT A HONKIN’ BIG EWOK

There are some chunks of Pop Culture that are so well-embedded in our collective consciousness that we forget that not everyone is familiar with them. The Star Wars oeuvre, f’r instance. Is it possible that there are a few benighted souls out there who have never seen a single Star Wars movie?

Well, yes. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Mistress of Sarcasm herownself has managed to escape the grip of the Force. And she is not alone...

Witness this delightful little Filmic Recap of the world of Star Wars... the first trilogy, not the piece-of-shit second trilogy... as recounted by someone who has never actually seen it firsthand. Amazing.


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn’t seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Note: If you get audio with no video, just use the link to go to the Vimeo page, where the video does work.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Deborah Laufer.]

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Here it is Friday, the penultimate day of January 2009, and I am faced with a dilemma... for I now have two Choon-Boxes. There is the Little White Choon-Box, packed with 3,185 sound files with which we are all too familiar, and there is my new iPhone, which also carries a big wad of tunage.

The iPhone, alas, does not have the prodigious tune-storage of the iPod, owing mainly to my iPod being an older model that is not video-capable. The iPod doesn’t have to carry around two dozen mostly useless apps... nor does it have to act like a cell phone. It’s Just Plain Audio.

And so, until the Missus absconds with the iPod d’Elisson and converts it to her own nefarious purposes, I’ll continue to draw my Friday Random Ten from it, rather than the iPhone. More music = more Random Idiocy.

So, with all that prologue, what’s playing?
  1. Tones for Joan’s Bones - Chick Corea

  2. Chinese Invade - Philip Glass, Kundun

  3. The 12 Inches - Frank Zappa (with Tom Waits)

  4. King Without A Crown - Matisyahu

  5. Asuntovelka - Alamaailman Vasarat

  6. All You Need Is Love - The Beatles

  7. I Was Made To Love Her - The Beach Boys

  8. Der Terk in America - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  9. Last Steam Engine Train - Leo Kottke

  10. The Sinister Minister - Béla Fleck and the Flecktones

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SOLITUDE

Hakuna 012909
“Get that camera outta my face, Bub.”

Hakuna enjoys a moment of afternoon solitude in her Kitty-Bed.

She looks pretty sedentary, curled up in that cushy little bed, but don’t let that fool you. When the Red Dot attracts her attention, she’s booming and zooming like a fighter pilot.

Update: Friday Ark #228 is afloat over at the Modulator.

This Sunday, Carnival of the Cats comes to roost (now, there’s a mixed metaphor for you!) at one of the venerable spots in the Kitty-Blogosphere: Mind of Mog. It promises to be a great Carnival, so be sure to stop by!

Update 2: This week’s Haveil Havalim (“Vanity of Vanities”) is up at Ima On (and off) the Bima. It’s the 203rd installment of this Jewish-themed Blog Carnival.

Update 3: Carnival of the Cats #255 is up, with Hakuna in pole position.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WE HEARTS DARTS

Prémio Dardos

WTF izzit? It’s a Prémio Dardos Award.

“The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.”

The ever-gracious (if slightly Taste-Impaired) Ivan G. Shreve, he of the marvelous blog Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, has seen fit to bestow the fabled (and heretofore barely known) Dardos Award upon your humble servant.

I will have to ask him what he has been smoking.

Meanwhile, as Ivan points out, there are rules. To paraphrase Indiana Jones, “Rules. Why’s it have to be rules?”

Because, that’s why.

Oh, the rules. Here they are, and they’re simple enough:

1. Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2. Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected.

Hmmm. Sounds awfully much like a bit of Link-Whorage, don’t it? But that’s what bloggy memes and awards are all about, so let’s be good sports. And besides, Ivan’s one of my longest-standing Blog Buddies, as well as being the Go-To Guy for anyone with at least a passing interest in old-time radio, television, or movies. To use a wine analogy, Ivan doesn’t drink in his Pop Culture unless it has had a chance to mature for a few decades... like vintage Port. None of that crappy white Zinfandel pop culture for him.

So: Who should I honor with this little gem of an award? Lessee...
  1. Velociworld. Velociman is one of the handful of genuinely talented writers out there in the Bloggy-Sphere, a true original voice. Whether you agree with his politics or not, the singular way in which he expresses himself makes him Required Reading. Quite possibly the bastard child of William Faulkner and Hunter S. Thompson.

  2. Straight White Guy. Eric, a soldier with the soul of a poet, can take the most mundane events and tease out the exceptional and the beautiful from them in a way few others can. Whether it’s a childhood reminiscence or a declamation on the view out the back window on a rainy day, Eric brings it to you in a way that I can only dream of. He’s a true Artful Blodger. Plus, he hates zombies.

  3. A Perfectly Cromulent Blog. Last week, I finally had the opportunity to meet Pete Vonder Haar, one of the first people to blogroll me when I was a fledgling Online Journalist. He’s got his finger up the ass of on the pulse of American pop culture, and writes a blog that is consistently smart and entertaining.

  4. Treppenwitz. David Bogner can do outrage. David Bogner can do politics. David Bogner can do the tearjerker posts. David Bogner can do teh funny. And to everything he does, he brings a calm, insightful intelligence. A daily read for me.

  5. Yourish.com. If there were no Meryl Yourish, we would need to invent her. When the wire services write articles on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are either subtly or overtly biased against Israel - which is all the fucking time - nobody rips them a new asshole better than Meryl. Hulk smash!

  6. Sisu. Yeah, I know this is number six, but rules were made to be broken, especially bullshit blogmemey rules. And Sissy Willis, who uses the light fantastic to reveal beauty in unexpected places, certainly meets the criteria for the Prémio Dardos: The Web would be a poorer place indeed without her incisive writing and lovely photographs.

Now, go forth and check these sites out, if you have not done so already!

A LITTLE-KNOWN FACT IS UNEARTHED

It was a recent post over at Eric’s place that reminded me that the one-and-only Bard of Ayrshire celebrated his 250th birthday this Sunday past.

Alas, I was dividing my time between Baltimore and Atlanta that day, and so could not celebrate the occasion appropriately. I couldn’t even make it to the January Guild event, more’s the pity.

But it was Erica’s comment on that post that reminded me of a little-known fact, a fact so obscure that nobody knows it except a handful of scholars. Well, maybe not a handful of scholars. Just me, actually.

The little-known fact? At the risk of converting it into a well-known fact, I will tell you.

Robbie Burns was Jewish.

Oh, he hid his Hebraic ancestry well. But his love for smoked salmon was well-documented... and, after all, what is a haggis but a fleischig kishke?

In fact, there exists an alternative version of his famous “Ode to a Haggis,” a poem that celebrates that greatest of Scottish dishes, that renders Burns’s religio-cultural background a matter beyond dispute. Perhaps it was a draft... or perhaps something that he circulated only amongst his morning Minyan buddies. And I found it, tucked neatly into a seam in the bottom of a box of steel-cut oatmeal.

Submitted for your approval...

Ode to a Kishke

- by Rachmiel Burns

Fair fa’ your scheine, zeeseh face,
Great chieftain o’ the kugel-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place
Ye stuffit seckel:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my schmeckel.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your tuchus like a distant hill,
Your bulk wad help to fill a mill
In needfu’ time,
While thro’ your pores the schmaltz distil
Like kosher wine.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ hack you up wi’ ready sleight,
Like shechting a giraffe, it might
Just be a bitch;
Yet then, O what a glorious sight!
(But first, let’s pish.)

Then, spoon for spoon, they rip an’ rack:
Chuleria af dem letzten! on they whack,
Till a’ their food-stuff’t pupiks, packed,
Stick out like thumbs;
And then the Rabbi, guts like to crack,
A bentsch’n hums.

Is there that owre his brisket-stew
Or lox-and-bagels – sable, too,
Or matzoh-balls wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor nebbish! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
Like squozen zit;
Thro’ shul or temple for to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Landsman, kishke-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his groisse hant a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ tender slabs o’ whitefish schneid,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

HaShem wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’fare,
Auld Israel wants a single ware
Her dearest wishke;
So, answer, please, her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Kishke!

Monday, January 26, 2009

THE LITTLEST (POTENTIAL) BLOGGER

Morrigan, beauteous kid sister of the one and only Boudicca, has just given birth to a baby girl. At 6 pounds 10 ounces and 19 inches long, she’s petite... and yet larger (by 10 ounces and a quarter-inch) than Elder Daughter was when she made her first appearance as Only Daughter.

Go over to Bou’s site and congratulate the new mommy and baby - and the baby’s beaming, happy Auntie Bou while you’re at it. And check out them pictures!

I wonder how long it’ll take for the kid to figure out what this “blogging” business is.

ON DENTISTRY

As sure as there are Death and Taxes,
I go to get my Prophylaxis.
The hygienist scrapes and scrapes:
With metal tools my mouth she rapes.
She scrapes until my gums are sore,
And then she scrapes a little more.
And then (to show me who is Boss),
She gets a load of Dental Floss,
Enough to make a Christmas wreath.
And then she jams it ’twixt my teeth.
All this, to hear the words that please:
“Look, Elisson - no cavities!”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

AN UNTRADITIONAL TRADITION

During a “Jeopardy!”-style trivia session at this weekend’s Leadership Development Institute in the Baltimore ’burbs - which, incidentally, is where I was since returning from Sweat City late Thursday night - the question was asked, “Is a giraffe kosher?”

My answer got a huge laugh. “Yes - but it’s a bitch to shecht.”

True, dat. The old joke has it that the reason Jews don’t eat giraffe is that, while it is a kosher animal - a ruminant with split hooves - it’s too difficult to find the right place on the neck to cut the carotid artery with a razor-sharp knife for a proper shechitah (ritual slaughter).

I also suspect that the fact that giraffes are thin on the ground where most Jews live may have something to do with it.

But this neck business is really a misconception. The anatomical boundaries for a proper ritual slaughter are very clearly defined. As it has been said, “anyone who does not know where to shecht a giraffe either knows nothing about the laws of shechitah or could not hit the side of a barn with a baseball.” However, giraffes are notoriously testy, and it’s hard to imagine one standing patiently still while a guy waving a sharp knife climbs a tall ladder alongside him.

And yet, one can hope. For I, I who have eaten of Leviathan, can yet dream of enjoying giraffe... and at least giraffe is, or can be, kosher.

How to enjoy giraffe? I am sure a giraffe steak would be tremendous. Think of the huge trencher you’d need to hold a bone-in ribeye. But a steak, after all, is a steak, and there is nothing exceptional about a giraffe steak. What we want to do is take advantage of the giraffe’s unique anatomy.

There’s a classic Ashkenazic Jewish dish that comes to mind. I speak of helzel, AKA falsch kishke (fake kishke), a preparation that involves stuffing the neck of a suitable bird. Typically, chicken necks were used in the desperately poor shtetls of Eastern Europe; the lucky housewife who could lay her hands on a duck or goose neck was in High Cotton.

But this is the twenty-first century, and fine ingredients are within our grasp. So let’s update the old shtetl classic. Presenting...

Elisson’s Giraffe-Neck Helzel

This will make enough for about 800 servings. You will need:

One giraffe neck, skinned and cleaned (approximately 200 lbs.)
400 cups all-purpose flour (you may substitute matzoh meal for part of all of the flour)
50 tsp. salt
200 yellow onions, chopped
100 cups schmaltz
200 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)

Sauté 100 of the onions in the schmaltz until golden brown. Add the garlic (if using) and sauté another minute or two to release the aroma. Combine with the remaining onions, flour (or matzoh meal), and salt in a large Hobart mixer.

Sew up the small end of the giraffe neck, using Manila rope and a railroad spike. Stuff with the flour-onion mixture. Do not stuff more than 3/4 full, or the neck may explode during cooking. Sew up the large end of the neck.

Immerse the neck in a large tank of boiling salted water and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove, pat dry (several clean bath towels are useful for this purpose), and then place in a well-greased (and very large) roasting pan. Roast at 325°F for 12 hours, or until a thermometer inserted in the center of the neck (avoid touching bone) reads 175°.

Slice between the vertebrae and serve with a pan gravy made from the roasting juices. It’s a dish even Keesie would love!

Geoffrey

Friday, January 23, 2009

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

It’s Friday once again, time for another steaming pile of Randomized Music from the iPod d’Elisson.

Last night involved a quick turnaround, with my having arrived home from my valedictory voyage to the Great Corporate Salt Mine just in time to unpack, repack, catch a few z’s, and head right back out... this time, for a weekend leadership seminar just outside of Baltimore.

There is no rest for the wicked... and, as my case proves, for the perverse and bizarre.

I’ll have more to say about my Houston trip when I get back from “Ballmer.” But meanwhile, we have Choons! Whadda we listening to today?
  1. Flamenco Sketches - Miles Davis

  2. Johanna (Deliver Me) - Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd - Original Broadway Cast

  3. Madeline - Moonraker

  4. Kouman Sa T’a Ye - Boukman Eksperyans

  5. Bodhisattva - Steely Dan

  6. Ambassel - Maritu Legesse

  7. Yellow Submarine in Pepperland - The Beatles

  8. Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque - Don Preston Trio

    Don Preston, of course, being one of the charter members of the Mothers of Invention.

  9. Anything But Love - Squirrel Nut Zippers

    In 1997, I made a pilgrimage to the Squirrel Nut Zippers factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts... the one featured on the cover of the eponymous band’s CD “Hot.” It was a real candy factory, smaller and more decrepit than one would have imagined.

    I sing a song about clouds and rainbows
    I hum a tune that sings like a dove.
    Rhyme some words about anything
    Anything but love.
    I paint a picture of my prison
    With blue and grey from the skies above
    Framed and signed with the title
    Anything but love.
    He had to go but I won’t miss him
    I have got better things to do
    Like writing stories and painting pictures
    Of anything but love.
    I write a story about a couple
    Steal a plot from an old movie
    You can tell what inspired it
    Anything but love.


  10. Where’s Summer B? - Ben Folds Five

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

I’m tired; I have no strength to blog,
And yet, if I were Cat or Dog,
I’d seek the Ark’s rejuvenation
With clicky, linky navigation.


Friday Ark #227 sets sail at the Modulator today... because it’s Friday! You need another reason?

Be sure to check in with Carnival of the Cats Sunday evening, as well. This week, the Kitty Carny rotates over to House Panthers for its 254th installment. Not to be confused, we suppose, with “House Painters.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHICKEN KITTEN OF THE SEA

They’ve pissed a lot of people off with their ridiculous and insulting advertising campaigns, campaigns in which the raising and slaughtering of chickens for human consumption has been equated to the Holocaust, and in which the treatment of food animals has been likened to the enslavement of African-Americans. But if you needed any further proof that the fine people of PETA were barking mad, our friend Gilad has alerted us to PETA’s latest bit of tomfoolery: convincing us that fish are warm, fuzzy, and cute.

I guess the theory is, we don’t eat warm, fuzzy, cute beasts. Cats and dogs are not on the American menu. Yet. A few more years of bad economic times, and we’re likely to see some changes in that department.

[As for me, there are a few warm, fuzzy, cute beasts I am all too happy to eat. That soft, wooly lambie, f’r instance.]

But back to PETA.

Their latest campaign is a crude attempt to jack up the cuteness factor of fish by calling them “sea kittens.” I shit you not.

Instead of Catfish, PETA has given us the Fish-Cat. Jeezus.

Salmon Ella
Sea Kitten. The fish that shits in a box!

Fish are beautiful in their own way; I’ll grant you that. But no amount of public relations bullshit is going to give a fish warm blood, fur, or the ability to cuddle up in your lap while you watch “The Simpsons.” Unless PETA is secretly advocating some sort of horrible Fishtank of Doctor Moreau gene-splicing technology.

PETA’s crude attempt to make fish into sympathetic victim-class mammal wannabees turns outright bizarre when you read their Sea Kitten Stories. Take the story of Tony the Trout: Not even MAD magazine could write a two-pager so perversely bathetic, it becomes pants-pissingly funny. Inadvertent humor at its finest.

It ain’t gonna stop me from eating fish. Hell, just last Monday, the Missus and I had fish at every meal. Gravlax, sushi, steelhead trout... and all very, very yummy. And as for Tasty Mammals, perhaps I’ll start calling them “Land Tuna.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WHO’S YER PAPPA(S)?

I arrived in Sweat City yesterday evening - mercifully, it’s not especially sweaty this time of year - and swooped down from George Bush (“Daddy B”) Intercontinental Airport, dropped my bags off at my hotel, and proceeded to meet a few of my soon-to-be-erstwhile colleagues for a Beefy Dinner.

We dined at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, the ostensible flagship of the Pappas restaurant empire. It had been a long time since I had eaten there: about eleven years, in fact. But that was mainly owing to the fact that we no longer lived in Houston.

Our last dinner there had been memorable, not only for the food, but for the fact that we and our friends Ira and Phyllis were the guests of Pete Pappas hizzownself, patriarch of the Pappas clan. We were celebrating Phyllis’s birthday and had just settled in at the bar when Pete - a former patient of Ira’s, as it happened - walked in. He immediately gave Ira a big hello and proceeded to comp our bar tab. A few minutes later, when we sat down to dine, Pete (who was seated at a table close by) whispered a few words to our waiter, who proceeded to inform us that our entire meal was on the house.

Pete Pappas was clearly fond of his gastroenterologist. And who wouldn’t be? After all, he’s a medical professional who gets to know you rather intimately.

But last night’s dinner involved no such deus ex machina. It was just a straightforward exercise in Beefy Extravagance, courtesy of the Great Corporate Salt Mine.

Steve H. Graham, of Hog on Ice Tools of Renewal, is a big proponent of dry-aged prime beef. It’s a product that is becoming harder and harder to find, even in high-end steak places, because many such establishments opt to wet-age their beef these days, keeping it in its Cryovac packaging. The beef retains all of its weight that way, whereas with dry-aging, it loses weight due to evaporation... and because the dried-up, nasty exterior needs to be sliced away.

But I am here to tell you that there is nothing - nothing! - in the World o’ Meat that compares with the taste of a prime steak that has been properly dry-aged. All those mysterious enzymatically-catalyzed chemical processes, taking place slowly over a period of about a month, result in a rich, complex flavor profile that has to be experienced to be described... and even then beggars description.

After preparing my tastebuds with a beefsteak tomato salad, I had a nice, 18-ounce ribeye, Pittsburgh-style, medium rare. It was stupendous.

By way of an apéritif, a shot of Aberlour 12-year-old single malt, followed by a bottle of 2001 Château Moulinet Pomerol to help wash down the meat. Sides? Of course, though none were strictly necessary. Potatoes au gratin, fresh asparagus spears, and creamed spinach... all delicious, and all extreme. Thank Gawd there were five of us to eat it all.

A cheese plate made a fine dessert (although my colleagues had also arranged a cake, given the Momentousness of the Occasion).

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is, without a doubt, the closest thing to a Real-Live Avatar of my fictional House of Meat. If you’re ever in Houston, and if you have a wad of simoleons in your pocket sufficient unto Horse-Chokage, go there posthaste.

Me, I’m gonna keep digesting. For a long, long time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ON NEIGHBORS

Let me recommend to you this thoughtful little piece of satire by Leon de Winter. A taste:
Our neighbor, the dog, wants us to leave him alone. We can’t. His death is our ultimate ambition in life. We live in our hovel, we grow nothing in our garden, and we leave our schoolbooks on the shelf because we dream of returning to our grandfather’s house and work solely towards our neighbor’s collapse. Nothing is allowed to distract us from that.
Read the whole thing.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Houston Steve, who really oughta have his own blog.]

FAREWELL TOUR

Today I am off to Sweat City for the first time in several months. It’s my Valedictory Tour as an employee of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, for I have elected to retire effective mid-February.

“But, Elisson!” you say. “You’re not dried-up enough to retire, fercryinoutloud! There’s still some juice left in the ol’ lemon!”

True enough... and there’s a certain amount of chutzpah required to walk away from a high-paying corporate gig in the teeth of the worst bear market since the Hoover administration. But it all boiled down to a lifestyle issue.

Years ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I made a pact with each other: that when we reached our mid-fifties, we would no longer traipse across the length and breadth of the nation at my employer’s whim. We had seen too many of my colleagues do it, and it wasn’t pretty. Our pact was only made stronger when we moved away from Atlanta in 1986. It was the most painful leave-taking we had had to endure, even harder than our move from Houston to New Jersey had been, a mere seven years earlier. We vowed at the time that if we ever got back to Atlanta, we would not allow ourselves to be transferred away a second time.

Over the last few years, it became clear that such a transfer was in the works. It was inevitable. I had moved out of Sales and into a supply chain role, the type of assignment that invariably is located at the Sweat City headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. It was only a matter of time before senior management would bow to convention, ending my stint as one of only two remotely-located non-Sales people in the entire corporation. [And the Salt Mine is a honkin’ big corporation.]

Thus was the die cast.

It will be a bittersweet thing, this trip. I will be saying farewell to people that I have known - people I have worked with - for many years. How many years? You may well ask.

I signed my original employment contract with the Salt Mine on the day Richard Nixon resigned. That was in August, 1974.

The congratulatory e-mails have been flooding in since the official announcement was posted on the Salt Mine Intranet two weeks ago. Everyone envies the guy who can sit back and clip coupons...even if that guy might need to start enjoying Little Friskies if the economy continues to tank. And I’m pleased to know that people I worked with decades ago still remember me.

Oh, I’ll relax for a while... but there’s plenty to be done. Irons in the fire that need attending to. And they will have nothing in common with my previous career.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I HAVE DRUNK OF THE KOOL-AID...

...and it is Good.

iPhone
The new Elissonphone.

Yes: I am now the proud owner of an iPhone.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

WE FLIP FOR BURGERS

Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I dragged our friends Gary and JoAnn off to Flip Burger Boutique. The Missus and I had been there before, and we wanted to share the joy.

I have to tip my fedora to anyone who is ballsy enough to open a restaurant in these parlous economic times. But Barry Mills, the owner, gets additional “Ballsy Points” for opening a restaurant with demented genius Richard Blais as his Creative Director. Yes, Creative Director... for Executive Chef just doesn’t do justice to Blais’s contributions to the Dining Scene.

Blais - a fellow Long Island emigré, by the way - has an impressive Curriculum Vitae. He has studied with culinary luminaries like Ferran Adrià (head chef at El Bulli in Costa Brava, Spain), Thomas Keller (chef and owner of The French Laundry in Yountville, California), and Daniel Boulud (with restaurants in New York, Palm Beach, Miami, and Las Vegas); he was the Season Four runner-up on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and he has been associated with a number of restaurants in Atlanta, including his own eponymous Blais, his attempt to reinvent Fine Dining. Blais (the restaurant) lasted only six months, but that failure only spurred Blais (the chef) on to greater achievements - including a four-star turn at One Midtown Kitchen.

At Flip, he gets to indulge his creative and playful tendencies, while at the same time reinventing an American classic: the Hamburger. It’s the perfect venue for him... and it allows those of us without a gilt-edged checkbook the chance to taste of that creativity.

We arrived on a Saturday night... a Saturday night shortly after a very positive review appeared in the local blat... and so the place was (predictably) packed to the gills with happy, talkative people. The crowd consisted of young, good-looking urbanites, with a few families and silverhairs sprinkled in; the energy level, coupled with the pulsating background music, the volume of chatter, the soundless music videos playing on several flat-screen teevees, and the frantic activity in the kitchen (visible through a large opening) helped motivate us to endure the 90-plus minute wait for a table.

Who the fuck waits 90 minutes for a table? Not us. Not anywhere else. But we did this night... and, strangely enough, it was worth it.

The burgers here - the ones with beef in ’em, anyway - are freshly ground from a combination of short ribs, brisket, and hanger steak, coincidentally a few of my favorite cuts. The result is an exceptionally beefy burger, just big enough to satisfy... and small enough to allow the Hungry Diner to order more than one. It’s perfect for groups that aren’t squeamish about passing several burgers around the table. The burgers come on house-baked brioche rolls with a rich, buttery flavor.

I had a Butcher Burger, which came with blue cheese, frisée lettuce, and blue cheese foam. It was amazing. We’ve all become so inured to shitty burgers in this country - flavorless, overdone hockey pucks made out of beef snouts and assholes - that to taste a well-prepared hamburger made of freshly-ground, quality beef is nothing short of a revelation. Perfectly seared exterior, juicy medium-rare interior - every bite a pleasure. SWMBO loved her rBQ - a barbecued brisket burger - and Gary and JoAnn were agog. Gary, in fact, pronounced his burger “the best he ever had.”

[I’d love to see what Blais could do with my oniony Eastern European-style braised beef brisket. I’ll bet that you could run it through a meat grinder and make a hella Brisket Burger. Good enough to give you a Food-Boner.]

But the real fun began when we ordered a couple of LN2 milkshakes.

I said earlier that Richard Blais was a demented genius. It’s a compliment coming from me, a personage who occasionally will wear a colander as a fashion statement. And I truly believe that you have to be a demented genius to come up with the idea of freezing ingredients in liquid nitrogen, powdering them, and making milkshakes out of them.

The so-named Krispy Krème milkshake, for example, is made with (you guessed it) Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And it tastes exactly like a cold, frosty, creamy liquid doughnut. Gaaaaaah. Finally, a suitable use for the Krispy Kreme (I am a Dunkin’ Donuts partisan, as my Esteemed Readers already know) that allows it to shine.

How ’bout a Foie Gras milkshake? Made with real, honest-to-Gawd fatty duck liver?

You’d think it would be horrible, an object of morbid fascination... but you would be wrong. Foie gras, after all, is mostly fat - yummy, delicious fat - and fat is what carries flavor and provides texture in most of the proteinaceous things we enjoy. Blais marinates his duck livers in amaretto, at least eleven other secret herbs and spices, and Gawd knows what else; the result, when converted into a milkshake, is something that, while decidedly Not Kosher, has a subtle, mysterious flavor that might very well turn out to be addictive.

Foie Gras Milkshake and Richard Blais
Elisson enjoys a Foie Gras Milkshake as Richard Blais looks on.

Bring the Lipitor when you have one of these. But don’t let the mere notion of a Duck Liver Milkshake scare you off.

Eating out should be fun. Eating out should involve good food. Flip has both.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

EAT UP...

...at the world’s finest nonexistent restaurant.



The menu - for those who are interested - is here. It’s enough to make those PETA folks shit a blood clot... which is, kinda, the point.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BENNY

Benny Half
Benjamin Franklin half dollar.

“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” - Benjamin Franklin

It is my pleasure to issue a big Blog d’Elisson birthday shout-out to an American who, in the words of Henry Steele Commager, combined “the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.”

I speak, of course, of Benjamin Franklin, who - were he, miraculously, still alive to do so - would be celebrating his three-hundred-third birthday today. But since, alas, he is no longer with us, it is up to us to commemorate the birth, and indeed, the life, of this individual who not only affixed his name to the Declaration of Independence, but who also was so influential in defining the character of the American nation.

Benny was a true Renaissance man. Politician, statesman, musician, writer, journalist, scientist, astronomer, inventor... and ladies’ man, to boot. It’s entirely appropriate that his phiz adorn our hundred-dollar bill, the largest denomination currently in production; I regret that the half-dollar coin that bore his profile lasted only sixteen years thanks to the untimely death of John F. Kennedy, whose image displaced Franklin’s in a reflection of national mourning.

A list of Franklin’s accomplishments would be so lengthy as to become almost boring. His inventions alone would be enough to enshrine him in the history books: bifocal glasses, the Franklin stove, lightning rods, and the flexible urinary catheter (!) being just a few. I personally have experience with a couple of ’em - see if you can guess which ones?

Twenty-eight years ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I visited Philadelphia, accompanied by Elder (then Only) Daughter. It is a city that bears Franklin’s unmistakable imprint; it is, as well, the final resting place of his bones. I still remember the three of us standing before his grave, trying to comprehend the many contributions of this singularly brilliant American.

I’ll raise a glass to Ben’s memory tonight. And, if I want to be as appropriate as possible, it’ll contain some beer.

Friday, January 16, 2009

FROZEN FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

It’s Friday, and not just any Friday. It’s Frozen Friday!

Right now a goodly chunk of the nation is in the Deep Freeze, the chill fingers of which extend all the way into the Deep South. I know that when we Southerners gripe about the cold, Nawthen folk think to themselves, “Ahhh, what a bunch of wimps!” And they’d be right. But it’s not often that it gets cold enough here in Thin-Blood Country to stay at or below freezing during an entire day, so please indulge us.

While it may be cold outside, it’s plenty warm here indoors at Chez Elisson. A mug of hot cocoa and a few Choons, freshly belched outta the little white Choon-Box, and I’m set for the day. What’s playing today?
  1. Hold On - Tom Waits

    When people ask you (as they will inevitably do), “Why the hell do people even like Tom Waits? I mean, what’s with the gravelly voice and all of his weird shit?” just play this song for ’em. As far as I’m concerned, this is his magnum opus - everything else he’s ever recorded is Bonus Material.

    They hung a sign up in our town
    If you live it up, you won’t live it down
    So she left Monte Rio, son
    Just like a bullet leaves a gun
    With her charcoal eyes and Monroe lips
    She went and took that California trip
    Well, the moon was gold, her hair like wind
    She said don’t look back, just come on, Jim

    [Chorus]
    Oh, you got to
    Hold on, hold on
    You got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right here
    You got to hold on

    Well, he gave her a dime-store watch
    And a ring made from a spoon
    Everyone is looking for someone to blame
    When you share my bed, you share my name
    Well, go ahead and call the cops
    You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
    She said, baby, I still love you
    Sometimes there’s nothin’ left to do

    Oh, but you got to
    Hold on, hold on
    Baby got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right here
    You got to hold on

    Well, God bless your crooked little heart
    St. Louis got the best of me
    I miss your broken-china voice
    How I wish you were still here with me
    Oh, you build it up, you wreck it down
    You burn your mansion to the ground
    When there’s nothing left to keep you here, when
    You’re falling behind in this
    Big blue world

    Oh, you go to
    Hold on, hold on
    Baby got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right here
    You got to hold on

    Down by the Riverside Motel,
    It’s 10 below and falling
    By a 99-cent store she closed her eyes
    And started swaying
    But it’s so hard to dance that way
    When it’s cold and there’s no music
    Well, your old hometown is so far away
    But inside your head there’s a record
    That’s playing, a song called

    Hold on, hold on
    Baby got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right there
    You got to hold on.

    You got to hold on, hold on
    Baby got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right there
    You got to hold on.

    You got to hold on, hold on
    Baby got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right here
    You got to hold on.

    You got to hold on, hold on
    Baby got to hold on
    Take my hand, I’m standing right here
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.
    You got to hold on.


  2. Suzanne - Randy Newman

  3. World In Changes - Dave Mason

  4. The Snake And The Moon - Dead Can Dance

  5. Great Expectations - Miles Davis

  6. Talking Bout My Baby - Fatboy Slim

  7. Make Peace - Brad Mehldau & Pat Metheny

  8. Baby, I Need Your Lovin’ - Four Tops

  9. I Want Love - Elton John

  10. Give A Little Bit - Supertramp

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

The sheep, the llamas, and the goats
Are glad they have those woolly coats.
The apes toss chunks of frozen shit;
It’s colder than a penguin’s tit.
And Steve, the captain of the Ark,
Takes a warming shot of Cutty Sark.


Friday Ark #226 is asail on the (partially frozen) Bloggy-Sea, with the estimable Modulator at the helm as usual.

This Sunday, be sure to thaw yourself out enough to stop by and visit the Carnival of the Cats, the 253rd edition of which will be hosted by Cats in Maryland.

Update: CotC #253 is up.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

BRRRR

It’s colder than the ice cubes in a glass.
It’s colder than the hair on a polar bear’s ass.
It’s colder than the nipple on a witch’s left tit.
It’s colder than a box full of penguin shit.
Man, it’s cold!

The Arctic Express has come to Marietta, Georgia. Temps should be in the teens tomorrow morning, and are likely to be in single digits by Saturday.

It is no longer Wet T-Shirt Season; it is, however, Niff Stipple Season.

Update: 6:00 Friday morning, and it’s 14°F (-10°C). Oy.

HASSOCKUNA

Hakuna Glows
Hassockuna. [Click to embiggen.]

Melted Cat on Ottoman, or, Hassockuna.

THE MAN AND THE ELEPHANT

Elephant

From my friend Irwin comes this heartwarming story... a story about the love between Man and Animal that any cat or dog lover can appreciate. Get your Kleenexes out!

In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University...

While on a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee, inspected the elephant’s foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and, with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.

Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenage son Cameron. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times, then trumpeted loudly... all the while staring at Peter intently.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. He summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The huge creature turned to face the man, and, with a curious look on its face - a look that was strangely familiar to Peter - stared at him. Peter looked deeply into those large, liquid brown eyes. Was that... was that the spark of recognition he saw there?

The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter’s legs, picked him up and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn’t the same fucking elephant.

[Dedicated to everyone who sends those heart-warming bullshit stories out to everybody on their mailing lists. Thanks, Irwin!]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

REQUIESCAT, RICARDO:
A 100-WORD EULOGY

Ricardo Montalban
Ricardo Montalbán, 1920-2009. R.I.P.

Ricardo Montalbán has passed away at the age of 88.

Star Trek fans, who only recently mourned the loss of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, remember Montalbán’s scenery-chewing performances as Khan Noonien Singh. But that was just a small part of an acting career spanning seven decades, a career that included roles in both film and television.

Montalbán was unafraid to parody himself, taking parts in movies like The Naked Gun. His star turn as Armando Guitierrez in “Freakazoid!” was especially tasty. I will miss him.

Funeral arrangements include a private service followed by interment in a casket lined with rich Corinthian leather.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MR. DEBONAIR CLEANS UP...

...in order to attend a wedding.

A few days ago I promised y’all a Monkey-Suit Photo. Here ’tis:

Formal Elisson 011109

The wedding - the daughter of our friends Ron and Wendy, who also happens to be the niece of our friend Gary, who is Ron’s brother (got that?) - was wonderful. The ceremony was conducted at our shul, with our own Rabbi Lewis sharing the officiating duties with Rabbi Norry of Shearith Israel.

As for the rest of it, was it a Class Affair? Yes, it was. The rehearsal dinner alone could’ve passed for a wedding reception in 47 states... but the actual reception was a stunner, with over 300 people in attendance.

And as if the many, many Martinis were not enough, the reception featured a vodka bar, from which one could select shots in all sorts of flavors. No chocolate or triple espresso, alas... but I had no trouble finding a few flavors I liked (hic).

The wedding is not nearly as important as the marriage that follows it, but if the High Tone of this wedding is any indicator, the happy couple should be happy indeed.

Update: A nice pic of the Missus with our friend JoAnn.

SWMBO and JoAnn 011109

I’m tellin’ ya, them ladies is HAWT!

Monday, January 12, 2009

MEMO TO SELF

Watching “The Bachelor” is much more amusing if, whenever one hears the word “rose,” one mentally substitutes the words “penis tip.”

OZZIE

I met an actor from an ancient day
Who said: Four-and-ten years worth of episodes
Sit in the vault. While on the shelves,
Half-assed sitcoms sit, and O, they sell
And not a single one could boast
The ratings that we had in days gone by.
Yet we survive, and hope our deepest hope,
That soon our works will rate a DVD.
And on its cardboard box these words appear:
“Our name is Ozzie-Harriet, Show of Shows:
Look on us, with our 1950’s hair!”
No residuals remain. Yet the memory
Of that beloved show, great in its time,
Sustains me as I seek three squares a day.

[Apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley]

Friday, January 09, 2009

PICTURE FRAME ARCHAEOLOGY

There was a small pile of miscellaneous detritus - pictures, books, and the like - sitting atop one of our barstools, awaiting transportation to the basement. Perhaps it was inevitable that one of the pictures would get knocked off. It landed on the floor and its porcelain frame cracked in half.

The picture itself - a photograph of Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm taken 18 years ago almost to the very day, at Eli’s wedding - was unharmed. But the frame was a total loss.

The Mistress and Elder Daughter
The Mistress of Sarcasm and Elder Daughter, 18 years ago. Photograph taken at Eli and Toni’s wedding, January 6, 1991.

As we separated photograph from frame, a couple of other photos fell out. For, as is our custom, we typically will take a newer picture and cram it into a frame on top of an older one. Opening up picture frames therefore becomes an exercise in Photographic Archaeology: Just as in an archaeological dig, underneath each stratum of the midden heap there are more and more layers... each with its hidden secrets... waiting to be discovered.

One of the other pictures was a shot of SWMBO with our two girls. It looked like it was of similar vintage to the top photo, although it appeared to have been taken some months later. I’m figuring it was from mid-1991, after our move to Houston. Elder Daughter was still wearing braces, but both she and the Mistress look a tad older than in the first pic. Check out the haircuts - vintage!

The Girls, 1991
The Mistress of Sarcasm, SWMBO, and Elder Daughter, mid-1991.

But the other photo in the frame - a picture of our friend JoAnn with her daughter Jennifer - was several years older. Jennifer is about two years old in this picture, which places the photo sometime in 1985... about a year and a half after we met them.

Jennifer and JoAnn, 1985
Jennifer and JoAnn, 1985.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since that picture was taken. Jennifer’ll be graduating from law school in a few months. Here are mother and daughter as they looked last night:

JoAnn and Jennifer, 2009
JoAnn and Jennifer today.

I have half a mind to open up a few more old picture frames. Who knows what archaeological treasures lurk within?

ROUMANIA MANIA

Last night, the Usual Suspects convened at the Marietta Diner for a Thursday evening post-minyan meal.

The Diner is the perfect place to go when you want Big Food. And even better, they know us. Our server had a round of unsweetened iced teas and diet Cokes (with accompanying lemon and lime slices) on the table before we all had even had a chance to sit down.

I didn’t have to cogitate too long over the menu. I knew what I wanted: Roumanian Steak.

Picture a huge portion of beefy skirt steak, grilled medium-rare and smothered with onions. Not just any old onions, either: a massive heap of sliced yellow onions, slowly fried (with a little garlic) until caramelized a rich, dark brown. The onions alone are enough to make strong men weep with pleasure.

As if that were not enough, this monster slab of meat is served up on a two-foot long trencher - the steak still has to be folded in half to fit - along with sautéed vegetables, a crabmeat-stuffed mushroom cap, and a baked potato. I can never finish the damned thing; I always take half of it home.

You can get a steak like this at Sammy’s Roumanian in New York City, but it’ll cost you twice as much... and it won’t be any better.

When I got up at 4:00 a.m. to take a whiz (all that diet Coke having run right through me), there was the distinct aroma of onions. Beats Asparagus Pee-Pee any old time.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

It’s Friday - time once again for the weekly Assorted Assemblage of Moozikal Mayhem, randomly barfed right out of the iPod d’Elisson.

This weekend, we’ll be attending a wedding, along with its associated peripheral activities. The bride is the daughter of our friends Ron and Wendy... and the niece of our friend Gary (Ron’s brother). It will be a black-tie affair, so be on the lookout for Silly Photographs of People in Monkey-Suits to be posted here after the festivities.

Meanwhile, let’s see what’s on the box this week:
  1. Carmen: Habanera (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle) - Maria Callas

    Maria sure had a set of pipes.

    Quand je vous aimerai?
    Ma foi, je ne sais pas,
    Peut-être jamais, peut-être demain.
    Mais pas aujourd’hui, c’est certain

    L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
    que nul ne peut apprivoiser,
    et c’est bien en vain qu’on l’appelle,
    s’il lui convient de refuser.
    Rien n’y fait, menace ou prière,
    l’un parle bien, l’autre se tait:
    Et c’est l’autre que je préfère,
    Il n’a rien dit mais il me plaît.
    L’amour! L’amour! L’amour! L’amour!

    L’amour est enfant de Bohème,
    il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
    si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime:
    si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
    Si tu ne m’aimes pas,
    Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime!
    Mais, si je t’aime,
    Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
    Si tu ne m’aimes pas,
    Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime!
    Mais, si je t’aime,
    Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!

    L’oiseau que tu croyais surprendre
    battit de l’aile et s’envola...
    l’amour est loin, tu peux l’attendre;
    tu ne l’attends plus, il est là!
    Tout autour de toi, vite, vite,
    il vient, s’en va, puis il revient...
    tu crois le tenir, il t’évite,
    tu crois l’éviter, il te tient.
    L’amour! L’amour! L’amour! L’amour!

    L’amour est enfant de Bohème,
    il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
    si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime:
    si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! (x2)


  2. Jano - Alamaailman Vasarat

  3. Nierika - Dead Can Dance

  4. Twilight - Squirrel Nut Zippers

  5. Stereotype - The Specials

  6. Ride Across The River - Dire Straits

  7. When I’m Sixty-Four - The Beatles

  8. Absolutely Free - Big Swifty & Associates

    An instrumental cover of the Zappa song by Don Julin, a mandolin player, and a few of his friends. Strange... and good.

  9. Take Time - The Books

    The Books don’t create songs so much as they build sonic sculptures with all sorts of bizarre shit hanging off of them. And, yes, that’s a recommendation.

  10. My Life Is Good - Randy Newman

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Chill winter winds, they blow anon
But where have all the kitties gone?
They’re on the Ark, with other fauna,
Deep in the hold, where it is warma.


Friday Ark #225 is afloat, ably captained (as always) by the Modulator.

If, by the time Sunday evening rolls around, you still have a Kitty Jones, head on over to Three Tabby Cats in Vienna (formerly known as The Catboys Realm), where Kashim, Othello, and Salome will host Carnival of the Cats #252.

Strangely enough, 252 is an anagram of 225: Imagine that.

Update: CotC #252 is up.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JEWS AND PORCINE MAMMALS

Unlike our Abrahamic brethren who believe that pigs are so unclean, even cartoony representations of them - piggy banks, Winnie-the-Pooh Piglet dolls, and the like - are abominations against Allah, Jews get along just fine with pigs.

We’re just not supposed to eat ’em.

F’r instance, during the holiday season, Macy’s operates a kiddie ride at Lenox Mall called the Pink Pig, a beloved tradition in this town. I cannot picture a Muslim enjoying such an amusement...but we Heebs have no problem with it, since you are not expected to eat the pig. And it’s not a real pig, anyway.

Here’s a pic of the Missus, cuddling up with a stuffed toy avatar of the Pink Pig. Cute, innit?

Pink Pig and SWMBO
Aren’t they sweet? SWMBO and the Pink Pig.

We have no problem using items made of pig-parts. Shoes? Footballs? Pig-bristle hairbrushes? Go right ahead. Porcine insulin? Why not? It saves lives, and our culture is a culture that values human life.

But there are limits. Some things are just plain Not Acceptable...

...this pig-shaped yarmulke, for example.

Unacceptable Yarmulke
An example of an Unacceptable Yarmulke, as modeled by the Bro-in-Law d’Elisson.

Definitely not something you want to wear to Shabbat services.

“Meat - It’s what’s for headgear!”

PUSS-BOOK

Now that Facebook is becoming the rage - all the Kool Kidz™ are doing it! - even Hakuna wants to get into the act.

Facebook Hakuna
“Can you friend Tiny, Tig, and Nardo for me?”

“Can you sign me up for Facebook? Don’t even think about posting any of those damned LOLCats on my page, though. I’ll barf in your shoes if you do.”

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

ON PIZZA

This evening, the kitchen still being in a moderate state of disarray owing to the just-completed installation of a hardwood floor in our dining room, we elected to order in a pizza.

There’s a place a half-mile away that offers up a reasonable New York-style pie, which means that the occasional pizza dinner is an acceptable option. I gotta have my New York pizza: No other will do.

Specifically, I’m a New York Neapolitan pizza guy. That’s the round pie with the thin, chewy crust. To me, the rectangular Sicilian pie is a non-starter, with too high a crust-to-cheese ratio.

Other regions have their own take on the pizza. None of ’em impress me worth a shit.

New England used to be a pizza desert. Going to Vermont used to be an exercise in Pizza Frustration. The pies were always bland, flavorless... like tomato soup on a Ritz cracker. Feh. Years later, when we moved to Connecticut, things were better, but only marginally. All the pizza joints seemed to be owned by Greeks - weird! - and they would typically make a round pie which they would then cut into square slices. Euclid would’ve gagged.

Some of the oldest pizza places in America are in Connecticut. Many of them still call their product “apizza” (pronounced “abeetz”), the way it was when first introduced to this country. But I’m not a big fan. Too much gooshy tomato glop; not enough cheese.

When I moved to Texas for the first time, back in 1974, I was horrified to learn that virtually the only pizza available was from fast-food places like Pizza Hut and Pizza Inn. Horrible, horrible. Eventually, a few oases of Decent ’Za revealed themselves: Antonio’s Flying Pizza on Hillcroft, and Napoli’s on Memorial Drive, out near Dairy-Ashford. Napoli’s was the Real Thing, a perfect New York pie... and their spaghetti with marinara sauce was the best I have ever had. Real marinara, with a solid peppery bite to it.

Chicago? Some people love those ridiculous thick pies, but not me. Eating a deep dish pizza is a little like eating a monster turducken made with a quail stuffed into a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey stuffed into an emu stuffed into an ostrich. Too much fucking protein!

Not for me.

Give me a New York pie any time... hot out of the oven, nice and floppy so the oily cheese slides off into your lap and burns hell out of your Crotchly Area. Let the rim be a chewy, crunchy dark brown, and let the pie have the perfect balance of doughy base, tomato, and cheese.

That’s what’s for dinner... and SWMBO’s lunch tomorrow, I’ll wager.

THIS IS NUTS


wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Some people will do anything to get that ol’ Adrenaline Rush. Anything.

If I were to do something like this, my wingsuit would need to have a special pouch, for to catch the squizzots with which I would beshit myself in the process.

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

Monday, January 05, 2009

ON SCIENCE PROJECTS

Anybody who knew me back when I was in sixth grade could probably have figured out that I was a Dangerous Nutjob... or at least, someone with the potential to become one.

The kind of person who would keep dangerous chemical reagents in his college dorm room, for example. Substances like concentrated nitric acid (for dissolving coins) and 30% hydrogen peroxide. What was I thinking?

But well before college, there were signs. Signs of an overactive, perverse mind.

Sixth grade saw a lot of my Expressed Weirdness... probably because the hormones were just beginning to kick in, but hadn’t really grabbed hold of me yet.

At what other time of your life would it be remotely acceptable to have a girlfriend with whom you did nothing but vivisect anesthetized mice? Idiot that I am, I didn’t even try to get a little Bare Tit between mouse-heart extractions. All this to determine how mice reacted to diets deficient in specific nutrients... and to being carved up with scalpels. Great project.

The best - and weirdest - Science Project I ever worked on, though, had to be the one we cobbled together using the Kenner Hydro-Dynamic Building Set, one of the wonderful Educational Toys available back then, in an era when real Educational Playthings were not only available... but actually coveted by kids.

Kenner Hydrodynamic Building Set
The Kenner Hydro-Dynamic Building Set. [Click to embiggen.]

Yes, I grew up in a time when kids actually owned things like Gilbert Chemistry Sets, Physics Sets, and Erector Sets with which the enterprising child could conduct actual chemistry and physics experiments - with real chemicals - and build real Mechanical Devices. I would stink up the house by melting elemental sulfur in a test tube in the kitchen, using an alcohol burner... and making Prussian blue dye (which pretty much is permanent... don’t ask me how I know this). And then Kenner, one of the major toy manufacturers of the day (and, incidentally, creator of the Easy-Bake Oven) came out with some interesting new items. One was a Girder and Panel™ Building Set, another a Bridge and Tunnel™ Building Set - both clearly intended to appeal to the budding civil engineers among us - and a Hydro-Dynamic™ Building Set, for us nascent chemical engineers. This last was a sort of Erector Set for fluids, and consisted of a whole mess of transparent tanks, tubes, and pumps. The set included convenient water-soluble dye tablets, so you could squirt pretty colored water all over the rec room carpet. Nice.

I can remember constructing buildings with the Girder and Panel set, with its little molded girders and thermoformed plastic panels. But the Hydro-Dynamic set was way cooler. It had, in addition to the girders that you would use to build a supporting framework, clear plastic tanks of various shapes, along with valves, flexible tubes, and pumps. Years later, when I was designing real chemical plants - the kind made with real steel, tanks, pumps, and pipes - I would realize that the Kenner Hydro-Dynamic set was a spot-on kiddie version. All it was missing was the thousands of gallons of toxic, flammable chemical reagents that a real-life plant would have. Instead, we used colored water.

The project? Knew you’d ask.

The Human Digestive System!

We came up with a plastic simulacrum of the human GI tract, from the mouth (in which we would place a spherical bolus of sodium bicarbonate by way of food), to the stomach (which contained vinegar, creating an impressive fizzy reaction when the bicarb hit), to the intestines. We also mapped out everything in appropriate colors, which combined in such a way that the final product... the Pseudo-Diarrheal Crap that dripped out the final valve... was a rich brown.

Well, we all thought it was hysterical. The classroom roared with laughter as we demonstrated our Human Digestive Tract. The teacher? Not so much.

But - my memory is a bit vague on this point, forty-five years later - I do believe we scored an “A.” And the seeds of a future chemical engineering career were planted in a fertile, febrile brain.

Too bad they don’t make toys like that any more...

THE SEARCH FOR TRUE LOVE

The television ads mostly have to do with trying to sell us cars, beer, and fast food, but the subtext that gets our attention is sex.

“Buy this car and you’ll get laid.”

“Buy this beer and you’ll get laid.”

“Buy this pizza and, with your stomach full, you’ll forget about the fact that you are not gonna get laid.”

The ads don’t say this directly, but they might as well.

The Glass Teat may try to use sex and lust to sell you Useless Shit, but sex and lust are not the whole story. At least, once you get past your fiftieth thirtieth twentieth birthday. Love is more than just about how the plumbing works. Personality plays a crucial role in any relationship that survives past “Wham, Bam, Thank you, Ma’am.”

I suspect that more words have been written on the topic of Love and Human Compatibility than on any other subject, except perhaps on the topic of religion. And what is religion, after all, but one of the tools we humans use to manage our tendencies towards Sex ’n’ Violence, and to provide a framework for our relationships?

I’m not sure what impelled me to write about this topic. Perhaps it’s my daughters, both of whom are engaged in that eternal pursuit of the Ideal Significant Other...or perhaps it is old memories surfacing of my own youthful search for True Love.

Love is more than mere shared tastes or values. Those play an important part, but there’s more, and that “more” does not reduce to a few simple paragraphs. There’s physical attraction, mutual respect, an ability to communicate on the deepest level...and to recognize when communication should be temporarily suspended.

There’s trust. Maybe that is the most important component of the mix: a knowledge that the person you love will protect you from the slings and arrows of life and will never betray you.

It took me a long time to find someone that kindled those feelings within me. Oh, there were the inevitable false starts. Holding hands in summer camp...middle school...and the First Serious High School Relationship. All steps up the ol’ Staircase of Life.

There’s the first experience with pain and betrayal, and with loss. It’s no fun, but it is the price one pays for having a working set of emotions. Part of growing up. You cannot grab for that brass ring on the Merry-Go-Round without the risk of falling off the carousel horse and landing on your face on the asphalt.

But when you find the right person, somehow you know it... even if you don’t figure it out right away. As I did, thirty-three years ago. Within a few days of meeting She Who Must Be Obeyed, I knew in my heart of hearts that she was The One... even if I tried to delay overt acknowledgment of that fact for months, until it was too obvious for even me to ignore.

OK, enough philosophy. Now I gotta go write something about B.O., or farts. It’s how I roll.

FLOORED

The last part of the Floor Puzzle at Chez Elisson - after replacing the (stupid-ass) carpet in the master bath with tile, and after replacing all the rest of the wall-to-wall carpet - was ripping the (stupid-ass) carpet out of the dining room and replacing it with hardwood.

I think we figured out why the builder had put carpet in there to begin with...something that seemed just a trifle boneheaded, given that most of the ground floor (the den excepted) already had hardwood flooring. Of all the places for carpet, the dining room ranks up there among the Most Ridiculous. (I suppose it is possible to carpet a kitchen, but to what lengths will people go to show off their lack of brain cells?) But once the carpet and padding came up, we could see why carpet was the Cheap-Ass Choice.

The subfloor had, in the parlance of the installer, “Issues.”

Some of the plywood had, evidently, been exposed to weather when the house was being framed. Builders, being frugal and/or lazy, will sometimes not finish roofing off a section of a house before installing subflooring over the joists. But if water pools on the subflooring and penetrates the plywood, it can cause delamination. And if the joists are not perfectly smooth, the floor can have high and low spots. As did ours.

The solution? Apart from ripping out the entire subfloor (a tricky deal, considering that it extends under a wall and into the kitchen) and replacing it after planing down the joists, the best thing to do is to grind down the high spots on the existing subfloor, cover it with another layer of plywood, and then install the hardwood over that. It means the dining room will have a slightly higher floor than the adjacent kitchen and foyer, but that’s no big deal. All it takes is money. Crap.

What this all means is that the dining room is sheeted off and there have been sounds of grinding and banging all day. Good thing I haven’t had to be at work, or the distraction would have driven me to... distraction.

We’ll have our new hardwood floor finished off tomorrow - almost a week later than planned, but a one week delay is not too bad in the grand scheme of things. Then we get to move the furniture back in and put all the dishes, crystal, and miscellaneous tchotchkes back where they belong, so that they will no longer fill up every fucking square centimeter of horizontal space in the kitchen.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

AN OBSERVATION

It occurred to me as She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were enjoying our Chinese dinner this evening (Chinese food being something of a Sunday evening tradition among us Red Sea Pedestrians), that a Chinese restaurant kitchen and a sausage factory share certain major similarities.

Namely, both produce output of surpassing deliciousness...and in neither case do you really want to know exactly what goes on behind those closed doors.

A KINGLY GIFT

A group of us convened at the home of our friends Laura Belle and Donnie Joe yesterday evening, there to have dinner and admire pictures of Laura Belle’s new grand-niece.

Laura Belle and Donnie Joe are friends of long standing. We met them early on in our first Atlanta-area sojourn in the early 1980’s - they lived across the street back then, and it did not take long for us to become Good Buddies. The ladies got along...and Donnie Joe’s bookshelf looked an awful lot like mine. Lots of good SF, and a growing collection of Stephen King novels...fertile soil in which a friendship lasting over a quarter-century began to put down roots.

But for today’s purposes, I must point out that Donnie Joe is a Star Trek fan of the first water. Not one of those Deep-End Trekkies that goes to conventions, mind you. He’s a relatively sober individual who happens to like Star Trek - one of the rare television series that, despite its many flaws, brought a certain amount of respectability to the TV-SF genre.

And so the gift that was gifted unto him this Christmas had a special significance. Here it be:

Star Trek Pez
“I’m a PEZ dispenser, Jim, not a doctor!”

Star Trek PEZ Dispensers!

I actually felt a pang of envy, if only for a brief moment...

A FIELD GUIDE...

...to Moronus Americanus.

If you wish to become acquainted with Moronus Americanus in all its revolting variety, spend some time on the highways. We did, on our way back home from our two-day visit to Franklin, Tennessee. It was disturbing.

The Shit-Headed Tailgater is a common sight, easily identified by its habit of following the vehicle in front by a single car length...at 75 MPH...on a slick, drizzle-moistened highway, in the fog. The more aggressive representatives of this species may also be dragging a U-Haul trailer. Closely related to the Multi-Lane Weaver.

Also providing a degree of Road Annoyance is the Excessively Sociable Eighteen-Wheeler, who pulls out into the left lane because he believes he is traveling marginally faster than the eighteen-wheeler in front of him. The result is an exercise in Slow Passage, in which the two trucks will travel alongside one another for miles, as though enjoying a Trucky Kaffeeklatsch, neither one being especially interested in overtaking the other. Meanwhile, the road is blocked up like an octogenarian cheese-eater’s colon.

You may spot Text-Message Tessie easily enough. She’s the one weaving all over the highway as she tries to pick out messages to her huge mailing list of BFF’s, eyes focused on her telephone’s minuscule keypad instead of on the cars barreling down the road on either side of her.

Decisive Dickhead deserves a nod. He’s the guy tootling along in the left lane for miles, who suddenly Makes A Decision...to get off at the exit that is coming up in the next thirty feet. The resulting attempt to cross all lanes of the highway with no advance preparation, and in no time flat, is amusing...but only when seen from a distance. Up close, it’s scary enough to cause a major case of Anal Pucker...the kind that will have you pulling five pounds of stuffing out of the car seat when you get up.

What kinds of Moronus Americanus have you seen lately?

Friday, January 02, 2009

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

It’s the very first Friday of 2009: time to kick off a whole new year of electronically-generated Musical Miscellany. Time for the Friday Random Ten!

The Missus and I are happily ensconced in our hotel room in Cool Springs, Tennessee. Well, technically, not in the room itself. I’m in the Bidnis Center, banging away on one of the public terminals, and SWMBO is drinking tea and carrying on a conversation with a Very Special Front Desk Person. The Mistress, of course!

A quick visit here, and then we’ll head back to Atlanta tomorrow morning to enjoy the last day-and-a-half of SWMBO’s vacation. Meanwhile, we gots us some Choons to listen to, fresh outta the little white Choon-Box! Here they are:
  1. At the Zoo - Simon and Garfunkel

  2. Na Yella Bo - Natraj

  3. Hard Headed Woman - Cat Stevens

  4. Give A Little Bit - Supertramp

  5. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits

  6. Slow Bird - Frank Zappa

  7. Twist And Shout - The Beatles

  8. Guilty - Yann Tiersen

    Is it a sin, is it a crime
    Loving you, dear, like I do?
    If it’s a crime, then I’m guilty
    Guilty of loving you

    Maybe I’m wrong dreaming of you
    Dreaming the lonely night through
    If it’s a crime, then I’m guilty
    Guilty of dreaming of you

    What can I do?
    What can I say?
    After I’ve taken the blame
    You say you’re through
    You’ll go your way
    But I’ll always feel just the same

    Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong
    Loving you, dear, like I do
    If it’s a crime, then I’m guilty
    Guilty of loving you


  9. The Mikado, Act I: Our Great Mikado, Virtuous Man - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company

  10. Pachuco Cadaver - Captain Beefheart

    (Spoken: A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me?)

    When she wears her bolero then she begin t’ dance
    All the pachucos start withhold’n hands
    When she drives her Chevy sissys don’t dare t’ glance
    Yellow jackets ’n’ red debbles buzzin’ round ’er hair hive ho
    She wears her past like a present
    Take her fancy in the past
    Her sedan skims along the floorboard
    Her two pipes hummin’ carbon cum
    Got her wheel out of a B-29 Bomber Brody knob amber
    Spanish fringe ’n’ talcum tazzles FOREVER AMBER
    She looks like an old squaw Indian
    She’s 99 she won’t go down
    Avocado green ’n’ alfalfa yellow adorn her t’ the ground
    Tattoos ’n’ tarnished utensils, a snow white bag full o’ tunes
    Drives a cartune around
    Bromo-Seltzer blue umbrella keeps her up off the ground
    Round red sombreros wrap ’er high tap horsey shoes
    When she unfolds her umbrella pachucos got the blues
    Her lovin’ makes me so happy
    If I smiled I’d crack m’ chin
    Her eyes are so peaceful thinks it’s heaven she been
    Her skin is as smooth as the daisies
    In the center where the sun shines in
    Smiles as sweet as honey
    Her teeth as clean as the combs where the bees go in
    When she walks flowers surround her
    Let their nectar come in to the air around her
    She loves her love sticks out like stars
    Her lovin’ sticks out like stars


It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

The Beasties are frisky; they’re feeling fine
On the Ark’s first outing of 2009.
The cats, dogs, swans, and cockroaches are here
To wish you the best in this spankin’ New Year.


Friday Ark #224 is afloat on the Bloggy Sea, ably captained by the Modulator.

This Sunday, be sure to stop by The Whole Kitten Kaboodle for the 251st edition of Carnival of the Cats. It’s Completely Catrocious™!

Update: CotC #251 is up.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

OVERHEARD

Sometimes the damndest conversations take place just within earshot...and while you may not be part of that conversation, the unmodulated volume with which it is conducted ensures that you will be party to it.

One example was the unintentionally hilarious waiting room dialogue described in my post of two days ago.

And, not that we were looking for another example, one happened to fall into our collective laps this afternoon as we noshed on matzoh-ball soup, cabbage borscht, half-sour pickles, and thick meaty deli sandwiches at Noshville, a restaurant in Cool Springs, Tennessee. [We’ve visited their location in Nashville proper and found it excellent...and this one is extremely convenient, being located across the parking lot from our hotel.]

Sitting in a booth adjacent to us was a large group. By which I do not mean there were many people, no. There were only four of ’em, in fact...three men and one woman...but they were humongous. Individually and collectively.

But, despite what some people may say, size doesn’t matter. Well, it does in some areas, but one’s Corporeal Avoirdupois is not an indicator, necessarily, of one’s social acceptability, moral framework, or work ethic. And if you have lived in the American Southland for any length of time, you have seen plenty of Big Folk.

Give me a Big Person any time. Such people generally know how to enjoy life a lot more than those neurasthenic, attenuated gym-rats.

But what had SWMBO’s and the Mistress’s jaws hanging open was not the Physical Dimensions of this bunch. It was their conversation, conducted in voices loud enough to be heard clearly at a distance. A conversation that had to do with the ins and outs (you should excuse the expression) of the fine art of Fellatio.

It’s just not the sort of dialogue you expect to hear in a public setting...at least, not without a token effort on the part of the speakers to ensure that random strangers do not overhear their opinions on the benefits of swallowing versus spitting. (“Think of the protein!”).

Somehow or other, I missed out on all of this, my attention being consumed by the pastrami, tongue, and chopped liver sandwich I was consuming. (“Tongue - the meat that tastes you back!™”). But SWMBO gave me all the details in a tone of bemused, semi-amused faux-horror.

Comedy is all around us, I tell you. You just have to sit back and wait for it to fall into your lap.

HAKKY NEW YEAR

HakunaGlows
Hakuna. [Click to embiggen.]

“Is it 2009 yet?”