Friday, February 27, 2009

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Can it be? Can it possibly be Friday already?

Yes, it is - which means it’s time once again for the Little White Choon-Box to disgorge its Musical Content. Oh, boy!

This weekend, I am off to the mountains of North Georgia, where I will be enjoying a relaxing weekend at our fraternal organization’s annual regional retreat. We’ll be spending a lot of time dealing with matters both spiritual and spirituous. Glug!

Meanwhile, what’s playing today? Check it out:
  1. Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child - Mojo Nixon

    Debbie Gibson is pregnant
    With my two-headed love child
    It’s a bigfoot baby
    All covered in fur now
    Stark raving naked in the fornication nation

    We were secretly married
    Out in Las Vegas
    At a little bitty chapel
    Joan Collins married us
    Rootin’ tootin’, ain’t high falutin’

    Rick Ashley is a pantywaist
    Mash my butt in his face
    He’s teeny tiny two inches of terror
    And they’re all gonna scare you
    Harebrained cockamamie knuckleheaded idjit galoot

    No truth to the rumor
    About Spuds and Debbie G
    Only went to the motel,
    Just to watch a little TV
    Hate that dog, he must die

    T-T-T-T-T-Tiffany
    Is wrestling in Jell-O
    Body slamming Debbie G,
    They’re covered head to toe
    Hard on, my hard on

    Debbie Gibson is pregnant
    With my two-headed love child
    It’s a bigfoot baby
    All covered in fur now
    Stark raving naked in the fornication nation
    I’m stark raving naked in the fornication nation
    Stark raving naked in the fornication... nation!


  2. God, That’s Good - Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd, Original Broadway Cast

  3. Hot For Teacher - Richard Cheese

  4. Ssekota - Maritu Legesse

  5. Miracle Man - Elvis Costello

    From his first album, released in the summer of 1977. There was no way to listen to this album (“My Aim Is True”) - and this song in particular - without realizing that a blazing new talent had arrived in the world of Rock Music.

  6. Blues For The Muse - The Incredible String Band

  7. I’ll Follow The Sun - The Beatles

  8. Nite Club - The Specials

  9. Mayi A Gaye - Boukman Eksperyans

  10. Sofa - Frank Zappa

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

The Ark is packed with bugs and bees
And bulls and bears as well.
All packed into one little boat,
They make a Funky Smell.
Thank goodness that the Internet
Cannot transmit the reek -
To shovel out the Kitty Crap
Alone would take a week!


Friday Ark #232 - a nice, symmetrical number - is afloat at the Modulator... with Hakuna in pole position.

And if that’s not enough Photographic Felinicity for you, head over to Artsy Catsy, where Carnival of the Cats #259 will be posted sometime Sunday evening. Enjoy!

Update: CotC #259 is up.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

OLD AND NEW

SparklingStreet
Downtown Fort Worth sparkles at twilight.

Last weekend, we stayed at a hotel in downtown Fort Worth. It was the first time we had done so since our wedding, over thirty-one years ago.

Back then, we had stayed at the Hilton, right across from the Water Gardens – the local landmark so prominently featured in the movie Logan’s Run. At the time, there were not too many hotel choices in downtown Fort Worth, and so there was a small crop of minor celebrities staying there. Upon our arrival, our room was occupied by Richard Kiel, the actor memorable for his steel-toothed portrayal of “Jaws” in the James Bond flicks The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, the former having been released that very summer. And the grrrl group Heart was there as well. Barracuda!

The Hilton is still there, but now it’s surrounded by taller buildings, making it difficult to spot from a distance. This time, however, we stayed at the Courtyard, AKA the Blackstone, located in the very first skyscraper to have been built in Fort Worth. It’s a grand old Art Deco building, one that has had its share of notable guests over the years.

Old and New Too
The Blackstone: dignified Art Deco with a backdrop of glass and chrome. Check out the window washer!

Downtown Foat Wuth has undergone a sort of renaissance in recent years, with plenty of arts, shopping, and restaurants. I love the old buildings, with their detailed stonework... and I love the contrast between Old and New that confronts you almost everywhere you look.

Old and New
The juxtaposition of Old and New.

You gotta love a city that respects its past even as it embraces the future... even if the municipal tap water tastes like horse piss.

More pics below the fold, for those who care to look.

Tree Filigree
Glistening tree branches form a visual counterpoint to the brickwork of a downtown building.

Kress
The old Kress department store: Art Deco classic turned Leased Residence.

Building Detail
More Art Deco detailing.

Deco Decor
Art Deco designs festoon the exterior of the old Blackstone.

Blackstone Shrine
A shrine to famous past guests. [Click to embiggen.]

Courthouse
The old courthouse, a downtown landmark.

Hi-Yo Burlap
Hi-Yo Burlap! (Who was that Sacked Man?)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NEWLY RELEASED...

...in the now-moribund CD format is this Fine Album.

Album Cover
[Click to embiggen.]

Naw, I’m just kidding. This one is unavailable in stores... or pretty much anywhere else. It’s the product of a cute little PhotoShop-based meme Libby has been trying to propagate.

Create Your Own Album Cover!

It’s simple, especially if you have PhotoShop or some other image-editing software. Here’s all you do:
  1. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random. The title of the article is the name of your band.

  2. go to http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3. The last few words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your album.

  3. Go to http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days, where the third picture - no matter what it is - will be your album cover.

  4. Use PhotoShop (or any similar image-tinkering app) to put it all together.

  5. Post the result on your blog.
Clever, no?

I’m not tagging anyone with this, but if it’s your cup of tea, have at it. What I find amusing is that this random approach yields results that would look perfectly at home in the Remainder Rack of your local music shoppe. Say, does anyone still actually buy CD’s any more?

Update: Just for shits ’n’ grins, I did a second one:

Album Cover Too
[Click to embiggen.]

Hey, this is fun!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MARDI GRAS IN NEW ORLEANS FOAT WUTH

You know if you’re going to New Orleans
You ought to go see the Mardi Gras
You know if you go to New Orleans
You ought to go see the Mardi Gras
You know when you see the Mardi Gras
Somebody’ll tell you what’s Carnival for

Get your ticket in your hand
If you wanna go to New Orleans
Get your ticket in your hand
If you wanna go to New Orleans
You know when you get to New Orleans
Somebody’ll show you the Zulu King

You will see the Zulu King
Down on St. Claude and Dumaine
You will see the Zulu King
Down on St. Claude and Dumaine
Down by the old auditorium
Is where you’ll wait to see the Queen.


- Professor Longhair

Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday - does not really register on the radar screens of us Red Sea Pedestrians, but years of living in Texas have given us more exposure than we otherwise would have had. We’ve even eaten King Cake, at the risk of breaking our teeth on the little plastic Jesus-Baby buried somewhere within.

We have not gone to see the big Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and Galveston. If ever we want to be surrounded by a sea of drunken, vomiting strangers, Savannah is only four hours away... and Saint Patrick’s Day is just a few weeks from now. But last weekend we were in Foat Wuth, Texas, and we managed to find ourselves in the eye of the local Mardi Gras cyclone.

SWMBO’s mom and stepdad David, who were both celebrating Major Birthdays, took us and a handful of their friends out to dinner Saturday night. They had made reservations at Pappadeaux, a popular Cajun-style seafood restaurant - one that had been a favorite of theirs back when they had been living in Houston.

In Fort Worth, Pappadeaux is located adjacent to Pappasito’s (a Tex-Mex place) and Pappas Burgers, in what we like to call the Pappas Compound. And when we got there, it was a mob scene fresh out of War of the Worlds. Cars cruised hither and thither, all searching for increasingly elusive parking spots. After about twenty minutes of fraying tempers and agita, SWMBO finally scored a parking place and we went inside.

It was a maelstrom, a madhouse of sweating, gyrating bodies, scurrying waiters bearing huge platters of food, and hungry patrons. And that’s when we realized that we were there in the midst of a Mardi Gras celebration. Oy.

Any given Pappas restaurant will be packed on a Saturday night, and Pappadeaux is no exception. But this was extra doubleplusjampacked, thanks to the impending arrival of Fat Tuesday, when the happy Catholics of the Louisiana bayou bid a temporary pre-Lenten farewell to happy times and rich foods. And the non-Catholic population of the neighboring states is only too eager to assist in the celebration, especially as said celebration involves the Holy Trinity: Food, Alcohol, and Excess.

I tried to imagine us - a party of twelve - seated amongst that chaotic crowd, trying to hear ourselves think... and trying to keep little William and Madison from wandering off. But, as it happens, David had an ace up his sleeve.

He had reserved us a table in the restaurant’s Wine Room, a comfy little cubbyhole just the right size for our Dirty (Rice) Dozen. A little oasis of quiet amidst the chaos. It was perfect... as was the meal.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS ELDER DAUGHTER?

Dora the Explorer has nothing on our kid. Carmen Sandiego? A homebody, by comparison.

I was pleased to receive an e-mail from Elder Daughter a couple of hours ago that informed us that she had arrived safely in Dakar.

Dakar? Wuddat?

Dakar, for the Geographically Challenged, is the capital of Senegal. If you look at a map and zoom in on the bulgy part of western Africa, Senegal is the country that lies just south of Mauretania, west of Mali, and north of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Dakar is pretty much the westernmost point on the continent, occupying a little peninsula that sticks out of that Africa-Bulge like a zit on a humongous ass.

She’s seen a lot of Africa in the past year or so, Elder Daughter has: Egypt, Morocco, Uganda, South Africa, and now Senegal. That’s five more African countries than I’ve been to.

In the meantime, I will be perfectly content to stay here, where an occasional Gin-and-Tonic has been prescribed to ward off any possibility of malaria. Please join me in wish Elder Daughter safe travels and a happy return.

A COMIC STRIP EVEN I CAN UNDERSTAND

Pearls Before Swine 022309
Pearls Before Swine 022409
Pearls Before Swine ­©2009 Stephan Pastis. [Click to embiggen.]

I always knew Stephan Pastis was deranged. This clinches it.

Here he reveals the best worst-kept secret about Yiddish: It’s the best language in the world to use when you want to insult someone. And it works equally well whether the insultee understands you or not.

Update: It looks as though this Yiddish shtick is the Theme o’ th’ Week. I’ll post new strips here as they appear.

Pearls Before Swine 022509

THE PENETRATING STARE

Carpet ’Kuna
Hakuna, giving me The Look.

Never mind the legendary Jeremy Tait, he of the Powerful Eyes. Hakuna has got a penetrating stare that will slice through chrome steel.

It’s almost as if to say, “What are you looking at, Bub?”

Monday, February 23, 2009

EVIL WATER

...There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
- I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.


- A. E. Housman

If Mithridates had been king of Fort Worth, he would have been deader than Abe Lincoln after the play. Immunizing himself by deliberately taking all manner of poisons would have failed to protect him against the local Tap Water.

Jeezus, it is nasty.

Years ago, the Missus’s brother Morris William used to live in North Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth. At the time, we commented upon the remarkably vile tap water. When you showered in it, it gave off a pesticide-like pong that was downright scary. The idea of actually ingesting it was horrifying.

We suggested that our (then baby) nephew William’s frequent upset stomachs could be helped by substituting bottled water for that terrible chemical soup. In fact, we insisted on it. We love our nephew, and we were concerned that he might grow webbed feet - or an extra head - if he kept drinking the Local Brew. And I say this as someone who believes that, 99.9% of the time, bottled water is a terrible waste of money and resources... American marketing genius at its most pernicious. But not in North Richland Hills, where using bottled water may very well keep you alive.

What we discovered this past three days is that the problem is not confined to North Richland Hills. Not any more. For the tap water at our hotel in downtown Fort Worth was almost as bad as that old North Richland Hills shit. Ai-yi-yi!

Elder Daughter is convinced that the local water company is in cahoots with the purveyors of bottled water. Maybe... but it is also possible that the City Fathers are trying to cockroach-proof Tarrant County by adding prodigious amounts of chlorinated hydrocarbons to the water.

Look: There were plenty of places Elder Daughter and I visited in Japan where the water was hellishly sulfurous. But you were not expected to drink it... at least, not without digestive consequences. You were expected to bathe in it. And as for the smell, it was perfectly natural for something that had just issued from the bowels of a volcano. Not so the Foat Wuth water.

Mithridates, where are you when we need you?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

HEY THERE, CUPCAKE

Last Wednesday, I headed up to Franklin, Tennessee with Danny, the younger son of my good buddy Irwin. Our mission: to move the Mistress of Sarcasm back to Atlanta, where she would be starting a new job Friday.

One of our first stops upon arriving in Franklin was Noshville, the local outpost of a small chain of delicatessen restaurants. I had been there before, as well as to the Nashville Noshville (try saying that three times, fast), and had been favorably impressed with the quality of their deli meats. The mere fact that deli meats are even available in central Tennessee still boggles my mind.

The Mistress started off with some matzoh-ball soup; Danny ordered a prosaic corned beef on rye. My order - a tongue, pastrami, and chopped liver sandwich on rye - actually made the waitress roll her eyes and make a face when she heard it. She was horrified. Scandalized. Revolted! (I think the chopped liver is what put her over the edge.)

I did not care. I ate my sandwich with gusto. I also ate it with a handful of delightful, crunchy-garlicky half-sour pickles. Mmmmm.

Afterwards, we went next door to Gigi’s Cupcakes. It’s not like we needed any cupcakes... not after the meal we had just snarfed down... but with certain foods, “desire” trumps “need” any day of the week. And the Mistress do love her cupcakes.

Cupcake Gigi
Gigi bears an armload or her Samoa cupcakes.

This place was out of control. Samoa cupcakes, based on the Girl Scout cookie of the same name, with caramel, chocolate, and toasted coconut. Malted milk cupcakes. Some concoction that involved peanut butter and bananas... and about a dozen others.

Gawd.

We bought half a dozen.

I am so, so ashamed. (No, I’m not. The Mistress devoured most of ’em.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

A FEW RAVOON RANDOM OBSERVATIONS

Everybody doesn’t like something,
But nobody doesn’t like... Mrs. Ravoon.

There may be bugs on some of you mugs,
But there ain’t no flies on... Mrs. Ravoon.

Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on... Mrs. Ravoon.

These boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do.
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over... Mrs. Ravoon.

[Apologies to Paul Dehn.]

POSSIBLE (BUT UNLIKELY) SEQUELS TO “MENOPAUSE, THE MUSICAL”

[Being yet another piece rejected by Timothy McSweeney’sLists” section. Assholes.]

Meningitis, the Miniseries

Pancreatitis, the Play

Orchitis, the Opera

Sinusitis, the Sitcom

Diverticulosis, the Dialogue

Hemorrhoids, the Happening

Colonoscopy, the Colloquy

Erectile Dysfunction, the Educational Video

Alzheimer’s, the... the... what were we talking about?

QUALITY BREAKFAST

Pastrami-Cured Salmon

Here’s a Breakfast of Champions for you: A Thomas’s whole wheat English muffin, topped with Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill cheese and my own Pastrami-Style Cured Salmon.

Beats a bowl of cornflakes like a red-headed stepchild.

FOAT WUTH FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Mom and David 1942
SWMBO’s mom and stepdad, circa 1942.

Foat Wuth Friday? Wuddat?

Even as these words are being slapped up on the Inter-Bloggy-Net, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are enroute to the Great State of Texas, there to celebrate the conjoint birthdays of SWMBO’s mom and stepdad. Not only will SWMBO’s siblings be there, but Elder Daughter, fresh from her onstage triumph in last week’s production of My Comic Valentine in Washington, D.C., will be joining us as well!

Elder Daughter onstage
Elder Daughter (L) onstage.

We’ll be in Foat Wuth - Cowtown! - the gateway to the West and the terminus of the Old Chisholm Trail, where the term “stock market” has nought to do with Wall Street, but lots to do with Meat.

Meanwhile, though, you’ll be wanting some Musical Entertainment... and I’m just the guy to give it to you, thanks to the kind assistance of the iPod d’Elisson.

What’s on the box today? Let’s check it out:
  1. Dachau Blues - Captain Beefheart

    Dachau blues those poor Jews
    Dachau blues those poor Jews
    Dachau blues, Dachau blues those poor Jews
    Still cryin’ ’bout the burnin’ back in World War Two’s
    One mad man six million lose
    Down in Dachau blues, down in Dachau blues
    The world can’t forget that misery
    ’N’ the young ones now beggin’ the old ones please
    To stop bein’ madmen
    ’Fore they have to tell their children
    ’Bout the burnin’s back in World War Three’s
    War One was balls ’n’ powder ’n’ blood ’n’ snow
    War Two rained death ’n’ showers ’n’ skeletons
    Dancin’ ’n’ screamin’ ’n’ dyin’ in the ovens
    Coughin’ ’n’ smoke ’n’ dyin’ by the dozens
    Down in Dachau blues
    Down in Dachau blues
    Sweet little children with doves on their shoulders
    Their eyes rolled back in ecstasy cryin’
    Please old man stop this misery
    They’re countin’ out the devil
    With two fingers on their hands
    Beggin’ the Lord don’t let the third one land
    On World War Three
    On World War Three


  2. Eliyahu HaNavi - David Chevan and Warren Byrd

  3. Wood & Stone - Moonraker

  4. Khasene Tanz - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  5. I. The Story of the Kalendar Prince - L. Stokowski, Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

  6. Tandem Jump - Jonathan Richman

  7. Take The Power Back - Rage Against The Machine

  8. One After 909 - The Beatles

  9. When Animals Attack - Bobby Slayton

  10. The Shaft and Finale - Bernard Herrmann, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

You gotta love a restaurant that encourages parents to keep their kids on a short leash:

Puppy Espresso
Unruly children? Not a problem at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium.

I’m not sure what scares parents more: the threat of jacking their kids up with a massive dose of caffeine, or the thought of someone giving them a puppy... with all its attendant issues and responsibilities. But it matters not. Misbehaving children are rarely in evidence at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium.

Speaking of puppies, you can get your fill of ’em - kitties, too, along with all sorts of Miscellaneous Fauna - at the Friday Ark, the 231st edition of which is afloat on the Bloggy Sea today, ably piloted (as usual) by Cap’n Steve, the veritable Modulator.

Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats rotates over to When Cats Attack! for installment #258. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Update: CotC #258 is up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

BERRY TWIG SONG

I don’t wait in line at restrooms;
I unzip and I just let fly.
That’s why I’m always in the best rooms.
I enjoy being a guy.

I don’t have to eat a salad,
’Cause it’s OK when guys have guts.
I react to a tender ballad
Like a swift kick in the nuts.

I don’t have to go to wedding showers.
I don’t give a crap if garlic gives me gas.
I don’t piss twenty times in seven hours.
I’m perfectly glad to sit and scratch my ass.

I’m grateful for my Equipment;
And for talcum that keeps it dry.
Let the ladies have Tits and Hipment -
I enjoy being a guy!

[Insincere apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.]

A GOOD OMEN

You know you’re gonna have a good day when your breakfast smiles at you...

Happy Meal

Now, that’s what I call a real Happy Meal!

[FYI, this is exactly how my plate looked when it arrived yesterday morning. Except for the raisin eye-pupils, which I added in order to provide a “demented” effect.]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A MAN OF LEISURE

That’s what I am, beginning tomorrow... for a little while, anyway.

Today marks the last day of my long-standing gig at the Great Corporate Salt Mine, a gig that began on the very day Richard Nixon resigned his office as President of the United States.

With the exception of a two-year sabbatical at a different employer, that’s over 34½ years. I’ve spent those years in everything from technology to sales to marketing to supply chain, and some of the customers I’ve cultivated and developed have joined the ranks of the business’s most profitable accounts. Which means Jack-Shit, since the Salt Mine does not pay commissions to its own salespeople or managers. But the salary has been ever so reasonable, having succeeded in keeping the wolf away from the door for lo, these many years.

I have, in the course of my Salt Mine Duties, seen a goodly chunk of the planet that I otherwise would not have. Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Bahamas, Canada, Belgium... have I forgotten any?

It’s been a great ride, and I’ve had the chance to work with some intelligent, highly motivated people. Good people. And we’ve spent that time, my colleagues and I, in an industry that creates real value and wealth, not a business that merely shuffles money from one pocket to another. It’s an industry that, for better or worse, is central to the economies of the developed nations... and critical for the ability of other nations to join their ranks. I will miss it.

But not overmuch. New ventures are in the works; a great beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born, even as we speak. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you. All will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Meanwhile, I am drinking a toast... a glass of fine old single malt... to a lengthy career. Great Corporate Salt Mine, ave atque vale!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FEBRUARY GUILD EVENT

The February Guild event will be held this evening at Paul’s Restaurant in Buckhead.

Some of the Guild tastings cover a wide range of wines - different grapes, different countries. Not this one. It will be sharply focused, featuring only California wines made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape... vintage 1997.

Houston Steve and I will be there... and, we hope, the Grouchy One as well. As for what’s on the menu, here’s the Foody and Winey Agenda:

[All wines are Cabernet Sauvignon unless otherwise noted.]

Speaker’s wine
Sauvignon Blanc, to be determined

First flight
1997 Benziger Family Sonoma County***
1997 Beringer Knight’s Valley Sonoma County
1997 Franciscan Napa Valley**

Baked pork tenderloin in brioche pastry, buttered spinach leaves, truffled cabernet jus

Second flight
1997 Cakebread Napa Valley***
1997 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley***
1997 Santa Cruz Mtns. Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains

Smoked duck breast, lentil butter-bean ragout, tangerine sauce

Third flight
1997 Caymus Estate Napa Valley
1997 Paradigm Napa Valley***
1997 Silver Oak Alexander Valley**

Braised veal hanger steak, mascarpone fregola glazed onions and mushrooms, carrots, haricots verts, braising au jus

Dessert
Chocolate molten cake, chocolate soup, crème fraîche ice cream

Postscript: Was it good? It was superb. That veal hanger steak was indescribable... the soft, tender flesh of cow-babies prepared perfectly. And the wines were excellent - not a single sour note among ’em. My favorites are noted with asterisks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

SPHINXLIKE, SHE SITS

Sphinxlike Hakuna

Sphinxlike she sits, with regal mien:
More than a Cat, she is a Queen.
If you dare pet her Royal Fur,
She’ll ne’er let on that it pleases her.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

BLUEBERRIES FOR BRUNCH

Our friends JoAnn and Gary had a late-morning get-together today with a small mob of Hungry People. We ate like kings, everyone having brought some sort of tasty dish. Smoked trout and salmon... bagels... cheese... JoAnn’s noodle kugel... fruit... rugelach... cakes...

She Who Must Be Obeyed contributed a Blueberry French Toast Casserole.

Think of it as a variant on the kugel. Starch (challah), eggs, and cream cheese... half-and-half... maple syrup... with fresh blueberries to set the whole thing off. It was massively delicious.

Blueberry French Toast Casserole
SWMBO’s Blueberry French Toast Casserole.

Conveniently enough, I had a goodly handful of Meyer lemons in the fridge, so I whipped up a mess of Meyer Lemon Curd - an old favorite courtesy of the Bakerina - the gentle tartness of which acted as a perfect counterpoint to the sweet blueberries.

Lemon curd is delicious. It suffers, alas, from an unfortunate name that rhymes with “turd.” Don’t let that hold you back.

Meyer Lemon Curd

½ cup sugar
3 large eggs, plus 4 yolks
¾ cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons worth)
2 tsp lemon zest
4-8 tbsp chilled butter, cut into small chunks

Zest the lemons, being careful not to remove any of the white pith. (A Microplane grater is perfect for this purpose.) Put the sugar in the work bowl of a food processor with the zest; process for about one minute until the sugar is aromatic and lemony.

In a metal bowl or the top of a double boiler, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and lemon zest-sugar together until blended. Place over simmering water and cook, whisking frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Continue whisking and stirring as you cook, bringing the mixture to 160˚F. As you approach the target temperature, the mixture will become foamy; the foam will then subside and the mixture will begin to thicken. You’re looking for a consistency like loose sour cream. Do not overcook or the mixture will curdle - you do not want a pile of lemon-flavored scrambled eggs.

Remove from the heat and press through a strainer into a clean bowl. Now, whisk the butter into the still-warm mixture, one chunk at a time. [Use the full 8 tbsp if you want a richer curd - I generally use 4-6 tbsp.]

Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water until chilled, then decant into a serving bowl or storage container. Or ladle it into individual tartlet shells. It’s a welcome burst of citrusy sunshine for a winter’s day.

Now: Where da Bromo-Seltzer at?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

ASK MR. DEBONAIR

Mr. Debonair

Dear Mr. Debonair,

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I would love to have a romantic, candlelit dinner with my Significant Other, a dinner that will implant thoughts of love and, perhaps, result in my getting lucky tonight! Can you offer any suggestions?

Sincerely,
Hot ’n’ Bothered


Dear Hot,

Saint Valentine’s Day, once upon a time, was a day upon which to celebrate the affectionate bonds between Man and Woman. Now, I suppose, it has become all about “getting lucky,” as you so crassly put it... but Mr. Debonair is nothing if not obliging, and so I happily offer my recommendations for a dinner that will dampen the panties of even the most obdurate Ice Queen.

Candlelight and chocolate help, but the key to a successful Valentine’s Day dinner is suggestion. Every dish should subtly plant certain ideas in your Dining Companion’s mind.

Let us start with the hors d’oeuvres. The great Casanovas of the past might have suggested oysters and snails - dishes reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities - but that is, to use an earthy term, a load of crap. You want something that suggests manly firmness. I suggest whole, unpeeled carrots, the larger the better, accompanied with ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

For an apéritif, you cannot beat single malt Scotch whisky. It has a smoky, sensuous flavor, accompanied by a high level of alcoholic content. Remember Ogden Nash’s famous dictum: Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. And to ensure that the right ideas are implanted at every opportunity, may I suggest The Balvenie Double Wood.

The entrée should be something meaty. A manly steak will help get your point across. I recommend a Bone-In Ribeye Steak. It makes for excellent eating, and, as well, gives you the opportunity to ask, “How would you like your Bone-In?”

A fine wine should accompany your Bone-In Ribeye. A Troplong Mondot St. Emilion would be perfect, especially since you could explain (using your most urbane manner) that “Troplong” is French for “Too Long.” Really!

Dessert could be a traditional English pudding, accompanied by hard sauce. A Spotted Dick would fill the bill, but it raises health-related questions that one would be better off avoiding. Maybe a mince pie would be better. With the hard sauce.

Put all of this together, and there should be plenty of huggage and kissage... and the inevitable Juicy Consequences of same. Enjoy.

Best regards,
Mr. Debonair

IN PRAISE OF ROMANTIC LOVE

Antique Valentine
Valentine, circa 1938, from collection of SWMBO’s late Dad.

Because that’s what Saint Valentine’s Day is all about these days, isn’t it?

Sure, we know that the Romans celebrated Lupercalia, their Fertility Holiday, between February 13-15. One can only imagine the goings on, given the complete lack of Judaeo-Christian moral regulation in Rome at the time. Later, February 14 was designated by the early Catholic Church as a day honoring two saints, both named Valentine. Not a rare name for saints, apparently - there was a whole slew of Valentines back then, which makes it seem that “Valentine” may have been the Roman equivalent of “Johnson.” [No, not that kind of Johnson, ya pig.]

Geoffrey Chaucer is credited by some for being the first to associate Saint Valentine’s Day with romantic love, but that’s debatable. It’s pretty clear that by the early 1600’s, however, that link - and the tradition of sending “Valentines” to one’s lovers - was firmly established, at least in England.

All of this got a big shot in the arm in the 1840’s, when the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day greetings appeared in America. Not only did the nascent greeting-card industry jump on the bandwagon, but in the fullness of time, the chocolate folks, the Champagne producers, and the purveyors of hotel accommodations, restaurant meals, and condoms (I made that one up) leaped up as well.

Nowadays, Saint Valentine’s Day has been thoroughly cleansed of any prior pagan or Christian religious associations... which gives us free rein to taste of its heart-shaped fruits. It’s a day that is devoted to the expression of affection, and - dare I say it - Romantic Love. Whether or not it has evolved to this point thanks to the relentless pressure of merchandising - the fate of pretty much every holiday on the American calendar - is immaterial. It is what it is.

And that’s not a bad thing, really.

The Romantic Idealist in me wants to say that with She Who Must Be Obeyed, my true love and Significant Other, every day is a celebration of our romantic love. But we all know that’s bullshit. Look, we’ve been married for approaching 32 years, and there are plenty of days when we just sorta acknowledge each other’s presence with a nod and a grunt.

But there are several days that stand out, days that call out for especial recognition of the loving bond between us. There’s our Engage-A-Versary, February 5, the day on which we agreed to yoke ourselves together. There’s our wedding anniversary, June 12. And, for the Lily-Gilding Impulse, there is Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of which, have I told you about my Valentine?

We met a little over 33 years ago on a blind date. I knew right then she was someone special: Within 24 hours, we had seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail and eaten peanut butter pizza.

We have lived our life’s adventure together in four states and in seven different houses. We have had children - wonderful children - together. We have comforted each other as we mourned terrible losses; we have had times of deep joy.

Every day, whether it be exciting or prosaic, is a good day when we are together. She makes me laugh; she also puts up with my attempts to make her laugh. And at night, as we lie in each other’s arms, I am truly at peace.

She is my SWMBO, and I love her.

Friday, February 13, 2009

FRIDAY THE 13th RANDOM TEN

Churchy Panic
Churchy LaFemme, famous triskadeikaphobe. From an early 1970’s Pogo strip.

Yes, it’s Friday, and as Churchy LaFemme was wont to exclaim, “Gyack! Friday the 13th come on a Friday this month!”

Superstitions aside, luck (or the lack thereof) is given free rein on Fridays, for luck - chance, fate, karma, however you choose to label it - plays a critical role in deciding what tunage I listen to. And for that, we can thank the “shuffle” setting on my Little White Choon-Box.

What’s playing today? Let’s just take a look:
  1. To Cry You a Song - Jethro Tull

    I discovered Jethro Tull as a freshman in college, several months after their third album (Benefit) was released, and listened to them constantly for the duration of my time in college. Years later, I would discover that one of our closest friends, JoAnn, is a cousin of Glenn Cornick, bassist on the first three Tull albums.

    Flying so high, trying to remember
    How many cigarettes did I bring along?
    When I get down I’ll jump in a taxi cab
    Driving through London town
    To cry you a song.

    Its been a long time -
    Still shaking my wings.
    Well, I’m a glad bird
    I got changes to ring.

    Closing my dream inside its paper bag.
    Thought I saw angels
    But I could have been wrong.
    Search in my case,
    Can’t find what they’re looking for.
    Waving me through
    To cry you a song.

    Its been a long time -
    Still shaking my wings.
    Well I’m a glad bird
    I got changes to ring.

    Lights in the street,
    Peeping through curtains drawn.
    Rattling of safety chain taking too long.
    The smile in your eyes was never so sweet before -
    Came down from the skies
    To cry you a song.

  2. Lugubrious Whing-Whang - Squirrel Nut Zippers

  3. Kid Charlemagne - Steely Dan

  4. Anxiety Attack - Skankin’ Pickle

  5. Let’s Play Guitar In A Five Guitar Band - Minus the Bear

    Minus the Bear has the best song titles ever. Or the looniest, anyway.

  6. Born with Monkey Asses - MC 900 Foot Jesus

    Only Mark Griffin could record the ravings of a crazy woman in a lunatic asylum and set them to a rap backbeat... and make it work.

  7. Emaline - Ben Folds Five

  8. Saltwater To Quench Your Thirst - Michael Leviton

    The only guy I know who can make the ukulele seem cool.

  9. March of the Meanies - The Beatles

  10. Alice Childress (iTunes Originals Version) - Ben Folds

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Marietta Morning

As morning dawns in Marietta,
I dress myself; put on my swetta.
Will I be jogging in the park?
No: I’ll check out the Friday Ark.


Friday Ark #230 is afloat at the Modulator’s place.

This Sunday, be sure to swing by Three Tabby Cats in Vienna, where Kashim, Othello, and Salome will host Edition 257 of Carnival of the Cats. It’s Cat-Astrophic™!

Update: It may not have much to do with animals, but the latest edition of Haveil Havalim (the Carnival of the Jewish Vanities) is up over at Here in HP.

Update 2: CotC # 257 is up.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

1909-S-VDB Lincoln Cent
1909-S VDB Lincoln cent.

Happy 200th Birthday, Abe!

It was 100 years ago that the familiar Lincoln cent was created to mark the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

The coin you see above, from the first year of issue, was made in San Francisco and bears the initials of the coin’s designer, Victor David Brenner. Only 484,000 of these babies were made before the initials were removed due to a public outcry over the designer’s supposed egotism. (This injustice was corrected eight years later, when they were returned to the coin in a much less conspicuous spot.) The rarest regular-issue Lincoln cent, a 1909-S-VDB in the condition shown above will set you back at least a couple of thousand dollars today.

[It’s also Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday today. People are still pissing and moaning about his ideas in a manner reminiscent of the Roman Catholic Church’s treatment of Galileo, who dared to propound the Copernican theory of a heliocentric solar system... which idea was felt to conflict with the literal interpretation of Scripture. Likewise, Darwin’s concepts of evolution and natural selection do not fit with a literal reading of Scripture. Me, I think Scriptural literalists suffer from a failure to recognize some of the greatest divine gifts, those of human intelligence and imagination... and the ability to construct timeless stories rich in allegory and metaphor.

Evolution: the Providential tool of choice for the ongoing work of Creation!]

NEW DIGS FOR KITTY


Hakuna en repose.

When we redid our floors - including replacing all the wall-to-wall carpet in the house - a necessary consequence was relocating every stick of furniture and every object. Most of those relocations were temporary, but they collectively provided the perfect excuse to repurpose our upstairs computer/guest room.

The computer and its peripherals have been moved downstairs to my office... which makes even more sense given that my Great Salt Mine Computational Apparatus will shortly be returning to Sweat City in assorted boxes. And the former computer room is now a full-time guest room.

My point? Hakuna has wasted no time familiarizing herself with the comfortable new beds. Above, she strikes a relaxed pose on one of the comforters.

How relaxed she’s going to be when Neighbor - the Mistress’s cat - returns next week is anybody’s guess. I’m thinking, “not very.”

BUT, BEN, BARN, AND BYRE

As long as the Missus and I have lived in the Atlanta area, there are still plenty of secrets that we have yet to discover, plenty of Hidden Places that we have not, as yet, visited. We’re always finding out new things about this, our Adopted Home.

Yesterday, I had gone down to midtown Atlanta to discuss the restoration of a family heirloom with a local expert. At one point in the proceedings, she showed me an antique postcard that had been tucked away inadvertently in a package of vintage paper that she had purchased:

Robert Burns Cottage
The Robert Burns Cottage.

It was not all that long ago that I wrote a post about the Bard of Ayrshire, the one, the only Robbie Burns - that selfsame Robbie Burns whose admirers recently celebrated his 250th birthday. And so it was no small surprise to learn that, in Atlanta, there exists a replica of Burns’s birthplace!

I asked whether the place was open to the public. Was it a museum?

No, it is not a public facility, I was told. But a little additional research led me to find out that the house had been built in 1910 by members of the Burns Club of Atlanta, a group that had been around informally since the 1870’s and that had begun its existence as an official organization in 1896.

The house - constructed to the precise measurements of the original - is not an exact replica, given that it incorporates a modern kitchen and restrooms and has an assembly room in lieu of the barn and byre. It is slightly curved, as is the original, which was built to accommodate the path of the road alongside which it was built.

The Burns Club uses the house for regular club functions, holding meetings on the first Wednesday of every month and celebrating Robert Burns’s birthday there as well. I am sure that those celebrations involve traditional Scottish dress, as well as plenty of haggis and an ocean’s worth of “wee drams.”

Alas, the house is “generally not open to the public.” But you never know... bloggers are a persistent lot, and I know at least one who would probably give the left cheek of his ass for a look inside that glorious old house.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

YA-YAS AND YO-YOS

This evening, the Missus and I each have full Entertainment Plates... at different tables.

She Who Must Be Obeyed has taken over the house in order to host Friends of Long Duration, the distaff component of our old neighborhood group. We call the ladies, collectively, the Ya-Yas, a name ripped from the eponymous novel Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

As I write this, I hear the Margarita machine whirring, which means Laura Belle has booze in the blender. Soon it will render the frozen concoction that helps them hang on have fun. SWMBO, meanwhile, has baked up a huge dish of Chicken Enchilada Casserole with which to fatten up the troops.

Enchilada Casserole
SWMBO’s irresistible Enchilada Casserole.

My contribution? An unasked-for one, alas, but I had a pile of broccoli rabe in the fridge, so I used it to make some grilled broccoli rabe with balsamic vinegar reduction and parsley pistou. Whether the the ladies eat it or not is immaterial: I shall not want for roughage this night.

Broccoli Rabe
Grilled broccoli rabe with balsamic reduction.

While the Ya-Yas are amusing themselves eating and talking about... whatever it is that ladies talk about when the menfolk are absent (I fear to guess), I will be with a bunch of male friends - let us refer to them as the Yo-Yos - playing poker and drinking Adult Beverages. Margaritas are not on the menu; however, single malt Scotch whisky is likely to be.

Upon my return, I can regale the Missus with tales of how much money exchanged hands while she debriefs me on how much fun everyone had, how vile everyone thought the broccoli rabe was, and the Latest Poop.

Life is sweet.

Update: And even sweeter, after a rewarding night at the Poker Table. When I arrived home, I dragged the leftover broccoli rabe out of the fridge and devoured it. Yum.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

THE $14 FORD

In this time of economic uncertainty and turmoil, it’s nice to know that, once in a while, a bargain just might fall into your lap.

Witness this story recounted to us this evening by our friend Barry. A former resident of Memphis, Tennessee, Barry remembered a time when his dad used to run a scrap metal business hard by the Memphis airport.

As a scrap metal dealer, Barry’s father would buy old junker cars for their scrap metal value... pennies a pound. They wouldn’t run, but who cared? These rusted-out or smashed hulks were in line to be crushed and melted.

One day, a fellow walks into the office with a question: “You buy cars?”

Barry’s dad answers, “You got a title?”

He then proceeded to explain that he would make an offer for the car based on the going rate for scrap metal... well below what an operable car would fetch. But this guy didn’t care. He just wanted to get rid of his car, and he had the title that proved it was his to dispose of.

“Tell you what,” he said. “If you give me a lift to the airport, I’ll sell you the car for scrap.”

And that’s how Barry came by his first car... a Ford that cost all of $14. And it ran!

Sure, this was sometime around 1963, and scrap metal is worth more now - but a bargain is where you find it, am I right?

Monday, February 09, 2009

JOKES...

...and the old Jews that tell them.

Almost simultaneously, my friends Irwin and Erica sent me this link to a site, the title of which is completely self-explanatory: Old Jews Telling Jokes.

It’s hysterical.

Old Jews telling jokes? Hell, I grew up with my Dad - Eli, hizzownself - telling all manner of funny stories and jokes... a few of which you can see here.

And, let’s face it - most of us, regardless of our ethnicity or religion, are used to old Jews telling jokes. Young ones, too. Shelley Berman, Sam Levenson, Henny Youngman, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, George Burns, Jerry Stiller, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Seinfeld, Alan King, Robert Klein, Woody Allen... they all represent just the tip of the Ice-Berg. Back in the day, Jews gravitated to comedy as a kind of self defense - if I make you laugh, maybe you won’t kill me - and were also driven to the entertainment field because more respectable businesses were once closed to them. Now, they just do it because they’re good at it.

OK, so here are a couple of jokes that you probably will just not get if you’re not Jewish... and if you are Jewish, you may just throw up a little. Enjoy.

Q: How do you catch a Jewfish?

A: With Bait Yisrael.

Q: Is there a blessing for Cornelius Vanderbilt?

A: Yes: Kaddish d’Robberbaron.

Q: Where do Israeli sheep go when they die?

A: To Olam ha-Baaaa.

MOONSTRUCK, AGAIN

Full Moon Too
The Moon shines through a hazy curtain. Photo credit: “Excellent Mountain” Gary.

“He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him.”

At the risk of seeming overly moony, another Moon-Post.

Some of my Esteemed Readers may recognize the above movie quote. The first thing that popped into my head when the Missus and I came out of the gym and saw the rising moon, enveloped in a shroud of thin haze, was a paraphrase: “The Moon came out last night. It sang to me.”

Our friend Gary was with us. He took the photograph you see here... evidently, the Moon sang to him as well.

MOONSTRUCK

Full Moon 020809
Full moon over Marietta.

Yesterday, as I drove home at dusk, my attention was captured by an extraordinarily beautiful full moon.

The sky was darkening to a deep blue, the kind of deep cornflower blue that you get when a winter’s day is ending... and that moon rode above the eastern horizon, casting its lambent yellow-white light.

It appeared larger than normal, probably because it’s no too far from perigee - its closest approach to Earth. Last month’s full moon was even larger, but clouds had obscured it here.

This image does not do it justice. I would’ve needed a long telephoto and a sturdy tripod. While I have the second - not the first, alas - what I really needed, and did not have, was time: The moment was fleeting. But, for better or worse, here it is.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 19.

Yet more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Previous installments of the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary may be found in the Archives.

Ambidickstrous [am-bi-dick-strus] (adj) - Descriptive of males who are both homo- and heterosexual. Bisexual.

“I know Charlie is a real ladies’ man, but I had no idea he was ambidickstrous until he offered to wax my bishop in the locker room. Son of a bitch!”

Saturday, February 07, 2009

EIGHT IS (APPARENTLY NOT) ENOUGH

There is a famous Biblical story that deals with two women - prostitutes both, although their profession is not entirely germane to the story - who come before King Solomon with a dispute. As explained by one of the women (let’s call her Plaintiff), both live under the same roof; both gave birth to sons within days of each other. Then, tragedy struck: One of the babies died during the night, his mother (Defendant) having rolled over upon him in the bed. Defendant then quietly swaps the two babies while Plaintiff is asleep. When Plaintiff awakens, she sees that “her” baby is dead... but on closer examination she realizes that it’s not her baby.

Defendant, meanwhile, claims that the living baby is hers. Absent witnesses, who to believe?

Given that this story takes place well before the availability of DNA tests, it falls upon King Solomon to resolve the matter. Which he does with alacrity.

“Bring me a sword!” he famously says. We’ll simply slice the child in two and give each woman half. Case closed!

Whereupon Defendant responds, “OK, fine!” But Plaintiff says, “No! Don’t kill the child! Give it to the Defendant! The child is hers!” Of course, that reveals the Plaintiff as the real mother, for a real mother would choose giving up her child over having it killed. At least, that was Solomon’s take on the situation - demonstrable evidence of his legendary wisdom.

The story of King Solomon and two women, each desperate for a child, is a suitable frame for the story of another Solomon - one Nadya Suleman, to be precise, who recently gave birth to octuplets.

That, in itself, is a singular event. The incidence of natural octuplets in humans is vanishingly rare. Before modern advances in human fertility medicine, even quints were Major News Events. Multiple births now are a lot more common as a result of certain fertility enhancement regimens, but octuplets are still extremely unusual. And once they are born, all of the tools of modern medicine are necessary to ensure that these litters of tiny babies survive.

So here we have the case of the 33-year-old Nadya Suleman, who last week gave birth to eight living children. Instant brood! you may think. But no. Suleman already had six children between the ages two and seven.

Suleman, alas, is a single mother. Unemployed, and likely to remain so, since it’s hard working a 9-to-5 when you have fourteen little ones to care for. She lives with her parents, parents who have economic issues of their own (they filed for bankruptcy in 2008, citing over $900k in debts) - which means, almost certainly, that her army of children will need to rely on government handouts to survive despite her best intentions.

We live in an interesting society. A single mom with Suleman’s resources would have a hard time adopting that many children... and rightfully so, since children should have a reasonable expectation of a minimum standard of care and economic support. But you can poop out as many as you can, no problem.

My issue is with the fertility clinic that enabled this morally questionable situation. Let’s not even get into the matter of the first six children - all the result of fertility treatments. Why would a responsible medical practitioner implant eight fertilized embryos in a woman who already had six healthy children... and, moreover, who was unemployed and unmarried? I mean, what the fuck?

Having children is a wonderful thing. Hey, the Missus and I have two of our own. But we have never set out to repopulate a desert planet... merely to replace ourselves (more or less), and we stopped when medical issues made additional pregnancies risky. How messed up do you have to be to crank out a mess o’ kiddos in order to satisfy your need to be loved?

If I were King, I’d have this woman’s tubes tied. But I never claimed to be a Solomon.

What do you think?

Friday, February 06, 2009

CORKAGE


Champagne Corks


You have to drink a whole lotta bubbly to pile up this many corks.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Yes, friends, it’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another random assortment of tracks as disgorged by the iPod d’Elisson.

What’s on the Playlist du Jour? Let’s take a look:
  1. Zig Zaggity Woop Woop, Part 2 - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

  2. Michelle - The Beatles

  3. One Million Miles Away - J. Ralph

  4. Lives - Modest Mouse

  5. Ansarun - Gender Wayang Sukawati

    Indonesian gamelan music, in case you were curious.

  6. The Harts - Philip Glass

    From the “Notes On a Scandal” soundtrack.

  7. Blue Jay Way - The Beatles

  8. Atlantis - Bernard Herrmann, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

  9. Yes It Is - The Beatles

  10. Little Bird - Scott Matthew

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Sunroom Hakuna 020509
Hakuna in the sunroom.

On a frosty Friday morning,
The animals are yawning.
Rat, cat, dog, sea slug or shark;
They all wake up to ride the Ark.


Friday Ark #229 is afloat over at the Modulator.

This Sunday, be sure to check out Carnival of the Cats #256, to be hosted at Pet’s Garden Blog. It’s Perfectly Catrocious™!

Update: CotC #256 is up.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A THURSDAY EVENING AT HOME

Dinner, Chez Elisson.

Exceptionally this evening, the Missus and I did not go to Thursday evening minyan, given that I was feeling somewhat puny. One of those seasonal upper respiratory things.

But we had the perfect medicine on hand. A Beefy Dinner!

We started off by killing the remains of a cauldron of cabbage borscht SWMBO had made a few days earlier. Cabbage borscht is an Eastern European taste treat, containing no beets, but loaded with cabbage, tomatoes, and enriched with beef shanks. It has a sweet-and-sour tang that is irresistible, especially after it has sat in the fridge for a couple of days.

SWMBO also threw together a bowl of her Ridiculously Yummy Guacamole™. Something to get the juices flowing - which it did, most effectively.

By way of an entrée, we had chipotle-marinated flatiron steaks, buried in caramelized onions. Alongside that, there was oven-roasted broccoli rabe with balsamic vinegar reduction and parsley pistou.

Rabe 'n' Steak
Flatiron steak buried in caramelized onions, broccoli rabe on the side.

Broccoli rabe is not everyone’s favorite. It has a bracing bitterness to it, especially in the leaves, but the bitter edge is nicely counterbalanced by the balsamic reduction and the pistou, bright with lemon and parsley flavors. Much more interesting than plain ol’ broccoli, any day.

Dessert? After a meal like that, we doan need no steenkeen’ dessert. But a cuppa Joe will suit just fine... and perhaps a restorative dram of schnapps.

EVER VIGILANT

Hakuna on Alert
Hakuna on Alert.

The ever-vigilant Hakuna stands ready to protect her home and its occupants from invasion. Until something or someone actually manages to get in the house, in which case the ever-vigilant Hakuna will high-tail it for the safety of the Under-Bed Zone.

BIG GAME, BIG FOOD

I know this is a few days after the fact, but I actually enjoyed watching the Stoopid Bowl this year. It was a real contest and it had moments of genuine excitement, despite my not having a dawg in the hunt. I’m not overmuch a Steelers fan, and I’m still a little pissed at the Cardinals for knocking the Atlanta Falcons out of the playoffs.

Those who know me know that I’m generally not all that excited about the Big Game. Big Food, though... that’s another matter. Steve H. will attest to that.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this collision between Big Game and Big Food, courtesy of Pat at the Greenville SC Post Card Blog. It’s nothing less than an edible Super Bowl stadium, complete with blimp... constructed entirely out of Snack Foods. Read about it and weep. With terror or pleasure, your call.


Edible stadium. Image courtesy of holytaco.com.

I do believe Pat is schizoid. On the one hand, he is a gentlemanly connoisseur of fine wines and president of the Sommelier Guild of Atlanta, the outfit that puts on those nifty wine tastings that Denny, Houston Steve, and I are so fond of. On the other hand, he posts links to the damndest food-related items on his blog.

It’s Pat that introduced me to the infamous Luther Burger...and a recent post of his links to a site that lists ten Weird Gourmet Foods. [I’ve actually eaten two out of the ten, in case you’re curious.]

I suppose it’s nice to know that a mind that can encompass the finest vintages of France, Italy, and California and that can draw fine distinctions between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can appreciate the glories of a football stadium built out of 58 Twinkies, a pound of bacon, guacamole, queso dip, and salsa, Slim Jims, and Vienna sausages... miscellaneous chips and cheeses... with a summer sausage blimp hovering overhead. Sweet.

OBAMANATION, CLOSE UP

This is amazing.

The lovely Boudicca had this link over at her site and I could not help but steal share it.

It’s a still photograph of Barack Obama’s inauguration. Not just a still photograph, however: It’s a panorama pieced together (apparently) from a whole lotta very detailed images. You can zoom in on any part of the image - à la Google Earth - and see amazing detail. You can almost read the music on the Marine Corps Band’s music stands, it’s that sharp.

The fact that technology like this exists is impressive... and more than a little scary. It’s certainly reason enough to avoid fishing for boogers in the old Nostril Pond. Can you imagine the shame - the complete and utter Fu-Na* - of knowing that, in the Library of Congress and on millions of computers worldwide, there exists an image of you with your index finger crammed up your left nostril to the third joint? Busted... big time!

It’d be just my luck.

*Fu-Na (foo-nah): (n.) A condition of extreme embarrassment or humiliation.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

HEART OF MY HEART

We spent a goodly chunk of the morning, the Missus and I, at Chez Cardiologist.

Owing to a family history that includes plenty of Cautionary Tales, the Missus takes pains to ensure that her heart is healthy. She exercises and watches her diet, not to mention following her physician’s instructions and taking her medicaments as directed. But a recent EKG was just wonky enough to merit a more careful look at just what was going on, so her Cardiac Croaker scheduled her for a radioisotope stress test and echocardiogram.

Waiting for any sort of medical diagnostic exam is sheer torture. You spend a lot of your time imagining the worst-case scenarios. What if they find something wrong? And just how bad can that “something wrong” be? In the case of the Ol’ Ticker, bad can be really bad... drop dead at any random moment bad. Scary. And so She Who Must Be Obeyed has been on tenterhooks these last few weeks.

I tend to put on my best Optimistic Face for these sorts of events. And that’s surprising, considering that I spent a lot of time reading the Merck Manual as a kid. This was not the easy-to-read version they put out for laymen nowadays; courtesy of Eli, Hizzownself, who was in the pharmaceutical and hospital supplies business, it was the Full Monty, the Real Thing, about a billion pages of onionskin paper with tiny print that listed Every Fucking Thing That Could Go Wrong With Your Body. But rather than become a hopeless hypochondriac, I adopted the attitude that even though there was plenty to worry about, what was the point? It just makes you miserable.

What I told SWMBO was, “When we leave here today, the cardiologist is going to be a lot richer, and you’ll feel a lot better.”

And, as it happens, I was right. For wonky EKG’s notwithstanding, the Missus got a clean bill of health. Her heart works just fine.

Which provided a perfect excuse for us to celebrate with a Sushi Lunch. Mmmm, sushi.

I guess I’m stuck with her a while longer (keyn ayin hora). And that, Esteemed Readers, is perfectly fine with me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

THE MUSIC...

...has been dead a half-century.

It was fifty years ago today that Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr. (AKA The Big Bopper), Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly died in the crash of their small plane near Clear Lake, Iowa.

Waylon Jennings would have been on that plane, but Richardson had asked to take his place as he was suffering with the flu. Lucky for Jennings; not so lucky for the Bopper.

Years later, singer Don McLean would release his folk-rock epic “American Pie,” a song that cemented the plane crash into the American consciousness as “the day the music died.” Well, the music of the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly, anyway. Waylon Jennings survived that day, as did Dion DiMucci (of Dion and the Belmonts). So there was still some music around.

Moral? Only that life is uncertain, and that when creative and talented people die young, we are forever denied the full benefit of their gifts.

And that there may just be an Extremely Long Choon in it for some hungry folkie... the kind of Choon that runs over eight minutes thirty seconds and provides years worth of grist for the music critics’ mills as they pick apart every little word to tease out the Deeper Meaning thereof.

Oh, the Bopper, and Ritch Valens too
Were victims of the Cosmic Screw.
Gave their flight plan to the pilot;
Too bad he didn’t file it.
That plane was a Balloon o’ Lead
And when Holly landed on his head,
(A blow which rendered him quite dead)
That’s when the music died.

FAREWELL TO THE RABBI

In the fullness of time, I have said farewell to a number of people: friends, relatives, and even the marginal acquaintance. It’s a painful responsibility that falls upon we who survive. (And, just between you and me, I’d prefer to be among them that are saying the farewells than among them that are at the receiving end of same.)

But last night, I attended a shiva minyan for someone I hadn’t seen in many years. At least thirty, and probably closer to forty.

Rabbi Leon Spielman, who passed away last week, was the rabbi who presided over my Bar Mitzvah. He had been living with his son’s family here in Atlanta for the past year, but somehow our paths never managed to cross. It’s doubtful he would have remembered me, a snotty Bar Mitzvah trainee who subsequently dropped out of Hebrew school.

Back in the day, Rabbi Spielman was an imposing figure. Portly, with dark hair and a prominent moustache, he would wear black robes with a tall, black, Old-School-style toque while conducting Shabbat services. I, along with most of my youthful confrères, was just a little afraid of him: He was not the sort to brook any nonsense, nor was he “palsy-walsy” with his young charges. He was... The Rabbi.

Our synagogue sat right on the line dividing Nassau and Suffolk counties, on the Suffolk side of the line. That placed it firmly in Amityville. Yes, that Amityville. Big deal.

One of the synagogue regulars - a chief-cook-and-bottle-washer kind of guy - was a sign painter who called his business Kal Signfeld Signs, an appropriate (and intentional) misspelling of his own name, Kal Seinfeld. Yes, that Seinfeld. He had a kid in the Hebrew school who was one year behind me. Jerry, his name was.

Jerry was not a big fan of Hebrew school. But then again, none of us was at the time.

Rabbi Spielman’s son, in one of those strange twists of Jewish geography and fate, attended my very own Alma Mater, albeit five years later than I. And even stranger, he ended up in the same congregation with us here in the Atlanta metro area. Who’da thunk it?

I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to see the Rabbi before he passed on to Olam ha-Ba - the Next World. But perhaps it’s just as well. The shock upon finding out that I am now a regular daily minyan attendee who can function as a Chazan (cantor) for Yom Kippur services might have hastened his unfortunate demise.

And when I see the son, I remember the father... for the younger Spielman bears an astonishing likeness to the way his late Dad looked 45 years ago. Uncanny, that.

Monday, February 02, 2009

GROUNDHOG DAY, YET AGAIN

Groundhog Day
©2006 King Features Syndicate.

Yes, Groundhog Day. The day on which we ask the famous question, “How much ground could a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground?”

[Most of us are familiar with the eponymous film, the one in which Bill Murray’s character relives February 2 over and over again - in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, no less! - until he “gets it right,” by whatever karmic standards the heavens (or at least the scriptwriters) have established for him. In like wise, my Esteemed Readers get to experience my Annual Groundhog Day Post over and over again... at least until I get thoroughly sick of it.]

You would think that Groundhog Day is a singularly American holiday, steeped as it is in Local Color, Historical Tradition, and More Than A Little Utter Silliness. Think about it: a day on which a large rodent is expected to predict the weather based on its paranoid reaction to Conditions of Illumination. And as if Punxsutawney Phil weren’t enough, down here in Georgia we have our own General Beauregard Lee to do the predictin’ honors. Gaaah.

But, ridiculous as Groundhog Day may be, we Americans don’t hold the patent on silly-ass animal-based holidays. Herewith, for your delectation, Blog d’Elisson presents an overview of...

Groundhog Day Observances Around the World

Canada
The Canadian equivalent of Groundhog Day is Muskrat Day, March 1. If “Inuvituk Izzie” sees his shadow, no maple syrup may be consumed until the Queen’s Birthday.

Germany
Domestik-Schweinestag is observed on March 15. A randomly-selected domesticated pig is taken outside. If it sees its shadow and squeals, it is promptly slaughtered, smoked, and eaten in the form of Rauch-Schinken (smoked bacon) to prevent malevolent Teutonic spirits from lodging in people’s hair.

Tanzania
Tanzanians celebrate Banana Slug Day on July 10. If Blinky the Banana Slug does not return to his habitation promptly after being coaxed from it, people refrain from eating bananas for six weeks. At the same time, they are encouraged to slug one another repeatedly and without obvious provocation.

India
The closest Indian equivalent of Groundhog Day is Cow Day, observed every freakin’ day of every year. If you see a cow, you are expected to get the hell out of its way. You are never expected to eat the cow. By observing Cow Day properly, Indians are assured of having twelve months of suffocating humidity, heat, and monsoons. As usual.

Know of any other interesting international holiday traditions? Leave a comment and tell us all about ’em!