Tuesday, March 31, 2009


All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies

Now get your ass up
Up in the bed, you just woke up
The housekeeper’s coming today
Gonna give her a check for to clean up your dreck
So you can goof off and play
Now listen here, Jim, if you ask me
The place looks like a dog’s breakfast
You don’t pay her enough to pick up all your stuff
You best be getting busy

If you want it clean you’re gonna have to pick up your shit
If you want it clean you’re gonna have to pick up your shit
Don’t expect the cleaning lady to vacuum around it
If you want it clean you’re gonna have to pick up your shit
Wo oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh
Wo oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh

If you want it clean you’re gonna have to pick up your shit
If you want it clean you’re gonna have to pick up your shit
Don’t expect the cleaning lady to vacuum around it
If you want it clean you’re gonna have to pick up your shit

All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
All the cleaning ladies
Now pick ya shit up
Wo oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh
Wo oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh

[Apologies to Sasha Farce]

Monday, March 30, 2009


From Houston Steve’s brother-in-law Roy comes this little gem:

Texas A&M University holds an annual contest for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. The 2007 contest featured the contemporary term Political Correctness.

The winner wrote:

“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.”

I’m surprised I never saw this before, especially given that it involves the use of the word “turd.”


Bernice 1945
The Momma d’Elisson at age 18.

It was just such a spring day as today, with the forsythia coming into bloom, when I held her hand for the last time. Today, twenty-one years later, the sight of those yellow blossoms still stirs bittersweet memories - for both me and my brother - of the day our mother began her Forever Sleep.

A week from today, I’ll observe the formalities of her yahrzeit, the anniversary of her passing by the Jewish calendar. I’ll lead morning services, recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, and hold the Torah scroll and chant Eil Maley Rachamim, the solemn prayer for the dead. Afterward, I’ll buy breakfast - the traditional way of thanking the people whose presence permits me to fulfill my obligations.

But the forsythia is in bloom today, and those memories are stirring.

Mom’s last and greatest regret was that she would not see her granddaughters grow to womanhood. She would have been so proud of them Saturday night, poised, graceful, and animated as we enjoyed an evening with friends and family. And I’m sure she would have recognized just a little bit of herself in each one of them.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


In Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, the Bene Gesserit are an exclusive and secretive sisterhood, the members of which possess the ability to control their physiology so precisely that they can control conception, determine the sex of resulting embryos, retard aging, and detoxify the most deadly poisons... simply by the power of thought.

In real life, such people cannot possibly exist... or can they?

To catch their 8:00 a.m. flight to Atlanta Saturday morning, Eli (hizzownself) and Toni had to get up at what the Mistress refers to as the “Butt-Crack of Dawn.” They planned to awaken at 4:15 a.m., early enough to allow them to freshen up and jump in the car for the 90-minute drive to the airport in Tampa.

They got up at 4:18, all of three minutes late. Not bad, considering that they did not use an alarm clock.

Holy crap. In similar circumstances, I’ve managed to sleep through the insistent buzzing of a clock alarm, necessitating a high-velocity drive from the northern marches of Belgium to the Brussels airport. The idea of entrusting the wake-up duties to nothing more than my own internal Body-Clock fills me with dread and awe. I could never do it... but Eli and Toni could.

Maybe this Bene Gesserit thing is more than just wind in sails, eh?

Friday, March 27, 2009


It is a rainy Friday here in May-Retta, Georgia.

How rainy is it? you ask. Well, as we used to say in Texas, it’s raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. Which means, of course, that it is Very Rainy.

But the rain, it does not bother me, because I am indoors. Even more, I am aglow with happy anticipation, for Elder Daughter will fly down from Washington tomorrow morning to join us for the weekend. It will be a treat to have her together with the Mistress of Sarcasm... the second time in a month, too! And even better: Eli (hizzownself) and Toni - the snowbirds - will be here from Florida, and The Other Elisson from New York. They’ll all be here to join us for the Grand Corporate Sendoff.

I guess if you work in the Great Corporate Salt Mine for over three decades, you get to have a nice steak upon which to sprinkle some of that salt, eh?

Meanwhile, what’s on the ol’ Choon-Box? What sort of Random Musical Spewage awaits us on this wet, wet Friday? Lessee:
  1. Only A Northern Song - The Beatles

  2. You’ve Got It In Your Soulness - Les McCann and Eddie Harris

    From the brilliant “Swiss Movement” album, recorded 40 years ago at the Montreux Jazz Festival... and still sparkling fresh.

  3. The Hornburg - Howard Shore, The Two Towers

  4. Heart of Oak - David Rintoul

    Perfectly appropriate: I’m rereading Master and Commander.

  5. Ani Shelach - Neshama Carlebach

  6. Act II - Tagore, Scene 1 - Philip Glass, Satyagraha

  7. Elukka - Alamaailman Vasarat

  8. Scene 6 - The Somnambulist - Philip Glass, Les Enfants Terribles

  9. Wishful Sinful - The Doors

  10. High Hopes - Skanatra

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Attentive Hakuna
Hakuna en profile.

Hakuna sees the Ark set sail
Upon the Bloggy-Sea:
“Hey, who’s that topping off the list?
It’s Neighbor-Cat and me!”

Friday Ark #236 is afloat at the Modulator.

If you want more Kitty-Blogging, wait until Sunday evening sometime Monday Tuesday evening - then go to Three Tabby Cats in Vienna for a look at Carnival of the Cats #263. And pick up a slice of Sachertorte or Russische Punschtorte at Demel for me while you’re over there, willya?

Update: CotC #263 is up.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Midnight in the Garden
Garden in the Valley
Valley of the Jolly (ho ho ho!) Green Giant!

Years ago - well before we knew we would eventually be moving back to Georgia - a writer named John Berendt came out with a book entitled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book was a novelized account of the activities of one Jim Williams, a Savannah art dealer and collector, and his involvement in the death of his employee (and lover), Danny Hansford. Williams, who claimed to have shot Hansford in self-defense, was tried four times for murder, finally securing an acquittal on the fourth attempt.

Williams lived in Mercer House, a mansion on Monterey Square that had been built by General Hugh W. Mercer, great-grandfather of famed somgwriter Johnny Mercer. After Williams’s death in 1990, the house was used as a private residence and was not open to the public; now known as the Mercer Williams House, it has since been converted into a museum.

Mercer House
The Mercer Williams House, Monterey Square, Savannah.

Berendt’s book - his first - became a bestseller, residing on the New York Times list for over four years. In 1997 it was made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, and featuring Jude Law as the ill-fated Danny Hansford. The movie did not, alas, enjoy the success of the book... entertaining though it was for someone who was now living only 265 miles away from the Location of Interest.

But the book... ahhh, the book. It has a Southern Gothic flavor, and it tells the story of the Williams-Hansford affair by placing the book’s author in the midst of the action - a fictional liberty Berendt took. It also serves as a portrait of Williams, a thoroughgoingly fascinating individual, and as well is populated by a small army of local eccentrics and Interesting Characters - all real people, many of whom are still walking the planet... and at least one of whom we’ve broken bread with.

Savannahians at first were cool toward Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, taking the attitude of people who had had their dirty laundry aired in public without prior permission having been given. But, over time, their attitudes toward “The Book” seem to have softened. It may very well be the enormous shot in the arm that the local tourism industry received as the result of hordes of interested readers descending upon Savannah to see the very places (and sometimes, people) that they had read about. As they say, “money talks, nobody walks.”

We had had The Book sitting on our shelf for a good two or three years before I bothered to pick it up and read it; once I did, I was mentally kicking myself for having waited so long. I loved it! Strangely enough, it was shortly after that that we moved back to Georgia, setting in motion the string of events that would result in the Mistress of Sarcasm becoming a student, and subsequently a resident, of Savannah.

The book’s cover features the image of the Bird Girl, a piece of sculpture that for many years adorned a gravesite at Bonaventure Cemetery. That sculpture now resides at the Telfair Museum on loan, safe from potential plunderers and overenthusiastic tourists... but copies (of wildly varying quality) are available in shops throughout Savannah. It’s a strangely evocative piece, one that combines innocence and melancholy... and it’s one of the first things you will see whan you enter Chez Elisson.

Bird Girl
The Bird Girl.

Over the years we’ve been frequent visitors to Savannah, we’ve developed a deep affection for the place. It’s chock full of interesting architecture and fine restaurants. It was the home of blogger extraordinaire Rob Smith, of blessèd memory. (I still get referrals from his site, almost three years after his death!) The Mistress has done everything there from working as a concierge, to being featured on a magazine cover, to acting in films, to being robbed at gunpoint (the place does have a few rough edges, still). And this is the perfect time of year to visit, if you’ve a mind to see the real beauty of the Low Country.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Somebody at the Grey Lady’s website is clearly not minding the store... because somehow I managed to creep onto the margins of today’s World News page.

NYT Webpage
Today’s New York Times webpage. [Click to embiggen.]

Take a closer look...

NYT Webpage detail
HTF did that get in there?

You can blame Blogrunner for sticking me in there, along with such August Company as the WSJ and Time.com. Yeef.

The takeaway, of course, is that a properly titled post can get you noticed - and subsequently ignored - by all the Important Peepul.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Hungarian Goulash
Hungarian Goulash, served over a bed of trofie pasta.

It doesn’t exactly shout “Springtime!” but I had a jones for some Hungarian Goulash a couple of days ago, and there was nothing to do for it but to procure the necessary provisions and cook away.

I really like this stuff. It’s stick-to-your-ribs satisfying, and it’s not all that difficult to make. You don’t even have to brown the meat; all the necessary caramelization and Maillard reactions take place while the meat simmers in the Dutch oven... which in turn sits in a 325°F oven oven. It produces its own nice gravy-like sauce, almost entirely from the moisture in the onions and carrots you hack up and stick in the pot. No flour or other thickening agents. And, having tried it both with and without a dollop of sour cream, I’m going on record to say that it’s better without. You don’t need the extra richness (or calories), and you don’t need the dulling effect that the dairy has on that bright paprika flavor.

Instead of serving the goulash over egg noodles this time, I tried some trofie, a kind of pasta made without eggs that resembles squiggly little stretched-out spaetzle. It was a winner - I’m going to have to keep a supply of that Exotic Pasta around.

All I can say is, this is a far cry from the soupy, flavorless “Hungarian Goulash” they used to serve for lunch in our elementary school cafeteria. Of course, a school lunch only cost 25¢ back then... and it was worth every penny. Sometimes.


I’m staring at my Nemesis;
She has my full attention.
The tortures I’d commit on her?
Too horrible to mention.

I’d arch my back and hiss and spit
And puff my fur coat well out,
In hopes of scaring her - the shit! -
And running her the hell out.

If she stayed put? Well, then I’d rip
The eyes out of her head.
But for the moment, I’ll retire
To underneath my bed.

The above notwithstanding, Hakuna and Neighbor seem to have come to an uneasy truce over the past several weeks. They generally will avoid one another’s company, but once in a while they will look at each other without untoward incident. Gawd only knows what they are thinking.

Here, Hakuna regards Neighbor with rapt attention:

I am Looking at You

As for Neighbor, she, from the looks of things, just does not give Shit One. Too busy basking in the sunbeam, perhaps.

Recumbent Neighbor

More details in this, our own Tale of Two Kitties, as they develop.


Guys like KeesKennis can post all the pictures he likes - cute, loathsome, or in between - of alla them African animals. And you can spend hours going clicky-click on the links at the Modulator’s Friday Ark.

But nobody tells it like it is in the Fauna-Verse quite like this site.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Elder Daughter for the link.]


The Zombie-Croc goes in search of nourishment.

Jimbo hates and fears alligators and crocodiles with a burning passion; Eric loathes zombies.

What better, than, to disturb their collective slumbers than the thought of an army of Zombie-Crocodiles prowling the sewers of Newark, New Jersey... and the fields of Englewood, Tennessee?

Monday, March 23, 2009


King Silas
Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin... one mean cocksucker.

In these days of soi-disé Reality Television, it’s a rare treat to see a brand-new scripted show. And “Kings,” airing Sunday evenings on NBC, is not just any scripted show: Its story is constructed on a framework right out of the Hebrew Bible... with a few arcane New Testament references thrown in for good measure.

Not that “Kings” is preachy stuff. It’s basically a good old soap opera, drawing on a few plot elements - and plenty of names - from the grandest soap opera of them all. But just as Ian McKellen’s brilliant 1995 big-screen production of Richard III took Shakespeare’s historical play and placed it in a fictional modern-day fascist England monarchy, so does “Kings” recast Biblical history in a modern, 21st century setting, complete with Internet and skyscrapers. Desert dust is replaced by urban grit, ancient royal dress by Brioni suits, yet the same old court intrigues boil beneath the surface.

So far, despite the show’s name, the biblical books of Kings seem not to be in play. Yet. The source material is from the first book of Samuel, including place names (Gilboa, Gath, Shiloh); character names (David Shepherd and his mother Jesse, Ephram Samuels, King Silas Benjamin, Abner, et alia); and even weapons (Goliath, a tank). Plotwise, the interplay between Testament and Teevee is less clear, although there is one scene in the first episode in which Ephram Samuels - the Billy Graham-like religious advisor to King Silas - informs Silas that he is no longer God’s elect, a direct cop from the story of King Saul... as related in I Samuel 15.

[Given that King Silas is played by Ian McShane (“Deadwood”), I’m surprised Ephram Samuels didn’t say, “God doesn’t like you anymore. You said ‘cocksucker’ way too much in your last TV series.”]

All of this Biblical parallelism got me interested enough to pull out my copy of the Tanakh - for you non-Jews out there, that’s the Hebrew acronym for Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings), AKA the Bible. It makes for fascinating reading... and I learned a few things I didn’t know. F’r instance...

Most of us, even the most nonreligious amongst us, are familiar with the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and the ten plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians - God’s not-so-subtle form of persuasion, one could call it. Blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn - these were the Classic Ten. But the Big Guy apparently had a few other arrows in His quiver when it came to smiting the unrighteous.

In I Samuel 5, we read about the Ark of the Covenant - the same one that melted all those Nazis’ faces off in Raiders of the Lost Ark - and how it had fallen into the hands of the Philistines... a state of affairs with which God was, apparently, not pleased. And thus he smote the Philistines.

Did He melt their faces off? No.
Did He give them stomach cancer? No.
Did He give them the heartbreak of psoriasis? No.

He gave them hemorrhoids. The affliction that dare not speak its name.

This was not something to be taken lightly in the days before Preparation H was invented. The itching and burning must have been of Biblical proportions. Oy.

So distraught were the Philistines that they resolved to give the Ark back... and with it, by way of an indemnity payment, they threw in five golden mice... and five golden hemorrhoids. (I Sam. 6:4) I am not making this shit up.

Therefore, I wonder. At what point will the writing team for “Kings” decide to mine this remarkable treasure-trove of plot material, this rich vein of Bizarre Ideas? Is America ready for the Golden ’Roid?


This month’s Guild event will be this evening at Antica Posta, a fine Tuscan restaurant right in the throbbing heart of Buckhead. Appropriately enough, the theme is the food and wines of Tuscany.

Hopefully, Grouchy Old Denny will be there to join Houston Steve and me in yet another Top-Drawer Blowout. And you, too, can be there... vicariously, by reading the menu:

Speaker’s wine
Ruffino Chardonnay “Libaio” 2007

First Flight
Banfi Pinot Grigio "San Angelo" 2007*
Mormoraia Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2006**

Carpaccio tricolore con salmone, branzino e pesto al prezzemolo (Salmon and sea bass carpaccio with parsley pesto)

Second Flight
La Mozza Morellino Di Scansano “I Perazzi” 2005**
Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2005
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005***

Ravioli al ragù toscano (Swiss chard and ricotta cheese ravioli with traditional Tuscan meat sauce)

Third flight
Terrabianca "Campaccio" 1999
I Greppi "Greppicaia" Bolgheri Superiore 2004***
Frescobaldi Castel Giocondo Brunello di Montalcino 1997 1999****

Wild boar osso buco with oven roasted potatoes
Filetto di manzo all’aceto balsamico con patate al forno (Prime beef filet mignon sautéed in a balsamic vinegar reduction with oven roasted potatoes)

Cacchiano Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1999

Cantuccini di Prato (Housemade Tuscan Biscotti)

Capitel de’Roari Amarone 2003

Ahhh, what Mr. Debonair must suffer for the sake of his Esteemed Readers, that he may convey to them the pleasures of life in order that they may sup upon them via Proxy Electronica. But to complain would be... nekulturny. And insincere as hell, to boot.

Update: Houston Steve was not there, alas... and Stefan could not make it due to a last-minute business conflict. But since he will be traveling to Tuscany later this week, he can make up for some of what he missed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Spring Cherries
Cherry blossoms festoon the East Cobb ’burbs.

The formal opening shot of Springtime was fired this past Friday, but the signs of reemergent life have been all around us here in the South for several weeks.

The Bradford pear trees (The Missus calls ’em “stink-trees” because of their somewhat unpleasant aroma) have been blooming for a while now, along with bright yellow forsythia. It’s cherry time now, with the trees exploding in clouds of pink blossoms. Eastern redbuds contribute splashes of purple; the dogwoods will follow shortly.

Friday afternoon, I drove to Charleston for a quick visit, returning yesterday afternoon. The weather was perfect - sunny and warm. All through the entire 690-mile roundtrip route, I got to enjoy the spectacle of blossoming trees along the Interstate. All of those pinks, purples, whites, and yellows provided a welcome distraction from the monotony of the ever-rolling carpet of concrete.

A spray of forsythia by the lake.

Springtime in the Southeast: Its beauty snares Yankees like honeysuckle nectar attracts bees. Once you experience it, you don’t ever want to leave.

Anyone who has ever spent early April in Atlanta knows what I’m talking about.

Friday, March 20, 2009


This week seems to have flown by. But whether it has raced past our individual perceptions or crawled, it’s gone... and Friday has come around once again. And that means that it’s time once again to find out what Musical Miscellany the iPod d’Elisson is spewing forth.

Wait - it’s not just Friday... it’s the first day of Spring! Hail, Equinox!

Let’s check it out:
  1. Live in the Lounge - Richard Cheese

  2. Tzama L'Chol Nafshi - Matisyahu

  3. Free Bird jam (live) - Ben Folds Five

  4. Sand Mandala - Philip Glass

    From the Kundun soundtrack album.

  5. Aish Tamid - Matisyahu

  6. Xingu River - Philip Glass

    Philip Glass is a familiar name, but many people don’t know about his sister Phyllis Glass, who worked as a barmaid in Manhattan for years.

  7. On A Tree By A River - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, The Mikado

  8. Samwise the Brave - Howard Shore, The Two Towers

  9. Fey - Boukman Eksperyans

  10. Poème Électronique - Edgard Varèse

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


...without any help whatsoever from my friends.

Getting High
Neighbor, a Cat in High Places.

I like to perch my ass above
The people I profess to love;
It boosts my ego, don’t you see
When they must all look up to me.

Update: Friday Ark #235 is afloat at the Modulator. And for yet more Kitty-Cat Fun, drop by When Cats Attack! Sunday evening for Carnival of the Cats #262 - the fifth anniversary edition!

Update 2: CotC #262 is up.

Update 3: Naught to do with cats, but the latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is up at Kosher Cuisine. Tasty!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


No, it’s not that time of the year. Not yet.

My curmudgeonly declamation is a response to all of the current media-driven frenzy concerning the supposedly deepening recession. Yes, the economy is fuct. Yes, Wall Street has responded as it always does to bad news: by a general Fire Sale, thus magnifying the impact of the problem.

And, of course, the politicos have had a Hopey-Changey Field Day, throwing money at the problem. It’s like trying to put out a burning apartment building by tossing live babies into the flames. It not only does not put out the fire, it results in a lot of screaming and yelling.

A lot of that bailout money, it seems, is going to pay for executive bonuses: viz., at AIG. Why any executive should be earning a single red Bonus Cent when his company’s affairs are so desperate that they have to resort to accepting infusions of Guvvamint Cash, is beyond my feeble capacity to reckon.

But I’m beginning to suspect it’s all bullshit.

Look: We were in Columbia, Maryland this past weekend. At two separate shopping malls, people were so thick on the ground, you could barely turn around. Parking was so hard to come by, they were taking cars and stacking ’em two and three layers high... or so it seemed.

Saturday evening we attended a bowling party at Dave & Buster’s over by Arundel Mills. Good Gawd Awmighty, I have never seen so many people crammed into so small a space. D&B’s was so densely packed with human flesh, I believe that the resulting gravitic field was actually able to bend light. And D&B’s is no cheap place. In addition to a thousand beeping and flashing catchpenny engines to take your money, there are the overpriced food and drinks. You can’t spend much time there without a wad of cash, is all I’m saying - and there were plenty people spending plenty of time there.

This does not make mention of the monster Egyptian Temple-themed movie theatre multimegaplex three doors down, with fifty-foot tall pillars supporting a vast, cavernous roof. A place to see a frickin’ movie, fercryinoutloud, not a Heavy Goods Manufactory.

Over the course of the weekend, I also could not help but notice that people were still happy to shell out $1.39 a bottle for water. Water! Without even any carbonic acid and/or caramel coloring and high fructose corn syrup to pep it up! Tap water, on the other hand, is still free - and they couldn’t give it away.

So I figure that the Big Bad Recession is a myth, a myth manufactured by the Mainstream Media in collusion with the idiots on Crapitol Hill. Because if people are still pissing money away on bottled water and Fun Time at Dave & Buster’s, they can’t be all that desperate. Yet.

Remember - as long as we’re still feeding our pets instead of eating them, the economy just ain’t all that bad.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


“Change.” This painting adorns the wall in Elder Daughter’s apartment.

Madonna and Water Bottle, featuring the Mistress of Sarcasm.

Elder Daughter’s apartment building (side view, with porte-cochère on left)

Just a few semi-random pictures taken during our weekend jaunt to Columbia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.


...to our Irish (and Irish wannabe) friends.

Fun fact: Did you know that leprosy is an occupational disease commonly suffered by leprechauns?

Another fun fact: Both the Jews and the Irish refer to a police officer as a “shamus.” What we haven’t yet figured out is whether the expression comes from the Yiddish (where “shammes” refers to a minor synagogue functionary) or from the Irish name Seamus, no doubt a common name among policemen when their ranks were heavily populated by Emerald Islanders.

This day, coincidentally enough, is a day of celebration for us Jews, for it is the birthday of a Woman of Valor in our history: Tovu O’Halekha. “Ma” Tovu, as she was popularly known, is revered not only for her knowledge of Torah (unusual for a woman in her time), but for driving the swine out of Upper Galicia.

To honor her memory, it is a traditional practice to eat corned beef and cabbage. Preferably, the corned beef is sliced thin and served hot on rye bread with lashings of brown mustard, while the cabbage is shredded and presented in the form of a side of cole slaw.

Should you find yourself in the vicinity of Keneally’s Irish Pub in Houston - it’s on S. Shepherd Drive not too far from Westheimer - be sure to order an Irish Lady, a pizza of my own invention. It’s a razor-thin crust (Lair Simon says it’s thin enough to slash your wrists with) topped with corned beef and anchovies. Mmmm, good. And you can wash it down with a pint of Guinness, expertly drawn by the Keneally’s tapsters and with a shamrock traced delicately in its foamy cap.

Jews may be thin on the ground on the Auld Sod, but nevertheless, we have a high opinion of the place, seeing as how some of our most important prayers were written there. Sure and ye’ve heard of the O’Midah and the O’Leinu?

Monday, March 16, 2009


...is what I’m feeling right now.

The Mistress of Sarcasm has extracted about 150 music files from the Choon Library d’Elisson to put on her own iPod. Amongst her selections were about a dozen choice sides from the one and only Captain Beefheart... plus the entire “Rain Dogs” album by Tom Waits.

Yep, I am a Proud Daddy.


Yesterday, as my Esteemed Readers are aware, was EATAPETA Day: International Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA Day., more about which may be found here, here, and here.

We were dividing our time between Columbia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., but there was animal protein to be found in both places. Brunch in Columbia meant delicious slices of smoked Nova Scotia sea kitten salmon, along with cream cheese and butter (made from the milk of exploited cows) and bagels.

Mmmmm, smoked sea kitten salmon.

But what I was really after was meat. And I got it later that afternoon, when we grabbed a late lunch right across the street from Elder Daughter’s apartment, at a little bistro called Napoleon. (With that name, of course it’d be a little bistro.)

[As much as I would have liked to run down to Bistrot du Coin, a few blocks south, the sloppy weather did not invite long walks outdoors. That’s where we enjoyed such meaty treaty goodies as hanger steak last year with the lovely and talented Meryl Yourish - not coincidentally the originator of EATAPETA Day.]

A nicely-composed salad of endive and shaved fennel with beefy chunks of steak resting atop... a steaming bowl of French onion soup, made with a hearty beef-onion broth... I felt the warm rush of animal protein entering my bloodstream, sharpening my intellect, engaging my senses, and making my eye sparkle with merriment.

Endive and Fennel Salad with Steak
Endive and Fennel Salad with Steak.

Or maybe it was the pleasure I felt at being with the Missus together with both our daughters... who is to say?

What did you eata on EATAPETA Day?

Friday, March 13, 2009


Churchy Panic
Churchy LaFemme reacts to the second Friday the Thirteenth in as many months.

It’s Friday, and our favorite triskadeikaphobe, Churchy LaFemme, is here to exercise his sense of panic... for if there’s a Friday the Thirteenth in a non-leap year February, there will surely be another one coming along a month later. But that doesn’t bother us, for we have the assorted spewage of the Little White Choon-Box to comfort us.

As for our weekend plans, SWMBO, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and I are off to the Washington-Baltimore metroplex this weekend, there to hook up with Elder Daughter and attend the Bar Mitzvah of SWMBO’s second cousin Jake. It promises to be an enjoyable couple of days... a happy Family Occasion.

Meanwhile, what’s on the box? Lessee:
  1. Mystery Dance - Elvis Costello

    Romeo was restless, he was ready to kill
    He jumped out the window ’cause he couldn’t sit still
    Juliet was waiting with a safety net
    He said, “Don't bury me ’cause I'm not dead yet”

    Why don’t you tell me about the mystery dance
    I wanna know about the mystery dance
    Why don’t you show me
    ’Cause I’ve tried and I’ve tried, and I'm still mystified
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied

    Well, I remember when the lights went out
    And I was tryin’ to make it look like it was never in doubt
    She thought that I knew, and I thought that she knew
    So both of us were willing, but we didn’t know how to do it


    Well, I was down under the covers in the middle of the night
    Tryin’ to discover my left foot from my right
    You can see those pictures in any magazine
    But what’s the use of looking when you don’t know what they mean?

    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied

  2. Something/Blue Jay Way - The Beatles

    From the “Love” mashup album.

  3. Perfect Disguise - Modest Mouse

  4. Prelude #2 in C Minor (from the Well-Tempered Clavier) - Wendy Carlos

  5. Family Tree - Ben Kweller

  6. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 - Bob Dylan

  7. Aw Heck (Live) - John Prine

  8. Avenu Malcanu - Phish

  9. Life’ll Kill Ya - Warren Zevon

  10. Chinese Combo Number - Weird Al Yankovic

    Both Weird Al and I have spent our lifetimes making up dopey lyrics to popular songs, probably due to being influenced by Mad Magazine at a tender age. Only difference is, Weird Al makes a living at it.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Spring’s almost here; the animals rejoice.
They dance and sing, and make a wild noise.
You would be happy, too, I do believe,
If you rode on the Ark with Captain Steve.

The 234th voyage of the Friday Ark is happily steaming along at the Modulator, with faithful Cap’n Steve at the helm. Fun and Fauna... for free!

More? You want more? Wait until Sunday evening, then head over to Nikita’s Place for Carnival of the Cats #261.

Update: CotC #261 is up.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Ya gotta love them Ozzies. They get right to the point, choosing not to, er, ahhh... beat around the bush.

Boogie Beaver!

Like any good advertisement, this one really snatches your attention. It’s clever and amusing, with just a touch of the old Squifferoo.

I wonder how long it’ll be before we see ads like this here in the States? My guess is, not in my lifetime. And those Charmin Bunwad Bears are no substitute.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Miss Meg’s
Miss Meg’s, Clayton, Georgia.

The late comedian and character B. S. Pulley once defined “a pleasant surprise” as a tit full of whiskey. But there are other Pleasant Surprises out there... and a couple of weekends ago, a group of us managed to stumble upon one.

Houston Steve, Bartimus the Magnificent, “Job Johnny” C., and I were on our way up to Clayton, Georgia for our annual “Men of the South” retreat, a weekend both spiritual and spirituous. A restful weekend combining davening and distilled beverages. Torah and tippling. You get the idea.

On the way up, we began to develop that borborygmus-inducing Hearty Appetite that comes from sitting in a car for two hours, and so we began casting about for a place to enjoy a spot of luncheon.

The place where we ate last year, the Tallulah Gorge Grill, was closed; a sign announced that it would be opening April 1. Alas, too late to help our growling kishkes. So we kept on going, until we hit the outskirts of Clayton... the last wide spot in the road before Camp Ramah, our destination.

Our eagle eyes spotted a small strip of restaurants... several holes in the wall all lined up in a row. Hmmm. Grandma’s Kuntry Kitchen? There was something offputting about that name... perhaps the unfortunate proximity of “grandma” and “kunt.” But two doors down there was a little spot called Miss Meg’s, and a quick glance at the posted menu was promising. We went in and sat down.

Most of the time, little operations like this will give you a decent plate of food, modestly priced. You’ll walk away satisfied, if not impressed, and chances are you won’t get food poisoning. But Miss Meg’s was another story entirely.

Job Johnny ordered a Reuben sammitch, and it was the Real Thing, piled high with meat and kraut. The cole slaw - a throwaway menu item I don’t bother to eat half the time - was so good, I asked for a side of it to go with the blueberry pancakes I had ordered for myself. Peppery and delicious.

The pancakes? Ridiculously good, to the point where adding syrup was almost a waste of effort.

Houston Steve ordered the house-made corned beef hash, and I am here to tell you that it ranked up there with the best corned beef hash of all time, the stuff they sell at The Donut Hole in Destin, Florida. It was oniony-good, and very clearly made by hand.

Bartimus the Magnificent had selected an oyster po’ boy, and it, too, was suitably magnificent, packed with crisply breaded shellfish that tasted of having only just been yanked from the briny deep.

“WTF?” was our collective thought. This stuff was competitive with any good white-tablecloth place in Atlanta. What the hell was it doing in li’l ole Clayton?

The owner and chef, one Brian Smith, explained that he liked the small-town life, having come from Brunswick, a coastal town halfway between Savannah and Jacksonville. That’s where he had developed the relationships with his seafood suppliers.

Brian Smith
Owner-chef Brian Smith.

This guy clearly loves what he does (and where he does it) - and it shows. Because he does it exceptionally well, producing amazingly well-crafted meals when he could get by with a whole lot less. But “getting by with a whole lot less” doesn’t seem to be in Brian’s vocabulary.

What was for dessert? we enquired, half-jokingly. We expected the usual: pecan pie, banana pudding. But no.

Our servitor announced that the dessert of the day was “cream bru-lay.” Holy fuckamoley! Of course we had to get one for the table.

It was superb, a crackly crust over a rich, creamy, perfectly done custard. Wow. Wow wow.

Miss Meg’s was no tit full of whiskey - there would be enough whiskey later, albeit no tits - but it was a most pleasant surprise. Waaaay better than you’d have a right to expect from a small-town joint. Right then and there, we promised to come back on the tail end of our weekend... and we did.


Neighbor - Kitty of Mystery
Neighbor shows off her Mysterious Gaze.

Her eyes, aglow, shine from an ebon face.
She’s sure the local humans know their place:
To stand before the Ottoman Feline,
And offer treats whilst she doth there recline.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Purim Elisson 2009
Elisson indulges his silly side at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium.
[Photo courtesy Houston Steve.]

Narrischkeit, for those who are Yiddish-impaired, is foolishness. It’s a useful personality trait on this silliest of days in the Jewish calendar: Purim.

At last night’s Megillah reading - one of the central features of the holiday is the public reading of the entire Book of Esther - I had the dubious pleasure of sitting right in front of a guy who would blow a trumpet to drown out the name of Haman every time it was read. Most people use simple hand-held noisemakers, but not this guy... and he’d blast that trumpet right in my fucking left ear. I would have smacked him upside the head, but he had brought a bottle of Balvenie 12-year-old DoubleWood single malt Scotch... so by way of reparations, I helped him kill about half of the bottle.

Good thing I saved the Adult Beverage Consumption until after I read my chapter, otherwise things might have gotten... amusing.

By way of a costume, since the rabbi had declared the evening’s theme to be a Tropical Cruise, I came dressed as... myself! Mr. Debonair, complete with shorts, floral shirt, Panama hat, and Maui Jim shades. Bright orange Crocs were the finishing touch. Panama Ya’acov, dat’s me.

This morning, the reading was faster and more businesslike, but we still had time to work on the remains of that Balvenie before heading out to breakfast. And I had come prepared with yet another Silly Hat... seeing how successful I was at creating a Ridiculous Situation with a similar chapeau last year.

[I guess I could have worn a colander, but I have yet to find one that will stay on without my keeping one hand clapped atop it. One day... one day.]

Lest you think I’m the only one with a Silly Hat Fixation, check out SWMBO’s brother - he’s the one in the official Davy (ha-Melekh) Crockettinsky Coonskin Cap.

Purim Moshesbro
Foat Wuth Foolishness.

It’s Purim! Have you flown your Narrisch-Kite today?

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Laura and Don
Laura Belle and Donnie Joe: the happy anniversary couple.

Laura Belle and Donnie Joe, our friends of long standing, celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary this past week.

They’ve been married almost (but not quite) as long as we have... and when we met them back in the fall of 1981, they were practically newlyweds.

To celebrate, we hosted a little dinner party this evening. Nothing too complicated. A salad of arugula, baby romaine, and butter lettuce with crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts, and a shallot-Dijon mustard-walnut oil vinaigrette. Roasted salmon fillets. Steamed asparagus. Brown rice.

Greens, greens - they’re good for your heart.

All fairly uncomplicated, to be sure. Healthy, even. But afters were another matter... for by way of dessert, I went a little nuts. I had seen a recipe for Amadeus cookies in the latest Saveur magazine, and they looked irresistible... like a cookie version of the famous Mozartkügel truffles.

Think of it: a sandwich cookie with two crisp buttery wafers surrounding a filling of ground pistachios and almond paste, kicked up with a liberal dose of kirschwasser... dipped in a chocolate glaze. Hoo, boy. Kinda like an Oreo™ for grownups.

Amadeus Cookies
Amadeus Cookies. For the love of Gawd!™

They took a bit of effort to assemble, these Amadeus Cookies, but were they ever worth it! Perfect with an after-dinner coffee, and elegant enough for the most significant occasions... like a thirtieth anniversary.

I wonder how these suckers would taste crumbled up and mashed into vanilla ice cream...


Many years ago, in my very first assignment with the Great Corporate Salt Mine, I helped debottleneck a plastics plant.

Debottleneck? Is dat de neck of de bottle?

Well, yes, Mr. Dialect Comedian, but at the GCSM, we used the term as both noun and verb.

To debottleneck a manufacturing process is to remove (you guessed it) bottlenecks. Narrow spots in the line. It is a way of expanding capacity by making a few, relatively inexpensive changes to an existing operation, rather than by simply throwing money at the problem and constructing a second production train. Debottlenecking makes the operation more efficient. And a “debottleneck” is a project that expands a plant’s capacity by (you guessed it again) debottlenecking it.

Got it? Good.

The GCSM had a plant, back then, that produced a certain amount of polypropylene plastic. We installed a bunch of new equipment and were able to increase capacity dramatically... by over 50%, if my recollection serves. My job (in case you’re curious) was figuring out just what to install, how much it would cost, and how much capacity improvement we would get from it... in an age of slide rules. No personal computers, no electronic spreadsheets.

Once the new equipment had been installed, it was time to start up the newly-expanded plant and let it flex its new muscles. To make sure it actually worked and that those millions of dollars we spent actually accomplished something. And that meant spending a lot of time at the plant, both in the control room and running around on the unit. Catching samples, measuring temperatures, that sort of thing.

If you have never been in the control room of a chemical plant, it’s an imposing sort of place. These days it’s a lot like being on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, with a lot of computer terminals... but 35 years ago, computer-controlled processes were still in their earliest, most primitive stages. Back then, the myriad operating controls were all manual, with many of the parameters recorded graphically on continuous plotters. Every few hours, the operators would record key settings and process parameters on a huge “horse blanket” spreadsheet the size of a tabletop... using pen and ink.

Running the process meant knowing the right settings for hundreds of temperature controllers and valves. And the “butterfly effect” - where small changes sometimes have large, unexpected results - was in full force.

There was one part of the process - a fractionation tower - that was misbehaving one morning. And so, as the resident Contact Engineer, I made a minor adjustment to a critical flow rate. It seemed trivial at the time, but it had an effect that was... not desired.

Correcting that effect created its own cascading series of changes... all of which needed their own corrections. And compounding everything was the fact that any change to a given setting took a certain amount of time - anywhere from minutes to hours - to work its effects. You could see the impact on the chart recordings, which would oscillate like a struck gong when a tweak was made, gradually settling back down to a new steady state. “Lining out,” we called it.

Getting that part of the process back under control was like wrestling a bear. In a vat of Jell-O. Dangerous, messy, and unrewarding. Eventually, I managed... but only after developing a serious respect for the sensitivities of Complex Processes.

As we watch our legislators and our new administration struggle to bring the economy under control, keep in mind that they are also trying to operate a complex system, one with mysterious lag times, uncertain cause-and-effect pathways, and that is subject to the vagaries of human behavior. The tiniest of tweaks - not to mention wholesale changes - will have unpredictable effects, effects that will manifest themselves on unpredictable timetables. And add to that the overall brokenness of the system... and the fact that it is being run not by Economic Engineers, but by Political Bumblefucks.

It’s enough to keep me awake at night, it is.


My friend Barry recently made the following observation concerning a popular reality TV series:

“I’ve never missed an episode of ‘American Idol.’ Never watched it... and never missed it.”

Saturday, March 07, 2009


These days, it tolls for me. Mainly because we are now the proud owners of a Grandfather Clock.

Q: What is this?
A: It’s a grandfather clock, sucker.

  1. E, D, C, G
  2. C, E, D, G
  3. C, D, E, C
  4. E, C, D, G
  5. G, D, E, C
The above is not a bunch of Random Gibberish - not that my Esteemed Readers would expect me to (ahem) put Random Gibberish up here - but rather, the notation for Westminster Quarters, perhaps the best-known melody for Clock Bells.

I’ve become very familiar with the Westminster Quarters over the last week. Every fifteen minutes, their gentle chime reminds me that another little chunk of my life has sped by.

They are not haphazard, these chimes. Sequence 1 plays on the quarter hour, followed by 2 and 3 on the half. On the third quarter, 4, 5, and 1 play; and on the hour, 2, 3, 4, and 5, followed by strikes for the number of the hour. Thus, the five sequences are each repeated twice, in order, over the course of an hour.

I find it strangely comforting that, while there is some uncertainty as to the melody’s author, it is most widely attributed to one William Crotch.

As to the clock itself, it is a fine exemplar of the Horological Art, replete with fine wood, glass, and brass. It is not the sort of thing I would have rushed out and purchased for myself, but it was the most gracious alternative amongst the choices offered by the Great Corporate Salt Mine for a career kiss-off retirement gift. Somehow or other, a mountain bike or a digital point ’n’ shoot camera doesn’t feel like a suitable reward for a 32-plus year career. Whereas a fine Clock, as it ticks and chimes away the hours, reminds you of just how much of your life you have managed to piss away... working at that career, f’r instance.

I don’t mean to sound unnecessarily snarky. It really is a beautiful Retirement Gift, and it adds a certain Classic Tone to the corner of my office where I have emplaced it... a Tone both metaphorical and aural.

I’m not exactly sure where the appellation “Grandfather Clock” comes from. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that a grandfather clock has a pendulum to operate its escapement... and grandfathers are notoriously pendulous. Which brings us back to Mr. Crotch.

In closing (as I hear the clock chime sequences 2 and 3, marking the half-hour), I offer a riddle, one propounded by Eric Idle of Monty Python:

Q: What’s brown and sounds like a bell?

[Answer below the fold.]

A: Dung!


He had lived for years as an ascetic, simultaneously carving out a place for himself in history as a politician-philosopher, proponent of Satyagraha.

Satyagraha. It was oxymoronic, this concept of nonviolent resistance. Oxymoronic but effective. The British Raj was finished.

He fingered his homespun loincloth, deep in contemplation. Is this how I want to be remembered? A wizened little man in a fucking diaper? What about my dream of being in a Bollywood musical? I can cut a rug with the best of ’em... even if it’s an Oriental rug!

Two weeks later, the Gandhi Dancers opened to rave reviews.

[The topic of Weekly Challenge #151 at Laurence Simon’s 100 Word Stories Podcast is “What Would Gandhi Do?”]

Friday, March 06, 2009


...on any given morning at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium. And that’s a good thing.

It’s a tradition among us Minyan Boyz that a person celebrating a birthday or observing a yahrzeit (the anniversary of the death of a loved one) buys breakfast for the group. In the first instance, it’s to share the joy at having survived another Trip Around the Sun; in the second instance, it’s a way to thank the group for providing the necessary quorum so that the Mourner’s Kaddish may be recited.

Last Friday, it was Irwin’s turn. Both he and Warren (another of the Regulars) had yahrzeits, and so they split the Breakfast Bill between them. And, given that it was Friday - a day on which our morning services are often heavily attended - it was a good thing... for seventeen guys showed up for breakfast. Yipe!

And here’s part of what we ate. The Fishy Part, anyway.

Smoked Fish
A prime assortment of Smoked Fishy Goodness.

On the left you have a massive chunk of baked salmon, surrounded by smoked Nova Scotia salmon. Center stage, there’s sliced smoked sable, tuna salad, and whitefish salad. On the right, a slab of smoked whitefish, with belly lox above and more Nova Scotia salmon below.

Not shown are the platters of sliced tomato and raw onion, the assortment of cream cheeses, and the variety of bagels upon which to mount all of this fish. A veritabobble Groaning Board, this was.

Between all this fish and the Lovaza capsules I take every morning (prescription!), I’m a walking vat of omega-3 fatty acids. No wonder cats follow me around.

Today, no yahrzeits or birthdays... a smaller crowd... and so breakfast resumed its normal proportions. But I was treated to a nice piece of baked salmon by Houston Steve, who generously purchased breakfast for Bartimus (the Magnificent) and me. It was a generosity fueled in part by Houston Steve’s poker winnings from Wednesday night, and so, in a sense, it was Bart and I who were really buying breakfast... but still, it was a gracious gesture. And a tasty repast.

And a celebration, of sorts. For, despite its still being, technically, winter, the outdoor temperature was practically Spring-like, heading to a high in the 70’s this afternoon. Time to break out the Hawai’ian shirts, says Mr. Debonair:

Springtime El
Springtime is just around the corner!

[Those of you who live in Cold Climates, please feel free to eat your hearts out with bitter envy.]


Yes, Esteemed Readers - it’s Friday again, which means that it’s time once again to seek out the iPod d’Elisson to see what Random Musicality it may choose to disgorge.

What’s playing? Let’s just take a look, shall we?
  1. Star 69 - Fatboy Slim

    A masterpiece of melody and lyricism.

    What the fuck?
    They know what is what,
    But they don’t know what is what,
    They just strut.

    What the fuck?

    They just know,
    What they know,
    What they don’t know,
    What is what,
    They just strut.

    What the fuck?

  2. Rock and Roll Music - The Beatles

  3. Walking on the Sun - Smash Mouth

  4. Density 21.5 - Edgard Varèse

  5. Khasene Tanz - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  6. Mr. Pinstripe Suit - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

  7. Roast Beef of Old England - USAF Heritage of American Band

  8. Breaking Glass - David Bowie

  9. First Girl I Loved - The Incredible String Band

    First girl I loved,
    Time has come I will sing you
    This sad goodbye song,
    When I was seventeen,
    I used to know you.

    Well, I haven’t seen you, now,
    Since many is the short year,
    And the last time I seen you,
    You said you’d joined the Church of Jesus.
    But me, I remember your long red hair
    Falling in our faces as I kissed you.

    Well, I want you to know, we just had to grow;
    I want you to know, I just had to go.

    And you’re probably married now,
    House and car and all,
    And you turned into a grownup female stranger.
    And if I was lying near you now,
    I wouldn’t be here at all.

    Well, we parted so hard;
    Me rushing round Britain with a guitar,
    Making love to people
    That I didn’t even like to see.

    Well, I would think of you.
    Yes, I mean in the sick sad morning.
    And in the lonely midnight,
    Try to hold your face before me.

    Well, I want you to know, I just had to go;
    I want you to know, we just had to grow.

    And you’re probably married now, kids and all,
    And you turned into a grownup female stranger.
    And if I was lying near you now,
    I’d just have to fall.

    Well, I never slept with you
    Though we must have made love a thousand times.
    For we were just young, didn’t have no place to go,
    But in the wide hills and beside many a long water
    You have gathered flowers, and they do not smell for me.

    Well, I want you to know, I just had to go.
    I want you to know, we just had to grow.

    So it’s goodbye first love, and I hope you’re fine.
    Well, I have a sweet woman
    Maybe some day to have babies by me,
    She is pretty,
    Is a true friend of mine.

  10. Suicidal Dream - Silverchair

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Matata, cat of softest grey
It’s now a year she’s been away
But we take solace amongst her friends
On the Ark that the Modulator tends.

Friday Ark #233 is up at the Modulator.

Come Sunday evening, if you’re still jonesing for Kitty-Pix, stop by Mind of Mog to check out the 260th edition of Carnival of the Cats. And be sure to offer your condolences to Mog on the loss of sweet Klarissa. Looking at the pictures of Klarissa, I could not help but be reminded of Matata: Some of their facial expressions were amazingly similar.

Update: CotC #260 is up.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


When Nancy brought dessert to potluck suppers, people stood up and cheered.

It was not her charismatic personality that brought crowds to their feet; she was dull as dishwater. It was her consistently superb cooking.

Perhaps her greatest achievement was the pudding, a pudding that made strong men weep with pleasure. It was time to make another batch.

She selected the fruit carefully, examining the skins for just the right amount of mottling. And she measured her ingredients out with precision. It was her scientific approach, she thought, that ensured success time after time.

Nobody understood Nanner-Technology better than Nancy.


She was in her early twenties that summer, the summer she took off for the West Coast.

It was 1966, and the California scene was beginning to metamorphose into that roiling, chemical-fueled Time of Semi-Hysteria that people would remember as “the 1960’s.” Young people migrated there in droves, impelled by the social ferment... and the chance to explore the forbidden vistas of drugs, sex, and Rock-’n’-Roll that beckoned from afar. But Barbara was no nascent hippie, no. She was a responsible young woman, a woman with a Real Job. It was the kind of job responsible young women tended to gravitate towards back then. She was a junior high school English teacher.

Her trip west was no Exploration of Alternative Lifestyles, no Voyage of Chemical Self-Discovery. It was, simply, a Vacation - the sort of summer vacation people have taken since time began. Or at least, since leisure time began. That, and affordable jet travel.

Our paths had crossed, Barbara’s and mine, thanks to our respective careers. She was an English teacher; I was her student - one of several classes full of eighth-graders. Her job was a paying gig, however, while mine was pro bono.

We tolerated each other. That, and not much more. I was a typical, obnoxious middle-schooler, at that miserable stage in life when the hormones are beginning to kick in and the brain doesn’t yet know what to do with them. I would sit in class and look discreetly at the nylon-clad legs of the girls, occasionally catching a stray word from the petite short-haired brunette yammering away in the front of the room. Barbara was attractive enough, but her oval tortoise-shell glasses warned of a no-nonsense demeanor... and of mine, she wasn’t having any. And yet, somehow, I managed to pull down fine grades. We tolerated each other.

The summer after eighth grade, we went our separate ways. High school, for me, meant staying in the same building - at the time it housed seventh through twelfth grades - but I figured Barbara and I had had enough of each other. And for her, it meant a vacation in California.

She never returned. That fall, we heard that she had been killed in a car accident while out west.

I still think of her sometimes. Her family operated - and continues to operate - a florist business in Amityville, New York. I have never driven past that flower shop without a pang... and now, with my children both older than Barbara was back then, it is a pang that incorporates all the fear and empathy that a parent could ever have.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Neighbor continues to amaze us with her propensity for jumping up onto Elevated Locations.

Highly Placed Neighbor
Neighbor - a Friend in High Places.

Here you see her atop a bookshelf in my office. It’s awfully damn high. Neither Hakuna nor Matata would ever have considered attempting it... but for Neighbor, it’s just Business As Usual.

Perhaps she thinks that massive glass globe - an award from the Great Corporate Salt Mine - is a Fish-Bowl. But anyone who knows me knows what it really is: a Punch-Bowl.


Last night, the Mistress of Sarcasm handled the cooking chores, running up a cauldron of Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup with a recipe she got from Gilad’s sister Hagar:

Hagar’s Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup

One bag of dried split peas (400-500g)
1 large onion, finely sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, sliced into discs
½ sweet potato, diced small
Fresh ginger root, chopped - or ginger powder if you don’t have fresh
Some salami, cut into chunks
½ teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Put some oil in a pot and sweat the onions over medium heat. When they start to turn golden, turn the heat down and add the garlic. Do not allow the garlic to burn.

When the garlic softens (there will be a nice smell), add all the other ingredients and stir until the carrots begin to soften and caramelize. Then add water just to cover the mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes come back and check to see if the water has been absorbed. If so, add some more, about 2 inches. Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes and then come back... every time you stir the soup it will get softer and mushier, until finally the vegetables will break down into a nice purée.

If you soak the peas for 24 hours before you cook them, the cooking time will be shortened considerably. And as with most soups, this one is even better the next day.

Optional Addition: I like to throw in a splash of fino sherry - it complements a legume soup perfectly. The Mistress prefers to do without.

Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup
Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup, simmering away. Early in the process, the vegetables are still intact.

By way of soup meat, the Mistress used beef chunks in lieu of the salami in Hagar’s recipe, browning them first in a skillet. The recipe also would work well with sliced-up beef sausage.

How was it, this culinary sally of the Mistress? It was superb. The sweet potatoes broke down during the soup’s long, slow simmer, enriching the texture and adding a subtle layer of flavor. After a couple of hours on the stove, it had thickened up nicely. The biggest problem I had was restraining myself from eating the whole fucking potload, it was just that good.

The Mistress, it should be pointed out, is taking her first tentative steps into the World o’ Cuisine. Based on what she has been able to do so far, I predict she will be the source of a constant stream of Good Cookin’.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Jean Shepherd Triptych
“Excelsior, you fatheads!”
The late, great Jean Shepherd at the Overseas Press Club, New York, March 2, 1970.

By sheer coincidence, I stumbled upon the three photographs you see here while digging through some Miscellaneous Crap in the basement. I shot them almost 39 years ago to the day, at a press conference in New York City. The event is chronicled here.

This was real old-school photography. The photos were taken using 35mm Tri-X Pan film, and developed by hand using the classical wet chemistry. The only thing I don’t remember is whether I enlarged them (they’re 5x7") at home or in the school darkroom.

Update: I just found an amazing piece of arcana, for which I can thank the Internet - an album of Jean Shepherd reading the poems of Robert W. Service. Really!

Despite his occasional issues with pronunciation - for some reason, he has trouble with the word “sluice” - Shep brings these great poems to life with his own inimitable style. I know of at least one person that will get a huge charge out of this stuff...


Boeuf Bourguignon
Yummy, meaty Boeuf Bourguignon may be on the menu March 15.

Meryl Yourish reminds us that International EATAPETA (Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA) Day - March 15 - is just over the horizon.

Meryl’s post explains it all, but if you’re simply too lazy to click the link, here’s the deal. We eat animal protein - meat, eggs, milk, fish - on March 15 to thumb our noses at PETA, an organization that gives lip service to the concept of ethical treatment of animals but is really a gang of extremist activist nutjobs that values animals over humans.

Honestly, I don’t know whether to cringe or laugh. It’s not just the offensive ad campaigns and whackjob protests - it’s actions like the PETA effort to rename fish “sea kittens” so as to make them cuter - and thus less desirable as food - in the eyes of the consumer.

I say, fuck ’em.

I’m going to enjoy animal protein on March 15 - all three squares. Eggs? Why not? Smoked sea kittens fish for breakfast instead of cereal. Maybe a dairy lunch - yogurt or cheese made from exploited cows or sheep. And a honking big steak for dinner, running with hot juices. Or perhaps a plate full of Boeuf Bourguignon, so I can exploit the vineyards along with the stockyards. Any salad or vegetable matter consumed alongside the animal protein will be there purely as accompaniment... or garnish.

What are you going to eat on EATAPETA Day?



She’s been gone one year, and her absence still leaves a void in our lives. Sic semper felis domesticus.

Monday, March 02, 2009


During my many visits to the Middle East, I had the honor to be fêted in the court of an Ottoman potentate. A classmate, he had returned to rule his native land.

Politically acute and a lavish entertainer, he was a beloved leader... and most sought-after by the ladies. He was famous for his dinner parties, at which he would invariably serve tête d’agneau, the dish from which he took his sobriquet.

As guest of honor, it would fall to me to eat the eyes. Refusal would be an insult, and I’d never insult my old friend... the Sheepshead Bey.


Most of us remember him as the writer of children’s books, books that featured idiosyncratic poetry coupled with whimsical illustrations. For people of a certain age - myself included - those books are among the very first ones we may have read.

There was a lot more to this exceptionally creative fellow, though. He was a political cartoonist, as well as an advertising illustrator who designed campaigns for - among others - the Great Corporate Salt Mine. Not many of us were around when his slogan “Quick, Henry - the Flit!” was as popular as contemporary bons mots like “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” “Where’s the beef?” and “Drop the chalupa!”

His work, in addition to festooning library shelves around the world, has been made into animated cartoons, Broadway musicals, and feature films.

I speak, of course, of Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, who would be celebrating his 105th birthday today were he still walking the planet. Happy birthday, good Doctor... and in your honor, may I present a Cat in a Hat:

Uncle Matata
Uncle Matata!


If you have about a half-hour to kill, feel free to enjoy this little film. Courtesy of one Victor Solomon, you can now listen to every obscenity uttered on the acclaimed HBO series “The Sopranos” in one uninterrupted sitting. All six seasons’ worth. In order, yet.

That’s a lotta Nasty Words, right there.

the sopranos, uncensored. from victor solomon on Vimeo.

What? Short on time? Try this one instead... a pastiche of Those Who Fellate from another HBO series - “Deadwood.”

It’s amazing how many cocksuckers you can cram into a minute and a half.

I present these little fillums - both of which carry a big, fat NSFW warning - not for mere entertainment, nor as a source of Gratuitous Verbal Filth, but as a sort of experiment in desensitization. It’s been said that if you hear enough foul language, eventually it loses its ability to shock...a not entirely desirable outcome, I will point out. But is it true? Let me know, especially if you have the sitzfleisch to watch the whole thing.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey, 1918-2009. R.I.P.

Iconic radio broadcaster Paul Harvey has died at the age of 90.

Those who were waiting for him to finish his last “The Rest of the Story” segment are gonna be waiting for a looooong fucking time.