Thursday, April 30, 2009

GRAPES OF WRATH

I have a friend who never smiles.
His name is Loathsome Lloyd.
He suffers from his Massive Piles -
The dreaded Hemorrhoid.

The Grapes that grow inside his butt
Can drive him quite insane.
It’s quite enough to make him nuts
The itching and the pain.

His scratching brings him no relief:
His agony, it lingers.
It steals upon him like a thief,
And gives him stinky fingers.

He’d sell his soul to find a cure,
A balm to soothe his anus.
An anesthetic, sweet and pure,
To take away his painus.

But meanwhile, Lloyd lives with his Piles.
They’re “Grapes of Wrath,” indeed.
You know now why he never smiles
And scratches ’til he bleeds.

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 20.

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.

NyQuil Narcosis [ni-kwil- nar-ko-sis] (n) - The remarkable stupefaction that occurs when one takes a nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, best fucking sleep you ever got with a cold medicine, especially during daylight hours.

“Good Gawd! I’ve been wandering around like a zombie for the past two days - must be a case of NyQuil Narcosis.”

COPPIN’ SOME Z’S

Sleepy Neighbor
Neighbor cops a few Z’s... in Hakuna’s bed.

I know: I’m such a sleepyhead.
I’m squatting, here, in ’Kuna’s bed,
Where it is mercifully soft.
She will not dare to chase me off!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

GASTRONOMIC GROTESQUERIE

Steve H. Graham, the twisted genius behind Hog on Ice Tools of Renewal and Manly Grub, shares with me an appreciation for fine, albeit calorific, food. Our motto might well be “Nothing exceeds like excess.”

It’s the kind of thinking that impelled me to create a menu for the infamous House of Meat... as well as an advertisement for it. And it’s the kind of thinking that led Steve to write a cookbook: the aptly entitled Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man.

But this... this is Too Much.

The difference between the Gastronomic Grotesquerie of This is why you’re fat and, say, Steve’s Calorific Cookbook? The first is a collection of extremely fattening, horrible-looking dishes cobbled together mainly for the amusement and/or shock value; the second, a collection of recipes for dishes that (albeit packed with Food Energy) you actually would want to eat.

F’rinstance: Ya gotta admire someone who can come up with something called the Cornhole. Corn on the cob wrapped in hickory bacon with two hot dogs and two Colby-Jack cheese sticks wrapped in ground beef. Holy Fuckamoley. But there’s no way I’d ever actually eat that. Or even consider eating that.

On the other hand, Steve’s book has a recipe for a chicken-fried ribeye steak served on a giant biscuit. I’d eat that in a New York minute... and wear it on my ass for the next ten years. And it’d be worth it.

Update: Like to order a Hindenburger? More Big Food below the fold.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DEPARTMENT OF EUPHEMISM

I was listening to the Big Glass Teat with one ear when I overheard a news report - something to the effect that the Obama administration has requested that people refer to swine flu as the “swine influenza (H1N1) virus” - or, even better, “the H1N1 virus.”

The rationale? Administration officials were concerned about the possible negative impact of the term “swine flu” on the American pork industry.

Did I hear that right? Or did I imagine it? If it’s true, it is the most creative exercise in Proactive Euphemism Creation since PETA came up with the harebrained idea of calling fish “Sea Kittens.” It ranks right up there with “Freedom Fries,” brought to you by the prior administration.

It’s doomed to fail. For one thing, “swine influenza (H1N1) virus” - or just “H1N1 virus,” for that matter - has too fucking many syllables. Swine flu has just two.

[That’s the same objection I have to the term “African-American.” Not only is it inaccurate in many cases, it’s seven syllables. Whereas “black” has one. “Caucasian,” with three syllables, isn’t quite as cumbersome, but it’s still nowhere near as efficient as the monosyllabic “white.”]

For another thing, when everybody is running around like headless chickens screaming “We’re all gonna die!” nobody is going to consult their Directory of Officially Approved Disease Terminology. They’ll go with simple and quick. Swine Flu.

But if you want something more creative, I have a few ideas.

The Mexicali Pork-Grippe - a creation of the inimitable James Lileks.

Chazzer Choleria - Leave it to the Jews, who aren’t supposed to eat pigs, to have the best words for them. Chazzer Choleria literally means “pig cholera.” Catchy, innit? A perfect name for a cartoon character, the Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl of the New Millennium.

Chazzer Choleria
Meet Chazzer Choleria, official H1N1 virus spokesman.
(Apologies to Warner Brothers)


Porkulusterfuck - For those who prefer a political spin to their euphemisms.

How ’bout you? Can you come up with some creative alternatives to “Swine Flu”?

THE LASSIE MOMENT

I had a “Lassie Moment” while watching a rerun of Seinfeld yesterday evening.

Never heard the term? No surprise: I just made it up. To explain it, a little history is in order.

When I was a young Snot-Nose, there was a program on television about a young boy and his collie dog. I speak, of course, of Lassie, which ran from 1954 to 1973. The eponymous Lassie had an IQ somewhere just north of that of Stephen Hawking, and much of the series (as I remember it) had to do with her rescuing Jeff (her first owner) or Timmy (her second owner) from one sort of scrape or another.

The family lived on a farm somewhere in West Bumblefuck - I have no idea where, really - in a house that was furnished in Early Depression. But what the hell - they were farmers. What did I know about farmers?

What I did know was that their telephones were very different from ours. We had your basic black rotary-dial models - no fancy-pants “Princess” phones for us - but the Lassie family had something else entirely. They had a wall phone, one of those archaic jobbies with a wooden cabinet, the two ringer bells at the top, and a hand crank to power the thing up. Modern technology, circa 1930... except this was the late 1950’s already.

Lookee:

Antique Wall Phone
The Lassiephone!

I could never look at that phone without thinking, “Jeez - these people are living in the stone age!” just like the smug suburbanite snot-nose I was.

Fast forward to 2009. I’m watching a second-season episode of Seinfeld, an episode that is something on the order of eighteen years old. Way older than the earliest Lassie episodes were when I was watching them as late 1950’s reruns.

And Jerry is talking on a cellphone that is the approximate size of a cinderblock. Holy Crap!

I exaggerate, but not much. The phone he’s using - whether it’s a cellphone or a plain old wireless handset is not clear - is humongous by modern standards... and the foot-long antenna is downright laughable. For now we have phones that are small enough to replace Richard Gere’s gerbil.

Lotta technological development under the bridge in those eighteen years. iPhones, iPods, laptops, hand-held GPS devices, you name it.

Jerry looked perfectly happy with his Huge-Ass Phone, though. I was waiting for him to crank it up and get Mabel the Operator on the line. Oh, wait - that was Lassie.

So: The “Lassie Moment.” It’s when you’re watching a show on Ye Olde Boobe Toobe and you see a Technological Anachronism. Crank telephones - hell, rotary telephones - slide rules, great big cell phones, stuff like that. And you think, “Jeez - is this show that frickin’ old?”

Have you had any “Lassie moments” lately?

R.I.P. PONTIAC

It looks like the Pontiac line will be joining Oldsmobile on the Midden-Heap o’ History. Alas.

I’ve owned both Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles. Well, technically, at least in the case of the Pontiacs, the cars were technically owned by the Great Corporate Salt Mine... but since I had more-or-less exclusive use of the vehicle, the distinction is without effect. And they were reasonably decent cars, although I would not put any of them up against today’s Nipponmobiles.

But back when I was first learning to drive, it was in my parents’ 1970 Pontiac Bonneville.

The ’rents were Repeat Pontiac Offenders back in the 1960’s. After disposing of their two-tone 1954 Dodge - the first car I can remember - in 1961 and replacing it with a Chevy Impala, they switched over to the Pontiac Bonneville in 1964. New Bonnevilles showed up in 1967 and 1970, but it was the 1970 model that was a real step-out. No more boring “Metallic Silver” or beigy “Champagne” - this one was fire-engine red, a real eye-catcher. My mother, no doubt, swung the decision-stick when it came to the color.

It was fun, that car, despite being somewhat stodgier than Pontiac’s more youth-oriented models - like the G.T.O. And the grille design seemed to hearken back to the notorious Edsel - “like a car sucking a lemon.” But I was in no position to be choosy. And it was bright red. The perfect color for cars... and toenails.

Pontiac, ave atque vale. We hardly knew ye.

ELVIS, IMAGINED AS AN ELDERLY JEWISH MAN

I been at the Home for, what, eight years now? And all the years I’ve been there, I never seen a guy like this Elvis fellow.

The Home? That’s what we call it, anyway. It’s the Memphis Jewish Home. Just north of Germantown. All things considered, not a bad place to live. And the kids come by every week for a visit or to take me out. The daughter-in-law likes to go to the Oak Court Mall on the weekends, and so they schlep me along.

Heh. When they show up at the reception desk, I always wish them a “Good Shoppis.” It’s our little joke.

But I was telling you about this Elvis guy.

Such a flashy dresser, you never saw. One day he’ll come down to breakfast in leather pants. How he squeezes his tuchus into them, I’ll never know. Maybe the next day it’ll be a white suit with rhinestones. He looks eppis like that Liberace fellow. You know, that feigeleh that played the piano? Yeah, him.

But this guy is no feigeleh. A real ladies’ man. Has to beat them off with a stick. One time we were having lunch and Mrs. Schwartz walks by our table, all casual-like, and she slips him a pair of her gotkiss with her room key tucked in ’em. Elvis, he rolls his eyes and shrugs his shoulders, as if to say, “What the hell can I do about it?”

Anyway, I asked him once did he always live in Memphis and he said he was born here... used to be a singer. Had himself quite a career for a while. But like a lot of musicians back then, he started getting into the drugs. Almost died, so he tells me, back in 1977. That’s when he decided to give it up. Quit the drugs cold turkey, and reconnected to his Jewish roots. Started studying Talmud. Never quite made it as a rabbi, though, because (he says) he was afraid that if he started standing up in front of large crowds again, the old problems would maybe come back.

Funny thing. Not once have I ever seen him eat a banana. Asked him about it once and he got real quiet, said something about he used to eat ’em all the time, even with peanut butter in a sandwich, but that they made him constipated and that he had to give them up. I don’t know whether I got the whole story, but I kinda got the feeling that the last thing he ever wanted was to be constipated. You never saw anyone drink so much prune juice in your life.

OUT, DAMNED SPOT HAIR

This morning, as I stood ’fore the bathroom mirror,
I saw a sight to make my bowels quiver,
My chest palpitate, and my knees grow weak:
A Nose-Hair, protruding from my ample beak!

Only one thing to do, I thought - by Jesus,
I was going to have to get out the Tweezus.
To leave that hair there would be as much of a sin
As to dine with the Queen and get egg on my chin.

Now, I hate tweezing nose-hairs. It hurts, pure and simple.
It’s way much more painful than squeezing a pimple.
But I grabbed that damned hair - yanked it out of my face -
A-leaving a droplet of blood in its place.

And O, how I screamed as that bright bolt of pain
Shot up that short passage, direct to my brain!
I cursed, and I moaned, and I groaned all aloud,
And said things of which I’ll confess I’m not proud.

It’s been said by the Sages that Life Just Ain’t Fair.
I’ll agree, on account of that Vile Nasal Hair.

Monday, April 27, 2009

KADDISH

Pop-Pop Bill, age three
Billie Bob - SWMBO’s daddy - circa age three.

Today - the third day of the month of Iyyar in the Jewish calendar - is Billie Bob’s twenty-third yahrzeit. SWMBO joined me at morning minyan today, where she recited the Mourner’s Kaddish to honor her father’s memory, following a tradition that dates back to sometime in the thirteenth century C.E.

The Kaddish itself is much older, dating back over two millennia. Originally a doxology recited at the conclusion of a session of Torah or Talmud study, it was considered a component of the daily prayer service by the sixth century C.E. It is mostly in Aramaic, with the concluding words in Hebrew - presumably for those few who, back in the day, did not speak Aramaic.

While the Mourner’s Kaddish is popularly thought of as the Jewish prayer for the dead, that distinction properly belongs to Eil Malei Rachamim (“Father of Compassion”). The Kaddish makes no mention of death. It is an affirmation of God’s kingship:

Magnified and sanctified be [God’s] great Name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon; and let us say “Amen.”

[Response:] May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One - blessed be He - beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and let us say “Amen.”

May the prayers and supplications of the whole house of Israel be accepted by their Father in heaven; and let us say “Amen.”

May there be abundant peace from heaven and life, for us and for all Israel; and let us say “Amen.”

He who creates peace in His high places, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and let us say “Amen.”


Take a close look at the first paragraph. Tinker with the wording a little and leave the conceptual framework intact - and look what you get:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Why, it’s the Lord’s Prayer! Which makes perfect sense, because that certain Galilean Carpenter would have known the Kaddish in all its varieties, with the added convenience of its being (mostly) in Aramaic - his own vernacular.

Which brings us back to Billie Bob. Bill, who was Jewish by choice, would have known those words as a youngster before becoming familiar with them as part of the Kaddish.

He would have been eighty years old now, if he had lived. Alas, it was not to be... but I’ll bet he’d be happy to know that we still keep a supply of his Sooper-Seekrit Seasoning Blend on hand for those occasions when we get a jones for a smoked brisket.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

RANDOM RECOMMENDATIONS

If you enjoy fine photography, you can’t go wrong by visiting Sam Javanrouh’s excellent site, [daily dose of imagery].

I liked this post with its embedded panorama, embedded below for your viewing pleasure. Click and drag on the image to get the full panoramic effect.


Luminato Light Balls - Toronto in Canada

For a couple of my earlier posts that reference Sam’s excellent work, go here and here. Remarkable stuff.

When you get tired of photographs and just want teh funny, go visit The Bloggess. She’s based in Houston - alas, I’ve never managed to meet her - and she is Certifiably Insane. Pants-pissingly funny. Which is several orders of magnitude funnier than spit-coffee-all-over-your-monitor funny.

I’m almost afraid to introduce the Mistress of Sarcasm to The Bloggess. She’s liable to laugh hard enough to make blood squirt out of her eyeballs. Come to think of it, you might, too.

THE BUS TO FOREVER

Helen walked down the aisle, headed toward the rear of the bus. She wasn’t sure how she got there - all she knew was that she felt better than she had in years. And she knew she had better find a seat.

There. There, on the left side of the aisle, next to that striking white-haired lady.

She sat down and arranged her robe. Where had that robe come from? It felt like silk on the outside, but the lining was like the softest terry.

The woman sitting next to her - damn, but she looked familiar! - turned to her and said, “I’m Bernice. And you are...”

“Helen.”

“Nice to meet you, Helen. Welcome to the bus.”

“Thanks. Nice to meet you too. Now, where the hell are we going?”

Bernice grinned. “Ooooh, salty! A real firecracker - I should’ve known, with that strawberry-blonde hair. I think I like you already. How old were you?”

Comprehension slowly dawned in Helen’s eyes. “I am... was... eighty-eight.”

“You got me beat. I would’ve been eighty-seven next month. Ahhh, well.”

“So, let me ask you again. Where the hell are we going? Oy. Maybe I should rephrase that.”

“This is the express to Olam ha-Ba. The Next World, the World to Come. Whetever the hell that means. Err, maybe I should rephrase that.”

“Bernice, you look familiar.” Helen regarded her seatmate with a cocked eyebrow. “Have I seen you somewhere?”

“I suppose it’s possible. I used to be an actress. Bea Arthur was my stage name. Ever watch ‘The Golden Girls’?”

“Ah HAH! I knew it! I loved that show. Except I had four sisters, and I could never understand how all you women could live together in one house like that without killing one another.”

Bernice smiled. “It was television.”

*********

SWMBO’s great-aunt Helen and actress Bea Arthur (née Bernice Frankel) both passed away Saturday, April 25, 2009. Barukh Dayan Emet: blessèd be the True Judge.

Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and the pure, to the souls of Helen and Bernice. May their memory endure, inspiring truth and loyalty in our lives. May their souls thus be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

TODAY’S PITH AND VINEGAR

Memo to self: Following the incident in the fancy Dress-Shop, try to remember that “couture” is not pronounced “cooter.”

THE INTERRUPTED PIRATES:
A 100-WORD SEA STORY

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“The Interrupting Pirate.”

“The Interrup…”

“Arrrrrrhhh!”


This joke used to crack us up when we were kids. Timing was everything.

I wasn’t laughing right now, though. Somali pirates were attacking our ship. The crackle of small-arms fire filled the air as the Somalis prepared to board.

The usual game. Hold us hostage, collect the ransom, move on. Insurance would pay the owners.

Not this time. As the pirates strode confidently on deck, laughing, Charlie interrupted them with the M134 Minigun, which promptly converted them into piles of gristle amidst pools of blood.

Yep: Timing is everything.

[The topic of Weekly Challenge #158 at the 100 Word Stories Podcast is Knock Knock.]

Friday, April 24, 2009

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT

I can always rely on my friend Pat to seek out the Truly Bizarre in the world of food. And he does not disappoint with this link to something that looks like it came straight out of James Lileks’s Gallery of Regrettable Food.

Behold: the Crown Roast of Frankfurters!

Crown Roast of Frankfurters
Crown Roast of Frankfurters. Really.

[Scary looking, innit? All kinds of horrible images come to mind. This pic presents a good opportunity for a caption contest, but I suspect most of the entries will end up incorporating the phrase “circle jerk.” Ewwww.]

As pictured on Vermont Ferret’s Flickr site, this impressive meal is easily assembled from a pound of frankfurters (cook ’em first), 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, one teaspoon poppy seeds, 2 cups shredded cabbage, ½ cup boiling water, and an unspecified amount of pimento, along with some parsley for garnish (natch) and several toothpicks to hold the whole mess together.

The recipe comes from a 1974-vintage collection of Weight Watchers recipe cards. Ahh, the early 1970’s. It makes all too much sense. Remember, this is the decade that gave us Watergate, platform shoes, Qiana shirts open to the navel, and double-knit polyester leisure suits... so this Fine Dish fits right in.

So: Who among my brave cadre of Esteemed Readers is brave enough to assault this Matterhorn - nay, this Everest - of Quality Dining? We’ll want photos... and a full debriefing, with all details of the attendant horrors.

Update: As if the above were not bad enough, there’s also this... no doubt what’s for dinner chez Octomom. [Another tip o’ th’ fedora to Pat.]

MEH

Betcha didn’t know just how much you needed this:



Why, it’s the Goat Button!

Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to LeeAnn for this little gem.

FUZZY FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Just for shits ’n’ grins, this week I am combining my Friday Random Ten with Fuzzy Friday, the linkpost that connects you with the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

First off, there is the matter of the Friday Ark, the 240th edition of which may be found at the Modulator. Not like that is a big surprise or anything: All editions of the Friday Ark may be found at the Modulator.

Next, there is the Carnival of the Cats, to be hosted by Mind of Mog this coming Sunday evening... the 267th one, in case you’re keeping count.

And now, on to the Random Ten - the weekly listing of Choons pooped out by my Little White Choon-Box. We’ll take a look at what’s playing, and maybe throw in a few Puddy-Pix to lighten things up. [You can click on any of the thumbnails for a full-size version.]

What’s playing? Lessee:
  1. Waltse for Abby - Chick Corea and Béla Fleck

    Inksplotch Neighbor

  2. Beggars’s Dance - The Klezmatics

    Couch Neighbor

  3. The Generation Gap - Les McCann & Eddie Harris

    Fred

  4. A Day in the Life - The Beatles

    Loveseat Neighbor

  5. Souvenirs (Live) - John Prine

    Sunroom Hakuna

  6. Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, The Mikado

    Uncle Matata

  7. Miracle Man - Elvis Costello

    Sammy

  8. Act II, Scene 3: Tagore - Philip Glass, Satyagraha

    Valentine Matata

  9. Father and Son - Cat Stevens

    Rug Hakuna

  10. Central Park - James Newton Howard, King Kong (2005)

    Sinking Matata

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Update: CotC #267 is up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

RAGE! BLOW!

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

- King Lear, Act III, Scene 2
Tonight we were treated to a tempest right out of Shakespeare as our little Thursday evening minyan group hunkered down over dinner at the Marietta (“Home of Honkin’ Big Desserts!”) Diner.

As we left the synagogue, we could hear the wailing of the tornado warning sirens. It was easy enough to establish that the warning was for the severe thunderstorms that were rumbling by to the south and west - no tornadoes, at least not yet - and so we proceeded westward toward the diner, a six-mile drive. The sky was an ominous-looking dark grey to the south, but the setting sun still poked through numerous cloud-gaps.

Forty-five minutes into our dinner, though, things got decidedly less clement.

The skies darkened, and lightning flashed. Not that dinky heat lightning, either - these were huge, branchy displays, thick with energy, the kind that paint a tracery of jagged light across the entire firmament. One bolt scored a direct hit on our building (or very close to it), knocking out the power momentarily and startling the bejesus out of everyone. Not a good moment in which to have had a mouthful of hot soup.

The NWS warnings, meanwhile, had gradually ratcheted up their stridency... and their hail size projections, which had started at quarter-size, moved up to golf ball-size, and peaked at tennis ball-size. Which was enough for me to start worrying about our car, which was sitting outside in the diner’s parking lot. Tennis ball-size chunks of ice falling from a few thousand feet will do all kinds of things to cars, none of them pleasant.

When the rain finally came, it was a deluge of Noahide proportions, with the wind coming from a different quarter every few seconds, strong enough to whip flags straight out from their staffs in a frenzy of flappage. There’s an old Texas expression that likens heavy rain to a cow pissing on a flat rock... but any cow that tried to piss in this wind would find her bovine urine landing miles away from the target rock, owing to the fierce wind.

No hail, though. I was grateful for that, although there’s that Curious Little Kid part of me that would love to see tennis balls of ice fall from the sky.

When things quieted down, we hurried to pay up and get out of Dodge... and we were treated to a major light show all the way home.

Postscript: What we didn’t know was that at the height of the storm, our friend Stefan was at his office a mile or so northeast of us. As he looked out at the weather through his westward-facing window, he saw a funnel cloud begin to form... right above where the Marietta Diner was. Right above where we were. Lucky for us, the funnel never touched down - instead, it vanished back up into the boiling mass of storm clouds above. Close call, that...

THE ENEMY LURKS

Kitty Faceoff
Off in the distance, the enemy lurks...

I see her there, off in the distance:
The object of my heart’s resistance.
Her presence in my territory
Makes life a daily purgatory.
If she comes near, I’ll hiss and spit -
I hate her guts, the little shit.


Here, Hakuna and Neighbor face off in the upstairs corridor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

VENUS DAY

Venus
False-color radar image of the surface of Venus. [Courtesy NASA]

Today, April 22, is Earth Day... but unless you are a Planetary Chauvinist, you also know that it is Venus Day.

It’ll be Venus Day for a good while, too, since our Venerian solar days are over 116 times longer than an Earth day. And that will give us plenty of time to think of ways to save our planet.

Greenhouse gases are an issue, of course. We Venerians can’t get enough of ’em. All that carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are absolutely necessary to maintain the balmy 860°F surface temperature that makes Venus the perfect place among planets.

“Save the Whales”? Pfaugh. On Venus, “whales” are the subject of science fiction... mainly because there are no oceans. Carbon-based lifeforms of any kind are thin on the ground, for that matter. All y’all wimps can’t take the heat. The local silicon-based biochemistry is much more adaptable.

On Venus, “Rock and Roll” isn’t music. It’s a dude and his food.

Not that there aren’t environmental concerns. While there are no icecaps, polar or otherwise, to shrink, the depth of the tellurium-gallium snow in the mountains occasionally is insufficient to support a decent skiing season. Opinion is strongly divided as to whether this diminution of snow cover is veneriogenic in origin.

Hey, ya gotta love our pearlescent little planet. Where else in the Solar System can you breathe seltzer instead of drinking it?

TODAY’S PITH AND VINEGAR

I’d rather get Sharon Stoned than Sarah Boyled.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A TIP...

...o’ th’ Elisson Fedora goes to El Capitan of Baboon Pirates for his latest tour de force: a retrospective of Art History with especial emphasis on a certain individual with Great Farookin’ Hair™.

Here’s a taste:

American Jimbo

“American Jimbo” By El Capitan, with apologies to Grant Wood.

The image that inspired Cap’s PhotoShoppy Masterpieces may be familiar to those who read this account of last year’s Hysterics at Eric’s - the weekend that was notable for the Infamous Drahr Fahr, among other things - and who took the time to make clicky-clicky on all the links.

There’s more to the good Captain than meets the eye. We already know he can write a mean Blog-Post... but this is the best evidence to date of his Mad PhotoShoppin’ Skillz. And a connoisseur of Caravaggio, to boot! A feckin’ Renaissance Man, I tells ya.

APRIL GUILD EVENT

The April Sommelier Guild event will be held this evening at Grace 17.20 in Norcross. Alas, the Grouchy One will be unable to attend, thanks to the difficulty of getting to their second-floor dining room. There’s no elevator - just a winding staircase with hard marble treads that is decidedly not Cripple-Friendly. But Houston Steve will be there with me to enjoy the evening’s wine assortment, all of which will be from Portugal.

Say, anyone remember Lancer’s? Or Mateus Rosé?

Speaker’s Wine
Famega Vinho Verde 2007***

First Flight
Monteiro de Matos “Terras de Paul” Tinto de Ribatejo 2005
Quinta DeRoriz "Prazo de Roriz" Tinto de Douro 2004**
Roboredo Madeira “Carm” Tinto de Douro 2006**

Pan Seared Halibut Fillet, Warm Mussel & Tomato Salad Bruschetta, Smoked Gouda Stuffed Okra

Second Flight
Quinta De Portal Grande Reserva Tinto de Douro 2000
J.R. Moreira “Poeira” Tinto de Douro 2001***
Roboredo Madeira “Carm” Grande Reserva Tinto de Douro 2005**

Chile Dusted Lamb Loin, Braised Kale, Caramelized Onion & Chorizo Sausage Gnocchi

Dessert
Blandy’s Malmsey Madeira “10 year old” (NV)*****
Kopke Colheita Porto 1983****
Warres Vintage Porto 1994****

Butter Toffee Bread Pudding, Vanilla Bean Pastry Crême, and Spiced Caramel Sauce

Sounds calorific! I guess I’ll have to spend an evening pounding all of this down... and taking notes, so you’ll know what was good... and what was really good.

Monday, April 20, 2009

ASK MR. DEBONAIR

Mr. Debonair

Dear Mr. Debonair,

This thoughtful post by a gentleman who calls himself “Velociman” got me to thinking about the matter of Manly Fragrances. Is it appropriate for a man to use Cologne Water and the like... or is it a Metrosexual Affectation? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sincerely,
Inquiring Mind


Dear Inquiring,

I applaud you for your fearlessness and candor in putting forth your inquiry. But I must hasten to assure you that there is nothing unmanly in the use of materials that impart a pleasant scent. Gentlemen have been connoisseurs of Bodily Aroma Enhancement since before the primitive Neanderthal crouched in his cave and distilled the first precious drops of Bay Rum.

This is not an unreasonable thing, for the Gentlemanly Corpus, left to its own devices, is capable of developing some remarkably offensive pongs. As Velociman states so eloquently, there is a definite value to a gentleman’s use of some sort of Olfactory Palliative, “because otherwise we would be subjected, ad hoc, to the smell of [his] unwashed armpits and unsanitary, shit-begrimed ass cheeks.”

At the very least, one must take it upon oneself to use an effective deodorant and/or antiperspirant after showering - an act that should be performed, generally, somewhat more often than every other fortnight. But beyond deodorant, there are many possibilities for Osmic Enhancement.

Your aromatic should be carefully selected with an eye toward one’s unique body chemistry. Every one of us reacts differently to scent; it is therefore critical to ensure that the scent one chooses does not react with one’s individual pheromonic pallette to create a less-than-optimum effect. If your friend Charlie smells great with a few drops of Old Spice on his freshly-shaven cheek, well and good; but Old Spice may make you smell like an oven-baked turd. The moral: Be sure to test fragrances privately before wearing them in public.

What fragrances does Mr. Debonair recommend? Ahhh, that is a tricky question indeed, involving as it does the delicate matter of Personal Taste. Over the years, as Mr. Debonair grew out of Noob-Fare like Old Spice (Grandpa’s choice!) and West Indian Lime - past Canoe, Aramis, Drakkar Noir, Kouros, and suchlike - he has gravitated towards products such as Antæus and Egoïste - the latter especially apt for someone who is so invested in the art of Self-Aggrandizement. Your tastes may differ (de gustibus non est disputandum), so feel free to douse yourself with Hai Karate! or Old Spice, you shit-smelling old goat. [Or goat-smelling old shit.]

How to apply one’s favorite Stinkum? Mr. Debonair recommends a drop or two - no more! - on the neck below each earlobe. And if you’re feeling especially frisky, a drop at the base of the Penile Shaft, right where it meets the Old Nut-Sack, can spice up almost any putative Romantic Encounter. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

AVE MAMMA MIA

About a week ago, the Missus and I were driving along Roswell Road, headed toward Marietta to pick up a few things at Harry’s Farmers Market.

[I’ll interject a comment here about local road nomenclature... because it can be a source of confusion. Roads hereabouts are named for where they take you: thus, if you are in Roswell, you take the Marietta Highway to travel towards Marietta. The same east-west road is called Roswell Road in Marietta, because - you guessed it - it takes you in the direction of Roswell.

Here, I make reference to Roswell Road, but for additional clarity I should say “Roswell Road 120” to differentiate between the east-west Roswell Road and the north-south Roswell Road (Roswell Road 9). Or I could say “Upper Roswell Road” by way of distinguishing between Upper Roswell Road, i.e., Roswell Road 120, and Lower Roswell Road. Confused? Good. You’re normal.]

Anyway, as the Missus and I were traveling along Roswell Road, AKA Upper Roswell Road, AKA Roswell Road 120, her eagle-eyes caught a sign on a brick office building that advertised the presence of a church.

It’s unusual enough for a church to set itself up in an office building - generally, such institutions prefer stand-alone facilities - but what struck her as even more unusual was the name of the church:

ABBA Church

World headquarters of the Church of ABBA.

By George! Here was a House of Worship dedicated to the Supreme Swedish Disco-Band... ABBA!

It makes sense, I suppose. There are plenty of people who are members of the Church of the Resurrected, Reconstituted, Revitalized, and Rehabilitated Elvis... so why not a church for ABBA?

I don’t dare guess what the liturgy is like, but I suspect the hymns are eminently listenable, hooky affairs that stick to your brains... earworms all. And you can dance to ’em under the flashing, sparkling lights of the Eternal Disco Ball.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

AN OBSERVATION, MOST LIKELY UNWELCOME

If there’s one thing I really dread
It’s pinching back a Turtle-Head.
And even worse is when my poop
Devolveth unto Turtle-Soup.

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY...

...I was in Hiroshima, Japan with Elder Daughter.

Victims Memorial

The hypocenter... 580 meters directly below where the Bomb went off.

It isn’t every day that you can stand on the spot directly below where an atomic bomb went off. A most sobering experience... more about which may be found here.

A QUESTION OF ORTHOGRAPHY

Overheard in a restaurant:

Is it “even Steven,” or “effin’ Stephen”?

Friday, April 17, 2009

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN - POST-PASSOVER POST

Welcome to yet another Friday Random Ten at Blog d’Elisson, that insufferable weekly feature in which I post ten tunes, horked out randomly by the iPod d’Elisson. [If they were not horked out randomly, I suppose we could not call it the Friday Random Ten, eh?]

Today, instead of the iPod, I’m pulling music off of the iPhone d’Elisson. And now SWMBO has her own iPhone, too! We’re now a pair of iPhonies!

Passover is kaput for another year, which means we are now happily stuffing our faces with Breadly Goodies. Like many things in life, doing without a certain food or activity for a while teaches you to appreciate it all the more.

With all that preamble out of the way, let’s see what’s on the box:
  1. Annie Waits - Ben Folds

    Not to be confused with Tom Waits, I suppose.

  2. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It - The Mothers of Invention

    This may have been the first Zappa tune I ever heard. It was 1967, and this stuff was from a different planet than Herman’s Hermits and all the other crap we’d hear on Top 40 AM radio. It changed my life.

    Brown shoes don’t make it
    Brown shoes don’t make it
    Quit school, why fake it
    Brown shoes don’t make it
    TV dinner by the pool
    Watch your brother grow a beard
    Got another year of school
    You’re okay, he’s too weird
    Be a plumber
    He’s a bummer
    He’s a bummer every summer
    Be a loyal plastic robot
    For a world that doesn’t care
    That’s right
    Smile at every ugly
    Shine on your shoes and cut your hair

    Be a jerk - go to work
    Be a jerk - go to work
    Be a jerk - go to work
    Be a jerk - go to work
    Do your job, and do it right
    Life’s a ball
    TV tonight
    Do you love it
    Do you hate it
    There it is
    The way you made it

    A world of secret hungers
    Perverting the men who make your laws
    Every desire is hidden away
    In a drawer in a desk by a naugahyde chair
    On a rug where they walk and drool
    Past the girls in the office

    (Hratche-plche, hratche-plche
    Hratche-plche...)

    We see in the back
    Of the City Hall mind
    The dream of a girl about thirteen
    Off with her clothes and into a bed
    Where she tickles his fancy
    All night long...

    His wife’s attending an orchid show
    She squealed for a week to get him to go
    But back in the bed his teen-age queen
    Is rocking and rolling and acting obscene
    Baby baby...
    Baby baby...

    Gimme them cakes now, uh!
    If I do, I’m gonna lose my...

    And he loves it, he loves it
    It curls up his toes
    She wipes his fat neck
    And it lights up his nose
    But he cannot be fooled
    Old City Hall Fred
    She’s nasty, she’s nasty
    She digs it in bed
    That’s right

    Do it again, ha
    And do it some more
    Hey, that does it, by golly
    And she’s nasty for sure
    Nasty nasty nasty
    Nasty nasty nasty
    Only thirteen, and she knows how to nasty
    She’s a dirty young mind, corrupted
    Corroded
    Well she’s thirteen today
    And I hear she gets loaded
    If she were my daughter, I’d...
    What would you do, Frankie?
    Well, if she were my daughter, I’d...
    What would you do, Frankie?
    If she were my daughter, I’d...
    What would you do, Frankie?
    Check this out
    Smother my daughter in chocolate syrup
    And strap her on again, oh baby
    Smother that girl in chocolate syrup
    And strap her on again
    She’s my teen-age baby
    She turns me on
    I’d like to make her do a nasty
    On the White House lawn
    Smother my daughter in chocolate syrup
    And boogie ’til the cows come home!

    Time to go home
    Madge is on the phone
    Gotta meet the gurneys and a dozen grey attorneys
    TV dinner by the pool
    I’m so glad I finished school
    Life is such a ball
    I run the world from City Hall


  3. The Royal Scam - Steely Dan

  4. Birdhouse In Your Soul - They Might Be Giants

    I’m your only friend
    I’m not your only friend
    But I’m a little glowing friend
    But really I’m not actually your friend
    But I am

    Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
    Who watches over you
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul
    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

    I have a secret to tell
    From my electrical well
    It’s a simple message and I’m leaving out the whistles and bells
    So the room must listen to me
    Filibuster vigilantly
    My name is blue canary one note spelled L-I-T-E
    My story’s infinite
    Like the Longines Symphonette, it doesn’t rest

    Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
    Who watches over you
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul
    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

    I’m your only friend
    I’m not your only friend
    But I’m a little glowing friend
    But really I’m not actually your friend
    But I am

    There’s a picture opposite me
    Of my primitive ancestry
    Which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free
    Though I respect that a lot
    I’d be fired if that were my job
    After killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts
    Bluebird of friendliness
    Like guardian angels it’s always near

    Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
    Who watches over you
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul
    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

    (And while you’re at it
    Keep the nightlight on inside the
    Birdhouse in your soul)

    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

    Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch (and while you’re at it)
    Who watches over you (keep the nightlight on inside the)
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul (birdhouse in your soul)

    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

    Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch (and while you’re at it)
    Who watches over you (keep the nightlight on inside the)
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul (birdhouse in your soul)

    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

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

    Part of the musical background for our infamous Aubrey/Maturin dinners.

  6. Army - Ben Folds Five

  7. Roll Right Stones - Traffic

  8. Glad - Traffic

    A Traffic double-play! “Glad” leads off Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die album, an album that marked a move toward a new, jazzy sound - a major change in style for the former psychedelic band. It was the soundtrack for my first semester in college; you could hear it, seemingly, 24 hours a day. To this day, when I hear the opening bars of “Glad,” I am instantly transported back to the fall of 1970... and I am glad.

  9. Long Neck Bottles - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

  10. Montana - Frank Zappa

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Spring is here: the grass has riz.
I wonder where the birdies is?
The birds are on the wing.
Oh, my word -
That’s absurd!
The wing is on the bird.


No need to wonder where the birdies is. They’re on the Friday Ark - the 239th edition of which is up at the Modulator’s place - along with all the other denizens of Animal World. Go pay a visit, why don’tcha?

This Sunday evening, Carnival of the Cats will be hosted by When Cats Attack! I understand Hakuna is acting as an unpaid consultant... because she attacks Neighbor whenever the two of them find themselves within five feet of one another. Yeef.

Update: Not that this has anything to do with cats, but Haveil Havalim #213 is up at The Real Shliach. Maybe you’ll find a Katz there, anyway.

Update 2: CotC #266 is up.

Update 3: The 41st Kosher Cooking Carnival is up at A Mother in Israel. Eat, bubeleh!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SPLOTCH

Ink Splotch Neighbor
Neighbor, splayed out on the carpet like an ink splotch.

On first glance, Neighbor looks an awful lot like an ink splotch against the light beige tone of the carpet.

But the Mistress of Sarcasm knows better.

Neighbor and her Mommy
“Why, this is no ink splotch... it’s my kitty!”

Update: With Og’s comment to inspire me, I’ve created a Rorschach-Kitty. Look below the fold...

Rorschach Neighbor
Look out - it’s Rorschach-Kitty! (Now, where da Nite Owl at?)

POPEYE PIE

It being the last evening of eating pesahdik foods - that’s stuff that conforms with the extra-strict dietary restrictions of Passover, for all y’all Gentiles out there - I decided to try something new and different for dinner last night: a Spinach Pie.

Spinach pie? No: a Popeye Pie. A Pesahdik Popeye Pie!

Popeye Pie
Pesahdik Popeye Pie.

Spinach, eggs, onions, and matzoh meal have been a favorite combination of ingredients for me ever since my grandmother - the Momma d’Eli of blessèd memory - used to fry up spinach latkes at every opportunity. This recipe uses the same basic ingredients, but results in a pie. Just as the name suggests.

It’s easy enough. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-qt capacity pie pan with olive oil, then line the bottom with two sheets of matzoh, broken into small pieces. Now get two pounds of spinach, remove the stems, and chop it up. (I used frozen chopped spinach, which I thawed out and then drained thoroughly.)

Chop up a handful of scallions and throw ’em in a large skillet with about 5 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat; cook until the scallions soften. Add the spinach, mix well and cook for a few minutes - if using fresh spinach, cook it down until thoroughly wilted. Add one cup matzoh meal and mix well. Throw in a handful of chopped fresh dill weed, then add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Beat eight large eggs in an electric mixer with four tbsp lemon juice for about five minutes, until frothy. Add the spinach mixture, blend well, and turn out into the prepared pie pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until slightly browned on top. Slice it up and serve it forth. It’s delicious... and it meets the exacting requirements of the Popeyer Rebbe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ON RED SEA PEDESTRIANS

Q: Why did Moses cross the Reed Sea?

A: He wanted to get to the other side.

It’s the seventh day of Passover - the penultimate day, here in the Diaspora - and, surprisingly, my Matzoh Honeymoon continues. I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. Surprise!

Today at synagogue, the Torah reading consisted of a big chunk of Parshat Beshallach, the dramatic story of the Israelites’ flight from Egypt, pursued by the armies of Pharaoh (who, after agreeing to free the Israelites, developed a case of Morning-Afteritis). The reading is capped by the Song at the Sea, which is chanted to a special melody while the congregation stands... and that’s the piece I read, all 32 verses worth.

Interestingly, the Torah never explains how Moses gets from one side of the Reed Sea (often improperly called the Red Sea) to the other. He is commanded to raise his arm and staff to split the sea; later, he is told to raise his arm and cause the sea to wash over Pharaoh’s charioteers - but nowhere is it said that Moses actually crossed over along with the other Israelites... the above-noted Red Sea Pedestrians.

Since, like Nature, Jews abhor a vacuum, plenty of stories have been cooked up over the years to explain how Moses got across. Stories like this, intended to fill in the gaps in Scripture, are known as midrash. Midrash, given its religious context, is a much nicer term than “crock of shit” or even “bunch of made-up baloney.” [Of course, to the skeptics among us, it’s all a bunch of made-up baloney, including Scripture... but that’s a discussion for another time.]

One possibility: He surfed across. It’s not clear what Moses would have used for a surfboard, but, being a creative sort, I’m sure he could have come up with something. Supporters of this theory cite the fact that Moses was from the tribe of Levi, the tribe that would eventually serve in the Temple...and so was the first Big Kahuna. [“Kahuna,” in Hebrew, refers to Priestly Activities; it comes from the same root as “kohen,” priest.] According to the text, “...and the water was a wall for them, on the right and on the left.” Anyone who has ever seen the break at Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu knows that a huge wave resembles a wall - and so it is very possible that Moses would have been able to “hang aseret” while catching some gnarly wave action.

Another possibility: He was picked up by a whirlwind and deposited on the other side of the Sea. This is an actual midrash, although by whom concocted I have no idea. But I theorize that, if this were true, then when Moses landed on the other side of the Sea, everything would suddenly be in color instead of black-and-white like in Egypt.

What ideas can you come up with? How did Moses get across the Reed Sea?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SHORT: A 100-WORD STORY

The man in the familiar stovepipe hat smiled as he approached the box office at Ford’s. He had been looking forward to this evening’s performance of “Our American Cousin.” He needed a laugh badly... and besides, it might lift Mary out of the melancholia that had recently settled upon her.

“Two, please,” he said, in a surprisingly high and nasal voice.

“Of course, Mr. President,” stammered the ticket-seller. “That will be seven dollars.”

But all he had was six-fifty. Damn! He’d have to ask Major Rathbone for four bits.

They’d remember April 14, he thought. The day Lincoln was short.

[Check out The Wacky Adventures of Abraham Lincoln at the 100 Word Stories Podcast.]

DOOM KABOOM

Kaboom Tree
The infamous Kaboom! Tree, as it appeared three years ago.

Regular readers of this site may recall this post about the Kaboom! tree, a well-known and well-feared landmark near the home of Eric the Blade. Well-feared, indeed: Many a careless motorist has dashed his or her brains out against the Kaboom! tree over the years, owing to its strategic placement adjacent to a sharp bend in the road by which it sits. It’s a tree that has earned its onomatopoetic nickname.

It was a beautiful tree, the Kaboom! tree, despite its fearsome reputation. In the photograph above, taken in October 2006, you can get an idea of its proportions, the massive bole supporting a huge, leafy canopy.

Alas, while trees are, on the whole, long-lived life forms, even they are not immune to the ravages of Time and Nature. Eric informed me yesterday that the violent storms that swept through his area this Friday past wiped out the Kaboom! tree - or at least wailed upon it with sufficient intensity that it will never be the same again. Only about a quarter of the tree remains.

Kaboom Tree 2009
The infamous Kaboom! Tree on Easter Sunday 2009, badly in need of resurrection (it’s the one on the left). Photo courtesy Eric the Blade.

The Great Karmic Wheel spins ever ’round, Esteemed Readers... one day, the Mighty Oak is on top, the bane of careless drivers throughout McMinn County, Tennessee, and then, whammo! - it is humbled, a mere shadow of its former glory. As our High Holiday liturgy would put it, in the solemn, timeless words of the U-netaneh Tokef prayer, every year the Eternal One decides “who shall live and who shall die... who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low...” - and everyone gets a turn in the barrel.

Even if you’re a tree.

Kaboom! tree, we hardly knew ye. Ave atque vale...

CROSSING THE STREAMS

Madison Avenue continues to come up with ways to surprise me.

Here, the geniuses behind Burger King’s advertising have done what Dr. Egon Spengler warned us not to do in Ghostbusters: They have crossed the streams. Specifically, they have crossed two divergent, no-fucking-thing-in-common Pop Culture streams and created an ad campaign that out-Herbs Herb.

Picture it: SpongeBob SquarePants together with Sir Mix-a-Lot, all jammed up with that bizarro plastic-faced Burger King. Makes you want to go out and buy a Whopper right now, eh?

I’m pondering the relationship between SpongeBob and Fast-Food Hamburgers, and somehow, the rationale eludes me. Wendy’s, with their square burgers, would seem a more likely candidate for a SpongeBob SquarePants tie-in, but no. Are blocky, looking-like-you-shoved-a-phone-book-in-your-pants asses supposed to be sexy? A desirable outcome from years of Whopper consumption? Does eating burgers simultaneously raise the pitch of your voice and lower your intelligence? What is the deal, anyway?

The 30-second ad is here... but for real fun, watch the extended Music Video version below. A real jaw-dropper, this.



Monday, April 13, 2009

COUNT ME OUT: A 100-WORD HORROR STORY

The Count stood, his full height looming over Van Helsing. No escape... and yet the fabled vampire-hunter stood his ground.

“Doctor Van Helsing,” intoned the Count in a quiet voice that carried the accent of Transylvania. “I almost regret that I must kill you. You have always been a worthy opponent. A gentleman with a boutonnière!

“What kind of flower is that, anyway?” He leaned in for a closer look...

...and was rewarded with a squirt in the eye. Dracula screamed in agony, his body dissolving into a thick mist.

“It’s a rose,” replied Van Helsing. “A stinking rose.”

[The topic of Weekly Challenge #156 at the 100 Word Story Podcast is “The Stinking Rose.”]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

GONE PHISHIN’

This morning, yet another stupid-ass phishing e-mail laded in my in-box.

Yawn.

I guess these assholes have a non-zero success rate, because they keep sending e-mails like this...meaning that someone out there is stupid enough to read ’em and still click on the links and divulge their personal data. Economic Darwinism, let’s call it.

Here’s the latest one, which purports to be from the AOL Member Services Team:

Dear Valued Member,

We were unable to process your most recent payment. Did you recently change your bank, phone number or credit card?

To ensure that your service is not interrupted, please update your billing information today by clicking here https://bill.aol.com, After a few clicks, just verify the information you entered is correct. !

Sincerely,

AOL Member Services Team

P.S. The link in this massage will be expire within 24 Hours . You have to update your payment information

OK, assholes: First of all, real communications from AOL are not addressed to “Dear Valued Member” - they’re addressed to me by name. Secondly, they never have to do with billing, because my AOL service is free. Third, they are not rife with punctuation and spelling errors. You almost could have fooled me - except for Items 1 and 2 above, that is - but that P.S. really doomed you. “The link in this massage will be expire within 24 hours”? Puh-leese.

Three strikes and you’re out, douchebags.

Oh, yes - if I float my mouse over your link, and the link target is something like www.colorexpressllc.com/images/items/icons/xxxxxxxxxx/makerup.php instead of https://bill.aol.com, that tells me you are being dishonest. So go fuck yourselves, OK? And then die. Painfully.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CRUMBS

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” - Shakespeare

“Merely touch it with your thumbs: Matzoh makes a lot of crumbs.” - Elisson

When Eli (hizzownself) wishes to compliment someone, he will, like as not, state that that person “looks sharp as a matzoh and twice as crumby.”

Nonsense, sure, but as with all good nonsense, there is more than a grain of truth in it... or in this case, a crumb of truth. For there is nothing as crumby as matzoh.

We don’t call it the Bread of Affliction for nothing, yo.

Not only is it famously constipation-inducing, but matzoh - the unleavened bread consumed by us Red Sea Pedestrians during our Passover festival - is incredibly crumby stuff. Simply look at it sideways, and little shards will break off, working their way into the tablecloth, your clothing, and any nearby floor. This time of year, our house is filled with Matzoh Detritus. Crumbs.

You cannot avoid them. They are everywhere. Matzoh-crumbs get onto every horizontal surface. They stick to many vertical ones, too, owing to their light weight and grabby little edges. Try to pick one up: Hydra-like, it multiplies, breaking into smaller, harder-to-pick-up chunks.

Funny thing about matzoh. It’s really not bad, this Unleavened Bread. Every year, I enjoy a Matzoh Honeymoon for the first few days of Pesach. We eat it happily, with charoset (the traditional relish of apples, nuts, and wine that is reminiscent of the mortar with which the ancient Israelites built Pharaoh’s cities), with horseradish, with cheese, or slathered with butter. But after five or six days, the honeymoon is over, and crumbs - those fucking crumbs! - are everywhere.

It’s traditional to clean the house thoroughly before Passover, in order to ensure the complete absence of leaven. But it’s at least as necessary to have another thorough cleaning after the holiday is over, in order to remove the quadrillion or so little matzoh-smithereens that manage to adhere to every surface.

“Bread of affliction,” indeed. Oy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN - PASSOVER EDITION

It’s Friday once again - time for this week’s Random Ten, the assortment of Choons horked out by the Little White Choon-Box.

It’s Passover, which means that music is about the only leavening agent around. If I were truly observant, I would not be listening to music today... but then again, I would also not be posting. Ah, well. At least I’m staying well away from the Usual Suspects: swine, seafood, bread, beer, whisky...

But you don’t want to hear about my Dietary Restrictions, do you? Of course not. You want to know what’s playing on the ol’ Choon-Box. So let’s take a listen:
  1. Di Great Insohreckshan - Linton Kwesi Johnson

  2. Outside Now Again - Frank Zappa

  3. Boxing - Ben Folds

  4. Moy Motocikl - Leningrad

  5. Geek USA - Smashing Pumpkins

  6. Interlude - The Klezmatics

  7. The Rye or the Kaiser - Weird Al Yankovic

  8. The Beehive State - Randy Newman

    “Since you’re the delegate from Kansas
    Will you kindly take the floor
    And tell us what Kansas is thinking
    And what is Kansas for?”

    “Well, Kansas is for the farmer
    We stand behind the little man
    And we need a firehouse in Topeka
    So help us if you can”

    “I see the delegate from Utah
    Our friendly Beehive State
    How can we help you, Utah?
    How can we make you great?”

    “Well, we got to irrigate our deserts
    So we can get some things to grow
    And we got to tell this country about Utah
    ’Cause nobody seems to know”

  9. So Like Candy - Elvis Costello

  10. Way Back In The 1960s - The Incredible String Band

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

BLACK ON GREEN

Couch Neighbor
Neighbor parks herself atop our sofa, creating a contrasting image of black on green.

Update: Friday Ark #238 is afloat over at the Modulator. Sunday evening, tune in to Artsy Catsy for Carnival of the Cats #265.

Update 2: CotC #265 is up.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

IT’S AMAZING...

...just how much of a Pain in the Ass an exploding can of soda can be.

It was in mid-morning, as She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were in the midst of preparations for this evening’s Seder meal, that we heard a loud “thunk” come from the refrigerator. It sounded like something falling... but what could possibly fall, in a fridge with solid glass shelves? It’s not like we had a bunch of stuff precariously balanced in there.

It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. A can of Coke Zero had been stuck all the way in the back of the top shelf - the coldest spot in the box. Cold enough to freeze anything that sits there long enough, apparently... because the can had frozen solid and then split along the side. Bang! Chunks of frozen Coke were scattered everywhere.

The Sages tell us that if we do not clean our refrigerator thoroughly before Pesach to remove all traces of leaven, the Ribono shel Olam - Master of the World - will find a way to impel us to do it. And this was a perfectly effective method, for we had to empty everything out and wipe the entire fridge interior down. At least it wasn’t sugar-sweetened Coke, which would have left a horrible gooky residue everywhere it touched... and at least the damn can didn’t blow just as we were sitting down for our Ritual Dinner.

As for that Ritual Dinner, it promises to be exceptional. SWMBO has made a cauldron of her famous chicken soup with matzohballs: even now, it sits, simmering on the stove, tempting me to dip the ladle in and steal a bowlful. She has prepared the gefilte fish, decorating it with carrot slices and parsley sprigs. She has also made charoset, the apple and nut relish that recalls the mortar with which the Israelites built Pharaoh’s cities. The main event? A roasted veal breast, stuffed with carrot, sweet potato, and apricot tzimmes, with white grape sauce. Oooooh, I can’t wait.

Gefilte Fish - 2009 Edition
SWMBO’s three varieties of gefilte fish. People either love this stuff or hate it; for me, it has the taste of Grandma’s cooking... and home.

Oh, yes: Dessert. SWMBO has whipped up a sponge cake, and we have the pistachio-ginger macaroons I made yesterday. Hoo-hah!

To my Jewish friends and Esteemed Readers, a chag Pesach kasher v’sameach - a happy and kosher Passover. And to my non-Jewish friends and Esteemed Readers, enjoy being able to consume all the bread, cake, Scotch and beer we can’t have for eight days!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

NUTS OVER NUTS

I have written before of my love for the humble (and yet slightly exotic) Pistachio.

In my Snot-Nose Days, Carvel was the ubiquitous ice cream of the Northeast. Back then, there was none of this 33 flavor hard-pack bullshit: Carvel offered soft-serve, and soft-serve only, and the flavor choices were vanilla and chocolate. Occasionally, when the mood suited them, they’d add a Flavor of the Week, and I would look forward to the days when pistachio would be on the menu.

Later, I discovered the pleasures of the Real Thing, pistachio nuts in their red-dyed shells. Another, even later revelation: the best pistachios did not have their shells dyed. Their little jackets were a handsome beige, and inside was a delicately flavored nut-meat with that elusive green tinge.

Pistachios lend themselves well to recipes that more often use other, less exotic nuts. Today I substituted them for hazelnuts and made some Pistachio-Ginger Macaroons... a lot more interesting that the crappy coconut macaroons that the Stoopid-Markets flog every Passover.

Alas, pistachios can be a bit of a pin in the arse. You have to shell them - no big deal - and then peel them. (If you really hate shelling ’em, you can pay a premium to buy the pre-shelled kernels, but I don’t think these have the same flavor as the ones that come in their shells.) I rinse them under running water to wash off the salt, then throw them in a pot of boiling water for two minutes to blanch them. This makes it easy work to remove the skins, which slip right off. (Run some cold water over the blanched nuts so you don’t burn the crap out of your fingers while peeling them!) You’ll want three cups of blanched, peeled kernels.

Pistachios - Raw
Shelled pistachio kernels, after rinsing to remove salt. Note the purplish skins. Also note the colander, which is actually being used for its intended purpose.

Once the pistachios are all peeled, throw ’em on a baking sheet and toast them in a 350°F oven for 8-15 minutes - until they are dry and aromatic. Turn the oven down to 325°F when they’re done.

Pistachios - Blanched
Pistachio kernels after blanching, peeling, and toasting. I love that subtle green color.

Put the toasted kernels in a food processor with 1¼ cups granulated sugar and 3 tbsp (1½ ounces) crystallized ginger; process until fine. Add three large egg whites, one at a time, and process after each addition until the mixture is well blended. Use a tablespoon to drop the mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheets; smooth the tops with a wet finger, then bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops begin to pick up some color. When done, slide the parchment onto a rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely (they will harden up somewhat), then store in an airtight container.

Pistachio-Ginger Macaroons
Pistachio-Ginger Macaroons.

Damn, these things are good... and just right to provide the finishing touch to a Passover seder meal. A zissen Pesach!

ON DIETARY PECCADILLOES

Today, by way of a Mental Excursion,
I tried to imagine all sorts of Perversion:
The sins that result when men’s hearts - full of flaws -
Delib’rately flout ev’ry one of God’s laws:
Commandments, those Rules carved in tablets of stone
That tell us (for instance) whom we may not bone;
Or that we can’t murder; want our neighbor’s shit;
Or work on the Sabbath, when down we should sit.
And I thought: One thing, surely, your soul would bedamn,
And that would be serving a Passover Ham.
For at Seder there’s nothing as crashingly crass
As passing a plate with a chunk of Pig’s Ass.

NATURE, RED IN TOOTH BEAK AND CLAW

My friend Donnie Joe walked outside the other day and found himself a spectator at an Avian Airshow.

This was not some benign entertainment such as is occasionally hosted at the nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base, however. This was a fight to the death.

Birdfight 1

First we see two hawks converge on an unlucky black bird. (What kind of black bird? I have no idea, but if you do, let me know in the Comments.)

Birdfight 2

Now one of the hawks isolates the Enemy... and moves in for the kill.

Birdfight 3

Ahhh, Nature! It’s not all Fluffy Bunnies and Ass-Wipin’ Bears...

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Donnie Joe for the superb photographs.]

Monday, April 06, 2009

WATCHMEN

Watchmen

A couple of days ago, I caught the Watchmen movie. The fact that I saw it on a weekday afternoon (a privilege of the Retired Individual) about a month after its release meant that I saw it in a theatre that was completely empty, save for myself.

I am embarrassed to say that I had been unfamiliar with the source material, a twelve-issue series of comic books originally published in 1986-87 and later repackaged as a Graphic Novel. Somehow or other, it never managed to hit my radar screen, even over a two-decade-plus span. Maybe if I spent more time at comics conventions... but no.

When I saw the advance advertising for the movie, I was fascinated. Who were these costumed characters, anyway? (Especially the Silk Spectre - yow!) I had to find out more. And so I resolved to read the graphic novel before seeing the movie.

There’s always a danger in comparing any movie to its Booky Source. Almost inevitably, changes must be made in adapting a book to the Big Screen... and in almost every case, those changes are the source of disappointment and frustration. Sometimes it is the excision of plot elements or characters that make it more difficult to tell a story visually; sometimes it’s a wholesale reimagining that (generally) does little to enhance the story. And, at the very least, converting a book to a film changes it from a “hot” medium to a “cold” one, as Marshall McLuhan might say: from one that forces your own imagination to do the heavy lifting to another in which a director, cinematographer, and actors (among others) have done it for you.

With a graphic novel, it’s a little different. The book is really a form of extended storyboard, a movie in the process of becoming. How do you put it on the screen and manage to give it a life of its own without taking away the graphic impact and the storytelling techniques that work so well on the page? If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up with a disappointing clusterfuck like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, not incidentally, another Alan Moore creation that, alas, did not fare well in the transition from Page to Screen.

But let’s deal with that later. What about the graphic novel, a novel that received the Hugo Award in 1988 and has been included in Time Magazine’s 2005 list of the best 100 English-language novels written since 1923? Does it live up to the hype? Is it all that?

Watchmen - the graphic novel - is all that.

The story is set in the year 1985, in a world that is similar to our own. But there are a few critical differences, for this is a world in which costumed heroes enjoyed a decades-long surge of popularity that began in the late 1930’s. Not in comic books, as in our own world, but in real life.

These dressed-up vigilantes - for that is, indeed, what they are - are no superheroes. They’re martial-arts experts, some assisted with gadgetry à la Batman, others only by their own brutal capabilities and internal moral compass - or lack thereof. The exception - the only one with real superpowers - is Jon Osterman, AKA Dr. Manhattan, who, owing to a bizarre nuclear accident, now has godlike powers over matter, space, and time.

It is through Dr. Manhattan’s efforts that the Vietnam War ends in a U.S. victory, a victory that propels Richard Nixon to electoral success in five consecutive terms. But meanwhile, under pressure from local police forces, Congress has outlawed the activities of costumed heroes, causing the ones still active to either retire (e.g., Nite Owl, Silk Spectre) or go underground (Rorschach). The exceptions are Adrian Veidt, AKA Ozymandias (“The Smartest Man in the World”), who retired early to build an empire on (among other things) costumed hero action figures; and the brutal, amoral Comedian, who, along with Dr. Manhattan, continues to work under the auspices of the U.S. Government. It is the Comedian who rescues the U.S. Embassy hostages in Iran in this world... presumably in a suitably take-no-prisoners manner.

It’s a world rife with many of the tensions with which we were familiar in the mid-1980’s. The superpowers are at each other’s throats and the threat of nuclear annihilation - kept at bay mainly through the presence of Dr. Manhattan - is in the air. And someone has murdered the Comedian...

I won’t say much more, except that the story is richly layered, incorporating the characters’ respective origins as well as “current” events and told, at times, in brilliant counterpoint, with multiple story elements weaving in and out. And there is one critical “hat tip” towards the end... an element sadly missing from derivative entertainments like the movie Idiocracy. Watchmen honors its sources.

The film? Given the brilliant writing and graphics of the source, the film makes an attempt to capture those elements as faithfully as possible... and mostly succeeds. The story is told in the same contrapunctal style, with a few necessary omissions and (understandable, albeit regrettable) alterations. Some critics have caviled, complaining that the film is too faithful to the source, to the point where it is constricting. I disagree. I think Watchmen, the movie, brilliantly brings Watchmen, the graphic novel, to life.

It’s a violent film, with some genuinely bloodcurdling moments. It’s got sex - that hard “R” rating is well-deserved. It’s dark... darker than any of the Christian Bale Batman movies. It’s a Costumed Superhero movie completely unlike any other, one that knowingly turns the conventions of the genre on their heads while simultaneously paying homage to them. And it is Just. Plain. Fucking. Amazing.

One of the subtexts of both the graphic novel and the film is that the costumed heroes are presented as thoroughly and completely human. Which means they all have a few loose screws... because what kind of person dresses up in a costume in order to beat up on criminals? A Borderline Nutcase, that’s what kind. Even Dr. Manhattan, who is more god than human (and who, during the course of the story, becomes ever more detached from humanity), is thoroughly human at his core. It’s a tribute to Alan Moore’s writing skills - and Jackie Earle Haley’s acting skills - that Rorschach, a character seething with righteous fury and alienation, is perhaps the most heartbreakingly human of them all.

I’m actually glad it took me this long to discover Watchmen. If I had read that graphic novel in the 1980’s and found out that they were going to make a movie out of it, I would have had to suffer years of frustration as the project wound its way through the seven circles of Development Hell. This way, no frustration... except the frustration of knowing that the Missus probably wouldn’t enjoy the film like I did.

If you want to see a Comic Book Movie that is unlike any other... one that makes all those Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and X-Men movies look trivial and childish... one that shows a deep understanding of the World of the Hero... go see Watchmen. You’ll never look at one of those yellow Smiley-Face buttons the same way again.