Monday, August 31, 2009


Doll Mob

The old toys of our childhood possess a special magic.

She Who Must Be Obeyed can tell you all about it. She still has her stuffed Lambie, a treasured Play-Companion from her earliest days. Most of the time, Lambie reposes on a shelf in the closet, as befits a Dowager-Lamb of considerable years... but when the Missus holds that tatterdemalion ovine body, I can almost see her eyes grow misty as the years peel away in her mind.

Alas, I possess no such relics of my Snot-Nose Days. I can remember the toys I played with when I was not much more than a toddler - a rubber giraffe and frog come to mind - but those playthings long ago ended up on some suburban Midden-Heap.

I would imagine that the shamanistic powers of dolls are especially potent, but having grown up in a generation in which dolls were Girl-Playthings, I have no such personal experience. Boys of my age-cohort did not play with Recreational Homunculi; G.I. Joe and other “Action Figures” had not yet been invented. And as much as I enjoyed my model rockets, I cannot imagine forming the sort of affectionate bonds with them that girls form with their dolls, even with a few decades worth of nostalgia thrown in as leavening. I can only go by the second-hand evidence that comes from living in a house full of women... and that evidence says that doll-power is powerful indeed.

To all of my esteemed readers who are scratching their heads and wondering just what ole Elisson is going on about, there is a point to all this. A few months back, SWMBO’s mother celebrated a major birthday, and we were casting about for appropriate gift ideas. It was then that SWMBO remembered that we had, tucked away in a cedar chest, an old doll that had belonged to her Momma.

The doll was, as could be expected from a plaything that was somewhere around sixty-five years of age, not in the best condition. The clothes were missing a few snaps and ribbons; the socks, stained with age, had deteriorated and displayed several holes. Moreover, the internal network of strings and bands that held the doll together was in tatters. But those are all things that could be repaired. How would Mom react to seeing her Old Friend again... all new and shiny? That is the birthday gift we settled on: Have Mom’s doll restored.

Strange as it may seem to the layman, there are people who, either as a living or as a hobby, restore and repair all manner of dolls. And so that is where I brought Nancy Lee - that, by the bye, was the name of this Old Friend - to be brought back to her former glory...

Nancy Lee

It was a slow and lengthy process, to be sure, but today I retrieved the finished article. A simple construct of string, polymeric composition, cloth, ribbon, leather, mohair, and paint, but one that is imbued with a special magic. The magic to bring back memories of a long-ago childhood.

Here she is, all restrung, reconditioned, and with clothing freshly pressed. I can only imagine Mom’s reaction when she sees her childhood Play-Buddy. Perhaps we’ll throw in a box of Kleenex when we pack ol’ Nancy Lee up...


SWMBO Rose 1977
She Who Must Be Obeyed, 1977 edition.

Eat cake along with me!
It’s Choc’late, can’t you see?
Your Day of Birth is why this cake was made!
The icing’s rather grand -
Don’t get it on your hand -
Dry Cleaner-Man is looking to get paid!

Today’s cause for celebration is the completion of yet another Circumsolar Journey by my beloved She Who Must Be Obeyed.

We did most of our celebrating this Saturday evening past. Both the Missus and our friend Doctah Marc celebrate birthdays within two days of each other, and so we generally try to have a combined Double-Birthday Happy-Fest. And if you can’t be happy after a well-constructed Martini, a perfectly seared bone-in ribeye steak, a choice of not one, but two candle-laden cakes, all in the presence of good friends - well, you’re just not trying hard enough.

Doctah Marc, Donnie Joe, and SWMBO
Doctah Marc, Donnie Joe, and SWMBO in a celebratory mood.

Birthdays come and birthdays go, and this one of SWMBO’s has no especial numerological significance. The second digit is not a “0” or a “5,” and the total does not represent a critical multiple of important factors. It is also not a prime number.

And yet none of that matters.

The Missus and I, we’ve been together a long time... something on the order of 60% of our entire lives. And somehow, each succeeding year reveals new facets of her personality, new aspects of her to love. Though I should be beyond surprise, every day has the capacity for surprise.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that she still sees fit to put up with me. May it be ever thus.

Happy birthday, my love! I wish you many, many more, all in good health... and in my company!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


...comes this collection of Rude Caricatures.

Myron Bazarian
Myron B., music teacher.

Back in my Snot-Nose Days, I cultivated a minor talent for caricature - “minor” being the operative word. My drawings were not especially skilled in likeness or execution... but they provided a certain amount of amusement, as well as being a good way to survive a boring middle-school class or study hall.

Harold Melnick
Harold M., fearsome-looking science teacher.

My subjects, more often than not, were teachers. They were available, they were visually interesting - those wrinkles! Those odd hairstyles! - and they made especially good targets by virtue of their convenient position in front of the classroom.

Chemistry Teacher
Chemistry teacher. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name. Check out the Don Martin feet!

Was there malice aforethought in these drawings? No, no more than the usual amount of malice a student bears for Those Who Inflict Scholarly Labors. They are attempts at childish ridicule aimed at people who, seen from a more adult perspective, were not deserving of it.

I wonder whether they would consider themselves insulted or honored were they to see these pictures today.

[More below the fold.]

Patrick Coyne
Patrick C., social studies teacher.

Myron Bazarian Too
Myron B. again, in a more light-hearted moment.

Fred Hartman
Fred H., social studies teacher.

Ken Sommerman
Ken S., German teacher.

Ken Sommerman Too
The long-suffering Ken S. again.


The whispers pass from Snake to ’Gator:
“O, what has become of the Modulator?
The Friday Ark has not set sail!”
Thus do the dogs and kitties wail.

Fear not! Good Cap’n Steve is here;
Though late, his presence gives us cheer.
A Sunday sailing may seem strange,
But circumstances dictate change!

Those circumstances, being a household move for Cap’n Steve, have resulted in a late - but welcome - boarding for Friday Ark #258. It’s up now, and all the critters are beside themselves with joy to know that the good Captain is OK. Let’s all wish him good fortune as he begins modulating (whatever that means) from his new Base o’ Operations!

And for those who crave more Kitty Kitnis, Carnival of the Cats #285 will be posted later today at When Cats Attack!

Update: CotC #285 is up.


The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

- Lord Bowen

Right now, we are experiencing a deluge of Noahide proportions. A real Toad-Choker. Like a cow pissing on a flat rock, as Billie Bob, my father-in-law of Blessèd Memory, was wont to say.

We can use the rain, sure - but think of how much more useful it’d be, say, in Southern California, where it might serve to quench a few of those wildfires...

Friday, August 28, 2009


Our friend Gary is a Temporary Bachelor while his bride JoAnn delivers a U-Haul truck full of daughter Jennifer’s furniture and worldly goods unto her new home in Columbus, Ohio... and so we invited him to break bread with us.

It was a mini-celebration of sorts, given that the Mistress of Sarcasm had just returned home after a week on the road, performing her College Recruitment Activities to eager mobs of high schoolers in Columbus - albeit Georgia, not Ohio. A perfect excuse to tie on the feedbag... and tie it on we did.

Here da Bill of Fare:
  • Arugula and Mâche Salad with Pecorino Romano, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Shallot-Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

  • Sliced Golden Heirloom Tomato with Home-Grown Basil, Sea Salt, and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

  • Buttered Haricots Verts

  • Roasted Salmon Filet with Potlatch Seasoning

  • Pan-Sautéed Hanger Steak with Shallot-Merlot Reduction

  • Baked Purple Sweet Potatoes with Apricot-Ginger Relish
All of this was washed down with copious lashings of J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Paso Robles Merlot 2005. Superb.

Nicest thing about all this - aside from the eating thereof, of course - was that it took a grand total of forty minutes, end-to-end, to put it all together. Well, not exactly - I had made the apricot-ginger relish earlier in the day. But that took minimal effort.

Perhaps a nice bitter digestif before I retire for the evening: Fernet Branca or Averna. Then I can paraphrase the great C.S. Calverley:

“...That bedward-going, I may soothly say
‘Fate cannot touch me: I have dined today.’”


Oh, boy: It’s Friday!

My long-suffering Esteemed Readers know what that means. It’s time for that weekly compilation of Randomized Musical Miscellany, pooched out by the iPod d’Elisson.

What’s playing this week? Lessee:
  1. Ansarun - Gender Wayang Sukawati

  2. Häntä Hellii Käärme - Alamaailman Vasarat

  3. Bodhisattva - Steely Dan

  4. Lyin’ Ass Bitch - Fishbone

    Lalalala Lalalalala
    Lalalala Lalalalala
    Lalalala Lalalalala
    Lalalala Lalalalala

    I knew her and she knew me
    When she asks me to introduce him
    When I did we were three
    Until she tried to seduce him

    I really thought our love was much too strong
    But that little slut just proved us wrong
    I still care and that’s my fatal flaw
    Cause sharing you will surely kill us all!

    She’s just a...
    Lalalala Lalalalala

    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she really doesn’t

    She swears that her heart’s for you
    And she swears that her love never ends
    She swears that she’s all for you
    As she messes around with your friends

    I really thought our love was much too strong
    But that little slut just proved us wrong
    I still care and that’s my fatal flaw
    Cause sharing you will surely kill us all!!

    She’s just a...
    Lalalala Lalalalala

    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she really doesn’t

    She’s just a...
    Lalalala Lalalalala

    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she doesn’t
    You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch!
    You know she says she loves you but you know she really doesn’t

    This song is dedicated to Lying Ass Yvette

    The lyin’, piss off, sack of shit
    Slut trash can scummish
    Dirt bag... Biiiitch!!!!!!!

  5. Something/Blue Jay Way - The Beatles

  6. Tell It to the Gov’nor - Béla Fleck & The Flecktones

  7. Hungry Freaks, Daddy - A Tribute Band for FZ

  8. Zol Nokh Zayn Shabes - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  9. Horn - Phish

  10. Vessels - Philip Glass

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


How was my day today?

Dawn 082709
Morning light, August 27, 2009.

Well, it started with sky...

Greenwood’s Pies
Pies lined up at Greenwood’s on Green Street.

...and ended with pie.

The rest, as they say, is commentary.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Reading this story of Eric’s, in which he talks about receiving the “mumbo jumbo voodoo crap” ministrations of his chiropractor, made me chuckle... because said ministrations are all too well known to certain denizens of Chez Elisson.

At first it was the Mistress of Sarcasm, who began a chiropractic treatment plan while she was residing in the suburbs of Nashville. Upon moving here to Atlanta, she found a new Chiro-Practitioner, one with whom she is eminently satisfied. And now the Missus is in the midst of her own treatment plan.

I suppose it is only a matter of time before I, too, become Well-Adjusted.

Chiropractic is a bizarre little corner of the medical world, inhabiting a twilight zone between scientific medicine and alternative healing. The spinal column, along with its associated musculature and nerves, is viewed as the fundamental key to good health, with most ailments somehow traceable to spinal misalignment, chronic degenerative conditions, or related issues. You’ll hear mysterious terms like “vertebral subluxation complex” nowhere else but at a chiropractor. There’s a goodly amount of mind-over-matter involved as well: D. D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, regarded the discipline as partially religious in nature.

Now, as for me, I’m somewhat of a skeptic. I’m not entirely convinced that a spine-poppin’ backrub is going to cure my erysipelas, catarrh, chilblains, diabeetus, or scrofula, much less any basal-cell carcinomas I may (Gawd forbid) happen to develop... but it’s hard to argue with results, which in the case of both the Missus and the Mistress have been positive. And even the Missus’s Ob-Gyn has given chiropractic his seal of approval, so who am I to be a Doubting Thomas?




What a wonderful, useful word.

It can refer to the sexual act: “They were screwing in the back seat.” (Presumably, this is a more effective style of coupling than simply nailing someone.)

It can be used as an insult, hurled as an epithet. “Screw you.”

It can refer to a person’s being non compos mentis: “He’s screwy.” “Mona has a screw loose.”

It can indicate an unsatisfactory state of affairs: “They just transferred me to the most screwed up sales territory west of the Mississippi.”

And, of course, it can refer to a piece of hardware that is used to connect various objects, a simple device consisting of an inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder: “That deck will stand up to a hurricane - Charlie put it together with screws instead of nails.”

Well, I am here to tell you that She Who Must Be Obeyed is screwed up...

...but not in a bad way. As you can see from the X-ray photograph above, her jaw is riddled with little titanium screws, a legacy of the mandibular extension surgery she had three years ago. They were put in there to hold her jawbone together until it knit in its new configuration... and to provide Joke-Fodder for years afterward.

Yeah, the Missus is screwy, all right...

...and after she reads this post? I’m screwed.


We caught an evening showing of Julie & Julia yesterday...

I can heartily recommend this movie, seeing as how it concerns itself with two things that are dear to my heart: Blogging and Food. (Yes, the story is based on a real, honest-to-Gawd blog. There’s hope for us all!) The film captures subtleties such as the self-absorption of bloggers and their obsession with garnering the approval of complete strangers, as evidenced by hits and comments. Also, Meryl Streep’s evocation of Julia Child is... uncanny.

But She Who Must Be Obeyed put everything in perspective as we exited the theatre.

“A blog. That’s what you leave in the toilet.”


Teddy KennedySenator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy, the last of the Brothers of Camelot, has died at the age of 77 after his year-plus-long bout with brain cancer.

The youngest of the four sons of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., Ted was the only one to survive past the 1960’s. Like his elder brothers, he had Presidential dreams... but any hope he may have had of succeeding to his brother John’s place in the White House was drowned in the cold waters off Chappaquiddick forty years ago last month.

Despite the ensuing scandal, he became an effective senator, beloved by his constituents and able to work both sides of the aisle. His latest - and, as yet, uncompleted - mission was to reform this country’s health care system. But Kennedy, a co-sponsor of the clusterfuck known as No Child Left Behind, had had previous experience in drafting well-intentioned but completely botched-up legislation. I’m scared to death thinking what kind of health-care reform bill may still get shoved down our throats, especially now that its passage will be seen as a memorial to Teddy.

But I didn’t write this post to badmouth the man. Plenty of other folks will be all too happy to take him to task for his excessive drinking, his philandering, his unwillingness to face the consequences of his actions.


No, I wanted to write this as an excuse to link to the one real Teddy Kennedy story I have... about the day I sat in Teddy’s Senate seat. Literally.

Teddy, ave atque vale. No need to pack your woolens - I suspect you won’t need ’em.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


My near-classmate Sparrow recently wrote of her having been witness to a few Historic Baseball Moments.

When the infamous ground ball trickled between Bill Buckner’s legs in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, she was there. The Mets had been a single out away from losing the Series to the Bosox; Buckner’s error allowed them to come back, win that game, and eventually win the Series.

She saw Gary Sheffield hit his 500th career home run. Not a common event, to be sure.

She was at the Mets-Phillies game this past Sunday and not only witnessed an inside-the-park homer, but second baseman Eric Bruntlett’s amazing game-ending unassisted triple play.

There have been only fifteen unassisted triple plays in baseball history, and it’s been over seventy years since one ended a ball game. You typically need runners on first and second, and you need a cooperative batter to hit a hard line drive to the shortstop or second baseman, who (1) catches the line drive, (2) steps on second base, and (3) tags the runner coming from first base. Yowza.

Speaking of baseball, the real reason I wrote this post is because I wanted to share a pants-pissingly funny link. Ed, of, has assembled a portfolio of some of the ugliest baseball players to ever grace a diamond. Here’s how he describes it:
“...I decided to put together a list of the ugliest sons of bitches ever to play the game of baseball at the Major League level. Why? Because I like making fun of things. You should understand this by now.

“In the process of assembling this Dream Team I learned a very important lesson: there have been a lot, and I mean a lot, of ugly baseball players over the years. I don’t mean ugly like some guy you know who can never find a date. We’re talking scare-the-children ugly. Monstrously ugly. Possibly deformed ugly. And the hardest part of this exercise was narrowing down the list to a manageable number.”
Go and read. And then smack yourself in the head a few times. Didn’t your mama teach you not to make fun of other people’s physical appearance... no matter how fucking ugly they were?


Low Light Hakuna
Hakuna, eyes sparkling in the still of the night.

This painterly image of Hakuna was captured late, late at night, as I returned from my weekly poker game. Hakuna was sitting in the den, illuminated only by the dim light coming from the kitchen - a single fluorescent lamp.

Setting the camera up on the tripod would probably have spooked this notoriously skittish kitty. Instead, I simply balanced the camera against the wall and steadied it as best I could for the lengthy (¼ second) exposure.

Note the serious expression and the wide-open, glittering eyes. What could she be thinking, sitting there in the still of the night?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Mexico City Poster Wall

This image of a poster-encrusted wall in Mexico City dates from December, 1977.

She Who Must be Obeyed and I, at the invitation of her parents, accompanied them on a trip to Mexico City - a trip that was, ostensibly, to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Alas, SWMBO did not see much of the city. On the second day of the trip, after having successfully climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán and back down, she twisted her ankle on the flat ground of the parking lot. Unable to walk without suffering the Agonies of the Gosh-Darned, she confined herself to our hotel room for much of the rest of the week.

Billie Bob, the Daddy d’SWMBO, managed to consume carne asada (grilled marinated skirt steak) at almost every restaurant we visited.

As for me, I gave the plumbing of Mexico City’s Zona Rosa its toughest trial to date. Not something I should be proud of, but, perversely, I am.

After that late-1977 voyage, I made many subsequent trips to the ol’ Distrito Federal... but always for business purposes and without the company of my beloved. None of those trips were quite as much fun.


A Yemenite-style Shofar - the traditional Ram’s Horn Trumpet.

Last Friday was the first day of the Hebrew month Elul, marking the beginning of the Penitential Season that precedes Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Every weekday morning during this month, we sound the Shofar, the traditional ram’s horn trumpet. More than just practice for Rosh Hashanah, it’s a spiritual wake-up call that tells us that it’s time to get our moral affairs in order.

It’s still August, and the heat of the summer is still heavy upon us. Here in the Atlanta area, the warm days will be with us through the month of October. But as the days shorten little by little, and the morning air becomes cooler and crisper, we head inexorably toward our encounter with the year 5770.

May it be a sweet one for all of us.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Q: What do you call a half-dozen Polish guys wearing turbans?

A: A pack o’ Stanleys.

- Houston Steve

Sometimes a joke, while amusing by itself, has many layers. The one above, f’r instance. It looks like a simple, stupid-ass pun on the surface... but there’s more to it.

According to our friend Johnny T., New Britain, Connecticut is famous for three things: padlocks, parking lots, and Polacks. So, in view of the wisecrack above, it would only be appropriate for New Britain to be the home of Stanley Works, one of the world’s premier manufacturers of tools and hardware. Including (presumably) padlocks.

But there’s more: in 1971, the good citizens of New Britain elected themselves a mayor. His name? Stanley Pac.

Pack o’ Stanleys, indeed.


Rob Smith, the Acidman of blessèd memory, used to call him “the best writer nobody reads.”

Maybe that’s changing now that he has a novel in print. But I really don’t give a rat’s ass how many people are reading his stuff... as long as I am one of them.

I speak, of course, of Velociman... a unique voice in the Bloggy-Sphere. His latest piece (“Shinny, Wakes, and Gravediggers”) is another sterling example of the Wordsmiff’s Art. Go check it out.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Today marks the fiftieth year of the United States consisting of fifty States... for it was on this day in 1959 that Hawai‘i joined the Union.

This is the second big anniversary this week. Monday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, considered by many to be the Magnum Opus of cool jazz. It is the best-selling jazz album of all time.

It is entirely conceivable that people watched the Hawai‘i Statehood Ceremonies whilst listening to what was then a brand-new record, the historical import of which was then unknown, unthought-of.

I’m old enough to remember when Hawai‘i became a state. I was in second grade at the time.

Alaska had joined the Union in January of that same year. The familiar Star Spangled Banner, with its field of forty-eight stars arranged in six rows of eight stars each, was replaced by a new flag with forty-nine stars - seven rows of seven stars.

That forty-nine-star flag was short-lived. It flew for a little over seven months, and then along came State Number Fifty.

Rearranging the flag’s union to accommodate that fiftieth star was tricky. The solution? Five rows of six stars, interspersed with four rows of five stars. Most of my Esteemed Readers, I suspect, have known this version of the flag all their lives.

But I remember that weird 49-star flag... and the one that preceded it.

Fifty states. Fifty stars. Fifty years. Nifty, huh?


I’m driving home today after a Bidnis Meeting... and as I approach my neighborhood, I notice that the vehicle in front of me is festooned with an assortment of bumper stickers.

Now, I certainly can’t get on my Curmudgeonly High Horse about people who are so proud of their political, cultural, or religious affiliations that they feel they must convert their cars and trucks into rolling billboards advertising those affiliations. After all, I keep this Online Journal: I’m therefore not in a position to complain.

This vehicle, though, gave me pause.

The driver wasn’t bragging about her Honor Roll Student. She wasn’t pimping a political candidate. She didn’t have one of those let’s-all-hold-hands-in-a-circle-and-sing-Kumbaya “Coexist” stickers.

One of her bumper stickers said “I (heart) Capitalism.” OK, cool - I’m definitely down with that.

All the other stickers carried environmental messages. “Green.” “Simplify.” “Greenpeace.” Fairly innocuous, until you remember that the Green Party nominated Cynthia McKinney for the office of President of the United States in their 2008 campaign. I’m not sure it’s possible to propose a more ridiculous - or hateful - nominee.

If Cynthia McKinney represents the best the Green Party can offer, I’d be perfectly happy to go club some baby seals just to piss them off.

But back to the bumper stickers. What intrigued me was the fact that you had all these Save the Environment messages... all plastered firmly to the back end of a black Lincoln Navigator, one of the biggest SUV’s on the market.

Huh? Wha...???


Another Friday has managed to sneak up upon us. Seems like that happens about every seven days. Amazing, huh?

We all know what happens on Friday, too. It’s once again time for my Little White Choon-Box to barf up another Random Selection of Choonage. Shall we take a look and see what’s playing?
  1. Shnaps-Nign - The Klezmatics

  2. E Luxo So - Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

  3. La Grippe - Squirrel Nut Zippers

  4. Ghost Town - The Specials

    This town is coming like a ghost town
    All the clubs have been closed down
    This place is coming like a ghost town
    Bands won’t play no more
    Too much fighting on the dance floor

    Do you remember the good old days
    Before the ghost town?
    We danced and sang,
    And the music played in a de boomtown

    This town is coming like a ghost town
    Why must the youth fight against themselves?
    Government leaving the youth on the shelf
    This place is coming like a ghost town
    No job to be found in this country
    Can’t go on no more
    The people getting angry

    This town is coming like a ghost town
    This town is coming like a ghost town
    This town is coming like a ghost town
    This town is coming like a ghost town

  5. Ice Cube, Korea Wants a Word with You - Skankin’ Pickle

  6. Hey, Wanna Throw Up? - Minus the Bear

  7. Gun Street Girl - Tom Waits

  8. Bach: Two Part Invention in B Flat Major - Wendy Carlos

  9. Whip It - Devo

  10. Day Tripper - The Beatles

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Before the dawn, while it’s still dark,
It’s sailing time for the Friday Ark.
The animals all board the vessel,
And, unlike plants, they are not sessile.

Friday Ark #257 is asail at the Modulator, with good Cap’n Steve at the helm.

For more Kitty-Related Fun, head on over to Mind of Mog Sunday evening to catch the 284th edition of Carnival of the Cats. A splendid time is guaranteed to all!

Update: CotC #284 is up... another fine carnival by Mog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The Missus stopped off at Ye Olde Ophthalmologist’s Shoppe for her annual checkup today. She came through with flying colors - no surprise - but with a raging case of the Red-Ass.

What pissed her off was that as soon as she arrived, the receptionist handed her a sheaf of forms to fill out... the kind of forms you’d expect to have to fill out if you were a new patient, not one who has been seeing the same Eyeball Doctor for the past ten years.

“Why the fuck do I need to fill these out?” asked the Missus. ”Nothing has changed since last year!”

Actually, she did not use those exact words (she is far too well-mannered for that!), but she thought ’em. And the receptionist explained that it was because “people say nothing has changed, but when we look at the forms, we find that there are things that have changed.”

“All righty then,” responds the Missus. “But there will be a letter to the Times about this.”

[Maybe not, but there will be a post on Blog d’Elisson. And you’re looking at it.]

We love our ophthalmologist, but how badly run is your practice when you make your patients fill out the same frickin’ sheaf of forms every year, year after year? In this age of High Technology, wouldn’t it make more sense to print out the data and ask the patient to note any changes, if any? It would be far less of a pain in the ass.

I guess if you’re an Eye Doctor, you really don’t care about the ass, or pains appertaining thereto. That’d be the province of a different kind of medicine man...


Dawn 081809
Dawn, yesterday...

Dawn 081909
... and today.

Eos, rosy-fingered Dawn, opens the gates of Heaven.

More prosaically, this time of year, sunrise coincides with the time I leave the house for morning Minyan. If the light of the rising sun catches the clouds just right, beauty happens. But it’s a momentary beauty: Wait a minute and you’ll miss it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Tonight’s Guild event, to be held at Lola on Peachtree, will focus on the white wines of Northern California.

I’m not much of a white wine hound, but the Guild tastings almost always show me a few excellent bottles that I didn’t know about. Plus, I get to hear Denny and Houston Steve have their fun-filled political discourses... always entertaining.

(Update: Alas, no Houston Steve tonight.)

Here da menu:

Speaker’s Wine
Spann “Betsy’s Backacher” Semillon 2007

Assorted hors d’oeuvres, amuse-bouches

First Flight
Selene Sauvignon Blanc “Hyde” 2003
Grgich Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Seared diver scallop, celery root potato puree, fresh herbs

Second Flight
Handley Pinot Gris 2007
Trefethen Dry Riesling 2007
Handley Dry Gewurztraminer 2008

Salmon oreganatta with fresh housemade pasta

Third Flight
Jarvis Chardonnay 2006
Paul Hobbs Chardonnay 2007
Lewis Chardonnay 2007

Roasted bone-in chicken breast with late harvest vegetables and truffle jus

Robert Mondavi Muscato de Oro 2006

Chef’s sampling of sweets: tiramisu, almond cake, panna cotta, cheesecake, and fresh berries

Hey, this sounds like it’s worth going to, even if I have to put up with all those white wines just to get to the food.

Update: Excellent food in gorgeous surroundings. As for the wine, it ranged from reasonably good to very good, despite the fact that it was all white wine - not my favorite. The one exception was the Selene Sauvignon Blanc “Hyde” 2003, which was so vile the waiters removed the glasses it had been poured into... after we had dumped the wine out!

Lest you think of this group as a bunch of stuck-up wine snobs, here’s the money quote of the evening: “Best fucking dessert evah!”

Monday, August 17, 2009


Some people have an unreasonable fear of attacks by large reptiles.

It’s an unreasonable fear only in that the likelihood of being attacked by, say, a ten-foot alligator is quite low... especially if one lives in, say, New Jersey, where such beasts are not part of the naturally occurring local fauna. It’s more reasonable if you live in south Florida, where a resurgence in the gator population has made things rough for small dogs and children.

But if you want to get paranoid about being attacked by animals, consider the unfortunate case of Lothar Karl Schweder and his wife Sherri, who were killed by a pack of wild dogs. Their mauled bodies were discovered by Jehovah’s Witnesses sometime Saturday morning.

According to the news report,
Authorities said they believe Sherri Schweder was attacked by the pack of wild dogs as she went on her regular walk either Friday night or early Saturday. When she failed to return her husband, Lothar, went looking for her in his car.

Authorities [said] he was attacked when he got out of the car by the same pack of dogs.
Now that there’s some Fucked Up Shit.

Alligators are pretty rare around these parts... but dogs? Not so much. Which is not a reassuring thought.

Lothar Schweder was a retired German professor who had taught at the University of Georgia. Savor the perversity, if you will, of his having been snuffed by Hairy Dawg’s real-life avatars. “Let the Big Dawg Eat,” indeed.

It’s as though I were to meet my end by being devoured by tigers. Gotta admit, it’s less likely... but no less amusing.


Bed and ’Board
Hakuna would rather sleep upon a cardboard scratching pad than in her soft fleecy bed. Go figure.

Most people don’t think of there being much Behavioral Commonality between little (human) children and cats, but let’s stop and think about it for a moment.

Sleep a lot during the day? Check.

Exhibit symptoms of extreme self-centeredness? Check.

One could argue that a cat actually has the edge over a small child. The cat, at least, will crap in a box.

But there are other similarities.

For just one example, imagine that you go to “We ‘B’ Toys” or some other merchandiser, where you purchase a largish, costly toy for your up-and-coming Rug-Rat. You take the thing home, suitably wrapped. The kid excitedly tears away the wrapping, opens the box, and fiddle-farts around with the new toy for a few minutes in a desultory fashion. Ten minutes later, you find the kid animatedly playing “Time Machine” or “Millennium Falcon” in the discarded box.

In like wise does Hakuna behave.

She Who Must Be Obeyed, if left to her own devices, would fill our house to bursting with miscellaneous Cat Gew-Gaws. Only my constant remonstrations keep her from buying new beds, litter boxes, cat toys, and other Feline Miscellany every time she steps outside the house. It’s not that I don’t love our cat - I do - but I know that she will have no truck with any of this stuff. It is a complete waste of money.

Above, for example, is a photograph taken early this morning. Hakuna, given the choice between a soft, comfy Cat-Bed and a flat box of corrugated cardboard (the purpose of which is to give her something besides our new carpet upon which to sharpen her claws), chooses to sleep on the cardboard.

Whether she is just nuts or is acting like a Miniature Human is a subject for speculation. But right now, I’ve gotta go attend to the Missus. She’s got that “I’m gonna go buy some more Cat Toys” gleam in her eye again...

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It’s hard to believe, but as of this weekend it has been fully forty years since those legendary Three Days of Peace & Music... & Adventurous Pharmaceuticals, & Mud, & Shit, & Nudity, & Alfresco Fucking... that was the Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

The “Music & Art Fair” was not, in fact, held in Woodstock, but rather at White Lake, in Bethel, New York. Max Yasgur’s dairy farm would never be the same... especially after something on the order of 400,000 people congregated upon it to hear thirty-four different musical acts.

There were some big names there: Janis Joplin, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone... and the Incredible String Band, one of my personal favorites. Plenty of well-known acts - Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues, and Bob Dylan among them - elected not to appear; most later regretted their decision when the sheer magnitude of the event became known.

Remarkably, given the size of the crowd, only two people died - neither by violence. One was a heroin overdose, the other a concertgoer who got squished by a tractor that accidentally ran over him as he slept. It would be another year before the Peace & Love scene would turn ugly at the infamous Altamont festival.

One of the performers at Woodstock was the amazingly twitchy Joe Cocker. I’ve never seen Cocker in person, although I once saw John Belushi do a spot-on impersonation of him at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, during the 1973 National Lampoon Lemmings tour. Belushi would later do that same impression on SNL... onstage with Cocker himself. Hysterically funny.

Alas, I did not go to Woodstock (a fact that my brother, the Other Elisson, was unaware of until only yesterday), although I know several people who did. Probably just as well, because now I can simply sit here in my comfortable suburban surroundings, click a button, and enjoy Joe Cocker’s vocal stylings (and amazing twitchery) at my convenience. And you can, too!

It’s almost as good as being there. Maybe better, because this clip provides a helpful running translation of some of Cocker’s less intelligible lyrics. Plus, no shit or mud!


Today we have a double-header: Two (count ’em) Jackasses!

Yesterday we were on our way to Midtown with our friends Gary and Joann, in order to visit the Great Big Blue Box. Ikea! Home of inexplicably-named merchandise for the home.

As we sat at a red light in the left-turn lane at the intersection of Northside Drive and 17th Street, Jackass Number One came cruising up in the adjacent lane... suddenly decided that he, too, needed to turn left... and crammed himself in front of us without so much as a howdy-do. Here you see him, sticking out halfway into the intersection...

Jackass du Jour Number One

Such nekulturny behavior warrants a rousing “Fuck You, Buddy!” The bloggy bitch-slap is just a bonus.

On our way home, we were happily tootling along in the HOV lane when Jackass Number Two comes barreling along, trying to shoehorn himself in. Does he merge smoothly into the HOV lane behind us, where there is plenty of room? No, he does not. He crams himself in front of us, despite the fact that he has to accelerate mightily to do so... not to mention the risk of mashing us against the concrete wall to our left.

Jackass du Jour Number Two

You can’t make it out in the picture above, but this douchebag had a Florida plate. Not that that has anything to do with it. You can find jackasses everywhere. And in case you’re curious, I took the picture from the front passenger seat while She Who Must Be Obeyed was driving. You do not want to be snapping photographs while you’re zooming down the freeway... if you did, you’d be a jackass!

Sometimes I wish I had a bullhorn built into the grille of my car, the better to administer a verbal slapdown to these putzes. Not that it would do much good. Maybe a paintball gun would serve my needs better... as long as it didn’t stimulate one of ’em to shoot me with a real gun...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The Elisson Bookshelf

Yet another installment in a series entitled “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.”

It has been eight months to the very day since I last posted about what I’ve been reading, so it’s as good a time as any for me to inflict this latest update on my Esteemed Readers. Here’s what I have read since mid-December of last year:

  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire

    The familiar story of the Wizard of Oz, told from a different perspective. It’s a darker tale than the Broadway musical it inspired would have you believe.

  • From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books - Arie Kaplan

    The title pretty much tells it all. I had grown up knowing that the Jewish footprint in the comics industry was large, but it was only in my adult years that I learned just how large.

  • Devil in the Details - Jennifer Traig

    Seriocomic memoir of a young woman’s struggles with crippling OCD. Hysterical.

  • My Jesus Year - Benyamin Cohen

    A year-long adventure in seeing “how the other half lives.” Jew sets out to figure out the Christian world.

  • The Saturday Wife - Naomi Ragen

    Blisteringly funny tale of a social-climbing rebbitzin (rabbi’s wife) and the havoc she wreaks.

  • The First Patient - Michael Palmer

    Inexpertly-written thriller... but a good airplane read.

  • Maps and Legends - Michael Chabon

    Chabon never fails to entertain, this time with an extended rumination on time, place, and legend.

  • Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

    Somehow, I managed to miss this one, despite its having been around since 1986-87. But it was more than worth the wait: Watchmen mat be the single most ambitious and thought-provoking graphic novel ever written.

  • For Decades I Was Silent: A Holocaust Survivor's Journey Back to Faith - Baruch G. Goldstein

    Many Holocaust survivors made it out of the death camps with minds and bodies more-or-less intact, but with faith flayed away by the perception of seeming indifference on the part of the Eternal. Mr. Goldstein shows how his experiences during the Holocaust strengthened, rather than destroyed, his own belief in God.

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Volume One) - Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Volume II) - Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

    Another pair of masterworks by Alan Moore, these being set in a steampunk London and featuring literary characters pulled from the worlds of adventure and SF. No Watchmen, but an excellent option for those who enjoy graphic novels. Worth reading if only to get the taste of the movie version out of your mouth.

  • V for Vendetta - Alan Moore and David Lloyd

    Yes, more Moore. Brilliant, dark story set in an Orwellian fascist England.

  • Make ’Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America - Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon

    Companion to the PBS series, this massive coffee-table tome has vignettes about almost all the important American comedians of the twentieth century. No real in-depth analyses, but a fine overview of how these funny people influenced our shared culture.

  • The Golden Ocean - Patrick O’Brian

  • The Unknown Shore - Patrick O’Brian

    Two novels that preceded the famous Aubrey-Maturin series by almost two decades. You can see early versions of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in The Unknown Shore; it is a pleasurable taste of things to come.

  • Abraham's Knife: The Mythology of the Deicide in Antisemitism - Judith Civan

    A fascinating study of the enduring myth of the Jews as Christ-killers. I met the author and am sad to report that her personality is not nearly as fascinating as her book.

  • The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard - J. G. Ballard

    Ballard’s death inspired me to get this collection of his short fiction, of which I had previously read only a few pieces.

  • Next - Michael Crichton

    Crichton’s penultimate book examines several potential consequences of gene-manipulation technology.

  • This Will Kill You: A Guide to the Ways in Which We Go - HP Newquist, Rich Maloof

    Amusing compendium of various diseases and violent events with unpleasant and/or unfortunate outcomes.

  • Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show - Sam Watkins

    Documentarian Ken Burns relied heavily on Sam Watkins’s memoirs of the Late Unpleasantness (i.e., the American Civil War). Watkins, who wrote about his experiences as a private “webfoot” soldier some twenty years after the conflict, provides an up-close-and-personal “eyes on the ground” perspective that is very different from the usual histories. His epistles, which were published serially in the Columbia, Tennessee newspaper, were later collected and published as a book; they read like a late nineteenth-century blog might have read.

  • A Trip of Goats - Kim Crawford

    A memoir of the mid-Sixties South, written in a style that seems to combine elements of William Faulkner and Hunter S. Thompson, this book cries out to be made into a movie. Alternately tender and hysterically funny (mostly funny). Yes, I know the author... but his remarkable capacity for assholery has in no way affected my impressions of his writing. Strongly recommended!

Next up we have Small Gods, one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and Denis Kitchen’s big book about Harvey Kurtzman, the legendary artist who, among other feats, created the cultural H-bomb known as Mad. When I finish these two, I will have logged 300 books since January 2002, when I began keeping track.

So: What have you been reading lately?

Friday, August 14, 2009


It’s Friday!

You know what that means: It’s time for that weekly compilation of Randomized Musical Miscellany as barfed out by the iPod d’Elisson.

What’s playing? Lessee:
  1. Desafinado - Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

    From Jazz Samba, possibly the best-selling jazz album ever, and the opening salvo of the early 1960’s Bossa Nova movement. “A shimmering, graceful collection that’s as subtly advanced - in harmony and rhythm - as it is beautiful...absolutely essential for any jazz collection.” (Steve Huey)

  2. Gangsters - The Specials

  3. Pressed Rat and Warthog - Cream

    Pressed Rat and Warthog closed down their shop.
    They didn’t want to; ’twas all they had got.
    Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
    And Pressed Rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.

    Sadly they left, telling no one goodbye.
    Pressed Rat wore red jodhpurs, Warthog a striped tie.
    Between them, they carried a three-legged sack,
    Went straight ’round the corner and never came back.

    Pressed Rat and Warthog closed down their shop.
    The bad Captain Madman had told them to stop
    Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
    And Pressed Rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.

    The bad Captain Madman had ordered their fate.
    He laughed and stomped off with a nautical gate.
    The gate turned into a deroga tree
    And his pegleg got woodworm and broke into three.

    Pressed Rat and Warthog closed down their shop.
    They didn’t want to; ’twas all they had got.
    Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
    And Pressed Rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.

  4. Got No Water - Matisyahu

  5. Zig Zag Wanderer - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

  6. Sheik of Araby - Paul Whiteman

  7. Julia - The Beatles

  8. Shprayz Ikh Mir - The Klezmatics

  9. I’ve Got My Mojo Working - Professor Longhair

  10. Heavenly Bank Account - A Tribute Band for FZ

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Matata’s been gone for almost a year and a half now, but we still miss her terribly. (I cannot speak for Hakuna, who may have had a different opinion concerning her pushy little sister.)

Looking at pictures of her is a bittersweet pleasure... but today I could not stop myself. Perhaps it was the knowledge that there are other, fresher losses. Anyway, here is a little Video Memory... enjoy.

Update: Friday Ark #256 is afloat upon the Bloggy Sea, ably captained by the Modulator... and this Sunday, Carnival of the Cats will be hosted by Artsy Catsy.

Update 2: CotC #283 is up.



You’re looking at a picture of a Classy Lady: Olivia, Houston Steve’s eleven-year-old standard poodle.

Alas, eleven is as old as Olivia is going to get. She passed away Tuesday after a sudden bout of bloat, AKA gastric dilatation-volvulus. It’s a condition to which dogs with certain physiques are susceptible, Great Danes and Saint Bernards heading the list. And standard poodles, unfortunately, are high on that list as well.

Olivia would be there to greet us as we’d arrive at Houston Steve’s for our weekly poker game. Sometimes she would park herself on the stairway landing on the way to the basement, as if to say, “Are you idiots at it again?” And she would sit patiently by, watching us stuff our faces at our Aubrey/Maturin dinners.

Houston Steve’s daughter has written a loving tribute to this beloved Animal Companion.

Olivia, requiescat in pace. We’ll miss you...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I, like so many people, know that regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But let’s face it: Most exercise is boring. Jogging? Running on a treadmill? I’d sooner drive tenpenny nails into my head.

A few months ago, as I was pondering the question of how to make workouts interesting enough so that they would be fun instead of a chore, I fell into a gentle slumber. And, as I slumbered, I had a vision... a vision of a dapper, yet minuscule gentleman in a blazer, his captain’s cap cocked at a jaunty angle, paddling a tiny rowboat across a small pond with sparkling blue waters.

And that’s what inspired me to combine a necessary (yet mildly unpleasant) Household Task with the principles of cardiovascular conditioning, all within the disciplinary framework of Asian martial arts. Presented for your delectation: Tae D Bo™!

Tae D Bo is the new martial arts sensation that's sweeping the nation. Only Tae D Bo can improve your cardiac fitness while simultaneously rendering your toilets sparkling clean.

“What’s that?” you say. “Elisson, on a toilet kick again?”

Well I’ll cop to some previous adventures that may have been in questionable taste... not the least of which was the infamous Punchbowl Meme. But this is different. Just how different, I am not prepared to say.

Tae D Bo is simple and requires no special equipment - just a regular toilet brush. Using our special martial arts techniques, you’ll learn how to use that brush to not only keep your Porcelain Throne sparkling clean, but to give yourself a pulse-pounding, heart-healthy workout in the process! And, as you rack up Tae D Bo achievements and pass your Training Milestones, you’ll receive awards, such as the coveted Black Brush!

Listen to what some of our enthusiastic fans have been inspired to say:

I once had a bowl that just stank
No tidy-bowl man in my tank
Then I got me a brush
You can swish and then flush
Now my crapper is no longer rank

To clean up the place where I sat
I put on my colander hat
A vigorous brush
and additional flush...
It just don’t get better than that

Is there no one else here who will play
A Tae D Bo round on this day?
Then I’ll brush and I’ll flush
Though I am in a rush
The rest must doodoo as they may

- Libby

All I can say is,
There’s a strange, ineluctable beauty
In poetry written ’bout doodie.

And so, I must respond with a few “pot shots” of my own:

Brusha brusha brusha
Flusha flusha flusha
Tae D Bo - your cardio
Gives me sucha rusha

Don’t be a slob -
Pick up that swab
And scrub it ’til it’s shiny
Then get your thing
Into the ring
Where I will beat your heinie

It’s great to be healthy and physically fit
And to have a clean toilet - no traces of shit

Whenever you feel that Exercise-Hunger
Pick up a brush, or a Toilet-Plunger
Wave it around and work up a sweat
A better workout routine, you’ve never met

Other folks may run on treadmills
Their ellipticals give them rushes
But those in the know
On Team Tae D Bo
Get their rushes from flushes and brushes

Porcelain Grace, how sweet the sound
Since my Tae D Bo brush I have found
I like to swish it round and round
It helps my healthy heart to pound

* * * * *

Now: your turn. What kind of poetry can Tae D Bo inspire you to create?

Strong Hearts - Clean Toilets! Tae D Bo!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


For some reason, She Who Must Be Obeyed was surprised to find the toilet seat down and the lid closed when she made a Nocturnal Visit to the WC.

When she got back into bed, she asked me, “Why do you close the toilet lid? Is that your way of putting it to bed for the night?”

I never thought of it quite that way...


One of the wonderful things about walking the planet for a long time is that you get to understand where clichés and stereotypes come from. Annoying as they are, they are distilled from millions of man-years of Human Experience.

One such stereotype: the Curmudgeonly Old Man. I know there’s considerable truth to this one... because I am well on my way to becoming a Curmudgeonly Old Man my ownself.

Gripe, gripe, gripe. It’s one of the perquisites of advancing age, and I’m taking full advantage.

One of the things I gripe about is people who yak on their cellphones in inappropriate places. With millions of handy-dandy cellphones in use these days, it is perhaps inevitable that people will use them everyplace they can. In the toilet, f’rinstance. I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something vaguely insulting about someone talking to me on the phone while they’re crimping off a length...

Ethel: (talking on cellphone in the toilet) So, how’s by you, Sylvia?

Sylvia: Everything’s good. You know my granddaughter Rosalie, she plays the violin? She was just in a recital by her school.

Ethel: What did she play?

Sylvia: The William Tell Overture.

Ethel: Oooh... (grunt)... that’s a hard piece.

Disgusting as that is, though, at least it’s not dangerous. Except for the phone itself, which stands a significant chance of being fumbled and ending up face-to-face with the kids in the pool.

What is dangerous is the immensely popular habit many people have of trying to drive and talk on a cellphone at the same time. Plenty of studies have shown that talking on the phone while driving impairs your driving at least as much as having a BAC of 0.08% - legally impaired. And it matters not whether it’s hands-free - the impact on reaction time and the increased likelihood of being involved in an accident is the same or greater when hands-free devices - Bluetooth headsets and the like - are used.

All of this has to do with the parts of your brain that are involved with driving-related tasks. It seems that having a conversation without visual cues (unlike, say, talking to someone who’s in the car with you) involves those same loci in the cerebral cortex. All of which means a big increase in reaction time. You may think you can multitask, but your brain knows otherwise.

My former employer - the Great Corporate Salt Mine - commissioned a study about ten years ago, and that’s exactly what they found. Based on that study, they established a policy: Talk on any cellphone while driving on Company business... or talk on a Company cellphone while doing any kind of driving... and you’d be toast. Dead meat. Fired.

It makes sense. Imagine some Salt Mine employee getting in a serious wreck while talking Company business on his cellphone. Aside from the immediate, obvious human cost, plaintiff’s attorneys would have a field day going after the majorly deep pockets of the Salt Mine. It’s not hard to imagine an award in the nine-digit range.

And, as if that all were not bad enough, there are even idiots who text while driving. Since, unlike talking on the phone, texting requires that one look at one’s Hand-Held Device, it’s hard to imagine any activity more detrimental to one’s ability to drive safely. What’s more astonishing is, most people who text while driving know how dangerous it is... yet they continue to do it. A-fucking-mazing.

So how do you put a stop to it, given how difficult it would be to enforce a law against cellphone use?

Simple: Impose draconian sanctions on people who are involved in accidents while using cellphones while driving... whether they cause the accident or not. Say, a $20,000 fine for a property damage accident ($100,000 if texting was involved) - and mandatory jail time in the event someone is killed.

Sounds like something an Old Curmudgeon would come up with. What do you think?

Here’s a question for you. Be honest: Do you use a cellphone while driving? Do you text while driving? Inquiring minds want to know... when the fuck are you going to knock it off?

Monday, August 10, 2009


Every advance in technology brings with it, it seems, advances in Man’s ability to murder his fellow man. From sharpened flints to projectiles and bombs of increasing destructiveness, we have forced Science into service as the handmaiden of bloody Mars.

We have harnessed the forces that power the stars, all for the ability to vaporize whole cities.

Today, inspired by an ancient Biblical plague, modern technology brings us the latest in bioengineered weaponry.

Picture it: Gene-spliced carnivorous amphibians the size of Volkswagens, skin exuding deadly toxin, running amok amongst our enemies.

Cry “Havoc,” and let slip the frogs of war!


The theme of the evening was Mexico, and our contribution was a Pastel de Tres Leches - a Three-Milk Cake.

Pastel de Tres Leches
Pastel de Tres Leches: Three Milk Cake.

It’s not at all complicated, being a simple sponge cake soaked in a mixture that includes whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. The result is moist. Really moist. Downright sopping wet, actually. But obscenely tasty.

If you want to make a cake the Milky Way, here’s all you do:

Pastel de Tres Leches


8 large eggs
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup whole or 2% milk
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup Kahlùa
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
Maraschino cherries


Butter a 9 x 13" cake pan and preheat your oven to 325°F.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the baking powder; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the wire whisk attachment, beat the eggs and granulated sugar at high speed for 5-6 minutes until thick and light yellow. Turn the speed down to medium and gradually add the flour-baking powder mixture, beating until fully incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

In a blender, combine the whole milk (or 2% if you’re using that), the evaporated milk, and the sweetened condensed milk with the Kahlùa and 1 tsp of the vanilla. Blend, then pour slowly over the top of the hot cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let cool for 15 minutes, then refrigerate at least three hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to serve the cake, make the whipped cream topping: In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, beat the heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and the remaining 1 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the cake; garnish with maraschino cherries. Makes 12 generous portions. Be sure to keep the cake refrigerated.

Technically speaking, this is a four-milk cake... if you count the cream. And there are some versions out there that incorporate dulce de leche or cajeta (milk caramel), so you can even have a five- or six-milk cake if you’re desperate enough. Other versions use a meringue topping... but that probably won’t help you if you’re lactose-intolerant.

If SpongeBob Squarepants were a spongecake, he’d definitely want one of these for a girlfriend.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Sockeye Gravlax Slab

...and it could very well be this slab of homemade gravlax.

This time, I got my hands on some wild sockeye. The deep red color is most pleasing to the eye; and the fish, lovingly cured for three days in a blend of sugar, salt, caraway, fennel, pepper, dill weed, and akvavit, is most pleasing to the palate.

Sockeye Gravlax

Make your own - instructions here - and you’ll have a taste treat that would make Sven Schmutschkelekker proud. Enjoy it on a bagel with cream cheese - or on Swedish crispbread - or on Westphalian pumpernickel with a few slices of Brie. And if you really want to do it up right, have an ice-cold shot of akvavit handy.


As a former Corporate Drone, I’ve long been a fan of the fine Demotivational Posters available at Despair, Inc.

But thanks to author John Birmingham’s Twitter feed and the kind offices of The Sloshspot Blog, I now can enjoy yet another series of Motivators from an unlikely source: Hunter S. Thompson Motivational Posters.

Here’s an example to whet your appetite...

HST Motivator

Print out a bunch of ’em for your workplace today!

Friday, August 07, 2009


Hot sauce, seem to come and go, yeah.
The chef, he flies from coast to coast

Knowing many, loving none,
Frank’s, Tabasco, either one,
But back home he’ll always run
To sweet Harissa... mmm...

- The Algerian Brothers

Harissa? WTF is harissa, anyway?

According to Wikipedia (“The encyclopedia you write, so it’s as full of shit as you are!”), harissa is “a North African hot red sauce or paste whose main ingredients are chili peppers (often smoked or dried) and garlic... it is a standard ingredient of North African cuisine.”

I used to keep a tube of harissa in the fridge, but somehow it got tossed in one of the Mistress of Sarcasm’s spring cleaning frenzies. Since I used it but rarely, I was never in a hurry to replace it... until last week, when Food Network broadcast the season finale of “The Next Food Network Star.”

Jeffrey Saad, who ended up as the runner-up, threw together a steak sandwich in his final challenge that had my mouth watering. The recipe, last I checked, has not been put up on the Food Network website or on Saad’s Facebook page, but it was easy enough to reconstruct by watching the show. Here ’tis:

Jeffrey Saad’s Kick-Ass Harissa Steak Sammitch

Start by taking a handful of mint leaves, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a few tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes. Mince it all up and stir into about a half-cup of mayonnaise. (Sure, you can make your own mayo from scratch, if you’re a Bull-Moose Foodie, but I used Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise.) If you want a little extra kick, add a teaspoonful or two of harissa paste (available in exotic groceries and Middle eastern food stores). Stir well; set aside.

Slice up a yellow onion and throw it in a skillet with some olive oil. Cook over a medium-to-low flame until the onion is soft and caramelized to a golden brown. Be sure you don’t scorch it.

Take a nice piece of steak and coat it liberally with harissa, then throw it on the grill until cooked to your liking. Thanks to Costco, I had a few prime (!) ribeyes in the fridge, so I used one of those. Believe me when I tell you, prime ribeye is a whole lot different from choice - when you throw it on a hot grill, it’s like setting off an incendiary bomb. In a good way.

When the steak is done, take your bread - ciabatta, a hoagie roll, or a big honkin’ slice of some rustic loaf all work well - and spread liberally with the mayo mixture. Add the caramelized onions. Now, take your steak and slice it on the bias; pile the slices on your sandwich. Add a handful of arugula and a few slices of tomato (I used an heirloom yellow tomato), and you’re good to go.

The harissa lends a sweet, spicy note - not overwhelming, but just enough to leave a gentle degree of heat - and the overall combination of flavors is astonishingly good.

Kick-Ass Steak Sammitch

I made a couple of these bad boys today and enjoyed a pleasant lunch with the Missus. No: better than pleasant. Excellent. For how can I not enjoy lunch with the Love of my Life... eating prime ribeye steak, yet?


What’s that, you say?

It’s Friday?

Well, my long-suffering Esteemed Readers all know what that means. Time yet again for my Little White Choon-Box to disgorge another Random Selection of Music. And not just music, for sometimes the Spoken Word is represented, in the form of recorded Comedy Bits.

This has been a quiet week at Chez Elisson, with the Missus and I getting back into Empty Nester mode. The Mistress of Sarcasm has been away in Savannah, in the midst of a two-week training session for her new gig. She’ll be working in Atlanta, but the job will provide numerous opportunities for visits to the Lady with the Dirty Face... her old stomping grounds.

But enough chit-chat. Let’s get to the Tunage, shall we?
  1. Peaches En Regalia / My Friend, My Friend - Phish

  2. Uf Dem Anger - Tanz - Christian Thielemann, Orff: Carmina Burana

  3. My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder - The Flatlanders

    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day
    There's nothin’ I can think or do or say
    To make this crazy dreamin’ go away
    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day

    I wake up in the mornin’
    And I go to sleep at night
    Somewhere in between the two
    I swear I’ll get it right

    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day
    I’m wonderin’ just how far my mind can stray
    Just how wild is too high a price to pay
    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day

    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day
    But are they wild enough to make you stay?
    Or does dreamin’ only make you stay away?
    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day

    My daydreams and my nightmares
    Are so real there’s no mistake
    It wouldn’t be so bad
    If I was not so wide awake

    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day
    There’s nothin’ I can think or do or say
    I only hope and pray I’ll dream someday
    Just one dream wild enough to make you stay
    My wildest dreams grow wilder
    My wildest dreams grow wilder
    My wildest dreams grow wilder every day

  4. Amazon River - Philip Glass

  5. 3rd Planet - Modest Mouse

  6. Everytime (Timo Maas mix) - Lustral

  7. I’m Not That Girl (Reprise) - Wicked, Original Cast Recording

  8. 40 Years Back Come - Röyksopp

  9. In The Garage - Weezer

  10. Truman Sleeps - Philip Glass, The Truman Show

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


John Hughes
John Hughes, 1950-2009.

John Hughes, Hollywood writer, director and producer of some of the most popular comedies of the 1980’s and ’90’s, died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 59.

Meryl Yourish has written a fine tribute here. As Meryl notes, Hughes created his own genre of Teen Movies, in the process launching the careers of a veritable army of actors, including Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, John Cusack, Anthony Michael Hall, and Bill Paxton.

If I had to pick my favorite John Hughes movie, it’d likely be Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which Matthew Broderick frequently broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the movie audience. But others like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles are still fun to watch. While Home Alone, his greatest commercial success, is much more formulaic, it still has its moments.

In Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Steve Martin’s profanity-laced rant at the rental car counter (and Edie McClurg’s response) will elicit a rueful laugh from anyone who ever had to travel for a living.

Light a candle for the late, lamented Mr. Hughes. In fact, light sixteen of ’em.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Last quarter’s Sales were better than before;
     Thanks be to Perfumes, Lipstick, and the Like;
Our Forecast, optimistic: Profits more
     Than those of prior Quarter’s Sales Spike.

The overseas Divisions send Report;
     A story of Net Income past Compare;
And Earnings fuel’d by Products of the Sort
     That may be worn on Skin or in the Hair.

The economic Downturn’s ill Effects
     Have little Impact, as we know quite well,
Upon th’Attraction that the Fairer Sex
     Enhanceth with an Artificial Smell.

The Auditors state that our Reck’ning’s good;
     Now go and vote your Proxy as we would.

- The Board of Avon



There is something about the rosy blush on an apricot - that most delicate of stone fruits - that, to me, is completely irresistible. And right now, apricots are plentiful.

I enjoy eating ’em out of hand, or sliced up and served atop a bowl of cereal. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might even crank out a quart of apricot ice cream. It’s a handy way to deal with a pile of these little beauties.

Yesterday I decided to try making something new (for me, anyway): Apricot Curd. It makes a fine tartlet or cake filling, with a warm fruit flavor that contrasts with the sharpness of the more traditional lemon curd. And a dollop served alongside a waffle, or on top of an English muffin, would be superb.

Start with about 2/3 pound of fresh apricots. Cut them up into small chunks, removing the pits (which you can save to make noyau ice cream or amaretti). Place the apricot chunks into a nonreactive saucepan with 3 tbsp water and simmer over low heat. As it cooks, the fruit will release a delightful aroma... when it is nice and soft, dump it into a food mill or food processor, purée it, and then strain the purée. Use a spoon or a pestle to help push as much apricot goop as possible though the strainer; depending on how fibrous your ’cots are, you should end up with about a cup of smooth purée.

Apricots Cooking

To the still-warm purée, add 3/8 cup granulated sugar and stir to dissolve. Now add 4 tbsp (one-half stick) unsalted butter, cut up into small pieces, and stir until the butter has melted and is well incorporated. Add the juice of one-half lemon; stir.

Now, in the top of a double boiler, whisk together two extra-large eggs and one egg yolk. Add the apricot purée mixture and whisk together until well blended. Place over gently simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the curd reached 170°F. You’ll know it’s getting there because the mixture will thicken to the consistency of sour cream. Remove from the heat; allow to cool, then refrigerate. The curd will keep for about a week... assuming it lasts that long. In my house, its lifespan is measured in hours, if not minutes.

Apricot Curd

Apricot curd - summer in every spoonful!

Update: I just had a couple of spoonfuls of this stuff atop some char-grilled peaches. Holy Moley, was it good!