Sunday, January 31, 2010

LUNCHEON AT THE SALT MINE

In the fullness of time, I have had Corporate Lunches in all kinds of settings. Fine restaurants, some in exotic overseas locations. Shanghai hairy crab and Singapore fish head curry. Sandwiches and salads in the office cafeteria. You name it; I’ve probably had it for lunch somewhere... with the possible exception of the local speciality of Evansville, Indiana. That’d be the Brain Sandwich, and you couldn’t pay me to eat that.

One time, I had lunch in the executive dining room at the top of the old Great Corporate Salt Mine headquarters building in midtown Manhattan... a young whippersnapper breaking bread with the movers and shakers making their way through the ranks of middle management on their way to stratospheric senior executive positions. It was a taste of what was possible, given enough business savvy, luck, political acumen, hard work, and general ass-kissing capabilities. Lucky for me, I had none of those characteristics.

The lunches I remember most fondly, though, are the ones I ate in the spartan basement lunchroom in the bowels of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s research and engineering facility in Baytown, Texas. This was no fancy-pants corporate Dining Hall, no, no. This was bare-bones, minimalist eating at its best.

It was small, this lunchroom, with just enough room to accommodate a few tables and chairs... and a vending machine that offered vile little treats. Tuna fish sandwiches of questionable provenance. Sausage biscuits, consisting of a hard, hockey puck-like disc of sausage shoved between two halves of a biscuit as dry as West Texas itself. Kolaches, a sort of changeling jelly doughnut in which the jelly was perversely replaced, as if by Gypsies, with a heinous porky-tasting cylinder of sausage. There may have been yogurt in there, too, but nobody I know was brave enough to try it.

You showed up at noon; you left at one. Sharp. That was enough time to pound down the contents of your brown bag (unless you were desperate and/or foolish enough to take your chances with the vending machine fare) and squeeze in a game or two of chess.

Once in a while, when the donjon-like atmosphere of our little Basement Luncheon-Hall began to pall, we would pile into our cars and venture out of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s vast refinery compound to visit one of the local establishments. There were only two that most of us would trust with our precious intestinal health: El Toro, the Mexican joint; and the Brisket Bar-B-Q.

El Toro offered up the kind of Tex-Mex grub that a New York expatriate like me - in other words, someone who didn’t know any better - could love. Simple, inexpensive fare: tacos, enchiladas, chalupas, rice and beans, and the like. The beans, refried Gawd only knows how many times, in Gawd only knows what sort of Porcine Schmaltz, had a runny consistency that no other Mexican establishment has ever duplicated. But for my then-unsophisticated palate, it was heaven. After all, as a college student, I would drive the thirty-mile round trip to Trenton, New Jersey to score twenty-nine cent sawdust tacos - by comparison, El Toro was the Hacienda de los fucking Morales.

And then there was the Brisket Bar-B-Q, where the beverage of choice was iced tea (beer and other alcohols being unavailable not only for lack of the appropriate license, but because of the staunch Baptist views of the owner), and the brisket-and-sausage combo platter was heaven on Earth. It may have been a humble little barbecue place, but it was far better than Otto’s (later to be touted as President Bush the First’s favorite) or any other Houston-area smoked meat option. Years later, I would learn how to make serious Texas barbecue from SWMBO’s daddy... and even later, I would discover Goode Company Barbecue, both of which raised the Bar-B-Q Bar to heights the old Brisket could never achieve. But I still have fond memories of that place, which taught me how smoke, seasoning, and temperature could convert a slab of tough beef into as fine a Luncheon Meal as ever I could want.

Beat the crap out of those vending machine sausage biscuits, for sure.

Friday, January 29, 2010

THE LATEST GADGET

I’m not generally what people consider an “early adopter.” I like to wait until most of the kinks are worked out before I invest in major new technologies... but even I am a bit awestruck at the new iPad Apple unveiled a few days ago.

Holy. Shit.

Check it out. Watch the video. OK, it’s advertising, but doesn’t that product look übergeekerific?

I want one.

Even if, within a year, they’ll have new models out that make this first version look like a cinderblock. That’s the risk you take when you jump into the Modern Technology Pool.

This is so much like science fiction, I’m only sorry I can’t travel back in time to the Isaac Asimov of 1949 or the Orson Scott Card of 1985 and say, “Dude, we’re gonna be able to buy this thing in 2010!”

The only problem? That name. iPad puts me in mind of some sort of electronickal tampon... and I’m not the only one:



The skit above is over two years old. Prescient, innit? [Tip o’ th’ fedora to Houston Steve for the link.]

So how about it, Applefolk? Ya wanna rethink that name? What about iSlate? You can have that name - all it’ll cost you is a free iPad - er, iSlate - and a lifetime data service contract.

Henry David Thoreau and Fred Flintstone would be proud.

WHAT IS THIS “WALL” OF WHICH YOU SPEAK?

Radiokuna Too
“ ‘Poke’ me, and you’ll pull back a stump.”

Hakuna looks on attentively, casting a glowing eye upon She Who Must Be Obeyed as she enjoys a little evening Facebookage.

Update: Friday Ark #280 is afloat (as usual!) at the Modulator... and Carnival of the Cats #307 can be found at Three Tabby Cats in Vienna.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Look out! Here comes another installment of the Friday Random Ten, that time-wasting space filler regular feature in which I post a list of random musical selections as barfed out by the iPod d’Elisson.

Ahhh, Friday. We were all set to take a weekend jaunt up to Asheville, North Carolina, when predictions of wintry weather intervened. Much as I might have enjoyed a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains under a fresh ten-inch blanket of snow, the prospect of trying to drive home through those mountains was more than just a little daunting. Discretion being the better part of valor, we elected to postpone our trip. Alas.

But being home has its own attractions, not least among them the chance to listen to my dopey Choon-Library. And here’s a taste for you:
  1. Take Me to the Pilot - Elton John

    If you feel that it’s real I’m on trial
    And I’m here in your prison
    Like a coin in your mint
    I am dented and I’m spent with high treason
    Through a glass eye your throne
    Is the one danger zone
    Take me to the pilot for control
    Take me to the pilot of your soul

    Take me to the pilot
    Lead me through the chamber
    Take me to the pilot
    I am but a stranger
    Take me to the pilot
    Lead me through the chamber
    Take me to the pilot
    I am but a stranger

    Well I know he’s not old
    And I’m told he’s a virgin
    For he may be she
    But what I’m told is never for certain


  2. Raga Bihag, Part 1 - Natraj

  3. Sparkle - Phish

  4. 40 Years Back Come - Röyksopp

  5. Reality Dub - Linton Kwesi Johnson

  6. When Desperate Static Beats the Silence Up - Ben Folds

  7. Sarabande: Handel: Eight Pieces - Philharmonia Virtuosi

  8. The Wanted Man - The Judybats

  9. Tell Me What You See - The Beatles

  10. Birds of Fire - Mahavishnu Orchestra

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

REMEMBERING MANNIE

Mannie was an unusual guy. What they call in Latin a rara avis: a rare bird.

How else do you describe a Jewish kid in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the youngest of seven sons? “Rare bird” only scratches the surface.

He was a sharp kid, this Mannie. Not only a high school graduate - unusual in those days - but valedictorian of his class. Had a head for numbers. The kind of head that could help a person succeed in business. But first things first. Mannie needed an education... and so he set his sights on the University of Arkansas.

Back in the early 1930’s, a college education cost a minute fraction of what it does today. But in the Depression-era South, money was thin on the ground. Very thin. Tuition, cheap as it was by today’s standards, was completely out of reach for a dirt-poor Jewish kid from Pine Bluff.

That’s when the Jewish community of Pine Bluff stepped in. Yes, there were other Jews in Pine Bluff... rare birds all, yet with sufficient numbers to constitute a community. And there were enough of them so that when they pooled their resources, there was enough money to send Mannie to college in Fayetteville.

As a student, Mannie watched his nickels and dimes. He kept a ledgerbook in which he would write down his expenses. Streetcar fare. A quarter-share in a textbook. (Who could afford to own an entire textbook? Rockefeller?) One day he found a half-dollar and dutifully noted the unexpected income in his ledger.

He pinched his pennies until Lincoln groaned, squeezed his nickels until the buffalo moaned. And eventually he got his degree.

Within nine months of his getting out of school and taking a penuriously salaried job, Mannie had paid back the tuition money the Jewish community of Pine Bluff had given him. Every thin dime.

* * *

Mannie died this past Sunday after a brief illness, waiting until his son Barry arrived at the hospital so he could say goodbye. But he had delivered his valedictory two months earlier at a post-Thanksgiving dinner, a dinner we were privileged to share with him. That night he was animated, full of life and stories... ninety-three years’ worth.

Barukh Dayan Emet: Blessèd is the True Judge. Farewell, rare bird!

20:20 HINDSIGHT

From the December 2006 archives of Enjoy Every Sandwich, skippystalin’s erstwhile blog:
There has been a giant to-do over Senator Obama for the last several months. Most serious political observers feel that he is the one candidate who can actually challenge Hillary Clinton’s almost unbreakable grip on the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

As you may have guessed, I’m not a serious political observer...

...Obama would be out of his mind to run for president right now. He’s never held executive office anywhere and has only been in the United States Senate for two years. No one that thinly credentialed has ever been elected president before. I think voters are incredibly dumb, but even I don't think they’re that dumb. And I think the senator knows that, too.

However, Obama is whip-smart, charismatic and has all the media juice a politician can hope for right now.
I had stumbled upon this three-year-old item a couple of days ago, and aside from being worth a chuckle or two, it struck me as being amazingly insightful... but in the perverse way older observations always seem when we bother to go back and exhume them. Skippy got it wrong, of course... but he got it so beautifully wrong.

“I think voters are incredibly dumb, but even I don't think they’re that dumb.”

Are you fucking kidding, Skippy? This country - the country I love, the country of my birth - has an almost infinite reservoir of dumbitude. Doubt it? Two words: Reality Television.

I can’t fault Skippy, however. Most of us are pretty fearless about writing material of a predictive nature because we know there's little chance of someone going back, digging it up, and calling “Bullshit!” on us. Nevertheless, the opportunities are there if you don’t mind a little shovelwork.

Hindsight, unlike foresight, is almost always 20:20. Alas, you cannot drive down the superhighway of life by looking in the rearview mirror: The vision may be clearer than it is through the windshield, but it does not help you avoid the obstacles in your path.

And, no, I did not watch the State of the Union address last night. Why do you ask?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A DC DINNER TO REMEMBER

After spending a few days at a conference in Maryland, I seized the opportunity to spend some time with Elder Daughter in Washington, D.C.

She keeps herself pretty busy these days, Elder Daughter does. Juggles lots of projects, both at work and extracurricular. Somehow, she manages to keep all those figurative balls in the air.

Monday night, we had dinner at Nora, a lovely little place in the neighborhood of DuPont Circle. I had first heard of it in a post by the Bakerina several years ago; since then, we had seen it several times while walking in Elder Daughter’s neighborhood but had never set foot within.

Nora
Restaurant Nora.

Sometimes the things we wait for with a sense of happy, eager anticipation turn out to be disappointments. Dinner at Nora was not one of those things... which is a backhanded way of saying that it was excellent.

Nora claims to be America’s first certified organic restaurant. That’s not what attracted me to the place, although there is certainly nothing wrong with eating foods that are produced without pesticides, grown sustainably, and sourced locally. What attracted me was the menu, crammed with offerings among which it was almost impossible to choose. The temptation of simply saying, “Just bring us everything on the fucking menu” had to be resisted, though: Not only would our appetites not bear it, but the check would then be somewhere north of the GNP of several sub-Saharan countries.

We were seated in the cozy upstairs dining room, the very place where President Obama had thrown a surprise birthday party for First Lady Michelle a mere nine days before. The restaurant staff were still starry-eyed about it.

To get us started, I ordered an extremely dry Hendrick’s gin martini, straight up; Elder Daughter ordered hers with Grey Goose vodka (the Presidential vodka, we were told afterwards). And then we settled in to the serious task of stuffing our faces.

We ordered a couple of salads for starters: a local red and yellow beet salad with oranges, grapefruit, feta cheese, micro greens, beet tuile, and pomegranate vinaigrette; and a baby arugula and radicchio salad with roasted local pears, French Brie, toasted almonds, with port wine vinaigrette. The beet salad was almost jewel-like, the arugula and radicchio more substantial, the pears contrasting nicely with the Brie’s smooth creaminess.

By way of a main course, I selected a grilled Ayrshire Farm ribeye with roasted marrow bone, parsnip purée, carrots, garlicky chard, and a red wine jus. It was perfectly done, and the marrow bone - complete with slender silver marrow-spoon - was an elegant, yet earthy, touch. Elder Daughter, meanwhile, zeroed in on the pan-seared steelhead salmon with spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, roasted turnips, ovendried tomato, and black walnut vinaigrette. The fish was done to an exquisite medium-rare: superb.

We could have stopped there, but it would have been wrong. For there was the small matter of dessert.

We ordered a pear frangipane tart (sweet) and a platter of artisanal cheeses (savory) with homemade quince membrillo and nuts. Eaten at a leisurely pace, it was the perfect end to a delightful meal.

Earlier, as we had sipped our Martinis and waited for our meals to arrive, we had reminisced about other fine feeds, focusing on the meals we had enjoyed during our sojourn in Japan almost two years ago. What was the best? Japanese tapas at an izakaya within hours of our arrival? Udon and eel in a little noodle shop in the Ginza? The fourteen-course kaiseki dinner at the Hiiragiya ryokan in Kyoto? Unagi-no-donburi at the Takashimaya department store? Our sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo? Each one was special in its own way; each one memorable. As this night’s dinner would be.

What memorable dinners have you had? And what was the best thing about them?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

SHANIA

I like Shania Twain, by golly -
Much better than Shania Twolley.

Friday, January 22, 2010

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

As you read this, I’m enroute to the Northeast, there to spend a weekend in a training session for my Fraternal Organization... and then to hang out with Elder Daughter for a couple of days. Alas, She Who Must Be Obeyed will not be with me... but someone’s got to hold down the fort while I’m gone, eh?

It being Friday, it’s time to post the weekly Randomized List o’ Choons that the Little White Choon-Box has coughed up. Let’s cop a listen, why don’t we?
  1. Lonesome Town - Ricky Nelson

  2. Playmate of the Mouth - Procol Harum

  3. Bogus Pomp - Frank Zappa

  4. The Stars Are Projectors - Modest Mouse

  5. Andy - Frank Zappa

    Is there anything good inside of you
    If there is, I really wanna know
    Is there anything
    Good inside of you
    If there is
    I really wanna
    Know
    Is there anything
    Good inside of you
    If there is
    I really wanna
    Know
    Is there?

    Is there any-thaaaang good inside of you
    If there is, I really wanna know-woh-oh-oh-oh -
    Is there any-thaaaang good inside of you
    If there is, I really wanna know, really wanna know...

    Something
    Anything
    Something
    Anything

    Show me a sign
    If you don’t mind
    Show me a sign
    If you don’t mind
    Show me a sign
    If you don’t mind
    Show me a sign
    If you don’t mind

    Do you know what I’m really telling you
    Is it something that you can understand
    Do you know what I’m really telling you
    Is it something that you can understand
    Do you know what I’m really telling you
    Is it something that you can understand
    Do you know what I’m really telling you
    Is it something that you can understand

    Andy de vine (de vine)
    Had a thong rind (rind)
    It was sublime (sublime)
    But the wrong kind
    Andy de vine (de vine)
    Had a thong rind (rind)
    It was sublime (sublime)
    But the wrong kind

    Have I aligned
    With a blown mind
    Wasted my time
    On a drawn blind
    Have I aligned
    With a blown mind
    Wasted my time
    On a drawn blind

    Oh Andy...
    Andy
    Andy, Andy
    Thong rind
    It was sublime, y’all now
    The wrong kind, yeah-hah-hah-hah!
    Our man!


  6. Battle Hymn of the Republic - Seymour Rechtzeit

    In Yiddish, yet.

  7. Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse - Minus The Bear

  8. Carry That Weight - The Beatles

  9. Children Will Listen - Stephen Sondheim, Into The Woods

  10. Adventures in Failure - MC 900 Foot Jesus

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE AWESOME POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Today’s Electronic Social Media - Facebook and Twitter, exempli gratia - can unleash the power of the human mind to change the world as never before. Ideas can spread at the speed of thought...

...no matter how ridiculous they are. Viz:

Elisson-SWMBO-Bro
Gary-Jo-Gregor
Graeme-Lisa-Oddy
Laura-Matt-Tommy
Susan-Karen-Jim

Have you worn your Colander-Hat to-day?

TO A ROSE... IN A WHITE BOWL

Rose Toilet

Fair Throne, thou art the Place where I must sit
When Nature’s Needs arise, as needs they must.
I perch upon you, there to take a Shit,
Alas, though, when that Shit should form a Crust.

That Crust offends by giving off a Smell
Compos’d of Vileness, with the Reek of Doom.
O Throne, thou causeth Senses to rebel
When I must needs stop by the “Little Room.”

But, hark! A Sound is stealing on my Ear,
The Sound of Brushing, Flushing, and a Swish!
It tells me that there is no Need to fear
A crusted Pot, within to Poop or Pish.

To drop the Kids off at the Pool I go,
The Throne, it sparkles - thanks to Tae D Bo.

[Being a Sonnet in Iambic Pooptameter.]

THE OFFICIAL BLOG D’ELISSON DICTIONARY,
Volume 22.

Still 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.

F’oh! Pas [fo-pah] (n) - A mistake, specifically one of the sort that makes you smack yourself in the forehead and exclaim “D’oh!” in the manner of Homer Simpson.

A poetic illustration, courtesy of Mark Hollis:

     Bill
     Was ill.

In his delirium
He talked about Miriam.

This was an error
As his wife was a terror

     Known
     As Joan.


That, Esteemed Readers, is a F’oh! Pas.

[A tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora goes to Erica Sherman for this one.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

LOVE MEANS SORRY TO SAY YOU’RE DEAD

Dead
Poster by Elisson, inspired by Robert Indiana’s iconic 1996 LOVE graphic.

Erich Segal, author of the popular novel Love Story, died Sunday at the age of 72 from complications of Parkinson’s disease.

The 1970 novel that made him famous was a weepie about Oliver and Jenny, two college students who fall in love and marry... shortly after which Jenny suffers a tragically melodramatic death from cancer. A huge bestseller, the book was made into an even more popular movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw... all of which provides added proof to support the contention that the 1970’s sucked, big time.

The character of Oliver was, according to Segal, a composite of two Harvard students he knew: Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. Which would, conceivably, make him a block of wood with a bad complexion.

The bullshit catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” may be laid at the feet of Segal. Bullshit? Hell, yes: Anyone who has ever been in a loving relationship of long duration knows that being able to say you’re sorry (and meaning it!) is the mark of a mature, serious relationship.

Segal was a professor at Yale writing about Harvard students, which may partially explain his ridiculous perspective on romantic love. A Princeton man would have known better.

Requiescat in pace, Professor Segal. Love means being sorry to say you’re dead.

Monday, January 18, 2010

TELL ME THE TRUTH...

Groissem Tuchus

...Does this granite countertop make my ass look fat?

NOT SEPARATED AT BIRTH

But you’d never know it from looking at them.

Liv and the Mistress

On the left is Liv Tyler, cavorting with Eva Mendes. On the right is the Mistress of Sarcasm.

Maybe I need to start working on my guitar licks...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

HOT COFFEE

Our friends Gary and JoAnn enjoy their coffee. Like us, they bought themselves one of those Keurig machines that brews one cup at a time... it’s way faster than brewing a whole pot of coffee when all you want to do is grab a quick cuppa Joe. And thereon hangs a tale...

We had our Saturday afternoon all planned. As soon as I got back from shul, we - Gary, JoAnn, She Who Must Be Obeyed, and I - were going to head out to Dawsonville, a little burg about 45 minutes north of here, wherein lies the Big-Ass Outlet Mall. The ladies do loves them some shoppage... and who are we guys to get in their way?

[OK, shopping on Shabbos is not very... shabbosdik. But I’ve been violating the Sabbath for over 57 years now, and I have no immediate plans to stop.]

We headed out on our little trip around 12:30 and stopped to grab lunch in Roswell. Forty-five minutes later, we were in Dawsonville, checking out the Bargain Merch.

Before we could so much as slap credit card on counter, SWMBO’s phone rang. It was Gary and JoAnn’s security monitoring service, calling the Missus because she is their designated emergency contact. “We’re trying to reach Gary, but he’s not answering his phone. There’s an alarm going off at his house.”

Uh-oh.

“He’s right here with us - I’ll hand the phone to him,” she responded. Turns out Gary had his ringer turned off, and he didn’t feel the phone vibrating in his pocket when the security service was calling.

Nothing gets the pulse racing when you get a call from your security service... especially when you’re more than two minutes away from home. Was it a break-in? What was the problem? It was, the security folks informed Gary, the fire alarm. Something had set it off, and when Gary didn’t answer the phone right away, the security peeps had dispatched the fire department.

A quick call to the next-door neighbor established that it was not, alas, a false alarm. Something was burning in the house! The firemen, acting quickly, broke in through the front door and found the problem: a box that had been sitting on the electric cooktop. Somehow, the cooktop had been inadvertently turned on, and the box, after (presumably) smoldering for awhile, had burst into flame.

We hightailed it out of Dawsonville without spending a red cent (a first), arriving back home a scant 35 minutes later thanks to SWMBO’s expert high-speed driving. She had had the speech all rehearsed in her head in case we got stopped:

Cop: What’s the big hurry - going to a fire?

SWMBO: YES!!!

The fire department was gone by the time we arrived. They had gone in, grabbed the burning box, tossed it in the front yard, and extinguished the fire right there: thankfully, no water squirtage in the house. Amazingly, there was little damage in the kitchen - a scorched stovetop and microwave oven (mounted above the stove) was all. The front door and its frame would need to be replaced, along with the deadbolt lock the firemen had pried open. And the house needed to be aired out, a strong smell of smoke having permeated almost everywhere and everything.

The box that had caught fire was a newly-arrived package from Keurig, filled with little K-cups of coffee. This coffee, now Double-Roasted, sat in a blackened heap in the front yard.

Gary and JoAnn were pretty matter-of-fact about the whole situation. Not a whole lot of damage where they could just as easily have been facing a disaster. It’s not a whole lot of fun to have your house reduced to a smoking pile of rubble.

JoAnn summed it up as well as anyone could. “It’s just things.” You can replace things; you cannot replace people.

Afterwards, we had dinner at our place. I offered Gary some nice smoky Laphroiag single-malt Scotch whisky, along with some smoked brisket and sausage... and he offered to punch me right in the fucking head. (Just kidding.)

As I write this, our friends are resting securely at the Hotel Elisson, where they’ll stay until the smoke-stink-removal people take the blowers away. And there’s at least one lesson in there for many of us: A stove is not a storage area. If you’re not cooking it, keep it the hell off that cooktop! (C’mon - you know you’ve done it.) The other lesson? Smoke detectors are fine and dandy, but a monitored fire alarm system provides a whole lot more protection... especially if something happens when you’re away from home. The monitoring service runs about $20 a month; it’s hard to imagine a better investment.

Now: Anyone care for some hot coffee?

GROUCHY, FOR A REASON

Winey Denny
Denny Wilson, the Grouchy Old Cripple, in a non-grouchy moment.

You’d be grouchy too, if some asshat out-of-control skier crashed into you and gave you a subdural hematoma.

That’s the situation our favorite Grouchy Old Cripple is dealing with right now. It’s a potentially deadly injury, but Denny is a tough bastard who will be back to speed (keyn ayin hora) before too long.

Tough, yes: As the Wiseass Jooette herself says,
Denny is the Chuck Norris of cripples. When Denny does a pushup, he isn’t pushing himself up — he’s pushing the earth down. When Bruce Banner gets mad, he turns into the Hulk. When the Hulk gets mad, he turns into Denny.
I expect it won’t be too long before our favorite SRF­® is back, filling the Interwebz with Saturday boobage, blonde jokes, and guitar; Sunday metal; Monday puns; and the inimitable AOTW.

Update: More on Denny’s current condition here.

THE ANCIENT ORDER OF ROCKETEERS

Yabu calls me the Propulsion Engineer, and not without reason... for I have had a long, if intermittent, association with Model Rocketry.

Many of my Bloggy Buddies have seen my aerial exploits firsthand. While it’s not mandatory to fly a few finned projectiles at blogmeets, it’s become an off-again, on-again tradition of sorts.

My history with this hobby, however, goes back a good deal farther.

Back in the 1960’s, it was entirely respectable to have a Thoroughly Nerdly Hobby... especially if you were a thirteen-year-old kid. And so you could say I was entirely respectable, for launching rockets was about as nerdly as you could get.

Submitted here for your delectation and viewing pleasure is this Documentary Video that captures, in grainy 8mm film, a few moments in a rocket-studded summer of long ago. The year was 1966, and I was a few weeks away from high school...



Yes, we were nerds, then, back in those days of innocence before getting caught up in the Great American Vagina-Hunt. But we were children, then, too - and damn, we had fun.

Friday, January 15, 2010

BESMEARED WITH GREASEPAINT, TO NO GOOD END

This post over at LeeAnn’s place got me thinking about something I normally don’t think about a whole lot.

Clowns.

A commenter at the above-noted post got right to the point: “I fucking hate clowns,” a statement that set the Elissonian Thought-Wheels a-spinning.

Most normal, rational people I know do not care much for clowns. Their attitudes toward these greasepainted buffoons range from a vague, mild sense of unease or discomfort to active, vitriolic loathing... but nary a one will see a clown and think, “I like that!” Or even, “I find this fellow with the greasepaint makeup, rubber proboscis, and flamboyantly colored Dynel wig amusing!

Chilipepper Clown
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Even youngsters - the Target Demographic for clown-antics - rarely seem to like clowns. Most kids are terrified of ’em. And you can’t blame Stephen King, whose Pennywise the Clown embodied generation upon generation of childish coulrophobia in his 1986 novel It. He didn’t create that fear; he merely exploited it. Trotting out the Evil Clown in the service of popular entertainment was a way of acknowledging the essential truth of the stereotype.

When you see an army of clowns exiting a Volkswagen, do you laugh? Or do you think to yourself, “Damn, I wish I had thought to lock that car... and set it on fire. Now it’s too late.”

I like Robin Williams. He’s a brilliant comedian and a talented, multifaceted actor. But whenever I see a picture of the character he plays in Patch Adams (a doctor who wears a rubber clown nose in order to amuse the terminally ill patients under his care), I don’t think “Ewwww, excessively mawkish and sentimental.” I think, “Fuck! A clown nose!” and I want to kick him until he bleeds from the eyeballs.

Look: Clowns serve a purpose. Not to entertain, for almost nobody finds them entertaining. Imagine, though, that you are an employer, and you wish to screen prospective and/or current employees in order to avoid unfortunate situations, such at the Fort Hood, Texas massacre... or the recent shootings at a Penske rental location in Kennesaw, Georgia. In short, you want to know whether your candidate is fucked up in the head.

All you have to do is administer a short psychological test, a test consisting of a single question:

“Do you like clowns?”

If the answer is yes, then you know that that person is fucked up in the head. Q.E.D.

Evil Clown
©1997 Georgia Maher.

Update: It must be Evil Clown Month on Madison Avenue. Check it out...

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Here we go with yet another installment of Friday Random Ten, in which I post a list of stochastically selected songs, freshly coughed up by the iPod d’Elisson.

It never ceases to surprise me, this Random Ten business. Sometimes the juxtapositions make no sense; other times, they are surprisingly effective. It’d make for an interesting radio format.

Let’s give a listen:
  1. The Mikado, Act I: Comes a Train of Little Ladies - D’Oyly Carte Opera Company

  2. Brandenburg Concerto #1 In F, BWV 1046 - 2. Adagio - Trevor Pinnock, English Concert

  3. I Want You To Hurt Like I Do - Randy Newman

    He writes a lot more than theme music for Pixar, this guy.

  4. Rooman ruumiit - Alamaailman Vasarat

  5. Reba - Phish

  6. Animal Collective - Winter’s Love

  7. Angel In Savannah - James Hooker

    They say when it rains in Savannah
    It rains all night long
    They say when you meet a girl in Savannah
    You’re gonna remember that girl
    Your whole life long

    You can lose your heart in Savannah
    Guys do it all the time
    But, lose your cool in Savannah
    You’re guaranteed to lose more than your mind

    I had a girl in Savannah
    She treated me just fine
    She had a husband in Savannah
    But still we had a real good time

    You can lose your life in Savannah
    Guys do it all the time
    But I got an Angel in Savannah I guess
    Who keeps me one step ahead all the time


  8. Mardi Gras In New Orleans - Professor Longhair

  9. Still Fighting It - Ben Folds

  10. Thunder Child - Jeff Wayne, War of the Worlds

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FELINE FRIDAY

Hakuna on Landing

Hakuna sits on the upstairs landing
To catch the rays of the morning sun.

I might distract her with the laser -
Chasing the red dot is plenty of fun.

But first I’ve got to take her picture:
“What’re you doing with that camera, son?”

I’m capturing kitty on Digital Media,
And then - watch! - under the bed she’ll run!

Hakuna Closeup

Update: Carnival of the Cats #305 is up at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat. Go check out da kittehs!

COMPOSITING

Stargate Studios Virtual Backlot Demo from Stargate Studios on Vimeo.

Take a look at this video, and you’ll never trust anything you see on the big screen - or the little screen - again. Ain’t technology wonderful?

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HAVE A HAVANESE

Have two, in fact. They’re small.

Luna

Meet Luna, who is currently living with her “grandparents” Barry and Malka before (eventually) taking up residence in New York with her “mom” Adi.

Luna is a Havanese, a sort of Cuban Bichon Frisé. She may resemble a mop-head, but she’s all dog... and a playful puppy at that.

Listen. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I prefer cats to dogs, if for no other reason than that they crap in a box. But damn, is this little ball of fur cute!

Update: Friday Ark #278 is afloat at the Modulator.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BIZARRE MUSICAL CONNECTIONS

I’m always amazed about the bizarre and mystickal connections that reveal themselves through this business of blogging.

Take, for example, Eric (the Straight White Guy) and Dax Montana, fellow members of the loose confederation we call the Jawja Blodgers.

Now let’s select three musical artists, not quite at random: Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, and Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart.

Those who know Eric know that he is a Tom Waits fan. It’s a bit less obvious to the casual observer, but Dax likes Captain Beefheart. And, of the three, my strong preference is for Frank Zappa... although I like all three.

[I’ll confess that I’m always surprised to find others among my friends and acquaintances who admire the work of Captain Beefheart. He’s not the most accessible artist out there... a bit of an acquired taste, as Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) will tell you:
The first time I heard Trout Mask [Trout Mask Replica, Beefheart’s landmark album], when I was 15 years old, I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard. I said to myself, they're not even trying! It was just a sloppy cacophony.

Then I listened to it a couple more times, because... a double album cost a lot of money. About the third time, I realized they were doing it on purpose: they meant it to sound exactly this way. About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I’d ever heard.
It may not be the best album I’ve ever heard, yet parts of it are brilliant. But we’re not talking Top 40 hit radio here.]

These three artists are connected, just as we three bloggers are connected.

Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet were friends as far back as junior high school, with Zappa later producing Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. Beefheart contributed vocals to Zappa’s “Willie the Pimp” - the second cut on Hot Rats - and later the two would tour together. The Zoot Allures album was one product of that collaboration.

As for Tom Waits, he was the opening act at several Zappa concerts in 1973-74... alas, not at the April 27, 1973 show at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre where I first saw Zappa.

Now: I can somehow imagine Dax enjoying Beefheart. After all, he is full of surprises. Even likes the Mahavishnu Orchestra, fer cryin’ out loud! And from there, it’s not a huge stretch to imagine him enjoying Zappa... or even Waits.

Eric is another story. Somehow, I can’t picture him enjoying Zappa or Beefheart quite as much as he likes Tom Waits. Or the early Tom Waits, anyway.

But I could be wrong. Not only is there no arguing about taste (de gustibus non est disputandum, after all), but sometimes there’s no understanding it, either.

EVERYONE CRAP YOUR HANDS FOR ERIC

Eric Clapton is, by many standards, considered to be among the most talented and influential guitarists of all time.

Apparently, not everybody shares this opinion.

Crapton

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ENTERTAINMENT IS WHERE YOU FIND IT

On my way to Dunwoody for a meeting this morning, I was stopped at a traffic light... where I was treated to the spectacle of the driver in the car next to me, engaged with complete and total concentration in a Booger-Hunt.

He would fish around in his nostrils, after which he would withdraw his Nasal Entrenching Tools - his fingers - and examine them closely. This would be followed by the classic fingertip-roll (a favorite Booger Drying Technique), after a few moments of which he would, so to speak, go back to the well.

Good Gawd, thought I. Has this guy forgotten that glass is transparent? That people can see what he is doing? Yeef.

Of course, you could ask me the inevitable question: Why the hell were you watching him, occupied as he was in his Solitary Pursuit? And I would answer: It’s like a car wreck. Try as you may to resist the urge to rubberneck, you cannot.

Entertainment, says I, is where you find it.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Dweezil and Band

We Red Sea Pedestrians have an expression: “L’dor va-dor” - from generation to generation - that encapsulates the concept of transmitting knowledge and values from parent to child, a concept that is nestled at the core of Jewish tradition.

The concert I attended last night, Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa, was a perfect illustration... for Dweezil and his band have taken the musical tradition of an earlier generation and have transmitted it unto a new audience, helping to ensure that it continues to live on.

I have written here several times of Project/Object, Andre Cholmondeley’s Zappaphilic band. But this was the first time I had seen Dweezil’s group, which has been touring since 2006. And I was impressed.

It’s no stripped-down operation, for one. Not just one, but two percussionists: Joe Travers, manning a monster drum kit; and Billy Hulting, who has an assortment of other Bangy Stuff, including a marimba and full set of congas. Scheila Gonzalez handles the keyboard and sax, Jamie Kime is on guitar, Pete Griffin on bass, and Ben Thomas provides remarkably Zappaesque vocals. Of course, there’s Dweezil himself, who does a more than creditable job of channeling his old man’s unique guitar talents.

What did they play? This:
  • Black Napkins
  • T’Mershi Duween
  • Keep It Greasey
  • Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
  • Jones Crusher
  • Peaches En Regalia
  • Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow/Saint Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast
  • You Didn’t Try To Call Me
  • Road Ladies
  • Miss Pinky
  • Wino Man
  • Catholic Girls
  • Crew Slut
  • Outside Now
  • Eat That Question
  • Cosmik Debris
  • RDNZL
  • Willie the Pimp
  • Muffin Man
The last four pieces comprised the encore. At the end, Dweezil offered the audience a choice between “San Ber’dino,” “Willie the Pimp,” and “Muffin Man”; the overwhelming preference (by voice acclamation) was split equally between the latter two. The band wisely decided to play both. Joy!

Dweezil
Dweezil Zappa. You can tell he’s a chip off the old block just by looking at him.

If you are unfamiliar with these tunes, it’s hard to explain how technically complex most of them are - how many different musical styles, genres, and time signatures get crammed in to a single song - and how much fun it is to hear them live, with spleen-homogenizing bass notes rattling the fillings in your back teeth.

I love this stuff... and the audience at last night’s show - a mixed bag of greying Baby Boomers, twenty- and thirty-somethings, and even some barely postpubescent teens - did too. It’s nice to know that a new generation is not only performing Frank’s music, but enjoying it as well. L’dor va-dor, indeed!

Monday, January 11, 2010

MADAM, I’M ADAM

Much like the above post title, today’s date - 01-11-10 - was delightfully palindromic, don’t you think?

YES, IT’S STILL COLD

We’re still freezing our collective asses off here in the beating heart of the Old South... but at least the roads are no longer the skating rinks they were on Friday.

There’s even a rumor to the effect that the temperature may get above freezing later this week. Zounds!

Meanwhile, just to help us stay in that wintry frame of mind, Jerry Foster - frequent commenter and long-time buddy of the Other Elisson - sends us these fine images from Big Bear, California, just a couple of hours from the temperate Simi Valley where he makes his home. Yes, Esteemed Readers: icicles in California!

Thumbtip Icicles 1
Thumbtip Icicles 2

Now: where da hot cocoa at?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I’M DEAD, DAMMIT

Art Clokey and Gumby
Art Clokey and Gumby, his famous creation.

From Meryl Yourish comes the sad news: Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, is dead, having passed away in his sleep yesterday.

The beloved Gumby, along with his boon companion Pokey the horse, was brought to life through “Claymation,” Clokey’s version of stop-motion animation. Gumby’s lopsided head was inspired by Clokey’s father’s hairstyle, a hairstyle he knew only through photographs - for his father had been killed in a car wreck when Clokey was only eight years old.

A little-known fact: Gumby was modeled not only on Clokey’s father, but on the Golem of Prague, who was also created from clay and subsequently animated. The original name for the character, “Golemby,” was nixed in favor of “Gumby” by the Wrigley company, one of the sponsors of the Howdy Doody Show.

Clokey’s clay creations have always been popular, but in the 1980’s, Eddie Murphy’s unforgettable characterization of Gumby on SNL brought the Green Gumster to the attention of a whole new audience. Murphy’s Gumby was an ill-tempered old Jewish guy - “I’m Gumby, dammit!” - and the skits in which he appeared were pants-pissingly funny.

With Gumby and Pokey, and with his other creations Davey and Goliath (characters in an eponymous show with a Christian theme), Art Clokey made his living bringing clay to life. Alas, now he is naught but lifeless clay.

Ave atque vale, Art Clokey!

THE BOSS: A 100-WORD STORY

“Bubba” Carnaroli had come down from New York back in the late 1990’s, tired of the cold weather, the crowds, and the competition. He settled himself in the midst of the Volunteer State, where he saw plenty of opportunity for a savvy businessman... and where the moderate climate suited his temperament.

In less than two decades, he had put together a hugely profitable business. Drugs, prostitution, loansharking, gambling... he had his fingers in all the pies.

Even better, he was a successful restauranteur. Carnaroli’s Risotto Houses were packed every night: the perfect front for the Boss of the Tennessee Rackets.

Friday, January 08, 2010

RIGHT NICE

It’s a right nice night for ice tonight.

FROZEN FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

This frosty, frozen Friday morning, we awoke to about an inch of snow blanketing the neighborhood... an every-other-year event in this part of Georgia. Not a whole lotta snow per se, but with the temperatures having been bitterly cold all week, the roads are deathtraps of black ice. It’s a perfect excuse to stay huddled at home with the Missus - school has been canceled throughout the area - and the Little White Choon-Box.

Music for the heart, and music for the ears, you could call it.

Let’s take a look at what’s playing, shall we?
  1. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) - The Beatles

  2. Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine - Brian Wilson

  3. Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel - A Tribute Band for FZ

  4. Act I, Scene 2: I Can’t Talk Very Well - John Adams, Nixon in China

  5. Zvezda Rok-N-Rolla - Leningrad

    Клей “Момент” купил за рубль
    И пакет к нему купил.
    Надышавшись этой дури,
    Музыку я полюбил.

    Где же вы родители?
    Куда же смотрит школа?
    Так я стал звездою
    Рок-н-рола!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Мы играем с семи лет!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Мы играем с семи лет!

    Одноклассницу-девченку
    К себе в гости пригласил.
    Папа с мамой на работе,
    А мы ебемся, что есть сил.

    Где же вы родители?
    Куда же смотрит школа?
    Так я стал звездою
    Рок-н-рола!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Мы играем с семи лет!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Мы играем с семи лет!

    Ахуенна, ахуенна,
    Мы играем ахуенна!
    Ахуенна, ахуенна,
    Мы играем ахуенна!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Зипа-трипер пистолет!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Мы играем с семи лет!
    Зипа-трипер пистолет,
    Мы ебемся с семи лет!


  6. Weary Blues - Madeleine Peyroux

  7. The Last Saskatchewan Pirate - Captain Tractor

  8. Shanty Town - Mr. Scruff

  9. European Son - The Velvet Underground

  10. Lola Stars And Stripes - The Stills

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

BRRRR

The Weather-Pundits are predicting a shot of wintry weather here in north-central Georgia beginning sometime this afternoon. Snow, even.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of ice and snow to render this part of the country helpless. Snowplows are thin on the ground, as is salting and sanding equipment. When the roads get icy, all you can do is hope the idiot in the lane next to you - or behind you - knows not to brake or accelerate sharply, or to make sudden moves of any kind. And the hills just add to the excitement.

I’m not expecting anything like the storm we got here twenty-eight years ago, during our very first January in Atlanta - the well-remembered Snow Jam ’82. That was a real mess: snow, followed by ice, then more snow. It was four days before we could get out of the neighborhood.

Cold weather per se is not all that unusual here, although a sustained period of below-freezing temperatures like the one we’re experiencing now doesn’t happen often. It’s been colder, though. In 1985, an arctic air mass swept down from Canada on January 20 and 21, knocking the temperature down to -8°F (it was -10° here in Marietta), within a degree or so of the all-time low for the area. What was especially nasty about that cold snap was the inability of Atlanta Gas Light to push enough natural gas through the distribution grid to keep up with demand. Pressure fell, dropping enough to activate the safety shutoff switch on our furnace. That’s right: no heat on the coldest day in over 80 years. [Fortunately, we were able to get the furnace lit after things outside had warmed up a bit.]

No such low temperatures are predicted for us right now. Just snow. And I will cop to being just a little excited about it. It’s that Little Kid part of my reptilian hindbrain, in which are buried the snowstorm-related memories of my earliest days.

Tonight will be a perfect time to light a fire in the fireplace and slurp down a hot cocoa or two.

Update: It has begun...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

REQUIESCAT IN PACE, SUK JA

Sad news this morning from Kevin Kim, whose mother has just lost a nine-month-long battle with brain cancer... a battle that Kevin has painstakingly (and painfully) documented at Kevin’s Walk.

The Kim family’s loss echoes, in so many small ways, the loss our own family suffered in the spring of 1988.

Kevin and I have never met face-to-face, but we have been reading each other’s online writings for several years. Kevin’s Walk, a site that had originally been created to document Kevin’s planned walk across America, was repurposed to serve as a living record of his mother’s struggle once her diagnosis was known. At times touching, harrowing, heartbreaking, and at times completely mundane, it is now a son’s valedictory.

Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and the pure, to the soul of Kevin Kim’s mother. May her memory endure, inspiring truth and loyalty in the lives of those who knew and loved her. May her soul thus be bound up in the bond of life. May she rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

VEALLY TASTY

A day in my life is especially sweet
When dinner’s the other other White Meat.


IEATAPETA Day - International Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA Day - still is two months away, but we got a nice head start on it with the evening repast She Who Must Be Obeyed prepared last night: tender baby veal.

Veal Scalloppine in Lemon-Caper Sauce, to be precise.

Veal Scalloppine in Lemon-Caper Sauce

Thin slices of delicate veal, flash-sautéed in a film of olive oil, sauced with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and capers, with a handful of chopped parsley added to add some bright green flavor notes. With some roasted broccoli, parsnips, and fingerling potatoes to keep it company on the plate, it was a perfectly satisfying, healthy dinner.

Dessert? Coffee and fresh strawberries. Aaahhhhh.

Sucks to be me, don’t it?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

COLD? I HADN’T NOTICED

This morning, it was about 20°F as I left the house... and with the wind chill, it was something on the order of 3 degrees. In other words, about the same frigid start to the day we had yesterday.

No, it wasn’t anything like International Falls, Minnesota, where it was close to -40°. But for Atlanta, that’s pretty damned cold. Like the proverbial Witch’s Tit in a Steel Brassiere.

One could, therefore, wonder about our rabbi, who on both days showed up at morning Minyan in nothing heavier than a T-shirt and running shorts...

Monday, January 04, 2010

ONE BITE AT A TIME

Elephant

Years later, if you had asked Robbie exactly when it was that he decided to eat the elephant, he would have had trouble coming up with the answer.

Perhaps the seeds had been planted in his early childhood. All those elephant jokes...

Q: What’s red and white on the outside, and grey and white on the inside?

A: Campbell’s Cream of Elephant Soup.

Most kids had simply laughed at what had been one of many elephant jokes that had been circulating at the time. But Robbie was different. He had thought to himself: Hmmm. Elephant soup... what would it be like?

Growing up, however, Robbie gave no thought to elephant or other rare viands. He, like many of his generation, was a meat-eater, plain and simple. And by the time he was an adult, he was a carnivore of the first water. He liked - nay, loved - his red meat. A honking big porterhouse? Cowboy cut ribeye? Smoked brisket? An inch-thick burger, running with juice? Robbie was there. Leg of lamb was about as exotic as Robbie cared to get.

But gradually, over the span of years, a feeling began gnawing at him. Was this all there was? Surely, something more exotic was out there. Something more interesting. Something delicious. Something... big.

Inexorably, the disquieting feelings grew.

His butcher may have been the first to notice it: an unexplainable, faraway look in Robbie’s eyes. It was as if he was looking beyond the meat in the case, gazing off into the distance... but at what? When his number was called, he would, with no little effort, bring himself back to reality and focus his eyes on the slices and chunks of beef right in front of him, forcing himself through the ordeal of placing his order.

Robbie himself knew something was amiss, but he had trouble putting his finger on it. The rich steaks, the majestic cuts of prime rib, the tender braised veal shanks that he used to love had turned to ashes in his mouth. Week after week, dinner became an ordeal of pretending things were normal, pretending that he enjoyed falling to his evening meat as he had in the past.

And then, late one night, Robbie sat bolt upright in bed. Suddenly, he knew what he wanted. What he needed. What he craved.

He wanted elephant.

He wanted elephant with a white hot passion.

He wanted elephant as much as he wanted life itself. He had to have it.

Eating an elephant - an entire elephant - became an obsession. All of his activities began to focus, with laserlike precision, on the end of obtaining and consuming an elephant... no matter the cost.

With money obtained from credit cards and unsuspecting lenders - I’ll pay them back later, somehow, he said to himself - Robbie made clandestine arrangements with a few easily-corrupted officials at the local zoological garden. There was an elephant there, a superannuated old codger known as Ezekiel, who was showing signs of reaching the end of his lengthy elephantine lifespan. If Zeke were to, say, trumpet his way off this mortal coil a bit, ahhh, prematurely, why, the zoological garden would need to provide for disposal of the body, would it not? And Robbie was only too eager to help...

Thus it was that, several weeks later, Robbie was the happy owner of a blood-caked band saw and a brace of deep freezers, all packed with gargantuan slabs of freshly-butchered elephant meat. And with his larder fully stocked, Robbie now was ready to set about the business of fulfilling his new dream.

How do you eat an elephant? Robbie knew the answer to that one: One bite at a time. Years ago, he had read a story about a guy who had eaten an entire pickup truck, consuming the vehicle in tiny pieces every day over the course of several years. By God, he would do the same thing! And an elephant, he thought, would surely be more tasty than a Ford F-150.

He set happily to work.

* * * * *

It was several months later, after he had worked his way through about a third of the way through his inventory of elephant meat, that Robbie had a somewhat belated epiphany.

Elephant meat sucked. He loathed it.

It was greasy and rancid-tasting at best, gamey at worst. And not “good” gamey like venison, which he had enjoyed in his pre-elephant days. “Bad” gamey... like bear. Old bear.

Whatever was I thinking? was Robbie’s bitter new mantra.

Robbie missed beef. He missed lamb and duck and ostrich. But he had squandered his money (and all that he could borrow) on elephant, of which he had approximately three metric tons remaining. There was nought else for him but to eat it.

One fucking bite at a time.

BLUE MOON

Marietta Moon
A full moon shines in the early morning sky.

Pammy reminded me that this New Year’s Eve just past was unusual: the kind of New Year’s we see once in a blue moon. Literally.

According to current popular usage, the expression “blue moon” refers to the second full moon in a calendar month, a phenomenon that takes place about once every two-and-a-half years. That it happens at all is owing to the fact that the Gregorian calendar year is about eleven days longer than the lunar year of 354 days.

There were full moons on both December 2 and December 31, 2009: the second of these is the blue moon. The last time a blue moon showed up on a New Year’s Eve, it was 1990 - nineteen years ago.

[It’s no coincidence that the Jewish calendar, which is based on the solar year while at the same time using the moon’s phases to determine the months, has a repeating cycle of nineteen years. Of course, given that every Jewish month begins with the new moon, there can be no blue moons in the Jewish calendar.]

The next New Year’s Eve blue moon will be in another nineteen years: December 31, 2028. As far as a blue moon closing out a decade, that’s an even more unusual event, taking place once every 190 years. The last time it happened was in 1819; the next time will be in 2199. Barring some major advances in Medical Science, I suspect we won’t, alas, be around to see it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

THE NEW VENTURE: A 100-WORD STORY

Dan’s new venture exceeded all expectations. His order book was full, and his appointment calendar was crammed with home demonstrations.

He smiled. If this kept up, he could buy that Boxster he wanted. Oh, yeah, that’d attract the ladies. And that meant more customers... for those ladies flocked to buy his products, the best in the business.

No cheap materials for him. Triple-ply stainless with a copper core, his wares conducted heat perfectly and could be used with just a smidgen of oil.

Dan was poised for success, proudly offering the finest, most durable designer dildos: Steely Dan’s Waterless Cockware!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

IT’S OFFICIAL

Now that we’ve seen It’s Complicated, the new comedy romp starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin, I can report that it is now official:

Alec Baldwin has become his father.

I’m not talking about the character he plays in the movie. I’m referring to his remarkable barrel-chestedness, coupled with his greying hair. Alec now looks exactly like his Dad used to look, a sort of real-life Fred Flintstone... if you can imagine Fred dressed in 1960’s Modern Suburbanite in lieu of animal skins.

THE ELISSON BOOKSHELF

The Elisson Bookshelf

Another installment in the ongoing series entitled “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.”

It’s a new year and a new decade, as good a time as any to update my Booky List. Here goes:

September
  • Small Gods - Terry Pratchett

    Pratchett has a brilliant, snarky sense of humor. I’m actually a bit peeved that I liked this book so much, because there are so many more Discworld novels to read.

  • Flood - Stephen Baxter

    Never mind something as trivial as Global Warming. What if something changed deep within the Earth, something that caused enormous quantities of water to be released from deep within the Earth’s mantle... enough to cover the world’s entire landmass with new ocean within the next half-century? An unlikely scenario, but one that forms the backdrop for this thoughtful SF novel.

  • The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

    Dan Brown’s novels are fun to read and not too taxing on the brain. Afterwards, however, I feel like I need to wash a thin but persistent coating of Stupid-Juice from my brain.

October
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes - Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

    This little book was an unexpected pleasure. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more: the jokes, or the philosophical context into which the authors place them.

  • Have a Little Faith - Mitch Albom

    Mitch Albom is not normally my cup of tea: a shitload bit too much on the mawkish and sentimental side for my cynical worldview. But I had to read this, his first nonfiction work since 1997’s Tuesdays with Morrie, because half the book is about Rabbi Albert Lewis... our very own rabbi’s late father.

  • Hitler’s War - Harry Turtledove

    Every time Harry Turtledove comes out with yet another alternate history novel based on some permutation of World War II, I tell myself I’m not gonna buy it... and then I do anyway. Schmuck.

  • The Book of Genesis - Robert Crumb

    The first book of the Bible (both Hebrew and Christian), as brought to visual life by Crumb’s India ink and crowquill pens. Not exactly what you’d expect from the creator of Zap Comix... and it’s a thoroughly faithful rendition.

November
  • The Defector - Daniel Silva

    Yet another Gabriel Allon novel... and one of Silva’s best.

  • Plutonium: A History of the World’s Most Dangerous Element - Jeremy Bernstein

    I like reading about Dangerous Substances. Bernstein is not the most lucid writer, but the material is fascinating.

December
  • The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite - David Kessler

    You’ll never be able to look at the menu at Chili’s the same way again. This book does a great job of explaining why America has a collective Fat Ass.

  • Under the Dome - Stephen King

    Every once in a while, King will crank out a massive tome (this one clocks in at over 1060 pages), and I read it, hoping he has written another The Stand. This one doesn’t quite make it. It starts off just fine, with a brutal murder within the first few pages... plenty of Evil Shenanigans... and it builds to what could have been a huge, powerful climax... but then it just sorta goes flat. Meh.

  • Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son - Michael Chabon

    In this collection of essays, all connected somehow with the business of being a Man in Modern America, Chabon is nostalgic, wistful, loving, tender, perverse, insightful, and funny.

So: What have you been reading lately?

Friday, January 01, 2010

TIPPLE OF CHOICE

This year’s New Year Tipple of Choice?

It’s a draw. All by myself, I killed this fine bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage Brut...

Rosé Sauvage
Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage Brut. Look for the Pepto-Bismol-colored label!

...but the previous evening, as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, we all enjoyed a bottle of Kirkland Brut. Yep: that cheap shit from Costco.

Cheap? Well, reasonable. Somewhere around $20 the bottle, if I recall correctly. But an extraordinary value, for it was not only real Champagne, but a damn good one. Dry, crisp, with just the right balance of acidity and fruit.

Why drink some bulk-processed California crap when you can get the Real Thing for less than $25? [A tip o’ th’ Elisson Fedora goes to Houston Steve for the recommendation.]

THE MIRACLE INGREDIENT

She Who Must Be Obeyed has been on a new food program for the last four weeks, and so far her results have been spectacular: over ten pounds lost, along with several inches from all of the key physical measurements.

She looks wonderful.

Only thing is, her diet seems to be low in fiber. SWMBO hasn’t seen the inside of a restroom in weeks. Hasn’t needed to.

This made me a little nervous, so I checked the list of ingredients on one of her pre-packaged meals. Everything looked to be exceptionally well-balanced, with sensible proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals. A closer look at the list, though, and suddenly it all made sense. Because one of the major ingredients is the miraculous new medicament...

Nomeikacockatol™!

REQUEST NUMBER: PUDDING AND CAT

I received a special New Year’s request from Rahel, a Bloggy-Buddy of long standing who writes over at Elms in the Yard.

“Now bring us some figgy pudding... and some pics of Hakuna!”

Rahel being a fellow ailurophile, it’s no surprise she would like to see a few shots of Her Hakunaness. On the other hand, a request for Figgy Pudding is a bit unusual coming from Israel. Nevertheless, never let it be said that Elisson does not try to please his Esteemed Readers.

First, the Figgy Pudding. Most of us are familiar with the old Christmas carol:

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding
And a cup of good cheer

We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
So bring it right here

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year


What is this Figgy Pudding, a treat so desirable that it causes carolers to threaten their listeners with an eternity of caroling and Doorstep-Encampment should it be withheld? It’s nothing more or less than Plum Pudding, AKA Christmas Pudding, a traditional British dish made with flour, suet, and dried fruits - a treat about which I have written previously.

We had a Figgy Pudding just a couple of weeks ago, at the Third Annual Aubrey-Maturin Dinner hosted by Houston Steve and Yours Truly. Flambéed with cognac and served with lashings of crème Anglaise (i.e., vanilla-flavored custard sauce), it was both spectacular and delicious.

Here it is, right out of the steaming basin:

Christmas Pudding

Looks kinda like an Ebonite bowling ball.

Now we apply the flaming brandy:

Christmas Pudding Aflame

Presto! Figgy Pudding!

And now, Hakuna... who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about figgy pudding:

Reclining Hakuna

Here’s another. (Rahel asked for “some pics,” not “one pic.”)

Regal Hakuna

Remember: Elisson delivers, baby!

Update: Friday Ark #277 is afloat at the Modulator. Want more cats? Go visit iMeowza Sunday evening for the latest installment of Carnival of the Cats.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN - NEW DECADE EDITION

Yes, indeedy: Not only is it Friday, it’s the first day of a new year... and of a new decade.

Did you have fun last night? We did. We partied like it was 1999 2009.

I’m not sure what people will end up calling this decade, the second of the Two-Thousands. My suggestion is the “Twenteens” - because now we can finally get away from saying Two-Thousand-Oh-Whatever and just say Twenty-Ten. It saves a syllable, too - which means that anytime you hear someone call this year Two Thousand Ten, you’ll know that that person is just a fucking blowhard who likes to hear the sound of his or her voice.

Call it Twenty-Ten, peeps. Seriously.

I can’t remember what kind of music was popular ten years ago, try as I might... and I have no idea what kind of music will be popular ten years from now. Synth-hop, trance metal, overload, bobbitty-bah, thrash-klezmer... it’s anybody’s guess. But as a certified Old Fart - a card-carrying AARP member, no less - I’ll probably still be spinning Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, the Beatles, and all that other superannuated crap. (Spinning being an already superannuated reference to the days when music was stored on flat plastic discs called “elpees.”)

But right now, it’s now, not ten years from now. So let’s see what Randomly Assembled Tunage the iPod d’Elisson has horked out for us today:
  1. Bruised - Ben Folds

  2. Dance The Night Away - Cream

  3. Chop ’Em Down - Matisyahu

  4. I Believe My Own Eyes - Tommy - Original Broadway Cast

  5. By the Sea - Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd - Original Broadway Cast

  6. I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles

  7. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon - Urge Overkill

  8. London Calling - The Clash

    London calling to the faraway towns
    Now war is declared, and battle come down
    London calling to the underworld
    Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
    London calling, now don’t look to us
    Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust
    London calling, see we ain’t got no swing
    ’Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

    [Chorus 1:]
    The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
    Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
    Engines stop running, but I have no fear
    ’Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

    London calling to the imitation zone
    Forget it, brother, you can go it alone
    London calling to the zombies of death
    Quit holding out, and draw another breath
    London calling, and I don’t wanna shout
    But while we were talking, I saw you nodding out
    London calling, see we ain’t got no high
    Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

    [Chorus 2: x2]
    The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
    Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
    A nuclear error, but I have no fear
    ’Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

    Now get this

    London calling, yes, I was there, too
    An’ you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
    London calling at the top of the dial
    After all this, won’t you give me a smile?
    London calling

    I never felt so much alike [fading] alike alike alike


  9. Take Me Back - Randy Newman

  10. Sunflowers - Paul Cantelon, Everything Is Illuminated

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?