Friday, April 30, 2010


Paring the proboscis to peeve the physiognomy - cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face - is rarely a good idea. But that’s exactly what is happening as declines in state and local tax revenues force spending cuts.

There are certain state services that really need to be supported in order to maintain a functioning, habitable society. You can’t do without police and fire protection. And, although the effects of cutbacks are less immediate, you can’t do without education.

Teachers have a hard enough go of it even in good times. Salaries are well below those available in private industry, and under the current No Child Left Behind philosophy of ensuring that, by 2014, every child in the United States is above average - Lake Wobegon writ large - a teacher’s career, more than ever, depends on factors beyond his or her control. If you work in an economically disadvantaged school, or if you teach a class with a large cohort of students on the low end of the bell-shaped Intelligence Distribution Curve, you are well and truly fucked.

But now, with state money thin on the ground, teachers are getting hammered. I’m talking about involuntary furloughs, RIF’s (Reductions in Force, a corporate-sounding euphemism for “firing a shitload of people”), and elimination of whole programs. The net effect: Fewer teachers, fewer programs, and less pay... without any change in the huge Unfunded Mandates like NCLB that must be accommodated.

Cutting education spending may be an unfortunate and dire necessity, a cascade effect of declining tax rolls, a nation- and worldwide economic meltdown, and record unemployment. But it’s an action of desperation akin to eating your seed corn, the full effects of which will - make no mistake about it - be severe and long-lasting. [And it’s not as though Georgia has that far to go before its quality of education is ranked dead last.]

Good schools attract employers and help create a productive, competitive workforce. Conversely, bad schools drive away prospective residents, employers, and jobs. Maybe our honorable governor should rethink his priorities so that Georgia remains an attractive and economically sound place to live and raise a family.


Friday Ark #293 is afloat over at the Modulator.

One of these days, I’m gonna figure out just what, exactly, this guy modulates over there.

For more cat-related foolishness, head on over to iMeowza this Sunday evening, where the 320th edition of Carnival of the Cats will be hosted by (of course) Meowza. (I suspect Mog will be involved as well.)

Update: CotC #320 is up.


Viernes. Freitag. Yom ha-Shishi. Vendredi. Venerdi. Vrijdag. Perjantai. Jumat. Xīngqí wǔ. Kin yōbi.

Any way you say it, it’s Friday... and time for the Friday Random Ten, the weekly Mess o’ Musicality as coughed up by the iPod d’Elisson. Let’s see what’s playing today:
  1. Act I, Scene 1: The People Are The Heroes Now - John Adams, Nixon in China

  2. Lumeen nukkuneet - Alamaailman Vasarat

  3. The Hussein Skank - Skankin’ Pickle

  4. Señorita - Chick Corea and Béla Fleck

  5. Absolutely Free - Big Swifty & Associates

    Being an instrumental cover of the Frank Zappa tune.

  6. Lonely At The Top - Randy Newman

    I’ve been around the world
    Had my pick of any girl
    You’d think I'd be happy, but I’m not
    Ev’rybody knows my name
    But it’s just a crazy game
    Oh, it’s lonely at the top

    Listen to the band, they’re playing just for me
    Listen to the people paying just for me

    All the applause - all the parades
    And all the money I have made
    Oh, it’s lonely at the top

    Listen all you fools out there
    Go on and love me - I don’t care
    Oh, it’s lonely at the top
    Oh, it’s lonely at the top

  7. Bogus Pomp - Frank Zappa

  8. Euphonius Whale - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

  9. Scar Tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers

  10. Killer Inside Me - MC 900 Foot Jesus

    You’ve probably seen me hanging around
    I’m a very familiar face in this town.
    A day doesn’t go by that I don’t meet
    A lot of my friends walking down the street.
    I’m never too busy to stop by the way
    And I’ve always got something pleasant to say.
    Maybe some perceptive thoughts about the weather
    Or the latest news from Wall Street, whatever.
    I could stand around all day making small talk
    Gushing platitudes, blocking the sidewalk
    Tying people up for hours with ease,
    My one big talent is shooting the breeze.
    When they start to squirm, I really get going
    But only my happy-face smile is showing.
    Why can’t they see what I’m trying to hide,
    I’m bustin’ a gut, laughing on the inside.
    It’s in their smile when I say hello
    I can see they think I’m a little bit slow.
    But after a while with me, they look dazed
    Their eyes covered with a donut glaze.
    I really start to cook when I see that look
    I hit ’em with every cliché in the book.
    Their knees wobble and they start to weave
    It’s like they’re begging for permission to leave,
    They think they are having a brush with stupidity
    I don’t laugh, even though it’s killing me.
    Watching them wilt like day-old flowers
    Ticking off the minutes as they turn to hours.
    They are wondering how much more they can take
    I give ’em a friendly smile and a handshake.
    We say goodbye very politely
    Now say hello to the killer inside me

    Now say hello to the killer inside me.
    Everybody has their doubts about my sanity
    But nothing happens ’cause they all feel sorry for me
    I’ve got the whole town under my thumb
    and all I’ve gotta do is keep acting dumb.
    “Oh that boy Lou,” they say, “what a guy,
    A little on the slow side but wouldn’t hurt a fly”
    “And such a gentleman!” “Oh yes, I know.
    He sure can talk your ear off though!”
    I tip my hat and pretend I don’t hear
    Grinning like a half-wit from ear to ear
    I can think of a thousand ways to say hello
    So I start through ’em all, and go real slow.
    They listen hard, and act like they care.
    How can they be so completely unaware
    Of the truth the answer is always denied me
    So I introduce them to the killer inside me.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, April 29, 2010


My mother-in-law survived Auschwitz, and I am trying to survive my mother-in-law.

[From The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Irwin W.]


[Another Guest Post - this one a 100-word birthday tribute to Hakuna by long-time admirer Rahel.]

Somewhere in eastern North America is a cat the color of mocha, chocolate, and café-au-lait. The legend goes that those who stroke her fur and hear her purr shall have good fortune.

But – it is said – this cat does not let just anyone approach. Only a lucky few may come close, extend a hand for sniffing, and then, in fear and trembling, offer her the tribute of a skritch.

The line extends eastward, over an ocean and beyond a sea, to a woman at the edge of a desert.

She gazes at the screen, into the blue eyes...

and waits.

[Happy birthday, Hakuna!]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This is your Birthday Song!
(It isn’t very long.)

Attentive Hakuna

Today is Hakuna’s fifteenth birthday!

She’s a Senior Citizen in Kitty-Years, but she still scampers around like a kitten when I trot out the Red Dot Machine.

I would give her special treats, but Hakuna disdains special food of any kind. And so she will needs be content with some extra ear-scratches.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


[The following is a 100-word Guest Post by Houston Steve - and his first-ever 100-word story.]

In 2021 I was a 14 year old immigrant; carried my green card everywhere. No telling when a policeman would reasonably suspect I was illegal.

I envied the Americans. When we entered a building, they weren’t questioned, but someone would always demand to see my “papers.” I looked like them; talked like them. Texans sounded more out of place here in Massachusetts.

In 2026 I took the oath. Afterwards a syringe was inserted behind my right ear. It was injected.

Those doorpost flags were readers, not American mezuzahs. Now I was like my friends, and I had my American citizenchip.


Winey Elisson

Alas, I will not be attending the April Guild event, AKA the Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting at Kyma this evening. Not that I don’t enjoy Greek food and wine - I most certainly do. A gyros sandwich makes my head spin, I love a nice slab of lamb, and I even will drink retsina, the often-despised turpentine-flavored Greek vino that derives its peculiar pong from the addition of pine resin.

Denny will have to handle this one on his own. Perhaps Houston Steve will be there to exchange politically charged bons mots with him as they get their collective Greek Freak on.

What’s on the menu? Let’s take a look:

Speaker’s Wine:
Domaine Spiropoulos Brut Moschofilero “Ode Panos” NV

First Flight:
Domaine Spiropoulos Mantinia Moschofilero 2008
Dalamara Malagousia 2007
Domaine Sigalas Santrini Assyrtiko 2008

Grilled octopus with pickled red onion salad, red wine vinaigrette. Seared tuna herb crusted ahi tuna, quinoa salad, preserved lemons, pine nuts, tomato, mint

Second Flight:
Popova Kula Tikves Vranec 2005
Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2007
Gaia Nemea Agiorghitiko “Notios” 2008

“Tiropitakia”: cheese pie with blend of four Greek cheeses, baked in country phyllo. Three-boned pork rib, coriander yogurt

Third Flight:
Pape Johanea Nemea Agiorghitko (Old Vine) 1999
Paivou Nemea Agiorghitiko (Reserve) Vintage TBD
Domaine Skouras Nemea Agiorghitiko “Grande Cuvee” 2006

Single cut marinated lamb chop. Braised Acadian redfish, onions, carrots, celery, potato, garlic, tomato “plaki”

Achaia Clauss Patras Mavrodaphne NV

Baklava “boureki” (rolled baklava), candied pistachios

It will all be delectable, I’m sure. Opa!

Monday, April 26, 2010


Zelig, you may recall, is the title of a 1983 Woody Allen film about one Leonard Zelig, a “human chameleon” who had no identity of his own, but who would take on the characteristics of the people around him.

I’m a little like that. Not quite the same as the Zelig of the eponymous movie, my talent is a sort of Zelig-like ability to be mistaken for a member of whatever ethnic group I find myself among.

If I’m in a crowd of Italians, everyone assumes I’m Italian.

When I am amongst Greeks, everyone thinks I’m Greek.

With Turks, I am Turkish. Russians, Russian. Albanians, Albanian. I can pass... until I open my mouth, of course.

There are exceptions. Nobody ever thinks I am Scottish, Irish, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or Asian. (Well, actually, someone once thought I was Asian. But that person was either drunk or terminally stupid.)

Perhaps the strangest instance of my Zelig-osity took place at a party She Who Must Be Obeyed and I attended in Houston some fifteen years ago. Our neighbor across the street was the Indian consul, and one evening he and his wife decided to do some Major Entertaining. The guest list included representatives from pretty much every diplomatic mission in Houston, a gaggle of consular officials from every continent - plus a handful of The Locals sprinkled in. We, along with a few of our other neighbors, served as The Locals.

As I wandered through the house with SWMBO, drink and tandoori chicken drumstick in hand, Zelig moments started taking place at regular intervals. People were genuinely surprised to find out that I was a “mere” neighbor rather than an ambassador from some exotic foreign locale. (Ireland excepted.) Things got even stranger, however...

There was a small group of bearded men wearing white robes and headcoverings sitting together in one corner of one room. When they saw me, the immediately motioned me over and introduced themselves as the Iranian consular mission. Possibly owing to the beard I wore at the time, they were absolutely convinced that I was Iranian. When I politely explained that, no, I was not, at first they didn’t believe me.

“You must be Iranian.”

“No, no - really, I’m not. Trust me on this one.”

And when they finally gave up and invited me to visit their country one day, I said I would be honored to do so.

Under my breath, I added, “Ven di Moshiach kimmt (when the Messiah comes).”


On Mondays and Thursdays, our morning Minyan services include a Torah reading. The scroll is removed from the Ark, paraded around the chapel, laid down upon the shulchan - the reading table - and the ba’al korei (reader) chants three brief sections from the week’s portion.

The Morning Reading
Reading a slice of Sefer Vayikra (the Book of Leviticus). From left to right: Elisson, gabbai aleph; Barney C., the honoree; Judith S., the reader; Eraj, gabbai bet.

Two gabbaim stand on either side of the shulchan. Their job is to call up those who will recite the Torah blessings before and after each reading; to call up those who will lift and roll the scroll after the readings are completed; to recite the Mi-Shebeirakh prayer for the sick; and to correct any errors that the reader may make. (Because the Torah scroll contains no vowels or musical notes - only consonants - even the most well-prepared reader will make an occasional mistake.)

I serve as one of the gabbaim - except on those infrequent days when I am actually doing the reading. And because I recite the prayer for the sick, I know who is on The List - the list of those who are in need of healing.

This morning, Eraj, a fellow Minyan regular, returned to our morning Minyan after a one-week absence to sit shiva for his mother, who passed away a week ago Friday. And he returned to his usual spot, standing on the opposite side of the shulchan from me.

When it came time to recite the Mi-Shebeirakh, I knew that there was one name I would have to omit from The List. And I shed a silent tear for Eraj’s mother Goha. I had never met her, but I had included her name in my Mi-Shebeirakh prayers for as long as I can remember. But, alas, no longer.

There are only two ways to get off The List once you’re on it. You either get well... or you don’t.

I added another name to The List today - the mother of a dear friend, who had had a close call a few days ago. I’m hoping she’s not on The List very long... and that she gets off for the right reason.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Welcome to Edition Number 264 of Haveil Havalim, AKA Vanity of Vanities, the Jewish Blog-Carnival. Here’s the quick ’n’ dirty Explanation and Mission Statement:

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs - a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits, and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack B. Nimble. The term “Haveil Havalim,” which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Megillat Kohelet (the Book of Ecclesiastes), written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other excesses and realized that it was all nothing but havel - vanity.

Before we get underway, let me extend a hearty barukhim habaim - welcome! And in case you’re new to Blog d’Elisson, feel free to wander off and peruse the archives here once you’re through checking out this week’s Carnival posts. I write a “kitchen sink” blog (as in “everything but the...”), but there are numerous posts on Jewish topics amongst all the other narrischkeit.

And now, let the linkage begin...


If the notoriously-offensive-to-pretty-much-everyone South Park were to show Moshe Rabbeinu dressed in a bear suit (Moshe Doveinu?), would we Jews get all bent out of shape about it? At SimplyJews, SnoopyTheGoon writes about the response from another Abrahamic religion when faced with a similar situation.

Dan Illouz wants you to know that when you visit his site, you can do more than simply read the posts - you can engage in an online chat on topics relating to Judaism and Israel. So, nu - what are you waiting for? Chat, already!

If you could simply take a pill and instantly have your head filled with, say, a college education, would you do it? Mordechai Torczyner, AKA The Rebbetzin’s Husband discusses the difference between learning and knowledge in this thought-provoking post. The money quote: “The Torah’s mitzvah is to learn, not to know. The search really is what matters.” Amein v’ amein.

Dovid ben Letterman never did a “Top Ten Oldest Books Known to Man,” but now he doesn’t need to. According to Isabella Smith at Online Degree, “the literature currently considered the oldest in the world may shift in line with newer, more exciting technologies. These ancient texts will always remain amongst the oldest known to humanity.”

As an October/Tishrei kid, I would have been devastated to find out that, had I been in gan in my Snot-Nose Days, my birthday party would have been postponed. At least, that’s what I learned from Mrs. S. (Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress) in her post about Postponed Parties.


Chaviva (who encourages us to “Just Call Me Chaviva”) recounts the story of her recent visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. [I’ve visited the Museum several times myself – I can keep my emotions in check only until I see the piles of victims’ shoes, and, inevitably, I lose it completely.]

Daled Amos, writing at Israeli Settlements, points out a fact that is all too often overlooked by the folks who moan about the plight of the “Palestinians”: that before Jewish economic development attracted large numbers of Arabs to Palestine, it was a virtually empty land. Important reading!


Ever wonder what Elisson is thinking as he davens Tachanun? Now you know.

In these enlightened days, although women daven at the Kotel and are ordained as rabbis, we draw the line at the Kiddush Club. The inimitable Heshy Fried discusses the weighty issue of women who wish to take on the responsibility of additional mitzvos at Frum Satire.

Benji Lovitt (What War Zone???) guest-blogs at and gives us this year’s list of 62 more things I love about Israel, a perfect way to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.

SnoopyTheGoon throws us a zoological treatise on the rare Gazan yeti. [Gotta love the Snoopster - after all, he also refers to his Better Half as SWMBO!]


We lead off this category with a Posty-Trifecta from Israelity: a look at shop windows as the country prepares for Yom Ha-atzmaut; reflections on Yom Ha-zikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day; and one that really defies categorization, asking whether hookworms are (as Martha Stewart might say) a good thing. [Hey, don’t be so horrified - a hundred years ago, they used to sell tapeworms as an aid to losing weight. Really.]

Risa, AKA the Isramom, enjoys a family Yom Ha-atzmaut at Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev in this lovely post entitled Making Deserts Bloom and Other Miracles. In another post, she shares some reflections on Yom Ha-zikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. I like her comparison of the sound of the sirens to the sound of the shofar.

Jacob Richman gives us more Good News from Israel with his post about the latest series of Israeli educational stamps. A must-read for philatelists... and anyone else who wants to see Israeli technology celebrated on little bitty sticky pieces of paper.

This week’s summary of issues relating to Religion and State in Israel can be found here in two manageable chunks: Part 1 and Part 2, thanks to Joel Katz.

At Esser Agaroth (Two Cents), Ben-Yehudah gives us his ten agaroth two cents’ worth, inviting us to Dr. Rabbi Sholom Gold’s lecture on the relationship between Israel and evangelical Christians. If you’re planning to be in Jerusalem on Monday, 26 April, you may want to check this out.

Yosef Silver offers us a photo taken during a recent trip to Israel: a view of the beach at Atlit. Says Yosef, “There’s nothing like spending a little quality time Up North with my family and my camera.”

Mordechai, our favorite Rebbetzin’s Husband, elucidates an anthropomorphic vision of Israel as both Motherland and Mother. Food for thought.

Galit, the Minnesota Mamaleh, wishes Israel a happy sixty-second!


Can a new festive holiday - Yom Ha-atzmaut - be celebrated after the destruction of the Second Temple? Yisroel, writing at Artzeinu discusses some of the halachic implications of observing Yom Ha-atzmaut.

Jewish traditions of mourning and bereavement are a powerful tool for dealing with the Holocaust, says David Fryman in this post at The Bennett Commentary.

At Tzedek-Tzedek, David Morris turns the blogging reins over to a guest writer, a victim of sex abuse who tells a story of her visit to the RBS mikvah and the difficulties it presented to a person who, understandably, feels especially vulnerable. In a second mikvah-related post, he discusses the mikvah in Ramat Bet Shemesh, control of which is currently being contested between the Rabbinical Council (Moetza Hadatit) and the independent Chareidi Rabbonim. If Rodney King were Jewish, he might be inspired to say, “Can’t we all just get along... without alla this sinat chinam?”

From The Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters News we have a memorial tribute to the late Rabbi Moshe Eliyahu Gerlitzky.

Writing at The Torah Revolution, Ariel Ben Yochanan states that “Some say Judaism is a culture, not a religion. I say it’s a mission.” Collective and individual tshuva is a necessity in order for Israel to have peace at the end of the day, says Ariel.

Rav Yehoishophot Oliver, posting at A Chassidishe farbrengen, tells us how to live up to our human potential.


Batya, over at me-ander, reminds us to send those kosher recipes and food-related post links in to the Kosher Cooking Carnival. Well, what are you waiting for? The Moshiach?

Leora Wenger (Here in HP), who will be hosting the next Kosher Cooking Carnival on May 16, also pitches the KCC... and lobs us a gorgeous apple pie recipe in the same post. I’m gonna plotz from all that deliciousness...

It never would have occurred to me that you could find a restaurant called “Traif” in Williamsburg, of all places... but there you are. Mottel weighs in on Jason Marcus’s new dining spot at Letters of Thought... and then he gets to deal with the trolls the above post brings out.


Elie writes a touching Yahrzeit post in remembrance of his son Aaron.

At me-ander, Batya shares a story of loss: And Then There Was One. Ha-Makom yenakhem etkhem b’toch sha’ar aveilei tzion viy’rushalayim... In a separate (and happier) post, she tells us about preparations for summer. Get a load of those baby grapes!

Rabbi Leigh Ann Kopans, The Frugal Ima herownself, tells us the story of how she became a Frugal Ima. Her blog is a great place to pick up advice on how to live frugally and simply within a Jewish context - be sure to check it out.

Neil Fleischmann is not just NY’s Funniest Rabbi - he’s also a teacher... and a poet.

Is genealogy a stupid waste of time? Not according to Friar Yid, who says roots have value.


Robert J. Avrech, keeper of the Seraphic Secret, presents a doomsday scenario that he sees as a possible result of the Obama administration’s incredibly naive [my adjective] foreign policy. I wish I could say it was completely far-fetched... but I cannot. Scary.

More on Iran from Eric at The Israel Situation, who asks, “Could Israel Attack Iran Alone?” It is, alas, not a rhetorical question. And, pssst - ya wanna book? Eric’s giving them away to lucky RSS feed subscribers. Learn how to get yours here.

Dan Illouz writes at the eponymous - Zionism, Judaism and Leadership. Here, he provides Three Reasons Why I Became a Member of the Likud. In another post, he reminds us that the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States benefits both parties - it’s most definitely not a one-way street, despite what some U.S. administration officials are trying to propound.

Batya, this time at Shiloh Musings, reminds us not to underestimate the Arabs.


Giving credit where credit is due is more than just good manners: It’s The Right Thing To Do. Thus sayeth SoMeHoW Frum!

At Geshmack Torah, NonymousG provides an analysis of some of the finer points of the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents.

Good deeds or faith - which is more effective at bringing us closer to an understanding of the Divine? It’s not just a point of discussion and/or disagreement between Jews and Christians - it’s the topic of this thought-provoking post at David Fryman’s The Bennett Commentary.

That concludes this edition of Haveil Havalim. If I’ve somehow managed to omit a submission, please send me an e-mail at elisson1 (at) aol (dot) com and I’ll be happy to plug it in. And don’t forget to submit your carefully-selected blog articles to the next edition of Haveil Havalim using our handy-dandy Blog Carnival submission form!

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Friday, April 23, 2010


“Say, kids - what time is it?” - Buffalo Bob

Those of us of a certain age (“old as dirt”) might remember the above Ritual Greeting that opened each episode of the Howdy Doody Show. And if you’re that old, you remember when most music was purchased in the form of LP’s - long-playing vinyl records that sat on a turntable where a needle, carefully balanced on a tonearm, would ride a spiral groove and vibrate according to the minuscule undulations molded therein. Those vibrations, fed into a preamplifier, amplifier, and pooped out through a set of speakers, provided the soundtrack for our early lives.

I still have a library of some 400-odd LP’s residing the the bowels of Chez Elisson, but it is only rarely that I will take one out and play it. Which is a shame, because there’s plenty of fine music embedded in those grooves... and I cannot bear the expense of repurchasing everything in digital form.

Which leaves me with only some 3,300 tunes to randomize for the sale of our Weekly Exercise. [So if you feel like you’re seeing the same songs over and over, perhaps you are. Deal with it.] All of these tunes, of course, sit comfortably in the electronickal brain of the iPod d’Elisson, smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Remarkable... and yet I suspect that one day our grandchildren will wonder how we could stand lugging that big white Choon-Box around. No doubt they will have devices that can store the entire musical output of Western Civilization on a doohickey the size of a grain of rice.

So: What’s on the box today?
  1. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters - Mahavishnu Orchestra

  2. Helmi otsalla - Alamaailman Vasarat

  3. Inner Mounting Flame - Mahavishnu Orchestra

  4. Illegal Smile (Live) - John Prine

  5. Demons - Fatboy Slim

  6. Alice Childress (iTunes Original Version) - Ben Folds

    Some summers in the evening after six or so
    I walk on down the hill
    And maybe buy a beer
    I think about my friends -
    Sometimes I wish they lived out here
    But they wouldn’t dig this town
    No they wouldn’t dig this town

    Try not to think about it, Alice Childress
    Try not to think about it any more
    Try not to think about it, Alice Childress
    Any more, no not any more

    Alice, the world is full of ugly things that you can’t change
    Pretend it’s not that way
    That’s my idea of faith
    You can blow it off
    And say there’s good in nearly everyone
    Just give them all a chance
    Give them all a chance

    Try not to think about it, Alice Childress
    Try not to think about it any more
    Try not to think about it, Alice Childress
    Any more, no not any more

    No it didn’t work out
    No it didn’t work out
    The way we thought it would
    No it didn’t work out
    An arranged marriage is not so good

    Thank God it’s you - you know your timing is impeccable
    I’m not fooling you
    I don’t know what to do
    Some dude just knocked me cold
    And left me on the sidewalk
    Took everything I had
    Everything I had

    Try not to think about it, Alice Childress
    Try not to think about it any more
    It’s getting late where you are, Alice Childress
    Any more, no not any more
    Any more, no not any more

  7. A Night in Tunisia - Dizzy Gillespie

  8. Just a Gigolo - Louie Prima

  9. Brandenburg - Beirut

  10. Kolomeyke - The Klezmatics

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Captain Steve’s hand is firm upon the helm as he guides the legendary Friday Ark on its 292nd voyage, sailing the billows of the Bloggy Sea with its cargo of Miscellaneous Beasties. And our own Hakuna hangs from the bowsprit, miaowing, “I’m Queen of the World!”

Carnival of the Cats #319 goes up this Sunday at Three Tabby Cats in Vienna. Hmmm... Vienna, eh? I wonder if Kashim, Othello, and Salome have ever tasted a Sacher-Torte?


We all maintain our own lists of Personal Pet Peeves - the things that piss us off on an almost daily basis - and mine is getting longer by the day. It is, perhaps, one of the signs of Advancing Old Age.

One item that’s on my list is the infamous Speed Bump.

Legend (or Wikipedia) has it that the speed bump first appeared in Chatham, New Jersey when the town installed crosswalks several inches above the road level in order to discourage speeders. When you consider that this was 104 years ago when the top speed of a typical automobile was something like 30 MPH, you can only speculate upon just how fast were these people going, anyway?

The purpose of the so-called Sleeping Policeman, of course, is to encourage traffic to slow down, be it on a road or in a parking lot. And while that is a worthwhile purpose, the folks who build and install these things are guilty of overreaching... because while the intention is (or should be) to keep traffic within a posted speed limit, most speed bumps these days seem to be designed to force drivers to come to an almost complete stop, lest they shatter their axles, pop their tires, or break their teeth. And to that, I say a hearty Fuck You.

If a posted speed limit is (say) twenty MPH and the Powers that Be deem that a speed bump is necessary to ensure that drivers don’t zoom by at forty-five, no problem. But fer Gawd’s sake, design the damned thing so that I can negotiate the thing at twenty. Do not force me to bring my car to a virtual standstill. This wastes fuel and chews up my brake pads. And heaven help the people whose house is on fire at the end of a long street full of speed bumps.

OK, that’s enough ranting on Matters Trivial. What’s pissing you off today?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Volcano Aurora
The shimmering aurora borealis provides a backdrop for the glow of volcanic fires from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. [Photograph ©2010 Arnþór Ævarsson. Used by permission.]

Volcanoes have always held a certain fascination for me. When I was a young snot-nose of five or six, I would gaze in rapt attention at the photographs of Parícutin, a volcano that reared its cindery head above the fields of Michoacán, Mexico in 1943 - a mere nine years before I was born. The incandescent fire of those lava fountains captured my childish imagination, tickling the back alleys of my brain-pan with a peculiar combination of fear and curiosity. And National Geographic, with its photos of the 1960 Kilauea eruption, planted in me a lifelong desire to - one day - see a volcano in action.

I have stood at the edge of the Kilauea caldera and looked deep into the Halemaumau fire-pit. I have walked the length of the Thurston lava tube. But, as yet, I have never seen Earth’s molten fire with my own eyes. That one’s still on the Bucket List.

Meanwhile, Ol’ Vulcan has been in the news lately, what with Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano blowing a monster plume of ash into the stratosphere and grounding tens of thousands of European flights. Perhaps the European aviation authorities are being overcautious, but anyone who remembers British Airways flight 9 won’t question their decision.

In June, 1982, BA9, a Boeing 747 enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, lost all four engines when it encountered a cloud of ash from Indonesia’s Mount Galunggung. I’m sure there were any number of folks who filled their trousers after hearing the Captain’s masterfully understated announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.” Fortunately, the crew was able to restart the engines after exiting the ash cloud... but not before a scary gliding descent to bring the plane down to an altitude with breathable air. The 747 limped into Jakarta on three engines, but with no casualties. (Except maybe those trousers.)

But back to Eyjafjallajökull.

The photograph above was taken by Arnþór Ævarsson (the letter þ - thorn - is pronounced “th”) in April, before the second phase of the eruption shut down European airspace mid-month. By a happy coincidence, the Northern Lights were in full play at the time, leading to a striking juxtaposition of lights from both earth and sky. As Arnþór himself says in another masterful understatement, it was “my biggest Kodak moment.”

Ya gotta love Iceland. Populated by the descendants of Vikings, packed with stunningly gorgeous blondes, and with active volcanoes to boot. I’ve gotta get me a ticket... when atmospheric conditions permit, of course.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Backlit Hakuna

It’s been a while since I’ve put up a picture of Hakuna, whose fifteenth birthday comes around next week. Time for a Kitty-Quinceañera!

Monday, April 19, 2010


The discerning Southern gentleman develops a taste for chocolate cake early on. I, being a transplanted Yankee (gasp!) never thought of chocolate cake as being an especially manly confection... until I met the Sacher-Torte.

Chocolate cake lovers are familiar with this torte, created in 1832 to satisfy Prince Metternich’s jones for a “dense, solid, masculine cake.” The regular pastry chef being ill, an apprentice, one Franz Sacher, stepped up to the plate and created what would become the most internationally famous cake in history... even more renowned than Fudgie the Whale.

Franz’s son Eduard carried on his father’s legacy, studying the Bakely Arts with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at Demel’s Café, where the recipe for the Sacher-Torte evolved into its current form. (While Franz put layers of apricot jam in the center of the cake as well as on top, under the chocolate glaze, Eduard’s version had the jam only on the top of the cake.)

Later, Eduard would open a grand hotel - the Hotel Sacher, of course - to honor his family’s name and, not incidentally, to capitalize on his daddy’s famous cake. It’s pleasant (albeit silly) to imagine the housekeeping staff leaving slices of Sacher-Torte on guests’ pillows in lieu of mints.

Eventually, there arose a grand pissing contest in the Austrian courts over who had the rights to the Original Sacher-Torte. Was it Demel’s Café, where Eduard perfected the recipe... or the Hotel Sacher, whose new owners began selling the cake as well? One would think that in 1938, when the courts first took this issue up, that there were more important fish to fry: After all, there were Jews to deport! But the case dragged on until the mid-1960’s, with precious little impact. You can still get the cake - with minor differences in composition and nomenclature - at both the Hotel Sacher and at Demel’s Café.

It is indeed, as Prince Metternich demanded, a masculine cake. Leavened by egg whites alone, it has a moderately dense texture and a rich, yet not overly sweet chocolate flavor, with an additional fillip provided by the thin layer of apricot and a luxuriant chocolate glaze. The torte must be served with a generous dollop of schlag - unsweetened whipped cream - and preferably accompanied by lashings of hot, milky coffee.

I made one of these bad boys for our contribution to last Friday night’s Potluck Shabbat Dinner, and it was an apparent success. The recipe I used, from the venerable Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, has a shinier, softer glaze than the original Sacher-Torte, but that’s not a bad thing.


Give the Austrians credit: Though they may have preferred goose stepping over goose liver, they at least know their Chocolate Cake.


Houston Steve was kind enough to forward this piece of important late-breaking news from England:
The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service... turned up with a special equipment unit from St Mary’s station in Southampton and seven firefighters to help, in what a spokesman understatedly described as a “delicate operation.”
Said delicate operation involved freeing a gentleman’s membrum virile from a stainless steel pipe in which he had somehow managed to get it, er, ahhh... stuck.

How this may have happened is best left as an exercise for the imagination. The article does not provide any sort of hypothesis, stating that “the man, thought to be aged around 40, did not explain to hospital staff how exactly the pipe got stuck around his penis.” Which leaves us to exercise our perfervid imaginations.

Of course, for some things no explanation is necessary. Or desirable, for that matter. All you need to know is, a guy was involved. [Although in this case he may more properly have been described as a “bloke.”] And some guys - the exact percentage is unknown, but it is not insignificant - will stick their John Thomases into pretty much anything that resembles a hole. Just ask Anna Nicole Smith.

There is no mention of whether alcohol was a factor in this incident, but I say you can take it to the bank: There was. Ogden Nash once famously said, “Candy / Is Dandy / But liquor / Is quicker.” And I’ll add, “If you have enough liquor / You might attempt something sicker / Than merely to dick ’er.” The question that must be answered, of course, is just how drunk do you have to be when a stainless steel pipe starts bringing Teh Sexy?

A guy, some booze, and something that resembles a hole. A recipe for disaster.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


When Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm were little tykes, there were few things in the way of Family Activities we enjoyed more than Reading Aloud.

Back as far as Toddler Days, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I would read to the girls. Little Golden Books featuring Cookie Monster and Grover were huge favorites... as were others such as Bembelman’s Bakery, Eloise, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

[It took them twenty-seven years, but Hollywood finally figured out a way to bring that story to the big screen... and completely fuck it up in the process. The book, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by her (then) husband Ron Barrett, is utterly charming. The movie? Not so much.]

We would read, read, read those books until our throats were hoarse - and then we’d read some more. The girls never tired of hearing ’em.

Elder Daughter, even back in her toddlerhood, had a frighteningly prodigious memory. After hearing a story only once or twice, she could quote great swaths of it at the slightest provocation. This posed no problem with tales such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other components of the Beatrix Potter oeuvre, but the day came when a two-year-old Elder Daughter (at the time, Only Daughter) proceeded to recite the entire text of perhaps the most politically incorrect story of all time - Little Black Sambo - to the eleven-year-old African-American girl sitting next to her on our flight from New York to Atlanta. Things might have gotten a bit sketchy had Elder Daughter’s elocution been a bit clearer... but as it was, SWMBO and I were trying to decide how both of us could fit underneath the seats in front of us.

As the girls grew older, so did our choice of Read-Aloud material change. On long car trips, we would read weighty tomes like Great Expectations and Gulliver’s Travels, the latter being one of the all-time great satirical novels.

The girls were greatly entertained... although SWMBO was horrified to learn that “Pumblechook” was actually the name of a Dickens character, not merely a deliberately mispronounced descriptor for a certain type of Body Hair.

Many years have gone by since Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm lived at home. Reading aloud is one of those family activities that has gone by the wayside... hopefully to be resumed when, at some unknowable future date, the Missus and I are blessed with grandchildren. And yet...

...a few evenings ago, the Mistress stopped by for an overnight sojourn, and out came the old Eloise books. And now it was her turn to read aloud. To us.

Reading Eloise
“Nanny says she would rawther I didn’t
talk talk talk all the time
She always says everything 3 times
like Eloise you cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t
Sometimes I hit her on the ankle with a tassel
She is my mostly companion”

Ooooooooooooooooooo, I absolutely love The Plaza


Some time back, I wrote a post that mentioned the Hershey Bar Scam. [Never mind that it was a post about toilet paper, a product that should probably never be mentioned in the same breath as Hershey bars for several scatologically pungent reasons.]

Just to refresh your memory, the Hershey Bar Scam was the sneaky way the good folks in the chocolate industry dealt with fluctuating raw material costs. Instead of jacking up the price of a candy bar to cover increased raw material costs, they would simply shrink the bar... and so it was that the 2-ounce nickel Hershey bar you could have bought in 1930 eventually withered away to a mere ¾ ounce less than forty years later. Things might have gone on like that even longer, but it got to the point where you would have needed a magnifying glass to see a nickel chocolate bar - and so prices began to rise.

This has been going on so long, I no longer pay attention to it... and, probably, neither do you. Getting less stuff for more money is nothing new. Anyone who visits a supermarket - especially if one is there for the purpose of purchasing food in order to feed one’s family - is all too familiar with the phenomenon. It affects way more than chocolate bars. Hell, it affects way more than just food.

Cars used to have humongous fuel tanks as a matter of routine. Twenty or twenty-five gallon tanks were common in family sedans. Now you see tanks that size only in Winnebagoes. And yet it costs a lot more to fill today’s dinky-ass 14.5-gallon tanks than anyone would have imagined back before the first Oil Shock hit back in 1973-74. Again - this is nothing new.

But lately, an even more disturbing trend has surfaced...

Ole Phat Stu
Ole Phat Stu models the latest Euro-Colander.

Bedam! They’re shrinking colanders now!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Room 33, Open Door
Room 33 at the Hiiragiya Ryokan.

Two years ago this very night, Elder Daughter and I were here.

It was an evening of understated luxury, of tradition. I will never forget it... and I long for the day that I can return with She Who Must Be Obeyed in tow.

Friday, April 16, 2010


It’s another beautiful spring day here in the Atlanta metroplex. The dogwoods are in bloom, my hay fever seems to have subsided a bit, and, of course, it’s Friday... time for the weekend.

Also, it’s time for the Friday Random Ten.

The iPod d’Elisson, packed with 3,294 little chunks of audio miscellany, is ready to disgorge its weekly randomized selection of ten tunes. Let’s see what’s on the playlist today:
  1. The Artilleryman and the Fighting Machine - Jeff Wayne, War of the Worlds

  2. Repent Walpurgis - Procol Harum

  3. Klezmer - Itzhak Perlman

  4. Samson and Delilah - The Barry Sisters and Jan Bart with Sam Medoff and the Yiddish Swingtet

  5. Ladytron - Venus In Furs & Radiohead

  6. She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own) - The Judybats

  7. Danny Diamond - Squirrel Nut Zippers

  8. Rocky Mountain Way - Joe Walsh

  9. Blame It On Cain (Alternate) - Elvis Costello

  10. Brandenburg Concerto #5 In D, BWV 1050 - 1. Allegro - Trevor Pinnock; English Concert

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Biltmore House, with SWMBO and JoAnn in the foreground. [Click to embiggen.]

A few weekends ago, we enjoyed a most pleasant visit to Asheville with our friends Gary and JoAnn. It’s hard to complain about a town that has fine hostelries, excellent dining, and the monstrous, bloated Biltmore House, a monument to nineteenth-century conspicuous consumption that makes today’s Filthy Rich seem like smelly hoboes by comparison. And amusing street names, to boot!

We had been to Asheville before. The four of us sojourned there in the fall of 2007, and in May of the following year, I had traveled there for business under the auspices of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. That last trip afforded me my first jaw-dropping glimpse of Biltmore House, the “Biggest Little Cheesebox Bungalow in the World™.”

This particular visit had originally been scheduled for the end of January, but a freak snowstorm that dumped a record-breaking nine inches on Asheville put the kibosh on that. Other people who tried driving there from Atlanta had all sorts of problems - having to get hauled out of snowbanks, sitting in the car for nine hours - so the decision to cancel allowed us to dodge a Major Bullet.

Thus, our visit was in balmy spring weather instead of the chill of winter. Not altogether bad, I’d say.

We stayed at the Grand Bohemian, a property located just outside the Biltmore portcullis. The rooms were nicely appointed, although it didn’t take long to discern a certain bizarre Mittel-Europaische combination of Fine Art and Deer Hunting motifs.

Everywhere I wandered in that hotel, I kept seeing visual puns. Here are a couple:

Branch Manager
The Branch Manager.

The Octomooose.

But my favorite piece of Hunty Artwork was this fellow:

Wild Boar
They call me Mister Boar.

If you look real close (click the photo to embiggen), you might spot the pin from Helen, Georgia’s Oktoberfest on Mr. Boar’s chapeau. Recalling some of the infamous Bloggy Gatherings there, I suspect he’d fit right in!

The weather was cooperative during most of our stay, bringing moderate temperatures and sunshine as we traipsed the grounds of the Biltmore. Sunday morning, as we prepared to leave, the skies opened up... but it was too late for the rain to put a damper on our weekend. A leisurely breakfast at the Tupelo Honey Café’s new southern branch, and we were on our way back home.

A few more pics below the fold.

Hotel Room
Our room at the Grand Bohemian. Note the antler-lamp.

Greek Bust
Part of the Grand Bohemian’s impressive collection of European classical sculpture. There were more Greek busts here than at an Athenian titty bar.

Biltmore Backyard 2
The long portico at the back of the Biltmore House.

Biltmore Backyard 1
The backyard at the Biltmore, which costs more to mow each year than the GDP of most European countries.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


My experience with computers goes back to the fall of 1970, when, as a callow freshman in college, I encountered the IBM 360.

That was old-school computing at its finest. The damned thing was big enough to fill an entire building, but we rarely ventured there. It was said that a mysterious squad of Geek-Acolytes lived in the Computer Center, where virgins (thin on the ground in those heady days) would be sacrificed, on occasion, to the Calculational Gods. And so we would go to Fine Hall, where there was a convenient Hollerith card-reading station and a printer. You’d stick your deck of punch-cards in the reader, then wait for your job to run. As soon as the printer (a humongous affair the size of a Mini Cooper) would poop out your output, you would collect it, curse at the (inevitable) belatedly-discovered errors, then start all over again with a corrected card deck.

[Fine Hall was an interesting place. Late at night, bizarre scribblings would appear on blackboards, placed there by the so-called “Phantom of Fine Hall.” Said Phantom was none other than John Forbes Nash, Jr., the schizophrenic genius mathematician who would later receive the Nobel Prize for Economics for his work in game theory... and who would eventually be portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind.]

The idea of a computer small enough to sit on your desk - never mind fit in your pocket - was pure moonshine in those days.

Home computing started impinging on our consciousness in 1984 when our friend Donnie Joe bought himself a Macintosh computer. It combined the CPU, disc drive, and monitor in a single, chunky unit... and it used something interesting and new: a mouse. We finally got one for ourselves seven years later - a Macintosh LC - by which time the machine had evolved to where it had a color monitor, a whole megabyte of RAM, and a 30 megabyte hard drive.

That machine, now nineteen years old, sits quietly in our garage. It has been superseded. Many times.

Sometime in the mid-1990’s, it became clear that technological advances had rendered our little Mac LC kludgy and obsolete. Connecting to the then-nascent Internet was possible only after jacking up the RAM, and even then the results were not especially robust. And so we ventured into PC-land.

In our experience, a computer will last for something on the order of four to five years before advances in software, operating systems, and hardware make replacement an increasingly more attractive option. Our most recent desktop machine had been with us for something on the order of six or seven years, and it was definitely showing signs of age. We replaced the hard drive a few years ago, but there just wasn’t enough RAM to keep up with the latest versions of my workhorse applications.

And so we have replaced it... with a shiny new machine that boasts 8 gigs of RAM and a 1 TB (that’s terabyte, y’all - a trillion bytes!) hard drive. And the 27-inch high-definition monitor is tasty, too.

The thing runs like greased lightning. Webpages snap into place, applications boot up almost instantly. Sweet.

Whether it will improve the quality of my blogging remains to be seen. But don’t count on it.

As hot as this new Computing-Engine is right now, I’m sure our grandkids (assuming we eventually have any) will be looking at its dusty, basement-dwelling carcass in fifteen or twenty years, thinking, “Geez - just one terabyte - how could those people live?

Monday, April 12, 2010


During our recent all-too-brief sojourn in Texas, we had a chance to hang out with our nephew William and niece Madison... not to mention Elder Daughter, who also made the trek out west to be with us.

Madison, who is all of three years old, is what you might call a handful.

Madison rides her Artificial Horsie. Yippee-ki-yay!

She is already a past master at the art of manipulation - no surprise, given that she has her big brother upon whom to practice. But she is sweet as sugar... most of the time.

Even though she shares none of my DNA, she seems to have inherited some abilities from me. The tale is told that one recent day, after having completed her toilet training, she announced to her Daddy that she would be “making a poop.” He in turn asked her to call him when she was finished if she needed help cleaning herself up... and when he arrived in the bathroom upon receiving the summons, she announced, “Daddy - you do not want to see what’s in here.”

Perhaps not... but the Guinness Book folks might have. That’s my niece! [When she reads this in twenty years or so, she’ll strangle me.]

Her Daddy has taken to calling her “Madisaurus Rex.” I think it’s a perfect cognomen.


When you’re too lazy to come up with any Bloggy Content of your own, it’s always nice to be able to fall back on the old blogroll.

Take LeeAnn, f’r instance. Her “Random Thoughts While Watching TV” post had me pissing myself laughing. (PMSL, I believe, is how the younguns say it these days.)

Here’s a sample: “When did Jamie Lee Curtis become the keymaster to the pooping-well gate?” It’s a question I have asked myself many, many times... but never out loud.

Go here and read the whole thing.

Friday, April 09, 2010


It’s a gorgeous spring day, the Masters tournament is in full swing, and, to top it off, it’s Friday... time for the Friday Random Ten.

Please try to curb your enthusiasm.

Alas, the iPod d’Elisson, AKA the Little White Choon Box, is 850 miles away at Chez Elisson. But all that means is that we shall exercise the standard Fallback Option, using the iPhone d’Elisson from which to extract today’s Choon-List. There’s a smaller pile of Choons from which to draw, but with over 900 song files, there are still plenty for our purposes.

One nice touch: Our rental car is one of those late-model Korean SUV’s that comes equipped with (!) Bluetooth. Good Gawd! Now I can pair up my iPhone with the car’s stereo system and play my Random Crap without even having to plug anything in.

What’s on the ol’ playlist today? Let’s take a peek:
  1. Lugubrious Whing Whang - Squirrel Nut Zippers

  2. How Could I Be Such a Fool - Frank Zappa

  3. Because - The Beatles

    This is the a capella version from the Love mashup album.

  4. Boxing - Ben Folds

  5. Hine Ani Ba (Here I Come) - HaDag Nachash

    Israeli rap music. Who’d a thunk it?

  6. Blind Love - Tom Waits

  7. Piggy in the Middle - The Rutles

    A clever parody of “I Am the Walrus” by Neil Innes and Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.

  8. E Luxo So - Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

    From the incandescent Jazz Samba, the record that started the Bossa Nova craze in the United States... 48 years ago.

  9. Uncle Meat - Frank Zappa

  10. Urinetown - Urinetown, Original Cast

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


This morning, as our plane lifted off into the skies above Atlanta, both She Who Must Be Obeyed and I noticed a low-lying yellow-green pall over the entire metropolitan area. It could only be that most dreaded of Southern springtime atmospheric phenomena: Pog!

When April comes with its “shoures soote” - sweet showers, as old Geoff Chaucer might have said - Atlantans rightly fear the vagaries of the weather. Powerful Southern-style thunderstorms, some replete with hail and funnel-clouds, are frequent visitors... and a couple of months hence, we will be in the throes of hurricane season. Not that hurricanes per se are a huge problem for north-central Georgia, but they will occasionally swing through in their attenuated tropical storm personae, dumping floodly piles of rain.

But more dreaded still than any of these is Atlanta’s unique curse, the Pog. (Or maybe the Smollen.) It’s a pernicious combination of smog and pollen, an eye-watering, nose-stopping, lung-wrenching devil’s brew. It is, perhaps, the price we pay for being blessed with such an abundance of beautiful flowering trees.

We’ve always known it was a real phenomenon, and today’s aerial view of the city offered compelling visual evidence... that eerie greenish-yellow cloudbank.

The clincher was when I looked out the airplane window and saw a gremlin on the wing. At first I was concerned, but then I realized he was suffering from seasonal allergies so disabling, he couldn’t make any progress in his attempts to rip the cowling off the port side engine.

[Of course nobody believed me when I told them about the gremlin... but after we landed, I saw a wad of used tissues jammed into the engine nacelle...]

Postscript: Upon returning to Atlanta Saturday afternoon, I found the Elissonmobile encrusted with a thick layer of greenish-yellow pollen - this despite the fact that it had been in a covered parking area. I can only imagine what it would have looked like after three days of being parked under open skies...

Monday, April 05, 2010


Saint George Cataract-Harris Shutter

The Harris Shutter effect sprays color throughout this image of a cataract at the St. George fishway in New Brunswick, Canada. [Click on the photo to embiggen.]

Sunday, April 04, 2010


...for my fellow Jawja blogger Dax Montana, who has switched blog domains.

The Dax Files may now be found here... so be sure to update your links and/or RSS feed subscriptions.

I’m pleased to note that the esteemed Mr. Montana has moved his archives to the new site as well. I would have hated to think that I might no longer have access to some of his past classics, but, happily, that is not the case.


Barry’s Backyard
A tranquil Sunday morning in Marietta.

This morning, Christians around the world celebrated Easter, saying, “He is risen!”

And that, Esteemed Readers, is the difference between Christians and Jews in a nutshell. For during the festival of Passover, leavened foods are forbidden to us: That which is risen is strictly off-limits.

Dealing with the Passover dietary restrictions can be tricky, especially for those of us who eat pretty much whatever the hell we want to during the other fifty-one weeks of the year... but it’s manageable. Breakfast, however, is a particular challenge, given that many popular breakfast mainstays (cereal, English muffins, pancakes, waffles) are Pesach no-nos. Which means you have to find ever-more-creative ways to enjoy matzoh, the unleavened bread that is the culinary backbone of the week.

Me, I’m perfectly happy to spread well-softened butter over my matzoh-sheets and wolf them down, accompanied by a cup of coffee. And I might treat myself to matzoh-meal pancakes, a seasonal dish that always brings back pleasant memories of holidays spent with our grandparents in Florida. And then there is matzoh brei, a preparation that looks like it might have resulted from the same sort of accidental collision that created Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups:
“You got your matzoh in my French toast!”

“You got your French toast in my matzoh!”
Like a Jewish Brer Rabbit, I like to visit the matzoh brei-er patch every so often. It’s simple enough to make. You soak broken-up sheets of matzoh (or matzoh farfel, if you’re lazy) in milk or water until they're soft, then fry ’em up in a mixture of milk and eggs until you end up with a sort of French-toasty affair. Crisp or tender, it’s up to you, as is the choice between sweet and savory accompaniments. Whether to go with salt and pepper or butter and maple syrup may be the source of family disagreements, but they are the sort of good-natured arguments in which everyone is a winner.

Today we had a wonderful new version of matzoh brei, courtesy of our friend Malka - bourmalikas, AKA Bulgarian-style matzoh brei. It’s easy as (unleavened) pie to make. You start by soaking sheets of matzoh in water overnight. In the morning, squeeze out as much moisture as possible (a colander, besides being a fashionable item of headgear, is helpful for this purpose), then mash the damp matzoh into well-beaten eggs - one egg for every two sheets of matzoh. Form the mixture into patties and then fry until crisp in vegetable oil, and Boom! You have bourmalikas.

Bourmalikas. Matzoh brei, Bulgarian style.

I had mine savory, decorated with cottage cheese and sour cream; Malka ate hers sweet, dipping each bite into a pile of granulated sugar. They’re excellent either way.

Grape Tomatoes Caprese
Grape Tomatoes Caprese: tomatoes with mozzarella balls and basil, a fine accompaniment.

With stuff like this on hand, I can keep my jones for cold cereal - or the occasional waffle - at bay. I’d eat a Passover-style breakfast like this any time of year.

Speaking of holidays, a most happy Easter to our Christian friends!

Friday, April 02, 2010


Od’kha ki anitani vat’hi li liyshuah.
Evven ma’asu ha-bonim hay’tah l’rosh pinah.
Mei-eit HaShem hay’tah zot, hi nif’lat b’eineinu.
Zeh ha-yom asah HaShem, nagilah v’nism’chah vo.

I praise You for having answered me;
You have become my deliverance.
The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our sight.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us exult and rejoice in it.

[Part of the Hallel liturgy recited daily during the Passover festival.]

Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!”
Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!”
Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones -
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!”

The toe bone connected to the heel bone,
The heel bone connected to the foot bone,
The foot bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the head bone,
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk aroun’
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun’
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun’
Oh, hear the word of the Lord.

The head bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the foot bone,
The foot bone connected to the heel bone,
The heel bone connected to the toe bone,
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!

[Spiritual (author unknown) based on the story of the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel 37:1-14.]

Tomorrow, I will read that old Bible story of the Valley of Dry Bones - it’s the traditional Haftarah (prophetical reading) for the Sabbath that falls during the week of Passover. And I find, as I practice chanting the verses in their ancient melody, that tears come unbidden to my eyes...
He said to me, “Son of Man, these bones - they are the entire House of Israel. Behold! They are saying, ‘Our bones are dried out and our hope is lost; we are doomed!’ Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus said the Lord: Behold, I am opening your graves and raising you up from your graves, My people, and I will bring you to the soil of Israel...”
These words, written by Yekhezkel (Ezekiel) during the Babylonian exile, were intended to bring hope to a brokenhearted people. Today, after the Holocaust and sixty-two years after the founding of the modern State of Israel, they resonate with special power.

Am Yisrael Chai - the people of Israel lives!

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Yes, indeedy: it is the Day of the Idiot. April Fool’s Day!

Even Google has gotten in on the act, renaming itself “Topeka” for the day. Perhaps our government will take a cue from this and rename itself “Clusterfuck.”

In honor of the occasion, I thought it would be appropriate for me to give up wearing colanders.

Colander Man!

April Fool!