Sunday, September 30, 2007


The Missus and I trotted over to Fresh Market this afternoon to pick up a few odds and ends for this evening’s supper. The check came to $19.74, prompting me to say, “ that was an interesting year.”

The cashier, in all her Teenage Innocence, asked, “Was that the year you were born?”

Both SWMBO and I looked at her as though she had grown a second head. And SWMBO was quick with a riposte: “No, that’s when he was graduated from college. He looks pretty crappy for someone born in 1974.”

True, dat. Especially since I was unshaven, having rolled out of bed just in time for morning minyan.

Both of us had slept soundly last night - it was the first decent night’s sleep the Missus had had in days, owing to some medication that has, as a side effect, kept her jacked up at night. And in my case, it might have had some extra assistance from the wine.

For last night we had entertained friends for dinner - some of the Usual Suspects, to be sure, but also some other friends of long standing that we don’t see nearly as often as we should. It had been a couple of years since we had spent an evening with Joe and Margaret W-, whom we had first met back in our old Atlanta neighborhood when the kids were mere toddlers.

Joe is the guy who introduced me to the Macallan, for which I am Eternally Grateful. I returned the favor by introducing him to Hendrick’s Gin, “preferred by one out of every 10,000 gin drinkers.”

Dinner consisted of an Insalata Caprese (courtesy of Margaret and Joe), with slices of ripe tomato and buffalo mozzarella garnished with basil leaves and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The main dish was a Lasagne ai Quattro Formaggio that, aside from having enough Cheesy Goodness to stop a grizzly bear’s heart, served to break in our new oven. [Really, it incorporates five cheeses: Ricotta, Fontina, Gruyère, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan...but who’s counting?] I had never made any sort of lasagna before, lasagna being SWMBO’s province, but I’ve always been perfectly willing to test new recipes out on our unsuspecting dinner guests.

Insalata Caprese
Insalata Caprese à la Joe and Margaret.

Lasagne ai Quattro Formaggi
Lasagne ai Quattro Cinque Formaggi.

For the vegetabobble, I had wanted to get hold of some broccoli rabe, but there was, alas, none to be had. So I went with the next best thing: broccolini, a form of broccoli with long, slender stalks. To prepare it, I trimmed the bottom of each stem, then blanched it in boiling water for two minutes. Immediately after removing the broccolini from the boiling water, I shocked it by dumping it into ice water - this helps it retain its bright green color. About ten minutes before serving time, I took a goodly knob of butter and melted it down in a sauté pan with some olive oil. When it started foaming, I threw in some minced garlic - about four cloves’ worth. After a minute or two at medium-low heat (you do not want to scorch the garlic!), I added the broccolini and sprinkled in a little piment d’espelette (Basque red pepper). Heat through, and voilà! Ready to serve.

Broccolini with garlic and piment d’espelette.

Along with the food, we managed to kill a couple of bottles of wine, including a nice TBA brought out with dessert. After that, I don’t remember too much...

Friday, September 28, 2007


The Momma d’Bou, in a comment made on a prior post, requested some side-by-side Before ’n’ After shots of our renovated kitchen...and as I am an obliging sort, I am happy to provide them forthwith.

Clear the Decks
Before. [Click to embiggen.]

The Finished Product
After. [Click to embiggen.]

What’s new?
  • New sink, faucet, and soap dispenser.

    SWMBO has been dying to get a Hans Grohe kitchen faucet like the one we had in our second Connecticut house twenty years ago. This one’s an updated version in satin stainless. The sink is a Jacuzzi porcelain-on-cast iron undermount, jet black.

  • New granite counters and tumbled stone backsplashes.

    The counters are Emerald Pearl...full of beautiful reflective surfaces. And the backsplashes are a lot more visually appealing than the boring white tile that was there before.

  • New oven and microwave.

    The Kitchen Aid conventional convection/microwave convection combo replaces our old piece-of crap GE conventional/microwave. I’m looking forward to seeing how the convection feature will play out - I suspect that it will be helpful when roasting great joints of meat or when baking.

  • New dishwasher.

    Kitchen Aid, again, replacing our old GE unit. Unlike the old one, which was serviceable but noisy, this one is as quiet as a mouse pissing on a blotter. Amazing.

  • New gas cooktop.

    Like the old electric unit it replaces, “Darth Stover” is a Jenn-Air center-vent cooktop, but now we’re cookin’ with gas. And this one has a functioning vent blower. After so many years of dealing with a glasstop unit - how many of your pans are perfectly flat on the bottom? - this Bad Boy is a pleasure to work with.

  • New cabinet knobs.

    There’s no way we’re replacing the cabinets, much as I’d love to...but these knobs, satin stainless with brass trim, tie the kitchen’s various stainless and brass accents together nicely.
What’s left to do?

We still plan to replace the switchplates and outlet covers with something that is a little less...white. And there’s some minor trim that needs finishing. But aside from that, we now have a kitchen that’s much easier on the eye...and much more suited to the kind of cooking we’d like to do.

And with that, our Kitchen Saga - barring unforeseen events - is over, and I will bore you with it no more.


Welcome once again to Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly feature in which I post a selection of Choons drawn at random from the iPod d’Elisson.

It’s not only Friday today, it’s the second day of Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. What is a tabernacle, anyway? You may well ask. Aside from being a favorite epithet of French Canadians (“Whoa, whoa, Tabernac!”) and Eric the Straight White Guy, it’s simply a little booth. The kind of temporary shelter in which the Israelites lived while wandering in the desert so many years ago. This week, observant Jews will take their meals in just such temporary shelters, by way of fulfilling the Biblical commandment to dwell in Sukkot: booths.

Sukkot is a happy time - Z’man Simchateinu, the season of our happiness. It has an especial resonance with me, for not only is my Hebrew name Simcha - just call me Mr. Happy - but the first day of Sukkot is my birthday, if one reckons by the Hebrew calendar. So I’ll take this opportunity to wish my Jewish readers (what are you doing, reading a blog on yontiff, anyway?) a Chag Sameach. That’s “Happy Festival” in Hebrew.

And since this is Happy Time, what can be more happy than a random assortment of ten Choons, spewed forth from that most happy of iPods? Let’s check ’em out:
  1. Whisky Train - Procol Harum

    Ain’t gonna ride that whisky train
    Ain’t gonna burn up no more flame
    Throw away my bottle down the drain
    Ain’t gonna ride that whisky train
    To think that I could be so wrong
    To be so sick and still go on
    The way I drink it’s been too long
    Don’t see much point in carrying on
    I’m gonna lose these drinking blues

    I’m gonna find a girl to make me choose
    Between lovin’ her and drinking booze
    I’m gonna lose these drinking blues
    Ain’t gonna ride that whisky train
    I’m tired of burning in the flame
    Throw away my bottle down the drain
    Ain’t gonna ride that whisky train

  2. Mr. Farmer - The Seeds
  3. I’ve Got My Mojo Working - Professor Longhair
  4. Devil In Her Heart - The Beatles
  5. Der Bosfor - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  6. Captured - James Newton Howard, King Kong (2005)
  7. Township Rebellion - Rage Against The Machine
  8. Turn Around - They Might Be Giants
  9. Spritz!!! Spritz!!! - Minus The Bear
  10. I Want Love - Elton John
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


In this near-autumn time of year,
The Harvest Festival is here.
Jews take Four Species close to hand
And wave them up and down the land.

This time of year, a Jew should tackle
The building of a Tabernacle.
A little Booth in the backyard,
Why, building it should not be hard.

With beams and joists of two-by-four,
You need three walls; don’t need a door.
The roof affords a glimpse of sky.
A Table, where you eat your Pie.

Birds might fly overhead and crap:
Just pray it don’t land in your lap.
You say a blessing, drink your wine,
And then your evening’s mighty fine.

Some cabbage, stuff’d with tasty Meat
Would be the perfect thing to eat.
All hail Sukkot, the Harvest Fest!
And let’s praise God, by whom we’re blest.


The Modulator likes to host
The Friday Ark, in which he’ll post
Links to Photos of your Cats,
Dogs and Snakes and Norway Rats.

The Friday Ark is afloat on its 158th voyage, captained by that most esteemed Modulator. This week, Matata is sitting comfortably in the fo’c’sle.

Not enough cats for you? Go and visit Life from a Cat’s Perspective Sunday evening, when Carnival of the Cats #184 will go up. Kitty fun for everyone.

Update: CotC #184 is up.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Our brand spankin’ new Hot-Boxes.

Finally - finally! - we appear (kayn ayin hora) to have a Functioning Oven in our kitchen.

We’ve been without one since a week ago Monday, when the new unit (conventional convection oven on the bottom, combination microwave/convection oven on top) was installed and fried itself to a crisp within minutes.

Getting a replacement unit was more of a Pain in the Ass than we had expected or desired. Sears - the Retailer involved - kept losing the order or failing to schedule an installer. Finally, the Missus got on the horn with them - half an hour of Voicemail Hell - and told them they would either have a working oven installed the next day, or we would have them take the dead unit out and we’d replace it elsewhere.

Do not mess with SWMBO when she is Pissed Off.

Even after all of that, Sears managed to let another installer snarf our item from the warehouse. When our guy got there yesterday morning, there was no oven. So he broke a few legs and rearranged some other poor schmuck’s delivery. It meant Yet Another Day’s Delay, but without his help it would have been another ten days. Good Gawd.

I was mickle relieved when he showed up this afternoon...exactly as promised.

Watching this guy horse the old unit out and the new unit in was nerve-wracking. He knew his business, though, and between his dolly, his lift-platform, and sheer might and main, he managed just fine. The sucker weighs about 400 pounds, so this was no small feat.

And the best news is, it works like a champ! (tuh, tuh, tuh).

Now I need to bake something. Where are those cats, anyway?

The New Kitchen Stuff
The kitchen...she is feeneeshed!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Houston Steve gave me a lift to the Sommelier Guild event yesterday evening. It was a pleasant enough drive: the sun was shining, the sky was blue with a few puffy cumulus adrift, and the day’s warmth was beginning to diminish with the approaching dusk.

Besides all that, we were in Houston Steve’s sporty little Honda S2000. It’s a sweet ride.

Both of us suffered a pang of envy as we passed a guy driving a vintage Austin-Healey. Now, that is a roadster. Temperamental and expensive, it’s nevertheless the picture of the British sports car, with a grille that almost appears to be grinning at you, fairly dripping with Poon-Attractant. I reminisced about my Snot-Nose Days, when one of our neighbors had purchased one. I still remember the awe with which we, the neighborhood Rug-Rats, gazed upon that car. As young as we were, we all knew that there was one hot little car.

Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II, 1962 model. Hoo, boy.

On the way, we talked - among many things - about the day’s events, which included Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the U.N. By doing so, we risked spoiling our appetites...but we took that chance.

Ahh, the United Nations. It’s pretty much an irrelevant institution, given that every tinhorn idiot strongman with a country has a voice in the General Assembly. Viz: Mr. Ahmadinejad.

It’s useful to remember that the United Nations has several components. In addition to the General Assembly, there are the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (including the IMF and the World Bank), the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. And, as Steve pointed out, some of those components are more useless than others.

The Security Council, with five permanent members (The United States, the U.K., France, Russia, and China) plus ten other members holding temporary seats. It’s really the part that matters, with the power to make decisions that member governments must carry out under the United Nations Charter. Given that the permanent members hold veto power and that there are typically no real consequences for violating resolutions, the Security Council never seems to be able to act decisively. Probably a good thing, on balance.

George Bush would love to see Japan added to the Security Council as a new permanent member, but it’s doubtful this will ever happen. India would be a much more likely candidate for an expanded Permanent Member roster, being the most populous democracy in the world. We’ll see what happens.

And then you have the General Assembly, composed of 192 member states as of this writing. With each state, no matter how thinly populated or stupidly governed, having the same one vote, it’s easy to see how useless this organization can become. Since resolutions of the General Assembly aren’t binding on the member states, it’s mostly a harmless echo chamber. “What about restricting membership to states with a democratically elected form of government?” I suggested. Steve responded that there would be little purpose in having a United Democratic Nations in which everybody would pretty much agree with one another...and I had to concede that he had a point.

The U.N. Human Rights Council? Now, there’s a joke for you. Never mind that the membership includes a number of states with (ahem) less-than-stellar human rights records - Cuba and Saudi Arabia leap to mind - the real joke is that only resolutions condemning Israel ever seem to emanate from the Council. That’s right: the only country in the Middle East offering any semblance of human rights. Never a single word about, say, North Korea. Or Afghanistan under the Taliban. Or Sudan. What a bunch of fucking hypocrites.

Houston Steve may have said it best. With the United Nations, as with any other prophylactic, the only way to test its effectiveness is to count its failures.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Cousin Pearl
Cousin Pearl with her grandson Jason, 2002.

I got the sad news Sunday that Cousin Pearl passed away after a lengthy struggle with kidney disease. After a while, the dialysis just couldn’t do the trick, it seems.

Pearl, pictured here with her grandson Jason, was the Momma d’Elisson’s first cousin...making her a first cousin once-removed to me.

Take a look at that picture. Get a load of that infectious smile. That was Pearl. She was one of those rare individuals who could light up a room simply by walking into it, vivacious and full of warmth. Maybe that’s just what I saw from a distance, but it was a pretty solid impression, one that was shared by just about anybody that came in contact with her. In that respect, she reminded me a lot of my own mother, who, not surprisingly, adored Pearl.

I remember that at the Mistress of Sarcasm’s Bat Mitzvah, Pearl was out there on the dance floor, having the time of her life. No wallflower, she.

Pearl’s husband Jack, with whom she had two sons, passed away a number of years ago. Here was a case of a couple who exemplified the adage “Opposites Attract,” for Jack was morose while Pearl was effervescent. But they clearly shared something very special.

Alas, I will miss Pearl. But I suspect that some of my sense of humor has come down unto me from my maternal great-grandparents, Pearl’s very grandparents, and so I will happily keep that mutually-shared spark of soul alive within me.

Ave atque vale, Pearlie. Show them seraphim how to kick the gong around.


All of us poor, suffering Sommelier Guild members will have to choke down yet another winey dinner this evening. Except for Denny, the Grouchy One hizzownself, who is torturing himself by scuba diving in Bonaire this week. Poor guy.

But I’ll be there with Houston Steve...and perhaps I’ll be able to find out from Mike W- what life was like “behind the scenes” at the recent PGA Tour Championship.

Here’s the menu:

Speaker’s wine
Marques de Galinda Brut 2003

First flight
Txomin Etxaniz 2005
Blanco Nieva Verdejo 2005
Don Olegario Albarino 2005

House salad with seasoned shrimp

Second flight
Faustino I Gran Reserva 1996
Marques de Arienzo Gran Reserva 1996
Finca Allende Tempranillo Allende 2004

Empanadas de picadillo

Third Flight
Torres Mas La Plana Black Label 2001
Scala Dei Cartoixa 2003
Pesquera Tempranillo 2004

Pork tenderloin served with brown sauce and roasted potatoes

Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927

Tres leches cake Flan de vainilla

Alas, there will not be a Grits Bar...

Wedding Grits
Grits from the Grits Bar, Atlanta Athletic Club.


Matata relaxes in the sunroom.

The afternoon light streaming through the sunroom windows catches Matata’s ears, setting them aglow.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Of all the fruits that Man may eat
When placed within his reach,
One I abhor yet more and more
Is the loathsome Spanish Peach.

I hate its sweetly blushing skin
Bedecked with nasty fuzz.
I hate its taste - like human waste!
No fouler fruit there was.

The apple, grape, or apricot
Ne’er fail to make me smile,
But my guts wrench when I sense the stench
Of that Durazno Vile.


Marcel Marceau, the incomparable French mime, passed away September 22 at the age of eighty-four.

Marceau (né Mangel), a French Jew who escaped the Nazis and fought with the Free French during World War II, brought the art of mime to standing-room-only crowds, earning worldwide acclaim. His waif-like character Bip, in part inspired by Chaplin’s Little Tramp, was recognizable to millions.

In addition to founding the Colorado School of Mimes, Marceau was the model for Michael Jackson’s “moonwalk,” based on Marceau’s “Walking in the Wind” sketch.

Today, to honor Marceau’s memory, fans everywhere will observe a moment of extreme noise.


The Missus and I spent a completely lazy day yesterday loafing around the house. Aside from a few minor tasks, it was pure Wastrel Time. A good way to decompress after Yom Kippur.

For dinner, I grilled some Korean-style beef short ribs. I’ve been on a Ribby Tear lately, making one variation or another of this recipe at least once a week. She Who Must Be Obeyed will be heartily sick of it if I continue.

The benefit of this recipe is that it can - in fact, it must - be cooked on the grill. And since we’re still without a functioning oven, that limits our options considerably.

Last week I used flanken-style ribs for this, and they were delicious. This week, I got some short ribs, trimmed the meat off the bone, removed the excess fat and silverskin, and pounded each piece down to a ¼-inch thickness.

For the marinade, you’ll need:

3 scallions
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ cup soy sauce (I used ¼ cup Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce and ¼ cup Tabasco soy sauce)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil (the seeds are toasted, not the oil, Emeril!)
6 tbsp sugar
1 ripe pear
1 thumb-sized chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
You can add a generous squirt of hot chile-infused sesame oil or a dash of red pepper flakes, if you like ’em spicy. I used the hot oil, and it was just right.

Peel and core out the pear and cut into quarters. Place in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Process until smooth. Chop the scallions into ¼-inch chunks and add to the marinade. Place the meat and the marinade in a large zip-lock bag and stick it in the fridge for at least four hours...or overnight. Make sure you move the meat around periodically so all of it is exposed to the marinade.

Heat up your grill and grill the meat until nicely charred on the outside and done the way you like it, turning several times. Purists will use lump charcoal...I used my gas grill.

You can serve this with lettuce leaves, wrapping each chunk of meat to make a Korean-style Meat-Taco, or you can just throw it on a plate. Kimchi makes a great accompaniment, although we did not, alas, have any kimchi in the house. Wash down with cold beer.


Sunday, September 23, 2007


He stood on a promontory overlooking the Ross Ice Shelf, surveying the desolate ruins. His tears froze on contact with the cold air. Antarctic summer was very different from summer in the desert where he had grown up. An involuntary shiver seized him.

The training camp had been set up in a remote location so as to avoid the omnipresent Allied sweeps. It had worked - for a while. Who would think to seek al Qaeda here, of all places?

Ramadan had been their undoing.

A month-long daylight-hours fast was tough in the land of Midnight Sun. Only Ibrahim remained.

Friday, September 21, 2007


My interview on iBusiness Channel is up and available for your perusal. It was webcasted live at 10:30 this morning, and the archived version will be up for at least a month, possibly longer.

You’ll need to be using Internet Explorer, and you will have to type in your name and e-mail address to see the video. If this bothers you, you can (1) suck it up and do it anyway, (2) just make some shit up when you fill in the blanks, or (3) don’t watch the video. You probably had better things to do with that half-hour, anyway, besides watching me pimping my book and trying to sound reasonably intelligent.

The show actually starts about 90 seconds after the video starts streaming. Just use the slider bar to fast-forward past the dead air. Not sure why the studio folks did it that way, but, hey, I’m just a talking head: I don’t know squat about webcastin’ no videos.

Amazingly, I managed to get through the show without resorting to any profanity stronger than “crap,” “turd,” and “freakin’.” Not unreasonable, considering this is Erev Yom Kippur. Nevertheless, be on the lookout for other equally Bizarre Events, such as the Earth falling off its axis.


Image ©1997 Malcolm Hee.

Image ©1997 Malcolm Hee.

[In case this wasn’t quite enough.]


Welcome once again to Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly feature in which I post a selection of Choons drawn at random from Elisson’s Little White Choon-Box.

Sure, it’s Friday...and not just any Friday.

For it is Erev Yom Kippur, the day before the Jewish Day of Atonement, that uniquely sacred time that begins as the sun sets. Therefore, instead of our typical Friday evening dinner with the Usual Suspects, we will enjoy a light collation before heading off to synagogue, there to hear the beautiful, haunting melody of the Kol Nidre liturgy and to beat our breasts, atoning for the sins which we have committed during the previous year.

For at least 25 hours, we will not eat or drink. We will abstain from wearing leather shoes - a symbol of wealth and of Man’s predominance over his environment - from shaving, from Pleasurable Ablutions, and from Humma-Humma (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Instead, we will focus on our relationship with God and with our fellow humans in an orgy of Self-Examination. It’s a wonderfully purgative experience.

For my Jewish friends and family, my best wishes for a g’mar chatima tovah - to be sealed for a good decree from the Most High, the Big Guy. And for my non-Jewish friends, Happy Saturday!

But meanwhile, we have Choons to attend to. Here they be:
  1. Turn Around - They Might Be Giants
  2. Mississippi Dildo Bust - Doug Stanhope
  3. Jamaican Ska - Fishbone
  4. Convalescing In Spain - The Judybats

    Convalescing in Spain
    Trying to purge this sickness
    You started in me
    At the outdoor cafes
    Trying to cool this fever
    Drink, relief, recovery
    In the scratchy shade
    Of a dusty almond tree
    Boozing it up with friends I’ve made
    Yeah, we laugh till we cry
    They don’t know my mind
    Is oceans away
    The people really like me here
    My Spanish is getting better

    But all I want to do is
    Break away from them
    And write you another letter
    That I’ll never send
    I fold them into boats
    Set them afloat in the
    Neighborhood pool
    The children love them till they
    Sink and say, “Hagame uno mas!
    Esos son muy cool!”

    Running on the beach
    Over the rocky part
    I can almost forget that
    Forgetting is the hardest part
    That letting go
    Is only a state of mind
    That love is impure
    That love is blind
    I’m talkin’ blinkers, baby

    Running on the beach
    Over the rocky part
    I can almost forget that
    Forgetting is the hardest part

    Convalescing in Spain
    I’ve been keeping a diary
    And I must be getting well
    Cause I write less of you
    And more of me
    Things like
    Did we sleep through the best part?
    Did we cry through the worst part?
    Did we chinga through the good days?
    Did we get stuck with the end?
    Don’t we cry when someone
    Steals the show
    Hate when it’s someone we know?
    Perhaps this is the best part
    Convalescing in Spain

    Perhaps this is the best part
    Convalescing in Spain

  5. I Lost All My Money At The Cockfights - Minus The Bear
  6. Come Back To Us Barbara Lewis Hare-Krishna Beauregard (Live) - John Prine
  7. Democracy Is A Flawed Theory - Doug Stanhope
  8. Rockin’ The Suburbs - Ben Folds
  9. Our Prayer/Gee - Brian Wilson
  10. Wish Me Luck - Klaus Badelt, The Time Machine (2002)
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


When I feel like a victim of Cruel Fate
With the pressure of the world’s ponderous weight,
Within minutes I can be feeling great
’Cause all I have to do is go Modulate.

The Friday Ark has begun its 157th weekly voyage at the Modulator. Go say hello to all of the Felicitous Fauna, including Hakuna and Matata, who have nabbed Pole Position once again.

Carnival of the Cats swings by This, That & The Other Thing this Sunday evening for its 183rd outing. Be sure to stop by and tell ’em Elisson sent you.

Update: CotC #183 is up.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


[Between my frenzied reading of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels (I’m working on #14 right now) and this week’s Talk Like A Pirate silliness, how could I not write this 100-word story incorporating the themes Popeye, Movies, and Reflection?]

The sailor walked down Main Street, occasionally catching a glimpse of himself reflected in a store window. He moved with a peculiar gait, swinging his ridiculously muscular forearms, hitching up his pants fore and aft with each step.

Years of salt beef, biscuit, and grog had blocked his bowels such that only an exophthalmos-inducing strain could clear them. For him, Popeye was more than a name; it was a way of life.

But today he was happy, for he was planning to take Miss Oyl to the movies. And, he thought, perhaps one day she’d be his wife, Olive Eye.


Mr. Debonair

To the Young Man Driving The White Pickup Truck on Roswell Road at 2:05 p.m., Who Wished to Make a Left-hand Turn onto Indian Hills Parkway and Who Was Unfortunately Positioned in the Right-Hand Lane:

I regret that you felt it necessary to make an Unpleasant Face at me when I did not make way for you, causing you to wait until I passed before you could cut over from the right lane through the left lane in order to enter the left turn lane.

I understand that sometimes, whilst driving, your unfamiliarity with the Local Roadways may put you in uncomfortable positions in which you must rely on a degree of extra consideration and courtesy from your fellow drivers. Finding yourself in the far right lane when you want to make a left-hand turn is certainly one such uncomfortable position. Such things happen to all of us...especially if we tend to woolgather while we drive.

Please understand that I would have been all too happy to let you cut in front of me so as to make your hastily considered left-hand turn. We were all driving slowly, being in a school zone, and there was plenty of room in front of me. I would gladly have slowed down to let you in.

However, since you did not bother to engage your vehicle’s electrically-operated Turn Signal, I had no Earthly Clue as to what your possible intentions were. What am I, the Amazing fucking Kreskin? I can read your mind? No, I cannot.

Perhaps your Turn Signal was malfunctioning. In such a case, the normal procedure is to open one’s window and display a Manual Turn-Signal. For a left-hand turn, this consists simply of extending one’s left hand straight out the window. A Pointy-Finger may be used for extra emphasis in cases of desperation.

However, you did not do this. You gave me the Stink-Eye, squeezed in behind me, and then mouthed some undoubtedly Rude Remarks.

Alas, from such sad roots is Road Rage born. And all so, so unnecessary.

I regret any possible unpleasantness arising from our encounter this afternoon.

Next time use your signal, ya dickwad. Happy fucking motoring.

Sincerely yours,
Mr. Debonair


Just when you thought the LOLCats phenomenon couldn’t get any more ridiculous or annoying... comes LOLthulhu.

Yes: Images of the Deep Ones, adorned with stupid LOLCats captions!

LOLthulhu. [Image by John Coulthart.]

There’s lots more at LOLTHULHU.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson Fedora to El Capitan for the link.]


It was only a matter of time before someone put together a Simpsonized version of Star Wars. Here’s a parody of the Simpsons intro sequence by animator Rich Cando.

Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to that Savannah-bloggin’ Dizzy Girl.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Just in case you didn’t have enough Useless Activities on your plate, here’s another sure-fire Waste of Time for you: Catch my Web TV interview Friday morning at 10:30 EDT on the iBusiness Channel. [You’ll need to use Internet Explorer to be able to see the video. Crap!]

I’ll be mostly talking about my book Shorts in a Wad (currently with a sales rank of “Lower than Whale-Shit” on Amazon), but there will be plenty of incisive, hard-hitting questions about blogging in general and this blog in particular.

“If your blog were a tree, what kind of tree would it be?”

I wonder if I will be allowed to use the Eff-Word. Probably not. So much for being able to read my 100-Word Stories on air. Well, some of ’em, anyway.

I also wonder just what my book has to do with business. Well, I do have a story in there about a business that uses a small army of chimpanzees to design airports and freeway systems. Hey, it could happen! And I think it already has.


Piratical Elisson

To-day be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, for whatevarrrhh stupid reason.

Q: What do pirates eat for breakfast?

A: Rat-Pie.

Arrrhh, that joke sucked. Here’s another:

Q: What do pirates eat for dinner?

A: Planked salmon.

Arrrhh, that joke sucked too.

Q: What do you call a pirate’s hourly wages?

A: The Pi-Rate.

Q: Hey, Elisson! Where’d you get the patch?

A: I downloaded it.*

Q: What’s that thing on your head?

A: A Yarrrhhmulke.

OK, I’ll stop now...

*[Joke stolen from Laurence Simon. We pirates have no shame.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



She’s normally a fairly inoffensive kitty, Hakuna is, but she can be a real tiger when she doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Unlike her noisy and constantly-in-your-face sister Matata, Hakuna is a discreet, shy, retiring sort of cat. She will not walk upon her human companions; she will not tread upon my chest at night nor cuddle up to SWMBO with paw upon boob. At most, she will park herself against a leg and sit for a while...and she does not suffer herself to be picked up and cuddled with any sort of enjoyment.

This, coupled with her Sixth Sense with respect to such matters, makes it very difficult to corral her for a trip to the veterinary physician.

Yesterday, Hakuna was unwell. She would go into the cat box and come out without any...accomplishments, shall we say. And she vomited several times. Most cats are Past Masters of Puking: it’s no big deal as long as it’s occasional. But yesterday, Hakuna left several nasty puddles of Cat-Barf throughout the house, the only good thing about which she mostly confined herself (unlike Sister Matata) to hard surfaces.

Hakuna is a fairly indolent cat in the best of times, especially during the day, so it was hard to discern any change in her activity level...but it was clear that something was amiss.

Somehow she knew I was going to schlep her to the vet today. She had been reclining atop the bed in Elder Daughter’s bedroom, but when I went to take her downstairs, she had disappeared into her hidey-hole in the box spring. I rousted her out, and she disappeared. It took me over an hour to find her, tucked away under a table-skirt in the Mistress of Sarcasm’s bedroom.

She was not happy to have been discovered. And she was downright displeased at the idea that I should pick her up and take her somewhere else.

Stigmata d'Hakuna
Signs of displeasure: Elisson bears the Stigmata d’Hakuna.

Ahh, the things we do for our hairy children.

Hakuna is fine, by the way. She had an inflamed rectum and some impacted stool in there - yes, Hakuna, our beloved kitty, was full of shit - but with appropriate medicaments and some R&R (what else is a cat’s life but R&R, anyway?), she should be right as rain in no time.


I’m not what you might call a voracious egg eater.

I devour plenty of eggs as ingredients in various dishes - cakes, soufflée, custards, et cetera, but I have never been of the school that considers breakfast incomplete without a couple of eggs.

Having said this, I do enjoy the occasional fried egg, a perfect companion to a plate of corned beef hash. My preference is for the once-over-hard-with-broken-yolk style (once-over-lightly if with hash), but I can do scrambled eggs or omelettes without a problem. I make a mean omelette aux fines herbes, and I have extremely fond childhood memories of my grandmother’s scrambled eggs, which incorporated onions that were fried in butter until they were golden brown.

Lox and eggs? Delightful. Salami and eggs? Ambrosia. Pastrami and eggs? Heavenly.

On the other side of the Elisson Egg-Preference Spectrum you’ll find Egg Salad. I’ll eat hard boiled eggs any old time, but egg salad gives me the willies.

SWMBO, meanwhile, avoids eggs qua eggs like the Black Death. They’re on her “Do Not Eat” list in big boldface sans-serif type, unless they’ve been buried in the dish so as to be unrecognizable. Surprisingly, she has developed a taste for egg-white omelettes, but only if there is absolutely no trace of yolk.

So far, I’ve been talking about Chicken Eggs. There are plenty of other eggs, of course, although my experience has been limited to chicken eggs and the occasional quail egg (enjoyed raw with a serving of ikura-nigirizushi.

Ikura: now, there’s yet another type of egg. Fish eggs. Caviar. I love it. Salmon eggs are one of my faves, as long as they’re absolutely fresh. Sturgeon caviar ain’t too shabby, either.

But an eggy post by David Bogner over at Treppenwitz today reminded me that there are some paths in Egg-Land where I plan never to tread.

Oh, I’ve had the Hundred-Year Eggs, AKA Century Eggs, to which he refers in the front end of his post. They’re not bad, as long as you try not to think of them as eggs, but rather as some Exotic Weird which they bear more than a passing resemblance.

But then there is the infamous Balut.

In his book Holidays in Hell, P. J. O’Rourke encounters the Balut, which is nothing less than a duck embryo boiled in the shell and eaten whole: fetal bones, beak, feathers and all.
“[It] looks like an anti-abortion movie produced by the Duckburg branch of the Right-To-Life organization.”
Fear Factor dining at its finest, the Balut is, according to Wikipedia, best enjoyed with beer.

I’ll say. Namely, the kind of Copious Quantities of beer that will render you insensible and completely unaware of what you are eating.

As for me? NFW, my friends. NFW.

Not even Velociman would put his face into one of those.

The image below the fold is not for the Easily Disgusted. Don’t say I didn’t warn you...

...and if you’re reading this with an RSS aggregator, whoopsie!

Balut. Image courtesy of Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining.

Pass the salt, eh?


Good Morning!
Good Morning!

As I was on my way out the door yesterday morning, I was treated to the sight of my Hairy Daughters enjoying a quiet moment together. And for once, Matata wasn’t trying to bite Hakuna on the ass.

Monday, September 17, 2007


The Kitchen Remodeling continueth...

When we last left the intrepid Elisson and SWMBO, they had had granite countertops installed in the kitchen of Chez Elisson. And, of course, since countertops alone would be no fun, they added a new gas stovetop - “Darth Stover” is its sobriquet, owing to its evil good looks - a new sink, and a stainless steel faucet.

Today was the day the last pieces of the puzzle were put in: a new set of conventional-convection and microwave-convection ovens, along with a new dishwasher. Sweet.

Only one problem. Well, two problems.

Problem One is that the new stove is a little shorter than the old one, so there’s a gap of about four inches we’ll need to cover up. No biggie.

The other problem is, well, more problematic. When the installer tested the equipment, it worked fine for a couple of minutes. The conventional oven got nice and hot. But then there was a mysterious humming from the microwave, followed shortly by an ominous, vile-smelling puff of smoke.

Zap! Dead oven.

A new one is supposed to arrive at the warehouse Thursday, and with any luck, we’ll have it in by the weekend. I hope. I also hope that there wasn’t an entire production run of these things with defective circuit boards.

And I also hope the Missus doesn’t get too pissed off when she arrives home to a brand-new oven that is as useful as the proverbial Tits On A Boar.


[At least the new dishwasher works. Keyn ayin hora.]



Strap on those cutlasses, Esteemed Readers (heh heh...he said strap on...heh heh) and get ready for International Talk Like A Pirate Day, Wednesday, September 19.

As a holiday, it makes at least as much sense as some of those lesser-observed Greeting Carrrhhd Holidays like Grandparents’ Day, or Bohunk History Month. Or Tishah b’Av, for that matter.

I broached the subject with the Minyan Boys this morning. Houston Steve, who with me endured a long weekend of Golf and Pirate Talk back in July, is already on board:

“If you’re a pirate, where are your buccaneers?”

“Under me buckin’ hat, matey!”

It wouldn’t require much of a change to our morning routine. I mean, we already daven Sharrrhhcharit every day, starting with Birkot ha-Shacharrrhh, continuing through Barukh she-Amarrrhh, the Arrrhhshrei, the Arrrhhmidah, and Arrrhhleinu. And this week, with Yom Kippur fast approaching, we add Arrrhhvinu Malkeinu.

And there’s even some historical resonance, for I come to find out that none other than Jean Lafitte, the Gentleman Pirate of New Orleans, was a Jew, having been descended from a family of crypto-Jews who converted to Roman Catholicism in the fourteenth century but who continued to practice their Judaism in secret. Lafitte’s maternal grandfather was later put to death by the Inquisition.

I can imagine Jean and his mother discussing his career choice. “What, you couldn’t be a dentist like your cousin Sidney? What kind of way is this to make a living for a nice Jewish boy?”

So marrrhhk your calendarrrhhs, Esteemed don’t want to miss this Important Occasion! No! Farrrhh from it!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Last weekend, the Missus and I attended a wedding reception in the Atlanta Athletic Club’s St. Andrew’s Ballroom.

Aside from the Grits Bar - the Southern answer to the Baked Potato Bar - the place itself was your typical upper-crust athletic club / golf club / country club / catering operation. The club’s logo was in a style reminiscent of Days Gone By, and what with the enormous amount of Bobby Jones memorabilia scattered about, you got the impression of a Place with a History.

History, it has, in spades...but the Place has changed. For the Atlanta Athletic Club was not always located on Bobby Jones Drive in suburban Duluth.

Founded in 1898, the AAC was located on Edgewood Avenue in downtown Atlanta. In 1906, the club built a golf course for its members just east of downtown. The club’s first athletic director was a guy by the name of John Heisman - perhaps you’ve heard of him. And, of course, there was that fellow Bobby Jones, who later would build the Grand Cathedral of Golf out in the wilds of Augusta. The one who won the Grand Slam in 1930, and Gawd knows what else, as the world’s most celebrated amateur golfer.

Eventually, outgrowing both its downtown facilities and seeing its golf course surrounded by ever-increasing urban blight, the club, in the mid-1960’s, decided to get the hell out of Dodge. It sold off both the downtown club and the golf course, consolidating its operations in one location: Duluth, then a faraway suburb.

The old golf course never went away, although it was no longer associated with the AAC. The Tudor-style clubhouse burned down not once, but twice, and the neighborhood surrounding it turned downright nasty. It got to the point where the few golfers with the persistence to keep playing there were more likely to stop a bullet than they were to stop a stray golf ball.

But, beginning a dozen years ago, all that has been changing thanks in part to Tom Cousins, one of the country’s most successful real estate developers and, not coincidentally, a lifelong club member. He has poured money into the area not merely to “gentrify” it, but to pull the neighborhood itself out of the social mire into which it had sunk. And it seems to be working. Crime is down dramatically, the local schools are racking up impressive results, and even the golf course is decent enough to attract a few good players. Initiation fees, which had sunk to $35 in the depths of the club’s decline, now are in the neighborhood of 275 large. Yeef.

I was there earlier today with my buddy Gary, watching thirty of those “few good players” knocking the ball around at East Lake Golf Club. It’s now the home of The Tour Championship, where Tiger Woods pounded all other contenders into bloody submission with an eight stroke margin of victory, simultaneously clinching the first-ever FedEx Cup. An eleven-million-dollar payday...not bad.

We had been watching the various twosomes playing their way around the course and decided to grab a bite at one of the many (heinously overpriced) concession stands. [They say “Concession is good for the soul,” but it doesn’t do your wallet any favors.] As we climbed into the grandstand at the tenth tee, laden with our Lunch-Food, I heard a voice:

“Wine-Guy! Wine-Guy!”

It was one of the marshals trying to get my attention. Turns out it was Michael W-, one of the guys in the Sommelier Guild, who had recognized me despite my not having a glass of wine in my hand.

After engulfing our food, we headed off to the par-three sixth hole, where we stayed around long enough to see Tiger shoot his first birdie of the day after stiffing his tee shot to within two feet of the hole...the Shot of the Day.

History was being made, and we were there. And having seen both incarnations of the Atlanta Athletic Club within the space of eight days, I felt a little more connected to my adopted home. All I needed was my seersucker suit and Panama hat to complete the picture.

Now for some grits. Is the Grits Bar open?


Americans are familiar with the story of Johnny Appleseed, who walked the length and breadth of the land while sowing the seeds of the great MacIntosh, Winesap, and Cortland, laying the foundations for today’s mighty orchards.

Alas, the story of Sidney Sunsweet is not nearly as well known. But Sidney walked the length and breadth of America ten years before Johnny was out of knee-pants, scattering seeds wherever he went. Prune seeds.

For Sidney was an aficionado of the Noble Prune, the “fruit that eats like a meal.” His motto?

“Eat Fruit with the Wrinkling: You’ll Crap in a Twinkling.”

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Welcome once again to Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly feature in which I post a selection of Choons drawn at random from the legendary iPod d’Elisson.

But, you say, it’s not Friday. Right you are, Bunky. No flies on you.

After we got back from the usual lengthy Rosh Hashanah services - five hours! - we spent a completely indolent afternoon in which I was racked out in the den with not even enough energy to bother to roll over on my side. Combine that with a dead iPod battery and you have all the necessary ingredients for a delayed Random Ten post. But then again, it’s not as if you were sitting on the edge of your chair in front of your monitor, banging the Refresh key and saying to yourself, “When is Elisson gonna post his frickin’ Friday Random Ten awready?”

Well, the waiting is over at last. Let’s give a listen:
  1. Höyhensarjan maailmanmestari - Tuomari Nurmio & Alamaailman Vasarat
  2. Conquistador - Procol Harum
  3. Katkorapu - Alamaailman Vasarat

    Sounds like “Cat Crap” in Japanese, don’t it?

  4. I’ll Get You - The Beatles
  5. America - Simon and Garfunkel

    Let us be lovers; we’ll marry our fortunes together
    I’ve got some real estate here in my bag
    So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
    And we walked off to look for America
    Cathy I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
    Michigan seems like a dream to me now
    It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
    I’ve gone to look for America
    Laughing on the bus
    Playing games with the faces
    She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
    I said be careful - his bow tie is really a camera
    Toss me a cigarette - I think there’s one in the raincoat
    We smoked the last one an hour ago
    So I looked at the scenery
    She read her magazine
    And the moon rose over an open field
    Cathy I’m lost I said though I knew she was sleeping
    I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
    Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
    They’ve all come to look for America
    All come to look for America

  6. Baby’s In Black - The Beatles
  7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Ennio Morricone
  8. Yidel Mitn Fiedel - The Barry Sisters with Sam Medoff & the Yiddish Swingtet
  9. The Snake And The Moor - Dead Can Dance
  10. Angel From Montgomery - Bonnie Raitt and John Prine
It’s Friday Saturday. What are you listening to?

Friday, September 14, 2007


This post over at Bou’s place reminded me of something so evil, I had managed to put it completely out of my mind. For two hours, anyway.

I refer to the infamous Oreo Cakester.

Cakesters are the latest in a long line of products that have been spun off from the basic Oreo cookie, that flagship product of the National Biscuit Company. Once upon a time it was simple. You had Oreos. That was it. Just Oreos.

[And their many competitors. Sunshine Biscuit used to make a cookie called Hydrox, of blessèd memory, which many of us Northeasterners thought was even better than Oreo.]

But in the last few years, there has been a veritabobble explosion of products, all variations on the Oreo Theme:
  • Double-Stuf Oreos. Twice the filling. I’m not a fan; I prefer the cookie-to-filling ratio of the original.

  • Various colored fillings. Orange for Hallowe’en, pastel colors for Easter. Meh.

  • Chocolate cream filling. Meh. The contrast between the brown-black cookie and the white filling is, to me, an essential attraction of the Oreo.

  • Mint filling. OK if you have a Mint Jones, I guess. Give me Girl Scout Thin Mints any day.

  • Coffee filling. Sounded good. Disappointing, though.

  • Coated in chocolate. Gilding the lily, this is.

  • Coated in white chocolate. See above.

  • Vanilla cookie, vanilla filling. Not bad. A pleasant change of pace, but most enjoyable when served alongside the Original.

  • Vanilla cookie, chocolate filling. Meh. For some reason, the chocolate filling ain’t thrilling.

  • Oreo ice cream sandwiches. Vanilla ice cream blended with pulverized Oreo cookies, sandwiched between two honkin’ big Oreo cookies. Vade retro, Satanas! The best damned ice cream sandwich since Ben & Jerry’s pulled the plug on theirs.
I’m not even going to mention those 100-calorie packages that purport to contain Oreos: they are a pallid imitation bearing no resemblance to the sacred original.

But the Cakester. Ahh, the Cakester.

We tried these for the first time at the home of our friends JoAnn and Gary this evening. “Friends,” hah. A friend who would give me a Cakester is like someone who would give a wino a bottle of Everclear. Just what I need: a new temptation.

Gawd, those things are good. Like the bastard offspring of an illicit union between a box of Oreos and some good brownies.

I want to eat many of them.

I want to alternate regular Oreos with Cakesters to enjoy the contrast in textures. Soft. Crispy. Soft. Crispy. Aaahhhhh.

I want to pile them into a bowl and bury them with vanilla ice cream.

I want to have Hot, Steamy Monkey Sex with them.

I am a lost soul. Damned by Cookie Desire. There still may be hope for you, though. Do not try the Cakester. You will regret it if you do. Trust me.


Seersucker, that is.
“...the seersucker suit on the lawyer walking down Broughton Street after a shave and a trim at Jimmy Tagaglio’s looked just like the seersucker suit on the drunk just let out of the holding pen. Except for the urine stain, of course.”
The above is excerpted from an eloquent post Velociman wrote some time back, celebrating the virtues of that venerable Southern suiting fabric, seersucker.

Seersucker Elisson

You won’t see too many of these bad boys outside of the Southeastern United States, and like as not you won’t see one before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. For the seersucker suit is a hot-weather suit, one created for the peculiar exigencies of a tropical climate in the days before universally available air conditioning.

Nothing better befits the well-turned-out Suthen Man.

It never would have occurred to me to even think of buying a seersucker suit, except that one of the boys in the congregation - from Savannah, natch - would wear one to Shabbat services during the summer, and it looked so...comfortable. And with Joseph Banks selling them for less than $120, I couldn’t resist - even if I’ll have to stick it in the closet until next spring.

Hey, it was either this or Jackass Pants.


When I wake up on Fridays, I’m feelin’ my oats,
’Cause I know where to find all the snakes and the stoats
And the cats and the dogs, and invertebrates too:
Aboard the Modulator’s floating zoo.

The 156th voyage of the Friday Ark is a-sail under the command of (who else?) the Modulator.

Be sure to check in with House of the (Mostly) Black Cats Sunday evening when Carnival of the Cats #182 goes up.

Update: CotC #182 is live.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Thinking too much is sure to get me in trouble...because these are the kinds of things I think about:
  • Can you make a candle out of earwax?

    I made a candle out of earwax,
    Braided nose-hair for a wick.
    It gives a warm and glowing light
    But it makes the Missus sick.

  • Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of those grilled turkey legs they sell at Renaissance festivals and the like, they’d sell grilled ostrich legs?

    Ostrich is red meat with a mildly beefy flavor. I would purely love to walk around amidst the Jousting Tournaments, the Human Chess-Games, the Punch-and-Judy Shows, and all that other ridiculous stuff if I could only do it whilst gnawing on a grilled bird-leg the size of a Louisville Slugger.

  • Instead of a kidney-shaped pool (all the rage in the 1950’s), wouldn’t it be fun to have a kidney stone-shaped pool?

  • Wouldn’t it be fun if the top twenty players on the PGA Tour all gave themselves animal nicknames to see if that would help them beat Tiger Woods? It’d be even better if Brian Whitcomb would assign the names Animal House-style:

    Whitcomb: “Your PGA Tour name is...Orang-Utang Garcia.”

    Sergio Garcia: “Why ‘Orang-Utang’?”

    Whitcomb: [belches] “Why not?”

    Predator names would be prized; herbivores and Weird Fauna despised. But it’d be fun!
What kind of Stupid Shit are you thinking about?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


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

As the year 5767 winds down to its final hours, I’m watching the steam rise from a pot of boiling water, a pot in which SWMBO has lovingly placed a raft of Matzoh Balls to cook. The brisket - a honkin’ big slab of Beefy Goodness - sits in the pan in its braising liquid, ready for me to slide it into the oven tomorrow at mid-day. A huge cauldron of chicken soup rests contentedly in the fridge.

The Missus is giving Darth Stover his first Big Workout, and he is handling the job magnificently.

There is plenty more to do. The gefilte fish needs to be baked and sliced, and my contributions to tomorrow’s Holiday Dinner - pan-sautéed haricots verts and my fall favorite, Carrot-Parsnip Mash - will be prepared at the last minute.

Of course, there will be a round challah, at the side of which dishes of sliced apples and Tupelo honey will be set.

There won’t be a big crowd for Rosh Hashanah dinner this year. It will be us, our friends Gary and JoAnn, and the Mistress of Sarcasm, who was able to score enough time off for her to make the four-hour trip. Having her here will make it an extra-special holiday, although it will make the absence of Elder Daughter at our table that much more keenly felt.

It still feels like summer, with temperatures well into the 80’s. Hot, sure, but still a relief from the searing 100-plus highs of a month ago. And yet...and yet...there are the unmistakable signs that Fall is in the air.

The sky is darker as I leave the house in the morning, with dawn just beginning to break. In the local Preppy Clothing Store, Jackass Pants and seersucker have given way to sweaters and overcoats.

Another New Year is on its way. 5768!

The two days of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begin tomorrow at sundown. Yom Kippur, the other bookend to the ten-day penitential period known as the Yomim Nora-im, the Days of Awe, arrives a week from Friday evening at sundown.

There is a lot to do in precious little time. Aside from Meal Prep - much less onerous, given that we are not feeding a small army this year - I am getting ready for Yom Kippur, when I will (b’ratzon ha-Shem) once again serve as shaliach tzibur – cantor and leader - of the Musaf service.

And it occurs to me that it is now exactly twenty years since our rabbi in Connecticut reawakened my sleeping Torah-Reading Abilities, taught me the special High Holiday cantillation, and had me read the entire first-day Rosh Hashanah Torah portion - an office I performed for many years both in Connecticut and in Houston. But that year, the ’Rents d’Elisson attended services with us in Glastonbury, and so heard me read Torah for the first time since my Bar Mitzvah year. Alas, it was my mother’s last Rosh Hashanah, although none of us would have suspected it at the time...

This is, traditionally, the time of year when we seek reconciliation with those we may have offended or otherwise disappointed or made unhappy during the prior year. You can pray to the Big Guy Upstairs for forgiveness all you want, but if you have hurt your fellow human beings, only they can accept your apologies.

So, if I have managed to upset you, disappoint you, or otherwise Piss You Off, please forgive me. (For once, I’m serious.)

And to my friends, family, and Esteemed Readers, Jewish or not, may this new year be a sweet one, bringing health and happiness to you and yours without limit to any good thing.



I can has Zebra-Kitteh?

NO SURPRISES HERE says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

I suspect what this means is that I am a Know-It-All Dickhead with a few social skills.

From Denny.


It was a sunny Tuesday morning - a morning much like this one - when everything changed. It was six years ago today.

As I left the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium to head into the office, I turned on the radio only to hear the horrifying news that a plane had struck the World Trade Center’s north tower.

At first, the news reports were fragmentary, confusing. What kind of plane? No one knew. A small private aircraft, people were saying. The idea that a commercial passenger jet, fully loaded with passengers and fuel for a transcontinental flight, could smash into one of the two tallest buildings on Manhattan Island was too horrifying to contemplate. That such an event could be the result of deliberate actions by human beings was beyond imagination.

But when, within minutes, a second aircraft struck the South Tower, there was no longer any way to hide from the truth: This was a deliberate attempt to murder thousands of Americans. What other unsuspecting targets were out there?

It was not long before we knew. The Pentagon was struck by a third jet...and later, reports of an airliner that had augered its way into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania made it clear that we had been the victims of a monstrous plot. Only the actions of a handful of courageous passengers on that last plane had prevented the White House from becoming a smoking ruin.

It was as though a Tom Clancy novel had come to life. Hadn’t he written about a Japanese pilot deliberately plowing a 747 into the Capitol? Now we watched and listened as imagination, in all its perversity and evil, became real.

Religion has long been a motivation for warriors, and here we had the unholy result of a Raw Desert Religion coupling with modern technology at the dawn of the twenty-first century. It probably should not have come as a surprise.

A thousand years ago, Western Christianity, replete with triumphalism and supersessionistic hubris, marched forth in a series of Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims under whose control it lay. In the process, scores of thousands of people were murdered - many of them Jews who just happened to be in the way.

Five hundred years ago, the Spanish Inquisition was in full swing, operating ostensibly to keep the Church free from heresy and backsliding, again murdering thousands - many of them Jews.

But nowadays the idea of Christians murdering nonbelievers for the sake of God is unthinkable. [The Nazi atrocities of the twentieth century were not the acts of Christians doing the work of the Church, aided and abetted though they may have been by official silence at high levels.] What happened?

Moderation of virulence happened.

To use a crude analogy, the most successful diseases are the ones that do not kill their hosts before they can spread themselves. Syphilis, when it first appeared in Europe, was extremely virulent, killing its victims quickly. Over time, less virulent strains became more prevalent: they were favored by natural selection because they allowed their victims to live for years, doling out doses of spirochetes the whole time.

The disease analogy, as I said, is crude, and I hesitate to use it, for it has been used against Jews many times - most recently, by Arab and Iranian Islamists. Nevertheless, in one critical respect, religion behaves like a disease, for religions, too, lose their virulence as they evolve.

Christianity, for example, is largely a benign force in the world today, having been moderated by the theological and social sea-changes of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. You may see people wearing those obnoxious “One Way” buttons that show an index finger pointing skyward (the implication being that there is only One Way to Heaven, and it rhymes with Beezus Price), but these same people are not likely to disembowel you if you disagree with them. They’re more likely to build schools, hospitals, and universities. And, despite efforts by certain segments of the Religious Right, ecclesiastical law and civil law are very different things in the West.

Islam, alas, has not yet had its Enlightenment, save for those parts of it that have had the most cultural intercourse with Western society. It is still the Raw Desert Religion it was fourteen hundred years ago, in some ways comparable to Judaism back in the time of Moses and Joshua. It countenances practices and behaviors such as honor killings that Western civilization has evolved beyond. There is no separation of Mosque and State, for in the Islamic world Sharia law applies - or something close enough to it to constitute a distinction without a difference. And it, too, is triumphalist and supersessionist: if you ain’t a Believer, you are a Worthless Infidel, not quite human.

Not a lot of schools, hospitals, and universities have been forthcoming from the Islamic world. Not a whole lot of Nobel prize winners. A cure for cancer? Don’t hold your breath.

I hope and pray that Islam will have its own Enlightenment, and that, damn quickly. Because unless and until it does, we are in a fight to the death - Western Civilization versus Raw Desert Religion - and we had damn better make sure Civilization wins.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


You know that you’re attending a wedding in the South when the reception features a Grits Bar.

I shit you not.

You would go up to the Grits Bar, where a server, resplendent in white Chef’s Toque, would ladle steaming grits into a Martini glass. You would then direct him to add your choice of toppings, choosing from among sour cream, butter, sliced scallions, shredded bacon, and cheddar cheese.

One of those things was a meal in itself, but there was lots more. Smoked salmon with mini-bagels. Carved turkey breast and ham. Iced, boiled shrimp. Fried scallops. Little puff pastries, stuffed with what appeared to be beef brisket. An impressive collection of top-drawer cheeses. Fruit.

[Note that I am enumerating what was available, not what I ate.]

And, thankfully, there was an open bar. With liquor drinks. Not something to be taken for granted at a Baptist wedding, although these were clearly not old-school Hard-Shell Baptists. Hey, they had a band...with dancing!

[Old joke: Why don’t Baptists screw standing up? Because it looks too much like dancing.]

In case you are curious as to just whose wedding this was, we were there because the groom is the younger son of friends of long standing. Long standing, in this case, being over 25 years, dating back to our first Tour of Duty in Atlanta.

Back then, pretty much our entire neighborhood - a disparate mixture of locals and corporate transferees from all over the country - ended up becoming quite friendly. No, it wasn’t Peyton Place - it was not that kind of friendly - but friendly in the sense of forming bonds that, in many cases, have persisted for decades, surviving relocations and other challenges.

The ladies, in fact, still get together for dinner every month...and the husbands see each other on regular occasions. Laura Belle and Don, for example, are part of this little group, and they are among our very closest friends.

Over the years, the group has seen plenty of changes. People have moved away and, in some cases, come back. One couple, alas, divorced. We lost one member to cancer three years ago; another fought that battle and (keyn ayin hora) won. Children have been born, grown up, and in some cases moved away. But this is the first one of the group’s children to formally Tie the Knot. It’s a milestone, to be sure.

I’ll post some photos when I get a chance.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Welcome once again to Blog d’Elisson’s Friday Random Ten, the weekly feature in which I post a selection of Choons drawn at random from the legendary iPod d’Elisson.

I have just returned from a deliciously fishiously breakfast, this having been the second day in a row that, thanks to the generosity of people observing yahrzeits and/or celebrating birthdays, we have had breakfast at the Local Smoked Fish and Bagel Emporium provided for us.

It is purely remarkable how one’s outlook on life may be improved by the repeated application of Nova Scotia smoked salmon, belly lox, smoked whitefish, baked salmon, sable, and herring, conjointly with scallion cream cheese and a lightly toasted Everything Bagel, to the lining of the stomach.

Appropriate to the Fishy Occasion, the little white Choon-Box has spewed out, amongst its Random Musical Selections, a Sailor’s Hornpipe...and immediately afterwards, a strange and moist tune by Ozric Tentacles. Coincidence? I think not.

Let’s just take a look at what’s on the box today:
  1. Feelin’ Alright - Traffic
  2. Keep On Growing - Derek and the Dominos
  3. Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart - Stone Temple Pilots
  4. Nokh Eyn Tantz - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  5. Sailor’s Hornpipe and Fisher’s Hornpipe - New Bedford Harbor Sea Chanty Chorus with the Rum Soaked Crooks
  6. Sploosh! - Ozric Tentacles
  7. Chances Are - Johnny Mathis
  8. Doctor Robert - The Beatles
  9. Old Fart At Play - Captain Beefheart

    Pappy with the khaki sweatband
    Bowed goat potbellied barnyard that only he noticed
    The old fart was smart
    The old gold cloth Madonna
    Dancin’ to the fiddle ’n’ saw
    He ran down behind the knoll
    ’N’ slipped on his wooden fish-head
    The mouth worked ’n’ snapped all the bees
    Back to the bungalow

    Momma was flattenin’ lard
    With her red enamel rollin’ pin
    When the fish-head broke the window
    Rubber eye erect ’n’ precisely detailed
    Airholes from which breath should come
    Is now closely fit
    With the chatter of the old fart inside

    An assortment of observations took place
    Momma licked her lips like a cat
    Pecked the ground like a rooster
    Pivoted like a duck
    Her stockings down caught dust ’n’ doughballs
    She cracked her mouth glaze, caught one eyelash
    Rubbed her hands on her gorgeous gingham
    Her hand grasped sticky metal intricate latchwork
    Open to the room, a smell cold mixed with bologna
    Rubber bands crumpled wax paper bonnets
    Fat goose legs ’n’ special jellies
    Ignited by the warmth of the room
    The old fart smelled this through his important breather holes
    Cleverly he dialed from within
    From the outside we observed
    That the nose of the wooden mask
    Where the holes had just been a moment ago
    Was now smooth - amazingly blended - camouflaged in
    With the very intricate rainbow trout replica

    The old fart inside was now breathin’ freely
    From his perfume bottle atomizer air bulb invention

    His excited eyes from within the dark interior glazed;
    Watered in appreciation of his thoughtful preparation.

  10. Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco Twister - Minus The Bear
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Having spent some years in Modulation,
The Modulator takes up his station
As Commander of the Friday Ark
Navigating his ship through Light and Dark.

The Friday Ark has cast off on its 155th Voyage, its hold and various decks crammed with miscellaneous fauna. Go and take a stroll on the fo’c’sle.

Carnival of the Cats #181 will be hosted by Mind of Mog this Sunday evening: be sure to pay a visit there as well, if your fauna fancy has a feline focus.

Update: CotC #181 is up.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The Parole Officer checks in, as all visitors must do, at the front desk.

He’s paying a visit on someone. Someone for whom he is The Man, the person whose word means the difference between freedom and imprisonment.

Someone who will, shortly, pay a visit to the restroom, where, under the watchful eye of the Parole Officer, he will piss into a specimen container.

The Parole Officer is not pleased, but, after all, it is a job, and somebody has got to do it. And so he signs the visitor register.

Ten minutes later, he leaves with his specimen bottle, now full of golden urine and warmed to near body heat. If traces of Forbidden Substances are found in the urine, he will need to return on a far more unhappy and unpleasant errand.

The Parole Officer drives away, his jaw set, unsmiling. He hates having to visit Middle School.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


It was SWMBO’s birthday last Friday, and we had planned to join two other couples for a pleasant dinner at Seasons 52, a relatively new restaurant adjacent to Perimeter Mall.

With my flight arriving at 5:30 and our reservation at 7:15, I elected to drive directly from the Airport With The Improbably Long Name to the restaurant, where I would meet up with everyone. And, for once, the Air Travel Fates smiled upon me, for my flight from Sweat City arrived on time and I was able to make my way to the north side of town fairly expeditiously.

As I waited for everyone else to arrive, I saw that there were two - count ’em - Lamborghinis parked in front of the restaurant. And within minutes, a third pulled up. You had a bright yellow Gallardo and a couple of black Murciélago LP640’s - one of them the LP640 Roadster.

Lamborghini Murciélago LP640
Lamborghini Murciélago LP640.

We’re talking serious ride here. The Murciélago is a beautiful brute, with a 6.5 liter longitudinally-mounted V-12 engine capable of throwing off 640 BHP. It has a top speed of 211 mph (340 km/h) - impressive enough, but it can go from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and 0-150 in 16.1 seconds. Like taking off in a Got-damn jet aircraft.

We’re also talking serious coin. The Lamborghini Murciélago will set you back almost $290,000, and that’s the base sticker price before adding the fancy options like ceramic brakes, glass engine cover (so you can show off your 6.5 liter V-12 to the boys at the country club), fur-lined toilet seat, and funhouse mirror…not to mention tax, title, and license. And insurance. I wonder how much it costs to insure one of those bad boys.

I gazed at those sciencefictionmobiles in silent envy for the five minutes it took for SWMBO and the rest of the gang to show up. And then, as we walked inside, I said, to nobody in particular, “Those cars look good enough to fuck.”

The valet shot me a raised-eyebrow glance - was this guy a lunatic? - but the Missus didn’t miss a beat.

“Go ask the valet if you can go stick your dick in the tailpipe.”


So much of what we see today consists of pallid, knockabout imitations of the things we knew and loved as children.

Coke Classic, for example. It’s a reasonable facsimile of the Coke we used to drink back in our Snot-Nose Days, but not exactly…for the Real Thing of the elder days was sweetened with sucrose - cane or beet sugar - and today the horribly ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup is used in its stead. It just ain’t the same. Don’t believe me? Try Coca-Cola in the springtime, when kosher-for-Passover Coke is available in certain select metropolitan markets. Since corn products are forbidden to observant Jews during the eight days of Passover, Coca-Cola bottlers use sucrose. (Look for the bottles with the yellow caps.)

And then there’s Chocolate Pudding.

Back in the day, if you wanted chocolate pudding, you’d get out a box of My-T-Fine chocolate pudding mix, some milk - whole milk if you please: none of this wimpy latter-day 1% or 2% stuff - and you’d cook yourself a batch of pudding. (Jell-O also offered their own version, but where I come from, it is considered to be a Johnny-come-lately to the world of Pudding. Stick to gelatin, was (and is) our advice to Jell-O.)

You would stand there, stirring the pot, watching as the powdery pudding mixture slowly dissolved, forming a uniform blend with the slowly warming milk. You would watch as the first tendrils of steam began to rise from the liquid’s surface. You’d keep stirring and scraping the pot, waiting for that magic moment when bubbles would begin to break the surface of the steaming, magically thickening mixture. And then, suddenly, pudding happened.

You would pour the hot pudding into dishes or jelly-glasses, inhaling the fragrant steam, then eagerly scraping and licking the pot. After the pudding-dishes cooled, you would stick them in the fridge to chill. And when the blessed time came to eat the pudding - with or without a thin layer of milk or cream poured on top - you would peel away the leathery skin that would form on its surface. Aaahhh.

Then, one sad day, along came Instant Pudding.

Never was the trade-off between the opposing poles of Convenience and Quality more sharply drawn than with Instant Pudding. For to make Instant Pudding was simplicity itself - all you had to do was combine the powdered mix with cold milk and beat for a few minutes - but the taste was a mere facsimile of the cooked version, thin and having a vaguely chemical pong. I could not abide Instant Pudding, but, alas, it took over the Pudding World with startling alacrity, to the point that you could no longer find a decent cooked pudding in a restaurant. Feh, alas.

The good news is, you don’t have to put up with shitty Instant Chocolate Pudding. You can still get the kind that requires cooking, although it is my-t-hard to find My-T-Fine around these parts nowadays.

And if you want to put in a little more effort, you can make chocolate pudding from scratch, the Real Old-Fashioned Way.

Chocolate Pudding - The Real Deal

2¼ cups milk
½ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence 99% Cacao)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence 70% Cacao)
1 egg (large or extra-large) plus two yolks
2 tbsp cornstarch (unsifted)
3 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa (unsifted)
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut in small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp dark rum or Grand Marnier

Beat the egg and the yolks to mix.

Chop up the chocolates and put them in a heavy saucepan over medium heat with 2 cups of the milk (reserve the remaining ¼ cup) and ¼ cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining ¼ cup plus one tbsp). Heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture just comes to a boil, at which point the chocolate should be completely dissolved with no flecks remaining on the surface of the milk.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, sift together the remaining ¼ cup plus one tbsp sugar, the cornstarch, the cocoa, and and the salt. Add the remaining ¼ cup of milk and whisk together until blended.

Ladle about a cup of the hot chocolate milk into the cocoa-cornstarch mixture, whisking as you do so; then take the cocoa-cornstarch mixture and add it all to the pot of chocolate milk. With a rubber spatula, stir and scrape the pot over low heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir and scrape for two minutes.

Now take about a cup of the hot mixture and dump it into the eggs, stirring as you do so. Then dump the egg mixture into the pot and stir well.

Over low heat, stir and scrape for another two minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. Now take it off the heat and mix in the butter until thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla and the (optional) rum or Grand Marnier. I used Grand Marnier as I like the interplay of the orange and chocolate flavors - Cointreau works well too if you like a slightly more assertive bitter orange taste.

Pour into goblets or serving dishes - you should have enough for four portions. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream if desired.

[Yes, this stuff will develop a skin on top as you chill it. That’s never been an issue with us Jews, who have no problem removing inconvenient circular bits of skin.]

Serious Pudding
None of that “instant” crap.

This stuff is emphatically Not For Kiddies. It is bittersweet, serious chocolate, with enough Concentrated Calorific Punch to impress even a Steve H. But - if you’re old enough - it will remind you of the days when pudding was pudding, a banana was just a banana, and a good cigar was a smoke.