Thursday, June 17, 2010


“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” - Mark Twain

As yet, there have been no such reports - exaggerated or not - at least as far as my own death is concerned. And I’ll be perfectly content to keep it that way.

As far as Blog d’Elisson is concerned, however, it is a different story. This is my last post on this site.

Oh, do not weep for my silly little blog. I will continue my Bloggy Activities elsewhere. My new site, Lost in the Cheese Aisle, is up and running, and I hope you will take the time to update your blogrolls, RSS feeds, subscriptions, and what-not. So if this exercise in Self-Aggrandizement and Time-Wastage has appealed to you, you won’t miss a thing. The main difference between Bd’E and Lost in the Cheese Aisle is the name. (Well, that and the URL.) Same shit, different place.

Why change? Inquiring minds, I am sure, will want to know. There are two main reasons.

One, I have never really liked the title of this blog. It’s lame. Originally, it was going to be a placeholder until I could think of something I liked better, and then I just got lazy. Whereas “Lost in the Cheese Aisle” is better reflective of my state of mind most days... it’s how the Missus describes me when I’m walking around in a state of mental befoggedness.

Two, I wanted to go back to the Blogger commenting system. Sure, it sucks... but not as much as Echo. I was perfectly happy with the Haloscan commenting I had installed almost six years ago, but when Echo took over Haloscan, they discarded every useful feature and replaced them with Utter Shit. Echo is user-unfriendly and a general Pain in the Ass. Ditching it is a fine side effect of switching to a new site.

If you wanted a third reason, how ’bout “Skippy did it”? He is none the worse for wear after killing off his old Enjoy Every Sandwich site and replacing it (after a brief hiatus) with Postcards of the Hanging. So there is that.

Sometimes change - shaking things up, moving on - can spur one on to greatness. At the very least, it’s one way to escape the status quo and preserve the illusion of personal progress... to get out of one’s old rut, thus enabling one to begin scraping out a new one.

I have been writing here for almost six years, logging almost 450,000 site visits and slapping up 4,000 posts. It’s time to start stinking up another crib.

See you on the other side. Vale atque ave.


Those of us who have taken a few trips around the Sun have seen plenty of progress over the years. But it’s a two-edged sword, this business of progress. While some changes improve our lives in ways small and great, as we watch new technologies overtake old, some things are, inevitably, lost.

I have a device in my pocket that’s roughly the size of a candy bar. With it, I can talk to almost anyone I care to, anywhere in the world. I can send written messages. I can look at a map and get directions to almost anyplace. I can reserve a table at a restaurant, book a hotel room, buy an airline ticket. I can program my DVR (another new piece of technology undreamed of a couple of decades ago) to record my favorite television programs. I can maintain a calendar, send birthday greetings, take a photograph and send it anywhere on Earth. I can even pay my bills.

Paying bills. Now, there’s a task that technology has made somewhat less of a burden. Used to be, I’d sit down at my desk with a stack of bills twice a month, writing checks, sealing envelopes, affixing stamps and return address labels, keeping the check register. It was a huge pain in the ass.

Now, I log on to my bank’s website, open up my online banking screen, grab the mouse, clickety-click, and I’m done. Hours worth of toil, reduced to mere minutes. Of course, I still have to make sure there’s actually money in the account with which to pay those bills, but that’s a problem we all must grapple with, technology or no.

Over a century ago, people were writing checks. Witness:

Postcard 1892
A bank draft written in 1892. [Click to embiggen.]

It’s a postcard - a postcard! - from one W. B. Baker to D. Y. & R. R. Dancy of Savannah, Georgia. Notice the sparse address: just the name and city.  Good luck trying that today.

It reads: Feb 2nd 1892.; Gents - Have this day drawn on you favor Solomon & Co. for $32.18.  Please honor and oblige.

Nothing less than a polite written request for Messrs. Dancy to pay Solomon & Co.  A bank draft.  A check.  No account number... but in those days, people knew their bankers personally, and vice versa.

I fear the days are long gone when one could write such instructions on a postcard - anyone could read it! - and reasonably expect that it would end up in the hands of the correct recipient, who would then follow those instructions promptly.  And yet, I do not mourn.  I push a button; I pay my bills.  I am happy; my creditors are happy.

But what I do miss is the penmanship.  Look at the beautiful copperplate handwriting, the flowing letters, the whorls and curves of the signature.  The Palmer method and its brethren are arts that have been lost to the ages.  Do they even teach cursive writing in school any more?  Or has it gone the way of the Buggy-Whip?


Eric, that most esteemed Tennessee Renaissance Man, knows his way around a grill. Those of us fortunate enough to have attended his legendary birthday parties know that when it comes to grilling tender, succulent chops, the Straight White Grillmeister is at the top of his game... and She Who Must Be Obeyed still raves about a sirloin steak he prepared for her several months ago.

But, until this week, Eric had never tried to grill a whole yardbird. It was left to old Uncle Elisson to show him how.

It may come as a revelation to some folks that chickens may be purchased all of a piece: a whole, fresh (not frozen) bird. Rather than hacking the beast into convenient edible component parts - breasts, thighs, drumsticks and such - the bird’s head is removed and jammed into the empty Entrail-Cavity along with the neck, gizzard, heart and liver (collectively known as the giblets), after which the whole mess is conveniently vacuum-packed in thick plastic film. Whether they call it a fryer, broiler, roaster, or whatever-the-fuck, it’s nought but a whole chicken.

Whole chickens are fine for roasting, or for converting into chicken soup... but it’s another matter entirely when you want to grill them. Their shape does not lend itself to easy grilling, being somewhat akin to a hollow football with wings and legs. But you can fix that.

First, you take the chicken out of its plastic wrappings. (Grilling the bird while it’s still encased in polyethylene does little to improve its flavor.) Reach into the cavity and yank out the giblets while you’re at it. I like to save ’em: the liver can be sautéed in a little olive oil or butter with a dab of sage, while the other bits and pieces can go into the stockpot.

Now it’s time to do some back-cracking. If you like living dangerously, you can use a meat cleaver, but I rely on my trusty Oxo Good Grips Professional Poultry Shears for this job. The heavy, curved blade cuts through bones with ease, and the whole thing disassembles easily for cleaning.

Lay the bird down with its ass-end facing you and with the backbone on top. Take those shears and cut toward the neck alongside the backbone. Now cut along the other side of the backbone to remove it. Save the backbone for the stockpot.

Now flatten the bird and turn it so its inside is on top. Cut in the center and remove the V-shaped keelbone. You can now flatten that sucker out like a book.

By way of a rub, I took a teaspoon of ground cumin and toasted it in a skillet. To this I added four chopped garlic cloves garlic, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, and a teaspoon of pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika). All of this went into a mortar along with the juice of one lime (I also like to use lemon, adding the zest as well) and a tablespoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil. After mashing everything together, I rubbed the chicken with the resulting Flavor-Paste and let it sit at room temperature for two hours prior to throwing it on the grill. (Refrigerate it if you’re going to prepare the bird more than two hours in advance.)

Spatchcocked Chicken
A spatchcocked yardbird, ready for the grill.

When it came to the actual grilling process, we got the grill’s temp up to 350°F and placed the chicken on a high grate, well away from the direct heat of the flame. Turning the bird every fifteen minutes or so, it took about an hour to finish it, with crisp, flavorful skin, dark meat cooked through... and yet with surprisingly moist white meat.

It was a perfect companion to the brace of sirloin steaks Eric had prepared... and for the grilled, sliced summer squash, and the roasted asparagus.

They say you can’t teach an old bird dawg new tricks, but I’ll be surprised if our Tennessee Renaissance Man doesn’t try one of these bad boys again real soon. He’s got the tools for the job.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It being our thirty-third wedding anniversary this past Saturday, we decided to celebrate by spending the night at a Fancy-Ass Hostelry. For nothing helps you escape the drudgery of the day-to-day than a night away from home. And if your quotidian existence is pleasant, why, so much the better.

In preparation for our Mini-Honeymoon, I had, a week or so prior, booked us in at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Buckhead. We had stayed there a few times before - once in the 1980’s, once in the late ’90’s - for similar occasions and had had good experiences both times. And so, the Ritz it was.

Every once in a while, we are compelled to stay in an upscale hotel. Several months ago, the daughter of some good friends of long standing had scheduled a wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. Rather than simply drive down, attend the wedding and reception, and then drive home, we had elected to stay at the hotel. Self indulgent? Of course... but that way we could drink ourselves silly without worrying about navigating anything more challenging than an elevator. And the Four Seasons, being one of the finer lodgings in town, was a delightful place for a getaway, albeit a short one.

The Ritz-Carlton, however, is another story entirely. For as nice as the Four Seasons is, the Ritz takes it up to another level entirely by adding a whole new dimension of Ass-Kissage.

There is an entire cadre of nattily attired hotel employees whose sole function is administering frequent and carefully aimed Buttock-Busses at every opportunity, the better to fill their guests with a completely unjustified sense of self-importance. You are assumed to be the completely helpless sort of royalty, incapable of the simplest task - such as opening a door.  Uniformed attendants are there to do it for you.

A personal greeting is ever on the lips of the Ritz Employee:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Elisson.”

“Good morning, Mr. Elisson. I trust you slept well?”

“Good evening, Mr. Elisson. Will you be needing any assistance in wiping your bottom?”

Upon arriving in our room, instead of the usual couple of chocolate bits on the pillows, there was a box of chocolates that looked more like futuristic science-fictional Choco-Pills. Too beautiful to eat, they were.

Fancy-Pants Chocolates
Chocolates? Miniature works of art? Or Future-Pills?

We did more than simply lounge around the hotel sucking up the obsequiousness, however. I had reserved a table at Rathbun’s, Kevin Rathbun’s eponymous eatery; Rathbun, a great big bear of a man with whom I feel an especial kinship owing to his willingness to wear a perforated metallic chapeau, is one of the local Cheffy Luminaries in Atlanta. Two years ago, he and his brother Kent defeated Iron Chef Bobby Flay in “Battle Elk” on Iron Chef America, a Useless Fact considering that I was planning to order lamb, not elk.

The meal was ridiculously good. An appetizer of raw ahi tuna cubes with razor-thin slices of Serrano peppers, a dusting of sea salt, and some blood orange slices was a perfect palate sharpener. She Who Must Be Obeyed ordered the smoked beef brisket in aged sherry vinegar BBQ (superb), while I opted for the Australian lamb chops. One of Rathbun’s whimsically-titled “Second Mortgage” plates, this was nothing less than three (count ’em) double-cut chops, seared to a perfect medium-rare, drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and served atop a pile of wild mushrooms sautéed in a heavy cast-iron skillet. Outstanding, it was... especially washed down with lashings of a 2007 Ramspeck Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Instead of dessert, SWMBO was tempted by the eggplant steak fries: lightly beaded batons of aubergine, fried crisp and dusted with 10x confectioner’s sugar, then served alongside a white-hot, sinus-clearing habanero dipping sauce. Yummy.

Atlanta Night Skyline

After enjoying a few after-dinner coffees, we wound our way back to the Ritz for a series of polite door-openings, obsequious greetings, and a nightcap. And later, from our room, the Atlanta skyline glowed...
* * *
The next morning, we lounged around and enjoyed a few hours of quiet Ritzian luxury prior to having the Mistress of Sarcasm join us for the celebrated Ritz-Carlton Sunday brunch.

The Ritz, it should be explained, lays on a spectacular all-you-care-to-eat foodfest every Sunday morning. It’s a monument to excess, a veritabobble Groaning Board of treats, meats, sweetmeats; breadstuffs, charcuterie, cheeses; prepared dishes, fishes, and pretty much anything else you might desire. It ain’t inexpensive... but then again, it’s something we allow ourselves only on rare occasions. Rare, indeed: The last time we had done a Ritz-Brunch was fully a quarter-century ago.

There is a strategy associated with the Sunday Brunch. People who go cruising in with slavering jaw, empty plate in hand and hungry look on face, will inevitably be disappointed at the end of the day, having filled themselves with English muffins, cantaloupe chunks, Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, lumps of sausage, and rashers of bacon.

Yes, they have pancakes. Yes, they have waffles. Yes, they have sausage and bacon.

Fuck that. I can get pancakes at Shoney’s. I can have the free breakfast at any randomly-selected Hampton Inn and get a perfectly good Belgian waffle in exchange for the minor inconvenience of making it myself. But when I am at the Ritz, I am going to save my appetite for the Ritzy Grub.

Caviar, f’r instance. Three kinds of fresh caviar, served with quarter-sized blini (Russian yeast-raised buckwheat pancakes), and the usual accoutrements: chopped egg, onion, sour cream, et alia. Without being too much of a slob about it, I make sure my personal supply of caviar never runs dry.

Smoked trout? Check. Smoked salmon? Check. Smoked mussels, shrimp, scallops? Check checkity check. Sushi? Gigantic boiled shrimp? Oh, yeah.

Macaroni and cheese? Normally, having mac and cheese at a buffet is a honkin’ waste of time. But this was lobster and truffle mac and cheese. Oooooh.

Prime rib? Maybe a dab. Grilled sea bass? Aw, why not? Country pâté, exotic salamis, rare cheeses? Somebody stop me!

Perhaps a martini glass full of gazpacho... with a golf ball-sized chunk of fresh lump crabmeat floating in it. Yowza.

By using my Focused Foraging™ method, zeroing in on expensive, tasty protein instead of cheap filler, I not only get my money’s worth at a Fancy-Ass Buffet - I have a satisfying, reasonably healthy meal. Plus, I get to watch as the Mistress plows through the gorgeous, intricate, jewel-like desserts.

The folks at the Ritz-Carlton were all too accommodating, allowing us a late checkout that gave us plenty of buffet attack time. And then, on the way out, they offered to take our picture... a souvenir of the visit, a Parting (Snap) Shot, if you will.

Ritzy El and the Girls
The Parting (Snap) Shot... Yours Truly with SWMBO and the Mistress of Sarcasm.

A weekend to remember? You bet it was.

Saturday, June 12, 2010



1,041,400,800 seconds.

17,356,680 minutes.

289,278 hours.

12,053 days.

33 years.

That’s how long She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have been married, as of today.

Time flies when you’re having fun. I remember our wedding day as if it were yesterday. (Keep in mind that I sometimes cannot remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.)

And if I could choose whether to do it all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Once upon a time, the funnies were filled with funny words.

Of course, if you say any word enough times, it begins to sound completely ridiculous.

Try it. Pick a word at random, then say it about twenty times.


Shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt shirt.

Pretty silly, eh?

Given that you can take almost any regular, everyday word and render it laughable, imagine creating your own silly words... and having them burned into the consciousness of millions of people over a long period of time. That’s the legacy of the great comic strips of the past.

Zippy 12/28/06
Zippy, 28 December 2006. ©2006 King Features Syndicate. [Click to embiggen.]

Bill Griffith’s Zippy may very well be the finest meta-comic strip out there. Above, Griffith reminisces about the great nonsense words and phrases the comics have contributed to the popular culture. How many of them do you remember?

Arnold Zwicky, in a post from early 2007, provides the backstory for the words in Griffith’s strip. You may be surprised to learn that the use of the word “Jeep” in Elzie Segar’s immortal Thimble Theatre strip (birthplace of Popeye and his assorted hangers-on) predated its use to describe the G.P. (General Purpose) vehicle of WWII.

One of the great coiners of nonsense phrases was the late Bill Holman, creator of Smokey Stover. Holman popularized the word “Foo” (see if you can count how many times it appears in the strip below) - a word that was picked up in WWII and used to describe mysterious aerial phenomena or UFO sightings (“foo fighters”).

Smokey Stover, 1941
Smokey Stover. ©1941 News Syndicate Co., Inc. [Click to embiggen.]

Notary Sojac. 1506 Nix Nix. Those nutty phrases flew from Holman’s prolific, pun-packed pen. Finding them buried in a Sunday Smokey Stover comics page was one of the small joys of childhood for me.

What dopey Comical Catchwords do you remember?

Thursday, June 10, 2010



The ever-vigilant Hakuna sits by the front door, ready to get a Big Tail at the sight of any flower-munching rabbits.

Update: Friday Ark #299 is open for business over at the Modulator.

This Sunday, be sure to check out Carnival of the Cats, the 326th edition of which will be hosted by that most irrepressible Nikita over at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

Update: CotC #326 is up... with Hakuna in pole position!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010



An Elisson-eye view of my bathroom scale this morning.

The last time that number had a seven in the tens column, it was sometime in the 1980’s. After that, my inner slob took over.

I’m down twenty-eight pounds now - about six away from my goal. At my current rate, I ought to get there around the beginning of July. Wish me luck.


The fare we enjoy during our annual Alabama Golf Outings ranges, as such things tend to do, from the ridiculous to the sublime.

We’ve had tough, gristle-packed steaks at chain restaurants... and, sometimes at the same place on the same evening, others that were “like buttah.”

We’ve traveled to the nasty parts of town for barbecue... because that’s where the best barbecue places are supposed to be. But sometimes it turns out to be more miscue than barbecue.

This year we hit a place called the Golden Rule in Pell City, a wide spot in the road somewhere roughly midway between Opelika and Huntsville. Bartimus Magnificus, a native of Birmingham, gave it the thumbs-up - he had known the place back when it was a one-location operation in Irondale. And, for once, Bart picked a winner. It was no Goode Company, but then again, we weren’t in Texas... and the collard greens were superb.

The next night, instead of the usual eat-a-steak-at-the-faux-Australian-chain-restaurant routine, we got adventurous. Big Marty had done some Internet research and had found a joint called the Po Boy Factory. N’Awlins-style food in northeastern Alabama? We were skeptical, but figured what the hell.

Surprise! This place was the Real Thing, a little chunk of Louisiana in a completely unexpected place. And the food was terrific.

A mess o’ mudbugs, AKA crawfish.

In addition to the expected assortment of po boy and muffuletta sandwiches, the PBF offered piles of boiled shrimp and crawfish, excellent gumbo and jambalaya, and blackened mahi mahi for those who wished something a little less traif. For dessert? Bread pudding with whiskey sauce, along with an assortment of pies... for those who still had the Gut-Room to indulge.

The thing that made the Po Boy Factory stand out, even more than the food, was the friendly, down-home attitude of the staff. It’s a family operation, and it showed.

Po Boy Factory
Big Marty, Bartimus Maximus, Marie Thigpen (owner of the Po Boy Factory), and Houston Steve.

Beat the crap out of that faux-Ozzie steak place, to say the least.

Monday, June 07, 2010


A bean is a bean, but a pea is a relief.

      - Billie Bob z''l

Legumes, legumes
Enhance cardiac health
The more one consumes
The less one is able to pass flatus in stealth

      - Elisson

The Missus was inspired, the other day, to make a Four-Bean Salad. Having no recipe handy, she just made one up on the fly.

Four-Bean Salad

Black beans, little white beans, little red beans, garbanzos, all rinsed and drained... sliced red and yellow peppers... a few sliced sun-dried tomatoes... chopped basil, flat-leaf parsley, and shallot... a light dusting of garlic powder... a little extra virgin olive oil... a splash of red wine vinegar. Let it all sit for a few hours for the flavors to get comfortable with one another. That’s it: easy-peasy.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


The wildlife was in abundance this weekend as we hacked our way around Hampton Cove, the Huntsville, Alabama outpost of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Some scene-setting is in order. Alabama, home of the aforementioned Trail, offers excellent golf on challenging layouts, all at reasonable prices... and so, once a year, I join a small army of Golf-Playing Idiots on a westward trek to the Heart of Dixie.

Golfy Boyz 2010
Small army of Golf-Playing Idiots. (I’m in the back.)

This year’s trip was was a step-out improvement over those of previous years. First, we had good luck with the weather. A nasty, wet forecast for Friday never materialized - we had a few sprinkles to deal with, but nothing serious. Also, temperatures remained moderate, a rare pleasure for an Alabamian June. But most important was our wise decision to limit our play to eighteen holes a day. In past years, we would cram ninety holes into three days in what could best be described as a sort of Golfy Demolition Derby that would cover the entire spectrum from fun to work to torture. This time, sanity prevailed.

Friday, we played the Links course at Grand National in Opelika. We always say, “what happens in Opelika stays in Opelika,” which means I don’t have to mention the complete absence of my short game skills that day.


That evening, a scenic drive on the back roads took us to Huntsville, way up in the northeastern corner of the state. Huntsville is famous for being the home of the Redstone Arsenal and the United States Space and Rocket Center, as well as the landing area for scores of Nazi rocket scientists after WWII under Operation Paperclip. With all that German brainpower around, U.S. efforts to develop ICBM technology during the early years of the Cold War naturally were centered in what became popularly known as “Rocket City, U.S.A.”

We had no time to screw around with rockets on this trip, however.

Hampton Cove boasts two full-size layouts: the Highlands and the River courses. The River was especially fearsome. Despite a complete absence of sand bunkers, water came into play on sixteen of the eighteen holes. It’s not a course for the faint of heart... and yet, it is one of those completely unexplainable Mysteries of Nature that I shot my best-ever RTJ Trail round there. Who’da thunkit?

The River
Where the hell did my ball go? The river knows...

Aside from seeing thirty-six golf holes over the weekend, we saw an exceptional abundance of wildlife.

There were geese:

Golfy Geese

There were ducks:

Ma and Pa Mallard

There was the occasional heron:


But perhaps most surprising was the presence of a profusion of papillons. Butterflies! They were everywhere, often congregating in groups. Tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, admirals, painted ladies, you name ’em.

I saw this group of black swallowtails clustered together and grabbed a photo:


As I snapped the shutter, I could see that these beautiful insects were roosting upon a chunk of Animal Spoor. Shit! And that’s when I realized that the gossamer-winged butterfly will sometimes eschew his usual delicate sips of flower-nectar in favor of a more earthy dinner. In that wise, he is very like us humans: So often do we decline to reach for the stars, preferring to grub in the dirt.

Call it a moral lesson, one of the world’s Essential Truths. Butterflies, however beautiful, are still flies.

Friday, June 04, 2010


I neglected to post the usual Friday Random Ten last week owing to our being out-of-town... and, after receiving hundreds of angry e-mails, I won’t be letting that happen again anytime soon.


But, after all, it is Friday again... and you’ll be wanting some Choons fresh outta the Little White Choon-Box, won’t you?

Here we go:
  1. Mr. Moonlight - The Beatles

    From the Beatles For Sale album, probably the weakest one in their entire discography.

  2. Idioteque - Radiohead

  3. Backed Up - Bill Hicks

  4. Lovers & Pinheads - Bobby Slayton

  5. Common Sense - Michael Leviton

  6. Lautturin Viivat - Alamaailman Vasarat

  7. Golden Birdies - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

    Those little golden birdies - look at them

    And the mystic Egypt tassel dangling down
    Old sleeper-man shish, don’t wake him
    Up one hand broom star was an obi-man
    Revered throughout the bone-knob land
    His magic black purse slit creeped open,
    Let go flocks of them

    Shish sookie singabus
    Snored like a red merry-go-round horse
    And an acid gold bar swirled up and down,
    Up and down, in back of the singabus
    And the pantaloon duck white goose neck quacked
    Webcor, webcor

  8. Green Earrings - Steely Dan

  9. Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

  10. Stagger Lee - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

    Hmmm... two songs in a row having to do with murderous head-cases. Yowza!

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, June 03, 2010


There’s an old saying: The cobbler’s children have no shoes. Whether that’s true or not, I cannot say - but one thing is certain. Eli’s children have cobbler.

I submit for your delectation a photograph of the blueberry cobbler prepared by The Other Elisson and served forth on our Daddy’s eighty-fifth birthday alongside gargantuan slabs of layer cake and chunks of melon.

The Other Elisson’s Blueberry Cobbler
The Other Elisson’s Blueberry Cobbler.

Sexy, huh?

I permitted myself a taste of the berries. They were packed with delicious fruit flavor, enhanced by the one-two punch of lemon and cinnamon. Unbelievable.

People who have been reading this site for several years know that I loves me some blueberries. It was four years ago this week that I was in New Brunswick, Canada - home of some of the finest blueberries in the world - so I know whereof I speak.

Until this bad boy showed up on the table, I had never known my brother was a Dessert Maven. Normally, the Other Elisson lives a fairly ascetic life, being very careful about what he eats. But apparently he’s not ashamed to cut loose now and again.

As for how he did it, I’m pretty sure this is close to the recipe he used. It will serve six to eight... or four really serious cobbler lovers:

The Other Elisson’s Blueberry Cobbler

½ cup granulated sugar (3½ oz)
1 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch table salt
6 cups fresh blueberries (~30 ounces), washed and picked over
1½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice

Biscuit Topping
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 oz)
2 tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
¼ cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tsp for sprinkling
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp table salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter (½ stick), melted
⅓ cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

To make the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the blueberries and mix gently, using a rubber spatula, until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice and combine. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch glass pie pan. Place the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around edges, about 25 minutes.

While the filling is baking, get the biscuit topping ingredients ready but don’t mix the wet and dry ingredients together until just before the berry filling comes out of the oven. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine. In a separate, small bowl, whisk the melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla together. Mix the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl; set aside. Just before the filling is ready, add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and stir until just combined. You don’t want any dry material left, but don’t beat the crap out of it.

Now it’s time to put the cobbler together. Take the berry filling out of the oven and jack up the oven temp to 425°F. Pinch off eight equal-sized globs of biscuit dough and place on hot berry filling, spacing them at least half an inch apart. Sprinkle each dough-glob with the cinnamon sugar mixture you prepared earlier. Stick the whole mess back in the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling like blue lava and the biscuits are golden brown on top - about 15-18 minutes. Remove the cobbler from the oven and cool on a wire rack 20 minutes or so. Serve it forth with lashings of vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

And then, loosen your belt. Oof!


Cartoony Koony
Cartoony ’Koony. [Click to embiggen.]

Hakuna permits one of her subjects to approach her Royal Personage and offer skritchings.

The image has been doctored in Photoshop, making it sorta painterly and/or cartoony. Hey, that’s it - Cartoony ’Koony!

Update: Friday Ark #298 is afloat at the Modulator... and this Sunday, Carnival of the Cats rolls around to Three Tabby Cats in Vienna.

Update 2: CotC #325 is up.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Toni and Eli
Eli (Hizzownself), with Toni, his Better Half.

We celebrated the Old Man’s eighty-fifth birthday last weekend in grand style.

Earlier that day, we had driven out east to do a little winery hopping. It seems that Long Island, in the past three decades, has become a mini-hotbed of viniculture: Who knew? About forty wineries dot the various towns on the eastern end of the island, with most on the North Fork... so that is where we headed.

At the Lenz Winery in Peconic, we stopped for a tasting amidst a profusion of carefully manicured vines. Barbara, our charming blonde tasting host, played Long Island Geography with me as she poured our wines - as it happens, she was a year younger than me and had lived in the same town - and on the same street, on the opposite side of the nine-hole golf course that bisected the neighborhood.

SWMBO and I at the Lenz Winery, Peconic.

The wines were good - the North Fork microclimate is particularly suited to Merlot - and SWMBO and I ordered a few bottles before we all went on our merry way.

Filet MignonThat evening, we enjoyed a fine dinner at Tellers, a chophouse tucked into a vintage bank building in Islip. As impressive as the surroundings were - thirty-foot-high ceilings tend to add a bit of tone - the food and wine were at least as impressive. My filet, a handsome, softball-sized chunk of prime, dry-aged beefmeat, had just the right beefiness and texture; Eli elected to have the braised beef short ribs, a ridiculously flavorsome, tender example of the genre. And the wine, a 2007 Merlot from the South Fork’s Wölffer Estate Vineyards, complemented the meal perfectly.

As we were polishing off our various entrées, we saw a waiter glide past bearing an enormous trencher with what appeared to be Fred Flintstone’s dinner: a huge baseball bat-sized bone with a clublike wad of meat attached to it. What in Gawd’s name was it? According to our waiter, it was the house speciality, a forty ounce (!) bone-in ribeye. Since I have no compunctions about making a fool of myself in front of complete strangers, I got right up and walked over to the table where that monster steak had been delivered... to a guy who looked like he could work as an NFL player or a bar bouncer.

“Excuse me, but that’s a mighty impressive steak. Would you mind if I took a picture of it?”

Somewhat bemused, the fellow allowed me to photograph his meal. Alas, the picture did not turn out well, but I could’ve sworn that piece of meat bore the legend “Callaway FT-iZ.”

There would be more celebrating the next day, complete with cake and The Other Elisson’s homemade blueberry cobbler, but this was a Birthday to Remember.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Q: Is it OK to put turkey on a Greek salad?

A: Only if you’re especially Hungary.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Eli, Hizzownself: The older you get, the less inhibited you are in many ways.

* * *

Today is Eli’s eighty-fifth birthday. Yesterday, he kicked off the morning by playing four games of doubles racquetball - something he does routinely twice a week. He only won the first and last games, a clear indication that he is slowing down.

Buffalo Eli
Eli shows his less-inhibited side.

Despite his age, our Dad is not a complete Luddite. I’m writing these words on his very own computer, the selfsame machine that The Other Elisson and I purchased as a birthday gift for him last year. After a lengthy delay, it’s now hooked up to the Inter-Webby-Net and Eli is taking his (very tentative) first steps into cyberspace.

Whether this evolves into any sort of electronic comfort zone is completely up in the air. Dad is very much a child of the pre-computer generation, from the days when secretaries would type his business correspondence, telephones did not sport automatic answering devices, and mail was something that you stuck in an envelope with a stamp.

But it’s nice to imagine him using a few rudimentary tools such as Wikipedia and IMDB... and maybe even reading this stupid-ass blog once in a while.

Errr... maybe this computer business isn’t such a good idea after all...

Thursday, May 27, 2010


This past weekend, the Mistress of Sarcasm and I enjoyed the hospitality of Elder Daughter and her two housemates.

It was our first chance to check out Elder Daughter’s new digs. Formerly living solo in an Adams Morgan apartment, E.D. moved to a large, rambling house in the rapidly gentrifying H corridor where she is part of a sort of Roomie-Family. It’s a huge improvement over her former situation.

Miss Kitty
Miss Kitty, one of the Animal Denizens of Elder Daughter’s house.

In addition to Elder Daughter and her housemates, there are several animal denizens of the residence as well. A parade of Foster-Dogs, one of whom (Craig) bears an astonishing resemblance to Laurence Fishburne, runs through at regular intervals. There’s a cat - Miss Kitty - who has adapted well to home life after having been rescued from the streets. And then there’s the appropriately-named Minnie...

Minnie - one Tiny-Ass Dawg.

...the tiniest frickin’ dog I’ve ever laid eyes on.

That Minnie is small is not too surprising when you consider her Chihuahua ancestry. But she is not just small, she is minuscule. Teeny-tiny. Small enough to be carried up Richard Gere’s ass with room left over for a whole family of gerbils.

Small enough to fit in one hand.

And she’s got a big, feisty heart, all out of proportion to her size. She takes no crap from the horde of big dogs as they traipse through the living room: She growls and barks at them like she’s ready to tear ’em a new one. Amazing.

Yet she is cuddly, in her own tiny-ass way.

Chris and Minnie
Chris and Minnie: Tiny-Ass Love.

Best yet: Minnie is Ren Hoëk personified. She even speaks with a bizarre, Peter Lorre-esque accent! Gotta love it.

Update: Friday Ark #297 is up at (where else?) the Modulator... and this week, CatSynth hosts an exceptionally well-done Carnival of the Cats #324.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


As the month of May slips away, soon to be replaced by June, I think back on my Snot-Nose Days. Back then, we’d be in school for the first three weeks of June, our summer vacation beginning roughly around the time of the solstice.

By the time the school year had worn down to those last few days, things were downright steamy. This was back before classrooms were air-conditioned, and hundred-degree days were not unknown. You could get a sunstroke running around on the playground during recess.

In the neighborhood, the arrival of summer was marked by the arrival of the ice-cream trucks. Good Humor was the odds-on favorite, but we would occasionally see a Mister Softee or Bungalow Bar vendor, the last marked by his unique gable-roofed vehicle. My parents looked down their noses at the Bungalow Bar with disdain, a disdain I grew to share for no apparent reason; I never tasted one.

The real harbinger of summer was not the ice-cream men in their various flavors, though. It was the Mosquito Truck.

Yes! The Mosquito Truck, a forgotten institution in these post-DDT days. It was a Jeep fitted out with a device that generated prodigious volumes of Mosquito Fog, an opaque white cloud packed with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. Mosquitoes saw that cloud coming and simply committed suicide rather than face a horrible neurotoxic death.

How often would we kids get caught in that Fogbank o’ Doom, inhaling the chlorinated hydrocarbon perfume? Plenty often. Gawd only knows what insidious damage our little bodies sustained... but at least we were not at risk for yellow fever or malaria. And, many years later, I was happy to father children that did not have two heads, or flippers, or Froggy Eyes.

You don’t see Mosquito Trucks too often anymore... at least, not here in the States, where 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-di(4-chlorophenyl)ethane is (metaphorically) as radioactive as plutonium and more tightly controlled than cannabis. The ban on DDT may have saved the American Bald Eagle, for which we should be grateful... but it was nice, once upon a time, to life in a (mostly) mosquito-free environment.

Does anyone else remember the Mosquito Truck?


The sharp-eyed Mistress of Sarcasm could not help but notice this Washington, D.C. taxicab’s ID number as we left last week’s TEDxPotomac conference. And I could not help but capture it for posterity as we all cracked up laughing.

Camel 2

Makes you wonder just what kind of rides this guy was selling, eh?


Smokemeisters Henry L., Jerry C., and Elisson whip out their meat.

There’s an old joke about a rabbi who is out of town on a mid-week business trip. He checks into his hotel and heads out to a local eatery... and, as he peruses the menu, a thought pops into his head.

“I’ve never tasted of the flesh of the swine,” he thinks, “and I have always wondered what it’s like.

“Surely, if I were to order pork just this one time, God would forgive me - and besides, I’m away from home, and nobody will ever find out.”

His rationalization thus worked through, he orders the whole roast suckling pig. (Might as well go “whole hog,” eh?) And as soon as the waiter disappears with the order, the rabbi is horrified to see the president of his synagogue’s Sisterhood walk into the restaurant, accompanied by her husband (the ritual director) and their two children.

Of course, they recognize their rabbi immediately and, like one would do when encountering a hometown friend in a faraway place, they come over to greet him. The rabbi gives them a friendly smile, a hearty greeting, all the while silently praying that they will just go away and be seated on the far side of the restaurant.

No such luck. They insist on having the rabbi join them... and he is in no position to refuse.

Moments later, the waiter arrives, bearing a huge domed platter. He whisks away the dome to reveal a roast suckling pig, complete with apple in mouth - and the Sisterhood president and her family gape in open-mouthed horror.

The rabbi looks at the pig, then looks at them. He looks at the pig again, then looks back at them.

“Can you believe it? I order a baked apple, and look at the big production!”

* * * * *

All this is a lengthy prologue to the story of my Birmingham barbecue adventure... competing in a kosher barbecue cook-off at an event held by the Men’s Club at Temple Beth El, the Conservative synagogue there.

[That’d be Birmingham, Alabama, not the one in Old Blighty.]

Lots more below the fold.

I couldn’t not attend, for several reasons. First, our own Men’s Club had fielded a team to compete in the cook-off. Second, I’m a regional president of Men’s Club, and I wanted to be there to represent the region. Third, and most important, barbecue is in my blood... even if it got there by osmosis from She Who Must Be Obeyed.

SWMBO, you see, is a native-born Texan... and along with Eastern European Jews, Texans are one of the two kinds of people who know how to deal with beef brisket. If you fit into both categories simultaneously, there’s no stopping you... and thus I volunteered my services.

This being a kosher cook-off, certain special rules applied. To ensure that all meats, condiments, seasonings, other food ingredients, and utensils were acceptable, these were all provided by the hosting club. The meat itself - all kosher beef brisket and ribs - was supplied by the event’s sponsor, a well-known supermarket chain.

What chain was that, Elisson? I’m glad you asked. Piggly Wiggly, of course! Who better to sponsor a kosher barbecue cook-off?

When Pigs Fly!
Who better to sponsor a kosher barbecue cook-off?

Now, it should be explained that the relationship between Jews and pigs is, generally speaking, not especially close. Because observant Jews do not eat the flesh of the porcine mammal, they do not, as a rule, get jobs as swineherds. This being said, however, Jews differ from their Abrahamic brethren the Muslims in that they do not regard mere representations of pigs with horror and loathing. The smiling Piggly Wiggly mascot offends us not a bit, nor do images of Piglet (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame), piggy banks, or even foods that look like pigs:

Pig Cake
Above: Pig Cake (contains chocolate, but no pork). Below: Panera’s Jalapeño & Cheddar Bagel Breakfast Sandwich (complete with ham and cheese). It’s OK if it looks like a pig, but not if it contains pig.

The Pig Cake pictured above is no problem for the average Red Sea Pedestrian as it contains no pork. On the other hand, despite its having been constructed with a Jewish breadstuff, the Jalapeño & Cheddar Bagel is verboten to the observant. It ain’t what it looks like, it’s what it’s made of... and even that matters only if you plan to eat it.

In any event, several members of our team arrived the night before, in order to season the meat and get it on the smoker in the wee hours of the morning. I arrived shortly after the Butt-Crack of Dawn, just in time to see the beans being assembled.

Award-Winning Beans
Our award-winning barbecue beans on the simmer.

There was competition, lots of it: twenty teams in all, with fanciful names like “Jews, Brews, and Barbecue,” “Delicious, Divine, and Devoid of Swine,” and “Limp Brizkit.” Most were local; we were the only entry that had come from a distance. And that, to be honest, was the point. We were there to make our presence known, to say hello. Taking home a trophy would be a bonus.

Our meat was ridiculously good, not least because we had gotten a head start on pretty much everybody by firing up our smoker in the dead of night.

Meat on the Smoker
Ribs and brisket.

For the last few hours, we kept the meat wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil to retain moisture. When I unwrapped the ribs, a puddle of orange oil - rendered out of the meat - told me that they would be heinously tender... and they were.

The drill was simple. At a designated time, the teams had to plate up five servings - first beans, then ribs, finally brisket - and deliver them unto the judging table. The dishes were then distributed amongst the twenty judges, a group comprising professional barbecue judges, local media celebrities and restaurant owners, and even a stray rabbi or two.

A few of the judges, hard at work.

We had a reasonable amount of brisket left over after plating up the judges’ samples, but it didn’t last long after our team (plus various competitors and hangers-on) descended on the remnants like a pack of starving wolves. Can’t say I blame them.

At the end of the day, we carried off two trophies - one for our beans, another for our ribs. Not bad for the visiting team! We’ll be sure to field a squad for next year’s event.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.

Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!

- Sideways, 2004
It’s time for another Sommelier Guild event. This one’s at Paul’s in Peachtree Hills, and it will feature Merlots of the World... Miles Raymond’s opinion notwithstanding.

I’m hoping to see Denny there, although Houston Steve will, alas, be unable to attend. It promises to be a tasty affair indeed - here’s the menu:

Speaker’s Wine
Beringer California White Merlot 2008

First Flight
Sant’ Venezia Giulia 2003
Banfi “Mandrielle” Tuscany 2005
Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Colchagua “Apalta” 2007

Vegetable stuffed tortelloni, sage pecan brown butter, pecorino cheese

Second Flight
Aux Trois Frères Côtes de Castillon 2005**
Château Taillefer Pomerol 2005
Château LaFleur Morange “Mathilde” Saint-Emilion 2006

Blackened Atlantic salmon, Ellijay apple salad, sugar snap peas, balsamic reduction

Third Flight
Woodward Canyon Columbia River 2001
Kenefick Ranch Napa 2005*
Stephanie (by Hestan) Napa 2006**

Char-grilled lamb chop, forest mushrooms, eggplant zucchini tart, rosemary rosette potatoes, caramelized garlic au jus

Trentadue Chocolate Amore NV**

Chocolate pecan bread pudding, caramel sauce

I won’t insult my Esteemed Readers by pretending to be suffering through this meal. No: I will enjoy every bite, and (hopefully) every sip.

Update: My favorites noted with asterisks. White Merlot? Like the ugly sister of (already unlovely) white Zinfandel... feh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Yeah, I know, I know. It’s not Friday.

But I spent Friday well away from the Infernal Electronickal Computational Device, running around Georgetown and other parts of the District of Columbia with Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm. We spent the evening at Washington, D.C’s first Slideluck Potshow, an event comprising a potluck dinner and slideshow featuring the work of various visual artists. After all that, who had time to monkey around on Teh Interwebz?

Today’s non-Friday Random Ten is drawn from the selection of choons on my iPhone, given the the iPod d’Elisson sits 650 miles away back home. But there’s still plenty of Good Stuff:
  1. Free Bird Jam (live) - Ben Folds Five

  2. Act II, Scene 2: Flesh Rebels - John Adams, Nixon in China

  3. Mr. Freedom X - Miles Davis

    From 1972’s hyper-funkadelic On the Corner album, AKA “the most hated album in jazz.”

  4. Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon

    I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
    Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
    He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook’s
    Going to get a big dish of beef chow mein

    Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London
    Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London

    If you hear him howling around your kitchen door
    You better not let him in
    Little old lady got mutilated late last night
    Werewolves of London again


    He’s the hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent
    Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
    You better stay away from him
    He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim
    Ha, I’d like to meet his tailor


    Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen
    Doing the werewolves of London
    I saw Lon Chaney Jr. walking with the Queen
    Doing the werewolves of London
    I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s
    His hair was perfect

    Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London
    Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London

  5. Merikäärme - Alamaailman Vasarat

  6. Inca Roads - Frank Zappa

  7. Lo Yo Yo Stuff - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

  8. Rat Race - The Specials

  9. Birdland - Weather Report

    Covered by numerous artists, most people are familiar with Manhattan Transfer’s version of this piece... but Weather Report’s original is far superior.

  10. Dead Man’s Dream - Procol Harum

It’s Friday Saturday. What are you listening to?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


/Kuna on Stairs
Hakuna observes the goings-on in the kitchen from the back stairs.

This image is a composite of two shots: one taken with flash, one without. I like the coffee, cream, and chocolate colors.

Cassock Kuna 051810
Curled up comfortably on the ottoman.

Hakuna’s blue eyes are wide open as she gives me her classic Suspicious Glare. “You ain’t planning to use that damned flashy thing, are ya?”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Tonight marks the start of Shavuot, the Jewish Festival of Weeks... exactly fifty days from the second day of Passover.

It’s a convenient holiday on which to commemorate the Giving of the Law, for which reason it is known as z’man matan torateinu. But it has ancient agricultural roots, being observed at the time of the wheat harvest. It’s when the Israelites would bring their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem, a time of great rejoicing.

Back then, having food to eat was reason enough to rejoice. And having wheat meant the priests could have their barbecued beef and lamb rolled up in a nice pita bread.

In previous posts, I have referred to Shavuot as the Rodney Dangerfield of Jewish holidays: it gets no respect. But ya gotta love a holiday that, despite its having no “official” food traditions, practically requires the consumption of blintzes.

And having mentioned blintzes, how can I not mention my beloved MIL’s excellent blintzes?

Cheese Blintzes
A brace of Momma Ceil’s cheese blintzes, gently frying in genuine butter.

If you want to taste the best blintzes that ever blew down the boulevard, go here for the recipe. In the meantime, chag sameach - a Happy Shavuot. (And Happy Pentecost to our Christian friends.)


Religion is, at its root, the unprovable belief in an invisible man [who] will fuck with you until you understand just how much he loves you.” - skippystalin

* * * * *

Skippy’s definition is a pretty good one, as far as it goes. As he puts it, “If you take any major faith out of its cultural and historical context and set it up on a compound in Texas, it would look awfully silly and dangerous.” I can’t argue with that, especially the silly part, being part of a religious tradition that includes hundreds of complex, niggling rules and regulations; and as well involves, at a specific time of the year, parading around holding tree branches and fruit.

Whether or not that is more ridiculous than some of the practices of other major faith traditions - eating God comes to mind - is left as an exercise for my Esteemed Readers and their individual consciences. Ridiculous, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

But in my mind, what you believe is not nearly as important as what you do... and one of the most important functions of any religion is how it helps its adherents deal with the most difficult life events. At the top of that list has got to be death, because that is the gateway to that Undiscovered Country none of us knows a whole lot about.

These are a few of the thoughts I had as I sat next to She Who Must Be Obeyed in the local Catholic church, saying farewell to a friend of very long standing.

* * * * *

Well, I went to the doctor
I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough.”
“Let me break it to you, son:
Your shit’s fucked up.”
I said, “My shit’s fucked up?
Well, I don't see how!”
He said, “The shit that used to work,
Won’t work now.”

- Warren Zevon, My Shit’s Fucked Up

* * * * *

We had met Mike and Patricia back in the old neighborhood, twenty-nine years ago. Along with several of the other local residents, we formed a loose confederation of friends that managed to stay in touch and intact despite numerous relocations and the occasional divorce. Together, we’ve watched our children grow into a small mob of young men and women; now we’re seeing weddings and babies, another generation beginning anew. And together, we’ve dealt with various medical scares... and we’ve dealt with loss. Now we were dealing with it again.

Mike was a true Son of Georgia, having grown up in Commerce and being graduated with a Georgia Tech degree. Very successful in business - he was a senior executive in The Southern Company - he nevertheless retained his salt-of-the-earth prankster demeanor. When he found out that he had pancreatic cancer, rather than curl up into a ball and die, he fought it tooth-and-nail for sixteen months. Alas, in the end, it won.

We sat there in the church, SWMBO and I, surrounded by the Old Gang, grieving along with Mike’s family. His wife, Patricia; their two sons David and John; his brokenhearted mother. The priest conducted a Mass of Remembrance, a church ritual that is (to SWMBO and me) strange and yet strangely familiar, given that so many elements are rooted in our common Abrahamic tradition. And so it was that our old friend was ushered into that Final Passage.

Afterwards, we went back to Mike’s home and did what people do when they lose a friend or family member: find solace in each other’s presence. Our mutual faith traditions teach us to comfort those who mourn, after all... and isn’t that what makes humans more than mere animals? That - and the curiosity to ask what is behind that dark, impenetrable Veil of Mystery.

If Heaven is being amongst that which we love the most, Mike’s Heaven will be filled with family... plenty of Georgia Tech basketball players... a whole lotta sand, sunshine, and sailboats... and maybe even a little beer.

[Me, I have no idea what awaits us, and I’m not in a big hurry to find out.]

Mike was, in his own way, fortunate. He left us all too soon, but he lived a full life up until the very end. I will miss him. Requiescat in pace, big fella!

Sails at Sunset

Saturday, May 15, 2010


“Kill the pig! Bash him in!” - William Golding, Lord of the Flies
If you own an iPhone or iPad, do not - I repeat, do not - get the game app Angry Birds.

The Missus stumbled upon it about a week ago while searching out popular iPhone apps. After downloading it for the grandiose fee of 99 cents U.S. and messing around with it for a bit, she turned me on to it. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to forgive her... because Angry Birds is insanely addictive.

There’s a backstory that sets up the game. It seems that a group of hungry green pigs - evidently the source of Dr. Seuss’s green ham - have stolen a clutch of eggs from a small flock of birds, with the intention of frying up and devouring said eggs. And the birds, understandably, are pissed off. The game proper consists of using a slingshot to shoot suicidally angry birds at various fortifications in order to demolish them, killing the pigs hiding within. As the game progresses, the fortifications become more complex... but you have at your disposal several different types of birds, each with unique destructive abilities. With the number (and types) of birds fixed for each game level, you need to control the trajectory of your shots to attack the weak points of the pigs’ hiding places.

Sure, it’s ridiculous... but the sound effects are hysterically funny, and the game has a catchy tune that plays when you complete each level.

Did I say it’s insanely addictive? Yes, I believe I did.


A few days ago, I decided to book myself an appointment with my Skin Croaker. (That’s Damon Runyonese for the dermatologist.)

Guys my age tend to spend a lot of time with the Dermo. With us, it’s not so much the pocky zits of adolescence, or even the occasional Taint-Warhead, but the effects of five or six decades of cumulative solar radiation exposure. As much as we all love a nice suntan, the radiation that tans us is also slowly trying to kill us.

When I was a young Snot-Nose, we would visit the Grand-’Rents in south Florida every year... and every year, I would roast myself to a nut-brown turn. Down the road, I may end up paying a stiff price for those childhood suntans, because Mister Skin never forgets an insult.

I know too many people who have been carried off by melanoma... including a colleague in her mid-forties who managed to survive a brain aneurysm only to succumb to malignant melanoma two years later. And so, whenever I see something that looks like it may be problematic, I hie myself down to the skin-doc and have it checked out.

She Who Must Be Obeyed had noticed a spot on my chest several months ago, and we both had been keeping our eyes on it to see whether it was changing or growing in an inauspicious manner. But after a while I decided that I didn’t like the looks of it; it was time to have the Dermo weigh in.

It took only a moment for her to make the diagnosis. “It‘s a barnacle,” she said.

Say what?

“It’s a barnacle. A skin tag. A benign actinic keratosis. People of a certain age start accumulating these things - they’re like barnacles on a boat. When you get enough of ’em, we can zap ’em off, but since it costs the same to zap one as it does to zap a dozen, you might as well wait until you get a few more. And you will get a few more.”

Sweet. I’m growing Gawd-damned barnacles.

It’s no big deal, but SWMBO has already drawn her line in the sand. “If you start growing a bunch of those things, and they start getting big and hanging off your face,” she warned, “they are coming right the fuck off.”

Well, OK, then!

Friday, May 14, 2010


What would possess a real writer - someone who actually made a successful, decades-long career out of journalism - to start a blog?

Well, considering the declining fortunes of print media, maybe it’s a case of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” It may not be a valid explanation of the facts on the ground, but it works for me.

Regardless of his reasons, my friend Nor Grebnief has decided to take up blogging. His brand-spanking-new site is called This&That; I encourage you to pay him a visit.

Even if he does cop to ironing his underwear. Yeef!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Nutritionists will tell you that whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet.

Me, I’ve been a fan of the whole grain for years. Coarse rye bread? Westphalian pumpernickel - the kind that is as dense as white dwarf star matter, the slices of which must be pried apart with a knife due to their powerful gravitational attraction for one another? Yummy.

Whole Grain Swedish Rye
A slice of whole-grain Swedish rye bread. Mmmmmm. Grain.

When I get a Cereal Jones, I will, like as not, get out the Grape-Nuts. I discovered last year that Grape-Nuts are nothing more, nothing less than dried, ground-up knobbly bread crumbs, made from wheat and barley - yet that did not diminish their appeal. (As ridiculous a name as “Grape-Nuts” may be, it has a skosh more cachet than “Dry-Ass Bread Crumbs.”)

It occurred to me, however, that I was missing out on some grainy goodness by dumping milk on my Grape-Nuts. What if I were to up the Grain Quotient by soaking my Nuts in a grain-based product?

What if I were to have my Grape-Nuts with beer in lieu of milk?

Yes, indeedy: Beer-Nuts.

I resolved to try it forthwith. Grabbing a bottle of Newcastle, a fine brown ale, I poured a bowl of Euell Gibbon’s choicest nuggets into a bowl and proceeded to combine the two. As soon as the foam subsided, I dug in.

Grape Nuts? Check. Newcastle? Check. Spoon? Check. Church key? Check. All systems go!

More Beer-Nuts
Breakfast of Champions.

Surprisingly, the combination wasn’t bad at all. Instead of slightly sweet dairy flavors overlaid on a nutty grain substrate - the usual milk-and-cereal blend - the Beer-Nuts version was more assertive, the grain complementing the mild bitterness of the hops and kicking it into overdrive.

I will need to think of a way to exploit this. Beer-Nuts - the Brave New Breakfast!


Two beds of pansies flank the front door of Chez Elisson, and this time of year those flowers are in full bloom. Or at least, they oughta be.

On one side, the plants are in full flower. On the other, nary a bloom is to be seen. It almost looks as though something was eating the plants... but there was no evidence of the usual insectoid culprits. It was a mystery.

No longer. This evening as I was pulling out of the driveway, I saw a rabbit crouched down on the front lawn. “Cute little bunny,” I thought.

Then I watched as the nefarious little trickster hopped over to the flower bed and started glomming on those pansies. “Sonofabitch!” I thought.

I stopped the car and called She Who Must Be Obeyed, who was still in the house. “Take a look out the front door. Now we know who’s been eating the flowers.

“Try to get a picture of the little shit, willya?”

And, whipping out her trusty iPhone, she did:

The lapine perpetrator - an Eastern cottontail.

So now you know what I’ll be doing in the evenings...

“Shhhh... be vewwy vewwy quiet... I’m hunting wabbits!”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


A two-year-old Elder Daughter (then Only Daughter) checks out her shadow.

Today is Elder Daughter’s birthday.

Alas, I will not be with her to hoist an Adult Beverage with her and drink her health, or to snarf down a chunk of birthday cake. We can blame geography for that: I’m here in Atlanta, and she’s in Washington D.C., 650 miles away. But next week, the Mistress of Sarcasm and I will pay her a visit, and so I will get a chance to extend my greetings in person then.

Washington 2006

She’s an amazing young woman, our Elder Daughter, able to juggle a busy professional life with a boatload of side projects and interests. She has lived overseas and traveled to parts of the planet I am never likely to see. She can dance up a storm and can sing with a Broadway-caliber voice. She is creative, intelligent, funny. And she is easy on the eye.

Elder Daughter, traveling companion: at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

If I sound like a proud and happy daddy, I am. Happy birthday, Elder Daughter!

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Every once in a while, one of my daughters will discover that something I say - an expression, comment, or observation I use frequently - is not entirely original.

An example: When someone compliments me for doing a good turn, I may occasionally respond, “Well, I am the Nice One.” One day, the girls realized that I hadn’t been the first to utter that statement - I had lifted it from the 1981 Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits, where it is spoken by Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being.

When someone asks me how I am, I may respond, “I’m better than bad; I’m good.” Tautological, perhaps, but hardly original. Ren & Stimpy Show fans will recognize it from the fake ad for “Log.”

It’s Log
It’s Log
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood
It’s Log
It’s Log
It’s better than bad, it’s good!

Today, after watching Time Bandits for perhaps the 576th time, the Mistress of Sarcasm asked me whether it was that movie that inspired me to wear colanders on my head. For it seems one of the Bandits - Fidgit, played by none other than Kenny Baker of R2-D2 fame - spends the entire film wearing a colander atop his pate.

Time Bandits
Time Bandits, 1981. Kenny Baker (second from left) sports a colander throughout the movie.

My truthful answer, for once: No. Time Bandits never crossed my mind when I first wore a Perforated Metallic Chapeau. My muse was none other than that most estimable Velociman, who had written a post about (of all things!) a vintage colander. Bah, I remember thinking. What’s the point of simply writing about mundane kitchen devices... why not use them for comic effect? Thus was born the legendary Colander Borg-Man.

I don’t claim to be the first to slap a spaghetti strainer on my dome - hell, there’s a whole bunch of idiots on Flickr who have evidently been doing it for years - but I certainly did not steal the idea from Time Bandits. (If I had, I might’ve done it sooner.)

It’s nice to know, though, that I follow in the footsteps of a Cinematic Giant (so to speak).


Or in plain English, Mother’s Day.

This is the day set aside by the Greeting Card Consortium, the Amalgamated Florist Combine and Trust, and the Restaurant Industry for honoring our maternal parents. And it is fitting and proper that we do so, for all of us who walk the planet had a mother.

My mother has been gone for twenty-two years now - I always think of her on Mother’s Day - but there are other mothers in my life.

There is Ceil, the Mom-in-Law d’Elisson, who did me the estimable service of having a daughter who would eventually become the mother of my own children. I can never thank her enough.

There is Toni, who never got to be a mom to me while I was growing up, but who momma’ed four wonderful children of her own to adulthood before meeting and marrying my daddy, Eli hizzownself.

And, of course, there is She Who Must Be Obeyed, my true love and helpmeet these past three decades and change, the mother of my two wonderful daughters. Raising our family together has been the adventure of a lifetime, filled with challenges, happiness, tears, and occasional heart-clenching fears... and it has been my great good luck to have done it all with her.

Mother and Daughter
SWMBO and the Mistress of Sarcasm enjoy Mother’s Day together. If only Elder Daughter could’ve been here...

To these wonderful ladies... and all our motherly friends near and far... Happy Mother’s Day!