Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Rhetorical Butler

Another Rhetorical Question from Rhet (orical) Butler.


Forty years they had wandered the desert, seeking the Promised Land. Forty years they had complained... and God was getting sick of hearing it. He summoned Moses for a conference.

“Forty years of bitching, Moses. Are My people never satisfied?”

Moses cast his eyes downward. “Well, Lord, we’ve been in the wilderness an awfully long time. That, we can handle... but most of us haven’t crapped in years!”

God asked the angel Gabriel, “What the hell have you been feeding the Israelites? Manna shouldn’t block ’em up like that!”

Manna? But I’ve been sending them matzoh! What’s the difference, anyway?”

Let My People Go
This Passover toilet seat cover reminds us of one of the unfortunate side effects of eating unleavened bread for eight days. A tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Jerry Foster for the photo.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Spring Blossoms

The Bradford pears, cherry blossoms, and forsythia are in bloom... and Passover is in the air.

A cauldron of SWMBO’s chicken soup is simmering atop Darth Stover, perfuming the house with chickeny warmth. A pile of matzoh balls - both plain and whole wheat - will shortly be swimming amongst the chunks of chicken and carrot.

Two loaves of gefilte fish are ready to be sliced up and festooned with parsley and carrot slices. One loaf is the standard whitefish and pike blend; the other, salmon. They’ll be served with lashings of pungent chrain - horseradish.

Gefilte fish. Think of it as a sort of meatloaf... but with fish. A Passover tradition.

There’s a bowl of charoset marinating in the back of the fridge. A mixture of shredded apples, nuts, golden raisins, cinnamon, and sweet wine, it symbolizes the mortar with which the ancient Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Raamses.

A honkin’ big brisket of beef is resting comfortably in the downstairs fridge. After having been braised for five hours yesterday, all that bad boy needs is to be warmed up, sliced, and served with a liberal dollop of its oniony, tomatoey sauce.

Our friends JoAnn and Gary will be bringing some roasted asparagus and sweet potatoes. And that’s not all. Chopped liver (which I will doctor up with some onions caramelized in goose schmaltz) - and for afters, sponge cake.

Pesach, AKA Passover, begins at sundown. Perhaps owing to the special dietary requirements of the holiday, it’s an extremely food-centric festival, its central observance being a combination of Great Big Meal and Socratic dialogue. But the food is, despite the grip with which it holds our sense-memories, not the point. The point is the retelling of the story. It is the story of a great liberation, a journey from slavery to freedom. It is the central narrative of the Jews, those quintessential Red Sea Pedestrians, who could just as well be called “The People Who Went Forth from Egypt” instead of “The Children of Israel.” For while being descended from the patriarch Jacob - Israel - made us a people, the going forth from Egypt defined us as a nation, a people with a shared historical experience.

Seder Plate 5770
The Seder plate, with the traditional adornments. Clockwise, from the top: Zeroah - a roasted lamb shankbone, symbolic of the Paschal sacrifice. Charoset - an apple and nut relish representing mortar. Chazeret - Romaine lettuce, a bitter herb. Karpas - parsley, a green vegetable. Beitzah - an egg, symbolizing the chagigah (festival) sacrifice. Center: Maror - a bitter vegetable, in this case horseradish. In the silver case beneath the plate are three sheets of matzoh, the unleavened bread that is the most well-known food associated with the holiday.

The story is thousands of years old, yet it still resonates. And it should. For, as the Haggadah (the book of Passover liturgy) reminds us, had our ancestors not been redeemed from bondage, we would even now be slaves in Egypt... and the history of the Western world would have been very different.

A chag sameach - most happy festival - to our Jewish friends. To everyone else, a good week - one that may be spent, perhaps, meditating on the blessings of freedom that we enjoy today.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Only in Asheville, North Carolina do you have this remarkable example of (probable) Unintentional Humor.

On our way downtown yesterday afternoon, we found ourselves at the intersection of Southside Avenue and two other streets. To the left there was Coxe Avenue:


And to the right? This:

Short Coxe

[No, it’s not Photoshopped. You can look it up on Google Maps.]

So, what was this? Some road architect’s sense of humor? The boundary between Asheville’s African-American and Asian communities?

Things only got more surreal when, a block north, we saw a vehicle from Tennessee with this license tag [click to embiggen]:


What county was that tag from? You gotta be kidding...

Yes, indeedy. Just one block from the corner of Coxe and Short Coxe, we saw a car from County Cocke!


...I want you to give me a skritch.

Skritch Me Diptych
Hakuna cranes her neck for a skritch as SWMBO catches up with her Facebook buddies. [Click for embiggification.]

How dare you run off and leave me by myself all weekend? Just because I ignore you most of the time doesn’t mean I don’t want your undivided attention.

Update: Friday Ark #288 is afloat at the Modulator.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


When putting on your Undershorts,
If knowledge you should lack
Of which side’s against the penis
And which side’s against the crack,
Recall this simple mantra
Whenever you are able,
To help you with those Undershorts
If they should lack a label.
No matter if you’re Asian,
Hispanic, white, or black -
The yellow stain, it goes in front;
The brown stain goes in back.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


When nasty folk have done you dirt
And made your life a mess;
When anger rises in your heart
And rage is in your breast,
Remember these eleven words -
Advice from years long gone:
“It’s better to be pissed off
Than to be pissed on.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Bookmobile 1
The Massapequa Bookmobile in its heyday.

One of my elementary school classmates - say what you will about Facebook, but it has facilitated some remarkable reconnections - was kind enough to pass along an article from the New York Observer about a Relic from my Long-Lost Past.

I speak of the Massapequa Public Library Bookmobile.

Back in the day, the Bookmobile was nothing more, nothing less than a Library on Wheels, a honking big trailer full of (you guessed it) books. Every day, they would hook it up to a sort of utility truck affair and tow it to a different location around town, following a carefully laid-out route. And once a week - Monday or Tuesday, if I recall correctly - the Bookmobile would show up in the parking lot of the local nine-hole muni, just a short walk from home.

Bookmobile 2
Lining up for the weekly Bookmobile visit.

We had two libraries in town: the main library in the central part of town, and a branch outpost that was a few miles closer to where we lived. But back in the early 1960’s, the stay-at-home mom was much more the norm... and often, there was only one family car, which meant that she was more of a stuck-at-home mom, with forays to the library a challenge. Enter the Bookmobile:
The beloved bookmobile, originally purchased for $13,000, began its route in 1961, when mothers stayed home with children and didn’t have access to cars to get to the local library. It carried a small sampling of the library’s offerings: children’s books, biographies, romance books, science fiction books, mystery books, thrillers, religious and political books, classics, poetry and magazines. Each day it stopped in a different neighborhood so that everyone knew when it was coming. “There really was a necessity for it, and it was very well used for many years,” said [library director Patricia] Page. “But then people’s lives changed and mothers went out to work and the circulation dwindled.”
I remember that bookmobile, clear as day. I remember walking through the gravelly golf course parking lot and climbing up the steps into that trailer. I would walk along the linoleum-paved aisle, inhaling the booky aroma while scanning the shelves of books on either side, usually selecting the permitted maximum of three. Our mother would be there too, scanning the shelves for her mysteries and science fiction tomes. And then you’d get to the check-out desk at the end of the aisle, where you would hand over your library card, the librarian would stamp the due date in each book, and the Sooper Seekrit Microfillum Check-Out Machine would do its mysterious work. Then down the steep steps and back onto the gravel for the short walk home.

Bookmobile 3
Inside the Bookmobile. Hey, it’s like the bastard child of a library and a Winnebago!

Alas, in recent years, the Bookmobile had fallen on hard times. Retired last July after a forty-nine-year long career and in increasingly dismal condition, it was headed for the scrap heap when a phone call came in from none other than Alec Baldwin.

Alec bought the old trailer for the grand sum of $1,000 and had it towed off to his home in Amagansett, hard by the Hamptons on the south shore of Long Island. What he will do with it is anybody’s guess, but it would make a dandy playhouse or office with a bit of remodeling. Or perhaps a neighborhood eyesore.

It’s easy to see why Alec would remember the old Bookmobile with such rosy nostalgia. Its old once-a-week stop in that golf course parking lot was right across the street from his house on Iroquois Avenue... and he and his horde of siblings were, no doubt, regular customers.

Come to think of it, there’s no reason ol’ Alec couldn’t refurbish the trailer and stock it with vintage reading material, recreating the old Bookmobile as a museum piece celebrating the rich cultural history of the Island. He could have a Joey Buttafuoco/Amy Fisher young adult section; a Jessica Hahn adult section; a Baldwin Family theatre arts/run on top of Elisson’s roof section; and a Jerry Seinfeld humor section.

Good on ya, Alec. It’s nice to know the old Bookmobile is still around... a bit of Booky Nostalgia for us old folks who remember that bygone era of stuck-at-home moms. (I wonder whether the moms have that same feeling of pleasant nostalgia for those days: I suspect not so much.)

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Chris S. for forwarding the Observer article, and to Allan P. for the photos and section names. You’re sick, I tells ya!]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Winey Elisson

Tonight’s Guild event - “Wines of the Great Northwest” - will be held at Rosebud, in the Morningside neighborhood just north of Virginia-Highlands. It promises to be a most pleasant evening.

I‘m hoping Denny will be able to make it this time so I can hear him tell the harrowing tale of his ill-fated ski trip in person. Alas, we won’t get to hear the fireworks as he discusses Obamacare and other political third-rails with Houston Steve, as Steve will be away on business. No matter. Politics does not whet my appetite; good wine, however, does so admirably.

Here’s the menu, perfect stimulus for your Envy-Glands:

Speaker’s wine:
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut “Luxe” 2003*

First Flight:
Maryhill Viognier 2007**
Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Riesling “Eroica” 2008***
L’Ecole No. 41 Semillon 2007

Seared George’s Bank scallop with pineapple chow chow and black pepper-vanilla sabayon

Second Flight:
Tagaris “Boar Doe” 2006
Woodward Canyon Merlot 2006
Northstar Merlot 2006**

Seared quail breast, Riverview Farms grits, early Vidalia onion chutney and Mexican coke BBQ

Third Flight:
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon “Indian Wells” 2006
Buty “Columbia Rediviva” (Phinny Hill) 2006*
K-Vintners Syrah “Milbrandt” 2007**

Riverview Farms beef shortrib meatloaf, foie gras whipped sweet potatoes, local oyster mushrooms and bone marrow gravy

Three Rivers Late Harvest Gewurztraminer “Biscuit Ridge” 2006***

Strawberry shortcake, cinnamon sugar biscuit & vanilla-balsamic syrup

Per my usual practice, I’ll note my favorites in a postprandial post update.


Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon IV 1998***

Monday, March 22, 2010


The Missus took me to Tuna Town tonight, and it was a pleasure.

Get your mind out of the gutter, you sick bastard. This was Ahi Tuna Town.

Yesterday, we had glommed onto a couple of nice inch-thick slabs of raw ahi tuna - perfect for searing - and She Who Must Be Obeyed found an excellent Asian-style marinade recipe. We blended up ¼ cup dark sesame oil, ¼ cup soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice; then whisked in 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger, 2 cloves minced garlic, and a couple of sliced up scallions. After soaking in this goop for a few hours, the fish went into a hot, lightly oiled grill pan (a non-stick skillet works just fine) for just 60-90 seconds on each side. Garnished with a sprinkling of thinly-sliced scallion and black sesame seeds, it was a perfect dinner entrée.

[Useful Hint: Take a knob of ginger and freeze it. It’ll keep for a looooong time, and when it comes time to use it, don’t even bother to peel it. Just grate it with a Microplane until you have as much as you need. Easy-peasy... and you’ll have a burst of fresh ginger flavor.]

This evening, we still had a goodly-sized chunk of that seared tuna left. So She Who Must Be Obeyed sliced it up and served it on a bed of arugula and baby romaine, with chunks of heirloom tomato and avocado, dressed only with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

It was ridiculously good. Restaurant quality? No: better.

I wish to hell I had taken a picture, but, honestly, it looked so good, I was compelled to eat first and ask questions later. And that, Esteemed Readers, is the measure of a Fine Meal.


Spring has sprung;
The grass has riz.
I wonder where
The birdies is?
The birds is on the wing.
Oh, my word
That’s absurd.
The wing is on the bird.

Spring has sprung;
My ass has friz.
What is this snowy Monkey-Biz?

Yes, here we are two days into Spring, and snow was falling this morning in the northern Atlanta ’burbs. OK, it’s not as though it was the Great Blizzard of 2010 - Snowpocalypse - but nevertheless, snow of any sort is unusual in these parts, and downright rare after the vernal equinox.

Two days ago, we had temperatures above 70°F. Now, it’s freezing. Feh.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


“Have a glass of water. It quenches your thirst better than anything else - and it’s good for you!”

[But I just wanted a fucking glass of chocolate milk.]

“The crust? That’s the best part!”

[Then why the fuck aren’t you eating it?]

“Eat that potato peel - it’s the best part. It’s full of vitamins.”

[It’s also full of warts and hairs and dirt. Yecch.]

“Why don’t you have a piece of fruit instead of that slice of cake?”

[If I wanted the piece of fruit, I would have taken the piece of fruit. Can I just have a hunk of Entenmann’s without getting the fucking third degree?]

Of course, you know what the most galling thing is about all of these little bits of Fatherly Wisdom? The fact that, without exception, the Old Man was - and is - right about every single one.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Welcome to the Friday Random Ten, my weekly post in which I list an assortment of Choons spewed forth at random from the Little White Choon-Box. “Blogging Without the Brainpower!”

Spring seems to have finally come to Atlanta just before its formal arrival date. It’s a bright, sunny day, the trees are in bud, and the temperature is expected to sneak past 70°F. And I’m in here like a dolt, sitting in front of the damned computer...

...but the Mistress of Sarcasm is home for a visit (primarily to do a couple of laundry loads, but I’ll take what I can get!), so it’s really a pleasant day overall. And did I mention that it’s Friday?

Let’s see what’s playing this week:
  1. Jump Up - Elvis Costello

  2. Back In The U.S.S.R. - The Beatles

  3. Tank Graveyard - Paul Cantelon, Everything Is Illuminated

  4. Exaltation - Matisyahu

  5. Fixing A Hole - The Beatles

  6. Heavenly Bank Account - A Tribute Band for FZ

  7. Act III: The Maos Dance - John Adams, Nixon in China

  8. Luck Be A Lady - Skanatra

  9. The Laughing Song - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

    There once was a boy who lived all alone by the sea
    He was a charmer, a charmer of highest degree
    But he was lonely and sometimes there was no one to charm
    So this clever boy had a way to charm himself - he meant no harm
    He’d dance and sing and laugh and smile
    And after a while he’d roll right on the ground
    He’d sing his song all day long -
    Had no words, just this crazy sound...

    Called the Laughing Song (all day long)
    Called the Laughing Song (all day long)
    Called the Laughing Song, all day long
    The Laughing Song, he’d laugh, he’d laugh, he’d laugh
    Ha ha ha - he’d laugh, he’d laugh

    There were days when this boy was so wound up
    He’d practically laugh his head off
    Dancing and singing and giggling and wiggling
    He got so silly, he could hardly let off
    On one such day, a ship came by
    And, to its surprise, heard the funny noise
    The captain noticed the giggling swimmer and with a laugh cried,
    “Look at that boy!”
    When, in the middle of a backstroke, the boy noticed the ship
    He laughed even more
    And soon all the crew couldn’t help themselves -
    They were rolling on the floor.

    Called the Laughing Song (all day long)
    Called the Laughing Song (all day long)
    Called the Laughing Song, he’d laugh all day long
    Laugh la la la la lala la
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    Hee hee hee
    Ho ho ho

    The boy heard the crew say,
    “You’re a secret charm - come with us, you’ll be a star!”
    So off he went with the ship
    Back to his native land, which wasn’t far
    While rehearsing his act he made the grandiose mistake
    Of living with his long-lost uncles
    Could you blame them for wondering about a nephew
    Who just couldn’t seem to lose the chuckles
    But his song went on and on and on
    And that’s about all he had to say
    His uncles did not realize the wrong they did
    When they had him put away

    Called the Laughing Song (all day long)
    Called the Laughing Song (all day long)
    Called the Laughing Song, he’d laugh, he’d laugh, he’d laugh
    Ha ha ha
    Oh, he’s laughing...
    Ha ha
    Hee hee
    Ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho...

  10. Club Limbo - Squirrel Nut Zippers

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Hakuna 031910

Hakuna wishes to remind you that Friday Ark #287 is afloat at the Modulator. And that’s not all: Carnival of the Cats #314 goes up Sunday evening at When Cats Attack!

Update: CotC #314 is up.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Last night I found our 2010 U.S. Census packet in the day’s pile of mail. I had been expecting it.

When something arrives in the mail that demands my prompt attention, my usual modus operandi is to shove it into the ever-growing pile of correspondence on my desk, to be dealt with at a convenient time. Given my tendency to procrastinate, said convenient time is generally somewhere in the distant, nebulous future.

But this envelope bore an explicit threat: YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. And even though it did not say “PROMPT RESPONSE,” I figured why take a chance? I opened that sucker up and filled out the form right away. Happily, it was the short questionnaire, not the onerous and incredibly nosy long version (“How many taint warheads have you and your family members had in the past two years?”), so it took all of three minutes to do my Civic Duty.

Jerry, over at Back Home Again, was inspired by his filling out his own headcount form to take a backward look at his Census Footprint: where he was during each of the census years of his life.

That inspired me to look at my own Census Footprint. I’ve been walking the planet long enough to have been counted six times now. Here they are:
  1. Eight years old, living in Massapequa, NY with two parents and one brother.
  2. Single, still in Massapequa, NY (in a different house) with two parents and one brother. In June of that year, I was graduated from high school; that fall, I moved to Princeton, NJ to attend college.
  3. Married, with one child. Living in Hackettstown, NJ.
  4. Married, now with two children. Living in Trumbull, CT.
  5. Married; one child away at college, one still at home. Living in Atlanta, GA.
  6. Still married... and still living in Atlanta, GA. Both children off on their own.
So: what does your Census Footprint look like? Where were you on those “zero years”?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Laden with blarney though I may be, there’s no point in pretending that there is even the tiniest speck of Irish in me. Unless you count residual whisky.

Sometimes I am envious of our brethren from the Emerald Isle, though. I mean, when was the last time anyone wished you “the luck of the Jewish”?

I thought not.

But they say everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, the day that commemorates the life of the ancient Saint Padraig, he who drove the snakes out of Ireland... and directly to China, where they were converted into soup and snake-bile wine.

That’s why, come evening, a small group of us will descend on one of the local establishments to enjoy a supper of corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef is one of those meats that both the Irish and the Jews appreciate, after all.

As for breakfast, what did I have?

Green Eggs

A couple of green eggs, sunny side up, fresh from the steaming nethers of my pet leprechaun!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Back in the early 1930’s when Max was a lad, he would often play soccer with his friend Karl. In those days, it was, perhaps, unusual for a Jew and a Catholic to be friends - more so because this was in Poland, a place where Jews were often treated with contempt and loathing by their countrymen. But in the town of Wadowice, a stone’s throw from Kraków, the Jews and Poles played soccer together. Karl, a skilled goaltender, even would play on the Jewish team if they were shorthanded.

One day, Karl came around to see if Max could kick the ball around. But it was Saturday - Shabbat - and Max told him he could not, for on that day he would accompany his mother to synagogue. Karl may have been momentarily disappointed, yet he did not let on. Instead, he said Max should be proud that he was honoring his mother and upholding his religious traditions.

Over time, the boys went their separate ways. Karl eventually became very successful in his work, and Max soldiered on in his own business ventures. But then war broke out... and that changed Max’s life forever.

He enlisted in the Polish army, eager to fight the German enemy. It was not too long, however, before he was captured by the Russians. They shipped him off to various labor camps, where he did whatever kind of backbreaking work his taskmasters set before him. It was a rough life, but Max survived. Most of the rest of his family did not, having stayed behind to face the tender mercies of the Nazi death machine. The ovens of Auschwitz swallowed them all.

Emigration to Palestine was a temptation, then, but Max wanted to stay and help rebuild his homeland. He ended up in the electroplating business, running several factories. But the Communists came, and life - difficult enough in a land still riddled with anti-Semitism despite being virtually judenrein - became intolerable. With a handful of illegal passports, he gathered up his wife and two daughters and slipped out of the country quietly, taking the train to Paris. From there, a harrowing ten-day sea passage brought them to the shores of New York. It was 1962 when they caught their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

Some years later, a mutual acquaintance from the old days paid a visit on Karl, who was living in Italy at the time. “Do you remember Max?” the friend asked.

“Of course I remember Moszek!” responded Karl. “How is my old friend?”

* * *

Today we buried Max in the red soil of Birmingham, Alabama, his home for most of the forty-eight years since his arrival in the States. He had lived to see his family grow, resurgent in his new homeland... and to see a granddaughter’s wedding.

Not incidentally, he had lived to see Poland, his old home, throw off the yoke of Communism. The events of 1989 had to have been soul-stirring for him, even at a remove of several thousand miles... not least because his old friend Karl had been instrumental in providing the spiritual impetus that enabled the Solidarity movement to rise up and win in that historic peaceful revolution.

As Jews, we don’t necessarily subscribe to the popular view of a Heaven amidst the clouds, with Pearly Gates, wings, and harps. We believe that there is a World to Come, details about which are necessarily vague... but that there is a portion there for all righteous people. (There’s no monopoly on salvation.)

And who knows, but that Max is now reunited with his old soccer-playing buddy, who arrived in that World to Come not quite five years ago amidst quite a bit of earthly fanfare. For Karl, you see, was none other than Karol Józef Wojtyła, who became very successful indeed in his work, rising to the top of his profession... and taking the name Pope John Paul II.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Here’s a bumper sticker I’d like to see...

Honk if you love Jesus
[Click to embiggen.]


This morning, as I was returning to Chez Elisson after a wine-acquisition expedition, I saw an unusual sight: a 1962 Chevy Impala, tooling down the road in front of me.

The car was cherry, both in condition and color. It was being driven by a portly, white-haired gentleman who appeared to be about seventy years of age... and who seemed to be enjoying himself. And why not? It was a beautiful morning, and he was piloting a beautiful ride. A vintage ride, for sure - fully 48 years old. [And back when it was new, pretty much the only 48-year-old vehicle in existence was the Ford Model T.]

The 1962 Impala is not all that different from the 1961 Impala, a vehicle that Eli (hizzownself) purchased back in January of that long-ago year. It was the first new family car since the two-tone Dodge he had bought in 1954, when I was still a squatty little toddler... and so it was a Very Exciting Thing. It was a metallic beige color - “Champagne,” I’m pretty sure they called it, with the hyperbole typical of the automotive industry both then and now - and it had plenty of flashy chrome, inside and out.

It’s bizarre. I still remember the license tag number on that car: 1561-SB. In those days, New York plates were good for two years, so eventually those tags were replaced by another set bearing the number 9N-6661.

And there, Esteemed Readers, you have an illustration of the power of the Human Mind. For I can remember ridiculous ephemera such as the license tag numbers on cars my family owned fifty years ago... and yet if you asked me what the number is on the Elissonmobile - the car I drive every day, the very car that sits in my garage, even as I write this - I could not tell you to save my life.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Last night, after stuffing our faces at Canton Cooks (a local place that serves authentic Hong Kong-style cuisine), we joined Johnny and Jackie Tabs at their home for a spot of dessert.

Jackie had made Cherry Peek-a-Boo Bars, shortcakey affairs with a layer of tart cherries... and to wash them down she had made a nice strong pot of coffee.

Cherry Peek-a-Boo Bars
Jackie’s Cherry Peek-a-Boo Bars, the correct cake to enjoy with corrected coffee.

At Casa di Tabs, no cup of coffee is complete without a shot of sambuca, so I proceeded to doctor up my coffee appropriately, creating the famous Caffè Corretto, the “corrected” coffee of bella Italia.

Coffee is fine, in and of itself... but if you want it corrected, you add a shot of sambuca... or grappa... or brandy. These spirits transform a good cuppa Joe into a potent, soul-warming cuppa Giuseppe, a fine dessert accompaniment as well as an excellent morning eye-opener.

This got me thinking about other “corrected” coffee drinks. Spirits and coffee, of course, go together hand-in-hand. You can go the sweet route - Grand Marnier, Kahlùa, or Bailey’s Irish Cream are dandy - or you can add something even more potent. I still have warm memories of a Thermos filled with hot coffee, cream, sugar, and lashings of Scotch whisky, consumed on a cold fall afternoon at a football game over thirty-five years ago. (Of course, that would be blended Scotch, not single-malt.)

But for the finest Corrected Coffee outside of Italy, you have to head to the Emerald Isle for inspiration. I speak, naturally, of Irish Coffee.

There is something magic about the combination of Irish whisky and coffee that gladdens the heart, quickens the blood, and loosens the tongue. You brew up some strong coffee and dump it into a cup in which you have placed a few cubes of Demerara sugar and a liberal shot of the Irish. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then top with a spoonful of lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream. None of that shit from a can, if you please... and none of that Cool Whippy ersatz schlag, either. The Irish deserves nothing but the best.

Now drink that sumbitch down. Have another, if you please... or two or three. Now, are ye not ready for the Feast of Saint Padraig, a mere three days away?


Monday, March 15 is not only the Ides of March. It’s EATAPETA Day!

That’s International Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA Day, in case you are unfamiliar with the acronym. Seeing Meryl Yourish’s post yesterday served as a timely reminder; it reminded me, as well, of a very pleasant pre-EATAPETA luncheon we enjoyed with Ms. Yourish two years ago.

The point of observing EATAPETA Day is to figuratively thumb one’s nose at PETA, an organization that sees nothing wrong with comparing the consumption of food animals to slavery... or to the Holocaust. This four-year-old post of Meryl’s says it all:
The [notorious 2003] PETA ad campaign compared the slaughter of chickens for food to the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis. They traveled the country with a series of billboards that used Holocaust imagery next to images of animals. They lied to the American Holocaust Museum to obtain permission to use these pictures in their ad campaign.

It’s a well-known fact that PETA has always chosen sensationalism in their ad campaigns. They’re usually stupid and offensive, but this campaign caused enough pain that a child of Holocaust survivors wrote me a letter asking if there weren’t something we could do about it. That’s why I created the first International Eat an Animal for PETA Day...

...Don’t get me wrong. I am utterly against animal cruelty. But I am also utterly against cruelty to humans, and especially against the misuse of Holocaust imagery to get a point across.
I see nothing evil about the idea that humans, who sit atop the food chain (unless one is in the jungle or deep in the woods), should use animals as a protein source. If you’re squeamish about eating animals qua animals, there are plenty of animal-derived products - eggs, milk, butter, and cheese - that do not require that animals give up their lives. But to PETA, even this is unacceptable. To them, even keeping company with Animal Companions - pets - constitutes unacceptable exploitation. They forget that the domesticated animals with whom we share our planet have mutually evolved, along with us, to be what they are today because of their having been “exploited” by humans for their food value... or for their company.

What am I gonna eat? Well, having just polished off a lovely brisket of beef last night, perhaps we will move on to beasts somewhat higher on the Cuteness Scale. A lambie, or a duckie, perhaps. Or, in deference to the Missus (who will let neither lambie or duckie cross her lips), a nice veal chop. I also have a few nice chunks of Bambi in the freezer...

Alas, whale bacon is not on the menu: You can’t get it here.

Update: How did I celebrate EATAPETA Day? I breakfasted on eggs (stolen from exploited chickens) and cheese (from cows enslaved by The Man). Since I wasn’t overly hungry, I had a simple suppler consisting of a couple of slices of Strasburg Pie: fatty duck liver baked into a puff pastry crust. What it lacked in volume it made up for in Caloric Concentration. Yummy!


It being 2010, it’s time once again for the Great Decennial Head-Count here in the United States. Yes: the Census!

The process is simple, really. You get a form in the mail, you fill it in, and you send it back. [How easy it is to fill in depends largely on whether it’s the short form or the incredibly nosy long form.] And if you merit special attention, a real live census taker may show up at your door.

Now, there’s a profession that might just be trickier than it sounds at first blush. Asking people how many folks are living in their house? Piece of cake... until you run into Hannibal Lecter:

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Sure, he’s a fictional character... but whaddaya bet census taker recruitment took a big hit after Silence of the Lambs came out?

Taking the census is an expensive proposition, but it’s a Necessary Evil. At the very least, you need to know how many people inhabit a given state so that the appropriate number of political whores congressional representatives may be assigned to that state. And population data is essential to critical governmental functions such as gerrymandering, pork barreling, log-rolling, cheese distribution, et cetera.

Given that it is expensive, however, you wonder whether the People in Charge are doing everything they can to save a few bucks when they can. After all, the economy is still in the bog (by which I mean the toilet, not the swamp), and we need to conserve as many dollars as we can, the better to donate them to incompetent Wall Street investment bankers and sloppily-managed corporations.

So why did I get a letter from the folks at the Bureau of the Census a couple of days ago, the sole purpose of which was to tell me that I would be shortly be receiving - wait for it - another letter from the Bureau of the Census containing the actual questionnaire I would need to fill out?

I don’t need a fucking letter to tell me that I will be getting a letter. How many millions of taxpayer dollars were pissed away to send that letter? Don’t the bean-counters ever talk to the head-counters?

Why, it makes no sense-us!

Friday, March 12, 2010


Good Gawd. Is it Friday again?

Why, yes. So it is.

I have set myself a serious task for the afternoon: Preparing dinner for a small army of friends. The centerpiece of the meal will be a braised brisket of beef, to be accompanied by Moroccan-style zucchini, sautéed broccolini (that’s a lot of inis, right there), and mashed potatoes with a Sooper Seekrit Ingredient. The slicing and dicing will begin momentarily.

While all this cooking is going on, I may as well listen to a few tunes. And what better place to find them than in the electronic bowels of the the iPod d’Elisson? Here’s today’s Random Ten:
  1. Me and My Baby - Chicago, the Musical (New Broadway Cast)

  2. Time After Time - Miles Davis

  3. M (Instrumental) - J Ralph

  4. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy.

    With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
    Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
    That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the gales of November came early.

    The ship was the pride of the American side
    Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
    As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
    With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

    Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
    When they left fully loaded for Cleveland,
    And later that night when the ship’s bell rang
    Could it be the North Wind they’d been feeling?

    The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
    And a wave broke over the railing.
    And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
    T’was the witch of November come stealing.

    The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
    When the gales of November came slashing.
    When afternoon came it was freezing rain
    In the face of a hurricane west wind.

    When supper time came the old cook came on deck
    Saying, “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.”
    At seven p.m. a main hatchway caved in
    He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.”

    The Captain wired in he had water coming in
    And the good ship and crew was in peril.
    And later that night when his lights went out of sight
    Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    Does anyone know where the love of God goes
    When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
    The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
    If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.

    They might have split up or they might have capsized
    They may have broke deep and took water,
    And all that remains is the faces and the names
    Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

    Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    In the ruins of her ice water mansion.
    Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

    And farther below Lake Ontario
    Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    With the gales of November remembered.

    In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
    In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.
    The church bell chimed, ’til it rang 29 times
    For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.
    Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
    When the gales of November come early.

  5. Gershwin: An American in Paris - Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic

  6. Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

  7. Tribute - Tenacious D

  8. Mozart: Requiem In D Minor, K626-03, Sequenz #1 - Dies Irae, Allegro Assai - Herbert Von Karajan

  9. Do Nothing - The Specials

  10. Biz In Vaysn Tog Arayn - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Here is your assignment for today:
  1. Make sure you have some Ajax or other comparable cleansing product near at hand.

  2. Go here.

  3. Watch the video all the way through.

  4. Now scrub your raw, pulsating brain with the Ajax. (You will want to do this, trust me.)
Wasn’t that fun?

[I am eternally grateful for the existence of YouTube, thanks to which these little gem-like chunks of Pop Culture Ephemera may now be preserved and enjoyed unto the thousandth generation. Now, please excuse me while I go boil my eyeballs in Clorox.]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Brewster Rockit, 9 March 2010. ­©2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc. [Click to embiggen.]

To me there’s nothing quite as sweet
As a Comic Strip Joke that’s indiscreet.

I love it when someone manages to slip a turd past the Newspaper Funny-Strip censors.

Some people may say that this is just another sign of the times: further evidence of the Vulgarization of America. And it’s hard to argue with that. After all, would you have ever seen an Asshole Joke in Peanuts? Despite all of his numerous faults, Charlie Brown never made sport of the Ol’ Brown-Eye.

Coarse? Perhaps. Juvenile? Certainly. But I laughed.

Beats the crap out of Brenda Starr, anyway.

Monday, March 08, 2010


In the course of time, I’ve picked up a smattering of foreign languages. Some of my education has been deliberate: I studied French and German in high school, with the inevitable result that a sentence like “Faites attention! Tu vas heruntergefallen des escalieren!” makes perfect sense to me.

Add to this several years of Hebrew school and a lot of travel to Asia and Latin America, and you have what could alternatively be called a modest case of the polyglot... or a linguistic clusterfuck. Who else do you know that can translate the Flintstones theme song into French... or the Mr. Ed theme song into four different languages, including Indonesian?

Regrettably, one of the gaps in my education results from a failure to engage in a formal study of Latin. It’s not a gap that creates many problems for me, since my knowledge of Romance languages helps me fill in the Swiss-cheese-like holes in my knowledge base. Nevertheless, it puts me at a disadvantage... especially when guys like my buddy Johnny Tabs gloat over the fact that they studied Latin back in fifth grade. Nanny-nanny boo-frickin’-boo.

Big, fat, hairy deal, says I. ’Cause I’m a quick study when it comes to languages. Here, courtesy of Johnny Tabs, is a Latin poem that any fifth-grade schoolboy should know. Can you translate it?

O Sibili, si ergo
Fortibus es inero
O Nobili, demis trux
Sei vadis indum
Causem dux

Are you smarter than a fifth-grader? Screw Jeff Foxworthy and alla them inquiring minds. I wanna know... so leave your answer in the comments!

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Pooper Scoopers
The Missus saw this truck tootling along on one of the local thoroughfares the other day and, with the help of a passenger, managed to snag a photo.

“Got poop? We scoop!” Now there’s a motto worthy of a squizzotto. And the bumper sticker on the top of the rear window reads “Licensed Turd Wrangler.”

Yes, of course it’s a real business. Go to the website - it’s a little fuzzy in the cropped iPhone shot above, but it’s at - and you’ll see that their tagline is “Your dog’s business is our business.” Sweet.

When I checked out that site, pedant that I am, I noticed a few typos. To which the Missus gave me The Look and replied, “They pick up shit for a living.”

“I guess they’re probably not English majors.”

But give ’em credit. Give ’em credit where credit is doo-doo. ’Cause at least they’ve got that Entre-Manurial Spirit. When you see a need in the marketplace, fill it!

Friday, March 05, 2010


Welcome to the Friday Random Ten, my weekly assemblage of randomly selected Choons straight from the Little White Choon-Box.

Let’s dispense with all the superfluous verbiage - er, ahhh... extra words, that is - and just dive right in:
  1. Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi - O Fortuna - Christian Thielemann, Orff: Carmina Burana

  2. Harry, You’re A Beast - Frank Zappa

    With lyrics inspired by Lenny Bruce.

  3. Within You, Without You - The Beatles

  4. Pop - Mitch Hedberg

  5. Pirelli’s Death - Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd

  6. 10 Sonatas, Op. 8, No. 3 in G Minor: III. Vivace - Rachel Isserlis & The Locatelli Trio

  7. Grandpa Was A Carpenter (Live) - John Prine

  8. Gypsy With A Song - Django Reinhardt

  9. Still Fighting It - Ben Folds

  10. Cop Song - Urinetown, Original Cast

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years of enforcing the laws of this city, it’s that the journey down to Urinetown offers no surprises. Not even from the very toughest amongst us. On that journey, expect only... the expected.

    Well, it’s a hard, cold, tumble of a journey
    Worthy of a gurney, a bumble down
    A slapped face, smacked with a mace
    Certain to debase is our stumble down

    It’s a path that leads you only one place
    Horrible to retrace, a crumble down
    A hard, cold, tumble of a tourney
    Jumble of a journey to Urinetown

    Lockstock and Barrel
    Julie Cassidy
    Went to a field behind a tree
    Saw there was no one who could see

    Her pee -

    But me!

    Lockstock and Barrel
    And Jacob Rosenbloom
    Thought he was safe up in his room
    Didn’t know the jars he kept up there
    Would obligate a trip to Urine-tomb!

    Well, there are those who think our
    Methods vicious -

    Overly malicious -

    A bunch of brutes, but it’s we who
    Gather for the people -

    Tavern to the steeple -

    Lawful fruits!
    Our task: bring a little order -

    Swindle out a hoarder -

    From what he loots. As the book says,
    “Certainly a season” -

    Trample out a treason -

    With hobnail boots!
    Roger Roosevelt
    Kept a cup below his belt
    Cup ran over when he knelt

    He smelt -

    We dealt!

    And Joseph “Old Man” Strong
    Held his pee for much too long
    Hoped his son might bail him out
    His guess was good but also wrong!

    Years past all lived in the jungle
    Scooping out a bungle, nature’s bowl
    Life of constant deprivation
    Certain aggravation took its toll

    Soon learned power of the truncheon
    Organize a function, king to pawn
    So if peace is what you’re after
    Urinetown’s the rafter to hang it on!

    Girl Cop 1
    Julie Cassidy -

    Boy Cop 1
    Jacob Rosenbloom -

    Boy Cop 2
    Roger Roosevelt -

    Boy Cop 1
    Jacob Rosenbloom -

    Girl Cop 1
    Julie Cassidy -

    Boy Cop 3
    Joseph “Old Man” Strong -

    Lockstock and Barrel
    Don’t be like them! Don’t be like them!
    Don’t be like them! Don’t be like them!

    It’s a hard, cold,
    Tumble of a journey
    Worthy of a gurney,
    A bumble down
    A slapped face,
    Smacked with a mace
    Certain to debase
    Is our stumble down

    Female Cops
    It’s a hard, cold,
    Tumble of a journey
    Worthy of a gurney,
    A bumble down
    A slapped face,
    Smacked with a mace
    Certain to debase

    Male Cops
    It’s a hard, cold,
    Tumble of a journey
    Worthy of a gurney,
    A bumble down
    A slapped face,
    Smacked with a mace

    It’s a path that leads you only one place
    Horrible to retrace, a crumble down
    A hard, cold, tumble of a tourney
    Jumble of a journey to Urinetown!

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Hakuna naps in the sunroom.

On any given afternoon, this is where you’ll find her: curled up in that pose of Ultimate Kitty Relaxation on the sunroom loveseat, catching the rays of the westering sun.

Update: Friday Ark #285 is afloat at the Modulator... and don’t forget to stop by Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat Sunday evening, where Nikita will be hosting the 312th edition of Carnival of the Cats.

Update 2: CotC #312 is up.


I refer, of course, to the late Mr. Reuben Lucius Goldberg, an early-20th Century Renaissance man. A sculptor, engineer, inventor, writer, and cartoonist, he founded the National Cartoonists Society... and every year, the Society presents the Reuben Award to the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Goldberg created several successful (if little remembered) comic strips, including Boob McNutt and Ike and Mike (They Look Alike). His most enduring contribution to American popular culture, however, was the Rube Goldberg machine, a device of ridiculous complexity that would perform a basic, mundane task. Using a maximum of effort to achieve minimal results, the “Rube Goldberg” has now entered the language: Webster’s defines it as “accomplishing by extremely complex, roundabout means what seemingly could be done simply.”

Goldberg’s legacy lives on as people create - mostly for entertainment - his eponymous devices. Witness this Honda advertisement from 2003, “Cog”:

Amazing. But now the group OK Go has ratcheted up the Goldberg-Meter to a new level with their music video “This Too Shall Pass.” Check it out:

If you hate the music, mute the sound... but by all means, watch the video. It’s unbelievable.

Nitpickers may say that the machines in these videos are not true Rube Goldbergs, since they don’t actually accomplish an everyday task that would be more easily done by simpler means. Squeezing toothpaste onto a toothbrush, for example... or wiping your chin with a napkin. But that’s mere pedantry. It’s all about the entertainment value, innit?

And old Rube would be proud, I’m sure.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to the Mistress of Sarcasm, who turned me on to the OK Go video.]

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


It snowed again today in Atlanta - what is that, the third time this year? - and She Who Must Be Obeyed got home at 2:30, the county schools having been let out early. (It doesn’t take a whole lotta snow to make Atlantans piss their collective pants in fear.)

Snow in March
Yes, indeedy: Snow. Again. And in March, fercryin’outloud!

To amuse ourselves, we decided to catch up on our stored TeeVee-Show Inventory. Our digital video recorder is packed with stuff we’ve never taken the time to watch... not a surprising outcome, since in any given week we record about twice as much as we would ever consider looking at. Once every two months or so, we erase most of the crap on the machine and start building a new pile. (Welcome to Television in the 21st Century.)

The show we happened upon was “The Marriage Ref,” which had aired last Sunday evening. Featuring Tom Papa (the nominal Ref) with an advisory panel consisting of Kelly Ripa, Jerry Seinfeld, and Alec Baldwin, the show adjudicates disputes between married couples. Not disputes like “I saw you giving your big-titty secretary the eye,” but disputes like a husband wanting to display his beloved (albeit dead and taxidermied) dog in an alcove in the house, over the strenuous objections of his wife... or a husband wanting to build a stripper pole in the bedroom for his not-too-fond-of-the-idea wife.

I had been looking forward to seeing a show that featured not one, but two of my homies: Baldwin and Seinfeld. And the show was amusing enough, given that it is, after all, Reality TeeVee.

There was one moment, though, that cracked me up unto the point of breathlessness and tears... and that was when the husband - he of the dead, stuffed dog - observed that the dog, whilst sitting in its little alcove, was giving his wife the malocchio. This is the Italian version of the ayin hara - the evil eye, and the matter-of-fact way in which the husband mentioned it just frickin’ caught me funny.

Whatever. It beats the living crap out of tripe like “The Bachelor,” a show that the Missus refers to disdainfully as “The Trashlor” while watching every single drippy, sickening minute. Gaaaahhhhh.

Hey, now there’s a Marital Dispute that’s tailor-made for The Marriage Ref! “You gonna watch that crap again?!!?”


The tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, killed by an orca at SeaWorld Orlando February 24, has focused attention on the strange amalgam of science and showbiz offered up by the famous aquatic parks.

Brancheau, 40, was dragged underwater to her death by Tilikum, a 12,000 pound killer whale. “Killer whale,” a descriptor that has been largely replaced by the less-judgmental and more scientific name “orca,” is especially apt in the case of Tilikum, previously involved in the deaths of two other trainers.

SeaWorld resumed its orca-based entertainment three days after Brancheau’s death, although trainers will not be permitted to enter the water with the animals until SeaWorld and a group of outside experts complete a review of the parks’ orca-handling procedures. Business is business, after all, and a single orca is worth something in the neighborhood of $10 million. Gotta keep those assets working.

Killer whales are difficult to catch in the wild, and so these days, aquatic parks like SeaWorld breed them in captivity. No, they don’t charge admission and let the public watch, but I figure it’s only a matter of time. But here’s the scary part: A goodly number of the killer whales that have been bred by SeaWorld and other parks carry Tilikum’s DNA. From the AP article:
Captured nearly 30 years ago off Iceland, Tilikum has grown into the alpha male of captive killer whales, his value as a stud impossible to pin down...

...And no one is better at breeding killer whales than SeaWorld. The company owns 25 of the 42 orcas in captivity, and other theme parks sometimes come to SeaWorld to get theirs...

...SeaWorld got an emergency permit to buy Tilikum and the other two whales less than a year after [an attack in which he was one of three orcas that battered and submerged a fallen trainer until she died], and he became the company’s go-to sire. Of the 20 calves born at SeaWorld parks, Tilikum has fathered 13, the company said. [Emphasis mine.]
Holy crap. This means SeaWorld has been breeding a race of serial killer whales, folks... and using them to entertain our kiddies!

Does anyone else besides me find this a bit... disturbing?

SeaWorld has created a multibillion-dollar business that is based on the image of orcas as great big, harmless, cuddly animals. Stop in to one of the souvenir shops at any one of their parks and check out the plush, huggable evidence. But every once in a while, we’re reminded that Nature is red in tooth and claw. Just ask Steve Irwin. Oh, wait. You can’t... because he’s dead.

It’s one thing when a pissed-off orca grabs a trainer by the hair and drags her under the water to a horrible death. After all, probably half the people watching thought it was part of the act. “Oh, look, Mommy... they’re playing in the water!” But one of these days, some poor schnook is gonna get bitten right in fucking half when Shmammu the Kuddly Killer Whale has an acid flashback and thinks he’s looking at some weird-looking two-legged walrus. That’ll be a whole lot harder to explain to little Susie. “It’s just ketchup, honey. A whole lotta (gag) ketchup... and sausages...”

In unrelated news, PETA has announced an initiative to ban the use of the term “killer whale” and replace it with “cetacean, justifiably homicidal on account of having spent years in captivity as a slave to humans.” But since that’s too big a mouthful for the Average Joe, they propose to substitute the term “Kumbaya-Singing Whale.”