Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - AVE ATQUE VALE

Today is the last day of 2010.

Janus, the Roman god for whom the month of January is named, was a two-faced deity able to look back at the past and forward to the future simultaneously. Appropriately enough, he was believed to preside over doors and gates as well as time... for what is each day but a gateway between that which has been and that which will be?

Janus as portrayed by Elisson.
This is that day that, Janus-like, I dwell upon both the retrospective and the prospective: the looks back and ahead.

Like every year, 2010 has been a mixture of bitter and sweet. We’ve said farewell to loved ones - my uncle Phil, SWMBO’s great-aunt Dorothy - and public figures too numerous to list here. The country’s economy continues to limp along while politicians and members of the general public spew venom at one another, fiddlefucking around while Rome burns. Hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, and winter storms continue to exact their toll on us puny humans.

And yet...

New life is everywhere. Young people get married, have babies, build households. People lose their jobs, find new ones. Technology grows apace, and people fill the emptiness in their lives with gadgetry and flash, while at the same time creating new ways to connect and reconnect. The old withers in both hand and memory as the novel appears to take its place. Even old blogs are replaced with new ones... and new ones languish while former bloggers piss away the hours on Facebook and Twitter.

(Hey, I know I’m being maudlin, but what better time than New Year’s Eve to be maudlin?)

As the year’s turning approaches, Elder Daughter prepares to take a bold step in her life, leaving the security of Corporate Employment and striking out on her own to become a full-time performer and Fringe Arts producer. She’s a bit nervous - who wouldn’t be? - but excited as well for this chance to realize long-held dreams. I can empathize, for I have taken the chance of walking away from the well-trod, comfortable path myself. When better than now, for her?

The Mistress of Sarcasm continues to enjoy her work, but she has added some new things to her life. Bernadette, her newly-adopted Rescue Kitty, has proven a sweet, loving, loyal companion... and the Mistress has taught herself how to play the ukulele, so we never lack for entertainment on those days when she is able to drop by Chez Elisson.

We’re feeling pretty good, ourselves, having shed something on the order of 60-65 pounds between us and embarked on a regular program of exercise and weight training. I’m wearing pants with a waist size I haven’t been able to squeeze my ass into for almost thirty years - surprise! And the Missus looks like a veritabobble Movie Star.

SWMBO, August 2010

Speaking of the Missus, this New Year’s Eve is extra-special to me: It was exactly thirty-five years ago tonight that I met that certain young woman who would grow to become bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, the one and only She Who Must Be Obeyed. I’ve told the story of that fateful evening many times, and it never ceases to both amaze and amuse me. As does SWMBO, who is every bit as lovely to my (gradually maturing) eyes as she was the day we met.

By way of celebration, we’ll do what we usually do: In lieu of braving the drunk-filled roads for restaurant food, we’ll hang out with a small group of Friends of Long Standing, eating a fine home-prepared meal, drinking good wine, and watching the New Year slide in with several toasts of the Bubbly Stuff.

And by way of Good and Welfare, I’ll do what I usually do: offer my earnest best wishes to my Esteemed Readers, my friends, my family... and most of all, to my beloved SWMBO and our daughters... may you all have a healthy, happy, and safe 2011, without limit to any good thing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

LET ’EM EAT PUDDING

Houston Steve, trotting out his British roots, has shared with me this little gem from Mrs. Beeton, the Ur-Authority on nineteenth-century English household management and author of (appropriately enough) Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

The Book of Household Management was not simply an early model of The Joy of Cooking; it was the Compleat Guide to running a Victorian household, a task that required knowledge not only of food preparation, but of fashion, child care, animal husbandry, first aid, science, religion, and the management of household servants. (Warming up Teevee Dinners was not, at the time, a valued element of the skill set.)

Mrs. Beeton, alas, succumbed to childbed fever at the tender age of 28, the preventative measure of having obstetricians wash their hands with chlorinated lime solution not having been included in her (otherwise useful) book. One can only imagine her reaction had she lived to see modern conveniences such as the motorized pneumatic vacuum cleaner, invented 36 years after her death. Or the Electrical Servant Whip and Urinary Regulator.

But Houston Steve was mainly interested in showing me this bit about suet pudding. Suet puddings, both savory and desserty, are an integral part of the British dining experience even unto this day. In the fullness of time, I have even tasted of several varieties: Christmas pudding (a forebear of the American seasonal fruitcake, but much more appetizing), Spotted Dog, drowned baby, and of course the savory (and familiar to many) Yorkshire pudding.

The particular suet pudding in question, owing to its especially bland list of ingredients, seems to have been designed as a basic starchy filler... and the postscriptum by Mrs. Beeton emphasizes that point...

from Mrs Beeton’s Meat Recipes Revisited
Suet Pudding, to serve with Roast Meat

450 g (1 lb) Flour
285 ml (½ pint) Milk or Water
170 g (6 oz) Suet, finely chopped
½ saltspoon Salt
½ saltspoon Pepper

Mix the suet well with the flour. Add the salt and pepper and make into a smooth paste with the milk or water. Tie the pudding in a floured cloth, or put it into a buttered basin. Boil from 2½ to 3 hours.

To enrich it, substitute 3 beaten eggs for some of the milk or water and increase the proportion of suet.

Time: 2½ to 3 hours.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

Note: When there is a joint roasting or baking, this pudding may be boiled in a long shape and then cut into slices a few minutes before dinner is served: these slices should be laid in the dripping pan for a minute or two and then browned before the fire.

Most children like this accompaniment to roast meat. Where there is a large family of children and the means of keeping them are limited, it is a most economical plan to serve up the pudding before the meat: as, in this case, the consumption of the latter article will be much smaller than it otherwise would be.

In other words, fill up with bread, kids! It’s cheaper!

Roger Waters be damned (or at least paraphrased), then: “How can you have any meat if you don’t eat your pudding?”

Monday, December 27, 2010

A TALE OF TWO KITTIES

Not that the two kitties in question have anything to do with one another, being separated by 850 miles of physical distance... but I couldn’t resist the rotten pun of a post-title.

Kitty One: Our very own Hakuna, here seen basking on the stair treads in the morning sun. Gotta love that Southern Exposure.

HDRKunastairs

Kitty Two: Ringo, the resident feline chez Morris William (SWMBO’s kid brother, with whom we bunked in for a couple of days last week during our Texas peregrination. He looks positively stately here, does Mr. Ringo.

Ringo

[Click on either image to embiggen. You know you want to!]

The 850 miles is not necessarily a bad thing. Hakuna is a notorious grump when it comes to dealing with other cats, and while Ringo is pretty easygoing, I suspect he would not put up with grumpy behavior, notorious or otherwise. But they do get along fine in the context of a blog-post!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

AN EVENING AT GREENWOOD’S

Greenwood’s Corn Muffins

These muffins make me lose control.
I want to cram them in my Pie-Hole.
The folks at Greenwood’s have no shame;
For Cornbread-Muffins, well-deservèd fame.


The Usual Suspects met for dinner at Greenwood’s on Green Street this evening.

Greenwood’s is a glorified meat-and-three, an unpretentious place that will put a chunk of meatloaf, some fried chicken, a rotisseried half-duck, or a slab of fish on your plate; throw in a couple of sides; and leave you wondering where how the hell you’re going to deal with the pile of food that just showed up.

In case you’re curious, the Missus and I split an order of salmon, a frequently-appearing special. And for one of the sides, I had collards. (Yes: I had greens at Greenwood’s on Green Street.)

The food is well-prepared, and there’s enough of it to ensure that only the most serious trencherman will reserve enough Gut-Space to accommodate one of Greenwood’s famous pies.

I’ve written numerous times of Greenwood’s Holy Shit Chocolate by Gawd Cream Pie. And I’ve posted photos of their other pie-related goodies. As far as I’m concerned, any discussion of desserts stops right here.

But well before you get to the desserts at Greenwood’s, you have to navigate your way through your supper... and before you even glimpse a morsel of their glorious food, you will be dealing with a plateful of the beauties pictured above: the infamous Greenwood’s Cornbread Muffins.

They are true Southern cornbread, these babies. Not especially sweet. But they have an unctuous mouthfeel and a crisp, crusty exterior that hints at the pleasures waiting within. Betcha can’t eat just one... dozen!

DREAMS

Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and I were hunkered down in our hotel room to digest our dinner, watch a little teevee, and catch a few winks before resuming our homeward journey.

We had left Foat Wuth, Texas Christmas morning, hoping to avoid the vile traffic that would surely await us were we to begin our drive on Sunday... and to get a head start on what was shaping up to be an icy weekend in Alabama and Georgia. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we considered the two options: Stop, or drive straight through? The latter would involve driving through falling snow after dark, on roads with Southern drivers who do not have Clue One as to how to drive in slippery, icy conditions... and so we stopped for the night.

As we were checking into the nearly-empty hotel, I bantered with the desk clerk. “Glad we were able to make a reservation on short notice. It wouldn’t do to find out that there was no room at the inn...” Heh.

Our supper was unimpressive, but it was supper, for all that. Dining options on Christmas are necessarily limited, and we faced a choice between Waffle House and the hotel dining room. Not wanting to indulge in any unnecessary travel on a cold, windy night, we plumped for the Local Option, feasting on fried pickle chips, vegetabobble soup, baked potatoes, and amazingly dry hamburgers.

Maybe a waffle would have been a better choice.

Afterward, up in our room, the Mistress turned on the teevee and was horrified to learn that we had managed to completely miss the annual 24-hour marathon showing of A Christmas Story. She consoled herself by turning on another hoary old classic, The Wizard of Oz, while I put on my Bluetooth stereo headphones and watched Inception on my iPhone.

The Wizard of Oz, one of the most beloved American films, admittedly takes a few liberties with the source material. In L. Frank Baum’s novel, Oz is a real place to which Dorothy makes a real voyage; in the movie, it is a dream, a figment of Dorothy’s delirious imagination populated by analogues of people in her real life (several of whom do not appear in the book). It’s a storytelling device as old as the Bible (“And Pharaoh awoke, and behold! It was a dream...”) and as hokey as Season Eight of “Dallas” - but nonetheless effective.

I watched The Wizard of Oz with one eye, Inception with the other... and then I realized that both films shared common elements. Both involved dreams; that was obvious. Inception involved several people sharing the same dream, in some cases a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream. In Oz, the dream was one person’s dream, but real-life people appeared in that dream in bizarrely altered forms. The only question is, what was Dorothy’s totem? What object did she possess - one known only to herself - that would serve as a reminder that she was dreaming her own dream and not trapped in someone else’s nocturnal fantasyland?

Philip K. Dick famously (and titularly) asked whether androids dream of electric sheep. Do scarecrows dream of crows, or being scary? Or simply of endless fields of corn? Would a Cowardly Lion dream, Walter Mitty-like, of performing feats of courage and derring-do?

Discuss amongst yourselves, Esteemed Readers. In what ways do The Wizard of Oz and Inception resemble one another? How do they differ? And is Leonardo diCaprio mas macho que Bert Lahr?

Wiz-Ception

Friday, December 24, 2010

THE VISIT

’Twas the night before Christmas, and the children lay in their beds dreaming of sugar-plums and Sony Playstations. The wife and I had settled in for a long winter’s nap, with the hope of a session of slap-and-tickle once the kids were solidly asleep.

A clattering crash, the sort that might be made by a freight train full of scrap iron colliding with an eighteen-wheeler fully loaded with live pigs, caused me to spring out of bed to see just what was going on. Yanking aside the blinds, I thought I saw a miniature toboggan or bobsled careening through the treetops. Was I hallucinating? I wondered.

A thud came from the roof, followed by the sound of a massive object sliding down the chimney. I wasn’t hallucinating after all, I decided. As I ran into the den, I heard a muffled curse as whoever-it-was barked his shin against the andirons.

He was a sight, standing there in front of the hearth. Dressed in fur from head to foot, his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot from his hasty trip down the flue. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; those rosy cheeks were, on closer examination, crisscrossed with hundreds of thin red scars.

He took a box from his huge sack and placed it carefully under the tree. He then, in a completely inexplicable gesture, laid his finger aside of his nose. Was he trying to shoot me the bird and missed? Before I could decide whether to be amused or insulted, he vanished back up the chimney, quick as he arrived.

The mystery was solved on Christmas morning when we opened the box, which contained a gorgeous set of Japanese cutlery. Why, we had been visited by none other than...

FROSTY

Frosty the Golem
(Just in case you missed the news)
Made by Rabbi Loew
From the mud and snow
To protect the ghetto’s Jews

Frosty the Golem
Was a pile of lifeless clay
But the Name of God
Written on a clod
Helped bring it to life one day

There must have been some magic
In the yarmulke they found
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around

Frosty the Golem
Would abide no bigotry
Anti-Semites, they
Better stay away
Lest he break their head and knee

Frosty the Golem
Kept the pogroms far away
Cossacks felt his rage
When he would rampage
Any hour of night or day

Down to the village
With a firebrand in his hand
Running here and there
All around the square
Beating peasants thro’ the land

He dragged them down the streets of town
Mightier than any cop
And he never paused a moment when
He heard them screaming, “Stop!”

Frosty the Golem
Was mere animated clay
But he waved goodbye
Saying, “Don’t you cry
I’ll be back again some day!”

Thumpety thump thump
Thumpety thump thump
Look at that golem go

Thumpety thump thump
Thumpety thump thump
Over the mud and snow

[More about the legend of Frosty the Golem here.]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

AFTER THE RAINS

Several years ago, I wrote about the Gorgeous Gorge at Saint George in New Brunswick, Canada.

Back then, that gorge was a relatively quiet affair. Turbulent in spots, sure... but nothing over-the-top. Here’s what it looked like in June of 2006:

Gorgeous Gorge at Saint George

My buddy Graeme, the Wild Blueberry Farmer - it was he and his charming bride Lisa who had taken me on my Grand Tour of coastal new Brunswick back then - recently sent me a more up-to-date shot, one taken after torrential rains (seven inches in one day, something you’d expect to see in coastal Texas, not the Canadian Maritimes) had swollen the waterway to near unmanageable proportions...

Gorgeous Gorge at Saint George
Holy fuckamoley! It’s a Gorgeous Engorged Gorge at Saint George!

THE MOON, LIKE BLOOD


Total lunar eclipse of December 21, 2010 as seen from Dover Delaware. Wikimedia.

At oh-dark-thirty, the Mistress of Sarcasm and I arose and went outside, where a sole streetlight cast its glare.

Up above, the full Moon hung in the sky like the bleary eye of a wino, the dark coppery color of blood. The northern limb of the Moon was still illuminated by the sun, a ghostly sliver. Presently it took on that bizarre coppery glow as the Moon entered its total eclipse phase.

Total lunar eclipses are hardly rare occurrences. Possibly the most dramatic one I recall seeing is the one we viewed from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in August of 1989. The Mistress’s memories of that event are necessarily vague, but I remember watching that blood-red orb hanging over the Atlantic Ocean toward the east, a moment of unexpected beauty.

But this one was unusual in that it fell coincident with the winter solstice, a synchronicity that last occurred 372 years ago. And so we stood together, the Mistress and I, and watched that copper moon usher in the new season with Orion to keep it company. A fine father-daughter moment, it was... the two of us watching this brief moment in the eternal dance of the Celestial Spheres.

Monday, December 20, 2010

ELEMENTARY EDUCATION

We’re here in Texas with SWMBO’s clan, which means we get to spend some Quality Time with our nephew William and niece Madison.

Cute as hell, they are... and smart, too. Madison, at the ripe age of four, has already developed negotiating skills that would put the North Koreans to shame, and William - well, he continues to come out with preternaturally sharp bons mots at the slightest provocation.

F’rinstance...

A few weeks ago, William’s dad had to deliver a painting to a young woman who worked at a local Hooters. (The painting was by William’s mom, in case you’re curious.) The logistics of the day - determined mainly by various work schedules - dictated that William would have to be picked up after school and accompany his dad as he made the delivery. Which meant that William, all of eight years old, would get to experience the awe and mystery of Hooters, if only in passing.

It’s not a big deal, really: a purveyor of chicken wings, with waitstaff consisting of well-endowed young women in short pants and tight-fitting shirts. Nothing a young prepubescent lad couldn’t handle, especially with a little judicious advance explanation from Daddy.

Came Delivery Day, and Dad shows up to pick William up at school, after which they will make the journey to the aforementioned chicken wing purveyor. And, as is customary, Dad asks William his traditional after-school question: “So, what did you learn today?”

William replies: “Not as much as I think I’m going to be learning in a few minutes...”

THE VOICE OF GAWD

Enroute to my Texas-based in-laws the other day, we made one of several pit stops. The routine is pretty straightforward: Pull in to a fast-food joint, locate the restrooms, pee and leave. Sometimes we will purchase a cup of coffee or two, depending on how desperate we are for caffeine and/or Bladder Refillage.

Thus it was that we found ourselves in Shreveport, Louisiana at a McDonald’s hard by I-20. The girls headed off to the Ladies’ Room, I to the Men’s.

I took care of business (in Texan, I “took care of bidnis”), promptly Draining the Lizard, AKA Seeing a Man About a Horse, AKA Emptying the Monster, in the sole available urinal, the other having been draped with polyethylene sheeting in lieu of an “Out Of Order” sign. As I was bellied up to said urinal, two young boys - brothers, by the look of ’em - came in. Seeing that the only functional urinal was occupied, they both went into the stall.

Restroom maintenance at this particular Mickey D’s must not have been up to the usual corporate standard... either that, or someone must have recently taken a wet, messy dump, getting Management Brains (tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to LeeAnn for that gem) all over the place. The boys’ voices could be heard clearly through the partition: “Ewwwww!” “This place is gross!” But whatever horror awaited them in there, it didn’t disturb them enough to keep them from accomplishing their Pission Mission.

Meanwhile, per my usual procedure, I had washed my hands and was in the process of drying them off with the thoughtfully-provided Hot Air Blower - no paper hand towels being available - when the two little dudes, having finished whatever it was they had come in there to do, made a beeline for the exit. There had been some mumbled discussion about whether they should wash their hands, and Big Brother (all of seven years old, by my estimate) had decided to forgo that important procedure.

Not on my watch.

I uncorked the Voice of Gawd and nailed ’em with it: “Hey! Wash your hands!”

These little guys were not about to argue with the Strange Man in Dark Glasses. They whipped about in a sharp U-turn and headed straight to the sink.

[No need to thank me. It’s what I do.]

And, hey, is it something about Shreveport? Years ago, when SWMBO’s kid brother Morris William lived there, we went to the movies... and during a bathroom break, I could not help but notice that maybe three-quarters of the guys using the facilities walked right out the door after Attending to Business. (All types of Business, if you get my drift.) Is it a cultural thing? Or have these people been raised by wolves? (No offense meant to the wolves.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

BE STILL, MY (NO LONGER) BEATING (BEEF) HEART


Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart (1941-2010). Wikimedia Commons.

The music world mourns the passing of one of the True Originals: Don Van Vliet, who died yesterday from complications of multiple sclerosis. He was 69 years old.

Most of my Esteemed Readers will scratch their heads and say, “Don Van Vliet? Who dat?” Others will recognize him by his more familiar (to some, anyway) stage moniker, Captain Beefheart.

The good Captain was a True Original. His musical output ranged from the Wildly Experimental (Trout Mask Replica) to the Almost Commercial (Clear Spot). Nobody who ever listened to Trout Mask Replica came away unchanged by the experience; the album comprised everything from the completely unlistenable to the bizarre-yet-sublime, a Unique Artistic Opus.

Van Vliet retired from the music business in 1982, concentrating instead on a second career as an abstract expressionist painter. Appropriate enough for someone whose finest music had an abstract expressionist cast to it.

Rumors that “Pachuco Cadaver” will be played at Van Vliet’s funeral are believed to be unfounded.

Ahh, Don. We hardly knew ye... and even if we did, we could hardly figure ye out. Requiescat in pace!

[A tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora goes to Dax Montana, who alerted me to the news and whose post on the topic may be found here.]

THE GUARDIAN: A 100-WORD STORY

Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague was at his wits’ end.

His people had long borne the brunt of their neighbors’ causeless hatred. Anti-Semitic attacks were on the rise. What the Jews of Prague needed was a protector... and Rabbi Loew, with his knowledge of Kabbalah’s sacred mysteries, knew how to give them one.

The mud he needed, alas, was frozen solid, it being the dead of winter, so the Rabbi turned to the next best thing. Snow lay on the ground in great heaps.

Years later, the children of Prague would sing of the ghetto’s mighty Guardian...

...Frosty the Golem.

Friday, December 17, 2010

AN UTTERLY HEINOUS (AND YET TASTY) BREAKFAST

This morning at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium, I ordered something that was not on the menu... something that was utterly heinous and yet tasty nevertheless.

[One might wonder what our Minyan Gang was doing at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium, given that today is a minor fast day - what I refer to as a “half-fast day” - on which observant Jews abstain from food or drink from sunrise until sundown. It’s Aseret b’Tevet, the tenth day of the month Tevet, the day on which tradition tells us Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem that led to the destruction of the First Temple. But given my general level of observance, eating breakfast is the least of my peccadilloes.]

I had tried ordering this Infamous Dish once before, and Tommy - the proprietor of the Emporium - refused to prepare it for me. This morning I must have caught him in a festive mood.

Here ’tis...

Chopped Liver Omelette
Elisson’s “Dirty Diaper” Omelette: egg whites with a chopped liver filling. Yeef!

It’s nothing less than a Chopped Liver Omelette!

Yes, indeed: a nice fluffy egg white omelette filled with nasty, nasty chopped liver. Looks horrible, no? In view of the obvious resemblance, I call it the Dirty Diaper Omelette.

I’d love for Tommy to put this on the menu, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

Looks aside, it’s really quite good, provided you are the sort of person who tolerates chopped liver. She Who Must Be Obeyed wouldn’t touch this thing with a ten-foot pole. (Come to think of it, most ten-foot Poles wouldn’t touch it either... and that’s saying a lot given their willingness to eat kielbasa.) But I eat this kind of stuff - and document it! - so you don’t have to.

I suppose I should be ashamed of myself... but as we all know, I have no shame.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AN EVENING FOR COCOONING

Winter has come early to the Atlanta area.

A few days ago, we had snow flurries - enough to leave visible accumulation on the grass. No big deal, especially to anyone who grew up in the Cold North Woods, but still a harbinger of a rough season.

Yesterday morning arrived with temperatures below 20°F, and to make things even more frigid, the winds blew at a steady 20-30 MPH. Sweet.

Today wasn’t much better... and when the sleet started in mid-afternoon, things started to go downhill. As She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were leaving our trainer’s place this evening, I noticed a sinister glaze on the bushes - just in time to prevent us from taking a header on the icy steps. We shuffled our way to where our cars were parked and took it nice and slow driving home. Now the weather reports are filled with winter weather advisories. Ooooooh, slippery!

One good thing about a cold, rainy, icy night like this: It’s perfect for cocooning. It’s the kind of night when you want to have a supper that sticks to your ribs... and then curl up in bed. And when you want a meal that sticks to your ribs, there’s nothing quite like, well, ribs!

Talk about serendipity. Earlier in the day, I had fixed up a mess of braised beef short ribs. These I served forth with some roasted zucchini; baked sweet potato; and sautéed beet greens with red onion, garlic, and dried currants. To wash it all down? A glass of He’Brew Rejewvenator, a seasonal brew containing a whiff of Concord grape juice - a perfect counterpoint to the Cabernet Sauvignon and ruby Port in which I braised the ribs. (And what better to hold that fine beverage than one of my Heroes of the Torah glasses?)

It’s wet, windy, and icy outside, but it’s warm as toast here in the heart of Chez Elisson with my sweet SWMBO by my side. What do you do when the thermometer takes a dip?

A DISH THAT CAN BE BEET

Roasted Beets with Tarragon
Roasted red beets.

You can take it to the bank: I am the Food-Weirdo in our family. The one who likes all the oddball dishes nobody else will touch.

Lamb? Duck? I love ’em... but the Missus loathes ’em. Same goes for organ meats of any description. I’m a self-confessed liver lover, whether it once belonged to a calf, a chicken, a duck, or a goose; however, being a liver lover is lonely business in my house.

Dark meat vs. white meat? I’ll grab the dark every time, whereas She Who Must Be Obeyed goes for the white.

And then there are Root Vegetables. Carrots and parsnips are neutral territory, but when you get into Beet Country, SWMBO and the Mistress of Sarcasm get stopped by the Beety Border Patrol while I sail through immigration with my Permanent Resident’s Visa.

SWMBO: “I don’t like beets!

The Mistress of Sarcasm: “They taste like dirt!”

But I love ’em.

Sure, they have some earthy flavor undertones, but that’s part of their Root Vegetable Heritage. You just need to dress ’em up a little. Roasted, diced, and doctored up with a little sherry vinegar, tarragon, orange zest, and olive oil, they make a dandy salad... or a fine add-on to a pile of greens.

Roasted Beets and Arugula

And if you shred ’em with carrots and onions, they form the base for some excellent latkes. If the flavor were not enough to excite you - even SWMBO concedes that Everything Tastes Better Fried - the bright, sunny colors of the shredded ingredients (golden beets, red beets, carrots, and onions) are enough to brighten the darkest winter day.

Grated Beets and Carrots
Shredded beets (red and golden), carrots, and onions - the raw materials for Beet and Carrot Latkes - await their date with the frying pan.

Beet and Carrot Latkes
Weird but tasty, the finished result: Beet and Carrot Latkes.

Off the beaten path? Sure! But that’s where all the good stuff is.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

INSTANT ART

A hard-core bunch of imaging technology revivalists is bringing back the Polaroid, so I hear.

Dubbed “The Impossible Project,” the effort is the brainchild of a handful of former Polaroid employees. Their target market? Retro hipsters, evidently. They’ve teamed up with Urban Outfitters to market their new/old films, some of which are new variations on the old Polaroid SX-70 film... and all of which are made on old Polaroid equipment purchased by the Project.

It’s the perfect technology for the Snapshot as Art, at least as evidenced by the photographs posted at the Urban Outfitters Everything Is Possible show site. Old-style analog wet-chemical photographs have a certain... flavor that digital seems to lack. Maybe it’s the very fact that you get what you get when you shoot Polaroid: There’s no post-production image tweakage.

In these days of digital imagery in which every photograph is available instantly, it’s easy to forget just how mind-boggling Polaroid technology was. Instead of taking your film to the corner drugstore and waiting several days for the results - or, for the more adventuresome, spending a couple of hours fiddle-fucking around in a darkroom - you got your picture right away. It was... amazing!

My first exposure (you should excuse the expression) to Polaroid was early on in my Snot-Nose Days. My Uncle Gerry’s brother-in-law Stewie had one of the real old-school jobbies: it was a folding camera with a bellows. You’d shoot your picture, pull a tab, wait sixty seconds, and then open a door in the back to reveal the finished black-and-white picture. You would peel the photo off its backing and then apply a few coats of a pungent-smelling pink neutralizing lacquer, without which it would fade away to oblivion.

Eventually, newer models appeared. You’d take your picture, pull a tab, and the photograph would come along with it - no more opening the back of the camera. Even more exciting, the black-and-white film got better and faster - only ten seconds from snap to finished picture - and there was even color film for those who were patient enough to wait a full minute.

The coolest Polaroid invention arrived in 1972: the SX-70. A snazzy-looking folding SLR camera (!), you’d load it with a 10-exposure film pack that contained both the film and the battery that would fire the flash (a separate snap-in 10-bulb flashbar) and operate the motor. When you took a picture, that motor would shove the film through rollers that would squish the self-contained developer pods and schmear their contents uniformly across the image, and then eject the picture. You’d grab it as it popped out and then watch as the blank, greyish-white image are slowly blossomed into... a color photograph! Better yet, unlike earlier generations of Polaroid film, there was nothing to peel apart: everything was in one self-contained integrated package. The SX-70 camera spat out a complete photograph, ready to look at (after a minute) and shove in an album or tack to the wall. No layers to peel, no messy coatings to apply. It was as close to magic as anything we could imagine.

It’s a laughably complicated, Rube Goldberg-like technology by today’s standards, but those of us who carry around a load of nostalgia in our pants still may shed a wistful tear as we remember it.

But the good folks at the Impossible Project are not satisfied with mere wistful memories. They’re bringing back the Polaroid, and I wish them every success. (I’m sure we still have an old SX-70 Model 1 in the basement somewhere.)

Next up: Reviving the daguerreotype. ’Cause if you’re gonna bring back obsolete technology, why not bring one back that combines beautiful results with real health and environmental hazards?

CHUCKLES: A 100-WORD STORY

Chuckles

Chuckles was going insane.

That a jester should succumb to madness should hardly be surprising: Constant japery, tomfoolery, jackassitude, and prank-playing are hardly the province of sober individuals. But most members of the profession understand the difference between acting crazy and being crazy. They’ll do almost anything for a laugh, provided a paycheck comes with it.

For Chuckles, however, bizarre facepaint masked a tortured soul. As schizophrenia overcame him, he could no longer carry on conversations with others, instead spending long hours mumbling to himself.

Eventually, he took the only job he could get: Head Clown at Cirque du Soliloquy.

Cirque du Soliloquy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

MOOSE TRACKS

Most people - at least, those who are not Outdoorsy Types - associate the term “Moose Tracks” with ice cream. The typical version consists of vanilla ice cream with some sort of chocolate fudge and peanuts; in one locally popular variant, peanut butter cups are used to supply the peanut content.

But I don’t eat Moose Tracks ice cream... and I’ve never been on a moose hunt. When I use the term “Moose Tracks,” be sure that it is for a far more earthy purpose.

[The remainder of this post is not for readers with Delicate Sensibilities. You have been warned... but, then again, if you read this site on a regular basis, you most likely do not suffer from that condition.]

Yesterday, She Who Must Be Obeyed commented that there were, ahhhh... telltale marks in one of the upstairs toilet bowls. [Actually, the term she used was “shit stains” - far be it from the Missus to beat around the bush.] Her tone was mildly accusatory, although she had not come right out and charged me with the Cocky-Crime.

She might as well have. It’s only the two of us living here, after all.

And I’ll confess... once in a while, I’ll leave a bit of evidence. The deadly combination of low-flow toilet facilities and the occasional Tar Baby sometimes will Jackson Pollock the old porcelain throne’s inner surfaces... and if there’s no toilet brush handy...

...well, suffice it to say that I was Guilty As (kinda sorta) Charged.

I immediately thought of a Snappy Retort, but thought better of actually saying it aloud: “Shit stain in the toilet? That’s nothing to get worked up about. What about the ones in the sink?”

(There are some matters the Missus does not joke about... and the last thing I want to do is put ideas in her head.)

And then it occurred to me: We need a euphemism for shit stains - the kind that you might find in a freshly used commode. “Skid mark” is fine, but that connotes something you might find in a pair of Tighty-Whities. No, some other expression is called for...

Moose Tracks!

Let’s use it in a sentence, shall we?

“Honey, are those your Moose Tracks in Elder Daughter’s bathroom? Why the hell don’t you grab a brush and clean ’em out, fercryinoutloud?”

(As for Moose Tracks ice cream, I’m even less inclined to eat it now...)

Friday, December 10, 2010

THE WORLD AS SEEN FROM TWO WHEELS
or,
MEN IN TIGHTS

Bikey Boyz
Elisson and Gary: the Bikey Boyz, coming in after a fifteen-mile ride on the Greenway.

With temperatures here having plunged into the Frozen Zone these last several days, my new-old road bike has been unused since last weekend... but before the arrival of wintry weather, I managed to get a few good rides in.

My buddy Gary turned me on to the Big Creek Greenway, a fine paved trail that wends its way from Roswell to Alpharetta/Johns Creek, roughly paralleling State Route 400. If you take it from end to end, it’s a fifteen-mile round trip... and when the planned hookup with the Forsyth Greenway is complete, it will be even longer and better.

The Greenway is pretty quiet during the week, with the occasional pedestrian, dogwalker, or roller skater; on the weekends it gets a bit busier. There’s a nominal 10 MPH speed limit that seems intended to keep bikers from using the trail for wind sprints, but I suspect it’s not heavily enforced except maybe during trafficky weekends when roadies zooming around all the curves would create a major hazard. I generally average about 13-14 without getting so much as a raised eyebrow, getting up to 20 on the straightaways if there are no pedestrians nearby.

One of the nice things about a trail like the Greenway is that it’s well away from automobile traffic. There’s only one spot where you have to cross a street. And it’s scenic...

Greenway 3

Greenway 1

...although if you want even nicer scenery, you take the Columns Drive trail. The northern end takes you past pricey real estate, after which the trail continues along a cinder path that runs alongside the Chattahoochee River. On a sunny afternoon, there is no finer place to be.

Chattahoochee
A Sunday afternoon at the river. Nice, eh? [Click to embiggen.]

Thursday, December 9, 2010

AVE ATQUE VALE, FIVE SISTERS

Ceil and Dorothy, April 2002
SWMBO’s mother (L) with her Aunt Dorothy in a photograph taken in April 2002.

Dorothy, the last of the Five Sisters, passed away last night. She was just a few months shy of having attained the century mark.

She was a feisty one, Dorothy was. At the relatively advanced age of 93, she was still flying around to family occasions; it was only in the last four years that she had to give up her independent lifestyle and move into an assisted living facility. And in years past, she and her sisters Ann and Helen would make sparks fly whenever they got together.

Dorothy’s death closes the book on SWMBO’s grandmother’s generation, a generation that now belongs to the ages. And yet, they live on... in the lives and memories of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Ave atque vale, O Five! May the Eternal grant you perfect peace in His sheltering Presence and envelop your souls in the bonds of Life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

IT WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY

John Lennon, who along with Paul McCartney formed one of the most influential songwriting partnerships of the twentieth century, was murdered thirty years ago today. He was the first of the Beatles to die.

Lennon, like so many Creative Types, was a deeply flawed human being. His naive, hyperidealistic political views and his abusive treatment of his first wife Cynthia (as self-described in the song “Getting Better”) are just two reasons to dislike him as a person...

...and yet it is impossible for me to dislike the man who wrote the soundtrack for several of my adolescent years. The Beatles’ music - and by extension, Lennon’s music - was the bridge between childhood and adulthood for me and many others of my generational cohort.

People who came of age after 1970 cannot understand how pervasive - how world-changing - that music was. Nothing since then comes even close. Michael Jackson? Don’t make me laugh.

Some of Lennon’s solo work was excellent, but without McCartney’s moderating influence it could often be discordant and strident. (Likewise, without Lennon’s acidity, McCartney’s solo efforts tended toward fluffy meaninglessness.) Together, they formed a whole that was greater than the sum of its song-crafting parts.

Lennon lived to be a mere forty years old. One can only wonder what that marvelous creative mind might have produced had he lived... and especially had he found a way to reconcile with Paul McCartney, without whom he would always be somehow incomplete. And perhaps that is the Silver Lining of being a celebrity who dies young, legend intact, with future achievements a product of wishful imaginations, physical and creative decline a matter of speculation rather than a harsh reality. One only needs to look at the video of the Who at the Super Bowl earlier this year to see the fate of the Superannuated Celebrity, a fate that Lennon managed to avoid.

Requiescat in pace, John.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

HIGHLY DYNAMIC KITTY

HDRKuna2

Hakuna glows in this High Dynamic Range image. Highly dynamic, indeed - provided you are referring to the image’s tonal range and not to any apparent motion on the part of Hakuna, who remained perfectly motionless for the three exposures it took to create it.

Update: Friday Ark #322 is afloat over at the Modulator, ably piloted by Cap’n Steve.

More kitty-related links will be coming your way Sunday evening, when the latest weekly edition of Carnival of the Cats is posted at Mind of Mog. Be sure to stop by and tell ’em Elisson sent ya!

Update 2: CotC #352 is up, with Hakuna leading the Kitty-Parade.

Monday, December 6, 2010

DECEMBER DETRITUS

Waxy Buildup
Waxy Buildup: the bane of menorah operators everywhere.

Whether you are a Jew or a Christian, one thing is certain: You will have some cleaning up to do, either in December or in early January.

For us Jews, the issue is dealing with nasty Wax Buildup. Eight days of Chanukah equates to forty-four candles, and inevitably, over the course of the holiday, there will be considerable drippage of molten paraffin. Paraffin, alas, is a notorious pain in the tuchus to clean up, given that it is insoluble in water, alcohol, and acetone. Xylene, an aromatic hydrocarbon closely related to benzene, will dissolve paraffin wax, but you really don’t want to be dealing with xylene in the household environment - it’s kinda sorta toxic. You could also use warm hexane or heptane, which will not only clean up your paraffin drippings, but quite possibly will help you to burn down your house.

No, I will probably just use a sink full of steaming hot water. It won’t dissolve the wax, but it will soften it enough so I can scrape it off... and leave a waxy mess pretty much everywhere. Feh.

There is an alternative to paraffin candles. In prior years, we have been very fond of Ner Lights, glass ampoules that contain a wick and a supply of olive oil. You just snap off the top of each ampoule, stick it in your chanukiah, and fire it up. No wax drippings; no oily residue. Ner Lights are considerably pricier than plain old candles, however, and they’re a little harder to find... so this year, I’ll be dealing with the wax.

Oh, well. At least it beats having to dispose of a dead tree.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

DECEMBER GUILD EVENT

Georgian Terrace Hotel
Lobby of the Georgian Terrace Hotel, Atlanta... or perhaps one of the sets for Forbidden Planet?

The Sommelier Guild’s annual Champagne Holiday Celebration was held at the Georgian Terrace Hotel this evening at the hotel’s Livingston Bar, directly across the street from the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

The Georgian Terrace, considered the “Grand Dame” of Atlanta Hotels, received international exposure during the fall of 1939 when it was the location for the grand opening celebration for the most famous American movie in history, Gone With The Wind.

Happily, the wines we enjoyed were not Gone With The Wind. Not all were true Champagnes, several being from places as diverse as California, New Mexico(!), and Virginia. Most were very good; a few, excellent. Houston Steve, alas, was not there to enjoy them, but the ever-irascible Denny proved to be a most companionable tablemate.

Speaker’s Wine:
Caposaldo Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto, Italy

First Flight
DuVal - Leroy Brut, Champagne, France NV
Pierre Morlet Brut “Grand Reserve” NV**
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV***

Wild Salmon Tartare, Grilled Shrimp Skewers, Sweetgrass Dairy Goat Cheese Truffles

Second Flight
Gruet Rosé NV, New Mexico*
Kluge Brut Rosé 2005, Albemarle County, Virginia
Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé NV, Carneros, California***

Vidalia Onion Tarts, Shaved Duck Prosciutto, Grilled Chicken Skewers

Third Flight
Moet & Chandon “Dom Perignon” 2002, Champagne, France***
Pol Roger “Sir Winston Churchill” 1998****
Bollinger “R. D.” 1997*****

Fresh Mozzarella, Citrus Poached Shrimp, Peekytoe Crab Louis

Dessert
Ricossa Moscato d’Asti 2009, Piedmonte, Italy

Mousse au Chocolat

Lagniappe:
Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002***

The third flight was about as good a selection of sparkling wines as I have ever had. It’s hard to say enough about a flight in which Dom Perignon was a weak third, a powerful testament to the quality of the other two wines. The Bollinger may have been the best Champagne I have ever tasted... and well it should be. Both it and the Pol Roger go for about $250 the bottle.

All in all, an excellent evening. What better way to celebrate my mother’s 83rd birthday?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

MY DIN-DIN, LIKE JEWELS

Sushi Moriawase
Sushi moriawase: Assorted fish ’n’ rice. Top row: hamachi, sake. Middle row: saba, ikura, unagi. Bottom: some wacky roll concoction with hamachi, maguro, mango, red tobiko, and black tobiko. Not pictured: Salmon skin temaki.

The Missus and I developed a Sushi Jones a couple of days ago, and there was naught but to feed it. Every bite was glorious.

And for dessert?

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Chocolate-covered strawberries.

[No, this is not what we had for dessert. But ain’t it pretty?]

Friday, December 3, 2010

SIMPLE

Those of us who enjoy the occasional Mixed Tipple are familiar with this stuff:

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup!

It’s just sugar and water, but it finds its way into a whole host of Grown-Up Beverages, not least of which is the Sazerac Cocktail.

I saw these bottles on the shelf at our local Stupid-Market. What got my attention, though, was the price. $4.99 for a twelve-ounce bottle of sugar-water! Yeef!

At the risk of being labeled a cheapskate, I will happily tell you that there is No Fucking Way I would spend $4.99 on a bottle of simple syrup. Not when I can make it myself with fifty cents’ worth of ingredients.

Lookee: Take a cup of white granulated sugar and a cup of water. Put them together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil just long enough for the sugar to dissolve. Cool and store in the vessel of your choice.

Now take all the money you saved - at least $4.50 - and put it in a jar. Do this a few times and you’ve saved enough for a nice bottle of rye whiskey... or single malt Scotch.

THE CURMUDGEON: A 100-WORD STORY

Grumpy Elisson

Stepan had a naturally sour disposition.

Perhaps his personality was inherited: His parents were notorious curmudgeons back in the Old Country. Understandable, given the grim circumstances of their life there.

But here in America, Stepan had nothing to complain about. He was a successful entrepreneur with a thriving, happy family. His health was good. Why, then, did he feel so empty?

That’s when he realized what was missing from his life: the constant griping that had been the background of his childhood. And, ever the businessman, he conjured up the perfect solution.

Meet Stepan Kvetchit, proprietor of Stepan’s Whine Bar.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

BALLS

Crankshaft, 12-02-10
Tom Batiuk’s Crankshaft, December 2, 2010. ©2010 Mediagraphics. [Click to embiggen.]

Today’s Crankshaft strip pulled a Memory-Trigger deep in the back of my brain... reminding me of Christmases long past.

Christmas, as my Esteemed Readers know, is not my holiday, given that I am a Red Sea Pedestrian. Nevertheless, when I was a young Snot-Nose, I figured out pretty quickly that, our holiday or not, Christmas was all around, and it was pointless to try and avoid it.

When your friends and neighbors are enjoying their holiday, why begrudge them their enjoyment? Even today, I loathe the sort of political correctness that leads to people calling Christmas trees “Holiday Trees” and to people saying Happy Holidays for fear of offending the non-Christian. I’m no Christian, but if people wish me a Merry Christmas, I thank them and return the favor. When someone offers a simple seasonal pleasantry, they’re not looking for a lecture.

Back in those Snot-Nose days, we would receive the occasional Seasonal Gift. One of my Dad’s employees would always deliver unto us a box of her homemade Christmas cookies: there must have been at least ten different kinds in that box, each a miniature work of art. I can only imagine how frenzied her household must have been when baking season came upon them.

All these years later, and I still remember those cookies - and their donor - with warm affection. Such is the power of Baked Goods on a child’s heart.

Meanwhile, our neighbors across the street had their own routine. We would visit and admire their beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and they would give us a kingly gift: a tray of Rum Balls.

Oh, those Rum Balls - how I loved them! So beautifully spherical, their exterior enrobed in powdered sugar as white as a fresh snowfall, their dark interior redolent with the mysterious and heady fragrance of dark rum... they were, to me, the single most attractive aspect of Christendom. At the very least, they bespoke an atmosphere of neighborliness that made me proud to live in an America in which we can honor our own traditions while enjoying and respecting those of others. (Not bad philosophizin’ for a young Snot-Nose!)

If I were forced to choose between those Christmassy Rum Balls and, something closer to my own traditions - say, rugelach, or chocolate babka, or prune hamantaschen - I might suffer a Cultural Meltdown. (On second thought, nothing beats rugelach and chocolate babka.)

Alas, Rum Balls of that quality seem to be thin on the ground these days. Maybe it’s a trick of my Sense-Memory, but no other Rum Ball I have ingested in the last fifty years even comes close to the ones our neighbors made.

And certainly not these:

ON SOUP AND SERMONS


[Photo courtesy Bro d’Elisson.]

A recent posting I saw on Facebook alerted me to a change in government policies as they affect federal support of faith-based charity initiatives.

According to Travis Sanford of the Courthouse News Service,
Faith-based organizations may no longer conduct worship services or proselytize while providing social programs funded with federal money. President Obama has amended a 2002 Executive Order from President George W. Bush that allowed faith-based social programs to get federal aid.
I don’t agree with our Fearless Leader on many things, but this is one thing he has gotten absolutely right. When Bush the Younger allowed faith-based social programs to receive social aid, he opened a whole can of worms with respect to the disposition of government monies and its possible conflict with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. To wit:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
Simply put, the government cannot enact laws that favor a particular religion, or that create a state religion. It also cannot create laws that keep people from practicing their faith(s), whatever they happen to be.

When money is involved, that’s where things begin to get sticky.

If a church runs a soup kitchen in order to feed the hungry, most of us will agree that that’s a Good Thing. And if they wish the recipients of their Foodly Largesse to hear a bit of the Good Word whilst supping on the free eats, why, who would begrudge them that privilege?

The problem comes in when the soup kitchen is being run with government funds. Because the government has no real business getting involved in the Religion Business, allowing the good people at the soup kitchen to bend the ear of their indigent guests is no longer permissible. Bush the Younger, alas, did not understand that a Constitutional issue was involved; Obama does.

As my good friend Houston Steve so eloquently puts it,
Regarding your comments on the Executive Order preventing proselytizing at soup kitchens, I am reminded that when one gives a gift expecting something in return, it is not a gift at all. So if those running the kitchen think their patrons are somehow obligated to listen to their version of the Truth, then it’s not really a gift to the hungry at all, is it? It is, in fact, a recruiting station... for which I do not choose to pay.
It’s that old Double-Edged Sword: If you accept money from the government, then you are obliged to follow their rules... and like it or not, their rules will necessarily be at odds with the dictates of your particular religious denomination, because the government cannot play favorites.

The solution is simple. Either take the government money, use it to operate your soup kitchen, and separate the sermon delivery from the food service (you can still sermonize, just not in the same place and time) - or, use your own funds and sermonize as you see fit.

What is most amusing to me is the sheer amount of vitriol this executive order has generated - all of it completely unjustified - towards President Obama. Here’s an example:

“Those who do not wish to hear prayers or sermons while eating FREE food given with Love in HIS MOST HOLY NAME can eat at the freakin’ Mosque.”

“Those who don’t want the prayers with the food... let em’ starve, and beg the Obummer for a hand out.”

“And we’re supposed to still believe he’s a Christian...”

Regarding the first two comments above, I refer you to Houston Steve: When one gives a gift expecting something in return - even something as trivial as your respectful attention to a sermon or to prayers - it is not a gift at all. It is, in fact, akin to those deals where you get a free weekend at a resort in exchange for listening to a high-pressure 90-minute sales pitch for a time-share. It is a business deal, plain and simple: quid pro quo.

There is nothing wrong with requiring the hungry to hear prayers or sermons as a condition of being fed... provided taxpayer money is not involved. Just don’t confuse it with charity, because that’s no longer what it is.

“Let ’em starve.”  Now, there’s a charitable sentiment for you.

With respect to the third comment, there is nothing un-Christian about Obama’s executive order. Isn’t Jesus the one who said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” in Matthew 22:21? It’s a verse subject to many interpretations, but one of them is that spiritual authority should maintain its independence from temporal authority... and that fits hand-in-glove with the First Amendment.

[Maybe the commenter is simply one of those wingnuts that continue to believe Obama is some sort of Sooper-Seekrit Towelhead. Look: He may be a tad arrogant; he may be incompetent to conduct our nation’s foreign policy; and he may have overreached with respect to his health care initiative, but a Muslim he is not. How could a Muslim have sat in church and absorbed twenty years’ worth of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s vitriolic claptrap? You can’t have it both ways.]

Just remember, folks: If you let your religion get involved with the government, sooner or later the government is going to get involved with your religion... and you will not like it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A CHANUKAH EDITORIAL



[If Dear Abby can get away with reprinting the same frickin’ Holiday Columns every stinking year, why not Elisson? We are therefore pleased to offer this Editorial Response previously published at Blog d’Elisson, one that is both timely and appropriate to the season. Chanukah begins at sundown on December 1 this year.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the electronic-mail communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of Lost in the Cheese Aisle:
“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in Lost in the Cheese Aisle, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, was there a Judah Maccabee?” - Patty O’Furniture
Patty, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All they care about is that fat red-suited guy who schleps presents to Yenemvelt and back. All minds, Patty, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, goornisht, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Patty, there was a Judah Maccabee.

He existed as certainly as dedication and courage and devotion exist. He kicked some serious ass back in the day, Judah did, throwing the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and reclaiming the holy Temple. His struggle was a struggle against assimilation, against those who would be seduced by the pop culture of the day. He fought his battles so that we Jews would retain our cultural identity and not be swallowed up in the prevailing pagan mainstream. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there had been no Judah Maccabee! It would be as dreary as if there were no Pattys. (Or furniture.) There would be no candle-lighting then, no singing Ma-oz Tzur (or even those stupid dreidel songs), no commemoration of the miraculous rededication of the Temple. No Judah? We would even today be schmearing ourselves with olive oil and burning pig hearts as sacrifices to Zeus. And our Christian friends would have no Christmas - for the culture that gave rise to Jesus would have been wiped out. The eternal light - the ner tamid - with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Judah? You might as well not believe in fairies. Or the Matzohball That Does Not Sink. Or Eliyahu ha-Navi. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the seder tables of the world to catch a glimpse of Eliyahu, but even if you did not see him, what would that prove? Nobody ever sees Eliyahu ha-Navi drink his wine at the Seder table, but that is no sign that there is no Eliyahu ha-Navi. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. (Although those footprints in the grass were more likely made by your Papa as he tried to sneak back into the house with a snootful of booze after the office Xmas party.) Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You can tear apart the knish and see the tasty filling inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Patty, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Judah Maccabee? Thank G-d he lived - and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Patty, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to chase the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and combat the forces of cultural assimilation, making glad the heart of childhood.

Happy Chanukah!

[Originally posted on December 25, 2004.]

THE CHEESE AISLE DICTIONARY, Vol. 4

More stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives.

For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

And now for the Word of the Day...

cornucrappia [kor-nyu-krap-i-ah] (n) - the plethora of junk food offered for sale in the typical American supermarket.

“Not one decent fresh vegetable... but twenty-five different kinds of Pop-Tarts. A real cornucrappia, that Kroger is...”