The Mistress of Sarcasm turns twenty-nine today. Almost (but not quite) three decades old. Yeef!
Hard to believe, innit? Almost (but not quite) three decades have passed since we first gazed upon that sweet newborn face, her head already bedecked most unbabylike with a shock of dark, luxuriant hair.
We were living here in Atlanta back then, which means the Mistress, unique among us, is a native of the Old South. (She Who Must Be Obeyed is from Texas, which is a region unto itself, and Elder Daughter and I both hail from the Northeast - another world entirely.) Like the rest of us, however, she has been that proverbial Rolling Stone, having also lived in Connecticut and Texas.
Parenthood is not only a State of Being, it’s a process. It is a process of becoming that operates concurrently with a child’s progression from infancy to maturity. For the parent, it is a process of change, from nurturer and provider to admirer and encourager to Fellow Human. With luck (and some skill), parents and children eventually become fully-realized adults, something they cannot accomplish without one another. With the Mistress, we’ve cherished every step along that almost (but not quite) three decades-long road.
She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have had the great good fortune to have the Mistress living in the same metropolitan area with us. That will eventually change, no doubt, as she seeks her fortunes in more distant venues... and it will be a bittersweet sort of change for us for purely selfish reasons. But for now, we get to enjoy her razor-sharp wit, her creativity, and her warmth in person at regular intervals.
Happiest of birthdays, O Mistress of Sarcasm! May this next year bring you health, happiness, and success in all your endeavors, without limit to any good thing. We love you!
There are too many things occupying my day for me to set aside the two-hour chunk of time necessary to park my butt in a theatre... and despite my burgeoning Netflix queue and extensive collection of DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs, I never seem to watch movies at home either.
And yet there are plenty of movies out there to see. I manage to cross one off my list once in a while; perhaps when the Missus and I are on vacation we’ll be able to knock off a few more. There’s something about being away from home that enriches the most quotidian experiences, anyway.
That being said, one of Elder Daughter’s old high school friends just had a movie-going experience that I wouldn’t mind having.
This friend - I’ll call her “Erica” - has been a talented singer and dancer for as long as we’ve known her. She and Elder Daughter used to do various Performing Arts stuff together, including attending summer sessions of the prestigious Broadway Theatre Project in Tampa. But unlike Elder Daughter, who opted for a more traditional university career after high school, “Erica” followed her Broadway dream, moving directly to New York to become a stage actress.
There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway, they say... but hers is not among them. She made it, appearing in various shows both on the Great White Way and on tour. We saw her when Mamma Mia played here in Atlanta a few years ago, and even got a personal backstage tour of the Fox before the show.
Now “Erica” is back on Broadway, appearing in a Tony award-winning musical. But even the busiest stage actors deserve a little leisure time, so yesterday evening she went to a movie with one of her fellow cast members.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is not due out until July 15. But that’s the movie they wanted to see. As it happens, “Erica’s” castmate had a little bit of pull, so, presto: Preview!
That movie is also on our Short List of fillums to see, although we probably ought to see Part 1 first. But I doubt our movie-going experience will be the same as the one “Erica” had, watching the final Harry Potter movie with Harry himself. Yes, indeedy - the fellow cast member she went with was Daniel Radcliffe!
The lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta, site of this evening’s Sommelier Guild banquet.
This month’s Sommelier Guild event - to be held this evening at the Park 75 Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta - is not just a Winey Dinner: It’s the Guild’s Annual Banquet. The Big Kahuna event, even grander in scope than the December dinners.
Somehow, I’ve always managed to be either out of town or just returning from out of town when the the Banquet rolls around, and today will be no exception... but this time I’m planning to be there.
We’ll taste an assortment of fine wines, including three - count ’em! - grand cru Burgundies while chowing down on Chef Robert Gerstenecker’s tasty comestibles.
Denny, alas, will be away at this year’s Blown Star Blodgemeet... and Houston Steve is otherwise engaged as well. But She Who Must Be Obeyed will join me for the festivities. Huzzah!
Here da menu and da Carte des Vins:
NV DuVal-Leroy Brut Champagne***
2002 Domaine Francois et Antoine Jobard Meursault “En La Darre”***
2004 Jean Noel Gagnard Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru****
2006 Kistler Sonoma Valley “Kistler Vineyard” Chardonnay*
1998 Faiveley “Corton” (Clos Des Cortons Faiveley) Grand Cru****
1998 Faiveley “Latricières-Chambertin” Grand Cru***
2006 Freestone by Joseph Phelps Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir****
New York State Duck Breast and Confit of Leg, Sweet Potato Purée, Mountain Huckleberry Sauce
1987 Monticello (Corley Family Reserve) Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (3 Litre)
2006 Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)**
2007 Stanton Oakville-Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon***
Domestic Rack of Lamb, Grilled Summer Vegetables Moussaka
NV Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Porto***
Benedictine Mousse Cake with Champagne Poached Pear
Sounds like it will be a tasty evening. I’m looking forward to a Compleat Debauch. SWMBO, meanwhile, is looking forward to finding ways to avoid eating any of the Ducky or Lamby dishes. Heh!
Postscriptum: A Compleat Debauch it was indeed. The food was uniformly excellent - SWMBO even permitted herself a taste of the duck and lamb - and the wines superb. My preferences are indicated by asterisks, as usual.
I was pleasantly surprised to come downstairs one afternoon to find Hakuna sitting atop the wing chair in our den, checking out the view from the sunroom windows. It’s easy to forget that, despite the fact that she is a matronly cat of sixteen summers, she’s still pretty spry!
The Golfy Boyz of 2011 at Tiger’s Eye. From L to R: Jeff, Trevor, Lee, Bartimus Magnificus, Gary, Job Johnny, Marty, Elisson.
Given that we ride golf carts more often than not, Twain’s quote perhaps should be amended to read, “Golf is a good ride spoiled.” But that takes all of the poetry out of it, while simultaneously reminding us what lazy slobs we have become.
Last week’s Epic Golfy Adventure differed from our earlier annual snark-hunts in one major respect: We elected to head eastward to Myrtle Beach rather than crisscross the state of Alabama hacking up the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
For me, going to Myrtle Beach could have provoked a certain degree of nostalgia, for I had been to this part of the world before. It was fully a half-century ago when Eli and his brood made an overnight stop just a few miles south of Myrtle Beach at the Litchfield Inn on Pawleys Island. We had ended up there after having departed Ocala, Florida that morning... a long day’s drive in the days before the superslab. That long day would have been shorter but for Eli’s unfortunate (and soon-to-be-discontinued) practice of traveling without lodging reservations; the Litchfield Inn - a good deal more upscale than our normal travel lodgings back in the day - at least had a room for us.
My recollections of that long-ago evening are necessarily vague. Strangely, I can remember what I ate for supper: pompano. Perhaps it was because it was a fish with which I had, until that day, been unacquainted, the novelty served to engrave the experience in my memory.
There would be no desperate, last-minute searching for a hostelry with a vacancy on this trip. Our lodgings - a condo in North Myrtle Beach - had been arranged well in advance, as had our golf. And given that our accommodations were equipped with kitchen facilities, we were able to prepare our own meals to whatever extent we desired.
We never saw the beach, never got a glimpse of ocean. The only sand we saw was in the numerous bunkers scattered about the courses we played. But that was fine with us: We were all too happy to ignore the hypertrophied Tourist-Trap into which Myrtle Beach has evolved over the past fifty years. Think of Panama City Beach on steroids and you have an idea of the place.
But the golf... ahhh, the golf. Not for nothing is this place considered a Golfer’s Paradise.
The heinous-looking clubhouse at The Wizard.
Taking a page from last year’s book, we confined ourselves to a single eighteen-hole round a day. No more thirty-six hole marathons. We played the Moorlands course at Legends Golf Resort and The Wizard in Myrtle, and Tiger’s Eye across the state line in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Moorlands - ranked among the top 50 toughest courses in America by Golf Digest - was by far the most difficult, with inverted-teacup greens reminiscent of Pinehurst Number Two... or, less charitably, like the local Putt-Putt. We found ourselves wondering where was the dinosaur, the clown’s mouth, the windmill? The Wizard had greens that were fast but flat enough to be manageable - and a butt-ugly clubhouse that looked like a castle in poor repair. Tiger’s Eye had challenging par-threes and fairways drier than a tiger’s anusMother Teresa’s cooter the Gobi Desert. And all - thank Gawd! - were blessed with ocean breezes that kept the summery heat from becoming too oppressive.
The Moorlands course at Legends.
As for the business of Eatage and Drinkage, there were no complaints. Myrtle Beach offers plenty of dining options, the best of which involve either meat or fish... but for our meat, we elected to take the route of In-House Preparation. Friday’s dinner consisted of charcoal grilled two-inch-thick New York strip steaks, accompanied by roasted asparagus, sautéed mushrooms with smoked paprika, Campari tomatoes with feta and basil, and Hasselback potatoes, washed down with a few bottles of 2009 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a kingly meal, yet it set us back a mere $21 each... economical and ridiculously tasty!
There was more, of course. An excellent Asian dinner at E Noodles & Co. - mango-jalapeño beef, crispy red curry duck - by chef Eddie Kwong, formerly of Atlanta. Calabash-style fried seafood in (where better?) Calabash, North Carolina. And a good supply of single malt Scotch whisky.
The weather cooperated, with none of the predicted scattered thunderstorms coming to bedevil us. At sunset Saturday evening the skies looked threatening, but aside from a few wayward drops, the dark clouds never delivered on their grim promise.
So, the $64 question for next year: Myrtle Beach? Or a return to Alabama? Enquiring minds want to know. At this point, however, I have no frickin’ clue... and I’m happy with either alternative.
The award-winning Moshe Ribeinu team at last month’s kosher BBQ cook-off in Birmingham. Pictured (L to R): Hank, Barry, Job Johnny, Elisson, and Bartimus Magnificus.
As I prepare for my annual Golfy Outing, I know that one of the Big Decisions our group is going to be faced with is what to eat.
In years past, when we’d hack up various courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, we would be staying in a hotel... preferable one very close to the courses we would be playing on any given day. And that would mean dining out.
But this year, we’ll be playing in Myrtle Beach, where we will be staying in a condo. That means we have the option to cook at least a few of our own meals. But what to cook?
Well, it will be pretty uncomplicated. Not knowing what equipment will be available, a lot of fussy slicing and dicing is not part of the planning basis. And we don’t want to have to buy or schlep too much in the way of condiments and spices.
But when sportsmen gather, you can take it to the bank that meat will be on the menu. Red meat. Big slabs of it. And since there will be a Costco in the vicinity, those big slabs won’t come with a ridiculous price tag.
I figure that between me, Bartimus Magnificus, and Job Johnny, we ought to be able to throw something together. After all, we were the power at last month’s When Pigs Fly Kosher BBQ Cook-Off in Birmingham, bringing back three (count ’em) trophies. It may not be barbecue - we’ll be too busy playing golf to stand over a smoker all day and night - but who would say no to a thick, perfectly grilled steak with some roasted veg and grilled corn with Chesapeake butter?
Seared beef tenderloin with cherries and wine sauce.
This morning, the Missus and I decided to get a little exercise... so we walked to our synagogue to attend morning minyan.
[Heh. On Shabbat, when observant Jews refrain from riding in vehicles, we drive. But this was a weekday, when riding does not transgress any of the Big Guy’s rules. The nice thing was, being that it’s a weekday, attending services - or even conducting services - may be done whilst wearing shorts and a T-shirt.]
Afterward, we breakfasted with the usual gang of Minyan Boyz, then walked home. A nice way to get a three or four miles worth of ground-pounding.
On the way home, the Missus espied a notably sizable invertebrate:
The body shape and humongous antennae indicated that this big fella was not a loathsome cock-a-roach, but rather some other horrible type of scarab. Son of a bitch could fly, too. Yeef!
What fascinated us about this critter was the way he would slowly work his way up that brick wall, falling back to the ground once he attained the level where brick gave way to glass; then, in manner Sisyphean, he would begin the slow upward slog all over again.
How like we humans he was! Struggling to climb upwards into the light of day, falling back to Square One when an obstacle presented itself, then picking himself up and beginning anew... and all the while, all he had to do was to stretch his wings and fly. How like we humans!
That - along with “Excelsior!” - was the watchword of legions of Jean Shepherd fans back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, people who listened to Shep’s late-night radio show. When I was in high school in the New York ’burbs, I would tune in to WOR - 710 on the AM dial - at 10:15 p.m. every weeknight for forty-five minutes of hilarious rambling storytelling... and when the notes of Strauss’s “Bahn Frei” began to sound in the background to announce the show’s closing moments, I always wanted more.
Flick, one of many characters in Shepherd’s stories, was based on Jack “Flick” Flickinger, a childhood friend. How much resemblance the real-life Flick bore to the Flick in Shep’s tales is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure he must have been amused (or befuddled) by his name becoming an arcane catchphrase. For a while there in the early 1970’s, you could see “Flick Lives!” graffiti scrawled on virtually every paintable surface in the New York area; more often than not, some tagger with a perverse sense of humor would come along and draw a ligature connecting the bases of the l and the i, with predictable results. Har-dee-har-har.
Several actors played Flick in various television and film adaptations of the Shepherd canon over the past 35 years. In several PBS television productions (“The Phantom of the Open Hearth,” “The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski,” and “The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters”) William Lampley portrayed an adolescent Flick. A slightly younger (but still teenaged) Flick appeared in “Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss,” played by Cameron Johann. And still younger versions of Flick appeared in the film A Christmas Story and its sequel My Summer Story (AKA It Runs in the Family). Owing to the extreme seasonal popularity of A Christmas Story, however, it’s the Flick from that movie with whom most of us are familiar today.
A couple of days ago I was sitting in my usual seat during the morning Shabbat service. I had, as I do almost every week, helped officiate during the Torah reading, standing at the side of the reading table to announce page numbers, assist the readers with their cantillation, and correct their occasional mistakes. I had, as I also do almost every week, gone out to the kitchen with the other Kiddush Club regulars for a celebratory schnapps. And now, as the service was winding down, I recognized one of the women sitting in the row immediately behind me as a congregant who, just the day before, had had the difficult task of burying her father.
I hadn’t known much about the deceased gentleman beyond his name - Allen Schwartz - and the fact that he had lived in Detroit, where he had garnered a certain amount of local celebrity as “The Singing Window Washer & Comic Too.” But as the service ended, I stepped forward to offer my condolences to his daughter.
Sitting next to her during the service - directly behind me - was a younger man: her cousin from Los Angeles, as I came to discover. As most of the congregation wended their way from the sanctuary towards the social hall for the oneg Shabbat luncheon, we remained behind while the young man shared a few memories of his late uncle.
Uncle Allen had offered to bring him into the window washing business, but he had declined. “There’s no way I could deal with that weather any more,” he said. New Jersey (where he grew up), Detroit (where his uncle had lived), and Cleveland (where he had recently been to the Christmas Story house) - all too cold.
I looked at him again, and suddenly I pictured his face with tongue outstretched, stuck fast to an icy metal flagpole, howling as his friends ran back to the classroom. There was no doubt about it - it was Flick, hizzownself! Here I was in shul with Scotty Schwartz, who, 28 years ago, had played a part in one of the most iconic Christmas movies of all time. Ironic, eh?
Scotty and his cousin had come to attend services that morning, after which they would return to her house to continue sitting shiva. I could empathize with him, having lost a beloved uncle myself just a few months ago. And we had a lengthy conversation with Scott telling stories about going to ballgames with his Uncle Allen, playing video games with Richard Pryor, freezing on the A Christmas Story shoot (the flagpole scene was filmed in St. Catharines, Ontario), and mourning the loss of Pryor and (more recently) of Corey Haim, a close friend.
You just never know who you’ll run into at shul...
We’ve been married thirty-four years, the Missus and I, as of today.
As I was on my way to services a couple of days ago, I was meditating - as is my custom - on the Birkot ha-Shachar, the morning prayers that observant Jews recite every day upon awakening. And one prayer, in particular, resonated:
Barukh Atah Hashem, Elokeinu, Melekh ha-olam, pokeiach ivrim. (Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who gives eyesight to the blind.)
Eyesight to the blind: That’s what She Who Must Be Obeyed is to me. For I see the world in a flat monochrome, through my own peculiar experiential lens... but when I am guided by her warm-hearted wisdom, my vision blossoms forth in full three-dimensional color.
I wake up every day happy to be by her side... and every day she is more beautiful to me, inside and out.
Happy anniversary, sweetie! Another trip around the sun for our marriage: long may they both shine!
Now that it’s summer - if not technically, then certainly by American cultural tradition - it’s time for outdoor cooking.
Actually, we cook outdoors throughout the year. The relatively mild climate here in the Southeast makes it easy to fire up the grill or the smoker pretty much any time we feel like doing so, even in the depths of the winter. But in the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, outdoor cookage ascends to the status of “Almost, But Not Quite, Required By Law.”
Last week I smoked a couple of beef briskets, using the time-honored recipes and techniques imparted to me by my late father-in-law Billie Bob. (No, that’s not an alias.) But this week it was SWMBO’s turn, and she opted for the grill rather than the smoker. Burgers!
Everything Salmon Burger with Scallion Sour Cream-Cream Cheese Sauce. Delish!
What made these fishburgers especially tasty was that they were made from fresh salmon: not that nasty canned stuff. Not only that, they incorporated a hefty dose of dill, garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and onion - the same seasonings to be found on an “everything” bagel. That’d be why Rachael Ray calls them “Everything” salmon burgers, I’m guessing.
The patties cooked up tender, savory, delicious. We’ll be making these bad boys again, for sure.
To accompany the burgers, the Missus made a pile of fauxtato salad. Like a lot of reduced-calorie recipes, this one sounds horrendous at first (Egg whites? Cauliflower? Yeef!), but I’m here to tell you that this stuff was as good as pretty much any real potato salad I’ve ever had... and it fit perfectly with our friends’ dietary requirements.
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to try out new recipes on unsuspecting dinner guests, yet we do it all the time. And both dishes succeeded brilliantly. Best of all, I didn’t need to lift a finger: She Who Must Be Obeyed planned and prepared it all.
(The brace of Negroni cocktails I consumed during the course of the meal didn’t hurt, either.)
Matata has finally earned a certain degree of notoriety. Here she is, as featured on the index page of I Can Has Cheezburger (After Dark), the Web’s premier assemblage of R-rated LOLCats.
The original photograph was partially inspired by Jimbo and his legendary loathing for Things Reptilian - and things simply went downhill from there.
Universal in its scope, it may be taken as a metaphor for certain political interactions between groups of humans. “Can we be friends? Alas, perhaps not...” And not even holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” will help.
With Elder Daughter preparing to leave the Washington D.C. area, we realized that our visits there would of necessity become much less frequent. And in some ways that’s too bad, because there are things about Dee Cee that we’ll miss:
The rich religious traditions...
The impressive public edifices...
The local color...
The fine arts...
The night life...
The excellent food and drink...
There are many other things we’ll miss, but none of ’em mean doodly-squat if Elder Daughter isn’t there to enjoy ’em with us. And so, on to the next stop in her Life’s Journey!
There was a rush of excitement in the house. The new baby was coming!
A very pregnant young woman, all of twenty-eight years old, made her last-minute preparations for the trip to the hospital. She grabbed a handful of clothes and bathroom items and threw them into a small overnight bag.
She stopped to say goodbye to her not quite four-year-old son before heading out the door, whereupon he presented her with a most earnest request: “Mommy, can you bring me a baby brother?”
“I’ll try!” And then she was out the door.
* * *
That was exactly fifty-five years ago today... and that young woman did indeed bring home a baby brother for her not quite four-year-old son.
Today, that baby brother - the other Elisson - celebrates the attainment of the fabled Double Nickel: Fifty-five trips around the sun!
My request for a brother (and the happiness I felt when I learned that that request had been granted) is one of my earliest and strongest memories; aside from that, I can barely recall the days before he was part of my life.
The two Elissons, in a photo from June 2009.
He and I - like any pair of siblings, I suppose - have our similarities and our differences. Our lives have taken different paths, with me running off to Texas and points beyond and he remaining in New York. I am married; he is single. And yet in many ways, he is the Elisson I wish I could be: hard-working, considerate, thoughtful. He is a mensch... and I am proud to call him brother.
Happy Birthday, O brother mine! May you live to be 120 years and a day - because who wants to croak on his birthday? And may your life be filled with health and happiness, without limit to any good thing. My only caveat? Don’t ever bitch about getting old... ’cause I’m still older than you!
[A rap, a song for the Festival of Shavuot, AKA the Feast of Weeks, AKA Feast of the First-Fruits, AKA Z’man Matan Torateinu (Season of the Giving of our Torah), AKA Pentecost, extracted from this five-year-old post.]
It comes fifty-one days after the start of Pesach,
Which makes it early June. But, yo, what the “fach”
Is the Great Big Deal about Shavu-ish?
Nobody understands it, even if they’re Jewish.
We have a big dinner, eat blintzes (but no pig).
We don’t have to schlep a lulav or esrig.
Don’t have to build a Jew-Booth in the backyard,
With 2 x 4’s that we put on our Home Depot card.
We stay up late, but we don’t feel weary,
Learnin’ Torah and Talmud until our eyes are bleary.
And just in case all this stuff is not enough to love,
The best thing ’bout Shavuot? It isn’t Tisha B’Av.
Some time back, I discovered this completely surreal video over at LeeAnn’s place:
So today, I stumbled upon this little gem at Regretsy, a site whose bread and butter is lampooning some of the off-kilter craftwork offered up at Etsy. Sure, the video has nothing to do with Etsy, but there’s a whole pile of posts there that focus on Random Narrischkeit. Anyway, check it out...
The guy who created this nuttiness calls himself Cyriak, and he has a video blog that is worth checking out for the sheer insanity of his little films. Like this one, a collection of interstitials he did for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim:
I might have actually seen these on the TeeVee, but I haven’t been watching a whole lot of Adult Swim lately. Seems every time I tune in, they’re showing “Family Guy” - and, quite frankly, I am thoroughly sick of it. Alas.
Meanwhile, go visit Cyriak. It’ll satisfy your jones for Psycho Videos for a long time to come.
Mr. Potato Head: [after spending the night in the daycare sandbox] It was cold and dark, nothing but sand and a couple of Lincoln Logs. Hamm the Piggy Bank: Eh... I don’t think those were Lincoln Logs.
- Toy Story 3
* * *
She Who Must Be Obeyed knows that I am prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse... because I have over eighty pounds of Kitty Litter in the garage. I guess she must figure I’ll be serving it as cold cereal when things get really desperate. But she’s wrong: There’s no fucking way I would eat kitty litter as a cold cereal.
You’ve gotta cook it.
I jest, of course. Kitty litter might not be especially toothsome, even when cooked... but after the Zombie Apocalypse, it might be handy to have some litter around for human use. I suspect the water supply will be interrupted, making flush toilets useless.
I’m not worried about the cat. We’d probably have to eat her out of sheer desperation, which would leave all the litter for our use.
Cat litter technology has come a long way. On the recommendation of the Mistress of Sarcasm, we started using clumping cat litter several months ago and were pleasantly surprised at how odor-free it helps keep the box. With old-school litter, we’d sieve out the turds every couple of days and replace the entire contents of the box every week or so, by which time it would have begun to give off a characteristically cat-pissy pong. But clumping litter forms little boulders on contact with cat pee, boulders that get sieved out along with the turds. We just have to top up the box periodically and perform a full litter replacement about once a month. Much more efficient; much less stinky.
Best yet, Costco sells Fresh Step clumping litter in 42-pound plastic sacks, complete with carrying handle and zipper closure. You get an upper-body workout every time you pick that sack up, which is a good thing... and it’s a damn sight cheaper than buying sacks of conventional litter at the Stupid-Market.
The only thing I worry about now is what to do in the event of a Zombie-Kitty Apocalypse... but I don’t worry too much. With all that litter, at least they’ll have a clean box to crap in after they eat our brains.
Postscript: Cleaning a cat box is a lot like cleaning an oven... the filthier you allow it to get between cleanings, the nastier and more difficult the task will be.
One of the small pleasures of our visits to eastern Tennessee is the opportunity to see some world-class scenery. And when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I visited Eric a couple of weeks ago, we were not disappointed.
Scenery, of course, was not our reason for making the trip. Princess Fiona’s dad was winding up a two-week visit from Scotland and this was our chance to meet him. And I don’t need too much of an excuse to gorge on perfectly grilled steak, Tennessee ’Taters, and fine single malt Scotch.
But we had time to drive around to the other side of Starr Mountain - site of several legendarycamping trips - and wander along the Tellico River as far as Bald River Falls. And the weather was perfect: warm with blue skies. We piled into Blanche (Eric’s Audi convertible) and headed east.
Here da pictures:
Three views of the Tellico River.
The Bald River Gorge and falls. Yes, those are people swimming there. They are out of their fucking minds.
We were not tempted to take a dip in the swirling, pounding waters at the Bald River Gorge, especially after we watched a copperhead float lazily by above the falls. But we did have time to stop for a pleasant lunch at Kat’s Deli by the riverside, just east of Tellico Plains. Delightful.
Had we ventured farther towards the east, we would eventually have come upon the fabled Tail of the Dragon, a stretch of US Highway 129 that runs through Deals Gap astraddle the Tennessee-North Carolina border. That road, owing to its curvaceous nature (318 curves in only eleven miles), is especially popular with thrill-seeking motorcyclists. Every year, a few of them enjoy the Dragon so much, they stay there forever... in small bits and pieces. Time constraints precluded our visiting the Dragon this time, but we’ll be back. Maybe for a winter camping trip, when a little ice on the roads will add a degree of heart-stopping excitement.
The United States Department of Agriculture announced this week that it was eliminating its confusing Food Pyramid and replacing it with a clearer, more easily understood graphic that would more effectively communicate state-of-the-art dietary recommendations.
When you think of pyramids, do you think of food? I don’t think so... unless it’s Pharaoh Phood. I think of dusty old mummies and the graves of ancient kings. Not a bad way to work up an appetite, eh?
Let’s face it: the Food Pyramid may have been a good idea in the beginning, but in the twenty years since its creation, our knowledge of human nutrition and its effects on health has increased tremendously.
The old Pyramid showed grains and starches at the bottom - the “base of a healthy diet,” so it was said - with fats, oils, and sweets at the apex. It was hard to tell whether a given food’s position was based on its hierarchical importance in the human diet or the recommended number of daily servings. Later, the pyramid was redesigned to have each food group represented by vertical triangles, with area proportional to the amount to be consumed. It was a step in the right direction, but there still seemed to be a disconnect between the information and the way it was presented graphically.
The USDA “Healthy Plate” graphic briefly replaced the pyramid. On the plus side, the Plate was a natural, intuitive graphic: A plate is the device upon which food is served. The Plate was divided roughly into quadrants, with vegetables, protein, fruits, and grains each occupying about a fourth of the plate. (Vegetables and grains were intentionally shown slightly larger than fruits and proteins in the graphic, indicating their relative importance in the ideal diet.) To accommodate dairy products, a side plate was added.
The only problem with the Plate is that it was created without any consideration for the political realities of modern government. Sure, we should increase our consumption of vegetables and whole grains - although I would argue that the proportion of vegetables to grains should be way higher than the current USDA recommendations would indicate - and eliminate sugary drinks. But the fact is, the USDA is currently owned lock, stock, and barrel by Big Agriculture and Big Food - the ConAgras of this world - and so the Plate could be, at best, a mere stopgap.
Enter the Rhombus o’ Nutrition!
The Rhombus o’ Nutrition includes all of the food groups that are essential to the continued health of American agribusiness: Corn and Soy.
Pretty much everything the average American eats these days is derived, in one manner or another, from corn or soybeans.
We sweeten our soft drinks - and just about everything else in the Food Store aisles - with high fructose corn syrup. We fatten our beef cattle and feed our chickens with corn. Even farmed fish is given corn to eat. And what isn’t made from corn comes from soy.
So - said the USDA - why kid ourselves? Why all the emphasis on whole grains and lean protein? Corn is a whole grain... and most of our protein originated as some sort of corn or soy product, either being converted into tasty meat by virtue of having been consumed by another animal or fed to us directly. (Tofu, anyone?) And why avoid acknowledging who really runs the USDA, an agency that, more and more, is in the pocket of the companies that it purports to regulate?
I don’t know about you, but I think the Rhombus o’ Nutrition graphic is an excellent way of communicating important information about the foods we really eat in America today. Download your copy today!
It’s been over six months since I’ve posted a Friday Random Ten, that weekly (or less-frequent) post in which I list a series of tunes spewed out randomly by the iPod d’Elisson.
Fact is, I don’t listen to the iPod much these days. The iPhone, while it has much less Tuneage Storage Capacity, has a better, more intuitive interface than my old-school ’Pod - a black-and-white model from the pre-video days. I give up a chunk of my musical library, but there’s plenty to listen to, even so.
Anyway, it’s been a while since I put up one of these, and what better occasion than SWMBO’s first day of summer vacation? Let’s take a look and see what Old Mr. iPhone has for us today:
Cruisin’ for Burgers - Frank Zappa
A live version from the Make a Jazz Noise Here album.
Act II, Scene 2: Whip Her to Death! - John Adams, Nixon in China
Richard and Pat Nixon watch a performance of “The Red Detachment of Women” and get caught up in the action.
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Warren Zevon
Only Zevon could get away with performing a song about a zombie Thompson gunner...
The Famous Polka - They Might Be Giants
One of the most bizarre groups ever to come out of Brooklyn.
Freedom Rider - Traffic
The second cut on the John Barleycorn Must Die album released in July, 1970. The minor chords of this song, along with the rest of the John Barleycorn disc, formed a major part of the soundtrack of my freshman year in college.
Yaphet - Miles Davis
From The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, this cut did not appear on Bitches Brew. Like most of the material in this box set, it was not actually recorded during the Bitches Brew sessions, but featured (mostly) the same personnel.
I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande) - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks
Dan Hicks covers the 1936-vintage Johnny Mercer tune.
Evaporated - Ben Folds Five
From Whatever and Ever Amen, Ben Fold Five’s sophomore effort.
Mr. P.C. - John Coltrane
This piece from the 1960 album Giant Steps is over a half-century old, and it hasn’t aged a bit.
Brazil - Chick Corea and Béla Fleck
The song “Aquarela do Brasil” (Watercolor of Brazil), written in 1939 by Ary Barroso, became internationally famous three years later when it appeared in Walt Disney’s Saludos Amigos. That movie (remember José Carioca, the Brazilian Jitterbird?) is largely overlooked today, but “Aquarela do Brasil” is still one of the most recognizable tunes ever to come out of South America.