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

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Today is the last day of 2011.

As I generally do every year at this time - as most of us probably do - I fall into a reflective mood, looking back upon the events of the old year. It’s easy enough to do: The media do their best to assist, offering up lists of the year’s disasters, celebrity deaths, “best of” lists, “worst of” lists, et alia. And there’s certainly plenty to reflect upon.

Twenty-eleven saw a monster tsunami demolish the northern coast of Japan, causing a fearsome nuclear accident at Fukushima that rivaled or exceeded Chernobyl; regime change throughout the Arab Muslim world; the end (for now) of the U.S. military presence in Iraq; the death of Moammar Qaddafi at the hands of his countrymen; the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.

In this past year, as with all other past years, people were born and people died. The rest of us continued to go about our merry business of occupying real estate and converting oxygen and food into carbon dioxide, water, and shit, each in our own fashion.

Most years - for most of us, at least - are an accumulation of small events, the incrementalia of daily life, with a few items of greater impactfulness thrown in to help keep us from becoming too complacent.

For me and The Missus, 2011 was mostly a year of those small events. But both our daughters tried to keep things interesting, throwing in a few bigger changes. Early in the year, Elder Daughter stepped off the corporate merry-go-round to pursue her interests in performing, experimental theatre, and the graduate-level study of same. And in the fall, the Mistress of Sarcasm moved away from Atlanta (away from us!) to pursue her metals and jewelry muse and live an intensely rural life in the wilds of northwestern Connecticut. Too bad U-Haul doesn’t offer frequent driver miles.

And yet, for us 2011 will be remembered as a year with a Significant Event, the kind that comes along infrequently, unpredictably. The kind that divides life into two parts: Before and After.

It was the year of Eli’s stroke.

A stroke is one of the Big Three Scary Illnesses, along with cancer (in its myriad forms) and heart attack. A big one will kill you as swiftly as the fall of the headman’s axe; little ones can slowly rob you of your mind and mobility. The ones in between can render you a shambling invalid or merely add a hitch to your gait. You may recover, but you are forever changed, inevitably diminished in ways sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious.

Eli had his stroke early Christmas morning, a perverse gift. It has paralyzed him, but mercifully left his mind and sense of humor mostly intact. He is able to swallow. He can speak. And with luck and hard work - and the loving care of Toni, his wife of nearly 21 years - he will regain at least some of what was so suddenly and cruelly taken from him.

It is early in the recovery process: Eli’s rehabilitation has only just begun. The only certainty is that 2012 will hold new challenges for all of us who love him.

But enough of our problems. We’re still playing golf on the right side of the course, the one where you don’t see the pointy end of the tee. And our wish for you in 2012, Esteemed Reader, is for a year in which you are able to appreciate the countless miracles and blessings of everyday life - for a year of happiness and health, without limit to any good thing.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Bedford Cheese Shop Exterior

A few weeks ago as we strolled along Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, we came upon a place where I could get Lost in the Cheese Aisle both literally and figuratively.

I speak of the Bedford Cheese Shop.

As soon as I opened the door, I could tell I was dealing with a world-class cheesemonger. A tiny corner store it was, but its inventory was anything but: The place was crammed to the rafters with all manner of cheesy comestibles, chocolates and other confections, and charcuterie, perfuming the air with a gentle but distinctive pong. With glazed eyes I scanned the various cases, rapidly descending into a sort of hyperfromagic brain-lock. Too many choices!

Bedford Cheese Shop Cheeses
Bedford Cheese Shop Charcuterie
A mouthwatering array of cheeses and charcuterie at the Bedford Cheese Shop. (I don’t even want to know what’s in the Baby Jesus salami.)

I’ve always been somewhat of a cheese-hound, but lately I have been checking out more and more American-made craft and artisanal cheeses, thanks to the Missus having bought me a couple of books on the subject for my birthday. In particular, The Cheese Chronicles by one Liz Thorpe has helped lead me to a treasure-trove of excellent cheesy discoveries. Humboldt Fog, Bayley Hazen Blue, Rogue River Blue, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar... all made right here in the good old USA and all wondrously tasty.

But what the Bedford Cheese Shop offered, as much as the cheeses and meats, was entertainment... mainly in the form of the amazingly florid, sexually charged, or humorous descriptions of their wares. Check it out:

“...almost feels like you’re going down on a Dairy Queen employee. Almost.” (Jeune Autise)

“...a punchy barnyard aroma... will leave your mouth with the impression that you’ve been doing something naughty & formerly Presidential.” (Forsterkase)

“...texture is as close to heaven that we have found here on earth. Kinda like going down on Mother Teresa herself, divine.” (Brebirousse d’Argental)

“...the runniest, stinkiest piece of cow to come from Switzerland. It has the aroma of a busy day around Anna Nicole’s house.” (Stanser Reblechon Roteli)

“Kinda like dropping acid in a petting zoo.” (Persille de Beaujolais Chèvre)

Now, doesn’t that make you want to go out and buy yourself a nice big chunk of formaggio? Sure it does.

It’s a damn good thing the Missus was there with me. I was completely lost in the cheese aisle, and almost had to be dragged away from that little shop lest I waste the whole afternoon gaping at the merchandise. All I can say is, when these guys mong cheese, they do it with style!


It has been four years since Festivus - the holiday for the rest of us! - last fell on a Friday. And since it is Friday, in addition to the traditional rituals of Festivus (the bare aluminum Festivus Pole, the ceremonial Airing of Grievances, followed by Feats of Strength and a recounting of Festivus Miracles), we can resurrect another old tradition: the Friday Random Ten.

That’s where I post a list of ten Choons spewed at random from the iPod d’Elisson. It’s been a while - with luck, the old iPod will still be functional. Let’s just go and see, shall we?

  1. Can’t Buy Me Love - The Beatles

  2. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It - The Mothers of Invention

    The first Mothers/Zappa song I ever listened to.

  3. Someone In Your Garden - Philip Glass, Notes on a Scandal

  4. Moy Motocikl (live) - Leningrad

  5. The Other Side of Summer - Elvis Costello

  6. Smoke - Ben Folds Five

  7. Fair Play - Van Morrison

  8. The Bunker - Beirut

  9. Uf Dem Anger - Floret Silva Nobilis - Christian Thielemann: Orff, Carmina Burana

  10. Real Black Angel - MC 900 Foot Jesus

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The Latke Lady
She Who Must Be Obeyed whips up a batch of her fabulous potato latkes while a pot of chicken and andouille sausage gumbo simmers on the back burner of Darth Stover.

Leave it to the Elisson clan to come up with bizarre holiday menus.

Last night we had friends over for dinner, providing She Who Must Be Obeyed an opportunity to introduce them to the wonderful world of potato latkes, a dish that they had never tried previously.

Personally, I think it’s tragic that someone can walk the planet for some forty-odd years without ever tasting the savory, crispy goodness of a properly prepared potato pancake. But who knows? Perhaps somewhere in Pennsylvania Dutch country, there is a morose Mennonite lamenting my never having tasted scrapple. (Feh.)

There is nothing unusual or weird about us having latkes this time of year. Owing to their being fried in oil, they are a traditional Chanukah food. (Ya gotta love a holiday that encourages the eating of fried dishes - latkes, doughnuts, et alia - because everyone knows that everything tastes better fried.) But the main course - gumbo - was decidedly not a Jewish holiday tradition.

Yes, gumbo.

I loves me some gumbo, especially on a cold winter night. Okay, even though last night was not technically winter - the solstice is today - and the temperature was unseasonably close to 70°F, I still felt the stirring of my Gumbo Jones. There’s something about the aroma of a pot of gumbo on the stove that makes me want to put some Professor Longhair and Dr. John on the box and mix up a brace of Sazeracs.

Being that it was a Jewish holiday meal, I decided to avoid using any obvious treif in the gumbo - shrimp, crawfish, although tasty, are proscribed by the Laws of Moses and avoided by the observant - and instead built it upon a base of chicken andouille sausage and drumsticks. To accompany it, I prepared a somewhat nontraditional brown rice, and for lagniappe, dirty rice with minced chicken hearts and gizzards.

SWMBO’s latkes were as good as ever. Maybe better than ever. Crisp and potatoey, with just the right amount of onion and garlic, there’s no finer introduction to the planet of potato pancakes. Our friends are now officially spoiled: Any other latke they eat will be a bitter disappointment by comparison.

Gumbo, gizzards, and a flock of latkes! Typical Chanukah fare - not.

But, dayum, was it tasty.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


[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 20 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.]

Monday, December 19, 2011


Everything Roast Steelhead
Everything Roast Steelhead Trout. Fish meets bagel.

You’re looking at the bastard child of an Everything Bagel and a steelhead trout. And it’s damned tasty.

A casual observer seeing a chunk of steelhead in the fishmonger’s refrigerated case might think he’s looking at a piece of salmon. But steelhead is a variety of rainbow trout. Like salmon, it swims upstream to spawn. Like salmon, its krill-rich diet gives its flesh a characteristic pink-orange hue. You could say that calling one “trout” and calling the other “salmon” is a distinction without a difference... except that steelhead is typically less expensive, more sustainable, and in greater supply than salmon, which suffers from overfishing. (Sure, you can get farmed salmon, but... feh.) And tastewise, my experience with steelhead has been uniformly positive.

In case any of my Esteemed Readers are unfamiliar with the Everything Bagel, be advised that there are certain Canonical Bagel Varieties. For starters, you have the venerable Plain. Then there are various toppings: Poppyseed, Sesame Seed, Garlic, Onion, Salt. To complicate matters further, there are dough-based variations: Pumpernickel, Egg, and Whole Wheat.

[You will note that I make no mention of such ridiculous creations as Cinnamon-Raisin, Jalapeño, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, and other similar chimerical inventions. If that sort of bagel appeals to you, feel free to go to the Bagel Shop of Doctor Moreau and enjoy them there.]

The Everything Bagel simply makes use of all of the toppings at once, generally on a plain dough substrate. (The Pumpernickel Everything bagel, a relatively recent innovation at the local Smoked Fish and Bagel Emporium, is a winning variation.)

Bagels - especially Everything Bagels - go well with smoked salmon. Why wouldn’t roasted steelhead trout (if it looks like a salmon, spawns like a salmon, and swims like a salmon, it’s a salmon) taste great if decked out with the same seasonings that adorn the Everything Bagel?

To make Everything Steelhead, simply season a fillet of steelhead with Montreal Steak Seasoning, then add a sprinkling of sesame seeds (I used both black and white sesame seeds). Roast in a 325°F oven for about 20 minutes, or until barely cooked through. Top with a liberal sprinkling of chopped fresh dill and serve it forth.

Bagels (or other breadstuffs) are optional.


Alert Hakuna
Hakuna strikes an attentive pose, flashing her baby blues. [Click to embiggen.]

This morning Hakuna had parked herself on the landing of our front staircase, a perfect place to stretch out and catch a few z’s in the warmth of the morning sun. She was relaxed and comfortable, so much so that she made no attempt to leave when I brought out the Nikon.

I took a few shots of her as she reclined, her coloring reminding me of nothing so much as a warm cup of mocha and cream... but when she sat up and looked at me with those piercing blue eyes, I knew I had the picture I wanted. Sometimes you just have to wait until the moment is right.


Kim Jong-Il died yesterday at the age of 69, reportedly from a heart attack. As punishment for having betrayed the Great Leader, his heart was immediately cut out and trampled.

I can’t think of a better sendoff for the late, unlamented leader of North Korea than this little number from Team America: World Police. Enjoy.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Todd C.]

Friday, December 16, 2011


Yesterday evening as we headed out for our usual Thursday evening activities, She Who Must Be Obeyed noticed that the nearby Blockbuster video shoppe was dark and empty.

Ave atque vale, local Blockbuster. Requiescat in pace. We hardly knew ye. Barukh Dayan Emet.

The fate of the local outlet notwithstanding, Blockbuster itself is still functioning. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in September 2010, its finances having been crippled by competition from online content delivery services like Netflix and customer-friendly kiosk operations like Redbox. Their original plan was to keep over 3,000 of their 4,000 stores running, but the money just wasn’t there despite the company’s having liquidated their entire Canadian business.

Eight months ago, Dish Network bought Blockbuster at auction for the fire-sale price of $300 million. They’re hoping to keep 500-600 Blockbuster stores open, a fraction of their former glory. The one at Providence and Johnson Ferry Roads was not one of them.

Blockbuster is not out of the woods. Only time will tell if Dish Network can leverage their satellite-based programming with Blockbuster’s inventory of physical media storage assets, or whether they can reconfigure Blockbuster’s content delivery technology to compete in today’s marketplace.

They’ve evolved in the past, successfully making the transition from renting VHS videotape cassettes to DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs. But those were still physical delivery systems that used the old business model of people going to a store. And you had to go twice: to rent and then to return. That encouraged an ongoing rent-return-rent cycle, but it also meant that customers had to get up off of their butts and burn some gasoline.

Netflix helped kill that model. With videos as accessible as your mailbox (provided you were willing to wait a couple of days), you no longer had to go anywhere. And if you were out running errands, why, there was now a Redbox kiosk at the local supermarket - cheap and easy. Finally, with broadband-driven streaming, there was no longer any need for physical data storage media: you could just slurp your movies right from the Internet’s data-firehose.

The Blue Box is not the first brick-and-mortar entertainment retailer to run up against the hard realities of the digitally enabled consumer marketplace. It was just a few months ago that Borders bit the dust most unceremoniously. It won’t be the last, either. The Amazons of this world are hungry, and they will eat.

To evolve fast enough to compete with all that, Blockbuster and their new corporate masters will need to be imaginative and nimble. I’m not hopeful... but I still carry my Blockbuster card against the hope that they may yet succeed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


This past weekend, the Missus and I took in a Sunday matinee performance at the shiny new Cobb Energy Performance Centre. (OK, it’s not exactly new, having opened four years ago. But the crappification process has not yet begun.)

The show was My Fair Lady, a venerable Broadway opus that David Richards of the New York Times once called “the perfect musical.” It’s a show that may have found its perfect expression - so sayeth Mr. Richards - in its original 1956 production, which starred Rex Harrison and a young Julie Andrews, but the version we saw was just fine.

Somewhere in the bowels of Chez Eli, there’s a Playbill from the original Broadway run of My Fair Lady. It was a long run, over 2,700 performances over a six-and-a-half year period, a record-setter at the time. My folks liked it enough to buy the Broadway cast album (on good old long-playing 33⅓ RPM vinyl, of course), and when I discovered that LP as a young lad of about twelve, I practically wore the grooves out listening to the damned thing.

With this show, the creative team of Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) did for the Broadway musical what Lennon and McCartney would later do for popular music, raising the bar to new heights. Many of the show’s numbers have gone on to become standards: “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “Get Me to the Church On Time,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” “With a Little Bit of Luck,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”- who doesn’t know these songs? (If you don’t, shame on you.) Even the less-familiar tunes are well constructed, with catchy melodies and carefully crafted lyrics.

That they were able to adapt George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and turn it into so good a musical is all the more remarkable because Rodgers and Hammerstein had taken a stab at the job and given it up as a hopeless task: Shaw’s play was not primarily a love story, a key ingredient in the recipe for musicals at the time.

Moss Hart, the noted playwright and director - and husband of the inimitable Kitty Carlisle - helmed the original Broadway production. The material probably would have held up under a lesser director, but Hart helped make it shine with its full inherent brilliance.

As for me, I cannot see this production (or watch the 1964 movie version) without hearing Rex Harrison (Henry Higgins), Julie Andrews (Eliza Doolittle), and Stanley Holloway (Alfred Doolittle) in my mind’s ear. Would the show have had the same impact had Noël Coward and Mary Martin been cast in the roles of Professor Higgins and Miss Doolittle? I guess we’ll never know.

[The other thing I hear in my mind’s ear is the MAD Magazine parody “My Fair Ad-Man,” appearing in Issue #54 (April, 1960), a copy of which still resides in the Elisson Archives. Imagine Mort Drucker caricatures of Frank Sinatra as Irving “You’re A Pig” Malion and Dean Martin as Professor Higgins singing “An Ad That’s Bad (Will End Up Spoofed in MAD” and you’ll get the picture.]

Anyone who has seen the 1964 movie version knows that Audrey Hepburn, not Julie Andrews, snagged the female lead despite her inadequate singing voice (most of her vocals were dubbed by one Marni Nixon). Hepburn, unlike the young Andrews, was a bankable film star. But Andrews got the last laugh: Not starring in the filmic My Fair Lady allowed her to accept the title role in Mary Poppins, for which she won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Actress. Take that, John Warner!

They don’t make musicals like My Fair Lady any more. A literate libretto, memorable melodies, and a superb storyline (not to mention too much fucking alliteration in this sentence), and not a single F-bomb anywhere (except in this sentence). No dildo jokes, either. Harrumph.

Alas, Henry Higgins is hopelessly out of date. Bad enough that he is a misogynist bachelor of the Old School, a uniquely British archetype, but even worse is his expecting someone to learn via rote, repetition, and practice, practice, practice. Puhleeeeze. Nowadays, his job could be reduced to an iPhone app: pronounce your vowels correctly and you get an electronic coupon redeemable for a free chocolate.

Ah, but where’s the fun in that?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


catches the crowd
and i
are often
low browed...

archy (Don Marquis)
Anyone who has read this Online Journal or its predecessor knows that I am not a Delicate Flower by any means. I do not shy away from coarse humor. I am, after all, the guy who writes poetry about heinous topics such as painful rectal itch, the manifold virtues of a tapered stool, a warhead in the taint. As the creator of Tae D Bo and the propagator of the infamous Punchbowl Meme, I cannot pretend to be above matters vile.

But the people who write for primetime television are running laps around me in the Crudeness Sweepstakes.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were watching the teevee with one eye apiece yesterday evening as we busied ourselves with other tasks. The show was 2 Broke Girls, another brainchild of the selfsame Whitney Cummings who currently stars in the eponymous Whitney. And even though we weren’t paying much attention at first, it didn’t take long before the two of us were staring at each other, slack-jawed, with “WTF?” expressions on our mugs.

Before the opening credits even rolled, there were jokes referencing three-ways and dildoes... and then you had these money quotes, flying fast and furious:

“I’d like to ride the blonde waitress like a Tilt-a-Whirl.”
“Maybe I will send you a Twitpic of my meatloaf.”
“I don’t even want to tell you about the history in my lap.”
“Every woman knows size doesn’t matter.”
“Look, Geoffrey, I know we just met, but there’s no way you’re a top!”

And a rapid-fire series of excrement jokes in a department store Ladies’ Room:

“We have a pooper in Stall Two!”
“Who shops and flops?”
“I just have to pee!”
“You’re here to pick up – she’s here to drop off.”

None of this material is especially horrifying to me – I’m one of the blogosphere’s premier crapbloggers, after all – but what astonished both of us was the fact that it was all on prime-time network teevee. I will confess that we were both taken aback a wee bit (“Huh huh huhhuh... he said ‘wee.’’ “Shut up, Beavis!”) by the sheer amount of sexual and excretory humor. How is it that the same country that got itself all in a lather over Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII wardrobe malfunction simply yawns at dildo and buttfucking jokes on prime-time television less than eight years later?

To be honest, I’m not really surprised. In today’s culture, disparaging something by saying that it sucks – or blows – is part of everyday discourse. You hear it in advertising. I wonder whether people who use these expressions give the slightest thought to their origin: fellatio.

A few days ago in Dahlonega, we saw a bookstore with the engaging name “Dorks.” Sure, it’s a reference to the kind of nerdly academic overachievers who might actually shop at a bookstore, but that’s only a secondary derivation from the original meaning – dick.

I don’t propose that the networks be more heavily regulated. That’s what the marketplace is for. I’m old enough to remember when Rob and Laura Petrie slept in twin beds on The Dick Van Dyke Show (and every other teevee show Back Then), because Gawd forbid someone might get... ideas. My thinking on broadcast media is, if it offends you, just don’t watch it. I might enjoy something that bugs the crap out of you, and I don’t want the bluenoses among us to dictate what’s available. Besides, what’s worse - a sitcom spiked with sexual innuendo and doodie jokes, or Jersey Shore?

Still, television programming and advertising tell us a little (maybe more than a little) about the general direction toward which our society is headed. And it ain’t good.

This must be what it’s like to become an Old Guy. You watch the continual devolution of Popular Culture, and you bewail the miserable state the world has come to. Socrates did it, so why can’t I?
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
- Socrates


I’m guilty of a lot of silly, tasteless behavior.

I wear colanders on my head.

I’ve been observed in various places doing ridiculous stunts. Planking, owling, storking... I’ve done it all.

But I’ve gotta draw the line someplace:


Plumbking is the bastard child of plumbing and planking. Back when I was younger, it was not ever a Voluntary Activity, and it went by names like “hearing the oceans roar” and the “swirlie.” Now, demented people do it to themselves and post the images on Facebook for all and sundry to enjoy.

And, no, you won’t ever see me doing it.

Now: Fetch me my colander, Jeeves!

Monday, December 12, 2011


In the grey ash
Of Popocatepetl
I saw a single
Red rose pepetl

[Inspired by this post by Nina at Journeys of a Restless Mind.]


Provençal Martini
A brace of Provençal Martinis. Don’t let that innocent pink glow fool you - this is no girly drink.

Houston Steve turned me on to a classic cocktail that makes me feel like I am wandering the shores of the Mediterranean in the south of France.

I refer to the Provençal Martini.

If you search the Internet for information about the Provençal Martini, you will find plenty of recipes, many of which have nothing in common with one another. But this is the one Houston Steve shared with me, adapted from the one published in the book Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric. [I recommend the book for many reasons, this recipe being but one.]

To make this drink, you will need to prepare two ingredients, neither of which is available in your local Booze-Shoppe. One is lavender-infused gin; the other is Vermouth de Provence.

For the lavender-infused gin, take two tablespoons of dried lavender blossoms and place them in a saucepan with half a 750 ml bottle of Plymouth gin. Heat just to boiling, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the rest of the gin and stir. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer or cheesecloth; discard the solids. Return the liquid to the bottle. You can store your lavender-infused gin indefinitely at room temperature.

Use a similar procedure for the Vermouth de Provence: Start with two tablespoons of herbes de Provence and place them in a saucepan over medium heat for about two minutes, or until fragrant. Pour in about half of a 750 ml bottle of white vermouth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then cut off the heat and allow to cool. Add the remaining vermouth and stir. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer or cheesecloth; discard the solids. Return the liquid to the bottle. Your Vermouth de Provence will keep indefinitely at room temperature.

You’ve got your infusions. Now for your Provençal Martini:

2 oz lavender-infused gin
1¼ oz Vermouth de Provence
¾ oz Cointreau

Combine the above ingredients in a glass or cocktail shaker with ice. Stir (do not shake) until well chilled. Strain into a Martini glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Do not be tempted to substitute Grand Marnier or (gag) plain old Curaçao for the Cointreau. Cointreau is made from bitter oranges, and in this cocktail its sharper bite is needed to play off the powerful herb-laden alcohols.

It looks innocent, this Provençal Martini. It has a soft pink glow reminiscent of a diluted Cosmopolitan... but don’t let its Hello Kitty appearance fool you. This is no girly drink. It is assertive and herbaceous, plenty strong enough to knock you to your knees if you’re not careful. The perfect drink to order if you find yourself in a café in Nice... or in a casino in Monaco.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Superman may have been the Man of Steel, but he had a tin ear. No musical ability whatsoever.

It hadn't always been that way. Back in his Superboy days, he had taken up the electric guitar. Speed metal took on a whole new dimension when Clark “Fasthand” Kent soloed. Hell, it had helped him get to second base with Lana Lang.

But then things changed.

It was a custom axe that did him in. He didn't see that the soundboard had been made entirely of kryptonite until it was too late. His musical sense never recovered.

Curse you, Lex Luthier!

Friday, December 9, 2011


I really need to stop going to the local Kroger. Way too many temptations lurk... and not all of ’em are food. Lookee:

Lord of the Pez
One PEZ to rule them all, one PEZ to find them, one PEZ to bring them all and for the nutcase bind them - in the Land of Kroger in the Candy Aisle.

It occurred to me at some point that PEZ is the Anti-Gillette.

The Gillette boys knew long ago that the money was not in selling razors. It was in selling razor blades. Razors, after all, do not wear out. They last almost forever, and most people who use them need only one. The blades, on the other hand, have a limited lifespan. They have to be replaced.

Gillette can practically give razors away, because the money’s in the blades. Especially these days, when a razor blade is not simply a thin piece of metal that you’d use once or twice before tossing out - anyone remember the double-edged safety razor? - but a high-tech device with three or more separate cutting surfaces. They last longer and shave better than those old double-edged blades, but they cost a metric buttload more. That’s the Gillette business plan: hook ’em with that smooth, smooth five-bladed shave, then pound the wallet mercilessly. A similar strategy is employed by crack pushers.

PEZ is the exact opposite.

You don’t buy PEZ for the candy. Let’s face it: a piece of PEZ is like the bastard child of a Tic-Tac and a horse pill. Not bad for a dinky piece of hard candy, but nothing to write home to Momma about. No: You buy PEZ for the dispensers, which elevate the simple act of snarfing down a chunk of candy to a combination of Ritual and Art Form.

The dispensers, simply by being molded into the forms of popular characters from movies, cartoons, literature, and other repositories of Pop Culcha, become desirable. Look, there’s Popeye! Mickey Mouse! Santa Claus! Asterix and Obelix! Boba Fett! Jeremiah Johnson! Who gives a shit about the candy - I got Hello Kitty!

The geniuses at PEZ have further figured out that if they latch on to the right Pop Cultural Icons, they can sell a metric buttload of PEZ dispensers... and no longer must they do it one at a time. They can package up whole sets of the damn things, and the completionistas among us are powerless to resist!

In case you’re wondering, no, I did not buy a set of these beauties for myself. First of all, if you’re gonna collect them, you can’t take them out of the box and use them. Secondly, She Who Must Be Obeyed would blow a gasket if she saw that I had found yet one more thing to packrat away in the closet. Third, once you start down the old PEZ Parkway, where do you stop? Bad enough that I can see myself glomming onto Lord of the PEZ - and these - but then there’s the Star Trek and Star Wars gift sets... the Hello Kitty lunchbox set... and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo set (I’ve gotta get that Lisbeth Salander dispenser)... and it just keeps getting worse. Not gonna go there. Wouldn’t be prudent.

But a Man-Child can dream, can’t he?

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Back when I was in seventh grade, the big thing in education was “The New Math.”

I’m still not sure what-all The New Math entailed, but I remember learning about sets, bases (other than the familiar 10 of our decimal number system), and Gawd knows what else. It was a confusing mess, and my ability to comprehend mathematics got partially derailed... at least, until I got into high school where they taught “The Regular-Ass Math” - algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. That stuff I could understand.

One of the things we learned in seventh grade set theory was how to show how sets combined and overlapped graphically. The best way to do that is with a Venn diagram, in which individual sets are shown as circles. To show set intersections, these circles may overlap with one or more other circles. Easy-peasy!

Want an example? Courtesy of Big Stupid Tommy (who posted it on his Facebook page), we have this fine example of a seasonally themed Venn diagram, created by one Stephen Wildish. (You can see more of his excellent work at his website, as well as at his redbubble page.)

Holiday Venn
Why, it’s nothing less than the founding document for some sort of religious institution!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


USS Arizona

Seventy years after: Oil still seeps from the grave of the USS Arizona.

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hindsight is a powerful lens with which to look at history. It can be argued, in retrospect, that the attack - despicable as it was - was a blessing in disguise, insofar as it awakened the sleeping American giant and drew us into World War II.

From a strategic standpoint, it was a colossal blunder on Japan’s part. At best, the near-destruction of the U.S. Pacific fleet yielded a temporary advantage to the Japanese armed forces, but the superior American industrial and resource base enabled us to crank out replacement war materièl at an unprecedented pace. Japan could not hope to keep up.

The attack, and its aftermath, shaped the world in which we live today.

Let us remember the 2,402 that died in the attack and the 1,282 that were wounded. They woke up on that Sunday morning seventy years ago not planning on being crushed in the gears of History. They did not give their lives in vain.

More thoughts on Pearl Harbor from the Archives:



Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Outer Limits Logo

“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits.” – The Control Voice (opening narration)

I recently treated myself to something unusual: I purchased a television show on DVD.

Between the Missus and me, we have a few teevee shows in our DVD and/or Blu-Ray library. We’ve got several years worth of Seinfelds in the cabinet; I have all of the Venture Brothers shows; and somewhere or other I’m pretty sure SWMBO has a few seasons worth of Friends, Golden Girls, and Gawd knows what else. But when I saw that I could get the entire run of The Outer Limits on DVD for not much more than a double sawbuck, I hit the “Add to Cart” button on the Amazon site faster than you could say “There is nothing wrong with your television set.”

Ahh, The Outer Limits. I’m talking about the original black-and-white show that aired for not quite two seasons: 1963-64 and 1964-65 - not the longer lived 1995 remake version.

I was not quite eleven when The Outer Limits first aired. At the time, I was a big fan of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s brilliant anthology series, which I would watch with emotions alternating between utter fascination and shivery horror. The Zone had it all: fantasy, science fiction, weirdness, aliens, mysteries, and just plain old stories... usually with some kind of twist at the end, either ironic or macabre.

The Outer Limits was something else. It stripped away all of the fluffy shit from the Twilight Zone concept, mostly focusing on science fiction, horror, and bizarre-looking aliens... with unnecessary love stories thrown in most weeks to add sex appeal. As soon as that discordant opening chord sounded and you heard the Control Voice intoning the weekly introductory mantra, you knew you were in for something a bit more...intense. Most of the time, it scared the shit out of me.

With a half-century (thereabouts) of retrospection, I think TZ holds up better as a series... just as it was a better series when it was on. But The Outer Limits was much darker, lacking the sermon-like tone that TZ had all too often, and its best episodes are as good as - or better than - anything offered up by its anthological competitor. Provided, of course, you can overlook the (mostly) amazingly cheesy special effects.

As for the worst OL eps, there are a few of them that are mind-bogglingly stupid... and yet that is part of their charm.

The Outer Limits, much more than The Twilight Zone, relied on the “bear,” a monster of some kind that always had to make some kind of appearance in the first half of the show. (Several of these “bears” ended up being recycled, making appearances on Star Trek in its first incarnation. For that matter several Outer Limits actors, such as William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and James Doohan, were similarly recycled.) As defined by co-creator Joseph Stefano, the “bear” was any monstrous creature whose purpose was to “induce wonder or tolerable terror or even merely conversation and argument.” Think of the Mutant (one of Velociman’s icons). Think of the Big-Headed Future-Dude played by David McCallum in his pre-Illya Kuryakin days. Or the dopey giant ants with evil human faces in “The Zanti Misfits.” Them’s your bears. They’d make you piss your pants in terror if you were an impressionable young kid... and even today, a few of them still are able to grip you emotionally, mainly because of the good characterization and storytelling that marked the best Outer Limits shows.

Outer Limits Bears
The Mutant (Warren Oates, above); Big-Headed Future Dude (David McCallum, below) - two of the better-known “bears.”

I’ve got a lot of shows to watch, now. Don’t tell Ivan, though... he’ll get eat up with the DVD Envy.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Yesterday, the Missus and I did something we had never done before.

We purchased alcohol in Georgia on a Sunday. Legally. And I’m talking retail, not by the drink in a restaurant or bar.

Last month, DeKalb County (along with numerous other jurisdictions throughout the state) voted overwhelmingly to remove the old blue-law restriction on Sunday package sales, “package” in this case referring to bottles of wine, beer, or spiritus frumenti. Which means that now we can drive down to Dunwoody and buy booze at Costco... or raid Total Wine for the vinous beverage of our choice.

It’s about fucking time.

Even Texas has permitted package sales on Sundays for the past few decades. Sure, you have to wait until after noon, but at least the beer aisles in the local Randall’s or Kroger aren’t dark all day long.

Looks like Georgia is finally growing up.

We bought three bottles of wine... simply because we could. And we didn’t take it home and guzzle it right up, like some of our esteemed state legislators apparently must have feared we’d do. (“Dayum, it’ll be th’ end of civilization as we know it, Merle!”) We simply exercised our right to purchase something that we could buy any other day of the week and - until a few weeks ago - could not buy on Sunday. Freedom!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Buckhead at Night
Peachtree Road snakes its way through the heart of Buckhead in this view from 42 stories up. Downtown Atlanta is off in the distance on the horizon, just left of center.

I always look forward to the December Guild event, which is typically constructed around the Bubbly Stuff: sparkling wines and Champagnes. This year’s event will be hosted this evening by two of the Guild members at their private residence in Buckhead, a home with a spectacular view of downtown Atlanta replete with the twinkling lights of the season.

I’m hoping Denny, the Curmudgeonly Superannuated Paraplegic, is able to come. This time I’ve even convinced the Missus to join us. She’s not a regular attendee at Guild events, but, well - Champagne!

Here’s the carte des vins:

Speaker’s Wine:
Villa Sandi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene NV - Veneto, Italy*

First Flight:
Kluge “SP” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2004 - Albemarle County, Virginia*
Gruet Brut NV - New Mexico
Wolf Mountain Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009 - Georgia

Second Flight:
Pommery Brut Royal NV - Champagne, France**
Gosset Brut Excellence NV - Champagne, France***
Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV - Champagne, France**

Third Flight:
Perrier-Jouet Brut “Fleur” 1999 - Champagne, France***
Taittinger Blanc de Blancs Brut “Comtes” 2000 - Champagne, France****
Krug “Grand Cuvée” NV - Champagne, France**

Riondo Moscato d’Asti NV - Piedmonte, Italy*

All of this will serve to wash down an elegant array of hors d’oeuvres and to lubricate several hours of pleasant conversation. And if Houston Steve and Denny both show up, some of that conversation may even have a political component to it. But unlike our elected representatives, at least Steve and Denny are civil - even (dare I say it?) friendly. The lesson? More wine in government!

Update: My favorites, as usual, are indicated with asterisks.

Alas, neither Denny nor Houston Steve were there to entertain us and enjoy the eleven - count ’em! - different sparkling wine offerings. But the Missus and I enjoyed ourselves anyway.

Champagne SWMBO and Elisson

Saturday, December 3, 2011


We’ve been happily resident in the East Cobb suburb of Atlanta for the past thirteen years. The excellent Cobb County schools are no longer of particular interest to us, given that our children are now well past their public education years, except insofar as they bolster local property values... and continue to employ She Who Must Be Obeyed. The traffic, which grows ever denser (as do the drivers themselves) is an annoyance, but one we are used to dealing with. The main attractions for us have been the proximity of our good friends, the pleasant climate, and the reasonable cost of living. Reasonable when compared to the Northeast, anyway.

It’s a great place to live... but perfect, it ain’t.

One of the minor frustrations has been the relative dearth of good restaurants in the immediate area. Oh, there are plenty of places to eat, and some of them are pretty decent. Yet it seems that all of the newer local offerings are either Mexican or Chinese (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Enough is Enough); or are outposts of popular chain restaurants. Color me unimpressed.

Whenever we want to tie on the feedbag for a serious restaurant meal, we always seem to find ourselves heading up to Roswell or Alpharetta, or down to Sandy Springs, Buckhead, or midtown.

Things are changing, though.

Last night, a group of us dined at Seed Kitchen and Bar, a new place that opened just a few weeks ago, hard by the new Whole Paycheck Foods Market. Based on our experience, there’s no longer any need to schlep to Buckhead for an excellent restaurant meal, unless we want to for the sake of variety... because the meal we had at Seed was about as good as any I’ve ever had in Atlanta.

Seed bills itself as a chef-driven, modern American neigborhood restaurant that supports local growers and strives to be socially responsible. That green business is all good, but having a solid menu - and executing and serving the dishes properly - is crucial. The best grass-fed local beef can still be converted into a crappy burger served cold, twenty minutes after everyone else at the table has been served. Happily, that was not the case here... and there was not a single alfalfa sprout on the menu.

I started off with a Sazerac, a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail that few bars offer, and even fewer get right. These guys got it right, using real rye whiskey, Herbsaint, and Peychaud’s bitters. (OK, they dropped the lemon twist into the drink instead of hanging it on the side of the glass... a very minor miscue, and the only one of the evening.)

Houston Steve and I, by way of an appetizer, shared a charcuterie plate. Yes, there was a chunk of Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill, SWMBO’s favorite bloomy-rind cheese, but what won me over was the meltingly soft duck-breast pastrami. Oh. My. Gawd.

My main course consisted of beef short ribs braised in Chinese spices, served atop a pile of garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. The spice provided a gentle, not overly assertive backdrop for the meltingly tender, unctuous meat. She Who Must Be Obeyed had ordered the North Carolina flounder, accompanied by roasted cauliflower and caramelized Brussels sprouts in a Thai herb vinaigrette. It was superb. Gary had the hanger steak, perfectly prepared, napped with a caramelized onion and red wine reduction and with a pile of crispy, Parmesan-laced pommes frites alongside. Houston Steve, meanwhile, selected a dish of sweet potato ravioli in a brown butter-sage sauce with winter mushrooms. Those ravioli would have been good enough by themselves, but coated in their film of delicious, nutty brown butter, they were massively, ridiculously good.

We shared a bottle of 2008 Hall cabernet sauvignon. I could have been perfectly happy just sticking my face in the wineglass and luxuriating in its intoxicating aroma, but that’s not how I roll. No, I drank it. And it was mighty, mighty fine.

We did not stay for dessert and coffee, which had been arranged at a different venue. But everyone at the table - eleven people in all - raved about their meals. And for my part, I thought the quality-to-price ratio was quite reasonable.

Wow - a real grown-up restaurant in East Cobb! Maybe it’s a sign that our neighborhood is finally coming of age. For sure, it means fewer trips to Buckhead and midtown.

Now, going to Seed is a good thing.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Bernie at Home
Bernadette Catstro demonstrates the classic Meatloaf Position.

Well, OK - not the weekend. But part of the weekend.

Upon arriving at the Mistress of Sarcasm’s place the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we had a chance to get reacquainted with Bernadette Catstro, who had been our houseguest a few months back.

When she was staying at our house, Bernadette was very shy and aloof, preferring to spend her time parked under the bed or roaming the house away from any human presence. This might have been a result of our efforts to keep her separated from Hakuna, who - based on our experience with the Mistress’s late kitty Neighbor - does not play well with others. Maybe there was a vibe in the house that brought out her shy side... or maybe it was the absence of the Mistress, whom she loves deeply.

But now that she is established in her new home, Bernadette is positively affectionate. She may not run out of her room to hang with the humanfolk, but she at least will suffer herself to be petted and loved. Lookee:

Cat Hat
Call: A cat is not a hat.
Response: It is if you wear one on your head!

She even tolerates Ellie May, the Resident Hound. Hell, she even tolerates me!

Happy Grandpa

All of which makes us very happy... because there may be plenty of pettable, skritchable kitties out there, but there is none so soft and squishy as Bernie!


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...

wee-wee hours [wi-wi-aurz] (n) pl - The time between midnight and (usually) four a.m. when one typically awakens for the purpose of micturition.