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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It was a truly rotten day today, with grey skies and a cold rain pelting down since early in the afternoon. At one point, as the powerful front pushed its way through, it was reminiscent of a cow pissing on a flat rock, so hard did it pour.

Not the kind of evening on which to make a Stupid-Market run, but it could not be helped. After almost a week of serious entertaining and dining, some Larder Essentials needed to be replenished, and it would not do to wait until morning.

Earlier, I had taken Aunt Marge to the airport for her journey back to south Florida. She had arrived last Wednesday afternoon along with her daughter (my cousin!) Diane and son-in-law Charles in order to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday festivities with us... and with Elder Daughter flying in from Washington that same evening, we had a happy houseful. Even the Mistress of Sarcasm and Bernadette bunked in.

We were a happy Mommy and Daddy, SWMBO and I were. We love it when both of the girls are home.

It was a bittersweet Thanksgiving this year, what with our having lost Uncle Phil only two months ago. Nevertheless, the warmth of being with loved ones provided a certain degree of comfort for all of us. When we weren’t stuffing our faces, we would be looking at old photo albums and videos, remembering happy times. And Marge was only too ready to provide a few stories about her adventures with my mother back in high school... at least one of which I had never heard before.

Mom was, apparently, quite a character.

For the holiday proper, we had a small army of friends and family: a score in all. And we dined like kings.

Apple-scented roast turkey with cider-Calvados gravy. Butternut squash soup. Sausage-rice dressing with golden raisins and pine nuts. Cornbread dressing. Roasted root vegetables. Roasted green beans with mushrooms. Carrot soufflé. Green salad. Apple pie with cranberry-Meyer lemon sorbet. Key lime pie.

As if all this were not enough, given that both of our daughters were here, we had our annual Momma d’Elisson Memorial Chanukah Dinner a few days early. It’s a tradition that is now in its twenty-third year: eating potato latkes and take-out Chinese food. We usually do it on the first night of Chanukah, but why wait?

Leftovers? Yes, there were leftovers, and we regrouped to attack them Saturday afternoon. Just to keep things interesting, Gary lobbed in a load of his infamously tasty sweet potato casserole, and I took out the roasted beet salad I had originally planned to serve at the main meal but had forgotten in the back of the fridge.

As magnificent as all the food may have been, the best part was seeing Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm enjoying themselves with our Florida family. Family and friends. Of all the everyday miracles I’m thankful for, being in their company is highest on the list.

The house is quiet now; our visitors have all gone home, scattered to the four winds. Whatever hasn’t been eaten has been frozen or tossed out. Life has returned to its normal rhythms... for now. And thus passes another year.

Monday, November 29, 2010


The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

- from Casabianca, Felicia Dorothea Hemans

The boy stood on the burning deck, illuminated by the inferno that raged around him, seemingly oblivious to the eerie shadows cast by the corpses that littered the area round about.

He had long ago given up hope of surviving this sea-battle. At first, he had waited faithfully for his father’s instructions, hoping that he would be permitted to flee. But word from his father had not been forthcoming, and it was with a sinking heart that the boy realized that his father must have been slain belowdecks.

The boy’s eyes bulged, but not with fear. A superfluity of the secretions of the thyroid gland had bedeviled him for most of his short life, creating the protruding eyes characteristic of said condition. In addition, that selfsame glandular activity had given the lad an enormous reserve of energy, energy that he had attempted to control by directing it toward strenuous physical activity. The result was a set of hypertrophied biceps and quadriceps, musculature that was, strangely, both comical and frightening. His schoolmates, in the cruel manner typical of early adolescence, had taken to calling him “Boy Ceps,” but rather than meekly accepting the moniker as the insult it was intended to be, he wore the name proudly.

But now, surrounded by the bodies of both his father’s mercantile comrades and the pirates that had attempted to capture them, the youth was beyond thoughts of his schoolmates. That was in another world, a sweet world that would now be forever out of his reach. The world of home.

It was then that he realized with growing amazement that, while the deck was burning furiously, its timbers were not consumed. How could this be?

As if in answer to his unspoken thoughts, a basso voice rumbled inside his head. Quietly, and yet with infinite authority, it intoned, “Remove your boat shoes, for the deck upon which you stand is holy!”

The lad immediately took off his bloodstained Dockers, tossing them carelessly towards a burning pyre of bodies where they landed with a wet thud.

“No longer shall you be called Boy Ceps,” spoke the mysterious Voice. “Henceforth shall you be known as Pop Eye, for you shall be father unto a race of visionaries. And also because, well, let’s face it, you got you some bulgy-ass peepers there.”

“Who... who are you?” croaked the boy, throat raw from smoke.

The Voice answered, “I AM THAT I AM. But you can call me YHVH... or if that’s too tough to pronounce, the Lord.”

The boy - it would take him a while to become accustomed to his new name - took in this momentous piece of information with nary a blink, realizing that he could hardly complain about his new name if the Almighty Himself chose to bestow it upon him. Further, it dawned on him that the Master of the Universe was, in His own way, a paragon of humility. I AM THAT I AM! No lengthy, overblown, flowery titles... the holy Name was merely a simple statement of bedrock fact. For the boy, who would from that moment think of himself only as Pop Eye, it became a mantra: I AM THAT I AM.

He knew, too, that he would survive that fearsome battle. He would survive because the Lord had plans for him. His life, he understood, had been spared so that he could sail the length and breadth of the world, carrying the nourishment of his faith to the heathen nations. He would be a Prophet... and wherever he walked, humility and Godliness would spring up as spinach after a spring rain.

* * * * *

In years to come, even as he muttered his prophetical mumblings under his breath, the holy Name was ever a part of him. Walt Whitman might have sung a “Song of Myself,” but Pop Eye’s own Song of Myself was really a song unto the Lord:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I yam what I yam
And that’s all what I yam
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

And thus the boy - that very boy who had stood upon the burning deck and had seen that it was not consumed - went forth into the world, spreading God’s word. The people of the nations saw him and listened; when they would not listen, he would punish the arrogant ones with his mighty fists. “Spinach is the source of his strength!” said some, but they were fools... for the sailor’s true strength was his belief in the mighty (and yet, paradoxically, humble!) Lord.

In years to come, he married the Oyl girl who had been sweet on him even in their early days. And such was her closeness to the Sailor-Man and his God that eventually, when people wished a special blessing, they would append her name to their petition: “You should live and be well - Olive Eye!”

And, eventually, Pop Eye - the Sailor Man who sailed the deep sea of Faith - became as beloved as Moses had been. Just as Moses was called Moshe Rabbeinu - Moses, Our Teacher - so Pop Eye became known to one and all as Popeye Sailoreinu. Popeye... Our Sailor.

Popeye Sailoreinu


Leslie Nielsen
Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010. R.I.P.

“I am dead... and don’t call me Shirley.”

Canadian-born actor Leslie Nielsen, who successfully managed an unlikely career transition from the serious to the ridiculous, died Sunday at the age of 84.

Nielsen, the son of a Mountie, began acting in various television roles as early as 1950 and moved to the Big Screen in 1956; one of his first roles was that of Commander J. J. Adams in the SF classic Forbidden Planet. He was a fine straight actor, often playing the heavy... but when he was cast as Dr. Rumack in Airplane!, a 1980-vintage parody of the then-popular disaster movie genre, his statesmanlike looks were coupled with a completely daffy character to create a comedy sensation. That role, along with his appearances as Detective Frank Drebin in Police Squad! (a short-lived TV series that became a successful movie franchise), showcased Nielsen’s considerable comedic talents and turned his Serious Acting career on its head.

Leslie Nielsen was living proof that you can reinvent yourself... with panache. He will be sorely missed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The explosive growth in demand for electronic memory that had begun in the late 1990’s accelerated dramatically as the Internet became the medium of everyday human interaction. Life’s minutiae no longer vanished into the stream of time; everything was lovingly laid down in 1’s and 0’s, packratted away into the limitless bowels of the Data Storage Combine for future retrieval.

RAM became the new gold. Salaries were paid in terabytes.

By 2057, the Earth’s entire surface had been covered with data storage facilities, the better to feed the voracious servers… ensuring a continued supply of Funny Cat Videos on YouTube.

Update: Friday Ark #320 is afloat at the Modulator... and Carnival of the Cats offers its 350th incarnation over at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat, where Nikita and Elvira have done an exceptional job of compiling cat-related links from around the Bloggy-Sphere.

Monday, November 22, 2010


To most people alive today, it’s a page in a dusty American history book... but to me and others of my generation, it’s an event we can still recall with razor sharpness: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy forty-seven years ago today.

That event - and the sequelae that unfolded over the next several days - delivered a trauma unto the national psyche that still resonates in a myriad of ways.

I was a sixth grader who had struggled with what, in retrospect, seem like eerie premonitions of Kennedy’s demise.

SWMBO’s father, at that time an assistant principal at a high school near Meacham Field, had seen the Presidential motorcade go by shortly after Kennedy’s arrival in Dallas.

Neither of us - two people whose lives would eventually become intertwined - had any notion (aside from the above-referenced foreshadowing) of what would occur before sundown.

Years later, SWMBO and I were dining in Houston only a few tables away from former Texas governor John Connally, who had narrowly escaped with his life that November day in 1963. He had been riding in the limousine with Kennedy and suffered wounds to his chest, wrist, and thigh. It was our first brush with JFK and history... but not our last.

Sometimes I wonder what might have been had things been different. Other people have wondered as well.

In its February 1977 issue, the National Lampoon celebrated JFK’s fifth inaugural, imagining a world in which Kennedy had, Roosevelt-like, accumulated 6,000 days in office. In that fictional world, Jackie Kennedy is the one who was felled by Oswald’s shot... with JFK later marrying Christina Onassis.

The Lampoon issue was played for laughs, but Nick DiChario’s brilliant short story “The Winterberry” was set in a world in which JFK survived Oswald’s attempt on his life. The story is written from Kennedy’s point-of-view... the point-of-view of someone with the mind of a child, owing to the brain damage sustained in the botched assassination. The story unfolds over decades, during which time JFK is kept immured in the hidden crannies of the White House, his continued existence a closely-held secret, illuminated only by occasional distant glimpses of a beautiful woman who looks, somehow, vaguely familiar...

It’s a heartbreaking story, perhaps even more tragic than actual events.

Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I know I had to get down to the nitty Magritty in order to come up with this post title...

...but the simple fact is, This Is Not A Colander.


It’s a Head-Scratcher!

A gift from Barry, my partner-in-crime, it is a simple device that resembles nothing so much as a wire whisk. But unlike a wire whisk, it has blunt-ended prongs that deliver the finest Head-Massage this side of a Singaporean brothel the spa at the Hilton Sandestin resort.

Alas, it does not block the Zeta Rays from Planet Nubulax, but, hey, that’s what colanders are for! (Plus they’re much more useful for draining boiled pasta.)

Friday, November 19, 2010


Cat Hair ’Kuna

This Pillow carries a timely message
Lest you get Cat-Hair upon your Dressage,
Or a Mass of Fibers on your Pants,
Requiring the Sticky-Roller Dance.

Hakuna relaxes on one of the chairs in the sunroom, in the process depositing a load of cat hair upon the seat cushion... and ensuring continued employment for Mr. Sticky-Roller. The pillow, of course, is inscribed with an appropriate legend, but whether it is a warning or consolation cannot be said for certain.

Update: Carnival of the Cats #349 is up at When Cats Attack! - and Hakuna is batting lead-off. Be sure to stop by and say hello.


Mongol General: Conan! What is best in life?

Conan the Barbarian: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, to hear the lamentation of their women, and to drink up all of their chocolate.

Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

- Conan the Barbarian (1982)

At breakfast this morning, one of the Minyan Boyz inquired about the Flavor of the Day. The Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium, you see, offers flavored coffee in addition to the traditional choices of Regular and Decaffeinated... so when one is in the mood for coffee that tastes like French Vanilla or Irish Cream (instead of coffee that tastes like, well, coffee), one has the option of selecting the Flavor of the Day.

The servitor responded: “We have Barbarian Chocolate.”

That’s when the above Filmic Dialogue popped into my head. Barbarian Chocolate? Really?

It took us all a moment to realize that what the waiter meant was Bavarian Chocolate. The favorite of those nice folks at Berchtesgaden, no doubt. But from now on, I’m ordering Barbarian Chocolate... and I will do so in a badly-executed Austrian accent, in the style of the recently-deposed Governator.

I do loves me a fine malapropism. Heard any good ones lately?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Houston Steve was kind enough to forward an article from the Manitoba Herald, an article that had been sent to him by his brother-in-law Roy.

Alas, I have no way to link to the original piece, but it is a beauty...

“Build a Damn Fence!” (Clive Runnels)

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they’ll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

“I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn,” said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota.

“The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields.

“Not real effective,” he said. “The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn’t give any milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves.

“A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions,” an Ontario border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though.”

When liberals are caught, they’re sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they
were alive in the ’50’s.

“If they can’t identify the accordion player on ‘The Lawrence Welk Show,’ we become very suspicious about their age,” an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies. “I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can’t support them.” an Ottawa resident said.

“How many art history majors does one country need?”


Thanks to my friend Simon, I have found this lovely compilation of Hollywood film clips featuring what is claimed to be the most overused line in cinema.

I’m sure Ivan, the resident Film and Old-Time Radio guru at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, could check out the validity of that claim... but I also suspect that it’s not the kind of line you would have heard coming from Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, or Harpo Marx. (Especially not Harpo Marx.) Not onscreen, anyway.

[Is it my imagination, or does Bruce Willis appear in an awful lot of these clips?]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Jill Clayburgh
Jill Clayburgh, 1944-2010. R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of actress Jill Clayburgh, who succumbed to chronic lymphocytic leukemia eleven days ago. She had struggled with the disease for over twenty years.

While her film career spanned four decades, I remember her most for several notable roles in the late 1970’s, including her portrayal of Erica in An Unmarried Woman... a role that garnered her an Oscar nomination among other tokens of recognition.

That movie might have been the first I ever saw with a puke scene... Erica’s response upon hearing her husband confess his infidelity. It’s also the reason there are only two degrees of separation between me and the late Ms. Clayburgh. Let me explain.

There’s a scene in An Unmarried Woman in which Erica - sometime after her husband has left her - goes to see Dr. Jacobs, her doctor. She’s trying to understand what has happened to her and is seeking help in weathering the resulting emotional shitstorm... and the good doctor proceeds to hit on her. (Needless to say, Erica is not pleased.)

Daniel Seltzer
“Are you seeing other men yet?” Daniel Seltzer (1933-1980) as Dr. Jacobs in An Unmarried Woman.

Dr. Jacobs was played by one Daniel Seltzer, a Harvard Ph.D. who was also a distinguished Shakespearean scholar and Tony award-winning stage actor, and who served as chairman of Princeton’s McCarter Theatre for several years in the early- to mid-1970’s. Seltzer’s career, alas, was cut short: He passed away in 1980 at the age of 47.

Seltzer was also my English professor, under whom I studied Modern Dramatic Art and Advanced Shakespeare at Princeton. They were both pretty far off the beaten track for me given that I was a chemical engineer, but they were far and away among the most fascinating courses I took thanks largely to Seltzer’s acting abilities and larger-than-life personality.

It was astonishing to see his face on the movie screen, complete with his signature pouf of frizzy red hair, in that scene with Ms. Clayburgh. It was equally astonishing that she was playing the superannuated wife who was being ditched for a Younger Woman... at the advanced age of thirty-five.

Jill Clayburgh was a talented lady; I will miss her. Ave atque vale!

Monday, November 15, 2010


As She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were chowing down on this evening’s repast - osso buco, in case you’re curious - I caught one of the new Krystal ads from the corner of my eye.

Their latest campaign is based on an amusing premise: Mascots from competing fast-food burger chains are sneaking over to Krystal, presumably to load up on their high-quality (hah!) sliders. In later editions, said mascots are called on the carpet after having been caught red-handed. Wendy is given a dressing-down at her performance review; the Burger King is subjected to a humiliating press conference. The consequences, as it were, of being caught in burgrante delicto.

By way of illustration, here’s one that skewers Chick-Fil-A...

All of this raises a legal question... at least, I think it does. Do these advertisements constitute “fair use” of their competitors’ intellectual property?

One could make the case that, say, Ronald McDonald, Wendy, and the Burger King’s likenesses are being used for purposes of parody, thus meeting a condition of fair use. But I have trouble calling these ads parodies. They’re pretty straightforward hijackings, used for commercial purposes. My guess is that Krystal’s competitors - or their legal staffs, anyway - are smart enough to know that, while they might prevail in a civil action, the resulting publicity would do nothing but help give Krystal a huge dose of media exposure while making them look petty and ridiculous.

It has happened before.

There is, however, a slippery slope here. If it’s acceptable for Krystal to show the Burger King committing a minor social gaffe (or a not-so-minor violation of his own company’s policy) by eating a pile of Krystal sliders, what other even more reprehensible behavior is next? Having him knock over a liquor store? Or sodomize the Chick-Fil-A cows? What invisible line must be crossed before Wendy’s or Burger King can sue... and not be laughed out of court?

Feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the comments.


One Big Happy 111510
One Big Happy, 15 November 2010, by Rick Detorie. ©2010 Creators Syndicate. [Click to embiggen.]

Grandpa and I are kindred spirits... because I’ve told this same, stupid joke 10,000 times, in at least as many variations:

What do you call Brussels sprouts in Brussels?

What do you call Brazil nuts in Brazil?

What do you call Belgian waffles in Belgium?

What do you call French fries in France?
Pommes frites.

...Und so weiter.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I hadn’t spent a lot of time with my old buddy in recent years. Mostly my fault, it was... he was missing a few teeth, but I could have had that problem taken care of.

Like a lot of us, my friend hadn’t quite kept up with the times. There were plenty of young Turks out there who were more up-to-date technologically. But there’s a certain attractive quality that attaches to the Old-School Ways, and I’ll confess that, being a bit of a dinosaur myself, I respect that.

We had traveled a lot of miles together, my friend and I. But in the last few years, I’d see him and think, ”We really should spend more time together” while doing absolutely nothing about it.

But Gary - another old friend - convinced me that it was time for things to change.

And so it was that the two of us went out yesterday afternoon - accompanied by Gary, who provided essential transportation - for a ride. And it was as though all of those years... the years when we had nothing to do with one another... had never been.

“Buddy,” I said, as much to myself as to him, “I missed you.”

* * *

My friend, of course, is my 35-year-old Gitane Tour de France road bike. It’s truly an Old-School ride, a ten-speed machine with friction shift levers mounted on the down tube; center-pull brakes; and a frame made of Reynolds 531 lightweight steel alloy, including double-butted tubes, forks, and stays. State of the art 35 years ago, it’s now pretty much an antique in an age of carbon-fiber frames and click-stop 21-speed derailleur transmissions. But with a few enhancements, my old Gitane is nothing short of an updated classic.

Gitane Tour de France
My old friend, a 1975 Gitane Tour de France. The orange-and-black color scheme makes it perfect for riding in the Princeton Reunions P-Rade. [Click to embiggen.]

A few years ago, I replaced the ridiculous vintage-1975 hard leather saddle (perfect for toughening up your nutsack, but not much else) with a nice, anatomically designed gel saddle, and changed out the old toe-clip pedals for some of the new lightweight clipless models. This time, I gave the old fellow a complete tune-up and replaced the shift levers and the derailleur’s jockey wheels, which had literally begun to crumble to pieces with age. With a new set of tires and tubes, cables and cable guides, and freshly-wrapped handlebars, my old friend - if not quite as good as new - certainly looked like a Respectable Oldster.

Gary and I drove down to the Chattahoochee River, bikes in tow, and parked across the street from the Columns Drive trailhead. I snapped my feet into the pedals and made a few loops around the parking lot... and we took off on our respective machines.

We rode like the wind, that old Gitane and I, following Columns Drive along the river, then picking up the cinder trail that runs down to I-285 - an 8.55 mile roundtrip. The vintage machine handled crisply, the gears shifting effortlessly at a touch of the levers. It was a fine way to become reacquainted with my old friend.

Click on the extended entry link for more photos.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Autumn Leaves HDR

Leaf-watching season got off to a late start here in Georgia, but a few cold evenings have moved things into high gear. We may as well enjoy those gorgeous colors while we can, because a few weeks from now all we’ll have to look at is skeletal, denuded branches.

With that cheery introduction out of the way, let’s take a look at what the Little White Choon-Box has for us today by way of Random Musical Output. Listen up:

  1. Dear Prudence - The Beatles

  2. Reggae fi Bernard - Linton Kwesi Johnson

  3. Time - Tom Waits

  4. Of Montreal - The Stills

  5. Wave A White Flag - Elvis Costello

  6. A Strange Romance - Chick Corea and Béla Fleck

  7. Rednecks - Randy Newman

  8. Noviy God (live) - Leningrad

  9. The Way You Look Tonight - Stan Getz & Dizzy Gillespie

  10. Act II - Tagore, Scene 2 - Philip Glass, Satyagraha

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Brussels Sprouts on the Hoof
Branch from a Booger-Bush? Or Venusian vibrator?

No, it’s not a Booger-Bush branch... or an Alien Sex-Toy. It’s Fart Balls on the hoof!

Them Brussels sprouts may look like little bitty cabbages, but they sure don’t grow like cabbages.

I’ll be snipping those little fellers off and roasting them... a nice side to go with the pan-seared hanger steak I’m fixing for supper this evening.

Postscriptum: I did indeed snip ’em off and roast ’em with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt... but SWMBO applied the magic touch in the form of a drizzle of fig-infused balsamic vinegar. That sweet-sour layer of flavor made all the difference!

Monday, November 8, 2010



Thomas the Tank Engine chugged along, whistling tunelessly to himself. As his wheels clicked and clacked along the rails, he began muttering a nonsense-poem in time to the metallic beat:

Tanks a lot
Tanks a lot
Stanky tanky tanks a lot
Tanks a lot
Tanks a lot
Stanky tanky tanks a lot

He felt pleased with himself, Thomas did. Life on Sodor was pretty cushy. Even though he had to haul the occasional load now and again to keep up appearances, his status as television star meant that the other trains treated him with a certain degree of deference. No, it was more than that: They were a bunch of lickspittle sycophants, pimping themselves for the sake of a few more moments onscreen, a few more words of dialogue.

Amazing what people would do for a little celebrity, Thomas thought.

The track swung out around a hill and then began crossing a lengthy trestle. In the distance, Thomas thought he could see a lone figure walking the tracks, dead in the middle of the trestle span. With mounting horror, Thomas realized that with at least eight hundred yards to the far side, there was no way the walker, whoever it was, could reach safety in time.

He jammed on his brakes, cylinders bulging with the effort. Sparks flew and shrill squealing pierced the air as brake shoes pressed against metal wheels.

Miraculously, Thomas came to a dead halt mere inches from the figure on the tracks. Releasing a steam valve, he hissed a sigh of relief. Then he looked at the man whose life he had just avoided taking.

It was, Thomas saw, not a man at all. He stood upright, but his hind legs were those of a goat, complete with cloven hooves. Behind him, a leathery tail came to a barbed point. His forehead sported two horns - guy is consistent with the goat theme, at least, Thomas observed - and his huge slit-irised eyes practically glowed red, resembling nothing so much as two baseballs of lean bacon.

“Hello, Thomas,” said the creature, genially.

“Wh-... wh-... who are you?” quavered the Tank Engine.

“Oh, don’t act all innocent, Thomas. Surely you remember me. We had a little deal, remember?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about, guv’nor.”

The demon reached around behind his back and, seemingly out of thin air, pulled out a smoking scroll of parchment. Unfurling it, he pointed to the bottom of the document with his index claw... where, in indelible diesel fuel, was the unmistakable signature of one Thomas the Tank Engine.

“You people are all alike. Mortal, metal, it’s always the same story. You make a deal, you get whatever it is you want, and then when it comes time to pay, you get all reluctant. All forgetful. As if Old Scratch here just might let you off the hook...

“You know, I could really make it tough on you. I don’t like it when people try to fuck with me... and you were trying to fuck with me, weren’t you, Tommy? Here you are, just a jackoff Choo-Choo with a stupid, shit-eating smile, carrying horse manure up and down the hills of Sodor. I make you famous. I make you rich. And now you want to back out? What... what chutzpah!

Thomas has been taking all of this in silently, quivering in fear. A fat, oily tear rolled down the side of his face. “I’m... sorry, Mr. Scratch,” he squeaked.

“Ahhh, the savor of genuine contrition. It’s a rare thing, Thomas, my boy.

“Tell you what. I have a special assignment in mind for you. Within you, you will hold the very fires of Hell... but when you come around, the damned souls that live in my realm will be happy to see you - just as the little rugrats of this world were happy to see you!”

With that, a crack appeared in the earth below the trestle. Thomas and his demonic interlocutor plunged from the tracks and were immediately swallowed up...


It didn’t take long for Thomas to adapt to his new surroundings. Sure, he missed his old friends. Simpering, whiny Percy; Donald and Douglas and their incomprehensible Scots burr; insufferable Henry - come to think of it, Thomas mused, he really didn’t miss his old friends. And while his new home was considerably hotter than Sodor had been, at least it didn’t rain the entire fucking time.

And Old Scratch was right. Damned souls were always glad to see Thomas... because they knew a good meal was in the works. Being damned, of course, they never got to do more than smell the meat as it roasted and smoked, but even a frustratingly fleeting whiff was, perversely, better than nothing.

There were worse things, Thomas thought, than being the Devil’s Meat-Smoker. Beat the Tank Engine gig all hollow.

Except for the groupies. He still missed the groupies.


Sunday, November 7, 2010


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 Words of the Day...

automatomtom [aw-tom-a-tom-tom] (n) - an electronic drum kit.

“Damn! I paid $3,000 for a band at my kid’s Bar Mitzvah, and all I got was a pimply teenager with a kazoo, a Casio keyboard, and an automatomtom!”

cacacrete [ka-ka-kreet] (n) - the rock-like substance formed in a litter box when cat excrement and urine contacts clumping cat litter.

“Cleaned out the cat box today. There must have been five pounds of cacacrete in there... maybe I oughta scrape it out more than once a week, huh?”

Friday, November 5, 2010


“You will receive a pleasant surprise from a long-time friend.”

That’s what was printed on the little piece of paper I had extracted from my fortune cookie. And I had to laugh... because it was the most dead-on accurate fortune I have ever yanked out of one of those cookies.

I was at a Thai restaurant, one that happens to be a particular favorite of the Mistress of Sarcasm. (Why a Thai restaurant offers up fortune cookies as a postprandial snicky-snack is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it’s in the Secret Operating Manual for Asian Restaurant Owners, right after the chapters about carving carrots into the shape of roses and how to fold those take-out cartons so the food stays in ’em and the grease leaks out. I never saw a single fortune cookie in Thailand... or China, for that matter.) And I was there having dinner with a long time friend.

The friend, in this case, was visiting Atlanta on business in her role as Dean of Admissions of a prominent Southern law school. Hardly the career any of our other friends would have envisioned for Susan, back when I first met her... in our third-grade class. That was in the fall of 1960.

Third Grade ClassMy third grade class. Susan is in the back row, fifth from the left. See if you can spot me. [Click to embiggen.]

Our surnames being very close together alphabetically, Susan and I went through our middle school and high school years in the same homeroom - and many of the same classes. And our yearbook photos are adjacent to one another. We’ve seen each other a few times since those days, including one time we bumped into one another at the airport in Jacksonville, Florida some 25 years ago. Pure coincidence.

That first year, though... third grade... I remember three things from that year. That was the year our teacher got married over winter break: She left for vacation with one name and came back with another. (Alas for us, it was longer and harder to spell.) That spring, we all sat in the gymnasium and listened to the radio as Alan Shepard became the first American in space, riding Freedom Seven on its 16-minute suborbital flight. And that was when Susan’s family went to Disneyland, a trip that, thanks to the near-constant pimpage of the Mickey Mouse Club and Walt Disney Presents (later rechristened Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color), made everyone else in the class insane with envy.

I guess when you’ve known someone for fifty years, he or she qualifies as a Long-Time Friend. It certainly sounds better than Old Friend, with its implication of advancing senility. Me, I prefer the term Friend of Long Standing. But why quibble about nomenclature... especially when you’ve just polished off a plate of Rainbow Duck Curry while reminiscing about elementary school, college search trips with the kids, and visits to Disneyland?

Susan’s father, sadly, no longer walks the planet with us - but her mother is still alive and well. And we have independent verification... because she now lives in the selfsame neighborhood as does Eli, hizzownself.

And the pleasant surprise? Well, Susan’s visit was no surprise, it having been arranged well in advance... but my being treated to dinner by her employer, the prominent Southern law school, was.

Maybe I’d better start taking those Fortune Cookies more seriously...


This week’s Friday Random ten is dedicated to Eric, the Straight White Guy hizzownself, who, in a monumental gesture of hospitality and/or stupidity - I cannot, for sure, say which - has once again opened his home to an army of Online Journalists by way of celebrating his recent 38th birthday.

Eric, the original Tennessee Renaissance Man, will enjoy the company of bloggers from as near as his very own town and as far away as Florida, Chicago, New York, and New Jersey. Based on past history, there will be massive Eatage, Drinkage, Guitar-Playage, Pocket Billiardry, Miscellaneous Hat-Wearage, and possibly even Gun-Shootage. Hey, and Poetry Recitation, too! I suspect the fine works of Robert W. Service, Ogden Nash, and even Don Marquis will get trampled upon.

But meanwhile, we have Tunage... straight out of the bowels of the iPod d’Elisson. Let’s see what random assortment of musical goodies the box has for us today:
  1. Look At Me - John Lennon

  2. Surgery - Scott Matthew

  3. Annie Waits - Ben Folds

  4. The Grand Wazoo - Bohuslan Big Band

  5. Into the Dream - Pat Metheny Group

  6. Refuge - Matisyahu

  7. Sign In Stranger - Steely Dan

  8. Malenkiy Malchik - Leningrad

  9. Brain Smashing Dub - Linton Kwesi Johnson

  10. Miss Gradenko - The Police

    Don’t tell the director I said so
    But are you safe Miss Gradenko?
    We were at a policy meeting
    They were planning new ways of cheating
    I didn’t want to rock your boat
    But you sent this dangerous note
    You’ve been letting your feelings show

    Are you safe Miss Gradenko?
    Miss Gradenko are you safe?
    Are you safe Miss Gradenko?
    Miss Gradenko are you safe?

    Is anybody alive in here?
    Is anybody alive in here?
    Is anybody at all in here?
    Nobody but us in here
    Nobody but us
    Is anybody alive in here?
    Nobody but us

    Your uniform don’t seem to fit
    You’re much too alive in it
    You’ve been letting your feelings show
    Are you safe Miss Gradenko?
    Miss Gradenko are you safe?

    Is anybody alive in here?
    Is anybody alive in here?
    Is anybody at all in here?
    Nobody but us in here
    Nobody but us

    Is anybody alive in here?
    Is anybody alive in here?
    Is anybody at all in here?
    Nobody but us in here
    Nobody but us
    Nobody but us in here
    Nobody but us

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Osso buco with gremolata. Click to embiggen.

Ya just gotta love those folks at Costco -
They’re now my source for Osso Buco.
To Costco, then, let us give thanks:
Purveyors of fine Veal Shanks.

A few days ago, as I was making my regular Provisioning Run over at Costco, I espied something new in the meat case. New, or perhaps something that had heretofore escaped my notice - I cannot for sure say which.

Veal shanks!

Veal - the delicate meat of the Beef-Calf - has several things going for it. One, it’s delicious. Two, it’s relatively lean protein, boasting a high nutrient density. On top of that, eating it is a great way to piss off the PETA folks.

Veal shanks, AKA osso buco - “bone with a hole” - are excellent when braised in a wine-enriched stock. My prior experience with osso buco had all been at restaurants, including the excellent version at the legendary Tony’s in Houston. This time, I resolved to try my own hand at making it.

Oh, yeah.

Unlike beef, veal has a lot of natural collagen. The shankbone itself is rather tough - not especially suitable for throwing on the grill - but when you cook it nice and slow in liquid, all that connective tissue melts down and turns into gelatin, imparting an amazing silkiness to the meat and its juices. Served with a scattering of gremolata - a blend of chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest - it is Tasty Good.

Traditionally, osso buco is served with risotto. We elected to go a lighter route, with a salad of arugula and shredded Brussels sprouts set off by pine nuts and shaved Parmesan and dressed with a hazelnut oil - sherry vinaigrette.

And the best part? Watching She Who Must Be Obeyed slurping the marrow right out of those bones. Yowza!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Now that Election Day is here, voters in most American jurisdictions are breathing happy sighs of relief. Not only do they get to exercise the franchise - an honored civic responsibility - they also get some respite from the seasonal barrage of vile campaign advertising.

I fear we will not be as lucky here in Georgia. In our state, a candidate must poll a majority of the vote to win election, which means runoff elections are necessary to decide close races. A plurality alone won’t do the job... which means that there is a considerable likelihood of a runoff election being necessary in our gubernatorial contest.

And that, alas, means another four weeks of nastiness, backbiting, and mudslinging between the Scumbag Crook and the Lying Sack of Shit.

Civility in public discourse has become an endangered species in our great Republic... but I have a way to restore it. Enhance it, even. A modest proposal, if you will, that would provide a much-needed shave, haircut, shampoo, and massage to the Body Politic.

Once upon a time, when a gentleman’s reputation was called into question by a rival, said gentleman had the option - nay, the responsibility - to defend his good name on the Field of Honor by challenging his rival to a duel. Swords, pistols, or other weaponry would be used to settle the matter; depending on the terms agreed between the parties, the fight could be to first blood, to the point where one or more parties could no longer continue to fight, or to the death. The objective was generally not so much to kill the opponent as it was to gain “satisfaction,” restoring honor by showing oneself willing to risk one’s life for it. Thus was redress achieved: by personal combat, not through the bloodless agency of the courts.

While technically illegal in most jurisdictions, dueling was socially accepted. Participants were rarely prosecuted and even more rarely convicted.

My proposal is simply this: that participants in elections be permitted, even strongly encouraged, to use the Code Duello as a means of seeking redress from opponents who insult them.

Your electoral rival says you’re a thief? Challenge him to derringers at dawn. You broadcast an ad that says your opponent is soft on illegal immigration? If he chooses, he can throw down the gauntlet and duke it out with you with the pointy piece of metal of his choice.

Politicians will have a lot less time to sling mud if they’re busy sharpening up those long-neglected fencing and shooting skills. And there’s no downside, as far as the public is concerned... because a politician who declines a challenge shows him- or herself to lack the honor requisite for holding public office. If one should accept and get blown away, why, that’s one less mudslinging politician. A win-win!

Office-seekers whose campaigns focused on their own achievements rather than on the supposed flaws of their opponents would have nothing to fear. Only those who revel in the Negative Campaign would be at risk from a (mostly justifiably) pissed-off rival.

The more I think about it, the better I like it. What say you?


I’m an eater, not a fighter - which is why I don’t write much about Things Military, choosing instead to bore my Esteemed Readers with photos and tales of the things I cook and devour. But my buddy Laughing Wolf (whom you also may know from his posts at Blackfive) has asked me to tell you about a few worthy organizations that involve both Food and Fightin’ (or, more aptly put, feeding the good folks who fight in service to our country), and so...

Pin-Ups for Vets and Cooking with the Troops Partner for Operation Fight Post Holiday Blues

The post-holiday blues can be bad enough on those who are healthy and fully engaged in their normal activities. Stop for a moment and consider what it might be like for members of the U.S. or Allied forces who find themselves evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is like a firehose of attention, visits, and more. Then, suddenly, it’s gone. They are alone in a hospital in a foreign country, far away from friends, family, and their normal support networks. Despite the dedicated efforts of staff and volunteers, the blues can hit hard.

Recognizing that, Gina Elise of the non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets and Cooking with the Troops have partnered to create Operation Fight Post Holiday Blues. This special event, timed for mid-January to have maximum effect, will combine a special dinner for a planned 150 people cooked by Guest Chef Ellen Adams, with hospital and other visits by Gina to help drive the blues away. To aid this effort, the team is being joined by author Michael Z. Williamson, who will also do visits, autographs, and give away books.

Full details on the event can be found here; all participants are available for interviews. To do this event, Pin-Ups for Vets and Cooking with the Troops are looking to raise $15,000. Donations can be made by mail, or online at http://cwtt.org/donations.html via PayPal. Donors can note on the donation that it is for Operation Fight Post-Holiday Blues. Any funds raised that are not used will be used to support future operations at Pin-Ups for Vets and Cooking with the Troops.

So: unlimber that wallet and help cheer up (and feed) a few of the folks who are laying it all on the line for us!

[N.B. - Cooking with the Troops is a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to supporting U.S. and Allied Troops, their families, and caregivers through special food events, culinary careers, front line support, and homefront support. For more information, please contact Susan Katz Keating, Director of Communications, at skeating [at] cwtt [dot] org or C. Blake Powers, CEO, at ceo [at] cwtt [dot] org.]

Monday, November 1, 2010


By which I mean the several weeks leading up to Election Day.

I am sick, sick unto death, of the incessant parade of campaign advertisements that make television-watching an ordeal, that make opening the mailbox a painful chore. Thank Gawd for the Digital Video Recorder, that marvelous device that allows us to skip past - or pause and ignore - commercial breaks. Without it, I would have yanked out my hair by the roots weeks ago.

It’s bad enough that in Georgia, we have a Goober-Natorial Election that includes a crooked sleazebag Republican and a lying sack of shit Democrat. The Libertarian candidate, alas, is all but invisible... but at least he has the advantage of not having conducted the kind of relentlessly negative campaign the other two have.

I’d be perfectly happy putting both of these assholes in a padded cell with baseball bats. The one still able to walk in half an hour wins the election. But having to watch their hateful, truth-deficient bullshit every two minutes - their shouts of “Vote for me - or at least, don’t vote for my stinking, miserable excuse for an opponent!” - is enough to send me right around the bend.

Not even my Colander-Hat can keep those messages away.

The sad thing is, Georgia’s stupid-ass election system requires a runoff election in case no candidate ends up with a majority. In a closely contested race involving three or more contenders, it virtually ensures that there will be a second voting session a few more weeks down the road, with all the attendant cost to the taxpayer... and all that additional time for us to soak up yet more campaign ads.

I know that negative ads are successful. That’s why they’ve become so popular in recent years. But I reserve the right to invoke Elisson’s Rule of Campaign Civility: If you run so much as one negative campaign ad, I reserve the right to not vote for you. It thins the field down somewhat, but there’s the Write-In option, isn’t there? And what’s the worst Miss Manners (my Candidate of Choice in these uncivil times) can say if she manages to get elected?