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

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I found a new love, a natural true love
That comes from a little green leaf.
Easy is as easy does -
It gives me such a lovely buzz,
And help me forget all my grief.
Cannabis sativa, I had no idee-va,
I want to smoke you by the sheaf.

When was the last time you got excited about a little green leaf? Too bad stevia ain’t it.

Those Truvia ads that appear on the Food Network every thirty-seven seconds manage to strike the perfect balance between catchy and intensely annoying. The cutesy jingle has a sort of new-wave alt-rock tune that sticks in the head like a mouthful of bad peanut butter clings to the palate... but what bugs me the most is that I loathe Truvia.

Finally... an artificial sweetener that manages to make me want to avoid anything sweet. Hey, if I wanted a vile aftertaste, I’d chew on a satchel of saccharin. This stuff is far nastier.

I love the way Truvia and other stevia extracts have captured the hearts and minds of the granola eaters. “It’s natural!” they say. “It‘s made from a plant!” Yep: It’s a natural artificial sweetener. Oxymoron much?

Well, shit is natural, too. For that matter, so is tobacco... and tobacco is far less processed than the stevia plant is in the course of grinding out Truvia. An oil refinery does less work on a barrel of crude than Cargill does to that little green leaf.

Feh, says I.

Friday, July 29, 2011


My blog-buddy Sissy Willis uses her camera lens to find beauty in unexpected places. But sometimes all you need is a pair of ears. Here, for your delectation, is a true story that took place sometime in the 1970’s, related to me and Barry this afternoon by our friend Chris:

A young, upwardly mobile professional goes to the token booth in the New York subway, with the intention of purchasing a subway token. He hands the man in the booth a pile of loose change.

The man in the booth is pissed off at having to count this pile of coins, and the yuppie hears him muttering under his breath: “Gawd-damned chickenshit change...”

Whereupon the yuppie becomes a bit irate, stating, “What’s your problem, man? It’s exact change. You don’t even need to count it.”

The token vendor shoots back: “Man, I was soliloquizing. I can’t help it if you’ve got ears!”


Between the Balusters

Hakuna’s head, en repose, is framed by the balusters of our staircase.

Is there a form so perfect as that of a cat?


Mark Kurlansky, in his book Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, credits that ocean-dweller with all manner of impact on human commerce and history.

Cod, once salted down and dried, provides a relatively spoilage-resistant and nutritious source of protein... a tall order in the days before refrigeration. Thus it was that some five hundred years ago, when Europeans discovered the cod-packed fisheries of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, salt cod became a key export of the North American colonies. It was shipped to the British colonies of the Caribbean, there to feed the slaves that toiled in the sugar cane fields. Those colonies, in turn, would export rum and molasses... and the colonies would use their trade surpluses to purchase manufactured goods from Jolly Olde.

But salt cod was not only nutritious - it tasted good. Once subjected to a lengthy soaking to remove the salt, it could be used as the base for any number of dishes. The Portuguese had their bacalhau, the Spanish their bacalao, the Italians their baccalà... and they loved it in all manner of preparations.

A few months ago I had put up a batch of marinated roasted red and yellow peppers. Along with the recipe for the peppers, I had in hand Eugenia Bone’s instructions for preparing a fish-based salad that used those peppers to accent the flavor of salt cod. Here’s my quick ’n’ dirty adaptation:

Baccalà and Marinated Roasted Pepper Salad

Salt Cod Salad

[I made this with marinated peppers I canned myself. You may, if you wish, substitute a commercial product.]

Soak one pound of salt cod plus three cloves of smashed garlic for two days in cold water, changing the water twice a day. (Keep the fish refrigerated while you do this!) Drain the fish and garlic and place in a pan; cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Dump the fish into a colander to drain; let cool for twenty minutes and then use forks to pull it into small chunks. (Yes, sometimes I use colanders for their original intended purpose.)

Take a good-size handful of well-scrubbed fingerling potatoes and drop them into a pan of boiling salted water. Boil for ten minutes; then drain. Slice the potatoes into discs.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced potatoes and fish chunks. Take a half-pint of marinated roasted peppers and drain off the liquid; reserve. Using scissors, snip the peppers into pieces and add to the mixture in the bowl. Add enough of the reserved pepper marinade to moisten - you don’t want it too sloppy or oily. Throw in a handful of freshly chopped Italian parsley, toss well, and voilà! You have a delicious Fishy Salad that partakes of the Noble History of the Cod, the fish that changed the world.


After the Great Protein Shortage of 2029, the genetic engineers started getting creative.

People needed protein, and the existing sources weren’t getting the job done. Beef cattle were practically extinct after the BSE epidemics in the late teens. Fish were laden with heavy metals, poultry with pesticides. Legumes were fine - except for their unfortunate vaporous side effects.

But then a brilliant Belgian geneticist had a breakthrough. An excellent protein source: animals that lived in a farmable colony. Roughly three apples high, they made a perfect portion. And in time, people got used to the color.

Smurf and Turf, anyone?

[Originally published in January 2007 at Blog d’Elisson. I thought this story was especially apropos in view of today’s release of The Smurfs, Hollywood’s big-budget live-action fillum featuring the little blue buggers.]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Whole Foods - Opening Day Mob
An eager horde awaits the opening of the new Whole Foods Market.

This morning we joined a horde of people for an eagerly anticipated local event: the opening of a new Whole Paycheck Foods Market here in east Cobb County.

You’d think we were at a Beatles reunion concert, given the size of the excited mob that queued up for a chance to be among the first to check out the spotless aisles crammed with wholesome organic foodstuffs. (The fact that the store was also giving away a free breakfast might have provided additional incentive for showing up.)

The parking lot was already bulging at the seams an hour before opening, when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I treated the Minyan Boyz to breakfast at the local Caribou Coffee shop. This was in accordance with our long-standing tradition: a person observing a yahrzeit (the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, as reckoned by the Hebrew calendar) buys breakfast for those who have, by their presence, helped ensure the quorum necessary for the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish. Today it was SWMBO’s turn, it being her sister’s thirty-sixth yahrzeit.

Fearing a massive jam in the Whole Foods lot, SWMBO wisely selected a parking slot halfway between there and Moose-Café. And after a leisurely morning repast, we hoofed it over to where the crowd, already sizable, was milling about and standing in line for their free plateload of fruit and bakery items. We bypassed the Food Queue and headed straight for the mosh pit that had gathered at the front door, where bands and cheerleaders from the local high schools were doing their best to keep everyone entertained.

As the nine o’clock opening hour approached, an assortment of Whole Foods honchos and local officials took turns speechifying... and then the Great Moment arrived, whereupon a ceremonial loaf of bread was cracked open. The doors were flung wide and the crowd surged in.

Whole Foods Olive Bar
A brightly colored assortment of cage-free olives.

Like many of the newer Whole Foods stores, this one is huge; being brand-new, it is also immaculate. The products offered therein include a cornucopia of exotic grains, organic vegetables and meats, locally sourced produce, and numerous sustainably produced items. For me, it’s a chance to cut the fourteen-mile roundtrip to Harry’s Farmers Market (the nearest Whole Foods affiliate) down to two miles, making it easier to score my German pumpernickel, beet roots, bison roasts, grain-fed hummingbird tongues, beef hanger steaks, free-range paper towels, and obscure seasonings. It won’t replace my regular expeditions to Publix or Trader Joe’s, but the folks at Fresh Market should be scared to death: Whole Foods is taking dead aim at the core of their target market.

Not only that, Whole Foods operates a slew of foundations whose missions include eradicating third-world poverty, reducing obesity among American children, and curing colon cancer. (OK, I made that last one up.) I may joke about some of the seemingly excessive earnestness of this outfit, but they do seem to take seriously the idea of improving the world we live in, and for that they should be commended.

Fancy-Pants Vosges Chocolates
Fancy-pants Vosges chocolate bars.

I was almost sorry to happen upon an impressive display of Vosges chocolate bars. Choccie lovers who crave the exotic get Food-Stiffies for these tasty - and costly - treats. Bacon, sea salt, goji berries, pink peppercorns, cardamom... if you can think of any random weird shit to put in your chocolate, the good folks at Vosges have probably beaten you to it.

Cheese Aisle
Didja think I’d forget the Cheese Aisle?

I’d be remiss if I did not mention the cheese aisle, stocked with a fresh assortment of hormone-free grass-fed fromage. A slab of five-year-old Gouda, with its characteristic butterscotch-caramel undertones and the crunch of tyrosine crystals, and a wheel of soft, buttery Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill, and we were good to go.

Alas, not the place to find duck foie gras or whale bacon. Or Wonder Bread, for that matter. But that’s why God invented Piggly Wiggly. And Japan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Maybe Larry the Cable Guy ought to be running things. He’s got the right idea, anyway: Git ’er done.

Here’s my message to our country’s leaders, and it’s a simple one.

We have a potential economic crisis barreling down the road at us and there’s not a lot of time for your grandstanding, blame-casting, and narrative-spinning. Man up, sit down together and work out a deal. Now.

If you fail to do so, thus allowing this country to default on its obligations, you should be fired, each and every one of you, and replaced by people who can work with each other for the good of this country. That means you, Mr. President, and you, Mr. Boehner... and every single one of the rest of you in Congress. I don’t give Shit One whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. It took both parties to create this mess; it will take both, working together, to dig us out.

“Throw out the incumbents!” should be our rallying cry if the Debt-Shit hits the fan.

If you can’t work together, go home - and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Monday, July 25, 2011


“Dude, planking is so June 2011. Owling is where it’s at.” - Zonker

Fountain Plank
Elisson planks the fountain at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.

Anytime you think you may have captured a whiff of the Narrischkeit-Zeitgeist of the moment - that spirit of foolishness that seems to animate and infect us all at any given time - it proves to be as elusive as the will-o’-the-wisp. We make a grab for the Snark; it inevitably turns out to be just another Boojum.

I wear a colander on my head and post silly pictures of myself on the Internet. An Austrian dude takes it one step farther down Silliness Road and makes international headlines by having his driver’s license photograph taken with the selfsame apparatus atop his noggin... and the Narrischkeit-Zeitgeist moves on.

When I first put up a photo on Facebook illustrating my nascent Mad Planking Skillz, one of my ffriends commented thusly: “Now can you demonstrate ‘owling’ for us eager disciples?” Then, when I put the same picture up here, Zonker chimed in with the quote at the top of this post. That told me right away that planking had ceded its position as Dopey Activity of the Day to something equally (or more) ridiculous.

Conventional Plank
Yes, it’s ridiculous... but not ridiculous enough for some people.

I am nothing if not accommodating, and so here I am, owling. I do confess, it has a certain loony charm:


But owling is likely already passé, outmoded and driven into obsolescence between the time I first heard of it and the date of this post. It’s so mid-July 2011! Feh!

It’s time for something that is even nuttier, while at the same time meeting all of the fundamental criteria of planking:
  1. You have to be a little bit crazy to do it;
  2. It poses somewhat of a physical challenge, especially if attempted in difficult places;
  3. If you do it in a really ill-chosen place - like on a hotel balcony - you can kill yourself;
  4. It is amenable to viral, meme-like transmission via social media.
Enter Storking!

Storking - the next great Facebook phenomenon! (Remember, you saw it here first.)

Next step, of course, will be to attempt the above stunts whilst wearing a pasta strainer. It’s the Elisson way!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


To learn to spell an arcane word
Like “syzygy” or “tuchus,”
Go get thee to a library
And read a lot of buchus.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Leave it to the Ozzies to create a new kind of viral Internet foolishness. Planking!

Planking is the practice - some might call it an art - of lying with wooden rigidity in a prone position in random odd places, then posting photographs of same on the Internet. A representative sampling may be found here. (Some of these have gotta be Photoshopped... seriously!)

As befits anything with even a peripheral connection to the Internet, the planking phenomenon has spread well beyond the borders of Australia. Hell, even bloggers I know are doing it. Good Gawd!

And thus, it was only a matter of time before Yours Truly got involved... for there is no Dopey Activity I’m completely unwilling to consider.

Presented for your consideration, two Planks à la mode d’Elisson, shot at Huntington Beach last week. The first one is pretty straightforward:

Plank One

The second one, however, is a bit more tricky...

Plank Two

Stupid? Of course it is... and careless planking has thus far resulted in at least one death, that of a man who attempted planking on the balcony of a high-rise. It just goes to show the lengths to which some people will go for their narrischkeit art. Or perhaps just how fucking stupid some people can be. Remember: plank with your head, not over it!

Have you planked today?


Several of my Esteemed Readers have been kind enough to bring a certain recent news-related matter to my attention.

An enterprising Austrian individual has apparently won the right to be pictured on his Führerschein (driver’s license) wearing a Nudelsieb (pasta strainer). The rationale the Austrian licensing authorities used was that the aforementioned Nudelsieb was a form of religious headgear, of a sort consistent with the beliefs of Pastafarians - adherents of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

This is, of course, bullshit. A religious Pastafarian would insist upon taking his driver’s license examination in Pirate-Speech. No: this is a case of someone wisely deciding to Make It Go Away Fast... “it” in this case being “the whackjob who wants to wear a colander on his driver’s license.”

As evidence, I can only note that the Austrian authorities, while allowing Herr Niko Alm to be pictured with Perforated Headgear on his license (as long as his face was fully visible), first insisted that he be checked out by a doctor to determine his psychological fitness to drive. That’d actually be a good criterion to apply to all drivers.

As far as I’m concerned, Herr Alm is a Johann-come-lately to this Colander-Hat business. I’ve been at it for years, and I need no Flying Spaghetti Monster to provide spiritual inspiration - or justification. I’m Colander Borg-Man!


“In the country of the deaf, the one-eyed man is dogcatcher.” - Elisson

Monday, July 11, 2011


One of the things I was hoping to do while in Southern California this week was to drop in on South, a popular Santa Monica eatery owned by Adam, a family friend.

That plan was starting to look sketchy, what with rumors that a ten-mile stretch of the 405 - the major north-south coastal route between L.A. and its southern ’burbs - was going to be shut down for over two days for construction. That two days coincided with the narrow window of time during which I might have effected an escape from my convention-related activities in Orange County. Oy!

So here it is earlier this evening, and we’re hanging with our friends Laura Belle and Don, talking about this and that, when the NBC nightly news puts up a report about the impending freeway closure and the anticipated Traffic Clusterfuck expected to result therefrom. Carmageddon, they’re calling it, with what I hope is typical hyperbole.

“Great,” I say. “It doesn’t look like I’m going to be seeing Adam this trip.”

No sooner have these words left my lips than who should appear on the TV screen but... Adam! I recognized his face before my brain could even decode the caption at the bottom of the screen, a caption that confirmed that I wasn’t imagining things.

Adam, it seems, is using the impending traffic mess as an excuse to create a few new cocktails. Without any way to get anyplace via the freeway, patrons will presumably spend many happy hours drinking themselves into oblivion with custom-blended tipples such as the Gridlock and the Road Rager. Turning lemons into lemonade, I calls it.

I guess I’ll just park my ass in Orange County. Costa Mesa is supposed to be nice this time of year...


We’re back from our Beach Week at Hilton Head, rested and refreshed.

What did we do? All kinds of fun Beach Resorty stuff. We drank summery cocktails. Went on long bike rides. Enjoyed the sun and surf. Scarfed tasty restaurant meals. Took a dinner cruise. Relaxed with a bracing rubdown followed by a soothing schvitz. Celebrated Independence Day by grilling some steaks, then watching the sun set over Calibogue Sound... and fireworks.

Hilton Head is very different from our more familiar Florida Gulf Coast vacation surroundings, and the vacation experience there has a correspondingly different vibe. The Head - especially the Sea Pines resort on the southern end of the island - is, compared to brash, noisy, crowded Destin, a lot more restrained. Raffiné, even. It’s the Masters Tournament patrons at Augusta National versus Destin’s ballgame crowd. Veronica versus Betty.

I love ’em both... for different reasons.

Destin gets the nod when it comes to the beach. You can’t beat the crystalline white sands and the warm blue-green water of the Florida Gulf Coast... and I say this as someone who grew up with the great Atlantic Ocean beaches of the Eastern seaboard.

The Head has foliage. Lots and lots of trees and greenery. And, at Sea Pines, at least, architectural conformity. It’s easy on the eyes: no billboards or ugly commercial sprawl.

A platter of Low Country goodies.
Restaurants? It’s a rough sort of tie. Both places have plenty of places to eat, ranging from rough-as-a-cob to fine dining. The Head’s eateries are a bit pricier... but then again, there’s an authentic local Low Country cuisine there. At Destin, shrimp in a basket is what passes for authentic. (Not that the Head lacks tourist traps. Count the Salty Dog Café T-shirts you see if you have any doubt.)

Golf is available in both places. I haven’t played the pricey layouts on Hilton Head, but there are enough of ’em... and a few are world-class. Destin’s courses are less expensive, on the average, but I’m usually too sweaty to enjoy playing in June or July.

Sea Pines Country Club HDR
The third hole of Sea Pines Country Club, as seen from our back yard.

If you want to ride a bicycle, though, the Head wins hands-down. The entire island is criss-crossed and honeycombed with bike trails, and there are plenty of riders using them. The trails are well laid-out and shady, with enough curves and variety to keep things interesting. And the whole place is flat as the proverbial board, so gear-shiftage is mostly superfluous.

Sea Pines Bike Path
View from one of the many bike trails in Sea Pines. (Pay no attention to the alligator in that pond!)

A beach vacation is going to be good no matter where you take it - it’s always a welcome break from routine - and we’ve enjoyed many happy years of Destin Holidays. But based on our week in Hilton Head, we’ll be back.

Daufuskie Sunset HDR
The sun sets over Daufuskie Island just west of the Head.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying a brief interlude between trips... because I sally forth at the Butt Crack of Dawn for my next adventure, this time in Southern California!

Cruising with SWMBO and Elisson


Little Miss Muffet
Couldn’t get to her tuffet,
The place where she wanted to sit
To eat cottage cheese
(As much as she pleased):
It was blocked by a pile of shit.

It was said of Miss Muffet,
“Alas for her tuffet,
A crime for which someone must pay!
It just isn’t fair
That she couldn’t get there
’Cause of meeting her turds in the way!”

Friday, July 1, 2011


Hilton Head

Bathing suits? Check.
Shorts and T-shirts? Check.
Bikes and bikey paraphernalia? Check.
Sunblock? Check.
Panama hat? Check.
Booze? Check.
Business suit? Naw.
Everyday concerns? Hell, naw!

Most every year in June or July, we head to the beach.

Since moving back to Atlanta in the late 1990’s, that beach has been Destin, on Florida’s gulf coast. With their crystalline, sugary white sands and beautiful blue-green water, the beaches in and around Destin have made for many wonderful vacations...

...and yet, a couple of years ago, we decided to take a break. We had been to the Emerald Coast (AKA the Redneck Riviera) many times, and, along with our friends, had developed a whole laundry list of Vacationey Traditions: places to eat, things to do, all of which were on the Must List every year. Unfortunately, that’s a good way to get in a rut. Go to the same destination, do the same things - hell, you might as well own a time share!

So it was that we did not go to the Gulf last year. No beach vacation at all. It turned out to have been a serendipitous decision given the BP oil disaster, although that did not seem to have affected our usual haunts. It might even have cut down on the crowds and traffic a tad.

This year, in the interest of Rut-Avoidance, we’ll head in a different direction. Instead of south-southwest, we’ll be going east-southeast - to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

In lieu of golf clubs, we’ll schlep our bikes... an activity for which Hilton Head is well-equipped, and one which we can enjoy with the Missuses.

And did I mention Adult Beverages? I’m quite sure I did.

Blogging will be light to nonexistent for the next week. But you don’t give a shit about that, do you? You’re on Facebook, playing Farmville, checking out your notifications, and clicking on those spam links. Have fun! I’m pretty sure we will, too.