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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I’m looking forward to this evening’s Guild event not only because of the wines - New Zealand will be the focus of the evening - but because I’ve managed to miss the last two occasions. Sometimes the calendar can be a cruel mistress, alas.

We’ll be assembling at 10 Degrees South, conveniently located on Roswell Road in the general vicinity of Chastain Park.  It’s a South African place, which will leave us none the (boere) wors for wear.  (groannn.)  The food ought to be tasty enough, although I would love to see a plate of chicken livers in peri-peri sauce or maybe some biltong.  As for the carte des vins, there’s not a Cupcake to be found.  Here’s the menu:

Speaker’s Wine:
NV Lindauer Brut “Special Select”

First Flight:
2011 Tora Bay Sauvignon Blanc**
2011 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc**
2011 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc

Calamari: grilled and tossed in lemon caper butter sauce

Second Flight:
2008 Te Kairanga Pinot Noir
2008 Nautilus Pinot Noir
2008 Villa Maria “Cellar Selection” Pinot Noir

Boerewors: Home made sliced lean beef sausage served with a side of tomato and onion sauce

Third Flight:
2009 Jules Taylor Pinot Noir**
2010 Spy Valley Pinot Noir
2010 Craggy Range TeKahu Gimblett Gravels Red Blend**

Lollipop Lamb Chops: Two marinated New Zealand lamb chops served over mashed potatoes

2010 The Ned “The Noble” Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc**

Di’s Delight: Warm, moist fruit sponge cake served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

I would love nothing more than for Denny to show up, but I suspect that Houston Steve and I will just have to soldier on without him.  We will raise our glasses - absentibus amicis!

Update:  No Houston Steve... but the Missus has graciously agreed to join me! A rare treat!

Update, Too: No especially memorable wines this time, although the ones we had were very well suited to the food. The sole exception was the dessert wine Pat (the Guild’s immediate past president) had brought by way of lagniappe, a geographically appropriate (for the restaurant, not so much the New Zealand theme) 1978 Nederburg Edelkeur late harvest botrytis chenin blanc.  Dark, caramelly, and complex.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Today was not only Memorial Day here in the United States, it was also the second day of Shavuot, AKA Pentecost, AKA the Feast of the First-Fruits, the Rodney Dangerfield of Jewish holidays.  This meant that it was one of the four days a year when our religious services include the special Yizkor memorial service.

We Jews are very good at remembering the dead.  Perhaps it’s because so many of us are.

Our rabbi made an interesting observation during one of his sermons. Both Israel and the United States observe Memorial Days on which people honor the memory of those who lost their lives in service to their respective countries.  But there are a few crucial differences.

In the United States, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.  Southerners break out their seersucker suits; Northerners their white shoes.  It’s a day of solemn remembrance, of ceremonies at military cemetaries... but mostly it’s a day of backyard cookouts, picnics, watching the Indy 500, and of sales of every description.  Wanna buy a mattress?  Memorial Day’s a great time to do it.  Everyone who isn’t home grilling a few hot dogs and burgers in their backyard is stampeding to the mall.

In Israel, Memorial Day - Yom ha-Zikaron - is the solemn day that immediately precedes the festivities of Independence Day.  Shops and other businesses are closed.  Twice a day, sirens sound and the nation comes to a standstill... literally.  It’s a day of introspection, a day to think upon those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that the nation’s very existence - to be celebrated the very next day! - could be realized and preserved.

We Red Sea Pedestrians may overdo the solemn stuff at times.  Our New Year, rather than a time of drunken revelry, is similarly a time of introspection. (We save our drunken revelry for Simchat Torah and Purim.)  Maybe that’s why we don’t spend much time proselytizing.  What’s the point of trying to recruit converts when your sales pitch includes Not Getting Drunk on New Year’s Eve, Circumcision (ouch!), and Bacon-Avoidance?

But I do believe our priorities are exactly right when it comes to Memorial Day.  The mall can wait... but our honored ones have waited long enough.  Remember them.


I enjoy a good mug of suds every so often, but my love of beer pale-ales in comparison to this young man’s.

The son of friends of long standing, Chris is freshly returned from two years of teaching English in Japan   His current mission is to travel the length and breadth of our great nation, visiting Beer Gardens every step of the way, in order to absorb atmosphere, information, and (not incidentally) brewskis a-plenty.  The eventual goal is to open his own Beer Garden.

This is precisely the sort of thing I should have done when I was young and (relatively) unencumbered.  But, alas, I did not, an omission for which my waistline and liver both thank me.

Go pay the young man’s site a visit... and, better yet, travel along with him and enjoy his Beery Adventures vicariously.  And be sure to tell him Elisson sent ya!


Eli and Elisson, 1955
Eli (then a strapping thirty-year-old) and Elisson, 1955.

Happy eighty-seventh birthday, Pop!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


May is a big month for anniversaries around here.

Not that it has any especial relevance to our daily lives, but Kevin Kim reminded me that two days ago - May 25 - marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the release of Star Wars.  (These days, they call it Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope, but that’s bullshit.)  When She Who Must Be Obeyed and I first saw it thirty-five years ago, it was within a few weeks of its release... and, coincidentally, within a few weeks of when she would become the Missus. (That’s an anniversary for a separate post.)

Back then, there was nothing quite like Star Wars, an action-packed Space Opera that both paid homage to and simultaneously reinvented the familiar tropes from the old Flash Gordon movies and their like.  It was as though those late 1930’s serials had been imagined anew in full color and with the newest special effects... and there was a scenery-chewing Compleat Villain for the Ages in Darth Vader.  In 1977, George Lucas had not yet thought to bury a Good Guy somewhere in Vader’s ascending colon, which - to me, at least - made him far more interesting.  Sympathy-grabbing backstories belong in Marvel Comics.

Thirty-five years, Esteemed Readers.  Think on it.  Thirty-five years before Star Wars came out it was 1942, when the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials were just a few years old... and yet, unlike those Moldy Oldies in 1977, Star Wars remains relatively fresh today despite its (now superannuated) special effects.

More anniversarial fun: Today, May 27, is my parents’ sixty-second wedding anniversary.  Alas that Mom is not around to enjoy it, having made her one-way trip to the World to Come twenty-four years ago.  I still enjoy looking at the video of their wedding every so often (captured with a now-obsolete technology called “8mm movies” that, in turn, utilized a medium called “photographic film”) and marveling at the sight of my Daddy-to-be, Eli hizzownself, in top hat and tails.  The wedding gown my mother wore that day is embalmed in a nitrogen-filled box in our basement, to be cracked open if and when one of our daughters has the occasion (and desire) to use it.

The food was pretty impressive, too.  Fountains squirting wine... rotating displays of hors d’oeuvres and canapés... unbelievable.  And the jazzy band with the smoking-hot Latin singer, too.  It was a big production, that wedding.

Alas, when I look at that video now, I feel like Bruce Gold, the protagonist of Joseph Heller’s Good as Gold, watching old movies on late-night TV and pointing out all the actors who have since died.  “That one’s toyt!”  “Look at him - geshtorben!

Eli, though - Eli is still with us, a fact for which we are grateful.  And tomorrow is yet another anniversary: his eighty-seventh birthday. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Classic Martinez
The Classic Martinez, a real old-school cocktail.

Once in a while I like to try something new in the Drinky Department.

Go to a bar or restaurant these days and what do you see?  Fifty thousand variously flavored Margaritas, or a mess of soi-disant Martinis that, aside from being served in a cocktail glass, bear little or no resemblance to a real Martini Cocktail.  Feh, sez I.

I like cocktails with character.  A well-made gin Martini or Gibson is a good starting point.  A Provençal, with its notes of lavender and herbes de Provence. Or something with a more unconventional flavor profile - a Negroni, f’rinstance.

Even the perfect Rob Roy - a favorite of the Momma d’Elisson - has way more character than what passes for a drink these days in most places.

When I found a recipe for the Classic Martinez,  I knew I would have to give it a try.  Despite the similar-sounding name, it really has little in common with today’s Martini aside from the use of gin and vermouth as ingredients.  It’s slightly sweet, but not overly so... and it packs a wallop, both flavor- and alcohol-wise, one befitting an Old-School Classic. Here’s my (slighly modified) version:

Take a short 2 ounces of Hendrick’s gin, 2 ounces of Dolin sweet (red) vermouth, and a quarter-ounce of Luxardo maraschino liqueur. Add to a cocktail shaker with a few large cubes of ice and a dash or two of Fee Brothers orange bitters.  Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Now, drink.  S l o w l y.  Tasty, huh?

If you still prefer your pineapple-prune Margarita Slushy,  that’s OK.  De gustibus non est disputandum, as they say.  And it’s not your fault that all of your taste is in your tuchus.


Apricot and Chocolate Sorbets
Apricot sorbet with maraschino; bittersweet chocolate sorbet with Cointreau.

Yesterday evening, a group of us repaired to Chez Elisson for a spot of after-dinner Desserty Goodness.  I had cranked out a couple of batches of sorbet over the past several days and I wanted to see whether they passed muster... and besides, I like the coffee at my house way better than the stuff most local restaurants serve.  And so coffee and sorbet it was.

“Sorbet,” of course, is a fancy-pants Frenchified way of saying “sherbet.”  It also implies that there is no dairy at all in the frozen concoction: sherbet contains a small amount, usually enough to bring the butterfat content up to 1-2%.

I make frozen desserts every so often, but most of my efforts to date have been in the ice cream vein.  My buddy Gary, however, has shown himself to be a champion sorbet maker over the past few months, and it is from him that I have developed an appreciation for the intense flavors possible in a frozen dessert absent the muting effects of dairy.  His pear sorbet is a knockout and his raspberry is incomparable... but in my not-so-humble opinion, neither of ’em hold a candle to his chocolate sorbet.  Bittersweet, powerfully chocolatey, powerfully addictive, it is a confection best appreciated by the adult palate.  Flavor-wise, it beats your typical chocolate ice cream like a red-headed stepchild.

After having tasted Gary’s version, making my own chocolate sorbet was potentially a fool’s errand.  But I was curious to see what adding a touch of Cointreau, with its bitter orange flavor notes, would do to it.  As it happens, it creates a tasty alternative.  Which one’s better?  Flip a coin, willya?

I also had bought a metric assload of apricots at Costco last week, Gawd only knows why.  The problem with apricots, of course, is that their window of perfect ripeness is extremely narrow: One day they’re hard as little orange golf balls, the next they’re vile mush.  The trick is to catch them during that six-hour period when they are at the peak of ripeness - but eating two pounds of apricots in six hours is a bit much, even for a veteran trencherman like me.

And so, apricot sorbet to the rescue.  You cook the suckers down, and suddenly all that wonderful apricot flavor and aroma is released.  Cracking a few of the pits and throwing in the kernels adds an amaretto-like note, and a teaspoon of lemon juice brightens and intensifies the flavor.  A tablespoon of Luxardo maraschino liqueur and a dash of kirschwasser round out the picture.

Both the bittersweet chocolate and the apricot sorbets came out fine.  No, better than fine: excellent.  Even Gary liked ’em... and that’s a high compliment, seeing as how he is the Sorbet Master.

Lately, my taste buds don’t scream for ice cream; they’re jonesing for sorbet.  Hell, I may just give up on ice cream entirely.  (Naaaah.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Hakuna Bokeh
Hakuna, a perfect storm of Coffee, Cream, and Kitty.

Once upon a time, it was practically obligatory for bloggers to post photographs of cats on Friday. Now that blogging has become a Moribund Platform, seemingly eclipsed by Facebook and Twitter, Friday catblogging inches ever closer to extinction.

But Hakuna, she does not give a crap about any of that. She’s still here, occupying her own plane of existence far above the petty concerns of the Bifurcated Gods.

Aloof.  Beautiful.  Coffee, cream, chocolate... and Cat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Smoked Salmon with Shichimi Togarashi
Smoked Salmon with Shichimi Togarashi.

Sometimes when I’m in the mood for a quick snack, I will warm up a slice of whole-grain pumpernickel bread - not the Jewish deli stuff, but the German version that comes in thin slices with the density of white dwarf star matter.  What She Who Must Be Obeyed calls “nastybread.”

Then I’ll decorate it with a few carefully positioned slices of smoked salmon.

Next step is to use a honking big chef’s knife to hack up the resulting open-face sandwich into sixteen equal-sized morsels and to place said morsels on my plate.

The finishing touch?  Any number of Japanese condiments.  Today I settled upon a liberal sprinkling of shichimi togarashi, a delectable combination of red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger, and kelp.  Yes, kelp.

Weird?  Maybe.  Yummy?  Absolutely.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The Moshe Ribeinu team
The award-winning Moshe Ribeinu kosher BBQ team. From L to R: Elisson, Bartimus Magnificus, Job Johnny. 

For the third year in a row, I joined a small army of my Men’s Club buddies to compete in the “When Pigs Fly” Kosher BBQ Cook-Off in Birmingham.

“When Pigs Fly” is a clever enough title for the event, that being approximately when pigs will be considered kosher.  It’s also a sly hat-tip to the event’s sponsor, Piggly Wiggly, the well-known Southern supermarket chain.

You can’t expect to make decent barbecue without a supply of well-soaked hickory chunks.

I’ve written about this event before, so there’s no need to go into overmuch detail.  Suffice it to say that we were disappointed to have returned empty-handed, having managed to avoid winning, placing, or showing in a single category.  No new swag for the trophy case this year, alas.

And yet, from the standpoint of Quality of Food, I would have to say that this year we produced the best barbecue we’ve ever made at this event.  Yes, I know I’m not a disinterested party, but I know what good is... and our stuff was good.  No: It was superb.

Our beans had great flavor, with a touch of Tennessee whiskey and a hint of habañero to provide a pleasant, punchy piquancy.  The ribs had the right balance of smoke and spice.  And the brisket... ohhhh, the brisket.  A monster eleven-pounder, it came out of the smoker jacketed with a gorgeous layer of smoke and bark.  It was amazingly moist and tender, yet not overcooked and falling apart.  If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

BBQ Beans
The beans were kicked up with a judicious dose of Jack Daniels, garlic, onion, and both jalapeño and habañero peppers.

 BBQ Brisket
The bark is part of the bite: A gorgeous beef brisket. Too bad you can’t smell it over the Internet.

My teammates - Job Johnny and the inimitable Bartimus Magnificus - will back me up.  My thanks to both of them for helping make this a memorable weekend... even without the trophical trinkets.

Moshe Ribeinu
(What we look like when Bartimus is not standing on tiptoes and Johnny and I aren’t crouching.)

Friday, May 18, 2012


Mammatus Clouds over Marietta
Unusual mammatus clouds in the eastern sky over Marietta, Georgia, a harbinger of nasty weather. 

Last night as our Thursday evening Minyan Gang was polishing off the remains of our supper at the local diner, we noticed an ominous darkness gathering toward the east... an inky greyish-black sky that could not be explained solely by the fact that the sun was setting.

A quick check of the Weather Channel radar maps (ain’t smartphones smart?) established that Nasty Business was indeed brewing.  Unlike most springtime nastiness, however, the storms that were building were coming in from the east rather that the west.  Bizarre.

We stepped outside and were greeted by a rare sight: mammatus clouds.

Also known as mammatocumulus clouds, these clouds get their name from their resemblance to udders or breasts... which is why I refer to them as Sky-Tits on those uncommon occasions when I see them.  They are sometimes associated with very severe thunderstorms, so I was more than just a little nervous as we piled into the car to head home.

Surprisingly, we encountered no bad weather of any kind as we worked our way eastward.  A few drops of rain was the most we had to deal with, although the distant eastern sky was lit intermittently by huge crackling flashes of lightning.  But as we approached our neighborhood, we saw evidence that the drama we had seen in the sky had been matched by drama on the ground.

The area was completely covered in leafy detritus, the sort of thing you would see in the aftermath of a hailstorm.  But the sheer amount of shredded leaves was astonishing; we had never seen anything remotely like it.  Later we found that a violent hailstorm had passed through, with hailstones up to one inch (!) in diameter piling up on the ground in sufficient quantity to mimic a snowstorm.  But by the time we got there it had all melted, leaving only shredded shrubbery as evidence.

Hailstorm Aftermath
The driveway at Chez Elisson, carpeted in shredded shrubbery after the storm.

I’ve seen hail like that only once, at Stapleton Airport in Denver back in March of 1992.  It fell thick and fast, enough to pile up in drifts.  And then, in the warm spring air, it melted away in minutes as though it had never been there.  This storm must have been like that.

In fact, it was exactly like that - as evidenced by this photograph taken by one Dean Sever, who lives just over the county line from us in Roswell, a distance of about two or three miles:

Hailstorm of 17 May 2012 - Dean Sever

It would have made for an extra bit of excitement had we been there to see it.  But it’s just as well we missed it.  Who the hell needs a car with a pebble finish?


Actually, you could say it’s cake and art.

Yesterday, I had occasion to take lunch at Alon’s Bakery and Market in Dunwoody.  It’s been around for twenty years now, currently with locations in both Virginia-Highland (near the Mistress of Sarcasm’s old haunts) and in Dunwoody (in the space once occupied by Eatzi’s).  But somehow, despite my love for Things Foodie, I had never managed to make time to set foot in the place.

Oh. My. Gawd.

There’s a whole section with various prepared foods: salads, meats, vegetable dishes, you name it.  There’s a deli counter where you can get a sandwich made to order.  There’s a huge array of exotic gourmet comestibles, most of them with ridiculous price tags.

But then there are the cakes and pastries.  Feast your eyes:

Alon 3
Alon 2
Alon 4
An amazing mouth-watering array of jewel-like cakes and other Miscellaneous Goodies.

In my experience, when cakes look this good, they generally disappoint when it comes to taste and texture.  But the one little treat I permitted myself - a flourless chocolate soufflé cake - was delightful, with rich chocolate flavor and a dense (but not too dense) consistency.  I would bet that each one of these jewel-like confections tastes every bit as good as it looks.  Damn.

There’s even a honkin’ impressive Cheese Aisle.

Alon 1
Cheeses.  K. Reist, does this look good!

I will definitely be back. There are about ten thousand things at Alon’s I want to get my mouth around... eventually.

Postscriptum: Later the same day, I found myself standing in front of the Display o’ Humongous Cakes at the Marietta Diner.  [In Georgia, as it is in New York and other states in which diners may be found, there is apparently a law on the books that requires such establishments to have a big-ass display case filled with cakes, located as close to the front door as possible.]  The cakes were each the size of two cinderblocks laid end-to-end, and each was decorated in a completely over-the-top manner.  The contrast with what I had earlier seen at Alon’s could not have been sharper: it was New Jersey versus Paris, the average Wal-Mart shopper versus Audrey Hepburn.  Quantity versus quality.

And yet, in the world of cake, there’s a place for both... because even a slab of Humongo-Cake can taste mighty good!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


1955 Franklin Half Reverse
The reverse of the Franklin half dollar displays the image of the Liberty Bell, complete with its iconic inscription. 

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof Lev XXV X
                                                  - Inscription on the Liberty Bell

Traditional Jewish practice requires that the Torah - the Five Books of Moses - be read in public not only on Sabbaths and holidays, but on Mondays and Thursdays as well.  To make this task manageable, the Scripture is broken up into fifty-four portions, one for each week of the year.  (That’d be by the Hebrew calendar, of course).  The Monday-Thursday readings are abbreviated versions of the ones that take place on Saturdays... a sort of teaser.

As we work our way through the Torah week by week, from the front end of Genesis to the back end of Deuteronomy, we will inevitably land on a memorable verse.  This week it was the famous section of Leviticus that instructs the Israelites to proclaim a Jubilee year every fifty years, a year during which debts would be forgiven, land would revert to its original owner, and slaves would be set free.

Part of Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed on the Liberty Bell, as noted above.  Here’s the original:

Uk’ratem d’ror ba-aretz l’khol yoshveiha

Anyone who wonders why Jews traditionally have leaned toward the socially liberal side need not look farther than the Torah, our major Source Code. The Jews are a people that escaped oppression and slavery, a people that is commanded to “...love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18) and warned that “...thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).  Furthermore, the verse above makes it crystal clear that enslavement - for whatever reason - was not to be a permanent status for anyone. Setting free the slaves? A jubilee? That was a pretty radical concept back in the days of the Bible.

Proclaim LIBERTY! Powerful stuff then. Powerful stuff now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Further to this post, here are a few more images from our Japan trip four years ago.  Click on any of ’em to embiggen.

Matcha Confections
A confectioner’s display showing some of the local matcha (fine powdered green tea) goodies.

There is nothing compares with the artful arrangement of the items for sale in Japanese shops.  Combine a general tendency toward fussiness with a food item that has a whole ceremony associated with it, and you have an inkling of what you’ll see in Kyoto when you start looking for matcha-based confectionery.

Hello Kitty, Hakone style.

Hello Kitty is beloved by the Japanese: To say that she is their answer to Mickey Mouse is to damn her with faint praise.  This poster shows the typical style of the Hakone region - the area around Mount Fuji - with intricate patterns, wood grains, and (of course!) Fuji-san in the background. The Japanese hiragana calligraphy on the right side says “Herrou Kittei.”

Licorice?  No, black sesame rice candy.

Westerners, when confronted with a jet-black confection, will immediately think “licorice.”  Wrong-O.  This is black sesame candy, a gelatinous rice-based affair, with a taste vaguely reminiscent of halvah... which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense.  

Poster advertising an upcoming performance at the Kabuki-za, April 2008.

The old Kabuki-za, the 55-year-old theatre in the heart of the Ginza district, was demolished after its last show on April 28, 2010.  Its replacement, still under construction, will open in 2013, but Elder Daughter and I managed to catch a show at the Old Place.  Couldn’t understand a word, but Kabuki, surprisingly, is an art form that transcends language with its timeless stories of love and betrayal. I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

Kabuki, incidentally, is performed by male actors only... a characteristic it shares with the Princeton Triangle shows of the 1960’s and prior.  And that’s about the only characteristic it shares with the Princeton Triangle shows of the 1960’s and prior.


We retirees are legendary for our desire to accumulate our Nest Eggs... but today I discovered a few real Nest Eggs.  Lookee:

Bird Nest

Nice, huh? The eggs are small, about the size of a ten-cent piece... which means you’d need a metric assload of ’em to make a decent omelette. Not that I have any such plans. Perverse I may be, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I don’t eat anything that comes out of my dryer’s vent.

Yes, that’s right. Momma Bird must have been attracted to the exterior dryer vent outlet, which emits a stream of  nice, warm, moist air at irregular intervals. And the flapper valve that supposedly protects the vent against avian intrusion does not, apparently, close all the way.

It’s a risky place to build a nest. A few years back, the last time that vent got plugged up it was on account of yet another nest... complete with dead, partially cooked bird. (Did I mention that the air coming out of the vent is warm?)  She Who Must Be Obeyed She is not a bird-lover on the best of days, but finding that dead bird in the laundry-room wastebasket - where the dryer repairman had thoughtfully disposed of it - gave her the shit-willies for weeks. 

There’s now a little cage over the dryer outlet. I’d like to see the little bastards get in there now. On second thought, who the hell wants an invasion of hummingbirds? (’Cause they’re the only ones who could, conceivably, get through that cage.)

The nest, meanwhile, is sitting atop one of the shrubs near the driveway until I can figure out what else to do with it.  As I said, making an omelette is not an acceptable solution... no matter how teensy and cute it would be.


Thanks to Microsoft’s Photosynth technology, you can now see Tokyo the way Elder Daughter and I saw it from the top of Tokyo Tower four years ago.

Just click on the image and use your mouse to navigate right and left for a (roughly) 330 degree view.  You can expand the image to fill your screen and, if you wish, zoom in to see more detail.

Then go get yourself some sushi.

Monday, May 14, 2012


The Baleful Eye
Sauron can go bite my aching ass. My eye is a lot nastier than his.

By George - I think I’m about due for another obnoxious bout of acute iritis in the old Oculus Sinister.  And there is nothing cute about it.

I’m not sure what I detest most: the diminished vision, the redness, the painful photosensitivity, the excessive tearing, the intermittent ice pick-like pain, or the month-long treatment with steroids and pupil dilation.  But given the choice of whether to shit or go blind, I’d prefer the shit any day.

I go to see the Eye-Croaker now.  Wish me luck. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012


General Elisson
 Inspector Javert Prevert, relentless pursuer of Jean Valjean.

A couple of weeks ago, the Missus and I took a little trip down memory lane by way of early nineteenth-century Paris. Les Miserables, now celebrating its twenty-fifth year, was showing at the fabulous Fox Theatre in midtown Atlanta.

By now, everyone should be somewhat familiar with Les Miserables, at the very least thanks to the musical theatre version, if not the numerous films or the original Victor Hugo novel.  It’s the story of one of literature’s most remarkable schlimazels, Jean Valjean, who serves twenty years at hard labor in prison for having stolen a crust of bread.  (Schmuck.)  His nemesis, one Inspector Javert, is no big believer in rehabilitation and so pursues Valjean relentlessly for having broken parole.  You could call it a “Reformed Ex-Con versus Overzealous Cop” story, but then you have a whole other plot involving Fantine, one of Valjean’s employees; her illegitimate daughter Cosette, the product of a youthful indiscretion; a couple of scheming, thieving innkeepers, a passel of idealistic student troublemakers (“Occupy Paris”) and... well, go see the show.  Or you could go read the book, if you have a calendar quarter to spare. 

Back when Elder Daughter was a mere sprat, we listened to the original Broadway cast recording - and the original French concept album - waaaaay too often. The story, after all, was compelling and the tunes, by musical theatre standards, were reasonably catchy - unusual for a show that has virtually no spoken parts. It’s more of an opera than a standard Broadway musical... and we would all sing along as we made our frequent drives between our home in Connecticut and Eli’s place on Long Island.  I suspect that a goodly portion of Elder Daughter’s love for acting and theatre was instilled in her by those car trip singalongs.

When Elder Daughter turned ten, we celebrated by taking her to New York to see Les Mis on Broadway.  It was, of course, as much a present for us as for her.  The show itself was wonderful, an epic story told through music and stagecraft.  OK, the tale does get a bit mawkish and soap-operatic at times, but nevertheless, it pushes all the right buttons at the right times.  We loved it... but never went back to see it again.

Until now.

The show is now a quarter-century old, but it has kept its freshness by means of innovation.  There seem to be a few new bits of song spliced in here and there, for one.  For another, the restaging at the Fox dispenses with the turntable (so innovative when it first appeared in 1987), replacing it with a state-of-the-art rear projection screen.  You really feel, at times, that you are marching along the boulevards of Paris... or shambling through the city’s sewers.  Thank Gawd the producers decided not to go the 4-D route and schpritz the audience with shit-mist for the sake of authenticity.

Of course, thanks to a childhood heavily influenced by Mad magazine,  I can never enjoy a musical of any sort without wanting to dick around with the lyrics.  My children have been completely ruined as a result.  Here, by way of example, is one version my kids learned:

How do y’do - my name’s Gavroche
I like to hear the toilet flush

Then there was this magnum opus, inspired by an actual chipmunk and his nocturnal excavations next to our house:

Will you join in our parade
Clean up the mess the chipmunk made
He has been digging in the dirt outside the mudroom in the night
He has dug a little pit
He puts his acorns into it
That way he’s sure that he won’t starve when the winter comes

Oh, he’s dug a little hole outside the mudroom in the night
If you try to give him acorns
Will he scratch or will he bite
You know that a chipmunk does not know what’s wrong from what’s right

Will you join in our crusade
Clean up the mess the chipmunk made
He has been digging in the dirt outside the mudroom in the night
He has dug a little pit
He puts his acorns into it
That way he’s sure that he won’t starve when the winter comes

Sing it yourself! You know you want to.


Simon Cowell
Would carry a towel
Into which the contestants would cry.
He would harvest their tears
For to season his beers:
It’s a taste that mere money can’t buy.


A mother’s work is never done
At least, so wise men say.
Change the diaper, wash the clothes,
Wipe the arse and then the nose -
There’s nary time to play.

But feeding is an easy job
For Mommies on the run.
Just grab ahold of Little Bit
And clamp him right upon your tit -
It’s pleasant and it’s fun!

No matter that he’s turned eighteen
And people think you’re weird.
For mother’s milk is very dense
In many kinds of nutrients
To help him grow his beard.

[Inspired by Mother’s Day - and, at least in part, by this.  And this. Now it’s back to you, Mister Neanderpundit!]

Saturday, May 12, 2012


He once bestrode the world with muscles hard,
But got complacent and devolved, a sack of lard.
Once he built factories and towers: all was grand -
Alas, he died with his iPad in his hand.

[A four-line epitaph with an A-A-B-B rhyme scheme, as suggested by Og.] 

Friday, May 11, 2012


The iPod d’Elisson
The iPod d’Elisson.

EDBD, of course, being an abbreviation for Elder Daughter’s Birth Day. Which it is, today. And, as we all know, the Friday Random Ten is my semi-regular post comprising a selection of ten songs, belched out at random by my Little White Choon Box, AKA the iPod d’Elisson pictured above.

Given that today marks thirty-three years of life on Planet Earth for Elder Daughter - as well as thirty-three years of Daddyhood for me - it’s a rather special occasion, the sort that should be celebrated with music.  So - what has the White Box coughed up for us today?
  1. Horn - Phish

  2. Mozart - Requiem in D Minor - Herbert von Karajan

  3. Roll Right Stones - Traffic

  4. First There Is a Mountain - Donovan

    Man, they just don’t write lyrics like this anymore.

    The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is.
    The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is.

    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

    The caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.
    Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.

    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain.

    Oh Juanita
    Oh Juanita
    Oh Juanita, I call your name.
    Oh, the snow will be a blinding sight to see as it lies on yonder hillside.

    The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is.
    The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is.

    Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.
    Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.

    Ah, my-my.

    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
    First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
    First there is a mountain

  5. Please Please Me - The Beatles

  6. Pirelli’s Death - Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd

  7. Perfumed Lies - The Judybats

  8. Shalom - Moonraker

  9. Bleeding All Over the Place - Randy Newman

  10. Urinetown - Urinetown, Original Cast Album

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Elder Daughter
Elder Daughter, June 2011. Photo courtesy Aaron Thompson

This is your Birthday Song!
It isn’t very long.
(sung to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay”)

* * *

It’s time once again to trot out the cake and candles... a roundabout way of saying that Elder Daughter today marks the completion of yet another trip around the Sun.  Which is also a roundabout way of saying that it’s her birthday.

Of our two daughters, Elder Daughter is - in the estimation of most of the people who know her - the one more like me.  This is not a compliment; it is merely an observation.

And yet, in so many ways, she exceeds me.

She is brave.  How many people are willing to set aside a comfortable corporate career in order to pursue a dream in the arts?  How many people are willing to expose their souls to an audience in the context of a performance?  Or to pick up and move to a farm, there to learn the Fine Art of converting plants and barnyard creatures into food?

She has the kind of personality that lights up a room.  Set her down in the midst of a party: Within minutes she will know everyone in the room (if she hadn’t before) and will have made hundreds of random introductions.  Networking?  She is its virtual embodiment.

She is insightful and perceptive, able to see many different facets of complicated situations and personalities.  Well traveled, too.  She has been to places that I have only dreamed of going... along with a few that I’d never dream of going.  (And I’ve been around.)

She can be hysterically funny... or deadly serious.  Put her in a room with the Mistress of Sarcasm and enjoy the sisterly chemistry.

It is one of the frustrations of my life that she lives a full day’s drive away.  But that’s nothing new.  She hasn’t lived within 650 miles of us for over fifteen years, alas.  Which makes the time we spend together even more precious. 

I am proud of her... and I am proud to be her daddy.  Happy birthday, Elder Daughter!  Ad meah v’esrim, as we Red Sea Pedestrians are wont to say: May you live to be (at least) 120, in good health and without limit to every good thing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Challah Dough
Challah dough after its first rise.  Two hours ago, this was just a mess of flour, salt, yeast, milk, eggs, sugar, and honey. 

Baking, more than any other form of cookery, strikes me as being a sort of alchemy.

When you throw a steak on a grill, the steaky deliciousness that results is not especially surprising.  You end up with a finished product that looks pretty much like what you started with, except browner and tastier.  When you steam some asparagus or roast a passel of Brussels sprouts, the cooked version resembles the raw... except for minor enhancements in appearance (and major enhancements, one hopes, in flavor).

Asparagus with Piment d’Espelette
Asparagus with piment d’Espelette looks pretty much like it did before I cooked it.

But baking is a whole ’nuther thing.  You start with various powders, granulated substances, and liquids, and end up with something completely different.  Something wonderful.

Think of the intellectual leap it must have taken to figure it out for the first time.  To figure out how to convert grains like barley, spelt, wheat, and rye into flour.  To understand that water, time, and temperature could convert that flour into a sort of flattish, edible, crackery cake.  And, finally, to see the effect wild yeast had on that cracker, fermenting the sugars into alcohol and good old See-Oh-Two.  The alchemists might have tried to turn lead into gold, but turning grain into bread was alchemy of a higher magnitude... for you could eat bread.  And with the bread and beer produced from grain, you had the makings of an agrarian economy, even a civilization - because you had to stay in one place long enough to grow your barley and wheat.

The challah loaves I’ve been baking are a little more refined than those ancient Sumerian crackers, but they are nevertheless the result of that same marvelous alchemy.  Flour, salt, water, yeast - and some milk, eggs, sugar and honey - is all it takes.  That, and a little elbow grease - and heat.

Challah - Up Close

Now, where’s that butter?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


A Wild Thing peers over the shoulder of celebrated children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012.

Alas, that's where Maurice Sendak will be for the foreseeable future, having joined the legions of the Formerly Living.  Sendak, one of the most influential children’s book authors and illustrators of the past century, died today at the age of 83 from complications following a stroke.

Sendak’s peculiar genius lay in his ability to perceive the world through a child’s mind as well as eyes.  He understood the fears, joys, concerns, and imperfections of children almost as though he had never grown up; this understanding formed the underpinnings of his unique writing and illustration.  His characters were flawed, full of childish enthusiasms and emotions - and his books contrasted sharply with virtually everything else one might find on the shelf in the Children’s Book Department.  To readers accustomed to Disney, Milne, and Seuss, Sendak was an eye-opening polar opposite.

Where the Wild Things Are, considered by many to be Sendak’s magnum opus, came out in 1963.  By that time, I was eleven years old - too old to read it as a children’s book.  But I discovered it, along with the brilliant In the Night Kitchen, in 1970 when the latter book was published.  At that point in my life, I could appreciate both works as literature and as art... and I was blown away.

Sendak was a contemporary of my parents and, like them, he was born in Brooklyn.  It’s entirely possible that they may have crossed paths in their early years.  

Maurice Sendak was a true original, and the world of children’s books - nay, the world of Literature - will be the poorer for his absence.  Requiescat in pace, Mr. Sendak!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Mister Mallard

O, Roasted Duck!
So good to eat
Your aromatic
Tasty meat.

Your glist’ning schmaltz
Drips ’pon my chin.
I wear a fine
Duck-eating grin.

Your tender breast
With flesh so pink;
No finer taste
On Earth, I think.

Pekin, moulard,
I ain’t picky.
With your juice
My hands are sticky.

Your thighs enrobed
In crispy skin;
Just one more bite –
Is that a sin?

I love you,
Fragrant waterfowl.
You fill my stomach
And my bowel.

Ultimate Roast Duck

[Your turn, Og.]

Friday, May 4, 2012


A dimwitted driver named Fred
Drove on tires with inadequate tread.
On I-72
The right rear one blew
And now whaddaya know?  Freddy’s dead.

[A limerick about tires: the latest volley in the unofficial Poetry Slam between me and Og. Now, what verse form and topic should we shit all over next?]


Biggery boogery
Nicolas Sarkozy
Excavates nostrils
With gusto and flair.

«Voilà, le bogue!» he cries
Flicking it into
The hair of his frère.

[A double dactyl on the topic of nasal mucus, inspired by this fine gentleman.]

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Whether a billy
Or a nanny goat, both are
Just fine in curry.

In India, goat
Is preferred over beef, which
Tastes too much of God.

Something I found out:
Mairzy doats, but Goatse’s gross.
(Bizarre place, the ’Net.)

[These are for you, Little Oggie... next?]


The golden Flood that issued from my Loins
Was dearer far than any precious Jewel
Or sealed Vault a-burst with ancient Coins
As I stood forth and held my massive Tool.

Look, see it gush in Torrents, fresh and hot -
Niagara-like, a mighty yellow Stream!
It splashes happily into the Pot
And giveth forth a fragrant Cloud of Steam.

A Bean’s a Bean, ’tis said: A Pee’s Relief.
No truer Words I’ve heard, as red’s my Blood!
But Time comes stealing, that most clever Thief
And turns to a mere Trickle Youth’s warm Flood.

Stand and Deliver! is my fervent Wish
But Drop by Drop’s an old Man’s Way to pish.

[Bam! A sonnet about Micturition. Your turn, Og.]

Tuesday, May 1, 2012



Cheese: An Heroic Quatrain

There’s but one Thing will bring me to my Knees,
The Taste of which can make my Heart sing free.
O Monger - Kindly vend to me your Cheese:
Your Cheddar, Stilton, Camembert and Brie!

[Editor’s Note: Og, AKA the Neanderpundit, has challenged me to a poetry smackdown.  Round One is a quatrain on the subject of cheese; my submission is above.  Your turn, Oggie!]


Even 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...

scoopjack [skup-jak] (n) - A counterman or server in an ice-cream parlor; an ice-cream barista.

“I really like the new Friendly’s that opened up across from the mall - the scoopjacks there are really generous with the hot fudge.”


Hard to believe that it has been over four years since Elder Daughter and I made our memorable ten-day voyage to Japan, innit?  But time flies... or, as Eli (hizzownself) likes to say, Tempus Nudgit.

Once in a while, I will open up the folders wherein reside the photographs I took on that trip... if only to remind myself that it actually happened: it was not a dream.  And with the passage of time, the images seem fresh and new, strange as that may seem.

Here are a few that you haven’t seen before:

Beppu Manhole Cover
Beppu - Square Manhole Cover
Manhole covers in Beppu.

Manhole covers are an indigenous art form uniquely Japanese in the same way that comic books and jazz are uniquely American.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so: An entire book, Drainspotting, has been written on the topic.

Geisha Poster - Kyoto  
Poster advertising a geisha-related art exhibition from the Gion district, Kyoto.

Hiroshima Tulips  
Tulips in Hiroshima... so bright, they practically glow in the dark.

There’s beauty everywhere you look, but when you’re in an exotic foreign locale, it seems to strike you with just a little more force.


My buddy Irwin the Paintner reached another milestone in the Road o’ Life the other day with his elder son Ari just having announced his engagement.

Making a marriage proposal is way, way more difficult these days than it used to be.  Not only do more and more young people wait until they are well into middle age before taking on the Big Commitment, they want to do it in as splashy a way as possible.  Flash mobs in Las Vegas, banners towed by airplanes over Malibu Beach, that sort of thing.  But Ari did it with just the right amount of style and panache.

He took Rachel, his intended, to the local ice cream parlor, where she would have normally ordered a scoop of her preferred flavor, salted caramel.  But wait - there was a new flavor all set to come out the next day, a salted caramel ice cream jazzed up with peanut butter, pretzels, and chocolate chips... amazingly, all favorites of hers.  Would she like to be the first to try it?  Well, why the hell not?

Seeing her delight, the scoopjack suggested that perhaps instead of waiting until the following day, they might as well let the new flavor make its official debut a day early.  Would Rachel do the honors and uncover the blackboard with the ice cream flavor menu?  Again - why the hell not?

A tasty marriage proposal.  Photo courtesy Huffpost Weddings.

Turns out Ari had made a few little arrangements in advance: The new flavor was called “Rachel, Will You Marry Me?”  Just to make sure the message got across, Ari dropped to one knee and made the Official Pitch... which was happily accepted.

Of course, all of this is quite familiar to me, because I’ve been there.  In fact, it was a little over thirty-five years ago that I made my own pitch to She Who Must Be Obeyed, the woman who would become The Missus... and it was in a manner remarkably similar to that employed by Ari.

We were living in Houston at the time, in a time when places to get a good delicatessen-style meal were thin on the ground.  In those days, if you wanted a good corned beef or pastrami sandwich, the only place you could get it was at Alfred’s, where a panoply of deli items was offered, each named after a local celebrity.

Ahh, Alfred’s of Houston, of blessèd memory.  In the days before I met SWMBO, I would take my Sunday breakfast there, ordering a bagel with lox.  In true Alfred’s style, they would not merely apply a schmear of cream cheese to the bagel: They would unwrap a four-ounce brick of Philly and just drop it right on top of that bad boy.  Good Gawd.

One Saturday evening, I inveigled SWMBO into joining me for dinner at Alfred’s, having made arrangements in advance with the management.  I coolly suggested that she try a new sandwich - so new, it hadn’t even made it to the menu yet.  With my assurances that it contained no dark meat chicken, duck, lamb, tongue, liver, rosemary, or thyme, she bravely ordered the Mystery Sandwich.

That’s when the owner came out and announced the name of the new item: the “I Love Elisson’s Meat” sandwich.  I dropped to one knee...

...and SWMBO slugged me right in the left eye.

But she married me anyway... mainly because I just made all this shit up.  Except, of course, the part about Ari, to whom we send our heartiest “Mazel Tov!”

Update: The Huffington Post picks up the story.

Update 2: The local TeeVee News folks weigh in.