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

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Doggy Tarantula
German Shepherd in a tarantula costume, from the “I Fucking Love Science” Facebook page. As Gawd is my witness, if I ever saw one of these things shambling up my driveway on Hallowe’en, I’d squirt blood clots directly out of my eyeballs and scream like a little girl.

Among the seasonally appropriate creepy-crawlies, spiders are among the most Hallowe’enish. Perhaps it is their sticky, nasty webbing; perhaps their revolting lifestyle, entrapping and sucking the juices out of miscellaneous insects; perhaps their utterly alien, scary physical appearance. Whatever it may be, they skeeve the hell out of many of us, myself included.

Arachnophobia? I gots it. And so, probably, do you. It’s mostly just a question of degree.

My BIL Morris William, a strapping young man, can be incapacitated by the mere sight of an eight-legged beastie. I’m not quite that bad, for I will linger close enough to snap the occasional photograph. 

Boris the Spider
Boris the Spider, in a photo taken September 2006.

Some years back, I captured some nice photos of a good-sized orb spider - yclept Boris - that had constructed an impressive web adjacent to our driveway. And last June, while in Nevada, we saw this little fellow - thankfully, kept in captivity. Big as my hand, he was.

Tarantula (Latin for “big fucking spider”) in a terrarium at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

More recently, while enjoying the festivities at Eric’s annual blogmeet-cum-birthday party, we stumbled upon this little lady. K-Nine had been adding a few chunks of wood to the fire and had damned near put his hand right on her... reason enough to wear gloves when handling firewood. Why, this was a critter even more interesting than the legendary Blown Rectum Spidum!


Black Widow topside
The dreaded Western Black Widow, Latrodectus Hesperus: Her bite can kill a man, although fatal envenomations are rare. (Not something you’d want to experience, though.)

The fearsome reputation of these little ladies is not quite justified.  According to National Geographic,
This spider’s bite is much feared because its venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. In humans, bites produce muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult; however, contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage - let alone death. But bites can be fatal - usually to small children, the elderly, or the infirm. Fortunately, fatalities are fairly rare; the spiders are nonaggressive and bite only in self-defense, such as when someone accidentally sits on them.
Or grabs them while picking up firewood, eh, K-Nine?

Black Widow with hatchet
The hatchet provides a sense of scale.  She’s about 1.5 inches across.

Black Widow on log
Fearsome beauty.

Black Widow underside
The characteristic red “hourglass” marking.

Now you know where the expression “ass like a black widow spider” - used to describe an especially Callipygean figure - comes from.


Mister Deadbonair.
Hallowe’en seems to come earlier and earlier every year. Perhaps that is on account of the relentless marketing of candy and goodies, the opening shot of which is fired right after Labor Day. Now, Hallowe’en has been conjoined unto Thanksgiving and Christmas in a massive seasonal orgy of merchandising. And since, uniquely this year, the first day of Chanukah actually coincides with Thanksgiving, we can lob “Thanksgivukah” into the mix.

This evening, as little Trick-or-Treaters roam the neighborhood, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I will attempt to alternate between answering the door and entertaining our dinner guests by ladling hot lentil soup down their gullets. Perhaps we will be fortunate and have a massive rainstorm arrive just in time to thin the hungry haunted hordes. 

I know I sound a bit curmudgeonly.  But I’m old enough to have earned the right to be grumpy, and nothing brings on the grump quite as effectively as being called away repeatedly from my meat and drink to answer the doorbell, there to dole out superfluous calories to thankless little snots.

Oh, there are plenty of cute little tykes.  I love the ones who are so young as to be totally slack-jawed with wonder and cluelessness at the proceedings. Their parents usually have to coach them:

“What do you say?”


“Good! Don’t forget to say ‘Thank You’!”

Cute.  But I cannot stand it when kids who are Old Enough To Know Better mash the doorbell repeatedly, stand mutely at the door with sack outstretched, then waltz away without some basic Statement of Gratitude. That kind of crap makes SWMBO’s blood boil... must be the teacher in her.

We’ll be handing out miscellaneous non-chocolatey candies this year, Airheads having been unavailable at Costco. Two huge sacks should just about be enough if the rain stays away.  We try to avoid doling out chocolate, the leftovers being what is known in law enforcement circles as an attractive nuisance. A great big sack of Fat-Ass, we don’t need.

Regarding Hallowe’en etiquette, proper observance of the holiday requires that The Forms Be Obeyed. You must speak the Ritual Invocation: Trick or Treat. (Adding “Smell my feet, give me something good to eat” is lily-gilding.) And you must, upon receiving the Candiferous Swag, express appropriate gratitude: Thank You. And - this is important! - you must be Properly Costumed. If you are too fucking lazy to put on a costume, and especially if you are old enough to shave, you should be home watching porn and eating Chee-tos, not roaming the neighborhood clutching a pillowcase begging for Simple Carbohydrates.

One of your Old Man’s filthy flannel nightshirts does not constitute acceptable costumery, by the way.

Collecting for UNICEF? Get off my front steps and away from my house.

Those who do not conduct themselves properly receive a flattened and scored Human Turd, cleverly wrapped to resemble a Hershey Bar.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I grow old... I grow old... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I wipe my bare behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.
But I do not care:
What, Me Worry?

[apologies to T. S. Eliot]

Monday, October 28, 2013


Tate RR HDR - 4
The old Tate rail depot. [Click to embiggen.]

This Sunday, we took a drive in the hills just north of town and happened upon a dilapidated old railroad depot in the hamlet of Tate.

A little research uncovered the fact that the building had been constructed back in 1916 by the L&N (Louisville and Nashville) Railroad and that as recently as 1966 it was still in service and (outwardly, anyway) in good condition. Now? Not so much. Nevertheless, it’s still a fine subject for photography.

Tate RR HDR - 1

Tate RR HDR - 3

We will want to come back. In a week or so, the leaves in the nearby hills will be bursting with their full fall colors... and there’s also the Tate House, built in the 1920’s by “Colonel Sam” Tate and sheathed in gorgeous pink Etowah marble, mined from the local veins.

Tate RR - 1

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Two-Fisted Wine Drinker
Elisson: two-fisted wine drinker.

This evening the Sommelier Guild returns to Chops Lobster Bar for an event featuring 2009-10 Bordeaux.

Chops Lobster Bar
The ceiling of the Chops Lobster Bar is done in brickwork reminiscent of New York’s Grand Central Terminal Oyster bar. Coincidence? I think not.

I am especially happy about this for several reasons, not least of which being that Bordeaux is the source of my most beloved wines, bar none. Thanks to our being out of town at the time, I also missed the last event at Chops, so I am happy for the opportunity to attend a Guild event there at last. And who knows - perhaps I can convince The Missus to join me this time!

Let’s take a look at the winey and diney offerings, shall we?

NV Colon Brut Grower Champagne
2011 Sbragia Home Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay - Dry Creek, Sonoma County, California**

First Flight:
2010 Château Labadie - Côtes de Bourg, Médoc, Bordeaux**
2009 Château Cambon la Pelouse - Haut Médoc, Bordeaux*
2009 Château Cap de Faugeres - Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux***

Pepper-crusted swordfish, Cognac crème, port-braised shallot, and potato confit

Second Flight:
2010 Château de Chantegrive Rouge - Graves, Bordeaux***
2009 Château de Chantegrive Rouge - Graves, Bordeaux**
2009 Château La Vieille Cure - Fronsac, Bordeaux***

Filet mignon topped with black truffle butter, steamed asparagus

Third Flight:
2009 Château Clerc Milon - Pauillac, Bordeaux***
2009 Château Devise d’Ardilley - Haut Médoc, Bordeaux**

Lamb rib chop, fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, and rosemary demi-glace

Hmmm, lessee. Swordfish, filet of beef, lamb chops... and a fine selection of wines from my favorite spot on the globe (for making wine, anyway.) As they say at the poker table, I am definitely all-in.

Update: The Missus did indeed join me, and we are both glad she did, because the evening was, as they say, formidable. Her fave? The Château Labadie, which, at $14.99 the bottle, had the best quality-to-price ratio of the evening.

1989 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande - Pauillac****
2010 Cune Rioja Late Harvest**
2009 Linsolence Saint-Emilion*
2004 Château Coutet Sauternes-Barsac**
2003 Château Suduiraut Sauternes***
2001 Coteaux du Layon Saint Aubin de Luigné

Great wines, fine company, tasty food.  Winning!

Friday, October 25, 2013


Peek-a-Boo Stella

Regal Stella

A queenly Stella surveys the world from both inside and atop her new Kitty-Hotel.


Ev’ry day’s a holiday
And ev’ry meal a feast
At least, that’s what I’m thinking
As I make the Two-Backed Beast

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Gatherings of bloggers (or former bloggers) do not run solely on the energy generated by their Witty Repartee, no, no. They are fueled by food and drink, the latter largely consisting of Adult Beverages.  The recent get-together at Eric’s was no exception, and there was plenty of tasty stuff to keep the hunger and sobriety pangs away.

Nolet's Gin
A lovely bottle of Nolet’s gin. [Photo: Erica Sherman.]

A Nolet’s gin and tonic? Why, don’t mind if I do.

Two fine malts. The one on the left is from the Tobermory distillery on the island of Mull.

What? There’s single malt Scotch too? I suppose a wee dram or two (or five) won’t hurt.

Eric is a master at the grill. Here’s a pile of his dastardly mustardly country-style ribs... 

Eric's Dastardly Mustardly Ribs

An assortment of home-canned goodies, courtesy of Miss Callie...

Callie's Preserves

And then there’s the Sweet Stuff...

Pistachio and Sour Cherry Biscotti
Pistachio and sour cherry biscotti.

Chocolate Bread
Chocolate bread. (Yes, chocolate bread.)

Alas, I have no photos of Bou’s pumpkin-apple dump cake or of SWMBO’s apricot kugel (a perennial favorite), but you can bet they both got devoured.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


One of the little pleasures of attending the Hysterics at Eric’s - the annual birthday celebration hosted by our beloved Tennessee Renaissance Man and infrequent blogger - is the chance to play with his Collection o’ Covers.


Hats! Photos courtesy honorary blogger Gary Feinberg.

Eric has quite the Hatly Assortment.  Marine covers, both modern and antique... fedoras (including a marvelous Brooks Brothers trilby, vintage 1952)... a Glengarry cap... a selection of pith helmets... and even a fez emblazoned with the arcane symbol of the Knights of Saint Monica, protector of drunkards and wayward children.

About the only thing missing is a colander.

Oh - did we have a good time? Yes, we did. More pics and verbiage to follow.


Gracie, R.I.P.
Gracie. Requiescat in pace.  (Photo: Meryl Yourish.)

Meryl Yourish reports the passing of her beloved sixteen-year-old kitty Gracie.

Gracie has been a part of my life - albeit at a distance - for the past nine years now. It’s hard to believe she’s gone, but, alas, that’s what our Animal Companions do. They stay with us long enough to become an indispensable part of our lives... and then they break our hearts when they leave us.

Our condolences to Meryl, who at least will have Tig to comfort her. Godspeed, Gracie - ave atque vale!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The Elisson Bookshelf

Time once again to fill you in on the books I’ve been reading.

The photo of the bookshelf above is slowly becoming less and less representative of my current reading, given that a goodly percentage of it - over 41% in the past seven months - is now in the form of e-books. Their main advantage over dead trees, of course, is portability: I can schlep a whole library’s worth on my iPad. Also, instant delivery of purchases makes e-books an impulse buyer’s dream. Having said that, I still enjoy a real, honest-to-Gawd hardcopy book, and my bulging shelves will attest to that enjoyment.

Here are the last few months’ worth of reads, with electronic versions marked with an asterisk:

  • Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal* - Mary Roach

  • Mary Roach is a past master at looking at scientific topics with a skewed, somewhat tongue-in-cheek perspective. In this charming book she takes on the human digestive system, with all the revolting connotations that topic carries. Don’t miss the chapter about Elvis Presley’s hugely distended colon.

  • The Trajectory of Dreams* - Nicole Wolverton

  • Lela White lives in the grip of a mental disorder that compels her to break into astronauts’ homes in order to monitor their sleep habits, thus keeping the U.S. space program safe from fatal accidents. Wolverton does a very effective job of placing you inside Lela’s head... a damnably scary place to be.

  • The Day My Brain Exploded* - Ashok Rajamain

  • A first-person perspective on what it’s like to suffer a massive brain aneurysm... and survive.

  • Ghost Wave: The discovery of Cortes Bank and the biggest wave on Earth* - Chris Dixon

  • Ever since I was a Snot-Nose, I’ve been fascinated by huge waves. Other people, far more insane than I, take their fascination to the next level by actually surfing the fucking things. Now, with the advent of Jet-Ski-powered tow surfing, truly monstrous waves are now surfable... if you’re crazy enough to want to do it. 

  • The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create The World’s Great Drinks - Amy Stewart

  • If it’s a plant that grows on this planet, you can take it to the bank that people have made alcoholic beverages from it.
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation - Michael Pollan

    A tale of how food is transformed from its raw components into Tasty Comestibles, viewed through the elemental lenses of Fire (roasting meats), Water (braises, stews, and other moist cooking methods), Air (leavening and breadmaking), and Earth (fermentation). A fascinating study by the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
  • My Beloved Life - Sonia Sotomayor

    Not so much an autobiography as a memoir, by the second newest member of the Supreme Court... and the freshman year roommate of one of my college girlfriends.

  • Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition - David Nirenberg

    Anti-Judaism, the use of purportedly “Jewish” ideas as straw men against which to direct one’s polemics, is distinct from anti-semitism, hatred directed specifically against Jews. The premise of this book is that the fundamental questions and dichotomies of Western civilization have been couched in terms of being “Jewish” or “non-Jewish” since the days of the early Egyptians.
  • Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948* - Madeleine Albright

    Albright alternates between her family’s history and that of her native country, Czechoslovakia in this historical memoir.

  • Defending Jacob: A Novel*- William Landay

    What do you do when you’re a detective and your own son becomes the prime suspect in a murder?

  • The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking*- Brendan I. Koerner

    Some of us are old enough to remember a time in the 1960’s when airliners were being hijacked almost every week - sometimes more than one in a single day.  Koerner’s book discusses the peculiar popularity of skyjacking, focusing on one memorable escapade involving a lovestruck couple with vague political aspirations.  It almost reads like a novel, but it’s a true story.
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories* - Octavia Butler

    The late Octavia Butler shines in this little collection of short stories, some with truly horrific, thought-provoking premises.
  • Oh Myyy! (There Goes The Internet)*- George Takei

    From Star Trek actor to humanitarian spokesperson and Internet phenomenon, George Takei has had a very interesting history.  An amusing read by the Facebook superstar.

  • And the Mountains Echoed* - Khaled Hosseini

    The often heartbreaking stories of the various members of an Afghan family.

  • The Secret History of the CIA - Joseph J. Trento

    The depressing history of the shadowy intelligence service during the Cold War... depressing mainly because so much of what they did over the years was stupid and unnecessary, not to mention completely transparent to the Soviets.
  • The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon - John Ferling

    Most of us think of George Washington as being somehow above politics, such is his status as American icon.  But the Father of our Country was intensely political and strongly determined to increase his personal wealth and status... and a master at dodging responsibility for numerous failures.  Ferling shows us a very human - and nevertheless still iconic - George Washington.

  • The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington - Jennet Conant

    Many of us think of Roald Dahl as the guy who created Willy Wonka, but he was really a man of many parts, traveling among the highest social circles and nailing wealthy, beautiful, well-connected women.
So what have you been reading lately?

Monday, October 14, 2013


O, Chieftain of the Pudding Race
Doo dah, doo dah
Around you I will wrap my face
O, doo dah day



Some of my Esteemed Readers may have seen the above little gem floating around the Internet.  Hardly a surprise, for anything George Takei sticks up on his Facebook page will circulate like clap at a whores’ convention.

The late Don Knotts, he of Andy Griffith Show fame, later the ridiculous landlord in the Three’s Company TV series, had the kind of phiz that practically forced his career choice down his throat: accountant or comic actor.  Alas, he is gone the Way of All Flesh now, and only characters like Barney Fife, Mr. Furley, and (Gawd save us) The Incredible Mr. Limpet remain behind to preserve his memory.

Gotta love that punim, though.  So versatile.  So amusing!  Lookee:

General Knotts
“I love a man in uniform.” - Aunt Beeski

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Scary Nails 2013.jpg

The Missus sure do love her Scary Nails this time of year...

Friday, October 11, 2013


Yes, it’s all about Bread ’n’ Kitties here at the House of Elisson...

Challah du Jour
Today’s lovely loaf: a four-strand braid.

Miss Crossed-Paws
Miss Stella displays her favorite crossed-paws pose. “Hey, you gonna eat all of that challah, bub?”

It’s Friday.  Do you know where your bread and cats are?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Stella on the Stairs! photo Stella20131009165a.jpg
What are you looking at, Bub?

Meet Stella, the newest member of the Elisson household.

She’s a whole lotta kitty, Miss Stella is: a two-year-old Ragdoll, weighing in at something on the order of 14 pounds.  When she suddenly found herself in need of a new home - her owners being unable to continue caring for her - SWMBO’s brother and SIL in Denton, Texas provided her a foster home until we could come and get her.  She spent a blissful month with them, terrorizing their other two cats (one of whom, Brando, is her younger sibling)... and after a long but uneventful journey, she is now making herself at home here at Chez Elisson.

It’s nice to have a kitty here again.  Since Levon’s premature - and heartbreaking - departure, it has been all too quiet.  Now we can enjoy the company of this sweet new furbaby.

Now, where did she run off to?


Friday, October 4, 2013


Today I saw a man about a most enormous horse.
I pulled the silver handle and I launched him on his course.
He galloped through the cisterns and the culverts underground,
And through the darkness found his way, more swift than any hound.
His destination was a pool, all dark and deep and rank,
And when at last he reached it, why, into it he sank.
But do not weep or grieve for my enormous equine, brother -
Just give me but a day or two and I’ll create another.

Another steed! as massive as the first!
In size and shape much like a liverwurst.