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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

REGARDING ODD JUXTAPOSITIONS

I saw a handsome fellow once
A-sitting at the bar
And sipping on a single-malt
While smoking a cigar

I was so bold to ask him
How he had achieved success
Perhaps in scientific fields
Or writing for the press

And then he told me, “I’m a man
Born of good Southern stock
The kind of wholesome yeoman
Whom the damned elitists mock

“I’ve served my country and can shoot
A squirrel from a tree
And yet I studied history
In University

“The people who don’t know me
Might assume that I am crude
Yet I quite admire the finer arts
Like poetry and food

“I’m comfortable with weighty tomes
Sometimes I’ll read all night
Yet I retain my combat skills
I don’t shy from a fight

“But knowledge, wealth, celebrity
Are things that do not last
As soon as you achieve them
They fly, they fly so fast

“The wisdom I will share is that
In Life you will go far
If you don’t forget the humble Spam
While eating caviar”



Monday, October 16, 2017

ON THE VIRTUES OF BIBLICAL BREAD

“Take also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel and make bread of it." - Ezekiel 4:9



Apparently, a lot of folks look at the Scriptures as more than nourishment for the soul: they’re a cookbook as well. At least, that seems to be the thinking behind Ezekiel Bread, which is made from a variety of sprouted grains that includes the above-mentioned wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt.

Sprouted grain bread is actually pretty nutritious, even though it contains millet, with which I first became familiar when we fed our parakeet. A sprouted grain contains less of the carbohydrate-rich endosperm than does its unsprouted comrades, while providing a higher proportion of protein. Good, and good for you!

I’ve eaten Ezekiel bread and breakfast cereal, and it’s reasonably tasty. The cereal bears a superficial resemblance to Grape-Nuts, with only minor differences in texture and flavor. Fortunately, it does not give me the kind of hallucinatory visions that are familiar to anyone who has spent a lot of time reading the Book of Ezekiel.

Basing your recipes on the Bible is tricky business, though. Just look at us Red Sea Pedestrians: we follow in the steps of our ancestors who were in so big a hurry to get out of Dodge that their dough had no time to rise. Thus, we eat the famously constipating unleavened bread known as matzoh.

And if you put the proper context around Ezekiel’s recipe, you find that it was intended as a punishment: a bread to be baked over burning human excrement.  This gives a whole new meaning to the time-worn expression “holy shit.” Perhaps it explains those hallucinatory visions, too.

Hey, we now know that Flavortown has been around for a loooong time. Take that, Guy Fieri!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

ARSE ELECTRONICA, or THE OUTSMARTUS PHONE

She lies in repose, with her face all aglow -
Aglow, but not with desire.
She is lit by the Super-Smart Handheld Device
With its world-containing screen’s fire.

A political rant? If you wish to indulge,
Just tap a few taps on the screen.
You can read any screed ’til your eyeballs will bulge
And you stand on your sofa to scream.

There’s a recipe there that is tasty, no doubt:
It uses some livers and leeks
That are free range, organic, and GMO-free,
And are grown by some real hippie freaks.

The pictures of cats, they are thick on the ground
(Or more properly, thick on the screen)
This one flushes toilets while riding a Roomba!
This video has to be seen!

O, look - here’s a quiz that’s purporting to tell
Me what famous personas I share;
Or who I most resemble, or how much I dissemble,
Or if I like Yogi the Bear. 

We go out for dinners with fam’ly and friends
And at some point (it’s hard to predict)
The smartphones come out and the talking all stops
And I think to myself, “We’re all licked.” 

“I contain multitudes” - so the glowing screen says.
O, how can we hope to compete?
We are only human - we’re not all that smart -
And constructed of fallible meat.

So she lies in repose, with her face all aglow -
Aglow, but not with desire.
She is lit by the Super-Smart Handheld Device
With its world-containing screen’s fire.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A REFLECTION UPON COMPLETING THIS LATEST SOLAR CIRCUMNAVIGATION

Time Marches On
or
It Sure Beats the Alternative

It’s hell, they say, when you get old.
Your toenails all are caked with mold,
Or maybe other kinds of fungus.
It’s hard to breathe with ancient lungus.
All bloodshot are your rheumy eyes,
All weak and stringy are your thighs.
Your pancreas is stiff and sore,
And buttocks droop towards the floor.
With exercise, your muscles ache,
It feels like all your bones will break.
You day by day get soft and flabby,
Your disposition loutish, crabby.
Digestion, once a simple task,
Becomes a chore (and please, don’t ask.)
Shoulder joints all get bursitis.
Your bladder wakes you up at nightis.
Your backbone gives you many pains.
Increasingly sieve-like grow your brains,
Until you cannot keep in mind
that “this is your elbow, that’s your behind”:
Getting old, it is not kind.

But whene’er these thoughts go thro’ my head,
I think: “It sure beats being dead.”

[Last posted about a decade ago, on a certain young lady’s birthday]

THE MEDICARE YEARS BEGIN


A sign of the times.

Why, yes - it’s my birthday. However did you know?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HOME OF THE GRAVE

In America, we know how to have fun
From the ski slopes of Utah to Florida’s sun
You can gamble in Vegas with your girlfriend or wife
And if you lose the bet you can pay with your life

In the U S of A we know how to have fun
We’re all sitting ducks for a nut with a gun
For the sociopath fellow who’s living next door
Who looks at a concert and thinks “killing floor”

REFRAIN:
In the land of the free and the home of the brave
We can help you book space in a premature grave
Oh, you’ll get your repose in a box six feet deep
In the land of the free and the psychopath creep

Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine
They massacre dozens, but we act like all’s fine
There’s a sickness that gnaws at our country’s inside
And no more safe places to go run and hide

In the land of the free and the home of the brave
We can help you book space in a premature grave
Oh, you’ll get your repose in a box six feet deep
In the land of the free and the psychopath creep

[This would make a dandy country song. Anyone wanna put it to music?]

Monday, October 2, 2017

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: A 100-WORD OBITUARY


Monty Hall (1921-2017). Requiescat in pace.

Monty was having the dream again, but it was different now.

The curtains were there, as always... but this time he was one of the contestants. Standing on his usual mark was a guy with glowing eyes, leaning on a scythe. And the curtains were black, so black they seemed to suck the light out of the room.

“What’ll it be, Monty? Curtain One, Two, or Three?”

“Curtain Two, please.”

Curtain One opened to reveal a shiny Cadillac hearse.

“Wanna change your mind?”

Monty knew the paradox that had been named for him. “Three,” he croaked.

Of course. The goat.

[Monty Hall, noted game show impresario, passed away Saturday at age 96. Now he gets to see what’s behind the Final Curtain. Ave atque vale.]

Friday, September 29, 2017

AFFLICTION, BENEDICTION

This evening at sunset Yom Kippur begins
The Day of Atonement to wipe clean our sins

We consume no water, and also no booze
We wear no leather on the soles of our shoes

Twenty-six hours without any rations
No shaving or hot baths or sexy relations

And the point of all of this lengthy affliction
Is to focus the mind for the day’s benediction

May the day bring clear conscience and a happy decree
May we enter our new year with hearts that sing free

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

THE GIRL WITH THE CHEESEBURGER TATTOO: A 100-WORD STORY

The world goes on, the world changes, thought Lisbeth.

Technological revolutions within her own lifetime had altered society beyond imagination. Smartphones. Social media. One tyranny after another.

In a twisted response to Trump’s brief administration, Joyce “Granola Granny” Munchisson had run for President on the PETA ticket and had won handily. Animal protein was now strictly forbidden; hot dogs and hamburgers had gone the way of the dodo.

Lisbeth was the hostess at Charlie’s. She loathed their vegan food, but it was good cover for her role as leader of the Veal-vet Underground... the girl with the Cheeseburger Tattoo.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

REGARDING ANTHROPOMORPHIC VEHICLES

Ever since the dawn of the Automotive Age, people have found ways to project human characteristics onto their automobiles. Animated cartoons a century old have shown cars as living, breathing, sentient beings. It’s hardly a surprise, when so much of our collective lives is suffused with our personal means of transport.

When visualizing cars as Cartoony Metal People, there are two divergent styles: the Chevron, in which the headlights serve as eyes and the grille as mouth; and the Pixar, where the windshield represents the eyes.


Chevron (top) vs Pixar (bottom).

If one were to rely solely on these examples, one would conclude that cars using headlights for eyes have personalities befitting normal, matter-of-fact suburban humans, whereas windshield-eyed vehicles are far more exaggerated. It's not clear whether this observation is borne out by reality, but how much reality can you ascribe to a sentient vehicle, anyway?

There is something comforting about the Chevron model. Me, I think it’s the eyelids. They seem to convey a certain relaxed - almost sleepy - air. The Chevron car is homey, nonthreatening. This is the kind of car you would take with you to run a few errands in the neighborhood. It’s the car next door. It needs a nap.

The Pixar car, though - is he happy? Is he insane? He looks like he’s up for adventure - an adventure of the sort Thelma and Louise might involve themselves with. He runs on Hi-Test, which he guzzles by the six-pack.

This business of anthropomorphizing our vehicles is nothing new, as I mentioned above, but I suspect it will really get a shot in the arm as we take our first tentative steps into the age of self-driving cars - automobiles in the truest sense of the word. Ascribing a persona to a car that drives itself is really nothing strange: in fact, it seems perfectly natural.

Meanwhile, what say ye? Are you a Chevron or a Pixar kind of person?

Postscriptum: I’ve been reminded of other anthropoid cars by commenters here (thanks, Kevin!) and on Farcebook - specifically, Herbie the Love Bug and My Mother, the Car.

“My Mother, the Car,” was a TV series that aired during the 1965-66 season with a total of thirty episodes. The mid-1960’s were notorious for their horrible sitcoms, and MMTC, which featured a superannuated jalopy ensouled with the protagonist’s dead mother, was one of the worst. Even die-hard TV nostalgia freaks throw up a little in their mouths when they think of this show.

Herbie was the star of six Disney live-action feature films between 1968 and 2005 as well as of a five-episode television series in 1982. You’d think Disney would avoid the concept of an animate vehicle after having seen how badly MMTC bombed, but that didn’t faze them... and Herbie, surprisingly, was a success. Of course, Volkswagen Beetles have a certain cuteness factor, and then there was that dead mother business.

But both Herbie and MMTC’s Gladys, despite being sentient, were cars in their outward appearance. They looked, respectively, like a Volkswagen Beetle and a 1928 Porter. No cartoonishness... but it’s appropriate to give them a passing mention. So there you are.

Monday, September 11, 2017

UNDER THE BED: A 100-WORD STORY

Jeffy hated second grade.

He was younger and smaller than most of the kids in his class. He was also very intelligent. These characteristics made him an all-too-frequent target of bullies: It was as predictable as sunrise that the Stoopnagel twins would make his day unpleasant. Between the incessant spitballing and the abuse on his homeward walk, it made Jeffy loathe school.

Abruptly, the bullying stopped. After recovering from broken kneecaps, the twins never pestered Jeffy again. And every day, they nervously presented him with their lunch money.

Jeffy liked second grade now, thanks to the mobster under his bed.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

AN EVENTFUL WEEKEND

Twenty years ago today, Dee and I were in Boston, depositing Elder Daughter at what would be her new home for the next four years: Boston University.

We had done the obligatory College Search Trip, E.D. and I, the previous summer, visiting several schools in the Northeast. But it was pretty clear from the get-go that she was interested in one college, and one college only, from the moment her feet touched ground on campus - and that college was Boston University. And so that is where she decided to go.

The intervening year - Senior Year! - passed all too quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to transport our daughter and her Critical Belongings to Boston.

Logistics were a bit tricky, since we were living in Houston at the time - a Gawd-awfully long distance away by any surface transportation. Fortunately, since E.D. would be living in a dormitory, there was no need to schlep furniture. We would simply pack whatever miscellaneous clothing and supplies she would need in boxes and ship it up there by UPS, freeing us to fly without a monumental amount of checked baggage.

What we didn’t plan on was a UPS strike. Ah, well. The stuff got there eventually.

It was an eventful weekend, what with our scurrying about and helping to get our daughter situated in her new digs. Still there was more: It was Dee’s birthday.

And then came the shocking news from England about the tragic accidental death of Princess Diana.

The United Kingdom and the remnants of its Empire mourned... and we Americans mourned with them. It was a sad coda to what had started out as a fairy-tale story, one that had gradually developed darker tones as the years passed. Ah, well. Sic transit gloria mundi.

But our concerns were more immediate. We had a birthday to celebrate! And we had the bittersweet task of getting our firstborn settled in to her dormitory room, ready to begin her independent adult life. It was a bittersweet day.

I’ve written about that day before, and yet I can still conjure up the emotions I felt back then, a peculiar stew of joy, agitation, horror, grief, excitement, and unabated love. What else can you expect from an eventful weekend?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A HOLE IN THE SKY


The total eclipse of 21 August 2017, photographed in Englewood, TN by Yours Truly. Several prominences are visible on the right limb of the Sun: these could be seen as red flashes by the unaided eye.

...Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there’s only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart...
 - Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

...I’m being followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow...
- Cat Stevens, “Moon Shadow”

...Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun...
- Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”

...Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the Sun
 Oh, but Mama, that’s where the fun is
- Bruce Springsteen, “Blinded by the Light”

There was a small crowd of us gathered together in front of Eric the Blade’s Tennessee compound to see an event some of us had been anticipating eagerly for years. I speak, of course, of the total solar eclipse of 21 August 2017, the one christened by the Newsertainment Media as “The Great American Eclipse,” a blackout of the Sun that would cross the entire width of the continental United States. Meanwhile, the parts of the Lower 48 that did not see totality would at least experience a partial eclipse.

Partial solar eclipses aren’t that uncommon, as it happens, but the difference between even a 99% partial eclipse and The Full Monty is, well, all the difference. The first is interesting; the second, utterly mind-boggling. For that reason, I had been looking forward to this day for over ten years, ever since I learned that the path of totality would be just a short drive north of Chez Elisson. Even better, the centerline of that path would sweep through Tennessee, passing just a couple of miles north of Eric and Fiona’s place. It would be hard to find a better excuse for a blogmeet.

Dee and I arrived early, as did K-9 and Red, his elusive (and lovely) bride. Sunday night, Tommy and Shyam stopped by, and in the wee hours of the morning, the Mistress of Sarcasm cruised in after having dropped Erica and The Other Elisson off at the infamous Red Roof Inn. And on Monday - Eclipse Day! - we were greeted by Eric’s Sainted Mother and her friend Barb.

Everyone was well provisioned with the requisite eclipse glasses, with Tommy and Shyam having brought a couple of colanders as well. (Colanders, aside from being a Dubious Fashion Accessory, have small holes that cast interesting diffraction patterns during the partial phases of an eclipse.)


Totality Ridiculous: Dee and I sport the latest eclipsy fashions. Eclipse Glasses and Colanders protect against both eyeball-sizzling solar radiation and Mysterious Chemtrailz ’n’ Kozmik Rays! 

August in Tennessee can be a blast furnace, and Eclipse Day was no exception. We could almost feel our faces sizzle as we took brief peeks at the Sun through our eclipse glasses, waiting for the first chip of moonshadow to appear. It did, and we all watched the slow progression of partiality, the Sun’s weirdly obese crescent gradually looking more and more like some sort of astronomical Pac-Man and then becoming the thinnest of slivers. Even so, it was too brilliant to gaze upon without those nearly opaque eclipse glasses.

As the eclipse progressed, we all could see diffraction patterns take shape in shadows cast by the leaves, an array of crescents. Even Tommy’s colander could throw a skein of crescents across the driveway.





It was Eric who first noticed the cicadas, who had begun thrumming as though it were twilight. And, we realized, it was twilight. The Moon’s shadow was rushing toward us, a dusky umbrous darkening of the Western sky.

Then, suddenly, totality.


It got plenty dark for a couple of minutes.

The last brilliant sliver of sunlight vanished and the eclipsed Sun appeared in all its magnificence: a jet-black disc surrounded by the pearly solar corona. It was like nothing so much as a glowing hole in the sky. And the corona! White it was, bluish at the edges, with barely discernible reddish flickers appearing intermittently at the edge of the Moon’s ebon surface. It was a sight for which I had waited all my lifetime.

We watched, jaws agape. And then, as the all-too-brief time window closed, we could see dawn approaching... out of the west. In a twinkling it was over, and the cicadas ceased their song.

It had been awesome in the truest sense of the word, a rare glimpse of a near-miraculous phenomenon. And being able to share the experience with Dee, the Mistress of Sarcasm, my brother, and a handful of good friends? Priceless.


Composite photograph of the eclipse as it progressed from partial to total. Don’t let those thin crescents fool you: Even the thinnest sliver of unobstructed Sun was too brilliant to look at without eye protection.

I can now check “See a total solar eclipse” off my bucket list. But there’s another one coming down the pike in seven years (8 April 2024) and it’ll be a doozie, with totality lasting about four and a half minutes. The centerline of totality will pass almost right over Kerrville, Texas; just a hair west of Cleveland, Ohio; right over Buffalo and Rochester, New York; and will touch the northernmost tip of Prince Edward Island. Plan ahead!


Big Jack sez, “Hey, did I miss something?

Monday, August 28, 2017

GEORGE’S RAFT: A 100-WORD STORY

George was a pirate, but he wasn’t a very good pirate.

He had, somehow, managed to get himself marooned on an island. That’s standard pirate fare, except his island was in the middle of one of the largest cities in North America.

There were several cats on hand, and George briefly considered lashing them together to make a raft. But after pondering this idea, he thought better of it. Even a bad pirate, he thought, wasn’t that stupid.

Who will be eaten first? he wondered. Him, or the cats?

At least he had plenty of Jack around. Damn that Harrrhvey!

[Lashed together to honor the king of 100-word stories, Laurence Simon, and his creation: George, the not-very-good pirate. About a dozen years ago, Lair inspired me to begin writing my own 100-word stories, all of which are conveniently accessible both here and at my old blog. He’s dealing with Hurricane Harvey right now, and we hope he won’t have to lash his cats together to make a raft.]

Monday, August 21, 2017

THE UNFORTUNATE AND SHORT-LIVED ROMANCE OF MR.CHARLES BEVIS

Charles Bevis was a Man of Means, and of exceeding Taste;
And when it came to Courtship, he refused to act in Haste.

He would interview all Prospects, making all Requirements known,
Because he was particular about she whom he’d take Home.

One Day a Lady caught his Eye who answered all his Questions,
And winked at him with just the slightest Hint of warm Suggestion.

On bended Knee his Troth he pled; she happily accepted.
The Nuptials followed: Off to bed, but not there to be slepted.

For full three Nights and full three Days, with Passion quite romantic,
They made Love every Minute with a Pace exceeding frantic.

Then Nature called (as Nature must) unto good Mr. Bevis,
Who told his bride, “We must confide, it’s time that we relieve us.”

And going to the “Little Room” where stood the white-glazed Throne,
Our Mr. Bevis sat right down and made himself at Home.

But when for Paper-Roll he reached, his Fundament for dabbing,
’Twas then with pain-wracked Voice he screeched, as though he’d felt a Stabbing!

“Vile Wench!” he shrieked, “Avaunt! Away! I’ll sue you for Divorce!
And if you do not leave at once, I’ll throw you out by Force!”

A Scene ensued. His weeping Bride took neither Hat nor Pin,
A swift and shocking Consequence for her most heinous Sin -

For ev’ryone of Quality knows one essential Fact:
The Paper on the Toilet-Roll goes Front, and never Back!