Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some perspective is in order.

I am reminded of the line that runs (to paraphrase Bob Newhart) something like this: "I despaired having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."

The pictures of devastation and desolation from LA-MS are heart-rending. I defy anyone to watch the news clip of Harvey Jackson (who tried to hold on to his wife during the hurricane but was unable to) as he recounts her last words: "Take care of the kids" and not get choked up* while seeing this.

Makes the problems of not having power in your house pale in comparison to not having a city.

Naturally, these things bring out the reprehensible and the imbecilic in humanity. From the knuckle-dragger savages who were TRYING TO LOOT THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL** to fringe whackos at either end of the political spectrum*** who take perverse fun in wholesale human misery because it allows them a platform to expound their views. Let's remember these examples of human debris, since we are certain to see their likes again until the end of time, that we may always be ready to stand between them and all that is good and decent in case of the former, but also between the latter and common sense.

But this also brings out the best in us. Differences of race, ethnicity, faith and politics dissolve. People come forth to aid unknown strangers in staggering bursts of kindness and generosity and simple love of your fellow man.

I know to what team I'd rather belong, and I hope you may be on the side of the angels on this one.

-Joke

* If you don't you're probably heartless and should go to Emerald City, ASAP.
** "You. Hell. Now." I'm also thinking not only should capital punishment be extended in this case, but that crucifixion might prove apt.
*** If you don't think there are whack jobs at either end of the political spectrum, then you, my friend, are one of the lunatics. You may wish to consider mailing me your voter's registration card and tinfoil hat.

Posted by Joke at 2:24 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Do something useful.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lists the following agencies as needing monetary donations to assist hurricane victims:

[The ones in italics are the ones to which I donated]

American Red Cross 1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English [1-800-257-7575 Spanish]
• Operation Blessing 1-800-436-6348
• America’s Second Harvest 1-800-344-8070
• Adventist Community Services 1-800-381-7171
Catholic Charities USA 703 549-1390
• Christian Disaster Response 941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554
• Christian Reformed World Relief Committee 1-800-848-5818
• Church World Service 1-800-297-1516
Convoy of Hope 417-823-8998
• Lutheran Disaster Response 800-638-3522
• Mennonite Disaster Service 717-859-2210
• Nazarene Disaster Response 888-256-5886
• Presbyterian Disaster Assistance 800-872-3283
• Salvation Army 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
• Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief 1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440
• United Methodist Committee on Relief 1-800-554-8583

Corporate Efforts (I'm not making any judgments, just passing on data, such as I found it):

• Clear Channel:
Clear Channel Communications: Storm Aid
• Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart Katrina Disaster Relief Effort
• PETCO: Hurricane Katrina Emergency "Round Up" Fundraiser
• Lowe's: Lowe's to Match In-Store Donations up to $1 Million

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 11:29 PM 0 comments

Hackneyed, but true.

There is an aphorism that runs something like: "What starts badly, finishes worse."

This is the case with the recently delivered car.

When I first looked at it in my driveway the morning after taking delivery, I realized I may have gone home with Bo Derek, but woken up with Bo Jackson. There were bits and bobs of trim that were bent, broken or missing. Teeny bubbles of rust creeping up here and there.

Then, the day before the hurricane, it wouldn't start. Today being the first day I could, I went and replaced the battery since it was not lighting up ANYTHING. The first attempt to start it was almost successful. There could be no second. Grr. And there is SEE-THROUGH rust in the spare wheel well. I haven't gone to bed with Bo Derek and woken up with Bo Jackson...I've woken up with Bo Diddley. This is starting to run into money and I haven't even put on the first miles on it. So now I need to push-start it, take it to AutoVolante, get the starting issue dealt with, get the passenger window thing fixed also, and get the a/c recharged. I also need to order a few bits and pieces.

I can practically hear Poppy pealing with laughter at the next bit:

I'm going to get rid of the car, lik, yesterday. I know I'm going to take a hit on it, but I'll chalk it up to experience and I'll lick my wounds for a spell and go back to loving my "real car" while I ponder my next move.

I am in a VERY pissy mood.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:37 PM 0 comments

Monday, August 29, 2005

Mad Props and Irony

First of all, I must hereby issue HUGE Mad Props to Badger. She, knowing my plight due to PCD (post-cyclonic depression) went to that cheapo bookstore in Austin and scored for me
Happy Days with the Naked Chef and Jamie's Kitchen. Badger rules.

Next, I was pondering the irony of my pal Poppy and cars. While I am the goofball who goes simply mad about cars, Poppy is the one deranged enough to drive 17 hours at a crack, between IL and NH or IL and FL. Hell, I wouldn't want to do something I enjoyed for 17 hours. But she does it. Part of the reason why I wouldn't is that the DVD system in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster is the Not Headphone persuasion, so I would have to listen to SEVENTEEN HOURS of stuff I, at best, merely tolerate. My kids like GameBoy just fine, but that might work for a cumulative 3 hours, leaving me with 14 to ponder how to take my own life. So mad props to Poppy for makingthe drive, even when her personal cycle was in the Waxing Gibbous phase.

In my youth (Father William replied to his son) I had an internship up in DC, at some gummint agency, where I brought coffee to people who occasionally saw Important Dignataries on the far end of the hallway. Every two weeks, my pal Zack and I would pile into his car or mine (either being a woefully impractical 2 seat sportscar with room for 2 passengers and 2 duffel bags) and go from our apt. in Georgetown to South Miami in fifteen hours. This included meals and refueling. Oh, and one time we had to stop for radar detector batteries.

I suppose if I could listen to the whole Harry Potter or Hitchhiker's cycle on audiobook, maybe I'd be willing to do it, especially if the roads were fun to drive (like California One or Skyline or Blue Ridge) and I could somehow pile my family into the least impractical of my cars, in lieu of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:29 PM 3 comments

Hell. Handcart. Making good time.

The world is ending.

Gather your stuff, sell it cheap on eBay and live it up for the little time we have left until Jesus (or, if you'd prefer, The Mother Ship) makes a surprise appearance.

If I were a Big Deal Professional Theologist (or Mother Shipping Magnate) I could point to events and patterns, draw conclusions, make inferences and tie the whole thing together succintly. But I'm not. I'm just a guy with some less-than-common hobbies and a blog.

So, seeing as how I am left powerless I start bloghopping. There is one blog I rather like and I am strongly tempted to bookmark. In this blog is an entry on (and I am simplifying here) metrosexual men. I used to be of the opinion that a metrosexual guy was one who had personally tested 17 different kinds of undereye serum or could layer fragrances. It seems this is setting the bar too high, according to many of the people who left comments on the post. One guy likes picking out furniture and referred to a paint color as "buff", these sorts of guys have been essentially labeled as closeted or latent homosexual. Not only that--while the actual term wasn't slung around--the whole tenor of "girly men" permeated the subtext of these comments.

If women--and not all women, or even most but just sufficient numbers of women--today expect that a real man is someone who lives like a wolverine with the bare minimum in furniture, who spends his days breathing and eating (when not feasting on stuff from boxes or frozen trays) team sports, bragging about their Craftsman five-way pivoting power jig and whose notion of the arts is a musical rendition (via flatulence and eructation) of Jingle Bells, well, then, we're totally scrod.

I, myself, am going to make my stand and fight. Dammit, I like furniture, and yummy-ass food, and beautiful cars, and civilized menswear and I actually try out different sorts of shampoo and conditioners. I also am as big a fan of women (sharp, brainy ones) as can be managed. I don't care if this turns into Masada or Bastogne. I'm civilized and the world bloody well better get used to it.

-Joke, standing athwart history and yelling "stop!"

Posted by Joke at 12:14 PM 3 comments

Here's something new.

To add to my list of types of blog which are unlikely to make my bookmark list:

Poetry in Portuguese.

I have found 15(!) blogs from Brazil or Portugal with nothing but poetry. Since Portuguese is so similar to Spanish I can more or less make sense of the words. Lovesickness is not, at least in my opinion, an appealing subject for public display.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 12:48 AM 4 comments

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Stress shopping

Those of you who read both my blogs will readily note I am a fan of civilized apparel for gentlemen. Hell, even if you only read this one, I'm sure you could have pieced it together. OK, now, with the hurricane thing and the loss of electrical power and all, I am a little stressed. So as I was wandering about freely, looking for something--anything, really--to take my mind off the aggravation of these last few days, I happened to drive by a mall I never go into because they charge for parking.

Only there is a sign on the main window of the Nordstrom to the effect they are having a "Hurricane Damage Sale." It seems some rain seeped through and some things got a bit damp. So stuff was being blown out.* And by blown out I mean UTTERLY RIDICULOUS prices. Mind you, I'm the guy who's bought $2K suits for $49, and these prices astonished even me.

How does a Joseph Abboud shirt (white herringbone cotton, straight collar w. french cuffs) for 50 CENTS grab you? Or Tommy Bahama silk camp shirts for $15? Trafalgar suspenders for $3.50? Alligator belts for $2? Nunn Bush captoes for $12? Sheer, unbridled madness. The women's side looked like the fall of Berlin, but it was relatively quiet on the guy side. I hauled off the following:

1 Joseph Abboud shirt (white herringbone cotton, straight collar w. french cuffs)
3 Tommy Bahama silk camp shirts
2 Tommy Bahama cotton/silk golf shirts
2 Tommy Bahama cotton/silk tee shirts
1 Polo long sleeved chambray "fishing guide" shirt
3 Trafalgar suspenders ("Café Society," "Grand Canal" and "Hermes" the mythological deity, not the French brand)
3 Trafalgar alligator golf belts (the kind with the sterling buckle, keeper[s] and tip) in black, brown and mahogany
1 pair Nunn Bush glossy black calfskin cap toed oxfords
2 pair Tommy Bahama "Indigo Palms" cotton denim jeans

Total tab? $150. (I know!)

-Joke

* My guess is that the whole inventory was written off, certain to be paid by the insurance company, and this is just their way of getting a little extra something for the coffers.

P.S. The last pic, I promise! Look at the Banyan trees and look at my neighbor (he's about 5'10") for a sense of scale. On one street alone there were 65 (!) of these down. If you're in the Gulf between New Orleans and Gulf Shores...run.

Posted by Joke at 11:34 PM 0 comments

Photographic evidence.

Poppy said: "Hey I've been to your house and you never gave me any fresh ripe tomatoes. In fact, I never saw any plants. You must have hidden them. Piker."

How soon they forget! Exhibits A & B, from JokeFest2004.


Now, for something completely different. Pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as seen throughout a 2mi. x 2mi. square of land in my little suburban SoFla enclave. (Now you know why the University of Miami teams are nicknamed "Hurricanes.")


You can clearly see how many HUGE ASS trees were just uprooted and chucked around. A li'l ol' power line has no chance. More pictures as I get that wire thingy working. (These came from the memory stick thing)

-Joke


Posted by Joke at 12:38 PM 3 comments

More detail

Dear Internet,

This is what happened. The Hurricane was SUPPOSED to come in as a very weak Cat 1/strong TS around the Palm Beach/Broward line, scoot straight across the state on a westward path, find its way to the Gulf and off it'd go. INSTEAD, it came across the Miami-Dade/Broward line (the orange dot) and tore pretty much on a southwest path (the orange line), right through Miami-Dade County. For the record, it is VERY DAMNED RARE for hurricanes to jog on south.

So a lot of people were caught pretty unaware, figuring that at worst there'd be a Hell of a lot of rain and a Hell of a lot of wind and maybe a few hours of power outage. Even when SoFla gets smacked by a Cat 3 or better, these storms are usually not so large as to cause widespread havoc, so people are unaware of how important the actual path of the strom is. To put it another way, the mess made by a Cat 3 that lands in the boonies is often less than the mess that a Cat 1 makes when it hits "the right" spot. Now, you guys in New Orleans...watch yourselves.

You saw the mess a "well-aimed" Cat. 1 can make. Be careful and we'll be praying for ya.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 9:48 AM 0 comments

Mo' irony

I'm at the office (Sunday 8/28, 9:35am) since the power has been restored here. We went to Mass a 9am and the Mass lasted TWENTY MINUTES. If you're Catholic (or even Catholic-conversant) you realize how quickly things had to be gotten overwith, since the main church was without power and we had to file into the chapel which kinda got very stuffy very fast.

Still, thankful to God we weren't one of those who had a tree cleft their house in twain, or had the roof sheared off or any of that.

As soon as we can find the camera-to-PC-wire-thingy, I'll post a surfeit of pictures. It will, as we used to say at school, freak your collective shit.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 9:34 AM 0 comments

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The irony runs--gallops, even--through it

OK,

Today, to escape the swelter of SoFla's August, I schlepped across the state to Naples (FL, not Italy). There are things in very great demand in a post-hurricane situation and the supply/demand intersection tends to be a lot higher than my conscience will allow my wallet to endure.

These things are:

1- Bottled water
2- Ice, ice baby
3- Generators
4- Batteries
5- Aseptically packaged milk
6- Gasoline
7- Cash

So, in lieu of being stuck in a luxurious sauna--what my house has become, essentially--for 16 hours I DRAGGED (you can tell they were going mental when the prospect of being in air conditioned comfort for 8 hours while watching DVDs, caused dissent and debate) my family to Naples.

I wheeled up to a Costco and managed to score a KILLER generator. At least the very southern-accented guys said it was, and they even helped load it on my flatbed cart thingy and two other guys helped me load it into the car. These guys are not Costco employees, but other shoppers. In Miami, one guy would have stabbed you and the other stolen your generator which teh store would have overpriced by 65% just for the hurricane aftermath. That's why the VMAs are here and not even a hurricane could budge them.

Of course, by the time we had lunch, shopped some (OK, lots), had dinner, fueled up bough 15 bags of ice (to share!) and drove back it was too late and too damned dark to futz around with canisters of gasoline and exposed hot metal bits. So here I am, with a fully functional, good-to-go generator that could power up my PC, fridge, TV and some wall-unit air conditioner...and I'm typing in the dark with 37% of my laptop's battery.

I'm just happy the porno grill has a side burner that would allow me to make pasta and sautee things, and all that cooking stuff.

-Joke, survivor

P.S. The Naples Williams-Sonoma was having a BLOWOUT on Bourgeat copperware and I went insane. Maybe it was stress induced shopping, and maybe it was finding copper sauce pans for $48 and paellas for $38 and so on. I also piled on a few greatly cheapened All-Clad bits and some linen. I feel better.

Posted by Joke at 10:23 PM 1 comments

Because you care.

Here's the latest noncommittal report from Florida Power & Light:

"FPL is aware of the widespread power outages in your area and we are working to quickly restore your service. Due to severe weather, power restoration may take longer than usual.This is Saturday's update on restoring power after Hurricane Katrina.

We are committed to restoring 90% of Dade and Broward customers by Tuesday night.
Many customers will have power before then.

The remaining 10% will have power restored by Friday, if not before, as crews must cut their way through damage and wait for flooding to recede.

As we assess damage at the neighborhood level we will provide more specific estimates. Daily updates will be provided through FPL.com, the media and 1-800-4OUTAGE. We know being without electricity can be an inconvenience. We are working hard to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. Thank you for your patience."

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 1:20 AM 8 comments

To set the record straight [rolls eyes]

Meghan took exception to my entry on what makes for a blog I wouldn't want to bookmark. Her comments are in italics, my reply in standard lettering.

Went to BlogHer to meet some of the talented women whose blogs I enjoy in person. I am not sure why I felt compelled to tell you this as you seem to have already made an

I’ll venture to say you meant to finish that off as “an…opinion on the subject.” However I don’t have an opinion on the subject. I’ll shamelessly confess I don’t “get” why a certain subset of bloggers should meet in conference to the exclusion of other bloggers but, we live in a pluralist society and, as a raving libertarian, I believe in the freedom of association...so, “live and let live” say I.

My MOTHER actually liked Ford. I was too young to know who the fuck he was. I might have liked him because he doesn’t seem to have been nearly the sanctimonious a-hole that W is.

Your viewpoints--unheard of on the blogosphere--have been filed away for future reference.

“The point is that if you are a liberal Mom AND you wish to start blogging AND you want me to find your blog compelling enough for me to read and bookmark then here are some tips:”

Perhaps you are operating under the assumption that one would defer to you before starting a blog?

Read carefully. I never said—or even implied—such a thing. In fact, you may have missed the important bit: "...AND you want me to find your blog compelling enough for me to read and bookmark then here are some tips." Like most other things in life, if the person producing a given thing (from milk to cars) wants me to like that thing and become an eager consumer thereof, then that producer would be well advised to have a product I’ll enjoy and of which I will wish to avail myself. F’rinstance, in the case of milk, "organic" and "not ultra-pasteurized" would be the way to earn my patronage, and in cars having something completely unlike a minivan (two doors, stick shift, small, nimble and overpowered) would do the trick. Mind you, none of the people in the milk or car (or A/V, or furniture, or MP3 player, etc.) industries is compelled to do what I want them to, but--and watch this, now--neither am I compelled to like it or to refrain from telling the world what I like and why.

You seem to be under the impression that a person who is a mother (and also amazingly, a few other things simultaneously) cares what you think.

Please walk me through the thought process which led you to that conclusion. It is obvious a woman who is a mother and a few other things simultaneously needn’t care what I think, if my long-suffering wife is anything to go by.

I mean, you complain about this stuff but you still read it. That would be like me lamenting how awful brussel sprouts are, but making them for dinner every night and forcing myself to choke them down. Now that’s just plain stupid.

Well, again I ask you to please read carefully. I do NOT read these sorts of blogs. As I stated at the very top of my entry, I went to the blogs which I DO like (Poppy's, Badger's, et al.) and then I clicked “next blog” ten times. How this qualifies as some sort of compulsion to assiduously and regularly make it a point to read blogs which I find vapid and witless is beyond me, but, as is often the case, I am willing to be corrected, should you wish to do so.

I think you need to be stuck with a label to really experience how annoying it is to read about how wrong and boring and bad your writing is because you are a “(mommy)blogger”.

1- You assume I have never been stuck with a label
2- You assume it matters to me what labels are affixed to me
3- Bloggers can be wrong and boring and bad writers regardless of whether their uteri have been utilized for procreative reasons. In fact, they needn’t have uteri at all to qualify.

Say that for example, you have bunions. People decide that makes you a “bunion blogger”. You might make occasional references about the ins and outs of life with bunions, but because the world has labelled you a “bunionblogger” you are subjected to the pompous lamentations of non-bunion bloggers talking about how awful bunion bloggers are when they all they do is talk about their pending bunion surgery and blah blah blah.

Let us assume all of that were true. I wouldn’t care. That’s one of the singular advantages to being shallow and self-absorbed like I am. Ask Poppy or Badger in particular: "I don't care and you cannot make me." But since the above is not true, nor representative of my thinking or allegorical of what I intended to say, I am at a loss to determine how you arrived at this conclusion.

I think YOU need a label mister. SEE HOW THAT FEELS! Women deal with this crap all the time because for some weird reason people want to put us in small little categories and pigeon holes because it makes it easier to make up reasons why we are so insufferable. Whatever.

Everyone deals with labels in some way or another. Ethnic labels, political labels, religious labels, regional labels, etc. What I do not care to do is feel one way or another about how people label me. I, in fact, have 87 better things to do with my copious free time than fret myself over how I am regarded by the blog reading population.

I have to say you have a point on some level, because there are blogs out there written by people of all persuasions that suck. That’s why I don’t read them. Except for here: www.shittyblogs.com

Because it’s funny.

Right. And some of the reasons some blogs suck is because they conform to a stereotype to such a pitiful extent they become parodies, except for the being funny part.

But you do kind of sound like a jerk with all your “don’t write about this” and “mommybloggers” garbage.

I defy you to find the word(s) “mommybloggers” in my entry, or for that matter “don’t write about this”.

The underlying point of my entry was to explain to the readership at large what it is I find vapid and witless in the blogosphere. There are no judicial robes on me, and I don’t tell anyone what to write. Much like I never, ever am going to like what I (even if it’s only me who thinks this way) find obvious and jejune.

However, I'm pleased my views on municipal Indian politics and on people posting about their children's eliminatory functions passed muster.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 12:57 AM 6 comments

Friday, August 26, 2005

Remain calm

So ya know, power went out around 9ish, and we were among the last ones in oir area to lose power. But I have a laptop with a battery I am guarding very closely. The gazebo tent cover roof thingy is in tatters and the orchid arbor is but a memory. The roof is kinda-sorta-maybe holding steady (i.e., not blowing off), but will need to be replaced (i.e. it has sprung all sorts of new and interesting leaks).

BUT we are all safe and sound. Which is what matters.

Still, I am pissed at myself for not having taken this thing AT ALL seriously. As a Cat 1, Katrina merited being taken a LITTLE seriously, and I didn't. Most people didn't either, but I know better.

I HATE making mistakes, so imagine how I feel about making stupid-ass mistakes.

-Joke, alive and well and over and out.

Posted by Joke at 4:27 AM 7 comments

Thursday, August 25, 2005

To further enlighten BabelBabe

On the matter of peniIe yanking:

1- If one is a very young child AND in the privacy of one's own home AND nobody is looking, it is permissible but ought be discouraged. Otherwise, it is not really permissible.
2- Unless one is of age and not contravening any legal/moral strictures of fidelity, yanking someone else's is not permissible, no matter what the polyamorous subset of BlogHer attendees may say, to yank anyone else's, under any circumstances.

I trust this settles the issue.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 7:18 PM 1 comments

Deja vu, all over again

If you want something a bit more updated, feel free to check in on the doings at the NOAA website, then just click on anything that says National Weather Service (NWS) or National Hurricane Center (NHC) or Katrina.

The funny thing is that between starting and finishing this post, I had to make a mad dash outside to secure the Muy Expensivo car cover to the new car that sucks. There's a rich vein of irony there, waiting to be mined.

Still, this beats the Hell out of blizzards and snow.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 6:55 PM 2 comments

It's like a desert out here and that's just the way I like it.

In a fit of tedium, I went bloghopping today. You have no idea how odd it looks, to someone addled by a Y Chromosome, to find references to "BlogHer" at nearly every turn. So I did an experiment to determine how alone I am in the blogosphere. I mean, I have frequently thought of myself as John Wayne at Lilith Faire, but now there was a chance to slap an empirical something to the notion.

So here's what I did. I went to my fave blogs and then clicked "next blog" ten times. This, in a nutshell, is what I found:

There are a few blogs that are sort a reverse spam. They have entries that read something like

January 13, 2005
uyghjpojorhcpsfcdneuegkrk...freepudding...yuioplkjhygtfughwpiduhijqdk.

March 16, 2005
pokjhyukjhgfdgtewessswsdfghjklkjh...disrobed scandinavian women...pqmhdielewpabspe

I found two blogs from India which PASSIONATELY discussed local Indian politics. Interestingly enough, they vehemently disagreed with each other. Now I'll never know what to think about the Calcutta Business Development Council.

A majority of the remaining blogs were from Moms. Most of these were pretty much the same sort of thing, which is why they aren't on favorites list. I mean, I have nothing against liberal Mom chicks; Hell, most of my favorite blogs are written by liberal Moms. The point is that if you are a liberal Mom AND you wish to start blogging AND you want me to find your blog compelling enough for me to read and bookmark then here are some tips:

1- Enough with the references to the eliminatory functions of those whom you have offsprung. (Poppy was righter than she knows.)

2- You were brought up by strict Baptists/Mormons/Presbyterians, then you went to Vassar/Oberlin/Indiana/UCLA and you started smoking pot/crack and became ridiculously promiscuous and became a registered member of the Revolutionary Worker's Party and got tattoos and an unorthodox piercing or two. Now you're hovering around 40 and married a bald guy with a ponytail and have two kids, a boy named Tarragon and a girl named Naiad. Your hardass Baptist/Mormon/Presbyterian parents were not amused but still talk to you. You have a different Pez dispenser for each antidepressant you have been prescribed. You occasionally rail against Gerald Ford and/or Wal-Mart.

OK, y'see, that? That's worth one blog entry, maybe. We get the point.

3- I kinda don't see the point of BlogHer. Perhaps, in my terminal masculinity, it's something more than "Sisters Doing It For Themselves" kind of thing, but--as Sir Percy Blakeney famously said once--sink me if I can make sense of the thing. I advise anyone with a sensible interest in having me enjoy his or (more usually) her blog, to just cut wa-a-a-a-ay back on the BlogHer stuff.

4- Troubled marriages. My guess is that if your marriage is seriously troubled (and not just because you married a bald, ponytailed guy, or there's drug/abuse/alcohol issues), then perhaps you might want to work on the marriage more, and blog less. Y'know, just a touch.

5- I don't want to hear about how out of control your 1st grader is and how there's nothing to be done about it and woe is you. Regaling me with tales of what hideous brats you will be foisting upon society (and my kids & my pals' kids) is not a way to win friends and influence people.

6- If your husband is never home, I do NOT want to read about what came today via Adam & Eve or Xandria. No pun intended. (To be scrupulously fair, if you're a husband who is anything like the Burp Cloth Bandit, keep that to yourself also.)

7- If you're an expatriate, frequent entries on how awful your country of origin is, well, that stales fast.

8- If you dress like a blindfolded 5 year old in a dark closet filled with craft supplies, I do not need to see you modeling your apparel.

9- If you enjoy eating groceries from boxes, cans, pouches, please, PLEASE do not publish recipes for how to "doctor them up."

10- No poetry. The odd haiku or limerick, provided it is cruel/funny, is not onlyfine, it will get you on my links list.

There. Have a new and improved blog experience.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 9:07 AM 8 comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's HERE! IT'S FINALLY HERE!!!

The diligent among you may remember when I bought my 2nd sports car. You may also remember the nightmare of getting it shipped from PHL to MIA. The denoument of the matter was that a member of the Alfa Club, who schleps around buying and selling and trading these cars, was nice enough to schlep this down for me and at a steal of a price ($200 vs. $1600) since I wasn't in screaming need for the car.

So the car is finally here!

And it sucks.

Dear reader, it wounds and pains me more to write it than you to read it. Some background is in order. I bought the car on eBay, since the goofball who auctioned it misspelled Alfa Romeo as Alpha Romeo and nobody hit his auction and I, basically, stole the car. Seeing as how this car was sold for WELL UNDER* the market price and the original seller sold it because he didn't have room for the car nor desire to drive it, the car sat, in essence, for three+ months in his backyard, immobile.

These cars--quite literally--need to be driven regularly and don't do well sitting around exposed to the elements. Mind you, nothing MAJOR is wrong with the car, but the cumulative effect of setting right the little things that are wrong with it will take a lot of time and money. Little nicks and dings, minuscule bubbles of rust, frayed and faded upholstery, misaligned or missing trim, new battery, new passenger window motor, recharge the a/c, etc., etc., etc. This car while, not actually abused, has been unloved for very long, and sitting around idle for 3 months has allowed the badness simmering under the surface to take center stage.

Now I am faced with the prospect of getting the (relatively speaking) bigger issues addressed so I can reBay and I can live to fight another day.

Blah,

-Joke

* I have blazers that cost me more than this car.

Posted by Joke at 8:42 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

And this was ever in doubt?

My Bloginality is INTJ

(My everyday personality, too.)

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 6:03 AM 1 comments

Monday, August 22, 2005

Why you need this book

I have sung the praises of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. And here's why:

Tony on cooking Onglet [a/k/a Hanger] Steak: "If you think you want it medium well or well[done], you don't deserve to eat this dish. See you at Sizzler."

Tony on aioli: "You can make aioli the old-school way by using a mortar and pestle and a lot of patience, like my Tante Jeanne. She didn't have a Cuisinart ... but then she didn't have an indoor toilet either. I suggest you use your food processor."

You should see what he says about vegans.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 6:02 PM 2 comments

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Wish List

OK.

Christmas will be here soon and JokeFest will also. I better start compiling a wish list so that you guys who complain what a PITA I am, may have that burning sensation assuaged.

Stay tuned,

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 9:12 PM 2 comments

Fluid dreams

It is well known I--in matters of potables--am notably promiscuous. There are people who will only drink things which are achingly sweet, or non-carbonated, or non-alcoholic, or ice cold or whatever. I am not among that narrow minded number. All I ask is that the beverage in question is good. This means I will drink wine as happily as KFP Coke, champagne as well as espresso, beer as much as gin. I shun no category* outright.

In this blog entry--and with JokeFest2006 practically upon us--I shall help you, the Gentle Blog Reader, assemble a proper bar and establish the proper cocktail frame of mind. The Cliffs Notes of cocktail history have much to do with Temperance imbeciles which brought us Prohibition. During these Dark Days* of the American Experiment, there were two kinds of alcoholic beverages available to the consumer: "Bathtub" hooch and bootleg imports. Cocktails, as a general class of potable, really rushed forth to dilute/mask the taste of the former and to stretch out the meager supplies of the latter*** and once people tasted them (after the American palate had been liberated) with proper spirits, there was no going back. This pretty much held until the 1960s, when the Flower Children came along and decided to gather up any interesting vegetation, roll up any that proved flammable or inject the residues of those which weren't or eat any convenient fungi...since, y'know, things with ingredients and shakers were the province of, like, SQUARES and/or The Man.

(Historians are all in near-unanimous agreement that, had the Summer of Love involved a lot more vermouth and a lot less LSD, we would have been spared all of the unpleasantness we have seen since; including--but not limited to--Jane Fonda, Norman Lear, Tiny Tim, New Math, Watergate, Jimmy Carter, disco, corruption at the UN, Oliver Stone, Lyme Disease, and the phrase "bling-bling." There is some argument as to whether we might still have TV shows with Jack Paar and Dick Cavett.)

So, hippies morphed into yuppies and it's taken all this time for MOST of the general weirdnesses foisted upon the society at large by my fellow Baby Boomers to dissipate from the cultural landscape. Which brings us back to drinking cocktails, as we were doing before we were so rudely interrupted. To be able be to make a decent array of palatable cocktails, you will need to find the barkeep's Holy Grail: The Well Stocked Bar (WSB).

Since we all have different places in our minds where we would like to take our Cocktail Dirigible, I'll suggest a simple "starter" setup for a bar whence will spring hundreds of different cocktails. The first ingredient is a GOOD liquor store, one with a broad array of spirits and a knowledgeable staff. If you live in one of those places where the police power of the state controls what sorts of beverages you can buy and how much you are to pay for them--or worse a "dry" jurisdiction, my condolences and remember to register and vote Libertarian.

A good shop can point you in the direction of undiscovered and regional (often rather inexpensive) brands with more character and more flavor the common stuff with the big ad budgets.

The heart of the WSB is its inventory of liquor, and you'll need bourbon, scotch, rum, tequila, gin, and vodka. If you are mental like I am, you might have one liquor for drinking "neat" and another for mixing, but in reality, the former is an option, and something of a vain one at that. For example, I have Wild Turkey AND Knob Creek bourbon. (A true nut will also get Jim Beam rye for the supreme achievement in Manhattans). I do the same with Scotch only more so, with Johnnie Walker Red Label for mixing, and Balvenie, Cardhu, Macallan and Laphroaig for snifter duty.

With regard to rum get Cruzan white (the ideal one for rum & coke) and/or Black, but you might want to supplement this with Bacardi 8, Rhum Babancourt and Zacapa, for drinking neat. When it comes to tequila, Herradura Silver is my go-to, and the one you want for mixing; the reposados are good, but read the label carefully, those "gold" tequilas are just silver tequilas with some caramel. Gin-wise, j'adore Plymouth, but Beefeater or Gordon's will work. Vodka is all over the damn map price-wise, but I like Glacier, with Finlandia and Wyborowa as my "next faves."

You will also need gear. A corkscrew, bottle opener, a shaker, juicer, and shot glass. The shaker can be one of two types, the Boston shaker (which is a glass tumbler with a steel tumbler--the latter fits, mouth-in-mouth, over the former, making a seal) or the regular. For the regular shaker, get the spout-less models. Sterling or sterling over copper are best, but stainless will do. Since I am a fan of his, I like the Michael Graves bar set you can grab at Target, for under $40. You can go to any of the usual houseware places or a restaurant supply store and come up with functionally the same stuff--only not quite so snazzy--probably for less coin.

Beyond this, you'll need a few standard ingredients. Triple sec for Margaritas (Bols Curacao will do, Grand Marnier will be better-but-overkill and Cointreau will provejust the thing for the dipsomaniacal Goldilocks), both sweet and dry vermouths (Cinzano for me), assorted mixers (Coke, Canada Dry Club Soda and Schweppes Tonic Water), bitters (Angostura, Peychaud's or Orange. I like orange bitters best.), grenadine (Rose's), fruits and/or their juices (lemons, limes, orange, pineapple) and sugar (superfine or in a simple syrup) will see you through lots of cocktails. Add any liqueurs (Bailey's, Kahlua, Malibu, etc.) you may need for favorite drinks . Lastly, make sure you have three basic glasses: "martini," Collins (tall and skinny, about 12oz), and Double Old Fashioned (short and squat, about 10 oz). I like the Luigi Bormioli lines if you must have a large-ish inventory of glassware for a crowd.

Naturally, practical mixology requires good ingredients and implements, a patient outlook, and lots of practice, practice, practice.

Now go be an agreeable host/ess.

-Joke

* Although diet beverages and non-espresso coffee are subcategories shunned like the Amish would a crack-addled porn star.
** Sure, there have been other sad chapters in the history of the Republic, sure, but none of those were to be faced sober.
*** After all, you didn't want Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. coming by your house THAT often, did you?

Posted by Joke at 12:47 PM 2 comments

So, SO brazenly swiped from Badger...

...before Poppy did.

10 years ago: August 1995. I quit my membership in the Libertarian Party. While in hindsight, I still think my maive principledness had a shabby sort of nobility to it, the people I met therein were 1- seriously divorced from reality and 2- mostly concerned about legalizing drugs. I just wanted to eliminate the income tax and take ameat cleaver to the federal register. We also officially decided to Start A Family, which took about 13 months to "catch" and, if I were to be shallow about it, I'd say were my happiest days. But I am not. Went up to NYC and had my first custom-made (as opposed toMTM) suit. Was in a deep blue funk because Alfa Romeo stopped being imported to the USA and Jack Kemp decided to not run for President.

5 years ago: August 2000. NOS was 3 and NTS was 1.5. Started working on NTS's speech delay thing. Dropped a client that represented 60% of my income because I'd die at age 40 from a stroke otherwise, with no idea how to replace that income. Argued politics on almost every e-medium at my disposal, except alt.sports.golf where everyone agreed with me, which was/is very annoying.

1 year ago: August 2004. Just came back from Disneyland with the Very Excellent Poppy family. We had just been in our current house exactly a year and not really done much of the fixing-upping this fixer-upper demands, beyond the very bare minimum required by JokeFest. I had just sold the silver Alfa Romeo and was hunting around for a replacement. 8/04 was the last time TFBIM put/changed the oil in her previous minivan, which is why it's her PREVIOUS and not her current one.

Yesterday: Let's see... got up and fixed myself my fave Saturday breakfast (which I saw on one of the Jamie Oliver shows) called "the Fry-Up Sarnie" and is crisp bacon, cheddar, english mustard and roast tomato on baguette. Oh, shut up. Then I watched the DVRed Jamie Oliver shows (they come on at 10ish a.m. GMT, which is 4am here) dressed, took NOS to golf, went swimming (Heat index? 124.) went out to dinner (NOS & TFBIM went to see Sky High afterwards; NTS and I were wildly disinterested, so we shopped and came home.) and returned home to decant NTS in bed. Fixed a drink, blogged, finished reading Driving Over Lemons, went to bed.

Today: Woke up early, read all my usual blogs, chased NTS, started writing this meme thingy. Went to church, followed by brunch ("yeasted" waffles, pepper bacon [Nueske's. Thanks Poppy! MWAH!], strawberries, Bloody Mary & espresso) among the offspring. I'm thinking ceviche for lunch (probably grilled cheese for the offspring) and something in the watermelon family for dessert. Figure out what to read next.

Tomorrow: Drop off NOS at school. Office. Meeting with Argentine client. Pick up NOS from school, Gym. Shower. Dinner. Blog. Bed. Repeat.

5 snacks I enjoy: Down East seasoned pretzel sticks, prosciutto, wasabi cashews, Key Lime shortbread and sun-dried tomato pesto on anything.

5 bands/singers that I know the lyrics of MOST of their songs: The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Cure, Stray Cats, Donald Fagen.

Things I would do with $100,000,000: Wonder what happened to the rest of my damn money.

Seriously, I'd give away cubic assload of it to cure assorted diseases and maladies that never get any airtime. I'd seriously think of running--I'd probably win--for President. Buy all the cars (not as many as you'd think, BTW) I have always wanted and a facility to keep them. Leave some aside for my kids to get started after college/grad school. Buy a few selected small, selected houses or apts. thoughout the world.

I'd also consider leveraging the $100M to buying the Disney company and running it right, for a change.

5 locations I'd like to run away to: Chicago, Boston, Rome, Milan and, one day, when it's in a free country again, Havana.

5 bad habits I have: not sleeping, saying insensitive things because [I think] they are funny, daydreaming freely, collecting too many things, reading too much.

5 things I like doing: staying up, mocking things I dislike, reading, cooking, showering.

5 things I would never wear: polyester, square-toed shoes, stretch t-shirts, cuffless non-jean trousers, silk scarves.

5 TV shows I like: Anything with Tony Bourdain, Good Eats, Oliver's Twist, The Naked Chef, Mario Cooks Italy. (99% of TV out there just blows dead wombats)

5 movies I like: The Right Stuff, The Natural, The Cotton Club, Metropolitan and His Girl Friday.

5 famous people I'd like to meet: Living- Tony Bourdain, Sir Stirling Moss, Rowan Atkinson, Bruce Brown and Chuck Yeager. Deceased- Harvey Penick, Barry Goldwater, Groucho Marx, Julia Child and L. Gordon Cooper.

5 biggest joys at the moment: my family, my car, my suburban enclave, the stuff I cook, swimming on a HOT-ass day.

5 favorite toys: My car, my home theatre, my most recent wristwatch, laptop, the porno grill.

I quote the Badger: "I'm not going to tag anyone, but those of you who always steal shit from me ANYWAY (you know who you are) should feel free to grab this one too."

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 7:30 AM 6 comments

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Stop it! STOP IT!!! (Pt. 2)

Dear Women of the World:

The following are a) NOT attractive and b) HORRIBLY, obviously fake:

1- Silicone enhanced breasts
2- Collagen inflated lips
3- Botoxed faces

I neither know--nor care, come to think of it--how many other guys can spot the fakey-doos. The point is that I can spot the fakes. And they are woefully unattractive to a civilized male* and beyond that, I'm good and sick of looking at this. Look at poor Kate Beckinsale, who was drop-dead gorgeous and is now, um, not-so-much.

I mean it, cut it out.

-Joke

* If you're trolling for a guy who considers it a mucho bling-bling deluxe thing to eat the boxed mac 'n' cheese that has the VelveetaTM pouch instead of orange cheese powder, well, frankly you're on your own.

Posted by Joke at 8:02 PM 0 comments

Friday, August 19, 2005

It's official

My regular pair of eyeglasses are dead. Dead as a fucking doornail. NOS killed them "by accident." These are now the sorts of eyeglasses Quasimodo MIGHT be able to wear if he got into a car accident and never got the reconstructive facial surgery needed.

They are THAT mangled.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 7:56 AM 2 comments

All the other kids are doing it!

What Flavour Are You? Cor blimey, I taste like Tea.Cor blimey, I taste like Tea.

I am a subtle flavour, quiet and polite, gentle, almost ambient. My presence in crowds will often go unnoticed. Best not to spill me on your clothes though, I can leave a nasty stain. (If you were not Tea you would be Nuclear Waste.)

What Flavour Are You?


Posted by Joke at 5:22 AM 4 comments

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Now Read This.

I have been in a very bookish frame of mind these days. The rush of that Very Big Important Project is behind me, and the days are swollen with a damp heat that makes me ache to be inside, the subtropical lushness behind me on the other side of my bay windows, conditioned air soothing my skin as I gnaw through one book after another.

The book I am about to wrap up is called Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist In Andalucia by Chris Stewart. It's sort of like Under The Tuscan Sun if it had been written by Peter Cook. A delightful, hilarious--albeit in a gentle way--treat of a book.

The book I just wrapped up was Imperial Ambitions by Noam Chomsky. Let me try to issue an opinion without any improper editorializing...ahem...I do not care for Noam Chomsky, and I think remarkably little of his ideas or the mindset which underpins them. However, I find it very, VERY important to be conversant with the works of people with whom I disagree--even strenuously so, regardless how it tests my family history of hypertension--so that in discussion, I am able to understand the outlooks and opinions of people whose views may be polar opposites of mine. Rest assured, this was read in a couple of sittings at the library, so as not to unduly benefit Mr. Chomsky's finances.

The book I am about to start next is: Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams. I bought this epochs ago on tape, but I noticed a copy was available at the library and so, I checked it out.

Another book which I will read interspersed with whatever other magazines and books and work stuff, is Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Most cookbooks are just collections of recipes, but this one is far more than that. It helps you get into the mindset of a professional chef and to think like a cook. Yeah, yeah...the food is French (which is a cuisine I consider...y'know...alright) but the concepts and attitude are universal and timeless. I love his writing style and his boot-camp/tough-love approach to cooking. Get it.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 3:47 PM 2 comments

A man of my word.


Here are better (how much better is the subject of impassioned debate) photos of the eyewear in question.

This first pair of glasses is the lightest of the two (½ ounce vs. ¾ ounce) and while I don't regard very highly of the color combination of titanium and that yellow-greeny tortoiseshell, at least the latter is confined to the earpieces. So that makes it OK.


This other pair has spring loaded temples, which I love, but I am guessing the mechanism adds to the mass, making it a bit heavier (by a ¼ oz., or 50%, depending on your position along the optimist-pessimist spectrum) but I think its blackness--the flash of the camera makes the black steel look dark grey--makes it the choice for black tie (duh!) as well as more fashion conscious occasions. I'm not crazy about the logo-action they have going on, but given the excesses available to the discriminating consumer of Europimpwear (Cartier lunettes, anyone?) I really cannot complain. The titanium ones due to color and lighter weight, will probably see duty as an everyday sort of thing.

So I am happy. Now I just need Badge to find me cheap cookbooks to read.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:39 AM 4 comments

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sometimes I listen to Poppy

Dear Internet,

A long time ago, Poppy sent--as part of a longer email--a suggestion on new eyeglass frames. This may have been prior to the first JokeFest, it was so long ago.

Well, I have finally heeded her advice. Partly because she was right to make her suggestions (which I have never disputed), but also because the eyeglasses I purchased went missing about 5 months ago and the backup pair (i.e., the ones the missing pair were purchased to replace) are, frankly, falling apart.

So I needed new eyewear.

I happened to be at Nordstrom--where I never shop, because the mall where it is located charges for parking even if you validate and parking is one of the two things for which I NEVER, EVER pay--and they had some Gucci sunglasses. Normally, I eschew these as Europimpwear of the basest sort, but in this case, they were discreet, stylish, gossamer-light and quite attractive. (Th epicture sucks, I know. I'll get a better one up.) No wonder they were on sale.

It is an article of faith with me to not feel constrained by the choices at the optometrist. This has been the case after I bought a nice pair a few years back only to be stunned and horrified by the $385 price tag (more than 80% of the cost being the frame). So, I generally wind up finding frames wherever I want, and taking them to be fitted with "regular" lenses for my mild myopia.
I have been told by my opthalmologist that I am an ideal candidate for all sorts of surgeries to bring me up to 20/20, but TFBIM and the lads have all soundly vetoed the notion. I have had eyeglasses since I was 8 years old and now, 33 years later, I have been told I don't look like me without eyewear of some sort. I am also fortunate that presbyopia is not--knock wood--an issue, since I am such a damned bookworm that as I age, my eye's focal length is freezing up pretty much where I'd want it. Which is a good thing, because bifocals would drive me mental and I'd have to wear two separate sets of eyeglasses PLUS the Rx sunglass permutations would make me look like a deranged insect.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:53 AM 4 comments

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sure, it seems a long way away...

But JokeFest is nearly at our throats.
  • I have yet to recruit members of the JokeFest Admissions Committee.
  • I have yet to write down the application for an invitation to attend JokeFest.
  • I have yet to write down the schedule of events for the weekend before and the weekend after and the actual birthday itself. (These events involve a welcome reception for out-of-towners on the Friday before my birthday, the party on the Saturday before my birthday, a thank-you brunch for out-of-town attendees the following Sunday, a driving tour for my fellow car geeks, my birthday dinner, a welcome reception for out-of-towners on the Friday after my birthday, the party on the Saturday after my birthday, and a thank-you brunch for out-of-town attendees that Sunday.)
  • Print out the JokeFest registration packet. Stuff it into envelopes, in anticipation of mailing labels.
  • Work on a design for the T-shirts, and assorted other godies that belong in the goody bags.
  • Get goody bags.
  • Print up maps and suggest airfare and lodging options for out of town attendees.
  • Keep most of my wife's friends at bay, or at worst, segregate them to the lesser of the two parties (as yet to be determined).
  • Plan menus for all 6 events
  • Get decorations for the two main themes (one for each weekend)
  • Keep TFBIM from implementing suggestions
  • Ponder the JokeFest gift registry (relax, it's weird-yet-cool but cheap stuff)
  • Update the JokeFest website (haven't touched it since...um...last JokeFest)

Like many a sequel, JokeFest2 was a pale imitation of JokeFest1 and not by accident. After all, 40 is one of those big, round numbers that gets people all excited. 41 is just a pretty dull prime number. So I kept it pretty low key the intended effect being to get a few gifts and use up the rest of the luau stuff I had left over. I mentioned this to Poppy wehen we met up in WDW just a couple of weeks before and I got the feeling--it is quite possible I am misreading this, for I am saddled with a Y chromosome and therefore likely impervious to hint, subtlety and nuance--she was disappointed there would be no "real" JokeFest. If she was, and that's the working assumption here, she had the good grace to keep her counsel. The jig was up though.

I had let down the people in the matter of JokeFest and this will not do. So, I am back to the original template for JokeFest, even though 42 is only the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

-Joke


Posted by Joke at 10:32 AM 1 comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It looks like we are "GO" for launch.

I spent a good hunk of time last night pondering the various directions JokeFest2006: An Homage to Cocktail Culture could take. I am pleasantly surprised!

Let's take a look, shall we, at the elements of a proper JokeFest:

Goody bags Goody bags themed with the iconography of cocktail culture are rife! Not only that, but stuffins therefor are also myriad and very interesting and fun. Coasters, swizzle sticks, shot glasses, vintage recipe cards are running riot all over the damned landscape.

Drinks Well, like, DUH. You have two kinds of drinks. Ye Olde Classick Kinde and the Neo Urban Hipsterish and both fit well. Things like Manhattans, Sidecars and Stingers are being rediscovered and, for those who prefer whimsy to rediscovery we have all those drinks that 1- go in a martini glass but aren't: Appletini, Cranberrytini, etc. or 2- Are somewhere between the cocktails of yore and the fruity, slushy/icy tropical things that most people only quaff on vacation.

Food Here is where we start getting cool. I am thinking of taking a lot of the hip, Swank-O-Rama party foods of the Cocktail Age and updating these while simultaneously making them portable. So, for example, whereas you might have been served at some point Beef Wellington or Chicken Kiev for dinner, I'll figure out how to repackage them into one-bite cocktail fare.

Music You need a good amount of variety here, so as not to be unwittingly campy or So Ironically Hip that the whole scheme is a washout. Some of that Sinatra/Dino/Bennett is nice, mixed with the more accessible Birdland/Bluenote jazz, modern Jazz Rock (Holly Cole, Donald Fagen) and swing-type stuff (Louis Prima et al. at one end and BSO at the other) and all bound together by the estimable Esquivel.

More as it dawns on me.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:31 AM 3 comments

Monday, August 08, 2005

Aha!

I think I've got it.

For a while I was kinda running between mopey and pissed off over the whole party theme* thing. Then, this morning it dawned on me, as I was at a meeting with a client. JokeFest'06 shall be An Homage To All Things Cocktail. I dunno why I didn't think of it before.

It allows me to be retro, ironic AND ironic about the whole retro thing, which is delightfully complicated. But most of all, pulling together the invitations, goody bags decorations and all of that is something that, honestly, just does itself.

The food easily suggests itself, also. Add a bartender and life is good.

-Joke

* Yes, I am a theming slut. Sue me.

Posted by Joke at 11:58 PM 3 comments

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Badger Hates Jazz

Just riffing offa Badger's post on musical influences.

In, as Arthur Conan Doyle would have written, sharp contradistinction to Badger, I was brought up by people who were emphatically not hippies. In fact, whatever the polar opposite of hippies may have been, that was them. My grandparents were equally rock-ribbed with my paternal grandfather being an out-and-out royalist. I suspect my parents voted for Goldwater in 1964 because John Wayne wasn't running.

So we heard a lot of classical music. A LOT. I remember my dad coming home with these 12" x 12" squares of brown paper, ripping them open to brandish a trophy. "Bach! The Goldberg Variations!" he'd announce, his voice quivering like it probably hadn't when we were born. My sister and I, being the impertinent grade schoolers we were, would whiningly reply "You already HAVE that one." But he didn't, and he'd explain why he wanted the 1965 session on Deutsche Grammophon instead of the 1969 Philips version. Then he'd make us sit there and listen to whatever he'd just gotten. Sometimes he'd play air baton. Really.

(Still haven't forgiven him for the whole Wagner/Ring cycle thing.)

To my parents, not only were drugs and rock & roll utterly, totally unthinkable, but beer and jazz were objects of great suspicion. Hell, to this day, they think anything beyond their aesthetic sensibilities is barbarism. Naturally, some of the stuff which was inflicted on my ears grew on me, especially opera. Still, they watched us like a pair of hawks, sure the zeitgeist would have us listening to Sly and the Famiy Stone and shooting up heroin the nanosecond their backs were turned. With me they didn't have to worry so much because I was somewhere between antisocial and self-absorbed. In 1975 my dad was transferred down to Miami (I was born, and all that, in Detroit of all places), just in time for me to hit junior high and discover girls*.

It was about that time I got myself a cheapo transistor radio, the ones with the case made of imitation naugahyde, and with perforations for the speakers and the SINGLE earphone. At that point I really became enamored of rock and roll, both in its "oldies" incarnation (especially the guitar-driven stuff like OLD Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly) and in the style of the time. I also realized what I hated: acts like Chicago, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and others I derided as music for wussies (well, it rhymed with "wussies") at very best and unlistenable KGB auditory interrogation torture at worst, with most being (correcty, IMO) classified as lizard guano.

About the time Elvis assumed room temperature, I discovered the guitar. My parents became worried but, seeing as how I was stuck in my room reading,** they didn't actually become alarmed. I eventually scraped enough ducats together to buy myself a stereo from Sears. It had a turntable, tuner, 8-track AND cassette player all in one. I was in heaven. My sister, bless her, had sold her soul to the dark side and was axle-deep into disco. I tore my garments, wailed "I haff no sister!" put on my headphones (to prevent disco contamination and also to make sure no complaints about my musical deviltry reached the authorities) and cranked up the rock and roll station, grooving to The Eagles, Led Zep, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, The Who, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, Cheap Trick, Boston, Queen (A Day At The Races is a particularly brilliant issue) and other arena-fillers of varying degrees of quality such as Rush, Foreigner, Styx and Journey.

It was at this point my different drummer picked up the snare and started beating a rhythm discordant to the one everyone to which else was marching. Listening to Led Zeppelin and Clapton (and reading*** about them) led me to artists like The Yardbirds and Jeff Beck, which in turn led me to the blues (BB King, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon Howlin' Wolf, etc.), from which I have never recovered, although I go in and out of remission with frequency.

Living in Miami, disco--music's equivalent to the herpes virus--was a suffocating, ever-present shadow. I am pleased, in a surprised sort of way, to have survived. (As a trivia sidenote, it wasn't until 1986 that Miami got its first rock & roll club: "Biscayne Baby.") I have to say that as much as I hate wuss music, I REALLY hate disco. Then something happened that turned my world upside down, in 1979. "My Sharona" rocketed up the charts and hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it was the first rock and roll song to do so in something like 3 or 4 years. It electrified me. What was different was that it wasn't the Grandiose Rock I was used to, no. There was no "glam" no "art" no pretense, no desire to change the world. It was new, raw, rock and roll, stripped down to the barest essence; much like very early rock & roll, it seemed to be 3-4 guys in jeans, down in a basement or out in a garage somewhere. This was music like I liked it, with the metronome set as fast as it could go.

My pals in school were neutral on the issue, preferring the more mainstreamed AOR sound as were the girls I dated, the former because they were hidebound and reactionary and bourgeois in their musical tastes and the latter because they were stoner chicks. I must regretfully confess never having been a stoner**** at all, but in my last two years of HS dating--almost exclusively--stoner chicks...let's just say I was a calculating young man and leave it at that.

But the new style of music really caught my ear. By this time I was splitting my listening time between the few AOR stations in Miami and college radio. I started listening to Elvis Costello, Blondie, B-52s, Stray Cats, The Jam, The Rockats, The Blasters, The Cichlids, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Devo, and a LOT of ska coming over from the UK (The Selecter, The Specials, Bad Manners, etc.). Listening to that led me to discover the successors and precursors, a LOT of early 1960s surf instrumentals like Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Crossfires, The Sentinals; and early punk, esp. Agent Orange and early Ramones. Sometimes a blues act--I'm thinking George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers, here--would catch my eye or some Big Rock Act (Van Halen) would manage to not jump the shark (Hell, it took Springsteen until 1988 to do THAT) and I would put that in my auditory hopper also.

With that stuff I swallowed a lot of what I considered political imbecility for the sake of listenability. But I loved it and by the time I hit college in 1981, I was a force to be reckoned with. I was in a band named "Peter Stiff and the Strokes" and we played a strange hybrid of rockabillyfied punky power pop, mostly with the express purpose of picking up girls. Which explains why I wore black leather jeans. MTV hadn't quite hit yet, so I hadn't been exposed to a lot of bands who'd get discovered because they could make a watchable video, but by 1983, New Wave had left the nest of its punk and power pop parents and was far more synth-driven and dance-pop, as well as usually British, but not always. Some of these acts I hated at the time, but with the passing years I have upwardly revised my views on, say, Duran Duran. I loved Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Bananarama, Flock of Seagulls, ABC, Go-Go's, Fun Boy Three, Bow Wow Wow, Haircut 100, The Fixx, Squeeze, Talk Talk, and a cubic assload of The Cure.

By the time I was wrapping up my MBA, music started to abandon me and, like 10 years prior, I had to make a special effort to find new things I considered listenable. By the late 80s we had to cope with hair metal, which pretty much sucked and by the early 90s we all had to cope with grunge which REALLY sucked. All I managed to discover in those years were Gin Blossoms and the most underrated band I can think of (after The Jam): The Smithereens. These guys were straight up, Boston-style "power pop" rock and roll, but they showed up too late by about 8 years, producing 3-4 relentlessly brilliant albums (alba?) before dissolving amid rabid critical success but commercial indifference.

Sure, some things stuck fleetingly to my eardrums...Dishwalla, 3 Doors Down, The Cranberries, but once I became a dad, the whole thing fell apart. On or about 1996 I stopped paying attention to what the radio was playing. In fact, between having kids and MTV/VH1 no longer playing videos and having married a woman who does not care for music as a matter of having an everyday soundtrack (and when she DOES listen to music it's, um, really abominable stuff) I stopped looking for new stuff to like. Now I am focused on trying to get the stuff I have on 45s, LPs and cassettes on a more durable and mo' digital format. Which isn't easy when you're talking about The Neighborhoods or The Rockats or The Meatmen or The Cichlids or some bizarro Live in Japan release.

There, now you know.

-Joke

* The irony being that this junior high was an all-boys thing, as was high school.

** ...on how to distill alcohol.

*** I used to subscribe to guitar magazines. Oy, the shame.

**** My peak drug experience was catching a very mild 2nd-hand buzz at a Kinks show in 1979.

Posted by Joke at 9:05 PM 5 comments

Well, poo.

One of the assorted Good Causes with which TFBIM busies herself* is having a gala thing 2-3 weeks prior to JokeFest2006. Guess the theme; go on...guess!

Bastards.

-Joke, back to the drawing board

* 'Cause, y'know, she doesn't have enough on her plate.

Posted by Joke at 1:17 PM 5 comments

Friday, August 05, 2005

This way lies madness.

As all of you are doubtlessly aware, I am a voracious reader. I polish off an average of 2 books a week. Sometimes it's something work-related, sometimes it's just something for the express purposes of staying well-informed* but usually I am one of those people who reads for pleasure.

Numbah One Son is at the point where he could go either way. He is a big fan of Harry Potter and has just started to (sort of re)read** Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. But, as he is about to start school, the textbooks which he has been assigned are stunningly bad and the other books, the "reading list" books are just as ghastly. Nowhere do you find ANYTHING that the average 8 year old boy will be reading 100 years from today. There is no Robinson Crusoe, no Treasure Island, no From The Earth To The Moon.

All he has to recommend the glories of the written word are, on the one hand, the stuff his old man strongly suggests*** and on the other, the inexpressible dreck of Horrible Harry Goes Back To School or Math Is Fun! Myself, I blame New Math.

I am of just about the right age to remember when Math became New Math. Look at the state of things in the world since then: more pollution, more crime, more unwanted pregnancies, disco, higher taxes, lower literacy, declining standards of civilized behavior, more broken homes, more clothes made of artificial fibers and Coke sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. All of these signs of societal entropy can be laid at the doorstep of New Math. Instead of saying "Ooops. Sorry, America, we goofed." the educracy keeps making matters worse with even Newer Math. A bit of advice: If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is to drop the shovel.

A nation whose children**** only have to memorize times tables, instead of getting all nauseated and disturbed over imbecilities like "chunking" and "bundling"***** is a nation whose children will not be subjected to STUPID-ass books and, therefore, might actually pick up a book for the sheer unbridled joy thereof.

It's not easy standing athwart history, shouting "Stop!"

-Joke

* I'm one of those people who makes it a point to plow through books written by people I passionately disagree with--although I check those out of the library, I'll be damned if I give those cretins any of my cash--following the dictum of "know your enemy."

** I've read bits to him, and he's heard the audiobook versions.

*** This often involves coercion and/or bribery.

**** They are the future. Dunno if you heard or what, but they are, it was in all the papers.

***** Don't ask.

Posted by Joke at 11:07 PM 7 comments

Thursday, August 04, 2005

So here's what I'm thinking

I've been giving this JokeFest3/New Orleans thing a lot of cranium time. Part of the problem in thinking up parties is that the model of party I prefer is the cocktail party. I like people to move about, mingle and chat. If you have, say, a buffet, you wind up with much less mingliness (you only bump into new people whilst lined up at the trough and enter into conversation only with those seated immediately around you); if you have a dinner party, well, you're limited to the number of people you can have. So the thing of it is that, if you're a foodie, you need to make the yummy food sized to consume in one bite--two, tops--as well as portable. This rules out a lot of stuff that would seem emblematic of a theme. Just imagine having bouillabaise at a Bastille Day cocktail party. This is why, in my considered opinion, JokeFest1 (encompassing a luau* and a tapas party) worked so well. Of course, I could just find (and buy) those plates** that have a cutout for a wineglass stem and be done with it.

Here's what I have come up with so far:

Drinks This is the easy part: Hurricanes (duh!), Panama Jacks and Abita/Dixie Beer

Edibles Not so easy. Jambalaya and gumbo, the two best-known New Orleans victuals simply cannot be managed in stand-up-with-a-beverage mode. So I'm thinking of "Barbecue" shrimp, oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes with remoulade, tasso ham (cut into a toothpick-able size), andouille sausage (ditto), miniature po' boys and muffalettas (I'm thinking of chicken or pork grilled with a Cajun rub, and using ficelle bread) and "popcorn" crawfish. I'm also jonesing for bread pudding "birthday cake" like I saw at Ralph Brennan's last week.

Music I'll have to go through my gazillion CDs, to come up with assorted Dixieland and Zydeco and Blues fun.

Decor I had actually considered making this a dress-uppish affair, to play up the whole Masked Ball thing, but now I am thinking something a lot mo', whimsical: paper masks and conveniently placed markers, that all revelers may customize their disguise, and give any kids*** in attendance something to do. Beyond that, the usual purple/gold/green things might work. I'll avoid the whole bead thing as so-done-to-death.

Then, of course, comes the issue of the goody bag. Some pralines would be nice.

Maybe if I provide enough space for people to rest their drinks, I can get away with the jambalaya (which is my favorite stereotypical New Orleans food) or the gumbo, which would allow me to consolidate a lot of the flavors I want to hit (say, andouille, shrimp and chicken) into one thing. I'll ponder.

I'm clearly nowehere near thinking this through, am I?

-Joke

* I kinda went nuts ordering the luau themed plates, glasses, coconut shell citronella candles, etc., that JokeFest2 kinda turned into another luau.
** Only I also went nuts getting a 60 placesetting thing, including glasses, plates (buffet AND cake) and flatware.
*** JokeFest is a very family-friendly thing.

Posted by Joke at 10:31 PM 9 comments

It'll have to keep

I haven't managed to pry the camera from TFBIM's hand in order to properly inform the world of our doings in California.

Which is fine because I was just rummaging through Badger's and she got me thinking of the tunes I was listening to in HS which was--gulp!--three years before Badge, meaning that my choice in music was far more influenced by radio (college and AOR) than MTV.

Van Halen - I & II. Fave tunes would be: "Ice Cream Man" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"

T-Bone Walker - Dirty Mistreater. Fave tune: "Stormy Monday"

Jeff Beck - There and Back. Fave tune: "The Pump"

The Eagles - The Long Run. Fave tune: "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks"

Devo - New Traditionalists. Fave tune: "Through Being Cool"

Blondie - Parallel Lines. Fave tunes: "11:59" and "Picture This"

Talking Heads - Fear of Music. Fave tune: "Life During Wartime"

Elvis Presley - I Was The One. Fave tune: "Little Sister"

Adam & The Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier. Fave tunes: "Dog Eat Dog," "Los Rancheros," "Feed me to the Lions," "Jolly Roger" and, natch, "Antmusic."

Boston - Boston. Fave tune: "Rock & Roll Band"

AC/DC - Back in Black. Fave tune: "Highway to Hell"

Stray Cats - Stray Cats. Fave tune: "Ubangi Stomp"

The Jam - This is the Modern World. Fave tune: "Midnight Hour"

The Blasters - American Music. Fave tune: "Flattop Joint"

Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express. Fave tune: "Trans-Europe Express"

The Neighborhoods - Prettiest Girl. Fave tune: "No Place Like Home"

Steely Dan - The Royal Scam. Fave tune: "Kid Charlemagne"

Carl Perkins - The Sun Sessions. Fave tune: "Matchbox"

Before you think me (more) insane, there is a common thread to all this music and that is--to my mind, at any rate--the amazing guitar work. Well, maybe not so much in Devo or Kraftwerk, but that's just me being an aberrant bastard.

If one thinks back to the musical ghetto that was the span between 1977-1981, I am pleased I managed to survive as well as I did. I never actually did the punk qua punk thing, but managed to be peripherally associated with the punk kids. While I certainly liked a lot of (at the time)mainstream rock, and even adored (and still do) a lot of the songs, that never really got me all hopped up as a genre. Living in Miami at the time, it was hard to escape disco, but I was fortunate to be within the (meager) range of college radio and I got to hear all sorts of music from all sorts of artists and I am cheered beyond measure to have been a VERY early adopter of New Wave (in fact, the first album I ever bought with my own coin was Talking Heads' Fear of Music). It was somewhere in the middle of 9th grade that I decided to become a guitarist and by 11th grade I had a band. This band was hampered by the fact we were all over the damned map, stylistically speaking, but it helped me with girls.

So, there you have it.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 10:55 AM 2 comments

Jot this down

Since I was the only one of my family to be able to stay awake on the flight back from CA, I had plenty of time to muse on things.

Among these things was JokeFestIII. Sure, it's eleventy gazillion months away but one needs to plan ahead. Wandering through Disneyland gave me the idea to theme it around New Orleans. A long, lo-o-o-o-ong time ago, I was romantically entangled with a girl from New Orleans and since then the Big Easy has always held much sway over me.

It pretty much throws itself. Hurricanes and Abita/Dixie Beer, crab cakes and remoulade, "barbecued" shrimp, po'boys & muffalettas (mini-sized as hors d'ouvres!), jambalaya, bread pudding...the options are endless. Might even get a Dixieland ensemble to make nice sounds. And, the next day, a Brennan's-like brunch to soothe morning heads.

I'm psyched, even if I am the one turning a year older.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 12:20 AM 6 comments

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Just catching up [Revised]

In reading the musings of Poppy, Badger and Kiki, it seemed appropriate to put in my two cents' worth on what I am libatin' this summer.

In no order whatsoever:
  • Mojitos. I'm on record as being--since mid-June 1998--ahead of the curve on these. Ask Poppy, Badger or Kiki.
  • BETTER than the mojito is the Buena Vista, a sort of daiquiri-meets-mojito, with an extra zap of lime to make up for the lack of carbonation.
  • Bloody Marys...I loves me that umami blast this drink delivers. Poppy knows about my proclivities in this regard also. Note: 1) The vodka really should be Glacier, although Finlandia works also. 2) Tomato juice, not V-8. 3) LIME not lemon. Lemon is bad wrong. 4) The correct seasonings are Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco (regular not any nouveau flavors such as habanero, etc.; Crystal works too), salt (finely ground sea salt) and pepper (finely ground black malabar)...NO celery salt, pickled vegetables, horseradish, etc.
  • The last of my Kosher-for-Passover Coke, chilled to 32.0000001 deg. Fahrenheit.
  • Sam Adams Light, which is my new favoritest beer ever, on taste alone.
  • Principessa Gavia 2004 Gavi de Gavi, the default white wine.
  • Bosco 2002 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, DOCG, my go-to red wine
  • Gin and Tonic
  • Lemonade or Limeade made with sparkling water
  • Panama Jack
Lastly, I STRONGLY suggest everyone subscribe to Drinks magazine, my new fave read. I hope this settles the matter.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 11:32 PM 0 comments

Things Without Which You Oughtn't Live, Part 5


Gin takes a lot of abuse in the bloggerverse. Almost every drink featuring gin has been emasculated into a vodka concoction and the praises of these flavorless geldings are sung in almost every blog. Because I am one of these idiots who believes that inalianable rights ought be respected in a pluralist society, I say "You know what? Fine, whatever. If it means that much to you to drink a Ramos Vodka Fizz, OK."

Before I go any further, I must out myself as a vodka lover and my #1 favorite drink in Creation is a Bloody Mary.

But gin belongs in gin drinks, not vodka. (You wouldn't use rum in a screwdriver, would ya?) And the gin which ought go into these drinks is this one. Most gins WHAP you in the face with an overload of juniper berries--a Type A berry if there ever was one--which leaves all the other botanicals in the gin bound and gagged while Juniper hogs the limelight.

This gin, ladies and gentlemen, is a gin that knows how to put the juniper berry in its place. The taste is clean, refreshingly botanical and makes the only Dry Martini* I have ever found palatable. It was the favorite of Churchill and of FDR (you can't win them all) and Ian Fleming. But where it really shines is in the Gin and Tonic.

I have rediscovered the G&T.

Without the obnoxious blast of juniper, the botanicals in the gin get to make nice with the quinine in the tonic* water and all marries well with substantial wedge of lime. It is insidiously refreshing, none-too-strong and--if you array yourself in white linen on a sunbaked day--you can play like you're in A Passage To India or White Mischief all day long. There are some foodies out there who will swear by Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray 10. "Not I," said the little red hen. Two other tips on the G&T:

1- Freeze any leftover tonic water. This way you won't get any dilution in your next drink.
2- Muddle the lime pieces in the glass, you want to extract flavor from the rind--which is gloriously aromatic--as well as the juice.

Now, I know that none (at least, not if we're to be rounding down) of you believe me. Which is OK. Buy yourself a little miniature of this and try it, will ya?

-Joke

* The first written recipe for this drink specified Plymouth Gin.
** Which simply must be Schweppe's...although Canada Dry will do in a moment of desperation.

Posted by Joke at 10:55 PM 2 comments

It hurts to be THIS ahead of the curve.

Okay. First off, note the time stamp.

I just got back from a long-ass flight from California*. Because I am all jet-lagged AND a raving insomniac, I decided to catch up on my bloghopping. Lo and behold, I see rants from Kiki and Badger on the matter of parenting, with supporting documentation from Blackbird, Jujube et al.

Welcome to my world.

It will not (or, at a bare minimum, ought not) come as a shock to anyone that I am not, in anything worth mentioning, even remotely progressive. My parenting methodology is delightfully arcane and anachronistic. As a consequence, my two boys are relatively well-behaved children. However, just because they are well behaved doesn't meant they are insulated from the corrosive effects of children brought up by people believe children are best reared with minimal adult interaction. NOS is keenly aware that when I make him sit down and read an Improving Book (last up, Treasure Island) there are other 8 y.o. kids who are merrily whiling away their youth playing Grand Theft Auto and/or Halo. Even NTS, whose natural inclinations are to behave in ways the Tasmanian Devil would envy deeply, knows to ask to be excused when he has finished dinner or lunch.

I was taken aback by some well-meaning soul who marveled at the wo-o-o-o-o-o-onderful behavior of the two boys in a nice restaurant in Disneyland. I was appalled because their behavior was what I consider "bare minimun stuff" (napkins on laps, no cramming fistfuls of food, swallowing before speaking, etc.). At the same time, in the very same restaurant, other kids were running riot while the parents simply let them. The fact of the matter is that most parents don't have the inclination to rear children because it's a hassle and all it does is teach children to grow up to be selfish imbeciles; or they don't realize that these people whom they are implicitly teaching to behave like self-absorbed idiots will one day determine their nursing home.

Part of the problem is that parents of my generation (Baby Boomers) and my wife's generation (Gen-Xers) have serious trouble saying "no" to kids. I, blessedly, have no such difficulty. As a service to you, kind reader, I will offer you the foolproof guide to saying no to your children. Any request your children make can be addressed in one of the following ways:

1- No, because we don't believe in that
2- No, because that's dangerous
3- No, because we don't think that kid/family/crowd is a good influence on you
4- No, because we don't have the time
5- No, because that's more money than we can spend right now
6- No, because we believe you are too young for that

This does NOT mean our kids are perfect (Oy.) or that we have discovered some secret methodology for optimal parenting. It just means we are ALWAYS very mindful that we are in the process of forming adults and if we bring up spoiled, egocentric, selfish, thoughtless and self-serving cretins THEY will bring up grandchildren who are even worse. It also means, on the rare occasions when it is called for (hey, even I make mistakes) that I apologize in an honest and heartfelt manner.

Lastly, while I am not a militant disciplinarian, I have a very narrow definition of how long a given misbehavior ought be tolerated and if those bounds are exceeded, well, a time out ensues. A second offense brings sufficient disincentive** to that behavior. I cannot recall 3rd offenses.

Okay, so, now, to sleep.

-Joke

* More on that later.
** This has led, on 3 separate occasions in the 8 years I have been someone's father (1 for NOS and 2 for NTS), to spankings.

Posted by Joke at 3:32 AM 6 comments