Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wait! It gets better!

Not only has my household been infested with barfiness, but our dryer (a necessary component in the recovery process) has broken down.

So I went to my parents' house to put into effect the laundry protocol. Not only has our dryer broken down but my parents' laundry room has flooded from some unseen pipe. Since my parents are out of town, the various locks with their respective keys have been taken away. So Mr. Plumbing Guy was only able to shut off the water to the whole house, thereby stanching the Niagara effect. So now, I'm schlepping between our house (where items are laundered) and my parents' house (where they are dried).

Have I mentioned we have a trip to WDW for tomorrow? And that The Very Big Spring Project wraps up today and requires that I focus intently in matters wholly unrelated to plumbing, appliances and/or barfility?

Were my GlamourShotsTM that bad?

Posted by Joke at 11:54 AM 12 comments

Jinxed.

Note the timestamp.

For the last TWO hours (on and off) we have been cleaning up children's barf*. Look at the timestamp again, and do some quick math.

By we, of course, I mean TFBIM. I am utterly, completely, thoroughly, paralyzingly barf-useless in the extreme. (If I were a single dad, and the same thing happened, I'd buy another house.) I try to make myself otherwise useful, by performing secondary, yet crucial, tasks such as running the washing machine, showering off the boys and--of particular importance--not barfing myself. The latter being the most difficult of all.

This is where TFBIM earns every last little carbon atom of jewelry.

To set the stage, on Saturday she went to the beach and came back with 8th degree sunburn (skin crackling, interior medium-well) is on Day Three, and she still cleaned up like a champ. Without so much as a glance in my direction or otherwise pointing out the glaring Achilles Heel nature of me vis-a-vis barfitude. She just soldiered on, charitably shouldering the whole burden and not reminding me of my appalling inadequacy. To underscore the saintliness involved, I remind the assembled she owns, and is proficient with, firearms.

So, now I'm holed up in the home theatre, both lads are co-sleeping with She Who Has Earned MUCH Rest, and we need to learn who is the Patron Saint of Nausea.

-J.

* I blame that neo-Na zi bastid for all this.

Posted by Joke at 2:06 AM 10 comments

Monday, May 29, 2006

It only takes one loathsome idiot to ruin your day.


The headache thing was successfully slept off.

Today I decided to make a serious shopping day out of it. So I took NOS to various spots--including lunch at one of those authentic, hole-in-the-wall, Mejican taco places he loves. Shopping was great, both lads making off like bandits with seersucker suits that get them good to go for any halfway dressy events in the summer. Also loaded up on assorted Father's Day gifts, and some cool belts, pants and assorted other things.

So all that was good.

Here's the part that verily doth gave suck: I saw one of those imbecilic, cretinous, loathsome, neo-NAZlS, wearing one of those stupid, racist, woe-is-us-poor-beleaguered-Caucasians tee shirt, along with fatigues and combat boots. The part that nearly had me puking on the spot was that he was holding a baby. This was almost 6 hours ago, and I'm still ridicuously upset by it all.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:02 PM 10 comments

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Taking a break.

I have a blinding sinus headache.

I'll be back when I feel up to it.

Don't panic.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:02 PM 8 comments

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Summer Harbingery

I'm so bad at List Friday that this post will prove to be neither.

Part of the thing of living on the edge of the tropics is that except for 2-3 weeks (when it feels like autumn or spring) it's always summer. Which is the way I like it. That whole wardrobe migration twice a year thing sucks dead wombats. I have no use for seasons, etc. It's bad enough to travel Up Nawth during the late fall or early spring and have to pack coats and scarves. To Hell with that, saith I.

So, basically the harbingers of summer are the weeks when all the hurricane preparedness stuff gets a sales tax reprieve, and when I switch from fruity rum drinks to slushy rum drinks, and from lightweight cotton to linen. But that whole "hooray, corn/tomato!" thing packs no punch in a place where these are available fresh and ripe year 'round.

Summer, as opposed to the remainder of the year, is when my kids depend on me for boredom relief.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:46 PM 4 comments

Friday, May 26, 2006

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Dear Internet,

When I was a child, there was NOTHING I loved more than to be left the Hell alone to read. My best friend in those days was my best friend because he liked the same thing. We took turns going to each other's house and we'd just read. I think we were the only kids who wanted to be left in peace to read.

In those days (or, as my inner cynic says, "When I was happy.") I was a ferociously voracious reader. Gluttonous, even.

SoFla's rainy season is during the summer, and by 10am there was a better than even chance of a downpour. So, by 9am, I had pedaled my Chopper ovah to our public library and was comfy and cozy in a wingback chair with a HUGE stack of books. At around 1pm, I'd sneak off to the bound periodicals and have a secretive lunch. (Something crumb-free)

I'd read books on geography, history, science, travel, literature, magic, cooking, film, sports, wildlife. It was a bad week indeed when I couldn't polish off 3-4 books. Amazing that in 1975 parents would let an 11 year old boy schlep out on his bike alone to stay out (and out of touch) for 6-7 hours straight, every day, for three months. TFBIM would have an aneurysm if I so much as suggested we let NOS try this. "Some lunatic could kidnap him, he could get run over, he could get hit with lightning, he could be sick, he could ditch the library and run off with hoodlum friends looking for hussies and malt liquor." The number of legitimate causes for worry in the scenario is limited only by her mood.

Still. I am glad I got to spend untold hours with books, learning all manner of strange and useless factoids. After all, if I hadn't, TSMP(oppy)M would have nothing about which to converse with me. As it is, we have been known to burn HOURS discussing the Moorish system of urban development over several drinks, nearly blowing off the lovely and gracious Poppy. This is the problem when you have two over-read guys of basically the same age getting together with alcohol. You start ruminating over the caliphate system, and next thing you know, you're hot-footing across town.

In this regard my parents were very lucky. I was a self-contained kid. I required no entertainment, no supervision...just books and a comfortable place to sit. As opposed to us. NOS is, as I type, playing some GameBoy game and giving me running commentary...and has been for the last 45 minutes. NTS...well, let's just say he can go from WonderChild to Stitch in picoseconds.

Also, TFBIM comes from one of those appalling families that does all sorts of things together. During the summer, they'd picnic, or go to the beach or go outside for reasons which have been inadequately explained to me. Something to do with fresh air. How something hot and humid can be fresh is beyond me, but they are an odd bunch.

The whole scheme I had built up came crashing down 3 summers later when I discovered that girls were--contrary to my previously held opinion--wonderful. That left me in a quandary. I was too young to do anything except still loiter at the library, but too old to really give it the undivided attention it required.

So I started reading books on How To Make Sense of Women. A lot of these books pretty much had no business being in a public library, let alone accessible to a 14 year old whose brain was floating in pure, Hi-Octane, unfiltered testosterone. Some, like the classic Esquire's Guide To What Every Young Man Should Know still repay inspection. But I digress.

By the time I was 16 I was mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

But I still polished off a book or two a week.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:11 PM 13 comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Required Reading - The Kitchen

As many of you will recall, I am--as evidenced by 36 linear feet (11m) of cookbook shelves--a cookbook ho.

Here are my rules for selecting* cookbooks:

1- Anyone who has ever written for Cook's Illustrated is automatically worthy of purchase, as are the books written by them, collectively. Think Christopher Kimball or Mark Bittman.
2- Hardcore foodies from the Food Network are generally to be trusted. Think David Rosengarten or Alton Brown.
3- Anyothing published by Saveur Magazine or Eating Well (yes, even if it is "healthy" food) is usually worthy of purchase.
4- Anyone whose cookbooks have ever received a good review from Cook's Illustrated is automatically worthy of purchase, as are the books subsequently written by them. Think Jamie Oliver or Jacques Pepin.
5- Anyone whose restaurant food has bowled you over is worthy of purchase if it's on sale. Not every great chef can translate restaurant recipes to home use. Think Mario Batali or Rick Bayless.
6- Cookbooks published by major newspapers are to be trusted. Think The Chicago Tribune cookbook, or The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.
7- People with cooking shows are to be trusted if their cookbooks are on the clearance bin.
8- Any cookbook with ONE recipe that completely alters your perception of the world (for the better) is worth whatever you paid for it.

Having said all that, here are my Top Ten MUST-have cookbooks, in the order in which I think of them:

Boy Meets Grill by Bobby Flay
Anything ever written by Jamie Oliver
Molto Italiano by Mario Batali
How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Saveur Cooks Italian by (duh!) Saveur Magazine
Making it Easy by the Food Network
Anything ever written by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby
East Meets West by Ming Tsai
Desserts by Eating Well Magazine
Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

Special Award for best cookbook for the rankest possible amateur:

Cooking with Friends (yeah, the TV show) by Jack Bishop.

Now you know!

-J.

* Remember my monograph on the Optimizers vs. the Authenticators.

Posted by Joke at 1:00 AM 15 comments

A sterling PITA

There are few chores as laborious and vexing as polishing silver. If you were to ask the lovely and gracious Poppy (L&GP), she'd probably tell you it is in her Top 3 Irksome Chores.

In a sense, we're fortunate ovah heah, because whatever sterling we might have inherited is now the property of the people of the People's Republic of Cuber, seized so that the proletariat may no longer have their meager crust of bread wrenched from their collective mouths by a sterling grape fork wielded by some plutocrat.

But I digress.

Yes.

Sterling.

Dunno how it is at your place, dear Internet, but here on the ragged fringe of paradise, silver tarnishes like a muhfuh. Our antique coffee and tea service* and the most excellent vintage cocktail shaker the L&GP gave me for my 40th are recidivism at its worst, tarnishwise. The flatware stays in good shape owing to the fact that since our wedding day we have yet to have anyone over good enough for such utensils. They are certainly too good for the likes of us.

We have a few other sterling bits (trays and champagne buckets) which also get their fair share of tarnish and, every X months we get sick of looking at the anthracite-colored things and my wife decides I must earn my keep by polishing them.

It is here where the story brightens.

Literally.

A while back, whilst visiting the L&GP, I was shopping for a little anniversary bauble for TFBIM (at the time it was the 15th anniversary of our 1st date, a Class D Gift occasion) and I wandered into a store called The Sterling Works. While I didn't find anything that'd suit TFBIM (most of the stuff they had for women would best be classified as "funky" and Poppy will testify that TFBIM doesn't do funky** AT ALL. But I did manage to find some interesting cufflinks for her brother's birthday AND (here's the good bit) the most amazing polishing cloth.

The sales associate was polishing some pretty far-gone bits and I was so impressed I dropped an extra $3 just to take my own survey of its properties. Damned if it didn't work like magic. The cloth is folded over and stitched up to make a square "mitt" and all you do is rub the bloody silver things and they look all gleaming and $#!+.

So I asked the L&GP to pick up a small bale for me next time she sauntered by. Which she kindly did and now I don't totally hate this chore.

$3, people.

-J.

* Miss Manners would probably disapprove, but this is how it is done in southern Mediterranean countries, whence this set came. I bought it because it serendipituously had my monogram, which I took as a Divine indication God wanted to make it up to my family that our silver had become "the patrimony of the State" and an indispensible part of agrarian reform.

** To TFBIM funky = aging hippie or young hippie wannabe. Don't shoot the messenger.

Posted by Joke at 12:20 AM 7 comments

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shaving 101

Here is the basic equipment (minus mug or backordered scuttle): straight razor, badger (no, the other badger) bristle shave brush and the SIX DOLLAR shave cream from Target.
Dig this serious Flintstone-like stubble action.
We wet the brush with water as hot as can be.
Just a dab'll do ya.
A few seconds with a searingly hot, soppingly wet towel can do wonders.

If one is mug-less, one can just whip up the lather in the palm of one's hand.

Smear the face with the very hot, tingly lather. (Greetings Google pervs!)

Get good coverage.
And start!
DO NOT EVER BEAR DOWN ON THE BLADE. (Unless you think your cheek looks better detached from your face, or are practicing to perform tracheotomies on rhinos) Light touch. You can hear the blade cutting off whiskers with a "plink." Sorta like "Horton Hears A Who." Make idiotic faces.
Almost done.
Newborn smooth. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.


Posted by Joke at 10:15 AM 23 comments

Monday, May 22, 2006

OK. Here we go. [UPDATED!]

The shaving scuttle is on back order, so I shall take pictures in the next few minutes of me with a cutthroat to my, er, throat. I shall post them tomorrow.

THE UPDATE PART-

OK. I took a whole buncha pix. I must confess two things:

1- I was scared $#!+less to be wielding something with the sharpness generally associated with surgery while on camera. If I accidentally lopped off, say, my lower jaw there are not enough li'l toilet paper squares to stanch the red outpouring, to say nothing of the fact I wouldn't be able to cover the fact I went all doofus.

2- The RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP Proraso shave cream felt so-o-o-o good, I had better stop or I'll go blind. Or get pregnant. My skin feels cool and ridiculously smooth I can't stop checking it out.

As usual, I have to locate the camera wire thingy, which I am certain is at the office. So, look for more then.

-J.

P.S. Smells really nice, too.

Posted by Joke at 8:48 PM 3 comments

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mail call.

The lovely and gracious Badger's postal karma is improving by leaps and/or bounds; her care package hath arrived today, nearly completing my Sha\/e Geek rig.

So far I have:
1- the straight razor
2- the brush
3- the supah-dupah shave cream ($6! At Target!)

and all I need is the two-part shave mug (called a scuttle) and I am ready to go to town on the shavery thing.

I took a few test shots today (even dragged out the tripod...what? Shut up, ya pervs.) but a day's worth of stubble doesn't show up well. So whenever I get the rig complete I'll wait a couple of days to get all Barney Rubble on you guys.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:54 PM 11 comments

It's all my damned fault.

Today I found NOS rummaging through a surfing magazine. This is no big deal, because we go through this every summer, when our vacation takes us to one or more beach spots with decent waves. As a family, we only get all boogie board-like, but NOS still dreams of surfing serious, giganticmous waves.

Only today it was different.

He was looking at the ads with the girls sporting too much silicone and not enough swimsuit. He was studying these ads intently. "Rapt" would be an understatement. Oy, pretty soon TFBIM will be wailing "My baby!"

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:35 PM 4 comments

...and speaking of me...

Swiped from Badger (who pilfered it from Karla):

1. What's in the glove box of your car? The leather binder thingy holding: the owner's manual, insurance card, registration, the pen that came with the car, the maintenance schedule book. The flashlight that also came with the car pen, a Leatherman Tool. Yes, that's an unfortunate name for an astonishing bit of gear, I know.

2. Favorite classes in college (or high school):

High school: History. I'm all about the memorization.
College: Stress Management. Saved my life, that did.

3. Shampoo brand: Citré Shine. It used to be Klorane Walnut Leaf, but my wife stole into my stash and wiped me out, bad.

4. Favorite piece of furniture you own: My living room set. Veddy, veddy English Gentlemen's Club. Veddy, veddy Jeeves.

5. Idea of a really good first date: Someone cute and fascinating and hlarious who also finds me cute, hilarious and fascinating. Brilliant conversation is required. This, of course, is now, not when I was at liberty to date, an activity upon which my wife frowns.

6. Favorite fruit: Lime, easily.

7. Pick a passage from a favorite book:

(OK, you asked for it) From PG Wodehouse's Jeeves in the Springtime:

I'm not much of a ladies' man, but on this particular morning it seemed to me that what I really wanted was some charming girl to buzz up and ask me to save her from assassins or something. So that it was a bit of an anti-climax when I merely ran into young Bingo Little, looking perfectly foul in a crimson satin tie decorated with horseshoes.
"Hallo, Bertie," said Bingo.
"My God, man!" I gargled. "The cravat! The gent's neckwear! Why? For what reason?"
"Oh, the tie?" He blushed. "I--er--I was given it."
He seemed embarrassed, so I dropped the subject. We toddled along a bit, and sat down on a couple of chairs by the Serpentine.
"Jeeves tells me you want to talk to me about something," I said.
"Eh?" said Bingo, with a start. "Oh yes, yes. Yes."
I waited for him to unleash the topic of the day, but he didn't seem to want to get going. Conversation languished. He stared straight ahead of him in a glassy sort of manner.
"I say, Bertie," he said, after a pause of about an hour and a quarter.
"Hallo!"
"Do you like the name Mabel?"
"No."
"No?"
"No."
"You don't think there's a kind of music in the word, like the wind rustling gently through the tree-tops?"
"No."
He seemed disappointed for a moment; then cheered up.
"Of course, you wouldn't. You always were a fatheaded worm without any soul, weren't you?"
"Just as you say. Who is she? Tell me all."
For I realised now that poor old Bingo was going through it once again. Ever since I have known him--and we were at school together--he has been perpetually falling in love with someone, generally in the spring, which seems to act on him like magic. At school he had the finest collection of actresses' photographs of anyone of his time; and at Oxford his romantic nature was a byword.
"You'd better come along and meet her at lunch," he said, looking at his watch.
"A ripe suggestion," I said. "Where are you meeting her? At the Ritz?"
"Near the Ritz."
He was geographically accurate. About fifty yards east of the Ritz there is one of those blighted tea-and-bun shops you see dotted about all over London, and into this, if you'll believe me, young Bingo dived like a homing rabbit; and before I had time to say a word we were wedged in at a table, on the brink of a silent pool of coffee left there by an early luncher.
I'm bound to say I couldn't quite follow the development of the scenario. Bingo, while not absolutely rolling in the stuff, has always had a fair amount of the ready. Apart from what he got from his uncle, I knew that he had finished up the jumping season well on the right side of the ledger. Why, then, was he lunching the girl at this God-forsaken eatery? It couldn't be because he was hard up.
Just then the waitress arrived. Rather a pretty girl.
"Aren't we going to wait----?" I started to say to Bingo, thinking it somewhat thick that, in addition to asking a girl to lunch with him in a place like this, he should fling himself on the foodstuffs before she turned up, when I caught sight of his face, and stopped.
The man was goggling. His entire map was suffused with a rich blush. He looked like the Soul's Awakening done in pink.
"Hallo, Mabel!" he said, with a sort of gulp.
"Hallo!" said the girl.
"Mabel," said Bingo, "this is Bertie Wooster, a pal of mine."
"Pleased to meet you," she said. "Nice morning."
"Fine," I said.
"You see I'm wearing the tie," said Bingo.
"It suits you beautiful," said the girl.
Personally, if anyone had told me that a tie like that suited me, I should have risen and struck them on the mazzard, regardless of their age and sex; but poor old Bingo simply got all flustered with gratification, and smirked in the most gruesome manner.

8. What would you eat for dinner if it were your last night on earth? Kobe beef, grilled black & blue. Cucumber salad with Maytag blue cheese and Nueske's bacon, crumbled. A gallon of Ravenswood Reserve [Red--you have to specify these days] Zinfandel. REAL NY cheese cake (none of that graham cracker crust $#@+, save that for the tour bus contingent)

9. Free Will or Destiny: Free will.

10. What would you sing at karaoke? "Modern Major General" from Pirates of Penzance.

11. Sweater or Sweatshirt? Sweater. Cotton, s.v.p.

12. Paris, NYC, Tokyo, or Rio de Janeiro? I'm sorry, I only know these by their circle numbers.

13. What do you wear to bed usually? A crown of laurels. Usually.

14. If you dyed your hair, what colour would you dye it? Salt-n-pepper grey.

15. If you went back to school, what would you study? Marketing. There were more girls in marketing.

16. Gum or mints? Gum.

17. Recurring nightmares? Noam Chomsky, ruler of the world.

18. Age & location of first kiss? Spin the bottle, 4th Grade. I can't be bothered with the math.

19. Describe your favourite pair of shoes: These.

20. What movie/tv character do you feel like you relate to most? "Nick Smith" in Metropolitan.

21. First CD purchase: The Telarc release of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. That was in 1982, people. (Yes, I'm an early-adopter, sue me.)

22. First concert: Van Halen.

23. Do you like camping? I hate it more than Badger does.

24. If you were doomed to be mauled to death by an animal, what animal would you prefer that to be? Cheetah.

25. Do you/would you own a gun? Yeah.

26. What religion would you like to know more about: Whatever religion can convince people to strap three tons of TNT to their ass and go blow up innocent human beings merits further study, I think.

27. Favourite food as a kid: "Chopped steak" with a mixture of ketchup and A1 on top.

28. How many languages do you speak? 2.5 (English, Spanish, passable Italian)

29. If you were a natural disaster, would you be a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake? Hurricane. The destruction is massive, but it's your own fault if you get caught because you've had plenty of warning.

30. If you could make one state in the US just go away, which state would that be? I'm thinking Vermont, maybe California if I can get in on some cheap real estate in westernmost Arizona.

31. How many prescriptions do you take? None, usually.

32. Lake or Ocean? Ocean. Better fish to eat.

33. What is the worst lie you've ever told to get out of work, (and don't say you've never lied to get out of work, because that my friend is a lie and you know it)? No need, I'm self-employed.

34. Do you carry a backpack, a satchel or "man bag", tote bag, brief case, or a backpack on wheels? No. I see no need to have that much stuff on me.

35. Have you ever been arrested/cited for anything other than traffic violations? No.

36. Would you ever consider spending some time at a nudist colony? Not here in FL, I'd need to slather something with the SPF of mayonnaise.

39. Best thing you can cook? What ya got?

And what happened to 37 and 38? I think they were really dirty.

40. If you were going to donate 1000 dollars to a charity, what would that be? Split it between a prostate cancer organization and one for autism.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 4:31 PM 9 comments

Friday, May 19, 2006

How I got this way.

Thinking up all the advice I would offer for today's college graduates sent me back to my own days as a student, and how much easier, for me, college was than high school. This was because I attended one of those hardass, Jesuit-run, old-school academic boot camps. Interestingly, someone sent me this link (which was not working 100%, so I reproduce the contents below) which crystallizes my teenage years.

From The New Oxford Review:

The Way Jesuits Used to Be
October 1995

By P.M. Aliazzi

P.M. Aliazzi is the Director of the Wean Research Library, at University School, a prep school in suburban Cleveland.

What do you say to a white-haired old man in a black "bathrobe" toting a matching briefcase? "Court's in session in the cabana, Your Honor"? It was the first time I had ever seen a Jesuit, and I was both spooked and fascinated. I was used to kindly, comfortable parish priests in suits, but this guy -- these guys -- were something different: brisk, no-nonsense, "in-your-face" drill sergeants in insignia-free uniforms and far from slow to say that they had been given charge of some terribly unpromising raw recruits. Soon there'd be much more to worry about than how that wrap-around, buttonless, zipperless cassock stayed put; there was no time for idleness -- or student wisecracks -- in the Latin class of Arthur Walter, S.J.

From the second day until the end of the year, you began by passing forward your homework, in ink with no scratch-outs, never in pencil or without the obligatory heading of name, date, and A.M.D.G. (ad maiorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God). Into the aged briefcase it went, exercises in Latin to English, English to Latin. From the third day on, and without fail, you came to class and found the previous night's work waiting for you face down on the desk every error (down to vowel length marks) corrected in a meticulous hand, and a percentage grade written at the top. He did that every day, for five classes of 35 to 40 students each, for I never learned how many years, in a demonstration of dedication hard to match apart from Inspector Javert in Les Miserables.

There was one escape, however. It was called an "exemption," and you earned one by besting the kids in your row in the sudden oral quizzes that were more like a cross between a gladiatorial show and a police line-up, with Father as Emperor Joe Friday seeking "just the facts" and determined to get them. After he chose a timekeeper from among the (temporary) spectators, the first group of combatants slunk forward, each to be participially probed, declensionally decimated, and generally found wanting -- within 10 seconds:"That they may have been praised," came the pitch."Huh?" And down went Casey at the bat."Was that 'praised'?" stalled another."Sit down," intoned Father, ignoring his timekeeper and briskly throwing his change-up to the next batter. "Bob Feller pitched...the camp.""Ut laudati sint," chirped Chaffee, answering not that question but the previous question out of some time-warp delay, clearly a victim of what today would be diagnosed as post-conjugational stress disorder.

On it went. To be left standing in what everyone knew was a smart row gained one a stature comparable to surviving the Bataan Death March. And the reward? Not a medal, but something even more coveted: the right to skip a single homework assignment of one's choice.

If it sounds mean, if he sounds mean, nothing, not even Casey, could be more wrong. It was just that Father had the seriousness, the weightiness, the dignity prized by the Romans he taught about. Here was someone who, you sensed from the very start, had no time for trivialities, and who wanted you to have no time for them either. Accordingly, his remarkably comprehensive written tests always had exactly 50 questions -- one per minute -- which he somehow always managed to cram onto a single side of one mimeographed sheet. Invariably smudged, the things came out of the machine looking rather like a 50-lobed purple Rohrschach. But they revealed in short order whether you knew the stuff or not. There was (literally) no room for fakery.

Nor for hiding from Roman history and culture, which we learned, somewhat like ancient kids must have done, through stories. Mucius "Lefty" Scaevola, Manlius & the Gauls, and the Horatii & Curiatii all made their appearance in Latin, and before the term was out, became the subject of oral questions and answers in Latin as well. And of course, there was always "Explication de texte meets Groucho":"Anseres clamabant...," read the anthology of stories."

The geese [pause] were shouting," construed the hapless Casey.

At that, Father's white eyebrows arched so high over his rimless spectacles that his usually impassive, even granite, face took on the look of an affronted Colosseum."

Cackled," shouted Father.

"Shouted?" cackled the class.

The overmatched linguist, desperate to change the topic, looked up in mingled exasperation and wonder, and spluttered, "Father, who taught you Latin?"

"Caesar," boomed the reply, uttered with such finality that for a moment we thought the old guy and Julius had been buds.

In that instant, I knew what it was to be initiated into a tradition; not just the classics (which were automatically assumed to include the Vulgate, St. Augustine, Prudentius, and St. Gregory), but into what I can only call the tradition of Christian humanism: It was from Fr. Walter that I learned neither to fear nor to idolize intellect; to take responsibility for my own education; to link self-respect to objective achievement, not to sugary compliment; to respect persons but not necessarily the ideas they hold; to expect to have what one says taken seriously and, as need be, seriously taken apart; to see that human dignity is grounded in the gift of an immortal soul, not the growth of an inflated self, and, above all, to understand that the doing of however humble a task can truly be A.M.D.G. (Emphasis mine.)

Self-esteem panderers might cringe at all this. Let them! A quarter century later, I shudder to think at the whiny, undisciplined, anarchic creature I could have become but for that gruff old priest. Turns out he was as good at construing boys as sentences. Requiescas in pace, Pater et magister.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 3:08 PM 4 comments

Whisper words of wisdom.

Today is List Friday, courtesy of Loretta, of Pomegranates and Paper (which I originally saw at BabBab's)

This week's theme: Advice for the college graduate, from the keyboard of one older and wiser - or at least older…

Since I read today (in the WSJ?) the age of the average college graduate is 22.4, here are my 22.4 pieces of advice:

1- There is no shame in doing it for the money, provided "it" is not loathsome, like Mob hitperson or professional terrorist.
2- Foster a sense of humility, insofar as you realize the world does not revolve around you, balanced with a realistic sense of your own worth. (Braille-method brain surgery is easier.)
3- Anger, 9 out of 10 times, is a useless emotion. (8.5 out of 10 times, it's toxic to you.)
4- Stress is not an aerobic exercise.
5- Kiss the people you love, and remind them you do. (Do it anyway.)
6- The operative part of "enlightened self-interest" is "enlightened."
7- Be grateful for everything you have, even the difficult challenges.
8- Life gets a lot easier when you develop tenacity, persistence and an ability to focus. After all, the really difficult takes a long time to accomplish; the impossible, a little longer. Don't give up. Don't ever give up.
9- Learn the difference between expressing yourself and complaining.
10- A little prayin' wouldn't kill you.
11- Read something that expands your brain. Read something that makes you defend and then think about your worldview, not just get mad at the writer. Read Shakespeare and Wodehouse and Chesterton, too. But mostly Wodehouse.
12- Get friends to whom you'd freely give a kidney. You don't need many; three tops. If you already have done so, hold to them with a (metaphorically speaking) police chokehold.
13- Find something to make you laugh every day. Preferably something not bitter, angry, or cynical. (Those are just extra-credit.)
14- When you have children, treat them with all the love and respect due those who will decide what retirement home to send you.
15- Keep your word, come what may.
16- Floss, and brush a lot, and don't put off getting that cracked molar looked at.
17- Be actively kind, even when you don't want to. (It's okay to be snarky in private, but only if it's really funny.)
18- Learn to apologize well. Mean it. Learn gratitude. Express it.
19- Answer letters and emails promptly.
20- Develop standards and care about them, and transmit what you know.
21- "Fashionable" and "flattering" are very rarely synonymous.
22- Live every day like it's your last, because you'll be right one day.
22.4- Remember the Law of Unintended Consequences.

That is all, cue the Elgar.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:41 AM 6 comments

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

All hail Badger.

Breaking news!

The most excellent Badger hath gone to her* local Target and snagged the last two tubes of green Proraso shave cream on my behalf, since the product rollout is based on the Reverse Alphabetical Alternating Red State/Blue State protocol. If one were to go on the Internet looking for this, the price would be $10/tube and considered quite the steal, especially since the stuff from, say, Trumper's weighs in at $40 for a comparable measure.

Badger has assured me this was so absurdly cheap that in lieu of our Booze for Bargains humanitarian aid program, she'll just take some things from the stash of stuff for Contest #3. So, be advised the stash will be somewhat different when you revisit it prior to this contest ending on the 31st of May. Preemptive apologies if you had your heart set on ___ and it winds up at Badger's house. I may be a benign and loving dictator...but I'm still a dictator.

Once it arrives, I'll do a complete, blogged, how-to shave thing here. Complete with straight razor.

-J.

* In Badger's case "her" is meant in the possessive.

Posted by Joke at 2:49 PM 8 comments

A convoluted "Thank You!" to Poppy, and a heads-up for everyone

OK.

Back story. (Those of you who know this already, feel free to get a soothing beverage and come back at your convenience.)

One time, whilst we visited Poppy and TSMPM in the Spring of 2005, we discovered a new-to-us magazine, Shop Etc. at Poppy's place. Part of the reason I lurve Poppy is that she is a brainy, smart shopper (we'll set aside her fetish for paying retail for the moment) and therefore this magazine proved very interesting--to us in general and me in particular. I rummaged through its back pages since the apparel bit held zero interest for me, and the grooming section got immediately boring once they began blathering about "peptides" and "phytodefrisomething" and "overnight under eye regenerist" and "reduces the appearance* of fine lines." I mean, yeah, there was some good stuff on sunscreens and shampoos, but unless there's something that will help me in my task of dragging a surgically sharp length of steel along my countenance every damned morning, I cannot work up much interest.

Anyway, I got to the "Home" section and they were talking about showers and baths and stuff. In this article, they raved--raved, I tell you!--about 2 towels that had come up to the top of their testing (whatever that entails). One had a very famous designer name, an interesting pattern and cost more than a set of racing tires. The other had a lesser-known name attached to it, and was being sold by one of the larger chains of department stores. The price, while hardly a steal, was decent...about what you'd expect to pay for a "really good towel."

Taking their accolades on pure faith, one lunchtime I went out and bought one of the towels to take it for a thorough** test-dry.

Wow!

What a towel. I loved it at first swipe. I could see shower-water practically leaping off my skin and onto the towel surface.

So I bought a whole set, enough to outfit the family. White for us, green for NOS and blue for NTS...bath, hand and washcloths. I don't do things half-@$$ed ovah heah. These things are amazing. 100% Supima cotton. Also, they have this checkerboard sort of looping to them, which makes them supah-dupah lightweight and monumentally absorbent AND you won't get those linty, frazzled "runs" to the loops. They even have a hanging loop. They rock. Unless you need to show off that you can afford tera-buck towels affixed with the name of some couturier about whom I know little and care less, there is no reason to dry off your post-showered form with anything else. And then I blogged on the matter. Because I'm a good boy.

This is where I thank Poppy. If she hadn't been such a conscientious shopper to have taken a subscription to a magazine about shopping AND had it loitering around for us to see when we visited AND assured us of the editorial trustworthiness of same I would have never discovered the supreme achievement in toweling technology. If it wasn't for your vigilant friendship, right now I'd be a damper or tardier man.

MWAH.

(To those of you regulars, welcome back. Following is the really new stuff.)

Here's the heads-up: It looks as if the towels are being discontinued. They are no longer available in the stores (at least not around heah) but they are still available online. Now that I have yoinked all I'll ever need--and then some--I encourage you to consider doing same. The good news is they are "clearance priced" and the GREAT news is that if you buy more than $50 worth, you can use coupon code MGVP65 and get 15% off (which expires July 30, 2006).

"All right already, what towels are these towels?" I hear you clamoring.

These:

Chris Madden Spa "Popcorn" Towel, available at JC Penney's (J.C. @#$%ing Penney's fer cryssakes!) website, and normally $18 for the bath towel, now down to $8.50 with the 15% off coupon code.

Quantities are limited, operators are standing by.

-J.

* Much like stuffing socks in your bra "reduces the appearance of flatchestedness" without actually doing anything about it.
** For optimal drying, you must launder the towels first and not use any fabric softening anything. For any reason. It might not be as soft as the underbelly of a newborn teddy bear plush toy, but it will dry infinitely better this way.

Posted by Joke at 8:44 AM 5 comments

Monday, May 15, 2006

REM was right.

Keep in mind hurricane season won't start up until June...but today, which is not--as scientists have conclusively proven--in June, we had 3 inches of rain and gusts of 70mph. Hail the size of a newborn's fist fell all over the damned place.

Oh, and today we had TWO alligators running loose. One killed a jogger and the other was blocking traffic on the expressway.

ON THE EXPRESSWAY. ALLIGATOR. Stop and consider that last part. Knowing the way things work here, he probably got a ticket, too.

Sure, people will say this is just further proof that insanity and paralyzing snow-phobia are the only reasons to live here. In reality this is clearly the Apocalypse. Right when I scored some rare lunchboxes on eBay, too.

Just in case, I'll be confessional bound and I might even keep Kosher to be extra-safe. I might even get lamb at the butcher shop and see what I can do about my lintels and doorposts.

Those of you who sacrifice rats under the full moon may want to pursue a different course of action.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 11:11 PM 15 comments

Tattoo you.

Mothers Day hath come and gone and all has gone swimmingly.

We (i.e. the whole mishpocha) went to an overpriced brunch buffet thing that was somewhere between "not bad" and "so-so" and that went OK. I mostly sat at the kids' end of the lo-o-o-o-ong table, ostensibly to make sure Mr. Finicky (i.e. NTS) ate his french toast with "breakfast" syrup* and bacon.

TFBIM socialized with her SiL and SiL's sister, and my MiL and my BiL's MiL and TFBIM's SiL's MiL and SiL (getting all this down? need a chart?).

Iberically speaking, Mothers Day is a loot-intensive affair. Some populations just bestow a gift on one's mother and leave it at that. Maybe a grandmother, if she's beloved enough or if she's old enough and a little not-quite-with-us and you feel bad. But generally the thing stops there. Not here.

The protocol ovah heah is to hand out loot to all the mothers in your life, regardless of whether or not they're your mother. F'rinstance, we imparted loot upon my mom (more on her in a sec), my MiL, my (only) aunt, both of TFBIM's aunts, my sister and TFBIM's SiL.

The touching moment of the weekend was when NOS dipped into his allowance money and went to the school's store (don't ask) and with his very own $5, bought TFBIM a little plush tiger. This was entirely his idea and never even consulted, asked, collaborated or otherwise sought my input. TFBIM was all verklempt. TFBIM also got this Mikimoto earring ring set so she was happy. If you're tracking at home, Mothers Day is a "C" level gifting day.

Anyway.

My mom, being the smartest one of all, feigned some unclaimed malady and skipped out on the brunch. So we went to my parents' house after Mass to bestow giftage and generally have my mom bask in the adoration of her son and grandsons. We got her an Ionic Breeze thing (only it's from, I think, Honeywell) that also has a fan with settings such as "Gale" and "Category 5" and A REMOTE CONTROL. This is because my mom's two greatest annoyances are getting up to do anything and having the temperature anywhere north of "beef aging locker." She also got some Waterford baubles, for her girly side.

So she basked, and basked and then we left. She didn't have to clean up, wait in line, deal with waitstaff and still got her loot. Like I said, smartest of the bunch.

For those of you who are new, I LOVE my mom. This doesn't make her perfect, because she has kind of a secret selfish streak, and has earned a black belt in Passive-Aggressive. But she has a brilliant smartass sense of humor, an ability to remain unstressed (if she had been on the Poseidon Adventure, her attitude would have been one of "What? Just a midnight swim, is all.") to the point of seeming pathologically phlegmatic. She is tenacious, loyal, fanatical about detail and imperturbable.

I got many of my best qualities from her (and some of my worst, such as that weird Krazy-Straw shaped gene, responsible for my collecting weirdnesses) and she was the ideal sort of mom for me growing up. I needed to be left the Hell alone and she needed peace and quiet. Worked out beautifully.

My mom doesn't overly spoil the boys, gets along really well with TFBIM (only a couple of things get in the way of this being upgraded to "perfectly") and with her family. She also brings excellent longevity genes to the picture (everyone on her side of the family died in their mid-90s or later), so it's a good thing she's well-liked. She also has a ridiculous independent streak, and doesn't ask anyone to do anything for her, if you discount asking me to set all those cheap-ass, little dinky digital clocks she has loitering all over the damned place.

Not that she reads this (or any) blog, but I love you mom!

-J.

* The existence of thisnudge-nudge-wink-wink ersatz maple syrup is ample cause, in my view, for the whole of New England to justify seceding from the Union.

Posted by Joke at 8:13 AM 6 comments

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

To all youse mothers out there, I hope you have a great day. More bloggery tomorrow.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:36 AM 4 comments

Friday, May 12, 2006

Us ack om ah en-ist UPDATED

(UPDATE: I switched the picture because BabBab was probably gonna be having nightmares for a month from looking at the one from Marathon Man.)

1- Ow.
2- A long time ago I cracked a molar on something and needed a crown. The crown just recently fractured and I needed to be interrogated by the KGB apparently there were some complications. I just got back.
3- Ow.
4- If you expected to hear my dulcet tones, HA!
5- I'm also not allowed to eat (or drink) anything dark, light, red, purple, orange, green, brown, cold, hot, chewy, sticky, crunchy, sweet, sour, bitter, voluminous or fibrous.

Not in a jovial mood,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:53 PM 15 comments

Showing and telling

This t-shirt comes from the last Spring Break of my life. The following year, a nasty bout w. the flu prevented me from reprising, and a week after THAT, I went on my 1st date with TFBIM.

This is the last remnant of my misspent youth.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:39 PM 6 comments

"This was mah laughin' place!" said Br'er Rabbit

The astute among you may have noticed that I am overhauling my whole shaving process. So, innocently, I spend time rummaging around the Internet and today, I have chanced on something mindbendingly hilarious. I have laughed to the extent people have rushed to my aid, as if I were having some sort of weird bronchial voodoo curse thing going on.

You don't want to know how hard I have laughed.

No, really, click here. And, once you are there click on EVERYTHING YOU CAN. The, er, "music video" is particularly priceless.

Trust me.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:09 AM 3 comments

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A survey (of sorts)

OK.

According to a press release on their website (http://pressroom.target.com/pr/news/health-beauty/bath-and-body/targe...), Target will be/is carrying Proraso shave stuff for men.

To my readers (lurkers and commenters alike): Has Target begun to carry this in your area?

TIA,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:33 PM 6 comments

Sue me.

I can't help myself. My mind fresh from a discussion ovah at the blog of the lovely and gracious and not overy o-v-e-r-L-y foulmouthed Badger, concerning French cheese, I ran across this.

http://www.kci-com.com/lp/rr/cheese/cheeseclub/taste2.asp

Wandering aimlessly through the foodie aisle of the Internet, I am an easy prey for hucksters of deliciousness.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:36 PM 6 comments

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Zyzygy

...or "How to Turn TFBIM From Kate Beckinsale To Kathy Bates In One Afternoon."

Yesterday was a rough day for TFBIM. First, some background information, so you can appreciate the grandeur of it all.

A week before yesterday, she gets a call from her dad that his brother (her uncle) has been hospitalized for breathing difficulties. Mind you, her uncle has been smoking two packs of unfiltered Camels since he was old enough to figure out how fire worked. He has also led, shall we say, a sedentary life, which also contributes in his being somewhat, um, heavier than is healthy.

So Uncle E. gets hospitalized, and my FiL calls in my wife because my BiL--well, let's just say that's not his department--and my FiL knows that Uncle E. has never managed to attain "Beloved Uncle" status. FiL is all the family Uncle E. has, since he never married and pretty much enjoyed a, uh, quiet life. The respiratory therapies seem to be working, and Uncle E. starts making progress.

That is when, as they say in Spain "the monkey shat on the piano*" and Uncle E. is inexplicably was transferred from the respiratory section to the psychiatric section for "observation." This wouldn't have been so bad, except they totally mangled the respiratory meds and given his nicotine withdrawals and elevated sodium levels and lessened oxygen intake made him incoherent.

So TFBIM and FiL (all this stuff goes over his head) go to the hospital because, y'know, WTF...right? The hospital administration bordered on being helpful once or twice, but that was it. So TFBIM spent her day shuttled from department to department trying to figure out WTF was going on. When she tried to get a hold of the Dr., she was told "Dr. X will be here tomorrow, he has already been here today and sees no reason to return."

You know that scene in Fantasia when Mickey Mouse hacks up the broom and the splinters just start to regenerate into more brooms? You know how all little kids react...with that "Uh oh."

Yeah.

Uh oh.

So yesterday TFBIM and FiL go see Dr. X. Dr. X, from all accounts, should have been a urologist instead of of a psychiatrist because he is such a prick. He was arrogant, condescending, and stated that if FiL (as next of kin) so much as contacted a lawyer, he would have Uncle E. committed. (Meanwhile, the respiratory meds are still being monkeyed with, and his progress has been arrested somewhat.)

Uh oh.

THEN. (Because it seems TFBIM and Badge have had this Freaky Friday brain switch thing...) She had to have a meeting with some people from the federal gummint about NTS's school and THEN had to go to a presentation that the head of NTS's school (a brilliant woman, just not brilliant at this) was doing for some board or other.

Between 8am and 10pm TFBIM had eaten nothing. And, so's you know, she's no longer PMSing.

UPDATE: Today, TFBIM--who was VERRRRRY reluctant to do so--is having speaks with an attorney. One who doesn't like to leave flesh on the bones of opponents.

-J.

* Yes, I know. It loses a lot in the translation.

Posted by Joke at 8:07 AM 9 comments

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Earth-shattering, life-altering discovery du jour


The most excellent Suse has clued me into something so simple, so basic and yet so revelatory that it has changed the way I do things.

Basically it's a new method of roasting/toasting marshmallows. Normally, you'd impale the marshmallow in question, put it over a convenient bonfire (open flame or source of heat will suffice) allow the outside to reach the level of gooey doneness one desires in a cooked marshmallow interior and enjoy it the way you'd enjoy slightly carbonized, sweetened magma.

Suse's method--and here comes the MacArthur Grant* part--is that you peel off the part that is toasted to your liking and then you put it back to toast the newly revealed as-yet-uncooked, former interior, and repeat. Basically, treating the marshmallow as you would raclette.

This, Internet, is unbridled genius, right up there with inventing the bath "sheet" and air conditioning. I don't impress easily, but this has left me wowed. I dunno if this is standard marshmallow procedure among our Australian cousins. If it is, I'm sorry, but Suse shall get all the credit. Although I dimly remember reading she's originally from England, and perhaps that's how they do it there. Still, Suse's place in the pantheon of cool cooking invention people is fixed, and, quite frankly, to Hell with whoever invented this if it wasn't Suse. As far as I care, it's Suse's doing entirely. I will not hear a word against her, nor will I entertain any outbursts of modesty on her part.

Now, while I'm dead-certain this process is utterly brilliant with any ol' marshmallow, it only makes sense to shift your paradigm to a new beat if you mean to do it properly. That is, use a kick-@$$ marshmallow. My personal favorite is Tiny Trapeze Vanilla Marshmallows and I am sitting here going bonkers with anticipation.

If it works out well, I may even go so far as to make my own marshmallows.

Can you tell I'm happy?

-J.

* That's the money you unexpectedly get for being a genius. You can't apply for it, you can't ask for it, you never know who it's really from and most people never find out who gets the money. But it's HUGE money and it goes to brilliant people. Usually.

Posted by Joke at 7:53 AM 20 comments

Monday, May 08, 2006

On a morning like this one...

It's been 13 years since I married (as she herself phrased it) "the prettiest girl who would put up with [me]."

I love you, TFBIM!

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:02 AM 14 comments

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stress.

This is the most stressful time of the year. Summer is nearly upon us and we haven't planned JACK. So I have spent the last few days online looking up things. When we can use our miles, the hotels are ready to eviscerate the wallet, when the hotels are reasonable, the airlines want quintuple miles and have weird schedules and ridiculous layovers.

To top it off, TFBIM and I have never seen eye to eye on travel. For example, this year she wanted to go see the Grand Canyon. For 10 days. Stop and think about this. My wife wants to spend 10 days looking at a multicolored, striped gouge in the earth. She wants us to do hiking and riding the mules. Those of you who've met us, can you see NTS hiking for hours? In Arizona? In SUMMER? Me either.

Y'all can stop laughing now.

Now, we do have friends in Phoenix and I suggested that we stay at a frou-frou hotel and spa there, because in summer...Phoenix is practically free since it's 934F (388C) during summer and even passing bedouins complain about the weather. "Oy, it's like a sauner in heah." "Dry this heat is? Feh." The shopping is good, the food is good, we have dear friends to visit and it's damned near free. And we could take a day trip to look at a multicolored, striped gouge in the earth. (Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Vacation? Yeah, I'm like that.)

Of course, this was considered a ludicrous suggestion.

We had planned the Italy thing. In fact, I had even managed to score a great "pensione" across the street from the Vatican which is in a 300-year old building and even has it's own caffé/trattoria on the ground floor and a pizzeria two doors away. For $88/night. Only that if we want to do this with FF miles, um, "you can't get there from here" but we can pay $1K per person.

Oh, and I found a ridiculously impractical (well, not TOO...it has 4 seats and a/c) car to buy in Italy, where it's less popular--i.e., cheaper--than here to drive around.

This bears thinking.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:08 PM 10 comments

Saturday, May 06, 2006



Dig the most excellent Tirn LayzeII lithograph I just got.

That was the highlight of my day. Not that my day sucked, mind you. It didn't, it just had suckoid moments.

Today was my goddaughter (TFBIM's niece)'s 1st Communion and so we schlepped to that. It takes some getting used to how they do things at their parish vs. ours. Ours is one of the last hardass, old-timey High Church Roman Catholic places left, while theirs is...um...not. As Poppy would (rightly) say, it's utterly lacking in the yells, bells and smells; whereas ovah heah, it's so traditional and classical and swimming in incense and Latin that High Church Anglicans might confuse it for one of theirs. Theirs has bongos.

But, suffering is redemptive saith the Catechism, and so we chalked that up as easily redeemable coupons if we get to Purgatory. The boys looks ultra-spiffed, and I took the opportunity to wear my favorite (yes, it's pink) shirt along with the blazer I had made the penultimate time I was in Chicago. The reception was at a Famous Fancy National Steakhouse place, and it must have cost my BiL so much that he can now look at Lance Armstrong square in the eye and say "Yep. Know what ya mean."

The funny thing was that it wasn't all that impressive. I mean, yeah, I'm sure BiL's bill was, indeed, eyewateringly impressive. But the food was sort of "meh." At least they were generous with the wine, and it was a decent wine at that. Cake was good, too. Also, it was pretty close to our house (the ceremony was not) and NOS wanted to go do a sleepover, so we had a short hop with NTS and that made things a Hell of a lot better, because the wine had made us ridiculously sleepy. In fact, I'm so sleepy, I may actually fall asleep before 11pm.

The impressive part was that NTS sat there and behaved. He sat through the long-ish Mass, he had most of his lunch (grilled chicken & steak fries) and all his milk and a cubic yard of bread and a gallon of ice cream. In fact, it took him a full 6 hours to come up to me, take me by the hand and say "Let's go." This is way big news.

When I first sat down to jot this down, I had a point, I swear. Blanking on what that might have been, but there ya go. Blame the wine.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:22 PM 8 comments

Contest #3 - Update!

I am carefully monitoring the household for stuff to give away and here's what (so far!) I've got:

DVDs
• Alice in Wonderland (Gold something something Edition)
• Ben-Hur (Super Special Edition)
• The Blues Brothers (ditto)
• Animal House (ditto)

Books
• Giuliano Bugialli's Italy
• China Moon Cookbook
• Nantucket Open House Cookbook
• Complete Lewis Carroll (fancy-@$$ hardcover edition)
• [Japanese Name I've Forgotten]'s Sushi
• Atomic Cocktails

Miscellaneous
• Two vintage but better-than-new straight razors (VOID where the winner has small children or loose monkeys or has been talked off the ledge by police)
• Set of whimsical "cocktail" stationery (each card has a different drink recipe)
• Set of whimsical "fill-in-the-blank" stationery (like "MadLibs" for grownups)
• Pint and half pint Bass Ale pub mugs.
UPDATE! This totally awesome near-mint--the leather could use some buffing out just around the clasp--Mark Cross "binocular case" (my term, not Mark's) handbag. I had to buy it on eBay to get the key for one I had gotten my wife a while back, and this one had THREE (huh?) keys. So you get a bonus key, as well. It even smells like new leather, if you're kink-o-matic that way.

Winner will get to choose. I'll add more to the stash as I find it. The contest? Choose the next contest. 2nd Prize for funniest contest suggestion. You have until the 31st. Shipping's on me.

-J.

P.S. Super special bonus prize if you select the funniest AND best contest.


Posted by Joke at 9:06 AM 7 comments

Friday, May 05, 2006

For Julia



Your pal,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:08 AM 4 comments

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Keys.

Here ya go.

This is a key case that came with the impractical red car. I prefer key cases to key chains because they sit flat in one's rear trouser pocket and because I keep my license and AAA and insurance cards and a few emergency bucks.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:56 PM 8 comments

Strange crushes.

I have crushes on:

Rachael Harris
Bonnie Hunt
Catherine O'Hara
Jodie Kidd
The other blonde from Bananarama
Holly Cole
Elisabeth Shue (not so certain of this nowadays)
Elizabeth Foreman

As you were,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:24 PM 2 comments

Tunes.

Go. Listen. Buy.

Great, great blues (and old-timey country) covers, by one of the pioneers of rock 'n' roll.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:21 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Only moderately embarrassing

Some of you may visualize me as a dapper boulevardier, a well dressed bon vivant who expounds witticisms and wisdom on the free market, proper apparel for civilized gentlemen, and ingestibles.

All perfectly true, no doubt.

However, there is a dark side.

I'm a Disney geek. Poppy's caught several blasts of it and, by sheer exposure and contagion, a mild version of this syndrome.

How much of a geek? I have an annual pass (AP). To Disneyland. DisneyLAND. As in, California, across the continent from the fringe of paradise whence I hail. Oh, yeah, I also have an AP to Walt Disney World, but that's not that impressive in a Floridian. But still.

Anyway, I went to WDW for the first time in January of 1972. I didn't return until we had moved down to FL, in 1975. But going to WDW was an eyeopening thing and also a part of my childhood that informed something of my growing up. The 1972 trip was the last trip I ever took with my paternal grandmother, and so I have warm memories from that angle. I also grew up watching "Uncle Walt" on TV (mostly reruns, I was VERRRRRRY young when he died) and getting the Donald & Uncle Scrooge comics as a kid as well. And having a few of the ViewMaster* reels.

I have fond memories of my Dad accidentally drinking a whole pint of Bass Ale at the pub in EPCOT in 1982 and subsequently trying to sound English. (Those of you who remember my dad's speaking voice will realize how mindbendingly hilarious this scenario is.)

But anyway.

We'll be going to WDW for Memorial Day weekend (it's actually LESS crowded, counterintuitive as that may be) and then at some point in July-ish off to DL to burn off a bunch of our Delta FF miles. We have managed to meet up with Poppy & Co. 2-3 in DL and it's always amazingly fun and, on the years when we don't, we meet up with a friend from B-school and her husband and kids who are more or less my kids' ages. So that's always great.

But back to WDW. One of the sneaky things about making hotel arrangements in WDW is that it's a lot cheaper than people think. This is because WDW doesn't exactly call attention to its discounts, sales and special offers. It reminds me of the plans for the bypass in Douglas Adams' The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy:

"But the plans were on display..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a torch."
"Ah...well...the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'"

You have to ask to see what they have. Knowing this, I was able to score very reasonably priced digs, within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom. It is an article of faith with me to avoid mass transit wherever possible (Boston & Washington DC are extremely rare exceptions.) and never more so when at WDW. The way the layout of the parks are, unless you stay where we are staying, you'll have to take some kind of bus, tram, ferry, train, monorail, skiff, canoe or oxcart to get to one of the parks. Which we have neatly avoided. For 55% off the rack rates.

"But don't you get bored?"

No.

Part of the reason we don't is because we never stand in lines (Poppy never stands in lines either, but she barely rides the rides.) waiting like cornfed tourists in the hot sun for hours just to see an Audio-Animatronic wolverine for 35 seconds. The reason we don't have to stand in line, is because we have the zen of the thing and know when to go where. In fact, we have managed to ride EVERY RIDE IN TWO PARKS in one day. We know the secret shortcuts, we know which rides load and unload slowly (Dumbo, ugh...the ride that eats families.) we know what restaurant to be at and at what time, when to take a pool break, all that stuff.

My unfortunate schadenfreude makes me snicker when people report on their trips as being nothing more than hour upon hour of queueing up in the blistering sun to see a six foot rat.

And there's really good food, if'n you know where to go.

-J.

* More on THAT hobby later.

Posted by Joke at 8:13 AM 20 comments

I'm loving it.

Finally, equal time for guys obsessed with their skin.

http://shaveblog.com/

As a bonus, this is written by one the funniest, best writers around: Corey Greenberg, who went from being an A/V guru (he was one of the original writers for Home Theater Technology Magazine in the early 1990s, then at Sound & Vision and finally editor for Audio Magazine) to being a big wheel in matters of shaving.

Don't ask.

Even if you have less than zero interest in how men ought drag ridiculously sharp bits of metal across their faces every day, read this blog for the peerless prose.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:00 AM 2 comments

Monday, May 01, 2006

Embarrassing Tales

A lot of times, when you see memes you'll often see subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints for the participating blogger to issue an embarrassing tale. First kiss, not getting to the bathroom in time, etc. Usually you can get by with a sentence or two, and then you skate.

Then there are those bloggers who for some reason, seem to spin off embarrassing personal information as if it proved therapeutically cleansing to the soul.

OK.

Badge and Poppy know the story (I've hinted about it before) of my tattoo. Hell, Poppy's SEEN the tattoo. I'll tell ya how it came to be, since several people in my corner of the blogosphere have expressed an interest in getting tattooed.

A long time ago, I dated a girl who lived in Nawlins. I was VERY young--I skipped a grade, remember?--and I was deeply in love, because being young I didn't know how much of an idiot I was being.

Anyway.

I visited her family during the weekend before Mardi Gras. The whole town was going nuts and, in those days, the drinking age was 18. My then-GF was out with her friends and I had some friends from HS who attended Tulane & Loyola, and we met up to do the French Quarter thing. Well, meandering the streets, I saw vendors selling "151 Hurricanes" for the princely sum of $1. I had to try those, since Pat O'Brien's were $3 and far less potent. Jump ahead three hours and I was, frankly, luggage.

I wanted to surprise my then-GF by getting a tattoo over my heart with her name. I sallied forth with a purpose (or the closest thing to sallying I could muster when my lgaments had turned to one of the lesser Wham-O products) and after an embarrassing misreading of directions whereby I accidentally went into a leather bar* and couldn't find how to exit same for what seemed like an hour, I found the place.

My friends helped me select a drawing, select a "font" for the name, colors, etc.

I sat down in what seemed like a cross between a barber's chair and something rejected by the ObGyn Guild. I took off my shirt, pleased as all Hell with myself and my manly sense. The tattoo guy starts the thing up and then makes contact.

OMG.

The pain.

I thought I was passing a spinning sea urchin on fire. I think I saw Jesus, and maybe also some dead relatives. I think I told the bald, bearded obese man with all the ink and the sleeveless denim jacket that his mother had never married his father and suggested he he enjoyed some seriously immoral--to say nothing of physically impossible--activities. I ran out shirtless (back into that bar where it was nothing but Hell's Angels and Cowboy impersonators) screaming and, I believe, weeping drunkenly. To this day, I have a blue dot on my chest to remind me not to drink so damned much.

-J.

* You know these guys just LOVED seeing a preppy 19 y.o. with a madras shirt and khaki chinos.

Posted by Joke at 10:20 PM 9 comments