Monday, July 31, 2006

Just for bb

Blackbird has posted pictures of "crocs" from across the web. So, um, here are mine.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 9:34 PM 1 comments

Topless in PJs

Dear Internet,

I have a mission for you. I need new PJ bottoms. A lo-o-o-o-o-ong time ago (pre-buyout) I used to get them through Lands' End. Unfortunately, LE was bought out by Sears and suckitude ensued.

Here's what I need:

PJ bottoms, in a shirting-like* 100% cotton fabric (no flannel, no knit jersey, etc.) UNDER $20 a pair. I don't mind spending coin on something particularly nice, but nobody will see me in PJs. I don't need full-on PJs. I just wear the bottoms with regular white Nordstrom undershirts (one size larger).

In the past I have bought 'em from Polo, but the quality isn't so hot...and even the sizing is off. I mean, I'm a shade under 5'10" w. a 34" waist and even the size small has me swimming in fabric.

OK, have at it.

-J.

* Pinpoint, broadcloth, cambric, batiste, voile, royal oxford...that sorta thing.

Posted by Joke at 7:52 PM 8 comments

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Preemptive Anti-Disaster Measures

All this unpacking and stuffing (literally) into my dresser and closet, led me to look long and hard at my apparel situation. I have spent the entire Sunday (save for an hour at Mass begging for Divine strength to see this task through, and another hour chatting up the lovely and gracious Poppy) culling my embarrassingly vast wardrobe, which could be worse...by the looks of it, there are plenty of men who attire themselves in a half-vast way.

There are upsides, of course. First, there is breathing room again. I no longer need a letter opener and forceps to extract shirtings, for instance. Second, and most importantly, I rediscovered some wonderful stuff I had bought and, as the purchases accumulated with time, forgot. Things such as my Harris tweed shooting jacket (easy to forget when you live in a summer-all-the-time climate) and some cufflinks I had left in a shirt I was trying out God-knows-how-long-ago. Nice.

The downside is having to look at old friends and letting them know they are being let go. This includes all but one of my Oxxfords, a Joseph Abboud suit, my first MTM blazer and my first Purple Label suit, and about half of my neckties. A third of the stuff that has been handed the pink slip is stuff that has slid past the "sympathetic patina" stage and really ought be put out of its misery (or at least put out of my closet). Another chunk is stuff that hails from the bygone days when my abdominals were in evidence. Lastly, about a fifth of the discard pile is stuff that looked better on the hanger than it did on me. (Assorted earth-tone stuff that made me look like a Thanksgiving Day buffet, unusual pastels, etc.) Finally there is stuff I bought Up Nawth because it was autumn and I got carried away by the Zen of it all. Do I really need a Viyella shirt? Or camel hair anything?

To be honest, I cannot recall the last time I went through my wardrobe like a devouring flame. In fact, I may never have. The question now becomes what to do with the extra space. You don't want to know the size of the piles made of stuff to eBay or donate. Hint? Just in suits to jettison, eleven.

E-L-E-V-E-N

[Pause while the above sinks in...]

To that you may add a proportionate (sadly) amount of chinos, dress shirts, casual shirts, jeans, shorts, polo/golf/tennis shirts, dress trousers and neckties. I have expected a lachrymose Daisy Buchanan to pop by and start wailing and sobbing into the 501 jeans I could wear way back when.

The pitiful thing of it is that, as I ponder the sudden and immediate increase in available closet/drawer/dresser space of about--I kid thee not--40%, I am aswim with possibilities for filling those gaps.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:00 PM 8 comments

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (2006), Part 1

On our first day, SoCal was Hellishly hot. We had landed at 9something a.m. Pacific Time, and after an early lunch (11am PT, but our tummies--still on ET--said it was 2pm) we STUPIDLY decided to go to Knott's Berry Farm.

It's one thing to fritter away $100. It's another to fritter away $100 for the express purposes of being @#$%ing miserable. At Knott's Berry Farm there is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING WHATSOEVER that is air-conditioned. Which is fine when all is 80F with no humidity, but less than fine when it's 108F with no humidity. There was/is no-@#$%ing-where to hide. All the rides are outdoor rides, all the queues are outdoors and when outdoors there is ZERO shade...the few shows that were inside were like ovens.

Poppette would have not only died, she would have taken the whole Poppy clan, and several innocent passersby, with her. We arrived at 1:30pm, and were out the door by 4pm. Mind you, Knott's Berry Farm is really not our cuppa, even sans heat. Most of the rides are rollercoasters and while, in principle, rollecoasters are , y'know, a'ight, we really need something more visually arresting to keep us interested and the kiddie rides at Camp Snoppy weren't it.

Disneyland was a contrast. Rides had queues--not that we had to endure many, those being reserved for the peasantry--in the shade and everything had its thermostat set for 60F. Which brings us to an observation. WDW is best known for its morbidly obese clientele (Seriously, if you consider yourself heavy, a few days here will do marvels for your self-worth.) but DL has suddenly become the single greatest festival of tattooed humans I have ever beheld. Which brings us to a problem. At some point in a tattooed human's life the tattoo ceases to be attractive. There's no getting around this fact. The skin upon which the tattoo rests is no longer all supple and eventually the tattoo looks like an artistic bruise. One has to see the bitter reality of an aging goth

...pause while the above sinks in...

to realize that being 50+ and tattooed and multi-pierced is not a good look to carry into the autumn of your years. Your hotness factor will actually decrease. But nobody has gotten the memo.

California is interesting (much like NYC is interesting) in that it feels like an alien land. When you (OK, when I go) to, say, Boston, Chicago, Phoenix or Dallas, it just feels like a different part of the USA. When you go to California (or, to be fair, its polar opposite, NYC) you get that "stranger in a strange land" thing. People are more likely to name their child Dakota in California than they are in Boston. Also, one is more likely to meet goths (including, sadly, the aforementioned aged ones) in California. Gasoline is also 30 cents more expensive. Because there are so many people in California, it can support large businesses on its own, so instead of seeing an ocean of Burger World outlets, you see Jack In The Box and Carl's Jr. This helps give the landscape that we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore vibe. The freeways are also weird because they have stoplights at the onramps...yeah, me either. The "This Is The Center of the Known Universe" attitude of the locals is comparable only to that of New Yorkers. But we love SoCal and that's why we make annual pilgrimages thereto.

We've loved DL since the first time we went with Poppy & Co. back in--OMG, was it that long ago?--2002. It still has a lot of that 1950s feel and for the 50th anniversary, they have little plaques up on certain attractions (Jungle Cruise, Castle, Mark Twain steamboat, etc.) indicating they are original. The folks there pride themselves on this being the Disney theme park "that Walt built."

These days they have two parks, the Magic Kingdom/Disneyland and California Adventure. The latter has a lot of coolness to it, especially food-wise. One of the attractions is a fully-functioning winery (VERRRRRRRRY small scale, though!) with a great restaurant on the top floor and a great trattoria on the bottom floor.

One of the best things on days when the temperatures hit the 100s is Grizzly River Run, which is basically a splashabout ride aboard fancy inner tubes. You get taken up to the top of Grizzly Peak and cascade down. You will get wet and there is a better than even shot you'll be absolutely drenched. When it's 102F/41C, soaked is a good thing.

They also have some clunkers, including a [eyeroll]Whoopi Goldberg[/eyeroll] presentation in the history of California called Golden Dreams. The name is apt, because it's one of those attractions that lets you get a 22 minute power nap, being situated in my favorite part of the park, Air Conditioned Land. Right next to this park is the Grand Californian hotel, which is a neat place if'n you like that Bungalow/Arts & Crafts/Mission thing. This is DL's top-shelf hotel. The restaurants, Napa Rose and Storyteller's, are excellent. The latter is woefully underrated. I had the most amazing lobster corn chowder there...it was so good I practically had to sprint to a confessional.

Back at Magic Kingdom (Disneyland proper) our favorite nook is just off Fantasyland...Toontown. Built in the wake of the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? it has a lot of play areas and it's vital to have the lads burn off excess energy. Almost everything makes a silly noise.

We're still dealing with small-scale jet lag, which is harder to shake off by virtue of being milder. Now, after I get done sorting the albums (alba?) of photos, I'll post again.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:51 AM 4 comments

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'm back, and I'm tired.

Miss me?

Had a great time, connected to the Internet all of twice in a week. Turned off my cell phone, left all the accoutrements of connection behind with "sorry, I won't be at the office until the 31st" messages and enjoyed the Hell out of myself.

Now I'm back just in time to get dressed up and go out to a birthday dinner.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 2:48 PM 6 comments

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gone, but not forgotten.

Dear Internet,

Greetings from Concourse D of Ft. Lauderdale Int'l. Airport.

We'll be out in Disneyland. Expect zero-to-minimal bloggery. Back the 29th.

Oops, we're boarding.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:50 AM 3 comments

Thursday, July 20, 2006

As previously shown and told.

Me? I'm ahead of the curve. I did the coffee machine thing a while back. But I realize that in my rapturous prose over the glories of espresso, I failed to sufficiently detail my distaste for regular coffee.

Regular coffee has two insurmountable flaws: Pale roasted beans and a surfeit of water. In my house, we have a code name for regular water, but I don't use said code in the presence of small children or ladies, owing to the rather vulgar terminology involved. But, rest assured, it's quite accurate.

Every once in a while my wife will down a cup (brewed strong, splash of light cream, 2 sugars) but I can only choke the stuff down out of politeness. I find it so weak-kneed, pallid, insipid and just plain @#$%ing watery that it's barely drinkable in my book. Frankly, I cannot recall the last time I had a regular cup of java. It must be 7-8 years since a cup managed to go past my tonsils. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about it.

Regular coffee is to me what gin is to Badger.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:37 PM 11 comments

Poppy's Top Ten Meme -- UPDATED!

The very lovely and ultra-gracious Poppy hath written at length on what she considers the 10 greatest, unsung inventions.

Here are mine:

The telephone headset - I like not getting that trapezius cramp from holding the handset against my neck. I like having not one, but two hands free. Of course, some people have issues with headsets, the savages. Me, I like the corded type with hundreds of feet of cord, that I may roam about freely and not worry about recharging jack. This is especially handy for those of us who can only type with two fingers, or cook and talk.

Caller ID - Saved my life, that has. In the old days you had to stand hovering over your answering machine to see if you wished to accept the offer of conversation. Now you kick 'em straight to voice mail, the useless bastids.

Audiobooks - Ripped to my MP3 player or (snort, giggle, suppressed snicker) iPod audiobooks make lo-o-o-o-o-ong drives bearable and make daily runs turn into 10 minute strolls. Especially if you get a good narrator (Jonathan Cecil reading Wodehouse or John Cleese reading The Screwtape Letters are killer, for example) all your life can become 10%-15% more pleasant. UPDATE: Abridged audio books suck more than anything has ever sucked before.

Air conditioning - This has made going outdoors pretty much obsolete.

eBay - If you have an active or latent collector's gene, this was an ideal thing. I've been on since 1997 and have pretty much given myself over to the experience. Mind you, there really are only two reasons to look on eBay for things: 1) To find stuff you simply cannot find anywhere else or, 2- Get stuff cheap. There's really no point otherwise.

Blender - Poppy's right. Gotta have those slushy drinks and, if you live on the fringe of Paradise, that's a yearlong pursuit.

DVD Player - Better than a laserdisc, small as a CD, cheaper than either. On a laptop on long flights/car rides, the ultimate babysitter. It takes some doing to defeat the COMPLETELY MORONIC, CRETINOUS "regional coding" but once you do that, you're golden.

Digital photography - In the bad old days, you'd shoot a whole mess of pictures, remember take them somewhere to be developed (usually 2 months later), pick them up (2 months after THAT) sort through them to see which ones were cool and which ones sucked, take the negatives back to make duplicates, pick THEM up (usually 2 months later still) and snail-mail them to friends and family. Now, you see how good/bad the pictures are the moment you take them, and, if you have enough sense to have your wire thingy handy, you could send pictures in seconds to everyone not dinosaur enough to have an email account.

Satellite TV - No cable, no paying the eleventy gazillion dollars in @#$%ing stupid-@$$ taxes on a cable bill. More channels, better picture, less money. You can also get East and West coast feeds, and pick up local channels from completely different cities. Shame there's nothing on worth watching.

Bread Machines - No more kneading, pounding, etc. No more frou-frou bakeries. Just delicious bread (rosemary, sundreied tomato, sourdough, challah, etc.) that disa-freakin'-ppears.

How did we live without these?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:50 AM 4 comments

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Aftermath: The Pictorial Record

The casino.
Where the grownups hung out. (Next to food and drink.)
Where the cake resided.
The goody "tin" (including a verrrrry hip CD)
Casino (alternative perspective)
The arts & crafts visors that were assembled by the, er, assembled.
2/3 of the assembled (the other 1/3 wound up on a completely different chip to which I have no access at the mo.)

Remember. All the goodies and decorations cost less than $50! I am such a GREAT cheapskate!

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:48 AM 5 comments

Privacy, please

I like my privacy. Not quite as much as the lovely and gracious bb who turns around bottles of beer so as not to give away sensitive secret information. The Tuvalu Intelligence Agency knew what it was doing when it hired her.

Anyway, that wasn't the point. The point is me and my privacy. As a moderately reclusive sort I have to fight the impulse to brag about stuff I've yoinked on eBay for pennies on the dollar until the auction fades from the public record and I can't be traced to my little suburban corner on the Fringes of Paradise. Usually, time causes the impulse to fade.

Not today, dear hearts.

I am going to sing paeans to my espresso machine, snagged for a mere 20% of what the discounted retail price is. It was a dealer demo and the guy spelled the name of the brand wrong. I swooped in and practically stole it.

I LOVE IT. Every morning, at 7:12am its timer shuffles it to life, and it begins to grind the beans and tamp the whatever the Hell it is that gets tamped. Some rude noises later, a PERFECT shot of espresso. Perfect as in "flawless, devoid of defect. Optimal." The right temperature, the right consistency, a GORGEOUS tan crema on top. Even using frou-frou beans the purchase of the machine and all the beans I'll need in a year are a FRACTION of what I'd spend at Starbucks, for lesser coffee, in a year*.

The downside is that the espresso is so spectacularly delicious I'm practically mainlining it. It's not as bad as when I was in B-school (how much caffeine must you have in your system if you can have a shot of espresso and then fall asleep?) but it's more than I was gulping a year ago. After all, if you could get flawless espresso--15 seconds or less!--by only pushing one li'l itty-bitty button, you would. You know you would.

See, about a year ago I realized the perfectly nice espresso maker we got as a wedding gift was only "okay." Pretty much B- stuff. Pleasant enough, but hardly the pinnacle of the art. So I started looking on eBay. Because I am a cheap bastid. (Ask Poppy.) I could have paid close to retail, I could have settled for something with bashed-in buttons. I wanted a steal. I was willing to wait it out. One day I saw a typo-ed dealer demo and I pounced. The guy was in Jacksonville, so shipping (this muhfuh is heavy) was cheap.

I was so bloody happy when this thing arrived. It had a timer. It had all kids of adjustments (weak, strong, short, tall, etc.) and a built-in coffee grinder and a built in water tank w. filter and a temp. controlled milk thing attachment option for IDIOT-PROOF cappucino, and caffee latte. After it brews the espresso it cleans itself (you have to do a major cleanup every 3-4 months) and you stop living like a savage. It even makes regular ::shudder:: coffee and tea.

-J.

* Say you spend a mere $3 x 300 days (assume you don't go on weekends) = $900

Posted by Joke at 1:04 AM 9 comments

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ruthless hippie bastids.

A'ight.

I'm grooving over at Suse's reading on the manifest wonderfulness that is BabBab. Therein she writes on the matter of (new-to-Suse) Graham crackers. Someone comments on the wonderfulness of s'mores. So, I chime in on Suse's combox to the effect the greatest Graham crackers (and marshmallows) come from an outfit in Massachussetts called "Tiny Trapeze."

Which reminded me to check my inventory. Which was kinda low. I then attempt to log into TinyTrapeze.com only to find out they have been bought out by Whole Foods, Inc. ...who immediately shut down the whole webmail order thing. You may now ONLY get this stuff from selected Whole Foods outlets.

So, if you thought only Gordon Gekko/Enron types shafted the little guy...you can now add some Birkenstock-addled, Che Guevara T-Shirt wearing, Mother Jones/The Nation subscribin', "Wavy Gravy" dinosaurs to the pile.

I am WAY pyst.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:17 PM 17 comments

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Aftermath

The party was fine. A horde of 9 y.o. kids intently playing poker is a sight to behold. NOS made out OK giftwise, too.

Afterwards we went over to see Pirates 2. Not bad. Would have been great if they had 1) hacked away about 45 minutes and 2) not made it completely obvious it was only a cliffhanger for Pirates 3.

Keira Knightley looking like a Malibu Barbie "Special Wench Edition" was also weird. Johnny Depp doing his Keith Richards impression* for 2.5 hours was entertaining, though.

Photos to ensue.

-J.

* Which he does quite well, in lieu of actually acting.

Posted by Joke at 9:34 PM 5 comments

Badger steals the best stuff.

No, really. It's a like an eight sense or something. No idea what this one is called though.

GRUB-OLOGY

What is your salad dressing of choice? Something in the Thai-Japanese spectrum.

What is your favorite fast food restaurant? If forced to choose...Wendy's.

What is your favorite sit down restaurant? As opposed to stand-up? 1200.

On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant? I always leave between and 15%-20%, whatever is needed to round up to a whole dollar amount. 20%-25% if the service has been stellar.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? Prosciutto.

Name three foods you detest above all others. Liver, bell peppers & olives.

What is your favorite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant? Kung-pao Chicken, extra "pao."

What are your pizza toppings of choice? Not necessarily together: Prosciutto, arugula, onions, mushrooms.

What do you like to put on your toast? Butter and strawberry preserves. It must be on homemade bread, though.

What is your favorite chewing gum? Toss-up between original Bubble Yum & Juicy Fruit.

TECH-OLOGY

Number of contacts in your cell phone? 100-ish?

Number of contacts in your email address book? 17

What is your wallpaper on your computer? The car I wish to purchase next.

What is your screen saver on your computer? Slideshow of the My Pictures folder.

Are there naked pictures saved on your computer? Nope.

How many land line phones do you have in your house? Five.

How many televisions are in your house? Three.

What kitchen appliance do you use the least? Spice mill.

What is the format of the radio station you listen to the most? News, if I must.

How many sex toys do you own that require batteries? No thanks, I'm good.

BI-OLOGY

What do you consider to be your best physical attribute? Smile.

Are you right handed or left handed? Right. My left hand is there strictly for visual symmetry.

Do you like your smile? Yeah.

Have you ever had anything removed from your body? I had a little something snipped off at birth, then my tonsils.

Would you like to? No thanks, I'm good.

Do you prefer to read when you go to the bathroom? Not really.

Which of your five senses do you think is keenest? Taste.

When was the last time you had a cavity? 1974.

What is the heaviest item you lift regularly? The weights on the leg machine.

Have you ever been knocked unconscious? No.

MISC-OLOGY

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? The hour too, please. I'd like to adjust my schedule accordingly.

If you could change your first name, what would you change it to? No thanks, I'm good.

How do you express your artistic side? Bloggery. Cooking.

What color do you think you look best in? Navy.

How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison? As long as it takes to plot revenge on the bastards who framed me.

Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake? No thanks, I'm good.

If we weren't bound by society's conventions, do you have a relative you'd make a pass at? No. Not even if I had a relative who was ridiculously attractive.

How often do you go to church? I think an hour a week, tops.

Have you ever saved someone's life? Not literally.

Has someone ever saved yours? I think so.

DARE-OLOGY
For this last section, if you would do it for less or more money, indicate how much.

Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000? Depends. How much is bail?

Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100? Have you SEEN the members of my sex? I'm amazed all women don't just go utterly heterophobic.

Would you have sex with a member of the same sex for $10,000? See above.

Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000? I need them for symmetry. No.

Would you never blog again for $50,000? Not even close.

Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000? Only to punish society.

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000? What brand?

Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000? Yes, but I get to pick who gets it, and there has to be a confessional nearby.

Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000? This is a wax-free zone.

Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000? I guess I could live without the 3 shows on Food Network I watch.

Posted by Joke at 2:09 PM 3 comments

Friday, July 14, 2006

Party HQ

NOS's party preparations are, basically, done.

I am amazed how (relatively) easy and painless this party has been so far. The best part is that (food aside) EVERYTHING has come from one or another dollar store. We have spent MAYBE $50 on party "stuff."

I am wa-a-ay pleased. The only semi-intensive thing was burning the CDs (see post below) and printing up the labels.

What's left tomorrow is to bring ice, make coleslaw, and grill off ribs, chicken, burgers & hotdogs.

That's IT.

NOS was very happy with himself for coming up with this idea all by himself.

We'll see how it turns out.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:09 PM 6 comments

This is why she deserved the cookbook.

Go read the lovely and gracious Julia's entry on computer choices.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:11 PM 2 comments

Rowe v. Weird

http://us.video.aol.com/video.index.adp?mode=2&guideContext=65.491&pmmsid=1676949

Posted by Joke at 1:05 AM 5 comments

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Physician, heal myself.

Yesterday didn't quite suck. It came close, it teetered on the edge of suckitude and wiggled its toes. Work hath kicked mine arse so, to relieve the tedium while I await the impending arrival at my office of an Argentine client with a notoriously flexible outlook on the definition of "punctuality" I bring you a meme swiped from Badger, who, in turn swiped it from Karla.
Or so she (Badger) thinks.

1. How old do you wish you were? Whatever age gets rid of these "where did THIS ache come from?" and the dreaded "now that you're a man over 35 exam" annoyances.

2. Where were you when 9/11 happened? I was at the office, just a bit early. Like Badge, I figured it was some idiot in propeller plane until I saw the second plane hit. My friend S. died, pretty much on impact, then. (He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, and the 1st plane hit the floor he worked in.) His family has found any remains of him to bury. By the time it's all said and done I believe it'll prove to have been the start of WWIII.

3. What do you do when vending machines steal your money? "I hit/wiggle them. And then I curse. But I rarely use vending machines, so it doesn't happen very often." Ditto.

4. Do you consider yourself kind? Surprisingly, yes.

5. If you had to get a tattoo, where and what would it be? We've been over this.

6. If you could be fluent in any other language what would it be? Italian. I can muddle through it, but I'd love to be "native level." Spanish & English I got covered.

7. Do you know your neighbors? The ones across the street, but I have known them from before we neighborized them. I'm not, y'know, neighborly.

8. What do you consider a vacation? Anything that involves leaving home, not doing ANYTHING, in pleasant surroundings with plentiful beverages and a body of water into which I may leap to cool off. Oh, and good shopping.

9. Do you follow your horoscope? Dude, I don't even know my sign.

10. Would you move for the person you loved? That depends on who and where I'd move to. Definitely not to a state with imbecilic liquor laws (i.e. Blue Laws or state stores), an income tax or a definable winter. A place without a coastline is suspect, as well.

11. Are you touchy feely? I can be, but it's not my natural state of mind.

12. Do you believe that opposites attract? I believe oppositeness doesn't matter. An equal level of insanity, howe'er, does.

13. Dream job? Charming ne'er-do-well.

14. Favorite channels? Food Network and Speed.

15. Favorite place to go on a weekend? Naples, FL. (The thinking man's Palm Beach.)

16. Showers or Bath? Showers. I believe in a bath you're pretty much steeping in the stuff you allegedly wanted to clean off.

17. Do you paint your nails? No thanks, I'm good.

18. Do you trust people easily? Not easily. Most people suck.

19. What are your phobias? Socialism, totalitarianism, communism, the Infernal Revenue Service.

20. Do you want kids? I'm good, thanks.

21. Do you keep a handwritten journal? Good Lord...why?

22. Where would you rather be right now? On a hammock.

23. What makes you feel warm and safe? Sizeable checks.

24. Heavy or light sleep? Light.

25. Are you paranoid? Nah. Just cynical.

26. Are you impatient? Badger is longanimous in comparison.

27. Who can you relate to? Poppy. She's too much like me. (Surprisingly so!)

28. How do you feel about interracial couples? I demand they be composed of people of different races, otherwise they're just wasting my time. I further demand they be of similar attractiveness. They needn't be the same height. If one is left-handed, even better.

29. Have you been burned by love? Burned? Let's just say I am glad I wasn't a chicken with Badger around wielding a fork and knife.

30. What's your life motto? "This is NOT THAT @#$%ing complicated!"

31. What's your main ringtone on your mobile? "Main?" I have the one that came with the phone. I can't be bothered to screw around with ringtones. I have a life to lead.

32. What were you doing at midnight last night? I was bored.

33. Who was your last text message from? TFBIM.

34. Whose bed did you sleep in last night? TFBIM's

35. What color shirt are you wearing? White.

36. Most recent movie you watched? Cars. (again!)

37. Name five things you have on you at all times? Glasses, wedding ring, watch, skivvies, grey hair.

38. What color are your bed sheets? Always some flavor of blue.

39. How much cash do you have on you right now? On me? None. In my wallet? None. If I can't plastic it, I don't need it.

40. What is your favorite part of a chicken? The skin-on breast.

41. What's your favorite town/city? Right here.

42. I can't wait till... I can read in peace.

43. Who got you to join MySpace? If I ever join MySpace, I'll tell you.

44. What did you have for dinner last night? I made fresh spinach ravioli.

45. How tall are you barefoot? 5'9" and some change. If I stand up REAL straight, a picometer under 5'10"

46. Have you ever smoked crack? I've never even seen crack.

47. Do you own a gun? Yes. Beware.

48. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Espresso.

49. What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex? My charm, my sense of dress and more of my charm. I'm not wasting my liquor on anyone who doesn't find me charming.

50. Do you have A.D.D.? I wish I did.

51. What time did you wake up today? 6:30-ish.

52. Current worry? My parents and my kids.

53. Current hate? Not enough bandwidth to cover them.

54. Favorite place to be? Reading in bed.

55. Where would you like to travel? Italy, London and all the Disney theme parks around the globe.

56. Where do you think you'll be in 10 yrs? About 2 miles THAT way.

57. Last thing you ate? A pain ficelle with butter

58. What songs do you sing in the shower? I think in the shower.

59. Last person that made you laugh? Poppy, via Richard Simmons.

60. Worst injury you've ever had? Fractured skull.

61. Does someone have a crush on you? Oh, Lord, please, let it be nobody.

62. What is your favorite candy? Callard & Bowser Butterscotch.

Posted by Joke at 11:00 AM 6 comments

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Y'know what I REALLY hate?

I could go on a tear about politics, or diet soda, or artificial fibers, or even whackjob celebrity religions. All those I hate and my views on same are well known and moderately well detailed. But that's not what I hate most.

What I REALLY hate most is being bored outa my @#$%ing skull.

Like I am right now.

TFBIM, for those are new, is a an unofficial narcoleptic. Who hibernates. So she's out--quite literally--minutes after the lads have been put to bed. I've read up on all my blogpals who have updated their blogs. I have checked all the eBay things I have been eyeballing. I have rummaged for cars I am tempted to buy but prob'ly won't. I have email-chatted. Those all took a combined 25 minutes.

I'm hanging out my livah to dry after last night's thing, so no liquid relief.

I can't read a book, because I like to read in bed and TFBIM can't sleep with a light on. (Yes, even book lights.)

The only upside is that were I 20 years younger I'd be up to my axle in trouble. But I'm not, so I'm not. I'm just here. Bored.

Blah.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:24 PM 3 comments

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Oh, honey, I am SO blogging this." UPDATED

Speaking of wringing out livers...

We had a reception sort of thing to attend tonight. Fortunately, it was 3 blocks from my parents' house, so they could babysit the boys.

The basic premise was one of a mish-mash between a wine tasting an a cocktail party. There are 5 similar sorts of wines, say, "crisp whites" or "fruity reds" at 5 separate stations, and various different food stations that pair up with them. A DJ is playing appropriate background music. There are standup tables discreetly positioned around the room.

Knowing how this thing works out, we arrived a bit early (it's also been raining buckets for days on end, which gives us hope for a quick end to the mosquito shortage) but even then, the standup tables have largely been taken. There is one at the front, close to the DJ. We dive for it and begin getting organized, gathering wines and vittles.

A woman in her late 40s (or so I guesstimate) asks in the other 2 spots are free and we say no. She introduces herself as "Claudia" and her friend is "Monica" (also a likely suspect in her late-ish 40s). We chat a while. TFBIM notices they seem to have been particularly assiduous in the tasting of wines and also there are a great deal of women in their general demographic segment and ALL of them are devoid of wedding bands. Pretty soon shoes come off and they are grooving openly to the DJs background music. The few single-ish men in attendance are spoilt for choice. It is very weird to see women who are, by day, respectable professionals...booty dancing.

Imagine some upmarket realtor trying to, like Stella, get her groove back. Only not with some beefcake cabana boy, but a middle-aged attorney who, by the looks of it, just discovered mousse and blow dryers. Now imagine fifty of 'em.

That was my evening.

*****

When I wrote the above, I was about to fall asleep on my keyboard. The wines were excellent and the food was t.d.f. Last night was "crisp whites" and we started off with a Pinot Grigio. Since my wine/food pairing shortcut is Ye Olde "what grows together, goes together," I gathered up prosciutto and melon, little skewers of marinated grape tomatoes & tiny fresh mozzarella, stuffed sun-dried tomatoes and olives (for TFBIM).

Next up was a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. This was crisp, lemony-fruity, with lots of food-friendly acidity...so I went straight for the crabcakes--without remoulade for me--and coconut battered shrimp, and some Asian-ish lobster mousse fritter thing. It was soo good I wanted to sell my clothes because I was in heaven.

Now.

The thing of this is that you get a card, about half the size of a standard sheet of paper, with the names of the wine and boxes and lines for you to comment on and then you can refer to it and remember what you liked and what tasted like something best sent to a veterinary lab for analysis. Seeing as how it's 5-something in the morning (don't ask) I'm not able to get it from the car just now, but rest assured I remember everything. Except the wine names.

Anyway.

There was a Joseph Drouhin white, and we--by this time we were joined by "Doris" and "Laura" who were two very nice middle-aged ladies not on a drunken prowl for divirced men, at least not just then--paired this up with a raclette and some assorted goat cheeses.

There were two Spanish whites, from the same vintner (Viña Torres), but different vineyards (something something Esmeralda, and something Mayor) and those wound up paired to potato tortilla (a Spanish frittata, not the stuff you wrap around tacos or burritos or something), really insanely good chorizo, and Manchego cheese.

Finally, a glass of Gallo's "boutique" (as opposed to the stuff in 5 gallon drums) California Sauvignon Blanc and that went with a whole array of eastern Mediterranean nibbles: stuffed grape leaves with lamb & mint, a scallion hummus with pita--yum--and a roasted eggplant relish (like a cross between a chutney and baba ghannoush).

Then we walked over to Joke the Elder's house and retrieved those whom we had offsprung...who had feasted on drive-thru chicken nuggets (a very rare treat at Chez Joke) and spent the entire time playing computer games (we let 'em have an hour or so a day, tops, if they have otherwise been stellar).

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:21 PM 11 comments

So this is Hell.

I swiped this from Poppy who pilfered it from Badger. We'll discuss Purgatory at a later date.

Drinks in my Hell:
Ginger ale
Root Beer
Diet Coke
Pepsi
regular Pepsi
those weirdass artisanal sodas

Food in my Hell:
bell peppers
margarine
liver
Oreos
casseroles made with canned stuff
baked beans
nitrites, nitrates, guar gum

Occupations in my Hell:
sales
customer service representative
concierge
elevator music DJ
Polyester tester

Music in my Hell:
Barbra Streisand
Chicago
Celine Dion
Anything atonal
Mariah Carey
Schoenberg
Folk music
Barry Manilow
Hip hop and, of course...
DISCO

President in my Hell:
Hillary Clinton, maybe Howard Dean, or that sniveling cretin they have in Spain now.

Authors in my Hell:
Dan Brown*, John Shelby Spong**, whoever wrote Scarlett, Jackie Collins, Naomi Wolf. [Added due to Poppy's reminder] Hans Kung.

Wives in my Hell:
Hillary Clinton, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd...the Four Harridans of the Apocalypse

Only activities allowed in my Hell:
undergoing THAT male-only exam (see Fletch for more information)
watching HGTV
listening to Janeane Garofalo
watching original series on the Disney Channel
listening to Radio Disney
renewing my driver's license
going to the dentist
driving at or under the speed limit
reading the NY Times or Washington Post
sending blood money to the Infernal*** Revenue Service...wait, I do that now.
[Added in honor of SL & BabBab & Gina] Purchasing alcohol at a state-run liquor store. (I mean, really, if that doesn't drive people to the Libertarian Party in screaming hordes, we have truly lost our way as a civilization.

-J.

* I have a hunch he won't just be in "my" Hell.
** Ditto, except he has a funny name
*** I slay myself, really

Posted by Joke at 1:45 PM 9 comments

Monday, July 10, 2006

The two Jokes.

You may be wondering; scratching your head, even. Is this a tag-team blog? On the one hand you have a guy who waxes lyrical on wine, food, custom shirts, cufflinks, watches and collectible sports cars.

On the other, you have the guy who collects Donald Duck and SHAG lithographs and gets all hopped up about flying to Disneyland after visiting Disney World.

So I get excited about both golfing and about getting to go surfing. Or freely admitting to drinking Corona (yes, with lime) along with crazy-weird single malt Scotch. I have actually driven across the state to find hot dogs.

I'm all hardcore papist but, as Badge/Poppy/Jujube will attest, that is not always...um...readily obvious from...er...the way I express myself. I'm a Goldwater-ite right-winger but 75% my pals are lefties*. I do that whole organic/farmer's market hoedown, but I still dream of Quisp. I go nuts over home theatre stuff--the fancy HD set and all the surround sound gear--and then watch silent films. I can remember every great restaurant in which I have ever dined, but I can't be bothered to remember what day the recycling gets taken out. I'm both a cynic and an optimist. I have THREE tuxedoes (plus a dinner jacket ensemble) and a vast collection of Disney luau shirts. I'm a technology geek who drives ANCIENT ITALIAN CARS.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast; I contain multitudes."**

The funniest thing--assuming there's anything funny at all--about this is that it all strikes me as perfectly normal and not even slightly weird.

-J.

* Making friends who agree with you? Where's the challenge in THAT?
** That's Walt Whitman, who ought to know.

Posted by Joke at 11:46 PM 3 comments

Which, I s'pose, makes me a slush.

I am not beverage-monogamous.

There are unfortunates among us who will drink X but not Y. Or A, B, C, Q and T but not D, E, F or L.

Poor, deluded bastids.

Me? I'll drink from every category. I only have one criteria: It mustn't suck. Beer is fine, as long as it's not one of those mass market brewed-through-a-mule abominations. Wine is phenomenal, provided it's not some hyper-oaked, alcohol bomb; or White Zinfandel. Spirituous liquors are great, but they must be the sort distinguished by the love and care bestowed upon them by their makers...not stuff whose only redeeming feature is a shatterproof bottle and an E-Z Pour, splatter-free spout.

Since I have married a lovely girl who takes a very strict view on the subject of monogamy, I must exercise my base impulses in the direction of variety of beverages. Therefore, should you happen to be at my place of residence with an eye towards indulging in a wee tipple, here are your choices:

Rum
Cruzan silver and black.
Bacardi 8.
Zacapa
Baia (Cachaca)

Bourbon
Maker's Mark
Virginia Gentleman
Knob Creek

Scotch
Aberlour
Balvenie
Cardhu

Vodka
Tito's
Glacier
Finlandia

Tequila
Almendrado
Herradura Anejo

Brandy
Hennessy VSOP
Courvoisier Napoleon
Sempe Armagnac
Lepanto Sherry Brandy
Some kind of Calvados
Some kind of Grappa

Assorted:
Limoncello (my own)
Bailey's
Black Bush Irish Whiskey
Sambuca
Plymouth Gin

This is above and beyond the wine of which I have about 36 or so in a cellar-type thing, to say nothing of our "house" red (Bosco Nestore 2002 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo) and white (Pricipessa Gavia 2004 Gavi de Gavi). Then there is the beer: Corona, Moretti Rossa, Sam Adams Lightship, Samuel Adams Black Lager. Plus all the "ingredient" liqueurs (Creme de Menthe, Creme de Cassis, yadda, yadda, yadda.) and some sherries and ports.

So, you see, I am rather flexible in my tastes.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:04 PM 10 comments

Sunday, July 09, 2006

If "Bagder" is this bossy...

This is NOS's playlist.

He chose all the songs. He actually chose more than that, but he had to whittle his list down to 1 CD's worth of songs (~72 minutes) since I was willing to burn a CD for every guest, not a freakin' box set.

Night Boat To Cairo - Madness
Hawaii Five O - The Ventures
Belly of the Whale - Newsboys
Numa Numa - O-Zone
Pipeline - Agent Orange
Route 66 - Chuck Berry
Big Fish - FFH
Walk Don't Run - The Ventures
Cotton Eyed Joe - Rednex
Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down
Cleanin' Up The Town - The Busboys
Ghastly Stomp* - The Ghastly Ones
I Like To Move It** - Sacha Baron Cohen
One Little Slip - Barenaked Ladies
Peter Gunn Theme - Art of Noise & Duane Eddy
It's The End Of The World As We Know It - REM
Hot Rod Lincoln - Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Munsters Theme - The Slackers
Ghost Riders in the Sky - The Ventures
Bellybutton*** - Boyz 'n the Sink
Baby Elephant Walk - Bad Manners
Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) - Us3
We Like To Party - The Venga Boys

And there ya have it.

-J.

* This is the surfabilly/punk cover of the ride music at Disney's Haunted Mansion
** The Madagascar version, not the unintelligible original
*** This is hilarious sendup of "boy bands"

Posted by Joke at 11:40 AM 2 comments

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Here we go again. Again.

One of my favorite Spanish aphorisms goes something like: "What is inherited, isn't stolen."

Hold that thought, as we come back thereto.

NOS's 9th birthday is nearly at my throat. As Poppy well knows, previous birthdays have been in the scale of small county fairs. These have involved eleventy zillion cousins, all of the kids in his grade, and all of our (mostly TFBIM's) friends' kids. It is no bull$#!+ when I tell you every year we'd have to host 40something kids, plus assorted parents and grandparents. Normally we'd rent a gazebo-type pavilion at a park, and I'd grill burgers and hot dogs and chicken and ribs, plus the usual sides. The only drawback (i.e., the point at which Badger, and probably Poppy, and maybe bb & BB would get up and leave the movie, throwing popcorn in disgust) was that due to being at a park, no alcohol is allowed.

It got to a point that we BOUGHT a bounce-house (halfsies), because the purchase price was cheaper than three rentals.

Anyway, around age 5 or so, NOS insisted on his parties being SERIOUSLY themed. So, for example, when he wanted a Harry Potter party, we had to buy blank cards and envelopes that looked all parchment-y and then METICULOUSLY replicate the acceptance letters from Hogwarts. Same font, proper letterhead, "wax" seal, the works. This is because the stuff at the card store "looked really not like in the movie." At least the labor-intensive way was cheaper.

Then we had to go and assemble goody bags, which I consider the triple-lutz, since they had to be "correct" and desirable (to a little kid, anyway) AND absurdly cheap so we wouldn't go broke making a gazillion of them. Dollar stores and eBay proved to be Godsends. Therefore, the Peter Pan party had to have real Pirate-ish stuff (We found a bushel of Chanukah chocolate coins for $15, which helped) the cowboy party needed real Western-ish stuff and we always lucked out at the Disney Outlet with appropriate stuff.

Which brings us to today.

NOS has discovered poker. One time we went to WDW we stayed at the Dolphin Hotel, designed by pop architect extraordinaire Michael Graves. Who also happens to design stuff for Target. One day, at a wholly unrelated party, NOS received a Poker keychain as a door prize. He reveled mightily in the teeny cuteness thereof and wouldn't stop pestering me until I had taught him the basics. Still with us? OK. Later that month, TFBIM is at Target with him and NOS notices that Michael Graves (to his mind the only architect worth noticing because he has MADE HOTELS AT DISNEY WORLD) has a poker set, and it's on clearance! He tells TFBIM I have always wanted it and she believes him and now we're playing poker nonstop.

In fact, any unfortunate child who manages to be lured here for a play date is eventually conscripted into learning and playing poker. This all gets worse; when flipping through the channels, NOS sees some celebrity charity poker tournament thing. The skies part and he strikes upon the capital idea of having a hipster-ish Haunted Mansion (?) poker tournament for his 9th birthday party.

The good news is that he's at the phase where he only wants his inner circle of pals, and because NOS's birthday is in the dead of summer, a lot of kids R.s.v.p. in the negative. So we're working on the assumption that at absolute most, we're looking at 15 kids, tops.

Anyway, NOS decides he wants the invitations to be by our favorite illustrator, Shag. He also wants them to be about his favorite ride at both WDW and DL, the Haunted Mansion. I got lucky there was such a stationery set available at Amazon, of all places. Then he makes me find and get the Haunted Mansion font.

Today we spent the day hunting for the goody bags. Which are now goody tins. At a dollar store ("Where everything is a dollar!") we scored these really neat tins that are meant to hold a deck of cards and some poker chips. The decks of cards come in 3-packs (3/$1!) and two packs of chips provide enough fodder for the tins. $20 and we're good-to-go as re. the goody bags.

Now, NOS wants to throw a CD in there. You wouldn't believe the songs he has chosen. At least they don't suck.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:56 PM 18 comments

Friday, July 07, 2006

Celebrity is as celebrity cooks.

There are a lot of TV chefs. Once upon a time, you got who you got on PBS. Julia Child, Graham "The Galloping Gourmet" Kerr, Justin Wilson etc.

Then, one day, PBS had the brains (or "sheer dumb luck") to air a show called Great Chefs. Next thing you know, real restaurant chefs are getting airtime and this, of course, begat Food Network.

However, not everyone on PBS or Food Network can actually cook, mind you. Some can cook their @$$ off, some are hit or miss, some can't cook, and some REALLY can't.

Sandra Lee - Badger has already explained why she can't cook. It's basically a parade of prettified preprocessed $#!+ and cocktails.

Emeril Lagasse - Can't cook either. His cookbooks are NOT what you want if you're fixing something the first time for a promising romantic prospect. The few things that do work are ankle-widening and artery-rupturing.

Alton Brown - Can cook. His recipes are pretty foolproof. But not the stuff you want if you're an eyeballer.

Mario Batali - Can cook. Most recipes are flawless both as writ and tinkered with, a few require WAY too much tinkering.

Jamie Oliver - Can cook like a muh fuh, and the guy is a born eyeballer almost all recipes work beautifully with or without improvisation.

Tony Bourdain - Can cook, and his recipes include all manner of excellent cheats.

Giada di Laurentiis - Can cook pretty well, although a few things are dumbed down.

Paula Deen - Can sorta cook. I'm kinda "meh" on most of her stuff, which is too shortcut-ish, but her for-real Southern stuff rules.

Ina Garten - Can sorta cook. Her stuff is geared more for richness than strong flavors. That is, if you prefer butter to really sharp EVOO, she might be your girl.

Sara Moulton - Cooks pretty damned well. Recipes require modest tweakage.

Tyler Florence - Cooks pretty damned well also.

Cat Cora - Cooks pretty damned well also.

Ming Tsai - Cooks like a muh fuh AND a bastid.

Willoughby & Schlesinger - Cook beautifully...and their books are fun to read, besides.

Later, a list of what you need in your cookbook shelf.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:12 PM 11 comments

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A day full of small somethings and large nothings

Dear Internet,

After a long, l-o-o-o-o-ong morning in the office (a lot of hurry-in-a-blind-panic-and-then-wait kind of action) I got to bail out early. You see, the first Wednesday of the month is Haircut Day. Unfortunately for us, our genes predispose us to either that Jimi Hendrix Live At Fillmore East hair, or baldness and sometimes both...in that order. Therefore, if we are to avoid the odious look that reminds passersby of a dandelion gone to seed, we get our locks shorn on a monthly basis.

Those of you who have been with this blog from the early days (well, since last December) will remember the frantic search for a replacement hair person, since the lady who had been my tonsorial caretaker had decided to take it easy and relax in Key West. But all has worked well. We managed to find a VERY old school (in a good way) barber and the boys love the way he cuts hair. In fact, I even treat myself to a professional shave which is not scary at all, except that when I get that hot towel on my face, I am worried I'll be getting the wrong end of the Mafia Hit Man stick. Too many mobster films, I know.

Anyway, NTS is actually sitting still and merely grumbling freely. (When he was little, you'd think he was being interrogated by the KGB.) He then spends the time while he waits for the rest of us rubbing his head--he has the softest hair, by far, of any of us--because since he has it cut short, it feels like the velvety-est thing on Earth. NOS felt very grown up because he got to specify how he wanted his hair cut (not that he has much room to maneuver, the school dress code is pretty strict on the matter of boy hair), even though it's the same thing he's had since forever (#2 on the back and sides, #4 on top and some fancy scissors-work up front so he has something he can comb, spike, etc.).

Since he started with the guitar, he has wanted a rock-and-roll haircut, off and on. His choice (and this will reveal a LOT about my parenting) is a dead-on copy of Suggs' from Madness. Dunno how I feel about that.

Then we came home and started to fix dinner. Long weekends (at least ovah heah) generally involve making foie gras for any cannibals lucky enough to run across us, and my Mom's birthday is tomorrow, so we kept it light and made pasta from scratch with a simple tomato sauce, because our tomato plants are rioting right now, and we're about ready to look for recipes for tomato shampoo, tomato fuel, tomato glue, etc. And there's no letup in sight. Anyway, a quick sautee of garlic in EVOO, some torn basil, tomatoes squished through the food mill, some sea salt thrown in and ta-da! fresh tomato sauce. So that was good.

Now all I have to do is leave all of the annoying office things neatly wrapped up before we leave for Disneyland.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:21 PM 16 comments

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Patriotic Stuff.

Today is "the Glorious Fourth" and as a consequence, I am posting the text of a speech (or essay?) I was forwarded years ago on the matter of the Declaration of Independence. I don't have the author's name here, so if you can shed any knowledge on this, please email so I can give credit where it is due.

**********************

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the President's desk, was a panoply - consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissention. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then must was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued, what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, Sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter, argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, 9 were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds [figure that to be $250,000 today] on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately." Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.

They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics, yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.
It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers (it was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag).

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: "Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

"The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered and his estates in what is now Harlem, completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and "treated with great brutality." [I can only assume, given the sort of language of the 18th C., what that means.] Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died "from the effects of her abuse."

· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.

· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and "brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers." Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea [Estimated at $200M in today's money], bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."

· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.

· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where "they were singled out for indignities." They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million [~$500M in today's money] for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, penniless, a few years later at the age of 50.

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with “a special brutality” because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer:

"NO."

The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

**************************

The lovely and gracious BabBab posted the text of the Declaration of Independence (it looks very snazzy with that "parchment" template). When you read through it, ponder the majestic words of one of the most gallant, gracious and moving documents in the history of human events.

The key point of it is:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..."

Yes, these are beautiful words. Almost poetic in their majesty. But they are more. The concept these words convey are the very DNA of this nation, and have been what has held us together through economic crises, wars, division and upheaval. These words carry meaning and resonate still, because of their manifest truth, underlined by the amazing sacrifice and conviction carried by those who signed it. They ring true within the confines of our hearts. Everything we are as citizens of the USA--liberals and conservatives, moderates and libertarians, of every tint and creed--is a direct legacy of this concept.

I have always found it moving that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the 50th Anniversary of "that glorious Fourth," within a few hours of each other.

Happy Fourth.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:41 PM

More on the whole butcher shop thing.

To show you the lengths I will go, here is a link to "my" butcher shop:

http://www.jimmypsbutchershop.com/

If you look carefully, you'll see it is WAY THE HELL across the state*. It is, in fact, an easy 90 minute drive, on a quiet stretch of interstate, with nary a curve and, entre nous, the 90 min. drive usually winds up being ~60-75 minutes.

Anyway, this is one of the few full-service butcher shops around and it's easily the very best one in FL. Given the distance, I can't feasibly get there every week, but since I have business in that part of FL, I can get there once a month. I usually take a cooler and, at the Walgreen's just two doors down, I load up on ice. I normally grab something fancy-schmancy (but quick) for dinner that night and a few other things which Jim P. or Jimmy P. will vacuum pack. This way the beef (or lamb) can "wet age" without problems** and keep for a good while. They will also ship, but I far prefer to pick and choose the specific bits and pieces I get. Also, they will often have specials not featured on the website.

Having said THAT, their Kobe beef is a steal. Especially if you get the less pressworthy cuts. Whenever they have any available, I like their Kobe "London Broil" shaved thin for carpaccio. Their Kobe Top Sirloin (at a manageable $12/lb) makes a killer roast beef***, and their Kobe NY Strip is awesome (but $40/lb. is still expensive even if the going rate, say at Allen Brothers in Chicago, is around $116/lb. OUCH!) and finally, their whole Kobe beef tenderloin is glorious and a "bargain" (compared to the going rate--Allen Brothers is $175/lb!--it's practically free) at only $45/lb. Naturally, at these prices, Kobe Tenderloin & NY Strips are in the "blue moon" category, but their London Broil ($9/lb.) and the Top Sirloin are quite manageable in an "every once in a while" way, and not at an outrageous premium over comparable supermarket offerings and pretty much the same as "regular" prime beef (to which it is superior in every regard).

Jimmy P's also has the usual USDA Prime, and a lot of "varietals" (assorted breeds o' cow--Hereford, Charolais, etc.--the relative merits of which I haven't yet researched) including Argentine beef which is a whole different thing, seeing as how it's grass-fed and pastures freely, as opposed to the usual penned in, corn-fed US stuff. They even make their own hot dogs with a real casing which is indispensable in making a hot dog edible, IMCO. Anyway, when I go there it's for something special-ish, otherwise I go to a local independent market's butcher department for more everyday (but still excellent) stuff, such as Niman Ranch or Bell & Evans poultry. It's not as idyllic as the Naples place, but it would still be an unalloyed delight were it my only option.

The point is that if you live anywhere near a medium-sized (or larger) city, you HAVE such a butcher shop nearby. You should throw them your business. If you don't, eventually you will have your choices whittled down to whatever XYZ MegaMarket Inc.'s cow-extruding facility in Marmot Teat, WI can profitably crank out in a "case ready" (i.e. plastic-wrapped preportioned) format. We will lose artisans, we will lose a whole host of great recipes from great cuisines, we will lose the ability to make specific requests, we will lose the advice and advocacy and experience of said artisans, and what few high end places survive will charge an arm and a leg--and possibly a firstborn--for even the most pedestrian offerings to those seeking out edibles that actually taste like something.

Soapbox off,

-J.

* OK, so it's a narrow state.
** In the case of a roast, I like to give it some dry-age time of my own, usually 4 days in the fridge.
*** Remind me to post the recipe, which works beautifully with "regular" beef.

Posted by Joke at 7:21 PM 0 comments