Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'll be meme for Christmas

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate. Not hot cocoa (a whole 'nother different-like animal)
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa wraps.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White. Multicolor lights are so NQOKD
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No, we just give it a life sentence.
5. When do you put up your decorations?
First Saturday after Thanksgiving.
6. What is your favorite Christmas meal include?
Roast pork, assorted Iberic charcuterie, black beans 'n' rice, yuca con mojo and flan.
7. Favorite Holiday Christmas memory as a child?
I was eight. It was the year I got a bike (one of the few years Santa actually READ my letter, if y'see what I'm sayin') a Raleigh Chopper.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
The truth about Santa? What truth? He's not sick, is he?
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
No, that's just wrong; a sop to people with no willpower.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
From far away it looks very stylish and bloodlessly designer-y. It has silver, gold, pink and "claret" crystal balls. When you get up close, you see gloriously lowbrow stuff from Hallmark: Snoopy ornaments, Coca-Cola Santas, etc.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Once a year I can stand to visit snow.
12. Can you ice skate?
Good Lord, why?
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Not really. I'm far better a gift-giver than gift-getter.
14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays Christmas for you?
Minimizing the public displays of dysfunction among my 2nd tier relatives.
15. What is your favorite Holiday Christmas Dessert?
Flan.
16. What is your favorite Holiday Christmas tradition?
Midnight Mass, waking up early to hear NOS do his Linus impersonation on "the real meaning of Christmas" then visiting people to exchange gifts.
17. What tops your tree?
It alternates by year, star-angel-star-angel.
18. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
What Child Is This? or maybe Go Tell It On The Mountain. I'm good with Holiday Christmas music, pretty much anything except the Twelve Days of Christmas is fine.

Thanks to the lovely and gracious DGB for the meme!

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:05 AM 12 comments

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's a fact of life.

I have noticed that most (not all) of my fave blogs* are the sort where ma-a-a-a-a-a-aybe posts show up twice a week. On a good week. Before we go any further along this track, I wish to heartily disabuse you of the notion that I love these blogs because they are only infrequently updated. I love them because they are fun to read (even if the contents are often "not fun" contents).

So, anyway. Yes. Infrequent. There may actually be very good reasons why some blogs are updated less often than I would selfishly prefer. Some bloggers only view their blog as a plaything. Others may be so overwhelmed by their offline life that they perceive they have little time to post. Yet others are so demanding and exacting and have such high expectations that most of the stuff they start to write winds up in the drafts pile. Finally there are a few benighted unfortunates who are under the delusion they have "nothing about which to write."

To this latter group: BULL$#!+. You are just feeling indolent, and you are shortchanging your public. I hereby publicly "Tsk, tsk!" at you.

Then there's another line of division in blogville: Bloggers who chat in their combox and bloggers who don't. I am solidly in the latter former camp. Sometimes the discussion veers off into a brief email exchange, which is even nicer. I know we live in a pluralistic society and all that, but I have never understood those bloggers who only materialize in their own combox to clear up the odd misconception about ___. If I post about what makes for a proper bar setup, and people weigh in with widely divergent opinions on same, I want to engage those views. To me, the combox is like a press conference that follows the Brief Opening Statement. I realize that other people treat the combox more as a Letters To The Editor, but I simply can't wrap my brain around that.

Obviously, things can get heated in a combox. Since I don't relish posts with eleventy gazillion comments, I generally omit politics and religion from this blog. Frankly, if I wanted to hear pointless arguing and bickering and ad hominem insults, I'd move in with my in-laws.

Having said all that, I expect I'll have more to add over the weekend after TFBIM's party wraps up.

-J.

* I know, I know. I need to update my blogroll.

Posted by Joke at 7:43 AM 21 comments

Monday, November 27, 2006

This made my day yesterday.

Yesterday, to give my wife a break, I dragged off the lads to lunch and a movie. The movie in question (Happy Feet) was only so-so, but what got my attention was this:

The theatreful of kids all clapped VERY loudly when the preview ended, and NOS was thrilled it'd open up just in time for his birthday (making it the 3rd HP birthday themed party, and he's only turning 10).

I'm pleased.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:08 PM 9 comments

Abduct me from the Seraglio, please.

Dear Internet,

Dunno about you, but I wasn't born married. I checked. My mother specifically stated I was born without a morning coat and striped trousers, without a cake and without a girl in a big white dress next to me and without a clergyperson nearby. Having gotten married since, this means there have been a ::cough, cough:: few fits 'n' starts, missteps, trials 'n' errors, blunders and outright calamities in my trek from the womb to the altar.

Just wanted to throw that out there in the spirit of honesty and, also, as background information. File this tidbit away for the moment, you'll see this material again shortly.

Something else that you ought know about me is that I am not--nor am I interested in ever being--someone who is on speaking terms with previous romantic partners. Over means over. In fact, not only am I highly uncomfortable with having an ex or twelve in the periphery of my life (even if along the outermost perimeter), I am uncomfortable being romantically entangled with who doesn't believe/act likewise. It is, as the kids today say, a dealbreaker. You have no idead (no, really, you don't) how many otherwise excellent pairings I have declined for this very reason. Shot out of the sky even while on the runway.

Let the past bury its dead past, says I.

TFBIM and I were acquaintance/friends for about 4ish years before we ever had our 1st date. So we have a vague, dim knowledge of things Before Us. That's exactly how we like it. Some people are the polar opposites (socializing with exes, visiting them, etc.) and God bless 'em.

So you see where this is going, right?

OK.

Friday we went to see Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio. Which was cool and fun and a great time. Then, as we were traipsing down the aisle* whom should we bump into but my antepenultimate GF (APGF, for short). This was, if not quite Hell, certainly one of the less savory neighborhoods in Purgatory.

1- We're all pressed together in a sea of humanity flowing moltenly towards the concession stands.
2- TFBIM and APGF were also acquanitances. So we all know that we all know.
3- APGF dumped** me to date and marry and divorce an acquaintance/friend of mine (AFM). There was some, um, overlap before she broke the news. Well, "broke the news" is not exactly it...more like "admitted things were pretty much what they seemed" is closer to the mark.

There's really nowhere to go. You just have to sit there and take it like a rat. Which I did, shaving centuries, possibly even a millennium or two off my stay in Purgatory. Polite small talk was made, chitchat ensued. (You can't have two attractive women in close proximity without each of them independently reaching the conclusion that the other one is more attractive and the guy standing there is both completely at fault and a heel of the worst sort.) Eventually the logjam of humanity breaks and, breathing free again, we all head in different directions, making sure to return to our seats in ways other than those whence we came. Then comes the nightful of aftershocks.

"APGF looks pretty good, doesn't she?"
"I wonder what happened between APGF and AFM..."
"How long has it been since you bumped into APGF?"
"Who's she here with?" (With her mother--!--although I didn't answer)
"Hm! I never knew she liked the opera. I would've never thought to see her here."

Fortunately, the curtain rose and people in costume began to project in German.

-J.

* I slay myself, really.
** And not one of those dumpings which I quietly engineered, either.

Posted by Joke at 8:42 AM 3 comments

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Making room.

Today is the day we head to the pile of toys and the boys help us make room for Santa. While TFBIM is putting up the tree and trimmings we are rummaging freely through toys that wer eagerly desired, received for Christmas 2005, and forgotten by New Year's Eve 2006.

Funny how doing this sort of thing elicits the following responses:

"So that's where it was!"
"But I lo-o-o-o-ove this!"
"No, I play with this a lot! Really! Like, all the time." (Which fails to address the inch-deep protective layer of dust.)

But, after 4 hours, we have a couple of trash bags full of for-all-intents-and-purposes-new toys ready to drop off for the poor kids. At first this exercise is akin to shopping in one's closet and distractions abound. But eventually things get serious and stuff gets excised. The question I keep posing is "It's not whether you like/play with/love this...it's whether whether you like/play with/love this enough to keep taking up space Santa Claus might need for that New PlayStation 8 or that Lego kit of the entire Star Wars universe."

Seen that way, altruism blossoms.

The main reason why we do this (besides of clearing out a cubic $#!+load of stuff) is to teach 'em that we all have an individual moral obligation to help others worse off than we are, and there are rewards for doing the right thing even if these rewards are deferred. These are things that, were we to just teach verbally, would take forever to sink in their little heads. But the doing speeds this along. Now--after the initial burst of recalcitrance--they get it and proceed. This is not to say they are saints. They still come up with a Christmas list which would tax Bill Gates' ability to defray, they still try to do all the usual things little boys like to do (i.e. lower property values) and so on.

===========

Last night we went out to dinner, celebrating my sister's birthday. A middle-aged couple started making out, like right there behind where my mom was sitting. It was funny because, while usually you might see two kissers kissing, this was one of those where there is definitely one kisser and one kissee. She was the kisser, and he the kissee (he wasn't doing much, but he wasn't fending her off with his dessert spoon, either). They were literally 6" behind my mom, who was directly in front of me. Since my sister was next to my mom, as people rearranged themselves to get in front of me for photographic purposes, I think I may have snapped 2-3 of the Centrum Silver Love Bandits. About the time our beverages arrived, they had hurried off.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:11 PM 6 comments

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thankfulness (for real)

(Editor's Note: This was the back end of the previous post, but it stands up far better on its own. I deemed it prudent to perform surgery, along with a slight re-edit)

The Thanksgiving bash went over wonderfully. I, myself, was feeling monumentally shredded. By 3pm I was feeling materially drained; it was unbridled force of will that had be chugging along regardless. No, I didn't inflict my germs on the comestibles.

I am grateful for my wife (who puts up with me and still shows every outward indication of loving me), my sons whom I love more than all my bodyparts combined, my parents in spite of the fact they brought me up like this. I am grateful my blessings have been far greater than I deserve and any problems I run into are comparatively small. In about 20 minutes I'll be grateful for hot showers and NyQuil. I am grateful for all of you who pop by and comment and otherwise form a cyber-salon of sorts. I am grateful for my country, I am grateful for this blog thing that has allowed me to "meet" so many people from other countries.

I am grateful for people who show kindness and mercy and patience. I am really grateful for those people who bless me with things which cause me laughter. (You know who you are. MWAH.) I am grateful I need less sleep than normal people, otherwise I'd never read anything.

I'm grateful that I'm about to stop now, before I get incoherent/maudlin. I mean, more than I have thus far.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:42 AM 7 comments

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A little NyQuil-fueled history lesson.

The Thanksgiving narrative usually starts with the Pilgrims' ship, The Mayflower, finally alighting on Plymouth Rock. What people never hear or read about is how miserable a voyage it was. The trip was long, arduous and, frankly, odiferous. Once the ship had landed, fires were set throughout the ship to smoke out the stench of 102 people crammed in there for months on end with no plumbing facilities. Then it got worse. The place was barren and desolate (even the indigenous types knew to give it a mighty wide berth) and during the first winter, half of the Pilgrims died of starvation, sickness or exposure.

Finally, Spring sprang and the Indians showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, fish for cod and trap beavers for fur. And pretty much this is where the story stops, and we all skip ahead to Pilgrims eating turkey. The fact is the Pilgrims were managing to scrape out a survival existence, but not being much more of a hit than that.

Here's the part you didn't know. The Pilgrims didn't actually have the coin needed to swing the cruise from Europe to Plymouth Rock. So, they made a contract with some backers in London (the system was called mercantilism) and agreed to pay them back with whatever their community could produce. Being a starry-eyed bunch of Neo-Utopians, they had agreed to produce things in common and everyone was given an equal share of the total.

Of course, they didn't ask me and were therefore quite surprised this system of production and allocation sucked dead wombats. Gov. Bradford, desperate for a new system that would generate serious production, not only for survival but to cover their debts to the merchants in London, changed the scheme. He assigned individual parcels of land to each family to farm and control as they best saw fit.

About this whole matter, Bradford wrote:
"The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry
years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common
wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God.
For this community [this] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and
retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For
young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they
should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children
without any recompense...that was thought injustice."
Then came the changeover from common to individual property. Gov. Bradford wrote
"This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more
corn was [harvested] than otherwise would have been."

By the late summer, the Pilgrims realized they had much more crops than could be eaten by their settlement. They set up a trading system whereby they exchanged goods with the local tribes. They experience such profits they were able to pay off the the merchants in London. They were so grateful to God for this turnabout in their fortune they held a feast of Thanksgiving.

Now you know the real story of Thanksgiving.

A particularly apt thing is George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks -- for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

It was, of course, Abe Lincoln who made Thanksgiving the yearly holiday it is now:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Feel better?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:54 PM 11 comments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lazy Cow's Blog - R.I.P.

This morning, while rolling through my bloglist I accidentally clicked on what used to be LC's blog.

The short version: The blog is down, and if you try to click on it, you will get SUCH an overload of popups and spyware (and not necessarily the kind I'd like to have my kids see) that it took my AntiVirus software fully 7 minutes to clean up the mess.

Go check out LC's book blog instead.

-J.

P.S. There are one or two among you who will go and try it yourself, much like they touch surfaces marked "wet paint." You've been warned.

Posted by Joke at 8:41 AM 3 comments

Y'ain't seen nothin' yet.

per+se+ver+ance/[pur-suh-veer-uhns] –noun
1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
[Origin: 1300–50; ME perseveraunce
persevere, -ance]
—Related forms: per+se+ver+ant, adjective

I have a guesstimated 53 people for whom to cook for Thanksgiving. I am also coming down--fast--with a mighty nasty cold. Sore throat, fevah, watery eyes, etc. NOS is pretty much down for the count, poor kid.

Will this in any way, manner, shape or form alter my plans? Hell, no. I'll be doing the full-on "press on regardless" thing, even if I collapse in a heap the nanosecond after I carve the last sliver of turkey.

And only you guys will know the sacrifices made.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:03 AM 12 comments

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Brr.

As I type this it's 48F/9C! Right here in the Fringe of ParadiseTM!

It's been like that for the last coupla days and will likely remain the same for the next few days. I'm not complaining, mark you, because by noonish it warms up to a glorious 63F/17C and for those of us in a convertible it's @#$%ing glorious. I am taking every possible detour on the slightest of pretexts and generally just enjoying the Hell out of it.

Oh, and hurricane season? It ends in 10 days, with the chances of Hurricane _____ forming and smacking into us becoming well nigh impossible. So, basically, we're having the sorts of days the Chamber of Commerce and/or the Tourism Bureau ordered.

But you didn't come here to read about the weather.

You came here to read about TFBIM's upcoming surprise party.

So far, so good! I'm kind of surprised how well its all coming along. The expected turnout of the out-of-state contingent is a very pleasant surprise, the stuff for the goodie bag has popped up pretty readily and the menu* choices amenable to our plans. At some point soonish, I need to make wine selections, but that's pretty much it, menuwise.

Here's what I've gotten for the goody bags:

First, you need the goodie bags.
Since the party is really an over-grand cocktail party (with the number of out-of-town invitees we have, I wanted to maximize mingling time and conversation) the cocktail rimmer thing pretty much suggested itself. There are actually 7 different ones; click on the picture to see them all if that means anything to you.

The price was right, so I couldn't resist.

A stationery set (with stickers to make it up to the kids for being excluded).

Of course, the obligatory neo-retro-lounge standards on CD, and a ridiculously cheap price at the PB outlet.

Cocktails need stirring, no? I found these for $2/gross.


Cocktails also need making. I got a couple of these decks and everyone will take 4 different cards. Neat, huh?

I only wish for ONE more thing. I once saw these plastic clip thingies that looked like =c and you clipped one side (the =) to your plate and the other side (the c) to your wineglass. If anyone finds these CHEAP online, please email!!

All I need now is to ponder centerpieces, balloons/streamers and order the cake.

-J.

* Since this is a very mingly sort of party I've got planned, the menu is geared for standing up and talking. Look:

Smoked Salmon on Danish Pumpernickel
Tomato-Basil Bruschetta
Cannellini Bruschetta
Porcini-Marsala Bruschetta
Chicken Satay with peanut dipping sauce
Maryland-style crab cakes with remoulade
Miniature Beef Wellingtons
Crudités with Ranch or Bagna Cauda
Grilled Tenderloin Tips with assorted mustards
Pork potstickers
Chicken potstickers
Hosomaki rolls
Domestic & Imported Cheeses


Posted by Joke at 7:57 AM 10 comments

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanksgivingness

I'm rarin' to go.

I woke up early-ish and managed to get sucked in by the programming on the Food Network on the subject of Thanksgiving. I just managed to catch the vaunted Emeril make a lumpy pumpkin creme brulee and burn his turkey. (Hee!)

Anyway, as a service to humanity here are my Thanksgiving recipes, all in one easy to access lump.

http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/thanksgiving-101-syllabus.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/thanksgiving-101-soup.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/thanksgiving-101-salad.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/thanksgiving-101-turkey.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/thanksgiving-101-potatoes-ormake-me.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/thanksgiving-101-stuffingdressing.html
http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/thanksgiving-101-pie.html

and for people to see exactly what it all entails:

http://thejokeblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/better-late-than-ever-part-1.html

I reiterate that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday in spite of the fact that I (and Numbah One Son, as my sous chef and food processor/stand mixer switch operator) have to sling out foodstuffs for a regiment of friends and relatives.

This year NOS wants to have more of a hand in the roasting of the turkey. So, we invited his best pal's family (his best pal's mom was TFBIM's best pal) for Practice Thanksgiving. Pretty small scale stuff, a turkey breast in lieu of a turkey so large that it may be safely said it has a fuselage, equivalent amounts of mashers/stuffing, and pecan tartlets instead of a big ol' honkin' pie.

It's good-funny to see NOS wielding a Japanese Chef's Knife. I had managed to score a 5" Cuisinart one for $8! So I had to spring for it. It's actually pretty useless for anyone with a ring size over 6, but it's ideal for a bright lad of 9. We have to be clandestine when exercising his knife skills because other members of the family--and I'm not naming names, mind you--would have a conniption, fit, seizure or wind up rolling on the floor, twitching and foaming freely from every conceivable orifice because "9 year olds shouldn't even be in the kitchen."

But then again, I have always have issues with acquiescing to authority, etc. and I do whatever I want.

One of those rules which I cheerfully disregard is the one about giving spicy food to kids. While I was grocery shopping earlier in the week, I managed to find for-real Andouille* sausage and that got me inspired to cook something I hadn't in forever. Gumbo. For those not up to speed, gumbo is a sort of soup from New Orleans and it evolved from the bouillabaise brought by the French settlers, as filtered through the kitchens manned by the slaves also brought by the French settlers. It's one of those general categories of foods rather than a specific and strictly codified recipe. It usually contains some sort of poultry or game, some sort of cured pork and some sort of seafood. But it may omit one or two of these. It may be thickened with okra ("Gombo" in West African parlance, whence the name comes.) or roux or powdered sassafras leaves (filé). It may be thin or thick, dark or light.

Anyway, Wednesday's version was a pretty simple affair: Andouille, Scallops & Shrimp.

Here ya go.

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper or poblano pepper (depending how hot you like it, the poblano will be slightly hotter)
1/4 cup chopped celery
6 garlic cloves, mashed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
10 oz andouille sausage, sliced 1/4"
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup shrimp broth (made with 2 cups water and the shrimp shells)
2 teaspoons Creole/Cajun seasoning**
24 uncooked small--think spoon-size--shrimp, peeled (save the peels!) and deveined
12 oz scallops (bay or sea or calico, whatever is fresher)

Sprinkle flour over bottom of heavy large pot. Stir flour constantly over medium-low heat until flour turns golden brown (do not allow to burn, about the color of a light caramel), about 15 minutes. Set aside flour into bowl. Heat oil in same pot over medium heat. Add vegetables and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and bay leaf; stir 1 minute. Add sausage and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes, then add browned flour. Add tomatoes with juices, broth and Creole seasoning. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors, stirring frequently.

Add seafood to pot and simmer just until seafood is opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a bottle of Tabasco to provide additional heat to those who like it that way. This is traditionally served with white rice. If you have leftover rice, you may stir some of it in. Otherwise, just mound it on a shallow soup plate and spoon the gumbo around it.

For dessert, we made Bananas*** Foster:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
6 ripe bananas, peeled, halved and sliced lengthwise
3/4 cup dark rum or bourbon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pint vanilla ice cream

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter foam subsides, lay the bananas in the pan and cook on both sides until they become slightly soft and brown, about 3 minutes. Remove. Off the heat, add the liquor and deglaze pan. Back on the heat, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until the sugar completely dissolves, about 2 minutes. OPTIONAL: Tip the pan slightly and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long kitchen match or kitchen lighter to flambe. Cook down until the liquor/sugar is a thin syrup (it will thicken further as it goes on.)

Divide the ice cream among dessert bowls. Gently lift the bananas from the pan and place 2 pieces on the ice cream. Spoon the syrup over the ice cream and serve immediately.

-J.

* That is the sausage typical of the New Orleans area, a product of the "Cajun" (Acadian) French refugees from Nova Scotia. It's rather spicy and very yummy.
** If you want to make your own, this is my recipe:

3 tablespoons sweet unsmoked (i.e. plain) paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons hot & smoked paprika
5 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

*** Sorry, Australia. I'm not rubbing it in, I swear. You know I'd go to my tree and mail you some if I could get it past Customs.

Posted by Joke at 8:43 AM 17 comments

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Allegedly, the procrastination meme.

Swiped from the lovely and gracious bb. It's pretty useless, but not unpleasant.

Explain what ended your last relationship?
I assume this means the one before the one I'm in now. It ended because we realized mixed-relationships (she evil undead, me human) rarely work out.

When was the last time you shaved?
This morning.

What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.?
I'll tell you in 40 minutes.

What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Dropping off NOS at school.

Are you any good at math?
SLIGHTLY better than average. I can't do computations in my head, though.

Your prom night, what do you remember about it?
Whole thing.

Do you have any famous ancestors?
I have a baronet who sold back his title to pay off gambling debts.

Have you had to take a loan out for school?
No.

Last thing received in the mail?
"Catalogues! Christmas catalogues!" sums it up.

How many different beverages have you had today?
One, but it's early.

Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine?
Um, yeah.

Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to?
Van Halen in 1978.

Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?
Like I have nothing better to do at the beach?

What’s the most painful dental procedure you’ve had?
"Root canal."

What is out your back door?
Grass, coral rock walls and trees.

Any plans for Friday night?
I think I'm getting roped into something.

Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
NO.

Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns?
A client sent one to where I worked eons ago. I was underwhelmed.

Have you ever been to a planetarium?
Yes, I used to date--while not being one myself--stoners.

Do you re-use towels after you shower?
Yes.

Some things you are excited about?
Thanksgiving, Christmas, black tie.

What is your favorite flavor of JELL-O?
If pushed on the matter, I'll say orange.

Describe your keychain(s)?
It's this one, but in black. It came with the car.

Where do you keep your change?
One of those coin sorter thingies.

When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
Define large.

What kind of winter coat do you own?
Harris tweed DB chesterfield.

What was the weather like on your graduation day?
Warmish.

Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
Closed.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:32 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Badger's inadvertent meme

Before I launch into this, I want to explain how difficult it was to do. Mostly because I am such a reactionary sort that if there's somethinng "we just don't do ovah heah" it's a pretty safe bet it's because we adamantly believe there is much wrong with it. THAT list would eat up all the available bandwidth.

things that we just don't do over here, not that there's anything wrong with them
Granola
Scrapbooks
SUVs
Chardonnay
Soccer
Scouts
Dogs
Cats
Winter
Serious Musicals
Team sports (we're pretty much an aggregate mass of non-joiners)
Tennis
Reality TV
Attachment parenting (WTF is this?)
Candles
Toy trains
"Funky"
Gaming systems (Xbox, etc.)
Ballet
Chai
Texas Hold 'Em

Inspired by Badger & bb

Posted by Joke at 8:20 AM 11 comments

Who do you love?

As I cruise the alleyways of Blogville, and see those people who are participating in that Novel Writing Thing, it leads me to think about what I write and for whom.

As of even date, there are many accepted forms of prose literature. You have your novel, novella, short story, essay, etc. Thus far, "blog" isn't in that pantheon. But never mind.

When I write I have a very specific person in mind. The one I'm writing for is the adult version of the first descendant of mine whom I'll never see. Let's just call him Numbah One Great-Grandson, whom I'll arbitrarily guesstimate is to be born around 2054. So basically I'm lecturing/hectoring/conversing with someone whose DNA is 12.5% mine going out into the great wide world (assuming there is one) on or about 2072, when I--were I to remain alive that long--would be pushing 110.

For the record, longevity runs pretty deep in my family, with most of the previous generation not checking out until their mid-90s. Even so, I think ~110 is pushing it a touch.

Anyway, writing to such an audience as this helps me keep certain things focused. It offers me the opportunity to share some family history (my parents are, um, not particularly good at this) some comments on general life situations which explain the usefulness of received wisdom, and some explanation of whence assorted traditions sprang. Traditions such as my holing up in the kitchen during Thanksgiving away from the madding crowd, with soothing beverages in hand and ton(ne)s of food to prepare.

The world, as you might have noticed, is a mess. Diligent study has led me to believe it has pretty much always been a mess. If it's not Hittites slaughtering the Jebusites, it's the Elbonians enslaving the Lutonians. Therefore, as someone who (it is devoutly to be hoped) has struck a few shrewd blows for civilization, I wish to pass that outlook on, not just to those whom I'll likely meet, but those I'll very likely not meet.

And, most important of all, I can't be bothered to scribble down recipes on notecards.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:35 AM 2 comments

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who? Me?

I have been officially accused of "wardrobing."

Not just the usual stuff, like suits and ties and shoes (oy, the shoes*), but also other stuff like watches and pens. I think I'm wounded.

=====

Thanksgiving, my very favorite holiday is sneaking up this year. Some years a given holiday will be seen coming a mile off, blaring trumpets and crashing cymbals, and some years you'll wake up saying "What? Arbor Day? TODAY?" The latter, I believe, is what Thanksgiving is doing now.

Now that he's 9, NOS wants to really help. For the last few weeks we have been practicing his knife skills (I found him a 5" Japanese-style chef knife that's ideal for his hand size). My wife fears we're bringing up a Tony Bourdain who'll show up to places with a knife roll and a sneer. Anyway, since he wants to help, and we had some friends of TFBIM to whom we owe an invitation, we're throwing a Practice Thanksgiving Dinner this weekend.

VERY scaled-down, natch. Instead of a ginormous turkey, we'll roast off a turkey breast, we'll make some heretical mashed potatoes, some stuffing and cranberry-orange chutney and some variant of pie. NTS, being only 7, is only allowed to help in the pulsing of the food processor or manning the switch of the stand mixer.

So we'll see.

======

The Big Autumn Project is still not done wrapping up. I wish it was over and done with, because it has shaved years--years, people--off my life. Years which, I scarcely need add, I required for other purposes.

Now you're up to speed.

-J.

* The count has since been, um, increased.

Posted by Joke at 8:15 AM 6 comments

Friday, November 10, 2006

A burnt offering.

One of the nice things about living on the Fringe of ParadiseTM, is that you get many pleasant culinary collisions. Stuff gets tropicalized, or vice-versa. Different ingredients get familiar treatment, or vice-versa. You get the idea.

Here's my latest:

3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 chipotle chiles (the kind that come in "adobo")
Sea salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (not the hot stuff, this will be too much with the chiles)
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
TINY pinch cumin
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 rack pork spareribs (I think in the UK, etc. they are called belly ribs)
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 225F (110C?). Mash the garlic cloves and spices, adding the oil to make a paste rub. Cover the ribs with the rub wrap tightly (envelope-like) in foil but leaving a temporary opening, and let rest in a roasting pan for an hour or two. (The longer the better, really)

Dissolve the sugar in the orange/lime juices, adding the zest. Carefully pour the juice mixture into the foil packet and seal VERY tightly. Cook for 2 hours. Remove the pork from the oven, reopen the foil and CAREFULLY pour off the marinade/juices into a saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium high heat to reduce by half (this will now become a glaze). Return "naked" ribs to cook at 375F (190C?) for about 10 minutes, just to get them crisp. With 1-2 minutes to go, brush with the glaze. Serve.

OPTIONAL: You could do this outside over a live flame. The chipotles and smoked paprika will give you a pleasantly smoky taste even if you restrict yourself exclusively to the oven, but if you go outdoors, it will be enhanced.

Serves 6 as a main dish.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:43 AM 13 comments

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You always have to be different, don't you?

As a little kid, I was into comic books as well as uncomic ones. But, because I was something of an eccentric boy, I dove headfirst into the Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics. Other kids were starting off on the mother's milk that was Superman, progressing to the "brooding" Batman (only in those days he didn't brood so much, probably because he was a bachelor billionaire) and then some delved deeper into The Flash, Greent Lantern et al., while others migrated to the Marvel Comics which had characters with all kinds of "human qualities" (i.e., they were vaguely fu'd up) because, I dunno, those were the late 1960s - early 1970s when every form of imbecility seemed to make sense. Why the Silver Surfer had chlamydia or the Submariner was lactose intolerant I have no idea. But some people went in for that.

Later on, some people moved on to "alternative" comics. Harvey Pekar, etc. If you saw Chasing Amy, you know what I mean.

Can you see me being into any of the above? Not on your life.

I went (and stuck) with Donald/Scrooge partly because I am pathologically loyal, but mostly because those comics were erudite, clever, beautifully researched and free from the pie-in-the-sky naivete or the haunting/brooding thing or the miasma that accompanies the "underground" scene. Definitely none of that angsty $#!+.

Those comics told stories, had plot, theme, subtext and nuances to which I'm only now catching up. I found them engrossing and involving in ways the others (with the possible exception of Tintin) could never deliver. Free from the contortions required to flesh out characters the individual adventures (one comic became so beloved by Steven Spielberg he practically lifted the whole damned thing for Raiders of the Lost Ark) hit the ground running.

They were also beautifully drawn and fanatically researched. I liked them, sensing there was stuff being learned painlessly. I mean, c'mon, only a genius can make 7 year-olds learn the word "littoral" and like it. And here we come to the crux of the thing: these comics were all the product of one guy, Carl Barks. From 1946-1972 he drew every line, colored every panel, wrote every word and practically ran the printing press at Disney. He had been brought over from Animation to help out with the then-new comics department and he slowly took over, flourishing in the unsupervised air. He put out three issues a month for 26 years until he retired.

To this day, one of the favorite things to do on a quiet evening is pull out some of these comics and read along with the boys. NOS gets into the adventure, NTS likes the pictures and I like the whole damned thing.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:42 AM 20 comments

Saturday, November 04, 2006

You don't care and I can't make you.

48 Things You Could NOT Care Less About

1. FIRST NAME?
Joke

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Ask Poppette, who named me.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY?
If by "cry" we mean shed the least amount of lachrymose matter...I don't remember it's been so long. If by "cry" we mean bawling and sobbing, then about 15 years ago.

4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
Meh.

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT?
Pretty much the same as my favorite dinnermeat.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Oh, Hell yes.

7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL?
Congratulations, you've stumbled upon it.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
In a jar somewhere.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Why?

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CEREAL?
"Cap'n Crunch," said the foodie.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Not the loafers.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Yes.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ICE CREAM FLAVOUR?
Butter pecan sand pecans.

14. SHOE SIZE?
9 1/2 W (US)

5. RED OR PINK?
Red, for cars. Pink, for shirts.

16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
My inability to be bothered by self-examination.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
It'd be cool if Poppy were here. But if we mean this in a more existential plane, either grandmother.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU?
Meh.

19. WHAT COLOUR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Espresso brown boat mocs, very faded blue jeans and an orangy-pink "camp" shirt

20. LAST THING YOU ATE?
Free sample of prosciutto

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
NOS asking me incessant questions about "classic" film monsters

22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU BE?
White. I love pointlessness of a white crayon.

23. FAVOURITE SMELL?
Wella Balsam shampoo. Reminds me of being 17 and in love for the 1st time.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
My wife.

25. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO?
If they laugh at my jokes.

26. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON YOU STOLE THIS FROM?
Yes.

27. FAVOURITE DRINK?
Kosher-for-Passover Coke. I know I'm a platinum palated sort and I really should say something like "the '48 Port" but if I had to choose a last meal, this would be my potable fluid of choice.

28. FAVOURITE SPORT?
Anything that requires brainpower along with physical prowess.

29. EYE COLOUR?
hazel-y browny

30. HAT SIZE?
7 5/8.

31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Nah. You can't wardrobe contacts.

32. FAVOURITE FOOD?
Whatever I've just cooked. That's a question with eleventy gazillion correct answers.

33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Happy endings.

35. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Summer.

36. HUGS OR KISSES?
Wait. WHO is teh kisser/hugger, 'cause a lot hinges on that.

37. FAVOURITE DESSERT?
Key Lime pie.

38. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
You know...her.

39. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
She will, I just know it.

40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING?
Just started Jamie's Italy, by Jamie Oliver and Spy: The Funny Years

41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
Fools! I use a trackball!

42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV?
Some documentary on the Roman Empire.

43. FAVOURITE SOUNDS?
Waves.

44. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES?
The Yardbirds. I like musicians with instrumental proficiency, thanks. (But the Rolling Stones are the least objectionable of the two.)

45. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME?
I'm going to need a map...

46. WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT?
Modesty.

47. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Wa-a-a-a-ay over there.

48. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU?
Some nice Australian lady.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:11 PM 11 comments

Oh, yeah, while I'm at it.

The car I wanted to buy? The car I was about to book airfare to a northern frigid clime to check out?

The @#$%ing seller sold it last night.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:53 AM 6 comments

Friday, November 03, 2006

Let me tell you exactly how bad things sucked.

Dear Internet,

Today sucked. A lot. Here's what happened:

Today NOS had "early dismissal" and, so that we'd be in and out as quickly as possible, I park at the head of the pickup line. When the gates open, I scoot in first, scoop offspring and make a run for it. Today, TFBIM's friend P. was down with the flu, so I had to pickup her son J. (also NOS's pal). Therefore I had to take the red car which I rarely drive because it turns out it's this mega-rare prototype and I can't be piling up miles on it; but it's the only 4-seater available to me, so I had to go with that.

We decided to catch the matinee of that new Dreamworks/Aardman film which was so "meh" I forgot the title. Then we headed for home.

It was at this point the wheels fell off the wagon.

Negotiating rush hour traffic the car just died. Not anything electrical, because I tried popping the clutch and nothing, zip, zero, zilch, na-da. Not good. I pull off the main thoroughfare to a side street in a, um, "unsavory" neighborhood. I call TFBIM, who happens to be nearby, and she picks up the NOS & J. While awaiting TFBIM, I call AAA, who not only suck, but made my day collapse into a steaming heap of breathtaking suckitude. This was 5:12pm. They said twenty minutes. I then called Richard the Italo-Jamaican mechanical wizard who said he'd be heading down as soon as he finished dinner.

Why, I bet you can see where this is going.

Thirty minutes later, nothing. So I call again. Now it's 6:20pm and "the driver is in route" and at 6:55pm he arrives...in the wrong truck. I need--and had specifically requested--a flatbed truck. Which this guy didn't have. He apologized and said another guy would be by "soon." In that time Richard (the mechanical guru) called and said he was just arriving at his shop. Between 7:15pm and 8:45pm I placed 7 additional calls to AAA, to the point the operators at the national call desk (pause while the aforementioned sinks in) knew my name and my plight. I stopped at 8:45pm because finally the proper truck showed up.

I finally made it to Richard's shop at 9:15pm. Then as I was calling TFBIM to fetch me, the battery on the cordless phone died and TFBIM never heard me call for a ride home. Quick math will help you arrive at the conclusion my ordeal of automotive suckitude cost me 4+ hours. To say nothing of the repair bill I'm fearing, especially since all these sodomy laws have now been declared unconstitutional.

Oh, and I'm getting a nasty cold.

No, I'm decidedly not eyeballing all creatures great and small with a kind and benevolent eye tonight.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:15 PM 2 comments

Crockpottery. New & Improved!

[The lovely and gracious Badger pointed out some flaws in my recipe-typing. My bad.]

I can freely use that in the title because my slow-cooker just happens to be an official Crock-Pot® slow cooker.

Anyway, MsCellania was happy to have had, due to the Granny Pants, another use for hers (the Crock-PotTM, not the Granny Pants). So, because I aim to benefit humanity in all I ever do I am posting probably the oldest recipe in our family, one dating back well over a coupla hunnerd years: Fabada.

Fabada derives its name from the type of bean used, called "Fabes." You will not find this bean (at least not reasonably priced) anywhere outside of Spain. So don't even bother to go look for it. What you want is the largest white bean you can get, but not lima beans or butterbeans. Canellini beans are what I use for everyday.

And so, the recipe (this is as still made by my great-aunt Maria Cristina, sans the slow-cooker):

2¼ lb./1 kg of fabes (I use cannellini beans)
¼lb./200gm Spanish NOT MEXICAN chorizo (I like the Palacios brand, but Goya is workable)
¼lb./200gm morcilla ("black pudding"/"blood sausage" or "boudin noir") or just go w. ½lb. chorizo
¼lb./200gm unsmoked ham (something like domestic prosciutto is ideal) cubed ½" x ½" (1cm x 1cm)
1 medium yellow onion
1 pinch of saffron (OPTIONAL)
1 tsp. of smoked mild Spanish paprika (also called "pimenton dulce ahumado" and it's OK if you don't find any that's actually Spanish, just as long as it's smoked and NOT the hot stuff you'll be fine)
¼lb./200gm unsmoked bacon (think pancetta) is optional.
1 quart/liter Ham stock (from a couple of ham hocks -- OPT, but so-o-o-o-o-o desirable...chicken stock or broth or even water will work, but stocks contribute a bit of gelatin that makes this all unctuous and yummy...add water to come up to the correct amount)
Salt to taste (if you use stock, be CAREFUL with the salt!)

[Basically you want a 3:1 or so ratio of beans to porky goodness, in whatever proportions suit you. Oh, and trivia factoid: the combination of porcine goodies is called "compango" in Spanish.]

Soak the beans overnight.

(This part can me made wa-a-a-a-ay ahead) Put in the chorizo (and any bacon-like whatever) in a pot over low heat with a bit of water, and render out its fat. When the water has evaporated and the only liquid is the fat pour off most of it. Add ham, morcilla, diced onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Add saffron/paprika and let cool.

This "base" will keep a week in the fridge and damned near forever in the freezer.

Drain the beans, put them along with the porkified base in a stock pot and cover them with stock/water over medium low heat or in the CrockPot® on "high" for a couple of hours.

Turn the heat to low. Let cook a couple of hours and then mash some of the white beans against the side of the pot. Stir and reduce heat to "warm" until dinner time. It's even better the next day.

-J.

P.S. You may want to skim the orange chorizo fat...but not ALL of it, as its presence is crucial for flavor...but a little goes a long way.

Posted by Joke at 12:05 PM 7 comments

Joke's Book Club (Nov. 3)

Those unfortunate enough to know me really well, will recall my outright adoration for the late, great Spy Magazine. Originally intended to be the American version of the British "Private Eye Magazine" (the name was taken from the magazine for which Jimmy Stewart worked in The Philadelphia Story) it soon found its voice in skewering all the sacred cows it could find in the public sphere. No one was safe.

It also owed much to the glory days of National Lampoon during the tenure of P.J. O'Rourke (think of the parody yearbooks and newspapers and government paperwork) especially in terms of "pitch and tone." By way of illustration, we have the famous and prescient Celebrity Chef Trading Cards.

But Spy broke new ground in its postmodern (in the best sense) design, managing to simultaneously look slick, jaded and fresh, and especially in its "investigative humor." (Digging through Sean Penn's trash and reporting the rather unusual contents was especially brilliant.) It was so self-consciously postmodern that it even published an ironic guide to postmodernism. As was expected, it had a very company town/New York feel...focusing on moguls, Wall Streeters, and local celebrities. Eventually this became somewhat ameliorated with correspondents in Hollywood* and Washington, DC, but never left it entirely.

Later in the trajectory of the magazine, they published several books. The more ::cough, cough:: accessible "Separated at Birth" series which I suspect paid the bills and more esoteric fare such as their faux-Cliffs Notes and guides for writing a modern novels. The latter pretty much put me off modern literature for good, and if you believe contemporary fiction is worthy of accolade, stay away from: ISBN 0-385-24745-1. It does to modern fiction what Supersize Me did for fast-food.

Of course, there were lawsuits aplenty, discord, buyouts and the inevitable death knell of a Tony Hendra** editorship...eventually the magazine ceased publication. (Boo! Hiss!)

Anyway.

This book is not so much a "Spy's Greatest Hits!" as it is a documentary in book form. It discusses the various factors that went into the magazine, the nearly obsessive attention to fact-checking (the editors were adamant about not being sued for libel. Ironically, they were sued for a lot of other stuff), the cool and detached style, and the malicious glee with which they referred to celebrities of the day--Donald Trump, for example, was always called "a short fingered vulgarian"--with monikers such as "churlish dwarf billionaire" or "bosomy dirty-book writer." More than anything else, it captures the zeitgeist of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s among those who fancied themselves the pinnacle of America.

-J.

* Movieline Magazine, arguably the Hollywood doppelganger of Spy, arguably covered this better. It also featured the estimable Joe Queenan, trumping any one writer at Spy, including Roy Blount Jr.

** I'm of the opinion the magazine industry's ultimate death omen is to have Tony Hendra editing a magazine.

Posted by Joke at 8:46 AM 0 comments

Same Thing, But VERY Different

Some people have had good success with the Granny Pants recipe thing, and yesterday Badger & Julia, um, didn't.

It's a sign of my own mental instability that I immediately wished my scanner worked like a teleportation device, that I might zap myself MAwards and TXwards to perform triage and see where the thing went off the rails.

Badge (& Julia, in case you followed the same procedure),

1- Brisket is fine. However, using brisket means its connective tissue will first contract and then the connective tissue begins to melt.
2- The temperature of the water should be such that you see the occasional bubble along the far edge of the water, but mostly the water rippling. This isn't as much a braise as it is a poach.
3- This is not so much a 1pm thing, especially with brisket which has the aforementioned connective tissue issue. (Other similarly long-grained parts of cow--flank, chuck shoulder, etc.--don't have nearly the same amount of c.t. and so the cooking time is materially shorter.)

Hope this helps!

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:35 AM 5 comments

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eat.

I'm not one for food blogs. (I also said I wasn't one for MoFoNoMo, either...and just lookit me) But one hath crossed mine path and, because it takes an approach dear to my heart--dine out on something yummy, and deconstruct it, and reverse-engineer it for the home kitchen--and does so well with said approach, I hereby give it my Joke Seal of Approval:

http://www.gothamist.com/archives/food/eating_in/index.php

Naturally, it helps the dining out takes place in the best places in NYC.

You're welcome,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:47 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Govern yourself accordingly.

It's not my intention to participate in NoGoBloMojoJojo. I'll post often-ish, but keep in mind I'm not much of a joiner.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:24 PM 10 comments

Why?

Before I launch into today's feature (think of this as the short before the main attraction) I have to announce that, as I type, NOS and two of his pals are playing poker with their Hallowe'en candy.

"I'll see your Snickers and raise you a Butterfinger."

============

I was just reading the lates post by the lovely and gracious Bec and it dawned on me that she had something of a point that we blog not just to keep a record of our lives. Now, the reason why I blog is because I have lots of opinions on lots of things and, as opposed to the lovely, gracious and lively Poppy, it's not enough to sit back basking in the glow of smugness. I need to evangelize to the world why I'm right on the matter of food, drink, fabrics, film, books, electronics, menswear, automobile, travel, etc.

Then there's also the deep-seated need to entertain and generally be publicly clever.

Lastly (and bestly) is e-meeting all kinds of new friends, people with whom I would have never in a bazillion years have befriended otherwise. While that's not the deep-down reason why this blog exists, it's the best outcome thereof.

I also enjoy love combox conversations. As those who've been inflicted with my society will readily attest I'm a conversational ho. Give me a brilliant conversationalist with a measure of erudition and a modicum of charm and I'm happier than a twister in a trailer park. At heart, naturally, I'm a creature of simplicity.

Now, if some big NYC publisher were to sling seven figures at me, it'd be rude to decline.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 4:46 PM 7 comments