Thursday, May 31, 2007

Globetrottin'











Posted by Joke at 3:29 PM 7 comments

No comment necessary.

Look what just hit the financial newswires.

I guess we'll be seeing a LOT more of Poppy and TSMSM.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:49 AM 3 comments

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The solipsistic omnivore.

Dear Internet,

As you know, I've made a bit of an effort to not turn this blog into a "food blog." Which is difficult, because I have been eating food pretty much all of my adult life. At any rate, I think my bona fides as a foodie are well established.

So in that spirit I come to vent -- a little, not much -- on the current food worry fetish among foodies and fellow travelers. The short version is "Don't." If you have been borderline sentient for the last couple of years you may have seen books, documentary films, TV shows, websites and/or magazine articles which have had the effect of scaring the snot out of those among us who eat and have seen books, documentary films, TV shows, websites and/or magazine articles.

The basic premise is that Huge Corporations are going to kill us with the food they provide us. Food is jacked on antibiotics, hormones, pesticides; irradiation is rife, animals raised for meat are fed all kinds of evil things. Yes, even the animals that aren't are going to kill you, you atavistic caveperson, you. The world is ending. And yes, most of the food out there is woefully substandard at best.

We got it.

I'm not quarreling with any of that. What puzzles me is why, already knowing that X is simply awful, would anyone embark on a journey to quantify the awfulness. Color me reactionary, but I think one's time is better spent avoiding the awfulness...instead of taking census and inventory thereon. So, to whatever extent one's budget allows, the thing to do is get more fresh vegetables (preferably stuff that has avoided chemicals and the like) and non-factory farmed meat, eggs and dairy.

Here's the confessional bit. While I get these foods wherever possible, I only do so because they taste better, and only because they taste better. There. Now you know.

Yes, I'm a bastid, I know.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:43 AM 11 comments

Friday, May 18, 2007

More taggery.

This time from the lovely and gracious TeacherGirl. I'm not really sure how this one works, but what the Hell, right?

1. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
Not much. Just give voice to some of my opinions and perspectives, in the hopes of being entertaining.

2. Are you a spiritual person?
I'm not spiritual, but I am religious.

3. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you?
Nautical charts, a boatmaking manual and a solar distillation apparatus.

4. What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Cooking braised short ribs that were so good my old man actually paid me an unconditional compliment. (Something which surprised us both.)

5. Are these your first (tagging) memes?
Nope!

Here are the rules according to whomever likes to make up rules: • Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about him/herself. • People who are tagged need to write in their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. • At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I have developed a train-wreck fascination with Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

2. I was once a Philosophy major. Really. That lasted half a semester.

3. You have no idea how many posts wind up in "perma-draft." Easily half. (I am always mindful of the bit about not discussing religion or politics.)

4. I am a hidebound anachronism. Fountain pens, suspenders (or braces to my silent Brit readers), cufflinks and stickshift transmissions all have a fond spot in my heart.

5. I make everyone suffer through my silent film addiction.

6. I hate bell peppers.

7. I HATE the great outdoors. The great outdoors are defined as the space which separates the places I'd rather be.

8. I can taste wine and actually taste all those "blackberry and plum notes" and the like.


I tag:

Poppy, BabBab, bb, Badge, Stomper, Caro, Ms, Shula.

Posted by Joke at 7:21 AM 13 comments

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Mothers' Day post-mortem

(WARNING: An avalanche of parentheses follows)

It went swell, TYVM.

To preempt my sister and my BiL, I announced that we'd be having a brunch at my house.

I very wisely (uncharacteristically so) started making things well ahead of time. This is because I am utterly, spectacularly incapable of preparing food not from scratch. So, I made the pancake batter (sans leavening), the sausages, and the bread all ahead of time. So, when the time came to fire up, all I had to do is put the sausages in a roasting pan (one layer with a bit of room to maneuver) and trim the bacon (I prefer to buy it in slab form, trim off the excess fat and then slice it. This is as "foodie" as I am willing to get on the bacon front.) and place atop the sausages, partially scramble the eggs (with chives) and finish them off in the oven as the bacon & sausages were resting. Then, I leavened the pancake batter, buttered my griddle, and started pancaking up a storm.

Done.

I have to say that NOS, in the kitchen, was a champ. He trimmed the bacon (Nueske's, to which the very lovely and exceedingly gracious Poppy introduced us, and to which we are now very much addicted) and whisked the eggs and shook the roasting pan filled with sausages. His reward was a sherry glassful of champagne. He may be serving a sentence, but he did well and I let him know it.

The foodstuffs were inhaled and analyzing the wreckage only saw a couple of ounces of scrambled egg left. Some of the orange juice was left behind. That was it. I pretty much drank champagne straight and basked.

TFBIM did relatively well, giftwise. NOS & NTS pooled their assets and we went to TJ Maxx & Marshall's* and rummaged through the "Last Chance!" bins and shelves and put together a nice spa basket for her.

1- The main attraction of the basket the lads put together was this fluffy/fuzzy neck & shoulder thing that you soak in hot water and drape about your, well, neck and shoulders and it does this hot accupressure/aromatherapy thing. Anyway, it was fuzzy, pink and smelled nice and was only $3, down from $18.99.

2- They also got a CD of "spa music" (Whatever THAT is, but it was only $1.) and

3- Some lip tube things (A set that included "lip therapy" and "lip repair" and "lip something I can't be bothered to remember" at $1.50 for three. We liked the slick packaging and the promiscuous use of chemistry words in faux French.)

4- A set of beauty implements (lip brushes and that sort of stuff, mostly due to their plastic pinkness) $1 for all 6.

5- Some other fancy faux-French hair hydrating/glossing gel thing in a slick-looking, mostly pink, tube. $1.

6- A pink poufy lather thingy for only $0.50 (but it needed some scissor trimming before being made presentable...NTS did that, if a bit too Edward Scissorhands-eagerly)

7- Some raspberry bath gel thing for $1. Yeah, pink.

8- Cranberry (!) foot scrub thing (pink), with bonus toe separator (pink) and cheap-- but, surprise, pink!--file. $0.75.

We came home, found one of the eleventy gazillion baskets that TFBIM has running around the house, and plopped it all in there. The lads were very eager to see The Look On Mom's Face and NTS, being NTS, couldn't help himself and at 6:30am sprinted to his slumbering** mother shouting "Mommy wake up! Mommy wake up! Get UP, Mommy!" and then, seeing how the seed of wakefulness could find no purchase, he ripped off the sheets and jumped on TFBIM demanding her wakefulness; a thing I've never had teh temerity to attempt, even during our honeymoon.

Once TFBIM was irretrievably awake, NTS & NOS marched in with the basket. And TFBIM was well pleased. The other gift was a photo of a certain bauble which had been promised to us by the appointed day but which, alas, remains on back-order.

-J.

* Discount/clearance sorts of places.

** We'd gone to a particularly unenjoyable party the previous night, and therefore TFBIM needed her 10 hours of rest.

Posted by Joke at 8:33 AM 6 comments

And then the realization dawns.

OK.

Sunday (being Mothers' Day -- remind me to tell you of my KICKASS BRUNCH -- at Uncle Joke's house) we sat down with NOS and pronounced sentence.

Since he had been an angel the past week, my wife we "counted" it towards time served. Fine. In any event he is to have exactly:

No television,
No computer games
No video games
No play dates

No swimming
No sleep over
No parties and
No movies


We have scheduled Saturday library trips wherein we will choose reading material for him, to read after dinner and before bedtime.

(Oh! I managed to include a rule in this punishment that any whining or moping, etc. will add the week we took off the sentence automatically back. This includes any questions that starts off with "But why do I...")

He is to take out the trash, the recycling and keep the playroom and their room* clean regardless of who made the mess. Any toys of his found on the floor will be summarily donated or thrown away. Hell, I may even give 'em away on this blog. He has to wash a car on on the weekends, and bring in the hamper to the laundry.

Now, seeing as how this hit on the day we were having a very late lunch (since we had a kickass brunch ovah heah) at his aunt's and there would be all his cousins splashing merrily about Aunt J's pool...well, it didn't go over so well. NOS whined, moaned, moped, sobbed, shook his widdle fist, cursed the gods and fates and otherwise searched frantically for ways to make an emotional nuisance of himself. Finally he came up to where I was reading and threw a wadded up piece of paper at me and stomped off.

I unfurled the flag to read his shot across my bow:

"I thought you were the coolest dad. Guess I was wrong."

So, not being one to tarry, I sent him up to his room until otherwise directed. (I was almost done with the chapter and didn't want to interrupt the reading further.) About 20 minutes later I gave him a reprieve and explained that what he just did -- and more importantly, why he did it -- was terrible. Worse, he was just compounding the matter. I gave him the old "drop the shovel" routine. My wife jumped in and We explained to him the possibility of getting an additional week off for good behavior, but that implied, y'know, behaving himself.

So that was that.

Just reading it drains me all over again.

-J.

* When we moved we asked them if they would rather have a room each or share a room -- bunk beds -- and have the other as a playroom. It was no contest.

Posted by Joke at 8:01 AM 5 comments

Friday, May 11, 2007

OK, this is not helping.

Well.

NOS went back to choir practice after blowing off the whole thing for SEVEN (7) weeks. They sang their little group pieces and then they all lined up and belted out a stanza for Mr. Music Teacher to gauge their individual progress and see what they would do in the recital.

As it turned out, NOS, the little bastid, knocked it out of the park. Other kids' moms were agape. He hadn't practiced for almost two months, had just seen the music and lyrics (This being a Catholic school, and an "old skool" Catholic school at that, it was something in Latin which escapes me.) and calmly walked up to center stage and just let his diaphragm loose.

Sadly, he was easily the best one there; so in spite of the fact he had been absent without excuse for nearly two months, NOS landed a solo. So where does this leave us?

Nowhere, sadly.

This is like telling a child he must work hard, strive, study, give it his all, or else he will end up living under a bridge and scrounging for food in the dumpster bins...and then he drops out of school only to win a gazillion dollars in the lottery.

Argh.

-J.

UPDATE: He is still not getting the coveted pin, nor the certificate suitable for framing.

Posted by Joke at 6:19 PM 13 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

If it was ever in doubt...

...I am clearly mental.

I was thinking about the Party So Ridiculous It'll Take A Whole Damned Year To Plan. Now, a normal person would probably not go with the "planning a year ahead" thing, for starters. That ought be your first clue.

The second clue is that a normal person, might/maybe/possibly, have some vague theme to the party that tales less than a year to plan. A luau, say, or maybe something "retro" that has relevance to the event which has its anniversary being celebrated.

I'd like to blame the pinkeye for this, but I haven't committed to this yet. Stay tuned.

Anyway, this is what I have decided thus far and what, when TFBIM called to check up on me and I told her, had her audibly rolling her eyes.

I'm going to have a Charity Gala as our party theme.

Here's the general idea:

All the usual gala stuff will be set up. We'll "sell" tickets ($1/head) and we'll have a program explaining "our mission" (To rear children well, eat nice food, not assassinate each other.) and all that other stuff that real charities put in their programs. We may "sell" (again, some very silly price) ads in the program as well.

We'll have a silent auction -- here is the part I think is damnably clever -- wherein invitees can bring stuff they have received as gifts and for perfectly good and noble reasons, never used. These will be the items up for auction. That enormous porcelain chicken not "go" with your kitchen? Put it up for the auction. Got an extra copy of The Joys of Bartending? Put it up for the auction.

We may have a presentation on on "what we do and how you can help."

Here's the kicker: There will be, at the end of the evening, a raffle. The winner of the raffle gets to donate the money raised (not that I'm expecting zillions) to his or her favorite charity.

I figured this whimsical idea would resonate with our pals, many of whom get involved in that whole gala thing (some, like the very lovely and utterly gracious Poppy, even have a very scary knack for doing so beautifully).

And yes, there will be goody bags.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:53 PM 8 comments

Dammit.

I have pinkeye.

The good news is that I get to go home (whence I am scribbling) and catch one of my guilty pleasures: Whatever the Hell program Gordon Ramsay is doing that BBC America is airing. Now, I like GR for probably wildly different reasons than the rest of the world.

Some people just like GR's shows for the same reasons people stop and gawk at train wrecks. They hope he will lose his temper to such an extent that he'll fillet a waiter with a paring knife or something.

Me? I like watching him because I like seeing people who are REALLY good at what they do while they are doing it. I like to see how their minds work, cope, adjust. When you stop and consider it, for all his rep. as a "bad boy chef" his food is not "bad boy food." It's subtle and nuanced, and delicate and inventive. Jamie Oliver, to throw out another Britfoodie, is generally considered a "nice boy chef" and his food is far more crash-bang, loudly-flavored and casual.

Anyway, while I go nurse my sad little eyeball, I leave you with this great piece on GR.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:48 AM 6 comments

Judge & jury.

OK.

The NOS situation...there have been some late entries on the matter, both debits and credits.

1- He went and manfully apologized to the music teacher. His apology was humble, contrite, entire and sincere. Mr. Music Teacher accepted the apology and even gave NOS the legendary One Last Chance. He can rejoin the choir and even make the recital, but he will not be receiving the coveted lapel pin, nor the certificate suitable for framing.

2- He somehow "had" my cellular phone (which doesn't bother me so much) and forgot to take it out of his pants and it went from hamper to laundry to dryer, dying in the process (which does).

3- He made a charming (if a bit kiss-up) card of apology to TFBIM.

So this is what we have determined for his punishment. The exact duration of the sentence will depend on how long, exactly, he was unexcusedly absent. That's how many weeks this will last...somewhere between 8-10. Keep in mind the issue we're addressing is the deception.

For these __ weeks, NOS has lost ALL privileges.
No television,
No computer games
No video games
No play-dates
No sleep over
No guitar classes (although he will be made to practice) which will resume upon his release
No party and
No movies.

We haven't made a decision on the Disney trip.

He will have a schedule wherein he will have to perform whatever schoolwork, his assigned (to be named later) chores of the day, additional readings and he will have to practice guitar while he is not attending the classes for those X weeks.


Something (tentatively) like this:

3:00pm - Arrive from school. Review and complete homework & assignments & upcoming tests. (These will be verified with the teacher.)
4:00pm - Complete task for the day (take out trash, put out the recycling bin, etc.)
4:30pm - Practice guitar
5:15pm - Shower
6:00pm - Set table for dinner
7:00pm - Dinner
7:45pm - Study for any tests, complete any assignments or perform the day's parentally assigned reading.
9:00pm - Bedtime.

I made it a point of telling him that we love him and the reason for doing this is that he has acted in such a way that has cost him his trustworthiness. (I'm toying with the notion of having a Trust-O-Meter posted up.) His quest is to regain our trust, which for now stands at roughly zero. He is to do so by showing us he is sorry for what he did.

Tomorrow morning we lower the boom.

-J
.

Posted by Joke at 5:19 AM 8 comments

Monday, May 07, 2007

Choice of choice words.

In an unrelated vein...

TFBIM and I will be celebrating our 15th Wedding Anniversary in (give or take a day or two) exactly one year.

Because I am an insufferable smartass, I am sending out Save The Date notices this week, thereby giving people, basically, one year. I'd like to open the field for suggestions of a way to better phrase the following sentiment:

"Seeing as how 6 months is too short a notice for some people -- you know who you are* -- I'd like to give you a FULL YEAR'S heads-up, that there might not be any conceivable excuse for your missing this event. "

-J.

* You'll recall that for TFBIM's 40th, we had a bunch of people R.s.v.p. and, at the last moment, failed to materialize.

Posted by Joke at 1:41 PM 6 comments

Important safety tip, kids.

When you go to Google video to look for demos of bartenders making assorted drinks, when you get to the type-in-the keywords part, DO NOT PUT A SPACE in the word "cocktail."

As you were,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:31 PM 0 comments

It's not always Paradise ovah heah.

Dear Internet,

Those on whom Fate has inflicted my friendship know that, among my handful of sterling qualities, I have amazing willpower. This weekend that came in very, very handy, because this weekend I was very, very sorely tempted to go all Alec Baldwin* on one of my beloved offspring.

Here's the abbreviated version.

A while back we got a note from NOS's teacher to the effect that she hadn't gotten any homework from NOS in some time. "Why, this is odd," we thought naively, "NOS tells us he's been doing his homework just fine." When pressed, NOS admitted to having completely fabricated the "I already did my homework." action line. We had a long, serious talk with him, and moderate discipline ensued.

Thursday we find out he deliberatly hid from us that he had a test on adverbs, because he didn't want to study for it owing to the airing that night of a particularly excellent episode of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" which he was loath to miss. We had a long, serious talk with him, and somewhat more stringent discipline ensued.

But wait!

Saturday night (that's just 48 hours after the above, for those of you doing the math at home) we find out he has been ditching choir practice for a long time. The news broke because Older Girl Cousin had a piano recital and it would be a couple of hours prior to NOS's scheduled choir recital. After my sister and TFBIM worked on having a bit of dinner for all the uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. as an after-party, NOS saw his position of being AWOL from choir was no longer tenable.

He explained he had been absent from choir for some time. As in "how long must it be if you couldn't remember how long it was?" Coming on the heels of the Thursday revelation, this was simply too much to put up with from a nine year old. Wisely for him, he broke that tibdit to TFBIM, as she may fly off the handle for a moment, but tends to be less...um...methodical and...er...less rigorous in her discipline. She was so taken aback she could only tell him how disappointed she was and told him to go to sleep.

The next day NOS had a birthday party to attend and, in consideration the birthday boy's parents are very close friends AND they spent a wad on the party (it's a per-person thing) we reluctantly assented to let NOS go, in a "last request for a condemned man" sort of thing. For some bizarre reason the party -- a laser-tag affair -- was 60 minutes away. I took the opportunity to have a long chat with the lad.

I explained to him that it was very unfair of him to make me schlep a full hour earlier to school (plus rushing NTS, who is innocent of any singing AND hates being rushed with a passion) every Thursday for weeks, rain or shine. I explained to him that when he was sick and an excuse -- for the now wildly absent NOS -- was submitted to the music teacher, he must have thought we were an even bigger pair of imbeciles than is readily apparent. To say nothing of the disappointment in having a massive (well, for a nine year old) fraud perpetrated upon us, of now having to call off the brigades of aunts and cousins and grandparents, and that this comes on the heels of previous instances of dishonety...and all the rest.

He asked, tentatively, what his punishment would be. I explained to him that it would be severe. In fact, it was so severe that his mother and I hadn't yet determined something suitable. I further explained to him that our goal was to, in the future, were he tempted to try anything even remotely approaching the neighborhood of this, he would, out of pure reflex, break into a cold sweat and start shuddering freely. My exact remarks on the nature of this disciplinary action were something like "You've never even heard of trouble this bad."

Along the same lines, I mentioned to him that my parents, who had no desire whatsoever to be current with modern parenting theories, would have spanked me until a buttock (possibly two) had detached itself and I had fled down the street seeking asylum and would have taken all my toys and given them to the deserving poor.

I further explained to him that, at the very barest minimum:
He was to go (with TFBIM or me) up to Mr. Music Teacher and apologize in a manner which will be humble, contrite and complete.
He will hereby lose all television, computer/video game, play-date, party and film privileges. Especially important is the loss of TV. In fact, I am very tempted to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights against the TV set, Elvis-style.
He will be given certain new chores (no idea what those are) and a little sticker chart he is to maintain as he completes the assigned tasks.
He will be given some sort of assigned reading by us on the evenings wherein he has no assignments or tests for which to study.
We may pull him out of guitar classes for the duration of his sentence, but we haven't decided on that yet.

To show you how serious we are, we are considering abandoning our Memorial Day trip to Walt Disney World, something TFBIM and I haven't done in 18 years. I'll let you know if anything else springs to mind.

Thus rests the matter.

-J.

* Yet another reason why he's not getting a cell phone.

Posted by Joke at 8:55 AM 17 comments

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Hi, society.

Dear Internet,

I know what you're asking yourself as you read the manifest brilliance that is this blog: What sorts of wacky fun did Uncle Joke and TFBHM have on their first normal weekend together since 2006? Well, I'll tell ya.

As you know (or, by now, ought to) I am the social arbiter in these here fringes of Paradise and therefore it behooves me to get out and about to see what sorts of fun those who fancy themselves members of the better element are having. So, on that Friday, we went the opera to catch Samson et Dalila. The best way I can describe this succintly is to say it was a brilliant presentation of a mediocre opera. The sets were spectacular, the singers as good as can be imagined (if you can get past the less than Samson-esque build of Samson) and the orchestra (and the orchestral interludes) were undeniably brilliant. The only problem is the opera itself. I -- being an unrepentant Visigoth, apparently -- am of the opinion that French, regardless of its marvels* as a language, is simply too naso-labial for operatic expression. It just doesn't go. TFBIM, who speaks French pretty fluidly didn't catch on to the fact they were singing in French until 6 minutes into the damned thing.

So I give it a B- overall, seeing as how it didn't actually suck.

So now we move on to Saturday.

I'd been rather looking forward to Saturday, because we were scheduled to attend a benefit gala for a charity that's sort of affiliated with some of the things to which TFBIM volunteers her nonexistent free time. Last year's event was an outright smash (if you can discount the utterly forgettable "dance" music) with great food, great drink and terrific stuff up for silent auction.

This year? Not so much.

Prices for the gala were jacked up by $50, which brought them up to $275 (ouch!) per person. For this kind of coin, even if it's all going to a good cause and all that, you expect some measure of, well, swank. This is compounded when the crowd swells from last year's 500something to this year's capacity crowd of 750. You don't expect to stand in line 20 minutes to get each drink, you expect a proper dinner -- preferably something frou-frou -- not occasional appetizers on skewers passing by at random and you certainly don't expect the closest thing to dinner being @#$%ing burgers. (Memo to the organizers: sticking a tiny grape tomato on a skewer atop a burger does not make it the frou-frou edibles people expect for $275 a pop.)

The silent auction was filled with things that started at $700. People who've sunk just under six-large per couple and have spent their evening standing in line for 4 oz. of restorative fluids at a time are not likely to drop bank on original oils. This actually worked to my benefit, because there were a couple of things I got at a steal. One was a sterling silver/freshwater pearl rosary for TFBIM which I had been wanting since last year's silent auction, when it clocked in at $200. This year I got it for $70.

The real shame is that this worthy cause is now left with a bunch of donor-types who are feeling somewhat ripped off by the organizers' efforts to squeeze the last bloody penny out of the endeavor, and the result will be detrimental in the long haul. If this event tanks next year, they'll have nobody to blame but themselves, and they'll rue the day they decided to handle the greater influx of attendees by decreasing the number of bartenders (and the amount of limes, lemons, tonic water...) and eliminating all the dinner stations and the goody bags.

Not everyone will repeat the "it's for a good cause, it's for a good cause" mantra to themselves.

-J.

* Whatever those may be

Posted by Joke at 8:10 AM 4 comments

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Joke's Book Club: Spending time with the Classics

I realized that a lot of the stuff I read, and a lot of the stuff people strongly recommend I read, happens to be Very Recent Fiction.

Which is fine.

After all, one day students will have to take a course on Early 21st Century Novelists and someone has to write those books for students to read and discuss things the author never intended ("Is the use of duck dressed as a sailor a...'Christ symbol'?")

But that doesn't mean this must comprise my sole reading diet. So I vowed to leaven the whole thing with The Classics. The next part comes in defining, precisely, what a Classic is. Different people have diverse definitions. Scholars debate this and LitCrit types engage in pointlessly, stupidly abstruse arguments. Therefore, after considerable research, I have come up with a fairly airtight definition of a Classic.

Y'wanna hear it?

Good.

Classic [klas - ic]: A book written before my parents were born that is still famous and which won't bore me into a coma.

That last bit is very crucial, because it frees me from having to reread absolute drivel like James Joyce was fond of churning out, mostly for the benefit of people* who like swanning about, exhibitionistically displaying their academic plumage. If I may make this aside, when confronted with these poor deluded bastards, the best thing to do is simply mumble "You know best." in a conciliatory manner and go about your business. After all they know this stuff is the worst sort of effluvia, but much of their self-view hinges on publicly espousing the opposite cause, so you let it go at that. You really don't want to get them off on a rant about how they, like Mr. Science, know more than you. You'd rather be reading Joyce. Hell, even Beowulf The Naked Lunch** is preferable, and that's saying a lot.

At any rate, this still leaves the problem of finding a Classic to read. You are pretty much on your own here. The great learned minds are still busy admiring the Emperor's new clothes and suggesting James Joyce or some bright and cheery 800 page tome by some 19th Century Russian who went into anaphylactic shock whenever there was any seratonin within 50 yards (or, if you'd rather, meters) to be of any use. After all, the vast majority of those learneds would rather die of flatulence than suggest something, y'know, enjoyable.

So I chose to delve into Lewis Carroll.

I had found a reprint of his original manuscript with the title of Alice's Adventures Underground. It's very similar to the eventual and more famous final version as Alice's Adventures In Wonderland which we all know and love, but contains a lot that eventually was excised from wider circulation. Basically this is the compilation of stories he used to tell to the children of Dean Liddell (the most famous being Alice) when they went on picnics and rowing and assorted other expeditions. These little nuggets are often satirical references to people in their circle, but even without the back story they are charming and amusing and serve the story well.


It's helpful the book is funny, less so that it's reprinted, not in typeset, but in Carroll's own penmanship. Interestingly, he illustrated this original version of the story himself and apparently, among his myriad other skills, he could also draw -- perhaps not at the "professional illustrator level-- quite well. Beyond this, the book is layered (layered, I tell you!) with wordplay, mathematical puzzles, and allusions and clever inside jokes seamlessly woven into the fabric of the narrative.

Of course, by the time the "real" book was published a lot of the inside stuff had been polished out, but it's fascinating to see the story we all know (or think we know) in its embryonic stages.

-J.

*You know you have such a person on your hands, as it were, when he -- or she, because one never knows these days -- starts to assert that he (or, as previously discussed, she) truly enjoys James Joyce, a thing which is patently and self-evidently absurd in normal adults with a working knowledge of English.

** I hope this makes sufficient amends, Miz Badge.


Posted by Joke at 7:30 AM 10 comments

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I hate it when this happens.

OK.

So I'm winding up the last week of full-on SAHDness. In doing so I go to do the school pickup thing, as is the standard operational procedure. On my way there, I am idling merrily at a red light, when I hear the blaring of a police siren coming up from behind me and I see the riot of red and blue lights getting larger -- and quite quickly so -- in my rearview mirror.

Of course, if you're me, your first thought is "Oh, @#$. What did I do this time?" And you run a mental checklist to see if you were driving a zillion miles an hour in a Cute Orphaned Toddler Zone, or if you unwittingly committed several acts of pedestrian bondage or whatever. Having come up blank, I pulled off to the side and the police car barrelled through at top speed, like if Capt. Kirk were telling Scotty to put the spurs to the warp drive.

Sighing relievedly, I go on my merry way. A couple of miles ahead, I run into a very unexpected traffic jam. Cars backed up? In a quiet, Very Nice Suburb? WTF? Then I see the street has been blocked off by NICE police cars, all of them with their lights on. Wisely wishing to be chief among those absent, I make a quick left -- making a right turn is impossible in this section -- figure I'd drive up a couple of blocks and then make a right and get to the school. But no. THIS street is also blocked by 10-12 police cars, from various and diverse police departments and I see, quite clearly, several cops put on their body armor and proceed on foot, bearing their sidearms.

Eventually a police helicopter comes by and hovers over the place, as I sort of zig and zag out of the way of all this hyperactive constabulary.

Here's the punchline: This incident is nowhere in the news. Not the paper, not TV, not radio. I have no idea why all those cop cars were there, why police were cautiously approaching with weapons drawn and body armor donned, what happened and when. I have NFI what or why or when or how, and nobody will tell me.

This isn't the first time, either.

It drives me insane.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:02 PM 2 comments

Pooh's Thotful Spot

I'm doing something sneaky, dear Internet.

If you've been semi-sentient recently, you may've noticed a spate of "Thinking Blogger" awards. I have been VERY, VERY fortunate to have been on the receiving end of some of these. But I've shut up about it. Here's why.

It seems (and Badger will straighten mine arse out if I have this bass ackwards) that when you get one of these, you get to give one to five people. And, most people -- most normal people, anyway -- usually go on to state something along the lines of:

"I wish I could give one out to more than five people!"

Well, I, being the sort of results-driven, expedient bastid I am, won't say that. I'm going to do something about it.

The temptation, originally, was to say "5? @#$% that! I'll hand out as many as I bloody well want." But then I realized that, while momentarily satisfying, that really wouldn't do. So I bided my time. Still biding it, really. Because I came up with my Super Secret List and once I have accumulated enough of these, I will award my 5 awards per, and that way I won't leave anyone out.

I could have taken the first instance and awarded the first 5, then the second one and awarded another 5. But then Group B would have felt slighted and not delighted. "What, I only made you think AFTER the first batch of awards, you bastid?" Group C would have felt slighted and considered any subsequent award merely a sop. I have enough troubles to fret myself over this kind of thing. So I'm going to do this as announced.

Why? Because I'm all about whatever the Hell I perceive as fair, that's why.

And, in an unrelated thing, this made me happy.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:15 AM 11 comments