Monday, March 31, 2008

Explanations are in order. Sort of.

Dear Internet,

You may be wondering how it is possible that I, dapper bon vivant that I am, the very embodiment of a 21st Century boulevardier, who prattles on and on about foodie minutiæ or the glories of bespoke gentlemen's apparel, or foofy timepieces or fountain pens, can go about with a serious fondness for Disney things. You may find it impossible to reconcile* I'll grant you that.

Part of it stems of from my University days when I very seriously considered studying film. I took several courses in film and especially animation, and I was verily fascinated by the advancements forged by Walt Disney himself. When my capitalist urges got the better of me, I had opportunity to study the Walt Disney Company model and I was very impressed with the man's unerring business instincts. He was able to see and foresee things decades ahead of everyone else (which usually drove that "everyone else" to pull hair out by the handful).

When he needed money to build Disneyland, he got the ABC network to pay him gobs of money to have a show on Sunday nights, a show that was weekly infomercial for...Disneyland. Not only was he able to leverage the financing for Disneyland with the ABC contract (which included paying Disney a ton of money for the rights to the opening of the park, the highest rated live TV event in history) but he was able to promote Disneyland (and his films) for an hour at a time every week, for years. In 1955, before jet travel became an affordable reality, it took Disneyland a mere 3 months to have a million visitors.

It was this show that, when my dad was being transferred all over the Iberophonic world, maintained my link with America. (It was invariably shown in English with Spanish subtitles) I LOVED that show, and as semi-involuntary part-time expatriate in my formative years, it really struck a nerve.

As a kid, my greatest and fondest wish was to go to Disneyland. The way I saw it on TV, it was a place dedicated to making ME happy. Solipsistic lout that I was, that seemed a perfectly ideal state of affairs.


* "Do I contradict myself? I am vast, I contain contradictions." - Walt Whitman

Posted by Joke at 11:34 PM 2 comments

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Strictly speaking, not refreshed.

California is, regardless what its denizens would have you believe, a different country. New York is as well, but that's not today's lesson. Chicago, for example, isn't; neither is Boston. Philadelphia, Denver, Phoenix, Houston, Indianapolis likewise.

By this I mean that you see things there -- and the residents believe* and comport themselves -- in marked contradistinction to those in the rest of the country. Ovah heah (and this is a fairly cosmopolitan place) middle-aged men in ponytails and/or earrings are a pretty rare sight. Come to think of it, there's a lot of middle-aged men dressing as if they were in their mid-20s. There are a LOT of blonde people in California.

Something also somewhat uncommon here is seeing people tattooed to such an extent their original skin color is subject to lively speculation, but ovah theah one could easily lose count in the first half hour if conducting such a census. One of my perversely favorite things were all the hardcore goths in Disneyland. Color me silly, but there is something funny about a pack of sullen youths dressed in jet black standing in line to ride Peter Pan's Flight.

What floored me is a family that had two small children (I'm guessing 5 and 7 years of age) with bleached blond dreadlocks. If my parents put me and my brother in dreadlocks and bleached them blond, when we grew up we'd make Erik & Lyle Menendez look like the Hardy Boys.

Then there are the piercings. You'd be standing in line for something and the person in front of you looked as if she had been shot with adhesive BBs. This explains the relatively empty flights; these people have too much metal in them to make it through airport security in time to board the aircraft.


* There is a vague we're-the-center-of-the-universe aspect to these sorts of folks.

Posted by Joke at 10:02 AM 9 comments

I'm back.

We have returned in triumph to the Fringe o' Paradise from California.

Before I get into detail about the jollity and mirth that is Disneyland when I am at the helm of things -- think Bataan* with rollercoasters -- I have to issue a public "MWAH!" to my pal, Poppy. Who, even though she has been robbed by cruel fate of the Disney Theme Park gene, is a queen among women. If you don't have your own Poppy, I highly recommend you get one.

She gave me as a very early birthday gift the book United States of Arugula. This book was a) wildly fascinating to read, b) ridiculously entertaining and c) pushed all my foodie buttons AND d) lasted from the moment we took off and ended as we were landing. This woman is a genius. And her most recent manicure sported a nail polish that is the most flattering I have ever seen on her, and I have been observing her digits for almost a decade now.

On an interesting note, NOS brought his new camera and took I-dunno-how-many pictures of Poppette. This bodes well.

The flight back was interesting. Remind me to tell you about that.


* How tired are these people? My sons -- yes, MY SONS -- slept the whole flight through (+/-7hrs) and even slept through the airplane's landing. And they are still asleep. Why I'm not is a mystery.

Posted by Joke at 2:42 AM 8 comments

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Update, sort of

Have arrived at Disneyland, had dinner with Poppy & crew. Am exhausted (woke up at 5am, it's now 1:15am, have moderate jet lag) but happy. I also, I believe, forgot the wire thingy, so photos will have to wait.

Blogging may be light until the weekend.


Posted by Joke at 1:14 AM 4 comments

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Happy Eastah, people. If I get a chance there will be an Eastah brunch post, with recipes (Scrambled eggs, homemade sausage, pancakes*, homemade bread -- cross your fingers -- champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice) and photos of the Eastah serveware I bought THREE YEARS AGO and I'm just now getting to use.


* Sans ice cream or lemon juice and sugar...sorry, Australia.

Posted by Joke at 12:58 AM 6 comments

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Movie Meme

Stolen from the very lovely and terribly gracious Poppy.

The idea is to bold the ones you saw and italicize the ones you've seen partially. I generally agree with Poppy, only she's more stringent in some areas and shows greater laxity in others.

1. The Godfather (1972) I was whelmed by this film.
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) I agree with Poppy, it sounded depressing as Hell.
3. The Godfather: Part II (1974) I was underwhelmed.
4. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
5. Pulp Fiction (1994) It's one of those movies I simply cannot NOT watch.
6. Schindler’s List (1993) Poppy won't do Nazis. I don't do depressing.
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Meh.
8.The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
9. Casablanca (1942)
10. Seven Samurai (1954)
11. Star Wars (1977)
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

13. 12 Angry Men (1957) If I had to sit through it, there'd be 13
14. Rear Window (1954)
15. Goodfellas (1990)
I didn't like it, but I really admire Scorcese's colossal talent.
16. Cidade de Deus (2002)
17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

19. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
20. The Usual Suspects (1995) Another one I cannot NOT watch.
21. Psycho (1960) Meh. Fail to see what was so scary about a murderous crossdresser with an Oedipal thing going on.
22. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Jow I learned to stop worrying and hate Kubrick.
23. Fight Club (1999) Monumentally disinterested.
24. Citizen Kane (1941) I took film classes. This was mandatory. (Interesting camera angles, but underwhelming.)
25. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) No psychopaths, thanks.
26. North by Northwest (1959) Meh.
27. Memento (2000) Sounds like you're asking where your mint went
28. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
29. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Meh.
30. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Mandatory, really.
31. The Matrix (1999) Two things about which I couldn't possibly care less: Goth-ish/sci-fi bull$#!+ and Keanu "The Acting Cadaver" Reeves.
32. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Meh.
33. There Will Be Blood (2007) There won't be me.
34. Se7en (1995)
35. Apocalypse Now (1979) A history teacher made us see it to show us that war is bad. Sucked.
36. Taxi Driver (1976) Jodie Foster? I'm ambivalent about her.
37. American Beauty (1999)
38. Léon (1994)
39. Vertigo (1958) I generally like me some Hitchcock
40. Amelie (2001)
41. American History X (1998) I stopped caring after American History VIII
42. No Country for Old Men (2007) No movie for middle-aged me.
43. The Departed (2006) K'bye.
44. Paths of Glory (1957)
45. M (1931)
46. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Racist southerners are bad. I got it.
47. Chinatown (1974) Didn't actually suck.
48. The Third Man (1949)
49. Leben der Anderen, Das (2006) "there is sauerkraut in my lederhosen"
50. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) No Jim Carrey, and DEFINITELY no Jim Carrey when he is making an effort to act. It sounds more eternal than spotless.
51. A Clockwork Orange (1971) No point to Kubrick.
52. Alien (1979)
53. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
54. Laberinto del fauno, El (2006)
55. The Shining (1980) No Stephen King.
56. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) "...and an order of salmon skin rolls."
57. The Pianist (2002) This is a pun that refers to something of Harvey Keitel's
58. Double Indemnity (1944) I just keep flashing back to Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
59. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) A formative film experience
60. Forrest Gump (1994) It was OK.
61. Saving Private Ryan (1998) It was OK also. Brilliant surround sound, though.
62. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Brilliant. I'd watch Alec Guinness yawn.
63. L.A. Confidential (1997)
64. Boot, Das (1981) A Nazi film that gives you claustrophobia?
65. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
66. Reservoir Dogs (1992) "I don't #$%&ing tip."
67. Untergang, Der (2004) "This is the part of Sprockets where we dance."
68. Aliens (1986) Like Alien, only with more of them?
69. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
70. Raging Bull (1980)
71. Metropolis (1927)
But not the one with the Freddie Mercury soundtrack.
72. Rashômon (1950)
73. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
74. Modern Times (1936)

75. Hotel Rwanda (2004) "I'd like the non-genocidal savages room, please."
76. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Yeah.
77. Sin City (2005) Like a film noir 300. Do NOT get me started on "crushed" colors.
78. Rebecca (1940) Yeah.
79. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) NO KUBRICK.
80. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957) "Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti..."
81. All About Eve (1950)
82. Some Like It Hot (1959) Some like it not overrated.
83. City Lights (1931)
84. Amadeus (1984)
85. Vita è bella, La (1997)
86. On the Waterfront (1954)
87. The Great Escape (1963)
88. Touch of Evil (1958)
89. The Prestige (2006)
90. The Elephant Man (1980)
91. Jaws (1975)
92. Full Metal Jacket (1987) No #$%&ing KUBRICK!
93. The Sting (1973)
94. Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1988)
95. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
96. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
97. The Apartment (1960)
98. Braveheart (1995)
99. Blade Runner (1982)
100. The Great Dictator (1940)
101. Strangers on a Train (1951)
102. Batman Begins (2005)
103. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
104. Ladri di biciclette (1948) Bicycle Thieves
105. Salaire de la peur, Le (1953) Wages of Fear
106. High Noon (1952) This is one of those movies that, I think, simply cannot register as deeply with women as it does with men.
107. Ran (1985)
108. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
109. The Big Sleep (1946)
110. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
111. Notorious (1946)
112. Back to the Future (1985)
113. Fargo (1996) Meh. You betcha.
114. Oldboy (2003)
115. Unforgiven (1992) The title refers to my feelings for the producers who took my money
116. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
117. Donnie Darko (2001) This is exactly the sort of film I am adamant about missing.
118. Ratatouille (2007) At the time, I loved it, but in hindsight? Meh.
119. Mononoke-hime (1997) "...and some tempura shrimp."
120. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
121. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
122. Yojimbo (1961) Isn't that the so-called herbal aphrodisiac?
123. Per qualche dollaro in più (1965) "...and extra Parmesan, please"
124. The Green Mile (1999) I don't do green.
125. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
126. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
127. Notti di Cabiria, Le (1957)
128. Gladiator (2000)
129. Battaglia di Algeri, La (1966) The Battle of Algiers.
130. Annie Hall (1977)
131. Die Hard (1988)
132. Into the Wild (2007)
MAN did that suck.
133. Ben-Hur (1959)
134. The Deer Hunter (1978)
135. The Sixth Sense (1999)
136. It Happened One Night (1934)
137. The General (1927)
138. Platoon (1986)
139. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
140. Life of Brian (1979)
141. The Killing (1956)
142. Smultronstället (1957) Wild Strawberries
143. Amores perros (2000) Love's a B'tch
144. Finding Nemo (2003)
145. Diaboliques, Les (1955)
146. The Incredibles (2004)
147. V for Vendetta (2005)
148. The Wild Bunch (1969)
149. Heat (1995)
150. Children of Men (2006)
151. Brief Encounter (1945)
152. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
153. Juno (2007)
154. The Princess Bride (1987)
155. 8½ (1963)
156. The Graduate (1967)
157. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
158. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
159. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
160. The Big Lebowski (1998)
161. Crash (2004/I)
162. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
163. Stand by Me (1986)
164. Gandhi (1982)
165. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
166. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
167. Snatch. (2000)
168. Harvey (1950)
169. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
170. The African Queen (1951)
171. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
172. The Thing (1982)
173. Trainspotting (1996) No drug addicts.
174. Gone with the Wind (1939) Possibly THE most overrated film ever.
175. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
176. Wo hu cang long (2000) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
177. Belle et la bête, La (1946)
178. The Gold Rush (1925)
179. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
180. Groundhog Day (1993) Wow, 15 years ago already.
181. The Conversation (1974)
182. American Gangster (2007)
183. Scarface (1983)
184. Patton (1970) Rommel! You magnificent bastard! I READ YOUR BOOK!!
185. Duck Soup (1933)
186. Toy Story (1995)
187. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
188. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
189. Twelve Monkeys (1995) Meh.
190. The Terminator (1984)
191. Cabinet des Dr. Caligari., Das (1920)
192. Sleuth (1972)
193. The Hustler (1961)
194. Umberto D. (1952)
195. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
196. Stalker (1979)
197. Glory (1989)
198. Ed Wood (1994)
Johnny Depp sounds like Jon Lovitz for 2 hours. I'll never get those hours back.
199. King Kong (1933)
200. Grindhouse (2007)
201. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
202. The Exorcist (1973)
203. The Lion King (1994)
204. Hotaru no haka (1988) "It means no worries..." No wait...that was the other film.
205. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
206. Spartacus (1960)
207. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
208. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
209. The Lost Weekend (1945) Again with the Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
210. Stalag 17 (1953)
211. Magnolia (1999)
212. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
213. Lola rennt (1998) Run Lola Run
214. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
215. The Philadelphia Story (1940) BRILLIANT.
216. Frankenstein (1931)
217. Out of the Past (1947)
218. Big Fish (2003)
219. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
220. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
221. Casino (1995)
222. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
223. Toy Story 2 (1999)
224. Mystic River (2003)
225. Du rififi chez les hommes (1955)
226. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
227. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
228. Hot Fuzz (2007)
229. A Christmas Story (1983)
230. Ikiru (1952)
231. Mou gaan dou (2002) "and some pork fried rice..."
232. Manhattan (1979)
233. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
234. Young Frankenstein (1974)
235. Dial M for Murder (1954)
236. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
237. Rope (1948)
238. Once (2006)
239. Roman Holiday (1953)
240. Quatre cents coups, Les (1959) The 400 Blows
241. The Searchers (1956)
242. In Cold Blood (1967)
243. Ying xiong (2002)
244. His Girl Friday (1940) BRILLIANT!
245. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
246. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) The last one that made sense, worth watching even though it's Johnny Depp imitating Keith Richards for 2 hours.
247. Samouraï, Le (1967)
248. Strada, La (1954)
249. Harold and Maude (1971)
250. Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) Aguire, The Wrath of God

Posted by Joke at 12:43 AM 9 comments

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Lost Poem

As you may know, I've just started reading Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled, since SF is worthy of reading even if he is just writing about the seventeen types of mud.

Anyway, since the Easter Triduum* is upon us, and since I'm feeling a bit confessional as a consequence, I'll tell you a slightly personal story. When I was a very young man, younger than I'll ever be again, I used to write poetry.

I had no intention of being a poet, because poets don't drive the sorts of cars I prefer, nor do they go swanking about in bespoke gentlemen's apparel, nor do they tend to vote like right-wing maniacs. To compound things, I was pretty ruthless in the matter of meter and rhyme, both of which were in short suppy in those putatively enlightened days.

I may have had an inner poet, but my inner capitalist had him well in check.

That said, there was a certain element of the population of young ladies who appreciated it when I went from Bard to verse, and it would have been monumentally impolite -- to say nothing of inimical to my plans -- to deprive them. Most of the stuff I cranked out for semipublic consumption was, er, done with a level of...uh...calculation.

But, I actually kind of liked writing poetry. Relax, I have no samples to inflict upon you, even if I wanted to; this is the story of how I stopped writing poetry. Whenever the purpose of a poem was to not aid me in inflicting my society upon someone, these were actually pretty good, as what we enjoy doing -- and have some technical skill therein -- tends to be.

At school, in my last year, there was a poetry contest (there were also contests for short stories and essays, etc.) which I entered. I had been scribbling verse for some time and I had become pretty proficient by that point. So, I did something very unusual for me (both then and now) in that I actually expended effort. Rather than letting whatever natural talent I had carry me to wherever it would, I sat down to write, rewrite, toss, eject, prune, polish, scrap, restart. By the end of the week I was very pleased with myself. More than usual, which is no small trick considering my ego has two NASA satellites orbiting it as we speak.

The typewritten poems -- those being the days of ribbons and carriage returns -- were posted up on some large-ish cork board for all to see, the authors' names in the back, so as not to prejudice anyone. Several of my teachers (current and from previous years) came up to me and told me "That third one from the right is yours, I can tell. It's good." I, as honestly as I could, didn't see how any of the others stood the remotest chance; utter drivel they all were. I was confident because a) mine was very good, and b) the others were complete [dung].

At this point, you can see where this is going.

The day to award the prizes arrived and when time came to announce winners mine came in nowhere. If it had been a car race, mine would have the car that burst into a cloud of flaming splinters at the starting line.

I had expected laurels and parades and accolades from all fronts and got bupkis, zip, zilch, nada, nil. To make matters worse, my teacher (then the Chair of the Dept.) asked me to come and read mine on stage. I suspect that, this being the late 1970s, someone had slipped a recreational pharmaceutical into his coffee, because he seemed to be under the delusion this was an excellent consolation prize. It wasn't. Partly, I was in shock. One of those once-in-a-lifetime** shocks that comes from a complete reversal of expectations. Partly I felt humiliated*** and partly I was incandescent with anger.

But one has a fair idea of what Jesuit justice is when meted out for insubordination and, thus, I acceded to the "they hated the poem, so come and read it out loud" request. I got up and gave my first and last poetry reading. That it went over more spectacularly well (a happy combination of the brilliance of the writing and the state of mind of the reader at that precise moment) than anything I have ever performed -- while the three prizewinners got nothing but crickets chirping -- was of no avail. It was no use. I tore up the paper into pieces as tiny as my patience allowed and conscience demanded and tossed them as angrily into the wastebasket as one can throw what amounts to a small handful of very irregularly-shaped confetti.

I regret to admit that I treated the winner with such contempt that I actually felt compelled to apologize to him for acting like a complete, raving [jerk] to him.

And that, people, was my fling with poetry.


* Whatever Poppy's crowd is doing, we're doing, except that she is singing at every bloody event and we're not, and she's High Church Anglican and we're Roamin' Catholics; which is pretty close, actually. But it'll give you an idea what we're up to. Oh, and she's in a Cathedral and we're here, albeit without the Hollywood stars groping each other.

** I've since had worse shocks, but as yet none bigger; and I pray every night I never do.

*** This was the first time of two in my life I have been humiliated. My attitude at the moment was "So this is humiliation."

Posted by Joke at 8:31 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The ultimate inappropriate crush.

I'm in love with a woman who drives, not a badass minivan, but a minivan like a badass.



Posted by Joke at 6:06 PM 4 comments

This is just too cool.

Even if it IS a Mac.



Posted by Joke at 12:16 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I've nothing to say, and I intend to say it.

Today is one of those everyday days. Get up, prepare breakfast for those one has married or offsprung, shout threats to laggards, perform acts of transport to school, return home, survey the breakfast wreckage and tidy up the place just enough to keep one's beloved from hurling abuse and invective.

This is, more or less, what my SAHD day is like.

There are tinkerings around the margins which lend some lively freshness, though. An unexpected phone call from the extremely lovely and wildly gracious Poppy, f'rinstance. (Yes! one week until we meet up in Disneyland!) Or an arrival from an online bookseller. (Just received The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry, and it looks delightful.) Or one's magazine subscriptions.

Against the sort of muted pastels of teh everyday, these little delights stand out in some relief. It makes me want to cook something new for dinner, or sit down and plan what we'll do for Eastah. Brunch of some kind, I think.

As an aside, it is the hallmark of a civilized society to revere brunch: Breakfast in the afternoon with alcoholic beverages. In fact, I make it a point to celebrate as many events with a brunch as can be imagined. Our wedding reception was not, on TFBIM's express insistence, a brunch and she has bitterly regretted this lapse.

Anyway, today is one of those days of benevolent ordinariness, leavened cheerfully by the ministerings of the mailman and a tonic conversation with La Buxom. In a little, gentle way, it reminds you that life, regular everyday life, can actually be very, very good.

Told you I had nothing.


Posted by Joke at 1:06 PM 9 comments

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day (traditional)

Yes, yes, I know this year it was shoved back to March 16th* and all that. Still. His story is worth knowing, and it's considerably less bloody than St. Valentine's.

Here ya go, in an unbloody cartoon form:


* A saint's feast day can't barge in on Holy Week.

Posted by Joke at 5:19 PM 0 comments

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oh, THIS is going to end well.

As something of an aficionado of civilized gentlemen's apparel it oughtn't surprise anyone that I tend to cast my eye, generally speaking, at the more traditional purveyors thereof.

There isn't a more traditional such purveyor than the venerable Brooks Brothers. They have been around for 190 years and have been the "inventors" of such things as a buttondown shirt collars and the like.

Now, much like a woman of a certain age doing the "mutton-dressed-as-lamb" Brooks Brothers has decided that, after 190 years, they must appeal to the Modern Brights.

They have launched their "Black Fleece" collection. A sample is attached for your delectation. By the by, the suit jacket (an off-the-peg affair) retails for $2100. To which you must add the matching coat, trousers, vest/waistcoat at similarly eyewatering prices.

So, you could conceivably spend $4K+, to look like you want people to throw rocks at you as whenever you go by.


P.S. Can you imagine the corporate meeting where this was approved? I'm amazed the designer stood up and said to the CEO "Sir, I've designed a whole new look. It involves taking our traditional items and giving LSD to all the tailors as they sew." Why the boss didn't immediately scream "Browne, you imbecile...this isn't a new look, this is lunacy!" is beyond me.

Posted by Joke at 5:57 AM 17 comments

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I realize not everyone may have an idea of what the deal is with flan. The French tried (and failed) to appropriate it and rename it "creme renversee."

It's basically a baked custard, firmer than a creme brulee (lacking the latter's caramel exoskeleton, it'd have to be) and with a less eggy/more milky flavor profile.

This was originally a Spanish dessert, but as it spread throughout the Empire, local variations evolved. I know Mexico has its variation, as does Argentina and they are all as similar as first cousins. The version from Cuber relies on "convenience products" borne of a then-close association with the USA and the necessities of a tropical climate where dairy and eggs spoiled quickly (that's why you'll never see a recipe that has an imbalance of yolks and white...too much waste). For example, in Spain, they'd never use anything other than fresh whole milk, etc.

I'll post this mo' thoroughly with pictures, but here's the dead-easy recipe.

Flan (in the style of Cuber)

¼ c. sugar
1 can of condensed milk (lowfat or fat free is fine)
1¼ c. of milk (anything that is NOT SKIM milk will also work: whole milk, evaporated milk in any variation, lowfat...just not skim)
4 large eggs (or 2 eggs and 3 whites)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Take a soufflé dish, scatter the sugar evenly over the bottom and place in the oven at 325F (___C) until the sugar has caramelized to the color of pale honey, toss in the freezer to set caramel. If your dish isn't tempered to handle the temperature shock -- or if you don't want to discover it isn't the hard way -- you may use a saucepan to melt/caramelize the sugar and then pour the caramel in the dish, rolling it around to coat the bottom evenly. Set aside.

Empty the condensed milk into a mixing bowl, scraping the inside as clean as possible. Add the milk to the empty can, to rinse off what you can, and then add to the bowl. Add your eggs, and mix not incorporate air into this. Stir in vanilla.

Pour custard mix into soufflé dish. Place dish in a roasting pan and fill with water. Turn oven to 300F and bake for about 60-70 minutes, until the center is wobbly. Remove and refrigerate until chilled (figure 3 hours). Run a damp boning knife along the edge and invert to unmold.

Using evaporated milk over fresh will give a bit more depth of flavor, fresh milk will make it taste lighter. Same applies to the ratio of yolks to whites. Using extra whites will make the flan firmer, but less eggy. I like using skim evaporated milk and whole eggs. You do whatever. You may also make this in individual ramekins which makes for a more posh presentation, but is a greater PITA in unmolding. Oh, and baking time drops to +/- 45-50 minutes.

The most important thing in making flan is keeping an eye on the time/heat in baking. You can tell you did it right if there are no bubbles or "eyes" in the body of the custard. If you get these, the texture will suffer some (its mouthfeel will be a touch gritty; the more bubbles, the grittier) but it will taste fine. Just adjust the time/temperature accordingly. When in doubt, it's better to bake these sorts of things low and slow.

This ain't a race, people.


Posted by Joke at 8:13 AM 11 comments

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I think that's how he got IN this mess

"Pressure Mounts on Spitzer"

(I swear, I am not making that headline up.)


Posted by Joke at 8:49 PM 1 comments

The closest thing to a "Get Out of Jail Free" card...

This is what TFBIM requires to ameliorate her mood. It is the equivalent to the 371,000 human sacrifices the Aztecs Native Mexicans use to perform yearly to pacify the god Qztlezteteletzquatlhuatl. Except that in my case, this actually works somewhat.

The Menu:

Baby spinach salad with bacon & blue cheese crumbles
Steak (Flatirons; she likes it medium and while this is abominably obvercooked, I STFU on the issue for once) Frites
Paul Jaboulet "Parallele 45" Rhone

The important bit -- besides the wife-amelioration -- is that I am 96% of the way towards perfecting the oven frites thing. About 10% of them didn't turn out perfect, so I pursue this further.

This is what I know so far:

1- You have to use Russet/Idaho/mealy potatoes; they have to be cut into frites just under 1/2" x 1/2" (an even 1cm x 1cm)
2- You have to soak them in cold water, changing the water 2-3x until it runs clear
3- Parcook them in the microwave (in the bowl with the last soaking water) until they are bendable BUT NO MORE. This can be done far ahead.
4- The frites must be dried thoroughly.
5- Once they are cool and dry, toss them in oil (I use peanut)
6- Preheat the oven with the roasting pan and oil. I used a round, slopy roasting pan...looks like a large handle-less sautee pan, makes for MUCH better/even tossing without having to resort to implements. Figure 350F [I'll insert the Centigrade here].

The next batch should be the definitive version.


P.S. The flan is the one that clinched the rapprochement.

Posted by Joke at 5:19 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dunno about the universe...

...but I think I've pissed off two galaxies and a constellation.

This morning, exactly at the midpoint of the school car ran out of gas. My choices were call the tow truck people (wait 1-2 hours for arrival), all of us walk 1 mile home get another car and start over, all of us walk 1 mile to school in extremely heavy rush-hour traffic over non-pedestrian friendly thoroughfares.

Sophie's was easier.

It is my policy -- as an adherent of the "A happy wife is a happy life" philosophy -- to not burden my beloved with these trivial facts as, during these troubled and stressful times, she tends to Not Handle It Well. The problem with this comes when she manages to find out. And then, when confronted, I have to tell her the reason I withheld these details is because she doesn't handle them well.

Which she didn't handle well.

So that was that.


Posted by Joke at 1:02 PM 17 comments

Monday, March 10, 2008

Taggery du jour

The lovely and gracious Frogdancer has tagged me with the latest meme.

It goes something like this:

5 Random/weird facts about me.

1. I do not own, nor will I wear, nor will I purchase for my sons, any garment with artificial fibers "exclusive of trim." I cannot overstate my views on this.

2. I'm still occasionally surprised by the fact I'm married.

3. I've been involved in one -- extremely microscopic, but still -- for-real miracle. (Don't ask, that's a whole other blog'll have to stay tuned.)

4. I do not handle being wrong particularly well. Fortunately, this happens quite infrequently, as it's not a pretty sight.

5. Whatever car I'm driving is automatically rendered invisible.

5 places I want to see or see again.

1. Australia. Not just because this blog has become, inadvertently, the vortex for the Australian Knitter's Guild, but because at the age of 40something my fascination is considerably than when I was a but a callow youth with decidedly less illustrious pursuits in mind.

2. The U.K. In general, I like seeing the ways in which the Anglosphere shows overarching similarities and clear differences. Also, London is THE major city for gentlemen to shop for themselves.

3. Italy. You couldn't possibly make a living marketing antidepressants to a population who reflexively shrugs and opens up another bottle of wine. It also happens to be beautiful and riddled with great food.

4. Boston. I couldn't possibly live there without my head exploding, but I love visiting it.

5. Napa Valley. Great food, great wine. These go very far in compensating for the fact you're surrounded by Californians.

There you have it.


Posted by Joke at 10:40 AM 8 comments

Once more, into the breach

My latest vinous ramblings are up at Vinapedia. Kindly issue due clickage, as good numbers keeps me supplied with excellent wines for free.


Posted by Joke at 9:03 AM 3 comments

Sunday, March 09, 2008

...and to top it off...

It's #$%&ing Daylight Savings again.

Dear Lord in Heaven do I ever HATE* Daylight Savings.

And now it turns out it kills people.


* Hell, I'd vote for a Socialist if s/he'd ban the damned thing.

Posted by Joke at 1:33 PM 10 comments

Saturday, March 08, 2008

You can't beat inevitability.

1- A reading: And thus it came to pass than in those days, Joke caught the bug which had sore afflicted his household. And Joke waxed hot, and medicines were of no avail. Joke's wife and sons showed the bare minimum concern required by law, but no more.

2- NOS actually managed to sit down, do his homework* and study and -- tada! -- he has been placed in the honor roll. With a ribbon and everything. Not bad for a kid who had to be, er, disciplined for his academic lassitude. Now all we have to do is figure out which universities have supermodels as professors.

3- Coughing jags are the ideal abdominal exercise.

As you were,


* The teacher who supervises the after-school study hour is none other than the core-of-the-sun-hot supermodel who teaches Spanish.

Posted by Joke at 6:59 AM 5 comments

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Caffeinated foodieness

[This has been in my draft pile since forever. I'm still not very happy with it, but I have decided to depopulate said list, so here it is, warts and all.]

As has been mentioned extensively in my published works, the state of the modern foodie is pretty dire in many respects. Sure, all kinds of interesting new foods are becoming more commonly available and the foods generally available are of a far higher quality than ever before (even the regular supermarket stuff!).

So that's good.

But it's really more of a moving against the tide thing. You see, the modern foodie has (at least in the USA, the rest of the Anglosphere is on its own) most food media not on its side. We've discussed the impending and inexorable demise (in spirit at least) of Food Network. I contend they were doomed from the outset by refusing to call themselves The Food Network. So, besides having TV shows where the greatest asset of the hosting personality is having that sort of dull-normal appeal so beloved by people who have nothing greater in life than being in a focus group.

The example most recently stuck between my eyes is Cook's Country. This publication is not so much a sister of Cook's Illustrated as it is it's equivalent to the Anti-Christ. The minute stuff from jars, tins, bottles, cans, etc. start showing up it's bad enough, but when you see recipes for the most mundane stuff from 1950's "women's magazines" leavened with stuff like Jell-O? That's dreck.

Cook's Illustrated is, still, holding the fort. Saveur has taken a recent downward tilt in output, but it's quite serviceable and the same holds for The Rosengarten Report.

Not content to let matters rest, I have decided to move in the opposite direction, strking sharp blows in favor of civilization. So, I have recently decided to become an even more insufferable coffee drinker. So far, my inusfferability has taken the form of having a fancy-arse espresso machine. But that's not enough. I want to be as coffee-conversant as I am wine-conversant. What does this mean?

It means that I will now start moving from my Starbuck's blends (I started with house blend, and am now at the Espresso Roast/Verona stage and I like to load my grinder 50-50 with these) to trying out...wait for it...varietals. Then, after that, I'm going to start looking for frou-frou (preferably cheap ones) purveyors of coffee.

Hell, I'm already traveling across the state to get beef.


Posted by Joke at 7:30 AM 7 comments

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In lighter news

The school called to pick up NOS who had been apparently bitten by some insect to which he seems to be allergic, turning him an indelicate shade of garnet as well as making his skin resemble a relief map of some mountainous land.

It's also raining BUCKETS here.


Posted by Joke at 12:33 PM 8 comments

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm guessing it hit traffic.

[Warning: The item on the other side of the link made MsCellania cry and at her behest I have included this warning.Yes, it IS awful and horrible beyond description. Ya done been warned.]

What could POSSIBLY be holding up Judgment Day?

The world is going to Hell, probably literally.


Posted by Joke at 1:41 PM 8 comments

Monday, March 03, 2008

Yeah, hi.

So then things got hectic.

NOS had a worrisome-but-not-scary bout with his asthma and I had to take him to the doctor and the doctor prescribed aerosol treatments and I had to schlep all of THAT stuff home (NOS looked pretty funny in that mask thingy...he put on his sunglasses and pretended to be a fighter pilot.

The good news on NOS is that the doctor found that his weight was increasing as hoped. (We'd taken him in because he's not growing as quickly as he ought, and found out that in his case it was due to not ingesting anything voluntarily in the last couple of years. Since then he has been having four biggish meals AND protein shakes and has put on six lean pounds in a month. The doctor expected him to put on one and a half; that's how much undereating was going on.)

NTS got the nasty cold that TFBIM -- more on her in a second -- and NOS had but in his case the usual "may cause drowsiness/do not operate heavy machinery" medications made him atomically hyper, so much that he was only getting 4 hours of sleep per night and bouncing off the ceiling (while yodeling at the top of his voice) the rest of the time. And demanding eggs. (Don't ask.)

This all led to the weekend, which, as failed weekends do, involved too many social committments and not nearly enough time for me to sit inside my own head. It is inside my own head, dear Internet, where these little missives of mine are composed and if I am kept without, this blog suffers greatly.

It was, besides Overloaded with Social Committment Weekend, also Tragic Friend Weekend and I had to cope with several who have to deal with either being dumped by the person (it was believed by all, except Your Resident Cynic) would eventually prove to be the spouse or being downsized from a DREAM job and now cannot find another one that allows for similar levels of overpaid/underworked fun, or both; yet another has been obsessing about the side effects of Levaqin (some of which are present, but not all are).

(Incidentally, if your Doctor prescribes Levaqin (or anything similar) be VERRRRRRRRRRRRRRY careful. The side effects are pretty awful and more common than many believe. Put it this way: I wouldn't take it unless the alternative was death, and even then I'd mull it over.)

TFBIM's cold medicine, in combination, gave her nightmares. TFBIM's nightmares are the sort where you think a possessed Rottweiler with muscle spasms has been strapped to your side. You are treated to a full-on performance piece. I have the bruises to prove it, too. Normally these involve the sorts of scenarios that would have pleased medieaval dungeon-keepers and TFBIM likes to give full-throated voice to her characters, so it's also a surround-sound thing as well.

So that's what's kept me off the blogosphere.

Imagine if I took up knitting.


Posted by Joke at 7:47 AM 12 comments