Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fire, yes. Brimstone, not so much.

This weekend will see us taking nourishment outdoors under the cooling shade of the canopy-ish awning-like thingy of the gazebo-type structure on our terrace. At least until the fabric, which has withstood days of relentless sun followed by Noah-levels of rain, followed by more relentless sun, etc. finally gives up and completely falls apart at the seams. Which, technically, means it's the seams' fault and not the fabric's. But I digress.

The more you start using a certain part of your house the more you notice that area's flaws and the more urgent the need (in your own head, at least) to Do Something. If you use the, say, Billiard Room once a month you'll look at your beloved and mumble something about fixing X, replacing Y and repainting Z, but it really won't go past that. Use that same room every other day and by the end of the second week you will be collecting estimates and aswim in catalogues and brochures.

Our back yard will be subject to the latter, I fear. Decades of untended rain and sun and hurricanes and large tree growth have left the grass impressively uneven and the swing set seems rather forlorn with a 9 and (almost) 11 year old in the household. So, TFBIM has begun to muse aloud on the matter of fixing it up just after the kitchen is finished. (More on the progress of that anon.)

It is there I hope to strike surreptitiously. On that very subject I agreed and wafted, under the radar, the notion I really ought have a "small area" for all my live-fire cookery. She nodded, either in assent or absentmindedly, and that's all I need. I have begun to gather all the elements needed to bring my dreams of a brick oven to fruition.

Now, the kitchen is in the last preliminary phases, what Churchill would've called "the end of the beginning" meaning that squirreled away with my measurements and requirements and other whims and idiosyncratic lunacies is some artisan (at least in my vision of this) cabinetmaker, merrily creating what my mind had envisioned and attempted to convey. The major appliances have all been selected and are now being shopped around for the best deal.

I also need a couple of large-ish pot racks, as I was able to score some excellent steals from Al-Clad's now-discontinued* Emeril LaGasse's "Emerilware" line (basically All-Clad's "Copper-Core" line with slightly different handles that have the iconic Emeril signature engraved thereunto) and even with the new, expanded cabinet space, I'd rather maximize my storage.

So that's what I have for you today, update-wise.

-J.



* With Emeril's signature show no longer being renewed on the rapidly devolving Food Network, there is no longer any promotional tie-in, therefore it makes no business sense to continue this line.

Posted by Joke at 1:42 PM 6 comments

The end is seriously nigh

Ugh.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:03 AM 5 comments

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Film Flashback (5/30/08)



-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:48 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The end of Western Civilization is nigh.

As you may recall, NTS made his First Communion earlier this month. This is not why Western Civilization seems gravely wounded.

Being the sort of civilized people we are, we had a reception afterwards. This means that we sent invitations. And when you're dealing with someone (in this case the catering dept.) who has to figure out how many eggs, flour, butter and similar need be purchased for your post-Sacramental brunchfest, you need people to do the R.s.v.p. fandango.

Of course, you won't be surprised that with days to go, TFBIM was calling around to get an accurate head count to give the catering dept. A whopping two people had bothered to announce their attendance. At this rate, Western Civilization is wheezing and feeling woozy.

But it gets better.

We get back home -- I'll issue the details of the reception and the litigation-borne last-minute change in venue -- and NTS starts opening gifts. We jot down who gave him what and after waiting for the inevitable sorry-we-couldn't make-it gifts that arrived late, we schlepped to Crane's and ordered some thank-you notes in the same "pattern" as the invitations.

Here's the part at which I stand against the zeitgeist and point out to all concerned: "THAT. That's what the Hell I'm talking about." The sales assistant told me that I was the first person to come back to get thank-you notes out of +/- 50 families that had First Communions and got their invitations there.

Now, I realize that I live in a rarefied strata of society where saying, y'know, "thank you" is among the luxuries in which we indulge after oppressing the proletariat or imposing the antediluvian whims of the patriarchal hegemony. But only one out of 50? And here I thought we were slackers for waiting over a week to buy them.

Appalling.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:15 PM 5 comments

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

At last.

It's finally the best time of the year: After Memorial Day. This is key for us sartorial savants because all sorts of summery garb, normally proscribed throughout the year, becomes the norm (at least for me) and that especially means that I get to wear my linen dinnah jacket to the relatively few black tie events on my radar.

But it also means the start of grilling* season. This means a lot of things are now available that wouldn't normally be for the remainder of the year: Real lump hardwood charcoal, assorted interesting cuts of beef & lamb, summer vegetables. That sort of thing.

Which leads me to try new things. Grilled "lego lamb" (as NOS used to call it), chickens under a brick, grilled pizza -- that one scares me a bit -- and assorted flatbreads, sirloin "tri-tip" steak...to say nothing of new seasonings, such a Moroccan, Greek, Brazilian...yum.

This summer we're making a special effort to spruce up our outdoor dining area. The canopy ovah the gazebo-like thing we put in for JokeFest I is starting to fray a little and needs mending, the table is both puny and in awful shape...and naturally, a bigger table needs new chairs. And yes, I have both a fancy gas "porn grill" and a charcoal grill. I even have a fancy new charcoal smoker, for cooking low-and-slow for well over 16 unattended hours.

That's all I have for you today. More as the week unfolds.

-J.

* A grill is what most of the rest of the Anglosphere would call a barbecue

Posted by Joke at 6:35 AM 12 comments

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Film Flashback (5/23/08)







-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:48 AM 0 comments

Monday, May 19, 2008

Speaking for myself. UPDATED! (Slightly.)

By now you'll have seen this pseudo-meme (based on an Esquire article) at bb's and at Poppy's. They, being the bloggy half of their marriage, answered for their husbands. But I? I'll speak for myself, thankyouverymuch.

Here goes:

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence.
And get a free analogy with purchase.

2. Tell if someone is lying.
Oh, HELL yeah. I just assume everyone is lying. It's telling if someone is being truthful that I'm not so good at.

3. Take a photo.
Yeah. That way I don't have to pose.

4. Score a baseball game.
Not really.

5. Name a book that matters.
Hell yeah. I had a serious discussion over drinks regarding one of these (von Clausewitz's, IIRC) with Mr. Buxom and between the conversation and the drinks, we wound up meeting Poppy and her crew (quite) late for dinner.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible.
Yeah. But that's actually sad.

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.
Oh, please.

8. Not monopolize the conversation.
It's more a function of abhorrence of a vacuum. That's why I hang out with Poppy. She takes the burden off my shoulders.

9. Write a letter.
Duh.

10. Buy a suit.
Oh, PLEASE. You should hear me speaking tailorese.

11. Swim three different strokes.
Four if you count the frog-kick. Not WELL, mind you, and my butterfly is a sad and pitiful thing.

12. Show respect without being a suck-up.
I can show respect beautifully. Not honestly, mind you, but beautifully.

13. Throw a punch.
Yes. But I was 15 the last time this knowledge was used.

14. Chop down a tree.
Up to a point. Beyond that, I become a checkbook lumberjack.

15. Calculate square footage.
Yeah. What's the big deal?

16. Tie a bow tie.
I'm a sort of surrogate mother for bow tie wearers.

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well.
Several, but due to the civilizing influence of Mme. Buxom, I know to stick to Planter's Punch.

18. Speak a foreign language.
Mm-hmm. (Universal)

19. Approach a woman out of his league.
I married one.

20. Sew a button.
My grandfather was a tailor, so this sort of thing runs deep.

21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer.
This is a trick question, you can't argue with an European. As someone who does business with a decent cross-section of them, I can safely say an argumentative European is about as insufferable an example of humanity as can be managed with the standard number of chromosomes.

22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn't have to ask after it.
a) See #19.
b) Remember my wife, who has recourse to firearms, has yet to shoot me.
(This reminds me of the joke, the punchline to which is: "How do you think I rang the doorbell?")

23. Be loyal.
Pathologically.

24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope.
Uh huh.

25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it.
If I knew what an eighpenny nail was, sure.

26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat.
Shrieking? Please.

27. Play gin with an old guy.
Gin? I'd play poker with an old guy and take some of his pension, but not gin.

29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped.
Well enough, yes. Not that a quarter (or, indeed, any currency) will pass straight through the table whenever I drop it.

30. Feign interest.
Those who can't are invariably repackaged as "ex-husbands" pretty quickly. I feign a beautiful interest.

31. Make a bed.
Yeah, but not voluntarily.

32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick.
Sometimes the damned thing IS oaky, you cretin...and all wines have some kind of finish. What a maroon. (It was at this point I realized the list and its author was a twerp of the first water.)

33. Hit a jump shot in pool.
I can make the cue ball jump...now, whether it does what I meant it to do is another matter entirely.

34. Dress a wound.
I think so.

35. Jump-start a car. Change a flat tire. Change the oil.
a) Ha! I drive stick shift, I don't have to jump start my car.
b) Yes.
c) If I had to, but why would I, when I can pay someone to do it less than the equivalent amount of my time is worth?

36. Make three different bets at a craps table.
Nope. Dunno, don't care and I have better places to abandon my money than a casino.

37. Shuffle a deck of cards.
Yeah.

38. Tell a joke.
Yeah, but jokes are the lowest form of humor.

39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack.
See #36.

40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear.
Yes, because I think like an eight-year-old.

41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear.
Yeah, but I hate to get to that point.

42. Talk to a dog so it will hear.
"Bark at me, or smell me in an untoward manner and you will bitterly remember the day you got 'fixed'."

43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help.
Done all three. Now I am secure enough in my masculinity to pay someone to do it for me, because doing those sorts of things suck.

44. Ask for help.
Why?

45. Break another man's grip on his wrist.
Whoa. I'm not into that kinda stuff.

46. Tell a woman's dress size.
I know two: My wife's and "You don't look deformed."

47. Recite one poem from memory.
Yeah. When the objects of your affections are the girls populating the English Dept. this sort of thing comes in very, very handy. (These days all that's left intact are "The Walrus & The Carpenter" and "The Vogon's Poem")

48. Remove a stain.
Sadly, yes. Lessons learned the hard way.

49. Say no.
Rarely, but it happens. (Less rare if it's my kids we're talking about.)

50. Fry an egg sunny-side up.
Big deal. It's "over-easy" that's the challenge.

51. Build a campfire.
That would entail camping, which is the eternal torment you must endure in Hell. I can do something similar in a fireplace, which -- whew! -- entails not camping.

52. Step into a job no one wants to do.
Yes, usually out of an odd mix of anger and frustration. But always aware that nobody wants to do it for a reason.

53. Sometimes, kick some ass.
Yes, but I desperately, desperately hate it. Afterwards I am useless until I recuperate; takes it out of me, I tell you.

54. Break up a fight.
Sure, you call the cops.

55. Point to the north at any time.
Why?

56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person.
Why? (This sort of skill fairly screams "sad and desperate.")

57. Explain what a light-year is.
Yeah.

58. Avoid boredom.
Not at all, sadly. I am so frequently bored that being entertained sometimes startles me.

59. Write a thank-you note.
Yes. Punctually, as well.

60. Be brand loyal to at least one product.
Do cars count?

61. Cook bacon.
Every Sunday.

62. Hold a baby.
Two, so far.

63. Deliver a eulogy.
Do I have to show respect?

64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch.
He wasn't. Only revisionist enuretics think so. (Now, Pizarro, Cortés, et al....)

65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably.
Maybe, yes, no.

68. Find his way out of the woods if lost.
HAHAHAHAHAHA. Why the Hell would I be in the woods in the first place?

69. Tie a knot.
From my sailing days, yes.

70. Shake hands.
Uh huh.

71. Iron a shirt.
Sure, but there's more to it than meets the eye.

72. Stock an emergency bag for the car.
Yes, and the idiot in the article got it WRONG. You need:

Fan belt
Brake pads and caliper & cylinder seals
Ignition coil
Wheel bearings & seals
Gaskets
Coolant hoses & coolant
Oil & filter
Spark plugs & wires
Speedometer cable
Turn signal lightbulbs
Fire Extinguisher
Warning triangles and flares
Flashlight
1st aid kit
Toolbox

Fortunately my cars have all come with a smallish leather case containing all of these.

73. Caress a woman's neck.
Which woman?

74. Know some birds.
Yes. (Birds? WHY?)

75. Negotiate a better price.
Yes, but sweet God in His Heaven do I hate it.

There. Now you know.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:36 PM 8 comments

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How it all started to begin*

Those who are inflicted with my society on a daily basis will attest to my undying love, affection and addiction to eBay.

There are only two good reasons to buy stuff on eBay (as opposed to other, more traditional, means):

1- To get an astounding bargain, and
2- To get stuff you simply cannot get anywhere else at any price

While I often manage the former (Robert Talbott neckties for $6!**) it's really the latter scenario which keeps coming back. The emblematic example was finding the left side windshield wiper arm nut cover (say THAT three times fast) for a 1984 Alfa Romeo Maratona for $56. This is the sort of automotive bauble that those of us in-the-hobby snidely say is "made from unobtainium."

15 years ago, I would have had to schlep from garage sale, to autojumble, to estate sale, scour the classified ads in the back of magazines, make eleventy gazillion phone calls, rummage through out of date catalogs -- all in the course of 9-10 months -- to do what one month of eBay diligence accomplishes with relative ease. Not all of these (few, in fact) turn out to be "steals." The seller of windshield wiper arm nut covers for 1984 Alfa Romeo Maratonas knows what he has and knows the demand will be high and the price starts in the loftier realms and those of us whose 1984 Alfa Romeo Maratona simply can no longer be seen in public with an exposed windshield wiper arm nut must dance attendance. And we are to like it.

In fact, the only thing I have yet to score is a matched Schedoni luggage set for one of my sillier cars. Early on in my eBay career -- before I had the car to which this glory of the Italian cow belongs -- I saw that exact set and it sold for +/-$6K. She may have descended from people with a touch of lunacy, but TFBIM would not likely be pleased to discover that expenditure.

Especially when my first silly car cost 2/3 of that.

What got me started on eBay, though, was not the gentlemanly and currently-fashionable pursuit of vintage Italian automobiles. Not even the lure of Alan Flusser virgin cashmere crewnecks or Chopard chronographs.

It was a lunchbox.

Sharply contradistinctive from my to-the-manor-born tastes, runs a serious fondness for midcentury American pop culture. It's just the way it is. Now, I had always had such likes and predilections, even as a wee lad. The problem was that my parents were (oddly for such Serious Catholics) on a particularly Calvinist streak of self-denial and, they extended me the courtesy of denying me things because they wanted me to grow up un-warped. The story of the box of 64 crayons is legen in my family and the subj. of an upcoming post heah. At the time, I just thought we were poor. Not, y'know, destitute, but rather "____ must be terribly costly and things must be tough at work." Which, as it turned out, they weren't. Just I didn't know that.

At any rate, when I was a kid my lunchbox was the sort of affair you generally associate with film scenes featuring construction workers. A black steel lunchbox, with a plain steel Thermos. Other kids had lunchboxes featuring Batman, Superman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Gunsmoke, Speed Racer, GI Joe, etc. The one I had always wanted, though was the Walt Disney "school bus" lunchbox. At the time is was very, very popular (as was its brother lunchbox, the Disney "fire truck") and I desperately wanted one. But it cost, when new, $4...a king's ransom from the reaction I got. So I accepted the same old lunchbox, and got on with my life.

Pretty soon I hit the age of testosterone and every other concern I may have ever had ("Will I ever find another bike as cool as the Raleigh Chopper I've just outgrown?") was hurled aside violently as I chose to focus on girls. Not that I had the least notion what to do with one had I been so fortunate as to manage to secure one -- and, frankly, having secured a very good one, I'm often at a loss as to what to do with her -- but the evolutionary imperative was there.

And lunchboxes plummeted in my list of priorities faster than Ralph Nader's popularity at the Ferrari factory.

But I eventually reached, as one ineveitably does, man's estate and having married and therefore reaching the state in life where chasing girls (or, more accurately, women by this stage) was not especially tenable (or, given my beloved's disposition and her skill with firearms, desirable) one must turn to more wholesome pursuits. Re-enter the lunchbox.

It was while I was convalescing after a near-fatal (really) car accident (the other guy's fault, he ran a stop sign at 15mph over the limit and T-boned me...it was by 3"/8cm that I didn't die) with my first laptop, a Compaq affair the size of an attaché case, that I discovered eBay. I was in a search for a replacement car to the stolid American 4-door that had just bitten the Big One and one of the people with whom I was emailing had a link to eBay in the footer of the email.

So, fool that I am, I clicked. (I may have sounded the extremely lovely and monumentally gracious Poppy out on the matter, the memory is dim.)

Oh, happy day. What a wonderland.

Car stuff, apparel, watches, furniture, dinnerware...old toys! LUNCHBOXES!

That very first day (in 1998) I found the lunchbox of my dreams. It looked new! It had the Thermos and it was one of those with a glass liner...intact! I immediately got into a bidding war with some other fool. (I was young and foolish, sue me.) I eventually won and paid $98, plus shipping. TFBIM looked at me as if I were a prime candidate for a first-class ticket on The Disoriented Express. But I persevered.

I eventually found an even better lunchbox. It was still new! It still had the tags and stickers and gleamed brightly! It had the Thermos (it gleamed brightly, as well) although it wasn't the glass-lined one. I paced myself and bought it for $66, which was still pretty pricy ten years ago. (TFBIM would say it's pricy today.)

Now I was saddled with two lunchboxes. So, in order to avert disarray in the home, I decided to reach a Solomonic decision and I would sell the first lunchbox with -- get this -- the seond Thermos. I racked my brain, came up with some fulsome prose that may have been somewhat apocryphal or possibly grossly exaggerated and managed to sell the hybrid combination for $122!

Finding a cache of vintage View Master reels took me past the point of being an habitual user and by this point, I was wildly addicted. (Oh, dear Internet, the ViewMaster...that's another post for another day.)

If I were to find, today, Benson & Clegg cufflinks for pennies on the dollar, it'd only be the icing on the cake.

-J.

* Extra bonus points to whosoever can figure out this reference. [Nick Heyward, "When It Started To Begin" from 1986. I'm very disappointed in you, Internet.]

** All dapper boulevardiers such as yours truly practically get weepy recounting stories of eBay successes where the seller misspelled the label's name as "Paul Stewart" or "Oxford" or "Briani"

Posted by Joke at 6:32 AM 8 comments

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chemical traces of good news.

OK.

This is possibly the smallest and least consequential sort of good news, but in these trying times of death, pestilence, global cooling, war, famine, celebrity marriages breaking up, people whom we dislike getting elected by acclamation, socialism, and artificial fibers...we need all the good news we can scrape together.

Now, if you live anywhere nearish a major urban area, you are likely subjected to a Free and Hip Urban Newspaper. This newspaper, for the most part, prints nothing (to quote PGW) "but the most frightful bilge" and carries very artsy looking advertisements for shops the prime wares of which seem to be made of black leather or are battery operated and the general size and shape of a parking meter. You know the newspaper I'm talking about.

But these newspapers have one saving grace, they generally have far better reviews than the Real Newspaper. Their reviewers, for some reason, are more exhaustive, more adventuruous, more foodie and more "real" than their mainstream counterparts. Perhaps wedging yourself inside black cabretta crinolines and lugging around a cylindrical something powered by 84 D-cell batteries (the operation of which is calibrated with Herr Richter's scale) fosters quite an appetite. I don't know. All I do know is they have serious restaurant reviews and these are close to infallible.

So!

Imagine my delight when their annual review compendium leers at me from the free dispensing machine. I snatch it eagerly and beging to fumble for the restaurant listings. There it is, under Best Sushi, "my" Japanese restaurant. The one where I/we am/are invariably the only Caucasians. The one where the menu is entirely in Japanese and where asking for a menu in English results in nothing save a 30 minute delay. The one where asking for a California roll might actually get you ejected or decapitated. The one where seating yourself at the bar means you will get, without addition or subtraction, exactly (and only) what the sushi chef wants to give you. That one.

Awarded "Best Sushi" in one of the largest metropolitan areas of the USA. Not 5 minutes from my house! Yeehah!

So, I'm happy. Happy-ish.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 2:01 PM 9 comments

Friday Film Flashback (5/16/08)



Sounds like he's talking about this collection.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:49 AM 2 comments

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not even if...

When we were doing the whole Open House-Orientation-Exam fandango for NOS at the Not-A-Middle-School, he noticed there were some mighty fancy cars in the student parking lot. Not merely nice cars (entry level BMWs and MBs and Audis; midlevel VWs and Lexi, oldish Porsches) but cars that cost a $#!+load of money by any reasonable person's standard.

Top-end Porsche Cayennes, Porsche Carreras, BMW 5-series, etc. That kind of stuff. (There were no Ferraris or Lamborghinis, which surprised me a bit.)

NOS made so bold as to venture a hope he would, upon turning 16, be on the receiving end of such automotive loot. That was, clearly, what the 87 layers of professional bureacrats who oversee teachers call "a teachable moment."

I advised NOS to set his sights somewhat lower. He wondered -- much like Nick Smith did in Metropolitan -- if our "resources were limited."

Aha!

"NOS," I began, "It's not that. To be sure, our resources are not limitless. But that's not the point."

I explained to him that when someone gets whatever the Hell they want, especially if whatever the Hell they want is expensive and/or rare, at a tender age, it warps them. It fosters a sense of entitlement and often a sense of elitism. That you deserve things because you're just "you." Not because you've earned them or merited these things as an extraordinary reward, but just because you were there and your parents could afford these things.

Which, as modern statistics clearly indicate, is not how life works.

"Furthermore, even if we won the lottery," which at the time the prize was $65M, adding piquancy to my point, "do you know how much your life would change, NOS?"

He shook his head, the ignorant child.

"Appallingly little. We might get -- finally! -- that little beach place we've been threatening to get since forever, and we might have one or two silly sports cars to the fleet and maybe an extra trip here and there. But that's it. That's the grandiose, sum total of existential change to which your life would be subjected if all of a sudden we had that additional $65M land on our laps."

"Oh," he said, clearly disappointed in his choice of parents. "So what does this mean about my getting an electric guitar?"

Pause.

"Only if I can find one cheap on eBay."

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:43 PM 9 comments

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Issue clickage, s'il vous plait

My latest is up at Vinapedia. Please click (early and often), and keep me in free wine.

Thanky much.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:27 AM 3 comments

What passes for normal.

Save for the fact that I, from the esophagus onward, am still feeling "off" and all that, things have settled down to "normal" ovah heah.

No more Communion, no more Mothers' Day, no more anniversary anything. Just the manifest glories of everyday living. Wake up, rouse the offspring with increased threats until the desired results ensue, prepare breakfast, pack lunch and drive to school. Repeat.

It shows how hectic a certain period of your life has been that what is the normal and everyday takes some getting-used-to. NTS is still not used to it and, in his inimitably lycanthropic way, lets us know he's displeased or unhappy or whatever. You know the boy's rattled because instead of acting as he usually does (i.e. an earthquake at 5am) he merely staggers from his bed to ours muttering "Sleep. I want sleep."

Even weirder is that these days NOS has decided to arrive at school at 7am, ostensibly to "help the teacher" but we all know the first trickles of treacherous testosterone are coursing through his system and since next year there won't be any girls in his academic life (nor will there by until he turns 18 or so, by which point I expect the hormones to be fairly rioting through his arteries) one must make hay while the sun shines.

But his boyhood is still with us, mostly. So we pored over the Junior High -- I adore this is not called the more politically correct, enuretic "middle school" -- catalog looking at the verious options available to him. F'rinstance, he is required to at least try out for one sports team per semester, and he was wondering aloud things such as "is lacrosse better than crew?"* or "What sports are open to incoming 6th Graders?"**

Also, he is required to participate in X hours of afterschool club activity, so the relative merits of the Meteorology club (yawn) vs. the Astronomy club (not bad) vs. the Debate club (depends) have all come under the microscope. Lastly, we have all discussed the most important aspects of of Next Year: Electives.

There are two electives: "Humanities" (Art, Music, Drama) and "Foreign Language" (French, Portuguese, Italian or German) and the way it works is that you can mix-and-match if you desire. That is, you can, for example,

1- Take "Intro To Art" in 6th Grade, "Intro To Music" in 7th Grade, "Intro To Drama" in 8th Grade (etc.) or
2- Start with "Intro To Art" in 6th Grade, "Intermediate Art" in 7th Grade then go "Intro To Drama" in 8th Grade (etc.) or
3- Just stick with Art (or Music or Drama) all the way through.

Whatever.

While NOS is more keen to stick with Music (seeing as how he has a strong background in Choral music, and decent skill on the guitar) he has noticed that in Drama, he can perform in works at girls' schools and quite often girls come and perform in assorted works ovah theah. Dunno he has changed his mind but he has filed this tidbit away for future reference. The problem with the music dept. is that they often try to equalize the instruments played and a LOT of kids come in with a guitar background and you can't very well have an ensemble of 87 guitarists and one kid on the flute. So unless you're spectacular on the guitar (or the drums) you're going to be assigned some other instrument. NOS isn't, frankly, all that eager to be a bassoonist or trombonist. So we're keeping our eye on drama.

The Foreign Language requirement works pretty much the same way. You can stick with one, or you can mix-and-match as little or as much as you like. He, being an expedient sort, is leaning towards Portuguese or Italian, these being quite similar in structure, vocabulary and grammar to Spanish. To his mother's heartbreak, he has shown my Francophobic streak and is shunning all things Gallic. He hasn't actually called them "cheese eating surrender monkeys" but that's more a function of his geopolitical naiveté so far.

These are all signs of our little boy maturing.

Oddly enough, NOS asked: "When will I be able to stay home by myself without a babysitter?" To which I replied, "When you have proof of adequate insurance coverage." He is also asking some pretty worrisome questions about what sort of car he'll have when he turns 16. (Sadly, at this school, you do wind up with some boys driving gigabuck cars which we are loath to provide NOS even if we could afford it. Something about a 16 year old driving a brand-new top-of-the-line Porsche Cayenne doesn't, y'know, sit right with me.)

What are we to make of all this normalcy?

-J.

* No it's not; lacrosse is far more of a team sport.
** Baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer.

Posted by Joke at 6:51 AM 15 comments

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Afteraftermath.

Yesterday was Mothers' Day. There was champagne. Champagne does not go well with flu meds.

That's all I recall, really. That and the tummyache that won't go away.

-J.

P.S. Nothing happened, unless having to flop down in bed groaning softly counts.

Posted by Joke at 7:40 AM 2 comments

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Aftermath.

Today was NTS's 1st Communion.

The actual Communion bit went off without a hitch. NTS behaved, did as rehearsed, and did not go around the church smiting nuns and toddlers.

This success went to TFBIM's dainty head.

There are many things about NTS that make me wonder about the biy but the one thing I desperately admire about him is his spectacular disinterest in shielding his opinions from anyone. Whereas NOS might be pushed and cajoled beyond all human endurance into calling my FiL a deranged old coot, NTS leads with that.

So it was when TFBIM decided that NTS ought spend his reception standing around and getting photographed with every permutation of guests, when all that NTS really wanted to do is settle in for some serious brunch action. It was no surprise -- except to TFBIM who is perennially surprised whenever people exactly as they always have -- that NTS stood up and told everyone involved with the whole posing thing to, frankly, bugger off, as he was far more concerned with sending some pancakes on an adventure along his digestive tract than anyone's quaint and baroque desires for a pretty album commemorating the event.

Had he been taller he would have hauled off and stricken the photographer right in her wideangle. TFBIM, sadly, was too preoccupied with the photo album to notice that none of the champagne was being served. (We had to do the BYOB thing, since the only champagne offered by the hotel when we were summarily shuttered out of the country club was barely drinkable AND more expensive.) Which means that the Bring Your Own Bottle has now become, for us, Bring Back Your Own Bottles, since only three made the rounds. (We had counted on two flutes per adult, and instead managed to serve 2/3 of a flute per adult.)

We were VERY fortunate to be able to land on our feet, after a fashion, given the country club debacle (the lawsuits proceed, the wrangling continue) and we count ourselves among the lucky ones who do not have to scramble to to relocate a wedding reception with only 3 weeks notice. That said, we are also mindful we scored the last possible room at the hotel and it was obvious this was the last possible room.

It was a 15' x 20' room, with 5 tables of 10 crammed in there. No windows, not even bad hotel art on the walls. No champagne going around.

The best part, natch, is that it's all over.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 4:14 PM 4 comments

Friday, May 09, 2008

If "out" is the opposite of "in" then what's the opposite of "outlaw?"

God bless my inlaws.

No, really.

They aren't, y'know, evil. They aren't slighting my kids, fawning over their cousins. They are kind and affectionate to the boys.

They are, however, only on nodding acquaintance with reality. They are also Scared Of The World. The list of things they have officially qualified as "terrifyingly dangerous" would keep me blogging all weekend, but they include such dangers as:
1- Restaurant salad (lettuce leaves are never cut small enough; one could choke)
2- Low light sconces (you could bang your head on them and brain yourself)
3- Beef that's cooked less that Really Well Done (an entire subset of their worry is devoted to "microbes.")
4- Children riding in cars that are not armored bank trucks ("Do you know how many children a day die as a result of...?")
5- Extra-virgin olive oil causes sore throats.

and so forth.

Now, these not being my parents, I'm not in the ideal position to tell them to bugger off the same way I deal with my parents. (Whose faults, though many, so obviously lie elsewhere.)

At any rate.

Last Saturday we had to go to a reception and as a consequence, we had to go all dressed up. NOS had selected a pair of cordovan penny loafers to pair with his outfit. The problem is that those shoes were a full size larger than NOS takes. But he didn't want to wear the black ones that did fit, as these "don't go" with the khaki trousers. So, he stuffed the larger shoes with bathroom tissue. Which my FiL saw and was adamant he not do, since wearing larger shoes would cause him (NOS) grave spinal maladies, I believe. NOS, however, was adamant that he would wear whatsoever he bloody well saw fit and, having chafed under my FiL's strictures practically since birth, seems to have given voice to over 10 years' worth of frustration. I believe NOS expressed himself with some vigor on the issue as my FiL was wrestling with the footwear and, while I doubt NOS actually called him a "deranged old coot" I'm sure the sentiment was there.

It ended up with my FiL storming out of the house (whether this was due to "never having been so insulted!" or simply frustrated beyond endurance with the recalcitrance of NOS or what...I have no idea) and leaving my MiL "stranded" here, so that we had to schlep her to the reception and then back.

TFBIM was adamant to "have words with NOS." I cautioned her that while his behavior is not what one expects from a 10 year old towards his elders, his was not without some provocation. After all, my FiL is a deranged old coot and that has to count for something in mounting a defense.

At this point, the influenza epidemic of 1918 was just starting to take its effect on me and, frankly, I had begun to rapidly lose interest in such melodrama. Taking the bull by the horns, I decided to preemptively address NOS. Something along the lines of:

"Yes, I know your grandfather can be 'that way' and that he can be pushy. Yes, I know he has some mighty strange notions of how the world works. But he is your grandfather and you have to show him some respect."

As it turned out, against everyone's opinion, I specifically allowed NOS to wear the shoes stuffed with paper. Guess what? By the 1st half-hour he was yelping in discomfort and by the 1st hour he was swearing loudly (ahem) that he'd never wear such things again.

Which drives us to the main differences in childrearing between TFBIM's and my side of the family. TFBIM's lot believes in sheltering and protecting and mine ardently believes in "lessons learned the hard way." Whereas my FiL was adamant that "Licking an electric socket is dangerous." my parents were of the view "Yep. He won't do that twice."

Which explains all the little nicks and cuts and scars I have from my youth and the neuroses that TFBIM and my BiL have carried with them through the years.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:13 AM 5 comments

Friday Film Flashback (5/9/08)

It took FOREVER to find this clip...



(The embedding may be off, so you may have to click here: http://video.aol.com/video/video-category/1468962)

and



-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:46 AM 0 comments

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Where was I?

Yes. I was dying. Well, dying-ish. I'm no longer dying-ish, which is good, except NOS looks like he may be dying-ish next, with TFBIM hot on his heels. NTS, the Typhoid Mary of the house, is in the pink of health, if his yodeling is anything to go by.

As discussed in Monday's symposium, this is all monumentally inconvenient given the number and gravity of social committments weighing heavily upon my person for the upcoming weekend.

The first committment to suffer was our 15th Wedding Anniversary, as the "afterglow" of the tummy trouble which accompanies one's flu makes any plan very unwelcome. Normally, we go somewhere fancy-ish for dinnah, but when all you have managed to eat in 6 days is: 2 bagels (not in a row) a bowl of plainish noodles and a smallish hunk of baguette, along with some weak tea and juice...dinnah plans suffah.

The plus side is that I am off like a rocket on my Annual Slimdown. I mean, I am doing really, really well. Between having fevers so high that spontaneous combustion is an imminent threat -- which means the ol' metabolism is humming along at maximum revs -- and not ingesting anything of material caloric value, I have managed to shed an easy 11lb (5kg) since Wednesday. Other than my ghastly pallor and 9 o'clock shadow, I look pretty smoking hot.

A bit of unalloyed good news hath come in, from NOS.

Late in 2007, he applied to a certain Junior High* and after undergoing a two-part entrance exam, interview and essay our young hero is in. Which is good.

Well, which seems good, until you look at the sackload-of-anvils that will be his schedule for the next school year.

He will be required to try out for one sport per semester (this varies if he actually makes one of the teams).
He has one elective per year: Art, Music or Speech/Drama (he can mix-and-match; he doesn't have to "stick" to one)
Latin, Spanish and (duh) English are required. He has to select a "foreign language" above these: French, Portuguese, Italian or German.
He's already been handed the summer reading list for both Spanish and English. (We start with El Cid and Huckleberry Finn, respectively. Oy.)
There is Mass every morning.

There will be more on this. Wa-a-a-ay more.

-J.

* Same school I attended. The hidebound and reactionary aspect thereof is evidenced by the fact it never bothered to change to "Middle School" and from our perspective this is a very good thing. The school continues through High School, forming what in many countries is called a "secondary school."

Posted by Joke at 2:58 PM 4 comments

Monday, May 05, 2008

The hits, they keep on coming.

Now.

It stands to reason that pretty much when I have to throw myself full-force at the workaday world of high finance that not only would I be landed with The Flu, but also that a "Very Big Deal" meeting with the bank (regarding one of our bigger projects) would be taking place tomorrow morning. (11am EDT, for those who time these sorts of things.)

For those among you who have a monotheistic bent, please keep this/me/us in your (fervent, ideally) prayers. You're also free to (i.e., pretty please) forward this shameless request along to those similarly disposed.

Those who are not inclined towards monotheism -- you're not getting off so easy -- please feel free to sacrifice rats, engage in pastoral dances, twirl crystally things while chanting or whatever it is you consider safe and effective. I'm not too proud.

Did I mention I feel awful?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:34 PM 6 comments

Sunday, May 04, 2008

It's more-or-less official

I have The Flu.

Sinus issues (pressure, pain, congestion), coughing, sore throat, sneezing fits that double as amazing abdominal workouts and tummy issues (decorum prohibits me listing them) and assorted achiness, and alternating between sweating like O.J. Simpson under subpœna or being incandescent with fevah.

All of which is a pretty inconvenient thing to have at a very inconvenient moment.

This weekend we have NTS's 1st Communion, Mother's Day, our 15th Wedding Anniversary and my MiL's birthday. All in one weekend.

So that's what I'm facing.

-J.

P.S. It goes without saying that TFBIM thinks of my having the flu as a cleverly contrived plot to get away with not doing my share of the work.

Posted by Joke at 5:59 PM 3 comments

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Film Flashback (5/2/08)



and then



and finally

-J.


Posted by Joke at 11:48 PM 2 comments

This election year, we are faced with a very clear choice

The legal wrangling that has shuttered the Fringe o' Paradise Golf and Country Club just in time to strike a devastating blow to NTS's 1st Communion reception continues. There is a glimmer of hope all issues will be resolved in exactly 7 days. But only just.

So, here are the two competing plans.

1- Do this at home and cater the damned thing. The caterer quote we got was a fairly posh, frou-frou menu. (Thai beef sald, selection of quiche, etc.)

Food cost +/- $50 per guest, $20 more than the whole reception was originally budgeted. (They do include plates.) This leaves us with having to purchase wine (figure a good/cheap one at $9/bot.), water ($10/case), assorted soft drinks/milk/juice ($50 total). This could oh-so-very-easily come to twice the original budget.

2- Do this at home and cook. The plan here would be to go with a Spanish theme and so, tapas, gazpacho & paella. The tapas thing is far more reasonable, because one may purchase all the various tapas, say, a whole Spanish ham (jamón serrano, for those scoring at home), chorizo, etc. and slice it oneself or, pay a slight premium and get it presliced, etc.

Gazpacho can be made well ahead (in fact, it should be) and then, to show off, one could make a big-arse paella. Even purchasing a big-arse paella pan (paellera) at +/- $100 would have the food budget at $16/person. We already have a "party set" of flatware and glasses, etc.

Yes, granted, tending a 27 in. (70 Cm) pan over a live fire on a scorching spring at high noon doesn't do much for the outer man, but then again, neither does spending twice as much as projected.

3- Let's see if they will honor our contract at another venue...cross your fingers.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:00 AM 2 comments