Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flew - UPDATED

“What’s the name of the organization raising the alert regarding the possible swine flu pandemic?”
“No, WHO is raising the alert.”

The multifarious global government reactions to the possible pandemic seem like an Abbott and Costello routine.
In Egypt they are slaughtering pigs as flu scapegoats. Please don’t tell them that the flu “combines pig, bird and human viruses”, though, if they do slaughter the humans, it would cut down on potential flu cases.

In Israel, one health minister has renamed the flu as the “Mexican flu” to avoid referring to non-Kosher animals considered “unclean”. This is not only ridiculous, it is also absurd. If eating pork is prohibited by dietary law, probably because it sickened people in Biblical times, wouldn’t labeling a disease with a porkish name make perfect Kosher sense? Oy, that Yakov! Such a meshuggahna kopf! It’s not like the word pork is prohibited. Or should we bring Litzman a shrubbery when we say the sacred name?

In Cincinnati, due to the swine/avian flu connection, our flying pig statues are being removed from sidewalks, parks, smokestacks, fountains and museums where people might come in contact with them. The Flying Pig Marathon has been cancelled as well. "The flu is a blend of avian, pig and human viruses," explained race official Cerdo del Vuelo, who asked to remain synonymous, "and our marathon combines all three, so we thought it best to cancel in the interest of safety."

In (probably) unrelated Cincinnati pork news, the owner of KT’s Barbeque is in trouble for installing a bikini-clad mannequin, named BarBe Q, outside his restaurant. He will fight to keep it because it attracts new customers, who become repeat customers after they taste the barbeque. “They come for BarBe Q, and they come again for their pulled pork,” he (might have) said. Officials vowed they would never approve his “sign” until swine flew. (5/14/09 - for an update on Kenny and Barbe, go here)

UPDATE: Breaking News from the Vatican: The Pope has forbidden the use of Pig Latin among Catholics worldwide. More as outbreak news breaks out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home Cooking

One of my partners walked by my office the other day carrying a pie plate. He looked at me and said, “I made some blueberry pie, would you like a piece?” I replied, “That is like me walking past your office with a bag of cash and asking, ‘Would you like a wad of hundred dollar bills?’”

My sister tagged me to write about this:
"Dancing Deer’s Sweet Home Initiative raises money for scholarships to help educate homeless women and end family homelessness. As a part of this initiative, (their) CEO, Trish Karter, will be riding her bike 1,500 miles from Atlanta to Boston, visiting family shelters in each city to raise awareness about this issue. She’ll also be recording stories from the women she meets along the way, asking them about their experiences. One question she’ll ask them are what foods remind them of home." (See more: click here.)
The food that first and foremost makes me think of home is pie. My mother was not a domestic goddess or even a Paula Dean homespun deity. She worked, sometimes 2nd or 3rd shift, and did not have the luxury of slaving away at home all day in service of my sister and me. When she had the opportunity, she baked pies. She also made some great meals: the steaming richness of creamy, homemade chicken and dumplings being dished out of her pressure cooker is my ultimate comfort food association.

Mom’s life was a pressure cooker of work and maintaining a house as best she could while making sure her two kids survived. She had to make do with what she had and “slumgullion” (a word I only ever heard spoken, so the spelling is pure guesswork), meaning a hodgepodge of whatever is in the fridge and cupboards, was often the main meal.

Accordingly, foods that remind me of home include instant mashed potatoes topped with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, peas and tuna fish. Tuna is a versatile dish if you are willing to eat it, for example, atop Franco American spaghetti (pre-Spaghetti-O’s), as we often did (and loved it). Our tuna of choice, by the way, was Chicken of the Sea, which Jessica Simpson restored to prominence 30 years after my Mom ceased providing the bulk of their market share. Mom also introduced us to peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, Ritz Crackers dipped in blue cheese dressing and other delights; I’m thinking Sue and I ought to put together a cookbook.

I am also reminded of home by coffee shop meals like those we had at Stacks. Mom left us money and we walked to the coffee shop to buy our grilled cheese or hamburger dinners. We were the original latch key kids and I also fondly remember the meals we made for ourselves - Swanson TV dinners in the oven or Kraft Dinner on the stove with real fire, because microwaves (“radar ranges”) existed only in Disney’s House of the Future”. I also loved to make myself Jell-o instant chocolate pudding … at least until “the mixer incident”.

One day, home alone, I put the milk and pudding mix in the bowl and applied the hand mixer, only to discover that the it was not plugged in. Carefully resting the mixer on the bowl, with the beaters in the unmixed pudding, I stuck the plug in the socket. The chocolate pudding stains never came out of the t-shirt I was wearing that day and I don’t recall if Mom ever got them completely off the ceiling, walls, floor or appliances in the entire kitchen.

I can’t watch Bill Cosby’s Jell-o commercials and, when I think back on the trauma induced by that hand mixer hurricane of pudding, I am in need of comfort food. I close my eyes and go to my happy place, surrounded by Mom’s cherry pie, pumpkin pie and mince meat pie. And sometimes I crave the Swanson’s chicken pot pies she whipped up for us or that I cooked for myself. Even though we were sometimes home alone, Mom made sure we had a home and plenty of food. It’s not as easy as pie, but let’s try to make that a reality for everyone.

(PS I'm supposed to tag some people to also get out this message, but I won't - so Cali, Andy, Scarletviralgo, Skye, Unfinishedrambler and other Humorbloggers - you are all on your own.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Birds

“Airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major U.S. airports since 2000.” Immediately upon reading that, I was contacted by former Vice President, Dick Cheney. Cheney, who spent eight years either plotting world domination in an undisclosed location or out hunting hobbled lawyers in a private attorney preserve, is now eager to talk to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Cheney sat across from me, with his head slightly cocked toward the Right, speaking in that slow, deep, almost husky voice that carries an undertone of a horror film soundtrack and makes the hairs stand up on your neck and your skin crawl, giving you a persistent sensation that something dreadful is about to happen ….. to you.

“It’s no coincidence,” Cheney said, “that the increase in bird strikes began at the time that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were being put in motion. Our administration gathered information that al-Qaeda operatives had infiltrated flocks on the roofs and statues in our major cities and begun to radicalize the bird population. Not the Starlings, Clarisse, but the gulls, the geese and other anarchist species.”

Cheney spoke softly, making me want to lean closer to hear but fearing that I might get too near and be sucked into his vortex of evil, descending into Hell to do his bidding for eternity.

“So this increase in bird attacks came about during the Bush administration,” I pointed out, while trembling uncontrollably.

Cheney paused and, without changing expression, locked his eyes on mine and sent sharp pangs of regret deep into my soul. “You will also know, if you read the news carefully that the strikes dropped noticeably in 2007 and 2008. That was the direct result of enhanced interrogation methods that the Justice Department approved us to use. At one point some Abyssinian Jihadist Geese tested me and I made their livers into a pate and ate them with fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

“And you feel that the Obama administration is wrong in reversing your policies of .. torture.”

The one working corner of Cheney’s mouth turned up slightly and his eyes briefly came alive. “I believe that what they have done has put the country in grave danger. We had significant success with acid rain, adverse climate .. modification.. and oil spills in combating bird strikes and gathering valuable intelligence from the goose population. The current administration’s insistence on weakness and environmental .. 'protection' .. of our avowed avian enemies, I think, can lead only to destruction of our nation.”

“Thank you, Mr. Cheney, for your time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go home, lock all the doors, turn on all the lights and huddle on my couch with the TV on up high and the phone ready in my hand.

After leaving his presence and feeling the cloud of despair dissipate, I was still troubled by one thing I had read in the news story. “A single United Airlines 737 passenger jet suffered at least 29 minor collisions with birds and one accident involving a small deer.” When, I asked myself, would someone make a movie about that one plane (starring Samuel L. Jackson) and did Cheney, or anyone, know about the flying deer and what terrorist agenda they are preparing?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Inches, Feet, Miles

Question: Which 4 states meet at the Four Corners Monument? If you answered with the names of any 4 states, you are wrong … maybe.

“National Geodetic Survey officials say the Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) west of where it should be, the Deseret News reported.

But wait, “The marker is 1,807.14 feet east of where it should have been placed, said Dave Doyle, chief geodetic surveyor for the National Geodetic Survey, which defines and manages a national coordinate system.”

You have to wonder how anyone could get the monument wrong. All they had to do was wander around until they saw the big “A” and the dashed border lines intersecting.

It was probably some man, assigned to install the monument, who was too proud to ask for directions and just put the marker down where it was easiest to install. “The borders intersect over there, why did you put the monument here?” “The light was better over here.”

What’s possibly worse is first saying the monument is 2.5 miles west of where it should be then saying it is a mere 1,807 feet east (1/3 of a mile, a mere glitch, not worth discussing). They tried to pass this off with some BS about measuring from the Prime Meridian versus the Washington Meridian. Who ever heard of the “Washington Meridian”?

I think what happened is, after the first AP story appeared, President Obama was woken up at 3 a.m. and briefed on the crisis.
“Mr. President, given the state of our economy and the budget you’ve laid out, we can not afford to handle the deluge of lawsuits from people who were duped into thinking they were at the four corners when they were actually just at a flat place in Colorado … or Utah or somewhere. They will claim damages for erroneous souveniers, family photos and related pain and suffering.”
“Isn’t that an issue for those states whose borders are involved, not a Federal issue.”
“Sir, given your socialist agenda, individual states rights and issues no longer exist.”
"Oh. Well, what would Bill Clinton have done in a case like this?”
"He would have lied, sir.”
“Okay then, make up some pseudo-scientific reason that the monument is really correct.”

The best part of the story is that, “In any case, the measurement differences don't matter anymore, Doyle said, because ‘the monument controls.’
‘Where the marker is now is accepted,’ Doyle said. ‘Even if it's 10 miles off, once it's adopted by the states, which it has been, the numerical errors are irrelevant. It becomes the legal definition’ of the Four Corners.” Whatever the Ministry of Truth says is right.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blue Jean Baby

Conservatively dressed columnist, George Will wrote a column last week stating that our love for denim clothes is "symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche." Will was responding to an article by Daniel Akst who wrote that denim is "insidiously effective at undermining national discipline." Will's lauding adulation over Akst was like that of a giggling bobby-soxer drooling on a photo of James Dean in tight jeans (I use that analogy as one that could be understood by a man of Will's age - which, I believe, is Pleistocene.)

I would like to have a few minutes with Mr. Will to ponder the troubles in the world; I mean the really bad troubles in the world. Let's start with the financial crisis. We don't even have to be partisan about this. Let's say it started with Reagan and deregulation or Clinton and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac or George Bush or Wall Street or Goldman Sachs. The one thing all those people have in common is that, when they gunned down the world economy, they were wearing suits of fine silk or wool.

Oh, when George Bush was off cutting brush for six weeks at a time and leaving the country unattended, his crime of neglect was committed in denim. But in D.C., he and the remaining architects of doom: Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and the other henchmen, were clad in ties and jackets when they launched the shock and awe inspiring destruction of our reputation and our moral values - oh, and people's lives - through a mismanaged war, a policy of torture and the deconstruction of personal freedoms and the Constitution.

Perhaps George Will's tongue was in the vicinity of his cheek when he wrote that column, but he absolutely has missed the real joke, the dark humor in his words. He quotes Akst's statement that "Denim reflects 'our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings -- the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure.'" They look at the financial meltdown and see the source of it as people wearing jeans and wanting to own houses. Not the slick, sartorial slimeballs who ran the financial scams - it's the common people who are the problem.

Will calls on us to put away childish things, starting with denim. I think it is Will who has deep disorders in his psyche and should be put away.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Night of the Loving Dead

"’Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ … recounts the struggle of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters to simultaneously annihilate the undead invading their idyllic community and to marry well.

Jane Austen was a great writer and witty besides, so I would read her books without zombies, but, really. wouldn’t any story just be more fun with zombies? I liked the movie versions of Pride and Prejudice but I can see where zombies would be just the thing to turn a chick flick into a date movie, attracting more guys to share it with their girls. For example, I will never be found watching “Sex and the City”, but I would watch “Sex and the City and Zombies”, though those women have even more trouble keeping their clothes on than your average zombies draped in rotting funeral garments.

There are a lot of films considered chick flicks that I like but wouldn’t mind seeing these revisions:
“You’ve Got Mail and Zombies” (where Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly are both zombies but don’t know the other one is and so are embarrassed to meet) , “My Best Friend’s Zombie Wedding” (where the Zombie’s sing “I say a little prayer for you – we call it ‘grace’ before the meal”), “Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Zombies”, “Four Weddings, and a Funeral and the Undead”, “Sleepless and Walking Dead in Seattle” , “When Harry Met Sally and the Zombies”.

Then there are the girl movies I saw but wouldn’t see again unless there were flesh eating creatures from the grave thrown in: “Thelma and Louise and the Zombies”, “Bridget Jones’s Undead Diary”, “Fried Green Tomato Zombies”, and (adding undead and a a comma) “Dirty, Dancing Zombies” (“Nobody devours Baby in a corner!”)

Movies I have no desire to see unless the main characters are devoured by zombies: “”Waiting to Exhale and Exhume”, “Zombie Beaches” (careful with pronunciation), “The Undead English Patient”, “An Affair to Dismember”, and “Remains of the Day” (which retains its original title but is now set in a restaurant owned by flesh-eating zombies).

Put your chick zombie flick ideas in the comments.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Then 'BOOM' ya know I Mean?

This morning John Madden made the following statement:

(Referring to the telestrator) “Sometimes it’s one of deals where you have a formation like this an-an-an-and your wife’s over here and your kids are split out over here and the uh-uh-uh-uh grand kids go ‘BOOM’ like this. When ya think about it, I mean, it’s like you’re you’re you’re down field and runnin’ around sayin’ ‘I’m OPEN’ (CHUCKLING) but you’re not in the clear and you think you are but you’re NOT and you can’t really see the other players is what happens there.
Sometimes you do something for 35 years and you love it. Then, I mean, you got other things you’re doin’ and ‘BAM’ it hits you. So you reverse field and you GO LIKE THIS. (CHUCKLING)Y -y-y ou still love it but I mean you can’t do it. That’s what it’s all about.. I mean, it's FOOTBALL, greatest game in the world, if ya think about it.
And what that means when a guy does like this then then he’s, you know what I mean, GONNA do that and he doesn’t do the other thing and there he is.
Then, ‘BOOM’ you stop and go back over here, (CHUCKLING)a-a-a-and that’s what HAPPENS, ya know what I mean?”

Analysts think he means he’s retiring.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Passover ended at sundown today and we had pizza for dinner, as Rabbi Bar Toli instructed, "You shall eat it (the Passover reprieve) with tomato sauce and cheese."

We used to bake up a homemade pizza, which was delicious but disappointed Allie - she always wanted Papa John's. Naturally we forced her to have the homemade because we hated her and were always looking for ways to cause her misery.

Allie was unhappy with pretty much everything about Passover. She loved (still does) pasta and bread. "Why does Passover have to be about bread?" she whined, "Why can't it be about pork chops?" We still haven't told her that Passover doesn't really exist: that we conspired with millions of people all over the world to create a "religion" we called "Judaism" just so we could invent "Passover" and make Allie go a week without spaghetti and garlic bread. We hate her that much.

Karen and I like bread also, and 8 days without it gives us serious cravings. I have friends who say they like matzah. I like it too, but when it is the only choice, you realize that it is dry, tasteless crackers. So we are ready for celebratory pizza when the big day comes.

Since Allie is away at college, we don't have to make the nasty homemade stuff and we decided to go out - but not for Papa John's, since their crust is more tasteless than matzah. We went to La Rosa's to get their pan crust pizza. Pan crust because after 8 days of crackers you don't want the thin crust.

Our pizza arrived and we took big, delectable bites of real bread. But something was not quite right. The pan crust was flat and doughy. Our waitress explained that sometimes they get a batch that just doesn't "fluff up". The bread did not rise. We were experiencing the 9th day of the bread of affliction.

I know. It's karmic payback for all the suffering we put our daughter through.

Monday, April 13, 2009

And That's When Things Got Weird

This is theoretically a humor blog, but what I'm writing about today is not funny like a comedy routine, it's more funny like feeling a cold hand slip around your throat when you are alone watching "The Ring".

Last fall, a couple days in advance of a trip to LA, I quickly grabbed a book of Elmore Leonard short stories at the used book store. I also hastily put some random songs on my iPod just before leaving. As the plane took off I started reading a story in the book. Then I turned on my iPod and set it to shuffle the songs. The first song was by Todd Snider and as a character in the book got fired and said, "I was looking for a job when I found this one", Todd, sang those exact words in the song by the same name.

A month or so later I was reading a book which mentioned a certain old movie and movie at exactly the same moment that a commercial came on AE for that same movie. Shortly thereafter I read something in a magazine while listening to a song that happened to contain the same line. (I don't have the details of these - I should have written them down).

Last night I was catching up on some old New Yorker magazines I skipped last year and randomly took out the 10/13/08 issue. As I was reading, an ad for "The Graveyard Book" (which I had never heard of) caught my eye. As I flipped by that page, my laptop, sitting open next to me caught my eye; I had a new email showing that someone commented on my blog. The person was a first time commenter and I clicked the link to her blogger home page. I scanned down her profile and listed first on her "favorite books" was "The Graveyard Book."

Today at lunch I read an article on MSNBC about the lack of odd characters these days in major league baseball. As I thought about the characters I had watched growing up I first thought of Mark "the Bird" Fidrych. I got home and found out that Mark died today.

So these are, to me, some really bizarre coincidences of randomly crossing things. The REALLY strange thing to me is, why am I so often trying to read and watch TV or listen to music at the same time? Despite the oddness of these incidents, I don't think they mean anything. Or do they? What is the universe trying to tell me?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

So let it be written, so let it be done - and hurry up, for God's sake

So, when we left off, we were preparing for Passover. The original Passover preparation involved smearing lamb’s blood on the doorpost and making special preparations for eating dinner prior to travelling, as God commanded “Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste.”

The lamb’s blood was a marker for the Angel of Death so that he would pass over the Hebrew’s houses and slay the first born in only the Egyptian’s houses. When I was 10, I had a paper route and I was able to find my customers’ houses without benefit of blood markers, but the God of Biblical times was a bit over the top. (Any God who uses cutting off a bit of penis as a contractual covenant obviously favors the dramatic gesture).

The blood smearing is one of those elements of the Passover origins that we forego these days. What with lambs being scarce in the ‘burbs and the concerns about food borne illnesses, it’s just as well. We also don’t make much of a deal about the shoe-wearing or loin-girding, which is basically just preparing for dinner as if company was coming: putting on a belt, shoes and something nicer than that t-shirt with the pit stains (“and tuck it in, for God’s sake"). As for eating with your staff in hand, that would seem to contravene eating in haste, as having two hands free would seem more efficient. But who am I to question?

One of the reasons I doubt the complete authenticity of the Passover story is that I don’t think that any Jews could prepare for a hasty departure, at least not the Jews I know. When we visit my in-laws in Florida, any trip is preceded by a fifteen-minute discussion of who is actually ready and who has been waiting for whom and whether somebody has the coupons for the free meal and whether you need a sweater in the restaurant.

You know that the Jews in Egypt went through something like this:
“Wait, I have to go to the bathroom. Did all of you kids go? I want to make good time crossing the desert – we’re not stopping to let you pee.”
“You’re not driving the cart after four cups of wine.”
“Sadie, where is my belt and my shoes?”
“Do I wear them? Find them yourself. I’m trying to make bread for the trip. This is not going to have time to rise, you know, Mr. ‘we must leave ‘ere midnight’. What kind of person goes out in the desert at this hour?”
“Where is Sharon? She is always late.”
“I can’t find my good staff.”
“Did you smear the lamb’s blood?”
“I thought you did it.”
"Uh, oh. Where is Seymore, our first born?"
And so on.

In the end we had a good Seder, once we found the silver and the “good” glasses and enough nice serving platters. We spent a pleasant evening, reading and discussing the haggadah, drinking our four cups of wine and eating a wonderful dinner. We wish you all a Happy Passover and/or Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rites of Spring

This being the Lenten season, and Cincinnati having a large Catholic population, it is easier to go out for Skyline on Friday and harder to get into Frisch's for a good fish sandwich.

Back when Lent was invented, did it go like this?

JESUS: Guys, I fed the multitude but I still have a bunch of loaves and fishes. These will become stale and stinky unless we think of something.
PETER: Let's fry up the fish and use the bread to make sandwiches.
JOHN: Perfect! It's Friday, let's bring them to happy hour and wash them down with some beer.
JUDAS: We can sell them and get some gold for the church.
JESUS: Great. Let's do this Friday Fish Fry every week.
PETER: We'll have to leave out the bread at Passover.
JESUS: Right. By the way, I've got some ideas about the Passover Seder supper.

and, of course that was the last supper idea he had.

Passover is coming up in a few days and, since I have nothing new to say about that, like Jesus' leftover fish, I will just recycle the miracles I created before. Here's a few links to the originals:

"A Plague of Roaches" - About marijuana, the Smak Rabbi and Passover

"Fun With Plagues" - about magicians, plagues and Passover - the origins explained.

"Filling our Drawers" - about Tupperware, New York City and Passover

Thursday, April 2, 2009

And a Warmfulla Tractum to You, Sir

I'm trying to watch Peter Orszag on the daily Show. Peter is the current Director of the Office of Management and Budget and is apparently being portrayed by Wally Cox, which is odd because I thought Wally Cox was dead (even before Andy was born). If Henry Mitchell and Max Smart had a son, he would look like Peter Orszag.

I'm trying to watch Mr. Orszag but our cable company is delivering distorted video and sound. We've been having this problem for a while where the video gets pixelated and the sound distorted on just a few channels. Karen called Warner Cable and they told her it was caused by sunspots. Sunspots that hate the local Fox affiliate and Comedy Central. The technician said to unplug the cable/DVR box and plug it back in. The old IT "reboot" solution. It doesn't work.

I called today and I spoke to a gentleman who had an accent I could not place - in fact it seemed less like accented English and more like just foreign words. Every other sentence I had to ask him to repeat; when he did so it was perfectly clear but the sound were nothing like what I heard the first time. I finally decided that, working for Warner Cable, he had become afflicted with the cable box-sun spot-pixilated-distortion syndrome that was ruining the Daily Show for me.

We managed to get through setting up an appointment for a technician to come out and really try to fix our problem. I thanked him for his help and he said, "You're welcome and have a warmfulla tractum."

I'll try.