Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre battling one of the Spiders of Nothingness after being subjected to Albert Camus' Existential Shrinking Ray.
Right off the bat, can you think of a better title for a philosophical treatise? Although if had been me, I would have called it, Being and Nothingness And If Those Are The Only Two Choices Should You Even Bother To Hem Your Pants? Sartre really missed the boat on this one regarding the title but luckily he wasn't a one-trick pony as many other existentialists can be with their constant moping and moaning and pipe smoking, complaining about the temperature of their coffee and just generally being a real pain in the ass of non-being. I have had the advantage of living well into the modern age and thus able to ascertain solutions to philosophical problems that in Sartre's day could cause a man to chain smoke, become myopic and sleep with women who looked good in men's cardigans and were equally adept at both Ping Pong and writing les belles lettres to international despots.
A budding, young existentialist, already suffering from the onset of existential myopia, trying to glean the facts about the relations between Marxism, essence and being and how these affect the growing of root vegetables in the French countryside.
Now, to really understand the philosophy, we must look at the root of the word, existentialism. Exit, from the English, meaning a doorway or some other such opening through which one might pass to gain access to the outside world; stench, from the Gaelic, meaning to stink up a room, thus causing you to look for the exit to acquire fresh air and alism from the Latin meaning Al Lism, for all your home, business or car insurance needs. With the origins of the word broken down into their most integral forms, we can attain a deeper understanding of the existential milieu that includes not just complex thoughts and the connections between existing and slowly burgeoning ideologies, but also the proper length for a smoker's pipe stem, can mustache wax be used on shoes and the proper restaurant etiquette when confronted with a runny omelet served by an idealist with a badly-fitted toupee.
An existentialist toupee chart from the 50's, which helped identify philosophical opponents so that they might be overly stimulated with caffeinated drinks until they would begin to quiver and shake, making it easier to take advantage of the situation and punch them in the stomach or hit them with a copy of Kierkegaard's Fear And Trembling across the back of the head, rendering them unconscious and ready for an existential indoctrination. 
Here, a dapper Al Lism, of Al Lism Home, Business and Car Insurance, shows off his new properly-fitted toupee, that helped him kick-start existentialism and kept his head from resembling a runny egg.
 What few people realize is that existentialism has been around since the caveman times. Before God, there was only mammoths, many of them woolly although that had no bearing on the caveman's dialectic reasoning when confronted by those beasts of yore, but the actual physicality of the creature left an indelible imprint on the prehistoric person's brain, which was then translated into images etched into the walls of the cave, itself a Freudian symbol of the womb but as Marx would say, it was just a temporary transference of the libido into materialistic culture. And we're just talking loincloths and stone axes so you can imagine how out of hand this stuff has become in our modern world. Truth is, if cave people had access to bath bombs and Mmmm-Muffin-licious kiosks back in their day, the whole course of human evolution and civilization might have been changed. And then, where would that leave existentialism? Begging for spare change in the trough of history, that's where it would be. 
An accurate depiction of early man facing an existential crisis before the mighty tusks of a woolly mammoth. Notice how the neanderthal hunter's feet are bound by a solidified plastic base symbolizing the battle between religious doctrine and the onset of the new sciences. The woolly mammoth of course senses this, which only increases his appetite.
That being said, existentialism has come a long way, including better clothing, Brylcreem and the ability to talk other people into deboning your meat, fish and poultry. Which is where Sartre comes in, along with his old friend-turned-nemesis, Albert Camus. And it is the foundations of this love-hate relationship that houses much of the impetuous force of the book, although Sartre would beg to differ, but he's dead so his opinion is meaningless. So is Camus for that matter so whatever I say now, you'll have to take my word for it. Anyway, Sartre was also a big fan of Marxism and tried to bring the two isms together to make a prism through which the light of optimism would pass and be broken down into a rainbow of depressing shades and hues. Camus, too, liked Marxism, but only for the uniforms, not for its socio-political view. Witness the picture below. Don't be fooled. It's really Camus dressed as Stalin and one of the earliest pieces of evidence documenting the split between Camus and Sartre, as Sartre felt he made a better Stalin at kids' birthday parties and could deliver the existential message in one fell swoop with plenty of time left for cake and ice cream. Camus, meanwhile, didn't really go for the whole Marxist thing and felt it negatively affected his Ping Pong game.
In fact, the whole middle section of Being and Nothingness focuses on Ping Pong and the existential dilemma posed by the rhythmical and ultimately tedious bouncing of the ball back and forth endlessly between two opposing forces, creating a kind of philosophical black hole in the "space of being" until the ping and ponging cancel each other out, matter disappearing into anti-matter and thus nothingness is born out of something-ness and the players exist in the purest existential state, a phenomenon Kierkegaard dubbed the "bratwurst of non-being," because of its sausage-like casing. Not to be outdone, Heidegger took it one step further and built the Bratwurst Of Non-Being Cart, that he personally manned, dispensing wieners and philosophy simultaneously. 
A very rare photo of Heidegger behind the counter of his Bratwurst Of Non-Being cart in Munchstein, Germany. Although grainy, one can just make out Heidegger preparing his condiment trays in accordance with the dialectical dictates of the Frankfurt School of Frankfurters.
Camus though, used the Myth of Sisyphus as his example of hopeless and absurd endeavor in the face of existence, while Sartre was a Ping Pong guy all the way. As Sartre relates in the book, "Hey, any jackass can roll a rock up and down a mountainside forever but it takes a certain kind of person to return a volley from Chin Li Bao Ming, The Ping Pong Demon of Beijing, and not wet your pants in the process.
Sartre demonstrating his famous technique with his lover and Ping Pong partner Simone de Beauvoir. Camus, with his girlfriend, Camilla Forceps de Bruntmire, looks on with glee but the subtext of the photo illustrates women's oppression at the hands of the Ping Pong paddle, itself a symbolic representation of male-dominated society.
But this fear and trembling was about to take on new heights as Camus perfected his Existentialist Shrinking Ray and later Death Ray, which he turned on Sartre one day in a fit of rage after a heated debate over the perfect size for suit lapels. The existentialists back in the day were notorious dandies and a similar argument had already occurred days earlier over pants pleats, serving as the catalyst for Camus' simmering anger. It is exactly these biographical touches that Sartre includes in his book, which lend a kind of humanism and personality to material that would otherwise be as dry as Nietzche's mustache hair, especially after the flanken soup he loved so much had dried in the bristles.
Camus testing his combination Existentialist Shrinking and Death Ray on gophers during one of his annual vacations to Saskatchewan. There's a Albert Camus statue in Regina in thanks for all the shrinking of groundhogs he did at no expense to the good people of the prairies.
The last chapters of Being and Nothingness deal with Sartre's adventures after being shrunk and his especially harrowing battle with the Spiders of Nothingness. These horrendous arachnids lived in his attic and once he was reduced to an edible size, they wasted no time in attacking the famed existentialist. Sartre describes their mandibles as "gleaming with the sheer hopelessness of human endeavor and dripping with a foul-smelling secretion worse than bleu cheese wrapped in old, stiff sweat socks that had been used as ejaculatory receptacles by Benedictine monks during summer vacation in the French Alps." Luckily, as Sartre recounts, his Ping Pong training paid off as his fast reflexes and formidable backhand sent the spiders running for the hills (or attic in this case), except for the ones he killed and drank of their blood in a sudden lust for life that no existentialist had the right to enjoy.   
Eventually Simone de Beauvoir talked Camus into returning Sartre back to his normal size (after promising him that he could spank her with a Ping Pong paddle too), but the scars ran deep and the two men would never speak again, except about nothing and only when the other had left the room. Thus, being and nothingness, played out in a drama between two great philosophical minds, much like the above image illustrates, wherein the moose and the mammoth meet in a state of being spanning the very dictums of time itself but with nothing to say because, well, the moose speaks moose and the mammoth speaks mammoth and never the twain shall meet. Isn't this really what the existential crisis is all about, Sartre would ask if he'd lived long enough to see these two magnificent creatures meet and I'd agree or maybe it was me asking and he'd agree, I'm not sure anymore, I'm a little mixed up so obviously I've achieved my existential destiny. Thank you Jean-Paul Sartre, thank you and thank you to the moose and the mammoth too, for never have I felt so much about nothing and much ado about something and a new respect for flanken soup although I'd take a bratwurst, even a non-existent one, over the soup any day. I also realize I have been amiss since I have gone a whole review without talking about silverfish and the killing abilities of Sartre's work. It's not a hefty work, this Being and Nothingness book but let's explain it this way, which I think you'll find most satisfactory. Silverfish equals being. Then, smack with the book. Presto, nothingness where once there was a silverfish. How's that for existentialism you stinking little vermin.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Hovel of Haberdashery

Silverfish Camouflage Underpants

As I've stated previously, as well as being a man of science pertaining to both the mind and body, an impeccable gourmand, an expert in animal husbandry (ask me anything about chickens, giant frogs or squabs and I will have you on the edge of your seat for hours at a stretch), a philosopher and observer of the cosmos as well as an amateur plastics injection moulder, I am also a haberdasher extraordinaire who has trained with some of the finest tailors on Saville Row to various schmatta sweatshop owners in Eastern Europe and the Orient, utilizing materials you wouldn't imagine could touch human skin let alone catch on fire so easily. It is through this teaching, much like in the old country where you ate every part of the cow and pig, that I have learned to use materials for my clothing creations that most people would just throw in the waste bin. On the throw-away theme, it was precisely this no-waste philosophy that led me to fabricate my famed silverfish camouflage underpants that have garnered fans from as far away as New Jersey and as close as Sudbury.
These three men may be wearing stylish underpants but they are a weak barrier against an onslaught of silverfish. The vermin's antennae can sense these briefs from at least fifty feet, even more perhaps, and looking good counts for nothing when the silverfish are crawling up your legs. And the sunglasses don't help either as this type of disguise is better suited for tricking houseflies, bumblebees or any other insect with hexagon eyes.
And the key to their success in two words or less, or actually three words with a hyphen in between if you live east of the Rockies or north of the Mississippi, is toilet paper rolls. There is no end to the use of these wonderful cardboard foundations and it is their strength at being a supporting structure that I have long admired and thus applied towards being the base for my silverfish underwear disguise. The fact is, killing silverfish is a difficult task, being as they are so fast and ready to run at the drop of a hat or underpants for that matter, so quick wits and the desire to see the process through is mandatory to eliminating the psychological hold these creatures can wield over you. Thus, toilet paper tubes are the answer in the first step towards making your underpants silverfish-friendly in order to get closer to them for a full-on killing frenzy. Now we've all seen those whimsical craft projects involving toilet paper tubes and using this for inspiration, I have adapted the tubes to my more devious pursuits.
Example 1.) This multi-armed little critter shown above might be useful for charming an octopus but when it comes to silverfish, he's almost useless. Of course, I experimented with versions of this construction before casting it aside and although the googly eyes had their benefits, the silverfish at once recognized it as not one of their own and fled for the hills or really the under linoleum that lines the bathroom floor. Next, was this happy little family of vermin (Example 2, shown below) that I created hoping for strength in numbers and variety of vermin species, but alas, this too proved to be a failure for silverfish but most useful for driving back my neighbour, Voltar's, pet guinea pig, Nunzio, who ran squeaking from my presence. I will eat him one day if given my way.
Finally, I hit upon this solution, my best effort yet. After careful study of the silverfish body and with a pair of toenail scissors and nimble fingers, I engineered this facsimile of the pest in question and quickly moved into mass production.

Luckily for me I had been saving toilet paper rolls by the dozens for just such an emergency, so it was not difficult to construct twenty of these effigies and using one of my saggier pairs of underwear because of space affordability on their surface, with silver duct tape to accentuate the whole silverfish motif, I stuck them to the skivvies and wasted no time in donning my creation and putting them to the test in the bathroom. I lay in wait, well, crouched actually, preparing myself psychologically for the battle. I'm sad to say, this first foray into silverfish reconnaissance was not a success until I realized a vital element was missing.
So I constructed these antennae using more toilet paper tubes strung through with shoelaces and painted black to simulate the dappling effect of moonlight shimmering through the window screen and reflecting off the silverfish backs. Once adhered to my already well-disguised underwear, I knew the results would be nothing more than fantastic. And I was right. Again I got into my crouch, remained perfectly still and let the faux-silverfish adhered to my underpants work their magic. In no time the real silverfish came creeping out, took me for one of their own and began to surround me as they would their own brother, paying me no bother as I remained motionless. As a testament to my camouflage underpants, a few silverfish even went so far as to attempt to mate with me and it was not long after this that I came out swinging. My particular weapon of choice for this silverfish mission was Don Quixote by Cervantes, a book I still have never read so stay tuned for a review. Anyway, the Spaniard did his thing, as adept at slaying silverfish as he was at dragons and windmills, and after ten minutes of fervent smashing with this hefty book, my bathroom floor looked like the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, except this time it was the bad guys' bodies that littered the landscape, pulverized beyond recognition. Elation filled me like two beef and bean burritos and a Big Gulp Cherry Slurpee from 7-11.
I'd also like to say that my camouflage silverfish underpants are gender friendly so, ladies, do not feel left out of the vermin extermination picture. Any of the above woman's underwear is perfectly adaptable to my design although I don't recommend flowers for this particular endeavor as the waft of the floral bouquet might make the silverfish a tad ansty. So, there you have it. A do-it-yourself project that the whole family can enjoy and it's educational for the kids too since between silverfish swatting they can read pages from their chosen weapons of destruction making homework never seem so fun, interesting and just downright exciting.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The last existing photograph of Herman Melville on the eve of his 96th birthday, enjoying the aquatic style of living his whaling days had accustomed him to. The unusual bathtub was Melville's own invention and successfully reproduced the blowhole action of a breaching whale and/or porpoise.
Let me begin this essay by saying I've never had a more satisfying night of swatting silverfish than with this mighty classic. Forget the white whale. This book proves the written word is mightier than any plankton and krill sifting sea mammal. And I thought the Russian novelists took the cake in the silverfish killing department but I was mistaken. Melville clocks in at, oh, say, nine hundred pages and taken singly, it's just paper flapping in the breeze but together, they're the iron fist of the vermin killing world. Ahab should've been so lucky to have this thing to bonk Moby Dick over the head with, but of course they were both in the book so that would've made it an impossibility. Unless, of course, Melville wrote himself into the book writing the book, finishing it, sending it to the printers and then giving a copy to Ahab to hit Moby Dick over the head with, but, alas, Melville didn't do that and Ahab payed the price with a leg and then his life. But I've already said too much. Still, I haven't said enough so, on that note, on to the book itself. The two great misconceptions about Moby Dick or El Hombre Blanco Porco Giantissimo de Mer as he's known in the intellectual salons of Europe and the brothels of Tijuana, is that, number one, he's a whale and number two, the book is about his life and adventures. Well, people couldn't be more wrong on both points. To clear up the first point, Moby Dick was half whale, half giant squid as the photo below demonstrates. Ahab is in the foreground wearing an early version of the famous Nantucket seersucker slacks that hid his peg leg and as we can see, the two of them appear to be friends.
In fact, if you read the subtext of the novel carefully (you might need special glasses for this or lemon juice carefully dripped on to the right spots on the pages because Melville wrote sections of his great work in invisible ink and so many ideas and themes have been misconstrued or just plainly hidden in plain sight), you will find that, in fact, Ahab and Moby Dick were great pals but during a friendly game of Yahtzee, Moby Dick became overly excited with a good roll of the dice, grasped one of Ahab's legs with a tentacle out of sheer surprise, cut off the oxygen supply and presto, Ahab was getting fitted for a peg leg in no time. Being half mammal, half cephalopod, Moby Dick simply didn't know his own strength.
The accident angered the good townsfolk of Nantucket and Moby Dick was forced to go on the run, heading for deep open waters to put some distance between him and the crusty mariners who would strip him of his tentacles and blubber. As far as they were concerned he was just so much calamari and candle lamp oil. "Ahab," they all chimed in. "Are you going to allow him to get away with that, taking your leg and all," so Ahab was forced to head out to sea and hunt the beast he once called friend. Amazingly, all this takes up very little of the book and this is where I'm going to clear up the second misconception. If you dab the opening paragraph with lemon juice or have the special glasses you will read that one of the most immortal lines to begin a novel actually reads, "Call me Lipsey." That's right, Lipsey, as in Lipsey the porpoise, the main hero of the story and cetacean friend to all sea-going mammals as well as having a soft spot for cephalopods too.
The real-life Lipsey (who Melville based his fictional porpoise on), in his later years, sharing a joke with a group of Japanese exchange students studying sea mammal massage therapy. The punchline goes, "Dolphin-friendly, shmalphin-friendly, blow it out your blowhole, just bring me another tuna salad sandwich or I'll flipper you across the tuchas."
It is through the voice of Lipsey, that Melville shows his true brilliance. Centering on themes of alienation and abandonment, friendship and feuding, banishment and water buoyancy, Melville whaps the crap out of all of them like he's hitting dead fish upon a rock until new truths are revealed amongst the disintegrating and occasionally airborne guts. And he can do this for pages and pages at a stretch without catching his breath, much like a whale with a full blowhole but still plenty of submersible time left. At the heart of the story is Lipsey's overwhelming empathy for his fellow friends of the sea, even if that most human trait keeps him from leading a happy porpoise life because, as we know, and Melville was very aware of, even back in the day, is that porpoises are very judgmental, especially when they travel in groups, much like German or British tourists on seaside holidays.
Two German tourists enjoying a day at the beach, examining grains of sand under a spectronoscope to make sure the sand is soft enough for their well-cared for feet.
So, we have have two castaways so to speak, Lipsey, shunned by his fellow porpoises and Moby Dick, the result of a freak mating incident between a whale and a giant squid (it's very dark in certain parts of the ocean and sometimes creatures of different species latch on to each other for a little extra-curricular activity that is not exactly sanctioned by the laws of nature) and thus banished from his pod, meeting up and recognizing a kinship that, over the course of the book, strengthens into a bond of friendship until Ahab reappears and kills them both. Well, maybe I shouldn't have told you that. Anyway, a lot has been made over this Ishmael fellow and I can't emphasize enough how minimal this character's part is in the book. He might as well have said "Call me invisible," for all the effect he has on the plot. He spends most of his time scrounging for beef jerky and when he does have a thought or speak, it's only to talk about where he can find more beef jerky or did the second mate eat it or the third mate steal it or is there a hidden stash in the crows nest and, well, you catch my drift.
Ishmael's Beef Jerky factory in Shandong Province, China. For some reason the book is a big hit in mainland China and there are now over forty Ishmael Beef Jerky Kiosks throughout the country.
As for Ahab, besides the peg leg, which caused him great anxiety with women, especially during dance-hall parties (the waltz was his sore-spot but he could rumba like Don Ameche before his Cocoon days), he also had a large mole on his face that stuck out like a halved Tuscan meatball and I believe it was this unsightly facial blemish that sent him off to sea rather than the whole Moby Dick revenge motif. Melville doesn't make this clear but then he likes to build ambiguity into the text like a built-in dishwasher in a condo kitchen granite counter-top, perfectly flush so no edges stick out and the facade as sleek and smooth as a porpoise's underbelly. That's the kind of ambiguity I'm talking about. Remember too, Melville is a novelist who comes with all the fixings so throw in a little metaphor and a little simile on the word meat patty, toss in some grandiose themes of men vs. nature, men vs. men, men vs. themselves and men vs. ventriloquists (ventriloquism was only second to Peeping Tom-ism as entertainment in Melville's days), add some trusty harpoons named after the whalers' scrimshaw carving wives back on the rugged New England coastline and you have a book that will leave grill-marks across your brain complete with fat drippings and the resulting flare-ups that will burn the eyebrows right off a blubber-puss like Moby Dick, or Ahab for that matter, who was no looker himself. Which, in the end, wouldn't be a bad thing considering how things eventually do turn out.
An artist's rendition of Ahab just before setting sail to catch the great white whale, staring out to sea and contemplating his destiny that lay somewhere deep in his heart and as dark as thirty fathoms of seaweed strewn longing, revenge and death and not necessarily in that order depending on which side of the equator you live on and who tailors your pants.
Ahab nails a gold coin to the mast and then says that any man who sights the great white whale first shall earn that coin while all the other men will have to lick his mole. That sets off a mutiny and soon Ahab and Ishmael are cast adrift in a rowboat with only a days supply of beef jerky and Ahab's favourite harpoon, Eleanor Glox-Pus 9. As luck would have it, soon the two men spot the voluminous spout from the great blowhole of the giant beast and Ahab comes face to face with his nemesis and let me just say, Yahtzee isn't anywhere on the menu this time. The harpoon is thrown, penetrating the thick flesh of the enormous creature, but simultaneously, Moby Dick whips out one of his massive yet nimble tentacles, wrapping Ahab around the waist and pulls him off the boat, plunging him into the depths below. Above cumulus clouds look happy and puffy but this is all misleading, part of Melville's use of dichotomy, because below the waves it's no picnic or if it is, then someone forgot the condiments and so nothing tastes as good as it looks and death awaits so what's the point of eating anyway. I'll say no more except that Ishmael runs out of beef jerky before he hits Tahiti and, well, not even a monkey bride with a hefty coconut dowry can bring him back from the vortex of insanity that the lack of beef jerky has plunged him into.
Is this some form of a parable Melville wishes to leave us with or is he just toying with the parable idea to hide bigger stuff, much like one of those tents that comes in a compact nylon encasing but opens up to sleep six. Speaking of sleeping, this book will make you very tired because, what with the lapping of the waves and the endless hours spent at sea doing really nothing except looking for whales and hoping you don't have to lick Ahab's mole, it's a wonder anyone in this book stays awake.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Reviews Of Books I Have Read

The Taxidermist's Lament by Stilton Gritchbriar
My motto has always been why stuff a turkey when you can stuff a turkey vulture instead. Obviously, Mr. Gritchbriar, mirrors my sentiment in his wonderful and thought-provoking new book. Though a work of fiction, this novel has all the epic sweep and scope of true history and when you think that history is kind of like taxidermy, except with less fur, feathers and dust mites, well, you see my point. And if you don't, then read this book and the point will hit you like a stick in the eye. It's a sordid story, but not without its merits. Hugo Sporetoast is the taxidermist in question. The story begins just as his wife has left him, literally, in the opening sentence. And as far as openings go, well, they don't get much better than this. Just let your mind ponder this beginning, chock full of portending drama, doom and maybe even a major manufacturer of coat hangers being caught with his pants down in a petting zoo.
"Nellie Sporetoast stood at the open door, gazing back into the living room filled with trophy heads and mounted raccoons. Her voice caught with raw emotion as she faced her husband, probably for the last time, but her eyes were dry and the only tears she felt were deep inside, just around where her appendix would be if it hadn't been removed years earlier and as she stared at Hugo in his frock coat and blood-stained apron, she said, 'If I hadn't found you kissing that mule deer head with the five-point antler spread maybe there would be something left to talk about.' Then she turned, never to look back again and got in the waiting taxi cab on her way to Medicine Hat to begin her new life as a bingo caller at the Galaxy Bingo and Pull Tab Emporium and Buffet."
Now, if that opening paragraph doesn't have you hanging on Gritchbriar's every word and his ability to stuff so much information so effortlessly into a single sentence (much like Sporetoast stuffing a turkey vulture and mounting it on a faux-tree branch rife with Dutch elm disease and wood lice), then perhaps reading might not be your thing. But if it is your thing, then read on because Gritchbriar has even more to say. As Sporetoast finds himself alone for this first time in his life, not counting the hundreds of pieces of dead animals he's surrounded by, he begins a slow descent into depression tinged with a touch of madness on those nights when the moon wanes full and his golf cleats keep catching on the broadloom. But he takes advantage of his sudden free time to begin his life's work of constructing Dante's Inferno in nine different tableaux using stuffed squirrels and mice. 
From horrifying scenes of torture to popes wandering the paths of purgatory casting benediction on the sinning rodents of the underworld plus a glimpse into Satan's kitchen where you won't believe what's cooking, Gritchbriar takes us into the mind of a maddened taxidermist and barely emerges out the other side into the light, and, well, let me just say you might need a few napkins right around Chapter Six. I won't say why, but trust me, you'll need them plenty.
The novel is also lavishly illustrated with photographs of Gritchbriar's own stuffed mouse creations because, as we learn in the author's bio, Gritchbriar is also an amateur taxidermist as well as a chartered accountant, candyfloss machine repairman and lay minister at his local church. Well, add successful novelist to that list.
Satan's kitchen in the seventh ring of Hell where Mrs. Satan Mouse is preparing a feast of squirrel feet, pork brains and parrot beaks in blood gravy.
Anyway, just when you think that Sporetoast is pretty much toast where his mind is concerned (not to mention his health because at this point he's living on a diet of Lucky Charms and clamato juice), along comes a character who will change both their lives. Flingbrot Mandledorf is a self-made millionaire with "more in the bank than he has in his heart," as Gritchbriar so eloquently describes him, but maybe this is just the cost of being a magnate in the coat hanger industry where if you blink for a moment your competitor will hang you out to dry.
The two men meet at Dummkopf's, a local bar that serves the gated community of Shreepsburg Fields, where the two men live. In fact, they turn out to be almost neighbours and as the two men converse and drink more than their fill, Sporetoast begins to rant about how he's a misunderstood taxidermist and how one day the world will know his work and bow down to him and kiss his formaldehyde-scented feet and how he'd like to stuff all of them, all of those non-believers, starting with his wife and see how she feels trying to call bingo numbers with a mouth full of polyurethane filling and glass eyes. This is where Mandledorf stops him because Sporetoast is spitting bits of pickled egg and also people are looking at them and it wouldn't do to have the whole community talking about how Mandledorf has befriended a psychotic taxidermist and even borrowed his hedge trimmer, but there is something in Sporetoast that Mandledorf sees, perhaps the same hunger that he himself had as a young man setting out in the coat hanger industry and he senses the two of them could make history, especially with a new idea he's had for years and now sees a way to make that dream a reality. I'm telling you, this book is a real page turner and even when I fell asleep with the book draped over my face, I still managed to turn pages using only my tongue, lips and teeth. When I finally awoke a few days later and changed out of my soiled clothing (deep sleep is particularly hard on the laundry), I resumed the book to discover the two men had launched a most ingenious business plan. Billed as Eden's Delight, Sporetoast and Mandledorf had created the world's first petting zoo populated completely with taxidermy animals.
"That way," Mandledorf reasoned, "visitors can have all the hands-on experience that a petting zoo offers without getting bitten or licked, shoes shat upon by a sick goat or clothing nuzzled by the mucous-sniffling over-sized nostrils of some domestic beast and come away feeling a new appreciation for the wonders of the animal kingdom." It was a dream he'd had since he was a child and on a visit to Uncle Narble's Petting Zoo in North Tonawanda, Buffalo, a duck with diarrhea had forever changed the way he thought about water fowl and all animals for that matter. To this day the image still haunted him, waking him up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat or causing him to whimper and cry out in his sleep and he vowed one day to remedy all that, to change the face of his history and perhaps the histories and memories of kids everywhere who might be traumatized by witnessing such things in such an innocent setting. The only problem for Mandledorf and Sporetoast was that they didn't have enough animals to populate their petting zoo with. Due to some financial concerns, Sporetoast, mid-novel, is forced to sell off much of his collection of magnificent taxidermy specimens and is left mainly with mounted fish, a couple of owls (who no one wants to pet) and an alligator holding a tray of drinks (which Mandledorf thought would look good near the ticket booth).
So the two men are left to culling the neighbourhood, on the hunt for dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, cockatoos or any other family pet that might be left in the backyard for a few minutes, along with any wild animal life like raccoons, coyotes, squirrels, rats and skunks that they can trap. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour draws the attention of the authorities and the two petting zoo partners are jailed for a short time. The novel lags a bit here because in the local jail all they do is sit around, sigh, masturbate, eat biscuits and gravy with ham steak and read old copies of People Magazine. But when they get out, well, let me tell you, the plot really picks up. The two men broaden their horizons and their hunting grounds and in no time, bingo, Sporedorf's Eden's Delight Petting Zoo and Coat Hanger Boutique is opened. It's a roaring success but still, there is a loneliness that fills the taxidermist's life without his wife to share in his joy, and so he laments (as the title promises), sleeps a bit, eats and then laments some more. Then a catastrophic event shakes up the foundations of their new-found business. Mandledorf is caught, pants down, in the petting zoo one evening, having his way with a stuffed Shetland pony, with tragic results. The petting zoo is shut down. Mandledorf is hauled off to jail protesting, "Hey, I didn't know I could have feelings like this and besides, the animal's dead. It's not like it can give its consent or anything, it's not feeling anything and it brings me such happiness. What's a little Shetland pony between friends and I'll remind you I've long been a friend of the community so jail me and there's no more free coat hangers for the police department, that's all I'll say." Nevertheless, with charges of both necrophilia and bestiality simultaneously, which is a new one in the Shreepsburg police department's books, Mandledorf is jailed again, this time for a more considerable sentence, or at least he's still in jail when the novel ends. Meanwhile, things pick up for our lamenting taxidermist. Mandledorf's wife, Charlemagne, disgusted with her husband and in line to inherit most of his coat hanger fortune once the divorce goes through, takes a shine to Sporetoast and soon the doves are cooing in the rafters and the wedding bells are chiming in the church tower and the happy couple are heading off into the sunset. Or are they? I won't say too much but think of an enraged moose, his brother stuffed many years ago by a talented taxidermist, a long-held grudge and the hunt for the offending party.
 What's that rustling in the bushes I hear? A little speckled wood thrush calling to its mate? I think not and neither does the guy on the receiving end of the antlers of death. Or maybe it was just a songbird in love, after all. You'll have to read the book. Don't forget the napkins for Chapter Six. I warned you once. I don't want to say it again.      

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Smelling Salts vs. Salted Smelts

A spell of fainting brought on by a deep and disturbing childhood memory involving dried pasta. Once I was able to ascertain that dried pasta was the culprit, I had the patient switch to fresh pasta and the fainting spells vanished. I also told her to stay away from gorgonzola sauce since I believed it and the dried pasta were inextricably linked in the mind of the patient, after she had related to me a dream of a giant gorgonzola cheese chasing her across the Pennsylvania countryside asking her questions about some recent tax receipts.
In my years as a practitioner of the psychiatric and psychoanalytic arts, I have had numerous patients faint on me when confronting some of their deepest feelings and long forgotten memories, especially of a painful or embarrassing nature. Take Patient K., as I shall refer to him. A chronic bed-wetter in his childhood days, as an adult he was finding dissatisfaction and even a modern ennui taking hold of him daily (ennui tended to have died out during the Victorian Age after it was discovered that it was caused by a lack of chicken fat in the Victorian diet and once this was remedied, ennui was put on the train to France where the French took to it like snails in white wine, butter and garlic), and it wasn't until I dug deep, through a series of lengthy sessions of psychoanalysis and strudel eating (Freud was the first to discover the benefits of strudel eating, while probing the darkest recesses of a patient's mind while Jung was given to fasting, taking psychotropic drugs and dancing the Watusi), that I finally discovered the answer to K's predicament.
Herr M., one of Jung's patients, completely gone on psychotropic drugs and using Watusi therapy to come to terms with his dual personalities.
I simply convinced K. that all it would take for him to find peace and happiness, was for him to  begin wetting his bed again. I'm happy to report my diagnosis worked and to this day K. is a veritable fountain of urine under the sheets (his own of course as I've cautioned him about using discretionary measures when using someone else's bedding even if it means being depressed for a few days) and happy as a walrus during spring break on the tundra when the lichen blooms and makes a comfortable pillow for lovemaking, child rearing, grunting and boisterous bellowing to welcome the summer solstice and arrival of the dying ospreys of Norway. Anyway, the point is, if it hadn't been for him fainting constantly (he did receive some nasty lumps on his forehead but part of the technique is collapsing without any cushioning so that the head might strike the floor with a proper concussive speed to trigger unconsciousness and begin the regressive therapy), I would not have been able to treat him so quickly and efficiently. The question is, with patients of the fainting ilk, what do you use to revive them so that they can; A) continue to relive their childhood horrors until they achieve a state of well-being, and, B) rouse themselves from their prone state so that their drool may not soak into your Turkish carpet. Now, for years and even to this day, smelling salts continue to be the answer to this dilemma, but it is my conviction that smelling salts are actually damaging the tender tissues of the brain due to the dioxyglucoflouridaoxyglobin that is part of their chemical make-up. If you saw what this stuff can do to Kleenex (which is not unlike tender brain tissues), then you can only imagine what it's doing ricocheting around in your head cavity. The photo below provides an extreme example of what the excessive use of smelling salts can do. Notice the Kleenex-like brain tissue emerging from the nostrils and then light as a feather, drifting both upwards and downwards to drape over the subject's forehead and neckline. The eyes, of course, have been paralyzed by the dioxyglucoflouridaoxyglobin, but luckily, after receiving the call from one of my fellow associates for help (it was his patient), through the use of my salted smelts counteractive treatment, I was able to bring this patient around.
So, what exactly is this remedy for awaking a person from a faint? Salted smelts is the key and though it's been years since I've tested this treatment on another human being (I did try it once on my neighbour, Voltar's, guinea pig, Nunzio, about a year ago with mixed results as the smelts were too large to fully insert into Nunzio's tiny nostrils), I was ready to give it another go. It so happened that day that an old colleague of mine, Dr. Jeepers, called me up to see if he could borrow my meerschaum pipe and a pair of swim flippers. I told him certainly but in exchange, he must help me with an experiment. Now, the whole thing hinged on smelts of course and not having any of these succulent fish myself, it was time once again to plead with my landlady, Mrs. Grabowsky, who still hadn't forgiven me for setting her housecoat aflame and also charring her wig (even though I told her it was Litvack who did it and not me after one of his antique muskets misfired causing the tragedy). Anyway, after I implored her for a good ten minutes, she finally relented after I promised to bathe her cat, and she tossed me a can of sardines. The very same brand, in fact, that I'd previously pried from her pantry to create my makeshift mutton chops.
 "But these aren't smelts," I said, confused.
"Listen, mister, you're already walking on thin ice. Count your lucky stars I've haven't thrown you the hell out of this place. Now take the goddamn sardines and get the hell outta my sight."
"Well," Dr. Jeepers consoled me. "Smelts are small fish. Sardines are small fish. I don't see where there's too much difference. Shall we begin the experiment. I'm kind'a in a hurry for those swim flippers."
Now, so many things can go wrong with this type of psychological testing that one must tread lightly, preferably in slippers, and keep a keen eye on the patient's behaviour and an astute ear to their breathing, especially after you knock them over the head to simulate unconsciousness from fainting. Because it's difficult to make someone faint on cue so a little catalyst is needed in the form of a good, blunt instrument, wrapped in a towel to prevent serious head injury or at least any outward bleeding. Only after this can the salted smelts be applied. But if you should falter or hesitate in your application of this technique, even for a minute, the results can be disastrous as the photo below illustrates. In this case, the salted smelts were applied too late and brain tissue issued forth from the nose as a kind of umbilical cord from which bloomed, because of the memories contained in the cellular structure, a type of a human figure that Jung would have termed a "carbuncular puppet of doom." Besides the forlorn and frightening nature of the visage, you try squeezing one of these apparitions out of your nose. In the end it was deemed the figure was a memory simulation of the patient's Aunt Edna, who was still angry at the patient for burning a batch of griddle cakes on the aunt's birthday, causing her husband, Bertrand, to storm out of the house, get in a car accident, losing his left hand and forever impairing his career as a competition small mouth bass fisherman.

"So, how do we go about this?" Dr. Jeepers asked.
"Well, you stand here," I directed him to the middle of the room, "and I'll knock you over the head. Let me prepare the sardines." Once I had laid the little fish out on a plate and liberally salted them with salt packs I had earlier procured from my local fast food chain (iodized salt, by the way, works best while the kosher salt seems lacking in allowing the smelts to fully deliver their reviving power), I looked about the room for something to knock Dr. Jeepers over the head with. I settled on an old mop handle and after giving Dr. Jeepers clear warning so as to prepare himself for unconsciousness, I proceeded to strike him over the head, three, four, five and finally a sixth time before he collapsed to the ground, moaning and his legs twitching slightly as the fainting simulation took control of his mind and body.
 Unfortunately, I realized too late that I didn't take my own advice and wrap a towel around the mop handle to lessen the percussive blow to the scalp, but as I could detect no blood upon the linoleum, I continued with the experiment. Bending down, I deftly and gently inserted two salted sardines, one in each nostril and stood back to watch the process take effect. Dr. Jeepers seemed to sputter a few times, his tongue lolled out of his mouth a bit, his eyes rolled around much like marbles on a plate, there were then some guttural utterances before he blew the two sardines out of his nose, turned over and vomited copiously on my flooring. I hadn't prepared for this or I would've placed a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket by his head.
"Quickly," I barked into his face. "Tell me your earliest childhood memory and also, have you ever ridden a roller coaster with a tunnel feature and emerged crying uncontrollably and asking for your nanny, your teddy or a gravy separator with a clogged spout? Answer quickly. The regressive threapy will be wearing off in a moment." I'm sad to report Dr. Jeepers was not able to answer any of my questions and in fact, for a good twenty minutes, wasn't even able to speak. When he was finally able to put some words together he muttered only, "I will kill you, Haltiwanger, I will kill you." I took this as a good sign that he was working through some of his more aggressive tendencies and so, there's hope for him yet that he might lead a happy and fulfilling life.  Maybe a blow to the head as the one shown below might have had better results, but I must say, the salted sardines did not disappoint and if I had smelts, well then, I have no doubts my experiment would've tested through the roof.

In the end Dr. Jeepers was finally able to stand upon his own two feet without assistance from me. While he was slouched in a chair I took the liberty of placing the promised swim fins upon his feet and took advantage of his grogginess to steer him out the door.
"Always a pleasure, Jeepers," I exclaimed with a hearty clap upon his back. "Watch your step on the stairs now as you have flippers on your feet and, oh yes, don't forget the meerschaum pipe." I stuck it between his chattering teeth and sent him on his way. From my open window I could hear the comforting flip-flop of Jeepers as he tottered down the street and thought, "there by the grace of God and salted smelts goes a man who faced his fears and lived to tell the tale." I did hear him fall into some garbage cans and swear loudly but life's paths are strewn with all sorts of debris and hey, who said psychoanalysis would be easy.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Reviews Of Books I've Never Read

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy, showing his lighter side in a rare moment playing with his cat, Yosef. It's said he wrote such big books because he was such a small man. Later, he grew an enormous beard that increased his stature two-fold but he was never really able to cover up his short legs.
I so much enjoyed not reading Tolstoy's other great work, Anna Karenina, about a stewardess during the Napoleonic Wars (few people know they had airplanes back then and although it took a little effort to get them off the ground, once in the air they were much safer than today's flying machines), I couldn't wait to settle into my wing-back lawn chair, plop the old dogs up on my ottoman milk crate (I like to mix classical and contemporary furnishings), and put my peepers to the pages of this intellectual masterpiece. Firing up my pipe, well stoked with fine tobacco I scoured from the ashtrays surrounding my local community centre, I was ready to plunge into the pleasures of this enormous work. I must say, before continuing with the review, if it's squashing silverfish that you're after, the Russian novelists are your go-to guys for sheer heft and fire power. Most of the time. Chekhov and Gogol were lightweights in this department, but the majority of these gentlemen thought nothing of taking three hundred pages just to describe the light bouncing off the balding pate of a retired general having tea with the Czar's wife, and then taking another thirty pages to talk about the breadcrumbs speckling his vest.
So you can imagine the mileage these guys got out of heavy themes like war and peace. Well, Tolstoy was no slouch in this area, as evidenced by the hernia-inducing physical and intellectual weight of this book. Can the brain get a hernia, you ask? You bet. I have come across this strange phenomenon many times in my years as a psychoanalyst. A bit of brain pops through the gelatinous hypotenuse and the next thing you know you're on a gurney in a white room having your prostate probed by a nurse with arm hair like an orangutan while the doctor fishes around in a tool box for the right  Black and Decker drill bit to bore a small hole and let some of the poisoned brain jelly out. I have ordered this procedure many times myself for more problematic patients in my years as a psychiatrist, although so experimental are some of my theories and techniques, many hospitals have banned me from working in their wards. Anyway, let's get down to the book. War. Peace. What does it all mean? And is there anything in between? Like, say, brunch. On a brunch note, as I was sitting down to write this review, my good friend, Cloudy Opongo, from the beautiful country of Senegal, dropped over for a visit. I met him a few months back at the local library where he was using the computer to launch a new and daring business venture. Cloudy's deceased father, you see, has a fortune tied up with the Senegalese government, being held in trust at a bank, but which Cloudy is not allowed access to for reasons that are still a little cloudy to me. He needs some money to unlock the other money (again, I'm not sure of the reasoning but investors should not fear because any money they pay out of pocket will be returned to them one hundred times over, or something to that effect), but seeing as I have no money to help him kick-start his business plan, he has enlisted me to help him in other aspects of the organization. Not being a businessman, I'm learning a lot, starting from the ground up, so to speak, as Cloudy puts my nose to the electronic grindstone, emailing all his prospective clients. While this most important task is left to me, Cloudy keeps busy attending to other business matters that his entrepreneurial spirit demands, mostly in the company of his secretary, a fetching young woman named Lardine, who I must say, fills out a pair of stretch hot pants like a sausage bursting from its casing. But I am a man of the mind, not the body, so I try not to notice these things. Anyway, to cut to the chase, Cloudy brought over a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken for brunch (I still don't know why the Colonel has never been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as his poultry has brought countries together in harmony for decades), and we got to talking about literary heroes and their works.
The Colonel hand-feeding a Bulgarian refugee seeking asylum in the United States. The Colonel took it upon himself to feed thousands, perhaps millions of refugees around the world, one by one, holding the chicken in his own hand for the weakened refugees to nibble at and tear upon.
"Have you ever read this?" I asked Cloudy, tapping my copy of War and Peace.
"No, man, I don't read that crap," Cloudy replied, ripping into a chicken leg. "But here, take a look at this," he said, pulling an over-sized periodical from his knapsack. It was called Devil in a D-Cup, in 3-D no less and lavishly illustrated throughout. Unfortunately, many of the pages were stuck together so I wasn't able to give the edition a proper perusal. Additionally, the supposedly supplied 3-D glasses were missing so the full effect of the few pages I could read in this esoteric publication was lost on me.
"So, what d'ya think, man?" Cloudy asked me, smiling, a sizeable fragment of chicken meat jutting out from between the large gap between his two front teeth.
"Well, Cloudy, " I ventured. "It's no War and Peace but men have gone to war over smaller things and as for peace, I believe this publication speaks for itself."
"You're a crazy sonofabitch," Cloudy grinned. "Now eat up your chicken. We gotta go to work ." 
I'd like to say Cloudy and I then had a long, deep discussion about War and Peace and Leo Tolstoy and the effects of D-Cups in both popular culture, political history and the male psyche, but unfortunately we didn't have time as our work at the library computer terminal beckoned and now, Cloudy, was also in a rush to marry his sister, back in Senegal, off, which was news to me, and we had more emailing to do to find a prospective groom. Oddly, the images he was planning to use to bewitch future husbands were of his secretary, Lardine, in all her hot pants glory, and some with no hot pants at all, which I found neutralized her more demure and innocent side, but just as with the money operations, I am also ignorant in the marriage business and the ways of the flesh for that matter, and so left it all up to Cloudy's better judgement.
Cloudy's sister, aka Lardine, and some of her bridesmaids, performing a traditional Senegalese/Detroit Conga Line for prospective husbands to illustrate the happiness that awaits them once joined in holy matrimony.
I promised Cloudy I'd meet him promptly at the library while I hastily finished my review of this Russian masterpiece. Firstly, the amazing thing about War and Peace is that Tolstoy set it in the future. Well, 1989, but for Tolstoy, that was really pushing it as far as the future was concerned back in his day. For us today, that would be something like 4011 or 5001 or 6000 or something in that range. It's amazing Tolstoy could even envision a novel of the future, since previously he'd dealt mainly with domestic issues and animals that pertained to the period of his time and few think of Tolstoy and science-fiction as bedfellows sharing the same narrow cot in the Gulag. But Tolstoy never ceases to amaze with his forward thinking and ability to project the most human of problems into a futuristic world gone awry. The Czar makes allies with the Gorgonians, an invertebrate race from Planet Slorvon, three billion light years away. The Gorgonians arrive in their flying gunships and proceed to laser beam earthlings indiscriminately, from Medicine Hat to Madagascar, although there, an army of lemurs, puts up a valiant fight but alas, Madagascar is blown to smithereens.
Meanwhile, back in Moscow, Leonid Buzakavorovich, esteemed general and husband to the alluring but given to fainting, Natasha Nikolayaskonavia Buzakavorovich, is planning with Prince Vasily Andrei Molotov, son to the Czar himself, the reforming of a new government after the Gorgonians destroy the rest of the world's infrastructures, as well as drawing up blueprints for renovations to his palatial drawing room in order to entertain Count Sneltzer, heir to the Bavarian throne. It is during this time he meets the ravishing Gorgonian queen, Q-6-Phalanx-Orgon-9, and they begin an affair. Her invertebrate structure offers them a few problems physically (it's hard to snuggle and smooch on the settee when you have no bone structure), but love conquers all, which I think is one of Tolstoy's main underlying themes.
Here is Q-6-Phalanx-Orgon-9 in her preserved and dismantled state, currently on display at the Moscow Museum of Natural History, Invertebrates, Alien Beings and Mummified Cream Cakes Favoured by Catherine the Great.
 Anyway, while the cat's away the mice will play (in Russian it's weasels and ermine), so while King Torvox-2-Ropoxicide is battling the many different earth armies, he has no clue that his beloved Queen is making the beast with one back, one slime sac, a pocket watch, tentacles, lavender-scented hair oil and a feeding tube, with his dear and trusted ally. Well, that takes care of the war part of the novel, but where, you might ask, is the peace? It's waiting right around the corner, in the newly renovated drawing room, under the sofa where Natasha Nikolayaskonavia Buzakavorovich has fainted for the umpteenth time, although you'd be hard pressed to see it, hidden beneath all the dust bunnies. This is truly where Tolstoy shines. By keeping this major theme entangled in the dirt and filth of the time, its locality defining and yet trapping it simultaneously, the full human parade of human nature's ways, can be felt stomping on the intellect (minus the trombone of course-Tolstoy loathed trombones), and then banging its pedagogical drum on the outside of the brain cavity (remember the brain hernias I discussed previously, well, a simple misreading of the text can cause this predicament so tread carefully, especially on page 426). Eventually, Natasha Nikolayaskonavia Buzakavorovich, finds out about her husband's affair, notifies Torvox-2-Ropoxicide of the goings-ons, and, phew, I don't want to say too much here and ruin the plot for you but rotating pulsar beams and pus-filled destinies await some people needing corrective behavioral therapy. Also, some cheese blintzes are made that anger the Czar and the course of history is changed. And let's not forget Count Sneltzer. He returns to Bavaria, gives up his royal life, retires to the Black Forest to repair cuckoo clocks and spends the rest of his life trying to come up with a formula to turn bratwurst into gold. Or wine. I can't remember, as I was still hungover from Litvack's wine I'd drank a few days earlier. Actually, I got off easy with a hangover because Litvack rang me up to say he was blind for a day. Anyway, perhaps Count Sneltzer is the wisest character in the novel, but who is to know for sure, because Tolstoy certainly doesn't tell us and he wrote the damn thing for God's sake and as for Sneltzer, he meets his demise when a cuckoo clock explodes and the tiny bird with sharpened beak pierces his heart at a velocity you wouldn't think an exploding cuckoo clock could attain.
Is this the peace Tolstoy means? A peace that comes upon you suddenly, when the tiny beak of a wooden bird sends you through the heavenly gates. Or is it the peace Natasha Nikolayaskonavia Buzakavorovich feels as she faints on the settee, knowing that Torvox-2-Ropoxicide is going to pull her husband's intestines from his body and decorate his Christmas tree with them back on Planet Slorvon? Who is to know? Not me, not you, probably not even Tolstoy, because with a beard like his that needs all that trimming, who has time to think of such things.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Tales From The Spit Bucket

As I've already stated previously, I am a gourmand above reprieve. My taste buds have been tested to the nth degree and have come out swinging like a prize fighter with two blackened eyes, a cut across my cheek, a split lip bleeding profusely and still I can tell if the goose liver is from Le Cochon avec Morte or La Ville Fenetre dans le Cornichons. And when I still had my hotplate, I could turn out a pheasant under glass (well, really pigeon under Saran Wrap), that could've given Louis XIV's cooks a run for their money. But what I've learned in my culinary experience is that all of that is meaningless if you don't have the right wine to elevate the meal. Otherwise, you might as well be eating Alpha-getti, no matter how many black truffles or duck tongues you throw at the dish in question. On that note, I've actually added black truffles and duck tongues to a can of Alpha-getti, baked it at 350 degrees on the carburetor of my neighbour, Voltar's, Cutlass Supreme (this is where the term, low-carb foods comes from), and the results were quite satisfying. Even edifying you might say, if you factor in the resulting amount of bathroom time afterwards that allowed for deep and intensive meditation and more whimsical daydreaming, which, as an analyst, I know is all too important for the healing of mind, body and psyche. Be that as it may, it was a fine wine that brought the meal to its soaring finale. So, I'm always on the prowl for a new wine to both please and inform me simultaneously, much like shoplifting a dictionary and stuffing it down my underpants causing me to walk awkwardly and thus stimulating my nether parts in ways that even Noah Webster never dreamed of or came up with a word for.
Creating new definitions at Noah Webster's dictionary factory and end-of-the-roll broadloom and carpet outlet, circa 1986. Notice the ultra-hygienic factory environment to prevent cross-contamination of words and carpet samples.
Now, I'm not one to take the route well-taken or path well-trodden or sidewalk well-walked on except if there's a lot of thorny shrubbery or bushes and I'm forced to take one of the three aforementioned routes, so it's not my local purveyor of fine wines and spirits that I look to when I'm in the mood for a little bit of the grape squishings. No siree, that's not for me, when just down the street my acquaintance, Litvack Yaplonsky, has been producing fine wines in his garage using only plastic garbage bins, aquarium tubing, a roto-rooter, some fruit and vegetable peelings and sometimes a little squirrel meat for added body. Here's a picture of Litvack in all his wine-making glory, wearing the official Salle de Bain Ecouter avec Sang de Sel Fleur Boeuf Rouge wine-maker's overcoat of the Piedmont region, although the buttons were made in Alsace due to Charles the Bald losing a bet to Louis the German back in 842 over what would look better in a waistcoat, a mongoose or an otter.
So when Litvack rang and said he was bringing over a bottle of his newest pressing, a little something he called Chateau Poulet dans le Danse Macabre, I selected my best can of Chef Boyardee from my larder and set flame to a couple of Sterno cans. I broke out my best Chinet paper plates (only used once because I foraged them immediately after they were deposited in the waste basket at the local park so the stains are minimal and almost decorative if you squint), and readied myself for this feast for all the senses and the teeth. Litvack arrived with two plastic Pepsi containers filled with his finest and we settled in for the first tasting, allowing five minutes for the wine to breath and rid itself of some thick, almost jelly-like bubbles that popped and reformed on its surface. But this is common for wines near border crossings where the French and the Germans like to spit at each other. It was remarkably clear for a red but those Alsatians like to fool you with their subtle blends and bromide tinted accents. First we swirled the heavenly nectar and I was amazed at the dark, almost alluvial deposits of sediment it left on the sides of my Dixie Cup. Obviously the fruit rinds used for making this wine came from some pretty rich and filthy terroir, and one whiff at the bouquet proved me right as I caught the faint scent of mating earthworms and discarded Big Mac wrappers. This appellation designation definitely blows the cow manure right out of the earth, I thought to myself.
"So," Litvack said, eyeballing me over a speared Chefboyardee ravioli, "what do you think of my new brew?"
"Litvack, my good man," I laughed, shaking my own ravioli shard in his face. "Brew is not the word for this incredible creation. Bacchus himself would roll over in his grave to know of this concoction, except, well, I guess he's a god so he can't be dead but, I mean, last picture I saw of him he was pretty overweight so good chance he might've been bowled over by a heart attack by now. But let me reserve my comments for after a proper tasting." And so I did, with a thorough mouth swishing that I'd learned from a French sommelier, famed for his canary-yellow pants and his face disfigured by a truffle pig, followed by my own specially devised spitting technique that takes its inspiration from a high diver plunging into a wash tub. It takes hours of practice and dedication and is highly scientific as the diagram below illustrates.
The whole key is not to hyperventilate, pass out and accidentally squash your landlady's cat. And of course to have bendy straws so your efforts and equipment are not jeopardized in the process. Once I'd spit the wine into a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket, I thought momentarily, gathering my words for the final verdict. 
"It has a delicate nose," I began my prognosis, "that belies the stronger flavours that lurk beneath. I get a hint of tobacco, apple, blackberry and old shoe leather, may I conjecture the tongue and perhaps even lace off the remains of a 2002 Easy Stride Mallwalker. Subtlety is not this wine's finest point but then again, we're eating it with Italian cuisine that demands a vintage and style of wine to match the heartiness of the Chefboyardee. I expected some oak, Litvack, but I'm not disappointed, because, well, only a horse's ass would put any wood shavings in with the underlying squirrel meat you thought you could sneak by me."
"Chipmunk, actually," Litvack replied, but I could see by the twinkle in his one cataract-glazed eye that he was just playing devil's advocate and that I was right.
We finished both bottles of Litvack's finest and the rest gets a little hazy. I think we wrestled for a bit, there were some cat feces and a litterbox involved, Litvack left and returned with some firearms and his stuffed goat, the authorities were called at one point, Mrs. Grabowsky's quilted house coat caught fire and Litvack was arrested wearing only his smiley face boxer shorts, cat poop smeared across his chest. Ah, c'est la vie, tout le monde, that's life in Gay Paree and once I scrape the charred bits out of Mrs. Grabowsky's wig I'm sure I can convince her to let me remain in the rooming house.