At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Today marks ten years over at Dovbear's place. Which is a remarkable milestone in the evanescent internet world, and I encourage you to head on over and congratulate the ursine. Not many blogs last that long, or have such an argumentative and fractious commenter-base. The remarkably thing is that discussions in the comment-string are passionate, opinionated, and in contrast to almost every discussion elsewhere both insult and obscenity free. The vast majority of readers react on a level not often attained under newspaper articles or youtube videos, and entirely unlike Yelp reviews, the slagging and falsehoods presented by biased trolls are hard to find.

Dovbear's blog presents a discussion of Jewish material, and subjects of interest to Jews though not limited strictly to the interests of Jews.
It is, in the truest sense, a market place of ideas.

Kudos. Ten more years.
And congratulations.

Dovbear wrote: "The only mission in the beginning was to keep things short and funny, if possible. The idea behind the first blog posts were that they were potato chips. I was going to write things that could be consumed quickly and easily and that would make people come back for more (even if what they were coming back for was not nec. good for them) I didn't really get into religion and theology until after the Slifkin ban, which outraged me and was my first real cause, and until I met people like Godol Hador who got me thinking in those directions in a more organized way. I think my very first post was about aidel meidel!"
[End cite.]

I discovered the J-blogs in March of 2005. By May I was a regular reader of Dovbear, Jameel, Renegade Rebbetzin, Gadol Hador (several iterations), Steg, and Mar Gavriel, inter alia (anyone remember the LabRab?).
By October 2005, because I needed a place to park blog links, I started my own blog. Largely inspired by the people and their commenters I read on a daily basis. Nine years later, I am still gibbering. Thank you, Dov.

Another formative influence was Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein. In great part because of his witty and often riotously disturbing weekly shiurim on the parsha, I had headed into the wilds of the internet looking for Jewish material.
Dovbear was a nexus. Steg quirked the linguistic mind and provided keen insights (in addition to Middle-Earthian notes). MarGavriel was a fount of references and eccentric phonetic spellings of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic. And Latin, because that was also one of his many in-depth interests. Renegade Rebbetzin was funny and insightful, the Gadol Hador often infuriating, often mind-expanding, never dull. Jameel at the Muqata was the thoughtful voice of good people facing ridiculous circumstances, and the LabRab presented a profoundly decent point of view.

"I have learned much from my teachers, even more from my friends and colleagues..."

[Rabbi Yehuda Ha Nasi]

There are of course many other people whose thoughts and insights are a pleasure. In particular I would mention e-kvetcher, who is going through a dry-spell, and Midianite Manna, who unfortunately hasn't written for well over a year now.
They, and almost all the others, are in the blogroll on the right.
Perhaps more than my own scribbling they show what interests me, and what I value, as well as matters of intrigue, fascination, and entertainment.


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Thursday, October 23, 2014


My apartment mate informs me that she only takes aspirin when she is desperate; fever, achy, stinky, sweating through her jammies. She believes in the natural remedy (because it's free), and has spent all day lying in bed while cuddling her teddy bear.

[COMMENT: great, that's just great; if she gets a bit whiff, I will force her to take an aspirin. Perhaps I'll tell her that she's making the teddy bear smell funky. Wait for the scream as she realizes the horrible truth of that statement. Miss Bruin should NOT have a pong.]

Unfortunately, her nose isn't stuffed up....... so I'll probably have to head out of the house to smoke.

[COMMENT: I was planning to surreptitiously light up a pipe-full of aged Virginia Flake once she retired to her room.]

I offered her an aspirin. I'm a pusher.

[COMMENT: I've got two bottles. I also tend towards occasional twinges of gout. Aspirin makes gout worse. I am farklempt.]

She also says she's getting fat.

[COMMENT: This from a woman who weighs nothing. Nothing!]

I got home at eight o'clock after an eventful busride from Marin. Tomorrow is a day off, and I will probably head over to Chinatown for a flaky charsiu roll and a cup of Hong Kong style of milk-tea.

My apartment mate, with any luck, should be well enough to go back to work. Yes I'm being selfish and self-centered here; I like being able to light up without bothering her (rather than not lighting up), and puttering about the apartment by myself.  It's a perfect way to spend a Friday.

Her schedule and mine don't overlap. Which would be a very good thing if I were actually seeing someone. As it is, it's pretty darned golden anyhow. Being a middle-aged pipe-smoker in a city like San Francisco is very much like having leprosy or ebola. Middle-aged isn't good. And also a smoker? Jayzus, the combination of is worse than being the anti-Christ in SF.
By the way, I am not a vegetarian, and I rarely watch television.
Can't stand sports, so I'm backing the Kansas team.
Didn't know their name till two days ago.
Huzzah for the Royals!
Yay team.


What kind of 'aged Virginia flake', I hear someone asking.

I'm looking speculatively at a sealed tin of McClelland.

"A flake tobacco deep chestnut in color from extended aging of full-flavored Virginias lightly seasoned with Drama. A smooth, robust tobacco with the rich flavors of the darker Virginias. Especially well-suited to outdoor smoking."

Old and Middle Belt leaf, merest smidge of Oriental.

The production date stamp on the bottom of the tin indicates that it was made in 2007.

I haven't smoked a McClelland in a while.
I'll open it tomorrow morning.
When she's at work.
It's time.


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Ten days ago was my birthday, and as usual my ex-girlfriend made an effort to make it memorable. She always does that, and I truly appreciate it.

Gifts, a card, and a cake.

A cake from a fine bakery in Chinatown.

It was indeed a truly lovely cake, a wonderful cake!

No, not quite an epic cake. Cake is seldom epic by itself, it's the people around the cake are that could make it so. But cake is such a nice thing to have, and there are some fifty-five year old men who do not get cake. One remembers Milton, from Office Space, who was always last in line for cake. I sometimes feel like that, but then I clench my red Swingline stapler, and tell myself that I can always burn this place down and take my travellers' checks elsewhere. Staplers are a profound comfort.

Other than one piece which she ate, I had the whole thing.

I really do like cake. Cake is such a happy word.

Cake, cake, cake, cake, cake, cake!

Found this image courtesy of George Takei.
Those are two epically happy otters.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014


A correspondent took me to task for the clear male bias in my writing. My focus on pipe-smoking, hot sauce, books, and my frequent claim that there are three primary uses for the internet (id est: pornography, recipes, and kitten pictures); all these betray a deep-rooted sexism that is totally out of keeping with modern social sensitivities.
Especially my food choices; typically 'macho"!
A meat eater!

How, she writes, do I expect to ever find another soulmate, if all my attitudes scream such "old-fashioned male chauvinist predilections"?

My initial reaction was "well shit, bitch, I didn't even know I had praedilections! Slap me!"

Don't you call me a praedilectator.....

However, after a calming thirty-two ounce beefsteak smothered in Sriracha and wine-stewed oysters, I realized that there may be something to what she says.

Among other things, it struck me that the word 'kittens' is, almost by definition, female. And that I had always assumed that men were the only people who looked for pornography on-line.

For all I know, hordes of women are desperately searching for randy male sex-kittens doing incredibly sensitive things.

The world is a strange place.
It's possible.


Yeah, that's a tough one. I looked on the internet to see if there was anything out there. The first page of search results yielded some rather nasty stuff, including the phrase "the age at which a male kitten is neutered can affect its personality", and advice to see a doctor.

Plus the slogan "welkom in Nederland" (welcome to the Netherlands).
From a blog discussing gay and transgender Arabs.


Gay or transgender arabs is one heck of a praedilection. Lord knows it doesn't resemble any of mine in the slightest. I am a fairly simple man; what I'm looking for is a female person shorter than myself, more likely than not wearing glasses, who has a healthy appetite for good food, reads an awful lot, and is willing to put up with a pipesmoker.
I flatter myself that that is one hundred percent normal.
Even in the modern world.

Definition of terms

Female: a human who produces non-mobile ova, and has two x chromosomes.
Person: somebody with a brain, opinions, and a strong character.
Shorter than myself: forehead at lip-level, rather than breasts high enough to put out my eyes; ergo two to ten inches less than five foot eight and a half inches or there-abouts.
Healthy appetite: must like dinner!
Good food: meat, hotsauce, crustaceans, fish, dimsum, noodles.
Reads an awful lot: more favourite authors than television shows.
Willing to put up with a pipe-smoker: not some female dickhead.

Key abilities of this delightful mythical being include a healthy respect for spellcheck, Strunck & White, and a keen ability to argue. Passive little snoots who are barely literate are distinctly not part of this fantasy.
Neither are people with food phobias or hang-ups.
Or rabid anti-smokers.

I didn't even know I had praedilections, but apparently I do.

It's shocking to realize that.

I like gender, heck, I'm totally comfortable with it. Gender is an almighty good thing. Vegans, however, are often genderless and pathetically mewling about something stupid.

"...because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out"

No genderless vegan kittens for me, thank you.

Screw modern social sensitivities.

Bacon and chilies.

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There are moments when the grown man realizes that he really should put on some pants. Naturally, these include those times when he heads off to vote at the local church -- where his local polling place has been for the last four years, before that it was in the Buddhist temple around the corner -- or when he's passing a grammar school. Even here in San Francisco, people get dressed if there's a remote chance that they'll be passing by a school, especially at recess time when all the students are outside.

Most people.

Children are innocent; they're bound to remark if a pantsless man walks past the playground.

"Hey mister," they're likely to say, "those things are remarkably white!"

Or perhaps "bald thigh patches, bald thigh patches!"

Then they'll scream with glee.

That hasn't been my experience, but I imagine that such things happen. Point is that one should not have forgotten one's pants in public; often there is more going on when there's less clothing. It could turn out to be an inappropriate situation for people who are not actually involved in one's personal march of progress.

Sharing pantslessness should probably be arranged beforehand.

I don't know. I have not been pantsless around other people in a long time.
Things may have changed since then.
A very long time.

We'll ignore de-panting during Pride and the Folsom Street Fair. I haven't lacked pants then either -- I heck, wasn't even in town for many of those celebrations -- but some people are remarkably comfortable letting it all hang out on those days, though it isn't fun for all.

There's nothing more discordant than hearing a girlish voice exclaim "Dad, put your pants back on, you're embarrassing me!"

Mister, why one earth did you bring her to this? A bondage and skin-puncture fest south of Market Street is not a place for a teenager, no matter that it's a beautiful sunny day, and you're making sure she gets exposure to a broad spectrum of cultural manifestations.

She lives in San Francisco, she will get that anyway.

If she wanted to go, she would've gone alone.

Or with her Best Friend Forever.

It's Selfie Time!

My apartment mate left this morning at around seven thirty. Till that very moment, I had been wearing pants. As soon as she left, I locked her door and opened the windows, so that I could smoke in the apartment. This is something I often do, and as long as I let the place air out thoroughly for four hours before she gets back, she won't even notice. She works Monday through Friday, I have a different schedule and there are times during the week when I have the apartment all to myself.

Naturally I shave everyday. It's a mark of a civilized man that he shaves and washes even when it isn't really socially necessary. Personal grooming is a measure of self-respect, and so is dressing appropriately for the occasion. In fact, the missionaries out in the Antarctic Wilderness, with nothing but Penguins and dead explorers for company, should ALWAYS put on proper evening dress when leaving their igloos for dinner. As well as attend to their fingernails; nothing says 'grunge' like grotty fingernails.
And stubbly chins.
Anyway, you get the idea.

We are not Seattle, forcrapssakes.

Shaving is best done naked. The foamy soap drips and splatters, and sleep-wear gets crusty if one shaves while wearing it.
So, logically, it must be removed.

[This is something where I follow my dad's fine example. At six thirty in the morning he could always be found at the kitchen sink, shaving in the buff. One time our cleaning lady came early, and opened the door from the stable to the kitchen. No, she didn't scream. She quietly closed it, and waited half an hour. When she re-entered later she remarked that she'd make more noise if she ever came early again.]

Now, opening all the windows means that, if one leaves for instance the doors between the bathroom and the hallway, or the kitchen and the main chamber, open, there will be a crossdraft which blows out the reek of small cigars or pipe tobacco.

This morning I headed back into the main room after shaving, for my first pipe of the day. Enjoyed the smoke, with the large cup of coffee which I had already placed in the teevee room on the little tray on top of the stack of books to the left of my seat in front of my computer.
It was very good.
After finishing, I felt I needed a book from the other room.
At which point I realized that I hadn't closed the door.
And that one of my neighbors was at his window.

It was a very fine Virginia tobacco, from a tin I stashed away several years ago and only opened recently. Mostly red, with a dollop of brown for depth, and Perique for added spice. There may also have been the merest touch of a fire-cured Kentucky leaf in there too; many British companies think that's a fine addition to anything meant to be a broken flake. There was a rich fruitiness due to prolonged fermentation, a distinctly perfumed whiff of the carotenoids so abundant in flue-cured leaf.
The pipe was a Peterson Oom Paul, smooth, with a tapered stem. Normally I don't smoke such extremely bent shapes, seeing as I favour something that I can chase a pipe cleaner through while smoking. But I've fiddled with the interior of this pipe to make that possible.
I did that while naked too; there was too much briar dust to risk discolouring my day-clothes or sleepwear.

Really, I cannot emphasize enough how delicious the first pipe of the morning can be. Today it really sang. A wonderful experience.

We're having a spell of summery weather in San Francisco now.
I understand it's cold back east, stormy in Europe.
But here it's just right for nudity.

I'll be heading to Marin in a few hours.
I'll be wearing pants.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Yesterday I got a late start on my jaunt to Chinatown for tea and a snack. And besides that, I wandered around once I got there to purchase this and that (炸豆腐兩塊,一簇蔬菜 'jaa daufu leung faai, yat chuk so choi' -- fried tofu two lumps, one bunch of veggies). So it wasn't till around six o'clock that I headed over to a friendly place.

['chung jak san gai dou waa sing dun gai']

Once I turned into the alley, I heard a squeaky girlish voice saying "and there was also one named John, John Aaah-dums!" It turned out to be someone less than half my height holding her mom's hand as they walked. The mother said "hai maa" (係嘛 "is it, huh?"), probably merely to indicate that she was indeed listening. As they walked it became clearer that the little child spoke English as a first language, the parent English barely at all. Yet at first it really seemed like they were communicating. "Yes, and he was a lawyer (律師 'lut-si'), but not like sook sook ("uncle"), a REAL lawyer". The mother indicated profound astonishment: "m-hai-a maa (唔係吖嘛 "oh surely not?")?"
"A lawyer!!!"
The little girl pronounced it 'loh yah', with a certain relish. So far she had enunciated almost everything clearly and distinctly, but this may have been a concept that was more intelligible if kept in the correct accent.
The mother said "waa" (嘩 "wow") in feigned amazement.
The kid probably didn't even hear the pretense.
Almost everyone is familiar with lawyers.
They aren't a modern invention.

As I walked behind them I could only be surprised that a child so young, obviously of kindergarten age, was happily spouting American history. When I was her age -- five at most -- I didn't know beans about American history. That didn't come until I had turned my ever-growing skill at reading Dutch into an ability to read English, when I was almost nine.
This kid probably already knew how to read.

"And after Aaah-dums there was Jefferson, who was big, and rich, and also owned slaves!"

And that, clearly, was too much. The mother snorted "jan-ge (眞嘅)?!?" as if to express 'you don't say'. Slaves, indeed. Whatever those were.
I too was surprised. What on earth are they teaching kids these days?
No one needs to know that a Founding Father had a dark side.
At least not until later; it's a complex situation.

The kid halted and pulled at her mother's hand.

"But you have to learn this, it's important!"

It was at that moment that I realized what was going on. The child was reviewing what she had heard in school, so that her mom's English would improve. And mom, when she picked the kid up, had finished putting in a full day and was probably both pre-occupied and tired.
Likely the process was something that both of them had worked out.
Though perhaps not with such a clearly stated purpose.
The kid was just being conscientious.
She had a task to do.

Was the child really as young as I think she was? Maybe not. She could have already been in grammar school. But she looked very small, and sounded extremely young.

Unless the mother starts paying attention, she risks her daughter eventually no longer understanding her.
If you don't speak your children's language, you end up alone.

When they turned the corner I could still hear the little girl saying "Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson, you must remember!"

She sounded serious.

*      *      *      *      *


Across Washington Street from the alleyway (德和街 'dak wo gai'; Wentworth Place), the warm light of the bakery beckoned. Even though the restaurant section was full and hub-bubbly, the tables in front of the baked goods counters were unoccupied.
When the boss-lady saw me come in she asked "ah, nei seui-yiu naai chaa, ha?" (哦,你需要奶茶,啊?Hey, you need milk tea, eh?)
Yes want, please, hot" (要,唔該,熱嘅。"yiu, m-goi, yit ge.")
"Jo-dai sin, ngo lo bei nei" (坐底先,我攞畀你。"Sit down first, I'll bring it to you".).

When they know you, it's like coming home.

Their milk-tea is really good.

Note that 'jo dai sin' is a strictly Cantonese way of expressing it, and 'lo bei' is quite nearly unintelligible gibberish to a Mandarin speaker even when written. Trust me, it makes NO sense outside of Cantonese.

The fried tofu and fresh vegetables I had purchased were later used to make a hot pot, with dried mushroom slices, a little sausage, and a broth flavoured with abalone extract, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, sugar, and five spice powder. Plus a squeeze of hot sauce.
Fried tofu can be bought at Wo Chong company, Inc. (和昌芽菜豆腐 'wo chung ngaa choi dau fu'), 863 Washington Street, just down from Stockton. They make their tofu fresh daily, and the fried tofu squares are a beautiful addition to a soup or stew.

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Monday, October 20, 2014


It isn't everyday that someone tells you about a colonoscopy they had to suffer through years ago. Especially when you take into consideration that A) a colonoscopy is an uncomforting occurrence for some people, and B) there are very few conversational engagements in which bringing up the endoscope and all the magical things you can do with it makes sense.

But I should mention that Mordche is in his late eighties. The mind is sometimes more flexible at that age. And he's still very much alive. His granddaughter was being run ragged; she came along so that he didn't have to drive, and I think he enjoyed giving her one helluva workout.
At his age, he can talk about anything he wants.
And colonoscopies are fascinating.

In any case, he now has a new pipe with which he is VERY pleased.
Once he loaded it up with Arango's Super Balkan and had for puffed a few minutes, he exclaimed that it (the pipe) tasted exactly like a Barling.

His preferred smoke is Dunhill's Nightcap.

[ARANGO SUPER BALKAN: this is a Latakia heavyweight with Turkish and a dollop of Black Cavendish playing a supporting role, aged Virginia underneath. Quite one of the best bulk blends around. Mordche had earlier stated that he always smoked Nightcap, of which we did not have an open tin lying around. Hence my recommendation. BARLING: a company that used to be one of the very best pipe-manufacturers, top of the line. What Mordche refered to was the pre-transition production (several decades till 1962), than which nothing was finer, possibly excepting Charatan.]

He was thoroughly enjoying himself, and the pipe and tobacco sang.
His granddaughter may have had different thoughts, perhaps.
Brand new toy, a truly fine tobacco, good company.
It had turned out to be a lovely day.
Boruch Hashem.

Pipe smokers live longer, have bushier beards, and drive their relatives more crazy than non-smokers. Anti-smokers usually die young of aggravation, puritan gall,  and sheer clench-arsed fury.
You should know this.

Always have at least one pipe-smoker in your family, for your own well-being and that of your kinfolk. It's healthy, and adds years to your life.

I don't often give psychological counsel, but that's it.

For your information: I smoke a pipe.

Mordche's new pipe is either Calabrian or Corsican briar.
His granddaughter doesn't entirely approve.
He's probably a bad influence.

Of course, one of the ironies presented here is that Dunhill (the brand which owns the Nightcap trademark) was founded by a man who was the apogee of bile-ridden bigot. He referred to his nearest competitors (Barling, founded by Benjamin Barling, Sasieni, founded by Joel Sasieni, Comoy's, founded by Henri Comoy and his nephews, and Charatan, founded by Frederick Charatan and in the later years headed by his son Reuben Charatan) in the vilest terms, and several accounts indicate that he loathed Italians, Frenchmen, and Jews. Like every one of his mixtures, Dunhill's Nightcap is now manufactured by the Danes on behalf of the Germans, which would probably have the old blister spinning in his urn.
Arango is, of course, a Hispanic name.
They deal primarily with Yanks.
We're all of the above.

Mordche, in case you hadn't wigged, is Jewish.
Which is only relevant because of his tobacco.

Dunhill may have been an odious individual and a fornicator, but his pipes weren't bad, and the tobacco he sold was all in all pretty darn good.
The foreigners that make his stuff are doing a damned fine job.

POST SCRIPTUM: This version of spell check doesn't recognize 'colonoscopy' as a valid English word. What's up with that?!?


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Sunday, October 19, 2014


Several independent business dudes in Marin County are worried sick about Ebola. Which is president Obama's Malthusian Kenyanoslamic plan to reduce the population of the United States (and the world, that being primarily the United States), in order to assist his colleagues in the Muslim Brotherhood with their goal of establishing a Caliphate. Part of his evil design is to kill at least twenty five million real Americans per the advice of someone named Bill Ayers, and illegally flood the country with Mexicans who will vote for Democratic candidates.
Which, these same independent business dudes (in Marin County) aver, is being kept secret from Congress.
The CDC is in on it.

Terms Like United Nations Agenda 21 and New World Order were flung around. Along with several creative uses of the F word.

It is unclear to them whether Barrack Obama is a paid agent of the Environmentalists or the Lizard Aliens. They speculated both.

It turns out that many suburbanites are batshit crazy lard-asses.

No, this wasn't a meeting of the Glenn Beck fanclub, nor a tea-party event. The Glenn Beck Acolytes were too busy polishing their gun collections and buying baking soda for the coming apocalyptasm, and the tea-partiers couldn't find their way out of Belvedere and various trailer parks.
Just another day in one of the last indoor smoking environments in the Bay Area. So naturally imaginations were fevered, and creativity ran rampant.

In addition to the pulsating mobs of Mexicans crossing the border, hordes of blackest Africans would arrive at every airport. There would probably be several more mass-shootings, so that the conspiracy that controls the government could declare martial law and take away our guns. All of this naturally would benefit the Jews, because the Arab occupation of America would keep Muslims from trying to take over Israel, and the increase in international conflict would be a goldmine for the arms industry..... which is also controlled by the Jews.

One of the few Jews present objected that they were out of their goofy little minds, and was promptly told to hush up and return to his Martini.

At one point, one of three sane people forced to listen to this discordant nonsense spoke favourably of President Obama. Perhaps a mistake, as the information was volunteered that he wasn't even a real American, and should return to the Chicago from whence he came.

"Oh for craps sakes, have pity on the poor man, he's a refugee! He fled Chicago precisely like so many others left Cuba! Have you BEEN to Chicago? It's a nasty repressive hell-hole, much like Romania during the Ceaușescu years, worse even than Cuba! And Cuba by comparison is very nice; superior medical care, excellent food, great music, and fabulous cigars!
All Chicago has is one damned hot dog, and horrid pizza!
Plus it snows there, and people go crazy.
No wonder he left!"

I was, of course, shouted down.
And accused of libtardism.
Darned pipe-smoker.

What this shows, you must understand, is that Tatuaje cigars (cojonu) and short fat perfectos by Davidoff put a well-nigh insurmountable stress on rich little weak minds. As well as a steady diet of football, Glenn Buggery Beck, Fox News, and Rush Limbuggery Baugh.

Not all of Marin is like that, thank goodness.
Though they are peculiar in other ways.
Many of them are unique.

Highest percentage of people who have discovered that they are allergic to gluten in the known universe.
Very special.

After several hours surrounded by the independent business dudes of Marin, returning to San Francisco feels like an escape from a loony bin.
It's a return to civilization.

By the way, if you are seriously worried about Ebola, you should ask everyone you know "are you bleeding from your anus?" Bleeding from the anus can be a worrying sign under many circumstances, and once all the other logical causes are ruled out -- sitting on potato crisps or lightbulbs, experiments with lubrication, unfriendly blunt objects spontaneously shared, and brain rot taking the long way down, among others -- bleeding from the anus may be a sign of infection.
Along with high fever and the rupturous expulsion of stomach contents.
Ask everyone. Especially individuals you have never met before.
Normal people seldom bleed from the anus.
Ebola carriers are a different story.
They do it habitually.

If you or someone you know is bleeding from the anus, consider Ebola.
Check often, check thoroughly, and demand proof.

Are you bleeding from your anus?

The question "are you bleeding from your anus" may be the most useful phrase in the English language. It could save your life. Include it in all your greetings and social exchanges. It is absolutely your right to know.
Good afternoon, ma'am, are you bleeding from your anus?
Have a happy Holiday, are you bleeding from your anus?
How is everything, are you bleeding from your anus?
Can I help you, are you bleeding from your anus?
Why hello, are you bleeding from your anus?

The answer to this is crucial.

Carry a small bag.

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Years ago I was involved with the toy industry. There were a lot of creative types in that company, and I prided myself on being one of them. Unfortunately I was in the accounting department, which testifies to my actual abilities instead of my imagined brilliance.
They came up with ideas.

In all honesty, so did I.

"Chainsaws for girls! The Baby Destructo in its own sleeve, or the cute and ultra femmy Little Miss Mayhem, with aplique butterflies and unicorns! Purse size!"

No, that didn't catch on.

"Trainwreck zombies! They've got the neatest commuter outfits! Fake Louis Vuitton!"

Also not a winner.

Part of the problem was that upper management consisted of middle-aged stick-insects who took delight in shooting down brilliant ideas, while wholeheartedly backing some really stupid things, like the belief that children are soft and fluffy and totally non-aggressive vegetarians at heart. All they need is peace, love, and understanding.
You and I both know that that's a load of pucky.

This past Tuesday I had another brilliant idea.

"What if Transformers meets My Little Pony?"

Think about it; a perfect San Francisco toy.

"My Little Tranny!"

I think it could work.

It's "empowering".


It will challenge stereotypes while nurturing the archetype.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014


A subject which has kept my attention for at least half of my life now (and I turned fifty-five recently, so you can figure out how long that is) is the Chinese seal-script (篆書) which historically preceded the regular brush script (楷書).


At the time when it was still in common use, that is, still developing, Chinese wrote with an instrument that resembled a modern felt-tip: a reed or hollow tube with a long wick conducting liquid pigment from a reservoir. The advantage of such an instrument was that nice formal rounded characters could be constructed, especially on the strips of bamboo which, tied together, functioned as copy books.
The great disadvantage was that it was a slow process. Writing needed to be done faster, especially on the battlefield. In one sense, Chinese script was forced to change because of war.

The image above shows the characters for seal-script (篆書) as written in seal script. Obviously there is quite a difference compared to the modern versions.

Somewhat larger, for comparison:


Angularity versus curvilinear.

First character (篆) shows the manipulation of an image or beast, with the bamboo radical (竹) on top to indicate what category the word belongs to, namely scriptural - literary - intellectual. Bamboo, because books, documents, correspondence, and legal cases were written on bamboo.

The second character (書) has a hand holding a stylus over lines that emanate, above a mouth, indicating that which was said or uttered.

By the time of the Han Dynasty, the curvy characters had been replaced by angular brush-stroke versions, written on paper or silk instead of scribed onto bamboo or carved into the molds of bronze ritual vessels. The term 'seal-script' is an English construct, indicating the most common use of the old script up to the present: personal or official seals, used as signatures, to indicate ownership, to conclude and verify documents and correspondence, to signify attainment or office.

For a brief period I earned extra money carving such seals, but I seldom do so any more. There is no fun in designing a combination of characters for people who do not really understand what it says, or why certain characters must be shaped a specific way. It's a form of calligraphy, but a very private form of that pursuit. And if you do it for other people the chances are that you will never see it again.

Playing with repeating tensed curve-lines and creating pattern-echoes, however, remains enjoyable. In some ways it is typographic. Varying line weight, direction, heaviness, solidity -- all of these reflect a mental eye.

I haven't touched my engraving blades in quite a while. But dictionaries of the ancestral forms of Chinese characters get consulted on a daily basis. Both the 正草隶篆四体字典 and the 中國書法大字典 are regularly in play, as well as 'Chinese Characters: Their Origin, Etymology, History, Classification and Signification', second edition (Dover Publications), by Dr. L. Wieger, translated into English by L. Davrout.
I've worn out several copies of the 正草 over the years, and I'm working with my third copy of Wieger's wonderful work. The 中國書法大字典 is still in good condition, but I'll probably acquire another copy just in case, precisely like I've done with Mathews', the Learners Chinese-English Dictionary, 漢英小字典 (Cantonese in Yale romanization, Mandarin in Pinyin) published by the Chinese University press, and the English-Chinese dictionary of accounting terms. That last one mentioned is a rather dull work, by the way.
Quite unlike the 正草 and the 書法。
Or Dr. Wieger.

I look longingly at my brushes far more often than I use them. This apartment is an awful mess, and I have to clear space for paper and ink on the table in the teevee room, which is normally occupied by two computers and various pottery items. However I do use them once in a while.
Instead of the 硯臺 a saucer with ready made ink suffices.
But not surprisingly, I like sniffing the real stuff.
Good ink smells nice, a classical fragrance.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Friday, October 17, 2014


A few weeks ago I sent a specific blog-link to relatives who had inquired about my well-being. It was a little story I had written and placed here, of course. As I get older I find that I am less able to talk about myself, but better at "illustrating" my current state by scribbling short little essays.

They like the tale about a badger and a crow.

And wonder if there is more.

There is.

Much of it is slightly baffling, and almost all of it can be found by clicking this label: Talk-story.
It pulls up everything under that rubric, most recent entry at the very top.
Rather a lot, and perhaps all you want is stuff without angst.
I love using that word 'angst', by the way.
It's so intellectually pretentious!

This blog is not about 'angst'. Neither are the narratives. Some of them are reminiscences (boring), some of them reflect ideas or opinions (meh, probably not so interesting), a few are about humans, and some of them are about furry creatures in a San Francisco of the imagination.

People seem to like that last category best, and, in truth, it's also my favourite sampling.

Here are links to some beastly tales.
These are all rather gentle.
I'm actually a softie.

Chihuahuas and cigars
October 8, 2014

A woman and her book collection
September 4, 2014

Pilots, unsuitable male relatives, and a water buffalo
November 12, 2013

In praise of universities, and food in the basement of the Student Union at SF State
July 3, 2013

True friendship: a dachshund and a badger
May 22, 2013

Not suitable for a children's Easter holiday
March 31, 2013

A raccoon makes an excellent study companion
February 27, 2013

He lives under your house (I'm really very proud of this story)
February 2, 2013

What you should be getting at Easter
December 28, 2012

Another one I'm proud of, for reasons that may not make sense
December 2, 2012

Something strange about crows
November 10, 2012

What happens when a turkey worries about Thanksgiving
November 23, 2011

A bear in the rain
September 2, 2011

A little girl and a companion.
August 1, 2011

Small creatures and delicious bits of pork
April 19, 2011

I would love comments. Seriously.

*      *      *      *      *

So what was the story I sent to my relatives?
Begin with fish, end with porky bits.
A crow and a badger are very good friends.

I like animals. Crows, parrots, badgers, raccoons, weasels.
And also fruit bats. It's those big trusting eyes.
Just look for fruitbats on youtube.
You'll be glad you did.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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It was my birthday a few days ago. So, like any obsessive middle-aged blogger, I reviewed the reasons for creating this site. By trying to figure out what on earth brings in nearly a thousand readers daily.
Cogent analysis meets profound inspiration?

Obvious choices: sex (there is none), kitten pictures (zero), and recipes (of which there are many).

Les obvious choices: English pipe tobacco and Chow Yun-fat.

Also on the list: Dimsum and hamsap

There you are. It's late at night, but unlike the pervert in the apartment downstairs who obsessively searches for naked pictures of Hello Kitty doing incredibly nasty things to sailors, you are cruising the interwebs for well-dressed pictures of "the coolest actor in the world" according to the Los Angeles Times.

Finally, after making moon-eyes at your screen for over two hours (there were a lot of photos), you decide that as a brilliant young lady of exceptional taste, you really can get away with smoking a pipe.
Balkan Sobranie is the Chow Yun-fat of pipe tobaccos.
You don't know how you know that.
But you are certain.
It just is.

The pervert downstairs is weeping into his martini. He's realized he's seen so much porn filmed in Orange County that no amount of graphic stimulation works any more. He's thoroughly bruised and exhausted; it was a fraught evening in front of his Apple. His elderly mother is asleep in the other room with cold pizza in her lap. She has no idea what her thirty-five year old only child has been up to tonight. She thinks he's a software engineer, such a smart boy (!), but she's never wondered why he can't hold down a job.
Or why he has pictures of Anime heroines all over his bedroom.
She doesn't know about the Sailor Moon pajamas.
Thank heavens for that.

But he's a non-smoker, vegan, saves the whales, and supports all the noble causes, like the rainforest and laws banning plastic bags.
And he lives with her. That's what counts.

Your own internet search for far better things naturally brings you here. Where Balkan Sobranie is hidden among the posts, there is favourable mention of that dashing actor from Lamma Island, and food is at times described.

It is a wise choice. Welcome.

Please note that I am single.

I recently turned fifty five.

And I smoke a pipe.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Thursday, October 16, 2014


This blogger lives in a bubble. Until a short while ago, I had NO idea that Americans were in a panic over Ebola. This should not surprise you, as the risk of catching Ebola is high only when exposed to haemorrhage, projectile vomit, and explosive diarrhea. The risk is far less when several feet away from someone in the first stages who sneezes, and almost non-existent when nowhere near the patient.

Like you, I customarily do not sit next to people on the bus who are haemorrhaging buckets, vomiting with great force, or exploding from their nether ends. Not that I've ever had to move, or exit the conveyance before reaching my destination, please understand, but I consciously avoid close quarters with people whom I do not know exhibiting those or similar disturbing behaviours.
I am certain I would have noticed other passengers on the bus spouting blood from their orifices, retching and expelling matter of either solid or liquid definition, or, for that matter, having issues with their bowels.
Even in San Francisco, such things are rather rare.
Consequently, I run scant risk of Ebola.

Perhaps it is different in trailer parks. Especially trailer parks where people watch trash-news, listen to tea-party conspiracy theorists, vote for hate-mongering fascists in the pocket of the big interests, loathe foreigners, and hatch plots. Yes, I can easily believe that those people habitually spend time in the company of folks leaking blood, spewing torrents of puke, and cascading filth from either end. Because that is where America is sickest, poorest, nastiest, lowest, and most likely to shove needles into their veins while cooking up a toxic batch of bathtub methamphetamine, or partying on malt liquor, Strontskaya Vodka, and badly cut chemical substances, in between bouts of neighborly sexual brutality.
If Krokodil ever catches on in the U.S., it will be there.
Syphilis is probably endemic in those circles.
Their organs aren't worth harvesting.

"We have more things to worry about; they need to keep their eyes on the border, and watch for these illegals coming across that could possibly have Ebola"

[Señor Joseph Biggs, irresponsible whack-job play-acting at newshound for a far-right nutzoid site.]

Thirty years ago we worried about the Ruskies draining our vital juices, with their well-thought out Masonic Bilderburger plot and their secret army of Manchurians.

Ten years ago we worried about black helicopters, United Nations police agents from Holland and Hong Kong, and lizard aliens ruling the world.

Today we fear Mexicans infecting themselves with deadly diseases so that Obama can take away our guns and let the Muslims take over.

Good lord we're loony.

Are you bleeding from your anus? Is anyone you know, or regularly come in contact with, bleeding from their anus? To calm your feelings of panic, perhaps you should investigate.

Yes, with the right exposure -- for instance, to someone who is clearly manifesting symptoms of disease, such as high fever and liquid eruptions, along with lassitude, loss of appetite, reddened eyes, and ignorant speech habits -- Ebola is not hard to catch.

Without the wet symptoms and concommitant exposure to body fluids, it's pretty much impossible, and well below any level of probability.

Unless you're one of these people: Joe Biggs, Scott Brown, Buddy Caldwell, Nick Camino, Ted Cruz, Duncan Hunter, Bobby Jindal, Todd Kincannon, Bill O'Reilly, Rand Paul, Michael Savage, Andrea Tantaros, Thom Tillis, or Donald J. Trump. If you are, your fevered brain has been so weakened by terminal dingbat that it attracts filoviridic infections everytime you open your mouth (or anus). For the love of dog, stop eating sick fruitbats, dead lab monkeys, and other bushmeat, you freaks!
Please consider withdrawing from society, forever.
Pull a Howard Hughes, or something.
Go to your shelter.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Though very modern, Central District  (中環 'jung waan') is a pleasant place early in the morning, when the sun is just up and the first light slants in to hit the buildings. It's nearly empty compared to mid-day, when the area is abuzz with people. Down near the Admiralty (金鐘 'gam jung') there is hardly any traffic. Autumn is probably the best time.
After strolling around, you might be peckish.
Esurient, even.

The Old Bank of China Building (中國銀行大廈 'jung gwok ngan hong daai haa'), located where Queensway / Queens Road (皇后大道 'wong hau daai dou') splits off into Des Voeux (德輔道 'dak fu dou') is a rather splendid edifice. It faces Chater Gardens (遮打花園 'che-daa faa-yuen') across the street, where Falun Gong (法輪功) rioted a few years ago. It is no longer the company headquarters, but merely a satellite. Still, it's imposing, and a suitable venue for an upscale establishment serving dim sum and jook. Which will cost significantly more than the Bay Area's finest Cantonese brunch.

About eighty dollars per person.

Yes, it's worth it.

13 Floor, Old Bank of China Building
Des Voeux Road No. 2A, Central District.
中環,德輔道2A,中國銀行大廈 13樓。

鎮江焗肉排 Spareribs braised with red vinegar.
香茜叉燒腸粉 Cilantro charsiu sheet noodle.
豆腐花 Silken tofu with sago and syrup.
脆皮炸子雞 Crispy skin fried chicken.
紅燒牛肋骨 Red-stewed beef ribs.
小籠包 Shanghai soup dumplings.
蟹子蒸燒賣 Crab meat siu-mai.
北京片皮鴨 Peking duck.

I doubt that today's students parked out in the protests on Queensway have ever eaten there, though. It's a private club. And jayzus do they expect you to be properly dressed.

But not far away, and a pleasant walk before it gets hot, are a number of fine establishments well worth visiting, and considerably more affordable.

Head west on Des Voeux Road. You'll pass some great shopping till you get to Aberdeen Street, which is where you need to turn left and go up the steps one block to the corner of Wellington Street.
There's a very nice dimsummery here.

160-164 Wellington Street,
Central District.

Totally worth it. Expect to spend about twenty dollars U.S. per person, be prepared to wait during busy hours (so best come early), and bring an appetite and a foodie attitude. Some patrons don't wait for the carts to wheel around, but hijack them when they've barely left the kitchen. Yes, you can also order a la carte.

All the dim sum offerings you expect, and more.
Ain't gonna bother listing them.
It's a madhouse.

By the way: they also still have spittoons, so it's a bit old-fashioned.

College students may be inclined to live a bit more wildly.

Dim sum for breakfast can be a bit much.

And you need a crowd.

If you are eating on the go, and never-the-less want to have a fun meal, do something different.

Cross Wellington, and continue up Aberdeen to Gough, turn right, and go one more block to Mee Lun Street. You will now be in front of some of the finest snackipoos in Hong Kong. Cheap, too.
Yep. It's a food stall. No airconditioning offered, or even possible.
The electric fan might be on. Or not.
Outdoor dining.


2 Mei Lun Street, Central District.

鮮茄牛肉午餐肉煎蛋通粉 Macaroni with fried egg and luncheon meat in tomato sauce.
蕃茄腸仔餐肉麵 Frank and luncheon meat tomato sauce noodles.
超級大雜匯蕃茄湯通粉 House special tomato noodle soup with darned well everything.
奶油脆脆 Hot buttered crispy buns with drizzled condensed milk.
檸蜜脆脆 Crispy lemon curd toasted buns.
豬扒脆脆 Pork cutlet toasted sandwich.
鹹檸七 Salt plum and lemon seven-up.
港式奶茶 Hong Gong style milk-tea.
And other delights.

You'll be eating with local folks at this place.
They're known for tomato soup and tomato sauce, which are made fresh with real tomatoes. That's why people come here.

[EXPLICATA -- 鮮 ('sin'): fresh. 茄 ('ke'): tomato, properly called 番茄 ('faan ke'). 牛肉 ('ngau yiuk'): beef. 午餐肉 ('ng chan yiuk') luncheon meat. 煎蛋 ('jin daan'): fried egg. 通粉 ('tung fan'): macaroni ("tube pasta"). 腸仔 ('cheung jai'): little sausage, hot dog. 麵 ('min'): noodles, usually meaning wheat noodles. 超級 ('chiu kap'): super, ultra, high rank; house special in this context. 大雜匯 ('daai jaap wui'): "great miscellaneous convergence"; darned well everything. 湯 ('tong'): soup. 奶油 ('naai yau'): butter. 脆脆 ('cheui-cheui'): ooh crispy crispy! 檸蜜 ('ning mat'): lemon honey. 豬扒 ('chyu baa'): pork cutlet. 鹹 ('haam'): salty. 港式奶茶 ('gong sik naai chaa'): Hong Kong style milk tea.]

Please note two things: Hong Kong natives call their toasted buns 'buttered pig' (奶油豬 'naai yau chyu'), and you can get a frankfurter (腸仔 'cheung jai') added to almost anything you want.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014


On Monday I left the house fairly early in the afternoon. My apartment mate stayed home because Columbus discovered the Indies, so enjoying a pipe in domestic tranquility was not in the cards. I have noticed, over the years, that lighting up a briar filled with even the most innocuous mixture in the presence of a Cantonese girl and her teddy bear (aka "the Head Roomie") is a sure-fire way to guarantee fierce recrimination.
Or, quite possibly, horribly painful physical violence.
Cantonese girls are, in a word, terrifying.

Especially if they're convinced that you're going to make their teddy bear smell like tobacco.

Once I got to Taylor Street, I lit up, and ambled down by way of Jackson Street. Dang, this bowl of Samuel Gawith's Golden Glow (an exceptionally fine Virginia flake) tastes good. It's positively sinful!
What is wrong with people that they cannot appreciate that?
Especially Cantonese girls. It's just strange.
Maybe they're just weird?
Hmmph, Cantonese!

When I got to Hoi Waa and Ming Fat, I turned down Trenton Street (登頓街), which passes the Ping Yuen projects (西平園) and connects to Pacific Avenue (柏思域街). Down two more blocks, right on Beckett (白話轉街). Tamped the pipe again just beyond the Ma Tsu Temple.

At that point I noticed that a little Chinese Catholic School Girl was staring wide-eyed past me.
So I turned around. And saw a white street person with his pants around his ankles, and his rump against the fence of the housing development.

On the bright side, she probably didn't notice the naked black woman sleeping on the other side of the street in a pile of rags.

[EXPLICATORY INTERSTICE -- Hoi Waa: A traditional medicine and tonic company (海華參茸藥材公司 'hoi waa saam yung yuek choi gong si') on Jackson (昃臣街 'jik san gaai'; "slanting statesman street") between Powell (跑華街 'paau waa gaai'; "pawing elegance street") and Stockton (市德頓街 'si dak tuen gaai'; "market virtue bowing street"). Ming Fat: A fish and fresh seafood shop (銘發海鮮 'ming faat hoi-sin') next door, on the corner of Trenton (登頓街 'dang duen gaai'; "ascend bout street"). Ping Yuen: 平園 ('ping yuen; "peace gardens"); a housing development with four locations, all on Pacific Avenue in Chinatown. Pacific Avenue: 柏思域街 ('baak si wik gaai'; "cypress thought region street"). Beckett: 白話轉 ('baak waa juen'; "vernacular convey"). Ma Tsu: 媽祖 "mother ancestress", miss 林默娘 ('lam mak neung'), who died at a young age, and whose spirit has in the centuries since then protected seamen and guided their boats.]

Chinatown is a fascinating place. Often because of the non-Chinese who have descended upon it.

The local child life is getting quite an education from their exposure to modern America.

At that moment I felt the need for a brighter environment.


Having finished my pipe, I got some Vietnamese coffee to-go, and found a bench in the sun.

On the other side of the walkway a gentleman and his little daughter sat down. I had seen them earlier, when they had gone into a store. At that time I had assumed that she was so enthusiastic upon entering because the place also sold toys and candy. When they sat down near me, however, the cause of her radiant happiness became apparent.
Freshly baked muffins!
Her tiny little hand took one from the container. A beautiful little hand, but so small, so small. She broke off a piece, and gently tossed it at a pigeon. Within moments a flock of birds surrounded her and her father, and she squealed with pleasure as they fluttered about.
Her father took her hand and showed her how to hold it out with a morsel in it, so that the birds would feed right out of her palm.

On the other side of them, the old folks continued their penny ante card game without noticing at all. In the slanting sunlight, the little girl looked perfectly content feeding her muffin to the birds.
I'm fairly certain that the pigeons looked content too.
But I don't know; they're expressionless.

Her dad was happy as a clam spending time with his daughter and her feathered friends.

I watched discretely for several minutes. Then, having finished my coffee, I walked over to Sacramento Street to catch the bus.

At Stockton a mother and her tiny daughter got on. I would have offered her my seat, but I overheard her say to someone else that it was alright, she'd stand a while (我徛一陣 'ngo kei yat jan'). Besides, her little girl held on to the pole right next to me, and it gave me a chance to observe.
Small face. Small nose. Perfectly shaped eyebrows, velvety cheeks.
Little girls really look adorable at times.

This one was dressed in bright ice cream pink.
Only little girls can wear that.

As we crossed Powell, the child indicated very strongly to her mother that she really liked the library (圖書館 'tou syu gwun'). For which this was the stop. Indeed, the library was an exceedingly wonderful place, and so very nearby! Patiently her mother explained that they would go some other time, they had to get home now.
But soon. Soon.

How remarkable that a three or four year old has such enthusiasm for a place filled with books!

And what a splendid parent to have inculcated that.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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This blogger refuses to watch the most popular series on television, that being The Walking Dead. What kind of society do we live in where people would rather watch zombies instead of food?
Has the health craze gone too far?

I glanced at the Wikipedia article about the show, and soon realized that there was nothing there for me. Yes, it's more or less about eating, but not at all about food. The mastication is repetitive, fuel driven, and no taste buds are in play. It might as well be called The Georgia Diet.

I was snacking on some cake as I read.
Zombies and cake are an exceptionally bad match.
What I had eaten previously would also have been a bad match.
Roast duck (燒鴨) from a restaurant in Chinatown.
Man, do I love duck. Seriously.

A show named The Walking Duck, now that I could get behind.

Story outline: fleeing a charcuterie where several of his friends have been turned into scrumptious meals, our hero roams the land searching for survivors of The Great Slaughter, as well as an English pudding made from thick custard, fruit, pound cake soaked in liquor, and fruit juice, with whipped cream on top.

Note that jelly can be used in lieu of fruit juice, and if the cake is then inundated with the jelly while it is warm, the pectin sinks in and suffuses the cake. Upon chilling, it will be semi-solid, and pleasant in the mouth.

Trifle, also sometimes called 'zuppa inglese', is a very delightful dessert.

Duck, of course, is a wonderful juicy flavourful main course.

Rich, festive, and just downright orgasmic.

Both are infinitely tempting.

Our hero requires trifle to combat the zombie types who wish to eat him.
Trifle distracts them, they haven't had highly refined cane sugar in so long, so long! They clench and drool when they see it.
Rather like preachers thinking of sex.

Trifle, spoon for spoon, has more sugar and sweetness than any other substance on the planet, and is, more than anything else, responsible for those ghastly zombie teeth that English people are known for. Have you ever seen an Englishman smile? Hmm? Righty-oh, now you know why.
Zombie teeth! Those chompers frighten the crap out of people.
They conquered the world with trifle in their veins.
Trifle is powerful juju.


One Sarah Lee Pound Cake, 16 oz. family size.
Six cups of fresh strawberries.
Two cups Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine.
One cup sugar.
Juice of one orange (2-3 TBS).
One and a half cups apricot preserves.
One pint heavy whipping cream, plus four TBS sugar.

Wash, dry, and slice the strawberries thinly. Dissolve the cup of sugar in one cup of Manischewitz over heat. Put the strawberries in this and simmer for a while until glazy, let it cool down to room temperature.
Mix the apricot preserves with the remaining cup of Manischewitz and the orange juice over mild heat.
Cut the pound cake into thin slices, and line the bottom of a glass bowl; use half of the slices. Drizzle half of the apricot-Manischewitz mixture over the cake slices and smoosh it in. Spoon half of the strawberry mixture over this, distributing fairly evenly. Layer the rest of the cake slices on top, and repeat what you did with the apricot preserves and strawberries.
Put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours.
When ready to serve, whip the cream till peaky, add the sugar and beat stiff. Dollop this one top of the trifle.
Extra whipped cream on the side is a fine idea.

If you like, you can spread some thick custard between the apricot goop and the strawberries, but it really isn't necessary.

Yields approximately enough trifle for four people, eight or even ten if you decide to also serve other foods.

I believe every episode should end with a recipe, don't you?

What The Walking Dead needs is a celebrity chef, and some cooking.
It takes place in the Deep South, so I'm thinking barbecue.

Just leave out the damned grits.

Zombie food.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014


All over England chunky people strain and puff to hoist themselves into public conveyances, or subside gratefully into comfortably padded seating to rest their weary tonnes of flab. Good grief, the Brits are starting to look like Americans!

Quite Cartmanesque!

Post-war prosperity had made them thick. This is not the lean vicious nation that so resolutely fought the entire world years ago; it is a quieter gentler nation, with enough lukewarm bitter beer, bad candy, and rich buttery sauces to make them happy.

The modern Dutch also look "chunky". But I have been told that that is insulation against the beastly climate, much like seals and walruses.


Years ago I made a murch makhni sauce for the thanksgiving turkey. After eating, we sank into torpor. Murgh makhni sauce and chicken tikka masala sauce are largely the same, the difference is primarily nomenclaturial.
Oh, and there's more butter and less cream in Murgh Makhni.
But both are rich velvety rust-hued emulsions.

[Originally, murgh makhni (murgh makhanwalla) was made with rubicund tandoori chicken, which was the Pathan version sold by the Moti Mahal Restaurant in Delhi, OR a butter and yoghurt version prepared by stout Punjabis with store-bought whole spit-roasted chicken. Chicken tikka masala was a variation invented in England by a restaurateur faced with a drunkard who wanted gravy on his platter of tandoori murgh & naan. Most English and Punjabis do not have a tandoor oven in their yard, so an approximate will have to do.
The key to the beloved British version is the sauce.]

Chicken tikka masala is THE British national dish. It is the sensible and good taste alternative to dining at the thousands of MacDonalds restaurants that litter London and her environs.



One LBS chicken pieces on bone, skin removed.
Half TBS dark-toasted ground cumin.
Half TBS paprika.
Half TBS ground coriander seed.
One Tsp. cayenne pepper.
Half Tsp. ground turmeric.
Four or five Roma tomatoes, OR two or three regular.
One or two shallots, minced.
One thumb of ginger, smashed and minced.
Two or three cloves of garlic, ditto.
Two or three green cardamom pods, whole.
One or two whole cloves.
Half cup yoghurt.
Half Tsp. salt.
Juice of a lime.
Small handful chopped cilantro.
Half cup heavy cream.
Two to four TBS ghee.
Pinch cinnamon powder.
Pinch nutmeg.

Score the chicken pieces, put into pyrex bowl. Mix all spices except cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom pods. Take approximately one third of the mixed spices and all of the salt, add half of the garlic and ginger and whisk into the yoghurt and lime juice. Dump over the chicken, rubbing it all over the meat. Cover and stick into the refrigerator for half a day.
Note that salt is an essential ingredient in such a marinade.

Chargrill the chicken. High heat and smoke is required, but the meat should not be entirely done through. Set aside to cool, then rip the flesh in chunks off the bone.

Melt the ghee in a pan, then fry the shallots till quite dark, mashing with a cooking spoon or spatula the while. Add in the reserved garlic and ginger, fry fragrant, add the remaining two thirds of the spice mixture and blend in well. Now add the tomatoes, and slowly cook mixing and mooshing till all is smooth. Stir in the heavy cream. Crack the cardamom pods open but do not break them, add them plus the cloves to the sauce.

Now put the chicken pieces into the sauce, along with the pinches cinnamon and nutmeg, and most of the cilantro, and simmer gently for about ten minutes, to meld all the flavours. A brisk jigger of Louisiana hot sauce or Sriracha may be added at this point. Garnish with the remaining cilantro to serve.

The educated classes will eat this with rice, naan, raita, and fresh garden salad. Or dumped into a toasted baguette slathered with melted butter.
The more proletarian element will have it with baked beans, fried bread, limp bacon, and strong tea.
In both cases they will have purchased it from a take-out joint.
Or bought freezer packs from Sainsbury.

Just add pappad, bhajji, and payasam for a total English feast.

I'm sure that Kitty and Mimi would approve.
Along with George, Mary, and Anthony.
And Margaret. Probably Daniel too.

Like everything in Britain, chicken tikka masala tastes even better with Patak's pickles. Everything. Curries, fish and chips, MacDonalds, that lousy Greek food in central London, black pudding, haggis, and roast beef with that spongy fried poufy dough ball thing.

American food ALSO tastes better with fine achars.
Minimally, you should stock three of them.
Lime, hot mango, and brinjal pickle.

I really like Patak's pickles.
It's such a British thing.

Good stuff.

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