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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BITTER MELON TO LOVE

One of the simplest things to cook is bitter melon with Chinese sausage, especially if the sausage is either greasy or crumbles nicely. You won't use much, so stop worrying about your arteries.
Bitter melon is good for you.

For one thing, it is hypoglycemic, or so I have been told.
It is also cooling, which is good during summer.
But you can eat it year-round.

Fortunately, I live in the SF Bay Area, so there is no problem finding it. And it is both cheap and delicious. I never tire of its crisp and peppy taste, indeed preferring it entirely unsalted, and nearly uncooked.


炒臘腸涼瓜
Chaau laap-cheung leung-gwaa

One large bitter melon, or two smaller ones.
One Chinese sausage (臘腸 'laap cheung').
Two Tablespoons chilipaste.
Hefty squeeze of lime juice.
A tiny dash of oil.

Cut the bitter melon along the length into two halves. Use a coffee spoon to scrape out seeds and pith. Chop the vegetable coarsely, so that it will not cook too fast.
Rinse the sausage under hot water so that the casing loosens, which then remove. It should peel off in one piece. Crumble the sausage.
Dump both the melon and the meat into the pan at the same time, stir-fry till the sausage pieces gain colour. Then splash in a small jigger of water, and cook it down a bit. Lastly add the chilipaste and lime juice, stir, and decant to a serving bowl.

Purely great with white rice.
Enough for two people.


金然棧 -- 肝腸
Kam Yen Jan: gon cheung

The Chinese sausage of choice is Kam Yen Jan brand, but specifically the version with pork liver added. To my taste it has just the right amount of sweetness, fat, and liver, and it's fun to cook with.


辣醬
Laat jeung

The 'chilipaste' I use is Sriracha hot sauce. If you have a sambal, you might need more or less. But you could also use fermented bean chili sauce (豆瓣醬 'dau baan jeung'). It's up to you.
And your sense of wonder.


苦瓜
Fu gwaa

Bitter melon (momordica charantia) has it's own advocacy group: The National Bitter Melon Council.

Quote: "The National Bitter Melon Council (NBMC) is devoted to the cultivation of a vibrant, diverse community through the promotion and distribution of Bitter Melon. Our projects, events, and festivals celebrate the health, social, culinary, and creative possibilities of this underappreciated vegetable. Advocating the acceptance of Bitter Melon across cultures and cuisines, we believe that Bitter Melon creates an alternative basis for community – that of bitterness!"

This sounds great, but unfortunately the website is not entirely finished.
The scaffolding is still up, and the primer ain't dry yet.
Can't wait to see what it will look like.



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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

PAKISTANI RAPISTS IN ROTHERHAM

The following will probably be hard to read for Anglophiles and Pakistanis, and likely also many Indians who regretfully recognize kin-ship with either of those groups.
Never-the-less, I especially encourage them to absorb all of it.
Because it affects how the rest of us view them.
But mostly, the Pakistanis.


"About 1,400 Rotherham children 'sexually exploited over 16-year period'
Police and council agencies failed victims, some of whom were threatened with guns and gang-raped"

[SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/26/rotherham-children-sexually-abused-report.]


According to the report, gangs of sexual predators violated over fourteen hundred children (low estimate!) during a period of well over a decade and a half. During that time, the authorities ignored the problem, and victims were treated like garbage by the local police.

There may be an element of class warfare here, as the victims were usually from the poorer levels of society, and the British have a history of regarding the brutalization of the lower classes as, if not the natural order of things, excusable and down-right desirable.

It's debatable.The cops in any case let it continue, and by their inaction and evident attitude of laissez faire encouraged it.


CITES:

"They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated."

"Failures of the political and officer leadership of Rotherham council over the first 12 years -- were blatant, as the seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers and was not seen as a priority by South Yorkshire police."

"Police "regarded many child victims with contempt"."

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/26/rotherham-children-sexually-abused-report.]

These were not isolated incidents, and no one can claim that it did not happen on their watch. They were aware of it, they knew what was going on, and they chose to nothing about it.

It just wasn't an issue.

There were three comprehensive investigations between 2002 and 2006.

"The first of these reports was "effectively suppressed" because senior officers did not believe the data. The other two were ignored."

What this means is that the senior officers decided to deny the problem, effectively to deliberately overlook it entirely, and carry on as if nothing was wrong, and simply work toward an eventual conclusion of their careers and the expected happy retirements to follow.


"Councillors seemed to think this was a one-off problem they hoped would go away and "several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist"."

"By far the majority of perpetrators were described as Asian by victims."

The ethnicity, as is shown by reported events and legal cases, is not "Asian". The word "Asian" includes everything and everyone from the Bosporus to Kamchatka. Turks, Israelis, Assyrians, Tibetans, Thais, Burmese, Laotians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Japanese.....
Almost all of the Buddhist world.
All Shintoists. All Parsees.
Everyone Chinese.
And Sikhs.
Etc.

The majority of perpetrators were described in no uncertain terms as Pakistanis. Not as anything else. Pakistanis.

The British use of the word 'Asian' in this context means Pakistani.
Specifically nothing else but Pakistani.
There are a huge number of Pakistanis in England. Rape and sexual abuse is endemic in Pakistan.
Pakistanis in England have a reputation for such things.
The Rotherham molesters were Pakistanis.


From an article published over three years ago: "At Sheffield Crown Court throughout September and October, eight men sat in the dock accused of rape and other sexual crimes against four girls, three aged 13 and one 16. The case resulted in five being convicted and three acquitted. 
All of the eight defendants were Pakistani Muslims..."

[SOURCE: http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3576/full.]

From the same piece: "In 2004, Channel 4 withdrew Edge of the City, its controversial documentary made by Annie Hall that depicted parents trying to stop groups of young Asian men grooming white girls as young as 11 for sex. 
[ --- ] 
Colin Cramphorn, the then Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, joined groups such as Unite against Fascism in calling for the documentary to be withdrawn. 
Channel 4 complied, saying that the issue was not censorship."

"Most of the men buying sex with the girls have Muslim wives and they don't want to risk infection. The younger you look, the more saleable you are."

"Because religious Muslims are being pressurised to marry virgins within their own extended family networks, it means that some are more likely to view white girls as easily available and "safer" than Pakistani girls."


Safer than Pakistani girls? No doubt! Pakistani girls have Pakistani relatives. That alone makes them poison.



Final quote: "all the perpetrators were identified as being of Pakistani heritage".

That's one hell of a nasty heritage. Possibly one with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. In any case, a toxic sludge, well-nigh a festering cesspool of sheer rottenness and cultural garbage that causes disease in everything it touches, which should be isolated at more than arms length at all times.

That rancid heritage is now a part of Britain.

Are Pakistanis all bhainchotes?

Possibly.


Kuch log hote-hain, jin ke saath, 'civilization' mushkil hai.



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NO ONE WILL SUSPECT A THING!

Always aim for plausible deniability; it protects the other person. Much of social interaction, especially in public, should necessarily be about giving other people an 'out'.

For instance: the other night the Englishman left the bar with a 'friend'. He is my age, a bit of a vulgarian (though likable), and thrice my girth at least. Definitely not in the best of shape, and he reeks of cigars.
She was all cleavage, tight little dress, and go go boots.
Half his age at best.Though it seemed less.
Both of them walked with a roll.

It was very crowded, but us sane and sober regulars have eyes in the backs of our heads, as well as on our long stalk-like feelers.

After he left, we all exclaimed "did you see that?!?"

And "how delicious!"

Well, except for the female cigar smoker among us. Her response was "that's just wrong!"
She's right, of course, but she fails to realize that men are born gossips, and love nothing better than one of our own doing something scandalous and stupid. With any luck, the Englishman will wake up bound, gagged, and dead, while a tribe of drug-addicted scallywags raid his apartment and steal all the wine. While smoking his Cubans.
We'll read about it afterwards, and invent colourful details.
His funeral will be truly epic.


The point here is that no one was even remotely primed to believe that what happened was a totally innocent occurence; we know him.


Wise men and women NEVER leave bars together after meeting by chance while having a drink in the same place. It sets tongues awag.

It's probably also best to arrive together, and even if you are involved in mutually enjoyable depravity, have a cover story, or make sure that your appearance suggests something entirely blameless.
Her reputation, and his, depend upon it.

"This is my cousin Sylvia. She's studying for the priesthood. She's only in town for two days, and wanted to see what the seamy underbelly of Sodom and Gomorrah by the Bay looked like. So I brought her here.
Please don't shock her unduly; she's rather innocent."

And the person named 'Sylvia' looks suitably quiet and serious. She's got her hair neatly controlled in a loose bun low at the back of her head, spectacles, just the merest touch of a gentlewomanly lipstick, no eyeshadow or fingernail polish.
Plus her clothing is totally unrevealing. Maybe a cardigan, a collared blouse, and somewhat baggy corduroy pants in a style that suggests chosen for "durability & comfort", rather than immodest effect.
No cleavage, no go go boots, no tight cocktail dress.
Plus she blinks sweetly, fresh and nice.

Her smooth velvety cheeks blush easily, but there isn't even a hint of rouge or guile.

Adding believability, her vocabulary is well-chosen and polysyllabic.

Hastings, Heidegger; Nietsche and Nabokov.

Did she just say 'existential'?


Unfortunately, if I were to show up at the cigar bar on Saturday evening with someone like that, every one would suspect the worst.
They'd know immediately that something was up.
My friends would worry on her behalf.
And profoundly distrust me.



They've got me quite pegged, I'm afraid. My oblivious reactions to "total sex-bombes" and "hot babes" flashing cleavage and crimson come-hither lips have convinced them that I am utterly depraved.
Rather than ice in my veins, they suspect that hot lava flows instead; a seething cauldron of perverse Victorian immorality.


"He's gonna take her home and bore her to death with conversation! While eyeing her with sweaty hands!
Oh the humanity!"



"Maybe he'll feed her at the very least. She looks a bit pale. She'll need energy to break free of his tongue"



Some of them would be utterly convinced that both hanky and panky were taking place, because they know my type. They would rightly worry that I might take advantage of the poor thing.
Which, indeed, could be likely.


Always watch out for the innocent.



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Monday, August 25, 2014

LOBSTERS SAVE THE WORLD

A SELF-SERVING FABLE, FOLLOWED BY DINNER

She loathed and despised the men who sat on the bus with their legs apart. What were they doing, airing their balls? It seemed so dreadfully uncouth, so ill-mannered. When she sat opposite them, it was like they were thrusting their packet upwards, as if to say "here, admire it, bitch".
In another world, she'd smash 'it' with a well-aimed slam of her backpack. Pity she always forgot to add the rocks. Oh well. Those things were heavy.
Instead, she opened the bag from the fish mongers and pointed the lobster in the direction of the offending male, and whispered "snip snip".
Again, "snip snip". There was a hopefulness to her voice

The crustacean waved its claws enthusiastically. Maybe it -- she, probably a female -- was also repulsed by mister Cod Lumps over there.
She contemplated removing the rubber bands.
Mister Cod Lumps reposed in oblivion. His eyes were glassy, and a pudgy thumb lazily scrolled through his e-mails on his electronic pacifier, a sleepy wart hog.
He resembled nothing so much as a blob.
Probably worked at a start-up.
A programmer.

A long day surrounded by programmers made her wish that she could set some of the office yobbos against rapacious outer-space fighters.
Venky against Predator, Gunther facing Alien.
The contests would prove amusing.
Short. But very amusing.

***   ***   ***

She had had to fight her way onto the vehicle, as there were several office-types clustered near the back door who didn't grasp that there was plenty of space further in. The driver understood it, which is why he had stopped to pick people up. At this hour of the day buses often cruised right by, filled with selfish paper-pushers from the Embarcadero Center office towers. On her way in she gently pushed the old woman ahead of her up, forcing the yuppies to yield. Elderly Chinatown women are not so much human shields as, with the right encouragement, human battering rams. Make your move wisely, and Grandma over there will part the sea for you.
G'wan, grannie; forward!
Good show!

On her way to one of three empty seats, she inadvertently elbowed a pudgy blonde giantess in the kidney rolls. She said "sorry", but that merely confused the large woman more. The beast looked around frantically, not realizing that the voice had spoken from somewhere at the level of her overgrown bosom. Where she came from, people were not so small, and she still hadn't gotten used to normal sized humans.

What WAS it with some women and their thing for Hello Kitty? She just didn't understand why anyone would have a Hello Kitty jacket on, if they were physically an adult, and it was a relatively warm day. Hello Kitty fabric does not breathe, and grown-ups wearing Hello Kitty crap don't look cute; they look ridiculous.
The only Hello Kitty clothing she herself owned was a tiny tee-shirt she had put on her Predator action figure. She would have put it on Hell Boy, but it was far too small, and would have made him look like a poofter.
Or at the very least, very British.

***   ***   ***

One man on the bus wasn't playing with his cell-phone, but had something else instead. After a few moments she recognized it as a pipe. He pensively rubbed it with the thumb and forefinger of the hand that held it, and stared off into space. Curiously, he was the only man sitting upright.
She speculated that unlike all the other males, his testicles did not need airing. Were they prematurely dessicated? Or did he powder them before leaving the house?

Maybe he was just 'cool'.

***   ***   ***

Today she would have a lobster. It had been so long, so very long! And she was heartily sick of the mediocre lunch options in the downtown, where suburbanites, and their predictable pedestrian tastes, dominated the gustatory discourse.
Sandwiches. Pizza. French fries. Salads. And lots of tuna fish.
It was a ghastly replay of these themes in every block.
The gates of culinary hell.
Purgatory.

The fat beaky-nosed engineer had not understood a thing she said, and always treated her like an idiot. She supposed she should not have scowled so fiercely when he had first met her, but he really was exactly like every woman's worst nightmare. Self-absorbed, transparently judging her physical appearance, and clumsily over-familiar. The word "girl" should never be uttered in an office environment.
Unless you are respectfully mentioning a child.
Who is, obviously, not present.

When she scowled, her eyebrows terrified adult men.
Except for lawyers; they never noticed anything.
Strangely insensitive creatures.
Probably all ego.

***   ***   ***

It struck her that the bus whiffed of dead body. Were the blondes in the habit of transporting cadavers? Or was it their implants and folds of useless flesh, going bad in warm weather?
Often they were more like animatronic corpses than humans.
Some were indistinguishable from zombies.
Too damned much make-up.

No doubt all of that was necessary to attract the attention of a breeding male. Even during the height of rut or musth, the type was dense and not very aware of their surroundings.
You could probably hit them over the head without them noticing.
A baseball bat is, when you think about it, very subtle.

She had never gone out with a man, and barely even looked at the species. Most of them were dullards, and could not hide their strange obsession with televised spectator sports. The moment anyone mentioned football, she pulled out a crossword puzzle.
Conversation is over, there is no intelligent life on this planet.

Judging by the specimens on the bus, this transit pod would not be orbiting any time soon. No mother ship would bother beaming these masculine exemplars up, there are limits to what you can learn from anal probing.
The reason for analysing most humans ass-first, she figured, was that spongy brains are all alike, whereas diet affects emotion.
Fatso over there looked like he ate children.
She wished him a probing, soon.
He'd be better for it.

Why did all these men smell of Cheetos? Was it a glandular imbalance? That certainly would explain their peculiar obsessions with sports; the poor dears were chemically unstable.
They probably breathed in the hormones at sportsbars.
A whiff of concentrated testosterone.
From a herd of junkies.

Individually, they were deprived. They needed to congregate for any magic to happen.

Strange things went on in sportsbars. Insane yowling and the like.
Hubba hubba hubba, go team go team go team.
Now, everybody sweat together.
Feel the power.

***   ***   ***

She got off, wishing that she wore stiletto heels, so that she could stab some of these big galoots in the arch of their over-sized feet. Mentally she already knew what it would feel like. A moment of resistance, then it sinks in surprisingly smoothly, and only when you withdraw the spike do the victim's synapses fire.
In pained bafflement they raise their heads and moo.


The pipe smoker got off too. He paused to fill the briar, and she passed him before he lit up. He seemed preoccupied.


Several people on the street were walking their dogs. The animals wagged their tails, and sniffed at her bag. Mrs. Lobster inside was making friends, and didn't even know it.
How sad.

Among dogs, chihuahuas are ridiculous, and completely moronic. There is no character there. No brains! Large dogs like retrievers, however, have distinct personalities. There were only two problems; they didn't understand that they were NOT four-footed humans, and they were very large. If one of them tried to lick her face, she would fall over. Never-the-less, that was one hella personable animal accompanying the bald man. Handsome, too.
She never would have noticed him if it weren't for the dog.
It was the first time she had seen him around.
He must have recently moved in.

Bald men, she knew, had too much testosterone.
It affected their scalp surface adversely.
Probably everything else as well.


What did pipe smokers smell like? Actually, she wasn't that curious. Like all men, if she spoke to him, he would reveal a perverse fascination with spandex bottoms on the football field, and mention beer and pizza.
No doubt about it. Men aren't interesting.
A very predictable lot.

Time for lobster.


***   ***   ***


薑蔥龍蝦
GINGER SCALLION LOBSTER
['geung chung lung-haa']

One lobster, about two pounds.
Quarter cup chicken stock.
Quarter cup cornstarch.
Quarter cup sherry.
One TBS oyster sauce.
Half a Tsp. freshly ground pepper.
Half a Tsp. salt.
One thumb of ginger, peeled and slivered.
Half dozen scallions, cut diagonally.
A few drops sesame oil.

Oil as needed.


Mix sherry, soy sauce, and one tablespoon corn starch in a bowl and whisk smooth. Add chicken stock and set aside.

Dump lobster headfirst into a cauldron of boiling water, and cook for about three of four minutes more after it returns to a boil. Remove, rinse under cold water. Drain.

The head may be removed and cleaned to decorate the serving platter, OR chopped in half and whacked, cleaned of some of the weird stuff inside as you see fit, and treated the same as the remainder of the beast.
Some people like sucking on the head.

Twist off tail and claws. Using a heavy cleaver split tails in half along the length, then across into large chunks. Whack each part of the claws to expose the meat.
In a large bowl, dust the lobster pieces well with the cornstarch and the salt and pepper, tossing to coat.

Heat one or two cups of oil in a large wok till almost smoking. Slide in the lobster pieces and fry till pale golden and barely crisp. Remove and drain in a sieve over a metal bowl.

Decant almost all the oil, and heat what remains till almost smoking. Add ginger, scallions, and stirfry fragrant. Return lobster to pan and stir to mix. Re-whisk the sherry and cornstarch mixture, and pour into the pan. Once the glaze thickens, add a few drops of sesame oil and slide everything onto a platter.


Please note: you could substitute abalone sauce for the oyster sauce, if you wish. Either one is perfect, if used as a minor flavour additive when cooking lobster. Or crab. Or large shrimps. Or oysters and abalone.

Oyster sauce was invented by mr. Lee Kam-sheung (李錦裳) slightly over a century ago in Naamseui village (南水鎭), Guandong province, just south of Canton. Within a few years it had become such a beloved and essential part of their regional cuisine that most Cantonese-speakers cannot conceive of life, food, love, insurrection, or philosophy, without it.
Abalone sauce is a nice variation on the same theme.




I rode the Number One bus this afternoon, in case you were wondering.
It may have affected my otherwise sunny disposition.
Today's tobacco was red virginia flake.
In a semi-bent Hardcastle.




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EARTHQUAKE

Several years ago an earthquake struck California that sent European newspapers into a panic. Apparently headlines in Dutch, German, Swedish, and almost certainly also Schwäbisch, screamed hysterically that it was the big one, uncountable numbers were dead, San Francisco was on fire, plagues were sweeping the suburbs, and the most important event in sports had been cancelled when the stadium collapsed.


Well, plagues do sweep the suburbs. But that's an all-year situation. Not just after earthquakes. California is currently in the top-two for either Syphilis or Gonorrhea, can't remember which.
Surely that's a suburban phenomenon.

At the time, many years ago, I was living in North Beach. When the quake struck I was in the middle of an argument with a visiting Israeli about existentialism and linguistics. The tremors were almost over before we realized what was happening, and also that most of the customers were clustered perilously close to the plate glass windows. So we finished our coffee and our discussion.

Later I went home and was the last man in the building to have a warm shower for four days.

I had coffee and snackipoos in Chinatown the next day. Milk-tea was not available in that era, or perhaps I didn't know about it yet. Many people wandered the streets, casually drinking coffee, smoking, and telling each other where else there was coffee. It was a festive and relaxed occasion.


GIVE OUR REGARDS TO NAPA

Yesterday morning's event has not affected me at all. San Francisco en masse rolled over and went back to sleep. There are no gas leaks in the city, nor fires, nor is mass hospitalization for injuries on the agenda.
We lament the thousands of gallons of wine that were spilled.
Which is a horrendous and heartbreaking loss.
We shall drink a bit more whiskey.
For a year or two.


Actually, I really am lamenting.

On Friday evening, my friend K-Chai e-mailed me from the Occidental, where he was enjoying a well-deserved cigar.


"There is a very nice woman smoking a pipe here. 
She is talking to your buddy 'Dr. Rum'. 
You should be here."


Dagnabbitall! I didn't see this message till I returned from Marin County nearly twenty-four hours later! The concept of a pipe-smoking female person who can conversationally hold her own is very appealing.
Yer darn' tootin I lament the non-encounter!
Flaming piles of fermenting crap!
I wish I had known!


I did actually espy a very nice woman this past weekend; it was while I was chop-sticking rice-stick noodles and grilled pork (with hot sauce) into my mouth on Saturday evening. Plus hot oil. And hot vinegar.
Nope, no clue whether she can hold her own conversationally.
Any more of that warm smile, and it wouldn't matter.
I'd probably be gibbering and mumbling.
Incapable of speech.
Myself.

Life would be much more interesting if I were thick-skinned and insensitive. It might even be surreal. Conversationally more dynamic, and often like a series of eruptive events or natural disasters.

I'm rather fond of grilled pork, and rice stick noodles in broth.
As well as hot sauce, hot vinegar, and hot oil.
Plus smiles.



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Sunday, August 24, 2014

MORE DAMNED ACCORDIONS

One of the clips on youtube is somewhat disturbing, but only if you know the historical background. And yes, it has accordions.
No man who has seen clips of North Korean children playing those daemonic instruments can watch it without shuddering, and many sharp tacks who were alive during the seventies remember the European communists praising that infernal device as the perfect emblem of righteous proletarian artistic endeavor.

In actual fact, almost the only performers in recent times to redeem that horrendous object are the Cajun musicians in Louisiana, and Weird Al Jankovic; a true hero of the not-quite-so working classes.

Dr. Demento featuring such artists as The Toons, also contributed mightily musically.

Who can possibly forget The Punk Polka?
It was truly inspired.


忠字舞和革命歌
LOYALTY DANCING, AND REVOLUTIONARY SONG


[Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icWRopAhtuk.
From the movie 'The Last Emperor' (末代皇帝), about the life of Aisin-Gioro Puyi (溥儀), by Bernardo Bertolucci.]


Transcription:

革命無罪,造反有理!
革命無罪,造反有理!
拿起筆,作刀槍,
集中火力打黑幫。
革命師生齊造反,
文化革命當闖將!
---
革命無罪,造反有理!
革命無罪,造反有理!
要革命,就跟我走,
不革命,就滾他媽的蛋!

Transliteration:

Gémìng wúzuì, zàofǎn yǒulǐ!
Gémìng wúzuì, zàofǎn yǒulǐ!
Ná qǐbǐ,zuò dāoqiāng,
Jízhōng huǒlì dǎ hēibāng.
Gémìng shī shēng qí zàofǎn,
Wénhuà gémìng dāng chuǎngjiàng!
---
Gémìng wúzuì, zàofǎn yǒulǐ!
Gémìng wúzuì, zàofǎn yǒulǐ!
Yào gémìng, jiù gēn wǒ zǒu,
Bù gémìng, jiù gǔn tā mā de dàn!

Paraphrasis:

Revolution has no faults, it is right to rebel.
Pick up your pens, be like guns and knives,
And concentrate your forces to hit the black gang.
Revolutionary teachers and students must fight together,
The Cultural Revolution leads the way.
The revolution has no faults, it is right to rebel.
Forward the revolution, and come with me.
If you don't rebel, kiss my xxx!

Note that the last clause is a contextual translation; what it really says is "boil his mother's egg". Which is a very unprintable locution.


During the Seventies, the socialists in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Western Europe were enamoured of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and enthusiastically supported the extremism of the age.
Everything done under the guise of Maoism was in their eyes only good, and no fault could be found. It was very American and imperialist to doubt that! They were united and vociferous on that score.

Naturally, the European leftwing also praised the Khmer Rouge.

They were, then as now, on the wrong side of history.
Many reprehensible excesses were committed.
Not least of which: accordion music.


If the video clip above reminds you of recent manifestations in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and the Schilderswijk, so much the better.
Such nice fresh-faced cheerleaders, utterly sincere too.
Inspiringly misguided. Terrifying.
Well-practised.


Ve hamevin yavin.



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HAPPY JUNKFOOD FOR THE SOUL

Awesome cite from a Facebook post, culled from a friend who has moved back to the old sod: "Also, if not for my philosophy of "every creator's run is a separate continuity", it would really bug me that Valeria was trying to "redeem" the same guy who tried to kill her parents time and again, wore his murdered ex girlfriend as a suit, and sent Franklin Richards to hell."

This was followed by a comment: "Subtitle: "Avoiding the Fridge"."

May I hasten to assure you that he's actually harmless?

And though it also has a horrible climate, and is equally filled with howling and despair, his old sod is New York, where frightening attempts at pizza come from.


He's actually just a bit far into comics of the glandularly overboard he-she hero type. Plus he's got a wife and two kids.


Kids probably do something to you.


I wouldn't mind having one or two of them. It would be a priceless opportunity to mold a little mind. Attempting to mold grown-up minds has so far proven fruitless.
They lose flexibility as they get older.




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Saturday, August 23, 2014

YOUR STUFFED ANIMAL JUST KICKED ME!

My apartment mate seems to have finally broken up with her boyfriend. Which I think is best for her, as he was not as attentive to her emotional needs as she was to his. She, of course, is presently despondent, and thinks she will now go through life unloved.
Which is just plain silly.

I'll admit that I am not unbiased in her regard. Back in a distant golden age she and I were an item, and even after that ended we stayed in the same apartment; you don't bail on a good friend whom you can trust, and mature people can separate themselves from their emotional setbacks.
I have moved on since then, and though I have not had a relationship with another woman, that doesn't mean that such a thing is impossible.
It just hasn't happened.


I'm rather a stubborn old cooz, and will not carry on with the other gender unless they are precisely sympatico. I shall need to find an independent-minded person who reads a lot, is calm and realistic in their approach to life, and likes tea and cookies. Downtown San Francisco may not quite be where such a person lurks.


"A woman of valour who can find? For her value is far above rubies..."

[Proverbs 31:10]


The other day I spent an entire evening in the company of pipe smokers. All were, of course, men. Again, not a place where the perfect woman might be found, which if you ask me is surprising, because all of the men present were intelligent and witty. If I were a woman, that is exactly where I would look for company.

You will note from the above that I too am in all likelyhood a pipe smoker, and that my idea about what makes women good company may not be entirely based on any currently extant reality.

Intelligence and wit count for a lot. Yes, the appearance of the other person may act as a magnet, but if upon closer examination that person is lacking, there is no point hanging around or pursuing matters.

This is true even if there are cookies.


Savage Kitten (my apartment mate) will undoubtedly find another beau. Her curious sense of humour, and her brilliant mental twists, will inevitably make a man's nose perk up at some point.
Unfortunately she's rather Aspergery, and might not notice a darn thing if he doesn't make himself completely clear, and even then she could assume that he's mistaken her for someone else.
Gallantry, consideration, and patience; these are the best tactics.
Plus having a thing for misbehaving stuffed animals.
And ALWAYS speaking well of hamsters.
No matter their evil ways.
ALWAYS.

Pipe smoking, meeeh, not so much.

Tea and cookies don't work at all.


I am not suprised that it took my parents five years of steady dating before they got married. My father was a very patient man, and my mother was somewhat socially resistant.
What may have finally convinced her that he was a decent man was his liking for her pet guinea pigs. Apparently he was able to discern personalities in the creatures.


FUR BALLS

I personally am not much taken with hamsters or guinea pigs. Pet rats do have personalities, I have concluded, and while not pet-material, otters, weasels, badgers, raccoons, and crows, all have distinct character traits that make them interesting and likable.

Dogs and cats speak well of me.
Which is peculiar.




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Friday, August 22, 2014

ABALONE SAUCE: 鮑魚汁

The other day while looking for broad rice stick noodles I discover what is for me an entirely new and brilliant product: 鮑魚汁 ('baau yiu jap'). Abalone sauce.
Think oyster sauce (蠔油 'ho yau'). But made with abalone instead.
If you are Cantonese, the concept probably thrills you.
And you may have tasted it already.


陳滿記鮑魚汁
ABALONE SAUCE

Ingredients: Soy Sauce (Water, Soybean, Wheat Flour, Salt), Sugar, Abalone Extracts, Dried Scallop, Modified Starch (Corn Starch), MSG, Potassium Sorbate (E202).


It tastes milder than oyster sauce, but just as pleasant. A dab on the back of the left hand reminded me op bouillon cubes, and Knorr. I have no doubt it will go well with everything for which one would normally use oyster sauce: boiled lettuce, mustard stalks, Chinese broccoli, dau miu, asparagus, string beans, seethed eel, eggplant, chicken feet, stewed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, or fried eggs sunny side up.


I added it to my bitter melon dish that evening. Sliced bitter melon, sauteed with little bits of fatty pork, chilies and chili paste, chopped tomato, and slivered ginger. The result was delicious.
Served over the broad rice stick noodles which I had finally managed to find, it was an epic meal.

I sat in front of my computer with a smile upon my face, looking a bit silly, for several minutes afterwards.


Oyster sauce was invented by accident; a foodseller neglected the broth for too long, when he finally checked up on it, it had become a dark viscous gloop which, it turned out, was wonderful with vegetables.
Abalone sauce is the same idea, done deliberately.
Simmered, strained, thickened with starch.
Use it to glaze the dish.





Note: dau miu (豆苗 snow pea sprouts), mentioned above, are familiarly served braised with garlic: 蒜茸炒豆苗 ('suen yung chaau dau miu'). They can also be sauteed plain (清炒豆苗 'ching chaau dau miu') ), or with chili sauce and a little shrimp paste (辣炒豆苗 'laat chaau dau miu'), dumped in clear broth (上湯豆苗 'seung tong dau miu'), stir-fried with satay sauce and beef, (沙茶牛肉豆苗 'saa chaa ngau yiuk dau miu'), or added to chicken giblet soup (豆苗雞肝湯 'dau miu gai gon tong'). They are fantastic, and take almost no time to cook; treat them with kindness and serve them hot and fragrant.

One of the best ways is cooked with bivalves; either sauteed with garlic and clams (蚌炒豆苗 'pong chaau daui miu') or dumped on top of mussels in the sauce pan 貽貝蒸豆苗 'yi pui jing dau miu').
If you're Fujianese, you'll scramble them with eggs.
And include either of the bivalves above.




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Thursday, August 21, 2014

FIGLIA! MIO PADRE!

Probably the most interesting search that brought a reader here is "why is Sparafucile in Rigoletto a Burgundian?" That's a good question, and the answer is that I have NO idea.

Despite consulting Wikipedia, I still have no idea. But I was struck by this phrase: "Rigoletto approaches his house and is accosted by the assassin Sparafucile, who walks up to him and offers his services. Rigoletto considers the proposition but finally declines; Sparafucile wanders off, after repeating his own name a few times."

Good heavens! Rigi-boy lived in San Francisco!

The rest of the opera bears this out.



Like many others in this city, I too repeat my own name a few times after chance meetings. Or whenever the fancy strikes. If you don't know it, I'll spell it out for you. A ('ay'), t ('tea'), b ('bee'), o ('owe'), th ('thee'). Avec un 'T', comme Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. The final letter is the thound of thomeone thpeaking with a hot potato in hith mouth.

"Equō nē crēdite, Teucrī! Quidquid id est, timeō Danaōs et dōna ferentīs!"

Don't trust the darn horse, you condoms! Whatever it might be, I suspect the geeks even when they do bring gifts.
Or something of that nature.

Caffeine, at quarter past six in the morning, is wonderful. I can feel all my synapses sparking, and I am strangely alive. Like the monster, electricity courses through my veins.

I need to put on some thunderous music.

And have a smoke.



Brownie points for whoever grasps why that line from Virgil's Aeneid automatically came to mind.



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE UNINVOLVED MAN

Courtesy of an insensitive acquaintance, I am cognizant once more of all the holidays I am so un-vested in as to rather dislike hearing about them nowadays. This pursuant a favourite celebration which is coming up, that has the saving grace of being, for me, largely about food.
One item. High sugar, high fat, high cholesterol.
Choice of several traditional flavours.
Plus one, or two, or three.


中秋節或八月節

This year the moon festival will occur on Monday, September 8.

The traditional food is the mooncake, that being a large hockey puck consisting of thin pastry surrounding a sweet filling. The top is usually embossed with a design that evokes the season, or a lucky phrase and various lucky images.

The most traditional filling is lotus seed paste, but other common fillings are adzuki paste, five fruits and nuts, candied melon, and several others, all based on sugar, fat, and a flavour that goes with sugar and fat.

Traditionally, a whole salted egg yolk is in the centre, contributing its own wonderful richness to the whole. Nowadays, one can find versions with two egg yolks, or even three.

Think of it as an ancient energy bar.
But a whole lot better tasting.
Caloric excess.

Yes, the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month has an immense overlay of family connotations, togetherness, rich folkloric tradition, home town memories, and all the rest of that good stuff, along with rebellion and conspiracy, which are also very popular tropes in Chinese culture.
But, being a Caucasian, for me it's all about the cake.
White people get to be kind of insensitive.
And anyhow, we lack culture.

Actually, I'm going to darn well ignore that family and home town business, seeing as I have little left of the first, and cannot really claim the second.

Lotus seed paste, with TWO salted egg yolks.
Yum babies, you betcha.



APPENDIX

The celebrations which now mean very little to me are listed below.

Chinese New Year.
Lantern Festival.
Superbowl Sunday.
Valentine's Day.
Carneval.
Purim.
Saint Patrick's Day.
Ching Ming.
Passover.
Easter.
The Queen's Day.
Bevrijdingsdag / Cinco de Mayo.
Mother's Day.
Gay Pride.
Father's Day.
Dragon Boat Festival.
Solstice.
Independence Day.
Bastille Day.
Rosh Hashanah.
Simchas Torah.
My Birthday.
Hallowe'en.
Dia de los Muertos.
Guy Fawkes Night.
Thanksgiving.
Saint Nicholas Eve.
Channukah.
Christmas.
Oud Jaar's Avond.

Most of these have special foods associated with them, and many are either community or family events embedded in specific cultures.
I'm a rather generic kind of fellow.
My bonds aren't very strong.
And I rain on parades.


PS. Already acquired two mooncakes, planning on more.
Don't stop me. I shall be on a roll.
Expect happy.



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MEN WITH GLASSES

According to a recent survey, men who wear spectacles are obscenely hot. Which is good news. Yet I don't know how I feel about that.

I suppose I'll have to fight off women with a stick.

"No no, little female person", I shall say, "I am entirely unsuitable!"


The survey said nothing about Vandyke beards and pipe smoking. That has to have been an oversight. I'm guessing that they will issue a correction in the fullness of time. Glasses, Vandyke beards, pipes; a natural trinity.
Debonair, suave, and mucho macho.


Surely I'm not the only one who thinks so?



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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TEDDY BEAR AND FRIEND

My apartment mate, Savage Kitten, needs cheering up because she and Wheelie Boy are no longer an item. It is proving a depression-inducing thing for the poor girl.

She'll get over it.


It may take a while.


Having some experience in break-ups involving people with Aspergers, automatically I realize that probably the best medicine is distraction. Get their minds to obsessively go over entirely different tracks by shifting the train engine sideways, as it were.

I also know that whenever I ask if she wants to see a cute picture from Facebook or elsewhere on the web, she'll say 'no'. She's not into cute. Unlike me, she's a hard-nosed cold and unemotional Cantonese female, utterly opposed to cute, adorable, charming, sweet, or any of the other gentler things.

Hard-nosed. Cold. Unemotional.


So the other day I didn't ask.


I just lifted up my computer and rotated it one hundred and eighty degrees so that she could see.


AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!



















[SOURCE: http://www.boredpanda.com/rats-teddy-bears-ellen-van-deelen-jessica-florence/ .]


Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh!


Crucial background: she still has a teddy bear, who is her best friend in the whole wide world. When she was a little girl, she had pet hamsters whom she loved.

Let's call it 'pre-conditioning'.



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Monday, August 18, 2014

THE DEFINITION OF A GOOD WOMAN

Several of my habits appall the fairer sex, and rightly so; this blogger is by all rational standards a fairly disgusting specimen. If you met me on the street, you might run away screaming.


I rather wish you would.


I'm still smarting from the remark made by an imposing woman that by smoking tobacco I was to blame for the death of puppies and little children.
No, I don't feel particularly guilty about it, as there are very many of both of those items remaining, and they are an infinitely renewable resource.
But I would have preferred it if she had worshipped the ground.
Seeing as pipe smokers are universally avuncular.
Precisely what canines and kids like.
Uncle Stinky-winky! Oooh!
And 'woof'.

I rather suspect that the repulsive specimen of femininity may have been an anti-smoking tofu-abusing veg-head member of PETA and several other ultra-radical action fronts OR a tacky suburbanite soccer-earth-mom shopaholic, as well as malnourished, despite her girth. A lack of protein in the diet leads to brain problems, oedema, and aggression.
Plus hyper-sensitive nostrils.


In addition to smoking, I also consume highly refined sugar, non-organic non-green coffee and tea, animal flesh, and strong condiments.
I have not eaten soy-bean curd in several weeks.

I'm sure my soap was animal tested.

Did I mention lard?

Buckets!


It's probably quite unfair to equate all women with that person. Several members of the other gender ('female') are in fact extremely likable, and immensely good company for a filthy male individual like myself or of my ilk. At least TWO of them smoke cigars! Admittedly, the bourbon-drinker is a vegetarian, but it is likely that the other one eats meat.
She seems far too nice to not have any 'vices'.
Another woman I know is a committed carnivore, which makes up for her never touching tobacco or alcohol, and the rabbit mom who lives across the bay is a notorious disturber of the peace and a dangerously incorrect person, both of which are traits I find admirable.
Actually, there are a few such among my ken.
All upstanding in my book.


So, in conclusion, your sanity is preserved if you adhere to at least two or three of the following evil practices: meat-eating, tobacco smoking, whiskey drinking, rabbit keeping, rabble rousing, and disturbing both peace and Presbyterians.


And if you're white, please don't cook tofu.

That last is just an opinion, of course.

But I've eaten white-cooked tofu.

It was extremely upsetting.



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WEEKEND ZOMBIES

The concept of going out from Friday till Sunday and getting wasted has always baffled me. For two reasons, mainly, those being that blottoness seems pointless -- wouldn't you rather have crystal-clear memories of having fun -- and if you're going to wake up with a screaming headache, why do so on your own time? Isn't it far better to schedule your hangover for that horrible sales-meeting with the big football players from the fly-overs?


Big smelly John says: "Think outside the box, all of you. There is no 'EYE' in 'team."

What a dingo; does he EVER have an original thought?

He's the corner-stone of the sales force.

High-school jock, super butch.

A popular guy.


You have two choices.

The first one is responding with: "Let's throw that at the wall and see if it sticks. If not, we can do lunch over this and see if we can strategize a directly implementable methodology to manage the inevitable infrastructure alterations that will be necessitated by the failures in communication. Why don't you reach out to your people to see if they can coordinate a time, and send me the 411 at your earliest convenience."

The second choice is to calmly lean over and vomit.


Jesus. You've always wanted to do that.
Thanks to Bourbon, now you can.

He'll sure remember the San Francisco sales meeting.

Probably for the rest of his life.


With any luck, the trauma will wake him up screaming every night.
The memory, oh, the horror! Make it stop!


Consequently, I confess my self completely baffled at the sheer number of zombies, werewolves, and vampires floating up and down Polk Street on Saturday evening. During the week those people are probably utterly normal worker bees, unremarkable, without any distinguishing peculiarities or interesting characteristics.

Saturday night, they know they're fabulous.

Totally unique individuals.

Drunk.


I would rather be a pain in the gand during working hours.
My time off is when I'm at my very best.


Mondays and Tuesdays are for leisure.
I am all sweetness and light right now.





Note: Waffflegab business blurkle above courtesy of Greg, a notorious bon vivant.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

MALARIA

Over a year ago I passed an old gentleman lying flat on his back in the street in Chinatown, while smoking my pipe one afternoon. No, I did not stop; he was being ably assisted by emergency personell, one of whom was keen to find out about his medications. The questions were being asked in Cantonese.

I do not know much about any ailments in Cantonese.
Mostly, my vocabulary is strongest about food.
Not the best subject, probably.
In that instance.

"Did you recently eat anything the ingredients of which, as well as the mode or preparation, might be suspected of having caused a sudden feeling of lassitude OR existential angst?"

“你近日食咗啲嘢,其中嘅成分或模式及準備方式樣,可能會被懷疑引起精神唔振嘅覺得或著存在焦慮突然感覺嘅咩?”

['Nei gan-yat sik-jo di ye, gei-jung ge sing-fan waak mou-sik gap juen-bei fong-sik-yeung, ho-nang wui pei waai-yi yan hei jing-san m-jan ge gok-tak, waak-je chuen-jai jiu-leui dat-yin gam gok ge me?']


Sounds a bit complicated. Best to simplify, given that he's tipped over.

And taking into account my miserable pronunciation.


"Hey! How's your gout then?"

喂,你嘅痛風病,而家點樣呀,老生?

['Wei, nei-ge tung-fung beng yi-kaa dim-yeung ah, lou-saang?']


On second thought, perhaps I am not the right person to make medical inquiries. Which, more or less, brings me right to the subject of Malaria.

From Wikipedia:
瘧疾,俗稱打擺子、打老張,是一種由瘧原蟲造成的全球性急性寄生蟲傳染病,通過瘧蚊傳播。獨特癥狀為間歇性發冷發熱。世界範圍內,呈現臨床癥狀的病例每年就在3億到5億之間,每年因患瘧疾死亡的人數在一到三百萬之間,其中大部分為兒童。兒童、孕婦、旅遊者和各地的新移民對本地流行的瘧原蟲免疫力較差,故是易患瘧疾的高危人群。瘧疾主要的流行地區是非洲中部、南亞、東南亞及南美北部的熱帶地區,這其中又以非洲的疫情最甚。

口服或肌肉注射奎寧是一種有效方法。20世紀中期以後也出現了一些新的藥物,中國科學家研製的青蒿素有很好的抗瘧疾效果。不過一些瘧疾也發展出抗藥性。


"Malaria, colloquially known as "fighting tremors" or "fighting Old Chang", is a global acute parasitic infection caused by the malaria parasite, which is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. The disease is characterized by intermittent fever and chills. Cases worldwide each year showing clinical symptoms number from 300 million to 500 million, the annual number of deaths suffering from malaria between are one to three million, most of whom are juveniles. New immigrant children, pregnant women, tourists and others with low or no immunity to the parasite are particularly at a risk. Malaria is endemic in Central Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and tropical regions of the northern part of South America, but the hardest hit region is Africa by far."

"Oral or intramuscular quinine is an effective treatment method. After the mid-20th century, there were also some new drugs; Chinese scientists have developed a very good antimalarial from artemisinin. However, some strains have developed drug resistance."

[Key vocabulary:  瘧疾 'yuek jat': malaria; intermittent fever + illness, sickness; hate.  俗稱 'juk ching': commonly referred to, vulgarly known (as).  打擺子、打老張 'daa bai ji, daa lou Cheung': hitting tremors, hitting old Chiang.  瘧原蟲 'yuek yuen chung': malaria origin bug; plasmodium.  造成 'chou sing': cause, bring about.  全球性 'chuen kau sing': global, world-wide.  急性 'gap sing': acute.  寄生蟲 'gai saang chung': parasite, parasitic.  傳染病 'chuen yim beng': infectious disease.  通過 'tung gwo': by means of.  瘧蚊 'yuek man': malaria mosquito; anopheles.  傳播 'chuen bo': disseminate.  獨特 'duk dak': having the characteristic of, distinguished by.  間歇 'gaan hit': interval cease; stop while, intermittent.  發冷 'faa ling': feel chill.  發熱 'faa yit': feel heat.  範圍內 'faan wai noi': pattern encircle inside; within the scope or range of.  臨床 'lam chong': approach framework or parameters; clinical.  每年 'mui nin': each year.  患 'waan': suffer.  死亡 'sei mong': dead loss, die perish.  人數 'yan sou': person number, people count.  其中 'gei chung': that which + among, central; including, amongst which.  大部 'daai bou': great section; majority.  兒童 'yi tung': children.  孕婦 'yan fu': pregnant woman.  旅遊者 'leui yau che': journey roam agent; travelling person, tourist.  新移民 'san yi man': new shift people; recent migrants.  本地 'pun dei': original earth; local, native.  流行 'lau hang': flow, drift + walk, travel, move; spread, disperse, flow about.  免疫力 'man yik lik': evade pestilence power; immunity.  較差 'gaau chaai'; comparatively wrong; mediocre, rather faulty or flawed.  地區 'dei keui': earth area; region, district, area.  非洲中部 'fei jau chung bou': Africa central sector.  南亞 'naam (ng)aa'; Southern Asia.  東南亞 'dung naam (ng)aa'; east south Asia.  南美北部 'naam mei pak bou': south America north sector.]


I don't know why I started reading about malaria recently. Possibly it was because my apartment mate had a fit when she saw a mosquito the other day, maybe it is a potent association with certain smells.
Some types of incense drive away mosquitoes.
Among them are aquilaria woods.

I've never had malaria, and I do not intend to ever catch it either.
Living in San Francisco I am not at risk.

Never the less, I have both aquilaria wood incense and a mosquito net.
The resinous punkum has a pleasant old-timey fragrance, the gauze makes night-time dreamier.


In the year 1094, the great scholar and poet Su Tung-po (蘇東坡) was sent south to Guangdong province, with the express purpose that he should die of the miasmas and tropical diseases there and thus cease to be a nuisance to the clique then holding power in the government.
He survived six long years among the colourful birds, jungly denizens, and howling langurs south of the passes. Sadly, he died on the way home in 1101 C.E.


中秋節 CHUNG JAU JIT

The mid-autumn festival is coming up once more, this year it's on the eighth of September. Soon mooncakes will be available again, and people will be travelling home to spend the time with family. The astute reader will readily understand the mental association that brought this up; Su tung-po wrote some lovely poems about the season, which are still quoted today. Unfortunately they are rather hard to translate well.
Forgive me, I shan't even make the attempt.



"Su Shi". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Su_Shi.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Su_Shi.jpg



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CONSIDERING THE IDEA OF DINNER

On Friday evening, my apartment mate (Savage Kitten) came home with a bad attitude and a take-out meal, and I realized that I sorely missed having a woman to eat with. No, we didn't eat together; we never do. She hadn't had a decent lunch, and had simply stopped by the Kam Po or somewhere to pick up dinner for herself.

She had been dealing with people all week, she needed alone time.
I went out and had a bun and some milk-tea.
Followed by a smoke.


Actually, that bun was the first thing I ate on Friday. Having been up since dawn, I suppose I should have eaten much earlier, but I wasn't inspired. Food, far more often than not, is not an event keenly anticipated, but either a desperate act, or mere fuel.

There are a number of places I can think of, where it would be very nice to eat with someone else. They're all nearby, and fun to go to, but they would be much more fun with female companionship. I can well imagine the pleased delight another person might have sampling various scrumptious items. Small, not too crowded, and cosy.
Nah, shan't share them here; they are private.
Wouldn't want to see them taken over.

Food with a woman is more fun by far than eating alone.
Plus shared tastes make everything delicious.
I'm going to have to try that again.




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Saturday, August 16, 2014

SF CHINATOWN: WHAT DOESN'T EXPLODE MAY BE WONDERFUL!

After passing several clusters of bellowing tourists on Grant Avenue, it finally struck me that visiting Chinatown is the best thing to do. Why bother finding out about San Francisco, seeing the real sights, talking to locals, when all you have to do is follow a list: go to Chinatown, hike up to Coit Tower, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, see Fishermans' Wharf, boat over to Alcatraz, and shop for tacky crap.
So easy, so simple, so not requiring thought.
Tourist don't want to think; it's hard.
And it might require research.

The necessity to use their brains makes them stumble when it's time to return from the Golden Gate Bridge. Like anxious chickens, they will flock up to the first bus that hoves into view, and fight to board.
Never mind that several people are getting off.
This is our bus, we saw it first!
Outta the way, bitches!

It's usually the number seventy or eighty out of Marin. The driver will explain several key things, once the honoured foreigners and fat Midwesterners have stopped foaming at the mouth.

This bus does NOT go to Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf. No, he does not know how they can get there from here. Downtown is large; if they don't know where they are going, they should not take this bus.
Those tickets are only good on Muni (the city buses), he has fifty people sitting behind who are being even further delayed by tourists pointlessly yelling in Italian or German, and it costs four dollars and fifty cents to travel on this conveyance, which is a regional bus, rather than the two bucks OR convenient tourist pass on Muni. Which you missed, back there behind you, it's just pulled out, but you could have caught it if you hadn't wasted fifteen minutes arguing.

Sadly, disconsolately, the smelly and fat visitors fade into the frigid mists of the Bridge Toll Plaza, to wait yet another hour for the next Muni bus. Some of them will mob another vehicle from Marin before it is all over.

They're geese. Or sheep.
Albeit quite rabid.
And vicious.

In the same un-thought-out fashion, they go to Chinatown.


NOT THIS CHINATOWN

Part of the problem is that San Francisco always insists that this is the largest neighborhood of its kind outside of Asia. Which it isn't, by a very wide margin. New York, Toronto, and Vancouver have far greater Chinatowns, and our second and third Chinatowns are bigger too.

Another issue is that tourist guides, hotel desk clerks, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce speak glowingly of the food and antiques, lovely brocades, fabulous quaintness, and totally cute omg sights, people, and objects.

The food is either every day Cantonese food for a local population which wants good for cheap and gets it, OR high-priced muck sold primarily to white people who demand stuff that the locals will not touch.

Tablecloths? Who ever heard of such a thing?
There is no Perrier, so sorry.
Nor ketchup.


You must understand that the ONLY reasons why Chinatown still exists are three-fold: It's a commercial nexus for people who need goods and services such as among many other things Chinese ingredients, cheap clothing, translation, and haircuts; it's a half-way house for people who are desperately unable to use English effectively and are struggling to move up and out; and old folks. Please note that NONE of these involves tourists, colourful dances and song, putting on shows for the white people, or anything else that caters to the very important non-Asians temporarily passing through.

Except, of course, for Grant Avenue. Which is in the main a ghastly tourist trap. Cameras, tee-shirts, cheap plastic breakable mementos, tea that mostly only white people drink, and coolie hats. More or less.
Really, Grant Avenue is fairly pointless.


BARBER SHOPS, FOOD, AND GROCERIES

Again, San Francisco Chinatown is by no means the enormous and significant community of "exotics" that tourist brochures say it is.
The largest Chinese population in San Francisco is out in the avenues, many of them speak English, a large number speak English better than any other language, and they're working for and running businesses that are very similar to what you would find in Milan or Iowa. The only thing truly unique is that their children are academically superior.

Unless you desperately need tee-shirts and knick-knacks, what you should do in Chinatown is get a haircut, and have a snack.
Plus buy a condiment or a dried fish.


HAIR CUT

There are very many hair dressers in Chinatown. My barber has a shop there, and he does a fabulous job on my head. His English is better than my Cantonese. Some of his customers do not speak Cantonese.
Heads are all very similar, they've seen them before.
Chinese know about such things.


SNACK

Just point. If the place is doing a booming business, it's because they offer decent food and drink at a reasonable price. No, none of the stuff they sell is weird. Most of it consists of fairly common ingredients which are combined in fairly predictable ways. Starch, meat, vegetable stuff, and flavourings. Stop asking questions, and just look at what's available. The appearance will tell you whether it's a main dish, a starch-type substance, a baked product, or contains vegetables. The people who work there might not have the time or the English ability to patiently and thoroughly discuss every tiddly little detail. And you aren't their target audience, who will return often, and whose custom they depend on.

For your assistance: BoBa is large balls of tapioca added to chilled beverages. Charsiu is a type of roast pork. Almost all pastries contain animal shortening. Dried shrimp adds a seafood saveur. Joong (so-called 'Chinese Tamales') are glutinous rice surrounding pork and beans or peanuts, wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed for hours, they keep for days. The lotus leaf packets contain glutinous rice, chicken, a slice of Chinese sausage, a little black mushroom, and only a few other ingredients, and are a delicious lunch. Dumplings could be almost anything (but will often contain an animal protein surrounded by or folded into a starchy component which may be made of rice flour, wheat, or tofu skin. If it looks crunchy, it probably is crunchy.

'Vegan' and 'kosher' are not concepts that operate here.
Even 'vegetarian' is very hard to grasp.
Allergies are your problem.


FYI: Vegetarian restaurants often have the word 素 ('sou') in the name (vegetarian is 素食 'sou sik'; "vegetarian eats"), and another term that crops up in relation to vegetarian food is 齋 ('jai'), which refers most commonly to Buddhist-type vegetarianismus. Neither are popular.
Veganism, besides being quite utterly ridiculous, is 純素食主義 ('suen sou sik chu yi'), "purely vegivorous ideology".
Kosher is 符合猶太教教規的食物 ('fu hap yau taai gaau gaau kwai dik sik mat'), "according with Judaic religious regulation comestibles".
Halal is 符合清真教教規的食物 ('fu hap ching jan gaau gaau kwai dik sik mat'), "according with Islamic custom food".
Respectively 猶太潔食 ('yau taai git sik') and 清真食 ('ching jan sik') for short.

Allergies are called 過敏 ('gwo man'), allergic reactions are 變態反應 ('pin taai fan ying'), and a food allergy is 食物過敏 ('sik mat gwo man').

Peanuts are 花生 ('faa sang'); they're nearly everywhere.
Wheat gluten is 麵筋 ('min gan'). It's good for you.


CONDIMENTS

If you're flying, you shouldn't buy sauces. Rules about what you can't bring onto a plane are strict. Otherwise, please understand that the list of ingredients required by law is very comprehensive, and that many of them contain at least one of the following: sugar, starch, a fermented fish product, salt, wheat derivatives, monosodium glutamate, and chili.
Most of them are meant to be added to food as it is cooking, a few can be added afterwords as you are enjoying the meal. None of them are suitable for massive amounts. Many of them keep very well in your refrigerator after opening. Shrimp paste is essential, Hoisin sauce less so. Douban sauce is useful, but you may not use it often enough.


DRIED FISH

Nothing says "I've been to Chinatown" like a handsome dried fish.
If you are Scandinavian, Dutch, or Belgian, you have seen such things before -- though they may not have been utilized in your kitchens in several generations -- and some Italians and Iberians may have used similar products. If you are modern middle class urban, you will likely eschew fish entirely, and if you are English or Midwestern you may not even know how to cook it when it is fresh. Likely you don't cook anyhow, at most you heat up prepackaged hot-pockets and curry.
Or open a can and mix the contents with mayonnaise.
You rely on celery salt and ketchup.

Dried fish is seldom the mainstay of a meal. But it is a valuable taste-contribution in not particularly large quantities. It will often be soaked and fragmented, and used to flavour simple vegetable dishes.
That's ONE vegetable. Not a mish-mosh of a dozen.
Cooked all dente. Not boiled to death.
Think 'blanch, then saute'.

There are multiple uses for a dried fish, of course, but it's dried; it keeps. That's the whole point of it. Just put it in a large resealable food-storage bag once you get home, if you do not intend to consume it all within weeks.



RECOMMENDATIONS

Below is a selection of places. It is short. It may seem idiosyncratic.
That is deceptive.


DIM SUM

I shan't mention the small hole-in-the-wall dimsum counters I favour, as you probably wouldn't like them anyhow. They also do jook and cheap rice plates. Eh, you wouldn't like those either.

For sit-down dimsum of high quality:

城景 CITY VIEW RESTAURANT
662 Commercial Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
415-398-2838

Between Kearny and Montgomery, very good.


多好茶室 DOL HO
808 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
415-392-2828

Just west of Stockton. Good food, a frenetic or eccentric atmosphere. If you're a snob you might have reservations.
Why are you here?


羊城茶室 YANK SING
49 Stevenson Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415-541-4949

Outside of Chinatown, in the financial district. A bit more expensive, but deservedly popular among both Chinese and white folks.

For a complete list of dim sum specialties, see this post:
Dim sum: kinds, names, pronunciation, description.
Not all of the items listed will be available.
Not even in Hong Kong.


SNACK

For bakeries, I recommend these three:

荷里活茶餐廳 NEW HOLLYWOOD BAKERY & RESTAURANT 
652 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
415-397-9919

人仁西餅麵包 YUMMY BAKERY
607 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-989-8388

幸福餅家 BLOSSOM BAKERY
133 Waverly Place
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-391-8088


All three of these have excellent wife cakes (老婆餅 'lou po beng') and milk-tea (港式奶茶 'gong sik naai chaa'), two of them also have wonderful charsiu turnovers (叉烧酥 'chaa siu sou').
They also have other offerings worth exploring.
Sit down and take a break.

For egg tarts (蛋撻 'daan taat'), head to Golden Gate Bakery (金門餅家) at 1029 Grant Avenue, between Jackson Street & Pacific; for coffee crunch cake and mooncakes in season, go to the Eastern Bakery (東亞餅家), 720 Grant Avenue, at the corner of Commercial Street.


RICE

If you want to eat at a restaurant, go here:

京都餐館 CAPITAL RESTAURANT
839 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-397-6269

Great for family dinners and solid Cantonese food, this place can get packed and chaotic during the rush. The clientele is mostly Cantonese speaking, so don't get too fussy and persnickety; they're really trying to keep everyone happy, but that does mean that convoluted questions are better fielded during quieter moments.


上海飯店 BUND SHANGHAI RESTAURANT
640 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
415-982-0618

Top-notch Shanghainese food, and delightful chive and pork dumplings (韭菜豬肉水餃 'gau choi chü yiuk suei gaau'). This is a place I would love to take a date sometime.


嶺南小館 R & J LOUNGE
631 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-982-7877

Excellent Cantonese food, and very much the place you would bring your elderly out of town relatives. It's a bit fancy, but the quality has remained consistent for years. They can also do larger groups, and cocktails are available.


FLAVOURS

Condiments of most types are available at any place that looks like a grocery store. Many of them also have dried fish. Prices are all very much in line, as they really want to move the merchandise. They will not be able to answer questions very well, especially if you have a horrible German or French accent; know the subject before you go in, or be willing to take a chance. The worst that can happen is that you might waste one or two dollars.

Do NOT purchase chin cha lok (真加洛醬 'jan kaa lok'), as it explodes; very unstable!

Dried fish and soy sauce never do that.



AN AFTERWORD, TER VERANTWOORDING

Indeed, I am also white, just like you. And although I speak some Cantonese, I do not fancy myself in any way special or somehow superior. The key difference may be that I tend to obsessively look things up. Which also explains my very minor facility in Cantonese.
That language has proven more useful in the past several years than Dutch, German, and Indonesian. This is primarily the case when I am communicating with people who do not speak Dutch, German, or Indonesian, in addition to lacking fluent and idiomatic English.

I am also an egomaniac; I like to be able to get what I want without struggling, and attract a modicum of favourable attention at the same time. A white person who is at least semi-intelligible in Cantonese is a lusus naturae, though probably not someone you want to know.

I collect cookbooks and foreign dictionaries.
And I eat rather well in consequence.
I also know how to take buses.
These are nice things.


PS: Transit information is available all over San Francisco, as well as in the guide books. Many maps also have valuable clues.



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