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.

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.

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



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.

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

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:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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.

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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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Monday, October 13, 2014


For some reason everyone wishes to assume that everyone else is fascinated by what the home town baseball team is doing. Which, for all I know and care, requires whipped cream coloured blue for Fleet Week, Taiko drums, and a live goat. This in lieu of an ancient tradition: leaving a bratwurst and a beer at home plate in the middle of the night.
Personally, I love both bratwursts AND goats.
So by all rights I should be obsessed.

Far freakin' from it.

This blogger is capable of indulging his goat and bratwurst thing without having recourse in any way to worship of the San Francisco Giants.
No, I have no idea what they're doing.
Despite the animalistic howling of fans in my vicinity.
Please do not bore me with details.

Baseball, for readers outside the United States, is an American game that's very much like cricket. But instead of lasting five days, it takes about three hours. It includes balls with flies, fine sausages, and teams that alternate at bat. Nobody goes to the pavilion for copious draughts of tea at any time, there is no Dundee Cake. It is staggeringly interminable.
There are no wickets whatsoever, but there are home plates.
On which you may find a sausage and some kraut.
At the seventh inning, people stretch.
Songs are involved.

I do not mind the sausage and the kraut, but I am baffled by the blue-coloured whipping cream and the lively goat.

This affair could be improved by tea.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Sunday, October 12, 2014


Along the river bank in Liwan district travelers often snacked on local delicacies, including up until the seventies, congee prepared on shipboard. There used to be a substantial residency of boat people (Tanka) there, but that community is now mostly housed on land, and laws since then have tightened up restrictions on casual and possibly unsafe food preparation.

[Tanka (蜑家 'daan gaa'): Chinese ethnic group of non-Han origin, now largely genetically identical to their shore-dwelling fellow southerners. For centuries they lived on the water in small boats, and were considered not fit for human company. The discrimination they faced is largely a thing of the past, but there are still good reasons for them to elide over their descent when assimilating among other Chinese.]

Authorities have in recent years become more aware of issues regarding food safety and purity, and have pursued such matters with greater vigour than often in the past. All things considered, this is a good thing. Not too long ago an illegal factory producing 'floating skin' was busted, and the owner and his son jailed.
'Floating skin' (浮皮 'fu pei') is a type of crackling made from cleaned and dried porcine dermis, fried to puff it up (hence 'floating' on the surface of the hot oil), often added to food for a textural effect.
In this case hydrogen peroxide was used to bleach it, and sulfur was added to make it more 'airy'. The results were absolutely stellar.
Just not fit for human consumption.

"What on earth", I hear you asking, "is fried pigskin an ingredient in?"

Sampan rice porridge (艇仔粥 'ting-jai juk'), of course!
Sampan porridge along with Mr. Deepwater Wu's porridge (伍湛記粥 'ng jaam kei juk'), are two famous slick-textured rice-soups of Lychee Bay (Liwan 荔灣 'lai waan'), outside Canton City proper, beyond West Gate (西關 'sai gwaan').

[Note: the grapheme 伍 is pronounced "wu" in Mandarin, 'ng' in Cantonese.]

From what I've heard, in the 20s and 30s, rich opium-addled playboys would stumble home in the early morning hours after a night spent with sing-song girls, and refortify themselves with cheap delicious snackies.

[Sing -song girls (歌女): 近代的歌女, 古代則稱歌妓、謳者、或歌姬。]

After the war the rich opium-addled playboys and the sing-song girls were a thing of the past. But the rice porridge was still being made, and by that time boat people had brought the two dishes to Hong Kong, where there were numerous floating villages, notably Aberdeen (香港仔 'heung gong jai').

On the mainland, the government decided that the aquatic life really stank (it did), and built housing developments for the Tanka. Since the eighties it is unlikely that anyone ate sampan jook other than on land.
In Hong Kong, commercial sampan style cooking has also largely disappeared from the water.
But sampan jook and Mr. Ng's specialty are still around.
They've gone entirely native, very popular.
Nothing is more Hong Kong.

Lychee Bay Sampan Porridge and Deepwater Ng's Three Candidate Ranks Porridge
['lai waan ting-jai juk' & 'ng jaam kei saam yuen kap tai juk']

Sampan porridge nowadays almost by definition contains ingredients which years ago were optional add-ons. Originally it contained only fresh sliced fish and river shrimp, briefly poached in the hot gruel.
At present, everything including the kitchen sink is added: barbecued pork (叉燒 'cha siu'), fresh fish collops (魚片 'yü pin'), fresh sliced squid (魷魚須 'yau yü seui'), floating skin (浮皮 'fu pei'), jelly fish (海蜇 'hoi jit'), and shredded egg threads (蛋絲 'daan si'), all in equal quantities are added with shredded ginger (薑絲 'geung si') and given sufficient time for the fish and squid to poach in the heat, which takes a minute or two of roiling boil (滾 'gwan').
A lesser quantity of fried peanuts (炸花生 'jaa faa-sang') and pok cheui crackers (薄脆餅乾 'pok cheui beng gon') is then thrown in, the porridge is briefly reboiled, then served up with minced cilantro (芫茜 'yuen sai') and scallion (蔥 'chung') strewn on top.
Fresh oilstick (油條 'yau tiu') on the side.
For dipping or dumping in.

It's easy enough to make at home. Per serving, allow approximately two to three tablespoons of the pork, fish, squid, fried pork skin, and egg threads, slightly less than half that for the fried peanuts and pok cheui crackers.
The ginger, cilantro, and scallion are strictly to taste.
Which means generous, but not excess.

Charsiu can be bought at a Cantonese charcuterie, the fish and squid are found at several places on Stockton Street, the floating skin and pok cheui crackers also. Fried pork skin can be acquired at some butcher shops or on Mission Street, and shredded egg thread can be made at home by pouring well-beaten egg through a fine-holed ladle into boiling oil, or you can simple fry some dry egg noodle for an acceptably similar effect.

If you cannot find cilantro and scallion, you are manifestly not living in the civilized world. Please consider moving from the interior to the coast; other sentient beings live there.

Rice porridge made with clear fish stock is best for this dish.
Nice fresh fish makes a lovely sweet silky stock.
The porridge will be velvety.

Indeed, an unusual name for a bowl of tasty rice soup! What the three candidate ranks reference in terms of this dish are pork meat balls (豬肉丸 'chyu yiuk yuen'), sliced pork liver (豬肝片 'chyu gon pin'), and pork chitlins (豬粉腸 'chyu fan cheung'). Other significant contributors are dried bean curd stick (腐竹 'fu juk' ), ginkgo (白果 'baak gwo'), and a broth made largely of dried flounder (大地魚 'daai dei yü').

[Three candidate ranks: 狀元 ('jong yuen'), "figuring first"; candidate who achieves the top score in the imperial literary exams. 榜眼 ('bong ngaan'), "placard eyes"; candidate who came in second. 探花 ('taam faa') "discovered flower"; candidate who came in third. Note that by their successes they outperformed thousands, tens of thousands, of other scholars. 
Kap-tai (及第): to pass the exams.]

Ng Sham Kee is a famous restaurant, now in its third generation. It has been listed as a food-heritage location, and cooks everywhere claim that their version of the congee invented by Mr. Ng is as close to the original as it gets. Given that proportions and processes have mutated over the years, that is not an inaccurate boast for many of them.
Never the less, if you visit Guangzhou, you should probably visit 伍湛記粥品專家 ('ng jaam kei juk pan chuen-gaa', simplified script: 伍湛记粥品专家) for the original taste.

I'm very fond of kap tai jook, even though it can prompt a mild attack of gout, especially if scored kidney slices (豬腰片) are also added for extra goodness. It becomes kind of a delightful nightmare in a bowl at that point, but the inevitable dreaded big toe ache will not stop my immediate gustatory pleasure.

It's worth looking for in Chinatown. There are several places where it is offered, but the best version is probably at the Utopia Cafe on Waverly between Clay and Washington, right in the centre of the neighborhood.
You can also get sampan porridge there.

139 Waverly Place, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-956-2902
[Saam Mun-Yi Juk.]

They also do stellar fresh to-order yau tiu (油條), as well as milk-tea.
Jook, yau tiu, and a cup of hot gong-sik naai cha (港式奶茶) are, together, the mid-afternoon snack of champions.


Liwan district (荔灣區 'lai waan keui') was formerly named Sai Gwaan (西關) after the city gate there. Liwan means 'lychee bay', sai gwaan is 'western frontier-gate'. It is outside of Canton City proper, on the bank of the Pearl River (珠江 'jyu gong'), facing Shameen Island (沙面島 'saa min dou'), where the British and the French held concessions. Its furthest extent is West Village (西村 'sai chuen'). The remnants of old architecture and canals make it a popular tourist destination, and it is also known for fine food and manifestations of culture.
Prosperous establishments, shophouses, and boat people hutchments existed side by side.
The phrase 東村、西俏、南富、北貧 ('dong chuen, sai chiu, naam fuk, pak pan') about Canton and its immediate environs means that there are villages to the east, charm in the west, prosperity southwards, and destitution in the northern area.

Lychee (荔枝) is the fruit of a subtropical evergreen tree native to the rainforests, that reaches several storeys in height. It has been cultivated for several centuries. The blossoms are small, white or pale yellow-green, and peculiarly fragrant.


Not only the Cantonese use fried pig skin as an ingredient, it is also common elsewhere in China, and crispy chicharron is popular on Mission Street and in the snack-food aisle of many supermarkets.

A well-known Szechuanese dish (雙仁浮皮 'seung yan fu pei') combines pork skin with cashews and gingko nut, braised with carrots, snow peas, and slivered ginger.


Rice porridge (congee, jook) is comfort food, convenience food, and home food, in addition to being popular from before breakfast time till late night after partying.

For your reading pleasure, here's a short list.

鮑魚粥 ('baau yü juk'): abalone rice porridge.
鮑魚滑雞粥 ('baau yü kwat kai juk'): abalone and chicken rice porridge.
柴魚花生粥 ('chai-yü faa-sang juk'): dried fish and fried peanuts rice porridge.
猪肝粥 ('chyu gon juk'): pork liver rice porridge.
猪骨滚生粥 ('chyu gwat gwan saang juk'): pork bone poached rice porridge; a selection of fresh and dried mushrooms with ham cooked in a rice porridge made on a basis of pork broth.
豬紅粥 ('chyu hong juk'): rice porridge with cubes of gelled pig's blood.
豬肚肉片粥 ('chyu tou yiuk pin juk'): pork liver, tripe, and fresh pork slices rice porridge.
豬潤粥 ('chyu yeun juk'): pig gloss jook, an alternative name for rice porridge with pork liver.
豬什粥 ('chyu sap juk'): pig whatevers jook; miscellaneous pork oddments rice porridge.
帶子粥 ('daai-ji juk'): "belt jook"; scallops porridge.
火鴨粥 ('fo ngaap juk'): rice porridge with roast duck.
滑雞粥 ( 'gwat kai juk'): chicken chunks (often bone-in) rice porridge.
虾粥 ('haa juk'): fresh shrimp and cilantro rice porridge.
香菇肉鬆粥 ('heung gu ngau song juk'): black mushrooms and pork floss rice porridge.
蠔豉瘦肉粥 ('ho si sau yiuk juk'): dried oysters and lean pork rice porridge.
海胆粥 ('hoi daam juk'): sea urchin rice porridge.
海產粥 ('hoi chaan juk'): mixed seafoods rice porridge; shrimp, clams or mussels, and squid.
海参粥 ('hoi saam juk'): sea cucumber rice porridge, made with dried holothurid.
海鮮粥 ('hoi sin juk'): mixed fresh seafood porridge.
雞球粥 ('kai kau juk'): chicken rice porridge.
羅漢粥 ('lo hon juk'): Arhat ("Luo Han") rice porridge; a luxurious vegetarian preparation made with carrots, bamboo shoots, dried mushrooms, wood ear, straw mushrooms, and white fungus.
牡蠣粥 ('maau lai juk'): fresh oysters rice porridge with pork and garlic.
銀耳粥 ('ngan yi juk'): white fungus rice porridge, mildly tonifying.
北菇雞球粥 ('pak gu kai kau juk'): black mushroom and chicken porridge.
皮蛋牛肉粥 ('pei dan ngau yiuk juk'):preserved egg and beef porridge.
皮蛋瘦肉粥 ('pei dan sau yiuk juk'): preserved egg and lean pork rice porridge.
三黄粥 ('saam wong juk'): three yellows porridge; soy bean, sweet potato, and millet gruel, served with a little golden sugar. Very good for you!
生滾蝦球粥 ('sang gwan ha kau juk'): jook with fresh shrimp cooked by the heat of the porridge.
生滾牛肉粥 ('sang gwan ngau yiuk juk'): rice porridge with sliced beef poached in the hot gloop.
生滾肉片粥 ('sang gwan yiuk pin juk'): jook with sliced pork cooked by the heat of the porridge.
蝦球帶子粥 ('sin haa daai-ji juk'): fresh shrimp and scallop porridge.
爽滑肉丸粥 ('song gwat yiuk yuen juk'): rice porridge with pork meat balls.
碎牛粥 ('sui ngau juk'): rice porridge with minced beef.
田雞粥 ('tin kai juk'): fresh frog rice porridge.
窩蛋免治牛粥 ('wo dan min ji ngau juk'): nested egg evading control cow jook; minced beef and egg porridge.
魚片粥 ('yü pin juk'): fish curls rice porridge.
魚片豬紅粥 ('yü pin chyu hong juk'): sliced fish and pork blood porridge.
魚片皮蛋粥 ('yü pin pei dan juk'): preserved egg and sliced fish porridge.
魚片瘦肉粥 ('yü pin sau yiuk juk'): sliced fish and pork porridge.

My personal favourites are abalone and chicken congee (鮑魚滑雞粥) and preserved egg and lean pork congee (皮蛋瘦肉粥).

[For baau yü juk, this recipe: 鮑魚粥.]

Of course, there's always 白粥 ('baak juk'): plain rice porridge.


Not only the two types of rice porridge mentioned above are famous dishes originating in Liwan, there's also "glass won ton" (玻璃雲吞 'bo lei wan tan'): a shrimp dumpling in a dough wrapper of such lightness that it appears transparent after cooking.
The broth is a refined decoction of dried flounder (roasted before use) and blanched pig bones, simmered and enriched with fresh meat and re-simmered.

I've heard of it, but have never seen it.

Yes, I am keenly curious.


This was going to be a very short post. It kind of grew.
Food posts do that.

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Last night was edumacational. The entire town was filled with sailors, aka 'gentlepersons of a maritime persuasion', as San Francisco celebrated its annual descent into madness and militarism.
My mother would've liked it. She always had a soft spot for men (or women) in uniform. She grew up on military bases, and the Presidio, Treasure Island, and Alameda, were all thoroughly familiar to her.
During the World War, she managed to wreck three jeeps.
I think that may have been on Alameda.

I drive like her. Just a whole lot better. Even though I haven't driven in over twenty years, since crashing my car while roaring at nearly ninety miles an hour round a curve on a dirt road in the East Bay.
But I stress that I was never-the-less a safe driver.
No deaths, no injuries, no near-misses.
Just a freak accident, trust me.
I no longer own a car.


Nor do I own a sailor suit. If I did, I might have worn it last night.
San Francisco was filled with sailors!

Sailors, boy, sailors! It's "Fleet Week". Which above all things means sailors! Depraved behaviour! Pizza with triple cheese! Selfies with hoochies! Two cigars at a time!

Break out that last pack of Lucky Strikes and pass them around!

I wisely decided to leave the Hello Kitty backpack at home before heading out for a drink. I happen to know that Hello Kitty is a shameless trollop, likely to behave disgracefully with our nautical pals.

She doesn't realize that sailors are our first line of defense against sharks.

We would've all be eaten by now otherwise.


FYI: if I had a Sailor Moon backpack, it would have been appropriate last night, but equally ill-advised. For a whole variety of reasons.


[Lifted from 'Dovbear is the Head of the Mukhabarat', first bloglished on Tuesday, August 15, 2006.]

Back in 1982, after a long lunch at a soul-food restaurant in West-Oakland with several friends (I can still remember that scrumptious corn-bread and collards with pot-liquor), I took a wrong turn on the way back to Berkeley. Somehow I ended up in Moraga, in a desolate area on a sand-road to nowhere. So I turned around and headed out, back to the noise of the freeway and the populated world.

At ninety miles an hour.

1. It is not advisable to drive ninety miles an hour on a dirt-road in the middle of nowhere at twilight.
2. It IS advisable to slow down when coming to a sharp bend in the road.
3. When you do not slow down, your car may turn over several times.
4. And come to a stop upside down.
5. Before slowly starting to slide down the slope.
6. And finally coming to a complete stop in a gravel pit fifty yards down-hill.
7. Where you have to wrestle yourself out of the passenger-side window.

At this point you may discover several things.
1) You. Are. In. Moraga.
2) Your car used to have corners.
3) Your car now has NO uncracked or shattered glass.
4) The car-frame is bent.
5) The doors are hosed - one can't open, the other won't close.
6) Your pipe (a black sandblast panel with a taper-stem) is still in your mouth, the tobacco is still lit, and has reached perfect cruising temperature - the Turkish leaf is coming into its own.
7) Baruch Hashem!

A marvelous voyage of discovery.
I learned several things I did not know.
Never stop learning.

Eventually, with the help of some passers by, the car was turned right-side up. It still worked, so I did drive back to Berkeley that evening, pulling to the left the whole time, because due to the frame being severely bent the vehicle veered to the right. The driver-side door would not open, the passenger-side door could not close completely; in consequence the alarm went off for the entire drive back. Which is irritating.

The car was considered a total wreck by the insurance company.

I haven't driven since.

There's a connection there. A link, if you will. Perhaps causal.

A meise she-personal-hoyo:

A few years before that, for a family event, my father and his wife, and my uncle and his family, had all come to Berkeley. Where both my father and my uncle had lived before going off to war in the forties; my father to the Royal Canadian Air Force and three years of flying a bomber over Germany, my uncle to the US Navy, and three years of toodling around Hawaii.

So I drove 'em around.

My uncle and my aunt got out white as sheets, and did not ride with me again.

One of my cousins, who had been warned by my uncle and aunt, nearly had hysterics after her turn. And needed help getting out.

I shan't mention the reaction of the other cousin. That would be mean.
I am not mean.

My father, when I drove him around, just had this big grin all over his puss. He rode with me several more times after that.

I think he approved of my no-nonsense style of manoeuvring.

Oh, I probably should mention that until he married the woman who a few years later was to become my mother, he had owned several small Italian sportscars and an aeroplane (she made him get rid of the dangerous things).

So anyhow, if I had my life to live all over again, I would do exactly the same thing.
Ninety miles an hour.
I just wish I still had that pipe (a black sandblast panel with a taper-stem).
And a double (!) helping of collard greens with pot-liquor.

[End cite.]

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Saturday, October 11, 2014


The other day I was quietly enjoying my pipe when I got roped into a conversation. One of the other patrons recognized me, and promptly told his friends "hey, HE speaks Cantonese, ask him!"
That, usually, makes me a little uncomfortable. There's a lawyer who hangs out there occasionally who also speaks Cantonese, and tends to make fun of my atrocious pronunciation. As well as an investment banker who speaks far better Hong Kong Canto than any of us.
In all honesty, my ability with the language is better in the reading department than in speech, and I only say that because the other two gentlemen can barely read one word of Chinese, if that.
I am a smart kwailo; can read, can write too!
A fabulous monster in all ways.
But I speak crappy.

The other reason I don't like being the go-to encyclopaedia of all matters Asian is that too often that means having to explain things in detail, for clarity and comprehension, to people whose interest is passing and superficial, and who often are complete pills conversationally.

The question was "are Cantonese women beautiful?"

A quick and to the point answer is "yes".

But "no" is equally valid.

A more nuanced answer would be "some are, some aren't; those who are aware of their attractiveness often aren't". That goes for all women, by the way.

Yes, they're beautiful. And no, they aren't. If you love someone, she's beautiful. It seldom really works the other way around. Men who are attracted to "beautiful women" often go for bland and vacuous, with perfect features and a physique that meets their exacting specifications. What they end up with is a woman whom they don't know, and probably wouldn't actually like if they did.
If they like Asian types exclusively, what they find is a generic Asian.

If you love someone, she's beautiful. I tend to think that that means she has spirit, character, and generosity. My ex is a good example of that. No, she's not a classic beauty by any means. And some of her facial features aren't nearly as Audrey Hepburn-esque as she would have preferred them to be.
She never thought of herself as beautiful, or even pretty.

Which is rather sad, because she was beautiful. She still is. She has spirit, character, and generosity. That's why despite our relationship having ended I still like being around her.
Why on earth she still associates with me baffles the hey-ho out of me; it's probably her generosity.
And yes, I know she looks good.
She's beautiful.


Many Cantonese women, especially as they get older, cannot be described as quiet little bland blah types. Which is a good thing.
There's a streak of obduracy entrenched in the Cantonese soul.

Cantonese women tend to be less 'subtle' than many other East-Asians, by which I mean that they are less likely to hide what they think behind a veneer of bland smiles and polite gibbering. They have the conditioning and mental blocks which modulate and filter, just like everyone else. But if they think you're a fool, don't be surprised if they treat you like one.
They might be a bit short-tempered; it's a Cantonese characteristic.

Four Cantonese women work at one of my favourite restaurants. None of them are beautiful. But all four of them are extremely beautiful. The grandma is beautiful, she has the three characteristics that make her so, plus a gentle humour. Both of the overweight women are too; they also have those traits. The scrawny one with teeth is particularly beautiful, because additionally she has an interest in history and literature.

The women who work at my favourite dim sum hole-in-the-wall are beautiful too. The two middle-aged ones have a vulnerability to their eyes, as well as spirit, character, and generosity. The boss-lady has a profound sense of decency and honesty, along with spirit, character, and generosity.

The young pregnant woman at another food place is also beautiful. Smart-aleck, and full of piss and vinegar. Yes yes yes, she also has those three things that you are probably tired of hearing about by now.
If you understand what I'm getting at, you already got it.
There is no need to beat the horse to death.
If you didn't, you may be dull.

A few days ago I saw someone waiting for the bus whom I knew years ago. She's my age, and colours her hair now. Which is a vanity one should not begrudge a woman. She looks as beautiful as ever.
Unfortunately I should have recognized her sooner.
I didn't have a chance to say hello.
Her smile was ever lovely.
Probably still is.


Look, sonny, if you're asking about their sex-appeal, I cannot possibly answer that question. Maybe you have a thing about breasts, legs, or bottoms, or you're a fetishist into a particular physical or ethnic type.
Perhaps you have several mis-informed ideas about docility and subservience.

Cantonese women are not particularly docile and subservient.

And they've got some fearsome tongues on them.

Might cuss you out good.

Are Cantonese women beautiful? If they like eating with you, they are.
People who love food are always beautiful, whereas folks with hang-ups and long lists of what they will not touch are insufferable.

In any case, why are you asking?

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

Friday, October 10, 2014


It's cute when little girls speak Cantonese. Especially if they're white. And there is at least one such person. She's seven years old, goes to an inner city school where many of the other children are Cantonese-speakers, and she likes cheung chai baau and cheung fan.
Most particularly, sin haa cheung fan.
It's yummy!

Her pronunciation is far better than mine, but, naturally, her vocabulary is less comprehensive.

Her father is justifiably proud of her.

I was having a snack in Chinatown after spending several hours reading about Tanka boat people (蜑家), who are a minority group in Hong Kong and elsewhere up and down the coast, originally of non-Chinese origin (possibly the original population, before the Chinese started moving south two millenia ago to colonize the lands of the Yueh, Lai, Mieu, and She tribals), and yearning for treif after also noting a recipe for crustaceans in butter with lemon juice and Italian seasoning on the Facebook page of 'God Hates Shrimp', which is a group that spoofs Christian religious types, originally founded to get the goat of the Southboro Baptist Church.

When a small Caucasian female asks for specific things in Cantonese, your head snaps. Especially when her father doesn't speak a word of the language. It is remarkable.

[INFORMATIONAL INTERSTICE: Cheung chai baau (腸仔包): a hotdog wrapped in regular sweet bread dough and baked, very popular in Hong Kong and San Francisco. Cheung fan (腸粉): thin rice flour batter poured over a flat surface and steamed, forming a sheet. Usually a bit of something savoury is strewn along one side while it cooks, so that when it is loosely folded over you have tasty nuggets embedded in the pearlescent fresh noodle sheet. It is then slashed to create chopstickable pieces, served cold, with a little soy sauce poured over. Delicious! Sin haa cheung fan (鮮蝦腸粉): rice sheet-noodle with fresh shrimp. Yueh (越): collective term for the original inhabitants of the area south of the passes; their age was decisively over by the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period (三國) . Lai (黎): the unassimilated proto-Thai in Guangdung and Guangxi, and other regions along the frontier. Mieu (苗): an ethnicity dispersed in various areas, extending into Vietnam and Laos. She (輋、畲): an early tribal people that occupied the coast prior to the migration of Cantonese-speakers into the area between the Sui Dynasty period (隋朝) and the end of Sung (宋). There are still numerous She in Fujian and Zhejiang province, altogether over half a million. There are virtually none of them in Hong Kong (香港) and the Pearl River Delta (珠江三角洲).]

On days when I am not scheduled to work, I usually get up around seven -- darn well have to, as my apartment mate is cheerfully noisy by then, bustling around fixing herself breakfast, cursing in Cantonese, and asking me questions -- and, once I am alone in the house again, I have my second cup of coffee and read. Quite often that means visiting the internet. Any informative site naturally prompts looking things up, and one article inevitably leads to another. I cannot remember what brought me to material about the Tanka; several years ago I had read 'The Vermilion Bird' ("朱雀"), by Edward H. Schafer, along with his other books -- a particular favourite is 'The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens in T'ang Literature' (1973), which is filled with wild imagery -- so there was much there that ab initio intrigued. On that day the same happened as on other occasions; I became so immersed that it wasn't till mid-afternoon that I realized that breakfast and lunch had both passed without sustenance, and it would soon be tea-time.

The single male always pauses for tea.
It's better than any other meal.


I was not originally a tea-time type of person. My sensitivities and tastes are not particularly English, being a Dutch-speaking Yank, and the day ALWAYS starts with coffee (unless I run out). Tea is just the method whereby the caffeine altitude is maintained. But reading on the internet means that all resolve not to smoke in the apartment, as a courtesy to my apartment mate who is a fervent abstainer, fades by mid-morning, the windows must be opened and the door to her room shut.
Then I light up while studying.

Coffee or tea on one stack of books. Tobacco on a second. Tray of pipes on a third. The ashtray is to my left, on top of... a stack of as-yet unopened tobacco tins (the topmost tin is 'Artisans Blend', by Ashton, purchased in 2005; underneath that is Escudo).

[FYI: The pipe tobacco tin of current usage reposes on top of a big thick dictionary of Chinese calligraphic forms (中國書法大字典), published by 大通書局 in 台北, in the seventy-fourth year of the Republic). It is at the top because I have much recourse to it. Fascinating stuff! The tray with the cup is on 'Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio' (聊齋誌異), and 'Chinese Bronzes' by Paul Hamlin, et praeter eos multosque alios libros.]

A warm beverage at tea-time in Chinatown, with meaty buns and dumplings. The company of an interesting man and his two charming children (the younger one not quite so fluent in Cantonese yet).
Multiple languages, and a few months in Amsterdam.
Which he loved, and his kids barely remember.
I dawdled longer than I intended.

[MEATY BUNS AND DUMPLINGS: gai baau (雞飽); a steamed bread dough bun filled with chopped chicken, a slice of lap cheung (臘腸 ), and some black mushroom (冬菇). Choi yiuk baau (菜肉飽): this is a steamed vegetable and chopped pork bun. Chyu yiuk siu mai (豬肉燒賣): little open-topped pasta cups stuffed with minced pork, steamed till done; the all-pork version is marked with a small dab of salty egg yolk (一點鹹蛋泥) on the filling. All three are delicious. For a reasonably complete list of similar things, see this post: Dim sum: kinds, names, pronunciation.]

Afterwards I strolled through the alleys smoking. Yes, like many fine pipe tobaccos, this one was of English provenance. Unfortunately the Dutch did not make very good pipe tobacco, most types were rather dull and aromaticised. Nowadays only Stad Ootmarsum ("fijne echte OudHollandsche Pijp Tabak") is the only brand still made there.

A fine blonde, from an unchanging company in Kendall, Cumbria.

Golden Glow -- Broken Virginia Flakes, by Samuel Gawith.
The tin is four years old, and very nicely aged.
It's very very British.

I was standing outside the old Sam Wo when an elderly woman came up and said that I looked very scholarly; the combination of pipe and reading specs apparently creating that impression.
I thanked her for the compliment.

No, I am not 'scholarly'. Just curious, middle-aged, and slightly odd.
Still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
Alive, would be a good guess.

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