At the back of the hill

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

Friday, August 29, 2008

PANTIES - NIGHT-TIME PAVEMENT SOUVENIRS!

Yesterday evening I was wandering around my neighborhood with a pipe in my mouth, when my eye fell on a pair of panties.
[I often smoke outdoors. Savage Kitten does not appreciate the perfume of fine Oriental blends, and I had a Charatan filled with Presbyterian Mixture going.]


The panties were small. The panties were a very pretty raspberry-rose. The panties were empty.


One does not often come across a clean and entirely unoccupied pair of panties.
Usually, when one stumbles across panties on the public street, they are either disreputable looking and in the gutter, or filled with a (briskly) moving posterior.
If there is merit to the posterior the latter situation is preferable.
[This is mostly speculative, you understand. I do not spend much time thinking about panties, nor strive much to see them, but merely gratefully note them in passing. It is a benefit to no longer being allowed to smoke at the office or inside cafés. This is the unintended brighter side of anti-smoking regulations.]


These panties were exceptionally reputable looking.


One has to wonder how a nice pair of panties end up on the pavement.


Did the young lady wearing them suddenly decide to go commando? Were they a spare that fell out of a rushing schoolgirl's backpack?
Were several teenagers horsing around? Was it a dare? Did someone angry run off pantyless?

Did she rush out of the house before fully dressed? There was something she forgot? Was she gaily waving them from her window at a beau?
Maybe they were drenched with perfume as a memento?


Too loose, perhaps, they may have slipped off accidentally as the wearer hurried up the hill.
She could have been too embarrassed to repossess them and thus draw attention to whatever it is that she did not want to draw attention to.


One would very much like to know whose garment lay there. Perhaps not too well (at least until a reasonable explanation of panty-loss presented itself), but definitely in nearer proximity. She can't weigh more than ninety pounds (that rules out most white women), and judging by the evidence of stretch and fabric-stress, there may be some discrete curvature.

Several weeks ago a pretty young miss got off the bus at the same stop as myself. While I paused to light up, she skipped on ahead up the hill. Petite. Winsome. Energetic.
And be-skirted.

If it was the same young lady, I am not entirely surprised that she lost her panties. Did I mention that she was petite? Very much so. In her size, almost anything is far too roomy.
Teenagers, no matter how unlike white women in size, do not like shopping in the children's department.
I do not think they make nice panties for such petite women. I will have to investigate.



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Thursday, August 28, 2008

LONG DISTANCE MASOCHISM

One of my salesreps just called. He wanted to know how a particular customer was doing. It seems like a normal question, and I do appreciate it immensely when my salesreps call me BEFORE selling ten thousand dollars worth of goods to some non-paying hoser - who, given that it's a non-paying hoser who never answers my calls, I am averse to giving merchandise on net terms.
[Net terms: buy now, pay later. N30 means that you have a month from invoice-date to pay, N60 means two months. Net terms are a privilege. Net thirty is fairly normal. Net ninety is not part of my vocabulary.]


Salesreps genuinely hate it when a week after they persuaded the hoser to place a large order, the hoser calls 'em up screaming that Bucket-O-Monkeys Inc. rudely REFUSES to give them net terms, and wants a prepayment!
"A prepayment, how dare they, I am the best customer they have in Outer Sasquatch! I demand net sixty or balls!"
[Bucket-O-Monkeys is not our real name, please understand. But it could have been.]


Okay. Balls it is.


You would be surprised how many customers do not grasp the operative concept. If it is a given that I have to call them, I would much rather call them for a prepayment before the stuff leaves our warehouse, than after my boss has asked me why that hoser in Outer Sasquatch is three months past-due.
[It's also more efficient - one confident call before shipment, or half a dozen horribly frustrating ones later.]


Yes, I truly love talking to the nice young teenage girls they have hired to staff the store for the season - you would not believe how good I have gotten at talking to teenage girls on the phone - they no longer burst into tears, and some of them sound absolutely giggly afterwards - but on a scale of one to ten, as far as effective communication is concerned, it is two up from pinhead.
Same goes for monetary results - if Jennifer, Amber, or Tiffany answers, I know that I'll have to call back at least three more times before I get a human being. Let alone one who can pay an invoice.


I love my job.


Part of it is indeed the giggly teenage voices in Outer Sasquatch.


Truly.


The salesrep who called me just now was inquiring about a particular customer, and was horribly disappointed that the customer was clean & current, and that I had actually shipped merchandise recently.
See, there are TWO stores that sell our stuff in Outer Sasquatch. And he was visiting the other one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

JOHN COTTON: FINE OLD REEK

Sometimes you just don't know where things have gone. You get distracted, and several years later, when you finally remember what you were doing, something you expected to see in a familiar place has completely disappeared.
That especially applies to certain fine old pipe tobacco brands.


Back in the early 1980's John Cotton's was one of the names which suddenly started disappearing. There used to be three types: No. 1, Nos. 1 and 2 Medium, and John Cotton's Smyrna. All were blends of flue-cured leaf with Turkish and Latakia.
[The first listed was mild, the second relatively full, and the third was a full English mixture with a more noticeable Turkish and Latakia portion.]


I have recently been smoking from a nearly forty year old tin of the Nos. 1 and 2 Medium. At this point I have enough left from this batch for maybe six more bowls. I'm keeping the tin once I'm finished - it's a lovely simple enameled commercial tin which lists the manufacturer's address, as if an eternal constant, ever unchangeable, on the side: John Cotton Ltd., 65 Kingsway, London W.C.2



JOHN COTTON'S
Nos. 1 and 2 Medium
TRADITIONAL ENGLISH MIXTURE


The tobacco is a lovely dark purple-black in hue, and looks slightly oily. The various components are no longer recognizable, save for what appears to be a stoved Virginia, which is also suggested by the taste.

It is an extremely enjoyable smoke, but, having aged for a generation plus, it has no peaks or valleys left. Recognizably still a medium English style blend with good Oriental (Turkish or Greek ) tobaccos.
Alas, I cannot guess what the other Virginias are, and the Latakia has faded into a Levantine haze. Smooth, mild and perfumy, it reduces to an exceptionally fine white ash. There is no tongue bite. The tin aroma is like wine and also like early spring.

It does not call any other tobaccos to mind, nor spark any memories of previous smokes; the tobacco is too aged for that to occur. I do wish I had more of the same vintage, though. It is like smoking precious incense. The hundred gramme tin I recall stashed in the box near the door dates from 1981, and it will be a while before I open that - there is no more.



John Cotton's Ltd claimed to have made tobacco since 1770. Gallaher's from Belfast owned the John Cotton trademark for many years. Gallaher's was acquired by Japan Tobacco in April 2007. Primarily for the cigarette brands.


The nearest modern equivalents to the John Cotton's pipe tobaccos are probably G. L. Pease blends.
For the Nos. 1 and 2 Medium and the John Cotton's Smyrna, I think you should try Charing Cross and Abingdon.
I have also heard excellent reports about G. L. Pease's Odyssey, but haven't smoked any yet. It, too, is probably a good equivalent - but like all GLP's, smoke it for its own sake.

Butera's Royal Vintage Latakia No. 2 is apparently a near-duplicate of the John Cotton No. 1. Or so I have been told. I have to wonder, though.




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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MESSAGE FOR THE DEPARTED

A very large part of my job is collecting unpaid invoices - I make collection calls. This is strictly business to business, it's not like I call up the widow Jones and tell her 'pay up bitch or we're repossessing your couch', nor do I threaten to break people's kneecaps. Threats have not been part of the legitimate collection world for quite a while, except in Texas (don't ask about Texan collection agencies - they are the scum of the universe). And the whole field is rather well regulated - except in Texas (Texan collection agencies are the scum of the universe - but you already knew that).

Most commercial collection involves one company trying to get another company to pay a past-due amount. Reminders that "hey, that invoice isn't getting any younger you know, and if you really want to keep buying our marvelous wonderful world-saving products that come with buckets of good karma and puppies! - Huggable puppies! - you probably should pay us now".

Please move that scrap of paper to the top of your to-do pile. Give me a call, tell me the payment is being processed, and listen to me squeal with excitement and gratitude.

Occasionally I leave anxious queries in their voicemail along the lines of: "why haven't you called back? I left ten messages for you over the last week, and I was starting to think something awful had happened! You scared me! I was so concerned!!!"

Whatever your crappy reason for not paying quite just yet, fercrapsakes call me! Let me know what's going on, so I don't forward your file to a collection agency in Texas.


Sometimes the miserable miserly hosers have a good reason for not calling back.

While trying to track down a severely delinquent non-payer, I ran across a lovely obituary. Of my customer. She passed away three months ago. She was only thirty four years old, and she left behind grieving parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and nephews and nieces. She also had many friends, who keenly miss her.

Her store was closed for a few weeks, but is open again - her loving kinfolk are running it in memory of her (she had opened the business only half a year before her untimely death).

I am very glad I ran across that obituary.

Not because she is dead, but because I now know why she didn't return my phone calls to her cell phone number. And when I call her store, I will not ask to speak with her, but will just gently bring up the subject of an invoice that unfortunately got overlooked.

Sometimes the nice people I deal with have good reasons for not calling back.


===============================


The deceased left behind a recipe for pumpkin bars. I am not fond of pumpkin (nor of the other main ingredient (oats).


Pumpkin Bars

6 cups whole oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
2 1/2 cups yogurt
1 - 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (she left cinnamon out of the recipe, but it really should be included).

Mix all ingredients. Decant into an oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares. Keep refrigerated in a closed container. They will keep for about 6 weeks.


Despite my misgivings (oats? That's what horses eat!) and opposition to the evil imperialist pumpkin hegemony, I will probably make these at some point in the future.
It seems like a good way to remember.



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Monday, August 25, 2008

TOHOROS HA MISHPACHA

Rather than a long disquisition about the technicalities of a disquieting subject, a brief excursus into left field.


Savage Kitten woke up yesterday morning feeling out of sorts. Savage Kitten needed Ibuprofen. And had run out. And was too crampy to walk to Walgreens. And announced her intention to spend all day in bed belly-aching about an angry porcupine with high heels, beads, and granny glasses who was stomping around her insides doing the rumba.

She slept fitfully during most of the day instead.

So, rather than joining some friends snarking an Edomite cultural manifestation elsewhere in the city, I stayed home. I did not see the porcupine, and have no evidence that an angry dancing porcupine with beads, granny glasses, and high heels, actually even exists, but I will take it on faith that yes she does indeed visit every month.

Ibuprofen is a miracle drug.

By evening Savage Kitten had recovered enough to partake of some curried lamb haunch.


What I missed out on at the Edomite cultural thing was Ahmed calling someone a nazi. Ahmed subsequently calling the cops, who came by and noted that Ahmed was losing his marbles. Ahmed calling the same someone a colonialist racist. The cops tisk-tisking and leaving. Ahmed accusing someone of stealing his falafel. Ahmed taking offense at kippot. Ahmed being chided for his dietary habits. Ahmed invectivicating about the war. Ahmed stuttering. Ahmed hearing voices. Ahmed blinking obsessively while his eyes rolled back. Ahmed distributing literature calling major politicians zionazi stooges and demon spawn. Ahmed marxistically praising Ahmedinejad and Hugo Chavez, both of whom are saints and prophets by Allah! Ahmed demanding that Jinns and Jews leave the park, and take their evil wires with them! Ahmed having a worthwhile and heartfelt exchange of opinions with Borat (Borat being the catch-all term for less-than-coherent members of our side). Ahmed chanting for Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan, and Ahmed then hearing the space-ships coming to carry him home.


It sounds like fun. I would've liked to have been there. But sometimes nidah-zivah-zavah take precedence.

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CALLING BRUCE!

This blog is not the only one with a certain philosphical theme running through it.
Spiros, Grant, Lev, Graham - go here:
Who is in charge of the sheep-dip?
[If you have speakers, turn them on now.]


You'll be glad you did.


The trop follows standard Western Ashkenazic minhag and pronunciation, and the poskim referenced are Conservative or Left-wing Modern Orthodox at best -- hardly the kind of people that the shtrenge haredisten of Lakewood would call rabbonim. Blasted Calvinists!


Note: the link is to a post on a friend's blog:
Waarheid gezocht, vreemds gevonden
If you do not visit that blog frequently, you should. It is good for your mental health.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

EVIL MONKEY!

Over five years ago I brought a monkey home. No, not a wild-beast monkey. He is not an actual protein and bone animal. But he is a very real monkey none the less.

He is missing a leg.

I do not know how he lost the leg. He was in the product-development lab for over a year, palling around with Elmo the dancing street-alcoholic (who carried a gag glass of bourbon in his hands, and had a cigarette in his mouth), and occasionally pan-handled on the shelf with deconstructed Barbie dolls (sluts!) for spare change. He never said much.
Elmo would sometimes dance, or obey the prompting of a boot and fly across the room.

The head of the marketing department "borrowed" the monkey for a Halloween pumpkin-carving project. He reappeared with a gashed neck, dripping ketchup, in the jaws of an orange ghoul. For a few days the carved pumpkins were at the front desk. They moved to the kitchen by mid-week, and ended up in the garbage Friday afternoon.
Which is where I found the monkey.

Monkeys do NOT belong in landfill.

I took the one-legged monkey home. He soon acquired a name (U-rasmus), and started developing..... personality. A lot of personality.
He cannot remember the leg incident, but sometimes has nightmares about pumpkins (the gash was stitched up, and has healed just fine, thank you).

Urasmus likes to play 'Fay Wray' with the little she-sheep (she hates it). He wishes to squish the sheep's boy friend - a handpuppet spider - because he dislikes bugs. He has discovered the saw and threatens Little George and the Ham-STAR.
The monkey disrespects the froad, disses the kitten, and fights with the sock-goat.
He demands to go the all-banana restaurant, and tries to steal my wallet. My bowl of laundry money is relatively safe, as unlike other monkeys, he cannot climb very well (not because of the missing limb - probably ADD). He is an all-round thoroughly disreputable chap, and often has to spend time in the corner. He fears Ms. Bruin, who is the head-roomie, and he trembles when she gives him that stern look of disapproval.


I mention all of this in connection with an article that Savage Kitten sent me from our local newspaper. See here: Urasmus!!!


Quote: "A security guard spotted the monkey near ticket gates in Shibuya Station........ around 30 policemen surrounded the area and attempted to snare it with a variety of nets, as commuters crowded around and snapped pictures with their cell phones.
The standoff ended when the monkey climbed down and dashed out of the station, with several policeman and local TV crews in tow. News reports said the monkey was last seen heading in the direction of nearby Yoyogi Park.
"


There are two photos in that article. I cannot tell whether the monkey in question has four limbs or just three. If it is four, I wonder where he got the prosthetic.

Turns out the little devil is much cleverer than I thought. I guess I'll have to put my wallet in a secret place every night from now on.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

YOUR KINDLY BENEVOLENCE

An item on e-kvetcher's blog ('Search for Emmes') reminded me of some of the things that people offer to charities. Not that his posting had anything to do with charities. It has no conceivable connection with the subject of this post, except in my mind.
[What can I say? It's my mind, and I'll do with it what I like.]


As some of you know, Savage Kitten works at a charitable organization. Part of her job involves listening to people who call to donate. Savage Kitten is not really a people person - I need to mention that, so that you will understand how this part of her job affects her. She does not like people. She does not like people who have blinkers on their minds. She does not like people who do not get to the point, nor people who do not get the point. These, precisely, are the people who call up wishing to donate objects. It is unfortunate.
[Savage Kitten is my long-time companion, helpmeet, and better half. She is not a social creature. She has a keen head for math, an eye for detail, and a sharp sense of humour. But she is not a people person by any stretch of the imagination.]


What do people wish to donate?


They wish to donate mattresses ("it's only stained on ONE side!"), chairs ("one of the legs is a bit loose... well actually, it fell off"), computers ("I plugged it in and it still works!"), bookcases ("just needs new veneer"), refrigerators ("you have to pick it up right NOW!"), second hand coffins --- that was only one person with a coffin, but she really really wanted the charity to pick it up soon, because she was moving. It had barely been used.


Most charities do not have much storage space, do not have repair facilities, and do not have a dozen strong hairy men with trucks. Most charities are not geared towards helping you get rid of the stuff that you do not wish to pay someone to take down to the dump.

Charities like money.


Charities do not need six dented cans of ten-year old satin-finish sandpebble left over from your days as an apartment manager. Charities cannot use your old lawn mower, or the spare tire from a car you no longer own. Charities do not want five boxes of used clothing of doubtful cleanliness and nineteen sixties taste.
Charities do not take live animals (or dead ones). Golf clubs, lawn chairs, solvents? No thanks. Twelve boxes of nice wooly sweaters knitted by the retired ladies benevolent guild? Errm, no thank you so sorry.
Day-old cakes from Norma's Wedding Bakery? Used baby clothes? Pale green tuxedoes and purple ruffled shirts? No, no, no!

Please send money.


Yes, this is San Francisco - but no one really wants to touch your three dozen pairs of crotchless bluejeans.


If, on the other hand, you decide to sell a kidney and donate the proceeds, most charities will not blink an eye. Do so, and Savage Kitten will even send you a VERY NICE thank you card signed by the executive director, AND a plaque announcing that YOU (yes, you!) are a member of the Cavalcade of Angels™ (donors who have contributed over a thousand dollars).

Heck, sell two kidneys. Thank you! You are now an angel.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SOMETHING ABOUT CHEAP TEQUILA AND LOUD MUSIC

The Sales Department is hosting a mid-day fiesta. There are tortilla chips and gaucamole, plus buckets of salsa, in the big conference room.

There are seven large frat-boys wearing sombreros wandering about.


There are full-strength margaritas.
Brain-freeze time. With limes and a blender.


And there is loud music. Very loud mariachi music.

The working day is over. At least for half of the company. Ole, rabbosai, ole.

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DEGENERATE MAN OF GOD

Smells richly Oriental. There is a large amount of Turkish leaf, but not very much Latakia. When lit, it is likely to scare women and little children.

[Note: for the big mac daddy of all Oriental tobacco posts, go here: Balkan Sobranie
If you love Turks, you have loved Balkan Sobranie mixture. Yenidje, Djubec, Smyrna, Samsoun - it's all good.]


PRESBYTERIAN MIXTURE
William P. Solomon


This famous mixture was originally blended for a Presbyterian minister in Scotland - hence the title of this post. Presbyterians are dour and conservative people, not given to excess. At least in public. This blend betrays the minister in question to be a degenerate orgiast - hence the title of this post.



Well, maybe not actually given to orgies. But extremely self-indulgent. Decadent even. He lived very well, judging by the luxurious quality of this Balkan-style blend. After sticking this in your pipe, it is only natural to suspect him of secret vices or public-school dormitory perversions.

The Turkish element dominates, nicely supported by good Virginia and a smidge of Latakia. There is some fire-cured Kentucky, which augments the smokiness. It is a very enjoyable tobacco.

It is no longer made in Britain but in Germany.

[Dieser vorzüglich Tabak wurde in der zeit um 1910 eigens und ausschließlich für den Geistlichen Dr. John White, einem Würdenträger der Schottishen Hochkirche, gefertigt. Er machte Stanley Baldwin, - Britischer Premierminister in den Jahren um 1923 and später - mit dem Tabak bekannt. Dem Earl Baldwin schmeckte die Mixture so gut, daß er regelmäßig damit beliefert wurde. Er machte auch den Vorschlag, den Tabak PRESBYTERIAN MIXTURE zu nennen.]


The only problem is that it is tinned very moist. It takes quite a bit of time to dry it to smoking level. Having aired it well, close the tin tightly and set it aside for a few days before lighting up, in order that the flavour elements stabilize and re-distribute through the tobacco.

Smoke this while you are young and dashing. Or at all ages, if you are a rake.



Was the minister perhaps on the board of a girls reformatory? Canes and birches, oh lordy. A guilty pleasure. Wear a hair shirt while indulging.




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GOOD LATAKIA DUMP

The term Latakia dump refers to tobacco mixtures with a very large proportion of Latakia. Teenagers love such products and will gladly fill their cheap briars with them; something about the strong smoky reek is like a religious revelation to the young.
Certainly when I was still a boy such products appealed immensely to me.

[For a description of my favourite boyhood tobacco, go here: Balkan SobranieIt was quite literally the gilding of a youthfull age. And I am nothing if not self referential. ]



Samuel Gawith's
COMMONWEALTH
Full Strength Mixture
Fifty percent fine Virginia, fifty percent Latakia.



I like this tobacco much more than I do.


What that last sentence really means is that I like the idea, the aroma, and the feel of this tobacco more than I like actually smoking it. Such a blend requires a bit of attention, lest it become a tongue-burner. And because of the amount of flue-cured leaf, it can and should be enjoyed at a higher moisture level than most smokers of Oriental blends are wont to do. Treat it like a Virginia blend, however, and be pleasantly surprised. It is like having butter go across the tongue, or filling your mouth with tweed and leather. It has a creaminess that goes well with sherry.
It is good. It is quite good.
But I wanted to like it a lot more than I do.


The tin aroma is richly sooty, the appearance of the tobacco between dusk and black. Not a tobacco to keep in the regular rotation, but one to open up occasionally for a fine dark day.




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A TAWDRY OLD TART

The trollop was great fun. But this girl is a bore to be with, and wears too much cologne; the cousin is not nearly as zesty as the bouncy trollop herself. More like a haggard German bar-woman, who probably has a brute named Günter as her boy-toy cum strong-arm guy. She is past her prime, if she ever had one.
Really, one wonders what others see in her, and thinks it would have been better not to have given in to that sassy come-hither winking; she looked better from a distance. Even her perfume seems cheap.
Alas.


ERINMORE MIXTURE
Murray Sons & Company Limited
Made in the EU under authority of Murray Sons & Company Ltd, Belfast.


Yes, it is very reminiscent of the Erinmore Flake (that being the enjoyable trollop referenced above). But on the whole, it seems like a rather pointless exercise in blending. Not that it is bad, just not in any way exciting.
The tobacco itself is not good enough or bold enough to make the famous whore-house reek tolerable, it tends to burn a bit hot, and while the smoke is satisfying enough as such things go, it is not worth going back to. It is a very well made but utterly pedestrian product.
After three bowls of this I wonder how I'm going to finish the tin.

[For a review of Erinmore Flake, see this post: http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-dalliance-with-trollop.html ]


Erinmore Mixture is mostly blonde and brown Virginias, some black Cavendish, and that whorish odour. There is probably also some air-cured leaf in the blend, though nowhere is that mentioned.
It may take me a while to smoke it all. I shall not buy any more of this.




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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SACRIFICIAL ALTARS AND ARAB GARBAGE DUMPS

One of my correspondents avers that the United States government has chosen sides with the Palestinians and "are telling Israel to disregard its security and hand over Jerusalem", and even asserts that the US are "putting Israel on the sacrificial altar so that they can get the oil cheaper".

I take issue with these meshune points of view.



UNITED STATES SUPPORT

The statement that the US govt is "putting Israel on the sacrificial altar" is on the face of it clearly berserk. The US government is not sacrificing Israel - quite the contrary.
IF the US government supported the Pals instead of Israel, they would not give Israel five billion dollars a year, they would not sell arms and ammo to Israel, they would not give Israel access to advanced weapon systems, they would not share intelligence with Israel.

What may make it seem like the United States is not 100% behind Israel is that the United States is actively involved in the negotiations with the other side, and must occasionally attempt impartiality. Not all of Israel's points are entirely sustainable, and some of the Palestinian objections are valid. Even Israeli governments have recognized as much - hence the concessions that have been made.

What both Israeli and American governments have consistently attempted to achieve in their negotiations is quiescence from the Arab side, co-operation against the violent elements, and agreement on stable borders. These efforts are on-going.

Current negotiations will come to little, however, no matter how much Olmert or Rice seem willing to give up. Both the US and Israel know this.


The crux of the problem is purely Palestinian in nature.


Quiescence requires more stability and cohesion than the Palestinians are capable of while outside agents support dissenting (violent) elements in Palestinian society, whereas co-operation against the violent elements will bring everything from the assassination of moderates to full-scale Hamas-like takeovers and warlordism. These are virtually insurmountable obstacles.

The issue of the stable border is the real stumbling block. The Palestinians cannot accept any peace proposals that do not give them all of Jerusalem and more than their section of the territories. The Palestinian national cause is defined by Jerusalem and the territories, and the Arab world stands behind the Palestinians only to the extent that the Palestinians stand in opposition to Israel. To yield on either of these issues would make them enemies all over the Arab world and among their own ranks. A real peace agreement would mean the end of the Palestinian national cause, and force them to redefine themselves. At present it would be suicidal for them to do so.

The US government knows that the Palestinians cannot make peace, the Israeli government knows that the Palestinians cannot make peace, and the warlord entity in the territories knows that the Palestinians cannot make peace.

But all sides have an interest in pretending that peace is possible, and therefore the process must continue.



OIL

Oil is not a meaningful factor - the oil-Arabs can barely stand the Palestinians and will not change the price of oil based on their weal or woe. The price of oil is strictly determined by market forces. The Palestinians are not a market force.

Indonesia and Nigeria produce vast amounts of oil - they are not interested in the Palestinians. China and India consume vast amounts of oil - they too are not interested in the Palestinians. Kuwait produces huge amounts of oil, and cannot even tolerate the Palestinians.

Russia produces oil, Texas produces oil, Venezuela produces oil, Canada and Alaska produce oil - the Palestinians have nothing to do with their oil nor with who buys it at what price.

Stabbing Israel in the back would indeed give great joy to some of the Arabs, but it would not make the oil any less expensive.

The oil producing nations and the oil-consuming nations drive the market. Oil is sold at the highest price that the market will bear. No one, absolutely and utterly no one, sets prices based on Palestinians.



JERUSALEM

There is a difference between all of modern metropolitan Jerusalem and the actual historic city of Jerusalem.

Some Arab garbage dump twenty miles from the kosel may be part of the official municipality, but can by no stretch of the imagination be considered Jerusalem. No place significantly outside the historic city which is populated mainly by Arabs should realistically be included in Jerusalem.

But what is and what isn't Jerusalem is entirely beside the point - both the Arabs and the Israelis vehemently insist upon the broadest possible definition of Jerusalem, and both sides are utterly intent on keeping as many Arabs in Jerusalem as possible.
There is, consequently, no likely agreement on Jerusalem.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

LIFE SUCKS AND BLOWS

I may have mentioned previously that Savage Kitten loves bad movies, yes?
In particular, I spoke of her fondness for Valley of The Dolls.

If you do not remember my writing that, read this:
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/08/singing-repulsive-art.html

It predates my two lengthy posts about the Balkan Sobranie mixture on August 6th and 7th ..... Which you might want to reread also, because Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco was the absolute culmination of Western Civilization, as I'm sure you know.

Anyhow, Savage Kitten has a thing for bad movies. If she were gay and male, we would call it a taste for camp...... As it is, however, it is an inexplicable obsession.

I do not quite grasp obsessions, and I rather distrust them. They are foreign to me, I do not have any obsessions.

[Did you reread my Balkan Sobranie posts yet? You should. Trust me.]



This past Saturday afternoon I came home from whatever it is that goyishe Zionists do on Saturday to find her happily crooning the theme to Valley Of The Dolls. While sitting in front of the television. Watching the movie. Of which she has a brand-new copy on compact disc. It is digitally re-masterd ghastly, oh joy.

[And, pursuant the Balkan Sobranie mixture and other Balkan blends, you might like the Presbyterian Mixture - the tin aroma is richly Ottoman, there is a hint of Fire-Cured Kentucky, and a plentifullness of aged Virginia, in addition to what I estimate as being around thirty percent Turkish, supplemented by a soupcon of Latakia. Velvety, perfumy, and incense like. It's very old-fashioned.]



After dinner she put Valley Of the Dolls on again. I woke up Sunday morning to Valley Of The Dolls. I returned from an afternoon engagement, to find her watching it one more time. Obsessions are rather like venereal diseases, they flare up at the most upsetting times.

[You might need to air it out a bit first, it's packed very moist. Which will have affected how the tobaccos have interplayed and melded. ]


This time she was speaking all the lines before the characters on screen did so. I am afraid that she has memorized Valley Of The Dolls. Soon every conversation will be larded with doll-ese.

[Unlike with the Balkan Sobranie mixture, the smokiness of Presbyterian is not a Syrian or even Cyprian type, but more like candied peat with a hint of burning tire.]



She wasn't playing it this morning when I woke up. But she didn't need to - I could hear the blasted lyrics of "I'll Plant My Own Tree" in my head. Her hideous obsession with Valley Of The Dolls now haunts my dreams.

[The Fire-Cured Kentucky is what gives the tin-aroma of Presbyterian that confusing nasal hue - a hint of chocolate, a hint of burning compost. Or perhaps a heather element. This is not similar to Balkan Sobranie.]



I have a nasty suspicion that this evening, when I return, I will find her watching Valley Of The Dolls again. Nasty suspicion? Heck, I know I will. It is awful.

[The smell of the Kentucky with the aged Virginia confuses many smokers; it gives the blend a depth that Virginia alone could not. It is very similar in that way to the Arcadia, and to Constantinople - both of which have been unavailable for two decades. Though also much missed, neither has been nearly as lamented and be-rhapsodized as the Balkan Sobranie. Perhaps unjustly. Presbyterian at least keeps part of the tradition alive. Go ahead and buy some.]


Obsessions are evil.

[Try it. You'll be glad you did.]

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Friday, August 15, 2008

MY DUTCH BILE: A CORRESPONDENCE DUMP

For several years I have been a member of a few mailing lists, of which most members are speakers of Dutch. And as such, they have frequently managed to get my goat. They can't help themselves - they are such liberals......
And as Dutch-speaking liberals, they naturally instinctively hate America and the Yanks, Israel and the Jews. Because both of those countries and both of those peoples are so very very very wrong. To the average Dutch liberal mind. They are remarkably unanimous about this.

I too am a liberal. And I also speak Dutch. Yet I tend to think that many Dutch liberals are completely loopy.
[I.E.: bonkers, insane, not grounded in reality, out of touch with the real world, utterly mad. Stupid, too, some of them. A dense bunch.]
I have over the years sent quite a bit of e-venom into the lists. It has not helped much, because, as an American, pro-Israel, near-Jew, I am of course so very very very wrong.......


Herewith, for Dutch speakers, a sampling. Feel free to react. In either Dutch or English.


SAUDI FATWA TEGEN HEZBOLLAH

Volgens een Saudi kleriek zijn mensen die Hezbollah steunen (zoals, bijvoorbeeld, vele Nederlanders), hard...., stikke...., fout....!

Jawel. Blijkt dus dat die rooie rakkers in Nederland zoals gewoonlijk aan het verkeerde eind zijn. Niet verbazend - sedert de laat-zestiger jaren heb ik wel begrepen dat voor vele Nederlanders alles wat verbonden is met Amerika als des duivels beschouwd moet worden, en alles wat anti-Amerikaans is goed is. Een zeer Calvinistische standpunt, hoewel meestens in socialistische rhetoriek verhuld. Niet verwonderlijk dus dat Israel verboemand moet worden - ze zijn geallieerd met Amerika, en notabene verderfelijk on-Europeesch en eigenwijs (en ut benne joduh!).

Ik plak een gedeelte van het artiekel waarin de fatwa van Sjeich Abdoellah Ibn Jebrien tegen Hezbollah word vermeld hieronder. Het zou mij uiterst verbazen als dit OOIT in een Nederlandsche krant besproken word.


Saudi fatwa: Don’t support Hizbullah

A leading Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia has issued a scathing fatwa against Hizbullah — the latest in a series of condemnations from the usually supportive Arab world.

Sheik Abdullah bin Jabreen declares it against Muslim Sharia law to support, join, or even pray for the terror group, writing, "our advice to the Sunnis is to denounce them and shun those who join them to show their hostility to Islam and to the Muslims," the report said.

This fatwa joins a ruling by a Kuwaiti sheikh, who harshly condemned the imperialistic aspirations of Iran through Hizbullah following the abduction of Israeli soldiers on the Lebanon border.

=======================================

ONEVENREDIGHEID

Wat onevenredig geweld betreft, het is maar hoe je het bekijkt. Hezbollah (die trouwens het bloed van honderden Amerikanen, honderden Israelis, en duizenden Kristenen, Soenieten, Druuz, en zelfs Sjiejieten op hun handen hebben, verschuilen zich onder de burger bevolking, gelijk een gangster bende.

En wat oneerlijke strijd betreft, weer een kwestie van bekijken. Tot nu toe heeft zachtheid van Israel altijd averrechts gewerkt, maar keihard terugslaan heeft beter gewerkt.

Indien sommige landen de oorlog die ze in 1948 verklaarden nou eens zouden opzeggen, en geen moordadige revolutionaire groepering zouden financieren, zou het stukken makkelijker zijn om vrede in die regio te verkrijgen.

Maar ja, men leidt liever de aandacht van eigen corruptie en tierannie af door een derde te verboemannen.

Men zou ook de aandacht eens kunnen wenden aan andere landen dan Israel - ik herinner mij, bijvoorbeeld, dat vele weldenkende, activistische Europeanen lofzangen uitriepen over de Khmer Rouge. Toen het bleek dat men een moordadige bende aan het prijzen was, vervaagden die lofzangen erg traag - men was niet rap bereid toe te geven dat een revolutionaire groepering fout was.

Denk ook aan de Vietnameze vluchtelingen - velen in Europa hielden vol dat het reactionairen waren die grondig verdiend hadden wat hun gebeurde.

Rwanda, Burundi? Stil, stil, het zijn toch maar Afrikanen - zoiets verwacht men wel.
Somalia? Te saai. En het zijn maar 'die lui'.

Ik vrees dat ik de reacties op Israelische oorlogvoering van Europeanen en Arabieren grotendeels beschouw als zijnde subconscious en in de kultuur gezetelde verontwaardiging dat 'die rotjoden' durven terug vechten - men is in die kontreien niet bereid om koppigheid en resistance van zulke mensen te aanvaarden (en vandaar dat men zo makkelijk het werk van de Haganah over het hoofd ziet, en vergeet dat welliswaar de VN Israel als staat aanvaarde, maar in feite Israel niet in leven riep - daar voor moest keihard gevochten worden door de Haganah: eerst tegen de Britten, daarna tegen de legers van vijf Arabische landen.

[In kort: De VN heeft GEEN land aan de Joden gegeven (de VN heeft daar nooit de macht voor gehad), maar heeft aanvaard dat de Joden daar al in feite een land hadden. De VN heeft ook de aggressie van de omringende landen nooit stil kunnen zetten, maar heeft aanvaard dat Arabisch anti-Semitisme een schone reden was om te trachten de Joden geheel af te slachten - hetgeen toevallige in de basis documenten van zowel de harakat al muqawamma al islammiya (hamas) als de parij van god (hezb-ullah) staat als ene hoofd-principe.]

=======================================

SOLIDARITEITS GEVOELENS

Men huilt zo graag over die arme Palestijntjes.....

Terwijl men vrijwel geen solidariteit ooit heeft gehadmet andere verdrukten - zoals Atjenezen, Papoeanen, Ambonezen, Kambodjanen, Tibetanen, Montagnards, Karen, Katjin, Mon, Shan, Kastelozen, Ahmedis, Koerden, Azeris, Tjetjenen, Oezbeken, Kazak, Oeigoeren, Noord-Koreanen, Roma, Berber.....

Dooie Soedanezen, Ethiopiers, Somalis? No problem.
Uitgemoorde dorpen in Afrika? No problem.
Honderduizenden dooie Algerijnen? No problem.
Sexslaven in Nederlandsche hoerhuizen? No problem.
UN Peacekeepers die jonge meisjes verkrachten? No problem.
Duitse skinheads die in de Kaukasus meevechten tegen Moslims? No problem.
Europeaansche sextoeristen in Thailand, SriLanka, Bali? No problem.
Rottige armoede en hopeloosheid in de Islamitische wijken van Europeesche steden? No problem.
Duizenden dooie Afrikanen in de Sahara, op de kusten van Noord-Afrika, rondrijvend in de Middellandsche zee, of aangespoeld op de stranden van Italie? No problem.

De wereld heeft immers altijd problemen gehad. Als weldoordenkend west-Europeaan moet men dus wel ietsje discriminerend tewerk gaan wat betreft de ideologische strijd. Slechts als de Yenks of de Joden er achter zitten is het de moeite van oprechte woede waard.

=======================================

Well then. Glad I got that out of my system. Or at least into the open.

I honestly don't expect many comments or reactions, as most of my readers are English speakers, and a fair number of them are either Jewish or pro-Israeli, or both. So there will be little comprehension of either meaning or bitter sarcastic flavour, but nevertheless a potential understanding of 'where I am coming from' - hate that phrase - and agreement on a number of points.

Regards, and a gitte shabbes.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI IS A WAR CRIMINAL

Amid the slavish devotion of America's leaders to the adventurist in Tblisi, and the barrage of pro-Georgian anti-Russian wafflegab coming from Washington, there are some signs that not everybody is in love with Mikhail Saakashvili.

At least on the other side of the pond some news organizations are more realistic about who started the slug-fest, which group of civilians got it in the shorts, who is in the wrong, and why.

News coming out of South Ossetia make it fairly clear that Georgia's leaders are a less than savoury bunch - headed by a man who should be delivered for trial to the Hague.


Excerpts from a BBC article:

"Barely a building in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali escaped unscathed from the fighting that began last week ... "

"Everywhere, there are mountains of shattered glass. Those who didn't flee South Ossetia as refugees are now emerging from their basements to begin the clean-up. "

"...many Ossetians I met both in Tskhinvali and in the main refugee camp in Russia - are furious about what has happened to their city.
They are very clear who they blame: Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili, who sent troops to re-take control of this breakaway region. That effort has clearly backfired. The pro-Russian sentiment I experienced on my last visit four years ago has become far fiercer as a result of this conflict. "

"Look how many people died here! We can never join Georgia after this. We'll cope on our own."

" "We were bombed for three days and nights. If Russia had not helped, we would have disappeared," Lusya's neighbour Elena said, visibly angry. "Only Russia takes us under its wing. We want to be with Russia." "

"Despite international calls for a withdrawal, there is no sign of Russia pulling its troops out of Ossetia. By Wednesday, they had received an order to cease fire, but not to leave.
Their presence is popular with many locals, who wave as soldiers drive past in the street. "

"This conflict has already destroyed any trust between Georgian and Ossetians. It now looks like any chance there was of reconciliation is burning along with the houses."

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7558619.stm

[Note: There are many more sources that say much the same thing; the problem is that they are all in 'Foreignese', which is something many of my readers do not comprehend. Hence my citing of only one news source.]


Now, I know there is more to this than the pipe-lines, and oil. But claiming that Mikhail Saakashvili is a progressive, and his country a beacon of liberty and democracy is just a load of horse manure. The man is an oaf and a kleptocrat and his country is on par with the brutal regimes that once littered America's own back yard.

I have scant sympathy for the Georgians in this matter, and really wish our politicians would learn to shut up if they cannot learn the facts. Lending credence to mr. Saakashvili's opportunistic pandering makes a whore out him - no problem, he seems to have a hang for it - but also makes a whore out of us. It may be a talent of ours also, but it would be meet of our leaders to not be blatant about it.

We are better than that; bugger the gangsters in Tblisi .

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BORING TOBACCO POST

Yossi Izrael reacted to my two long posts about Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco by asking "Can't you jus' write try this and this by that one?"


For reference purposes, these are the posts that caused Yossi's gekvetch:
1st. very long discussion of Balkan Sobranie:
BALKAN SOBRANIE POST #1
2nd. very long discussion of Balkan Sobranie: BALKAN SOBRANIE POST #2
Link to all my Balkan Sobranie articles: BALKAN SOBRANIE POSTS - ALL


It's a valid question - especially if you are not interested in tobaccos which are no longer available.

So, in that vein, do NOT buy any of these:
[And do not bother trying to find them either. ]

TROOST BAAI
Soft burleys, golden Virginias, and spicy Java tobaccos. Thin ribbon cut.
Manufactured by Van Rossem.


VIER HEREN BAAI
Somewhat broad ribbon cut Maryland.
Manufactured by Theodorus Niemeyer.


VOORTREKKER
Medium ribbon cut Maryland.
Manufactured by Theodorus Niemeyer.


ECHTE BAAI TABAK
Ribbon cut Maryland.
Manufactured by Erven De Weduwe Van Nelle.


ECHTE FRIESCHE HEEREN BAAI
Ribbon cut Maryland.
Manufactured by Douwe Egberts.


Baai tabak is the generic term in Dutch for plain unsauced mostly aircured ribbon tobacco, usually Maryland, but sometimes including some flue-cured leaf. The reason for the name, 'bay tobacco', is that this was the type exported through the Chesapeake.

Such tobaccos were among the plainest and cheapest of Dutch tobaccos, and, because they were not heavily sauced, probably the cleanest smoking tobaccos available in the Netherlands. They were all relatively dry and quick-burning, in addition to being rather dull - which is probably why they are seldom found outside of the Dutch area.

Most of the old brands are no longer available in any case - the Dutch pipe smoker has grown up, and now smokes the major international brands. I do not know which of the products listed above are still around - possibly only the Vier Heeren Baai.

Years ago I smoked all of them. I do not remember them unfavourably, but have no desire to revisit them either.


NOTE: For American pipe-smokers interested in experiencing something in a similar vein, McClelland's Virginia Woods is as close as anything available here, albeit somewhat sweeter and markedly more 'herbal', due to its being a flue-cured ('Virginia') ribbon, rather than Maryland leaf.
But it takes care to enjoy - if you hotbox it, you will end up nauseous and disappointed.
Smoke slow. Always smoke slow.






TOBACCO INDEX


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

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NO, YOU DO NOT GET MY GOAT

There are times when little nuggets of pure gold appear in the comment section. And even if the gold proves dross, the sparkling portrait of a fevered mind remains. Comments, in a large part, are the collective subconscious of a blog - the ghosts of alternate personalities in a schizophrenic realm.


Consider this sharp retort:
"You ignored the nuts! NEVER..!..! ignore the nuts!"

The same person then went on to write:
"Listen, mister, there is nothing clean about stumping a goat, let me tell you! The entire city of Delhi knows this, from keen personal experience, about which they bally WON'T shut up, and yet they still pursue goats with an avidity and a zest which boggles the mind, staggers the senses, and buggers the imagination! And the goat. The last bit, that is. Bally perverts. And crypto Pakis. Tis a fine tradition. In Delhi."

Followed by:
"And they don't even have boots! Have you ever tried sticking goat trots in your chapplis? Is buggery impossible. Meeeh! Meeeh! Mee-ee-eeeh!"

Under yet another post, he asked:
"Disaster zun rein? Vos disser stranger text alle iz, kanstu es translatieren, sil bus pley? Wir furstain es im gunzer nit, iz allemost looking at vos di Jossip Izrael ez hotter geschrieb. Ja. And a big goat for du!"



GOATS

I should point out at this interval that not a single one of my posts discussed sex with goats. Ever. My blog has veered into odd subjects, and perhaps gone a little bit overboard about certain appetizing fetishes - just a tiny bit - but performing unnatural Texan acts on goats, of either gender, has not been on the programme. The goat stuff is something that particular commenter came up with all by himself. It represents an imaginary sexuality, or a problematic life-style choice. Perhaps either-or and both, approximately and exactly.
More power to him if he's that way inclined.

He may have a thing about goats. And a thing for goats.

I will just have to make sure that my goats do not stray anywhere near him. My goats are by no means ready for any depravity. Not by a long shot.
My goats are still sweet and innocent.

I do not ignore the nuts. I never ignore the nuts.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ALL THE CREDIBILITY OF A USED-CAR SALESMAN

If the pundits are to be believed, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili is a champion of democracy, liberal humanism, free enterprise, and the American Way.
And Russia is an evil tyranny trying to bully smaller countries.


That trope certainly is familiar.
But skepticism is justified.


The main reason why mr. Saakashvili is the darling of the west is because he wants his country to join NATO, and we happen to disagree with Russia over several things - not least of which is a pipe-line to Europe that bypasses regions that the Iranians or Muslim central-Asians might impact.
Oh, and he speaks English.

To an impartial observer, however, it might look like mr. Saakashvili decided that now was the time to repress the South Ossetians, before his friend George Bush left office, and while the world was distracted by the Olympics. The BBC reported that the move into South Ossetia was already planned years ago. Two weeks ago the Georgian army started moving into position. Last week they rolled in, and within one day had pretty much destroyed the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, leaving well over two thousand civilians dead (nearly three percent of the South Ossetian population).

Russia reacted within hours, sending in columns of tanks - many South Ossetians long since opted for Russian citizenship, motivated both by a pro-Russian attitude and a need for the security that citizenship gave them in the face of Georgian repression of the civilian population and actions against the South Ossetian separatist movement - which had resisted the Georgians since the early nineties, when they declared their independence and fought against Gamsakhurdia's army.


Given the Georgian bombing of hospitals and churches, and the Georgian army's clear disregard for the safety of Ossetian civilians, it is refreshing to see the Russians as defenders of the civilian population. Refreshing, although distinctly odd. Best not think about this too much..... Head hurts.


It should also be mentioned that the Ossetians are not Georgians, and that the greater Ossetian area was already part of Russia when Georgia was annexed by the Czars - the reasons why South Ossetia is now part of Georgia are all spelled S-T-A-L-I-N.


Human rights in Georgia remain a problem - both for dissenters and the religiously 'other'. There is still a measure of meddling in the media. Judicial procedures are loose, and torture of suspects, although declining, is still reported. The Georgian Orthodox Church is a virtual state church, enjoying a tax-free status (as well as government funding) and a protected status - other religions are marginalized and discouraged. Much in Georgia resembles Russia - six of one, half a dozen.....


Mr. Saakashvili's reckless adventurism and rank opportunism do not serve the interests of either the Georgian people, or the Ossetians. Rather, one gets the impression of a gambler who thought he had a winning hand, and counting on his ties to the west, decided to poke the Russians. He miscalculated. And he may not have decided to miscalculate on his own - there are other interests involved in this region (two words: Oil, CIA), and after four years of his kleptocracy, he may have decided that he needed a great national cause to stay in power.
A heroic war and a resolute leader of his nation - this too is a familiar trope.
If in this case one can be cynical about Russia's motivations, and one should perhaps be cynical about US motivations, one absolutely must be cynical about Saakishvili's motivations.
Either that, or think Saakishvili a dunce.

Monday, August 11, 2008

CHANGE OF PACE - ONE SLUTTY LITTLE VIRGINIA

Sometimes, instead of the zesty Oriental, your eye falls on a perky brunette.
It's only natural, all men flirt with strange girls - at least, that is what I tell myself.

The sweet young thing in question, however, has the weirdest taste in perfume. I thought she was supposed to smell of single malt, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what that reek is. It ain't whiskey. Or at least not whiskey alone. Perhaps after rolling in the whiskey she drenched herself with eau de teenage slut so her parents won't notice the liquor.

I am talking about a flavoured pipe tobacco, of course.


FOUNDERS RESERVE
Blended at THE MALTHOUSE Tobacco Manufactory
Aged 12 Weeks
Blended, matured, and packaged in the E.E.C. by Dan Tobacco Manufacturing Ltd.


The tobacco consists of broken flakes and shreds of a pleasing mottled appearance that break and crimp nicely for the pipe. Lights fairly easily, and smokes down coolly and cleanly to a fine white ash. The taste is mild, sweet, not particularly exciting. The strange fragrance does not stick in the pipe. Like all Virginias, and particularly the eccentrically aromatized flakes that Dan Tobacco produces, it is at its best puffed slowly - so slowly that instead of savouring the flavour, one might almost forget that one is smoking.

It is a pleasing smoke, but not a memorable one - except for that smell....... No one in their right nose would identify it as "an outstanding blend of sweet Virginia that is infused with Scottish Single Malt Whisky".



I normally don't care much for perfumed tarts.

When I first opened the tin several weeks ago, I thought it smelled of molasses mixed with rotting autumn apples - there was a sweet and over the top pong, you see.
Now that it is a little dryer and the cake essences have evanesced, it is more reminiscent of dense plum pudding - one made with an excess of dry fruits and rum.
Despite the dark brown fruity image, the taste is remarkably light. Almost refreshing. And biteless.
A decent thoughtless tobacco which will not unduly upset the angry women in one's vicinity.


Last night, while smoking this tobacco at the Cinch, a very striking lesbian told me how much I reminded her of her father - he also smoked a pipe, and his tobacco was very similar to mine. She wished her girlfriend would take up the habit. Indeed, pipesmoking, and pipesmokers, were all very fine by her.
That, as much as anything else, qualifies as an endorsement.




TOBACCO INDEX


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

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Friday, August 08, 2008

NARCO DEMOCRACY

In Australia, police have seized the largest haul of ecstasy ever. Arrests are being made in Australia, and expected to be made in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy.

[Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7548617.stm ]


The Netherlands?!?

But of course!


The Netherlands is one of the largest producers of ecstasy, as well as being the European gateway for such wonderfully entertaining substances as Cocaine and Heroin. And they are also involved, heavily involved, in the marijuana and hasheesh trade. As well as every other illicit substance imaginable.

For a while it seemed as if a drug lab or hydroponic marijuana ranch was being busted in the Netherlands every week. Dutch newspapers featured tales of teenagers on sex-drugs-crime orgies at regular intervals. Biker-gangs, Albanian gangsters, neo-Nazis, and human-smugglers seemed to have violently overlapping interests in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
All this, plus the occasional corpse in a canal, body in a container, head in a garbage bag, or overdosed trot cadaver, along with hits that the Dutch police are incapable of pursuing, rather indicate that the Netherlands is not quite as calm and bland a place as one would prefer to think.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has turned into the Columbia of Europe.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

BALKAN SOBRANIE - POSTSCRIPT

This is a follow-up regarding the Balkan Sobranie posting from yesterday. It will, consequently, be of little interest to anybody else except pipe-smokers.



WHAT IS BALKAN TOBACCO?

There are any number of pipe-tobaccos on the market that use the term Balkan as part of their description or name. This did not begin with Balkan Sobranie, but it is largely due to them that the term Balkan gained such currency. The success and popularity of the Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture started a veritable cult among pipe smokers that continues to this day, even though the Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture is long gone.

Most Balkans, like the Balkan Sobranie itself, derive the greater part of their flavour from Turkish tobaccos - that being the term in common use for small leaf fragrant tobaccos grown in the Southern Balkans and Asia Minor. Many of the best Turkish tobaccos come from Greece, Macedonia, European Turkey, and Izmir (Smyrna). Some other Turkish leaf comes from the Black Sea coast. Other areas that grow 'Turkish' tobacco are the Crimea, Syria, and, formerly, Egypt. The term Turkish, in the case of tobacco, refers to leaf grown in the former Ottoman sphere of influence rather than modern Turkey.

Balkan tobaccos are a subset of Turkish. The Balkan Sobranie was compounded with Yenidje tobacco, grown in Macedonia - at one time part of the Ottoman Empire; it should not be confused with either Yenice in Çanakkale which straddles the Dardanelles, or Yenice in Karabük which is located between Ankara and the Black Sea. The Yenidje from whence the tobacco is now called Giannitsa or Yannitsa - both Greece and Macedonia claim the name. Yenidje tobacco as such is not available, but the precise same cultivar is grown in European Turkey, and yields a very similar leaf.

NOTE: also see this post for more about Yenidje.
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/09/yenidje.html




WHAT DOES SOBRANIE MEAN?

The term Sobranie has nothing to do with tobacco - it means parliament ('assembly'), and refers to the liberation-drang of the southern Balkans, which resulted in a number of national assemblies in post-Ottoman times.
The term is probably related to 'sovereign'.

NOTES
Lipman (http://lipmans.blogspot.com/), fellow blogger and pipe mayvn, writes regarding the term 'sobranie':
"Souvereign and sobranie aren't related. The first is from Latin superanus, a nominal formation to super, the second from Slavonic *sŭbĭraniye < *kom + bir(a) + niye."

E-kvetcher (http://search-for-emes.blogspot.com/) earlier commented:
"In Russian, the word can mean 'an assortment'. Likely this is what in means in Serbo-Croatian, or whatever language they are trying to mimic. Though you can never be sure that a word in one language means exactly the same as a similar sounding word in a closely related language. The Russian word for 'match' happens to mean 'prostitute' in Czech. Many a misunderstanding has occurred when a visiting Russian would ask a Czech for a light. "

Not being in any way even 'half-chamor-ed' literate in either Russian or Old Church Slavonic (or any other Slavonic), I will gladly accept their corrections. --- B.O.T.H.
08/08/08


INDEX OF MY BALKAN SOBRANIE RELATED POSTS

SOME SAY IT SMELLS LIKE UNDERWEAR
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/08/some-say-it-smells-like-underwear.html
In which I discuss smoking the Balkan Sobranie, provide recommendations for alternatives, and speculate about the recipe. It is a long post.

FURTHER NOTES REGARDING THE KEY LARGO SMOKING MIXTURE BY G. L. PEASE: CONSTITUENT TOBACCOS AND CONTEXT
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/07/further-notes-regarding-key-largo.html
As the title says, it is not about Balkan Sobranie - but it does mention the Balkan Sobranie Number 10 Virginia, which was a blend augmented with cigar leaf. It continues the themes mentioned in a previous post (see below). Fairly short post.

KEY LARGO BY G. L. PEASE - A GOOD PIPE BLEND THAT IS HARD TO DESCRIBE
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/07/key-largo-by-g-l-pease-good-pipe-blend.html
A review of a new blend by Greg Pease. There is some mention of the Balkan Sobranie No. 10 mixture. Fairly short post.

THREE TOBACCOS AND SOMETHING ABOUT BEING CHEAP
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/06/three-tobaccos-and-something-about.html
Correspondence with a reader, and description of three tobaccos - one of which is the Balkan Sasieni Smoking Mixture, made in Denmark. Medium length post.

IT SMELLS LIKE VICTORY
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2007/11/it-smells-like-victory.html
This one is more or less gloating - I had compounded a blend that recalled the Balkan Sobranie better than anything else I have smoked. Not perfect. But close. Short post.

BALKAN SOBRANIE ORIGINAL MIXTURE
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2007/10/balkan-sobranie-original-mixture.html
Suggestions for tobaccos that share specific characteristics with the Balkan Sobranie mixture, as well as a personal recommendation: Cornell & Diehl's Red Odessa. Not because it resembles the Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture, but because it is a darn fine English blend.
this post is a little long, but detail rich.



There are other posts which might interest you - please note the tags underneath this post: Balkan Sobranie, Blend Review, GLP, Pipes and Tobacco. Clicking any one of them will bring up posts in that category.


BLENDING A REPLACEMENT FOR THE BALKAN SOBRANIE ORIGINAL MIXTURE

I mentioned yesterday that if you were to try your hand at this, it would probably be best to do seven parts Turkish, seven parts Virginia, and ten parts Latakia. In thinking it over, I believe that eight parts Virginia would probably be better.
Note that these proportions are only guidelines - deviation will lead you into interesting discoveries.

[Note (added on August 4th., 2012): recent information shows that the original Balkan Sobranie mixture, before Gallagher started modifying the blend, contained fifty percent Latakia and less than twenty five percent Turkish type leaf. Gallagher towards the end of their tenure used less than forty percent Latakia. Depending on your own taste-memories, something between forty and forty five percent Latakia  (rather than 50%) would probably be best - because the impact of the actual leaf now used for the production of Latakia is stronger than Shek El Bint would have been, all the more so with the changes in smoke-curing. 
Mix the Turkish and Flue-cured components first, blend damp.  Let this sit for a few days, then add the Latakia. You can use mild heat ("panning the tobacco") to meld at this point, which will also lower the moisture content.]


Virginia:
The Virginia should be mostly a red Virginia flake - Cornell & Diehl's Opening Night is one such, and it is a very fine tobacco - for blending as well as smoking. The other Virginia would be minor amounts of black Virginia (Cornell & Diehl) and bright ribbon, or you might add a touch of dark stoved flake in lieu of the black.

Turkish:
Regarding Turkish, you must know that Yenidje is nearly impossible to find. Smyrna, however, is an excellent Turkish tobacco, albeit different in taste. And I have heard that Prilep from Macedonia is quite good - but I have no clue where it can be purchased.

Latakia:
The Latakia will necessarily have to be from Cyprus. Till the eighties, the Balkan Sobranie mixture used Syrian, but that has become nearly impossible to find, even for old tobacco houses. The main differences are that Syrian Latakia was Shek El Bint ("the maiden's cleft") tobacco smoked over Oak and scrub, whereas Cyprian Latakia is Smyrna-type leaf cured over Juniper (and, they tell me, pine). A key difference also seems to be that the smoke-curing is not as intense as it once was; Latakia no longer smells quite as tarry as it did in the seventies.

Note: Shek el bint was a larger leaf cultivar, which lent an almost sherry-like tone to the mixtures; Cyprian Latakia is Turkish type, and in consequence is somewhat sweeter, lower in nicotine, and more resinous.
[This note added in 2015.]

Other Tobaccos:
I have seen some speculation that the Balkan Sobranie mixture also contained either ribbon-cut Maryland, or Perique. As both of these can be used to modify the sweetness of a blend (Maryland diminishing, Perique enhancing), and as both also modify the bitey aspect of Yellow Virginia (bright ribbon), this is not at all unlikely. But I do not remember either of those specific tastes being noticeable in Balkan Sobranie. Perhaps you do. Let me know.

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Postscript to a postscript, added several hours later - there never is a final word on Balkan Sobranie



BALKAN SOBRANIE BLEND REVIEW: HOW DID IT SMOKE?
[Rather ridiculous to discuss a pipe-tobacco at such length without telling you what it was actually like. Somehow, that seems like important information.]

A marked characteristic of Balkan Sobranie was the powerful release of a smoky resinous aroma when first lit, before it settled in to a spicy, buttery smoke. The Yenidje was a main player, supported by the Latakia but not overwhelmed by it - yet the Latakia was extremely noticeable in the mix. This gave a peaty nose effect coupled with an incense-like element, and hence a faint bitterness.
The Virginia base added a layer of sweetness, with a slightly sharp accent, presumably from bright Virginia (Lemon Virginia, Yellow Virginia). But the main part of the base was almost certainly a pressed medium Red Virginia - no edges, no raw taste, just a good Cavendish-like depth. I am fairly certain that there was also touch of dark Virginia or black Virginia - under everything, the faintest hint of raisins and caramel augmented the red, smoothed the bright, and added depth to the Latakia.
The Turkish element and the incense -hue of Yenidje dominated throughout the bowl, the sweetness of the Virginias was present but not bold - a supporting player. Of all the components, what stood out was the Yenidje.

The tobacco packed well, lit evenly, burnt regularly and smoked down coolly. It would not peak much at the end before just fading away, leaving a fine grey ash.

Tins of Balkan Sobranie with a bit of age on them were mellower - the Latakia had rounded out a bit, and the flavours of the tobaccos had melded. The tarriness of the Latakia was less sharp, more velvety. The overall effect was not as 'salty' as with the newer tins.


COMPARISONS:

Dunhill's London mixture had less Virginia than the Balkan Sobranie, G. L. Pease's Caravan has less Turkish, Esoterica's Penzance seems to have significantly more Latakia.


ELSEWHERE ON THE NET

Read what others have said about the Balkan Sobranie mixture here:
http://www.tobaccoreviews.com/blend_detail.cfm?ALPHA=O&TID=1525


RARE TINS, HIGH PRICES, AND FANATICISM

One can find sealed tins of Balkan Sobranie on the internet at ridiculous prices. Even if you've never tasted it, it is pointless to shell out so much money. Nor do I conceive of Balkan Sobranie tins as having significant collectible value. It would be far better to nourish a taste for the excellent products of Greg Pease (GLP) and Craig Tarler (Cornell & Diehl) than to indulge in a taste for an antique.
I would venture that both Greg Pease's Westminster, and Cornell & Diehl's Red Odessa, are blends every bit as good as Balkan Sobranie was when it was still made by the Redstone family at Sobranie House in London, and a damn sight better than the last ten years of Gallagher's production.

On the other hand, if someone gives you an uncracked tin of Balkan Sobranie, by all means smoke it, irrespective of whether it was made prior to Gallaghers acquisition of the trademark (in 1968), or after. The stuff produced up through the early eighties was excellent.




TOBACCO INDEX


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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

SOME SAY IT SMELLS LIKE UNDERWEAR

Much of my memory from the last four years that I lived in Valkenswaard is permeated with smoke. A large part of it my own.

I bought my first pipe when I was thirteen, but did not buy any tobacco at that time. During the first weeks that I owned it, the pipe was totemic and a touch-object, more than a tool in which leaves would eventually be burned.
I fondled it instead.

There was a tobacconist next to Priem's bookstore - I remember the bookstore name, but not the name of the tobacconist - and every day after browsing for hours in Priem's stacks I would pass the display window with its pipes, tins, and odd objects. During August and September I had noticed the pipes in the window but not given them much thought. By the middle of September I had started obsessing about one of them, and ended up buying it, for fear that it might otherwise disappear from my world forever. Something about the shape seemed so perfect, so well-designed.

It was of course a piece of crap.
But I did not know that at the time. I was not a smoker, and as a teenager I had a fairly abysmal sense of aesthetics.


DEAD LEAVES

In October I purchased a tin of Niemeyer's Scottish Mixture - a product that did not convince me that smoking was a good idea, but sniffing the opened tin was a marvelous experience. It was earthy, rich, sweet. Slightly rotten and autumn-ish. The knowledge that I had a tin of tobacco, a box of matches, and a hollowed piece of wood with which to combine the two, was deliciously sinful.

Out of a sense of obligation (to the pipe) I would smoke a half bowl every other day or so. By winter I was smoking five or six times a week, and had bought a few more pipes.


BALKAN SOBRANIE

About a year after that I discovered the Balkan Sobranie mixture. Most of what I had been smoking up to that point had been fairly innocuous ribbon cuts, Maryland and Maryland mixed with Virginia, plus some drecky perversions that the Dutch do so well (which are better left unnamed).
Balkan Sobranie was quite different; the name is one that for some people says it all. And the disappearance of that fine product is much lamented, obsessively mourned, and gibbered on about at length in a multitude of fora and media.

[Balkan Sobranie was composed of Yenidje (a small-leaf resinous tobacco from Macedonia - one of the "Turkish" tobaccos), Latakia (a smelly dark Syrian fire-cured product, marvelously cool and phenomenally pongy), and a Virginia basis. The Latakia seemed more present than it actually was, due to the manufacturing process - mild pressure and stoving. It was probably no more than forty percent of the total.]

Balkan Sobranie was a fabulous tobacco. But, in the social environment of that time and place, it was also a magic potion that turned one into a toad. Something about Latakia made people foam at the mouth and wax wroth.
I was often lectured (at great and dreary length) by stern-faced men, cigars in their mouths, about the frightful perversion that the stuff I had in my pipe embodied. Why, hell was filled with antisocial heathens like me, and I would come to no good. It was sheerly unchristian of me to be thus.
As if that wasn't bad enough, people who stank of unwashed clothing and dark shag cigarettes let it be known that their tastes were far too refined to put up with my pipe - I should be like them, and smoke their preferred tobacco, or I should else please go away.

I blithely ignored them.
That is to say, I did not seek their company, and I continued smoking Balkan Sobranie. My father did not object to the smell in the house, and occasionally would pull out one of his own pipes to have a bowl - he did not often smoke a pipe anymore, but before we had moved to the Netherlands he had been a regular pipe-smoker.
At such times my brother would make nauseated Dutch sounds, gagging and retching, and leave the room. Unless he forgot to do so. When he remembered, he objected fiercely to all manner of tobacco use.

[This was the same young man who would sit at one end of the table in the serra with his chess books in the evening, till the wee hours, while I sat at the other end with Vladimir Nabokov, Jasmine tea, several pipes, and a tin of Balkan Sobranie. Not a peep from him, he was entirely abstracted at those times. The smoke did not affect him.]


DRUCQUER'S

When I returned to the US in 1978 I bought my pipe tobacco at Drucquer & Sons in Berkeley. Even though their blends were extraordinarily good, far better than any other tobacconists, I do not remember them quite as intensely or as fondly. Yes, I enjoyed them, but I do not particularly miss them. And though I worked there for a few years, for some reason I cannot recall the smell of the place. Sensory overload, plus the different humidity of Northern California, may have affected my reek-memory of that time.

[Drucquer's most famous product was Blend 805 - fifty percent Latakia, twenty five percent Djubec, and the remainder medium Virginias. The choice of Virginias was probably crucial in the composition, as so high a proportion of Latakia may make the blend hard to smoke. But 805 was perfectly balanced.]


THE PAST TWO DECADES

Several favourite tobaccos disappeared in the eighties and nineties - John Cotton's Smyrna and John Cotton's No. 1 and 2, State Express (not the cigarettes, but a light Balkan mixture), Dobie's Foursquare Blue (aged Virginias and Turkish), and a blend called Constantinople (Latakia, Turkish, matured Virginia, and Toasted Cavendish). Rattrays' blends are now produced in Germany, and are little more than strange bastard kin of the original products. Dunhill and Balkan Sobranie changed considerably in the eighties and nineties, and the latter has since disappeared.

But on the other hand, there have been several bright developments.
Dan Tobacco was founded in that period (1991), Craig Tarler bought the company he turned into Cornell & Diehl (1990), and Greg Pease began blending.

Despite the anti-smoking nutballs socially dominant at present, things are looking up. The world still smells divine.


BLENDS FOR THE BALKAN SMOKER

Aficionados of Balkan Sobranie are of course out of luck. The product is no longer being made. But there are several blends that will provide similar pleasures, in particular G. L. Pease's Charing Cross, Blackpoint, and Westminster - all three dance nicely in the same theatre as Balkan Sobranie, though by no means performing the same ballet. Greg Pease's Kensington not only ages well, but has a tin-aroma when opened that absolutely recalls the Balkan Sobranie - it's something having to do with the particular Virginia and how it interplays with the Orientals. It is a lighter blend, though.

In that vein, Stokkeby produces a Balkan Supreme which is well-regarded. Samuel Gawith in Kendall (Cumbria, England) makes some very fine blends (Skiff, Squadron Leader, and Commonwealth - light English, Balkan style, and Latakia dump respectively). And Craig Tarler makes Red Odessa, which is a delightful straightforward medium-full English blend of extraordinary quality. Which I am currently out of - I must order more.

Old tins of Dunhill mixtures are also quite desirable - London Mixture, Standard Mixture Medium, and Durbar in particular. The 965 is good too, but I am not so taken with it.

And no doubt, there will be more Balkan blends developed in the future. The end is nowhere near in view.

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BLENDING EXPERIMENTS:

IS IT POSSIBLE TO DUPLICATE BALKAN SOBRANIE?

Many blenders have tried to reproduce the Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture. So far, results have not been particularly successful.
But why don't you try it yourself?

I would suggest starting out with seven parts Virginia, six parts Turkish, and ten parts Latakia.
The Virginia should be mostly a rubbed-out medium flake (Cornell & Diehl's Opening Night, or one of the paler McClelland products), augmented with a little bright ribbon (for appearance and general smokeability) and some stoved Virginia (which supports the Latakia and gives depth).
The Turkish will probably have to be Smyrna - it seems to be the only varietal on the market today (and again, Cornell & Diehl is a recommended supplier), or you could use McClelland 'Oriental'.
Latakia can be purchased from most tobacconists, or also from Cornell & Diehl.


STOVING

Like many tinned tobaccos, Balkan Sobranie was compressed with heat during packing - this promoted durability and helped prevent mold (hence the dense cakes of tobacco in English tins, which needed to be pulled and de-clumped when loading the pipe). In order that this process not damage or dry out the tobacco, it was put up wetter than optimum for smoking. All of this contributed to the taste - the tobacco "after-fermented", or matured, in the tins.
Reproducing this effect is not strictly possible for most amateur tobacconists - but there are ways of doctoring your tobaccos with heat. For Virginias and blends containing Virginia tobaccos, the heat-range is 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Burleys (NOT present in Balkan Sobranie) can benefit from higher temperatures, up to 350.
In all cases it is ideal if the stoving can be done without much loss of moisture.
Half an hour is probably a safe minimum, some people keep it in the oven for well over an hour. The result of stoving will be a smoother product, without the harsh edges of certain tobaccos, and with more unified flavour. Latakia does not benefit from this, but a blend with Latakia will never-the-less taste rounder.
The longer a tobacco is stoved, the more it will have changed, regardless of any subsequent aging or fermentation.

Adjust moisture level, re-seal, and put aside for at least a month. Be sure to note on the container what was done, and when it was done.


OTHER MIXTURES

Most English blends have fairly praedictable proportions. A medium-full English will be around forty percent Latakia, with Virginias, Turkish, and other tobaccos making up the balance. Some famous English and Scottish blenders used more Turkish at the expense of the Latakia, others diminished the Turkish component and relied on a melange of Virginias for the basis.

Two purely hypothetical medium-full English mixtures could be composed on a forty percent - twenty percent - forty percent plan:
A - Forty percent Latakia, Twenty Percent Turkish, Forty percent aged Virginia.
B - Forty percent Latakia, Twenty Percent Turkish; Thirty percent aged Virginia, Ten percent Fire-cured Kentucky (or Maryland, Burley, Black Virginia ribbon).
The types of Virginia used in either case would be determinative. I favour medium flakes, and avoid large amounts of bright ribbon. Flake adds a smooth fullness, bright ribbon is sharp and bitey if over-used.


Note: If you are a young man, you probably want to create a blend overloaded with Latakia. But why bother? Not only has your local tobacconist probably done it already, but so have several more reputable firms. And it's a waste of time in any case, as more than fifty percent Latakia usually bashes whatever other tobaccos are in the blend into submission. Honestly, have you ever tried smoking one of those concoctions? There is such a thing as too much.

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AFTER WORD


I've always liked bold flavours - chili peppers, fish paste, blue cheese, strong tea, bitter coffee, and Scotch Whisky. Roast fatty duck with a dab of hoisin jeung and sambal, pepper-crusted lamb chops, home-made ginger beer, and paprika chicken. Indian style pickles. Oven roasted baby potatoes with ginger and rendered animal fat.

So it should not surprise you when I claim that Savage Kitten is a strong flavour. She may look like a nice Chinese girl, and she may at times seem reserved, shy, even meek. Do not be fooled. This is the same quiet woman who has firm opinions about castration (very much in favour of, brutally, for certain crimes), a blistering vocabulary in Toishanese, and several martial arts awards. Despite her tiny hands, she can cause severe bruising, and she knows how to use a cleaver. Bland does not describe her.

What a pity that she doesn't like tobacco -- It would be intoxicating if her hair had a distinct whiff of Latakia and a hint of resinous Turk.
Yenidje or Djubec.



TOBACCO INDEX

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