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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HAPPINESS IS STEALING YOUR ROOMMATE'S SHAMPOO

The last two times that I washed my hair I used her shampoo, not mine.
You see, I had run out. The brand I had been using is no longer available, neither are the previous two brands.
And truth be told, the last one was a stop-gap that didn’t really please me.
I’m too cheap to throw out a nearly full bottle, so I finished it.

Finding a product that doesn’t pong like a Parisian bagnio isn't easy.

The brand she uses smells good, and really makes my head feel nice.
I don't know if it does the same for her, as it has been years since I had hair-touching privileges.
We've been just roommates for such a long time now.
And there are some things we just don't share.


SURREPTITION!

I mentioned stealing her shampoo to a friend, who promptly insisted that there are many other things I should pilfer. What he specifically suggested was her panties. Little feminine panties, he averred, should always be stolen. Always!
I've observed her panties when she folded her laundry.
If I were a panty thief, they would tempt me.
They are indeed lovely panties.

But I'm not sure I get his point. They would be far too small for me, and I've got clean underwear of my own. Baggy boxers are better for men in any case. Comfortable! Many of mine have happy blue stripes in various widths. Or they're solid pale blues, that radiate dignity and gravitas. Especially when that is all I'm wearing.
Furthermore, if I were to steal her panties, the painful constriction might distract me so much that I didn't look where I was going, and get hit by a car. Or have some other accident.
The emergency room staff at San Francisco General would no doubt look at me askance if they had to cut nice cotton or silk panties from my traumatized torso before they could attend to my wounds.
What kind of man abuses such nice panties, they would ask.
I do NOT want my medical care impacted by my nether garments.

That goes double for brassieres.
Which he didn’t' include.

We share many things anyway. Coffee, tea, cookies, barbecue chips.
Almost everything in the fridge is up for grabs, within reason.
The fresh salmon is hers. The smoked salmon is mine.
But the milk, butter, eggs, bread, preserves, condiments, cheese, and ice-cream are communal property.
They always have been. I want her to share my ice-cream and cheese.
And my condiments. Mi chilipaste con garlic es su chilipaste con garlic.
If we had herring, we'd share that too.
Both of us love herring.


SHAMPOO!

I've been warned not to take her soaps or hair care products.
She doesn't want to run out when she really needs them.
Finding them depleted would make her "peevish".

So, to prevent apartmental discord, I am replacing what I stole.
And to make sure I get to use more of it, I got two large bottles.


MOROCCAN ARGAN OIL SHAMPOO

"A unique, precious blend of Moroccan argan oil which instantly penetrates the hair shaft restoring shine and softness while strengthening and creating soft, seductive, silky perfection."


Part of me feels soft and seductive.

Silky too.



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Monday, July 30, 2012

LUNCH THEN AND NOW

Yesterday I had sang-gwan yü-kau jook (生滾魚球粥) and a fried cruller for lunch, with a hot cup of milk-tea. Rice porridge with fish curls fresh-poaching in the heat of the bowl.

The waitress had the same problem with the milk-tea that all the other people who have brought it to me there have had: carefully carrying the cup and saucer is relatively easy, lowering it to the table is hard.
The result is a footbath. Always. They might want to serve it in a bigger cup and leave a little room around the edge as an allowance for wobbling. But I shall be the last person to mention wobbling to a young waitress.
With my lack of eloquence in Cantonese it might sound like a suggestion.

My Cantonese is not fluent.
I usually stick to tried and true formulations, rather than experimenting.
Besides, I don’t mind a small puddle of tea.
Drawing the foot of the cup across the rim of the saucer avoids drips.
Mow mantai.

And she blushed so prettily when the spillage happened! Heh!


When the fish is really fresh it absolutely requires a pinch of salt added to the jook to emphasize the sweetness. They use superlative ingredients there.
It was a gorgeous taste. The cruller was perfect too.
Light and airy, fried in clean fresh oil.
Lunch was a slice of heaven.

No, I shall not mention the name of the restaurant, nor where exactly it is in Chinatown.
They do not need any more Caucasian customers, that’s not what their menu is aimed at.
The non-Chinese who go there often ignore the good stuff and go for the small selection of familiar treats.
Most of their business consists of local people, who efficiently discuss food with the staff, establish what it is that they want, and then proceed to enjoy their meal with gusto.
Whereas white people really are a nuisance.


Lunch today, however, is nothing to write about, this being the Financial District.
A number of these places need all the white people they can get.
Some of these people must be very white indeed.


If you don't know rice porridge, you don't know jook.



Please note: only ONE white person was harmed in the writing of this post.
Shan't mention what lunch was today. 
I'm trying to forget.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

FRESH GREEN MEMORY

My mother loved her garden, and over the years it changed from the rather savage wilderness the previous occupants had left to a haven of green vistas, with well-thought out spaces and visual progressions.

The earliest image that I have of it was from the winter a few months after we had moved in. During the move I had been sick, and for weeks afterwards I was not allowed out of the house. By the time I entered what was to become 'the garden' frost had come and the weather was cold.
For the next few months in Valkenswaard I played there, as didn’t know any of the local children.
You could say that my first friend in this new town was the pine tree at the far end of the property.
It was easy to climb, and resilient; a long low branch proved springy enough to bend almost down the ground the further one crawled along, and it smelled heavenly; resinous, moist, fresh, herbal.
Pine tar is difficult to remove, by the way.

During the summers I often hid high up in the cherry trees, near the trunk where the branches formed places to sit. The apple tree was too tall, and the boughs too distant from each other, to be easy to climb.
After several years only the apple tree was left; both cherry trees had been chopped down to allow sunlight in and other things to grow.

My mother planted shrubs throughout for a sloping effect – low growers along the edge of the grass, big dense things graduated behind them, and taller bushes along the wall and the boundary hedges. The trees in the back lot beyond provided further vistas.
My mother had a good eye for garden design.

As her illness got worse I spent an increasing amount of time doing her bidding in the garden, as she directed a planting here, a careful trimming there.
It was her design, but at the end mostly my labour.

I like gardens. That is to say, I still like gardens.

But I think I would prefer a private courtyard, with big potted plants in large tubs, and a pavement of carefully arranged tiles that could be splashed with water to cool them during the summer’s heat.
The nice thing about such a space is that it is more enclosed, and seemingly provides greater peace and quiet.
Sometimes a garden is too much of an open area. Not so private.
But a courtyard is a halfway-house between indoors and out.

It should have a tree, to provide autumn leaves.

Plus a small roofed-over area, so that one may smoke when it rains.


The last time I visited Valkenswaard, I could tell that the apple tree near the stables was still there, and the pine tree at the far end had grown taller.
I do not know what our garden looks like now.
I have not been back since.



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EUROPEAN VACATION

People thinking of taking their first trip to the old world could scarcely do better than to visit the Netherlands and Belgium. There are a number of cities which are well worth visiting, as well as historic places, and a fascinating society and culture.

Three towns suggest themselves: Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Eindhoven.

Amsterdam is the cultural capital of the North, and has many famous museums. It is a lovely city, and strolling around the central part admiring the canals and discovering interesting little stores can happily occupy several hours. There is tasty food, and quite a bit of nightlife too.

Antwerp is the cultural and business capital of the Flemish (Southern Dutch), and in addition to a splendid Gothic Cathedral and a beautiful late mediaeval grand square, has innumerable fine restaurants. Flemish cuisine is extraordinairily good.
Flanders comes vibrantly alive here, and the city is more of a must see and must experience than most settlements of equal age.
It also has museums and nightlife.

Eindhoven is the industrial center in the South-East of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, famous for Philips Electronics, a renowned technical university, research facilities, the Van Abbe Museum, and surprisingly good eateries in the city centre as well as the picturesque surrounding villages. Brabanders live well, and take pride in their cuisine.
The bar scene at night is quite lively.

I usually base myself in Amsterdam, then take day-trips to Antwerp for the food.

I love all three of these cities, but I always make sure to spend some time in Eindhoven and its environs, enjoying the gently rolling countryside and the many hospitable cafes and auberges.
Life, in North Brabant, is more relaxed than elsewhere.


TOPS IN EUROPE

For young people especially, these three cities offer an additional advantage.
Please compare these rankings:

Cocaine: Antwerp, Amsterdam, Valencia, Eindhoven.

XTC: Utrecht, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Antwerp.

Amphetamines: Eindhoven, Antwerpen, Amsterdam, Utrecht.

THC: Amsterdam, Paris, Utrecht and Barcelona tie for third place, Eindhoven and Castellón tie for fourth.

[Source:
http://eindhoven.dichtbij.nl/regio/rioolwater-eindhoven-vol-sporen-illegale-drugs . ]

If you really must visit the rest of Europe, consider Valencia, Paris, Barcelona, and that other municipality no one has ever heard of. 
Plus Utrecht.
But really, there isn't much point.


AFTERTHOUGHT

No wonder the Dutch are batshit crazy.
We're whacked to the gills.
Coke, speed, xtc.
Good lord.



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Saturday, July 28, 2012

THE SHARED BANQUET

Recently a friend asked me if I was dating yet. She herself had broken up with her lover a while back, and was finally getting used to being alone.
I told her that I hadn't had a date since my breakup two years ago. Didn't quite know how to go about it, and wasn't presently interested in anyone.
I was, in fact, quite at ease with the possibility that relationships were a thing of the past. Not necessarily happy at the prospect, you understand, but by no means frantic or frustrated.
This is San Francisco - ground zero for shallow young cosmopolitans.
People like myself are not likely to meet anyone here.
That is just the way it is.


Besides, I'm a little particular. The type of woman that would appeal to me is someone who reads a lot, and doesn't have strange food hang-ups. The first requirement eliminates almost anyone who graduated from nine out of ten American universities, plus most of the Western Europeans; the second condition takes vegetarians, Kosher Jews, Muslims, white converts to Buddhism or Hinduism, and ninety-five percent of Wasp society out of the equation.

No religious types and ideologues either.

Throw in the fact that I don't really know how to go about courting, and the prospects just aren't very good.


My idea for a date is going out to eat together and enjoying conversation.
Perhaps having some rice porridge and milk-tea at a place in C'town, or choosing an eatery that has a selection of live fish, and clay-pot dishes.
Not an expensive restaurant geared toward impressing the crap out of my companion with a wine list a mile long and snooty waiters who introduce themselves, and recite tonight's specials with as much of a French or Italian accent as they can manage.
Good food. Real food.
If the dish has to have an appellation spanning an entire paragraph for it to appeal, there's something very wrong with it.
Same can be said of the person who only accepts such fare.

Yes, I suppose I could adapt myself, and be flexible.
Surely I'm limiting myself, and being too demanding?

But do you really think I could possibly be happy with a vegetarian, or someone who looks down her long nose at, for instance, Philippino food (dinuguan or caldereta) and sneers at my tastes?
There's nothing wrong with tofu, but let's face it, the best thing is to slather it with a tangy meat and chili garlic sauce.
Not boil it while uttering sanctimonious vegan twaddle about the sanctity of life and the beauty of sustainable enterprise.


This bit of 'bean curd' died for me. I killed it while it fled across the veldt.
Shot it with an assault rifle while it stood there terrified, chopped its wailing little head off, and slashed its stomach open in order to gut it.
Yes, you called it 'Bambi', and are horrified at my carnivorous ferocity.
I named it 'tofu', because it was bland.
It had no personality.

Sorry, that was a moment; I recalled the last time I had game. Delicious!
We thickened the gravy with blood, trimmings, and unmentionable bits.
Would you care to share some eel, shrimp, and oysters with me?
The mussels have bacon and shallots in reduced sherry.
Canard à la presse - sheer ducky goodness!
Fond thoughts of herring.


Several people I know despise Philippino food, regarding it as barely edible muck.
While I would never want to live in the Philippines, and find Philippinos often far too consumerist and vacuous, there is nothing wrong with their food. It is, in fact, excellent.
I ate marvelously well over there, and other than that nasty fertilized duck egg cannot think of a Philippino comestible which I dislike.
I have often cooked such stuff at home. Still do.
Garlic, vinegar - tamarind - kalamansi, bagoong, and dried shrimp.
Plus stews containing fish sauce, coconut milk, and fatty pork.
Real people do not turn up their noses at these things.

Philippino food is just a representative example, you understand.
All of South-East Asia and Southern China, plus many Dutch and Scandinavians, have no problem with fermented seafood products, fresh fish, and odd sources of protein.

Anyone who abjures such things is not worth dating.


CHILIPASTE, NABOKOV, AND SMOKE

I am not going to change my ways, nor would I expect that of someone else.
A relationship is based on broad and deep toleration of another person in all particulars, and great similarities in several.
Shared likes, tastes, and ideas.

I do not go 'clubbing', I don't do "shopping".
Beer, wheatgrass, and herbal shite are quite unappealing.
Can't stand tattoos, piercings, spiritual crap, or soft-headedness.


A calm woman who doesn't go all weepy over kittens, won't lecture me on the important cause of the day, and can spend several hours happily reading - one who actually enjoys my cooking and my sense of humour, and doesn't particularly mind the smell of tobacco that adheres to me, would be perfect.

But this is San Francisco; the city abounds with pretentious gits who came here from all over the world, as well as business school graduates, and artistic types.

If the rest of the country weren't so filled with stupid people, rednecks, and Romney supporters, I might think of moving.


I wish my friend luck in finding someone new. It shouldn't be a problem for her. She has a soft heart, the very best liberal values, as well as individualistic tattoos and piercings.
And she's still rather young.
She'll be happy.



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Friday, July 27, 2012

MUI CHOI KAU YUK - STEAMED SALT VEGETABLE MEAT

Late last year I wrote about an ingredient which sometimes dismays folks from the more hinterland areas of this great country of ours: Sea Cucumber.
Which, of course, is not a vegetable, as the name would suggest, but a very primitive ocean dweller with a marvelous ability to absorb sauces.
Like many Chinese favourites, it's also very much a textural thing.

In the same category of tooth-yieldy goodness, and often just as startling to many non-Chinese, is something that can best be described as 'gelled fat'.
Which is utterly delicious.


Pig belly bacon with Chinese sauerkraut.


Sounds almost German, doesn't it?
Plum-cabbage steamed pork is a beloved dinner dish from Penang to Honolulu; from 'wah, sedap sekali' to 'ono to da max!'   Naturally it is common all over China too.
Perhaps more than anything else it makes people want to live near a Chinatown, because the correct cut is seldom available anywhere else.


梅菜扣肉 MUI CHOI KAU YUK

1¼ to 1¾ Lbs. ng-fa naam (五花腩 five flower pork brisket).
Three scallion, two inch lengths.
Three slices of ginger.
Three cloves garlic, smashed.
A large handful of mui choi (梅菜 plum vegetable).
One whole star-anise (baat gok 八角).
A pinch of five spice powder ((五香粉 ng-heung fun).

4-5 TBS. soy sauce.
2 TBS. sherry.
1 TBS. sugar.


Note that mui choi comes in semi-dry vacuum sealed packs as well as canned in brine. So the quantity necessary is best estimated at one quarter to one third of the meat after soaking and rinsing. Or more, depending on your own preference.
The brine version is easier for guesswork, but not necessarily recommended.
Either can be used.

Soak the mui choi for an hour or so in plenty of water, then rinse very thoroughly, drain, and squeeze out excess liquid. This removes sand, grit, and salt.
Chop it small.

Scrub the skin side of the meat with salt to clean it, then simmer it whole for ten minutes in water with the ginger and scallion to pre-cook and 'melt' some of the fat. Remove, drain, dry. Reserve a little of the liquid for the sauce.
Use an ice-pick or a sharp fork to prick holes in the skin, rub a little soy sauce over that side only, and let it sit for a while.

Heat oil in a skillet and carefully slide the meat in, skin-side down. Beware of the oil erupting - it is best to have a spatter-guard or a lid handy. Fry the meat till the skin-side is nicely darkened, almost mahogany.
Remove, drain, and let cool.

When the meat is cold enough to handle, slice it inch-thick across, each piece having all layers including the skin.
Arrange it in a broad bowl, skin-side up. Whisk the soy sauce, sherry, and sugar together and pour HALF of this over the meat, along with the star anise and pinch of five spice powder. Put the bowl in the steamer, and steam for an hour.

Now gild the garlic in a modicum of oil, add the chopped mui choi to parch. Pour in the other half of the soy sauce - sherry - sugar mixture, plus any liquid saved from the blanching at the beginning, and bring to a boil.
Pour this over the meat, making sure that most of the mui choi goes around the meat rather than on top.
Steam for another thirty minutes, or somewhat longer.

A little chopped scallion and shredded ginger to finish, and it can be served.


Some mui choi kau yuk, a big bowl of rice to sop up the juices, and a simple vegetable dish on the side: very heaven.


AFTERWORD

The preparation above is just one example of what one can do with a nice fatty slab of five flower stomach. Multiple variations are possible, the key thing being to melt some of the fat out, and let the meat become soft through long cooking. Steamed with ginger and fish paste, for instance, or extra garlic and scallion added, along with dried mushrooms.
Also on a bed of shredded greens, with some rice wine and oyster sauce, and a pinch white pepper.  Even just plonked in a pot with little pre-prep at all and cooked with fermented black beans and chilipeppers so that the result is gloriously greasy.
Hakka Chinese often incorporate naam yu (南乳) into the sauces or marinades for such dishes. Usually one cube is sufficient for about half a pound of meat.

As you can guess, I like it with a nice shploop of chili sauce (sambal).
That is actually how I like many things.
I'm a bit degenerate that way.

Bon appétit.



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Thursday, July 26, 2012

PERVERSION

One of these days somebody will hold up your golden gams and lick them clean of the strawberry yoghurt that coats them.

Please think of black satin and dark purple velvet.

Fur?  Polar bear rug?

Plucking hairs?

It's a peach!


Sprinkle daisies on your bed, but NEVER dress up like the goat man.
That is too much.

Champagne!

Bourbon?

Knees.



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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

UNNATURAL CHILD BIRTH

Good god, man, why did you pick today to stay away from the wall? Despite your wealth of peculiarities, and that strange personal odour, we actually like you. And you could have flown interference for me.
I am a victim of mister Pink Pants.
Conversationally traumatized!
As well as a refugee from a Somerset Maugham noveletta.

Far too many people in this world are named ‘Dweezil’.


It really didn’t help that Harry suggested clothing adjustments, or that Seeing Eye seconded the motion. Nobody – and I stress this, NOBODY – wants to see pasty male thighs underneath Daisy Duke shorts.
Except for those two.
As Seeing Eye explained “not my outfit, so what do I care?”
He and Harry are sometimes even worse sh*t disturbers, as cigar-smoking deviants go, than you.

The stain on his leg had something to do with a moving man.
No, I didn’t ask. There are some things I prefer not to know.
Apparently the adventure with the movers was months ago.
I shall not remind you in any way of Lewinski’s cocktail dress.


The only bright spot was when Architect George showed up. As soon as he lit his cheroot (can you say “phallic”?), the pigeons started arriving. Several greasy-looking birds circled him at a distance, staring at him malevolently. They obviously remember what a mean bastard he was several weeks ago, when he jumped up and down screaming hysterically and chased them away from his tuna salad sandwich. Mercifully, today A-George was quite unaware of the feathered gangsters on the sidewalk, stalking him below his line of sight.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the birds ganged up on his black leather Santa Booties after I left.
He may be hobbling around even now on bloodied stumps.

Never! be mean to pigeons; they’ve got nothing to live for.

I’m rooting for the pigeons, by the way. They’ve got spunk.


At least we now know what you were up to. You were helping Whippiedip’s young lady give birth.   It’s her first, so we know that it’s difficult.
Baby cigar-smokers don’t come out easy.
That was very white of you, podner, I couldn't have done it.
You probably had to tempt it forth with a Honduran.
Perhaps a Nicaraguan.  Or a pre-embargo Cuban?
How disappointing if it was only a clove cigarette!

All baby pictures look better with a big fat Churchill.

It highlights the dimensions & accentuates the pinkness.


Please congratulate Whippie on our behalf, and for crapsakes stop sending e-mails detailing your recent obsession with goats, and men on all fours. We’re wondering about your sanity. The chicken letters were bad enough.
Honestly, you cigar smokers are an odd lot.


UNLIKE PIPE SMOKERS!

Partook of something delightfully zesty today, heavy on the Louisiana leaf: St. James Flake, by Samuel Gawith.
It’s been three years since I last cracked a tin, and what a pleasure it is.
Full-bodied, with a pleasing Perique tang.
Plums, prunes, fields of golden wheat, and a faint whiff of white vinegar.
It’s a good brown press that will appeal to many VaPer aficionados, but probably not to fans of blonde flakes.
Like all good cakes it should be rubbed and dried a bit before stuffing it into your briar.
Did that yesterday evening. My hands smelled heavenly.

If you are a cigar-smoker, you may not have a clue what I’m talking about.
Please don’t worry.
With assiduous study of ESL, it will eventually become clear to you.
May take a while, though.
We have patience, we can wait.
We’re pipe smokers.

Remember, when cigar smokers die, they re-incarnate as pigeons.



TOBACCO INDEX


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YOUR PERFECT GIRL FRIEND: A LITTLE CHINESE FLOWER

Something I saw today brought sharply into focus what I find repulsive about many Chinese girls: the tendency to have such a complete and utter lack of expression on their face that one seriously doubts even the existence of a brain, let alone whether there might be cerebral activity.

A young lady and her Caucasian boyfriend were walking down the street while I was outside smoking, and he was holding forth earnestly while she nodded at necessary intervals. Other than mindlessly bobbing her head, she contributed nothing.
One cannot even call it a conversation, as there was just one brain engaged between the two of them.

This, unfortunately, is a very common failing of Chinese girls. Mostly it afflicts Mandarin speakers from the mainland and Taiwanese babes, but I've also observed it in Hong Kong women, especially when they're in a relationship with a white man.
But usually Cantonese can't do it as well.

She was far too 'fashionably' outfitted to be from the country districts beyond Guangzhou, and I'm fairly certain that this prize example was NOT a Cantonese girl born here.
So, more than likely a Mandarin-speaker.


Follows a 'sample' of their "dialogue":

Him: " in ancient Greek times, winches and pulleys replaced ramps as the primary means of vertical motion..."
She said nothing. Perhaps she was thinking: 'Dot. Dot. Dot'.
There was no expression on her face.

Him: " with wedges, the smaller the angle, the greater the ratio of lifting force is to the applied force..."
She said nothing. Perhaps she was thinking: 'Me itch'.
There was no expression on her face.

Him: " rotational moments must be counteracted by equal rotation in the other direction..."
She said nothing. Perhaps she was thinking: 'breath in, breath out'.
There was no expression on her face.

Him: " the Indians used wedges made out of moose antlers to split wood..."
She said nothing. Perhaps she was thinking: "HANDBAG!"
There was no expression on her face.


I'm just guessing what went on in her mind. It's an educated guess, but really for all I know it could have been as blank as a sheet of glass.
Thinking, after all, takes effort. And that builds unsightly muscle.
So I may be wrong. It could have just been static.
With little images of Hello Kitty.


PAN-FACED UBER-GOOBERTUDE

The effect was complete stultifying dullness, and the man she was with was probably thrilled to bits. He got to yatter on about something that he knew about, and later she would tell him "you so smart!" and make him feel fuzzy all over.
Good gracious, she listened to him!  Nobody EVER did that! What a doll!
Then he would probably buy her another handbag.
Or a piece of Hello Kitty tat.

Many men are like that. They are incredibly lucky that there is an inexhaustible supply of such girls just waiting for the opportunity to meet them.

If they liked white women they would date fashion models.
Or, in the Mid-West and South: cheerleaders.
Equally vain, vacuous, and shallow.

There's something about Chinese society that turns out such drone-like bimbos in mass quantities. Usually they speak Mandarin (with an accent twixt pouty whine and petulant mewl), have absolutely no intellectual curiosity whatsoever, and possess such malleable near-nonexistent personalities that they're scarcely better than furniture.
Perfect arm-candy for any dude who can support their consumerism.
Especially if he sponsors her parents as immigrants.
She's brain-dead, he's a techno-geek.
Made for each other.


ON THE OTHER HAND...

Anyone who has seen Anita Mui (梅艷芳) in movies knows that not all Chinese girls are like that. Ms. Mui was by no means what might be called a little Oriental cherry blossom. Even in her most maidenly roles, there was a level of intelligent bitchiness that showed immense character. In many movies she had more strength and brains than the rest of the cast combined.
As, from all accounts, she did in real life.

Another stellar screen-personality was Dodo Cheng (鄭裕玲), who in some films turned blaring vulgarity and conniving brilliance into the most desirable of feminine qualities.
Michelle Yeoh (楊紫瓊) rounds out this sample, being an actress considerably tougher than most men, both on-screen and off.

These three are NOT what Chinese parents want their daughters to emulate.

But they are types which ably compete with the sheeplings.

There are less of them; but they are strong.

--    --    --    --    --    --

Years ago a Chinese woman I knew was a master of the quizzically cocked eye-brow and the face deliberately kept straight. What everyone who actually looked at her at such times realized was that she was thinking "you gonna say something really stupid now, boy?"
It was both educational and a pleasure to be around her. Her keen mind, snarky sense of humour, and conversational self-assurance, kept everyone on their toes, and provided priceless training.
I seriously doubt that she could ever have a blank look in her eyes.
Too darned intelligent and alive for that.

Watch out for women who 'try' to keep a straight face.
They're always the dangerous ones.

Worth knowing, too.



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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

STRASBOURG PIE, PERFUME, AND COCKTAILS FOR KIDS

A long time ago high schools allowed students to smoke, and there were ashtrays around the perimeter of the playground, so that the young would learn not to leave an unsightly mess.
And it worked. The boys and girls would conscientiously dispose of their buts in the receptacles provided, discard food wrappers and styrofoam in garbage cans, and not hang around in front of the campus blocking the sidewalks or otherwise making a nuisance of themselves.

This strategy inculcated good habits and turned out upstanding adults.

Which is exactly what high schools are supposed to do.

Yes, this blogger is advocating ashtrays.

And teenage tobacco use.


As I recall, the only students who were problematic were the snooty non-smokers, who fled the quad for the public street, often screaming and yelling, creating disturbances, littering, and applying garish make-up.
They were little anti-social attention-whores, with horrible morals.
Many ended up as criminals, harlots, or office-seekers.


WELCOME TO DYSTOPIA

Times have changed. Now the smokers are forced out on the street, where we are often pointed out as bad examples for little children, or abused by harridans and joggers.
The little children are absolutely not a problem.
We actually like the wee tykes, and they often get to see how impossibly cool and self-assured smokers are, as we congregate collegially, discussing weighty matters, and letting fly the odd witticism or quip.
It's the earthmothers and healthfreaks who are an issue. They're the same anti-social attention seekers with horrible morals that they always were, made far less tolerable by time.
And they're still snooty snooty snooty.

It is because of the petulantly disapproving attitudes evinced by such types that this blogger now thinks well of fur, foie gras, shark fin, veal, red meat of all kinds, peanuts, nuts, seeds, dairy products, gluten, perfume, bagpipes, small swallowable parts, non-recyclable plastic, transfats, and sugar.

We need more freedom, not less.

I feel like a Happy Meal today.

And licentiousness in public.


For dessert, fatty duck liver and bacon in a pastry.



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Monday, July 23, 2012

STRONG FLAVOURS

Life can be very good. After smoking my mid-day pipe, I went and got myself a bite to eat.
While I was quivering with almost girlish excitement over the fabulous asparagus, it hit me: all my favourite tastes are on the strong side.

This morning I double-bagged my tea. Yes, it's red (black) tea, and like most such products, it has a powerfully brisk and rounded flavour spectrum.
No, I didn't add milk or sugar.
I just wanted oomph.

Oomph is good. It ought to be listed with all the rest of life's necessities.
Food & drink. Lodging. Love. Illicit behaviour. Sleep.
And strong passionate flavours.
Oomph.


CAN I WHIP THAT FOR YOU?

Years ago the British were convinced that strong flavours excited bestial passions, especially among children and the lower classes. This explains the blandness of nursery food, and why English cuisine has a couple of screws loose.
Anything with a vibrant taste awoke instincts which were best left repressed.

They may have been looking at the issue from entirely the wrong angle -- consider the howling savagery of their famous public schools, were the food was notoriously bland and bad, and the boys ended up enjoying daily beatings, Latin and Greek, caning, sports, Onan cults, and cricket.
Obviously the poor dears needed some oomph.
As well as a good birching.

Nothing says 'corporal punishment' quite like English food.

It also explains English smutty literature from the nineteenth century; books filled with reformatories, orphanages, innocent religious maidens corrupted by headmasters and headmistresses, curates leading choirboys astray, wooden paddles, cold showers, hair shirts, and French phrases. Poorhouses (gruel), sailing ships (dry biscuits), and severe lashings.
Blandness leads to perversion, crimes, and social rot.

On the other hand, I make liberal use of chilipaste, ginger, fermented fish products, strong tea, and good tobacco. Peppers and all the spices of the Indies, plus Latakia, Turkish, aged Virginia, and Perique.
And I assure you that I am a morally upstanding man.

One of my friends inundates his French fries with Sriracha and barbecue sauce.
To the best of my knowledge there isn't an ounce of depravity in him.
If he started smoking a pipe, he'd probably be a saint.


A CLEAN WHOLESOME LUNCH

The tobacco I smoked before eating was a thirty year old Balkan mixture.
Lunch consisted of asparagus, chow fun, chilifried chicken, spicy dumpling, green peppers, and rice. With hotsauce.

I am presently enjoying a fine strong cup of black coffee, and sniffing my fingers.
Hmmmm, zesty! They smell like fortitude and backbone.
Very righteous indeed.



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Sunday, July 22, 2012

PLEASE SHUT UP!

I just had my haircut, and caught sight of myself in the mirror putting my jacket back on. Jayzus! This time Binh outdid himself, I look darn foxy!
Usually monsieur Duong cuts my hair, but I like it when Binh has a go.
He uses the thinning scissors, and the effect is quite elegant.
Not many men can boast so thick a head of hair.
Especially not once they pass forty.
I'm nicely thick-headed.


ACROSS THE HILL FOR LITTLE CABBAGES

The bus wasn't crowded, but most of us got on through the back door anyway. Touched the screen with our pay cards and passed the crazy lady ceremoniously welcoming us aboard.
A woman sat down in front of me with her teenage daughter, and happily beckoned a shy-looking fat girl to sit with them. Obviously a friend or classmate of her own child.
Both girls looked about fourteen or fifteen.

"Where are you going?"

Fan ok-kei lah.... going home. Softly said.

Before the conversation could get any further, an acquaintance of the mom spotted her and sat nearby.


There are some things that come out of the mouths of countryside ladies that are beyond flabbergasting. Especially if they don't even speak civilized Cantonese, but a version of Mandarin with a lot of spitting sounds. Not the furry pronunciation of the North, but instead a tongue from somewhere far inland where the trains don't go.

The acquaintance was one such. Salt of the friggin' earth, the type of "well-meaning" auntie whose blunt tactlessness leaves you gape-jawed, wondering what the heck just happened.

After briefly saying howdy to the mother, she turned to the fat girl, and continuing in Mandarin, explained to her in kindly tones that if she lost weight, seriously lost weight, she would really be far more presentable, maybe even pretty.
Indeed, losing weight would be the best thing the fat girl could possibly do.
Thinner is so much better, don't you agree?

Teenagers tend to be self-conscious about their appearance anyway.
The well-meant advice to now skinny-up pronto can't have helped.

I could tell that the young lady was exceptionally well brought-up from the fact that despite the busybody words of the country auntie she responded politely, even deferentially.
One must, after all, be respectful and courteous to the older generation.
She tried not to show the effect of what the Mandarin-speaker said.

Except...... when someone has lovely dimpled eyebrows and an expressive intelligent face, it is very hard to keep pain hidden.
And I need to emphasize precisely how nice the young lady looked, because her face really did betray a sweet and likable personality, an active mind, and at that moment, a heartrending vulnerability made plain by the eyes and the wrinkling of the aforementioned lovely dimpled eye-brows.

Oblivious to the impact of her appalling comments, the Mandarin speaker continued her chatter, then switched back to the adult woman to discuss some problem or other, leaving the fat girl in the seat beside her to stare sadly ahead.

If you think about it, learning how to speak English, Cantonese, and Mandarin indicates more than average cleverness and ability for someone so young. But instead of opening windows, it simply made it possible to hear unkind words in three languages.

At the top of the hill the Mandarin speaker renewed her assault. I'm sure she was sincerely worried that the fat girl would never land a husband and consequently come to a bad end. Everybody knows that the only way to land a good man is be willowy.
Men, apparently, like willowy.
There's nothing that says marriageable quite so much as being scrawny, especially if combined with dull-wittedness and domestic skills.
Plus silence and obedience.
That, more or less, was the message that the Mandarin speaking woman seemed determined to impress on the fat girl.

Who looked, at that moment, like someone you just wanted to hug.

Had I done so, both mass panic and tumult would likely have ensued. One should not spontaneously embrace people on the bus, no matter how much they look like they could use some emotional support. Even patting them on the head is out of the question.
I may have mentioned that she was a teenager, yes?
A curvy and huggable teenager.
With breasts.

I very much relish not coming into contact with the authorities.
Nor do I wish to cause outrage, scandal, and embarrassment.

But I do hope that when she got home someone hugged her.
She's a very nice girl.


ADDENDUM

While scarfing down a helping of yummy savoury substances at an eatery on Stockton Street, it became apparent that there is, after all, a wonderful benefit to warm summer days.
Shorts.
Under the right circumstances, some exceptionally appealing visuals will be right in front of you precisely at eye-level.
Young ladies wearing shorts can be quite distracting.
Wielding chopsticks requires dexterity and attention.
Both of which go out the window when there are three radiant pairs of plump and luscious thighs approximately two feet away from your nose. Honey coloured. Impossibly yummy.
I am more adept at keeping my composure than you can even imagine.
Lunch was better than ever.

Black bean sauce spare ribs. Little bokchoi.
Plain soup, stuffed tofu, and rice.
Hot chili sauce.
Yum.

I am a dirty old man.

It's a good day for that.



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LOOK DEEP INTO MY EYES WHILE WHISPERING "CRANKSHAFT"

There are some people whose presence creates a conversational Bermuda Triangle.
You know them. Or at least, some of them. They go off on predictable tangents, like we all do, but with one key difference: you are dis-incentivized to listen.

There's only so much discussion of a four-wheel drive anyone can take before wishing to whack the other person with a laminated crankshaft.

And, speaking of which, here's what Wikipedia says about that: "The crankshaft, sometimes casually abbreviated to crank, is the part of an engine that translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation.".

Imagine the word 'crankshaft' softly whispered.
Enchanting, if done by the right person.


CRANK SHAFT

Being an easy person to talk to, genuinely interested in other people, good natured (usually), and fairly intelligent at times, I often find myself listening to individuals whose rhetorical world is not quite thrilling. For far too long.
No, I did not go to charm school.
Patient understanding is something I do naturally.
Especially when I'm happily ensconced with a beverage and a fully loaded pipe, enjoying the bright lights, and the superlative taste of aged Virginia tobacco.
Which could be all I'm enjoying.

I may in fact be daydreaming of a charming feminine person sweetly lisping the word 'crankshaft', or something else equally zesty and exciting, through lovely warm glistening lips - the more I think about automotive parts, the more metaphorically representative of food, adventure, and romance, they become - but I do NOT wish to hear anyone else's deep thoughts about these matters. It would take away the magic.
Assume, for the purposes of this paragraph, that there is a magic.
There must be - we're talking about crankshafts.
Oh, the mechanics of it all.


KEEP INTERNAL COMBUSTION PRIVATE!

Please do not mention your car. Or your sexual habits.

I'm a very tolerant old grouch - well, actually, barely into a springy and vibrant middle age ("52"), think of it as 'maturity' - but I do have my limits.
When you are of the same gender as I am, then your vehicle and your love-life, no matter how fascinating and peculiar, will not interest me.

Conversely, if you were a petite and likable female half my age, there could be a decent chance that those subjects might indeed fascinate me, especially if they actually lacked any disturbing peculiarities, but please bear in mind that there is a time, and a place, where discussing such things is more appropriate.


I still wouldn't be interested in the car, by the way.


Shan't go into any further details than that.


Linear piston motion, rotation.


The crankshaft.


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Saturday, July 21, 2012

CONFIDENTIAL PLACES

You know what I do on Saturdays, right?
Get up late. Soak in the tub. Eat in Chinatown. Wander down past the Pyramid and across California Street trailing fragrant wisps of tobacco.
Putz around at the office, read a lot and drink tea.
Then smoke a bit in a pleasant place.
Very 'contemplative'.

On Wikipedia: black holes, event horizon, big bang, Pierre Simon Laplace, a non-rotating body of electron-degenerate matter, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, Thai green curry ('gaeng kiao-wan'), the Mon Kingdoms in Lower Burma, Hanthawaddy ('Hong-Sawadi'), King Naresuan, famous sixteenth century poet Thomas Watson, Bengali films, Leela Naidu, Golconda Fort, Hyderabadi biriani.....

[Plus flying prophets (Balaam, Jesus, Judas Iscariot), Channeling for Gloria Gaynor, water in Hebron, Max Ernst paints a spanking, Florida Corporate Tax Return(s), a busy day for the religion of peace, mechonot, why men with loud motorbikes have small testicles, sexual frustration, samisen, stringed instruments, hair fetish.]


I am presently happy as a clam. That nice full feeling.
Rice porridge. Smooth, creamy, sensual.
A very late lunch, in a clean and brightly lit eatery, accompanied by Viet-style chilled coffee with condensed milk.

Weekends are for people watching, not quite so much people-interacting.
Chinatown is noisy, rambunctious, and there's fun stuff to eat.
The Financial District is peaceful, empty, private.
Both environments suit me differently.

First liveliness. Then the quiet.
Dreaming with the internet.


SMELLING CLEAN AND LEAFY

After twilight I often head two blocks over to the last smoking establishment in San Francisco. If you're the kind of person who likes reading this blog, you would almost certainly enjoy the place.
Weekends at the Occidental are not crowded; the tourists can't find it, the businessmen in town for conventions have all gone home, and the bankers and stockbrokers are back in the suburbs.
Just us folks there. Strictly local people.
No preening pinstriped roosters.

[Also delightfully absent: the tweezed eye-brow painted nail office ladies, who tolerate the reekiness of the Occidental in hopes of catching a prosperous professional who will maintain them in style, pay for their luxuries, abjectly accept their horrible tastes and attitudes, and who can then be savagely bled dry during a divorce several years later. These are usually well brought up white women who have a bachelor's degree in marketing and business administration and no appreciable education. When they aren't around, the frustrated sharks who normally lurk on the perimeter looking for incidental chum also stay away. Lovely.]


Today I've got a tin of aged Virginia and a sample of something richly sooty. It will take a few hours before I'm down from my highly-caffeinated state. Who knows, I may even go through a period of being social with other humans. A number of whom are actually on the same page; intelligent and involved people who are a pleasure to be among.

There's almost nothing better than a few hours in the evening with strong smells that terrify the little people.
Good tobacco is incomprehensible to the wishy-washy.
Strong coffee isn't suitable for weak minds.
Confident people eat rice-porridge.
And have conversation.
Also milk tea.

In another ten minutes I'm heading out.
If you see me, I'll be smiling.



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Friday, July 20, 2012

IT'S QUINTESSENTIAL

By evening I am usually pepped to the eye-brows.
The day starts with one and a half to two cups of coffee, followed by a small cup of Jasmine tea before I leave the house.
Two cups of plain black tea before lunch.
Coffee after, then two to four more cups of tea before I leave the office.
I'm more awake at the end of the working day than when it started.
Slightly crazier too.

It's always time for tea.

During our vacations in England the highlight of a day motoring across Devonshire and Cornwall was stopping somewhere for tea around four o'clock.
Strong tea. Scones. Clotted cream. Preserves.
Dundee cake. Shortbread cookies.
Just enough to replenish the spirit.
Followed by another splash of tea.
And a pipe filled with good tobacco.


Given that English dinners could be questionable, this was often the perfect way to preamble a long summer twilight. If the local cuisine proved iffy, well, no big loss.
Another pipefull, and perhaps more tea when we got back to the hotel.

You understand, of course, that as the only pipesmoker among the four of us, my task was to make up for the slackers.


A PERFECT TIME FOR STIMULATION

Unless one is planning to stay up all night, coffee and tea should cease flowing by early evening at the latest. Otherwise you find yourself on Facebook till three in the morning, hitting 'like' or watching videos of a Japanese cat. A stupid Japanese cat.

Here in San Francisco, afternoon tea, if it can be found, is a rather pretentiously overpriced luxury.
But all it needs is good Assam or Ceylon, and something nice to eat.
Scones are extremely similar to baking-powder biscuits.
Preserves can be found in the supermarket.
Clotted cream, which is hard to find, can be replaced with butter.
Besides, unless you are catering to American tourists, what do you do with the ninety percent remaining in the tub of clotty?
Butter.

Dundee cake is NOT essential, and can validly be replaced by almost any other cake-like object.

A comfy room, and a throw-rug during summer.
Staying warm in San Francisco is important.


I have a collection of nice plates I have not used in years. If a good reason presents itself, they will serve biscuits and a small selection of cookies.
There will be cups and saucers.
And strong black tea.
Milk, sugar.

Until then, I'll just smoke my pipe a lot.
And dream of teatime.



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Thursday, July 19, 2012

AND A BONE THROUGH THEIR NOSE!

Fascinating datum from Wikipedia:

Quote:

Ladies must wear a ball gown to events where men are required to wear white tie attire. The elements of ladies' white tie attire could include:
  • ball gown - ballerina (to the ankle) or full-length (to the floor)
  • dancing shoes - formal pumps, sandals, flats or ballet slippers
  • jewellery - earrings and necklace; rings and bracelets are optional. A watch is not considered appropriate except for jeweled versions in which the face is covered so that it resembles a bracelet.
  • gloves - if worn, should be opera length
  • stole, cape or cloak, or an opera coat
  • handbag - clutch style or small evening bag
Optional:
  • state decorations - if specified on invitation; worn on a bow pinned to the chest
  • tiaras - If married and the event does not take place in a hotel.
End quote.


I find this enchanting. It paints a picture of a society so different from my own.
National Geographic Magazine should do an article on this subculture.

With the usual topless native women.



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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

KINGDOM OF SHADOWS

There are several Indonesian shadow-puppets in the television room. Late at night they sometimes speak. Heroic Ardjuna, his wise brother Yudistira, the dwarf Semar, and others.
Ardjuna, the paragon of chivalry, sometimes looks at me in a way that seems to suggest that I could do better.
His older brother maintains that things are as they are, deal with it.
And Semar takes it all in stride, averring that we're all insane.

Semar must be Canadian. That would explain his dry sense of humour.

The one three dimensional character is a wayang golek doll I brought back from Amsterdam. Painted wood, noble features, thoughtful yet controlled expression.
Though the tale cycle he represents is far younger than the Mahabharatic world of the five Pandawa brothers, he is the oldest of the dolls. Even Semar, battered and world-weary, was born from the artisan's labours more recently. The flat dolls probably date no later than the fifties, but the refined minister of an Islamic kingdom originated many years before the war. There is a gentleness to his carved face that suggests that he has seen much, lamented the collapse of society in the great upheavals of the twentieth century, and survived tumult and discord.
Java in the twenties and thirties, the Japanese invasion, the long ocean voyage to the Netherlands when the Dutch left the Indies forever......
And, more recently, emigration to the United States.
Of all of them, he is the least displaced.
Wherever he is, he belongs.

The two krisses on the high shelf have been much calmer since he arrived over a decade ago.
Peaceful. No longer tumultuous.

Despite the dreamed conversations that take place, it is often quiet.
When the shadow puppets speak, they do so seemingly by silence.
And krisses, of course, have no words. Only emotions.
One could not expect otherwise from wavy steel.

All of these entities assuredly like the snow-pear incense I burn.
Partly to chase away the occasional mosquito.
Partly to hide my smoking at night.
They do not mind the reason.
The world is aromatic.



Sandjaya spoke to king Dritarastra, saying: "long ago, when we all lived in Ngastinapura, before those five and Draupadi departed......"

The story is lengthy, and involves whole histories that must be detailed, so that the final battle on the field of Kuru, though forever in the background, need not be mentioned.
Not yet.

There were five brothers, who went and lived in the forest.
In each era they live again.  They still live.


At some point, probably this year, I will carve Gatotkatja with the pale green-blue visage and ferocious facial hair, the gallant son of Bima and Hidimbi. To my mind he is the most complex of the characters in the Indonesian telling of the tale. For reasons which the Sanskritist will understand, he has to be more three dimensional than other puppets.
Most especially his head.

It's all in the head.



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DELICIOUS PORK SHOULDER, COOKED TO PERFECTION!

And how yummy it is! It arrives in my in-box every day, sometimes huge piles of it.
I remain eternally grateful to the very many people who think me sadly lacking in nutrition and blog-content, and persist in sending it to me.

Such as the interesting item below.

Quote:
"The current dresses are all about selling attractiveness. It is very a hardship on a 16 or 19 year old woman to find a dress that is best suited, a dress that's not too hot on one hand, along with isn't very little girly on the other side. The optimal gown is a completely happy medium involving sophisticated, and chic, not trashy, which is surprisingly difficult to find, in retail shops at least.
First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I'd like to ask if you don't mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?"
End quote.


I can understand the writer's quandary.
And I completely agree that the optimal gown should be both sophisticated and chic, always.
Were I in the market for non-trashy frocks, it might indeed difficult to find such things in retail shops. Those that would suit a person of my build, that is.

Fortunately, I do not have that problem.

For one thing, I am a five foot eight and half inch tall man with a foxy face and a trimly devilish goatee, deepset grey eyes, and high cheekbones. My beard is more streaked with salt than my headhair, but I'm nevertheless quite decent looking -- far more so now than ever before in fact, middle-age suits me -- albeit of somewhat angular build. Consequently I never look for women's clothing that would fit me.
Although if I did, it might actually be something trashy.
I'm masculine enough that I can get away with that.
Frills, sequins, and vulgar colours - that's SO me.

Instead of looking for dresses to put on, I am far more interested in dresses to take off. Having finally reached the age of maturity and wisdom, I am at very much at peace with my own refined and sensible perversions.
Repeat: Dresses to remove. Not put on.
As well as blouses, skirts, sweaters, and comfy ladies' slacks.
Shoes too.


AFTERTHOUGHT

My correspondent also stated that he or she found it difficult to frame his or her thoughts and let it all out. Perhaps my response above illustrates a suitable approach?
Or at least how very easy it is.
Just react to something, even if it's only an annoying panty itch.
That always works for me. It can for you too.
I wish you the best of luck.


Please note: This blogger is not a 16 or 19 year old woman. The problems of teenage women aren't something to which I have much exposure, nor are they a subject of interest.
I'm sure they're pretty unique, though.  Like, omg.
If any 16 to 19 year olds are reading this blog, welcome.
I'm glad you're here, as I really appreciate having an audience.
Please AVOID meeting me in person till you're old enough to drink.
Not that I propose to go out slumming with you, but it's a good dividing line.
And at the very least, it will preserve the mystery.
As well as both of our sanities.
Avoid stress.



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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO SUMMER COLD WAVE

What I had for lunch was what any normal red-blooded male would have had. On a cold day.
During summer in San Francisco. When a howling gale nearly freezes your Kramers off.
Pale anemic sunlight. Arctic-strength wind chill.

A burrito con carnitas y salsa picante.
Sin frijoles.

I actually would have preferred a delicious plate of green pork curry and rice.
But there are no places in the Financial District that do a good version of that, using nice fatty pork and basil leaves. I may have to make it at home.


Why do people say that it's so cold that they're freezing their Kramers off?
It seems to me that the deciding factor is the wind direction. The part of me that was freezing was the right hand side of my body, especially the hand. That was what was angled into the breeze while I was at the wall smoking my pipe.
Not my Kramers.
I would hate to think of where the wind might come from to chill my Kramers. Blowing straight up?
It must happen at times, and that would certainly explain the scarcity of skirt-wearing women during summer in San Francisco. But I suspect it's more of a problem high up on scaffolding than at ground level.
Watch out for falling frozen Kramers - they're like little ice cubes or rabbit pellets, impacting and shattering on the pavement. It's a summer danger in this city.
The reason why you've never seen it is because of the large number of skirt-wearing women eighteen floors up. They're freezing too, but they have no Kramers.
For the public good, we need more lady welders.
I don't want to wear a hard hat.

Ideally, the green pork curry would be accompanied by a bright little miss with inquisitive intelligent eyes, wearing a skirt. Good silver ware, sparkling crystal, and a crisp white table-cloth.
As well as a bowl of sliced chilies in lime juice and fish sauce.
Crumbled toasted peanuts for a crunchy touch.
Young ladies always look so charming when they eat spicy food - it brings a pretty flush to their cheeks. Especially if they sneeze.
Afterwards we could have cigars together. Perhaps two dark-wrapper Nicaraguans of a decent ring gage. Following hot condiments, the spicy cheroots.  Perfect!
Except that it's far too frigid outside to smoke, darnitall.
And decent folks don't go to a cigar bar so early.
Irrespective of the status of their Kramers.

It was a very good burrito. With carnitas y salsa picante.
But something was missing.

No, not the frijoles.
Yo no gusto beans.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

GUWAHATI BRUTES

A video of a seventeen year old girl being groped, pulled, slapped, and publicly stripped in Guwahati last week has gone viral.

The incident happened when the young lady left a bar (Club Mint, on G.S. Road in the Christian Basti area) between 9:30 and 10:00 PM.
Whereupon she was attacked by a mob of men.


Prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita and his buddies Dhanraj Basfor, Diganta Basumatary, Ghanshyam Mallick, Mohammed Hafizuddin, Navajyoti Deka, Pushpendra ("Bubul") Das, and Vikas Tiwari, along with several others, proceeded to act in a way that demonstrated a complete and utter lack of morals, scruples, ethics, and decency.

The Guwahati police were far too involved in the lack of morals, scruples, ethics, and decency elsewhere in the city to be bothered by something so trifling (and very near the police station), and consequently did not show up to halt the offense till at least half an hour later.
Remarkably, a reporter and camera-wallah from NewsLive Channel were present and ready when it started.


Two things immediately come to mind:

1. Club Mint (on G.S. Road in Christian Basti) should be closed down immediately. Obviously it attracts the wrong element among the male population of Guwahati - people who lack morals, scruples, ethics, and decency. People like misters Kalita (Amarjyoti), Basfor (Dhanraj), Basumatary (Diganta), Mallick (Ghanshyam), Hafizuddin (Mohammed), Deka (Navajyoti), Das (Pushpendra, aka Bubul-bhai), and Tiwari (Vikas).


2. India is not a safe place for women. Not for local women, not for foreign women. Assam in particular, where Guwahati is located, has a horrendous reputation for Eve-teasing, rape, and honour-killings, as well as other repulsive and bestial acts. But even in Delhi there have been notorious crimes against women, including the wives of diplomats stationed there.


Lastly, I must gratuitously mention mr. Anil Verma, an experienced senior Indian diplomat based in London till about a year and a half ago.
Probably not a nice person, quite possibly a cad and a bounder.
Perhaps not the best choice to represent his nation.
Unless wife-slapping is the benchmark.
If it is, he's qualified.


Some things just aren't cricket.
No agar-magar about it.



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Sunday, July 15, 2012

GREG PEASE REVIEWED - A REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLING OF HIS OEUVRE

One of the nicer things to happen in the last twenty years is Greg Pease deciding to sell his own products. It has raised the bar in that field, and we have all been enriched in consequence. Yet there is such a large selection available now with his imprimatur that a little oversight might be helpful.
This post is an attempt to address that need somewhat.

GLP

Many of Greg's blends recall a time when all bright young men walked around with a pipe, and aspired to own a tweed jacket. The pipe likely represented a teenage experiment that had been marvelously successful, and the tweed jacket was a desire to emulate older relatives and family friends whom they respected and of whom they were fond - men who were worth emulating in many other ways, but the tweed jacket at least was relatively easy.

That paradigm shifted to dross in the fifties, was corrupted by the sixties, and destroyed by the wide lapels and shoulder pads of the seventies and eighties.
Pipes and tweed? What?

I still dress rather like that; decent professorial jacket, slacks, collared shirt.
And, you will understand, I eschew most aromatic mixtures.
Consequently I can only think well of Greg Pease.

Please note that bright young men should still smoke good pipe tobaccos and aspire to tweed. Women too.
Well, perhaps not the tweed.

[Note: Some readers have cocked an eyebrow at my insistence that women should smoke pipes, and wondered at my sanity for suggesting that the young must also be invited to take up the habit. But really, this is all easily explained. The female of the species is quite as capable of enjoying fine tobacco as the male, and if people in their early years do not learn to enjoy the fragrant weed, then who will push our wheelchairs out to the legally permitted smoking zone four blocks from the old-folks home when we are in our eighties?!?   This blogger has NO desire to smoke alone in the rain when dotage comes. It’s also fairly certain that Nurse Hatchet will cut off our balls if she catches us lighting up in the bathroom. ]


CAPSULE REVIEWS


ABINGDON
Full Balkan: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Meaty and Latakia-rich, with more balance than Odyssey (one of his other blends), woodsy and broad-reaching.
Exceptional.

ASHBURY
Medium Oriental: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
This is a complex blend with a balance between the Virginia and Turkish, fairly light on Latakia.

BARBARY COAST
Burley, Virginia, and Perique. Faint addition of Brandy.
It can bite.

BLACKPOINT
Oriental type mixture: Virginia, Latakia, Perique, Turkish.
This blend centers around the Flue-cured spectrum. It is complex, medium, airy.
Even a little busy.

BOHEMIAN SCANDAL
A finely balanced full Balkan: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Really showcases how different Syrian Latakia is from Cyprus leaf. This tastes particularly fresh and clean after some of the pointless Latakia dumps that other blenders produce. Unfortunately it is no longer available. Smoke Westminster instead.
Exceptional.

CAIRO
Medium-mild Oriental with Perique.
A complex milder blend which changes considerably with age. This is a very Berkeley product, what all college boys should smoke. Especially when going to tea at the dean’s house.
Intriguing, but not an overload.
Excellent.

CARAVAN
Medium-full Balkan: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Understated, even uncomplex, in some ways a German-style Balkan. Orientals to the front, and almost old-fashioned; the type of tobacco which, if discovered in a dull provincial town makes the visit a memorable experience.
Excellent.

CHARING CROSS
Medium-full Balkan: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Good interplay between the Turkish and Latakia. A very fine tobacco for Autumn.
Do not trust the smoker of this around your kid sister.
A truly outstanding mixture.

CHELSEA MORNING
Light English: Virginia, Latakia, Perique.
A rather sparkling tobacco which evokes fresh-faced young ladies.
Who, I shall insist, should also smoke this.
The Red comes through nicely. It has softness.

CUMBERLAND
An American mixture – dark aged Kentucky and span of Virginias with Perique.
Nutty, and it smells better than it smokes.

EMBARCADERO
Pressed Virginia and Turkish.
A splendid product, but not very exciting to me. Pressing Virginias and Turkish together always seems empty. As with all such, I have an urge to add Latakia.
It might suit a smoker with a palate more finely attuned to Reds.

FILLMORE
Broken Flake.
Complex and sherry-like, very well made. Often satisfying, sometimes not sweet enough.
Smokes slow.
Excellent.

HADDO’S DELIGHT
Virginia and Perique, small amount Burley.
Ideal for lovers of American blends with spicy qualities, and much like many fine products available before the war. It will not appeal to a great many smokers who cannot appreciate the older style of blends at local tobacconists. The aroma upon opening the tin is rich, robust, and evocative.
Excellent.

JACKKNIFE PLUG
Plug: Kentucky and Virginia.
This is not for the faint-hearted. But it is very good. There is depth beside the nicotine wallop, and it smokes cleanly and enjoyably down.
Burly truck drivers might quail, but I can imagine a lovely little teenage miss with laughing eyes thoroughly enjoying this. Later, when she comes back in the house, her parents will ask “what’s that smell?”. And she’ll reply “no idea, maybe fumes from the bakery fire near the school today”.
The mischievous girl will be hard pressed to come up with more excuses as time goes by.
But her grades are excellent. And she is considerate and very well behaved.
She’ll get a scholarship to an East-Coast college after high-school.
A pity, as I would love to meet her upon graduation.
Exceptional.

KENSINGTON
Medium Balkan: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
There are very fine Virginia notes here. By no means top-heavy in the dark department. A well-balanced go-to blend, especially for smokers who favour products that aren’t too tarry.
A truly outstanding mixture.

KEY LARGO
Cigar leaf blend: Virginia, Latakia, Shade leaf, Turkish.
Flaky, of medium strength. A very good tobacco, which should be more popular, as the layering of flavours is masterfully done, and will awaken memories you didn’t know you had..
Recommended.
Exceptional.

LAGONDA
Pressed full English – Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
This is the kind of naughty mixture that all zesty girls should smoke. Indiscreet, but utterly charming.
Yes, this goes with a nice cup of tea, and will make doing your homework a pleasure. Such a pity that your parents will scream bloody murder if they follow the smell and find you smoking.
Exceptional.

LAUREL HEIGHTS
Virginias and Latakia.
Complex, and great with a tawny Port. Not a domineering presence, perfect for the thoughtful man not blessed with a chattersome wife. On the other hand, great consolation if that is his good fortune. Cool, mostly Red.
Excellent.

LOMBARD
Light English: Virginia, Latakia, Perique.
Very American. Old school. Some people will like this very much.
It is pleasant enough for a while.

MALTESE FALCON
Medium – full English: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
From the same era as Westminster. There is something else here.
During my last trip to Vancouver this was a constant smoke. Alluring in the crispness of winter, and it grows on the smoker at other times. Cellared several tins. Tangy, sweet, a little spicy. Balanced.
Excellent.

MERIDIAN
Pressed medium English: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Very nice, and something I would smoke late at night. When everything is quiet and dark, one is more attuned to subtlety.

MONTGOMERY
Virginia mixture: Virginia and Kentucky.
Top notch basic tobacco for someone who does not like Latakia or drenched Cavendish mixtures.
A decent simple smoke.

ODYSSEY
Full Balkan: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Quite an overload of flavour, hence sometimes a challenge. Too much Latakia to be universally splendid, but in the right bowl at the right time it sings.
Very smoky. This blend dominates the discourse.
Excellent.

PICADILLY
Light English: Virginia, Latakia, Perique.
Good and mild if puffed slow. It may appeal to people who are less adventurous than they imagine themselves to be. Those who like the herbal effect of Virginia dallying with the dark elements will find charm here.

QUIET NIGHTS
Pressed full English: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
Complex, and better in late afternoon than the name suggests. This is the kind of tobacco that reminds you what vacations are all about: late tea, good roast beef, a spot of sherry or port in early evening. You might want to have another bowl after ten with a bit of whisky.
It is very endearing.
Excellent.

RAVEN’S WING
Dark English: Virginia and Latakia.
This was oddly Scottish. Hard to smoke at the time, though great fun. It is now unavailable.
You will probably like Maltese Falcon.

RENAISSANCE
Medium English Mixture.
Now unavailable.
Smoke Westminster instead.

ROBUSTO
Cigar leaf blend: Virginia, Latakia, Shade leaf, Turkish.
Spicy. As with all cigar-leaf pipe tobacco blends, age mellows it.
Fine for rainy days.

SAMARRA
Medium Oriental: Virginia, Latakia, Perique, Turkish
There is an interesting interplay here, marked by the Red Virginia and the Latakia, very much like something I would blend.
But I actually like some of his other mixtures more.
Excellent.

SEXTANT
Pressed composite: Virginia, Kentucky, Latakia.
Sooty, rich, and orgasmic.
Deep, dense, and an excuse to light up. Again.
Really? Really.
Highly recommended.
An outstanding mixture.

STRATFORD
Virginia mixture: Virginia and Perique.
Noticeable spiciness, mild Virginias. But if smoked carelessly or hot-boxed it will bite.

TELEGRAPH HILL
Virginia mixture: Virginia and Perique.
Not as assertive as some other VaPers, but it is complex and will age well.

TRIBUTE
Virginia mixture: Kentucky, Virginia, Perique.
Spicy, with a broad flavour spectrum. Though rich in Virginia content it isn’t overly sweet.
A bit much at times.

TRIPLE PLAY
Plug: Virginia, Kentucky, Perique.
A jolly good smoke, this. It has a sweeter note than the Jackknife Plug, but is in the same league.
Smokers of the British VaPers of yore will definitely find much to like.
This is a clean pure product, however. It might baffle them at first.
Recommended.
Excellent.

UNION SQUARE
Classic Virginia Flake.
This is a flake-lovers flake.  I have several tins stashed away.  In addition to being a great good smoke on its own, it is also a fine blender for luxurious experiments.
Straight Virginia needs coddling.
Excellent.

WESTMINSTER
Medium-full English: Virginia, Latakia, Turkish.
One of my absolute favourite tobaccos. Very old-fashioned, and quite delightful.
Dense, broad flavour spectrum, complex, and rich.
It is everything an English mixture should be.
Highly recommended.
A truly outstanding mixture.


One could do far worse than to smoke the tobaccos I have characterized as excellent, exceptional, or truly outstanding, in the list above.
But it would be hard to do better.


Other posts mentioning Greg Pease may be found here: GLP




TOBACCO INDEX


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NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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