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.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

SYRIA USED POISON GAS -- WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

Were chemical weapons used in Syria against civilians? Yes, without any doubt. Does this justify a strike -- limited or extended -- against the Syrian regime? Probably. But should the United States do it?

No.

We do not have a dog in this fight. Far worse atrocities have been committed in Syria, and throughout it all, both the regime and the population there have taken turns screaming at us, castigating us, and indicating that they would like our uncritical support, but do not wish us to be in any way involved. Not just Syria; all the Arab world.

The message, irrespective of whichever side speaks, has been that we should mind our own business, believe only what we are told, and with suitable ignorance and credulity lend approval.
And given that Syria is not an important trading partner, doesn't share deep cultural similarities, and at all levels despises us -- not only our government, also our society and our institutions -- it seems clear enough that we have NO need to go at it.


Does the United States HAVE to act when war-crimes are committed outside of our orbit? Put differently, do we have any legal, strategic, or moral reason to go to war with another country over what it does to its own citizens?


And in this case, what purpose would be served by our doing so?


Let the Arabs step up to the plate. They've demanded for years that we keep our big noses out of their affairs. They have asserted time and again that American involvement does far more harm than good, creates disasters, denies them their right to manage their own affairs, which, they aver, would be quite well settled indeed were it not for our meddling.

Many people around the world agree with them. If we strike Syria, it is fairly guaranteed that infuriated protesters in Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brussels, and other hotbeds of civilization, will storm our embassies and boycott our brands.

Even our alleged friend and ally Turkey, which saw its fingers burned by the Assad regime, is home to millions of America-haters.


No, it's not the fear of anti-Yanquismo that persuades me that we should not get involved.
It is, rather, the firm belief that the rest of the world needs to stick out its neck for a change. They are the ones concerned, they are the sides who have horses in this race.


Why should our tax money and our efforts be wasted on a people and a country where everything we represent is considered vile?


War is not corrective surgery.


Let's save our missiles for when we have to change the map instead.
Which we may need to do in that part of the world soon anyway.




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Friday, August 30, 2013

STALLIONS, VIRGINS, AND THE PLEASURE OF FACTORY WORK

The recent news out of North Korea is that a former romantic partner of Supreme Leader Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un was executed along with several other performing artists earlier this month, allegedly for making pornography.

Hyon Song-wol (died August 20, 2013) was the lead-singer for the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, one of the best-known pop music ensembles in the Stalinist workers paradise.

Her most famous song is "Excellent Horse-like Woman!", which details matters in the mundane life of a factory worker. That's actually a mis-translation of the title 駿馬處女 (Chunma Cheonyeo), which means 'splendid horse virgin', or 'steed maiden'.
It's a catchy little ditty.

The embedded video shows it.
Go on, click.


CHUNMA CHEONYEO


[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5tkXgw2OMY.]

Life is wonderful, socialism is glorious, North Korea is a heavenly country filled with healthy well-fed round-faced beauties, and the sun is always shining.
It's not like San Francisco at all.

After seeing that enchanting clip, this blogger sincerely wishes to leave the fog-bound capitalist hell-hole by the Bay and dance with flowers outside a wonderful factory.

I just don't want to get shot.

Which is why I shan't.


"Give Porky a break. You're 30 years old, your father just died and you have a country full of shit and starving people. Now you found out your hoe is doing porn."

-----youtube commenter Gooka Boo


No, I will not render the lyrics here -- they're more than a little inane, though ideologically far above suspicion -- and whatever translations I have seen do not do them justice.

I really wish the Wikipedia article about her said more, though. How tall was she? What were her dimensions, how much did she weigh? Was she, in the main, a happy Stalinist butterfly? At least until the moment that it was decided to round her up and march her off to the execution ground? With several other pop-musicians?
Did she have thoughts about skincare?
Favourite brand of shoes?
Puppies?


Man, why can't Snoop Dog do music videos like that?!?



She looks so fresh and wholesome in the clip. Obviously those were happier times. Pornography is a socialist code-word for dissidence that aroused the ire of an ascendant faction, or running afoul of someone very high-up with a vicious vindictive streak.




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Thursday, August 29, 2013

"DID YOU NOTICE A SIGN AT THE FRONT MY HOUSE THAT SAID 'DEAD NIGGER STORAGE'?"

The title of this post is what Jimmy asked Jules in the movie Pulp Fiction. When Jules answers (correctly) that he did not notice such a sign, Jimmy informs him with force that storing deceased black gentlemen is not one of the things he normally does. It could affect his marriage. Why, it might throw a spanner into the domestic works, and his good wife would likely have issues with concept of warehousing expired men of colour.

This pursuant some mighty fine gourmet coffee.


To refresh your memory, here's that scene again.


THIS AIN'T STARBUCKS SWILL


[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfKIeCry_S8 .]


Now, having watched that little vignette, you will have heard several words and phrases which by their unprintability may have disturbed your equi-
librium. Much of the dialogue in the movie involves the F bomb.
Which should not be used quite so liberally, if at all.
There are more F bombs than bullets.
Life is not like that; there should NEVER be more F bombs than bullets.
It just ain't right.


To scrub your mind and clear the air, here's an edifying passage from scripture:
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish, and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

The following scene is totally clean.
Edifying, even.


WHAT DORK LOOKS LIKE


[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_oaTP_oRsc.]


Cleanliness is next to godliness.


The moral is not to use the F bomb with all the liberality of a hippie chick spreading nookie, Mary J, and patchouli oil. If you do, bad things will happen. Very bad things. Embarrassing things.
There are several other words it is wise to avoid.
Cold showers are the pits.



Boiler's out.


I am clean, and full of coffee.




AFTER THOUGHT

Because I know you want to see Samuel Jackson spreading the good word like a Sunday School Teacher doling out chastisement to the heathen wretches ("lost children") temporarily in his care, here's the scene where he (mis)quotes from Ezekiel 25:17.


PLEASE REMAIN SEATED


[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snW3cM1KipQ .]


Only a fraction of that is actually from Ezekiel 25:17. The rest is a mish-mosh of Tananchic elements and themes.




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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

TENDING TOWARDS SOLITARY HAUNTING

Sometimes one is not a particularly social man. Badger. Social badger. Not a social badger. Particularly.
Sometimes all a man (badger) wants to do is have a light lunch by himself, then wander around the alleys of C'town smoking a pipe and presenting a somewhat disturbing (i.e.: white person) visage to little old ladies and small children who are not particularly familiar with bewhiskered gentlemen (gentlebadgers) smoking a pipe (corncob, perhaps) and reeking deliciously of fine flue-cured, dark Kentucky, and Louisiana Perique.


Sometimes. Alleyways.
And particularly.

Usually between three and six P.M.
Late afternoon, near teatime.


Across Sacramento (唐人街) from Brooklyn Place ( 布閣倫巷) near Stockton (市德頓街), Hang Ah Alley (香雅巷) snakes rectalinearly past the volleyball and tennis courts, alongside of which homeless people have taken over the benches and constructed shelters with cardboard and tarps. From the three or four association offices on the western side comes the clackity racket of mahjong tiles, and through the open doors one can see folks engaged in competition.
On Clay (企李街) there are a row of hair salons, including the one I go to when in need of a trim. My barber still does not know that I speak Cantonese, as there has been no reason to let the cat out of the bag. He and his staff do not talk about me, and I do not need to communicate anything that cannot be said in English.
My English is better by far than my Cantonese.
Sleeping dogs, no cat out of the bag, and no disconcerting surprises.

[唐人街 'tong yan kaai': T'ang Person Street. 市德頓街 'si tak twun kaai': market virtue arrangement street. 布閣倫巷 'bou gok luen hong': announce pavilion human relations passageway. 香雅巷 'heung ya hong': fragrant refinement alley. 企李街 'kei lei kaai': tiptoe plum street.]


Spofford Alley (新呂宋巷 'new Spanish Alley') runs between Clay and Washington. The characters for Spanish (呂宋 'leui-song': Luzon) phonetically hearken bag to the Philippines and the galleon trade between Manila and Canton. It's a usage that is much faded now, as Spain has not been a presence in the Islands for generations, nor actually in San Francisco, and the galleons have all been decommissioned.
San Leui-Song Hong is rather dusty and dirty, there are one or two hair cutters and association offices, plus doorways to stairs leading to living quarters. Occasionally children play there under the watchful eyes of kinfolk.

[新呂宋巷 'san leui-song hong': new musical note Song dynasty passageway.]


Washington Street (華盛頓街) has a few herbalists and jewelry stores, plus many places to eat. Kam Lok (金樂飯店) serves family food in a basement, San Sun (三陽咖啡餐屋) offers noodly substances and good stir-fries plus chilled Vietnamese coffee, Man Kee (文記茶餐廳) is a very Hong Kong place with excellently strange offerings familiar to HK folks but not so well-known outside of fragrant harbor (HK style western food and quick meals, or snacks and mega calorie dumps, all delicious), and a banquet facility that saw better days many decades ago. Tourists wander by speaking in German, Italian, or Dutch, and looking baffled.
Deer crossing. Lost deer. Or ducklings.
Not ants; no sense of purpose.

[華盛頓街 'waa seng tun kaai': elegant surfeit arrangement street. 金樂飯店 'kam lok fan dim': gold happiness rice shop. 三陽咖啡餐屋 'saam yeung gaa fei ngok': three positivities coffee house (陽 also means 'sun', 'masculine', yang element). 文記茶餐廳 'man kei cha chan teng': literary record tea dining hall (owner is named 文, hence 文記, what Man has done).]


Immediately across the street Portola Alley, now called 'Old Chinatown Lane'(舊華埠巷 ) continues Spofford to a dead-end. There used to be stables here, and the previous Chinese name recalled that: horse stable alley (馬房巷).

[舊華埠巷 'gau waa fau hong': familiar elegant portcity (華 elegant also means 'Chinese'). 馬房巷 'maa fong hong': horse lodging passage.]


Further down the block Ross Alley is actually the extension of Spofford, as the name 'Old Spanish Alley' (舊呂宋巷 'gau leui-song hong') makes clear for locals. Yes, there is still the sound of mahjong tiles, but where the best and biggest gambling hall once stood, there is now a Christian mission whose Chinese sign informs the reader that 'Jesus loves you'. And bully for him.
Across the way a printing company is located, nearby is a florist catering to the funeral trade, whose sign optimistically announces that they also do happy occasions! Weddings! Mothers day! Anniversaries! Other!
A little further on is a fortune cookie factory that all the tourists have heard about and feel compelled to visit, and almost next-door Alan Gin's barbershop is still in business even though the Chinese Frank Sinatra himself passed away nearly two decades ago.
There is no trace of the Rickshaw Nightclub anymore. Probably just as well, there is no need to encourage late-night partying here. Too many people would wish to sleep at that time.
There are residences up from street level.

Down Jackson Street (昃臣街), across Dupont (Grant Avenue; 都板街) to Wentworth Place (德和街), which runs between Jackson and Washington, continuing Becket Street (白話轉街). At the Corner of Becket is the New Orchid Pavilion (新蘭亭 san lun ting), where one may get a meal for an exceptionally low low price. It is very popular with the elderly.
On Wentworth there's a shop selling Japanese plastic figures from anime and manga, a few run down storefronts, a place offering herbal substances (參茸行), and a Shanghainese woman selling music and movie CDs. You can see the Washington Bakery & Restaurant (華盛頓茶餐廳) all the way from the corner of Jackson and Wentworth.
It beckons.
Good milk tea. Interesting food.

[昃臣街 'jak san kaai': oblique officials street. 都板街 'dou baan kaai': metropolitan plank street, DuPont was what it was called before we named it after our eighteenth president. 德和街 'tak wo kaai': virtue harmony street. 白話轉街 'baak waa juen kaai': plain speech revolving street. 參茸行 'sam yung hang': ginseng and deer antler entreprise. 華盛頓茶餐廳 'waa seng tun cha chan teng': Washington tea-restaurant.]


Just below the Washington Bakery is the corner of Walter U. Lum Place (林華耀街 'lam waa fui kaai'), which used to be Flower Park Street (花園街) till the nineties. It runs along the top end of Portsmouth Square (花園角), where the elderly gather in droves to play chess and cards, and chat in Toishanese till nightfall. There are also loonies there, but they do not interfere with the old folks. Sometimes they sleep on the grass.
Walter Lum is a good place to finish the pipe of tobacco lit after lunch, unless it is too windy, in which case I head down to the bench on Hotaling Alley, where everything is quiet till the nearby restaurants re-awaken for cocktails and dinner. No, there are no Chinese characters for Hotaling; it's named after a whiskey merchant from the nineteenth century, and is not part of Chinatown.

[花園角 'faa yuen kok': flower park angle. 角 'kok': angle, corner, horn.]



Waverly (天后廟街) is also a nice place to wander around for a while. Fewer tourists, many grand association buildings, and good food at the Utopia (蔘滿意粥).

[天后廟街 'tin hau miu kaai': heaven empress temple street. 蔘滿意粥 'saam mun yi juk': intervention (ginseng) happy congee, take part in happiness rice porridge.]


Commercial (襟美慎街), between Grant and Kearny, has its own charm.
At the corner of Kearny, the R & J Lounge (嶺南小館) tempts many diners, further down towards Montgomery is the City View Restaurant (城景) which has some pretty darn good dimsum.
There are benches where on can get away with smoking.
Which is a fine thing.

[襟美慎街 'gam mei san kaai': lapel beauty caution street. Formerly 'calle de los commerciantes', meaning 'commercial street. 乾尼街 'kin nei kaai': fertilizing nun street. 嶺南小館 'ling naam siu kwun': passes south small establishment; South of the Passes (Canton) eatery. 城景 'sing king': metropolitan scenery.]



It's good to be alone. One can dream, read signs, and observe people.
And sometimes you meet folks you know, or interesting strangers.
Sometimes you just dream.

And smell smoky.













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THAT'S MINE!

The Corbie or Hooded Crow in the video clip below displays both intelligence and determination. What a pity he (or she) does not succeed in attaining his (or her) objective. Why he (or she) needs a frypan is anyone's guess.


I'VE GOT A PLAN!


You will note that the bird in question looks very well fed. As far as scoring food is concerned, that is one successful individual. Wherefore it would not surprise me in the slightest if the beast knew how to use the culinary implement it wishes to have.


Pigeon egg omelette. That must be it.




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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

STAY OUT OF SYRIA

Reports out of Washington, London, and Paris, indicate that the Western World is preparing to act with force against Syria over its alleged use of poison gas on civilians.
And, in calling it "alleged", it should be remembered that although there seems to be a preponderance of evidence that a chemical event did indeed happen, the details are by no means clear, the actual circumstances have not yet been determined, and, above all, historic precedent shows that spurious facts have been used to justify military intervention in the past.

Tonkin Gulf. Saddam's WMDs. Coups d'état in several countries.
Oh heck, let's also throw in the invasion of the Philippines over a century ago which caused the death of one fifth of the population of the place.


Another thing to keep in mind is that we have no business being there. The Syrian people are of little interest to us, have a well-known antipathy towards the United States, and will likely not appreciate our meddling in the long term. Or likely even in the short term.
Do we really need to get into another interminable involvement with a bunch of pustules who hate our guts?
Especially when we have a history of supplying warring Arabs with the means to kill each other........
When Iraq and Iran used gas on the front line, we and the Europeans provided it.
Our opposition to mass murder is questionable.

In the last five decades, Arabs have killed over six million Arabs.
This is very much the natural order of business.
We've been fine with that till now.


Far better to let our supposed allies -- Western Europe -- get their hands dirty. For one thing, their reputation in that region is better than ours at present, and it's high time they get into an international mess that yields mega-eggface instead of us. They still have not forgiven us for Balkan One and Balkan Two -- many of them haven't forgiven us for WWI and WWII either, and continue to slam the United States for using nukes -- and there is bitter resentment over our leadership in Afghanistan as well as innumerable other affairs.
Libya, Tunis, and Egypt are good examples of the horrible mess that results from local talent mixed with United States attempts at problem-solving, Afghanistan and Pakistan hate everything about us with psychotic fury and have become dangerous permanent liabilities.
Europe itself despises and distrusts America.
Last, but not least, our Iraq adventure suggests we would do well to step back, keep a low profile, and let the moral paragons step in and do what they have repeatedly told us they can do better.



In short: The Syrian people are no concern of ours, not as far as 'real-politik' is concerned. Moral imperatives are a grey zone ("quagmire") that will get us criticized no matter what we do. And involvement in the Arab zone is a complete waste of time.


The Middle East hates us worse than the Europeans; both of those groups thoroughly deserve each other, and should spend some time together.




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HOW MANY PIPES DO YOU NEED?

The other day a woman evinced keen interest in my pipe, which albeit handsome was but one of many. To which remarkable datum she expressed surprise. Surely one good pipe, a pipe that radiated gravitas and hot middle-aged male sensuality and romantic appeal, was all that was necessary?

She didn't quite put it that way, but I'm extrapolating.


"One hundred and sixty?!? Good Lord, how many of those damned things do you really need?"


The short answer is the more the merrier. I've been smoking a pipe since I was a fourteen year old infant, and though I've owned more, one hundred and sixty is a good round number. But of those, only about half get smoked with any frequency, and the current rotation has thirty pipes or so.

Periodically I go through the collection and remember good times associated with certain pieces, which will then be put into regular use again for a while. There are some pipes which are permanently on the tray, others repine in boxes, hardly ever touched. A dozen are entirely unsmoked. I'm saving a few of them for the right woman.


But it's a good question: how many pipes do you need?

The answer depends on your habits.
The occasional smoker can get by with two or three, but someone who loads up a bowlful regularly should do the math.

A pipe needs a minimum of half a day's rest after each smoke so that it can dry out, and the carbon layer restore itself. Smoking a pipe creates compounds in the inside surface of the bowl, injecting elements which need to break-down and dissipate. If a pipe is smoked too much, there is no chance of that happening, and the result will eventually be a soggy, foul-smelling, sour-tasting pipe, that needs restorative surgery (see Sunday morning's post for an idea of what that means) to bring it back to life.
It is best to have enough briar on hand that each pipe can rest at least one or two days, preferably more. This way each one will last a lifetime, and with an occasional thorough clean & ream will provide years of pleasure.

Ideally then, a very bare minimum is two to three times the number of pipes as there are smokes in a day.

A person who smokes three bowls a day needs about eight or nine pipes, a five pipe a day habit requires between ten and twenty.

One pipe a week means just one pipe.
Two if your spouse joins you.


Most pipe-smokers are always on the prowl for just one more. Some shapes inculcate passion, and there are always examples that simply scream "this is the veritable golden fleece of pipe-dom, why, with this in my collection I can finally retire, I have reached profoundly woody perfection!"
Or, "hey, this will complete the set of ideal smokers!"


My dad gave me his pipes before he died. I had been lusting after them since my teenage years. They represented the perfect battery of briars to me, and seemed to encompass a totality of pipes that perfectly expressed sound habits and sure smokes. I've hardly touched them in the two decades since he passed away, but I'm incredibly fond of them. They recall the man, and the smell of his presence. They needed only a little restoration, because he kept them clean and took good care of them. New stems, and steaming out the dings, nothing more.
There are ten of them. He did not smoke very much.
I often match some of my pipes together to make an equivalent selection.
A couple of bent bulldogs, a few straight bulldogs, some Canadians, Lumbermen, or Lovats and Liverpools.
Plus a billiard and full-bent.

Ten pipes. That's all you need. Two or three bowls a day.
With ten pipes, you've got the perfect collection.

He had pared down the number from several dozen to the ten best pipes that he loved when we moved to Holland.
Ten was all he needed.


You should have ten pipes.
Several sets of ten, however, is a good idea.
But start with ten.

A minimum of ten.

Ten.




NOTE: An argument could be made that women need fewer pipes than men, because they have less opportunity to indulge in the habit. Many women naturally tend towards discreetness regarding pipes ("I'm buying a present for my dad..."), and, being somewhat more thoughtful and circumspect about briar purchases, will have fewer clunkers in their collection.

Besides, many men might find it amusing to let their companions have a go at a pipe, whereas a proper young lady NEVER lends out her pipe to her young man. He might not know what he's doing, and he's probably not ready to listen to any advice about the proper use of briar from a girl.

Plus men get control-freaky about these things.

But if a man enjoys a pipe, the gallant thing to do is to buy his lady one that she can have. A nice piece, with fine grain. Tobacco can be shared, but people should have their own equipment.

A woman needs ten pipes.




TOBACCO INDEX


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Monday, August 26, 2013

CHOPPING TEN PARTS - CHINESE CURSING

Recently I witnessed an argument between two Shanghainese. Shanghainese (上海話) is one of the Hu languages (滬語), and preserves a full range of voiced initials which most other Sinitic languages have lost. What this means is that it sounds much more like an exploding soda-water syphon than any other tongue.

Hissing, spitting, and a torrent of sibilant lisping.

Both gentlemen were mouth-foamingly peevish.

The only phrases I understood were "ngu we taa .....", "nong ye wu hou", and "nong szzzz kau pi". At least I think I understood them, but I'm just guessing. Respectively: 'I will hit .....', 'you are no good', and 'you are a dog fart'.
Plus: lo gang leu (old fool), and chahnaa (*%^&!).

我會打 .....、 儂吔無好、 儂是狗屁。
老戆亂、册那。

There are times when I wish I had a recording device.



一門五傑 YAT MUN NG KIT
The five clansmen

I should point out that by the standards of the Cantonese, all other Chinese are rank amateurs when it comes to foul language. It's that sheer absence of any talent for venomous eloquence and lyric filth. They have no imagination. When a non-Cantonese speaker veers into blue territory, you can tell that they are steamingly frustrated, to the point of stuttering and howling. They just aren't able to fully express what they feel at that moment.
Anger renders them stumble-tongued.

Your average Cantonese person, on the other hand, suffers no such lingual handicap, and will measurably grow in enthusiasm as the verbal bile flows, expressing his or her ire in a torrent of ever-more expressive locutions.
Remarks on the putridity of someone else's maternal reproductive passage, the suitability of entombing the other individual's entire family, a plague to hit nine generations of the respondent's clan, and observing that the other person or a female relative is a garrulous incest-committing old hag, are all merely the beginning.
All of the above might occur in one short sentence.
Hearing the comma is a talent.


Purely for reference purposes, the five most common unprintable words in Cantonese are: diu (𨳒 or 屌), hai (屄 or 閪, with euphemistic alternatives 鞋 and 蟹), kau (鳩 or 尻), lan (𨶙 or 撚), chat (柒 or 𨳍). Collectively they are known as 'the magnificent five' (一門五傑).
The first one (diu) is the copulatory act (as a verb often represented by 挑), the second word (hai) refers to a portion of the female anatomy, the third (kau) is a male regenerative organ often used adverbially, likewise the fourth (lan), and the fifth (chat) refers to the same part rendered pro-actively non-malleable.
With the copious addition of adjectives, their utility is infinite.
There are a huge number of other unprintables.

The toxic effectiveness of all words above are increased by judicious combination with 'nei lou mou' (你老母 your old mother), 'chau' (臭 putrid, odouriferous), 'gau' (狗 dog), 'chi-sin' (痴線 imbecilic, insane), 'soh' (傻 idiotic), 'si' (屎 fewmet), and 'sei' (死 dead). Throwing 'nei-ge' (你嘅 your; possessive second person singular) in between the first part and the second part changes the first part into a verb, and may make an entirely innocuous sentence insulting.
Appending 'nei-ge tau' (你嘅頭 your head) does the same.
Tau (頭) can be replaced by certain nouns.
Such as hai, kau, lan, chat.
Et mult altres.



Practise makes perfect.



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Sunday, August 25, 2013

WHAT'S FOR DINNER? AND IS IT RISKY?

Several years ago, at the Indian restaurant where I was the cashier in the evening, the proprietor disquisitioned anent the health-giving properties of Indian food. There was, he averred, no other cuisine so ancient and so concerned with your physical well-being than desi khanna. It was a gift.

The person with whom he spoke was a customer who had earlier placed an order for food to take out. Veritably a captive audience.
Indeed.

While half-heartedly listening to the lecture I had often heard before, I glanced at the order awaiting expeditious delivery from the kitchen and subsequent lip-smacking nosh-nosh by the happy purchaser and his presumed good lady wife.

One order of Murgh Makhni.
One order of Chicken Tikka Masala.
One order of Dum Aloo Vindaloo.
One order of hot naan breads.
One rice pilaw.

All told, over a pound of butter.

Delicious!


I knew several Indians who had experienced heart-attacks at a comparatively young age. It's all that butter.


Of the five items listed, not a single one originated in India.
Some weren't even refined there.

Murgh Makhni as we now know it was a Pathan stew of leftover tandoori chicken scraps, sauced with tomatoes, butter, cream, and mild spicing. Its earliest manifestation in India was after partition at the Moti Mahal, whose owners had previously resided in Peshawar.
The version common in England is often made with cream and Campbells Tomato Soup.
Red-hued Tandoori Chicken is, again, a Pathan dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala is, if anything, British. Like with Murgh Makhni, the story goes that a Scotsman, sodden-drunk as so many of them are wont to be, stumbled himself into a late-night Vindaloo hut somewhere in the Midlands, ordered chicken, and then when it came exclaimed indignantly "oy, wheeer's me gravy? Ye kanno' expect me to eat this wi'oooooot gravy!"
Whereupon the enterprising Bengali cook obliged by mucking it up to a fare-thee-well.
In actual fact it is Muglai in it's inspiration, but rather unknown in India, though quite the most popular dish in England. Indians who know it have eaten it first overseas.

Dum Aloo Vindaloo uses an ingredient from the new world cooked with lots of butter, garlic, and chilies (which are also a new world crop). The word 'alu' originally meant a type of plum, as it still does in Afghanistan, and Vindaloo is bastardized Portuguese, referring to pork chunks cooked with garlic and vinegar, hot and zesty. Dum Alu Vindaloo is delightfully greasy, and a close relative of Alu Makhni (potatoes in butter, cream, and tomato paste).

Naan is Persian and Afghani. The tandoor oven in which it is made came from Central Asia via the Turkish nomads who conquered vast regions in Afghanistan and Iran. Their descendants, the Moghuls, despoiled northern India, and ruled for centuries, profoundly influencing the language, the culture, and the cuisine.

Lastly, rice pilaw, which is the distant relative of the Persian 'polo'.


As you can see, none of these things is Indian. Indian restaurant food would be unthinkable without a huge number of Afghan-Persian borrowings, and the vocabulary to describe them.

But all of them are indeed Indian.


All kitchens avidly borrow from their neighbors, and it is the genius of each cook to twiddle with the concept, yielding results which are as much native as the person who prepared it, and the people who wish to eat it. Derivation plus inspiration and innovation.
As Julia Child informed us, just add more butter.
Everything tastes better with butter.


AFTERTHOUGHT

Everything ALSO tastes better with bacon, cheese, and chilies.

Hmmmm. I believe I should make myself a lamb burger with bacon, cheese, and chilies. With murgh makhni sauce on top. Should be interesting, and transport me gustatorily to far-away climes.
It will be a worthwhile experiment.
Possibly dangerous.


I should probably have a cool refreshing glass of whipped dahi paani to drink with it. Either mithi or namkeen.
What do you think?



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BRIEF EXCURSION INTO OBSESSIVE EYEBALLS - PIPE RESTORATION

The fingers have to be kept busy. Otherwise, unlike braincells when not in use, which atrophy -- just look at the modern American public for examples -- they start doing some incredibly nasty things.
This post is NOT about nasty things. But it could be.
I have quite a fermentive imagination.
And dexterous talent, oh boy.
Think of my fingers.
Nicely nasty.


AN UGLY MOTHER

I recently reworked two pipes. One was a Custom Built, which had been previously owned by a pipe slob. One great advantage of Custom Builts is that because of their 'texturized' look, all gougy and clunks, dings are not a major issue; they fade into the background.
The first thing I said when I saw the pipe was "woa, that's a squirrel brain on a stick!"

Mouthpiece into bleach for two hours, then cleaned out with bristly pipe cleaners and alcohol, buffed till smooth and shiny black again. Note that using bleach does two things: it loosens the oxidation that turns carbon rubber yellowish green, and secondly, because it does so throughout the surface of the material, it makes the stem feel somewhat grainy. Heavy buff with red rouge, followed by a considerably lighter buff. White buffing compound to finish.

The bowl got the salt treatment after that.
First a reasonable reaming of the caked-up crud, then insert a bristly pipe cleaner into the pipe, flush with the mouth of the draft hole.
Kosher salt into the bowl, three quarters of the way up. Small jigger Jim Beam to start the process. Let it sit from morning of the first day till late afternoon of the second. Rinsed out the salt, which was now a rather repulsive shade of brown because of all the muck it had drawn from the wood, and ran alcohol-dipped cleaners through till they came out white.

Pecked away at the rim crud until the wood was clean, used a toothbrush to remove the dirt from the textured area. Mild hand application of polish, worked it over with a cloth.

Let the pipe dry for over a week, then put it (without the stem) in the oven at 180 for three hours.
After letting it cool thoroughly, I put it back together, and went over the stem with polishing cloths. Final wipe.

It looks a lot more presentable now, and smokes very nicely.
There is no trace of the boiled in skunk-juice from the previous owner or his bad choices and unclean habits.


BAD DOG, NO BISCUIT!

The second pipe was a Peterson bent bull-dog, Sherlock Holmes - Squire.
Like many people I am a sucker for bent bull-dogs.
Due to a lowering of their previous admirably neurotic standards, many modern Peterson pipes are lopsided (only an obsessive pipe aficionado would notice), and at price ranges where one would reasonably expect to find perfection, one finds fills instead. I chalk it up to old-geezers with trembling hands being the last pipe makers in Ireland, the younger generation being too imperfect and greedy to train for the job, and corporate ownership that understands branding, marketing, returns on investment, and profit and loss statements; but not pipes.
Running a pipe factory like a business is a lousy way to run a business.
Two fills. Angles buggered-up. Pipe cleaner can't reach bowl.
Jayzus, boys, it ain't gonna become a collectible with all those problems. What's the point of a snooty limited edition (with a silver band, yet), if it's merely an expensive piece of crap?
At those prices, it should be perfect.

Did I mention that I'm a sucker for bent bull-dogs?
And other than the fills, the wood is decent.
Just a bit of cosmetic surgery.

Used long thin tools to adjust the drill. Reshaped the bowl -- it's now symmetrical and fill-free. Sanded it with progressively finer grits till velvety. Colour-matched the Peterson stain, buffed and polished it.
It had been an excellent smoke from the very beginning, but given how much hand-work was required to make it aesthetically decent, the retail price was too damned high.



I had smoked that Peterson pipe last when using 'chemical warfare' against the 'tofuheads for jihad' protesters over two years ago.
"Do you mind NOT smoking that THING here?!?"
'Yes. Yes, I do mind. Piss off.'
I could taste their ire.
Delicious.

I'm fairly sure it wasn't the bollocky angle or the fills.
Probably the tobacco. Profoundly stinky.
Both Latakia AND Perique.
Good times.





TOBACCO INDEX


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Saturday, August 24, 2013

THE CHARM OF CIGAR SMOKERS

Over two weeks ago someone told me something which, the more I think about it, the more it excites my brain. I lead a shallow life, and am easily amused; minor matters become obsessive mental percolata.

Freddy solemnly informed me that I was a jinx. He averred that my conversations with women at the cigar bar chased them away, and ruined everyone else's chances of getting laid.
That night. Or any other night. Ever. Again.
Kind of a massive bad karma effect.
Stop doing that, dude.

Well colour me flabbergasted. I had NO idea that men came to the cigar bar to cruise for chicks. Seeing as there are hardly ever any chicks in the place, their chances of a bit of nookity are slim.
Virtually nil. Not quite an absolute and scientific zero, but so very unlikely that they might as well resolve to be monkishly chaste and pure for the rest of their lives.

It's a cigar bar.

I go there to smoke. I bring pipes and a positive attitude, intending to enjoy some fine tobacco and excellent conversation.

Probably the last thing on my mind at those times is the hugely unlikely prospect of romance ambushing me there.
It is, as I stress, a cigar bar.


The "chick" whom I allegedly chased away was in her sixties. And she's a cigar smoker.
Freddy is in his thirties. And also a cigar smoker.

A match made in heaven?

Dude, I didn't know you liked blondes that much!



If, exceptionally, I end up in conversation with a female at the cigar bar, it is because I expect that she can hold her own. That cheroot in her mouth indicates that she is there for a smoke. And she may very well hold strong views. Or have insights. Conceivably backed-up by knowledge and experience.
It's possible.

Besides, I do not "pick up women in bars".
Any decision fuelled by nicotine and alcohol is guaranteed to be bad. Whichever side of the male-female dynamic leaps upon the opportunity.
It's just not a wise thing to do.

I will admit that the idea of finding a cigar-smoking mate is strangely exciting (despite being a pipe-smoking man), but there are other things that are as important. More important.
A woman in her sixties, with grandchildren, who is bigger and taller than myself, lives in Los Angeles, and works for a big banking firm, and is Christian besides, is not exactly the ticket. By a wide margin.
Even after half an hour of discussion, I still did not know what she reads. What she watches. What she eats. What she does for fun.
Or whether there might be odd psychoses or neuroses.
The liking for cigars becomes a minor detail.
No, I'm not narrow-minded.


As a further consideratum, at any given time, women are outnumbered at least twenty to one in the cigar bar. And many of them go there to smoke cigarettes. The fact that it is the last remaining place in San Francisco where one can have a quiet hour with a smoke and a drink seems like a crucial detail, and was very likely fundamental to their decision to enter the door. Cigar-smoking women are even rarer.
Despite our false self-images as fabulous cheroot-bearing Don Juans, we should respect their desire to enjoy the profoundly stinky ambiance, and welcome them.

Hi. How are you? What are you smoking?


But hey, Freddy, if you want to offer grandma a drink, several drinks, and then tempt her with your humidor filled with illegal Havanas, go right ahead.
Don't blame me if you wake up with your throat slashed.
She's in finance; she might be an axe-murderer.
And she's from Los Angeles, dude.
They're unbalanced there.
We'll miss you.



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Friday, August 23, 2013

BRADLEY MANNING, EDWARD SNOWDEN, AND JULIAN ASSANGE

Judging by the huge amount of bile that various Europeans have spewed in recent days about the sentencing of that puff-pastry scumball Bradley Manning, the greatest danger to the United States lies in Europe. There are far more fervent America-haters among our allies than all the Muslim world put together.
We would do well to tighten visa procedures.

Several commenters under newspaper articles in Dutch, German, French, and Danish -- and probably other languages which I have never bothered to learn, as I was never interested in what those people think -- have opined that Bradley Manning is a hero, who deserves a statue and the Nobel Peace Prize, and that the United States is a fascist country that should be destroyed; we're worse than Russia, China, and North Korea, where citizens who do what he did get rewarded.

Additionally, all of us Americans are the rejected scum of Europe, hypocrites, ignorant and savage, and should be exterminated.


No, not all of them have said that. There are still humans in Europe. But there are far too many weasels and quislings there, and much of their society is more rotten and verminous than you can imagine.

I lived there for sixteen years. I have no desire to ever live there again. The hatred that so many people so openly radiate towards America and Americans is more than enough reason to only visit occasionally, and then only briefly.


Jazeker, beste Nederlanders, ik wens volstrekt nooit weer temidden van ulieden te wonen. Ik kan mij zelfs niets onplezanter en onmenselijker voorstellen dan omringd te zijn door dat nietswetende begriploze droogkloterij dat velen onder u allen met zo'n kotsneigingverwekkende verwaandheid uitstralen.

[Note: basically the preceding text encapsulated.]


I too am rather appalled at the thirty-five year sentence.
Bradley Manning should be stood against a wall and shot.
Same for Edward Snowden. As well as Julian Assange.
And several people in Europe.


Readers, feel free to disagree.

Please, no spelling errors.

You can do it if you try.




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Thursday, August 22, 2013

DID YOU SAY "NAKED THESPIANS"?

The other day I was in conversation with a businessman over in Marin, whose knowledge of his field is extensive, along with his memory for the people involved therein over the years. He's been doing what he does for about four decades, and knows most of the players who have filtered into or out of the trade.

At one point, I asked him if he remembered the charming lesbian who worked at the store in the Embarcadero Center.
There were about six other people around us at the time.
I could feel the aura of twelve ears perking up.

The conversation very soon included everyone in the place, and it went downhill from there. I never did find out about the charming lesbian.

I should point out that all of us were men, mostly cigar smokers.


Apparently cigar smokers are fascinated by the concept of "charming lesbian". Which I can very well understand, as the perception is that if any member of the opposite gender is going to be open to the appeal of cigars, it very well could be a lesbian. The ultra-femmy types are more likely to squeal in disgust and announce "I'm going to shop for some Jimmy Choo's, all of you stink!", then flounce off without even considering the tender feelings of the smoker, or that it took a decade to train the roller of said cheroot. She may look like a gorgeous bit of fluff, all perky and sweet, but when it comes to things that the men in her life like, she's a pit-viper, and quite toxic.

Whereas a lesbian might brightly say "why yes, I would like another slice of pizza, thank you very much", after which she herself would set fire to a La Flor Dominicana double ligero, and savour the fine aroma of that dark oily leaf. Because it's sensuous.

Very likely, the cigar smoker would be tempted to date her. But, if he's got half a brain, he'd realize that there's no hope of converting her, and even if there was, his paunch, jowliness, and age would not appeal to her.
Far better perhaps to simply buy her another drink, and listen to her thoughtful take on the crisis in Egypt.
Sadly, he'll have another bourbon, and treasure the moment.
What a pity she's 'that way'.

All of this, the trim-looking youthful fifty-three year-old pipe-smoker observes with considerable amusement and good humour. Given that he isn't into cigars, and realizes that women of any gender-bend might actually be fond of a good smoke. Not just lesbians. But he realizes that unlike briar, el ropos do appeal to women.
Very few women smoke pipes.


Most men are intrigued by lesbians. Mention the word "lesbian", and their eyes brighten. Lesbian, lesbianism, and a plurality of lesbians ("two of them"), are all concepts that spark intellectual activity on a monumental scale. Part of it is the risqué frisson that the idea gives them, part of it is an incredulity that there are women out there who actually would prefer other women over middle-aged men with paunches, jowls, and cigar breath.

That, I assume, is why so many people search for undiluted lesbians on the internet.
Must be all those thick-set sixty plus cigar-smokers.
Looking for a challenge.



As a pipe-smoker, I am infinitely more realistic.
Though I occasionally smoke Oliva cigars.
A woman recommended them to me.
The serie V is stellar.


I am far less intrigued by the idea of naked lesbians than the thought of fully dressed women. Unlike cigar smokers, I do not consider life a puzzle or a video-game.



Post scriptum: the reason why I used the word "thespian" in the title of this post is two-fold: firstly, when you have a JFR Robusto Corojo clenched between your lips, you will naturally lisp 'lesbian' into 'thespian'.
Cigars cause slurry mumbling and smacky sounds.
Second, if I had used 'lesbian' in the title, there would have been an internet riot. So many men confuse 'lesbian' with 'challenging', and 'charming' with 'naked', that the comments would have gone through the roof, and I'd be hard put to make sense of all their inspiration.
Blog responsibly, do NOT write about naked lesbians.
Naked is indeed charming, but not all nakedness.
And there is far more to charm than nudity.
Lesbians aren't really challenging.
They just are.


I do not liththpp. I can thpeak aroun' the thtem og the pipe.


Naked lesbians cause stampedes.



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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

THE CURRENT POPULATION OF MY BED

Despite not being involved in a relationship with a member of the other gender, the place where I repose is livelier than ever. Largely due to the anarchists who have taken over.
They're a rowdy bunch, pesky at times.
Instigators of social unrest.


In order:

Oliver - a small purple dinosaur with strange ideas about women.
Hammond Starr - a repugnant white dwarf-weasel with a thing for Henry.
Henry - a perfectly straight male-chauvenist teddy-bear.
George - a gallant hippo who robs banks.
Giuseppe Bob - a rooster often mistaken for a turkey.
Totoro One - grinning.
Totoro Two - bemused.
Totoro Three - one inch tall, and not happy about that.
Manfred - a psychologically scarred teddy bear.
Guenther - a raccoon with an accent.
Tyrone Thibbit - an amphibian ('froad') with a big smile.
Miss Kitten - Tyrone's sadistic love interest.
Lucien - a small fat green frog.
Hello Kitty - notorious Japanese degenerate.
Eeeeek - elderly Halloween spider, arthritic.
Trotter - a piglet with a red bow who likes pick-up trucks, guns, country music, and Farmer Brown, who always fed her apples.
Edna - a very disturbed teddy bear.
The Snake - a pervert; like Edna, he wishes to eat Snidely.
Snidely - the head sheep. Not very bright.

And, of course, Eurasmus Wazzoo.

Eurasmus Wazzoo demands that I purchase the banana plantation his little simian heart desires, or else! Apparently it's a religious obligation to get him the farm. He'll tell the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Apes all about me if I don't. There will be repercussions.

He's a gibbon.

Never trust gibbons.

They're loud, and insistently opinionated. Plus rude and somewhat rambunctious. It's a wonder that the others haven't clobbered him yet, considering all the insane things he's said about them.
Fortunately for him, they're evenly trivided between oblivious, hard of hearing, and pre-occupied with their own thing.

Most of them want to steal my wallet while I'm asleep, some of them would prefer to poke me with a sharp stick.

Any woman who comes near this bunch of rowdies had best be made of stern stuff. She will be sorely put upon. And co-opted into their various schemes. They will demand that I be made to hand over the wallet, buy the plantation, acquire a bucket of really juicy honey beetles for the amphibs, heat up the cast-iron skillet, and organize the grand Head Sheep Day Parade (which is always "tomorrow").

If it happens, I'll need ticker tape.


I'd put them in front of the teevee, but they'd fight over the remote control.


I'm resigned to sleeping amidst a riot.



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KIND THOUGHTS ABOUT BLONDES

The astounding news recently is that someone tried to extort nude photos of Miss Teen California Cassidy Wolf. Which I cannot understand, because she doesn't look like she has any mathematical ability, and might be related to Paris Hilton.
As many blondes are.

She rather has that exotic hothouse flower look that I associate with pure-breds. Concerning which, it must be said that the most pure-bred canine on the planet is the Collie, which has a brain of approximately the same thickness and mental capacity as a slice of ham.

You know that sound when you smack your palms together?
Exactly! Brain like that.


I know I'm being judgmental here, for all I know she might be another Einstein. As well as a really sweet girl that all the neighbors love, and a wonderful inspiration to us all. It's a possibility.
I'm just not into that whole blonde gestalt.
Years ago I lived among them.



Not that it in any way contributes to an understanding of blondes, or shows either them, or the people who are not like them at all, in a favourable light -- heck, for no other reason than that it is splendidly and insanely tasteless -- here's a wikipedia quote about the French reality show Les Gladiatrices: Blondes vs. Brunes"

"One day someone came. A guy, probably. In one sentence, he managed to bring the words "Girls", "Fight", "Oil" and "Swimwear". A true genius. Someone replied. A guy, probably. Him, his only contribution was to add the words "TV" and "reality." The gladiators were born. The official concept of wrestling matches made between two groups of girls, the brunettes one side and the other blondes. Each team consists of five beautiful girls from the TV that fight in swimsuit and one to one, on a circular tatami installed in a warehouse. They will be coached by a male, a true, also coming from the TV. The informal concept (the most obvious): Girls with big breasts, oiled head to toe by the male in question will roll over in hugging and uttering little cries of pain. A fantasy come true, and on TV. When I spoke of genius ..."

Source: French Culture.


Actually, that sounds very much like a beauty pageant.
It could be the talent portion.



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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A FRIENDLY-LOOKING MAN

To the best of my knowledge I've only met one celebrity. And the chances are that you have never heard of him. Trust me, he's big.
Deservedly so.

Nearly twenty years ago he was browsing in a bookstore around the corner from my house. Quite likely looking for something light and sprightly to read before bedtime after a long flight.
I believe he was staying at the Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue at the time, and he may have had performances scheduled at the Masonic Auditorium and in Las Vegas.

I was probably the only person in the store who recognized him. Two movies in which he performed are indelibly imprinted on my mind, namely 'Boat People' (投奔怒海) and 'Heart to Hearts'. The first you've probably heard of, the second is a 1988 comedy of which the Chinese name makes a lot more sense than the English title: 三人世界 (saam yan sai kaai) -- three people world. It's about a mother and daughter, and the man whose presence interferes with their lives.
To be totally honest, I remember that movie as much for the stellar performances of the two women characters as for the fact that he was the male lead.


小鬍鬚

George Lam Chi Cheung (林子祥) has appeared in over three dozen movies in a career that spans thirty five years. But he's far better known for his singing than his acting. At sixty five years old, he's still going strong. Recently he performed in Vegas.

Nah, I ain't gonna embed a video of him singing. He does lighthearted stuff, mostly sensitive and romantic. Not my favourite style of music. What made him remarkable for me was the straightforward quality of the man, which comes through in his acting. His face is expressive.

Which is where his facial hair comes in. It's an instantly recognizable feature, especially as not many Cantonese go for the fuzz about the mouth. Consequently, one of his nicknames is 'siu wu-sou' ("little mustache").
I think that's what he was actually called in a few movies.























I do not know when the picture above was taken. But even today he still looks remarkably boyish and innocent. It's an intelligent face, that could belong to an engineer posted to a test-range in Nevada, or a manager for the Banque de l'Indochine in Swatow or Long Thọ.

If you saw him today, you'd instantly recognize him.


You would think him quite a likable fellow.


He'd make a good assassin.




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Monday, August 19, 2013

A MEAL WITHOUT CHILIES OR ACHAR OR EVEN CAPERS!

The classic Indian restaurant raita is composed of creamy yoghurt, dark-toasted cumin, salt, and chopped cucumber, often with either a touch of onion for zippities, or shredded carrot for colour. Which is remarkably odd and unimaginative, because raitas come in all possible variations, often including as the main non-yoghurt component things like banana, or gourd, or blanched stringy veggies, and the name itself derives from the word for mustard -- rai -- the fried seeds of which add a lovely sparkle to the dish.
Rai is often not part of a restaurant raita.

In point of fact, the mustardless Indian restaurant raita is not really the standard by which to judge all raitas.

Neither is what I had for lunch.


Which was a ham, salami, and minced frankfurter raita. With lots of chopped cucumber. And a pinch of dark-toasted cumin, plus salt.
No mustard seed.

It was rather lovely on buttered toast, washed down with strong tea.


No, of course I did not have that at an eatery or snacketaria, be real! Do you really think that a merchant no matter how enterprising and creative would serve that?
I made it at home.
At around three thirty five or so in the afternoon.
Nine hours after the breakfast I did not have.
When I realized that I was hungry.

It wasn't until I had eaten that I wished that I had added some chilies or achar. Or capers. It seemed incomplete. That was last week.
I should probably make it again.
It bears experimentation.
And "improvement".

Or at least second thought.



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Sunday, August 18, 2013

WAN CHAI IN HONG KONG: YAT JUNG LEUNG KIN

The Chinese phrase captioning this article (一盅兩件 'yat jung leung kin') refers to a quick breakfast at a dimsum place. One bowl of tea, and two dishes from the cart. Which was the norm at several famous restaurants in the district, such as Lung Mun (龍門大酒樓) located on Johnston Road (莊士敦道) near the intersection of O'Brien (柯布連道). Lung Mun no longer exists. For sixty years they served dim sum (點心) and very nice roast pork (燒肉 'siu-yiuk') and other fire-meats (燒味). Good place for lunch, very popular with office workers.

It was a classic old-style shop-building, that eventually faded into a parody of its environment.

But many people remember it fondly.

Red paint, gold lettering, mildew, and cigarette smoke.

Originally called 龍鳳大酒樓 in 1949, it was renamed a decade later.
Last I heard it's a hole in the ground, but maybe not.
Things happen fast in Hong Kong.


You could have gone there by double decker tram.
It was right near the Toishan Centre (台山中心), not far from the Tai Wo Street Playground (大和街遊樂場).

The tram still runs along Johnston Street, and riding it at night is a splendid way of seeing the densest part of Wanchai (灣仔). The route curves past highrise office buildings, commercial and retail densities, and tightly clustered residential estates. Well, except for an emptiness opposite O'Brien Road. Which may be filled-in by now.
The Vanville (海源中心 'hoi yuen jung sam') was built near there, in case you're looking for a good property investment.

[As a slight side-track, Wanchai is religiously more diverse than most of Hong Kong. Parsees, Sikhs, and Methodists were among the first non-natives to found places of worship there, and have thrived in the district.
Two places to visit, if you tire of shopping and bar-hopping -- and if you're a civilized person, you might not engage in those activities at all while visiting the place -- are the Hung Shing Temple (洪聖古廟 'hung seng gu miu') at 129-131 Queen's Road East (皇后大道東), near fabulous shopping (!), where Lord Hung Shing (洪聖爺 'Hung Seng Yeh') is venerated, and the Khalsa Diwan Gurdwara at 371 Queen's Road East, not far from Wong Nai Chung Road (黃泥涌道)). The main entrance to the gurdwara is on Q.R.E. at the intersection of Stubbs Road (司徒拔道), there's a back gate on Hau Tak Lane (厚德里), which is accessible from Wong Nai Chung, just south of the intersection with Q.R.E., on the right-hand side.
Both places are easy walking distance from where Lung Mun used to stand.]



What's remarkable is that this whole area, now so densely populated, was the most disease-ridden part of the colony in her first years of existence. Not only malaria, because of the marshy ground, but also rife with black death and tuberculosis. As well as rampant syphilis and gonorrhea among the British sailors, soldiers, and lower-level clerks.
Which accounts for the great number of hospitals.
And explains the numerous graveyards.

It was, as a famous American politician might explain, a kinder gentler era. And I'm relatively sure that that's a euphemism for nasty, brutish, and depraved.
Those are all stellar benefits of civilization.

For nearly half a century Wanchai has been a far healthier place to live, and it is the part of Hong Kong (香港) that tourists (啲游客鬼 di yau haak gwai) are most familiar with, seeing as many of them fear the vast interior of Kowloon (九龍半島 'kau lung pun tau') and the New Territories (新界 'san kaai'), and seldom venture there. Except, perhaps, for a brief expedition to Canton Road (廣東道 'gwon tung tou') for even more fabulous shopping (上街購物 'seung gai gau mat').


Really, other than shopping, what is there to DO in Hong Kong?


Well, you might eat. There's lots of fabulous food there. Not all of it need be expensive. You could have a bowl of jook and a yau tiu (rice porridge and a fried dough stick for dipping (一碗粥同埋一根油條 'yat wun juk tong maai yat gan yau tiu') as a midnight snack (食宵夜 'sik siu yeh') at a roadside food cart (大牌檔 'daai pai dung') with some friends. Very cheap and delicious (好平, 好味 'ho peng, ho mei').
Go to a noisy dimsum restaurant (茶樓 'cha lau') for yumcha (飲茶) at breakfast or lunch. Feast upon roast duck rice (燒鴨飯) or roast goose rice (燒鵝飯) at a tea restaurant (茶餐廳 'cha chan teng').

Those are just suggestions; the possibilities are endless, at any price range. There are even superior French and Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, and you need never leave Wanchai to explore the entire world.



On a smoke-filled evening last week, English Dave fondly mentioned two of his favourite restaurants in Chinatown -- the Utopia Café and Capitol Restaurant -- and talked about clay pots. The Utopia is known for claypot dishes, and the Capitol is very popular among families and middle-aged people. They have good chicken wings, and a large selection of other things. As well as clay pots.
Both places do home style food. You can go entirely off the chart at either place, but if all you want is steamed meat patty (咸魚蒸肉餅 'haahm yu jing yiuk beng'), or bitter melon and fish over rice (涼瓜斑球飯 'leung gwa pan kau fan'), they do that too.

K-chai wistfully mentioned one of his best meals ever, when he was still a child. He had been playing soccer with his friends at the Happy Valley Recreation Ground (跑馬地遊樂場 'pau maa dei yau lok cheung', 快活谷 'faai wut guk'), which is a short way uphill from the Sikh Temple previously mentioned, just off Wong Nai Chung.
After the ball game, the boys dispersed, and some of them found an eatery with duck and roast meats hanging in the window. Big scoop of rice into a Styrofoam, thick slices of juicy charsiu on top, and a splash of soy-sauce pan drippings over. Just sit outside on the curb scooping that into your mouth.
So good, so good!

[Just guessing, but Tung Shing (東成燒臘飯店) at Bowrington Road (寶靈頓道) has been around for a while, as has Hung Fat (鴻發燒臘飯店). Bowrington Road is very likely, being directly downhill from the sports fields, easy to get to. There's also a place right in the centre of Wanchai Road, between Bowrington and Canal Road West (堅拿道西 gin naa tou sai), where there are lots of food stores and groceries, very busy.]


He asked me which places in Chinatown did the best pork (燒肉 'siu yiuk', and 叉燒 'charsiu').
There are two I recommend: The New Hong Kong Kam Po on Powell and Broadway, where the Toishanese gentleman chopping the meats is hard to understand because I do not speak Toisan, and Gourmet on Stockton between Jackson and Pacific, west side of the street.
No tables at the second place, strictly to-go.

[This category of Cantonese food is called siu mei (燒味), sometimes siu-lahp (燒臘). Important elements: roast duck (燒鴨 'siu ngaap'), barbecue pork (叉燒 'charsiu'), roast pork (燒肉 'siu yiuk'), salt water chicken (鹵水雞 'lo-sui kai'), white boiled chicken (白切雞 'paak jek kai'), soy-sauce chicken (豉油雞 'si-yau kai').]


Kam Po is very highly regarded; there's a line outside right around dinner time. People get some roast pork, or duck, or soy chicken. They'll take it home to set alongside whatever else is on the family table. It's convenient and delicious. Be sure to tell the chopper fellow that you like fatty meat (鍾意肥嘅 "jung-yi fei-ge").

I actually prefer the duck at Gourmet, because it's richer and greasier, and heaven to just bury your face in when your alone and not trying to impress anyone. Newspaper on the table, wet paper towels.
Duck, rice, and oh heck eat with your hands.



蔘滿意粥 UTOPIA CAFE
139 Waverly Place, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-956-2902
[Saam Mun-yi Juk.]

京都餐館 CAPITAL RESTAURANT
839 Clay Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-397-6269
[King To Tsan-kwun.]

港新寶燒腊小食 KAM PO (H.K.) K.
KAM PO KITCHEN
801 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133.
Telephone: 415-982-3516.
[Gong San Po Siu-lahp Sui-sik.]

新凱豐燒臘店 GOURMET DELIGHT BARBECUE
1045 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-392-3288.
[San Hoi Fung Siu-lahp Diem.]



AFTERTHOUGHT: A little further down toward the water, at Canal Road East (堅拿道東), Goose Neck Bridge (鵝頸橋 'ngoh keng kiu') is long gone, but the area remains known as Ngo Keng. Now very built up, highrises, estates, commercial space.
Under the overpass at Hennesey Road (軒尼詩道 'hin nei si tou') you can still find a ta siu yan po (打小人婆) to curse your enemies. Highly recommended, solves all troubles, ensures business prosperity!




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