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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

EXCEPT THE SOCK MONKEY

There are TWO monkeys with whom I have a close and personal connection. Both were veterans of the company at which I used to work, and both have abandonment issues. But the second one is completely sane. A very decent little purple-black fellow.
Serious, polite, and a capable all-rounder.
Not so the first.
He's nuts.


Many years ago the evil elf in charge of the Marketing Department kidnapped him (first monkey) from the lab in Product Development, where they had been running experiments chopping off his leg and palling him up with alcoholic Elmo -- Elmo being one of the muppets, a nasty fuzzy yellow degenerate who likes whiskey and cigarettes -- and stuffed him in a savage pumpkin daemon's mouth for Halloween.
No, the bastards in Marketing did NOT win the carving contest that year.
I think Product Development did; creative geniuses.
We never found out what they did with the leg. It's probably roaming trash-dumps and hobo jungles as a zombie limb, with animatronic Frankensteinian modifications. Drug addicts and alkies all over the Bay Area wake up screaming because of it.

I didn't eat it, no matter what you may have heard.

Urasmus Wazzoo (the monkey) spent several days on display in the company kitchen, before the office manager decided that Halloween was so last week and attracting fruit flies.
I rescued him, took him home with me, cleaned him, and sewed up the wounds. Ever since then he's been furiously demanding that I supply him with bananas and pork. It is because of him that we refer to a certain class of meat products in our household as "pink tofu".

When my apartment mate fries up rashers of pink tofu in the morning, he starts screaming.


"PIIIIIIIIIG! GIMME!"


I ignore it. Nothing can interest me in fried food that early. Shut up, furball, it's just fatty beancurd.

Like all of the insane roomies, he lives on my side of the apartment.

The sane ones are over in my apartment mate's room.

I certainly did not plan it this way.

I suspect foul play.

A plot.


The second monkey was holding down the fort in the Marketing Department area in the days after our big move to a warehouse in Hayward.
There were still credenzas and chairs to load in the old location, and I went there to help shift things and pack up the remaining odds and ends, which is how I came to discover him all by himself.
We had first met in 2001, and even at that time I recognized a kindred spirit. But he was in Marketing, whereas I was in Finance, so we didn't talk much.

In September of 2012, he was the last man standing as regards our San Francisco office. So whenever I had a credenza to wheel to the rear entrance, I perched him on top of it to supervise and navigate.
We roared through the halls at top speed.


"WHEEEEEEE!"


That was me yelling. The monkey remained utterly calm.

Didn't crash more than once. And that was because we lost a wheel; cheap cubicle furnishings. A mere technical issue, I should've checked the landing gear first. Arabello Oyster proved an adept 'control monkey'.

Of course I brough him home with me. If those oafs in Marketing are going to forsake a valued and intelligent member of their team, and leave him in a deserted office, screw them. They don't deserve him!


Urasmus (the first monkey) is bitterly resentful. We don't need more than one monkey, he avers, and since he himself is the best possible simian there is, mr. Oyster should leave, just leave. Go on, push off! And why, he demands, do I address that creature with the honoric "mister"? What kind of a doofus name is "Arabello Oyster"? Control Monkey?
What's this about "Control Monkey"?
Stupid gorilla!

Arabello Oyster spends a lot of time on the other side, talking to the Teddy Bear and the others who live there. He's a very considerate creature.

Unlike Urasmus Wazzoo, who just thinks about bananas and pork.


Actually, there is a third monkey. Of the sock persuasion. He too is a rather nice chap. But my apartment mate's boy friend is the reason for him living with us. So he doesn't share the experiences and memories that Urasmus, Arabello, and I do. He was never at the same place, and we don't know too much about his past.

He hardly visits, and spends most of his time with the cat.



I'm slightly allergic to bananas.




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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

START HOARDING SRIRACHA

Earlier this year, the makers of Sriracha Hotsauce -- more beloved than ketchup and mustard combined -- moved from Rosemead to a bigger facility in Irwindale. Since then, the ungrateful sods who live in Irwindale have been bellyaching about burning eyes, throat irritation, and headaches brought on by the chili fragrance coming from the plant.

In the jaundiced and pepper-loving eyes of this blogger, Sriracha is a national treasure, so all those wussy whitebread Irwindalites should just shut up and choke on it.


A factory that turns out two hundred thousand bottles of crimson gold each day brings infinite happiness to millions, who otherwise would have to suffer the agonies of tasteless waspy food in the American hinterlands.

Besides, chilies are a potent source of vitamin C.
There are several important health benefits.
Improve your life, and your attitude.
Chili makes Texas bearable.
Suck it up.


"Inspectors from the South Coast Air Quality Management District checked out the plant twice with no citations made and the factory never received complaints during its 30-year residency in Rosemead"

[Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/foodbeast/sriracha-ceo-warns-a-fact_b_4175853.html?utm_hp_ref=los-angeles&ir=Los+Angeles.]


The miserable cretins who run the city of Irwindale have filed suit to halt production. At least for the foreseeable future, while a solution to the problem of wussy neighbors is found. Given that life in the United States is tolerable ONLY because of saintly chili condiment producers such as the Tran family, whose products bring light and joy and the blessing of civilization to the dark and miserable hinterlands of Texas, Connecticut, and New Jersey (and other locales whose names we can't remember), it is inevitable that a cessation of bottling for even one day will have a profound impact.


"If the city shuts us down, the price of Sriracha will jump up a lot"

[Sriracha CEO and founder David Tran]



Not having questioned the "experts" in Irwindale who are strongly suggesting that the Trans lay out over half a million dollars for a "recommended" cleansing system, I do not know what's going on in their heads. Being a cynic, I naturally suspect a shakedown. Stranger things have happened. This is the United States, and gangsterism in city halls is not unknown. Several vile East-Coast burgs have been controlled by criminal enterprises for years. Both Chicago and New York are infamous for endemic and pervasive corruption. So the idea that someone well-connected to a relative of a bigwig in Irwindale, in a truly remarkable coincidence, either sells or installs "cleansing systems", is not entirely unrealistic.

I refuse to even consider the "testimony" or "complaints" that are alleged to have come from nearby residents. Just like the time my apartment mate fled the kitchen coughing and choking theatrically, while I was making a charred chili condiment, I must assume that it's merely smoke and thunder, no real substance. She recovered within days, and her consumption of peppery substance has shot up dramatically in the two decades since. Why, she'll even add a teaspoon of one of my sauces to a large pot of stew!
Before, she handled the bottle with tongs!
How could I eat that stuff?
Degenerate!



Products which you may have trouble finding till Irwindale comes to its senses include:

Sriracha: Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilies which are ground into a smooth paste along with garlic and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle. It is excellent in soups, sauces, pastas, pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers, chowmein or on anything else to give it a delicious, spicy taste. Like all our sauces, we use only the highest quality ingredients and never any artificial colors or flavorings.

Available in 17 oz. and 28 oz. bottles.


Chili Garlic: Chili Garlic is a tempting blend of coarsely ground chilies and garlic. The delicious flavor of the sauce complements everything from a cracker to poultry to soups. It has a full-bodied flavor that will make your mouth water.

Available in 8 oz., 18oz., and 8.75 lbs. sizes.


Sambal Oelek: Sambal Oelek is made of chilies with no other additives such as garlic or spices for a more simpler taste. Use this sauce to add heat to a dish without altering the other delicate flavors.

Available in 8 oz., 18 oz., and 8.50 lbs. sizes.


Instructions for mail-ordering are here: Order Information


THE SQUEEZE

There are substitutes, of course. It is likely that at some point I'll walk into one of my favourite places in Chinatown, and instead of the bright red bottle with the proud rooster and the cheerful green cap, I'll see some product from Hong Kong, the mainland, or Malaysia, on the tables.
The imitation from Hong Kong is actually rather good.
But why give those others any business at all?
Sriracha was invented here in the U.S.
David Tran is one of ours.

Sriracha is mom, the flag, and apple pie.

Irwindale. Whoever heard of such a thing?


Forsooth!



AFTER WORD

Indicating how serious this threat by the odious oafs who run Irwindale (population: 1422) is, even the BBC has an article about this news.

Quote:
The city of Irwindale has asked a judge to prevent Huy Fong Foods from making the spicy condiment until the factory submits plan to reduce the smell.

Huy Fong representatives have said they are actively trying to fix the problem and have received no citations.

Sriracha sauce is sold around the world, and there was even a recent Sriracha festival in LA.
End quote.

[Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24737588.]


Any bottleneck or delay will be a profound hardship. Several of the people who live in residential hotels on Broadway, in the Tenderloin, and south of Market Street, depend upon the stuff. Many other San Franciscans rely on it to make lunch in the Financial District exciting, or even edible.

There are more of us than the entire city of Irwindale.

We have pitchforks.



NOTE: Any thoughts you have about the blackmail brouhaha, or the vast reservoirs of selfish stupidity of the goombas who run Irwindale, can be voiced here: 'City Manager'.
Remember to be polite.




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ÉS MOST VALAMI EGÉSZEN MÁS

In 1971, the British Empire lay in ruins. Foreigners frequented the streets, many of them Hungarians. On the twenty-eighth day of May of that year, a handy phrasebook was published for those Hungarians.
Life since has never been the same.

That momentous event and the profound social changes it brought about, inevitably lead to this:


MELBIMBÓK FELROBBAN ÖRÖMEBÉN!



Of course you understood every word. Die schöne Magyar lenkvitch is your second nature. The internet exists for only three things: cute kitten pictures, pornography, and Hungarians.


SZTALINGRAD, NEM SOKAT SZÓRAKOZÁST!



Well, maybe also Fikusz Kukisz. But it's MOSTLY cute kitten pictures, pornography, and Hungarians.
Tényleg.



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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WANTING TO BE ANGELA

Further revelations by the attention hog who bailed out to Russia after China refused to give him asylum (Edward Snowden) make clear that the United States had boundless curiosity about the shopping lists, tweets, and hectoring private messages of several very important people.

Angela Merkel, for instance. Our government now knows what she ate every day, as well as whether her jock itches. In a manner of speaking, of course, because her jock might never have itched.
Germans are the cleanest people of Europe, and any jocks they could have, or have control over, probably smell like flowers.
Or at least sterile and sustainably green.

They bugged her cell-phone.

One has to wonder why. Most text-messages, even from fascinating and brilliant politicians, have to be utterly boring.

"Sweetie", her husband will have texted, "can you swing by the Russian embassy for some caviar?"

"Aber zicherlich, liebchen", she will have texted back, "hast du den garbage by dem Französischen amtszimmer aus gedumpt?"

Yes, in private, German leaders no doubt still hate the French. The French office referred to above is probably the putrid ditch that runs past her townhouse.
It's filled with frogs.

Then followed a whole flood of German or Sorbian text messages, punctuated by 'O mein Gott', 'for sicher', und 'lachend aus laut'.
Plus smiley faces and emoticons.
Genau super über affengeil.
Ja doch.

All of which are lovingly catalogued by the NSA, in files dating back to 2002. The CIA is STILL trying to figure out what it all means. Germans can be so devious and opaque, sie schreiben mit gebrochene schrift.
Google Translate doesn't make it any easier.
Nor does hiring a teenager.
Hmph! Technology!


I do not have a cell-phone. My life is not as fascinating as Angela Merkel's. No one would even bother to keep track of my text messages. Mr. Snowden and the NSA conspire to make all the rest of us feel inadequate. Especially those of us who still use carrier pigeons.

Instead of cell-phone radiation giving us huge brainholes, skin disease, and cancerous tumours, we are surrounded by suspiciously large deposits of pigeon shit. It's the cost of being antediluvian.


In a different life I could have been a German politica. It would've required planning, however. As well as co-ordination with the Americans.
And a fancy electronic pigeon.

Angela Merkel is a babe.

The NSA agrees.

She's hot.

OMG.







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Monday, October 28, 2013

BLACKEST MISCHIEF

Over in the Netherlands, the staid and phlegmatic Dutch are losing their minds over blackface. On the whole, they're for it. Support it nearly one hundred percent. Putting on blackface and prancing around like a fool once a year is a great social good, which benefits society.
Truly, they love their blackfaced clowns.

[Background: On the evening of December fifth, Saint Nicholas rides across the roofs with his Moorish servants (all named 'Zwarte Piet' (Black Pete), and distributes gifts to good little children. Bad little children are told that the saint and his pals might beat the crap out of them and stuff them in a burlap bag, never to be seen again. Naturally, some people dress up as the saint and his friends. Blackface. It's somewhat controversial.]

A popular singer to whose music I do not listen, and whose entire oeuvre does not twinkle my toes, got in hot water with some of her legion of fans by opining on faceboook: "Wat staan wij Nederlanders voor lul !! En niet 1 gemeente in Nederland die het eens anders wil gaan aanpakken. Ga je schamen!"

Roughly translated: 'Man we Dutch look like dicks! And not ONE city that even wishes to try a different approach. Be ashamed of yourselves!'


Well, white folks in blackface IS a problematic issue. And it is more than a little doubtful that a single one of those Black Petes intends to give a realistic and deeply thought-out performance of a black man.
The bogeymen associated with the giftgiving festivities of Saint Nicholas all over Europe are quite the beasts. Literally so in several countries; middle Europe has Krampus, the Italians have Befana the witch, the Scandi- navians have Tomten (more or less a troll), along with re-enactments of blood sacrifice and a thrashing, Iceland has Gryla the hag who kidnaps children and eats them (her sons are the gifters, leaving potatoes for naughty kids), and the soft-drink industry popularized the fat bearded pervert.
Santa and Saint Nicholas were originally pagan goblins, and the whole tradition ultimately derives from the Germanic chief god Odin or Wotan (Yolnir) riding on a wild hunt through the night-time sky with his host (the Herlaþing), all of whom are wondrous and frightening, around the middle of winter, pursuing miscreants and passing over the good people. Following which a large number of terrified farm animals are slaughtered, and everybody gets riotously stinko drunk smeared with blood.
Scaring little children is part and parcel of the deal.
A meal of herring and gruel also may occur.
Which is in itself frightening.
And very Germanic.

Still. Folks running around pretending to be scary black men is not exactly the epitome of politically correct, though thoroughly appreciated by nearly everyone who isn't black. Little children love him, because in addition to the threat of a thrashing, he also gives out lots of candy and treats, and they wish to be like him when they grow up as he gets away with all manner of malarkey.

[Note, by the way, that a tradition of people painting themselves black and committing mayhem at night is attested, going back nearly twenty centuries.]


Not everyone in the Netherlands is on board with this, however.
Rock and roll artist Anouk got in Dutch with her fans by facebook-posting the opinion cited above ("Dutch... dicks... different approach... ashamed...").
Many of whom responded with angst and ire.


Examples:

Willem Charite: vieze rvuil vewende kankerhoer dat je bent hoop dat je binnenkort doodvalt het liefst doe ik het zelf tyfus slet.
[Translation: "filthy foul stuck-up cancer whore that you are hope you soon fall dead preferably I will do it myself typhus slut".]

Jane Smith: vergeet niet door die haters en paar racisten heb jij nou wel je gheld zal je aan dat stel apen niet verdienen zo en nee ik ben geen racist maar je kan het krijgen zoals je het wil hebben.
[Translation: don't forget that it was because of those haters and a couple of racists that you have your money that you won't earn from that bunch of monkeys and no I am not a racist but you can get it as you want it."]

John van Elteren: Viert vast wel Sinterklaas, alleen met der eigen zwarte pietjes, nikker lover.
[Translation: "surely celebrates Saint Nicholas Day, only with her own darkies, nigger lover."]

Kelly Maria Dijkhuizen: Beter een racist dan een bruine lover, vies wijf!
[Translation: "better a racist than a brownie lover, filthy bitch."]

Rob van Es: ze heeft goeie nummers hoor maar ze blijft een nigger bitch in mijn ogen en ze sterft van de capsones en vind haar superarrogant dus meschien heeft ze ook wel nigger bloed, leve SINTERKLAAS en zijn ZWARTE PIET.
[Translation: "she has good numbers, eh, but she's still a nigger bitch in my eyes and she'll perish of her pretentious attitudes and consider her super arrogant so maybe she also has nigger blood, vivat Saint Nicholas and his Black Pete."]

Natascha Beton: Ga lekker met die asielzoeker van je naar zijn land van herkomst blanke negerslet
[Translation: "just go with that asylum-seaker of yours to his country of origin white negro slut."]

Cees Vrolijk: We moeten niet discrimineren. Zwarte piet eruit, dan alle zwarten eruit.
[Translation: "we mustn't discriminate. Black Pete goes, then all blacks (should) go."]


Source: http://www.telegraaf.nl/prive/22009436/__Anouk_bedreigd_door_Zwarte_Pieten-fans__.html (article: Anouk bedreigd door Zwarte Pieten-fans, in the Telegraaf - 'Anouk threatened by Black Pete fans').


Everyone of the commenters above will no doubt assert that in fact they aren't racists, and actually have huge numbers of black friends, all of whom are dear sweet people who, if they were totally honest, would no doubt agree with them one hundred percent.

Others may opine that the opinions spewed by Willem, Jane, John, Kelly Maria, Rob, Natascha, and Cees, are NOT representative of the majority, who would never even think such filth, but they themselves never-the-less do wholeheartedly support keeping the tradition alive of white folks painting their faces black and terrorizing little children.
All in a spirit of good clean fun.
Of course.


Personally, I cannot escape the feeling that there is indeed a racist stratum to Dutch society, as well as objectionable elements to old traditions.


Perhaps instead of black-face, we could bring back witch-burnings?



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UNINTENTIONAL ATTENTIONS

A cliché of comedic writing, and a rather silly one at that, is the "zerstreute professor", which was the well-known minor character in many third-rate funny bits. An abstracted intellectual. Because, as everyone knows, eggheads are infamous for being absent-minded.

Even as brash young dude, I found it irritating. Not offensive, just irritating. It's a slick yet entirely ineffective gambit to pull on one's audience.
A dodderingly impractical academic, who doesn't realize that his zipper is undone, or his tie is on inside out.
Ha ha ha. Oh, that's rich.

Frankly, only idiots find such things amusing.

And idiots aren't known for their wit.

Brains. Funny!

Still, easy to throw in, and it lets the class ham show off his zany antics.
Everyone will say later what a splendid performance it was, the show of the season, lets do a sequel.


Maybe I just had a youth awash in lousy drama. In consequence of which, amateur theatrics give me indigestion, and I avoid public spectacle.

I always check my zipper. Before leaving the house, ere I enter a public conveyance, and if I am going into a store. When no one is watching, a quick glance downward, and an urgent touch. Oh good, everything is well with the world, my zipper -- and everything that should be within two feet of that zipper -- still seems to be there.
If I wore a tie everyday, it would need no checking. I do a mean Double Windsor. Sheer perfection.
When eating curry or spaghetti, an adjustable tie clip is important.
Probably the only time busy patterns are justifiable.

But whatever else, check your zipper.

It's the key to inoffensive pants.


I am pleased to report that the stain in my crotch is gone. During the bus-ride over the hill I did not notice it, and no one said anything.
A tasty and nutritious lunch in Chinatown, but no stares, glares, or pointing fingers. Nor kiddie winkies exclaiming about remarkable things. Walk down the street after lighting the pipe, turn corner, then head into alleyway.
Find a ledge on which to sit. Ten minutes of people watching.
At one point I glanced down. Pants felt strange.

Oh crap. What the heck IS that stuff?

An ailment? Abnormal nasties?

Localized toxic waste?

A Russian plot?


Let's just say that it lessened the pleasure of the smoke considerably. One cannot really enjoy a pipe-full of good strong tobacco when slinking up a steep hill at a rapid clip, embarrassed to be seen.
Especially by the other gender.

But, after doing laundry each week for five weeks, the stain has faded, and those pants can go back into the rotation. More than ever now I am aware that my posterior is not as large as it once was, those pants feel baggy around the back. Drafty in cold weather.
I am a trim young middle-aged coot.


Three days after discovering that stain I finally realized what it was.
I had fallen asleep in front of the computer at around three or three thirty in the morning, and spilled my warm panax notoginseng decoction. The dried crud it left on my upper thighs was a very noticeably paler hue than the pants, and quite distinct.
I must have looked a right perv.


Since then, I stride through that alleyway and do not dawdle.
Don't want to prompt anyone's memory by lingering.
Lord only knows what they might think.


Good habits include taking care of your body with proper diet and the carefully considered consumption of tonifying herbs -- not only panax notoginseng (三七), but also astragalus (黄芪), dendrobium (石斛), licorice root (甘草), rehmania (地黄), eleutherococcus senticosus (五加蔘), dried tangerine peel (陳皮), polygonum multiflorum (何首烏), cordyceps (冬蟲夏草), lycium berries (枸杞子), et mult altres -- plus brushing your teeth, carrying extra matches or a lighter with you at all times (you never know when you might have to relight, as pipes go out when you're talking to people), and making sure that you leave the house looking presentable.

AND ALWAYS CHECK YOUR PANTS!

Can't stress this enough.
It's essential.


Nowadays, instead of something soothing like warm milk or a panax notoginseng decoction, I am more likely to have a nice cup of tea in front of the computer at three or three thirty in the morning.
There's less chance of problems that way.

I recommend it.




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Sunday, October 27, 2013

HOLDING THAT THOUGHT

A couple of days ago... and a generation ago. It was twilight that took me back to when I was still a teenager in Valkenswaard. Golden, slow, mid-autumn. Not as frigid as it had been recently, and still very light outside, though the apartment itself, inside, was dark. But there was gold in the sky, and only a few clouds.

Part of it may have been the tobacco. For some reason, Sam Gawith's St. James Flake has been reminding me a lot of my dad recently, and how he would sometimes smoke a pipe while reading. I can still see his face, thoughtful and contemplative, in the shared light of early evening, rays coming in from the west while the desk lamp illumines the corner of the hayloft where his desk stood.
Oddly, it smells like it too.
But that is probably more a present day mental glitch, false-memory rather than actual echo, as I cannot remember a perfume of Perique.

Coffee. Stainless steel and nickel-alloy drafting equipment. Pencils.
A green glass ashtray. Pipe cleaners. Polished wood.


Around the neighborhood, little children are going home with their moms.
A small girl hollers out 'bye' to a friend who heads up Larkin Street, the child happily responds, both of their mothers turn and wave. The adults were speaking Cantonese when they passed, their daughters English.
A generation gap in the making, perhaps, but I doubt it. My parents spoke English at home, though my brother and I spoke Dutch more often.
Yet, as you can tell from this blog, I am as much a native speaker of this language as any other.

Again, it's that light. A luminescent moodiness that you don't often see in San Francisco. We're too far south, and despite the water embracing the city there isn't enough moisture in the air. At the beginning of the week fog would have shrouded the hills and a cold wind would have driven the neighborhood indoors much faster.

The air feels much lighter now.


THE FREEZING EVENINGS

On Wednesday I had taken the bus downtown around nine o'clock in the evening. Opposite me was a young woman with soft-looking skin and, to my mind, perfect features. A forehead that was well-shaped (mmmmm, good bone structure), bright intelligent eyes, and an elfin delicacy to her face. As well as a glimmer of stubborness, and fleeting expressions of strong character; firmness to a well-sculpted chin. About her physical build I have no idea, as it was bitterly cold, and she was bagged deep within a shapeless black jersey, with room to spare. It was probably girlish.
In all honesty, that wasn't what I was looking at.
She was plugged in, and scrolling through her text-messages. At times the shadow of a smile played across her lips, bringing a radiance with it of which she probably was unaware.
Yes, I was keenly observing. But like all middle-aged coots, I am far more adept now than I ever was at doing so surreptitiously. There was something impossibly golden about her, and had I still been in my twenties I might have made a fool of myself, destroying any future chance of friendship forever. But instead, I said nothing, did not invade her electronic shield of privacy, and studiously avoided in any way catching her eye.
From Polk to Grant I merely sat there enjoying the moment.
Not having slammed the door on the present, the future is open.
I may see her on the bus again.
It is much to be hoped.

Miss, would you perhaps join me for some hot coffee or chocolate somewhere?

I'm also likely to see the sweet woman from Hoi Ping again. No, do not think that this could develop into something. She's nice to chat with, and, for a reason I cannot fathom, she feels like she can confide in me. Life is hard, she worries about how she will send her thirteen year-old daughter to college in the future, she's been here eight years already.
And English is a very difficult language to learn.

Surely I find Chinese the same?

Not really. Hard to remember, yes. Especially characters and locutions I seldom use. But English IS difficult. She'll probably master it in time, though. She has a teenage daughter. That by itself will force a person to figure out a language. There's another kid behind that, born in the United States.
I cannot imagine that his Cantonese is anywhere near fluent enough. If you want to talk to your son, instead of middle-aged eccentrics, it may take a bit of effort. Eccentrics are good listeners, young people often aren't.


I do not recall ever having had a problem communicating with my own parents. That may just be me, and neither of them are around to ask.
It is not unlikely, though, that their recollections would be slightly otherwise. Not by much; English was the language of the family.

I wish my dad had told me more about his life.
There is so much I could ask him if he were still here.
But he was a resilient and quiet man, and all I can really remember is the anecdotes. Autumn evenings seem like the right time to remember, and recount the past.

London. Beverly Hills. Hollywood. New York. Canada, aeroplanes, and bombing Germany. Berkeley. South America.
San Francisco. Los Angeles.
Holland.


Autumn. Pipe tobacco.
A glow in the west.




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VERENE SHEPHERD, BLACK PETE, SAINT NICHOLAS, AND MAD CHEESE

Apparently, my fellow Dutch-speakers have intimidated independent experts at the United Nations. This according to a blogpost by the United Nations themselves.

See this: http://blogs.un.org/#sthash.Pz58oVcv.2gMdQhox.dpbs.

Quote:
"While there may be vigorous debate on issues raised by independent experts, these individuals should not be subject to hate speech or attacks on their personal integrity or any form of harassment or intimidation in their defence of human rights, as has happened in this case. - See more at: http://blogs.un.org/#sthash.Pz58oVcv.2gMdQhox.dpuf".
End quote.

Hate speech is not cricket. That's a no-no.

Dingbats, no matter how dingy they bat, should NOT be threatened. Verbally chastised, yes, alerted to their mistakes, fallacies, false praesumptions, unfair praeconceptions, evident bigotries, and the startlingly ridiculousness of their assertions, most definitely.

So-called experts and their alleged expertise should always be questioned. Most particularly as regards the United Nations, which has a long history of unfairness, hatred, and divisive ideologies.
But not threatened. That's just not done.

Bad Dutchman, whoever you are! No salty licorice for you!


Questioning the integrity of anyone associated with that bunch of hectoring loonies and loathsome third-world tin-pot tyrannies and failed states that dominate the United Nations is, however, in the eyes of this blogger, perfectly justified. The letter and subsequent statements originating from Jamaican firebrand professor Verene Shepherd clearly show that she has a bias priori about the issue of Black Pete, and considers the Dutch a rather odious bunch, whose traditions should be suppressed if necessary.


"The working group cannot understand why it is that people in The Netherlands cannot see that this is a throwback to slavery, and that in the twenty first century this practice should stop! My personal view is that in the twenty first century this should not be happening!"

-----Verene Shepherd
[Source: Telegraaf TV, citing from a broadcast by Een Vandaag.]



Given that she came to that unpleasant conclusion BEFORE visiting the Netherlands to examine that tradition, nay, formed her judgment based on her own agenda and that of dubious activists in the Netherlands, examining her personal integrity seems completely appropriate.

Especially as since the storm broke she has refused to speak with Dutch reporters and government representatives, and has been hiding out in some lair avoiding all contact with people who would seek to discuss the matter.

They've tried to communicate with her, but she has disappeared.
Evidently she does not wish to talk about it.
At least, not with them.

Possibly because they're Dutch.


"Recently, four of these experts sent a letter to the Dutch Government relaying information they had received predominantly by people in the Netherlands. According to the information, the character and image of Black Pete perpetuate a stereotyped image of African people and people of African descent as second-class citizens, stirring racial differences as well as racism. The experts also asked whether, as had been reported to them, the Dutch authorities had selected the annual Saint Nicolas Event to be submitted for inclusion in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. - See more at: http://blogs.un.org/#sthash.Pz58oVcv.2gMdQhox.dpuf"

[Source: http://blogs.un.org/#sthash.SDjTEhqT.dpbs, as of Friday October 25, 2013.]


The United Nations often serves as both the forum and the display window for vitriolic spew anent certain countries, groups, and freedoms which the vast majority of this world's nations despise, as it is the one theatre in which all the failed states and repressive tyrannies that litter Africa, Asia, and Latin America can pretend that they are equal.
They are not; they're voices shouldn't be heard.
Not until they clean up their act.


WORKING GROUP OF EXPERTS ON PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT

Ms. Verene Shepherd has spent too much time surrounded by the comforting support of the intellectual pretendeurs and corrupt diplocrats who make up the majority of the United Nations departments.

Her mind is already made up.
And quite closed.

If she will not speak to the people whom she accuses, and will not accept that an alternative point of view may have some validity, then there is little reason to take her -- and her henchpersons Farida Shaheed ("Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights"), Izsàk Rita ("Independent Expert on minority issues"), and Mutuma Ruteere ("Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance") seriously.
They may be lovely and intelligent individuals. And certainly they are entitled to their opinions. But if they will neither argue their points, nor actually listen to people who have a different take, nay, if they are unwilling to face those whom they accuse, and investigate the matter from anything other than an intellectual distance, they are fakers, and their organization likewise.

But then, it IS the United Nations. There is a venomous miasma of falsehood and dishonesty about that institution which accompanies everything they say, and every cause they champion.


If there is any place on earth where there are devils, it is the United Nations, and a permanent stench of sulfur adheres to it.



Ze zijn daar in New York ronduit belachelijk.



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Saturday, October 26, 2013

WHALE STEAKS, WALRUS CÔTELETTE, AND SEAL CHOPS IN A PORT WINE REDUCTION

One reader has chastised me for frequently being negative about veganism, and noted that I seem to have a bad attitude about both Sea Shepherd (the notorious eco-terrorists of the South Pacific) and various other good causes. She or he writes: "you probably have NO sympathy for the Green Peace activists currently being held under APPALLING conditions in Russia either, do you?"

Well, the dingbat who wrote that is right.
No frikkin' sympathy whatsoever.
Gulag their green asses.

However, not wanting to lose anymore readers, no matter how drippy and wussily fruitcake they may be -- they are all infinitely precious to me, especially in this age of decreasing literacy and logic -- it might behoove me to cater to their sensitivities.


"YOU PROBABLY HAVE NO SYMPATHY FOR THE GREEN PEACE ACTIVISTS BEING HELD UNDER APPALLING CONDITIONS"


Oh, the poor babies. At least they're eating well. Russian food, though heavy at times, is on the whole a wonderful and educational gustatory experience. Not only caviar, smetana, and blinis, but Chicken Kiev, many smoked fishes (including whale), refined cabbage dishes, fried appetizers, and sundry savoury meat stews: elk, bear, reindeer, otter, mink, wild boar, and commissar.

[They no longer do serf and turf, by the way.]

And the good news is that all of these can be adapted to tofu.

I'm sure the Kremlin's jailers are considerately providing a wholesome all-vegetarian diet to the imprisoned ecomaniacs. Why, they're probably in better condition than they've ever been! All lean muscle.
Plus plenty of heart-healthy aerobic exercise.
And language classes!


As for Vegan Food, it isn't that I in principle disapprove. It's just that the combination of a sanctimonious holier than thou attitude with appallingly miserable and apathetic cooking usually leaves me infuriated.

Capsule reviews of Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants:


VENUS RESTAURANT
Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley.

Not all Vegan, not all edible. Sometimes bland and disappointing.
On the whole, a typical Berkeley experience that left the diner feeling vaguely insulted, like not having been up to the high standards of a West Oakland streetwalker. Will not go a third time.


HERBIVORE
Divisadero Street, San Francisco.

An excess of garlic does not make up for a lack of taste. Bland white people should not do anything Latino or Asian. I hate Honky burritos.


ANANDA FUARA
Market Street, San Francisco.

Stringy white chicks in saris. Over-priced yoghurt and dal. Attitude.
Having worked for many years in an Indian restaurant, my patience with the artistic and meaningful element is at an all-time low.


LOVING HUT
Stockton Street at Vallejo, San Francisco.

Best fake charsiu ever. Unbelievable! Service is quite good too. The only drawback is that one of the people at the table will have a view of happy happy joy joy cult videos at all times on the big screen teevee, unless their sneeringly dispassionate cult leader is giving an endless lecture in Mandarin.
I do NOT need to see documentaries about sick-in-the-head Eurotrash at some ashram or Buddhist retreat in Amsterdam being all spiritual while I'm eating fabulous fake meat.
Loved the place, but sunglasses are required.
Or blinkers; whatever works.
No MSG.


JUDAHLICIOUS
Judah Street, San Francisco.

Oh frick, be real. Precious, hip, and insufferable. Apathetic service, and more vicious white folks burritos. Too much juice, by the way, gives you gas.


THE PLANT CAFÉ ORGANIC
Steiner Street, San Francisco.

Overpriced, unimaginative, and slow. And there's that damned saintly hip attitude again. Perhaps I look too much like a decent middle-aged white guy to be treated nicely.
I'm beginning to hate veggie burgers and juice.


GREENS RESTAURANT
Fort Mason, Building A, San Francisco.

Best location and best service of the lot. The food is excellent, and, remarkably for a place that does vegetarian stuff, it has soul. A bit expensive, indeed, but this is the place to take your rancher uncle and his ghastly wife Mabel when they visit; they'll leave happy as clams, and with a different opinion of San Francisco than they had.
Probably also a splendid place for a date.
But only if she likes food.


ARIZMENDI BAKERY
Mission Street, San Francisco.

Great pastries, great breads, and dynamite pizza! Even their muffins are excellent, and I hate muffins. Arizmendi Bakery is a class act, and a city treasure.
Worth hiking over to Mission for.



FINAL NOTE: All of the places I listed, except Greens Restaurant and Arizmendi Bakery, would benefit from the serious inclusion of bacon in everything, and the wan drips who work in such places would be happier too.
Greens and Arizmendi are doing something right.
Good places. Great food.
Wonderful.





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Friday, October 25, 2013

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THERE?

The other day an acquaintance took umbrage at my request that she stop with the gay jokes at my expense. "Have you listened to yourself", she snapped, and changed the subject. Given that there has been no indication of any sex drive on my part whatsoever in her presence, I was somewhat taken aback. Maybe she was reacting to my discomfort at her ribald descriptions of her own conquests.

She likes little boys in their early twenties.
As a conversational subject, it's limited.
Quite as dull as farmyard rutting.
Please leave out the details.

Like anyone, I am absolutely overjoyed that people I know have sex-lives. It's probably the one single good thing about being grown-up; you get to bang someone, in private comfort behind closed doors, without any chance of shocking your parents.
Unless, of course, you still live with them.
It's a bit tricky then, so I've been told.
They barge in without warning.

I have been subjected to her inelegant boasting about the male bimbos she's bagged a little too often. She almost sounds like a man.
A gay man.


If I happen to meet you, I do not wish to hear about your sex life unless I have been a recent part of it. Which is natural, albeit extremely unlikely. Quite impossible, in fact. There's been zip for years.
Hypothetical conversations could be educational.
The only people with whom you should ever discuss what you do and how you go about doing it are the person (or the people) with whom it is done or will be done, and conceivably a doctor or psychotherapist if there's something odd about that.

Instead, I would love to hear about your major in school. What books have you recently read? Which authors do you hate? And why? Are you hungry right now? I know a place where we can have a bowl of pig blood cube congee!
Okay, that last one is likely to chase people away . Better leave that out, especially if the other person is female, intelligent, and cute.
Might want to know her better before scaring her off.
So, no bowls of pig blood rice-porridge.
We can talk about art.

Beautiful ceramic bowls. Bronze or jade pig figurines from the Shang Dynasty. Cubism, and geometry. Copper glazes, cone 14 to 16.
Ivory figurines. Blanc de Chine from DeHua. Nephrite.
Everyone likes discussing art, even manly men.

Of course, when you meet someone who actually does art, you're likely never to get a word in edgeways. They'll seize brutal control of the discussion, and meaningfully wrestle it to the ground.
Best not talk about art.

Food is also out of the question, as most people don't like any gustatory experimentation, and there's a definite risk that someone might mention pigs blood cubes.


The key rule of social conversation is to never mention money, religion, politics, or pigs blood cubes. Do not bring these up at the dinner table; strong opinions and overturned tureens result.


Actually, I'm kind of at a loss conversationally. I never know how to proceed until I'm too far in, whereupon almost anything can come up.
Conversations tend to be like roller-coasters, largely because of the unpredictability of other participants. They might bring up their own rambunctious sex lives.

Really, only perverts want to hear about that.


Wouldn't you rather talk about pigs blood?




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Thursday, October 24, 2013

BLACK PETE: FACE PAINT, WHIPPINGS, AND BOO!

When I was growing up, I had reason to be worried from mid-November till December fifth. It wasn't until I was nearly nine that I figured out that I was being tricked. At the root of this was a black man with a broom (sometimes a bundle of twigs), who would threaten to chastise me (whup me until I screamed), and take me and several other children back to a horrible hot place where people were monsters and subhuman (Spain).
I was not a particularly good little boy at that time.
The same thug would give nice kids candy.

To my great surprise, every year I got as much candy as the smarmy little freaks did. It was miraculous. Aside from a few threatening moves by the big black terror, he proved to be rather a generous sort.


ZWARTE PIET

Every year on the night of December fifth, an Iberian holy man would ride over the roofs on a white horse, accompanied by his blackamoor servant Peter, to sneak down chimneys and reward obedient children. Peter (Piet) was usually played by strapping young ladies in garish blackface, dressed in poufy mediaeval pants and doublets, with a fuzzy-wuzzy wig and a big colourful hat.
It wasn't until I was eight years old or so that I started noticing disturbing elements about the whole thing.
Number one: the all-knowing all-seeing holy man had a horrible memory, and was quite likely senile as all git out: he couldn't remember what I had told him the last time we met, and didn't know me from Adam. He was very unreliable, and possibly crazy. Plus he stank of mothballs.
Number two: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet) seemed to have soft hands, and was actually rather kind. A pleasant dude, if you will. I'll admit that it wasn't until I became aware of breasts that I also noticed that Pete had those.
He was kind of like a Thai she-male prostitute in that regard.
That being a concept I did not know about at the time.

Of course, that was when you could still purchase a confection marketed as a 'negro-kiss'. They were also called negress titty (negerinnentiet). Thank god that is no longer the case! No one should have to associate brown mammaries with whipped egg whites, sugar, and chocolate!
Not even lactose intolerant people!

Well, it was the sixties. Which was not necessarily a kinder, gentler age. Just very different from the modern world, and a lot more crazy.
We no longer have negerkussen or negerinnentetten. That's all gone.
Zwarte Piet, however, is still frightening the bejazus out of children. Except that there are now more of him. Saint Nicholas used to have one helper, two at most, now there are often over half a dozen.
And, disturbingly, many of them are male.
I don't know about you, but the idea of a strapping young damsel about to birch kiddies is far more comforting than a strange adult man in disguise doing so. Admittedly the whole idea is berserk -- fake black men from Iberia in drag whupping arses and then handing out candies, on behalf of a demented priest -- but heck, any old excuse for a bit of insanity around the cold part of the year is gladly accepted.

Here in the United States, we've got a grossly overweight red-faced pervert (drinking problem? Rosacea? Venereal-disease rashes?) that wants you to sit on his lap, or else you won't get any presents -- whose off-shore tax dodging sweatshop employs height-deficient people at probably starvation wages -- in Holland they have whippings, chocolate, and marzipan.
It seems far less depraved.

But still. Black face. Shiny dark skin. A foreign bogeyman.


AS BLACK AS SOOT

Originally, Black Pete was an enslaved troll, devil, or daemon, who accompanied Wotan around at midwinter. The candies and gifts were always there, as was the threat of punishment and kidnapping.

It wasn't until after the Eighty Years War, during which the Spanish tried to exterminate the Dutch, that both the good cop and the bad cop acquired Iberian characteristics. You can fear the Spanish bastards, but sometimes you can also get nice things from them. The good cop in this equation is actually a fictionalized transplant from Asia Minor, the bad cop is either a Mauritanian or a Berber, and possibly speaks Arabic in addition to bugga bugga boo.

Neither one of them is a real Spaniard. The real Spaniards are still evil depraved sons-of-bitches, whose galleons must be sunk whenever and wherever encountered. Subhuman bastards.

Saint Nicholas and Black Pete are denatured Spaniards.

Sort of like muppets and fairies.

Imaginary.


That may change. Conceivably the Spanish might be upset to find out that they are the bad men in this tale. They're part of the Eurozone, we shouldn't despise them too much. The crats in Brussels would object.
And given that they're broke, no sugar anymore.
Spaniards with candy; so last century!

Black Pete may have to revert back to being a shackled devil, and the good guy could again become the mythic Greek holy man who protects travellers, especially sailors. In a sea-faring nation such as the Netherlands, naturally a numinous entity like that would still be venerated.
An evil Spanish bully, not so much.

In fact, Black Pete is many things, not just a sadistic torturer of little children. He is the fool, the wise guy, the amanuensis, the source of candy, the capable assistant, and the provocateur. He is also the diplomat who intercedes, as well as the able faker whose whippings seem more impressive to the observer than painful to the victim.

But conceivably the black facial goo should go.

Perhaps just a teenage girl in mediaeval drag. Which, underneath the curly frightwig and sootcake make-up, was usually the case. Teenage girls can be quite terrifying, even and especially to older boys. She's perfect.
I'm thinking tight bodices, and similar fetching garb.
Discreet eyeshadow, temptress lipstick.
Stiletto pumps, six inch heels.

We do, however, need a third type to play the role of villain. Someone who can be made fun of, despised, feared, and hated.


I would suggest a woman in a flaming red muumuu and ridiculously oversized crimson toque.


'Old Red-Eyes'


Fool, dunce, irritant, hectoring bore, poseur, shrill harpy, object of derision, smarmy, opinionated, and wrong about many things. A ranting loony, the frightening foreigner, and a terrifying spectacle. Both the costume and concept are already there, all it takes is a talented volunteer.
But fercrapsakes, no skin-paint.
A funkadelic accent, okay.
La Cucuya. Fareentje.
Une Ton-Tonette.

Let us even up the ante a bit. A cannibalistic shape-shifter, who will leave her innocent victims deaf, dumb, and blind, with a menacing wolf's growl.
I believe there already is such a thing in Netherlandic folklore, and we might as well co-opt it.




SAINT NICK, 'SWEETY PETE', AND AN OGRE

Traditions change. Nothing today is quite the same as it once was, and even our folklore must adapt. Sometimes there are elements there which because of familiarity, fondness, and proximity, we might not realize are offensive or absurd. We are too close for perspective.

I am grateful for Ms. Verene Shepherd for pointing out that we Dutch speakers are a bunch of cretinous retrograde racists, and demanding that we adjust to the modern age. Without her strident whining, we never would have understood that.




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CHINESE PSYCHO

Most of the Mandarin-speakers I know are dysfunctional. That is to say, those individuals with whom I am acquainted who are first-language speakers of Mandarin, who still think in Mandarin, are subclinically neurotic.
It's a limitation of their language.
It inculcates batshit.

Speakers of Cantonese, Hakka, and Hokkien are not thus. They're so capable of expressive flexibility that they're completely sane.
Rather like the Dutch in many ways.


Last weekend, the amphibian and I enjoyed a quiet glass of whiskey while a weepy Mandarin-speaker howlingly lamented her manless-fate, and threatened to commit suicide; zi sa herself by jumping off the jin men qiao. The owner of the bar added to the drama by simultaneously arguing that she should just go out and bang anybody, why heavens there were single men all over the place, and at the same time she tried to keep her bartender out of the wailing woman's gunsights.
He's married. His wife will kill you.
She's Cantonese.

At one point I interjected that my neighbor the amphibian was also single, whereupon he gave a startled 'ribbit' and tried to point out that there was more than one of us bachelors in the place, meaning me. Good thing he doesn't speak Mandarin. Never-the-less, having grown weary of the histrionics, we both left.

Angst-geschrei over the lack of a suitable man to boff can only add so much to whiskey. There's more to life than vaginal desperation.

And, truth be told, we were afraid.


All in all it was a glorious weekend. I restored several Dunhills and Charatans (over twenty pipes in all), and happily smoked way too much Virginia tobacco. I ended the weekend with several bowls of flake, and headed home in the freezing wind perfectly koosh.

Good food. Good drink. Entertainment, and fun things to do.

I've had my periodic exposure to Mandarin craziness, which ought to keep me for a while.
And I've seen the discomfiture of a Cantonese gentleman who realizes that he is in the cross hairs, escape will take some twisting and turning.
Oh shit, she's aiming at me! And she's nuts!

Damned Northerners, why can't they keep the craziness at home?

By the time we left, he was sweating bullets.

I would've encouraged the Mandarin speaker, because I thoroughly enjoy theatre. But doing so would require me to speak Mandarin.
Heaven forefend that she then start talking to me.
The last time that happened, I spent half an hour telling her to stop crying and pull herself together. No, I do not want to see "more".
She snottered into my shoulder, and I had to wash the jacket.
I am so glad that she doesn't remember me.
All of us white dudes look alike.

Unlike the bald Cantonese bartender over there.

He looks positively green.




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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

UNITED NATIONS IRRELEVANCE, NAY, PANDERING TO THIRD WORLD BIAS: OBJECTING TO SAINT NICK

In the latest storm in a teacup, a functionary of the United Nations has decided that the Dutch had better permanently cancel an annual celebration, because she does not like it.

Professor Verene Shepherd, member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, recommended that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte forbid forever the celebration of Saint Nicholas Day on December sixth, because it is, in her expert opinion, a return to slavery.

As a black woman, and a Jamaican, she is offended.


One can understand why. She is incredibly sensitive and in a permanent state of dudgeon. Naturally she would be upset.

Prof. Shepherd is editor/compiler of Women in Caribbean History, co-editor of Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective (with Barbara Bailey and Bridget Brereton) and editor of Engendering Caribbean History: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (forthcoming, 2010). Among her other publications are Livestock, Sugar & Slavery: Contested Terrain in Colonial Jamaica (2009), I Want to Disturb My Neighbour: Lectures on Slavery, Emancipation and Post-Colonial Jamaica (2007) and Maharani’s Misery: Narratives of a Passage from India to the Caribbean (2002).[*]

A previous foray by the respected professor saw her demanding that England, France, and the Netherlands pay reparations for slavery to several Caribbean nations. Which is an idea that only makes sense if they take those funds out of the budgets set aside for aid to developing countries, make a one-time payment, subsequently reduce diplomatic relations with such failed states to an interest section at best, and never send another cent that way again.

There is no logical, moral, or ethical reason why the tax-payers in those countries should be shafted because Caribbean nations have, in the generations since their independence, utterly failed to do anything worthwhile. Putting a financial burden on people who themselves are in the main descended from desperately poor disenfranchised victims of imperialism -- as the populations of Europe are, and as any student of history should know -- would be a grossly unfair and racist act. Arguing that because poor starving illiterate peasants and brutally exploited urban proletarians lived in countries which were involved in the colonial enterprise, their great-great-great grandchildren should now be robbed, for the benefit of corrupt politicians who may or may not be great-great-great grandchildren of people who were equally starving, illiterate, and exploited.........

Well now.

Let me tell you what you can do with your Blue Mountain Coffee.
As well as ganja, murder capital of the Caribbean [*], and ska.



But let us return to the folkloric event which got her professorial and United Nations knickers bunched in a wedgie.

Saint Nicholas Day.


HET SINTERKLAAS FEEST

During the night of December fifth, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) rides over the rooftops on his white steed, with his servants, and descends down the chimneys to leave presents and candy for little children. Which they happily discover the next morning.

But NOT the kids who have been irredeemably naughty. Those were stuffed in a burlap sack, to be taken away to Spain, where they will be tortured by the Spanish and put to work as slaves on the galleys.

Half a month before this wondrous abduction of the little monsters, the good holy man arrived on a steam boat in Amsterdam harbour, where he and the joyous entourage were welcomed by the city fathers.

In the period leading up to his feast-day on December sixth, he and his servants made appearances at numerous parties and charity events, where children obediently sang cheerful songs, and quivered apprehensively because he would sit in judgment over them.
Good little boys and girls got candy. Sometimes lots of candy.
Bad little boys and girls got a wild thrashing with a broom or bundle of birch twigs, administered clumsily but with enormous enthusiasm by one of the saint's servants.

They had better reform by the Fifth of December, or else!

Obviously the celebration has an element of moral instruction, and encouragement to the little savages to lead more upstanding lives. Which is salving to their parents, besides providing excitement, tension, and entertainment.
Very wholesome.

Except that the servants are in black face.
They are 'Black Pete'.


ZWARTE PIET

Usually the role of 'Black Pete' is played by teenage girls, with thick black face paint, red lips, and curly wigs. Dressed in mediaeval page costumes. Talking in gibberish, which is supposed to be some dialect of Spanish.

The back-story on the servants used to be that because the saint lives in Spain, the servants are Moors or Moriscos. One variant has Black Pete as an Ethiopian slave freed by the saint, who subsequently converted to Christianity and followed the holy man on his travels.
The more modern tale explains that it is the servants who go down chimneys, while the saint patiently waits above. That is why they are black; they are covered with soot.

Why chimney sweeps are dressed in Mediaeval garb is a mystery.
Embroidered doublet, poufy breeches, and dark hose.
Please don't ask. Probably union rules.

There are, in fact, older roots to the tale, in which the holy man is seen as a likely re-interpretation of Odin, and the servants are variously devils, trolls, or Odin's ravens.
A politicized event I once attended (unwillingly) turned them into the proletarian workforce making consumer goods all year long, and the saint into a reformed cleric who became party commissar.
There have also been purple Petes.

But what remains essential is the birch or willow implements used to administer remonstrance. Without the credible threat of punishment -- as well as the terrifying prospect of permanent servitude on Spanish galleys in the Mediterranean -- the event loses its rectificatory suasion.
Along with whatever entertainment value it has for grown-ups.

Black face. Pitch-hued and shiny.
And a curly fright wig.
Problem.


"The working group cannot understand why it is that people in The Netherlands cannot see that this is a throwback to slavery, and that in the twenty first century this practice should stop! My personal view is that in the twenty first century this should not be happening!"

-----Verene Shepherd
[Source: Telegraaf TV. In Dutch, except for her sound byte. Note both the newsreader, dressed as Black Pete, as well as the salt of the earth types giving their views on the matter. Then note further the ending bit, where an Iranian festive occasion (Nowruz) is shown featuring a buffoonish performer in black face (Hajji Firuz); an event which is registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Because Persians cannot be bigots.]



You know, I am mighty surprised that the Catholic Church has not objected vociferously over this rancid stereotyping of its teachings and the role of its functionaries. An absolute cliché of a churchman, plus elements of clerical sadism, and the bribing of little children with sweeties so that they kiss-up to the prelate.

It's shocking, is what it is.

Remarkably, however, it was the Catholics who kept the tradition alive when the severe Calvinist church fathers in the north would have banned it for being a Papist feast, propaganda for the Evil Bishop of Rome, and heretical in the extreme.


I can remember being terrified as a five year old by the prospect of being taken back to Spain in a gunny sack. Spain was a horrid place, everyone knew that! And Spanish people were incredibly mean.
We Dutch-speakers have a history with Spain.
It is fundamental to our psyche.

Of course, by the time I was twelve I was marveling over the shapely legs of Zwarte Piet, as well as the evidence of curvature.
Mmmm, Black Pete has boobies!

I'll be the first to admit that questions may be asked about this charming little example of Northern European culture.
All folklore is dark. Some of it disturbing.

But Ms. Verene Shepherd should NOT interfere with our candy.

[Ms. Shepherd is not alone in her crusade. The signatories of the first letter of bellyache (dated January 17, 2013) are: Verene Shepherd, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on people of African descent; Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Izsàk Rita, Independent Expert on minority issues; Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.]


You know, I still find shapely teenage girls in theatric mediaeval garb and black face exciting. Good things are bound to happen with them around! And if there is a graduate of a British Public School present, there could even be a birching! He'll like that!
There may, in fact, be candy.
It will stop the weeping.
Candy is good.

Such things don't happen very often in my circles.

Lively lassies with candy, that is.



The traditional confectionary during the Saint Nicholas season consists of 'Pepernoten', 'Taai taai', marzipan, crisp gingerbread biscuits, tablet, and above all chocolates. Huge heaping mounds of chocolates.
The obedient little brat gets a large chocolate letter for the initial of his or her first name. The cretinous little sod, as previously mentioned, will be abducted by Spaniards.


Note: David Sedaris' lecture about Zwarte Piet is here: Live at Carnegie Hall.
He provides a complete how-to, more or less.
Informative and educational.



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A MAN WITH A SHEEP

This morning, when I woke up, there was a miscreant attempting to make off with my wallet. As my eyes adjusted to the light I discerned the head-sheep perched on top of my pants. Upon being caught red-hooved, he asserted "I found it!" Which makes it all right.
He found it, therefore he can have it.
Not a thief, but innocent.
And I'm a meanie.

The person who lives in the other room has to pass through my space to get to the kitchen in the morning. She is a partisan and enabler of the small creatures that live on my side. She often sees things from their point of view, and is consequently no help whatsoever in controlling the rowdy beasts. They are larcenous, rude, and badly behaved.
The head-sheep is one of the worst offenders.
But there are many others.
All dishonest.

That is probably the main reason why I will likely never ever have a relationship with a woman again. The vast majority of females lack the depth and intellectual capacity required to deal with a lot of stuffed animals. They're mono-dimensional, and have no sense of irony.
Precisely like the brigands in my room.

I'm not sure my apartment-mate gets it either. She often supports them in whatever deviltry they are up to, which is incredibly disconcerting. I've tried persuading them that they need to visit our neighbor, in her quarters, who also has a wallet that can be "found", but to no avail.
It probably doesn't help that they speak as if with her voice.

If I ever ended up finding another girl-friend, the amount of effrontry and eccentricity from those furballs would likely chase her off. Most women can't stand animals, and prefer that they be turned into shoes.
Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, and Christian Loboutin.

Ninety percent of all the people who torture kittens world-wide are female.


I read it on the internet.


The vast majority of women don't have a sense of humour either. We just pretend that they do, because many of them need reassurance on that, but I haven't met a single one yet that understands the punchline about the pizza-delivery guy, the self-doubting cockroach, and the priest.

I'm guessing that my apartment mate's interaction with the savage beasts is a Cantonese thing. There is no other logical explanation.  The Cantonese are ever keen to back the underdog, and encourage rebellion.


They are flagrant opportunists.

Just like my fuzzy roommates.


Anyway, I reclaimed my wallet, despite the flood of cursing and foul language that followed. The head-sheep is now sitting in the corner, muttering in Cantonese that I am a stinky pai-kwat (臭排骨), mow yong (無用), kik sei (激死), and absolutely a waai yan (壞人).
The very epitome of sei low gwai (死老鬼).
Poey, he says, poey!
呸!


Oh well. I found my wallet back, so it's mine.
It was on top of my trousers.
With a sheep.

Which I also found.
He's mine too.




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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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