Friday, November 30, 2007


Seeing as I'm a fairly curious person, I have ended up on the mailing lists and in the e-mail address books of quite a number of people and organizations.

Consequently, I am "blessed" with any number of strange or disturbing e-mails.

I get Viagra spam, Cialis spam, and other bloat-yer-pork spam on a daily basis. It is widely known that I need a loan, diet pills, and phone sex. Several people out there think that I am bald and/or female. Others think that I have a huge discretionary income that I am dispensing madly in every direction like a whore with a spray-bottle of cootch-away. Oh boy.

[In case you didn't know, I am indeed both bald and female. Yes. And I'm also blessed with a duplicate set of needy naughty bits, and tonnes of money. Yes. If you are interested in corresponding, please contact me by entering your name and credit-card number in the comments field. Yes.]

However, as of this morning, in every single one of my e-mail accounts, I am the puzzled recipient of what may very well be the mother lode of stark raving bonkers.

An e-mail from a congregation of Jews for Jiziz.

An e-mail that asks me to prayerfully stand by.

An e-mail which asks: "It’s crunch time and final exams are on us, are you ready?"

Aaaarrrrgh, I had no idea there was going to be a test!

So, like any contestant, I decided to cheat. I e-mailed several friends for answers. The results so far have been gratifying (and I expect I'll get a few more after shabbes).

Several writers used words that can only be represented by blip or blipblip. And suggested that messianics were blipping blip. And blipped.

One writer reacted by asking me if I had flipped a bloody bead, what was I, nuts!!!?!? A groise pervert???!?!
Another stated that after reading the forwarded e-mail, he felt like washing his eyes with lye-soap and boiling water.
A third suggested that the sin of forwarding the e-mail could only be assuaged by reciting one hundred Hail Marvins ("Hail Marvin, just full of it, a veritable load is with thee....").

The 'prayerful' appeal for funds, which stated that no gift was too large or too small, received much feedback.
Mostly to the effect that a negative sum was in order. To match exactly the ministry's blessedness as considered by the donator. Prayerfully. And blip.

One person was (prayerfully) baffled by the statement that crunch time and final exams coincided.
I guess what that means is that it is time for an energy bar - but your dentist will take one look at your teeth and tell you to stop eating that crap. Prayerfully.

Regarding the name of the organization (Beis Goyim), a reader on the other side of the bay wrote: "I like the name "Beth Narishkite" better."
It struck me that both names suggest the United Nations more than they do a place where one will find a lot of Jews. Prayerful or otherwise. Either usage is blipping correct, as the dictionary would (prayerfully) say.

A person in the Netherlands requested that I find out where the "Messianic Rabbi" who wrote the blipping epistle got his smicha.

I suspect that the "Messianic Rabbi" got his smicha from Amazon or E-Bay, and I do not wish to question the "Messianic Rabbi" about it, as I fear he would take that as a sign of life. Where there is life, there is hope. And where there is hope, there is always the chance of a sucker.. I mean 'a conversion' .....
I would probably never get rid of him, and he would mention me by name in every subsequent e-mail lecture, asking the congregation to pray for my salvation - "bruddas and sistas, please pray for the immoral soul of the apikorus Blipblip son of Blipblip, that he may recover from his painful ailment of wrong-headedness and prayerfully accept the word of Blipblip the son of Blipblip...".

The statement that the congregation of Beis blippim was like the one 'back in Antioch, with Jews & Gentiles worshiping Ixtipoo the way he desires', got just one comment: "Dang! Cal the exterminators, maw, there's varmints in the house of goyzes!"

Well blip, that just about prayerfully says it all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Dutch political life, as an expression of society and culture, has a poisonous quality not often apparent to the English-speaking world. The Netherlands and Belgium are often thought of as tolerant, liberal, and progressive countries, with easy-going life-styles, whose citizens have few cares.

Well, that is not entirely how it is.....


My readers will no doubt remember the occasional mention of Dutch gadfly and political pest Geert Wilders on this blog.
Mister Wilders, in the minds of many, is no more than a loudmouthed racist and xenophobe.

But that is an overly simplistic and superficial judgment, as an examination of his published statements will show; Geert Wilders relishes the job of irritant. Most of his barbs (and his most poisonous barbs) are aimed at the incompetent careerists in the Dutch establishment who have betrayed the electorate, their country, and their culture, by their misguided experiment in 'multi-culturalism'.


There is little that is inherently wrong with multi-culturalism, but in the Netherlands it became a disaster.

Dutch society on a micro-level is incredibly bigoted and intolerant, cultural norms are so deeply felt that anything different offends (habits, dress, appearance, accent, religion, educational level, etc.), and like many Europeans, the Dutch in large groups tend to act like bloodthirsty sheep.
The good facets of Dutch society are often closed to 'outsiders', and the Dutch establishment is adept at never admitting their mistakes.

Geert Wilders is one of the few who insists that the multi-cultural experiment failed.

Many immigrants did not fit in, in a society where fitting in is essential. Nor did Dutch society pick and choose the immigrants most likely to succeed, but instead accepted any illiterate willing to work for low wages.
The children of such immigrants have been more-or-less encouraged to fail, because it was expected that once their parents were old and useless, the entire mishpoche would return to the badlands of Morocco or Sub-Saharan Africa.
Descendants of immigrants, often even the third or fourth generation in the Netherlands, are still considered foreigners who have little business benefiting in the same measure from civilization as native Europeans and should definitely consider going "home".

In short: many of the immigrants have failed, and the Dutch as a society have failed.

Geert Wilders calls a spade a spade. Non-native Dutch do not like him for that reason.
Dutch socialists also hate him for that, but particularly loathe him because he highlights precisely their flaws - party hacks responsible for this state of affairs, quisling kultuur-relativisten who habitually excuse the mis-steps of the unassimilated, and political whores who pander to the large Muslim communities in the immigrant bantustans of urban Holland.

He is merely a symptom of a malaise, however, and nowhere near the worst. There are others who are far less polished, far less civilized, far less tolerant. And far more threatening.


More worrisome in the Dutch-speaking world than Geert Wilders, who will probably fade from the scene once the perverse fascination with his antics and his outrageous peruque are over, are the brutish members of Vlaams Belang (the Flemish Nationalists) and White StormFront Netherlands. Essentially they are the same beast, and there is a substantial overlap and interchange between Flemish and Dutch branches, thugs from both sides are often active in each other's home cities.

These are the folks who at times made a sport of traveling in drunken packs and beating the crap out of North-Africans, recognizable Jews, people of colour, and known leftwingers (especially students).
Vlaams Belang particularly is likely to turn its guns on the Antwerpen Jews once the Muslims have been dealt with and the Walloons expelled.
What the Dutch neo-Nazis are capable of is anybody's guess - it does not seem like the AIVD (the Dutch security service) is paying serious attention.

The faces at the tops of these little dungheaps are not particularly the problem - the leaders merely give form to what their followers feel; the problem is the large underbelly, whose hatreds and inchoate ideologies live on, unaffected by any voice of reason from their own side or anyone else.
There are no Hitlers here, merely stormtroopers.
They are by no means the majority of the population, they will always be the minority - but they will always be there.


He worked late and missed his regular carpool home, and therefore needed to take a taxi. Which initially was problematic.

His post about it is beautiful, man, just beautiful.

"Shir Lamalot... Esa Einai el heharim... mayayen yavo ezri..."

If you cannot off the top of your head identify the quote, don't worry. Just go over to Treppenwitz's blog and read his post. You'll enjoy it, and the quote will come to you near the end.


News item:
AP: KHARTOUM, Sudan - A British teacher in Sudan was convicted Thursday of the (less-serious) charge of insulting Islam for letting her pupils name a teddy bear "Muhammad," and was sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation to Britain.

You know what? Those folks are crazy. Can't reason with them, they're just over-the-top bonkers. Nuts. Stark raving. Sudan is a pit.

Her students named the bear Muhammad, probably because it is the equivalent of John Doe or Richard Shmoe in their horrid little world, and the court then found her, not them, her, her! guilty of "insulting the faith of Muslims in Sudan" per Article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code.

Note, by the way, that her defense team included at least one gentleman named Muhammad - it is not known whether he resembles a teddy bear, blasphemous or otherwise.

Okay then.


My shoes are both named Muhammad. The left shoe is Muhammad, the right shoe is Muhammad.
Both of my garish plaid boxer shorts are named Muhammad, as well as all three pale blue pairs of boxers (the white underpants are named Jim, Jock, Buster, and Iron John).

I also have a stuffed piggy - I'll name her Muhammad. As well as the hunk of fromage in the refrigerator ('meet Muhammad, the BIG cheese'), the vacuum cleaner ('Muhammad sucks'), the electric fan ('Muhammad blows'), the bottle of clog-dissolving chemicals ('Muhammad bites'), the blender ('Muhammad the epileptic'), and the fry pan ('burn, Muhammad, burn').

Guess what else I'll name Muhammad?
[Hint: Muhammad is full of it (*).]

Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad.

Muhammad is, per a BBC news report, the most popular name for baby boys in Britain. It is very popular in France too, as well as in the more murderous headhunting districts of Rotterdam and Utrecht. Several convicted criminals in Europe are named Muhammad, as well as not a few pimps, rapists, child-molesters, and exhibitionists who have done time.

Muhammad was also the name of the crook, misogynist, wife-beater, child-rapist who ran "Your Black Muslim Bakery" in Oakland for many years, before he croaked and his criminally inclined offspring quarreled over the inheritance and ran the place into the ground.
Some of them are also named Muhammad.

Those poor Sudanese students should never have named the teddy bear Muhammad - there's just too much garbage walking around with the name Muhammad. It is not a name anybody should have to endure.


(*) The Muhammad who is full of it (as hinted at above) is my sock drawer.

I don't know what on earth YOU thought I meant, Muhammad, but we keep it clean here on Muhammad. We would never name the Muhammad which we Muhammad every day for Muhammad Muhammad. It would be both Muhammad and Muhammad to do so, aside from being INCREDIBLY Muhammad, and disgusting to boot. We are not Muhammad, Muhammad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


There has been precious little coverage of Annapolis in Dutch media sources.

That is probably a good thing. The Dutch media, in particular the NRC and the Algemeen Dagblad, tend towards the 'socially accepted' left of centre povs - alas, in the Netherlands that means very far out in left field indeed.

[The NRC takes pains to contrast anything positive about Israel with at least one negative thing (par exemplo: 15:37 Bush: Palestijnse staat voor eind 2008, 14:00 Slechte samenwerking Palestijnse en Israëlische ambulances).]

The NOS (Nationale Omroep Stichting - the main television and radio broadcasting organization in the Netherlands) has been described as dominated by PvdA (Dutch labour party) and Groen-links ('Green-Left' - the people who over here would probably have been members of the Workers World Party), in the same way as the ANP (Algemene Nederlandsche Persbureau - the Dutch news agency) has been described as the outreach department of Pravda (and absolutely sodden with Castro and Chavez sympathizers) - and, probably uncoincidentally, the ANP today prominently mentions two dead Palestinians.......

This situation explains the common misperception among 'sociaal bewogen' Netherlanders that Israel is not a democracy, was created out of nothing as a parking spot on someone else's territory for Jewish refugees after WWII, and that it is populated only by 100% Jewish religious fanatics of European origin who should learn to act like proper Europeans and should also return to Europe or America.

So, for anyone interested in relevant yet neutral news in Dutch, here are two sources wich are far more rational and balanced than either the ANP or NOS.
This one frequently mentions, in some depth, the news that the Dutch press strenuously avoids. It is generally speaking pro-Isreal (which really means that it is both neutral and rational).
This is Manfred Gerstenfeld's splendid highlighting of the way in which news can be slanted by focussing primarily on the negative. Which, davka, is what the Dutch press loves to do to both Israel and the US, it being so easy and so profitable to pander to low common denominators.

Additionally, another great source of general info is:
Likoed Nederland - Likud of the Netherlands.

[Yes, I know, Likud is not usually considered neutral. But at the risk of causing y'all to rupture yourselves laughing, I will maintain that it is indeed very much middle-of-the-road / mainstream. It has none of the biases of the hardcore on either side, but as Rebbe Nachman advises, veers neither right nor left and stays steadfastly focused. ]


Dutch readers can also rely for their pov on people like Anja Meulenbelt (Dutch parliamentarian, radical socialist, and harridan blog-hag); what such folks say is often the very best example of everything wrong.

Ajaan Hirsi Ali (Ajaan Hirsi Magan) and Geert Wilders, both of whom function as guard-dogs against the creeping Islamicization and culture-rot of the Netherlands, are also very interesting and worthwhile reads, but both have their own agendas, and both veer too much into xenophobia.
Being in many ways the eternal foreigner, I am not overly enthusiastic about xenophobia.


On my way to the magazine store to purchase the latest edition of Arts Of Asia magazine (main article: Translucent World: Chinese Jade from the Forbidden City) I saw my first ever Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).

The male of the species is very recognizable - red shoulder pads or epaulettes on a body otherwise jet in colour. The female of the species is a drab little bird, indistinguishable from many other equally drab little birds.

These creatures sleep around like you wouldn't believe. Males will have over a dozen partners, macho conquest and defense of territory are its middle names. Females will sneakily have two or three other partners, often the males of neighboring territories. It is commonly found in wetlands. The San Francisco financial district hardly qualifies as such.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I've been rereading some old e-mails from over a year ago, and it strikes me that someone I corresponded with then, by cutting off contact, has demonstrated that despite what seemed to be a number of mutual interests, there was little more to the textual interchange than the poking of an interesting exemplar with a sharp stick to see what it would do.

I am somewhat irritated that that was all there was to the correspondence. Irked at being just an anthropological curiosity. A strange program on the nature channel. A bug with an iridescent shell.

I wonder, would I have been a more interesting creature if I had swung from the branches, and ate my own lice? If I had brilliantly coloured feathers? Perhaps I should've flung poo?

These questions are rather abstract, given that there is no more contact, and the writer of whom I speak is on the other side of the country. It is also something to which I do not wish to receive any answers - acquaintances come and go, readers pass by and vanish. And other people's lives must necessarily occupy the majority of their attention.

Not all similarities are similarities. Sometimes people are so utterly different in so many ways that other than a flash of mutual curiosity there is no common ground whatsoever. Which is often not immediately obvious.

Still, I sometimes wish that I could poke that specimen with a sharp stick.


Gentlepersons, in order to save you time during this busy season, I have read the newspapers for you, and present the only three articles which you need to read today below. Trust me, you do not need to read anything else, nothing significant is happening in any case, don't waste your precious shopping time, and just keep moving to the nearest mall or electronics outlet.



Tupelo, Mississippi -- Protestors staged a rowdy demonstration outside the palatial mansion that conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly shares with his partner reverend Donald Wildmon today, burning red and green muppets in order to draw attention to the overt Christmasization of American commerce at this time of year. "There is something good and godless about American business", said spokesperson John Wildwood of the American Heathen Association, "and here these bozos seek to inject a totally unnecessary element of religion into the biggest secular holiday since Saturnalia".

Police estimated the crowd at hundreds of thousands, and struggled to keep the atheists from being assaulted by gangs of outraged Mississippians, eager to express their religious fervor with the violence sanctioned by their faith.


Hebron, Israel -- In a heartwarming scene reminiscent of the joyous crowds that filled the streets of Berlin after reunification, right-wing settlers and murderous Hamas supporters embraced each other and sang 'kumbaya' today, united in their efforts to make the Bush Administration's peace conference in Annapolis fail. Both sides admitted to "liking the status quo just fine, thank you very much", and wondered how they would survive the cut-off of funding by interested outside parties if the negotiations were successful.

"We rely on the Euries and Saudis for our bread and butter", exclaimed Abu Sharmutter, a Hamas activist - "most of us don't have any actual skills or education that would make us employable. We need violence in order to survive. I have nine kids - who will feed them if there is no more funding for terrorism?".
Shloime Speckberg, standing nearby, agreed - "if there is ever peace between us, I would have to get a real job instead of shnorring from American tourists on the thrill-trip of a lifetime. Lets face it, other than the frisson of visiting the territories, there ain't nuttin' here, it's a blasted dump".

Abu Sharmutter and Shloime Speckberg have agreed to meet every week to plan further outrages to safeguard each other's livelihood.


Leiden, The Netherlands - Thousands of students took to the streets on Monday to demand fewer hours in grammar and high schools and more obedient school staff. Marching through the streets of this ancient university town, the mass of under-age students showed their resolve by threatening pedestrians, breaking store windows, and chanting slogans supportive of Hamas ("Hamas, Hamas, alle Joden aan het gas!"), to the general bafflement of more educated segments of society. "What does an anti-Semitic soccer slogan have to do with schools?" asked Willemien Oudewyf as she ducked the barrage of eggs and empty soda cans while running for cover, "how on earth will gassing solve anything?". Echoing her confusion, another passerby angrily opined that the rowdy teenagers had no clue what the issues were, and were simply out to taunt their elders and betters, adding that they were all (expletive deleted) Morocans and other ill-mannered garbage.
Which, to this reporter nursing a black eye and wondering what had happened to his wallet, watch, and bicycle, certainly seemed to be the case.


NOTE: Only one of these news-articles is actually based on real events. Only one. I'll leave you to guess which one. Please post your guess as a comment - there is no prize for being right, nor will you be rewarded.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Something said at Dovbear's shabbes tish reminded me of a text from the as yet uncollected work of the Rabam.



The Rabam explained: "I am reminded of a story my holy ancestor the Rebbe of Prolicz heard from the Dubner Maggid, as follows: Yankel, a poor peasant, was forced to move to a large city to pursue his livelihood. As he and his wife were busy unpacking their possessions at their new abode, a local official dropped by, and Yankel invited him in, asking his wife to make something tasty for the important man, and pulling out his last bottle of GlenMorangie to give him a drink. For two hours, the official ate, drank, and conversed with these new residents of the ward, and left at last looking wel-fed, tiddly, and ever so pleased.

A neighbor across the street, having observed much from his front stoop, figured that he would also enjoy a free lunch off these yokels. So, putting on his best clothes, he crosses the street, knocks at the door, and introduces himself, welcoming Yankel “in the name of the gonze gasse”. “How nice”, says Yankel, “a sheynem dank, have a nice day yourself, a gootbai tu yu”, and turns to go back inside. “Aren’t you going to ask me in?” says the neighbor. “Sorry”, says Yankel, “it is quite late, and we still have much to do, perhaps another time”. And slams the door.

A few years later, Yankel has to appear before the local tax commission. Alas, the freeluncher is one of the commissioners. The case drags on a few weeks, and one day, as the freeluncher passes by Yankel’s house, Yankel rushes out, and frantically invites him in, putting delicacies and some very nice Balvenie 24 year old in front of the man. “Well”, says the man, “this is quite a change from a few years ago, when you wouldn’t even give me the time of day…, and now all of a sudden I’m worthy of the same hospitality as that official?” “Of course”, says Yankel, “A few years ago you were just an nebbish looking for a free lunch. Now, however, I need you on my side. So please, eat, drink, enjoy yourself, and be sure to remember me favourably when the time comes to decide my case.”

And so it is with us - we hope Hak-m Kaddoshboruchhu will remember us favourably when the time comes.

Note: A commenter from Fundie writes: but only if we invite HIM in, Tayereh Yuvon in Sukkah, only if we invite him in.

Dubner Maggid = Yakov Ben Wolf Kranz of Dubno (1741 – 1804), an itinerant preacher who illuminated his discourse ad nauseum with meshalim (parables and homilies).----------------------------------------------


There was another discussion over at Dovbear's, in which I decided not to participate. It was following a posting by Chaim G. / Knuckle Dragging B. / The Bray of Fundie about a modern orthodox rabbi's opinions regarding the conversion issue - particularly the decision by the Orthodox rabbinic establishment in Israel to no longer accept conversions performed by rabbis in golus who have not been vetted by the Chief Rabbinate.

[This posting here:
Which references this article: ]

My readers will no doubt understand why this is both a matter of great interest, and an issue of supreme indifference. I'll be following the discussion but will maintain silence on the subject.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


This is a response to a query underneath a recent posting.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) asks: "Is Chinese poetry frequently defined by an even number of zi in each line?"

Hello Steg,
The short answer is yes it is.

Generally speaking, Chinese poetry is divided into two categories.
Shi: 詩 - verse, often specifically verse of matched lines either in four or eight line sets, and Tsu: 辭 - lyric, usually in a set pattern of lines of different lengths, often based on songs. The first term however also applies to the material in the Book of Songs (詩 經 - Shi Ching), not all of which has matched lines.

The Shi Ching has some of the oldest verse in the Chinese language, and allegedly speaks of high moral values - although the lubricious boasting of a gallant that he has made love to three (!) damsels in one of the poems is almost impossible to read without twinkling eyes, and the wooing of another maiden, which cunningly uses bird-motifs to suggest the unsuggestable ("kwan kwan go the ospreys, kwan kwan"), is anything but puritan in tone.

From the Chou dynasty (周 朝 - Ch'ou chiu, 1122 bce to 256 bce) onward the definition of verse became more and more rigid - eventually verse with even numbers of lines and matching syllable count was considered shi, all else was by default tsu. Tsu could be sung, and often was. Shi could be chanted, but sounds a little ridiculous if sung.

[This is a value judgment! I think it sounds ridiculous if sung - others, who are wrong, disagree.]

唐 詩
The T'ang dynasty (唐 朝 - T'ang chiu, 618 ce to 906 ce) saw the greatest development of matched verse, in which there are the same number of zi per line, with either five or seven syllable lines throughout. There is usually a symmetry of sentence form, tonal contrast (level tones versus oblique) alternating within each line and contrasting in the next, a match or contrast of theme-words, and a progression of images and ideas that make the reader continue the thought or emotion beyond the end of the poem.

Because of the set patterns they are the easiest poems to memorize, and often the hardest to translate well (due to the terse nature of the Chinese language).

In many T'ang examples the poets, while expert at structure, play somewhat fast and loose with the constraints of the form for greater effect. Their poems (古 詩 - "ancient verse") have the correct line lengths, and full rhyme every second line. But their expressiveness lies in the almost perversely casual approach to the conventions of the form. There is seldom perfect parallelism, tone balance is frequently implied rather than perfected, pattern matching is nearly non-existent.

律 詩 , 絕 句
The ideal form is the full eight lines with parallelism and symmetry, which is known as regulated verse: 律 詩 (Lu Shi). The poets Li Po and Tu Fu are, famously, often anarchically heretical in their approach to this form, and often produce clever quatrains instead: 絕 句 (Jue Ju) or broken sentences.

新 詩
Since the revolution that overthrew the Manchu Dynasty (清 朝 - Ching chiu, 1644 - 1911, also called 大清 - Taai Ching, "great clarity"), poetic conventions have been relaxed. One hesitates to call much modern verse by the term 'poetry', though clearly it still is 'literature'. The term 'new poem' (新 詩) is frequently used; even the bohemians of the past would vociferously complain that 'this does not compute'.

楚 辭
Final note: While the Shi Ching represents what the Confucian school considered proper poetry that would serve to instruct the ruler in the emotional needs of his people, the Songs of Chu (楚 辭 Chu Tsu) are of nearly equal age, and present an entirely different background and set of reference points.

[Chu was a large kingdom that at the beginning of the Chinese era was far beyond the borders of civilization (occupying a broad geographic zone overlapping modern central-southern China), but which by the early classic period (about two and a half millennia ago) was entirely Sinicised - like Chou, their barbarian edges had worn off, and elements of their culture and thought-realm had expanded the Chinese horizon.]

This collection of chants, allegedly written by a righteous Confucian, reflects a belief-system quite different from the proper Chinese heartland - a world in which the unstilled spirits of the deceased are by ritual and offering conjured back by their emotional kin to their proper place , where they find security, and can influence the lives of their descendants. How odd! To a proper Confucian of the time, ancestral spirits did NOT roam about at all, but occasionally manifested themselves decorously within the sanctuary of the family temple.

The Songs of Chu represents a more unbridled concept of the world, and contains much that is either totemic or shamanistic. Chu, though sinicised, was still a marshy southern borderland, with different manners and mores. Not quite 'us', don’t you know.

The modern native of Chu would, of course, disagree with the opinion above. After all, what could possibly be MORE civilized than Suchou, Shanghai, Hangchou....... It is davka those northerners who should worry about their lack of civilization, not the south.

The Cantonese, further south than any of the others, wholeheartedly agree. The ultimate South (粤 Yueh - boundarial zone, 嶺 南 Ling Nan - South of the Passes; both are ancient terms for Kwantung), has ALWAYS been the heart of Chinese civilization, and all of those northern people (including Chu) are just goofy. Punkt.



Often verses were composed by literati at parting, when one of them would be sent out to a distant posting and his friends would see him off. They would not meet again for years, decades even, and it was unlikely that all of them would ever be together in the same place again. So on the morning of the departure, all would ride for a while together, and have wine at a landmark or bosky wine-shop before saying farewell.

Li Po (李白) says goodbye to Meng Hao-Ran (孟浩然) at the Yellow Crane Tower in this verse: 送孟浩然之廣陵 (Song Meng Hao-Ran zhi Guang Ling - seeing off Meng Hao-Ran to Guang Ling)


Gu-ren xi ci Huang He Lou,
Yin hua san yueh xia Yang Zhou;
Gu fan yuan ying bi kong jin,
Wei jian Zhang Jiang tian ji liu.

Translation (paraphrasis):
My old friend heads west at the Yellow Crane Tower,
Amid the early spring smoke-drifts below Yang Chou;
A solitary sail, a distant image, swallowed by the blue expanse,
Finally, I can only see the great river flowing to the horizon.

Note the suggestion of tears in the last line - the conceit is that he waited till the sail disappeared from sight, it is more likely that his eyes were too wet to see clearly long before then.

Wang Wei (王維) describes a similar occasion in Wei Cheng Chu (渭城曲 - Wei City lyric):


Wei-Cheng zhao-yu yi qing chen,
Ke she qing qing liu se xin;
Quan jun geng jin yi bei jiu,
Xi chu Yang Guan wu gu-ren.

Translation (paraphrasis):
Wei city, morning rain settles the dancing dust,
At a rustic inn all is green, the willows newly tipped;
I urge you to drain one more cup of wine,
West of Yang Guan there will be no old friends.

Almost anytime the term guan (關 - barrier gate, pass) is used, exile outside of civilization is meant. The barrier gates were the exits into the wilds beyond China, the Tatar lands, the Jurchen forests, the wild and thoroughly repulsive frontier zone. The contrast of guan with gu-ren (故 人 - familiar person, intimate friend) could not be more striking - 'west of the gate into the waste-land there will be none with whom you will have anything at all in common, so please, prolong this moment with just one more glass, and remember us and Wei city as it is now, in springtime'.

Travel is a constant theme in literati writings - as the official class of the empire, they were often on the road to and from postings, or on official business.

Here's Zhang Hu (張祜) being grouchy over having missed the last ferry across the river in Ti Jin Ling Du (題金陵渡 - 'On the theme of waiting for the ferry to Jin Ling').


Jin Ling jin du xiao shan lou,
Yi xiu xing ren zi ke chou;
Chao luo yeh jiang xie yueh li,
Liang san xing huo shi Gua zhou.

Translation (paraphrasis):
Waiting for the ferry at Jin Ling ford in a rustic shelter,
A lonesome traveler manages to make himself thoroughly miserable;
Sopping wet at the river, barely any moon light,
And yet I can see the flickering lights of Gua Chow across the water!

Du Mu (杜牧), similarly stuck on the wrong side of the river, gets testy over backwaters and local apathy, in Po Jin Huai (泊秦淮 - moored at the confluence of the Jin and Huai rivers). Or maybe he's lamenting what has passed.


Yin lung han sui yueh lung sa,
Yeh po Jin Huai jin jiu-jia;
Shang nu bu zhi wang guo hen,
Ge jiang you chang hou ting hua.

Translation (paraphrasis):
Mist enfolds cold water, moonlight delimits sand,
Moored at night in Jin Huai near a wine shop;
The trollop does not know the despair of a destroyed nation,
Across the river she still sings 'The Back Court Blossom'.

Shang-nu (商 女) refers to wine-shop girls, whose cheerful company would spur the clientele to drink more and prolong the moment (sometimes into the wee hours, sometimes into upstairs chambers). In the past, Du Mu probably enjoyed their presence, yet here he is clearly disgusted with the superficiality of it all - don't they know what happened? How can they still sing gay songs of the capitol, now that the Tatars have sacked it and the nation is undone!

Returning in dreams to familiar places also crops up as a theme in the writings of scholars.
Zhang Bi (張泌) revisits the mansion of the Xie family in Ji-ren (寄人 - traveler)


Bie meng yi yi dao Xie jia,
Xiao lang hui ta qu lan xie;
Duo qing zhi you chun ting yueh,
You wei li ren zhao luo hua.

Translation (paraphrasis):
In my dreams I still go to the Xie mansion,
Wandering along the lesser veranda with the curved railing;
Emotional, because of the spring moonlight in the courtyard,
Which, for this exile alone, is adrift in fallen flowers.

There was little chance that he would ever see the moon-silvered petal-drifts in the courtyard of the Xie mansion again. One can well understand the depth of his feeling on revisiting it in his dreams.

One scholar who did manage to return home after a life in distant postings was He Zhi-Zhang (賀知章), who says of his return to his home village in Hui Xiang Ou-Shu (回鄉偶書 - Return Home Incidental Scribble):


Shao-xiao li jia lao da hui,
Xiang yin wu gai bin mao shuai;
Er-tong xiang jian bu xiang shi,
Xiao wen 'ge cong he chu lai?'

Translation (paraphrasis):
Very young when I left home, I return as an old man,
My accent has not changed, though the hair on my temples has thinned;
The children and I look at each other, without any recognition,
Smiling, they ask "visitor, where do you come from?"

But at least he did return, and no doubt became a familiar face again in his village. This was for many an unrealizable dream. The fate of the literate is often eternal exile - if not dislocation, anomie.

Note: All poets cited above lived during the T'ang dynasty, when the Chinese Empire was at an all time high of both prosperity and territory. Chinese civilization had both a provincial aspect, frequently subcultural, and a metropolitan aspect, which for want of a better word can be described as 'supracultural'. The scholars who staffed the chancelleries and departments had their roots in their own local culture, but in their literacy and education exemplified the values of the supraculture. One can take the scholar out of Kansas, but one cannot cut Kansas out of the scholar.

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Tradition is mighty fine.

It is traditional that every year on the Surinam Mailing List there is a screaming match of monumental proportions regarding the issue of Black Pete.

[The Surinam Mailing List is for people who have any interest in Surinam (formerly Dutch Guiana), many of whom are from there, or have some connection to the place and the people.]

Usually World War Three starts on the list right about now, and continues all the way through to Nittel Night. The rhetorical bombing runs and hate-mail missiles take out enemy cities, verbal napalm denudes entire provinces. The injured stumble from the battlefield of dialectic with wounds all bleeding and puss-y gangrenous, the mute cadavers of those who fell in word-war are spitefully carved up and mutilated. The hoarse rasping gasp of Shma-Yisroel or Our Fadder by a dying disputant can faintly be heard.
All of this entirely in a flood of furious letters, of course. A metaphor.

Stop scratching your head, I shall explain.

It relates to a fictionalized holy man (Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas) whose holiday is celebrated in the Dutch-speaking part of the world on December 6th. or on the evening beforehand (Sinterklaas avond - Saint Nicholas eve, December 5th.).
In the middle of the night the fictionalized gentleman squeezes his portly middle-aged self down narrow chimneys to give presents and candies to good children, coal to mediocre children, and drag the truly awful ones back to Spain with him when he leaves.

Formerly the bishop of Smyrna, a millennium ago he retired to the Costa Del Sol - the European equivalent of Miami. Once a year he comes out of retirement, puts on his glad-rags, gets on his silver-grey horse, and goes to the Netherlands for a month.
For the children. Candies. Peppernuts. Marzipan. Playstations and Nike.

However, if you've been a particularly nasty little brat, you get something unpleasant instead.

A savage beating by six to eight black men.

You see, part of the story is that 'Sinterklaas' is accompanied by six to eight big butch black men wearing the type of poncy frou-frou costumes you've seen in Italian paintings. Individually and collectively they are called "Zwarte Piet" (Black Pete). They have no actual identities of their own, no individual names, they do not get to ride horses. They are mere retinue. And they are goon. They are not the sweet and gentle type of black man with which you are familiar.

A bad child will get fiercely birched within an inch of his life by one or more of these gentlemen, then dumped into a gunny-sack and dragged off to Spain, never to be seen again.

Traditionally, the six to eight big butch black men are impersonated by one to three white people (often young ladies), with crudely applied black-facepaint, wearing whatever gaudy big butch drag they find in the rag heap. They utter nasty foreign sounding boogabooga grunts and pidgin Dutch threats to scare the crap outta the little kids - especially the ones who haven't spent the previous month acting all goody two shoes, kissing up, singing cutesy songs about how happy they are to await the coming of the Saint (and his six to eight big butch black men), and dutifully putting out cookies for the Saint every night, and a carrot for his horse (but nothing for the retinue). They occasionally chase a brat, do a handstand or a cartwheel, or act colourful in some way.

Many Dutch people have not grasped the racism of this yet, as they remember the joy of the season that they felt as children, getting candies, toys, cake, marzipan, chocolate letters. And as adults, they want to recapture that joy, and pass it on to their kids. Fear, trauma, bribery, and payola - all combined into a cheery feast.

White folks in blackface.

You can no doubt understand why Surinamers in the Netherlands are "ambivalent" about this.

Yearly there is much venting about it on the list.

It is therefore with bated breath that I await the start of battle. All is quiet at the moment. But this cannot endure. Huge buckets of hate, of puss, of venom, are intrinsically part of the holiday tradition. And we must respect tradition.


About the title of this post:
Justice is usually pictured as a blind white woman, scantily dressed, holding a pan-scale. Absurd! Justice is not blind or white - Justice is actually a large black man, holding a bunch of birches. And boy, is he angry.

David Sedaris said so.

See: Live at Carnegie Hall.

Or rather, listen.

Monday, November 19, 2007


One of my commenters seems to have a bee in his bonnet. And I am not at all sure how to deal with it. He's posted a disturbing request under two previous posts.

Lawrence Cuttleworth wrote:

Dear Mr. BOTH,

You continue to obstinately ignore my comment. Why?

I wrote:

Dear Mr. BOTH,

There has been a terrible misconception among Orthodox Jews. They understand the verse "ve hagisa bo yomam va laila", And thou shalt delve in in by day and by night, to refer to the Torah. And therefore, they study Torah all day, every day. But in fact, it refers to the Sexual Fantasies of the Nazis. It is davka the Sexual Fantasies of the Nazis that one is supposed to study all day.
I expect a post from you on this topic, forthwith.


Lawrence Cuttleworth


Gracious me.

Need I confess that this has me flummoxed? The idea that one should delve into the sexual fantasies of Nazis is new to me......

I imagine that their dreams probably involved very big blonde women wearing horned helmets and Marlene Dietrich fishnets and little else, and further that there may have been a sado-masochistic element also. People who are truly curious about these matters should go to Castro Street and look in some of the store windows, or buy erotica that features bulky men in skimpy leather stormtrooper outfits with bare-ass chaps.

And please do NOT report back on what you find. Respect my youthfull innocence, and that of my tender readers. Thank you.

This blog, for one, will certainly not dwell on these matters 'yomam va laila'. I'm already pretty close to tearing out my mental eyeballs over the concept.

[Mental eyeballs regenerate infinitely - the imagination is a many-eyed bug-thing.]

Might I suggest, my dear Mr. Cuttleworth, that you could be misreading that verse? And that rather than being 'a misconception of orthodox Jews' it is actually an issue for you alone? Possible an abnormal fetiche? An unhealthy fascination?

If you really NEED a horned helmet and fishnets, I'm sure you can find them on e-Bay.
The moist concrete floor, crotchless leather pants, and riding crop can all be found locally anywhere in the civilized world. And you should probably have a good hardware store, locksmith, and the emergency room on speed dial.

If you do decide to go whole hog (tied or otherwise), and create your own blog devoted to your interpretation of day-and-night obsessing, I shall NOT post a link to that blog, I shall NOT mention it in any context whatsoever in any of my postings, and I shall NOT suggest to my readers in any way where it can be found.

But I shall probably visit it. And encourage you with eccentric anonymous comments.
Depending on the details, your progress into the dark dungeon of the mind could fascinate me no end. Nearly as much as it will disturb me.
But like a slow motion train wreck that takes out the orphanage with all the perky Catholic schoolgirls, I will likely not be able to pull my sticky eyes away.

[Pleated green-blue-black plaid skirts. Crisp white cotton blouses. White socks. Pony tails. The backs of shapely knees. Oh my.]

I did mention that I like freak-shows, didn't I?

Friday, November 16, 2007


This is the season of the rotting fruit.
Huge generous piles of rotting fruit.
With wasps and worms.

At this time of year the trees in Brabant are losing their leaves, the air in the woods outside of Valkenswaard is rich with tannin from the oaks, and the breeze carries sharp rotten-moss odours from the pines. Briny, moldy, moist. The air is cold.

As it was then.

Earlier in those autumns, when the weather was still warm and sunlight lasted longer, we would climb over the walls of other people's gardens and steal the unripe apples, sour and crunchy and too small to bother plucking. In some orchards an apricot would still hang on a branch, dangling over long grass that hid it's darkened kin. We feasted on our stolen treasures, and came home late with no appetite for dinner.

When the frosts hit in late October even the apples lost their tempting qualities. The grass underneath the trees would be wet and filled with rotting things. A late wasp would sluggishly rise to threaten, something black and horny would disappear among the soggy lumps and leaves. Our fingers no longer snatched and but stayed inside our pockets. The cold wind escorted in the early twilight and the long chill dusk, which did not darken with a golden glow, but in a faded silver that settled into umbers and slate greys.

The Smeets family had had several apple trees and a few pears in their long, long yard. The fruit would start ripening in late summer, and the passage through the hedge-row would then have to be rediscovered and surreptitiously re-widened, in preparation for raids. Their fruit was small and crisp, but incredible juicy - our chins and hands testified to our crimes. We were quick, we were silent.

The Smeets children were just as bad as everybody else in other yards. While we gorged on their green apples, they ate stolen red stars in old man Driessen's garden.

There were so many fruit trees in the neighborhood that everyone lost and everyone won.

The grown-ups did this too. There is nothing quite so suspicious as the stern voice of adult authority, with bulging pockets and bumpy clothes. People wearing ill-fitting garments that you had never seen them in before acting surprised, out of place, and grumpy. The twig in the hair and the leaves stuck in the collar were, in hindsight, odd.

I did not notice it happening, but as I grew older, more and more of the trees disappeared. By the time I started smoking there were only a few left. Our big apple tree in the courtyard, an apricot tree three gardens over, and some berry bushes along the road. The Smeets only had the pear trees left. And the smells had changed. Gardens had been cleared, people had moved away. What had once been called the stink path was now an actual road - paved, lit, besidewalked, straightened out and made civilized. The house where 'Steel Jesus' lived with his dear little wife from the Indies was no longer there. Their cherry trees, the peaches and plums, and the apple trees were gone. A parking lot marks the spot. A very neat little parking lot, with shiny street lamps. Very bright and cheerful.

Angry house-harridans do not yell at shadows flitting through the trees, guard-dogs no longer sociably slobber into fruit-stained faces.
Does anyone even still steal fruit in this age?

Someone should invent a video-game.

I think I'll let some apples rot in the kitchen over the next few days to reawaken memories.
This will be fun.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


My constant readers will no doubt forgive me if I briefly veer into one of my other modes.

The first poem in Chinese I ever memorized was this one by Zhang Zhi (張繼): 楓橋夜泊
[Night Mooring at Maple Bridge]


Yue luo wu ti shuang man tian,
Jiang feng yu huo dui chou mian.
Gu Su cheng wai Han Shan Si,
Ye ban zhong sheng dao ke chuan.

Translation (paraphrasis):
"The moon lowers crows caw frost fills the sky,
Maple trees and fishermen's lights meet my melancholy gaze;
From beyond Han Shan (Cold Mountain) Temple outside the city of Gu Su (Su Chou),
I hear the sound of the midnight bell as it reaches this traveler's boat. "

I memorized it first, because it was the first one in the bilingual edition of the famous anthology. It is one that many Japanese of a certain age have also memorized, as well as people who have been to old-fashioned high schools. The man who wrote this was on his way back from failing the metropolitan exams. Little else is known about him.

One of the most evocative poems that I remember is probably Ba Shan Yeh Yu - Evening Rain on Ba Mountain (巴山夜雨) by Sun Shan Qi (孫善齊).


Jun wen gui qi wei you qi,
Ba shan yeh yu zhang qiu chi;
He dang gong jian xi chuang zhu,
Que hua Ba Shan yeh yu shi.

Translation (paraphrasis):
"My lord asks me the date of my return yet there is no date,
On Ba mountain the rains fill the autumnal pools;
When again in each other's company shall we trim the wicks at the western window?
All I can say is that it will be when the rain on Ba mountain (again) fills the autumn pools. "

While this poem could be and probably is about the temporary separation of a couple, she perhaps on an extended visit to her relatives in a different province due to a family emergency, the choice of pronoun (Jun 君) speaks in modern Japanese usage AND in T'ang dynasty Chinese usage of male equals. One can therefore also imagine two literati, study partners, who spent much time swatting the classics together. A chavruso relationship, in other words.

Such a relationship was by no means unusual among people of the literate class, especially as maintaining literacy generation after generation was a shared effort by many people. Lifelong friendships were founded upon it.
And it also occured not infrequently among a man and wife - an illiterate woman could not effectively encourage and guide the growth into literacy of her children, nor impart the scholarly values.

A particular favourite poem speaks of a scholar who has given up on the pursuit of success.

[Sheilos u'teshuvos mittn grinne bergen]
by 李白
[Li Taai Baahk - Li Po]


Wen yu he yi qi bi shan,
Xiao er bu da xin zi xian;
Tao hua liu shui yao ran qu,
Bie you tian di fei ren jian.

Translation (paraphrasis):
"Ask me why I stay in the green mountains,
I smile but do not answer - my heart is at ease;
Peach blossoms and flowing water go towards the horizon,
There is another world beyond the human bustling.

The allusion is to the tale of Peach Blossom Spring (in short: a traveler discovers a hidden paradise by following a rivulet that comes out of a mountain wall. He discovers a wonderful place, where people seem youthful, happy, unconcerned. When he returns to his own village, no one believes him. And when he tries to find that place again, he cannot).

The sense is of a literatus who keeps deliberately separate from the world. Peace and tranquility achieved by deliberately ignoring the mundane hunt for official glory that characterized the environment of the Chinese literati. Avoiding the pollution of the bureaucratic life in times of corruption was also one of their strongest ideals.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This post is offal.

In August of 2001 someone on the Suriname mailing list asked about Haggis. In connection with kwakoe (a summer festival for Surinamers living in P'tata), celebrated every year in the Bijlmer.

[Explanatory notes: Surinamers are Dutch Guyanese, mostly of African or Creole ancestry but also including every ethnic and cultural group under the sun in not insignificant proportion. Kwakoe (Kwaku) means Wednesday in Kromanti, which is a Voodoo (Winti) ritual language derived from Ghanaian languages spoken by the Africans brought to Suriname (Dutch Guiana), and is the name for a man born on that day of the week. It is also the name of the monument in Paramaribo to the abolition of slavery on Wednesday July first, 1863. Consequently the statue, of a man breaking free of his chains, has been identified as personifying the archetype of the African Surinamer, a free man at last, finally in charge of his own life. It was natural that the name would be adopted for a two month long festival (weekends in July through August) celebrating Surinamese heritage (and food) in what is probably the largest Surinamese city in the world, namely the Bijlmer Meer Polder housing estates in South-East Amsterdam. P'tata (potato) is the affectionate nickname that the Surinamers gave to the Netherlands.]

In response to that query I mentioned that Haggis is quite inedible unless one is Scottish or insane, and further explained that it is made by taking the plucks (heart, lungs, liver - so named because they can be extracted from the animal corpse by grasping and 'plucking') and boiling the crap out of them for several hours before chopping them fine, combining them with oatmeal - chopped onion - spices, stuffing this unholy mixture into a cleaned lamb stomach, and steaming the frightful concoction several more hours. A vegetarian version can be made with tofu (substitute cheesecloth for lamb stomach), which will be marginally more edible.

Recently E-kvetcher, a fellow blogger and friend of this blog, asked tongue-in-cheekily what the appropriate brocha for haggis would be.

I am in the unfortunate position of having given much thought to haggis, and consequently can authoritatively answer that question.


Let us assume that you have been served a portion of haggis. The whiskey was nice, the bagpipe music far less so, and your hosts have now dumped an evil substance with the texture of grainy spackle and no identifiable food related characteristics on your plate. You are of two minds as to whether to eat any part of it. You stare at it with considerable surprise and distrust.
And yet you grasp your fork anticipatorily; you will...... fork it.

In this case, the correct practice (in Scotland) is to recite: "Boruch Ata Adonoi Eloheinu, melech ha olam, oseh ma'aseh vereishis".


Better, though, to politely demure, and say "Boruch ata Adonoi Eloheinu, melech ha olam, shegemalani kol tov".

Sotto voce.

I wish to stress that last part. These folks actually EAT this stuff, and have a well-deserved reputation for being dour and bloody maniacs. Remember that bad Mel Gibson movie? You do not want them to start pulling out the blue face paint, do you? These are the same vicious people who will deep-fry a Snickers bar without a second thought. Be carefull.

[Note that if one is in Scotland, teatime is wonderful, but for dinner better go to a foreign (English) restaurant and stick with safe and reliable choices such as spotted dick and boiled baby. These are not savoury as haggis is alleged to be. But safety first.]


Final word on Kwakoe: If you are in Amsterdam during July and August, definitely consider attending the festival. Even if the prospect of bloodpudding, fladder, offal, screamingly hot chilies, and bacalhao in peanut-curry doesn't excite you, there are many other fine things to eat (Surinamese cuisine is absolutely terrific, and, along with Indonesian cuisine represents the very best that Dutch food has ever achieved). Buy yourself a tall bottle of Parbo beer or an ice cold glass of almond syrup and soda water, find a place to park yourself, and listen to some great party music. Swingi, man!


Note: the offal discussion happened over at Steg's place:
E-kvetcher's blog is here:
Need I mention that I read their blogs regularly?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I am in receipt of an e-mail that starts off with the following very misguided sentence: "In an effort to keep us all familiar with our largest retailers, we are organizing trips to Bay Area Wal-Marts, Targets ....... "


Why do I need this? I'm a pencil pushing, bean counting, irritable (but detail-oriented and brilliant) accounts receivable worker bee - I do not need any more familiarity with our largest retailers. I am not going to affect the outcome of any bitch-fights the sales department starts with these companies, nor do I need any more information on our biggest customers. So please guys, treat me like a mushroom on this. Go off and have your own happy little day out, eat your chain brand pizza from a storefront facing a large parking lot afterwards, and have yourselves a big, BIG 36 ounce delicious carbonated soft-drink! With extra ice! You deserve it!
Just include me out.

Unfortunately, I cannot fight this. Entirely without any input or consultation I have been included on a list which says "Target Colma".

With what? A tactical nuclear device?

Oh, you mean I'm supposed to get my middle-aged butt over to a big box in Colma. Shoot. A mall surrounded by the gazillion graves for which Colma is famous. Best place to stick a stiff in nine counties. Hundreds of thousands of satisfied cadav...stomers. Lots for less.

Additionally, y'all want me to fill out a questionnaire about the experience which was written by a ten year old. I didn't know we hired ten year olds. Did one of you "smart" marketing midgets farm out the writing of this thing to your kid brother? Special-Ed Ted? Couldn't you at least have proofread the darn thing afterwards?

Seriously, I wonder about the folks who go to Colma. Visit graves and shop for a six-month supply of toilet paper - who plans that for a fun-filled weekend?
What twisted multi-tasker considers scrubbing a headstone a good excuse to purchase a case of turkey franks and four dozen two-litre bottles of soda? Digging up the belladonna from little Maisy's patch equates to a frozen twenty-four unit box of mummified chickens? A bunch of flowering banewort on Mabel's marble slab earns you thirty kilopacks of niblets embalmed in high-salt breading? Giant party-size bags of Tastee-Krisp Kornpoos™ among the moss and yews? Crypts, lychs, and teevee dinners?

These are the kinds of mental associations that normal people should not automatically make, don't you think?

There you are, eating a Hungry Jack's Generous Portions Turkey And Gravy Dinner, when suddenly you remember grand-dad after that incident with the wood-chipper. The scene at the morgue identifying the... left-overs. The open casket funeral (whose idea was that?!?!). The creaky coffin with the shifting weight. Cousin Gunther clutching the pine-box and screaming that he was "staying with gramps forever, don't TOUCH me, you savage beasts!" Jake proposing marriage to Belle in the car on the way back.

You fork some more Hungry Jack turkey breast into your maw, and chew thoughtfully. You always did like dear old grand-dad. He was.... juicy.

Oh wait, that's the turkey.

Salty, too.

The e-mail ends by telling us that each team has twenty dollars mad money, and we should have fun. Exclamation mark.
Which is exceedingly disturbing.

Far from me to know any more about such ideas of fun. Sickos.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I note that Dovbear has dropped Chaim G. from the list of contributors to his blog.

Probably in response to the squeals of outrage from some of his less tolerant readers.

In a previous posting I said that if Dov's readers convince him to ban Chaim G., I would extend contributor privileges on my blog.
[Did I ever mention that squeals of outrage give me gas? They don't, they actually give me an electric thrill. Anyhoo, the previous post is here:]

Chaim, this is your invitation to guest-post here. If you accept, e-mail me to discuss.

Hmmmm, this might up the Torah quotient of this blog. And that is by no means a bad thing.

----------------------------- -----------------------------

It will be remembered from previous exposure that Chaim G. is the
Chameleonymous Chaim Grossferstant;
A Fellow Menuval, A Mar Gavriel Hasid, A Monsey Chusid, A Monsey Misnaged, Beauty is false & comeliness vain, Chaim G. the fact checker, Chaim G. the Haloscan Klutz, Chaim G. the peacemaker, Denzel Washington, George Orwell, Godwin's Law Task Force, Hannah Arendt, I-Gave@the-office, JewishAlarmist, King Agag, King Saul, Knuckle-Dragging Barbarian, Letz Takeh, Lorena Bobbit, Mae West, Mao Zedong, M'Bais Midrosho shel HaGr"a, Meah Shearim denizen, M, Mozart to Salieri, Mrs. Willy Lohman, National kill-time /injure eternity, Neither G-d nor a Lady, Old Testament Profit Margin, Pesi Ya'arim, Preference by Loreal, Profesor of Schatology, ReCantor Yossele Bray-a-blatt, Reform Heretic, Rubashkin shochet's helper, Ruth-the Queen Mother, Scatolgy Task Force, Sepharadic Mahmir, The Bray of Fundie, The Charedi Exorcist, The original ignoramus Chaim G.


Constant readers will recall that I occasionally gibber about pipe-tobacco, and may also remember mention of something called 'Balkan Sobranie'.

The Balkan Sobranie mixture, which has not been made for nearly two decades, was a bright spot of monumental proportions during the last few years I lived in the Netherlands.
It was ....... wonderful. Sheerly wonderfriggingfull.

But there seemed to be hardly anybody else in Valkenswaard who thought so. My brother was by no means enamoured of the smell. My classmates regarded it as clear evidence of perversion. And the fellows at the jeugd-societeit, who almost all smoked foul-smelling dark Dutch shag tobacco, considered the smell of Balkan Sobranie to be quite objectionable. Much more so than their own sour and rotten reek. Which they defended as the natural smell of a smoker.

I bear them no ill will because of that. Their mistakes and bad leaf choices are not the reason for this post.

This weekend I compounded a tobacco mixture of my own design. A Balkan English, with carefully calculated proportions. I used some of the blending tobaccos I acquired a few weeks ago from Cornell & Diehl. Including Smyrna and Latakia. Craig Tarler, of C&D, provides a very fine Latakia, by the way.

Can I just toot my own horn here a bit?

[Now picture for yourself a small warty toad jumping up and down happily in a dense cloud of smoke.]

The mixture is as close to my nose-memory of Balkan Sobranie as I'm ever likely to find. I've been smoking it all weekend, and echoes of those last few years in Valkenswaard have been drifting in and out of my head. Details long forgotten. Even the creak of the furniture in the living room, the light of my father's desk lamp, the sense of grey sheets of rain in summer. Overcast half-dark in mid-day, leaden clouds and heavy branches, the tannic musk of wet tree bark, the perfume of grass and clay.
Thickly leaved trees on the market square - verdant, heavy, wet, wet, wet.
Green and grey, green and grey.

In retrospect I realize I was not, strictly speaking, sane during those last three years before returning to the States. One of my coping mechanisms was a state of emotional rigidity, a narrowing of responses. I don't think I dealt well with my mother's illness. But I wonder whether that was a natural result of my age and my environment at that time, or if it was a gradual and willed blocking off of certain categories of stimuli. More memory will tell.

On an aromatically related note, I particularly recollect the week that my father was in London.
Tobias (my brother) was living in Tilburg at that time, which left me in charge of the house. I ate sautéed mushrooms every day, and smoked lots of Balkan Sobranie. Strong tea at four-thirty in the quiet house, fried mushrooms a few hours later, drank more tea afterwards. The sense of solitary freedom was exhilarating. Pace yourself on the Genever, that bottle has to last.
Put down the book, and go for a stroll in quiet glistening streets.
Sooty Latakia, resinous Yenidje, and sweet pale pale Virginia.


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

Friday, November 09, 2007


It struck me that many of my recent postings have been rather snide and negative. I am a disagreeable person.
Not that there's anything wrong with that; stirring up the kettle is something I do rather well, and I don't seem to have too many enemies at present.

Nevertheless, I should mention some of the bloggers I thoroughly appreciate, and describe 'em a bit. Sort of a tip of the hat. And a friendly acknowledgement.
[I also appreciate the people who read my blog and comment, but it is for them that I am writing this.]

Politically a liberal, religiously somewhat on the conservative side, likely Modern Orthodox but I've never asked. Manages to irritate the spit out of a huge number of vociferous if not eloquent individuals. One of the major J-blogs.

Chaim G.
Contributor and commenter on Dovbear's blog who really gets on some people's nerves big-time. By his own self-description overweight, black hat, Chareidi. But irrepressible and self-depreciating. Might actually not be an overweight orthodox gentleman at all, but maybe (I doubt it) a petite busty Philippina.

Well, I used to enjoy his blog. He's closed himself off from the world in recent times, being now read-by-invitation only, and those invitations probably went just to the people he hangs with.
Still, I appreciate the hours of reading pleasure he has given me. Thanks, dude.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
An insightful geek. And I mean that in an utterly good way. One of the best reads out there, both for his thoughts (esp. regarding Torah-Nach), and for occasional veering off into left field. He's very likeable, and he writes well. His is a warm and sunny blog. Especially for goblins.

Jameel at the Muqata
Settler, sociable, and may seem right wing. But that depends on how you define right wing (I tend to think of him as a lefty). Great sense of humour, equally great capacity for outrage. Litvish, strongly so. He and a few of his friends have a thing about waffles which I haven't figured out.

Search for Emes / E-kvetcher
Has a mind that goes outside boxes. Sometimes his posts are startling, sometimes they're amusing. I suspect him of having Chareidi sensibilities and Modern Orthodox leanings, but he's not easy to pigeonhole. And for that reason you should explore him occasionally.

One of the best commenters on Dovbear's blog.
I hardly ever read what he posts on his own blog, however, as it is clear that he is trying to work out some serious problems with which I would be of no help. On Dovbear's blog one can count on him to mix material from medical journals with passages from Talmud, argue spiritedly, and actually demonstrate what a profoundly decent chap he is. Definitely one of the stars of the comment-swarm.

Torah, Talmud, Halacha. And pedagogy. I suspect that he is also a Kahanist. Not that that is a problem in my world, but I can imagine that for some people that might present certain obstacles. Those same people would probably be upset if I told them what I really think about the settlements and the Edomites on the other side of the security fence, and how thin my patience with the Arabist point of view has become. Suffice to say that if Mev is a Kahanist, he is an example of what a Kahanist should be. And what we all should become.

Yes, he has a blog. But he doesn't post much. He comments on XGH and on Dovbear. He is more intelligent than I am. Has a sense of humour, and is well-read.

Thoughtful, witty, irascible. And I bet that when he reads this, he'll be almighty surprised at that last one.
Despite his confessed status as a NONSMOKER (shudder), one of the most interesting and readable blogging lights out there. Tends to respond to most of the commenters with a comment of his own addressing what they said.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof
Read him for your dose of Torah insight. And for a shtikl Rambam.

Sporadic mustard. Does not post frequently. Claims to be a fundamentalist. I have my doubts. He's too broadminded for that. Stubborn, but likeably so. Again, one of the flock of commenters, and like many, more often encountered as comment than as post.

Midianite Manna
Her self-description says it all: "Former academic low-life, now secular kollel wife and mother, living with a bad Cohen, a perfect baby, and a naughty cat."
Comments on Dovbear. Mentions the baby more than the cat. Once made pumpkin pie with evaporated skim milk half a year past its due date. Not ashamed to admit that.

Fellow pipe smoker. Linguist. Wit. I still haven’t figured out how come he understands Dutch.
Lipman does not post often enough to really be included in a list of bloggers, and seems to actually have a life. Unlike the rest of us. We are jealous of him in a multitude of languages.

The Clochard Times
Foul-mouthed brilliant Fleming - what's not to like?
Self-described as an extremely unpleasant cocaine-addicted whore and scribbler, morally bankrupt and nihilistic. But I think he's merely shy. Writes in Netherlandish in any case, so you'll just have to take it from me that he's good. He's good.

ADDeRabbi: On The Contrary: Judaism with Comments Enabled
A thoughtful commenter on Torah, Judaism, and life. Sometimes his writing is too in-depth for lunchtime reading, but by the end of the day my mind consists of too many frazzled loose ends to be able to read him. He's a very good writer, and browsing through his stuff over the years has often answered Torah-Talmud questions that had stuck in my mind for a while. When conditions are right I go through several weeks' worth of his posts in a sitting.

Rabbi Pinky / Yeshivas Chipas Emes
If you read this, you will either gain a greater understanding of where this blogger is coming from and what has formed him, or you will end up apoplectic and red in the face. It explains much, but doesn't really clarify anything. I think it is hysterical and utterly worth reading. I have a suspicion that some of you may be outraged, however. Not that I'm really concerned about that. If you don't get it, you don't. Meh.

Jeremy Rosen
Writings by an Orthodox Rabbi with a Renaissance mind. Used to host a mailing-list, which sadly is now defunct. Well written, thoughtful, engaging. A rabbi for both the religiously inclined as the completely secular.
His background is borderline Chareidi (in the American understanding of that term), and his Judaism is very much of Orthodox derivation. But in a sense he represents post-Orthodoxism. Judaism for the curious mind. I really, really recommend him.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


"Spam and pineapple pupus? Brok da mout! Kay den, I'm so there! Pau hana man, to da max."

The glee club has decided to hold a Hawaiian Shirt party next week.

Meaning that everyone is supposed to wear loud tropical shirts while swilling low-alcohol beer. Perhaps to the accompaniment of tinny Hawaiian music from someone's much regretted and lamented ceedee collection. Their secret shame on public display.
I do not wish to know which of my coworkers voluntarily listens to such stuff.

"Princess Pupuli, has plenty papaya, and she likes to give it awaaaaayy......"
[Lyrics here: and please imagine the twangy ukulele accompaniment yourself, as I refuse to even check if it is out there.]

Hawaiian Shirt Party? Loud Hawaiian shirts? Surfer images and sun rays and tall palms and huge whomping flower splotches?


I'm just a bit uncomfortable dressing as if I am going to Rafi's shul for Saturday service - although I believe he may be the only one with that minhag there, certainly the only one who can carry it off and still look frum. Tropical Pacific Islander frum. Watch out he has a weapon frum. You have the right to remain silent frum.

For the rest of us, there is something very 'single bachelor saying hello ladies!' about Hawaiian shirts. I consequently do not own any Hawaiian shirts.

[I do however own several Indonesian batik shirts, as are sold to tourists - but the best one can say about them is that they make me look like a pregnant Samoan (Savage Kitten has said precisely that, and refuses to be seen in public with me when I wear them). They too are very loud, but cater to a different facet of sleaze than Hawaiian shirts. Something more like buffed Aussie drunkard, less like middle-aged Hugh Heffner clone.]

But shirts aside, what is truly bizarre is the conceptualization of a tropical island beach over a dozen floors up in an office building in San Francisco in mid November.
It is desperate, and it is demented (but not nearly depraved enough).

It is far too cold to pretend. Whenever I step outside to smoke, I put on my overcoat, and it is still too cold (icy wind from Montgomery Street from mid-afternoon onward). Too blasting cold.
A coworker brought in an electric heater for his poor frozen tootsies. Yesterday my fingers ached at the keyboard from the chill.
If y'all willing to start a bonfire with dry coconut fronds in the conference room, sure I'll pretend I'm in the tropics. Otherwise. forget it! And I'm bringing my own rum.

And speaking of island beaches, elsewhere there is an banana glut. Loads of fresh pisang for the taking. How very tropical. See this news blurb:
"Thousands of bananas have been washed up [CUT] after several containers fell off a cargo ship in a storm [CUT] beaches on Terschelling and Ameland islands were littered with bunches of unripe fruit - to the delight of some local residents."

Sounds wonderful.
Bananariffic even.
Beach. Bananas. Local residents.
Buffed local residents rolling around in bananas on the beach.

Lucky devils. Hope they enjoy skipping around on the banana strewn sands. In their skimpy swimming trunks. Buff bronzed bodies, boards, and sunbleached hair. Smelling like suntan lotion and frangipani.

Note: Climactic and geographic details above are subjective, depending on the individual's own reality and tropical fantasy.

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