Monday, April 30, 2012


One of the most famous paintings produced by Edouard Manet is Le déjeuner sur l'herbe ("The Luncheon on the Grass"), which shows a naked woman in the foreground with two fully dressed men, and another woman behind the happy picnic party, scantily dressed, taking a dip in a bosky pool.
The two men are talking to each other, the naked woman is bored with their conversation and gazes directly at the viewer.

This canvas created quite a scandal at the time it was first exhibited.
It is now so iconic that I need not even reproduce it here.

To my mind, one of the things most remarkable about the painting is the clever use of blobs, those being the sketchily done areas in dark hues that form the pattern of the painting.
The people in the picture, however, hardly engage.
The nude woman, while charming, is not really that interesting, and the poncy gentleman with the odd hat who is facing her companion seems disinterestingly dissolute.

A better female nude can be found in Manet's painting 'Olympia', in which a courtesan with rather handsome breasts stares provocatively at the audience while a servant proffers flowers from an admirer.
Note, please, that the admirer is neither present nor known.
The painting suggest that it could be any one of us.

But the key element of Le déjeuner sur l'herbe is the image of a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, picnicking in a dell or glade, and enjoying the breeze as it strokes the skin.
Good company, something to nibble on, a warm day.
Clothing optional.

I have never experienced such a thing near the office, more's the pity.
There are a number of pleasant shady places in the Financial District that pretty much demand leisurely naked snack parties.
Including a copse of bamboo off an alley between Market and Mission.

In previous years I would wander over there in mid-afternoon to have some quiet time.
No, I never went commando while amid the tall pillars of bamboo.
But I'm very surprised no one else did.
This IS San Francisco.

I think I'll head over there sometime, now that the weather has improved.
With a sandwich from one of the nearby delis.
And a pipe.

Plus, of course, a positive attitude.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012


What does a crotchety badger want? What makes his furry snout twitch with happy anticipation?
These are very good questions, and I'm so glad you asked.
Today the badger in question wanted rice porridge.
Because it's comfort food, and it tastes good.

[Yat woon pei dan sau yiuk jook tong mai yat gan yau tiu m-koi.]

Preserved egg (皮蛋 'pei dan') and lean pork (瘦肉 'sau yiuk') in smoothly luscious congee (粥 'juk'), with an airy deep-fried strip of dough for dipping in the bowl, is the perfect lunch. It is simple, filling, delicious, and cheap.
Do not bother asking 係唔係新鮮炸嘅咩 ('hai m-hai san-sin char-ge-me': "is this freshly fried"), as the chances are that the yau tiu (油條) was made in the morning, and the woman behind the counter will inevitably say that it is new, while thinking "stupid kwailo, of course we don't sell stale stuffs, we wouldn't stay in business long if we did!".

[By the same token, do not try to order a bowl of soy milk (豆漿) or bak kut teh (肉骨茶 meat and bone broth), to go along with your "cha-kwei" (炸粿) because this is neither Shanghai nor the Malay and Indonesian world. It is San Francisco. We have jook (粥) with our oil-strips.]

Sit down, and note that an old gentleman one table away is eating exactly the same thing, with quite as much enjoyment. Life is made for pleasing coincidences.
It would have been nice if instead he had been a nice young lady with sparkling eyes slowly savouring a bowl of creamy rice porridge. But then I would have definitely had drips of jook on my chin, and they're hard to wipe out of a beard.
This would not have made a good impression.

If I were a sprightly miss in an eatery on Stockton Street, facing a furry-snouted badger with congee in his beard, would I find him attractive? Would my nipple twitch? Or would I pay him no mind, as the creamy porridge demanded all my attention?
Methinks I'd concentrate on the food. And perhaps have some hoimei fan (海米粉 steamed rice sheet noodle with dry shrimp) to round out my meal.
While ignoring his sneaky glances in my direction as he fills his pipe before leaving.
He's got rice grains in his beard. Does he not know?!?
That's a handsome briar, by the way.
It looks stylish.

Suffice to say there was no nice young lady there. There are, in fact, no such people in my life at all.
Which is a very great pity, as they are far far better than food.

FYI: the pipe tobacco I'm experimenting with at present has a decadent perfume added to the otherwise fine leaf. Not a strong fruity scent, being instead a whiff reminiscent of floral car freshener when lit. Most of it burns off in the first few puffs, so I don't think I'll be turning any heads with this. But it is a pleasant and unassuming smoke, good for spring days.
The soft feminine aroma may be influencing my mental processes.
Ghost-like traces of a woman's fragrance.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: Washington Street, Montgomery Street, quiet afternoon. Later, back over the hill, twilight at the abandoned church, then a slice of Dundee Cake, strong milk tea, a bowl of aged flake before dinner, mild yellow curry seafood soup with cilantro and ginger, sherry and a cheroot after dark. Perhaps time with a book - Ada and Van Veen, OR the amber details of Speak, Memory. Snow-pear incense half an hour before bed, to chase away any mosquitoes.

BRILLIANT CREATIVE INSIGHT: a dusting of scented talcum inside bra cups for greater comfort during warm weather.
Let me know if it works.

What should I eat next weekend? Noodles? More jook?
Rice and various dishes?
And milk tea.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012


Raccoons are known for their sensitive hands, which feel and relate to objects with keen intelligence. For the raccoon, the sense of touch is as important as eye-sight, and an ability to smell things. This explains both their eating habits, and their talent for picking locks.
Makes you wonder why you don't see raccoons eating noodles more often.
If anyone can master chopsticks, would it not be them?
Maybe they just eat such foods in private.
Home cooked style.


No, I did not eat noodles today. But if I had, I would've probably looked for a raccoon to share them with. Given how hot the soup comes to the table, we would've had to ask for extra ice, to cool the food down so that my small guest would not burn his or her paws and mouth.
I suspect raccoons do not prepare cooked food much. If they did, there might be more inexplicable fires in the city. Despite their remarkable dexterity, they lack opposable thumbs. Lit matches would go flying, and their kitchen activities could be a public hazard.  Best not boil any water, and forget about frying too.
They're all thumbs, they realize this. And I think that's why you so rarely see them in noodle shops.
Embarrassment, plus envy and hurt pride. Chopsticks are probably problems too.
It's okay, my furry friend, you can use a fork, just like white folks.
More ice? Careful, it's hot.

FYI:  饂飩("烏冬")麵 can be consumed cold. Boiled tender, rinsed in cold water to room temperature. And like 粗麵, they're thick enough that you could easily eat them with your paws.
Excellent with char-grilled pork and a little soy sauce.
Plus crunchy lettuce and cilantro.

Warm weather is raccoon time, time for spring cleaning. Preparing for the litter due at the end of May. Toss out the old bedding and steal more from those generous humans who live nearby.
Surely that must be why those hairless bipeds left their windows open?
Mm, these sheets smell fresh and clean! It's lavender!
And stay away from those; mothballs!

If you're going to use the stove or the ice box, better have a buddy system going on.
Those doors tend to swing closed suddenly, you wouldn't like to get stuck.
You might want to jam a broom in the refrigerator just in case.
Just be quiet while raiding, and don't leave a mess.
Well, less mess than the resident humans.
Put your dirty dishes in the sink.
And turn the coffee off.

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Friday, April 27, 2012


Someone wants to be just like me when he grows up.
Naturally I am amazed.
Quite flabbergasted, actually.

Why would anyone want to be a crusty middle-aged badger with a slight hangover who reeks of pipe-tobacco?

Apparently I am a very interesting man (badger), who has achieved maturity (crusty middle-age), with a surfeit of wisdom (thoughtful speech, due to a slight hangover).
Very much the shining example to a person precisely half my years.
Perhaps the exemplary shininess is the fragrance of Latakia.
That’s the only interpretation that makes any sense.
I will have to smoke that mixture more often.
Especially if it has that effect on people.

Sometimes I worry about the impression others have of me.

Still, it is far better to be perceived as ‘interesting’, ‘mature’, and ‘wise’, than seen as a stinky goobus with peculiar habits.
I shall make no attempt to change his mind.

Badgers (of any age) find it VERY flattering to be well-regarded.
So if you see an intelligent relative of weasels snuffling around Chinatown and the financial district this weekend looking particularly pleased, that will be me.
My eyes will be bright and inquisitive, my pelt will be groomed and lustrous.
I might even seem ‘interesting’, ‘mature’, and ‘wise’.
The slight hangover will be gone by then.
But not the smoky aroma.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012


When I left the office yesterday, a young woman was signing in her guest at security.
He had brought her a six pack of beer.

She was a bright pink-faced girl wearing a lovely pale blue summer frock, and, amazingly, the six pack of beer perfectly matched the hue of her dress.
Great combo. Pink and blue.
Very romantic.

I must confess, I never thought of courting a woman with suds.
But seeing how happy she was that her young man was visiting her at work, perhaps I should have.
I'm rather unimaginative in that regard. You know, flowers, good chocolates, a sumptuous array of dimsum.
A nice book, perhaps, or a brand new scarf that feels soft against the skin.
Warm cups of milky tea, and a plate of cookies.
Didn't consider bottles of beer.
Or even pizza.

Nothing says affection to ladies as well as cheese pie and alcoholic beverages.
I'll have to remember that; many relationships begin with these.
It's useful data that I might need someday.
Just in case of 'romance'.

Flowers, nice chocolates, snackiepoos?
Silky softness against the skin?
Hot tea and cookies?

Totally unimaginative!
Gotta grow up.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Some of my readers have wondered what I look like. I have not been helpful, as I have never put up photos of myself.  A blog is always a selective and fragmentary reflection of the person, and any images of the blogger should, necessarily, also reflect in the same vein.

Spry middle-aged pipesmoker.  Decent looking.  Neat facial hair. 
Very much resembling the images below.

Self portraits.

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One of my coworkers is trying to kill me. There is no other logical explanation. No, please do not tell me I'm paranoid.
I am a sensible person, not given to flights of panic.
At all times I weigh the possibilities, and come to the most likely conclusions.
My coworker is an evil monster.

That is why he's put chocolate in the kitchen.
This morning it was Scotch Mallow Easter Eggs from See's.
I manfully resisted. With all the willpower I possess I only had one.

This afternoon it was divine little dark square truffles, made by the loving hands of several anonymous French persons.
They were rich and delicious.
I ate three.

There is still a large bar of exquisite dark chocolate in the office kitchen.
Handcrafted, using only the finest ingredients available.
Including hickory smoked uncured bacon.
And alder-smoked salt.


I lament man's inhumanity to man.
At this hour I am the only person left in the office.
Bacon and chocolate. Two very good things. My brain is going to explode.

It is due to this very unseasonal surfeit of chocolate that I now know that there are people called "research confectioners". As well as "confectionary engineers", who design and build 'extruders'.
Hard sweets. Fondant. Couverture versus compound chocolate. Sorbitol. Soy lecithin.
Polyglycerol polyricinoleate, which is lipophilic.

Conching: the chocolate mixture is placed in a container full of metal balls, which 'grind' the mass for several hours, redistributing the fats ('cocoa butter') over the surfaces of ever smaller particles, thus yielding a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. Volatile components lessen notably during the early stage, less so once the particles are nice and oily. The end result of the conching process is a mild, intense, and well-developed flavour profile.

And some sick bastard also invented a chocolate frog.
As if bunny rabbits weren't bad enough.
Beware the Easter Frog.
He brings flies.
That taste like bacon.
Dark-chocolate covered smoked bacon.

Coming up: a holiday for tequila-filled dark chocolate bonbons.
As wells as chocolate covered jalapeños.
And guacamole fudge.

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Apparently, the sneering in yesterday's essay at Hello Kitty and the humans who have been savaged by the demented feline upset some readers. Or at least one reader, who took advantage of the letterbox I have pasted underneath each post to write me a heartfelt and sincere note.

I should “consider the joy”, she writes, “that the sweet personality of Hello Kitty” brings to all manner of people, who may like nothing better than to squeal, drool, and wet their panties over the cutesypoo icon.
Note: the squealing, drooling, and panty-wetting is just a happy guess.
She didn’t write that, I did – it seemed appropriate.
As well as extremely likely.

In my mind’s eye, people all over the world are squealing, drooling, and wetting their panties at this very moment.
They're filled with unbearable Hello Kitty love. Oh, the tenderness, oh, the heartache.
Please stop wetting your panties. Especially those of you who are men.
It’s unseemly, is what it is.

You women should probably stop also.

Have any of you ever heard of Stockholm syndrome?

Look, if you start seeing things from Hello Kitty’s point of view, you may need help.
You’ve been brainwashed, and require a dose of reality.
Perhaps an intervention.
We’ll get the dumb pussy stinko drunk, and you’ll find out what kind of gutter-trash she really is.
Dancing on tables with a lampshade and a bottle.
Dropping her panties in public.
Rude to a cop.

Then savagely attacking someone’s guide dog for the blind.

I tell you, I’ve seen stuff like that happen before.
It’s always the goodie-two-shoes who pull crap like that.

Sailors! I betcha she sleeps with sailors! Hah!

Stupid cat.

Anyhow, miss, I’m very sorry I offended you with my totally undeserved slagging of Hello Kitty yesterday, and I apologize.  Sincerely.
I realize now how much Hello Kitty means to you.
And you seem like a really nice person.
Please keep your panties dry.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


All furballs need an umbrella. We know this because we live on Nob Hill, and we watch Japanese movies. These two things establish, beyond any shadow of doubt, that certain animals absolutely require decent umbrellas NOW!

Badgers. Raccoons. Japanese trolls.

But not cats.

Cats have homes with stupid humans who tolerate their antics and obey. Whereas the other three mentioned (badgers, raccoons, and Japanese trolls) are independent-minded, and merely live alongside humans, not with them. Nor do they invade homes and brutalize the residents.
Unlike cats.

Again, we can rely on the Japanese for proof.
Hello Kitty.

Any home that has Hello Kitty is a sad and severely dysfunctional place, with traumatized and psychologically scarred people, who may take years to recover from the mental torture and abuse that that horrid feline puts them through. They are quite possibly damaged for life.
Icky cuteness and feline strong-arm tactics.
By a saccharine opportunist squatter.
Domineering and demanding.

No one who has lived with badgers or raccoons (or Japanese trolls) has experienced anything that even comes close. And most of them are still well-adjusted. The badgers and raccoons (and Japanese trolls) did not stay very long, they showed sincere appreciation for the strawberry shortcake, and they took their leave.
Despite the fact that it was raining buckets.
They didn't outlast their welcome.
Very gracious guests.

And that, you see, is why badgers, raccoons, and Japanese trolls need umbrellas.

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Monday, April 23, 2012


Not all nations are considered equal. It is axiomatic that the Western World self-righteously looks down their collective nose at certain people, certain ethnicities, certain tribes.

Such as, for instance, the Afrikaners.


In what way are Afrikaners unworthy of consideration?

They have done far less evil in the world than the English, the French, the Germans.
And they're damn sight better than most of those pestilential groups in the Balkans and the Mediterranean basin.

Here then, because I really feel like it, are two musical numbers that express the flavour of the modern Afrikaner world. The first one (die kaplyn - the cut line) is about the bush war that was supported by the English and the Americans against the Marxist terrorists in Angola, the second (De La Rey) recalls the savage and hopeless struggle against Britain over a century ago - a war in which the British perfected scorched earth tactics, concentration camps, and the use of disease and starvation as weapons against civilian populations.





You will note that both songs deal with conflict, specifically wars started by the greed and manipulative actions of outsiders.
The Boer War was rooted in English venality and imperialism, the South African Border War was Cuban interventionism at its worst - the Cubans, as Communists and exporters of revolutionary violence, were heavily involved in the terrorism of so many groups world-wide that the support and love the regime in Havana still enjoys from certain circles in Europe and America is rather sickening, explained only by the anti-Yank sentiments rife among enlightened folk.

[Note that that famous companion of Fidel, adoptive Cuban, and pop-cultural icon Ernesto Che Guevara was a sadist and mass-murderer whose death was too long delayed, and justifiably brutal. May his memory be forgotten, and may Fidel soon join him.]


A native of Pretoria, Bok is a good musician who sings in a language that most English speakers could probably never understand. After all, all the civilized world speak English.
Isn't that the language that both Jesus and Karl Marx spoke?

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Sunday, April 22, 2012


Chalk it up to incredibly bad planning. Or absent-mindedness.
Normally post-lunch pipe-smoking on weekends counts as a high point of the week, a little golden moment of sheer pleasure.
Nice snackiepoos, a day to putter around, and a bowlful of something stinky.
I rushed off to Chinatown brimming with anticipation.

So, sat down, ordered rice stick noodle soup and char-grilled pork, as well as a nice cold glass of strong Vietnamese ice coffee, and reveled in the prospects.
Good food! Nice drinkie! And then a pipe.
Going to fill up a semi-bent rough root with a pungent Balkan mixture.

The problem was that I had forgotten to pack any tobacco at all.
Not a shred of pipe tobacco anywhere in my backpack.

Pipes: check, four of them (a squat pot, a billiard, and two bulldogs).
Pipe cleaners: check, the bristly kind as well as the fluffies.
Pipe tamper: check, three of them, just in case.
Matches: check. Plus a Bic lighter.
Pipe tobacco? Shoot.


Waited for my food in near-despair. Even considered just going up front, paying for it, and telling them I'd be back in forty minutes to eat it. But no, don't want them to think I'm strange. Besides, don't disrespect the food. NEVER disrespect the food.
Somewhere a rice stick noodle mama lost an entire packet of her sons for my pleasure.
And there was wholesale slaughter among the bean sprouts too.
Plus cilantro and scallion.

Oh yeah, mustn't forget the chicken (broth) and the pig (grilled meaty bits).
They also contributed. They deserve to be consumed warm.

Still. No pipe afterwards.
How sad.

Across the room a small child was enjoying her lunch. It was a veritable feast! Forkful of noodles. Dab of Sriracha. A fragrant basil leaf. Oooh. Now some milk, glass held with both hands. It's good! Some more noodles. Switch utensils, spoon up some soup. Another blob of hotsauce, directly onto the spoon. Now some more noodles again. My heavens, this is all so wonderful!

An adorable little moppet, maybe no more than three or four. She was the youngest person at the table, and seemed quite utterly pleased with the inattentive presence of her kinfolk, who were also eating. Sitting quietly with the grownups, enjoying real food.
Albeit a far smaller serving.

Her three older sisters weren't nearly so happy or intelligent looking.
Nor were they as enchanted by the food.

Her, I wonder what she'd look like with a pipe in her mouth following her meal. A nice tactile sandblast, black to match her sparkling dark dark eyes. Yes, she'd probably appreciate a nice sooty Levantine haze - Turkish leaf, Latakia, Old Belt, and a touch of Fire-cured Kentucky - and she would smile enchantingly while enjoying every smoke-filled moment. Imagine her tiny fingers deftly holding pipe and tamper, with unstudied skill dapping down the burning layer, ere savouring the next wholesome puff.
Her sisters? Meh, probably cigarette smokers.

*     *     *     *     *

The pipe tobacco at my desk is too dry to smoke.
Besides, I have forgotten what I put in that jar.
A blend that I compounded, which one?
It is tarry, but most of them are.
Best just have a cheroot.

I'll probably have a bowl of Virginia when I get home.
Perhaps something with a hefty dollop of Perique.
Late at night, by the window in the kitchen.
Remembering lunch. Noodles. Coffee.
And sparkling happy eyes.

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The other day I was hemmed in by well-endowed young ladies, keenly desirous of my presence that very evening.
Now, you might think that this would have been the culmination of dreams.
But it was actually three healthy-looking gals hired to hand out freebie passes to the new Penthouse Club on Broadway ("we have two dollar cocktails, and a gourmet! restaurant!"), and there were very few takers.
Other than the Indian computer engineers wandering up and down the street with perky and happily baffled expressions on their faces.

"Bapribap, ji, vivacious goris here only!"

I'm fairly certain they were tickled by the girls' Bollywoodian dimensions, but totally baffled by the words "penthouse", "two dollar cocktail", and "a gormy restraint".
That's okay, they'll get used to it all.
Vacuous goris are everywhere.
Restrain yourselves.

[Gaura: white person, from a root meaning 'pale hued'. Gauri: a female white person.]

It reminded me of a time when, in adolescence, I had been absent for several hours .
Involved in something salacious in the tall grass.
Reading about the indiscretions of a poet.
With one of our cats on my stomach.

You can tell a cat is fast asleep when she isn't stretching her forepaws out and digging her claws into the tender skin of your thighs. While doing that she probably thought to herself "ooh, good, baby, mmmmmm, I smell human pain". And "you know you like it, big boy".
Or something equally, and charmingly, feline.

Once she dozed off, I stopped silently screaming to myself and opened the book.

The indiscretions of the poet were far less interesting than advertised. He had been a rake, a roué, and a soldier of fortune, and his biographer delighted in listing his conquests with copious quotes from the poet's own correspondence. Which painted the man as little more than a dreary sexist with a breast fetish.
No imagination whatsoever. Very pedestrian tastes, too.
I should have known, as the book cover showed two bouncy mammaries in a frontal view.
Not my style - big is SO unrefined - but nevertheless 'inspirational'.
Barely a quarter in I was bored, however.

But I couldn't move.

There was a happy cat on my stomach.

No one wants to move a happy cat. They look so comfortable when they're asleep.
There's a gentle and reassuring hum from somewhere near their mid-section, like distant machinery. People familiar with cats know that cat-happiness contributes to world peace, and must be maintained at all costs.
If you leave the sleeping cat till it wakes up of its own accord, all will be well with the world.
If you don't, they'll drag in a Chihuahua they killed and dump it on your bed.
Imagine the horror of that!

No other choice but to continue reading.

By the twentieth conquest of a well-busted farmgirl with exactly the same milk-maid attributes as all the others, I was thoroughly sick of the poet. What a dreadful man!
The rhymes that had been so charming before had sunk in my estimation to mere doggerel.
An all-round cretin, with coarse appetites, and no morals whatsoever.
And he didn't like cats.
The cad.

Crap! More than a hundred pages of this tripe to go.

My pussycat did not wake up till after dark.
She wandered off looking for something to murder.
Dead chihuahuas are an excellent way to start the night.

I stumbled in long after dinner.
No one was surprised at my absence.
Nor had they bothered to save me some.
Figuring that I had probably eaten elsewhere.
They were far more worried about the missing cat.

The connection between the young penthouse ladies and that event is obvious.
Breasts. Warmth.  Milkmaids. 

And gormy restraint.

The girls kept pushing me to take the passes.
I declined without regret. It is unlikely that the Penthouse Club is my kind of environment.
If I can spend six hours lying motionless with a happy cat on my stomach in the warm spring sunlight, you can bet your sweet patootie that my restraint is more than just average gormy - why, it takes gormosity to the very apex of human achievement.
I am by no means a dreary sex pig poet.
I've got sheer tons of gorm!

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Saturday, April 21, 2012


You know, I could have done better. For lunch, that is.
I've had tastier rice porridge, and the yau tiu was cold.
It wasn't really bad, all honestly made, but still........

If only the ambiance of the place had been just a little less industrial.
And if the American-born girl droop-assedly hanging around because she had to do so had been just a bit more enthusiastic.
I can't really blame her, seeing as she wasn't on the same page as her Toishanese-speaking kinfolk, linguistically or culturally.
I wonder what they talk about?
Slim, college age, obviously bright. Probably has a life during the week that involves concepts her parents and pudgy auntie can't possibly even comprehend.
Resigned patience. That's what it takes to dish up cheap chow on a weekend at your family's eatery. Especially on a hot day.

I wonder if someone has ever swept her off her feet, handed her a rose, wined her and dined her, and shown her a whirlwind romantic evening to remember. Possibly made reservations at a fancy night club with a dynamite floorshow, ordered cocktails, and introduced her to interesting people.

I would have done so, had it been less warm and much later in the day, and had she been more my type.
Worth the risk of having her father throw the whole cauldron of hot jook at me too.
Mow yi-si ah, ah sinsang, ngoh yiu kau neige siu nui.......

I don't know about you, but I can see myself doing something precisely like that.
Even though there are no nightclubs with entertaining floorshows left.
And despite the girl possibly calling me a sei low kwai.
Then demanding m-chun sik yin, chau low!
While being apathetic.

It would have been quite entertaining. Just like in one of those old movies from the nineteen thirties or forties. Glib fast-talking fellow with his fedora cocked sideways falls for the innocent young thing, who over the course of the next ninety minutes uses brute force and terrifying violence - also called her sweet personality - to yank his noble side up into the light, demonstrating that under his gruff exterior he's really a nice chap.

When it's over, all the women in the audience have tears in their eyes.

The men are somewhat baffled - "how did I get dragged into watching this twaddle?" - but they sense, somehow, that their wives and girlfriends are softer and warmer after the movie, and that's probably a good thing. Once they've taken the dear lady home and pecked her chastely on the cheek, they'll go down the street to that place that has Bourbon, and light up a Camel cigarette.
Cocking their fedoras at a jaunty angle, and grinning.

Somewhere off in the distance there's the whistle of a freight train.
A street light on the corner accentuates the shadows.
Dark doorways, threatening branches.
Light from an upper window.

Fade out, theme music, and credits. By the time the last names scroll across the screen, the theatre is empty.
Except for a family of raccoons living under the first row, who are growing fat on the left-over popcorn and half-finished raisinettes, almonds, jujubes, crackerjack.....

A very warm day. Too warm for anything requiring craziness.
Ate much too fast, and ended up with mild dyspepsia.
Late breakfast in the middle of the afternoon.
Should've talked to the girl instead.
Rather than her dad.

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Friday, April 20, 2012


One of our customers, whom I shall refer to as 'mister Pinkslime', president and CEO of 'Turkey Loaf LLC', refused to pay an invoice.
Him and the shiftless cousins he employed.

The reason being that after they had finalized the deal and received the merchandise, Turkey Loaf LLC decided they didn't like the price.
After several months of fruitless ditherance Pinkslime claimed a crisis in the family, then refused to answer phone calls, then finally sent us an insulting offer, and told us that if we ever wanted to do business with him and Turkey Loaf LLC again we'd just have to take it.

Neener, neener, neener.

So I forwarded mister Pinkslime's little enterprise to a collection agency, which now asks whether we want to go mediaeval on him.

Follows a communication between myself and two other people, whose names I have also changed.


Dear Hamhock and Piglett,

The collection agency advises me that barring legal steps at this point, there is no way to pursue the matter any further.
The agency has tried for a year to get Turkey Loaf LLC to pay.
Turkey Loaf LLC refuses.
The agency has requested that I decide whether or not to court-file this.

Standardly, when a collection agency has become involved, such as in this case, our connection to the customer is severed.
For the agency’s efforts, which include ALL communication and negotiation (and everything just this side of harassment), the agency will take a percentage, WHEN the debt is collected. In some cases this involves two or three phone calls a day to the business phone number (s), letters, adverse credit reporting, and whatever else in the toolkit they can throw at a debtor.

Unless a legal course of action is decided upon, this approach is limited.
The goal is to wear down the “customer”. But like with all “threats” made, unless they are carried through, there is the risk of being in the deep end vis a vis the authorities.
[Bluntly put: if you say “unless you do this, I will do that”, you have to do “that” when they do not do “this”.]

So the agency cannot actually threaten legal action UNTILL we give them the go-ahead.
The threat of legal action ramps it up another level.

Turkey Loaf LLC has faced this before. They know the routine.

What the agency is asking is whether we are willing to file papers. Which will cost us $XXX.xx.
With a decent chance of recouping at least part of the actual debt.

Unless Turkey Loaf LLC files for bankruptcy, they have less protection than we do.
There are significant assets, and they are liquid.


Back in the good old days, shortly after Noah moored the Ark, a gentleman with a heavy accent and a piece of lumber would have visited mister Pinkslime.

Alas, we have to play by civilized rules now.
In lieu of severed digits, we want our money.
But emotionally I'm still heavily vested in the severed digits.
That seems such a satisfying business paradigm.
Simple, straightforward, no nonsense.

We've told the agency to file.
It will irritate the living spit out of mister Pinkslime.
Given what a hot-tempered little bastard he is, it could well give him apoplexy.
A busted vein may serve as a karmic equivalent of severed digits.
Even though I would've preferred the severed digits.
I hope he develops body odour too.
Horrid cheesy parts.

Till we forwarded the account several months ago, mister Pinkslime and his company Turkey Loaf LLC had been a customer for several years. They had always been hard to get along with.
A high maintenance account, who regularly gave Hamhock (and Piglett's predecessor) acid indigestion.
Hamhock really wanted me to visit mister Pinkslime in the middle of the night.
And I would have liked to have done so too.
It's a feel-good fantasy.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Here it is, nearly two weeks later, and I wake up with the words in my head.

Chad gadya, chad gadya.
Dizvan abah bitrei zuzei,
Chad gadya, chad gadya.

Chad gadya, chad gadya.
Ve'ata shunra, ve'achla legadya;
Dizvan abah bitrei zuzei,
Chad gadya, chad gadya.

Chad gadya, chad gadya.
Ve'ata chalba, venashach leshunra;
De'achla legadya,
Dizvan abah bitrei zuzei;
Chad gadya, chad gadya.

Chad gadya, chad gadya.
Ve'ata chutra, vehikah lechalba;
Denashach leshunra,
De'achla legadya;
Dizvan abah bitrei zuzei,
Chad gadya, chad gadya.

Ve ceterot le nauseum......

I am very fond of goat curry.
Not so much of repetitive songs about goats.

One little goat. With chilies, ground coriander seed, a bit of toasted cumin, turmeric, garlic, galangal, ginger, onion, coconut milk, star anise, black pepper, fennel, stick cinnamon, cardamom pods. No cloves. 
Braise, seethe, and simmer. Garnish with cilantro and spring onion.
Serve with cut lime on the side to squeeze, plus a bowl of fresh sambal.
Crusty French bread for dipping, as well as boiled rice, and some serundeng.

Enough for two people.
Candle light. Polished crystal.
Sparkling tableware, and fine sherry.

It's tender and delicious.
Bon appétit.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Some readers believe that this blog is little more than long-winded ranting about pipe tobacco.
Not so! There are many other things that butter my loaf!
What is true however is that my own interests and pursuits will have a disproportionate number of mentions, whereas things that do not interest me in the slightest will not get nearly so much attention.
There's Jewish stuff, posts about the Netherlands, humour....
And how to cook a zebra.
Many subjects.

Over the past few years I've also detailed a few Chinese things.

For the benefit of the Sinitically curious, here's a list of links to some of those blogposts.


Small scrumptious snacks, what could be more delightful than that? Absolutely the best thing to eat while getting giddy on lots of tea early in the day. And doing so with other people is a wonderful thing.

The City View Restaurant (城景), which is located on Commercial Street at the edge of the Financial District. Some dim sum items are described.

More than one hundred and fifty dim sums. Short descriptions.

Half a dozen restaurants are mentioned. Some more fondly than others.


Not just family dining. San Francisco Chinatown started off as a bachelor society, and given the number of places where a single person can grab a bite to eat, it still reflects that time. But you can also go there with someone else, and there is a wide variety of choices.

Several places: The AA Bakery (永興餅家茶餐廳), the Eastern Bakery (東亞餅家), Garden Bakery (嘉頓餠家), Golden Gate Bakery (金門餅家), Good Mong Kok (好旺角包餅店), Mee Mee (美美餅食公司), Napoleon (拿破崙餠屋), and Yong Kee (容記糕粉).
Note that the last named is beloved by generations of Chinatown people, and that their various bao are extremely popular.
My personal favourite among their offerings are 鹹蛋酥 (haahm dan so), which are pastries with a crumbly sweet crust, enclosing a salted egg yolk held in place by lotus seed paste.

A dozen food places are described. With recommendations.

It's no longer there, but it will soon re-open a block further down the Street.
By the time you read this that may have already happened.

Snacks and ingredients. The Good Mongkok Bakery (好旺角包餅店), Napoleon Super Bakery (拿破崙餠屋), and The AA Bakery and Café (永興餅家茶餐廳).
Plus some of the finest roast duck you'll ever find, at Gourmet Delight Barbecue (新凱豐燒臘店).

The power of noodles. Good for the feminine psyche.


Yes, you could go shopping. For some people that's probably the only thing they can think of anyway. But Hong Kong is much more than just a giant emporium. You could, for instance, eat at places where English is not the first language people speak.
Or you could get a haircut.

Offal on a stick at 肥姐小食店. The perfect bite on Dundas Street (登打士街).

The Saint Honoré Cake Shop (聖安娜餅屋), Uncle Fong's, and The Supreme (貴族蛋糕), and 七喜粥麵小廚 a few streets away for fishballs.
Plus 四哥台式雪花冰專門店 for sweet desserts and snacks.

Where to get flying roast goose (飛天燒鵝).

Poon choi (basin dish: 盤菜 or 盆菜) and wife cake (lo poh beng: 老婆餅).

Mention of the Silver City Movie Theatre (裕民坊與銀都戲院) and a restaurant well-worth visiting: The Shanghai Wing Wah Szechuan Restaurant (上海榮華川菜館), on Shung Yan Street (崇仁街). Tung-Po Pork (東坡肉), Tientsin Cabbage in Cream Sauce (奶油津白), and Drunken Chicken (花雕醉雞). Also cold poached pork with mashed garlic (蒜泥白肉), which is very delicious!

Where to shop for aquarium supplies.

The Ambassador's Parlour (國賓理髮公司), one of the last of the old-fashioned Shanghainese barber shops.
It's at 23 Lan Fong Road (蘭芳道), Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣).

This is what happens when someone needs to build a bigger and better airport than Kai Tak (啟德機場).


If you live in Iowa you may not be able to relate to any of these things.
Let us assume that you do not live in Iowa.

Nutritious, and very good at absorbing the flavours of a fine sauce.

Birds nest (燕窩), sea cucumber (海參), shark fin (魚翅). Descriptions, and how-tos.

Dried shrimp and black mushrooms, gonpui, salt vegetables, dried lilies, chinkang ham, lapcheung, soysauce cured porkbelly, lard, chicken fat, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine.


That which is nice to eat.

Recipe for both the dumplings and the soup to serve them in. Even more about wonton can be found by clicking this link: 雲吞.

A Cantonese home-cooked dish which is easy to make. Smoother and more delicious than omelettes.

Hot and sour soup (酸辣湯), steeped bitter melon (鹹苦瓜), stirfried choisum (炒菜心), mushroom casserole (油燜雙菇), braised chicken wings (紅燒雞翅), clams with peanut sauce (沙爹酱蛤), twice-cooked pork (回鍋肉), stir-fried meat shreds (炒肉絲).

A version of 蒸滑雞 with dried oysters and black mushroom.

The name translates as 'salt fish meat cookie'. Which makes sense ONLY if you understand that the salt-fish is added on top to perfume the meat, which is patted flat to a pancake shape so that the finished dish can be easily broken with chopsticks. Very home cooking!

Cheung fan batter. Plus what you can do with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

A dish (芙蓉蟹) beloved by generations of white people, with prolegomena and afterword.

Three recipes which are likely to irritate some folks: 魚翅湯 (my favourite shark fin dish), 錦繡海上鮮 ('brocade embroidery upon the ocean', a delightful shark fin dish), and 蟹肉把翅 ('crab meatclutched shark fin'), which is 'hearty'.


A short final section, all things considered. There are, in fact, very many other things. Somewhere I've also got posts about loquats, the regenerative organs of tigers, pickled vegetable and pork shreds noodle soup, and Chinatown movie theatres.
Mmmm, loquats!

Lucky foods, lucky wishes. Traditions, dried oysters and black moss, tossing fish into the air, and related matters.

The Wai Tsan Seunghoi Mien Kaa (唯珍上海麵家) on Parkes Street (白加士街) in Kowloon, and the Bund Shanghai Restaurant (上海飯店) on Jackson Street (昃臣街) in San Francisco.

Little girls and anteaters.


Underneath many of these posts you will notice 'labels'.   Clicking on a label will bring up all posts in that category, with the most recent one on top.  Just scroll down till you are bored.

Any feedback (peculiarly appropriate term under the circumstances!) will be thoroughly appreciated.
If you have suggestions for restaurants, send them to me or put them in a comment underneath.
Also, if you spot an error, or what you consider an omission, please do not hesitate to let me know.

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


There’s a fragrance there that brings back memory-echoes. But while the era remembered is relatively clear, the actual product seemingly recalled is not.
Perhaps something from the tobacconist next to Priem's bookstore?
It smells somewhat like a Theodorus Niemeijer product.
At that time I wasn't smoking very good tobacco in my pipe.
Couldn't afford it, and wouldn't have known what to do with it.

But this is entirely different.


Fine compacted little sheets that need to be pullicked apart. When rubbed out they render to thin pliable shreds. Yes, there does appear to be a top-dressing, of an old-fashioned sort. But it is very mild and does not in any way detract from the smoke.
I'm not entirely sure that it adds anything to it either.

Wessex Red Virginia Flake is a mild to mild-medium smoke with an appealing tangy sweetness on the tongue. As flue-cured tobacco goes, this is one of the most charming little flakes in my cellar. The tin I opened up recently must have been several years old, though, and that may be why it pleases me so.

Underneath and above the added fragrance is the perfume of plums and herbs, ethereal and discrete, which subsumes into the smoke once lit.

I would put this in my pipe even if it didn't play on moods and images grooved in my subconscious decades ago, as it is an excellent product.

Like with all flakes, I rubbed it fully out and aired the tobacco a bit before putting it into a small storage container. Flake is often too wet to smoke right out of the tin, and this is deliberate. Were such products the right moisture level for immediate consumption, they would more than likely crumble into unsmokable crud in the hand. A few days in a tobacco jar after frazzing up the flakes allows the leafy odours to redistribute, careful and not too tight packing yields an effortless and enjoyable smoke.


Rubbing out an entire tin of flakes leaves one's hands smelling quite yummy.
Come here, little girl, would you care to guess where my hands have been?

It's a profoundly old-fashioned aroma.
Likely to piss-off earth-mother types.
Who can't enjoy life unless indignant.
And instinctively despise fine smoke.

Dot - dot - dot

Mmm, my fingers smell like I've been touching someone.
Oh don't look like that, it's quite innocent.
Holding hands with a young lady.
Clean and glowing.

She's wearing cotton.
I'm sure of it.


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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Most single men know the experience.  You wake up and wonder "what crawled into my mouth and died?"
No, it's not alcohol related.  It's late night snack related.
Way more surrealistic.

I have no idea how old those microwavable chicken frank corndogs were. 
The sauce I made to dip them in disguised much of their saveur, and it wasn't till halfway through the second one that I realized 'hey, this sucker tastes off'.  Still, with enough chilipaste and mustard a wealth of flaws can be hidden.
The sauce was zesty and delicious.

An unbeatable combination of stale chicken frank, dried out corn meal crust, hot sauce, lemon juice, jalapeño mustard, and chopped olives, with a heady top note of toothpaste from brushing my teeth afterwards.....

Do you taste that, son?  Nothing else in the world tastes like that! 

It tastes like victory!

Mmmm, it is minty fresh.

I've made similar mistakes fairly regularly in the past two years. 
There's little reason to buy food in advance, seeing as I seldom feel like eating when I'm at home. And by the time I come in after a long day of whatever it is that I do nowadays, the stores are closed.
Well, other than the Vietnamese grocer around the corner, but there's only so much spicy linguiça and Mexican chorizo one can consume. Even with condiments.
At times I've looked at what I had on the shelf, and decided to simply have rice stick noodles with the contents of a can picked at random. Fortunately almost everything can be improved with hot sauce. Or curry paste. And chopped olives. Capers. Hyderabadi lime pickle.
Had to throw out an entire bag of wonton last week because I had forgotten about it.
Hermetically sealed dumplings are not supposed to look bloated.
The bag is not supposed to bounce, either.

It was a good brand.  I'll probably buy more soon.

Single men aren't tied in to the dining schedules of other people. 
We make our own rules.

I've got lots of teabags. 
And cookies.

Hey, fruit juice and buttermilk, that's it!  I can simply drink my dinner!
With some pieces of matzoh, I'll have all the major food groups.
The matzoh will provide fiber.  Still got tons of it.
Fruit juice and buttermilk.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012


As readers of this blog know, I go over to the wall before lunch to enjoy a pipe with the lads.
Almost always I am the only pipe-smoker there, as most of us are too sensitive to put up with the cigar smokers and their peculiarities. But I'm a hardy sort, and very tolerant. 
Despite their too regrettably married, or even bachelorish conversational gambits.
They’re nice chaps, but sometimes decidedly queer.
Being cigar smokers and all.

Today, desperate to get away from the stultifyingly boring subject of bundled unbanded cigars bought cheap and how surprisingly mild and sweet the nameless cheroots turn out to be, one of them threw out the subject of ‘spank bankers’.
And suggested that it might be a suitable subject for a blogpost.

Hint.  Hint.  Hint.

So help me, I have NO idea what spank banking is.

I’m a pipe smoker.

PLEASE don’t clue me in on what you lot do when I’m not around.

This is the same man who obsesses about pigeons, the gender of chickens, and whether one of his friends swims around the harbour making dolphin noises.
In addition to writing poetry about stacks of flapjacks at the IHOP.

Spank banking.

Gentlemen, as far as I'm concerned, you are all marvelous spank bankers.
I do not know anything at all about the subject of spank banking.
I might as well write about love, sex, or existential angst.
Don't know beans about those either anymore.

I guess you guys also don't, that's why you spank bank.
Possibly it's a video game that all of you play.
No existentialism - you spank bank.
No love lives - you spank bank.
No angst - you spank bank.

And you're all such wonderful spank bankers too!

At some point this week I shall head over to the Occidental cigar bar.

Where I shall be surrounded by.......

Spank bankers.

No love, sex, or existential angst.

Spank banking.

I don't know what that is.

Which is why I cannot write a post about it.

If any of my readers have details, I would be keen to know. Or, if you have suggestions about what I should really do INSTEAD of spank banking, that too. Heck, I'm all out ideas here. There is no love, sex, or existential angst in my life at present, and spank banking, such as cigar smokers engage in, seems an unwholesome and slippery slope.

On the whole, this pipe smoker would vastly prefer love, sex, or existential angst.

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


Damned letter cropping up again. Specifically, the e-mail entitled "very bad news from the Jewish community in France" that details attacks in Montpellier, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Aubervilliers, and other places with names that are impossible to pronounce.

It's still completely and entirely bogus.

But sincere opportunists have sensed a need to heighten the sense of panic, and have dusted it off.
Gullible recipients are forwarding it on to everyone they know.

Read this:

Post 1.

And this:

Post 2.

Here's what I received today:


I received this email today and was asked to forward it on. please read!  Once again, the real news in France is conveniently not being reported as it should.
To give you an idea of what's going on in that country where there are now between 5 and 6 million Muslims and about 600,000 Jews, here is an E-mail that came from a Jew living in France ..
Please read! "Will the world say nothing - again - as it did in Hitler's time?" He writes: "I AM A JEW -- therefore I am forwarding this to everyone on all my e-mail lists. I will not sit back and do nothing.

Nowhere have the flames of anti-Semitism burned more furiously than in France.

1. In Lyon , a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire.
2. In Montpellier , the Jewish religious center was firebombed;
3. so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles ;
4. so was a Jewish school in Creteil - all recently.
5. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails
6. and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus, in Paris , the words 'Dirty Jew' were painted.
7. In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with sticks and metal bars.
8. The bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months.
9. According to the Police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents PER DAY in the past 30 days.
10. Walls in Jewish neighborhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming 'Jews to the gas chambers' and 'Death to the Jews.'
11. A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop (and, of course, the butcher) in Toulouse, France
12. A Jewish couple in their 20's were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne , France (the woman was pregnant).
13. A Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles , France . This was just in the past week

So I call on you, whether you are a fellow Jew, a friend, or merely a person with the capacity and desire to distinguish decency from depravity, to do - at least - these three simple things:

First, care enough to stay informed. Don't ever let yourself become deluded into thinking that this is not your fight.

I remind you of what Pastor Neimollersaid in World War II:
'First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.'

Second, boycott France and French products. Only the Arab countries are more toxically anti-Semitic and, unlike them, France exports more than just oil and hatred.

So boycott their wines and their perfumes.
Boycott their clothes and their foodstuffs.
Boycott their movies.
Definitely boycott their shores.

If we are resolved we can exert amazing pressure and, whatever else we may know about the French, we most certainly know that they are like a cobweb in a hurricane in the face of well-directed pressure.

Third, send this along to your family, your friends, and your co-workers. Think of all of the people of good conscience that you know and let them know that you - and the people that you care – about need their help.
The number one bestselling book in France is.... 'September 11: The Frightening Fraud' which argues that no plane ever hit the Pentagon!




As previously stated, the e-mail is an opportunistic bit of paranoia and hysteria prompting fluff.
It's propaganda, and bad propaganda at that, which caters to the segment of the public that sees conspiracies and deliberate media obfuscation everywhere.

French wine is STILL worth buying - no, it's not as good as California wine - and so is their perfume.
Their movies are still quite as doubtful as ever. But if you like that stuff, there is no reason to not go see some mediocre French farce. Go ahead.  Enjoy.
Have some fine French food after the show (with a bottle of California wine).

And for craps' sake stop quoting pastor Martin Niemöller. That's 'Niemöller'. Not 'Neimoller'.
I'm heartily sick of that quote, and it is not nearly as relevant as people think it is. It reflects a far different time, and a paradigm of society which is no longer applicable.

Now please send apologies and disavowals of this damned epistle to your family, your friends, and your co-workers, and especially ALL people of good conscience that you have afflicted with this thing.

Thank you.

April 16, 2012.

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

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