Sunday, November 30, 2014


As is my wont, I spent a few hours on Saturday evening at a bar in downtown San Francisco where smoking of legal substances (tobacco) is still permitted. Most of the customers were cigar smokers, or at least cigar smoking while there, and I might have been the only pipesmoker on the premises. Cigar smokers are a giddy lot, to be sure. There were also one or two non-smokers and cigarette addicts, but they did not make much impact. Other than the young lady from next door, who had either been startled while taking a leak or fiercely jumped out at with a boo.
Neither of which possibility actually explains her presence.
Her startler, or boo-outjumper, was also there.
Not looking guilty in the slightest.
The evil mister Wong.

So there I was, surrounded by the cigar smokers and tattooed people, trying to maintain my fragile sanity when meatballs wrapped in bacon made an appearance.....

I should clarify that the meatballs did not show up until quite a bit later, when "A" decided that after a Padron 1926 Anniversario and a shot of singlemalt big enough to fell a mule he needed some refreshment.
After which he lit up another cigar.

Various songs where sung. Which was decisively put an end to by spirited renditions of both the Lumberjack song and the Philosophers song from Monty Python. As well as an impromptu recitation of the Cheeseshop sketch and the Argument clinic from the same source.
Parrots were also mentioned.

The Norwegian Blue, which has lovely plumage.

And Manuel, from Barcelona.

"No, not your hamster! How could I knock a nail in with your hamster? Well, I could try, no, it won't... No, I'll go get it; you come here and tidy. You know - tidy?!?"
"Listen, don't mention the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right."
"Hors d'oeuvres, vich must all times be obeyed vitout kvestion!"
"Don't TOUCH me! I don't know where you've been!"
"Trespassers will be tied up with piano wire."

The owner of a local restaurant showed up and regaled us with twerking and tales of porkchops past.

After smoking two bowls of Virginia and having a whiskey, I caught the cablecar home. The jollification was still at full tilt when I left, though the crowd had changed a bit. The tattooed people had left already.
One of these days I shall demand that one of them strip to the waist.
I wish to see the brilliant palm tree and the coconuts.
The colours, I have been told, are fabulous.
More than six hours of pain.
Rippling flesh.

I had eaten lunch very late, so I wasn't hungry before I went. But after I had returned to my neighborhood I purchased a frozen boneless rib sandwich from the local late-night grocery store. This product is actually hard to describe in neutral terms: no bone, compacted meat product of allegedly porky origin and no reason to assume otherwise, bread of a bland taste and soft yet crumbly texture, a suggestion of a sauce of indeterminate quality and composition. Actually, it ALL tasted dead. Dead. Even with the animal protein component fried and drenched in hot sauce and ketchup, it tasted dead. It also felt dead in the mouth. Once every three or four months I buy one of those dead things, and the result is always the same. No, I have never gotten food poisoning. It just tastes dead.

It is an extremely uninspiring comestible. I would have vastly preferred something with bacon -- which NEVER tastes dead, because of all the lovely nitrates and nitrites plus smoke flavour -- or even a pack of frozen pork hot links. If it had been hot links, I could have sliced up one or two and had them on toast with the aforementioned hot sauce and ketchup, quite likely with a fried egg on top. There's just something about pork hot links. Possibly it's nitrates, nitrites, and smoke flavour.

The extrud-O Ribs did not affect me adversely this morning.
Probably because I am a clean-living man.
Sober and temperate.

The next time I buy one of those I'll call it 'Eve' and try something else.

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Portsmouth Square didn't used to have speed freaks. Yet one afternoon recently I saw several tweaked out individuals, as well as two people exchanging white powder of a soluble rather than sniffable appearance.
Of course, the twitchy folks COULD have been jangly from too much Starbucks. Or not enough nicotine. And the powder changing hands MIGHT have been some much-needed laundry detergent.

I've remarked before that San Francisco has other priorities than the upkeep and maintenance of a neighborhood filled with poor folks who don't individually contribute much to re-election war chests.
But given that Chinatown is one of the main tourist draws in this whore of a city -- responsible, indirectly, for millions spent on food, lodging, and crappy souvenirs -- one might think that it would behoove the City Hall Mandarins to have more foot patrols and streetsweepers in the neighborhood.

Should I also mention that for want of a better place, or any place at all, little children play there? And that it would be a horrible public relations disaster if one of those crazies, dysfunctionals, or whacked-out street psychos interacted "badly" with a child?

What about if some little old granny gets beaten-up for her gin-rummy money by an unwashed alcoholic?

Yeah, I know that the authorities just love the fact that some of the worst of the unhoused hide out in Chinatown. Instead of Union Square, where they would fuel shopkeeper complaints. Or solidly middle-class areas, where the resident white folks would kick up a monumental fuss.
Poor immigrant Chinese are well-known for not acting up.
Or trying to get bureaucratic attention.

I should also point out that none of the crackheads, threatening thug-lumps, and psychopaths in Washington Square is Chinese. Several are white, a few are black, and one or two are Filipino or Mexican.
All of them treat the locals and the neighborhood with contempt.
They aren't the colourful Chinese the tourists expect to see.
Plus almost to a man (or woman) they smell bad.
And use the street as their toilet.

Perhaps its time that we looked after our own, instead of pandering to the tech-industry and the out-of-town interests.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014


This post was written after shabbes ("shabbat"; the sabbath), the events described herein occurred well before then.  For the benefit of my Jewish readers, I maintain the pretense that I do not set fire to or lift anything on the internet, from Friday dusk till Saturday same time.
Actually, that would be just BEFORE nightfall on Friday, and a short while after that the next day.

Many of my readers, or the fellow opinionists listed in the blogroll on the right-hand side, are sabbath-observant, whereas being myself of solid Protestant heritage (mostly of the severely disapproving kind, going back over a dozen generations), I cannot lay claim to any Judaic significance.
And I'm too much a skeptic to make a sudden leaps of faith.
In case you were wondering about my own "spirituality".

They abstain for a day, my gears remain in overdrive.
It seems an unfair advantage to take.

But I explain this primarily as a preamble to what I wish to mention, which is that Mordche's pipe has been reamed.

Mordche, as you will davka shper, is Jewish. A relaxed black hatter.
He brought in his pipe yesterday, which is when it was reamed and given a quick buff. No melacha on shabbes was involved, and everything took place well before shekiah. The stem is black again, the inside smooth.
This is the same pipe he bought back in October (on a Sunday), which was mentioned in this post: 'Bearded men emitting smells.

[To clarify, it was on the safe side of shekiah, whether or not he is makpid Rabbeinu Tam. There was plenty of time for him to daven mincha, so the whole machloikes isn't even relevant in this case.]

While I performed the necessary twiddling and fiddling, he told me that until the first cup of coffee of the day, plus a pill for his fibrillation, and the lighting of that first pipe, he feels ghastly.
But once these things have been accomplished (coffee, pill, pipe), life is beautiful and sunny again.

This is something I can easily understand. I too rely on that first cup of coffee for rays of sunlight in the morning. The first pipe waits, because my apartment mate is a non-smoker. And I do not have any medical conditions that need chemistry. But good lord that first cup of coffee, good lord.
Ya Ribon Olam, ravrevin ovedach ve takifin!

Coffee gets it all up and running.

Mordche's first pipe each day is Dunhill Nightcap. Which is a lovely sooty Latakia bomb, all creosote and terpeneols, with a little black Virginia to carry and extend the smoke-cured leaf, and some brown Virginias to support. But over fifty percent Latakia. Non-smoking vegetarian wheatgerm freaks and many women will likely run away screaming if you light it up. Which is a delicious concept, if you think about it. My pipe tobacco of choice will seldom do that.
Except for people who are "innocent".
And super "refined".

He says there is nothing nicer than sitting indoors, near the window, smoking a bowlful from the dark side of Asia Minor while listening to the rain outside. Given that he's a very old man now, he's had an entire lifetime of enjoying that; it's lovely that he still does so, and has relatives who will tolerate it.

This is the second time he's been by since October. He now has enough Nightcap and Arango's Balkan Supreme to last until January.
It's going to be a very wet month.


Maybe I will switch back to the Balkan blends myself for a while, as rain and Latakia are indeed a wonderful combination, one rich with evocative associations and pleasurable memories.

[Balkan blends: a misnomer, as these are also called English mixtures, which is also not strictly correct. The proper term is 'Oriental mixture'. English mixtures in American parlance are Orientals with Latakia forward, Balkans are English mixtures with a very noticeable Turkish element. The British, bless their hearts, will sometimes call something 'Balkan' when it has no Turkish at all, but does have a crapload of Latakia. Most English pipe smokers in this day and age smoke perfectly horrid aromatics. Unless they stil swear by St. Bruno and Gold Block.]

In Valkenswaard the day would be dark, and lights would be on well before nightfall during downpours. The Eindhovensche Weg outside the club would glisten wetly in the semi-dusk, reflections from the wet pavement augmenting whatever thin light came through the clouds. Nobody was at Parsifal at that hour, I had the space all to myself. Big pot of tea on the table, newspapers and schoolbooks, a full tin of tobacco and a selection of pipes to smoke. Ah, fragrant heaven!

I was the only one of the lads that enjoyed Balkan style mixtures. The other pipesmokers indulged in various brands of ribbon-cut Maryland ("Bay tobaccos'), or mild Dutch Cavendishes. One or two loved Virginia flakes. They might be around in early evening, and a fresh pot of coffee would be brewed at that time.

There rich stink of the Balkans is infinitely comforting and home-like.

Dunhill 965, Dunhill Nightcap, Dunhill Standard Mixture, Dunhill London Mixture, Balkan Sobranie, Rattray's Highland Targe, Rattray's Black Mallory, Rattray's Red Rapparee, Rattray's Accountants' Mixture, et autres.

[These are all between thirty and fifty percent Latakia. At the low end, it adds depth and richness, at the high end it dominates and permeates. Turkish is anywhere between fifteen and twenty five percent, from a team-player to a grassy resinous sultry whoomp. The rest is Virginia: the more Latakia and Turkish there is, the less complex the blend of flue-cured leaves underlying it, and the more important it is to have a strong-minded Virginia that can support the stinky profundity. At fifty percent plus Latakia, perhaps a medium brown flake, and a streak of black ribbon only. Which in any case shades it towards a Scottish mixture.]

Forests and autumn glades, meadows wet with descending evening mist. Bogs, fens, moorlands, country lanes deep in leaves, tall trees shielding the solitary wanderer from the winds, the Dommel river winding it's way past the old mill toward the village a few miles distant, grey twilights, sheltered farms, and dark copses of trees along the way.

One of these days, when I am home and it is raining cats and dogs, I will open a tin of either Dunhill or Greg Pease, load up a big bowl, and light up. And life will be sunny again.

Boruch Hashem.


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Friday, November 28, 2014


At the beginning of the week:

Lunch: steamed chicken over rice (蒸滑雞飯 'jing gwat kai faan') with sauteed bitter melon (炒苦瓜 'chau fu gwa') on the side, and a small bowl of old fire soup (老火湯 'lou fo tong').
I actually was hoping for the steamed pork patty rice (蒸肉餅飯 'jing yiuk beng faan'), which they often also have, but I came too late; they had had a busy day.
With a cup of coffee (一杯咖啡 'yat pui ga-fei'), only five bucks.
Cheap, but good. Small restaurant, warm people.
They also have dim sum items.

The place:

815 Stockton Street (between Sacramento and Clay)
San Francisco, CA 94108

['fuk cheung dim sam']

For reference purposes, here are some recipes for steamed chicken and steamed pork patty. If you slide both of these onto a bowl of parboiled rice before putting them into the steamer, the juices will permeate nicely.


Half pound chicken in one, two, or several pieces.
One and a half Tsp cornstarch.
One Tsp soy sauce.
One Tsp sherry or rice wine.
A little ginger, minced fine.
Pinch of ground white pepper.
Pinch of sugar.

Rub the sugar and cornstarch into the chicken all over. Put it into a shallow basin, drizzle the soy sace and sherry on top, and let it sit for half an hour. Turn occasionally. Add the ginger and put it in the steamer for fifteen minutes.


Half pound ground pork.
One Tsp cornstarch.
One Tsp soy sauce.
One Tsp sherry or rice wine.
One Tsp cooking oil.
A little ginger, minced fine.
Pinch of ground white pepper.
Pinch of sugar.

Optional, but highly recommended: a few thin slices of salt fish (咸魚 'haahm yü'), soaked to soften.

Mix everything except the salt fish and ginger, let it sit for thirty minutes. Then flatten it onto an oiled plate, arrange the salt fish on top, and add the ginger. Steam until done, about ten minutes or so.

You know I just love bitter melon, right? It's almost hands down my favourite vegetable. So it will not surprise you that it was one of the two green things I purchased afterwards while wandering down Stockton Street. The other one being a bunch of long beans (豆角 'dau gok'). Which will be great cooked with some of the kaka brand duck liver sausage (嘉嘉鴨膶臘腸 'gaa gaa ngaap-yun laap-cheung') I found at Tan Tan.

[Over Tan Tan gesproken, het kan zeker niet gezegd worden dat the beleefdheid van hun afdruipt. Niet erg plezante lui, daar. Maar zij hebben voortreffelijke eenden lever worsten, dus ik zal maar niets kwalijks in het Engels over hun zeggen; teveel winkeltjes in Kampong Tjina hebben het moeilijk in deze tijden.]

I finished my post-prandial pipeful of tobacco (matured Virginias with a touch of Perique) while observing elderly people playing gin rummy over in Washington square -- don't worry, I stayed outside at the fence along Walter Lum Place, as I know that rabid wheatgerm freaks will attack me if I dare smoke inside a park in San Francisco -- then headed up the street for a cup of milk tea (奶茶 'naai cha').
Only to discover that Blossom Bakery is now doing the most delightful little pumpkin tarts (南瓜撻 'naam gwaa taat')! Utterly delicious fresh out of the oven, truly exquisite!

Seasonal, obviously.

The place:

133 Waverly Place (between Clay and Washington)
San Francisco, CA 94108.

['hang fuk beng gaa']

They've got a painting of a few boats at anchor on the back wall there, which reminded me of the word from whence English probably gets 'junk' for a Chinese sailing vessel: 船; pronounced 'chuán' in Mandarin, 'suen' in Cantonese.

The couplet strophed on either side does not mention these at all.


'gong-wu ho-hoi jing long-po',
'taat-tou siu-yiu yuen-gan yau'.

"Rivers, lakes, streams, and seas, pure breakers and waves;"
"Achieving passage free and unfettered, travelling hither & yon."

It is, as you can see, never-the-less appropriate. For such a painting.
And you will note that all seven words in the first line have the water radical (氵), all seven in the last line take a walk (辵).

One other layer: 'Gong-wu' (江湖) is term with a southern resonance; rivers and lakes, malarial wildernesses where brigands and outlaws hide out, the shadow world of rebels and criminal brotherhoods, the marshy boundary zones where chivalry and gallantry are often at their best, because such virtues have their greatest value when much else is in doubt.
'Ho-hoi' speaks of the northern heartland, the great plain (中原 'jong yuen', "central source") which was the arena of so much Chinese history, bounded and marked by the Yellow River (黃河 'wong ho'), and edged by the Swelling Sea (渤海 'put hoi'; Bohai) and the East China Sea (東海 'tung hoi').

'Gong' (江) is the great aquatic highway which bisects China, 'Ho' (河) the rebellious torrent which at times devastates the land, yet make the soil extraordinarily fertile, enriched with the yellow silt that gives the river its name and hue.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014


In retrospect, yesterday was fairly terrifying day. From dawn till long after dusk, the coming celebration was a major topic of conversation, and people happily divulged their plans. Many of which involved food and company.
I didn't have the heart to rain on their parade.

Every conversation and social exchange ended with the cheery wish that the other person should have a good holiday.

"Have a great thanksgiving!"

[Unstated and purely internal: "No thank you, I have no intention of doing that. It hasn't happened in many years, it's far too late to even think of it. During the holiday season I would rather be solitary and nocturnal, instead of having to hear about everybody else's wonderful lives."]

I am a Thanksgiving grinch.
Just not very cruel.

Their little faces would have totally crumpled up if I started sternly lecturing them on the tragedy of the day, the millions of dead Indians and syphilitic Africans worldwide as a direct result of all this imperialistic celebratory hoohah, how penguins are dying in Madagascar to make room for big useless American birds and starving war-refugees in the Middle-East saw their children's last precious toys taken from them while we were selfishly whooping it up. Will someone please think of the penguins!
Remember the great Thanksgiving day massacre?
You should; it shaped our modern world.
An entire nation suffered.
And wept.

Evil Americans!
You are heartless and bourgeois!

Nah, couldn't harangue them. Much as I wanted to. Thanksgiving is not my thing. In a different version of my life it could have been, but things haven't quite worked out that way. If I were a better person, and more energetically socialized, perhaps......

This morning my apartment mate spent from early dawn till just before lunchtime in the kitchen, inconveniencing everyone else in the apartment (that being me and the stuffed animals hiding out in my room) with complex preparations for a feast involving relatives elsewhere.

Over at one of her sibling's houses.

It is their thing.

Thanksgiving is only for people who are in relationships, or have kinfolk living nearby. Not something for bachelors in far-off places. It's a family event, not a stubborn old coot event. I do not consider myself aged or antique, but today I shall celebrate my adult cootness, if anything. Please do not inconvenience me with tales of wonderful times.
Or happy little children gaily chittering.
Those pies were so lovely!
And gravy!

Maybe it's like giddy insects devouring a cadaver.
Don't wanna know. Not my thing. Go away.
I'm not very social right now.

In a very short while I shall head into Chinatown for a pastry and a cup of hot milk-tea. After that I shall light up a pipe and try not to bother too many people with my smoking in public. There are alleyways which will be nearly empty, and some of the businesses will be closed early. I don't expect that there will be as many people around as usual -- Chinese are big on both eating and family stuff -- though down at the square the number of card-playing old folks will be scarcely any less.

At dusk I will return home. My apartment mate will be off celebrating with her kin, the house will be quiet. Vegetables with fatty pork over rice, hot sauce, a bit of an Indian pickle for excitement. Then a walk around the neighborhood with a pipe.

Many badgers are solitary and nocturnal, though not all of them.
Badgers and turkeys are not a very good match.
Nor are badgers and large groups.

We're just not socially inspired.

Have a great holiday, you all.
Try to keep it down.

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When I came home the other evening, there was a monkey on my bed. Along with two tins of tobacco, and a box of briars. I can distinctly remember putting the smoking supplies there, but the monkey had been in the other room when I left. This is the same simian who accuses me of cooking and eating his missing leg.

It was the folks in Product Development at the old company.
They did it. They took his leg for a project.
And worse was to come.

Ralph, the demented bald dwarf in Marketing, re-purposed the monkey for a Halloween project, subjecting him to unimaginable terrors - gashed neck, fake blood, bondage, and a fearsome pumpkin -- and after the October Thirty-First shenanigans, he was left on the office kitchen table with the other traumatized pumpkin victims to languish, unhappily attracting fruit flies for the first week of November, a sad public spectacle indeed.
I rescued him before the garbage was thrown out.
Stitches and a bath; nearly as good as new.
Couldn't do anything about the leg.
He's been here ever since.

The only time he's on my bed is when he's trying to steal my wallet, or comforting the sock-sheep. Who suffers from potato-bereavement nightmares. Don't ask. It's a complicated situation.

I have a strong suspicion that he spies on me, to see if I bring home any floozies. If I do, he'll squeal on me for sure. So far, no floozies. Nothing that even resembles them. Nor any nice girls either. Nobody at all. I'm safe.
But my wallet remains in danger.

While I was speculating about the presence of the rambunctious furball on my bed -- an overcrowded divan, seeing as there are other creatures there, as well as dozens of books, AND pipe tobacco -- I heard a voice from the television room.

"Goh, she's got humongous tatas!"

It turns out my apartment mate was watching a true crime show on television. In which one of the suspects was a curvaceous redhead.
No, the tatas were not really humongous. Sort of average size. It was entirely the effect of wonderbra engineering that made them seem more prominent. There may also have been some judicious (!) padding involved, but I would hesitate to state that for sure. The tatas remained covered throughout the broadcast. The closest to nudity was the scene where the young lady takes off her blouse, and the viewer notices a mole on her left shoulder blade, along with black lacy bra straps.

Not that I was watching.

I'm not really into murderous redheads.

And, being a withdrawn middle-aged bachelor who is not at all likely to ever talk some wicked young thing into my evil embrace, let alone end up in a rewarding and conceivably passionate relationship with a person who shares my tastes and even half of my peculiarities, or with whom I have one iota of ideals and philosophical bases in common, I did not notice that the curvy suspect was wearing a pair of lavender panties.

Haven't seen anything like that in years.

I almost never watch television.
There's nothing good on.

My apartment mate had put the monkey on my bed. She felt that it was the safest place for him when there was a murderous redhead swanning about on teevee. He's young and very impressionable, there are some things he has no business seeing.

That kind of leaves me with a disapproving chaperone in my quarters.
A stern fur-covered protestant with a disapproving attitude. Who may ask all manner of inconvenient questions, and poke and prod and pinch.
I don't know what I shall do when that happens.
Perhaps put him in the teevee room.

He'd probably protest.
Nothing to watch.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014


It should not particularly surprise you that I utterly despise Greek Culture. Meaning fraternities and sororities at universities in the United States, not actually anything related to what goes on in Greece.
When I lived in Berkeley I saw enough misbehaviour to be repulsed, and other than the movie Animal House, there has been not a thing that convinces me of any redeeming features of the system.

Greek Culture inculcates a spirit of depravity and sadism in its members. No man in his right mind joins a fraternity, women who join sororities do not remain whole.
In a way, it's as repulsive and damaging an institution as the Republican Party and the Freemasons. Except with a greater degree of psychosis.

Okay, maybe not the Freemasons. That might be an exaggeration.
Despite many outright bastards in their ranks.
Captains of industry.

At the University of Virginia, esteemed fraternity Psi Kappa Psi seems to have been the campus centre for gang-rape, sexual violence, and all round disgusting behaviour. But it's obviously not all their fault. The university itself chose to down-play what went on, attempted to defuse reaction and confound investigation, and generally emasculate any possible repercussion or consequence for the perpetrators.

This is not unusual on many campi. American higher education leaves a lot to be desired. Both socially and culturally.

Okay, enough foaming at the mouth. Let's mention specifics.

From a BBC article:

---In 2013 Jackie reported her rape to the head of the school's misconduct board, Nicole Eramo. ---

---Jackie was presented with the choice of going to the police, beginning a formal complaint or having a mediated session where she could confront her alleged attackers. ---

Choices, choices!
A carefully staged confrontation mediated session, where the victim will be shouted down by up to half a dozen brutes who all deny the allegation and understand that maintaining their own reputations depends upon making the woman out to be a godless drunken slut, is not a choice that should be offered. And certainly not by an institution that survives by sucking students dry of funds, then bleeding alumni of further cash.
Please remember that many fraternity members have wealthy families who pay handsomely to have their sons "educated", and will certainly kick up a fuss if future employability is jeopardized. There are also past fraternity brothers who will rally round the standard and pull strings, lest their own behaviour while at college suddenly be called into question.
Other fraternities and sororities will likewise grasp the benefits of obscuring the issue.
Hence they all have an interest in ruining the woman.

Rape isn't rape if well-heeled and influential people can prevent it ever being successfully prosecuted.

In one year:

38 cases of rape.

14 students found guilty.

Not a single expulsion. Not one.

Further from that article:

---"At UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students - who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture - and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal," Erdely writes. ---


---The University of Virginia is one of 86 schools currently under investigation by the Obama administration's Department of Education for their handling of sexual-assault-related complaints. ---

Naturally I consider members of fraternities to generally be dubious types of low morals and depraved habits, compulsive liars convinced of their own entitlement, and dangers to the public. There is very little to indicate otherwise, and no one in their right mind should trust fraternity members around their friends and kin folk.

Yes, a generalization.
Prove it wrong.

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It actually isn't. Short, that is. Weird yes. Many people will actually be working longer hours, because herds of crazed elephants shall circle the shopping malls of America, baying for blood and howling at the moon, for close on eighty hours starting at six in the evening on Thursday.
It is the annual mating frenzy of the mutants.
Black Friday.

Oh yeah, they're supposed to also cook stuff before doing that. Ham, turkey, pumpkins, and pizza.

That last is to pacify the men they leave behind, alone and freezing in front of the teevee.


As you may have noticed, I am not fully vested in all this.

Not the way we currently play the holiday.

All of you are crazy.

It's like many of you are on drugs.
If that's what tryptophan does to you, we ought to ban the substance. Keep it away from children and the lower classes.
Therapeutic, oh my aunt!

You've all become cannibals, savage tattooed cannibals, and your ridiculous deaths and hospitalizations because of stampedes will be briefly celebrated in news reports, before your kinfolk forget all about you in the saccharine greed orgy of the next four weeks.

Months from now, they'll wake up and wonder "say, what happened to vicious old whats-her-name? Didn't she used to wrestle other women for shoes?"

Then they'll take the last of the left-over turkey out of the refrigerator and, gravidly masticating, give themselves food-poisoning while watching reality teevee.

I firmly intend to eat cake at that time.
Cake is such a happy word.
Unlike turkey.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Experiencing a Chinese funeral second-hand is educational. I had NO idea that people photographed like maniacs. Possibly to remember the wonderful time everyone had at what is, after all, a major family event. Possibly to figure out who all those people are. And very likely, the close-ups of the floral arrangements in order to remember who sent what.

Some people will boast about their experience with these things. Claiming to have attended hundreds of funerals, why heavens, they know all about it! They are experts!

Personally, I wouldn't puff about how many dead people I know. Collecting dead friends and relatives is not something I see much percentage in.

There's always at least one Auntie or Uncle who is NOT blood-kin, but who voluntarily guides and gently instructs the inexperienced in how to behave and navigate the event as smoothly as possible.

Along with women whom one has never even met who weep and wail in a heartbreaking fashion, loudly, and with zeal.

At least one family member is designated to keep company overnight with the decedent. Really, it should be more people, at least all the immediate kin ("children"), but who has time for all that?

Besides, it's better that the freak-out be kept at a minimum.

Then paper stuff is set on fire. Palatial mansions, expensive motorcars (especially ironic if the person never learned how to drive), and fancy possessions of all kinds. Attendees at the actual service and or interment are given an envelope with a piece of candy, a coin, and sometimes a handkerchief (for really theatrical events).
The candy is to leave a sweet aftertaste, the coin is a reward for your concern and input, as well as recompense for whatever effort you took to be there, and the handkerchief is a nice touch for wiping your teary eyes. Under NO circumstance should these things be brought home!
Enjoy them immediately upon leaving!

One of the aunties is sure to make some sniffing remark about cheap-ass candies and the consequent loss of face for all the family.

Conveniently, pall-bearers are assured that their service brings them blessings and good luck.

In the old days, the children were expected to wear mourning for three full years. That doesn't happen anymore. Some people stop before even the hundred days are up.

Trust me, black is NOT a suitable colour for everyone.

A funeral is NOT a suitable occasion for amateur matchmaking. If there are a number of unmarried people present, however, it may very well take place. Somebody is bound to look insanely HOT wearing somber hues.
And just look at that coffin! They're richer than Moses!
Two of those nice boys aren't married yet.
They're a catch; both of them.
Your choice which.
Act now.

The pastor will insist that the dead person had accepted Christ.
A snarky son or daughter will mutter "bullshit".
Worshipping a dead white zombie!
Whoever heard of that?!?
Crap, I say!

If you ask me, pastors, especially Presbyterian or Lutheran, should be kept away from funerals. Methodists or Southern Baptists are always good for a laugh, though, and Seventh Day Adventists are just plain bonkers.
Besides, none of your relatives knows the difference.
They're baffled by crazy white voodoo.
Clowns of the cloth.

As I mentioned, I wasn't there. So certain things may be dependent upon re-interpretation.

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


With the holiday coming up, I might as well admit it: I've always been a heathen. Not fond of Turkey, and most of the fixings horrify me. All in all, if it's supposed to be a celebration, why must we suffer?

Yes, we did celebrate Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My father had to order a bird three weeks in advance from the local poulterer, and explain forcefully and repeatedly that we were NOT boiling it up for soup. The only use locals could imagine for a turkey was broth.
The poulterer did not understand what Thanksgiving was, but he dutifully abstained from breaking all the major bones in the birds body, which would have yielded the marrow easier.
Americans were an almighty strange kettle of fish.
Perhaps they didn't know how to cook?
A likely possibility.

When I returned to the States I discovered that people would also serve green bean casserole, succotash, boiled creamed corn, candied yams, and a salad with Thousand Island or Ranch dressing alongside, then follow the meal with warm pie and ice cream.

If they didn't want to fall asleep, they had coffee afterwards.
American coffee; enough said. More than.
Not Douwe Egberts.

Seeing as my father took two days off every year for the holiday, he did all the cooking. He had mastered how to roast the bird so it had a crispy skin and tender meat. And it was flavourful. Which is something most other Americans cannot manage.

He made his own cranberry relish.
The bread was fresh and crusty.
There was stuff to nibble.

Still, the problem with turkey was not enough skin, too much meat.
And all of us preferred the dark meat.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Valkenswaard was fun.
Reveling in our Yankee reprehensibility.
To the distress of neighbors.

Trying to do so in the United States has often been a drag. I always feel an obligation to eat turkey, which means tasteless disappointment when I obey, guilt and a sense of a lost annual opportunity if I don't.
But in all honesty, I really do not like turkey.
Or crispy onion green bean casserole.
Or corn, yams, and succotash.
Plus beer or sports.

If I had to cook turkey, I'd probably saute sliced breast meat with fermented blackbeans, garlic, and ginger, and braise-simmer the legs in sherry with ginger, salt vegetable, black mushrooms, and star anise, till fall-apart tender. Vegetables cooked al dente served alongside.
Garlic mashed potatoes as a side dish.
Rice, and a bowl of soup.

And, of course, two or three lovely sambals. It isn't a banquet unless there are two or three sambals. Plus bitter melon, and crunchy stuff.
And a noodle dish. What kind of crappy feast is it without noodles?!?
I'm thinking pancit guisado, with lots of crab meat.
Green onion, garlic, bokchoy.

Maybe a separate dish of green beans, as a nod to tradition.
Or maybe not. Traditions mutate.

No cranberries at all.
In any guise.

Foregoing the turkey entirely and filling up on crab instead is a better basis for a seasonal celebration, but tradition insists on Turkey.
A bottle of wild bourbon ain't gonna cut it.
It has to be real dead bird.

Pancit guisado ng alimango.
Enough for everyone.
Sounds good.

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

Monday, November 24, 2014


Contrary to what you might think, I agree completely with the people of Oakland, who strongly feel that what happened in Ferguson is a darn good reason to protest. In fact, I think that the good people of Oakland should fully express themselves, and as a personal statement of opinion, I shan't object if they burn their fine city down to the ground.

As, indeed the good people of Ferguson, Missouri,  are attempting to do in their own city.

Little Caesars Pizza on fire. Public storage on fire. Domino's Pizza on fire. Walgreen's looted. O'Riley Auto Parts shop looted. Dollar store looted. Strip mall looted. PC Cellular store on fire. Beauty salon on fire. FedEx looted. McDonald's vandalized. Bricks, incendiary devices, tear gas. Florissant Avenue is a battle zone, the American dream is going up in smoke.

Faraci, Papa Johns, and other pizzerias are nearby.

American pizza restaurants are loathsome!

In Oakland, protesters set fire to offending public garbage receptacles. Indicating by their resolute actions that tomorrow people should sincerely and publicly litter in consequence.
It is indeed a noble deed. Return garbage to mother nature, don't keep it fenced off and unfree.

Oakland should be allowed to return to a state of primeval wilderness. Mother nature needs an opportunity to take it back. Over here in San Francisco we can see more use for the entire East Bay as a reserve, with roaming Buffalo, Gazelle, and herds of Wildebeest.
First step: shut down all pizza restaurants.
It will restore your civic pride.
Chain pizza is evil.

Over five hundred Oakland protesters attempted to hijack interstate US580 and fly it to Cuba. How sad that they did not succeed!
Despite throwing bottles and rocks.

Protests occurred not only in Ferguson and predictably, Oakland, but also in Boston, Washington D.C., New York, and Seattle.

There are pizza restaurants in all those places.

That is NOT a coincidence.

In solidarity with the righteous rioters of Ferguson and Oakland, I shall not eat pizza tonight. I think I'll have quiche instead.


The Oakland protestors demonstrated examplary standards of adult behaviour, and acted as mature as one would expect. Which the excerpts below from a Bay Area newspaper article written by reporters who spent the entire evening following the protests on the street make clear.


A couple of hundred protesters lit a bonfire in the middle of Broadway as the Starbucks store on Eighth Street was trashed and looted of equipment and bags of coffee beans. Thieves then smashed into the nearby Smart & Final and ran away with booze bottles, snacks, 12-packs of beer and bags of dog food.

A phalanx of police in helmets with shields ordered the crowd to disperse, but the protesters refused to move, yelling obscenities and tossing bottles of alcohol at the officers. The officers fired flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas, forcing back the mob, which ignited new bonfires as it retreated.

Most of the protesters left the scene after the clash, but a remaining 50 retreated to Telegraph and Broadway and lit a fire. They remained there past 1 a.m., many drinking booze looted from Smart & Final while police kept an eye on them from about a block away.

End cite.

Oakland is the armpit of the Bay Area.
There were not enough arrests.
Which is often the case.
In Oakland.

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


One of the things that has come up recently is how to deal with your teenage son if you find out he's homosexual. It's not something that I myself normally think about, given that I still haven't found a woman 'inspired enough' to produce offspring -- yes, "inspired" IS the right word, you can all stop snickering now -- and, living in San Francisco, it seems like there are plenty of possible role-models for the father and gay blade son discussion running around.

Still, what would I say?

What is the most important thing to tell your son?


Then you give him the lecture about communicable diseases, personal responsibility, and making darn sure he'll be around long enough that he can wheel you out to the designated smoking area half a mile from the old-folks home when you're eighty years old and dependent on other people for your locomotion.

"Son, when I was your age, it was the tail end of the hippie era, and all around me I could see other people screwing like wild chickens. It seemed the natural thing to do, and I couldn't wait till I had a place of my own. But by the time that happened, sex and infectious after-effects had gotten a lot more complicated. And so had standards of morality. Treat yourself and other people with respect, don't be vindictive, and avoid drug users, football players, and Christians. And stay away from the liquor cabinet; you don't get to drink until you're twenty one, and remember who bought that booze.
I did. It's mine."

I think that covers all the basics.

Everything else is up to him.

Same for a daughter.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Sometimes people lay the juju on you. Remarks are made that have a basis on some other thought patterns than you were expecting, and what you hear (or see) may make little sense. Often context is everything. Conversations in Cantonese are often like that, as are discussions about anything at all with pipe smokers.
Chatting with a pipesmoker in Cantonese is, of course, a double blessing. Hold on tight, you don't know where this train will crash.
Maybe on a rickety trestle bridge?
Over a rushing stream.
In the Sierras.

[Mr. Tu smokes RLP-6, which is made with Burley tobacco, Toasted Black Cavendish, and Golden Virginias. The flavouring could be best described as "compressed candy store". It is "addictive".]

Over on Mordechai's Facebook page, someone interrupted a political discussion to talk about flu shots. Which, when you think about it, is on the spectrum.

If you think about it a little longer, your head will hurt.

And, speaking of such things, did I ever mention that my apartment mate and I have Asperger's Syndrome? She's far further on the spectrum, so over the years I've learned to interior monologize whenever she says something baffling. It makes everything much more comprehensible.

[RLP-6 is not something I would choose, even if temporarily nuts, but far be it from me to begrudge stubborn people the freedom to make mistakes.]

For instance, while I was scarfing down a dish of Spam, Yauchoi, Tofu, and Wheat noodles, dressed with Abalone Sauce, Soy sauce, Sriracha hotsauce, plus tomatoes and olive oil, she went over to the hallway mirror and started talking. My input consists of the stuff in square brackets, not vocalized.

"Not the colour I wanted, but it's soft, and I look HOT wearing it; commanding, like I should be in charge of a submarine."
[Accepting things as they are.]

"Filled with HOT sailors!"
[Catching the ball and running with it.]

"Well, okay, just ONE sailor."
[Approaching things more realistically.]

"I'm tired, I'm going to bed now."
[Did you mention that there are koftas in the refrigerator?]

See? A productive and information-packed exchange. Both participants happy that they got something out of it. I have a secret passion for Spam.
It makes tofu taste good. Don't forget to add ginger. Lots of ginger.

We used to be a couple, in case you were wondering. Broke up a number of years ago, but we still like each other, and trust the other person around our stuff. The underlying friendship remains strong.
Which is a good thing.

And, because she's Cantonese, she's comfortable with my dining habits. If she were blonde, I would have died of gustatory ennui years ago, before we stopped seeing each other "that way".
Of course, given that I've hardly ever met an intelligent blonde, there probably would have been no relationship in the first place.
Either way, it's 'win win'.

And, speaking of 'win win', a reader whom I am certain I know, though we've never met, left the following comment underneath a recent post:


Dear Mr. Back of the Hill,

I am an avid follower of your bloggh. I notice your ability to take any topic, be it Israeli politics, Chinese food, or tobacco inhalation, and run with it, turn it into something creative, thinktanky.

I would very much like to suggest (humbly at this point), a topic for a future post. Perhaps you could write about the connection between the Consitution of Madagascar (text here and Dogshit Golf. This is a topic connection that very interests me, and it would be great to read about it on your bloggh. My request right now is humble, but I might get more forceful if you express misgivings about writing such a post.

Thank you

Your Energetic Reader

[End cite.]

I do not have a dog. Consequently, I must approach the subject of whacking any evidence of their digestive process with golfclubs with considerable caution. On the plus side, I live in San Francisco, where there are lots of dogs, of all possible dimensions and personality profiles. One must take care not to loft a chihuahua with a mashie-niblick.
They're small, and quite disgusting; it's a natural mistake.
Why are chihuahuas dumber than rabbits?
They're the same size.

Given a choice between the two, the sensible man picks the rabbit.

Copyright: /

The Constitution de la IVe République (11 décembre 2010) states preambulatorily that "le peuple malagasy souverain, affirmant sa croyance à Andriamanitra Andriananahary, résolu à promouvoir et à développer son héritage de société vivant en harmonie et respectueuse de l'altérité, de la richesse et du dynamisme de ses valeurs culturelles et spirituelles à travers le « fanahy maha-olona »

[Notation: Dans Wikipedia, il est expliqué que "Andriamanitra est un terme servant à désigner la divinité suprême. Andriamanitra signifie littéralement « seigneur parfumé ». ]

[The problem is that Mister Tu does not rotate his pipes very often ("ever"), and never cleans them. They are always soggy. Every three or four months he brings them in for me to ream and clean.]

From an anthropological view, Madagascar is a fascinating place, as the dominant culture reflects a connection with Indonesian (Bornean) origins, long isolated and transformed. Linguistically the native language (Malagasy) is a relative of the entire Malayo-Polynesian group. The population is a stable mixture of roughly equal parts South-East Asian and East-African ancestry.

[They are sodden and tar-stained by that time, filled with sticky carbon deposits.]

Especially in the traditional caste / class divisions of society does Madagascar show relationship with their kin across the ocean. Many of the terms and titles used are clearly of Malayo-Polynesian derivation, though the exact roots cannot always be recognized. For someone fascinated by languages, reading long lists of Malagasy words is both addictive and frustrating. What does it all mean? How does this relate to similar words which I already know?

[A pity, because Mister Tu has some eppes nice briars.]

Of course, framing their constitution in French further frustrates. Especially when they speckle that language with long poly-syllabic constructs that are unknown. It's like reading English with key concepts framed in Russian.

[That resemble sewers at the end of the cycle.]

The present Madagascene constitution has one hundred and sixty eight articles, not a single one of which mentions golf, whether suburban country club style or urban-defecatory. I fear my "energetic reader" is off on wild goose chase.

[Very wet and stinky sewers.]

In fact, given the absence of ANY connection at all between the constitution of the fourth republic and "dogshit golf", one naturally suspects that the presumed link was picked at random, and that one could as easily and imaginatively posit a relationship between that document and rat crack, cigar smoking Hhasidim, the Keter Aram Tzova, the Shir HaShirim Asher LiShlomo, and that helicopter which is flying overhead. There is certainly no less fibre between them.

[Anyhow, after I'm done, they are one hundred percent smokeable again. And they look and smell decent.]

To the best of my knowledge, urban yuppies in Madagascar do not habitually whack pet excrement over the garden fence at their neighbors. That, truly, is an all-American custom. And given that we have so many canines in San Francisco, I refuse to go into the yard for fear of flying poo. Crazy I'm not.

[I clean up toxic waste dumps.]

What particularly strikes me though is the fact that the central kingdom had a number of strong female rulers. In that they also resemble their distant kin, particularly the Achenese and Minangkabau. Both of which are at heart matrilineal societies, though modified by a strong Islamic identity.

[I'd really like to sit him down and explain: "Mister Tu, do NOT constantly smoke the same pipe! Let it rest after use, and employ pipe cleaners!"]

In the case of the Achenese, who call their land "the gateway to Mecca", because pilgrims took ship there for the Arab world, the state institutions were based on Muslim standards. Whereas the Minangkabau, equally fervent in their faith, never the less preserved the superior position of women, and ranked men's rights to property and status as subject to their wives and their in-laws.

["Both bristly (to remove tar inside the shank) and fluffy absorbent ones (to sop up those nasty vanilla fruit loop caramel juices)."]

In Acheh, like in Minangkabau, men gained independent wealth and status by moving out, and consequently both groups have trade links across the entire archipelago. Their position "at home" is often a discordant and inferior one.

["And while RLP-6 is a might fine product -- it must be, seeing as every pipestore in North America sells it in some form or other -- it is very much like a syphilitic whore of whichever gender; seemingly charming, but not the relationship you want for your son or daughter."]

One peculiarity that crops up in Malagasy history is the custom that the queens solidified their role by marrying their prime ministers.

["Popularity does not mean worth associating with."]

Some of whom they subsequently assassinated for being bothersome old cocks. In a few cases they then ended up marrying the decedent's brother, who had inherited the position.

["Try some nice Oriental blends, Mister Tu. Or a maidenly Virginia and Perique compound."]

It's a peculiar way of establishing authority. Conceivably this is an East-African influence.

["If you treat your pipe like a friend, she may eventually love you."]

Imagine that Elizabeth had to marry David Cameron. Hardly a match made in heaven. One can only roll one's eyes at the concept of combining that with regular democratic elections and the prospect of regime shift every four years.

["As it is, she bites, blows, and sucks."]

And what on earth would a parliamentary vote of no-confidence mean under those circumstances?

["And this one -- a beautiful black blasted Peterson bent billiard with a silver rim -- has developed cracks in the bowl."]

The Thatcher years would have been surpassingly surreal, almost defying description entirely.

["I've repaired it, and I think the fills will hold. In any case there's enough caking on the inside to maintain a modicum of structural integrity."]

Come to think of it, they were. Those were horrible times! Commoners and Andriana both saw their traditional position diminished, the economy of the Island was in shambles, and the combination of colonial rule and abolition of slavery imposed severe hardships on outlying cities of the realm like Belfast and Glasgow.

["But for crapssakes, Mister Tu, smoke clean! If you let a pipe dry out, and thin down the cake regularly, it will not crack, and you'll get many more years of pleasure out of it."]

In 1970, the British Empire lay in ruins, foreign nationals roamed the streets -- many of them Hungarian -- and many of these Hungarians went into Tobacconist's shops to buy cigarettes.

["Yeah, I know. RLP-6 just tastes SO effing good, when the tars and saps hit boiling point and that intoxicating vanilla cream perfume fills your sinuses."]

Hungarians are all in all rather like the Vazimba, living in the big rivers like the Amazon. They are larger than frogs, and eat honey.

["But good lord, Mister Tu, good lord."]

What sets them apart is the tradition of 'turning the dead' ("famadihana"), which involves removing the body from its sepulchre and re-wrapping it in fresh silken shrouds. This honours the omnipresent soul of the expiree ("ambiroa"), which permeates the tomb building, the family household, and the hills and valleys of Magyar Kuztaarsaszaug.

[I tried RLP-6 once.]

Even for the most well-to-do Magyar, this involves considerable expense, because of the need to host huge numbers of relatives and observe all the correct protocols. But is gladly done, due to the importance of the ancestors in the lives of their descendants.

[Sometimes risks are worth taking.]

Without their benevolent influence, there would be no protection against Gypsies, and the family farmlands would be over-run with horse-drawn carts, wild goats, and thousands of little unwashed black-haired children running riot and stealing eggs.

[Sometimes not]

Carpathia is a harsh mistress, gringo, and will kill you in ways you cannot imagine.

[Good pipe tobacco only, boys and girls, good pipe tobacco.]

It is to their credit that the Malagyarsy have, like the people in Marin, invented tofu as a Vegan substitute for eggs. Especially because eggs keep disappearing.

[Aromatics have no morals.]

Always protect your eggs, gringo. Always. The world is filled with young men who attack things with golf clubs.

[Do NOT douse yourself with cheap perfume.]

Perhaps they're in that helicopter that is flying overhead. I wouldn't put it past them. Flying Gipsies!

[I'm a missionary for clean living.]

When all else fails, hold onto your teddy bear!

[Depravity has to be tasteful and discreet.]

It's probably a good thing that neither rabbits nor chihuahuas are native to Madagascar. Or even urban male yuppies with clubs and Gipsies.
Given that they take over the territories and food-sources of other creatures, like Hungarians and lemurs.

And penguins.

[Not advertised to one an all with Hello Kitty odours.]

"What about the penguins", I hear you wailing, "will no one think about the penguins?"

Please don't worry.

I think about the penguins.

They are constantly on my mind.

Probably splendid with a squirt of Sriracha.

I was in Marin all day today, absorbing the stimulation that is guaranteed by the presence of cigar smokers. They are such intellectually rewarding influences. It's refreshing. I feel like a brand new man.

Why IS a helicopter flying overhead?

I am a pipe smoker.


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

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