Saturday, January 31, 2015


Yesterday evening I was happily putzing around in the kitchen at the time my apartment mate came home. It had been a long day babysitting adults in Marin, and I was looking forward to a nice evening, good food, bit of music, ending with meditation or a cigar out on the front steps.
It's warm enough now in SF that I can do that.

She happily unpacked a new book that had come in the mail, and retired to her room, to read about sharks. When she's sad or depressed, nothing cheers her up so much as predators or violent women.

Kitchen and teevee room all to myself.

And some home-made wontons.

Got in C'town on Thursday.

I made a strong broth by first frying some dried flounder (大地魚 'daideiyu') in a smidge of clarified bacon fat, then seething it with thin stock, letting it boil for a while, and straining out the fish.
Chopped some gaichoi, set it aside. Heated up a vat of water, and while waiting for it to boil, sliced three lovely chili peppers. Put the chili roundels into a small saucer, added a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt to bring out the flavour.
When the water was boiling, dumped in a dozen dumplings.
Reheated the flounder broth, dumped in the gaichoi.
Added a few slices of smoked pork to the broth.

Scooped the wonton out of the pot of boiling water, slid the rice stick noodles in. Didn't want to use the traditional wheat and egg noodles, because I prefer the thick sloopety quality of rice stick.
Won ton into a bowl, broth with gaichoi and pork on top, finish with drained rice stick noodles.

Then left the kitchen for a brief moment.

Now, I should point out that whenever I use the kitchen for cooking, water will be used. Rinsing vegetables, rinsing noodles and won ton to stop the cooking process, washing all utensils the moment I'm done using them. Washing hands whenever handling raw ingredients, or anything that I will be sticking into my mouth. Lots of water.
Cleanliness becomes automatic.

And perhaps I should also explain that the sound of running or splashing water excites the bladder.

If you are a women, you may not understand what happens next. You see, unlike most women, men have a few extra inches to their urethra, encased in a flexible appendage, which means that a certain posture is our preferred method of micturating.

I had been handling chilipeppers.

Halfway through my delicious bowl of wonton with gaichoi in a lovely broth, with sliced chilies on the side, I grew discomfitted. There are no tastebuds in a certain area, but the skin is thinner, and more densely packed with nerves. It was an intense experience. I believe my face turned red, and I trembled.

Once your hands have touched chilipeppers, it takes a while for the capsaicin resin and oils to fade, even washing hands several times.

It does something. You cannot sit still. Distracting motion is required, and forcrapssakes keep those hands from touching any part of your body, most particularly eyes or "sensitive parts".

Here's a helpful visual:



The wontons were delicious, the gaichoi was at the perfect stage of toothsome tenderness, and the chilies seemed like velvet on the tongue because of the thin-slicing. There was a fragrance to the broth which added so much more than a plain chicken stock could have done.

My forehead was beaded with sweat.
And I was positively quivering.

Watch that video again.

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Friday, January 30, 2015


Years before I started watching Cantonese movies, I saw Mandarin-language films. There was something magical about the actors and actresses then, other-worldly.

Many of the movies showed a time and place long gone, entirely unrecoverable.

Yet seeing them on screen brought them briefly back to life.

Among the many talented performers, several names stand out.
One of them being Dong Pei-pei (董佩佩).

Think of a voice like melting honey.

Born in 1928 on the mainland, fled to Hong Kong in 1949. She became famous for songs such as 玫瑰良緣 ('the perfect match for the rose') and 第二春 ('second-time spring'). By the time of her death in 1976 or 1978 her star had faded, and her cause of death is not known.

She also sang in Suzhou dialect.
Not available on youtube.

Here's a song I had not heard before.



The next song is definitely typical of a different time and place; a simple romantic duet, with visuals which make clear that neither person is familiar with twerking or modern Hollywood style.



All of this came back because yesterday evening, while riding the bus home from Chinatown with fresh home-made wontons and a bag of yauchoi, I had the misfortune of sitting behind some young office-wallah with headphones. Remarkably cheap headphones. Many of the other passengers got to "enjoy" his musical taste, which, primarily, consisted of rap in which the 'F' word prominently featured.
F this, F that, effing F and F to the F.
Uncouth, and illiterate.

I'm sure that the popular songs of the forties and fifties also expressed the keenly felt frustrations of their audience. But those may have been much more civil frustrations.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015


Yesterday San Francisco police found a suitcase with body parts in the Mission District. Naturally the reactions have been over-the-top funny, and in dreadful taste.
I'm rather a fan of dreadful taste.
It explains most people.


I actually heard about the missing parts last night, but didn't bother reading about it till this morning. It is always better to process your morning coffee while reading someone else's luggage humour. Gets the juices flowing.

I can think of any number of perfectly valid reasons why someone would end up being stuffed into a suitcase. But that must have been an awful load to shlep around.

You see suitcases occasionally on the street in San Francisco.

We have a lot of absent-minded people.

And lots of baggage.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015


So, how's that cold weather you're having on the East Coast working out for you? Bit chilly? Snowed in? Wondering what you'll do for dinner in front of the telly while the pizza place can't deliver because of drifts?
All out of chocolate-mint power bars?
Having power issues?

You ran out of rendered bear grease for rubbing on your chilblains and insulating your skin from the fierce biting cold and blinding snow?
Water heater froze solid, developed cracks, and would flood your apartment except that it's a block of ice?

I can just imagine. You are suffering. I sympathize.

Bitter cold and freezing conditions: it's horrid.

Please know I'm swanning around in my boxer shorts right now.
All windows open to the warm California sunshine.

It's my day off. And I'm in California.
I know. Lucky, huh?

They're very uber-cool looking boxers. I wish you could see them. Happy colours, snazzy pattern. No, that isn't a pizza stain, we don't have "real" pizza here. That's strictly a New York thing. We're too laid back.
I accidentally dripped some of my tofu-raspberry snowcone.

Just kidding. Every one knows you don't have tofu-raspberry snowcones for breakfast. Even in California. It's not a well-rounded meal (unlike pizza), and the low fat version tastes blah.

Boxer shorts.

I've been reading in a state of déshabillé all morning.
Enjoying the nice spring-like temperatures.
Might go surfing later.

Ah, fresh air, mountain meadows, and neighbors wandering around in mumus and grass skirts. The sweet smell of medical grade marijuana and happy dolphins on the gentle zephyrs wafting in from the bay.
Wholesome gluten-free meals to keep us trim.
As we gambol in the California sun.
Lithe and bronzed.
And warm.

Boxer shorts.

I strike a pose before the hallway mirror. Hot dawg I look svelte!
Of course, there are tummy hairs. And navel lint.
If you were here, you'd know.
I have an 'inny'.

Because of the way the tummy hairs all curve towards the centre -- imagine that it's a chakra trail down my front -- the fibres from the wife-beater and sleep pants all moved toward the 'inny', forming a feathery little pillow. Which I will remove with a toothpick. Because, being in just my boxer shorts, it can be plainly seen. Unlike all you poor people in New York and Philadelphia, who are wearing thermal underwear, legwarmers under your heavy woolen pants, plaid lumberjack shirts, sweaters, multiple mufflers, overcoats, hats, gloves, and heavy lined boots.

Oh, the chafing, the chafing!

Again, that's boxer shorts.

Nice and baggy.


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While checking the comment-spam folder, I noticed that some braindead dingbat advises me to be more rigorous in deleting or editing-out entries by "readers" in my 'Letterbox'. To refresh you memory, my 'Letterbox' is NOT the normal comments field, but rather somewhere that readers may write a private message, ask questions that they do not want everyone else to read, or make obscene propositions  (the regular comments field is also operative; feedback other than clearly inapprorpriate stuff WILL be shown).
Nothing placed in the 'Letterbox' will be published.
Almost everything gets a response.
Sent to an e-mail address.
It's that simple.

Stricter with comments?


Private message versus public statement; two options for you to express what you think. 
Use either or both.

And feel free to use the word "fastidious" in an appropriate way.

I am a very strict man. Please believe me when I say that even at this very moment, I am strutting around my apartment wearing a military uniform and wielding a riding crop. There's a veritable reign of terror among the stuffed animals, who often quail before my stern authority.
I will be obeyed! Do not trifle with my dictats!

Oooh, this pair of jodhpurs chafes.

It is constricting, and zesty.

Tight where it counts.

Very very hot.

Anyhow, DO please feel free to make use of that 'Letterbox' for odd queries, embarrassing confessions, or romantic invitations.
It's all cool.

Please DO NOT place spammatic linkage of any sort there (or in the normal comments section). No commercial content, no opportunistic mention of fabulous gaming or hack websites, no invitations to check it out fabulous weblog, or suggesting guest posts because your get-rich-quick scheme has SO MUCH in common with my subject matter.

[It does not. Even my smut is not the same as your smut. Mine is in good taste and rather nice, yours is over-the-top filthy, and I think you're a perv. And, other than praising certain tobacco blends or food purveyors in Chinatown, there is nothing even remotely commercial here. Nothing is sold, no credit cards are taken, products and services are not offered, and advertisements will not be placed. Look all you want, there is no picture of a naked sexual organ anywhere.]

If you are a reasonable human being, you already know and understand this. If you are a salesman or a machine, it may be entirely beyond your comprehension, and this gentle note of chastisement will be utterly incomprehensible. Which fills me with melancholy, because sometime soon someone will probably attack you with a baseball bat.

Which is very very sad.

I like comments (see the link below), and also correspondence.
Both of these confirm the presence of intelligent life in the universe.
That is something on which I require re-assurance.
I should particularly like it to be cute.
And good company for dinner.
Express yourself.

Thank you.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015


She has thousands, tens of thousands, of fans. Consequently she is thinking of running.
That's Sarah Palin, in case you were wondering.
The great white birdbrain.

The realist in me says "oh god no! What if trailerpakistan votes for her? We are already beset by braindead redneck morons in positions of power and influence, we don't need any more."

But the dreamer within has to wonder...

The coming presidential campaign could get very entertaining.

And she is so quotable.

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Monday, January 26, 2015


After what I've been eating for the past week, you will perhaps forgive me if I seem a bit gouty and irascible. Gout, as you probably know, causes one to wake up in the middle of the night in conversation with the metatarsal-phalangeal joint in one's right big toe. It is an argument one is bound to loose.

Whatever patience and courtesy I extend my big toe and its argumentative metatarsal-phalangeal joint must, necessarily, lessen the reserves of P and C that I can provide to others.

Such as the blisters (human or programmatic) that attempt to seed my 'Letterbox' with helpful information about substances that will increase my masculine endurance and stamina.
No, not going to mention the product.
You can guess what it is.

The 'Letterbox' is meant for private correspondence. Not mercantile propositions, nor pork-shoulder linkage.

Suppose, for instance, you wished to know what my thoughts were on the likelihood of Cuban cigars being available anytime soon, or wished to ask about the tea-drinking habits of folks in Chinatown, why then you would click on that link embedded at the bottom of each post, secure in the knowledge that if I dealt with your issue on the blog, I would not mention your name or anything by which you could be identified.
If you needed dating advice, the same thing.
In any case, I might e-mail you.

Imagine that you were to write: "Hi Atboth, my name is Amanda Amber-Treacle Gams, and I would like to meet you sometime over coffee and snackipoos to ascertain whether there was a likelihood of strong mutual attraction -- based on your keen wit and the mental picture I have of a short stocky Badger or similar distinguished looking Mustelid trudging around the forest with a pipe of delicious tobacco projecting from his snout I fear and hope that there might be -- which, if it were indeed so, could result in wild passion and screwing your brains out. I am twenty nine years old, calm and rational, and very well read.
Please send response to (--follows an e-mail address--)."
Just imagine. Obviously such a missive would intrigue me.
I might, going against saner judgment, write back.
At a minimum, my furry ears would perk up.

Badly written copy, advertising products to overstimulate my masculine organ, make absolutely nothing perk up, furry or otherwise.
Instead, I automatically delete such things when they appear in my spam folder, which alerts Google that the item in question was more than likely of trollish origin.

I am keenly interested in miss Amber-Treacle Gams.
Products V and C, not even a bit.

No vigera, no seeyalis.

I am sparkly and professorial, not limpwhanged and balding.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015


As usual on Sunday I got to listen to the mis-informed and downright crackpot political opinions of middle-aged men in Marin. Like many of the people in that part of the world, they are frightfully entitled, but unlike most denizens of Marin they are venomously opposed to the government.
It's like they feel that they are honorary Koch brothers.
I should point out that most of the regulars (about a dozen people) are rather not-unlikable people, given to a certain level of smarts and insight, despite their shocking ignorance and ideological depravities.
They honestly do not believe that they are idiots.
Or have a racist bone in their bodies.

They do, however, worship the ground that Sarah Palin and the other Republican luminaries walk upon, thus unwittingly proving that they are both utterly insane, and more than borderline seditious.
If you consider what Republicans do.

GOP lawmakers not only have no hesitation about sabotaging American foreign policy, they’re willing to partner with a foreign government to do so.

Congress is not entitled to speak for the country on foreign policy issues. That is strictly the purview of the executive branch, NOT treasonous bottomfeeders chosen by big corporations to represent the stupid parts of the country.

Of course, it isn't surprising that Netanyahu accepted the invitation; the man has a reputation for backstabbing opportunism a mile long, and has done more to boost himself than any other Israeli politician in recent memory.
Not having been able to cow Obama into obedience, he satisfies his frustration by pandering to the nutzoid fringes, seeing that there is indeed common cause; both he and they oppose Obama. It's almost as if the chairman of Likud and the howling trailerparkers of the Teaparty are saying "why, the NERVE of that darky! How DARE he talk back!"

There is no evidence whatsoever that Netanyahu is a racist.

The same cannot be said for the leaders of the GOP.

Nor much of the Teaparty movement.

And a few Marinites.

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I am a pipe-smoker. According to one young lady recently, that makes me "like, omg, antique!" And very likely a pervert or pederast, but she wasn't quite sure which. Or was the word she wanted 'philatelist'?
I must learn to avoid people who are less than twenty.
Their little minds are still developing.
It's a tortuous process.

The first pipe of the day is like a timorous virgin, the last pipe of the night resembles a rowdy old bargirl. Reason being that early in the morning, my mouth is still fresh, whereas at the end of the day 'things' have happened. Many things.

Some involving unwise food or drink choices.

Raw bittermelon and sliced chilies are merely salad.
An 'amuse bouche', so to speak.
NOT dinner.

The first pipe yesterday was Arango's Balkan Supreme, which is altogether sparkly and dewy-eyed with a surfeit of Latakia.
Soon succeeded by Altadis 965, also a Latakia blend.
Two more Latakia queens followed..

Lunch consisted of a burrito de carnitas, sin frijoles, con queso y salsa mas over-the-top picante. There was a lovely hint of thyme in this confection, ethereal over the chili whomp to the cranium.
Smoky, herbal, and intoxicating.
Very nice.

For the rest of the day I smoked Virginias.

Dinner was ill-considered. Perhaps I needed some extra flavour at that point. If food can also be likened to a woman, this one was the hairy five-hundred pound trailer trash troglodyte, despite its very discreet size.
Bitter melon has a strong flavour.
Chilies do as well.

Good morning.

In about three and a half hours, I shall load up a bowlfull of Arango's Balkan Supreme again.

I never make the same mistake twice. I always do it five or six times, just to be sure it's wrong.

I am a man of habit.
A pipe smoker.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015


For those people who wish to know the most useful term for pervert in Cantonese, here it is: 鹹濕佬 HAAMSAPLO. The term is explained more fully in this blogpost: a typical male.

No, that is NOT a term which applies to me. Primarily because I never demonstrate my keen ability to sound totally depraved in Cantonese, lisp-hissing blandishments and come-hithers at tender girlies.

There is no benefit to not being a gentleman.
Even the entertainment value is minor.
Plus, I am Caucasian.


Many white folks are indistinguishable to Chinese people, due to a remarkable sameness of features. Eyes, noses, facial structure, complexion, and what-ever-the-else-have-you.
Plainly put, we all look alike.

That explains why the shopkeepers you've dealt with regularly can't remember who the heck you are when you run into them on the street. Or why even people you see on a daily basis might initially not be able to place you, or remember your name.

[White names all sound alike too. Whatever that "word" was, it wasn't Chinese.]

However, the moment you speak intelligible Cantonese in Chinatown, you and your face and your name slam sharply into focus.
Quite likely they will remember it all next time.
Especially if you acted like an idiot.
Which I try not to.

It's not that I'm insensitive to the attractiveness of some Cantonese women, but rather that my natural restraint coupled with a strong urge not to piss into the wind prevents me from being forward.

Bear in mind that the key concept is "intelligible" Cantonese. Uttering 'gung hay fat choi' at the appropriate time of year does not really qualify; you mispronounced it. If they recognized what you said, it was because the contextual framework  made clear what you meant to say.
Same with 'jeh jeh', 'm-koi', 'ney ho', and similar things.

To illustrate why this is so, let me describe something that happened several years ago, when I was still living in the Netherlands.
In the centre of the shopping district of Eindhoven, some Mormon missionaries had set up a stand with coloured pictures and a table of pamphlets, and were addressing passers-by with the question "hebt u wel eens gehoord van het boek van Mormon?"
What they meant was "have you ever heard of the book of Mormon?"
Grammatically perfect, and quite how a Dutchman would phrase it.
Their pronunciation, however, sabotaged the exercise.

They sounded exactly like they were saying something totally unintelligible in English. Even worse, American English. Possibly a regional dialect. Probably a severe speech defect.
And they sounded degenerate.
Sickeningly so.

The natives just nodded in passing, and otherwise ignored them, without stopping to find out what these space-aliens could possibly want.

Remember context? I mentioned it earlier.
The table with literature showed that those two deviants were trolling.
Gung hay fat choi at the right time might mean gung hay fat choi.
Jeh jeh, m-koi, ney ho; exact same dealio.

And, if you leer suggestively while saying anything at all, you are probably 'haam sap'. You might in fact be the very essence of haamsapjing, or haamkwaiseilo, or a seihaamsapkwai.
Irrespective of whatever you tried to say.

You might even be Hungarian.

"My hovercraft is full of eels."
"My hovercraft is full of eels!"
"Matches, matches? "
"Yah, yah. Eh, do you vaant... do you vaant to come back to my place bouncy bouncy?"
"I don't think you're using that right."
"You great poof!"
"That'll be six and six, please."
"If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me? 
I am no longer infected."
"It costs six and six ... six and six... Here we go ... 'Yandelvayazna greldenuwi stravenka!'"

"What's going on here then?"
"You have beautiful thighs."
"He hit me!"
"Drop your panties, Sir William, I cannot vait till lunchtime!"
"My nipples explode with delight!"

"Great boobies, honeybun! My lower intestine is full of spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon, spam, tomato, spam....."

[English-Hungarian phrasebook, M.P., Horton Publishers, First ed., London, 1970.]

Either Hungarian, or a Viking.
But probably Hungarian.
A spam eater.

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Friday, January 23, 2015


The other day an old friend shared a Christian message on my Facebook page. Before going any further, I should mention that she has a great sense of humour, and, while regrettably credulous concerning matters of religious belief, is generally speaking a clear-eyed person with an extremely likable personality.

As you may have gathered, despite my extreme and winsome youth I am a sour old cynic, and tend to sneer at religion.

Particularly Christian substitutes for same.

Naturally I growled.

The only religions of which I approve are Jewish modern orthodoxy, Sikhism, Sufism, and Shinto. And a cynical sarcastic ultra-skeptical interpretation of Dutch-style Calvinism.

All others are, more or less, heresy-sodden mental but-plugs.

Especially the deviant Christian cults.


As someone whose ancestors came here in 1630, I will gladly engage in bloodshed and heresy trials to sabotage Lutherans, Episcopalians, Papists, Baptists, Methodists, and all those other disgusting cults from advancing. Especially Mormons (ugh!) and any and every shade of the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.

If we do NOT maintain the separation of Church and State adequately, you can count on me to start gathering firewood, so that adherents of Seventh Dayism, Scientology, Jehova Witnessing, and Hare Krishna, as well as many other deviant practices, can be burned at the stake.

My religious tolerance is predicated upon everyone else NOT seeking to impose their depraved deviance on me or on society. No, I do not like your church; your pastor is a hamster, and smells of elderberries.

Please do NOT practise your religion in public; it scares horses and little old ladies, and there should be NO place for such horrid examples that might lead little children and impressionable foreigners astray.

Absolutely no Remonstrants, no Ledeboerians, no Presbyterians.

Are we clear on that?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015


During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the empire lay in ruins as internal and external relations crumbled, the stability of the past gave way to discord and shifting alliances. At that time, the imperial government in the Northern Metropolis (北京 beijing) decided to open up the lands east of the Willow Palisades (柳條邊 liutiao bian) to settlement by the Han (漢族 hanzu).

Within years, the native population was vastly outnumbered by the immigrants, and prosperity abounded. But the main advantage was that the Russians now faced a formidable obstacle to further expansion. Rapacious Czarist officials and illiterate Cossack hordes had been stymied by the oldest barrier to imperialist expansion known to man: stubborn Chinese peasants.

Okay, I know I gave a somewhat deviant and simplistic spin to events in those last few words, but given that I'm having the very devil of a time understanding Mandarin, re-interpreting is rather essential.
In some ways I'm inventing a new continuity.

The Settling of Manchuria, Prequel, First Episode.

A forty part soap opera produced by the Dalian Television Studio (大連電視臺 dalian dianshitai) a couple of years ago, in what was formerly called Port Arthur (旅順 lushun; 亞瑟 yase) in Liaoning Province (遼寧省), North-Eastern China (中國東北 zhongguo dongbei).
It's about revenge, banditry, gold.
And, of course, the Japanese.
Plus revolutionaries.

闖關東前傳 -- 第1集


The second oldest barrier to imperialist expansion is Mandarin-speaking actors chewing up the scenery.

Nearly an hour of remarkably likable people wearing remarkably baggy clothes. An old mother weeping her outrage at the misbehaviour of her worthless daughter. Two gentlemen of peasant origin eating stolen buns, one of which, and I quote, "tastes like fart".


"Nǐ wén ba, zhèlǐ hái yǒu pì wèi ne."

As with all Chinese television serials, it's the human element (and the furniture) which fascinates.

One of the characters (female) is called 纓兒 (jing-er), which can be translated as "little tassel". She appears to be the requisite 'good girl', and in consequence is rather drippy.

The "bad" (spirited) girl is disguised as a geek (書生 shusheng), and travels with a lute (琵琶 pipa). She fled the family home just before her father was arrested. Naturally, there are a few scenes of the constabulary oppressing the masses.

Dang it looks freezing in Manchuria!
I'm quite enjoying the show.
Probably for all the wrong reasons, as I live in San Francisco (三藩市 san fan shi; 舊金山 jiu jin shan), and the weather never gets THAT cold here (except during summer), and to the best of my knowledge none of the local Cantonese wears fur hats, rides horses, and has strings of dried chili peppers hanging on the wall.

As a note of verisimilitude, given the geographic origins of the transmigrant populus, I should mention that the personal pronoun used in speech in the series is 俺 (an), which outside of Northeastern China is rather anomalous.

Anyway, watch it for yourself.
There are forty episodes.
At the very least, your Mandarin will be improved, possibly also your understanding of the people and their culture.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015


One of my acquaintances was laying it on thick, talking about organic baby vegetables harvested fresh from the soil, to be lightly steamed, and eaten with gluten-free noodles.
Oh so delicious! And pure! How could I not love it!
A meatless and sacramental meal.

Well, given that gluten-free makes me giggle, especially when combined with the word 'noodles', he's right. He's also out of his Vegan mind, lord help him, and utterly goofy, but yes, I love it.
Purely as a funny concept.

Stupid white Vegans from suburbistan don't know how to eat.
And shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a kitchen.
Steaming, btw, is NOT for vegetables.

It's for meat.

Such as the lovely dry-preserved duck thighs, dense and delicious, that you can buy in Chinatown. They're made by adding curing salts, soy sauce and rice wine, then wind-drying them for a few days. In so many ways they define satisfying winter food.

The commonest way to utilize them is by steaming them on top of rice.

Jing laap ngaap pei faan

One fatty preserved thigh.
One Chinese sausage, skinned and cut diagonally.
Two or three re-humidified black mushrooms.
Two cups rice.
Shredded ginger.
Shredded scallion.

Rinse the thigh in cold water, then dunk it briefly in boiling water.
In addition to shocking the meat with moisture, this also washes off dust and shrotzim, and sterilizes.
Then take your cleaver and whack across into thinnish chopstickable chunks.
Put these on a bed of parboiled rice that you have placed in a clay pot, strew some shredded ginger and scallion on top, place the lid on the pot, and cook till done. Let it sit for a few minutes.

Many people don't chop it till after the steaming, but I think the heat permeates it better, and the grease renders easier into the rice, if you do it my way. In either case, the result is a beautiful well-flavoured and fragrant rice, and chewy tender rich meaty duck.

The two premier places to purchase such lovely duck legs, as well as several other kinds of preserved meat products, are Mow Lee and Wycen Foods. Both produce beautiful high-quality laapmei.
I would suggest going in and selecting some stuff at random, then taking it home to experiment. Dried meats have a deeper flavour than fresh, are used in smaller quantities, and are considered perfect warming food.
For heavens sake, do NOT point and ask goofy questions!
English is not their greatest skill set.
Don't be a tourist.

Mow Lee Company
774 Commercial Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.

Wycen Foods
832 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94107.

I also bought some bitter melon while in C'town today, and a huge bag of crispy crunchy fresh Jalapeños (尖椒 'jim jiu' ). Bold veggies are excellent with preserved meats. And chilies are, of course, a vegetable.

Instead of lapcheung I will add two or three soaked dried oysters (蠔豉 'hou si') to the top of the rice before steaming, gout be damned.
Besides rice, a vegetable dish is essential. I love bitter melon, as well as chilies. Both are good for the blood.
And rather than all long-grain rice, I plan to "borrow" some of my apartment mate's Arborio, which she purchased for an experiment with risotto over the holiday season, and hasn't used since.

I'm looking forward to dinner.

And leftover rice tomorrow.

With a fried egg on top.

And raw chilies.


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Years before the World War, a Japanese songwriter created a lovely ballad, which, after the passage of decades, evokes a timeless golden age, a mood of places and people no longer part of the world. It's a lovely song. You don't have to know Japanese to enjoy it.

Shanghai no Hanauri Musume 上海の花売娘

Judge for yourself.



That street performance is very sweet.
Tokyo is fortunate indeed.
Fine musicians.



紅いランタン 仄かにゆれる
宵の上海 花売り娘
誰のかたみか 可愛いい耳輪
じっと見つめりゃ 優しい瞳
ああ上海の 花売り娘

霧の夕べも 小雨の宵も
港上海 花売り娘
白い花篭 ピンクのリボン
襦子も懐かし 黄色の小靴
ああ上海の 花売り娘

星も胡弓も 琥珀の酒も
夢の上海 花売り娘
パイプくわえた マドロス達の
ふかす煙りの 消えゆく影に
ああ上海の 花売り娘

The Shanghai Flower Girl


A red lantern trembles in the evening breeze, Shanghai flower girl,
Earings swaying above girlish shoulders,
She beckons with an innocent smile(*),
Oh flower girl of Shanghai.

The evening mists gave way to light rain over the Shanghai harbour,
A white basket tied with pink ribbons,
Small yellow slippers getting wet;
Oh flower girl of Shanghai.

Stars curve overhead like a violin bow's arc, in amber wine,
The dreams fade, Shanghai flower seller,
Shadows swirl and disappear in smoke,
Oh flower girl of Shanghai.

[(*) Literally, friendly eyes or a friendly smile. That is to say a facial expression without guile, perhaps girlish, perhaps innocent. She has no ulterior motive.]

---      ---      ---    

The song is given the full treatment, Enka-style, in the video below.



I remember a Hokkien version of this song years ago, but unfortunately neither the singer NOR the Chinese title come to mind.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Hutspot with mutton and Indian spices on the stove; tonight we eat strong flavours, preparatory to heading into North Beach for our weekly flirtation with insanity. There will be surreal conversation with strangers, and subsequent to that, or at the same time, exposure to the screeching of stupid suburban twenty-somethings doing karaoke.

Dice cups, crazy drunkenness observed, and late late whiskey.

Pipe tobacco smoked today: Capstan Gold Navy Cut, MacBaren Virginia No. 1, Samuel Gawith's Perfection, and Arango Balkan Supreme.
Condition of tastebuds: they had a work-out. Oh boy.

The cigars didn't help.

Got lassi?

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Found this delightful video quite by accident. I nominate it for an Oscar for 'Slice-Of-Life' documentary, artistic verisimilitude, and several new vocabulary items -- expressions  till now quite new to me -- which reflect an attitude and cultural woof so far from San Franciscan pretentiousness and existential angst that my eyes are opened.

Yeah man. You wanna be on time, go to Jamaica and walk to work.

Put your damned dumplings down, and get on the bus!



12:10, 12:13. Meh.

Go a little slower, driver, no need to hurry. It's bad for you, okay?

Maybe I should visit New York.
Sometime soon.

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Fifty five year old man comes home and eats cheese and almond windmill cookies. Which, when you consider all the options, is the only realistic thing to do. Earlier I had been the somewhat unwilling witness of a twenty eight year old celebrating her coming of age for the seventh time.
I do not like rap music.

No, I did not impose myself on the table of bright young things. Be real. Fifty five year old men, no matter how piratical their beard and moustache, dashing even, are NOT a hot commodity.
And these were bright young things!
Pink and innocent.

I'll accept that many of them, being white and from cotton-wool America, probably have sex-lives that put me to shame. I have no problem with that. There are good things to be said for still being rather un-exposed and inexperienced. At the very least, I can proudly assert that I did not jump at every over-moistened opportunity.
No matter how sleaze-o-riffic.

Thirty years ago things might have been different. They weren't, but the possibility was there.

Three decades ago I might have been more frustrated, but nowadays I am at peace. Fifty five year old men are not a hot commodity. I realize that.

Yes, I know that there are cruise-ships full of seventy plus year old matrons who would creakily jump at my prospect. The poor old dears overlook my essential perversions. I may be in my fifties, but I have the depravity of a twenty year old.

Tonight we celebrated the birthday of someone half my age.
She sang a Doctor Dre rap tune.
And consumed gin.

She was all pink and innocent.

I feel a bit old right now.

And in no way pink.

Or innocent.

Almond windmill cookies, Cheddar cheese, and smear of stoneground mustard. That's impossibly old and depraved.

Yes, I am a fossil.

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Monday, January 19, 2015


There is, of course, a mental ailment that afflicts people living beyond the cities. The silence late at night, and the shifting shadows at the edge of vision in the darkness, combine to create monsters in their minds. Add over-active imaginations, and insufficient medication, and you end up with anomalous beings roaming the backwoods of America.
Things with horns and tendrils.
And teeth. Sharp teeth.

They aren't American representations of the Black Beast of Ar (of Monty Python fame), or the inbred Cornish Pygmies still rumoured to exist in parts of rural England.

These are the Jersey Devil, the Sheepsquatch, the Enfield Horror, Mothman, Sarah Palin, the Chupa-Cabras (note: singular despite the pluralist termination; 'goatS-sucker'), and the Petaluma Rabitode.

That last mentioned might actually exist. It's described by witnesses as a longish rat-like beast, like a bowling pin heading sideways, the size of a recumbent human, which slithers (or scuttles; accounts vary) into the barns of the poultry capitol to feast upon the chickens within. It either calms the birds by hypnotizing them or by emmitting a scent that dulls their senses.
Apparently business is good; the creature has been spotted as far south as Novato, as far west as Estero Road between Tomales and Bodega.


Last week, two locals were bicycling in the hills near the coast when they spotted something. Their accounts are different enough that one may assume that they did not invent and coordinate, but actually saw something.

One of them, Sunkarma (29 years old), described it as covered in sleek fur, except for the plated head and beak-like snout.
The feet looked claw-like.

[NOTE: That probably ties in to Miwok legends about an oyster-eating animal which used its hard bony beak to crack shells. Obviously, battery chickens are softer and easier to hunt.]

The other witness (Persephone-Shawnee), on a different trail, reported a "big blob, kinda greasy gray, with a long pointed head like a possum; it was, like, huge, you know?" She also mentioned that it smelled like rotten eggs, and glared angrily at her before fleeing into the forest. Its paws resembled human hands, but were black, misshapen, and shiny.

"It was, um, kinda radiating sadness, and like, negativity!
Like, it thought I was invasive and gonna harm it?

A key detail, which strikes me as extremely Northern Californian, was that she was returning from a native American smoke medicine ceremony, which was "very spiritual", and "re-calibrates your aura".
I don't know whether ganja or sage was offered.
Probably both. Along with etcetera.

All of which may have influenced Persephone-Shawnee's perceptions.

Sunkarma, who saw different feet, was collecting forest greens, because "veganism is in tune with mother nature". The lack of protein in her diet may have weakened her little hippie brain.
Marin is filled with refugees from flowerpower.
Unlike Petaluma, which has.....

Now, if you ask me, both ladies were probably stoned out of their minds and batshit crazy. From a variety of causes. The entire Bay Area is filled with male and female hysterics of their type. Heck, we're so holy and "spurtule" that we think tofu and karma didn't exist until we invented them back in the eighties.

I'm looking forward to eventually seeing the beast on Polk Street in my neighborhood. Drunken twenty-somethings are even easier to hunt than chickens.

And probably juicier, too.

By the way, Petaluma is the only municipality in the United States which has laws against congress with chickens. There is a good reason for this.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015


Sometimes you wonder whether journalists are capable of understanding history, or even considering the long view of events. After all, their business is 'news', which as soon as it's published starts becoming 'not news'. At which point it becomes decreasingly interesting to them.
Of course many of their audience are equally afflicted with attention deficit disorder, Fox news being a leader in that field, with MSNBC and CNN struggling to catch up, but some of us do have a somewhat wider range of attention than most journalists are capable of grasping.

Often necessary background goes missing.

Consider this doozy of a quote from a BBC article: "Relations between Vietnam and China are strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Tensions rose in 2014 after China moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam, leading to violent protests."

Actually, folks, relations between Vietnam and China have been more than miserable since the late seventies, when those Vietnamese reptiles drove a large number of their Chinese fellow-citizens out. You remember the boat people? Most of them were Viet-Chinese, who fled under duress, and made a perilous journey in rickety vessels through waters infested with Thai fishermen... who often captured vessels, raped the females, and slit the throats of everyone, or simply raped and robbed. Then the boats would make it to the Philippines or Malaysia, where the authorities weren't happy to see Chinese people (due to longstanding institutionalized racism and officially encouraged ethnic hate). "Unwelcoming" barely describes it.
Brutality towards the refugees was shockingly common.

Yeah, you could say that "territorial disputes" are a cause of strain.

What's surprising is that China is being so very gentle with all of those South East Asian Countries. That's very civilized of them.
Forbearing, too.


After what Vietnamese, Malays, Filipinos, and Indonesians did to their Chinese minorities, a rational person would be enthusiastically supportive of a complete takeover. Too many violent riots with racialist overtones, plus apartheid-style laws and discrimination, politicians demanding protection money and "facilitation fees", crime targeted specifically at the Chinese...
The Thais deserve a little credit, as many of them are part-Chinese, and they make absolutely fabulous curry-pastes; that counts for something.
But please refer back to what their coastal people did starting nearly four decades ago, and continuing into the nineties.

"Relations between Vietnam and China are strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea."

There's an easy solution to disagreements in that stretch water.
Keep the Vietnamese out entirely.


Relations with the tributaries beyond the frontier are better now than has historically been the norm. The South East Asian states seem to have forgotten this, perhaps they should be made re-aware of it.
Politely, of course. Diplomatically.
But firmly.

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In yet another brazen attack on Western values, a noted Scandinavian culinarian was brutally attacked in his own studio by three persons wielding fire-arms. Foreigners (Finnish?) acting like they owned the place.
No, this could NOT have been prevented by open-carry.
Open-carry was, more or less, the problem.

It won't be long before none of us is safe.

This opens up a new chapter.

When will it stop?



Culinarists have no one but themselves to blame. If they will persist in sneering at crustacean values, crustaceans will continue to fight back.
Eventually they will outnumber the culinariators that remain.
A very dark day for Western Civilization.


The other night my apartment mate was slurping down some crustaceans that she had prepared with bacon and fermented fish-paste. It smelled delicious. Utterly treif, of course, because crustaceans are anathema.
She watched a gay millionaire dating show on television while she ate.
This may be a sign of the coming end-times.
Alert the Tea Party!

Fox News, Pamela Geller, Jihad Watch, and that delirious dingbat Debbie Schlussel need to DO something.
God hates shrimp.

According to the good book, "phooeey on you!"

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Saturday, January 17, 2015


He recognized me as I was stuffing my face with fatty pork, and came hurrying over, happy to see me. Now, this wasn't perfect host behaviour on his part -- though a member of the family that runs the place, he is not involved with the restaurant in a professional capacity -- but joy that I had returned. The last time he saw me was over a month ago, when the two bright young ladies had been drooling over him.
At that time he was preoccupied.
I can respect that.


In addition to lean pork and preserved egg jook, fabulous with one of their yautiu, they also offer a lunch deal of three dishes from the steam table plus rice and soup, for a very affordable price. The sign mentioning this is in Chinese, because they cater exclusively to a local audience. And really, who wants to explain (in English!) that that there meat is five-layer fatty pork stewed with a little soy sauce and red-in-snow, something that we all love but which will give diet-conscious suburbanite fattaboolas a heart-attack, or that the vegetable is crunchy baby mustard stalks briefly blanched then stir-fried? Trust me, it has EXACTLY the same appeal as asparagus, but a more delicate flavour, truly delicious! As well as the perfect texture to the teeth. But many people who are not from here have never tried it, and will probably turn up their long long noses. Because it isn't called "Imperial Concubine Jade Treasure", and it doesn't have a strong gloopy sauce composed of brown, chili, and sugar. The rest is equally unknown.
Everything on the steam table is equally decent.
Very Cantonese, very simple.
Very nice.

The soup is lou fo tong. Broth, watercress, a few meat bits.
To moisten the meal and wash it down.
Good for you.

[In addition to lean pork and preserved egg jook (皮蛋瘦肉粥 'pei dan sau yiuk juk'), they also serve dried fish and fried peanuts rice porridge (柴魚花生粥 'tsai-yu faa-sang juk') and fish curls rice porridge (魚片粥 'yü pin juk'), Their fried dough stick (油條 'yau tiu') is excellent. There are also various dim sum to choose from.]

He's starting to talk now, albeit with far more enthusiasm than skill. And he's quite nearly unintelligible as yet. But easy enough to comprehend. A very likable little fellow, absolutely adorable. Because we have so little vocabulary in common -- he doesn't actually have much of one -- after the conversation lagged I entertained him by scuttling my left hand across the edge of the table, precisely like a dog or an anteater rooting around in the forest, middle finger (head) sniffing around. Then the hand-beast would jump over obstacles (his hands) and sniff at him, or wheel around and lift a hind-leg (pinkie) in order to mark its territory. Sound effect: pzzzzzzz.
Okay, maybe anteaters don't actually do that.
No need to tell him that datum yet.
He'll find out on his own.

My right hand, meanwhile, dabbed some of the fatty pork into a puddle of hot sauce, or forked a mustard stalk mouthwards. Plus rice. Or lifted the soup bowl and slurped a mouthful.

It was a very good lunch. Delicious food, great company.

The anteating hound also enjoyed himself.

After I had finished eating, I explained that "this is a pipe (煙斗 'yin tau'), and this is tobacco (煙葉 'yin yip'), which I am putting inside.
I shall go outside and smoke soon."

Then I bade him adieu.

I expect that when we meet again, he'll be more vocal.
And have a much larger vocabulary.

I relish communicating.

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Friday, January 16, 2015


For very many years the bookseller and I head off to a low dive once a week for whiskey. The dive in question has a karaoke machine. Most of the time stupid white people do the singing, while the Cantonese salt of the earth types ignore their efforts. Often the salt slam their dice cups and the loser drinks another shot. The salt seldom gets blithery drunk, the stupid white people are over-the-top blotto by the time they leave.

And entirely unrepentant for having committed torture.

Neither I nor the bookseller sing karaoke.
Remind me again why it was invented?
Oh yeah, team building exercise.
Corporate marketing dudes.
Stupid white people.
Shouldn't sing.

However, in addition to the usual songs from the eighties that one would rather forget, in English, as preferred by all twenty-something stupid white people -- everything from The Eagles to Elton John and Madonna, but not enough Abba -- there are a few items in Mandarin that truly set one's teeth on edge.

Mandarin is what the Chinese equivalent of stupid white people speak.

Judge for yourself. The song below is perfect.



Stupid Chinese people.

And a stupid title, too. 大家一起喜羊羊 (dàjiā yì qǐ xǐyángyáng): all family together happy sheep sheep, or, everyone is radiant with joy.
Oh please, I gotta barf.

Sadly, the little animated avatar of the singer is more attractive than her human counterpart.
Sort of a bright-eyed goobus librarian.
Who really can't dance.

The Teletubbies are more intellectually challenging.

The show is 'Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf' (喜羊羊與灰太狼 Xǐ Yáng Yáng yǔ Huī Tài Láng). You can read all about it on Wikipedia, where the zany tale of a bunch of ovines and their village is outlined.

Excerpt, describing one of the characters:

"Wolnie / Red Wolf (红太狼 Hóng Tài Láng)
The narcissistic wife of Wolffy, who dresses in a red robe with black and white trims. She is over-demanding and abusive towards her husband, hitting him with her frying pan whenever his schemes fail; however, she does genuinely love her husband. She is actually very smart and while her husband can think of outlandish inventions to catch goats, her simple ideas are the ones that are actually successful."

It's probably all very touching and meaningful, in a sincerity-laden way.

Filled with messages about unity and co-existence.

Children and half-wits love it.

All family happy.

No, I don't know who the cute goobus librarian is.
She's an animated entity, okay.
Not real!


"Fragrant Wolf (香太狼 Xiāng Tài Láng) is a young female wolf with rainbow hoop earrings and a pink dress; she has a crush on Banana Wolf (蕉太狼 Jiāo Tài Láng); a large, mild-mannered wolf who is a vegetarian obsessed with bananas."

Oh what the heck. It's probably quite sweet and fun to watch.
Find it on the internet, and judge for yourself.
Order some delivery pizza.

Love your sheep.

Wah, eat banana!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015


People have often asked me why I still live with the woman who ceased being the object of my affections over four years ago. There are several reasons: I have recovered; as I knew I would, what with being a resilient old cooz and all, and I am in the market again, though sneeringly cynical about my chances, seeing as seemingly the only women interested in me are older and have so many screws loose they rattle when they walk. Additionally, you don't give up on an apartment mate and darn good friend whom you trust around your crap; it would be irresponsible, and heartless to the crap.

I'm used to her habits and there is nothing about her presence that grates;
I hope that it's the same for her regarding being around me.
Besides, I like it here. We've been in the same apartment building for over twenty years; that's longer than I've lived anywhere else.
This is home.

Foremost of all, though, is the stream of consciousness commentary.


"Here are these young springy virile shoes and you're already giving them that old dead turtle look, it's disgraceful, 'cause they're rather handsome even though you have big-ass clodhopping feet, like they need to be de-loused or something -- you CAN powder just the insides, you know -- people will think you wallow in cornstarch, or that you never dust."

This pursuant the new leathery things I bought last week. Yes, a small and totally insignificant quantity of the foot-powder I used did adhere to the outside. If anyone asks, I work in a post-office as a mail sorter, and have escaped the Center for Disease Control quarantine.
No, my feet are NOT big; they're normal sized.
Hers are creepily small.

I have since then wiped the shoes.


"I don't mind OTHER people experimenting with a Ouija board and getting totally freaked out, "oh my gawd, this spirit has the same spelling errors as Aunt Martha! It's her, and she wants cake!"
Yeah, 'cause the craving for cake outlasts decomposition."

This pursuant some remark on television about communicating with the dearly departed. She finds communicating with the living hard enough as it is, the dead are entirely on their own.
I'm inclined to agree.


"I've realized that I actually don't know how to cook; I just heat up stuff and hope it doesn't kill me. Just plop it on a plate and find out if it tastes all right. I'm still alive. Let's all praise the god of food poisoning."

She's actually a good cook. I'm probably a much better one than her, because I'm a serious food slut, and have obsessively studied several thousand recipes and articles over the years. But except for one or at most two rather strange offerings, I cannot remember any fear or trepidation, and she made some truly excellent meals.

I've lost weight since then though, largely because there is no imperative to have just a little bit more. My appetite has changed, too.
I am strictly an odd-hour eater now.
Casual about meals.

The other day I ate a plate of rice-stick noodles with miscellaneous porky bits, baby mustard green, and Thai red curry paste, which I had prepared for myself. It would have been utterly divine, except she was watching a television show about women who commit gruesome murder at the time, and cheering on the perpetratrices. It's part of that liberated woman thing, female empowerment and payback and all that. Her flow of bloodthirsty and inappropriate remarks was infinitely entertaining, while also being quite utterly stomach turning.

The dinner-theatre was better than the meal.
I should've added more hot-sauce.

She seldom complains about my tobacco.
Her smell just isn't very acute.
Works for me.

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