Thursday, December 31, 2020


Having given myself a haircut the other day, I looked in the mirror and was struck by my resemblance to Baby Yoda. Two eyes. Nose. Chin. Ears. Hair on top. Disregarding the vomit-green hue, perhaps Baby Yoda was meant to resemble all of us. We are offensively cute.

I do not like cute.

There are several things I refuse to watch: Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, that Gal Gadot movie. None of them speak to my weltanschauung. I will also avoid the teevee show "Queen's Gambit", because my late brother was heavily involved in chess, and I miss him. He passed away several years ago.

It's been a roller coaster of a year.

Social moorings have included a pipe smokers FB page which I enjoy, bitching about Trump (I'm beginning to sound like a broken record), shared outrage over the nutballs, conspiracy theorists, right wingers. And talking about food. All food is cultural appropriation; without the Aztecs, Dutch, Chinese, and Italians, we'd have nothing.

[Aztecs: chilies, tomatoes, corn, cacao. Dutch: orange-hued carrots, kale, many varieties of now common vegetables originally bred in Netherlandish market-gardens, still life with bread and oysters, donuts and cookies. Chinese: soy sauce, vegetables uncommon in shops catering primarily to Whites, stir-frying, rice stick noodles. Italians: potable wines, eggplant Parmigiana, tiramisu, coffee beverages. All of them: many other borrowings, ideas, re-shapings, and transformations.]

Bread, cheese, onions, turnips.
Cheese and salt fish.

This is a gross simplification, of course. That, too, is a cultural borrowing (from the nutballs, conspiracy theorists, and right wingers, primarily), but you get the idea.

To put it differently, social media has kept me grounded. You too?

One other thing has contributed greatly to my sanity.


Here are the things I've drawn using the Paint programme on my computer in the latter part of December:

Judging from these examples, my sanity may be on less secure footing than I thought. There is a self-referential obsessiveness here.

Regarding Baby Yoda, a friend has this to say: "Grogu is an annoying, cardboard, cutsie-toy which has absolutely detracted from what could be a somewhat decent show. By over-focusing on the "wow" aspect of the little green smegma-stain the production has utterly come off the rails, using the attempted emotional draw of an excessively cloying blob of green plastic to overcome faults and plot holes which otherwise have ruined the show. There has not a been a good "Star Wars" production since 1980, and it's because of cute shit like Grogu, Ewoks, Jar Jar, and related offensive absurdities." [John O.]

Another friend says this: "The team behind Mandalorian has somehow tapped into the magic of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, Leone's Man-with-no-name trilogy, and borrowed heavily from Lone Wolf & Cub. I think you'd really enjoy it." [Mr. Sid]

My personal take is that we mustn't fight over animatronic muppets. Like the copier in Office Space, we must destroy it.

Baby Yoda gives me weltschmerz, existenzangst, identitätskrise, gicht, and zweifelhaft. What the Italians lump together under the term "agita".

On second thought, I do not look like Baby Yoda at all. I am human, not a lizard.


Tea, coffee, stuffed animals, arguing, and smoking my pipes.
Plus chili paste, Chinese foods, and cookies.
That's really what kept me same.

Also visiting SF Chinese Hospital for periodic doctor's appointments and picking up refills and my bank for paperwork. Those along with work are human contact.

Permanently missing in the vortex: any significant companionship of the opposite gender, a social life, visiting museums or bookstores, and going out to eat and people watch.
Those will come again, probably in the last few months of the next year.


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On New Years Day I'll be off, like previous years. But I have no plans. As usual I will not have a hang-over, because unlike everybody else I do not party till the ball drops, and largely avoid drinking with crowds larger than two. Or three. And my rendition of Auld Lang Syne makes senile geezers and children weep.

Probably shan't bathe. It's bad luck to wash on New Years.
No golf game with the buddies; my buddies don't play.
Absolutely no new year resolutions at all.
Because I don't play.

Two years ago I may have suggested to someone that they should be sacrificed to insect god, because as a human they were mediocre, but as a suitable offering they could rise above themselves. It was a grim and Edward Gorey-esque jest, but appropriate.

Several years before that, I headed into Chinatown for dim sum. I remember the weather we were having that day; grey drizzle and fog. It was stunningly beautiful.

That's something I might do again. I will have to bring the food home, of course, because one cannot eat indoors, but no matter. I expect my apartment mate will sleep late, and pad around in her pajamas and bathrobe all day, watch trashy 1950s movies, and argue with the turkey vulture, telling him to stop being mean to Otto the Octopus.
Reading, tea, snackies, outdoors with a pipe.
A quiet start to the new year.
A better year.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020


My breath must be a fright. A late lunch of garlicky eggplant, plus fried dace with blackbean sauce and mustard greens. Followed at tea-time by some cheesecake courtesy of our landlady, and strong tea.
Tinned fried dace with salted black bean is one of those tastes that one acquires when funds are tight, as they were for a few years in my twenties. It is best to decant the entire shebang into the skillet in which one has sautéed mustard greens and ginger, having cleared a bit of space in the pan, then mash the black beans with a fork and break the fish apart into chunks. Eaten by itself it might cause acid stomach, but with greens and ginger it's very enjoyable.
So it's probably not good for you, precisely like bacon.

I need to buy another couple of tins.
Mud carp, cirrhinus molitorella.

Tinned dace is one of many things which would horrify my mother, though my father would have probably been intrigued. He had a fondness for sardines and anchovies (both tinned),
of which he kept a supply next to the sambal in the cellar, down the steep concrete steps to which my mother feared to tread.

Strangely, she had no problem with canned tuna. Brain food.

To settle the stomach I took a walk after tea time. Fried dace, sambal, cheesecake......
A stroll with a pipe is good for the digestion, and seeing as it was too late to smoke inside (my apartment mate came home), I stepped out into the night and discovered that it was drizzling.
Stepped out a second time, now with an umbrella, and relit my pipe. The darkness is lovely when there is moisture in the air, enchanting. And dog walkers hurry their hounds up, so that they don't have to go far from their front doors. There are, therefore, fewer people around.
It's cold outside too.

Had another cup of tea when I returned.
I think I need more cheesecake.


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Years ago, a commenter on Dovbear's blog asked me if I was sure I was Jewish. And, what with being so goyish you could drive a truck through me, I honestly answered that I wasn't at all sure about that. Then on my own blog (which is this one here) I followed that up by writting one of my best pieces ever. About charsiu noodle soup.
Pursuant which, please know that there is a major difference in texture between wheat noodles (麺 'min') and rice flour noodles ( 河粉 'ho fan'), and further differences in thickness, density, and toothsomeness depending on particular varieties. Egg noodles are divergent too, and Italian types can be varied as well. So the simple description "charsiu noodle soup" leaves several questions unanswered.

Personally, I like broad rice stick noodles, as well as bakmi noodles. And in both cases I favour a more Vietnamese or Thai approach, including fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced green chili. Plus a touch of fish sauce and a squeeze of lime.
Plus ginger; it's good for the stomach.

I think that essay/story was the first time I mentioned 'moth-like eyebrows' (brows that are soft, thickish, and arched), which was an image I got from a Tang dynasty poet describing a young lady from Yue (far southern China, from the Min River in Fukien all the way to Hue in Vietnam), which is a metafor for unspoiled honest Southerners in contrast to effete and decadent urbanites in the northern capital city.

Basically, the Lingnan geographic area, which literarily was still considered newly Sinicised, somewhat primitive, and exotic. A suitable place for honest farmers and dissident scholar officials, as well as a source of new products, weird foods, and fascinating creatures.
Plus pearls and kingfisher feathers.
Also lychee, longan.

[Lingnan (南岭 "south of the ridges or passes") is broadly speaking everything south of the Wuling Mountains (五岭 "five ridges") to the watershed of the Red River( 紅河 'hung ho'). Narrowly, the cultural area of the Pearl River (珠江 'jyu gong'). Canton.]

Cantonese women like food, and are not tongue-tied.
Those are admirable characteristics.


I am not Jewish. You may have thought that I was a pink-faced yeshiva bucher, clutching my battered copy of Bava Batra along with Rav Dinkelstreib's scathing lomdishe commentary.
But you were wrong.

I'm actually a Catholic high school girl with thick raven tresses. My stiffly starched long sleeved cotton blouse is just a little too small in a particular area, and my plaid skirt flashes a sight of dimpled knees when I walk. My long white socks hug my calves - the effect is both very modest, very girlish, and incredibly revealing. Not Jewish at all.
I smell alluringly of Alfred Sung perfume, despite that being far too mature a scent for a person of my youthfulness.

You hide behind that bus shelter as you watch me lifting juicy morsels from my bowl of roast-pork noodle soup to my red red lips with my chopsticks at the front table of a Chinatown eatery. You spy upon me, as you have so often in these past few weeks. You observe my every move. It is an aesthetic obsession, but there may be more to it than that.
Guileless, perhaps. But is it you or me that is so?

Do you notice the elegance of my delicate hands? The deft way my fine-boned fingers enfold the pale ivory plastic shafts? And especially, do you note the perfect line of my nose, the exquisite undulation of my eyelids, when I close my eyes to inhale deeply of the porky brothy aroma wafting up from the bowl?

I know you do. I can feel it.

Vicariously, you too absorb this treif. Your mouth makes its own masticatory motions, an unwilled and unconscious echo of what I do with such joy.
It is good. It is very good. You just know it.

You cannot fail to observe, even from that distance, how my eyebrows, which curve like the antennae of a moth, are mirrored in the surface of the soup. How black they are, how velvety against the pale skin. That soft soft skin, those gentle features.

You do not know that I see your shadow out of the corner of my eyes, that I sense you spying on me.
I am conscious of your sweaty discomfort - I can see your forehead shining, and you are wearing too many garments.
I lift some noodles to my mouth and slurp, swallowing them entire. A fragment of cilantro clings to a corner of my mouth. As I lift the bowl up to sup the last savoury drops, I know that your knees have turned to jelly. You slide down against the bus shelter exhausted.

Good boy.

I pay for my soup. As I leave the restaurant it starts to rain. I stride past you, crumpled up behind the bus shelter, your frog-like eyes glassily staring up at me. You hope that I will not notice you, and yet.... you wish I would.
When I have passed, and you can no longer see my face, I smile.

It was good soup. I'll go there again tomorrow.

*      *      *      *      *

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My apartment mate spent all day in bed yesterday, only emerging from her room for soup and conversation with the turkey vulture, who is in exile on my side of our space because he wishes to eat the imaginary little girl hamster. She's adorably meatball shaped, and dances a mean boogie woogie conga. All the other roomies join in. Great fun is had.
He also importunes me to bring back a fresh corpse.
Can't I "make" one while I'm out there?
Find somebody, dammit.

I've lied, and told him I don't know how to make one, and probably wouldn't be very good at it anyway. He is incredibly disappointed in me. He says because I brought him into the household, it's my responsibility to make sure he's properly fed.

Everytime we eat, he has his share.
But it isn't the same as corpse.

Whenever I go outside to smoke I take a stout walking stick with me, with which to ensure proper social distancing OR to make a fresh corpse. The pipe isn't good enough for keeping people away, because it smells so evocatively of their grandfather, or their favourite mathematics tutor, or classics professor, or Albert Einstein.

I resemble the last three.
Back in the day, college men all smoked pipes and lived clean upstanding lives. These days they are more likely to be hard-drinking football brutes paying the nerds to take their exams and write their papers so that they can go on to rewarding jobs in brokerages or insurance.

If they actually smoked a pipe, it would be filled with something degenerate, like Chocolate Cherry Cavendish or Vanilla Mango Strudel. Or everyone's favourites: RLP-6 and 1Q, which are the two most popular pipe tobaccos in the country besides Captain Black regular.
Flavoured alluringly with artificial vanilla, cheap cacao, and a spritz of honey.
Plus the stale beer on the floor at the local hoffbrau.

One of my favourite lawyers smokes 1Q.
He's a very nice man besides that.

There are two reasons why people smoke aromatics: 1) They've never developed a taste for decent tobacco; and 2) many of them do provide a satisfying smoke that's readily available.

The other day I told someone that one of the products I do not ever admit to liking was Erinmore Flake, and he promptly bought a supply for himself.
It's not what I smoked earlier this morning while out with my pipe.
Doblone D'Oro, made in Denmark for Savinelli.
Virginia, Kentucky, Burley, Perique.
Medium bodied coins.

Extremely satisfying, but I should have filled a bowl of a smaller diameter, as the Burley and Kentucky were a bit too strong in the pipe pictured above.
It would have been better in a similar item.
Like the briar shown below.
Neil gave me this pipe a few years ago.
It's become an excellent smoker.
Perhaps before noon.

As an afterthought, I am pleased that what I ate for dinner yesterday did not give me food poisoning. It was reasonably fresh. These are things that single must people think about.


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Tuesday, December 29, 2020


Sadly, I seem to have lost my friend Jonathan on Facebook. He's unfriended me. Unlike Trepp, whom I didn't miss within minutes of being unfriended, I will miss Jonathan. I already miss him. Damned literalist. It was my FB remark that all I want for christmas is a massive wave of death among Republicans that appears to have tipped him over the edge. He has a soft spot for repubs, and believes that my wishing ill upon them is racism.


They themselves have insisted that all races have a place in red, white, and blue Fascism.

It's actually a keen sense of social justice, as well as a desire for security and safety. I want Obama Care to continue uninterrupted and undestroyed, because otherwise I'm dead.
They want to elliminate it, without anything meaningful replacing it.
So basically, they want me dead.
I'm returning the favour.

Republicans are a very real existential threat.

Jonathan lives in Israel (as does Trepp), so he looks at the United States (land of his birth) through rose-coloured glasses, refusing to acknowledge that the place has changed.
Plus of course he benefits from socialized medicine.
It clouds his judgement.

[For your reading pleasure: Jonathan on the balcony, Jonathan - shiputznik, Jonathan the Deadhead, and both firstly and lastly, Jonathan and Hello Kitty.]

I miss him, because even though he's often wrong, he's also thoughtful. And has wide ranging interests and a queer personality.

I'm sorry, Jonathan, I don't want them all dead. But if they catch disfiguring strains of syphilis and gonorrhea, that's quite okay. Especially Trump and his children. From each other.
Or Giuliani and Mitch McConnell.

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A posting on one of the Facebook group pages to which I pay some grudging attention perfectly highlighted the problems with the internet in every detail.

Came in expecting funny memes about philosopher XXXXX.
Instead I got a deluge of :
- Bad antisemitic "jokes" and conspiracy theory
- Crazy pro-Israelian propaganda
- Freshmen edgelord takes about how "yeah i read some quotes about the guy, but communism doesn't work though"
- Libertarian bullshit about "job creators"
So goodbye.

[xxxxxx'S xxxxxposting, xxxxxxx's Dank Meme Gulag]

Yes, I too have noticed all those things. I actually don't mind the crazy pro-Israel propaganda, because given how much of the internet is taken up with absolutely shitty anti-Israel crap, it's refreshing to see innocently ignorant pro-Israel takes. They'll learn soon enough that the world is filled with vipers. And as far as everything else he mentions, Parler (the rightwing version of FB) is, from all reliable accounts, filled with those. Comment strings underneath articles elsewhere overflow with them too.

The internet exists for three things:
  • Cute kitten pictures and videos.
  • Memes.
  • Recipes and pictures of food.
  • Pornography.
  • Trump.
  • Plus of course conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and Libertarian Bullshit.

All of them are linked. Blame the paranoid cat-loving bigots. Who are all Russian or from Alabama in any case. Just be glad that Facebook at least will work hard to prevent me from seeing nipples, because Zuckerberg HATES nipples. Probably due to a childhood trauma.
A nipple brutalized him once, or something like that. Nipples are bullies.
All anti-Semites, like all conspiracy theorists, cat-lovers, Alabamans, and Trump, have nipples. Russians might have them too, you'd have to check Parler, but it's doubtful.
If that doesn't give you nightmares ......

We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

I think Russians have Lutefisk in lieu of nipples.

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Somewhere between yesterday evening and this morning I turned into a grumpy old fossil. And I blame both the weather (cold) and the telephone for that. Trouble with my cell phone made it necessary to communicate ("chat") with the service provider. Which is, it turns out, extremely difficult using a computer, because they are entirely set up to do everything via text. Their 'chat' feauture requires that you talk with the help centre entirely via 'text'. Which means they expect you to have agile little fingers -- nobody's digits are agile in cold weather -- and not mistype because the letters are too damned small.

I am strictly so last century. And I wouldn't even have a cell phone if MCI had maintained their landlines. I hate cell phones. "Oh do get one", everyone kept saying, "it's so convenient, and you'll love it." Even relatives in their nineties did that.

I hate the damned thing, and will not take it out of the house.
It sits where the landline machine used to sit.

Often I see people significantly older than myself happily use theirs, using their agile little fingers and their perfect eyesight to communicate utter triviliaties.
Two of my coworkers are addicted to the things.

Look here, cowboy, I do not need to be able to communicate with anyone about a broken down vehicle by the side of the road up in the Sierras, and the rescue team won't find me any faster in the rubble after an earthquake because of a cell-phone. Even if I text. "Help, I'm stuck."
The battery would have died out before they start searching in any case.

Just follow the carrion birds to the corpse.
Their feed-sense is un-erring.

The apartment mate called in sick today, which means I can't spend too much time indoors where it's warm. Seeing as she hates smoking. It's cold outside.
Computer Paint Program tools: spray, crayon, pencil.

One of the most enjoyable things about smoking a pipe is the room-note, faintly lingering, that brings back memories of golden light slanting in (spring weather long ago) or dusk at a table in a deserted building reading the local newspaper with a pot of tea. Hotel lobbies. A café in Amsterdam. Jeep and jungle in Mindanao. Bookstores in Berkeley. The long well-lit drafting office at XXX company. Our living room, my father's desk, the bookshelves downstairs.

The room note outdoors is fainter, scarcely noticeable.

So much of what goes on inside one's head is smell-related, precious few fond moments are associated with telephones, and only seals and Scandinavians like freezing weather.

The prince shaped pipe above is another one of the pre-owned items that would have been chucked, except I saw something in it (the glow of old wood) and restored it.
It's a decent smoker, comfortable in the hand.

And ideal for short trips into the polar blast outside just after dawn.

Mellow aged Virginia-Perique mixtures, mostly.

I'm younger when I smoke.


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The two ear-worms this weekend have been quite different from each other: Adir-hu at a fast and cheerful tempo, and Avanti Ragazzi Di Buda, which can also be sung in a more stirring fashion than normal. The first is a well-known Passover tune, the second a song about the Hungarian uprising (which was brutally crushed by the Russians) written in Italian a decade after the fact.

The latter song could have become a great anthem to freedom. Unfortunately it became a favourite of Roman soccer fans, and now has an association with public misbehaviour and casual violence. Plus rightwing dickheadism.

All-time earworms have been both the Dutch and French national anthems, although the Dutch one is usually sung too damned slow. There is a tendency in many languages to turn what could be rousing melodies into funereal death hymns.

Music should not be pompous.

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Monday, December 28, 2020


Because we keep the outside door open at work, I spent the day battling blue fingers, tremors, and stiffening muscles. The boss, who is insensitive to extremes of hot and cold, didn't notice a thing.

That probably explains why I'm eating a big owl of icecream right now. Suffering makes you tough. What doesn't kill you makes you want icecream.


Too many icecream flavours have nuts. It's a lapse of judgement and taste that seems to be peculiarly American. We did not fight a war to make the world safe for icecream with nuts.

If I had to describe America with culinary crimes, then carrot cake, three bean salad, and tuna casserole would be right up there with icecream containing nuts, and those horrid little marshmallows.

The reason why so many Americans are outdoorsy and have that tough he-man thing going on is they're trying to avoid crap like carrot cake, bean salad, and tuna casserole. "Not now, mom, I'm off to battle the moose. If there's any left I'll have some later." "Good gracious, Jethro, your digestive organs are methane-empowered today, we had best ventilate this warehouse."
"I always sleep with my windows open; it helps me deal with Mom's cooking."
"you can't marry him, because of the foods he eats, it's not just lutefisk."

We had to freeze with the doors open today, breakfast may have been carrot cake, bean salad, and tuna casserole. Washed down with some lutefisk, yum yum.

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Someone said "even anti-vaxxers can't be that stupid, can they?" Sadly, the answer is 'yes'. Yes they can be that stupid. Never overestimate the intelligence of the anti-vax crowd.
They're almost governmental in that regard.

The other day a cigar smoking middle aged man who ingests peyote for religious reasons told me that the government had invented Covid19 to control us.


Did you come up with that all by yourself?

Or are you on the internet again?

Lay off the peyote.


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Sunday, December 27, 2020


Did you remember to put the menthol cigarettes in your kids stockings? The reason I ask is because next year it will be hard to find little Johnnie's Mento Filter Kings, due to a ban on selling such products. When Aunt Margeret visits from Georgia, tell her to bring a carton for each member of the family, including the three year old.

According to anti-smoking activists, kids just love the cool minty flavour, they can't get enough of it. And you want to keep them happy, don't you? Provide them with the things you never had as a kid. Anything else would be child abuse. Remember, a carton of ciggies is CHEAPER
than a brand-new game controller. It will sharpen their focus when they study.
Anyhow, nine out ten doctors and child-psychologists, given a choice between menthol cigarettes and therapeutic marijuana, would recommend penguins.
They're fluffy and huggable.
And so polite!

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Facebook ads have an idea of what I'm like that's a bit more realistic than Amazon a decade ago. Based on my reading matter, Amazon decided that I was a lonesome single Christian woman keen on wholesome romances during the tribulation leading up to the apocalypse (manga, textual criticism, talmudic commentary, East Asian literature, shadow plays, and Indian food). Which was, of course, berserk. I am actually half a dozen tall black Lesbians in a stable group relationship, with a white houseboy and a gimp tied up in the basement.

Facebooks algorithms have me pegged as womens pajamas, venison sausages, gastric distress, baby yoda, crosswords, and an alcoholic.

The ads are wonderful. I'll take TWO of the darling kiddiewinkies, plus that desklamp, a full hamper of blood-dripping goodies, all the pills, the resort hotel, and the beautiful cake too.

The only thing they got right was the Chinese roast duck and dim sum. Food is my favourite visual. Other than kittens, fruit bats, red pandas, cephalopods, and cute spiders.

Like many people I resist being reduced to algorithms.

I am more than the sum of my parts.

All six of me.

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Saturday, December 26, 2020


Now that Christmas is over, we can finally admit it; nothing says holiday spirit like banjo music. And all of those sappy songs sung by children would be better if instead of off-key youngsters, there had been banjos. Of course then it would remind people of the movie 'Deliverance'.
But it would evenso be an immense improvement.

From Hallowe'en till now, there has been nothing good on the telly. This claim is probably true, but in all honesty I couldn't know, because I do not watch teevee anyhow.
I'm just assuming a flood of Christmas dreck.

Charles Dickens oft-cited story was sh*tty saccharine pablum.

Indeed, this is partly sour-grapes. Usually my participation in seasonal celebrations is limited, and this year that was much more so. I am Grinch-like.
Notice how the eyes follow you around the room?

With no kinfolk nearby, having grown up overseas, and being quite irreligious, the whole Amerikansas Santa Claus mythos lacks any kind of meaningful significance to me.

It does not please me that everybody else is in the same boat this year.

Some of my friends very much enjoy the holidays.
I wish they had had a better season.
Next year will be better.


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Friday, December 25, 2020


Not being tied into the family-friends-overeating-problem-drinking aspect of several holidays, one attempts to find new meaning and rituals to fill the blank spot. As a Caucasian person, Kwanzaa doesn't fit. And being quite irreligious, the spiritual aspect is out.

Which basically leaves Life Of Brian, and car-dealership teevee extravaganzas. Plus pizza.

My friend Rabbi Belsky posted: "Eating homemade very-loosely-inspired-by-Chinese-cuisine food with cauliflower rice and learning torah on Nitlnakht #GrinchThis "

Here we have two Jewish Christmas traditions touched upon, namely Chinese food and NOT learning Torah on Christmas, because lord only knows what the Cossacks will do.

For us goyim, the Chinese food works, and obviously if the Jews won't learn Torah at this time, then as a goy hiloni (a secular nation) it is up to us to study it.

Oh wait; unless you are Dutch, from a properly Calvinist background, one cannot expect you to have the nutzoid intellectual rigour necessary to deviate from your heilige Toyotathon customs on this day. You're watching a ballgame and suffering indigestion at this very moment, eh?

Besides, the weekly parsha is based on a different calendar than you are used to, so that too may stress you out. Please continue with teevee and gorping cheap chocolate.

I guess your stuck with your seasonal indigestion.

When I was out on the street earlier smoking my pipe it was drizzling, and almost no cars were parked in front of buildings. Given that we've been encouraged to socially distance and avoid gatherings this Christmas, I'm guessing that my neighbors are, for the first time ever, trying to study the parsha (Vayigash, last week was Miketz). They all went down to the library. Where else could they be?
Personally, in that I am determined to not pay any attention to the holiday, I'm passing the hours till tea with some light reading. And a late lunch: fried rice, turnip cake, egg, vegs in curry, and a grilled bratwurst. Sambal on the side.
Plus cookies.
I don't know. Not being vested in Christmas, or Toyotathon, today has little meaning. And I will be glad when the hoopla is over. Bratwurst, curry, and an egg have more significance.
The time to enjoy a pipe and some tea is nice.

The accepted iconography and music of the season are attrocious. Moderation is not part of the programme, but a certain level of anomie and angst, unfortunately, is. At such times trying to vest the events with import move to the front burner, and, if necessary, lending strength to others facing the "holiday" alone.
Next year, another bratwurst with curry and sambal.
Followed by another pipeful of Virginia.
No Bing Crosby whatsoever.


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How do foreigners sound when speaking someone else's language? Sometimes it depends on the language. And, being clumsily multi-lingual, I am probably in a better position to explain that than most other people. My two native languages are Dutch and English, and I have been complimented by monolingualists in either tongue on how well I speak "their" language.

"Oh stewardess, I speak jive."

Sincere compliments, but unintended insults.

I also speak Indonesian (like a Dutchman) and Cantonese. And with those two there is such a huge range of acceptable accents that I can largely get away with it. Yet I cringe whenever another American tries to say anything in Dutch, English, Indonesian, or Cantonese.
Reason being their accents coupled with mispronunciation.

In Chinatown speaking Cantonese often helps break the communication barrier. I suspect that some of the folks there think "good lord he sounds horrible, but at least I can understand what he's saying, and he's clearly reading the characters on the menu, so at least we don't have to explain anything or venture into that other hard to pronounce speech". I've shifted the ball onto their turf, and consequently they can say more and say it better than if they had to venture into English. Which some of them do not as yet speak confidently or well.

American born Chinese may feel at a disadvantage, though. Because I do read and write significantly better than many of them. And literacy is a plus point, especially there.
But my accent probably kills them a little bit with every word I say.

Speaking Cantonese with the English-able is mostly not worth it. Not for them, not for me.

On the phone I can usually pass for someone who is also Chinese, albeit from some place where Cantonese is not the native language, and sometimes face-to-face people will assume that I must speak Mandarin better than bad Cantonese, leading to the usual "ni hao? Hen hao-le, xie xie, ni hao?" exchange ..... before both of us gracefully swith back to Cantonese, because, after all, the point is actual communication.

At eateries and crocery stores I always use Cantonese. There are no universally accepted English equivalents for many things, and even if there were they wouldn't be well known enough to matter. Plus people aren't accustomed to thinking of such things in English.

At the bank and the clinic, after initial pleasantries, we switch to English. My Cantonese is not good enough to easily talk of health or monetary business.

The correct word can be a shifting target.

撕脫傷 ('si tyut seung'): avulsion.

士多啤梨 ('si do pe li'): strawberry ("gentleman many beer pear").
朱古力 ('jü gu lik'): chocolate ("vermilion ancient strength").
威化 ('wai faa'): wafer ("pompous change").
存款 ('chuen fun'), 存入 ('chuen yap'): bank deposit.
電匯 ('din wui'): to tranfer funds by wire.
自動轉賬 ('ji dung juen jeung') : direct deposit.
信用咭號碼 ('sun yong kaat hou maa'): credit card number.
財神咭 ('choi san kaat'): credit card ("god of wealth card").
餘額表 ('yu ngaak piu'): balance sheet.
尾數 ('mei sou'): balance due ("tail enumeration").
剩錢 ('jing chin'), 結餘 ('git yu'): account balance.
拆息 ('chaak sik'): daily interest.
心臟病 ('sam jong peng'): heart disease or attack.
尿素 ('niu sou'): urea ("urine constituent or silk").
痛風 ('tong fung'): gout ("pain wind").
風濕 ('fung sap'): rheumatism ("wind wet").
皮膚乾燥症 ('pei fu gon chou jing'): xerosis cutis ("skin dry ailment").
潰瘍 ('keui yeung'): ulcerate ("flooding infection").
存在主義 ('chuen choi chü yi'): existentialism.
肖恩康纳利 ('chiu yan hong ngaap lei lei'): Sean Connery.
莎士比亞悲劇 ('saa si bei ngaa pei kek'): Shakespearean tragedy.
約斯特·範·登·馮德爾 ('yeuk si dak·faan·dang· fung dak yi'): Joost van den Vondel, Holland's most famous poet ("appointment such unique pattern rise gallop virtue thus").
豆豉鯪魚 ('dau si ling yü'): tinned fried dace with salted black beans.
The dace or mud-carp is a tasty riverine fish found in Southern China and Vietnam. Yellow-labelled tins of fried dace are in every grocery store, and every larder. Though it looks somewhat like herring, it does not taste similar. It is, never-the-less, good eating.

鯡魚 ('fei yü'): herring.

Some things just don't translate very well. No, I will not ever try to discuss Dutch poetry and literature in Chinatown. Sadly, that's almost impossible even in English.

And I shan't (can't) talk about credit and collections in Dutch.

So how's my German? Better than my Hindi.
Which is better than my Mandarin.

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Thursday, December 24, 2020


One of my friends, a Jewish person who is a refugee from the Great Redneck Heartland as well as a berserk afficionado of the Grateful Dead, has flung an accusation of non-inclusionary bigotry at me, probably inspired by the Christian Forgiveness customary this season.
Dude, nothing is more inclusionary than fruitcake. Candied green cherries?
Come on!

He overlooks that I am, at heart, a product of Calvinist culture. We are exclusionary. Which means that there must always be one group at least that I can and will hate.
That being Republicans.

And after four solid years of the Republicans screwing us over, condoning police brutality, encouraging Nazis, and lying through their teeth while robbing the country, it became inevitable, humanistic, and absolutely, utterly, logical to do so.

They're an easy target, and I'm lazy.

While I appreciate his Rebbe Nachmanesque sense of forgiveness, I do not hold with that. Rebbe Nachman teaches us the need to replace hatred with love. Sorry, I'm Dutch American. Not Jewish. I do not turn the other cheek. Do I need to remind y'all that the Dutch wiped out an entire island for strictly practical reasons? Sailed up the Thames and sank the British fleet? Introduced scalping for fun and profit to the Indians? Invented donuts so that generations of weak-willed Americans would die of diabetes?

We are a practical people. We can tolerate. We do not forgive.
Meaning that we accept that other people are flawed.
And we will grudgingly put up with all that.
Until we do something about it.

We are not fruitcakes. In fact, we envy the Vikings, who raided the coasts of England and Scotland during the Great Depression to destroy the fruitcakes. Learn your history!

Just because you are a mellow stoner does not mean I have to be one.
In other news, I hate Hobbits too, dislike the entire Lord Of The Rings weltanschauung, and do not spend my days contemplating my navel or trying to improve the world one joint at a time.

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers."


Fruitcake, gottenyu. I can't think of anything more repulsive.
That wich is lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.
Kill it with fire.

In other news, I reread 'The Chosen' by Chaim Potok the other day.
In some ways it reaffirmed my faith in humanity.
Of which, btw, there isn't much.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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A conversation yesterday among pipe smokers about whether the spoon stays in the tea cup or the mug or not, reminded me that one of the things I miss is enjoying a cup of hot Hong Kong Milk Tea (港式奶茶 'gong sik naai cha') in a noisy environment, with the geroesemoes of conversation all around. Like in a chachaanteng (茶餐廳), for instance.
The opinion of one gentleman was 'yes', another said 'no', under no conditions was it to be condoned. Ever. Darned heathens!

Andrew: And for the Scandinavian amongst you, notice the placement of the teaspoon... i.e. not in the bloody tea.
Martin: It's only "not in the bloody tea" because you couldn't be arsed to move it there, my brother in idleness.
Andrew: I have to venture out today to pick up some Xmas ale...I'll do it later.
Martin: I think you deserve some help with that. Call an ambulance and tell them to do your shopping.
The Scandinavian among us: Thank you I appreciate your advice.

[Inconsequential comment by me here.]

Martin: Don't provoke Andrew! He might wake up. Just because he hasn't moved since the Beatles broke up doesn't spell... I mean, just think of Smaug and shudder!

Well, okay. After I got back from Chinatown (bank, grocery shopping, dim sum to go), one of the first things on my agenda was milk tea. Had a total of three cups before bed.
Wired to the tits from four o'clock onwards. A seriously happy camper.
Shan't mention where I put the spoon.
Be outraged. Or not. Your call.

The Scandinavian among us had started the conversation ages ago by posting a picture of his hot beverage. The Anglos continued it in the spirit of Puritanically disapproving brotherhood, because since the Viking invasions of the eighth through tenth centuries, life is vanskelig.
And staying shikker is just not done.

Being one of the few Dutchmen in that forum, I have no tortoise in the race, and am not a warm enough person to really care one way or the other. I am lizard-like in that regard.
Much like the fuzzy reptile pictured above.


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Wednesday, December 23, 2020


The newest member of the household will undoubtedly be pleased that there is a "Cephalopod Appreciation Society" on the interwebs, sharing cephalopodic joy and videos with its members.
Also, I signed up recently and am now a member.
There is much cephalopodishness.
A full armload.
The newest resident. Otto. Otto Da Fe.

As you would expect, he likes hugs. You will also kindly note that he is trying to blend in, with colouration that approximated the hues of the chair upon which he sits. Octopodal Americans have chromatophores (colour-changing cells) just below the dermis, which allows them to take on the appearance of their back ground or reflect their mood and mental state appropriately. Consequently they pay scant attention to the dictates of fashion, and if female tend to eschew eye shadow and other make-up. Because it does not reflect the real "them".
Or the "them" they wish to be at that moment.

Sometimes we don't know where he is.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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The plumbers will be here between eight and ten in the morning. And I am prepared for that. The second cup of coffee will have been absorbed, my apartment mate's door will be firmly shut, and a pipeful of tobacco may be in process of combustion.

Yesterday after making a jar of curry paste there was a sink mishap. The U-shaped tube underneath, part of the drainage system, decided that at thirty or forty years, it had had enough, and part of the underside (rotten) fell away. Now, having cleaned out a jar of red hot chili paste that was a year and a half old -- about time to chuck it all out -- the sink was filled with rubicund water. As was, within seconds, the entire kitchen floor.
Warm water, rich in capsaicin. And no mop to be seen.
I mopped it up with two rolls of kitchen paper.
Wipe wipe wipe, squeeze into bucket.
Repeat, and squeeze again.
Torture water.

When capsaicin seeps into your skin, it stays. My fingertips still feel "warm", and going to the bathroom is a delicate process requiring both thought and caution.
That first pipe of the day, shortly after seven, was delightful, but it did not quite have my fullest attention. Because, as you understand, mature men need to pee upon rising. Pills, first cup of coffee, clothes, filling the ancient briar ...... all of it shaded by a feeling of unique tropical "warmth" where I did not wish or expect it. I dare not wipe my eyes or pick my nose.

At least my toes, all the way up to mid-calf, won't feel arthritic and stiff. Probably not till after Christmas, if at all. Good thing chilipaste is rich in vitamin C and fibre, so it's healthy.
The digits are alive with vibrant zestiness.

The stuffed turkey vulture ('Sydney Fylbert') insists that it's the imaginary little girl hamster's fault. She was carrying a bomb. Can't trust furballs that look like delicious dumplings, they're taught terrorism and deviant behaviour in school. He's offered to fix that problem.
Selflessly, he'll take one for the team.
With gravy, please.

No doubt you'll be glad to know that no curry paste was harmed.
And the imaginary little girl hamster will be safe.
We consider her a good friend.
Bomb, forsooth!

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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