Wednesday, May 25, 2022

FEEDING THE TURKEY VULTURE

One of my friends enjoyed my recent slew of Chinese sealscript stuff very much, which pleases me no end. Another one wonders at the usefulness of so odd a knowledge set. Does it have any worthwhile application, or is it just like J. R. R. Tolkien's Elvish or Startrek's Klingon? Well, yes and no. Sealscript is one of several things that scholars have always appreciated, particularly for its appearance and insight into the origins of the Chinese writing system. And both seal and bronze script brush calligraphy in addition to being beautiful and sometimes exceedingly elegant can also be used to lend graphic gravitas to enterprises, literary expression, and objects or paintings that are suited to the book room.

Sometimes businesses would advertise themselves with signboards in sealscript, diplomatically aiming for a certain class.

The possible uses even in the modern age are endless.
Such as feeding the turkey vulture. This morning when I was preparing for work Sydney Fylbert perched on my bed loudly squawking that I needed to bring back some fatty inner thighs, bring back some fatty inner thighs! He believes that there must be tonnes of those at my work, and surely I can whack one of the doddering old fossils over the head and harvest the choicest meats? Nobody will miss them! Perhaps it's "bring your turkey vulture to work day", and he can come along to point out likely victims. It will be enriching for everyone.

餵鷲仔食
['wai jau jai sik']
Feeding the turkey vulture

I have, several times, explained to him that doing as he suggested would get me in trouble. And yes, all of those tiresome old farts do have nearests and dearests who would wonder at their absences, maybe the old codfish ran off with a voluptuous temptress and is even now spending junior's college funds best call the cops to file a missing person report and get the ball rolling on tracking him down for child support or gaining access to his assets as well as any insurance payouts if he "accidentally" croaked.
SYDNEY FYLBERT LOOKING HUNGRY

Anyhow, when I got home I fed the little fella. He's belching happily as we speak.

From the point of view of a man who plays with graphics, the thematic echoing of curves and line directions, angles and spaces, in seal script "drawings", can be infinitely engaging.
It's visual pleasure that I can't really explain.



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WINNERS OF THE CAKE AWARDS

Yesterday evening I realized that one of the main reasons I prefer to hang around mostly in Chinatown, and it's an enormous one, is that because when I speak Cantonese I get treated like a normal human being instead of an unstable loony. My apartment mate and I were discussing the crazy shiznit we've seen on the streets in San Francisco, and I indicated my firm belief that it was overwhelmingly due to a white or black state of mind.
Karen and Crazy Eddy come primarily in those two colours.

Likewise Brad and Janet the heroin addicts.

And most of the damn' potheads.

Overwhelmingly.


If you speak Cantonese, you may be presumed to know how to behave properly, and it is likely you will adhere to civilized standards. If you only speak English you could very well be batshit crazy -- many English-onlies are -- and there is a much greater likelihood that you'll have a dangerous temper tantrum or hallucinations. In San Francisco.

The local Chinese certainly assume that that is the case.

And in all honesty, so do I.



I think that modern American society, especially here in San Francisco, is filled with entitled dickheads improperly raised, insuffiently aware of their responsibility to their fellow citizens, and/or inadequately medicated. That used to be just a New York problem.
Now it's nationwide.



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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

HOW WE WON THE WAR

Because I'm on the schedule for tomorrow I tried to get everything done today. And did. The veritable peak of efficiency. I'm a "necessary task god". You may now light incense.
A logistics genius too. I pat myself on the deserving back.

Early lunch. On Thursdays the soup is corn chowder (粟米忌廉湯 'suk mai gei lim tong'), on Wednesdays vegetable consommé, and on Tuesdays Hong Kong borscht (羅宋湯 'lo sung tong'). That latter, plus the garlic baked porkchops (蒜蓉焗豬扒 'suen yong guk chü baa') and rice, and a cup of milk tea (一杯港式奶茶 'yat pui gong sik naai chaa'), prepared me for the hike over to the office building as well as the subsequent jaunt to a smoke-filled room.

The porkchops were excellent. I had forgotten that.
Maybe I'll have them next week also.
In lieu of 龍脷魚 ('lung lei yü').


You know, sometimes I wonder what Chinese people think about us Caucasians. There was an old woman wearing next to nothing, nipples hardly covered, asking for a cigarette outside on the street, a chap who looked like Gandalf gibbering and gesticulating at Grant and Clay in Chinatown, and a drunk rolling around one block further down. Nine people on the bus back home in late afternoon had no masks on, and of course they were all white too.

Perhaps the local Chinese wonder if we're ready for adulthood yet, and how on earth we won the war.

That's what I often wonder also.

佢哋準備好成年了嗎? 到底如何佢哋贏得咗戰嘅
['keui tei jun pei hou sing nin le maa? Dou dai yu ho keui tei ying tak jo jin ge?]

Of course, I usually wonder that in Dutch or English.
No wonder we invented penicillin. And intivirals. White people (especially tourists) spread disease. That's how Covid became an issue, and why it remains an issue.
Nuking Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas might slow it down.
Just like Trump suggested with hurricanes.



Two of the three tasks I needed to do involved native Chinese speakers, only one required English. And riding the bus required English, because there are so many of those people.

Also on the plus side, I got to smoke among an agreeable bunch of people. We were saying farewell to one of our number, who is moving up to Seattle to get off his feet after more than forty years. Which is understandable, but we'll miss him.
Good conversation. Kirsch, we concluded, is virtually useless. As is liquer based on Bourbon. However Grey Goose vodka is excellent for cleaning tobacco pipes. "But you could add tonic and ice cubes." "Or use it to clean pipes!"

I enjoyed both of the briars pictured above during the afternoon. One of which conceivably contributed to our winning the war. My father smoked it as a bomber pilot with the RCAF.

Porkchops and borscht may have also played a role. But tonic probably was a factor in blackwater fever among the men, both during and after the war.
The jury is still out on the part vodka played.
It's a partisan question.



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WE NEED CHERRY TREES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The one-legged monkey and the little blue sock sheep are contesting fiercely over who said it first, and which version is the real version. The intelligent middle-aged Dutchman is staying the hell out of this conversation, because it cannot end well. That's in her room. The turkey vulture is sitting on my bed, clutching my wallet, and telling the young rooster about the wonders of the salt flats (his native environment, where he's never been).
So the apartment is relatively peaceful.

At some point I'll have to jank my wallet out of his grasp. Whereupon he will wail "my baby, my baby!" And castigate me as a cruel heartless brute.

Which I probably am.


See, my wallet contains things that are very dear to me. Something by means of which I can prove that I exist when police or bank employees ask for my bonafides, stuff with which to pay for a hot cup of milk tea, reminders of medical appointments, and such like.

No, there is no prophylactic device (in its little foil pack) in there. For two reasons: A) There would be nothing left but slimy green powder by the time it ever got used, and B) Too bulky. Besides, I like to keep my wallet a classy place. I've got respected former presidents in there. Any suggestion of sex would only hurt them. History tells us they were abstemious men, not concerned with procreative acts. And that we should model our behaviour on theirs.
Probably best to carry around an axe in case of cherry trees.


If little boys and girls were taught to chop down cherry trees whenever they felt certain urges, teen pregnancy would be far less. Stands to reason. George Washington and Ulysess S. Grant didn't become pregnant as teenagers. Cherry trees. Neither of the Adams, or Roosevelts, ever utterred the word 'gay'. Cherry Trees.
Nixon avoided becoming a crook.
Cherry trees.

It was after cherry trees were taken out of the schools that we ended up with the three worst Republican presidents ever: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
We need those cherry trees back in schools.
And hospitals. And prisons.


Be sure to bring this up at town halls and election rallies.
Your fellow citizens will appreciate it.
Cherry trees.



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Monday, May 23, 2022

MEANINGLESS OLD WORDS

We often speak of Chinese as being 'ideographic' -- that is to say the written characters represent ideas or concepts -- but in fact that is not accurate by a long shot. In all versions of Chinese there are written characters that represent sounds more than ideas; that which is expressed is the sound, and only by the sound do we know what is meant. The two written characters of lute (琵琶 'pei paa') or bat (蝙蝠 'pin fuk') have no actual meaning other than their sounds, they are not used separately for anything else. The radicals do not necessarily add meaning, but merely serve to identify the complete characters as parts of the musical instrument category and buggy whatchamacallit categories respectively.

The two characters illustrated below are perfect examples.
They don't exist as useful words other than combined.
They are almost never needed anyway.
鄋瞞 was a barbarian territory during the bronze age which no longer exists, having long ago been subsumed. It is mentioned in the Spring And Autumn Commentary (春秋左傳) as well as the writings of the grand historian.

Almost nothing is known about Souman or its people.
Even the ancient writings hardly speak of it.



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A TIMID CHARACTER

Some words in the dictionary are nearly useless. For example, an obscure word for an animal that is commonly known by other names, such as 'mintikin' for ant. And although charming and empowering to use in conversation and in a paragraph, once or twice, it is irritating when used any further, being merely a "literary" affectation and oddment.

Mintikin shows up in The Brothers Karamazov.

The only time I've used it is here.


Archaicisms, dialect, and obscure literary fragments. Also numerous items in Chinese dictionaries. Under the 臣 radical we find the unusual character 臩 (Mand. Guang, Cant. 'gwong'), defined as: startled, embarrassed, shy; scared to the point of running away. Reference: 臦 and 囧 and note that the latter is, appropriately, an emoticon for embarrasment or helplessness. Used as the personal nomen of a court official tasked with admonishing a territory under King Mu. 穆王閔文武之道缺。乃命伯臩申誡大僕之政。
From the 周本纪 (Book of Zhou): [When King Mu came to the throne, the Spring and Autumn Period had already passed fifty.] The king's way was declining, and King Mu, Min, lacked the way of civil and military affairs. He ordered 伯臩 to admonish the government of Taishou.

And that's pretty much the only place you will find 臩 because it was not a commonly used word for over two millenia.
Calligraphically it has symmetry and great elegance.
But other than artistically, it is useless.
In seal script it rocks.



NOTE: I found this character while stumbling through the dictionary, and had to research it.
I like the way it looks in seal script. But I cannot think of any use for what I found.
Curiosity value, maybe transcribing old stuff, that's it.

I often stumble through the dictionary.
It's fun.



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AND NO LOUD NOISES THIS EARLY PLEASE!

My apartment mate woke me up at five in the morning to tell me all about the menstrual period. Which is happening. And she's calling in sick today, because it is uncomfortable.
It's her first period in almost a year. Apparently menopause is a spotty process.
She is surprised. Well okay, I can understand that.

Some men are queamish discussing such things. I think most of those dudes are American, because y'all goofy. When I was in highschool, as a reward, because we had all been good little fifteen year olds, they showed us a French movie in which one of the significant plot elements was a juvenile who in the middle of a lovely family celebratory lunch with distant relatives discovered that she was bleeding -- it was her first period -- and everyone sought to reassure her, this was a good thing, and she was allowed to drink a glass of wine like the grownups. Yay, she's heading into adulthood, here have some red wine! My high school class was mostly male. And we were wistfully envious. She got wine. How nice!

At five in the morning after several days work I really needed a few more hours of sleep. But okay, she's bleeding, and months ago she gave away most of her pads because she didn't think she'd need them. I offered to go to Walgreens to get her more. Once they opened.

Again, and I stress this, American men who have gone through football practice in between school prayer and handling chainsaws in woodshop at their highschools, where butch manliness is stressed and pounded into them, are squeamish about this.
Dissecting frogs and fetal pigs is one thing. But the menses?

Your sisters handled it, what's wrong with you? Bunch of wussies.

It's because a period didn't happen that you are here.

I do not squeam. Are maxipads okay?


Given that my apartment mate doesn't like alcohol and wonders why people drink it, and because of various bloodpressure meds I don't indulge anymore, there is no wine in the house. There is a bottle of cheap bourbon under the table in the teevee room which I use for cleaning old tobacco pipes I'm restoring, but it's highly doubtful she would have wanted a shot of that at five in the morning, what with not being blonde and Waspy.

Anyhow, she'll be okay soon. Problem is that today I cannot smoke inside at all. I had loaded up one my pipes with Palmetto Balkan at work yesterday, intending to smoke it once an old friend dropped by as he often does on Sundays, but he never showed (probably enjoying the beautiful sunny weather with his elderly cat and the coyote who wants to eat that cat in the backyard), and somehow I got distracted, so I put a tampion in the bowl to keep the tobacco from falling out, and planned to smoke it in front of the computer this morning.
Guess I'll wait till tomorrow.

[A tampion, in this case, is a spiral coiled scrap of kitchen tissue or paper put on top of the tobacco.]


Need to go down to Chinatown to visit my bank anyhow. So I guess an early lunch, then after a long smoke I will milk tea and a pastry, followed by another pipe. She's bleeding, so I can suffer a bit. It's only a minor inconvenience. The main thing is to make sure we have enough drinking chocolate of a brand she likes. I've heard that women need chocolate at moments like this. Something about theobromine and comfort levels.
I myself rarely drink chocolate, and I wonder if they carry her brands at the nearby specialty food store three blocks away. What are her brands anyway?

Also, Almond Joys. She likes the whole nut.
I'm more of Mounds man myself.



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Sunday, May 22, 2022

THE FIFTH DOG

A peculiar neurotic habit I have when waiting for the bust to work is counting how many dogs being walked I can see, as well as little kiddies and their adults who are unmasked. If they're Caucasian, ninety nine times out of ten neither the tykes nor the irresponsible adults are covered. From which I conclude that white parents consider their offspring expendable. Which they very well may be. They certainly aren't unique or precious. Sad.
But stupid white folks are indeed a renewable resource.
We aren't likely to run out this century.

Bear in mind that there is no racism in this statement. I am Caucasian.
My kind have produced Louie Gomert, Donald Trump, and MJT.
Plus whole hordes of equivalent garbage.
Repeat: renewable.
Dammit.

[Naturally almost all of the unmasked travellers on the Golden Gate Transit buses are white. Proves my point nicely. Same with SF MUNI. It's like boarding a petri dish on wheels. Or living in Florida and Texas. I see stupid people. ]


On the way back from work there were over twenty unmasked white people on the bus. Most of them tourists. Why is it that the ONLY people to consistently mask up and take precautions for themselves, their fellow passengers, and their kiddies, are East Asian Americans? Why?

One particular specimen took a seat right behind me. My age, but unkempt, smelly, muttering to himself and grunting, and occasionally asking people for coffee. I moved.
When I got home my feet hurt and I was in an atrocious temper.
I should really get that peripheral angioplasty rolling.
And spray Febreze at random people.
Or Bactine.

[ATTENTION: Product endorsement! Two of them! Useful! Febreze and Bactine! Yay!]


I have it on good authority that if you spray both Febreze and Bactine at tourists they go back to Texas or France. And some of them just dissolve (poof !) into a cloud of sulfurous smoke.



Now, speaking of clouds of smoke......



Underneath a recent post (Palmetto Balkan Review) a reader (Baby Harp Seal) said... "Dude. Couldn't wait, eh? What's with the weird reference to seal script in this review? Also, two misspellings in this morning's blurble. I am surprised."
End quote.

The accusation "couldn't wait" probably refers to the quickness with which I smoked a bit of Cornell & Diehl's limited edition blend Palmetto Balkan, seeing as it wasn't released till the eighteenth of May (five days ago) and immediately purchased three half-pound cannisters. Somewhat unseemly behaviour, perhaps, let others also have a crack at it. Damned good stuff. Since acquiring those three cans I've smoked a whole lot more from the open sample tin, and in all honesty I'm perfectly comfortable not letting many people have a crack at it.
Too many hipsters and smokers of shite out there. Yes, I love all of my fellow briar enthusiasts, but no. Many of them are hosebags with low standards.

The "weird reference" to seal script in that essay is because I'm presently revisiting a favourite subject, in an obsessive way. As I do with many of my favourited subjects. Such as pipes and tobacco, for instance. And surely you noticed the terms "evocative, rich, and stimulating" as well as "a depth and strength that's altogether extraordinary"? This also applies to Palmetto Balkan. For the last three days I've been smoking nothing but.
It's good damned good stuff.
As some of my friends will agree. They are unique individuals with excellent taste.


Regarding that tobacco, note that JimInks has also already reviewed it.
He says it can be an all-day smoke.
He's right.


As for those misspellings, I have taken care of the problem. Let us not speak of it again.



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THINK LIKE A LIZARD

The ideal temperature range is between 58 and 62. Fifty seven or lower and Raynauds kicks in, and at 65 degree I start whining. According to the internet, it's 49° outside right now ... which, clearly, is wrong. Because my fingers are working, and I don't need an electric rock in my terrarium.

Have your thing charged up.

My apartment shares that the evidence indicates that she has not gone into menopause yet. Which is information that I did not need, and don't know what to with either. But I suspect that it means that she will be in her bed all day today, and might call in sick tomorrow.
So in a sense it's a forewarning, and I may need to spend an awful lot of time outdoors tomorrow, when I'm off, because a man will want to let his mind wander undisturbed
And I'm not entirely social while smoking a pipe.

And I do intend to smoke my pipe.

So remember. 58 to 62.

When you step outside in Florida everything is horrifying.
Including the crocodile adventure farm.
Their wiring is off.



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Saturday, May 21, 2022

PALMETTO BALKAN REVIEW

One of the first things to mention is the appetizing mouthfeel. Followed by cumulative taste sensations: creamy, tangy, mild fruitiness, coupled with an almost incense-like quality from the Cypriot, supported by the resins of the Turks. It's smoky, but this is not a Latakia bomb, strengthwise being in the same broad category as several Dunhill mixtures, as well as rather reminiscent of the mid to full range of Drucquer blends as those were in the seventies and early eighties, before surreal blend shift (components becoming unavailable and unwise substitutions being made), and years before Greg Pease's expert reformulations.

This is a subtle and pleasingly balanced tobacco blend which will, never-the-less, trigger the Berkeleyite vegan Guatamalan hippie rag wearers in your household. They'll probably burn sage and force you to do ayahuasca to expell the evil spirit that has gotten hold of you, as well as dance with crystals and magic beads.

Be grateful that they will not do a nouveau native American ceremony that involves burning tobacco, chanting, sweating, and drumming. The tobacco suitable for that is mediocre crap purchased by Northern California suburbanites getting in touch with their spiritual side.


Normally I'm somewhat Cynical about limited edition smoking products and "small batches". But one tin was dented, so we sacrificed it and opened it up. I overwhelmingly smoke Virginia and Virginia Perique mixtures nowadays, having veered from Balkans a decade or more ago.
Haven't as a habit smoked stuff like this in years

So I bought some.
After sampling the product.

No spiritual people were harmed. But if they interfere with my enjoyment of this very nice tobacco, they quite likely will be. My spirit animal is a rabid skunk. A two million year old rabid skunk, to be precise. I savaged Princess Pew Bag in her previous incarnation as a noble woman from Atlantis.


PALMETTO BALKAN
Blended by Jeremy Reeves.
Cornell & Diehl.


Small batch, only three thousand (8 oz.) tins produced. Oriental (Izmir from 2019, Basma from 2018) leaf with red and bright Virginias and Latakia. An easy and enjoyable smoke, for the fan of medium to medium full English and Balkan blends, very reminiscent of splendid products from years ago.


And yes, Totoro likes it also. Ten years ago he would often join me on the roof of the office building after a Saturday getting more done on a day off than with all my coworkers around during the work week. Since then, he's been a great team player. With educated tastes.
This pipe tobacco makes me think of things.

Imagine a PHD candidate smoking this regularly while checking the footnotes in her thesis. Something impossibly in-depth about the deliberate overlap between visual representations and secondary meanings in Chinese seal script texts (篆書 Chuan Shu), particularly in Stone Drum Script (石鼓文 Shi Gu Wen), and what the influence of this was on later calligraphers.
I would in relation thereto most especially draw your attention to Wu Changshuo (吳昌碩), a deservedly famous modern master of the brush, who also carved seals.

His archaic script calligraphy is evocative, rich, and stimulating. It has a depth and strength that's altogether extraordinary.


I've had a lot of caffeine between when I first sampled it and now.
It's highly probably that I'm not entirely sane at present.
Some crash and burn is to be expected.



TOBACCO INDEX


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Friday, May 20, 2022

IN WHICH THE YOUNG ARE BAFFLING

There were four tables with only Chinese diners. One table with only white diners (well, one diner; me). And one table with a Chinese woman and a white guy. Which was the only table with cell-phones in use. That table confused me.

'Dude, you're eating dinner with a young woman, can't you at least act like it? She dressed for the occasion, whereas you look like a schlub. And you didn't shave in at least two days.
I mean, if you had shaved, and dressed neatly (poor is okay, provided it's presentable and clean), it would look like she meant something to you. As an example, I have shaved and showered and these clothes are more than fairly decent. I've dressed like I want to be treated; you look dissipated. Did you even bathe yourself today?
'

'And you, miss, why are you seeing this putz?'

'And put your phones down!'

Honestly, that waiter was an absolute prince. Even spoke in English to both of them, so as not to embarrass the dumb dingo. Given that people tip like misers in Chinese restaurants anyhow, he need not have bothered. Probably felt a measure of co-Chineseness with the young woman, all men (and women) are brothers (siblings) and all that, and he may have qualities which being a genius she can discern though no one else can.

An older Chinatown person would have assumed the worst.

She's being blackmailed! Yes, that must be it!

The last time I had a meal with a Chinese person (my apartment mate), I could tell that the restaurant owner was observing us with fascinated curiosity, and scarcely put at ease by my speaking Cantonese. 'How delicious! An elderly rapscallion and a sweet young thing! Ooh!' There wasn't anything like that going on, but my apartment mate looks ten or twenty years younger than she actually is and very much like an innocent good girl, whereas I look like a knowing old sot. Especially by comparison, in harsh lighting.
But at least I can act like I'm a gentleman.
And I'll dress properly.


Obviously my stern questions above were not uttered out loud. It's none of my business, and if she sees something in him that the rest of us don't, more power to her.
Both of them are very lucky.


And that roast goose was absolutely fabulous. Haven't had it yonks, so it really seemed even more delicious. Plus the plateau of glistening tender baby bok choi on which it lay was a great foil for the savoury oily flesh. Great food, delightful surroundings.
Jade-like greens, goose fat, plus plenty of hot sauce.
And a cold glass of milk tea also.
Hoo boy!


As an afterthought, here's the seal script version of 夓 which I mentioned in yesterday's post. Did this after I came home. Consulted two dictionaries and an etymological reference.
Seal script is derived in the main from the Zhou bronze script, and was used till roughly two centuries before the start of the common era. It is ancestral to the modern script, by which I mean the brush-written characters in daily use for the past two thousand years.
More pictographic, yes. That does not mean instantly intelligible.
It's a specialized field nowadays.


This version of 夓 is based on versions in both the bamboo slip script (簡牘) in use from 1200 BCE till after 400 BCE, and the lesser seal script (小篆). It was great fun to do.



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Thursday, May 19, 2022

AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU ASKED?

A friend asked wether a recently Facebook-posted illustration was self-representational and done with tobacco ashes. Naturally I could not resist responding with an entirely straightface, seriously, and seemingly oblivious to her jest.

Dry brush calligraphy, seal-script version of 華 。A variant shows a closer derivation from the ancient form: 䔢。Pronounced 'waa' (Cantonese). Representing, anciently, pistil and stamen plus petals (a flower), hence, by extension and further linguistic development: flowery, elegant, ornate, and then by a further usage development over the centuries an appellation for China. Distantly ablautive of 夏 (Xia, 'haa'), which in the narrow sense means 'summer', and because it was the name of one of the dynasties (circa four thousand years ago) is also used for China and the Chinese. A variant of 夏 is 夓。Which in addition to the hand underneath holding the vessel upward, has hands on the side indicating a plurality of celebrants at a ritual, and hence a cooperative or community event. 華 is filed under the grass radical (艸 'chou') in the dictionary. Because it got 'borrowed' for other meanings, 花 ('faa') became the more common term for flower. In Mandarin they still sound nearly the same. And note that a variant of 花 wich has the same strokes in the same order (芲) is somewhat confusing to the modern mainlander, because what looks like the phonetic element (仑) is pronounced 'luen', rather than 'faa' (化 "transform"). 仑 is, it seems, only used as a phonetic, an easy script version of 侖 ('luen'; "logical order", "arrangement").
Which is the right-hand part of this: 棆 ('luen'; "camphor" [archaic]).

The two characters in question:
It is likely that I'll end up doing a seal-script version of 夓 soon; it seems interesting and appropriate or germaine, and I kind of feel obligated.
It's a bit Aspy. So yeah, um.





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NOT VERY FAR AT ALL

Remembered from a few years ago in Spring, and elsewhere: A pot of tea, the courtyard under the overhang, a fresh tin of tobacco, and a quiet afternoon playing hooky.
With a dense book about geology.
Contrast this with an ideal afternoon in an imaginary universe: Malcolm silently closed the library doors behind him, opened the French doors to the terrace, and slid the volumes of the encyclopedia forward to reach behind for the sherry. Along with the dizzy romance novel, the new tin of pipe tobacco, and the pot of tea, he had everything to avoid Mrs. Beezle and her fierce housekeeping for several hours. The sound of cricket practice at the boys reformatory was faintly audible from a long way off.
Today's plans: Head over to C'town with pipe and pouch sometime in the afternoon. Avoid tourists while smoking, following milk tea at a bakery where they never go. Quietly bellyache to myself about the maltreatment old trouts with pipes receive from the modern age, with its limitations on indoor enjoyment of tobacco with a cup and book.


As you might expect, I am sitting with a pipe and hot beverage right now. Because this place needs to air out before the other person who lives here returns home (her bedroom door is closed), this comfy situation cannot continue much past noon.


The most significant change over the past few decades is that smoking my pipe in the afternoon is no longer accompanied by tea, a book, and a suitable place to sit down.
Over the years I've become less attuned to climactic conditions, whereas in my teenage years the weather did not phase me. Nowadays, an indoor environment and creature comforts appeal slightly more. And I resent not having that choice.

The painting above is the Malpie Fen area south of town, vicinity of the Saint Benedict Abbey (Achelse Kluis), near the Belgian border. Teeming with wildlife. Including, unregretted, mosquitoes, gnats, and other bugs. The Dommel river runs through it.
I am not a bird, so I do not miss the bugs.

It rained there more often than here.


Thanks to the internet, despite living in San Francisco, I am not that far away.



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ALSO, NOT ENOUGH COFFEE

There were loud rumbles from Polk Street yesterday so I walked the other direction. It must be horrid for the residents above the businesses there to have drunks on the street outside at night; broken glass, arguments, loud discussions about the achievements of sportsteams. How fortunate they are that no tourists visit.
The tourist season is in full swing. None of the blighters wear masks.
And Europeans, as is well known, swill booze at every meal.
Americans of course are great alcoholics.
The South, the East Coast.
Drunk by noon.


It's better early in the morning. Fog. People pooing their dogs. The occasional stumbling home-comers, somnolent street people, and early risers. No one rioting over the stunning defeat of the Gumbies or the election victory of some notorious Christian redneck.
One or two silent people with donuts and coffee.

I've had my my first cup. I'm awake enough to step over canine faeces as well as the last belongings of people with a string of bad choices and worse luck.
Several things stand out remarkably when reflecting on the last walk with a pipe at night and the first walk of the new day. Firstly, the city is more beautiful early in the morning. Secondly, far less skeeviness is noticable. And lastly, my legs ache either way. I really should get the ball rolling on the peripheral angioplasty of the lower extremities. These dogs hurt.

Also, I don't like my fellow human beings very much.
That's probably a coffee deficiency.



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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

THE AVOIDANCE OF ANTS, SNAKES, AND BUGS

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, with earthquakes, forest fires, covid, East Coast Pizza, and fundamentalist Christian missionairies intent on dragging us away from our sinful hedonism, there's now one more thing: ferocious jumping worms. Amynthas agrestis.
New harbinger of the apocalypse. I do not know what to make of this.

So I read Wikipedia. Fat lot of help that was.

Elsewhere I found a list of translated names for the critter. 跳蟲 ('tiu chung'; "jump creepy-crawly"),亞洲跳蟲 ('ngaa jau tiu chung'; "Asia jump creepy-crawly"), 瘋狂蠕蟲 ('fung kwong yiu chung'; "insane worm"), 阿拉巴馬跳線蟲 ('aa laa baa maa tiu sin chung'; "Alabama nematode"), 蛇蟲 ('se chung'; "snake creepy-crawly").
Thanks internet, I feel a whole lot better.

The most common terms are 跳蟲 and 瘋狂蠕蟲。
蛇蟲 is a misleading term, as it can also mean (ants), snakes , and insects.
As in 善棺槨,所以避螻蟻蛇蟲也。

From Master Lü's Spring And Autumn Annals (呂氏春秋), regarding 孟冬紀,節喪: 古之人有藏於廣野深山而安者矣,非珠玉國寶之謂也,葬不可不藏也。葬淺則狐狸抇之,深則及於水泉。故凡葬必於高陵之上,以避狐狸之患、水泉之溼。此則善矣,而忘姦邪盜賊寇亂之難,豈不惑哉?譬之若瞽師之避柱也,避柱而疾觸杙也。狐狸水泉姦邪盜賊寇亂之患,此杙之大者也。慈親孝子避之者,得葬之情矣。善棺槨,所以避螻蟻蛇蟲也。

Translation
Burials:
In ancient times, there were people who secreted them in the vast fields and deep mountains and (they) were safe. They were not called national treasures of pearls and jade, and they must be hidden for burial. If it is buried shallow, it will be touched by a fox; if it is buried deep enough, it will reach a spring. Therefore, all burials must be on the high tombs to avoid the foxes and the dampness of the water springs. This is good, but is it not confusing to forget the problems of betrayal, thieves, bandits and rebellion? For example, it is like a blind teacher avoiding the pillar, avoiding the pillar and quickly touching the scorpion. Foxes (often powerful shape-shifting magical creatures), water sources, and troubles with thieves and robbers are enormous in this period, to be guarded against by loving parents and filial sons, in burials. Good caskets (棺槨), so as to avoid ants, snakes and insects.



This is not only quite fascinating, but also boring as all git out.
And to my knowledge 狐狸精 are not an issue here.
Neither auspicious, nor malevolent.



狐狸精
['wu lei jing']

If nine tailed foxes become an item of news media furor, OTHER than feral cosplayers of characters in Rumiko Takahashi manga, then we can start worrying. By then 猫鬼 ('maau kwai'; cat daemons, nekomata) will probably also be rather common.

I for one will welcome our mythological furry overlords.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each others heads open and feast on the goo inside?

Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

And there you have it.
News in a nutshell.



Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of thy counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither countest thou two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three.




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IT LOOKS LIKE AN ELEPHANT!

The diplomatic man knows precisely when to not bust out laughing like a maniac. Such as when one sees a tattoo in Chinese on a person who does not speak, read, or write Chinese, that says something peculiar. Which is not uncommon. "Death before dishonour" mangled by self translation into something that suggests 'kill first, abuse body later', or, for instance, "I like soup". Where it helps knowing that "soup" (湯) also means 'boiling water', 'hot water'. As in Japanese 銭湯 (錢湯) "sento": public bath house. Possibly she meant that she's clean.

It's best, when having a tattoo made in a foreign language, if the needle artist has mediocre skill and a sense of humour. Plus the ethics of the author of the Hungarian Phrase Book featured in a Monty Python skit.

I also recommend Hebrew and Dyak tribal symbols for tattoos.
Because every one needs to know you're a surfing rock.
It's meaningful and expresses your auras.

[For the record, I do not have tattoos at all.]



For a long time I have enjoyed Chinese calligraphy, even though there is much that I cannot quite read. My vocabulary is not fully literate level, and I frequently need dictionaries. Much of Chinese calligraphy relies on abbrevation, stroke-flow, and the viewers' comprehension of context. The modern mainland script has enshrined abbreviated forms as the standard for writing, in the "simplified script", turning, for instance, many left-hand elements into shorthand scribbles, and reducing the majority of complex characters to more simple-minded graphics, sometimes with no discernible relation to their original forms.

One of the script styles I particularly enjoy is the entire category that predates brushes as writing equipment. More "symbolic", more vibrant, very suited to visual play.
Oracle bone script, bronze and stone inscriptions, seal scripts.
The example above is a variant on Zhou dynasty bronze engraving script, such as might be found on a tripod or ceremonial vessel commemorating a clan achievement or honour.
A tiger as the beast with claws and stripes. 虎

No, not a tyranosaurus rex in a bikini top, which would also be quite frightening, but the ancient Chinese did not conceive of that! I feel confident in stating this as a fact.

Flowery, elegant (華) has turned into 华, which changes it from fourteen strokes down to six. The great advantage for many people is that such simplified forms are less likely to become inkblobs. Possibly they are also easier to memorize, but I wouldn't know because I largely don't use them and haven't learned more than a few. 華/华 in it's old form is rather striking.
My copies of the collection Three Hundred Poems of the Tang dynasty and the classics, are in the conventional script characters. And many of the local Chinese publications, or books I've purchased, use strictly that style. But visually, seal script is magic. A word chosen at random, because I liked how it looked, 棆 rendered in that fashion is almost poetry.
A tree next to a bundle of reeds held in union: camphor.
This writing style is seldom used nowadays except in art, and, fittingly, this word is no longer the common term for 'camphor' anyway. The standard usage is 樟 ('jeung'). Stick ink used for calligraphy (墨) frequently has a faint whiff of its frangrance. Or sandalwood, or evergreen. Learning seal script and practicing writing it is both enjoyable, and a fascinating exercise. Sinuous blobs, taut curves, rigid bars and pillars, escaping snakes. Plus signifiers (the graphic element that indicates meaning category) in juxtaposition with phonetics.

[Note: brushes, if not in regular use, should be bundled together within a reed mat made for the purpose (筆卷).]


Of course, seal script still is used for seals. Official name signatures, departmental sign-offs, marks of ownership or authorship, items in a collection or library, literary fancies, nicknames, noms de guerre ou de convenance, etcetera. And often callipgraphers and scholars will carve them for their friends or themselves.















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ADMINISTRATIVE ERRORS ARE BOUND TO OCCUR IN ENORMOUS QUANTITIES

Sometimes one feels like an Icelandic honey salesman trying to get cynical Londoners to try the latest sweet offering. As with everything Icelandic, it smells like fish. Meaning that the little pork cook-up I made yesterday evening for supper was delicious. Frazzled some anchovy, garlic, chilipaste, and ginger in the bottom of a stew pot, added the pork chunks and tossed them to gild in this, then squeezed a lemon on top, added a jigger of fish sauce and some star anise, plus broth. Green bellpepper cut into slivers. A handfull of spring onion in two inch segments, and a teaspoon of sugar. Simmered on very low for over an hour.
The Icelandic honey salesman within was happy.
The apartment has a distinct odour now.
Best leave the windows open.


Sometimes I think my apartment mate doesn't appreciate it when I cook "Icelandic". This time, not a word. Maybe she has a minor cold?


Still, good to not tempt the fates by lighting my pipe inside before she leaves.

Recently I realized that the problem with lunch in the late afternoon with a cup of milk tea, followed by a smoke in a quiet alleyway, is that I would rather have that cup of tea while smoking, and sitting down inside. As I'm sure is common among old crotchetty codgers in San Francisco, that's why you never see any other men with pipes here.
They are all indoors. And they live alone. Because the modern family is not conducive to that life style. The reek of pipe tobacco interferes with playing video games while watching reality shows. Women on 'Real Housewives' can smell old Angus smoking in the upstairs bedroom while his dear wife Blanche is watching downstairs from all the way across the country. In the middle of some fabulous cat fight, one of them will turn to the camera and say "tell that old white guy you'll throw him out if he continues doing that; it's nasty!"

And Angus, being an ornery sort (he uses his war wound rhetorically on social occasions), soon finds himself out on the compost heap in the freezing cold with possums, raccoons, and needle-using drug fiends passed out and dying of an overdose. Because he didn't believe her or the kids when they threatened him. And the company of heroin addicts and rabid wild creatures is what such criminals deserve. Both Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres agree.
Gwyneth Paltrow sells a candle to get his aura out of the drapes.
In addition to special yoni crystals.

Cigar smokers have it worse. Deservedly. They all smell Like Uncle Sid. Blanche's gall pals all ganged up and beat those men to death with their gameboys and yoni crystals before divorcing them, throwing their collections of classic old vinyl rock and roll discs out with the bathwater, and calling a shaman to conduct purifying rituals. Many of them now live in rat-infested Tenderloin residential hotels, where even in the lobby where you used to find ashtrays and recliners you now cannot smoke anymore, signs have been posted.
They sit on the curb in front muttering "Havana, Havana" disconsolately.
Many of them pick up dog poo for a living.
Or work as lawyers.


San Francisco is a gloomy place.


A pipe I smoked yesterday reminded me of a friend who passed away years ago. He did not like the smell of MacBaren's Virginia Flake in the small rectangular yellow tin -- it reminded of him of his grandma's sock drawer or something. "An elegant flavor with a full and pleasant mild taste has been added." I was banished to a secluded spot around the corner, and seeing as that pipe had a deep bowl, I was there for over an hour.
Without, I might add, even a cup of milk tea.
It gets mighty cold there.

I think he was fine with sage, yoni crystals, and shamanic hoohah.
Those being the benefits of Californian married life.


My apartment mate is nothing like that. She'd probably chase the shaman out into the street with her sword, and swear up a storm if anyone lit sage and danced widdershins anwhere near her. She just dislikes tobacco smoke (allergies), and I can respect that.
When she's at work I might indulge inside with the windows open.
In the afternoon the place airs out.
And I freeze.

[She's not at work today, having called in sick. So no pipe inside at all.]


One of the benefits of decisively flavoured food, such as the pork stew, is that preparing such things tends to keep other people out of the kitchen and cover the smell of surreptitious puffing there very well. Fishy fishy fishy.



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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

SQUIDLETS!

As a general rule of thumb, always buy dried squid for the person with whom you live. It will pleasantly suprise them. That's something I just made up, but like many of the things that erupt from my head it makes sense, because I am a logical man. Also, be careful about speaking Mandarin on the bus to anyone who looks like that might not be their native language. They are probably Mormons. That's the voice of sober experience.
But she was very nice.

I'm sorry, until moments ago I had no idea how to say 'severe Dutch Calvinist not likely to be swayed by un-Dutch heresies'. Probably a good thing too, as otherwise I might have been too blunt to an innocent young lady here from the East-Coast to talk about Jesus. 嚴肅, 嚴肅的 ('yim suk dik') means severe, serious, even stern. Calvinism is 加爾文主義 ('gaa yi man jyu yi'), and 異端 ('yi duen') is heresy. 非荷蘭的 means un-Dutch.


嚴肅的加爾文主義者不太可能被非荷蘭異端所動搖!
Mandarin: Yánsù de jiā'ěr wén zhǔyì zhě bù tài kěnéng bèi fēi hélán yìduān suǒ dòngyáo.


I had heard her speaking Mandarin to someone else, hence my curiosity and subsequent conversational foray. I'm really not a severe Calvinist (five generations ago several relatives were so inclined), but I can fake it quite well.

The reason why I did not qualify the type of Calvinism in Mandarin above is twofold: A) it could only lead to confusion, as the term for Calvinism is already gibberish ("augment final particle cultural philosophy"), and B) non-Dutch Calvinists are generally speaking simply wussy and narrow-minded (Scots). Wrong in any case.


But I should have guessed something fishy. Because the bus out of Chinatown usually does not have Mandarin-speaking westerners on it, and there is in fact a Mormon hive or nest in Chinatown where a cheap late night noodle place used to be. With freshly scrubbed young white persons occasionally clustered in front.

Years ago the Chinese Indonesian woman downstairs tried talking to me about Seventh Day whatsits, but since I started pointing out inconsistencies and textual errata in scripture, she has not done that again. There's enough goofy stuff in the Mormon belief system that the same course of action would be a doozy.
The faux severe Calvinist Dutch uncle had lunch in C'town, followed by a pipeful. Too many white people on Stockton and Grant. Fewer in the alleys and on Waverly Place.

Faux severe Calvinist Dutch Uncles disapprove of tourists who do not wear masks and thus are likely to spread Covid to the very small and the very elderly.


This FSCDU fervently wishes those folks would stay in Bunfudge instead of coming here.
Surely there are colourful foods and interesting things back in Bunfudge?
It must be lovely in Indiana or Kansas this time of year!




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