Sunday, July 29, 2007


Some foods are tremendously flexible. Bread is an obvious one. Pasta less so. I wrote before about cooking an entire package of pasta at a time even if not using it all immediately. The remainder I refrigerate. Many toppings work very well with it and not just tomato based toppings.

Pancakes are also a flexible food. Try cooking a sausage with the batter or separately. I prefer that to any hot dog bun. Mustard blends in with the whole much better than you might expect.

Here’s another invention from the kitchen of the Guest mansion. We had a box of pancake mix and a package of brownie mix sitting side by side on a shelf for weeks. What would happen, I wondered, if I combined them? I thought about it for days. What held me back? The fear of failure, as usual. But then early one morning, long before anyone was up, I went ahead and did it. It turned out great.

Here’s how I did it. I mixed the pancake batter (400G nearly a pound) according to the instructions on the package. I added two tablespoons of vegetable oil and one egg along with the brownie mix and blended it all.

Plop some down on a heated, oiled skillet.

Here’s the tricky part. Chocolate scorches relatively quickly. As soon as the bubbles get solid on the top, turn the pancake over. It will still be a little runny on top so use a firm stroke with the spatula and flip it. The other side will cook quickly.

It made a couple of dozen large, delicious, brownie pancakes. I served them with nothing but gobs of melted butter on top but I can imagine how strawberry syrup would work.

Not for everyday but, what the hell, you deserve a treat.

Friday, July 27, 2007


(PICTURE: Hey! Wouldn't she make a great weather lady? Call CNN.)

I had two firsts here in Bangkok on the same day. This after I’d lived here for 3+ years. After taking hundreds of cabs I got picked up by my first female cab driver. The picture on the license was a guy. “He drives at night,” she told me. “I drive by day.” Okay, I didn’t pursue it. What the hell.

The other first thing was at the subway turnstiles. I’ve gone through these turnstiles, and those on the elevated trains, hundreds of times. For the first time today I saw someone who couldn’t fit through. She had to be let through a gate at the side.

Now these gates are kinda narrow, by American standards. In the States the ACLU would be on these stiles like lions on a newborn buffalo. A large proportion of the population there couldn’t fit through them, so maybe they would have a point.

But I got to thinking. I’ve been here in Bangkok well over three years and saw only one turnstile challenged person. By contrast, on American TV I would guess there is a “too fat for turnstiles” person on half of the shows. That is not a narrow sample. We get American TV 24 hours a day on 8 channels. I think they go out of their way to put fat in our faces. CNN has an immensely fat weather girl. I think that is absurd but I could be wrong.

Am I prejudiced against fat people? Well of course I am! Almost everyone is. Even fat people prefer skinny people.

I don’t feel contempt for our fat brothers and sisters. OK, maybe a little, but it is more sadness. You only have one life, why live it in a fat suit?

As I wrote somewhere else, “Obesity is the weakness you can see.”

In the meantime, I live in Thailand, the land of skinny people, except for that one person.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


(PICTURE: Paul Potts.)

On the subject of singers, a friend emailed me a video of a phone salesman, Paul Potts, who has become a sensation in England on their version of American Idol.

Before I get into that let me break rules by making some totally disconnected comments.

I am writing this in that barn-like structure I described in Fifty Hookers (below). The moment I got here the rain started pouring down on the corrugated metal roof making a thunderous racket. I see no leaks in the roof despite many exhaust fans up there. There are no more than 20 men in here and the girls outnumber them 3:1. Just saying.

In other news, I was in a massage parlor once where I observed a time clock right next to a Buddhist shrine. The girls would punch in and then pray to the shrine. I thought that was interesting.

Okay, back to that singer. I had heard about that performance and tried to get it on You-tube but You-tube is one of the many things censored here in Thailand. In this case, something to do with insulting the King. You can hear and see the performance *HERE* and *HERE*. It is great. The audience was enthralled as was the “evil’ Simon Cowell. Many might wonder why this operatic performer hasn’t been discovered before; surely he did auditions.

Here is my evaluation. The guy has the Mario Lanza disease. He has a great voice but limited range; limited for an operatic tenor. I don’t think he can reach the top notes required of a lead tenor as written. Opera is closed to him unless they will lower the key to fit his range. They did that for Lanza but I doubt they will do it again.

This is to take nothing away from his voice or his performance. He is good and I enjoy hearing him. I’m just putting it into perspective.


I read Roger Simon everyday. He’s an interesting writer and we have similar views and backgrounds in that we are both disillusioned liberals. Today I had to take exception. Here is part of what he posted:

  • But I had a good guffaw when I read the following in an Evening Standard review of her recent London concert:

  • Then, such is the magic of music and music sung by probably (if we forget Ella Fitzgerald) the 20th century's finest female voice, before she had finished caressing the first line of the opening Starting Here, Starting Now, everyone had forgiven her everything.

  • Say what?

  • "The 20th century's finest female voice"? Let's be kind to the reviewer - one John Aizlewood - and assume he was referring to popular singers only and disqualify the likes of Callas, Sutherland, Sills, Tebaldi, Norman, etc. The thought of Streisand doing La Traviata sends me into a fit of giggles.

  • And if you're talking about Broadway singers, Streisand never came anywhere close to Ethel Merman when it came to belting out a song.

Say what you want about la Barbra, she is a great singer, without doubt in my mind, one of the greatest ever that it has been our privilege to hear. So I had to post a comment:

  • Of course it's all a matter of taste. To my taste Barbra was the best, airhead that she is. And I'm sure she could easily sing La Traviata. Hell, I can still sing some of the male arias from that. I never would have thought that Linda Ronstadt could have sung in Pirates of Penzance but look at the great job she did in that.

  • Don't talk about Ethel Merman in the same breath. Barbra has the greatest ear I have ever heard from any singer. (Ear meaning pitch.) Merman never hit a note on the nose in her life. She sang everything sharp. Some of us couldn't bear to listen to her.

That pretty much says it all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


So Al Gore’s son got caught for a lot of stuff. (Read about it here). If the American pattern holds true, Al Gore will now be put in charge of preventing a lot of that same stuff. The rule seems to be, if you fail in your immediate family, they put you in charge of the whole country.

Some years ago Art Linkletter’s daughter died of what he claimed was a drug related problem. (It looked more like suicide, which is worse.) He was immediately put in charge of drug prevention for the country. I’m sure there is some logic in all of that.

Some news reports are editorializing by saying that Gore’s kid was an adult and, therefore, it did not reflect on Mr. Gore. I take exception. I can’t believe that anything the offspring might do does not reflect on the father and the father’s situation. (Of course if he was in jail during the entire raising of his children, he is probably innocent in a case like this.)

Is there a time limit of parental responsibility? Mr. Gore and his defenders would go to the law, of course, and point to the legal definition of adulthood. But how about in the real world? How about in the world in which the rest of have to live? Is there a time limit? Yeah there is. But I don’t know what it is. My oldest son is 40 now and I still feel responsibility for what he does. A favorite of mine, Richard Farnsworth, killed himself to avoid a painful death. He was 80. His father is innocent in that case, or maybe he gets some credit for raising such a strong person.

On the other hand, in youth, what the hell does age have to do with it? That is nothing but a legal argument. 17 or 23, isn’t he still his father’s kid? When does the father wash his hands of his product? I suspect it is when the kid becomes a liability.

In some cases when the kid falls the parent becomes a crime crusader. Guilt drives him to apprehend those responsible for their offspring’s death, forgetting, I suppose, to look in the mirror.

The news media will alternately excuse or accuse in those situations, depending on how they want to slant the story.

I seem to have a big advantage in these happenings. I remember my childhood where no one else seems to remember theirs. The kids I was raised with who turned out bad did not surprise me. They had crappy parents. When a kid offs himself there has to be some reflection on his family life during his upbringing.

The guys with decent parents never turned out bad or did themselves in. OK, this is anecdotal testimony, but it is a hell of a lot more accurate than the slanted angles of the news media.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


(PICTURE: The Germans did not have Jewdar so they had to put markers on their friendly, neighborhood Jews.)

Any man who is not aware of “gaydar” is pretty imperceptive or one ugly SOB. Who hasn’t experienced another guy staring with that hooker look?

Well I’ve been watching several movies and TV shows that reminded me of that. The viewer is carried along in a romantic story and suddenly it culminates in a Jewish wedding.

Wait a minute. Go back a bit. When did the couple find out they were Jewish? How come the guy doesn’t say at the ceremony, “What? You’re Jewish too?” It could happen as far as the viewer is concerned because there was no hint in the story they both were Jews. It was kept a secret from the viewer.

I wonder why.

No, I’m being deliberately obtuse. I know why. Lenny Bruce did this routine about being approached after a performance by a couple in the Midwest. After some verbal sparring the old man asks hopefully, plaintively, “So… Are you Jewish?” When he responds, yes, all barriers are down. He’s invited for a meal at their house and introduced to a young woman. It’s a funny bit.

The writers of these screenplays have devised a way to avoid that awkward, hopeful, plaintive question. They have invented Jewdar. The couple just knows even if the viewer does not.

It’s a way to sidestep that, “Jews don’t assimilate,” problem. No need to point it out.


I have to share this with my one reader (assuming he/she is in Thailand) as a reward for being here. I have discovered one of the best pasta sauces ever. And, on top of that, it couldn’t be simpler to make.

I am an experimental cook. I like to inventory the cupboard and try to imagine what would work. The experiments seldom fail. Actually they never fail although some might not turn out to be memorable. I may have created dozens of dishes that worked out great but then I forget about and never repeat. I’m going to start putting them in here so there’s some record.

There are only three ingredients for this pasta dish:

A 6 Oz +/- can of red pork or chicken curry. (Thai brand)

A can of Thai spaghetti sauce.

And the pasta of your choice.

You simply combine the curry with the spaghetti sauce and there’s your miracle. Use all the curry and the all little can of spaghetti sauce, or half the large can, per person. The serving size of the pasta is up to you.

This should be served in a bowl because the sauce is a little watery. You could thicken it I suppose but, what the hell? Provide a spoon so as not to waste the sauce.

There you go. There’s your reward.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

I’m sure you know this:

Always cook the entire package of pasta. It refrigerates very well.

It’s OK to use tap water. The boiling removes all that bad stuff.

Bring water to a rolling boil before tossing in the pasta.

Stir the pasta extensively right away. I use a plastic spatula. Stir again about half way through. You don’t want that crap to meld together.

Never overcook pasta. Every package has a cooking time but give it a taste test. There is less than a one minute window between just right and overcooked. When it’s nearly done turn off the burner. The pasta will cook slower and give you a better chance to get it just right.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

(PICTURE: This is a husband seeker but not the one in the story below. Sorry about that. I tried.)


The original title of this piece was going to be “A Generic Woman” but then I got into it and came up with a better title.

Some people over here in Thailand think I have a pipeline to American men looking for Asian wives. I get pictures sometimes that I post on the internet, but I have no connections and not much interest in the subject.

A friend of my wife visited us dragging a husband seeker along. This friend was pretty interesting. She was a Vietnamese living in Laos married to a Chinese and she spoke passable English along with 4 other languages. As someone who has trouble with one language, I am in awe of multilingual people. So she had my attention and respect.

The Husband Seeker, she explained was 30ish, never married and wanted a man who was not too ugly and no more than 50ish.

“How about someone like me?” I asked. “Someone older but rich?” (See, I can make jokes. Who said I can’t make jokes?)

The Husband Seeker dodged the question by saying he did not need to be rich, so I gathered old was out.

But the Husband Seeker was serious so I gave her a serious evaluation. A makeover would do wonders for her. She was plain by Thai standards. She had Angelina Jolie lips and a little fix-up would make her quite pretty by American standards. I told them this except for the plain part.

But her best asset, I told them, was her figure. She was tallish, slim and had an attractive body. “Let me take her picture in a swim suit,” I proposed. “I will put it on the internet.”

Well sir, you would have thought I said, “Let her suck my you-know-what.” The VN-Laos chick got all uppity and offended. She explained to the Husband Seeker what I had said (though I’m sure there was something added or lost in the translation) so that the HS was totally pissed with me too. I was told they were not interested in men who would want to see her body. How much of the male gender does that eliminate?

Of course I knew exactly what was going on. I had witnessed it many times in Vietnam and America (but thankfully never in Thailand until now). She was faking outrage at one thing because something else was bothering her. What was it? Probably envy. I suspect my entire setup there where I lived in my house bothered her. I think the bitch saw it and didn’t like it and wanted my wife to think there was something wrong with me. She was trying to sow discord.

I could be wrong but I can’t think of another reason for that fake moral outrage. You guys be warned, if you ever see it, get the hall out of there. Dump the bitch. She is trouble.

Anyway, back to the Husband Seeker. She is a generic woman which might be great for someone out there. She is shy, diffident, and I’m sure, obedient. Along with the previous physical description, she might be the perfect woman for a large percentage of the men out there.

One caution: You probably couldn’t bring her to the States for fear she will learn that fake moral outrage trick, not to mention having her “rights” explained to her.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


(PICTURE: The queen is not pleased with the increased power of the king.)
I learned in my many writing classes not to criticize unless I could suggest an improvement. And so it is with chess. I trashed the game in I Hate Chess (Apr. 11 scroll down) because to be a good player you have memorize many openings and variations reducing the first eleven moves or so to rote; a mere memory challenge. Who the hell wants that?

Here’s my idea on how to improve chess: Introduce the fog of war. Make the opponents invisible until one of your pieces are close to them. There go all the openings out the window.

Here’s how it would work:

All the pieces have the same strength as before and move the same way.

A pawn can “see” in the three spaces in front of it, the one straight ahead and the two diagonals.

All other pieces can “see” one space in all directions except the king.

The king can “see” 3 spaces in all eight directions. This elevates the king to a super offensive piece instead of the passive piece it has been.

The rook, bishop and queen can move as far as wanted in open lanes but can be moved one space at a time during a turn until the player is done. Once the piece is advanced it cannot go back (hands on or hands off is not required). The knight must complete its move once started but may be paused before moving diagonally to finish the movement.

Lost pawns must be replaced immediately at the rate of one for one but only if each side is down a pawn. The pawn is placed on any space in the second row that is vacant. If no space is vacant then the prisoner exchange is postponed until there’s a space vacant.

The king can be put in check by any piece that “sees” it and threatens it. When the king is put in check by any piece out of sight of the king, that piece must exposed. The player with a masked piece that threatens the king has the option of declaring “check.”

This is all off the top of my head and much of it has been envisioned only as I wrote this so there are probably bugs. But doesn’t it sound interesting in not intriguing?

I would require two boards with a partition between and a very sharp person to umpire. That is until a computer program is written.

Monday, July 02, 2007


I may have done worse dirty tricks but this one was both mean and hilarious and, in part, unintentional.

I had to take a bonehead English class when going back into the school system at San Francisco City College (OJ’s old school). The students were almost all male. We had failed the Basic English exam required for entrance to the school. The instructor was a lady close to my own age. She was the best teacher I had at any level of schooling. A couple of weeks into the course, she explained how to structure an essay. I absorbed every word.

We were given an assignment to comment on a Russian short story. Using her rules, I wrote a nearly perfect criticism of the story, using brief quotes to prove my points. The piece had a strong beginning and a good summing up. But, scamp that I am, I put a bomb in the middle for her eyes only, never expecting she would read it in class.

She read it in class. When she started I hunkered down and closed my eyes. This was a sweet lady who was reading to a bunch of bonehead males. It is not for nothing they call the course Bonehead English.

Near the middle of the piece she read, “…there is this intercourse between the couple.”

Now I could have used “exchange” or “communication” or other words, but I deliberately used that word to shock or titillate her and to show I knew the alternate meanings.

Well the bomb exploded. To my surprise, it only caught one guy. A goofball at the back lets out a loud guffaw before he realizes he is the only one and he has really, totally screwed up

The teacher gives him a cold stare.

That is one for the ages. Sure, I may have screwed up one guy’s life, but think how happy I made the other 25 boneheads in the class because they didn’t laugh with him.