Thursday, October 14, 2010

Food Part II: ENGRISH EDITION

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Not all adventures in eating begin when the food arrives. Sometimes, it’s not what you get but HOW you get it that truly makes an experience remarkable.  And often, just trying to order food is more notable than the food itself.
Most cultures have highly varied notions of what individuals find appealing. For example, I have a bun warmer in my kitchen which was probably installed right after the second world war called the “MOIST-CRISP!” Obviously the first point I’d like to make is:
What the hell, y’all?
But secondarily I’d like to point out that that combination of words is not at all appetizing for most people. Presentation is important when serving food, and even more important when it comes to labeling and advertising.  You wouldn’t want to consume a product called the “porous and yeasty,”  which is why we have “Bread.” (In point of fact, bread used to be called “mealy bowel gel” but marketing directors soon found that a name like that dissuaded people from keeping it in their MOIST-CRISP! and so they passed a legislation making it really difficult for inventors to name their own products. This is why it’s taken so long for me to formally offer you a little something I’ve been working on, the “cheddar flavored dump-lube.” Hypocrites.)
China takes these cultural differences into account when making food and drink accessible to its foreign friends. Just as advertisers focus on naming and describing products in a manner evocative of the concepts consumers value most, China often takes the priorities of the target market into account when translating.
From the sublimely optimistic:
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To the things that are better filed under “Harbinger:”
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who do you suppose would go here?
Some food related Engrish is constructive.
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Other instances are just ill conceived.
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you’ll never guess what they serve at “Dico’s.”
But the menus are what really phone it in. Shanghai prepared for the large anticipated influx of foreigners during the Expo by running all their menus through “google translate.”
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don’t tell me what to do.

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To me, attempting to divine what might actually be meant by a given description is probably by far the best part of the process. Since my brother can both speak and write Chinese, there was a failsafe. But I really enjoyed the deductive reasoning. For example, “Of the beef?” Does that mean “from a cow?” or actually “From the beef?” Is it beef? Is it a beef product? or is it something one might find on beef? Like a parasite? a food-borne pathogen? What kind of beef is this of? “Beef with skin mottled?” That is the least encouraging description of ostensibly edible meat I think I’ve ever read. And this isn’t even a concrete assumption we’re making about whether or not the food in question is beef. We may in fact be ordering a non-beef substance that is simply derived from some alleged beef, such as fat. Or a deer tick. OR E. COLI. WHO SERVES E. COLI IN A RESTAURANT, CHINA?!?!? At least it was an evocative euphemism.
Don’t even get me started on the implications of “explosive Australia.”
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The take home point here, in case you missed it, is “brown sauce.” I don’t know why they have to bring Grandma into it.
Unless…?
GRANDMA!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
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WOULD you just JUICE A NICE PIECE OF GARLIC STEAM SAUNA!?! I can’t even begin to imagine what the hell that means. Perhaps changing the emphasis systematically would be helpful? Like, could we just juice a NICE piece of garlic steam sauna for once? No? not working for you?
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a) What the fuck is hairy crab oil? SUPER PASS.
b) I admit to being a little discomfited by the options they offer. When is the last time you had to choose between soup and bacon? WHAT KIND OF SICK ESTABLISHMENT IS THIS?!
c) How are you even going to fry some soup?
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“Flowers are the fried fish of fruit.”
FACT: China does not actually have fortune cookies! Who knew? However, if China DID have fortune cookies, I like to think that this is the kind of message they would print.
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There isn’t a paragraph in the world that could really analyze these options comprehensively, unless I just discovered the secret to speed reading “Finnagan’s Wake.” (Ed. note: I checked; I didn’t.) So I’m just going to attack these in order.
1) Colorful: I’m not even going to guess.
2)pleurotus eryngii bacon lentils:  I can identify exactly two of these words, and the other two sound like the kind of thing you might see printed on a card underneath a picture of a person’s foot fungus or infected surgical incision.
3)Taken the rice dish of meat string beans (chocolate chip cookie dough): Chocolate chip cookie dough? What the fuck kind of rice dish is this? And what is a meat string bean?
4)Dadzi’s fried veal: boooooooooring.
5)coffee aileron de requin au coco chicken: The most comprehensible thing on this menu.
6)Bacon piled fried lily: This is the kind of thing I imagine Kermit the frog having raging night terrors about.
7)With a fresh: For five dollars. With a fresh. A FRESH COSTS FIVE DOLLARS.
WHAT IS A FRESH?!!?!??!?!!?!
WHAT IS IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT?!??!?????
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Don’t talk to the tomato juice like that.
Also, is that “dry” intended to be an ingredient in of itself, or is it supposed to be a descriptive modifier for “Squirrels?” Either way. No. No, thank you.
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The mandarin fish WOULD have been a steamed dry squirrel, but flowers being the fried fish of fruit, the eels the teriyaki sauce. The moral being, that Tseung Kwan o is a cook in the butter on the cook cook.
Are we clear?
No?
OK, in order: Snapper candy, the steam, fried, soup.
Better now? Alright.
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Oh Jesus. Obviously they obtained an advance copy of Snoop Dogg’s new single, “Back into a sweet eel.”
Also, they have that mouth watering special, “Spicy crisp pieces of limbs!”
After viewing this menu, I will never again drive by one of those bozos standing on the street corner waving signs for Stereo Outlet or Mattress Clearance warehouses without imagining that the text of the sign says,
“NEW!! SPICY HOT GREEDY WOW!!!”
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At least it’s homemade. That makes everything more appetizing!
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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…oh.
Also can I just point out that this fish looks like an emotocon? I invite you all to substitute a picture of this fish for that stupid parenthetical-mawed frowning burlesque perversion of the English language. (Blogs are for people with opinions.)
Perhaps it had enough of the shenanigans of the crab;
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or had one too many run-ins with the samurai salmon. 
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(Well, tell it to stop, then.)
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This just sounds like a Tijuana sex show. I don’t even want to know what comes out of the kitchen when you order this.
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This page looks like the liner notes to a Frogs album.
That first option is so revolting to the most unmitigated extreme that I was sure there was some mistake.  I ran it through google again, just to be thorough.
nourishment kuko pullus cum osse nigro soup = nourishment kuko the chicken with the bone black Soup.
Poor Kuko.
This is Latin. Just how in the good goddamn hell this restaurant decided that Latin would be more comprehensible than English is beyond me.

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For the love of – ! Not the baby!!
And finally, to end on a more instructive note,
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This dish is clearly a parable. Like, the bullfrog was so greedy, he ate way too much. All day long he just sat on his bacon piled fried lily pad and hogged down.  He was such a rapacious bullfrog, the townsfolk (oh, those ubiquitous townsfolk. The underpinnings of every fable. Where would we be without their faceless, mindless panel of homogenous judgment? Thank God I had a spare set at this blog. I don’t usually stock them. There’s sort of a dearth of demand for that kind of thing around here.) were perplexed. They convened at the town hall (I didn’t have a church in my bag of banal literary mainstays, sorry) and decided to kill the bullfrog, sell his bacon piled fried lily, and offer his stewed carcass to the public with a clear description of his crime emblazoned below a photo of his corpse as if THAT WOULD MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO SPEND MONEY ON IT.
Sorry.  I’m not really all that good with unhappy endings.
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let that be a lesson to you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Thailand Full Moon Party: A Douche-umentary

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I was going to title this post “The Asshole Compendium” until this jerk threatened to sue me. So instead, I’ll just call it what it is. A bestiary of hoodlums.

In preface, Thailand is often a truly infuriating place to travel since it has become so difficult to engage with people outside the prescribed “tourist/local” relationship. I find that Thailand usually serves to make me feel lousy about myself, since the minute I step off the plane I am bombarded with shrieks and howls from large crowds of taxi drivers who don’t even bother to be subtle or insinuating about their assumption that what I need, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, at ONE IN THE MORNING, is to have sex with a compromised or underage individual; to buy boatloads of illicit or psychedelic substances; to drink 100 proof alcohol of indeterminate origin out of a plastic bucket, or to watch some hollow eyed waif with an opioid dependency perform unthinkable acts with a ping pong ball. To the rhythm of the live version of “Hotel California.”

And I resent those assumptions. We would all like to consider ourselves the kind of travelers that can just intrinsically feel respect and esteem for the people and customs we encounter in foreign countries. We all like to think of ourselves as compassionate, polite individuals who see others as human first, who never lose patience with others as a result of cultural differences, who don’t experience the extremities of culture shock, who never, ever, under ANY circumstances, catch ourselves uttering or even thinking the words “THESE PEOPLE…” We would all like to think that as tourists, we are good representatives of our own culture, ambassadors to the world.

All of that falls apart completely in a place like Thailand. There wouldn’t be so many people assuming YOU want those things if there weren’t legions of individuals who look just like you that actually DO want them.  You can resent it as much as you want, but the following individuals depicted herein ARE those ambassadors. These are the people who lead the way, who represent YOU, regardless of your sustainable travel wardrobe, your affinity for destinations off the beaten track, your repeated attempts to learn a few respectful phrases in the native language – THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE.  Enjoy them here, because encountering them in the real world is like getting someone else’s cold water enema right in the face.

As an Ethicist, I am compelled to point out that the following pictures were obtained occasionally by deception, without explicit verbal or written consent, and that in truth every subject of every photo is probably a potential poster child for reduced capacity.

But that’s what I love about the internet! And so I present to you, without further ado,

THE ROLODEX OF ANIMATE HANDJOBS. 

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Ah, the full moon party. Koh Phangan is a small island off the coast of Thailand, famous for one thing only. A huge crowd of drunk lunatics getting obliterated on a beach.  And in one way, this party truly reinforces the small world philosophy, much like hands across the world, here we see the proof that we’re never too far from home.

Because assholes on drugs are the same EVERYWHERE.

Thailand’s official stance on drugs is that they are illegal. This is hilarious. That statement has about as much veracity as the purported intent of the full moon party itself:

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  • keeping the area clean
  • providing advice for visitors
  • helping in case (ED. NOTE: In case of WHAT?!)
  • ensuring that you feel safe and enjoy your stay in Haadrin (ED. NOTE: HA! HA! HA!)

This is the biggest load of bullshit I have EVER seen in my whole life. In the first place, this “area” is the most revolting place I have ever been. This is an “area” in which people actually DEFECATE IN THE OCEAN IN PUBLIC (not pictured). UNABASHADLY.  This is an “area” flanked on the terminal ends by a line of men urinating into the water and onto the beach. There are oases of vomit, beer, rum and worse (also not pictured)creating a foul ecosystem of pestilent tide pools in the sand.

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keeping the area clean.

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providing advice for tourists.

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helping in case?

BUT WAIT:

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be safe! Enjoy your stay!

Until you become dog, I guess.

for pickpockets, this party is like those scenes on game shows where they lock a contestant in a phone booth and then there’s a tornado of money. Only in this case the money is drunk.

And to return to my point about the drugs, they are RAMPANT. In all honesty, most of them are bunk – hundreds of sketchy agents furtively sell fake ecstasy and then vanish into the crowd. Restaurants for days preceding the party sell bags of marijuana, mushrooms and acid. Police officers stationed conveniently up the road from the restaurants search your bags, confiscate your drugs, and negotiate exorbitant bribes up to 1000 U.S. dollars. (Please note that this is not an autobiographical experience.)  There is little to no police presence at the party itself, since drugs provide a significant source of income for the island, and if there were no drugs, there could be no bribes. There are no measures in place to discourage drug use, which would in fact be detrimental to everyone. Except perhaps these dudes.

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special thanks to my mutt reporters (I think it’s pretty clear who they are) who helped make this picture possible.

Aside from booze and drugs, body painting is probably the biggest revenue generator at the full moon party.

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In all fairness I think this last one was probably done for free by a drunk person.

Then there are the hats. These are all bad hats. There is no excuse for purchasing these hats and then wearing them to a place. Unless you’re going to a theme party, and the theme of that party is “COMPREHENSIVE SHIT BAGS AS DEFINED BY HATS.”

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don’t wear this hat.  

IMG_3248 LOOK AT THIS PRINCE. This is the number one dude of all the dudes that represent at this party.

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NOT HATS.

 

 

 

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Yet another nice capture by my minion assistants. What a prize!!!

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This dude is pretty much the worst dude. This picture would run on the cover of National Geographic if National Geographic was actually a magazine about people that suck instead of a magazine about lions looking angrily at the landscape.

Here is a nice little collection of jerks.

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I can’t even begin to list all the reasons that this guy is probably the biggest dick in the world because it’s just too exhausting to even contemplate trying to be thorough.

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No.

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No.

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what the hell is this bullshit? While still a douche, this man is yet highly incongruous. I include him because he was there, even if I’m not sure why.

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I tried to make an assumption about what was happening here but then I had a stroke.

Conversely, here is the only possible way to dress up for this party without making me write a bitchy caption for your photo.

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Awesome.

I consider this post one of the most instructional that I have written, since the hurt and confusion that inevitably results from stereotyping tourists are significant factors for people when they evaluate their travel experience. And so when I complain that I dislike Thailand, that I had a terrible time, that the way people treat tourists there is offensive and degrading, let me also be the first to say that this is not the fault of the people of Thailand. And when you go to a place, and you have an awful time, and you get ripped off, and mocked, and driven to a whorehouse instead of a hotel, think back on this little wildlife guide and realize that these are the archetypes who perpetuate these stereotypes, these are the scourge of the tourist, the plague of the sightseer, the blot that will overwhelm and efface all of your attempts to meet locals on a common ground.  These are far better and more appropriate targets for your frustration and fury.

These are pretty much the dudes who wreck it for all of us.

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