Wednesday, July 28, 2010

They made it - Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou Airport, by Fabio
It's one of those nights when you abandon yourself to the fragrance of the wind, to encounters, to what life can offer you, not for next year or tomorrow, but right on the spot, on that sidewalk, many hours before the day will come and make you rationalize it all. And this process, at least in my case, is most effective when I am abroad, better if in a place where I don't know anybody, where I don't have any connections, any buoy to hold on to when the current is taking me adrift. If the events unfold in Asia then, or even better in China, where not even one's normal cultural grips can be of some help, it's even more risky, succulent and exciting. 
The right place, for this night at least, is Guangzhou, a city where the majority of the foreigners come attracted by a disproportionate giant that people here call fair. To try their luck, to make money, to squeeze one of the southern tits of this cow, China, that seems to be growing out of any control, a victim of some cell that must have gone mad. And where I, not to be the original type but because of a genuine helpless nature, have arrived by chance, on my way from Hong Kong to Kunming, a place in the South-West in whose tranquility I have let myself be lulled for more than a year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Around KL - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Old houses in Kuala Lumpur. By Fabio
Unlike the European city centers, too heavily restored, the Asian colonial quarters retain a genuine air. In the back of the Chinese taverns the battered utensils relentlessly hit the woks with hypnotizing tok-toks. In the Indian restaurants curry-stained fingers keep stirring rice and vegetables on banana leaves. After a while though one gets hold of his glare, aims it at the facade and sees the pastel colors, the cracked and blackened plaster, the decorated balconies and a date in relief.

The models at my condo beside beauty and nice dresses possess some amazing superpowers as well: when I meet them in the lift and smile at them they appear to be able to see right through my body and they keep staring blankly at the wall behind me.

At the gym
A: What's the best part or working out for you?
B: [Seriously] The sauna...
A: hahaha...OK, I like that as well...and the second best?
B: [More seriously] ...the hot shower...

A few days later I met the models again. As the corridor is narrow I made some space for them. They walked past me without acknowledging my existence as if they were some princesses in an ancient kingdom and I just a simple untouchable pariah. Next time I meet them I'm gonna walk on their bodies. Considering their height, I might actually have to climb them...

Still at the gym
A: Hey, why don't you put some weights on that barbell?
B: [As serious as ever] Because then it's hard...

If the rain in KL stops when the sun has just set you can watch the city through an HD screen: the atmosphere is high-tech, as in a computer game, and the edges are shiny, as if they were sprinkled with gold dust.

They call it planning, they call it development, but these are words with a positive connotation. And the planners in KL are developing a mess...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Abused Italian/3 - Miscellanea

A collection of common mistakes and misconceptions 

Pepperoni: peperoni (check its spelling) means "peppers', then someone added a "p" and they surprisingly turned into sausages.

Hawaiian pizza: alright Sir, and may I suggest a Norwegian reindeer tikka masala on the side?

Salami: it's plural. How many salami do you want to eat? A quarter salame is enough to get you pimples for a month...

Nutella and Rocher chocolates: they both are Italian products, brand names registered by Ferrero Company, Alba. It's true, you can read "Made in Australia" or "Made in USA" on some boxes : it's because Ferrero has some production plants in those countries as well. Your computers and phones are made in China, but they are still American, European or Japanese products, right?

Oil into the pasta pot: alright, but only if you use five to ten spoonfuls of a very high quality organic cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil! Come on, what a waste, you can save your oil: if you don't want your pasta to stick together you just need to stir it a couple of times.

Rolling spaghetti with fork and spoon: a spoon? Isn't the surface of the plate big enough?

Cooking time: some people check the cooking spaghetti by taking one out of the pot and throwing it at the wall. If it sticks to the tiles then it means they're ready. I could easily patronize them by pointing out that the cooking time is written on the pasta box, or that you can just taste a noodle and see if you like it, but this is such a funny procedure...

Read Abused Italian/1 here and Abused Italian/2 here.

Photo "Spaghetti indigesti", by Nardino (CC), from flickr

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thinking in Kuala Lumpur/8

"The dry season in Kuala Lumpur is that time of the year when it rains a little less than in the rainy season..."

"...or maybe KL has got 365 dry seasons, each one of them just a few hours long."

"If the girls in Kuala Lumpur were as bold as the gays any average straight guy would feel like a superstar."

"'Chef's recommendations', 'Anytime favorites', 'Thirst quenchers', 'Sweet surrenders'...are some of the results of the unofficial contest for the restaurant with the most original menu in town."

"Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur is the only place in the world where the ratio pimps:hookers is greater than 1."

Click here for more thoughts

Photo: covered passageway in Little India, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By Fabio

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Abused Italian/2 - Coffee section

A collection of common mistakes and misconceptions 

Espresso: it should be very short and concentrated. It's served in a small cup and it only fills half of it. More than that and you might as well order a coffee soup. Espresso is very thick, creamy, kind of foamy on the surface. Italians normally gulp it down in few seconds at the counter, in the early morning or after lunch. It's true, sitting on a couch and reading a nice novel is way better. Yet, if you really want to chill out, why would you have an espresso, which means "fast"? 

Cappuccino: The amount of foam should just be the one that naturally flows from the milk kettle, it shouldn't be forced down with a spoon and it shouldn't make the top of the cup look like a Snow White dwarf hat. 

Macchiato: the name means "stained". It's simply an espresso with a small amount of milk on top (small amount really means small amount, otherwise they would have called it "drenched" or "soaked", not "stained"). Hot foamy milk for a macchiato caldo, cold milk for a macchiato freddo. 

Caramel macchiato: definitely a great drink...with the wrong name though.

Caffelatte: it's what kids drink at home in the morning. No bar owner would ever compromise the reputation of his/her joint by serving such a drink. It's made with a shot of coffee and a whole bowl of milk. Foam on it is as appropriate as an iceberg in the Gulf of Mexico. Cookies (biscotti) can be dipped into it. Very important...the name is caffelatte, no abbreviations: ask for a latte and you'll get a glass of plain milk. 

Frappuccino: a fine example of creative nomenclature. It's frappè (milk shake) + cappuccino. We have them both, but would rather die(t) than mix them in the same glass.

Barista: this is not just a guy who operates the coffee machine. We call that a technician. A barista is a barman, he/she serves soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits, sandwiches and salads. He chats with the customers and can attend the tables. Yes, it's true, a technician can also do all that...but it's still a different job. 

Coffee sizes: every drink only has one size, and it should satisfy an average grown up human being, not a whole pack of lions. There's no such a thing as grande (which means "large") or venti (which means "twenty"...twenty what by the way? A twenty-day-insomnia?!). Espresso and macchiato are served in a small cup, cappuccino in a bigger one. Caffelatte in a large bowl, and remember: only at home, never at the bar. That's it.

Timing: "cappuccino" and "breakfast" are nearly synonymous. If you order this drink in the evening the barista will put up a very dignified, proud and slightly offended expression, while with his arm fully outstretched he will be pointing at the door, expecting you to leave at once! If you dare order caffelatte instead, he will immediately call the cops. In Italy mafia bosses and corrupt politicians can get away with anything, but for he who insults the national cuisine there is NO mercy! 

Read "Abused Italian/1" here and "Abused Italian/3" here

Photo: banner in front of a cafe in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By Fabio

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little chance of rain - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Time, your ass and the rich will always do as they please (Old Venetian saying)

The sky looks clear, there’s a small cloud up there, but it’s not the type that anticipates a storm. Maybe today, as it often happens, it will let out its raging cry only in the evening. A taxi is coming. Come on, let’s walk, it seems that today there’s little chance of rain. The ride is cheap, but I don’t do it for the money. The fact is that I’ll have to sit for most of the day. Everything is fine until I reach halfway, when my eyes spot the fluttering skirt of a girl. At first I’m not worried about the gloomy omen, focused as I am on the smooth skin of that knee, the slender calf, the lower thigh muscle that is intermittently emerging from under the hem…

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sitting and thinking/7

"Dismissing it as 'mere fiction' is a big mistake: literature can represent reality at its worst."

Your duties and other people's rights...the other way around is just too easy."

"Damned gym: it makes me become like Hulk...I don't mean muscular, I mean green..."

"The Italian community in Bangkok consists of a fair number of chefs and restaurant owners, a few businessmen (food & beverage, fashion and mechanical sectors), some retirees, a bunch of exchange students and others. The latter is one of my various names: Fabio P. Others..."

"Endure? Yes. Content myself? I can't."

Click here for other thoughts

Photo "Thinking", by Fabio