Monday, May 25, 2015

Excerpts from "Tales of the Amarugia Highlands"

Tales of the Amarugia Highlands of Cass County, Missouri
By Donald Lewis Osborn (1972)

"In the summer of 1894, Father bought the old school house and it was moved down to join our old cabin... The house was put on stilts and all of the children had the fun of helping push the school house down to our place."

"On the return trips, Indians would pile on the empty wagon for a ride. Frost tired of their bothering, so he purposely took the oxen and wagon over a stump and bumped the Indians off. Red men went tumbling and shouted, 'Goddamn a cow wow!' and wouldn't ever ride Frost's wagon again."

"Her grandfather Albert Osborn, a Floyd County, Kentucky native who felt at home in Amarugia, had a mystical power for stopping bleeding... He said he could teach his mystical power to another person - but only to a female. He attempted to teach his daughter-in-law Kate, but she couldn't get it through her head."

"One informant recalls the story about an Amarugian who had a garden hoe or rake that turned up missing. The law finally located the implement under neighbor X's bed. After that, whenever anything turned up missing, the popular saying was 'Go look under X's bed!' Author's Footnote: Names are omitted here, to help protect the name of the guilty, the informant, and especially this writer. X's descendants are legion."

"Of course, in order that peace and harmony (in hand with right and justice) be secured, some form of government soon became necessary. A council was accordingly convened, and the form of government adapted was that of an absolute monarchy, at the head of which was placed Owens himself."

"Weddington was bald-headed and the people concluded, after a serious consultation, that a man who was bald-headed could not serve as king unless he would submit to having the crown glued to his hairless state. Weddington refused, and therefore sacrificed the honors of a kingship for personal comfort."

"Saturday is court day. The king is both judge and jury, and from that court there is no appeal. At 9 o'clock every Saturday morning court is opened and the mill of justice begins to grind. No one is seldom fined more than a few pumpkins, a gallon or two of good cider, or a few twists of tobacco."

"Dr. Arnold says there is a man in Everett Township that can hold out 100 pounds at arm's length a half minute. The charge is denied by all."

"In other colonies as well as here,
The grippe seems terrible queer,
But of this disease we have no fear,
For our dear doctor, Andy Wear,
Is some relation of David Crocket's
And has a brand new set of saddle-pockets."

"WHEREAS, Our royal pleasure hath led us select as the central seat of our dominion, the good city of Everett, we hereby notify our loving subjects that all who seek our royal presence may find us there. We further announce our intention to speedily extend our gracious and benign authority over all those more distant regions of our happy realm, wherein some misguided and benighted persons have heretofore failed to render due obedience to our benignant sway. If there be any yet therein, any whose malignant hearts nourish the noxious seeds of rebellion against our mild rule, we warn them that only speedy submission can avert our just anger..."

"...and should the peace of these ever-smiling provinces be disturbed by stiffnecked and rebellious maligners of our royal self and slanderers of our good subjects and liege-men, we do empower and instruct our said High Muck-a-mucks to inflict upon each of such graceless offenders and baseborn varlets, the Bastinado, morning, noon, and night, daily for a calendar month."

"If I have rescued from a fast-gathering oblivion a few threads of Amarugiana that would otherwise forever elude us, and if I have woven them into a fabric that will give them a sort of immortality, I am happy. In our time, a published book survives better than oral tradition."

Matthew's Addendum: I also came across the grave of the last king, David W. Wilson, who is buried in Lee's Summit Historical Cemetery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recipes: Pfeffernüsse

From my grandmother's cookbook:

1 cup Crisco
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp anise oil
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 tsp baking soda, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot coffee
6 cups flour (or less)

Roll to pencil thin and chill. Slice into 1/2" pieces. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

10 German Foods I Miss Most

  • Bavarian Kraut

  • Döner Kebab (German Gyros)

  • Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Cookies)

  • Radler (Biker Beer)

  • Riesling

  • Rote Grütze (Red Fruit Pudding)

  • Spargel mit Schinken (White Asparagus with Ham)

  • Spätlese

  • Spätzle (Egg Noodles)

  • Zigeuner Schnitzel (Breaded Veal Cutlet, "Gypsy" Style)

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I've got all my photos posted to Facebook. If you aren't my friend there yet, well, now's a good time. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back In Town

Still working on those photos. Hopefully I'll have them up soon.

The trip back was uneventful; however, I'm still amazed/confused by the movie selection on the plane:
  • Catch and Release (2006)
  • Brother Bear (2003)
  • Chocolat (2000)

Heck, I'm pretty sure I saw the last of those on my very first overseas flight, to Germany, way back in 2001...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Better than I could put it

This article in the New York Times summarizes better than I could all of the flat-out weirdness that goes on here. Sometimes it's like an anime is leaking into the real world.

Beijing Impressions, Day 6 continued

I don't see many non-Chinese restaurants around town (besides McDonald's), but middle eastern food appears to be popular. I've noticed many outposts of "Holiland" [sic] around town.

So tonight was boxing. Not a sport I have a huge interest in, but hey, I had the ticket, so why not? In the course of the evening, I noticed several interesting things.
  • Each event has a new team of cheerleaders, with new costumes, dancing a new routine that's themed to the sport at hand.
  • The Russians also cheer for countries that used to belong to the USSR. I think that's pretty sporting of them.
  • I know I'm probably the only geek who listens to the Video Game Music channel on AOL Radio. But I swear, they used a sound clip from Kameo. Did anyone actually play that game?
Oh, and is anybody watching the Olympics on TV? Noticed how the stands often appear half-empty? There are a few things you should know: First, a ticket gets you in to a session that can last from two to six hours. Naturally, people are coming and going constantly. More importantly, the vast majority of tickets are held by locals. They tend to stay just long enough to see China compete, then book it. So now you know.

Tomorrow morning, I head back to the States. It's been a lot of fun here, but I'm feeling the need to get back. If nothing else, my feet can't take much more of this. My blisters have blisters, and it hurts to walk.

But! Stay tuned a bit longer, as I have tons of photos to post once I get back to my computer.

Beijing Impressions, Day 6

Today I took it pretty easy, relatively speaking. Headed over to the Temple of Heaven, one of four that surrounds the city (Heaven, Earth, Sun, and Moon).

It was filled to the brim with people... well, doing things. Singing. Dancing. Tennis. Badminton. Judo. Tai chi. Poker. Dominos. Even hacky-sack - and in China, it's apparently a sport for the elderly. The place was also incredibly loud, and every twenty paces you'd walk into some new sound zone. Still, it was pretty cool, and made me feel like I was actually meeting the people, rather than just their tourist traps.

Have I mentioned water calligraphy? It's this cool thing I've seen a few times now; these guys move down the pavement, writing what I assume to be poetry with a sponge on a stick. It evaporates after a few minutes, of course, but still. It reminds me of the Buddhists, who create incredibly elaborate mandalas out of sand - then destroy them when they're done.

As for the temple itself, you'll have to see the pictures. Uniquely for China, they were all circular - apparently the circle represents heaven, and the square earth. Some of them were also suspiciously minimalist, and put me in a Zelda frame of mind. Maybe if I play the flute, it'll create a teleporter or summon a boss...

Went to lunch at Bookworm, which was a combination of bookstore, restaurant, cafe, and bar - except all together, not in sections. I thought it was pretty neat, and it's apparently a gathering place for local, English-speaking expats. Spotted a BBC reporter huddled in a corner with some sound editing equipment, probably preparing a report.

Got a massage in the afternoon, and I have to say, this part of the world deserves its reputation for doing them well. And no, there were no happy endings, you pervs.

Although: There was a sign on the wall which said: "Due to the new regulation before the 2008 Olympic Games, all guests must wear underwear, please." That raises a number of questions, but I'll leave them to your imagination.

More to come...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Holy crap, I wasn't kidding

Remember what I was saying about volunteers? Apparently, out of two million applicants, they chose 100,000 people to work at the venues, and 400,000 more are scattered around the city.

Something like one out of every thirty people in this city is helping with the Games. That's just... wow.

Beijing Impressions, Day 5 continued

A quick rant first: there's a standard way of writing Chinese words in Western characters, known as Pinyin. Among other things, it includes accents that indicate the correct tone for each syllable. As a result, you know exactly how to pronounce any given word, once you've seen it written down.

But here's what drives me nuts: almost all of the signs I see around town (including street signs) completely omit the accents. As a result, the Pinyin is almost useless, because you have no idea how to pronounce the words, and the pronounciation matters. I'm sure there's some good reason, but it still sucks.

Anyway, after the Great Wall, I headed over to the Ming tombs. All of that dynasty's emperors are buried in this one valley, which is just overflowing with these tombs. A necropolis, I believe is the term.

Anyway, they all follow the same basic pattern. It's a bit like a mini Forbidden City, actually; a series of ever more imposing gates and halls. But at the back, there's a Soul Tower that houses the emperor's grave marker. And behind that, the tunnel plunges straight into the mountainside, and that's where the tomb is.

The one I visited had actually been excavated, so you could go inside. It was pretty impressive, actually, and vaguely Egyptian. A few hundred feet down, there are these rooms carved out, and lined with white marble. Unfortunately, the Chinese didn't mummify their dead (and fuck you, Brendan Frasier), so the coffins were in pretty bad shape by the time they found them. Those are replicas, but everything else was real. It was a surprisingly interesting excursion, on the whole.

Noticed on the way home: peaches must be in season around here. The roadside stands are crammed with them, and Charles gave me a bag when I arrived.

Tomorrow should be a fairly lazy day, with any luck - I'm just going to wander around town a bit, hit anything I may have missed. Boxing is tomorrow night. Stay tuned.

Beijing Impressions, Day 5

Headed off to the Great Wall this morning. Confession: I cheated and took the cable car to the top. Yeah, I know, I'm not proud of myself either, but my feet were still killing me from yesterday. It could be worse; I could have stopped at the Great Wall Starbucks. There used to be one at the Forbidden City too.

That bottle of tea I mentioned yesterday? RMB 10 on top of the wall; how's that for a captive audience markup. Yeah, it's an awfully commercialized place. Disney-fied, too: the part I visited has been heavily reconstructed, and probably looks relatively little like it did originally. The wall may have been a zillion miles long once upon a time, but these days the vast majority is falling apart or has vanished completely.

It's also super, super, super crowded. Claustrophobes need not apply; it's shoulder to shoulder in some parts. Consider: most of the paving stones across the top of wall have been worn concave in just a few decades of foot traffic. You also have to watch your step, quite literally, as it's incredibly steep, uneven, and generally trecherous.

Of course, everyone knows all this in advance, but they still go, because it's one of the Eight Wonders of the World and all. Just to put the myth to rest: you can't see it from space, thank you very much.

In other news: You still can't swing a cat within an hour of Beijing without hitting an athlete; they were everywhere up on the wall. We passed a bunch of very serious-looking bicyclers on the way back into Beijing; considering the road race events are held in that area, I wouldn't be surprised if they were athletes out training.

More to come about the afternoon festivities...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Beijing Impressions, Day 4 continued

This evening I had a ticket for track and field, which means that I finally got to go to the Olympic Green and the National Stadium, otherwise known as the Bird's Nest.

What I hadn't realized from seeing it on TV is that the cross-hatched look isn't just a skin; that's the building's entire superstructure. The randomly criss-crossing girders continue all the way in. It's really quite stunning, like a magic trick that just gets better once you know how it's done. Ditto for the other buildings around it, like the National Aquatic Center and the International Broadcast Center. You'll just have to see the pictures.

The place holds 91,000, which is only a bit larger than Memorial Stadium in Lincoln (81,000). But I have to tell you, this one looks much, much, much bigger inside. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the largest building I've ever set foot inside.

They play snippets of music in between events; they seem to like movie music. So far, I'm quite certain I've heard Amelie, American Beauty, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Plus, I could swear the cheerleaders were dancing to Rammstein.

Oh, and the discus robot! They were using these little souped-up RC cars to ferry the discuses (discii?) back, so that the officials didn't have to run around. I totally want one now.

Turns out that the Olympic Green isn't so much a green as an area where traffic has been roped off. For the central mall, instead of a field, they have a sort of sunken garden that's full of restaurants, artwork, shelters, light shows, etc. It was actually decently cool.

Thought on the way home: as horrific as the Beijing traffic has been, I realized that this is only half of it. For the duration of the games, even-numbered cars are only allowed into the city core on even-numbered days and vice versa. It must be completely insane here normally.

The little convenience store downstairs is proving useful in other ways. A bottle of tea cost me RMB 3 there; the identical bottle at the venues costs RMB 5. So that's a captive audience markup of, what, 66%? Nice...

Tomorrow: the Great Wall. Stay tuned.

Beijing Impressions, Day 4

So today, the Forbidden City. And do mean all day; I probably spent almost eight hours there. My feet feel like hamburger right now.

Anyway, the place is beyond big. It's stupidly big. Offensively big. Depressingly big, even. I kinda wanted to burn it down just for having the audacity to exist. And only half it is even accessable! The rest is, forgive the pun, still forbidden.

It probably didn't help that I went early and worked back to front: I was absolutely alone for quite a while, which was creepy in one of the world's busiest tourist attractions. Empty courtyard after empty courtyard, bordered by locked room after locked room. Look in the windows and you see forgotten relics, fading in the sun and gathering dust. It just goes on and on and on, to the point where it's just sad more than anything.

For the geeks, let me help you triangulate the Forbidden City: The dungeons from the original Legend of Zelda. The castle from Ico. The first half-hour of Labyrinth. And the final area of the Mulan level from Kingdom Hearts II. Mix them together, scale up to life size, and there you go.

What did I like? Well, they had some little sub-museums, one of which housed a large collection of clocks, both Chinese-made and from around the world. Some of them even still worked! Though, a curiousity: why were all of the Chinese-made clocks still labeled with Roman numerals, even though they were made for an imperial audience?

Promising development: the bathrooms had both squat and Western-style toilets, with each stall clearly labeled. Very nice. Less promising development: the chunk of bone still attached to a piece of my beef at lunch. Ugh.

Random musing: right now, Beijing is probably the most cosmopolitan city on earth. I mean, I'm pretty sure I've run into fans (or athletes) from pretty much every country I've ever heard of, and quite a few I haven't. Not even New York has that kind of turnout.

Make a quick dash through Tiananmen Square, which is... a square. Seriously, it's just a big open plaza between China's main government buildings, where some bad juju went down once upon a time. Nothing much to see, except maybe Chairman Mao. Seriously, he's preserved in a glass coffin, anyone can go in and have a look. It was only in the morning, though, so I missed out. :(

They do mean business: it's the only non-sporting venue I've been to in town where you had to go through a security check just to get in. And I'm pretty sure someone tried to give me a copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Cookbook.

Random thing that keeps happening to me: a local guy will come up wanting either a picture with me, or more disturbingly, a picture of me with their girlfriend. I... don't get it. Maybe I need to coin some offensive new term for jungle fever in the Asian-on-Anglo context.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. First day like that we've had since I've been here. I think the rain last night must have pulled all the crap out of the air. Too bad the sun made the already bright pavement blinding. I literally had to wander across with my eyes nearly closed.

More to come about the evening...