Wednesday, September 17, 2003

apple pie notes and Sinicized Roman proverbs

How anyone can look at their life and call it boring is beyond me, especially if they have personal projects to keep them busy, and good friends who constantly provide new challenges.

In the personal projects department:

I've given up on trying to make a pie crust without an oven. Each attempt inevitably produced something that looked like a burned lump of shit. While I'm proud to discover that my turd-making abilities now extend to in-kitchen activity, I'd rather produce something edible in the kitchen (actually, I did nibble at the failed crusts... they didn't taste bad at all).

So, as the Germans laughed at the Maginot Line and marched around the silly French defenses, I changed tactics the other night and played to my strengths: crepe batter. Low heat, a watery pancake-like recipe (flour, milk, a bit of water, some sugar, and an egg), and VOILA-- the Hominid said, "Let there be crepes!"

And there were crepes.

And they were good.

Especially when apple pie filling was poured into them and the crepes were wrapped into burrito-like shapes. All that was missing was vanilla ice cream. Tonight, though it's after midnight, I'll be grabbing some ice cream from the local 24-hour Family Mart and heading home for a post-midnight snack.

No, you can't have any. Get off my leg. That's uncalled for.

In the challenging friends department:

The Maximum Leader has long been entranced with a Roman proverb he found in a book called History Laid Bare:

"When your luck runs out, it doesn't matter how big your dick is."

The Maximum Leader wants a large version of this proverb to hang, as artwork, in his massive fortress. Perhaps he hopes to place it in front of his personal guillotine-- the last thing a dissenter will see before that cruel blade bites into his neck.

But he wants the proverb rendered in Chinese calligraphy.

And I alone can provide the Maximum Leader what he wants.

I've been meditating on this request for a while, and a couple days ago I had a brainstorm (aided by some industrious flipping through several dictionaries). The proverb can be rendered in Chinese as nine characters-- three lines of three characters each. This is significant because the number 9 is auspicious (the Do Deok Gyeong [a.k.a. Tao Te Ching] is deliberately divided into 9-squared chapters, for example).

The characters will be arranged as three vertical columns (read the columns from top to bottom, going from rightmost column to leftmost).

Line 1: bul... oon... shi

(not + fortune(-ate)/luck(y) + time/when/occasion)

Line 2: dae... nam... gyeong

(big + penis [nam-gyeong isn't the most common Korean word for penis; jaji is more common, but I think it's pure Korean (?), and the Maximum Leader wants an all-Chinese rendition])

Line 3: mu... soh... yohng

(no + use [where the two characters "soh-yohng" mean "use," as in, "What's the use?"])

[the above with Korean phonetics]

Since I came up with the above on my own (and I'm only a beginner at hanja), I decided I should ask around for confirmation: will the above be readily recognizable to Chinese- and Korean-speakers? So I wrote the Marmot and BrainySmurf. Both wrote back with a thumbs-up. Brainysmurf offered the Chinese phonetic version:

bu2... yun4... shi2
no luck when

da4... nan2... gen1
big dick (lit. man's basic [instrument])

wu2... shi3... yong4
no use

[the Smurf mentions that the numbers indicate the tones]

A retro-translation:

"In a time of misfortune, a big penis is useless."

Reassured, I now proceed to the next stage: PRACTICE. I've already done the calligraphy in pen on humble sheets of paper, several times. Seems easy enough. The question is whether I can manage the stunt on a larger scale. I may have to buy a much larger brush. The Maximum Leader wants his artwork to be three feet tall. Luckily, I already have the hua-seon-ji (calligraphic paper) in that size. But the brush... I'm pretty sure I need a bigger brush. I also need to get some more dojang (a chop/stamp) made, to give the work that final seal of approval. Many artists put several stamps on their images; I don't know why (please write in if you know the answer, otherwise I plan on visiting some artists I know in Insa-dong to find out).

So what I want to tell you, dear reader, is that, if successful, I plan on selling this calligraphy (always with a tag indicating this is a Roman proverb) at $45 a pop, plus shipping. I might try some other proverbs as well.

A PayPal button will be ready pretty soon; consider this your first heads-up. Once the button is up, if you want to pre-order, that'll be fine by me. Each piece will be hand-done; you'll see where the ink actually sank in through the paper. If you want your calligraphy framed... well, we'll have to discuss that. Email me about this later.

Adam at BrainySmurf is thinking about taking this one step further and producing tee-shirts. Excellent idea, which I might steal from him. In the meantime, China needs all the capitalism it can get, so I say GO FOR IT, Adam. I don't own the rights to this proverb. But I made a competitive promise to Adam in an email:

I'll just have to get all Korean on your ass and close the market to your products while complaining that your market's not open enough.

More to come as this develops. Many thanks to Robert and Adam for their help with this. The rest of you: go visit their sites!

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