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Re(1):tale of the four madmen
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[QUOTE] Li Yu's Carnal Prayer Mat[/QUOTE] [:jojo_dododo:] Hahahaha It does leave me wondering, though, about the preservation of art and the evolution of art. I imagine that fashion tends to be driven by the dual forces of practical need and whatever-it-is-the-elite-have. Some things the elite would never have to contend with, and so never have had to devise clothing for, whereas other elements from the high-fashion of the elite driven by their resources and desire to fund designers to create novel things for them eventually become designs that the less elite crave, and that more consumer-oriented fabricators will borrow from. In the case of performance art, there is art that is too crude for the elites, but has the prospect of continually evolving in the muck partly as a result of the ferocity of competition that occurs in this market that is so much more accessible to both creators and audiences. Some forms that would be considered high art gain that have gained prestige out of their association with the elite and through a long history wind up preferring to not change, because the establishment of tradition creates a sense of value that stands uniquely against the ever-mutating low art. But as you have pointed out, sometimes this stoicism chokes the life out of the art form, eventually leaving it either derelict or some kind of institution with highly limited appeal (which might be highly desirable for elites!). I don't know where I'm going with this. [QUOTE][:jojo_tobecontinued:][/QUOTE] The cool morning wind heralded the sunrise once again in San Francisco, and once again, countless thousands in the city were too much of too many things to appreciate its glory. But for once, Maou awoke in his own bed, and that was miracle enough for him. He dumped the spent hickory ashes from last night into a nearby spitoon, and then did his morning ritual: finding a mirror and making sure first that his face was still there, and then that all the rest of him was still there. Once satisfied that he was fully intact, he filled a kettle with water from the bathroom tap. The Cafe M had coffee sourced from places unknown, and every month a heavy bag of green coffee beans from the docks in Oakland would find its way to the Cafe's front door. The denizens of the Cafe M had as many opinions about coffee as they did countries of origin, but the one thing they could agree on was that the Cafe M had decent coffee. This morning, though, Maou wanted tea. He opened a boxy, green-colored tin but found that no more than the aroma of the tea remained. The morning chill of the Bay wind would not be dispelled with just a whiff, so Maou got up and headed out the door, towards the cafe. Immediately, Maou made sure that his door was firmly locked behind him. There were happier places further North where people smilingly left the doors to their houses unlocked, places you needed only a car to reach. Was there a purer American Dream than happiness and peace being just a tank of gas away? But here, Maou walked down the stairs of the Hotel, descending through tar-smelling clouds of tobacco fumes. Maou needed tea. A Chinese man reading a book was seated at the only table that had a vacant chair, and with a tilt of his hand indicated to Maou that it was available. Maou nodded, and sat down at the table. The Cafe M, packed as it was, meant that the Professor was far too busy to be able to observe all the regular pleasantries of waiting orders. Instead, he merely brought everyone what he already knew that they wanted. They didn't complain. It wasn't long before a steaming pot of tea slid in front of Maou, and he didn't even have time to acknowledge its arrival before the Professor was back at the counter preparing coffee. The man with the book was tall by any standard even without his hat, but that made him especially tall for a Chinese man. His dark suit wasn't unremarkable as so much as it was entirely indistinct. Maou rubbed his eyes to be sure, but there it was: he couldn't tell if it was messy and wrinkled, or merely a little large and draped; in one angle in the light it was herringbone, and in another, but at another angle pinstripes glinted; it had a roughness and heaviness that seemed like wool, but it mangled the shadows like velvet. The one clearly distinct feature of his suit was a round metal object in his breast pocket that poked out like an eye. The metal was finely polished and showed not the slightest scratch, allowing Maou to see a clear reflection of the entire cafe behind him as he looked into it. Maou didn't even notice when the man at the table received his drink until he was already sipping it. "Have you had this before?”, the man said with a faint and hard-to-place accent while gesturing at his drink. “It's a Yinyeung!" He spoke the name of the drink enthusiastically in Chinatown Chinese. Maou shook his head. "It's a drink from Hong Kong, probably invented by poor people who have only bad coffee and cheap tea. But... " Pausing his speech, the tall man took the metal "eye" from his breast pocket. Drawing it out and turning it over, it was actually a tiny metal bowl attached to a slender bone rod. He filled the little bowl with sugar, poured the sugar into his tea, then returned his tool to his breast pocket, where it resumed gazing out at the cafe. Taking another sip, he concluded: "... it is delicious." Maou sipped his tea. The Professor served good tea, fine tea, even. Maou suspected that the "Russian Caravan" tea the Professor had on hand was just whatever had sat in a high cupboard for too long, and had breathed in too much of the lounge's smoke. The only evidence he had for this was that that tea tasted more like a cigar than a campfire. After a few more sips, the vague-suited man put his drink down, stared at it for a moment, then lifted his head and spoke again in his slightly tilted English: "It's a strange name for a drink. This drink is supposed to be named for the ducks that symbolize conjugal love. A pairing of two unlike things, the gaudy male duck and the plain female duck. But this drink is a mixture of coffee and tea. One dark thing set against an even darker thing. The tea might already have been mixed with milk making it look paler, but black tea is black tea no matter how it disguises itself. Knowing how things were in Hong Kong, it was probably filled milk, at that." “In all likelihood, the first person to name it that wanted it to sound exotic, yet familiar. The foreign coffee, the familiar milk tea. The pairing that is unusual, but harmonious. Perhaps.” the Chinese man mused after another swallow of his drink. Maou disliked coffee, which always struck him as strange for how drawn he had forever been to the smells and tastes of smoke and ash. “Perhaps,” Maou started after another swallow of his tea, “he mixed something he hated with something he liked. He did it by accident or because it was all he had. He named it as a joke or out of spite. But it sold, and the name stuck.” “An oddly-matched couple, however they came together” the Chinese man said with amusement. “But a successful couple, in the end” Maou replied. After finishing their teas, Maou exited the Cafe M and headed towards towards the West, while his tablemate stayed behind and resumed reading. [:jojo_tobecontinued:]
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