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As you may well know, I enjoy ethnic pipes and tobacco, most prominently Japanese Kiseru and Turkish Meerschaum pipes (and their respective tobaccos).

After my primary retailer of Kiseru informed me that he could no longer sell internationally, the search began for a new recommended source. I eventually found Medwakh.com, which has an excellent selection of Japanese Kiseru and tobacco, but also specializes in Arabic Medwakh pipes and Dokha tobacco.

For those unfamiliar with Dokha, here is a short history/explanation by Bassem Chahine, owner of Medwakh.com:

Dokha is a traditional Arabic tobacco, traditionally mixed with herbs, spices, dried flowers, and/or fruit, which has been smoked in the Middle East for over 500 years. Some dokha blends, especially the more traditional type blends from Iran and Turkey, may also be mixed with the leaves and bark of various indigenous plants. Dokha comes in hundreds of strengths, flavors, and brand names. The main strengths offered by most sellers are cold (barid), warm (daffi), and hot (har). Many vendors also offer moderating strengths in these three ranges, usually designated as an 'over-cold', or an 'extra-hot'. These designations refer to the actual harshness of the tobacco, not necessarily to the amount of 'buzz' a blend may impart. Generally speaking, the harsher a blend, the more 'buzz' it may impart, but there are many warm and over-warm blends that have been specifically developed to give the user maximum laf raas (Arabic for 'head spin').

Unlike hookah tobacco, dokha is not cured with molasses or honey. Dokha tobacco, a type of tobacco found only in the Middle East, is extremely high in nicotine content and is harvested, dried, and processed with that feature in mind. Dokha tobacco is not harvested and cured like western tobaccos, but is usually cut, transported, set to dry in the sun, and processed into various blends all in a span of mere days, or at most weeks. This expedited process is possible, of course, because dokha is cured and processed in areas where the daily temperature can reach 135+ f. Degrees daily with a humidity of less than 8%. No chemicals, preservatives, or enhancers are used in the processing of traditional dokha blends, just natural additives. Flavour additives fall into two general categories, savory and sweet/fruit. The traditional dokha blends are mostly savory, and flavored with a wide variety of spices, herbs, and dried flowers, all used to enhance the very distinct flavours and notes of the different dokha tobaccos. The more modern blends are patterned after hookah tobacco, and are heavily flavoured with fruit, mint, or clove, and often meant to cloak the actual tobacco taste and soften the harshness.

There is some typical cultural confusion as to the genesis of dokha and the small pipes, called medwakh or midwakh, it is traditionally smoked with. Coastal Arabs claim to have invented both the medwakh and the various tobacco mixes smoked in them. The Iranians (Persians then) say that both the pipes and original herbal smoking mix originated in the Gilaki area of northern iran in the 1400's or earlier. The original Iranian smoking mix was a mixture of various fire and sun cured non-tobacco leaf, small dried powdered flowers, bergamot oil, fig leaf, and almond/pistachio oil. This mix can still be found in that area of Iran today. The small pipe used to smoke this mixture was ideal for sailors to use while at sea, and gradually the use of this smoking mix and pipe made its way up and down the Caspian sea. As tobacco was introduced into the Middle East in the 1500's, the Iranian smoking mixture was fortified and eventually replaced with various blends of dokha tobacco. During the next few hundred years in the Ottoman Empire various attempts were made to stop and outlaw the smoking of all tobacco consumption in public and private, which ironically led to the popularization of dokha tobacco and the medwakh with the general Arab public.

The small inexpensive pipe (medwakh) and extremely potent easily cured tobacco became the ideal 'stealth' smoking method. Heavily fortified with spices, the familiar smell of tobacco wasn't as easily recognized. Such a small amount was smoked at a time that very little 'second hand smoke' was produced to attract unwanted attention, or stain ones clothes and fingers. In the worst case scenario, the inexpensive pipe and small amount of tobacco could simply be dropped and walked away from without attracting a large amount of attention, or incurring a large monetary loss. As Arabic cultural views on the use of tobacco gradually relaxed, and hookah smoking became the preferred method for tobacco consumption, the popularity of dokha waned, except with the sailors who had originally introduced it. As it was impractical for those at sea to use a hookah, the medwakh and dokha remained popular with sailors and in the coastal areas they would trade and eventually settle in. This is why today dokha in the Middle East is found almost exclusively in the UAE, home to the Middle Eastern sea trade and sailors for the last 2000 years or more.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have already ordered a camel-bone medwakh pipe and the hot dokha tobacco. I'll report back soon.


Chicago Public Radio has recently risked some budget and old-school animosity toward a "new media" broadcast aimed at saavy online souls such as yourselves.

Vocalo.org accepts ALL home-grown audio journalism, with the promise of airing your stuff on air. With their upcoming RADIO broadcast station rights, which will cover a majority of the Chicago-Land area, your creative blurbs might easily reach an entire robust urban audience.

Everyone is invited. But if you are a Media or Journalism student your radar definitely needs to go up here. Here's a real-life testing ground for your personal journalistic projects. At the very least, your audio projects are published online for everyone to read.

With the simple (and true) assumption that online souls such as yourselves have insight, poetry and reflection worth repeating, Vocalo has created a complete interface for you. Record yourself, Broadcast yourself, Promote Yourself. Its simply that easy.

If you are an urban-minded creative soul, I strongly encourage this venue to address an Urban, multi-cultural diverse audience.


We here at SaruDama are all about global community and appreciation. This week's special emphasis is upon the widely misunderstood population of Zombies. We all know how Zombie-prejudice has led to a lot of highly degrading films and video games depicting this under-represented minority in a highly negative light. Zombie-advocate groups have rightly questioned whether immediate beheading or brain exploding is the most productive way to greet Zombies living in your neighborhood.

The following AFDS (Advocacy for Dead Sh*t) Promo attempts to breach the destructive living/non-living social divides which plague us all. I encourage you to gather your family and even your dead ancestors around the glowing LCD screen to view this heart-wrenching testimony to unity:


Honestly though, this zombie-fest is the creation of Matt Ficner Productions Inc


Good News for you my Friends,

According to the uncanny and undoubtedly accurate Blog Readability tool(s) which scan a blog's content and thereby gauge its readership's literary savvy, you, one and all, have proven yourself to be geniuses!

As proof of your grey matter pudding, here's Blog Readability's official award of this site:

blog readability test

I had no doubt you were otherwise. A hearty SaruDama Congratulations to you!


Greetings one and all,

After lengthy deliberation and procrastination, I've finally rebuilt SaruDama's design and infrastructure utilizing MoveableType 4.1. This rebuild has both good and bad connotations, however.

First the Good News:

  • After an extended hiatus due to PBJFS (Post Bad Japanese Film Syndrome), SaruDama is now back in full swing and once again bringing you the quality and excitement you, well, have come to expect from us.
  • It currently looks like Barack Obama will win the Democratic Candidacy, thanks in great part, no doubt, to SaruDama's new site redesign.
And now the Bad News:

  • The "search" and blog "category" indexes/indices currently reflect only pages posted under the new system. Thus, if you click on a category link or search on a particular term,  your results will be limited to content I have added since the redesign -- which was about 15 minutes ago.

Most of the site's main navigational categories (movies, history, lore, etc) have their original indices with links to all prior content. The current shortcoming only has to do with the blog categories listed in the right hand column.

To overcome this, I will be incrementally adding prior content to the new system which will result in it being added both to the search results and the blog categories.

NOTE: In the meantime, if you are really hungry for a specific topic or review on SaruDama, go to Google and enter "SaruDama" along with your search term.

[Update 3: 8/5/2011] For a NEW reliable retail seller of Kiseru pipes and Koiki Tobacco please read this.

[Update 2: 10/15/2010] After some investigation and consultation with local pipe shops, the KISERU is apparently considered a "one hitter" pipe and as such is categorized as nothing more than another possible pot pipe. None of the major pipe/tobacco retailers I spoke with wanted anything to do with such "one hitters" citing major federal and state regulations. Even the head shops on Clark/Belmont Avenue, which indeed sell one-hitter pot pipes, wanted to pursue the sale of Japanese tobacco (again, citing federal/state regulations). I will continue to pursue this, though it seems the only likely current scenario is that the Kiseru pipes will be sold by a head shop and NO Japanese tobacco will be available.

[Update 1] I have been informed that as of 9/1/2010, LSANDO no longer supports the sale of Kiseru for overseas shipping. They have removed the English-translated pages from their site. The links on this page now point to only Japanese-language pages. SaruDama intends to verify with LSANDO what their policy now is regarding oversea shipping/processing and if necessary seek out an alternative location from which readers in the U.S. might obtain Japanese kiseru and tobacco.

LSando.com has a new collection of Kiseru Pipes

Living Shop Ando [LSando.com] is to my knowledge the only authentic (geographically and culturally) Japanese pipe shop which offers international currency and shipping for its excellent selection of traditional Kiseru pipes, carrying cases and the exclusively Japanese Koiki tobacco used for Kiseru. I have personally purchased from them and consider them top-notch. (You can find pics and descriptions of my purchases HERE.)


[Update 3: 8/5/2011] For a NEW reliable retail seller of Kiseru pipes and Koiki Tobacco please read this.

[Update 2: 10/15/2010] After some investigation and consultation with local pipe shops, the KISERU is apparently considered a "one hitter" pipe and as such is categorized as nothing more than another possible pot pipe. None of the major pipe/tobacco retailers I spoke with wanted anything to do with such "one hitters" citing major federal and state regulations. Even the head shops on Clark/Belmont Avenue, which indeed sell one-hitter pot pipes, wanted to pursue the sale of Japanese tobacco (again, citing federal/state regulations). I will continue to pursue this, though it seems the only likely current scenario is that the Kiseru pipes will be sold by a head shop and NO Japanese tobacco will be available.

[Update 1] I have been informed that as of 9/1/2010, LSANDO no longer supports the sale of Kiseru for overseas shipping. They have removed the English-translated pages from their site. The links on this page now point to only Japanese-language pages. SaruDama intends to verify with LSANDO what their policy now is regarding oversea shipping/processing and if necessary seek out an alternative location from which readers in the U.S. might obtain Japanese kiseru and tobacco.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Surely you recognize the kiseru!!

Fans of samurai and history-based Japanese films have undoubtedly seen one of these being contemplatively smoked during discussions of either covert military strategies or flirtatious banter leading to kimono-less frolics on the tatami.

My new Kiseru arrived today from Japan thanks to the excellent service I received from Living Shop Ando, one of the only places selling these authentic pipes internationally. (I'll tell you about Ando below).

Here's (almost) everything you ever wanted to know about traditional Japanese kiseru including what Japanese tobacco you put in it and how to get your own...


is a good night.




The Three Amigos. They are obviously startled by something BUT WHAT??!

three amigos

artwork by mongip

Say hello to my conscience.

blue hana

~ by mongip

This is Guppy. When you close your eyes and think deep thoughts, he sometimes swims up from the deep and brushes against your cheek. Try it.

guppy

artwork by mongip

Say hi to Blue Ernie. He's looking for his arms.

blue ernie

artwork by mongip

The Blue Giant. He watches you when you sleep.

blue giant

artwork by mongip

I looked out my 3rd storey window and THERE HE WAS LOOKING RIGHT BACK IN AT ME!!

First off, I am not making this up nor was I drinking (overly) heavily at the time of the "incident". I got home around 7pm last night and settled into my relax mode, and then I happened to look out the window. And that's when I sam HIM! Although I live on the third floor (of a very exclusive and luxurious metropolitan condominium complex), HE was looking straight in my window from the same height, at precisely the same eye-level.

Although I've never encountered such a grotesque tree goblin before, I didn't panic. I grabbed my camera and quickly snapped off a round of pics. With every flash from the camera I could see him becoming increasingly angrier until finally he shrieked out a warning I shall never forget.

The initial pictures aren't too clear, so Ive added some of the more revealing pictures below.


A mere 94 degrees in Evanston, Illinois today, no doubt heralding an excellent summer!

In addition to this being my first visit this year to Evanston's South Boulevard Beach during its official "open" season, and receiving my second painful sunburn of the year, I have also fallen deeply in love with this year's LIFEGUARD BABE! (pictured at right from a distance.)

Shy as I am, I dared not venture up to her to say hello. Instead, I continuously swam out of bounds or intentionally created some sort of dangerous havoc so that she might notice me. And my ploy worked brilliantly! Soon she was caressing me with her sweet voice (via the bullhorn) saying such things as "I TOLD YOU NO SWIMMING OVER THERE!! ONE MORE TIME AND YOUR OFF THE BEACH!!".

To complete the success of my morning's lifeguard-babe seduction, I ultimately feigned drowning, albeit in two feet of water. Nevertheless (as I understand City oridnance) lifeguard-babe was REQUIRED (heh heh) to come to my rescue. As I surpassed the likes of any Hollywood actor in maintaining a "drowned person's limpness", she diligently dragged me ashore.

While holding my breath, waiting for some tongue-to-tongue CPR from lifeguard-babe, she totally surprised me with what came next...

A hard kick to the buttocks.

I think she likes me. This is going to be a totally HOT summer!! (more lifeguard-babe pics below)


Hidden painting discovered in Vatican basement proves Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" is in fact SADAKO!

actually...

The ever-entertaining digital art site Worth1000.com recently held another "Hollywood Monsters in Fine Art" contest. The entries, including "Samara Lisa" by Kelian (above), are pretty impressive. Check it out!


When words fail, pictures presumably prevail.



GREAT SCOTT!! (that's me)

In lieu of a backyard swimming pool I opted for this mega-mouthed meerschaum pipe which, by the way, proves MUCH more practical given the seasonal chaos of Chicago.

In case you come to this page interested in smoking/purchasing your first meerschaum pipe and don't know quite what to expect, please check out the huge online catalogue at AND Meerschaum.

If you DO know what you are doing and prefer a customized meerschaum pipe (based on your specifications, sent to Turkey, culled and carved by local meerschaum artisans, and then imported back to you), I am happy to tell you that AND Meerschaum can indeed accomplish this for you.


Say Hello To My (Newest) Little Friend!!

I must confess:

While I sit here (in the wee hours) contemplating your complex reactions to my highly academic site (NOT!) I am contentedly imbibing an aroma-filled pipe.

As you may also have guessed, I am thoroughly enthralled with culturally unique items. For this reason I experimented with Turkish Meerschaum pipes only to find that I could not turn back from their quality.

For this simple reason, I have persistently mentioned AND Meerschaum, owned and managed by a good (Turkish-American) friend selling authentic Turkish Meerschaum pipes. I now own three meerschaum pipes from AND, the latest of which is the following:


here in Chicago. First sunburn of 2006.


Many thanks to journalist James Hadfield of Japanzine Magazine for again deeming this site among "The Best of Japan on the Web" in terms of our Japanese movie reviews.

And I quote:

Scott David Foutz is still plugging away with his idiosyncratic, insanely upbeat reviews of populist fluff and cult oddities...

Japanzine best of the web 2006 To show you how SaruDama has matured and elevated itself into ever higher echelons of civilized culture, compare the previous description with the one Mr. Hadfield bestowed on us last year:

SARUDAMA.COM's Scott David Foutz has pretty questionable taste, but his reviews of offerings from the populist/schlock end of Japanese cinema are nothing if not entertaining.

My mother wept, presumably with pride, after reading these!

In any event, check out Japanzine Magazine. Its published out of Japan, is written wholly in English, and covers a wide range of contemporary Nippon-centric topics. I'm certainly happy to appear therein. (They needed a little more populist schlock and cult oddity!)


I had the pleasure of a very memorable homestay experience on Sado Island (Sado ga Shima), a relatively small island (approx. 330 square miles / 855 square KM) with a population of around 70,000. It is located off the northwestern side of Tohoku, Japan's main island and resides in the Sea of Japan between mainland Niigata Prefecture to the West and and Russia to the west. (Not in the middle, of course. It lies within an hour's boatride of Niigata shores.)

Here are a few (non-digital, scanned) photos I took during my time there. Please forgive me for the quality of these pics. I took these with a disposal camera purchased on locale.

Here's the type of boat I took from Niigata to the Sado. Very smoooooth.


Here's the colorful view I was greeted with this morning. I thought it was worth sharing.


The World of SAKE
[mongip's Essay on Japanese Rice Wine]

Only after vast, intense hours of imbibing SAKE and deeply contemplating its nature (and a whole lotta other unrelated stuff) could such an informative tome be written on the nuances of Japan's most prominent and omnipresent "spirit". As a devoted vehicle of Japanese culture to you, the wide-eyed Westerner, I felt a moral obligation to explore (to the dregs, so to speak) the wide world of SAKE -- purely, of course, with the sole intent of providing you with the following informative information:

[But first] I sincerely hope you appreciate the time and effort I have spent (drinking) in order to bring you the following information...



I've been in this "vintage" brownstone cubby-hole for almost 8 years now, living contentedly and quietly amongst a mutually indetectable collection of like-minded souls.

But recently all HELL has broken loose.

First, my nearby "neighbors" recently moved in along with their obviously retarded dog who barks, yelps, and whines in an impressive wealth of varietal tones NON-STOP once its oblivious owners vacate the premises. I have been forced to buy a "dog training whistle" which I screech (with approximately 75% efficiency) out my icy window whenever my patience is exhausted. I swear, I've never encountered a more brain-damaged animal.

AND SECOND...

My lovely (and hard-working) downstairs neighbor finally got herself a steady boyfriend. I was quite happy for her until hippy-guy MOVED IN and quickly demonstrated to us all (ie every adjacent and remotely proximate unit) that he fashions himself to be a BONGO DRUMMER. (I'm not making this up!) And I'm not talking about those tiny little bongos. This slacker irrythmically drums on one or more of those big CONGO DRUMS.

So "boyfriend hippy dude" plays the BIG BONGOS at his leisure throughout the day. (Of course, bongo meisters such as himself do not need a real 9 to 5 job...). And when he's not self-consciously botching his wonka bongo sequences, he's blaring his stereo. He's a musician, you know.


Tonight's beverage of choice:
a BIG bottle and a very SMALL cup.

Tonight I'm drinking "Nigori" sake (rice wine) or, more properly pronounced, "Nigori Zake". Nigori Zake is unfiltered rice wine which gives it a very opaque white appearance. That whiteness is due to (unfiltered) rice broth still in the wine causes a much fuller and sweeter flavor. Nigori Zake is better served cold as opposed to its filtered, drier cousins which can actually be served heated. The all important alcohol content remains the same as filtered sake, in this case 15%.

In Ode to my night of Nigori Zake, I have composed the following short poem. (Who now can dare say SaruDama is a site lacking "culture"???)

Please take a moment to contemplatively inhale the fragrance of this metered, soul-searching nuance. And then let's all get back to our beverages.

oh nigori, oh nigori
how you bring such quick satori

silently I watch the clouds
wondering what the daylight shrouds

voices, murmurs, heartfelt love
floating from beneath, above

who am I to say I'm here
when my mind's eye is nowhere near

cold is day and dark is night
far horizons left and right

I was not born of my free will
yet fascinated am I still

thick the air and strong the wind
a sense of awe my heart within

At the very least, that makes you want to grab a bigger sake cup, doesn't it?

I'm here all night. The name's monGip, poetist extraordinaire...


Just another windy day in Chicago. Air temp here was about 25 degrees (F), windchill was at about 8 degrees (F). My earlobes froze solid while taking this pic.


yes, those are cloud-tops you see. This is in Tochigi-ken, Japan. I lived for a couple years somewhere below those clouds. (See that cloud wisp behind me creeping up in an attempt to grab me?!?)


,/p>

This is what I am blessed to see when I visit my father. If you can hurdle the distant-most mountain range, you may just land in Mexico. And then the Tequila's on me!!


Well, if you had any doubts about the coolness of Neo-Japanese culture..

JUST CHECK THIS OUT (Windows Media File)

Here in Chicago the Autumn season is generally quite short-lived due to our fluctuating weather. We are now at that point where the the color and foliage of Fall are fading fast. I thought I better take a few photos before the winds of Winter erase all evidence of the season.



of mongip.


One food I thoroughly enjoy and eat rather frequently is "Sushi". As you are no doubt aware, Sushi is an umbrella term and can include anything ranging from raw cucumber wrapped in rice to raw sea urchin (uni). I initially cringed at sitting down at the sushi bar and ordering what I wanted, usually a wide assortment of this and that, without really knowing what I was ordering in terms of carbohydrates.

The real (low carb) diet killer with sushi is the rice, one little cup of which carries with it 145 g carbs. Anyone who has eaten at a Japanese restaurant, whether you had sushi or not, will attest to the likelihood of your eating at least one cup of rice. So beware.


I guess I stayed up a little too late last night. When I looked out the window it was already getting light outside. So I decided to take a walk and watch the sun come up. Here are some of the photos I took.



my personal vices are far too many to list here, but I feel compelled to mention the following.

Meerschaum pipes are formed from a rare and highly porous clay found exclusively in Turkey. Though initially white they become a deep rosy brown as they absorb the smoke of the tobacco. These pipes are famous for their smoking quality and artistic carvings.

I purchased the following pipes from AND Meerschaum whose service and quality I wholly deem excellent.



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