Author Archives: Maximus Allen

Boots & Cats in Beat-Boxing

Main Piece:

Informant: “So, a friend of mine told me the way to start beat-boxing is to go “boots and cats” and speed it up, so: “Boots and cats and boots and cats.” But, uh, I can’t do it, but you get the idea.”


Taken from a voice memo sent in a group chat with two of my classmates in my Forms of Folklore class at USC.


I had heard this piece of folklore before and am always impressed with how surprisingly well it works. It’s perfect for the average passer-by for recreational use, and serves as a really vital gateway for those getting into professional beat-boxing. By simplifying an entire art form into a short saying, it really widens the range of people this folklore can reach. It allows outsiders to be integrated into the ‘inside’ of the industry and helps them be less self-conscious, now that they have an actual strategy. I wish my classmate would have delved into it more; it would surely make for a hilarious transcription. But, go ahead and try it! Mix it up a little, and you’ll see how fun it is!

A Panda Walks Into a Restaurant…

Main Piece:

CD: So a panda walks into a fancy restaurant. He was decked out. He’s got a nice suit, maybe a fedora. He’s got a violin case in one hand. He sits down at a table, and the waiter comes up to him and says “Sir, what would you like for dinner tonight?” The panda says “I’ll have everything on the menu.” To which the waiter says “Are you sure, sir? I mean, that would cost you an arm and a leg, and no one could possibly eat that much food…” The panda says “I want everything on the menu.” The waiter says “Ok. As you wish.”

The waiter goes back into the kitchen and returns maybe two hours later with every other waiter behind him, carrying plate, after plate, after plate of food. And you can imagine the panda sitting at maybe like an eight person table. He’s got it all to himself. And these waiters come out, and they put every single dish that the restaurant serves on the table in a big circle, and the panda just starts chowing down. He just like goes to town on this food, you know, and he manages to eat ALL of it.

And the waiter comes back—maybe an hour or later after the panda has finished his food. And you know maybe he’s wiping his chin off with a little napkin. Very classy guy. And the waiter says “Wow. I stand corrected. I guess you could eat that much food. But are you ready for the check?” The panda is like “Yeah, sure.” The waiter goes back into the kitchen, comes out with a check. It is $1,422 dollars and 36 cents. The panda says “Yup, I don’t know how I’m gonna handle this.”

He reaches into his violin case, pulls out a machine gun, and he starts shooting up the restaurant! You can image like glasses breaking in half, you know, everybody starts crouching under the tables in fear because this panda is just shooting the entire restaurant up! He fires his entire round, and when he’s done, puts the AK-47 back in the violin case, walks out of the restaurant, without saying another word.

A few minutes later, of course the police show up… Because it was a very violent incident… The head detective says “Aha! Panda.” The waiter says “I didn’t tell you it was a panda! How could you have possibly known that?” To which the detective says “Well here, let me show you.” He goes back out to his car. He comes in with a dictionary, and on the dictionary, he opens it up to the letter P:

Panda. herbivorous bear found mostly in China. Eats chutes and leaves.


A lengthy joke my tired suitemate tells to me and my roommate. Performed late night in a bedroom within Cale & Irani Apartments at the USC Village. He is a Jazz Studies (Trumpet) major in the Thornton School of Music. He heard this joke from his dad, and his been memorizing it since the sixth grade.


This joke is especially interesting to me because of the way it was performed. Even though he was tired, the informant still makes an effort to color the story with humor. I specifically remember him changing his inflection and emphasizing hilarious details (as evidenced by the italics). With such specific details like the amount of the check, it made me wonder if the nature of the joke was ever-changing. The amount is not the same each time. But it doesn’t matter: the way he says the story is more important than what he says. It’s meant to pull you in and get you invested, so that the shootout comes as a complete surprise. All of the comedic elements combined with the long build up really spotlighted the ending punchline. I remember hearing it and being stunned in silence for a good ten seconds thinking “I just sat through this long ass story just for this” before my roommate and I bursted out laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Steam Inhalation in Asian Medicinal Practices

Main Piece:

Informant: Essentially, it’s where you take a pot of water, and you put some herbs… Herbs mainly found in a lot of Asian stores or Asian medicinal stores, and you would boil it… And then you would take the pot, you set it on the ground, and then you either sit on the floor or take a stool…

Me: And, I think I know where you’re going with this: You take a blanket or some type of sheet, you put it over the pot and your own head, and you kinda lean your face down over the pot, right?

Informant: Mhm, yeah. And you just sit there for as long as you want. Usually like ten minutes. And just like steam with the herbs… I personally never used it before… but whenever I see our parents use it, they usually do this when they feel sick. So, it’s like an at home remedy.

Me: I would assume for sinuses, congestion… I have engaged in this type of facial steaming.


This was performed over FaceTime call with my older sister, a junior majoring in Kinesiology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her and I are both in our respective bedrooms, and it is late at night. I asked her to speak about this steaming practice we had in our family.


This is very similar to other folk medicine practices, especially sauna rooms. Perhaps, this evolved from other steaming practices in America, Europe, and/or Japan. As opposed to a full body steaming, this is really just for the face. This concept may seem “foreign” to others outside of Asian countries, but this was actually a practice I was very familiar with. Therefore, I didn’t recognize it as folklore because I thought everybody did it. I started asking my roommates and my friends and was absolutely dumbfounded! This at home remedy for sinuses and congestion has become cross-generational amongst me and my family, and I can’t wait to share it with others.

Chitlins & Sals in Southern Food

Main Piece:

Me: So, what are these foods that you’re describing?

DH: Uhm… Sals is leftover pig parts— I don’t know what parts specifically. Uhm, it’s good… Chitlins is really more of a Southern delicacy now, but it used to be… I’m pretty sure that’s just pig intestines and all that, right?

Me: I believe so. Yeah.

DH: So, the reason that black people eat that is, you know, back in slavery, the owner would give you whatever they had left… You gotta eat something… I’ve never eaten chitlins, but…

Me: Have you had family members who have eaten it?

DH: My dad. Uhm, mostly every family gathering—you know like Christmas, Thanksgiving—they’re gonna have that at somebody’s house.

Me: … It’s interesting too, because I’m pretty sure my mom eats chitlins as well and so does my dad, occasionally.

DH: It’s really more of like a Southern thing.

Me: It’s interesting how it’s evolved in that way.


This was performed over FaceTime with one of my best friends from high school, who is African-American. She lives in Brandon, Mississippi, a small town right next to the state capital of Jackson and is a freshman studying Communications at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.


As my friend said, this most likely derives from Slavery Era practices in the American South. When slave masters were finished with their meals, they would give the scraps to their slaves. This included all the undesirable parts of a pig, and so this adaptation to ‘eating anything’ and making the most out of a bad situation was most likely necessary for survival. It was probably passed down through generations and developed as a cultural delicacy amongst black southerners. This is evidence to how people take traumatic experiences from their collective histories and evolve it into a way of embracing one’s past and culture. It has now developed more as a general Southern delicacy, right along the line with gizzards. Food that is so rich in history like this, that was once used as a way of division, is now being used as a point of connection amongst communities.

See more on ‘Ethnic Folklore’ below:

Oring, Elliott. “Ethnic Groups and Ethnic Folklore.” In Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by E. Oring, 23-44.Logan: Utah State University Press, 1986.

Red Ribbon of Fate in Chinese Folklore

Main Piece:

KY: “The red thread of fate, or the red ribbon of fate, is this idea originating from Asian culture— I think specifically Chinese culture. It’s this thread that connects two people, these two lovers, two partners, or star-crossed lovers… It connects them even if they are far apart or right next to each other… It’s this idea that they will somehow meet. It’s been told in a couple of media, one specifically… (Your Name) Kimi no Na wa, anime movie. There are some people who like have a red ribbon attached to them or an accessory that they have… I’ve seen it more often used as a way to tie someone’s hair… Like a charm of sorts… My friend spoke of it… Once you hear about it, you see it everywhere now, especially in Eastern Asian media….


This was taken from a conversation with me and one of my suitemates, who is of Japanese descent, in the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village. He heard of this from one of his middle school friends who was Filipina.


The Red Thread of Fate or Red Thread of Marriage is an East Asian belief of Chinese origin. The psychological associations we have with the color red such as passion, love, or lust remain ever present in this belief. From my own Vietnamese cultural background, I know it can also be associated with luck. This is just one of many examples of how people use physical objects as representations of themselves or something that keeps them connected to others, along the same line as friendship bracelets or wedding rings. One should also note how the folk belief was popularized beyond China, and to Asian audiences in general, through its use in film and cartoon, particularly in anime. This can be evidenced by my suitemate and his childhood friend, who are Japanese and Filipina.