Saturday, February 26, 2005

Not The Jealous Type

I'm no stranger to jealousy, but I've never understood how a married man can be jealous of his wife's past boyfriends. To me, there's nothing that boosts my self-esteem more than an old boyfriend; especially one that seems superior to me on many levels (I know that's hard to imagine, but bear with me). The greater the ex-boyfriend, the greater my vanity. Sorry, Brad Pitt, sorry Antonio...She chose ME.

Friday, February 25, 2005

My Apologies, Dear Readers

I've been stupid sick; brain-numbingly predisposed to sloth. It starts with a tickle in the throat, moves to the sinuses, and then camps out in the chest for a good week or so...My conclusion is that five countries in ten years is not good for the immune system. My bloodstream is a bacteriological United Nations. Last night, when I undressed before bed, I peeled a barnale and two lampreys off my chest. Yeesh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Pummelos Are The New Grapefruit

A crusty old Kiwi once shared a bottle of wine with me at a UN compound on the edge of the Sahara outside Maidugari.

It was 1994, and he was working on an anti-desertification program. I was riding shotgun with a Danish cow insementator hellbent on improving the cattle stock of the Fulani. Erling was elbow deep in it all day and crashed shortly after dinner, leaving Neil and I to contemplate the darkness of a desert sky and a Bulgarian red.

It was an evening of unusual candor and openness between strangers, and we commiserated on our profound disillusionment with our jobs. "People often say travel broadens the mind", he said. "In actuality, it often reconfirms the prejudices". It was an offhand remark, but experience has tranformed it into an aphorism.

After a few drinks, he walked to his car and pulled out what seemed at first glance to be a volleyball. It was actually a pummelo; a gigantic think-skinned citrus fruit. After a day in the desert, its tart sweetness was mindblowing.

When I returned to Jos the next week, it was easy to find pummelos; they were readily available and inexpensive in season. I ate half sections every morning for two months--and than the season came to an abrupt end...Delerium tremens, I swear. The pummelos know how to work you like a dealer; they know they have to leave you wanting more at the end of the season. For me, that was Africa: abundance in profusion, or complete deprivation...I prowled the market looking for a good citrus score, only to settle for a half-dozen skanky tangerines.

Ten years later, I thought my days of riding the citrus dragon were over, but now the Pummelo has made its way to Canada. Pummelos are the new grapefruit, which leads me to another aphorism: "Every country or region has at least one crave food which is impossible to resist".

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Good Work If You Can Get It

Last week, one of the giants of the theater passed away at a time when his work has never seemed more relevant. Willy Loman, Miller's most famous protagonist, was a true believer in the American Dream, so succintly described by President Clinton on the campaign trail in 1996:

"If you work hard, and play by the rules, you can succeed in America".

Americans wanted to believe in "The Man From a Town Called Hope", and they wanted to believe in Willy's American Dream...Suckers.

Now that the current president is a legacy Yale graduate who doles out no-bid contracts to the wealthy and well-connected, the contrast between the meritocracy we envision and the reality we face is profound.

The Zack Braff movie Garden State
offers an alternative vision of the American Dream...The slackjawed ne'er-do-well best friend of the protagonist invents a product called 'silent velcro' and becomes independently, and indolently wealthy as a result.

Perhaps that's the new American dream. If the whole hard work angle doesn't pan out for you, there's always a chance you could invent the next napster, silent velcro, or big mouth billy bass. It's good work if you can get it.

As for me, I'm working on a curved razor used for shaving the fuzz off Kiwis (the fruit, not the nationality). After I invent the gadget the world can't live without, I'll finally be able to afford more and more stuff I've been convinced I can't live without either. The important thing is to keep consuming. Who knows? I might be just one gadget short of personal fullfillment.

Today, Mobile PC Magazine published a list of the greatest gadgets of all time; it's the perfect fodder for self-indulgent nostalgia and delusions of grandeur.

Read It:

By the way...How would you describe the Canadian Dream?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

From Groans to Koans

The good thing about being sick is that, when you leave your reeky cocoon of blankets, neocitron, and vap-o-rub, you emerge not as some glorious exalted creature, but as something even better: who you were before, but perhaps a little bit more content with just being able to breathe freely.

That Buddha guy must have just loved it when one of his disciples got the flu.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Hybrid Vigor and Turkey Carcasses

At least twice a week, I do a search on Petfinder for a dog; I'm not talking a yippy little air-dried Paris Hilton farting fashion accessory, I'm talkin' a DAWG-- preferrably a Great Dane or an Irish Wolfhound.

Laurie and I are of the same mind when it comes to large canines. In our experience, the term "Gentle Giants" isn't a misnomer. While Aussies and Border Collies may run you ragged, a Bullmastiff or Great Dane is essentially a drooling chaise lounge. We're looking for one mellow fellow--the perfect companion for children. Faith, our favourite Bull Mastiff, is a registered therapy dog. In order for her to obtain her license, a Vet prodded her, poked her, and yanked her tail, and because she showed no sign of agression, she was deemed Therapy Dog material (Laurie's father did pretty much the same thing to me before accepting me as his son-in-law). Faith and her human companion visit senior citizens in nursing homes on Saturdays, speading unconditional love in a way few humans can.

Lots of people become very partial to one particular breed; my mother has always been partial to Cocker Spaniels. When I was a child her Cocker Spaniel, Ilsa found out how to open the refrigerator door. Our family returned home after Sunday dinner to find the refrigerator door ajar and Ilsa stumbling around with her head stuck in a turkey carcass. She had eaten through much of her meat helmet, and was left with what appeared to be one of those neck-stretching collars worn by tribal women in southeast asia. In her attempt to free herself, she had mopped the floor and walls with turkey grease.

I loved Ilsa, but my best friend's father bred majestic Irish Wolfhounds, and my childhood was spent playing in the shade of their enormous haunches. They seemed less like dogs and more like mythical creatures from the Lord of the Rings. That doesn't mean I'd buy a purebred, however. Because I'm a mixed breed mutt myself, I think I'm predisposed to canine miscagenation. I like Bitsas: bits of this, bits of that. Mixed breeds are often more healthy and intelligent than purebreds; a phenomenon known as "hybrid vigor". Even in the dog world, diversity is a good thing.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Canada's Terminator Seeds

Today The Guardian reports:

An international moratorium on the use of one of the world's most controversial GM food technologies may be broken today if the Canadian government gets seed sterilisation backed at a UN meeting.

Leaked documents seen by the Guardian show that Canada wants all governments to accept the testing and commercialisation of "terminator" crop varieties. These are genetically engineered to produce only infertile seeds which farmers cannot replant.

Read It:

I'd like to hear some Canadian feedback on this development. On the one hand, the use of Genetically-modified seeds may mean less reliance on pesticides, which could be a good thing. People from Walkerton, for example, paid a heavy price due to contamination of their water supply. Then again, it seems that this move would increase the reliance of farmers on the products of one particular company, Monsato, ensuring them of a an agricultural monopoly.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Loaves, Fishes, and Perpetual Milk

Let's face it. Most people really aren't happy unless they have something to be unhappy about. When they find themselves in priviliged circumstances and in good health, the object of dissatisfaction is almost always insignificant.

Otherwise normal individuals sever ties with family members over perceived slights without ever confronting the object of their emnity; they fly into a rage over a presumably stolen pencil. It's pettiness, plain and simple. We all want to have reason to rage against this cruel, cruel world. Sure, villagers may be starving in the Sudan, but then again, my sister wore my sweater without asking first...

Last year, a co-worker became so irate over the fact that someone drank his milk from the staff refrigerator that he sent out several nasty emails to everyone on staff. All humanity was implicated in this injustice perpetuated upon him, and all of us deserved a communal email-lashing for our sins.

I hadn't done anything wrong, but I felt guilty. Could my lack of due diligence have led to this? Was my moral laxity to blame? Aren't I my brother's keeper?

How could I make things right and thereby restore balance to the universe? My response was simple: I secretly added a little bit of milk to his container every week, so that the milk carton was perpetually half-full.

There were no angry recriminations. I can only assume that my colleague concluded that the Good Lord was settin' things straight loaves n' fishes style.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

This Site is a Michael Jackson-Free Zone

From this day forth, I promise you, dear reader, that I will not mention Michael Jackson or any aspect of the trial on this blog. Feel free to come to this non-Jackson oasis in a Jacko-crazed world.

State Sponsored Comb-Overs and Purple Fingers

The "Mission Accomplished" banner of the Iraqi election is the purple, ink-stained fingers of Iraqis raised in defiance leaving the voting stations. Now that the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution is the apparent victor, I wonder if this image will come back to haunt us. Would we have gone to war to establish an Iran-style Islamic Theocracy? Just Asking...

I've heard it on the grapevine that the Bush Administration might encourage people attending the state of the union address to dye their fingers purple in a show of solidarity with the Iraqi people. Of course, anyone who refuses to go along with these theatrics will be branded unpatriotic. Let's hope it's just an unfounded rumour.

To me, such a display is reminiscent of the bizarre dictates of the North Koreans, who have recently banned long hair, with one notable exception.

The hair campaign, which began in October and is dubbed "Let's trim our hair according to socialist lifestyle," requires that hair be kept no longer than five centimetres. But the state trendsetters allowed an exception: old men can grow hair up to seven centimetres to hide balding.

The campaign claims that long hair hampers brain activity by taking oxygen away from nerves in the head. It doesn't explain why women are still allowed to grow long hair.

The North Korean Ron Burgundy: "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists, you dirty hippies"!

Read it!


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Of Vocations and Addictions

One of my favorite books is Studs Terkel's Working. His oral history of the working lives of Americans is as unique as it is compelling. The common thread that runs through each interview--written as though it's a monologue in a play--is that everyone wants to find their lives meaningful. My parents encouraged me to find a fullfilling career, and my job became an integral part of my identity. When people ask me who I am, the first thing I mention is my vocation.

When people from cities or suburbs find themselves in a small town, they often bring along a subtle career-oriented prejudice that pidgeonholes individuals and narrowly defines them by what they do to make a living. For most of us a job is a means to an end. We don't live to work; we work to live. A job is something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Our jobs make it possible for us to afford the car, the mortgage, the 1.5 kids, etc...The smaller the community, the more job satisfaction and personal fullfillment becomes an either/or proposition.

Does your identity, your self-esteem, and your status in society revolve around your job? If so, is your life richer, or more impoverished as a result? What else defines you as a person?

Today, in the UK Observer, I read an interesting article called "Constant Cravings". The journalist writes, in a style reminiscent of Terkel, of four individuals defined by various postmodern addictions: Viagra, Surgery, Text-messaging, and Online Dating.

Perhaps Studs Turkel could write a follow-up to Working focusing on what new millenium people are addicted to. Would this hypothetical publication provide as much insight into the human condition as the original?

Read the Observer Artice Constant Cravings

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