Cool Nipponia 

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Taiwan is sick.

Its summers liqueify humanity and its winters do a 180.

So I laughed when the Japanese kept asking me if thier country is humid.

"Buddy, you ain't seen hot and humid til you've seen Taiwan," I would say with a snorting laugh. People's feelings were hurt. The Japanese were so sure they were top dogs in this department. I let them down big time.

Then, two years later, just to spite me, everyone turned up their air conditioners.

"See, goshfukkit," they would say, "Japan is so hot and humid we have no choice but to crank up our air conditioners."

The weather wasn't hotter; the air conditioners cooled down rooms so much that outside, by contrast, the heat seemed to increase.

They also had rules for workwear. No shorts, no bare legs, no sleeveless shirts. Perverted students and teachers ruled out skirts. They also barred me from fanning myself at work - it looked unprofessional.

By the end of my Japanese period, my defenses broke down and I admitted that Japan was almost as hot and humid as Taiwan. Oddly enough, at that same time, there were whispers that just maybe, schools would get air conditioning.

In my day, Japanese schools had air conditioning (and heating) only in the staff room. Between classes, kids clustered inside happily mopping off their sweat in this refreshing arctic. Female students prospered in the summer, when their uniforms - skirts - prepared them to face the onslaught while male students drenched their polyester track suits. (The girls got their comeuppance in the winter when their skirts offer no protection against the cold.)

The argument for schools without air conditioners was that temperature extremes would toughen up the youth of the country. Yet, three years ago, when temperatures soared to brain-melting levels, parents, teachers and the government admitted that just maybe the kids might be too hot to pay attention in class. So just maybe schools might get air conditioners.

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi is stepping up efforts to get people to turn down their air conditioners by not wearing jackets and ties this summer. If others see his example, they might start dressing down too.

Koizumi might also want to look to solutions from Japan's past for ideas on keeping cool in the summer.

In Kyoto, there are still restaurants that have streamside patios, where diners can cool down by virtue of being near moving water. As Japanese women often flush just before letting off a stream of urine to mask their unladylike sounds, this almost-clean water does not have to be wasted; by diverting this stream of sewage water through offices, Japanese management can achieve the same effects felt in Kyoto restaurants.

Another traditional method of cooling down, is to listen to the tinkling of glass chime-bells, or fuurin. Entrepeneurs can create fuurin muzak for offices.

Then there are ghost stories: who in Japan doesn't get the creeps and subsequent chills from hearing about vengeful female ghosts who've burned off half their faces at the exact moment they've been dumped? The Japanese claim that these stories scare them into coolness. Koizumi could well heed this traditional way of thinking and pass a law to make it legal - nay, required, if energy conservation is what he's looking for - for employers to sneak up on their employees and spook the hell out of them.

Maktaaq's revolutionary defense against the unbearable summer heat of Asia has been kit removal.

A low-cost option for small- to mid-size businesses, the combination of the Maktaaq method and the fright school of cooling might be the solution. Executives, in Japan almost exclusively middle-aged drunks, work in the nude.

Paper Rocks 

Thursday, March 31, 2005

A cornucopia of origami marvels:

I started off looking up the traditional samurai helmet origami pattern.

I found C3PO.

I went on a little further and found Dot and Spot, along with a cache of other origami films and below that, a section with origami conversation starters, fillers and enders.

This conversation starter "I made a special flower for you" reeks; the martini glass made from a dollar bill would better kill the two birds with one stone - a chance for the hapless male to display his paper-folding prowess as well as to show off a hundred-dollar bill.

(The martini glass doubles as the bird bath, giving the a sinister significance to the idea of "kill the two birds with one stone.")

In my youth, someone told me not piss off men I meet in bars. You never know when some vengeful misogynist gets one rejection too many and decides to blow torch off the woman's boobs. Therefore, I would respond by handing over the praying mantis to my erstwhile suitor.

The sort who would fold paper to attract the opposite sex already has Very Naughty Origami and Pornogami on the nightstand table beside the kleenex. Imaginationless types. Yawn.

Yet, more imaginatively, the idea of kokigami, a "paper sculpture of an animal over [the man's] organ," and the subsequent "unwrapping" reminds me of one of the uses of henna (or mehndi) applications on the hands of women: the bride, who often met her husband for the first time at her wedding, had her groom's initials inscribed in her henna design, which the groom then had to locate on their wedding night - this custom allowed two people who met for the first time to get comfortable with each other. (For those of you still into book-buying, get a more detailed guidebook to kokigami here.)

Naughty as these origami designs are, would anyone really want to decorate the place with them? They're assymetrical and clumsy, the paper obviously over-worked.

There are far better uses for origami than a lame ploy to get some action or to get over not getting any action.

In Japan, where cute little foreign English teachers get sack-fuls of origami what-nots, a colleague came up with a use for the choiciest of the bunch. She tied a string to the origami sculpture and taped the string from her ceiling. The more abstract designs add a modern flair to any room, but even a lone wasp might do the trick.

When your kids whine about wanting new toys, why not toss a few papers at them? You could yell, "Make your own goddamn toys!" I suggest a mobile of diplodoci, acrocanthosauruses and tyrannosauruses.

If the lucky bats look as good as they do in diagram, I am folding up a cluster of them and hanging them from my ceiling. They will go good with my spider and skeleton paraphernalia. Guess what kind of Halloween cards everyone is getting from me this year?

For those of you who collect teabags, you can make yourselves a herd of deer.

Origami, by the way, is the best way to make friends while on the road. In my travelling days, I made many preschooler friends by demonstrating and giving away origami animals. Once, when directions to a free beach led me to a Filipino slum village instead, I befriended the entire neighbourhood with folded paper frogs. As I was about to leave, someone ran up to me with a stool, made me sit down and demosntrate over and over again how to make the frogs, until every child had their very own. Just before I left, a lady barbecued some bananas for me. That's the power of origami.

Unlike other origami sculpture, for which you need a perfectly square sheet, however, you can find the tea bags for these deer anywhere. Whether in China or in Ethiopia, tea bags come in a standard design and are no further than your continental breakfast.

For novices and for those of you who tend to shy away from following directions, the easiest origami project is the origami boulder. Even if you lack the time or patience, you can order online specimens today for your collection. Origami is for everyone!

Desperate Measures 

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

We met by the river near the lightbulb factory.

Just Archibald and I.

Out of the infinite number of monkeys typing away in the lightbulb factory's quality control department, only Archibald proved calm enough to accept the news.

I pulled my copy of Steinbeck's The Pearl from my pocket. A lean little book, only 6 chapters, it might just pass for East of Eden.

We knew we were alone, yet I nevertheless whispered. "This might get you by. Management is too stupid to have read any of the classics."

"I don't know," said Archibald looking at the book in my hand, reluctant to take it. "They've hired consultants and they say the East of Eden lightbulb testing program is foolproof."

"Nonsense! These programs always have bugs in them!" I shoved The Pearl into Archibald's hands. "Just type this out. They won't know the difference."

Archibald flipped through the book.

"Maybe. Just maybe. But this is only ninety pages - over five hundred pages less than East of Eden. They'll figure it out for sure."

"No, damn you," I whisper-screamed. "All you need to do is type The Pearl over six times. It's simple. Even a probiscus monkey can figure it out."

Archibald did not take his eyes off the book in his paws. The book lay in his hands as if it were a swallow in a dead-faint after flying into a window.

"Look, it's a simple story. Very few adjectives, mostly monosyllables. Can't be harder than Hamlet."

I grabbed the book and flipped to the end. "It hasn't even got that bit about the font being Bembo type."

I pulled the book to my face and peered over the top at Archibald. Despite his reputation as the most clear-headed of the monkeys, he wasn't convinced.

The monkeys exhausted all possibilities. Their union backed out on talks, leaving them to muddle into modern American literature after they spent years building seniority in Elizabethan drama. An infinite amount of time spent trying to type up Hamlet proved worthless. They were back at square one. Even the Workers' Compensation Board gave up on them.

Some monkeys were in the middle of mortgages, others had car payments, many had no idea how they were going to put their kids through college.

Strikes were impossible. Hanging over their heads was always the threat of outsourcing to Singhalese toads.

I took a big risk too. I spent hours scouring the black market for Steinbeck's works. Tortilla Flat was over one hundred pages, The Moon is Down was almost right but blacklisted in corporate circles for its sympathy towards terrorists, Of Mice and Men too familiar to any high school twit and thus too dangerous for the monkeys to employ: even if senior management must have read that one. And, I learned, the rival lightbulb company was using the Of Mice and Men software. It was either The Pearl or a copy of Travels with Charley with half the pages torn out.

"Archibald," I said, finally, "What other options have you got?"

He didn't answer.

I handed him the book and he took it.

"It's our only hope," he said.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

My father kept hinting about burning my library. Making a funeral pyre and torching them.

My mother keeps sneaking references, in conversation, to throwing them all away when I am not home.

I have four bookshelves filled with books, some of the shelves doubled up. So many books, that I divided them up by genre and/or language:
  • Romanian Language Books
  • Chinese Language Books
  • Japanese Language Books
  • Books in English on Taiwan/China/Hong Kong
  • Books in English on Japan
  • Books in English on Romania
  • Art Catalogues
  • Craft How-to Books
  • Travel Guides
  • Fiction (alphabetized by author's last name)
  • Language Books
  • Dictionaries
  • General Comicbooks
  • Carl Barks Comicbooks
  • Non-Fiction General
  • Art Magazines
  • Italian, Spanish, German and French Books (as well as a few books in Tagalog, Dutch, Finnish, Slovak, Hungarian - for god knows what reason)
  • General Magazines
  • Oversize

For years, I just went to library book sales and got myself stacks of classics at 25 cents each. Then, when I moved to Taiwan, I bought no reading material. A few months of that borrowed copy of Ulysses and I went mad. Eslite, in particular, pushed me over the edge.

Later, lonely and bored in a rice town too far from Tokyo, I succumbed to the Japanese daftness of mail order goods. Aside from joining the Underwear of the Month Club and the Wine of the Month Club, I ordered books along with crustaceans and tea ceremony candies.

To be extra safe from boredom, I augmented my collection from Munro's Books and the Elliott Bay Book Company.

Once I moved back to Canada and reunited my far-flung collection, even I was astounded at its size.

In Vienna, apartments have even more bookshelves than mine, filled with even more books than I have. That's normal over there.

Here in Canada - and on the sporty West Coast - no one has as many books as I do. Even my most literate friends have either culled their collections down to a coffee table or never bought more than would fill one bookshelf. My only heavily booked friend just reduced her collection to ten books as she prepares to move to the other side of Canada.

That leaves me.

A lone dissident in the face of the non-book-collecting masses.

My resolve is cracking. Two years ago I declared a moratorium on any book-buying, unless the book happened to be an art catalogue. I boxed some of the language books for more opportune times. I culled all bestsellers from my collection (from well-meaning relatives who think I like just any book). I will re-gift the crappy pudding-simple re-tellings of classics to a new generation of children.

I fear that even more has to be done. The rare books that cannot be borrowed from a library are staying, as are the books I paid full price for, the foreign language books, the classics and the art books.

The left over books, however, plead to be kept: "What if you have a quoting emergency?"

Yes, what would I do if a troll is about to crush me to a pulp unless I come up with a witty remark on the death of Socrates? Or, if a herd of rhinoceri threaten to trample me into the dust of the earth unless I bedazzle them with a sonnet on modernist architecture?

The problem with the undercurrent of destruction that plagues my dreams is that, even if all my current books were to be burned out of my life, more would sneak in to take their place.

Travel Plans 

Monday, March 28, 2005

A couple of months ago, the already well-travelled Linda of Broadsheet wrote about all the festivals she planned on attending before the inevitable.

I was thrilled with her list. Yet her interest in my list left me a little perturbed. No festivals immediately flew to mind. Sure, I have plans for the Day of the Dead, but not in Mexico City.

My Day of the Dead plans start a month before: I will review my Spanish at a school in Oaxaca, all the while charming my way into a local family's heart. Once November rolls around, they'll invite me to celebrate with their family and I'll be the surrogate child.

And that's the problem with all my plans. I don't really have destinations in mind. Yes, I want to go to Egypt someday too. I'm certain the pyramids will be nice but I can't wait to bellydance in a sleazy Cairo nightclub on amateur night à la Geraldine Brooks in Nine Parts of Desire. I've even taken a year of bellydance lessons in preparation and I am determined to make a fool of myself in yet another country.

I never had any interest in visiting the Galápagos. I always figured the animals there need some privacy. But now that I know about the magic barrel, it's shot up on my list from 123,749th place to third place. Porn Movie High graduate Kyle MacDonald announced he is going to that magic barrel next week to deliver our letters and take out others that he in turn will hand deliver. One day I'll be doing that too; until then I'll live through MacDonald's travels.

(He extended his deadline to April 5 if you want to send him postcards to be placed in the barrel. More details here. I'm sending mine off tomorrow.)

I've also had plans to walk across Europe, just like Constantin Brâncuşi. And, now that plans for my honeymoon in Antarctica fell through, I am going back to my original wedding plans where bridal party et al ride camels to that seven-day-away oasis in the Tunisian Sahara and back again to the Mediterranean. I'll be heading back to Ethiopia one year before my Yellow Fever vaccination expires and I'll learn Amharic and shoulder dancing.

My magum opus will be Peripatetic Pancakes. Like Garvin Heath and the Tasmanians before him, I too shall wander into the wilderness with 50 pounds of pancake mix and treat out passing hikers.

PS This post ended early because I am being nagged. I can't think of what to write and pretend to listen to the nagging at the same time, as I am not a multitasker. I am going to concentrate on being nagged now. Thank you for reading and good night.

The Passing of the Stick 

Friday, March 25, 2005

From Litblitz, I've got a meme thingie:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
(Assuming this is the question about burning a book...)

If I were a book to be burned, I think Bookbinding for Beginners. Published in the 60s, it was seriously the most boring book I have ever read and I hated every page of its incredibly difficult instructions with its impossible tools. Who the hell has one of those ten-ton book-pressing gadgets in their kitchens? They talked about whipping up books like it's doing the chicken dance. Yeah, I could have stopped reading but I once felt a need to finish every book I ever read.

If the question is, which of those book-memorizing sages would I be, why I would be the guy that memorizes archy and mehitabel, one of the greatest books of the Twentieth Century. (I do need to bow low at the feet of Karen, for buying me that vintage copy years ago and introducing me to this wonder. I also need to mention that I was thinking of Fahrenheit 451 for the last two days. Odd how this meme came at the right time.)

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Huckleberry Finn. Was that ever a painful crush! Not only was the book written a century before me - if Huckleberry Finn was based on a real boy, no way I could ever find the muse - the book was also fictional! Even if I had a time machine to travel back in time, stalk Mark Twain and force him to point me in the direction of his inspiration, I would still be no closer to hooking up with Huckleberry.

But, boy, was he ever sweet! An orphan and a rebel - swoon!

The last book you bought is:

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope.

The last book you read:

The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel. Nope, didn't like it.

What are you currently reading?

See "Currently Reading" at right. I am trying to finish the Susan Orlean book first as that needs to go back to the library in two weeks.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

1. The Collected Works of Tove Jansson, or, if there is no such thing by the time I am a castaway, Moominpappa at Sea.

2. Provided I could bring a dictionary with me, San Mao's Sahara Story, so I could practice my Chinese. But maybe I should be practicing my Romanian, maybe I should bring something by Liviu Rebreanu?

3. The Ambassadors by Henry James.

4. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg.

5. The Complete Steinbeck. I bet I'll still be slogging through East of Eden after I'm marooned on my desert island.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Charles/Frank (because, acting in unison, they can come up with something weird)
MaikoPunk (because she's a writer and reader, too)
Raspberry (because she's an academic type)

Popcorn Party 

Friday, March 25, 2005

I always knew crows and pigeons were party types.

A pigeon intelligence researcher I once met, told us that pigeons were far smarter than chimps. We already know they are quite the art connoisseurs: any pigeon could beat out the best of our laymen at distinguishing between a Monet and a Picasso. The pigeon researcher's pigeons got their own keyboards and learned how to type. "Get me food, slave," and things like that.

Crows, yup, they're tool users and an altruistic bunch. Crows squawk when they find a big chunk of roadkill to alert others in the community that they have a huge meal and they can't possibly finish it off on their own so they might as well share and not let anything go to waste.

So, they eat garbage. But don't we eat hot dogs and hamburgers?


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Jen sent me the soundtrack of her life and I decided to attempt my own.

It was hard. I can never remember song names. I turned on the radio and waited for songs I liked. I went through my CDs and cassettes. I used up all my skips and am banished from my own radio station on Launch. I am reduced to listening to the generic 80s hits free station now - ooh, Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer! (Boy, am I glad nobody knows that I had a Bon Jovi poster in my bedroom as a teenager.)

I know there are half a dozen Abba songs out there that I like. But all the songs that super-duper resonate with me seem to have morphed into hidden tracks. This is why I can never - it's my Achilles' heel! - get all the music questions in Trivia Pursuit.

Some songs I like, I only have the titles in foreign languages. The first time I went to Africa, I charmed everyone with my love for Arabic music and shopclerks were thrilled to introduce me to the most amazing singers. I came home with eight tapes that I make sure to always return to their cases; I navigate my North African music by the faces in the liner notes and when I want to listen to Old Man with a Moustache, I don't really want to accidentally pull out Middle Aged Fat Woman There's also a dreamy reggae singer from Ethiopia I hunted to and fro for - and I'll never hear him again.

Then there was the fact that some of my favourite bands didn't fit in any where. My poor fun punk bands from Germany! And my very favourite Yugoslavian orchestra! They'll have to wait for the sequel.

Nor did I want to profess my childish love for embarrassing music here. I even made fun of Type O Negative in front of my coworker to throw her off. Plus, is there any way I can say I actually like a couple of Eminem songs? Or that, due to sentimental memories of long-ago romance, I actually like the Titanic theme? Or that Prodigy's Fat of the Land album always brings back some of my happiest memories ever, from when I was in Manila six years ago.

Even worse was trying to come up with a theme. My soundtrack is more confused than Judgment Night with its Aerosmith and its rap. Plus it squirms between four languages. I could have gone with an all Depeche Mode soundtrack: there's a Depeche Mode song for every occasion!

A bargain bin find, that's what it is:

Opening Credits: Take On Me - Aha
Waking Up: Space Manoevres - Sasha & Digweed
Average Day: Darth Vader Music
First Date: Rendezvous - Alpha Blondy
Falling In Love: The Look of Love - ABC?
Love Scene: Strangelove - Depeche Mode
Fight Scene: A vói tór marì - Fiamma Fumana
Breaking Up: She's Got You - Patsy Cline
Secret Love: Love Calling - Billy Idol
Life's Okay: De Mâine - Voltaj
Mental Breakdown: The Beautiful People - Marilyn Manson
Driving: Clint Eastwood - Gorillaz
Learning A Lesson: Bale Washintu - Gigi or Key - YMO
Flashback: Frozen - Madonna (I don't really like Madonna but I do like this song & the video even more)
Partying: Ciobănaș la oi m-aș duce - Radu Ille
Happy Dance: Rasputin song?
Regretting: Figurehead - The Covenant
Long Night Alone: Walking After Midnight – Patsy Cline
Death Scene: Nation Writer - Unrest
Closing Credits: Blood (?!! My tape recorder broke and I have no idea if this is the song) - Faith No More

There. Now I can go on with my life.


Imogene, the Mental Office Girl, has come up with her own soundtrack.

Copycat Day 

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I keep telling myself, I've hit rock bottom. I am as low as a worm crushed under the hoof of a diplodicus. I cannot go any lower.

But then, the little angels that are in charge of misery dig the earth from underneath me and I drop in further down.

Silly me. I forgot that I could keep falling down to the hot molten lava at the centre of the earth.

There I was yesterday morning, happy that things seemed slightly sparklier than the day before. Then I get a phone call with the almost the worst news possible. Yes, it can get worse and I don't want to jinx it.

People should be more like sheep and stop the hell trying to be so damn unique. When one of them leaves forever, how are you supposed to replace them? Where in the world can you find an exact carbon copy with whom you can strike up a friendship and carry on as if nothing happened, as if no one died or no one moves away forever and ever?

I officially decree that tomorrow, March 20, will be Copycat Day. No more showing those interesting quirks of personality, no more original witticisms that cry for being writ down, no more special treatment for anyone. Tomorrow, the inauguration of Copycat Day, everyone must be decent to each other, because treating someone badly is also out of the ordinary and we're looking for generalizations here.

Instead of flowers or chocolates, celebrate the people in your life by doing exactly what they are doing. Go to sleep with the person(s) you want to copy tomorrow (you want to start the day off right in the morning). Crowd into the shower with your friends, share a toothbrush, cook breakfast together, sit on each other's laps, wash the dishes side by side with all pairs of hands in one sink, read articles from the weekend paper to each other or silently read the same page and, if you read faster, wait for the other person to catch up. Then do what everyone wants to do: an hour at the mall for the shopping obsessed, an hour sipping coffee at the shop down the road, an hour driving aimlessly - only have a motorcycle? In many third world countries, you can see entire families on one bike. At the end of the day, make one giant serving of spaghetti and feed each other.

Whatever the other people in your life would do on a Sunday, you do it too. That way, at least every March 20th, everyone will have someone with the same hobbies and interests and personalities, and if something were to ever happen to that someone, you could look forward to the next March 20th, and have someone exactly like you.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Some of the most unhappy news in the world comes from the Congo, but I couldn't help but notice this:

'"Several witnesses reported cases of mutilation followed by death or decapitation," the report said.'

I don't know which I would take if I had the choice, death or decapitation.

Or maybe there are ways to kill someone twice: '"Again! Kill him again!" people shouted as Mohammad Bijeh's body swayed above the main square of the town of Pakdasht.'

'Mr. Bijeh was sentenced to one death sentence for each murder he confessed and 100 lashes of the whip for the rapes.' But did he die sixteen times?

Who came to see the "Desert Vampire" Mohammad Bijeh hang? 'Bunches of young boys dangled from trees and lamp posts.' Treebling, in other words.

Now, if you can truly die sixteen times, can you get sixteen of these coffins?

I knew about Ghananese coffins long ago and this is the main reason I want to visit Ghana. But I now know I am in the wrong profession:

"To my untrained eye, I had no idea how you would get a body into an enormous snail that would not have looked out of place on the film set of "Dr Dolittle". Isaac gently explained that the shell came off. And I felt even more foolish when I had to ask who it was for. A snail seller, of course."

Chick Lit Here 

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ms. Rurality of Rurality just over-cuted me with her chicks and more of her chicks. It gets better: "I love the racing stripes [on the chicks] but I'm trying to resist the temptation to name them all after Formula One drivers." No, madame, that would be cute beyond all reason. Name thm quick before they grow up!

Then: "A chick can't stand being left out of something important. And they're not as gentle as you might think. If one can't muscle her way in, she'll make a flying LEAP onto the pile of chicks in front of her. This goes for feeding time as well as nap time."

Woo hoo for chicks!

(I once had a cast-off chick. It was a black one that got sick. My foster sister gave it to me and then her mother bought her a new, healthy chick.

My little black chick came to live in my bedroom. I put a bowl beside my bed and layered it with a towel. For a week (I stopped going to school) I stayed in my bedroom feeding my chick with an eyedropper. The chick seemed to recuperate.

On the floor, I built it a pen with towels. When I had to go out, I hurried back. My little chick always ran to me as soon as I returned.

Life as a chicken momma ended too soon. Despite this brief interlude, my chick once again succumbed to illness. I hardly moved and lay in bed with the chick on my chest. It couldn't even drink from the eyedropper. In the afternoon, it died.

I didn't want to throw it in the garbage, as my foster family suggested. I went to the moat and placed my chick on the water. It floated away.)

Stupid and Stupider 

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

People who know me wish I'd shut up. My family always tells me so. My friends just walk away from me in crowded shopping malls and I never see them again.

But with people I meet for the first time, I don't talk much. If only I was Clint Eastwood and people would think I am the strong-silent-type, not aloof.

Tonight it started well. I did what all shy people should do at these networking things: get there early, have a glass of some (non-alcoholic) beverage in your hand so at least one hand is not awkward, say a little something to everyone.

Then the rest of them came. There were a whole lot of people. Smile, I prodded myself, smile, damn you!

Don't forget eye contact. Try to notice what colour the eyes of the person you're talking to are, said one networking whizkid. I forgot that rule. But the lady I talked to said, "You have the most blue eyes I have ever seen." What the?! Was I staring? I thought I was just looking.

"Your eyes are a blue I never expected," she continued. "From far away, you don't look like you'd have blue eyes, but when you get close, they're really noticeable." The more I looked at her, the more I felt like I was staring.

Hands, quick, look at your hands, I told myself.

She asked me what my background was. The conversation ended after that. I still had no idea what colour her eyes were.

Seat-shuffling. Then a new girl sat next to me. For the next hour her back was to me. I think I got a sentence into her conversation; she allowed me to finish my sentence, not looking at me once, then changed the subject.

Someone asked me if this was my first time at this meeting. "Yes," I said. Then I added, "I don't usually go out to places where I don't know anyone."

"Good," he said. "You're leaving your comfort zone."

Then I relaized I lied. I do go to these things often. Every time, though, I end up with a glass in my hand and plotting my escape.

It's always so hard to leave. I didn't want to beat too hasty a retreat. Make sure you say bye to everyone, I told myself. Don't just rush out as if you hate them.

It all went smoothly.

Except that when I did go out, someone walked out with me. Someone who was obviously at that meeting but not someone with whom I talked. I walked half a block alongside this person trying to come up with something to say. I looked straight ahead or away because until I came up with something to say, I thought that maybe I can't just look over and smile. You know, they might think I was a lecherous street pervert.

Finally I crossed the street to escape the gap in acknowledging this person's presence. At some point, it is just too late to say anything.

I felt so dumb after the whole evening, I couldn't wait to get into my car and hide in my space. Of course, I walked so far that I wandered into the Downtown Eastside. At night.

A wafer-thin junkie woman asked me for money.

"Sorry - I can't find my car," I said to her.

"It was probably towed," she said.

Then she walked up to some man and screamed at him, "You fucking piece of shit!"

I walked back the way I came and found my car in the safe part of town.

Next time, that drink will be a vodka.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Here I go. It isn't easy for me to write about personal things anymore. I know so many of you, albeit online, I think you'll all run screaming from this blog.

So here's the deal. If someone says he thinks you're fat, you say "so long, buster!" If someone says you should get plastic surgery to whittle down your jawbones to more feminine proportions, again you give them a one way ticket out of your life. If someone says that he never, in the six years together, found you physically attractive, you drive into the sunset with a roadmap to Mexico. If that person called you selfish for wanting to live close to your parents and not his, alarms would be clanging in your head.

If someone who is supposed to be the calm one, while you were the bad-tempered one (who never once lost her legendary temper in the six years you were together and who never once allowed herself to say anything that might be regretted later), if that supposedly calm person suddenly freaked out for your getting upset at being called fat yet again by his father, and he physically pushed you, you would read that as the start of domestic violence and leave before you got a black eye and lost a few teeth. Right?!

That's what you're supposed to do, right?!! That's what girls are taught, to say "no" and be tough bitches who meet some other bloke the very next day. Did I or did I not learn my lessons in feminism?

Now if that person were to do cute things for you, like vacuum because you keep sneezing during that heinous chore, you should overlook everything else, right?

Because I related that one little story to someone else and she said I was crazy to leave him.

I went to bed and thought and thought and cried some more. I traded in a perfectly good relationship for lots of crappy relationships with people I don't even find attractive. I gave up on my one and only chance for love to be some ridiculous notion of "not abused."

Sex and the City
has got to be the worst show on tv. There's that stupid Charlotte, the one who is marriage-obsessed, the one who I hate and wonder why she was ever part of the show since in real life her friends wouldn't put up with her.

Then there is that old woman in one episode, the episode that is always on when I happen to walk by a tv set. It's the episode when the only woman put lithium on her ice cream. She says that she left someone back in the eighties thinking that she could meet someone better. "Never did," she says, as if to me.

Weird Blog Roundup 

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Cromulent: the web dictionary of self-created words.

Today's nugget of joy:

Entry: Treebling
Pronunciation: 'trE-bli[ng]
Function: noun
Etymology: coined from "tree" and "bling" (slang for ostentatious jewelry)

Sweet Thunder Tape Findings: "an archive of one of a kind cassette tape recordings and other odd sounds discovered...searching thrift stores and garage sales."

Week 16's nugget of joy:

"If I show you this picture, will you come to my house?"

Blink O Rama: Photos of blinking people.

No nugget of joy:

People are ugly when they blink. Check out Angelina Jolie.

He Looks Like: The morbid game of psychoanalyzing strangers in pictures (and making up thier backstories).

Today's nugget of joy:

"He looks like Samy Choy, the owner of Samy Choy's Holistic Pest Control, who uses his training in martial arts and meditative mind control to extract pests."

Trashlog: collecting a piece of trash for the internet every day.

Every day is a nugget of joy:

Eurotrash sure is pretty.

*See also Nico Van Hoorn: bird droppings.

Please give us more nuggets of joy.

The unfortunately now-defunct Street Pizza: the study of violent intersections between life and technology.

Imogene, make him give us nuggets of joy! There must be more dead animals in Portland.

Baby Doll's Blog: the great American adventures of Baby Doll.

No more daily nuggets of joy: people should not start something and then dump their fans. Grr!

Postsecret: anonymous contributors send postcards with the stuff they haven't told anyone else.

To get more nuggets of joy, send yours to: PostSecret, 13345 Copper Ridge Road, Germantown, Maryland USA 20874-3454

Girls Are Pretty: what to do with your life.

Today's nugget of joy:

"Rooting through your wife's handbag looking for her cocaine, you'll find an invite to a masquerade ball that occurred three weeks ago. Confront her."

TV Meme for the TV Celibate 

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A while ago, Justy memed me.

"You do realize I don't watch TV," I said.

"You're the second person I sent the meme to, who doesn't watch TV," she said.

But, I like Justy so much and she kindly helped me every time I became paralyzed with knitting fear, that I watched TV today just for her.

My answers to the TV Meme:

1. How much space is left on your Tivo or Comcast box?

Already this is too complicated. I have just figured out what a TV is and now you're throwing new technology at me? I have no idea what a Tivo or Comcast box or iPod or any of those other dangfangled new gadgets are. My first job out of university was tech-related and the dread of those years still reverberates to this day. Next question, please.

2. Have you ever bought a DVD of a TV series and if so which one?

Yes. I had DVDs of Cheburashka and some Czech cartoons, and I am the proud owner of only one DVD now: Krazy Kat. I do miss those Iron Curtain cartoons, though! (The ex got custody of our great collection of DVDs, art catalogues, the digital video camera, my camera, the multiregional DVD player and MY guide to the birds of Japan.)

3. What was the last TV show that you all watched before reading this message?

Crybaby! Oh, Johnny Baby!

4. List 5 shows you won't miss.

All of them. I stopped watching TV in April 2003 thanks to the Bible Belt Chimp and some Czech bats recruited my TV.

5. Name 3 people to whom you will pass this stick.

A) The girl who writes the Supermodel Personals.

B) The guy who writes Overthinking, because he's still in Costa Rica and fun things must be on TV there.

C) The kid whose blog came up on the first click on that Next Blog button. Just make sure, lad, that you increase your font size. Bigger is always better.

O-zone Schmo-zone 

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Here is that link to that other Gary Brolsma video. I read somewhere today that the original video had clips of Brolsma's friends; those guys all look like that could be friends, I suppose. But why do people keep hearing cheese and beef?

Meanwhile, Mr. Prentiss Riddle did a whole post about my obsession with O-zone. Mr. Riddle also indulged my other little obsession of cute men in drag. Johnny, you can wear my panties any day! Hoyay!

Fame & Fortune 

Thursday, March 10, 2005

"You wrote Fanny Hill?" he asked.

"Yes, I use the pseudonym John Cleland, you know, for privacy's sake. I can't deal with all those autograph hounds and the paparazzi - good heavens! Luckily my pitt bulls -"

"You writers have paparazzi swarming over you?"

"Well, those of us writers who've won Booker Prizes...you know like the Nobel Peace Prize?"

His eyes grew wider.

My tenth high school reunion was sweet revenge over those miserable years spent trapped in my locker, drinking puréed celery from a straw my friends supplied through the door slots.

On the day of my high school graduation, when the School Board finally hired the fire department to cut me out of the locker and I crawled home to my parents, I vowed vengeance upon those who thrust me into that four-year imprisonment.

I spent years feverishly reading everything about John Cleland and his Fanny Hill. Every night, while others slept, I memorized the complete Sonnets from the Portuguese and other tidbits from Cleland's oeuvre. Most especially, I practiced for hours in front of the mirror, reciting "I have nothing to declare but my genius" over and over again.

Unlike the ditzy girl in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, I have no Janeane Garofalo to blow my Post-It Note cover. All of John Cleland's schoolmates are reassuringly dead.

And just like Post-It Notes, Fanny Hill is commonplace enough that everyone has a half dozen copies lying about. Everyone therefore knows that I am a serious big-time author.

Yet, no one associates John Cleland with any famous face.

And, with Fanny Hill's tricky subtitle, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, everyone already half-suspects the writer's gender is a farce, making it harder for anyone to pin down what exactly John Cleland was. On the internet it usually works that way; anyone claiming to be a woman is a man and vice versa. Especially if that person is writing as a lady of dubious means. Everybody knows that the Diary of a London Call Girl is written by a huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush*.

No feeling in my existence so far has ever been as life-affirming as the night of my high school reunion. By the end of the evening, the former high school jocks, then the stars of the football team, now stockbrokers, they were licking the pebbles wedged in the ridges on the soles of my boots. I gave them all autographs, of course, along with my fees for entertainment at children's birthday parties.

I think I'll publish The Canterbury Tales or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before the twentieth-year reunion.

*My sincerest apologies to Messieurs Curtis & Elton.

More O-zone 

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I don't know who this person is, but he has another motherload of Dragostea din Tei spoof links: a lego version, the Spanish version about gay men, one by a perplexed guy whose middle fingers seem to be stuck on cruise mode, and a Gnome version that mistakes iubirea mea, primeşte fericirea (my darling, accept happiness) for you-beer-a fettucine and sunt eu Picasso (I am Picasso) becomes something about Pikachu and mi-amintesc (I remember) becomes mintesque.

I also found a spoof spoofing the Gary Brolsma version, but at this moment I can't remember where I put the link.

O-zone Kicks Bubble Gum Pop's Ass 

Monday, March 07, 2005

One of my favourite bands is O-zone, a Moldovan band* that sings in Romanian.

Before I go on, a little about Moldova. Moldova is a country beside Romania. According to the books, Moldovans speak Moldavian, which is suspicious. I always thought it was Romanian, only with the regionalisms so frequent in Romania. (I mean, one of my cousins from the south says bebeloş (baby), not bebeluş, and I figured she was a country hick.) The differences between Romanian and Moldavian seem dialectal, they are not different languages.

Moldova was part of the Soviet Union until the big split last century. So everyone there now speaks Russian. Or they did all along. My grandmother grew up speaking Russian. She complains that when she went to Romania, even though she is enthnically Romanian, not Russian, but a Russian-only-speaking Romanian, she got flack for her accent when she did learn Romanian.

My sister went on a couple of vacations to Moldova to meet all the cousins we never knew we had. So in a world where everyone thinks Transylvania is a fictional place, she is an authority on Moldova. My sister (who I like to believe was a minor celebrity in Moldova - she is an up-and-coming photographer in the Chişinău arts scene) always complains about meeting Moldavians of Romanian ethnicity who only speak Russian.

That's Moldova for you.

Now Moldova appears to be a hotbed of nice-looking young men. I was disappointed to discover that my cousin, Roman, was indeed a cousin and genetically off-limits. (Plus, he's getting married to some tramp.) Again, I digress. Mmm, a hot bed...

O-zone's song Dragostea din Tei (Love from a Linden Tree) - a name that is problematic in itself as it is apparently a satire on something else - was such a big hit in France and Italy** that people began whispering Macarena. Unfortunately, that lead New Jersey's Gary Brolsma to produce his own version of the video.

Unlike the Brolsma video now making the online rounds, the Japanese satires of the song are even more delightful. Now my Japanese is getting flakier by the day, but from what I got from ieT niD aetsogarD is a review of my hiragana - ha hi fu he ho!

More preferable was this Japanese spoof: substituting arrow and alone for alo (as in hello) and saru, or monkey, for salut (hi there). There were other parts where my Japanese proves inadequate but I got something about beef and sînt voinic (I am strong) became something about niku (meat). The funniest part was the bit about numa numa, which spawned that horrid Brolsma video. Stefan explained nu mă nu mă iei as as "you don't take me [away with you]"; in Japanese it became noma (to drink). I also got to practice my katakana: ha hi fu he ho!

Now if only the West would discover the O-zone self-satirical Despre Tine video.

*Ok, I admit it. It's a boy band. But I was never into New Kids on the Block.

**It was big on one radio station here in Vancouver for two whole days, when the station pitted our song against some boring English song. Plenty of with-it young Romanians across the Lower Mainland called in to vote for our song. My sister phoned in to vote for it and corrected the DJ's prononciation. It won the first day, then I lost track of what happened to it.

Update: My mother phoned from Romania yesterday with the news that O-zone broke up as lead Dan seeks a solo career.

Kikkoman Kicks Worcestershireman's Ass 

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A few months ago, my friend Hideki and I were talking about the Japanese classroom cartoon. He remembered that there was a similar cartoon out there and found me the link. As I peered over his shoulder at this new cartoon, I told him it would be perfect for my cartoon section. Yet, inexplicably, Hideki turned off the computer before I could memorize the address.

But now - ha! - I found the link and with English subtitles, no less!

Here it is. (Via one of Antipixel's commenters)

Now if anyone can tell me where I can find Ken's New Specs.



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