Just a Little Guy Retrospective 

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Like everyone else with an internet connection, I spend a lot of time on Cute Overload.

Then there are those days when a kitten just won't hack it.

Were you one of those nerdy kids who knew every animal in the Funk and Wagnalls Animal Encyclopedia? Did your parents order you those as-seen-on-tv Safari Cards in the Eighties? Can you tell a tarsier from a douroucouli? Did you ever describe the takir as your favourite animal at show-and-tell? If you answered Fuck, Yeah! then Just a Little Guy, the blog of cute cussing animal babies, is the blog for you.

Written and compiled by a 28-year-old dude from Brooklyn, Just a Little Guy is the nerd's Cute Overload, or the Cute Overload with Vice overtones, though, um, Just a Little Guy came first. It's just past its first birthday. Which means that Cute Overload is derivative; Cute Overload is the Just a Little Guy of the trailer park. Or something. Anyhow, the guy took his GRE and the Cute Overload girl didn't.

In the call to war against the cute animal upstart, JALG writes, "Domesticated animals. They're BRED to be cute. It's like genetically modified athletes." Whereas Cute Overload sticks to puppies and kittens, with the occasional foray into kookaburra territory, Just a Little Guy throws open a cornucopia of cuteness most of us didn't know exists. Hence the discovery of the momonga, the hamster of the Japanese woodlands. Other, deserving cute animals finally get their fifteen minutes and we all benefit.

Let's cut the editorial and get to the good stuff. At this, the first ever Just a Little Guy retrospective, the cutest, meanest Just a Little Guy blogposts are in the spotlight:

  • Penguin pooping: I bet you anything March of the Penguins and Happy Feet have nothing like this. Like one commenter put it, I'll never use toothpaste again. Furthermore, we learn that "the velocity of a penguin's shit is high enough to chip a human's front tooth."

  • The pacarana, an animal even I have never heard of, shows that other good things come from Colombia besides cocaine and paramilitary torture. The best is the third image down, scanned from the National Geographic. It's the pacarana, in his guinea pigginess, leaping straight up. And then it crashes a car. My kind of rodent!

  • A wombat, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Wombat + red panda. But the words win: "This mother giraffe actually suctions her baby's head and then catapults him into enemy territory where the lanky limby little guy goes whirling dirvish on his enemy. His little head on his long 'ol neck acts like a mace. Suckers get played when they mess with the giraffe."

  • A wombat of Ivan proportions. Great smile, buddy!

  • On Aussies groping wombats, there's fourth from the top: "Man, this wombat looks fucking laaaaaaazy, and believe me I know lazy. Some wombats are like: hold me. This one is like: cradle. I'm just going to lie here like a sack 'o' taters." Then check out the last wombat: "There is something about the bug eyed look of surprise combined with the clean hands and stethescope that has a really genuinely horrific sci-fi alien-probing unwilling-patient thing."

  • A wombat Casanova? "I don't know what his secret is but he alread managed to get her fucking jacket off and now he's working on the pants. Starting at the knee? Fuck it, dude. Whatever works."

  • The toe-spreading tapir.

  • The first momonga sighting: "I think he ganked those eyes off of some cartoon character and come to think of it, this is what it would look like if animation worked backwards and cartoons could be made real."

  • The momonga motherload: "They can fucking fly." and "Look at his big 'ol eyes and his smug little fucking grin. He knows he's cute. He knows he doesn't even have to try. Some people have it so fucking easy." The best is the swarm of momongas at the very end: "The one on the left. He looks like fucking Wolverine ready to pounce. Feel me? And his gaze is so intent. I'm creeped out. For real."

  • Beaver kittens: Canada's mascot.

  • Velcro bears: If Chief Ten Bears hasn't blogged about this, hell.

  • More velcro bears: check out the little back legs on the little dudes. Squeal! It's like they're those bathroom door icons. For Matt, a bonobo fact: "the females have evolved specially rotated pelvises so they can engage in better female-female missionary-style sex,"

  • You know that cute Edvard Munch screaming otter that Vancouverites paste on their personals ads? Here's what he's saying: "I think he's screaming about how cute he is or maybe, he's yawning cuz he's so tired from being so fucking cute all day." This makes JALG the greatest real phone sex athlete in the world.

  • Fourth down, a cute evil possum. I've only ever seen these guys dead on the centre line, probably because rednecks swerve to hit them. Yeah, you curse the world with your little Dracula hands, Mr. Possum! Then fifth down and I am sold on possums.

  • Panda Dog

  • Canada, Land of the Pika. This is why US neocons shit their beds at night when they dream of invading. Hands off. They're ours.

  • The honeybadger website link evaporated, but there's the keep on truckin' sifaka third from the bottom. "Where the sweet fuck is he going in such a funky rush. Groove on by dude!"

  • Baby squid, last photo.

  • Sloth in a box: "For god's sake. The desperation and neediness is oozing out of the corrugated sides. Does he want out or does he want YOU to come in? I don't know but what ever it is I'll do it."

  • And finally today's post, baby otters. Kind of reminds me of Tarepanda, the Japanese melting panda. As for the Xinjiang bear cub, it's Jeremy! Let's cuddle sometime, Xinjiang bear cub.

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Survival in the Andes 

Monday, November 27, 2006

As a big fan of the novel Alive by Piers Paul Read, about the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes, I immediately snapped up survivor Nando Parrado's new book Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home.

For those of you who haven't read the book or seen the 1993 movie or simply didn't read the headlines in 1972, Nando's skull was smashed when the small plane crashed, waking up three days later to find his mother dead and his sister suffering from internal injuries. When the search for the team was called off after eight days, the passengers realized they would have to walk out of the Andes. From the moment he regained consciousness, Nando insisted on leaving the wreckage and finding help.

This new book, written with Vince Rause, offers more of the internal dialogues that led Nando to risk his life. When Nando reaches the summit of the mountain after four days of climbing, he expects, misled by the dying pilot, to see the green fields of Chile at the edge of the mountains. Instead he realizes that he is trapped in the middle of the cordillera (page 200):
In that moment all my dreams, assumptions, and expectations of life evaporated into the thin Andean air. I had always thought that life was the actual thing, the natural thing, and that death was simply the end of living. Now, in this lifeless place, I saw with a terrible clarity that death was the constant, death was the base, and life was only a short, fragile dream. I was dead already. I had been born dead, and what I thought was my life was just a game death let me play as it waited to take me.
I especially enjoyed his sensitivity in addressing the depictions of some of the survivors, who came across less heroically in the first book. But most fascinating was to see what happened to the survivors after their rescue. All the men, except one, went on to have children. Out of the fifteen men who had children, all but two had three or more children. I wonder if Uruguayan women simply have more children or if the survivors decided to have more children as a reaction to their experience.

Having last read Alive some ten years ago, I picked it off my bookshelf to reread it for the sixth time. I also looked the story up online and found much that wasn't in either book. Most facts, unless otherwise linked, come from the survivors' website or from a long article on the subject. I am writing for here for myself and for others who have read both books, so I will not explain all the details unless requested. As we are here talking about a true event, there's no need for a spoiler wanring.
  • Two other deaths at time of crash were the team physician, Dr. Nicola and his wife, Esther.

  • Some, including Coche Inciarte, and the Methols refused to eat human flesh, so they were given the rest of the dwindling chocolate; it wasn't long before this ran out and these few who had refused reluctantly ate as well.

  • There were ten bodies in the cemetery, three of whom were agreed not to be used unless there was no other option (Parrado's mother and sister and Methol's nephew) . The meat was rationed as the chocolate had been.

  • After the avalanche, mechanic Roque was still alive. However, the other survivors failed to resucitate him.

  • Various members among the survivors went on a total of about ten expeditions, most were in the quest to find the missing tail. This was for two reasons, one was they thought there was a possibility that their friends who fell out over the mountain could be living in the wreckage, and two, they wanted to get to the batteries.

  • Canessa, Parrado and Vizintín returned to the fuselage, having found the tail on November 17, and brought the radio and Roy Harley to the Fairchild's tail to hook it up on the 24th, but it did not work, it turned out that the transmitter required 115 volts AC, normally supplied by an inverter, the batteries were 24 volts DC.

  • Five days (October 17) after they crashed, Canessa, Páez, Fito Strauch and Turcatti went to find the tail, climbing up the mountain to the southeast. They didn't find anything.

  • On October 24, Maspons, Turcatti and Zerbino set out again to the southeast in search of the tail. They found the wreckage of the wings, engines, and other pieces of the Fairchild, along with 6 bodies. They could not see the tail.

  • Bobby François and Inciarte attempt a trial expedition. They climbed 300 feet up the mountain to the southeast and returned.

  • Algorta and Turcatti on a trial expedition again use the southeast route, reaching the wing before they returned.

  • On November 5, Harley, Páez and Vizintín attempt a trial expedition, this time down the valley to the east. They find pieces of the tail and the galley.

  • It was December 11 that Canessa, Parrado and Vizintín climb the mountains to the west into Chile. Canessa and Parrado send back Vizintín on the 15th, who uses his seat cushion snowshoes as a sled to slide down the mountain, returning to the Fairchild in two hours. (It took three days to climb that far.)

  • While the expeditionaries were away, on the 13th, Fito Strauch and Zerbino set off up the mountain to find bodies for food. They found only one body, which turned out to be Daniel Shaw, Fito's cousin. They bring down Daniel's body but agreed not to use it.

  • On December 14, Algorta and Páez leave to find another body up the mountain. They find one, but, as it was late in the day, they returned to the plane and went back up the next day with Fito and took some meat back to the plane. They returned to this body - which they had covered with snow to prevent the sun from rotting it - one last time the morning after and took what was left of the meat down to the plane.

  • On December 17, the survivors who stayed in the plane hear on the radio that the cross found by the C-47 was made by a group of Argentinean meteorologists.

  • Also on the 17th, Parrado and Canessa find moss and reeds - the first vegetation they had seen since the crash. Canessa eats some herbs.

  • On December 18, Canessa loses his sunglasses; he retraces his path to find them (otherwise he would have gone blind). This night is the most restful night since they crashed.

  • On the morning of December 22, Fernandez and Eduardo listened to a Montevideo radio news station, when they heard that Nando and Canessa had been found. Thinking it was a mistake, they tuned it to different stations and heard the same. The boys tried to tidy up the plane and themselves; the thought of burying the remains of their friends crossed their minds, but the surface of the snow was ice hard. They began to put on the best and cleanest clothes they could find, combed their hair, brushed their teeth, and tried to wash up.

  • The survivors left on the mountain after the first helicopters came drank tea and lemon juice that their rescuers gave them. The Andinists set up a tent outside the plane; they were invited to sleep in the hulk of the Fairchild, but the smell was too strong. Rescuer Diaz, however, did join them. The next morning, December 23, they were treated to a good breakfast and then prepared for the next helicopters. Around 10:00 am, three helicopters appeared above the mountains. The first lowered and took three survivors. It lifted and a second came down to take three more survivors; the third came down and took the last two, including Zerbino and his suitcase filled with the personal property of those who had died on the mountain. The first helicopter returned to pick up the four Andinists.

  • On December 26, El Mercurio, a Santiago newspaper, publishes a photograph in the front page mentioning the cannibalism. The survivors hold a press conference in Montevideo.

  • While there were fourteen intact bodies, only scant, unidentifiable pieces remained of the other fifteen.

  • On January 18, 1973, a ten-man team from the Andean Rescue Corps, along with representatives of the SAR and Uruguayan Air Force, and a catholic priest went to the crash site in the mountains by helicopter. Over two days, the bodies and remains from around the fuselage and up the mountain were gathered, placed in plastic body bags, and moved to a shallow grave almost half a mile from the spot where the fuselage came to rest. The grave was covered over with rocks and an iron cross was erected. The wreckage of the fuselage was set afire, fueled by gasoline that had been doused throughout it. The team was air lifted from the site on January 20.

  • On March 21, the site was visited by two fathers who had lost their sons on the mountain - Ricardo Echavarren and Gustavo Nicolich. The two men, accompanied by two climbing guides and two reporters, had climbed up to the burned-out wreck from the eastern side of the mountains, passing by the tail section in the process. Echavarren had come with an agenda, to retrieve the body of his son. Ricardo Echavarren had been told by survivors of his son's desire to be buried in Uruguay and not abandoned in the Andes and he was going to see that his son's dying wish was granted. The men continued on to the mass grave and carefully removed the rocks that covered it. The bag containing Rafael's body was quickly found and after rebuilding the grave the men started back out of the mountains; Nicolich did not attempt to find his son. As the party reached the foothills they were met by Argentine police officers and the fathers were arrested for grave robbing. Rafael's body was confiscated and transferred to a holding niche at San Rafael Cemetery. Through the intervention of reporters and the Mayor of San Rafael, the charges against Nicolich and Echavarren were dropped, but the body remained in San Rafael until Echavarren obtained legal orders allowing him to export his son back to Uruguay.

  • Alfredo Delgado still limps on the leg that he broke in the crash.

  • Roberto (Bobby) François is rather unwilling to discuss his time on the mountain.

  • Roy Harley takes care of all the business that involves the sixteen survivors.

  • In 1994, Jose Inciarte won a share of a $2.5 Million New Years Lottery, which he split up with eleven family members who helped to buy the lottery tickets.

  • In October 2002, thirty years after their scheduled match in the Copa Amistad tournament, the Old Christians beat the Old Boys 28-11 in the Chilean capital, Santiago. It was a symbolic match between the 14 surviving Old Christian members (two survivors were not part of the team) and the Chilean squad they had been scheduled to face 30 years ago.

  • The National Geographic April 2006 cover feature was "Alive! Then & Now." Contributing Editor James Vlahos, Boulder-based guide Ricardo Peña and guide Mario Perez retraced for the first time the route used by Roberto Canessa, Nando Parrado, and Antonio Vizintín, starting their trek on the same day of the year and camping in the same spots. See the photos here and the map here.

  • From Alive's IMDB forums: The pretty-eyed actor who played Pancho Delgado in the film is the same one the third smokestack collapsed on top of in Titanic. That guy needs a better travel agent!


They're Still Staying in Canada 

Monday, November 27, 2006

My friend David recently published an op-ed piece for the LA Times:
It seems that the LA Times Editorial Dept. was kicking around the idea early last week that an American who had left the country for Canada due in some part to the reelection of Bush in 2004 might have some potentially humorous commentary on the fact that that they now live in a country with a Conservative Prime Minister while the US has since elected a Democratic majority in Congress.
David and his wife Pam moved to Vancouver in July 2005 from Boston. They were the first set of Bush-detesting US immigrants I've met and the ones whose adoration of this city put the rest of us locals to shame. Well-educated, cultured and kind, the Druckers have proven to be formidable Scrabble opponents.

David has, not unexpectedly, gotten some flack from the usual suspects, including one nutjob who seemed sane until he typed this sentence: "I believe we need to be confrontational with the Islamicists, and then after we’ve whipped them, help them into the 21st century through access to all kinds of education and technology."*

David's article has even been the most emailed on the LA Times website!

David posted the whole article here.

Great job, David!

*I do believe I am one of a very small number of laypersons who reads psychology textbooks for fun; the art of persuasion recommends a very different tactic for bringing people around. Besides, hasn't this whipping method proven to be a troublesome hydra so far?

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Ivan Eschews the Great Outdoors 

Monday, November 27, 2006

With the Great Vancouver Blizzard of 2006 here, Ivan the Cat has forsaken his lust for outdoor jaunts. In a rare interview with this feline who zealously guards his privacy, Ivan explains what led him to turn his back on friends for a warm place on a woolly blanket.

Maktaaq: Mr. Ivan, first off I want to thank you very much for honouring us with your time.

Ivan: Gratitude accepted.

Maktaaq: Your newfound love of the indoors is making headlines. Witnesses claim that you no longer pace by the door meowing annoyingly - what has led to your sudden interest in the indoors?

Ivan: It all started yesterday. I meowed at my servants frequently and with increasing urgency at higher and higher amplitude. Finally they turned that bulbous projection on the portal to the Great Outdoors (your so-called "door") and let me out. I had a good time as usual. Beating up the Tuxedo Cat. Traipsing on roofs. Exploring the woods. Playing with my life on the road. After ten minutes, I realized I was hungry. So I returned to the portal. No one heard my scratches on the portal. Mildly worried, I went to the front of my domicile. Still no answer at that portal. It was then that I saw the thunder carriage disappeared. I must have ordered the servants to bring me more Friskies Tuna & Salmon Treats. They usually took the thunder carriage on their missions. I sat down to await their return. I waited for hours, as the morning ebbed into afternoon and then into evening. Evening brought with it the snow.

Maktaaq: What were you thinking during all this?

Ivan: Those hairless ape bastards have forsaken me for a new cat. I vowed to smite them.

Maktaaq: It must have been very traumatic.

Ivan: It was. But the worst was yet to come. Weakened with hypothermia and frostbite, I was about to throw a brick through the clear brittle walls (these appear at intervals along the outside of my domicile), when my servants returned. The next morning, I meowed at the servants for the turning of the bulbous portal projection. They complied; imagine my shock when they opened the portal to reveal a white void.

Maktaaq: What was it?

Ivan: A practical joke, that's what. The primate imbeciles had blanched the landscape. I was not, needless to add, amused. I pouted pointedly at the servants. Certain that they felt the sting of my displeasure, I decided to give them time to put everything right again by taking my early morning nap.

Maktaaq: And this is what led you to take interest in the indoors?

Ivan: No. My ordeal was not yet over.

Maktaaq: What happened?

Ivan: The servants - insolent monsters! - called me with smiles to the portal. False Judases! Suddenly I found myself raised in the air - for a moment of exultation I thought they were holding me up for the admiring crowds outside. They opened the portal and I found myself airborne with nothing but the abyss below me.

Maktaaq: Yet you survived.

Ivan: The impact nearly extinguished life from this soul. I felt as though I had been plunged into a fire. The cold burned. The delicate pads of my feet cracked like porcelain on concrete.

Maktaaq: It is understandable that you no longer go outdoors.

Ivan: I have since grown to love the fresh scent of newly laundered linens. Whereas once my greatest pleasure was fertilizing the earth with my life-giving turds, I now spread my message of life through missives on white cashmere cardigans.

Maktaaq: Thank you for your time and for reliving your harrowing struggle for survival.

Ivan: Worship me, mortal.


Lucian vs. Calamari 

Monday, November 20, 2006

This is Lucian:

He's usually very fussy about food. His mouth is gaping open. What has he noticed here?

It's cuttlefish!

This shit's good!

Hands off, punk!

Come back here!

You're not getting away!

[Lift-off photo too blurry.]

The fall:

Finger-lickin' good!

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Obscure Childhood Crush #1 

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It was Joe Holland. Never heard of him?

IMDB lists him being in only two movies.

Answers.com is a little more generous in parceling out the Joe Holland tidbits:
Actor and screeenwriter Joe Holland launched his onscreen acting career in Back to the Beach (1987). The son of actress Joanna Carson, his student film Delirious earned him a Frank Capra Award. Holland occasionally dabbled in television, making guest appearances on shows such as the drama 21 Jump Street and Cheers.
I developed my own crush on Joe because of his role as Zed in the 1987 movie Back to the Beach. He was the good-natured cute thug guy who rode his motorcycle on the beach, was très punk, and (fodder for my childhood fantasies) he stormed a girls-only slumber party! Swoon! Slumber parties were never the same after 1987. I wished I could have hit him with my pillow!

So, um, it turns out that Joe died. Pulmonary embolism at 33, got him May 4, 1994.

Only one picture exists of Joe and it's blurry, plus he's pursing his lips. It's like a yeti sighting.

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On a Phallic Note 

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dora the Explorer gone wild from Wild Planet Toys.

"What marketing department missed this?!!" exclaimed Matt.


The Return of My Little Pony 

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"We boys don't know what's up with those My Little Ponies. What's their secret? Do you hit a button under their genitalia and then they talk? What sex are My Little Ponies? Are they all girls?"
Unfortunately, like I can never understand knob sausage stir-fry, men will never understand the mystique of the My Little Pony.

With the advent of the Generation Three Ponies, however, there is much I myself, a once avid collector of the Generation One Ponies don't understand.

The Ponies of my youth, the Generation Ones, came out from 1982 to 1991, though I hated the Beddy-Bye Eyes, Flutter Ponies and So Soft Ponies, all which appeared in 1985. I stopped collecting soon thereafter. Also, in a fit of pre-teen stupidity, I gave away my "kid" toys to my sister, who promptly sold my pristine collection for $25 to some guy at a garage sale.

The Ponies disappeared for many years, then in 2003 they reappeared with vigour. I kind of kept away, then I got Summer Berry for Christmas last year.
Summer Berry grows so many kinds of berries in her garden, she can’t even count them all! She uses them to bake lots of yummy muffins, and then surprises her friends by bringing a basketful to eat at the beach!

This Dream Design pony is sure to catch your eye! She’s got a three-dimensional CUTIE MARK design that really stands out!

Pony figure comes with brush.

Pony's foot contains magnet.
A magnet? What the fuck? Nobody told me this before I massaged my credit cards with Summer Berry!

So many kinds of berries, she can't even count them all? Geez, what's she growing in there? Let me in - I was such an obsessive kid, I made lists of all the different kinds of berries, I was a real connoisseur of really unusual berry names: did you know that there's a thimbleberry and a nannyberry? Summer Berry, I could've catalogued your garden.

The other day, I stumbled upon the My Little Pony section in the supermarket. At only $4.97, how was I supposed to resist Twirlerina? A blue pegasus with pink shimmering wings, a pink tail and a pink mane streaked with mauve, Hasbro has this to say about her:
A royal celebration is in order, because the ponies have discovered that they are all real princesses! The fairy tale has come true for everyone!

Twirlerina was born in October and her favorite [sic] color is crimson. Her favorite [sic] gems are opals and you can usually find her taking ballet lessons!

This adorable Pegasus is perfect for adventures to your own ballet lessons and is always ready for lots of pony fun!
Now if everyone is a real princess, then aren't they all commoners?

More to the point, why would you want a pegasus around during ballet lessons? These things fly! There you are, your feet bleeding, and this flying horse-thing pretends to be en pointe, when it's cheating by hovering. Yeah, Twirlerina, the only reason I bought you is because of your pretty wings.

The biggest suckie thing about these new ponies is that there are almost no unicorns. The Generation Ones had plenty of unicorns represented along with the land ponies, the sea ponies, the baby ponies and the pegasuses. What happened to the Generation Three unicorns?

Does it have something to do with the unicorns' traditional purity? Once only virgins could attract unicorns - are all the virgins gone?

Also gone are the 2005 ponies. I only discovered the so-called Sunny Scent Ponies today when I reviewed Summer Berry's accompanying booklet. I have never seen cute little Citrus Sweetheart (white with orange hair and a yellow streak) or Apple Spice yellow with red hair and a purple streak (looks like Generation One favourite Apple Jack).

But it could be just Canada. The 2006 Generation Three Pony checklist has limited edition ponies from Taco Bueno, Target and, what Matt tells me is a white trash hangout, Family Dollar. These are all stores we don't have in Canada. I guess I missed Pumpkin Tart from Target this Halloween.

Yesterday I found myself in a supermarket, strangely alone in the My Little Pony aisle. I rummaged through the Ponies to check them out.

An early favourite was Summer Bloom, a yellow pony with pink shimmer crawling saucily up her legs.
The ponies all love pretending to be a princess. But they’re in for a surprise when they discover that, for one special pony, this fairy tale might really come true!

Summer Bloom was born in August and her favorite color is gold. Her favorite flowers are daisies and you can usually find her doing cartwheels and somersaults!

Pretty summer-colored pony has an all-over flower design! Pony figure comes with brush and bonus jewel.
Wait! I thought they were all princesses? Elitist liars.

Then I saw Silver Glow, a blue pegasus with turquoise shimmering wings and white hair streaked with blue, in a kind of reverse Bride of Frankenstein way.
The ponies all love pretending to be a princess. But they’re in for a surprise when they discover that, for one special pony, this fairy tale might really come true!

Silver Glow was born in November and her favorite color is blue. Her favorite flowers are petunias and at night you can usually find her gliding across the moonlit sky!

Dazzling pony is pretty in shades of blue! Pony figure comes with her own brush.

Wasn't Summer Bloom quite possibly the real princess among all the pretenders? Now it might be Silver Glow?

I think they're just playing with the Ponies' minds. Leading the girls astray.

At least Silver Glow likes her colour, not like Twirlerina who probably wishes she were crimson instead of her own blue. This is a good message to send out to impressionable little girls: like the body you're in and don't go having bulimia or whatever.

At last I found Royal Twist, a white land pony with pink shimmer slipping going up her legs. The spiel about her possibly being the real pony again. Darling, even if your name is Royal Twist, don't count on being the real princess.
Royal Twist was born in November and her favorite color is royal purple. Her favorite gems are sapphires and she can usually be found collecting tiaras!
Okay, okay, you pretend your favourite colour is royal purple and you can collect all the tiaras you want, girlie, but you ain't never gonna be a princess. 'Sides, princesses always marry ugly jerks. You don't want to end up with some jackass, do you?

All three ponies were just so darned cute, royal aspirations notwithstanding, that I could not resist to rearrange the shelves with the pretty trio in the front. Then I left the store.

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Naked Mole Rat 

Monday, November 13, 2006

The British, I have heard, are into a TV quiz show called QI, or Quite Interesting. Hosted by Stephen Fry, yes, he of Blackadder fame, the show asks questions like:
  • Why don't pigeons go to the movies?
  • Why are there no Alsatians in the Spanish army?
  • What flavour is the oldest known soup?
  • How do otters kill crocodiles?
  • And what is the name of the 23rd tallest tree in the world?
The show is so good, Brits in North America beg their friends to send them the DVDs of the show so they can enjoy their culture on those multi-regional DVD players.

That good, huh?

I went to the QI website to find out about this wonder show. Turned out to be the usual British stuff, not much that I understood. Might take, as Blackadder did, years to understand, or, as Red Dwarf, ongoing confusion.

Sauntering over to the site's Canada thread - it turns out that, before it was renamed Regina in 1882, this Saskatchewan city was called Pile O Bones. So this is the kind of knowledge imparted on the show!

I, for one, was almost sold on the show. I do want to know what the flavour of the earliest known soup was, to serve it at my next Neanderthal-themed soiree. I do want to arm myself against crocs with otters. And I really want my pigeon dates to have a good time when we go out.

Searching through the forum, I found the naked mole rat.

Ah ha!
said my perverted little self. Mole rats. Naked mole rats.

Oh, the facts were good:
  • The naked mole rat is the only cold blooded mammal.
  • The naked mole rat doesn't feel pain because it lacks the neurotransmitter Substance P.
  • The naked mole rat is the only animal that resembles human male genitalia.
But wait! The accompanying picture of the human male genitalia-like naked mole rat...

...has fangs.

(More naked mole rats here.)


Of Chinese Buns & Rice Pudding 

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reading about Gorgonzola and pear ice cream, I was a little downcast because I like non-traditional flavours but I hate ice cream. Vancouver has plenty of gelato places catering to those who like non-chocolate-vanilla-strawberry ice cream, but nothing for the likes of me.

What I'd like is a store that serves up the usual stuff then has five hundred flavours of mixing and matching that's the real backbone.

I'm thinking a takoyaki shop that has mentaiko-stuffed takoyaki (octopus balls with spicy roe). Or a croquette cafe that lists on brie korokke on their menu. Or a Transylvanian creperie with dill pancakes. Or a door-to-door peddler of shiokara-umeboshi-shiso-sea urchin yumminess (in other words, a dish of something mixing the mushy goodness of sea urchin innards with squid viscera, pickled plums and perilla leaves).

Nothing of that level of fusion weirdness, sadly, exists in Vancouver. Unless it comes in ice cream form.

Japan and Taiwan fulfilled many of my food fantasies. From Japan, the love of the shiso leaf was the perfect accompaniment to all dishes. In Taiwan, having bought a mystery sandwich in the dark, I realized that tuna and peanut butter are excellent sandwich buddies - we're talking Taiwanese peanut butter, stuff that is to American peanut butter as mimolette is to pimiento cheese.

Trapped on the continent, there are two stops to whet an appetite for the daring.

The first is Wow Bao in Chicago's Water Tower Place. Run by white people, with an Asian frontline staff, every time I am in Chicago I sneak up the Magnificent Mile every day to sample the buns. Sometimes I remember my lovely Chicago hosts and pick up a box of the frozen bao for them.

Photo Courtesy: Gino888

The scrumptious flavours include the ever-present Kung Pao Cashew Chicken bun (I suspect the "cashew" part of its name wasn't there before), the Thai Curry Chicken bun, the more authentic BBQ Pork bun, the Spicy Mongolian Beef bun, and the Green Vegetable bun, more delightful than its name would otherwise suggest. The online menu also lists the Teriyaki Chicken bun, which must be new since my last trip to Chicago.

Photo Courtesy: Stacey Cookie

With no franchise information on their parent site, I am more than a little disheartened that I must continue paying the airfare to Chicago if I want to sample my dastardly Kung Pao Chicken bun.

Then there is New York's Rice to Riches. Screw raisins, this rice pudding store takes the already-perfect dessert to beyond any heaven with 72 virgins!

As a rice pudding chef (I taught rice pudding class when I was a high school teacher), I drool over the flavours on today's menu:
  • Secret Life of Pumpkin
  • Coconut Coma
  • Forbidden Apple
  • "Category 5" Caramel
  • Hzelnut Chocolate Bear Hug
  • Gingerbread Joy Ride
  • The Corner of Cookies and Cream
  • and the greater-then-great Man-Made Mascarpone with Cherries

Annoyingly enough, there are no plans yet for franchising. Investing, yes, they want your money, but a load of good it'll do me if I have to fly across three time zones to indulge. Rice to Riches does, however, ship their puddings overnight to anywhere in the US. At $49 USD, this expensive rice pudding does beat the frequent trip to New York.

Photos Courtesy: Mussels

Update: This post inspired Matt to present me tonight with a half-litre each of Gorgonzola-pear gelato and basil-Pernod gelato.




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