Moles Taken From Bush's Face Are Benign 

Friday, February 23, 2007

Image courtesy StarrGazr

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The two moles removed from President Bush's left temple were found to be non-threatening, the White House said Saturday.

The bald mammals were removed Friday during a brief procedure performed at the White House. It took just a day for tests to show the moles were benign, said White House spokesman Alex Conant.

Bush has had several other small animals removed before: a precocious marmot on his left arm in August, a non-odoriferous skunk growth on his neck in July, small lions from his left shoulder and face in 2004, and others from his face in December 2001. None has been carnivorous (the lions are sworn vegans), but the president has regular checkups to guard against any animals evolving to more dangerous stages.

This time, Bush noticed one of the new moles and showed it to his vet, who recommended that it and a second mole be removed.

When the president was asked what has become of the two moles, he shrugged. The moles could not be reached for comment.

Article from here.

Mole Slippers
Image courtesy Niels van Eijk & Miriam van der Lubbe


Of Book Foisting and Opinionated Persians 

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

When my boss lent me Honeymoon in Purdah by Allison Wearing, I knew I had to put down all the other books I was reading - books foisted on me by insistent friends, books I have struggled through for months and sometimes years, books I took out from the library with the idea that their presence will fuel the urgency of getting through books faster, of reading as much as I can of the important literature before death.

I pushed aside the book I am supposed to review, our book club book, and the 400-page paintbox travelogue. I will procrastinate on In Cold Blood for another month. Matt's presents of Catch-22 and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell remain on the shelves. My project of reading The Exploits of Moominpappa simultaneously in English, Chinese and French would likewise have to wait. Honeymoon in Purdah it would have to be.

A travel memoir of Canadian Wearing's visit to Iran, ostensibly on her honeymoon, the book thankfully pays little heed to adjective-dripping descriptions of the tourist sites. It instead concentrates on the conversations with Iranians, most met through chance encounters.

Honeymoon in Purdah
was always a book I wanted to read. It remained, however, in the second tier, a book to read once I'd consumed the classic Western Canon. It isn't merely because of brown-nosing that this book has moved to the forefront of my book list.

Though I do have to admit: for the first time in three jobs, I am not at the height of my career powers and I need to improve my prospects.

Luckily, this book was very enjoyable. Thus lessening the guilt associated with snubbing the other books. In fact, I have already bookmarked four conversations from the book that I want to quote on this blog. Thus:

In one of her unnamed towns, Wearing and her husband meet an old man in a mosque. The old man - a mollah - invites them to a free lunch, in what seems to be an everyday occurrence in Iran. After the meal, the conversation begins. The mollah gives his opinions on Western culture.
"....I have lived with these people, these comfortable people, with their houses and cars and televisions and foods from packages. I have seen the eyes of these people, and my friends, I did not feel happiness. Pleasure, yes, pleasure they can buy on every corner. But they are not happy. They eat and eat and eat and are not nourished. They talk of a future time when they will be happy, when they have this, or when that is finished, or when they will be able to afford this, or when they will look different, or when they will have more time to enjoy, or when they are more comfortable. But there is no today. Today is always unsatisfied." (Page 95-96)
He goes on to say:
"In death is the vision of life. I have watched your people die. And they do not die in peace. They do not want to die because they feel they have not lived. They have not done enough to make them satisfied with their lives. They live in regret and hurried efforts to make their lives complete. They do not accept their death, because they did not accept their life. Even in death their souls are not free." (Page 96)
Earlier in the book, Wearing recalls a Pakistani artist wasting away in Montreal, "tired of living in such a violent country." This poor friendless man shows us Canadians how we truly are:
"Canada is full of violent cowards. People believe they are gentle, but they attack in quiet ways. They use their intellect, their knowledge, always trying to prove they are smarter, more important. The man with no ego is the gentle man. Canada is a land of civilized barbarians." (Page 11)
Though many of the women understandably complain about the hejab, the chaador, the morality police, and the mut'a marriages (quickie marriages, early in the revolution arranged to deflower young female prisoners so that their virginity would not exempt them from execution), one complainer points out:
"After revolution, everything is different. Many things are much worse, oh much worse, but some things, some important things are okay, more true. It is a difficult life, but some things are more honest. People are more clear, less artificial." (Page 241)
Now that I finished reading my boss' book, a coworker has been threatening me. "So, have you read The Historian? Ah yes, the vampire novel about Vlad the Impaler that's "a fine Bordeaux to Dan Brown's overcaffeinated Diet Coke [i.e. The Da Vinci Code]."

"You know," he went on, "Everyone in our section has read it. Including the big boss."

Alrighty! The Historian it shall be. One day.


Year of the Pig 

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Edmonton - To celebrate the Year of the Pig and to show our porcine compatriots that we care about them, the province of Alberta - the so-called Texas of Canada - moved to protect pigs during their year. A new law has been introduced that requires death certificates for pigs, including butchered pigs.

Alberta Vital Statistics maintains a record (registration) of all deaths that occur in Alberta. While the sex of the animal and the date of death can be easily for the porcine death certificate, other information is harder to obtain. For example, simply finding the full name of the hog may be a problem, especially in the faceless, nameless environment of the factory farm. With the introduction of this new law, farmers are scrambling to name all their pigs.

"I have to carry a damned baby name book with me," says disgruntled farmer James Parkinson of Lethbridge. "And even with the baby book, I am out of choices. I have taken to renting Bollywood films for more name ideas."

Another farmer, Red Deer's Daniel Rooney, explains, "Who wants to say they are anti-pig? But at the same time, when you have ten thousand porkers ready for the cans of beans and weiners, can you really distinguish between Billie Bob and Billie Rae?"

The new law has failed to provide farmers with the answer as how to approach the burial information of the deceased. Alberta Vital Statistics spokesperson Dr. Ben Woczinski explained options in last night's press conference. The law requires that every pig part carry its own death certificate. Whether it's a loin going to the local supermarket, or the various lips and assholes that comprise a hot dog, consumers may receive from one to thousands of death certificates per pork purchase.

"The consumer has ten days to fill out the burial information for the pig and return it to the office of Vital Stats," says Dr. Woczinski. While urban dwellers are scrambling to trace their toilet outputs to their respective sanitation centres, small town and isolated citizens are merely reinstating the outhouse.

Even pre-Chinese New Year pigs aren't exempt. "All finds of unaccounted-for pig parts will be considered homicides," says the Calgary Police Department's Sgt. Jean Lagrande, returning from a police New Year banquet. He adds: "Heck, the Year of the Pig is also good for us."

Also happy with the new law are vegetarians, vegans and the chubby men who want to canoe Alberta's remote rivers. Rats, long banned in the province, are also anticipating a law repealing their segregation in 2008, the Year of the Rat.

Reaching Daisy Mae, a hog on Canmore's Triple Q Farms, for comment, the young mother of 39 had this to say: "Oink."


Impossible Demands 

Friday, February 09, 2007

Image courtesy Krisdemeanor

This wedding business is depressing me. I've been to five wedding gown shops and the frocks especially depress me. Oh, Modern Fashion, why do you punish those of us veering from the bone path? Come on, back cleavage? Sheesh.

Now my sister has a dress that's pici în cur. For those of you who don't know Romanian, this means she'll be looking hot, which always means hotter than me, which in turn means the, by comparison, I'll be very obviously the ugly one, which, taking into account that I'll be the bride, means that my ugliness will be magnified to the most humiliating degree ever.

Basically I've given up on the wedding thing. From a position of hardly caring, I now care even less.

In a previous state of wedding depression, my friend Barb recommended the Indie Bride website. Now that I've plummeted to the Mariana Trench of wedding depression, I've been exploring the forums, trying to find the other tomboys forced to partake in the ceremony of humiliation.

The most uplifting find was a conversation among those who just want to give up on reality and dwell in fantasy. Readers, exasperated with their own realities, added their own lists of impossible demands.

I decided to play this new game. I picked over the other readers' lists and compiled the desires that matched my own into my list. I also added my own desires.

Thus, Reality, here are my demands.

I want:

- to have all my friends and family live within walking distance.
- to not have to drive so much.
- be able to teleport all over the world.
- Ivan the Cat and Lucian the Hamster join Matt and I in our old age - in other words, screw the brief hamster lifespan!
- daily massages.
- to live in Europe. With my new library.
- to effortlessly learn new languages.
- to read faster.
- all misogynists, anti-abortionists, racist losers, torturers, rapists, pedophiles, neocons to simply disappear off the face of the earth.
- to have Toblerone, Cadburies, Godiva chocolates, Raffaello, European-manufactured Nutella (the North American and Australian ones taste different), Manner wafers and the mysterious Belgian spreadable chocolate that comes in a cubic jar whenever I want, but never to gain weight or develop diabetes.
- more Tex Mex, dim sum, Japanese home-cooked, Taiwanese, Malaysian, Indian, Thai, Tunisian and Hungarian meals.
- to come up with the words I need to complete my novel.
- to have more people like my novel than people who hate it.
- to only have to do the interesting, rewarding aspects of my job.
- to think faster so I can write faster.
- for all restaurants to serve only free-range, organic, ethically-killed meat so I can enjoy a damn steak.
- to write letters to all my long lost friends around the world before it's too late or they forget me.
- to be able to watch my Japanese neice grow up (I miss her terribly).
- my parents, Matt's parents and my former Japanese in-law parents to live very long and very healthy lives.
- all my friends from Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Romania, Moldova, Ethiopia, Estonia, Poland, the US, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Italy, France, Norway and Austria to all be in the same place one day for the biggest party of my life.
- my parents to retire.
- my grandmother to make some friends so she can stop being depressed all the time.

What are your impossible demands?


About Slow Movies 

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I just finished watching the 2003 Norwegian film Kitchen Stories (or, more correctly, Salmer fra kjøkkenet).

This film about a Swedish study of Norwegian bachelor habits zeroes in on an old hermit called Isak who repeatedly foils quiet researcher Folke's attempts to observe him from his high chair in the kitchen corner. From that premise, the friendship between the two men develops.

The ambiguous ending, however, sent me running for the internet. Never mind the spoilers (because this is a movie you should see if you like movies about unfolding friendships). What shocked me were the comments that this movie was "slow."


A friendship developing between two unlikely characters is slow? What, they were expected to hit it off from the first? To automatically become friends?

My best friend told me, years after we met, that when she first met me I was standoffish. I was shocked that anyone would mistake supershy me for some snob.

Our friendship didn't happen from our first meeting - admittedly, the gossip had her to be some crazy slut and I, a poor judge of character, had no idea what to believe. The cautious start to our friendship, begun when she approached me - a stranger! - with a problem she faced. And from that start, I've passed seven joyful years for having such a wonderful person in my life.

Watching a friendship unfold is not like watching creepy losers dealing drugs outside cornerstores or one-night stand who morphs into a bunny killer or whatever else the people criticizing this movie feel is relationship material. Real friendships simmer for a while; one friend helps the other, then the other returns the favour, there's a quiet celebration, and so on.

Then again, I think Emma is one of the greatest novels ever written: a novel about a girl who slowly develops a crush she can't even place until someone threatens to take it away and that crush turns into love. And The Ambassadors was a thrill as American naïveté fails, articulated thoroughly, when confronted with the seductive charms of Europe. As for Moby Dick, swoon! Each chapter, gloriously different from one another, drips with suspense until you finally get to that loveable whale (and that teasing start with Queequeg and Ishmael in bed).

Unlike my own fiction (going badly, by the way), these stories tell their protagonists' stories with enough detail to make them believable. This is advice given to amateur writers. Something along the lines that more detail - relevant detail, I may add - makes a character universal.

Or could it really be that I like slow stories? After all I defied Siskel and Ebert and found The Age of Innocence to move at a swift canter. Recently, too, I have managed to trudge my way through Dracula, another milestone in the literature of boredom.

Maybe now is the time to r-attempt Silas Marner, or to watch Kristin Lavransdatter again and not get drowsy. Or maybe I should re-watch Basic Instinct, the only movie I have ever fallen asleep while watching.

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