Thursday, December 29, 2005
I have always been living downtown and I cannot imagine living elsewhere but where the action is. I need my theatres, my international newspapers and magazines stores, my coffeeshops, my museums, my fancy designer clothing/kitchen gadgets/exotic flower boutiques, my trendy terraces/ethnic restaurants, etc.. But then, I have been molded culture-wise by the great cities of Europe: Paris, London, Geneva, etc.. And during my early youth, I was a resident of Saigon, the Pearl of the Orient, the centre and masterpiece of the French colonial heritage. I'm a city girl and damn proud of it. But in North America, you apparently have to be well-off or make a confortable living to live in the suburbs, while average or poor people have no choice but to live in the cities. When I first arrived in Montreal and took my first well-paid job, I was surprised to find out that most of my colleagues were living outside the city. They all bragged about the acres of land that surround their houses, and apparently it was somehow desirable to have so much lawn to mow or a huge swimming pool to clean and filter and keep the neighbours' kids away from. It is also a good thing to go grocery shopping once a week and buy tons of frozen stuff, instead of deciding like I do at the last minute what to have for supper and, every day or so, go buy fresh ingredients from the various neighbourhood specialized shops: butchers, greengrocers, etc.. I don't even have a freezer-chest, for crissake! The thing is, I'm too disorganized to live in the suburbs. Forgetful as I am, I can't just jump in the car and drive ten kilometres to the JumboMart everytime I run out of milk or croissants. I'm also a spur-of-the-moment type, so I cannot plan an expedition each time I feel like meeting a friend over a drink, checking the latest CD arrivals, watching the Santa Claus/St Patrick parade or going to the movies.
So to recap: in North America, rich people live in the suburbs, poor people live in ghettoes in the cities. In Europe and South East Asia, rich people live in the cities, lowlife live in ghettoes in the suburbs. Me, I live in downtown Montreal and I feel sorry for the people who are stuck in the suburbs.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
By William Saletan
Have you heard the latest news? We've decoded the DNA of dogs. Here's how the media-approved version of the story goes: We're showing our love for "man's best friend" by discovering and treating the genetic causes of his ailments. In return, we'll learn to treat the same ailments in ourselves.
It's a heartwarming story, but it's a fraud. The reason we targeted the dog genome for decoding is that it's useful for genetic research. The reason it's useful for genetic research is that dogs are neatly divided into breeds, each of which is plagued by specific diseases. And the reason dogs are divided into diseased breeds is that we made them that way. Dogs are the world's longest self-serving, ecologically reckless genetic experiment, perpetrated by the world's first genetically engineering species: us.
Dogs were just a loose category of wolves until around 15,000 years ago, when our ancestors tamed and began to manage them. We fed them, bred them, and spread them from continent to continent. While other wolf descendants died out, dogs grew into a new species. We invented the dog.
We didn't pick just any wolves for this project. We picked the ones that could help us and get along with us. Dogs are dumber than monkeys and other mammals in many ways, but they excel at one thing: interpreting human behavior. Three years ago, scientists tested this talent in wolves, adult dogs, puppies raised in households, and puppies raised in kennels. The wolves couldn't read humans well, but the puppies could—even the puppies raised in kennels. Through selection, we've hardwired human compatibility into dogs. We've made a species in our image.
But that wasn't enough. We had specific needs. We bred hunting dogs, herding dogs, sled dogs, and guard dogs. (We also tried a few unauthorized uses.) We turned reproductive separation and inbreeding into a science, multiplying and dividing the species into more than 400 breeds. The American Kennel Club sorts them into the Sporting Group, Working Group, Herding Group, Hound Group (whose ancestors were "used for hunting"), Terrier Group (whose ancestors "were bred to hunt and kill vermin"), and Toy Group. "The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight," says the club's Web site. Every dog has his duty.
Each need, each breed, called for special traits. We bred collies for vigilance, Rottweilers for aggression, retrievers for obedience. In a span of decades, we bred ferocity into Dobermans and then, with equal deliberateness, bred it out. We treated dogs like guns. We designed and bought them for protection, then complained when they hurt us. When cities banned pit bulls, we bought Rottweilers. It was as easy as replacing an illegal assault weapon with a legal one.
Not all our designs were utilitarian. We made some breeds just for fun. Some, like the Pharaoh Hound, were thought to be ancient because they looked like dogs drawn on Egyptian tombs. But last year, when we checked their DNS, we found no evidence they were older than modern breeds. Apparently, breeders crafted them by mating dogs that looked like the drawings. Life imitated art.
In the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted, we ruined millions of them. We gave them legs so short they couldn't run, noses so flat they couldn't breathe, tempers so hostile they couldn't function in society. Even our best intentions backfired. Nature invented sexual reproduction to diversify gene pools and dilute bad variants. By forcing dogs into incest (which we ban among humans, in part for biological reasons), we defied nature. We concentrated each bad gene in a breed, magnifying its damage: epilepsy for springer spaniels, diabetes for Samoyeds, bone cancer for Rottweilers. That's why the dog genome is so nifty: We can find disease genes just by comparing one breed's DNA to another's.
Well, too bad for the dogs. But three cheers for us and our experiment. "The dog genome is a wonderful playground for geneticists," exults the New York Times. "A treasure trove," says the San Francisco Chronicle. "A convenient laboratory," agrees Reuters.
Man's best friend, indeed.
Also see Mr. Saletan's article about Designer dogs made to order: http://www.slate.com/id/2133349/
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Now to the main theme: Are Orientals super rude or unbearably polite?
Incident no.1: I was at a McDonald counter, waiting for my order. Behind me was a Chinese man with his 7-8 year old daughter. She asked and he let her climb and sit on the counter. The McDonald girl didn't say anything and I tried to hide my annoyance. When my order finally arrived, before any of us could react, the little girl reached out, grabbed a few fries and popped them in her mouth. McDonald girl and I were frozen in shock, slack-jawed; the father had no reaction. Then McDonald girl said: «I'll get you some new fries». From that moment on, until I left with my order, the father did not say a word, in apology or otherwise, studiously avoiding my eyes; the little girl stayed on the counter.
Incident no.2: I was sitting in my parked car, waiting for my mother to finish her business at the video rental store. A car came and parked in the space in front of me. The driver was an Oriental woman, relatively young. As she backed up, she bumped into my car. The shock was rather strong, so I stepped out of my car to check the damage. She also stepped out, but just glanced at me and walked away. I yelled at her: «Hey! How about some apology?» She continued walking away.
Incident no.3: I was at the wedding of a Chinese friend. A group of young guys (Chinese - I heard them talking) were setting up the sound system. One of them pulled too hard on a cable and it went snapping like a whip and hit a guy sitting next to me in the face, leaving a red welt. Instead of apologizing, the asshole said: «Hey, good thing it didn't hit you in the crotch! Hahaha!». The victim laughed weakly and left the room.
Incidents no. 4, 5, 6...: I lost count of the times when I would arrive at a door at the same time as some Orientals and they would just stand there waiting for me to open the door so that they can walk through, or when I did open and hold the door for them and they would just walk through and never, never, ever say thank you, not once.
Incidents no. nth...: My son sometimes brings home a Chinese friend called Justin. Justin never says hello, meets my eyes or acknowledges my presence in any way, even if I greet him first. Once, as he was walking to the bathroom, I deliberately stood in the way, to force him to look at me: he didn't and just walked around me.
It is well known that in the Oriental culture, politeness and good manners are extremely important, sometimes excessively so. So how to explain such rudeness, so commonly experienced by me and many other people I talked to, Orientals and non-Orientals? My tentative (and generous) explanation is that, in some of the cases I described, the culprits were so keenly embarrassed by their action that they cannot face up to it and, even though they just wanted to die on the spot, they had no choice but to act as if the act of rudeness did not happen, because of the unbearable loss of face. The people who walk through doors held opened by others without saying thank you are just rude, uncouth and badly educated.
As to Justin: Hey Justin, I know it's just shyness and awkwardness due to your youth and immaturity, but I'm not asking for a long conversation: a simple «Hi!» would do.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Apparently, Brian has the capability of seeing the future in his dreams. He boasts of 93% accuracy and some of the proofs he provides are indeed fascinating. He also predicts winning lottery numbers all over the world. Two of his predictions that I'm particularly interested in are the announcements that President Bush will be impeached in 2006 and Governor Schwarzenegger will get and die of cancer in 11 months.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Sunday, December 18, 2005
by: dood abides
December 12, 2005 at 17:58:02 America/Los_Angeles (It had to be done. This is stupefying in its artistry and all-around brilliance. - promoted by Maryscott O'Connor)
Of course, it was easy then to make good-natured fun of the French, they were so ridiculous. But it's different with the «Amerloques»: these people are actually sincere in their self-delusion. They actually believe that their country is the only, the single one country in the whole wide world that is pure and sinless and full of good intentions. They stubbornly refuse to see that their national history is as full of blood and atrocities as that of every other country, they willingly swallow their own Koolaid, they hypnotize themselves into erasing from their collective mind all traces and records of invasions, genocides, rampages, massacres, etc. «That was before», they say, «Now we're civilized». Until they're caught doing what other countries do: they practice torture.
Ah yes. Torture. How bad, how awful, we only use it when necessary, blah blah blah. Most Americans don't know or choose to forget that in every country where the US have some interests to protect, they send in the CIA to teach the local goons the fine art of torture. In Vietnam for example, the notorious tiger cages were their signature legacy.
I recommend that you read Vladimir Bukovsky's article in today's Washington Post: http://tinyurl.com/bcoew
His article, called «Torture's Long Shadow» starts with this joke: One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. "But, Comrade Stalin," stammered Beria, "five suspects have already confessed to stealing it."
To those who are naively thinking: «Well, I'm willing to accept the use of torture for the sake of the nation's security», let me inform them that they or someone they love migh very well be the next one arrested and tortured. And once they are, I'm willing to accept that they will assuredly confess to stealing Stalin's pipe, if that's what's requested of them.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Domo Arigato, Meiko chan!
UPDATE: It didn't occur to me to point this out, but apparently some people -- and we pity teh fools -- might think the video is a serious documentary. So let it be known: it's a frigging joke, people!!!
UPDATE [7 mARCH 2006] - The link doesn't seem to work anymore. If you click on it, it'll take you to the general Google Videos page, in which case you have to search for: «How to enjoy sushi» by Japan Culture Lab.
Same method as when smallpox-contaminated blankets were commonly used throughout the European settlers' advance to remove those pesky Indians from coveted territories?
Friday, December 09, 2005
Hehehe... Music: Jingle Bells by Eminem [actually it's a parody by Bob Rivers]
Monday, December 05, 2005
The coming holiday season is weighing on me like a lead blanket: I wake up tired in the morning and go through the day in an exhausted daze. I am trying to avoid the stores as much as I can and to buy my presents online. But it's only the first week of the month and I'm already running out of money. Just the idea of buying a Christmas tree, decorating it, watering it every day, then dismantling it before vacuuming away all the fallen needles seems like an impossibly streneous enterprise, like climbing Mr Everest or sorting and filing away 10 years of past income tax returns. So no Christmas tree this year: instead, we're going to use the huge ficus tree that I had to drag in from the balcony in preparation of winter. As to the presents, I have a cunning plan: cash for everyone.
Now if I can only stay in bed with the doggie until the end of winter...