Friday, August 28, 2009

The Indians aren't all right – they're fine.

Walk down the street, run into some young kids toting some consumer good around on bikes during school hours because they can't afford not to, and they'll ask, “How are you?”

Surprised at their English skills, and perhaps having recently been caught in a deluge, you'll answer, “Oh! Ahh...I'm a little wet.” To give evidence, you'll indicate your pants, which are soaked up to mid-calf. “But all right. How are you?”

“Fine,” they'll say.

There was, you should know, never any doubt.

In fact, it's very likely they didn't understand your answer. It's likely, after answering, they will ask again.

“How are you?”

You may be confused, having already answered. However, you won't want to seem rude, so you'll laugh and say, “Yeah. Yeah, I'm all right. Not bad.”

This, however, is not good enough for them. They desire more for you.

“Fine?” they will helpfully suggest.

“Umm...yeah,” You'll realize. “Yeah, I'm fine!”

A smile will break out on their face, and they'll happily go on their way.

And you'll also smile, knowing that, all in all, you're just fine.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wanton Soup

Her name was Han Han. She was a showgirl. She cooked the best rice in rice sauce south of the Yangtze River.

I met her at work. It had been a long day of teaching “Engrish” to a bunch of rice-paddy-tending yokels who “want go Harvard.”

Most of them would.

I decided to treat myself by going down to the local skin joint and enjoying some rice beer while trying to discern the pole dancer from the pole in that dimly lit, smoky dive.

When she first came on, she didn’t strike me as anything great. Just another village pole dancer in another village in another rural Chinese province. But as she got closer, I noticed something special about her. Her hair was somehow straighter and blacker than the straight, black hair of all the other dancers. Her thin, curveless figure somehow thinner and less curvy.

By the time she had stripped fully down, to only shorts and a light spring jacket (this was the provinces, after all), I knew she was special.

I went backstage after her performance and asked around for her. She had gone home, I was told. Home to cook rice in rice sauce for her ailing grandmother.

After much cajoling and a promise of a bottle of real Kikkoman soy sauce, straight from America, I got her address:

Hut #7
Barren Plain

I knew the area well, for I lived in the next town over, Empty Field.

I had grown up in a region not dissimilar, among hardy cornraising stock in central Nebraska. I knew how this kind lived. I knew how they thought. I knew what stirred their souls, fired their loins.

After one final glance at my surroundings, confirming I was in a barren plain and not simply a field that was empty, I strode right up to Hut #7, knocked confidently upon the wicker door, and walked through the cloud of dust it made as it fell to the floor.

There I saw her in all her tender glory—Han Han, gingerly chopsticking out rice in rice sauce to her frail old grandmother, who looked as if even the typical chopstick-sized serving of four-to-five rice grains would be too much. This, I assumed, was why Han Han was using extra short sticks to only deliver a grain or two at a time.

I knew sincerity and honesty, forthrightness and lack of pretence was the only way, and a sure way, to win these people over. I walked right up to them, looked the grandmother in the eyes, and said, in my best Chinese, “Dear, revered, and wise elder, I am most sincerely in love with your kind granddaughter who comes home to cook, feed, and care for you without a second thought. I can think of no one and nothing else. If you’ll only give your blessing, I shall make it my passion in life to provide her with everything she could ever need or desire, with all the love a man is capable of giving, and with all the passion that can be wrung from a single soul.”

Her response was the kind of old-world poetry that cuts to the heart of human experience and understanding—the kind that has most certainly been lost in today’s manneredly insincere society.

“How much you give for her?”

Of course, how was I to answer that? What could recompense a woman losing the kindest caretaker, the most loving companion, her own flesh and blood? What could possibly be worth the love of this dedicated, tender, straight-hair-and-straight-figured beauty who’d captured my heart?

“Two goats, fifty dollars American, and new door.”

“And watch,” she said, indicating my watch.

“And watch,” I said, removing my watch.

After placing her new watch in the old crone’s lap, I took the hand of my fiancée, and the two of us gaily walked away, over the door and into a new life.

As we were almost out of earshot, we heard one last hearty bellow from the demanding hag.
“Door’d better be wood!”

Life wasn’t easy for Han Han and me. Especially because wooden doors aren’t cheap. She continued her work at the local spring jacket joint; I continued teaching the future engineers of America. It was rewarding work, but trying. Each night, we would fall into each other’s arms, exhausted, and sleep the sleep of the young, poor, and rural Chinese.

One day, Han Han awoke with severe nausea. It continued for a week. Finally, after much begging and pleading, I let her see a doctor. He told her she was pregnant. I told her she hadn’t needed to worry.

Over time, she lost her resemblance to a pole and acquired one to a speed bump. She ate and ate—sometimes up to two cups of rice a day with an additional cup of rice sauce. I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do—we could barely afford a cup of rice and a half cup of rice sauce per diem prepregnancy. Now, with her sexy figure gone, she was barely making anything in tips while our food bill had skyrocketed.

I knew something had to be done, so I packed up my things and headed for the city. I offered to teach the children of the rich, but they already had teachers. I tried to steal a panda and sell it to a foreign zoo, but they’re violent suckers. I then tried to steal medical supplies from the hospital where I was convalescing from furorem pandiosum, but when they ran out of supplies, I was forced to use them on myself. I tried to set up an all-you-can-eat hamburger buffet, but everyone just made fun of my accent, and someone started a nasty rumour that I used beef instead of dog.

I went back home. To the plain. To Han Han. To our foetus. And what did I find but a dirty Chinese fellow sleeping in my bed. With my wife. And our foetus. He greeted me with a disturbing forthrightness. Almost a familiarity.

“Hello, sir. Thank you for the courtesy of your bed and your wife.”

“I offered no such courtesy,” said I.

“I told him you had,” said Han Han.

“Oh,” said I.

“I want to marry him,” said Han Han.

“Oh,” said I again.

“He makes a good living. I don’t have to degrade myself anymore, wearing a spring jacket in the dead of winter.”

“What does he do?”

“He teaches Chinese to American businessmen.”

I turned to him.

“Whence do you know such people?”

“I met them at Harvard, sir,” he said.

Of course! I’d taught English to this conniving backstabber years before!

He must have seen the recognition in my eyes.

“Recognise me now, sir?”

“Why, Zhang Xiao-Zing! I always knew you’d go far! I just didn’t know it’d be with my wife!”

“Yes, sir. It came as a big surprise to me as well.”

“I was surprised too,” said Han Han.

No one paid her any attention.

“Sir. Let me buy you some General Tso’s dog. It is the only honourable thing to do.”

“No. I must mourn the loss of my wife. I have been shamed and need to leave this land, never to return.”

“I understand,” he said. “I’m surprised you’re still here,” he added.

I smacked him once.

“I understand,” he said.

I grabbed my bags, which were still packed, and headed for the door. I turned around, walked back toward them, and smacked him again, for good measure.

Then I left.

As I was almost out of earshot, I said to Zhang Xiao-Zing, “Say hi to your grandmother-in-law for me.”

“What does he mean, Han Han?” I heard, as I faded out of their lives.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things You Probably Wanted to Know

What’s that? Speak up? I can’t barely hear ya!

More non-sense! More non-sense!

OK, that’s better. I can almost make it out...

More non-sense! More non-sense!

Oh, OK. Now I got ya! How ‘bout a little louder, just for emphasis?

More non-sense! More non-sense!

Oh, come on. You can do better than that!

More non-sense! More non-sense!

OK, there we go! All right, you asked for it — you got it!...But only ‘cause you showed restraint...

(It just so happens that, in my celery-related research, I came across some interesting tidbits regarding another iconic, life-giving character central to daily life...following are those tidbits.)

Vin Diesel’s k mode can actually travel faster than the speed of light. His non-k mode can travel just as fast, but only for less than the Planck time. He claims that he beat a ray of light in a marathon once, but there are no other witnesses to confirm it, because he proceeded to reflect the ray of light into space using his bald pate.

Vin Diesel is the man in the moon.

Vin Diesel sells snake oil, but only authentic snake oil, and then only to those snakes who need it.

Vin Diesel knows how to fix social security, but he’s not telling anyone until he gets his biscuit back.

Vin Diesel divided by zero is still Vin Diesel.

Vin Diesel was the 92nd pope.

Vin Diesel can read Japanese, but only while sleeping.

Vin Diesel is 99 octane.

Vin Diesel is more widely available at European gas stations.

Vin is really a nickname for Vini, given to him by his brothers, Vidi and Vici.

Vin Diesel is the mythical creator of Rome.

Vin Diesel secretly hates Secretary’s Day, but gets his secretary a big bouquet of flowers every year. However, due to his animosity toward the idea, he doesn’t get the freshest flowers, but rather a bunch that are already showing the first signs of wilt.

Vin Diesel knows your mother’s maiden name.

Vin Diesel has his cake and is eating it as we speak.

Due to the favorable exchange rate, a Vin Diesel in the hand is worth about 3.5 in the bush.

Vin Diesel has a master’s in Pig Latin, but feels it only appropriate to use when he time travels back to Roman farms.

Vin Diesel originally drove the snakes out of Ireland, but then thought better of it and put them back.

Vin Diesel is really only 55% diesel and 45% unleaded.

Vin Diesel moved my cheese.

Vin Diesel built Stonehenge.

Vin Diesel calls them crawdads.

Vin Diesel is neither a VIN nor a diesel. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Vin Diesel sells seashells by the sea shore. And he has a higher profit margin than she does.

Vin Diesel is the 1965 Marion County, Louisiana, macrame champion.

Vin Diesel has courted queens and supermodels, but he prefers his teddy bear Mr. Winkus.

If Vin Diesel ever made a lunar landing, the Earth would rotate around the moon.

Vin Diesel waxes gibbous about three times annually.

Vin Diesel prefers calligraphy to stencil, but will even just do chiaroscuro shading if the need arises.

Vin Diesel is the fifth estate.

Vin Diesel is Lonestar’s father.

Vin Diesel will stop the rain.

Vin Diesel's is the son of a liger and a mule.

Vin Diesel stole the kiszka.

He also stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

Vin Diesel is the deal with airline peanuts.

Vin Diesel is the question and the answer.

(Inspired by sites such as the following:


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Few Interesting Facts About Celery

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here, but that’s because I’m both busy and lazy.

In honor of the upcoming 62nd celebration of Indian Independence Day, here is a list of facts I found about our friend, the salubrious, salacious, and occasionally sang-froidesque celery:

The celery is the world’s second-largest fruit (behind the watermelon).

As early as 1998, celery seeds were used in some western cultures as aphrodisiacs.

The band Celery & Me, founded by Marc Stevens, featured a reference to celery in every song, often as a good, the best, or the only friend of the singer. At concerts, Stevens was known to have his bass player dress up in a celery suit.

The Celery Suit is a nickname for the 1978 case of Fredericks v. Fischer Agroproducts Ltd, in which a Mrs. William P. Fredericks claimed that the massive amounts of celery being grown on the farm adjacent to her house were causing her dog to exhibit antisocial behaviour. The case was the first in a line of findings for “Big Celery” that opened up the industry after the restrictions placed on it in the 60s because of fears that celery would be the means a conservative government would try to make inroads with its campaign of reasserting control on American society.

In 1988, the Jamaican bobsled team, famous for qualifying for the Olympic Games, briefly considered using celery sticks as runners on their sled. This claim has alternately been used to underscore the dire financial straits of the team, the team’s ingenuity and enterprising spirit, and stereotyping claims that its members were high on dope.*

*They were.

Celery is known as a negative-calorie food, as more calories are burned chewing and digesting it than are provided from its digestion – it is, however, widely considered to “weigh down the soul.”

“There ain’t no thing that celery sticks won’t fix” was the motto of an ad campaign financed by the Greater Canadian Association of Celery Growers. Its claims that “Celery can cure arteriosclerosis,” “Celery can ease a broken heart,” and “Celery can be used as a weight-bearing architectural structure in many older homes,” encountered strong opposition and were eventually shelved pending “further peer-reviewed studies.” These studies never occurred.

Celery green is considered a less satisfying green than clover green, though often preferred to the latter by sufferers of moderate-to-severe depression.

The Cincinnati Celery Stalkers (later the Cincinnati Celeries) were a baseball team that played in the Northern Baseballing League from 1898-1917. They are most well known as the team for which Joey Cantigliere played before establishing his famous chain of Cantigliere’s Restaurlours (a portmanteau of “restaurant” and “(ice cream) parlour”), which featured the concept of “dinnert,” Cantigliere's novel idea of combining dinner and dessert into one meal. Examples include “Joey’s famous spaghetti ‘n’ walnut balls,” “Cantigliere’s linguini in cookies ‘n’ crème sauce,” and “The Old Sicilian – cannelloni and cannoli.”(The team is also remembered for the celery “laminae” its fans would wear as headdresses in support, made from various types of leafy houseplant.)

A small but growing contingent of evolutionary biologists believe celery to be descended from an aquatic bivalve found off the Pacific shelf during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs.

Pound for pound, celery is weaker than steel but stronger than Styrofoam.

In 2003, an Austrian study concluded that consuming four cups of celery a day decreased a person’s will to live by nearly ¼ (22%). It has yet to be replicated.

“Celery-muncher” is the taunt preferred by many underweight health-food enthusiasts who are allergic to granola but are nonetheless often miscategorised in aspersions as “granola-eater.”

During the Great Copenhagen Bread Shortage of 1417, when the majority of Denmark’s domestic bread rations went to supply the country’s army in its fight against illiteracy, hot dogs were commonly eaten on buns of celery.

Through the centuries, celery has been worshipped as a false god, scorned as a seductive vamp, and upheld as the pinnacle of a law-based society. (Source needed)

The notion that Genghis Khan considered celery one of the seven incarnations of God has lost favour in the general historical and historio-religious communities, only retaining favour in some small religious groups such as “The Church of Kublai Khan” and a small sect of Jews living on the leeward side of various mountains in the Caucuses. However, it is thought that G. Khan was an admirer of its virility and made it a staple of his army’s rations whenever feasible.

Celery is a medium-efficiency conductor of electrical current, but only in the northern hemisphere.

The first “person” to eat celery was not a person at all – it was a wild boar named Snoot who lived near the Nile Delta with his family, though, unbeknownst to them, he had a second family up the river.

The word “celery” comes from “celerity,” meaning “quickness,” due to early cultivators’ observations that its crops could be harvested earlier than those of other plants. (Some etymologists disagree, claiming instead that it was the enhanced intestinal regularity the consumption of celery gave that explains its etymology.)

Celery was first cultivated in the Nile Delta region of Egypt around 4,700 BCE. It was used mainly as a between-meals snack for the Pharaoh.

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