Sunday, May 17, 2009

Now Show Me Something Pretty

Thursday, May 14, 2009

For the Sanctity of the F-Word

Okay, I am confused. The movie tells me that if a guy doesn't call you, doesn't ask you out, makes you wait on him, doesn't want to plan stuff, doesn't want to go out, doesn't want to move in together, doesn't want to have kids...HE IS JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.

Is it really that simple? So, what if the guy is shy? Or, what if, when you are busy being coy, the guy arrives at the conclusion that you are not interested in him, and the fear of rejection stops him from making the move, you have been waiting for?

I get confused with these dating guidelines. I would find it endearing if people just went for what they wanted. Both girls, and boys. I like to think that I am an upfront person, and if the opportunity presents itself I wouldn't have any qualms about asking the guy out. We are supposed to be beyond sexism. Equal opportunities for all. Do what we please. So why slow down the dating process with these stupid rules? Who benefits from these stupid rules, anyway? The "Self Help" book industry? And, the "feminists" at Cosmo?

Okay, so this is what I have against Cosmopolitan. The periodical's former editor, self-proclaimed feminist, skeletal Helen Gurley Brown, once said that girls should have border-line anorexia nervosa to maintain an "ideal" body weight. Cosmo, the 80 year old magazine, instead of writing about women in politics, or positive female role models, primarily focuses on "How to Please Your Man", "What Men Like", "Where to Find Eligible Bachelors", and other male-centric topics. Okay, I realize nobody wants to read about the brutalities women are faced with in Darfur and Congo. But, why they are turning their readers into predatory men-hunting sex slaves is beyond me.

Then there are the other delusional feminists, the "Sex and the City" clowns. They believe, men are like shoes, wear them and then dispose them off. These women use feminism to liberate themselves from any moral and/or social obligations. Look, I love pretty outfits as much as the next girl, but since when did it become okay to spend our entire paycheck on our wardrobe? And, now, they are coming up with another "Sex and the City" movie. Hey, at least these women are helping the economy, Paul Krugman style.

And, I don't get the Oprah cult either. Oprah started bugging me back when she plastered her stamp of approval on James Frey's dubious A Million Little Pieces. Later, when it was discovered that Frey exaggerated the truth, and his book was more fictional and less of a druggie hero's triumphal memoir, she called him on her show to yell at him. Dude, Oprah, didn't you have a moral responsibility to check the book's credentials before you endorsed it? And, what is with the "O" logo mugs, which are sold for 12 bucks each? And, if we are supposed to love ourselves first, and be comfortable with our body, embrace all body shapes and forms; then why is Oprah so critical of her own weight gain? Look, I respect the woman's rags to riches story, but I don't respect her bogus commercialism tactics.

By the way, to the future object of my affection, if I am ignoring you, please don't think I am not just that into you. Take my bizarre behaviour as a cue to ask me out :). And, don't ever quote The Secret to me! Don't ever tell me that some bizarre law of attraction brought us together! And, if you dig a girl who avidly reads Cosmo and its clones, remember this sort of "feminism" can backfire too:

Today, my girlfriend broke up with me because she found out that she wasn't really in love with me. She got that advice from an internet survey. FML

EDIT (2:44 PM): I just read it in the news that Oprah apologized to James Frey for shaming him on her show. Looks like blogging does have some journalistic relevance after all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nikolai Gogol: The Overcoat

In an Apatow world, socially stunted, slobby, scruffy men somehow manage to have attractive blond girlfriends. These men do not really have to work on their social skills, and Mary Jane problem to find love. It is no wonder these Apatow movies turn out to be blockbuster hits, eh?

But, in the real world we get surprised when "less attractive" individuals actually amount to something. For instance, look at the recent, okay not so recent, YouTube sensation, British Susan Boyle. When she first stepped on the stage, the audience and the judges were ready to write her off, but out came that powerful voice, and she had everyone mesmerized. Had she been a Barbie look-alike, people on this side of the pond, probably, would have never heard of her.

Nikolai Gogol's stories are about such "less attractive" social outcasts. He wrote about social nobodies who work in the corrupt government offices. Gogol had hoped to achieve literary success when he moved to St. Petersburg from Ukraine. But, he had trouble finding his footing in the corrupt imperial capital.

"The Overcoat" centers around Akaky Akakievich, who is a government clerk. Akaky Akakievich not only has an unfortunate name, but is also poor, lonely, and unattractive. He spends his day copying government documents, and getting teased by his co-workers. When his old worn-out overcoat reaches the condition where it's beyond repair, Akaky decides to buy a pristine new overcoat, which he cannot afford. He decides to save up, by skipping dinner, and going without the basic utilities. His sole purpose of existence, which was previously about his menial job, now becomes about buying the new overcoat.

Gogol's stories are about people whose lives are marked by anonymity and oblivion. These individuals find themselves lost in a society, where they are judged on their physical appearances, funny names, and inferior social ranks.

I believe, the reason reality shows like "American Idol", or "Britain's Got Talent" are popular, because they give individuals, like Taylor Hicks, Paul Potts, and Susan Boyle, a chance to do something outside of their social realms. In most cases, the contestants are not restricted by their physical appearance, and/or socio-economic status.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Another Day In Paradise

During this economic downturn it is very easy to feel melancholic. Recently, I went to get my passport renewed, and I saw that a whole bunch of stores in the mall, where the government office was located, were having a "closing down sale" because they couldn't keep up with their lease. The thought of so many people losing their jobs made me extremely sad. Which sort of worked in my benefit, since due to the new government policy, Canadians are not allowed to smile in their passport pictures. I guess, this is the government's way of defying the stereotypical view of our innate Canadian niceness.

One of my friends has X-linked myotubular myopathy. Meaning where his twin sister has healthy legs and muscle strength, my friend has trouble moving around. Earlier today, he was telling me that he has a very hard time staying in touch with people, and going out, because he has to either rely on others, or on TransHelp to get to places. This made me realize, here is another thing I take for granted. The ability to walk. The ability to drive.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the fighting [in Northern Pakistan] this week and provincial authorities have estimated that as many as 500,000 people may have been displaced.

One of the colossal mistakes we make is that we focus on what we don't have, instead of being grateful for what we do have. There are people getting laid off, and shops getting closed, but at least in this country we have a welfare system, where the unemployed would be looked after, by the government. Unfortunately, we can't say the same about the people in the third world countries. For instance, there is a humanitarian crisis in Pakistan right now, but the country's president instead of being with his people in their time of need decided to travel to the US to ask for more aid, which he would eventually end up spending on himself.

Pakistani children displaced from Buner reach out for food at a United Nations camp in Takht Bai, about 85 miles northwest of Islamabad.

We do not get to determine our place of birth, family, or country; but for the most part they shape our destiny. Any one of us could have easily been one of the individuals in this picture above.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Trek

Don't worry Trekkies, no spoilers here :).

Urmm...Now that the obvious "review" has been successfully plastered on my blog, here are my thoughts on the movie.

I found "Star Trek", the TV series, boring, and I have never been a fan of the canon. Back in the day, my friend used to write short stories based on the series, and since FanFiction didn't exist back then, for the sake of my coolometer/geekometer (however you wanna look at it), he used to email them to me. So whatever previous knowledge I had of the series was due in part to his stories.

I went to watch the movie because of J.J. Abrams. And, folks, Abrams definitely built up his already impressive resume with this movie. There is an excellent mix of action sequences, charm, and humour. It is an entertaining movie, which takes you in, from the get go.

The storyline deals with the eternal struggle between the mind and body, shown through the contrasting characters of Spock (Zachary Qunito from the Heroes), and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine). And, OH MY GOD, Chris Pine is oh so dreamy. Zachary Qunito fits the role of Spock to the T. They both do complete justice to their respective roles, and are a pleasure to watch.

Trekkie or not, DO WATCH THIS MOVIE!
Beware, sadly, CNN's holograms sorta stole the CGI's thunder.

Here is what the Onion has to say:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

XKCD: Swine Flu

One of the frustrating things about Swine Flu, other than people's blatant ignorance, is the amount of dedication our media and government have provided to this outbreak.

Recently, for my research, I have started to look at the correlation between TB and HIV. TB has been on the rise since 1980s, but this problem is more prevalent in Southeast Asia, and Africa. That is why we don't really care how it has become a major cause of death among HIV patients in Africa.

Usually when doctors misdiagnose a TB patient, or when the patient does not have the money to follow the dosing regimen properly, the bacteria becomes more deadly. HIV patients who come in contact with the deadly TB normally end up dying, since their immune system is already compromised. Basically, all because we do not have the means to educate the doctors, or the patients properly. And, I find that disappointing and gut-wrenchingly depressing.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Plugging South Asia

So what happens when the education system fails us, and we are left to stew in our ignorance bubble? As Jon Stewart brilliantly pointed out: Wars, and global crises, God's way of plugging geography. So here is a little Geography 101 for our attention deficient brains.

First up, South Asia. Now, now, the only reason South Asia is getting preferential treatment here is because it won't be around for too long.

Country: Afghanistan
Why we care: "The Kite Runner", and "A Thousand Splendid Suns". Thankfully, Khaled Hosseini's bestsellers have provided us with an easy access to the "worldliness" badge.
Plug: When Steve Curry's famous 'Afghan Girl' refugee photograph didn't really do it for us, the Taliban came into the picture, to prove that we may have transcended race, but ignorance is the highly esteemed western value we cannot renounce.

Country: Pakistan
Meaning: The land of pure; and people say Muslims don't have a sense of humour.
Why We Care: America loves Pakistan for two reasons. Firstly, Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the Northern region of Pakistan. But, it is not just the search of their estranged ally that has put Pakistan on the map. You see, back in 1998 when Bill Clinton was busy "not lying" to the American people; Pakistan, the most unstable country, somehow went under the radar, and became a nuclear power. So this lovin' maybe out of guilt, but who cares, at least now we know that Pakistan is an actual country, and not all brown people come from India.
Plug: Since, Africa has dibs on malnourishment, and illiteracy, so Pakistan needed to elect an idiot of a President to get our attention.

Country: India
Why We Care: Slumdog Millionaire. But, if you are really looking for some humanitarian street cred, in addition of talking about the slum kids, you could discuss child hunger in India.
Plug: India's negligence to provide education in Bihar, and spurring of sectarian violence in Gujarat; may give it an edge over China to have our undivided attention for a day or two, in a couple of years. We don't care unless the problem comes with casualties. And, let's just face it, something like human trafficking would never become a part of our collective social conscious. After all, slavery is so 19th century.

Country: Nepal
Why We Care: Well, we care because now that the Maoist have turned Nepal into a republic, it is safe for us to go trekking in the Himalayas.
Plug: Since this country has been a bit MIA lately, here is hoping human trafficking would make Nepal a media regular.

Country: Bangladesh
Why We Care: Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate who pioneered microfinancing. A concept our governments are still struggling with.
Plug: In the midst of the swine flu outbreak, it's hard to draw attention to the diarrhea epidemic that has affected thousands of poor Bangladeshis. So, sorry Bangladesh, looks like we would have to rely on the floods, again.

Country: Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Why We Care: Last year, cyclone Nargis killed 150,000, and devastated the lives of 2.4 million other Burmese; making the junta's brutalities finally newsworthy. But, then, we got distracted by the earthquake, and the Olympics, in China. So in this case, China is at fault for stealing Myanmar's thunder. For the sake of our attention deficient brains, one global crisis at a time, please!
Plug: Myanmar shows how important politics is. HIV-AIDS patients are dying because the clinics do not have the facilities to treat them. Here is hoping they would find oil in Myanmar, so our governments would be willing to establish "diplomatic relations" with the junta, and we would be able to help the locals. The 49-year-old man in this photograph died two weeks after the picture was taken.

Country: Sri Lanka
Why We Care: Frankly, my dear, we don't care. Since late January, more than 6,400 civilians have been killed, and 13,000 wounded.
Plug: These deaths have not made it to the front page, because we are more concerned about how Obama has "faired" during his first 100 days. Also, we have already gone through a similar atrocity, albeit in a different region, Middle East, earlier this year. That is more than enough geography for us.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Paging Descartes: Afghan Dreaming

I have to admit my subconscious' humanitarian efforts always put my awake state to shame.

Last night, I had a dream that I was in Afghanistan. I was in Kandahar where the Canadian forces are stationed. Across the street past the barricades, I could see little Afghan children playing under the watchful eyes of the Taliban.

I believe one of the grave mistakes, the US made in Pakistan was that they just handed over 10 billion dollars to the former Pakistani President Musharraf, without any accountability. I think the drone attacks, which Obama supports, further polarize Pakistanis. Before 9/11 there were hardly any extremist groups in Pakistan, but now the Taliban control majority of the Northern Pakistan.

Handing out weapons, and backing corrupt governments is not the way to secure our borders. In Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson shows us that with education we can eradicate the spread of extremist ideology in the region. But, sadly, we would rather solve the problems with weapons, and power exertion; than providing them with the basic necessities, such as proper health care, and education. Poverty nurtures terrorism. Not religion.

I see the US repeating the same mistake in Afghanistan. The US backed Karzai government in Afghanistan is corrupt and weak. Instead of funding the military to tame the ungovernable Afghanistan, we can spend the same money on setting up pharmaceutical industries in Afghanistan, which would not only put an end to the opium drug trafficking, but would also create jobs.

I have no faith in the world leaders to solve our problems, but what gives me hope is people like Fatima Gailani, who are changing lives in one of the most intolerant countries.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quotes of the Day

*and my two cents.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist, after a bust of Cleopatra and coins showing her image were found; Hawass says the discovery counters the fact that some scholars say Cleopatra was ugly:
"The finds ... indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive."
*Does this profound, and oh so productive discovery mean, I shouldn't have broken my mirror, when it reckoned Cleopatra to be the fairest one of all?!

Barack Obama, affirming his unwillingness to prosecute CIA interrogators who used waterboarding on terrorism suspects during the Bush Administration:
"We must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs."
*Because after waterboarding one suspect 183 times, and another 80 times; it is the confidence that the CIA is lacking!

Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, on of the Taliban's recent gains in Pakistan, including gaining control over a district just 70 miles from Islamabad:
"The Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists."
*After 8 years of abdicating to the Bush administration, you cannot get mad at Pakistan for being spineless now. You should have thought of that when instead of providing education to Pakistanis, you figured it would be more fun to stuff their faces with weapons.

Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor facing corruption charges, on why he asked a judge to let him film a reality-TV show called I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here; the request was denied:
"I have two little girls and a mortgage to pay. Obviously, I'm looking for a new line of work."
*Now, that's a new low for a former governor. What's next, going on Fox News to discuss the financial crisis, a la Spitzer.

Neil Fees, Texas resident, on the ammunition shortage in central Texas that may be caused by fear that Obama will regulate, ban or tax guns and ammo:
"I've got a gun but no bullets."
*Now, here is a "famine" that needs our immediate attention.

You know the economy is in shambles when:
Dimmick, Chuck P.
born December 29, 1958 in Riverside, CA passed away suddenly on April 18, 2009 while attending a NASCAR race to watch his favorite driver, Jeff Gordon. Chuck was the loving husband of Kristen and devoted father of Dillon. Chuck was the Director of Marketing for the Lund Cadillac Group. We are sure he would still want all to know that 0.9% financing is still available on all New 2008 Hummer H2's. A mass celebrating Chuck's life will be held at 11:00 AM on Friday, April 24th at St. Patrick's Church - 10815 N. 84th St. Scottsdale, AZ. Arrangements handled by Hansen Desert Hill Mortuary 480-991-5800. In Lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Dillon Dimmick Donation Fund at any Bank of America.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blogworthy: The Great Incomprehension

Okay, here is the third edition of 'Blogworthy'. I am a dork, I know.

1. "If Only Literature Could Be a Cellphone-Free Zone" [The NYT]

This is one of the most amusing, and clever pieces I have read recently. Imagine if Romeo and Juliet lived in the cellphone era!

2. "The iPhone Gold Rush" [The NYT]

Speaking of cellphones, the recession might be kicking everyone's butt. But, software engineers, and programmers can find some sort of refuge under the Apple umbrella.

3. "Generation OMG" [The NYT]

So what of the youth shaped by what some are already calling the Great Recession? Will a publication looking back from 2030 damn them with such faint praise? Will they marry younger, be satisfied with stable but less exciting jobs? Will their children mock them for reusing tea bags and counting pennies as if this paycheck were the last? At the very least, they will reckon with tremendous instability, just as their Depression forebears did.

I remember the '90s. The huge bonus checks, and the I.T. bubble. But, my generation, which is the oldest of the recent "Recession Generation", does not have the luxury to make grand plans about the future. I know three people who got laid off this past week. And, one of them has decided since the job market is so bad for the engineers of the world, he would be better off going back to school, than finding another job.

Things are bad, and this article discusses the affects the recession is having on the recent graduates, university students, and the high schoolers. We do not know how long this recession is going to last, and what sort of lifestyle changes we would be required to make. But our youth culture is embedded in commercialism, and consumption. I wonder, if people can make the same sacrifices that our predecessors did in the '30s.

4. "Help, My Degree Is Underwater" [Slate]

The article poses the question, "In the recession, does advanced education really pay off?" More people are going into "safer" professions, such as teaching. When the tuition is sky high, and over-qualified university graduates cannot find jobs, does it really pay off to go to university?

5. "Torture Versus War" [The NYT]

When the Central Intelligence Agency obliterates a dozen suspected terrorists, along with assorted family members, with a missile from a drone, the news rarely stirs a strong reaction far beyond Pakistan.

Yet the waterboarding of three operatives from Al Qaeda — one of them the admitted murderer of 3,000 people as organizer of the 9/11 attacks — has stirred years of recriminations, calls for prosecution and national soul-searching.

What is it about the terrible intimacy of torture that so disturbs and captivates the public? Why has torture long been singled out for special condemnation in the law of war, when war brings death and suffering on a scale that dwarfs the torture chamber.

Obama has strongly condemned waterboarding, and other terror tactics that the previous administration used, to interrogate "enemy combatants". However, he supports the drone airstrikes, which have killed hundreds of Pakistanis, children and women included. This article explains what makes torture the subject of public outrage, and the airstrikes unworthy of the same outrage.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

Often times when I think of contemporary Pakistan, I wonder what my life would be like, if I lived there. I think about the rich Pakistanis, in their fancy air-conditioned cars. I think about rich people driving hummers, in the narrow crowded streets of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. I think about the small percentage of Pakistanis who are rich, speak fluent and proper British English in their Anglicized-Indian accents. I think about the rich Pakistanis with better health care plans than the average American.

Then these words of Charles Dickens' come to mind.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I believe, the above passage effectively describes the contradictions one finds in Pakistan. Pakistan is full of surprises, inconsistencies, and cultural shocks. The only way to survive a trip is to shut off your brain, and leave it at home. My parents are from Pakistan, and after spending every single high school summer in Pakistan, I still cannot fully understand this country of pretences. I cannot seem to find my place in their society.

Last week, The New York Times did a cover piece about Pakistan. The article was centered around Pakistan's bleak future, under Asif Ali Zardari's presidency. The cover story had a picture of Asif Ali Zardari sitting in front of a big portrait of the country's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. On the table to his right, there rests a closeup framed photo of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto. On the table to his left, there is a framed photo of Ms. Bhutto taken at a political rally. In front of the said picture there is a Kleenex box, depicting Zardari's sensitivity. If anyone out there knows how to send out a pictorial message of patriotism, spousal devotion, and sensitivity, it is definitely the people who orchestrated this photo shoot.

Pakistan is a country where the rich are ostentatiously rich, and the poor are extremely poor. The weak government is corrupted. The country is in the epicentre of terrorism, both by the government and the Taliban insurgents.

The country is in shambles. Which prompts the question, what happens to failed nations? In 60+ years of its independence, Pakistan has never had a stable government. People are dying of hunger, infectious diseases, and illiteracy. The Urdu language, Pakistan's official language, is dying.

So, who should bail out Pakistan? What happens to failed states? Who comes to their rescue? Bush believed he was saving Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. G20 nations have their own economic problems to overcome. But, at the same time there are flattering nations like Pakistan, Haiti, Myanmar, which need our immediate focus. Or, is it all about survival of the fittest? Something I know Dwight Schtrute would attest to:

Michael Scott: No no no no, I mean have this kind of party. I look around and I see all these beautiful people who are alone on Valentine's and I think that there are other single people out there too. We just need to find 'em. There's a girl out there for all of us. Maybe even in this office park. There has to be a way to get all these lonely people together.

Dwight Schrute: What do you have in mind?

Michael Scott: I was thinking maybe like a mixer.

Dwight Schrute: Oh God that's a terrible idea.

Michael Scott: Old-fashioned meat market. I don't think it is.

Dwight Schrute: No. Lonely people mixing with one another? Breeding? Creating an even lonelier generation? You're not even allowing natural selection do its work. Pssh. You're like the guy who invented the seat belt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Office

I am hoping, The Office fans would appreciate the above picture :).

In other television ramblings, I am really enjoying the new comedy called "Better Off Ted". Since it's 2ish in the morning, and I am absolutely tired, I would just share with you what The New York Times has to say about this hilarious show.

The show's satirical sense of humour is on the same par as say The Office, and 30 Rock. The last two episodes were HILARIOUS. So give this show a try, before the mighty mouse (ABC) cancels it for some other Paris Hilton wannabe reality show.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sweet Tooth

I believe the recession has improved my culinary skills. For instance, a few weeks ago I baked whoopie pies which would have otherwise cost me about $3 each. Normally, I don't think I would have tried the recipe because it literally took me hours to make them.

On this beautiful, sunny day, I am making apple pie. So I figured that I would do Martha Stewart a favour and share this delicious recipe that has been in my uncle's family for generations.

So enjoy!

Apple Pie

½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
Dash Salt
5 cups thinly sliced apples
1 tbsp butter

Mix Sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon & salt
Pour on apples & toss
Turn filling into pastry-lined pan
Dot with butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees
Cover filling with top crust which has slits cut in it
Seal & flute
Cover edge with strip of aluminium foil to prevent excessive browning
Remove foil last 15 minutes of baking
Bake until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through crust (40-50 minutes)
Cool slightly on wire rack

Pastry for 8-inch two-crust pie
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 2 tbsp shortening
3 tbsp water

Into mixing bowl add flour and salt
Cut into shortening.
Sprinkle in water gradually mixing with fork until all flour is moistened
Shape dough firmly into ball
Divide dough in half
Shape one half into flattened round on lightly floured cloth-covered board
Roll dough 1 ½ inches larger all around than pie pan
Carefully lift dough occasionally if it sticks rub a little flour into cloth beneath & continue rolling
Ease pastry into 8 inch pie pan
Turn filling into pan
Trim overhanging edge of pastry

Now I can format my computer in peace.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Running To Stand Still

There are two reasons why I am so impatient about finding the one.

One, I feel the longer it takes me to find him, the fewer years we will have together. I don't want us to only have 40 to 50 years together. I am greedy. I want more than that. I want as many years/decades as we can possibly get together.

Two, I have been wanting to have kids since high school.

I don't know about you, but I am still of the opinion that love is, and should be simple. You meet the person. You fall in love. You get married. Maybe this makes me naive, and/or very old school. My best friend thinks you need a good story for your kids, and grandkids. Just saying, "you met, and fell in love" does not sound exciting.

But, I find myself getting drawn to the simplicity of love. No drama. No stupid chase. Just simple, upfront, blunt love.

Charles Darwin made a list of the reasons why he should and shouldn't marry his wife. Ross, on "Friends", did something similar, and almost lost Rachel because of it. I also have a table with columns and everything consisting of guys I have encountered, and the reasons why it didn't work out. My best friend suggested that the list would provide me with some sort of perspective about what is that I am actually looking for. Plus, she suggested that when I finally meet the guy I can show the list to him, and it would provide him an ego boost, which, trust me, he would need after marrying me.

But, I guess the hard part is recognizing "the one" when he finally does show up. Scientists say the trick is not to be fooled by the surging dopamine levels, and instead let oxytocin do all the deciding. Dopamine is a feel good hormone which causes a heightened response to the outside world. You know when you meet someone for the first time, and you get the butterflies? Well, all of that happens because of dopamine. The initial infatuation is also due to dopamine.

Whereas, oxytocin, which is also called the love hormone, is a good marker of our true everlasting feelings. It is released when the mothers and babies first bond. It is also found during intense emotional situations. It increases intimacy, and helps in building trust. It is released when a couple eats together, and looks into each other's eyes. No wonder, Picasso never neglected to draw a woman's eyes.

So, I guess, dopamine is necessary for building chemistry and the initial attraction, but oxytocin is what we need to form an everlasting bond. I don't know if this discussion of the two hormones contradicts my theory about love being simple. Or, should we wait for dopamine to wear-off so oxytocin can do its magic? Or, when I look out my window at the beautiful full moon, and think that it would be nice to share the beauty with the one; does this wish have anything to do with either of the two hormones? Or, is it just me being a sad insomniac?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bittersweet Playlist

Love, Save The Empty by Erin McCarley: It's one of my hairbrush sing-along songs :) - "Loooveee, saaaaave the eeeeempttty".

La Meme Histoire/We're All In The Dance by Feist: I know it is a little biased to say this, but I think Canadian singers are so talented. Feist can sing beautifully both in French and English. This song provided the perfect ending to Paris, je t'aime, one of the most riveting movies I have seen.

Cartoons and Forever Plans by Maria Taylor: It's a cute song, and the video is also very adorable.

Black and Gold by Sam Sparro: It's a shame this song never really made it here.

Prettiest Friend by Jason Mraz: I love how this song is so simple, and love the way it unravels.

Time To Pretend by MGMT: Is it just me, or these guys sound very feminine? It is one of the "cheery" songs on my playlist these days. Even though, the lyrics are pretty bittersweet.

Lose You by Pete Yorn: This song was not supposed to be on this list. Heard it for the first time last night, and it made me bawl my eyes out. (Whatever you do, do NOT read the YouTube comments.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What lies behind a smile?

The above woman abuse advert made me think of an ex-friend of mine.

When I witness domestic violence in the media, I can predict how people who have never been exposed to abuse would react. I can also predict how the victims of abuse would react. But, I wonder what an abusive person thinks about, when he or she watches the above ad? Does this ad validate him? Does it remind him that there are other men out there who are living by his barbaric code? Or does he think that his situation is different, in his case the object of his abuse actually deserves the beatings?

My really good high school friend, unbeknownst to me, turned out to be abusive. It is ironic when I saw this ad, a couple of days ago, it made me think of him, and today I actually ran into him after not seeing him for more than 5 years.

He was a good kid. He got the highest average in school. He was excellent in sports. He helped everyone, and volunteered at a hospital. In grade 12, he started seeing someone, and by the second semester their relationship got a bit strange. They started skipping classes, and only hung out with each other. We witnessed them fighting in school hallways. I went to a very small high school so the word travelled really fast. His girlfriend was held responsible of their public outbursts. After all, he was the apple of everyone's eye.

High school ended, and we all went our separate ways. Those two stayed together for another year, until she reported him to the police, and got a restraining order. He tried getting help, but repeated the same cycle of abuse with his next girlfriend. At this point we had stopped talking so I don't know what happened next. I really hope he is better now.

The reason I am writing this post is because domestic violence exists in our so-called liberal society. These men may appear pleasant on the outside, but nobody knows what lies behind a smile. Majority of the women end up going back to their abusive partners. It really takes a lot of courage to break this vicious cycle of abuse, and put all the missing pieces together.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I finally got around to watching Duplicity last night. It's written by Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplays for the Bourne movies, and Michael Clayton. Duplicity is a spy-thriller with some romantic comedy on the side.

I found the movie interesting, and enjoyed it very much. But, it was not as mysterious as say Michael Clayton, or as engaging as the Bourne series. It was entertaining, but something was amiss.

The major asset this movie has is Julia Roberts and Clive Owen's undeniable chemistry. Both of them are extremely charming in the movie. Clive Owen reminded me of the old school "Bond. James Bond", which is all a girl could ask for :).

The corporate rivalry between the two medical companies, shown in the movie, reminded me of the 3 Big North American automobile companies, GM, Chrysler, and Ford. These companies are lagging behind in terms of coming up with new innovative car models. In 2008, for the first time Toyota sold more cars than GM. For decades they have been relying on their staples, vans and trucks. Whereas, Toyota is constantly coming up with new models, which are both good for the environment and also provide a solution to the hiking gas prices.

In the movie, one of the company's CEO mentions the concept of "corporate evolution". GM et al. received the bailout money, and they still have not been able to come up with a plan to recover their flattering companies, and productivity. This really makes one wonder, whether these companies have exhausted all of their options and creativity. They have not been able to come up with new car models, recently. Ford's Model T of the last century still seems Detroit's biggest and innovative contribution to the automobile industry.

The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, wrote about an electric car network, called Better Place. The Better Place, in association with Nissan, is planning on installing charging spots in parking lots, and major intersections. The company has already installed plug-in outlets in Israel, in December of 2008. They are planning on utilizing renewable energy, wind and air, for a national car charging infrastructure. This would not only make them oil independent, but would also help the environment. This is how Friedman explained The Better Place's plan:

"Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T. That way Better Place, or any car company that partners with it, benefits from each mile you drive.
The first Renault and Nissan electric cars are scheduled to hit Denmark and Israel in 2011, when the whole system should be up and running. On Tuesday, Japan’s Ministry of Environment invited Better Place to join the first government-led electric car project along with Honda, Mitsubishi and Subaru. Better Place was the only foreign company invited to participate, working with Japan’s leading auto companies, to build a battery swap station for electric cars in Yokohama, the Detroit of Japan."

Going back to the movie, I think the competition that they show, between the two companies, is healthy. This is exactly what we need to resuscitate our economy. Microsoft, and the cellphone industry carried us through the 90's, and changed the way we communicate. In 2001, Apple reappeared with their new idea, the mighty iPod. The reemergence of Apple computers, inspired Microsoft to come up with their cheap knock-off of Mac's OS X, in the form of Windows Vista. If it was not for the epidemiology program I use, I would throw away my Vista in a heartbeat. Now, Microsoft is about to launch Windows 7 this year.

This sort of healthy competition and the drive to find the next big thing to feed our consumer minds is what we need. Bailing out already handicapped corporates would not really provide us with a long-term solution. Yes, I am being profound today :).

Here is an Onion video for your pleasure. I think which you have earned after being subjected to my above gibberish. Beware of the profanity below :).

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You Made a Mistake

I am writing this post with all the stereotypical Canadian politeness, to inform you, my dear American readers, that you made a mistake by electing Barack Obama in the midst of the global economic crisis.

So ever wonder where all the taxpayer dollars are going?
Well apparently, your elitist of a President thinks, the phrase "War on Terror" is just not zen enough. War on Terror shall now be referred as "Overseas Contingency Operation". Yes, we get it Obama you went to Harvard, and you have written two books, but why must you turn war into a snobfest is beyond me. Furthermore, terrorist attacks will now be called "MAN-made Disasters", which sounds extremely sexist. Seriously, whatever happened to equal opportunities for all?!

As Jon Stewart mentioned, Obama wants you to start calling the Obesity Epidemic as "Enhanced Biological Jollification", which sounds so much more palatable, eh? My advice to all the haters out there: Instead of blaming immigrants for stealing your jobs and money, blame the linguists for coming up with this huggy-feely Orwellian speak.

Obama's recent no-expense spared trip to London to resolve the global economic crisis, ought to have put some serious dent in the American budget-wallet. The guy is travelling with his own personal chef. Way to stick it to the Brits, eh?

In Obama's defence, he maybe a diva, but he has transcended geographical barriers, and created jobs for other black look-alike men. Look how far we have come. Here is a black man selling a South Korean made car:

Also, I love The Office for introducing a black character as Michael Scott's boss. Nothing cracks me up more than the fact how Angela and Kelly Kapoor are going all ga-ga over this new black dapper authority figure. Obamamania, anyone?!

Oh, Obama, the ways in which you have undone your wrongs.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Ghajini is the title of the Indian movie I watched last night. After hearing some negative reviews, my curiosity got the better of me. Let me inform you, being of South Asian descent I am realizing it is very important, in fact crucial, for my cultural brown identity that I engross myself in anything Bollywood. I have been tested on my Bollywood knowledge by the guys my parents set me up with, and needless to say I don't pass those tests with flying colours.

So I put on the movie, as background noise, as I started to work on my sister's architecture paper last night. What can I say my sister is a slave-driver. But the movie took me by surprise, and had me watching it with my hands covering my eyes, because of all the grotesque violence, and heart on the edge. It is good cinema, and goes in the same category as Revolutionary Road, in terms of acting.

It is an action thriller about a guy who has amnesia. This part of the movie reminded me of Jason Bourne, from the Bourne trilogy. But, the element that appealed to me was the love story between the male protagonist, the Indian Bourne, and his love interest (Duh!). Theirs is the most beautiful love story I have seen in the movies recently. It had me in tears. My favourite part of the movie comes right before the following song, which I have been listening to obsessively. I tried finding the subtitles on YouTube, but clearly YouTube expects you all to understand Hindi. After all India, along with China, would be our overlord, so consider this song your first step towards learning Hindi. The song in a nutshell is about the fact that the protagonist cannot believe his luck that he managed to meet and have the love of someone so kind-hearted. It is a beautiful song, again I wish I could find the subtitles for it. Btw, the music is composed by the Slumdog Millionaire's composer and Oscar winner AR Rahman.

The movie also implicitly discussed the division between Indian socio-economic classes. Also, discussed the problem with human trafficking, and teenage prostitution. It depicts the multi-layered modern Indian society, and its contradictions.

Ghajini is an excellent movie which I highly recommend.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nikolai Gogol: The Nose

I read this second short-story of Nikolai Gogol's a month ago, but just didn't get a chance to write about it. It is hard to discuss this particular satirical story without ruining it. Furthermore, the story, as Gogol admitted himself, does not make much sense.

The Nose is about magical realism. A theme one may find in Woody Allen's movies, Family Guy, and South Park.

I was watching South Park the other day, and the Episode 1205 seemed awfully similar to Gogol's story, which was published in 1836. Only in the case of The Nose, the protagonist, Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov, wakes up one day to find that his nose is missing. Yes, his actual, physical nose. Some critics have hypothesized that the disappearance of the nose is seen as a castration complex. Others have argued that maybe the story is biographical, since Gogol was insecure about his nose, apparently.

Whatever the case, the story is well-written, and very HILARIOUS. As, I mentioned before, what strikes me the most about Gogol's writing is the fact how relevant his narrative is.

In his life Gogol's work was censored, because he had the courage to criticize the government. Similarly, I feel, it is in shows like South Park where we get to truly see our society's double-standards, and ignorance. For instance, as far as I know, only South Park has been able to truly point out the hypocrisy behind The Jonas Brothers, and the cloning factory that is the Disney Network. Well, South Park, and the Onion.

Disney Lab Unveils Its Latest Line Of Genetically Engineered Child Stars

A few centuries from now, that is if the world ends up surviving the economic and climate crises, I could see people studying South Park to mock our ignorance.

Urmmm...okay, I am done ranting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

C-eh? N-eh? D-eh?

This is what the world thinks of Canada.

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada? (Sweden)
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places to contact for a stuffed Beaver. (Italy)
A: Let's not touch this one.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Canada? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Halifax? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Ca-na-da is that big country to your North . . . oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada? (Germany)
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Canada? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada? (USA)
A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Thanks Sus for the link :).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The glass half full or empty?

This is my blog's first spring. I should warn you that I am a spring fanatic. I love everything about spring.

Following is the conversation that happened on MSN, after I changed my screen name to: "Zany saw the prettiest pink tulips. *HINT*HINT*"

Friend says:
who u hinting to
Zany says:
i'm not picky
Zany says:
Friend says:
just an open call
Zany says:
omg i saw this guy buying flowers
Zany says:
my heart skipped a beat. he was holding white daisies
Friend says:
did u jump him?
Zany says:
i just smiled at him
Zany says:
and he smiled back
Friend says:
well flowers can also mean i'm sorry...
Zany says:
why do you have to kill my optimism?
Friend says:
i drove my car into ur mothers house
Friend says:
or someone died...
Zany says:
no no
Zany says:
Friend says:
just a shake of reality
Zany says:
it was out of love
Zany says:
he wanted to make her day special
Friend says:
maybe he was visiting his mommy
Friend says:
and wanted to bring her flowers
Zany says:
that's sweet too
Zany says:
all the more reasons for my heart to flutter
Zany says:
a guy who buys flowers for his mom is a keeper
Friend says:
Friend says:
(that mite leave him single too)
Zany says:
i know and he smiled back
Friend says:
Zany says:
Friend says:
i love a good cute unexpected smile
Zany says:
well i smiled first
Zany says:
can't even expect guys to make the first move when it comes to smiling

Spring is in the Air

This poem has been running through my head, on this beautiful sunny day. It's 14 degrees Celsius outside, folks. The sun is out, birds are chirping, and I can see children playing, out my window. Ooo, also, tulip sprouts have made their much anticipated appearance.

by Henry Longfellow

Come to me, O ye children!
For I hear you at your play,
And the questions that perplexed me
Have vanished quite away.

Ye open the eastern windows,
That look towards the sun,
Where thoughts are singing swallows
And the brooks of morning run.

In your hearts are the birds and the sunshine,
In your thoughts the brooklet's flow,
But in mine is the wind of Autumn
And the first fall of the snow.

Ah! what would the world be to us
If the children were no more?
We should dread the desert behind us
Worse than the dark before.

What the leaves are to the forest,
With light and air for food,
Ere their sweet and tender juices
Have been hardened into wood, --

That to the world are children;
Through them it feels the glow
Of a brighter and sunnier climate
Than reaches the trunks below.

Come to me, O ye children!
And whisper in my ear
What the birds and the winds are singing
In your sunny atmosphere.

For what are all our contrivings,
And the wisdom of our books,
When compared with your caresses,
And the gladness of your looks?

Ye are better than all the ballads
That ever were sung or said;
For ye are living poems,
And all the rest are dead.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

If you want it bad enough...

Found here.

Found here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

No Line On The Horizon

Is the title of U2's new album, which I have been playing, obsessively, since this past Wednesday. I have to admit the album is a grower. The first time I listened to their single "Get On Your Boots", I wasn't really impressed. So I didn't become a fan of the song until I watched their opening act at the Brits. In spite of my initial apprehension, I shelled out 13 bucks, and purchased their 12th album. What can I say, I am a U2 loyalist. And, *drumroll please* this is one of my favourite albums. The lyrics are deeply enthralling. The music is volcanic, eruptive, riveting...and I can keep going. They recorded some of the songs in Morocco, and one could actually feel the Arabic cultural influence both in the sound and lyrics. But this influence is not a case of Orientalism, or as The Edge pointed out, of musical tourism. They made the Arabic tunes their own.

The songs are longer, and each song has its own narrative.

1. No Line On The Horizon
This title track gives the album a kick-start with the classic U2 sound. The song is about a girl who said "Time is irrelevant, it's not linear". The girl apparently has them mesmerized, Bono sings: "The songs in your head are now on my mind".

2. Magnificent
In my opinion, the song is about U2's growth and their relationship with their audience. Bono sings:

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise...
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify

The song reminded me of "Beautiful Day". With "Beautiful Day" and its corresponding album, U2 reapplied for the job of the world's greatest band, and expanded their fan base. But, I believe, with their 12th album U2 has reinvented themselves, something Coldplay attempted to achieve with their 4th album, Viva La Vida.

3. Moment of Surrender
My instant favourite, as it reminded me of Rumi's poetry. I think the lyrics are simply poetic.

We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be in the realm of certainty
It's not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me

In a recent TV interview, Bono said that they get a lot of their musical inspiration from Gospel music, and the following verses remind me of the act of praying. Remind me of the moment when people bow down to pray, which in my opinion is the ultimate moment of surrender. In a solitary moment of devotion, when someone becomes oblivious to his or her surroundings.

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

The last part of the song depicts the frenzy of our everyday life; especially the uncertainty that's hanging over us these days.

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me
I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down 'til the pain would stop

4. Unknown Caller
This song pleas for the beginning of a new era.

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me

Another song that reminded me of Rumi's poetry. A poem called "Be Lost in the Call" comes to mind. I am just going to copy-paste it here.

Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?

Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its darkened back, the world;
The back would please you if you've never seen the face.

Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw,
and a mirror might be revealed.

Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn't wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.

My King addressed the soul of my flesh:
You return just as you left.
Where are the traces of my gifts?

We know that alchemy transforms copper into gold.
This Sun doesn't want a crown or robe from God's grace.
He is a hat to a hundred bald men,
a covering for ten who were naked.

Jesus sat humbly on the back of an ass, my child!
How could a zephyr ride an ass?
Spirit, find your way, in seeking lowness like a stream.
Reason, tread the path of selflessness into eternity.

Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.

5. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
My appreciation for this song grew after I watched their live performance on the Letterman Show. I think, they brought down the house with this song. It's a classic U2 number, with the hidden plea for social awareness and global involvement.

There's a part of me in chaos that's quiet
And there's a part of you that wants me to riot
Everybody needs to cry or needs to spit
Every sweet-tooth needs just a little hit
Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot
How can you stand next to the truth and not see it?
Change of heart comes slow...
Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear?
The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear
But change of heart comes slow...

6. Get On Your Boots
For better or worse, this track is different from the rest of the songs on this record. I think the reason they chose to release it first, because the story and/or the chaos begins from this song. Here they pose the question, what do you do when the world falls apart in front of your eyes? Something our generation has had to deal with over and over again, in this past decade. We dwindle from not wanting to talk about the outside world, to feeling selfish for not caring, to feeling inadequate, to believing in the power of one.

Winds blow with a twist
Never seen a move like this
Can you see it too
Night is falling everywhere
Rockets hit the funfair
Satan loves a bomb scare
If some one's into blowing up
We're into growing up
Women are the future
All the big revelations
I've gotta submarine
You've got gasoline
I don't wanna talk about wars between nations
Not right now

This song is a definite grower. But, don't judge the entire record based on this one song.

7. Stand Up Comedy
One of the shorter tracks about Bono's crusade to instill individual responsibility in us, to solve our global problems. I think, this song goes perfectly well with the following video, which changetheworld360 mentioned on her blog:

8. White As Snow
In this song, U2 is reminiscing about yesteryears. It is a slow song and has an entrancing effect on me.

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow

9. Breathe
The song starts with The Edge's powerful guitar strings. This song is chaotic, and random, very much like our lives.

10. Cedars of Lebanon
Just the title alone reminded me of the 2007 Lebanon Conflict. I remember Lebanese with foreign passports were able to leave the country, and escape the conflict, but the ones, who didn't have the luxury of having dual-citizenships, stayed behind in the midst of "Cedars of Lebanon". I am not sure who the narrator is, in this song. It could be a journalist, who reported from the country during the conflict, portrayed through the song's linear tone.

I haven't been with a woman, it feels like for years
Thought of you the whole time, your salty tears
This shitty world sometimes produces a rose
The scent of it lingers and then it just goes
The worst of us are a long drawn out confession
The best of us are geniuses of compression
You say you're not going to leave the truth alone
Child drinking dirty water from the river bank
Soldier brings oranges he got out from a tank
I'm waiting on the waiter, he's taking a while to come
Choose your enemies carefully 'cos they will define you
Make them interesting 'cos in some ways they will mind you
They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend

11. Fez-Being Born
Fez is a 400 year old Moroccan city. Wikipedia tells me, the city has the oldest university in the world. This is the last song on the album, perhaps paying tribute to the city where U2 sought for their rebirth.

I'm being born, a bleeding start
The engines roar, blood curling wail
Head first then foot
The heart sets sail

Saturday, March 7, 2009

We are two but we are one.

In a Charmed Life, a Road Less Traveled

One of my Saturday morning rituals is to read the Modern Love weekly column, in the New York Times. Reading other people's take on love, be it about real life obscure breakups, or once in a lifetime eternal love, somehow has a therapeutic effect on me.

The story above pointed out that when we think about love, or when we get into a marriage, we are usually thinking about building a happy life together. For some it is having children, snuggling in front of the idiot box, going to the park together, vacationing together, and the list goes on. But, I guess, even the most morbid individuals don't wonder, would their partner be there for them if they became physically disabled. Then again, these are the things we should not plan for, right?

In this week's love story, a car accident leaves the writer's wife physically disabled, where the writer is left to look after her. When he got the call from the hospital he wondered if she was mentally okay. The fact that he would be required to clean after her didn't bother him. He just wanted the essence of her being, her personality, the person he fell in love with to be there.

You know how they say looks come and go, but who we are, our soul, our personality, our intelligence is something that is truly uniquely ours. I think, at the end of the day, if somehow I could find this mythical mental connection with someone, then I know I would be okay.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On This Day

So folks, on this day, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He has been charged for war crimes, and crimes against humanity. President Bashir is responsible for supporting the Janjaweeds who have killed millions in Darfur. This is the first time in history the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state. The Sudanese government reacted by revoking the aid licenses of 6 humanitarian organizations in Darfur, demanding them to remove their personnel from the region.

I reckon, the warrant would probably result in more bloodshed, but it was a necessary measure. The world needed to display some sort of action against the acts of violence campaigned by President Bashir. However, at this point the warrant only seems ceremonial since the ICC does not have any military of its own, and the UN Forces lack the means to arrest the President. I suppose, we are headed in the right direction. Here is hoping, President Obama sticks to his word, and follows through with his promise of assigning a special US envoy responsible for ending the genocide in Darfur.

On a personal note, my sister gets her Iron Ring today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canada 101

Just a little pointer: the Queen's representative, Governor General Michelle Jean, has a French accent. This is what the Brits get after years of Colonialism and oppression. Revenge at its best.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sisters. Victims. Heroes.

When so many of the families are scrambling to overcome challenges the economic recession has posed; the genocide in Darfur seems a world away. The genocide has now lasted longer than the second world war. The humanitarian crisis in Darfur has never really received the media coverage, and/or the international community's support that it truly deserves. But, thankfully, Nicholas Kristof, has been writing about Darfur endlessly. He posted the above video from the region.

Hopefully his message would be able to raise awareness, and the Obama government would do its role in ending the genocide. My own Canadian government has been completely ambivalent about the issue. You see, live-blogging about Obama's visit, and giving it endless media coverage is apparently far more important. After all, Obama did go through the trouble of spending FIVE WHOLE HOURS in Ottawa. So in this case, our local media's 48-hour news-coverage of the trip was totally justified :|.

The Eligible-Bachelor Paradox

The Eligible-Bachelor Paradox

How economics and game theory explain the shortage of available, appealing men.

By Mark Gimein

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the available, sociable, and genuinely attractive man is a character highly in demand in social settings. Dinner hosts are always looking for the man who fits all the criteria. When they don't find him (often), they throw up their hands and settle for the sociable but unattractive, the attractive but unsociable, and, as a last resort, for the merely available.

The shortage of appealing men is a century-plus-old commonplace of the society melodrama. The shortage—or—more exactly, the perception of a shortage—becomes evident as you hit your late 20s and more acute as you wander into the 30s. Some men explain their social fortune by believing they've become more attractive with age; many women prefer the far likelier explanation that male faults have become easier to overlook.

The problem of the eligible bachelor is one of the great riddles of social life. Shouldn't there be about as many highly eligible and appealing men as there are attractive, eligible women?

Actually, no—and here's why. Consider the classic version of the marriage proposal: A woman makes it known that she is open to a proposal, the man proposes, and the woman chooses to say yes or no. The structure of the proposal is not, "I choose you." It is, "Will you choose me?" A woman chooses to receive the question and chooses again once the question is asked.

The idea of the woman choosing expressed in the proposal is a resilient one. The woman picking among suitors is a rarely reversed archetype of romantic love that you'll find everywhere from Jane Austen to Desperate Housewives. Or take any comic wedding scene: Invariably, it'll have the man standing dazed at the altar, wondering just how it is he got there.

Obviously, this is simplified—in contemporary life, both sides get plenty of chances to be selective. But as a rough-and-ready model, it's not bad, and it contains a solution to the Eligible-Bachelor Paradox.

You can think of this traditional concept of the search for marriage partners as a kind of an auction. In this auction, some women will be more confident of their prospects, others less so. In game-theory terms, you would call the first group "strong bidders" and the second "weak bidders." Your first thought might be that the "strong bidders"—women who (whether because of looks, social ability, or any other reason) are conventionally deemed more of a catch—would consistently win this kind of auction.

But this is not true. In fact, game theory predicts, and empirical studies of auctions bear out, that auctions will often be won by "weak" bidders, who know that they can be outbid and so bid more aggressively, while the "strong" bidders will hold out for a really great deal. You can find a technical discussion of this here. (Be warned: "Bidding Behavior in Asymmetric Auctions" is not for everyone, and I certainly won't claim to have a handle on all the math.) But you can also see how this works intuitively if you just consider that with a lot at stake in getting it right in one shot, it's the women who are confident that they are holding a strong hand who are likely to hold out and wait for the perfect prospect.

This is how you come to the Eligible-Bachelor Paradox, which is no longer so paradoxical. The pool of appealing men shrinks as many are married off and taken out of the game, leaving a disproportionate number of men who are notably imperfect (perhaps they are short, socially awkward, underemployed). And at the same time, you get a pool of women weighted toward the attractive, desirable "strong bidders."

Where have all the most appealing men gone? Married young, most of them—and sometimes to women whose most salient characteristic was not their beauty, or passion, or intellect, but their decisiveness.

Evolutionary psychologists will remind us that there's a long line of writing about "female choosiness" going back to Darwin and the male peacocks competing to get noticed by "choosy" mates with their splendid plumage. But you don't have to buy that kind of reductive biological explanation (I don't) to see the force of the "women choose" model. You only have to accept that for whatever socially constructed reason, the choice of getting married is one in which the woman is usually the key player. It might be the man who's supposed to ask the official, down-on-the-knee question, but it usually comes after a woman has made the central decision. Of course, in this, as in all matters of love, your experience may vary.

There may be those who look at this and try to derive some sort of prescription, about when to "bid," when to hold out, and when (as this Atlantic story urges) to "settle." If you're inclined to do that, approach with care. Game theory deals with how best to win the prize, but it works only when you can decide what's worth winning.

Found here.

Also check out: "The Case for Mr. Not-Quite-Right." Needless to say, my Momma Bennet of a mother really enjoyed these articles :).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Picket Fence

I had the hardest time writing this post. The thing is, I cannot isolate myself from Revolutionary Road. When I read this novel, written by Richard Yates, I could see myself in Frank Wheeler. This story is about broken promises, and unfulfilled dreams. The reason this story is unique because it is an anti-thesis of a typical coming of age tale.

Marianne Williamson said that our deepest fear is not realizing, we are insufficient, but coming in terms with our true potential. If we know we are intelligent and have the potential of achieving whatever we put our mind to, then we really have no excuse to fail.

Revolutionary Road took away the blind-faith that I would be happy in the end. It made me realize that sometimes even the most gifted, and blessed people are not happy in life. People like Frank and April Wheeler, who have everything going for them. Frank Wheeler is intelligent, attractive, and is married to a beautiful woman, with two kids. He earns a good living at a job he hates, where he does not really have to apply himself. He is financially well-off, and is living in a beautiful suburban house. His wife, April Wheeler, gets drawn to Frank because he has new ideals. He is mysterious and he has travelled the world. Whereas, April has not been anywhere. She took acting classes, and believed she could have been an excellent actress, if she had not gotten married and had Frank's two kids. But this false belief gets shattered when her local theater performance is declared mediocre by her suburban neighbours.

Together the couple ends up having this life which neither of them had expected. They find themselves getting lost behind the mundanity of white picket fenced suburbia. They are unhappy because the novelty that brought them closer is missing. They come to realize, neither of them is as unexceptional as the other thought they were. They get this grand idea to move to Europe where they could finally amount to something spectacular, out of the ordinary. This Old World fascination is akin to what many members of the Lost Generation felt, including Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The reader or viewer is left to wonder, are these characters so lost because they got thrown into the circumstances they didn't expect? Both of them had hopes that they were beyond the simple and monochromatic lifestyle that one would expect from a husband, a wife, and parents of two children. The other question is, are these two characters "exceptional" because they are daring to be different, or are they flawed and foolishly idealistic because they want something they can't have? Perhaps, they should have tested their true potential before they got married.

In terms of the cinematic characterization, one thing I didn't like in the movie was the fact that April's character seemed more confused and lost than Frank's. April was shown to make more unrealistic and idealistic choices than Frank. Now that we are on the subject, let me discuss the movie a bit more. My favourite part of the movie was the beginning. April and Frank are shown walking down a hallway under ceiling lights, walking parallel to each other, but not right beside each other. I don't know if that makes sense, but to me I thought it was an effective way to set the premise of the story. In terms of acting, I am still angry with the fact that neither Leo DiCaprio nor Kate Winslet got nominated for their roles. They transpired Richard Yates words through their acting, with their body language and facial expressions. Both of these actors have the power to reach out of the screen and somehow move me with their performances. There are not that many actors I can say that for.

I was ready to hate the movie, because I never like film adaptations. But, the movie ended up helping my understanding of the novel and its author. For instance, for some reason I saw Richard Yates in Howard Givings, who turns off his hearing-aid because he doesn't want to hear anything negative about the Wheelers. I think, Yates felt sorry for the Wheelers, after all, the Wheelers are the embodiment of our worst fears and moments of self-doubt. We are afraid to be stuck in a job we don't like, or in a marriage that only seems perfect from the outside. Furthermore, Yates also included us in his story. We are shown both as the ordinary Campbells (more about them in a few minutes), and John Givings. Yates entrusted John Givings to ask the Wheelers our questions. John Givings screams and scolds the Wheelers for us.

Okay now something about the Campbells. Yates used this couple as a foil to highlight the Wheelers's flaws. Where the Wheelers are dreaming about moving to Paris, the Campbells are busy looking after their kids. Where Frank is dreaming about quitting his job, Shep Campbell is lusting after Frank's wife, April. See how simple and ordinary Shep's dreams are (!). At the end of the day, the question is would Shep prefer a wife who is like April or like his own wife, Milly. Milly is not as beautiful as April, but she is an excellent mother, and caregiver.

The other theme that had my mind going was manliness. April thinks that since Frank did not amount to her first reaction of him, he is incapable of carrying through and completely finishing a task. Even in the instances, when he raises his hand to hit her but holds back last minute, and does not follow through. She sees his failure to physically harm her as his inability to be a man. She actually says something along the lines that how Frank is not even man enough to harm her. Frank compensates for his un-maniliness by sleeping with a co-worker.

I would strongly suggest anyone out there who's reading this post to read the book. It will change the way you look at life and relationships. Too often we hold back emotions and resort to silences when just simple sentences and words would have been the best option. Too often we take life for granted. We take ourselves for granted.