on Thursday, February 28, 2008

A song consists basically of a melody and lyrics. Add to that the nuances of arrangement and use of different musical instruments to create the emotive atmosphere for the songs message. The best songs are probably when all the elements combine and the sum becomes more than just the addition of its parts.

However, some songs have such powerful melodies and words that often the simplest presentation is best and where more complex arrangements and use of instruments merely detract from the songs elemental beauty. It would be like having the freshest fish but cooking it and smothering it with a strong tomato sauce until the natural sweetness of the fish is lost and overwhelmed.

And so in this manner, I occasionally come across a song which I like and which I find that the lyrics are special enough to hold my attention on their own. Many of Leonard Cohen's songs fit this category and I have posted on them before. More recently, I came across a song by Gretchen Peters which fits the bill too.

I have to say that I know next to nothing about Gretchen Peters other than that she is a singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. However this lyrics of this song just speaks volumes to me. The song has three verses and each verse seems to tell a totally separate story linked only by the fact that each of them is about an aviator and each of them is about parting. It is called the "Aviator's Song"

you fell out of the sky when you were 21
your bomber took a bullet from a german gun
did you think about your wife
your brief and tender life
did you pray to anyone?

how does it feel when you’re falling
can you hear sweet angels calling
is it empty up in space
did you touch god’s holy face
did you tremble, did you cry
did you fall or did you fly

you fell out of your life when you were 43
you saw her and you thought she was your destiny
you wandered from the path
and we cursed your aftermath
but that’s ancient history


you make it so damn hard to love you
i don’t know why i even try
and all i ever wanted of you
to take me with you when you fly

you fell out of my life one last time today
i held your hand and watched you as you slipped away
you cast your pilot’s eye to the endless open sky
and i sent you on your way


(Gretchen Peters was selected as the Folkwax 2007 Artiste of the Year. Keep an eye out for her as her star continues to climb. In the meantime, her songs (including The Aviator's Song) is playing on the LGS Radio located on the sidebar).

Squirrel's Secret Spot 11: Ribe, Denmark

on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There are many great cities to visit in Europe. However, to visit city after city can be all so tiring for a country squirrel like me. That is when a side detour to a small and hidden gem can be so refreshing. One such place is Ribe which is the oldest town in Denmark. It was founded in the early part of the 8th Century AD and was at that time a very important merchant port in Scandinavia.

Today, it is a small and quaint town without the plague of tourists that crowd the larger and better known cities. Nevertheless, a quick walk through its quiet and narrow streets reveal several interesting things about the town.

Located in south-west Jutland, this coastal town is surrounded by low sand dunes and serviced by canals. Tied up along the canal and near the middle of town is the ex-merchant ship which has been converted into a floating museum (below).

Ribe has a beautiful cathedral. I had just had my fill of the obscene opulence of some of the churches in Germany and by contrast, the simple elegance of Ribe Cathedral was refreshing. This looked like a living, serving church of God rather than some over done monument to man's wealth instead of God's glory. Below is a picture of the Cat's Head Door which actually is one of the oldest bronze doors in Denmark. On the door is the image of a lion's head surrounded by four dragons. It depicts the strength of the church in the midst of a hostile world.

Another interesting thing that you would notice as you walk about Ribe is that there are many storks which nests around the chimneys of houses in Ribe. That is quite a sight.

Perhaps the highlight of a visit to Ribe would be Ribehaus Castle Hill. The castle is long gone but what remains is a wild, windblown rise which is surrounded by a moat. As you wander the small island amidst the tall grasses, you will come across a strange and powerful statue of Queen Dagmar (below).

Queen Dagmar's statue shows her on a boat perhaps the boat ferrying her to the afterlife as the back of the statue shows a relief depicting her on her deathbed. Note that someone has put fresh flowers in her arms. Queen Dagmar is known to be a popular queen according to tradition and is clear that her popularity amongst the population remains even to this day.

Margaret Dragomir of Bohemia was the daughter of the Bohemian king, Premysl Ottokar I, and Adela of Meissen. In 1205, she was shipped to Ribe in great splendour to be married to the Danish King Valdemar the Victorious. In Denmark she was given the name Dagmar.
In 1209 she gave birth to a son, Valdemar den Unge (Valdemar the Young). In 1212, seven years after her arrival in Denmark, she died, and was buried in St. Bendts Church in Ringsted on Zealand.

However there are many traditional stories of her which paint her as a foreign woman who became the Queenand won the hearts of the Danish people through acts of kindness and charity. The legends tell of how the King rode with haste from a town 130 km away to be by her side at her deathbed in Ribe as soon as he heard that she was seriously ill. In his passion and grief, he outrode all the hundred soldiers escorting him and arrived in Ribe alone.

Alas, the story tells us that he arrived too late for she had died. However, she somehow mysteriously re-awoke to ask three promises of the King. The first was to release all the prisoners in jail. The second was that their youngest son should succeed him as King and the third was that he should not under any circumstances marry Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal.

Legend tells us that he immediately set all the prisoners free. Unfortunately, history tells us he married Princess Berengaria two years later.

Ribe is rich in history and is a pleasant spot to wander around and to get away from maddening crowds. This squirrel recommends it.

(All photos by LGS)

A National Treasure Lost Too Early

on Saturday, February 23, 2008

The other night, I was watching a TV program called "Air Crash Investigations" which is a regular program that investigates the causes of certain significant air crashes. On this occasion, it featured the ill-fated Air Canada Flight 797 on 2nd of June 1983. This flight left Dallas, Texas and was supposed to land in Toronto, Canada. Unfortunately, a fire developed in one of the toilets and the whole cabin was enveloped in thick, acrid smoke. Despite these appalling conditions, the pilots managed to make a successful emergency landing in Cincinnati while the cabin crew succeeded in keeping the passengers calm and breathing from oxygen masks.

However, after landing, many passengers were unable to find the exits in the dark and smoke and succumbed to smoke inhalation. Adding to the problems, when the escape hatches did open, the fresh air entering resulted in a flash fire throughout the plane just a few minutes later. Basically, all the survivors were the ones who managed to get out in the first few minutes. 23 died and 23 survived. This was a significant event in aviation history because it was from this tragedy that the airline industry began many life-saving innovations such as lighted strips to guide passengers to the exits, smoke detectors in the toilets, non-toxic materials for the cabin and so on.

The program then went on to note that Canadian Folk singer Stan Rogers was one of those who perished that day. I never knew this fact. I had heard of Stan Rogers and I really liked his music but I never knew what happened to him.

My mind drifted back a full 26 years back in time. It was a cold, blustery and wet winter's night. It was past midnight but I was still up watching the sheets of rain coming down and listening to BBC Radio. There was an interesting program on which I had been following. It was a competition between the national radio stations of Britain, Canada and Norway. Each of them were given an opportunity to showcase their country through a one hour radio program every Saturday. At the end of the series, a panel of judges in each of the countries would vote for the best program.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) won the series with their entry which was an hour long travelogue of Canada represented entirely by the music and songs of Stan Rogers. I listened to the program and felt that I had discovered a priceless pearl. I have always enjoyed the melancholic Scottish laments and the lively Irish jigs but the music of Stan Rogers seemed to be a combination of both and yet more. I also found that I could really sense the essence and struggles of the people that he sings about. I was mesmerized.

I have kept an eye out for his music ever since but it is unfortunately difficult to find outside of Canada. Now I know what happened to him and can only think that it was a sad day that such life and potential was loss in that manner.

I wish I could play all his songs but I chose three to showcase here.

This first song was one that I heard 26 years ago and just gripped my heart with its poignancy. It tells of the brave men that died trying to find a Northwest passage through the artic ice to reach the Orient and how they inadvertently helped to build the nation. This was the best video I could find and happened to use footage from the TV series about a Canadian Mountie sent to Chicago to work with the American police, called "Due South". Obviously there is a clash of cultures and personalities and hilarity ensues. That's just background info. It's the song that is haunting.

This second song also represents the hardships of the Canadian worker so,so well. It is a touching lament and at the same time a stirring battle cry. i just love the words.

This third one is actually one that i have only recently heard. Daysgoby mentioned this in one of her recent posts saying "I'm a little surprised I wasn't required to learn it before they'd let me over the Nova Scotian border..." Indeed! Anyway, this is just a great lively song to compliment the slower songs above. You also get to hear Stan explain how he came about to write this song. Enjoy

Dreams and Re-Runs

on Thursday, February 21, 2008

"DreamCatcher" (unknown)

Somehow I have actually avoided posting on dreams until now. This maybe a sign that I am scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. However, I am quite proud of my dreamscape. It is suitably weird, nutty and imaginative.

Unfortunately, like everything else in my life, I do not seem to have the latest technology to play with. So while most of the world is experiencing their dreams in High Definition Colour, I almost entirely dream in black and white or monochrome. For many years, I asked people if they dreamt in colour or were they a freak like me. I finally found a serious study that reported that 12% of the population does not dream in colour.

My dreams are almost always in black and white or occuring under low light situations like night-time so that everything is monochromatic or in shades of grey. In one very strange childhood dream (which occured long before Antz), I was a black army ant off to raid a red ant nest. Everything occurs at night and along dark tunnels in the soil and part of the problem was trying to recognise whether you had bumped into friend or foe.

I can only remember vividly one dream in colour. Again I was an ant but I was taking part in the ant Olympics and the swimming competition was held in something that strangely looked like the pool of water that appears in the corner of my garden when it rains. The swimming lane was separated by long strips of runner grass. I remember the water was a deep prussian blue and the strips of grass were a bright brown. It was spectacular.

I have several recurring dreams but one is particularly unusual in that my elder brother (14 years older) also has this same dream recurring. My childhood home is completely surrounded by a garden with large trees. At night, it can be very dark outside with very little external light penetrating the tree foliage. There is one room (my brother's actually) that had the peculiar design in which there were two set of windows that were right angle to each other, just a couple feet from a corner of the room.

The dream will start with the TV or radio announcing that tigers and leopards have escaped from the zoo. I will then rush around closing the doors and windows of the house. As I do this, I can hear the breathing of the large cats outside in the darkness. The hair on the back of my neck will stand on end. But as I rush into this final room and reach to close the windows, it is too late. The powerful dark form of a leopard or a panther will brush me aside and land in the room. I would scream like a little girl and then, inexplicably the animal will jump out the other window. As I step back and watch, big cat after big cat will jump into the room through one window and then with a growl, jump back out the other window.

Any theories, o budding psychologists?

I do have nightmares from time to time and they can be quite scary. But I have one recurring nightmare and again it involves panthers. In my dream, I am walking in a small group with my cousins along an actual road in my hometown. Suddenly all the traffic and pedestrians, everything except us, disappears. It also becomes dark as if it was the deepest night. All is dark except for a circle of light of about 20 feet diameter. This circle of light seems to be centred on the group; when we move, it moves along. When one of my dream cousins (read "dispendable") ventures too close to the edge of the light, a dark figure or a panther will reach in and snatch him/her into the darkness. There is a great amount of fear in the group. We can sense the creatures out in the dark circling us, occasionally catching a glimpse of their eyes in the darkness. In the nightmare, we know we have to travel some two kilometers to the safety of my house but as we do so we notice the circle of light get smaller as we move along. Will we make it? I never remember how it ends.

4. Favorite Dream
In my favorite recurring dream, I am in a magical fantasy world of broad grasslands with large variety of wildflowers, crossed by sparkling brooks and streams and scattered forest groves. In this world, I have wings. I don't really fly but I can soar and I can glide. I would use my legs to push off against the soft ground and that will enable me to glide over the earth for a minute or so before I touch the ground again. Push. Glide. Push. Glide. In this way I can travel effortlessly over the land and I feel exhilarated. My favorite dream. I always feel good when I wake up.

Dream analysts? What's your verdict?

My Dream House

on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I do not think that I am fussy nor demanding. In fact, I am fairly content and easily satisfied. I am not one of those who desires the fastest or most luxurious cars. Where some may pant after a Lamborghini or perhaps a Rolls-Royce, my dream car is nothing more exalted than the Volkswagen Golf Convertible and I am absolutely content with the Honda City that I do drive.

The same applies to houses. Sure, it would be nice to own a mansion or even just a large house but that really isn't important. Home is where you make it and a small studio apartment can be as happy a home as a big mansion. I do like water though. It would be nice if the house would be near water. I would sit on the porch and just watch the seasons change.

Nevertheless, if any of you kind folk can find a way for me to live at any of these places, I'd be much obliged. Thank you.

Somewhere in the Laurentians, Quebec

Somewhere on an island off Iceland

Somehere on a fiord in Norway

Would any of you like to be my neighbors?

Unburied Nuts from 15th January 2007 : Romance at the Speed of Light

on Sunday, February 17, 2008

In the last post, blackcrag suggested that his couple romance life resembled that of Pepe le Pew and the Black cat. It so happens Pepe and Ms. Cat helped me illustrate one of the early posts of this blog and I have decided to shamelessly recycle it here under my "Unburied Nuts" series.

Recently, Dave, managed to dig up an old advertisement poster where the Canadian Government tried to encourage women to go west and get married with statements like “anything in skirts stands a chance”. It of course reminded me of how different things are today. Women, for one would not stand for this kind of malarkey. We have all grown more mature as a global culture and are better educated on issues like etiquette, equality, respect and commitment. Yeah, right (sarcasm).

In today’s mad rush of living, is there time for love, romance and family? Many people are finding it hard to cope. Some caring governments are once again entering the fray to help out and surely the award for the most “caring” government goes to Singapore.

Singaporean professionals are too busy spending more hours than there are in a day, just to achieve the minimum 5 C’s required to enter the dating game. How are the poor dears ever going to find a match and get married? The super-caring Singapore Government has been in a huff and a puff over the fact that fewer citizens were getting married and many of them later in life. Even when married, the couples were not productive. According to statistics for 2002, Singaporean women give birth to 1.37 babies in a lifetime, down from 1.87 in 1990. Since a replacement level of 2.1 is required to keep a country’s natural population stable, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong elevated baby-making to a national priority. The concern was that the declining fertility rate would lead to economic crisis, increased security risk and political instability.

With admirable determination, the Singaporeans took action on bachelors and bachelorettes. In 1984, the Working Committee on Marriage and Procreation was formed with the task of increasing the birth-rate. Figuring that Singaporeans respond well to financial incentives, they introduced the “baby bonus’ incentives. I do not have figures to show how successful this program was.

This did not solve the issue of fewer and later marriages. Thus the Social Development Unit or SDU was formed which came out with 70 recommendations for increasing baby production. SDU was to succeed where earlier efforts failed because they would tackle issues like dating and matchmaking because as was said earlier, hardworking Singaporeans do not have time for such distractions. SDU’s efforts have earned them the nickname of Single, Desperate and Ugly.

Not swayed by such popular opinion, SDU went on to implement their plan which included compulsory dating courses in the first year of Universit, the “Love Boat Cruises” and the “Love Plane Flights” which include on-board lectures on seduction. The latter two, were subsidized holidays for singles and I believe, if any couple ended up getting married, the fare for the holiday was reimbursed.

Nowadays, Single, Desperate and Ugly hides behind their campaign brand of “Romancing Singapore” which organizes state-sponsored matchmaking events like speed dating (e.g. meet 6 guys/gals in 60 minutes), rock climbing for couples (an opportunity to get sweaty), love boat river race and midnight walks, just to name a few.

SDU produced an official eight-page guidebook called "When Boy Meets Girl! The Chemistry Guide” which teaches busy engineers and IT nerds how to court a girl, where to go, and what to do on a date.
Don't you hate it when
the chemistry's all wrong?

Singapore even has its own celebrity love guru, Dr. Wei, who also is known as Dr. Love. Dr. Love runs love cruises, Baby Planing Camps and was planning in 2004 to do an "edutainment" reality TV show called “Dr. Love’s Super Baby-Making Show”. This never materialized, perhaps because it went too far for “prudish” officials, despite Dr. Love’s assurance that it would be done very clinically. Hmmm, very romantic indeed.

And has all this government plotting worked? In 2003, Durex did a sexual habits survey amongst 34 nations and Singapore ranked last for the second consecutive time. With Singaporeans reported having sex less than 8 times per month on average or 96 times per year. For the curious, it was the Hungarians, fortified with spicy paprika that took first place with 152 rolls in the hay per year.

Alas, so sad to see the fine efforts of Single Desperate and Ugly produce such poor results. Perhaps the expert readers in the blogosphere can give some advice on how we can avoid a movie entitled, “The Last of the Singaporeans”.

"I am a Satire, yes?"

Romance Icons

on Thursday, February 14, 2008

The 14th of February 2008, Valentine's Day and many people's thoughts turn to love and romance. I thought it would be interesting to ask you readers, "Which famous couple best portrays for you the romance that Valentine's Day represents to you."

Do you imagine being swept off your feet? Is there someone out there that the fates have appointed for you? Are you impressed by power? Good-looks? Passion?

I have chosen a few famous couples here. Please take the poll on the side bar and select 5 choices.

Romeo and Juliet - Star-crossed lovers
We start with this famous couple whose families tried to keep apart but are united in death.

Catherine and Heathcliffe (Wuthering Heights) - haunted lovers
A love that starts in childhood but seems to go beyond the grave. Heathcliffe's love and obsession is so powerful that it consumes him even after Catherine's death. A powerful, dark brooding passion.

Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler – Swept off Your Feet
Perhaps your idea of romance is to have a handsome devil sweep you off your Southern Belle feet. Flirtatious and tempestuous.

Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere – Forbidden Love
The excitement of forbidden love? To fall for that which you are sworn to protect even at the cost of betraying the trust of your king and friend? Passion before duty.

Odysseus and Penelope - Patient, enduring love
Separated soon after they were married, Odysseus will endure a long 20 year journey to return to his love. Penelope remains faithful and spurns the advances of hundreds of men even though she had no news of her husband and little hope that he was still alive. Odysseus too must resit much danger and temptation before they can be reunited.

Anthony and Cleopatra – Tragic love
The world's most beautiful woman and one of the most powerful generals in the world. For their love's sake tried to stand against the might of Rome itself.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono – inspired, free spirits.
Both artists who seem to complement each other and to inspire each other to new creative heights .......even if it meant the end of the Beatles.

Marie and Pierre Curie – meeting of minds
A couple who shared a common passion for science and a love for each other; successfully combining the pursuit of minds and hearts.

Helen of Troy and Paris – Obsessive, consuming love
The face that launched a thousand ships and a love that had a war fought over it.

Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson – love worth losing your crown for.
The British law would not allow Prince Edward to marry the American divorcee. No problem. Edward chose to give up his kingdom for love's sake.

Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal – A monumental love.
Out of this love, we have one of the world's great wonders, the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan built it to commemorate his love for his wife.

Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie - A match made in Hollywood.
Perhaps, the modern day poster couple for love as found in tinseltown and promoted in the media. The love of two of the world's beautiful people.

That's it, folks. Please cast your votes. What are you waiting for? Stop looking. I did not include Kermit and Ms. Piggy. You can also tell me who I have been guilty of leaving off the list in the comments section. Happy Valentine's Day!

Jimmy "Schnozzola" Durante

on Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I am a very bad, bad, bad squirrel. I saw this picture on the left and it straight away reminded me of someone. I am such a bad, bad squirrel. In actual fact, this is a picture of a Blob fish. Yes, there is actually such a thing.

But I am such a bad, bad, bad squirrel. I am so sorry but it reminded me straight away of Jimmy Durante, Ol' Schnozzola himself. I am actually a big fan of this actor, singer and comedienne. Jimmy was born in 1893 and died in 1980. His fame and career spanned from the 1920's to the early 1970's. Just in case, you are wondering, this squirrel is grey but I ain't a contemporary of Jimmy's. No, but somehow I got to hear his gravely voice, saw some old movies of his and I just found him to be special.

Listening to Frank Sinatra sing September Song and listening to Jimmy sing it, I prefer Jimmy's version. Frank croons the song well as we would expect him to but Jimmy's voice like his face is just full of character.

Over the years, I have tried to learn more about this funny and yet sad man. For most of his career, he would end his radio and TV shows with the mysteriously cryptic phrase "Good Night Mrs. Calabash......wherever you are." There are two theories to the meaning of this phrase but I am inclined to believing this one.

He married the love of his life, Jeanne Olson, in June 1921 and they were to be happily married until her death. I am not totally certain but I recall that it was a long and drawn-out illness. She died on Valentine's Day 1943. During those last years, as she was ill, the couple made their home in Calabasas, Southern California. Hence, Mrs. Calabash was a salute to his wife wherever she was.

It was hard to find videos or recordings of Jimmy's on the internet so I hope you will enjoy the three that I have handpicked for you.

This first one is of that lovely tune, "Make Someone Happy". The video features photos of Ann-Margaret. While it was not my intention to showcase her here, nevertheless she is pleasant on the eyes too.

This second video is another of my favorite Durante tunes, "Young at Heart".

Finally, this clip from one of his TV shows includes his salute to Mrs. Calabash.

Advice from Doctor Love

on Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dear readers, it seems like that commercially exploited and artificially fabricated day to celebrate romance is just a few sunsets away. I refer of course to the over-esteemed Valentine's Day. When this inquisitive squirrel tried to research the origins of Valentine's Day and its connection to romance, the trail was confusing and obscure.

One theory was that St. Valentine married Roman soldiers and their girlfriends in contradiction to the Emperor's order that his soldiers remain single. One other story speak of a pagan ritual to ensure fertility and to allow boys to chose their wives by ballot. Hardly romantic by today's standard but may be the start of the Valentine's Days traditions.

The history of Valentine's Day cards are however extensively documented but not really interesting other than it proves that much of our lives is under the control of marketing and PR executives.

Ah, but even this grumpy old squirrel must admit that at this time of the year (spring, that is. I am not sure how this works for you folks in the southern hemisphere), young hearts seem to naturally turn to thoughts of love. Last year, I tried to give some good advice about love and was rewarded by one sympathetic comment in which the writer offered his condolences for my sad status as the "lone" grey squirrel. Well, I am actually happily married.....thank you very much!

Nevertheless, this year I have spared no expense (except my special stash of 2005 walnuts....it was a good year) to bring you advice from a professional. I know him as Bob but he is also known as Dr. Love by his people. Enjoy and be enlightened. Squirrel out.

Greetings readers! My name is Aikenvoodoo-U Cassanova Lovelace the Great. I am the great witch doctor from deepest and darkest Namibia. I have served the love needs of my people for many years. My voodoo doll and toothpick treatment is so much more effective than Viagra.

My friend, the grey squirrel, asked me to give you some advice about romance for Valentine's Day. It was wise of the squirrel to get professional help when some issues are beyond his small brain.

In case you think that a traditional witch doctor knows little about love in the modern world, I must tell you that I am married to a British woman. I still remember the first time I went to U.K. with my wife after our marriage. Her mother was there at the airport to greet us. My wife told me her mother was not enthusiastic about the fact that I am a Witch Doctor but when she saw me for the first time, she said to my wife, "I said to marry a rich doctor. A RICH doctor!" I do not like to boast but I have 12 cattle and 20 goats. I am the richest man in my village. Love you too, mumsy-in-law.

But I digress. Advice for Valentine's Day follows.

1. Chocolates: -
Many of you palefaces seem to think that chocolates is a good thing to give to your girlfriend. No! This is big mistake. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine or PEA which is a powerful love chemical. This is the chemical that stimulates the pleasure centres of the mesolimbic region in the brain and it peaks during orgasm. Therefore, it is not surprising that 50% of women say they prefer chocolate than sex and most women find dark chocolate more satisfying than passionate kissing. So, if you give chocolates to your girl, she will take them, say thank you very much and have fun without you. Before you know it, you will be as a "lone" as the grey squirrel.

2. Flowers:-
This may seem to be a great thing to give your girl. For reasons, even I do not know, the women like this. However, you must first check which flower is suitable. I am not saying whether she likes the flower but more importantly does she have hay fever or allergies to the flowers. Flowers have pollen and many people are allergic to pollen.

Imagine this. You give her flowers. She smiles and puts the flowers next to her nose and breathes in deeply to enjoy the smell. She says thank you but before she can even kiss you, she starts sneezing, her eyes turn red, snot dribbles out of her nose and her lips swell until they look like sausages. Hmmmmm. Not a pretty sight except for the sausages.

To avoid this, you could try a skin sensitivity test. This involves scratching the skin and testing the pollen samples on different spots along the arm. This will help you rule out the offensive flowers as those spots will swell and become itchy. You might think it would be difficult to get your girl to voluntarily go through this but use your cunning. For me, I tell them I am using acupuncture to make them more beautiful but then I am a licensed witch doctor.

3. Diamonds:-
Maybe this year is going to be that special year that you want to propose to your girl and you are thinking about a diamond ring to seal the bond. You have been brainwashed by phrases like "Diamonds are forever" and "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

Diamonds are forever what? More than likely, they are forever a debt you have to pay off. They are ridiculously priced for tiny stones. I tell you what is forever, .....toxic waste! I don't see anyone paying top dollar to wear that!

Diamonds are a girl's friend when you think about it is not a good reason to get her any when what you want is to be her best friend. Diamonds are just a competing distraction.

I suggest that you get her coal. Yes, coal. Coal is chemically the same substance as diamonds. They are both made out of carbon atoms. However for the money spent to buy a tiny speck of a diamond, you can get lorry loads of coal........now that's value for money and coal is so useful, you can use it for cooking, cleaning water, and removing poisonous gases amongst other things. Women in my village do not understand this when I explain it to them but do not worry, your women are well educated. They can understand the logic of these truths.

4. Smile
I think in the end what I am trying to say is that do not put your trust in presents. These are not the things that women look for. No, they look for a sincere heart. And nothing shows them a sincere heart than an honest, cute and sexy smile. So work on your charm and your smile. Practice in front of the mirror, practice with your dog, practice, practice, practice. I am telling you the truth. Look at my charming smile. It has won me the hearts of many women. It may not come as naturally to you but do not give up.

5. Love potion
If you are a real loser and nothing else works, you can always fall back on magic. I have my own special potion called Love potion No: 9. It will only cost you most of everything you own but it will be worth it. Email me at suckersrwelcome@richwitchdoctor.com and we can talk business.

Still Not My Year

on Friday, February 08, 2008

Rats! It's not my year. It is the Chinese Zodiac year of the Rat. Although technically, squirrels and rats are both rodents, so it is kinda my year, .......sort of, .....so to speak, .......technically. However, it is also not my year cause I was born in 1962 which was the year of the Tiger.

"What's this?", you say. "A squirrel, a rat and a tiger?" Well, I would very much like to explain it all to you but this requires a fairly extensive understanding of Chinese history, culture and religions. Unfortunately, I am a banana. Yes, a banana. A banana is slang for a Chinese who knows more about Western culture than Chinese culture and language. Still don't get it? A banana appears yellow on the outside but is white inside. Anyway, this banana tried to do extensive research for this post but merely got confused and went bananas. What little kernels of information I could figure out is recorded for you below.

1. The Chinese calender appears in cycles of 12 which are represented by animals and is in the following order; Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and lastly, Pig.

2. It is claimed that there was a competition before the Jade Emperor between the animals to decide the order. The story attributes the Rat with cunning. He fooled the tiger into thinking the competition was on another day and during the race, he rode on the back of the ox until just before the finish line and then jumped ahead of the ox.
(Personally as a squirrel, I would say that all is fair in love and war. As a Tiger, I am disgusted that the Rat was not disqualified for lying to a fellow honorable contender. As a banana, I protest the idea of praising the Rat for cheating.)

3. It is believed that a person's character, choice of mate and pre-dispositions are determined by the Zodiac year of birth, together with certain modifiers. The first modifier is Yin and Yang. The second modifier is the five heavenly elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Finally there are combination elements too.

4. This year is the year of the Yang Earth Rat. Some people refer to it as the year of the Yang Earth fire Rat.

5. Me? I am a Yang Water Gold Tiger.

6. What does all that mean? I don't know cause I am a Banana.

7. Summary: I am a nutty-squirrel-Water Gold Tiger- Yellow and White Banana.

No such thing? I enter as evidence, a picture of a Tiger-Squirrel which apparently is Princeton's mascot.

And How about the Year of the Rat? Will it be a good year? I cannot tell but if I know my distant cousin, the Rat, he is going to be unbearable to live with this year. He will be living it up and will expect to be fed meals three times a day.....thank you very much.

I am Thankful .......

on Monday, February 04, 2008

I noticed a significant drop in the number of visitors to my site and the numbers of comments left over this last weekend. I wondered at first, why this was so. Then I realised that this was the Super Bowl XLII weekend in the United States. I do not know much about American football but it seems the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots.

I once watched the Canadian version of the game with a fan who was trying to explain to me why grown men get dressed and padded up to beat each other into a pulp over a ball. I remember most of the time, the game reminded me of two rams clashing horns and doing brain damage. I was also perplexed by the large number of times the referee/umpire blew the whistle. My friend explained that this whistle was for "offside", that whistle was for "stepping out of bounds" and the next whistle was for "movement at the back end" .....how fascinating. Then, another whistle and to my query, my friend replied,"Oh, that's the break for TV commercials." I have to say, I have never come across a game that is played to the timing of TV commercials.

Anyway, I digress. I wanted to highlight that Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving for the amount of food consumed. Here are some statistics from Associated Content : -

Americans consumed 15,000 tons of chips or equivalent of six feet of chips per American. Even though popcorn is almost as light as air, 5,000 tons was consumed; enough to make a popcorn string long enough to go round the world more than 5 times. 12 million pounds of avocado went into making 8 million pounds of guacamole. Approximately USD 55 million was spent on food for that day.

Interestingly, anti-acid sales on the following day at 7-11 outlets will go up by 20% and 6% of working Americans will call in sick on Monday.

The title of my post is "I am thankful....". I am thankful because this same weekend, I learnt about a very different food consumption story and I am just thankful that I do not have to eat mud pies.

I remember making mud pies when I was very young as a play activity and we would pretend to eat mud pies. It really upsets me to learn that for some people in the world, mud pies has become all the food that they can afford to eat on a daily basis.

I refer to the situation in Haiti where crop failures and inflation has forced many people to rely on mud pies because they can no longer afford the normal staples. Mud pies are made of dirt taken from a central plateau region, mixed with water, salt and vegetable shortening. The batter is shaped into thin biscuits and dried in the sun. Even the price of the dirt has gone up and costs USD 5 for enough to make 100 mud pies. The price of a mud pie or cookie at the market is only 5 cents as compared to 60 cents for 2 small cups of rice.

Let's be clear, this phenomena has arisen out of desperation amongst the poor of Haiti. Eating mud pies provides barely any nutritional value at all but it does help stave off hunger. People who eat it are likely to suffer other problems like stomach pains and in the longer term malnutrition. I hope that the world will wake up to the tragedy unfolding there and in so many parts of the world and act to end the disparity between those who have food to waste ( I get really annoyed at the wasteful food pranks on MTV Spring Break programs) and those who are resorting to feed themselves and their children dirt.

Can we stand by and allow food to be diverted from feeding fellow humans and set it aside to create biofuels to run our cars? What do we tell them? Sorry? Our cars got to eat too? The USD 55 million spent on junk food for a single Super Bowl Day could have bought 183 million cups of rice which would have been enough to feed every Haitian for almost a fortnight.

The famous saying attributed to Queen Marie Antionette of France, "Let them eat cake." , comes to mind. It has often been quoted to demonstrate her callousness and her lack of understanding or perhaps concern about the plight of the common people. I hope that our current generation will be judged similarly for allowing the Haitian people to "eat dirt".

I am thankful......that I have never needed to eat mud pies. Aren't you?

The hand of a woman is covered in mud as she makes mud cookies on the roof of Fort Dimanche, once a prison, in Port-au-Prince, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. Rising prices and food shortages threaten the nation's fragile stability, and the mud cookies, made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening, are one of very few options the poorest people have to stave off hunger. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Tag 5......again

on Saturday, February 02, 2008

Marja of DutchCorner, who is in New Zealand just to confuse us, asked me to do a meme based on 5. My first thought was de ja vu, cause I remember doing a meme called Tag 5 . As it turned out the two memes are quite different so I decided that to happily take this new meme on. However, if you are new to this blog and want to know a bit more about the Lone Grey Squirrel, I think you will find the previous meme quite informative also.

Part 1: 5 Weird Facts About Me

Strange enough, I have already done one called "Six Weird Things About Me". So you can get the details here, however just to tantalize a little, here are the six keywords;

  1. Squirrels
  2. White Food
  3. Buffy
  4. Graveyards
  5. Bananas
  6. Miracle

Part 2: 5 Places I Would Like to Visit or Visit Again
(click links for pictures)

1. Banff National Park, Canada
The United Nations Human Development Index has named Canada the best country to live in the most in their annual report. Canada secured the best country status 10 times out of 20 reports. (Norway is second with 6 times at the top and Iceland the most recent winner in 2007). I have to agree. Of all the places I have traveled, I would chose Canada as the best place to live. The best combination of natural beauty and a young but caring society. For sheer natural beauty and space to feel free in, it has to be Banff National Park and all the other adjacent Rocky Mountain National Parks. I was there for just a week but could easily spend the rest of my life there.

2. Tepuis of Venezeula
For the adventurer in me, this is my dream destination. Tepuis are flat tabletop mountains with sheer cliff faces of over 300-1,000 m. The world's highest falls, Angel Falls comes off one of these tepuis. Rising out of the dense equatorial rainforests, they are often shrouded in mists. Visitors flying over them have described them as islands in the mists. These were the mountains that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write about "The Lost World". To go where few, if any, men had been before; to see rare and unique plant and animal species and to have an adventure...........this is where I would like to go.

3. Budapest, Hungary
Europe is a great place for culture, history and the arts. I have enjoyed Vienna and to be fair, have not been to Paris. Yet, it is this Pearl of the Danube that calls me to come back. I spent five days in Budapest when I visited and left acutely aware that I could have spent five times longer and still feel that I have more things to see and experience.
Highlights have to be the food, the people, their proud and unusual history which is quite distinctive.

4. Croatia (Dalmation Coast and Plitvice Lakes National Park)
I am kind of cheating here by using Croatia to cover both a place that I have been (Plitvice Lakes) but also a place that I would like to visit (Dalmation Coast). I have previously posted on Plitvice but suffice to say it is truly a natural wonder and a soothing place for a water spirit like me. Dalmation Coast from Dubrovnik to Split is a place rich in a period of medieval history that I know little about but find fascinating. Walled cities, castles and churches and all set into the ruggedly beautiful coastline.

5. Endau Rompin National Park, Malaysia
My first wild area. My first love. Pristine, beautiful rainforests with rich wildlife like tigers, elephants and rhinos. Isolation and relatively difficult to get to merely adds to its charms. Mountain tops with palm forests and swamps and islands amidst the cooling mists of the falls as well as numerous waterfalls and rapids makes this a top spot. Swimming in crystal clear jungle streams was an incredible experience.

Part 3: 5 Things I never imagined at 25
  1. I never imagined that I would be married. I went through a phase and a way of thinking that did not include marriage.
  2. I never imagined that I would be working in nature conservation. At that time, I was still thinking of a career as a mad scientist in a lab somewhere blowing things up.
  3. I never imagined that I would have had the opportunity to study and live in Canada.
  4. I never imagined that I would ever end up overweight as I was always scrawny until I was about 28.
  5. I never imagined that I would still feel young at 45. Well, apart from the aches from various injuries collected over the years and fading memories.
Please if you are tempted to try this meme, do drop a comment to let us know that you are doing it. Ta ta for now.

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