Archive for the ‘silliness’ Category

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Brent’s big book of Indian Aminals (Part 1): Nine monkeys + goat on a wall

June 13, 2010

Instead of exposing you to an endless supply of boring pictures of me, here’s a few aminals from my trip:

Exhibit A on the importance of keeping your car window closed.

Relaxin’ on the road to Gangtok.

Ever seen a goat on a wall before? Didn't think so.

Don't knock it until you try it

After taking this shot in old Jaipur, I actually saw a Discovery Channel documentary about these monkeys. Really.

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Ten lessons I learned in India (pt 2)

June 6, 2010

Back by popular demand (okay, little to none): more lessons I learned in India.

LESSON 6 – DEATH IS INEVITABLE: When people ask what was most memorable, I offer an answer and a little advice: Before stepping in a car, make peace with your Maker. As we left the Delhi airport, a sign read, “LANE DRIVING IS SANE DRIVING.” Let’s just say sane driving (or shoulder checking) has yet to catch on.

Within the confines of our various automobiles and auto-rickshaws, we witnessed accidents, had a few close calls, dents, and scrapes of our own, and even experienced a rush hour cattle crossing in the middle of Delhi (the world’s eight largest metropolis). A saving grace was that congestion means vehicles rarely travel over 60 km/hr for more than a few kilometres.

It is true, however, that drivers in India tend to pay more attention. And they’re better for it.

LESSON 7 – PUFFED WHEAT COFFEE: If you know me, you may well be aware that I am something of a coffee fan. You may not know, however, that I am also deeply passionate about those puffed wheat squares (here’s somebody’s blog post with a great pic AND a delicious-looking recipe). I have never connected these two passions — until I went to India and grabbed a cup of java. I am now coo coo for cocoa puff coffee (okay, not really).

LESSON 8 – SYMBOLS MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS IN DIFFERENT PLACES: Swastikas, hammers, and sickles abound in India. Note anything extremely unusual (to western eyes) in this image from Jew Street in Cochi, less than a hundred yards from a 450-year-old synagogue?

Unlike swastikas, hammers and sickles are not venerable religious symbols dating back thousands of years. Like swastikas, however, they are bountiful in India. The hammer and sickle has proliferated in India alongside communist and Maoist parties throughout the country. The Kerala government is Marxist, for instance. Ergo hammers and sickles and portraits of Stalin in the vegetable markets.

LESSON 9 – YES, TATA MAKES THAT: In early 2009, there was quite the hubbub for the commercial launch of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car (approximately $2500 CDN). Reports everywhere said the Nano was a game changer. Mother Nature would have to take another one for the team as every man, woman, and child in India would take to the road in cramped style.

Amazingly, I actually saw more camels than Nanos on the road, which might have something to do with the Nano’s reputation for spontaneous combustion.

Go to India, and you will discover that despite owning the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Tata is much more than the Indian equivalent of Ford. Tata manufactures trucks, buses, and cars (no camels yet), but also compact umbrellas and energy drinks. Have a cellphone? Tata’s a carrier. Drink tea? Try Tata’s blend (guess who own Tetley?).

Tata owns all. This I learned.

LESSON 10 – CLOVE-FLAVOURED TOOTHPASTE: is not as bad as it sounds. Trust me on this. But for Pete’s sake, please skip Crest Cumin.

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Ten lessons I learned in India (Pt 1)

May 30, 2010

I just got back from India and am ready to head to downtown Toronto on Monday to start an internship with CBC radio.

As I sort through the photos and mentally process the trip, I thought I might share some of the lessons gleamed from my experiences.

LESSON 1 – BE CO-OPERATE:

Engrish.com is one of my favourite websites. It features the hilarious and often profane spelling mistakes found in public displays of the English language (mostly in China). In India, where English is one of 2 official languages (22 others have official status in different states), the mistakes are rarely as hilarious, but they are plentiful. I would guess that about half of all signs, posters, and marquees contain at least one gaffe. Spell check, it seems, is a luxuary.

LESSON 2 – PUBLIC TOILETS VARY IN QUALITY: Often they’re just a hole, a tap, and a bucket. Side note: Bring your own TP. Second side note: Men, fear not, the entire country is your urinal (confirmed sightings of public micturition – 47).

LESSON 3 – WHITE = MINOR CELEBRITY STATUS: I’ve traveled a bit over the years and have occasionally noticed people staring or smiling at me. A tourist is often something of a strangely dressed novelty, but in India, people would shake my hand at random, little kids would say, “Hi uncle! What’s your name?,” and complete strangers would approach me to pose in their snapshots (being extremely photogenic, I happily obliged).

LESSON 4 – TRADEMARK, SHMADEMARK:

I don’t know if anyone has informed the Disney corporation’s dark legion of litigators, but the likeness of Mickey Mouse is found everywhere in India (including toys, fireworks, and walls of domestic airports). I was tempted by a pair of genuine “Versage” boots, official government stores sold counterfeit cologne, and I longed for some of the Lt. Col’s GFC (8 secret spices).

LESSON 5 – A HOTEL IS NOT A HOTEL (EXCEPT WHEN IT IS): Some of the most baffling signage in India comes courtesy of the astronomical number of hotels – the majority of which are restaurants with nary a bed or bellhop to be found. A fellow traveler who grew up there said the reason for “hotel” (pronounced ‘hot-el’ rather than ‘ho-tell’) is that it’s easier to spell than restaurant. Plus it sounds luxuarious.

Here’s a tip for telling the difference: Your local Holiday Inn or Ramada rarely specifies vegetarian or non vegetarian.

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A passage to Gangtok: sights and smells

May 23, 2010

Gangtok stymies all expectations of India: majestic heights, moderate temperatures, and small crowds.

The city of approximately 30,000 is the capital of Sikkim, the country’s least populated state, nestled in the Himalayas between Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. Gangtok lies in the shadow of snow-capped Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest summit. The surrounding hills are home to wildlife, elaborate monasteries (and ubiquitous prayer flags) and some of the sharpest hairpin turns you’ll ever see. It’s beautiful.

To reach Gangtok, you must first land in Bagdogra, West Bengal, and skirt a succession of harrowing turns for three-and-a-half hours (don’t fret, roadside monkeys are there to cheer you on). Upon entering Sikkim, a visitor’s permit must be procured. It’s a mere formality, but it admittedly feels a little strange to get a passport stamp within the same country.

Our trip was one of highs and, well, highs. We visited countless monasteries and temples, snapped photos of saffron-robed monks and red pandas, witnessed the filming of a Bengali movie, and enjoyed a rare and affordable cappuccino along Gangtok’s main pedestrian stroll (like virtually every other place, a Mahatma Gandhi marg or road).

There were other interesting moments: one of my co-travelers was nearly bitten by an angry roadside monkey who apparently had a strict “no flash photography” policy, and another wound up with a couple of leeches on her ankle. Bloodsuckers, it seems, are found in moist grasses everywhere. Taking off my shoes, I discovered a big fat leech. I was spared only by my choice of socks that day (thank you, Kodiak!!).

But the most memorable part of the trip came the day before we were scheduled to leave Gangtok. An impending road block for some political reason or other meant we had to rush out early. We hastily booked a hotel near the Bagdogra airport, in the city of Siliguri. Ominously, the hotel name was a mispelling of a Greek god.

We arrived late at night. The smell when I opened our “Super Delux” room nearly knocked me flat. It was a fragrance most foul and sharp, like someone had fermented potpourri and doused the room like a moon-faced teenager in so much Axe spray. My spouse thought the stink emanated from newly laminated wood-paneled walls and floors. We blasted our fans and A/C to relieve some of the pressure, but no luck. Worse, it was too late to do anything about it.

Throughout the night, the stench would periodically wake me up. I dreamed uneasy dreams and slept fitfully.

In the morning, still grumbling and without my regular coffee to temper my ill feelings, I investigated the room and found about 20 of these little white devils (right) lodged in every cupboard, shelf, and nook. What percentage was deodorant, napthalene, camphor, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, or some other heinous concoction, I did not know. I only knew I had uncovered the source of the odour (alas, too late).

MOTHBALLS!!!!

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Intelligence = not colour blind?

April 13, 2010

I’m not one to fall for those ads for free intelligence tests.

They ask obvious questions to make people feel smart – I understand the concept. Multiple choice questions like “Who is the president?” or “How many bouncing balls are there?” are one thing, but this ad takes the concept of IQ in an altogether different direction.

It’s actually the Isihara color test!

Since when is NOT being colour blind a measure of intelligence?? And what does that say for the near-sighted?

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A Lost Question: Did DHARMA develop compact fluorescent bulbs?

April 5, 2010

Earlier this weekend, I was re-watching the last week’s episode of Lost (S6E10) – “The Package.”

When Jin is in Room 23 on Hydra Island, he watches the DHARMA brainwashing video and sees this image. A COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHT BULB??? From looking it up on the interwebs, I discovered this was already old info seen before and included in DVD extras.

Unlike everything else in the video, this looks post 90s and therefore NOT the DHARMA era. Weird, no? Does this mean some tampering with a little help from the Others?

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King Carl Gustaf and me

March 9, 2010

For many Canadians, last Monday marked a return to reality. It doesn’t get any more mundane than Monday, March 1st.

Whether you spent the last hours of February reveling in beer-induced patriotism, or in grim avoidance of that I Believe song, it’s definitely a bit of a downer from Olympic reverie. Years from now, how many children born in November 2010 will look back to Sidney Crosby’s heroics as inspiring a glint in their father’s eye?

UBC cancelled school for the two Olympic weeks. A perfect opportunity for journalism students to make some hay! I took a job as a media liaison officer with Olympic Broadcasting Services.

It meant working with biathletes, ski jumpers, and cross-country skiiers, as well as Olympic broadcasters of an array of nationalities. I was a broadcaster bouncer, an interview timer, and a media cop both good and bad (depending on the situation).

It also meant rubbing shoulders with some interesting folks. Here’s me with a Swedish coterie, including His Highness Carl XVI Gustaf.

King Carl XVI Gustaf (centre, in ball cap), me in Power Ranger uniform.

Coming down into from three weeks in Whistler village, I only have a modest Olympic hangover. At $7-8 pints, I couldn’t afford anything more.