Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Never A Slow News Day

Last week saw some interesting news stories in the US.  There was the Cap on the Gulf Oil Spill that held up for 3 days with a few small leaks, but the monitoring had to be abandoned in the wake of Tropical Storm Bonnie.  There was Sherry Sherrod and the doctored video, her resignation, followed by an apology to her from the White House.  Then of course, there was Lindsay Lohan and her shenanigans, Mel Gibson's crazy tirade, and allegations that his Baby Momma doctored the tapes that were obtained by Radar Online.  So much news, so little time!

That is why I was more than a little surprised when I heard a strange story on the news.  It happened at a motel in Bend, OR.  The police were called to break up a fight between magazine salesmen and vacuum cleaner salesmen arguing sales tactics. No, I"m not making this up and yes, I am serious!  This got me wondering what other weird and wacky news stories were out there that I hadn't heard of.  I did a search on the internet.  I found that there is no such thing as a slow news day, because there will be people out there who will do things that will make the news.  Some of these stories are so bizarre, which only proves that you can't make this up. 

Three women in Springfield, MO attempted to dine at a Waffle House restaurant and leave without paying.  It may have been a good idea to make sure they didn't leave their purses behind.  Here's the kicker though - one of the purses contained a pay stub from a Waffle House in Arkansas!

Iowa City Police arrested a drunken man who was punching cars and being a nuisance.  The drunk approached another man from whom all he wanted was a hug.  He became belligerent when the "would be hug recipient" wouldn't comply. 

A Camden, NJ man who used fake money to make bail, came back and demanded $200 he overpaid.  To quote Cinnaminson Police Det. Sgt. William Covert, "You can't teach stupid."

Here's one from my neck of the woods, Wenatchee, WA.  Moral of the story: If you're planning a robbery, make sure your getaway car has a full tank of gas!

Here's an amazing story from Santa Maria, CA. where a police officer survives almost wrapping his sqad car around a tree.

Some idiot people in Russia harnessed a donkey to a parasail and had the poor animal braying in fear as it hovered over a beach for about a half hour.  Someone needs to really punish those morons for putting that poor donkey through a stunt like that.

Airport authorities in Mexico City detained a passenger from Lima, Peru for smuggling 18 endangered monkeys in - get this - his girdle.  Sadly, two of the monkeys were dead.

Scientists who obviously have too much time on their hands, finally crack the chicken-or-egg riddle.  Hallelujah!

Finally, there was the party I wish I could have gone to, the Party on the Autobahn in Germany.  The Autobahn was shut down to motor vehicles along a 40 mile stretch between Duisburg and Dortmund while three million Germans celebrated the Ruhr region.  Okay, maybe that wasn't a weird or wacky story, but it surely sounds like a lot of fun!

After reading these, I can only wonder what the next couple of weeks will bring.  

Peace out everyone, and make sure you don't do anything that makes you tomorrow's news story!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Joel Stein's Own Private India

Time Magazine's former staff writer and sometimes contributor Joel Stein is no stranger to controversy.  He wrote a column last year where he contemplated not having his son circumcised.  That piece started quite a few water cooler conversations that sparked debates from both sides of the issue.  So it should come as no surprise that the July 5th 2010 issue of Time Magazine contained a piece by Stein titled My Own Private India.  If you haven't already read this article, I must warn you before you click on the link that the contents may be offensive, especially if you are of Indian origin.  

In the article Joel Stein talks about how the city where he grew up, Edison NJ is now the home of one of the largest Indian communities in the US.  He expresses a sentiment that I've always suspected some people feel but don't talk about, that sentiment being immigration is all well and good as long as it doesn't happen in their backyard.   Joel Stein is entitled to this opinion.  He is entitled to his shock at his own reaction of how the changes in his hometown are making him feel.  While I do believe that was Stein's intention, I was appalled by the way he chose to express this.  He tries to make a point by joking about how Edison is overrun by Indian stores, restaurants and movie theaters, which is why he believes "there is an entire generation of white children in Edison who have nowhere to learn crime."   I enjoyed this little bit of self-deprecating humor from Stein, but after that the article begins its downturn from being satirical to being incredibly offensive in a hurry.  I cringed when I read Stein talk about how the Indian doctors and engineers "brought over their merchant cousins."  This may have been Stein's idea of a joke, but it wasn't funny at all.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the article continues its descent downhill, gaining momentum in offensiveness, culminating in a statement that implies Indians wear enough cologne to cause the Statue of Liberty to shed a tear.   On the way downhill, Stein makes reference to the racist name given to Indians around the '80s: "Dot-heads".  I don't know if he forgot or simply ignored the fact that along with that racial slur came attacks against the Indian community. He wonders how his townsfolk couldn't come up with a better insult for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose.  By the time I reached the end of the article, I was ready to slap Stein up side his head and call him an ignorant racist, along with a few expletives I would rather not mention here.  I also wanted to enlighten him to the fact that change is the only constant and if he thought that his hometown was going to stay the same twenty years after he left, he was more ignorant than I thought.

The reaction of Indians both in the US and India is hardly surprising.  A friend of mine wrote a blog in order to educate the likes of Stein about, among other things, the rich cultural heritage that India and her people enjoy.  Indian-American actor Kal Penn who gained fame with his "Harold and Kumar" movies and more recently the TV show "House", wrote a blog for Huffington Post in response.  Penn's blog supposedly prompted Time Magazine to issue a statement regretting that the article offended so many people.  Joel Stein issued an apology saying that he was trying to express his shock at his own reaction of his changing hometown.  I also read somewhere that his apology implied that he was stupid enough to think that Gandhian non-violence would prevail in people's reaction to what he wrote.  I'm not sure if those were his exact words, but that sounds like a back-handed apology if ever I heard one.  In an open letter to Time Magazine, the South Asian Bar Association of New York (“SABANY”) has taken exception to the apology from both Time Magazine and Stein himself.  Their contention is that the apology from Time doesn't express regret that the article was published, but rather that the sentiments of Indian people were hurt by it.  I'm not sure what kind of apology SABANY is expecting from Stein, if any.  But I don't know that they are going to get the apology from Time Magazine that they are seeking. C'est la vie.

As disgusted as I was by the article, I think that every Indian and every American of Indian origin has it in themselves to rise above these mere words and not allow themselves or their contribution to the world at large be diminished in any way.  Far be it from me to dictate to anybody what their reaction should be, but if I may I would like to make a suggestion.  We can choose to allow the words of one misinformed person crush our inner spirit, or we can take this opportunity to shine even brighter.  So we didn't get the apology we wanted.  We may never hear the apology we need to hear.  So what?  I am fortunate to live in a country that has adopted me as one of their own.  For every Joel Stein out there, I know people who have shown a tremendous amount of respect for me and are curious to know about my culture, where I come from, and what has made me the person I am today.  I am more than happy to answer their questions and share of myself with them.  When we look past our physical or cultural attributes, we will realize how much the similarities far outweigh the differences between us.

What do you think?

Another Dog Blog

Hello everybody, this is JackJack.  I heard last week that everyone really enjoyed the blog I wrote, so Susanna asked me to guest blog again this week.  I thought this would be a good attempt to get to know Susanna's friends better, or rather have them get to know me.  That way you can decide if her love for me is justified or if she just might be going insane.  We are now joined at the hip, Susanna and I.  I follow her around like a ....well....and I know she loves that.  The only place I don't follow her to is into the bathroom.  I would, but she doesn't allow it.  She says she needs at least some privacy from me. 

I believe I mentioned in my blog that Susanna cooks my food.  She has been accused of spoiling me by doing so.  Susanna says that way she knows exactly what is going into my body, and I agree.  She cooks together rice and some kind of protein and sometimes adds raw vegetables like peas or green beans.  She says it really isn't very expensive or time-consuming.  She makes it sound simple, but to me that right there's a gourmet meal.  Dry dog food tastes like the paper packaging it comes in.  Canned dog food has no flavor and looks like a discolored, disgusting mush.  I am so lucky to get home-cooked food at every meal.  I am told I have a lovely coat, very soft, shiny and silky.  Why do you think this is?  Because of the food I get to eat, of course.  Besides, I don't recall the last time I was sick.  I'm as healthy as a horse.  Well, maybe not, but I'm very, very healthy.  I have also been told I am a very tidy eater, but I don't want any of my food to go to waste.  I take small bites of food so I don't make a mess.  When I'm done, I drink some water and then lick my food bowl clean.  Then I will walk away and burp out loud.  Every time.  That way Susanna will know that I really enjoyed my meal.  Also, it makes her laugh when I burp, and I really like to hear her laugh.  I also love it when Susanna talks to me in that gentle voice as she hugs and cuddles me.  When we are home, that is.  When we are outdoors though, any public display of affection embarrasses me.  I have indicated this to Susanna so many times, but she insists on bending down to hug or kiss me in public.  I move away and look around so see if anyone else saw us.  I think to myself, "Geesh Susanna....Not in front of people!"  I feel like I want the ground to open up and swallow me.  But for some unknown reason, that makes her laugh every time.   She says it makes her think there's a little human boy living inside of me.  I can guarantee you, that's no little boy, that's all me.  It's humiliating, for goodness sakes!  I really wish she would stop doing that, but only because it makes me feel like I'm a baby. I guess to Susanna I'll always be a baby, even when I'm fifteen years old.

There is an up side to being thought of as a baby, though.  I constantly get new toys.  I love toys!  My favorite toy is my chimpanzee.  If I chew on it just right, the chimp will laugh this howling, hysterical, almost frightening laugh.  That riles me up even more and I throw the chimp up in the air.  I still remember the first day Susanna got me the chimp, I took it to bed with me.  As she slept, I was playing with the chimp and he began to laugh.  Susanna almost jumped out of her skin upon being woken up from a deep sleep with loud, hysterical chimp laughter. She got out of bed, took the chimp from me and put it away.  Although she didn't say anything, she looked really mad as she walked away.  I'm so lucky to have someone who loves me so much she has bought me so many toys.  My favorite toy when we are at the park is my ball.  It is a yellow latex soccer ball, the one in the picture on my previous blog.  Unfortunately, this type of ball has been discontinued since there were many large breed dogs that used to chew and swallow it.  This is the last ball we have and so we have to be really careful with it.  I sometimes share this ball, but only with dogs I like, who I know will not destroy it.  There are some dogs that like to steal my ball away from me.  I just hate that.  When this happens, I follow the thief dog around.  I  wait patiently for the dog to get distracted by something and put the ball down, and then I snag it away.  Once I have my ball back, we have to either go home or find another place to play because I will not let go of my ball again while the thief dog is around.  I love to play fetch with my ball.  I love to play two kinds of fetch, running fetch and swimming fetch.  I think you get the idea how each one is played.  I love swimming fetch, especially during summer.  It's so nice to swim to cool me off, besides being a low intensity, high impact aerobic exercise.  You should see the muscles I've developed from swimming so much.  By the way, did you know that Susanna had no idea that I could swim when she first adopted me?  She used to let me wade into the water but never let me go any further.  Then one day my friend Ginger (may her soul rest in peace) was at the park with us and wouldn't go into the water to fetch her ball.  So I said to myself, "I'll go" and I began to swim.   I could hear Susanna call me back, and she sounded almost scared because she may have thought I was going to drown or something.  But I was fine.  I swam deep into the water, got the ball, and swam back.  Everyone was cheering me on, and I loved all the attention.  I walked out of the water and shook myself dry as everyone applauded.  You'd have thought I had won an award or something.  Susanna came up to me and gave me a hug and told me how proud she was of me.  I really don't know what the big deal was.  I could always swim, she just never let me do so before. 

I think that swimming incident may have made Susanna realize never to underestimate me, but she still does sometimes.  When she sees me get into fights with dogs larger than myself, it freaks her out.  I know, I know, I shouldn't be getting into fights, but sometimes I just can't help myself.  It may have come from being the runt of the litter.  I am a short dog with a long body.  Not like a dachshund, but I think I look disproportionate.  As a puppy I used to get picked on very often, which made me learn very quickly that in order to defend myself I had to fight.  That fighting spirit has extended beyond just defending myself.  Very often I see a helpless puppy being picked on by a group of bigger dogs.  I step in and take them down to protect the puppy.  There is a lot of growling, baring of teeth and barking involved, sometimes escalating to a physical free-for-all.  This looks more scary to humans than it really is.  I've got my ear clipped a couple of times in the scuffle, but most often I walk away the winner.  It is a matter of honor for me, but Susanna just doesn't seem to understand this.  She does understand that I love puppies though.  She sees me being nice to them and says it makes her a little "Verklempt", whatever that is.  I was a puppy once, a shy one at that.  When I see a shy or scared puppy, I tell them not to be afraid of me.  I go to them wagging my tail, and I give them a little nudge with my nose.  I keep doing this over and over again.  Most of the time, the puppy realizes that I mean no harm and they get all excited and yappy.  I run and let them chase me and we have a great time playing.  Oh, I have to tell you about my friend Kyo.  Her name is pronounced Ka-yo.  They say she is a very shy dog, but you'd never know it from seeing us play together.  When she sees me in the park, she comes running to me like a bullet just fired from a gun.  She wrestles me to the ground and grabs the scruff of my neck.  I think this boosts Kyo's self-confidence, so I lie down all submissive, and let Kyo win our little game every time.  Everyone knows I can take her down if I want to.

That has pretty much been the last four years of my life in a nutshell.  Sometimes I still can't believe all this is real.  I have to pinch myself to realize this is not a dream.  Words cannot express how happy I am with life in general.  Before I sign off, I just want to share some videos with you.  I told you earlier how I love to hear Susanna laugh, and these videos do just that.  These are videos of another Golden Retriever named Ginger, and they remind me of my deceased friend.  The videos are based loosely on the William Wegman Wiemeraner series form the 80s and 90s. One of Susanna's friends Paula posted one of these on Facebook, and Susanna found the rest of them on youtube.  

Breakfast with Ginger
Wine Tasting with Ginger
Ginger's Late Night Snack
and my favorite:
Wasabi and Ginger


PS:  I need some feedback from Susanna's friends who read her blog.  This is my second post.  Do you think I should have a blog of my own?  I don't intend to replace Susanna's posts, I am wondering if people will read my blog if I started one.  Thanks in advance for your feedback.  Woof!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Dog's Life

My name is JackJack. I was born in Wenatchee, WA on April 18th, 2005.

I don't remember much about my early life, but I was one among 27 dogs that were rounded up from a hoarding situation and taken to the animal shelter. I became a ward of the county. At some point I remember being taken in by a wonderful foster family. I would have loved to live with them forever, but they had said from the beginning that they weren't going to adopt me. They wanted to be a full-time foster family so they could give pups like me a chance to make it in the world. It still would have been nice if my foster family had made an exception for me. I was really sad to part ways with them, but that's how it is sometimes I guess. I was turned back in at the animal shelter.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me. I was intact, so I'd get into fights with other male dogs very often. My feisty spirit earned me my own little space in the shelter, a little 4 ft by 6ft cell. That was great, but also a little scary. I had heard that if a dog hadn't been neutered, chances were that he wouldn't make it for too long. I was fed and walked 3 times a day, but the rest of my life was just sitting around doing nothing. I became really bored and began to wonder if there was more to my life than just eating and sleeping. I had so much to give. Every time I interacted with people, I tried to win them over by playing up my cuteness. I hoped so desperately that one of the staff in the shelter would fall in love with me and take me home with them. Sadly, that was not to be. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would probably die at the shelter, or even worse, be put down.

In my heart I do believe every dog is born for a human family, and the purpose of a dog's life is to be that family's pet. Sometimes the dog is fortunate to be born into his family and be a part of their life, other times the dog has to search for his family and still other times, the family must search for their dog. Since I really didn't have the option of going out to find my family, I began to dream an almost hopeless dream. I dreamed that one day my family would come by the shelter and see me. I dreamed that they would take one look at me and decide to take me home with them. I dreamed that once I was home, I would know what it was like to be loved and to be able to love back. I would have the chance to interact with all the wonderful people and dogs and everything that existed in the world outside. I would run like the wind on the green grass, I would chase butterflies; I would swim in a lake during summer. When the day was done, I would rest my weary body in a comfortable dog bed, breathe a deep sigh and fall asleep with a smile on my face. Dogs think in pictures, not in words. In my mind’s eye I could picture all these thoughts as if they were real. Through my thoughts, I began to talk to the family that I believed I was born to be with. I said to them, "I'm waiting for you to come and take me home. I know you will come. Please, please, please come take me home soon, I don't know how much longer I can bear to be here." Families came by to see me. Each time they did, I wondered if the day had come when I would be adopted. I would really ham it up and put on a good show when I spent time with them. They would talk about how cute and energetic I was, and that would raise my hopes up even more. But each time I would be returned to my space in the shelter. And each time I died a little inside.

I barely noticed the lady who came to see me one day when I was almost a year old. She came alone, without any children. That was unusual. The shelter staff put a leash on me and the lady walked me out into the yard. I didn't really put on a show for her, because at that point I didn't really care. But one thing I noticed that was different about this lady was that for some unknown reason she seemed to want me. I tested her patience to see if that would change her mind. I tugged at the leash. I was really hyperactive and wouldn't listen to anything the lady had to say. She took me back into the shelter and put me back in my cell. I began to bark at her when she was leaving. I wondered why she even bothered spending any time with me. I obviously wasn't worth it. I will never forget what happened next. The lady turned around and told me, "Don't worry sweetie, I'll come back for you. I promise." I remember thinking to myself, "Whatever." I so wanted to believe her, but I didn't think I could handle any more disappointment.

Over the next few days, strange events began to happen. I was first moved to a Veterinary Hospital. I was put on an acre-large dog run, which meant I could run free all day. That was so much better than the little 4' by 6' prison cell at the animal shelter! On my second day at the hospital, I remember being told that it was my birthday. I was given a check-up. At some point during the check-up, the doctor administered a shot that put me to sleep. As I drifted off, I heard the doctor say to me, "I'm sorry I have to do this to you on your birthday, little buddy." I remember wondering what he meant. When I woke up, there were parts of me that were missing. I was in so much pain. But everyone was so nice to me and took such good care of me that I soon recovered. I really enjoyed myself at the Veterinary Hospital because I felt what it was like to be free, and I got a chance to interact with other dogs. Then about a week after I was moved to the Hospital, I was more than surprised to see the lady from the shelter, the one who promised she'd come back for me. I was so much happier now and I gave her the warmest greeting I could. The lady put a brand new collar and leash on me and led me out. She got me into the back seat of a car and she drove. We drove for about 2 hours, stopping twice along the way for potty breaks.

That was four years ago. I can't complain about the way things turned out for me. Remember that dream I told you about? That dream is real, except that reality is so much more than what I expected. I feel the grass under my paws as I run to fetch a ball. I chase butterflies, I play with other dogs, and I swim in the lake. I learned that the lady's name is Susanna and she is my family. She loves me like you cannot imagine. She cooks my food, walks me, teaches me new things. She has taught me to speak, stay, roll over, weave, high-five, shake her hand and beg. She buys me toys and treats. Best of all, during summer she takes me to the park every day. I love Susanna as much as any dog can. Life couldn't be any better. I am home.

Although I could never know JackJack's thoughts, I can't help but believe that at least some of my interpretation of them is true. When I was ready to adopt a dog, I wanted a female beagle. But I happened to go online to and I saw a picture of JackJack. He was in Wenatchee, 250 or so miles away. There is an animal shelter about 6 miles away, which had two female beagles available for adoption. I cannot explain it, but something kept drawing me to JackJack. It made no sense at all. He was male. He was not a beagle. He was 250 miles away. But something inside me kept telling me that JackJack was the dog for me. My belief is that he was seeking me out and I was being guided to him. When I went to visit him in Wenatchee, JackJack wasn't exactly the best dog. He tested my patience during my time with him. He tugged at his leash and the word “No” meant absolutely nothing to him. When I went to fill in the paperwork the staff told me that they needed his space for another dog but they couldn't release him to me until he was neutered. The whole situation was quite insane, really. My only option was to have him boarded at the Vet for $20 a day. I had to board JackJack for a whole week because I couldn't make the 250 mile drive until the next weekend. I had no choice, because that inner voice inside me wouldn’t shut up!

The moment I put him in my car for the long ride back home, I knew I had made the right decision. JackJack was such a good dog, he sat quietly as he looked outside the window. At one point he rode shotgun with me a few miles. Through the corner of my eye I could see him looking up at me. I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, nicer dog. JackJack makes me laugh with his crazy antics and touches my heart with his kindness to everyone around him. He is such good company, always wanting to learn, always wanting to please. He has such a zest for life. Every time I look at him, he looks so happy. I think of the chain of events that brought us together. There's no other way I can explain it. It’s a miracle.