Sunday, July 09, 2006

Accents from the East, and Last Names from Polska

The tongue and the ears, two of the vitals of the human body, two of the five sense organs, have proved an unfaithful couple, creating together a source of embarrassment for me over the last few years. However, while it has been the incapability of these pieces to behave as one (read I) would have liked them to on certain occasions, sometimes I wonder if it should rather be the manager, namely the gray chunk that is responsible for coordination that should be blamed for its inability to bring those organs under its command.

The ears, albeit being subjected to cleaning on regular intervals, had failed – time and again – to respond to real-time requirements, and hence the lower jaw had dropped down, the eyes constricted and the brows bent to assume a wavy pattern on several occasions. These, combined with a sense of incompetence, had led to slight and temporary discomforts, which in turn had at one point piled up to a worrisome degree.

It is my inability to decipher the oriental accents – a trait, if you will, that I had to live with for a small period of time – that I am referring to. There have been too many occasions where I had stumped myself while in conversation with members of this Great race. It bothered me, and I would kick myself when alone. I would think of it as a disability, and would be chagrined for having to deal with it.

A familiar Dutchman had recently made an observation (something that had never occurred to me before) that countries that watch English TV produce accent free speakers. As an example, he pointed out to me the difference between the Dutch and the Spanish, and I chipped in with my encounter with two Spaniards on the subway and my knowledge of the contrasting Scandinavians. After adding all that up, he seemed to be right.

I love Asians. They have always been good to me. They are great people. And their women are simply awesome – by far the most beautiful of all races that have breathed the Earth’s pollution. Besides, if I am really going to spend a year in Shanghai and another in Tokyo one day, I said to myself, I’d really have to do better.

And I did. I became more intent, more analytical and more willing in my approach, until I overcame my disability one day. I woke up in the morning and a certain Chen sounded like he was speaking a language that I had heard all my life. This meant that neither Shanghai nor Tokyo would be much of a head-ache, except of course for the $85 water-melons that they sell in the latter, my sole reason for not having flown off to the vicinities of Fujiyama with a small budget and a signed letter of acceptance from one of the local universities.

So there goes the story of my lobes and their drums. Now we come to the home of the taste buds which has been a cause of concern for the second most popular common noun that is usually associated with it: pronunciation. My well-tanned face radiating a slightly reddish shade of embarrassment distinguishable even in a dimly lit room last night as I struggled to pronounce the last name of the Polish girl that I met at the pub was not a first. The fact that she herself was recovering from the embarrassment of having called me “Acid” (the music was too loud, so I don’t blame her; besides, I consider myself lucky if my name gets pronounced properly around here anyways) doesn’t serve as a comfort or an excuse either. I have had too many problems pronouncing Polish last names in the past; and they have almost ALWAYS been Polish. While I take great interest in the nation and her kids, this shortcoming bothers me quite a deal.

My affair with Polish lasts began almost a year ago, when I let one sail way over the cross bar in an attempt to call a friend by his last name; and just like one starts to want and cherish something that he/she can’t get, my inability to play my tongue along the walls of my mouth to the proper Polska tune led to a grown interest in and love for Poland, her people and their names.

Partly as a remedy to such disabilities, and partly due to my own interest, I have decided to go multilingual. The goal is to master at least three different European languages and two Asian ones by 2010. If I’m lucky enough, maybe I’ll pick up either Cantonese or Mandarin and a Japanese language before my voyage to the east. Since Europe isn’t on my list as of yet (but it very well could be in a few years), the likes of French, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch can wait, although living in a country as diverse as the ugly twin of the United States does make the entire process of learning a whole new language a piece of cake.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Natural Magentas

So what do you do when your boss books a meeting with you just so that no one else can book the same spot and confine him within a boardroom while the world cup soccer semi-finals are going on? Well, you recall how much you like pink, green and purple hair.

When my boss told me that the meeting on Wednesday was actually for watching the game, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. What kind of a boss would do something like that? Pretty cool, I must say.

What I also did was check out the score of the game that was going on at that moment; and while browsing the triple “W”, came across a picture of a certain fan wrapped in an Italian jersey with the flag drawn on her cheek and her hair dyed pink. Her companion for the day – in Ukrainian attire – was green headed. I thought that was kind of neat.

So I spent the next couple of minutes thinking about my fascination for pink, green and purple heads. I am not entirely sure when or how I started to grow a liking for these colors, but I find them pretty funky when they are chosen by women to represent their hair dyes, especially when they have streaks rather than the same shade throughout. Another color that attracts me – though to a lesser extent – is red, mixed with blonde.

That night, as I lay awake in bed (yeah, I am really getting robbed of sleep lately), I wondered how it’d be like if those hues were natural. Well, doesn’t seem like a terrestrial phenomenon, does it? We would probably have to turn to our neighbors in and around the solar system in that case, I guess. No life in those places? Oh but there will be…there will be inhabitation in those foreign lands one day. And that day, in my humble opinion, is not too far away.

Just think about it – even two centuries ago, our ancestors were horse-backers, and here we are, ten scores and a couple of years later, cruising along at speeds unimaginable back then. Technology has advanced quite a bit over the years, and I can foresee Man losing His inter-planet flight virginity in a few decades.

At the rate the world is mixing, I agree with comedian Russell Peters that it will eventually become a breeding ground for beige people. I also believe that, several centuries after that happens, there will be a day that overpopulation and the extinction of resources will force the mass emigration of Homo Sapiens to alien bodies that are not viewable by the naked eye.

We know how climate and environment affect physical features in humans. What if the environment on those planets leads to great variations in the features of our descendants? Maybe it will lead to people with not only different hair color, but also different body structures and skin. Then there will be a day when traveling to Jupiter will be like catching a plane from Paris to New York. “Can you believe how much I gained after landing here?” a worried young woman will be overheard enquiring her fellow Earthling boyfriend over the phone at a hotel on the largest planet in the solar system.

Such improvements in communication systems can only lead to one thing – and that is more mixing: intergalactic to be precise. However, how much will emigration change the structure of humans? Will it also change genetic mappings? So much so that intergalactic mating will not produce desired results, or any result at all? I am not much of a biology guy and don’t have the answers, so these things keep me wondering.

Then there’s this other possibility. What if humans land on a planet in a distant galaxy to discover that it is already inhabited by a similar species? What happens if one of us falls for a woman with green antennae protruding out of her skull and vice versa? Surely mating will lead to nothing in that case. So will that be an end to diversity right there? Will diversity be restricted to within the borders of the earth’s atmosphere?

It’s been roughly a week since I watched “Superman Returns”, and I still wonder what the director was thinking. How could the insemination of Lois Lane by Clarke Kent have produced an asthmatic offspring with no resemblance to his parents? Isn’t it a lot like saying “Cat + Dog = Catdog”?

Going back to Man’s population of other uninhabited heavenly bodies, I would like to believe that genetic mappings will still be consistent enough for inter-planetary breeding to be possible. What would be cooler than a couple of blue teenage girls gossiping about the cutest guy in class, who happens to be orange, and wears a triangular skull over his shoulders? Saturn, with all those gaseous rings circling her, would probably be an ideal honeymoon location, and a businessman’s day would begin with breakfast at his mansion in Andromeda, punctuated by lunch and meetings on the other end of some of the busiest black holes in the Universe, and end with dinner with the Prime Minister twenty thousand leagues under the Pacific Ocean.

So the bottom-line is, I love diversity. Too bad I won’t live to see most of the stuff that I have mentioned here; and too bad there won’t be natural pink heads during my time.

Dyes and artificial streaks it is for now, then.