On human maintenance.

October 24, 2008

Without the proper maintenance, one’s consuming machine will eventually become compromised. If not dealt with, such a situation may begin to inhibit one’s consuming ability. I had ignored this fact, even though it is as obvious and universally recognized as the existence of the sky, for an embarrassingly long time — so long, in fact, that by the time I finally arrived at the doctor’s office for a routine check-up, it was almost as if I was experiencing it for the first time. Luckily, the interior decorators responsible for outfitting such places haven’t made much progress in the past thirty years or so, which made it feel very much like I’d stepped into a time warp where the only things that had changed were the dates on the Times and Newsweeks on the end tables in the waiting room.

After enduring the incredibly uncomfortable ritual of being poked, prodded, probed and interrogated, I learned that my machinery is, you might say, wound a bit too tight. In biological terms, I have high blood pressure — much too high for someone of my age, weight and dietary habits. Therefore the doctor suggested I begin consuming something I have willfully avoided for more than fifteen years: prescription medicine.

The blood pressure is only one of my problems. I  really don’t find it seemly to volunteer ever dirty detail of one’s health information on the Internet, but suffice to say that, at age 34, my machine is showing signs of wear and tear that, if ignored, will certainly lead to a premature expiration. And while the thought of putting consumption behind me permanently doesn’t exactly fill my heart with woe, I must admit that I’ve grown quite fond of quite a several other consumption machines, and would miss their company greatly if a machinery malfunction led to my early exit from this odd event. From now on, as much as I loathe it, I’ll be maintaining my machine regularly, if for no other reason than to ensure that I can continue to enjoy the company of my favorite partners in consumption.


Defending dog soup.

July 17, 2008

I didn’t become fluent in Korean when I lived in South Korea, but I did learn to read its simple phonemic alphabet.

While buzzing along in taxi cabs or walking down the street, I constantly scanned the street and business signs, looking for the few words I knew. Oftentimes they would actually be English words spelled out in Korean (Interestingly, in Korean, it requires four syllables to spell “Sprite” — pronounced like this: Seh-peh-ligh-teh).

One Korean word that I learned early on was “poshintang.” It means “dog soup.”

Not everyone in Korea eats dog soup. Many young Koreans in particular think dog-eating is totally repugnant and a source of national embarrassment.

Still, enough demand for dog soup existed in Korea back in 1999 to justify the existence of numerous restaurants that specialized in the delicacy. I knew this because I could read the restaurants’ signs, which always read, pithily, “Dog soup.”

A couple of North American friends of mine tried it once. They said it was a little too salty. They also remarked on texture of the meat, which they described as “dry” and “stringy.”

I never tried it myself. Not so much out of compassion for dogs, but rather out of my western upbringing, which indoctrinated in me a deep-seated and visceral repulsion to the idea of putting dog meat in my mouth.

Yet I think it’s more than just a little bit hypocritical for Westerners to get morally outraged about Asians eating dog. Yet we do. And the Asians continue to appease us by politely pretending not to eat dogs when we’re around. But I think raising canines as farm animals for food is less criminal than what is happening to domestic dogs in China now, in what amounts to government-sanctioned pet-hunts. This is ironic since there’s some pretty compelling evidence that domesticated dogs originated in Asia.

Of course, it should come as little surprise that China mistreats its canine residents. I just don’t think (and I apologize to the Idge here) eating dog meat should be counted among its offenses.

Me and the Idge

July 17, 2008

Meet the Idge.

She is fuzzy, four-legged and constantly irrationally happy.

She’s part boxer for sure. We suspect she’s also part chow, pit bull and maybe even some kind of shepherd.

Why did my girlfriend and I adopt the Idge?

I would like to say we wanted company. But really, we wanted responsibility. Neither of us ever articulated it, but I think we wanted practice at being parents.

The other night my friend Brad, who is an animal lover, said he believed humans have a responsibility to domesticated animals. His argument: We domesticated them, so we are morally obligated to them.

I think I agree with this, at least theoretically. But the math poses problems: The stats show that humans are profoundly unequipped, numerically speaking, to care for the stray cats and dogs of the world.

Stray animals have it rough, but so do stray humans. The question is begged (Idge: this doesn’t mean I condone begging): Are we directing our compassion toward the proper species?

To people dying of starvation, the Idge would be a better meal than companion. Meanwhile, the Idge is so well fed that she rarely eats immediately after served. She knows it’ll be there later; she’ll get around to it. In the meantime, she’d rather try to bury her rawhide in the creases of her dog bed. God damn, she’s cute.

But what if someone knocked on my door and said they needed the Idge immediately — that a family of four living four houses down was on the brink of starvation, and only dog meat would save them, and that the Idge was the only dog in the neighborhood?

Would I sell the Idge out? No.

I’d prefer to live with the knowledge that I’d let a family of four die than to sacrifice the Idge for the greater good. It’s not what you know, but who you know. And the Idge, strangely enough, qualifies as a “who.”