Brain drain

You might think Brain drain is a medical term. And there may be such a thing as brain drainage (of course, the medical community probably uses a more technical term), but when Americans say “brain drain”, they are usually referring to a country’s best and brightest leaving home for a country where they can have a better life. Of course, Americans think that place for a better life is always America.

India is a prime example of brain drain. Almost all of my doctors have been Indian. Also, visit Silicon Valley or any other center of high-tech and you might find yourself a minority — that is if you are not Indian. Gifted Indians seem to be endless boarding aircraft for the West. Makes me wonder whose left to turn out the light.

Brain drain into America is one of the things that makes our country great.  Despite the angry words of chuckle-headed politicians, the influx of the world’s best brightest should always be welcome here, and mosttumblr_static_raven_tattoo_by_bekkatora-d4g14o2 hope they always will.

But brains aren’t the only thing that drain. Other examples include “down the drain,” which means lost forever.

 

 

The Hateful Eight

Years ago when video stores were a thing, my “casual movie fan” friend had stopped going to her nearby store in Manhattan Beach, CA.  The tall, gawky kid at the counter always went into long diatribes about the movies she was renting. “He just goes on and on, rapidly sputtering out facts and opinions,” she complained. “I just wanted to rent Pretty Woman and go.”
If you haven’t guessed yet, that young gawky man was (and still is) Quentin Tarantino, and he continues to gratuitously share his passion for film, not from the counter of a dingy video store, but through his award-winning, critically acclaimed films. His eighth, The Hateful Eight, is my pick for best film of 2015.
Without giving up too much, here’s an overview of the film. Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are forced by a blizzard into a one-room house with six others. Eight hateful souls seeking to advance their agendas through manipulation and coercion — just like in the real world. Everyone is going all-in, thinking they each have the best hand in a dark, violent card game.
What I love most about the movie is that I get to witness a few new hours of Tarantino’s  storytelling and character development genius. It’s about time. My Tarantino DVDs are nearly worn through from repeated weekend binge watching. In each one I still hear the gawky film nerd abusing unsuspecting video store customers with film talk.  I just wish I could have been one of them. 

A Visit to the Dentist

“You have a lot of saliva,” she says. I look into the small, intense headlight the hygienist is wearing on her forehead. She’s a dental spelunker exploring a new cave. I’m surprised she’s not wearing a helmet. “What happens is this,” she continues, her unseen lips moving from behind a thin paper surgical mask, “the plaque builds up on your teeth and then the saliva hardens it into tarter.” As she speaks, she probes and scrapes my teeth with a pencil-thin metal instrument. Its sharp hook at the end dances just above my gum line. ” Since you have a lot of saliva, you’re more at risk.” She has my full attention. My jaw muscles strain to keep my mouth open as wide as possible.

She finishes up and puts the hook down on a little stainless steel table. She pulls out a long measure of dental floss, and then doubles up the already thick, white cord. I fear she’s about to get “Medieval on my ass.” I open quickly, and she deftly lassos my right lower canine.

Industrial-strength flossing begins, and soon my flabby, weak  gums have given way. I taste my own blood, tinny and salty, as it flows in thin vertical rivulets. Remembering an article about how iron originally came from a far-off galaxy, I wonder if I’m tasting a distant star. I look up at the light and squint. She tells me she’s almost done as the string bites into my flesh again. It sends my brain a flash bang of pain. As a defense mechanism, my consciousness recalls that scientists are attempting to turn chickens back into dinosaurs through gene therapy. I wonder who  funds these things. “Mr. Davis,” the hygienist’s voice shocks me back into the dentist’s chair. “Why don’t you go ahead and rinse now?.” It’s not really a question. I lean over a porcelain spittoon and,  like a trained circus animal, catch some of the water that streams from the faucet. I swirl and spit, sending a bloody discharge spiraling down the drain. With a strange sense of accomplishment, I readjust myself in the chair and resign myself to more bloodletting.

She continues the flossing. With time, her movements fall into an easy, natural rhythm. Together, we enter dental-floss nirvana. A few more teeth and she’s done. She steps back and throws the string away. “Floss regularly and come back in three weeks. If there’s no improvement, we’ll need to do a deep cleaning.” She doesn’t comment on our moment of galactic synchronization. Our perfect lock step with the universe.

I pay my bill, walk out of the building and get into my car. Like a dog let out into a new yard, my tongue explores its new surroundings in a frenzy. My post-tarter teeth feel smooth and healthy. I am happy.

Let’s get Shanghaied!

20150401_160246

Shanghai is a beautiful, exciting place to visit. Here are a few tips to help make your trip there more enjoyable.

The first experience of many who visit Shanghai is the colorful discourse of the Chinese taxi drivers picking them up at the airport. First-time visitors listening to the driver banter with his dispatcher in Chinese might think he is a bit angry. But more experienced visitors will tell you he is in a blind rage. After all, he must take a passenger who can’t speak his language to a place he’s probably never heard of.  Welcome to Shanghai where the people have two emotions: none and anger.  The only person in Shanghai I’ve seen laugh was an old woman. And that was after she hit me with her little scooter.

Getting around

Hoofing it

The best way to learn about a city is by walking around it. Remember: You can cross the street and be safe, but not at the same time. You must make a choice: cross the street or be safe. Pedestrians are the lowest rung on the Shanghai transportation ladder. Just like in California, drivers can turn right on red lights. But unlike California, they don’t have to stop. In fact, taxis and very large tour buses are apt to speed up. Those wishing to completely cross the street tend to wait until a large group forms. At some point, critical mass is achieved and they all walk across the street together. Apparently a large number of people is a deterrent. It would do more damage to the vehicle than just one or two people. But don’t feel too safe on the sidewalks either. I’ve seen large, black sedans jump onto sidewalks and cut across the corners, sending pedestrians fleeing like penguins from a killer whale that has shot onto the shore for a quick meal.

Taking the subway

The subway is both convenient and clean. Visit the customer service booth and act out where you want to go. They will circle something on a map that’s all in Chinese, and then hand it to you. Hopefully, they correctly guessed what your performance was about. Your best bet is to count the stations on the map to the circled one. That will save you the hassle of learning Chinese. Also, when the train arrives, be sure to rush the door with the others and participate in a kind of subway football scrimmage. You’ll know you’ve won when you find yourself onboard.

Food

Shanghai has excellent food. Many of the bigger restaurants will have photos, which makes ordering easier. If they don’t, just think of yourself as being in a greasy actors’ studio. Before your trip, you might want to practice your chicken, beef and vegetable impersonations. Also, if the restaurant has snake or frog on the menu, don’t order it. It tastes like snake and frog.

Things to see in Shanghai

  • Oriental Pearl Tower
  • Skyscrapers from the planet Zartron
  • Small shops selling used, rusty gears and other machine parts next to mom-and-pop restaurants (my favorite was called “Let’s Eat Tar”)
  • Women spitting
  • Pet store/food market
  • Food market/ pet store