Thursday, October 30, 2008


It’s four-something o’clock, and I have just been denied by rain the supreme pleasure of watching John McCain, the new, dis-improved John McCain, squirm on the Larry King show about how that evil Obama man is cheating him out of his birthright by spending lots of money that was donated to him fair and square, spending it for it’s intended purpose and not for self-aggrandizement, and using “rhetoric,” a mysterious, elitist verbal tool that Mr. McCain does not understand and evidently finds vaguely magical. It’s all very dramatic and sad: Mr. Newly-Dead-Left-Eye, gesturing stiffly, complaining of not being dead yet when no one had even mentioned his three-fourths deadness, desperately complaining that Obama went to a party eight years ago with a “Palestinian Terrorist” whom Mr. McCain himself has supported and donated money to. Oh, pshaw, like wonderful entertainment like that was easy to come by.

It’s really pouring out, and the lightning is right in my area, the flash and the sound coming right on each others’ heels. I sat outside for a time, and was surprised to see a completely clueless Thai man about to go swimming in the pool. Well, I thought, this will be fun. Just as I was wondering about the effect that the lightning would have on his unsuspecting body, one of our maintenance woman braved the rain to go out and inform him that the pool was closed, because of the dangerous lightning no doubt.

I happen to enjoy lightning. I love the big-show aspect of it; I love counting the gap between the flash and the sound to determine how far from me the strike was. I have yet to find a Thai person, man, woman, boy or girl, who is anything but disturbed by lightning. No one that I have asked about it enjoys it like I do. Repeatedly, though, Thai people demonstrate that they have no actual fear of lightning, they do not demonstrate the natural fear of lightning that people who have seen trees or houses damaged, or golfers killed, have, a visceral fear that cannot be forgotten.

I am ashamed to admit that I was looking forward to watching that Thai man take his chances in the pool. I was going to sit there smiling while he risked his life. It was not a lack of compassion on my part; it was instead a clinical interest in his willingness to take the chance. If he had died, there was certainly nothing connecting the death to me. What could I have done? Could I have pointed to the sky and told him, “khun dai dai,” (“you could die”). I don’t need another “Farang say the stupidest things” moment.

Actually, the clueless Thai man about to swim in the lightning infested pool was as clueless as Mr. Supreme Maverick McCain. Neither knows anything about the forces that are surrounding them and controlling their lives; neither believes that any outside force is real enough to effect them. I wish them both luck. They may not believe it, but reality is out there, and it’s where we live, and a misguided attitude and a “game face” cannot prevent reality from crushing you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Wonder of the Law: Consideration

Being a working lawyer was not my cup of tea, but I have always admired the majesty and dignity of the law, and I am also fond of the mystery of it. Take: Consideration.

There are three requirements for a valid contract in America: 1) an offer; 2) an acceptance; and 3) consideration on both sides. Simply stated, consideration is the bargained for exchange, you know, you buy a car and your consideration is the money and the other guys consideration is the car. Easy, no?

No. Consideration can be so hard to find that some countries don’t worry about it at all. In Thailand, although we may all agree that almost all Thai contracts show mutual consideration, it is not a requirement for a valid contract. For the Thai courts, if people want to sign a contract that brings them no benefit, who are we to stop them? I have a hunch it’s the same in France, but that’s another story.

The money and the car are easy to see, but it can all become pretty nebulous after that. Take these two examples, if you will:

Example number one: On a large construction project, the price of wood suddenly goes up and the builder insists on altering the contract to reflect the new, higher price of the wood. He orders work to be stopped while the matter is hashed out. The owner agrees to the new price and work continues. The new, substituted contract terms are valid, because there was consideration on both sides.

Example number two: On a large construction project, the price of steel suddenly goes up and the builder insists on altering the contract to reflect the new, higher price of the steel. The builder and the owner sit down to hash things out. The owner agrees to the new price and work continues. The new, substituted contract terms are invalid, because there is no new consideration on the part of the builder.

See the difference? The work stoppage. The builder going back to work is the benefit received by the owner; the builder in example number two never suspended work, so the owner was not receiving any new benefit to offset his higher costs.

Not confusing enough? In some courts, there must be some out there somewhere, the Court would say, wait a minute, you can’t agree to do something that you had a pre-existing duty to do and call it consideration, but that’s courts, they blow hot and cold like that guy in the Aesop fable.

It can be fun to win by convincing a judge or jury that two plus two equals seven; but it is indeed a misery to be beaten by someone proving the same thing. Anyone preferring solid ground under their feet should steer clear of the law as a profession.

Thai-Light Zone: The Presence of Women

No, not the presence of women in general, nothing new about that, women make up half of the population wherever you go. I’m talking about the casual presence of women in Thai men’s rooms.

It is common to encounter Thai women cleaning staff in men’s rooms. Maybe you walk in the door and a woman is cleaning a sink: how should you proceed? Maybe you are taking a leak and a woman suddenly walks up behind you with a broom and a dust pail: how do you feel about that?

In many malls, mostly in your better malls, there is a woman in the men’s room full time, she never leaves. One woman for each men’s room. They putter around, clean the sinks and mirrors, check the stalls after use to ensure freshly flushed and wiped neatness for the next user. It’s a bit disconcerting at first.

The rule is to just ignore them, except for maybe a brief friendly smile and a nod of the head. And that’s if they catch your eye, in general they will remain focused on trivialities and ignore you too. No socializing, and please god, no tips, they’ll think you want something and freak out. Just go about your merry way.

Ah, the ways that travel broadens the mind.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nice Movie Quote: Talledega Nights

From the character of Sasha Baron Cohen: "We want what everyone wants. To retire to Stockholm and invent a new currency that could be used by dogs and cats."

The 2008 Series

They’re not perfect, who is? But they’re very good, Dave O’Brian (?) and Rick Sutcliffe, the announcers for this 2008 World Series.

(Shane?) Utley came up to bat the other day, and O’Brian asked Sutcliffe how he’d handle this Philadelphia All-Star who had been treating the Rays very roughly throughout the series. “That’s a good question,” said Sut, “lots of guys have been trying to figure that out.” Modesty having been neatly disposed of, he went on, “first, I’d establish the fastball, something over the plate, somewhere on the outside would be best. Utley’s been reading the ball very well, picking up the spin on screwballs and breaking pitches, but the change-up has been giving him fits, so I’d go straight to off-speed pitches after that.”

O’Brian replied drolly, “You know, Sut, I enjoy working with you but sometimes I wish I could count on you for a well thought-out answer.”

Sure enough, the pitcher’s first serve was a fastball, very fast, which just missed outside. After that came a great change-up, for a strike, and the pitcher continued to follow Sutcliffe’s script exactly.

Nobody’s perfect, the logic thing falls apart sometimes. In game five, after a couple of innings of rain, the Rays pitcher was suffering and there were many breaks for discussions of strategy and inquiries into the pitchers ability to go on. O’Brian said something about the rain, and mentioned that the Rays had all the time in the world because they were behind 2-1. The game was past the fifth inning, though, so if it were called on account of rain it would go as a complete game and a win for the Phillies, so didn’t that mean that it was the Phillies who had all the time in the world to wait for the rain to do its work? I’m pretty sure it did.

This has been a good series, interesting in many ways and fun to watch. All of the games have been close. The Phillies have been held to a very low output of runs scored, but in almost every inning they have put men on base early and left lots of them hanging after the third out. That’s interesting in itself, but it also means that the Rays pitchers have spent all of their time pitching themselves out of trouble, which is always very, very interesting.

The powerful throw in from the outfield is a favorite play of mine. That ability is not valued in outfielders these days, not as much as it was long ago anyway. Guys like the DiMaggio brothers, as an exhibition, would stand with their backs to the wall in center field, take a step or two and throw a strike to the plate. It’s all mechanics. I’d like to see any of these modern players try it, except that I think B.J. Upton could do it. Early on, a couple of guys tried to run on him, they died trying. The Rays outfield is full of respectable arms.

I’ve always liked baseball as it is played by the Saint Louis Cardinals. They could never afford big team salaries, so they always put together teams of young, fast players who are drilled in the fundamentals. Tony LaRusa, who is a lawyer, by the way, won lots of games with this kind of Cardinal team. They are the Ninjas of baseball, the masters of the run built on junk: walks, stolen bases, infield hits, wild-pitches, bunts, sacrifice flies, hit batsmen. Get on base any way that you can, and see what you can make happen. The Rays play like that. They did hit a lot of home runs in the League Series, but I’m pretty sure that those balls were juiced.

We’re in a rain delay now, and it’s pouring and the field is soaked already so the delay will probably not end today. It’s 2-2; what’ll they do? Lots of interesting aspects to this series.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: What I am?

What I am?

Outlaw? Beatnik? Hippie? Burn-Out?
What I do? What I am?
Loser hipster wannabe dipshit?
Stumblebum bloodclot asshole dreamer?
Poet of the pampered failure demons?
Expat indolent merely blogger?
Crazy hidden closet skeleton?
Joe-the-dead-boy butt-stupid unknown?
Blue eyes begging for a dime?
Lunch loser lost around the corner?
Life loving suicide failed optimist?
Falling no-net trapeze angel?
Wishing-hoping-praying parody
Of a fading darling boy?

October 15, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Film Promo Winner

And now, for the greatest film promo of all time:

It claims to be a gag for Sony Bluetooth or some such high-tech wonder, but it features the new James Bond standing there in an underground World of Warcraft cyclopean stone setting being subjected to various explosive effects, getting shot, tolerating everything very well with a kind of fuck-you boredom, a kind of is-that-all-you-got-MF world-weariness, being knocked around but really just planning how to totally fuck you up, Bond, James Bond, a little bit raised from the dead and a little bit finally as bad as the dude in the novels, the original “Big Game James,” Conan the Barbarian in a nice suit, who dies first? *

There was never anything suave or sophisticated about James Bond. I read that shit a couple of years before Hollywood’s Dr. No movie premier of the character, and I found the character shockingly dark and menacing. I was very young, and I was used to reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, and science-fiction. In Bond, there was no smiling, no low key joking, there was a guy that I became very familiar with, a guy that longed for a chance to hurt you, bad, and if you died, well, he had a license. Too bad. There was lot of very dark chasing and hurting, and if Bond got hurt it only set off his revenge mechanism. Like the guy in this promo.

I tried to be blasé about this movie, but I’ll be there, just like in 1962. And I’ll like it more than most of the Bond movies, odds are.

* As an English teacher, I am especially proud of this oddly successful, somewhat delirious, run-on sentence.

The Lessons of Childhood and History

The Irish wrote the book on passive-aggression. A small, agrarian society, they were brutally colonized by a larger, heavily militarized neighbor and kept in virtual slavery for over two hundred years.

“Virtual slavery,” too strong a term, you say? Not fair to the real slaves? If you enslave an entire country, every citizen is a real slave. The difference is, you own the country, the individual slaves have no value, no owner, no one to care if they eat or starve. They’re “free,” free to work in your fields or die.

The religion of the Irish was banned. There grew up a network of “mass rocks” out in the woods where people could secretly meet and worship. There was a bounty on priests, paid for the heads, as though they were wolves or something. The Irish language was banned. The Irish were systematically reduced to penury. The Irish had no money, no money at all, and there were taxes to be paid for any small convenience. There was a “window” tax, to be paid for every window that you had in your house; there was a “door” tax. In this way, the Irish, who were perfectly capable of building windows and doors into their houses, were reduced to living in houses with no windows or doors, because they couldn’t pay the tax. They could not afford to buy food. By the benevolence of the colonial power, they were allowed to have a small potato patch for their own sustenance.

Irish farms were the most productive in Europe. The products of Irish agriculture were coveted all over England and the continent. Irish livestock, dairy products, and field crops created a huge annual treasure of money. The farms were all owned by the colonizers, and the products were exported for money, money that went to the colonial power. Everyone remembers the “Potato Famine.” Forgotten, though, is the fact that while the Irish were dying of hunger, Ireland remained the greatest exporter of agricultural products in the world. There was plenty of food, but the Irish couldn’t have any. When their own little potato patch failed, they starved to death.

To his everlasting credit, the English Prime Minister, the great Robert Peel, cared, a little bit. The Irish population fell from over twelve million to less than eight million, with half lost to emigration and half lost to death. It would have been worse without Mr. Peel, I don’t remember any estimates of the number of Irish lives that his policies saved, but it was a lot.

This was the time of the Raggedy Men in Ireland. Men, alone and out of doors, children dead already, with a farm tool over their shoulder, no money and no food, forced to walk around looking for work until they died sitting under a tree somewhere. The emigration wasn’t much better. It was forced; the administrative power provided aptly named “Coffin Ships” to take surplus Irish men and women to America. The colonial power’s largess ended with the provision of transportation, for food on the ship they were on their own. If they didn’t die of hunger on the boat, they were home free. Most of my mother’s family came to America this way, at this time. Their first hundred years in America were not easy, what with all the hard work, the early deaths, the still-born children and the grinding poverty. The story of Irish immigration: Oh! Danny Boy!

In this powerless condition, the Irish refined passive-aggression to a fine art. Required to greet every Englishman with a polite tip of the hat and a “good morning, squire,” the Irish began to greet everyone in the same fashion, man, woman, boy, girl, and beast. “Top of the mornin’ to you, Mr. Carriage Horse!” Forced to speak the English language, the Irish employed it with such verbal flair and Irish inflexions that the English could hardly understand them. After the Potato Famine, when the deadly earnest of the colonial power had become apparent, “Captain Moonlight” became more and more active. All back in the fields the next day, “Aye, that great house, and now not a cinder standing on a burning cinder, it’s a shame, it is.” People were killed. Closely knit, secret groups with names like “the Hearts of Oak,” “the Waterford Boys,” or “the Hearts of Steel” raised holy hell while the lights were out.

I learned all of this history much later, but I learned the technique quite young. My mother, a good Irish girl, was an expert. She learned it from her mother. My grandmother had a big dinner for the entire family on every St. Patrick’s day, and she always served corned beef and cabbage and meatballs and spaghetti, so that we could remember that this was America, and we had to learn to live with the guineas. My experience of childhood provided me with a lot to be angry about, but left me without the means to directly face my oppressors, so passive-aggression was a natural for me.

Faced with a fight started by a big, athletic boy, I might give him a bored expression and request, just don’t break my glasses. In my Catholic high school, the brothers were obsessed with our sex lives, mostly with the fact that we had them. They constantly harped on the dangers of girls in general and masturbation in particular. I got through the first giant lecture about masturbation without knowing what the hell they were talking about, I’d never heard the word before. “Self-abuse,” another one, what the hell is that? We talked about it afterwards, oh! they mean jerking off! This was their welcome to four years at their institution. I was already sick of this kind of hostile condescension, so I just signed off.

You want me to read? Ok, I’ll read. All through high school I read about one novel a week, lots of history books, every issue of Newsweek, Life and National Geographic, newspapers every day, front to back, plus all of the magazines that I could steal. I’m not bragging, the novels were mostly crap, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Doc Savage, Dr. Fu Manchu, James Bond. Some good stuff too. Junkie, by William Burroughs, some Waugh, Oscar Wilde, I don’t even remember it all now. But I never even cracked the books they gave me at school. Oh, an exception, they assigned “A Canticle for Liebowitz,” I did read and enjoy that. I refused to read any other assigned material. I remember liking only two classes in four years: geometry, my enjoyment of which I cannot explain, and it was my highest mark in high school; and studio art, Brother Etienne Cooper was the only brother, or lay teacher for that matter, that I got along with. I finished at the very bottom of my class, and I was proud of it. Fuck you, I’m out of here.

I graduated high school at the age of sixteen, in 1965, and I went straight to college. This was a colossal mistake for two reasons: 1) I was only sixteen, so why waste two years of a college draft deferment? That was just stupid, and I got no advice on the subject; and 2) I had a supremely bad attitude towards organized education. I was thirty five years old before I could relax and enjoy other-directed learning.

This is what the psych’s call “maladjustment,” or “mal-adaptation.” The techniques that enabled me to make my way through my childhood and adolescence were totally unsuitable when applied to adult life. I still suffer in little ways for these early adaptations. Even if I now understand the dynamics, you can’t just flip a switch and “get it” all of a sudden.

I suppose we’re all in the same boat, that’s usually the case. I wish us all well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Musical Career

Thanks to whoever took an interest in my repertoire.

My total hit is "Wonderful Tonight," which is very popular in Thailand. Any band can play it at the drop of a hat, and usually in a good key for the non-professional (me). It's also on every karaoke machine, every karaoke computer program I mean. I have a nice umbrella that I won singing "Wonderful Tonight."

I get a great response to "Your Cheatin' Heart" too, I can sing the heck out of that one.

I try to stay away from "Country Roads," which is not easy because it is like the national song of Thailand or something. The key is always too high, and besides, I hate the song. I hate "I Started a Joke" even more, I may just refuse to sing that on principle ("I don't know what it means!").

If young kids ask me if I can sing, "Krue Farang! Rong pleng dai mai krap!" I start clapping my hands and make them follow in the rhythm, then I sing "Hey, Good Lookin'" another Hank Williams song. It's a happy sounding song, they don't get the meaning anyway.

"Stand By Me" is becoming a regular bit, and "Imagine" sounds good too. With a band, you can tell them the name to any Eagles song and they're ready to go. I like "Take it Easy," but I try to stay away from "Hotel California."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


This was a good party. I sang a few tunes that I chose to sing, but this is a picture of me coerced into singing "Imagine," by John Lennon, who I'd bet couldn't even begin to imagine living without possessions. Yoko, forget Yoko, she has an entire apartment in the Dakota refrigerated to store her furs.
Yeah, "imagine living in the forest, without a pot to pee . . ." Maybe it's easier if you're a multi-millionaire.

Bill O'Reilly Update

I was wrong about Bill O'Reilly's high school. He went to Chaminade, not the new Catholic place on the Expressway. Chaminade was totally insufferable, not just O'Reilly. They really thought they were something special. I think they cost fifty dollars a year more than any other Catholic high school at the time. Our basketball team at Holy Cross gave them fits, our team was always very good and very tough minded. Jack Dolce was tough everything'd, boy could he hurt people, he hated and didn't stand for any jive-talking opponents. And for you 'Pointers, the Scally's and I think Eddie Newman were on that team too. The Scally's at least were gentlemen, but as a whole they were a tough as nails team and very bullshit-intolerant.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Movie Censorship Note: House of a Thousand Corpses

A Rob Zombie movie, not what I expected, really, this is a fairly sincere effort at a commercial horror movie, fairly conventional, actors that I actually recognized, derivative horror imagery, from existing films and terrible people history. These movies are essentially silly: those “monsters” are just as human as you, so just kill them you dumb shit. Pull their fucking eyes out, see how they like being chased around in the dark, burn their playhouse down. Just tell the cops you don’t remember anything. Actually, don’t say a single word. The trial will go your way, if they have the nerve to try you.

Censorship in Thailand is strict. They blur out any guns to the head, extended middle fingers, female breasts, even smoking tobacco products. There’s lots of stuff to blur-out in this movie. And evidently, the entire ending is so toxic that it had to be eliminated all together.

Arriving at the climax of the lame horror action, the movie simply stopped. A pleasantly colored, calligraphic text screen was put up explaining in Thai that the rest was just way out of bounds for the delicate people of Thailand. So we missed whatever sorry excuse for resolution Mr. Zombie had in mind. No end credits, no nothing, the time to the next movie was filed with some lame music videos.

Form again triumphs over function, the Thai ideal. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (violence in Thailand). Keep your eye on the golden illusion.

A Pleasant Saturday Morning

I was just sitting outside, my veranda, I can just squeeze in a stool between the washing machine and the drying rack. Watching birds, very pretty little swallow tail kites of some kind, graceful flyers. They were circling above their tree, I believe, and because they sometimes fluttered their wings and changed direction suddenly I think they were feeding on flying insects. A very nice display, nature at its urban finest.

There were also a couple of pretty young Thai girls at the pool taking pictures of one another with a mobile phone. That was nice too.

I finished my cigarette and came back inside. Shower time, I’m teaching a class this afternoon. It all could be much, much worse.

The World, Serious

What is that around their necks? Lots of players on all of these teams have “necklaces” that look like tightly wound oily rags. Is this some new style that no one told me about? Matt Garza pitching to Dustin Pedroia, they’re both wearing them. Since it’s baseball players, it’s probably million dollar moon rocks or something.

I like Big Pappi, when he claps his hands I can feel the shock waves where I’m sitting. Poor guy can’t buy a break up in here, strike-out/throw to second double play, good baseball. But there’s a couple of innings left to play and the Red Sox are only one run down.

The game should be wrapping up about now. I wouldn’t know, my TV is showing an “E52 Searching for signal” error message for about an hour now. Even if I could, I wouldn’t ask about it. The answer would be something like: oh, didn’t you know? On the second even-numbered Monday of every even-numbered month we shut the system down for maintenance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Fred Program of Re-Education

There are men in American politics, financial circles and media who are in dire need of re-education. These men have positions of great authority, some have been in authority for decades, but they persist in exercising their authority in ways that vary from the merely selfish to the deeply immoral. Much of their behavior is deeply anathema to the American ideal, often to the very American system that they profess to love and serve. They will continue their mischievous, destructive ways after the coming election if they are allowed, and they should be stopped.

The filth and corruption that they spew has contaminated our body politic to the degree that a genuinely decent family man like Barack Obama, a genuinely intelligent, thoughtful politician whose career displays little or no self interest, can be shamelessly denigrated with an endless stream of outright lies, and this can be done not only with impunity, but also with the cooperation of major media outlets, who dishonestly broadcast that both sides are guilty. This shit has got to stop.

The Candidates.

I am talking about men like morbidly obese “values” expert and gambling aficionado, William Bennett; cherubic faux academic and draft-dodger, the oddly named Newt Gingrich; darkly threatening draft-dodger and terror monger, Dick Cheney; draft-dodging punk/bully, Bill O’Reilly; draft-dodging and stock frauding, weirdly disoriented President of the United States, George W. Bush. These men, and many others, were too busy planning their future prosperity to answer their countries clarion call in times of war, but ever since the threat of personal hardship was lifted they have been espousing warfare at the expense of others, and energetically aggrandizing themselves, usually without actually producing anything of value, and often at the direct expense of the American people.

There are lots of younger men too, men who have never been threatened with anything in their lives except the possibility of actually working for a living. I’d recruit people from Wall Street too, and some managed health care folks too, I don’t think that the insurance industry would get away undiminished. I’ll make more of a definitive list after I get the authorization to set up the camp.

The Camp.

Yes, a camp, but I’m not a hard guy, the level of hardship will be very, very low. Unless, that is, you find actual work to be hardship. I admit, my first inclination was to put the camp in North Dakota, way out in the Chinook Wind somewhere, no trees, you know, like Mars with breathable air, but I quickly decided that North Dakota would be unnecessarily punitive. This is only re-education, after all, not some Stalinist Gulag death camp. So I think way out in the woods of Maine is a better idea, maybe have a pretty lake nearby. That would be nice.

I admit, though, that I have read Solzhenitzen (sp), and those Soviets were certainly the geniuses of the concentration camp. The Nazi’s just worked people to death, trusting to an endless supply of death-camp workers. Foolish, really, like it was so easy to make machine gun bullets in long belts that wouldn’t jam in the MG 42’s, their soldiers knew better and wished that the workers were of better quality. The Soviets figured out ways to maximize the work output of inmates who had no interest in the end product. The work of the Nazi’s is of little use to the modern day practitioner, but I have drawn more than a little inspiration from the successes of the Soviets.

The Program.

The program is work. The only political indoctrination will be, shut the fuck up and stop complaining, it’s about fucking time you did some actual work instead of just raising hell by erupting in public for a so-called living. The work, I believe, will be the building of unnecessary walls. Perfectly accurate, beautifully realized walls, made from reinforced concreter, cinder-blocks and bricks, placed in precise rows and perhaps adorned in flowers, when the weather permits. If we run out of space, the work may become the demolition of unnecessary walls, by hand, preserving one hundred percent of the materials for further use, of course.

Here’s where the Soviet experience comes in. How do you get an uncooperative, fat, lazy, brutally stupid, evil minded person, whose life has been devoted to wrecking American society, to build a wall against his will? The answer is simple: you make his nutrition and comfort dependant upon work output. No, I’m not going to starve anybody, this is America after all, not some Soviet death camp. But if a candidate refuses to work, his meals will come two a day. The first will be some decent bread and some thin vegetable soup. The second will be a cup of good, white rice and a piece of fish or something. If your not working, and you’re overweight to begin with, seven hundred or so calories a day should be lavish. Of course, the candidates will all have unlimited access to drinking water and proper sanitation.

Those who work will be fed three proper meals a day. A good breakfast, at about five thirty a.m., if the previous days quota had been met; a nice, hot lunch, if the morning’s quota had been met; and a good, hot dinner after work, about six p.m., if the days quota had been met. With extras if the days quota had been exceeded, extras like magazines, or dessert, or decks of cards, maybe board games like Monopoly, or special food, or maybe videos of Walt Disney movies. No television, that would be counterproductive. Lights out at nine o’clock.

Another tip from the endlessly inventive Soviets: put the candidates in teams. If one candidate refuses to work, the entire team is confined to quarters with the limited rations and no extras. The team lives together, in a warm, dry but very plain room built to house them all comfortably. The team can have a talk with the recalcitrant candidate, and see if they can all come to an agreement, as a team. The same thing happens in the field. If a team member slacks off and the team does not meet its goals, the entire team misses dinner and “Peter Pan” on a nice TV. They can then discuss the matter. It all works very well in practice, you can look it up.

A year or two of this should be plenty for most candidates. I believe that was the Vietnamese experience. They just sent people down to the rice farms for a while. Their candidates were merely small businessmen or academics, though, I believe that we in America have some tougher nuts to crack. So the walls.

I propose that after the election we simply wait until these people start their anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-Constitution, anti-logic, and anti-common-decency campaign of obstruction and hindrance of the elected president of the United States, recall that something similar was done in the 1990’s with disastrous consequences, and declare these people terrorists under the Patriot Act and sentence them to re-education. Habeus corpus my ass, isn’t that the way we do it now? I’ll take care of the rest.

The Tampa Bay “Devil” Rays?

I think Tim Carver just said, “back then they were the ‘Devil’ Rays.” It seems, once again, that something happened while I wasn’t looking. Are they just “the Rays” now?

Can someone illuminate that process for me? How did they go from being “the Devil Rays” to just being “the Rays?” I’m afraid that it was probably Christians, the new non-denominational Christians who are happy enough to eat Sara Lee with their fellow “saved,” and gloat about how happy they’ll be with god after the tribulation, but who have no patience with actual theology. Those people like to complain about Harry Potter or any innocent reference to witchcraft or the devil, while they themselves go about the devil’s work of racism, intolerance, and interfering in other people’s lives.

My Concise Oxford English Dictionary tells me that a “devil ray” is “a manta or other large long-tailed ray with a fleshy horn-like projection on each side of the mouth.” That’s innocent enough, and a fine, beautiful, semi-dangerous animal to name a team after. “Ray,” on the other hand, has lots of meanings, including “any of a set of straight lines passing through one point.” (Mathematics.)

A little help, please? What happened?

Boston’s Masquerade

I like to analyze crowd behavior. Every big league city has its own style, and their fans have their own characters.

Today, the Red Sox spent almost the entire game behind, and the Boston fans passed the time sitting silent and crestfallen. Their faces had that breathless, 2,000 yard stare quality of the patient in shock. They looked like livestock waiting to be pole-axed. Immediately after the eighth inning, three-run home run, with the score now 8 to 1 against them, most of them simply turned their backs on their team, and their pride, on national television, and walked out.

Those who remain are quietly booing their own players who happen to be having a bad series. It happens, people. The same superstars who got you to the American League Championship are trying just as hard now as they did in July and August. They have not given up. It’s just not happening for them today. Maybe it’s the cold weather, but the Tampa Bay Devil Rays don’t seem to be suffering the effects of the cold so that’s probably not it. Who knows? Maybe they just saw in your eyes that you did not deserve them, and they stopped caring about pleasing you.

The Red Sox are still a team of great professionalism and accomplishment, the present shitty performance notwithstanding. Boston, we may be forgiven to notice, is still a college town, with some history, masquerading as a city.

Monday, October 13, 2008

You've Been In Thailand Too Long If . . .

You know you've been in Thailand too long if you stand at an open window for a while, checking out the beautiful tropic sky on a partly-cloudy, rain free afternoon, and think, wow it's a beautiful day, not hot, no rain, just perfect . . .

. . . and returning to your desk you check the Accu-weather Bangkok and discover that it is 91 degrees, Accu-weather "Real-Feel" 105 degrees (60% humididty, no wind).

Our rainy season is almost over. In another week or two it will officially be our "Winter" in Thailand.

The Royal Enfield 500cc Single

There was a time when English bikes ruled, and before the big twins came along the hot set-up was a big, honking single cylinder bike of 500cc displacement. The BSA Gold Star was about the hottest motor; Norton had the “Feather-Bed” frame, which offered precise, stable handling, and also had a great, reliable motor. Velocette made a nice example, it remained largely unchanged from the mid-1930’s but it was a real runner and actually held the twenty-four hour record, covering over 2,400 miles in a twenty-four hour period. There were a lot more: Vincent; AJS; Triumph; Matchless; JAP; and Royal Enfield.

Royal Enfield’s final entry in the motorcycle market was a huge, clunky, unpopular and unreliable 650cc twin. The company closed production in the late 1960’s after many years of poor sales. I never saw a Royal Enfield motorcycle in real life, and outside of history books any reference to them has been hard to find for over forty years.

A couple of years ago I was at a view-spot in the mountains of the province of Nan, Thailand. Nan is a beautiful place, with steep sided, forested mountains, gorgeous valleys, and lots of small rivers and lakes. It is sparsely populated, the provincial capitol is tiny and everything else is a village. The road infrastructure, though, is very good. The mountains are ribboned with roads that are nicely surfaced and graded. It’s heaven for motorcyclists.

I was walking back to the car when someone pulled right in front of me on a Royal Enfield that was in perfect condition. Paint, chrome, seat, everything, perfect. I thought it must be a lovingly maintained bike from the early 1960’s, I went into one of the lesser forms of shock. When the helmet came off I saw that it was a European man, so I walked up to say hello. I noticed that it was a 500cc single, and still everything that I saw was in perfect condition. As he dismounted I heard a big noise behind me. Turning, I saw more than ten of these things stopping along the shoulder of the road near the view spot.

I turns out that Royal Enfield of India, Inc., had never closed up shop. These bikes had been in constant production since the 1940’s, and were still going, consistently if not strongly. These bikes were new. It was a motorcycle tour run by the company itself: the guide was a turbaned, bearded Sikh factory mechanic; the tourists were all Englishmen.

They were all a friendly bunch, happy to be chatted up by an English-speaker. Further proof that if you live long enough, you’ll see everything.

Dodgers, 7; Phillies, 2.

As a boy, the Dodgers were my team. The Brooklyn Dodgers, that is. I just picked up the vibe, the Dodgers were cool. I’m not exactly a fan these days, but I am still positively disposed to the Dodgers.

Pretty good first inning in this third game against the Phil’s. Four pitches, already one run scored. Furcal slides home and I swear he threw a kick at the Phillies catcher.

Martin gets hit, bases loaded. This seems to be meaningful. History, I suppose. Someone threw at Manny Ramirez, or Manny thought so anyway. Nomar on strikes, one out. Casey Blake, not to be confused with Blake DeWitt, who plays about thirty feet away, hits a dying quail into short right field for a second run

Jeff Kemp, three and oh, bases loaded . . . where did all this foliage in the bullpens come from? Was it always there? Another strike out. Than the DeWitt Blake hits a bases loaded triple, looking for all the world like one of the DiMaggio brothers. Five runs, a pretty good first inning. The Dodgers came out tonight like they were really, really intending to kick ass and take names.

Hiroshi Kuroda is pitching for the Dodgers. He’s a big dude, no need in qualifying, like “for an Asian,” this guy is one big hominid, period. Remember Don Drysdale? The King of the Brushback? He was so big, he just threw at guys and said, you don’t like it? Here I am, you'd better bring the bat, you'll need it. Big as a house, strong as a brick house. Kuroda is too, plus the karate of course. He throws in the mid-nineties, I wouldn’t want to get hit by one of those, no way. Mr. Kuroda, please excuse me if I just stand a little bit further back, oh no, it’s ok, I like the ass end of the batters’ box just fine. The top of the second goes ok, nobody gets hurt. The Phil’s get a run. I don’t care, I hate to see teams get embarrassed.

Bottom of the second, Furcal again. Hits another first pitch, second pitch to him in this game, second run scored by him, a homer this time. The Phil’s bullpen is up again. Goodbye Mr. Moyer, say hi! to Mrs. Moyer, drink your Metamucil, and go to bed, time to stop the bleeding. Condrate or something, a right hander, to pitch to Manny “I Take What I Want, I’m a Bad Go-Getter, Yeah” Ramirez. He walks him. Ooooooooooh! High and tight again to Martin. Why throw at him? I guess he does stand a little close to the plate. The plot thickens.

Kuroda, back on the mound, huge and resolute. Gently guarding the plate, pitching inside but not like an actual invasion. The first guy in the top of the third hits a grounder and is out at first by twelve feet; that’s better than putting him on first by hitting him, isn’t it? A man with the great family name “Victorino” objects to a pitch that goes over his head with no chance of hitting him, he seems to be explaining that he’d rather get hit in the chest than have one go sailing harmlessly over his head. Words are exchanged and Kuroda receives a pro-forma warning from the ump. Victorino grounds out to first and Kuroda comes over to put his two cents in, probably something like, if I wanted to hit you in the head you’d be on your way to the hospital by now, or, you tell your friends that if they keep throwing at my team you or somebody else will be seeing double for the rest of your life, or, if English is a problem, maybe more like, next time, Gaijiin, you die! Everyone got slightly upset and both benches came out, but it was all coffee-klatch, just coffee talk plus three guys holding back Manny Ramirez, who evidently plays this game like he means it.

This is a great game. Nomar Garciapara just picked up a vicious short hop at first and made it look like ballet. This guy DeWitt, who except for the five o’clock shadow looks about twelve years old, is a terrific second baseman. The Dodgers look good. Let’s hope that they don’t get what I call “the Dodgers’ Sudden Dangerous Insight,” which is when they realize that all of this post season stuff is hard work, and their wallets are fat already, and it’s so nice to go back to the ranch/mansion in Calabasas, with the giant TV, the pool and hot-tub, all the great restaurants, and two or three nice cars to drive to the beach.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not Accurate

I'm sorry, the handling of my Yamaha 650 was not "accurate," it was "precise." (See post below.) I'm a lawyer, and I am prould of my dedication to language accuracy.

Coco Crisp

I’m suspending entries in the “Greatest Name” contest. There is a man on the Boston Red Sox baseball team whose given name seems to be Coco Crisp.

After seeing him in only two games, I can see that he has a bad attitude. In the former game he spiked a second baseman as egregiously as I have ever seen anybody spike someone, and remember that I am old enough to remember Pete Rose’s entire career. Coco did not suffer the ensuing criticism quietly, either. Hey! I spiked him fair and square! He was alone, though, in that estimation. Even his own bench booed him, which is almost unheard of in baseball.

It can be hard to catch all of the details in replays, but in either his next time at bat, or during the next game, the pitcher of the “spiked” team threw one straight at Coco, hit him too. Coco didn’t take this quietly either, he charged the mound and exchanged blows with the pitcher. If I were the manager, I’d be yelling at the pitcher, kick him! kick him! What a nightmare for a manager: your pitcher breaks his hand on Coco Crisp’s head.

Here too, Coco’s team supported him in lukewarm fashion. Sure, they emptied the bench onto the field, but they didn’t seem too concerned that Coco took a couple of licks. I’d guess that they were pretty sick of his antics by now. Remember, the Red Sox are the team that got rid of Manny Ramirez this year because of his perceived “bad behavior.” Can Coco be far behind? Manny, he can kill people if he wants to, he stays on my team, I’ll dispose of the bodies.

But the name, Coco Crisp, that’s a winner right there. Bad attitude notwithstanding, his place in baseball history is assured.

Nice Honda CB400

For my money, this is the hot ride in Thailand. Sure, those 1300cc Suzi bullet-bikes are nice, but they are as big and powerful as locomotives and I don’t have any trains to pull. The Suzi’s top out at about 145 mph, and believe me, there’s nowhere in Thailand where you can ride like that. Put the front wheel in a hole, that would be countless endo’s right there, you wouldn’t land for a mile, people would be saying, wow, those big Suzuki’s really can fly.

No, the Honda is the hot ride. Fast enough for any sensible person. The rider sits up a little straighter, easier to see the giant holes in the road coming up. Low speed control is easier than you'd think too. I had a Yamaha 650 for many years that had weight distribution and frame geometry a lot like the Honda, and the low-speed handling was very light and accurate, very easy. That was back in the States.

I wouldn’t want to ride it in Bangkok, no, I’m only a little bit crazy, and that would take a massive commitment of insane. But up-country, like in mountains of Phrae or Nan, this thing would be heaven at once. It would even be a comfortable commuter bike.

Make a note: this is what I want for Christmas.

Life’s Little Details

I think that I was a pretty good dad. For children I have two grown sons who are both smart and strong, well respected by all, semi-well-adjusted and well into the good-faith-brackets of happiness. They were a joy to raise. I don’t know how I would have faired if faced with greater challenges. I’m not the strongest trooper in the field.

A great and respected friend of mine had a son who was born with an impressive laundry list of physical difficulties and who died just a little past twenty years old. My friend’s response to this challenge was heroic, and he was the greatest dad imaginable for this peaceful and loving but seriously handicapped boy. No complaining, only sensitive dedication and good cheer. He and his wonderful wife provided this boy with all of the comfort and happiness that it was humanly possible for them to give. I wonder if I could have done half as much.

It happens sometimes. Life’s little details going wrong. There’s nothing to be done about it except to roll up one’s sleeves and do the best you can. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s true. Just do everything that you can to be cheerful and helpful. And if someone close to you finds themselves in this situation, well, you might want to try to help them with their challenge, if you can see your way clear to do so, and make their burden a little lighter. They, and their needy child, will love you for it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

“I’ll Be Back”

No I won’t, but lots of people in Asia think that they will.

I’m still proctoring tests. Yesterday a young woman sat in front of me and I noticed that she was holding her pen what appeared to be torturously wrong, most students these days hold their pens improperly, especially in Thailand. Then I noticed that she had that Bree Walker thing going on, some fingers on each hand just useless lumps of flesh, bone and muscle. So she had an excuse. She did have a good thumb and one or two good opposing fingers on each hand, so that was good.

She looked like a fine young lady. Smart enough, she went through her test with businesslike efficiency. She had the good grooming, posture, and modest, attractive clothes of an intelligent person. She was quite pretty, in fact. Interesting to note, however, that because of her hands many Thais would believe that she had been a bad person in her previous life, or at least had done something terribly wrong along the line of reincarnation somewhere, and was being punished by fate, “karma.”

This same belief falls on children who are born to very poor families. If mom and dad were born poor, the odds are that they would have received an education that was of very poor quality and/or incomplete. If mom and dad are now engaged in bottom rung employment, like working other people’s rice fields, or making baskets, the family’s income is barely enough for poor quality shelter and food. So even though many of these children are highly intelligent, they will, in their turn, receive a poor education and be pressured to go to work very young to supplement family income.

Many Thais believe that these poor children, like their parents before them, and the young woman with Bree-Walker-hands, are in the shape that they are in because of misdeeds in a past life. In the west, we were behavior-controlled by being told: be good, or else you’ll go to hell. In Thailand, it’s: be good, or you’ll be reincarnated as a cripple, or a poor child, or maybe even as a dog.

The other side of this coin is that many prosperous Thais believe that they are rich because in a prior life or lives they were very good people, consummate Buddhists. So they don’t think that they owe anything to anybody in the way of help . . . poor people’s role is to be good poor people so that they can move up the ladder next time around. Helping them would just be interfering.

Many things about Buddhism are very good, and in general, Buddhist societies are very well ordered and happy. Are there any Buddhist terrorists? Maybe somewhere, I don’t like to make absolute statements. Some aspects of Buddhism, however, need a little work.

Let’s think a little, though, before we condemn the complained of behavior. In Europe, we had Calvinist pre-determination, which is pretty close. There’s still a residue of it in some Protestant churches. Either way, your stuck being miserable for a reason beyond your control. Maybe it’s even sillier to think that god put you in misery “for a reason,” or to think that you are rich because god loves you more than he does the poor.

While you’re thinking about it, let’s recall that there are lots of kids out there that could use a hand.

Kill the Terrorist!

Lot’s of people besides me are noticing that the McCain camp’s Obama bashing is leading to weird and dangerous, undemocratic, un-American hate-mongering. “Terrorist!” “Kill him!” etc, called out unchallenged at meetings of the true believers.

Senator McCain's campaign sent out a statement to reporters defending the remarks of its crowd members.

"Barack Obama's attacks on Americans who support John McCain reveal far more about him than they do about John McCain. It is clear that Barack Obama just doesn't understand regular people and the issues they care about," read a statement from spokesman Brian Rogers. "Even worse, he attacks anyone who dares to question his readiness to serve as their commander in chief in chief. Raising legitimate questions about record, character and judgment are a vital part of the Democratic process, and Barack Obama's effort to silence and shame those who seek answers should make everyone wonder exactly what he is hiding."

This is the sheerest kind of crap, and living proof that they have nothing to say. It is also playing with fire. If anything happens to Obama, they should be named as accessories, or charged with incitement to riot.

A reporter, Frank Schaeffer penned a solemn and critical column (first published in the Baltimore Sun) personally addressed to McCain himself: "If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence."

If Obama wins, which it looks like he will unless the Republicans steal it somehow, it will be interesting to see what the Hannity/Limbo/O’Reilly/Gingrich crowd does. My guess is, go right into Hate/Disrespect/Hinder mode, like they did with Clinton.

Scattered Gratitude; No Rain Expected

Thanks to whovever appreciates, like I do, the irony of being asked to say "ejaculations" to avoid impure thoughts.

Thanks especially to whover recently read my old post, "John McCain: Mediocre Ground Attack Pilot." That's a sentiment I feel strongly about.

And my best wishes and gratitude to Mr. R.C. and Mr. E.S., who selflessly provide great comic relief when I forget to. My hat is off you you, gentlemen, that stuff should be a book.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

News, No Snooze, Lose

Rory, in the late eighties, early nineties your wife's boss was probably going to L.A. to pick up cocaine. At that point all of the L.A. firms were swimming in it. After a big deal they'd break up into two groups: old school with the scotch and new school with the coke. Check it out. There was coke in New York, but like Randy Newman said: I'm gonna get 'em some of real cocaine, they can't get that where they come from. Easier to keep in a secret too if you don't buy it from someone around the corner.

Re: lawyering. It would have been fun except for the opposing counsel and the judges. Opposing counsel is almost always a pain in the ass. Big firm opposing counsel try to bury you with meaningless-but-must-be-responded-to paperwork, what we call "beating you to death with the (Civil Procedure) code." Lot's of guys send you confirming letters to telephone calls that never happened, or file responses with faked Proof-of-Service dates. Stuff like that, I don't know, I just didn't like it.

My last two years I was in a courtroom at the Children's Court with a judge who was just, just, what shall I say, Satan? He was pathetic and frightening all at once. He had a very poor vocabulary, he was always asking like "what's a Cuckhold?" as though no one in the world knew what it was. Mostly, he was an expert at college basketball and alienating his own family. Plus, he'd do stuff like fine us if a cell phone went off but answer his own cell phone at trial in the middle of a cross-examination, hold up his hand like, stop, look at the ceiling and talk for ten minutes about something very important, like getting one of his apartment buildings painted.

I like the law well enough, and the law/fact-pattern intersection is almost always interesting, but the job itself is a lot like plumbing: the money is ok but you spend your life hip deep in people's shit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beyond the Politics of Family Values

There is a round table discussion show called “Beyond Politics” on CNN. For all I know it is produced for the foreign market only, you can tell me if it also appears on domestic American CNN.

The moderator is a famous man who has staked an unfounded claim to expertise in morals, American morals, and values. He appears to believe that his self-declared expertise empowers him to advise Americans on these subjects, and to evaluate all aspects of American society for their performance in these matters. He is allowed year after year to pontificate on American morals and values. His credentials are dubious at the extreme range of reason. His presence on the pundit scene is a big problem for me.

In the first place, he is associated with the “Family Values” clique of the right wing of the Republican Party. Their “Family Values” exist only in their self-serving propaganda; with rare exceptions it never translates into personal behavior. Recall the uproar raised by this clique when President Clinton was discovered to have had an inappropriate sexual dalliance with a young White House page. Recall with me now the countless disclosures that the same congressmen who where leading the chorus of super-heated condemnation were themselves guilty of the same or similar things. Many were serial immoralists; now abandoning their families as no longer necessary to avoid being drafted; now having affairs with married women that resulted in the ruination of the woman’s marriage; now dumping wives that do not age gracefully; now, indeed, having sexual affairs with pages, much more wide-ranging and successful affairs than that of the President. I will refrain from naming names, except that I believe that Henry “the Home Wrecker” Hyde is too dead to sue me. Didn’t it cause the fall of a Republican Speaker of the House? And wasn’t his replacement then immediately hoisted on the same petard? They were doing these things while they were appearing on TV laboring to impeach President Clinton for lesser transgressions, which they did for purely partisan political purposes. Upon the discovery of their own sexual transgressions, they didn’t apologize, they just cursed their fate on being caught and soldiered on, hoping that the voters of America were stupid enough to continue to believe that the Republican Party held the high moral ground.

The blatant hypocrisy of “Family Values” is nowhere more apparent than in their legislative agenda. They have consistently opposed funding for bills that would actually help American Families, usually calling the bills “socialist,” “liberal,” or “homosexual” in nature. Money for Head Start? A program with demonstrated ability to do good and generate actual savings of money down the line? NO. Money for health care for children? NO. I don’t have a list at my fingertips, but matters of education in general, health care, libraries, student loans, public housing, Social Security, the environment, etc need not apply. You know, anything that could possibly enhance the lives of families and children, anything like that is “Big Government,” to be despised wherever it is uncovered, unlike the “Good Big Government” of aircraft carriers and space-based weapons. Who gets the money spent on the military items? Well I don’t think that you are stupid, I think you know already. I think you know who gets the kick-back benefit too. And I think that you can tell how I feel.

Now, the really funny part of my problem with this famous moderator. This pundit’s own character is obviously deficient. Although I would dearly like to have his hair, I would not have his body for all of the money in the world. Whenever I see him, I wonder, “where are his fork and spoon? Where is his food?” How could he get that fat without the never ceasing consumption of food? I’m sure that his off-camera nickname is “Edward Fork-and-Spoon Hands.” He is so fat that he can hardly breathe. That this corrupt, Impulse-Control-My-Ass, morbidly obese pundit presumes to lecture me on morals twists my nipples with impertinent fervor.

Did I mention that he is an inveterate gambler? He loses, of course, millions upon millions of dollars, but neither does this seem to disturb his self-righteousness.

Does the appearance of this show on CNN make him part of the self-proclaimed “Greatest Political Team on Television?”

Please see the related post, “The Fred Program of Re-Education” for my humble recommendation regarding people of this sort.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Better Idea: Smoke Filled Room Advisor

Upon reflection, legislatures are pretty dull places, I’d get sick of that pretty quick. I’d be happier behind the scenes putting words in other people’s mouths.

Like putting them in Barak Obama's mouth. Having no basis of substance on which to criticize Mr. Obama, the Republican ticket is reduced to delivering the smear du jour over and over again, preaching to the converted at party rallies because no one else is listening anymore. This week the smear of choice is: Obama went to a tea party with a radical! The Obama camp’s response seems to be that at the time, Obama was not aware of the radical’s political views. This is a lot like Bill Clinton saying that he had indeed “smoked” reefer, but he had never inhaled. It just sounds unlikely and silly, and it only makes matters worse. Who came up with Obama’s response? Fire that person.

Here’s my idea: Yes, I went to that party, and I knew who the host was too. But it was not about him and me. It was about the good of the city of Chicago. There were thirty people at the party. We were meeting to brainstorm ways to improve the lives of the people of Chicago. I’m glad that I went to that party, a lot of good came from it. Now can we go back to discussing our plans to help the American people in these challenging times.

I got a million of ‘em.

Baseball, No Ballentine

I like the Milwaukee Brewers, but it looks like the Phillies will knock them out. The Phil’s are up two games to none; the Brewers are winning game three but that’s a tough three games to win in a row.

I haven’t seen any of these teams before. The Brewers have a first-baseman with a great name, Prince Fielder, interesting guy, he’s huge, you’d have to say that he’s fat. He can really play, though, runs like an athlete, a big, fat athlete, and, no surprise, he can smack the ball good. They also have a guy with the wildest batting stance/routine that I’ve ever seen. He bounces up and down at the knees, and he holds the bat as far over his head as it will go and flicks it powerfully towards the pitcher. It’s a trip, looks like a giant bird trying to get laid.

Tampa Bay, the Devil Rays, they seem to have more of a chance to advance. They’re a very young team, youngest in the post season, fourth youngest roster in the majors. They look like a college team, a giant, talented college team. They have a pitcher who makes Mark “The Bird” Fydrich look like a dignified professional. He never stops talking, and a lot of it is offensive to the opposing players. You can’t really make it out, but it looks like a combination of instructions to the ball, jibes at the hitters, comments on all aspects of the proceedings, thanks to his teammates and to the deity, and quite a bit of “take that motherfucker.” I saw him in one game, things almost came to blows a couple of times.

I like the Dodgers. They’re having a “Frankenstein” season. The first half, they were just laying on the table, dead. After the lightning hit them they started raising holy hell and they’re still going. Good for them. Los Angeles is a good baseball town, they deserve a good showing.

Chicago has interesting fans. Not entirely positive, but not entirely negative either. I only saw one game against the Dodgers, and the fans were admirably supportive in the beginning. They became sullen and uncommunicative as the game went south. They did, however, applaud the late entry into the game of a Dodger pitcher with a long and distinguished career. But then again, they booed their own team for losing. They should be used to it by now. The Cubs are a choke team, and it is October after all.

If the series goes more than four games I’ll probably miss the end, I have a funeral to go to up in the stix, the land of “No ESPN.” Not a real funeral, I missed that, this is a “one hundred day memorial service/party.” I don’t really care who wins anymore, it has been a long time since I was attached to one team as a “fan.” I love to watch these guys play though, important games especially. Watch the pitcher’s mechanics, how is he using his turn, his front leg, how is he putting the tension in his arm, how is he releasing it. Watch the fielders move in response to the ball. See the swings, mostly those new Charlie Lau style throw-the-bat-into-the-strike-zone-and-hope-for-the-best swings, some of the old school big arch two hands all the way Joe DiMaggio style. I love the hard hit ground ball to the bag at third, the long throw. I want to see outfielders who have good arms, like the old days, good range for the catch and the throw, hit the cut-off man, and there’s nothing like a long, accurate throw to home plate.

Ballentine was good beer. My uncle Bob drank enough of it to float a battleship. Ballentine was the sponsor of the New York Yankees for many years, decades probably. Nice song, “baseball and Ballentine, baseball and Ballentine . . .” Channel 11, if I recall, WPIX. Mel Allen. Those were the days. God, did I hate the Yankees.

Thai Airways

Thailand is without a doubt the Land of Smiles. Most of them are even sincere, they are not simply demanded by a culture of hospitality, but rather are genuine expressions of solidarity: thank you for your smile! here’s one of mine! let’s both have a great day! Life really is better if everyone is actively trying to engender happiness for everyone else. I love Thai people, and I can tell you without reservation that Thailand is a great place to live. Somehow, though, all of this does not make Thailand a great service country.

As in restaurant service, hotel service, any kind of “service” employment. Perhaps it is the absence of tipping in the Thai cultural landscape. No gain, no pain, so to speak. Whatever the cause, Thai service is generally inefficient, and often downright lackadaisical. Oh, the wait-staff is very nice, and kind of friendly, but you can forget anything like fast service, or fact-based answers to your questions, or any intention to get your order right, or even the slightest consideration.

So it’s not surprising that the Thai government has for the last year been trying so hard to convince the cabin staff of Thai Airways to behave better and offer better service. They are, after all, the flag carrier of this great nation, a nation that relies on tourism for much of its prosperity. They are also a very, very expensive airline on which to fly. More expensive than competitors like Singapore Airlines or Emirates Air, airlines where the service makes you happy that the flight is eighteen hours so that you can have more time with the delightful cabin staff, the lavish in-seat entertainment, the great and abundant food, and the free drinks. The food is good on Thai Airways, but the customers and the Thai government are not happy with the level of service.

But somehow, simultaneously, the advertisements for Thai Airways always stress that the service of the Thai Airways cabin staff is so second to none that to fly any other airline is simply foolish, even if it is not a question of money. Do not be misled.

Just another of the world’s conundrums. I recommend Eva Air myself. It’s a Taiwan based company with great aircraft, great pilots, the best safety record in the world, fabulous food and in-flight entertainment, comfortable cabin layouts, and an angelic cabin staff. Plus, Eva is a good bit cheaper than the other top-drawer, long haul airlines.

Singapore Airlines is my second choice. Somehow, every single one of the air-hostesses could tell you that she’d been Miss Universe and you’d just ask, dizzily, what year? A sometime benefit on Singapore is that the prices may leave enough empty seats for you to find a few and stretch out for a good sleep in economy. Another tip for Singapore Airlines: the price comes down as the flight plan becomes less convenient. More stops and longer holdovers equals big reductions in price. Also, the airport in Singapore is a great place to kill eight hours. Lots of comfortable seating to stretch out on an sleep, and lots of police and machine-gun armed Gurka soldiers to keep you safe. The Gurkas keep their fingers safely on the trigger guards and they never actually draw their beheading “Cukri” knives. They only wake you up once in a while, and then only to ask you if you are ok.

My sincerest advice is to avoid the cheapest air fares like the plague, which before a few hours have passed you will wish you only had instead of sitting there, trapped in that little seat, watching nothing, because nothing works, and hoping that the cabin staff doesn’t follow through with their obvious desire to kill you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Belief Net, or, Please Catch Me God, I'm Falling

Have I posted this poem yet? I'm too lazy to look, just like you're too lazy to go back and look for it.

As a younger man I was quite, what's the word? Abrasive. I enjoyed provoking people. When the Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door, and the Witnesses came around frequently back in my old California neighborhood, I would answer their questions cheerfully and truthfully. "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" "Yes." etc. Then we'd talk about creation, and our preferred level of metaphor would diverge dramatically.

For the record, yes, I believe in god and yes, I am an atheist. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Somewhere in Heaven

Imagine when upon my sad demise,
After years of cynicism, thought wise,
I found myself in heaven among friends,
Was welcomed to a party without end.

Bright without assistance from the sun,
The temperature is always seventy-one,
No time, no space, but only here and now,
No worried minds, and no more knitted brows.

I was not like the one who had succumbed,
Looked not the aged wreck I had become,
Tattoos intact, I was to youth restored,
And reassured that I’d be never bored.

Remembered from my Bible, yes I read,
That poor guy, Lazarus, when he was dead,
Saint Peter took him to a balcony,
Where he, in hell, the rich could clearly see.

This broad veranda’s now my second home,
There’s time the rest of heaven to be shown,
I always have a cool drink in my hand,
And love to scan below perditions lands.

One day Saint Peter gave my hand a shake,
Declined a drink, said, “I’m just on a break.”
But took my earnest offer of a seat,
Said, “Freddy, we’re all friends, just call me Pete.”

Through heaven’s lens we both could plainly see,
All hell-bound souls, could find them instantly,
And Satan too could we closely observe,
He tortured those poor souls with fearsome verve.

“He must be very angry, all this time,”
But Pete just smiled, he took a different line,
“He’s not so bad a sort,” I heard him say,
“You should see his apartment, take your breath away!

There’s air-con there, and a much better view,
Than this one, here spread out in front of you,
He has the Platinum Package, big TV,
His friends go down to see him frequently.”

“I thought, the war in heaven, and that God,
You know, it hurt His feelings, took it hard.”
“No, all that stuff was over long ago,
But we’ve still got the system, don’t you know.”