Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Professor Gates Arrested! Alert The Media!

This is nothing new. Certainly nothing new to our minority brothers and sisters, and nothing new to any of us White Devils who've been paying attention.

Please word search "probable cause" in the search box above for an old post of that name. It's the heartwarming story of my friend J.W.'s encounter with the Beverly Hills Police Department in about 1981.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Monks Having Fun

They were encouraging the old monk to have fun, but I could see that he was a little afraid of this elephant. He practically throwing the bananas at the thing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

RIP Vernon Forrest

The successful boxer Vernon Forrest was shot dead yesterday.


He was a good boxer, and from all accounts a very nice man, a brotherhood, give back to the community kind of guy. He should be remembered fondly.

There's a post below reviewing one of his fights. (Word search available.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dreams Are My Favorite TV Show

I write about dreams, I really enjoy dreaming. They’re easier to remember if you wake up in the middle, and for that reason I love the Muslim call to prayer at 4:37 a.m. That’s a good dream hour, so it’s a good dream wake up call.

I don’t so much enjoy the disorganized rambles, the unscripted jumbles that are made up entirely of who-done-what-and-ran. I do love the rather abstract ones, where the scene is knowable but barely recognizable, where your friends and family show up in totally unexpected ways, where physical reality is turned on its head, the physics of another multiverse.

I remember dreams going back a long, long time. I remember the dream from my early teens where I first learned to dream consciously. It was a chased-by-giant-monsters dream, very common up until then. I had a less than dreamy relationship with adults as a child. This is my fucking dream, I thought, I can do anything I want, so I immediately came across a motorcycle, kicked it to life, and split, leaving the optical-illusion King Kong far behind. I recall my delight, and the feeling of empowerment. I still love and watch Godzilla movies (and I always survive).

My least favorite type of dream is the totally naturalistic, entirely plausible, scolding kind of dream that is based upon your own life, or, more accurately stated, your own failures. The dreams where people you know and love behave just the way they would in real life, except maybe that they are more honest. The events and details could have been drawn from real life, except that in the dream they are more clearly understood. Whereas real life can be very confusing, passing in a blur, these dreams are like being slammed in the head with sudden, disastrous clarity.

I had one a few days ago. I dreamed that I was a lawyer, I was wearing my own clothes, I remember the tie, I was in my office. I got a simple case, easy stuff, not much money in it, and I became very anxious. The client was a female attorney that I know, she’d been served with something. I went to the office of my friend, B.W., we graduated together from Pepperdine, and asked if I could pay him for an hour of his time, maybe he could help me out. I knew what I needed to do, but I couldn’t be sure that it was the right thing.

That was always my problem. I never had any confidence in anything that I did on my own, and as a lawyer you’re always on your own. You can work for the biggest firm in the country, but whatever you do, you are totally alone both in the doing and in the responsibility.

I lay there thinking about it until the dream-erection went down, I’m over sixty now and my best erections come during REM sleep. When it was convenient, I went to take a leak. By the time I sat down on the toilet I was practically in tears. I still strongly felt the anxiety and confusion from the dream; re-experienced my embarrassment at having to (unnecessarily) ask my friend for help; saw B.W.’s awkward compassion for his lame friend; heard again the cruel comments of the other lawyers at the dream courthouse.

The scary part is that this is only the tip of the dream iceberg. I remember this one, thanks to my Muslim friends, and the fact that their God demands obeisance on a rigid schedule, beginning every day before the sun comes up. For every such dream remembered, I’m sure that there are a thousand that remain unclaimed.

Maybe other people get over things, forget the disappointments and failures of their lives. But in this too I am abnormal. I remember everything.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chet Baker, American Idol

Chet Baker’s version of “My Funny Valentine” is an icon of American musical culture. How would he have fared on American Idol?


Randy: Wow, dog, does Richard Rogers know what you’re doing with his song? His people are probably calling your people right now, you might be in trouble. I was having a good time man, but you’re bumming me out.

Paula: I see that you love that song, but I don’t think it was a good choice for you. I’m not sure what a good song choice for you would be. You had trouble with the notes, I’m not sure that you could hear the band, you were all over the place. I’m pretty sure that singing is not what you should be doing.

Simon: I thought that I had heard everything. Let me ask you: do you know what we’re doing here? That was horrible, just horrible. I apologize to anyone who is still watching. Now please give us back our show.

Check out the matinee idol Chet Baker here:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Enemy

Here is the enemy. Stop the presses, and where is my weapon.

This was forwarded to me today, along with the usual cats in funny outfits:

"My name be Kenesha LaTeesha Williams.I an African-American Girl who just got an award for being the bess speler in class. I got 67 on the speling tess plust 30 point for being black 5 point for not bringin drugs to class 5 point for not bringin guns to class and 5 point for not gettin pregnut during the cemester. It be hard to beat a score of 120.Da white boy who sit nex to me is McGee from Macon . He got a 94 on the tess but no extra point on acount of he have da same skin color as the opressirs.Granny ax me to thank all Dimocrafts and Liberuls for suportin afermative action. You be showin da way to true eqwallity.I be gittin in medical skool nex an mabe I be yo docter when Barrac take over da healtcare in dis cuntry. "

The people who promulgate this unutterable bullshit are the people who would, should receive the special attentions of my most horrific retribution fantasies (see below).

The Other Cheney

I saw, you know, Liz Cheney on the Larry King Show and, you know, she was a public official in the Bush Administration and, you know, she’s pretty good at remembering the daily talking points, but I’m wondering, you know, who cares what she thinks? At the end of the day, you know, who is she?

Has the Republican party really come to this? Sarah Palin, Rush Limbo, Mark Sanford, “Bobby” Jindal, Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and, dare I say it, Jeb Bush?

I have to look up Liz Cheney’s education, I want to know what institutions she’s embarrassing, you know, by saying “you know” every four or five words. Her content is nothing to write home about either, merely running together an endless parade of boilerplate talking points. Her debating style is interruptionist in the extreme, she is just boiling to deliver the next point on her list, no matter who happens to have the mike at the moment. No one will remember what you said, because, you know, I was talking over you all the time.

Maybe I should be happy. My family, my friends, and all of my regular readers know full well that I feel about the Republican Party like other birds feel about crows; like Carpathian villagers feel about the vampire in the castle; like Jews feel about Hitler. But I’m not happy at all, in fact, to see them implode, because whether I like it or not we have a two party system, and it’s bad for that system if one party just flies off the rails and loses its ability to debate the issues honestly.

And let’s face it: this Liz Cheney style debate wrecking is not honest debate. It’s obscurantism, plain and simple, and it’s stupid and destructive.

That two party system. Feeling that America is a giant economy that needs careful tending is a legitimate point of view; feeling that America is a great culture made up of individuals and sub-groups that need careful tending is a legitimate point of view. Within the tension of a reasoned debate there is the possibility of compromise that nurses the whole thing forward, whatever it is. That’s where I stand. I’m no revolutionary, I don’t want to live through any Great Leaps Forward (although I wouldn’t mind a Second New Deal).

I’m just an everyday secular humanist shithead, Liberal definitely, progressive maybe, libertarian? not in this lifetime.

So . . . Liz who? Oh, yeah, soon-to-be-attempted-Senator Liz. What a nightmare.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Glenn Beck Update

The video that I flogged yesterday has been pulled for some reason, "use violations" or something.

Too bad. It was really entertaining, in a horrible kind of way.

Glenn never makes any sense, and he often gives cause to suspect his sanity, but this video was special. He made lots of faces and funny voices, did characters, all through his favorite filter of righteous indignation.

His point: it's America! anybody can get rich! we all want to get rich! don't punish the rich!

"They want to make America a cross between France and Venezuela, (cut to fag voice) 'which is really beautiful this time of year.'"

"They" are: President Obama, the Democrats, Liberals, 'weak Republicans,' Progressives, intellectuals, homosexuals, anybody with an education, anybody who Glenn Beck does not understand, you and me.

Glenn Beck Explains It All For You

Hit this link, but wait a half hour after eating. It's America's new best friend, Glenn Beck, explaining to us that if he can do it, make multi-millions of dollars a year with no talent, no education, dumb as a wall and ugly to boot, then we can do it too.


Beck tells us that he never went to college, no one in his family ever went to college, and yet, he can make millions of dollars. So taxing the rich is anti-American, because you can do it too!
And that, after all, is why we should not tax the rich.

The rich being people who make a million dollars or more per year. Not millionaires, shit, I'm almost a millionaire thanks to my house (at least I was before the recent debacle), not people with a net worth of a million dollars. People who make more than a million dollars a year, their net worth is many millions, unless they spend like drunken sailors (more reason to tax it away from them before they hurt themselves).

Asking someone who makes more than a million new dollars every year to pay an extra couple of percent in taxes will not make them all give up and get jobs at McDonald's, whatever these dipshits say. They'll still work as hard as ever to get rich, maybe harder to make back the chump-change they pay in taxes, and that's a good thing, society needs these pushy bastards. We need them, we need their organizational skills and their energy, and we need some of their money, to help the non-pushy bastards at the other end of the demographic. And maybe even some of us semi-pushy bastards in the middle.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oh! The Drama!

Thais can be pretty dramatic, real Drama Queens sometimes. Like the vocalized bodily functions, described with such pithy wit below, some time ago, the screaming puking, the audibly maximized coughing. Thais can’t even sniff up some snot without alerting all of the ships at sea.

It all overflows with drama, like the long, pretentious speeches at the drop of a hat, for little things, like initiating an English Camp. Or it can be very serious, like murdering a wayward boyfriend, or the new girlfriend.

This new flu, this H-whatever-N-whatever, Swine Flu 2009 (don’t worry if you had the flu that went around in 1918, you’re immune). It’s at best a minor annoyance in Thailand, some cases, no many, maybe twelve people dead in a country of sixty million plus. There are signs everywhere, in malls, luxury condo complexes, at bus stops, with Doremon like cartoon characters in surgical masks, telling people how to avoid the flu. More and more people wearing masks. Cheap masks, high fashion masks, cartoon masks, it’s a big market now. I attending a big meeting/seminar today and they gave out masks with the brochures. Embracing the drama.

You’d think it was the Black Plague or something, when in reality it’s not even the Avian Flu, and certainly not even a pale shadow of the hint of AIDS.

It’s the old substitution routine, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Don’t worry about the state of the local economy, the mis-steps of your elected officials, and please forget all about political shenanigans in general.

Sounds like my own miserable country.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

God Bless America

The amber waves of grain . . . the fruited plain . . . we have a lot to be thankful for. The song goes on to request that God shed his grace on this beloved land, and crown our good with brotherhood.

Lots of people go for the good bits big time but cough up blood if anyone asks them for brotherhood. This was especially true before the New Deal, and the blood-coughers are still trying to bring back the old days.

“Socialism!” The battle cry, as though that were a bad thing. Fuck the brotherhood, we want the money. They get a lot of otherwise good people on their side too, one way or the other.

If you believe that God should crown your good, you’d better believe that helping people just because they need it is a good thing. You’d better believe that stepping over dead people and just moving on is a bad thing. If there is some shit-for-brains out there who would rather drink and gamble than study and get ahead, you’d better believe that his children don’t deserve to pay for his mistakes. You’d better believe in taking care of people who can’t seem to take care of themselves. Like old shit-for-brains, you’d better believe in cushioning his fall, because he doesn’t know any better, and you do. God insists, man, or the grace thing is no deal.

It’s a brotherhood thing, my brother, all men are brothers. God or no God, you and me, we are in this thing together. And right is right, and wrong is wrong, God or no God, on every one of God’s continents.

So forget “Socialism,” if it makes you uncomfortable. Call if “Brotherhood,” like the French do (“Fraternity”). Let’s just all help one another because it’s the right thing to do. Forget the lobbyists, the greedy politicians, the political hangers-on who get rich spinning the truth towards the guys that write their checks, the billionaires out only for number one, the media geniuses who’ll say anything to get ratings. Forget that pack of dogs who eat dog.

Think for yourself. Think what’s right. You can do it, it’s not that hard. Brotherhood. It’s the right way to go. Get on board.

Do it for spacious skies, for purple mountains majesty, but just do it.

Blogs Are All About Bloggers

This is a blog, and really there’s only one reason to write one, the belief that the blogger’s own life is so fascinating that it must be very exciting for other people to read about, coupled with the blogger’s need to show off. What, after all, could be more fascinating than me? Take my dreams, please.

The other night I set my alarm for 5:45 a.m. That’s always trouble for me, anything earlier than six o’clock and my entire night’s sleep is ruined. I went to bed at nine o’clock, that’s more than eight hours to sleep in, but no matter. The alarm was set for an early rising, so it was all rolling and tumbling, with nightmares.

I’d had a disturbing but dull one early in the “sleep” period, and it left me sleepless for a good while. Later on, though, I had a doozy.

I was at our house in California, in the backyard, and there were lots of inappropriate people around. The sky was filed with clouds with shapes that no cloud should take, sea shells, whirlpools, real Outer Limits stuff. An old woman came down the driveway, she was selling personal belongings, a poor woman. I felt compassion for her, greeting her kindly, and went to look at her stuff, I figured I’d buy something. I reached in and it turned out that the stuff was crawling with spiders, and I got lots of bites around my fingertips, little red dots. Something like green grass grew out of the spots, and when I pulled it, long strips of grass came out and it hurt like hell. Feeling intense pain in dreams has always been one of my gifts.

I went out front and it was our block alright, but with lots of trees. I saw my nephew Scott, but he didn’t greet me. He was about eight feet tall, wearing a cape, and he walked slowly down the block. I saw a neighbor, a friend of my son’s, he warned me of an approaching cloud. It was shaped like a Christmas tree, and it landed in the middle of the street and went up the block, round cloudy decorations and all.

Back at the house, day care was in full progress. The house now was just a wooden frame, like a giant wooden monkey-bars with stairs and platforms. It was full of people of all ages, but mostly children. I tried to kick some of them out and came across another nephew, but very young.

Spider woman’s old husband came down the driveway and jabbed me in the chest with his cane, saying that I had been mean to his wife. I was worried at first, because he was dressed like a Viking, but then I got angry and told him that if he waved that cane at me again there was going to be trouble.

My cousin Patty showed up, but she was blind. She wanted to show me her new project to make money, she was embroidering maps of the United States. The sample really looked like it had been created by a blind person. She had some children with her.

Then I was back in the house, in a stairwell, but there were no stairs, just little landings at the doorways to the stairwell, three floors. The door on the landing above me opened up and there were several people there, they offered to help me build stairs.

Down the block, I was sitting on the curb next to a fat woman who was eating potato chips. A thousand cows came over the hill, like it was a show, but then there was an explosion on the other side and it was like a tsunami of cow shit. The fat woman was so surprised that she flipped her chips and they got all over my lap, making a big grease stain.

Then the alarm went off. Fascinating, no?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Where Were You . . .

. . . when man first walked on the moon? Were you impressed? Did you feel a burst of pride at being an American? Provided, of course, that you are American. If you’re not, did you feel a sudden acceleration of admiration for the United States, that shining castle on the hill?

My friends and I had been thoroughly alienated by the shining castle long before Neil Armstrong blew his line upon taking the first ever human step on a celestial orb other than our own. (The line was, “one small step for A MAN . . ,” not one small step for man. The way the line was actually delivered, it was redundant.)

Some of us were gathered at the home of a young woman whose name escapes me, but whose nickname was “the Weasel.” Her parents were not at home, nor expected until several days later. I would be married within a couple of weeks, my wife-to-be was present. It was a party, or at least, a bunch of us were partying. The TV was on, a typically shitty black and white of the time, probably with the rabbit ears antenna and all. Nobody was paying much attention. We were in the kitchen concentrating on job one, which was getting loaded. Most of the time, the only one of us that was in the living room with the TV was my friend R.B., nickname F., who was laying on the couch enjoying the effects of about fifteen Seconals. Earlier in the evening, I remember him waking up long enough to notice one of the red capsules falling out of his hair and saying, wow! before tossing it into his mouth and swallowing it out of hand. He had so mastered the art of swallowing medicine that he didn’t need no stinking glass of water anymore.

The rest of us were sitting around the kitchen table smoking reefer and/or drinking, wine, beer or vodka according to our want. There was some music on, but I forget the source, probably the radio. FM rock was a new media phenomenon at that time, and it was a real treat after the dictatorship of top-forty radio.

I remember going into the living room once in a while, not to check the moon routine, but rather to check if R.B., nickname F., was still alive. He only lived another year or so before dying in a fire, star-crossed, that one.

Are you shocked by our failure to be impressed? Are you offended by our blasé disregard for this great accomplishment? Consider our background:

JFK, our president, ours, had been shot dead in suspicious circumstances. Immediately thereafter, the nuclear standoff went into high gear, spawning new generations of missiles for about 100,000 armed, deliverable nuclear devices, counting all sides, and giving rise to movies like “Fail Safe,” and “Dr. Strangelove,” and endless threat-mongering media coverage. Also immediately after the JFK elimination, a little thing called the Vietnam War went into high gear. This was our reality, our Sixties, along with the great music, the fast cars, and the girls. It was wild, frightening and deeply confusing.

A couple of those present at the Weasel’s house had already been in the armed forces, myself included. Beyond threatening us personally with horrible deaths, and threatening entire populations across the world with even more horrible deaths, the only things that the American government could think of to do were: 1) go to the moon; and 2) try to put us all in prison for getting loaded.

So no, we weren’t particularly impressed. Except with the reefer, which was Columbian, and superb; the beer, which was imported; and the vodka, which if I recall was a brand made from potatoes and distilled in Poland.

Hidden Message Alert: Now that I think of it, does anyone else think it’s strange that within one year of JFK’s “mysterious” assassination: 1) the number of targeted, deliverable nuclear missiles in America’s arsenal grew by a factor of about ten; and 2) Vietnam went from a vaguely annoying subject of obscure articles in the National Geographic Magazine to a full blown national tragedy?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Women

The shorter woman with the hip haircut was the owner of the food shop; the woman in the yellow shirt was the helper. This is in my old neighborhood, the picture was taken a year ago.

The owner sold the shop around that time. She sells insurance now, and I still talk to her occasionally. Her English is very good, before the shop she was an English teacher in state grammar schools. She's smart, and I value her advice. She's married, I never get ideas about married women, and they know it. No sense in ruining people's happiness, or getting murdered. I hope that her husband knows how wonderful she is.

The helper is Burmese, some kind of refugee (even if it is "only" economic). Her life has been unremittingly hard. She's also a smart woman, and pretty wonderful herself. Nice looking, in a slightly commercial, sturdy kind of way. She's always cheerful, her Thai is very good, her English is ok too for that matter, and she studies. Her eyes had that feint hint of panic that you can see in people who have seen and/or undergone too much.

I know that I can trust the owner to take care of herself. Maybe I'll think up an insurance question as a pretext to call her next week. The helper? I can't really ask the owner about her, she might get the wrong idea. I can only hope that the helper came down on her feet after the shop closed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Misadventures With Language

I bought a nasal inhaler yesterday, the name caught my eye:


It's not the name of the company, the manufacturer, so they could have avoided it. I should have been invited to that meeting.

Health Care Deniers

What punishment would be suitable for health care deniers? Telling, or stupidly repeating, outright lies like: we can't afford it! our health care is the best in the world! it's terrible in Canada! you can die waiting to see a doctor in Europe! it's a trick to raise your taxes!

I read a nice piece today made up of stories told by Americans who had accidents or got sick while traveling around or living abroad. Great stories, told in reverential and slightly incredulous tones, about caring, efficient, competent, and rapid care, with no cost or a cost so low that it sounds like a punchline. As in . . . six dollars!

There was some back and forth in the comments. One guy posted some numbers, it was a shame but his gig name cut into his credibility a little bit:

Phreaked I'm a Fan of Phreaked I'm a fan of this user permalink

For all the people who say that the health systems of other countries are bad or worse than the US here is some numbers to for you to ponder
Cost per capitaUS - $6714UK - $2760CAN - $3678
Cost as % of GDPUS - 15.3UK - 8.4CAN - 10%
of gov revenue spent on healthUS - 18.5UK - 15.8CAN - 16.7%
of health costs paid by govUS - 46%UK - 87%CAN - 70%
Life Expectancy US - 77.8UK - 79.1CAN - 80.4
Infant mortalityUS - 6.9UK - 5.0CAN - 5.4

Best health care system in the world, my ass.

Among the wreckers, a favorite with a common theme:

ProudNeoCon I'm a Fan of ProudNeoCon I'm a fan of this user permalink

How will we pay for this "great universal health care"?"The bill includes tax surcharges on Americans in the top 1.2 percent of income. It proposes a 5.4 percent surtax on couples earning more than $1 million, a 1.5 percent surtax on couples with income between $500,000 and $1 million, and a 1 percent surtax on joint incomes over $350,000 or individual income over $280,000."http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/07/14/house.health.care/index.htmlSo at the end of the day I will pay for it and all of you will pat each other on the back...

Oh, shit! We may have to delay the comprehensive service on the Ferrari! These are the same sociopaths who proclaim, why should I pay taxes for schools? I don't even have children! The answer is simple: because you have the money M.F., and because it's the right thing to do, and because whether you like it or not, this is your country, and we're all in this together.

Well, aren't we?

I have in mind a suitable punishment for these cruel, selfish bastards, but I'll keep it to myself, because, after all, officialdom might be listening in, and besides, I have devoted a lot of effort to tricking people into thinking that I am a mild mannered man, and I don't want to spoil it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mosquitos Have Lost Their Power Over Me

Over the course of my five days in the country I picked up at least fifty mosquito bites. I wouldn't even have noticed, unless I happened to see the small, red mark within ten or fifteen hours or so.

There was no swelling, no itching. Those things are the results of an allergic reaction to the mosquito spit, and I suppose that I have developed an immunity.

So: the heat in Thailand? No longer a problem; the mosquitoes? No longer a problem.

What's left besides the xenophobia of the government establishment?

The Longan Problem

I found out today that all of the rain this year has resulted in a wild surplusage of certain fruits. Longans are one of them. In a typical year, longans, "lam-yai," sell for twenty Baht a kilo, but this year it can be as low as seven Baht, or less if the place is really full of them.

That's why no one wanted to bother harvesting Khun Aemon's fruit. (See below.) After they pay the help, there's no money in it.

It's that climate change thing, that's my guess. This year in Thailand has been cooler overall with more rain. The field farmers don't seem to mind, the rice is fine, but some of the fruit growers are having a hard time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Space shuttle Endeavour? What's up with that?

Somewhere around the time of Teddy Roosevelt we in America simplified the spelling of some English words, and honour, colour and endeavour became honor, color and endeavor. So what is the genesis of this new, misguided internationalism?

Are we to consider endeavour the proper spelling for "International English," as opposed to American English? I hope not. It is manifestly true to me that American English IS the International English. English-English is a dialect as far as I am concerned.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Developing Story

This is a longan tree on the property that we lived on in Thailand. It's one of many, many on the property. You can see that the thing is heavy with fruit, and within a couple of weeks it will be ready to harvest.

There's a problem this year however. Our former landlady, Khun Aemon, can't find anyone to harvest the fruit. In former years, and each of them, a team would come in around the second week of August and for at least two days there would be people climbing around the trees cutting longans and other groups of people on the ground arranging them in one kilogram bunches to be sold. The crew boss paid Aemon over twenty thousand Baht for the privilege. That's a lot of longans, they ultimately sell for about twenty Baht a kilo.

Within a month, I can tell you, this will be a world class mess. In past years, after the harvest, the remaining longans would fall and rot and the smell was very disagreeable. This year that fate may, probably will, befall the entire crop, and the smell should be unimaginably bad.

I'm hoping that some last minute solution presents itself.

Our Little Cottage In Paradise

Last week I visited our Peace Corps site and dropped in on our old land-lady. We lived in this "guest house" for two years while we were helping the local English teachers with two things: 1) honing their conversational skills; and 2) generating some interest in English among the students.

I might add, we also helped them by providing an outlet for complaining and gossiping in ways that they could not share with Thai people due to cultural constraints on negativity and raising difficult issues. Especially after a couple of wine coolers at a retirement party the Thai teachers would share things with us that they could never broach with their Thai friends. For some of them it was quite liberating. For me it was the best part of the trip.

Long View Of Phrae

Partway up the mountainside in Phrae, looking west. The urban area is the provincial capitol. It's a few months into the rainy season so all of the low spots are filled in with water. The second rice crop is going in, see post below. I went up for a little countryside R'n'R last week, and this shot was taken from a temple site that I was visiting for the Buddhist holiday of Asanha Bucha, which I think is Buddha's birthday.

I smile and give them some money, but I'm not observant. Hey, I never even observed my own religion, I'm not looking for a new one. I don't believe in anything except death and taxes, and I've grown dubious about taxes.

Way Up North In Thailand

My little Brier patch of choice is way up north in Thailand, a mountainous province near Lao (the country formerly known as Laos), where Thai is the second language behind the northern dialect, and in some villages maybe the third, behind the northern dialect and archaic Lao (Thai Puan).

This pic was taken this week, second week in July, and this is the second rice crop going in. Many parts of Thailand get two rice crops every year, the best areas of the central valley get three. I'm no farmer, but when I look at the soil in these blessed parts of Thailand I get that warm, secure feeling of food on the table. Great soil; plenty of water; never cold; a river full of fish every hundred feet or so; every tree is full of fruit; this place is beloved of God.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mysteries of Thai Language: Quantifiers

One simple aspect of English is that you can just say: one car; two shirts; three dogs. In Thai, each noun has it's own quantifier, the word that must be used with the number to express any quantity of something.

I love pakawma, the table-cloth looking general accessory of the country folk. They make a good scarf; sweat-mop; hat; towell; or single wrap-around garment for on the way to the shower. I like the hand-made ones from the deep countryside. They are beautiful and cheap. I own about forty of them, so far. I bought three more on this trip, two bucks each.

But I always forget the quantifier. It's puhn, as in pakawma, (two) puhn. If you just say (two) pakawma, people just look at you funny.

These things can be devilishly weird. Like for most animals, it's doo-ah, as in (dog) (two) doo-ah. But elephants have their own word, so for elephants it's (elephant) (two) chuak. Incidentally, shirts are also doo-ah, like the animals, except the elephants.

For fruit, it's luk, as in (apple) (one) luk. But bananas are different, that would be (banana) (one) pohn. That's because bananas are always "of a group," and one (or more) of a group of anything is pohn.

Two stores is (store) (two) rahn, but that's only if they occupy part of a building. If the stores are actually their own free-standing buildings, it's (store) (two) lang.

At the outside of weird are mobiles, those cute hanging things. If the mobiles are flat, like hanging from a straight bar, it's (mobile) (two) paeng; if the mobiles are round, like hanging from a circle, it's (mobile) (two) poo-ang.

To be fair, there are really only two hundred and seventy or so distinct quantifiers, so it could be worse. But it's bad enough if you happen to be the student.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Correction, And A Question

In the Jupiter Vodka matter, I have changed "Thai White Whiskey" to "Thai White Spirits." White whiskey is what the Thais call the local moonshine, which is, of course, made from rice, sticky-rice. The Uncle Tom people don't want to confuse anybody into thinking that the product has anything to do with whiskey, which is, as we know, a filthy, oily thing.

Incidentally, did anybody get my reference to "Papa Jup?" I'll give you a clue: it's from a movie, and another line from the movie is "Mars, kill the baby."

Still no? How about, "what's the matter? Don't like dog anymore?" What a great screenplay.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A New Fun Food

Who knew that you could take shrimp, one-and-a-half to two inches long, not clean or shell them a bit, just roll them in some kind of spicy flour and then fry them, and then, after dipping them in some spicy sauce, eat them whole, legs, heads, shells and tails and all, and enjoy them mightily, and not die!

Who knew!

Mysteries Of Thai Language: Part II

On a related topic, I love one of the princesses, no, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter, I respect and admire the woman. She's a hard-working Royal, that rare thing in the world. I saw her on TV one time giving a speech in Vienna, all in great German and she hardly glanced at her notes, no prompters, great accent. She's so popular in China that they celebrate her birthday.

Her name is Princess Chakri Srindhorn, at least I thought so. I'll give it to you phonetically, "Srindhorn" is short for:


That's the full length, it means "daughter of the king." It's forty-two letters in the original Thai.

The genesis of this fantastic name is in the Royal language spoken by the Thai Royal family. Thai kings took it from the (relatively) ancient Royals of Cambodia, who were, in the time of Ankor Wat, the really big cheeses around these parts.

Forgive me, but I find this stuff fascinating.

The Mysteries Of Thai Language

My friend, or technically my friends daughter, just had a baby. He's a great little thing, not even four months old and he turns over like he means it and can almost make forward progress in his furious efforts to motivate. Handsome as can be, and quite the little charmer. His name is Nachapon, which means something like "very smart man."

The surprise is in the spelling: there are no vowels in the name. You will have noticed, I'm sure, that there are three vowel SOUNDS in his name. None appear on the page though. It's the equivalent of N-ch-p-n, four letters, all consonants.

This happens in Thai. It's like my name was spelled Frdrk ("Frederick"). I asked someone if it was a very old name, that happens in Thai, some names are from Sanskrit, on the way back. But no, it's just a Thai name.

Most names include the vowels, which seems sensible to me.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Asian Vodka Review: Jupiter

I came across a new vodka distilled in Vietnam, so of course I had to try it.

Jupiter brand, complete with a logo of Papa Jup, seated on a nice backless, scrolled Roman throne, with a substantial lightning bolt in his right hand. Very professional packaging, "Triple Distilled."

It's decent. Made from rice, I think, it's got a little rice taste to it. Not as good as the Thai brand, "Uncle Tom," which is also made from rice and even brags about it on the premium brand of the product (seven dollars a bottle instead of six). The Uncle Tom is very neutral, like no taste at all, which is as it should be. Technically, I'm not sure it's still vodka if it's made from rice. The Uncle Tom is careful on this point, they just call it "Thai White Spirits," and put only a big "V" on the label, with the word vodka nowhere to be seen. (They also market "G" and "R" versions of white whiskey, I've never tried the gin one, the rum is horrible.)

The Jupiter proudly proclaims itself "Vodka." It's decent, but with a ways to go. The Gilby's made locally in the Philippines is much better, as is the Contessa made in India. The Jupiter is ok, though, no perfumey smell like the cheap vodka in America.

Just for your information.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The War Of The Geishas Has Begun!

Japanese sword-movies have been doing it for years. Turning those sweet, talented Geisha women into killing machines. A new movie takes the phenomenon to a whole new level:


Robogeisha! Coming soon to a theatre near you.

My Warm Welcome In Thailand

My university has had a good look at me by now, and I am very pleased to report that they seem well pleased with my contribution to the general health of the institution.

We had our Faculty of Law "Team Building" trip to a resort recently, and the Dean made a point of saying nice things about me in his speech, including the hope that I would be at next year's party. When I was having trouble getting my VISA renewed, the school sent someone to tell me that I was assigned to teach on the resort island of Phuket for two weeks in October, which would be after my current contract elapsed. I thought that was a good sign. Now, different faculty members are calling me to ask for my help with various things, some of which even represent extra income. My best buddy on the faculty went out of his way recently to tell me that he hoped that I would stay for many years, I thought that was a nice demonstration.

I do enjoy the teaching, and I am happy to help anyone who asks for assistance with English, which happens to be a difficult language. I had never thought so before, but I've been teaching it now for a few years and I can tell you that it is fantastic good luck to have learned it from your mother and your friends. Trying to catch up with it later on is a total bitch.

It is perhaps strange to consider, but this is as comfortable as I have been at any job that I've had in my entire long, long life, and I have had over fifty jobs in my life.

Mr. Buddha Was A Big Dude

I love the Buddha footprints. In places where reputation has it that the Buddha actually walked around, the locale has the privilege of building a temple around a "Buddha Footprint." This one is typical, measuring about four feet in length.

This one is in Sukhothai, near the Old City, and it's the first time I've seen coins thrown in for luck like coins in a fountain in Rome. I have seen the gold-leaf "toenails" before, that's old school. The coins are a nice Farang touch.