Monday, November 30, 2009

Please See . . .

Please see the comments on the second post below, entitled "Attention Suckers!" which include a site for a nice You Tube vid called, "Goodnight Keith Moon," and my comment on the great man.

CNN Asia Update

CNN Asia is a lot easier to take than the American version. There’s a lot less of this really annoying, polarized American politics that’s going around now. Plus, the weather women are really, really hot.

Jenny Harrison may seem a little broad in the beam at first glance, but give her time, she grows on you. Jennifer Delgado is a hit right out of the box.

Jenny Harrison

Jennifer Delgdo

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Attention, Suckers!

This is from the big Bangkok airport, I got it from the great site,

I've seen this stuff out there myself. The idea is to confuse travelers and ex-pats about the dates on their papers, the better to charge fines for overstaying.

Innumerable, Impenetrable Problems

Understanding the Twenty-First Century is really an unsupportable burden. Take Sarah Palin (please).

The shear number of people in the world today insure that there will be plenty of weird new ideas around, and that there will be plenty of gullible people to go along with them. The new instant communications environment not only assists these ideas in spreading, but also insures that they will come into contention. The new digital technologies enable huge new corporate structures to control this information, including cultural and artistic information, for their own benefit, and for the good of their benefactors. These problems are so numerous, and so complex, that they represent a storm tossed ocean on which we are lost and alone, carried along by unknown forces, in the dark.

Throw in global poverty, climate change, all of the various shortages and mis-allocations, the “twenty-four hour news cycle,” pollution, and the commercialization of virtually everything, and you have quite a little list of difficult problems.

Some of these problems exist in full view, like radical religious fundamentalism (mostly Christian and Muslim), political polarization, and the dramatic drop-off in privacy and freedom in my own country, the United States. Some are obscure and seem almost quaint, like Google’s ongoing attempt to seize the entirety of world literature for its own financial benefit.*

Our lives are affected by these things, but understanding them even a little bit is a real challenge, even for highly educated people, and doing something about them is virtually impossible, an exercise in futility.

One overriding problem is that the people involved with these things are very effective at hiding their true intentions. Like the Google thing, “Google Book Search,” they claim that their intention is benign, merely to preserve the corpus of world literature for future generations. And politicians, who talk about values and freedom while their real program is just the opposite.

Politicians in developed countries could band together to identify, analyze and try to mitigate some of these problems. Instead, they devote themselves to parochial side issues and self interest. It’s a problem.

Not all of the radical religious fundamentalism is in full view, not by a long shot. Do us both a favor and check out Sarah Palin’s connection with something called Christian Reconstructionism, also known as Dominionism, or Dominion Theology. Her long term church in Alaska is a hot-bed of it, and her own involvement is clear. Dominionism has gone nationwide, and it’s a problem. You can read what it’s all about here:

These folks have some strange ideas, based, not surprisingly, in revealed scripture as interpreted by themselves. Ideas like mass executions by “biblical means” of fornicators (mostly women), juvenile delinquents, homosexuals, adherents of other religions, apostates, and disobedient children, even disobedient adult children. Slavery is cool with them, as a gentle alternative to execution. They believe that they have been charged by God with the responsibility to administer the entire earth in God’s name and according to God’s law. They want to take over the United States, and lots of infrastructure is in place already. Go ahead! Read about it!

My father told me one time that the future would be the same as the past, only dirtier. He couldn’t have foreseen the digital revolution that would give us cell phones and the internet, etc, so the reality of the future is much more sinister and horrible.

As usual, I offer no solutions, and precious little information, and merely wish us all a merry, Bon Chance!

*Google and the New Digital Future, by Robert Darnton, New York Review of Books, available now on their website, free.

Bangkok Christmas Tree

The women who put up this Christmas tree had an aunt growing up who was married to a foreigner and saw trees at her house every year. They decided that Christmas trees were cool, and now they put one up every year.

It's a nice tree, a pretty good quality artificial tree, with nice lights (four cycle), pretty ornaments, a stocking, a flower or two, a garland, and an angel at the top. No meaning, they're just a couple of Buddhist Thai women who like Christmas trees.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nakorn Si Tammarat: English Abuse Alert

As you get off the beaten path over here the state of English goes downhill fast. Signage in Nakorn Si Tammarat featured the following “discretionary” spellings:



Bothroom (at a school)

Crap Trapping Tools (at a museum)

Shrim (same museum)

I don’t make a science of such searches, so, as usual, I’m just scratching the surface. For a scientific investigation of such things, you can always check

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Ramkhamhaeng

Ramkhamhaeng is my university over here; the original was a great king in the Sukothai period, something like seven hundred years ago. He gets the credit for the modern Thai alphabet, about the wonderfulness of which a difference of opinion is possible.

Today is November 26th, the thirty-eighth anniversary of the founding of the university. It’s been a wild success, we now have, get this, seven-hundred-and-fifty-thousand students, at twenty-five campuses around Thailand. Every April we award something like forty-five thousand degrees. Old Paw Khun Ramkhamhaeng would be proud.

We had a nice little ceremony this morning, called a “Pi-tee-bang-suan,” in which we summoned the spirit of Ramkhamhaeng and invited the king to take some food with us. I mean, we didn’t actually eat anything, but there was an impressive table of fruit offered to the spirit, along with a lot of chanting by a big group of monks, some gongs were banged, and horns were blown.

Hundreds of us were seated in tents around the ring-shaped parking lot that surrounds the mound on which presides the seated statue of Ramkhamhaeng. I had a good view; lots of the seats were blocked by the mound itself. There were great numbers of photographers, official, semi-official, informal and at least one bona-fide news cameraman. There was a Muslim contingent who sat a little off to one side. In the midst of near constant chanting, the Muslim would occasionally break into song, with amplification, one of those wailing “call to prayer” Muslim songs, competing with the monks, or complimenting them. Lots of self-important big-wigs in their elaborate white uniforms offered food, and finally several groups of kids in costumes danced.

I didn’t take any pix myself, but not to worry, I’ll remember it.

My Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving in Thailand, the fourth Thursday in November. It won’t be Thanksgiving in America until tomorrow, since y’all live slightly in the past and all.

I had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, alone. Here’s the menu:

Half a rotisserie chicken, Gai Aupsutorn Boran (kind of marinated and rubbed);

Pistachio Nuts (Tong Garden brand);

Dragon Fruit; and

Peter Vella “Classic Red” California wine (a Cabernet blend that cannot speak its name).

So if you read this on Thanksgiving, you have one more thing to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


That Kentucky census worker killed himself, I'm pretty sure that it wasn't because he hated Fed's. I got sucked up in the hype on that one. Mea culpa.

Fred Who?

From last week, your every increasingly humble correspondent on the taxiway at Nakorn Si Tammarat "International" Airport. (Occasional flights from Malaysia.)

The picture doesn't really do me justice, I'm really thinner and more handsome. I like this shirt for traveling because it has big pockets, and Thailand is generally too hot for jackets. The pants too, hell, I dress for comfort! (As the Romans used to say, "the guilty flee, when no man pursueth.")

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thailand Is A Winter Wonderland!

The Winter here has officially begun. It gets down to about seventy degrees overnight in Bangkok now. This will last for another six or seven weeks, so I'll enjoy the very pleasant sleeping weather while I can.

It still gets up to the low nineties during the day, the middle of the day. But it's all very moderate, and comfortable. I'm always grateful at this time of year, grateful for the reprieve from the heat, yes, but grateful mostly because it never, ever really gets cold, which is, let's face it, much harder to take than a little heat.

The Stupa Garden At Wat Phra Mahatat

The big stupa here is impressive, and very old. You can never be too sure how old something is in Thailand, because time is not important here. The literature says that this temple complex was "possibly" built during the Ayuthya Period, based on the architecture. It was seven or eight hundred years ago anyway.

These are Indian style, bell-shaped stupas.

The big one is surrounded by an ocean of smaller ones. They're individualized with dedications, some have pictures of the dearly departed one. So I think they're memorials purchased by families, or the loved one himself, in life.

Say Hello To Lulu And Lala

These are the three front people for a big traveling show from Isan. The guy is pretty charismatic, he sings and leads the band, and he and the girls do bits. The girls, Lulu and Lala, are a pair of regular Lucille Ball's, very, very funny and totally shameless about looking silly.

Like for instance, a bit about an air-hostess with limited English skills who is clumsily looking for a Farang boyfriend, approaching guys on the plane saying things like, "hello, how are you? do you want coffee? I am fine, oh! my God!"

Nakorn Si Tammarat's Multi-Cultural Origins

This is on the grounds of Wat Phra Mahatat in NST, way down south in Thailand. This is a mother and her son, in front of a boat that represents their boat trip to the area from India about eight hundred years ago. I'm not sure what they accomplished to become so famous, and for so long.

The remote history of the area, like going back almost two thousand years, includes trade migrations from India, Vietnam, Malaysia and China, with lots of cultural remnants along the way. It's really a fascinating place. Lots of Mosques, museums full of evidence of a vigorous ceramic trade, a Hindu temple or two, and the usual diversity-friendly Thai Buddhism.

Restaurant Review: Bang Bao

Bang Bao is a modest restaurant in Nakorn Si Tammarat, serving typical Southern Thai style Muslim food, stuff like roti, beef or chicken curry, kao muk gai, and chicken satay. It's easy to eat here for less than two dollars a head, including iced tea or coffee. The staff is efficient and friendly, and everything is delicious. My highest recommendation, and Nakorn Si Tammarat is worth a visit too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Please Be Patient

Lots of column inches of new, so feel free to scan.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: My Father

(Something autobiographical perhaps?)

My Father

My father, a complex man, still alive as of this writing.
Likes music, if you can call it that, opera mostly,
Gilbert and Sullivan, a favorite, not a good sign that.
The nicest thing he ever said to me:
“You know? I’ve noticed that the records you play are a lot better than the crap I hear on the radio.” Not a rock fan, generally. Jazz he found annoying.

A reader too, complex stuff, the classics.
Thomas Hardy, the whole boring lot of them.
Was known to read Thomas Mann in German back in the day, laboriously but with obvious interest, he might still, when nobody is looking.
Showing off? Probably, to the only significant other, himself.

Not exactly a fan of homosexuals, but tolerant in his old fashioned way.
“Who cares, it’s not a big deal. If Walt Whitman came through that door right now
I’d run up and give him a hug.”
I had queer friends, he was unfailingly gracious, maybe he didn’t care at all,
At least he wasn’t willing to throw away all of the wondrous gifts of homo artists down through history, odds are that’s where it started, the tolerance, seemed to have grown into a general acceptance. I guess that’s a good thing.

He was a good provider, money anyway, brought home the bacon.
Handsome? I don’t know, he takes a good picture.
Unfailingly charming, with other people at least,
And sometimes charming at home too, he was, although the other effort must have left him somewhat debilitated, from all indications.

He didn’t need our validation, I see that now, got more than enough at work.
Not work, his “Career,” an engineer, loved burning coal, built power-plants, boilers big as city blocks, driving in Jersey he’d point them out, “see the black smoke over there? number two boiler, see the other two? clear as a bell. No one ever figured out why number two burns black.”

We’d love to have seen more of him, but he was a busy man after all.
I remember one time after he retired, I was at his house for some reason and the phone rang, the old kind with the wire, you had to stand right there to talk.
My mother, may her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace, amen, answered the phone, she was kind of excited,
My father took the call, it was an engineer in Finland, no less, they were designing a power generating facility that was to burn peat, not the best fuel, but cheap and they had a lot of it, he’d met my father somewhere or other, Spain? China? and he wanted to bounce some ideas off him, they talked for about forty minutes.

Do I sound proud? I am, I admit it, but not inordinately so.
We’d love to have seen more of him, but we had limited interest to him,
We’d overstayed our welcome, just a hysterical woman and two mere children, he had things to do, places to go, people to see. My mother-in-law was convinced that he had a second family to attend to. That I doubt, the family part, he’d had that up to here, the family part anyway.

A man of many talents, he can eat any chili you hand him like normal people eat cherries, and he likes them all too.
Never known to sing, never played an instrument, all sport was denied him by fate (except to watch others play).
The drafting table was his chess board, drawings that in their execution would weigh a quarter of a million tons, and burn clear, it was to be hoped.

He’s still alive, as of this writing. Lives in New Mexico now, a long story.
I still make the pilgrimage sometimes, went last month, ten time zones.
He lives alone, drives every day, cooks, reads, watches TV, he’s eighty-seven.
We both remember everything, but we never, ever compare notes about anything except newspaper humorists from the Twenties and Thirties, the Penn Relays, German verbs, poets, what we’re drinking these days, winners of track medals at the1968 Olympics, the old Gillette Friday Night Fights, especially Gene Fulmer and Willie Pep, cars, anything to keep us smiling, like two old school chums, you’d hardly know we’re related except for the resemblance.

Glenn Beck Wants To Know

Why should Black Americans self identify as African-Americans? Glenn Beck wants to know, asking a studio full of hand-picked minority conservatives. Why not, he asks disingenuously, just as Americans? After all, he, Glenn Beck, is just American.

Like it was their idea, like simply identifying as “Americans” was a choice that they could make.

Well, Glenn, it’s not their choice. Blacks are always identified as such. Black Republicans; Black Conservatives; Black, Black, Black. We do it, Glenn, you and me, we White people.

Myself, I find it onerous, and I would prefer a colorless world.

Maybe “American” is not an option, but I don’t find African-American very satisfying. After all, I don’t feel comfortable identifying as a “European-American.” It’s overly broad, it includes twenty-something countries that I have no connection with at all. I’m ok, though, with “Irish-American,” because most of my blood came from that country, and I celebrated those holidays and Saints growing up, and I heard those stories, and my progenitors suffered from being identified as “Irish” in the New York City labor market. Black Americans don’t have those luxuries. Most Black Americans don’t have the certain knowledge of what country or culture their families were taken from. Calling them “African-American” just highlights this failure to preserve the information. I find it offensive.

“Black” is cool. After “Negro,” and “Colored” were rejected as unfairly negative, Black Americans in the Sixties set on “Black.” I thought that “Black Americans” was fine, I was agreeing with them, I went with it, and I’m sticking with it. Black American culture has very little to do with Africa. Africans don’t even particularly like Black Americans. Black Americans, largely denied any expression of their cultures or traditions, created a new life in America, with a unique culture and traditions of their own. It’s American, and it’s Black. That’s all there is to it.

I live in Bangkok, and I can look at a Black man fifty yards away and tell you if he’s American or African. I like the Africans well enough, but I love the Americans. They’re my people, I value their contributions to my culture, my education, to our country. Black American culture and my culture, they’re not the same thing, but they’re like those charts with overlapping circles. This part over here is Black; this part over here is mine; this area in the middle is ours.

Glenn Beck is an idiot, and I resent every moment that he occupies my consciousness. I don’t know why someone like him should even be admitted to these discussions. He put in his two cents, and I came across it, so here’s mine. “African-American” degrades you, my Black friends. Your culture is an expression of your experience, which, for better or worse, has put you in the forefront of the shared culture of the entire world. You may have come from Africa, but now you belong to the world, at the cutting edge. You did it yourselves, in your new country, and it has been a spectacular success. The rest of us owe you a great debt of gratitude.

Some day, and I will not live to see it, we will all be simply “Americans.” In the meantime, Americans can self-identify in any way that makes them comfortable, but I will continue to call my Black brothers and sisters “Black Americans.”

A Nice Up-Country Kitchen

This is my friend's kitchen. Semi-outdoors, Thailand is generally too hot to have a kitchen that is actually inside the house. Not, perhaps, a typical gourmet kitchen, but she's a great cook, and I can tell you that this kitchen regularly turns out some fantastic food.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Something In The Wind

Why wait until 2012? Check the date on the last post to this blog.

Maybe something happened, and nobody told us.

Merry Christmas!

I took one look at this picture and thought: that's my Christmas card this year! I include it here now because Christmas is a long ways off, plenty long enough for me to forget three times and remember only twice.

It Was The Transistor, Stupid

I’ve been revisiting my opinions about a recent, particularly massive cultural-technological shift, the shift from analog to digital storage of information. It’s a dark picture.

Not just hippie rock-and-rollers complaining about “cold” CD’s replacing “warm” analog delivery systems; not just weird privacy aberrations like the NSA preserving for all time every single communication in the world; not just the difficulty of controlling the image captured by a computerized digital camera that thinks for itself; not just watching classic films that have been beautified by colorization and sanitized by the removal of all cigarette smoking. Although these examples illustrate how annoying the new digital world is, they don’t scratch the surface of the problem.

Digital has made a mockery of copyright. Digital has rendered art itself a lost dream of permanence. Digital has enhanced the power of governments and corporations to criminalize simple, innocent acts by everyday, law abiding citizens. Modernity cannot be resisted, and technological progress cannot be stopped, but more must be done to insure that personal freedoms are protected, and that the very culture of the world is not completely subjugated to government paranoia and corporate greed.

This is a huge issue, raised here in passing fashion. Did it ring any bells out there? Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but there needs to be a dialog about this.

It all started with the transistor.

Friday, November 13, 2009


The dry air, the setting sun reflecting back into the sky off the Pacific, it all makes for intense colors in the sunsets. The "Western Sky," I'm always impressed when I get back to it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Illustrious Navy Career

(Please read after first reading "Veterans Day, 2009," below)

Someone, an old friend by all the evidence, asked me in a comment about the circumstances that led to my early discharge from military service. He mentions a letter that I wrote, which may have played a small part. Here, in brief, are the players and the action:

The Personnel Officer

Every base and ship has a personnel officer. The job was held on my base by a nice young Navy Reserve lieutenant from Connecticut. He was cool, we could talk, and sometimes I’d stop in to say hi. My base was considered easy duty, and most of the sailors and marines stationed there had already done hard time somewhere else. At some point I noticed that guys from my base who had been assigned right out of boot camp, guys like me, guys who had two years to go after an eighteen month gig on that base, were being assigned to Vietnam for very disagreeable things, including gunboats on the Mekong River. Remember “Apocalypse Now?” As in, “shithead’s dead! Ceely, man the fifty!”

Well I stopped in to share my feelings on the subject with Mr., I forget his name now, let’s say Mr. Williams. “Mr. Williams,” I explained, “I see that this shit is happening, and I just want you to know that if I get orders for Vietnam after this, all the Navy will ever see of me again is my ass, going out that door.” This is a direct quote, I remember it like it was yesterday, I can remember the light in the room, and the old manual typewriters. “Are you sure that you want to be telling me this?” Mr. Williams was trying to protect me from myself, a very nice guy. “I just don’t want any surprises,” I explained, “the Navy should know how I feel.”

The Lutheran Chaplin

My job was very easy, and I often had a couple of hours to kill in the afternoon. Sometimes I’d head over to the Chaplin’s office for a chat about comparative religion, or Christian theology. I avoided the Catholic Chaplin, I’d had enough of those people. I liked the Lutheran Chaplin, though, he was cool, we could talk.

Actually, I think he was the one who first suggested to the base commander that this kid has no business being in the service.

The Base Doctor

Also for want of things to occupy the day, I often went to morning sick call. My appetite was bad, and I alternately had trouble sleeping or slept too much. They, the service in general, so failed to appreciate the situation in those days that when I told them I was having trouble sleeping the doctor gave me a nice bottle of Seconal. I don’t really remember the base doctor, but somehow that office too discovered that I was not a good candidate for success in the military.

The Troubles

Most of the personnel on my base, maybe in the service in general, were country boys, lots of Southerners, and at the time I was a wildly chauvinistic, slightly nutsy New York City wisenheimer. There was a small Black contingent, sailors and marines, and I got along with them just fine. With the White guys, not so much.

I was in the library one time, listening to records by myself, they had a great listening room with a really great stereo, and a couple of hayseeds came in. I gave them a friendly greeting and bade them sit and listen, the first Jimi Hendrix album was on. After a minute the one guy asks me, so, what’s that he’s playing? I told him it was all guitars. He looked at me with real venom and said, “Don’t fuck with me boy, I know what guitars sound like.” I tried to be patient, oh, I said, it’s an electric guitar. They left, angry.

But the Black guys, I got along great with them. So much so that it led to really violent fights on a couple of occasions, with the Good Old Boys threatening me and one or two Black guys coming to my defense.

That whole thing marked my days as a sailor, I can tell you.

The Base Security Officer

This was a civilian employee of a Federal agency that shall remain nameless. My base was very sensitive, not the usual Navy base, or a normal military base at all. Everyone who was stationed on the base had to have a Top Secret Clearance, Federal, from this spook security officer. (Not spook as in Black.)

I’d been writing letters to other guys in the service that I’d seen in letters columns in underground newspapers, and the term “Military Underground” was in circulation. There was nothing subversive about it, not really, mostly it was stuff like, “wow, I’m on the Bon Homme Richard and aircraft carriers are so happening, we got grass and everything!”

So the spook called me in for a chat about this. We talked mostly about what cameras we liked, what film had the color we liked. He was cool, we could talk. But I was way off the program that they were looking for, that’s for certain.

Finally I wrote a letter to the East Village Other. I was feeling sorry for myself, the holidays were approaching, and I vented in a four or five page letter. It was all very juvenile. The famous line was, “my mind is slipping down my spine and when it reaches my ass I’ll die.” An oddly inspired bit, that. So the spook called me back in and showed me the letter in the paper, he had a copy. “Yeah,” I told him, “that’s me.” It wasn’t long after that till I became Navy history.

So the whole thing sums up: I had no military bearing; I was hostile to authority; and I failed to adjust to military life. And the Navy, having experience with such things, figured it all out pretty damn quick. It’s not such a terrible condemnation, I can live with it. If I’d been smart I’d have gotten out of the whole thing in the first place.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day, 2009

Let’s hear it for all the veterans out there! All of them? Sure, let’s not parse out the praise, pick and choose, look for genuine heroes . . . they also serve who only stand and wait, or work in the supply chain somewhere, or drive panel trucks in Las Vegas, Nevada. That last was my job.

Honestly, I was one of the least successful members in the long, distinguished history of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. I completely lacked military bearing, was generally hostile to authority, and totally failed to adjust to military life. I can honestly say, though, that I joined the United States Navy of my own free will during a serious, killing war, the Vietnam War, and that at the end of my service I received an Honorable Discharge with all of the benefits that attach thereto.

I only lasted six months before the Navy asked me nicely if I would mind accepting an Honorable Discharge in return for a promise to leave them alone. I was slightly conflicted: the offer was a good one, and I was happy to leave, but I was a nineteen year old boy and part of me didn’t like the rejection. They let me keep some of the clothes, and made it clear that I had no further duty to report for anything, don’t call us, and we probably won’t call you.

But I did not shirk my duty to my country in its time of need. I joined. I always did my job and stood my watches. So I’m a veteran, a veteran of a foreign war, no less, even though I never made it into the theatre of war. I don’t expect a lot of credit for it, but if anyone were to kindly include me in the general appreciation of veterans on this day I would feel very good about that.

I add my sincere gratitude to anyone who has served in any branch of the military, not only to those who risked their lives at the point of the spear, but also to all of those who helped to hold the spear, who replaced the spear if it were broken, and who helped to transport the spear to the firing line. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Strangely Good Luck Motorcycle In Bangkok

In America a motorcycle with this license plate would be the worst of luck in most social circles. In Thailand, though, it is a "nine," as in, six plus six plus six is eighteen, which adds up to nine, and nine is the lucky number, so this license plate is a blessing, very auspicious and lucky. My own motorcycle is lucky, license number 810, a nine.

Seven is lucky in America, and thirteen is unlucky; eight is lucky in China. Nine is lucky in Thailand because the current King has really been good luck for the country and he's Rama the Ninth. I'll be that there are countries in which any number that you can think of is lucky, or otherwise. So they're all lucky, I guess.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cool Web Site Alert! Old Time Radio Tuning Dials.

This site is a nice window into the past. Somebody's collection of antique radio dials.

Media Alert: Magic Johnson Still Alive, Cheerful

Please forgive me for my preoccupation with the various, my pointer-dog like focus on things that don’t seem to bother other people too much, but Magic Johnson was on the Conan show that made it to South East Asia last night, and please forgive me, as I said, but the fact that this man can still make jokes about why does Amy Pohler not want to hug me, like, do I have the Swine Flu or something? just makes me sick to my stomach. He has more than the Swine Flu, as we all know, and he got it because he asked for it; he got it by being stupid. And that’s not the worst of it.

Everyone loves Magic Johnson, but all I can think about when I see him is how stupidly he got his terrible malady, and how much did he stupidly spread it to innocent people, at those stupid parties at his mansion, with all that stupid, random, unprotected sex at a time when most people knew better, and how many women did he give it to before he was diagnosed, and how much did they suffer, and how many of them died, and why does nobody care about this but me, but I guess it’s because everybody loves Magic!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Teak Houses In Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is full of great examples of old, Northern style teak wood houses. Teak wears like iron. It is in fact almost as hard as iron, but teak is much more resistant to the sun and the rain. Rich people often buy up a couple of old wrecks and have the wood professionally reconitioned and built into a new mansion. This one is a working store; the owners live upstairs.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: I Could Probably Have Your Girl

(All after the fact; these are all real women that I have met over the years.)

I could probably have your girl,
you being dead and all,
but if I could prioritize
every single thing in the world,
fucking your girl would be dead last,
because I believe that she could suck
every last bit of life, blood and money
out of me in one throw.

I could probably have your girl,
but then she’d get ambitious,
and I’d probably end up building her a house,
against my better judgment,
because she’s just so damn sexy and all,
by then she’d be a walking mountain of jewelry,
and I’d be a laughing stock,
right up to when her brother killed me, and you got her back.

I could probably have your girl,
I can see she’s sick of your sorry ass,
me being a little older, more prosperous,
show the girl a little bit of the world,
put some new duds on her, get her a decent haircut,
put those beauties into a sexy bra for a change,
she’d think I was all four Beatles wrapped into one,
but I’m a little busy this month,
so she’ll have to wait,
tell her I said hi.

I could probably have your girl,
you’ve been making her wait so long,
the girl’s ready to tip, brother,
you had your chance, looks like you let it go by,
she’s looking so pretty today too,
why don’t I just go over and tell her,
how’d you like that?
I think I just might.

I could probably have your girl,
raise your boy too, if I wanted to,
what can you do for him?
Can you dig it? “Baby listen to me,
let’s get the boy a good education,
he’s a good boy, he’ll make us proud,
and I’ll treat you like a queen,
and your mom and dad too.”
That’s all it’d take, she’s good looking too,
good cook even. That’d be mean, though.

I could probably have your girl,
you hanging back, I don’t blame you,
all she does is work, work a job,
take care of her old parents, no time
for fun, no time for you.
But I could hire a poor couple
to take care of the parents,
put us all in a better place too,
and she could quit that damn job,
that’s a good deal right there,
she’d take it.

I could probably have your girl,
I’ve seen that look in her eye,
when you come in the room,
seen your dog, too, big dog,
strong jaws, seen him
when you go in the back yard,
seen him hunch down and wet himself.
Big man, I could have your girl.
Don’t like it? Just remember,
I’m not your woman or your dog,
and I don’t need any help
to introduce you to my friend the river,
so if you don’t like it, big man,
you can make your home with him.

June, 2008

Semi-Automatic Foolishness

Early today, in early reports of the new multiple murder frenzy, an army guy or a cop related that this murderer must have planned to kill a lot of people because one of his guns was a semi-automatic, and they only hold twelve to seventeen rounds or so, so he must have planned to change magazines, and brought a few of them. This makes sense.

The stupid news people then reported all day that he must have wanted to kill a lot of people because he brought a dreaded semi-automatic weapon.

Semi-automatic means that when the trigger is pulled the weapon fires the bullet in the chamber AND loads the next one. So, one trigger pull and one bullet is fired and the next one is loaded. A revolver does the same thing, but there's no mechanical self-loading so it's not really a "semi-automatic." All "automatic" pistols, such as .45 automatics, 9mm Glocks or Barettas, etc, are "semi-automatics." They fire one shot at a time, and self-load the next one, until the weapon is empty.

The real news is that he killed so many people with mere pistols! The guy's a regular Wyatt Earp, for crying out loud, a Muslim Annie Oakley!

Major Malfunction At Fort Hood

First, a moment of silence for this new dozen or so martyrs, cut down in their primes, sacrificed at the preferred alters of Twenty-First Century Gods, the alters of delusion and self-gratification. May their souls, and the souls of all of the faithful departed, rest in peace, amen.

But what delusion? What was on this Major’s mind? This psychiatrist’s mind? It was only mildly confusing until I saw the video of the Major at the Seven/Eleven. What is he wearing! He was born and raised in Virginia, for crying out loud! There’s nothing religious about such a display of alien clothing, well, maybe the hat. The whole man-dress outfit though, that’s a powerful expression of cultural hostility if you wear it outside of the occasional neighborhood where everybody is actually from a country where they dress like that. Was the guy trying to pull a “Klinger?” Like the bogus cross-dresser on the TV show, M.A.S.H.? And on top of that, wearing this absurd outfit in Texas, he was somehow surprised that he drew comments?

The inability to separate fantasy from reality is not a crime, although it is a serious detriment to success in earthly endeavors. Many people live happily in a state of total delusion, benign delusion not laced with hatred or fear. These slight behavior problems never become problems for society at large. These days, however, more people seem to want nothing more than to impose their aberrant processes on the world at large, irrevocably and in blood. They feel somehow entitled to have their deepest, darkest dream-wishes given full play in the full light of day, no matter who gets hurt. Humans are essentially solipsistic, always have been, but somehow the Twenty-First Century’s tight cocoon of constant communications has magnified it to a dangerous level.

Major Malfunction, the Virginia boy in his stupid outfit, well today his little private universe overtook a lot of families, right before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Somehow he discovered his voice to complain well after completing his free education, crying about a deployment to practice psychiatry in Iraq, which I believe most of the other dog-faces over there would think was infinitely preferable to what they were doing. He got a hair across his ass and somehow felt that this was it, this was his day, this was the day that his personal Twenty-First Century must obtain, that people had to pay.

May God have mercy on us, God and all the Saints, and Angels, and all of the Names of God, and all of the Saints and Angels of all religions, and the Spirit of every animal, and the animating Spirits of every building, tree and rock on Earth, may they all have mercy on us, because we need it

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The World Serious

Another triumph for the New York Yankees, but at least "Yankee" has become a more inclusive term. When I was a kid, the Yankees were arrogant sons-of-bitches but all white as sheets; they're still arrogant but now at least the heavy lifting was done by a Creole pitcher and a Samurai designated hitter, quite the little United Nations after all.

I'd have liked it better if they'd lost, but touche! boys and girls! We don't always get what we want.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: The Hero Demon

Something a little livelier? I've got that too:

The Hero-Demon

Dig Billie, ‘Trane and Maybelle,
Check out my yellow coat,
Made out of goat skin, milk and gin,
My checkered pants, my crazy spark,
Got on my Red and Yellow Leather Boots baby,
Dream Karate-Gangster-Monks,
Faberge fucking Rough Trade, and soon,
Where fashion goes to die, Boss Chanel,
Survive drugs you never heard of,
Focus on the various, juggle Buicks,
Do things you don’t even know about,
Walk through the darkest night, the Night Club,
In a bloody, Buck Knife ally fight,
Challenged eight days a week,
Don’t know how to lose, jack,
Ain’t got beat yet, fucked your gal too,
Winner of the Indy Thought-Speed 500, again,
Jakamo fino, mother fucker
Jakamo fin na’ nay.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New You-Tube Viral Frenchman

Europeans are really drinking up a storm these days. Nothing stands in their way either. No corkscrew? No problem!

Thai Yai Museum: The Circle Of Life

These are from the museum of Thai Yai culture in the Burmese temple in Mae Hong Son. There was a lot of this "Circle of Life" stuff, along with many more lighthearted models of dancers and animals. Plus the usual Hindu and Chinese gods just for luck, and the universal totems, timepieces and money. It's all very pre-Buddhist, and pretty right on if you ask me.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: Lives In Poetry

Lives in Poetry

If I could have written kitty sixteen five feet one white prostitute,
I would have cried for happiness, sixteen minutes at the very least,
And then I would have seriously considered killing myself from the pressure
Of ever having to do it again, but that’s me.

John Donne, Shakespeare’s Shakespeare if I don’t miss my guess,
No one knows his name now; how do you pronounce that anyway?
No man is an island, indeed, and death be not proud,
I could not agree more if it had been mandated in the legislature.

Poor Edgar Poe, how many words a month did he turn out
In his brief life? Mistreated now by history, like anyone could care
If he got loaded, or had strange relationships, go and read
The comedies, or try “The Philosophy of Furniture” for drollery par excellence.

Isn’t it odd that Wall Street bankers fart money and Ferraris,
While poets can hardly afford to eat rice and beans,
Unless they teach Whitman to nineteen-year-old cretins
Out in the desert somewhere?

April 22, 2008

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mae Hong Son Hill Tribe Update: The Karen

For years, I knew the word “Karen,” and heard Thais speak of the “Galien people.” I finally realized that they were the same thing. There’s the g/k confusion, and of course the ongoing r/l miscommunication, and some vowel abuse too, but the Galien become, in print, the Karen.

This is the tribe of long neck women (see picture, above). They came over the hill from Burma because those generals don’t know how to get along with anybody, much less hill tribes where the women use brass rings to lengthen their necks. In Thailand they are officially “stateless,” no one will give them a passport, they can never become Thai citizens, and the children born to the tribe have no rights in any country in the world.

Ripe for exploitation! And the rumors fly that they are coerced by local power-players to play up the long neck thing, and “protected,” for the mere payment of a portion of their meager earnings from selling things to tourists. They have no recourse for any of this, being stateless.

Almost all of the sellers are women in traditional clothes, with the brass rings and all. They are very sweet and friendly, and they start a little high with the prices so that they can demurely reduce the price, just for you. I did notice, though, that when no tourists were close by they sometimes used a tone of voice with each other that was more bitter recrimination than sisterly devotion.

Can you blame them? How would you feel, with the permanent neck pain, the political weirdness, the grinding poverty, and everything else? My sidekick talked to a couple of women at length and was told that yes, the neck thing is really a permanent pain in the ass. Part of the vig that they pay to their protectors is forcing their young daughters to start with the rings to deform their necks as much as possible, the better to attract tourist dollars. They are absolutely not culturally bound to it: there are Karen people all over Northern Thailand and as soon as they can they drop that long neck thing like a hot brick.

Why I Avoid Farang In Thailand

Sitting on the veranda of my cheap hotel in Chiang Mai, reading a Ripley novel, I heard an angry throat clearing on the stairs behind me. It was my neighbor from a few rooms down, a tall, fit, 60-ish American wearing jeans and an awful orange t-shirt, topped off with one of those horrible leather cowboy hats, sunglasses and a mustache, no smile or greeting. Quietly following him was a Thai woman, 35 or so, full figured buy not unattractive. He reached his door, turned to her and said, “please hurry,” not in a polite way. She answered low, “I’m sorry,” without altering her pace. When she got to his side, he held out his hand and said, “key.”

There are Thais who think that this is typical American behavior. These guys should be keel-hauled.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Religion Hedges Its Bets In Thailand

Most Thai temples, and most Thai houses for that matter, give some space to the other Gods. Maybe just to be polite, maybe just to be on the safe side. Maybe God is Hindu after all! Or Chinese!

This is a nicely maintained Chinese Deity surrounded by Hindu Gods prominently displayed on the grounds of the mountain top temple in Mae Hong Son.

Thailand is a "crossroads culture," right in the middle of China, India and those millions of islands that I refer to as "the Archipeligo countries." So it all comes together here: the languages, the alphabets, the architecture, the religions, the shape of the eyes, the skin color, hair texture, everything. Maybe that's how they tolerate Farang so well.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: Before the Object

Before the Object

Not in the manner of anarchists
Screaming curses at some World Bank limousine,
Rather, the silent projection of thoughts into space time,
Unsure, wondering . . . is anyone there?

The Object of this enterprise
May have preferences,
May prefer to be approached
In a manner set down by Itself,
There are those who believe
That the Object Itself has composed a book
Containing prayers, Psalms,
It may be a good idea to try those,
Their beauty, divine or otherwise,
Will at least please the supplicant.

There is evidence
That the Object is desirous of worship,
So it may behoove the communicant
To include a little praise,
Sweeten the offering,
Erring on the side of hyperbole is recommended.

Hat? No hat?
Beard? No beard?
Please check the local rules,
The Object may be a stickler for details.

A little grace
Is never out of place,
So any such enterprise,
Directed at the Object or mere humans,
Should begin with a sincere expression of gratitude
For benefits already accrued,
But take heed, you cosmic wanderers,
Your fellows may be simple prey
To your machinations,
But the Object, if attentive,
Certainly knows your heart better than you do,
Be sure to express only genuine appreciation.

Prayer comes to the lips of some
Who find themselves about to burst with love
For the Object of their devotion,
Others wish to petition the void
With an eye to some benefit,
By way of leaving no stone unturned
In their search for earthly happiness.

Myself, I choose not to pray,
Not wishing to draw attention to myself,
For fear, not so much of judgment,
But of indifference.

April, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Big Burmese Style Wat In Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is an interesting place. As many people speak Burmese as Thai, the Thai's mostly speak the Northern dialect of Thai, the place is full of various hill tribes who have their own languages, and there's a good sprinkling of Chinese speakers as well. The polyglot of signage is impressive. Lots of NGO's in town, most of the Burmese and hill tribe people are stateless refugees.

This is the big Burmese temple, most of the monks here are Burmese, or Burmese-Thai. They have a nice museum, pix to follow.

Monk Party In Mae Hong Son

I went up to visit the "big," well, important, local mountaintop temple in Mae Hong Son last week and caught them preparing for a big party of some kind for mostly high-school age monks from the area. They all looked really happy about the whole thing. Here's a bunch of them erecting some kind of tent.

Always A First Time

I’ve been over here for some time now, and I’ve eaten some pretty wild stuff. Lots of Thai people think it’s good fun to seek the limits of a Farang’s tolerance for Thai food. So I’ve eaten giant snails, very spicy of course; curries made from bi-valves that live in irrigation canals, or ant eggs, or pig skin; raw shrimp that may or may not have been chemically cooked by the incredibly spicy stuff they’d been soaked in, but I don’t think so, because they were as clear as glass; preparations of the leaves of mango trees, or pond scum; ground up small birds, minus only the beaks and feathers. I eat it all good-naturedly, and until this week I have tolerated it all very well. I had never, in fact, gotten the ejection furies, the body’s reaction to a substance of, hell no, this stuff has to go. Not until last Thursday. There’s a first time for everything.

I was up in Mae Hong Son, and I think an item of lunch was the offending substance. On the menu’s “Local Food” page, which may in fact be something to avoid generically. Innocuously described as “Stir Fried Chicken with Turmeric,” it contained, in addition to actual turmeric, a mountain of what passes for herbs in Northern Thailand, which looks more like a collection of bark and wood shavings, with some roots thrown in. I’d seen this stuff before, or stuff just like it, and it hadn’t killed me yet.

It wasn’t really bad tasting, a little bitter maybe, spicy and bitter, but definitely edible at the get-go anyway. Within a couple of hours the revolution had started; and after a couple of more hours lying on my side in bed with a wary, confused look on my face, the ejection process began, at the front end, and continuing through the night, ultimately joined by ejection from the back end. It was a rockin’ ungood time there for twelve or fourteen hours.

It was Sunday before I felt rehydrated and relatively normal again.

But notice that after five years of asking for it, I finally got it, and that’s really typical Fred luck right there. Just God’s little way of reminding you that these occurrences are rare, the Fates soliciting a little gratitude from a loved one.