Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Something Borrowed: What Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually Did

(I don't do this often, re-post something that I found somewhere. This piece is so meaningful though, and so heartfelt and personal, that I am making an exception. I lifted it from Balloon Juice, and I left their introduction at the head.)

“Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did” – Hamden Rice

by ABL

MLK was more than a speech to black people.

I dare anyone to read what follows and then continue to exploit Dr. King’s legacy in an effort to prove to black voters why Obama is such a disappointment to them. Go on. I dare you. If you want to argue points of fact or issues, then do it without dredging up the legacy of a man who lived and died so that black people in America could stand up and speak for themselves; so that black people could be free.

You who seek to twist and exploit Dr. King’s legacy should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourselves. Please stop it. You too, Cornel West.

Just stop it.

All emphases are the author’s:

This will be a very short diary. It will not contain any links or any scholarly references. It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective.

The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished.

The reason I’m posting this is because there were dueling diaries over the weekend about Dr. King’s legacy, and there is a diary up now (not on the rec list but on the recent list) entitled, “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream Not Yet Realized.” I’m sure the diarist means well as did the others. But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

I remember that many years ago, when I was a smart ass home from first year of college, I was standing in the kitchen arguing with my father. My head was full of newly discovered political ideologies and black nationalism, and I had just read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, probably for the second time.

A bit of context. My father was from a background, which if we were talking about Europe or Latin America, we would call, “peasant” origin, although he had risen solidly into the working-middle class. He was from rural Virginia and his parents had been tobacco farmers. I spent two weeks or so every summer on the farm of my grandmother and step grandfather. They had no running water, no gas, a wood burning stove, no bathtubs or toilets but an outhouse, pot belly stoves for heat in the winter, a giant wood pile, a smoke house where hams and bacon hung, chickens, pigs, semi wild housecats that lived outdoors, no tractor or car, but an old plow horse and plows and other horse drawn implements, and electricity only after I was about 8 years old. The area did not have high schools for blacks and my father went as far as the seventh grade in a one room schoolhouse. All four of his grandparents, whom he had known as a child, had been born slaves. It was mainly because of World War II and urbanization that my father left that life.

They lived in a valley or hollow or “holler” in which all the landowners and tenants were black. In the morning if you wanted to talk to cousin Taft, you would walk down to behind the outhouse and yell across the valley, “Heeeyyyy Taaaaft,” and you could seem him far, far in the distance, come out of his cabin and yell back.

On the one hand, this was a pleasant situation because they lived in isolation from white people. On the other hand, they did have to leave the valley to go to town where all the rigid rules of Jim Crow applied. By the time I was little, my people had been in this country for six generations (going back, according to oral rendering of our genealogy, to Africa Jones and Mama Suki), much more under slavery than under freedom, and all of it under some form of racial terrorism, which had inculcated many humiliating behavior patterns.

Anyway that’s background. I think we were kind of typical as African Americans in the pre Civil Rights era went.

So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.

I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”

Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.

At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.

My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”

Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.

But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.

He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.

I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing “The Help,” may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.

It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”

This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people. The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.

This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.

I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparent’s vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.

This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.

If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.

The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone.

(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of non-violent resistance, and taught the practices of non violent resistance.)

So what did they do?

They told us:—whatever you are most afraid of doing vis a vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.

Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.

If we do it all together, we’ll be OK.

They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.

And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.

Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicked on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?

These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.

That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.

Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.

So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on. But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears. So please don’t tell me that Martin Luther King’s dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today. If you did not go through that transition, you’re not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished.

That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives.

Once the beating was over, we were free.

It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one. Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.

PS. I really shouldn’t have to add this but please—don’t ever confuse someone criticizing you or telling you bad things over the internet with what happened to people during the civil rights movement. Don’t. Just don’t do it. Don’t go there.

PSS Weird, but it kind of sounds like what V did to Evie.

UPDATE: There is a major, major hole in this essay as pointed out by FrankAletha downthread—While I was focusing on the effect on black men, she points out that similarly randomized sexual violence against black women was as severe and common and probably more so, because while violence against black men was ritualistic, violence against black women was routine.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Your Host, Visiting The Countryside

Nothing in particular to report, so I just looked for a photograph that put me in a flattering light.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Competition

In the below post, where I talk about the boys in my town, these are some of the gunsels, I mean fine young gentlemen, to whom I am referring. I graduated from this same school, this same year, in the other graduating class. And yes, we fought about everything, all of the time, and yes, I do believe that the constant fighting, plus the beatings from parents and the abuse from teachers, drove me to my firm belief in cooperation, peace and love.

The Great Lie Of The Meritocracy

I never liked the sound of the word, “meritocracy.” It sounds too much like my town growing up, with all the boys fighting it out to establish and maintain the pecking order, to see who got to be the captains of the choose-up baseball teams, and who had to just shut up when someone asked him if he had any naked pictures of his own mother, who had to get out of the way when someone wanted to boost a certain girl. I have always preferred more egalitarian systems.

There is a good deal of loose talk these days about the exceptional nature of the pure, unalloyed expression of the American Ideal. The “things that made America great” are selectively hashed out, usually by people with no particular actual knowledge of American history. These narratives usually find fault with the modern America and strain to identify the historical movements and individuals who can be blamed for America’s somehow less-than-exceptional present day condition. And the narratives attach great significance to individual effort and merit.

“If only,” the narrative suggests, “we could get government out of people’s way, remove the artificial barriers of government regulation, get the hand of government out of people’s pockets, and give people back their sense of self-reliance, empowering them to make their own way in the markets, America could be great again!!!”

As a concession to the brevity of life, let’s leave out the God part of this narrative. Let’s also set aside for now the fact that it was those same much maligned historical movements and individuals that were responsible for America’s ascendancy to the apex of power during the middle of the 20th Century. I mean, this is a blog, not “War and Peace.”

But the narrative . . . there is a strong inference in this narrative that the return to “true American values” would greatly benefit individual Americans, that it would somehow unleash the native entrepreneurship of the American people, enabling them to rise to great heights through their own hard work and thrift. Real Americans don’t want government hand-outs, they don’t want the government to take care of them, just set them free and they’ll take care of themselves (and make the country rich beyond measure in the meantime).

This is the idea of the meritocracy. Let people sink or swim according to their own merit. The dark side of it is never mentioned.

There is real mischief in all of this, and it rises to the level of true evil in a least two ways:

First, the real supporters of this meritocratic narrative are corporate interests, whose own prosperity would be advanced by the goals of the narrative at the expense of the vast majority of the American people; and

Second, most Americans by far have no desire at all to set sail independently on the seas of commerce, to take great risks for chances at great gain (or corresponding loss). They have, in other words, no desire to be cast adrift on the seas of commerce, forced to negotiate their own prosperity.

The first evil should be self-explanatory, but the second bears further examination. Most Americans by far are workers. Although their lives may show a lot of merit, their merit is shown mostly in ways that do not enhance their financial security. They are good friends, good neighbors, good husbands and wives, good parents. The only merit that most Americans show in the area of production is the merit of being a good, loyal employee, a good worker.

This whole “we want to give you the freedom to get rich on your own” is an insidious lie. Most people are completely innocent of entrepreneurial ambitions. They are equipped neither by talent nor by inclination to start a business that will make them rich. I’m not being condescending here, I’m one of the people who failed in the attempt. I could tell that the shoe was pinching the instant I tried to put it on, my anxiety levels went through the roof. I gave up only after a sincere effort that lasted six years. It turned out that I was “most people” in this respect. Most people just want to have a decent job, at a fair wage, to be allowed to work hard for a fair boss, to have their work respected and their loyalty reciprocated, to be secure in this effort, and to have the freedom to live in peace and raise a family in the meantime.

If you’ve got a great idea, and lots of focus and energy, go for it! You’ll find out that it is still quite possible in America to stand on your own and get very, very rich. I just don’t think that makes you better than anybody else. And we certainly don’t need to adjust the playing field to make it easier for you to get rich.

So, a little reasonableness here. We humans have gotten as far as we have by helping each other, by making allowances for the differences between us, and most of all, by working together. It was the ability to organize and cooperate that has made us prosperous, not our ability to fight selfishly for advantage.

Rather than attempt to spell out how this all applies to contemporary American politics in general, I will leave it to you to search your own consciences and figure out on your own which political philosophies best suit your interpretation of these facts.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Birthday Cake

Due to the "three" being out of stock, my cake ended up with a "six," a "two," and a "heart." I liked the arrangement well enough, in fact next year I might go with a six, a two and two hearts!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tico & The Triumphs - 1962. -Motorcycle Paul Simon lead singer.wmv

Not because it's great, but because it's interesting. Especially in light of the below posted video. Two rare treasures, after a fashion, joined at the hip.

Tav Falco's Panther Burns - She's A Bad Motorcycle

Tav Falco I know very well, a real lo-fi American treasure. The above Tico and the Triumphs cut was the surprise for me, I just came across it today, looking for prehistoric Simon and Garfunkel, not for any good reason, I assure you.

I don't have my documents handy but it would be interesting to see who got the publishing for this version.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Left Handed Thais

On my fourth day proctoring tests the lefties finally showed up. There were four out of eighteen in my row that were left-handed. For the first three days there had been almost none. Of course I have a theory.

I have long noted that left-handedness is much more prevalent in Thailand than it is in America. I had a high school English class in which fourteen out of forty-eight students were left-handed, and any class that I remember from elementary or high school could boast between five and ten from a similar number. That’s over ten percent, and it seems like a lot.

My hunch is that being in some small way naturally different is not as big a deal in Thailand. If someone is born left-handed, or homosexual for that matter, well, that’s the way they are and Thai people tend to accept it. Neither thing is seen as particularly undesirable, nor are they seen as things that require pressure in modification (the phenomenon known as “forced right-handedness,” or what could be referred to as “Marcus Bachmann Syndrome.”)

I have proctored tests at my university more than ten times, for between five and ten days each time, and this is the first time that I have noticed anything other than a superfluity of lefties. Why? I wonder. This is a period of “re-testing,” at my university, a student who fails a final gets a second bite a the apple. So everybody taking the tests this week had failed the first time around, and they were a more right-handed bunch than is typical in Thailand. Maybe, as left-handed people have suspected all along, lefties are just smarter than the rest of us.

(For the record, I am right-handed, and no coercion was involved.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

What They Won't Tell You about the National Debt

The truth is out there. And luckily, people with more energy than me are trying to spread the message.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Evil That Was The Renaissance

It has come to my attention that Michelle Bachmann has issues with the Renaissance. ( Following the lead of anti-Renaissance, extremist Christian "thinkers" like Francis Schaeffer (in the '70's) and Nancy Pearcy (more recently), Ms. Bachmann is quite verklempt because those evil, secular-humanist (and frequently homosexual) artists led society away from God.

This is really typical of the selective approach that these so-called Christians use when they purport to analyze history. Sure, Michelle, it was Leonardo Di Vinci who moved us out of the good old Dark Ages, it was Michelangelo who put human beings into the equation in place of the God, God, God of the Middle Ages. In a pig's eye, maybe.

These are the most ambitious Reactionaries that could be imagined. Not content to wind back the clock to the Gilded Age of the late Nineteenth Century, they want to go all the way back to the Thirteenth Century.

As a point of reference, bear in mind that the Medieval Period of history was a time of bright-line distinction between the haves and the have-nots. To describe it in modern terms like "income disparity" does it no justice at all, and actually misses the point entirely. In those days, ALL of the income went to the elites of the time, the aristocracy and the church, ALL of it, and the remainder of the people were not merely poor, they were bereft, and virtually enslaved.

The haves were anointed by God Almighty, and were possessed of all of the land and all of its fruits; the have-nots were suffered to live, if, and only if, they worked hard, were limitlessly respectful of the church and the aristocrats, never, ever, complained, and were lucky enough never to be charged with witchcraft by jealous neighbors or aristocrats who coveted their wives. So this is the golden age devoutly to be wished by our right-wing Christian politicians. Where are the real Christians, I wonder, and why do they put up with these people and their weird formulations?

And into this harmonious God-centered world intruded the Renaissance, evidently. Somehow those anti-God artists managed to screw up the whole thing. Those artists, "caught up in the traps of false and harmful world views," as the "Medieval world merged into the Renaissance." Which begs the question: why was the Medieval world moving towards a Renaissance in the first place? The suggestion that the Renaissance was driven by Art is ridiculous. Art is a mirror, not a hammer.

All Medieval Art was religious for a reason: no one else had the money and the inclination to sponsor art. (The aristocrats had the money, but not the inclination.)

Maybe those Christian righties mention it somewhere, or maybe not, but the biggest driver of change during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries was the Black Death. After that major kick-in-the-ass, and because of it, came an appreciation of the nobility of labor, an age of exploration, and major scientific advances (optics; navigation; the printing press). Along the line came the rise of a merchant class with money to invest in art, and this in turn caused the church to invest even more heavily in art to aggrandize itself, which then drove a Protestant Reformation. Society during the Renaissance was not turning from God, it was waking up from the nightmare of God.

Oh that we could see a similar leap forward today, and wake up from the nightmare of Michelle Bachmann. But since these leaps so often follow catastrophes like the Black Death, maybe I should be more careful what I wish for.

Astrud Gilberto - Fly Me To The Moon.wmv

"No description available." Okay! No description required!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Today's Word Is "Poignant"

These are people that I know in Bangkok. "Friends" would be too strong, because my Thai is weak; mom can't say or understand a word of English; and the girl can only say "hello, how are you? I am fine. Thank you. Goodbye." But They know me, and I them, a little.

The ice cream picture: I invited them to come to the Swensons with a small group, all on me. The mom was too typically fearfully/respectfully Thai to order anything, so the daughter shared with her. Look up "poignant" in the dictionary, they should show this picture.

Mom is like technically, or legally blind, it came on her as an adult, not long ago. She is a masseuse without a shop, she just works around the neighborhood. She's alone with a young daughter, and there's no safety-net for that kind of thing. It will not end well, and there's not much that I can do.

Like so many good people in the world, who live in bad circumstances, they deserve better but won't get it. This is earth, not "Star Trek," and as we are constantly being told, there's no money! No will is more like it, I see plenty of money but precious little will. I'll stop now before I start using bad words.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Concert At Mahidol University, Bangkok

That's "ma-hee-dohn" university. In Thai, there are eight letters or so that turn into the sound of an "N" at the end of a word, and the Thai equivalent of "L" is one of them. Just in case you wanted to know.

It's a great music school. Today I spoke on the bus to a guy who teaches oboe at Illinois State and he told me that Mahidol was even bigger than Indiana State for music, and Indiana is the biggest in America. Today's program was a featured guitarist playing a lute concerto by Vivaldi and a guitar concerto by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, no relation to the Tedesco that I seem to remember was a session guitarist in New York back when. Tony Tedesco or something, I should Google it. The program ended with Scriabin's Symphony No. 2.

This was the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, about ninety strong for the Scriabin, and about twenty percent of them are Mahidol students. I'm no connoisseur, but I think they are a very good orchestra.

The guitarist I won't name, because I am going to complain about him. He played the lute piece with very light attack and weak tone. The guitar piece showed a little more attack, but with correspondingly more botched fingerings. He played an encore, a solo piece that he dedicated to his wife, and that went a little better. He put more heart and soul into it and did a better job all around. Maybe the other pieces were new to him. But he was still brushing at the guitar like he was afraid to break a string, and that's not the way to great tone in my experience.

The Scriabin was very much to my liking all around. The notes described reaction at the time as more hostile than not; someone said that it should be called "The Second Cacophony." But I love these emotional, passionate Russian composers, and this was right up my alley. I wondered if they used this as the soundtrack for those Flash Gordon serials in the 'Thirties. A lot of it sounded like those rocket sled chases through the canyons of Mongo. And complete with the cliff-hangers, and the gong! Here comes Ming! "I'll get you Flash Gordon!" All very busy and menacing, dark and triumphant and a little bit odd.

These tickets cost me nine bucks apiece, and they are a great bargain at that, and a real blessing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I just de-friended someone on the 'Book, the first time that I have had occasion to perform this most modern of actions. Her sin? Polluting my attention with the following attempted witticism:

What's the difference between the White House and the Washington Zoo?

One has an African Lion and the other one has a lying African!

The laughing hyenas who glibly pass along these sins against nature should be "de-" more than "friended."

(The remaining portions of this post have been redacted by the blogger, for the preservation of decorum and the protection of the delicate sensibilities of my younger readers.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thank You!

I've just figured out how easy it is to connect to the blogs of other people who comment on web sites that I like. I love finding these things out slowly, because that way maybe I can keep myself busy for the rest of my allotted time. No sense using up all of the good shit all at once!

What I have discovered is that there are a lot of nice blogs out there. Informative, well written, hell, even lots of nice graphics, really entertaining stuff. So my point is, I see a lot of blogs that get fewer comments than I do. I must admit that my first thought was not to bemoan that fact, but to celebrate it as a victory. I felt like I'd just gotten a medal! Validation! Isn't that what we all want? Just a little acceptance? It's what I want, I won't lie to you.

So, thank you, my faithful double-dozen. Thank you very much!

Remington Ride - Danny Gatton

Great guitar player, came to a tragic end. As I frequently ask myself: why can't people just be happy? Some of us aren't made that way, like poor Danny.

But what a great guitar player! And all the way on the fun program too, just having a great time with his friends. The way he spins off onto wild, unexpected tangents he reminds me of Jeff Beck, except Danny's band can really keep up. The times I saw Jeff do it, he ended up playing on his own.

I find as I make my seemingly endless way through this life, so much time, so little to do, that I am forgetting things. Not having all of my archives handy doesn't help, on the scene I could reach out a hand and be reminded; here I can look something up on the 'Net but only if I know what I'm looking for. Who was that other Telecaster guy? Blond? Goatee? Shy fellow, but versatile and dynamic as a 'Tele slinger. It'll come to me. Maybe "roy" plus "telecaster" will do it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Non-Denominational, In A Pig's Eye

Had a rain-dance down in Texas the other day. One guy's running for president, says he's only thinking about it.

What they said: "The 'Response' is a non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting and has adopted the American Family Association statement of faith."

What they meant: We're coming for you sinners, and our knives are not loathe to cut, nor our powder loathe to burn.

Here's what they call "non-denominational:"

1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
2 We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
4. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
6. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
7. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

More like HYPER-DENOMINATIONAL, how much more narrowly focused could you get?

Oh, and it's not apolitical either.

O.G. Honda 175 In BKK

This looks like the Hondas that were for sale in America in the mid-Sixties, the Hawks and Super Hawks. This one has a down-tube frame; the Hawks did not. The engines look the same, however.

One of these fellows is the owner, showing the bike to his friend. I appreciate his efforts to keep this beauty on the road.

A Broken Bus In Bangkok

Or Krungtep, it is more apt to say. “Bangkok” is so Farang. Foreigners christened it Bangkok long ago and the Thais, God bless their cheerful souls, tolerated the misnomer. Not like those stuck-up Chinese, with their “Beijing,” and their cranky insistence that we all get with the program. Who cares if foreigners call it Peking? The Chinese do, for one thing. Thais see it all differently. For them Bangkok will always be Krungtep; if foreigners want to call it Bangkok, well, who cares?

There are a thousand bus lines in Bangkok, it’s official. Last year for the first time I saw buses whose numbers were larger than one thousand. Then, there are the sub-lines, the 36 “gaw,” as in gaw-gai, the first letter in the Thai alphabet, and the undifferentiated lines where the usual “71” becomes the short-bus, different colored version, numbered also “71,” but which travels only a small portion of the route. So there’s a lot of buses in Bangkok, a city of twelve million people, almost all of whom work and must get there somehow.

And the buses all seem to work very well. I have very rarely seen one broken down on the side of the road, and until today I had never experienced a bus breakdown myself. Well maintained, I’d say, the buses that is. Some of these are Mercedes or Mitsubishi buses almost as old as I am, still chugging along. I would attribute this to the quality of Thai occupational education. Every province has multiple institutes of semi-higher learning, technical colleges, where one can spend the last three years of high-school, plus one year for good luck, mastering one occupational skill or another, including auto/bus/truck mechanics. These schools must do their work well, because Thailand is full of not only old buses, but also, even more so, of ancient motorcycles that still run like fine timepieces.

But today something went wrong. I was engaged in a longish bus ride on the number 545, a line now served by buses of three colors. This may be a feature unique to Bangkok. There are 545’s that are blue (the older ones, not so many anymore), orange (the even newer ones), and yellow. The yellow ones are the most numerous, and that’s what I was riding today. They are newish buses from China, the manufacturer is Hino.

They are nice buses. Today we made it most of the way to my destination, some twenty kilometers away and yet only half-way through the route, with no trouble at all, nor any hint of trouble. But yet, half a mile or so from my destination, the bus, then at idle in stopped traffic, suddenly gave a kind of death-rattle accompanied by a gasp and died. Subsequent attempts to start it would certainly turn the motor, but there was nothing like a spark or an explosion anywhere in the effort.

I recalled that I had discussed these new Chinese Hino buses with a Thai friend of mine. “They look very nice,” I said, “and they seem to work well.” He gave a knowing look, and said, “they’re only good for one year.” After that, he said, it all went terribly wrong. Maybe he was right.

For me, the story ends happily. Thailand is a wonderfully well organized place. All of these bus lines are, across smaller portions of their arcs, served by smaller vehicles called “song-taow’s.” These are the pick-up trucks with two rows of benches in their covered beds, and with shorter trips and lesser accommodations they cost less than half of the price of a bus trip, making them quite popular. The drivers are very astute, they can spot a dead-in-the-water bus from a mile away. As soon as one pulled to the curb in front of our bus, everyone got up and the bus ticket-seller, the woman that I usually refer to as the “Bus Hostess,” announced that we’d better jump on the song-taow because the bus wasn’t going anywhere soon. So it all worked out.

Add to this the good fortune of the day being overcast, and quite-relatively-cool, yet no rain fell. Sometimes it is a wonderful world after all.

My Favorite Holiday: Wan Wai Krue

"Wan" = day
"Wai" = the hands-together showing of respect
"Krue" = teacher

The day we show respect for our teachers!

Notice that the professors in the pictures herein are all very young (except me, that is). The young ones get stuck coming to all of these things, the Thai prof's my age have better things to do. This year was a big affair though, our Dean of the Faculty of Law was there, as was the President of the university. I always show up, I just want to get into the pictures!

Notice the students crawling on their knees before us, showing their respect. That took a little while for me to get used to, but now I accept it with a sense of humility as a quaint local custom.

The students lined up around the room for the privilege of kneeling before us. They gave us flowers and we tied ceremonial strings around their wrists, a small benediction beyond the gift of our knowledge. Good luck! And in my case, when some of you end up as officials in the Immigration Department, please don't forget your old friend, Ajan Fred!

Iggy Pop - Lust For Life

Just to prove that I like what everybody likes, not just obscure foreign bullshit. Doesn't everybody like Iggy? At least everybody must like this cut. What's not to like? The great rhythm section of the Sales brothers, Soupy Sales's kids! Who wouldn't love that? I'm sorry if I come off like an elitist sometimes, it's never my intention, and in fact I try to avoid it. Maybe it's my nature, who knows?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bangkok Ordination Haircut

This was at the ordination of an ex-student/friend of mine. He joined up for a thirty-day stint as a monk, which is a common thing for young Thais to do after graduating from university or completing military service. A friend of mine told me how to be polite about the whole thing. "Give him a few hundred Baht, but he cannot touch the money to take it; tell him that he has never made you angry or done anything to hurt you."

His time is up by now. I should give him a call.

Olerê Camará

What!!! I'm number 244!!! This song has been a hit in Fred-World for fifteen years. And whenever I'm up on Mount Tu Pia, practicing my Capuera, this is on my IPod.

Up for seven months with 243 hits. Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking, what are they wasting their time on. Is the question, why doesn't everyone see the world like me? I wouldn't go that far, but some of this shit is boss, people, and more of you should get it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Point Of No Return

One commentator on the debt crisis compared America to a family that has an annual income of $55,000, spends $90,000 every year, and has $360,000 in credit card debt. Those would be staggering numbers for a family, but the truth of it is that America is not a family, and this situation on the national level could be massaged away by sensible fiscal policies.

No, America is not a family. For a country, it is easier to adjust income upwards, through taxes. Countries also have much more flexibility for borrowing money. Plus, countries can print money. So comparisons are not apt, in general.

But the comparisons of America and a debt-ridden family may have one thing in common. For a family, as debt grows it reaches a point-of-no-return, at point at which it becomes a burden that is impossible to address short of winning the big Lotto. That aspect may apply to America too. From what I hear, the economists don't think that we've hit it yet, but it's probably out there somewhere.

The vigilantes that drove this recent manufactured crisis have a zero-tolerance policy towards taxes, similar to the Devil's zero-tolerance regarding holy water. The debt/deficit problems that we face will not be solved by small economies, however, and the revenue side will have to be adjusted. Unless someone can rein in the vigilantes, our beautiful brick house of happiness will begin to crumble at some point, maybe sooner rather than later.