Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cool Website Deja Vu: Kim Jong Il Looking At Things

I'm pretty sure that I've alerted you all to this site before, but I don't keep records, so who knows?

I find the Dear Leader fascinating, and these photographs of him "looking at things," surrounded by obviously terrified lackeys, are the epitome of unintentional hilarity.


So in Love

Just looking around on the 'Tube. I love this song, and these guys do it justice. Singing in the subway, for change.

They are the 99%, this no-name acapella busker ensemble. Don't forget, while the 1% is sucking all of the air out of the room, the 99% is providing the culture, the fun, the Soul, and all of the goddamn effort that makes the 1% rich too. They need us.

I'm right on the cusp of negativity here, so I should stop.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cloud Cuckoo Land Explained

I got "cloud cuckoo land" from the Germans, who use the term as a catch-all for crazy, impractical ideas. "Wolken Kuckucks Heim," or thereabouts, check that spelling! It turns out that it goes back much further than that.

Generally I don't spend much time reading complex and difficult literature, but I do like to read ABOUT those things. Summaries, criticisms, book reviews, those I have the time and the patience for. So I'm reading this Signet Classic edition of "Books That Changed The World," by Robert Downs. Good stuff, most of which is new to me.

I'm still in the Greeks, and the "cloud cuckoo land" thing comes from a play by Aristophanes (448 - 380 BC), "The Birds." It was written at a difficult period for Athens, lots of war and discontent going on. Nephelococcygia is a city in the clouds, run by birds, and very peaceful, evidently. Comedy results.

Not going to look it up, not me, but I enjoyed reading about it.

Not A Very Interesting Flood Picture

This is at a van sales lot one block from me. So they're getting ready for something, but it doesn't look like they're expecting a lot of water.

Western BKK is taking the worst of it for now, and all of that water is still in the north and the east. The canal by me is up to the brim. Nothing here yet, but they closed the pool today, "to preserve the water for use in an emergency." Toilet flushing no doubt.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Rolling Stones - Empty Heart - 45 RPM

I'm a reverb junky, so of course I love this song. I love the 'Stones later, original stuff too, but some of this early stuff, these slightly Stonsified covers of Southern Race records, are still my favorites.

Don't forget, we couldn't easily hear the original American versions to these songs in New York, or most of America. They were only played on Black radio in the South. In New York, we only got "Quarter to Three," and "Finger Popping Time," the pop chart crossovers. Even the Black stations in New York played regional records, more of a New York sound. So when the 'Stones released these things they were new to us.

"Walking the Dog," "She Said Yeah!" Black American artists, to young English devotees, and back to the American mainstream (or at least maladjusted teenagers like me). It was nice of everybody to cooperate like that, and I for one benefited.

The Land Of Smiles For Every Situation

Someone sent me a couple of pictures of the BKK flooding that were printed in American newspapers. In one picture, a bunch of Thais are sitting around in some pretty deep flood water and smiling broadly while they're doing it.

I see a lot of pictures like this on local TV too, and in Thai newspapers. People walking around with belongings or supplies on their heads, past their waists in flood water, and smiling for the camera (or in candid shots, even). I say "flood water," it's not just water. Mere water is clean.

So it occurs to me that not everybody knows that the smile in Thailand does not always mean that the smiler is happy. This took me a while to get used to, back when I was new here. On one occasion I was walking into a coffee shop at about eight p.m. I didn't see the heavy, completely unmarked glass door, I walked right into it. Smacked my nose and cheek pretty hard, it hurt. As I completed the process of walking in I noticed that all of the people, and there were quite a few, were smiling at me. I didn't understand the reaction, and I got a little angry because I thought they were enjoying my little accident. Now I understand that when something like that happens to someone Thais smile to show solidarity, it's a "been there, done that, don't be embarrassed" smile.

Here's another example of what in America would be totally inappropriate smiling. When I was up north, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I did a lot of bicycle riding around our small city. Occasionally someone driving a car would almost kill me, Thai drivers, for example, like to spring suddenly out of side streets and driveways without looking. (I'm amazed that there are not more accidents, but the driving on the street Thais expect it.) Still in America mode, I'd give them my "what were you thinking?" look. They smiled, it made me crazy. Now I understand that the smile meant "excuse me, what was I thinking?"

So those people that are smiling in the flood photographs, they're not really happy, not all of them anyway. Many of those smiles mean, "don't worry about me, I hope that I don't ruin your day with my misery, please by happy."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Danger! Flood! (We Think)

Still no flood water in my neighborhood, but still it's all questions, questions, questions, and no answers. Local officials are so tentative and subjunctive, the answer to any simple question has so many "ifs" in it that the answer is rendered ridiculous.

It's Friday as I write, and this weekend we will have, no doubt about it, 1) a monsoonal flood tide coming back up the big river; and 2) hundreds of millions of cubic meters of new water coming into the already overflowing local rivers and canals from every direction. These are sure things.

Foreign experts in town to help out are more forthcoming. A Dutchman said, oh yeah, the whole city, maybe a meter anyway. I tend to trust the Dutch in matters of flooding, of water in general, they are the world's leading authorities after all. An anonymous expert was even more direct and dire.

I have decided that I need to stay, because all of the questions about my employment are answered tentatively as well. So I better stay close. No definitive word yet as to whether the school will close for classes, or close altogether, and there are things that I must sign. Paperwork will always remain a priority, flood or no flood.

You know, people think that I am very adventurous because of where I live and work, but really I am not that adventurous at all. I much prefer familiarity and routine. I get plenty of adventure in the normal course of things, I don't need to go looking for more.

So I'll be sticking it out at home, and hoping for the best. I'll be joining the local politicians in wish-thinking. My rented condo will remain dry, but the neighborhood will probably flood, it's come to neighboring areas already.

I just hope that the electricity and the municipal water will stay on, but of course there are no real answers for that either.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go Clash and Cary Grant

Who doesn't like Cary Grant? But the question is: should I stay or should I go?

I'm in the teeth of a major flood event here. Bordering on impossible to get any good information, but it's obvious that some degree of inundation is imminent. My neighborhood is on the flood maps, not in the bad color but not in the good color either. The water is in the pipeline (rivers and canals with volumes and flow certain), and today it meets a monsoonal high tide from the Gulf of Siam. Something's going to give. Lots of neighborhoods have gotten it already.

So, should I stay? My room is on the fifth floor, and I have provisions to last a while. No guarantees about electricity or water though, and reading without fan or air-con while sleeping away all of the hours of darkness holds little appeal for me. There could be other, more disagreeable consequences which I will spare you.

Should I go? Plenty of places are back to normal or never got the hard knock in the first place. Adds a level of expense, I suppose. My classes (all classes) will probably be canceled for a time, but no word yet. I'd just as soon not wander around in toxic flood water with my Crocs on and my pants rolled up.

It's all very uncertain.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lee Dorsey - Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley

If you ever see a copy of that LP in the picture, "Holy Cow; The Best of Lee Dorsey," you should buy it. As the great man said, "everything I do gonna be fuh-funky, from now on." Lee put the "fuh" in funky alright, and probably half of the "key" too.

Could be Ziggy drumming up a restrained storm here too, I don't pretend to be an expert. This song is as cute as the jeans on that girl down the block, totally danceable, and an intellectual challenge to boot.

So, what do you think? How to the "Race Version" and the "White Cover Version" measure up? I love the Robert Palmer version, and that whole album in general, but I'd have to give the nod to Lee.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sneakin Sally Through The Alley by Robert Palmer

The comments to this hint that it's Little Feat doing the back up, but it's not. It's Lowell George alright on the slide, but the rest of the outfit is the Meters. So that would be Ziggy Modeliste hitting the drums. Ziggy's the best, for my money. This whole album is drum-heaven, three cuts feature Bernard "Pretty" Purdie ("That Little Hit Maker!").

Bangkok Flood Update: No Update

As you may have seen on the news, Bangkok is living with the threat of flood these days. Depending on which government official you accidentally hear, it may be a sure thing to flood the entire city between three and six feet of water or it may run through the city on the canals and whatever and not flood at all. The most official word is: don't worry, we think it will be fine, we're doing all that we can, and move your valuables and your car to high ground. That's not very reassuring.

The flood is around the outskirts already, very close to town, but you'll get no flood pix from me! If you haven't noticed, I'm a hands-off kind of guy. Maybe next week, if the flood comes to me. As I have said to people who ask me to go hiking in some mountain, "no thank you, I prefer to let the snakes come to me!"

Dancing Girls At The Mall Bangkapi

I live in Bangkapi and this is the local mall. In fact, it is the local "The Mall," as in The Mall, Bangkapi. I came out of the Asia Books and poof! Girls!

I never noticed what they were selling. The medium was the message, as Marshall McLuhan used to say. The pleasure of this marketing exercise was all mine! And yours!

I love the way Thai girls do routines like this. These are professional dancers, a professional dance crew. The steps are worked out, but it's all a little loose, a bit uncoordinated, especially close to the end. I like this casual approach, as though really getting it together wasn't worth the effort (and it's not, when you think about it). I've seen bits like this where a couple of the girls just start talking to one another and laughing. That's Thailand in a nutshell: people are more important than precision.

Turnabout Is Fair Play

What show was that, Concentration? No, it was Hollywood Squares! The turnabout hit this gecko this morning, hit him like a truck. How did the ants overtake him? That would be a good story. He doesn't look fully grown, so how likely is it that he just up and died there and waited for them to find him?

It reminds me of something that happened when I first got to Thailand. After our training, we were inhabiting an old wooden house in Phrae, waiting for our rental to be vacated. This was a "teacher house," on the grounds of our grammar school, no one had lived there for a while and it was termite infested. One night the termites sprouted wings and swarmed like crazy, as usual they dropped on the floor in large numbers. I figured that I would clean it all up in the morning when they were done dying. The next morning, like magic, the floor was completely clean, not one wing. It was the ants! Nature's garbage clean up crew!

But the pix. Some big ant party, no?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Right to Drive a New York Taxi Now Costs $1 Million - National - The Atlantic Wire

The Right to Drive a New York Taxi Now Costs $1 Million - National - The Atlantic Wire

New York taxi medallions for a million dollars?

When I was driving cabs in 1972 to '74 a medallion was about $40,000 if I remember correctly. Maybe $50,000. Let's say $50,000. A new Checker cost about $3,500, so the medallion cost fifteen times what the car cost. Let's see, what does a car suitable for taxi duty cost now? Might be easier to go backwards, what's one/fifteenth of a million? $66,000. I'm pretty sure that you can get a taxi automobile for less than that.

I need more information, I don't even know how much per mile a taxi ride is these days in the Big Apple. When I was driving it was fifty cents a mile, and the drop was fifty cents.

The big difference now is the driver's employment situation. When I was driving, I paid for nothing. No charge to drive the car, no paying for gas. I was a straight-up employee, I picked up the car and turned it in at the end of the shift. I turned in all of the money that was on the trip-sheet at the end of the night, and once a week I got a paycheck for half of my bookings. (Fifty-one percent? Forty-nine percent? One of those. I forget.) Now, the driver has to "lease" the car from the owner, the driver is an independent contractor. The driver has to pay some exorbitant amount just to make the owner money. The driver works for the first few hours to pay the lease fee. And the driver pays for gas too. A hundred to a hundred and fifty miles per shift, what's that? Ten gallons or so at $4.00 per? Another forty dollars.

I suppose they make a living, so maybe I shouldn't worry. I mean, you can get a million dollars for a medallion!

The guys in Bangkok have the same new deal by the way. They pay about 750 Baht to lease the car, and they pay for the gas too. Gas costs four dollars a gallon here too, about a dollar a liter. The cost of taking a cab hasn't changed for fifteen years or so, so it's a real bargain now for the customers. And no tips! Not usually anyway. Most Thais don't tip. In fact, I've seen lots of people just throw the guy forty Baht if the meter says forty two. When I tip them, sometimes they try to hand me back the money as I'm getting out. Foreigners are a mixed bag. Americans are the best tippers; Europeans blow hot and cold. Australians don't tip.

But a million dollars! Wow, that got my attention.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Wicked And The Credulous

Christopher Hitchens, still living, I believe, at the time of this writing, is a favorite of mine. I don’t always agree with him, but when he writes or speaks about religion I do agree with him most of the time. One problem that he sees with the phenomenon of religion could also be seen as a problem with politics in America.

Here’s the quote:

“It is not snobbish to notice the way in which people show their gullibility and their herd instinct, and their wish, or perhaps their need, to be credulous and to be fooled. This is an ancient problem. Credulity may be a form of innocence . . . but it provides a standing invitation for the wicked and the clever to exploit their brothers and sisters, and is thus one of humanity’s great vulnerabilities.”

By “the wicked and the clever,” Hitch is talking in this source about religious leaders, from old-time witch doctors to modern day officials of established churches. But he could just as well be talking about politicians, especially this bunch of charlatans currently vying for next year’s presidential prize. In another sense, he could be talking about the Tea Party specifically.

I don’t want to dwell on it, for one thing it’s just too bloody annoying, but the next time someone tells you that the way to improve the job situation is to lower taxes on the most prosperous among us (lower them even more!), and to eliminate government regulation of business, and if this happens without your bullshit-detector ringing off the hook, please be aware that you may be demonstrating this ancient problem yourself. Having even the slightest patience with these foolish suggestions means that you are giving credence where none is warranted, and it means that “the wicked” are winning the battle for your soul.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Testpattern - Catchball

Just a mood I'm in. I'm sure that it'll pass.

Japanese, by the way. I'd never heard of it either. I must say, YouTube has really turned into something great, it's Scopitone on steroids, right in your own home.

CORNELIUS "Like A Rolling Stone"

No, not that "Like A Rolling Stone." I'm not sure what it means, but that's what usually happens with Mr. Cornelius. This guy swims at the deep end of the pool, that much I know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Century Style Flooding In Thailand

Here's a link (not link; do it yourself link) to the best pix of Thailand flooding that I've seen anywhere.

Things are wild and wooly over here, it's a lot of water, I can tell you. Factories under water; rice fields underwater; whole neighborhoods and towns full of stores that can't do business (because they're under water). I just can't imagine what all of those employees are going to do with no money coming in.

The situation might have real legs too. Usually it stops raining about now, but I heard months ago that this rainy season would extend to December. That's about what the CNN weather maps are showing. Storms still forming over the Pacific.

I'll be fine, but I am a bit concerned in general.

The Velvet Underground - Beginning to see the light

This song is a clinic in how to live with depression.

Depression In High Places

Depression is in the news this week, as Jerry West releases a book that features his experience with it. I’m sure that many people will react with surprise: what does Jerry West have to be depressed about? Others of us will understand.

We all view the world through filters, depending on our individual make-ups. The filters color our experience in every particular. Some of these filters are fact based, filters such as physical appearance, and Whiteness/Blackness (etc). Some are chemical, such as the filter of the emotions. Some are hard-wired, such as temperament, personality and intelligence. Depression is a hybrid filter. I would characterize it as an emotional filter, but one made up of chemical and hard-wired components.

Note that I am not talking herein about mere situational, short term depression, such as when a beloved pet, or parent, dies. No, I’m talking about the clinical, permanent, stuck-with-it-forever kind. That's what Jerry's talking about too.

These days we understand depression better than we used to and it is no longer a taboo subject. Jerry West is the latest in a long line of celebrities to come out and admit to it. We are, however, still a long way from understanding how to deal with it. Many ways have been proposed, such as:

Psychoanalysis: this approach is now disfavored, but it was the hot set-up for most of the 20th Century. “Talk therapy,” and re-living childhood trauma were seen as a way to help us to understand why we felt this way, to bring it all up into the conscious mind and, it was to be hoped, put the bad feelings behind us. It only went so far, and usually not far enough.

Cognitive Therapy: here the therapist takes a practical approach, trying to help the clients to understand their behaviors and identify their triggers. This practical approach often achieve good results, but the sufferer is still left to live with the problem.

Medication: the new generations of anti-depressants that came up in the 80’s and 90’s are not without beneficial effect, but even where they are most efficacious they offer only partial and temporary relief. Again the sufferer is expected to try to master the depression and find a way to live with it.

Just Get Over It!: this is the approach chosen by most sufferers, and, by far, the one most often suggested by non-sufferers.

Non-sufferers add to the problems of the depressed, because they just don’t get it. Those who stand outside depression looking in, from the bubble of their relative peace and happiness, cannot understand what is going on in the mind of the depressed loved one. They are very likely to believe that the loved one is over-reacting to things, or being lazy, maybe even believing that the depressed loved one is attempting to manipulate the feelings of those around them. Many times the non-sufferers run out of patience, compassion fatigue sets in.

If one is particularly unlucky, the significant others may become angry and accuse the poor depressive of ruining their lives.

Jerry West traces his depression to the parenting behavior of his father. Serious beatings were involved, and serious belittlings, and his father was extremely unpredictable, mercurial even, you never knew what would set him off. Been there, Jerry, done that. In my case it was my mom. I don’t know about Jerry, but I had abandonment issues too.

When this happens, the child lives in almost constant fear. This fear releases chemicals into the brain, including, but not limited to, the chemicals associated with the “fight or flight” reaction. In my own case, the fear was not limited to time spent at home. My town was a pretty scary place too, there was always a lot of fighting going on, including some real curb-stomping, and we got hit at school by the teachers too.

This constant, negative chemical bath soaking the child’s brain in its formative years causes permanent changes in brain geometry and produces structural physical changes that persist for a lifetime, leading to negative consequences on general health. Plus, of course, inappropriate chemical and cognitive reactions to any life situation that you can think of, stressful or not. That’s in addition to the negative patterns in thinking in general, and in the emotions. Taken as a whole, this is what is known as “depression.”

Some people function well in spite of it, however badly they might feel. Jerry West was ultra-successful, by any yardstick. He was one of the all-time great basketball players, at the top of the game really, and he also succeeded as a coach. But it never seemed that way to Mr. West, he tended to dwell on the odd missed free-throw, or all of those play-off loses to Boston. When Jerry West talks about having “low self-esteem,” it’s hard for most people to imagine how someone so immensely talented and successful could even say such a thing. But I get it. President Abe Lincoln was depressed too, complete with the panic attacks and the crying jags, but he was quite a success himself, saving the country and all.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Yes, my own experience provides the sub-text for this post. But I share with Mr. West the general feeling that I am a very lucky person overall. At this point, I wouldn’t change my make-up retrospectively. I'm sure that Jerry wouldn't either. Change one thing, and you change everything. I had a good marriage, and I have two wonderful adult children that I love very much, and who love me. I love the way my sons have turned out and I am very proud of them. But my children are my only success, I have never made much money, very little actually. If I had to choose between the family and the money, I’d have chosen the family anyway, so I’m happy about that. I do wish I could have been a better husband though, and a better friend to some wonderful people that I have known.

At this point I have a job that I like very much, and I think that my employers are happy with my performance of my duties. I have a nice place to live, and I eat good food, and I am not without friends. I hope that my luck holds out, but real optimism is denied me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Danger! Monkeys!

Just watching a commercial for tourism Malaysia, they're bragging about their monkeys. Here's some news you can use:

1. If you don't get too close to the monkeys, you probably won't get hurt;

2. Never, never smile at the monkeys.

Monkeys, like snow, are best viewed on TV.

Life’s Little Dramas: Good Parents In Thailand

Everywhere, everyday, life goes on, with its own peculiar rhythm and its own various dramas. This story occurred in a big gas station cum rest stop on the main highway north of Bangkok. Come to think of it, that whole area is now under water, another drama.

I was stretching my legs, we were on a twenty-minute bus stopover. A Toyota VIOS pulled in and parked carelessly. Do they have those where you live? It’s a nice car, small but not too small. A young family jumped out, literally jumped out like the car was on fire, a young mother and father and their daughter, about eight-years-old. The girl was actively throwing up.

Mom took the girl to the bathrooms and dad set about cleaning the back seat. All very business like, without anxiety or recriminations. After a quick go over, dad noticed that he’d parked the car across the lines in his haste to get the little girl out onto the pavement. He got in and moved it accordingly. Mom came back to the car and dad opened the trunk. They took out a suitcase and retrieved a new shirt and pants for the girl. Dad put the soiled clothes into a plastic bag. By now the girl was feeling a little better; she was on the sidewalk playing airplane, turning slow circles with her arms outstretched. Trying to get her equilibrium back, no doubt.

Dad got a wet cloth and gave the back seat one last going over. I didn’t see the rest, it was time for my bus to leave.

I remember thinking that sometimes parents get an opportunity to prove themselves, and that on this occasion this young man and woman had proved themselves to be very good parents.

Not A Restaurant Review: House Of Some Ants

I doubt if anyone in America would ever name a restaurant "House of Some Ants," but that's sure enough the name of this place. It's in Thonburi, a western approach to Bangkok. It's the restaurant of my friend Lo and his wife, that's him in the pictures. The women are his sisters, we were on a good will visit, it's a new place. I neglected to get his wife into the pictures. I neglected to bring a camera at all, these pix were taken with my phone. "Never prepared," that's my motto.

But the ants thing. I thought that it was a little strange, but I've learned to expect the unexpected. When we were leaving, while we were driving along the main drag of Thonburi, I noticed a giant statue of an ant at an intersection. Turns out that the ant is the symbol of Thonburi. Talking about this, I discovered that Thai people have almost limitless respect for the lowly ant. The ant is strong beyond imagining for its size; the ant is small but through cooperation it can accomplish great things. All true, I suppose, but in America we don't see it so heroically.

The food was really good by the way. Totally cheap, it's a small neighborhood place after all. Lo's wife is a dedicated cake baker, she's had an oven in her house for many years to pursue what was her hobby. They have a cook too, a nice woman who worked for twenty years cooking in hotels, she even speaks English (to some degree). Lo still has his day job, he's a computer guy. The restaurant was his wife's idea, and like a good husband he said, "yes, dear!" On this visit, in the pastry case, they had a white cake with fresh whipped cream and a Boston Creme Pie. Both were really delicious. We had five or six plates of Thai food too, all better than average.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gary U.S. Bonds - New Orleans - 1960

Did this song change my life? Maybe. It turned me up a corner, that's for sure. I was eleven or twelve, getting ready to wrap up grade school, and I was amazed by this song, it just grabbed me by the coat, dangled me off the ground, and spoke to me. I had been way into the Rock n' Roll thing since 1956, but as far as what actually put me on notice, there's this.

After "New Orleans" I was very aware of what records came out of New Orleans, and that's a rich vein to mine right there. Then, when the Rolling Stones came along, the fact that they covered a lot of New Orleans music was a big selling point.

These songs sounded great on juke boxes and car radios, which emphasized the bass and compressed everything.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Proctoring Tests At Ramkhamhaeng University In Thailand

I spent the week proctoring tests, which is always interesting. Ours is an “open” university, there are no admission requirements, so our students tend to be those whose earlier education did not provide them with the foundation necessary to ace the entrance exams for the more prestigious schools. Ram is a giant institution, we have over 850,000 students all together, all over Thailand, we award something like 45,000 degrees every year. At our school, anyone who fails the final the first time around gets a second try, and there’s no requirement to actually attend classes. Almost all of our students work jobs along with school, so we try to be accommodating. Most of our students sign up for about ten classes per term, many never go to class, and actually studying the assigned materials is very rare, they prefer to buy the ubiquitous outlines before the finals and hope for the best, or, more like, see what’ll happen.

Interesting things happen on the day of the test. Many just don’t show up, and there’s no penalty for that either. There’s no “Incomplete-F,” a result that will be familiar to American readers. It doesn’t go on the transcript at all. An easy subject may get a good turnout, let’s say twenty-six out of thirty-four; the harder subjects may get very few, fewer than ten out of thirty-four is common. Of those who do show up, some are completely unprepared.

Some tests are handed in very quickly. On a multiple choice test, some will take the “Hail Mary” approach, filling in the answers at random. On an essay type test, there are three popular shortcut hand-ins:

1. Blank book;

2. Blank with an explanation. “Not doing this test” is popular. Some apologize, “Sorry professor, the test is too hard;”

3. Brief, hopeless gestures at the questions, or only some of them.

Please don’t think that I am being critical, no way! Ours is a very good university, and we’re helping these students. They get a good education, and the degree has value. In my subject, Law, it is particularly good, most of the prosecutors and judges in Thailand are our graduates. We teach Law in twenty-seven provinces. I approve of Ram’s academic policies in every respect. And I admire our students greatly. They come predominantly from a background where no one has really cared about them, or tried to help them, perhaps no one has really tried to teach them anything. They went with the flow in their youth, either in country-side schools where it was all-recess-all-the-time, or in Bangkok schools that were poor and rough. They are young men and women who want to have a better life. They woke up at some point and realized that they needed higher education to escape from a life of dead-end underemployment. So they came to my university, the “open” university, and God bless them, they are in my heart and I wish them the very best of luck.

Teaching them, even proctoring their tests, is endlessly fascinating, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Cool Web Site Alert: Photos Of My Models

This is must see Internet.

You've seen car models and landscape models but you've never seen anything as accomplished and compelling as this. I gae-rawn-tee.

If you run around in the rain shouting snippets of Rimbaud's poetry, gleefully even, most people will think that you're crazy. If you can make models and photographs like these, most people will say, wow, how cool is that?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hitler gets angry about iPhone 4S

I never get tired of these "Downfall" parodies. This one really nails the iPhone phenomenon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chicago Traders Respond To Protesters With Signs Reading ‘We Are The 1%’

Chicago Traders Respond To Protesters With Signs Reading ‘We Are The 1%’: pThe Occupy Wall Street movement spread to Chicago this week, where protesters have gathered outside the Chicago Board of Trade, the world’s oldest options and futures trading center. Like the protesters in New York and other cities around the country, the group gathered to protest our nation’s growing income inequality, as the top 1 percent [...]/p

Maybe a little bit on the arrogant side, no?

Vanity Of Duluoz And Fred

I'm reading “Vanity of Duluoz,” finally. I bought the book in the mid '90's at the famous Powell's in Portland. I was in Portland to visit a friend, a writer, famous, you've probably heard of him. You might say that this writer friend has made a great success of his powerful admiration for Jack Kerouac, the “Duluoz” whose vanity is autobiographically charted in the book. My friend took Kerouac's conversational naturalism thing and really ran with it.

I'd started reading the book twice before, never getting far. The beginning is full of football exploits and swimming up and down the river, and nothing annoys me more than the recounting of a happy, athletic adolescence. On last year's pilgrimage to my life I came across it and packed it for the return, thinking that it might be worth another try. It was (is).

For me, Kerouac is a maddening figure. Sure he's a wonderfully entertaining stylist, and justifiably praised as an innovator, but ambition and synthetic enthusiasm blow off of him in waves, like the sun discharging heat and light. I'll cheerfully acknowledge his importance, and his talent, but I find a desperate quality in it all, a desperation to be successful, to be thought great and cool. Well, as the man said, “your honor, whom amongst us is perfect?”

It's okay, I'm on board, I agree that he's great, and all of us today who strive to write any damn thing at all owe him a debt of gratitude for giving us permission to write in our own voices instead of cleaving to an approved ideal. Did Frank Sinatra do that for singers? I don't know enough about that; maybe I could look it up.

The other day, halfway through the book, I was motivated to write 1,200 words about my feelings, the feelings that the book was dredging up in me. It all had very little to do with the book itself, or even Jack Kerouac, it was much more about the friend in Portland. When I was finished, I typed along the top, in all caps, “UNPRINTABLE, UNKIND AND UNFAIR.” I'm a bitter, resentful man at the sub-atomic level, and evidently my quantum self had been boiling at the perceived (by me) state of this friendship for years without my really thinking about it.

Reading Kerouac scratched open an old would, and I didn't like what oozed out. But through writing about it, and a little bit of subsequent de-briefing, something happened: I got over it. I had blown the whole thing up out of proportion, and when the light hit it I just got over it.

So now I'm free to finish the book, with great enjoyment I might add. The football parts are over, and as it goes on Jack includes a lot of modest, self-aware appraisals of his faults, yes, he could see them too. And I'm free to love my friend in Portland as of old, having discarded the resentments that my own faults had allowed to develop.

So, it's been a good week, wouldn't you agree?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Johnny Cash - Hurt

Cheer up! It could always be worse.

Malaysia: Truly Close To The Sun

The tourism campaign for Malaysia is "Malaysia, Truly Asia." I have commented before on the efficacy of this whole idea, which is, truly South-East Asia maybe, and even that's a big maybe.

But their song includes a line, "you can wake up to the sun rise, and it's near enough to touch it." I'm not sure that I'd emphasize that, because on a hot day in the tropics it almost seems true. I remember that Tom Hanks movie, "Volunteers," where he gets off the plane in Thailand and almost faints from the heat. He says, "we must be fifty feet from the sun!" Me, I first got to Thailand during the first week in January, the "cold" season, and it was about ninety degrees just after midnight. These places can be hot.

So does being near enough to almost touch the sun make me want to go to Malaysia? Not so much.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wolken Cuck-Cucks Heim

German is a language of compound words, so it should be “Wolkencuckcucksheim.” They can really turn a phrase, those Fritzes, it means “Cloud Coo-Coo Land,” and it’s where someone is said to be living if they have obviously forsaken ordinary reality.

Well, that’s where we live now, isn’t it? Every day the news is chock-a-block full of “Welcome to Cloud Coo-Coo Land!” The un-reported, underlying reality is no better. It’s not just the clear, self-destructive lunacy of politicians and bankers the world over; it’s not only the total, abject failure of all of society’s mechanisms to keep up with exponential leaps of science and technology; it’s not just the willingness of ordinary people to abandon reason in ways that impoverish them and reduce their freedoms. It’s everything, simultaneously, everywhere.

Perhaps it was ever thus. Maybe I, and many others my age, are just getting cranky and demanding. Most generations throughout history have reached a point where they began to believe that what they thought they knew had somehow gone horribly wrong. Where have those good old days gone? And what’s the matter with kids today? Is that what’s happening now? The normal process of a generation achieving understanding and wrongly interpreting the meaning of it all? Unfortunately, I think not. It looks like these times of ours are in many ways unique. Unique rapid technological growth, quickly adopted; rapid integration of a global economy; amazing scientific advances.

Okay, so now we’re leaving the “old world” behind every eighteen to twenty-four months, but where did all the craziness come in? The whole world now is rushing forward like a hot rod with a powerful engine, bad shocks, bald tires and lousy brakes, which is fun while the wind is in your hair but oh, so tragic when it all inevitably goes wrong.

Blame the Internet, partly. These days, everyone, almost everyone, has the illusion that they are well informed. The Internet makes people think that they are smart too, because what they read is so self-reinforcing. This gives everyone the right to have an opinion about everything, opinions based on that illusion of well informed intelligence. These opinions are often block-headed. Blaming the Internet is too simple, though, so maybe it’s something in the water. That would be a great irony, if the new crazy were caused by the fluoride in the water, if it were caused by the one bit of right-wing paranoia from the 50’s and 60’s that has not been adopted hook, line and sinker by our new right-wing paranoids.

So, my friends! Wilkommen zum Wolkencuckcucksheim! Welcome to the dream world (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!). Around and around it goes, where it stops, no one knows. I hope that we can cool down this hot rod without too much damage being done in the interim.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Listen quick, the copyright police are way hard in the woods for this one, taking down uploads to the 'Tube.

Everybody has been saying great things about this cut for over forty years now, and it's even better than all of that. This is the real deal, yes sir.

Fellon Replaces Leno

Stop the presses! My standard of living just went up!

It's Saturday night, and my trans-channeling through the wasteland that is my overpriced cable TV took me to CNBC and, surprise! Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (or "Jimmy Fellon," as the station spot calls him). And the spot shows one show after another, starting at eight p.m. and running until one a.m.

This would replace the previous scheduling, Jay Leno shows, starting at ten p.m. The way Jay has been going, one brief laugh every other show, this could be a big improvement.

So far I will say that Jimmy has a great, great band.