Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cool Vehicle Alert: Custom Motocross Madness

I can't tell how much of this came out of the original box, but as it stands this bike is definitely a "custom." I like it.

My English Connection

This is Rod, my new buddy at the condo. The restaurant in the picture is a Scoozi, one of a chain of pizza parlors in Bangkok. They adjust to suit the neighborhood, or their surroundings anyway, some are plain and some are fancy. This one is in a new mall, “outdoor style,” close to our building, and although the neighborhood is decidedly mixed demographically, with many students, this mall is very hi-so (Thai for high-society). So this Scoozi is quite fancy, with a high-line menu, a very nice layout, and a big wine list (fifteen to forty-five dollars a bottle; four dollars a glass).

We stuck with the pizza, and it was great. They deliver, but it’s always cold by the time it gets there, so a visit is the way to go.

Rod is very simpatico, and, being from Illinois, he is fluent in the American idiom of the English language. I had been spending weeks at a time without having a conversation with a native English speaker, so it was a real joy to meet Rod. He’s a smart guy and a very experienced ex-pat, and he’s a great source of reliable information. It’s great to have someone to speak with in the mother tongue, not having to slow everything down to a standstill and simplify everything. But I’ll tell you, we still avoid talking about anything that would provide clues to our real hearts-of-hearts.

That would be silly, after all. One of the best things about being in Thailand, we agree, is that no one can tell if you are a damaged person, if you are depressed all the time, if you are overly cynical or unremittingly negative, no, they cannot tell at all, not even if you tried to explain it to them. If you are a failure, or if you have made horrible mistakes in life, all is forgotten. We love the fact that one can re-invent oneself over here. If you keep a smile on your face and remain cheerful and polite you can become what you present to the world. Thanks to the language barrier, which I assure you is deep and wide, all conversation is reduced to platitudes. If you're careful, you can almost forget those other nasty details yourself. It’s great, it really is a great blessing.

Rod, I'm sure, has nothing in his past to hide or be less than thrilled to recall. It's just a phenomenon that interests us.

The situation is helpful clinically as well. The doctors will tell you that any depressed person has his triggers, words, thoughts, people, things that set off the darkness. Most or even all of the triggers can be rendered harmless in a place like Thailand. Even beyond the helpful language barrier, Thai culture avoids negatives on its own and tries to keep everything on a nice, even keel.

Rod and I have a great time talking about things. We have wide ranging discussions on a full range of issues. We talk about things that affect only us and others so situated, like VISA and travel issues, we talk about our friends and our activities, and we talk about weird aspects of the American experience in the Twenty-First Century. We self-censor though, to keep our old, less pleasant realities safely tucked away.

We’ve simplified our lives. We’re not seeking adventure, we’re running away from it (and stumbling into new and more manageable adventures along the way). We’re the lucky ones, having found a clean, safe, friendly place to do so. We appreciate our good fortune. It just might be the basis of a nice friendship.

Google Engrish

Google has a new "privacy" policy. I just signed in on my laptop and a page in Thai about the policy came up. I hit "translate" and was treated to some good Engrish:

Actual quote cut-and-pasted from the Google page: "We quit using Google Privacy Policy across more than 60 of the policy by switching to a shorter and easier to understand than most. Our new policy covers a wide range of products and features. This reflects our desire to provide a simplified user experience across elegant, intelligent and Google."

If you speak native English, if you learned it from your mother, you should thank your lucky stars, because it is a lot harder than it looks.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cat In A Tree

He was chased up the tree by another cat, and for a while they were both hanging onto the tree screeching at each other. That would have been a better picture, or video, but I had to go and get my camera and the moment was gone when I got back.

The Screen Actors and Actresses Guild

Is it really so terrible to call a woman an actress? I'm just watching the Screen Actors Guild Awards show, and maybe just the name of the outfit begs the question.

I think it would be fine to refer to the entire class of person who performed the acting function jointly as "actors" and still refer to women who acted as actresses. What's the harm? To call them "female actors" is wasteful of effort, and if language wants anything for itself it is economy of effort.

When I hear "female actor" it calls to mind a woman cross-dressing to play a male role, or something like that. That's just me being old fashioned I guess. If they need to clarify like that it all becomes so torturous. Wouldn't "actress" be even clearer? I mean, we still call women "women," and not "female men."

If this is such a big issue, doesn't it become unacceptable to make separate awards for men and women? If they're all just actors, I mean.

I don't make the rules though, so whatever the culture thinks is best is okay with me.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thailight Zone: Hell (Re-Post)

(Coming up to the fifth anniversary of this blog. What follows was the first post on June 19, 2007.)

In my little provincial capitol in Northern Thailand, where, as they say on television, most people live on $4 per day, there is a golf course, and let me tell you, it sure looks like Hell.

I don’t mean that in any idiomatic sense, like you might say something “looks like sh*t,” no linguistic shenanigans, no “in a manner of speaking.” I mean it actually looks like Hell. If Satan played golf, this is what the course would look like. If god permitted those poor souls who are consigned to perdition to play golf, this is the course he would give them. Maybe lose a ball or two, you say? You could lose a small child right on the fairway, no problem. The fairways are not like any poorly maintained lawn; they are more like overgrown backyards. There’s no real rough; it’s all rough. Actually, out of bounds looks a little bit better, because there’s less shrubbery, it’s more like hard pack. The fairways also feature rolling hills of such frequency and intensity that if you wished to drive on the course you had better bring the Land Rover.

I don’t even want to think about the greens, I’m trying my best to forget them before the nightmares start. A bowling ball wouldn’t roll over those accursed places, not straight or otherwise.

I have on occasion seen people standing still on the course, but I have yet to see anyone take a swing. I think any actual playing is accomplished in the early morning. Certainly my recommendation would be to start a first light and stop at about 7:30 wherever you happened to be, you know, before the heat stroke killed you. I don’t know what they charge, but I would hope that some situational health insurance was included.

I have always found golf to be frustrating enough on the playable courses, to be honest I’m frustrated plenty on the easiest course you could imagine. I can’t even imagine what this place would be like. Maybe I’ll ask Satan next time I see him.

But It Was A Good Cave

Usually I decline opportunities to visit caves. This is based on hard experience, I feel lucky that I haven't been hurt so far. But this was a good cave.

More importantly, it was a very well set-up tourist destination. I've been to a couple of caves before. There are usually no facilities at all, and the inevitable stairs leading up to the caves have been very rough, slanting in all directions, of uneven height, and without handrails. Here was very different. The stairs were great, the handrails solid, and there were bathrooms and some personnel around. With your admission, you even got the loan of a flashlight for the cave part.

The attendants were pretty nice too. The price was twenty Baht for Thais and three hundred Baht for foreigners. Usually I just shut up and pay the Farang price, but then usually it's more gentle on the difference than this place. Plus, my friend was paying. So I piped up and told the guy, in Thai, very politely, that really I was not a tourist, I was Farang-Thai, and I showed him my business card, which is all in Thai and identifies my Thai university affiliation. He smiled and went for it, I got the Thai price. By then a couple of interested people had gathered around. This is pretty far off the beaten path, and I think they were surprised to find a Farang who could speak a little.

Best of all, the cave part was over very soon, and what came after was beautiful. It wasn't so much a cave as a passage, a passage to some kind of cone shaped lost world. And, as you can see in the cave picture, the floor of the place was very even and dry. The picture of my friend and his family is inside this cone formation, and that rock faced wall behind them enclosed an area about a hundred and fifty feet across.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Classroom Redux

Addendum to the post a page or so down . . .

My high school was a funny place. Not funny "ha! ha!" either. Funny like, "mmmmmmm," or "funny in the head."

They did regular locker checks. While we were in class they'd come around, open lockers, and check for . . . what? What did they expect to find? Smut, mostly. They were desperately afraid of smut.

I got caught up in it on at least two occasions. I was a big reader, not the assigned material mind you, but a big reader nevertheless. If they found something that they considered offensive they'd take it and call you to the office of the Dean of Men. That was like being summoned "vor dem Gesetz" in a Kafka story, a nightmare of Jesuit style inquisition.

I got called in one time, and the Dean greeted me coldly and held up my paperback copy of "Crocodile," a Harvard Lampoon parody of the James Bond novels, all of which I had also read. This was in '64 or so. I pointed out to him that it was a Harvard University publication, so I figured it should be okay. He might have kept that one, I can't quite remember. No further trouble though, no punishment.

The other instance is much funnier. The paperback that the Dean held up that day was a Fu Manchu novel, "Daughter of Fu Manchu" I think it was. The cover was quite salacious, I'll admit, with a Chinese woman descending a spiral staircase wearing a tight silk dress with a daring split up the side. I admitted that it was mine. "I guess, if you say it's a bad book," I added sheepishly, "but I bought it in the school library."

Our library had a rack of paperbacks for sale, full retail, and I had indeed purchased it there.

The Dean was sure that I was lying, so he dragged me right to the library and asked the brother-in-charge (the same Brother John from "The Classroom"). Yeah, he said, that's off my rack. I'm sure they had words about that, afterwards.

Like I'd take my smut to school! That would've been stupid, and whatever my grades suggested, I was not stupid. I shoplifted that smut fair and square, and I would never put it at risk carrying it to school.

The Conversation

I heard the strangest conversation today. I was at the American Embassy to get some additional pages sewed into my passport. Sitting in the waiting area, I overheard a guy behind me talking to the guy next to me. They started before I got there.

The amazing part was, they were taking turns saying something but what they said seemed to have very little to do with what the other had just said. It was like:

"Sure, we bombed them but they declared war on us. The Japs bombed them too, and made them do it. But they spied on the Japs for us!"

"Now we don't know who our friends are. Our old allies. We went to war in Iraq and what, Turkey, somebody else, they tell us we can't fly through their air space."

"The Vietnamese, they're communists but now they want to be our friends."

"I was in that war there, in Vietnam, Laos, I was in this area for eight years."

"Yeah, but what people forget is that America is a capitalist democracy, not a socialist democracy. This Obama is the worst thing that every happened to America."

"Everything is crazy now. My son just got a job with the NSA, and they wanted his original birth certificate! I mean, they have his passport, so he must have had one! I had to turn the house upside down to find it."

"He wants socialism! He wants to turn America into like Europe, going down the tubes."

"The problem is, anybody can vote. I mean, democracy, some people have no education and some people are, you know, not intelligent but every vote counts as one."

I wondered if they were deaf and trying to fake it. You know, picking up a word here and there. They were a little older than me, late sixties I'd say. Both of them had Thai women in tow, fifty-ish and patient looking, taking the bitter with the sweet.

I picked the right day to go, that's for sure. The place was empty, I was the first on line everywhere I needed to go. The whole enterprise took twenty-five minutes all together! Amazing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bobby "Blue" Bland-Cry Cry Cry

This is from one of my favorite albums of all time, "Two Steps From the Blues," by the great Bobby "Blue" Bland. One little complaint though, is it only me or is the bass kind of off key all the way through?

The whole album is like that, the bass I mean. It strikes me as "brother-in-law" bass playing, like he hired his brother-in-law as a favor to his sister. As a result, this is one of the very few instances in which I would welcome a digital replacement of the offending musician.

Great song though, regardless. Real lessons in these songs, for those with ears to hear them.

Nur Genug Geld

I was reminded today, watching the State of the Union address, that our politicians, of either party, would rather put their right hand in a fire than talk about any of the real problems that we face.

Like the whole idea of "fair wages."

I like the German language, it's very good for communicating ideas and it has a certain weird music to it. Good for poetry, for sure, and lots of good literature too, much of it surprisingly funny. I am reminded of a short story by Heinrich Boell (no umlauts here, sorry, not going to take the time to figure that out). The protagonist is ultra-cynical about the whole concept of work. He describes typical wages as follows:

"Sie dienen nur genug Geld, um weiter arbeiten zu koennen."

That's it in a nutshell: they only make enough money to enable them to continue working.

Guess which party holds strong to that theory. And guess who I'll be voting for later this year. Yeah, I know, he's not perfect either, but he's all we've got. Maybe someday they'll get around to those important issues.

King Naresuwan's Chicken Connection

The statue of the fellow on the elephant, that's King Naresuwan, a real big-shot from about seven hundred years ago. United the kingdom of Siam, he did, and came up with a new Thai alphabet that is still in use today. Now notice the chicken in the tree, standing right up there like he owned it.

How'd he get up there? He flew, probably. They fly like who-done-what-and-ran, and only briefly, but they can do it. Usually it's because a dog or something is closing in on them.

That's our chicken walking around in the other picture. Handsome little guy he is, too.

Chickens happen to be a totem of King Naresuwan. The big, black chicken statue is part of that trip. The young Naresuwan was a royal hostage in Burma as a boy, and he and the Burmese prince had fighting chickens. The battle of the chickens presaged their later battle with large armies. The battle culminated in an elephant duel between the two kings, and the Burmese king was killed, ending the battle and the war.

I almost called this post "King Naresuwan's Fighting Cock," but finally I thought it was too suggestive.

There is a series of movies in Thailand about the exploits of King Naresuwan, it's like "Naresuwan I," "Naresuwan II," etc, I think they're up to four with five planed. They're good movies, but I doubt if they're available in America. Check your Netflix! If you can catch one, consider how amazing it is that they got such huge looking, glossy costume dramas done on such small budgets.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thailand Scenery In Uthai Tani

My Thai friend called this geological phenomenon "the Thai Ayers Rock." Well, at least he compared it to that thing in Australia, he'd been to Australia when he was in the Marines but he'd forgotten the name of the place.

Thais more likely call it that waste of good rice growing land; or that unfortunate interruption in going from here to there.

This is Uthai Tani, and these fields get two or three rice crops per year. This is January in the pictures, and it looks like a recent planting. Right after the floods last year settled down probably. Good soil, looks like to me, but I'm no farmer. Good outcomes though, so I guess I'm right.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Re: Below

Incidentally, the children in the pictures below are wearing traditional Karen fabrics. The bicycles were donated by the government in this case; sometimes schools like this get bicycles donated by NGO's.

Most importantly, I noticed that the kids had pretty good teeth. This is exclusively due to a government program of routine visits by traveling dentists, and another government program of providing free milk to grammar schools on a daily basis. These are both recent developments. When I first got to Thailand, kids at out of the way schools had horrible teeth and the programs were just getting rolling. So, progress of a sort.

On The Road With Khun Fred

I was in Uthai Tani over the weekend as a guest of my friend Suksa. Nice guy, nice family, pix to follow. We went up to a "hill tribe" area for a visit. In this area, they are Karen, a tribe mostly associated with Burma. Suksa tells me that hereabouts they are full Thai citizens; closer to the border that is not the case.

("Karen," it took me years to figure out what Thais were talking about. It sounds like "gah-lee-yen." A lot of that happens to me.)

We stopped at a school. We missed out on visiting a class, school was over when we got there, but I did get to hang out with these kids for a bit. When I walk over to them they always get this "what next?" look. I crack the ice by asking them in Thai, "krai poot passa yeruman dai, na c'ap?" ("Who can speak German?") That's two surprises in one, I can speak Thai and the German thing, nobody can speak German over here, almost nobody. So this little crowd developed and we had some fun.

Finally a child asked me where I was from, and when I said America he said, "so why were you asking about German?" Oh, I told him, I can speak German too. "Why do you speak German?" I learned it at university. I got that look, like Farang do the damnedest things. I doubt if they could find Germany on a map, but they know it's a country, separate from America.

The small house is a typical Karen house, there were a lot of them around. The group of dwellings with the fire out back, that could be one of two things. Either they were burning off the stalks from something recently harvested, or they were burning off some forest for new planting. Fire is an important tool for them, and kind of fun too. The government doesn't like it, but people have to make a living. As long as they don't burn too much, it's cool.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bangkok Buskers

A nice band of buskers outside a mall in the touristy area of Silom Road. The guy playing the guitar-thing was really very good. He kept it ringing like a bell, and he kept to the musical idea too, a real talent. They were all good actually, and the crowd was most appreciative (with affection and money).

The little green frog doll in the foreground is an automated dancing frog by the way, very cute.

The Classroom

Why think of these things today? I don’t know, but somehow I found myself thinking of my first year in high school. Just a function of my age, perhaps, bits of memory floating in and out, attempts at finally understanding something or other in the shrinking remainder of one’s time on earth.

It was neither a particularly bad time, nor especially good. The only remarkable thing about it was that my little world became slightly less so, I had to take two buses to get there and I met a new bunch of teachers and fellows from other parts of the city. It was a Catholic school, as my grammar school had been. My disadvantage was that I was too young, more than a year younger than almost all of the other boys. I had turned thirteen one month before classes started, and at that age one year was a great difference. I didn’t realize it then, but the fact that the other boys were bigger, stronger and more aware than I was had a powerful effect on me at the time, and on my future development.

Most of the details elude me, but I can remember two of my classrooms very well. One was my Algebra class. I remember the teacher, one of the Holy Cross Brothers who made up most of the teaching staff, a serious young man with glasses, I forget his name. I can recall him clearly because of his deep devotion to our salvation, as men and souls, which was sorely threatened by the curse of masturbation.

The entire faculty knew that we were all doing it, I mean, thirteen and fourteen year old boys, they didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. Guessing that we did was almost always a safe bet. This brother had a habit of asking one of us at a time to remain after class so he could cross-examine us about it. “Algebra requires concentration,” he’d say, “and masturbation destroys the ability to concentrate.” He’d ask us if we were doing it, and of course we’d say no. One day during such an inquisition he asked me how frequently I had wet dreams, I’m sure he used the term “nocturnal emission,” but really I had never heard any of these words before. I answered, oh, no, I don’t have those either, thinking that was the preferred answer. “That proves that you’re masturbating!” It’s a sin, etc, it will make you crazy, etc, etc, what a bunch of Johnny-One-Notes they were, and you know that they were all at it too.

My clearest memories of that year are of my Latin class. My memories of those lessons stand out in clarity and detail among any other memories from my childhood. Latin, the subject itself, seemed like such an imposition, such a useless exercise, I thought the whole thing was arbitrary and punitive. My teachers were less than helpful.

We started off the term with Brother Juan Capistrano. He was man whose cheerfulness bordered on the giddy. He was not a frightening figure by any means, and he knew his Latin, but we noticed early on that his behavior was a little bit bizarre. One Friday there was a “pep-rally” scheduled for after school, attendance was not mandatory but it was strongly suggested. Before our lesson, he started talking about the pep-rally, drawing on the board as he did. He spoke lovingly about the wonders of school spirit, and how much fun the rally would be, and the songs and cheers, and why didn’t we all stick around for the basketball game too? He went on and on, and on the board he was drawing the school and a detailed rendering of hundreds of young men flocking to the door, you could see every smiling face in the crowd, I see it in my mind as though it were yesterday. He turned to face us, clasping his hands together in a moment of final, ecstatic salesmanship. We had, I assure you, no idea of how to react to this display.

By week six of the semester he was gone, a crazy man, a relapse evidently, sent off for a rest cure. His replacement, we thought, was even crazier, and not in such a nice way either.

Brother John was in charge of the school library, and in that capacity he was a serious but not unfriendly man who we all found non-threatening. In the Latin class, however, he underwent a complete metamorphosis. When the bell rang he would announce, “please arrange your seats.” He had rules about the placement of the individual student desks, the forward left castor had to be centered with great precision on a certain intersection of the floor tiles. After we had all shuffled our desks a bit he would take a tour of the room, and every time he did this he would discover that about half of the desks were not, in fact, placed with sufficient precision. By the time he had worked his way around the room he was in a tizzy of profound disappointment. And this is even before our recitation of the Our Father and the Hail Mary in Latin!

Once these preliminaries were disposed of, the lesson would start in earnest. “Open to page 46,” he would solemnly say, “Cavanaugh, begin reading.” It always seemed that he would pick one of us who had a particularly terrible Latin accent. As the student began to read, Brother John would follow along with his finger in his own book. At some point he would withdraw his finger and close his eyes. He would then place his head on his desk; often he’d begin to cry, real sobbing tears, bitter tears. Poor Cavanaugh would still be reading, wishing that he was capable of a better job of it. All of us became quite anxious at this point, because the crying was frequently followed by a sudden explosion and maybe a little corporal punishment too. That was still allowed.

No surprise that I remember that classroom so well, what a den of insanity. That classroom! It just comes back to me this second! It was two years later, in that same classroom, being tormented with another useless subject (Religion), where I listened to the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot! Oh, the memory is a strange thing, and terrible, in its way.

Bangkok Death Ride

I see these from time to time. No front brake; no mirrors; I forget if it even had a real license plate on it. Check those straight pipes, imagine what this baby sounds like when it's angry. This is some gangster shit right here.

What Progress We’ve Made

Martin Luther King, Jr. day is this week, and it’s a good time to take stock of what progress, if any, has been made in the area of race relations since his passing. Or, “his murder” might be a more apt way to put it. A Thai friend of mine asked me about it, something about what’s the difference now from when you were a boy? It’s a fair question. When I was a boy we had Jim Crow laws in lots of places, and now, we do not. When I was a boy, Martin was very likely to be referred to as “Martin Lucifer Coon,” and now we have a national holiday in his memory and a Black American in the white house (and not just serving coffee!). So what’s the deal?

I hedged about my answer, I don’t like to sugar coat these things, but I don’t like to be too negative either. Honestly, I think the current state of race relations in America is a poor, woebegone hooptie in desperate need of an overhaul. But haven’t things gotten better? In some measure anyway? What about that Black president in the White House?

What I said was this: when I was a boy, there was more prejudice against Blacks in America. Now people are not so prejudiced, but the people that are prejudiced against Blacks hate them more than in the old days. I was surprised to hear these words come out of my mouth, it was a new formulation for me.

So is it true? Back in the Fifties most Whites were prejudiced, but it was a casual, unfocused prejudice in most of the country, not advised or well thought out. It was simply the received wisdom of the age. Blacks were thought to be inferior, and keeping them in certain neighborhoods and certain job categories was seen as a natural and paternalistic thing to do. Withholding access to higher education or banking services beyond a passbook account was considered only sensible, because such things were all beyond their capabilities anyway. That’s the way the logic went. There was nothing personal about it.

(I’m talking about most of America. In the states of the “former Confederacy,” of course, it was advised, it was personal, and it was often more vicious.)

Now though, there are a lot of White people, all over America, who are really worked up about Black Americans. Really bitching and moaning up a storm. Not a majority, certainly, but a lot of people. They are being manipulated by cynical politicians and wealthy preachers; they are being told that Blacks want “reparations,” that Blacks are bankrupting our government by demanding “handouts,” that Blacks are making our country a dangerous place to live, and other lies and slanders. There’s this new “right-wing-echo-chamber” media shit storm where all of these disgruntled Whites can get together and roll each other’s logs. The comments are chilling.

This “now” thing is a very different America than the America of my youth, and the reasons for the new hostility to Black Americans are easy to see.

America fifty years ago was a place of low income-disparity and low unemployment. It was a comfortably middle-class society, where pretty much anybody could make a living and support themselves. Access to education was good, for the White people anyway, and access to health care was pretty good generally. There were covenants in place to govern the conduct of employers vis-à-vis their employees, and the conduct of professionals in the market place. Not a perfect place, but it functioned well. For the White people, anyway.

America these days is a pirate cove of bloody-minded greed, absurd accumulation of wealth, and selfish indulgence in luxury. All of the covenants have been discarded, and all of the prior attempts to put constraints on gangster-capitalism have been undone. The great majority of Americans, almost all of us, Black, White and otherwise, are watching our opportunities dry up and our future security thrown into doubt as all of the money drifts into fewer and fewer hands.

Between the harsh reality and the incitement to riot, people are at each other’s necks.

So we have the holiday for Martin, that’s nice, and we have President Obama, and I think that’s nice too. Progress though? Unfortunately, I think, no, emphatically no.

Inpawa Hotel, Kon Kaen

Yes, Kon Kaen has a pretty prosperous look to it. This is in the city of Ban Phai, a smallish place forty kilometers or so from the provincial capital. Very easy-going place, easy to cross the street and so forth. This is a brand new hotel, opened in the last year or so. A beautiful place, about twenty-seven dollars per night for a room like this one.

And a nice room it was. The hot water was plentiful, even in the bathroom sink, which is rare. The cable could have been better, the only channel in English was the Australia network (the news was okay, but then it was all surfing documentaries). The room came with free breakfast.

I'd gone out to teach a class, which went fine, as always.

Bus to Kon Kaen

This is the road from Nakorn Rachasima (also called Korat) into Kon Kaen province and continuing up to Nong Kai and into Lao. You will notice that it is a very glossy, well appointed road.

Kon Kaen had a quite prosperous look over all. The region in general is considered to be a poor place, and some of the surrounding provinces have a down-in-heel character to them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Book of Cletis: America's Varied Carols Part 2

The Book of Cletis: America's Varied Carols Part 2: 14 Orchestra at square dance. McIntosh County, Oklahoma, 1939 or 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photo...

Cletis again, note the spelling, as in "The Book of Cletis," a wonderful blog.

These pix are wonderful. Who knew that there were such things? The color I mean. American history, a fit subject for our consideration.

Building our future is an ongoing project, and we all play our part. Play your cards wisely, dear readers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Robert Gordon - Someday Someway

I came across this on the great, great blog called "The Book Of Cletus." Me and him agree on lots of things, and we like a lot of the same music too.

This is a Marshall Crenshaw song, I love Marshall, he never got 10% of the credit that he deserved for the great records he made. That's the music business though, isn't it?

That's Danny Gatton playing the big-time guitar parts here. To say that he was the best would be understating the whole thing. Mr. Gatton was the man, hell, he is the man, thanks to recording technology. Rest in peace, Dan. A peace that was denied you on earth. Like many of us, Danny was depressed, clinically depressed if I don't miss my guess, and finally he just up and took his own life.

And Robert Gordon, there's another underrated talent. He released a great, great album in the late Seventies with Link Wray as a sideman, you can look it up under "no commercial potential."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Five U.S. Senators Are Perfect Koch Servants, Americans For Prosperity Reports

Five U.S. Senators Are Perfect Koch Servants, Americans For Prosperity Reports: pFive senators and 39 representatives received a perfect 100 percent score from the Koch brothers’ Astroturf group Americans For Prosperity for the first half of the 112th Congress. AFP judged Congress on their votes to protect the Koch brothers’ right-wing petrochemical empire on such issues as the repeal of President Obama’s new health care law, [...]/p

This is the part that gets me every time: is this the peanuts that they sell us out for? Sure, they get more from other, similar sources, and sure, other benefits accrue to them, but finally they sell us out for a pittance. They end up as mere ten-millionaires while their betters laugh at them and we get the shaft. I try to leave the politics to others, plenty of people are much better at it than I could ever be. But I am not without my anger, and my indignation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Testing Room, Ramkhamhaeng University

I'm proctoring tests this week; this was my room this morning. This is our "re-test," the second bite at the apple for students who failed the final the first time. The empty seats are no-shows, they decided to just take the F.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Little Junior's Blue Flames - Mystery Train

Maybe the greatest 45 RPM record of all time, but you know me, I try never to exaggerate.

Following The Rules: Republican Primary Edition

In Navy boot camp we learned a lot of rules, including detailed rules for how to fold and stow every item of our clothing. The white hats posed a special problem: it was physically impossible to fold them in the prescribed manner. It couldn’t be done. As soon as you let go of them they flipped back open. We had “lockers” that consisted of a few small shelves and one drawer that could be locked, and we were subject to lots of locker inspections, some by surprise. Our company commander, a first class Bosun’s Mate named Richard Passion (no lie!) had a simple solution to the white hat problem. We had only two, and one was always with us, and we were told to keep the other one in the drawer at all times. I consider this a simple lesson in the nature of rules.

Rules, let’s face it, are meant to be bent, broken or ignored. (Bent, in the case of the white hats.) But how? When? What are the rules when it comes to breaking the rules?

Some time later I attended a good Tae Kwon Do school for a couple of years. Great exercise, that. Our teacher was a very accomplished Korean gentleman who had lots and lots of rules. Rules of posture, form, sequence of muscular contractions, rules for attendance, rules, rules, rules, and you broke them at your peril. If you weren’t careful, he’d use you to demonstrate a new technique. So one day one of the bright lights makes the observation that the teacher often violates the rules of form and posture when he is demonstrating something. “And when you have a sixth degree black belt,” he said good naturedly, “so can you.” So having a license to know better is an excuse for breaking the rules.

My favorite rule-related-rule is, “don’t get caught.”

Rules can get you in trouble though, sometimes following the rules can land you in a world of shit. Sometimes rules are contradictory, and following them can lead you down the rabbit hole to the land of impossible situations.

Like the Republican primary. I’m not a big fan of the whole primary process, but the Republican primary just seems crazy. Any Republican running for president must prevail in the primaries, but if they follow the rules for getting the nomination they will probably find that they have rendered themselves un-electable in the general election.

The rules for the Republican primary require that the candidates be against lots of things that the American people are clearly for. For example:

They must be anti-Gay: most Americans just don’t give a shit who someone wants to kiss. “My cousin (or nephew, or son) is Gay . . . so what?” Or, you hear a lot of, “if they want to get married, it’s their funeral!” Not an issue for most people.

They must be anti-abortion: most Americans by far think that this should be a private matter. Don’t listen to the big mouths. They’d have an abortion anyway if they got raped, or if a doctor told them that the baby would only live a month or two and in pain, and probably even if they were forty-three and got pregnant by accident. They’d keep it quiet though, and that’s the whole fucking point! It’s private!

They must be anti-pornography: the American people have spoken most eloquently on this point, with their credit cards, and they are clearly in favor of pornography.

They must be anti-immigrant: most Americans are not overly concerned with immigrants. And definitely most Americans don’t want to start picking their own fruit. Unless your name is “Running Deer,” your people are immigrants.

Alert the media! The new thing to be anti- is contraception! Amazingly, some of these Republicans think that they can score points by being against contraception, because after all, contraception is anti-life. Obviously, they will lose the good will of most Americans on this issue.

So the Republican candidates alienate most of the electorate on their way to the nomination, which in my estimation is not a good plan. And that’s only the “Social Conservative” stuff! Along with it comes the “bomb Iran,” the “return to the gold standard,” the “jail Federal judges who step out of line,” and a host of other weird stuff that Americans don’t want.

Worst of all, they must be against Socialism, or what passes for Socialism in America. Here they are even more out of step with most Americans. Americans love their government’s small gestures at Socialism. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, and even the new Affordable Healthcare Act, Americans love that stuff.

As regular readers may have noticed, I hate the Republicans like the Inquisition hated heretics, so for me it’s all fun, all the time, watching them fall all over themselves to paint themselves into a corner in this primary season. Most often referred to by rational people as “the Republican clown car,” this group of candidates has set new low water marks for common sense and common decency. Later on this year I will thoroughly enjoy watching them try to explain “what they really meant” when they said these things.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bee Song Ha! Ha! Ha!

I accompanied a friend of mine to a psychiatrist's office one time and the good doctor asked him, as they will, "what time is it?" My friend responded, after some thought, that it was "Springtime?" He failed that test, big time.

As I sit here, it is Sunday, January 8th. The year is 2012, in most of the world anyway. I'm oriented in all dimensions, I am. Here in Thailand, furthermore, it is the year 2555, Buddhist Era. To my knowledge, this is the only system that counts back to the birth of a religious entity. (I'm not an expert on Islam, don't they count back to a pilgrimage or a revelation or something?) You got other ideas? Look it up. That other one was the Emperor Augustus's idea, and the rest was sheer coincidence.

But the year, 2555. In Thai it comes out, "bee song ha ha ha." Thai Interneters don't write "LOL," they write "555," as in ha! ha! ha! So it's going to be a year of fun, one could only hope with a name like that. I hope so anyway, but I wish us all luck. It might be a bumpy ride.

If you missed it, please go back a couple of pages and check out "They Are Our Teachers," dated December 20th. I'm kind of proud of that one.

Santorum To Mother Of Cancer Survivor: Sick To Blame For Pre-Existing Conditions, Should Be Charged More

Santorum To Mother Of Cancer Survivor: Sick To Blame For Pre-Existing Conditions, Should Be Charged More: pDuring a town hall in Keene, New Hampshire this morning, Rick Santorum told a mother whose son survived cancer that people with pre-existing conditions should pay more for health care coverage because they make poor health care choices. While specifically exempting the woman’s child from personal blame, Santorum insisted that the sick cost more to [...]/p

So, let's face it, these people are just un-fucking-believable. Can we please just take profit out of this equation? Like the civilized countries? Oh, excuse me, Americans are not particularly aware of what's really going on in the world. Look it up, people! The rest of the developed world laughs at your so-called health care. (And your vacations; and your "sick days;" and your pensions . . . you get the idea.)

ABBA - Nina, Pretty Ballerina

See comments below.

ABBA Bang-A-Boomerang

A great song from ABBA, and I don't care what anybody says. I took a lot of flack from my LA hep cat friends in the late 70's for loving ABBA (pre-"Dancing Queen" anyway, I embrace the wide range of normality but even I have limits), but I didn't care. I know what I like, and I still love this cut, among others by them.

The pictures that accompany this vid are great, totally revealing of another phenomenon all together. It's always interesting to me how some of these Europeans can seem so hip and so square all at the same time. Did I say square? Doofy, even.

It's the smaller European countries that can pull this off. Holland is my favorite European country, I love the Dutch. They personify this whole thing, the cool/square thing. Definitely go to Holland if you can, it's a great place, but you'll notice that the Dutch dress like blind people who didn't have much of a closet to choose from in the first place. Mixing colors and patterns, weird shirts and combinations, there's a Dutch talk show floating around, check it out and you'll see what I mean.

But ABBA . . . what's not to love?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grand Finale With Trainee Croc Wrangler

You've got to love this kid. He came on at the end of the show and they let him man-handle a small croc. And the other man holding a croc, notice how he has taught that particular croc to wave at the audience. All in all, a pretty good croc show, don't you think?

Croc Teasing

I love the Crocodile Farm, really I do, but the "Crocodile Jumping" attraction is overhyped. The sign at the front of the attraction shows a croc jumping out of the water like a porpoise at Sea World. At the 'Farm, they give you a fish head on the end of a line on a pole and you can go dangle it in front of the eyes of a croc in a sometimes successful attempt to get its attention.

All in good fun, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Please Kill Me Now

Simultaneously feeling quite the fool, I am considering the purchase of some kind of reading tablet, maybe one of the Kindles. The mere consideration of this gives me a somewhat otherworldly feeling, as though I were viewing the event from afar. These new technologies, if one can generalize, generally sicken me.

None of this new technology lives up to its hype. Take this blog post, for instance. Do I own the copyright? Will I be able to access the copy in the future? Who knows? I am typing this in real time, with no back-up, so if someday there's a "pay wall," or a "software not supported" problem, that'll be that. (In a cooler frame of mind I save them all as Word documents, with appropriate back-up. I'm old fashioned, but I'm not stupid.)

Or am I? I'm typing on an Apple IMac, and although I really do love the interface and the display I must admit that I am convinced that Apple's major corporate emphasis is keeping the user from completely enjoying his own property. I just tried to make a CD of my own pictures, and although I did find, at last, the instructions on how to do so, and copied them out, and followed them assiduously, it was finally impossible to accomplish. I own an IPod, and I would dearly love to load the contents onto this Apple, but alas, that would be impossible. Apple is desperately concerned about so-called piracy evidently, so much so that it is willing to inconvenience nearly all of its dupes, I mean customers.

Maybe you could have done all this, but so what? Is new technology just for you? I ask for help sometimes, and I don't get it.

I then tried to print a couple of pictures myself, rather than having the CD to take to the store. I wanted to avoid this, because my printer makes me even more furious than the rest of my technology. It was cheap, the better to make the money on the always running out four colors of ink. Amazingly, printing only text uses up vast quantities of magenta, cyan and blue as well as the black. "Paper jam!" is my printer's middle name, especially with anything heavier than an Aerogram.

My deep conviction that I must jettison the printer to preserve my happiness led me in the first place to wonder if a Kindle would better serve me. All I want to do is pull text off of the 'Net and read it at my leisure. I don't really need the great reams of paper that I've been accumulating.

Oh, why do we struggle so? It'll all be over soon. Everything will be digitized, and everything "real" will disappear from the world. Get used to it! Digital is the Antichrist, but that's another story I suppose.

So, should I get a Kindle?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Good News! Kim Jong Il Left Plenty Of Photographs

One of my favorite sites is kimjongillookingatthings.tumblr.com. To me, Kim Jong Il was the greatest source of unintended hilarity in the world, from the ridiculously bouncy goose-stepping parade troops to the absurdly over-manned public displays of affection for, well, Kim Jong Il.

I was afraid that his recent semi-anticipated demise would be the end of the site, but I was wrong. Evidently he left a treasure trove of photo's of himself looking at things. At some point, I'm sure that the site will move over to showing pictures of the new "Supreme Leader." That'll be fine, he looks pretty funny too.

The Best Room-Reverb In The World, Bar None

I went to a Christmas party in this house, and I can tell you that this bathroom is the single greatest sound enhancer in history.

It's two bathrooms actually, that's the secret. Each room is about nine by twelve feet, tile floor and wall all the way to the ceiling, and you can see in the picture that they're connected by a wall that stops eight or ten inches from the ceiling. This venting, this connection, doubles the natural reverb, it's absolutely amazing.

You sing a song in here and you sound like Caruso, I swear.

Some People Just Like Monkeys

Today's trip to the Crocodile Farm was a gift to this friend of mine. She's up against it right now, but this picture with the monkey really put a smile on her face. She put on her best outfit and her best wig for the occasion (that chemo is a bitch). Spent a lot of time on her make-up too, and gave me her best smile here. It's a croc farm, but mostly she likes the monkeys.

We had a great time, and it was no trouble at all. This picture proves that it was a good idea, and appreciated.

Croc Wranglers Risk Lives For Baht

Sure they know the tricks, how to relax a crocodile so it's "safe" to put you hand in its mouth. It's like NASCAR though, sometimes things go horribly wrong. A couple of years ago the audience at this place was treated to a croc clamping down on a guys arm and starting to do that "croc spinning" thing that they do to tear things off of their prey.

Uneventful today though, a very professional presentation all around. I love how they get people to throw money at them so that they can make it part of the act. That's money in the croc's mouth, if it isn't perfectly clear in the pictures.

I got some video too, maybe I'll make the huge investment of time to put some up in a few days.

Rare Cat Pix

Went to the Crocodile Farm today and saw . . . a jaguar! And a handsome fellow he was, too. And a tiger! Lots of them actually, this I believe is a young one, maybe a year or so, on the small side with huge paws. Too close for comfort sometimes, they were. For only six dollars they would take your picture with your hands on a tiger, a full sized tiger that didn't look even a little bit drugged. He was chained to a D-ring in the floor, which I know would piss me off. No! But thank you so much for the offer.

The other feline is a fellow traveler at the home of a friend of mine, dining on the remains of the seafood at our Christmas party.

I'd hate to have the only blog on the 'Net with no cat pix.