Thursday, January 31, 2013

Medical Alert: Kim Jong-Il Looking At Things Is On Life Support

"Kim Jong-Il Looking At Things" ( is a favorite web pleasure of mine, but all may not be well in the post-untimely-death world of the Dear Leader.  No new pictures have been posted for some time.

Maybe they're just running out of pictures.  The pictures were a favorite propaganda tool of the Dear Leader's regime.  He visited countless factories, dams, retail establishments, entertainment venues, schools, military installations, just any old thing, and was photographed seriously regarding things.  Dressed in his trademark sensible cold-weather clothes he would listen attentively while some local official giddily explained what he was looking at.  The effect was, to me, hysterical.

It looks as though the site may have finally run out of steam.  I'll miss it, I will.  

The Decision Of The Walter Lippmanns

According to an interview in The Paris Review long ago, Gore Vidal encountered the Walter Lippmanns one time and found them to be in a particularly good mood. When he inquired as to the source of their euphoria, Mrs. Lippmann replied, “because we have decided that we shall never go to Japan.” She described the decision as “such a relief!”

I know somewhat of which Mrs. Lippmann speaks. A decision that has been up in the air for some time can be a debilitating burden. Finalizing a decision can be liberating, especially if the resolution reduces the level of effort that is required to proceed.

For example, I’m sure that I would profit from a clear decision never to finish the novel that I started five years ago. I wrote almost half of a first draft, about 45,000 words. Some of the chapters were re-written and looked pretty good; others were rough.

It was, maybe it still is, a labor of love. I have noticed something in my life that I believe most people overlook: when people are judged by the criteria that society generally applies, many good people may be judged to be very bad, and many bad people may be judged to be very good. I’m not speaking personally here, but I have seen this misguided logic in action.

Another point that I find worth illuminating is that my generation was subjected to pressures that were greater than many of us could stand. Society back in the Sixties and Seventies really had its panties in a twist, and many of us felt less than welcome. Many teenagers just decided to opt out. Not like the Hippies, with their “turn on; tune in; drop out,” although the ones who opted out of society did turn on. This was more of a silent sinking beneath the surface of ordinary reality. No tuning in was involved, more of a tuning out really. I’m not sure that this phenomenon has been adequately examined by the artistic temperaments of our times.

To me, this whole thing has the makings of a good story, or several.

Time will tell if I decide to finish the thing. Novels are such a huge amount of work that I’m surprised that any of them are ever finished. It might be worth it though. Who knows? Maybe a hundred people would read it.

If I ever do decide that I shall never finish it, I’m sure that I’ll feel a sense of relief very similar to that of the Lippmanns regarding Japan.

Phang Nga Teaching Trip

Phang Nga is just north of Phuket island, about ten automobile hours south of Bangkok.  It illustrates an interesting aspect of the Thai language, South East Asian languages in general in fact.  The use of the sound of "ng" as an initial. 

In English, of course, we are familiar with the sound but always as the end of a word.  Using it as the initial sound can take some getting used to. 

Phang Nga has some built up, touristy areas, but I didn't see any.  Our Phang Nga campus is off the beaten path.  The beach was nice though, and the coastal wooded area, seen in the pix, reminded me of Monterey, California.  But much warmer, of course. 

You can see the beach off in the margins, and that's as close as I like to get to beaches.  There's only three things that I don't like about the beach: the sun; the sand; and the water.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1972 Williams travel time pinball awesome

Through some process that I can't remember or describe I found myself ten minutes ago thinking about that guy who pitched a great baseball game on LSD one time back in the early seventies or thereabouts.  That, in turn, made me think of the Williams Travel Time, which was my favorite pinball machine at about the same time.

So it occurred to me that Professor Google might have some info about the old Travel Time, and of course he does.  Not a great video, or even a good one, but it's the one that I found.  The other hits were text, or machines for sale.  There's a good story here, hinted at above.  I should tell it sometime.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Caetano Veloso Billie Jean

I've put this song up before, but probably not this video.  The triumph of the cover version right here. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Moby Grape - 03 - Fall On You (by EarpJohn)

Nothing to add, really.  These guys can speak for themselves.

Black And White

Or should I say, “black and white.” It turns out that, when one is referring to the racial information of various citizens of America, the decision to capitalize is somewhat controversial.

I cherish my time on the blog site, “We Are Respectable Negroes.” Chauncey DeVega, the pseudonymous writer of the blog, is a fourtyish academic who teaches subjects related to race and culture at a mid-western university. He’s a lucid, generous minded man who values diversity on the site and has tolerated my sometimes misguided comments for many years now. He tends to step back a bit and let other commenters school me when the opportunity arises, like it did recently with the black and white thing.

Thanks Nomad

When I write in English I consider it to be “my” language to a degree that can become unwarranted. For instance, I tend to capitalize more than the style books recommend. I do this for the sake of Clarity and Readability, to place an emphasis, as it were, in print where I might provide an audio cue in speech. Or maybe to call attention to the key words. Either way, I do it. I’m confident that this is my prerogative, because language is not a static concept, it is a living, breathing, ever changing thing. Changed by our usage, individual and collective. So, my English.

One example of my liberal use of the capital letter was in my usage of “Black” and “White.” I say “was,” because Nomad is the one who pointed out to me that it was a bad idea. Nomad suggested that I stick with black and white, not perhaps at the risk of my immortal soul, but at least in order to avoid some misunderstandings with my black fellow travelers.

My habit arose from the use of “Black” more than anything relating to whiteness. In my opinion, America blacks are so much more than just black, and so deserving of respect for their amazing accomplishments in surviving life in America, that Black had a much more dignified look to it. Black (small “b”) is a color; my thinking was that Blacks were a people, and a great one, not just a color.

Maybe the term “Black,” in a vacuum, isn’t so bad, not objectionable in itself. Nomad suggested that I was really out on the thin ice when I also referred to “White” Americans. Writing about “White” anything, he said, and I believe him, would be read by many people as having been written by a racist, White Supremacist individual. So it became something similar to ethics violation in the law, avoid them, sure, but it is also important to avoid even the appearance of them, just. Certainly it’s not a brush that I’d like to be tarred with. I’d only gone with “White” to achieve equivalence with “Black.” So they both had to go, it seemed.

The Research Situation

I went to my Concise Oxford Dictionary. Not the Unabridged, but still very complete, with almost two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand words , full etymological information and usage notes. The Oxford is an English publication, but eminently fair when it comes to Colonial English.

Black is black, small “b,” when applied to a racial group, and is “the preferred term in Britain; in America the preferred term in African American.” African American is capitalized, of course, being both African and American.

Colored, interestingly, is given as “colored (or Colored).” So with colored, you’re on your own, it’s discretionary.

Negro is capitalized, as is Caucasian. “Negro,” however, is considered “old-fashioned or even offensive.” So I guess the smart money is to stay away from that one.

My reading on the subject has not been exhaustive, but I can tell you that W.E.B. DuBois sticks with “black” and “colored.”

My Bony Old, Abrasive White Ass

Incidentally, I have never cared for the term “African American.” Probably due to the fact that many, if not most Africans, the ones in Africa anyway, seem to treat American blacks with less than fraternal devotion. African American seems more appropriate when describing President Obama, or my daughter-in-law for that matter. I love them both dearly, and in their day-to-day lives then share many experiences with American blacks, but they have very little history in common.

Maybe it would be a mistake to use the terms “black Americans” and “American blacks” interchangeably. The former would include the many recently arrived Africans, fine people who have chosen to help us build Twenty-First-Century America; the later would not. That would leave African American for the Africans. How would that be? Boy, I can be annoying without hardly trying.


I’ll be sticking with “black” for things like black culture, black people, black music, etc. I will be continuing to avoid “colored,” which I have always thought sounded condescending, and “Negro,” which I agree is old fashioned. In the course of considering this matter I have wondered where the future will take us in terminology for various racial groups, but I decline to share my speculations.

Thanks again, Nomad, for the gentle schooling. As you said, we Irishmen have to stick together. (Proud to claim you, brother!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral

The blood work from my annual check-up will be back soon, and I’m guessing that the doctor will once again tell me that I should be eating more vegetables and less meat. They can tell somehow. So I guess that I’ll be working on that goal again this year.

It always seems to me that my diet is richly varied, but maybe it only varies from “A” to “G” or something. That’s plenty of keys to vary a musical presentation, but maybe it’s different with food.

I recognize three food groups: animal, vegetable and mineral. They say we need these things. The mineral I try to stay away from, minerals per se anyway. I’m given to believe that there are minerals in everything, so I’m pretty sure that we can get the minerals that we need from our food. I mean it’s all atoms, isn’t it?

Animal food can be confusing, especially when it comes to dairy. I mean dairy is not alive, by any definition, but it came from an animal. Oh, another gray area, doesn’t some cheese contain bacteria? Or mold? The bacteria would be an animal. What about the mold? Maybe I’ll ask Professor Google. Some vegetarians eat dairy, maybe because nothing had to die (bacteria, and possibly mold, notwithstanding). Eggs present their own challenges to categorization. Nothing had to die, but if you give it time it’ll be walking around making noise. I eat both dairy and eggs; lets call them “animal.”

Anything that is neither an animal nor mineral is a vegetable. So, I’d say that my favorite vegetable is rice. Bread is a close second.

I do not often willingly partake of fruit. It doesn’t agree with me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Delaney and Bonnie - Only You Know and I Know - 45 rpm

I'm not sure of the provenance of this song, I need to ask Mr. Google or something.  What's the original?  Who wrote it?  What's the cover?  Or covers? 

This is a good version, but it's not the usual Delaney and Bonnie version that you hear.  That must be later, after Eric C. joined their party, and it does always sound like a party, doesn't it? 

No, I'm  not one of those old burned out Hippies that dwells in the past, but it was a pretty happening past, when you think about it. 

Dave Mason- "Only You Know and I Know"

This might be the first "black" YouTube video that I've ever seen.  Dave might not be the best looking guy in Rock n' Roll, but blacked-out might be a little extreme. 

For what it's worth, I like this song.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not A Movie Review: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

This is a great movie in many ways, and it's very watchable and entertaining.  It stays lively, even the the soap-operaish sections.  What struck me this time was the treatment of the Chinese. 

The Chinese people feature prominently in the story.  You know how it goes, the American planes fly straight over Japan and land in China, or crash land in the case of Van Johnson's plane.  It's Van's movie, he gets most of the screen time.  He gets some good lines too. 

One of them is, "you're our kind of people!" spoken to the Chinese who are helping him and his friends. 

And boy, do Van and the boys need help.  They're a mess after the crash landing, and the Japanese Army is about a step and a half behind them.  The Chinese in the movie are always admirable and sympathetically portrayed.  They take huge chances to move the American flyers around, they expend valuable resources to treat them.  Rather than complain, or look for a quid pro quo, they are only very grateful for what the Americans have done and willing to do what it takes to help in any way that they can. 

"Our kind of people," indeed.  And they are too.  If you're lucky enough to know any Chinese Americans, you know that they make great neighbors, great co-workers and great friends.  We're lucky to have them (speaking with my American hat on).   Chinese people in China today seem to like us too.  Many of them want to study in America; they try very hard to master English; they bend over backwards to do business in America; lots of them move to America every year.  Oh, sure, they complain sometimes, but honestly, when they do complain they're right most of the time.  I complain about America too.  Sue me.

I'm not an expert on the history of Chinese American relations (Sino American relations?).  It does seem to me though that we've gotten along very well over the centuries.  Oh, I know, poor treatment of immigrants, a serious shoot-em-up in Korea, there've been some bumps in the road.  But we did okay by them in trade all through the Nineteenth Century, and we acquitted ourselves pretty well in the Boxer rebellion by opposing territorial grabs by the European Imperial powers.  All in all, I don't think any other member of the "Western Democracies" can claim to have had a more successful history together. 

The war against Japan was probably the high point.  I recently saw a documentary on Chinese language CCTV about a unit of the Chinese Army fighting out of an encirclement by the Japanese Army.  In the English sub-titles I saw many references to the huge logistical support provided throughout the incident by American planes, including air-drops of food, water and ammunition under fire.  It was plainly stated that the unit would have been destroyed or forced to surrender were it not for the American help.  In the great black and white footage of the unit it was plainly visible that they were all wearing American gear, helmets etc, and they were armed with American weapons.  The Chinese seem genuinely grateful for all of this, to this day.  How many Americans remember that shared history? 

"Our kind of people." 

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Waranya Miricle

Alert the media! Two consecutive test takers in the same row had the same name.

Americans don’t realize how much of a shock this was to me. There’s nothing surprising at all in America, “William . . . William,” “Mary . . . Mary,” it happens all the time. But it’s very different over here. The statistical likelihood of one Khun Waranya being followed by a second Khun Waranya is astronomical, probably on the same order as two people on line for lottery tickets being issued the same randomized numbers by the computer.

Thai Names

The most striking thing to a new teacher in Thailand is that all of the children seem to have different names. Beyond a few popular examples, Thai names rarely repeat. In my year teaching high school, I had sixteen classes of about forty-five students each and most of them had a unique name. There will always be a Tannapong, and probably a Somchai, and for the girls usually a Sutarat, maybe a Tiwaporn, but other than a very few names that could be called common people seem to have their very own name, made up just for them.

Waranya is not one of the more common names.

Thai names mean something. It reminds me of the names of America Indians, at least the names for Indians in literature or in the movies. You know, “Running Bear” or something. Thai names are usually words, or combinations of words, from either Sanskrit or Pali (another several thousand year old South Asian language). Names like Chadarat (“headdress of the province”), Tiwaporn (“loves the day”), Janntiwa (“moon in daylight”), and Barinyaporn (“loves certificates of higher learning,” no kidding).

Incidentally, I think that I’ve only ever met one Chadarat in eight years. Of Tiwaporns, I’ve known a couple. Janntiwa is my favorite name of all time, only ever heard it once. Barinyaporn, of all things, is fairly common, I’ve heard it maybe six times.

Until about a hundred years ago, Thais only had one name, like most Indonesians to this day. I think that it was a point of pride to come up with something catchy and unique. Family names came about when the king at the time decreed that all Thai families should pick a family name. He also decreed that every single family in Thailand had to pick a name that was unique to them, no duplications, honest, somebody was keeping track as the names were registered. So between those two things you will almost never find two Thai people with identical first and family names. Note that it is not common to name children directly after a relative, as happens all the time in America. We have middle names to differentiate us, otherwise we become a “Junior.” If a Thai family names a son after a father, or a daughter after a father for that matter, they change the name a little, like Chadarat naming a daughter Chadaporn (“loves the headdress”).

Don’t laugh at the “porn” thing by the way, not polite. Sometimes it becomes a problem. One of the test-takers today had a name change document, it’s pretty common for Thais to change their names. I’m sure that it’s like America, the law figures sure, go ahead, as long as you have any reason at all and the new name is not offensive. This young woman had been christened “Kittiporn,” and I suppose when she got older and found out what it meant in English she just said “hell, no.” I’m sure the judge didn’t even ask her why she wanted to change it.

The Magnitude of the Coincidence

My university has 850,000 students, and that’s not a typo. Eight-hundred-and-fifty-thousand individual students, currently registered. They all have a unique student number. The print outs that we use for the tests have the students in numerical order, nothing is alphabetical, with assigned seat numbers. So you can see, the probability of two consecutive students having the same name is virtually nil. And that’s just the first names. (Two students with identical first and family names would be actually, totally impossible.)

But it happened today! The first names anyway.  The Waranya miracle! I just about swallowed my gum.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Young Little Richard Playing Piano = Amazing

I love the Internet, really I do, but I also sincerely believe that it is a bunch of nails in the coffin of truth, beauty, and earth culture in general. 

Take this video, for example.  Is it really Little Richard?   Is the boy in the movie really playing the piano and singing?  Who knows?  Does it matter any more?  Sometimes I think that the now constant need for stimulation and entertainment has completely overtaken the old virtues of objective truth and reality. 

Ooops! Did I say that reality was an old virtue?  I may need to take that back. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

brian eno baby's on fire

Nobody has to love this old Eno stuff, but you do have to admit that he got the most amazing performances out of the guitar players that he worked with.  So whatever you may think of his singing and songwriting, Brian Eno was a very good producer and a great motivator. 

Robert Fripp herein, at the top of his form, way at the edge of the envelope. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

How To Be Happy: One Male Blogger’s Advice About Women

“If you want to be happy for the rest of your life,

Never make a pretty woman your wife.”

Jimmy Soul, "If You Wanna Be Happy."

And I agree. Oh! Ye of little faith! It sounds like a great idea, marry a beautiful woman, but the honor is all dubious, all the time. And yes, I know of which I speak.

A beautiful woman is always thinking: why did I fall for this asshole? Furthermore, many of the guys that she meets are asking her: why did you fall for that asshole? Dump him, they tell her, and hook up with me. Trading up is always an option for a beautiful woman, any little disagreement may trigger the impulse. The poor sap of a husband is constantly on trial.

Maybe it’s different with rich guys, they marry beautiful women all the time. In that case the woman always has a good answer to the “why did I marry this asshole?” question. Even for them it’s a challenge though, the beautiful woman always has options. She may safely dump one rich guy, leaving with a nice chunk of change, and come down on her feet with a new rich guy, maybe someone who’s a little less of an asshole. Most women don’t have any of these options, wonderful women, it’s true, but certain paths are closed to them.

For those of us who are not rich, the challenge of marrying a beautiful woman is a daunting one, like the challenge of climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. Maybe it works out okay; maybe you die.

The Solution

Luckily, there is a perfectly good solution to this problem, one in which the sincere male hominid gives up nothing at all.

Men, please consider: since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is very possible to find a woman who is beautiful to you while falling short of that status in the eyes of men in general. For one thing, most men are a little crazy on the subject, they are convinced somehow that the Miss Universe/Victoria’s Secret/Playboy standard of beauty is the only way to go. The truth is that lots of women, tons of women, who look kind of plain in street clothes are, for all practical purposes, just as beautiful when push comes to shove, you know, in the arena where it all actually happens.

Besides, physical beauty is only one of the qualifiers in this inquiry, and not even the most important one. A sweet temperament; a cooperative disposition; a good sense of humor; a woman who is slow to get angry and quick to forgive; these are things of great value. And they last longer too.

Those are the best choices, my friends. Those modest, kind hearted women who possess the light but keep it under a bushel.

Marry well, live long, and prosper. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

One Of Our Negroes Is Missing

In an age in which American politicians seem to be competing with one another to break the bank on crazy and stupid, on the delusional and the merely silly, Allen West has consistently displayed one of the greatest talents in the competition.

“Former Congressman,” or “one-term member of the House of Representatives,” these titles do not do him justice. “Torture enthusiast” adds a dimension, and is appropriate, but he is so much more.

He is the black canary in the coal mine of Neo-Conservative/Neo-Liberal, Republican/Democrat, monetist, corporate-supremacist post-democracy in America. He is missing from the 113th Congress, but he can still be found on Fox News for those who still have patience for such things.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Old Post; New Readers

I see that quite a few people have recently read "My Religious Failure To Thrive," a nice post from four years ago.  It must come up on a Google search or something. 

I wish that I better understood how these things happen, but I'm happy, in any case, that someone is reading the thing.  I enjoyed re-reading it myself. 

It reminds me of my best loved post of all time, "The Fifteen Greatest Roman Generals," which was written even longer ago.  That one frequently re-appears on the recently vistited list, and has also attracted such a huge amount of spam that I really wonder what the attraction is. 

All very mysterious. 

Hypocrisy Update: Robbery v. Theft

Fox News always tries to characterize the national debt as money that we, or more likely “they,” are robbing from our children. Using the word “robbery” as opposed to the milder “theft” is a conscious semantic choice, and one of the two good questions here. The other question is, who are “they?”

Robbery is a much more serious crime than theft (aka larceny, or just stealing). Robbery is “theft by force or fear.” Having your car stolen quietly in the middle of the night while you are safely sleeping (grand theft auto) is a much more comfortable experience than having your car stolen from you at gunpoint while you are stopped at a red light (armed robbery).

Considering the difference, the money that will someday go to re-paying the national debt is perhaps being stolen, but it is not being robbed.

About the second question, just who is the “they” who are doing all of this stealing? Fox makes it sound like it is the work of President Obama, alone, no one else is mentioned or blamed. Simple research will show that any list of main offenders must include former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, at least. George Herbert Walker Bush was a piker compared to those two, and Bill Clinton actually held the line pretty well.

(Note the difference between the national debt and the deficit. The national debt is the total owed; the deficit is the shortfall in the budget this year. Clinton actually controlled the deficit.)

The list of offenders must also include the several congresses that allowed all of this to happen, including members of both parties. Those two presidents were the worst offenders though, it was their policies that led to the huge current total for the debt and caused the collapse of the economy in 2008. Go ahead, try blaming that on President Obama. (Clinton? Maybe a little, the collapse anyway.)

Those two Republican presidents, and the congresses that licked their boots, have put us in a mess, it’s true. They spent several fortunes on defense, and senseless, counterproductive wars, with most of the money going to their friends in the defense, oil, and banking industries. Congress authorized it all, and threw in several additional fortunes for their own friends, and their states, through earmarks. President Obama? Most of his addition to the debt has been in attempts to avoid a complete collapse, attempts that have largely succeeded.

There is great hypocrisy in these attacks by Fox News on President Obama, which comes as a surprise to no one. Fox, though, prefers to reserve the term “hypocrite” for Al Gore, aka “the radical left-wing hypocrite.”