Monday, June 30, 2008

Dangerous, Despicable Discoveries

Oh, these are exciting times, fellows and girls. Not even considering all that we (Baby Boomers) have seen already, or how much of what we labored to learn has become devalued if not actually wrong, or the shocking new realities that we have had to put up with, forget it y’all, the best/worst is yet to come.

With the actuaries telling us that we will live another twenty years so, until 2030 or thereabouts (how’s that for a number? I thought Buck Rogers would be dead of old age by then), we’ll be seeing some reality-stretching shit, that’s for sure.

One thing we’ll see, almost for sure, is one of the two things the discovery of which I have lived in the terror of for many decades now: the infallible lie detector. I like the way it is now, they are useless and everybody knows it. If applied to a naturally nervous person, it looks like lies all the time, even to the question: Is your name (fill in ______)? Any self-respecting sociopath, not to mention any pathological liar, beats them hands down, he or she can say any god-damned thing they want. Did you have dinner with Godzilla last night? Yep (straight lines, true). Have you ever used illegal drugs? (Breaking out of a nod) no.

I like the way it is now because now nobody pays attention to them. I’m the nervous type, and the last thing I want is to take a lie detector test. I’ve only taken one polygraph test in my life and thereafter they accused me of stealing money from previous employers and refused to hire me, which also alienated me from the friend who had recommended me for the job. Outside of a ten year one-man-crime-wave of shoplifting, I have never stolen anything. (I rode in those cars, but they’d already been stolen, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

But now, between the advances is brain science, and the ridiculous hyper-advances in computer science, they’re actually closing in on a foolproof system for detecting lies. Is there anyone who thinks that this would be a good thing? Besides the propeller-heads that idiotically work on such things? How long after discovery would it be before people trusted it completely? Five or ten years? And how long after that would it take before some bright boy in Congress, from Kansas, or Utah, suggested a law that as a requirement for voting everybody had to get a “pass” from the police stating that after a standard group of questions the prospective voter had proven that he wasn’t guilty of any previously unreported felonies. Why don’t we all just report to the station house every six months to prove our innocence? Oh, wise guy, you take the Fifth Amendment do you? Good luck, pal, the Constitution ain’t what she used to be. After all, what have you got to worry about unless you’re a criminal? Crime would disappear! At least among the straighto’s who’d never commit a crime in the first place, they’re the only ones who’d show up. All the criminals would avoid it and continue working in their chosen field.

Of course, when we were children they would have needed Probable Cause to even ask us questions like that. Remember probable cause? History now, like so many of our much vaunted rights. What do you care if we search you, unless you have something to hide.

How many pre-nuptial agreements would contain a clause requiring spouses, or one spouse in particular, to submit to lie-testing once a year or so? Freedom of contract.

The other thing I never wanted to see will definitely be discovered very soon, if it hasn’t already: life on other planets. In my nightmare world, the horror is the discovery of intelligent life, that would be the end of the world as we know it. Especially if they discovered it on the White House lawn. They’re about to find “life” somewhere though, and not just on Mars, they have hundreds of planetary prospects all over the place, and they are figuring out how to check them in more detail. The certainty of any verified life of any kind, anywhere but here, is going to be trouble enough, mark my words. People who believe that the Earth is the center of creation, and that everything we see in a starry sky is just part of “let there be light,” will be slightly bent out of shape to think that god created life just any old place, or, as seems more likely, every old place, all billions and billions of them. Some bacteria somewhere is at least cheerfully abstract; some arachnid somewhere responds to our signals and you’ll be afraid to leave the house for a month.

I try not to look for more modern conveniences to be afraid of. Nano-technology, anti-matter, quantum computers, where’s my drink? I put it down somewhere. Shit! I’m out of ice! I try to keep life simple.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Your Gracious Content Provider is Appreciative.

Blogs without comments are like blogs without sunshine. Thanks out there, Sunshine, you know who you are.

Thursday, June 26, 2008 "Memories of College Point."

I’ve been enjoying a site devoted to the small, insignificant corner of New York City where I grew up. Grew up, in fact, and got married and where my first son was born. College Point; there’s no college there anymore but it is a point jutting out into the East River, which is not a river at all but rather is an estuary, just up the Long Island north shore from LaGuardia Airport.

This site has a fanatic following of mostly Baby Boomers like me who remember the old days, fondly? no, let’s not say fondly, not always, “clearly” might be better. The town is so small, and there were so many of us, that we all feel like we know one another based on shared experience if not on actual acquaintance.

The shared experience, the volume and the quality of the shared experience, is the key to the sites success. I don’t think you could do it with a more “Leave It To Beaver” kind of neighborhood. Those kids lead a sheltered life, they’re too happy. The Beave’ had better weather too, and the odds are that he didn’t get terrorized by his teachers at school. The Beave’ and his friends had fights now and then, but it’s all so cute! Nothing traumatic. Our lives weren’t like that.

College Point was a shared-adversity. Like New York City as a whole, only more so. Coming out the other end relatively ok was like surviving a plane crash together, or a hostage situation.

The traffic was murder, literally. Just ask little Nancy R., oh, I’m sorry, she got hit by a car and killed. There were lots of fires to die in. We drove cars with the kind of reckless abandon usually displayed only by stunt-drivers or the insane. There were lots of self-immolation style auto accident deaths, sometimes more adequately described as suicides or manslaughters. Drugs were not a passing fancy in College Point, and no one waited for the Hippie days to get started either. There were plenty of drugs, ups, downs, codeine-cough-medicine and reefer from the post-war years on. And Heroin, too, with the usual accompanying deaths. Most people knew somebody; my old baby-sitter Jeannie W. went home from work one day to find her son dead with a needle in his arm. Junkies go to prison or die, or both, College Point junkies were no exception.

Somehow we Baby-Boomers remained light hearted in the face of all of this.

Drinking, under-age, barely-of-age, and over-age, was epidemic. The drinking age was eighteen, and way before that a lot of us knew how to hang around outside a deli and wait for someone’s older brother to come along and buy beer for us. There were so many bars in town that it made the Ripley’s Believe it or Not in the Sunday papers. It’s true, more bars and more churches per capita than anywhere else in America. By the time I was sixteen there were bars that were so devoid of business that they’d serve you as long as you were as tall as some adults and looked like you’d shut up and drink. Bartenders live on tips; nobody can live on no tips. We tipped as good as we could afford to, we wanted to be allowed back.

Fighting in general was a given, no one of us boys could avoid it, and lots of the girls went at it too. Bloody fights were common, with a sprinkling of brutal stompings thrown in. One of the really frightening boys came over to a car full of my friends one time and told them to beat it, he didn’t want them hanging around in front of his house. Poor Richie I. was just stoned enough to ask the boy sarcastically what his problem was. In a flash he had been pulled out of the car, through the window, knocked to the street between the curb and the car and heel stomped more than a few times. Those were the good old days.

There were sex-driven aberrations, of course. We heard of a couple of instances, one an older brother and the other an older cousin, where some poor kid was forced to blow a family member, or where some teenage girl was donated to a crippled war-veteran relative. We showed uncharacteristic compassion on these occasions, forgoing the opportunity to tease the victim. We were stunned to silence in a sympathetic, “there but for fortune” kind of way.

On the site we conveniently forget the beatings and the rapes, and most of the drugs too. And people’s behavior is tidied up a bit too. Everyone in town loved Warren B., it’s true, and we all speak of him like a saint on the site. No one has mentioned, not even after I alluded to it, that he was the champion car thief of all time. He had a different car every night; if he was late for school he’d steal a car to cut his travel time, he’d swing by the bus stop and pick us up. He was famous for it, but now we just say what a swell guy he was, and he was too, I loved the guy and the cars had nothing to do with it, but he probably stole a thousand cars over the course of his career.

Believe me, growing up in College Point was quite the adventure. Now we are all having great fun reliving our shared history. It’s a little like a reunion of Blackbeard’s pirate crew, if they only joked about the bad food and the storms, and left out all the bloody bits.

A Nice, Cool Afternoon.

I was just out for a while, started out with a good walk to where I could catch a cab. It was about noon. I never broke a sweat, and I thought, wow, how wonderfully cool it is today, kind of cloudy, nice little breeze.

When I got back I checked the weather: 91 degrees, "Real Feel," 99. I must be aclimated.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And Yet, More Poetry

I'm sorry that I complain so; I know that my life has not been that hard. I know how lucky I've been. I'm appreciative, in my way.

Beloved of God

If I could be a better friend, I would,
But snapping fingers cannot make it true.
I’m glad that I’m not smarter or less smart,
I’m in the zone of comfort, after all.

The smarter people, they all suffer so,
Suffer for their art.
The lesser lights may not suffer at all.
Mediocrity is best; life is long.

To live so long this life,
It seems so very long,
Isn’t it a long, long time?
And understanding nothing,
Is it blessing? Is it curse?
More like a curse to understand.

So only prayers of thanks from me,
For all that I have ever seen,
My life has been so trouble free,
I know I am belov’d of god.

Movie Review: Faust: Love of the Damned

Jeffrey Combs gets a rare chance to play a good-guy in this movie, and for a long time it looks like his character will survive the movie ok. But this is a Brian Yunza movie, so the seasoned viewer knows that Jeffrey will eventually be driven crazy and horribly slaughtered. That’s the way it turns out.

Shot in Europe, Europe-for-America, it’s supposed to be Detroit or something. There is a beautiful subway station with a cheapie cardboard “Uptown” sign. They ran out of money for the demon, rejected somehow the first version, so the one they got may be a disappointment to some very demanding non-fans. For we the converted, it’s all good, all the way nuts, Wolverine claws and all.

Great bad-guy in this movie, “M,” get it? Mephistopheles. He has a great lieutenant too, kind of pretty, big-leg woman who likes to party, DTK, she’ll fuck you silly but keep an eye out for the knife, it’s coming. She’s disturbingly involved in Jeffrey’s disturbing end. M has quite a temper. When Big-Leg-Chick gets snotty, he turns her into a Volkswagen sized blob of all tits and booty with a face, and bodily fluids shooting from primary and secondary sex organs.

It ain’t Bergman; it ain’t Ozu; it ain’t even “From Beyond.” The boom-mike shows up in the frame a couple of times, and it’s lit like a soap opera. But it’s a pretty cool hundred minutes. It’d be better with the right smoke.

In a movie where large groups of people are frequently getting horribly dismembered, a’ la “Sword of Vengeance,” the last twenty minutes or so really run away with it, a murder orgy. Everybody dies, including the giant, snake-like demon conjured by the rite in which poor Mr. Combs meets his grotesque end. The only one left at the end is a good-guy chick, a sympathetic character, maybe the only one in the movie, who’s left to cry alone.

No stars, but “A” for effort and “N” for nuts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anti-Catholic Prejudice

Muldoon was living in County Cork. He had a dog that he loved like a son, but one day the dog died.

Muldoon went to the church and asked the priest if he could do a funeral mass for the dog. The priest said, you fool, I can’t do a funeral mass for an animal!

Muldoon asked him if he thought the protestant church down the way might consider it. The priest said, who knows what those people believe. It’s worth a try.

Muldoon asked the priest if he thought one thousand Euros was enough for the service. Damn you Muldoon, said the priest, why didn’t you tell me the dog was Catholic?

Status in Thailand

I love Thailand but there are aspects of the “Status Driven” culture that I’m not comfortable with. The system in Thailand is not as blatant as the Caste System in India, but it is pervasive and unavoidable.

It’s deeply ingrained in the culture and religion of the area. The first thing that I noticed when I got here was that lots of people were very concerned about how old I was and what I did. Not like old monks, they knew they had more status than me; not like noodle sellers, they knew they had less. But anyone who’s status might be close, they had to know: who was older? who had more education? who had more money? This is all very important, because one must always know who to wai first and how deeply.

All of this is very un-American. In our tradition we have the dignity of labor, St. Joseph, working man dad of Jesus, and all that. President of the United States is a job. We have no bowing and scraping, we look everyone in the eye and shake hands. It was a shock to me that anyone with no education, no money, and a menial job who met me here treated me like a god. Averted eyes, lowered head, deep wai. The worst part is that lots of those so situated respond with only nervous smiles if I am decent to them, you know, smile and say hello, how are you? They’ve become quite accustomed to being treated like shit.

I know some very intelligent, hard working, solid-citizen types who have very low status, and the treatment that they receive kind of galls me sometimes. Like our maintenance woman at the office. I have published her picture previously.

I do not care to speculate regarding her possible former lives, nor do I care to imagine her conduct in those hypothetical lives. I assume that she grew up poor and has virtually no education, nothing worth the term anyway. Now she presents herself as a lovely, friendly woman with a family, one husband, they love each other, they have children, she is a woman with a job, just as I am a man with a job, in other words, she is a fellow citizen and not just some thing that washes my dishes simply because she has not had my benefits of education and birth.

I keep these thoughts to myself. They could only be heard as complaining about or criticizing Thailand, and that is never my intention. It’s not right or wrong, it just goes against my grain as a Blue Collar, Yellow Dog Democrat, Anti-Aristocratic, and yes, liberal American.

1968: Part Five

When I got the call,
I was getting laid, I answered the phone,
We did that then, no answering machines, no nothing,
Just a phone and a cord, when it rang,
We answered, it was Bob K.’s mom,
“Bob got shot,” she said,
“I got a telegram,” she read it,
Some new vocabulary, brain sections,
“aphasia,” a new one on me, I looked it up,
I hung up the phone,
It was a half hour before I had relaxed enough
To even think about getting laid.
He made it back alive, it was interesting
To see the whole left side of his head diaphragming
Up and down, as he laughed, the bone being gone,
But he was lucky,
He came back, and the girls were really curious
To see what worked and etc.

Nixon, a Quaker,
Nixon, it had been years since
We didn’t have him to kick around anymore,
Couldn’t even get elected Governor of California,
Came back for more,
Within another few years he’d had
The shit kicked out of him good,
A tragic figure, not stupid, not even venal, just wrong,
This year he promised Law and Order,
Put those Niggers and Hippies in their places,
That’s for God-Damn sure,
Had a Secret Plan To End the War too,
You can’t tell the enemy what you’re going to do,
Or tell the voters what you’re NOT going to do,
It worked, he got nominated,
By the party of the rich fucks at the end of the world,
Poor Dick, self sabotage I think they call it.

The Democrats had a party in Chicago,
Lots of their friends showed up,
It was a little wild, got a little out of hand,
Somebody called the cops,
They showed up, big time,
It made the papers,
William S. Burroughs covered it for Esquire,
Naked Snacked it, Soft Machine Gunned it,
Put the gun in Gonzo’s hand,
Norman Mailer wrote it up for The Times,
And then a best-seller, it was so boss,
Lots of people showed up,
Yippies, Hippies, Loadies, Freaks, Nuns, Doctors,
Sincere simpletons who were just, like,
Horrified at all the killing, and especially
The chance that they might get killed themselves,
Weathermen, democratic students,
Revolution, approximately one-fifth seriously,
Political people with long hair and ambitions
To get into the California State Legislature and Jane Fonda’s pants.

I had good connections, smoked good reefer everyday,
Had good blotter, Dexamils, Valium, Tuinals,
A little speed, not much, speed-kills,
Strong wine, half-gallons, vodka, Newports, Pell Mells,
Shermans, a pretty girl friend,
An electric guitar, some chords, the blues,
Great records, concerts, movies, and lots of friends,
With the inclination to stay up all night,
It occurred to me that
I might never get in step with the world again,
The world on the TV, the world of burning cities,
Angry faces, torn, anguished men in sweaty clothes jungles,
Politicians getting killed, good ones,
French kids burning cars, Black Nightmare Universe,
America held up to the mirror.
It was ten years before I shook my head
And really woke up.

(That about sums it up. I don't know about y'all, buy 1968 made me dizzy.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

I’m Not Depressed; I’m Just Hypermethylated

In science, like in life, if you are lucky and you live long enough you will learn all of the things that you should have known in the first place.

I discovered this principle at boot-camp: for the first month we were scared out of our wits; the second month we slowly learned the ropes; the last two weeks we could get away with murder. The same thing happened in high school.

So now it appears that the scientists, god bless them, are on schedule to discover what is exactly malfunctioning in someone like me and what to do about it, scheduled to discover it two weeks before I die in twenty years. Thanks guys.

To be fair, they have been working on my problem and they have improved my life. The recent anti-depressant drugs, the Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, really surprised me with their efficacy. Sure they’re not perfect, there are side effects, some people kill themselves, but I see a benefit. At least I stopped crying all the time, and I can get things done again.

That was all chemical research, old fashioned stuff. Now the DNA guys are getting in the act, and they’re getting some things figured out, they are. It’s all about the hippocampus, which is known to be influential in mood. Thanks to all of the wonderful suicide victims who so generously donated their brains to science we now know that the hippocampuses of these unfortunate people had suffered hypermethylization!

Some identifiable chemical mark, some kind of methyl group thing, had been added to the DNA. Lots and lots more in the suicide group than in the test group, who merely died in car accidents or something.

“Hypermethylation in the suicide group was not just a general difference,” says Dr Szyf, (no kidding, that’s his name, Mr. “Buy-A-Vowel”) “but rather a response to something specific, such as abuse suffered in childhood.”

I will look forward to the last thing I ever read on my deathbed being the report of the final triumph of science over depression.

The Wasting Time Expert

The sun is full up, and I am well rested, so it must be time for me to waste my time. I often wonder, is there any difference at all, really, between: 1) studying Latin poetry; 2) watching reruns of “Life With Bonnie;” 3) working at the average job; 4) writing or reading for pleasure; or 5) smoking crack and watching pornography. Isn’t it all just wasting time, when all is said and done?

Which one of the Seven Deadly Sins is wasting one’s time? Not Sloth, you can be very busy and still be wasting time.

I admire those who actually accomplish useful things, whose actions actually help people, who work some good in the world, like dentists, or plumbers. I salute you!

Let’s see, I can finish the first draft of Chapter Ten this morning, a couple of thousand words, eat some lunch, peruse the Internet for an hour or two, take a nap . . . that should take me to a reasonable hour to start drinking.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

1968, Part Four

I’d been in and out,
For me the draft was a non-issue,
But there were years left of dying,
So many, every week,
On TV, dreadful images,
Sober assessments in newspapers,
Pictures, how many hundreds?
In the Life Magazine, life of America
In pictures, death, someone you knew?
The odds were getting better.

Most of my friends were like me,
No military bearing, nothing to prove,
Hostile to authority, flippant underachievers,
Not hippies, worse, bad attitudes, bad habits.
Many of my friends had the courage
To show up and tell them, I’m gay!
Let me at those boys! I’ll keep everybody happy!
Some really were gay, some had needle marks,
You know, excuse me, I’m a little wasted,
“Man, you got a place I can lay down?
I been up for forty-six hours!”
They went home; some went in, I joined the Navy,
Three hots and a spot, no gunfights, no camping out.
The service wasn’t stupid, those of us crazies who got through
Were mostly, carefully separated from the explosives,
Made cooks, sent to Germany,
I drove trucks in Las Vegas,
Some got into the shit.

In June, another lone-gunman-de-jur,
Went to work in Los Angeles,
Another Kennedy took head shots,
Not the Hollywood kind,
Robert joined the pantheon, the dead,
It was almost beyond counting,
It really was well beyond understanding,

Beyond believing, glossy, unreal,
The wonderful music and cars, was it all a dream?
The world was young, the girls were pretty,
The dope was good, a Youth Culture,
If you could avoid reality, stay in the dream,
Or if it didn’t affect you personally,
Or if you just didn’t care and got on with your life,
“Other priorities,” they call it now,
Cold hearted self-interest was coming into fashion.

Tawichat's Dragon

Tawichat is a security guard in one of our buildings. He can actually have a simple, halting English conversation, which puts him ahead of most of the professors. I came upon him drawing one day. He was, as always, delighted to see me, maybe solve another mystery of English, like how to pronounce "Hollywood."
He had a stack of these, he'd completed five or six already that day. He was "practicing" he said. He was very proud to give me one. Kind of nice, don't you think?

Pseudo-Hipster Expose: Tantric Sex

Lots of loose talk these days, loose, bragging, condescending talk, about Tantric Sex. Mostly from pretentious, aging rock stars. What is it that they think they’re doing?

//according David Gordon White, author of Kiss of the Yogini: "Tantric Sex" in Its South Asian Contexts, what passes for Tantric sexuality in the West has almost no connection with its original inspiration in medieval India.//

The real beliefs of Tantrics are frightening, and not just a little bit, and have nothing to do with ecstasy.

//early Tantric texts make no reference to pleasure, bliss, or ecstasy: the sexual intercourse involved in the rites was not an end in itself so much as a means of generating the sexual fluids whose consumption lay at the heart of these wild Tantric rituals.//

Somewhere along the line, someone got the bright idea that salvation may be available in doing everything exactly wrong.

//caste Hindus believed that purity and good living were safeguarded by avoiding meat and alcohol, by keeping away from unclean places like cremation grounds and avoiding polluting substances such as bodily fluids, Tantrics believed that one path to salvation lies in inverting these strictures.//

Remember “Gunga Din?” staring Cary Grant as Indiana Jones?

//Tantric devotees took their lead in these matters from the great Tantric goddesses Kali, Tara, and Bhairavi, dark-skinned, untamable, and hag-like divinities who are adorned with garlands of human skulls and attended by jackals, furies, and ghosts. These are fierce and willfully heterodox goddesses who cut off their own heads, who are offered blood sacrifices by their devotees, and who have sex with corpses while pulling the tongue of a demon or straddling the dead as they sit on a burning cremation pyre. Such goddesses—embodying all that would normally be considered outrageous or even repulsive—are anti-models that challenge ideas about how the world should be ordered and violate approved social values and customs—//

Wowsers, Sting, how does that translate into real-world practice?

//emphasis "toward a type of erotico-mystical practice" involving congress with the Yoginis, a group of powerful and predatory female divinities "located at a shifting threshold between the divine and the demonic." Yoginis, we are told, demanded that they be worshiped and fed with offerings of sexual emissions, as well as human and animal sacrifice//

There are some people still around practicing Tantrics in something akin to the original spirit.

//modern form among the Bauls of Bengal who still practice similar rites—they involve elaborate, ritualized sex, sometimes with menstruating women, combined with the ingestion of a drink compounded of semen, blood, and bodily fluids, so flouting and subverting a whole range of established orthodoxies and taboos.//

Hey now! Are we having hippie-dipshit fun yet?

//This original, demon-propitiating Tantric sex clearly stands at an unimaginable distance from the cozy modern world of Western Tantra fads, with their celebration of aromatherapy and coitus reservatus, described by the French writer Michel Houellebecq as "a combination of bumping and grinding, fuzzy spirituality, and extreme egotism."//

The Twenty-First Century in a nutshell.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Skepticism Is Our Only Hope

The law, like music, is all theft, with only praise for plagiarism, so I will borrow a phrase to sum up my argument:

'"I beseech ye in the bowels of Christ, think that ye may be mistaken.' Lerned Hand, quoting Oliver Cromwell's plea just before the Battle of Dunbar. These words Judge Hand said he would like to have written 'over the portals of every church, every courthouse and at every crossroads in the nation.' For, he added, 'it seems to me that if we are to be saved it must be through skepticism.'"

I rest my case, after again quoting Justice Hand, "With the courage which only comes of justified self-confidence, he dared to rest his case upon its strongest point, and so avoided that appearance of weakness and uncertainty which comes of a clutter of arguments. Few lawyers are willing to do this; it is the mark of the most distinguished talent." P. 128, In Memory of Charles Neave (1938).

All you voters out there, take note.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Un-air-conditioned Volvo Hot Rods

These Volvo buses with no air-con are fast. The drivers zoom around the traffice like my friend Junior used to do in his 'Vette. Air-con really sucks up the power. These things are fun.

Hard to Believe

Kind of hard to believe that people don’t just start laughing when John McCain walks into a room. He’s as old as the hills; he says the stupidest things; he’s vicious; he’s got those old fashioned “two-family” values; he’s got Bush’s dick in his mouth; his service record is dodgy; he is a very poor speaker; he changes his tune in the middle of the song; and if he calls me his friend again I may slit his throat myself.

Kind of hard to believe that anyone would even talk about Hillary being the Vice-Presidential nominee. I love the woman, but please, let’s retain at least a tenuous grasp on reality. We’ll be lucky to convince people to vote for a Black man in the first place, we need a nice, reassuring, mature White man on the ticket. Look, I don’t make the rules, this shit is cut in stone, go to the mountain and look it up.

Kind of hard to believe that no one has shot Joe Lieberman yet, there are so many reasons to consider it. He is so infuriating. Poor Stan Winston, he died yesterday, we’ll miss him, it would take his genius to create a more hateful monster than Joe Lieberman. I can’t be the only one who wonders why he goes on living. Cheney too, the man is a walking, talking affront to god. And . . . well, I guess there are too many to name.

Kind of hard to believe that anyone watches network news or cable news, anyone at all, even fundamentalists, or the low-functioning, or the disadvantaged, or whatever the fuck it is that we’re calling the idiots these days, it’s so useless, there’s no news presented at all, and it’s all so annoying, so really fucking annoying, and stupid, not just catering to stupidity but severely guilty of it. I like the internet, because you are in control and can read what you want and ignore the rest, and are not chained to anyone else’s time-line. And if you want to watch John Stewart make fun of somebody, you can do that too.

Kind of hard to believe that anyone bought a big, honkin’ SUV or a huge pick-up truck in the last five years, even the last ten years. Wow, that’s a colossal lack of foresight right there. Please overlook my mediocre mileage hot-rod (purchased twelve years ago).

Kind of hard to believe that all those banking-criminals who loaned money to tens-of-thousands of dipshits with no hope of repaying could find other bankers, even bigger dipshits, who would buy all the loans together and call it an ingenious new idea, “derivatives.” All of those genius-criminals get multi-million dollar bonuses every year; your tax dollars pays for it, and their stupid ideas, and Joe Blow goes and lives in his sister’s garage.

Kind of hard to believe, in general, that the idiots, and the water-heads, and the retards, and the cretins, and the lazy minded trust fund babies, and the pin-heads, and the maniacs, and the just plain old three-sheets-to-the-wind crazy people are still allowed to run the asylum.

The Ant

I love ants. Not like my Aunt Mary, I love her too, but the little kind, with six legs and four wings, yes, they all have them, the wings, all four, they’re insects after all.

This morning I moved my bowl from last night’s dinner, I had cleaned it but there was some water in it, and about five ants that had crawled in were still in there and they sure seemed dead, drowned, say a prayer, they were all curled up in the last drops that remained. I left them there, clean dirt after all. Just a little roughage.

Tonight I moved the bowl again, and, low and behold, the bowl was bone dry and no ants. I might have suspected geckos, but I’m on the twelfth floor, no geckos. They must have dried out and recovered and split the scene. Boy they sure looked dead this morning, curled up, submerged.

It’s a remarkable animal, the ant.

Frederick Ceely (1948- ) Biography, Part Three

(This is all true, by the way)

Fred has worked as a Production Controller
in two factories, done Inventory Control too,
he has done Engineering Drawing,
and he was actually good at it,
he has delivered the U.S. Mail,
driven Taxi Cabs in New York
and Los Angeles, managed
an Air Freight office,
expedited purchase orders for factories,
mixed chemicals in a Photo Laboratory,
done stock clerk work in a major
Drug Store, floor-sales and stocking
for record (musical record) and tape stores,
and one major Department Store,
he has sold women’s shoes,
done Quality Control for
electronic components in a defense plant,
served in the United States Navy,
worked as a Disk Jockey, driven trucks,
been a Day Care Provider,
been the receiver for food items for a major hotel,
filled and prepared orders
for retail stores, received freight
in wholesale and retail settings,
forwarded freight by truck, bus,
ship and air,
given seminars in law,
teaching techniques, and
academic skills, been a tutor,
been a manager, supervisor, and laborer
in warehouse settings,
is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer,
taught grammar school and high school,
published a text book,
written fiction, non-fiction and poetry,
he is a lawyer, admitted to practice
in the State of California and in the
District Courts of the Northern and
Central Districts of California,
he has taught university classes
in language and American Law,
has served as thesis advisor to
graduate students, served as a
Volunteer Attorney for the indigent,
and he has never made a success of any of it,
except that the Peace Corps, it is believed,
remembers him fondly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Now a Major Motion Picture

This comes from that literary snob publication, Granta. I'd never buy it, but they have a web page. It's easy to navigate around the more disagreeable snobbery. Some of it's good. This shit is funny.

Now a Major Motion Picture

Print on demand? Bah. E-books? Fuck you. None of these high-falutin pansy-ass would-be ‘technologies’ are going to save literature. Look at it. The book is practically dead — that almost unbelievably perfect human-made thing which brought literature into being, nurtured it, and proudly and beautifully published it to the world for centuries? The only way left to us to preserve all the thought, all that beauty that went before, which we ride around on like a shit-stained kiddy-kar, is to MAKE MOVIES OF IT? Oh, we’re looking forward to that.
The Wealth of Nations 1938 dir. Ernst Lubitsch. Leslie Howard, Edward Arnold. In 1780 London, a bewigged coffee-house bore tells everyone what to do.

Das Kapital 1950 dir. Erich von Stroheim. Ernest Borgnine, Robert Coote (as Engels). In 1890 London, an enormous German terrorizes the Establishment with his boils.

Hiawatha 1955 dir. John Ford. Jack Palance, Marlene Dietrich. A man of Chippewa descent is driven mad by rhythmic pounding.

The Prelude 1940 dir. Jean Renoir. David Niven, Margaret Lockwood. Failing to think only of his sister, a north of England man steals a boat and goes to college.

The Raw and the Cooked 1960 dir. Howard Hawks. John Wayne, Sidney Poitier. On safari, a white hunter realizes he does not understand the significance of dinner.

The Origin of Species 1960 dir. George Cukor. Rex Harrison, Trevor Howard, Sabu. A bored aristocrat sails to the South Seas, where he tells animals what to do.

The Theory of the Leisure Class 1955 dir. Billy Wilder. Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Angie Dickinson. Four philosophers visit Las Vegas and learn how to relax.

Mein Kampf 1947 dir. Henry Koster. Peter Lorre, Ginger Rogers. A ne’er-do-well Austrian artist finds the meaning of life.

The State and Revolution 1931 dir. King Vidor. Charles Middleton, Joan Blondell. A diminutive Russian has plans to dominate the earth but is filled with embalming fluid instead.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1960 dir. Jean-Luc Godard. Jayne Mansfield, Jean-Paul Belmondo. In occupied France, a dizzy WAC discovers a sauce that fights Nazism.

Baby and Child Care 1968 dir. Russ Meyer. Leo G. Carroll, Jerry Mathers, Patty Duke, Jay North, Oliver North. A mad doctor finds he has reared a nation of narcissistic monsters.

Civilization and Its Discontents 1940 dir. René Clair. Fred MacMurray, Greta Garbo, Robert Benchley (as Jung). A timid European doctor is haunted by his own penis.See also the musical

Vienna Holiday 1950 dir. Victor Fleming. William Powell, Sonja Henie. After a scary dream, Dr Freud falls in love with a pretty skater.

Paradise Lost 1947 TECHNICOLOR dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Don Ameche, Loretta Young. In Yellowstone National Park, a blind, psychotic forest-ranger frames a newlywed couple for littering.

Seven Types of Ambiguity 1965 dir. John Ford, Jean-Luc Godard, Woody Allen, John Cassavetes, Otto Preminger, Roman Polanski, Cecil B. De Mille. Bob Hope, Anna Magnani, James Mason, Judy Garland. Four wacky intellectual castaways keep warm by knitting amazing neck beards.

Wittgenstein’s Nephew 1998 dir. Charles Crichton. Matt Damon, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two wacky invalids discuss philosophy and get wheeled around a hospital.

The Cantos 1947 dir. Douglas Sirk. Adolphe Menjou, Linda Darnell. A caged poet dreams of better days.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sir Thelonious of Coolsville

Oh, that Monk! Old Thelonious! Has anyone ever had the temerity to call him a one-handed piano player? Before me, that is? There’s a lot of it going around. Both things, actually, one-handed piano players and no one with the nerve to call them out on it.

I like Monk, he sure does repay the effort for anyone who dares to listen. But that left hand just jumps out sometimes and punches a chord, the right’s IQ is about eighty points higher.

McCoy Tyner, on all those ‘Trane records, one-handed. But man, could he ‘comp! That’s why old John had him around. Give him his solos, now get back to ‘compin’ so we can entertain the people. He set up the changes for the horns as good as anybody ever did, has or will, but he was hitting with one hand at a time. When the tempo slowed down he could do ok with two hands at once, the very nature of the piano, after all, to play it two times at once. Those ballads with Johnny Hartman show him off pretty good.

Chic Corea never even pretended to use both hands. He just put his left hand behind his back like he wished it’d go away. I saw that Return to Forever bunch, I thought I would scream, I’d never seen such a flesh monument to pretension before in all my life. Before they started they demanded complete quiet, no starting without it, some kind of meditative space, their Krishna friends were standing all around so they were showing off how cool they were. I was in the middle orchestra and I just started talking in conversational tones, fuck this shit, they’ll start eventually. They did, never having achieved total silence. Imagine the gall. All of their careers put together wouldn’t be as cool as Monk’s hat.

I’m just being a bitch, I suppose. All of these guys are justifiably famous, real musicians. But I do prefer my piano players to use both hands like they meant it. No afterthoughts. Two voices, melody, harmony and rhythm, a piano is a whole band in the right hands, two hands.

It can be done. Check out Tommy Flanigan. That shit is boss. Even better, Nat King Cole! Three voices! I won’t even mention the gods, like Oscar and Art, they’re playing with at least four hands at once or I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Pianos, that shit is mysterious. Just tripping little hammers that bang the strings, but it’s hard as hell to get the really good tone out of them. One thing, though, they can be kept in tune fairly easily, in a moderate climate anyway. Not like guitars, which by design cannot be successfully tuned to deliver true notes at all levels of the fret board, it’s impossible, if it’s in tune up here, it’s out down there, it’s true, inherently out of tune. Easier to carry, though.

Movie Review: Today You Die

Today You Die

Produced by Steven Seagal

This guy, I don’t know. He always plays a good guy in these self-produced movies, but he kills lots of innocent people along the way, all with a good-guy-smile on his face.

In this example of the genre he starts out burglarizing the apartment of a “drug dealer,” ingeniously of course, but he is discovered and has to fight his way out. The result? Three or four dead, including the “drug dealer,” and another handful stomped to shit. Steven, or “Harlan” in this instance, gets away clean with a huge pile of money and several kilograms of precious-jem-jewelry. Which, of course, he plans on giving to charity, after overhead, he has a wonderful lifestyle to maintain. This could be any number of things, and Felony-Murder in the first degree is one of them.

The Felony-Murder spree continues, in fact it accelerates. Steven signs on as a driver on a “legitimate deal,” although how a famous gangster could legitimately hire him to drive an armored Brinks style truck for a “money pick up” with an associate dressed up as a money carrier guard is not clear to anyone in the movie. It’s pretty clear to the rest of us.

Legitimate deal my ass, the associate shoots and kills two of the “Brinks” guys. Two more Felony-Murders, ignorance is no defense on that one, not ever supreme ignorance. Steven then drives the van in an escape attempt, and in the process numerous police cars are spectacularly wrecked, we later find out that three officers died in the flaming crashes. Three more Felony-Murders, or even worse, all of this is in the course of dangerous felonies that Steven is guilty of. We’re up to about seven by now, all within about the first half hour of the movie.

Steven is arrested, and he goes to prison, all in the blink of an eye as is customary in these movies. He is justifiably sentenced to life without parole. In prison several more people get killed or maimed, but all of them are bad, not like the poor security guards or cops who are already dead.

Steven escapes with a new friend, who is the same strange combination of good guy and homicidal maniac. In the course of the ensuing pursuit of justice about twenty-five people are killed. Almost all of them are bad, and all races are represented, so it does not overly concern us.

By the end of the movie, Steven and his new jail-bird friend have recovered twenty million dollars of dirty money, kept some of it, and given the rest to a children’s hospital. The last scene is Steven and his girl friend schmoozing with the sympathetic woman DEA agent at the hospital surrounded by cute orphans. Fade to black.

Lake George

There’s only one place in America that I really miss. No, it’s not Times Square, the only Times Square that I know is long gone; not Central Park, I had enough of that when I was there, in New York, that and everything else too, especially the filth and the noise.

I liked the Giant Sequoias in California, they were nice, I don’t miss them. Yosemite is nice, very nice, I don’t miss it. Lots of beautiful memories, lots of places that I’ve never been, lots of good museums, I don’t miss any of it. New Orleans? Almost, but I missed out on that one big time. I had a ticket once, that’s a long story. I don’t care to go now.

The place that haunts me, and the loss of which makes me sad, is the Adirondacks, the mountains and the lakes, the forests, the trees, but mostly the lakes, one lake in particular. Lake George.

The Ticonderoga end, the Rogers’ Rock bend, Black Point Road. I’m sure that the “Sly Fox” is gone, a classic Criss Craft runabout, an eighteen footer. I’m sure that I wouldn’t recognize a lot of it. I don’t care.

I know that I would remember the feel of the water, the great, clear, heavy Lake George water. Several times a year I dream myself swimming in the lake, and I can feel the water very accurately, the water so cold but so welcoming. I know that I would welcome the sound of the little pseudo-waves that hit the rocky edge of the lake in the morning. I don’t really care what I’d see, or what I’d remember, that is my place. That is the only place in America that I long to get back to once before I die. Too look at Rodgers’ Rock; to see the rain on the lake’s surface; to walk along the road at night, unable to see my shoes but covered with a hundred million stars. (I’d probably have to go to Canada for that one.)

I don’t care what I’d find. I don’t care what it has all become. I need to be there. To close my eyes and swing my head back and just be there. I need to go back, no agenda, no excuses, no expectations. There will come a time when it stretches from horizon to horizon, when it becomes my entire world, my entire focus, my reason to go on, to go back, to see it and feel it, to smell the thick mat of forest-corruption, to listen to the birds, I know, I’ve heard so many birds, but I want to hear those birds, those Adirondack birds, those Lake George birds, and listen to those little waves, just a couple of mornings, and I’ll be happy, after that I can die happy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Poetry Corner Interuptus

We interrupt 1968 to bring you this poem:

Mea Culpa

Mea culpa:
If anyone were so bereft
he couldn’t do a simple thing like not snore,
he certainly should be land-damned.

Mea culpa:
I lacked the wherewithal I needed,
to survive a decade plus shear terrorized
by experts at school, and a talented amateur at home,
please excuse me, no, not an excuse,
an explanation: I was damaged.

Mea culpa:
Who needs a mother’s love? Who?
Babies, that’s who,
and I had it for a year or two,
so what’s the big deal?
Stop your bellyaching.

Mea culpa:
I was his namesake, his son,
and I even looked like him.
But people show love in different ways,
it’s only human nature.
My little sister missed him more than I did
when he stopped coming home from work.
I think we all wondered what we’d done.

Mea culpa:
I’ve never been a good bread winner.
It’s not the work part, work I can do,
it’s the job part, there’s never been one I could stand.
So exposed; temperamental; anxious; and those people!
Make a note: never hire this guy.

Mea culpa:
I can be charming, but I’m not very nice.
It comes out finally, the real me.
I try to be polite, but finally I just go off,
Old Faithful, that’s me, just wait.

Mea culpa:
I tell people that I love them,
it works sometimes, I get what I want.
Honestly, I don’t think I have it in me.
My fault, I should have tried harder to learn.

Mea maxima culpa:
I have chosen to waste my talents,
a serious affront to god.
Chosen never to be happy, chosen to push people away,
a serious affront to society.
I lacked character and chose indolence over industry,
unproductive, leaving nothing behind.
Mea maxima culpa.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: 1968, Part Three

And all over, suddenly, lots of people
Who weren’t eligible to fight,
Started to get American Flag Crazy,
And lots of people who were eligible,
To die, that is, for what we all knew by then was bullshit,
Went out into the streets to say, Hell No!
And many cities were troubled, and colleges,
And the smell of burning was everywhere,
Flags, buildings, draft cards, bras, neighborhoods.
The election suddenly became more important.
I was not a fan of President Johnson,
Now I know he wasn’t so bad, some stuff anyway,
He said, Hell No! I’m out, no way, but who then?
So many reasons to get up, and get involved.
Me? I pulled my collar up and my head down,
The cup had already passed from me,
I was just waiting for it all to be over,
But really it had hardly begun.

Over in old Europe,
The fever had caught on big time,
I read about those French students,
And saw it all on TV,
It all looked so unreal,
I thought to myself,
What are they so pissed about?
They’re French.

Yes, Race Matters

There’s so much loose talk around these days about criminals getting away with things. Only someone who get their ideas exclusively from movies could believe it. In that setting, it makes good drama and sets up a satisfying blood bath. In real life, most “criminals” are down, down, down.

In fact, if they’re Black, they’re way fucking down. How’d this be for a movie:

Young man, twenty or so, comes home to find a man beating up his mother in the kitchen of their home. His mother is hurt already, bleeding from a couple of places. The son jumps in to save his mother, and a terrific battle ensues, in the course of which the son kind of half pulls the man’s ear off. Police arrive at the scene. The son is arrested along with the man who was beating up his mother.

The man who was beating up the mother was let go, not enough evidence of a crime, but the cops kept him close as exhibit one in the case against the son. Some Assistant DA had a brainstorm: regarding the Assault and Battery the son can plead defense of another, that’d work, but if we charge him with Mayhem, he has no defense! Genius.

Technically, Mayhem is anything done by one person to another which would reduce that man’s effectiveness if called to fight for the King, like cutting something off, or blinding a person. Cutting, or pulling off an ear, qualifies. It’s still on the books. The man who was beating up the mother appears as a witness, the mother has no role in the trial, and the young man is found guilty.

I met the man some time later. I don’t know what the original sentence was, but it was long, and he was in California big-wall prisons for eighteen years. He was a really nice guy, he shook his head telling me the story, and it was like he still didn’t really believe it either, he didn’t seem to bear the state any malice.

He was the single blackest person that I have ever met. He was much blacker than coal, much blacker than car tires. I have seen crows almost as black, but they reflect too much light to be as black as this guy. Any black that you can name was a cheerful grey next to his skin. He was so black, his gums were jet black; he was so black, the palms of his hands were black. It’s a tough life for a Black man in America. If he were White, he’d have gotten a medal for saving his mother. Black? Eighteen years.

Good material for a movie? Nope. No one wants to be reminded about the absurd treatment that Black people receive in the name of American Justice.

All American Blacks have similar stories, not so extreme, but similar. Maybe no jail time in the story, but it sure is something bad that would never happen to a White person in a million years. Get to know a Black person and once they get to trusting you they’ll tell you their story. I have shaken my head in wonder at many such stories. It’s quite an education.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Inflation in Thailand

No, I'm not talking about cosmetic surgery. It's all about the money. Somehow, as the value of the Baht against the Dollar goes up, the number of Baht required to buy anything is going up.

Gas is up to 40B a liter, that's $1.30, times four for the gallon price, $5.20. In Baht that's more than the daily minimum wage, which lots of people get paid. The 20B bowl of noodle soup is now 30B, and all food has gone up at that rate, 10B may only be thirty cents but that's a 50% increase, the poor people are going nuts.

Everyone here travels by bus, the roads are covered with them, those tickets are way up too. And the little pick-up truck local "buses" are up 30% to 50%, lots of people ride those twice a day; kids take them to school.

This oil thing is hurting the little countries worse then the big.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: 1968 Part Two

Things settled down for me, but politics heated up,
I saw Bobby Kennedy in a college classroom,
Preaching to the converted, I liked him,
Practicing for the coming presidential season,
As it turned out, the calm before the storm.

We waited for the weather to clear.
When spring arrived, the real fun started,
Somebody, nobody is really sure,
Somebody, a good shot, gave the gift
Of Martyrdom to Martin Luther King.
Lots of people took the news very poorly,
Lots of acting out, frustrations pouring forth,
Condemnations flying in all directions,
It’s not so hard to understand,
Anguish, despair, and recriminations
Such as Law and Order,
Election-speak for “those people . . .”
Two birds with one stone,
One less thorn in the side of the power,
And one good election issue for people that vote,
The wrong people, as it happened.

Down South in Dixie
Came the first in a string of
Gratuitous massacres of university students,
The unmitigated gall, they wanted to go bowling,
Black, of course, the test case, hardly anyone noticed.

Book Review: “The Last Gospel,” by David Gibbins.

The author is a quite accomplished archeologist, and the protagonist is a supremely accomplished, and supremely lucky archeologist. Art imitating life. Mr. Gibbins “has worked in underwater archeology all of his professional life;” he has a Ph.D. from Cambridge and has taught archeology in Britain “and abroad;” and he is a “world authority on ancient shipwrecks and sunken cities.” We find this out half-way into the first paragraph on the frontispiece, presented, as it were, as the most important information in the book.

The protagonist, Jack Howard, makes it all look very easy as he exceeds the accomplishments of Mr. Gibbins by leaps and bounds. In this volume, 500 plus pages, 150,000 words or so, he: 1) discovers the remains of the wreck of St. Paul’s ship, which sank off the coast of Sicily in about the year 50 AD; 2) intuits the location of and actually finds and enters the library of the Emperor Claudius in Herculaneum, discovering in the process that Claudius had not actually died by poison in 54 AD or so, but had actually faked his own death so that he could retire in peace (the library has miraculously survived virtually intact the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the ensuing 2,000 years); 3) intuits the location of, finds and enters the actual tomb of Queen Boudica of the Brits, intact and undiscovered beneath the streets of central London, her red hair still flowing wild, her fabulous gold treasure undisturbed; 4) is taken to and examines a perfect replica of a villa in the style of Romanized Brits which has secretly existed in Santa Paula, California for almost one hundred years; and 5) attends a meeting in the actual tomb of St. Paul, which unbeknownst to virtually anyone is under St. Peter’s in Rome, somewhat next to the tomb of St. Peter himself. I haven’t finished the book yet, I’m sure he will distinguish himself further. He is stumbling across these intermediate triumphs on his quest for the lost Gospel of Christ, in the great man’s own handwriting.

The book is very full of exposition in a pseudo-academic style. Much of it is clumsily introduced, as in “tell me more about Queen Boudica, Jack.” It was good information, though, and I enjoyed learning some details of archeology that have escaped me all of these years.

There are girls in the book, but so far no one has been kissed. There are guns in the book, but so far only one has gone off, hitting nothing. There has been some tension in the narrative, but I can recall episodes of the George Reeves “Superman” television series that had more drama in them. I’m not complaining really, I’m enjoying it, it’s a quick read, the sentences and paragraphs are tolerably well constructed, I’m traveling this week and it is a perfectly good “Railway Novel.”

You could do worse on a long flight.

My Unfortunate Absences from Your Lives

I have not been hit by a bus, or a water buffalo, nor been laid low by some fearsome parasite. I have just been traveling. I taught in Chiang Mai last weekend and then took a few days of R n' R in the mountains. Friends were in abundance, and being dragged from one good restaurant to another left me little time for keyboard pounding.

I did find time to teach a first grade class, that was fun.

Please be assured of my deep and abiding love for you, and thanks as always for reading and commenting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More Pattaya Pix.

It was a "Staff" weekend, broadly defined. The woman on the left is a cafeteria worker.

A few of the guys.

Your humble content provider on the veranda.

On the right should be "Pat" or "Chris." I don't know, can you tell me?

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: 1968, Part One

This poem is so long, 1,300 words, that I'll break it up into smaller doses. I couldn't help it, lots of stuff happened that year.


The year got off to a shaky start for me,
I was in Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego,
The Navy was deciding if I was worth keeping,
I had three years to go, I was not indifferent
To the outcome of their process.
They gave me an Honorable Discharge,
Administrative Separation, very easy,
I went home, not too humiliated,
Mostly happy not to be on gunboats in the Delta,
Or juggling napalm bombs on a carrier in a storm.

I was off the war news by then,
So I missed a lot of the details
Of the Tet Offensive, as it was happening,
Proving my point, as it turned out,
That there was more to war than winning and losing,
And sometimes, like this time,
Not-Losing will trump Winning.
I had no credentials, though,
I was in no way academic,
Explaining this to Naval officers,
I had only the arrogance of youth,
And a vulgar manner and accent,
But I was right, after all.
They looked on me as a cancer, and cut me out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pattaya Pix

Is it just me, or does this woman look just like Martha Stewart? She's never heard of Martha Stewart by the way.

So many Russians go to Pattaya, and I hardly ever see them anywhere else. They love the beach and the packages must be cheap, there are so many hotels.

Would any Thai party be complete without a wide assortment of beautiful women? This group ranges from nineteen to sixty four years old. The young woman on the left is Muslim, Thai muslims are so happy and they wear the religion so lightly, they could really show the Middle East a thing or two.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pattaya One: The Prequel

I am going to Pattaya tomorrow, where I am assured that everything will be free. The university is taking us down on buses. Many departments, if not all, are going somewhere nice, Biology is going to Cha Am, I’ve been, it’s nice. There will be seminars to endure, but since they will be presented in Thai no one expects me to attend. We have a nice hotel lined up, right on the beach, almost certainly ESPN and Star Sports, watch a little Australian Football, those guys are nuts, maybe the basketball playoffs have started. How would I know?

In the midst of this, I found myself considering my education, nothing to do with anything but that’s how I do things. Today I was reading some of the thoughts of one of the great thinkers of the Twentieth Century, Buckminster Fuller. He spent considerable time mocking contemporary attempts at education. Counterproductive, etc. Teaching kids to think in squares when everybody knows the real wisdom is found in tetrahedrons. He’s a trip, that’s for sure.

In a moment of supreme self-flattery, I wondered if I had intuited just the same conclusion that he had reached semi-academically: I certainly stopped trusting contemporary education, where it came to educating me, at a point fairly early in my academic career. Really, I think in my case a deep, well reasoned hostility to authority was the cause of my disengagement from conventional education. One way or the other, in the seventh grade I gave up on those people and set off to educate myself. Not in so many words, but I was genuinely, feverishly interested in so many things that the result was a great deal of reading and inquiry. Through four years of high school, I co-operated not at all, read nothing that was assigned, copied all of the homework, only half listened in class since I had to be there anyway and counted on what I’d heard to take me through the tests. I passed everything and graduated: in my class of 291 students I was number 271. I have always been proud of that. In that four years I had learned a lot more than almost anybody in my class. I’d become a good chess player too. You don’t have to believe me, I have nothing to prove to you or anybody else. Not intellectually, those facts speak for themselves.

Later I got myself a good conventional education, BA at thirty-five and JD at forty-three. What does it all mean? Nothing, I suppose.

But now Pattaya, on Ramkhamhaeng’s nickel, should be fun, good seafood, nice steamed sea bass with chili-lime flavoring, some nam-geem, mmmm. Pattaya is a zoo, I’d never go there just because I wanted to. Lots of Russian tourists staggering around drunk with horrible sunburns, a large beer bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, pulling at girls clothes as they go, laughing grotesquely, in stupid outfits. Not my scene. Lots of desperate young women inviting you to “have a drink,” and “relax.” What else is there to do, though, for any of us, but wander through this shitty world cataloging the sad, awful things that surround us? Should be fun. I may even bring a bathing suit.

Pattaya Two: Russian TV

Russian television is funny. Like yesterday I saw a gardening show where this kind of cute older hippie woman was demonstrating how to make a vegetable garden as big as the top of a desk. She was sitting on a low stool and from that perch she could reach any spot in the garden. It was fairly elaborate too. She had dug out the rectangle and replaced about four inches of the plain dirt with good topsoil. It was very well organized. If she said how many people it would feed I’d never know it.

Now I’m watching an interview show. The interviewer looks and listens with great concentration, while the interviewee has been talking non-stop for about ten minutes now. He speaks in a monotone and he hardly moves. He has an academic black beard and wears a black t-shirt that says, “I’m out of my mind, leave a message.”

The good news is that Russians are permitted to be normal modern European humans now, none of that “Soviet Man” crap, serious all the time, no fashion, no fun, no nothing. Now, if they’re happy, they show it; models are a popular subject and they are as vacuous and beautiful as models anywhere; if there is a flood or something on the news people cry and complain, just like they should. I remember the pictures of Russians in the old days. If they looked at the camera at all it was with a mixture of fear and supreme caution. Everyone was stoic, it had been mandated by the Communist Constitution. I’m glad those guys are gone, or at least that those guys have realized that fifty percent of a lot is more than ninety percent of a little, tiny bit. Happy people work harder, and there’s more to steal. It’s the Capitalist way.

Pattaya Three: Kara-OK

I had another successful gig as a karaoke singer tonight. Only one song, “Wonderful Tonight,” which happened to be a favorite of one of the women professors in my department. She was a “judge” of the impromptu contest at the party on the last night of a seminar/retreat weekend for staff and professors at our university. There were a couple of other women in attendance that I am pretty sure find me interesting, and they were also mightily impressed. During the song I was handed flowers by five women and one swish guy, I feel on these occasions like Julio Inglasias on a good night.

After my Farang song I pretend sang a Thai song with the help of one of the Masters of Ceremony, in full Thai costume with makeup and everything. The whole thing was a gas, I even allowed myself to be dragged into dancing by a couple of gay guys, I hammed it up something shameless, I’m ok with stuff like that. I like having fun, I always have. Besides, I was a little lit. Just a little, a couple of cocktails beforehand and wine at the party, Penfolds, from “South-East Australia,” and Penfolds is very good too, and pretty expensive, this was Shiraz.

It was a swell party. All of the food was excellent, hotels in Pattaya can all be trusted to cook up a storm. They throw in regional stuff too, for the rubes. Isan sausage; Northern Larb. The seafood is always a treat, they had some grilled shrimp as big as Tea-Cup Chihuahuas.

The most interesting part of this “Seminar Weekend” was the casual approach to implementing the agenda. Friday’s schedule showed lots of stuff for the morning, none of which took place; we just left on the buses at two p.m. That evening dinner was superb and lasted a couple of hours in the penthouse banquet room.

Saturday’s schedule was some kind of serious exercise in the morning, it was done shallowly with flair and fun, and wild games in the afternoon. We were split into teams of about ten people. I was, of course, the only Farang at this event, a situation that I seem to relish, and that I have been in on literally dozens of occasions. It’s a little like being Helen Keller, who knows what’s really going on but I’m having fun. And Saturday night the party, wildly successful if fun was the goal.

Sunday morning’s schedule had something serious on it, which was totally ignored in favor of walking on the beach or swimming in the pool. The agenda, clearly, was just a smoke-screen to facilitate the budgeting of the money. There’s a lot to love about this country.

Pattaya Four: Russians Have Soul

I complain about Russians, I’m sorry, it’s not really fair. On balance I think that they are very ok for White people.

For instance, I think that they have real Soul, independent of the influence of Black people. Sure they can be boorish. I’ve never been comfortable with loud talking in public. And you should see the gauche outfits they wear on vacation in Thailand. The bathing suits! So tiny! The women (some of them), so fat! The men too, with the tiny bathing suits and the big bellies. Russians are among the whitest of the Earth’s people, and after a few days in Thailand they are definitely the reddest. But they have real Soul, Russian Soul.

So it’s ok. Go ahead, be Russian. What do I know anyway?

And I am sincerely glad to have the real, natural Russian folks back in the world instead of those so-called Soviet cut-outs, robotic inventions of supremely maladjusted probably Germans, welcome back, Russians, let’s party!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

They're Back!

Just to say hello, I was away for a couple of days. Pattaya and a "seminar weekend" with staff and some prof's. I'll put up some pix and a story or two tomorrow.