Monday, April 30, 2012

An Unusually Nice Burmese Soldier

I might have mentioned, I made it to the "Three Pagodas Pass" border station last month. That's the Thai/Burma border, or Thai/Myanmar if you prefer ("Burma" seems to be making a comeback). My friend Suksa and his wife are standing with a Burmese border guard. The guard is not smiling, but if he were you'd see that his teeth are stained black from chewing betel nut. No one in Thailand does that anymore. He was an interesting guy in other ways. He was very friendly, for instance, gregarious even. He spoke very good English, and very good Thai. He cheerfully posed for pictures, and he even let us walk inside the gate a little bit and see a couple of things (without paying the VISA fee). Suksa was of the opinion that the Burmese government wanted to put their best face forward at this border post.

Sorry For The Confusion

But you know, a new version of this Blogspot software hit about a week ago. Now perfectly good paragraphs on the composition screen do not show up on the site. Someone told me his was fine, he browses with Chrome, mine is Firefox. I downloaded Chrome but those things just disappear into an Apple and you never see them again. I'm still with the Firefox. All of these sentences were on a paragraph break when written, let's see how they come up.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Even More Testing

How about shift-enter? Shift enter.

Internet Privacy

Does anyone out there have any expectation of privacy on the Internet? The whole idea seems foolish, of course we don't. In law school we studied a case about privacy where the cops searched someone's garbage, at the curb, and found evidence of a crime that was then used to prosecute him. The question on appeal was: is there an expectation of privacy for trash that has been deposited in a can and brought to the curb for pickup? The answer was: no. Applying this logic, of course they can closely examine our Internet lives. Me, I think the question should not be posed as "do we have an expectation of privacy," but rather, "SHOULD we have an expectation of privacy." Just my opinion. Before the can was brought to the curb the answer was not so clear, but at the curb the court felt that the guy had relinquished control and given up his rights to the trash. So the search and subsequent use of the evidence was constitutionally permitted. Maybe our Interneting habits are more like the can at the side of the house, or maybe, probably, it's something different all together. We'll see. Long paragraphs are boring and hard to read. I hope that I can figure this whole paragraph thing out soon.
So let's just put in something . . . (Paragraph) That one was just an "enter" (Paragraph) This one is a "function key" "enter" Enter plus control, option, or command didn't even enter

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I'm still wondering where the paragraph breaks went. (Paragraph Break) So let's see if this one took effect. (Paragraph Break) I still don't see any way to put tags on the post either.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

River Near Burma

More of that Kwae Noi River. That bridge in the distance is probably a good lighter-weight version of the original "Bridge on the River Kwai," which was pretty close to here on the same river.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Never Look A Good Luck Horse In The Mouth

Good luck should never be undervalued. In this case, we were driving along and we came to this detour about fifteen minutes after the event. Six or eight power poles fell over, onto the road, and they were not just some poor wooden things but big-time concrete monoliths. A couple of cars were trapped amongst the sparking wires; one may even have been hit by a pole. So, like I said, we missed it by fifteen or so minutes. That's good luck, and I appreciate it. Unusual event by the way. We drove past the next day and it looked like the poles had been set in box-shaped things also made of concrete. These poles are very common in Thailand, and in the rest of the world too by the way, but the boxes were a new twist for me. A fair guess is that the concrete in the boxes was not properly constituted. The collapses reduced them to dust. Not enough cement is always a good guess. That would be unusual. Thais are very proud, and in general they make a great attempt to do a job right from the ground up.

Please Watch Your Head

This is how they get you. Oh, come on! Study our language! It'll be fun! And then they keep pulling the rug out from under you. Like this sign. The first part of it says, "ra-whang," which means "look out," or "beware." I know that. And I know the word for "head" too, it's "hoo-ah." But this sign says, "ra-whang see-sah." What would that mean? Look out for what? Well, you've got me, or you did until I asked somebody. This part of the cave roof was about four feet off the ground, so "head" is a good guess, and that's what it means too. Why not use the more common word? When I ask questions like that the answer is usually, "it's Sanskrit."

Bad Astronaut - Jessica`s Suicide.wmv

These are two great bands performing the same great song, always fun. For me, as some of you know, it's all about the cover versions. Bad Astronaut is the cover.

ArmChair Martian Jessica Suicide

This one is the original. They must have been friends, or at least they knew one another, because they're both on the bill in the above photo. I like both versions; the Arm Chair Martians emphasize the narrative and Bad Astronaut are more the sonic cowboys. I don't know, call me suggestible, this song always gives me chills.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sonkran Festival In Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Lots of Songkran action in Kanchanaburi. Songkran is the Thai holiday that is usually referred to in the West as the "Water Festival." Actually, it's the Thai lunar New Year. Thais love holidays so much that the celebrate three new year's days, Jan. 1st; Chinese New Year; and Songkran. So, back when they were wondering how to celebrate new years I can totally imagine being at the meeting. "What can we do to make it special, to make it fun?" "Well, it's the hottest month of the year by far, so baking cakes is out." "I got it! Let's throw water at each other! Big giant water fights! We can put ice in the water, and throw big buckets of it!" The original idea was to just sprinkle a little bit of water on the shoulder of your family and friends, to bless them and wish everybody luck. I don't quite know if the sprinkler or the sprinklee gets the luck, but good luck is the idea. By now it has become an all-out water World War III, with hoses and complete drenching. So, the advice is: if you find yourself in Thailand for Songkran, be sure to keep a few zip-lock bags on hand for your wallet, your phone, and your camera.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lookin' for a Love - The Valentinos - HQ

The hit count on this YouTube video is so low that I get the impression that not many people are aware of this cut. The Rolling Stones did a respectable version very early on; this is the original. (Oh no they didn't. That was "It's All Over Now," another great Valentinos cut.) The Valentinos included all four of the Womack Brothers, I'm pretty sure, I'm winging it (as usual). They were four left-handed guitar playing Gospel singers who were hooked up with Sam Cooke's label. Bobby was the most famous brother. This is creme de la creme of all time stuff right here.

Whoa, What Just Happened?

Okay, a new "New Post" box, okay. It's cool Fred, you can do this. I see a few things, how to do them; some other things seem to be missing. Let's see how this thing works.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Who You Gonna Call? Ghost-Tree Busters

Usually if you see this kind of votive decoration on a tree in Thailand it's one of those bodie trees like the Buddha sat under. This isn't one of those.

In fact it's a very ordinary looking tree. I took this picture in the middle of a National Park/Rain Forest kind of place in western Kanchanaburi. I asked my buddy Suksa what the deal was, what was so special about this particular tree? The answer was surprising, which happens pretty often now that I think of it.

This type of tree is famously strong in the spirit. All of the trees, and the forest for that matter, they all have spirits, but this type of tree is very, very strong, and not in a good way. Suksa remembered a movie from his youth, Thais love ghost movies and this one made a big impression. In the movie, a young woman dies in less than great circumstances and is buried in a hollowed out trunk from one of these trees. The container creates in her a malevolent ghost that proceeds to raise hell all around those responsible for her demise.

So just to be safe, I waied the tree. ("To wai," put your hands together and lower your face a bit. To show respect, you know.)

Songkran Festival Scene In Kanchanaburi

I love the three-on-a-motorcycle thing. These three are going home from a Songkran party (the Thai Water Festival), or, more likely, from one Songkran party to another. Notice the heavy water rifle that the guy in the middle is carrying.

My favorite three-up of all time was in Chiang Mai, on a rainy Friday night years ago. Let's call them number one, number two and number three, the three teenagers on the bike. Number one was piloting the bike; number two was holding an umbrella over them all (number one was holding down the front of the umbrella with his left hand so the wind didn't carry it away); number three was holding a mobile phone to the left ear of number one, who was gabbering away on the phone. Great life-threatening fun, I hope that they made it.

Raquel Welch - Bang Bang (Rare 1967 clip)

Sure, any great singer could sing this song. But how many singers can you think of that could do this?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finally A Really Good Picture

A nice picture, if I do say so myself.

This is on the River Kwae near the border with Burma. This is the famous river, known in America as the River Kwai, as in "Bridge on the River Kwai." If you ask a Thai about the River Kwai, they look at you and say, "what river? Is that in China?"

And there are two: the Kwae Yai and the Kwae Noi (the large and the small). They split apart and come back together fifty or sixty miles downstream. This shot is on the Kwae Noi. There's even more to it, it's a long story.

Internet Movie Database Complaint

Don't get me wrong, I love the IMDB. I check stuff every day. It's great, a great service. But . . .

Today I got into some comments, and I felt like putting in my two cents. I forgot my password, so I went through the process of getting a new one, that all went fine. Then I was asked to "authenticate" my account. Or "verify" or something. To do that I was asked to either give them a credit card number or a cell phone number that was SMS capable.

The credit card thing, I'm sorry but that had my bullshit detector ringing off the hook. That's not going to happen, sorry. I tried the SMS route, but that doesn't seem to be doing the trick.

What possible reason could the IMDB have for wanting a credit card number? Comments are legion on the site, so have all of those commenters provided credit card numbers? Or are they just more tech-savvy than me (this is actually likely).

It's a small mystery.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not A Movie Review: Battleship

No, I'm not going to review "Battleship." Maybe I'll just remind everybody that I love the entire alien-invasion genre. I saw "The Mysterions" when I was ten or so, loved it, and I've seen them all ever since. Hell, I even liked "Skylight." So of course I liked "Battleship." But this is not a movie review, it's more of a comment on movie making.

Alfred Hitchcock famously observed that actors were like cattle. I think that I agree with him in general, I think he meant that a director should just stick his hand up in there and work them like puppets. Whose movie is it after all? And most actors can use the help. Along these lines, "Battleship" serves to prove that sometimes a good director, with a strong assist from a good film editor, can create an acceptable performance from whole cloth, with little or no help from the actor or actress.

Rihanna has her acting debut in "Battleship," unless you want to give her an acting credit for pretending to be a singer for the last few years. She's in a lot of scenes too, but early on I noticed that the editing process seemed to be cutting off her actions what seemed like a little early. Then I realized that the film makers were preserving the good parts of her shots, and cutting away in what must have seemed to them to be just in the nick of time.

For the fact that she manages to project the odd appropriate emotion I will thank the director. Apprehension; Fear; Shock; Anger; Resolve; Relief; Happiness; Rihanna does project these things on cue. After, no doubt, careful prompting from the director, but still, she does it.

I will say this in her favor: she hits her marks, and she delivers her lines. There are people who would tell you that that is all there is to acting. There's more to acting though, and it is the director and the editor that we have to thank for ninety percent of Rihanna's performance in "Battleship."

N.B. No, I don't think that all directors are men, etc. So let all pronouns and generic terms like "actors" include both sexes. "An actor" though, generally, does not in my opinion refer to an actor of either sex, "an actor" would be a man. Unless one is referring to all of the actors in the world, an actor is a man. A woman who act is "an actress." Somehow I have no problem with women who fly planes being "aviators," instead of "aviatrixes," but I find it annoying when women refer to themselves as "actors." Maybe it's because flying a plane is not gender-specific, while PLAYING A WOMAN IN A FILM IS.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Love This Guitar

This was my first real guitar. I bought it at Fretted Instruments in the Village (or "Greenwich Village Close" as the real estate people say), it cost me sixty-five dollars. I bought it in 1965, when I was seventeen.

It's a 1949 Gretsch Syncromatic, not a "cat's eye" sound hole model, but pretty cool nonetheless. It's a great sounding guitar to this day, very fat sound, very loud and musical, all solid maple with a three piece maple/rosewood neck and an "ebony-dyed" rosewood fingerboard. Historical note: in the movie "Cry Baby," the Johnny Depp character played the same guitar.

Yes, I'm the one who painted it. Bear in mind, we were all crazy back then, and besides, I still like it.

It was a beater when I got it, but it still functions perfectly and plays great.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Wonders Of Home Grown Occidentalism

I just came across and re-read an article from the New York Review of Books (Jan. 2002) that I had stashed in a book. The article is called “Occidentalism,” which is defined as the hatred of Western Civilization in general and/or the United States in particular. It was a timely article, having come fast on the heels of a most sincere demonstration of someone’s hatred of the U.S. at least, probably the West too.

Al Qaeda was neither the first, nor the most vehement, nor the most destructive of the Occidentalist haters. Hitler’s Germany was high on the list; Imperial Japan; Mao’s China; the USSR; and, of course, the centuries of Islamists before Al Qaeda made the scene. Why should they all hate us so? The writers of the article, Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, suggested that there were four targets common to all of the haters:

1. The City
2. The Bourgeois
3. Reason; and
4. Feminism

These four things set off the Occidentalists because “each of them contains a set of attributes, such as arrogance, feebleness, greed, depravity and decadence” that the haters find “typically Western or American.” As the three-time-loser answered the sentencing judge who asked him if he had anything to say in his defense: your honor, whom amongst us is perfect?

It’s easy to see why the haters listed above were angry and frustrated by America and the West. For the Nazis, we were famous reminders of popular ideas that they were in the process of, let’s say, trying to de-emphasize. For some, our out-performance of their own cultures represented an intolerable insult. For others, it was our lack of a suitable respect for their perceived superiority, or even of their alleged divinity.

The article briefly alludes to a mindset in our own midst that mimics the hatred that some outsiders display towards us. Right Wing Christians were a small, relatively ineffective group in 2002, but already they got an honorable mention. By now, of course, they have grown in importance by leaps and bounds, bounds! they hardly know any bounds these days! The seeds of “wind” planted by that master of mischief, Ronald Reagan, have grown into a bumper crop of “whirlwind” in the fullness of time. The cart of Hayseed Fundamentalism now comes before the Horse of Republican politics, and much of the rest of politics too.

Look at their attitudes towards those four things that the Occidentalists hate:

1. The City:

Our native haters tell us that they prefer the “Real America,” which they find out in the stix somewhere, where the “Real Americans” live, having old fashioned “Family Values,” and following the Christian Religion “that America was founded on.” Oh, save us! they say, from all of that diversity, all of those liberated women, all of those decadent, depraved homosexuals and fornicators. As though their God forsaken regions could prosper without us! (And forget their entertainment options without us.)

2. The Bourgeois:

The currently hated manifestations of the bourgeois are the public sector workers of America (state, city and Federal), and anybody still lucky enough to be in an effective union. These groups are seen to be taking unfair advantage at the expense of the rest of the country. I’d include most European workers in the group that the American haters hate, because of the higher wages, the great benefits, and the huge vacations.

3. Reason:

Science is the poster-child for this hatred of reason, but any kind of intellectual pursuit is similarly under fire. Knowing anything makes one suspect to this crowd; knowing nothing is the goal. (Except about football, that is.) Hatred and naked contempt for science is totally out of control in America. The evolution thing, the Global Warming thing, limitations on the practice of medicine by doctors, the curtailing of promising research, the retreat from exploration. All of these categories overlap to some degree, the City includes the “east-coast elites” at the proper universities, and all of the mostly coastal propeller-headed populations of people who could fight their way out of a metaphoric (intellectual) paper bag.

Yeah! Let’s hear it for people who profit daily from the great advances of science, yet reject those discoveries that do not align with their “gut feelings,” or what their pundit-asshole style-leaders tell them, or those discoveries that disagree with their revealed literature.

4. Feminism:

Female liberation, “Women’s Lib,” is the boogie man here. Women, God bless their warm little hearts, etc, have made great advances in the past hundred years, and now those victories are mostly in jeopardy. The current attack on women’s happiness is furious and concerted, and it has been pretty successful so far. Weird legislation mandating physically intrusive procedures for merely philosophical reasons; intentional embarrassment of women for no purpose; spiteful legislation making it harder to do everything that the actual law says a woman has the right to do; it’s a zoo out there. I watch all of this happening and I wonder: who will fight for women? Right now it appears that the Religious fanatics and way too many pathetic, insecure males in authority are making too much headway and meeting way too little effective opposition. Somehow, lots of guys feel threatened by any woman who is not calm and submissive and focused mainly on breeding (like some bad Chow on “The Dog Whisperer.”)

So don’t ask me why I choose not to live there anymore. I lack the talent, the inclination, or the energy to save America from itself, and even more profoundly I lack the tolerance for utter bullshit that it seems to requires.

Alert The Media: Andrew Breitbart Still Dead

I know, I didn’t believe those rumors that it was all a trick either. He’s dead. I can’t say that I’m broken up about it. Good people die every day, and I have been known to suggest the names of others who would better have taken their place in Elysium, or elsewhere. Sometimes the strike of fate hits someone more deserving, someone we care less about, someone like Mr. Breitbart. “The late Andrew Breitbart;” I admit that I do like the sound of it.

It’s old news now, but at the time Gawker ran a great piece about it. Lots of really superb little bon mots in the piece, great turns-of-phrase. Like referring to the presenters at Fox News as “. . . the AquaNet-shellacked, c-minus Sturmabteilung of Fox News.” That’s a good one! Or calling Glen Beck “. . . an acid filled tear duct.”

They were not gentle with the late Mr. Breitbart either, not even with his alma mater. He went to Tulane University, which was described as “a place . . . where people can drink a lot of beer and wake up seven years later as attorneys.” Mr. Breitbart complained a lot about Liberals, but Gawker suggests that he “. . . wanted to be taken seriously by those Liberals, a weakness that might have been endearing were his unregenerate viciousness not routinely employed in racist whistle-blowing and character assassination.”

The article mentions the sudden outburst of good will that broke out upon the reporting of Mr. Breitbart’s unanticipated death. Many of these well-wishers had noted that he was a husband, and the father of four children. Gawker speculated that “. . . perhaps for some that’s enough reason to whitewash a career richly studded with racism, hatred and contempt.”

“Perhaps that’s enough to turn honest evaluations of a life riven with opportunistic malice into mealy-mouthed encomia about ‘a provocateur’ and a ‘punk rock journalist.’” It wasn’t enough for Gawker.

If ever there were a man who deserved both barrels in death, as in life, it was Andrew Breitbart.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jackson Browne - Jamaica Say You Will

Back in the '70's I thought that Jackson Browne was sentimental. I wasn't into sentimental. Maybe I was wrong, or maybe I've gotten sentimental too. Now I rather like Jackson Browne in general, and this song I love.