Friday, August 31, 2012

My Oldest Memory

It came back to me at the age of twenty-four, but it came back as clear and as loud as a bell. I was walking at the time across the campus of Queens College in Flushing, New York City, where I was a student at the time. I was walking, and looking up into a tree that had the sun behind it. A small, strong flash of sunlight came through the leaves, and in that microsecond, in a real Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment, I experienced the memory in its entirety, and what it meant, and the full terror of its implications.

There’s a word for this in our dictionaries: satori (n.) Buddhism; sudden enlightenment; Origin Japanese, lit. “awakening.”

It was the memory of seeing a similar flash of sunlight through the leaves of another tree when I was ten or eleven months old. I had awoken from a nap in one of those big, old fashioned baby carriages, under a big tree in our back yard. Not the ubiquitous stroller kind of today, but one of those old bathtub on wheels things. I was on my back, looking up into the tree, being entertained by all of the moving, shifting green patterns, when the flash hit me. In that microsecond, long before my walk on campus, I had had another satori experience. I had realized that I was alive, and I had become fully aware of what that meant, which was that I would die, and I had been amazed, and terrified.

Have I written about this before? That much is certain, but was in on this blog? Or just in some lost notebook? I couldn’t tell you offhand. But a good story is worth telling, isn’t it? even if you’ve heard it before?

Spelling Thai Words In English Is Harder Than It Sounds

The convenience store downstairs at my condo us staffed by very nice, hard working people.  One of the manager types is a young woman who recently had twins.  I was happy to see her when she got back from a brief maternity leave.  Upon her return, she had a question for me.

She asked me to write down the names of her children in the A,B,C's, "kien tee passa awngrit," ("write in English").  She told me what the names were, the two first names and the last name too, and I wrote them out for her.  I'm pretty sure that what I wrote will be the official English spelling for her children's names for all time.  I was careful to make a gesture at the rules for sounding out Thai while making them readable for what they were in English.  All of the names went very well, no real tricks in any of the names, but sometimes it's not easy.  

I give her top marks for asking me to help out though.  Lots of times Thais create spellings that are pure mischief. 

For instance, there's a restaurant chain here that I like called "Yum Saap."  To us, that looks like it should be "yum sahp," long "a" sound in the second word.  But when you say it, or when you see it spelled in Thai, it's really "yahm saep."  See what I mean?  They should have asked me how to spell it.  I'd have gone with "Yam Saep" to keep it simple. 

For the record, I will cheerfully do simple jobs like these, a few words at a time, free of charge.  Just, you know, to help avoid that mischief thing.

Lawless Soundtrack - #5 White Light White Heat

A very entertaining acoustic version, true to the original but still as different as night and day.   The version below, from the same movie, is way more different than that.  Way more.

Lawless Soundtrack - #12 White Light White Heat

From the Outer Limits of the cover universe, a special treat.

A Difference Without A Distinction

I am one of those who will tell you that your vote this November is important, that there is a difference between the Democrats and the Republicans in the race. But is there a meaningful difference? A distinction, a “marked difference or contrast?” At least on many issues the answer is no, I’m afraid, although I often argue otherwise in polite conversation.

Abortion and gay marriage? No difference really. Those are mere distractions to court the stupid vote. Social Security and Medicare? Republicans want to empty a clip not only into the social safety net but also into the social contract as a whole, while Democrats are only willing to watch it all die slowly. No distinction there. The Supreme Court? That might be the only clear difference between the parties these days. Just check the appointments . . . who do you think is doing a good job for citizens in general? Difference, check.

So the reality is that there is not much air between the mere prevarications of the Democrats and the outrageous, bald-faced lies of the Republicans. Overstated? “We want to insure the future of Social Security and Medicare!” That’s a whopper right there.

Not much difference between the Neoconservative Republicans on the one hand and the Neoliberal Democrats on the other. Both groups follow the philosophy of Economism, that all societal decisions must be based on cost/benefit analysis (and all benefits must be judged by tangible, financial advantages).

The real problem here, the elephant in the room, the iceberg to our national Titanic, is that the largest single spending item on our national budget is exempt from the requirements of Economism. That would be the budgets of the various entities that make up the National Security Apparatus, the whole thing, from Homeland Security to the NSA up through the different military services and including the Coast Guard. What they want, they get, in cost-plus, no-bid contracts. We must defend out freedom! (Irony intentional.) Economism be damned (as it should be, but on other grounds).

The two political parties share a profound disinclination to disturb this hungry monstrosity in any way. Any discussion of the National Security Apparatus, of its size, of its explosive, exponential growth over the last seventy years, of its dubious record of accomplishment, of its already crippling and rapidly increasing demands on our prosperity, of its role in the diminution of our freedoms, discussion of any of that is totally absent from the current presidential campaign.

Am I the only one who thinks that it is strange and wrong that the United States has been in a constant state of emergency since 1941?

Whoever is elected, and whoever controls congress, nothing will be done to rein in these security excesses taken, ostensibly, on our behalf. Before long it will be impossible to even take out the trash without a drone flying over, with facial recognition software, and probably at least a Taser on board, to see who you are and what you’re doing.

So what the hell, vote for whomever you wish. It hardly matters. Abortion will still be with us; gay marriage will continue to make inroads and gain acceptance; the great Liberal gains of the Twentieth Century will continue to be eroded; and the National Security Apparatus will continue to bankrupt us, placing our very future in jeopardy and delivering very little in the way of actual security. Either way, we’re losing.

Or vote for the Democrats, for the simple reason that you’ll get a better Supreme Court out of the deal.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roaring Lion - Papa Chunks

This, the singing style anyway, is the OG Calypso jump up.  This fellow was born in 1908, and started his Calypso career in the early 30's.  Lasted till 1999 too, and was still working, congrat's brother. 

So, what does "Papa Chunks" mean anyway? 

Sparrow Dead - Mighty Sparrow

Just because I love you . . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Water For The VIP's

First row big shots get the VIP treatment at the Fashion Show on August 27th.  Yes, I'm in the second row, being a minor big shot myself.  I had modestly set myself further back but I was moved up by an important friend of mine. 

See the post a few down for some idea of how the fashion show went.  There were a few ringers, like the model/movie star Pancake, but most of the cat-walk crowd were professors from the university (like me!). 

Another item for my resume. 

Monday, August 27, 2012


Not quite the atmospheric triumph that is the attached cover (below), but the Charts get top marks for sincerity.  Oh, that's not all, great, great job, fellows. 

Desiree - Laura Nyro

Not an easy song to get inside of and totally take over, but for my money this is one of the most successful covers of all time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Catwalk

This was some kind of promotional event at my university, Ramkhamhaeng.  Almost all of the garments were Thai silk.

Almost all.  I was invited to participate by my buddy, Ajan Wanida (that's her walking across the floor in the pink dress about half way through).  I don't own a silk shirt, so she told me to wear one of my Mahom shirts.  Mahom is a denim-like cotton fabric; it's very, very Thai but it's really just the opposite of a silk shirt.  The silk is what we call "high-so" over here, as in high-society.  Mahom is a farmers' shirt.   In my little Northern Town, almost everybody wears a Mahom shirt on Fridays.  The days have colors here, and Friday is blue.   Up there it's a worker solidarity thing, solidarity with the farmers and all of the salt-of-the-earth working people.  Everybody working at every bank; teachers and students at many schools; hotel and restaurant workers; most people join the fun.  The tradition goes back to the days when there were communists hiding out in the mountains, the early Seventies. 

I told another ajan that I know that it was perfect for me, because I am, after all, a man of the people.

No pictures of me on my camera.  Maybe next week, if I can bum a few from others. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sovereign Citizens Killings In Louisiana

A bunch of so-called Sovereign Citizens ambushed some local police down in Louisiana last Thursday, August 16th.  The silence has been deafening. 

Friday, early, I left for Si Saket.  I was two nights in a hotel with no Internet and no sound on the BBC in the room, so I was in effect cut off from the news.  I got back Sunday evening, and resumed my usual Internet antics, watching some CNN along the line.  It was Monday or Tuesday before I got a gentle wind of the shooting, on some blog.  It had already disappeared from the news. 

It wasn't easy to pick up through the Google either.  Finally this morning, on Wednesday, I formulated a word-search that got results.  The news sources listed were second tier, to put it in the most flattering light.  The details were sketchy.  There doesn't seem to have been much follow up, if any.

So why is this a non-story?  This fringe group of anti-government radicals jumps up and kills two policemen, and wounds one or two others (variously reported), and there's virtually nothing reported about it. 

Not news anymore?  Domestic terrorism a protected subject?  Why the silence?  Interesting, no? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wild Tchoupitoulas Big Chief Got A Golden Crown

Hotel Review: Boonsiri Boutique Hotel, Si Saket, Thailand

Si Saket is a sleepy little province way out east in the Isan region of Thailand.  I came out to teach a class for our "English for Lawyers" course, a required course for our LL.M.  Over a hundred students, it went well.  I love it when they're surprised that they could understand my English.  I speak more slowly every year, so by now I'm saying one . . . word . . . at . . . a . . . time.  It might sound funny to native speakers, but foreigners appreciate it. 

I was here two years ago and I stayed at this same hotel.  At the time, it was merely the "Boonsiri Hotel."  The place has been totally remodeled in the meantime and "Boutique" was added to the name.  The price was about the same.

This is a pretty nice hotel, and the remodel was done very well.  For example, the electrical equipment in my (rented) condo was very unusual when I moved in, real high-line stuff that most people just don't spring for.  The air-conditioner was a Carrier, and the water heater was a Stiebel Eltron.  The same brands and models were in my room at the re-done Boonsiri. 

The price can't be beat.  450 Baht a day, about thirteen dollars (that's with my professor discount).  The place is clean and comfortable.  The TV has two English channels: BBC News and Vietnamese HBO.  The BBC had no sound, don't ask me why; the HBO was all in English but almost everything had Vietnamese sub-titles. 

So I missed the content of the news, but at least I didn't miss "True Blood."  Interestingly, Vietnamese HBO was heavier on stuff like "Hop," "The Smurfs," "Honey I Blew Up The Kid," and "Dogs v. Cats."  All very cute.  Thai HBO is more into adventure and action. 

So I'd recommend this hotel except for one thing: the restaurant.  The free buffet breakfast was okay, very basic and no great shakes but it was okay.  I had dinner there the first night though and it was the worst plate of food that has been served to me in eight years in Thailand.  Pad Thai with Shrimp, but it was horrible.  It tasted like dishwater, and everything was way off.  Bean sprouts should be white, not brown, and they shouldn't all have little leaves sprouting from the bulb.  There's a nice little place across the street though, so don't let the lack of a decent restaurant deter you if you ever get out to Si Saket. 

Ha!  Fat chance of that!  I'm the lucky one, I am, I'm like Johnny Cash in that song, "I've Been Everywhere." 

Pussy Riot And The Rule By Law

So, sacrilege is now a crime in Russia? Russia has adopted Canon Law all of a sudden? A few cute girls attempting music in a church is now an affront to all Russian people? Failure to observe Russian Orthodox norms of behavior, such as dipping one’s fingers very gently in the Holy Water Font and then making the sign of the cross very slowly, is now punishable by the secular government by years of incarceration? These are interesting questions. Things have changed I guess, sacrilege in Russia used to be making fun of Uncle Joe’s mustache.

That Holy Water faux pas came up at the trial, by the way. The girls had been observed by some devout witnesses at the church splashing the Holy Water and making a fast, cursory sign of the cross. Blasphemy!

We’re considering now, many of us around the world, the difference between the rule of law and the quite different Rule By Law. The rule of law is to be desired, it’s a wonderful thing to have the law to protect us, we all agree that killings, armed robberies and theft in general are behaviors that should be discouraged.

Rule By Law happens when the law is employed by the ruling elite of a country to twist the law to its own purposes, as in the Pussy Riot scenario.

The rule of law is better. The application of legal sanctions should apply to all people equally, and the law should protect all people equally. Some governments, including the current Russian government evidently, prefer to use the law as a club to fight off their opponents, or keep certain groups on the run and down. Rule By Law can be no law at all, enabling political piracy.

It is not only authoritarian countries that find comfort in the Rule By Law. Any country that is merely overly status conscious will achieve the same result by offering different results to people from different income/achievement demographics.

My own miserable country is not entirely innocent in all of this. Check out the statistics for incarceration by race in America, for instance. Long ago a Hispanic friend of mine did a two-to-five in New York. I visited him up at the prison, and he explained to me that it was common knowledge that for the same crime, on the same facts, with the same evidence, a Black defendant would have gotten five-to-seven and a White defendant would have gotten off. Statistics bear this out. “Keeping certain groups down” indeed.

Needs work, this whole “justice is blind” thing.

As usual, this being a blog, I leave the hard work to you.

Heard A Good Joke, Forget Where

One day Moses and Jesus were playing golf. At the first tee, Moses hit a nice drive, right on the fairway, two-hundred and fifty yards or so. Jesus’ drive hooked into the trees.

Suddenly a stream started flowing out of the trees. A fish in the stream took Jesus’ ball in its mouth. Then a bird took the fish in its mouth and flew off towards the green. The ball dropped from the fish’s mouth and landed in the cup. A hole in one.

Moses says to Jesus, “so, you want to play golf or do you want to fuck around?”

Apologizing in advance for any discomfort that this joke may cause to readers with over-developed religious sensibilities, I remain, your humble blogger.

Go To Birthday, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

Not the same thrill that it used to be, not like those childhood birthdays that seemed so important, another step towards the goal, towards being a grown up.  After one has been a grown up for some time, the thrill of birthdays falls off precipitously. 

Some friends took me for a nice lunch at MK Suki Restaurant.  A Japanese company, selling an essentially Chinese menu, in Thailand, always fun.  They brought a cake too, with candles.  Take a look, six and four candles, for 64!  We had a good time. 

Of course I shouldn't complain, because at 64 another birthday above ground, and without any medical problems to speak of, is a wonderful thing. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fun With Language

I'm not one to throw stones, I know, living as I do in a glass house.  I know full well that when I speak Thai it is all who-done-what-and-ran all the time.  But I can't help but smile when I read some of the sentences that Asians come up with in English.

That's the real trick, making sentences in the other language.  It's very nice to know a lot of words, but sentences are a horse of a different color.  For instance, when someone says to me, "English I not good," we can see that it's not a good English sentence.  It's a pretty good Thai sentence though, "Angrit pom mai dee," not perfect but you'd get away with it.

We have signage on our elevators and in our common areas that offer advice for safe living.  Things like stay in the correct lane driving in the parking lot, and don't throw lit cigarettes off of the balconies.  Here's one that I particularly like:

"When leaving you warm up food cause to the fire.

Be careful for using the electrical equipments."   

As usual, the problems stem from the articles (of which there are none in Thai), the prepositions (which in Thai are used differently), and the verbs in general (which in English are controlled by a much more complicated grammar). 

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Chicken Rock" Guru Guru

See, now this is why I have a blog.  If I were to post this to Facebook as a "like," there would be some who thought it was a sign that I was a danger to myself and others.

That Mani, though, und seine Freunde, they were pretty happening back in the day.  Krautrock, who'd have thunk it?  Happening shit, back in the day.   It sold big time in Ohio, somehow it spoke to them, ask Devo and Pere Ubu, I'm sure that they were fans, in fact I know that they were.  Round on the ends and hi in the middle, that Ohio. 

Chet Baker - She Was Too Good To Me

An all-time favorite of mine, and no, there's nothing personal about my love for this song. 

I wish that I could remember who said it, but I read a quote one time about old Chet.  A big-time jazzbeau said, if I may paraphrase, what can you say when you listen to a guy sing, the guy can't sing for shit, but he sings the song and it makes you cry.  That's Chet all over.  He really loved these old songs, that was his secret.  Sincerity counts for a lot in this singing game. 

Buddy Miles Express-Train

1968?  I think so.  Early '69 tops.  Didn't I say recently that it's amazing, totally amazing, how fast music came along in the 1960's?  From Del Shannon, Leslie Gore and early Motown, to Surf Music and the British Invasion, to Jimi Hendrix and Cream, to Acid Jazz and Newyorican Soul and beyond in a heartbeat, with hundreds of shades of variety in the mix. 

The drugs were better in the Seventies, but those Sixties, they just may have been the days. 

What Would Al Gore Have Done?

I do love the comments on the "Right Wing Echo Chamber" web sites.  This one is from Weasel Zippers dot something or other:

"Despite any failures and shortcomings W might have had, can anyone imagine the condition the country would be in if Gore had won in 2000 or Kerry in 2004?

I will always thank him for being the man he is and wish him well wherever his life takes him, thank you Mr. President!"

Can anyone imagine it?  Sure, I can.  Kerry, not so much, on the imagining I mean.  He'd have been sworn-in in January, 2005, and the shit was already in the air, ballistic, and the fan was firmly in place, waiting to receive it.  But Gore?  That would have been a difference that we could have lived with, along with lots of nice people in the sandy countries that were about to die unnecessarily.  How different?  Oh, let me count the ways.  (Hint: taxes; deficits; wars; Supreme Court.) 

But this commenter on the 'Zip, isn't he/she being gracious towards our former president?  That's so nice.  And rare on those sites, grace, I mean.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Percy Mayfield - Hit the Road Jack - 1984

Sure, I put this up a couple of years ago, and if you come back in a couple of years I'll put it up again too. 

Percy Mayfield, the Poet of the Blues, covering himself I suppose, he wrote the thing.  Making himself a drink too, Kahlua, whiskey and milk in a plastic cup.  Looks like he went through a windshield at some point, as if his life wasn't hard enough.

He made the best of it though, and quite the little entertainer.  Thanks, Percy, for everything.  Check him out, there's a lot of Percy on the 'Tube and it's all great.  Or buy the Best of, if anybody buys anything anymore.  Don't matter, Percy won't make a nickle on it. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Being The Other

There’s a lot of talk now about the “other.” Talk by some of “real Americans,” bitter complaints that our president does not share “our” values, or even understand our “Anglo Saxon” traditions. Killings of Sikhs, burnings of mosques, and that’s just this week, and just in America itself. What is going on around the world, in our names, doesn’t bear too much thinking about.

Who is this “other?” And what is this “other” thing?

The Prototypical Other: Me

I’ve been in Thailand for eight years now, so I’ve had plenty of time to experience being the “other,” the foreigner, the Farang. That’s what the Thais call us, Farang. I’m sure that it comes from a few hundred years ago when some of the first Europeans that they saw introduced themselves in French and it sounded like the Thai word farang, which means the fruit, the guava. (“So, you guys are the guava people?”) That’s so gentle that I never object to it at all, not even being compared to a Frenchman. It’s a lot nicer than the Japanese calling us “White Devils” (Gaijin).

Some aspects of being the other in Thailand are positive. I am seen as a citizen of a very developed, advanced industrial country, and I am imagined to possess all of the advantages that might come with that status. I am perceived, for instance, to be rich, wise in the ways of the world, savvy in business, and enormously practical of mind. I am assumed to have an adventurous nature, after all I have traveled half way around the world and decided to stay. I have resources, a good job, and a comfortable lifestyle. I get additional credit for having white skin and a high nose, and not only by virtue of being a White man. Both things were esteemed by Asians before we showed up, the fashion for whiteness and noses is an ancient tradition here. Thais find my blue eyes fascinating as well. But being the other has a darker side too, another side to the coin altogether.

Prejudice is involved. There are hostilities real and imagined. I know what it is to be handled in bulk, judged as a type, a category. When it is working in my favor I humbly accept the fruits that it offers; when it is working against me I try to remember that I am a guest here, and that after all I am genuinely the other in this situation.

Khun Fred, The Other

Without laboring the point . . .

Here, I am a big smelly thing. Different races, with different diets, have different smells, and different is not a good smell, usually. Look up some cartoons from post-war Japan featuring depictions of White, American soldiers, you’ll get some idea of how Asians perceive White people. Big, hairy, bestial things. Here, I try very hard to be polite but I get it wrong sometimes. The intricacies of Asian etiquette can be hard to master. Here, if something goes wrong I am likely to be blamed; if something goes right, someone else is likely to get the credit, because after all I am just a foreigner who doesn’t know shit from shoe polish. Here, I am liable to be hated because a Thai man, or his friend, or his cousin, was once dumped by his girlfriend after she decided to go with a Farang. Or, hated because the Thai man or woman knew a woman who was treated badly by a Farang. Or, just on principle, hated for coming to Thailand in the first place and expecting Thai women to fall all over me (which would be silly; nothing is further from the truth in my case, neither in my expectations nor in the actions of Thai womanhood). Here, Thai English teachers hate it that native speaking foreigners, with no teaching experience, can come to Thailand and immediately get a job teaching English for considerably more money than they are paid, and even those teachers that don’t know me hate me because they assume that I am an English teacher, which I’m not. Here, I am immediately grouped with all of the foreigners who come to Thailand and expect everything to be much more like their home countries; who expect all Thais to speak good English; who expect to be waited on hand and foot. Grouped with all of the rude, White foreigners who come to Thailand from countries that I will refrain from naming and who walk around drunk at 10:00 a.m. pulling at the clothes of modest Thai girls and asking in broken English, “how much!” I’m sure that I could go on, but this is a blog, not “War and Peace.”

The Real Lesson

Being the other has reminded me to be generous when considering the other and to wonder about all of the issues related to the entire other thing. The current situation in my miserable country begs the question: why is there now such a fury of vituperation about the nature of realness and otherness in America?

The simple answer is that a Black man is president. A justly elected Black man, not like that fool W, who had the election stolen for him by some close family friends.  Our current president is a legitimate winner of a national election for president. And people of all races and creeds voted for him, this Black person. This President of the United States.

Does it matter that his father was an actual African? Not constitutionally, because the president himself was born in America. Does it matter that his mom was a White woman? Or that his antecedents did not experience the slavery days in the old America? Not in the least. He is Black by the only test that matters, the mirror test. If your face shows enough of Blackness that you suffer from anti-Black discrimination in America you are a Black American as far as I am concerned. And he’s the president by the only test that matters, a properly won election. Now it is strongly hinted to us, by the people that he beat in that election, that his Blackness is a problem. The problem is phrased as anything from “socialist” to “anti-colonialist,” anything but the blunt statement: “duh! he’s a nigger!” Message received, thank you.

There is, obviously, a terrible streak of something beneath the surface of White society in America. Something that was exposed by the mere election of a Black president. Sure, evil forces have nurtured it, and financed it, and publicized it, forces that would do anything at all, literally, to push their selfish agenda. Does anyone think that his Blackness would be such a problem if he’d been elected as a Republican president, with solid Republican goals? No, then he’d be their . . . oh, jeez-Louise I almost said it again. But if he were on their team, it’d all be coolsville. As a Democrat though, it makes a wonderful fulcrum for the lever of Republican anti-everythingism. It’s the greatest gift they ever got. His Blackness will allow them to pick up some of the stupid vote on the cheap. The people in charge of this effort may not even be anti-Black themselves, as individuals, but they’re sure not above using it as a tool at their disposal.

I say the stupid vote, and I mean it. Let’s be real here, I mean we’re all friends, I have so few readers that I’m pretty sure I know all of you personally. Anybody who doesn’t like President Obama, considering that he inherited a seat in the modern Imperial Presidency, I just don’t understand it except at the level of racism. And racism is stupid. I mean, what’s not to like? He’s a good man. If I have to explain that to you, you’re not so good yourself. Except maybe the drone thing, but I’m pretty sure that whoever happened to be the president that stuff would be going on (that’s another blog post altogether; see “Shadow Executive;” see “Permanent Executive.”). He’s a mensch, for Christ’s sake, if I may mix my metaphors.

The disloyal opposition attack President Obama as being somehow alien to the American way of life, they paint him as the other, they use coded language like, “take our country back,” with stupid smiles, like they were getting away with some very clever ruse. What, I ask you, is so “other” about Black Americans?

I’m a White American, mea maxima culpa. It’s a group that I’m not particularly proud of these days, frankly. You would be forgiven to think that I was a “real American,” but you’d be less than totally correct. Oh, I’m White enough, it’s the American part that’s a little dodgy. One of the secret advantages of being White in America is that you might actually know what countries your antecedents came from. Overrated as an advantage, but it’s true. My families, the whole list of them, only got to America in the mid-Nineteenth Century, so I can safely say that the furthest south in Europe that any of my blood came from was Switzerland, and German Swiss at that. So White it is, not even a Frenchman in the mix. But coming so recently, how American is that? And a bunch of Catholics in there too, how American is that? Are those papists even Christians? All of my great-grandparents were born in old Europe, how American is that?

This America as a White country, a White Christian Country, is a terrible illusion and it leads to strange results. Now we are to believe that somehow Black Americans are not real Americans? But somehow I am? How’s that work out? The families of most Black Americans got to America long before any of my people did, and worked harder too, on average, and with quite different incentives. If Black Americans aren’t real Americans by this time, they never will be. Is that the point? They’re sure not real Africans anymore, just ask an African if you don’t believe me. They’ll tell you in a heartbeat (“Nope, not Africans.”) Shit, I’d get a warmer welcome in Ireland than a Black American would get in Africa.

My Ass

America is a White, Christian country my ass. Wake up, all you Iowans out there, you have nothing at all to do with America except for the couple of weeks every four years that the real Americans pay attention to about one hundred and seventy five of you eating giant breakfasts before starting the whole farm work routine. America takes place on the coasts, and maybe Chicago, where the money, the culture and almost all of the people are. And the coasts are diverse, DIVERSE, population wise, so get over it. We get along with Black Americans, Hispanic Americans from about fifty different countries, Asians from countries that you never heard of, and about seven ‘Stans. Religions you never heard of either, like you’ve actually heard of any to mention. You couple of thousand White people out in Kick-Stump don’t matter anymore, and no amount of taking-back-America hysteria is going to put you on top, where you never were to begin with. Those million plus Koreans out in Los Angeles, and that’s just Los Angeles mind you, they’re not going anywhere, and they’re as American as you, so get over it, get over yourself.

And if people at you church, or on your TV, or on your right-wing echo-chamber web site are telling you otherwise, it’s just because they’re convinced that you’re stupid enough to go for it. Wake up, smell the coffee, and vote for your actual interests for a change, vote for someone who will do something to help you. Sure, the drone strikes, endless detention, yadda, yadda, yadda. Anyone who still expects a perfect world should be committed to a mental institution, if they can find one that they can afford.

President Obama is us, the real us. Maybe if we can join forces, the real us, we could do away with these bullshiters who are trying to convince American voters to “take back their country” from the legitimately elected president. And get on with the real business at hand. Take my word for it, there’s plenty of it, work to do that is. Issues, real ones.

So let’s go! What’d’ya say?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Julie Driscoll ~with Brian Auger & The Trinity ~ / Indian Rope Man

This was something a little bit different in '69.  I had a friend who got me to listen to Jimmy Smith a few years earlier so Brian Auger seemed like a small lane change at the time.   It's amazing to look back and realize how fast things started to happen in the Sixties.  From the Beach Boys to the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to Cream and Jimi Hendrix and by 1969 even this kind of Jazzy act was possible.  Music at the speed of light. 

Jules can sing and the boys can play, so it's all good. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dangerous Sportsmanship Update

I read somewhere that those North Korean (PRK) athletes get a real carrot/stick approach from the bosses up there.  Win and you might get a refrigerator!  A TV!  Lose and it's off to the labor camp.  Probably get your whole families food allocation cut down too. 

That last could be very serious these days.  They devalued their currency recently in North Korea and it really threw a monkey wrench into the entire food/money/happiness thing.  They're in the middle of one of their once every decade decimations.  Not figuratively, as the word is most often used these days, but literally, like the original Roman meaning, like one in ten gets crossed off the Christmas card list permanently.  So winning is probably a good idea for those PRK athletes. 

If only!  If only it were that easy! 

I also read that it's even more important if the opponent is from the hated enemies:  either South Korea or America.  Bigger punishments; bigger rewards.  So right this second I'm watching a battle of great importance to at least one of the participants. 

One Park-Kim-Lee from South Korea is battling another Park-Kim-Lee from North Korea at Ping Pong. 

In the first game, everything went the Northern guy's way for a while, and boy was he excited about it.  He went up four or five to nothing, and it was all big smiles and fist pumping, with nods to his coach (who's ass might be on the line too, those people play for keeps).   The Southern guy caught up though, and he won the first game, and then he won the second game too.  As the reality of this impending debacle dawned on the Northerner, an increasing look of panic and desperation came over him.  His coach went a little pale too. 

Finally worst came to worst, because, to paraphrase Casey Stengle, Ping Pong is a game of skill and the Southerner had more of it.  Please join me in wishing them good luck, the player and the coach from North Korea.   And on this occasion of the beginning of Buddhist Lent please join me in saying a silent thanks, thanks to the higher power of your preference, or just thanks to fate, or luck, but thanks for putting me in a decent place, with resources.  The next time something goes against you, just remember, it could be worse. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gabby Douglas's Hair Is Beautiful

Let's hear it for Gabby Douglas!

And a pox on all of the negative 'Net traffic about her hair.  She looks great, hair and all. 

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, Gabby. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bad Sportsmanship Update

Bad sportsmanship has always been a subject of interest to me.  Boys and girls in my New York neighborhood growing up played games and sports more or less continually, so there was plenty of opportunity to observe the different styles of winning and losing. 

There were the usual examples of exultation and triumphalism, annoying but not so bad on balance.  Much worse were the guys who would start a fight with you if you beat them at something.  Like every game of Stick-Ball or Knock-Hockey was an event of cosmic significance.  Maybe they were thinking that it would make you think twice before beating them again.  More likely they just wanted to get a win posted at something, immediately, to balance the books. 

These Olympic games are providing an object lesson in bad sportsmanship, taught by the Chinese.  I'm happy that their country is doing good, that their economy is growing, that people seem to be a little freer and happier than back in the bad old days.  Really I am, God bless them.  But boy, they have quite a chip on their collective shoulder about winning and losing. 

All of that celebration after every point won; all of those negative reactions to every point lost; all of that sense of entitlement upon winning some event; all of that bitter complaining after every loss.  Please, would it kill you to show a little grace? 

A reporter asked one of the stars of the Chinese men's gymnastics team when he began to think that they'd win it.  "When I woke up this morning."  No mention of the strong competition.  

I'm loving the Ping-Pong, especially the women, it's always more fun to watch girls do anything.  The world number one woman Ping-Pong player is named Ding Ning, how great is that?  She's good too, very good, and kind of cute.  She didn't come to these Olympics just to compete though, didn't come just to do her best, no, she came for the gold.  After all, she's the best! 

She hit a road block though, on the way to that happiness, in the form of Li X.X.  All through the early rounds Ding was kicking ass and taking names, but Ms. Li had her number.   As usual, Ding was set to mumbling by any lost point, and she was never loathe to confront a referee when something went against her.  In the final, the Italian referee started to take exception to Ding's style of serve, it seems that you're not allowed to use your body to hide the ball at the point of impact with the paddle.  Ding was furious, vociferously.  So Ding switched the style of her serve, to something almost indescribably weird, a head on, twisting, squatting kind of thing.  That was all the referee could stand, and she produced both a yellow and a red card.  Who know that there were such things in Ping-Pong? 

This awarded two points to Ms. Li, and Ding almost had a breakdown.  Red faced and crying, she complained to the referee and to any other official in earshot.  When she lost the match, winning thereby a silver medal, she lost it completely.  Copious tears and unrestrained complaining.  I do hate to see a pretty woman so unhappy, but it was almost fun to watch.  After losing, all that she showed Ms. Li was her back. 

It's sports, Ding!  Shit happens!  Get over it! 

To be fair, I did see a very gracious Chinese archer.  If memory serves, he'd just been beaten by a Mexican.  That must have hurt.  Don't the Chinese think that they invented archery?  Maybe they did; one way or the other Mexico came late to bows and arrows by at least a thousand years.  Still, this Chinese archer was very nice about it, he went over and congratulated both Mr. Alvarez, the winning Mexican, and his coach.  And smiling about it too, not like it was a chore.  Good for him. 

I'm sure that there were plenty of good sports among the many, many members of the Chinese Olympic team.  Watch out for those bad apples though.  It's not an attractive picture to show the world. 

Author Gore Vidal Dead

Here's the reason for that dip in the wattage of the world that you noticed earlier today.

I couldn't say that I was a total fan, or even that I understood half of what he wrote.  He swam a lot deeper than I could in the waters of culture and literature.  I did read a couple of the novels though (I particularly loved "Kalki," in which he kills off humanity without seeming to worry about it too much), and a few essays, and interviews, and I always enjoyed him on shows like "The Merv Griffin Show," among others.   He got the winning end of most of the arguments that I saw him engage in. 

One of a kind, and it's always sad to see them go, those onesters.  Bon voyage, Gore.