TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
The morning of my departure from Thailand, I set off from my apartment and headed to “FoodLand” for breakfast. I wound my way through the ladies and ladyboys of the morning, noon and night strolling along Soi Nana, still working. They called out to me “Hello papa.” I ignored them. Nana Plaza, the central edifice of the red light district slouched off to my right. The morning light exposing its dinginess.
I was mired in the deep depression I always experience just before leaving on a trip. The open front bars with their raised counters directly abutted the sidewalk. Constructed just above pedestrian head level, the counters allow the customers to look over the pedestrians and observe the neighborhood wildlife it all its variety. As I passed one of the establishments, suddenly I felt my hat fly off from my head. I assumed it had been caught on one of the roofs or umbrellas of the vendors carts sharing the sidewalk with me. I immediately spun around looking for it but I could not find it either impaled on a structure or rolling on the ground. Then I looked up at the counter and noticed one of the patrons sitting there clutching my crushed hat and smiling as though he had just won the Nobel Prize. I could not tell if at 8AM this was his first drink of the day or whether he had been rooted there the night before.
Irritated, I snatched my hat back.
“Hey,” he said, his smile broadening. “It’s only a joke.”
“You think its funny,” I responded? “How funny would you think it would be if I took that drink sitting there at your elbow and dumped it on your head?” “It would be pretty funny to me,” I added.
“Hey, hey now, no need to get angry. It was a joke.”
Having raised the drink dumping issue, I could feel the itching in my fingers urging me to carry out the threat, not because I was particularly angry, but because I was intrigued at its cinematography. I could visualize the you-tube video going viral. Alas, discretion prevailed and I just walked off.
By the time I had gone a few steps, I began to feel like crap. Why couldn’t I have just smiled and went on my way? I felt as though I had just made the world a little bit darker. It did not help lighten my mood.
Foodland where I had breakfast, is one of my favorite places to eat in BKK. It is a counter service restaurant in a supermarket. Not only is it the least expensive food in the neighborhood other then from the sidewalk carts, but it serves both Thai and western meals (e.g., Ham Steak, American Breakfasts and the like).
After breakfast, I stood outside and waited, along with the supermarket clerks, LM and a few others, for the monk who comes by every morning at about this time with his begging bowl. He eventually arrived and collected enough food to open a small grocery store. It filled two large trash bags and two standers-by were pressed in to service to help him carry it off. He sat on a stool someone had found for him and everyone but me got down on their knees. One of the woman tugged at me to kneel also. I refused. There was no way I was going to kneel on one of BKK’s dog-shit-and-god-knows-what-else covered sidewalks. I bowed my head instead. The monk chanted briefly and then waved his hand over the tiny mob of kneeling woman with a bowing farang in their midst. I assumed that was the blessing since is was a lot like what I see the Pope do on television on Easter Sunday when he blesses the throngs kneeling on the pigeon-shit-and-god-knows-whatever-else lined the pavements at the Vatican. My mood lightened after the benediction. I sort of convinced myself it was auspicious for my trip.
On the way back to the apartment I was sniffling a-lot. In addition to depression, I also usually come down with some malady or another when I travel. Noticing my sniffles LM said that in Thailand sniffles are impolite. Actually what happened was that she mimed sniffling and said “In Thailand, not polite.” She then demonstrated Thai style politeness in that circumstance by walking to the curb, delicately depressing one of her nostrils with a finger and blowing a luggie into the street. “That is how you do it in Thailand,” she added unnecessarily.
I considered entertaining a discussion on intercultural social mores, but decided against it. Went back to the apt., finished packing and left for the airport.
While in that semi-comatose state one often finds oneself in while waiting to board the plane, it struck me that this was probably as good a day as any to leave BANGKOK.
During the flight, I tried to mitigate the discomfort of a 12 hour flight in a center seat, by holding my own Woody Allan film festival gleaned from out of the airlines selection of in-flight entertainment. Although I find all off Allan’s movies delightful, I could not help but conclude that they all seem to be about wealthy people with too much time on their hands and too much Valium in their blood streams. Allen’s oeuvre could probably be entitled: “Stoned without Consequences.”
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Creation myth update #3: Maybe we are not in Mr Rogers’ neighborhood anymore Toto, part II.
When observing a lion and a giraffe, it is pretty easy to tell that they are separate species, they look different and they behave different. Even when they look somewhat alike for example a lion, cheetah or a leopard one quickly notices enough behavioral differences to conclude that they were different species. Sometimes, however, it takes a long time and a lot of observation before differences between animal species are recognized, especially if they look alike. So it is with the two species of Chimpanzee (Genus: Pan), the Common Chimpanzee (Species: troglodytes) and the Bonobo (Species: paniscus). The Chimps were “discovered” by people living outside of Africa about the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, yet it was not until the middle of the Twentieth Century that those who study this sort of thing realized that troglodytes was not paniscus. It took decades of constant observation thereafter to recognize how different their behaviors really were.
One reason for this difficulty in recognizing the chimp – bonobo difference, is that, among the “Great Apes” (e.g, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, us, and the now extinct early Hominids that we met on our travels out of Africa) although we may not look alike, we do spend most of their days pretty much alike. We all sleep, eat, pick our noses and examine what’s hanging from our finger-tip, sit and stare in the distance, belch and fart, defecate and throw our feces at each other, have sex, scratch, poke sticks into termite nests, examine what comes out attached to the stick for a while then lick it off (like licking an ice cream cone), scratch, sit and stare some more, go about our business getting something to eat, and so on: you know, same old same old.
Although, to a significant extent, we can tell the difference between many of the Great Ape species easily by how they look and things like that; arboreal or terrestrial, big or small, hairy or less so and so on, not so with chimps and bonobos. Not only do they look a lot alike but at first it was assumed they behaved the same. Then one day some scientists, who had probably spent a good part of their lives in the bush, noticed that now and then groups of male chimps would go out a kill one or two other chimps for fun or would patrol boundaries of their territory and kill any chimp from another tribe that wandered in. The scientists then tried to determine if this was an aberration or a regular behavior pattern. Finding it to be something that chimps often do, they then decided to see if bonobo’s did the same thing. Armed with the results of their studies on this and other behavioral oddities of the chimps, scientists spent decades with Bonobo’s looking for similar behavior.
They were surprised. Instead of killing those of their own kind they did not like, the bonobos engaged in every conceivable sexual perversion imaginable with just about anyone who came along as a means, the researchers reasoned, to avoid conflict (that it may have been smarter and a lot more fun, never seemed to enter the researchers minds.) Included among the milder examples of the bonobo’s lascivious behavior was the practice of rubbing each others genitals just to say hello. I imagine approaching someone and rubbing his or her genitals, in human society would not be considered a friendly act nor would it reduce aggression. More the worse for us.
So there you have it. Two species of Ape looking a lot alike and most of the time behaving a lot alike but when it came to dealing with others, responding quite differently. One aggressive and territorial and the other not so. One believing in “make love not war,” and the other in “Fuck you, its mine.” One more like us and the other more like we would like to be. Perhaps it is this conflict in self-image that has prompted the dichotomy within humans that has caused them so much pain over the ages.
I suspect that when our ancestors moved into Eurasia, although they more or less physically resembled the Hominids already there, they behaved differently in a lot of ways. Our ancestors may have behaved more chimp-like and those already living there more like bonobos.
This does not mean that the existing hominids were passive and did not engage in violence even savage violence but only that it was, in general, manifested differently. If one were to try to take the food from the mouth a bonobo, I suspect he would fight you just as savagely as a chimp would. Also, it does not mean that chimps and Homo Sap Saps spend their days killing or dreaming about killing members of their own species. It only means that they had predilections in many things, reactions to stimuli one can say, by which they conducted their lives that affected how they behaved toward each other and those they considered not members of their tribe. For example I suspect for the earlier hominids violence was limited primarily to the hunt and at direct threats while Sap Sap, like the chimps, saw territorial issues and group membership as perhaps more significant.
In addition there appeared to be another archeological clue that may demonstrate a fundamental social and behavioral difference between the earlier species and the newer migrating hominids. Archeological, anthropological and genetic evidence, such as found in the Denisova cave seem to show that the pre HSS hominid’s of different species would at times live together and, as indicated above, fewer remains showed intra or inter-species violence among other hominids than they showed inter-species violence among HSS. Also the inhabited caves seems to be a lack of evidence of HSS occupation at the same time as the other Hominids, before or after perhaps but rarely, as far as can be determined, at the same time.
Also related to this seeming aversion or clannishness among the new arrivals, it appears that the earlier hominids easily trekked back and forth through each others territory without too much of a problem. There is even evidence that some of them were able to return to Africa now and then. On the other hand, HSS almost never backtracked. It was almost 20,000 years of migration before they began to intrude into territory they had previously passed through. I suspect, one of the reasons for this reticence was that, as they knew they, their long-lost cousins would, chimp like, view them as enemies and try to drive them away or kill them.
Although analogy is a poor form of proof, it sometime is helpful in making things clearer although alas at other times unfortunately muddling everything up. With that caveat, consider the lion with her kill. Just as she sits down to snack on the gazelle she killed she looks up and sees a pack of jackals or hyena’s inching in. She smacks at one and they scatter. Unlike, her experience with other lions who once she establishes dominance would move off to find something else to eat that did not require a fight, these scavengers stay and stare, saliva dripping from their teeth ready to rush in and grab something if she is distracted for a moment. Often, the lion, instead of enjoying its meal, is so disturbed it abandons its kill and moves off. Scavengers and pack predators behave like that. Even if the lion remembers the event and moves off to hunt somewhere other than where she met the hyenas, she would soon find that implacably they followed her.
At the risk of over simplification, I believe our ancestors most likely behaved more like a mix of pack predator and committed scavenger, perhaps resembling a wolf pack of a biker gang as much as anything else. The other hominids, however, although they also most likely scavenged for a significant portion of their diet, more resembled predators like the lions, in their behavior and attitudes.
I imagine, those hominids to be somewhat like the gentle giants we all are familiar with. The football player who while he it doing his job during the game does it with shocking savagery but after the game is gentle as can be, avoids confrontation at all costs but if challenged or cornered reacts at though he were back playing the game. Sort of like Lenny in Of Mice and Men or Frankenstein’s Monster capable of great violence but generally avoiding it unless necessary for his job. And if a mistake occurs and someone is unintentionally killed well it is regrettable. He feels sad perhaps also feels sad for the others who have lost someone, but it has happened and cannot be undone so he is prepared, maybe even with heavy heart, to get on with his life. Imagine his uncomprehending surprise, when he is faced with a mob of weak and puny creatures with pitchforks and torches out to murder him for something that could not be changed.
Next: Creation myth update #3: Maybe we are not in Mr Rogers’ neighborhood anymore Toto, part III: Meet the new Neighbors.
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
1. Social Security recipients do not owe the US for its largess, the US owes Social Security recipients for taking our money.
What is unclear to me is why do Republicans and conservatives want to take away the money that I put into my social security account for my retirement and use it to pay off Chinese bond holders? Our social security distributions are “earned benefits,” not entitlements.
For that matter, why did Republicans and conservatives take my money from out of the Social Security Trust Fund into which I placed it in trust for my future and use it in order to fund a war instead of taxing the working public at that time and now refuse to give it back to me?
Also why is it that I, who placed my money into the trust fund for my future, am accused by Republicans and conservatives to be a “taker” while those “workforce dependent” individuals refusing to pay their share of the general obligations of society are referred to as, “job creators?”
And, why do Republicans and conservatives seem so committed to not paying me back for what they borrowed from my retirement account without my consent but appear so eager to see everyone else paid back who voluntary lent money to the government? Could it have something to do with those “unelected legislators” otherwise known as corporate lobbyists?
2. “We don’t have a spending problem, we have a military spending problem.”
Ezra Klein, Washington Post.
“Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”
Brad Plummer, Washington Post
The only government that today appears truly out of control or more accurately a poor return on “taxpayer investment” seems to be military spending. Republicans actually want to increase that spending while cutting other (as yet unspecified) portions of the budget. Does anyone believe that their position has anything to do with national defense? Would anyone really feel less safe if we reduced defense spending to what it was before the Iran/Afghanistan conflicts began now that those wars are effectively over? Does everyone understand that cutting the defense budget by $100 billion a year, leaving it still with a budget 1/3 larger than before those wars, will effectively eliminate the budget deficit?
B. Live Blogging from World War II: Russell Braddon on the Burma Railroad.
“Once again time ceased to have any significance, for almost a year no man knew what day of the week nor what week of the month nor even what month of the year it was. It was just 1943 and the Railway. If one were to survive it was essential not to acknowledge the horror that lay all around, still more not to perceive the effect it had upon oneself. It was not wise ever to look in a mirror.
Life accordingly evolved into a blur of continuous work, people dying, guards bellowing, heavy loads to be carried, fever which came in tides of heat and cold on alternate days, dysentery and hunger. All those became the normal. Upon them, occasionally, an event super-imposed itself with sufficient violence to be remembered. There was little scope for planning one’s way of life. To preserve my health, I vowed to wash whenever it rained, lying under the dripping edge of the hut, and to clean my teeth every day, using the tooth-brush Piddington had given me and ground-up charcoal for powder.
Charcoal was also useful as a medicine against dysentery. To preserve some dignity, I vowed I would shave at least once a week if only I could remember the days. To preserve my self-respect, I vowed that whenever necessary I would make the latrines or bust; and to preserve at least some mental agility, I determined to learn off by heart one page a day of Mr Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
As the days succeeded one another for the rest of that black year, this particular vow became increasingly difficult, but I managed never to yield to the temptation of excusing myself from my task – and in return derived a perverse pleasure from the daily assimilation of so much vile prose.”
C. Fun in the labyrinth or giggles in the heart of darkness (Chapter five: At the airport with no place to go – Part 4):
“No,” I shouted, hysteria overcoming any sense of decorum and common sense I had left. “You do not understand, I am not going anywhere today.” I then explained my story once again and handed the little slip of paper to him.
He looked at it, nodded, got up and went over to his office mate, a slightly older uniformed man with a little more braid. They talked, looked over at me, ten leafed through my passports and talked some more. Finally, the younger man turned to me, handed back my passports and said, “Immigration, second floor.”
“But, but,” I spluttered. “The man at downtown immigration said airport fourth floor. See he wrote it down here.” I offered him the slip of paper.
He did not take it, but repeated more firmly this time, “second floor immigration.”
Sensing defeat, I pleaded, “How do I find it? What if they send me back up here again?”
“I will take you,” he responded.
Somewhat relieved I followed him back through the offices, past the customs officers through security and then across the building to a bank of elevators. I got in the elevator. He reached in. Pressed the button for #2 and quickly walked away as the doors closed on me.
The elevator did not stop at the second floor.
What amazes me is that were I to show this quote to todays crop of conservatives or members of the modern Republican Party or those ditto-heads who email me things from Limbaugh and other right-wing noise makers they consider clever or insightful, they would shoot back that I was merely a lock-step liberal from San Francisco.
In fact, what these people do not recognize or understand is that most of those Americans they smugly and ignorantly accuse as being liberals are basically good old traditional Republicans and conservatives. It is they, those who like Limbaugh and his cronies scream the loudest about the state of American society, who are neither conservative nor Republican. What they are are radical anarchists and haters of America.
- Might Humans Learn from Peaceful Bonobos? (ecology.com)
- Watch These Retired Lab Chimps Experience Sunlight And Grass For The First Time (uproxx.com)
- Thai military accused of selling refugees (upi.com)
- Toilet Authority Of Thailand (TAT) (khonkaen.ws)
- Thailand denies shooting boat people (bigpondnews.com)