Posts Tagged With: Burma

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 5 Papa Joe 0005 (September 23 2016)

 

Happy Birthday, Richard McCarthy (Uncle Mask), and Ann Vita (Who my calendar says is nine years old).
“Uber is ubiquitous.”
Peter Grenell

 

 

TODAY FROM THAILAND:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

Today a rat ran between my legs and tripped me as I walked along Soi Nana back to my apartment.

Outside of that little event, the days here have been mostly rainy and devoid of drama. In the mornings the sun comes out long enough for me to get in my swim at the health club — then off to my massage and back to the apartment and lunch before the rains begin. One weekend, we went to Jomtien Beach and stayed at the guest house of the sad-faced woman with the child whose maladies condemn her only to lie on a cot and be fed. During the mornings and the evenings, we walked along the beach and enjoyed stirring sunrises and magnificent sunsets.
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Other than that, I have mostly spent time talking with a few friends and acquaintances and swapping stories.
The Deep Sea Diver.

Several times during my stay, I visited with the deep sea diver who, after seeing the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, left the potential of life as a mob enforcer in Pennsylvania to become a commercial deep sea diver in Florida and the Caribbean. After a career of underwater construction, treasure hunting, salvage, commercial sailing and various less savory occupations, he washed up in Bangkok where he lives in a small hotel room near my apartment.
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The Deep Sea Diver posing before a massive anchor he salvaged using only truck tire inner-tubes that he transported to salvage sites in the van in the background.

In his locker at the health club, he keeps a couple cigar boxes filled with the ashes of two friends who had asked him to spread them around their favorite Bangkok Bars and Night Clubs after they died.

The walls of his room are covered with pictures of his adventures and mementos of friends who have passed away. Each time a friend dies, he pins a remembrance onto his wall, drinks a pint of cheap Thai whiskey and morns.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5

The most recent death was of Manfred Dietrich, 83. Hung on the wall is a piece of sail-cloth Dietrich had made for the deep sea diver and pinned to it, Manfred’s obituary.

Manfred left Germany at an early age and when he was seventeen he sailed as a crew on the three-masted ship to Si.Thomas in the Caribbean. He found an abandoned house 0n an Island in the middle of St. Thomas Bay where he settled and became a well-known sailmaker. He never learned to swim and rarely left the island except for short trips into St. Thomas in a small sail boat. The deep-sea diver and his gang also lived on the island for a while. They became friends with the sailmaker. The sail-maker was found next to his sailboat. He apparently planned to take it out to go to St. Thomas, fell out of the boat, and drowned.

One day, while I was visiting, the old sailor he told me about the time he lived on Easter Island for several months with his then girlfriend. It was all quite spooky, the large statues everywhere and the Chilean Government who administers the island had been sending criminals to the island to replace natives who expressed any interest in independence. One afternoon, he and his girlfriend attended the annual Rodeo at which they round up the wild horses on the island, herd them into a large stone circle and under the solemn eyes of those somber effigies, slaughter them in the most horrendous and bloody way possible well into the night — like something out of a Lovecraft novel.

Although he is a bit laconic and not given to lengthy stories, during our visits, I toured the world through him, from the South Pacific to the gigantic WWII statues in Moscow, to crossing Australia from Perth to Sidney and back again and living for a month or two in the shadow of Ayres Rock — from the Florida Keyes during the days of the cigarette-boat runs to Lisbon where some of the dealers invested their money.

As he told me, “I loved diving and sailing, but I lived my life to travel and see the world.”
The Gemologist.

There are those lucky few of whom it can be said, “They lived a life of adventure.” Richard, with whom I had a few boozy story filled afternoons during my current stay in Bangkok, is one of them. Described as an American adventurer, gemologist, artist, ethnographer, trader in gemstones, art and ethnic arts dealer, and restauranteur, I was introduced to him about a decade ago, by the Canadian author and Bangkok resident Christopher G. Moore. In several of his novels, Richard appeared as a soldier of fortune whose derring-do assisted Vinny Calvino, Moore’s fictional ex-pat detective, to a successful resolution of his case.

He grew up in the Bay Area, graduated from the California institute of Art, owned a restaurant in San Francisco’s Japan Town and attended the Gemological Institute of America before his love affair with the area and his business interests led him to South-East Asia. I first met him in the Lone Star, an ex-pat dive in Bangkok’s Washington Square Area. The area was a haunt of the US military, especially Air-America personnel and others during the Viet Nam War and after. It also attracted ex-pat writers and other artists. Unfortunately, the Washington Square area has recently been demolished and replaced with a large condominium development. Here is a cite to the mystery writer Dean Burdett’s elegy to the passing of Washington Square http://www.wowasis.com/travelblog/?p=5166 . It contains Richard’s (Burma Richard as he has been called at times) painting of the last day of the Lone Star.
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Southern Chin

It was about 1980 when Richard began crossing the border from Thailand into Burma and into the dangerous mountains of Burma where he found not only rubies and sapphires but long lost and little-known tribes. These tribes were in danger of disappearing due to their decades-long battles with the Burmese government. Richard began photographing them and eventually produced an ethnographical masterpiece, The Lost Tribes of Burma. Here are two of those photographs.

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NAGA
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AKHA

(The male in the photographs is from the Naga tribe that is reputed to still practice head hunting.)

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Rubies on Gold, from Richard Durian’s ‘Burma Collection” http://www.diranart.com/web/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

As a gemologist in South-East Asia, his business brought him into contact with interesting people and involved in fascinating situations, such as meetings with agents of South American drug dealers looking to buy gems or dealing with hard-nosed Chinese gem dealers. Here is part of a story that appears in his blog about a gem deal gone bad:

“In strand fashion, the room boy in a starched white suit arrived with the tall glass of Cointreau on a silver tray and brought it to my table. Giving him a few hundred kyats, I waited until the door shut behind him and picked up my diamond with the tweezers, the one I had brought with me, and suspended it underneath the thick clear liquor to break the surface tension, and dropped it in a liquid free fall. I mentally noted the known diamond’s rate of falling as I brought it nearly to the surface and released again.

Then I took the Chinese seller’s diamonds and one by one, holding them under the surface of the Cointreau, released them and watched the rate of sinkage. Invariably, his diamonds fell at a rate almost twice that of my diamond. I compared my diamond to the rate of sinkage with my ruby. The ruby, possessing a greater density than my diamond, sank noticeably quicker. I then submerged his diamond with my ruby and released them into the Cointreau at the same time. Holding my face closely to the glass of Cointreau, I saw his diamond sink more quickly than my ruby. Something was definitely wrong. Estimating a ratio of sinkage between the two materials, I determined his diamond must be substantially softer than natural diamond owing to the distinct polishing marks on the girdle of every one of his stones. I crossed the room and had the Chinese seller and the European buyer observe the test with their own eyes. Several times I performed the hydrostatic test in the Cointreau as they looked on incredulously.

I told them that in my opinion as a gemologist that these stones were not diamond, in fact could not be diamond, but were a Russian stimulant, cubic zirconium, which has a specific gravity of 5.70 nearly double that of real diamond, and that is why they fell twice as fast while submerged in the Cointreau.

The buyer hastily gathered up his money and stuffed it into a bag. The Chinese seller became the red color of a thermometer bulb, spitting in Cantonese staccato, and in English how thirty years in the business made him an expert and how his people in Hong Kong were beyond reproach, but he knew that the test could not lie. If he wasn’t trying to swindle, then he had been swindled. Either way, the deal was off.” http://www.diranart.com/

For those interested in learning more about him here is a cite to an article in Asia Week: http://edition.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/98/0227/feat2.html and here is his own version of his travels among the Lost Tribes of Burma in a speech he gave in Rangoon where he was introduced by the Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on the occasion of his donation of the photographs to the National Museum on Yangon. http://www.burma-richard.org/2013/11/the-vanishing-tribes-of-burma.html
The Musician and the Newspaperman.

My long time friend Cordt, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute who now lives in Chiang Mai, came to Bangkok one weekend. Cordt is a musician who plays in a classical rock/rockabilly group in Chiang Mai. Although the government discourages foreign musicians from performing in local clubs, by last minute announcements and the internet, his group has been able to build up a considerable a local following.

Cordt is also an artist, specializing in collages and has begun showing his work at local galleries.
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Cordt Holland, Rockabilly. http://www.cordtholland.com/

We agreed to meet at a bar on Soi 11 where Chris Moore was previewing a documentary he produced about the controversial painter Peter Klashorst.
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By Peter Klashorst
As usual with documentaries of this sort the subject is allowed to go on incessantly about himself as though the director fears to cut out any of his immortal words. There are no immortal words. There is only confirmation of our current biases.

Anyway, after the show, Cordt, Scott (the newsman of the heading, recently retired for the Bangkok Post), LM and I went to a Mexican restaurant further along the Soi where we drank pitchers of Margaritas made with bad tequila, ate some Mexican food and laughed a lot until we were quite drunk.

img_2206Cordt, Scott, and LM

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

This is a continuation of my ramble through my favorite eras of history that I began in a previous post.

The First Centuries:

The Romans were a different breed of conqueror. They did not conquer simply because it was there, or for the glory of the kingdom, or to expand the marvels of their culture or even to rape and steal the land and wealth of those they conquered. No, the Roman conquests were a business and only a business, and in the Levant when the Romans arrived along with them came Herod who the Romans installed as king of most of their holdings in the area — sort of like a branch manager or CEO of a subsidiary.

Now Herod is one of those people called The Great, and great he was. He was undoubtedly the greatest architect and city builder of his time. He was one of the greatest business minds of his generation capturing the date trade and arranging business deals with other world leaders like Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. He kept his kingdom relatively peaceful and prosperous and made his pastiche of a kingdom more than just an intersection for the armies of the great empires to pass through on their way to slaughter each other. For the first time, Judea meant something among the nations of the world, maybe not as much as Rome but certainly as much as anyone else in the area.

Herod was also insane. He liked killing his wives (of which he had a good number) and his children (also a good number). He thought they all were out to kill him and take away his kingdom (probably a good guess). When later in his reign he retreated to Masada, he built a massive palace on one end of the mesa and carved out a 24-hour orgy pit in the face of the bluff about 100 feet from the top where he could look out from his aerie and see a good portion of his kingdom. At the far opposite end of the mesa, he built a few McMansions for his wives and children so that he could keep an eye on them and they could not sneak up on him at night or scramble down the sheer cliffs and escape to cause trouble.

He also was good at taking care of the Judeans who were suspicious of him. You see, he wasn’t a Judean, he wasn’t even a Galilean he was an Idumean. When the Maccabees went on their little conquering spree they took over the adjacent kingdom to the southwest, Idumea. The Idumeans did not belong to the same club as the Judeans and Galileans and others who lived in Egypt, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. So, after their defeat, the more ambitious of the Idumeans, among which were Herod’s parents, surrendered a body part and joined the club. As a result, the Judeans were wary of him and he knew it and so he took action mollify them. None of which, by the way, included living his own life according to Judean Law.
(to be continued)

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

Code of Hammurabi —value of a fetus and of a woman:

209. If a superior man strikes a woman of superior class and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shaHerodll weigh and deliver ten shekels of silver for her fetus.
210. If that woman should die, they shall kill his daughter.
211. If he should cause a woman of commoner class to miscarry her fetus by the beating, he shall weigh and deliver five shekels of silver.
212. If that woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver.
213. If he strikes a slave-woman of a superior man and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver two shekels of silver.
214. If that slave-woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver twenty shekels of silver.

Biblical marriage:

‘If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife’ (Deuteronomy 22: 28-9).

(By the way, when I first traveled to Sicily in the late 1960s that was still the law in certain parts of the island. If you wanted to marry the girl of your dreams and she refused you, you and some of your best buds broke into her house, abducted the object of your affections and raped her. Now, despoiled of her dowry value she was required to marry you. You did not even have to pay the 50 shekels.)

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A.Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

Muriel Rukeyser opined; “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

While I agree about the stories, I disagree about atoms.

The universe, as we have known for about 100 years now, is made of quanta and not atoms. And, as science tells us, quanta do not exist until observed. (You know Heisenberg’s cats and all that.) And, when we observe quanta, then we can know things like their location, state, history and even gain a glimpse of their possible future. In other words, things exist only when we know their story.

The question remains, however, do stories exist before they are told to another?

 

B. Today’s Poems:

Steamboat Willie

I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Wille
On the telly
Last night
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.

The Avatar

On worried wings.
he softly sings
of dreams of fire
and ghostly things
with deep desire.
C. Comments on my previous post:

1.Aline.

Joe, I love your dreams. Who cares what they mean — if they make you laugh, keep dreaming! I am retiring on 11-30-16 so please change my email to ——————so I do not miss any of your further adventures, be they in Mendocino, Thailand or your dreams.

My response:

Thank you. I do not know how the office will manage without you. Hopefully, you’ll get to travel more and take more of those wonderful photographs.

2. Peter.

So you made it to BKK, Joe-good! Of course, your travel tale reminds me why Travel can be fascinating except for the Systems and Functionaries that Get In The Way and make it complicated and dreary. Being a hypochondriac doesn’t help, but that’s your cross to bear.

Little Masseuse is perceptive.

Thinking of which (bearing crosses), your First Centuries musings remind me that I just finished reading Christopher Moore’s (not “G” Moore) book “Lamb”. If you haven’t, you must read this. It’s told by Biff, best childhood friend of Jesus. ‘nuff said.

Incidentally, I couldn’t remember what I just read and had to get up and check the bookshelf to find out that it was “Lamb”. The potential bright side to this is that if it starts occurring for/to/by you, you’ll forget about the stuff you get hypochondriac about. Further, you could photo the rich red ketchup pee, wait a bit and eat some beets, and photo the deep purple pee from that (wear your Prince outfit). Do this with a few more colorful foodstuffs, create an exhibit with picture captions from suitable bits from your dreams, and display it at one of the galleries in the newly rediscovered and now-hip Dogwatch neighborhood, get noticed, become really rich and notorious (famous is fleeting), and travel in your own plane named in big letters the mysterious “REDPEE”.

Alternatively:

The Moonstone Circle glamor car riff is brilliant. You must acquire, rent, or otherwise obtain a beat up, mauve, anonymous Pinto or Henry J and slip into the “drive around” and see what happens. Have HRM video the reactions. Put That on Youtube.

I assume Maryann is recovered, and Mendocino too.

Meanwhile, muse news: Half of the band recorded an album of Americana-like originals in a proper studio (Grammy winner) in Oakland Jack London Square area. Others will record when schedules permit. The thing is aimed to surface next March. Technology uber alles. (Uber is ubiquitous.) Tomorrow we play at a spot along the annual Alzheimers fundraising walk (Ft. Mason-Marina-and back) – if I remember to get picked up. Our recent gig on the Sacramento Wine Train was fun in its own fluid fashion. The train got burglarized the night before our event; some train gear got ripped off. Nothing is sacred except the right to get as fabulously wealthy as you can at everyone else’s expense – and the Wailing Wall.

Non sequitur: The Coastal Conservancy will move from 1330 Bway into the Oakland State office building at the end of the year.

Anon.

My response:

Hypochondria is not a very good companion when you travel. But then it doesn’t do much for you at home either. On the other hand, I guess it is a comfort lying in your own bed when you’re having an imaginary illness.

LM is usually right, unfortunately.

As for the First Centuries, I still have to go through Herod the Insane, The Good Gay Jesus and Paulie the Apostate Mafioso.

Purple Pee would be a good name for a Hip Hop movie.

I have been meaning to read “Lamb.” Maybe this is a good time to get to it. Has anyone ever had a friend named “Biff,” or for that matter even known anyone named “Biff?” Maybe only God can have a friend called “Biff?” Maybe Biff pees purple. I bet Jesus would have liked that. Biff is a dogs name. Maybe Biff is a dog. Have I gone on long enough on this Biff riff? I’ll stop now.

MaryAnn is getting better — Mendocino, not so much.

Glad to hear that now that you are entering your late 70’s, your music career is taking off. Next, they will book your group at Carnegie Hall and the building will be stolen — by Biff. I can’t get Biff out of my mind. I’m Biff addled.

I agree it’s a Non-Sequitur. Perhaps Biff……..
3. AnnMarie.

Thank you for sharing the amusing story of hypochondria on your flight. It made me giggle out loud. I hope you are feeling better, and most of all, I’m glad you didn’t die. 😉

My response:

Thank you, I am glad I didn’t die too.

 

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Categories: July through September 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 20 Papa Joe 0003 (October 10, 2013)

“In my dealings with others, I always try to treat them better in person than I treat them in my mind.”
Trenz Pruca

Happy Birthday Aaron and Anthony
TODAY FROM THAILAND:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN BANGKOK:

Today was the first day I felt well since I arrived. I got up believing that things could not be better – a bad sign since by definition everything from that moment on had to be worse.

I sprang from my bed and began to exercise vigorously before the mirror. I have a theory that the more ridiculous your exercise movements appear, the better they are for you. Since I was exercising starkers that morning, they appeared ridiculous indeed. (Note: “starkers” means stark raving mad or stark naked or both.)

I left the apartment and headed off to breakfast. The sun was shining and sky was a clear blue. It was just warm enough to encourage a thin-film of sweat, not the mind numbing heat of a Bangkok afternoon.
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Street scene along the way to the health club.

As I walked along Soi Nana, I saw an ambulance pull over with – Heart Attack Emergency Response Unit – painted on its sides. It seemed that they were lost. One of the technicians leaned out of the window to ask directions from two passers-by. Each gave a different route. A lengthy discussion ensued. I listened for a while and then moved on leaving them to eventually find their way to the, I am sure, now deceased heart attack victim.

After breakfast, I went to the health club and paid the exorbitant $50 fee for one month’s membership in the decrepit facility. I complained and requested a discount. They refused but offered me free use of a locker for the month provided I supply my own lock.

After my swim, I walked with the old sailor/deep-sea diver back to his hotel which was on the way to my apartment. We talked about drugs and alcohol, their benefits and drawbacks. I found out that he had not been to the airport to see anyone off, but to meet me on my arrival. He said he knew how it was for someone to arrive alone at an airport after a long flight with no one to meet him.

I then continued on to my apartment and took a nap.

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On the fourth floor of the building in the photo is my apartment. It’s not much but I call it home. Under the small tree every evening one or two families, with infants in hammocks, roll out reed mats and have dinner together. I makes me very happy to see them.

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After breakfast at Foodland, on my way to the health club, I usually walk through a very dark alleyway I refer to as “The Tunnel.” It is about four feet wide with shops on each side and extends and entire block. Since my last visit here, several of the massage parlors, pachinko shops and the like have been converted to tiny bars. These bars are open and lively at 8 AM. Light in the alley is provided by the opening at each end, some dim fluorescence here and there and a few colored lights on the beer advertisements in the bars. As I walk through, I can barely make out the outline’s of women’s shapes and their teeth when they smile. The men, mostly westerners, eye me warily as though I may be a threat or something.

Oh, and of course there are the bodies – usually one or two – not dead I think, but sleeping or sleeping it off. They allow me to indulge in my Augustinian arrogance. You know, “There but for…”, well not Grace or God certainly. How about, “there but for the invisible hand and the vagaries of fortune go I.” That great invisible hand and luck could just as well exalt me to physical comfort and existential anguish, or drop me unconscious in the gutter. All praise the hand of the Lord.

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Most people walking past The Tunnel would think it dangerous, I imagine. But I have been walking through here for years now and the only things that have happened to me have been, now or then receiving a slap on the back by a guy inviting me for a drink or a woman emerging from the darkness, pressing her body against mine and saying “Welcome mister” or, “Hello Pa Pa.”

With a smile I politely turn them down — not because I have an ethical or moral objection to what they are offering but because underneath it all, I’m a snob.

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This is the entrance to Foodland. Inside is a supermarket, pharmacy and bank. Also, it contains a small counter service café where I eat my breakfast most days. For the price, I consider it one of BKK’s best restaurants.

As long as I am doing show and tell on my regular eating establishments, the following photo shows the sidewalk café where I often eat lunch.
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And this is where I eat dinner a lot. The waitress is a ladyboy with the body of a NFL linebacker who entwines orchids in her thick black hair and wears rhinestone encrusted platform high-heels.
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****************************************

During my walks I often encounter the feral urban fauna of the City. Pigeons of course, but rarely on the street, too dangerous. I can, however, hear them cooing in the trees. Those little brown birds found in most cities flock around, wrens, starlings or something. Yeates would know. The ones in BKK look a bit greasy. The house next door to my apt has several large aviaries by the road containing Parrots that make a racket at certain times of the day.
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The mangy soi dogs don’t approach you as dogs usually do looking for a handout or a sniff of your crotch, but silently slink away if you pass too close to them. Cats, mean looking creatures, peek out at you from dark places or sun themselves on tiny unreachable ledges. Then, of course, there are the rats that scurry beneath your feet from crevice to hole as you walk by. Despite their meekness, I suspect the rats are the most sociable of the lot. They are certainly the most numerous.

B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

“One of the benefits of traveling to other societies is that we are free to apply our prejudices when we observe their culture.”
Trenz Pruca

1. Food exports

Today the Bangkok Post reported that Thailand has become the world’s greatest exporter of insects for food with most of it going to the US. Thailand has over 20,000 “insect” farms.

Among the many questions I have is, who is buying this food? I have not seen packages of Genuine Imported Thai Insects on the shelves of Safeway or Raley’s — Whole Foods perhaps?

Another question is why do we have to import insects? Don’t we have enough of our own? Do Thai insects taste better than American ones?

2. Tourist murder solved?

A few weeks ago two tourists were killed in Thailand. There were no suspects. About two days ago the Thai tourist industry announced that violence against tourist hurts the industry. Yesterday the Thai police continued their remarkable success in solving all high-profile crimes by announcing they apprehended the murderers of the two tourists – two Burmese immigrant teenagers who confessed to the crime.

And yes, not even the Thais believe it.

3. Hell, a Family Resort.

The newspapers today also reported that the City Fathers of Pattaya (sometimes referred to as “The Outskirts of Hell”) announced their intention to turn the City into a “family resort” notwithstanding its reputation for sex of all varieties, crime and corruption. Pattaya is owned by the Thai counterparts to the same type of organization that created Sin City in the Nevada desert and now also wants to convert it to a Family Resort. Pattaya which experiences the mostly unreported death of a westerner or tourist almost every week is mobbed up from the soles of the jack-boots of the lowest policeman to the toupee adorning the mayor’s head.

Of course I exaggerate, Pattaya cops do not wear jack-boots and I haven’t the slightest idea if the mayor even owns a toupee.

4. Eye of the beholder.

The military has set up a committee to draft a new Constitution for Thailand, a central element of which would attempt to eliminate corruption. By law the members of the committee have to disclose their wealth. To probably no ones surprise, among the wealthiest and by far the largest in number of millionaires on the committee are the generals appointed to sit on it. How you might ask does a public employee, which generals are, become millionaires while on the job?

Since, they are not required to disclose the sources of their income, one can be reasonably sure that whatever the regulations to control official corruption may be, they will not apply to the military. I am sure the generals believe that the sources of their wealth are natural, the result or operation of a gracious and beneficent invisible hand, and therefore necessary for a healthy national economy.
TODAY’S QUOTE:

“In most periods of human history, exploitation of natural resources to satisfy human needs could be achieved with less expenditure of energy and with less danger, even in less desirable territories. In other words, war has never been a rational solution for obtaining resources to satisfy man’s material needs. …
…But of course, men have never been rational. They are fully capable of believing anything and of adopting any kind of social organization or social goals, so that warfare became at least a minor part of life in most societies.”
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Me standing before the entrance to the site of the Temple of Diana in Nemi, Italy (1997). I had spent almost 30 years, on and off, searching for it and found it on this trip when Ruth pointed it out the first time we passed by. Of course, as usual in Italy, the site was closed that day and no explanation given.

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 25 Joseph 0002 (January 14, 2013)

Note: Take a look at “Live Blogging from World War II: Russell Braddon on the Burma Railroad” below for an excellent first person view of his life as a grunt during WWII

 

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:

 

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PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

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.

 

Bonobo

Bonobo (Photo credit: Fat Steel Panda)

 

 

 

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.

 

Chimpanzee. Taken at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Chimpanzee. Taken at the Los Angeles Zoo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

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.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

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.

 

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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.

 

defense-spending-hills

 

“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.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

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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.

 

TODAY’S CHART:

 

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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

 

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Bangkok – River Scene

 

 

 

Categories: January 2013 through March 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. November 17, 2011

“Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that its citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom to those without wealth, income or power?”

POOKIE FOR PRESIDENT:

Please see the blog: http://papajoestales.wordpress.com/

I swear I do not make these things up. The latest from the quickly fading GOP flavor of the week, Herman Cain:

“I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy. Just thought I’d throw that out,” Herman Cain said to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter while on his campaign bus on Monday, the afternoon after his interview with the paper’s editorial board. “I want to talk to commanders on the ground. Because you run for president (people say) you need to have the answer. No, you don’t! No, you don’t! That’s not good decision-making.”

This weeks flavor, the much married, yacht loving Newtster said this in 1983:

“It is in the interest of the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan to invent new black Republicans, so to speak.”

Does this mean that Herman Cain was originally Newt’s Black or Reagan’s but is now Ann Coulter‘s?

Has the GOP become the ABM (Anybody But Mitt) Party?

TODAY’S FACTOID:

Facts from the first century AD:

1. With an estimated population between 800,000 and 1 million residents, Rome was the largest and most powerful city by the year 1 AD. Much of what we know about civilization in this ancient era comes from history recorded during Rome’s reign.

2. Give or take a whole bunch. It would be impossible to know anything close to the real number, but estimates have put the global population during the first century in the 200 million range. The most populated areas were the communities based around the Ganges, Tigris, Yangtze, Nile and Po rivers.

3. Jewish girls could be married as early as 12 years and a day. Though to be fair, it was more common to wait until they reached 12 and a half. In those days, marriage took place in two stages. The formal betrothal would first be agreed upon between the husband and the girl’s father. Several months to a year later, the girl would move into her new husband’s house. It wasn’t until they started living together that the marriage became official.
TODAY’S NEWS FROM AMERICA:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA:

I am now in Sacramento . It appears that I am the designated nanny for a few days. Hopefully this will give me a chance to visit with the Geyers and the Dalls who have consistently proven to be friends whose kindness I could never repay. In the meantime, I occupy myself by playing with Hayden and my computer.

The fall colors are out here and they are magnificent this year. Not the overwhelming lush riot of colors one experiences in western Massachusetts or eastern NY, but exceptionally dramatic nevertheless. It appears that the landscape plans for subdivisions around here were chosen to feature trees with spectacular fall colors.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

RED STAR

Chapter: Vincent Harried (cont.)

Meg, picked up her cruiser in the parking garage under Vince’s building and drove out on her way to meet Fat Al to begin coordinating with him as they had agreed during a brief telephone conversation in Vince’s office. A late-model, dark blue Toyota Corolla followed.

Vince, meanwhile, feeling satisfied he had stirred the pot enough for one day, decided to go home and get ready for dinner with Isabella. He decided that since it was a nice sunny day he would walk the few blocks to his apartment. As he walked he tried to spot the agents Russell had promised to provide for his safety; minders or watchers, he could never remember which, that LeCarre assured were what they were referred to by M-15 or 16, he could not remember that either. I wonder what we call them here, he thought as he walked along. He couldn’t spot anything or anyone minding or watching him. Probably not there, he mused. Just another shuck and jive in whatever game they were playing. He felt a little bad about what he was doing. Attorneys were trained not to be rash but to may sure they had worked out all the angles before acting or advising a client to act. Well, he never thought of himself as that good of an attorney anyway. He recalled an old girlfriend who had called him impetuous. He was not sure if he liked it then and not sure if he liked in now. But, he thought if it were just spy vs spy they all deserve the little run around he was giving them and if it were not and he were in danger, he might as well force the issue and face it now when he was somewhat prepared; if anyone could be prepared for something like this.

Nevertheless disregarding caution, he inevitably drifted into ruminating on his upcoming dinner with Isabella, fantasizing taking her to bed, plotting how to accomplish that. And so he continued on blissfully unaware of anything except his own daydreams.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Cracked News from “Not the Nation”(Thailand’s “Daily Onion”):

THAILAND/BURMA BORDER – Thailand’s Bt20-billion human trafficking industry is experiencing a major drop in production due to the flood crisis, human traffickers reported this week.
“This crisis has hit our business hard, at both the supply and distribution end,” said Thanh Huendoc, who manages a large Burmese-Thai trafficking syndicate. “We’re looking at huge losses this year.”

b. : What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

1. ” Occupy” poster:

2. From “The Economist”:

“A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the (first) Gilded Age. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace….Everywhere you look in modern America – in the Hollywood Hills or the canyons of Wall Street, in the Nashville recording studios or the clapboard houses of Cambridge, Massachusetts – you see elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain, with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening, and a gap widening between the people who make decisions and shape the culture and the vast majority of working stiffs.”

c. Excerpts from Bill Moyer’s speech to Citizens United:

“How could it be? How could this happen in the country whose framers spoke of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the same breath as political equality? Democracy wasn’t meant to produce a class-ridden society. When that son of French aristocracy Alexander de Tocqueville traveled through the bustling young America of the 1830s, nothing struck him with greater force than “the equality of conditions.” Tocqueville knew first-hand the vast divisions between the wealth and poverty of Europe, where kings and feudal lords took what they wanted and left peasants the crumbs. But Americans, he wrote, “seemed to be remarkably equal economically.” “Some were richer, some were poorer, but within a comparative narrow band. Moreover, individuals had opportunities to better their economic circumstances over the course of a lifetime, and just about everyone [except of course slaves and Indians] seemed to be striving for that goal.” Tocqueville looked closely, and said: “I easily perceive the enormous influence that this primary fact exercises on the workings of the society.”
d. How To Talk Like A Republican (the new American Lexicon):

From Frank Luntz Republican Party consultant in a memorandum to Party leaders and regulars:

You see we must never let them really know what we are about. God knows we would NEVER want to have to defend shipping jobs overseas and God forbid government should decide to stop the practice. As you can see by the repetitive emphasis on the Almighty that this is obviously God’s will.

Also, rhyming is important to Republicans, otherwise they could not remember what they were told to do

e. Testosterone Chronicles:

• When men watch wrongdoers getting punished, there is activation in reward centers of their brains, whereas women’s brains show activation in pain centers, suggesting that they feel empathy for suffering even when it is deserved (Tania Singer and collaborators).

Read more: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/bakadesuyo/~3/bea6srN06Qs/do-women-and-men-have-different-moral-values#ixzz1dEZVO7XD

Does this mean that women are genetically predisposed to liberalism? No wonder God considers them the lesser sex.

f. Department of abasement, apology and correction:

I have recently been reminded that there is ugliness in politics and questioned as to whether or not good people should ignore it (the politics and the ugliness). To which I can only point to Plato who, in one of his few cogent moments, reminded us, “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” I would think Plato’s warning applies to “good people” also.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar.”
~Barry Goldwater

Imagine, if Barry were running for president today he would be considered the liberal-socialist candidate.

TODAY’S CHART:

Why would anyone want to own a piece of South Texas? Is this another one per-center plot? Does the 40% own the mineral rights? Probably not, I’m sure the one per-centers would hold on to them along with the water rights. So what it all comes down to is, 40% of the American people own nothing but a few acres of worthless property somewhere in Texas. Unfortunately, they probably voted for Rick Perry for Governor and he rewarded them by promoting a law allowing him to sell their miserable speck of land to the one per-centers using the 40%’s own money. Well, I guess, the 40% can always move to Mexico.

TODAY’S CARTOON:

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:


Another example of finding beauty and optimism amidst tragedy.

Categories: October 2011 through December 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3 Th. November 13, 2010

Al Capone. Mugshot information from Science an...

Al Capone. Mugshot information from Science and Society Picture Gallery: Al Capone (1899-1947), American gangster, 17 June 1931. ‘Al Capone sent to prison. This picture shows the Bertillon photographs of Capone made by the US Dept of Justice. His rogue’s gallery number is C 28169’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s factoid:

1929 May 7Chicago Outfit hit-men Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, two of the men suspected in the murder of North Side Gang leader Dean O’Banion and fellow mob boss Joseph “Hop Toad” Giunta, the current Unione Siculiana President were all killed during a lavish party held at Al Capone’s residence. The party was a ruse by mob boss Al Capone to lure the three men to their deaths after their plan to gain leadership of the Chicago Outfit by eliminating Capone was uncovered. The men were beaten to death by Capone, who used a baseball bat to commit the murders.

(They fall for the party bit every time.)

Today’s news from Thailand:

1. Flush with new funds (I do not know from where) and increasing popularity in Northeast Thailand, the opposition party (Red Shirts) are preparing for expected victory in the general elections scheduled for sometime next year, when and more importantly if they occur. I guess the following can be anticipated between now and then:
a, The military will redouble its efforts to institutionalize the organizational changes under-weigh within the military high command and within its chief rival the national police.
b. The military will use the remaining States of Emergency (over primarily Red Shirt areas) to destroy their infrastructure and intimidate potential voters.
c. The military will seek to institutionalize their administrative control over the rebellious South.
d. The current government while having no real option but to rely on the military will contribute by continuing their efforts to create legal barriers to the return of ex-prime minister Thaksin and by supporting populist appearing policies in hopes of winning over some voters.
e. Should all this fail and a Red Shirt victory appear possible then, if the military feels confident enough in their power, look for an attempted accommodation with the Red Shirts over budget and personnel issues and failing that suspension of the elections or another coup.

2. In Phnom Penh Cambodia the police have begun arresting “anarchist” cattle who are blocking traffic.

Karen people, rice growing in Doi In

Karen people, rice growing in Doi In (Photo credit: pierre pouliquin)

3. The clashes along the Thai Burma border between Karen rebels and the Burmese army appear to be abating. The conflict seems to have been touched off by a rebel group within the Karen forces who for some reason objected to an agreement between the Burmese government and the Karen leadership to turn over the guarding of the border with Thailand to the Karen forces.

Pookie’s adventures in Thailand:

Today I discovered that I was only about 5 pounds over my target weight. Whether my most recent weight loss has been the result of diet, exercise or due to my recent attack of food poisoning, I do not know.

This morning a went for my usual stroll through “Little Crimea.” The beach culture that I walk through is as alien to me as the surrounding Thai lifestyles and customs. I feel fortunate to be able every morning to experience three distinct societies; Thai through my interaction with the merchants and wait-people at the café where I always feel a bit like I am somehow doing something wrong; European with my discussions with Ian from Scotland ( who has lived here in Thailand for over 30 years) about things like how drunk was Winston Churchill during World War II and finally; The Great Slavic Nation whose mores are as opaque to me as any.

As usual, temporizing has come to my rescue with respect to my trip planning. Until yesterday my schedule was dependent to a considerable degree on the situation with Hayden. Yesterday I discovered that SWAC is depositing him with a family in Washington DC, thereby eliminating any possibility of my seeing him either in the US or in Italy. So, now my plans are to return to the US in mid December, visit with friends and family during the holidays, have my medical check-up and return to Thailand in early January.

Papa Joe’s fables and tales:

THE MASSEUSE’S TALE OF A NIGHT OF RAIN AND AN UMBRELLA.

Recently my masseuse told me that a few nights ago it had been raining heavily in Bangkok. She had retreated to her tiny room and lay upon her bed. Because the roof leaked badly she had opened her tiny umbrella to protect herself from the dripping water. She was unable to sleep. After a while there was a knock at her door and upon opening it she found the homeless woman who lived in the alley by her room standing there dripping wet. She invited her in and they spent the night waiting out the storm together huddled under the umbrella.

“That was very nice of you.” I said.

She looked at me quizzically and said, “She held the umbrella for half the night so that I could get some sleep.”

I guess the moral of this tale is, “When it is raining and the roof leaks and all you have is a small umbrella, charity can keep you dry and help you to get some sleep.”

Mopey Joe’s memories:

TOO MANY JOES (CONT.)

JOE (CONT.)

Joe’s business prospered and not long after the birth of Jack (my father), he along with a distant relative named Biancchi formed a construction company named Petrillo and Biancchi Construction.

Joe ran the operations side and Biancchi who could read and write English was in charge of office matters. The business succeeded beyond all expectations. It became one of the first significant Italian-American construction companies in the United States. They specialized in heavy construction, roads and the like. They built many of the roads in Westchester County as the United State’s vast road building and paving enterprise was just getting under-weigh to accommodate the motor car.

This was also a period of great movement of people from New York City into what they considered the bucolic environment of Westchester County. Petrillo and Biancchi built the infrastructure for the neighborhoods to accommodate these new style immigrants. The move from the City although first seen as  indication of material success soon became a frenzied flight from the real or imagined evils of the City.

Joe built the house on Dante Avenue in Tuckahoe. Today that home would be considered relatively modest in size, but for an immigrant family it was huge. More importantly it was built on Dante Avenue.

Dante Avenue, despite its name, had been off-limits for Italian Americans at that time. On it lived those who for one reason or another could not or would not live in Scarsdale or Bronxville, Jews because they were prohibited by deed and “gentlemen’s agreements” (as were Italians and Blacks), successful WASP businessmen in the area who wanted to live more closely to their businesses and others sensible and independent enough to realize that they could build their largish houses much cheaper in Tuckahoe that in the gold-plated restricted communities around them.

Joe and his family were the first Italian-Americans to move to Dante Avenue. There was little resistance, even if there was some concern, since most of the other residents tended to be somewhat iconoclastic for the time.

By about 1928, with his oldest son approaching nine or so, Joe decided he wanted to enjoy the wealth he had amassed and return to Italy in a style that would have been denied to him had he remained there and not emigrated to the United States. So, he sold his interest in the company to his partner for some cash and notes that could allow him to live back in his native country as almost a minor nobility.

Pepe’s potpourri:

1. The wisdom of Miracle Max:

Miracle Max: [Lifts and drops the arm of the dead Westley] “I’ve seen worse.”
The Princess Bride

2. My newest patron saint, Saint Moses the Black:


Moses was a gang leader in 5th century Egypt (Sort of like the 5th century version of the leader of the local “Hells Angels” or the “Mongols” or the Egyptian Al Capone if you will) and murderer and thief.

One day he was trapped by the authorities. In order to escape capture and avoid almost certain execution, Moses ducked into monastery and claimed sanctuary. Fearing arrest should he leave the precincts of the monastery, Moses wisely became a monk.

Shortly thereafter 4 brigands invaded the church to loot the poor box or something. Our Moses was on duty that night. He caught the thieves, beat them up and dragged them off to face the Abbot.

This thrilled the abbot. He announced to the other monks that Moses had seen the light of God since he only beat the shit out of the thieves and did not kill them.

When the good abbot died, the other monks acclaimed Moses abbot. It seems that at the time defense of the Holy Writ was better served by two fists than pious prayers.

Moses died in his seventies while leading a counter-attack on a local biker gang that had the temerity to assault Moses’ monastery.

Now here is a saint I think I can pray to.

Today’s quote:

When evening comes, I return home [from work and from the local tavern] and go to my study. On the threshold, I strip naked, taking off my muddy, sweaty work day clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and, in this graver dress, I enter the courts of the ancients, and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity, reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death; I pass indeed into their world.
Niccolo Machiavelli describing his exile in a letter to Francesco Vettori.

Today’s Photo:

Hayden’s friend Leo and his father Gerry.

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. October 14, 2010

Today’s factoid:

1982, Sicilian mafioso Filippo Marchese is killed. He was in charge of what became known as the Room Of Death, a small apartment along the Piazza Sant Erasmo Road. Victims who stood in the way of the Corleonesi of Totò Riina during the Second Mafia War were lured there to be murdered, usually by being garroted. Their bodies were either dissolved in acid or chopped up and dumped out at sea. Marchese was also garroted and dissolved in acid like so many of his own victims. He was so elusive that the authorities did not learn of his death until the late 1980s through an informant.

Today’s Petrillo comment:

Please review the attached important announcement.

Regarding my last post, some of you have commented that they prefer reading the travelogues. Others of you like my Historical riffs and observation on local customs best. Most of you who have commented say that they like the “Today’s factoid” while they could do without “Today’s Quote” (this surprises me since I rather enjoy the discovery of the “bon mot”).

A number of you have found my recitations of political or social opinion or observations about my body and those of others and the like, an acquired taste. Ruth has called them my “epistles”. Others of you have called them “weird” (a comment I alas have received quite often). Irwin, in his satirical survey a few weeks back that I shared with you requested, “keep me off the list that contains gross descriptions of politicians, Thai food, the man on the street, and fat german female tourists, fully clothed or (worse) semi-nude.”

I fell a little like the media mogul juggling his lineup of shows so that he can make even more money than he needs in order to use it to corrupt the political process. I on the other hand do this for fun although, I must admit, I would love to be able to corrupt the political process too.

And so, until oh maybe the next post, I shall move my travelogue back to the front page. But, I intend to keep the titles and chapter headings which I have grown to like.

“Today’s quote”, will drop to the end just before “Ciao” and any attachments.

My epistles will now be relegated to attachments, however they will hereafter be entitled, Pookie’s Epistle to the “Thai email list” number X + __. This now being the first will be numbered X + 1.

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

NOWHERE AND BACK AGAIN

CHAPTER V: BEWILDERED IN AYUTTHAYA

The next morning I left my room and went down to the lobby to have coffee and to wait for the others. I assumed I would be waiting for a while since they had gone night-clubbing last night and did not return until about four in the morning.

It had rained last night and the busy street in front of the motel was flooded with water deep enough to entirely cover the tires of an ordinary car.

As I drank my coffee, I watched as the different vehicles drove or at times were pushed through the water. The motor bikes were especially interesting. Some of the riders would ride or walk their bikes through the water drenching their trousers or dresses. Others however would motor through the water happily perched on their seat, the soles of their feet gaily resting on the handlebars. Every now and then a motor bike would be swamped by the wake thrown off by the by the large buses rushing to wherever, as though there were no flood.

Eventually my companions awakened, we bid good-by to Lek and started off bleary eyed to cross the central.lowlands once again.

We reached Ayutthaya a little after midday and drove into the city.

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand or Siam as it was then called from the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth centuries when it was overthrown and destroyed by the invading Burmese. It was more or less governed as an absolute monarchy where much of the population lived in a form of serfhood or slavery. The kings in addition to their political status were also the religious leaders of the country, a lot like the Renaissance Popes in the Papal States. A number of the kings saw their monkish life to be at least as, if not more important than the affairs of state. Coupled with the fact that there lacked clear rules for succession when the old king died, the kingdom was often in a state of turmoil as one general or another or one royal prince or another rebelled and as often as not usurped the throne.

Nevertheless, the kingdom lasted for over 400 years as the dominant force in all or South East Asia (more than twice as long as the United States) until it was overthrown. During its heyday, it controlled in one way or another, in addition to the territory of modern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and much of Burma.

At one time during the Seventeenth Century the city of Ayutthaya was reputed to be the largest city in the world with about one million inhabitants. Now all that is left are the red brick ruins of the royal precincts standing like Ozymandias (See today’s attachment) as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of fame and power.

We drove around for a while looking for something, up and down the same back roads, past the same corners, calls were made, maps consulted, pedestrians interrogated. When I inquired as to what was going on, I was told that a friend of ours, Jo-Jo, who used to work at AVA now lived in this city with her husband and child.

Eventually it seemed we found what we were looking for in the center of the ruins of the old Siamese capital. We pulled to the curb and waited, then drove off and returned to the same spot by a different route. We waited again for about a minute than drove off again, taking a third route and returning again to the same spot for the same minute or so and then drove off again, this time not returning but proceeding back onto the highway and continuing our transect of the lowlands.

I did not ask what all the driving and stopping was about deciding that sometimes it is more interesting not knowing something than knowing it.

Today’s quote:

Buttercup: “We’ll never survive!”
Westley: “Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
– The Princess Bride

Today’s attachment:

OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelly (1818)

If one wants to compare good poetry with the not so good compare Shelly’s poem above with the one below both published a month apart and covering the exact same subject.

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

—Horace Smith.

Of course, with a name like Percy Bysshe Shelly one would have to grow up to be a poet,… or a serial killer. Someone named Horace Smith on the other hand probably became an accountant.

Ciao…

Today’s bonus attachment:

As a proud father, I send this along to you. It is the best birthday present I could imagine.

Tauscher Letter

_________________________________________________

Comments regarding the Post:

From Ruth Galanter:

Very cool about Jessica!
Remind me what ISN stands for.

My response:

International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau.

What makes me especially proud is not only the quality of the report, but that it sets the standard to be followed for all countries that are signatories to the Biological Weapons Non-proliferation Treaty. As far as I can tell, it is only through the amassing of these CBM reports can the provisions of the Treaty be implemented.

As a collateral benefit of the report, the institutions, resources and mechanisms mentioned in it are also applicable to the response to natural occurring plagues and epidemics.

One of the important although unmentioned impacts of the report is that it represents one of the few times that the multiple agencies in the national security (including international agencies) field have worked cooperatively with one another and with ,private and academic laboratories and scientists to produce something like this. I would guess that as long as the people involved remain in their positions with their current institutions, the promise of continued cooperation in times of crises may become a reality.

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. October 11, 2010

Today’s Factoid:

Frank Lentini, born Francesco A. Lentini (1889–1966) was born in Siracusa, Sicily into a large family. He was born with three longer legs, two sets of genitals and one rudimentary foot on his third leg. His primary legs also grew into different lengths. At the age of nine, Lentini moved to the United States and entered the sideshow business.

(And he was a great success in show business. Now you know all about Frank. Aren’t you glad you asked?)

Today’s quote:

“Hence it has come to pass that most or all sentient beings have been developed in such a manner, through natural selection, that pleasurable sensations serve as their habitual guide.”
Charles Darwin.

(So now we know the real reason for rejecting evolution – unbridled licentiousness.)

Today’s News from Thailand:

Little has changed in the political situation in Thailand. The military remains engaged in a mop up battle to preserve its prerogatives.

One must remember that ever since the 1932 military coup that overthrew the absolute monarchy, with few exceptions, Thailand has been ruled by a military dictatorship of some sort or another. During that time the military has had no problems switching political sides when necessary to preserve their power.

In 1945 the military dictatorship that overthrew the absolute monarchy, was staunchly anti-royalist and supported the japanese occupation of Thailand. It was itself overthrown by an anti-japanese civilian government. Nevertheless by 1947 it returned to absolute power by the simple expedient of switching to the royalist cause.

Over the next 50 years or so the Thai military appears to have slowly learned that the direct management of the institutions of government was no longer the optimum method of preserving power. The suppression of challenges from the right or left, religious or civil political forces was too draining on domestic military resources and international good will.

I think the modern Thai military has realized that they only required a few essential things to maintain their prerogatives. They are:

Absolute control of the military budget
Control over personnel in the chain of command.
Exemption from civilian judicial oversight.
Control of so-called military secrets.
A credible gun to the head of any government who may attempt to reform this system

The military will ally itself with any political entity in opposition to any person or institution that threatens this system.

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

In spite of the noise of the party goers and the crash of the falls, I slept soundly. In the morning, I showered and left my cabin. TBB had just began stirring. Outside Gun Girl and one of the guys were frolicking in the falls. I went down to the restaurant where I had some cold eggs and instant coffee for breakfast (One cannot have everything). I sat by the side of the river and watched the sunlight come and go as it filtered through the trees lightning up different sections of the falls while leaving others in shadow.

We left the resort at about 11AM. I went in Lek’s vehicle, her son driving. Lek and I sat in the back seat where Lek became uncomfortably intimate and began telling me about her ruined marriage and her love affair with a British man whose offer of marriage she had to turn down because she could not stand her suitor’s teenaged daughter.

It was then that I began to perceive that perhaps Lek was supposed to be my blind date during the trip. Apparently, Gun Girl and the Sullen One were lovers and had slept together in one of the beds in the party house. Lek slept in the other bed with Mata Hari. She told me that when she woke up that morning “The lady-boy was draped over me like a blanket”.

Gun Girl, who is in her mid to late 30’s, was in full Cougar mode as the Sullen One was by far the youngest of our group, barely, if at all, out of his teens. His job, beside whatever nighttime services he rendered, seemed to be to carry Gun Girl’s luggage and camera and run her errands.

Eventually, we stopped at a gas station. We all got out and Lek’s son and girlfriend drove off in Lek’s car leaving the rest of us there with only Gun Girl’s vehicle. We waited, for what I neither knew, asked or cared.

After about an hour, a pick-up truck with a covered bed arrived. I was told that I would be traveling in the truck and the others in Gun Girl’s car. I got into the truck with two men in military camouflage jackets. They moved a couple of small machetes from the front seat so I could sit there. We drove off the paved road and onto a badly rutted and muddy dirt road and went up a fairly steep hill until we arrived at a wooden Thai house were everyone got out. The house was perched on stilts leaving the space beneath in a deep gloom. I could not see any windows in the house itself.

The two men and what appeared to be the residents of the building removed everything from the back of the truck and replaced whatever it was with a cooler, a case of soda water and some pads and a rug. I stood in the middle of the muddy rutted road and watched them scurry about or alternately closely examined the small stream that flowed around the house and across the road.

They soon finished doing whatever and everyone piled into the back of the truck except for me and the driver. In addition to the two of us, there were now two other men, a woman and a 4-year-old or so boy child. We drove back down the mountain and on to the paved road and after stopping for ice, took off in the direction that I assumed the other car had gone. No one in the truck spoke any english and I spoke no Thai.

We were supposed to be going into what Lek called the “Switzerland of Thailand,” but to me at least initially It looked more like a heavily forested Dolomites except here instead of granite, the mountains appeared to be made of limestone. Probably the same formation that formed the Andaman Islands south of here.

After topping a rise, we entered into a large valley containing a huge artificial lake. The valley fittingly was named “Lake Valley”. The lake itself was quite beautiful with the cliffs at the eastern edge dropping directly into the water. Dotting the center of the lake were many fishing shacks and along the shore more substantial construction on stilts or houseboats.

Passing the lake, the road got narrower as we plunged into dense foliage. Lacking the usual multi story canopy of the jungle, it and the hills around us reminded me a bit of the thick forests of the Catskills or Adirondacks but in place of maple, pine, birch, ash and hickory, Southeast Asian tree species filled much the same niches. Large groves of a tall tree with a diameter of about 12 inches appeared. I was told they were teak. Their leaves were large, the size of a chafing-dish.

When I was a kid the cheap dish sets we ate off of usually came with something called a chafing-dish. It was usually shallow and had a cover. We did not know what it was for (or what chafing meant) so we usually used it without the cover to serve anti-pasta or to serve mashed potatoes on meat and potato day (we were trying hard to assimilate).

As we climbed higher the multi story canopy jungle began to emerge. Huge trees with trunks two feet or more in diameter rising straight up, not branching for at least 100 feet, towered over the other trees like the redwoods tower over the coastal forests of California. The lower story of the forest canopy was made up of shrubs and bamboo groves.

We were passing through some of Thailand’s most extensive National Forests and Wildlife Preserves. They are reputed to contain Tigers, Gibbons, Elephants and a whole host of other animals (I even saw an “Elephant Crossing” sign). However the only fauna I observed were the scrawny, mangy feral dogs that seem to exist everywhere in the country.

We drove on and up through the unremitting green. I began to get bored. It was like climbing from the Central Valley on the way to Tahoe. At a certain point I would always get to feel a bit like Spiro Agnew. I had seen enough Incense Cedars, Ponderosa Pines and Giant Sequoias for that particular trip. Also, I always mistrusted green.

When I was growing up in Tuckahoe NY we lived for a while in Section 8 public housing. They required all the walls in the apartments to be painted with paint supplied by the Housing Authority and that paint was always institutional green. I grew to become strongly repulsed by the color. I have found it unfortunate that the environmental community has chosen the color and the word” green” as their trademarks. Why couldn’t they have chosen blue for the sky for example or orange for the sun or even magenta for its own sake and a for the sake of a few glorious sunsets?

Thinking of magenta made me think of Crayola crayons. I loved them – not to draw or color with. I found them horrid for that purpose, just like colored pencils and those stupid little watercolor sets that they forced on kids. No wonder so many give up the graphic arts while still children. Oils would work, but where does a 6-year-old find artist oil paints (acrylics had not been invented yet, I think)?

No, I collected Crayola crayons for their names, even if I rarely used them to draw with. Woolworth’s used to sell them singly from large bins. My favorite was “Burnt Sienna.” (Some other great names included, “Atomic Tangerine,” “Beaver.” “Electric Lime,” “Jazzberry Jam,” “Macaroni and Cheese,” “Mango Tango,” “Neon Carrot,” “Radical Red” and “Wild Blue Yonder.”)

I do not even recall what “Burnt Sienna” looks like, probably some shade of orange or brown.

One color I collected but simply did not understand was “Flesh.” It was very rare and one had to look around for it. I tried it out once on a sheet of paper thinking that my stick people drawings suddenly would come alive if I applied “Flesh” color to the circle that represented their faces. To my great distress, I discovered that “Flesh” was sort of a washed out pink. That was not the color of the skin of the people I knew. Pink was the color of the people who lived in the posh suburb of Bronxville, just south of Tuckahoe. You could not live in Bronxville if you were Italian, Jewish or Black. Bronxville people were pink, with visible blue veins no less. They gave me nightmares just like Froggy and Smilin Ed.

No, real people had skin that was dusky olive, or various shades of black or brown. Even the wealthy Jews who lived on the hills just outside of Bronxville looked more like us than those strange beings living across the village boundary a few feet away.

(Eventually Crayola recognized that not all people’s’ skin was pink and changed the name of the color from “Flesh” to “Peach”.)

The blackest person I knew was my friend Philie Pinto. Most people’s skin, whether black, brown, Khaki or olive, glow when in the light, sort of like a newly waxed automobile does. Not Phillie. He appeared to have been dipped in coal dust. He just adsorbed light. Once after many years absence, I returned to Tuckahoe and went into a bar called the Carioca. My grandfather used to own it when it was a fairly well-known jazz club in the area. It had fallen on hard times now and was dark and dingy. Phillie sat at the end or the bar. He had grown up to become the town taxi driver. I knew it was him. I could see his clothes, but his face was like smoke.

Some of the black kids in the town were what I have heard African-Americans refer to as High Yellow. Unlike the big-boned, heavy muscled, wide nosed very dark west african type like the Blout family, they were tall, slender narrow nosed lighter skinned like my friend Rabbit and his brothers and sisters. I do not know what color one would have called Rabbit, but certainly not yellow, high or not. Maybe “Burnt Sienna” or “Burnt Umber” another of my favorites. But I digress (I, by the way, always considered myself a khaki colored person).

Eventually we arrived at an overlook that gave great views over the mountains and back towards the lake. A Thai motorcycle club or gang was there. In the 90 plus degree heat they were all wearing long-sleeved leather jackets with “The Killer’’ emblazoned on the back. I do not know if it referred to the name of the club, or if they all chose the same nickname or if it was the name of their favorite rock band.

Anyway, after a short rest we went on to a Thai military outpost high on a mountain top overlooking Myanmar replete with razor wire, sandbags, trenches and buried bunkers maned by one soldier who did not seem to possess any armaments whatsoever but was otherwise, I assume, prepared to resist, as the first line of defense, any onslaught by the Burmese intending to invade Thailand, rape their women and burn down their capital as they have done so often in the past.

Actually raping their women would be completely unnecessary today given the availability for military RR in Thailand of places like Nana Plaza and Pattaya. And as for burning down the capital, some have said it would be doing Thailand a favor.

After looking across the mountains into Myanmar for a while, we left the redoubt to the lone soldier and journeyed down the mountain to visit a tiny village on the border called Pritik or something like that. Gun Girl told me that the village was in Myanmar, but it was not. It was however to some extent a Karen/Burmese peopled town. There were very few adults visible. The town seemed occupied principally by children, all seeming between the ages of 3 and 7. On the whole they appeared to me to be the most beautiful children I had ever seen.

The village seemed as peaceful as peaceful could be.

We then went to the border itself and walked across into Burma. On the Thai side there was a single uniformed soldier who lifted the gate and accompanied us as we strode into Myanmar.

We had taken some of the children from the town along with us. In addition to being beautiful they seemed also innocent and beguiling,( unless the town secretly was intent on raising a generation of accomplished sociopaths). We went up a small incline past the crest of the hill and came upon the Burmese guard-house. There was no gate across the road, but along the side of the road was a fence made up of small sharpened bamboo pickets and a gate behind which there were two tumbledown stone buildings.

The children opened the gate and ran into one of the stone huts and woke up the person sleeping there. He did not have a uniform, but I was assured that he was indeed Burmese. He posed for photographs with us as we stared across Burma to the Andaman Sea in the distance.

We then headed back down the mountain and stopped for dinner at one of those ubiquitous bamboo huts that dot the edge of the roadways in Thailand. They usually have a sagging palm covered roof, no walls, contain an open kitchen and a few tables. This one had three tables. It also had a coke machine and a Karaoke set up.

It apparently was owned by the family in whose truck I had spent the better part of the day. They cooked up what they called “Food from the Mountain”. It featured Frogs, not frogs legs but whole frogs that sat there on the rice in my dish looking like nothing else other than a burned brown frog that was staring back at me. I found it to contain too many bones. Another dish I was told was made from something that lived in the trees. It was not a bird, monkey or squirrel but no one knew its name in english. The third meat dish was made from some animal no one could or would describe (it tasted like chicken always a bad sign – maybe it was one of those feral dogs. Then again, I hope not). The vegetables looked like and tasted like vines and grass. Although I tried eating it all, it was too spicy hot for me to eat much, so they made me an omelet.

Mata Hari sang a few songs on the Karaoke machine. At one point, as everyone began to feel the effects of the prodigious amounts of liquor they had been drinking all day, the conversation got around to joking about whether at my age, I was strong enough to handle a woman like Lek. When I acknowledged that I probably could not, the man who drove the truck took from out of his pocket some pills that he said was Thai herbal Viagra and would make one strong and vigorous. Several of us tried it, including me.

That night we slept at the house of another friend of Gun Girl. Shortly after retiring the Thai herbal medicine hit me like Benzedrine on steroids. I spent rest of the night walking around the room, doing push ups, jumping jacks and several other exercises to burn off the energy until at about daybreak when I fell exhausted onto the bed and slept for perhaps two hours.

Ciao…

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

This and that from Thailand. February 11, 2018

Yesterday I walked around my garden examining the health of the plants and looking for the variety of flowers planted. That’s when I realized that I was looking in the wrong direction for the flowers. Apparently, in tropical climates flowers grow more often high up in trees than closer to the ground as they do in more temperate areas. The lilies (like the spider lilies bordering the driveway) grow close to the ground but the others like the Frangipani and Golden Trumpets grow high up on the tops of the trees. The Frangipani trees look like they are not doing well for some reason.

Today’s photo is a regression on my walk to the school (and perhaps a regression of my mind as well). About half way along the long street in my prior photos, stands the corrugated metal shack visible in today’s photo. There are several such shacks in the subdivision and I would guess hundreds of thousands throughout Thailand. These shacks contain no heat or AC, no running water except from a hose and limited if any sanitary facilities. These shacks are inhabited by the day laborers who work in the subdivision.

The Thai’s like to have their manual laborers close to hand, unlike in America where we assume they have the means to travel long distances to their jobs (otherwise they would be considered lazy). The laborers are mostly illegal aliens. Mostly Burmese. They are darker skinned than the normal Thai. I hear tell that they work for lower wages and on jobs so menial and dangerous that not even the poorest Thai will undertake.

Periodically, for often arbitrary political reasons, the brutal Thai immigration police will raid these dwellings, beat the inhabitants up and load them on to trucks to be sent back across the border. Thank God the US as a civilized country refrains from that.

Of course these illegal immigrants, unlike in the US, are the scapegoats for political hijinks. The business community loves their low wages and fear of complaining about working conditions and so they lobby hard to make sure no immigration reform upsets that particular apple cart. In order to achieve these goals not only do they buy off their favorite pols, but their hirelings are sent out to incite the know nothing conservative element (there are no tea-baggers in Thailand yet) in the country to oppose reform by claiming the illegals are taking the jobs of citizens, exploiting the welfare rolls and that they left their own country only because they are inherently lazy and want to take advantage of the more civilized welfare laws of Thailand.

Aren’t you glad that you all live in a really civilized country where this does not happen and where most of us recognize the difficulties our progenitors had to face when they came into this country, the bigotry, the menial dangerous jobs and the calls for immigration reform to stop the flood of our dirty, lazy non english speaking ancestors who failed in their own country and only came here to take our jobs and live off the benefits that the original settlers worked so hard to take from the Native Americans.

And then there are the Liberals and NGOs. Here in Thailand (unlike in the US) they try to make you believe they really care for these people and not the principle involved. They seem to want save these people by forcing them onto the unemployment rolls where somehow they will be better off. I often wonder how bad the lives of these people must have been in their home countries for them to leave it for a life like this.

Anyway what is a good liberal like me to do as I quake with sorrow at these people’s predicament when I walk by their hovels. I know (imagine a light bulb here)!! I am a foreigner in another culture and as a good liberal I know that I should never interfere in the cultural practices of another ethnic group or country, so I will do nothing. I feel good about that.

Stop me before I do it again. I cannot help myself.

——————————————————————

COMMENTS:

From Joe to T. Goggin:

I wonder if I am ever going to miss that. But then again I have always believed that we men are held together by fear and stress. Something we got from running through the jungle or grasslands or whatever. Stress that we would not kill enough food for the family (and avoid the ridicule of the women who had probably just went out and picked enough fruit to feed themselves) and fear that some Wooly Mammoth would step on heads if we were not careful. If we stopped a moment to smell the flowers then for sure some saber-tooth tiger will come along and bite us on our ass. Then about 50 years ago we invented retirement and when the great day arrived we would stop work let all the stress and fear slide from our bodies and minds and promptly die leaving everything to our wives.

From Irwin:

buongiorno! joe –

i am sitting here at the computer having my morning hot chocolate drink (although i use to love espresso, i think it rotted out my insides and now only serves as a laxative) and biscotti; the latter made by musso’s in union city california which i purchase at stater bros market at the corner of euclid and slater avenues. some morinings i do not feel like consuming a real breakfast (i’ve already given up lunch). anyway after reading your message (below)i am contemplating flying to thailand to get a driver’s license. you see, my california license is coming up in august of this year and since i have already received the maximum number of renewals in the mail sans testing i am already very anxious about august. i have great difficulty facing written tests even if it means just checking boxes ever since that time in the eighth grade when i blanked out taking a test in geometry – did you take geometry in school and have you ever ever used it?! since i can’t stand to be in a car when my last wife is driving it is absolutely necessary that i have a driver’s license if i am ever going to go anywhere – come to think of it i don’t go much anywhere, except maybe to the dmv in august.

one or two emails ago i forwarded to you an article about an elephant compound which depending upon which side of chaing mai it is located may be less than an hour away from your home, and i wondered if you had gone there and what your reaction was relative to the description of it by the author of the article. we don’t have any elephants in the santa ana zoo except for one on which you can ride but i haven’t seen it in all the times i have been to this zoo. in fountain valley, particularly green valley, wild animals are limited to crows, sparrows and feral cats, although the guy who did the pinstripping on my car told me he saw a coyote run past his shop (it’s in a small industrial complex adjacent to the santa ana river bank). of course there is always “felix the cat” of whom i think i have probably written to you about before.

thank you thank you thank you for the new word. “vigorish”!! i sometimes read the dictionary while on the toilet but i have not yet got to the v’s, (thank god). now i will be restless until i have the occasion to use the word in public. speaking of which my plans for today include being in public. i will be going to the arco gas station, the post office to mail a chinese new year’s card to my son’s in-laws (its the year of the tiger – i am year of the ox), the bank if my social security check comes and visit my mom before i go to los angeles this evening. of course i may cop out and just take my walk and a nap.

by the way, what are all of the christian fundamentalists doing there in north thailand? high school and all. they can’t all be missionaries are they?

my comments on your written discussion of the burmese condition are in fruition.

From Joe to Nikki:

This is a follow-up to my previous email that I rushed to send because of the time urgency. I now have a few additional moments to write as Hayden is taking his morning shower.

I have very good news to report. Last night Hayden slept by himself in his room. I left the doors to his room and mine open and told him if he got scared or anything he could come to my room but only if he did not wake me up. He first tried to talk me into sleeping in the big bedroonm but the bed was not made up. After going to bed in his room he would call out to me to see if I was asleep yet. Eventually he fell asleep and slept through the night. He was so proud of himself he said to me, “Tonight we will sleep with the doors closed“.

More from Joe to Nikki:

Sorry for writing so many emails in such a short time, but I really think this has been a special morning. I have never seen Hayden so happy and confident as he has been this morning. On our walk to school he rode his bike and I walked beside him. He chatted on as usual, but not the childish gibberish he often affects and no “po-pos” and the like. Instead he talked about real things like when he will be ready to have his training wheels taken off his bicycle and whether I need to go to the bank, taking martial arts lessons and so on. I am very excited I hope it lasts and there are no setbacks.

It is too bad his mother cannot share in our excitement over his maturation and rehabilitation. I am afraid she sees him mostly as a burden and feel guilty about it and as a result is overly strict and controlling with him as if keeping him as a baby dependent on her is verification of her motherhood. She may love him but does not appear to get much joy from him. I think she is torn by us. On the one hand I think she recognizes that we are good for the boy and on the other hand resents that we interfere with her control of him. And, the bottom line on her personality is her fear of losing control. That in part explains her frenzy when one of her “boyfriends”, you me and Richard for instance, turns to someone else for comfort and affection.

Hayden wants me to take him to the tai-kwon-do lessons this afternoon.

Categories: January 2010 through March 2010 | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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