Thursday, July 30, 2009

Appendix

-Turns out that 9 of those posts I was counting were actually only drafts, so Four Forties for Obama remains my number one blog.

-Why am I so proud of my language use?

One of my major personal albatrosses is my failure to become really, really fluent in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish--contrary to the College Board report--but I was very close to total fluency by the end of my senior year in high school. I could read, sure, I had a big vocabulary, and I could speak slowly; but my ear was always a little slow, and so I never really considered myself fluent. Because I tested out, I did not have to take Spanish at Princeton, and so I didn't. And then, slowly, gradually, drips from an eye dropper, I started losing words, my grammar, my ability to form sentences, what little ability I had to listen. And so I don't consider myself able to speak Spanish now, which, honestly, was somewhat difficult for me at a university where everyone is required to know another language.

A psychologist one day will use this to prove my inferiority complex, and maybe he will be right. But then, I'll be able to speak Thai and the psychologist won't. So hey, Dr. Kotter, up your nose with a rubber hose. [Note to self: ask Surat how to curse in Thai next lesson, esp. at Tuk Tuk drivers].

Hello, Belly Button

Well, my shirt is off, so if you don't mind, I would like to navel-gaze for one moment, and personally congratulate myself, publicly and to a reading audience, for an accomplishment that I am quite proud of.

So three nights ago I bought jeans at a local market. The color was good, and the waist was a good fit, but it turns out, um, that they were a little tight in the leg area and elsewhere. If any readers out there know why Jay-Z "don't where skinny jeans," you will know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I looked absurd, my ham-hock thighs were about to rip the jeans at the seams, and I felt like a hippo at a Mountain Goats concert--a hipster-potomaus, if you will--with the combination of my fat legs and these skinny jeans.

Okay, and finding a way to use the word "hipster-potomaus" isn't the huge accomplishment--though, let's all take some time to admit that I am really great and that the fact I have gone 85 posts without punning on the idiotic vapid word "hipster" is a feat in itself.

[Sidebar: this is post 86, which is OFFICIALLY one more than previous awesome blog "Four Forties for Obama." Zach, if you're out there--let's do that again for something. Internationally. Maybe for Sotomayor's swearing-in. Diez y cinco Coronas por Sotomayor? (Is it terribly offensive that all I can think of is Coronas and yet Sotomayor is not at all Mexican?) We'll work on the title later.]

No, the big accomplishment is that I was able to exchange the jeans--explain why I did not like them, ask for a new pair, explain what I was looking for in the new pair--all in Thai. This guy spoke no English and I Thai-ed the shit out of him. For a closet linguistic nerd like myself (well, maybe not so closet--the portmanteau rate of this blog is shocking--

Here's a free line of dialogue for all of you aspiring playwrights out there.

A: How can I learn to stop using so many portmanteaus?
B: Join a supportmanteau group.

--anyway, yeah, I have new jeans now (sorry Elena) and they fit a lot better and don't make me look like Michael Clarke Duncan in Baby Gap clothes.

I'm going to take a nap, which I am also proud of.

I told you I was normal.


"Wake up, America! Fully one in three adults admit that on any typical day they take a nap, according to a national survey released Wednesday.

"The proportion of self-proclaimed nappers was even higher among adults who had trouble sleeping the night before and who had exercised within the past 24 hours. It was also disproportionately higher among people who are poorer, black, men older than 50, men and women over 80 and among people who are not happy."

Whew! Thank God I'm a poor black octogenarian who exercises every day, or else I might suspect that I've been quite unhappy these past ten years!

Heh. Heheh.

Sigh.

Uh

Just got a bill slipped under my door for "Water New Mouth." The cost is about $1.50.

I will pay the bill, but I am not optimistic about what is going to happen in my mouth in the next coming days.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Living in a Scooby Doo Cartoon, Apparently

Often I ask myself the question, both publicly and in my more private moments, Why is my rent so low?

Last night about half of my Thai lesson was spent learning vocabulary about scary movies.

Why, you ask?

Because my apartment building is known in Thai youth slang as "Condo Pii," or "Ghost Condo," because it is believed to be haunted. In fact, one of Surat's good friends has SEEN a ghost here and would be too frightened to ever sleep in this tower.

So whenever I tell a taxi driver that I live at Chomdoi Condo, they always repeat it, like 'Oh, Chom Doi!" I thought it was because my pronunciation was bad--but maybe, just maybe, it's because I'm essentially asking them to drop me off at Dracula's Castle, or whatever.

"Hi, can you take me to the Blood Orgy Cafe?"
"The...wait, the Blood Orgy Cafe?"
"Yes, yes, the Blood Orgy."
"Ohhhh. Oh! Okay, okay, 50 Baht."
"Can you do 20 Baht?"
"Yes."

(Note: still eagerly--EAGERLY--awaiting my first living/non-living blood orgy.)

No word on what kind of ghosts we have here at Ghost Condo. Apparently they only show their faces to people who are really scared of them, i.e. old Thai women and weak-willed Thai boys. My tutor assured me that Thai ghosts are much scarier than American ghosts, much more gruesome to look at. There is one ghost that I wrote about earlier, of the ghost Nong Naa, a woman who died during childbirth (still pregnant) and now haunts people. I wonder if we've got those ghoulies at Ghost Condo.

I'm going to go ghost-hunting some night this week. I will take my camera and attempt to photograph God/ghosts in the Chomdoi Condotel. Also it will be really late at night. Also I will make spooky noises outside the doors of various tenants' apartments.

Also I will be drunk.

I guess it's nice to know that I will never sleep alone as long as I live here, huh? That makes me less lonely; though when I checked "Whatever I Can Get" on Facebook, this isn't exactly what I had in mind. If I wanted to get cozy with a lifeless, bloodthirsty old hag, I'd call up my first wife. Except I don't get any cell phone service here--guess we're living in a DEAD ZONE!!

Am I right, Verizon Wireless? It's like, there's no cell phone service, and also it's like something out of a horror movie! Dead zone! The pun is on the word "Dead" !!!

Ironic Thai Hipster Music Experiment, Conclusion

4TH PLACE

Girl Talk - In Step


33 Likes, 28 Dislikes (54% success rate)

WHY DID YOU LIKE IT?
-Fun and very happy
-Melodious
-Beautiful of lyric
-Good song for relaxing
-This song is funny for dance
-I like because the music have spirit
-Good drums sound

WHY DID YOU DISLIKE IT?
-Bad melody
-So fast melody
-The sound is not smooth
-Not impress
-Difficult to understand
-Hate melody
-I dont like its no good
-I don't know but I don't like it
-I don't like techno song
-Crazy song...noisy
-Too much sounds
-Boring
-Lack of matching moods with rhythm [this one is my favorite. In the world. A+]


3RD PLACE

M.I.A. - Sunshowers


36 Liked, 26 Disliked (58% success rate)

WHY DID YOU LIKE THIS SONG?
-Good beat
-Very fun rhythm
-Sound like "Tokyo Drift"
-Song's rhythm make my heart to fresh
-Listen like the poem
-It so good
-Vocal voice very much!
-More funny and happy
-I like Affarica culture's song
-I like rapper of the song
-I like a drum sound [I like this because it sounds like a snarky M.I.A. lyric]

WHY DID YOU DISLIKE THIS SONG?
-Too quick. Start quick but hook slowly.
-Don't understand.
-Don't like the lyrics
-It's hard to listening
-Annoy the rhythm
-No interesting
-Tribal music...too hot, not my style
-Too normal
-No comment

SILVER MEDAL [DISTANT SILVER]

Sufjan Stevens - Chicago


41 Likes, 16 Dislikes (72% success rate!)

WHY DID YOU LIKE THIS SONG?
-It's an easy listening
-This song is soft, smooth and relax
-Fun and happy music
-Sad and slow beat, but not much...a thoughtful one
-I like because it's softy [Note: I feel the same way about all of Sufjan's music]
-Violin and singer sound is good
-Good synth input

WHY DID YOU DISLIKE THIS SONG?
-Not fun
-Very boring
-Scary song...rhythm so weird
-Remove all hollow sounds away
-Rhythm is not smooth
-I don't like the fast music [Note: I include this because this student liked Girl Talka nd The Streets]
-I like hip-hop

And the Winner Is...

Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch - Lua (from Dark Was the Night)


52 Likes, 14 Dislikes (79% success rate)

WHY DID YOU LIKE THIS SONG?
-Good voice
-Made me thought about past memories (LOVE THIS ONE)
-Like a song of love
-I like country song
-Go slow and mood so romantic and chill!
-So sweet...I love it!
-Good emotion of song
-Chillout vocal
-Good beat
-The sound of guitar is very good
-Guitar sounds make me happy
-It has singer both man and woman so it's beautiful song
-Lady voice very good
-A little smell of Blues

WHY DID YOU DISLIKE IT?
-So romantic...slow
-I listen this song. I can sleep. Zzz.
-I don't like soft song
-Singer not match

*************************

So, there it is. My students love Bright Eyes and hate Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Turns out the "experimental" song they liked the most was probably the most conventional, which I suppose is not surprising.

Really why I wanted to share the results of this crazy little game I played was not to make fun of the students' English skills but to praise them. (I come not to praise Caesar...except the opposite).

For most of these students this is their second language, and one thhat they are not even necessarily very interested in...I have many animation majors, engineers, etc., who likely will never use English again after college. And yet how many times up there did a comment so precisely and ingeniously capture a majoritarian critical opinion? And with such poetry, sometimes, too! For those who like Girl Talk, you undoubtedly love the "spirit" of the mix, and "fun" is a word that always comes up when talking about mash-ups; for those that dislike Girl Talk, "lack of matching moods with rhythm" is one very valid criticism, and "the sound is not smooth" (i.e. Girl Talk is not a talented beat-matcher) is another. None of my students ceased upon the disposability and novelty of mashup artists, but what do you expect? I think they did a wonderful job, and I was consistently shocked at how spot-on some of their responses were. So, so endearing.

Class dismissed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

AM I RIGHT?!?!

I also just realized that the last two books I read can both be disparaged using the same pun!

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? More like Bore-trait of the Artist as a Young Man!

Kafka on the Shore? More like Kafka on the Bore!

AM I RIGHT?!?!

P.S. I was going to read Bonfire of the Vanities next, but now I feel like I have no choice but to read either Lord of the Flies or A Clockwork Orange. For obvious reasons.

Oh!

I just realized I never posted the results of the "Experimental" Music Survey I conducted with two of my classes (Experimental is in quotes because none of this music is actually experimental; I just used this word because it is easier to explain than "Indie," as a concept).

So, here you go, from least popular to most popular, the results of what my Microsoft Word document calls my "Ironic Hipster Music Experiment":

LEAST POPULAR (9th Place)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth


This is my favorite song that I played, and I was disappointed to learn that a majority of my students hated it. It's okay, though: I have all of their names, and they will all fail the course, regardless of their future performance.

Comments:

WHY DID YOU LIKE IT?
-"Funny"
-"Fun and crazy music"
-"Good step"
-"This song has cheerful melody it made me think you can travel to everywhere you like in this world."

WHY DID YOU DISLIKE IT?
-"Make me sleep"
-"Not fun"
-"Like an old song"
-"I don't like the voice of the singer"
- "I don’t like because this song is singer sound not fun"

Big mistake, dislikers. Big mistake.

8TH PLACE:

My Brightest Diamond - Feeling Good (from Dark Was the Night)


27 Likes, 38 Dislikes

WHY DID YOU LIKE IT?
-"Melody smooth"
-"Retro style"
-"Original version is Michael Buble's; I like Michael's song"

WHY DID YOU DISLIKE IT?
-"This song make me sleep"
-"Boring like opera"
-"It look like opera and I hate opera"
-"Feeling bad"
-"I don't like because song is fear"
-"I feel alone and so sad"

7TH PLACE

Common - Forever Begins


13 Like, 16 Dislike

WHY DID YOU LIKE IT?
-I want dancing with this song
-Power song and feel better
-Church style rhythm but combine with R&B
WHY DID YOU DISLIKE IT?
-Like the normal rap song
-Don't make sense...can't talk about it
-Boring
-Bad rapper...bad beats
-Sound, rhythm, and rapper not match
-Don't like talk and talk and talk and talk
-Personal reasons

6TH PLACE

Fatboy Slim - That Old Pair of Jeans


30 Likes, 31 Dislikes

WHY DID YOU LIKE THIS SONG?
-Simple, normal
-Fun and good rhythm
-Impress me
-Like name of singer
-Smooth rhythm
-I thought I were child again thought sing quick but can go with song
WHY DID YOU DISLIKE THIS SONG?
-Normal, not interesting, boring
-Boring, too normal
-Rhythm and beat of the song can found in many Hip hop, R7B songs
-Voice's singer it's not good
-I bore it
-Less influencial rhythm
-Can't understand, listen

5th Place (THAI COLLEGE STUDENTS ALMOST LIKE YOUR MUSIC!)

The Streets - Let's Push Things Forward

31 Liked, 32 Disliked

WHY DID YOU LIKE IT?
1. Very fantastic
2. Listen like drinking in the pub
3. Good lyrics
4. Feel funny
5. It so cool for me
6. It unlike song I have ever listen before
7. Rocking beats
8. Relaxing
9. New amazing rhythm
10. Good sound mixing
11. It sound like pop-rock...a little bit sexy
WHY DID YOU DISLIKE IT?
1. Look like mysterious
2. Too slowly
3. Too quick
4. I don’t like because this song not fun for me
5. Makes me feel dizzy
6. This song was annoying
7. Crazy

Okay, the students (in both classes) liked 4 songs the most...and they REALLY liked one song the most. I'm gonna try to get part 2 up tonight, since I know you are all DYING to see what music mis estudiantes approve of.

Oh, and a brief note: I played Common in my first class, but Common did so poorly (comparatively) that I did not play him again in Class 2, instead replacing him with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Clap Your Hands was then voted down in that class as well; but my second class was much more negative in general. To wit:

Class 1:

The Streets 18-13
Common – 13-16
Fatboy – 16-13
My Brightest Diamond – 17-13

In Class 1, Common was the only negative vote-getter. All other songs were positive...and those were the four lowest approval ratings among the 8 songs I played. In class 2, however:


The Streets 13-19
Fatboy Slim 14-18
My Brightest Diamond 10-25
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah 13-20

Only 2 songs got positive vote totals (but their vote totals in the first class were so high that they ended up positive overall). My Brightest Diamond especially got demolished here, as did The Streets and Fatboy Slim. I don't know why my second class hated all of the music so much; perhaps because they hate me, and want me to die.


Part 2 coming soon...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Discovery

Amazingly, I had never been to the restaurant right next to my apartment building--the only one within a few hundred kilometers or so, in fact. It's called Khun Mohr Noodles (named after Thailand hero/American stand-up comedian/"Mafia!" star Jay Mohr) and I thought it was really expensive, because it has a nice swampy exterior, under a long rattan-pagoda-ish structure, with a beautiful sign and nice tables.

I realize this isn't much evidence--but usually I eat at "restaurants" that are essentially storage lockers with plastic tables and backless chairs and a Wok/deep frier at the front near the sidewalk.

But I went today, feeling rich despite monetary evidence to the contrary, and it was only 35 Baht for the best plate of Pork and Rice I have eaten since coming here. Now, usually I pay around 30 Baht for lunch, but like I said, I was feeling rich, so I could spare the 15 cents today.

And what's more: this meal came with FREE CRISPY WONTONS. Or, crispy wontons for 5 baht, however you look at it. Here's how I look at it: I'm eating there tomorrow. The people there are very nice, too, and even though they don't have an English menu, they speak English well and were willing to indulge me in my horrible Thai.

See you tomorrow, Jay Mohr Noodles. After I diarrhea out this Crispy Pork with Rice, I'll be back and ready for Mohr!

Separated at Birth














Will Forte as Tim Calhoun on SNL and third guy from the left in Kraftwerk

And

On a side note, I have seriously injured my groin. I think I must be pushing off on my skateboard incorrectly or something, because I am feeling a twinge of pain now with each push. I want to go somewhere and get a groin massage, but I think that can only badly.

Or as the best massage ever.

Speaking of which:

When my high-school friend Greg and I went to Cambodia in the summer before our senior years my mom dropped us off at a (reputable) massage parlor and arranged for us to get full body massages. In the waiting area the receptionist had us each fill out a sheet of paper, which included our name and a diagram of the human body, from the front and the back. We were instructed to write our names and circle the areas where we wanted to be massaged. I filled out my mine: circled my shoulders, my lower back, my feet and arms, and handed it in at the front desk. Before he turned his in, Greg, chuckling uncontrollably, let me peek at his sheet, as though he were showing an unflattering caricature of the teacher while her back was to the class.

Under name, he had written, in all caps, "FRANKENSTEIN."

On the body diagram, he had circled, several times, and with increasing pencil pressure, his crotch. And nothing else. His name was FRANKENSTEIN and he wanted a crotch massage.

Well, good evening, Thailand. My name is Frankenstein and I want a crotch massage. Make you sure you concentrate on the crotch. Where do I want the massage? On my crotch. Make sure you don't skimp on the crotch part. In order of importance: I want you to massage my crotch, my crotch, my inner thighs, and my crotch.

Okay, let's get to work.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Payin' the Billz

Well, this apartment building just redeemed itself a bit.

Water and electric bills are both shared with the government at my building for some reason, which means utility prices are extremely low. I was expecting a bargain, but not this much:

My water bill for my first month (June 15-July 15) was 25 Baht (80 cents). Total. It will be 25 Baht (80 Cents) for as long as I stay here. And I can use as much water as I want.

My electricity bill was 190 Baht (6 dollars). And my landlady paid it for me because she is nice. Seriously, I'm not conserving electricity over here either. I sleep with the Air Con on, usually. I am pretty, pretty happy about the deal I am getting.

Still waiting on that hot water, but right now I can probably just afford to rent a hotel room for a night and use their shower or something when I really miss the heat.

Man, Asia, keep on showing me that good stuff. Today was my freshymen midterm and when I walked into the room they were all sitting there and in unison they greeted me with big smiles. Awww. Then they proceeded to adorably massacre the Briton tongue, treating adjectives like verbs and the present progressive like past participle. Man, what morons, am I right?

Actually, on my only glance, it looks like the freshymen did pretty well. There was some general confusion about how to use a prepositional phrase, but otherwise they seem to have done well, in spite of the test writer's best efforts to trip them up by using the vocabulary word "parking space" to mean "space for parking," as in, "At the mall there is ample parking space, so I would not worry about finding a spot." Odd English, but I think most English speakers would understand what you were trying to get at if you asked if there was parking space in front of a certain building.

Otherwise...I need to buy a larger washing basin. That and a nap are on tap. Maybe I'll rap.

So what the crap.

Too cute not to share

So I am grading my freshymen personal ads that I made them write for practice with their English/my own personal enjoyment. They had to mimic American personal ads, and write a paragraph or so introducing themselves, saying who they are, what they like to do, and what they are looking for in a partner.

At the risk of major ethical violations, here are some of the personal ads of these adorable, brilliant young lads and lassies of English 101.

*****

My name's Parnparitra T-------- and my nickname is Pakwhan. I was born in Decamber 13 1990. I have one older sister. I study in Mass Communication Chiang Mai University.

I think my personality's friendly smile and funny but sometime I'm crazy girl. In my free time I like to dance with the Thai songs. I very like the sound of Thai songs and I like to read magazine very much. The important thing is I like handsome boy but he's more clever than me everything that I said about the man it mainly that man who can take care me and my heart in every time.

Now I want a something for transportation and something it didn't a big thing but it can use for transportation more fast and if I finished at the frist term, I want to see the condominium for live.

*********

My name is Rattarak M-------- and my nickname is Mong. I was born in December 09 1991. I have 1 older brother. Now, I'm study at faculty of ENG CMU: major electrical engineering.

I think my personality's smile funny and Romantic but someone say Mong's long-term relationship and intelligent boy. In my free time I like to enjoy with simming, tennis, and going to the movie. Sometime I like to share common interests with my friend. I like girls who is sincere human because I think it's the best if you and you girl friend didn't fake.

Now I'm seeking a romantic smile girl for casual dating situation. And I hope that she can share common interests with me. I hope that she's good looks girl but I think sincere is more important than good looks. The last thing, the most important that I like is the love. Because the love's a mean of everything that I likes.

************

My name is Joey Boy. I study at Chiang Mai University. This year is the first year that I study in Chiang Mai. I am from Trang.

In my free time there are so many things which I want to do. Searching internet, play games, read books, traveling car etc. But exercises is what I really want tod o. My Life My Health is the first for me.

I'm Joey Boy. I'm nice polite and very lovely guy. I love to sing a song. I'm romance I think. I dislike smoke. I love to travel around the country with my girl friend and take a very long term relationship.

I'm looking deep down in their mind every people around me.

If they love me, I'll love them but unless they love me, I won't love them.

***********

I'm an ordinary guy named Golf. I like history, travelling, listening to music, and learning new languages.

I'm currently dating a hot, sexy, and "kind of can't loose her" girl. The thing is my mother doesn't quite like her and refuses to get to know her. So I came up with a scheme, I'm looking for a normal and unattractuve girl to be my fake girlfriend in order to frame my mother.

If you think y ou are normal and goot at convencing, contact me urgently. My mother wants to meet my "girlfriend" by the end of this month. There will be money in reward of course.

*************

Hello, I am a single black asian male looking for a casual dating.

Do you want to share your interests with someone you like? For example, playing sports together, go to the movie on a weekend night or having dinner in a good restaurant under the candle light, those activities may lead our relationship into a good way.

Woman with intelligence and good personality easily catch my attention because looks may not be the big problem for me.

If the things between us go went into a good ways, I hope our relationship would develop as good as it can.

["Black" here refers to "very tan," and not African-American. Asians prefer very white skin, as opposed to dark or "black" skin, which is a sign of poverty and working out in the sun]

**********

Warisa C---------- is my name, My nickname is Fame, I'm a student at Chiang Mai University. I study history because it's interesting and look funny. I am talkative and avid.

When I have free times I love to travel with my family and my friends to see around Chiang Mai exampel waterfall, temple, and park. I often go to libery to look a fravarite book and do a homework. I like pop music so I always listen a radio and go to karaoke with friend. I love to sing a song.

In future, I want to get A at my exam and I want to be and air-hostess because I love and fun when I work with many people. I wish I will success in my life.

**************

I'm Khanittha or my short name is Pim. I'm a new freshyman in Chiang Mai University. I major in faculty of Humanities Bachelor of Arts Program in English. I was born in Chiang Mai. I have two sisters. I'm a middle. I'm 18 years old. I'll turn 19 in November 19. In my free time I like to watch TV and surf the internet. Eating is one of my favorite hobby but I find it isn't quite good.

Actually if I have enough I'd like to travel around the world. I want to see new things.

I really adore Rock music. I can listen to any kind of Rock music. But what I'm into is Hardcore or Metal. People always say to me how can I bear listen to this kind of music. Well, How can I suppose to say, I just addict to it and I can't quit. I listen to both Thai and Western bands. The devil wears prada is one of the most rock bands that I recommend. I hope to see their show some day. What I like about rock is a rockers. A boy with a band shirt, skinny pants, vans shoes, etc. They are attractive to me. If they are sincere and able to play guitar, that's awesome. But they have to be a good person, too.

*************

I'm Nong. I'm 18 years old and I'm Thai guy. I'm funny but a little serious sometime when I have to. I like to listen so everyone can talk to me and I can help their problem as I can, but except for money. Now I just looking for friends. I think that better than to nervous about love all the time.

************


AAAAH I love them.

So, who wants a pen pal? I know a lot of them would be really excited to talk to you...


Friday, July 24, 2009

I Love My Students

Today my "freshymen" had to give their presentations, which were 4 minute playacting skits they wrote for two people. One of the options was to do a news report about a festival or something (I'm a great teacher, I know), and one of the groups did a report about "the London Halloween Festival."

One of the girls in the group [nickname: "Fame"] was wearing hippie clothing, hippie sunglasses, and was pregnant. I thought maybe she was the byproduct of Woodstock, but then she announced that she was actually a Thai ghost character, which in the country's tradition is the ghost of any woman who dies before childbirth.

"The baby is still in there," she said, pointing to the pillow over her stomach to laughter.

Nervous laughter from the teacher.

Then she gave me candy so she got an A.

The rest of the presentations were equally adorable. One group was a news report from the Songkram Festival in Chiang Mai, and totally by surprise, they interviewed me, live on the scene:

"Oh my Gosh, look! A Westerner!"

I thought I was about to get beaten with baseball bats for my intrusion into the motherland, but all they really wanted to know was my name and whether I had been to Thailand before. Phew!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can Someone Please Kami Down?

Real quick: has anyone out there read "Kafka on the Shore" by Murakami? If you have, and you feel strongly (or at least, feel anything other than the memory of having read the novel), please email me immediately for discussion on whether it is a masterpiece or an above-average Stephen King novel. After 400 pages, I cannot decide whether it is the former, the latter, or whether Philip Gabriel has turned in the most boring damn translation of an exciting book ever, or whether Murakami would really purposefully shift from mind-blowingly excellent magical realism to high school level dialogue and description within a page flip.

Also, for those of you desperate for my immediate contact, start reading it and give me your impressions...if you email me about music movies or books I am much, much quicker to reply because those are things I get really excited about and which I don't have an outlet for (most of you, for example, don't care how I believe various under-the-radar mediocre albums by small-town bands with funny names could be improved--right).

So yeah, Kafka on the Shore. I can almost guarantee that once you start, you will keep reading for at least a few hundred pages or so, at which point you might get frustrated. Whatever. Let's talk, opionionated hordes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guess Who Didn't Die?

Sweet Judith it's a bright day in Chiang Mai, literally and figuratively (and, uh, meteorologically).

Yes, I made it back to home sweet home, and I am still alive. I would like to thank all of you who sent me personal emails expressing your wishes that I would not die in Laos. Seriously, it's good to know that you didn't want me to die, especially not in Laos.

It is good to know that so many of you my companions care about my wellbeing. It was also good to know that my mom was thinking about me, too: having read on this blog that I was out of money, hungry, lost, and desperate in Vientiane, my mom took the time to write, not an email, nor a Skype or AIM message, but a Facebook wall post, to say that it sounded like I was having a pretty "Laosy time."

Yes, it does run in the family. That's about the only thing that runs in this family.

(Where did I steal that joke from? I can't remember. It's not even true, though, because my dad and sister are running a half-marathon in October. For our parts, my mom runs a successful business school program, and I run wild like the Tasmanian devil on amphetamines.)
(Nope, don't know what that one means either. I'm so stir-crazy that I'm losing coherence. It's for the best. These are preferrable circumstances to those in which I lost other things. Too soon?)

Ummm, so what happened? It didn't go as smoothly as one might have hoped (imagine!). I met Morocco at around noon and we shared a cab to the Thai embassy. Then he paid the cab driver to go wait in line for us and pick up our passports. Then we waited in the shade and he chain smoked and called a lot of people "Cocksuckle." Yes, that's right: "cocksuckle."

Got the passport around 1:15, which gave me plenty of time to stroll on over to a travel agency and book my 3 P.M. bus ticket to Chiang Mai. Obviously I failed miserably: all tickets sold out. Checked in at five travel agencies: all tickets to Chiang Mai sold out. Would you like to go tomorrow?

I would rather shove a starfish up my urethra than stay in Laos another night.

So I took a taxi across the border with a taxi driver who played a CD which seemed to consist solely of remixes of "Dat Boom Boom Boom" by Black Eyed Peas. He took me to the bus station at Udon Thani, where apparently there had been no tickets to Chiang Mai available that day. Obviously when I got there around 4 there were about 7 seats available for 7:30 bus and 12 seats available for the 8:00 bus. I don't even know. I hate Laos.

I want to make a T-shirt: "I HAD A LAOSY TIME IN VIENTIANE" Maybe an outline of the country behind the text; maybe a hapless American, drenched in sweat, holes cut in his pockets, surrounded by short Thai tuk tuk drivers screaming at him and pulling his arms. Sneath, get on this.

I want to make a T-shirt: "No, I don't want a Tuk Tuk."

I want to make a T-shirt: "If you ask me whether I want a Tuk Tuk, I will light your vehicle on my fire." Maybe a cartoon drawing of an American laughing as a Tuk-Tuk burns in front of him.

I want to make a T-shirt: "Mai ow Tuk Tuk." Can we get this in Thai and Laotian, Sneath?

I'll shout it over the lousdpeaker: Vientiane can lick my body hair. I am not going back there for a long, long time. I need to unwind. I need a pillow cuddler. I need money.

It took everything I had not to punch a man while walking the streets of Vientiane on that last day, when, approximately two hundred feet from the bus station, I asked a Tuk Tuk driver what direction the bus station was in, and he asked if I wanted a ride there. I almost punched him. It was literally right across the street.

[Next post is going to be a longish philosophical ramble about the impending (and current) disastrous collision of progressive capitalism and protectionist socialism in Vientiane.]

Nothing remarkable happened on the bus. I was in the back row, except for this hippie guy who finagled a seat on the back bench thingie behind me. I was talking to this Britourist across the aisle, about the Night Safari with the monkeys and the elephants and such, and this guy sits down behind us and without saying excuse me begins speaking:

"While I disagree with the idea of zoos in principle..."

Then I put my headphones and didn't listen to his pseudo-intellectual everyone-has-heard-this-a-million-times-before speech about how cruel zoos are to animals. One of these days I am going to pretend to be seriously horrified by one of these twentysomething's "exposees" about zoos:

"Oh my God, that's terrible! You mean they keep the animals behind bars?!?!"

I have much more to say, about the city of Udon Thani in particular, and why Thailand is so much better than what I saw of Laos. But that is for another hour. I have so many damn emails to respond to. Sheesh, you miss one day of class where two huge assignments are due and the kids just do NOT stop asking questions. Self-Reliance, little Emersons, man. Do they even know the conditions those elephants are subjected to by the cruel capitalist circus trainers?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Poor Get Poorer

Turns out it takes a business day to process a visa request. One more night in Laos.

Turns out Laos is not an hour ahead of Thailand. Turns out I didn't have to wake up at 5 this morning to wait in line to drop off my visa request form at the embassy, which opened at 8:30.

Turns out sleeping in the dirt and the concrete outside of the Thai embassy is harder than it sounds.

Turns out the visa application process only takes about five minutes. Turns out that being there four hours early does not mean I have any better chance of getting my visa processed within the day.

Turns out the Thai Embassy does not accept American dollars for visa fees. Turns out I didn't have 2000 Baht worth of Baht in, um, Baht.

Turns out this can be a frustrating realization at 9 in the morning, having slept in sweat and mosquitos, naked, itchy, on a straw mattress.

But I befriended a 40-something Moroccan and he Morocced my world and lent me 300 Baht. So grateful. His name is...well, I don't know his name. Let's call him Morocco.

Morocco and I then went to a bank to get some Baht for me to repay him. He had a driver and everything. I am thinking he is very rich, but maybe only because he had more than 1700 Baht in his wallet and lent me 300 without really blinking.

He then took me to his hotel and I got a room for 200 Baht more than the room last night. And yet this one has things like a shower, a drain on the sink which isn't just a hole that drops straight on your feet, soap, air conditioning, a television, clenaliness. The one last night was so seedy that it was literally just a seed.

I don't know how I got there. My Thai must have failed me. I must have been asked, "Hey, for 425 Baht per night you can sleep inside an elephant's rectum," and I must have replied "But you do you have anything dirtier?"

Now I am a little happier. Just slept forever at the hotel, woke up so confused. Thought I might have slept for days and days, because there is no clock in my room, and my phone is dead of course, so I have no way to tell the time at any given moment.

I have also been wearing the same clothes for three days now, as of course I did not bring a change of clothes, nor toothpaste. Luckily I brought deodorant and contacts and my glasses. My mouth feels like the inside of an elephant's rectum (or the Salom Yen Guesthouse, either/or), but I have gone longer without brushing (relax, it was while I was camping).

One more night here, I hope. At least the English in Laos is good and far more prevalent than in Thailand (Laos was colonized by the French, I believe).

Okay, I am off. Probably no update before Thursday afternoon or evening, my time. I refuse to update from anywhere besides my apartment henceforth. Unless something catastrophic happens.

Talk to you within three hours, I bet. I bet I bet I bet I bet.

Rectum. Let's get that Wordle probability for rectum up there.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oy.

Uh, can I go home yet?

When I left the blog sphere the bus that I had planned to catch to Udon Thani (30 minutes from Vientiane) had been in an accident, and the ride had been cancelled. So I bought a ticket on a much nicer bus at the same price, for a 7:30 P.M. trip. That would have put me in Vientiane around 9:00 A.M. Would have been PERFECT.

Yeah, well I screwed that one up pretty good. I got to the bus station around 7:15, only to realize that I had left my passport in the apartment. I had changed pants at the last moment, since my Khakis are more comfortable than my blue trousers. The thing about my blue trousers, though, is that THEY HAD MY PASSPORT IN THEM.

So I found a taxi driver who agreed to rush me from the bus station to my apartment and back to the apartment, for a fairly reasonable price, surprisingly. But when I got back to the bus station, two minutes before 8 (MAGICALLY! WE BARELY HIT A RED LIGHT! WE SPED THROUGH THE CHIANG MAI HIGHWAY NIGHT!) the last ticket for the 8 o'clock bus had been sold.

Visa limitations (i.e. my visa expired today) meant that I had to move toward the border or else I would be scrizzewed. What I should have done: gone home. Gone to sleep. Taken a nice 4 hour bus ride to Burma, extend my visa 15 days, head into Laos the following week.


What I did instead: got on an overnight bus to Bangkok. Planned out my trip: arrive in Bangkok abt. 5:30. Arrive in Udon Thani at ??? o'clock. Arrive in Laos at ??? o'clock.

It turns out those question marks represent much higher numbers than I had anticipated, Bob Barker.

I arrived in Thailand at 6, as planned. The movie on the bus was, no joke, She's the Man. I cannot escape my ironic American past.

I got a 7 A.M. bus for Udon Thani. The man at the bus station said that it was about a five hour bus ride. Perfect! That would give me plenty of time to submit my visa, sleep for a night in Laos, and head back tomorrow afternoon!

Well, I think the bus station prognosticator meant that the bus would arrive in Udon Thani at 5 P.M., because that is exactly what happened. After a solid bit of confusion, I found an agency who got my papers together and drove me across the border and found me the rankest guesthouse in Southeast Asia.

Okay, that's not true. There are ranker. But the bath tub does appear to be a bucket with a ladle in it.

There is a lot of confusion here right now. No, that's too general: I'm so confused. It is unclear whether or not the Thai Embassy will be able to process my visa change request in one day. I might have to stay another night. In which case I will miss the class that I already rescheduled to Wednesday. I am already missing class Tuesday, which I had not planned on doing.

But ah, what is it, Mr. Robert Burns? The best laid plans of mice and men/Oft go awry?

How about the worst laid plans? Can't I get some sort of inverse reaction: Worst laid plans often going great! Felicity! Serendipity! John Cusack films!

I think my time at the Internet cafe is almost up. I almost had a heart attack when the man at the counter said that one hour cost 15,000 Lao Kip. Turns out that translates to 25 Baht/hour. Or 80 cents, stateside friends.

This is a good figure. My money is going bye bye bye bye by the wayside.

I cannot wait for this adventure to be over. I am going to get a massage/drunk.

I've been saying that a lot lately.

Where the Burger King

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not So Fast!

You didn't get rid of me yet! (And I say this both to you, the blog readers, and to God, who might be trying to kill me).

I went to the bus station for my 2:30 bus, as scheduled, and I promptly reported to the ticketing window to find out the lane number. She looked at my ticket, laughed to herself, ripped it in half, and told me, with a smile, that the bus had been in an accident and so the trip was cancelled. She asked me if I wanted a ticket for the late bus.

Um, no, I don't. Can I have my money back please?

So I got my money back. Now I am going with a different company, whose buses don't regularly explode (hopefully), at 7:30. Also, I got a first class ticket!! Which means I'm going in style.

Oy. What if I was on that bus? I need to get a massage/drunk.

Out for realzies this time. Bye bye

Que Sera, Sarah

I've been reading American newspaper opinions of the Sarah Palin resignation with great interest and regularity here in Thailand, and I have to say, I am quite perplexed by the largely negative, cynical reactions of the media, almost as perplexed as everyone stateside seems to be the timing and logic of Palin's decision to drop Anchorage.

Well, I think I understand, in a way that none of you in the contiguity can, the logic behind quitting one's job eighteen months early in order to gain a higher position three years hence, for I, here in Northern Thailand, share with Mrs. Palin the perspective and cagy wisdom of a fellow outsider, as well as a proximity to Russia.

So, I want to try to explain why Palin's one-and-a-half-year notice is a reasoned, smart, savvy gambit, one that, if the rumors are true, well prepares her to be President of America.

First, this move is Presidential because it is precedential--it has precedent. The most obvious and immediate comparison is to Richard Nixon, who abdicated the California Governorship in the early 60s only to reemerge in the late 60s as a beautiful, multicolored political butterfly, spreading his wings and lightly landing in the winner's circle of the 1968 Presidential race. Nixon was elected to two terms in office, Palin-ing the second term after two years, perhaps to again run for an even higher office (God?). Decades have passed and most historians agree that Nixon turned out to be better than a vast majority of American presidents--well, a vast majority of South American presidents, but still. He was a good president if you ignore all of the evidence to the contrary.

There is, however, an even better precedent for Palin, one that we can glean not from C-SPAN, but from E-SPAN--er, ESPN. Sorry, I don't have English-language TV here.

Basketball fans will remember the story of Willis Reed and the 1970 New York Knicks. Reed, New York's Hall of Fame center, left Game 5 (out of 7) of the NBA Championships with a thigh injury, and most sports writers and medical doctors of the time wrote him off for the remainder of the series, just as political writers and spin doctors are writing off Palin. However, Reed surprised everyone when, just five days later, he hobbled onto the court for the deciding game of the Championships, providing an emotional boost to a crippled Knick nation, immediately scoring four points and leading New York to a Championship.

That's right, after leaving early, Reed returned after five days and scored four points. By my calculations, that means that when Palin returns, she will score the equivalent of 4,380 points for this country. Take that, Woodrow Wilson. Forget the League of Nations: how about the League of Infinite Time and Space? That's what President Palin would bring to the table, America.

But Sarah Palin has not only learned from the successes of other's history, but, more heartening, she is also learning from the failures of her own history.

The Republican ticket got O-Bombed in the last election, but the God-Damn Obama Party would be stupid to simly blame Barack. That's why Palin's strategy, as a reaction to the 2008 race, is so brilliant. Because what are the two things we heard over and over again from VP-to-be Palin on the campaign trail:

1) Barack Obama does not have enough leadership experience to be President.
2) Barack Obama knows too many Washington insiders to be an effective President.

Clearly, the American people did not care about either of those; and so what does Sarah Palin do? Not more of the same, no no. In order to better position herself for a 2012 Presidential run, she has given up the extra leadership experience in order to get to know more Washington insiders.

Maverick.

Finally, let's take a moment to praise Sarah Palin-As-Maverick. By quitting her job eighteen months early, for reasons that most of us cannot comprehend, she is once again doing the opposite of what will get her voted, a bold strategy. To do what is not popular among voters might seem counterintuitive in a country whose political system is predicated on politicians doing what voters want in order to get elected; but then again, you don't have the intuitions of Governor Sarah Palin. What will become of Palin, only time will tell: a time that will arrive a little later in Alaska, where Mrs. Palin will not be, for she will be in the future, in Washington D.C.


Who Needs A Girlfriend

when Chiang Mai University fucks me every day.

(Sorry Mom)

Chiang Mai University, in its ongoing effort to bankrupt me, has done it again. I publicly predicted that they would not have my working papers by this Friday afternoon (which would mean that I would have to go back to Burma TWICE instead of once); but I was wrong. They did have my working papers.

Only, they were addressed for Vientiane, Laos, instead of Burma. So instead of taking some cushy buses to Burma and then Bangkok, where I know what I am doing, I have to schlep all the way to Vientiane and then do God knows what. Cross something called the "Friendship Bridge" apparently. Probably risk death on mountain switchback roads not made to be used by big buses. Sleep in a Thai woman's ass crack. Sharing a bus with geese and the rest of the Biblical duos. Khun Noah hogging the bathroom.

What am I doing what am i doing what am i doing.

In other news, I woke up this morning myoclonically, when I punched my side table as hard as I could. I was having a dream in which (dream description ahead) I had been enrolled in a summer dance camp, all-male. Obviously I was pissed off and tried to get out. But the lead counselor kept bothering me and taunting me and telling me that I HAD to stay. So I tried to punch him in the face.

That's when I woke up with sore knuckles, half off the bed.

Also, Mom, Dad, Leslie, can you help me out with this one: I was married to this girl that I definitely recognized but I can't think of her name. Here comes a blast from the past: there were two girls, about our age I would guess, with black hair, usually worn back in a pony tail. Had quite a bit of dark black arm hair. The Dad looked like John Stockton, played tennis, maybe ran? He had well-toned calves.

Anything? Maybe Mallory or Morgan. Black hair all around. I think they lived in the neighborhood.

Thanks for reading, everyone that is not my mom my dad and my sister. Feel free to guess the identity of those childhood spirits as well, if you so desire.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I am a little confused by this email from my student.

They are learning how to write the topic and main idea of a passage. Here is the E-SALL (online learning website) assignment:


Task 1 (1 point) : July 1st - July 22nd
- Identify the topic and main idea of at least one passage and write down on a piece of paper.
- Submit it to the teacher By July 22nd.
- Check the suggested answer after By July 23rd.

Here is the confused email I got from a student today:

this E-SALL website http://cmuonline.cm.edu so when u chick in website u found on up have resource 8 passage and dowe have topic andmain idea if u chick at topic andmain idea u found 5 passage but can make 3 passage than i want to know u want student to do resource or 3 passage from topic andmain idea

ok

thank u alot

WAn


*****


Does anyone have any advice for Wan? Because I sure as hell don't.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Still Got It

Dulled by an overwhelming soft-stupid anger, I forgot about today's highlight. I passed by a fellow teacher at CMU today (a Thai, cute young female one, maybe 30 or so, very smily) and we did the walk and talk pleasantry exchange.

Here is the day-making transcript:

Me: Hello. How are you?
Thai teacher: Good and you?
Me: I'm fine, thanks.
Thai teacher: Have you eaten yet?
Me: Yes.
Thai teacher: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I'm sure all of the ladies I've wooed in the past are reading this blog and thinking, "Oh, I remember when he used that line on me. I was so charmed. 'Yes.' My heart is aflutter just thinking about that hazy moment, candlelit forever in the lockbox of my memory."


Still got it.

--which leads to the semantic overload question: can one still got what one never yet had?

So...have you eaten yet?





(For those of you wondering about the randomness of this question, know that a Thai language equivalent of "What's up?" is "Gin kaow laew mai?" literally, "Have you eaten rice yet?" less literally, "Have you eaten yet?" even less literally, "What uuuuup"

P.S. if you're wondering if I have more than three students named "Kaow" (rice), then wonder no more, because the answer is yes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jelly Legs

Got Jelly legs thrice today:

Once: Woke up after sevenish hours of sleep, walked the ten minutes to work. Surprised I didn't black out, because I felt as though I had just fallen through the rabbit hole for God's sake. Everything was blurry and I could barely walk a straight line. Good thing I didn't bring my skateboard this morning, or else I would have POPPED SOME SIC NOLLIES AND HEEL FLIPS YA'LL!!!

Or died.

Twice: After a five hour nap (11-4), I attempted to get my latter day going, only to stumble around my apartment for thirty minutes, sitting down, standing up, attempting to relocate my equilibrium. Eventually I settled for lying down and listening to music until I was too antsy to lie down anymore. Those darn elly legs knocked me out for about fifteen minutes of King Crimson jams, FYI.

Thrice: Walking home from Brit trivia (might have one had I watched more rugby/F1) I tried to skateboard but almost immediately pulled my groin, to the delight of some motorbike hooligans passing by. I don't know what they were laughing at: they were the ones stacked ass-to-crotch three-deep on a gas-powered scooter. At least I'm out there flashing some leg hair, flexing the glutes. Laugh at me, tcha.

Nah, I'm not gonna shower before work tomorrow. Nah, let them smell me.

Now, the question: Supa (one of my students) friended me on Facebook. He has photos he wants me to see, apparently.

Do I accept? Do I change my birthdate to reflect the age that a university professor should be? Do I block all of the photos that incriminate me toward unprofessorly behavior? (Keep in mind that Chiang Mai U. has the swagger of a Harvard (but the academic qualifications of, say, Texas A&M)).

Supaaaa why art thou causing me grief? Supa supa.

Also, I tried to get my midnight showing tickets to the big movie premiere this weekend, but 500 Days of Summer was all sold out when I called. I even had my "Joseph-Gordon-Levitt average suburban American costume" ready to go. Guess I'll have to wait until the crowds subside a bit.

Jokes jokes joke jokes jokes jokes joke jokes

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Soapzilla

I just took a shower with a lizard.

Reminded me of my first wife.

Too easy '10.

*******

Hey, remember the time that I lost 10 pounds in Thailand and then gained it all back when I discovered how freaking good Rotee is?

Oh right, that time is right now--

Rotee Gluay Hohm:

Fried dough

Add a scrambled egg onto the dough, then a cut-up banana. Fold the dough over the banana.

Fry it up over high flame. Add glaze and sugar.

Eat hot and crispy.


I've had one every night for the last four nights. And I don't even LIKE dessert.

Or the desert, either. That was one of those spellings that troubled me as a kid. Those two, and hiring. I could never pronounce those words. I distinctly remember seeing a "NOW HIRING" sign outside of a McDonald's, and asking my mom what "Heering" meant.

Since then, I have learned to read and write in a way that is better than the way that I formerly read and wrote.

Remember how funny Hooked On Phonics jokes used to be? Walk into Spencer's Gifts, contemplate buying the Hukd On Fonicks Werked 4 Me! t-shirt, decide not to. What a mistake that was. That shirt would STILL kill today.

Now I'm reminded of a shirt that I believe was thrown away in a Gilbert Salvation Army purge (without my permission, natch, because this one was such a keeper). I must have bought it around 1997, when Titanic was very popular. It was a plain white T-shirt, with metallic text that read "THE BOAT SANK, GET OVER IT." God I was popular in elementary school.

"I used to be so big." - Frederick Hall

Seriously.

I hear less parodies of "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue" now then I used to. Was "Roses are red..." a more popular poem back in the 90s, or was it only a popular parody in grade school?

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I'm a schizophrenic
And so am I.

You can't write this stuff!*

*Anyone who ever utters this phrase doesn't read enough. Anything can be written--and I don't mean in the million monkeys with a million typewriters scenario--I mean, really, the boundlessness of the human imagination, combined with eternal time, combined with the various mental wirings of writers, combined with hallucinogenic drugs...you think that someone couldn't have come up with the life trajectory of Sarah Palin?

You couldn't make this stuff up!

Yes, you could. Read a book. Read a blog. Watch a movie. Read a writer's scratch sheet, notes, rejected ideas. You can make this stuff up. There are worse things to be hooked on than phonics.

Bringing back Hooked on Phonics jokes in the year 2009,

Jason

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oh, Thailand

There is a small (maybe one-inch long) green-white lizard living in my shower, around the drain area. Fast little guy, very nervous around me. Always scampers into the pipes when I show up to pee, shower, etc. Frightened by quick movements. Like most people here he does not seem to speak English.

Oh, Thailand.

The Fleecing of Americans

Today I did my first bit of interpreting between flustered Americans and flustered Thais.

There were two dude-bro American dudes, both wearing skin-tight Under Armor sleeveless shirts, trying to get a taxi driver to take them up to see the Wat at Doi Suthep. I was walking by, and I heard things like "HOW MUCH TO GO TO DOI SUTHEP?" (Very fast, confused Thai among taxi drivers) "WE WANT TO GO UP TO DOI SUTHEP, HOW MUCH?"

So I walked up and negotiated for them. The dude-bros got totally ripped off (so much so that the taxi driver, before taking off, vigorously shook my hand and thanked me a whole lot), but I didn't feel too bad for the cheated foreigners. Did I mention they were both wearing Under Armor sleeveless tees?

Monday, July 13, 2009

For my fellow sweaty ex-pats

http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/23-ways-to-beat-heat-10000001630362/index.html

To the towel store!

Rimshot

I keep writing myself into a corner. I want to have at least a working manuscript for a memoir of my time here by the time I leave, but I keep writing myself into a corner. Maybe it is because I am trying to write a retrospective memoir about a ten-month sojourn during Month One. Maybe I don't know what questions to ask right now--besides, the obvious: what am I doing here?

Today I taught a class about paraphrasing, which went spectacularly poorly. It's too hard for these kids. They should be working on speech, listening, grammar, vocabulary--instead, they are attempting to summarize and paraphrase long articles, an exercise that most native English speakers would screw up, too. Oh well: I'm going to make those damn kids experts at passive voice construction. EXPERTS.

What else? I took a really long nap after class. Until 4, approximately. Then I went over some Thai. Then I graded some papers. Then I ate dinner and communicated successfully in Thai. There was some writing interspersed in there, too. I am trying to respond to everyone's emails. If you don't hear from me before October, you can feel snubbed--otherwise, I beg patience.

Hmm, that's it. Ummm the new Jay Reatard album is pretty good. Oh, I had another director joke, too:

Name Idea for Music-Video Director Themed University Lending House

Student Lonze

I like Michel Laundry better, frankly. Also I hate to end on a down note, but this is almost too much poetry. From Wikipedia, article on "loans," sentence 1:

A loan is a type of debt.

Alone is a type of debt, too.

Man, Wikipedia is just setting 'em up, aren't they?




Sunday, July 12, 2009

Name Idea for A French Neo-Surrealism-Themed Dry Cleaners

Michel Laundry.

Multilingual Rhymin'

If you stay anywhere long enough the anesthesia in the air will eventually numb you. Your eyes turn a glassy jade, the alien language, once so incomprehensible so as to contain the answers to the mysteries of life, reveals itself to be as mundane as your own language. All these people are talking about food and directions, food and directions, and money and money and money.You lose your fingerprints and the place does too.

A sprawling town can shrink so fast. The streets, which seemed interminably long and wild on your arrival, show their intersections, their mundane traffic patterns, their terminuses. The grid becomes mappable, the highways navigable. Maybe it is time to leave that city when each step you take ceases to be a non-directional move into the unknown and becomes a utilitarian move in a daily routine. If you catch yourself looking at your shoes while you walk, maybe it is time to leave.

The hipsters wanted to be always lost, confused, confounded, perplexed. Always encountering something unfamiliar, dangerous, everything they touched and everywhere they traipsed potentially fatal or orgasmic. What a pleasant binary--

and yet there are limits to it. Please excuse this anachronistic, absurd misreading/misappropriation of a classic:

Take Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as the refutation of the Hipster Ideal, of constant travel (geographical, mental, whatever) as savior-happiness. Marlowe as hipster: sailing South down Africa, constantly increasing amounts of stimulation on the riverbanks. That is the ideal, in a sense: to always be horrified, at a rising clip (pardon the pun).

In the ideal world, though, Marlowe never reaches the "heart of darkness," because there is no physical heart--Marlowe would continue sailing South forever, being continually more outraged, stimulated, an asymptote on the Zambezi, never sailing back to London. But the moment he enters Kurtz's hut, and meets his terminus, the lifestyle is crushed. There is no more South--only return. Can you imagine Marlowe staring at his shoes on the trip back North, with disappointment recognizing settlements and peoples, the stump of the tree where they stopped for lumber, a fishing outpost that provided lunch in months past. How dreary for Marlowe.

********

I love to watch baseball because the seasons have no apparent heart of darkness.

**********

Seven/Eleven rhymes in the Thai language, too. Jetd/sib-etd.

***********

I woke up at 7 this morning to watch a Braves game. Fell asleep after the 9th, slept from 11-4ish. Thai lesson, learned to tell time (Thaime). Needless complications in an otherwise beautifully streamlined language. That's why they had to create Esperanto, I guess.

Maybe reading is going out of style because the limits of language have been reached, because the heart of darkness has been breached and now as writers we are only poking around the beaches.

Movies are still new, the technology is improving. Literature can't really do anything to advance, poor guy.

Here's to poking around the beaches, then:

Brave World
by Tony Hoagland

But what about the courage
of the cancer cell
that breaks out from the crowd
it has belonged to all its life

like a housewife erupting
from her line at the grocery store
because she just can’t stand
the sameness anymore?

What about the virus that arrives
in town like a traveler
from somewhere faraway
with suitcases in hand,

who only wants a place
to stay, a chance to get ahead
in the land of opportunity,
but who smells bad,

talks funny, and reproduces fast?
What about the microbe that
hurls its tiny boat straight
into the rushing metabolic tide,

no less cunning and intrepid
than Odysseus; that gambles all
to found a city
on an unknown shore?

What about their bill of rights,
their access to a full-scale,
first-class destiny?
their chance to realize

maximum potential?-which, sure,
will come at the expense
of someone else, someone
who, from a certain point of view,

is a secondary character,
whose weeping is almost
too far off to hear,

a noise among the noises
coming from the shadows
of any brave new world.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lucky 11-7

After a long skateboard roll back from the mall, I was sitting in my computer chair, shirtless, sweating, stanky, stenched, slime-wet, motionless in thought, and I was thinking, apropos of my shirtlessness motionless, and maybe also my mother's birthday (happy birthday, Mom!: lucky 7-11--er, 11-7), about this strange habit I had as a kid:

This won't surprise those of you who know well; and those of you who REALLY know me well (I'd put that number around 2 non-family, maybe) have probably seen me do it, an odd remnant of my younger, toothless, cow-licked self::

So I used to just lie down anywhere and think. Regardless of my own cleanliness or comfort or the ground's cleanliness or fitness for lying upon. Of course sweat was never a barrier--who knows how many cotton sheets, leather recliners, suede-back chairs, etc. I ruined around my home by collapsing onto them after a run or baseball practice under the sun or swim practice in a chlorine-water soaked towel.

Now this might be pretty normal, a disregard for hygiene--but I suppose it only gets stranger. I would lie around in my room, sorting baseball cards or playing some kind of sports or professional wrestling simulacrum with the action figures and marbles in my closet; and it wasn't at all uncommon for me to wear out my imagination and myself and, with my bed an arm's length away, to lie down on the floor and stare up at the ceiling, or maybe stare down at the carpet: not sleeping, just lying there, thinking about God knows what. Not the ceiling or the carpet or the strangeness of present horizontalness, that's for sure--

--one day a machine will be invented that can record all of your thoughts from infancy to death bed and the collegiate/post-collegiate soul searchers would-be memoirists autodetectives and the bored and the curious and the pretentious and the self-absorbed can all absorb themselves within themselves and become truly and literally self-absorbed and these mysteries of youth and these reimaginations of the past will become common like nose-picking or mowing the lawn--

Anyway I suppose I have one very specific memory that makes this truly apropos of my mother's birthday. I wonder if she remembers this (I know she will tell me if she does). I used to play Wall Ball (hours and hours and hours and hours and hours) in the garage against the stonewall or else in the driveway against the stucco with only a tennis ball and sometimes a glove but more often only a tennis ball and a wandering mind. And I can remember that when I was maybe 10 I was playing Wall Ball in the driveway because Mom's car was parked in the garage so I could not play inside. And I had gotten myself sweaty in the sun from running and imagining great leaping game-saving catches at the outfield wall (which was just behind the basketball pole and under the high prickly bushes--and so I began to wander toward the garage to get a drink inside maybe; but instead, tennis ball in hand, I laid down in the garage, my head underneath my mom's car's tailpipe, my feet sticking out in the air there and so from the kitchen door that led out to the garage all that you would have been able to see were my shins and shoes like the Wicked Witch of the East crushed by Dorothy's house.

And I must have laid there, only thinking, not sleeping only thinking oblivious to the oil splotches and gasoline haze around me (cynic among you will tally this in the "Reasons Your Mind Is the Way It Is" column) for upwards of thirty minutes and I did not even hear the kitchen door open into the garage and then I did hear from within that self-tunnel my mom called out my name "Jason?" and I replied "Yes" and she said something about how it looked like I was dead because I was lying underneath a car not moving my head under the exhaust pipe and my slack feet angled outward and I can't imagine what it must have been like for my mom to enter her garage on a hot summer day with her pocketbook and her keys in hand, to go to the bank or the post office maybe, and to see her ten-year-old son's body belly-up under her car, maybe lifeless, maybe comatose, maybe altered or damaged or mutated permanently, and horror-struck thinking--well, God knows what--and me thinking, God knows what, oblivious, only to have her son casually respond to her from underneath the twists of steel, to nonchalantly ask her what question it was he had for her, and why she would interrupt him from the solitude and innocence of a brilliant late afternoon reverie which happened to be upon further inspection underneath her minivan.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And the Wahn are not im enough

Today:

I woke up with much difficulty at 7 and I trudged--TRUDGED, I tell you--to class after the five-day weekend.

But isn't it nice how sometimes the unseen day-bright sun can sit unassuming in the back row?

By which I mean (and this story will only be funny to those who lived with or near me sophomore year), today I wrote a question on the blackboard: What is your favorite movie?

And the first girl I called on answered, kid you not, "She's the Man." Like, with Amanda Bynes. Like, the poster that hung above my sophomore year.

Favorite. Movie. Ever.

That was good. I had a humiliating experience (I seem to be start a lot of sentences this way) at the clinic (or, in Thai, "Crinic"), which I was assured repeatedly by a colleague had good English speakers...anyway, obviously no one there spoke any English and I spent several embarrassing moments trying to fill out a Thai information card. I filled out my phone number, and then I had a question, so I took it up to the nurse, and before I could ask anything, she looked at the card, held it up for everyone to see, and then started laughing at me.

So much for Thais famous propensity for making foreigners feel welcome and comfortable.

Four hour nap, Thai lesson with Surat. Found out that she is a bisexual, which was pretty surprising. She warned me to be careful around Thai women, because they are tricky and they will get pregnant and use me like an ATM machine.

I will keep my eye out for that.

Then she said that just because she was my tutor didn't mean she could not be my friend. And then, as she was leaving, walking out the door, she shouted over her shoulder, kid you not, "But maybe I am tricky!"

Then at dinner I saw an 1960s/70s cover band, with an emphasis on Eagles, Beatles, 1950s dream pop. They murdered "Your Song" and then killed it on a seamless Imagine/Hey Jude medley. Then I tried to pay my check but in turns out I had impregnated my waitress.

Tricky, tricky, tricky.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Memo to Thais

Okay, this is getting ridiculous.

Can a Thai person--preferrably a representative of the state or national government--please explain to me why all of the T-shirts with the hilariously nonsensical English phrases on them are WOMEN'S TANKTOPS. Seriously. Can a white man get a malaprop?

I mean, I found a pretty good one tonight that just said "SUSHI EATS YOU ALIVE," but then it had a print of a painting of someone being eaten by a fish. Too much context, Thailand. Come on.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Deep, Deep Deep

Yesterday I slept for seventeen hours. I think that must be the longest I have ever slept. 9 PM to 3:00 PM. I legarthied for about an hour afterward, didn't get a start on the day before 4. Felt awful awful. Now look at me, I'm up at 8, baseball-watching, Chiang Mai chillin', my name's Jay-SAHN and I came to git it.

Came to git it
came to git it
name's jsahn
and i came to git it

After I wiped the crud out around 5 I had some lunch, wandered around town looking for the visitors (PiAers holiday-visiting from Nan province, about six hours away). Couldn't find them and so I ate alone, got a big hamburger and a beer, watched The Gift in Thai at the restaurant. Got my waiter to teach me some Thai, especially the names of fruits. The word for guava is "farang," which is also the word for any White-skinned foreigner. I guess you had to be there!

Maybe that's the point of writing well though, is to tell a story in a way that prevents the reader from sighing and clicheing "I guess I had to be there." Note: different from "I would have liked to have been there" (and think, for a moment, about how ridiculous that verb construction is: would have liked to have been"...p-cock).

I mention it because the writing in this blog has become such dreary, dreadful dreck lately. It's like mud is packed under the keys; or, to borrow one of my favorite similes, via Full Metal Jacket, the writing flows like old people fucking.

I don't know what it is. Remember how we used to laugh, twirling round lampposts, backflipping off stage walls? Wine soured, roses wilted. Or dew has weighed these flowers down. It seems funny things still happen to me, but I don't laugh at them anymore. I walked around the tourist part of town last night, looking lost, being lost, and I was offered drugs twice and ladies twice. Then later, around 1 in the morning, waiting for a taxi, I was approached by three Ladyboy hookers and asked by my prospective taxi driver, before he even asked me where I wanted to go, whether I was looking for a lady. Still no, thanks. I'll take another cab, thank you--it hasn't been raining but the backseat's all wet. (The ZZ story).

Later gators.

Mission of Burma

Where was I?

Burma. Border. Experiencing erectile dysfunction/desire for Marlboros.

Here's a rundown of what I bought in Burma:

Two pairs of Ray Bans: $3 for both
Wall-E and Up, DVD: $1 for both
Pair of Chinese Converse shoes: $8
Umbrella: $2

(It's been raining non-stop (no joke, it has not stopped raining) for the past two days. Woke up this morning to see that it had finally stopped. That was a long God whiz.)

Pretty happy with my Ray Bans. One pair is comically large on my face, like Groucho Marks specs. The other pair looks all right, is leopard print or something. Good buy

Wall-E and Up, which I took a gamble on, are both in Thai. It might be a few months before I can watch them. I know this because on the bus ride home (more on this later), I attempted to follow the Thai-dub version of the movie "Push," with little to no success. I know the character's names, but past that: what the hell was that movie about? I'm going to guess nothing, based not on my non-comprehension, but by the two characters that appeared to be Chinese men whose superpower was yelling very loudly.

(By the way, I think I recognized those two, from my wedding night).

Anyway, Burma. I was walking down a non-tourist street (where they don't yell "Hey, Brother! You want Zippo lighter?") when I WAS yelled at, from inside of a restaurant.

"HELLO!"

A Canadian teenager eating alone in a Burmese restaurant. Spoke perfect Thai. Eighteen years old. Had taken a year off before starting at a Vancouver university to bike through Southeast Asia. He kind of looked like a young John Waters, with long, scraggly hair, powder-white face, Adam Morristache, crazy person eyes. Very excitable.

I keep on coming back to Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now, but what I'm really referencing is this moment on The Jiminy Glick Show with Martin Short, where he's interviewing Dennis Miller, and Miller interrupts Martin Short (as Glick) and tells him how insane and demented he looks, and when he looks into his eyes he sees the look of Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now and thinks "Oh my God I am in the room with a crazy man."

That's the way I felt eating lunch, chicken fried rice with a fried egg on top. I nodded politely as the Canadian (I'll call him Sproog, for the sake of convenience) warned me against falling for a Thai girl, because they have this charm about them...(wistful silence)...

"Yeah, man, definitely."

Then he chatted up the waiter and reported to me that the Burmese economy was in the shitter. "This is their biggest bank note!" he said, pointing at 1000 Burmese note. "That's THIRTY BAHT!"

WHAT A SHITTY COUNTRY!

We walked around, met a jaded Burmese tour guide who spoke the best English I have heard in Asia (maybe because every other word was "fucking," "shitty," or "asshole"). He raged against the Thai people and how "soft" they were," and then railed against the government, chewing on Beet Root, which made his teeth beet red. Then he wandered away mysteriously. But I was so high off snorting powderized Viagra at that point that he might have legitimately said goodbye and I did not notice.