June 2004 Archives

Rush's Summertime Blues

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I have a confession to make: I used to be a die-hard Rush fan. No, not Rush Limbaugh, for crying out loud. I'm talking about Rush the band, as in Geddy, Alex, and Neil. I owned all of their 20 or so CDs and used to love to listen and study the complexity of their music and lyrics.

But I haven't been following them much since Presto. Perhaps it's just a function of the people I spend time with. I can't imagine any of my friends actually listening to Rush for any extended period of time.

Anyway, the point of this post is to say that I just listened to a one-minute clip of thier upcoming song Summertime Blues. That's right, Rush is doing a cover. In fact, their next CD will be entirely made of cover songs. I read somewhere today that they wanted to release an album to celebrate their 30th anniversary by recording some of the songs that they were listening to when they started.

So, the first release (single?) is Summertime Blues. Can you imagine Geddy screeching "There ain't no cure for the summertime blues!" Check out Rush Radio on the official band website to have a listen. I did and I thought it was great. It sounds a lot like "old school Rush". And by "old school" I mean really old 1970s Working Man Rush. Fantastic! I even tried to buy it on iTunes, but it didn't work. Maybe because I am in Thailand?

I'm tempted to pre-order the album on Amazon....

This month witnessed the death of two 93 year old former rulers. The one who got a lot of press was of course Ronald Reagan. The one who got almost no press, even in his home country of Thailand, was Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.

Thanom ruled Thailand from 1963-1973 more or less as a military dictator. His reign ended with a popular revolt against his power and he was forced to flee the country. He returned from exile in 1976, sparking a student revolution at Thammasat University which ended in a bloody massacre. (I have written a little bit about this event before.)

The interesting thing to me about these two deaths are not the deaths themselves, but the way that the people in their respective countries treated the death. Granted, one was (for the most part) well-respected in many ways. Even if people didn't like Reagan's policies, at least they could agree that he was an excellent communicator and leader.

Thanom, on the other hand, was not well-liked, as is the case with most military dictators. But in the wake of his death, Thai people refuse to talk about him or his legacy. Here are actual quotes from the Nation (one of Bangkok's English language newspapers):

One of the most prominent student leaders of those days, who asked not to be named, said "the incident occurred decades ago" and that he did not wish to talk about it.

Another former student leader told his aide, when contacted by The Nation, that he didn't know if there was anything to be said on the issue...

An activist who led an attempt to collect information about the October 6, 1976 massacre and wishes to remain anonymous, said this about Thanom: "If I say anything, it won't be polite. Do you think you can be polite [in talking] about someone who ordered the killing of pro-democracy protesters? As a human being, could you be polite about it?"

Saowanee Limmanond, another former student leader, said that although she didn't want to say anything, it was time to put bitterness behind and forgive the former dictator.

Sombat Tamrongthanyawong, former secretary-general of the National Student Centre in 1973, also said he didn't want to say anything because Thanom is now dead.

"Let us put the issue to rest," he said.


What?! Ok, so I can appreicate Thai people wanting to be polite and respectful, but how can people learn the mistakes of the past if they are never discussed? How does one understand the present or plan for the future without knowing what happened in the past?

Another quote from the Nation was this one:

"My feeling is just that he's dead now. We leave the rest to be a matter of political history� I just want people today to learn from the past. People today are not informed about the history of the October 14, 1973 struggle� I don't know how long it will take before history will be properly recorded...
How long will it take before history is properly recorded? About as long as it takes for people to tell the truth about their feelings and their experiences, even if those feelings and experiences are negative ones.

The quotes above were taken from: Uprising leaders stay silent

For more information on Field Marhal Thanom, see these two articles:

THANOM KITTIKACHORN: 1911-2004: Democracy�s bitterest foe

Thais recall life under totalitarian leadership

A few weeks ago I mentioned the Londoner Pub on Sukumvit 33. I didn't have many nice things to say about it, except for the apple-pie-to-die-for. Luckily, I don't have to go back, because I found a new, much better Pub. It's called Robin Hood and its on the corner of the very next small soi (I think its Sumumvit 33/1).

Apparently it has only been open for a couple of weeks. The place was well-decorated, the one snack we had was quite tasty, and most importantly, the waitresses were very nice. Hopefully it will stay that way.

So, for those who are into the Pub scene, check out Robin Hood across from the Emporium at Phrom Phong BTS station.

2 Gigs of Email

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Using Yahoo Mail today was a bit of a hassle as they were upgrading the site. Every other link or button I clicked gave me a garbled page. But, it has been worth the wait, for now I now have 2 Gigabytes of mail storage. And I was amazed with my 1 Gig at Google just a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the news story about Yahoo's new mailbox sizes. Do you have yours, yet?

Goodbye Antti

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When I use the word "cool" in relation to weather in Bangkok, I usually have to preface it with a "relatively". But this morning's walk to work was actually quite pleasant. Every now and then the monsoon rain actually lowers the temperature without leaving a sticky humid mess behind.

It was a good weekend, all in all, as I celebrated my first day off from work in over two weeks. A group of work buddies went to the Tawan Daeng German Beerhall for a going away party for Antti, one of my fellow teachers. I had forgotten what a great place it is, after not going for over a year.

This time, we stayed past the opening act, which was the excellent 12-piece band with singers and costumed, choreographed numbers that I had seen before. (The actual songs were different, though.) The second act was nothing more than a rockin concert. The singers, dancers, and band were all very professional and very entertaining. As the homebrewed beer flowed, eventually the crowd started rockin too, and the place turned into a dance hall, albeit a Thai dance hall where you just stand and your table and shake your booty.

But then I realized it was only the women who were dancing while their brothers, husbands and boyfriends were all fixated on the big screen TV showing a Euro Games football match. I wasn't really into dancing at my table or watching football, but the beer certainly was good.

I've commented several times in this log about the influence of Hinduism on Thai Buddhists. It's a facinating topic for me, because I know so little about both religions. Not only that, but I was taught that there can only be one religion. It is impossible to be a Christian and a Buddhist. Or even a Christian and a Jew. And certainly there is no way one can be a Christian and a Muslim because the two are so "at odds".

If you were to ask any Thai person what religion they are, 90% of them will say "Buddhist". Yet the Erawan Shrine (to the Hindu god of creation) and the Bhramin/Vishnu/Shiva shrine at Central World plaza are immensely popular. Same thing goes for the beautiful Hindu temple Sri Mariamman on Silom near my old apartment. Of course, Thai people have changed the meaning of these shrines, as I mentioned a few days ago.

So can Thai people be Hindu and Buddhist at the same time? How aware of it are they? I'm not sure what the answer is to either question. But today I was directed to an interesting article on the Hinduism Today website, called Thailand Hinduism. It was written by an Indian Hindu who travelled to Thailand to learn about the Hinduism here. One telling quote from the article was from the author's Hindu guide, who said:

Hinduism and Buddhism are considered to be so close that not many people differentiate between the two. Hindu and Buddhist rituals are conducted simultaneously. The Thai people think that it is almost the same. Some even think that Hinduism is just a ritual and not really a religion, or they think Hinduism is an off-shoot of Buddhism. They happily participate in the Hindu rituals, and seek direct communion with the Gods and Goddesses in meditation.

The more I learn, the more facinating it is to me. People are interesting creatures.

Research Started

I officially started my research project today. I think I will use my other website to keep a running narrative of my research. It seems to me that when the time comes to write the paper, it will be a lot easier to write if I have been writing about the subject for 2 months.

So, if you would like to keep up, then check out my Professional Site. You can also just click on the "Professional" link on the left side at any time.

Buying Leeches

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Every now and then I get strange requests from the visitors to my website. (Case in point: the ridiculous thread on the lottery post).

But today I got a new one: "I would like to buy a great amount of water leeches(not mountain leeches).It will be used for medicine." I was actually talking about leeches in the post, so it's not completely off topic, at least.

Check out the link above. Perhaps you can help this chap.

Ronald Reagan

So as everyone now knows, Ronald Reagan passed away this week. I don't have much to add to the tributes, but I will say it seems strange to hear of the death of someone who I remember as President. In my life, Johnson (1973) and Nixon (1994) died, but I was too young to remember either of them as President.

It seems like there were/are a lot of ex-Presidents still alive. Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton. Has this ever happened in US History before? Especially when two of them served two terms. Not that it matters really, just a good trivia question for "Who wants to be a Millionare?" I suppose.

The reason I think of this is that just yesterday, a fellow ajarn and I were talking about Clinton's upcoming 900+ page book and how Clinton and Bush Jr are both very young and presumably will be around for a while. We were wondering how they would influence politics in their post-Presidential lives.

I won't comment on Reagan's legacy, but I will say that it's sad to see anyone (and their families) suffer through Alzheimer's. What a (mentally) painful, sad, and scary way to go.

A couple of months ago I wrote about the Hindu shrine at Central World Plaza. The night I was there, the shrine was very popular. As I mentioned in my post, I noticed that the worshippers carried red roses and had red slips of paper. I also noticed that most of the people at the shrine were young, single women. It seemed to me at the time that everyone was treating the shrine as a God of Love. I asked a few of my friends about it, but they didn't know any thing more than I did.

Today's Bangkok Post confirmed my suspicions. The front page of the Outlook section had an article called "Looking for love in all the old places" with a huge picture of the crowded shrine. As it says:

This time around [Nuttawan] was looking for love, so it had to be a visit to the Trimurti, the god of love for young hipsters.

For almost a year now, the Trimurti shrine has become a santuary of hope for many lovelorn youngsters. Day and night, the Trimuri's altar is never void of red offerings.

It goes on to say, "Whether or not it has anything to do with the shrine's location that sees people of many cultures, many claim the god is especially magical in matching foreign mates with Thai partners." Hmmmm....

Suan Lum Night Bazaar Beer Garden

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I think I have worked 13 of the last 14 days, including today (a Sunday). By next Saturday, that number will be 19 out of 20. It wasn't supposed to be quite like this, but this weekend I am teaching an extra 6 periods for a part-time teacher who is sick. It is a class I have taught several times, so it's not too bad. Plus a little extra cash will be nice.

Last night we had dinner at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Suan Lum is across the street from Lumpinee Park, in the heart of Bangkok. I've bought many presents here that I personally exported to the United States at Christmas.

There are many restaurants here, but my favorite is the big "beer garden" section. Every kind of Thai food stall is here, along with a small selection of Thai and German beers. We had Northern Thai sausage, pork, chicken and beef shish-ka-bobs, fried spring rolls, and heifenwisen beer.

It was a little pricy (but still around US$5 for two) and the entertainment (a band with singers and dancers) was not quite professional quality, but it was a fun night out anyway.

Leonardo's Notebooks Online

I am quickly becoming addicted to my RSS Reader. This week I started reading The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci. Not the whole thing, though, just a page a day in my RSS Reader.

But you can follow along as well, even if you don't use an RSS Reader. A guy named Matt Webb has created a website that posts one page of DaVinci's Notebooks every day. It will take 4 years to go through all 1,561 pages, but it might be an interesting read.

For example, here's a quote from Page 1:

How by a certain machine many may stay some time under water. And how and wherefore I do not describe my method of remaining under water and how long I can remain without eating. And I do not publish nor divulge these, by reason of the evil nature of men, who would use them for assassinations at the bottom of the sea by destroying ships, and sinking them, together with the men in them.

In other words, DaVinci says, "Read and learn from me, but please don't use my inventions to kill people." Oh well. So much for that idealism...

Desire vs Apathy in Thai Buddhism

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As I was watching the ceremonies at the temple a couple of days ago, I was thinking to myself that I would like to learn more about the religion. If nothing else, then maybe I can understand more of what I am seeing around me.

From what I can tell so far, Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion. Not only that, but it is a philosophy that makes sense. For example, the concept that desire is evil certainly resonates with me. I have interpreted that philosophy as the basis of Thai people's ability to be happy even when they don't have many material possessions. If Buddha says we shouldn't desire fancy cars and big houses, then it's ok if we don't have those things.

It seems to me that the extension of this idea is that many Thai people think it is ok to not work too hard. At least that is the only explanation I can find. It is an amazing sight to walk through the malls in Bangkok to see people sleeping on the job! Those who have been here know I am not exaggerating. It sometimes seems like some Thai people can sleep anywhere, anytime, no matter what is going on around them. It's a feat that I certainly can't pull off.

My students (as dear and sweet as they are) don't seem to want to work very hard either. They often don't desire an A; C's are good enough for them.

But now, a revelation by a fellow ajarn tonight sheds some new light on the Buddha's teachings. Apparently, Buddha thought everyone should work hard. One website I just found puts it this way:

Like many other spiritual traditions, Buddhism is a religion which supports the "work ethic". Buddhism is not a religion to tolerate lazy people.

It goes on to say:
In Buddhism it is also seen as dutiful to work hard because out of gratitude, one recognizes that in order to come work age at all, we are a result of considerable investment of time, money, education, love and patience by parents, teachers and state alike and if we are not to put our skills into action, then that investment and good will would go to waste. Thus in Buddhism a lazy person is also seen as an ungrateful person.

Wow. Whereas this might not be ground breaking stuff, I think it looks at the "work ethic" from an interesting perspective. It is, unfortuantely, a perspective that not many of my students seem to have.

So the next question is, of course, "Why not?"

By the way, the page that I quoted from has a lot of really good, practical advice about how to achieve success, no matter what religion you follow. The page is entitled Blessing Fourteen: Not Leaving One's Work Undone

Back in Business

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Well, rebuilding my website wasn't as bad as I was expecting. I did a little search on my laptop and found a backup of my index template there. Then, a little cut and paste and rebuild later, I'm back in business.

Apologies for missing the past week or so, but hopefully I won't have this problem again.

It is Visakha Puja Day in Thailand, one of the three main Buddhist holidays. We had the day off from school and I was determined not to do any work. So Piyawat and I decided to head to Siam Park, a 20 year old water park on the outskirts of Bangkok.

And how was it? Well, it looked 20 years old, for starters. But we had a good time in the talay ("ocean", or in this case, the wave pool) and the super spiral and straight-away water slides. The super spiral was especially fun. It seemed super fast and super twisty. In fact, every time I went down it, I had to sit down to rest to clear my spinning head.

After a few hours we were both feeling quite dizzy -- or, for the Thai word of the day: vien hua (literally, "circling head"). So we headed home to rest.

As I said before, today is the Buddhist holiday, so tonight (after a nap, dinner, and a few laps at the gym pool) I went to the temple to watch the local folk do the vien tien ("circling candles") around the temple. In this ceremony, which I have seen a few other times, worshipers walk around the temple three times carrying candles, flowers, and incense.

It's a beatiful sight. I'm just glad that my vien hua didn't keep me from the vien tien...

SEAMEO-UNESCO Education Congress

It looks like my site was hacked again. Not just my site, but all of the websites that are stored on the same machine at logjamming.com. It was hacked, then restored, now it's hacked again. Sigh.

Oh well, I guess it's ok, since I haven't been able to force myself to write anything lately. Here's a recap of what I have been up to for the past few days:

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I attended the SEAMEO-UNESCO Education Congress at the Queen Sirikit Convention Center in Bangkok. I had high hopes of hearing some interesting talks on technology and education. But the audience was mostly made up of elderly diplomatic/NGO types, so the content of the talks was hardly cutting edge. For example, Microsoft's President of the Asia Region spent about 10 minutes of his talk explaining the evolution of the computer from mainframes to current Internet-based applications, just like I do in my introduction to computer class for college freshmen.

It was interesting, however, to hear people from all over this part of the world talk about the challenges and successes of education in their home countries. I heard a few good talks from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Even though the Thai Department of Education was a co-sponsor of the event, they were mostly absent except for the opening ceremonies with HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. From what I have seen of the completely inept Thai Department of Education, I am not surprised.

Speaking of the Princess, I was very excited to hear that she would be there. Unfortunately, though, I wasn't early enough to get a seat in the hall where she was speaking. Instead, I had to watch her speech on a big-screen TV on the other side of the wall.

But that was good enough. I really enjoyed watching and listening to her speak. It is very obvious why she is so loved by the Thai people. She was very down to earth, modest, and even cracked a joke or two as she talked about some of the service she has done for the people of Thailand in the area of education. Very impressive.

Even if the conference was light on the technology, it still gave me some time to think about my own career interests. If I can find the time, I will do a write-up of all that over on my other site.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2004 is the previous archive.

July 2004 is the next archive.

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