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The Age of Dis-Consent

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Over the weekend a well-known Thai fortune-teller predicted that Andaman coastal provinces will be hit by a tsunami on Thursday (30 December 2010). The Bangkok Post reported that some tourists reportedly canceled hotel bookings as a result. In Thailand, people take astrology and fortune telling as seriously as Americans who believe, based on the bible, that the earth was created 10,000 years ago. Well we all know the earth was created at least 15,000 years ago so we can dismiss the contrary view. As for going up against the received wisdom of fortune-tellers, what is Thai government going to do when a seer predicts gloom and doom at a major tourist spot at the height of the tourist season? After all, almost everyone in the government wears amulets, visits fortune-tellers to consult for the most auspicious time to call an election, open Parliament, get married, get divorced, and that is just the beginning.

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Posted: 12/30/2010 8:04:53 PM 

 

Crime fiction pulls back the sheet and looks at the bodies. People commit acts of violence against each other. Government commits acts of violence against people. The occasional shark eats a person, or a grizzly does. But the large scheme of violence, such incidents are rounding off error compared to human against human carnage. When it comes to violence against other species, most cultures draw distinctions between a gold fish and a dog. You won’t likely win any hero awards for flushing your gold fish down the toilet, but intentionally killing a dog is an order of different magnitude.

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Posted: 12/23/2010 9:23:58 PM 

 



My review of Walt Whitman's Secret by George Fetherling has been published by Evergreen Review.
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Posted: 12/22/2010 12:03:11 AM 

 

We are a map drawing species. To get from A to B in a strange land requires a map, a local guide, or the investment of considerable patience and trial and error. Maps have long been part of our world. And maps are a medium in themselves; classifications, terrain, and borders. We are familiar with such geographical maps. The map we talk less about is the map that charts violence, danger and instability. Most of us try not to stumble into the middle of a civil war when our attention is to sign on for a holiday.

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Posted: 12/16/2010 11:57:46 PM 

 

BOOK SIGNING!!
At Texas Lone Star Saloon
Saturday December 18, 2010: 13.00 - 17.00 Hrs.
Mark your Calendar!

Get your own signed collector’s copy of Father, I Have Sinned, first printing, by James Aaron Parmelee. Just stop by the Texas Lone Star Saloon in Washington Square, Sukhumvit Soi 22, Bangkok, and enjoy a beer or four (while getting your book signed, of course!) in the friendly ambience ofTexas Lone Star Saloon, where the drinks are cheap, the girls are friendly, the food is good, and foreigners are appreciated! 

Don’t know where it is? Okay, here’s a link to the exact address, with a brief description of the place and a map, so you can’t miss it: The Texas Lone Star  location.
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Posted: 12/12/2010 7:55:20 PM 

 

There is a general feeling that transparency is inevitably good and that secrecy, if not bad, leads to a dark road where evil acts are buried among the flower gardens. We believe that what distinguishes a totalitarian society from a democratic one is that the former has a political elite that largely sustains its power through secrecy and public relations. Democracy, so the theory goes, is superior because openness allows citizens to judge the actions of those representing their interest.

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Posted: 12/9/2010 7:25:57 PM 

 

The release by Wikileaks of hundreds of thousands of classified US documents has been in the news around the world. It is as if 300 Pulitzer prize winning investigating journalists dumped their story onto the Net on the same day. This is dizzy making, laugh in your hand, howl at the moon stuff. It seems every country waits its turn to see what the Americans really think about them, and what cartoon characters will be drawn upon by embassy staff to characterize local politicians and leaders.

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Posted: 12/2/2010 11:19:19 PM 

 

The social contract in the West provides that representative governments are elected to enact laws to make certain conduct (or absence of conduct) criminal. The law breaks us down into three general categories: natural, artificial and potential persons. You and me, we are what the law calls ‘natural’ persons, thank you very much. Not like a corporation which is a construct, an abstraction and while very much an artificial person, nonetheless the company is a person for many purposes and can commit crimes, too. Not like a potential person, which is that clump of protoplasm that divides and grows and at some stage (hence the hot debate) becomes a natural person.

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Posted: 11/26/2010 12:03:44 AM 

 

By Christopher G. Moore

Many of the events, images, and personalities in Bizarre Thailand will be familiar to experienced travelers or to expats who have lived in Thailand for any length of time.  Over the years, most people in these two groups will have read an article about See Uey, the Chinese Cannibal, sex workers, body snatchers, amulets, fighting fish, and the supernatural. To his credit, Jim Algie makes these subjects fresh, vivid and personal. My first impression was this would be a book that you would dip into. That wasn’t the case for me. I read this collection of articles from cover to cover with admiration for the way Algie was able to keep my concentration and focus on subjects that I thought that I knew inside out.

 

The essay titled ‘The Artist of Bizarre Architecture’ registers the multi-faceted personality of Sumet Jumsai in the tradition of the best, balanced biographies.  Another standout essay is titled ‘Empowering Sex Workers’ in which he details the long fight for acceptance by the authorities by a tiny group of NGOs who have stayed the course and made a big difference in the lives of countless people in the sex industry.

 

The pieces on Chavoret Jaruboon, Thai’s last executioner by rifle fire, Dr. Porntip

Rojanasunan, Thailand’s top forensics expert, and Susan Aldous, an Australian who set up a one person NGO to assist people in prison and jail bring to the forefront the inner emotional lives of these well-known people. Algie was able to dig deep, to get under their skin and to allow them to reveal the deeper layers of their personality, allows us to better understand what motives them.

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Posted: 11/19/2010 1:32:02 AM 

 

Arguably there is nothing less ‘authentic’ than a sales pitch. Someone who is trying to sell us something is going to say all kinds of things to close the sale. Flattery and guilt are marketers’ and bargirls’ best allies. When selling moved in a big way to online, the mentality of those seeking to sell you the latest remedy for erectile dysfunction had found a new place to nest.

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Posted: 11/19/2010 1:05:53 AM 

 

His thinning hair was totally white. He wore a ruffled shirt displaying the kind smile of your favorite uncle. He looked perfectly ordinary. Nowhere near like a multi-millionaire. At least the one’s you see in movies, TV, and gracing Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. No one would mistake him for J.P. Morgan or Warren Buffet.

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Posted: 11/12/2010 1:05:55 AM 

 

The fact is that, in the not too distant past, sleaze sold books like hotcakes to horse racing Quakers. So what? Sleaze sells a lot of things such as music, software, perfume, wetware, nail polish, comedy acts, TV reality shows, high heel shoes, fashion channel (after midnight), cars and pickups, Victoria Secrets, Playboy, and then there is the story about the hooker and the former governor of New York. Like pornographic, famously defined by a US Supreme Court justice, as something you know when you see it, sleaze fits in such mental handbag.

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Posted: 11/4/2010 10:13:13 PM 

 

The main thing I look for in any society/culture/country is how power is restrained, controlled, managed. Otherwise, the elephant smashes the ant. Let’s face it 98% of us fall in the ant category. Years of schooling, TV, newspapers and magazines instill in us the goodness, generosity and kindness of elephants in their care of ants but that mainly creates delusional thinking. Accepting our ant-like status ought to make us far more sensitive to the rules of the road for the elephant, where they can walk, and where they can run and what happens when they decide to have a little fun and get the herd to stamp on an anthill. Just to bring the fear needed to keep the ants marching in a straight line. For the ant, his hill isn’t a molehill but a mountain to be protected. For an elephant, mountains are, well, mountains with ridges and gullies, forest and snow. This difference in perception leads to odd results.

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Posted: 10/28/2010 10:55:43 PM 

 

If you were dictator of the world, or a village, or inside your house, the main perk is that you hold everyone else hostage, strapped to a post. They listen to you. You offer comfort in an uncertain, dangerous world. Still, the larger reality is people listen not because they want to; but because they have no real choice. Corporations are built on the dictator’s model of giving comfort. If you fly United Airlines in the United States, remember they’ve got you where they want you. They have your undivided attention.

I’ve been spoiled flying in Asia. The number and length of announcements are relatively limited and short. Even repeated in a couple of languages they are brief. In America, when you board your flight, you find that you’ve entered George Orwell’s Room 101. I speak from recent experience on a United Airlines flight. There were very long announcements about what you can and cannot do, the penalties involved, the commands of what you must do if you occupy an exit seat. It was like being in school. Reform school. With a little editing, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine their test audience had been passengers on rendition flights that American Intel agencies operate.

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Posted: 10/25/2010 10:46:40 PM 

 

You know that you are going to die sooner or later. Authors are no exception. Like their books, they have a shelf life. After you get over the shock and accept your fate, one of the first orders of business is put your affairs in order. I’ve always like that expression. Especially in Thailand where that can be a tall order during one’s life let alone on one’s death.

What caught my attention was an article in the New York Times about Franz Kafka:

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Posted: 9/30/2010 11:24:39 PM 

 

How do you feed a one-year-old baby?

Mind you this isn’t about what you feed him or when you feed him. This isn’t a trick question. It’s actually a quite profound cultural issue. Feeding a baby is an activity that takes planning. At this age they are like activated jelly with no hard bone structure to slow them down. Babies at feeding time are all waving arms and hands, and the mouth is a moving target. In other words, babies are pretty much the same around the world, but how we go about growing them into self-sufficient adults is highly dependent on the culture where they are born and raised.

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Posted: 9/24/2010 1:40:45 AM 

 

At times it seems in Thailand (and large part of Asia, including China) nothing in the public or private sector advances, no decision is made, no event announced until an ‘auspicious date’ and “auspicious time” have been calculated. Setting a wedding date, opening parliament, launching a new aircraft, meeting a client, opening a new business, and on and on.

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Posted: 9/16/2010 10:30:09 PM 

 

Horror stalks us wearing a cultural mask. So how does one explain the commercial success of writers like Stephen King and Peter Straub who have written horror stories that have sold around the world and have been turned into blockbuster movies? King and Straub have a reputation for pushing the right fright buttons to make an international audience wince, sweat, and shiver with fear. But nothing beats the local boogey man to put the torch of fear into young children.

When I first came to Thailand more than twenty years ago, Thai parents trying to control a child who misbehaved or refused to go to bed at the appointed time, had a surefire way of ensuring See Uey. “If you don’t do what I say, then See Uey will come into your room in the middle of the night, cut you open and eat your liver.” That’s not an exact translation but reasonably close.

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Posted: 9/9/2010 10:07:02 PM 

 

While fellow blogger Colin Cotterill has his hounds lined up on the beach conducting a seminar on the finer points of the Trotsky movement inside the dog world, I am reporting from Eel Swamp. I am light years behind Cotterill’s mind-meld that merges him into oneness with his dogs. The truth be told, I don’t have all of my ducks in a row. ...
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Posted: 9/3/2010 3:00:41 AM 

 

I am back from the country hovel at Eel Swamp. For nearly a week I had mud, water and shit midway up my wellies. It is the Monsoon season. Rain or shine, spending time with animals is a good thing. Animals have a lot to teach us. Here are a couple of observations from studying my five dogs and two ducks. First, animals aren’t divided into religion let alone into religious sects that target rivals like insurgents setting IEDs for the next Humvee to roll over. Second, animals don’t hang out with each other because of a share ideology. They have no real politics to speak of. Like religion, politics, is simply absent from their day. You may protest that animals aren’t rational, don’t have logic or analysis working for them. True enough but at the same time animals never consult astrologers before making a decision.

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Posted: 8/26/2010 10:34:03 PM 

 

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