Monday, February 14, 2011
"1601" for free from Project Gutenberg. "Born irreverent," Mark Twain wrote on a scratch pad among his collected papers, and, "like all other people I have ever known or heard of--I am hoping to remain so while there are any reverent irreverences left to make fun of." I think the Thais would appreciate Twain's ribald and iconoclastic sense of humor. He must be laughing about the recent censored editions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in which "Nigger" was replaced with "Slave," "Injun" changed to Indian and "Half Breed" changed to "Half Blood."
press release, the Ministry of Public Health expressed concern over the tendency of Thai teenagers to have sex on Valentine’s Day, saying that unprepared sex can lead to the unwanted pregnancy problem. An official survey showed teens would spend time with their loved ones on Valentine’s Day by watching good films, listening to music, having dinner and staying together. The government spokesman worried that such activities "could arouse teenagers to have sexual intercourses very easily for many reasons such as love, emotion, curiosity, satisfaction and mental immaturity." Duh.
article in the Bangkok Post, "Thai youngsters are growing up loving fast food and junk food despite how unhealthy it is, which is leading to an obesity epidemic. Over the past five years, there has been a 40% increase in obesity among Thai children under the age of six. About 22 million people over the age of 15 are considered obese, according to the Public Health Ministry." In a couple of years, those cute twins chowing down on Kentucky Fat Chicken will look like a couple of sumo wrestlers.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Paradise doesn't stand still. If I thought that coming home would pacify all of my concerns, I was mistaken. Events near and far have ruffled my waters. First, my dear friend Jerry collapses in the street and, after being taken to the cardiac care unit at Bangkok's most prestigious medical tourism site, has a heart attack. He's recovering nicely, and seems less discombobulated by the adventure then I, uncomfortably reminded of my mortality. Then I learn from the Facebook page of the son of my former brother-in-law that his father has been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare, degenerative, and invariably fatal brain disorder. David's blog has been charting its rapid and heart-breaking progress. I remember Kenny (we share the same birthday) fondly as a generous and energetic friend, husband and father, and I grieve for his family.
As if to echo personal tragedy, the world is changing rapidly in unexpected ways. For two weeks I have been following events in Egypt, particularly through the complete coverage by Al Jazeera's English web site (where streaming video can be seen). First the government in Tunisia was driven out by street protests, and then Cairo erupted with hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding that the dictator Mubarak, a faithful lackey of the U.S., leave the country and return the billions he stole from the people. It's still too early to know if people power can actually overturn an entrenched autocratic regime like Murabark's; After all, they failed in Beijing's Tianamen Square over 20 years ago. But the courage of the Egyptian people, particularly the women, is inspiring. Maybe democracy might work after all!
In Thailand, the conservative yellow shirts, members of the People's Alliance for Democracy, are once again wagging the tail of the dog they put in power after a military coup five years ago deposed an elected prime minister and a disastrous sit-in two years ago closed the international airport and helped to unseat two subsequent prime ministers. This time the yellow shirts and their allies, the Thai Patriots Network, are demanding that Cambodia return a small plot of land that contains an ancient Khmer temple despite the fact that an international court awarded them the border territory 50 years ago. The long-running dispute resulted this month in shelling by the military on both sides with the deaths of a number of villagers and solders. Yellow shirt founder and media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul even suggested to the 5,000 demonstrating in the streets of Bangkok that Thailand should invade and capture Angkor Wat in retaliation for Cambodia's occupation of the Khmer temple land. Because Prime Minister Abhisit has not yet declared war, the yellow shirts are calling for his ouster, or, better yet, a fresh military coup. Insanity.
So what is one to do with such a mixture of hope and despair? Head for a tropical island.
Our trip to Koh Chang over the long Chinese New Year weekend was made possible by an exceptionally generous wedding gift from two old friends from high school, Ernie and Mark. It allowed Nan and I to have a second honeymoon (the first was last October to Koh Samed) and we made the most of it, flying via Bangkok Airways to Trat rather than endure the long bus ride, and staying in a "VIP Double" at Sofia Garden Resort halfway down the west coast of the island in Khlong Prao. The hotel was owned by a man from Finland and featured a sauna as well as a pool, Finnish dishes on the restaurant menu, and it was populated by refugees from the cold northern European winter (a large number of whom were driving classic motorcycles and sported elaborate tattoos). The cable TV include several European channels and we sampled a bit of "Titanic" and "Back to the Future" dubbed in Russian (which appears to the third official language of Thailand now). This "resort" was not located on the beach, however, and we had to walk around a swamp and down a lane that passed a couple of luxury hotels to get to the sand and palm trees.