Monday, July 25, 2005

Too good to pass up

This blog won't be as funny as it could be because I'm on a 10 yr old p.c. in a 3rd world nation, but I found this little doozy on MSN. Rock and Roll "legend' and former News frontman Huey Lewis will be starring in "Chicago" on Broadway. He may or may not be appearing in "Checking In," the smash-hit broadway musical about the Betty Ford Center, as well. He joins such other luminaries who left one tragically successful career to join the ranks or legitimate stage actors as John Schneider (Bo Duke), who came all the way from Hazzard county to play Frank Butler, and Macaulay Culkin, who at age 20 re-entered the acting world by plaing a 15 yr old in Madame Melville in London. I think I won't be the first in rushing off to the box office this year!

A long and probably boring blog

Hey, I'm finally at a computer with enough time to do this, so I'm just putting down shitty, unedited e-mails I sent to friends about my trip. Feel free to peruse them...some are funny, some are politically interesting, some are just pointless personal stuff that will mean nothing to those of you who aren't my close friends, but seeing as how I haven't posted in a month or so, I thought I'd do this. Look for new and better posts coming next weekn when I'm back in the good ol' U.S. of A.

Sawatdee Crampdt (hello--from a fella)! Today downtown Bangkok was shut down because of massive anti-government protests, and I just couldn't help but think of all of you. So I thought I'd send you an e-mail to let you know how my trip is going, instead of sending you all postcards. I mean, I'm not made of Baht, people. Oh, and for those of you on the listserve who don't know me, feel free to delete this, or read on for an entertaining missle about my first week in Thailand. This is one of your more intersting countries. It's great to know that imperialism is alive and well--they just cannot get enough of white people here. In fact, they themselves want to be white, as is evidenced by the fact that literally every third commercial on tv is for whitening cream. (Side note on television--the MTV here is phenomenal. It plays a mixture of different asian videos, all looking as if they were shot with a $10 budget in someone's basement. I cannot understand a single word they say, but that's hardly necessary, if these lyrics are anything like the bands played no the U.S. MTV). It's pretty saddening to see how much people hate their own skin color. The upside of imperialism is that over here, my brother and I and his friend Jason are all considered very attractive, so I had to turn down several offers to go home with various women at the bar last night, which is definately a very new experience. So far, I've only been in Bangkok (one night here and the world's your'll only get that refference if you listen to ABBA) and I must say that it's a very interesting city. The other day we were given a tour of it by the mother of the foreign exchange student my parents will be hosting next year. She's in the prime minister's cabinet as the secertary of technology, which is extremely impressive for a woman in this nation. So it was kind of like the equivilant of getting a tour of D.C. from Condeleeza Rice, except without the evil. We saw some pretty amazing things, all of which I'm not going to try to describe, because you really have to be there. But I can say that Buddhasts just love to cover things in gold. The hotel (or "mansion" as it, assumedly ironically, calls itself) is right across the street from the MBK center, which is Thailand's answer to the Mall of America. Yet another upside of imperialism--the dollar goes very far here. The exchange rate is roughly 40 Baht to one dollar, and to put it in perspective, my entire family, plus a friend, plus my borther's fiance, just had an entire dinner for 180 Baht, or roughy $4.50 U.S. And that was the entire bill, not per person. So again, it's nice to see the upside of our crippling economic policies (sorry about the rant, but you know what they say--you can take the boy out of rigorous sociological study, but you can't take the rigorous sociological study out of the boy). The other more interesting thing about Bangkok is the means of transportation available. For sissies there's the taxi, which are just like US taxis, only nicer. But for the fun-loving, there are these things called Tuk Tuks, which are hard to describe, but are basically half a counch on the back end of a motorcycle. The best thing about riding in a Tuk Tuk is that the drivers of them are completely insane. You haven't lived until you've been on the back of a motorcycle driving on the dividing strip between two lanes of oncoming traffic the wrong way down a one-way street. The straight-up motorcylclists are even crazier, never afraid to hop on the sidewalk, median, or gutter or to challenge a bus for the right of way. Kind of ironic that a culture which is so stereotyped for being selfless and polite has such crazy drivers. It is actually reccomended that you neglect traffic laws when driving in Thailand. Today we visited one of the schools my brother used to teach at, and again we experienced the upside of imperialism. As white people very rarely come out to the smaller provinces, we were of course treated like royalty for having such pale skin. Pretty ackward, but fu at the same time. My brother had to make an impromptu speech to the entire student body of the school, but he didn't have too many inspirational words of wisdom for the kids, so it was pretty short. I thought it was pretty hilarious, though. Well, much more than that has happened, but I've already wasted enough of your time. Hope you're all having a fun and safe time back there in the states, and hopefully you've been mildly amused by my recollections.

I'm now in the village of Amnat Charoen, where my brother lives. Life sure is interesting in the boondocks of a third-worl nation. For instance, last week I encountered my first eve Thai toilet. It consisits of a hole in the ground with two footholes next to it. The flushing mechanism AND toilet paper is a bowl floating in a concrete tub full of stagnant water next to the toilet. Needless to say, I've learned to hold it until I get home to Wassana's (my borther's fiance's mom, even though because of myt age I can't call her that, it's easier for the purposes of this e-mail) house, where thankfully there is a western style toilet. Well, a close approximation of a western style toilet. The food is pretty good, but Jason and I made the mistake of saying we like fish the first day we got here, so every night Wassan fixes us each a foot-long fish to eat. I don't know a polite way to tell her that the previous 10 fish have been enough to last me for life. Last night we had Thai pizza, which like everything in this country, is an attempt to copy something western that fails miserably. It was quite interesting. I would do just about anything in the world for a good hamburger. I'm actually beggining to miss America. It's like Lisa Simpson said "America may have it's granduers and it's follies, but mostly it's where all of our stuff is." Last night, through a strange series of events, I went out drinking and karoake-ing with an entire platoon of US Marines. With my back to back renditions of Bon Jovi's "It's my life" and Bryan Adam's "Everything I do I do it for you," I became quite the toast of the Marines, if you can believe it. Even though every toast (which happened approximately every 45 seconds) was either to the "Red White and Blue, what we die for" or for "Kicking Saddams ass" or some such thing like that, the Marines unanimously thought that Bush is an idiot and this war is wrong. Of course, that didn't stop them from following orders and shipping out to Falujah today, which they al knew too well meant that they weren't all coming back. To add to the irony, I had lunch on the Mekong river yesterday. Interesting to have lunch on the river where my uncle took half a dozen bullets 30 years ago. Again, maybe I'm too cynical, but it was surreal to be placidly looking at a place where thousands of people died because Henry Kissinger is a jerk. And he won the Nobel Peace Prize, thus making the prize entirely meaningless. Yesterday we went to yet another Buddhest temple (as a side note, for those who complain about Catholics eating off of gold plates at mass while people starve, which granted, is despicable, they should see one of the thousands of Buddhest temples), I got stung by a very angry wasp many times. I'm sure it was my white, male God becoming upset with me for paying respect to the wrong person. Anyway, the welts have finally gone down enough for me to move my arms, but there's definately still some pain there. On the plus side, after climbing a seven-story spiral staircase with stairs that I shit you not were only 3" wide, I saw a bag containing the bones of Buddha, so I should get some good karma out of that. In happier news, my new suit of Thai silk clothes came back from the tailor today, so I'll be looking pretty styling for the engagement party this friday. I've never had a tailor made suit of clothes before, so I'm feeling pretty good. Well, that's about al for now. The only computer I was able to find that's connected to the net looks ot be about 20 years old, so I'm having a heck of a time using it. So please excuse what I am sure are the many thousands of spelling and grammar errors. Well, much, much more than that has happened, but that's all I have time to write. If you've made it this far, thanks plenty for reading.

I'm now in Malaysia, having finished my little tour of Thailand. The wedding/engagementparty (we're not really sure which one it's a long story) was really fun. Very different, but interesting. Even my brother, who speaks the language, had very little idea what was going on the whole time, so I don't feel so bad. And then, of course, there was karaoke. Nobody does more karaoke than Thai people. I don't know how much of this news you're getting in the states, but there's a very peculiar situation going on in Southern Thailand. Might even be something for Amnesty to focus on next year. Anyway, there has been a large increase of Muslim seperatists in the region for quite some time (think Al Quiada-type folks) that have been commiting quite a bit of violence. Anyway, the gov't had opriginally pledged to solve it peacefully with full respect for human rights, etc. But now, in the pas two weeks, theprime minister went around the parliament and declared a state of martial law. He can now censor any publication, detain and arrest without charge, wiretap without warrant, and, well, basically everything that's in the Patriot Act. I think the most depressing part of it, though, is that the newspapers (which were already subject to censorships laws, but are now subject to even more stringent censorship) are still dramatically better than American newspapers. Eveery major paper carried article after article criticising the PM's move and calling for greater respect for civil liberties and human rights. And these are CENSORED newspapers. To make a tired point, we know what American newspapers would do in that situation, because we're already in it. So there's some interesting politics form this side of the world. 牋?Malaysia is quite a different world from Thailand eventhough they share a common border. The most obvious difference is that it is a Islamicist state, and not a Buddhast state. It's extremely weird to see women walking around in full burkhas. Even though most women wear only a simple veil, or not religious clothing at all for some, there are still plenty of woemn dressed head to toe in black, even some with their eyes covered. It's like Pop says, it's hard to understand why every major religion in the world feels it needs to oppress women. The politics here are similarly fragile. Again, though, it's pretty similar to the states. There's a growing fundamentalist movement which wants to enfore it's crazy, half-baked interpretation of a religion on everyone, and a vocal opposition which would prefer to be allowed religious freedom. So there are many interesting posters and spray paint around, but those voicing anti-Islamicist state opinions are usually defaced by the gov't before anyone can read them. But as an Orang Pute (honky) I've had no problems, so I don't think things are getting that bad yet. Malaysia is a former Brittish colony, so pretty much everyone here speaks pretty good English, which is nice, because my Malay is even worse than my Thai, which is not very good at all. Though right now we're having a very Malay experience, because in the small village we're in, the best Hotel we could find features amneties such as being only a block away from a public toilet, which is less than convenient when you get up in the middle of the night and need to use the bathroom. Also, the smaller towns tend to be more conservative, so I'm usually not allowed to enter buildings wearing shorts (you're not supposed to show you legs), which is extremely annoying because it's about 110 degrees in the shade. But I always find something to complain about. On the upside, it's extremely beautiful here, and my parents were able to find their old friends form when they were in the peace corps 30 years ago, so we've gotten to see so many intersting things too numerous to mention. 牋 Well, that about does it. I'm set to come home to the states in a short while, and then I'llbe off to Minneapolis. I miss you all and hope you'll come visit me up in the Twin Cities. Take care.