Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Twenty year old travelers’ coming to Bangkok in 2015 can’t imagine a time before guidebooks, when there were no tourist hotels, beach resorts and not one local speaking English. There was no internet, no smart phones, one long distance call box at the main post office on Charoen Krung Road, a single lonely American clerk in the American Express Office, and telex for emergencies. From the 1920’s well into the 1960’s there were few English voices to be heard in Bangkok.

The only foreigners in town were found at the bar of the Oriental Hotel on the banks of the dirt red Chaophraya River, pool side at the grotty Malaysia Hotel on Rama IV Road where war corespondents and political spies hung out during the Vietnam War, or the deeply depressing Mississippi Queen bar on Patpong Road where disabled veterans retold stories about the time “they’d fallen out of a helicopter”. There were no newspapers or western television by satellite. If you’d made it to Thailand, you were the type of person who’d worked hard at escaping to the fringes of the civilized world.

Into this void was born the now defunct Bangkok World newspaper, precursor to the modern Bangkok Post, once South East Asia’s only English language newspaper. In the mid 1960’s a young columnist named Bernard Trink arrived in Bangkok and took up the task of chronicling the night life that grew like a cancer out of the train wreck of Vietnam and with it the deluge of war crazed soldiers and dissolute bureaucrats. The sex scene in Vietnam, where flesh was traded for a day away from poverty, was transported to Thailand with the NGO’s and political wonks.

For travelers like myself Bernard Trink was a prince and a fountain of information. In his columns he disparaged the perversions he saw among those of the ‘farang’ community. He took it upon himself to expose the seedier side of foreigners, which had given rise to child prostitution. Trink championed women’s rights when he witnessed the degradation of poor country women forced into prostitution through poverty or force. Trink made famous the now infamous expression…”TIT”…..’This is Thailand’. A phrase oft used when no rationale explanation can be found for what goes on here in the Land of Smiles.

Bernard Trink was like a friend to isolated travelers of the time. His voice was distinct and many times the only voice in written English that could be found. Often western magazines could only be found after being left behind by airline crews on layover. Bernard Trink and his Nite Owl column was the definitive ‘Guide to Bangkok’ a decade before guide books would be invented.

End of Part One

life could be a lot worse

life could be a lot worse

Texas has affected me in many ways, but most notably in the art of civility. Trish and were initially taken aback at how friendly and complimentary people were generally in Texas. Simple conversations between Texans begin with mutual compliments. Whatever the circumstance people will compliment your hairstyle, clothing, shoes, eye color, personal style or whatever as a way to begin a conversation or  transaction. It’s really endearing.

Coming back to Vancouver I realized I was doing the same as I would in Dallas….be overtly friendly with the people I encountered. The Texan culture is egalitarian. It doesn’t matter what your social position or employment status, people acknowledge one another with a compliment…”I like your hair”…or some similar greeting. And that’s where we made our discovery….that compliments are how Texans say hello. Whether Wallmart or a bank… people greet you on a personal level as equals….without the jealous or obvious envy and covetousness  we experience in uber materialistic  ‘futterneid’ ( German for the envy of another’s possessions)  Vancouver. I have noticed that by practicing this complimentary style I have shocked many Vancouverites out of their downcast closeted shell and they visibly brightened….. as if they haven’t had a kind word or compliment for a very long time. It’s obvious to me that people in Vancouver are starving for civility.

As I said, Texas is an egalitarian culture, perhaps because they have a history of overcoming common hardships. Perhaps it’s because people haven’t been suppressed into isolating and tension creating ethnic ghetto’s by short sighted political mavins as is the case in Vancouver. But this much is true…the mood among people in Texas is always polite and positive and living there is especially refreshing for a transplant Vancouverite accustomed to the surly rain soaked masses of the left coast. There is no doubt in my mind that the friendly relations people enjoy in Texas is a by-product of growing up in an atmosphere of common courtesy… ( it’s always Miss, Ma’am and Sir) Vancouver could learn a life lesson from Texas… and maybe someday lose the tag as being unfriendly and uncivil.

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Time flies when you’re having fun. How many times in your life have you said that? If it hasn’t been a lot… then you’d better get busy and start living. Trish and I are constantly amazed how fast the months are flying by . I suppose it starts with being busy and enjoying what we do. The number of perfect days in North Texas is a huge catalyst towards keeping the blues away. Life beneath these clear blue skies has really had an effect on my daily outlook.

We’re now in ‘the dog days of summer’. Long lazy days of perfect weather, sunshine and swimming pools have to be remembered rather than taken for granted. After living in Vancouver I have rediscovered my love of the open road. Instead of having to think of transportation as a claustrophobic chore, the open roads of Texas have added a new dimension to my appreciation of life. I know, songs about ‘the open road’ are cliche… but you have to experience it to really get it. There’s something instinctual that’s released in a persons soul when there is nothing but blue sky and open country in every direction.

As opposed to cities like Vancouver where  transportation infrastructure is so poor it discourages  travel in every aspect, and makes going any distance pure drudgery and a hellish experience….Texas infrastructure invites you to come out and see the country. The culture here is too get out of the city frequently and visit the historic towns that dot the landscape. This element of the lifestyle creates a huge economic boost to the countryside and encourages people to not buy a city condo and become a rat in a cage. A major US politician ( John Kerry) said recently “The Internet has made people hard to govern”. I suppose by extension…. freedom of person, thought and spirit also make for an independent minded population…. and you have that in spades in Texas. Think about it.

 

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I wrote a magazine article in 2011 about the dwindling importance of the sex industry in Thailand. I have to say that I am surprised that article is the consistent #1 search out of all the articles I have written on any subject.  I don’t have anything to add to the article I wrote. I stand by my comments of the time. I think the exploitation of women under the guise of any enterprise is disgusting. I have met enough foreign punters to know that each one of them had a sick and twisted mindset that should have resulted in therapy or incarceration…not a trip to Thailand. I would like to think  responsible politicians in every country are working hard to eradicate the root cause of prostitution …but I’m not holding my breath.  Media workers and bloggers who lionize the sex tourism industry should be ashamed of themselves.

I’m happy to note that my country Canada has  laws in place to prosecute citizens from traveling to a second country for the purpose of  exploiting sex workers and minors. This has resulted in many prosecutions, including the infamous case of ‘Swirly Face’ a teacher from Maple Ridge British Columbia among others. This pervert got the maximum prison time. Red faced single male tourists returning from target countries are frequently pulled aside at immigration to have the content of their computers and cameras reviewed. Far too many are caught with unlawful acts logged on their hard drives. I hope that one day this number will be reduced to zero.

Soon, the tourist season will once again be ramping up. Can I suggest to any would be exploiters that you choose another outlet for your crimes this year. Donate your time and money to a women’s shelter. Find help for your urges….. try sport, church, exercise,,,, a hobby. Do anything to straighten yourself out. You’re certainly not improving the life of anyone through exploitation. The world shouldn’t revolve around your pee pee… if it does….. grow up.

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Self promotion…..what a silly concept. Overnight I was messaged about being ‘accepted’ by Good Reads. You actually have to apply to get in….I suppose there is some kind of vetting process. There are a zillion budding authors out there…..  it is extremely hard to be recognized….. but with the door so narrow for new artists….what will the world of literature look like in ten years time. Will we see nothing  on the impulse racks but cook books and memoirs of unpopular politicians?  I’m tempted to write a book about weight loss regimes during divorce or promoting a new hair style for the pope….. seriously…don’t get me started.

In fact I read many freshly pressed works by new artists on sites like Worthy of Publishing and Figment or Authoronomy…Pinterest….etc….mostly abysmal.  But at the same time we see runaway best sellers ( 50 Shades anyone?) that are absolute crap….. so who am I to judge? And I mean by abysmal crud…. when the craft has been mangled by a complete disregard for the language. But….it’s the dance we do as writers…..a little fandango…. to set our time upon the stage and act out before we perish.

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My how time flies. July is our one year anniversary in Dallas Texas. Honestly, it was a year of unexpected bliss. Texans are wonderful hosts, the place is easy going. We are still discovering new things to do. The media is hard on Texas because of it’s independence …but the truth is people are generally doing well. The Dallas art scene is wild. They love writers. Like a lot of people I had typical outsider misconceptions before I came here. I have even lost friends and readers (who’ve never been here)  sure that I must be wrong about my reporting’s….but the truth is a person can have a pretty sweet time of it here and much of the media diatribe is political bias and false.

I never expected to be here this long. My life has been lifted out of the mundane by a force I can’t explain. The work I have been doing has resulted in a new novel…13 Angels….currently in publication and should be available to the public soon. Writing a novel is a labor of love. The project has consumed many hours of every day over a period of a year and a half. Texas has been a warm fuzzy blanket that has allowed me the focus I needed to get the book done…..and I am thankful for that. My work is surreal dystopia. Please feel free to review any of my books on Amazon and Kindle.

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I am not a religious person. I have no fear of dying and have no expectations of an afterlife.  And as such I seek no guidance along the path I have chosen for myself. I am satisfied in my belief that we were all born out of chaos . As such I advise myself and anyone foolish enough to listen to this fool to live every moment of life as a precious and miraculous anomaly. I read a book a long time ago titled ‘Zen Flesh Zen Bones’. I remember nothing about the contents. But I do appreciate the concept of purity and Zen as an art form is well suited to my lifestyle.

There is no controlling dogma in my Zen world, I am a free spirit. My interpretation of ‘flesh and bones’ as a term is what  quantifies the  inside and the outside of my existence…..both the corporeal and the spiritual world I inhabit. And yes, one can enjoy a spiritual quality without the strict dogma of religious practice. Your spirit guide is within you, it is your natural wonder, an element of your instinct to survive and perpetuate the species.

It is my absolute belief that love is at the center of the universe.  Love evolved for obvious reasons. A forensic analysis and sociopolitical rationale is not necessary to enjoy what nature has given us freely. We should live in a state of wonder, but lets not take it for granted either . If there is a single uplifting miracle that everyone should experience it is the art of love. I count myself among the most fortunate of  men to have the love of a beautiful woman.  I don’t know what I did to deserve such a bounty, but her love is a blessing I cherish every day .

My love and I have been together for twenty five years and I wouldn’t exchange this for anything…. not for power, fame or gold.  Living every day in full appreciation of life  is not hard work. It’s not a matter of accepting one thing over another. Zen is an intellectual state of   demystifying the mysteries  we are born into.  How could anything be simpler than committing yourself to love the one you’re with?

 

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As far as holidays go this is a big one…..Mexico and Mexicans everywhere get all gushy over flags and tribal relations on their one big day a year.  I don’t always agree with displays of nationalism….it brings out the martial fanatics and xenophobe’s …..but as long as it’s politically benign it can be a positive event for the community. The Cinco de Mayo festivals spill over with unpretentious unplanned family and food and that’s a good thing.  Today I will attend a chili cook off and a pickled quail egg eating contest…..sounds yummy right? Viva Mexico….!!

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Pat and I flew into Vancouver Canada for a short road trip. I forgot how unwelcoming the city can be…starting with the soviet era airport. I guess we’ve been spoiled by the stellar airport services we’ve received elsewhere in the world to have expected the same from the Canadians. The distant gates for international flights from baggage claim and not having carts available for passengers is perhaps an oversight…but no car rental kiosks in the building?

Once through the gauntlet of overzealous agents we found ourselves slogging a hundred yards through the pounding rain down wet and unlit and uncovered gravel walkways…without the benefit of any signage whatsoever…to find the car rental counters in a dark basement underneath a long term car park. It made us think we were being targeted as ‘bad people’ for not having first located public transit. I say this because Vancouver is a violently anti-automobile city…..in spite of the perpetual inclemency and incredibly poor public infrastructure. I thought of how vulnerable and scary this first introductory experience might be for a single woman new to the city.

Is it this first introduction that has people voting down Vancouver in newspaper polls as the unfriendliest, unwelcoming and loneliest city on earth…a veritable trifecta of reasons people don’t come back? Vancouver bills itself as ‘the greatest place on earth’….wasn’t that line coined by a circus impresario whose entire shtick was to create illusions….is there some cosmic metaphor on the zeitgeist of Vancouverites being played for fools by the politically correct hucksters that have run this place badly for too long?

The weather has to have an effect overall….it’s crappy…there is no more honest way to describe it….prospective visitors have to know. 10 months of the year the skies are overcast and the rain constant. A recent government pronouncement stated that mental illness is spiking in Vancouver…their excuse…” due to the lack of sunshine and immigration”. How they came up with that bizarre assessment I don’t know…you’ll have to ask them…I only read the article published in a local newspaper.

I would add my own observation. The city of Vancouver lacks any cultural expression, there are no museums, no art galleries, there is no cafe culture, no cool neighborhoods to hang out in, the style culture of poverty-chic is to dress down and look as miserable as possible while drinking to excess at an Army Navy legion hall among the fading memories of a greater generation. The cost of living is astronomical, people are generally working poor and deeply in debt due to the highest and most unaffordable real estate prices and high rents against a backdrop of the the lowest incomes in the western world. Vancouver’s cultural nightlight is the drunken bloody brawls orchestrated by a cynical and brutal police force on Granville Street in the two blocks of booze tinged neon called ‘the entertainment district’.

The once vaunted film business has died and moved to Toronto leaving thousands of faux hipster malcontents without a future due to the lack of mobility in Canadian culture generally. People feel entitled to be supported in one place for a lifetime without taking personal responsibility for the consequences of their inaction. The video game trade has left for Montreal and London hollowing out the tech space to an echo of what once was twenty years ago, there is no art scene, dance, music, club or theater scene. Don’t think about coming to Vancouver and finding a blues or jazz club.

You are not welcome to hang out in a coffee shop and surf the net….they will harass you out the door for being a ‘laptop hobo’ taking up space without disgorging a constant stream of revenue. I know the property taxes in Vancouver are egregious but the culture of kicking people out of a coffee shop for surfing is disingenuous…..don’t you think? I think some of these little discussed factors may be contributing to the general reasons why people are so miserable ( according to the polls) here, while the financially driven promoters of Vancouver’s tourism trade untruthfully exclaim the city as ‘livable’….how sad.

The disparities between rich and poor are wide and ugly…. leading to the less fortunate developing a nasty covetous streak that vents hatred on any showing of personal success. Vancouver has a minor elite of highly paid civil servants whose obvious luxury and decadent display serves to push the average workers face in the mud. It is the civil service who enjoys a high position of class affluence and wage disparity over the citizen in Vancouver and not any industry or business culture in the city. Did you know that the fastest growing segment of food bank clients are working families?

There isn’t a single global head office located in Vancouver to provide any semblance of internationalism, flair or balance. Has anyone not heard of Vancouver’s ‘Downtown East Side’ where miles of filthy blood stained blocks of drug addicted derelicts , the huge population of homeless and assorted transient poor as well as the brutal regime of the streets who ply their trade in misery of every kind in the worlds largest open drug , prostitution and stolen goods market. Don’t go there…not even to get a titillating look…it is violent, very dangerous and you won’t see a single policeman….ever.

Vancouver bills itself as a green city concerned about environmental causes..but that is also a chimera…it is a sad fact that the city of Vancouver pumps million of liters of raw sewage and untreated toxic hospital waste in the ‘pristine’ waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay …every day! There are signs along the water front warning people of the fecal count on the beaches after the effluent is washed up on the sand…but these signs are very small….indeed. Walk along the famous seawall and you’ll literally step over the massive pipes leading into the water without knowing what they contain….yuchhhh!

Cities like Singapore did a fantastic job of developing their waterfront area’s into gleaming livable spots where restaurants and businesses are mixed with residential development. The evenings on Singapore’s Esplanade and Clark Quay are vibrant and pleasant. Vancouver’s waterfront seawalls at night are a dark, lonely and scary place of sordid sexual assignations and to be avoided at all costs for your personal safety. Ladies…..don’t walk alone in ‘famous’ Stanley Park…day or night…there has been a long history of violent predatory assaults.

I’m lucky I get to leave next week…..I fully understand why young people go into full blown mindless riot mode every once in a while and start looting smashing and burning police cars for no apparent reason….there is a reason of course….the politico’s don’t want to discuss it……the booze, drugs, loneliness, lack of cultural expression, covetous materialism of Vancouver would drive me crazy too.

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Little known to outsiders is the secret life of thousands of fantastically talented artists, in every discipline, and the deep rich ‘art and art appreciation scene’ in Dallas . The spring season was marked yesterday by an explosion of artistic expression and commumity in the Deep Ellum district. The epicenter of everything hip and current in Dallas is Malcom X Boulevard and Elm Street.

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This was not the bland politically correct festival by the wonks at city hall. The Deep Ellum festival is organized by the community of artists who range from sculture, metal, paint, drawn, written, spoken, performed…all by people who live and breath the Dallas art scene.

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The vibe was lively, live music included reggae bands, red dirt poets, trance dj’s set up at various intersections along an 8 block strip that had become a pedetrian mall for the week. Normally Elm Street is a funky stoll of bars, curious shops and electic brick a brac malls where dozens of individual vendors display oddities not found anywhere else.

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