Bangkok in August, Part II

A Brief Return 'Home'

Between Bangkok in August, Part I and On the Boat

August 18-21, 2000

Friday, August 18, 2000

"Virginia Dare!"

Does this name ring a bell somewhere? Way long ago ... was it the name for some commercial every-day product? Like an ice cream? Really!

Anyway, it's in NEWNES; not as the name of the ship that first rounded the Cape of Good Something-Or-Other ... not as the site of a Civil War battle ... not as a Pilgrim's prayer ... AND, not as something from Proctor and Gamble's first foray into the women's hygiene market.

Separated from my trusty NEWNES I wasn't able to give you his August 9th entry:

The archives over at The Onion are always helpful when, for one reason or another, I'm forced to skip history:

Second A-Bomb Would Have Just Sat Around Anyway, Say Generals

GUAM - The world's most destructive weapon, the atomic bomb, was used for a second time against a nearly defeated Japan Thursday, in a raid against the industrial city of Nagasaki.

Military officials explained that the bomb, which vaporized thousands of innocent Japanese civilians, charred thousands more with third degree burns over their entire bodies, and obliterated the city with an explosive force equal to a half-million tons of TNT, was dropped, "just for the hell of it."

"We still had one device remaining after our spectacular display of force in Hiroshima the other day," said B-29 pilot Col. Paul Tibbets, "and because of the wonderful success of that bombing, we were aware that Japan was moving toward surrender. If we were going to drop the bomb, we had to do it quickly, before peace made it inadvisable."

Might As Well

What the Heck

Tibbets who also flew on the Hiroshima mission, said he decided to fly this one because he "was just sitting around that day." He said he was at the officers club playing pinochle when it occurred to him that the weather was perfect, he had enough flyers to man the B-29, and nobody was using the bomb. "So we went and asked the base commander if we could drop it on Japan somewhere," Tibbets said.

Pacific Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur approved the bombers' mission without hesitation, saying they "might as well."

"These bombs don't come cheap, and it seemed a shame to have the war go by without using another A-bomb," MacArthur said. "I imagined Little Boy being dropped on some uninhabited Pacific island for a bunch of damn scientists, or sitting in a dusty museum somewhere, or being dismantled, and I said to myself, 'You know, that's just not right.'"

Really Good Pictures

Tibbets and his crew took off early the next day and set off for Japan, looking "for any non-military city of at least 30,000 civilians we could find," according to navigator Ed Parker. "There were clouds over a lot of the island, which wouldn't stop us from dropping it by instrument, of course. But we had a camera plane along, and we wanted to get really good pictures, just to kind of make the trip worthwhile."

Photographers following in the chase plane said their photographs and films turned out "absolutely perfect."

Pretty Much Worthwhile

"Seeing that 500-kiloton bomb go off, being able to see the flash through my closed eyelids, watching the mushroom cloud of debris, thousands of corpses and dislodged soil climbing miles into the sky - that made it all worthwhile," combat photographer Carl Stenner said. "Hell, the sound alone - like the fist of some terrifying war-god striking the accursed earth - would have made it worthwhile." Stenner said he remembers thinking at the time, "I'm glad we decided to do this today."

Early Japanese reports indicate that only about 40,000 people were killed by the bomb.

"That's okay, really," MacArthru said upon being informed of the death toll. "The important thing is, we dropped it. If we hadn't, it wouldn't have been able to kill anyone at all."

This morning's Bangkok weather looks "grimish."

And, it went from grim to most exceedingly grim. It rained [144k MPEG].

Saturday, August 19, 2000

I'm starting today with Wescott. His Louis of Toulouse is right out of The Search for the Holy Grail [216k MPEG]. Wait, you'll see:

Louis of Toulouse
1274 - 1297

The great-nephew of St. Louis, King of France, and of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. As a boy he was kept in Spain for seven years as a political hostage. Virtuous and broken-spirited, sickly and charitable. Having renounced all claim to the throne of Sicily and Naples, he was rewarded with the bishopric of Toulouse; but he did not live long to enjoy it.

This morning's Bangkok Post carries a front-page article that all too sadly illustrates how far the Viet Cong have slipped away from the idealistic zeal of Ho Chi Minh and his 70's:


Hanoi - Vietnam Airlines has banned passengers from bringing 'nuoc mam,' or fish sauce, aboard its planes after an in-flight breakage sparked furious protests from foreign tourists.

In Phu Quoc, the island which claims to produce the world's finest 'nuoc mam' airport security officials are under orders to treat the smelly sauce, often brought as souvenirs, as they would guns or explosives.

Nguyen Chan, an airline spokesman, said: "The bottles are not confiscated. Passengers are simply required to leave them behind."

Mr. Chan said the issue was also safety. "The high salt content makes 'nuoc mam' corrosive, which is a threat to the integrity of the cabin and the fuselage," he added.

Being the weekend, the Bangkok Post does its best to cater to everyone in the family. Guns for GuysWhile Dad and Junior can read about what's on display during National Science Week, Mom and her little Kitchen Helper can clip the latest recipes for dog dishes:

Grenade launchers and HK-33 assault rifles are the hands-on items for the 'guys' over at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre. But, while their men are working up an appetite over firearms, the little women are busying themselves with choosing just the right puppy for the evening roast. Or, if a special treat is being planned, the ladies of the house will be worrying over which restaurant will offer just the right combination of ambience and menu.

As one restaurant reviewer says:

A typical menu offers customers 15 different dishes. Boiled, baked, grilled and fried are some of the choices. Livers and intestines are also served: One of the most popular delicacies is dog sausage - deep fried intestines stuffed with spices and chopped meat. Dog's leg and tail soup is also on the menu. Dog FoodThe dishes are eaten with a special dip that is a mixture of shrimp paste, fish sauce, lemon juice, chili and lemon grass. Diners get to choose their own hound from a pen full of fresh panting pooches.

And, what about the lucky diners who like a good chew? What do they say?:

"I love eating dog meat while drinking liquor. It's tender and forms a low-fat diet. I come here every month with my friends," said one customer.

But, not everyone makes it his or her favorite dish:

"I have tried the dish but don't like it. I felt guilty chewing dog meat because I myself have dogs as pets and they might find out what I have been doing to other dogs," said Nguyen Hong Quang.


[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Vet Immigration

PHILADELPHIA - [The "Ledger" says in an editorial:] Our immigration laws clearly need to be revised. They need to be extended so as to shut out every defective class of immigrant and every class which is undesirable in any sense. Immigration should be regulated and controlled, and not be permitted to flow in unrestricted, undirected, and ever-muddier streams into our wholesome, our law and order loving country.

Sunday, August 20, 2000

I have to apologize for the quality of yesterday's film. The unfortunate Louis of Toulouse look-alike never had a chance to sing more than a note or two before his father brought everything to a rude halt. However, today's film clip [216k MPEG] retains its cinematic integrity ... from the moment of the request for the shrubbery right up until the dreaded "nicht" word devastates the old crone.

Wescott waxes wordy with Bernard. Whether it be the sheer number of miracles chalked up to Bernard's divine meddling (36 in one 24-hour period!), his grousing attitude toward the 'ivory tower,' the clever way that he got others to march off on the second crusade while he remained behind to sort out the supplies, or the fact that the Virgin allowed him to suck from her breast when he was feeling not well ... we'll never know ... as Wescott seemed in awe of each.

1091 - 1153

The Doctor Mellifluous, as he is called - one of whose emblems is the beehive - seems indeed the princeliest of the princes of religion: by birth, by incomparable talent, and by temporal power. When he was little more than a boy, one of his noble uncles and four of his brothers imitated his renunciation of the world, and so it went to the very end: women hid their men, men hid their friends, as if he had been a tragic courtisan.

At twenty-three he entered the new Cistercian abbey of Citeaux; a year later, founded his own abbey, Clairvaux, in a place called the vale of Wormwood, or, if you prefer, Absinthe Valley; in due time established seventy other houses here and there; and was the uncrowned king of the supposedly civilized world, the oracle of Christendom. He personally organized the second crusade, boasting that in all Europe he had left only one husband for every seven wives. It was a calamitous adventure; and if he himself had not stayed home prudently, he might not have been able to blame the mysterious ways of providence, the sins of the individual crusader, and this and that, for what happened.

Like St. Francis, he despised the intellect and its virtuosi in and around the universities, humiliating and indeed mutilating scholasticism in the person of Pierre Abelard.

He himself was puzzled by his facility in working wonders, saying that he knew himself to be neither a holy man nor a charlatan. Thirty-six miracles took place on one day, while he was recruiting for his crusade.

Once, when he was in poor health, the Virgin let him suck from her breast.

NEWNES, in four words, gives us the beginning of the endů

Almost five years later, The Onion gives us the end of the beginning ...


LONDON, June 8. - Apparently despairing of the constant and never-ending alterations of the map of Europe resulting from peace treaties, seven cartographers were found hanged in the London offices of the Royal Geographic Society. Four others at the Sorbonne in Paris swallowed arsenic, unable to cope with the addition of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland; the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and formation of Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia; the division of the Ottoman Empire into Turkey, Transjordan, and several other nations; the transfer of Alsace and Lorraine from Germany to France and loss of German territory to newly created Poland; and additional land gains and losses for Rumania and Bulgaria, respectively.

Dear reader, tomorrow night you'll find a seam here. On one of those midnight flights to Europe I'll start another journal: this time it will be about hiking and biking in Scotland ... with Butterfield & Robinson. If you recall, on my last B&R trip, my companion was tragically lost in a bubbling caldron of volcanic mud. Perhaps Paul can find that moment when all was lost ... well, for her anyway ... the rest of us carried on bravely.

Many of you will also welcome the return of Annie when she reappears in Edinburgh. While I have been here in Bangkok, she and her sisters have been ballooning in Italy. From the 22nd until the 31st Annie and I will be living on a boat just off the coast of Scotland. Used as a hotel, it will move during the night from one port to the next ... so that each day we'll have a different place in which to bike and hike.

Nine thousand miles ... well ... nearly. Dinnertime here, breakfast back there. An alarming jump in latitude. True enough! But, it's not any of these ... by themselves ... that is going to make this trip so different. No, even the pronunciation of the city names evokes different pictures in the mind: Bangkok ... Glasgow. Go ahead, say them. What do you hear? One's all airy and light and fun. The other is rainy and cold and Presbyterian.

This was the view from my Bangkok hotel room this morning.

These were the front-page photographs in my Bangkok newspapers this morning.

What will they be in Glasgow? A wet street? A photograph of a Scottish trade unionist?

Monday, August 21, 2000


Next: On the Boat

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