November in Bangkok

After October

November 1-7, 2005

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Since Saturday I have been 'bacheloring' it in Bangkok while Watcharee has been in Ayuthaya helping her mother with a three day long tamboon (*) in memory of her departed father and grandfather.

Yesterday I drove to Ayuthaya. When I arrived at her house there was no one there save for three cute kittens. Figuring that everyone was over at the temple I drove there next. This last leg of the journey was over a narrow wood bridge that creaked and threatened to send me into the stream.

When I got there the temple was filled with more than a hundred people. Many of them were part of Watcharee's extended family ... her grandparents had more than a dozen kids on each side of the family ... so, go figure the figure. I know only about 50 of them. My Nikon was necessarily choosey in who it photographed as it was running low on batteries.

The temple itself is typically Buddhist: it has all the necessary icons, tools and vessels to host a decent sized tamboon ... over and above its day to day community function needs. But, the music and the fireworks had to be outsourced to people who looked decidedly secular (**).

At the end of the tamboon there was a family photograph. I am still confused about the entrance requirements for this shot. Had I been there for the full three days I might have got it straight.

(*) This is a merit making1 activity that requires a contribution to the local Buddhist temple and its monks. This particular temple is very close to Watcharee's former home and it is next door to her former primary school.

(**) I missed these sideshows as they took place on the preceding day.

1 'Merit making' gives the maker a leg up in the afterlife. The maker does not want to return to this world as a street cripple, soi dog or a roach. The ultimate hope is that the merit maker can jump the queue and get a first seating at the best table in the sky.

PS: Tomorrow I have to make my yearly trek to the Thai Immigration Office to secure my ticket to stay in Bangkok for another year. Funny: it is easier for a Thai to stay indefinitely in the USA than it is for an American to stay in Thailand for 12 months.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005 (Pre-journal)

From this morning's The Nation (Bangkok); first published in The Washington Post.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Boxing Day (*) 2005 is only about 8 weeks off. Last December 26th God kicked this part of the world with a great tsunami that indiscriminately killed at least a couple hundred thousand people. As 2005 wobbled forward He repeatedly struck our earthly beach ball with hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and diseases. (**) (***)

Should we be surprised? No! We only have to read Genesis ... His track record (paper trail) is even more detailed and telling than that of Bush's latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, Jr.

Cruelty and Violence in Genesis

  1. "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." He purposefully designed a system that ensures the suffering and death of all his creatures, parasite and host, predator and prey. 1:31

  2. God likes Abel's dead animals better than Cain's fruits and vegetables. Why? Well, no reason is given, but it probably has something to do with the amount of pain, blood, and gore involved. 4:3-5

  3. Because God liked Abel's animal sacrifice more than Cain's vegetables, Cain kills his brother Abel in a fit of religious jealousy. 4:8

  4. God is angry. He decides to destroy all humans, beasts, creeping things, fowls, and "all flesh wherein there is breath of life." He plans to drown them all. 6:7, 17

  5. God repeats his intention to kill "every living substance ... from off the face of the earth." But why does God kill all the innocent animals? What had they done to deserve his wrath? It seems God never gets his fill of tormenting animals. 7:4

  6. God drowns everything that breathes air. From newborn babies to koala bears -- all creatures great and small, the Lord God drowned them all. 7:21-23

  7. Noah kills the "clean beasts" and burns their dead bodies for God. According to 7:8 this would have caused the extinction of all "clean" animals since only two of each were taken onto the ark. "And the Lord smelled a sweet savor." 8:20

  8. To free Lot from captivity, Abram sends an army of slaves to pursue and smite his captors. 14:14-15

  9. God tells Abram to kill some animals for him. The needless slaughter makes God feel better. 15:9-10

  10. Hagar conceives, making Sarai jealous. Abram tells Sarai to do to Hagar whatever she wants. "And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled." 16:6

  11. Lot refuses to give up his angels to the perverted mob, offering his two "virgin daughters" instead. He tells the bunch of angel rapers to "do unto them [his daughters] as is good in your eyes." This is the same man that is called "just" and "righteous" in 2 Pet.2:7-8. 19:7-8

  12. God kills everyone (men, women, children, infants, newborns) in Sodom and Gomorrah by raining "fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven." Well, almost everyone -- he spares the "just and righteous" Lot and his family. 19:24

  13. Lot's nameless wife looks back, and God turns her into a pillar of salt. 19:26

  14. God threatens to kill Abimelech and his people for believing Abe's lie. 20:3-7 (Gen.16:5-6) and tells Abraham to "cast out this bondwoman and her son." God commands Abraham to "hearken unto her voice." So Abraham abandons Hagar and Ishmael, casting them out into the wilderness to die. 21:10-14

  15. God orders Abraham to kill Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham shows his love for God by his willingness to murder his son. But finally, just before Isaac's throat is slit, God provides a goat to kill instead. 22:2-13

  16. Abraham shows his willingness to kill his son for God. Only any evil God would ask a father to do that; only a bad father would be willing to do it. 22:10

  17. Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, is "defiled" by a man who seems to love her dearly. Her brothers trick all of the men of the town and kill them (after first having them all circumcised), and then take their wives and children captive. 34:1-31

  18. The sons of Jacob trick Shechem into getting circumcised. Then they murder him, his sons, and all the males of the city, while taking their wives captive. 34:24-29

  19. "The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them." 35:5

  20. "And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him." What did Er do to elicit God's wrath? The Bible doesn't say. Maybe he picked up some sticks on Saturday. 38:7

  21. After God killed Er, Judah tells Onan to "go in unto they brother's wife." But "Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and ... when he went in unto his brother's wife ... he spilled it on the ground.... And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; wherefore he slew him also." This lovely Bible story is seldom read in Sunday School, but it is the basis of many Christian doctrines, including the condemnation of both masturbation and birth control. 38:8-10

  22. After Judah pays Tamar for her services, he is told that she "played the harlot" and "is with child by whoredom." When Judah hears this, he says, "Bring her forth, and let her be burnt." 38:24

  23. Joseph interprets the baker's dream. He says that the pharaoh will cut off the baker's head, and hang his headless body on a tree for the birds to eat. 40:19

(*) Christ's 2004th birthday hangover morning.

(**) We can't blame Iraq on Him ... unless Bush is hearing Him offer guidance through his hair dryer every morning.

(***) He seems to get particular pleasure in picking on the world's poor.

P.S.: Reader B. S. from America adds:

"God said to Abraham -
'Kill me a son!'
Abe said 'Man, you must be puttin' me on!'
God say 'No', Abe say 'What'?
God said 'You can do what you want Abe, but the
next time you see me comin' you better run.'
Abe said 'Where you want this killin' done?'
God said 'Out on Highway 61.'"

— Bob Dylan, 1965

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Last night we had a 10 dish feast of foods from E-san. E-san (*) is the northeast part in Thailand that is known for its very spicy dishes.

(*) Before posting this I had a long discussion with three Thai women on how to best spell the name for this region of Thailand. Originally I wanted to spell it Issan. Dear reader, sound it out on your own ... "Issan" ... does it sound to your ears like "eee san"? That is the way it should sound. After thinking about it I now agree that the "E-san" version conveys the sound better. Sort of like "e-mail". The dash (-) gives the E some length1. And, Isuzu, the Japanese car, definitely starts with an 'eye' sound.

1 But, what would you think if you saw something on a map labeled "E-san"? A printer's error ... an esoteric map coordinate? Maybe we should just call the place "Eeeeesan." That sounds OK to my ears.

PS: The food was great.

PPS: This afternoon our Thai friend from Florida visited us here at River Garden. Her name is Pen. She is going to spend a couple of months in Thailand on some R&R away from home. Do you remember her from Fort Lauderdale?

PPPS: Many months after Golf and I tried to find the physical site of James Quality Jewelers I received this letter from his granddaughter, Jennifer.

James Quality Jewelers (or Jewellers) is still very much in business.

My grandfather was from China. When the communists began their regime, he fled with his wife to Bangkok offering his services to the King and founding a silversmith store establishing the foundation for his children to become successful in many different aspects of business. Later, he financed my oldest Aunt and her husband, Mr. James with the establishment of James Quality Jewelers. My mother worked in the shops for many years as did many of the brothers and sisters in the family opening shops throughout England, the United States, as well as Thailand.

When my mother married my father, a Vietnam soldier, she relocated to the states and opened more shops. I grew up hearing the stories of my uncle and my grandfather including his achievements as a silversmith for the King designing medals for the soldiers. Many of his 11 children carried on his legacy and furthered their success through becoming doctors, attorneys, etc. One uncle, the youngest brother is a cardiologist for the newer Bangkok heart hospital and a speaker for the Asian Pacific Heart Association.

Upon my mother's most recent visit in 2003, a visit 20 years overdue, she joined her sisters at the Palace as her oldest sister, Suwanee, was honored by the Princess for her contributions. Suwanee is the wife of the late Mr. James who died in the late 1980's and took over the leading role becoming the family matriarch.

The photos are familiar of the old shop that was the original James Quality Jewelers, the new shop is not far from that location - in fact just behind the old place - if you were to walk through the alley behind the old place, go way back just before the Bangkok Apartments and next to an Accounting School. There is a newer tall building and on the first floor you'll find an eyeglass store owned by my uncle who is an eye doctor, and across from there is the new James Quality Jewelers. The family had built the new residence and business in place of my grandfather's original home he built himself (complete with a beautiful goldfish pond that flowed between the gardens and the dining room separated by a golden gate.)

Friday, November 4, 2005

The package had no return address but I knew that it came from Sandra. Sandra is a very dangerous woman ... surely you'll agree if you revisit her October 28th picture (don't be misled by the innocent child she is caressing).

My first thought was to immerse the package in a bucket of water. Isn't that the way that the experts defuse a bomb ... by rendering its powerful black-powder into a harmless unsightly sludge?

But then I had a better idea. Why not turn another of our kitchen tools ... our vegetable drainer ... into a bomb shield?

Emboldened by my tour de force I attacked the wrappings without fear.

When the paper came off there was a box ... and inside it another strange box.

And, inside it ... Oh my God!

Saturday, November 5, 2005 (Pre-journal)

From this morning's The Nation (Bangkok):

Saturday, November 5, 2005

A couple of evenings ago some friends and family of Watcharee's Florida friend, Gik, visited us at River Garden. Gik's daughter is the girl in the checkered shorts. She is looking forward to visiting her mom in Florida.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Mercedes Benz was a little slow in getting off the mark when it came to figuring out that its customers might like to forgo FM or satellite radio and even CD players in their choice of a music media. It is only in the past few months that the company has built a dedicated Ipod connection into some of its models ... (the Ipod connector is in the glove box and it allows synchronization with the other audio commands). [*]

This oversight allowed a lot of after-market activity. Since most of these post-purchase attachments require an electronic connection via the cigar lighter you really have to be choosey when selecting which one will work best for your car. What is all important is the location of the cigar lighter and the gear shift lever.

[*] Will there ever be a need for antique license plates for these cars? Look at their engine compartments and their in-dash electronics. Forty years from now will anyone know how to fix these machines? With a '56 Chevy or a '60 Austin Healey ... hey, all you need is a wrench and a screw driver to keep them running. I am not so sanguine about the longevity of my newest toys. Why worry, I won't be around anyway!

PS: Can you match the dash with the car and both with the engine?

Monday, November 7, 2005

These photos (*) were taken from very near the construction site of the Athenee Residence Condominium. Both were shot by the blogger, Chad, for his own Asian skyscraper site. I swiped them as I can't really shoot pictures from that same angle. Chad must have special location privileges.

They are dated two weeks ago: October 26, 2005.

(*) After looking at them more closely it appears that the second one is a cropped version of the first one.A

A Opps, on an even closer inspection it appears that they were shot just moments apart as there is some personnel 'movement'. Which came first is anyone's guess. Intuitively, I'd say the 'tighter' shot came second; however, one of the walking figures suggests otherwise.

PS: Reader O. Nash from Beaune, France writes: "Bit hard pressed to get something into type today, Alf?"

Next: Part II

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