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  • hardie karges 8:09 pm on January 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dao, , , , Sapa,   

    Hot Date Pho Ya’ 

    Red-Dao-PeopleHot dates and hot steamy—but ultimately limp—noodles are two concepts that don’t always go well together, but they defined a pleasant event in my life some twenty-odd years ago. You see, I wasn’t exactly the first guy off the starting-block in the dating game way back when way back where. That’s because women scared me to death, everything they were and everything they represented, mostly ‘otherness’ written in large letters and emblazoned across the sky by out-of-work crop-dusters looking to make an extra buck in the off-season.

    But then when I realized that their ‘otherness’ was not defined by their femaleness, or vice-versa, and that for the most part females were people almost just like you and me, then that opened up a whole new world of possibilities, and suddenly life became easier and less scary, too. I’d just have to find my otherness in other ways, I guess. Itinero ergo sum. I travel, therefore I am.

    So I decided to put all my fancy theories to the test back in 1995 (or was it 1996?), during a visit to Sapa near the Chinese border in northern Vietnam. For those of you who’ve never been, it’s a lovely hill town probably best known for its spectacular Black H’mong and Red Dzao hill-tribes. The H’mong are known, among other things, for their hand-spun handwoven indigo-dyed hemp fabric, while the Red Dzao are probably best known for their embroideries… and ‘love market’.

    It’s true. The night before the weekly market, the women hang out and hook up with guys, presumably from other villages. That keeps the species healthy, hybrid vigor and all. They even sing to each other, no accompaniment necessary. But the unique twist is that married women get in on the act, too, especially the ones whose hubbies are back home, and probably too stoned from opium to care much about their wives’ needs at the end of the day.

    Yes, I was propositioned, and more than once. But no, I did not go gently off into the bushes of that good night, nor was I especially interested in applying for any of their apparently frequent openings and positions. These weren’t the young filles of the tribe, after all. The girl I was interested in was less then twenty years old, and less than half my age at the time.

    My friend’s head was half-shaved, like all of them, and she was cute, dressed in full tribal regalia, something similar to what the British redcoats wore during the American revolutionary war. It’s striking. We hung out, communicating in Tieng Viet as best we could. How good is the average Thai bar-girl’s English, after all?

    So I asked her to go eat pho with me, Vietnam’s famous noodle soup (pronounced ‘fuh’, with a falling tone, unless you’re in Laos, in which the tone is rising; go figure). To my surprise, she accepted. Well that caused a stir in town, you can be sure. Vietnamese tourists from the cities, who normally only take pictures of each other, were now taking pictures of us.

    I think there was even one real journalist in the crowd, poking his lens up almost in our faces. The surprising thing is that my friend never flinched, out of fear of me or any of the attention, this in a modern world which scares many traditional tribal people to death. We took long walks. I showed her where I was staying. Finally I told her I’d go visit Ta Phin, the village where she and all the local Red Dzaos live.

    So that’s what I did. But I didn’t find her there. Hill-tribes lack much in city planning. They had running water, though, carried in slit bamboo tubes. I left town without seeing her again. When I came back six months later on my biannual trip, I saw her again, hanging out with the group, as they made their rounds selling crafts to the tourists. Did I mention that I used to deal in crafts and folk art?

    She said that she was getting married; I’ve read this script. I congratulated her. I told her I went to visit her village previously, but didn’t find her. She said she didn’t know. That’s okay. It would have never worked out for us anyway. The damp cloud-like climate turned all by papers to mush. And when Internet finally came it would have been too unreliable. I can see that now. Maybe I should go make sure…

  • hardie karges 8:27 pm on December 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    2013: My Year of Living Nostalgically (Yes, You Can Go Home Again) 

    Turning 60 is a b*tch. All of a sudden it seems as if your whole life is behind you, as if you’ve accomplished all you ever will, as if the good times are really over for good… or so I hear. I have no idea what those people are talking about. Myself, I’m still having growing pains. I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. I don’t even know where I’ll be this time next year. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be any other way. Oh, wait, yes, I remember now.

    I tried it that way once, or twice, with the 9-to-5 job and the white picket fence (actually it was yellow). That lasted a year or two. I was pretty miserable, pretending to be Steve Jobs’s brother Mr. S. Teddy Jobs, nom de guerre Mr. Biz Niz, with ten bank accounts and a Macy’s credit card, late-model car and runner-up trophy wife. Naah… I just made most of that up, but the concept is mostly true if not totally accurate.

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  • hardie karges 8:20 pm on December 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aboriginals, aborigines, , , Trang, tribes   

    Aboriginals in Southeast Asia: Back From Africa 

    Aboriginals in Trang, Thailand

    Aboriginals in Trang, Thailand

    Unbeknownst to most casual tourists, there is an entire race of people in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia that predate the predominant Thais, Burmese, Vietnamese, Mons, Khmers, Malays, and Austronesians who now call it home, but who have been there for only 4-5000 years—or less in the latter case. Since these newcomers have been there the least amount of time in the Pacific, the kinky-haired dark-skinned aboriginal people are well-represented today by Papuans, Timorese, Philippine ‘negritos’ and mixed-race (my theory) Melanesians.

    On the mainland, though, they can be hard to find, and are something of a rural legend akin to believing in ghosts. They really exist, though, and comprise the groups such as the Mlabri in north Thailand and the Sakai and other ‘orang asli‘ down south and in Malaysia. No ‘hill-tribes’ in north or central SE Asia fall into this category. The ones I found in Trang, Thailand, were selling medicinal herbs in the market; brings tears to my eyes. I wish I had some pain to see if they work. Wait a minute…

  • hardie karges 3:58 am on December 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    About a minute from now, the clock will simultaneously turn 00:00 Dec. 25 in Pago Pago, American Samoa and 00:00 Dec. 26 in Apia, (West) Samoa and for one fleeting instant it will be Christmas Day all over the world. So seems like a good time to say Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! Errymay ristmaskay! (etc.) and a good time to renew a commitment to peace, love and understanding… sleep in heavenly peace, wake up to a whole new world…

  • hardie karges 5:12 am on December 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DJ, Facebook, , , social media, VJ   

    FB Jockeys, Apply Here 

    Most people know where the term ‘DJ’ comes from—’disc jockey’ of course—and some of us can even remember MTV when it had actual music videos and the head-wagging self-swaggering personalities known as VJ’s—video jockeys. So what will they (we) call the self-appointed spinners of clips and quips, tunes and modern-day cryptological runes that populate our common playground and media ‘ground zero’ known as ‘FaceBook’? FJ’s? BJ’s? FBJ’s? Will this become a paid gig one day? Don’t put it past the Zucker-man in his bid to monetize the playground. It’s all fair game. I notice ads coming up now almost every time I ‘like’ anything. You would-be wannabe FBJ’s start getting your demo reel (file? down-load? flash-drive?) together. Auditions are in progress…


  • hardie karges 6:17 pm on December 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , protests, , Yingluck   

    Thai Politics, Protests and the World’s Cutest PM: Democracy’s a B*tch 


    Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra

     A primer for the uninitiated: The Thai political troubles of the last six to eight years revolve around the larger-than-life presence of one billionaire-turned-politician named Thaksin Shinawatra, who was elected Premier a decade or so ago and whose only prior political experience was an appointed one in the regime of some fat-ass general whose name escapes me at the moment. After being declared innocent of some minor corruption charges he was allowed by the courts to serve.

    One of his first acts was to limit the competition for his AIS cell-phone company, worth gazillions. Another was to limit public support for the country’s flagship carrier Thai Airways (the better for his Air Asia to flourish). He also declared war on drug dealers with an infamous ‘blacklist’ and orders of ‘shoot to kill’. Unfortunately this list also included some political enemies. Oops, his bad. He also initiated many programs to benefit the poor.

    Following other questionable actions and various conflicts of interest within and around the extended family holding his wealth, discontent from the country’s better-educated city-dwellers finally led to protests, then negotiations which culminated in Thaksin’s resignation in 2006. Or so we thought. His cabinet stayed in office, though, and after a month or so of ‘rest’, Thaksin simply walked back in like nothing ever happened. The army then took over while he was at the UN on official bizniz. He returned to face corruption charges, then left again with promises to return. He lied.

    Since then the country has been divided politically between Thaksin’s ‘red-shirt’ supporters and ‘yellow-shirt’ opponents, with outbreaks of sporadic confrontation including, but not limited to, a certain noodle shop on Hollywood Boulevard. For the last few years the country has been led by Thaksin’s freely-elected ‘clone’ and sister Yingluck.

    The current problems stem from a recent bill that would have made amnesty for exiles a simple matter, including you-know-whom. Yellow-shirt protests have since been ongoing for the last month or so, even though the bill was withdrawn. Although a few people have been killed, police have mostly foregone the use of force.

    A few salient points are probably in order:

    Point #1: Thailand is one of the weirdest wackiest (many would say ‘wonderful’) places in the world. ‘Ladyboy’ jokes aside, on the positive side this manifests itself in a distinct preference for non-confrontation. For example protestors in the recent events have seized government offices with little repercussion, in order to avoid future recrimination. Cool, huh? Maybe. The leader Suthep even has a warrant out for his arrest, yet continues to give speeches and lead rallies. What gives? During the previous ‘troubles’ of a few years ago, in which many ultimately died, the ‘yellow-shirt’ government responsible for that still has hell to pay. But I digress.

    Point #2: Thaksin Shinawatra, focus of all the troubles of the last decade, may be a megalomaniac mogul and white-collar criminal of a sort, but he is a very popular one, at least amongst the working classes and northern rural poor. And not without reason. Borrowing from the Huey Long play book, he instituted many programs in their favor, in addition to serving up heaping helpings for himself. One of the best-known of Thaksin’s populist initiatives is nearly-free universal health care, which has been embraced by all sides subsequent to its establishment. After all, who could oppose universal health care? Ahem…

    Point #3: The term ‘elite’ that is most frequently used to describe the opposition yellow-shirts, most accurately describes anyone here who has more than a sixth-grade education, all that is required by law in Thailand, and those six years not especially strenuous: reading, writing, and basic arithmetic the main goal. Cheating is rampant btw.

    Point #4: Thailand is a major tourist destination, with some 26 million arrivals in the past year.  ‘High season’ just started, but numbers are way down with several dozen mostly-Western governments advising against it, given the current political stalemate. There aren’t enough Chinese to take up that much slack. They probably think all the protests are a celebration of some sort. They probably are.

    Point #5: The girls here are really cute, PM Yingluck included. No, I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but somehow it explains everything. So sue me.

    My conclusion: Yellow-shirt protest leader Suthep has overplayed the yellow-shirt hand, this time at least. If they had the moral upper hand before, they don’t now. When red-shirt leaders previously said that they ‘only wanted democracy’, they lied. They wanted Thaksin. What yellow-shirt leaders now want is unclear, apparently a military coup, something these same ‘democrat’ leaders violently protested against in 1992, when many died, a supreme irony, only a week after my first visit.

    Bottom line: The only thing holding this country together right now is the highly-revered King, currently age eighty-six and the world’s longest-reigning monarch. His son’s qualifications are questionable.

    Prediction: when the King dies, the gloves will come off, and all Hell will break loose. Long live the King!

    Final word: democracy is indeed a batch, a batch of contradictions.

  • hardie karges 11:10 am on December 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , nonfiction   


    One of the pleasures (yes, there are more than one) of being from the American South is the sound of crickets in the evening. The only analogy that comes to mind (when you have thousands humming along in unison) is the 60Hz hum of a nearby electrical transformer. But that’s another part of town. You only get crickets in Nature, usually. That’s what I thought, anyway, until one found its way into my LA apartment.  How he got here, I don’t know.  He must’ve followed the mouse in, I guess.

    Mice usually live in the woodwork, of course, symbolized by that little hole in the wall along the baseboard, of cartoon cliché.  Here they sneak in the front door, under the door, that is, that stops short of the threshold. I’d heard the little f*cker before, nibbling away in the kitchen while I sipped chamomile tea in the living room to mitigate the effects of chronic insomnia at around three in the morning, “the bewitching hour,” I tell myself romantically.  Then I finally saw the little beggar, grinning like a Cheshire cat, red face turned up and looking at me, caught in the act, in flagrante delicto.

    But I don’t know how the cricket got in.  He can’t exactly hop under the door, now, can he? I don’t know; maybe he can.  And I swear he leaves on ‘visa-runs’ to the outside, for days at a time, probably checking up on family. Then he comes back, and starts singing every night, just he, a solitary voice, far from home, wherever that is.  I tell myself he must be happy if he’s singing.  I’m pretty sure that must be true, since sometimes he’ll start singing in harmony with a song from the radio. He seems to like hard rock,especially old James Gang tunes.  He’s the ‘Midnight Man’, I guess.

    He stays pretty quiet during the day.  And I’ve never actually seen him, of course.  But he’s got his corner staked out pretty well. If anyone comes close, the sound stops.  I tell myself he came to sing me to sleep during my bouts of insomnia; or maybe to keep my wife company as I prepare to take off on an extended trip of indefinite duration.  Yeah, I like that concept.  Or maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic; or an incurable optimist.  I believe in God, too… and a Promised Land, of our own making.

  • hardie karges 6:43 pm on November 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: clockwork orange, , knockout games,   

    Knockout Games: Sign of the times, just like “Clockwork…” 

    My increasing concern for the future of the human race (not the ‘planet’, mind you) is not based on Biblical revelations, millennial madness or general eschatological malaise. It’s based on a sober evaluation of the times in which we live. No matter how I crunch the numbers the outlook is bleak. And while my major concerns may be either cause or effect of global warming, general environmental degradation or population pressures, the current “Knockout Games” certainly give it a more personal, intimate horror and almost lends credence to the Biblical spin that Tea Partiers like to attach to our current era and their litany of Obamanations.

      (More …)

    • kc 9:06 pm on November 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      wow, the knockout ‘games’ are highly disturbing. i am much more interested in this type phenomena than anything going on politically but maybe it is all related……o- i will miss the polar bears, altho not yet extinct i bet they will be soon. hopefully the kids playing the knockout games will become extinct or morph into decent humans. thanks for this, your big brain continually amazes.

  • hardie karges 3:35 pm on November 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chinese, Haiyan, Philippines, typhoon, Yolanda   

    Perfect Storm Typhoon Haiyan Gets a Sex Change 

    I only found out yesterday that Typhoon Haiyan is called ‘Yolanda’ in the Philippines.  I wonder if that’s standard procedure to give them female and/or Philippine names, or only if it’s a Chinese name that needs to be rejected.  

    In Indonesia Chinese letters and numbers (same thing) are illegal, so of course I had to wear my newly purchased Hong Kong T-shirt reading 香港 in the Jakarta airport 20 years ago.  Sure enough a policeman informed me that I was breaking the law.  I almost laughed in his face, but not quite.  I guess the ‘Year of Living Dangerously’ and the slaughter of thousands of resident Chinese in the name of anti-Communism was fresh on their minds, but still…  

    Maybe  a female name makes a storm seem more benevolent, Mother Nature and all, just a hissy fit or maybe that time of the month…

    BTW China pledge to increase the $100,000 is has pledged for disaster aid to the Philippines, nice guys, definitely hear more about that at treaty time…

  • hardie karges 3:33 pm on October 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Democratic Party, GOP, , shutdown,   

    Reflections on Tea Party victory; reading the leaves… 

    The Real Tea Party

    The Real Tea Party

    “Victory?” you’re thinking.  Somebody’s smoking the good stuff… or got cut off by TWC… or is now reporting from another dimension.  No, really, I’m serious.  There is no reason for Democrats to be celebrating right now, any more than there is reason for Tea-baggers to be crying in their… tea?  They’ll be back, and we all know it, and sooner than later.  They win by default; by definition.  All they have to do is sow confusion (wreak havoc, mix metaphors, etc.) and they win.  Markets hate that sh*t.  They like us fat and happy, freshly f*cked and sassy, the better to market their products to.

    This should not be depressing.  This should be inspiring.  This should be inspiring us ersatz-Dems to follow their lead.  What happened to Earth First!?  And what about the Monkey Wrench Gang?  Democrats have gotten complacent on their fat technocratic asses, assuming that FaceBook and Twitcher will save the world for them.  Yeah, right.

    After all, the Tea Party has done nothing illegal, not much anyway, though they’ve certainly pissed all over the concept of democracy.  But we should be able to do better than that.  Are they better radicals then us flower-children-of-the-60’s types?  Gross!  That’s disgusting!  What do they pass around the group at parties, lemonade?  And what books do they read, Ayn Rand or Adam Smith?  What happened to Chairman Mao’s Little Red One? (More …)

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