Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

On Thursday Americans celebrate their uniquely home-grown holiday.

Wan gii ngoo-ug in Thai! Direct translation...
Turkey Day!

All that gobble-gobble & pilgrim stuff.

As a child, Mom kept us busy on rainy Portland [Oregon] afternoons making new pinecone turkeys for her centerpiece. Helping make decorations for the table was as much a tradition in my family as the over indulgence on T-Day of favorite foods.

A big meal tradition in my family along with the proscribed menu of turkey, dressing, mashies and yams, were Mom's homemade rolls...preferably with homemade jam. Continuing that tradition here in the "Land of Smiles" I'll be taking them to dinner when I go to my friends tomorrow. There will probably be a later posting on that one.

On this day of Thanksgiving, I feel doubly blessed this year to have the marvelous new [smart] President-elect and the first family that we the people of the US recently elected. With each new staff and Cabinet selection he is proving he has a good grasp of what the country needs and how to bring it all together. As David Brooks entitled one of his columns last week, "Obama seems determined to justify hype." That's quite okay by me and like many others, I wish he could be sworn in tomorrow.

I am equally thankful that during this period of economic hardship I am in a country with a low cost of living that will allow me to continue living within my meager budget allowance. At this immediate moment I am pleased to be in peaceful Chiang Mai and not Bangkok where all the political nonsense is playing out. It helps to have a simple lifestyle, but it is comforting to know that I can cut back further and still have a good life.

As the years rush on by, I am thankful to continue to have good health while at the same time living in a country where I can have affordable and excellent medical care should I need it.

Above all I am thankful for my friends and family. Wishing all of you a Terrific Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loi Khratong

Asia in general is known for it's vibrant festivals and Thailand is no exception. Amazing colorful events intimately tied to regional cultures, religious beliefs and historical traditions.

Two major celebrations in Thailand, approximately six months apart are Songkran and Loi Khratong. One I dearly love (Loi Khratong) and one that I dread when it is approaching (Songkran).

Dramatically opposed on the calendar, they are equally opposite in the experience. Two basic elements come into play--water & fire.
Songkran is in the Spring at the outset of the rainy season. It has come to global attention as "Asia's Water War" based on tourist hype. For up to sometimes a week, every time you step outside during daylight hours you risk getting soaked. That's the clue to why I'm not fond of this holiday.

However, in mid-November at the end of the rainy season comes Loi Khratong when farmers are giving thanks to the goddess of water. This you celebrate with fireworks and in the north with fire driven hot air rice paper balloons sent to heaven.

Water only comes in to the picture as the vehicle upon which to float your "Khratong" sending off all negativity of the past year hoping for a fresh new start. A "Khratong" is a small boat composed of banana leaves attached to a bamboo base to resemble a lotus blossom and then decorated with flowers. In the center one places a single candle and three joss sticks which you light just prior to floating.

Tahm Khratong, Loi Khratong

(Make a boat, Float a boat)

The festival lasts for three days and on the last two evenings there are parades, the final night being larger and more elaborate. Lavish floats, lovely Thai women carrying Khratongs, musicians featuring lots of drums and gongs, and various marching groups carrying banners and offerings.

All along the parade route there are vendors selling food, souvenirs, rice paper balloons and, of course, lovely Khratongs for those who didn't get a chance to make one. The sky is alive with the fiery balloons and fireworks exploding all around. Lots of color and noise, but only the boats get wet.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President-Elect Obama

After a long up-hill battle, we proved to the world...

Yes We Can and Yes We Did!

This is truly a wonderful day for America and for the world at large.

With a small popular margin and a large electoral vote the U.S. has elected the smart man as 44th President of the United States of America.

No longer must we apologize for our hostile attitudes. No longer do Americans need to hang their heads in sadness regarding U.S. administrative arrogance. We have sent a message loud and clear to the rest of the world that we still want to be part of the whole equation.

Our new President-elect, Barack Hussein Obama!!

My message to friends and family on this historic day...

I am so exuberant and joyful over the election results that I am barely coherent. This is truly a great day for America and the world.

As someone who, over 45 years ago, was picketing and marching for civil rights--the right of a black American to simply go order food at a lunch counter, to use a public toilet or drink from a public fountain, to ride where they chose on a bus--I would not have believed this moment would come in my lifetime.

What a wonderful experience to vote for a winning Black-American for the office of President and to feel that by joining the fight for civil rights I may have contributed in some way to bringing us to this point.

But beyond that, Americans have now chosen the focused, intelligent, articulate candidate for a change. I no longer have to wince when someone asks me what country I am from. I can hold my head high and say, yes, I'm American. We have sent a loud and clear message to the world that we want to come back from the radical fringe of society and join the community of decent honorable people. We have rejected the low road of hate and intolerance and instead have chosen openness and discussion; peace and hope for a better future.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The World is Watching

With the election so close I’ve been obsessively lurking on political message boards. I read on a newsvine board, where GOP neocons rant and rave invoking 4-letter expletives, a reference to Presidential IQ’s. Moderate to liberal Dems were accused of clustering in the low double digits by one insulting blogger.

What a hoot! Reminded me of a game I played last year at Christmas where we had a list of Presidential IQ’s from FDR up to GW and the challenge was to match them. I was off on most, but actually did win. There were two outliers that defied the averages. Taking those scores out of the summation, the lowest Democrat score is 10 points above the highest Republican score. (The two outliers, by the way, were LBJ and Richard Nixon. Tricky really was smart, which probably contributed to his paranoia which did him in at the end.)

For the record, Dems average is 162: Repubs is 107. Rather a dramatic difference!

Worse news for the GOP is that over the last three decades, the scores have been decreasing. Not a good trend.

Now I know you can argue that IQ is just a contrived arbitrary number, but it is one factor in the overall scheme of intelligent sentience accepted within the confines of historical US educational standards.

In TWO DAYS the US electorate gets to select the new Commander-in-Chief. I sent in my vote by registered mail over three weeks ago and I voted for the vibrant smart one. I didn’t have any IQ scores to go by, but looking at the bios and the educational background made my choice easy. Watching the campaigns as this election has progressed confirmed my choice LOUD & CLEAR.

So if you voted early, that’s great. If not go out on Tuesday and Vote Smart.

Yes We Can!! Obama/Biden ‘08