T H A I L A N D: Part I

IMG_9563I arrived in Bangkok just shy of midnight under a blood orange moon. After I’d passed through immigration (easy) and found my luggage (much delayed), I met Moddang and her brother Moo at Gate 3 and the three of us made our way to their car. I’d been told/warned of Thailand’s suffocating heat, but I’d planned my arrival in a twofold operation: 1) I arrived at night, and 2) during the cool season. Outside, it was as pleasant a night in early summer Chicago – nice breeze, no mugginess. When we got to Moddang’s parent’s house, I went right to sleep (I had decided not to sleep at all on the plane from Chicago to Hong Kong – a 16 hour trip – and managed a quick nap from Hong Kong to Bangkok).

On Sunday morning, I woke without any effects of jet lag. I was very happy. After family introductions and a small breakfast of soy milk with added goodies and chom poo (a dark green fruit that has a pear-like taste, possibly called a “water apple”), we all drove to Pattaya, south of Bangkok for lunch.

Mum Aroy was a beachside restaurant on the Gulf of Thailand. It was a light andIMG_9260 breezy day; I thought that if this were the cool season, that’d sit right by me and perhaps the hot season wasn’t so bad as everyone said. Moddang’s parents ordered a feast for lunch. The first that came was a whole cooked fish bathed in lime juice, cilantro, and chili peppers. I was offered the fish’s cheek, an honor because it is considered the best part of the fish; and it was: sweeter than the rest of the fish, the flesh melted on your tongue. We also had a plate of fried pork fat, clams and fish balls that was very good; a similar dish consisting of fried pork fat, mussels, and fish eggs was much spicier but just as delicious. There was spicy tom zap (which, to Moddang’s family’s surprise, I ate without coughing or turning red), a vegetable dish with water lilies, and of course a bowl of rice. For dessert, I had rambutan on shaved ice; Moddang had creamed corn on shaved ice, which was, I must say, much tastier than I expected. All in all, it was a great welcome-to-Thailand lunch.

Between lunch and dessert, Moddang, her mother, and I took some photos on the beach:

IMG_9334We drove to Nong Nooch Village after lunch to watch the elephants. Before the elephants, however, we caught a show of traditional Thai dancers which Moddang described as “lame” and “for tourists.” The elephants, however, were cute and dusty; how they loved those bananas. We were back in Bangkok by evening, and settled in for some quiet conversation and KFC (Moddang wanted me to experience Thailand’s version of the famous chicken franchise).

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Although I hadn’t experienced any jet lag yet, I was pretty exhausted and by 9pm we had gone to bed; Moddang had to get up early on Monday, anyway. So we woke at 5:30am and the two of us drove to Salaya, west of Bangkok, where she works at Mohidal University – Salaya Campus as a music therapist and teacher. Even at six o’clock in the morning, traffic through Bangkok was crushingly congested. Salaya is about thirty miles from Moddang’s home but it took us a good ninety minutes to get there. While she worked I sat beside a pool filled with fish and finished Cat Rambo’s Near from her Near + Far collection of short stories. It was yet again another beautiful day and not hot in the least.

IMG_9548After Moddang finished work, we drove two hours to the south of Thailand, to Cha-am, for the night. We stayed in a luxurious hotel right on the Gulf. I drank Singha; it’s true what they say: beer from the source is so much better than exported. We swam in a freezing cold pool. In the morning, we woke before dawn and went down to the beach to watch the sun rise. We saw a beached jellyfish. There were fishing boats out on the water. The sun rose from behind a fog, then broke through, bright and golden, and I pretended to eat it. It was my thirty-third birthday.

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seasecrets!fossils!fictions!: The Dragon Tree

ssff coverThe Dragon Tree by my sister Mandy (under the moniker seasecrets!fossils!fictions!) came out all the way back in the caveman days of 2011. April 20th to be exact.

But it’s been on constant repeat for me the past year and a half and I wanted to remind those of you who’ve maybe put aside in our ever-constant desire to find the Next Thing to have a listen again because it’s still as awesome as you remember, and to introduce it to those whose radar this fine little EP might’ve slipped under the first time around. Just follow that link above, of course, but you know that.

You can find some photos of Mandy and I recording the EP at my old blog here. (Sadly, I have misplaced those awesome specs. A true loss.)

The Dragon Tree was recorded at Kedzie Garden Apartment Studios, and mastered by Justin Turner.

Them Prickly Oscars: Predictions’n’Such

“What’s that dreadful smell?” you ask, wrinkling your nose. “Smells like campfire and piss and 65mm.” Why, dear friend, that’s the smell of Oscar season! ‘Tis here, ’tis here, and not a moment too soon!

So, then, in the interest of what interests me (predictably), I’ve compiled a list of my predictions. But wait! There’s more. I have picked who I think will win, who think should win, and the ever-illustrious Upset – the nominee who could surprise us all and take the win!

(By the way, I’m totally stealing this format from some article I read a few years either on Yahoo or CNN or something, so if anyone notices, help give me props where props are do, because I can’t remember where and can’t seem to find it…)

On to it then. Yes?

BEST ACTOR:

Bradley Cooper: Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis: Lincoln

Hugh Jackman: Les Miserables

Joaquin Phoenix: The Master

Denzel Washington: Flight

Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis. Because, I mean, come on. Day-Lewis could be cast as paint drying and I’d be captivated by his performance.

Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis. Duh. He played the most famous president in American history. More famous than Washington. More famous than Kennedy. More famous than Van Buren.

The Upset: Hugh Jackman might pull a cat out of the bag. He was truly masterful as Jean Valjean, singing and bearded and sad and whatnot.

BEST ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain: Zero Dark Thirty

Jennifer Lawrence: Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva: Amour

Quvenzhane Wallis: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Naomi Watts: The Impossible

Who Should Win: Quvenzhane Wallis. Has a child actor ever won best actress? I don’t know and I’m too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia, but Ms. Wallis was absolutely outstanding in Beasts.

Who Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva. Full Disclosure: I have not see Amour (to be rectified this weekend), but from what I’ve heard her performance as a woman suffering from a stroke is great.

The Upset: Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe? You never know. You don’t. You don’t know! Jennifer Lawrence is awesome and she should’ve been nominated for The Hunger Games. Speaking of, why the hell wasn’t The Hunger Games nominated for stuff???

BEST DIRECTOR

Michael Haneke: Amour

Benh Zeitlin: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Ang Lee: Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg: Lincoln

David O. Russell: Silver Linings Playbook

Who Should Win: Benh Zeitlin. This being his first feature film, Zeitlin captures so much of post-Katrina New Orleans – no shot is wasted.

Who Will Win: Michael Haneke. I think the Academy will give Haneke the award for making a film mainstream audiences can watch (as opposed to his other films which are most definitely not for your average moviegoer). I’m not saying it’s right; I’m saying it’s what they’re going to do.

The Upset: Steven Spielberg. What??? Spielberg as a Left Field Candidate??? Yes. That’s right. Lincoln was a great film, but directorial-wise, it was no Saving Private Ryan (which Spielberg won the award for in 1998). Still, we’re talking Spielberg here and he is well-loved.

BEST FILM

Amour

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Who Should Win: Beasts of the Southern Wild. This post-Katrina fantasy tells the story of a “hushpuppy who lived with her daddy in the bathtub.” It is, at times, difficult to watch because it doesn’t flinch from real emotion and real pain, but it is an incredible story about the survival of a poverty-stricken girl.

Who Will Win: Lincoln. As in-depth as it gets at the busy politicking during the Civil War to pass the 13th Amendment and abolish slavery, Lincoln is masterful and reminds us that we can do good things.

The Upset: Zero Dark Thirty. Despite all the controversy regarding the waterboarding scenes, this one might sneak its way to the Oscar.

That’s all the predictions I’m going to do. (The rest of the awards don’t matter and we all know it! No…I kid, I kid. Kind of.) I am a little peeved that The Hunger Games didn’t get any nods because I thought it was a very good movie – particularly Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. Anyway. I digress.

A Tale of Arthur Miller, the Orb-weaver Who Lives Outside My Kitchen Window, Part I

Arthur Miller was hungover this morning. Naturally. She’d spent last night bumping and grinding in a strobe-lighted club, the floors there stickier than her stickiest web. Her carapace throbbed, her coxas were totally numb from all the dancing, and her abdomen was full of acid, ready to retch. She shouldn’t’ve done all those lines of coke.

Somewhere not so far away a bell chimed; the echo caused her web – which is normally fit as fiddle and strong as an ox – to shake. So it was going to be that kind of day, was it? thought Arthur Miller.

Still, she wouldn’t let Yolanda know. Yolanda was the fly caught on the silky outer threads of her web. Poor Yolanda, thought Arthur Miller. She buzzes so earnestly.  Perhaps she’d been out on a moonlit winging of her own, enjoying the company of the night breeze, when she’d been snared. Flutter those tiny little fly-wings, Arthur Miller said in Orb-weaverish, knowing full well Yolanda couldn’t understand and that there was no moth nearby for translating. Flutter away, my sweet, I’m still going to eat you. At least, Arthur Miller decided, there was one good thing to come of this morning.

Damn, she was hungry. It’d probably physically hurt her more to eat Yolanda than for Yolanda to be eaten: Arthur Miller’s palps were agitated and raw, but such were the dangers when leading a life of Dionysian excess. Grumbling, she.made her slow descent toward the trapped fly who, as she saw the spotted thing come for her, began to squirm and squeak all the more to no avail.

Arthur Miller passed the kitchen window where I was doing early morning dishes before work. I don’t know whether she saw me or not, but I watched her devour the fly. It was slow at first, almost as if the orb-weaver was reluctant. Then, she pounced. Her legs very delicately encircled the fly; her palps held it to the shiny web. Her fangs bit the fly in half in less than a heartbeat. Poor Yolanda, I thought. She’d buzzed round my living room the day before and made good friends with a dustmite in the corner.

She hated to hear flies beg. Yolanda tried every trick in the book: I’ll bring you more coke, I know the hottest clubs in town, I’m a mother – I’ve laid many eggs in manure, and so on. Don’t talk, Arthur Miller said so that Yolanda would understand. It’ll go by quick, I promise.

Then Yolanda said something Arthur Miller really didn’t like. She said, I know what happened to Dr. Praphasirirat.

That riled Arthur Miller. How dare this dumb fly bring up the doctor, her one and only true friend, who had so mysteriously vanished moons and moons ago? She was so angry she ate Yolanda without even thinking about it.

When she was done and fully sated, she returned to her patch of web and rested. She’d score some coke later this afternoon and then she’d go see Commander Kittywiddles in the alley. If Yolanda really did know what had happened to Dr. Praphasirirat chances were high she’d told the commander. Arthur Miller closed all of her eight eyes then, and waited for the pulsing in her carapace to abate.

To Be Continued…