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Blog Archive August 2006

Top Ten Fiction List in England

The blog yesterday mentioned the high percentage of women readers of all categories of fiction has generated a fair amount of interest. Today I’d like to follow up on the same theme: that authors of commercially successful novels – meaning books that make the bestsellers list – are mainly women writers. If the market for novels is overwhelmingly a market of women readers, then it makes commercial sense for large publishers to back an author who can appeal to women readers.

There was an interesting article by Mark Lawson in the Guardian.

“The first names of nine of this week's top 10 writers tell a remarkable story: Victoria, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Jodi, Elisabeth, Jill, Ruth, Zadie, Minette. Only the presence of a Guardian columnist - Jonathan Freedland, writing under the pseudonym Sam Bourne - prevents a feminine clean sweep of the charts and, even in that case, the name Sam is notable for its sexual ambiguity.

Admittedly, an all-woman bestseller list would be less remarkable than a fully female political cabinet or corporate board of directors, because women are by far the bigger buyers of fiction and, ever since Eliot, the Brontes and Jane Austen, female novelists have achieved a level of representation that was never the case for playwrights or screenwriters. Even so, this feminisation of the paperback charts is noteworthy.”

Posted: 8/29/2006 3:15:38 AM 

 

Who is writing and Who is reading fiction?

If you are a male novelist or you want to write novels so passionately it makes your teeth ache, then my advice to you, skip this piece.
Now, for sure, you will want to read it.
Okay, but please put away all sharp objects just in case you decide to open a vein.
The overwhelming evidence indicates that women are vastly more likely to read fiction than men. According to In These Times “A 2000 survey found that women comprised a greater percentage of readers than men across all genres: Espionage/thriller (69 percent); General (88 percent); Mystery/Detective (86 percent); and even Science Fiction (52 percent).”

Those numbers can’t be ignored. They certainly aren’t ignored by publishers who must ask whether the book they are publishing will appear to the large audience of women, bringing in men. Or whether the book is a niche book for men only. If the latter is the case, it is likely that a publisher will give it a pass no matter how brilliant is the writing or the story. A mystery had targets only men readers is left with 14% of the male reading mystery reading public as the market. That could be a very slim market.

Where about the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Jack Kerouac or Henry Miller to mention just a few big literary names that once captured the attention of a large public? They are a vanishing breed, living outside of the limelight, without much attention paid to them or their books.

“Apart from sex with beautiful models, men are also socialized to seek out activities that confer status—which, these days, sadly doesn’t include reading novels.
According to novelist Walter Kirn, “If novelists have become culturally invisible—at least to today’s men—it’s partly because the life of a novelist offers few rewards to the traditional male ego. It’s not about power, glory and money,” unlike the adulation our culture reserves for rap stars, athletes and movie actors.”

What have we learned, class?
Male novelists are becoming the invisible man. They are a vanishing tribe living on reservations supported by grants.
No power, no glory, no money.
Translation: No sex
A life producing words and more words for a dwindling market headed to the oblivion barn where the horse and buggy are parked.

And as for the parting shot, what about reading as being fit for me? Climb into your time machine, cause it’s back to the past where there is no future. “Don’t look now, but we may be headed back to the 19th century, when the novel was considered a low-status, frivolous, pastime of ladies of leisure, unfit for real men.”

Posted: 8/28/2006 6:19:53 AM 

 

Subject Siam

Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand,
Silkwood edition 2006,
ISBN 13: 9780974-93619-6-2

I’ve finished reading Tamara Loos’ Subject Siam and can recommend it to anyone who wants insight into the cultural basis of marriage, politics and family that has become the foundation for modern Thailand. The book also is strong on the 19th century European influences in Siam.

Here are some examples of historical facts you may not know.

“Nearly all of Siam’s legal codes were drafted initially in English, not Thai. Ideas about morality, based on radically different religious and philosophical traditions, could not help but intermingle and collide.” (page 121)

“Polygyous marriages culturally enhanced the barami (merit, charisma, and virtue) of men because the number of a man’s wives and children expressed his masculinity, virility and capacity to lead.” (page 114)

There is a fair amount about traditional courtship and marriage rules as well. For instances, “A woman was considered a major wife when a man had a respected intermediary (thaokae) request her as a wife from her parents, who should be of comparable rank and wealth to his own family” (page 137). A wife who wasn’t the product of family permission was deemed a minor wife. Finally there were slave wives, women who were redeemed from indebtedness.

Posted: 8/25/2006 4:20:11 AM 

 

Marriage and Relationship between foreigners and Thais

In a number of my novels I go inside the relationship between a farang and Thai. In God of Darkness it was a middle-class relationship. In Minor Wife, it was a working girl turned artist. I recently was interviewed by the BBC for a radio program they are doing about such relationships.

In preparing for the interview I wrote down some of my thoughts.

In the 19th century, no one ever heard a little voice that said, hey my life is going nowhere in terms of relationships. Women in my town think I am too old. I am ignored, lonely, and what to spend my life with the woman of my dreams. So why not go to an Internet chat room or dating service and hook up with the perfect woman? Then run down to a bucket shop and buy a cheap airplane ticket to Thailand. Isn’t that kind like a theme park or something? The perfect woman is never more than 12 hours flight time away.

Part of the problem with globalization is the illusion that everything seems accessible, and at your fingertips, that you don’t need to do anything but show up. And everything will turn out just fine. Brits fly to Orlando and go to Disney World so they can visit fake European villages and castles. They could go across the Channel to France and see the real thing. But in Florida, everyone speaks English in the French village. It’s so much easier.

We live in an age of mass tourism. That means the masses are moving in huge numbers. What makes them go to Thailand or anyplace else? They see an ad, hear stories in the pub, watch or hear a program on the BBC. They have dinner sometimes in a Thai restaurant. This is what passes for self-education and enlightenment. If math and science had evolved this way we’d still go to barbers for leeches to rid ourselves of headaches. Globalization has unleashed a huge new base of women to meet. The problem is the gap between the women and the men is significantly more than a 12-hour plane ride.

There is a president of the United States who had never been to Europe until after he was elected. That is a metaphor for the modern world. Attack a place and then read about it later to figure out why you lost the war. Marry someone from a foreign land, and then find out what she is really about. War, marriage, politics, it is all pretty much the same issue. You have to be prepared. You have to know the terrain, the history over a long period of time, the values and beliefs of the people you want to kill, marry or take over.

Think of how governments and businesses go about training their employees. The British government enrolls their diplomats, spies, and civil servants to language school and sends them to cultural courses for a reason. Not to make them an expert but to make them familiar enough with another country so they can be effective. They wouldn’t give them a cheap ticket and just send them to Bangkok telling them not to worry. Just squint and pretend you are in Brighton. And talk really loud because all Thais understand English if you shout it at them. The same thing with multinational corporations, they spent billions on training of staff in what to expect and how to make them effective in managing others. Now that is just to do business. Marriage is a close up and personal activity. Yet people treated relationships with all the time and care of ordering junk food for lunch.

Think of the other side of the equation, from the Thai point of view. The latest plane from London arrives in Bangkok. They people on board don’t understand a word of Thai, they know nothing about the Thai culture or history. May be they saw a 30-minute documentary on the BBC about an elephant shelter or talked with a mate who spent ten days in the country and is now the resident expert. This makes them ready to form a relationship for life. Right?

Relationships fail everywhere and for many reasons. Failure makes people angry. When a marriage or relationships tanks emotions are raw. They start making wild generalizations from one failure to a general, universal rule. There have been studies that show in the West one in six solved homicides was one spouse killing another. Women are 75% of this body count. The figures hold across all social and economic boundaries. In Britain in 5 of every 100 marriages there is repeated systematic violence. Home Office statistics indicate that between 40 to 45% of murdered women are killed by their male partners. In Britain 2 women are murdered every week. 100,000 women per year seek treatment in London for violent injuries received in the home. And domestic violence in Britain is chronically under reported. The Home Office says domestic violence cost the country about 23 billion pounds a year. With this record, it should be the Thais who should be worrying about the Brits coming to Thailand. It’s not a brilliant track record in terms of domestic tranquility.

In the end relationship success is about class, education, cultural sensitivity, expectations, and a degree of luck and timing. There is no short cut. The Internet appears to create one. It works for some. To generalize that it will work for you is a risk. Recent surveys in Thailand show that 44% of Thai women who are of marriage age are single. Some of them are on chat rooms and dating services. But I venture to say most of them are not. The prevailing mood is summarized by this Thai proverb:

Mii luuk kuaan tuaa mii phuaa kuaan jai (Child Disturbs the Body, Husband Disturbs the heart)

Posted: 8/21/2006 6:20:47 AM 

 

Rolling into a Bangkok Weekend

As the weekend arrives, I am working on the third draft of The Risk of Infidelity Index. This is a chance to rework some passages, streamline others, and hit the delete key on others. Writing is a take no prisoners type of activity. Characters who are wounded, wondering around without any purpose are lined up and summarily executed. Others need a better grasp of their place in the story. Any professional writer will tell you the same thing: it is in the rewriting, a frightful close-up and personal job, that you scrub, polish and tighten the prose and narrative line.

My blog entries are likely to be less frequent as I concentrate on the third draft.

Posted: 8/18/2006 5:38:21 AM 

 

Murder Suspect in Bangkok

A 41-year old American, John Mark Karr, who was working as an English teacher at a Bangkok international school was arrested on Thursday 17 August in connection with the brutal murder ten years ago of JonBenet in Boulder, Colorado. The newspapers have carried this front page in both the Nation and The Bangkok Post. Karr was quoted as saying, “I was with JonBenet when she died.” And, “I love JonBenet.” Her death in his words, was “an accident.”

The story raises many questions. Why did he wait ten-years to make this confession? Is this one of those cases where someone who is crazy claims to have killed to get the limelight? Karr’s ex-wife has him in another place at the time of the murder. And it should come as no surprise that Karr is reported to be interested in writing a screenplay about himself and the murder.

The Colorado authorities will no doubt sort out the facts from the fiction in this case. If he did murder a six-year girl, then Karr deserves a fate similar to his victim.

Posted: 8/18/2006 5:36:57 AM 

 

Why Writers Need an Agent

I receive a fair amount of mail from readers asking how they should go about finding a publisher. The short answer is there is no difficulty in finding a publisher. There are many lists and directories that provide names, phone numbers and addresses of publishers. Remember, they are strangers and are surrounded by enough security to make the security set up of the US Embassy in Beirut look slack. The issue is gaining access to the right editor for your book.

Unless you are a publisher insider (or your uncle or mother owns a publishing house) it is unlikely that you will know who is looking for that romantic saga set in 14th century Burma. Part of the challenge for writers living in Asia is finding an agent who specializes in selling books from this part of the world. I suspect that few such agents exist. But that isn’t really a large problem. If your novel or non-fiction book is written in English or German or American then you should look for publishers located both inside and outside of Asia.

The best solution (imperfect as it is) requires you to find an agent to represent your book. That is no easy task. Just like not all publishers are created equal, neither are all agents. Some are famous, successful people who have considerable influence and power. They are bold face names in the New York Times. Think of them as the Manager of the New York Yankees. They are want to talent scout the starting pitcher for Random House in the Fall season. Their writers are heavy sluggers who will draw in a large crowd and sell a gazillon books. Other agents service the farm teams of publishing; they are often the one-person shows and may only take writers in specialized field. Like romance or SF novel writers. And there are agent scams to avoid.

Everyone wants to get published, and everyone learns sooner or later that agents operate the publishing filter a writer must squeeze through before being published. They are like the wide mouth killer shark diving through a sea of krill. Once in a while they find a tasty salmon and that makes a memorable meal. Publisher don’t want literary krill; they want only the salmon.

Agents bait the hook. They know that publishers live and die by one rule: follow the money. Only most of the time no one ever knows at the time what will become the next Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter novel. Not an agent, not a publisher.

When you approach any agent, they don’t know you as a person. That isn’t their business. What they want to know is simple: can you write? And second question, assuming you can write at the highest professional level (is your fast ball major league speed?), is whether you have written something an agent can sell?

Just because you have an agent doesn’t mean he or she will be able to sell your novel. But without an agent the chances of gaining access to the right editor for your book is next to impossible.

If you want to read about what agents do and what they don’t do, Daily Kos has an insightful article that explains the basics, including how to go about finding an agent.

Posted: 8/15/2006 6:26:24 AM 

 

Authors Who Learned To Fight At School

And somehow emerged with enough education to write a book. On amazon.uk who is listed as a yoga instructor has put together a list of authors with names that make a reader think, “What were mommy and daddy thinking?”

Here’s a sample of author names to raise next time you are at a swank dinner party, and the person next to you has been going on about the merits of the latest novel by Martin Amis. “But have you read the latest books by [fill in the blank with one of the names below]? No? Well Martin Amis can’t hold a candle next to Martin Wank.”

Excuse me? Martin….who?



Wank.



Jonathan Gash
Metin Kunt
Kim Twatt
Martin Wank
Gerald Bastard
Yvon Tosser
Aleksandar Jerkov

Acknowledgement to Palimpsest

Posted: 8/11/2006 5:13:43 AM 

 

Scaling from the Band

We often scale from a simple level to a more complex level without taking into account the set of tools, skills, and organization at the simple level may not exactly fit the new, more complex set of circumstances. It is in our ability to test, analyze and adapt that makes all of the difference. Sacred cows that don’t adapt don’t last over the long run. The Neanderthal made the same tools for 5,000 generations. Around 29,000 to 30,000 years ago the last Neanderthals departed for that great cave in the sky.

By all accounts, our first level of organization for our species was the band. Bands were pre-history groups of 10 to 50 members who lived, hunted, socialized, and mated together. Hunter gathers lived in bands. With agriculture around 12,000 years ago, permanent settlements allowed for the expansion of people living in close proximity. Bands expanded to form a tribe, but the new units still remained relatively small kin-related groups. When a group is small enough, most people have kinship connection and it possible that everyone knows more or less everyone else. There is a personal connection that is an overlay of the relationship. The degree of organization and structure required in a band is less than required for a tribe. Though both still rely on the glue of kinship to bond people. It is at the point where tribes combine together that kinship is no longer sufficient as the center point of action.

Among the first techniques to provide legitimacy to groups larger than a tribe was religion or proto-religious rituals and ceremonies. If people shared the same set of gods and foundation myths, and later a belief in one god, the shared beliefs became a platform for building larger political, social and economic entities. Religion was an effective means to scale from one tribe to multiple tribe organizations. Intolerance on the band level was one thing, but intolerance enforced over large geographical areas with correspondingly large populations has proved a bloody affair. Throw in the lit match of Reason and watch nightly the flame that ignites and burns.

Most of the early kings were worshipped as representative of the god looking over and protecting the tribes. Loyalty and allegiance could be slowly transferred from kin relationships to a father-like symbol acting in gods name. The Romans adopted Christianity to scale up a political unit expansive enough to encompass many different tribes. Islam also was widely adopted among the tribes of the Middle East. This was far removed from faith based on reason; it was faith unhinged from evidence, blurred by emotional, irrational needs to substitute for kinship arrangements.

The problem with religion is that it conflicts with the story told by modern science. Religion is closer to the template the Neanderthals used to make the same tools for 5,000 years. The inherent limitation of religion as a scaling device is that the main founding story is fixed in time. Most tribes have founding stories. Modern science undercuts these stories, turning them into fairy tales. The earth was created 4,000 years ago. God created Adam from clay, and Eve emerged from Adam’s rib. People rose from the dead. Water was turned into wine. Many people literally believe these things happened. Action inevitably follows belief as day follows night. Religion can be used to scale huge organizations of many tribes so long as science is an offshoot of religion. As soon as science divides into a separate field of study, religion is in Neanderthals type trouble.

Modern science (contrasted with its medieval cousin) is critical, analytical, doubtful, and uses these (anti-religious) tools to probe, test, question, reject, revise, amend and throw out opinions and conclusions based on superstition, inaccurate data, misconstrued test results. Science rests on facts that can be falsified. If it can’t be falsified, then it isn’t science, and slips back to the religious side of the belief that is beyond testing.

Part of the contemporary struggle or conflicts between tribes is a crash between religious systems based on different founding stories. People kill each other to promote or advance the story that elevates their tribe above others. Science creates a community of tribes of a qualitative different kind. Members of this tribe are like early modern human beings in a land of Neanderthals. They ask why the same tools have been used for all of many generations. The answer is surely is that Neanderthals no more questioned their tools than religious man questions his. Religion worked well to scale larger political organizations at a time when technology was relatively slow moving.

When the machinery of the modern world crossed a threshold about the time Darwin wrote the Origin of the Species, there has been a crisis as to what combination of symbols such as flags or kings and religion could continue as the substitute for the kinship of the band. All founding stories came under pressure. Our brains still are wired for tribal arrangements. The sleight of hand that converts those feelings into a larger sense of kin is fragile, made of the stuff of belief, and subject to the same fate as all systems that are incapable of evolving. They fossilize. Once that happens the instincts of our ancestors who left Africa 65,000 years ago appear everywhere, in the newspapers, online, on TV. And when we see ourselves, what is it that we see about our nature? We find our true nature is one we often turn away from. It is too brutal to stare at very long. At our core, we are predatory, aggressive, opportunistic, and violent. Our behavior in a band is one thing; outside the band, among strangers, it is another. They are a target for slavery, repression, and death squads. Scaling from the band to the tribe moves the stranger to another set of fields beyond the horizon. When bands raided other bands, or tribes other tribes, the damage was local. Stephen Pinker has written that in prehistory our homicide rate was not just high; it was huge, with around one-third of all males killed by acts of violence.

We’ve always been in need of political and social institutions to harass our violent nature. At the band level of no more than fifty people, they could have been basic, unwritten and consensual. Violence was local, unorganized, and dispersed. By the time of a tribe, more specific, concrete instructions would be required to form a society civil. Violence became regional, more organized and controlled. Scaling up to multiple tribes, the monopoly of force and violence was organized, sanctioned and monitored by the State. With this transfer of violence out of individual bands, the domestication of the species was assured. And the result is not unlike the transition from wolf to Golden retriever. At least this argument holds in effective States (though the UK football hooligans and Los Angeles street gangs suggest there is an irreducible core of the ancient violence based rituals which is difficult to control). In failed States where the violence falls back into locally organized tribes, the wolf-like nature is seen in the streets or Baghdad, Beirut, and Kabul.

We trust the State to be prudent in the use of violence in our name. But it doesn’t always work out that way. The people in these institutions have the same impulse as the rest of us and once they decide they are above the law, then we have the worse of all worlds. We have scale to a level of play where the playing field is no longer fair. We are asked to believe in our leaders. This is the new secular religion. It may be in our ancient minds. Our ancestors no doubt bestowed all kinds of magical powers to shamans, warriors, and leaders. Again it is a scaling problem: we scale the band shaman to the pope, the best warrior of the band to Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and the leader to a president or prime minister. It as if our minds shaped by the demands of the band or tribe assumes this scaling is in our best interest.

Most of the time we are disappointed. The center doesn’t always hold. There is dissent and dissatisfaction and questioning. In order for the any system of governance to be effective (though highly repressive systems can and have worked) there needs to be a shared belief by the members about the community. No shared belief and legitimacy fails. The bonfires of history burn with the bodies of dissenters.

What we discover is that by 2006 there is a growing consensus that the old beliefs in religion, the founding myths and stories and related beliefs (faith healing, fortune telling, palm reading) no longer scale effectively to bring a kinship substitute system to unrelated tribes which happen to find themselves in the same geographical area. There is now dissent between tribe members. Over guns, drugs, abortion, gay rights and a person’s belief system places him or her on one or other side of these debates. How do we rescale the political system of nation states that depend on institutions with their legitimacy locked into a medieval landscape?

The experiment in recent years of tying religion and democracy as a new scaling system has failed. Democracy doesn’t scale well for many ancient tribal regions. A good example is Lebanon where the Shiites, leaving Sunni, Christian and Druse are unable to find a common religion or, an alternative, a strong leader who unifies through the force of personality, repression and aggressive actions against perceived enemies. Without some consensual symbol, icon, or religious belief, the component parts of a nation state reassemble into tribes whose identity draws from religion dogma. Religion is based on a set of fundamental beliefs that glues the tribe together. Democracy in such circumstances fails to override the competing claims that are faith based.

There is no science of democracy. Like Intelligent Design it is a backdoor way to find a new way to support huge tribal structures but without the magic, mysticism and promise of salvation. It promises iPods and shopping centers as a way to bond the tribes into a mass consumer audience. Unlike religion, any system that seeks to substitute for kinship bonds requires more than a conversation over Wal-Mart sale.

If we are in between explanations that satisfy the core emotional and intellectual requirements that we carry in our brains and DNA from the band, then it is no surprise to find conflict, chaos, and violence increasing. Authority is under assault. The old ways of using kinship connection fueled with religious zeal mean the concept band and tribe are reasserting themselves. The modern bands and tribes are far more lethal. Smaller, unorganized units (that was what a band was) can easily sponsor attacks against the larger communities, filled with dissent and doubt, questioning legitimacy, and this is their advantage. They are scaling back to the original unit from where we all came, and they are finding a new energy, commitment, and dedication.

Gatekeepers have come and gone over the long haul since we settled into the first agricultural based societies 12,000 years ago. They are now huddling together, watching as bands and tribes remerge with modern weapons, wondering how to find a common ground to convince them that we are all kin. If we are going to last 5,000 generations we need to work on inventing some new tools other than weapons for battle. Intolerance has taken our species as far as it can. Reason is the next step up the ladder. We have a long climb ahead.

Christopher G. Moore © 2006

Posted: 8/8/2006 11:05:55 PM 

 

The Big Bad Wolf: Who’s Your Daddy?

The Chiang Mai community, after nearly six weeks, will be able to sleep soundly tonight. The big bad wolf is behind bars once again. Little Red Riding Hood can make her rounds without looking over her shoulder. Immigration has checked to Canadian Grey Wolf’s visa. He has overstayed. Whether he will be transferred to immigration jail is up in the air at this writing. Officials at the Canadian Embassy have refused to comment. While Canadian nationality has been attributed to the Grey Wolf, authorities question whether this wolf which ranges from Alaska, Canada, Northern United States and Russia indeed can claim Canadian nationality.

For purposes of this article, we will stick with the Thai declaration that while other grey wolf’s might have other nationalities, the ones (there are six altogether) at the Night Safari are Canadians.

The Canadian Grey Wolf, which escaped from Night Safari in Chiang Mai, had been in hiding, coming out to feed on chickens and pets of the local farmers. Apparently the Canadian credentials of this wolf are in doubt. It appears the wolf (his name has been withheld by authorities) came from the Czech Republic. How the Canadian Grey Wolf immigrated to the Czech Republic, and then to Thailand, is under option as a CTV movie of the week. The Chiang Mai part of the film has a lot of action scenes with local farmers with wooden staves searching the bush.

Has anyone tested the Grey Wolf who has been dining on local chickens for bird flu? The photo which ran in the Nation (it isn’t on their website) and the Bangkok Post (again photo online has been withheld) shows a laid back wolf (he apparently has relatives in British Columbia). The effects of the dart gun are wearing off. There is no indication that the Canadian Grey Wolf has received any counseling for the trauma of being hunted, chased and darted. Again officials at the Canadian Embassy have refused to comment on whether this is a violation of certain universal rights, which under the Canadian constitution apply to wolves as well as human beings.

In an earlier Nation story, the head zookeeper pleaded with the local population not to hurt the wolf. A Baht 10,000 reward was offered for the capture of the wolf alive.

In an exclusive to the Bangkok Post, it was revealed that zoo authorities had “ordered that it be quarantined for rabies watch after a veterinarian confirmed it had had a sexual encounter with a local dog.” We don’t have the details of that encounter. Whether it was a wolf pickup joint the wolf had headed to after his escape remains unanswered. Wikipedia does explain: “During the mating season, breeding wolves become extremely affectionate with one another…” Hopefully if there are proceedings arising out of this encounter, the authorities will be taking evidence of whether the escapee had bolted during the “mating season.”

As with many local stories, it is doubtful if readers will enjoy the follow up stories as to whether the wolf and local dogs are exchanging correspondence, whether their lawyers are exchanging correspondents, or whether they’ve gotten over it and moved on.

Anyway, back to the main story…

Fifty zookeepers were marshaled in the hunt for the elusive wolf. When asked why the community hadn’t been notified that wolf was on the loose, officials were quoted as saying that the wolf was “tame” and wouldn’t hurt anyone. Everyone knows that Canadians are relatively mild, even passive though we can hardly pass up a stray chicken that crosses our path.

There are rumors that Canadian authorities are looking into a technical exchange program with the Night Safari to learn their techniques in taming a Grey Wolf. As this has considerable commercial potential in Canada, where a fairly large market exist for the sale of tame wolves. Americans like this kind of animal. They get a lot of face in places like New York City where everyone else is walking a poodle.

Earlier rumors circulated in the local press that the escaped animal was not a wolf but two hyenas. This caused alarm among the inhabitants of Chiang Mai who know full well that while you might maintain your sang froid in the face of a tame Canadian Grey Wolf, the prospect of confronting two hungry and untamed hyenas could result in injury.

Posted: 8/7/2006 2:19:30 AM 

 

Candid shots from When We Were Still Young


William R. Moredge © 1996
courtesy: www.bangkokeyes.com

The photograph was from the new Thermae and taken in 1996. One of the most popular nightlife websites – Bangkokeyes –about Thailand ran this photograph for the August roundup on nightlife news. The webmaster and otherwise man about town William R. Morledge has kindly consented to the use of the photo in this blog.

Sitting next to me ten years ago is John Hail. We were discussing, if I recall correctly, Hail’s schedule of writing as he continued to work on the 29th draft of his novel that what would become Bangkok-A-Go-Go.

Posted: 8/7/2006 2:15:34 AM 

 

Beware the Oriental Fantasy

The Thai based murder of Toby Charnaud has received considerable attention in the British press.

Under the headline Beware Oriental Fantasy, The Telegraph sends a warning:

“Many Western men take inordinate gambles with young South-East Asian women, the kind of gambles they would never consider at home. Why? Obviously, there is a physical attraction. For many Western men, the slender, petite, ever-youthful figures of Eastern women can be seriously alluring. Then there is a cultural aspect: Thai women have a grace, a femininity and a deferential sexiness that many women in the West appear to have forsaken.”

The Telegraph continues with a long narrative who fell in love in a bar girl in Phuket and after DNA testing discovered the child she claimed was his actually was not his child.

The saga about the murder of 41 year old Toby Charnaud, a rich Witshire farmer by his Thai wife’s family, continues to play in the UK press. The Sun has carried a story that the murder was done in front of the couple’s five year old child. The report says, “In [Thai] court, Pannada [Toby’s ex-wife] denied murder and changed her story, claiming she returned from a market to find Toby dead. She faces death by injection if found guilty.”

The BBC reports: “The mother of a former Wiltshire farmer found dead in Thailand has said he was killed to pay off his Thai ex-wife's gambling debts.”

Posted: 8/4/2006 12:05:23 AM 

 

Heart Talk: The free T-shirt deal of the century

There is a new web site for Heart Talk: www.thaihearttalk.info

 
Heaven Lake Press (2006)
3rd edition
384 pages
Trade paperback edition: $15.95 plus shipping


There is also a contest for a free Heart Talk T-shirt (model excluded).

If you buy a copy of Heart Talk: http://www.cgmoore.com/work/index-thai.htm

Peace will come to the Middle East.

Free elections will be held in North Korea

Aung San Sui Kyi will be released from house arrest and become prime minister of Burma

Iran will give up aspiration for nuclear power

Christians, Jews and Muslims will embrace each other as brothers and sisters

Life expectancy for you and your family will soar

You will never worry or go without power, fame or fortune

O.J. Simpson will confess that he did it

Disclaimer: Should for some unexpected reason one or more of the above events does not occur:

Do not despair: Your personal reward will be to expand to the realm of a new universe your understanding about Thai language, culture and society. Think how proud this will make your mother.

Posted: 8/4/2006 11:48:26 AM 

 

My Fair Lady

The Western culture has the enduring myth of the flower girl discovered in the gutter of London who is plucked out of her miserable life and transformed by a noble hearted man into a lady. Thanks to the movie, which adapted George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion you can call this state of mind: the My Fair Lady. As a fantasy goes, it is relatively harmless; until the person who has imprinted it takes to the road and ends up in Thailand.

The Nation reports on the front page (Wednesday 2 August 2006) about the murder of Englishman Toby Charnaud, aged 41, who fell in love with a bar girl in Bangkok, married her, and sired a son with her. The Wiltshire farmer had taken his bride back to England to meet the parents. He opened a couple of bars in Hua Hin. The problem was the wife’s gambling addiction. It finally drove Toby to divorce her. That should have been the end of the story.

But it isn’t. Last April his ex-wife reported to the authorities that Toby had gone missing. The family in England hired a private eye to investigate. What the private eye found Toby had been killed. The trial has produced evidence that the men in the ex-wife’s family first tried to kill him with a long-barreled hunting musket. But the musket backfired. Next them clubbed him to death with an iron bar and wooden staves. Then they used 20 kilos of charcoal to burn the body. The lawyer representing the family believes the motive was for the ex-wife’s family to inherit Toby’s wealth through the son.

The murder has been in the news for over a year in the major UK media e.g., BBC, Telegraph

The court renders its verdict on September 6th.

Toby Charnaud also had literary aspirations. His story titled “Rainfall” was about a farang who fell in love with a Thai woman and she ends up killing him. Apparently, according to the Nation, the story won first prize in a local short story contest.

Posted: 8/2/2006 12:23:41 AM 

 

The Long Tail and Welcome to the Tribe

The editor of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson has published a book titled The Long Tail. There has been considerable buzz about this book for over a year on the Internet. The basic concept is that we have grown up with a bestseller or hit culture. In the 1950s and 1960s most people listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows, and went to see the same movies. This was all to the advantage of mega monopoly producers of this entertainment. There was no real market beyond what they produced as the costs of production and distribution were major barriers.

Anderson’s book documents that this culture of “hits” is now under threat as niche markets in books, music, and film have used the Internet to find and distribute to smaller markets.

We are in transition from an information culture to a recommendation culture.

If you enjoy novels set in Southeast Asia, you can find this category on amazon.com or you can google the appropriate search phrase, and find thousands of websites where such novels are discussed, described, and sold. The long tail is an aggregator of this market. If you go into a traditional bookstore, you find the “head” of the market, or the bestsellers, the books that may become “hits” and the books published and distributed in the conventional way by large publisher in New York, London or Toronto.

It is no longer expense to produce a book or a record. Anderson calls this the “democratizing the tools of production” where you can edit and print from your desktop. Also there has been a “democratizing of the tools of distribution.”

Britannica has 80,000 entries. Wikipedia has over 1 million. The first encyclopedia was the “head” and Wikipedia is now the tail, a very long tail. The first is written by experts and produced in print form, taking a long time to produce and modify; the second is produced by peer production which is rapid in production and modification capability.

Anderson says, “People are re-forming into thousands of cultural tribes of interest, concerned less by geographic proximity and workplace chatter than by shared interest.”

If you are checking this blog, then you are likely a member of thousands of others whose tribal interest centers on the history, language, and culture of Thailand and Southeast Asia. This tribe is sufficient to sustain a publishing industry. It will likely be sufficient to sustain a movie industry, refashioned to take advantage of the new means of production and distribution. Movies will no longer be the monopoly of Hollywood. Each tribe will have its own moviemakers, authors, singers, and painters.

Posted: 8/1/2006 11:44:45 PM 

 

 

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