Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

prisoners of (lack of) conscience

Maybe it hasn’t been calculated yet, but it seems possible the USA now spends as much on incarceration as on higher education. Are 1% of the USA population enrolled in institutions of higher learning? That many, according to Adam Liptak of the NY Times (Feb28, 2008) and the Pew Center – that many are behind bars. Others are under house arrest, in mental institutions, on probation or on parole…
“We aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration,” said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, which issued a report on this, quoted in Liptak’s report. “Ms. Urahn said the nation could not afford the incarceration rate documented in the report.” No shit, Sherlock.
“One out of every 100 adults is behind bars because one out of every 100 adults has committed a serious criminal offense,” according to Paul Cassell, a law professor and former federal judge. Hmmm… marijuana a “serious criminal offense”? Shouldn’t the mental health of these people be taken into consideration (not to suggest more psychological hospitalization a good idea…)?
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – Liptak points out, failing to mention that this is a historical record too. China comes in second, with 1.5 million people behind bars – a huge gap in population percentage terms. Germany has never even come close to 1%.
States in the US now spend almost 7 % of their budgets on “corrections” – which hardly correct anything. This totaled $49 billion in 2007. By 2011, the Pew report said, states will spend an additional $25 billion. One of nine state government employees works in corrections. And the cost per prisoner is enough to send a kid to college.
The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and not re-incarcerating for minor or technical violations of probation or parole.
Not to get into thought control, but, what about education, reform, skill enhancement in acceptable trades, work on self-image issues? Or is that socialistic, like libraries, community centers, and environmental protection?

The same issue of the Times quotes President Bush as saying again that renewing surveillance legislation is “a very urgent priority.” And that legislation must include controversial provisions that would shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits over their assistance in monitoring phone calls and e-mail messages without warrants.
Sounds like more new prisoners to me… Senator Edward Kennedy, meanwhile, was quoted as saying, “The President’s position has nothing to do with protecting Americans and everything to do with sweeping under the rug illegal activity by his administration and his corporate partners.” Sounds right to me – those who make the laws (for their own benefit), are free to break them, at will.

It seems this is what we get for ignoring the “rights” of native (indigenous) people, and the injunctions of our religious “leaders” (prophets, holy men, purported corner-stones of faith) not to kill. We’re stuck in a (bad) pattern, where power (guns, money) makes right, and not being part of the dominant power-system is a crime.
But now the expense of “crime” isn’t just the damage the “criminal” does – and “privatization” won’t change that, not at all. The criminal system (pun intended?) hardly makes the incarcerated less crime-prone, and hardly helps society-at-large to deal in a sane manner with issues of responsibility.
But the world has its self-adjusting techniques. We simply cannot go on as is, and must adjust to reality – or perish. W Bush may say the US is not in recession, but even he admits he can’t talk right, that dumb things come out of his mouth. The dollar simply isn’t sound anymore. Changes in environment are dangerous and beyond control, and our self-image, if only subconsciously, is no longer positive. Until we become more responsible, we are all prisoners.


Monday, February 04, 2008


Works of excellence with enduring quality nourishing to the defiant spirit.
(Some stuff generally not in present commercial focus, good for the soul)

The Circus of Dr Lao, by Charles Finney
The Last of the Just, by Andre’ Schwartzbart (a sort of positive side, with texture and context, to the Holocaust)
A Bend in the River, by V.S. Naipul
Focault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco (maybe the ultimate novel; Baudelino is good too)
Dead Souls, Gogol
Candide, Voltaire (the acme of wisdom attained during the “Enlightenment” of Western European culture)
Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift (social relativity)
In a Hot Country, by Narinder Naipul
What Makes Sammy Run, by Budd Schulberg
Stark! by Ben Eldon (a consortium of corporate mogols determines the earth to be disposable)
Tropical Depression, by Lawrence Shames. (Key West humor)
1001 Nights (stories within stories)
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (a meaningfully evocative look at childhood)
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly (well, maybe better as a movie…)
Raintree County, by Ross Lockridge, Jr. (a sorta pastoral look at the Civil War)
Paris Trout, by Pete Dexter
Flatland, by A Sqyare (Edwin Abbott, 1884)

The Classic Chinese Novels:
The Water Margin (Outlaws of the Marsh), by Shi Nailan & Luo Guanchong (trans S. Shapiro)
Journey to the West by Wu Ch’eng-en (or Arthur Waley’s abridged version Monkey)
Chin P’ing Mei
Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Lokuan-chung
Dream of the Red Chamber by Tsao Hsueh Chin (Ts’ao Hsüeh-ch’in)(at least the first half anyway)

For younger readers:
The Little Prince, by Antoin de St. Euxbury
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
The Hobbit, by E.R.R. Tolkein. Also, Sir Gwain and the Green Knight
Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Robinson Caruso, by Daniel DeFoe
The Ramayana, by Aubrey Menon (for young adolescents, and out-of-print)
Tales of the Sufi Dervishes, by Indris Shah

Lost World of the Kalahari, by Laurenz van der Post
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby
Henry Miller’s short work on Rimbaud, Time of the Assassins
Book of Breathing by Wm Burroughs
Abelard and Heloise, by Helen Waddel
Peter Abelard, by Leif Grane (trans. F & C Crowley)
My Apprenticeship, by Maxim Gorky
Of Wolves and Men, by Barry Lopez (Scribners)
People of the Deer by Farley Mowat
King Soloman’s Ring by Konrad Lorenz
The Flying Carpet by Richard Halliburton
The Songlines and In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

Metamorphosis, Ovid
Last Will and Testament, Francois Villan
A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud
Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelair
And So I Smoke My Pipe by James Whitcomb Riley (just a short one)

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
The Frogs & The Clouds, Aristophanes

Top 10 Rock Albums:

Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed
Santana’s Abraxis
The Beatles’ Abbey Road
The Doors’ Waiting for the Sun
Janis Joplin and Big Brother’s Cheap Thrills
Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick
Cream (White Room, I feel Free, I’m So Glad, Sunshine of Your Love… Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears)
Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow
Bob Dylan’s Blond on Blond
Blondie, Parallel Lines

Favorite 15 Albums:

Incredible String Band’s Changing Horses
Dr John’s Gris Gris
The Great Society, Conspicuous Only in its Absence
It’s a Beautiful Day (1st)
Captain Beefhart, Kandy Korn
Pharoah Sanders Blues
Miles Davis (with rock guitar)
Capetown Fringe by Dollar Brand
JCOA - Escalator Over the Hill (esp. Jack Bruce with John McLaughlin)
Michael Hurley, Armchair Boogie (on Raccoon Records)
Frasier and DeBolt
Traffic: Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Joan Osborn, Relish
Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
Joan Baez (Boots of Spanish Leather on Diamonds and Rust or not?)

Honorable Mention:
James Gang
Allman Brothers ‘Eat a Peach’
38 Special
Mink de Ville (White Shoes)
Randy Meisner (White Shoes)
Pat Benetar, Hell is for Children
Pattie Smith, Horses
Zombies, Time of the Season & She’s Not There
Carl Perkins
George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers
Sandy Bull
Canned Heat
Tom Petty, Don’t Have to Live like a Refugee
The Who Sell Out
McCoy Tyner
Fleetwood Mac’s Kiln House
Supertramp, Breakfast in America

Top Songs:
Watching the Detectives, Elvis Costello
Bernedette, Four Tops
Love Me Do, Beatles
Lola, Kinks
Mona, Quicksilver Messenger Service
China Girl, David Bowie
Hotel California, Eagles
I’m Gonna Catch that Horse if I Can, Byrds
Darkness, Darkness, Youngbloods
Paint It Black, Rolling Stones
Season of the Witch, Donovan
Goin’ Down, the Monkeys
Runnaway, Del Shannon
All along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix
Rainy Day Woman, Bob Dylan
Treaty Now, Yothu Yindee,
How Can We Dance When Our Beds are Burning, Midnight Oil
Runaway Train by Soul Asylum
Peace Train, Cat Stevens
La Bamba by Ritchie Vallens
Beat of a Different Drum, Stone Ponies (Linda Ronstadt)
Layla, Eric Clapton
Boots of Spanish Leather, Joan Baez
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns and Roses
White Wedding, Billy Idol
Gloria, Van Morrison
The Letter, The Boxtops
If I had a Rocket Launcher , Bruce Cockburn
Sharon, David Bromberg
Mony Mony, Tommy James and the Shondells
He’s a Rebel (The Shirells?)

Ousman Kouyate
Salif Keita
Sunny Ade
Imbargo Nico
Youssou N’Dour

The Harder they Come, the Harder they Fall, Jimmy Cliff
Burnin’ and Lootin’, Bob Marley

Ali Akha Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Cheb Khaled

John Renbourne
Leo Kotke
John Fahey (esp. Blind Joe Death)
Burt Jance
Linda Love
Josh White

John Coltrane: Ascension, A Love Supreme, My Favorite Things
Sun Ra: Lullaby for Realville, Space is the Place
Charlie Mingus: C Jam Blues
Gato Barbieri
Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)
Don Cherry
George Gershwin: Rapsody in Blue
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
John McLaughlin

Robert Johnson
Charlie Christian
Mississippi John Hurt
Ledbelly (Huddie Ledbetter)
Charlie Musselwhite for Christo Redemptor

Beethovan’s 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th
Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Carmina Burana, Carl Orlff (Ray Manzarak of the Doors did an OK version)

And don’t forget Ravi Shankar…

Emerald Forest
Sweet Movie (1969 Dutch?)
Birdie (mid-80s)
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Man without a Name Trilogy by Sergio Leoné (with Clint Eastwood)
Children of Paradiso (Les Enfants du Paradisio, French, early 40s)
The Postman (Il Postino, not with Kevin Costner!)
Day at the Races and Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Clowns and La Dolche Vita, Fellini
King of Hearts (dir. Philippe de Broca, w. Alan Bates & Genevieve Bujold, 1966)
Harold & Maude (1971?)
Black Orpheus (from Brazil, late 50s)
Where the Green Ants Dream (Australian)
Magnolia (1999)
American Beauty
Repo Man (W. Emlio Estavez)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (w. David Bowie)
After Hours (w. Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer, mid 80s)
The Searchers, by John Ford (with John Wayne)

West Side Story
My Fair Lady
The Fantastics (live, on stage!)

Zap Comix and Homegrown Funnies (Kitchen Sink Enterprises) by Robert Crumb
Howard the Duck (Marvel Comics) by Steve Gerber
Doctor Strange (Marvel)
Warlok (Marvel, Jim Starlin)
Omega the Unknown (Marvel, Scott Edelman and Jim Mooney)
Captain Marvel (esp. early ‘70s, with “Little Clown”)
The Adventures of the Little Green Dinosaur (Last Gasp Comics) by Johny Chambers
Young Lust (Last Gasp)
The First Kingdom by Jack Katz (Comics and Comix Co.)
Capt’n Quick and a Foozle by Chris Goldberg (Eclipse Comics)
Li’l Abner by Al Capp
Pogo by Walt Kelly
Will Eisner
Gary Panter
Abner Dean, What Am I Doing Here?

David Hamilton
Edward S. Curtis – the American Indian
Diane Arbus

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