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, August 21, 2008


That the act of observation influences the thing (or, perhaps, system) observed, in no way involves manipulative capacity by the observer, over the observed, merely through observation.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Nutrition, books, exercize

For two months now, it’s rained here every day. Some days all day. There hasn’t been as much flooding as in previous years, but still, way less sunlight. I’m reminded of Bali in its rainy season, when everything turns green. Well, maybe not beach sand, mostly, but almost everything else.
It’s slippery out, and I sprained an ankle. Today I was finally able to clear water from the front patio area of where I live, and try to dry out the now persistent slime – and after that, enjoy a hot bath in a big plastic cement-mixing tub. Locals just pour water on a pile of cement and sand and stir, they don’t want to pay for a tub, but I digress. At my place in northern Arizona people, including me, have little upright cement mixers – so there, I bathed in a horse-watering bucket.
Anyway, as I basked in reflection, in my bath, I thought about “Don’t Eat This Book” by Morgan Spurlock, director of “Supersize Me” and his comments about calories. He seems to see food as like fuel for a steam-engine. But even steam boilers don’t get every potentially available calorie out of fuel, and our residual, post-utilization matter certainly retains more caloric content than smoke and ash!
Not to say that Spurlock is wrong about partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (my peanut-butter says it has fully hydrogenated ones; he doesn’t mention those, but I doubt they’re good) or fast food. Certainly the medical establishment causes harm by ignoring much about preventative medicine, but its interesting how little we know about appetite, nutrition and human physical, and mantal, efficiency. I mean, are the muscular and well exercized known for wisdom? Or even judiciousness? Open-mindedness? Mental acuity? Sure one can be both athletically strong and smart, but neither leads to the other.
I had to quite like the title of the book, though. I’ve sold about self-published 5000 books, all but a couple hundred here in Thailand, and the vast majority about Thailand (or the ancient kingdom of Lanna, based in Thailand’s north, but not totally within present-day Thai borders). Muay, the mother of my son Eugene, used to question the wisdom of my putting money into self-publishing, saying that you can’t eat books. But little Eugene likes to try! Actually, he prefers my glasses, but again, I digress.
When I was writing about Taoism, I encountered the idea of “armoring” – espoused by Wilhelm Reich (and maybe by other vitalist proponents of elan vital, and in some Traditional Chinese Medicine). But I don’t think all fat kids are protecting emotional vulnerabilities – many simply eat too much fattening food. Whether they could possibly “burn it off” I don’t know, but doubt it. I don’t doubt that they’d eat less if they were less bored, though, or that some calories are burned through cognition, what some like to call mental energy.
Mostly I’m woolgathering here, drying off before opening a bottle of green tea and setting to work on one of the final chapters of a novel I’m trying to finish. Not that finishing it is likely to gain me much – these days, one needs an agent to get an agent who can approach potential publishers with ones work. Worse, there’s a new phenomenon similar to “privatization” – what once was dismissed as vanity publishing. The author pays, they pretend to edit, set the book up nicely, and promote and distribute it. But the days of being able to do anything on one’s own seem about over – a few million bucks is just about a mere shoestring to try to do business on anymore. I prefer to use my energy on thought – or having fun, though, and sometimes even like writing.
Another little matter I’d like to point out relates to the old proverb “variety is the spice of life.” Trying to make a pity adage of my own, I used to say, “You can’t eat a peanut-butter sandwich every day.” Told that to my father. He looked at me mournfully and said, “But I have.” He died of a heart attack. Twice even. But that’s another digression. I think maybe it’s not the caloric intake, but what you can make of what you partake of. We don’t have to have dairy, or meat, but we do have to have variety – exercize sometimes, rest sometimes, enjoyment of carbohydrates sometimes, avoidance of them sometimes… all who even slightly want to, know what healthy eating is, but I’d like to mention: if you don’t drink (silly terminology), at least take a shot of cider vinegar once in a while. Don’t just think about it. No pain, no gain, and all. But I think the ‘shock’ to the system actually vitalizes the mind, maybe – most likely even – reducing that “armoring”!