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, October 29, 2009

A visit to the USA

Running around in the USA taking care of lots of paperwork, I haven't been able to think of posting anything here for a while. But there's a backlog of things to think about and write on now, when I'm back home. Some Hopi friends fly to Japan the same day I leave; a member of the Quaker Meeting here has been turning Roden Crater (a volcanic core big hill) into a kind of artistic light display from which one can watch the sky well, without a telescope, and I'm back to thinking about rabbits (brushing angoras for fur which can be spun and woven, writing about possible crossbreeds, trying to photoshop a better book cover...)...
Some hustle must be pursued back home, including work on a tax ID number for my wife and a passport for her youngest sibling, so that he can keep our son good company on another visit here - thier first - in a few years.
Nice to see that my self-built home has withstood forces of nature!
Will be even nicer to be back with my wife and son.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Fact and fiction

In a time when the disinformation services of the “West” offer all that the Soviet newspaper Pravda was reputed to serve up, it behooves us to question lots of things we’ve been taught and learned to take for granted.

I remember learning that Don Quixote (El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote De La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes; Part I, 1605; Part II, 1615; ~ 400 years ago) was the first novel (a term coined in the 1700s, from ‘novella’). Some say it was Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (a collection of fantastical romance stories with different characters, published 1485). Robinson Crusoe came out in 1719, and Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. Even earlier, a woman, Aphra Behn, wrote Oroonoko (1688), a novel about an enslaved African prince whom Mrs. Behn knew in South America.
The fables of Marco Polo ("Book of the Marvels of the World", in Italian, Il Milione, meaning The Million, apparently in reference to its many gross exaggerations) could be included as a novel, as it is demonstrably fiction, although many seem to have not caught on to that yet... A rare popular success in an era before printing full of "a million" lies, the book first appeared about 1300. It is said to contain some truth; novels occasionally do.
But anyway, Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), by Japanese Lady Murasaki Shikibu, written toward the start of the 11th century, is considerably (half a millennia) older. Early 13th century Japanese poet Fujuwara Sadaie, or Teika, is also credited with a novel, Matsura no miya monogatari (Tale of Matsura Shrine). Then came many war tales, samurai tales and historical romances.
From China’s Yüan Dynasty (1206–1368), novels of numerous, vastly different versions appeared, products of multiple authors and editors. The best known are the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin and P'ing-yao chuan (The Subjugation of the Evil Phantoms).
The Satyricon by Petronius (according to Britannica a “a comic, picaresque novel”) was produced before 100 CE, and Lucius Apuleius’ Golden Ass only about a century later.
Seems to me that only mechanical printing and the possibility of mass distribution made novels really viable – as was certainly true of cartoons, too.

Other ponder-ables:
The supposed “Dark Ages” may have been no more than a time of decentralization, during which life for many peasants may not have been as bad as it often was the case subsequently (I’m guessing here, but it makes sense to me).
The Russian Revolution (or 1917) may have been underwritten by Western financiers.
The North Pole ice may have melted due to a 7% change in position of Earth’s axis.
A planetoid orbiting Sol (our sun) in a very extended ellipsis may return to visibility, and gravitational significance, every 3600 years or so (and thus coming soon).

What’s even more interesting is that lots of material which could be useful to people trying to gain insight, perspective and a better sense of proportion is being methodically belittled, disparaged and demeaned – in large part by a concerted effort to associate certain fact with outlandish fantasy. My favorite example of this is David Icke, who gets a wonderful write up in the Uncyclopedia: “David Godzilla Icke is a well respected former footballer, member of the Green Party and philosopher whose widely-accepted theories have enlightened mankind to throw off the shackles placed on us by our shapeshifting reptilian overlords. It is noted that his name, appearance and beliefs bear more than a passing resemble to David Duke.” (It also claims that “David Icke believes that Prince Charles is an iguana.” I’m not sure I agree, but Icke’s references to Kissinger as reptilian certainly seem to hold some water).
My conspiracy theory is that think tanks were developed to study the manipulation of meaning, for the purpose of twisting the thinking (as it were) of the work-a-day populace into something even more to the advantage of oligarchs than has proved organized religion. And that pretty good (albeit likely short-term) results have been achieved – at least for some.

There was a time when opposing opinions could be debated – but intelligent debate seems to have become as archaic as many a novel. OK, things change. But when those who ridicule Global Warming say we have nothing to worry about, is there any chance, at all, that they are making us safer? Other nay-sayers claim petroleum is not of organic derivation, and so may not be as limited as claimed. I like that – we CAN have our cake and eat it too, as suggested at the recent G-20 Conference in Pittsburgh, where things started off with concerns expressed about climate change, and ended with expressions meant to encourage increased consumption, to put our economy back on a better footing… Ah me.

A girlfriend once spent a night trying to square a circle; mathematician Andrew Wiles spent 10 years to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem (maybe better called Lost Theorem), which posits a negative. Both seem like wasted time to me, but like God, the human mind often works in mysterious ways.

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