Studs Terkel – American Dreams Lost and Found 9/08/09

•September 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I chose Studs Terkel as an author because he really didn’t write this book as much as record and transcribe it. These are conversations with real people and as I read each one, I got a feeling for how they must have felt about what their life was like. I was occasionally loud and indignant, quiet and hopeful or deeply sarcastic and despairing. These passages were picked minutes before reading them without much idea of where each person’s story was going.

What are some reactions to the reading?


Impossible Vacation – Spalding Gray 9/22/09

•September 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I chose Spalding Gray as an author because he doesn’t make things up, or at least not very well. Gray died in 2004 but left an incredibly rich history about his own life, the times he lived through and some of the cultural fringe values floating around at the time. Reading from impossible vacation, I did not intentionally take on his mannerisms but I felt myself pausing where he would, gallopping through certain passages at high speed perhaps channeling the manic wasp he became when on a roll.¬† What are some reactions to the reading?

new threads

•September 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This place is for new duds and morphemes. After manya months away, I’ve found my glean needs space to spread. So this place I quietly cached and nested scotch neat I’m crafting to expand. I’ve read four times and before I read a fifth, I’m going to add time and habit to the mix. Stay tuned.

Day One

•January 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

December 7-9.

Considering that I left every preparation for my trip until the last two days previous to going, I was exceedingly well stocked. Traveling to Seattle was a breeze by rail and from this experience have much to recommend trains as ideally preferred over buses or planes. Comfy seats with ample chances to get up and wander, scenery that features recognizable objects and color spectrums plus a dining car, although I supplied my own snacks for maximum use of funds for fun. My ample hamper of goodies, obtained from Trader Joes just the night before, I happily munched on while plenty of my fellow riders marched towards the dining car. This option was not for me as I was reading Orson Scott Card’s recent book “Empire” worthy of the distinguished Ludlumesque award for outstanding fantasy & suspense.

This was very wrong of me to do. I had agreed to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell up until this point which I had brought with me but it was so confounded heavy, the heaviest item I’d packed in fact and did not labor to heave ho. So while spending time with “the other book”, I studiously ignored the movie also on-board the train, a one “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”. I suspected there would be plenty of time for movie mockery later on the plane. I was right but I’ll come back to that.

King Street Station in Seattle was my destination and at quarter to 4, before I knew much time had passed really, I was there. My next goal was to board the 174 bus to my hotel near the airport and dig in for the next days flying. The bus itself was awhile in coming, nearly 40 minutes and I found December 7th was especially busy there due to some kind of playoff game. The bus had a flex joint in the middle making it extremely long and I was still hard pressed to find a seat for me and my baggy pals. We all fit in the back two seats and I was soon talking to a traveler on her way to Denver. We strategized on good ways to get off at the right stops and when to pay since neither of us had on boarding parted with the paltry pittance necessary for a legal ride. The air outside was dark and cold by this point and on disembarking at the right place, I found the promised beacon of warmth and light: America’s Best Value Inn. The staff looked west Asiatic, Indian to Pakistani and while talking with a fellow from Punjab, I learned how right I was. But I’ll revisit this.

I watched a staggering amount of TV in the room after showering off my travel aromas, eventually wearing out the battery in the remote. I decided at that point to curtail further idiot boxing. As an owner of my very own idiot box, I can testify on the effects of prolonged exposure. It make you slow.

12am and rising, I decided to stay in bed and attempt sleeping but did not achieve my goal until 2:30. My wakeup call was at 4:55. It was going to be a short day given that there would be only 12 full hours of Monday before speeding through the rest of it but I would still be up for a long time and ironically this was the thought that kept me awake.

The airport shuttle was stimulating because of the Punjabi driver. He told me about his wife mostly who was training to be a nurse and of all the time he spent helping her study when he wasn’t working. He thought I was an Asia buff because of my destination and knowledge of where Punjab was. We also talked about the trouble with Pakistan and the Mumbai bombings which gave me an altered view of the news coming out of that country.

Although I’d love to digress on the transition of my previous view to what I hold now, this is a travelogue and not so much an academic summary of the India / Pakistan conflict lasting some 60 years.

We parted ways at 5:30 and I jumped out at the United Airlines counter with two bags & a tennis racquet. I chatted with the ticketrix who grew up in Cottage Grove apparently and moved to Seattle later in life. I didn’t glean much from the encounter since the conversation was mandatorily short. The rest of my time waiting at the terminal was spent and reading and eating nuts.

I spent some time getting excited about my trip, dreading the leg room scenarios my 6’5″ frame would contort into and looking at the planes, curious if they had all been checked for fuselage leaks or landing gear fuse shorts. When I finally got on board the shuttle to L.A., I was shaking a little with anticipation, dread and resolve. This plane did not have a ceiling height to meet my needs and I crouched with bag pointed forward like a figurehead, shuffling with the others on queue.

My aisle-mate was a new experience. She was blind, recently blind in fact and my introduction was couched with helping her receive food and drink. I’m terrible with names and don’t recall hers now but I remember her face, sunglasses, short curly hair and sun dappled complexion. She was from the Nevada desert and she told me about living there in detail. She used to work at a military base nearby until losing her vision and thus her job. These two events finalized on the same day which made for a very bad day all round. Her home is isolated and the grounds around are used for weapons testing often shaking the house like an earthquake going off. The Navy sometimes fires shells from off the California coast and cause mushroom clouds to appear within view, although now she just hears the booms and windows reverberating.

I talked to her most of the flight for 2.5 hours and told her about myself a bit. A traveling architect from Vermont, I was en route to California from Seattle to meet my Witness Protection orientation leader who would then assign me a new identity. But I didn’t tell her that.

Wishing her goodbye and good luck on touchdown at LAX, I waited an unexpected 2.5 hours as the arrival of my connection was an hour late and I myself was a half hour early.

Glad of my book and snacks once more, I finished the little thriller right then and there before boarding and was all set to finally start the Strange journey east. This plane bound for Narita Airport in Tokyo was a bit taller than the other but I was still forced against the inner window as per last time and was very lucky to have plenty of time for shoe removal and essentials stowing, keeping just my book and shoes below within easy reach. All I remember about the flight was that it was hard to read, easy to watch and continuously twilight. The movies I do remember since I looked them up and dreaded what I would see. Mamma Mia, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Henry Poole is Here and another piece of flim-flam equally forgettable. The food was edible in the sense that I was hungry and it was there. Jonathan Strange turned out to be a riveting read for its wordy diversionary exuberance and slowly slanting storyline. I have yet to read the whole thing but still recommend what I read as great plane material which for me is high praise.


I took one picture in the Tokyo airport of an airport restroom and all its symbolic uses. Here you can see that not only are wheelchairs welcome but there are facilities to hang your clothes, bring your children, change diapers on a tot or lecture someone sitting down for relief. I’m not sure if the Japanese characters below were translated verbatim and remain curious. I got on another plane for 5 hours, having gotten off after 10.5 hours to arrive in Tokyo at 230pm. By 530 I was ready to just collapse in my seat but was still hungry so I pushed myself with the last nut ration and had no conscious break until well into half the flight. There I slept for perhaps half to 1 hour before being greeted with another movie. Henry Poole is here. Again! Perhaps this did have the charms of Radha Mitchell but I was already well versed in this miracle/fable/schmaltz-fest and willed myself back to my eye-closing stance, even if a brain-power-down didn’t follow. I did not touch down until 1155pm on Tuesday night and greeted my friend who dutifully waited for me after midnight Wednesday.

Stay tuned for my adventures in Bangkok proper, land of my intent.

Wednesday = Chinatown

•December 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Tackled China Town today after nearly after 10 hours of sleep and a very leisurely after breakfast ping-pong watching session. The women’s semi-final pitted China vs. Singapore and both were very good with some incredibly good forehand slams from the Singapore swinger but China’s champ clinched it in 5 games to 2 by the time I was ready to head out. I headed to Ratchadamri BTS station and hiked up the standard 3 flights, scanned my smart card and hiked up two more to see the train just coming in. Got off at Saphan Taksin and farily bounded down the flights to barely miss the boat. So I got my 19 baht ticket and waited for the next express. Up river, the boat stopped at pier 6, Tha Memorial Bridge and I disembarked. I must have stood out since, fresh off the boat I was approached by a “where you going?” and a tuk-tuk driver. I assured him I was content to walk as my destination was close. After dodging behind a couple of buses on major roadways, no worrys though as traffic was at a dead stop, I passed by Wat Rajaburana on my way to Little India and took a picture, although my open toed shoes restricted further entry. I picked Triphet street and started walking

The more I walked, the thicker the throng became until I was wading. I waded until Pahurat avenue hove into view and there encountered a very different sort of road like environment. Supposedly this roadal area was for cars but parked mopeds, pedestrians and an extension of the market itself spilled onto the street and seemed right at home there, almost daring traffic to try and start something. The motorists dutifully minded their own business and scooted around. Verily this was a democratcially elected pedestrian mall in the middle of the road. So I walked through it, unknowingly skirting the Pahurat Cloth market otherwise known as Little India although my nose told me something was up.

Rounding a corner and climbing up the overhead walkway, I spotted the Indian Emporium and lo, there was a sign for Royal India, the restaurant I intended to visit for lunch. Climbing down to the right side of the street, I sallied forth, back into the river, pausing long enough under the staris to try and buy a bag of circular unnammed snacks-in-a-bag. The sign for Royal India directed me into a dark alley and down it to a place that for all appearances looked long closed. Opening the well carved double doors was a small brick enclosure with diners inside and a TV blaring Bollywood news. This was the place! A middle aged Indian woman who looked tired but never dropped her smile sat me down after I reconfirmed my wish to consume mass quantities. I had chicken curry Tikka Massala, mushroom stuffed naan and a sweet lassi which I drank right up. For dessert, since the food was very good and more than a little spicy, I indulged in Kulfi, which is Indian pistachio ice cream. Just a bit bitter it was but cold, with a great after taste and refreshing as all get out. I had the good sense to write down what I had from the menu so as to accurately retell this experience. I did not have the good sense to take picutres of my food.

I left with a happy tummy and really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next so I walked in the directino of the opposing sidewalk which involved belaying around a rather thickish swarm of motorists, including those on the sidewalk. I had since moved on to Chakpeth Street you must understand which is full on one way and does not suffer the impositions of markets however much they insist on coloring outside the edges. Once there, I found an unusual side street open up, very picturesque and serene amidst the bustle, so Iwalked in and walked to the end of a closed gate. I turned around to walk back out when I saw a turbanned¬† man approaching. “You did not go in?” he asked when we approached within polite conversation range. Before I could reply he told me “It’s open.” I came back with a somewhat knowledgab le “Oh. It is?” pretending I knew what he thought I mistook for closed. “Yes. Just go back in, turn right, then straight ahead.” Ah! That’s what I forgot to do! This is the look of realization on my face that came up and produced a smile from the newly decorated good citizen of my choosing. I thanked him wereupon he reversed his course and I rereversed mine walking towards whatever it was but knowing at least it was open.

What I found was a Sikh temple buried in the market! The Sri Guru Singh Saba temple came out of nowhere and I was surrounded by what looked to me like a richly decorated underground bunker with sunlight peeking in from higher up. In the middle of the afternoon, this place had deep night shadows with a couple of armed guards at each end for a deep eerie quiet effect. I went to a four panel story of Guru Baba Singh and his son hanging on the wall and commenced reading. Apparently these two resisted a Moghul invasion of India in the mid 1700s, demonstrating incredible courage and probably the reason for the monument. A harrowing story of laying down ones life for ones faith with a strong anti-islamic tinge since after all the Sikhs were defending their turf quite openly against Muslim encroachment if I remember my Moghul empire studies correctly. After reading, I gave the armed, guard with a foot-long beard a big smile on my way out and he stopped text messaging long enough to meet my gaze and keep his own resolute expression fixed.

I stopped in India Emporium to get my bearrings and upon doing so, decided to take another chance, following what my map promised to be “an exceptionally picturesque lane.” “Highly Recommended!” So I jogged (ha) up to the path highlighted in neon pink on the map and followed the locals to Mecca. If you suffer from claustrophobia or need your own personal space, I would not recommend this route, since again I was wading but there was a new intensity since all sides were closed and narrow plus there was no easy way to turn around. The way was forward and people let you bodily let you know. I could not really pick my own way through the crowd because there really weren’t gaps in the conventional sense. There were shpos and stalls in every direction, selling huge amounts of cloth, clothing, toys, gold, jewelry, cheap calculators, rubiks cubes, flowers, overstuffed pillows in piercing colors, alarm clocks set for RIGHT NOW, amulets and ornaments of all kinds and more food.

I did have my own head space but I ducked often and every now and then a moped would try and get by from either ahead or behind the sea of shufflers and we all lurched so as not to get our feet a few sizes wider. This all sounds bad but it wasn’t. It was simply overload. I didn’t buy anything in there and I say in there because the ceiling was covered. It reminded me of JJ market except twice as crowded. I consumed a course of 4 blocks then exited having had my fill. Just as miraculously, without pulling out the map I walked down the street and hit the dock, Tha Ratchawongse. It was already 4pm, too late to pursue sights further up river before dark and still get home so I caught the express boat back to Saphan Taksin and BTS’d it homewise. I really didn’t see a very big chunk of China Town but I do have lots fo time tomorrow. I still need to visit the Odeon Circle and Ea Sae.

The Mean Glean

•November 14, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Mean Glean is the radio vehicle for audio projects and is on 1450 AM at 8-9pm, every Thursday.

MP3 archives can be found at

Most of the time, electronic music and regular profiles of music pioneers of the 20th Century dominate the hour of Thursdays 8-9pm. Every once in a while I feature something I’ve worked on and this is very dependent on how much extra time I can devote outside of work and school demands.


•November 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

Music is important. Music is so important, words can get in the way. If I listen to an opera in a language I don’t know it sounds beautiful. If I listen to the same thing in English, it doesn’t. How come? My own explanation is that the words are getting in the way and that the music is no longer aided by sounds which didn’t have an intellectual meaning before and now suddenly I’m following along as a mental reader rather than an aural absorber. Pick a language you don’t know. Sounds beautiful doesn’t it? Or bracing? Or strange? Now take a language you know. Are you still evaluating it based on how it sounds? Unless the speaker has an accent you’re not used to, I’m guessing its the content not the sounds which most immediately grips the mind. Here’s the problem for me and songs with words. It’s a different medium for me. The notes aren’t hitting me as viscerally as say a full blown symphony or even a vocal soloist in another language. In fact, I lose focus if the words are important and have a coherent plot-line I’m following. This is part of the large appeal of popular artists like Radiohead or Bjork for me since a lot of what they’re singing I can’t immediately understand, so the first time I hear it, its so powerful.