Thursday, December 30, 2004

Some thoughts on ancient Thai scripts

I've been busy with my paper and other things and regretfully have neglected blogging. There's also so much new information I'm trying to digest. What's been an interesting result of my paper, are these serious questions: Why does the Thai government attribute the discovery of the Thai alphabet to King Ramkhamhaeng, when there seems to be abundant physical evidence that there are other ancient scripts that Thais have obviously been using before that time. Especially, why not include the Lanna script? or the Isan dharmma script for writing Pali? The deeper I dig, the more confusing the information. In a post on my other blog, I've linked some images of Thai script to compare it with Kmer, Thai Lue, and Brahmi script (which is said to be the origin of our script.) Below, I've linked from Rajaphat Ubon University an image of Thai Noi or Isan Dharma script (the blue script). Description can never be as good as the images themselves.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Today is Loy Kratong Day

Happy Loy Kratong, folks! On this November, full moon shine day, in Thailand we give our yearly thanks to the spirits of Water for nourishing our lives, and ask forgiveness for any transgressions we have made against her or nature. In these modern time, we can add our prayers of intention to preserve the environment. May our spirit of offerings bring forward a happy new year.

Following photo "borrowed" from

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Please correct the cliche: The Medium is the Message"

My emerging approach to understanding McLuhan has been to find out what content he consumed to produce the messages he gave us. So I've been discovering guys like Edward T. Hall, and Harold Innis. Especially, H. Innis! Reading him has been like an "Aha!" After a while, I realise, "Hey, there's a lot of valuable things here McLuhan skipped over." A larger framework for understanding media and communication can be found in Innis's work.

Well, as part of that reading and some conversations I've had with friends trying to convince the worth of McLuhan's message, resulted in my looking at the above cliche critically. It's a great cliche, and many people use it to actually cover up the message or to cover up their misunderstanding about media. My complaint about the above cliche, I think, is that it doesn't say anything about the receiver of the message. Did McLuhan assume that the receivers, listeners, readers, watchers, were faceless? What was their role in receiving of the message?

So with the receivers of message in mind, I thought the cliche could be improved if it was expanded to: "The medium is the message which becomes the content of a new media." This actually is nothing new and comes from McLuhan's own words. I'm just inviting you to change the meme a bit here. The emphasis on the expanded cliche is to say, that the receivers actually negotiate with the message, and take action in translating the old message into content, using it in a new medium. Literacy consumed speech or orality, print consumed the alphabet, tv consumed print, etc. The expanded cliche also reflect Innis's concept of balancing the bias of commincation. I find it interesting to note that Innis was actually more oral than McLuhan was, and McLuhan in this sense was more linear than Innis... but that's arguable. Maybe, it's just one balancing the other...

I wonder, what will the new medium that consumes the electric medium (tv, radio, wireless phones and internet) as its content?

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Media control, less quality news

Torn and frayed in Manila writes a good post about the demise of two quality English language weekly magazines, Far Eastern Economic Review and Asiaweek that suffered the mismanagement by media monopolies and the region's readers are now deprived of reliable news sources. The other two English language newspaper, my other sources of news about Thailand have also suffered a similar situation. Both newspapers have had to open their shares to foreign ownership and news reporting has changed since then. An article published by The Nation: Ominous paradigm shift in the Thai media.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Deconstructing SE Asian history and archeology

I wonder if other history and archeological fans get the same uncomfortable feeling as I do concerning the "evidence" that are used in these two fields of investigations. In the development of these two disciplines, the need to be "scientific" becomes its Achilles' heel. Maybe if they could scientifically account for all the non-recoverable historical records and the undug, yet to be dug, and undiggable archeological finds, they might actually become scientific.

Meanwhile, their metanarrative goes on trying to justify itself and grows a few generations of children with distorted worldviews, whose sad misconceptions explodes as a social timebomb some 20-30 years in the future, as we incrasingly see going on around us in our present. Our wake-up call to how we write our history books and the ways it feeds segregations and alienation may come a bit too late. Very sadly, too late for those hundreds that have died in the south of Thailand since the beginning of this year.

"Pra Chao Paendin" not a God

Reading western text on the history of Thailand, the concept of Kings as Gods seems to crop up quite often. In my eagerness to digest what is said about the history, I've always tended to skip over the nagging feeling that is generated with this western interpretation of Kingship. As I've come to develop a sense of caution on the internal logic of each language, the question marks behind each concept that get translated across cultures have become bigger and bigger for me. This particular one hit me in the middle of my head, since I've had to intensively review books and articles about the history of Thailand in preparation for my paper.

We Thais highly revere our Kings, and willingly place them on top of our heads, but we've never conceptualized them as "God"! Come on, being Buddhists, we don't even believe in God, or gods. OK, so we pray to spirits, go to Indra and Brahmin shrines, but seriously, someone should make it clear, they are never related to as gods. Please, someone, dig in and explain, we don't have the concept of a sole creator who creates the universe, etc, etc., etc.

Our Kings, "Prachaopaendin" literally means "Lord of the Land". "Chao" which through lack of equivalent term in English is translated into "Lord" and then thought of as God. Going into the definition of this term "chao" needs a linguistic paper. A "Chao's" right to rule is sanctioned by what is known as "Tosapit Rajataam" or the 10 laws of Kingship. These are an expression of how centuries of rulership has been tested and what qualites of kingship are valued. Nothing in those rules says he's a god in the western sense that he is the descendant of a creator of the universe. A King's royalty and his power comes from his ability to command many qualities that allows him to rule for the benefit of the people.

I'm registering my protest against this unquestioned definition of a historical concept written in western languages that carelessly use this equation which actually comes from the western epistemology that God gives the Chruch the right to rule, and then the Church gives the right to Kings to rule. Well, that logic doesn't follow in our society. This way of looking at the history of our region through these lenses have written versions of history that somehow just doesn't seem to ring a bell.

Friday, October 29, 2004

My paper and blog: "Orality and Literacy in Thailand"

As part of a course, Comparative Orality and Literacy, that I'm auditing at the University of Toronto, I was asked to set up a blog: Orality and Literacy in Thailand as part of my research file for which I am producing a term paper. I will be developing my ideas about Thailand's oral tradition and some aspects of early literacy in that blog, so if anyone is interested, please give me a visit there....

My paper and blog on orality and literacy in Thailand

As part of a course, Comparative Orality and Literacy, that I'm auditing at the University of Toronto, I was asked to set up a blog: Orality and Literacy in Thailand as part of my research file for which I am producing a term paper. I will be developing my ideas about Thailand's oral tradition and some aspects of early literacy in that blog, so if anyone is interested, please give me a visit there....

Monday, October 25, 2004

The mistake of western epistemology

Its preoccupation with origins, the need for discovering and proving of the beginning of whatever they wish to classify, seems to come from its logic of linear cause and effect. What if reality actually exists in cycles of creation and recreation? Isn't it foolish to suppose that people who lived 2500 years ago were less advanced than we are? Can't we see that all of this bias in our view of history happens because we've put a beginning point at the year "0"? Separation of a few thousand years seems to excuse our insensitive ignorance and carelessness when we tend to overlook evidence that suggests a contrary picture of our past especially when it threatens our perception of our present.

Why can't we say frankly when we study our artifacts that the discoveries of archeology is based on chance, and by our decision of where we are going to chose to dig? What about all the evidence we haven't been able to dig up yet? Let's also declare clearly that history depends on who's writing it, it is usually written to justify the writer's point of view.

Maybe if we changed this basic and central assumption that there must be a single beginning, we can be released from the heavy burden of there having to be an end. Then we won't need to go into apocalyptic frenzy every a century or millennium ends, and we won't have to spend so much energy trying to prove that true or false beginning and actually start a much more engaging process of discovery.

The Concept of the Thai Spirit

“Spirit is a power that causes, through its working from outside, changes and engenders unequal, asymmetrical relations within the individual as well as social groups. It is an ambiguous, external power, and affects directly or indirectly the individual and social relations, irrespective of whether it is institutionalized or not. This power of spirit is explicit when it attacks a person unpredictably or punishes him in response to his neglect of ritual duties. Such workings of spirit can cause instability, or destruction or, even worse, tatal collapse of internal equilibrium, which normally is believed to be maintained within the individual and social groups.

A person intrinsically has his or her own internal equilibrium, constituted of the relationship between khwan (soul) and rangkai (soul), which is always vulnerable and exposed to external power represented by various forms of spirit. …khwan as a popular notion refers to the collective soul entity believed to be firmly located within the person’s body. The firm unity of the soul entity and body provides health, while the drifting away of soul from body that could occur upon intrusion of external power, or through interference from other influential forces, can result in ill-health or even death. It is this idea of unity of soul and body which forms the basis of the stability of the equilibrium and its breakdown in association with external forces.”

from "Thai Construction of Knowledge,

ed. by Manas Chitakasem and Andrew Turton, London: SOAS, 1991."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Cornell's collection of Southeast Asian books

In this beautiful on-line "book"produced by Cornell University, you will be able to find some beautiful images of ancient manuscripts and old books of Souteast Asia. The site draws attention to what official history books have omitted to tell us, that ancient ancestors of Southeast Asia were avid readers, literate, and collectors of precious manuscripts, dating as far back as 1st century AD.

I quote from this site: "In the first centuries A.D., the earliest foreign visitors to Southeast Asia remarked on the books of the region, which were incised into palm leaves or written into mulberry- or bark-paper manuscripts, usually employing alphabets derived from Indian scripts or, in Vietnam, using Chinese characters. The first libraries of the region were at royal capitals such as Angkor in ancient Cambodia. Then with the advent of Theravada Buddhism and Islam from the thirteenth century onwards, handwritten books were found almost everywhere.".

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Knowing and doing

(For the guy with square glasses who spoke about the distinction between knowing and doing)

We’re in a process of writing to speak better,

We used to write to record what we spoke,

Before that we just spoke.

At some point in the future we will revert back to just speaking,

Where speech is an action and not simply an externalized thought.

“Si che dal fatto

il dir non sia diverso”

Dante’s Inferno 32.12

Friday, October 15, 2004

Ann Galloway on "Drexlerian dreams and other politics of science"

Anne Galloway provided some interesting links on"Drexlerian dreams and other politics of science".

Some weeks ago, I subscribed Howard Lovy's Nanobot with Bloglines. Interesting reads, excellent coverage of the nano-world. Just for records, I stumbled on this field because of my son's declaration that he wanted to study nanotechnology when he goes to university in 4 years time. At about the same time, a Thai friend recommended the book "As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth" by Juan Enriquez showing me his "Thai!" version of the book. Digging in, I found that I had to check out the incredulous things this guy was saying. That took me to "Nanocosm" by William Illsey Atkinson. That was followed by a read of this very interesting: Atkinson-Phoenix Nanotech Debate With that I was convinced that I'd have to follow this microcosm.

What is the reversal of McLuhan’s tetrad?

Last night, I attended a session of Mcluhan Extreme which is part of the McLuhan Festival of the Future in Toronto. The above thought provoking question was raised at the end of the session. I'm attempting an answer, "a la McLuhan", by suggesting that one then needs to ask, what did the tetrad retrieve?

My answer to that question is that it retrieves the I-Ching, a philosophy of change. The Tetrad is a different form of this philosophy of change designed by McLuahn. I believe that they carry the same message.

Why do I say it retrieves the I-Ching? The I-Ching is based on the concept of reversals of 2 major forces: the Yin and the Yang. Too much yin “accelerates”, or flips into yang, too much yang moves into yin. Nothing quantitative about the process, it’s all qualitative. It becomes possible to divine at what point of change one finds oneself in because the underlying philosophy in this world of change is that everything is connected. Hence, the development of the 64 symbols of change. However, reading that process of change correctly is an art form.

So if the tetrad retrieves this knowledge of change, once it accelerates, it reverses into… an amalgation, a re-wholing of all knowledges of change, in some newer form of understanding change in relevance to our times. It could appear in the form of a complex computer program. It could just as well appear as a human social structure where individuals understand their connection with the unknowable whole and act in the context of their valuable place in a complex complexity. I’m not selling the idea of a utopia, but saying that we can find perfection in imperfection.

The Tetrad reverses into a new understanding of the processes of change. That understanding may be the herald of a new renaissance of human discoveries.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wiang Goom Gaam, Chiang Mai's Ancient City

This excellent article, "From Beneath the Sands of Time", was published by 'Welcome to Chiangmai & Chiangrai' magazine. Reminds me that there are archeological sites we tend to miss, because they are not so well publicized. It was a happy discovery for me to see this visual proof of our legendary King Mengrai's ancient abode. One day, I've promised myself to read more extensively about the Chiang Mai Chronicles. For now let's just enjoy the following picture:

I also found Jing Reed's musings about the site, another nice read with a few more pictures.

Treasure trove

White Lotus's books on Thailand.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Ancient Isaan alphabets to go high-tech

From MCOT News:Tuesday 12 October 2004, through

UBON RATCHATHANI, Oct 6 (TNA) - A lecturer at a college in Thailand's Northeast has invented a computer font for two ancient Isaan alphabets which are in danger of dying out.

The new high-tech inventions mark a huge change in the life of the 'Tai Noi' and 'Dharm' alphabets.

According to Asst. Prof. Sanit Phokaphan from the Faculty of Science and Technology at the Rajabhat University's Ubon Ratchathani campus, the Tai Noi alphabet was originally written on palm leaves as a mean of recording events relating to merit-making ceremonies and other local traditions, as well as local folk tales and medical formulas.

The 'Dharm' alphabet, meanwhile, was regarded as a high-ranking mean of recording issues relating to Buddhism.

It was not until the 19th century, when government legislation insisted on the use of the Thai alphabet, that the two alphabets slipped into disuse.

Asst. Prof. Sanit, who invented the computer fonts, says that the alphabets are now only taught at the Rajabhat University, and among Buddhist monks wanting to read ancient manuscripts.

The lecturer hopes that his inventions will lead to a resurgence of interest in the ancient scripts, and prevent their extinction.

The fonts will also make it easier for researchers to learn about national historical events written on palm leaves.

The fonts can be downloaded for free at the Rjabhat University's website.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Orality and Communications, the short way

Orality and communications is new stuff for me. I'm trying to make sense of the confusion I've launched myself in again with this new McLuhan course. I've been give a bunch of reading materials, about five inches of photocpied materials written by academics several decades ago. (Anybody tried the frustrating task of trying to make sense out of old English?) We're expected to read at least 4-5 'theorists' in 7 days, doesn't matter what else you do in your day to day life. Sigh, the pace of academics. I'm taking shortcuts. I don't know, maybe there're actually long cuts. I google the guys' names and try to read what other people have gisted about what these guys have been thinking about. At least on the net, they use simple English. What's really important for me is to understand the context (social, intellectual, cultural environment) of which these intellectual giants have shaped their thoughts.

Some links that really helped clarify stuff for me, for future references:

Theories of Communication -Wikipedia

Oral History - Wikipedia

"Innis: The Bias of Communications & Monopolies of Power" by Marshall Soules

"Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word" Ong, Methuen

" Towards an Ecology of Understanding:

Semiotics, Medium Theory, and the Uses of Meaning"
by Marc Leverette

"From Orality to Teleliteracy" by Steven Mizrach

A much delayed essay: "Emerging Paradigm", promised to a friend

This is something I promised a friend I would write for her. It's still, maybe, a first draft. I feel as if I keep repeating myself, but since I've started taking this class on orality, I understand that its common practice in this tradition, so no sea mi culpa. Also everytime I tell this story it always gets said in a different way.

A fundamental shift in perspective has been happening in the world of scientific theories. In 1687, Newton’s “Principia” laid the ground rules for scientific inquiry. These rules stated that “(1) we are to admit no more causes of natural things such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances, (2) the same natural effects must be assigned to the same causes, (3) qualities of bodies are to be esteemed as universal, and (4) propositions deduced from observation of phenomena should be viewed as accurate until other phenomena contradict them.” To understand how he came about these rules, one has to understand Newton’s time, environment, the evolution of philosophy and science before that.

Newton put firmly into place a “scientific method”. His three laws of motion: inertia, action and reaction, and acceleration proportional to force was a crystallization of a linear worldview that had begun to take shape since the Greek invention of the western phonetic alphabet. In the following four hundred years, this “scientific” methodology influenced the birth of some new scholarly line of thoughts, such as, evolutionary theory, economics, marxism, (just to name the few I am somwhat familiar with).

This linear worldview included concepts such as, independent agents, reductionism, individuality, privacy, and specialization. It sprouted numerous specialists and specialties. For 400 years, competition, survival of the fittest led us to a point of near total annihilation with the two World Wars, and the subsequent Cold War. The world became increasingly complex, chaotic, and interdependent.

Everything became linked through communications, supported by the new electric medium. A scholar who invented world famous clichés such as “the global village”, “the media is the message”, Marshall McLuhan, saw how electricity produced a revolutionary effect in transforming our world, and tells us that with the acceleration of our print and media oriented culture, there comes a reversal into a new oral culture.

This reversal and signs of its shifted paradigm started to emerge in the public mind only after nearly one hundred years since its discovery by the quantum sciences in the 20s. These scientists discovered that in the world of the subatomic level, particles (aka, matter) were paradoxically behaving as waves (aka, energy). Since then, new multidisciplinary studies developed new theories of Chaos (50s), Complexity (late 80s), Nanotechnology (70s), Genomics (80s).... During the 80s, and 90s, an emerging group of writers made such scientific insights popular: Fritjof Capra, Steven Hawkings, James Gleick, etc. Research Institutions and some open-minded institutions were already applying the new discoveries into management, forum organization, structuring of information.

This new worldview, or as some choose to call it ‘paradigm”, informs us that life is basically non-linear, complex, interdependent, and ever changing. The implications of this new worldview clash against outdated strategies and policy attitude of an industrial linear world. How does one reorganize factories to take into account of small effects causing big influences, if they want to reorganize at all? Or how does one reconcile that 1+1 does not necessarily equal to 2? What happens to economic models when equations do no need to equalize in 0?

We are at last awakening from the sleep of linearity, that alphabets, literacy and Newton’s deterministic laws has given us.

The perspective that is demanded by this new worldview is frightening to many, mostly for those who have invested heavily in the old worldview, the status quo. It implies letting go the old ways of doing things. It requires that we try to understand laws of chaos and complexity. This is a world of seemingly endless possibilities, and every changing change, what can we use as guides?

The prophet of this effect, McLuhan, may have pointed to us the direction to find answers for these questions. Maybe collaboration, listening to each other, and orality, the reversal of literacy can help us find a way. Oral cultures taught us that redefining ourselves moment for moment, revisioning ourselves with each new perspective gained could be a good way to move with change. This does not necessarily mean that we must wipe the board clean. Values that have proven themselves may needed to be reworded, those that cannot apply may need to be discarded or put in secondary place, understanding the circumstances when we can use which values. Most important of all, maybe it can teach us to let go of dichotomy, of duality and allow us to be more comfortable with paradox. Strangely enough, the philosophies of the East seem to be quite familiar with these modalities of being.

During these coming years, it seems to me that what will be most crucial of all will be constant and intense conversations among many and all, to reword, to create new vocabularies, to speak in many different ways this new worldview until we are all well acquainted with it. Those cultures that adjust faster will gain an advantage, just as those that understand it deeply will be ones who bring it forward farther.

For Thailand:

I shudder in horror when I listen to news that Thailand’s leaders sometimes go all out in support of Western modernity, blindly applauding its technological advances, and overeager to buy into whatever lowly crumbs so-called high tech multinationals throw out at us. I am afraid that we will end up locking our future capacities by being dependant on rapidly going out of date technologies and science. The beauty of such this pioneer world of new sciences is that information is the key advantage. We do not need to follow the linear footsteps of Newtonian science in order to advance. We can jumpstart from things that have been tested and disproved as not working. Science is an undeniable future necessity, but let’s use discrimination. Our Buddhist philosophy proves familiar in this new paradigm. Its core values have always stressed the eternal nature change and the highest of learning by one’s own experience. We don’t need to drop all of the old ways to adopt new ones. We need to explore what old baggage might actually fit with new ideas and if they don’t, to see them clearly for what they are. What can be done to raise generations who will be able to quickly deconstruct the underlying assumptions of what used to be and reconstruct a successful vision for the moment that will eventually affect our future?

Friday, October 1, 2004

Not blogging means I'm doing too much

When I'm not blogging it means that I'm doing too much and am overstressed. Actually, I should make an effort to blog during these times because it's when I get lots of inputs and ideas. Too many and too fast that I don't know how to write them all down. What's going on? I'm taking another McLhuhan Program course, Comparative Orality and Literacy. It's three hours of intensive lecture-discussion on Thursday evenings. It has a pretty demanding reading program as well as tough expectations for a paper/presentation. Then I also passed my French exam that placed me in the intermediate level, and I'm doing two classes of French a week. I like the groups I'm studying with, but meeting too many people at once gives me a lot of new information to digest, so that ups my stress level. My kids also started school. My son entered Grade 9, which in Canada is seperated from Gr 1-8, and he had locate to a different school. It was exciting to help him adjust to another stage of life. (I don't know who was more excited, me or him?) When I'm doing too many things outside of the house, I don't get the housework done the way I like, ... that makes me grumpy. One of the things I do not enjoy with life in Canada is that maids are expensive and not practicle, you've just got to do your own housework.

Monday, August 30, 2004

My fascination with Ban Chiang

Ban Chiang, its discovery, its pots, the mystery of its people captivated me from the moment I stumbled on the first pictures of the pots. I drew the images, I searched out all the books I could get my hands on in Bangkok, and continue to look for more information. Despite its deep historical and archeological implications, there is frustratingly little public information, the internet has helped a bit, but not enough. I think I should just warn my readers that I will probably tend to be obsessive with this subject and come back to it again and again.

Ban Chiang is preserved as a World Heritage Site.

The best website on this subject is University of Penn State.

I recently discovered this photo in University of Hawaii's Ban Chiang Gallery

Disappointed that I can't find much deep information from Thai sources apart from touristic info sites.

However, I did find the official site of the Ban Chiang Museum here.

You can find some picutes of Ban Chiang pots shown in these websites below. For me, it is a somewhat sad reminder of all the smuggling that occurred when the dig was first discovered in the 60s. The pots became so much in demand that such good fakes, that were nearly impossible to detect as fakes, were sold. (Note: no connections with the ones shown here.)

Tinny Fishers Antiques

Hundred & One Antiques

Shaw Collection

Vase from Suan Pakard Museum

List of other interesting websites I found related to Ban Chiang:

Image from Met Timeline

Wikipedia page on Ban Chiang

A page of Museum Presentation Association's Exhibit on Prehistoric Thai Ceramics: Ban Chiang In Regional Cultural Perspective

The Crucibles of Ban Chiang, by Dr. William Vernon

A Ban Chiang ritual bell, (most of Ban Chiang's amazing bronze artifacts tends to be overshadowed by the much more interesting pottery)

The making of oral history in Thailand

A paper on "The making of oral history in Thailand" was presented at the 65th International Library Associations and Institutions on August, 1999.

Rujaya Abhakorn, Department of History, Chiang Mai University, writes about the paper:

"This paper is based on a rough survey, with the kind assistance of Nakharin Mektrairat and Warunee Osatharom of Thammasat University, of "oral history projects" conducted since 1976 as well as publications that used oral interviews. The result shows that a state agency, the National Archives, and academic historians have played the most active roles in the making of oral history in the modern era. There appears to be three types of oral history, all of which are political in nature, but reflecting three different concerns: the history of the state, the history of the democratic movement and the history of the people."

An explanation of "What is oral heritage" prepared by Thai Library Association can be found here.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Who are the Tai?

A few months ago I found this very thought provoking article Who are the Tai? A Discourse of Place, Activity and Person that was presented by RICHARD A. O'CONNOR of the University of the South.

Here are some intresting quotes from his paper:

"Asking 'who are the Tai?' already presumes there are Tai. Are there Tai? No, not if that means a timeless ethnic whole.....All groups are always changing, and if their boundaries are absolute then we can't cross them to discover what's there anyway. Why then do we imagine 'Tai' as a fixed group that once had or now has a single consistent culture? We're creatures of our era. Ours is an age that imagines discrete peoples swept along or away by progress. That's the modern story. My own discipline, anthropology, gets caught up in this teleology which creates cultures that don't exist whose passing we then mourn."
"Building upon Leach, Moerman and Condominas' insights, scholarship on the region suggests four working truths. 'Working' means open to revision. Our four are thus first approximations. ... First, the Tai are a wet-rice people... Second, the Tai are social-cum-political entrepreneurs ... Third, Tai live in place-defined groups ... Fourth, Tai ethnicize difference"
"That requires me to retheorize culture and redefine the Tai."
"I propose three changes. First, to bring contradiction and power into our model as it is in life, we should equate culture with the openness of discourse rather than the closure of a code or text. Second, to ground our constructs empirically, we should focus on functionally and historically specific Tai complexes that we can study in the field. That's what 'place,' 'activity' and 'person' are. Third, to keep culture open, we need to stress the interaction of semi-autonomous complexes within a regional tradition rather than the integration of a single timeless ethnic whole. Making this shift redefines the Tai."
"What I'm calling the Tai tradition is a largely inherited set of well institutionalized cultural complexes. We might liken each to a tradition within a larger Tai tradition. I identify and group these complexes as 'place,' 'activity' and 'person.' That triad is my grouping."

By chance I found another web article about a DAAC study that follows O'Connor's thinking about the spread of the Tais, from a linguistic and geographical perspective: "Tais that Bind" written by Rachel Hauser in a seemingly unrelated site, Earth Observatory.

Outlawed pages of history

This was published by Nation on Jan 5, 2004. Since the link to the page is usually difficult to find. I thought it better to just copy the whole text here:

Scholar and publisher says the writings of erstwhile social pariahs have by no means lost their relevance for the mores and politics of modern-day Thailand. Literature has always been a most effective and timeless tool for reflection, especially when the books have been banned and their authors discredited by the authorities. At least that's the opinion of Chalong Soontravanich, a noted historian at Chulalongkorn University. Since 1995, Chalong and his social-science colleagues have reprinted five controversial books written by some of the most significant and controversial authors in the nation's history.

The books, reprinted by Chalong's Chakawal Witthaya ("Universal Learning") Institute, were first published between 1907 and 1937. They cover a wide range of controversial topics, from female monks to political decentralisation.

"We would like more people today to know what people of previous generations thought about society," Chalong said. "We've only selected books that were rejected at the time they were published. The writers were social outcasts, and some of them were even jailed for being too radical."

Chalong's literary revival focuses on unconventional thinkers who had ideas before their time. The project also serves to prove that censorship, which is an ancient tool used by the authorities to suppress rebellious thinkers, only works in the short term and seldom succeeds in the long term. Funded by the Osaka-based Thai Club of Japan, the institute has published 5,000 copies of rare books. The selection features the works of Kor Sor Ror Kularb or Kularb Trisananond (1834-1921), Narin Bhasit or Narin Klueng (1874-1950), Aum Boonthai (1902-1940), MC Sakol Wannakorn Vorawan (1888-1953) and Phraya Soontorn Pipit (1891-1973). Half of the published books were donated to libraries and academic researchers in related fields. The other half were put on sale at the Chulalongkorn University Book Centre.

Chalong said the group was always on the lookout for rare books that it might be able to publish. It is waiting for funding to reprint another extremely important book that contains biographies of 100 significant bureaucrats who served the country from the reign of King Taksin (1767-1782) to that of King Rama III (1824-1851). Some of the controversial issues of that time are still unresolved today. Not least of these was Narin Klueng's belief that women should have an equal right to be ordained into the monkshood. In 1928 he began a campaign for the acceptance of female monks and saw his two daughters ordained as female novices in a temple especially established for them.

Narin wrote a book called "Thalaaengkarn rueng Samanaree Watra Nareewong" ("Statement About Female Novices"), which campaigned for the revival of female novices and monks, which he believed had existed at the time of the Lord Buddha. But the novices were later derobed and arrested by the authorities. Narin fought back by sending a petition to King Prajathipok, who ordered that Narin end his campaign.

Several decades have passed, and the issue of female monks is still a controversial one in today's society. Last year Bhikkuni Dhammananda was ordained in Sri Lanka because female monks were not accepted in the Thai Buddhist tradition. The argument about female monks hasn't gone very much further than in the time of Narin Klueng. It's still centred on the question of whether or not the Lord Buddha allowed women to be ordained as monks. Bhikkuni Dhammananda believes that Narin Klueng represented the first wave in the struggle for the rights of female monks. Her late mother, Bhikkuni Woramai, who was ordained in Taiwan in the early seventies, represents the second wave. Chalong republished Narin's book last year as a part of his group's contribution to the debate concerning the case of Bhikkuni Dhammananda.

"I like the book because it challenged the status quo and authority," he said. His group believes that no other institutions would ever have reprinted Narin's book or any of the other books selected by the Chakawal Witthaya Institute. "This is because they are controversial and rebellious," Chalong said. The writers of these books had to pay a high price for having the courage to publish their beliefs. Narin Klueng was jailed many times while Kor Sor Lor Kularb was portrayed as "mentally retarded". Prince Damrong, the "father of Thai history", accused him of stealing knowledge about Siamese chronicles from the Royal Hall and rewriting them as his own work. Prince Damrong also discredited Kularb's works. He claimed they were fake history and asked for King Rama V's judgement. Though the king granted him a pardon, Kularb was sent to a mental hospital in 1900.

Kularb wrote "Aryatiwat" in 1911, explaining the 136 changes in royal and bureaucratic tradition. The Chakawal Witthaya Institute republished this book in 1995. Aum Boonthai was jailed on Tarutao island soon after his 1933 classic "Krisadarnkarn bon Theeraabsoon" was published. Aum was accused of being a member of the Bavordej Rebel Group, which fought against the government's People's Party in 1933. He died a prisoner in 1940. Aum published the book to introduce himself to the people ahead of the country's first general election. "His book is the first political template in Thai history. It's the first example of people's politics," Chalong said.

Another book that reflected people's politics was the 1935 classic "Pathakkatha Khong Phuthaenrasadorn Rueng Saphab Khong Jangwat Tangtang" ("MPs' Speeches on the Condition of the Provinces"), which Chakawan Witthaya republished in 1996.

"It's interesting that how these MPs viewed and thought of their provinces," Chalong said.

The latest Chalong revival was "Sakol Thesabal" ("Local Governance"), by MC Sakol-wannakarn Vorawan and Phraya Soontornpipit. The book was published in 1935 and was used as the country's first textbook on local administration.

"We selected this book because of our expectations of local administration and decentralisation under the present Constitution," said Chalong.

The two authors were interested in democracy despite being a nobleman and a member of the royal family. "MC Sakol Vorawan was one of those who defended Pridi Banomyong's economic policy," Chalong said.

The Chakawan Witthaya group hopes these reprinted books will encourage debate among those who believe that local governance is the root of democracy and civil society. The second edition of "Sakol Thesabal" will be launched today in Room 105 of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Arts Building I as part of an event from 12pm to 7pm including a seminar on "Rare Books and Thai Society". Speakers will include Professor Nidhi Eewsriwong, Nakarin Mektrairat, Attajak Satayanurak, Supoj Chaengraew and Anek Laothammathat.


To the authorities they were mad, bad or just too contrary

Progressive thinkers:

Kor Sor Ror Kularb/Kularb Trisananond (1834-1921)

Kor Sor Ror Kularb gained a reputation among Thai and foreign scholars as a historian and liberal writer, even though he was discredited by the "father of Thai history." In 1891 Kularb worked as an editor of the Siam Observer, a newspaper owned by Phraya Attakarn Prasit.

From 1897 to 1908 he published his own magazine called Siam Prapaet, which focused on history, chronicles, biographies of important people and legends. He also published a magazine called Samut Bamrungpanya Prachachon ("Book for Thought"). One edition of the magazine was called Aryatiwat, and others dealt with "official conversations" and "details of rules and traditions used in official business".

Narin Bhasit/Narin Klueng (1874-1950)

Narin was given the title of "Phra Phanomsarnnarin" by King Rama V and appointed governor of Nakhon Nayok. He resigned from the official post in 1909, when he was 35 years old, and began to study the teachings of the Lord Buddha. In 1912 Narin and his friends established the Buddha Borisat Samakhom in Bangkok. He wanted this samakhom ("association") to be a centre of Buddhist knowledge. Narin felt the wealth of Thai society was centred on institutional Buddhism. He thought people were fooled because they were ready to believe without reason. Narin also established two publications, Saradhamma and Lok kab Dhamma, where people could discuss Buddhism.

Narin is probably Thailand's first human-rights activist. Apart from his campaign for the acceptance of female monks, he distributed leaflets called Sa-ngob Yoo Mai Dai ("We Can't Live in Peace") during World War II, criticising the government's non-neutral policy. He also campaigned against the death penalty.

Aum Boonthai (1902-1940)

Before running in Thailand's first general election, Aum Boonthai was a teacher in Ubon Ratchathani. He was also a freelance writer for Witthayajarn magazine and the newspaper Prachachat. His articles focused on the "cooperative system". In his book, Krisadakarn bon Theeraabsoong, Aum criticised Pridi Banomyoung's economic policy. His ideas were more in line with the beliefs of King Prajadhipok. When he was arrested in 1933, Aum was ordered to stop writing, and his books were burned by the authorities.

MC Sakol Wannakorn (1888-1953).

The eldest son of Prince Narathip Praphanpong, MC Sakol Wannakorn was educated in England. He was interested in theories of the state, labour, social welfare and local governance and was among those who supported Pridi Banomyong's economic policy. He played an important role in drafting the Municipal Laws of 1930 and 1933.

Phraya Soontorn Pipit (1891-1973).

He was appointed governor of several provinces before being named director-general of the Home Ministry. He was also a political lecturer at Thammasat University. His topics were municipalities and the spirit of authority.

Subhatra Bhumiprabha, Nantiya Tangwisutijit


On n'a plus le temps

I found this with languagehat:

On ne lit plus, on n'a plus le temps. L'esprit est appelé à la fois de trop de côtes; il faut lui parler vite où il passe. Mais il y a des choses qui ne peuvent être dites, ni comprises si vite, et ce sont les plus importantes pour l'homme. Cette accélération de mouvement qui ne permet de rien enchaîner, de rien méditer, suffirait seule pour affaiblir et, à la longue, pour détruire entièrement la raison humaine.

Félicité Robert de Lamennais, 1819.

(Translation: "We have stopped reading, we have not the time. Our mind is solicited simultaneously from too many sides: it has to be spoken to quickly as it passes by. But there are things that cannot be said or understood in such haste, and these are the most important things for man. This accelerated movement, which makes coherent thought impossible, may alone be sufficient to weaken, and in the long run utterly to destroy, human reason.")

Some news about wikis and blogs

I found Ross Mayfield's reference about investments in Wiki- and Blog-mania quite interesting to note here for my future reference. I've just signed myself onto to Wikipedia yesterday, hope I'll be able to contribute something there. There's the Thai Wiki to keep an eye on. These past two days, I've also found Wiki's city, weblogs, slashdot (very interesting!), social networking, nanotechnology pages useful.

My other internet "identities"

For the sake of transparency, I thought I should point out my other internet identities. Google's new services encouraged me to start two new blogs: my Thai History Blog, a subject I'm planning to be more deeply invovled in; Manila Galleon, a blog I initiated for my husband's baby book, (I'm pressuring him to get it on published, he's not doing much about it).

Then I'm regularly posting with the community at All About Thailand, my alias there is globalwoman. I've just starting posting with the discussion forum at In my previous post, I wrote about how I started logging in at Wikipedia.

Lastly,there's the MMS2 group/class blog. And of course, this blog was started as part of MMS1 course.

Still struggling to make my blog a transparent medium of my thoughts

I haven't been blogging much lately because there's just too many things going through my mind, too many life events I'm trying to integrate, too many books I'm reading. When I log on to the internet, I prefer reading my Thai newspaper, my alternative news source:, looking for websites or blogs on subjects that interest me, and posting on "All About Thailand" Forum. I'm also taking French lessons. I have an exam next Monday, which I haven't studied for. There's also a bunch of projects in my "To Do" list. Even without a 9-5 job, there's too little time to do all I want to do, especially for a dreamer like me. I need time to write in my morning journals, to think over things I experience by reading up on the various topics, the books being my little looking glass, so blogging comes at the bottom of the list of all that.

Through the years, I think I've deepened my multi-tasking skills in real life. Now I wish I could multi-task with the use of computers. It's so time consuming. So instead of writing what I want to write with care, I rush through my posts (when I do post). Then what concerns me is that what I write can't express the variety of things that interest me. Transparency is what I hope to achieve, I wonder if it's hopeless? Hmm, maybe a better goal is clarity?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Chicago, birthplace of skyscrapers

Last weekend I visited Chicago and it was such a great trip that I wanted to share some of the cool sights!

Chicago, I discovered, was the birthplace of skyscrapers. As a result of the Chicago fire of 1871, an innovative style of construction was created to build taller buildings. The first skyscraper was built there in 1884. The nine-storey structure was supported by a steel skeleton that become known as the distictive architectural style called "the Chicago School". Chicago's skyline is probably one of the most interesting in the world because of the density of tall buildings with many different unique features.

Other impressive things were the Millenium Park, which has the coolest interactive public 'sculptures', the "Bean", and two water towers that showed interactive faces of the city's people; the Art Institute of Chicago which houses the largest collection of Impression and Post-Impressionist art outside of France. I was also lucky to be taking a river and lake tour in a boat during an air show and had F18s fly and do stunts right over my head several times.

My stepdaughter in front of "The Bean".

One of "The Towers", there's two of them with different pictures interacting with each other and eventually spraying water through their "mouths" on the kids playing in the water plaza between them. Sorry I couldn't figure out how to rotate the picture.

The air show planes going over the boat next to us.

Chicago was soooo interesting because it gave me firsthand insight about the birth of industrialisation and capitalism. I have to go back again, because I just missed a musical I wanted to see (The King and I), I haven't gone to listen to the blues, I haven't had time to do the south side of the city, nor seen the famous old houses of the world famous architects who have for some time made Chicago their home. I also want to take my son to see the Chicago Bulls. That's for my next trip! It's only a 8-9 hour drive from Toronto, now I know the roads.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Taste of Thailand

This past Sunday, July 18, the Thai Trade Center and Thai community organized a festival to promote Thai food and products at the Nathan Phillips Square of the Toronto City Hall. It turned out to be the largest Thai community and cultural gathering that has ever happened in Toronto. Compared with the Thai community in the US, or with any other Asian groups in Canada, the Thai community of Canada is very small, hardly visible at all, despite the popularity of Thai food and restaurants. As I sat, at my volunteer position, helping out with a demonstration of some Thai movies and karaoke DVD/VCDs, I had a great time observing the people.

Since I was with the organizers the day before the event, I was worried about how it would pull together. I tell you, it was so typically, chaotically, Thai. Amazingly, early Sunday morning there was this beautifully set up stage with Thai designed props, and a cultural programme that performed throughout the day. It ranged from Thai classical dance (performed by an amateur group formed in Ottawa, that has grown increasingly professional), to Thai Boxing, fashion show, music, etc. The food stalls were so popular there was a line up throughout the whole day, until they ran out of food. Regretfully there weren't enough products to sell. Much of the participation was voluntary. In the demo stalls of Thai fruit carving, flower arrangements, our movie stall, people just wanted to buy. But these products were brought in by the community to demonstrate their culture, there was no stock for sale.

Towards, the end of the day, I couldn't help getting the familiar feeling of being in a temple fair, "ngarn wat", as if I were transported to Thailand. There were kids in Thai costumes scrambling around as if this public square were their home. It felt all the more surreal because this was a square I've visited on several occasions before for other festivals organized the variety of communities that live in Toronto.

For the following few days, I marvelled at how the Thai people are a great example of a complex, chaotic system. They show these intriguing qualities of emergence, self-referral, and self-organization. Emergence, because it seemed as if they had gathered out of nowhere. There was hardly any ads, or PR about the event, news of it went by word of mouth. People really made an effort to travel a long way to come for a brief affair. Self-referral, because they came out of love for their culture to give of their handicrafts, simple skills learnt from school, like how to make a flower garland, how to fold a Pla Tapien origami, putting together a stock of traditional Thai costumes for the fashion show, the volunteer models, the volunteer DJ and speakers. Self-organizing, because nobody really put an order to things or directed things to be done in a certain way, somehow it just flowed together, each group doing their own thing. The event was made possible, of course, with the seed funding from the Thai Trade Center. From that I learnt the true meaning of the Kingdom's concept of "rom chatr"-the shade of benefit, that a governing concept gives. Create a space and structure, allow the people to organize themselves, and they prosper.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Thailand before the Thais.

This is a text, I've borrowed from USMTA,I wonder if they've written the documents on history themselves,but I've seen copies of the wordings in several other webpages, so I don't really know. I feel the wording has been carefully chosen, why duplicate the effort? The purpose of my blog will be to provide links (a bit too lightly coloured with this blogging template, hope you can see them) on key issues I find interesting, and maybe have chats with others who have similar interests once a while.

Thailand before the Thais: The area covered by the modern state of Thailand, known until 1939 as Siam, is one of considerable diversity. The term Thai or Siamese is therefore primarily not ethnic, but political, denoting a subject of the king of Thailand, secondarily linguistic, meaning a speaker of the Thai language, and thirdly cultural, signifying a product of the culture to which the various ethnic groups that have formerly lived or live today in the region have all contributed.

The term Tai is generally used to denote the various related peoples, among them the Shans, the Laos and the Siamese Thais, who graduallly migrated into mainland Southeast Asia from southwest China (this issue is still widely debated) and of whom the Siamese Thai branch now form the majority of the population of the kingdom of Thailand.

Trading relations between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia go back far into the prehistoric period, but the earliest evidence of Indian influence penetrating into Southeast Asia in the wake of this trade dates from the 1st century AD with the formation in mainland Southeast Asia, the Malay peninsula and the western islands of the Indonesian archipelago of states in which, the kings in order to legitimise their power, had adopted either Hinduism or Buddhism, together with other Indian ideas of kingship, statecraft, law and administration, and forms of religious art and architecture derived from Indian models.

Among the earliest of these kingdoms was the state called Funan by the Chinese. According again to the Chinese sources, Funan was replaced as the leading power in the Mekong valley by one of its vassals, the Khmer state of Zhenla, which was centered round Bassac in southern Laos. When Funan was being threatened by the rising power of Zhenla, the dominant people of central Thailand seem to have been the Mons, an ancient people, related to the Khmers, who probably settled in the region at about the same time. While under the rule of Funan, the Mons adopted Indian religion, chiefly Theravada Buddhism. unlike the predominantly Hindu Khmers. There appear to have been numerous small Mon states in the region, of which the most important was Dvaravati. Little is known about Dvaravati, and even its name occurs only once, in an inscription that refers to the 'Lord of Dvaravati'. Many believe that it was a federation of Mon states rather than a single state, but the term is now applied to all Mon art and culture of this period in Thailand. The principal Mon-Dvaravati centers were U Thong, Lopburi, Khu Bua and Nakhon Pathom. In the north in the Lamphun area was the Mon kingdom of Haripunjaya, called Hariphunchai in Thai.

Haripunjaya is traditionally believed to have been founded in the late 7th century by a group of holy men at whose invitation the Buddhist ruler of Lop Buri sent his daughter Cham Tewi with a large retinue of Mons to Lamphun to be the first ruler of the new state. At about the time that Haripunjaya was founded, Dvaravati seems to have become politically, though not culturally, subject to the great maritime empire of Sri Vijaya, the capital of which is thought to have been at Palembang on the east coast of Sumatra and which at various times between the 7th and 13th century extended its rule over much of western Indonesia, the Malay peninsula and southern Thailand as far as the Kra Isthmus and other parts of the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.

In the early 11th century the eastern part of the Mon realm fell under Khmer rule, while the western part was conquered by the Burmese King Anawrahta of Pagan (ruled 1044 -77). Haripunjaya also fell under Khmer rule in the II century and was finally conquered at the end of the 13th by King Mangrai, ruler of the northern kingdom of Lan Na.

Finally after a serious of battles they succumbed to Khmer domination, but by early 13th century, they outnumbered the titular overlords. It was at this point that several groups united, proclaimed their freedom and in 1238, founded the independent kingdom of Sukhothai, (Dawn of happiness) in the Pali language. Under its second ruler, King Ramkhamhaeng, Sukhothai expanded its empire pushing the Khmer as far back as Malaysia and the Philippines. The kingdom of Sukhothai is remembered for its culture rather than political power. in a brief but brilliant period,it was the scene of a 'golden age' that saw the introduction of the Theravada Buddhism as the state religion, the creation of the Thai alphabet and the establishment of a paternal monarchy that made a vivid contrast to the aloof Khmer god-kings of Ankor.

Old order vs new order

If you are familiar with my blog, you'd know I have a fascination for complex and chaotic systems. How and why they function? Most importantly, how do they differ from our more familiar systems of hierarchical, fixed universe?

So far, I've noted that the commonly manifested fixed universe model have guiding principles, such as: centralized power, order from the top down, one God that rules all, clear lines of organization, each agent having a set, well-defined function, enabling division of labor, competition is necessary to demonstrate who is the strongest, efficiency is prized, parts are to be specialized and fixed in their proper places, rules and logic, orders and laws, reason and classes. Several hundred years of competition developing from fighting for survival, to warfare for domination and appropriation of resources, to competition in the arena, sports, to comparative advantages of trading nations, eventually to these merry days of world financial roulette. Oops, it looks like order is tripping over itself.

Somehow, the world is getting more and more complex, as borders become issues of conflict, circumvented by multinational national-law evaders, and dissolved by wireless communications. Those agents at the bottom of the rung aren't receiving clear messages from the top bosses anymore. They're starting to feel that they are individuals, not pieces in the machine. Rogue, free, self-serving agents popping up here and there in so many diverse forms. So the top boss reasons, how do I hit them all down at once, I have to be the boss?

The problem becomes apparent that underneath all that order, there exists other ways of doing things and suddenly they want to define themselves. Ah, but the status quo doesn't want to lose their bet in their old, so material, so well-defined structures that they can't see how it is falling apart.

This new order, paradoxically is chaotic order. Free agents forming shifting structures that pop in and out of view, gathering and dispersing in multiple locations all the time. Snowflakes, storms, chemical reactions, ants,... Well..well..well, what do you see? Even human behavior! Tragically, the first time this got noticed was 9/11. So how does the old order respond? In its old familiar way, let's give it a name, let's find a target. Well, we all know the story, there always a Michael Moore to tell us about it.

While everybody is being media-hyped forced to focus their attention on that affair, those other free agents are doing what they always do, popping up here and there in different forms, do you care to look for them? Where do you find order out of chaos? The scientists tells us, out there...on the edges, the place between the stillness of death, and complete chaos.

Me? I've been getting goosebumps and feeling my hair raise at their ends lately, because I've been noticing these edges. No, I'm not seeing ghosts. I think I'm seeing the turning of the tide. Most of the time, I want to shout out in sheer exhilaration, "At Last!!!" But of course, I can't do that, they'd think I'm crazy. You know what they do with seers and prophets. They either worship them or burn them. Brrrrrr, nope, not for me. Well, just a few leads for those who aren't completely lost by the time they've read this line: Brazil, China, India, and of course, Thailand.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Hello again

Whew, it's been such a long time that I left blogging and now Blogger has a new look. I'm actually having a good laugh at myself, rereading what I've written in my blog. How unorganized my thoughts are! And there I was,thinking all the while I was blogging that I was making perfect sense. Well, taking time off did some good. It seemed to have helped cure me out of the media numbness McLuhan says one gets when one jumps into a new media. It felt such a part of me, and to me seemed integrated with the rest of my life. So I thought I was making some sense, now I see that I didn't make much sense. Of course, I was always frustrated that blogging couldn't express everything I wanted to, but then which medium allows one to do that?

Monday, April 12, 2004

More on Thai blogs

After unsuccessful googling for some kind of directory of Thai blogs, I had to opt for the tedious work of going through pages and pages of google results of webpages that had the words "Thai" and "blog" on it. It took me a whole night to just get the links below. They are what I would call "preferential' links, by the way, since they are the ones that I liked. I have not included a number of other blogs which blogged about Thailand, mostly those written by foreignors who seem to mostly enjoy ranting about the negative aspects of Thailand.

Anyway, that tedious search turned out to be productive because some of these links have links to other Thai blogs, which requires more reading on another day. I'm so frustrated that there isn't an easier way to do this.

What I also discovered was that there are a lot of young Thai-"Americans" (a growing new generation of Thais) blogging in a blogging ring called Xanga. Interesting that there are some claims that Xanga is growing faster than Friendster. I liked the ecclectic mix of people they have there and there seems to be some sense of order and respect among its members. I have to see what they have to offer as a community and as a blogging tool and may just decide to join them.

Additionally, Ross Mayfield mentions a blogging programme being tried out in Thailand by which I haven't had the time to investigate just yet.

My preferential link collection of Thai blogs:

blogwise: List of blogs in Thailand This was a directory, that actually didn't have many "Thai" blogs. But who knows, it might grow.

"The voices in my head" A bit slow to download the whole page, but worth the wait to see the pictures she's posted. Blogged by a Thai.

"Just my thought" Blogged by a Thai.

"Stories from the life of Stuart G. Towns" who is not a Thai.

by Ron Morris, great source of news, and good pictures. Not Thai, but passionate about Thailand and its mass transit system.

Piyawat's a new Thai blogger and updates slowly.

"The House of Random Crap", Thai-American who moved to Thailand. Actually not crappy at all, quite intense.

"Wanderlustress" I think she's Thai, she certainly travels!

SOMMAIRE Not a Thai blog, but a blog (of sorts) by His Majesty Sihanouk, King of Cambodia. I've put it in my links here in hope that maybe King Bhumipol or Princess Sirindhorn will eventually blog. It would really be the establishment of the Thai blogosphere.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Oh, my God!

Yes, oh my god!!! I found a webpage that says everything I wanted to say! (So why am I, do I continue to write this?) Talk about endlessly walking, "endlessly pulling into the future". Talk about muses, and serendipity! Well anyway, the webpage is called, "Fractal Chaos Crashes the Wall between Science and Religion"

(Added edit: Be cautious with the site, many things written a bit loosely. But I still insist that they have many provoking ideas, just take them with a generous pinch of salt. I wanted to thank and acknowledge the good sense of my cyberfriend Flammifer for reigning in some senses to my impulsive, over-enthusiastic nature which had on many occassions caused me considerable embarrassment. It's good to know that I can count on my friends to give me a nudge when I am putting my foot in my mouth.)


On question, questioning and quest of identity in cyberculture

The question of identity and its quest with myself and other members of cyberculture has been mentioned many times in my blog as well as many other blogs. It was enlightening for me to listen a classmate's presentation about her research and the model of media systems which she applies. She classified "identity" under "Communication as Social Knowing", as opposed to the opposite group of "Cognition as Individual Knowing". Of course, we don't know who we are until we can relate ourselves to somebody, and we start from the moment we are born with our mothers.

The revelation for me was to see the classification. It rang a bell with a recent paper I found through google. Anthropologist Richard O'Connor questions the assumption of anthropology and its method and retheorizes culture and said let's look at the sense of locality of the Tais and its relations in the definition of their identity. It's obvious that they have multiple identities and paradoxically a single, consistent identity.

Serendipity, Sibylle, and googling "Sybil", (a probe of her name), I found this webpage - about identity, saying exactly the same thing, that "personal identity is not singular".

The insight I gained in this mini-journey, quest of identity, was being able to see the unseen, how we lock ourselves in with fixed notions of identity thinking we are "..." by nation, by geographically location, by our job position, our position in family. We construct a sense of identity with a border. So we invented terms like "schizophrenia" and applied these distortions to those that didn't fit society's definition of how that person should be or behave. It really isn't like that.

Something about McLuhan's method also recalls to my mind Carlos Castaneda's work on shamanism, and recently I've pulled out my old book "Woman Who Run with Wolves" as well.


A Probe/ A Poem for Sibylle

It was a performance
needed to be there in person
cannot be repeated
the song, the pictures, the way Sybil talked
the way Sibylle moved us with her story
her personal style of soul searching

That communicates
that made meaning
without meaning to do so

You, me, us, the McLuhan coach house seminar room
McLuhan methods
made meaning
something spoke

Wild Woman put me on a search for meaning
brought to this point at McLuhan's coach house

A cycle completed,
the cybernetic feedback
in organic movement

A dialogue between Sibylle and Laurie Anderson
Sibylle and myself
media and me

My weblog, "Superway Mekhong"
words with hidden images, googling linked
took me to a group blog
being created for a society that constantly questions itself
eternally redefining itself in the fade of modernity

The soul of a storyteller
passed on at that moment from Sibylle to me
I pass it back, it completes another cycle in infintiy
mind making meaning
a recollection of another ancient storyteller
the potter princess, her pots talk
she calls me to talk too
connecting Sibylle, her desire of Laurie Anderson
with Nui, McLuhan, patterns of social change, to tell a story

"Sibylle", I say, "Look at your animated lead, the puppet of Laurie Anderson"
"You are the star, the dancing puppet in her shadow,"
"the Wild Woman, you, we have perceived your message yet cannot name it!"

I try to capture this all in these written words
Pah, written language, they don't really serve the purpose
they hardly come close to that moment of enlightment
I lost from my dream last night
when all the connections seemed so clear
the connected whole felt for a fleeting moment of certainity
that moment I had felt a few times before
and yearn so much to have it again

Mark, this is a must do tommorrow!
Can I read a poem, can I read this probe?
Did I evoke your memories with this piece?
Does it meaning make?

I wish I could have recorded what I "saw" and heard
adding annotated for each moment of meaning
capturing the special word in media
the meaning making in action
myself, tonight between Sibylle last night and tomorrow the dawn
I have heard a life performing

I know a butterfly will fly before not too long
Thank you Mark, for MMS2
Derrick, for MMS1
McLuhan, for his message
Thank you, Sibylle
a cycle closes, I am happy.

The numbness at the end of the performance
the shock of it sinks in as I shiver home
I dream
it all come alive
I wake up
Hallaluyah! I try to write it all down
and This is It!


Chronology of an awakening

Sep 10- Dec 3, 2003: Mind, Media and Society 1, creating my weblog, Derrick.

Jan 14 - Apr 7, 2004: Learning "Laws of Media" tetrads with Mark, Mind, Media and Society 2, an anti-environment of mms1.

Fri, Mar 12, 2004: Foreground (another anti-environment) - Seminar on 17th century Spanish Baroque, UWO, saw applied complexity to literary criticism in action, a multi-diciplinary event, the start of the pieces falling into place. Background - the similiarity of viewpoints to McLuhan's media studies, "seeing" (hearing, and experiencing) the parrallel to complexity analysis in action.

Fri, Mar 19 & 26, 2004: "Merry-go-round disorient" and Superway Mekhong" - Changes in my blogging style.

Sat, Mar 20, 2004: Discovery of, insights into a culture that constantly redefines itself - the Tais (the sounds of legend, a memory of "Dear Moon", a lullaby sung by my mother, discovering that it is Laotian. Deeper memories evoked of a woman-making, Ban Chiang, the potting princess, the pots that speak. Understanding the effects of weblogs and my perception of its evolution into groupblog forms that are not blogs.

The week: Furiously Googling, learning how to ask the impossible, questions that I thought that couldn't be. Always amazingly suprised with Google's results.

Sun, Mar 28, 2004: A co-incidence, the storyteller, Marcela Romero's visit, a lead I followed and opened up to another world of discovery and re-discovery.

Tue, Mar 30, 2004: Sibylle Moser's presentation: In the shadow of Laurie Anderson. El duente the soul of a storyteller is blown softly into my face. Numbed by shock, I walk shivering home to dream.

Tue, Mar 30, 2004: (sometime around midnight) A dream of all the connections making a connected whole, I wake up frustrated because dreams are lost at the moment of awakening. I am transformed into la loba, the wild woman

Wed, Mar 31, 2004: later today - I try to capture it in words.

Wed, Mar 31, 2004: today, (4:04 am) - This chronology - "Thanks to McLuhan", showed me how we are all artists, craftsmakers with our electric world, we are shaping the world at every moment.


Friday, March 26, 2004

Memories of Superway Mekhong

Another reminiscence from modern tribal woman:

It was February 2000. A cousin from Mexico sent us an email about his dream of traveling down the three greatest rivers of the world, the Amazon, the Nile, and the Mekhong. It dawned to us that we were sitting on the banks of his dream, the Mekhong. As it didn't seem likely that he would cross half the world to visit us any time soon, we decided to take the trip for him.

The Mekhong is a strange river. A river like any other, but full of marvels. It runs from the roof of the world, the Himalayans, cutting through gorges, cities, towns, paddy fields and forests. Sometimes it is wide, other where it can be dry and shallow, some places deep, churning, rocky. It is periodically lined by sandy beaches. The Nong Khai beach is rich with gold flecks. The river is peaceful, but many times carried the currents of war and illicit trafficking. Associated with it are myths of water dragons and mysterious floating fireballs. Rare white fresh water dolphins, giant catfishes share the waters with armed patrol boats and many other different kinds of exotic vessels. I would say that thanks to the river's fickle nature no major cities has yet clogged its shores.

As I remember my journey down that great mythical trip. In my mind's eye, I see myself standing on the balcony of a temple on top of a hill in the middle of an ancient 11th century capital of a lost kingdom.

As my fingers skim this slight keyboard of my white ibook with its blue screen, seeing these incredible words magically constructing themselves, I experience a surreal mosaic of time, space, and senses. The past, present, and future merged me into a certain space of my mind downloading itself into some obscure server in that infinite space of bits and bytes. My skin, bones, nose, ears, and eyes have been sent through a wondrous time machine, re-gathering itself to stand at that moment four years ago, on that other side of the world, disorienting from a spot on the concrete grid that is Toronto.

I stood in a palpitating moment of peace allowing a calm breeze to carry away the hazy heatwaves of humidity, cooling off my sweat, regaining my breath and regular heartbeat from the climb up the steps of that temple in the middle of that capital of the lost KIngdom of Laos, Luang Prabang. That same breeze had carried up a faraway melody of children's laughter from the foot of that hill. Its ringing melody was ocassionally drowned out by the staccato of street cars sounds and motor-cycle-powered boats gunning off the nearby banks of the Mekhong.

I am pulled back from the dream of that faraway ancient riverbank by the similarity of the thoughts that I am reminded of at that moment with those that this 21st century blogging tribeswoman has been thinking about on the edge of an information superhighway. The thoughts I wondered were: "Will this superway one day connect the diverse people who flash in and out along its banks? As it once connected the ice-age caveman to the rainforest hunter and food gatherers to delta rice growers to outrigger travelling seamen, will the modernizing dwellers along its banks overcome the artificial borders they have drawn in the spaces of their minds over the river's generous flow and allow its people to freely travel and thrive in multi-culturality again once more? So too, I wonder about the information superhighway that is the internet, will it unite its cutting edge techies of the E-age or will the segregration of peoples we have put in our minds simply transpose itself to this growing cyberspace cyberculture?"


Saturday, March 20, 2004

Great Thai Blog!

I enjoyed visiting this webpage: Thailandlife which is another Thai webpage that I find has the characteristics of a blog, but with the format of a webpage, an interactive one at that. Thai culture is quite different from the western conventional, therefore Thais may not find blogging in the conventional format attractive. But as with the two websites I've found, that certainly hasn't stopped them from being creative and inventing their own style of "blogging".

What is interesting about the above website is its network of webpages, created by amateur webmasters of Sriwittayapaknam School. The school itself is novel in its experiment of teaching Thai kids to learn English by teaching them how to use the internet.


Friday, March 19, 2004

Tales of a modern tribal woman

A "non-literate/aural" in an obsolescing, electrically accelerated visual/linear world.

The merry-go-round disorient. I was born off the edge of Chaos. When I look back at that edge I feel that it was closer to near-death-static than to the alive, paradoxically orderly, complex edge of which I presently float in. Sakolnakorn is a town far away from the center of Thai politics, history, and economy. Time stands still in this town. Change happened so slowly and so little during the past 20 years that I hardly perceive it when I visit my mother, a true native tribal member of this changeless town. It was a place of birth, not the place that I grew up in. I have no town-mates I knew from kindergarden, no intimate pals I knew from the local high school alumni. Even as in a simple town life, a large part of the town are my distant cousins, aunts and uncles, I hardly know them.

My life is a constant reorientation. My family and I pack and re-pack our belongings nearly every two years. Even if we stayed in one city, there was always a reason to move to a new house. As I started to become aware of my identity during adolescence, I had these nagging feelings that I was somehow strangely out of place. As a youngster, because you grow up with the environment, there is an illusion that the neighborhood you play in is yours. My father's work took us to Lebanon when I was five. Being an Asian in Beirut during the late 60s and mid 70s was definitely not the norm. When we mentioned that we were from Thailand, very few people knew where it was. Yet when I was going through Grades 2 to 8 in a school where most kids came from different places and soon left for different places, I realized that, well, since I was one of the few class members who had been there since Grade two, I had somehow earned a status that opened me to groups of "non-others" that otherwise wouldn't have allowed me access. When I returned to Thailand as a quite disoriented teenager, I suffered the culture shock of going back to a culture that was mine but which I didn't have a clue about. I couldn't even speak Thai. So came the years of trying to belong. Maybe it would be more appropriate to call the period - the years of creating a belongingness in non-locality.

My Psyche gave me preliminary warnings of the ordeals she demanded as her due for passing through the dark nights of her world with an inflammed, congested gall bladder that was maybe unnecessarily removed. I obliviously throdded through her gates. Her breathe of wakening only hit me full in my face when I started falling apart internally at cocktails parties under my well-learnt mask of Thai politeness, graciousness, and the facade of a politically correct career woman, in the middle of a soon to be cut short career as a Thai diplomat. (I still carry the symtoms of vertigo whenever I engage with groups larger than about 12.) I was then in my early 30s, divorced and a single mother of a 3 years old boy who was starting to show symtoms of language confusion in an English-speaking Asian city-state that emulated a Western model of development.

So started my journeys of self-uncovering. Through this merry-go-round of disorientation I found the name of my tribe, by reading Marshall McLuhan. He named this new village, the Global Village, and so I recognized that I was in essence a non-literate, aural woman in an obsolescing, electrically accelerated visual/linear world.

Hopefully there will be more tales to come from this whimsical modern tribal woman.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

Somewhat a Thai "blog"

Since I've started blogging, I've been searching the internet to find what can be classified as "Thai blogs". Found many interesting things, but nothing close to what I was personally looking for until I had to do searches about Thai media ownership and discovered Busakorn's page. I find her style interesting because it is a webpage but has a weblog feel to it, and of course because she discusses media and being Thai. There was even a comment page added to it but she has control of what she wants to show.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A definition of globalism

Reading Mark Federman's document The Global Soul and the Global Village" (pdf), I attempt to extract a definition of the proposed concept of "globalism".

According to Mark who succeeds the work of Derrick de Kerckhove and Marshall McLuhan, globalism is different from the globalization of transnational enterprises. It is comforting to know that a global village is not anarchic but then one has to swallow its disturbing characteristic of non-uniformity, non-tranquility, discontinuity and division.

I find it interesting that the concept is an "-ism" and not "-ity". The "-ism" requires an action to be taken by the subject carrying that "-ism". Some common "-ism" I could recall of were "Buddhism, communism, nationalism". "-ity" seems to be a quality formed and perceived from an outside perspective, such as nationality which is given to you by the government or because you happen to be born in a certain geographical location.

This concept of globalism is described by Mark as a "a new modernity", a sort of post-postmodernism in which we are creating a new ground from the preceding ground of the postmodern that had shaken us from the even more conventional ground that was tied to geographic locale.

Mark refers to Pico Iyer's "Global Soul" and the challenge we face in forming this new identity. Here, I disagree with the perception that there is "no ground for cultural context or meaning". I think that the ground has simply shifted from nationalistic, border-confined ground to a larger more holistic ground of an Earth that is connected.

The most evoking symbol of this new ground would be the image of Earth seen as a precious, vulnerable, blue and white gem floating in space that was gifted to us through the camera lens of the Apollo astronauts. I think this new ground is one of teeming diversity, of a fully alive (and conscious?) bioshpere, where disunity, discontinuity and division can co-exist creatively as in an open complex living system where chaos is avoided through having entropy exported into the extra-dimensional scape of media, and entertainment or "play" of cyberspace.

This calls for an identification (or re-grounding) with a new cultural context that is acutally a larger geographical area. However, it is one that has more dimensional depth than just the physical, as well as one with emergent, ordered-chaotic diversity and non-unitary. I believe that once we have each personally experienced an understanding that no borders means proximity and realized that anything that affects you affects me immediately. This realization will flip Iyer's perception of "all rights and no responsibility" to one of self-chosen limited rights and voluntary undertaking of more responsibility than was ever expected at nationalistic level. This would have emerged from deep within a sense of self and identify that has experienced the world's connectivity and all its effects. This is the point where I agree with how Mark describes the nature of this new modernity as one in which we are experiencing as "experiential, as opposed to prescribed, pre-scripted and doctrinaire".