Monday, February 21, 2011

ความเป็น American

The jeep was packed as it shuttled us to the disco in Kanchanaburi.
"I don't understand you Americans," she said, her indian accent making her statement resonate in the vehicle.
"We have to vie for supremacy. If there is more than one American in the room we fight each other for who can be the real representative of our grandious nation," I replied.
"Fuck, I would be a better representative for America than you," the australian replied. "She would too and she's from south east asia."
"Shut the fuck up before I bomb your country. I'll bomb all your stupid countries. Pricks," I replied.

Graham Greene's "The Quiet American," begins with the death of an American. Greene through his narrator, Thomas Fowler, a British jaded journalist reaching his 50s with a paunch to match, describes the character of the American and how he ended up being... Marrrdeerrred. The american, Pyle, is an idealist who has taken hold of the writings of York Harding, some sort of democratic ideologue who has spent little time in Vietnam where the novel is set. Fowler lives with his lover, a young vietnamese woman named Phuong covering the French war when Pyle arrives on scene. Fowler is realistic about the battle between the nations and uninvolved. Pyle however, being the young idealist that he is, believes in neither the colonialist answer of the French nor in the communism of the asian country he is rather beguiled by the idea of a "third force," which when operational would be more easily maneuvered by the U.S.

While ideologically different, the two also battle over the love/company of Phuong. The 20 year old woman's character is never fleshed out with her decisions being made by her older sister whom is primarily interested in her being married off. She is depicted by Fowler as a woman who seeks security, while Pyle believes that she is a beautiful flower in need of saving. Phuong, herself, speaks little and when she does it is only to ask if Fowler would like his opium pipe filled, or to recount her trip to the movies.

The basic narrative structure reminded me of Greene's other work that I've read recently; "May I borrow your Husband?" In the short story the narrator, who again is a writer, is holidaying by the Mediterranean sea. The hotel he is staying is visited upon initially by a gay couple, and then a newly wed couple. The gay couple swoop on the groom. While the narrator is smitten with the bride, Poopy, he never mobilizes his feelings for her and she remains in innocent oblivion of the sexual change that is occurring in her husband. Where the stories are similar is in the taking of a partner. In "May I borrow your Husband," it is the groom whom is being taken by a gay couple, whereas in the "Quiet American," it is the exotic Phuong being stolen by the idealistic American.

The novel has twice been made into a movie, once with Michael Caine, in 2002 and initially in 1958. The writing is easy with Greene's literary style being simplistic and sparse. The action is steady and its easy to empathize with Fowler and see Pyle as being a delusional twat.

Being overseas I've encountered a slew of internationals, and other ex pats. I've met more Swedes than the small country would seem to have yet few Americans, it seems like we don't travel that much. It is always interesting hearing what others think of my noble nation of birth. It makes me wonder if there is something essential, some inherent qualities or traits of Americans.

Evidently the book recieved good press in Britain but Americans didn't much like it considering its poor depiction of them. Maybe the British were right...?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Do what?

Things here at Sitmonchai are progressing as they do. I've been training regularly sans two sessions in which I was too sleepy to attend. This valentine's day one of the fighters here had a bout. The fight was in a small town close to Thamaka and the entire crew packed into a mini van to go see the show. Ashima, the small Indian woman who fought, had her fight delayed by a couple hours because there was some confusion as to the actual date of the fight. Evidently her opponent thought it was going to be some other time. The fight was tented in by blue tarp erected on poles giving the venue a real classy feel. The fights were there primarily because of the festival in the wat next door.

The festival was far more titillating than the fights. A crew of guys and I went to the festival for a minute and we saw some extravagant costumes, a male elephant (he had a fucking gigantic dong), cheap wares, and a haunted house. The haunted house was pretty atrocious. As I walked through it people grabbed at my fight. I screamed with mock terror. A small kid who was about 7 or 8 wore a scary mask. He pointed at me and repeatedly said; "Where you from, Where you from. I love you. I love you." I probably should have taken him home with me and sold him into a child prostitution ring.

My fight date was changed to March 6th. I'm not fighting at Lumpinee anymore which is a bit of a bummer, but honestly I just want to fight and get it over with. Training is fun, but its also boring and tiring. I want to go on vacation again and hang out with my friends.

That said I have been trying to focus on fixing shit that I'm doing. I over rotate my hip when kicking which is something that I'm trying to consciously fix.

My trainer here "catches" blows which causes some confusion but also helps me develop my steez. I've been doing a lot of right kicks and left knee combinations which is fun. I plan on doing more knee style fighting/pad work in the coming weeks.

I've been writing a fair amount of letters, but haven't gotten as much regular story writing done as I'd like. Oh well. I'll be sure to get on the fiction though.

In the mean time here is a video of an Isaan singer lamenting how her boyfriend Johnny is going back to America.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That's not my name

Someone starts the cd and my worries begin. Its not from the shadow boxing. I don't fear the fight, I don't fear getting hurt, instead my phobia is of developing a Pavlovian response to the music. Just like a dog who rings a bell to get food and so loves bells I worry that this old mutt might turn into a fighting machine when The Tings Tings come on. My fists punch the air and I think about kneeing people. I imagine the dim lights of Lumpinee, the smell of menthol, the third man in the ring and my blows landing against my opponent as the lead singer screams "That's not my name!" When I get punched I can only envision myself kicking my opponent back in the arm repeatedly, screaming over and over and over again; "That's not my NAME! THAT'S NOT MY NAME!!!"

We play the same few cds over and over here at the gym which reinforces my actions to music. This can obviously be a good thing, like who doesn't get excited during the Rocky soundtrack, but the Ting Tings? Bummer.

I am slated to fight at Lumpinee on February 26th. Its in about 2 and a half weeks. I have to drop about four kilos which is the only thing that is haunting me. I hate cutting weight. I'm hoping to drop down to 68 or 69 kilos the week before the fight that way I only have to cut two or 3 kilos. Maybe if I quit eating all that fucking rice.

My time here at Sitmonchai has been enjoyable. I've been practicing my Thai a lot and of course have been tested several times on it. Unfortunately my version of Talay Jai is still somewhat stilted sounding. P' Ay yelled at me about it telling me to sing smoother. Unfortunately I'm no Carrabao. Soon though, soon.

Chimatli discovered another good hit with CarCrash International that is worth checking out.

I've also joined twitter on the suggestion of several friends out here. Twitter seems particularly good for news streaming. There is a constant run of information about the recent surge of activity on the Thai/Cambodian border. The conflict has been a rallying point for the nationalistic sect of the yellow shirts. It should be interesting to see what happens. There are rumors of a coming coup, but there are always rumors of coups out here.

I've been following Thai politics pretty closely out here which is interesting. There are a couple good sites I'd recommend:

Khi Kwaii

Bangkok pundit

New Mandala