24 March, 2008

Up a tiger's bum. Another Thailand diary update

This month we walked into a dragon's mouth and up a tiger's bum, all in the same day. Our erudite author/musician/poet friend Bill took us to see the amazing Wat Kwan Ying (or Guanyin) in Chiangmai - a 'jaw-drop' place, off the normal tourist trail (anyway, what's a normal tourist?).

Marie and Ronny follow the Magical Mystery Tour Guide.

...and from half-way along, a view of the dragon's wee tail:

...and a cute little dragon paw:

...then onwards, right up the tiger's bum. Spot the tail, top right:

This lady rides inside the tiger with serene impunity. Now we know how Jonah felt:

...and after disgorging us, there was a Donation Box (surprise, surprise) in the form of a safe with a slot:
Near the entrance to the wat was a statue of the goddess Kali. Precient of Marie's daughter Nicolette, who was soon due to arrive in Chiangmai.
Update: She's arrived.

...and even the cafe had an impressive seat or two:

Bill also generously took us to visit Wat U Mong, a so-called "forest wat" in the treed (but dry) foothills of Doi Suthep. The apex of the hill on which the 700 year-old wat is built is honeycombed underneath with passages carved out of the rock and decorated with very faded pictures of the life of Phra Buddha. Further down the hill, there was a peaceful tortoise/catfish filled lake, and this 'graveyard' for de-commissioned Buddha statues:

This is the teak house which Nicolette is renting.
No, I lied, it's one of the monk huts at
Wat U Mong:

The photo of this Sala [= open room/pavillion] along Chiangmai's north moat is only here because I took a shine to the carving on the roof. I'm a drooling sucker for carved teak:

Likewise this derelict old teak house, complete with sala:

I'm not sure what this dog is thinking, but the pic sure epitomises Thais' love affair with the Canine:

Likewise this iconic photo of the typical Thai street foodcourt:

Marie wants to buy a few elephant sculptures and sell them on Elph-bay. I'm sure we can find room...

Weather is dry and heating up now ...the usual build-up to the Wet Season (about July-Sept). This mock-up photo says it all:

...but unfortunately, rice farmers are in the habit of burning off rice stubble after the harvest, and no amount of threats of fines deters them. Also, forest fires are sometimes deliberately set, particularly by collectors of mushrooms. Mushrooms sprout profusely after a fire, and are easier to spot and pick. Consequently, we get some days of bad air porrution, particularly after weekends when the fire complaint hotline isn't manned [or womaned]. Today you couldn't even see the mountains from our apartment ...but you could see the new building which is springing up [centre]:

Given the pollution, we therefore plan to escape to the beach soon, partly to breathe clean air, and partly to avoid the pesky water-throwing festival of Songkran on April 13. We don't like getting drenched, so we go snorkelling instead (if that makes any sense). There's a secret island off Baang Saphan in the Gulf of Thailand to which we like to gracefully retire during Songkran.

Here's an antiquarian postcard of a Songkran Day in Chiangmai, many decades ago in the River Mae Ping (near our post office). Songkran ain't quite so civilised these days:

Thai politics? The new Thai prime minister Samak is doing all the textbook things you might expect of a right-wing extremist business-oriented knuckle-dragger. Thais will get what they deserve, I have to say. Starting with casinos, then continuing Thaksin's War on Drugs during which at least 2500 people were shot on the streets without trial.

Here is Samak putting a small ceramic elephant on a spirit house - to prove to the media that he's Mr Nice-Guy. Not.

He's just come back from a visit to Burma, nimbly hopping over any inconvenient puddles of monks' blood, presumably. Various morally-bankrupt and lucrative business deals were sewn up. These 2 cartoons say it all:

(Noppadon was Thaksin's lawyer. Now as his reward, he's been made Thailand's Foreign Minister under Samak's government.)

Meanwhile, Bangkok is still pretending not to care that it is sinking at 1cm per year - at the same time that sea levels are rising. More on this interactive NASA-Google flood map for Bangkok on which you can simulate up to 14 metres of flood. Check out your favourite street, bearing in mind that the satellite reads the tops of the buildings and trees as if they were the real ground level, thereby significantly underestimating flood depths. EEK! Therefore find an open area and flood that to get a more accurate picture. You'll freak out. Then navigate your way to your own city, and home in on your own street. Nervously.

Here's a recent pic of the King's Palace. Well, OK, the photo's been doctored a tad, but given 10-20 years, it may well be close to the truth. Moral: don't buy a ground floor apartment...

01 March, 2008

A newly-researched Pictorial Biography of Johann Sebastian Bach

The recent forensic reconstruction of the real face of Johann Sebastian Bach has led FunkyPix2's Forensic Expert to assemble a revised pictorial biography, thus revolutionizing music history.

Here is Bach as a child:

...and as a carefree teenage rapper:

...and as a horny young man pursuing any skirt he could find, especially in organ lofts where he kept his etchings:

...then we skip to his more mature years:

...and on into his dotage:

However, this is where the plot thickens. One of the reconstructed photos clearly reveals some Sub-Continental Aryan genes [see below]. This would explain the mysterious appearance of an Indian raga in an obscure organ chorale he wrote in 1734, probably thinking that no-one except Vishnu would ever notice:

...and even more mysterious are Thai folk-music themes, written discretely into the orchestral viola part of the B-minor Mass! Wow! Had the Master ever visited Thailand? How did Kuhn Bach get there? The newly-discovered masterpiece 'The Well-Tempered Gamelan' is a possible clue. Research is indeed suggesting that he was far more traveled and cosmpolitan than previously suspected:

In fact, there appears to be a DNA connection to a little-known Chiangmai composer, one 'Piotr Golly-Sebastian', the odd chap sporting the chin-grass in the photo below. Piotr has been interviewed by the CNN rep from the scholarly journal The Musical Quarterly. He cunningly uses the nom-de-plume of *Peter Gore-Symes* to avoid being mobbed by delerious fans:

You can listen to (or download) some of his compositions here on MySpace (in a new window). When the MySpace dashboard appears, you can click on "Lyrics" to read a short blurb on each work before (or during) playback. The first piece on the list is a trio (There Came A Glance from Igor, for flute, oboe & bassoon). It opens in a Baroque purist Bach-like manner... but then gradually deteriorates into pure Stravinsky. Scores/parts for any of the works are available for the cost of printing and postage from Thailand, in the usual expectation that appropriate acknowledgement be made at performances, on programs etc.
The above link to Myspace is also available on another webpage ("Notes About Music") which Piotr keeps as an ongoing music journal, a Catalogue of Works, and a place where he can ruminate over philosophical or technical details about all his music, not only the six pieces on MySpace.
Now it gets bizarre. This next picture suggests the Bach family originally came out of Africa:

From the following reconstructed photo, Bach is now known to have had a previously unknown FOURTH compositional period. In a single stroke, the interest of musicologists has been highly aroused as they now better grasp the genesis of Bach's 'Air on the C-String'.

Botticelli painted a portrait of a previously unknown subject, now easily recognizable as an early member of the Bach clan:

Amazingly, the following El Greco masterpiece bears an unmistakable resemblance to Bach himself. The apparent existence of links between Bach's family and the Master Painters has certainly set the cat among we art historians. All scholarly notions of chronology are rent asunder:

Art historians have long been puzzled by the following late Renaissance portrait, c.1590. It is now speculated that this was another portrait of a member of the Bach clan. The painting is clearly an early manifestation of post-modernism, intended to demonstrate to potential employers that the Bachs were ultra cool dudes:

Bach got pissed sometimes when he had a (rare) RDO and wasn't busy manufacturing more children with Anna Magdalena. Here he was one Friday night at his favourite pub, Zimmermans, jamming the 12-Bach Blues with his mates:

You may also be interested in confronting the real face of Jesus from
a similar forensic reconstruction. He was a figure of lesser stature than Bach, but probably also got pissed from time to time, drinking his own blood disguised as wine after the main course. Weird shit.
(link opens in a new window).