Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moral Philosophy

"Look at the creep with the tattoos. What is he, Russian Mafia?"


"She's going to go with him if I don't make a move. Get your hands of her tits you arsehole."

"Don't tell me, tell him! Make your move for Christ's sake. I want to finish this beer and go back and see if Plan B is still there."

"The chubby Burmese? You like her?"

"She has a cute face."

"Whatever. I'm getting to know too much about you. Here she comes. Shut the fuck up now."

"Just pay the bar-fine, she has to go with you."

"You think I should? She's gorgeous. But, you know, will I respect myself in the morning?"

"I won't respect you if you don't take her, isn't that enough? Pay the bar-fine! Rescue her from the evil Russian white slaver. It's the moral thing to do."

"Hmm. I can feel a categorical imperative rising in my trousers."

"Do your duty, Superman. To deny your will to power is to deny yourself."

"Thanks Nietzche."

"Go you stupid Kant. Take the woman home!"



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Smell's Like...

Bangkok seems particularly noisome today.

Not just the usual gulley-trap-mephitic clouds steaming out at Soi Zero to whack you in the olfactories, but it's all up and down Sukhomvit. It's like the whole town has been cooking, it has a kitchen closeness. But there's something almost sulphurous baking in the unclean oven of the city. It's the bubbling traffic fumes and roiling dust, the sweating asphalt, the baking concrete, the balls-scratching listless soi-dogs, the stale breath of air turning on itself under the hot tarps of the footpath-market stalls, the farts and belches and bromhidrotic sandals of the sexpats in the Nana bars, the glistening people up close in the crowded Skytrain.

34° feels like 42°, says my weather app. Smells like 150°. Smells like...



Some old photos.


I Am Epicurus - Fulda

E@L's friend The Bludger was having trouble with his Internet connection (his flat-mate had done something). The solution was at hand with the typical geek response to such issues: Turn everything OFF, wait for the electrons to sort themselves out and turn it all ON again. This, unsurprisingly to an experienced geek like The Bludger, worked perfectly and connectivity was restored.

Now E@L is in an hotel room in Penang.

(He was by the pool this afternoon. It'll do.)

He wants to watch the next few episodes of House Of Lies (soft corn-porn, Don Cheadle back in Boogie Nights, but definitely without the insecurity) so he took the DV > HDMI adapter and connected one end of the HMDI cable here and the other to the input of the room's TV. He expected the TV to take that digital video signals now streaming down the copper wires at the speed of electricity, to read its encoded Descartian matrix and to paste it, pixel by pixel across the LCD panel to show pretty much the same thing as the laptop was displaying, or an extended desktop to the right of it. The laptop recognized the TV (according to the Graphics page) but there was still nothing on the TV screen.

He was not as much of a geek, but still he tried The Bludger's methodology. E@L turned everything OFF and then ON. But this time, because it was E@L and not The Bludger, such an otherwise reliable maneouver failed. Nothing seemed to help him: plugging, replugging, shaking, fiddling (with the HDMI cable! You people!). He even started to play the video on the laptop and then sneak it across to the extended screen, which should be the TV. Maybe, he thought it will burst from nothingness into wonderful existence. Of course not.

Now listen: the SOUND of House of Lies ("ooh, aah! oh baby!") was coming from the TV, but no matter what he did, the TV would not display the video image.

Sigh. Why?


Why do electronic/gadgety things screw up? Obviously people other than E@L have this problem. I recall someone, was it Benny Profane in V, having all sorts of issues with inanimate objects, which E@L does as well; dropped screws rolling into the most inaccessible places, toast and the butter-side, etc... ("...inanimate objects and he could not live in peace." Thomas Pynchon. V. (Kindle Locations 517-518). HarperCollins)

Why must semi-sentient things like electronic gadgets, computers, modems, TVs, etc..., things that are designed to behave according to the long established laws of physics, things the rely on the atomic forces like electricity and magnetism, why do they work perfectly well one minute and then go berserk the next? Why do attached parts not talk to other from the word Go? This is a deep and fundamental problem that has bedevilled those of us who get hit all the time by these vagaries of electrons and the unreliability of atoms in general. As I explained in my reply to his FB whinge:

Postventative maintenance, like turning a recalcitrant something OFF and then ON, may sometimes reset the local atomic structure of the universe in the vicinity of the electronic device(s) that is(are) not behaving according to Maxwell's suggestions or Faraday's guidelines, but Murphy's Law instead. There is nothing you can do beforehand, no PREventative attention that will ensure your laptop will talk to the projector. But you know the chances of it NOT talking to the projector correlate inversely to the product of the importance of the presentation, the importance of and the number of people in the audience.

Ah Jesus, why don't things work properly all the time? The wires are connected, the silicon chips are constructed correctly, the coal is being burned to heat the water to pressurized steam to drive the turbines to spin the magnets to induct the electrical potential to get it to the plug, which is turned ON at the outlet, and everything is fucking in its place... yet all is not right with the piece of shit gadget. The TV is blank. The Internet cannot be reached.

Jesus, electrons go in straight lines right? Just fucking GO, you negatively charged arseholes!



The answer lies in the ancient Greek philosophy of Epicureanism. Yep, it's a Greek thing. Like defaulting on loans, buggering young lads, moving to Melbourne and cooking fish'a da chips. (Fish and chip shop were operated by chubby, surly Greek men with three day old five o'clock shadows and hairy fingers in Melbourne. The also ran the produce markets - great trouble ensued... Look it up.)

OK E@L, describe in simple sentences what you know of Epicureanism.

Let me tell about Epicureanism...


E@L purchased an intriguing book a while ago, and in his usual manner, set it aside. He only started reading it seriously after he listened to a recent podcast on Epicureanism on In Our Time with the awesomely well-read Melvyn Bragg last week.

Poggio Bracciolini was a particularly neat writer. Sr Mary Briga at St Margaret's would have given him heaven knows how many Holy Cards and gold stars - E@L recalls getting "the cuts" for something like getting more India ink on his shirt than on the page, that or being in a fight. He and a few other scribes practically invented readable script in transcribed books, something like modern italics. For this skill, and his sins (he had 14 children with his mistress), Poggio became enmeshed in the shifting gears of political/religious machinations which eventually saw him swing through the cogs to rise to a top job as a personal secretary (man it use to pay to be a neat writer) to Pope John XXIII . Now this is a classic case of "Choice of Pope - FAIL." See (as it were) The Great Schism which is where... oh, look it up.

The Swerve tells of how our medieval manuscript hunter (said Poggio) discovered a particularly precious text, serendipitously, while looking through the lonely, wind-swept, hilltop (setting the scene here) monasteries of medieval Europe, searching in their libraries for precious texts, proactively.

As the Renaissance just getting under-way, rich people, in particular because they had money and therefore time, and who considered themselves Humanists, became fascinated with the ancient world of Greece and Rome (well, many did, but not all could afford to do anything about it). Those ruins and jewels that the workers kept finding as they dug up the fields, those carved pillars and decorated and inscribed walls they had previously used for integration into their own buildings, such as retaining walls, and second-hand marble floors..., these were now Works Of Art, and Precious Treasures to be, you know, treasured.

Not only these statues and jewels, also the writings of the old philosophers, dramatists, critics, grammarians, historians, and accountants were fascinating to them. These texts offered a personal glimpse of a world not hidebound (as it were - leather-bound, like books, ha ha) by the strict Stoic/Platonic/weird/Religious ethos that had prevailed since the Dark Ages had commenced almost a thousand years before.

The Dark Ages offered only suffering in this world - self-flagellation was encouraged - and, after death, either even more heinous punishment or the faint hope of the glory sitting next to God. Just sitting. Boring! These rich people were not all that keen on the pain and suffering part, thank you very much, and were happy to hear of culture were you could relax, check out the amazing art, take a load off, chill and not suffer for eternity. While they followed the high-church in external demonstrations of faith, going to church, etc..., the Humanists were as close to modern atheists as you could get in those times. The fires of the hell did not worry them so much as the fires of their impending auto-da-fe. (See Nolan: Giordano Bruno The,) The confusion in the church - three popes for heaven's sake - didn't help.

Poggio must had been moderately well off himself after his escape from Pope John XXIII's ill-fated entourage in Constance (where he was deposed) and he was now free to get around Europe on the hunt for those forgotten manuscripts in the libraries of those monasteries. For most itinerant scholars and teachers at that time, wages were shite and they were continually on the look out for "patrons" to offer the ready, people we nowadays call Venture Capitalists. Poggio also had the advantage of being able offer those much-desired and ergo expensive texts to his rich Humanist, text-hungry patrons.

When he pulled a certain dusty codex (an early type book, more likely to have previously been copied and survived than a scroll) from its shelf, he saw that he had in his hands a long poem, written by a name he would have recognized. Then his heart must have skipped. Here was a jewel, he quickly realized. Not exactly Aristotle on Laughter (c.f The Name Of The Rose), but the complete (almost) and intact manuscript of a long poem which detailed the philosophy of Epicurus, and the author was Titus Lucretius Carus (Lucretius to you, folks) and the book called De Rerum Natura.

On. The. Nature. Of. Things.

E@L has had the recent translation (above) of De Rerum Natrua already in his library for a year or three. He had read up to halfway through Book II, until somehow he became distract... Oh look, every second woman in this hotel (Holiday Inn resort in Penang) is completely covered by their black or near black burkahs. How ridiculous in this heat!

That (the book, not the burkah) is the reason he grabbed The Swerve (not a really brilliant title, is it?) when he saw it in Singapore's awesome Kinokuniya (Khino-khun-ya) bookstore.


Epicureanism started with the philosophy of Democritus, and it was 200 years later, that along came Epicurus himself to refine and popularise the core of Democritus. is ideas came down to us through many short quotations in other writers, critics and supporters (the great orator Cicero was one of the top critics) and in fragments from the damaged scrolls found under the ash of Herculaneum post the great eructation, sorry, eruption of Vesuvius. But mostly, certainly most elegantly, from that poem of Lucretius.

What are Epicureanism's main features? Glad you asked. E@L will endeavour to explain what he sort of gets. (There may be other things, and these things may be better catalogued and explained elsewhere, such as in The Swerve, in the podcast, in Wikipedia.)

a: Increase pleasure and decrease pain. (Not to excess though, that's Hedonism or Sybaritism. Unhealthy, unnecessary.) How hard can that concept be to grasp?

b: There is nothing after death, nothing to fear of damnation in the after-life. Chill.

c: There are no gods (are least there may as well not be, as they are obviously non-interventionist). Relax.

d: We are not the centre of the universe, which is infinitely large and it stands to reason, there must be many worlds like the Earth in it. It's not your fault the world was created. There is no pressure. You don't matter. Take a load off.

e: Nothing cannot come from nothing. Everything must have been somewhere else previously. Like Expats and beer.

f: If there is a god that ever did anything, it was Venus. She set the whole reproduction thing going and made it so damn nice to fuck. So lets fuck! (The end of Book IV** - you'll wet yourself laughing. Or get an erection.)

The opposite of all this was Stoicism advocated by the dour, proto-Calvinist, Zeno. Then Plato and Socrates. The world is ordered and pre-ordained; there are other, supernatural, things we cannot understand; death is something terrible; we are tossed on the sea of fate. Take it on the chin and try to be virtuous against the odds. Life is shit, deal. Sex is a duty, not a recreational pastime. Religion in a nutshell, right? But the key item in Epicureanism is...

g: The atomic theory. Indivisible small parts of the universe form which all things are constructed. A concept that goes back at least to Democritus. We are all made of the same things. Seed of things. Everywhere there are atoms, or if not, the void. Because if there was no void, atoms would not have anywhere to go, right?

Previously, they thought everything was made of a mixture the four "elements"

Democritus said fuck that patent bullshit. It's atoms!

Key point 1: As literally everything is made of atoms, the soul too must be made of atoms. And as things cannot be created or destroyed, atoms must move from one manifestation to another - today a person, tomorrow a tree - same atoms. As Joni Mitchell would say a millennium or two later, "We are starsdust, we are golden." When we die, the atoms of our souls dissipate. Puuufffff. No afterlife. No ghosts. No Heaven, no Hell. (Complete annihilation, yay!) Priests are full of it. It is safe to ignore their rantings and ravings.

Key point 2: This means that a wafer bread remains a wafer bread unless there is physical change, such as digestion, or toasting and a slathering of Vegemite. Bread cannot be The Body of Christ because the atoms haven't changed. It's still bread. Uh-oh. Catholicism is not going to like that.

Aside: There has a been a recent discovery of some court documents that appear to say that the real, suppressed, reason for Galileo's trial was actually his advocation of atomism (ergo, the above mentioned impossibility of trans-substantiation) and not only, perhaps not even principally, the heliocentric solar system of Copernicus. Lucretius also speaks about the uniform speed of falling objects, independent of their weight. Was Galileo an Epicurean*? Hello!!

But atoms you see, move. Makes sense: we move, everything is in motion. However. Democritus's atom concept had a flaw. Democritus said the atoms travel in straight lines. This meant that in a billiard ball scheme of the universe, those straight lines could be traced back to a first cause, and all the world stemmed from that. This implies that everything was preordained, predestined, from that first billiard ball bump. Didn't the Stoics and ensuing predestinators love this! They saw it, correctly, as a contradiction.

(This vid doesn't talk so much about atomism or predestination, but it's funny.)

The initial theory of Democritus implies (he didn't use this example) that if you plug an HDMI cable into a computer, the video image will appear on the TV that the other end is plugged into; that the modem will connect you to the Web; that the projector will present the powerful points of your stunning PowerPoint presentation.

But this is not the way of the world, obviously. So Epicurus said to the Stoics - "You didn't let Democritus finish!" It can't be that way, because, look around you, it just isn't. Things are different, even things that are almost the same.

Atoms, you see, do not travel in straight lines, for if they moved in straight lines, they would not bump together and if they did not bump together they would no be able to clump together and create complex structures like chocolate souffle, or the smell of crushed ants, or people. There is this random thing, patently because the world is essentially random (E@L deserves to be rich, but he is not, only moderately well-off) and because things, while many are alike, are different (scaly fish, herds of cattle, pack of wild beasts).

Philosophical Implication: We can choose to do this; we can choose to do that. The Stoics were wrong, as were the religions of the Dark Ages. There is no predestination. We can strive towards Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness! (Thomas Jackson was a self-proclaimed Epicurian - "... As you say of yourself, I TOO AM AN EPICUREAN. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing every thing rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us."

This random movement, let's call it a swerve or a wiggle accounts for these variations in form. Sometimes atoms swerve, just a little bit, for no apparent reason. (Negative and positive charges on the atomic particles hadn't quite been discovered at this time. Weak force, strong force, gravity force, mesons, yousons, Hogg's Bisons, etc... still to come. Still.) That's why things exist. That's why we cannot predicate what will happen next, that's why we may as well make do what we can to enjoy life, because we are here briefly, and just one time. (How's that for a rationalisation!)

The Swerve (sorta) in Thompson's and Rutherford's atomic models.

This is what Lucretius says about Epicirus's swerve:

Lightning crosses the skies from the rain clouds and its bolts
constantly strike downwards from their heights to the earth below.
And yet it cannot be altogether that simple, for atoms
as they are carried down from the void by their own weight
do not proceed in an absolutely unswerving line
but apparently must wiggle, swerving sometimes from their course
and changing their direction - for if they fell like raindrops
through the emptiness of space there would be no collisions,
no blows that they could exchange with one another, and therefore
no occasion for nature to produce more complex structures.


But this swerve of the atoms falling in the void, these slight variations in direction, not only do they disprove the existence of god and demonstrate the vast superiority of reason over superstition, they also stop the image from E@L's laptop getting to his TV.

They stop The Bludger's modems from letting him get to his favorite pron websites (and maybe his TV - I am not a perticularly interested where he plugs his HDMI).

Blame The Swerve. Blame...


In associated news, at the Pub Quiz last week, a question came up about European war history and most/all of the people in the crowd were stumped. But we had within our motley crew a war-game fanatic, Big-T, a guy who likes to paint little soldiers and tanks and guns and re-fight this battle or that war-campaign. He is therefore something of an expert on the historical aspects blowing people up for fun and, more important, mostly, profit.

The question the quiz-master posed was something to do with the most likely site of a Russian tank invasion against NATO during the Cold War.


Not even a heartbeat from Big-T - "The Fulda Gap".

E@L has, naturlich, studied plenty of the various lumps and bumps (and gaps) of the human body in his past career of a person who stands next to a doctor during embarrassing examinations, though in the utmost of a professional manner, and he has only ever fantasized about the Fulda Gap. This particularly endearing anatomical quirk, which I believes is near the saxafragia-mitosa gland... then E@L realized his error! No E@L, it's not the ... It's...

Big-T was talking (softly, so the other teams wouldn't hear) of a geographical feature on the Rhone, a gap (duh!) which would be the where the Russian tanks would come... oh, look it up.



Back to Lucretius...

Meanwhile, E@L's continued to read The Swerve, and followed with fascination as our good (and ugly) Poggio traveled through Europe in search of new (as in old, lost, forgotten) texts, unremembered, uncopied but as yet undiscarded , until he pulled a certain dusty codex (a book) from its shelf and saw the name of the author of a long poem he would have at most vaguely recognized it, Lucretius.

Guess what part of Germany Poggio was in?

He was in the Monastery of...



Swear to Epicurus - E@L had never heard of the place in his entire life, and now he had learned TWO new important facts about Fulda in the space of three days.***

Monday; never heard of it. Tuesday; pub quiz. Wednesday; The Swerve. Thursday; E@L is fucking expert!


* Galileo might have developed his proof of the uniform pull of gravity from Lucretius. Without friction, heavy objects fall just as fast as light objects - which is described by Lucretius beautifully in Book II - "Now if anyone supposes that heavier elements fall faster than lighter ones through the void ... he departs from logical thinking." Not counting resistance from things like water and air, he continues. I paraphrase.

** Get this, in David Slavitt's modern translation:

The erotic gymnastics of hookers are of no use here [in getting your wife pregnant]
for the whore's purpose is in giving the most pleasure while running
the least risk of getting herself knocked up. Blow jobs
and taking it up the ass are good for the working girls
in the brothels. Either way, they don't have to worry much
about the bother of having a child, and they drive men
crazy in ways our wives don't need to know about.

(Could have been written by Bruce.)

*** It was mentioned in the podcast, but that went over E@L's head.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weight - The Carrying Thereof



I started a blog with a Singaporean buddy, PC (Paul), back in 2006 which was intended, well let me quote...

"This is intended to be a chronicle of gut-busting proportions.

Two generously proportioned Singapore based guys share their fun and frustration, ha ha, as they attempt to deny themselves one more helping of Chili Crab and enter the previously forbidden realms of puchasing off-the-shelf clothes,
ha fucking ha..."

I had already dropped a lot of Kgs to get to my best weight in many many years, in order to not look quite so morbidly obese for my high-school's 20th anniversary back in Geelong. For some unfortunate reason, my belly seems to be annoyingly non-participatory when it comes to getting it off. If and when I do lose weight, it preferentially comes of my legs and my arse. I have a dreadful fear of turning into a toffee apple - a fat bellied, shiny old perv with skinny legs and a skanky arse.

At the reunion, one of the guys, now taller and moderately trim, whom we considered in school to be a nerd and a chubby non-sportsman (but in retrospect was probably normal) said to me:

"E@L you've got so... fat!"

"Yes, thanks," I replied. "I have lost a lot recently. Thanks for noticing." Cunt.

9 February 2006

4 April 2006

9 May 2006

Well that didn't work out too well, did it?



Start again?

4 April 2007

8 April 2007

11 April 2007




This year mysteriously left blank.



Hmmmm. Tut tut, E@L.

14 December 2009 -



10 April 2010



2 January 2011

Holy mother of shit! 10 days post Christmas and look at this! (I was above 130Kgs when I returned form Geelong, so 2kgs came off in just a few days/ No doubt that last shit helped a lot.)

5 February 2011

13 February 2011



I had a horrible time skiing in Nagano, where the powder was waist deep in late January of this year (2012 I mean). Certainly I couldn't walk up in ski-gear to the lift and had to take the shuttle-bus for just one stop. I was exhausted after two runs and my muscles kept locking up in the most dangerous of situations... After day three when the weather set-in, that was it for the rest of the week, even when the sun came out. I was in the coffee-shop all day. I could only just make the slight walk up the hill to the onsen in the evening.

I decided that skiing next year (maybe Austria in 2013) was going to be different. 2012 was going to be the year of turning it around.

12 March 2012

21 April 2012

Was working hard at it: gym, swimming, smaller meals, greatly reduced alcohol* (let's not get silly), just chipping away. But not entirely comfortable in the chest department. GORD? Or the atrocious genes (terrible, don't ask about my family's cardiac history) making their sub-endothelial presence felt??

22 Jun 2012 -Woohoo! Broke the 115 barrier!

Not just walking, I was now doing 2min bursts of jogging on the treadmill interspersed with my incline and pace modulated walking, and I could easily jog for the bus now, or dash across the flashing-green-turns-red pedestrian crossing without getting short of breath, but there was that occasional and transient pinpoint of retrosternal annoyance...

So, I was a bit worried becasue I had a trip to Europe with Izzy et al coming up, and sought out a cardiologist (had to go third choice, everyone else was on leave) he sent me for a PET scan and stress test. Result? ... ALL CLEAR!

10 days later? I climb that high San Gimignano tower in the heat, feel that pinpoint grow, become like an enlarging spring winding up tighter and tighter. Heart attack, oops, I mean Angina Episode.

11 September 2012

Yep my strict regimen isn't all that strict and isn't all that effective. In fact I am concerned that too quick or too drastic a change in lifestyle will not be sustainable and will set me yo-yoing again, as the numbers above reveal.



13 Mar 2013

Slowly. Essentially I have been on a moderately strict low-carb (in particular very low sugar and fruit juice - i.e. minimal fructose), low alcohol, protein rich, fibre-rich, normal/high fat Atkins-style Diet: low GI essentially. Note the minimal recidivism over the last 12 months. On this variation (recommended by another cardiologist, one of our clients), and on Lipitor and BP medication, last time I saw said cardiologist, he was concerned that my cholesterol was TOO low and that my blood pressure was TOO low. I just need to lose more weight, he said.

And today, I was accidentally dragged out to what turned out to be pre-St Patrick's Day drinks and, under protest, knocked back, as I said against every good intention, two delicious pints of creamy, chilled Guinness. I had started with soda water, but at $8 a pop (ha! Singapore!) my back-hairs bristled. I was not happy with my lack of resistance, though I fought off the puerile goading of my health-harmful friends ("Have another drink, ya big giiiiiiiirrrrl!" Because girls don't drink, do they, Evil K?) and, for a variety of other reasons as well, decided to head home.

I will wait until next week to weigh myself again and I see the cardiologist in a fortnight. Two Guinness, how pathetic am I? (You can read that two ways I think?)



You've got to carry it a long time, trust me.

2:45 - 3:17


* Don't suppose any cares but my lower gastro-intestinal system seem to have developed something of an intolerance for alcohol as it passes through, red wine in particular.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In Reference To Last Post

It's all about dignity, as the philosophers would have us think.

But would the guy in the bar, seeking his happiness and not giving a fuck about other's opinions, is that "the moral thing to do?", to care only for one's own happiness? Or is he offending the dignity of those he is sitting at the bar talking to? Surely, rather than working at the bar, they would prefer be out digging rice in the paddies for a dollar a day?

Ah, yes, he's a hero: our man is a saviour. You can't rescue them all, but he's doing his bit, one lady's drink at a time.

Or one could take the whole living in Asia and "gone troppo" thing seriously, as it were, and do more than lounge in Pattaya bars, but just, like, live there...

Does the responsibility for judging our retired bar-lounge gecko's dignity reside in the moral judgements of those who criticize him, or is it the double-speak within himself that hides his lack of self-respect. Or is there something inherently wrong in seeking out a quiet, restful place to live out one's remaining days in more happiness and contentment than you ever had, or could ever expect in what others, on your behalf, might call your home?

Look into your heart, place yourself in a situation of just enough resources, limited obligations, where the weather is mostly nice (a tad humid), beautiful beaches, delightful companionship and the odd backgammon game or a Tuesday evening Pub Quiz...

Yep, exchange backgammon for bingo and you've got Queensland.


Shy And Retiring

At a large table with a subdued Thai-patterned table-cloth in a Pizza restaurant in Chiang Mai [that's in Thailand] sat six ageing, balding, male farang, in shorts, short-sleeved shirts and sandals with white socks. Nice rattan chairs, very comfortable - OK, four were sitting, two were standing. They were playing a board-game, which as E@L realised as he looked over discreetly, was backgammon. They seemed to be at the crucial stages of the game with most of the pieces in the home positions.

It was something of an interesting tableau for Chiang Mai. Backgammon. Pizza. The old city; moats, temples and ruins.

The two men playing were taking the game pretty seriously, in their own ways. Pieces were coming off and going on in the typically extended endgame of good players. [E@L hasn't played Backgammon for ages, excuse any naivety as he describes what he thought was happening.]

The farang facing more or less towards E@L was slender, with a long face accentuated by receding fair hair swept back from his already high forehead. He was wearing dark framed glasses. He seemed to be frowning all the time and obviously took it the game very seriously. He took the leather cup and rolled the two dice with a brisk, short shake, let them fall onto the board. All the farang looked at the resulting numbers and murmured. He clenched up a bit, his whole body tightened, or so it seemed, and he frowned again. He slowly reached across and moved a piece that was sitting on the edge of the board back IN onto a spare space of his opponent's Home. Then he picked it up and moved it again, four spaces out into the next area. A brief conversation started and after a pause he moved the piece back two spaces, admitting he had made a counting error. He struck E@L as having once having been a history teacher, had that mien of someone keen on certainty, accuracy and significance and quietly angry at himself by his mistake. He spoke clearly in an English accent, not formal but not broad or working class either, but as if he was used to talking to those less educated or a lot younger than himself. No doubt, from that subtle tone of voice and the way he held himself erect, he considered himself the intellectual of the bunch. The collar of his check shirt was ironed crisp, it was buttoned to the hole below the top and he sat bolt upright throughout his moves.

His opponent was in the ironic way of things, his opposite. Solid, round and calm, arms held slightly out, perhaps because of man-boob fat rolling under his armpits [doesn't E@L know that] in his easy-care check-shirt (E@L couldn't see, but there were probably two or three buttons undone): with elbows propped on the table he sipped his Diet Coke and he played with a pleasant, relaxed ease. As E@L watched he kept holding back the certainty of his determined opponent's victory with a cheerful goad after this mistake, or when he was able to make a frustrating block with a lucky throw of his own. When he rolled the dice it was a more open shake, larger in stroke, and when he released them, the dice clattered around, nearly going off the table. His accent, when joked about the dice running away, revealed his origins from a different part of England, somewhere they scorned toffee voiced snobs. E@L imagined he would once have taught metal work or car maintenance to the working class lads in a forgotten era when not every one wanted to be in finance (or history for that matter). And he would have been brilliant at it because it came easily to him, as did most things that interested him. For example, he knew how to play a good game of backgammon.

Sitting at that same side as the history teacher, with his chair turned slightly towards the game, leaning forward every now and then to watch each move with a slightly slack-jawed interest, sat a third farang, balding, perhaps a bit younger, with another British accent: E@L's guessing they are all Poms. He smiled often as he offered his commentary about the miscounting, the scattered dice, and it all seems directed at the History Man. But the history teacher either ignored him, perhaps concentrating so as not to make another mistake, or just plain ignored. He took this (assumed, E@L is projecting maybe) negativity in his stride, and seemed almost happy just to have them acknowledged. E@L could not help thinking about the small cartoon mutt skipping along side the great British bulldog Ralph. "We'll go chase dem cats, huh Ralph? Huh?" "Ah shaddup!" and a brisk back-pawer sends the little guy flying, only for him to come back panting for more.

The others man at the far end of the table, sitting back, hand on chin, watching or chatting to the standing two, discussing the football on the TV, was not always 100% on the game. E@L could not hear much of what they said, but it seemed to be a bout the football.

And then E@L's pizza came, handed to him by the English accented Thai man who ran the place.

"Looks like fun," said E@L, indicating the table and smiling.

The manager/owner smiled back and lifted his eyebrows briefly. "Sure does."

E@L took his pizza (not bad) across the road to his hotel (there's a pool in the room! Amazing!) and set up his computer with the large screen TV by HDMI cable, and watched two episodes of Elementary (excellent).


"... the tradition of the connoisseur tourism that had been around since the Grand Tour [...] still predominates today; its paradigm as we have seen is the gourmet who selects certain dishes (places, people) without any motive but the satisfaction of the palate. It is a form of travel that may increase knowledge and refine taste but that leaves the traveller's basic assumptions undisturbed. To a large extent the tourist remains insulated within a national bubble that preserves intact the familiar distinctions of language, class, race, wealth, education and so on. 'Many English travellers remain four or five years abroad,' wrote John Moore in 1779, 'and seldom, during all this space, have been in any company, but that of their own countrymen.' Bishop Hurd had observed the same tendency of the English 'to flock together into little knots of their own countrymen'. In similar vein Lord Chesterfield satirised the young Englishman abroad who complains that his bearleader is 'always plaguing me to go into foreign companies'. In truth, he suggests, these tourists never leave home, for 'they go into no foreign company, at least none good; but dine and sup with one another only, at the tavern'. To Lady Blessington it appeared that the English travelled 'not so much for the purpose of studying the manners of other lands as for that of establishing and displaying their own'. "
Ian Littlewood, Sultry Climates - Travel and Sex, Da Capo Press, 2001.


The 15th anniversary of E@L's Tour Of Duty in Asia will come up soon. He started his tentative expat-dom in Hong Kong on April 1st, 1998. An impressive stint? Well, impressive for some, but hardly that of a true Old China Hand, those lifers who are propped against the bars in Wanchai still would consider. His recent (9 months ago now) heart troubles (The Great Angina Incident of San Gimingano) have successfully instilled the moment mori attitude in him (part of the reason for the lack of blog postings - a couldn't give a fuck attitude he hopes is ending). Those medical interventional intimations of mortality; he knew they were coming; but of course not quite so soon. You are never ready for it, never seriously expecting it, never expecting it to be all that bad, never expecting to, like, find yourself coming close to, you know, hard to say the word... Dying

With The Ever-Sensitive Nurse Odette

And so a man's thought turn to the contemplation of taking it fucking easy for here on in. Doing a David Bowie and resting on your laurels for 10 years.

E@L wonders where he will doing that ease-taking, should he live the Bowie years, deo volente. Would he end up in Chiang Mai, playing backgammon?


All sorts of things to consider about retirement, not just the scenery. Health care being a major area of interest, d'uh. Where you want your bypass done, E@L? Cebu, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Brisbane (just a thought - no, it floods all the time) or Melbourne? And why? For the medical skill or for family support? Or is it the "English spoken here", unlike say, Sienna, his resting place after San Gimingano? Non parlo Inglese.

It's not that he's so cheesed of with work that he wants out as soon as possible, it's just hey, if an opportunity came up that could make him really financially comfortable, he'd take it.

Like, someone buys my shares for $10million...

Like, work's not that tough...

And the cost of living has to be considered. And the preferred weather. And an easy lifestyle. Nice food/restaurants? What about family, if he should he become a grandfather? And friends like the good old-fashioned flesh and blood, shake real hands, kiss real cheeks friends from the good old days in Victoria ( Australia that is). Sure he has great friends here in Singapore - but the expat world is a transient world and relationship are quickly quite deep, just as quickly they might end. Like a night-market - it's here; it's gone. Friends? They're here; they're gone.

So should he go back where he came from, as the Singaporeans wish?

But money? Without any big boost, it's a worry because Melbourne is one of the most expensive places in the world to live: it comes in at No.5. His income would be low for Australia, and the Australian pension...? Ha! He'd be forced to live off savings and that would drain away very fast, particularly if (when) he becomes sick again and doesn't want to wait for the public health system.

But if he stayed in Asia? Firstly, obviously he couldn't stay in Singapore or Hong Kong - see Melbourne re:cost of living.

So where? Would anyone care if he married a Philippino or Burmese, or a Thai lady [he is not getting married to anyone by the way] and bought a bar in somewhere like Pattaya and lived in Asia? Would he care what people think (and he does, believe it or not)? But where would he be happiest? Where the food is fresh, brilliant, delicious and cheap?

Som tam and gai tot - S$3. Awesome

Why shouldn't he get married again? He's single, of goodish fortune; he must be in want of a wife? But they'd say, "Dirty old man, gone troppo, look at him, such a young girl. Why doesn't he marry an unattractive, un-sexy, bitchy old woman who would give him hell and tie him down to a household of boredom and psychologically induced erectile dysfunction?" Just for someone to look after him in his dotage?

"Why not marry a pretty, sexy younger lady who would also give him Viagra-supported hell-fire and tie him down with fur covered chains and lightly whip his wobbly white butt?" he asks back. Joking! He doesn't want the spanking: he is not English. [And then have her real husband toss him out the window of that Pattaya condo three years later, once she has control of all his money.]

So, would he end up joining the History Teacher and crew? Would he find a benign, cheap place where he could live out his diminishing days on his substantial cash reserves? Could he survive in a culturally isolated enclave near tropically lush golf courses, with his well-ironed shirts, his backgammon and his cheap pizza? And other great food? And then he could fill the rest of his time with trips all around the world with SPG and family and friends? (Barcelona and then Brussels Belgium and Holland this year)

Or could he live in rain-drenched Melbourne in what amounts to another culturally isolated, racist, enclave where the restaurant are great if expensive - and though everyone speaks English, of a sort, but where intelligent conversation has in general shifted substantially to the left of the bell-curve from that which he is used to here (where the employment filtering allows in moderately to highly successful expats only. (Not, of course with E@L's friends back home, but go outside into the pubs, the streets and the malls - or the hospital staff tea-rooms - OMG the banality!). Back to where entertainment means TV, and that means reality TV and Add-Cheese-For-Instant-Fame-And-Riches shows. And the golf-course are public and under-tended, and at night what he plays is Word With (Facebook) Friends on whatever gadget passes for a computer in those times.

Soufflé at Woolies, not exactly Melbourne yet...

But there is also Aussie Rules football, the excitement it gives him - watch the ticker, E@L ! - and he could use his membership of the MCC (did E@L mention he was a member) more fruitfully - membership came through after a 12 year wait almost to the day he left for Asia, d'oh! April Fool, all right.

He has no idea what to do. None whatsoever. E@L is confused, as you can tell by the thoughts leaping around randomly in these sentences, and he is conflicted.

So he'll ride it out for the moment - he's feeling fit enough to live for a long time yet - and hope something pleasant comes along to force his hand.


(No doubt a lot of typos there in draft no.1 - I'll come back tomorrow)

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