July 26, 2011

5 Tips on Having a Kid in Thailand - Farang Guy Edition

Luckily, My Kid Was Better Looking than Kuato from Total Recall
So, your wife, girlfriend, or mia noi got pregnant and you are about to be the father of a beautiful Luuk Krung baby (i.e. a half-Thai/half-something else baby). Not too fear, because Thailand is world-renowned for its destination for medical tourists, so the quality of medical care is excellent. Also, half/half babies are typically considered very pretty around these parts. As a matter of fact, many of the big movie stars in Thailand are the sons and daughters of a mixed relationship, just look at how many Faceook fans Chompoo has.

The problem as a guy is, nothing in life prepares you for having a kid. Being a dude has given me the ability to change a timing belt, recite the Big Lebowski line for line, and sink an 8-ball on a bankshot, but I never learned what to hell to expect having a baby. Also, things are always just a little bit different in Thailand - labor and delivery being no exception. So without further ado, here's some helpful advice for all the future dads out there:

Becoming a Dad: This is Crazy, This is Crazy, This is Crazy
1) Relax - Let's be honest. Being a mother is a lot harder than being a father, at least until your little girl grows up and dates boys. Labor is a painful process that my wife described as, "feeling like your going to die". I was pretty nervous about the whole ordeal the night before my wife had labor induced. But seriously, it's a lot easier for you than it is for her. Also, you're not the first person in the world to be a dad, and the staff at the hospital have probably seen one, two, or a thousand deliveries in their day. Do you best to support your loved one and take it easy. Most of the Thai hospital staff thought I didn't speak a word of Thai, so they weren't expecting much out of me.

Dress for Success

2) Dress for Success - Thailand is a very judgmental society that is highly focused on face. If your dressed in the Chang Beer tank-top you bought on Sukhumvit after a night out in Nana, the entire hospital staff is going to be glaring at you, and your wife. Also, you will be meeting with doctors, who are highly respected professionals in Thailand. You don't want to look like some bum who's going to run off with the baby and not pay the bill. Plus, you want to make a good first impression on baby, don't you? You only get one.

No Boys Allowed

3) Don't Expect to be in the Delivery Room - I had heard that most Thai hospitals (except for the expensive ones that cater to foreigners and high-society like BNH and Samitivej) do not let Dad into the delivery room during the actual delivery. I thought this was some sort of hygiene thing, but my experience shows that it was a modesty and cultural issue. When the doctor checked on my wife's contractions, they suitcase tossed me out of there faster than Carrot Top at the Apollo. So when it was time for delivery, they didn't let me in the room until after baby was sitting under the heat lamp getting cleaned up by the nurse. I'm sure they would have let me in if I insisted, but they seem to have an aversion to the guy being present for the ordeal. However, my Singaporean brother-in-law informed me the reason may have been personal. He said, "They probably didn't want you getting in the way."

4) Bring Your Papers -A Boy Named Sue is a great Johnny Cash tune, but nothing screws up your kid's life more than giving him or her a goofy name. That's why it's important you fill out the forms properly that the nurse brings you for the baby's birth certificate (สูติบัตร or Sutibat). The Thai government issues the birth certificate completely in Thai, and everyone's names have to be in Thai. For your name, you should use the exact same Thai spelling on your wedding certificate or your work permit. If you don't have either, the staff at the hospital should be able to help you out (maybe). The official Thai first name gets picked based on what day of the week baby is born. We went to a website, but I've heard people often go see the monks. If you want baby to have a farang name, make sure you agree on the Thai spelling ahead of time with the misses. For example, our daughter's Western name is Monica, named after her great-grandma, so for the Thai spelling we decided on โมนิค่า. Don't forget to bring photocopies of the following. Just pack it in the baby action pack with the diapers, towels, and booties that you plan on taking to the hospital on the big day:
  1. Copy of Wife's Thai Id Card
  2. Copy of Wife's Home of Record Document
  3. Copy of Wife's Birth Certificate
  4. Copy of Your wedding certificate (if married)
  5. Copy of Your Passport

Baby Getting Attention from Relatives
5) Splurge for the VIP room - My wife had the baby at Vibharam Hospital. The delivery package was 30,000THB (~$1,000) and it was extra 10,000 if she would've had a C-section. I've heard the high-end hospitals are about 100,000THB, assuming it's a standard delivery with no snags. The VIP room was only an extra 1,000THB per night - totally worth it. Considering how many family and friends visited us, it's nice to have some space and take a break while everyone's oohing and aahing over the baby. It should go without the say that no one is interested in the father. However, that gave me some free time to relax for a moment, because I've got a solid 18 years of worrying ahead of me.

July 23, 2011

My Wife's Enjoyment of I Spit on Your Grave

It was a bit unsettling, but I watched the 2010 remake of the infamous rape-revenge flick, I Spit on Your Grave, with my wife last evening. Real quality family time, I know. It never came to the big screen in Thailand, so thank heavens for DVDs. I had seen the original many years ago while I was still in high school. This was back when there were locally-owned video stores that would stock a "cult" section, which was crucial to my formative years.

Judging by the content many of the Thai soaps, Thai women seem to have a certain level of comfort of stabbing and/or humiliating men who have betrayed them. This is probably one of the reasons my wife really enjoyed the scene where the guy got his wang cut off. I suppose you could view the movie as a type of female empowerment, but many people just find the premise disturbing, including Roger Ebert.

On a separate note, perhaps Conor P. Dempsey will consider adding it to his list of movies about writers as protagonists. This movie may not be high-brow, but I know it's better than 2012.

July 21, 2011

All Hail the Self-Publishing Manifesto - Let's Get Digital

David Gaughran's has an excellent self-publishing guide available that was just released yesterday. For folks like me who sneak a look at their google readers during working hours at people like Lindsay Buroker, Dean Wesley Smith, and the Passive Voice, a lot of the information may not be completely new. However, it is very handy reference guide to have for anyone interested in the serious business of writing, formatting, and marketing an ebook.

Rather than adopt some of the get-rick-quick Jonestown feel I sometimes get from the brave new world of self-publishing evangelism, Gaughran delves into best practices and practical concepts for acquiring sales. I started reading the free PDF available last night until my wife got pissed off and told me to sleep. It is the most informative piece of work on self-publishing I have ever come across.

One serious issue that Gaughran addresses on is Amazon's boneheaded policy of charging surcharges on international sales. A $2 surcharge may sound small, but in my adopted country, Thailand, some people only make that much for an hour of back-breaking work under the hot sun getting bit by dengue-carrying mosquitoes. This surcharge only encourages mass piracy, which is already a huge problem in developing countries. If anything, I would advise selling ebooks based on a sliding scale, whereby citizens of countries with lower GDPs had to pay less. Thank you to Gaughran for bringing this foolishness to light. Hopefully Amazon will change their tune.

Check out Let's Get Digital here

July 20, 2011

Flash Fiction - Proposition 132

This is a flash fiction piece submitted for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge - An Uncharted Apocalypse

Proposition 132

Ted stood in the long line in front of Harry Truman Elementary School waiting for his chance to vote on Proposition 132. He squeezed the nylon rope taped at the ends of the orange cones that formed the queue, wishing he could smoke. Trying to light up an hour ago had brought an angry scowl from a geezer three people behind him. He looked over the crowd once again and realized that there was an incredible amount of ugly people in suburban Kansas City. His patience was wearing thin, and he regretted that he registered to vote at his mother’s home address.

An obese woman in front of him wearing a Dale Jr. shirt, fresh off the rack from Wal-Mart, grabbed her husband’s hand. “I really hope the proposition passes, and then we can be together forever with our baby,” she whispered into his ear.

Sighing to himself, Ted was still a bit shocked at the stupidity of the imbeciles in the Midwest who wanted this proposition to pass. He looked up at the billboard across the street that was perched above the Perkins. It contained a massive portrait of the deceptive con man, Mathias Updike, who held a globe in his hand, urging everyone to vote yes on 132. The grainy picture of the infamous “Outer World Angel” was emblazoned across the right half of the billboard. Ted had not fallen for Updike’s video footage of the afterlife when it first went viral on YouTube six months ago, and he certainly didn’t believe any of it today.

Updike had convinced America that engaging in nation-wide suicide would guarantee every citizen’s place for eternity in the heavenly Outer World. All of Ted’s friends at Kansas City Art Institute had thought the video was hilarious when it started gaining attention on national TV. However, it became less of a joke when the federal government decided to hold a special election for what the wags in the media dubbed “The Armageddon Referendum.” Was this even constitutional?

“This is bullshit,” Ted muttered, drawing attention from a burly man behind him in a Chiefs jersey.

“Oh. So what the fuck, smartass. You’re so cool with your goatee and funny t-shirt. Too cool to care about the will of Lord? Those skinny jeans got your balls in a knot or something?”

Ted looked down and ignored the bigger gentleman. It was wise to avoid conflict, since he was probably the lone no vote in line. He wanted to believe his country would do the right thing under these circumstances, and he hoped that his fellow Americans on the eastern seaboard and in California were of the same mind as him.

An elderly man in a VFW hat stood in front of the double doors to the school, waving both arms. “Sorry, folks. We’ve been ordered to close the polls. I’m afraid not everyone is going to get a chance to vote. You can all go home now. God bless.”

A murmur of grumbles ran through the crowd. The woman in front of him spoke to her husband, “Do you think 132 passed?”

Ted looked up in the sky and saw four ICBMs streaming up into the clouds, all heading in different directions. He lit up a smoke and mumbled, “Goddamn rubes.”

An interesting note: an actual Proposition 132 was on the 1990 ballot in California to ban gill nets for fishing

July 19, 2011

A Daughter's Inquiry is up at Every Day Fiction

So in my thirty years, I've learned that life is a series of events determined by dumb luck. That's why I was happy to hear I got lucky and the kind folks over at Every Day Fiction published my flash fiction piece - A Daughter's Inquiry. It explores hypocrisy and moral superiority in Thailand in about 400 words.

The comments were pretty kind and provided a lot of very helpful feedback, primarily that I need to write flash fiction that is more like a story and less like a snippet. However, the ratings dragged me over the coals (2.3/5), so I guess there's some room for improvement. Just have to keep trying. Tomorrow, I'm going to accept the always hilarious Chuck Wendig challenge, and I'll have a flash fiction piece on an unconventional apocalypse.

July 18, 2011

Interview with Stephen Knight - Author of The Gathering Dead series

Born in south Texas but raised in various cities across the United States, Stephen Knight has been writing commercial fiction for years. He is the son of a famous radio personality and a former local television producer. Trying his luck at self-publishing, he put The Gathering Dead on Amazon earlier this year. It is a novel about a Special Forces Team warding off the zombie apocalypse in New York City, and it has been a tremendous success, currently at #1,933 in Kindle. The follow-up novella, Left with the Dead, was just released, and it is a continuation piece that focuses on First Sergeant Gartrell's struggle to escape NYC. It is also highly ranked at #2,442 in Kindle. In other words, Knight is kicking ass in the brave new world of self-publishing, so it is a real treat for me to be able to interview him, because I hope some of his success rubs off on me (and you too)!

Thank you, Stephen Knight, for joining us:

1) There are many zombie novels floating around out there. Some are great and some are really lousy. What has been your secret to make your books stand out so well in a crowded market?

I wish I knew? To be honest, I’ve not read a great deal of zombie fiction—only the rather excellent World War Z and the more pedestrian but still notable The Rising. So I really didn’t have a lot of background research in the sub-genre. But, I’ve always been able to craft some fairly credible action sequences, and I leveraged that quite a bit with The Gathering Dead. I also concentrated on Army Special Forces tactics, techniques, and procedures, things most folks aren’t normally exposed to. I was never man enough to be a Green Beret, but I know guys who are, and I was able to harvest their experiences to ensure I was presenting at least a passing nod to reality. I think that might be the big selling point there—I take a group of extremely highly-trained individuals, and put them in a set of circumstances that are so overwhelming that even their backs are pressed against the wall despite their skills and experience. The rest of the zombie fiction out there seems to deal with John Q. Public who finds a gun and hits the road trying to flee the dead. McDaniels and his crew kind of break away from the usual circumstances.

But this is all guesswork on my part. I can say it’s true that the zombie sub-genre is red-hot; I have another offering called City of the Damned which is about black ops against vampires in Los Angeles, and that one doesn’t sell half as much as The Gathering Dead. So there’s definitely an appetite for zombie fiction, especially if it’s of the apocalyptic variety.

2) I read at 1001 Secrets of Successful Writers that you try for 2,500 - 3,000 words a day by maintaining a self-disciplined approach. That's pretty difficult, what with the kids, the day job, the collections agency guy banging down our door. Do you have any writing tips for aspiring authors looking to achieve that kind of productivity? Do you develop extensive outlines or do you just start from scratch? Do you wait until you finish the work before going back to edit, or do you look over your work-in-progress daily to patch things up?

Word count is essential. If you don’t write, if you don’t fall into the practice of writing, if you don’t develop a robust work ethic when it comes to writing, then failure is just waiting to be your best friend. You can’t sell a book unless you finish it, and taking a year or two or ten to finish a novel is just too long. In my world, writing is a business, not a pleasure, so I decided to just get on with it and get it done. I was able to finish the first draft of The Gathering Dead in two months, and Left With The Dead in three weeks. That’s about 126,000 words in three months, and I didn’t find it to be a killer pace, even with the usual stuff going on that happens in life. I did sacrifice a lot of television and nights out with the guys, though.

My gig for writing a story is to find some good music to pace myself with. Movie soundtracks are the best, and I find the works of Jerry Goldsmith give me the most creative fuel. (Even though I’m not using to for inspiration at the moment, I can’t get strands of his score for Chinatown out of my head at the moment.) I just pop in the ear buds and start pounding out the text. I used to outline extensively, but I don’t do that anymore; it’s odd in that as disciplined as I try to be, I’ve essentially tossed out the whole project planning phase. Instead, I decide what the turning points of the story will be and write toward those, exploring things along the way. I never used to write like that, but now it’s what works for me. And I try to keep moving forward, though at times I will have to go back and reread some of the text to catch the vibe again. But editing the product while it’s in progress? Not for me, though editing is a definite weakness on my side. I can churn out the prose, but I’m not so great at ferreting out all the busted text. So I have to hire that out, and that can cost thousands of dollars. I’m in the financial echelon where I can do that, but most writers aren’t, so developing a critical eye and becoming more than just a passing acquaintance with proper grammar and mechanics are essential.

And as you know, even my efforts—as costly as they have been—have not been 100% effective. So now I have to slam on the brakes and really, really look over a book before I publish it, even after it’s come back from an editor. I find this maddening, boring, and tedious, but it’s got to be done. At the end of the day, I’m the only one on the blame line if people can’t get through my product because it’s not as close to perfect as it can be.

3) Why did you choose New York City as the setting for The Gathering Dead and Left with the Dead? A lot of zombie novels go all over the place, but these two stories are entirely set in Manhattan. Did something about the Big Apple inspire you?

I live in suburban Connecticut now and work in Manhattan, so it wasn’t a great stretch for me. I’d already written about vampires staking a claim to Los Angeles, so I wasn’t inclined to drop zombies there, and everyone knows New York. So as a backdrop it was an easy reach. If I needed to verify something, I could just take the subway to a location, snap some pictures, and voila! My research is done. The next book in the series is much more epic in scale and takes place in several different locations in the U.S., with some cutaways in Europe and Asia. But tactically, one reason for choosing the Big Apple is that it’s a very contained, vertical environment; there’s not a lot of real estate to use, and the residents are literally living right on top of each other. So for a zombie epidemic, where the virus that animates the dead is transmitted by a bite or gouge, a restricted environment makes it easier for that epidemic to spiral out of control. Los Angeles is hundreds of square miles in size; Manhattan isn’t even 25 square miles. In my mind, that makes for one hell of a breeding ground for this kind of plague.

4) Let's talk shop. When I picked up the Gathering Dead on Amazon's Kindle, it was $0.99, but I see that you now are charging the magical $2.99 price to get the 70% royalty from Amazon. Which price point has been more profitable for you?  I think the self-publishing community is way ahead of the curve on ebook sales, as some of the big publishing houses are charging over $10 for a bunch of 1s and 0s and wondering why piracy is so rampant. Do you have any thoughts you would like to share on the eternal pricing strategy debate?

99¢ is a fantastic intro price. At that price point, The Gathering Dead made it to #343 overall, and #5 on the Amazon Horror List. I sold thousands of copies a month; it seems that most folks are lucky to sell 50 copies of product in a month, so I busted that barrier right out of the starting gate (though I do know of folks who have one novel up that sells more than 10,000 units per month—ah, to be that fortunate). But even before I switched from 99¢ to $2.99, my rankings were starting to erode; suddenly, books that had been languishing in the middle of the lists skyrocketed, and products like mine began withdrawing from the top spots. I think the highest position I had on the Horror List after the price change was #11; now, somewhere in the 20s or 30s is more normal, with dips into the 50s. But I’m only moving a thousand or so fewer units per month, so financially, it’s been fantastically rewarding. If I can get really, really lucky and launch a few more books that perform the same way, then hey, this writing thing might actually work out!

As far as pricing strategies go, I think it ultimately depends upon the product and what the audience will bear. Stephen King can command a $9.99+ price and sell thousands of units per month; Stephen Knight can’t, and I’ve never had any doubt that would be the case. So $2.99 is the best place for me to be right now, but as I say that, my next release will be $3.99. It’s a very large international thriller that I cowrote with another author, and I think it has the chance to appeal to a wider audience. As of this moment, I don’t plan on releasing it at 99¢, it’ll go straight to $3.99. 130,000 words is a lot, and that’s where the book (White Tiger) stands right now. So that price seems adequate, and it’s still more than five dollars less than what a so-called “traditionally published” ebook would cost.

Of course, if it tanks, I’m not frightened to play with pricing. That’s the good thing about this, I don’t have a remarkable amount of overhead to pay off, so I can undercut the competition on price.

A quick aside about piracy: I found The Gathering Dead on dozens of download sites, even when it was at the 99¢ price point. Obviously that’s money out of my pocket, and it’s frustrating to discover a book is being pirated. I used to patrol the internet looking for them and getting those sites to pull the links to the product, but every time I got one shut down, two more would pop up. And some of those who prefer to obtain their goods in an illegal fashion got back at me through some severely negative reviews, which sucked. There are always folks out there looking for a free lunch, and if you go up against them, they’ll boot you in the crotch, figuratively speaking. So while piracy is absolutely wrong, fighting it is probably not in the best interest of a single author. Ignore it as much as you can and move on to the next project.

5) Your next novel in the Gathering Dead series promises to focus on events both in the United States and world-wide as the zombie horde continues its rampage. Can you give us a taste?

Well, McDaniels returns, as do Gartrell and Regina Safire. Earl and Zoe head off in a separate direction once the Escanaba makes port in Boston, but I don’t forget about them. McDaniels and Gartrell don’t bury the hatchet, but they manage to work together again on their next assignment as the country goes to Hell. The U.S. military takes off the gloves on the dead, but by the time it gets its act together, there are millions of stenches in the nation, so it becomes a very difficult war to fight. And the occurrence of zeds retaining some “intelligence” continues, and those corpses that have the ability to hunt in something more than just a shambling mass become much more important to the story. And I decided to parachute some characters from City of the Damned into the fray, which was suggested to me by the current doyen of self-publishing, some little-known hack named Konrath. The working title for the book is The Rising Horde, and it looks like it’s going to spec out at about 130,000 words. I think I’ll be able to release it in the October/November 2011 timeframe.

Hopefully, it will be a worthy sequel, and will enjoy the same success as the first book and the novella. If not? Well, I’ve got more stories to tell, so I’ll just dry my tears and move on.

We thank Stephen for his time and sharing with us this valuable insight. Don't forget to visit his website to learn more about him:


July 15, 2011

Another Thai Bar Girl Book - Bangkok Vanishing

Nana Plaza - Photo Credit
Thailand is world famous for its sex tourism industry, and if you want extensive commentary on it, you should visit Stickman's place. Even though prostitution is something not to be discussed in polite company, money talks, and even the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been promoting the go-go bars due to the slump in visitors to the country. The big places to go to meet ladies of the night (or ladyboys, whichever you prefer) in Bangkok are Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, and Patpong. My wife and I occasionally play pool at Country Roads in Soi Cowboy, as the ambiance there is nicer. It's less pushy compared to Patpong, and Nana is just a gigantic fire hazard with too many fat, old dudes sporting fanny packs.

There are many, many books that follow the story of the disillusioned foreign guy who comes to Thailand, falls in love with a bar girl, and then it turns out not everything is as it seems. Many Westerners don't understand that romance and financial support are essentially one in the same in Thai culture, and they feel that the women are taking advantage of them. The Thai woman in the story assumes that everything is milk and honey in the West and their obese companion is a walking ATM machine. It's been done many times before. The best book on the subject is by far Stephen Leather's Private Dancer, butthere are far too many imitations

So, I'm not completely head over heels for the newest bar girl book, Eric Rogers' Bangkok Vanishing, but let's give it a chance. He has an interview in a local newspaper back stateside:

He displays that love and understanding in his fledgling novel, Bangkok Vanishing, which he describes as a "gritty crime thriller."

It is the story of Blake Lawrence, an American in Bangkok who finds himself involved with a bar girl. That girl's boyfriend, a hard-core criminal, tries to blackmail Lawrence, sending a DVD of the pair's involvement to Lawrence's wife. Lawrence calls on two of his Marine buddies to help him deal with the blackmailer. "I've met a lot of characters over there," Rogers said. "An expat in Thailand is a different personality. A lot blend seamlessly into the culture."

Western men, Rogers noted, are attracted to Thai women. "They seem more pliable and submissive" than Western women, he noted. "They allow men to make more decisions. They have softer personalities than Western women. They are also very exotic."
Sounds like a pretty interesting read, and the book appears to try to buck some of the cliches. There's no shortage of craziness that happens in Thailand, which helps provide ideas for authors who have spent time out here. However, I'm not sure if Rogers would think my Thai wife was "pliable and submissive" if he met her. I certainly don't. Most of the Thai women I've met over the years may appear to be nice and gentle upon first impression, but behind the scenes they always run the show in any relationship. Just ask my wife, who once confiscated my ATM card because I spent 160 THB (~$5) on a magazine without asking her. Yeah, I'm wearing the pants around here.

Anyhoo, if you're into sleaze and deception in your fiction like I am, the bar girl books are always a fun read.

July 12, 2011

First Novella Cover - America Goes On

My little brother is finishing up editing my first novella, America Goes On, which is a story about a Marine travelling across the country in his truck after a stint in Iraq. I actually wrote this three years ago when I returned from Iraq as social commentary on American society, but after looking at it a few months ago, I realized the writing was total shit. After some much needed re-working, it will hopefully be released shortly and generate some interest.

Most of the books and movies I have seen or read about Iraq veterans have been horrendous, characters that are completely absurd stereotypes and borderline offensive. We have a long way to go if we want to have the same cultural impact that the post-Vietnam Vietnam movies and books had, like Tim O' Brien. The only good piece of fiction I've ever found about Iraq is Senator's Son, not surprisingly written by a someone who actually served there.

Seeing how no one's going to buy a book without a cover, I decided to whip something up in Powerpoint.
After sobering up and realizing that I never really advanced in my artistic ability beyond fingerpainting in kindergarten, I decided to contract out the job. Convincing a Thai colleague of mine to do the job for 1,500THB (about $US50), she tried her first ebook cover and this is what she came up with.
Much Better
The story has a very cynical and depressing outlook on modern America, so I felt the bizarro cover does the tale justice. I'm very happy with her first attempt, and I hope to develop a long-term business relationship with her. Much cheaper than rates in the West, where ebook covers often cost $300-$500. The downside is she does not speak any English. Do you know the Thai for "Please create an ebook cover with an American desert setting that forebodes doom and despair during a young Marine's travels"? Me neither.
For those patriots who refuse to work with artisans in developing countries in Southeast Asia, the always on-point Lindsay Buroker has some recommendations on where to find good rates for ebook cover (about $US100). Before huffing at the prices, remember that ebook covers are an investment, not just throwing money away on booze and candy.

July 10, 2011

Wacky Upcountry Adventures in Thai Democracy

Last weekend was Thailand's historic election in which Yingluck Shinawatra became the first female Prime Minister. Some Thais were elated, some were upset, and some remain in a wait-and-see mode. Since I'm a foreigner, I'm not allowed to vote, but the misses asked me to accompany her upcountry so she could vote in her village in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Asking why she didn't early register so she could vote in Bangkok drew a heap of scorn upon myself, so I decided to shut my yap and enjoy the ride.

My wife's cousin actually has a car in Bangkok, so she was kind enough to schlepp us upcountry Saturday morning (July 2). We took the skytrain to meet her, and my wife wanted everyone on the internet to know that she couldn't get a seat on the Skytrain despite being pregos. Apparently, manners have gone downhill in the city.
Striking a Pose on the BTS
After getting picked up, the traffic was absolutely horrendous heading to Isaan, and it took us 8 hours to travel what usually takes 3.
Welcome to Thaksin/Yingluck Country

Upon arrival in the village, I decided to snoop around and ask about the infamous vote buying that supposedly takes place in rural Thailand. As usual, no one wanted to tell the white guy anything about such dubious endeavors. Everyone was talking about the upcoming election and seemed generally interested in the democratic process. This puts a dent in the argument of certain Bangkok elite who think that uneducated people's vote should count for less. However, to say that everyone is motivated based on the campaign promises alone would be inaccurate. I'll just leave it at that to protect the guilty.

Getting away from the ugliness of politics, I decided to play some badminton with my boys and their cousins. The children in the rural villages seem to be a lot less fat and sedentary than the kids in Bangkok. This is probably because there is a lack of public space in the city to exercise. Letting your kids ride around on a bike in the streets of Bangkok probably qualifies as child abuse.
It's No Net, but a Log will Do in a Pinch
As night approached on Saturday, people were talking about the election, both the people that live in Bangkok and those that still live in the village. Indeed, this was an important one. It reminded me of the mood back when I was in the States in November 2008. To add some levity , my youngest son began rocking out to Luuk Thung tunes playing on a cell phone.
The Next Sek Loso?
The next day, the election took place at the temple, the central institution of the village. I tried to sneak inside, but the Tambon officials politely asked me to wait outside while my wife voted. While there may be some shady things going on in the villages, the polling station was 100% squared away. There was even a police officer there to prevent any shenanigans.

Each voter got two ballots (one to vote for the MP, and one to vote for a party), and two boxes were prominently displayed inside the temple. Even outside the polling station was real official, and they had copies of the registration papers for each candidate running for parliament in the district.
Official Registration Papers for Each MP
So we drove back on Sunday (which took forever), and got word late at night that Khun Yingluck and the Pheu Thai party were Thailand's big winners. My wife was happy about that, but not every woman in Thailand felt the same way. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Top Article on Drudge - July 3


July 3, 2011

Congrats to Khun Yingluck

Today, Thailand elected Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former PM/current fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra. A lot of controversy and questions about the future of Thailand, but I can't comment on any of that. It should be interesting to see how events unfold. However, one thing I can say for certain is she is by far the most attractive head of state in the world. The old American axiom about politics being "Hollywood for ugly people" does not seem to apply over here.

Congrats, Thailand. Here's hoping for peace and prosperity.

July 1, 2011

Vote for the Best, Prepare for the Worst - Thailand

Saturday, July 3rd are the much discussed elections in Thailand. Seeing how I'm not a Thai citizen, I get to sit back and watch the excitement without any nagging civic responsibility of having to get off my ass and go vote.

Defying the taboo of discussing politics with Thai colleagues, I asked everyone who they were voting for. Surprisingly, a lot of the younger people I know are going for Khun Chuwit. He's the former massage parlor boss from Bangkok with the hilarious bull terrier (Moto Moto) as a mascot. I have no idea what his platform is about, and it's not because my Thai is less than perfect. No one has any idea what his platform is about. I do give Khun Chuwit respect for pulling off a plank though, showing that he cares about the modern memes of our times.

More fun with the Thai elections over at CNN Go, and here's some cutesy thing produced by the Thai government: