Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A Gritty Kind of Elegance

It's been a long two days... I decided to make my way back to Bangkok and maybe stay there for a while to check out the Danish owners of the New Road Guesthouse, leaving Kanchanaburi with no regrets. It so happened that the bus dropped me off at the bus terminal that services journeys to the south, and I leapt at the opportunity to take an overnight long-distance coach trip. Where to? I had been thinking about Ko Phan Ngan a lot, so naturally what came out of my mouth was 'Phuket'... two hours later I was sitting in a lovely double decker bus next to a disgruntled lady with a harsh cough.

My bus journey was nothing short of revelationary... I feel at my most free when I'm traveling between places, so the soul-searching reached levels that still threaten my most boring senses of self. If only I could sleep, and emerge into the next day with a fresh perspective. I have a habit of making each day's experiences dispensible, being afraid to add them all up and see what I have become at the end of it all.

I think this all started with Brad...

The Portuguese pale pink facade opposite the streets is lit up to a luscious salmon colour, two Chinese lanterns hanging above the door. The two windows are shaped lke books above. They, and the doors, are brown. I can't stop letting my gaze meander thataway - guess that's the advantage of this very open reception area...

Phuket Town reminds me of Capri with its beautiful, pale European architecture. A gentle floral flourish here and there, complementary colours, a street full of bright and breezy shopfronts. It rained earlier today, rain streaking the greys which trickle onto the exapnse of the buildings, showing the age of the architecture and the materials of which it was made. It's a gritty kind of elegance.

Friday, 26 March 2010

A Change In The Air...

Today I woke up to something completely unexpected - cool air! The sky is overcast, and a sublime breeze emphasises the significant drop in air temperature. The sun being absent, I can finally see everything without squinting, and the livable-ness of Kanchanaburi has increased.

I decided to bypass Bangkok on the way south, and so, many hours of uncomfortable 2nd class "fan" buses later (I say "fan" because a lot of the time the driver decided not to turn them on), I arrived at the very tourist-friendly K.

I intended to see the sights today, but have found myself in my fancy clothes again since I only got my laundry back this morning. Guess that means I'll have to wait until tomorrow to view the Bridge, the Museum and the Cemetery.

I am feeling more determined than ever to move to Sweden, somehow... Check this out! I have already written about my appreciation for the nation on Postmodern Critic so I won't go into it again, except to say I could really get used to the women in parliament almost matching the men, and same-sex marriage! Maybe I should try getting married to a Swedish woman... hmmm. ;o) Okay, only if I actually fall in love with one.

I'm listening to Paparazzi again, and yesterday I read that Lady Gaga's videos have acquired 1 billion views - she is leading the way in the music video world in terms of influence. I wish I had more people to talk to about her... maybe I should join in on the discussion I linked to a few posts ago, but I always feel rushed for time on public computers, even though I'm not.

Today my mission is to try the fish and chips in this town, and, more importantly, get a good dose of chocolate, something that has been missing from my diet for over a week. (There is a limited collection in 7-Elevens along this street.)

I'd also like to draw you attention to Iceland's most current innovation in the field of social relations and gender equality: Guardian Article

Will Iceland set a global trend? Will we as a species evolve out of seedy dives? Strip clubs have long been associated with underworld types and shady transactions - can we excise them from our culture? How long will it take to do in Australia or the US what has just been done in Iceland?

You know, just when I give up hope on our species, something so amazing happens to change the game, made even more delightful by its sheer unexpectedness... then I start expecting these innovations to come from all over the place... for a long time, nothing... I begin to give up hope.... and then the process repeats itself.

Alone and (I suppose) vulnerable, I am hesitant to let my down, or even smile at my monitor. A smile is something I train on somebody I am purchasing goods or services from, just a social code. Sometimes when I go back to my room, I can't hold it in anymore: I smile until my lips crack! :o)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Thai Tile Work & Holiday Anxiety :o)

Where to go? What to do?

Should I make the most of having found a wonderful guesthouse here in Kamphaeng Phet and relax to the max? If so, should I spend all my time on the internet writing, or reading (I have a book on critical queer theory I'm keen to wave my glance around, but there's a ton of new music and media by Robyn - check this out - and Lady Gaga to marinate in on the web...). Should I feel guilty while the other guests are getting up and out and disocvering the sights of the city? Since I do want to do some sight-seeing, how do I fit in around my relaxation?

When will I know when it's time to leave this town and go onto another (or should I go back to Bangkok?)? Can I afford a flight down south? Or do I even want to go South anyway, when there's Ko Chang (east of Bkk)? Should I do KC first, or at all?

Once I am south, how long... ah, but that is to project a new anxiety into times that might preclude its possibility.

I'm feeling great, however I am a little worried about my weight - I am not good at regulating my diet, so eating out finds me opting for taste sensations over healthy concotions. I hope that this trip doesn't lead to much weight gain!

Walking around KP, I am noticing a pattern in Thai cities: Ceramic tiles are a very popular practical floor accessory. They are often generously patterned, and there is often more than one pattern through into the mix. Then, some tiles are flung out into the concrete sidewalk just for effect, drawing attention to the shops they are in front of. Even more interestingly, tiles are often broken apart and the pieces are used to make a deconstruction of a mosaic - an alluring, colourful, shiny artwork. This creativity is commonplace.

It seems Thai people have found ways to elevate clutter to an art form in other ways too. almost every square inch of Three J Guest House, along with most public sites, is decorated with something which often has no direct complementary value to the other decorations. There are some recurring themes (elephants, tigers, birds, flowers, flora), but it's a very eclectic setting.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Humid Comfort

I'm on a journey to reinvent myself. I beg you to ask me questions both crispy and juicy, so diverse that they're monotonous. I dare you to dance as you read, with as many parts of your body as you can. I hope you will remember that life is about movement, development and constant change.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Reading Up A Storm While Waiting For The Rain

I find myself in Kamphaeng Phet, 350kms from both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, however, while I am staying in the coolest place ever, Three J Guest House, the air is a very unbecoming scent due to the locals burning stuff. I am told the rainy season will be upon the north in 1-2 weeks... undecided whether to go directly to CM or meander around, I have been taking advantage of my (supposedly) free internet connection to catch up on my reading... here's what has been catching my attention:

While this piece employs an overtly modernist discourse, it also has shades of postmodernism.

And while you're thinking about feminism and gender, I invite you to check out Lady Gaga's unexpectedly innovative video, Telephone. It's the sequel to Paparazzi, and directed by the same director, Jonas Akerlund. Lady Gaga herself linked to the following discussion of the video from the perspective of cultural theory. There is a Part 2, which is just as impressive.

The discussion mentions the playful criticism of product placement at the same time as engaging in it, however to me the most obvious ways in which Telephone breaks new ground is in its distractingly in-your-face lesbian themes. Cellophane-wrapped pop packages rarely come with a guilt-free celebration of homosexuality, and the clip is already incredibly popular, no doubt due to the presence of Beyonce as well. 

Happy reading,

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Lounging in Banglamphu

I have never been a big fan of Bangkok. Maybe because I haven't much bothered to merge with the traffic so as to come out of it somewhere immensely rewarding. But, as far as Thai acclimatisation experiences go, it's serving just fine. All of the things I love about Thailand are here, and I already have eight destinations on my list in the north of Thailand alone, after carefully exploring my Lonely Planet.

I am once again fascinated by the Thai predisposition towards eclecticism. I wonder again and again why the clutter in the public places I visit is so charmingly arranged (and so colourful). There are objects of various origins hanging off ceilings in restaurants, and even my hotel, Bhiman Inn, sports a proliferation of styles.

My new blog reminds me of my once-upon-a-time LiveJournal account... it recalls a period in my life when I was battling some transitions and welcoming others at a pace that didn't match their coming about. I was obsessed with mash-ups, Santorini and Bollywood, to name a few.

Q: Is invention the mother of neccessity? (Sprung from 'neccessity is the mother of all invention.')

Q: To what extent does a dependence on the construct of logic block innovative thought waves? Does society progress as much *despite* logic as *because* of it? Actually, what has logic ever done for me? Why is it deemed necessary?

I remember going to Hong Kong and winding up tied to a Christian-run hostel in a ruralish place with four Danes and a motley cast of backpackers going in and out of China to talk to. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - but then again, I could apply this phrase to any part of my life, couldn't I? :o)

Grimy Rainbows and all things Bangkok

I've been in Bangkok for two full days now, and am enjoying the friendliness of the folks (the ones that don't try to overcharge me through the roof, of which there are many)... I look forward to heading North, where I can go to such places as Lampang, Lamphun, Pai and Phayao. Not to mention Mae Hong Son and Kaempang Phet - places you're probably never heard of unless you are a seasoned devotee of Thailand.

I think 2010 is the Year Of Letting Things Go, and it is my hope that I also pick up many wonderful new things as a result, but I'm determined to let some things that have been unfairly clogging up my system make their way out of it, never to return. Just baggage, I guess. I would like new and improved baggage, lol.

Did you know that there is a Japanese conceptual artist who took an octopus out of the water, placed it in a clear container and took it for a ride around Tokyo? He wanted to give the creature a gift, to show it a place it had never seen before. He asks questions like: Will the octopus communicate the things he's seen to his underwater friends? Would he like to go again? The same artist shaved off one of his eyebrows while traveling around Europe. He said he got plenty of strange looks, but the friends he made made up for it. Unfortunately I have forgotten his name.

There was a competition for designing the new Parliament House which was displayed in the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center as well, and I was amazed at how postmodern most of the designs were... combining modern innovations with classical Thai motifs to mingle both the ancient and contemporary. The space was made even more pleasant by the artworks of a 3 year old girl called Holly Maitland Smith who is remarkably talented and exhibits a wonderful way with colour - bold yet pleasant contrasts.

I'm near Khao San Road (or Thanon) and I saw a T-shirt that said 'Beer is cheaper than Gas - Drink, Don't Drive' today...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

By now, dramatic farewells with Sydney have become somewhat cliched...

Nevertheless, this is an unprecendented moment: I have my parents' blessings to do whatever I like in Thailand for at least two months. I am likely to stay in The Land of Smiles for three, then hop over to Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur. In fact, I plan to spend most of this year in South-East Asia, and immerse myself in the culture(s). A hop over to China is also possible, though I am not that keen on it. 

I am still tired, although I slept a good long while. I apologise to Clive and Steve for not having responded to your comments yet - I've been running around doing things tedious and tiring in preparation for this day. I haven't really thought much about what I will do after I check in at my hotel and wake up in the morning tomorrow...

It's such a relief to be headed back to somewhere where I feel less pressure to be someone that I'm not... The Mardi Gras Festival was wonderful (I recommend the Korean movie Antique to anyone who can get their hands on it), but now it's time to go...

I'm never far enough from Sydney for long enough to miss it, so I'm rather eager to take off. ;o)

Sunday, 7 March 2010

This is what I wrote to Rob Brezsny just now:

I love you. =)

I'm greedily altruistic, carefully reckless, flamboyantly spartan. I take part in jovial grief, moody consistence, recurring transience, quirky reverence. I love you with guarded abandon, fierce tenderness and silken grit. May you always/never change. :o)

What prompted this message? His Facebook status:

Divine subversion. Taboo justice. Unauthorized healing. Reverent insurgency. Guerrilla splendor. Ethical mischief. Sacred transgression. Freaky purity. Rebellious kindness. Friendly shocks. Sublime convulsion. Outlaw sacraments. Insurrectionary beauty. Illegal truth. Anything else I haven't mentioned?

Critique of Pure Mathematics

I remember when I was studying for the selective high schools tests, at about 11 or so. My sat down to help me grasp some mathematic principles. We had been focusing on how if you had three pencil sharpeners and took away two, how many would you have left.* All of a sudden, we crossed over into something else.

"If you have three, and take away two, what do you have left?" my mum read aloud.

I paused.

"...Three of what?"


"...Three... of what?"

I kept repeating that question, increasingly mystified. I later learnt that the number was referring to a 'pure abstraction', and I went with it because it was what I needed to do to score high on the exam, but some part of me never accepted this strange, context-free 'three'.  

Many years later, whilst writing essays for that school I gained admittance to, thanks to my results on the test, I discovered that a good example was the key to a good argument. A specific example which must be drawn on to illustrate a point. This discovery led me to believe that no example should go without a wider theory being developed out of it, and further intensified my belief that no abstract notion should be stripped of its practical muse(s).

Creating an abstract three, an abstract that applies to all sets of three and yet to none, never struck me as resonant. It struck me as an impossible arrangement.

I can see, from my vantage point, three copies of 'Lonely Planet Thailand' in my room. One was published in 2004. One was published two years later, and yet another was published in 2008. However, I could argue that it is really only one book that I possess - The 2008 edition is the condensed version of the last two, with some improvements and innovations. It is a continuation of the processes of information captured in 2005, and as such it cannot be said to be a book distinct and different from all the rest.

Or are there really many books within each book? How is a 'book' to be defined? Lonely Planet allows you to 'pick and mix' your Guidebook information if you purchase the chapters you desire over the internet. Is not then every section for every state in Thailand (Central Thailand, Isan, Chiang Mai province, etc) a book in its own right, possessing the information necessary for it to be an independent entity?

So how many books do I have again? 1 or 100?

The moment you recognise your examples, that's when pure abstraction fails, and things get more interesting. So no, I can never take two away from three. It's not pure and simple. It's not postmodern.

Would Baudrillard say that all mathematical formulas are simulations? Mathematics is just one more way in which experts on disappointment attempt to introduce universal systems which preclude the possibility of postmodern thought.

Don't be taken in. Deconstruct. Re-flower. Cross-pollinate. Love.


*Not exact question.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Emotional Friend, Intellectual Foe? Searching For The Right Balance

For the length of time I have known my best friend, we've always had many things in common - we love art, literature, music, photography, history, philosophy and psychology. We enjoy sharing funny texts and being witty. We like beauty and refinement, pay equal attention to depth and surface. It also helps that we went to the same high school, attended the same classes in Year 11 and 12, and come from families which were affiliated with the Communist party in our respective countries of origin.

However, my best friend's intellectual practice in turn bemuses me, infuriates me, saddens me and turns me off. She probably has similar feelings towards my own. She is a modernist, the movement postmodernism deconstructs and deviates from, embellishes upon, deconstructs.

How do two people so different find ways to communicate? I know that she sees a lot of good in me, just like I see a lot of good in her. I wish to be free of wishful or escapist thinking when I converse with her. I'm aware that her ideological whereabouts are on another continent (literally - she's in China at the moment), and that our friendship has limits. I will never enjoy the same relationship with anyone else, with all its pleasures and discomforts.

I believe that connecting to another human being is quite difficult to pull off. If you can find someone who you can emote with, who genuinely wishes you the best in as many areas as they can, it's wise to reinvent the relationship at whatever pace the other person lets you.

She is so old that she is new every time, and I enjoy each incarnation.

Thank you, Ms X.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Welcome to Postmodern Epiphanie

Welcome my dears, :o)

After spending three and a half years making the most of my Orble domain, www.postmoderncritic.com, I have decided that it's time for a change.

A less cluttered look, less obtrusive ads, more sleekness and more postmodernism!

The title 'Postmodern Critic' often made long for a site called Postmodern Lover, because I associate thinking and feeling, critical evaluation with enjoyment... I have kept 'postmodern' because I think it's a word that clues the reader in to my interests a lot, but by putting my name instead of 'critic' I am making this blog more personal.

I hope to continue with the diary-style musings, philosophical posts, poetry and whatever else I feel like.

Another motive for my relocation is the lack of ease with which my readers can respond to my posts. I heard from two Facebook friends who weren't able to leave comments, and the final one was the last straw. It also didn't help that having all the Orble links detracted from the atmosphere I tried to create on my blog...

It will take a little getting used to for all of us, I'm sure, but I'm confident that this move is for the best.

Please enjoy your Postmodern Epiphanie! :oD