Edward's Bangkok Blog

These articles are light-hearted views from 2011 to 2016, when Edward and his wife lived in Bangkok, Thailand.

The RSS link below can be used to create a news feed in your favorite RSS reader. If you need more info about RSS, please use your favorite search engine.

Page: Previous  Next   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8

Article has image(s) Death Of An Art Form
(by Edward 2011-11-06)

Howe Doth Ye Spell That?

Spelling words correctly is an important part of being understood. However, spelling changes over time. "Olde English" exemplifies how radically even our language has changed in the past half dozen centuries. And I'm only referring to spelling, not to mention the sometimes complete reversal in meanings (e.g. "let" now means "to allow," but used to mean "to hinder or prevent").

Moldy Walls

With the growth of technology, traditional artistic tools have suffered neglect and abuse. Pen-tablets are replacing oil on canvas, DAWs and VSTs are replacing wood rooms and orchestras, and CAD/CAM systems are replacing luthier, carver, and smith. Even written language--not the least of artistic mediums--has suffered greatly at the hands of solid state. I have actually heard people brag that they require a spelling or grammar checker, as if it's "normal" to have an IQ equal to your age. (I won't even mention the annoying habit of some people who use texting or chatroom shortcuts in spoken language, as if it's easier to say "L-O-L!" than it is to just laugh. Am I standing on the far side of the generation-gap, or has the world just gone stupid?!?) In the clutch of modern tech, the language arts are intoxicated, abused, and chained to the moldy walls of unused dictionaries, like poor Fortunado in Montressor's vaults. "BRB." "Wr R U?" "R U on 4 2nite?" "dont B L8." Oh, the humanity! Such abuse!!!

Failing to Bridge Thai Script

The Thai language does not share its lettering with any other language in the world. Its unique style is called "Thai Script," and once its rules are learned, it is possible to read not only the sounds of the Thai language but also its particular tones. Like all languages, the rules are modified across regions and time. Thus, the Thai people often pronounce their R's like L's (stereotypical of many Asian languages), sometimes don't pronounce their R's at all ("krap" is often spoken as "kap"), S's are sometimes T's but not always, and W's and V's seem as interchangeable as if they spoke German. Only firsthand experience can teach a Westerner how to correctly pronounce "Tesco Lotus," "BTS," and "Makro" (e.g. "Tesco Lo-tut," "Bee-Tee-Eht," and "Mack-Lo" [no relation to "J"]). And is that main road pronounced "Sukhumwit" or "Sukhumvit"? Only their stylist knows! Of course, these idiosyncrasies are not abuses of the language arts, they are merely regional or cultural accents. The abuse occurs when writing Thai words with Roman letters, which is called Roman transliteration or romanization. There are at least twelve official transliteration systems in use. (Isn't "twelve official systems" an oxymoron? If it's "official," shouldn't there be just one?!?) Some use L's for R's, T's for S's, V's for W's, and redefine the various accent marks to suit their own fancies. Thus, romanization of Thai has made destroying language art an art of itself. Therefore, one is better off just learning to read Thai Script.

The More The Merrier

Because Thailand is so friendly to Westerners, much of the signage around town appears in both Thai Script and Roman letters. But (because of so many "official" systems) woe unto the ignorant Farang who actually attempts to pronounce the Roman! ("Phra Khanong" is pronounced "Pra" not "Fra." "Rama" is pronounced "Pra-ram" with rolled R's like in Spanish...it's complicated.) This has become increasingly difficult during the flood crisis that has hit Thailand in past few months. The English version of the news reported that floods reached "Paholyothin road." Curious of how close that is to me, I search the redoubtable Google Maps. Google can't find "Paholyothin," but does show many businesses on "Paholyothin" located on a road that Google spelled as both "Thanon Phahon Yothin" and "Thanon Phahonyothin." ("Thanon" means "road" in Thai, and is pronounced with a dental T as "Tah-non," not the voiceless dental fricative as in "thing"...it's complicated.) Google was apparently too insecure to choose one transliteration system, so they decided to use two, perhaps increasing the odds of getting it right. One Bangkok district is called "Sathorn." Signs around the area show it spelled as "Sathorn," "Satorn," "Sathon," "Satohn," and as many other ways as Roman letters will provide. Google chose "Sathon," but "Sathorn" is probably the most accurate pronunciation. Google also rides the fence on spelling the street name Naradiwat Rhajinakharindra (say that five times fast!). Traveling north Google spells it "Naradhiwat," while southbound is "Naradhiwas." In Thailand, S's are almost always pronounced as T's when appearing at the end of word. But must technology proliferate the inability to spell worldwide? If so, why stop at just two different spellings? Why not use all twelve transliteration systems? Google seems to think that makes it less confusing--"the more the merrier!" While we're at it, Google, let's include the proper "texting" spelling, as well: "NR8DWT." Now no one should be confused!

A Moment Of Silence

So is this it? Has technology spelled the end of spelling? Has the book been closed on books? Is the writing on the wall? Can the language arts survive as people are dumbed-down by their tech? Until the answer presents itself, let's have a moment's silence. O, Language Arts, we hardly knew ye!

Post A Comment


Posted by: The Dad (2011-11-07)

You have hit upon something. The world IS having a stupid attack. I lament every day when the news people say EEllegal instead of illegal, of-T-en instead of often with the T silent as  is the proper to say it. I want to sock someone when I hear them say 'CAWSA GRANDAY"  We who have LIVED in AZ for years pronounce it "Casa Grand" . You can't make the home of the Tyson gang and a place where you went to buy pot in the 70's, exotic just by changing the way you say it( appeasing the easterners).The entire language here has been altered by the snowbirds to reflect the way they talk in Minnesota or Michigan . I am sure that had Andy Rooney not died the other day he would have made a comment about the destruction of our lingo by the more ignorant in our society.

Article has image(s) Different Dogs
(by Edward 2011-11-17)

Arizona Dogs

All over Phoenix there are mean dogs. One area in Peoria is called "dog town" because there are so many barking and biting canids running the street. And whether you're in north Tempe, Guadalupe, El Mirage, Apache Junction, or central Mesa, seeing a dog on the loose is nerve-wracking. Even in the ritzy suburbs north of Phoenix the dogs are crazy. A friend of mine was simply taking his morning jog when he made eye-contact with an unleashed Rottweiler. He slowed his jog to a stop as the dog began to show some fang. Before he knew it, he was being charged by this raging hound of the Baskervilles. The beast jumped for his neck, and in his quick-thinking reaction he used the animal's flying weight to launch it beyond himself. A battle ensued from which my friend was thankfully rescued from what could have been a serious mauling or worse. He now carries a retractible billy club, and gives an open invitation to White Fang's granddaddy to learn The Law of Club. Therefore, do not think me cowardly when I admit that loose dogs usually trigger my base fight-or-flight instincts.

Bangkok Dogs

The first time I walked to the bus stop, I was shocked and somewhat scared to see ahead of me what I looked like a dingo lying across three-quarters of the small sidewalk. I stopped and looked at my phone, hoping that no one knew that I was frozen with fear. In a display of ignorance I thought to myself, "That can't be a dingo! They only exist in Australia." Then I remembered that the dingoes in Australia have a savage and untamable reputation. Mingle these thoughts with my knowledge of Arizona dogs, and you might understand my feelings at the moment. While standing there exchanging glances between the brute and my phone, I saw a teeny-tiny Thai lady walking toward me. She was on the far side of the monster blocking our path, coming my way. I almost felt the need to cry out and warn her that she was about to stumble into its lair, and I was certain there would soon be sounds of anguish and snapping bones disturbing the morning air. I was embarrassed to see her not only walk by the dingo without any hesitation, but she even stepped right in front of its snout--within six inches--and to my amazement, the dog neither snapped, growled, nor even blinked! It was the best picture of pure lethargy I had seen since high school. One last glance at my phone, and I got up my pluck and marched on. I gave a wider berth than the courageous woman, but my passing solicited no more response from the pooch than her's. I have now passed that dingo so often and so close that I now say, "there's my friend," and "that's my dog."

A Word About Dingoes

After making friends with a dingo, I was interested to learn that dingoes are actually believed to have originated, not in Australia, but in Thailand. In fact, the "Thai Dog" is exactly the same canid as the Australian dingo, down to the very genome--as they say in Thailand, "same same."

Brute To Buddy

So why are the Thai dingoes so tame, and the Australian dingoes savage? One man told me that the Thai dogs are trained just like Jack Lemon's Buck: by The Law of Club. Then many Thais feed the street dogs as an act of kindness. My "buddy" dingo is only one of several dogs that roam the streets of our neighborhood--hundreds more roam the streets of Bangkok. Despite the great number of street dogs, I have never been threatened by either a growl or even a bark. (There is only one exception: a white dog barked at my son and I a few months ago while wagging its tail the whole time. Just two days ago, we saw the same dog on the same corner barking at another guy, so it was apparently no fault of our own.) In Arizona, the rule is that dogs are mean to strangers, while in Bangkok the rule is that they are not. In Arizona, the dogs are brutes. In Bangkok, they are "buddies." In Arizona, mutts will bark or bite for simply walking onto their "turf." In Bangkok, they lethargically accept your presence without so much as a blink. I began thinking about another species of Arizona "dog," the "street dawg" of the "gangsta" subculture. This "dawg" seems to pride itself in illiteracy, the smaller male wears his pants at half-mast, and the larger female wears her's bare-bellied and muffin-topped. The dawg behaves typical of Arizona dogs, often barking and biting with little provocation. In Bangkok, they have changed brutes to buddies while the dogs are young by using rod and reward. In Arizona (not to mention the entire globe), humanity has created brutes by "sparing the rod" and starving the soul. Perhaps a smack constructively administered exclusively on the buttocks, combined with parents living their faith instead of just pushing it--perhaps this is the "road less traveled by" that could "make all the difference." As my kids are nearing the age of moving away, I'd like to think it's worked for me.

Post A Comment


Posted by: HeatherGDenver (2011-11-21)

LOL, this foreign canine encounter reminds me of the stray dogs we saw in Ballard Estate, Mumbai!  This one dog in particular would just mosey on in to the little Cafe we visited and sit there in the doorway, unperturbed by any passerby.  We later saw him sitting in another doorway, again, completely unconcerned by anyone passing by. :) 

Article has image(s) Copycatter, Copycatter
(by Edward 2011-12-18)

Time Keeps On Slippin', Slippin', Slippin'

It's no secret that many Asian countries are known to produce copies of brand-name products. In 2002, during a trip to the Philippines, I was introduced to "copy watches." At that time, you could purchase a watch that said "Rolex" on it for about $20, and most other brand-name watches for about $5. I was attracted to a very fancy "Swatch" watch that even included barometer and altitude gauges for about $5. Unfortunately, the gauges were only stickers that looked like a barometer and altimeter. And like relatives visiting for the holidays, they didn't actually do anything besides sit there taking up space in your favorite chair. What's worse, the watch face and all of its insides shattered into a thousand pieces when I got it home and accidentally dropped it on the floor. Oh well. As they say, you get what you pay for. And I didn't pay for a real Swatch watch, just a cheap copycat.

The Sign Of The Spyglass

A discussion of copied products must inevitably touch on piracy. The stereotypical pirate always speaks with a raspy voice, has sun-darkened leathery skin, has hand-callouses as thick as rhinoceros hide, is usually dizzy from grog, and carries a cutlass. Oh yeah…and that pirate is almost always a "he," with very few exceptions. But this pirate no longer exists, except on September 19 (International Talk Like A Pirate Day). The modern day pirate--at least the ones on this side of the earth--are really just cashiers. They are sometimes even young ladies who wear makeup, politely call you "Sir," and have an enormous catalog of "copies" you can buy: whether it be a "brand-name" watch or purse, or software or movie disc. Heck, they'll even offer you "special discount" when you decide to just walk away. Their manners and politeness make you forget the terror of swashbuckling cutthroats rasping out, "Prepare to be boarded ye scurvy swabs!" And unlike Long John Silver, they don't seem to have any fear of the gallows or Assizes. Regardless, I've learned the same as Jim Hawkins: though there be pirates at The Sign Of The Spyglass, they still serve a good lunch. But it might mean your life or a lee-shore if you go looking for their treasure.

Trade Winds and Trademarks

In the time of sailing ships, catching the trade winds was the fastest way to make a fortune with imports and exports. With so many products today being digitized, our trade winds are as near as your wifi router. But software and movie piracy aren't the only effect of easy-access digital media. I have noticed many trademarks that bear striking resemblances to other well-known counterparts. Today's trade winds seem to send trademarks a' sailing! A while ago I noticed a blender in a local store that was sporting the familiar Apple logo. But upon close investigation, I noticed that the leaf of the apple was pointing the wrong way, nor was there a "chomp" mark out of the apple. It was identical in all other respects. Trademark infringement is no laughing matter, but I still laughed out loud and called over to my family to come witness. (I went back later to sneak a photo [which is taboo in the Thailand malls], but the blender was gone. However, I've reproduced the imitation logo below next to the genuine Apple logo for reference.) It was everything in me to not act like my third-grade self by pointing and taunting in a whiny kid-voice, "Copycatter! Copycatter!"

Post A Comment


Posted by: The Dad (2011-12-18)

Interesting blog entry. Learn something new everytime you do this.

Posted by: Ed (2011-12-18)

I forgot to mention the guy that tried to sell me an "iPhone 5" back in September. (The iPhone 5 doesn't exist yet, but was supposed to come out in October. Instead, Apple renamed it to "iPhone 4S".) It looked similar to an iPhone 4, and the software looked similar to iOS, but it was about $200 (instead of $500). The guy selling these was not on the corner of a dark alley, but at a booth in a respectable Bangkok mall. They're literally everywhere!

Posted by: The dad (2011-12-21)

I remember well.............."Hey Joe.....wanna buy a watch?"

Page: Previous  Next   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8

Please note that each blog article has a "Post A Comment" link at the end so you can post comments directly to the article to which they relate. (The last "Post A Comment" link relates to the last blog article.)