Listen to Pilot Light

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cambodia in books

Books written about Cambodia, especially modern Cambodia, are not, as a rule, cheerful reads. Most focus on the monumental, incredibly destructive force that was the Khmer Rouge. They look at the effect a relatively small number of people had on the lives of their countrymen and the way their rule twisted the country's history. Now, with HunSen resisting a popular movement that is tired of his long and heavy handed rule, people are watching closely. And they should be. My Cambodian friends are afraid of a powerful government that doesn't respect the people--and with good reason.

In this context, it is probably a good time to refresh our memories.

Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land

 In 2008 and 2009, Brinkley returned to Cambodia to find out. He discovered a population in the grip of a venal government. He learned that one-third to one-half of Cambodians who lived through the Khmer Rouge era have P.T.S.D.--and its afflictions are being passed to the next generation. His extensive close-up reporting in Cambodia's Curse illuminates the country, its people, and the deep historical roots of its modern-day behavior.

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

There are many other fine books that detail that period and its troubling effects, and I recommend you check around and read some. With all that is happening in the world, ignoring the changes going on in SE Asia, given its turbulent history, would be a mistake. 

Canadian in a Cambodian Mindfield; American with a Suitcase Full of Sutras

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a lighter book on Cambodia. John Pocock initiated this project when I was living in Kampot, Cambodia. He came up with the idea of using my photographs and a series of mental images that we'd use poetically to capture impressions of the place and time. It seemed like fun.

This book was prepared in 2012 and isn't a serious discussion of anything. It is intended to play with ideas, poetic and visual images, that I encountered living there, and twisting them through two different perspectives.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Free Humor and Poetry in one volume at no cost

For some reason, my lovely little short story, that satirizes academics, poets, and poetry itself has never gotten much love. Not that people don't like it, but that they never seem to discover it. And that is a shame, because it's fun and free.

THE POTATO PROFESSOR is sort of about potatoes, and it is totally, completely, free at, which in turn links to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other stores so you can get it in your favorite ebook format without charge. Yes, this free book is free. It's fun, if you like strange. And it's poetic. Maybe that's the problem. Even if poetry isn't your thing, maybe satirizing poetry would tickle your fancy. So give it a try.

I mean it's free, folks. You have nothing to lose but your sanity, and your appreciation of fine poetry, and maybe the respect of your neighbors. There isn't even a sales pitch inside. And the best part is, you can download it, making me happy, but if you never read it, I'll never know. If that isn't a win-win situation, what is?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fall has fell -- staying fluid

September always sounds like fall... school starts (has already started in some places) and even though it still feels a lot like summer... the year is flitting away. The ninth month of twelve is already being consumed. It gives me a feeling much like knowing the next to last of some treat I've squirreled away is being eaten.

It's a good time to regroup and rethink. I like this time for doing that better than the year end. All such milestones are as artificial as our Gregorian calendar anyway and this avoids the end of year crush.

So I think about what I'm doing and, sometimes more importantly, how I'm going about trying to achieve my goals. It's an important bit of navel gazing to periodically simply ask: "Is my life going the way I want and what can I do to improve things? What can I do better?

I'm not much at scorekeeping, mind you. This isn't an exercise of seeing if I've met my goals... it's simply a look around to see if I'm on course or if some unnoticed current has set me down and taken me on a longer path. If so, maybe I can correct. Or maybe, the deviation is a good thing.

Years ago, we made our first night crossing on Float Street, going from Grenada (Mt. Hartman Bay) to Trinidad. For the entire night the prevailing wind and current tried to send us to Venezuela. At the time we had no intention of going there, so we fought it, even though it made the passage rough, our skinny boat rocking all night in the high swells.

We were making the passage to do work on the boat, and had our faces and minds set on getting there. That's an example of rigid thinking. We made it fine, and as you see below, we hauled out and did a lot of work on the boat. Too much, probably.

Float Street hauled out at Peake's in Trinidad
Later, when we sailed to Venezuela from Trinidad, we loved it there and found it a better place to haul out (at Plout's in Cumana, where all the good fishing boats go). Going there is the first place, not fighting the power of the universe, but listening to it, might have been a better way to go. But you never know ahead of time.