Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thai Websites

Thai websites. For those of you who don't read Thai (or, in reality, read at least one language other than Thai), you have probably not visited many Thai websites. Today I want to talk a little bit about Thai websites.

Given that Thailand is a country roughly the size of France, it shouldn't surprise that there are quite a few websites in Thailand. It probably also wouldn't surprise most people that because of the Thai character set and the way they write without spaces, doing Google searches in Thai does not always yield the impressive results that we are used to with English searches. Again, these things are to be expected: lots of websites, difficult to search.

What is surprising, however, is how dangerous Thai websites are to epileptics. Since I used to run a Thai website of my own, I have had the occasion to view several other Thai websites, and--I am not exaggerating here--I don't think I have ever seen another Thai website that didn't feature something blinking.

Here is a good example: http://www.geocities.com/makruks/. This is a website about Thai chess, which is a lot like Persian (International) chess, but with more restrictive piece movements that makes it a very interesting game. You can download a version of Thai chess for your computer here: http://www.geocities.com/makruks/ZIPCHESS.ZIP.

So, this is a useful website that I went to because I:1) wanted to check out some of the finer points about the rules of Thai chess2) wanted to see if I could download a version to play at home.I was able to accomplish both missions, relatively easy. Still...there is that punishment that comes with even going to a Thai website. It's the blinking, the flashing, the flash animation, the hideous roll-overs, the unnecessary animated gifs... So many ways to offend one's aesthetics, yet all done with the intention of looking good. It doesn't matter whether it is a small personal website like this one or one of the most popular websites in Thailand (like www.sanook.com), there will always be moving and blinking. Thais love that shit. Maybe it fits in with their "life as controlled chaos" approach to existing on this earth.

There will also always be a webboard on any website, usually on the first page. Thais LOVE webboards. They love expressing their opinions, whether well-informed or not. Even when they have nothing original to add, there will be lots of posts saying things like "I agree" or "I support you". I mean, it makes sense--Thais love to feel inclusion into a group--but it is still a little weird.

When I used to run my website, which was a website written by ethnic minorities in Thailand to document and discuss their rapidly vanishing cultures, it was pretty phenomenal the word-to-content ratio on those webboards. To invoke a Thai saying, they were like a curry with all water and no meat. There were, of course, many, many uninformed comments, but this is why we were running the website: to inform Thai people about things happening inside their borders. Despite my general disappointment with the commentary in the webboards, I always consoled myself that at least people were participating, even if, now, a year later, I feel like there were only three or four memorable things written in all the posts that I read.

Other common features: There are almost always one or two English words (usually written in a font much larger than the surrounding Thai) that seem completely incongruous. Advertisements for cell phone ringtones are also quite popular.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Regaining Momentum

It's been a while. It has been a while...

Hard to believe that almost ten months have passed since Me, Myself, and Goo last sat down to do a little blogging. A lot has changed, but, more than anything, a lot has just returned to normal. Balance is back, which is always nice.

I am back in Chiang Rai now, in a new house, one with a view of rolling hills in one direction and mountains in the other. It's quiet. It's near a market and not far from the city, yet has a feeling of being away from both. It has a porch. I am a porch person. That's where I am writing this right now. That's where I intend to spend the bulk of my time over the next couple of months.

It will be good to be in one place for a while. I have been doing a lot of traveling over the past few months. I have been to England, Spain, Belgium, Italy, France, back to the US again, Singapore, Burma, Cambodia, and, of course, all over Thailand. The last three locations were places I went while leading a group of eleven bright, adventurous American kids for an outfit called Where There Be Dragons (http://www.wheretherebedragons.com).

Almost all of those are places where I had been before. In Spain, I retraced many of my steps around Barcelona, Madrid, and Toledo from when I had been a student there twelve years ago. All the places seemed very different now, especially for places which consider themselves to be so ancient.

Perhaps it was just me. I know I am much different than I was in 1994, both in how and what I perceive. I am not sure if most of the autoservicios in Spain have always been run by Chinese families, but they sure seem to be that way now, a fact that was very simple for me to pick up given how much the Overseas Chinese have taken over the economy of Thailand and neighboring countries.

It was interesting trying to figure out which language to talk to these shopowners in, whether I should go with my once-proficient-but-now-very-rusty Spanish, or my much-more-immediately-ready-but-quite-limited Mandarin. I tended to go more for Spanish since that is what they were expecting, though the couple of times I did go with Mandarin, it seemed to garner a good bit of amusement.

The one country on that list that I had not visited before was Cambodia, the last of Thailand's neighboring countries for me to explore.

I liked Cambodia. To borrow a Thai phrase adapted from English, it was "same same, but different" to Thailand. Thai and Khmer language seem to have a English-French sort of relationship going on. They are fundamentally different languages with different structures and grammars, but they have beating up on each other for so long that about 50% of everyday vocabulary seems to be mutual cognates, especially "harder" words like "health" or "post office" or "compassion." These words are all just borrowed from Sanskrit and Pali by both languages (probably to Thai via Khmer, but that's just a guess).

The alphabets are very similar also, if you allow yourself a little room for abstracting of the form, phonetics, and relative placements of the letters. Again, I think the Thai alphabet was developed from the Khmer one. Back in the Day, Khmers really had it going on (see: Wat, Angkor).

So, it's good to be back blogging. I credit a lot of it to being around those Dragons kids. They helped get me observing again. And what is observing worth without a little bit of sharing?

I am hoping to start updating this blog very regularly. I probably won't do a lot to publicize it (that takes effort and Goo and Goo's porch are not about that kind of effort), but I hope it will be of some value both to people who have never had a chance to come to Thailand or this part of the world, and also people who have lived here a while and can find some enjoyment in relating to (or disagreeing with) some of my observations.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Crossing the Street

If you have a friend crossing a busy street and after he has committed to going and started his crossing, let me give you a piece of advice: don't yell "watch out!" or "wait!" at him, because very, very little good can come of it. Yes, I know you are worried about him and you probably think that you are acting in his best interest, but chances are that if your friend is smart (why would you have a dumb friend), he is keeping his eyes on the cars. Telling him to wait or stop, in addition to probably not providing enough warning in the first place, is only going to break his concentration and awkwardly wrong-foot him in the middle of a busy street. What does that get you? It gets people killed, that's what.

So, do yourself and your friend a favor. Trust him when he crosses the street. If you are going to give him warnings, do so before he commits. Once he commits, just do what you can do to make sure he gets across the street, because even if he should never have crossed to begin with, it is much easier to come back after already reaching the other side than it is to try to double-back in mid-crossing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Where has Halloween gone?

I am back home in Kentucky now, a place where I haven't been during Halloween for nearly 15 years. What the hell happened? I made a special trip out to get candy this afternoon, but there have been all of four trick-or-treaters come to the door tonight. They came together. They came in their parents' car. It was a drive-by. I really just don't understand it. One of the reasons I rushed home was to be here on Halloween. Halloween was once a fun holiday. What happened?

On the flipside, the absolute lack of trick-or-treaters has allowed for my sister and me to sneak out other doors of the house and ring the front doorbell only to have other members of our family be disappointed as they open the door. It's all in good fun.

Who is Goo?

Goo is me. More accurately, goo is a Thai first-person pronoun and one of the genius aspects of the Thai language. You see, by referring to oneself as goo, one is actually being offensive to other people. Think about it for a second, what can you say about yourself in English that is offensive to other people? Nothing really. It's almost as if you were using the normal English pronoun "I" but with a silent "motherf*cker" appended.

But goo is more than that. Goo is a pronoun you use with close friends to show your familiarity, goo is how you can refer to yourself when fate and karma have mocked you, goo is often someone who is really pissed off. Goo can be so many things. So, Goo is me. I am Goo. And this is where Goo will talk about Goo.

Below is goo written in Thai. The character on the top is the "g". The character on the bottom is the "oo". Thai is a beatiful language that makes so much sense, more than anything else in the country.