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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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In a Brave New World you shift

from truth and beauty

to comfort and happiness

I ate civilization

Aha ha

A new notebook deciphers emptiness

The fisherman

In a long blue boat

Cuts the engine

Drifting with current

Cool cornflower silk red ink

Slashes memory's fascination


Letting go

Be silence inside the labyrinth

Dancing shimmering red blazing wisdom seeks wisdom

In Laos

Wats glow golden

A sleeping Buddha

Dreams of compassion

Direct immediate experience

I am twinkling 


5 images - 2017

Five images from 2017.


Ambiguity - Ice Girl

Chapter 23.

Chugging down the street, antiquated ¼ ton trucks recycled from catastrophic invasions, wars, death, suffering, bombings, and genocide carried 1.7 million people dying from forced labor, starvation and execution illuminated by historical footnotes.

 Voices blended billowing black diesel dust with forgotten cultural memory in swirling red dust.

  Two barefoot mendicants walked past Ice Girl. One looked content. He wore simple tattered white cotton cloth. A red and white-checkered kroma scarf knotted his head. 

  He carried their possessions in three white rice bags on a bamboo pole balanced on a shoulder. A tall gaunt man followed their trail of tears.

  Man #1: These bags are heavy. I am tired of carrying them. You carry them. He dropped the bags and pole on red dirt. Crash!

  Startled birds flew. A brown river changed course. A woman stopped sweeping dust. A rich man getting out a black SUV smiled at prosperity. A young boy fondling his fantasy without objection paused. A prone passive girl suffering from eternal hunger in a plywood room waiting for fake love blinked. An infant dying of malnutrition cried in its sleep. A mother waiting for medicine holding her child shifted her hip weight. A monk in a pagoda turned a page of script. Ice girl massaged cold reality with an edge.

  The man walked over to a large water cistern. He splashed his weathered face. He drank deep. 

  His friend stooped over, adjusted bamboo through twine, hoisting the pole and bags onto his shoulder.

  Man #2: Where are we going?

  Man #1: Muttering to his feet in red dust, Down this road.

  The Wild West red dust town bigger than a village welcomed smaller. The dexterity and fortitude of millions shuffled along in a flip-flop sandal world filled with joy, opportunity, risk, chance, fate, and destiny.

  They devoured French pastries and flavored yoghurt.

 Ambiguity, contradictions and paradoxes assumed the inevitable. Assumptions and expectations wore Blue Zircon, seeing harlequins.

 A boy near Angkor Wat sawed crystals of clarity in his tropical kingdom. He saw but didn’t see while standing in a blue hyperventilated dump truck holding his rusty trusty bladed saw. Blocks of ice disguised as solidified water were longer than the Mekong feeding Son Le Tap Lake.

  He unwrapped blocks. He sawed. He tapped a musical hammer at precise points defining worlds of experience into melting scientific sections.

  His co-worker loaded condensation on thin shoulders. He carried melting weight to a bamboo shack. He dumped ice into an orange plastic box. A smiling woman frying bananas over kindling gave him Real notes. Thank you for the cold.

  Carver carved. Tap-tap-tap.

  The woman assaulted ice with a hammer, shattering fragments to refresh java, coconut and sugar cane juice. Ice blocks melted latent potential. 

  An old woman in pajamas sweeping dust heard ice weep, “Hope is the greatest evil. Her daughter whispered, “Evil doesn’t exist.”

  History, war, violence and predatory politicians have screwed Cambodians, said Ice Girl.

  Let’s Make A Deal. Do the numbers. 15% (and increasing) of Cambodia has been sold to foreign investors. 1.7 million out of 11m were massacred. Millions are illiterate. Millions are subsistence farmers. It is a rural agrarian society. They produce what they need to survive. They eat, sleep, fuck and sit around.

  Any day above ground is a joyful day in paradise, she said. Paradise is a country where genocide survivors are happy. They are free people in a free country. Ecstatic. They laugh, run, play, plant, harvest, work, breed and die. But they live in fear. They are afraid the past will become the present. Time is a scary circle.

Annual red, green, gold, yellow and white fireworks celebrating the end of the genocide regime blasted black sky. A child sang, “The wicked witch is dead!”

  Another child sang, it’s a brave new world minus four old dying relics waiting to die of old age during a $100,000,000 dollar international show trial for genocide between 1975-1979.

  They deny their role.

  Not me! I was only following orders. I don’t have to accept responsibility for my actions.

  That’s what they all say.

  No, please. Have mercy. Authority ordered me to kill them all. Yeah yeah.

  Denial will kill you, said an illiterate man cranking up electricity purchased from Vietnam. How quickly people forget, said a blind historian rewriting Khmer stories.

Media buys people, said Ice Girl. I sell frozen facts. That’s the truth. Facts and truth are not related.

  Numbed silence covered rice paddies. Traumatized and anesthetized survivors cried, Send in the clowns. Send in the politicians and bankers and thieves and Chinese manipulators.

  Same-same but different, said a hungry girl in a plywood shack waiting for Freedom to say OK.

  Freedom laughed, I’m not saving anybody.

  Paradise survivors are happy because they are alive, said Ice Girl. They started over after Year Zero. 14 million now have enough food, clean water, medicine and Socratic educational critical thinking opportunities in a NGO fabricated world to rebuild their identity, self-esteem and life.

Culture means you can forget. 

It will take another generation, or sixty years given the average life expectancy, to recover revive and renew our simple uncomplicated life.

  Down the road, Alice in Slumberland, a human pretending to be an economically depressed Khmer teacher making $40 a month minus gifts told her students: You should just blend in. During genocide people who asked quest-ions disappeared.

They vanished. They became extinct.

Asking quest-ions was not allowed. Asking quest-ions is seen as strange and startling and dangerous. Dangerous people ask quest-ions. People who ask WHY are a clear and present threat to growth, development, intention, incentive and robotic daily comatose poverty existence. 

  Accountability is a foreign language.

  Economic terrorism is an unpleasant fact. Personal incentive is rebellious and counter-productive to maintaining the status quo ho, ho, ho.

  An a priori communication theory without facts or truth or  thought or doubt or wonder or curiosity or hard quest-ions is a male land mine survivor without legs living on Ground Zero. He rests near a pagoda waiting for compassion from strangers. A bookseller of genocide memories smokes a cigarette w/o hands.

  Where are the female land mine survivors? Leo asked. Maybe they are dead and gone, said Ice Girl. Maybe they live somewhere safe with someone taking care of their daily needs. Removed from Fibonacci’s spiral and the golden mean.

  Ready for a trick quest-ion, she asked. Sure. What’s louder than a group of Khmer people? I don’t know. Another group of Khmer people.

  Get used to it, she said. Volume. Signal-Noise. They love distractions. They live, eat and breathe distractions and signal-noise. They love talking over each other. The one who talks the loudest without saying anything is the winner.

  Most are too poor to pay attention.

  Listening is hard work, said Leo.

  Silence kills people, she said. Fear of death is one long conversation. They’ve been traumatized by their past into the immediate present facing unknown scary futures. It’s a time machine, a time warp and a shift in consciousness.

  For example, said Leo it’s curious seeing the FIRE inside the cement stove in the local java/tea shack at 0615 along a muddy road in Battenbang. Orange and bright red flames heat water, consume kindling.

  Words crackle, spit, and dance with laughter's sensation of heat. Kindling stands stacked like 12,000 orphans in 269 safe places waiting to exonerate memories of loss and abandonment.

  It’s a male thing. They are over forty and survivors of The Dark Years. The men wear fresh pressed short-sleeved white cotton shirts and black pants. They talk about business, jobs, kids, wives, girlfriends, weather, facts, opinions, big plans, construction projects, myths and ghosts. They eat fried bread drinking brown tea and thick java. Spoons create music with glass. 

  1.7 million ghosts dance through their silent conversations. Ghosts whisper, What if I die here? Who will be my role model? All my role models are gone.

  Feed me, feed me, cried an Asian ghost to their family burning sandalwood incense.

No one talks about it. Silence is golden. Men prefer to talk about the long now. Ghosts live in the past. Living in the past is time consuming. Leave it there, said one. Half our population is under thirty said another. They have no memory of the past. Education is the key, said another. We missed our chance. The only chance I had, said one, was to run and hide in the jungle. My education was nature. Look at my hands. I spend my days in an office rewriting our sanitized history. History is time, said another. Geography is space.

  My dream is to be a gardener, said one. He watches Leo mine an unexploded episode from a notebook. The gardener realizes a notebook, once used by Authority to write down names of the dead or soon to be, is now a potential source of liberation and memory.

  He works at Bliss, a meditation retreat.

  I love gardening, he said in Khmer. We have nature as our common teacher. Yes, said Leo, Your work here is beautiful.

  He’s a 60-year old genocide survivor. White t-shirt, blue shorts and black flip-flops. His silent black eyes contain all the secrets of his survival.

  How did you survive, asked Leo. I ran away, I hid in the jungle, then into the mountains, deep, very deep, deeper than unconscious memories of life’s transient nature.

  I was running from the shadows of Death. I became a living ghost, a stranger to myself. I survived hearing screams 24/7 from room 101 as generations slaved starved and died, murdering everyone, kids like you, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents all disappeared gone erased finished evaporated exterminated, dead.

  Yes, agreed Death. Everyone comes to me.   

  When I thought it was safe I emerged, crossing landmine paddies into a Brave New World. I walked over 1.7 million bodies and bones, smelling, tasting, hearing seeing Death. Death bones in my dreams rattled freedom and food. I never sleep. Death sees me. I feel it closer than skin on bones, closer than white on rice.

  It will take another generation before the Khmer adjust to breathing. Laughter is rare. My people have suffered hopelessness and passiveness for twenty years. That’s a humbling life changing experience, said Leo. Life is found in a desperate situation, the man said.

  They meet every afternoon in fading light after torrid heat. He waters red roses, flame orange bougainvillea, green ferns, purple orchids, hanging planters. He smiles as water rainbows cascade through white light coating green, sliding down stems, meeting petals. Water disappears toward roots below the surface of appearances.

  He sits curled up on a straight-backed brown chair smiling and silent watching Leo typing notes from a black book. I don’t know this tool, he said pointing to a plastic screen and floating artificial letters. I can’t read, no chance, it was all about surviving, labor, nature, planting, harvesting, scheming and deceiving, running, hiding, keeping your mouth shut. We work, breed and get slaughtered. Such is our fate.

  The gardener and Leo heard a voice from a local classroom: Quest-ions are forbidden, screamed overworked, underpaid and undersexed Asian teachers named Authority and Social Control.

  Ask at your peril. Anyone in the 2% group raising their hand to ask a quest-ion with confidence is shamed or silently beaten into silence. Fear and ignorance are great motivators, forever and a day. Conformity breeds conformity. 

  Curiosity is fatal, said Ice Girl. Curiosity kills more humans than war, disease, lack of medicine and starvation. Humor and curiosity are basic elements of intelligence.

  Two pale female French tourist conspirators plotted their narrative at Bliss.

  We colonized this place, said one, Giving them baguettes, war, illusions of freedom, top heavy dull administrative procrastination, fake NGO bureaucracies, administration tools, wide boulevards, imaginary legal systems, an eye for an eye, corruption possibilities and designs of egalitarian ideals, morals, ethics and principles, faded yellow paint and French architecture.

Yes, said her friend, this IS the old brave new world and I am lazy and passive and my stomach comes first. I am starving. Let’s eat our sorrow.

  She is a super thin model of anorexia boned with stellar constellations. Her grim hawk faced rotund lesbian lover has flabby upper arms. She scribbles her serious fiction-memory and sense of entitlement in an unlined black notebook with one hand while massaging her forehead to increase creative blood flow.

They examine a microscopic map of Angkor Wat filled with unconscious alliterative jungles,
gold lame Apsara dancers,
232 species of black and red butterflies,
1.5 million anxious tourists in a big fat fucking hurry,
Chinese, Japanese and Korean robot tour groups,
crying elephants, super tour buses, 125cc motorcycles, tuk-tuks,
begging illiterate children speaking 10 European languages hawking gimcracks,
whining predatory adults with an 8th grade education
accompanied by miles of flaming plastic bag garbage,
narrow boned white oxen,
14 million attention deficit disordered citizens addicted to simple minded FACELOST entertainment,
cell phone adolescent sex text nonsense
1,001 laterite cosmic Hindu Khmer temples stretching from Thailand to Laos and Vietnam in a boomerang circular dance evolving from the stillness,
letting go of outcomes,
as the French ladies whisper,
Where did we go,
What did we see,
How did we feel,
Where are we,
Did we discover the magic eye of sudden insight or any wisdom in this totality of mystery, devotion, and sublime splendor?

 They’re on their grand Asian tour. One describes fragments of her short life with an animist talking stick.

  She cuts out brochure pictures and ticket stubs. She pastes them into her book. It will make a fine future visual memory of her ear and snow.

  Her attention span is shorter than a grisly tour for eternity at the Genocide Museum in Phony Baloney filled with 2,000,000 skulls.

Here we are.

Ice Girl in Banlung


Take The Orange Pill - Ice Girl

Chapter 22.

Another brilliant Banlung day bloomed bright. Infinitesimally small intense waves and particles traveled at 186,000 miles per second.

  What you don’t see is fascinating, said Ice Girl. She and Leo heard the clatter of tourist utensils singing near dumb thumbed Angkor Wat guidebooks dancing with dusty beggar children hawking vignettes at a medical clinic.

  The Angkor Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap has 22 beds in one room. They are filled with infants wearing air hoses in their nose. They suffer from pneumonia and tuberculosis. This is common. A parent holds a tiny hand.

  I.C.U. has five occupied beds.

  400 mothers cradling kids wait to see a nurse. She dispenses free orange generic pills.

  Life is a painkiller. Life is a generic placebo.

The mothers are happy to get SOMETHING, anything. They have no knowledge about modern medicine.

  One effective blue pill costs $1.00. Parents need to buy 15. $15.00 is a fortune. Out of the quest-ion. Parents accept free ineffective orange drugs. Parents need a miracle.

  How much does a miracle cost?

  Mothers are hopeful. They wait. They have ridden on the back of cycles from distant villages. Everyone there had an answer for the child’s sickness. Babble voices of genocide female survivors sang remedies. Men pounded drums. Relatives prayed and burned incense. A shaman dancing with death smeared chicken blood over a tiny chest. Another healer waved smoking banana leaves over a child running a fever. 400 mothers waited forever to see a nurse and get an orange pill.

Ling's art in Laos.


  Mr. Money talked in the Battenbang market. He’s 30, well fed and garrulous. He stood near a shop holding a pile of 500 Real notes. 500 = 25 cents.

  I am rich, he said waving money.

  I am the President of Earth, said Leo.

  He came over and collapsed in a red plastic chair. Southeast Asia is filled with red plastic chairs. It’s one big kiddy class for humans with an emotional IQ of -7.

  He put the money on the table. See, he said, I have a lot of money. Real notes were old and faded.

  Yes, you do. Where did you get it?

  I collect the money from the shopkeepers. It is their daily cleaning fee. But, I am a poor man. I only make $50 a month. Food is cheap. I have two wives and two kids. Wife number 1 is mad at me. Why? She saw me with wife number 2. I screwed wife number 1 one day and then I went over to see wife number 2. Wife number 1 saw me with her and now she's angry, ha, ha, ha.

  I have lots of energy. I can screw three times a day. Do you want to go with me to a nightclub? I can show you around. There are many girls looking for some action. Their boyfriends are poor at sex. The girls are poor and need money.

  Leo smiled. Sounds like a diabolical combination. Not today. You can only trust 10%.

It’s easy, he said, I know everybody, waving his arms around the market. People slurped noodles. Women negotiated prices, haggling, chopping vegetables, stoking cooking fires with kindling, manhandling blazing woks, nursing infants, wiping counters, sewing cloth, selling gold, trimming nails, cutting and shampooing hair, cleaning oranges and sitting with begging bowls as hungry eaters stuffed faces.

  Eater’s eyes were either buried in bowls or scanning desperate hungry faces in a life of perpetual distractions.

  Eat fast or someone will steal it from you. It’s not about taste. It’s about filling your stomach.

  Between slabbed meat and fish an old woman with her begging bowl sat on cracked pavement waiting for kindness.

  Save the strong, lose the weak, said Mr. Money.

  Yes, I’m sure you know everybody, Leo said.

  Are you really the president?

  Yes, I am.

  I think the president is a joke.

  Many people would agree with you, Leo said. It’s a lonely thankless job being responsible for the entire human race.

  Yeah, yeah. Well I gotta go make some collections. See you later.

  The machine world in Banlung roared, reversed, revered and resounded with operatic overtures.

Ice Girl in Banlung

Banlung market


A Stranger - Ice Girl

Chapter 21.

A 53-year old stranger from Washington State arrived in Banlung.

  At Bright Future guesthouse he deftly slipped in his upper dentures with his right while using his left hand to eat soft eggs. It was obvious he’d perfected this gesture with oral flair, the hand being quicker than the eye.

  Gestures use people.

  Balding brown hair, long nose, craggy face and deep wrinkles. He talked about selling his sawmill, distrust in the American way of life, raising two kids, and six months working in a Cambodian orphanage.

  “I liked the kids,” he said. “No NGO’s fucked with us. They are a scourge like the church. Totally corrupt playing on human weakness, false hopes and sympathies.”

  His well-thumbed notebook and pen sat in front of him. He was writing a short story called My Life.

 “I went up The Heart of Darkness,” he said, “and disappeared into the jungle for six weeks. Sat down. Camped. Wrote about it. Now I’m back. Someone stole my wallet. I’m waiting for money. Then I’m getting the hell out of here. What I’m telling you is true, or at least as much of it as I remember. I know I have false memories. Everyone does. Imagine people in a world without memory. No past or future. No objects, no identification or attachment. Only forms and swift sensations like flowing water. Living in an eternal present.”

He talked about his former life delivering cars, planning wood, making furniture, raising kids and getting it down on paper.

“I’m going to put my personal emotions into it, make it heavy deep and real, write numerous shitty drafts, edit the sucker and independently publish this beautiful mess. Yeah, yeah. When I get back to the states I’ll put my heart in it.”

 Ice Girl in Banlung