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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Lao kid

I’m a big seven as in 7, said an omniscient reliable Lao narrator.

Your life is not a test or a dress rehearsal. If it is an actual life your invisible friend will protect you from ignorance and fear.

My dad's not very smart. It's probably his DNA. A string theory of letters. Genetics. Gee. Net. Icks. 

Let me give you a kind-hearted example of his stupidity. It's the rainy season here in Laos. Slashing squalling delicious rain. Soft, cool, soothing. Like tears. Cry me a river.

It's pouring like honey. What’s dear old dad do? He washes his silver van in a downpour. Smart eh? Yeah, he’s trying to impress dry watchers with his intelligent hose running wealthy water over rain. Cleaning. He ignores me mostly.

Grandmother sits on the faded 1924 white austere colonial dark brown balcony folding banana leaves for a ceremony. Every morning at dawn she walks to the muddy road and offers wandering Buddhist monks a handful of rice. She burns incense at the family altar. She nurtures her shrinking garden after her son decided to plant a cement parking lot. What a clever little man.

Grandfather stares at rain on flower petals collecting in pools.

Father's very busy. He disappears for hours. Drinking beer with friends. Playing around with a secret squeeze in dark places. She’s starving for affection and cash. A poor girl from a poor family needs to make a living, poor thing.

My mom's also really smart. What’s the difference between smart and clever? After the rain, when it's dry and the smallest full moon of the year rises above the Mekong before a river festival filled with floating orange flowers and burning candles she burns all the plastic garbage. Yeah, yeah. Burn baby burn. Light my fire.

It's a sweet smell let me tell you. Like that Duvall character saying, I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Kinda like that smell. What's the word? Acrid. 

When she's not burning plastic trash she sweeps. Broom music. Stone cold. She cooks. She pretends to be busy. She's a baby machine. What's another mouth? She manages the home, kids and cash. In China I’m worth $3,500 on the stolen kid market. My sister would have been aborted.

Mom ignores me mostly. She's very busy doing her humble mother routine. Later, she squawks. She's a soft kind later.

People here like parents and teachers and lazy passive humans love to pretend to be busy. I guess it gives their short life meaning.

Milling around is an art form with style. Hemingway had style. Fitzgerald had style and class.

We are soft and kind. We have a good heart. We are not as mercenary as the Vietnamese. We drift through your sensation, perception and consciousness with the grace of a cosmic Lepidoptera in a strong wind. The trick is to tolerate, with kindness and patience, your great teacher, the bland empty-eyed star gazing starrers and hustlers. Bored after five minutes they lose interest and leave you be. Zap, like a zig-zag lightning bolt. Gone. Zap.

Vietnamese plant rice.

Cambodians watch it grow.

Laotians listen to it grow.

Ain’t nature a great teacher?

For cultural, historical, educational, environmental, emotional, intellectual and economic reasons milling around is a popular daily activity. This unpleasant fact cannot be denied or ignored or forgotten like a missing leg.

It needs to be up front because it is a clear immediate danger and way of life.

Limited opportunities, unregulated population growth, substandard education, no medicine, no hope and inconclusive futures enhance Milling Around. It kills time alleviating boredom, the dreaded lethargic tedious disease.

Milling Around kills the human spirit. No initiative. Period. How sweet. How charming. It’ll take another generation to clean it up. Cambodia and Lao and Vietnam are alive with ghosts.

Their existence is one long perpetual distraction. Say what?

You may as well do what you love because you're going to spend most of your life doing it. Breed and work. That’s what I say.

I’m too young to know much. I know what I don’t know. Anyway, I need to finish my school paper on developing moral character with social intelligence, grit, self-control, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity.

How do you build self-control and grit?

Through failure, said the boy. There are two kinds of character.

What are they?

Moral character is fairness, generosity, and integrity. Performance character is effort, diligence, and perseverance. Kids need challenges to grow. Like hardships and deprivation. Yeah, it’s trial and error and taking risks.

Thanks for the life lesson. You are the future of Laos.


old cherokee

An old Cherokee chief took his grandchildren into the forest and sat them down and said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. This is a terrible fight and it is a fight between two wolves. One wolf is the wolf of fear, anger, arrogance, and greed. The other wolf is the wolf of courage, kindness, humility, and love.”

The children were very quiet and listening to their grandfather with both their ears as he then said to them, “This same fight between the two wolves that is going on inside of me is also going on inside of you, and inside of every person.”

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked the chief, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?”

He said quietly, “The one you feed.”


eat grass


bless their beating heart

my iconic image
on a cambodian
river town

i smile at the masses

celebrating my ignorance

devour my little red book
it's a Brave New World

in 1984

eat grass comrades
45-60 million died of starvation

black is the night
cold is the ground


do the mango tango

I go, we go, you go. Mango. Super fruit.

Buy one, get one free. Peel it down. Peel my skin. I am a bed rabbit. Plow my field. Honey needs money. Hungry girls go to bed. Savor my succulent mass of alfa bet your sweet ass anti-oxidants.

A, C, E. Ace a mango.

The humility of a mango. Skin releases it’s interior daily monologue. Flowing sensations dance a mango simplicity with serenity. 

Mango said, “There are two kinds of people in the world.”

“What are they?” said Star, a Cambodian kid rented from mom by an NGO needing global media publicity.  

“They are subdivided into specific sub-species. There are people who want to blame you and people who want to distract you. There are people who want control or approval.

"There are people who face the music and there are people who run for cover. There are people who pay attention and people who don’t know or care what the fuck is going on. They are too poor to pay attention.

"There are people who make things happen and people who dream about making things happen."

“I see,” said Star. “You mean, according to the philosopher, Damon Younger Than Yesterday, ‘distraction is an inability to identify, attend to what is valuable, even when we are hard working or content.’”

“Yes, that’s what I said I mean because I mean what I say and say what I mean,” laughed Mango doing the tango with Taoist monks at The Temple of Complete Reality in Sichuan.

“Disorientation begets creative thinking,” said Star.

"You are bright," said Mango. "Shine on."



Shame Sings

My name is Li Bow Down. I am in charge of the Tibetan Monastery Re-Education Through Reform with Severe Consequences pogrom program. My masters called me out of retirement.

I was playing mahjong, screwing concubines and enjoying Fujian tea with friends at the Shanghai-FreeLand resort.

Authority ordered me to get my old ass back to Lhasa and take care of THE problem. Back to the future.

They gave me a fire extinguisher to douse flaming monks. Ah, the ignobility. Fire is the essence of life.

Give someone a match and they are warm for a minute.

Set them on fire and they are warm for the rest of their life.

Here’s an uncensored image of what we do to people in the program.

Li put an image on a table.

See this woman, he commanded. She is denouncing her family, friends and most importantly, herself in public. We are big on shame. We are the masters and they are the puppets.

“Shame on you!” yelled 1.6 billion puppet people.

         “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

This is one of our more popular and effective methods of creating a harmonious society. It works wonders, because if memory serves me correctly and it does, mind you, serve me well, we’ve been coercing people for 5,000 years. Pick your favorite dynasty. We used to put them in wooden stocks with their crimes painted on paper necklaces and parade them through town. They confessed. They had to.

We call it self-criticism (samzen) re-education and reform. Big buzzwords. They were denounced in public. Talk about blatant social disapproval.

Maybe you think I am joking, making this up. Well, I didn't make it to the top of the system scrap heap by bowing down to big nosed foreigners telling me how to maintain control in Tibet and keep the monks and serfs and slaves in line.

As you know the monks in Tibet provoked the armed, young, naive, scared People's Reactionary Liberation soldiers on March 10th in Year Zero.

The rest is history, well, not really history because we rewrite that when it suits our propaganda purposes. It’s easy and convenient.

Life is cheap here. More tea?