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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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The Language Company
Timothy M. Leonard's books on Goodreads
A Century Is Nothing A Century Is Nothing
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.50)

The Language Company The Language Company
ratings: 2 (avg rating 5.00)

Subject to Change Subject to Change
ratings: 2 (avg rating 4.50)

Ice girl in Banlung Ice girl in Banlung
ratings: 2 (avg rating 4.50)

Finch's Cage Finch's Cage
ratings: 2 (avg rating 3.50)

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shake your moneymaker

Vietnam is a woman.

Men come and go. Men left me all my life, beginning with my father. I never knew him.

As I was growing up I asked my mother, Where is my father? He’s gone. I never asked again.

I finished 9th grade in my village school and lived at home helping my mother with chores; feeding chickens, shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

She beat me. You are a worthless daughter. You have no future, she screamed at me. I took it silently. I served my older brothers. They were strangers. Little kings.

Growing up I heard stories about making money in Cambodia.

When I was seventeen I packed a bag and crossed the border. I went to Phnom Penh, the capital. I met Vietnamese working girls. They helped me find a simple room in a house for $25 a month. We shared a toilet and kitchen. We became friends. They were my first teachers about life in Cambodia.

I needed a job.

You’re good looking, one said. They gave me advice. You can make good money here. Always look your best and wear high heels. They make you look taller. Men like tall girls. Always negotiate their offer. Get the most you can. Save it. Let them do what they want with you.

Many will be rough and try to hurt you because they think you belong to them. They bought you. You are a money machine. They hate their wives, all their women and will take it out on you. Woman are objects, things to be abused. Learn to be passive. Accept what happens.

Close your eyes, pretend you feel pleasure and learn to close your heart. Close it tight. Don’t become soft and weak and open it for anyone.

The only pain you will feel is physical. It will go away. Always make the men wear a condom. We have local doctors who understand our life and help us. You can choose to be either a bargirl and entertain customers at the bar or a taxi girl. They go to homes and apartments. They make more money but they service more clients. Always give Miss Tan the owner her percentage or she will throw you out.

My head spun from all this.

One night I put on my best red and green dress. I applied makeup and went to the Hello bar with two girlfriends. It was loud and crowded with men and girls. We bought cheap drinks and sat at the bar. My friends introduced me to Miss Tan, the owner.

Her diamond ring flashed. So you’re the new girl. Vietnamese? Yes. You can demand more money. Your skin is pale. Men will want you. You work here as a taxi girl. You go out, you come back. You give me 70%. If you cheat me I kill you. I know everything. Understand?

Yes. We shook hands. Hers were soft.

Get to work girls.



Omar's Letter

Dear Literary Agent, (insert name here)

Many thanks for your letter in response to my submission. As a matter of fact at this exact moment I happen to have 60,000 tight specific succinct precise concise words floating around my small cabin here in a bamboo Zen grove. I will seduce them on blank 20/lb. bond white sheets. Their text will be an artistic marvel of design.

I will wave my magic word wand over said words to rearrange them in a simple easy to follow solid chronological narrative linear structural form aligning consonants and vowels with clear syntactical structure and so forth.

I love ironing. I share this passion with Murakami.

I will iron word sheets with passion and persistence. My vicious egotistical profit driven anal editors will cull all unnecessary adjectives, adverbs and useless verbiage from the assembled manuscript. All writing is garbage.

Being an expert at practicing, I will write short fast and deadly.

I will use my well-honed Tibetan knife and laughter’s Labrys axe.

Suspects will be blindfolded, stripped, and deprived of due process (part of the revisionist process) under the International Geneva Font Scribe Protection Act as described in The Book of Kells Illuminated. Subversives deemed unfit, dispensable, extraneous, and gratuitous for literary service will be executed by Executive Order #1234 with no emotional attachment.

Next of kin will be notified in Braille.

Fatalities will be a footnote in hiss-story. Where the sound of speech has no alphabet.

It will have the intellectual density of an essay, lyric cohesion of poetry and a structure resembling a documentary film incorporating cross-referenced evidence.

To write and to draw is the same Greek verb.

When Mr. Butcher and Mr. Barber, my invaluable insolvent intrepid illiterate archaic erstwhile editors finish cutting I’ll get back to you with a revised manuscript. A.S.A.P.

No editor is going to drink champagne from my skull.

Cordially yours, Omar, the Blind One.







Ice Girl in Banlung Chp. 12 

Across town a sewing woman returned to her Kampot guesthouse. She splashed water on her face, changed clothes and spit into red roses. She kick started her cycle and went to the market inside a labyrinth.

At her corner stall she keyed multiple locks. She stacked numbered wooden shutters. She dragged out her Butterfly sewing machine, ironing board and manikins.

Dummies wore exquisite yellow, purple, blue, white shimmering silks decorated with sparkling faux-paws silver stars, moons, and small round reflecting balls. Her skill designed fabrics for women needing elaborate sartorial refinement for engagements, weddings, and cremations.

She stayed busy with serious fittings and adjustments. Her sewing universe process was selecting fabric, measurement, ironing backing, a ruler, white chalk to mark pleats, cutting, pushing her machine treadle, pins, threads, trimming edges, hand sewing clasps, shiny connections, and ironing.

Threads inside a slow prism flashed light and shadow as needles danced through cloth in endless conversations. Needles talked about traditional conservative morals and opportunity-value cost. Thread followed their conversation. Together they measured precise calculations establishing a stop-loss number. All explanations have to end somewhere.

Sky darkened.
Ceremonial drum thunder sang vocal intensity.
Lonely lost suffering foreign tourists in Cambodia shuddered with fear.
What if I die here?
How will my family and friends begin to
realize my intention
to witness 1200 years of dancing
Angkor laterite stoned history
gnarling jungles revealed by natural strobes? 
Lightning flashed skies.
Giant flashbulbs illuminated petrified children
Buried inside cement caverns
eyes eating cartoon images on a plasma scream.
Skies opened.
Rain lashed humans. Some laughed, others cried. Tears dissolved fear.
Sweet dreams, baby.

Two arrived. The boy is cutter. He carried rope, ladder, small axe and machete.
Helper friend is coconut palm tree scout.
Here and there, he said, pointing.
Go up.
The boy shinnied up a narrow palm.
Transferring to the towering 2’ diameter palm he climbed higher.
Roping his tools.

How’s the view, asked helper.
Sublime. A wide brown river lined by cauliflower oaks reaches bamboo huts.
Orange sunrise severs cumulus wisps.
A market woman has her nails done in blue glitter.
A boy saws crystalized ice on a red dirt road.
Girls in white cotton pedaled to school.
A woman grilling waffles along a road buys bundled forest kindling.
Saffron orange robed monks sit in meditation at Naga Wat.
One plays a drum.

He climbed higher.
He chopped. Long thin heavy branches weighted by freedom danced free.
Helper dragged branches past advertisements for temples, orphanages, river trips.
He chopped.
He dragged.
He chopped.
He dragged.
He secured rope to the top. Blossoming.
He chopped.
Coconuts, leaves, bark danced down.
White interior life dust snowed.
Tree crashed.
Light escaped. 3 hours. $20.

Smashing blocks of ice inside a blue plastic bag with a blunt instrument created a symphony outside unspoken words as a homeless man with a pair of brown pants thrown over a thin shoulder sat down to rest. Shy women waiting for Freedom averted black eyes.

Aggressive women manipulated stacks of government issued denominations trusting an implied perceived value in exchange for meat, fruit, gold, and fabric. Counting and arranging denominations inside broken beams of light, cracked cement, lost mislaid wooden planks, debris, feathers, jungles and jangled light waves they surveyed commercial landscapes with dispatched dialects near rivers revealing stories with fine stitched embroidery. Needles led thread. 

Ice Girl in Banlung


Your life is a work of art

Editor's note: Chapter 1 excerpt. The Language Company. Enjoy the ride.

Carpe Diem in Ankara, said a reliable narrator, Pluck the day when it is ripe.

Lucky Foot explored a gleaming upscale mercantile atrium filled with bald silver female dummies fronted by glass. Mirrors reflected screaming bored housewives paroled for good behavior pushing pram infants.

He happened into a store with Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian and Middle Aged chess sets - game of Kings. Checkmate, said Mother Death, Beauty’s mother, Life is a chess game of experiences we get to play.

Black jazz statues played sax, trumpet, clarinet, keyboards, drums, and bass. Some of My Favorite Things, said John Coltrane. Blow your cool heart out.

“Good morning. Do you need something?” said the owner.

“Namaste. I salute the light within you. I seek to help others end suffering and misery.”

“Is it a way, a path?”

“It’s the nature of absolute emptiness with compassion. Ultimate truth. Reality.”

“What’s its form? Form an answer. Fill in your form. We live in a world of forms. It’s not the answers we need to know it’s the quest-ions we discover. Don’t be afraid to be confused. Remain curious. Trust authentic fragments. Follow your heart. Grow from it. Anything is possible when you risk everything. Stay open to your true nature as a lotus grows from mud. Form is emptiness and vice a verisimilitude. Would you like some tea?”

“Yes please. The quest-ion is the answer. Practice allows everything to wake you up. When you have taken the impossible into your calculations its possibilities become endless.”

“Today is good day to die. Meditate on your death. Celebrate your journey.” He pushed a buzzer. “Someone will bring tea.”

“Thanks. I like establishing impermanent relationships with compassion, trust, generosity and empathy.”

“You’re a dreamer dreaming the impossible dream. Are your needs being met? I suggest you need more direct immediate experience, observation and imagination. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Words escaping the tyranny of memories composed a jazz poem.

Kind of Blue, 1959 by Miles Davis. Modality.

 “Everything I do is an experiment. Traveling meets my genetic needs. I love weird. It’s a long strange beautiful trip. Life is an amazing beautiful messy test. It gives us the test first and lessons later. In my life I become we: many people. We face opportunities and challenges. We bring luck to people like you. People we meet and never see again. It’s ephemeral. We help strangers help themselves through levels of suffering, hardship, deprivation, letting go and developing courage.


"Throw in passion desire thirst and existential bliss with humor. Humor is the key. No shame, guilt or humiliation. No regret or fear. The day after tomorrow belongs to me. I am a dreamer with controlled imagination. I see you have knives. I need one to cut through fear and ignorance.”

 “Fear is blissful ignorance. Doubt is healthy. Uncertainty is necessary to grow. Travel allows you deeper penetration. Travel makes you. There are not many things you need to remember during your visit to Earth. Please have a look-see.”

 “Our life is a work of art and life imitates art. Art is easy. Life is difficult. Clouds know me by now.”

“You don’t say.”

A cabinet displayed Swiss Army knives with cool tools for cool fools. 

The Language Company