Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Buddha and his Image

A brighter world…

Chiang Mai cold snap gets pandas hot

Countries, people, Obama and hope

 

The Buddha and his Image

A slide lecture titled ‘The Buddha and his Image’ is to be given by author and art historian Carol Stratton at Café Pandau on January 27, beginning at 7 p.m. Carol has been studying, writing and lecturing on Thai Buddhist art for some 30 years, and is the author of the authoritative book ’Buddhist sculpture of Northern Thailand’.

The lecture will cover two facets of Buddhist art in Thailand; firstly, the Buddha’s life as it is presented to us pictorially in traditional Thai art and secondly, the images of the Buddha (statues of the Buddha), the meaning behind the hand gestures and postures which together relate to his life. Most of the slides used were taken in Northern Thailand over many years by Carol’s husband Bob Stratton, who will also be there. A question and answer session will follow. Tickets are 450 baht, and will include an organic fusion buffet and a donation to the Single Mothers’ Project. The event will be limited to 30 guests. This is a fascinating subject, taking in over 800 years of Northern Thai Buddhist art history and its origins from further back in Indian Buddhist Art, with some very beautiful images shown. For bookings, please contact by email on [email protected] cafepandau.com.

 

A brighter world…

Last Tuesday an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he’d been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, ‘I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.’ The Marine looked at the man and said, ‘Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here’. The old man said, “Okay” and walked away.
Last Wednesday, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, ‘I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.’ The Marine again told the man, ‘Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here’. The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.
Last Thursday, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying .I would like to go in and meet with President Bush’. The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, ‘Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I’ve told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. What don’t you understand?’
The old man looked at the Marine and said, ‘Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it’. The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, ‘See you tomorrow, Sir’.


Chiang Mai cold snap gets pandas hot

Pornography, a strict diet, and even sperm donation having failed, it seems that the unusually cold snap in Chiang Mai may well provide the answer to a dilemma… the reluctance of Chiang Mai Zoo’s male panda, Chuang Chuang, to mate with his female counterpart, Lin Hiu! The zoo has been attempting to mate the two since they arrived as Animal Goodwill Ambassadors from China nearly 6 years ago, without success. Various novel means have been tried, starting with the zoo’s realisation that Chuang Chuang was too overweight to mate, which resulted in the hapless panda being placed on a strict low-carbohydrate diet. Unsurprisingly, although Chuang Chuang lost 7 kilogrammes, he still seemed to have no inclination to behave as a panda should when confronted with an attractive mate during the breeding season. Probably too hungry to focus on the task at hand…

It might be cold outside but things are definitely heating up in the Panda enclosure at Chiang Mai zoo.
Tired of waiting for something to happen, in 2007, the zoo authorities managed to artificially inseminate Lin Hiu, who, unimpressed and probably suffering by then from low panda self-esteem, refused to get pregnant. In desperation, Chuang Chuang was shown 15 minute film clips of pandas having sex, which had absolutely no effect. Pandas, it seems, have notoriously low sex drives, possibly the reason why they are an endangered species!
However, hope was at hand immediately the unusually low temperatures hit Chiang Mai, coinciding, luckily, with Lin Hiu’s mating season. Chuang Chuang perked up, and was seen following his mate around—she didn’t seem too upset about this, either. The pair normally live in a climate controlled habitat, but the fresh cold air would seem to have had the desired effect. The pandas are now being carefully watched for signs of mating—although we don’t suppose, considering Chuang Chuang’s reaction to ‘panda porn’, that’s helping a lot either!


Countries, people, Obama and hope

Most of us here probably think of our home country as our ‘country of origin’ and consider Thailand as our ‘country of residence’. These terms are often used in official and semi-official documents and in media texts. But…what do they mean? What is a ‘country’? Perhaps it is easier, and maybe more relevant at present, to define what it isn’t. To many people, a ‘country’ is not its government, its laws, its officialdom or its position in the world hierarchy—a ‘country’ is its people, its topography, its culture and its beliefs, and the effect that these definitives have on each other.
Which leads us to the next question—the definition of ‘people’. Essentially, and often unfortunately, ‘people’, includes the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. Good people ornament their setting, wherever they live, as does a beautiful landscape, making lives happier and more rewarding; bad people, of course, do the opposite. The ugly—we all know what a destructive effect they have, on lives, on hopes, on environments, on culture, on belief, on everything which makes life itself worth celebrating.
Which, again, leads our questioning further—why, in the first few years of the 21st century, do we seem to be increasingly aware of the latter category, in our everyday lives, in politics, in the world economy, even in the changing face of religion? What went wrong? Or it is just that electronic media is now so common worldwide that communities in far flung corners which existed quietly on their own terms for a thousand years are now dragged screaming into what the West is pleased to call the ‘real world’? In which, of course everyone has to be told, with no frills or favours, that depression and disaster is galloping towards us like the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse? Are the truly ugly really in command? It would seem so.
Every week, the news from governments gets worse, (please remember, though, that governments are not countries), a further financial bail-out in order to rescue yet another failed bank here, another Middle East or African conflict with massive numbers of innocent casualties there, another minority group, such as the Rohingya, persecuted and tormented here, millions denied heating in the worst winter for nearly 50 years because of a row between two governments there. All reported in gory and often, (but not in the case of the Rohingyans), inaccurate detail, right there in our living rooms, in our newspapers, and on our monitors. And we keep on reading, viewing and grieving. Nothing we can do about it, right?
Wrong. Very wrong. Ye Olde English saying…’For evil to triumph, all it needs is for the good to do nothing’. Which leads us back to what a ‘country’ is—it’s its people, and, most of all, it’s the good people. The ones who are not afraid to shout about what’s wrong—the ones who will stand up and be counted—the ones who will not allow things to get any worse simply by making a concerted effort to make them better. These are in the majority in any country. America, for example, has had more than its share of such, think, for example, of Martin Luther King and his dream, then remember, (as if you could forget!), that the USA, right now, has its first black President. The outpouring of hope and positivity a week ago, as the inauguration was watched on television by countless millions worldwide, could be felt as strongly by those thousands of miles away as by the fortunate several millions who stood in the freezing cold on Pennsylvania Avenue just to get a glimpse of the new President and hear his words.
And what words they were! Throughout history, every time our world has seemed to be sinking into darkness, an individual or individuals have found themselves in the limelight, and turned that spotlight into the illuminating glow of hope. Such does not happen quickly, the worse the situation, the longer change takes. But it does come eventually, because such individuals have the ability to inspire by their vision, to share it with the masses. Obama is one of these people, perhaps the only one in prominence at present. In his inauguration speech, he did not mince words, he promised action, swift action, which is exactly what is needed. It remains to be seen how tough a job this is for this extraordinary man, but, for now, the spotlight has fallen on him, and its glow is illuminating the positives hopes of the world. Carrying that light will be a huge burden, but there is only one way to attack the creeping, (some might say galloping), negativity which strips the colours from our world today, and only one weapon is of any use—positivity! Obama has this in great measure; it’s up to us to practice it as well, however difficult it may be. Positivity in everything we do, in our attitude to negativity in any of its forms, whether we meet it here in Chiang Mai, or on the world stage through the media. In whatever guise it presents itself, we need to be able to recognise it and negate it by means of standing up for what we know is right. Fear is irrational—what could be worse than the continuing decline we are witnessing today? If we do nothing, ‘they’ will win, in our own backyards and in the wider world. Confrontation, although difficult, is a positive move; remember, bullies are invariably cowards. We need to take back our ‘countries’, our lives and our world, beginning in our chosen city and reaching out from here to…. Everywhere!