The Chiang Rai Alternative Hour #59 – 9th October 2020

The stupidest rock podcast on the internet as voted by everyone, everywhere.

Highly curated, carefully selected and specifically ordered* for your listening edification by world-renowned DJtenzenmen, who has over 500 years of experience in this business.

* ie totally random.

This week there’s music from The Scapegoat, White Blacula, Funkadelic, The Move, B Team, Hamster Theatre, PFM, P-Model, The Tempos, MFQ, Hot Snakes, Angelic Upstarts, Beatles, Volcano Suns, Born Against, Feed Me Jack, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Regurgitator, Satanique Samba Trio, Rosalina Mar and Wolves.

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I like to relax on my bed of nails, that’s one thing that almost never fails – 29th July 2020

Nothing stays the same, though we always try and force it. Is this the start of the pandemic era as some people are predicting? What is the ‘new normal’ and is it really any different to before?

I feel very lucky. After leaving the UK in 1994 my life, on reflection, has been a lucky and happy rollercoaster ride. Even the bottoms of the ride felt survivable, perhaps because at least there wasn’t a cold grey rain spitting in my face. Perhaps there were occasions where it didn’t feel survivable at that moment, but luckily I did, and so I have the possibility to reflect.

My journey is my own and my pronouncements can only be based on that experience, my judgements for myself, so take them with a pinch of salt. I did bad things, good things, stupid things, smart things. I see others doing the same. Who am I to judge?

I have definitelty changed over the last 6 months and I’m not sure why. Or I should say, I’m not sure specifically why. I have implemented lots of minor habit changes and behaviour modifications and perhaps it is an accumulation of minor positive changes that have made the difference. So I can’t put it down to meditating, exercising or journalling specifically.

I decided to get up 45 minutes earlier than I need to in order to get to work. In that time I follow a flexible routine. I keep it flexible because I shouldn’t punish myself for not following it consistently.

First I use my exercise bands to help open up my shoulders and stretch my calves. Probably only a couple of minutes total. Next I spend 5 to 10 minutes doing tests on my language apps (Drops and Mondly) – the aim is to break my current daily streak, learn some new words, possibly remember those words and reinforce this habit. The idea behind this is to create a sense of achievement as soon as possible in the morning and this sets you up for the rest of the day.

Next I lay on the floor and stretch out my back, neck and hamstrings. A warm up stretch more than anything, no more than a couple of minutes again. Just brushing off the tightness left over from sleep.

Then I use an app called Home Workout and all I do is the 5 minute morning warm up exercise, 10 exercises to get your body moving and your heartrate raised just slightly. I may move onto harder exercise routines later but I’m not in any hurry. I follow this with 30 squats and 20 tip-toe stretches (I have real problems with my feet).

If there is time, I write some ‘morning pages’ – whatever thoughts are piling through my head, though I’ve found that usually I don’t write much because I am sitting ‘trying’ to think of things to write. I often try to recall my dreams at this point. Whatever, it’s not a journal, it’s barely legible, it’s spat out quickly and forgotten – not really meant to be read again in the future. This habit is 2-5 minutes max.

Finally I’ll meditate (this is when my brain suddently starts coming up with the random thoughts!). I use the Smiling Mind app which has plenty of free meditations and I don’t know if I often get into a real meditative state but I want to do it just for practice. Doing it over and over again puts smaller chucks of information into my brain that I can utilise during the day, when not meditating as such. In this way it is a success. Perhaps it has taught me to just pause sometimes before opening my mouth. Taking a deep breath before heading into a difficult class.

I usually meditate between 5 and 10 minutes and mostly they are guided meditations. Once there gets to be longer periods of silence I still struggle with keeping focus on breath or letting go of thoughts, but that’s the reason to practice, right? I also have been laying on a spiky massage mat whilst doing this and that has been great. Much like a bed of nails. It makes me wonder why I like it? Do I like discomfort, do I find comfort in pain? Do I feel some sense of achievement to be able to survive it? I don’t know if there is any scientific study around physiological benefits of this type of thing but I just know that I like it!

Finally, a shower and breakfast and it’s off to work. Following this routine 5 days a week seems to be having a positive effect on my happiness and calm. I wouldn’t put it down to any one of the habits specifically or even them all together. Sometimes it can just be the action, the doing, that provides the benefit. For years I’ve implored friends to just ‘Do Something’ usually for a larger cause. Now I’m starting to understand that whilst I was doing something for a larger cause it also had the side effect of benefitting myself.

I was going to write about how the Covid-19 virus has effected my life teaching at school and what the ‘new normal’ of that looks like. Fortunately for me it has meant lots of free time, drinking coffee in the morning, sitting by the river. This situation won’t last forever. I won’t last forever. I enjoy it whilst I can.

I would be your whipping boy, if you look into my eyes – 12th February 2020

There are two important components of jerkhood.

First: an implicit or explicit sense that you are an ‘important’ person.
Second: an implicit or explicit sense that you are surrounded by idiots.

– Eric Schwitzgebel (blog extract)

Hands up if you’ve ever been a jerk? There should be no hands down. Please comment if you have never been a jerk. Not even once.

Here’s all the times I was a jerk…….

No, no, no, I’m not going to do that! Not here anyway.

I wonder if we actually are surrounded by idiots, or if those people have chosen a simpler path that just makes them appear to be idiots to others. They must have some redeeming qualities.

As individuals we seem to be quite together, perhaps even inconsequential, yet when we get together to form systems or groups we often devolve into idiothood.

Sometimes I wish I was ignorant and close minded. Then the truth – the reality – doesn’t matter.

So, I’m sorry to everyone who ever felt that I was jerk to them. I’m trying.

Well, I feel bad
And I’ve felt worse
And I’m a creep
And I’m a jerk

If you can fool yourself, you can fool anyone – 3rd February 2020

I have all the character strengths I need at my disposal but there are some I need to practice more and improve.

Perspective: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself/others.

I see myself on a journey where the destination is wisdom and contentment. My challenge is to acquire these attributes before I die. My default assumption is that everyone else is on the same journey whether they know it or not. Many have already met their challenge whilst others are still travelling. So I sometimes find myself being able to provide counsel for others and other times go in search of that counsel myself.

Social Intelligence: Being aware of the motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.

This is one I really need to practice more. I have gotten better at this since I was in my 20s but even now I just avoid social situations if I feel they don’t suit me. This is slightly compounded by being in Thailand where some situations may mean I’m the only English speaker or there may be myself and one other English speaker, almost forcing us to be socialable with one another. Then there are other times I may only be surrounded by other teachers, where our only connection is our profession and conversation devolves into complaining about our schools, which becomes unproductive and boring. Finally, there’s the rest of the ex-pat community who I generally remain suspicious of, mostly through negative experiences when around them previously. Well, I guess it’s a fertile ground for improvement at least. Must push myself. (Today I just want to shut down and sleep.)

Spirituality: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.

I believe life ultimately has no meaning so we must give it our own meaning somehow. These days I am doing a lot of thinking around all these ideas but it is becoming time to put things into action (shaping my conduct).

I remember one time when I was working at the check outs in a supermarket and a regular customer I would chat with was contemplating out loud what the meaning of everything was, to which I responded that life is pointless. She readily agreed but we understood each other that this was a motivation for giving it meaning rather than giving up on it. I have definitely changed my view on this over the years. When I was younger, with lots of time ahead of me, I sometimes thought life was pointless so just gave up on trying to do anything. I’m questioning this statement even as I write when I consider all the many things I actually achieved during that time. But no matter, those negative thoughts were in my mind.

Kindness: Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

Sometimes I don’t give myself enough acknowledgement for doing this. I perhaps consider kindness as being normal so forget to account for it. But there are definitely other times when I think back to times when I could have been kinder and offered to help someone with something that they were doing, rather than concentrating on my personal tasks.

Teamwork: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share.

I wonder if this characteristic is an issue for most only-children? I’ve learned to rely and depend on myself, even more so having been raised by a single parent. I do prefer working alone but also happy to be part of a team so long as instruction is clear and meaningful. When part of a plan doesn’t make sense I just won’t do it. Perhaps I am sometimes thought of as cantakerous because I am not afraid to speak my mind. See next point!

Prudence: Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

Me and my big mouth.

If you’re led around by your nose
You’ll never get to see how the garden grows.

Cool hidden cafe. On the edge of Burma.

I am sometimes good at doing these things but often get wrapped up in myself too much instead. Perhaps people who know me would be surprised at these choices; perhaps they would see me differently. That would be nice to know but ultimately there’s only me that has to live with my thoughts. Only me that can think, and then act, my way to improvement.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to be invited for a bike ride by Boyan this morning. I was quite surprised. I think he feels a little more comfortable to talk with me now. I’m happy if he feels that way.

Some people in elevators will go to the top but I know you’re not there with them – 30th October 1994

Got up early, lost an hour last night due to daylight saving, so pretty tired, ran up to the train station and hopped on, taking the top deck for viewing reasons, I just had the urge to look out the window even though its getting very familiar, it still seems new.

We headed over to Petersham where we lost our way as soon as we got off the train so we called up Geoffrey, who we were visiting, to find out where the hell we were, he told us to wait and he’d come and get us. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, Geoffrey comes streaking up the street with a big grin for us, pleased that we are here.

We stop off at his place for a while, the more I’m getting to know him I realise how well he’s doing and how he’s coping with his illness, he also comes up with some pretty profound stuff occasionally.

We decide to head into the city and go up Centrepoint and dig the views across the city out to the ocean east and the great dividing range west, the north shore and south to the airport, Botany Bay, where we live and the bush further on where there’s a bush fire raging away on the horizon, we look down at the tiny figures navigating the busy city traffic, the cars all stuck in gridlock, busy on this Sunday midday.

The elevator takes us back down the thousand feet in about ten seconds, our ears pop and through the slight gap at the bottom of the door you can see daylight seeping in reminding you there’s just a flimsy elevator door between your body and the view, rushing past it would be, wind up yer drainpipes.

We all come back to our place and when Geoffrey leaves a while later I feel sad again, maybe because I’m not distracted, because I’ve got time to think and I seem to be spending more time thinking rather than acting at the moment. It’s a long struggle but I’m determined to make it shorter and easier, I will soon be living in the now again.


There will always be someone bigger than you – 7th July 1994

Now is later and last night went okay in the fact then I managed to relax a bit. Unfortunately Broni had lots of work to do which kept her going till late.

John-boy’s bought himself a motorbike and hadn’t told Sarah he had it, so last night she came round and John crept outside while she was in the kitchen to go and start the bike (and show off his prize new possession (or penis extension as I called it!)). Unfortunately it wouldn’t start and took about 40 goes to kick it over. With each kick his ego shrinking! John bounces right back and is embarrassed about nothing really.

Tony Newton, the landlords agent, came round tonight to talk to Julie. Apparently he got the tears and everything. He also got her video player as a deposit against money she owes. Ha! She’s not a very happy girl and though we do feel sorry for her we would like her to be somebody else’s problem, and she’s the only one who can do anything for her.

Had a chat with Michelle tonight too and she’s pretty sound. Very straightforward and, I like this word for someone, nice! Also had time to sneak in some ballgames up at the park, with a mad dog running around, slippery tongue a-dangling, on speed or something.

Broni and I eventually, together, slept like babies wrapped in each other and woke this morning light beaming in the windows of our hearts. And I wish I could sit and write more and talk in depth about emotions and feelings but time is not here on my side just now (I do still work eight hours a day!).

One day I want to write about every single person I know – a brief summary of what they meant to me. One day, along with all the other things.

All I want is a room with a view – 1st February 1994

White rabbits Mary says to say!

Burnt pizza and Piat D’or – our celebratory meal for this – the first day of a new month.  So much to look forward to – I look forward to every moment.

Me and Broni dance like serpents across the living room floor – slipping our tongues over each other’s golden skin, so smooth and soft.  A mad dash to the bedroom and my baby straddles me and writhes along with me to our own sweet music.

We dance properly to crazy love tunes after and revel in the glory of our own happiness and pleasure.  I fix the room up some more and sing songs of the Suns.  Tonight I feel free.  Free from the outside world, free from exploitation and outside influence.  I’m inside my head and my head tells me I’m happy.  Not as I was a couple of years ago.  I needed drugs to get inside my head but lost the essence of what was outside.  I was trapped.

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I still have pleasurable memories of particular moments and I’m thankful for the experiences.  We all have different learning processes.  I’m glad my mind is still open for learning.  Onward is our quest for knowledge.