Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sad News

Photo taken from flickr.
On the 1st of January I received and posted on this blog a very touching story from Michelle Hanson about her husband's battle with cancer. The article has gotten a lot of attention and people have asked about Dan her husband. Sadly I received this email over the weekend and the inevitable has happened far too soon. But at least they had their wedding together and this must have been the one thing he was hanging on for. Her email follows:

Dearest Jonathon,

It is with a heavy heart that I write you today. My Dan passed away last night, free of pain, surrounded by love, and with peace, with my arms around him. On the 19th of January we danced, we ate cake, we celebrated with our friends and family, and yes, "we made it to our night." On Sunday morning we left our honeymoon suite and Dan said, "I just want to be home in our bed." So, that is where we went...hand in hand. There is nothing that I can say to convey what is truly happening at this time, I'm filled with such emotion and anxiety and I fear that this hole will never be filled again...

Cancer is brutal, but Dan was full of grace, laughter, love and kindness...that is something that cancer can never take from you. He is missed...I wish you could have met him, you would have become fast friends, how I will ever survive this is unknown.

LoveStrong ALWAYS, and protect those that you lOVE.

Michelle Hansen

As I told her, he was a lucky man to have had her during this fight. God bless and may he rest in peace.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Temple of Dance a Satit Kaset School Play

The winner of the camp play competition was this story of martial arts mixed with dance. It is amazing they put this together during a 3 day camp trip. Impressive although a bit raw. Good job guys!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Forwarded Photos and why they are so terrible

Lots of people like to send me cute photos of animals. I believe these are intended to cheer me up or make me feel a sense of temporary glee. I do appreciate this. Of course this photo only reminds me of just how isolated I feel at times. I mean look deep into this Kittie's eyes, this little fur ball is getting ready to slap one of these fuzzy brushes, none of which accept him or love him or share his ideas about film, but with three of these bristling one legged automatons confronting him, he just can't figure out which one deserves the claws first. I feel this way when I am in a crowd here in Bangkok being jostled and shoved, elbowed and poked.
I feel you my feline friend, my soul mate of soloness. We are truly alone among the brushes! Brushes bent on fluffing away our very essence and originality and leaving it their prickly stead, a sameness--uniformness--homaginizedness, that I dread more than death, more than a needle in my eye, or a ruptured spleen.
Thanks photo forwarder you truly have gotten my mind off of my problems with your little glimpse of joy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Echo Pool the school play

We went to school camp this year outside of Bangkok at a place called Brookside. It was a lot of fun. One of the most popular nights of the camp was our annual play night and this year the theme was that students had to create a play using music and dance to help tell the story. Some of my students put together a piece honoring my book ECHO POOL.

By the real novel by clicking on the title above.

Monday, January 14, 2008


It has been a very long weekend. I singed a contract with Bangkok Book House to publish THOSE WHO HEAR back in late October. We are currently in the editing process. This novel is nothing like ECHO POOL, for better or worse. This piece is a bit of fantasy written in a YA style. I still believe that adults may enjoy this, but in truth it is written with the teenager in mind. This book is the first in a series called Journeys of the Astropaths that I have been developing. I am nervous beyond anything I have ever felt in my writing before, because with Echo Pool I knew what it was -- a literary effort, a book for my father, a book for those who have lost someone in their life to cancer, a book for visitors of Thailand. But fantasy? This is really a far cry from my normal style of writing.

I am also excited! If this book could develop a following, I have outlines for 5 additional books in the series. I am midway through writing the second book and the plan is for Bangkok Book House to publish the second book by August or September. Yikes more work!

So for the past three days I have done nothing but read the comments and proofing marks of the publisher's editor. I am exhausted, still shaking from all the coffee: Mochas, Cappuccinos, Americanas, and even a few street ice coffees. But I think I have completed the final draft and should be able to get it back to the publisher today or tomorrow.

How many times can I read through this manuscript? Well it's short really, 279 pages, and I just keep going through it for one last look and I usually find one more mistake or unclear line. It does get a bit maddening after a while.

I think I'll put up a few pages of this new story once we have a publishing date.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Satit Kaset International Student Film Awards

Well since coming to Satit Kaset International I have had a small influence on the school's English department. I think, in general, it is my laziness that makes me want to bend things into a shape that I can better work with and do well with. Just like my teaching in the US, I have focused my theoretical concepts, such as teaching theme, metaphor, irony, and the development of dramatic narrative by using film. The young people today have been raised on movies and with this background I find I can access, reach, and teach them. So when Austin Bush, a former teacher here, wanted to begin a film contest for one of his classes, I took this idea and ran with it for the entire school.
This year is our fourth annual student film contest which we call in honor of Austin Bush, the AUSTINS. It is a film festival that has not only improved in the participation of it from a one class assignment to a grades 9-12 open competition, but the quality of English spoken in the films, the style of direction, the acting (maybe Speedy is helping us out there) and especially the creativity of the films has been developing.
This little video will be boring unless your one of the students who gets their name called for an award, but I thought I'd put it up just to give them a few more seconds of FAME!
Next year will be the 5Th annual Austins and it is going to be BIGGER than EVER and already a few of the groups are tinkering with script ideas and organizing their teams. Who knows, maybe someday one of our students will elect not to go to business school like their parents want them to and they may opt to run away to California and attend FILM SCHOOL. That would probably get me fired, but I'd take it as a little personal victory.

The Chimes of the Chiang Dao Temple

I recently visited Chiang Dao and enjoyed the hike up to this mountain temple. What was shocking when we got there is the plack that told us all about the monk who first meditated in the cave at the top. His name was Lung Pau SIM and the n some really long Thai sir name. I found that interesting because in Thailand everyone just calls me SIM. I changed from Jonathon because it is pronounced very ugly by Thai people and it always made me feel odd to hear it, plus in Thailand everyone has a short 3 or 4 letter nickname and it makes life easy.
Anyway, the video is uncut or edited, just LISTEN and take a look at the peace and calm of this tranquel place. The view is amazing, but it was the sound that really put me into a state of creative inspiration.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


One of the most eventful years of my life has come to an end. I began on the 8Th of January 2007. At first I wasn't really sure what the hell I was going to do with it, and at times I can't believe I keep writing and putting up photos and videos and such. There has been times when it seems NO ONE is reading it or checking it out, but then it seems I'll get a comment or a message and realize there are a few people out there who like to check in now and then. Over all I must say that a blog is a fun way of keeping a kind of living diary. I have a very poor memory, often substituting myself for characters I see in the plethora of movies and books I go through. But this blog's archives holds memories, and real time connections to those memories like no written book ever could. Photos from my wedding, my ECHO POOL ( signing, Nikki's visit and music, Pat's monking, it's really all here. So many day to day thoughts and ideas have been jotted down on these electronic pages and these thoughts are sort of frozen for me, or anyone else, to go back to and visit as we like.
I don't know if I'll keep doing this forever, but 2007 was by far the most documented year of my life. And what a year it was. So if you are reading this and wondering if you should put the time and effort into a BLOG I'm just going to say, even if no one else is really hitting your site, do it for YOU! You may also be surprised that people do hit your site. I've had about 2400 visitors over this year and if I grow a bit in 08, that would be something. So GO FOR IT, there is probably someone out there who would love to know your life!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Woody Allen Interview

Woody Allen is one of my heroes. His films of love, comedy, and the way in which city people in the modern world deal with relationships and sex, have always given me inspiration. It is hard for me to realize that he is 72 now, as in many ways he will always be an eternal 40 for me -- experiencing a midlife crises that seems to have lasted 4 decades.
No matter what, Woody's films make me feel something, usually a sense of tragic comedy about life itself. The way his characters over ponder and yet under think, would certainly describe a large number of people in my life and certainly describes ME.
I have always believed that Woody's movies got me through the really hard times in my life, such as my divorce back in the early 90's and my own midlife crises which I experienced about 8 years ago. There is just something in his simplistic genius that can really get to me and make me laugh, sigh, and at times cry. And all that without any special effects, amazing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Another Letter about ECHO POOL

Michelle Harris/now Hansen and her husband. I'd really like to share her letter to me about Echo Pool, mostly because she is struggling, and most proudly I might add, with her husband's cancer. Echo Pool was fueled by loss, my loss of my father, but I believe Michelle has taken on her husband's illness with the kind of strength and tenacity that true love deserves.

Dear Jonathon,
Hello there. I hope this email finds you doing well. Things are okay here, I have just been thinking that I never got back to you after I ordered your books! Life gets in the way! Your book has been traveling with me many places; The Sea of Cortez, Vegas, Nebraska, a week long trip on the Western slope and through hours of sitting beside Dan at Chemo. I have read it numerous times, always getting stuck right around the time that you go to the massage parlor place. :) Call me a prude! hahaI have enjoyed it immensely, and when we are going somewhere that reading is appropriate, Dan says, " Where's the book?" This is a wonderful memory, that I will not soon forget.A lot has happened since we last spoke, I'll just list it all in order of events, as to not go off on tangents. I hope that you had a Merry Christmas, and are looking forward to the New Year and all the beauty that it has to offer.

*Engaged in Mexico Nov. 2, 2007 Dan and I at sunset on a deserted island.(I did the ugly cry)*We became GodParents(remember my little cousin Katie? Yup)

*Married in Denver Dec. 3, 2007 We avoided all chaos and snuck off to the court house.

* Another chemo failed Dan, and his cancer moved throughout his vital organs

* Four days ago he had a stroke

* Bailed him out of the hospital yesterday, he said, "we barely got out of there alive!" Gotta love the humor

*Spent Christmas wrapped up with our pups at home...never again we said, would we spend Christmas in the we said that we were leaving with or without their consent.

Here are the things that we are looking forward to:


*Radiation that HAS to work to maintain some timeline beyond two weeks

*Our Wedding Reception January 19th, 2008 to be the event of the year, with black and white attire That is all we have so far, we are at that point that everyday is what we are living, it is amazing to live in the moment...for today. There it all is my friend...heavy I know, but hey the good out weighs the bad by a long shot! So, when I haven't been up for four days, I would love to tell you my favorite parts of your work, if you don't mind. :)

Don't be a Stranger!Warm Regards,Michelle Hansen (Better than Harris....has a nice ring to it!)

An HONEST Assesment of ECHO POOL

I received this email this week regarding my novel ECHO POOL. I have been getting more responses lately and will begin publishing many of them. Please SEND ME FEEDBACK, good or bad, because at least I know its alive out there! I'd also love to publish a photo of you with your review if you could think to send one along. This one comes from Malaysia.

Hi Jonathon,
To quote a line from the movie 40 days and 40 nights: “Dude, you are action packed with issues.”
But then again, who isn’t?
I thoroughly enjoyed your book. I felt it started off a bit slow, but the more the book progressed, the more you came into your writing element. The combination of hilarious situations with personal flashbacks made it a great read. Knowing you a bit, I had a fictitious non-fiction sensation the whole time I held the book in my hands.
Growing up in a fairly liberal European country where Catholicism is dramatically losing its influence on the general population, hearing stories of the American Bible belt has always fascinated me. The few attempts you had with your parents as an agnostic, or better said a critical thinker, to discuss certain aspects of Christianity must have been for both parties equally frustrating. People are afraid to chat about anything that might upset there daily routine or what has defined their whole life. Insecurity isn’t a trait humans cope well. Nonetheless, I never felt either of your parents gave you a religious overload (correct me if I’m wrong).
My father has never played a role in my life. The decisions he had to make in bars or pubs (straight or on the rocks) where much more significant to him than his son. That neglect has shaped me into who I am today, with all the positive and negative characteristics. Reading your book, I felt extremely envious of you. I’ve spent plenty of time analyzing my psyche and perfectly know what I really seek. Actually implementing that self reflecting knowledge is another story though. If I can say one day I was half the person your father was, I will be extremely pleased. I would’ve loved having a father like you had. I’m crying while I’m writing this, as I was when I read the last few paragraphs of “Echo Pool”.
I remember once sitting at an open air food court with an American friend of mine in Bangkok. We were enjoying the delicious Thai food accompanied with a few drinks talking about our plans of our upcoming visit to Vietnam. Drinks were being served by lovely Heineken waitresses. Suddenly, a few Dutch graduate students asked us if we wanted to participate in a survey. Basically, they were doing research on what they called the degrading working conditions many Thai girls have to work in. While I read the questions, I got frustrated by how western centric they were. They never realized that what these girls were doing at the open air food delight was a highly sought after job for many Thai women. Too often, westerners try to implement their values and norms on different cultures. But who says they are right? Who says they are wrong? What I’m ultimately trying to point out is that this book needs to be read with an open mind, trying to take in Thai customs and realities. A fervent feminist would probably be appalled by certain aspects of your book. Having lived in Thailand for 3.5 years, I was able to understand many of the cultural baggage you brought up. I personally believe you did a good job trying to explain in a literary manner what the Thai psyche is about.
Yeah you were right in your descriptions, I forgot her real name, but Arraya was hot. Superficially, any normal man would have you declared insane. Sensibly, you made the right decision, although I would’ve handled it differently. The lack of interesting and deep conversations was one of the reasons why I eventually left the country. Beauty rocks your world at first, but any earthquake subsides shortly after. Shallowness in a serious relationship doesn’t last unless selfishness is what one seeks. The defining picture of your parents is that they grew from passionate lovers to friends for life. That blend allowed their marriage to blossom and turn into an out of this world recipe. Any educated individual is going to look for that ultimate goal. Research has already pointed out that relationships with educated women/men have more chances of survival. I’m too arrogant and curious to let my life being dictated by a sex queen. Mind blowing orgasms aren’t the same as waking up next to an extraordinary woman.
How is “Golf” doing? Whatever happened to Arraya? Did your mate ever come back to Thailand after the German diplomatic disaster? In my opinion, that individual did not represent his country in a mature diplomatic manner. God complex perhaps?
I just came back from a 3 week cycling trip around Laos. The long break did me good to sort of put everything in perspective of what has happened over the last year-and-a-half in Malaysia. Culturally and personally it has been an amazing experience, but it’s time to leave. Next Friday, I’m moving to Vietnam for at least one year. Honestly, I’m a bit South East Asianed out, but the money is good in Vietnam. All I care about at the moment is saving up so that I can do my masters. I’m wondering if perhaps I want to return to an individualistic society. Australia has a certain appeal. Great outdoor activities, fantastic weather, the west… Wait and see I guess.
KRISTOF IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS, he tells me he is the good looking one. He is a competitive tri-athlete and in the kind of shape that makes the rest of us keep our jackets on if you know what I mean.

Broken Glasses and Pockets

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2008 is HERE and it seems like I'm still making plans for the 1999 count down, it was going to be the end of the world as I recall it, but here we are 8 years later still hanging around doing much of the same old stuff.
This year's New Years Eve was sort of a bust for me because I did everything wrong. I always spend New Years Eve with the same group of friends, its a 6 year tradition that I love keeping up. But somehow I just got off to the worst start with this year's festivities.
First all of us failed to secure reservations, I was in town and should have done it, but I was sort of nervous about trying to please all my friends, so I left it to everyone else. In a panic similar to mine, someone booked us at an Italian restaurant close to the count down area of Central World. Now this was a fine restaurant we arrived at, but I -- not knowing the down town area at all as I tend to avoid it 364 days a year -- found myself walking into a place that might as well of been in the hills outside of Los Angeles. It not only was completely western, an Italian joint, but it didn't even offer Thai food.
I got off to a real shity start when I lifted my bottle of wine to show my friends and then turned to ask how much the cork fee would be. Now this is Bangkok, wine in restaurants is still somewhat rare, so most places don't mind if you bring your own wine and they charge you a little 100 baht or something to open it, and often by the end of the night they just let it slide all together if you order enough food.
"It's 1000 baht to open it."
"Fuck me, really?" I said like an idiot. The waitress looked at me as if I had climbed off my bus stops' bench and slithered in doors for the first time in weeks. "Well the bottle was only 600 baht, I think we can order cocktails instead."
But I continued to blunder. Not knowing what part of the city we were going to, I hadn't stopped off to get any CASH (idiot alert) so of course on this street there was NO ATMS. I had about 2500 baht in my pocket and when I looked at the menu I realized I wasn't in Lad Prao anymore. Even a plate of dry bread, four little slices, was 250 baht. The food was 400 to 700 a dish and this is Thailand, you don't order what you want and pay only for what you eat, we order and share the food like a family. It's what I love about eating out with Thais. You order lots and lots of little dishes, everyone takes a bite or two and then when the bill comes we just split it per person.
I'm sure my shoulders must have been sinking when I did the math and realized my lovely wife was going to have to watch me do the dishes for us to get out of there.
The place was very POSH you know, so we had these kind of Tom Petty Alice in Wonderland couches we were sitting at, it was stuffy and I couldn't talk to anyone. I had gotten off to a bad start so I decide to push our tables together and so we could at least sit close enough to hear each other. BUT, the table I thought was one long rectangular table turned out to be 2 small square ones. They were covered by a black table cloth and when I tried to pull the two of them I pulled only one and the other stayed put. A table full of wine flouts, water glasses, two plates, and one tall glass candle holder teetered upon the cloth for a moment and then -- as if someone turned on the gravity full blast -- it all came down smashing to bits upon the marble floor...
Well now that I had destroyed 12 or so dishes and increased the price of our meal to DOUBLE I sort of lost the spirit of New Years. Thank God for Pat and Golf who are close enough friends to put up with me even when I get into a morbid FUNK.
But I have a theory, that every bad NEW YEARS EVE will bring a MAGICAL New Year. Yin and Yang you know. It hasn't begun well, but 2008 just may be the year of my life. Or, will it be like so many broken dishes, just SMASHING.