In Your Head: One Way to Make Friends in Thailand

Thai people love music. Everyone is willing to sing – if not necessarily able – at a moment’s notice and in any company. I’ve found the quickest way to a Thai heart is through music. Those who carry a guitar into the Land of Smiles are not likely to leave with any confusion about the source of that nickname.

Like much of Thai culture, Thai music is, by American standards, very centralized. At any given time, there are four or five hot songs that the whole country is singing and playing. (Right now, those songs are ภูมิแพ้กรุงเทพ, อาย, แค่คุณ, ขอใจเธอแลกเบอร์โทร, ผมรักเมืองไทย, and แน่นอก. Or, in English, “Allergic to Bangkok,” “Shy,” “Only You,” “Can I Have Your Heart and Your Number?”, “I Love Thailand,” and “Tight-Chested.” Thai songs are almost exclusively about love or Thailand or both.) If you can play any of this group of popular songs (or any of the Thai Oldies that everyone knows), and especially if you can fake your way through the chorus in broken Thai, you’re golden. You’re the most popular Farang in the province.
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But the good news if you’re not interested in singing Thai songs is that Thai pop culture also recognizes, apparently universally, a number of English tunes. The bad news is that the list of English-speaking artists popular in Thailand reads like a Who’s Who of the worst musicians ever to enter a recording studio: Bieber, Aaron McCartney, and Selena Gomez for the kids; the likes of Michael Learns to Rock and Leo Sayer for the older crowd. Even when a better band (Pearl Jam, for instance) pops up, it’s represented by a dreadful song (“Better Man,” for instance).

WITH ONE EXCEPTION: The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Every man, woman, and child in Thailand – as in the rest of the civilized world – loves “Zombie.” I know I love “Zombie.” I know you love “Zombie,” since you obviously have the brainpower to have read this far. Everyone loves “Zombie,” as everyone should.

So we’ve got A) a playable popular English song, and B) an audience that never tires of listening to a limited number of songs. Taken together, those two circumstances add up to this convenient truth: all you have to do to be popular in Thailand is learn to play “Zombie” and whip it out every time it’s requested. (That’ll be often. I’ve worn grooves into my guitar in the finger positions for “Zombie.” I believe if I start the song now, I can just put the guitar down and it knows what to do on its own, freeing me to focus on singing the In Your Heads up an octave.)

That’s all there is to it. Learn “Zombie” and you’re a star in Thailand. I’ll update this with an instructional video soon.

Allergic to Bangkok

It’s hard for me to overstate how corny Thai pop culture can sometimes be, so I’ll let Thai pop culture attempt to overstate its own corniness. Here’s a literal translation of the chorus of the most popular song in the country right now, “ภูมิแพ้กรุงเทพฯ” (“Allergic to Bangkok”).

Him: Since I came and met you I’ve been nothing but extremely happy.
I want to sing to keep you from turning away from helping to heal my heart.
Her: Dear brother, if you speak truly, I’m sure to accept.
If you haven’t come to trick me, I’ll love you with all my heart.
Him: I haven’t come to trick you!
Both: Our love will surely last a really long time.

Full disclosure: I love this effin’ song and its music video. This is just pure Thailand. You don’t need to understand a word of Thai to get the point. Enjoy!

How Life Started

There seems to be some confusion about the way life started on earth. Specifically, everyone seems to think life is a near-impossible miracle.

Life is actually really simple. If something can make a version of itself which is not necessarily identical to it but does necessarily inherit its knack for making copies of itself that can make copies of themselves, that thing is alive. It doesn’t have to be green or furry.

It can all be physical. Suppose I blend a spoonful of molecule A and a spoonful of molecule B together in a pool. The individual molecules don’t bond with each other, for a physical reason: they need a little nudge from a specially shaped horn if they are to fit together. Interestingly, when they are bonded, their parts happen to combine to form just such a horn. Now suppose I drop into this pool a molecule of AB, which I’ve horned together artificially. AB is going to start horning clones of itself into existence, and they’re going to do the same.

AB is now alive and reproducing. It might even evolve, if an AB horns a couple molecules funny and produces an AB with the sort of funny horn that’ll funnyhorn a new generation of funnyhorned ABs. AB is good to go, as long as it’s got the raw materials it needs to reproduce. Just like us. When we run out of food, or our 6000K heatlamp goes out, we’re toast.

Honestly, this AB stuff isn’t life, by most definitions, but who needs definitions? It’s a start. A few more lucky funnyhorns and poor inorganic AB might start looking pretty durn organic.

Babe’s New Word: “Utrifuce”

My brother Babe and I are surely not the first football fans to note the close resemblance between Manchester City winger Jesús Navas and the mental image of the Antichrist that all Christians are presumably born with. From the ostentatiously Christianic name to the gaunt, sand-burned countenance, and from the choice of club to the deeply, deeply disturbing eyes, everything about the man says, “I’m a demon and I’m going to lead you to Hell.”

We might, however, be the first Navas-watchers to accidentally assign him his very own Antichristian verb. Exactly what act the verb in question describes is currently disputed, but its newness means it may be assumed, at present, to belong singularly to Navas, though it may in future be appropriated by any number of Infernal terrors. Here it is:

Utrifuce.

In fact, by pure chance, Babe’s New Word is a study in the power of phonemic association. By combining the repugnance of “putrefaction” with the religiosity of “crucifix” and the insidious coercion of “seduce,” “utrifuce” dictates its own meaning. See below for the felicitous textual intercourse that produced Babe’s New Word, and let’s all pray that today’s Swansea City match in Manchester passes without utrifiction.

Babe: Watching UCL?
Babe: Anti-Jesus Navas just utrifuced against Viktoria Plzen
Babe: 🙂
Babe: Johnny Ev can only finish from under 3 feet
Talley: What on earth is utrifuced
Babe: Haha it sounds right in that context with the Czech names or whatever. It was supposed to be introduced but I like utrifuced better

. . .

Talley: Dude I can’t stop thinking about “utrifuced.” If “utrifuce” were a verb, it would surely have been used only once in history, in the book of Revelations, to describe some sort of ritual or metamorphosis that the Antichrist must undertake to steal a soul or rule the world. That word is so perfect for antichristian activity.
Talley: It sounds terrifying
Talley: I’m imagining Navas just stopping in the middle of the game, spreading his arms, looking upward, and sprouting the head of a terrible bird as the ground falls away around him
Talley: Lolololol I’m dying right now how did you accidentally come up with that perfect word
Babe: Hahaha I couldn’t change it, it sounded too good
Babe: I don’t know it was a brilliant stroke of accidental type luck
Babe: I know, it’s amazing that it happened in the context of describing the Antichrist. It sounds so archaically evil. Utrifuce.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to come up with your own Navas-inspired vocabulary in the comments.