It’s the most wonderful time of the year… if you’re a media outlet or comedian that is. We’re in month 200 of coverage for the 2016 Presidential Election and we still have about 7 more to go. After that, we’ll have a brand new President of the United States of America (‘Murica for short) and after that, we’ll go back to feeling utterly powerless about what how the Government controls our lives until the next Presidential Election where we can get all excited about something we’ve already ceded our control over.
Since about 2007, I have been the frontperson for Austin ska outfit, Benny Versus The Beast. We play blistering, mostly third wave ska with a hip hop twist courtesy of yours truly. We’ve got a 3 piece horn section, lots of distortion, plenty of punk and ridiculous songs about everything from sweating out your problems and feminism, to pirates, and jumping people after school with your girlfriend. Still… any way you slice it I’m a grown man in his 30’s that’s still in a ska band.
It’s funny how familiar it all seems while being vastly different at the same time. Bangkok in particular is like a melding of every city I’ve been to, shifting to a new one every few miles or blocks. It’s Orlando; big palm trees everywhere, wet and muggy. The hot sun is the skyline’s most prominent feature, bathing everything in a moist, inescapable blanket. Modest buildings eclipsed by billboards so large that the designers consider them failures if it can’t the seen not just from space, but from Jupiter. It’s Las Vegas. Flat stretches of traffic choked streets. People all over every single corner selling everything to what looks like no one. Every corner repeating somehow at a different vibration than the last as new half dressed just jock to get noticed. It’s Houston because it has that magic that somehow makes smog and uncomfortable heat feel blue collar charming. Everybody’s got an angle, and everybody seems rather nice about it. It goes on and on like that, but as a city of 13 million, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that every other city is aping Bangkok.
The drivers are just ridiculous. I haven’t been this scared inside of a car since riding with Johnny Badass’ Cutlass in the 9th grade. Everything’s backwards, speed limits are relative, and everybody thinks they’re precision drivers with Ph.D’s a la Fast and Furious. Only there seems to be more fury here. I’ve fallen asleep in every ride I’ve taken so far and I’m not astronaut, but I think it’s the G forces from the centrifugal force that get me every time. Still… There’s no accidents. I haven’t been here long of course, but with the 200,000 I’ve personally run across I figured I’d see at least one fender bender being sorted out, but no. None. I often joke with the Vishy, himself an aggressive driver in the states, about whether or not he’d prefer a world of drivers like himself. Would it be better for everyone? Would traffic move more gracefully or would it just be Twisted Metal mayhem? While little more than a fun thought experiment back home, Bangkok for now seems to have proved the former.
On the surface, it’s horrifying. Motorcycles and scooters piercing traffic at a perilous rate. Pedestrians that seem to completely embrace their mortality as they calmly cross busy streets and allow cars to miss them by inches. Every tuk tuk (3 wheeled thrill taxi) or cab ride is little more than multiple replays of my own life flashing before my eyes. Nevertheless, with all the reckless velocity, impromptu lane making, and crazed mass of movement, no one gets angry. Tuk Tuks stop on a dime to pick up a fair and nearly cause a pile up; traffic just shuffles and everyone goes on their way. No fist waving, minimal horn honking, and not a single Muay Thai showdowns or gun fight. It’s just life. If this was Texas, everyone would be dead from road rage in some cowboy version of Mad Max, because Texas drivers are the most entitled and angry bunch of people on Earth. Bangkok, you’ve amazed me. You’ve also horrified me and convinced me to never drive in you ever.
Actual Footage of Draving in Thailand NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!
So we’re going to do this thing. We’re going to do this thing because we are grown men who want to experience everything the world has to offer. We’re going to do this because we refused to be shackled by the preconceived notions of the world around us. We’re going to do this thing because it must be done. It needs to be done by us. It needs to be done for those like us that have toiled away New Year after New Year looking for the epic party that would never come. Looking for the memories that would never betray and the stories that would never grow tiresome. We’re going to do this because it exists for us, through us, and because of us.
We’re going to the New Years Eve Full Moon Party.
It’s a balmy day on Koh Phangnan, an island off the coast of Thailand – a backpackers paradise filled with sandy beaches, nimble scooters and incredible value. We’ve spent the day riding bikes through rain and mud; up hills and through cafes where we made new friends and swapped new stories. Now, it’s time to make our way to what may be the biggest and most ridiculous party in the world. So I’ve been told anyway.
The hope is that after all the hours of travel, all the hardship, lost items, and broken alliances; we can still find our salvation inside of a beat on top of an island, underneath the watching, placid gaze of a full moon. This will be our opus. Our swan song. And we dedicate it to all those who rocked with us in parties past. My great hope is that whatever you do, you’re doing it with everything you got. Whether you’re riding in a car looking for a party at midnight and never end up finding that party (me in 1999) or whether you leave a party looking for a better one and end up talking to a depressed guy you barely know about his ex all night (2004), or if you end up in a hot tub with large obese man in his 40s telling you never to get married (2009, 2010) remember that we do this for you too. It’s all bikinis and pancakes yo.
So from Mike Dynamo and Craig T. Vishy… Happy New Year all the way from Thailand… Unless you’re in Thailand in which case, come find us and make sure we got home ok…. You know how crazy people get when the full moon is out..
Haha! Nah… I’m just playing. We’re going to stay in and watch Jurrasic Park movies. We’re way too old to do any epic backpacker party stuff. You guys be safe out there.
One thing I unequivocally love about Thailand is how they’ve seemingly mastered the art of the billboard and maybe even marketing as a whole because their commercials are fantastic too. Seriously, I’ve been drinking Birdy since I got here. Like… Every day… Any time of day… Because Craig T. Vishy and I have a problem. Just don’t be surprised if the dragon we bring with us from the east is espresso flavored.
Anyway, as a hot bed of tourism, Thai businesses have their work cut out for them explaining proper etiquette to a variety of peoples in a variety of locals… And the results are ridiculous.
Same Same But Dookie
Remember that How I Met Your Mother episode about how much of a rite of passage it was to have a sign erected due to your callous activity, and the more ridiculous the better? Whatever bumpkins caused this downtown Bangkok club to put this sign up have won the contest as far as I’m concerned.
And this one not only tells you where to go, but what to do when you get there.
Thailand Respects the Elements
…in addition to other pieces of art I couldn’t begin to understand.
Well it’s finally happening. I’m here on a plane about to land in Bangkok, Thailand to do my damndest to not get arrested as Craig T. Vishy and I bob around Southeast Asia to tear some shit up in the most respectful and culturally aware way as possible.
This marks my first time ever going overseas, and only second leaving the country though many people tell me partying in Mazatlan, Mexico doesn’t count. Screw those people, because I had never had a bacon wrapped hot down before then and I’m the weird kid that tried one with grape jelly because I read it in “Wayside School is Falling Down.” It was pretty good.
So we’re going to have some fun. We’re going to meet some people and make some memories, and I’m going to be chronicling our adventure here on Bikinis and Pancakes. Hopefully, you’ll be so entertained you’ll donate money to make sure I don’t get Brokedown Palace’d out here. I’ve never seen the movie, but foreign prison somehow seems more awful than domestic prison. Luckily, last weeks bus ride introduced me to some guys who taught me a few tips about eye contract, praising Jesus, and making a mouthpiece out of rolled up news paper. I’m sure those tips are just as useful in Vietnam as they are in Huntsville, Texas.
As the Thais say, “same same, but different” right?
So stay tuned to Bikinis and Pancakes as we hit you with some crazy and not so crazy traveler stuff. Hopefully, you can have as much fun reading about it as we’ll have doing it. That goes double for foreign prison.
In the ’80s we fantasized about the robots coming for our lives. Sentient futureware hurtled through time to kill the most important of us and cement their cold mechanical future.
In the ’90s we fantasized about the robots coming for our minds. Post-apocalyptic Hugo Weaving using internet virtual reality to keep us in a ’90s mental state to feed off our body heat and creativity.
In the 21st century we’ve fantasized about the robots coming for our sexuality: conversational, sensual machines with whom we could fall in love and never live without…. ever.
Whether whether robots kill us, enslave us, or get us pregnant and skip out on child support may be up for debate, but in the meantime, robots will continue to do exactly what they’re designed to do. They will take our jobs. As surely as the steam powered hammer drove folk hero John Henry to karoshi (Japanese word literally meaning “death from overwork.”), so too will the robots come and replace us all.
Michael loves Dragon’s Dogma. He loves it so much he gives it pet names. I call it “That Dawgma or “Dawgma” for short. Dawgma came into my life and I gladly sacrificed 85 hours before I finally finished it, and I don’t really finish games very often. I tend to grab an RPG, sink a bunch of time into it, experiment with the mechanics, put it down, and start over a lot, but I seldom murder whoever caused all those problems in the kingdom. I did this with Final Fantasy 7 – 10, Oblivion and Skyrim, and even Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana (which I SWEAR we’re gonna beat, Lee). All quality games, but I’m terrible.
… but I finished Dragon’s Dogma.
This is why I was so terribly excited at the announcement for the next game in the franchise called Dragon’s Dogma Online. It’s like Capcom heard the collective prayers of its fanbase and decided to give us the multiplayer we wanted, the lack of which was the most heartbreaking thing about the original game. Rather than giving us something we could play with friends, we got pawns; customizable NPCs who would fight with you throughout your journey. You could build and teach your main pawn while using the pawns of friends and other players, but Dragon’s Dogma always felt like it was meant to allow for more particularly with multiplayer
It wasn’t the plot or graphics that managed to entice me enough to actually finish the game; it was the mechanics. When you fight a dragon in Skyrim, you swing wildly at his wing or leg until he dies stupidly. When you fight a dragon in That Dawgma, you leap atop his scaly hide as he attempts to gain altitude, hack or cast spells at his wings until he careens into earth at which point your pawns dog pile him in an attempt to keep him grounded long enough for you to attack at his exposed heart.
Fights with giant monsters like griffins, manticores, and the dreaded cockatrice were complex, nuanced, tense, and satisfying as was fighting the variety of bandits, wolves and lizard men that would dare stand against you. Combined with excellent an excellent and diverse class system, survival horror elements, and a solid equipment system, Dawgma was a great and expansive world to ruin with medieval superpowers. To exist in this world with friends would have taken the experience to incredible heights and deliver an experience even more unlike any other RPG I’ve ever played.