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Book Review

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Book Review: Thai Lite 2 – the Refill

by Lang Reid

Bangkok Books have come out with another publication from the pen of the humorous writer known only as S. Tsow (and not S. Cow if you read his letter to The Nation dealing with transliteration English-Chinese!).
Thai Lite 2 – the Refill (ISBN 974-93671-3-8) is a collection of 35 short essays dealing with life in Thailand. Amongst the evocative (provocative?) titles is, “A guide for western Romeos, Why getting romantically involved with a Thai bargirl is not a good idea : The Law of Escalating Demands and the Behind-the-Buffalo factor.” The chapter head almost tells it all, but S. Tsow delves deeper with sociological explanations of the family pecking order (and your place in it) and quotes from other writers and references to Leary’s Law from Collin Piprell’s “Bangkok Knights” which states, ‘If you must marry, marry an orphan’.
Around once a week you will read entreaties in the readers letters sections of the popular media, with expats asking why does the council allow street vendors to block city streets, making it difficult for people to walk past. Tsow reveals all with an in-depth delve into the Dukkha Syndrome, attempting to explain the phenomenon by reference to ancient Buddhist practices. Unfortunately he is totally wrong and he finally admits this in print, writing, “Every time you think you’ve got Thai culture all figured out, it throws a curved ball at you that shatters all your theories and puts you right back to square one.” Now isn’t that a fact!
With floods in Bangkok a perennial problem, Tsow has put together a chapter to help you wade through the morass. He has two simple rules:
1. Stock up on beer
2. There is no 2.
He also mentions the following salient point: “If the floods are prolonged, you may worry about how to get to work. Don’t worry about it. Nobody will be going to work. Sit home and drink beer. That’s what you bought it for.” If you need further encouragement in following his simple two step, he writes, “Think about Noah who was stuck on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights with no beer and all those animals with their fragrant by-products. Not to mention Mrs. Noah who cannot have been pleased with the situation.”
One wonderfully satirical chapter is entitled, “The Quest for Quality Tourists,” with the sub-head: “An interview with the newly appointed Minister for Social Control, Khun Pharisee Savonarolakul : her stern views on quality tourists ; why Jesus and Buddha don’t qualify.” Khun Pharisee describes plainly just what Thailand is looking for. “These standards reflect Thai values. Our most important value is money, so our first requirement is that quality tourists must be filthy rich.”
I chanced upon this book on Bookazine’s shelves, which these days seem to have a surfeit of poorly written memoirs masquerading as books. S. Tsow is a good writer and this book is not of the genre just mentioned. It is amusing and informative, particularly if you know how to read between the lines. At B. 325 it is a cheap read, and I enjoyed it.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Steve Hillman

The World Over

Five Stars *****
Scripted by Mott the Dog
Edited by Meow the Cat

For many years it has confused lovers of good music why Steve Hillman is not at the top of his own musical tree. Steve first came to the public’s notice in 1983 with the release of his first collection of works, ‘From Distant Shores’, which was put out on his own record label in cassette form. Steve Hillman remained an underground, unheralded musician years ahead of his time. He threw himself whole heartedly into the burgeoning electronic scene flourishing in Birmingham, England, where he found many kindred spirits in the musicians of the area, championed by Lotus Records. Steve Hillman made many tape collections for Lotus Records that were cherished by the few, but unfortunately the mainstream record buying public was unaware of his undoubted talents.
Whilst Steve Hillman was setting about recording a new solo album he was approached by the genial Bruce Wood of Dreamfast Cinema to make a soundtrack album with the view to being for an imaginary Secret Agent movie. As Steve Hillman had always enjoyed the soundtracks of John Barry, who did all the James Bond soundtracks, this was too good an opportunity to miss. So the solo album was put on hold, and work began on the soundtrack album without a film.
Although as usual Steve Hillman has composed and arranged all the tracks, this time he has called in some of Britain’s top musicians to play along with him. Steve Hillman limited himself to only keyboards and the occasional bit of percussion. Brought into the studio is literally the cr่me de la cr่me, Iain Ballamy on soprano and tenor sax (who many of you may be familiar with, as he used to play in the excellent ‘Bill Bruford’s Earthworks’); Rain, who plays all of the guitar parts, which must have been pretty daunting to play under the guidance of such a good guitarist as Steve Hillman himself; and Phil Morgan on the violin and viola, which he does with great aplomb, making the spooky or sexy passages of the music quite exhilarating. Darrell Davison plays the cello, whilst Gareth Davies has the unenviable job of replacing Steve’s wife Linda on all the flute parts; very well he does too, not surprising really as his day job is that of principal flautist of the London Symphony Orchestra. In fact you can safely say that all the musicians are at the top of their talents. However, the keyboard playing of Steve Hillman is the thing that stands out amongst the music, surprisingly jazzy at times, particularly in the wonderful but too short ‘Thirties Thing’.
The most exciting thing about the whole album is that you can actually imagine the film unfolding as you listen to the music. For the sake of this review I have created my own special agent Phil Simonbrook 008, who in the plot for our movie has to go in and save the heroine Lovely Deborah (no doubt a close relative to Pussy Galore), after the last 007 Daniel Craig makes a hash of things in Casino Royale. Simonbrook has to go in and save the girl and the world. The opening title sequence is aptly named ‘Fired Up’, as the mood is set up by some strident music that fairs favorably with any other Bond movie opening, leaving you in no doubt that there is plenty adventure to come. ‘Linda’s Theme’ covers the usual Bond requirements where Simonbrook is briefed by ‘M’ and then has some fun on a visit to ‘Q’.
‘Long Hot Night’ is a fully fledged action sequence which find’s Simonbrook abseiling down the side of the castle where he thinks the Lovely Debbie is held captive, only to come flying through the window to find that Lovely Debbie is gone, as she has already overpowered her captives and fled.
This is followed by the title track where Simonbrook and Lovely are reunited, and prepare to save the world from the wicked ‘Root Of All Evil’. But of course before there is time to save the world Simonbrook and Lovely have to do what hero and heroine have to do. By the sounds of some of these tracks this will be one of the steamiest secret agent stories ever told, building to several climaxes.
By the time you get to track ten, ‘Slow Down’, things are brought back under control and it is time for the film’s shattering finale. The song titles say it all: ‘What The Hell’, Regrets’, and ‘The Chase Is On’. By this time it seems pretty likely Simonbrook and Lovely have vanquished the Root Of All Evil, and the World is once again safe. Which just leaves the closing ‘Journey’s End’ to allow Phil Simonbrook and Lovely Debbie to float away into the sunset.
The music is so inspiring that I am sure whoever listens to this album will be able to make up their own storyline to it, but I assure you it will be an excellent story. Perhaps now they should make a new film and build it around the soundtrack.
A great idea by Dreamfast Cinema, excellently executed by Steve Hillman. There is more new music in the pipeline from Steve Hillman, as yet again another solo album has had to be put on the shelf as he has been enrolled in a new Progressive Rock Supergroup ‘RA’, who already have an album in the can called ‘Wake’ that will hopefully be released sometime this year. ‘RA’ features David Groves on guitar, Robert Andrews on bass, Dai Rees on drums and Steve Hillman on keyboards, so watch out for that.
But in the meantime ‘The World Over’ will be released on August 15th 2006 and will be available through the usual outlets including www. ‘The World Over’ will definitely be Mott the Dog’s album of the year.

Song titles

Fired Up
Linda’s Theme
Long Hot Night
The World Over
As Chance Would Have it
Flute Jazz
Thirties Thing
Looking Back
In Dreams
Slow Down
What The Hell
The Chase Is On
Journeys End


Steve Hillman: Keyboards and Percussion
Iain Ballamy: Soprano and Tenor Saxophone
Gareth Davies: Flute and Alto Sax
Rain: Acoustic and electric bass, and guitars
Phil Morgan: Violin and Viola
Darrell Davison: Cello

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]