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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles

Films on DVD for Rental in Chiang Mai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Is your insurance cover enough?

Is your insurance cover enough? This is a perennial question. And a perennial headache for private hospitals and those who end up in them! And if you haven’t upgraded your cover recently, then you may be in for a nasty surprise. Unfortunately, everything, be that petrol, bread, or baby’s nappies has gone up in price in the past 12 months. If you haven’t upgraded there could be a shortfall, which you would have to find (or fund), not your insurance company.

At the outset, I must say I have never been one out of whom insurance agents grow fat. It has always been my feeling that there was something unbalanced about my attendant hangers on (AKA children) getting rich at my expense when I meet my final demise. When you really analyse it, you don’t even get to enjoy your own wake! No, if anyone is going to benefit from my paying insurance premiums every year, it is going to be me!

I have also been very lucky with my choice of careers. Being a medico does have advantages. If I couldn’t fix my skin rash or whatever, I could always ring a classmate who could (or should) be able to. Medications and drugs? Again no worries, just a quick raid of the samples cupboard in my surgery and I had everything I needed.

What about hospital in-patient insurance? I passed on that one too. After all, the only foreseeable problems that could stop me working were massive trauma following a road accident or suchlike, or a heart attack. In either case you don’t care where you are as long as there are wall to wall running doctors and plenty of pain killers. In Australia, the “free” public hospital system is fine for that.

So I blithely carried on through life insuranceless. I did spend one night in hospital with a broken leg 30 years ago, so as regards personal medical costs versus proposed insurance premiums, I was still miles in front.

And then I came to Thailand. Still I blithely carried on, after all, I was ten foot tall and bullet proof. Then a friend over here had a stroke and required hospitalisation. Said friend was four years younger than me and I was forced to review the ten foot bullet proof situation to find I was only five foot eleven and my kryptonite had expired. Thailand was a completely new ballgame.

Enquiries as to hospital and medical costs showed that they were considerably less than the equivalent in Oz, but, and here’s the big but, there’s no government system or sickness benefits to fall back on. Suddenly you are walking the tightrope and there’s no safety net to stop you hitting terra firma.

So I took out medical insurance. Still it was no gold plated cover. But it was enough to look after me if I needed hospitalisation, and that came sooner than I imagined. I had always subscribed to the “major trauma” theory, but two days of the galloping gutrot had me flat on my back with the IV tube being my only life-line to the world. We are only mortal - even us medico’s.

Do you have medical insurance? Perhaps it is time to chat to a reputable insurance agent! Yes, reliable insurance agents and reliable insurance companies do exist, but you need help through the minefield.

You also need help when it comes to filling out the application forms, in my opinion. And you also need to be 100 percent truthful. Yes, insurance companies will check on your records, and if it is found that you have been sparing with the truth over pre-existing conditions, expect a shock at settling up time at the cashier’s desk.

Remember too, that just because you have an insurance card does not automatically signify that ‘everything’ is covered. This is why private hospitals will ask you for a deposit on admission. If the insurance company later verify that you are indeed covered for that ailment or condition, then you’ll get it back, but you have to prove that you are covered, not the other way round!

And remember that cheap insurance premiums means you are only getting partial cover.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I have been visiting Thailand for over 30 years and always get a great kick out of being here each holidays, surrounded as I usually am each evening by lots of little ladies who are quite happy to sit on my lap and drink the odd cola in return for a financial helping hand every so often. I’m not complaining about that, as that’s the price you pay to have some fun you can’t have at home. Compared to NZ, this is paradise for sure. One thing is changing though, and that is the size of the little ladies. They’re not so little any more, even in the t-shirt department. In fact some of them are right heifers. What do you think is the reason? Too many colas perhaps?
Jerry

Dear Jerry,
You are not the first to have made that observation, my Petal, though most correspondents who write to Hillary have made that observation visually, rather than by direct weight scales in the lap department. Does this put a new complexion on lap dancing I wonder? Going back to your memories of thirty years ago, Thailand did not have a well developed farang food connection, but that has changed, bringing with it some well developed Thai ladies who are getting closer to the even more well developed farang ladies who have been eating this kind of diet for several generations. I am interested in your ‘heifer’ comparison. Do you come from a dairy farm? That’s where the ‘big milks’ come from. Not from colas, no matter how many they all down every evening. ‘Big milks’ (nom yai) in Thailand generally come from the nearest hospital offering cosmetic surgery.

Dear Hillary,
With Songkran rapidly approaching, have you any hints for staying dry? Every year we have to endure this madness which goes on for days and days and days, and horror of horrors, in Chiang Mai they are talking about making Songkran compulsory for all of April to try and drown the smog, since they can’t seem to get rid of it any other way. Last year there were many injuries caused by idiotic behavior over Songkran. This year it looks like it will be worse if the water throwing goes on for a month. Over to you, Hillary. You must have some thoughts on this.
Soaked Sam

Dear Soaked Sam,
Hillary has lots of thoughts on everything, my Petal. How do you stay dry over Songkran? Simple. Go to a non Asian country. Those countries on our borders have their own version of the water festival, so you would still get wet there. Probably avoid the UK as well, as it is in a state of permanent celestial Songkran over there. If you do have to endure Songkran here, stay inside behind locked doors and order thin and crusty pizza takeaways (that is the only takeaway food they can slide it under the door without your having to open it). If you must go out, travel only by car with the windows up and the doors locked from the inside. On no account open the doors or wind down the windows if someone requests that you do so, or you will end up with a lapful of Songkran slop. Make sure your windscreen washers are full of water as they will smear white paste on your windscreen and pull the wiper blades away from the screen to try to make you get out to replace them so that you can see again. Final tip, keep your wallet in a plastic zip-lock bag. After all you don’t want your money to end up as soggy satang do you. And will the water throwing stop the smog in the north? I have heard of sillier ideas, but not often.

Dear Hillary,
What can I do about my girl friend who sends me SMS messages on my mobile phone? Most farangs seem to complain that when their girls go up-country they don’t hear from them for a few days. Mine is the reverse. I get a message every day. I do appreciate the fact that she stays in touch when she goes back to her family home in Ubon, but the problem is that she only speaks only a very little English and cannot read or write English, so the messages she sends are all in Thai. I can’t read Thai, so this means I have to get somebody else who is Thai to translate these for me, which can be embarrassing at times when she sends some very personal messages. Have you any suggestions that could help me?
Jim

Dear Jim,
Hillary has lots of suggestions for you, Petal. First, how long have you lived here? Have you ever thought of learning Thai yourself? This is, after all, “Thai” land, so your girl friend is working in the right language for this neck of the woods. Secondly, have you ever thought that you could send your lady to school to learn English, so that you both have some other way of communicating other than by Braille (which seems like the only way you have at this stage, as SMS certainly doesn’t cut it, apparently). Thirdly, you can always change your girl friend to a multilingual one!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Four reasons for using Manual cameras

A few weeks ago, I looked at whether we have become too smart for our own good. Has technology taken over where good sense left off? I also mentioned that I use a mechanical camera with manual everything, focus, aperture and shutter settings. With modern cameras able to produce perfect photographs, why would I use a battered old Nikon, which is manual in operation? Am I too old to understand the new technology?

Not according to the blurb, as all I have to do is set the new cameras on A for Automatic and its little electronic chip brain does all the rest. I do not need to know “how” it does it. Leave it all to the electronic circuits.

I actually dealt with this about six months ago, but with the current correspondence and interest, it is worth repeating the message. There are many situations where your brains beat electronic brains. Believe me!

The first area is that of focussing. Unfortunately, modern auto-focus cameras can deliver more “out of focus” shots than manually focussed cameras. Why? Simply because the camera’s electronic brain has no idea what the subject of your photograph really is. The electronic gizmos sharply focus on a small spot right in the center of the viewfinder, and if that spot isn’t directly over your subject, you have just got yourself an out of focus photo. A classic example is the shot of a couple. There are two heads, one each side of the magic central spot, which is then making the camera focus on the background, several kilometres away! The two heads, close to the camera are out of focus.

The next good reason to go manual is when you wish to take an action shot. You want to “stop” the motion, so you know you will need a fast shutter speed. Takes one twist of the dial and I’ve got 1/2000th of a second. With the fancy camera, you generally have to push a button to get the “menu”, scroll down to find the “action man” logo and select “on”. I was many times quicker than you - and, what’s more, I got to select the shutter speed I wanted. You get what the camera decides you want! There is a big difference in stopping a speeding railway train compared to stopping Miss Lotus Blossom as she jogs past your front gate. Manually you can select that faster shutter speed from the complete range - even to the point of allowing a little blur to show dynamic movement. The electronic brain cannot do that, sorry!

Likewise when you want to make the romantic portrait by the window. The suffused light from the white curtain makes for a soft quality to the photograph. But does the electronic brain know this? No! It hasn’t a clue. You have gone through the menu and scrolling bit, and now you (or rather “it”) have a camera ready to go in the “portrait” mode, with a wide open aperture to give a short depth of field. Unfortunately, as you compose the shot, all it “sees” is a strong area of light and reduces the amount of light going to fall on the film by upping the shutter speed (because the aperture is fixed in the portrait mode). Guess what this does? It gives you a pale background and dark, dark, features on the subject, and if your subject has a dusky skin to begin with you have just turned it black.

No, what that shot needs is a human brain that can dictate to the manual camera the exposure details needed for the correct exposure for the face, allowing the background to “flare” mistily around the subject. Microchips be damned!

Another area where the electronic brain is clueless is when you want to take tricky shots using the flash. By setting the aperture and the flash power together, I can then, by fiddling around with the shutter speed, lighten or darken the background, even in daylight! Yes, by having total manual control I can use the flash at full power in the bright sun, something the electronic brain would consider a no-no!

For creativity and the sheer “joy” of photography, use your brain instead of the camera’s one. Yours is much better!


Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

To Be or Not To Be ... Domiciled (Part 1)

The issues of domicile and residence are very significant to the UK taxman, particularly for Inheritance Tax (IHT), Income Tax (IT) and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) purposes. The first thing to know is how your status is defined by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Domicile

Any UK-domiciled individual is liable to IHT on worldwide assets but a non-domiciled individual is only liable on UK-situated assets. Expats need to be aware that achieving non-resident status has no bearing on domicile.

A ‘domicile of origin’ in UK law is normally inherited at birth from your father’s domicile. It can usually only be displaced by choosing a new domicile in adulthood (from age 16) through a conscious, permanent decision to totally abandon ties with the former country and acquire corresponding ties with a new country.

Remember, ‘permanent’ means for all time, with no view to a possible future change of mind. If, however, a domicile of choice is abandoned without a new domicile being chosen, the domicile of origin will automatically be revived. Domicile matters in every sense as it dictates how much of your wealth will be claimed by the HMRC when you die.

When you consider that the Chambers Dictionary definition of domicile is, “A person’s legally recognized place of residence”, expats must be aware that they can’t just claim a location because it suits their financial planning - whimsical declarations will certainly be contested by the HMRC. Richard Burton went to great lengths to establish domicile within the Canton of Switzerland in which he chose to live (in Switzerland you can’t choose to become domiciled in the actual country, you have to choose one of the Cantons or districts that make up the country). Unfortunately his dying wish to drape the Welsh flag on his coffin was photographed by the press who covered his funeral and an eagle-eyed tax inspector established that this constituted that he had failed to absolutely change his domicile of birth and his estate was sent a huge tax bill.

Changing a domicile

If you are looking to change your domicile, discuss the following points with a fully qualified professional advisers:

- UK domiciled UK residents are liable for tax on all their worldwide income.

- One of the most common domicile tests relates to origin. As stated above, this can be acquired from your father. If he did not regard the UK as his long-term home at the time of your birth, and you have evidence to substantiate such a claim, you could be judged as non-domicile.

- If you do not regard the UK as your permanent home you could be regarded as non-domiciled for tax purposes and as such will not be taxed on income from assets held outside the country.

- Non-domiciled people can transfer their savings to an offshore account and interest will not be taxed, so long as that interest is not brought into the UK.

Residence

The scope of UK income tax and a person’s liability to it depends also on the residence status of that individual. UK resident and domiciled individuals are liable to tax on income wherever it arises in the world, but UK non-residents (such as those qualifying expatriates) are liable to income tax only on income arising in the UK, whether or not they are domiciled.

A number of developments have emerged from the ongoing UK Government’s review of residence and domicile rules, which make it appear that HMRC is adopting a stricter attitude towards confirming expatriate status. In a recent tax case (HMRC vs. Shepherd) the ruling indicated that a new, and much more difficult, hurdle had to be cleared before the qualification for expatriate status was granted. The ruling indicated that in the absence of a “clear and distinct” break from the UK, any move abroad will be regarded as only temporary. It appears that, as a result of hold-ups with legislative change, the alternative course of action is a “re-interpretation” of current regulations.

The problem stems from the fact that the 90-day rule, which was previously assumed to confer non-resident status on individuals who spent 90 days per year or less in the UK, is not set down in statute, nor has it been the subject of much case law either. The real test as to whether someone has broken UK residence or not is a definite break from one’s normal mode of living. For example, if an airline pilot only spends 60 days a year in the UK because for the rest of the time he is either flying planes or on holiday abroad, it does not necessarily mean he will be non-UK resident. If, when he is in the UK, he always stays at the family home with his UK resident wife and children, socialises at the local pub, plays golf at the local course etc, then he will be treated as temporarily abroad, and thus remaining UK resident.

In fact it was a pilot was at the centre of the case mentioned above, HMRC vs. Shepherd, where the taxpayer was held to be UK-resident in spite of being present in the UK for less than 90 days a year. Central to the taxpayer’s argument was that he had set up home in October 1998 in Cyprus, intending to retire there when he finished work in April 2000. He ensured that from October 1998 onwards he spent less than 90 days a year in the UK. When in the UK, usually in preparation to captain long flights from Heathrow, he mostly stayed at the family home with his wife and son.

The commissioner, who had spent quite a while analysing the case law on residence, came to the conclusion that Mr. Shepherd had left the UK only through “occasional residence abroad”. This caused the taxpayer to fall within s334 of ICTA 1998, which states that the commonwealth citizen whose ordinary residence is in the UK will remain taxable in the UK if they left for occasional residence abroad. Several factors were important in leading to this conclusion, the mains ones being:

(i) He returned to the UK to carry out employment duties
(ii) He already had the residence in the UK, which he continue to use
(iii) He returned to the UK to attend the Boat Show and to celebrate the Millennium, which the commissioner ruled were not temporary purposes.

The third point may seem a bit bizarre, but the point was made that, as the taxpayer continued to return to the UK to attend these events, he was demonstrating that the UK was still his base.

To be continued…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected]


Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles: Let’s go to the movies

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Mark Gernpy

“Mr. Bean’s Holiday”

UK Comedy — In his latest misadventure, Mr. Bean – the nearly wordless misfit who seems to be followed by a trail of pratfalls and hijinks – goes on a holiday to the French Riviera, and Rowan Atkinson again applies his awkward athleticism to a comedy of errors. This movie was inspired by the French comedy classic, “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday,” and has much of the same style of visual humor.

“Alone”

Thai Thriller — Pim was a Siamese twin who shared her stomach with her sister Ploy. She decides to free herself from her sister. After the operation, Pim survived, Ploy died. Leaving her sorrow behind, Pim moved to Korea; years later, she returns to Thailand and to the house where she and her twin used to live. Memories of her sister Ploy begin to haunt her; it seems Ploy has been waiting for her. Extraordinarily disturbing previews!

“Flushed Away”

US/UK Animated — A fun, consistently inventive, intellectually satisfying animated romp for kids and adults. A cockroach reading Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”? From previous stop-action Claymation producers of “Wallace & Gromit” and “Chicken Run” now trying their hand at computer animation. Generally favorable reviews: 74/68 out of 100
Continuing current movies

“Ghost Rider”

US Action / Fantasy with Nicholas Cage. Motorcycle stunt rider makes a deal with Mephistopheles, tries to break pact. Now, in the presence of evil, he transforms into a super-strong skeleton with a flaming skull, ready to battle the dark forces. Very cool, and a lot of fun if you just relax and enjoy the mindless fun and stunning visual effects. Generally negative reviews: 35/42 out of 100.

“The Sperm”

Thai Sci-Fi / Comedy – English subtitles

Gigantic quantities of sperm invade Bangkok, impregnating all girls. Babies are born very fast, and have big heads, which all look like the movie’s hero. Seems it was his excessive masturbation that was the cause of it all. Another gross Thai comedy, but kind of fun.

“The Messengers”

US Horror Identical twins Danny and Oxide Pang direct their first English-language, Hollywood film after a solid reputation in Hong Kong and Thailand for thrillers such as “The Eye” and “Bangkok Dangerous.” Family on a scary farm in North Dakota, and crows.

The directors fascinate me. Great talents. There isn’t an aspect of this movie that hasn’t been done a hundred times before, but never better. If this were the first scary movie you ever saw, it would be perfect. And no gore!

Generally negative reviews: 34/36 out of 100

Scheduled for this Thursday, April 5 – but no promises!

“Ma Mha”

Thai comedy — Thailand’s first talking animal picture: abandoned dogs in danger.

”Ghost Station”

Thai Comedy — A gay Thai couple leave the big city for a remote town where the backdrop is a mountain just like in that certain movie they love to watch. They buy an abandoned gas station to live in, but . . . it’s haunted!

“Norbit”

US Comedy – Eddie Murphy plays an overweight woman who is ugly and evil. Though he gives it his all, the consensus is that the material is crass and largely unfunny.

Generally negative reviews: 27/33 out of 100.

“The Reaping”

US Horror – Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was killed, and is now a world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena. She investigates a small Louisiana town that is suffering from what appear to be the Biblical plagues.

“Pan’s Labyrinth”

Mexico/Spain/US Fantasy/Thriller – In Spanish. Probably the most highly regarded film to hit Chiang Mai in recent years, if indeed it gets here. A sort of adult Alice in Wonderland in the world of violence that was Fascist Spain, 1944. Dark poetry set to startling images – a one-of-a-kind nightmare that has a soaring, spiritual center. By all reports, it’s not to be missed. Rated R in the US for graphic violence, language.

Universal acclaim: 98/85 out of 100.

“Primeval”

US Horror – Low-quality horror film, with inane political messages. News crew sent to Africa to hunt and capture a legendary crocodile, who stalks a local river in search of human prey. Rated R in US, for strong graphic violence, brutality, terror, and language.

Generally negative reviews: 35/34 out of 100.


Films on DVD for Rental in Chiang Mai: The Special Relationship

Mr. I. Dewcritique

If Only directed
by Gil Junger

This film belongs to the Anglo-American romance genre so well represented by Hugh Grant and Julie Robert’s Notting Hill. It also draws on the idea of parallel universes/alternative realities that were explored in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sliding Doors a few years ago (and earlier on in Frank Capra’s great It’s a Wonderful Night). The script explores the nature of regret and what would happen if only we could retrace our footsteps and with the advantage of hindsight behave differently and more nobly towards those we love. Obviously, you do not want to read too much about the plot here- suffice it to say that this is the general line and that it twists and turns with some panache and even managed sometimes to surprise your experienced reviewer.

The central character is played with great skill by Paul Nicholls, mainly known for his roles on British television (he also appeared in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason). His love interest is an American actress-singer, Jennifer Love Hewitt. Certainly at the beginning all the usual stereotypes are introduced: the cold and reserved Englishman versus the bubbly, impulsive, rather gauche American. A certain amount of weak humour is also generated out of British expressions not familiar across the Atlantic (though surely the bee’s knees is New York flapper slang rather than a Brit idiom?). The mood of the film gradually darkens and you are hard-hearted indeed if you do not shed some tears near the mid-point. A more inspirational tone comes next, ably backed up by a good score, and finally the movie becomes deeply emotional (possibly for some tastes actually going over the top), progressing steadily towards its grand ending, heavy with post-religious religious symbolism.

The things that especially please in the film are also to some degree those that have the potential to annoy. There are some great views of the northern English countryside and London is almost a character in the film, but it is annoying to see characters turn corners and jump from one district to another, and the excursion which the couple take is completely impossible in terms of time. Clearly, this will be of no concern to an American audience which is not familiar with the geography of the UK. The plot is also rather forced out of shape, at grave risk to realism, to introduce some Jennifer Love Hewitt songs, but if you like her music, this is not going to worry you- and in a film with alternative universes and an otherworldly taxi driver who dispenses deep advice while examining his passengers through the rear-view mirror, a beautiful cameo part played by Tom Wilkinson (The Full Monty, Girl with a Pearl Earring), I suppose worrying about realism is a bit far-fetched.

To sum up: the film offers plenty of catharsis, bears a message about our actions worth thinking about, and like all the great romantic works of fiction claims that love can rise above even death. Should you really demand much more from a ninety minute film?