HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Your Health & Happiness

Films on DVD for Rental in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Getting to grips with ‘Arthur’

As you get older, you will get to meet ‘Arthur’. That’s almost a 100 percent money-back guarantee. And since it is my money that might go astray, I must be very confident. The “Arthur” I am referring to is one of the banes of mankind and is “arthritis”.
Unfortunately, there are many types of arthritis, and descriptions of these go back into antiquity. Perhaps the oldest known type of arthritis, called gout or gouty arthritis, has been described since Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C. In fact, at one time, the term “gout” was used to describe all types of arthritis. Then it was known as the “Disease of Kings” due to its association with rich foods and alcohol consumption, something in which the commoners were not able to indulge. Things have certainly changed.
One of the most common forms of arthritis today is osteo-arthritis, and rather than being of a biochemical nature, osteo-arthritis is much more of a mechanical wear and tear situation. In America, the estimated incidence is that 37 million adults are suffering from it.
Unfortunately, we all wear out. Joints in particular are mechanical devices, with one bone sliding on another with a slippery bit (called cartilage) in between as the bearing surface, cum-shock absorber.
Most joints, especially knee joints, are designed to last our three score years and ten, and that’s about it. We do know why they wear out, and because they are mechanical, increase the loading on the joint and it wears out quicker. Imagine that your knee has been designed to hold up 80 kg for 70 years, and now increase that loading to 120 kg. That same knee now has to support 50 percent more than it was ‘designed’ for, so you can expect it to wear out 50 percent sooner. Simple.
So they hobble down to the doctor and ask for something for the pain. The doctor flips mentally through the latest medical drugs for this condition, and most probably will hand over some Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) and tell the patient to lose weight.
Now I am not saying that this is totally wrong – but - when the NSAID’s first came out (hands up all those who remember Indocid) they were heralded as being the answer to these problems. Some were even supposed to ‘grow’ new cartilage. The answer the osteo-arthitic’s prayers.
Unfortunately, we very quickly found that Indocid and its ilk drilled holes in the lining of the stomach and were more than slightly dangerous. So we developed newer and better and more stomach-sparing NSAID’s. Unfortunately, these too produced problems.
Nothing daunted, we came up with even newer and more wonderful NSAID’s, which came with even newer and more wonderful array of side effects. So wonderful that one called Vioxx had to be withdrawn by the manufacturers.
So what can the poor patient do? Most patients have already tried paracetamol, hot water bottles, someone else’s great new tablets, NZ green lipped mussels, a cabbage leaf (which does work for mastitis, or so the ladies tell me), various herbal or homoeopathic medications, yoga, meditation, copper bracelets, muttering mantras and goodness knows what else. Exercise does help to improve the mobility in the knee joint, and by strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the knee, give it more stability. But it will not re-grow cartilage.
There is another avenue in the treatment, and that is direct injections into the affected joints. This produces spectacular results, which unfortunately are short lived. However, even a couple of weeks can make it such that the person can go on holidays and actually enjoy some mobility. But it is not the long-term answer.
Finally, there is surgery, which currently is the treatment of last resort. Since around 90 percent of patients, show lessening of pain, improvement in functional status and overall quality of life, I think we should be looking at operation sooner, rather than later. But that’s just my opinion.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
It amazes me that so many of your readers have decided that you have the answer for everything, be that some disease that needs special bread or the chap with motorcycle problems. You have been very patient with them all, so you’ll forgive me if I ask for something totally different. Where can you get good quality wines in Thailand? I am wary of supermarket wines as I am not sure they look after the wine properly on its way here. I am prepared to pay for quality, but I need a guarantee that the wine is good.
Dear Bacchus,
A man after my own heart it seems. A bottle of Veuve Clicquot (even non-vintage) will be fine, my Petal. They started bottling my favorite tipple in 1772, but I’m happy with any of the more recent ones. Hillary is an amateur tippler only, though. With my wages I can’t get many bottles for my cellar, I am afraid. However, there are a few places that do cellar their wines correctly, and one source for both information and wines is the Royal Cliff Wine Club ([email protected] Ranjith Chandrasiri is an accredited wine judge, as well as being President of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort’s Wine Club. You should contact him, and join the club. All my wino friends belong to it. Good wines which are well looked after can also be had from Ambrose Wines (Ron Batori) and Cannon-Pacific (Ekachai Mahaguna). If you are looking for Italian (I’ll even accept Prosecco these days), then try Davide Vacchiotti at Italian Fine Wines in Bangkok ([email protected]), and another source could be the World of Wine Co in Naklua ([email protected]). However, you should not dismiss the supermarket chains out of hand. The majors do sell good quality, unspoiled wines. It is rare to get a bad one these days. But a guarantee? That is hard when you are talking about take-home wines, as opposed to drinking wine with dinner in a restaurant.
Dear Hillary,
Why do your writers always say that Thai girls are out for the foreigners money and not true love? I believe this is unfair, as my Thai girlfriend has helped me no end since I arrived originally from the North of England with my retirement nest egg. Right from the first time I met her, she has done everything to look after my interests. She was the one who advised me that if I wanted to be happy here, I needed a small house with a little garden I can potter around in, just like the semi-detached I had back home. I took her advice and bought a house and she did not want it put 100 percent in her name at all, like I read from some others, but persuaded me to form a company of which I own 49 percent, with her, plus her brother (who is so very close to her - he sleeps in the same bed as her if he comes home very late, but my wife says they have done this for many years), the two sisters and her mama and papa owning the other 51 percent. This would mean they would all have to get together to oust me from our three million baht love nest. Impossible! She has helped me renovate the house we bought. She even supplied the workers for the renovation from her own family to keep costs down, thinking again of saving my money. She has also persuaded me to cut down on little things like buying new clothes as she can wash my one remaining shirt each night when she comes home from the bar with her brother, who helps out there as he doesn’t have a job, it seems.
No, all these rumors about the bar girls not looking after us older chaps just isn’t right. I have no complaint, though with the bar work, I do wish she could get home earlier than 5 a.m., but it’s a small price to pay for such selfless devotion. And she always brings home a John Smith’s for me as well, just to remind me of the old country.
Andy Pensioner
Dear Andy,
How wonderful it is to hear of someone so happy as you. That lady of yours seems a real gem, and making sure that your little nest egg isn’t frittered away on unnecessary things like clothes and food, I would imagine. Do be careful of the John Smith’s. I suggest that the one a day that your lady brings you is the limit for you. And you wouldn’t want to be responsible for drinking the profits from the bar either. No, some of you pensioner chaps are lucky to be here and alive, that’s for sure. In fact, I am so impressed with what you are doing here I was wondering if you had a brother who might like to come over here and set Hillary up in a little house somewhere. I would be very happy for him to have a 49 percent majority shareholding too. Or if not your brother, one of your drinking mates from the north of England would be fine. Tell him to bring a bottle of Veuve Clicquot from the duty free as well, that’s a good lad.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Coming out of the shadows

I picked up an old book the other evening, “The Pictorial Cyclopedia of Photography”. Published in 1968, it was well before the digital revolution (though that should be “digital evolution” to be more correct). Black and white photography was strong, as was DIY processing and development. However, the major factor that came through to me was the predominant use of shadow. It was not a case of using bright colors in your photographs to make them stand out, it was a case of contrast by using black shadows. It made me think again about the true nature of photography.
The true “definition” of photography has often been said as “painting with light” and quite honestly, this concept of painting with light is one of the more exciting aspects of photography. It is also something that even the weekend photographer can experiment with and produce photographs that will amaze not just you, but also those who view them, with their ability to leap off the paper.
The secret of painting with light is to remember that all photographs should have a mixture of light, and its opposite, called shadow. Blasting the subject with a sea of light produces flat, wishy-washy photographs. This is why I am not in favor of the in-camera flash that pumps out enough light power to illuminate the moon. To produce prints with depth requires shadow. Just as when you look at a house, the sun casts a shadow which gives the house depth, as well as height and width. Depth is the third dimension, and without it you only have a two dimensional flat image. For the impression of 3D, you need shadow.
Now getting back to the job of taking photographs and painting with a bit of light. The usual light source is the one I like to call the Great Celestial Light Technician. This is more commonly referred to as the sun. Now the sun will supply enough light to illuminate half the world at one sitting, so there’s plenty of power for your subject and then some.
However, that sunlight is not all that suitable for most of the day, because when the sun is directly overhead, you do not get nice shadows. In the early mornings or late afternoons, when the sun is closer to the horizon, the shadows are longer, more visible and give more depth. So as well as being a more flattering light in the golden glow afternoons, the sun is at a better angle to give good shadows. So to improve your daytime shots only shoot between sunrise and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. till sunset.
Do not be afraid to let shadow into the shot. Position your subject so that they are not square on to the sun, but let the light come from about 45 degrees across the subject. Shadow adds mystery. Shadow adds that extra something. Use it!
Now let’s look at when you provide the principal source of light, after the sun has disappeared. There are actually many sources of light after dark – there is the electronic flash, both the “on camera” type and the off camera type, there are tungsten studio lights, there are tungsten spotlights (like the garden varieties), there are street lights, neon lights and even car headlights. All these light sources are at you beck and call, and all (other than the on camera flash) can work for you to produce great shots. Just look at where the shadows lie, like Helmut Newton’s night photograph reproduced here.
Many of you have a small flash unit that slips on to the “shoe” on the top of your camera. Do not use it there! Go and invest in a remote shoe. This comes with some electric cord that plugs into the camera body and has a shoe plate at the end of it that slips over the foot of your flash. You can buy extension cords too, and I would advise getting one about three meters long. Now you can position your subject anywhere you like and let the flash come down upon the subject at 45 degrees and you will get a much better photograph than the flash on top of camera straight on shot. Try it.

Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

Why use a bank account when there is something better?

We have to say that we don’t understand in this day and age why UK depositors (whether resident or non-resident) leave large sums of money in offshore bank accounts. Since the introduction of last year’s EU directive anyone who earns bank interest in the European tax havens and is resident in the EU either has to face:
1) Losing withholding tax at source to ensure the non-reportage of interest earned to the tax authorities
2) Suffer having details of all interest earned reported
What makes this particularly galling to us is that billions of Pounds of deposits remain in offshore deposits when far more efficient alternative are available. For starters there are quasi-deposits that offer far more attractive rates of interest than most bank accounts. HSBC’s 6% fixed deposit offering recently created quite a stir because it was extremely attractive for a major bank. However, it’s subject to the tax complications referred to above, the offer is only available in Sterling (there are options to deposit in EUR, AUD and USD but the rates here are far less attractive so basically going down this route effectively prevents the exploitation of currency opportunities), it was for amounts of Stg 50,000 only and it was a limited offer which is no longer available.

Annualised Rates

12 Month 7.50% 1.80% 6.07% 4.72% 6.30% 4.95% 4.81% 4.23% 7.87%
9 Month 6.00% 1.71% 5.94% 4.59% 6.16% 4.77% 4.68% 4.14% 7.78%
3 Month 5.00% 1.57% 5.76% 4.45% 5.98% 4.54% 4.50% 4.05% 7.69%

In contrast LM’s range of mortgage backed quasi-deposits are available in a wide range of currencies, can be structured so that, quite legally, they don’t need to be declared to the UK taxman and currently offer the following rates: Fixed Terms
In addition terms ranging from instant access to 4 year fixed are available as are rates in all readily convertible currencies. Also, the more restrictive Managed Performance Fund - only available in AUD - has been paying rates of 10% per annum since 2001.
These are the rates for the minimum investment of just AUD 10,000 (more like GBP 4,000 for our Sterling-oriented clients). For higher amounts or for institutional investments, such as through investment bonds even better rates apply. This is one reason why LM’s quasi-deposits are approved as one of the eligible cash investments within the range of portfolios managed for MBMG clients by MitonOptimal.
LM is just one example of ‘smarter’ quasi-deposits available - there are other fixed and variable opportunities that are more attractive than cash and now in many ways more flexible, far easier and without the taxation and compliance headaches.
Even for those investors who, for whatever reason, only want traditional bank deposits - it’s far smarter to hold these within an offshore bond. By doing so, this negates the need to choose between either losing withholding tax on the interest or having the interest reported to the relevant tax authorities AND also provides a perfectly legitimate offshore vehicle where interest can be earned gross without deduction of tax. This method also means that an efficient advisor can review your deposits regularly and simply switch them within the bond to the best paying deposit account that suits your currency and timescale requirements. For that reason we welcomed HSBC’s limited offer and bought into it in March in the knowledge that if their rates revert to something lower in June we can simply move this money on again to whatever is bets at that time and there is no cost or headache for our clients. In fact there is not even any paperwork for most of them who delegate the administrative responsibility to ourselves.
Traditional offshore deposit accounts were anachronisms before the latest tax issues reared their heads - now they’re even more out of step.
Above we have talked about the tax-inefficiency of offshore bank accounts. Let’s just take a look at how that works in practice. For simplicity’s sake let’s assume that a Mr.Jones is an expatriate living in Bangkok who has GBP100,000 to deposit, the best available rates for deposits remains at around 5% per annum over the period we’re reviewing and that he withdraws all of this interest each year. After 5 years he returns to the
UK, where as a higher rate taxpayer he continues his withdrawals.
Let’s look at what happens with his bank account (let’s pretend that he doesn’t actually lose any money despite the lost interest, the time and cost of sending faxes and letters and the bank charges to switch bank accounts twice a year in order to ensure that he continues to receive the top 5% rate, even when his existing bank reduces rates/ceases special offers/gets greedier). Let’s also look at an offshore bond where this is done automatically for him (in both cases we’re also assuming that the 5% rate is net of bank/bond charges).
For the first 5 years, as a non-resident of the UK, neither the bank account nor the bond appear to be any different - Mr. Jones receives his GBP5,000 tax-free (without having to do anything for it in the case of the bond although with great expenditure of both time and effort in the case of the bank account). When Mr. Jones returns to the UK, the situation changes. Dramatically! With the bank account he has 2 options:
1) Run the risk of making false declarations to HMRC in his tax return every year about his offshore interest (in which case he will have to suffer the 35% deduction at source reducing his Stg 5,000 per year to Stg 3250)
2) Declare the interest to HMRC on his annual tax return and pay tax at (presumably) 40%, reducing the Stg 5,000 to Stg 3,000.
This is not good. This has the effect of reducing the 5% return to just 3.25% or 3% respectively.
What about the offshore bond? Well due to the deferral provisions within the taxation code for the taxation of such bonds, Mr. Jones can continue to withdraw his GBP5,000 per year without paying a penny in tax for the 20 years after his return to the UK - admittedly if he continues after that he does get taxed but at a rate reduced initially by 20% to reflect the proportion of time spent overseas and also by any unused previous year tax allowances or rate bands. Calculating that gets extremely messy but over the first 20 years the effect is that Mr Jones is GBP2,000 per year better of (i.e. Stg 40,000 in total) and in his 21st year after returning at least Stg 400 better off and potentially far more.
To our mind, that’s not a realistic example. However, as the expectation would be that a much better return could be generated from onshore quasi deposits than from traditional deposit accounts we must consider it and then compare with offshore.
Let’s assume that each year he generates a net return of 7.5% income but simply withdraws GBP5,000 leaving the balance invested accruing interest. In this case there are no tax consequences for the accrued but undispersed amount every year while he is offshore and also no consequences after his return. In which case not only has Mr. Jones managed to generate GBP40,400 more income during the term but also has a capital sum of GBP148,450 as opposed to GBP100,000. Sounds like a no-brainer. So why are there still so many Mr. Jones with money sitting in offshore banks? Beats us - especially as offshore branches of UK banks are becomingly increasingly cosy with Her Majesty’s Revenue Commissioners in terms of divulging information.
The latest development in this story is that following the process whereby The HMRC has obtained details on offshore accounts, a partial amnesty is to be offered to people who have evaded tax by keeping their funds into an offshore account during periods of UK residence. People that own up to tax evasion will pay back taxes with interest and be fined 10% of the tax owed. However, if they do not come forward they face a full Revenue & Customs investigation and fine equivalent to 100% of any tax owed. The Revenue has details on thousands of accounts held with the offshore branches of major EU and UK banks. Experts have estimated that the Revenue could gather up to GBP1bn through this measure. Offshore bank accounts have long been targeted by the Revenue. UK banks and building societies have heavily marketed offshore accounts held in locations such as the Isle of Man and Channel Islands but some UK residents have been transferring funds offshore simply to evade tax. UK residents can hold money offshore but it is illegal to conceal any interest earned from the Revenue. In a series of recent legal rulings major UK banks have had to disclose details of offshore accounts to the Revenue.Offshore account holders have until 22 June to tell the Revenue that there is tax to pay on an offshore bank account. People would be well advised to own up now and take advantage of the amnesty.
If account holders miss this deadline, the Revenue warn they will face an investigation and will not be able to take advantage of a partial amnesty currently on offer. “People must come forward now. Failure to come forward will mean that we will go into full enforcement mode,” a Revenue spokesman said. “We have all the information we need and we will catch them and they could face fines of up to 100% of back taxes,” he added. Chas Roy-Chowdury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said that Revenue investigations often opened up a can of worms.”People would be well advised to own up now and take advantage of the amnesty. Any Revenue investigation may prompt uncomfortable questions about how they came about the cash in the first place, other fines and investigations may follow. These people have evaded tax and the Revenue wants them back on the straight and narrow,” Mr Chowdury added. Full information about the deadline can be found on the Revenue website. Again, it must be stressed that for investors into offshore bonds, no such difficulties arise.
The question has been asked before in this column but it must be again, why not help yourself to earn more money for you and not Gordon Brown?

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]

Your Health & Happiness: Thai Health Minister to chair UNAIDS board

Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla has been appointed chairman of the UNAIDS Board, effective late next month.
Dr. Peter Piot, head of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, invited Dr. Mongkol to take up the post as chairman of the Program Coordinating Board for the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on June 25 for a one-year period. He succeeds Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation Carin Jamtin.
Dr. Mongkol said he would chair his first meeting of the UNAIDS Board on June 25.
He said he had accepted the invitation by Dr. Piot because of his support for Thailand on the issue of compulsory licensing (CL) for drugs treating heart disease and HIV/AIDS.
In accepting the post, Dr. Mongkol said it was an honor for Thailand as the country had managed to control the deadly AIDS problem to a relatively satisfactory level, for which the kingdom has been recognized by the international community.
The UNAIDS Board comprises 37 members, 22 of which are from member countries, 10 from UN agencies and the remaining five from social organizations. Board members hold two meetings annually.
He said his immediate task in the job was to reform the agency, because over 40 million people worldwide were HIV/AIDS infected and 95 per cent of them live in developing countries. Most people with HIV/AIDS acquired the disease through having sex without using condoms. (TNA)

Thai scientists develop drug for back and joint pain

Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences has successfully extracted components from a local herb, “Taowan Prieng”, to produce a medicine to cure back and joint pain and plans to produce a medication for the market this year.
Department of Medical Sciences director-general Dr. Phaichit Warachit said that researchers found that the extract of “Taowan Prieng” (Derris scandens Benth) can relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
After ten years of experiments and clinical trials, Dr. Phaichit reported the clinical researchers found that the substance can replace anti-inflammatory steroid drugs to cure back and joint pain.
The first and the second stages of the trials gave satisfactory results.
Testing with clinical volunteers, who took one 200mg capsule of the medication twice a day, indicated that the human body can absorb it well and there have been no adverse side effects. It also reinforces the natural immune system, he added.
The Department of Medical Sciences will register the formula with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will transfer the technology on extracting the active ingredients from the plant to the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) for commercial mass production.
The medicine will be used for treatment of patients, particular the rural elderly, who suffer from back and joint pain.
The medicine has already been patented following the completion of research, and commercial production in the form of capsules is expected later this year.
Dr. Phaichit said the department is also studying other herbs such as the Dwarf bacopa (Bacopa monnieri Pennell) for possible use in treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, mangosteens for cancer, mulberry for reducing blood cholesterol level and Hyptis suaveolens to stop the spread of the avian influenza (bird flu) virus. (TNA)

Films on DVD for Rental in Chiang Mai: Mr. I. Dewcritique

Paris, Je T’Aime

18 directors, 2006, French with some other languages, English subtitles

For this film eighteen noted directors were each assigned a different district of Paris and asked to create an episode of around five minutes inspired by and set in it. The result is obviously a mélange of very dissimilar approaches and styles. There is, in fact, nothing particularly cohesive about the film and you can watch as many episodes as you wish at a sitting. It can also be fun to imagine how one would approach a similar project for Chiangmai: a love story for the university area of town, a bitter moral tale of greed and business for the Night Bazaar, bizarre happenings in Tha Pae Square …?
Unsurprisingly, many of the directors turn their thoughts to romance when they think of Paris. The film opens with a chance meeting between a lonely man and a seemingly interested woman which take space as he parks his car in Montmarte. The slightly louche reputation of that area fits the topic, but sadly your viewer does not know Paris well enough to capture all the connections and associations. Gus van Sant offers gay flirtation in the touristy Le Marais; Coixet presents a fable of love and loss in the Bastille district, and Wes Craven has the ghost of Oscar Wilde saving a relationship in Pere Lachaise cemetery.
Then we have contributions which highlight social problems. Chadha [Bend it Like Beckham] considers the wearing of the Islamic veil in Paris; Salles highlights the plight of poor maids having to do more for the children of the rich than they can do for their own offspring who have to be content with impersonal daycare services, and Assayas depicts with little comment a drug-taking minor actress. There is also a very moving death scene of a Nigerian who had tried to make good in Paris but was defeated by racism.
The Coen brothers give us humor. All naïve, American tourist Steve Buscemi’s worst fears about the French come true on the Metro. Cuaron [City of Men] leads us on in Parc Monceau to speculate about an older man’s relationship with a young woman and one Gaspard, but then it all turns out to be amusingly innocent.
There is also diversity of style. The great cinematographer Chris Doyle’s evocation of Porte De Choisy is surrealistic; Chornet creates a short and witty homage to Jacques Tati and mime; the Canadian director of the Cube series, and Vincenzo Natali in his Quartier De La Madeleine gives us a version of a silent vampire film [wonderful with added saturated red and Elijah Wood, one of The Lord of the Rings’ stars]. My favourite section was Suwa’s Place Des Victoires, an amazing magical realist exploration of the grief of a bereaved mother, and the film ends with an exquisite film-essay by a seemingly dull Denver lady tourist who suddenly reveals the epiphany Paris has brought her [section by Alexander Payne, About Schmidt].
I hope your mouth is now watering for this rich box of chocolates of a film. If it isn’t, let me tempt you with the names of some of the actors I haven’t yet mentioned: Juliette Binoche, William Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Gerard Depardieu, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rufus Sewell.
Surely there is something for everyone in this selection of shorts. I wish the idea would spread and we could have a series of views of other great cities like London, Rome, Hong Kong and Tokyo. I have only one complaint: why do none of the contributions cover food? Can one think of Paris without evocations of croissants and coffee, of red wine and haute cuisine?

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End: US Action/Fantasy – I imagine you know what to expect from this: more of the same. If you liked the previous two episodes, you should like this one too. I predict Johnny Depp will be absolutely charming!
The Fountain: US Action/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi – 96 mins. At Vista only. Director Darren Aronofsky (Pi and Requiem for a Dream), with Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz.
I strongly urge you to see it quickly if you are interested in an adventure in film viewing. It is an ambitious, passionate, grief-stricken work of film art. It may not last long here in town. Be prepared: people either love it or hate it. No middle ground. Some people think it’s the best truly spiritual film since 2001: A Space Odyssey, some people think its pretentious nonsense. You will not be bored, that’s for sure, and there are many things to love about it. However, it is strange. Perhaps the strangest film you will ever see. No matter how strange you might think it could be, it is even stranger than that. (Numerical score would be meaningless.)
The Protégé (Moon to): Hong Kong Action/Thriller – 106 mins. All Thai-dubbed version. Vista only.
Although filmed with scenes in Cantonese, English, and Thai, this version is an all Thai-dubbed version with no English subtitles. That’s really unfortunate, as it’s a solid film that deserves a wide viewing. Part horror, part human drama, part cop story, this is a serious film about heroin trafficking in all its aspects. As well as being authentic in its graphic depictions of the social consequences of drug usage, the film also feels accurate in its psychology and its downbeat tone - and it does get pretty bleak here.
Spider-Man 3: US Action/Adventure – See it for its mythic Sandman, my current comic-book hero. On an additional viewing, I was struck forcibly with the banality of the dialogue – really atrocious. And bumbling, fumbling Peter Parker leaves me cold. But if you like this type of thing, you should like this film very much. Mixed or average reviews: 60/62 out of 100.
28 Weeks Later: UK Horror – Follow-up to 28 Days Later picking up the story six months after the “rage” virus has annihilated the British Isles, which are now occupied by American troops, to bring peace and stability to the region, much as they do in Iraq. I found it a thoughtful and chilling movie, not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Brutal and almost exhaustingly terrifying as any respectable zombie movie should be. But there is an admirable freshness to it, both in its ideas and in its techniques. Rated R in the US for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 78/73 out of 100.
Next: US Action /Sci-Fi – Nicholas Cage stars as a magician with the ability to see two minutes into the future. Terrific action movie with a twisted plot. I thought it was a pure delight, but most people didn’t. Mixed or average reviews: 42/46 out of 100.
Bus Lane (May-Na-Rok): Thai Comedy – Songkran on a hijacked bus. Worth seeing. The preview really did a disservice by making the film look truly awful, showing nothing of its charm: All you remember was a girl continuously farting. Actually, some very nice things happen in the movie: good moments, interesting observations, and it ends sweetly. Director: Kittikorn Laiwsirikun.
Train of the Dead (Ghost Train)/Rod Fai Phee: Thai Horror – Five Thai teenagers do bad things and end up on a spooky train to Hell. Seems the director, Sukum Maetawanitch, is practicing his considerable skills here for better films down the line.
Epic Movie: US Comedy – Uses characters from recent hit movies and subverts them with inane dialog, fart jokes, and a lot of urine. Dreadful, but some in the Thai audience laughed a lot. Reviews: Extreme dislike or disgust: 17/22 out of 100.
Scheduled for Thursday, May 31
Shrek 3:
US Animation/Comedy – The further adventures of Shrek and his animal and pastry compatriots. Mixed or average reviews: 59/58 out of 100.
Teng Nong Khon Ma Ha Hear: Thai Comedy – Usual Thai comedy, starring two popular Thai comedians, in a follow-up to their 2006 film Nong and Teng.

Major Cineplex
4th Floor Airport Plaza, Telephone: 053 283-939, Movie times can change daily.
Vista – Kadsuankaew
4th Floor Kadsuankaew, Telephone: 053 894-415, Times usually the same for entire week.
Vista – 12 Huaykaew
Across from Kadsuankaew, Telephone: 053 404-374, Times usually the same for entire week.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Awfully Lawful
To further the decay of Thailand’s international reputation after the tsunami, the announcement of plans to serve endangered species for dinner at the Night Safari, a military coup and new tourist visa laws understood only by the person who wrote them, recent headlines heralded: “Thailand to raise drinking age to 25.” This should reduce the projected amount of tourists in 2007 to eleven or twelve and completely eliminate young travelers from Italy, where children move directly from the milk bottle to the Chianti bottle, and from Germany, where they actually serve beer in the womb.

Whatever you want to do, you can’t do it here.
Rumors said this wasn’t meant to apply to foreigners, which is a lovely way to tell Thai citizens that they’re more immature and alcoholic than the rest of the world. This law’s logic escapes me, since most humans are considered adults at age 21. Hmm, a 23-year-old father of three, who gets up before dawn and works past dusk to support his family can’t legally have a shot of Sangsom rum to relax and escape instead of duct-taping his hyperactive two-year-old to a passing tourist bus. The logic here rivals the short-lived edict a couple of years ago banning petrol sales after 10 p.m., perhaps intended to prevent terrorists from devious petrol activities at night, but instead inconvenienced millions of innocent motorists, crippled transport vehicles delivering products throughout the country, and ruined the life of said 23-year-old father, who, stranded on the highway while driving home from work, was beaten and robbed by bandits. After his release from the hospital, he attempted to drive across country to Issan to visit relatives during his one day off. Since he couldn’t get there overnight without stopping for petrol, he filled his trunk with extra cans of fuel, which overheated during the scorching heat and exploded, scattering the remains of the entire family into a rice paddy.
The law probably wouldn’t change since there are ample methods to sidestep Thai laws—like speeding through red lights if you don’t particularly want to stop, or, in this case, by staggering to a more flexible bar down the block. Alcohol isn’t sold at convenience stores and large shopping markets before 5 p.m. or after midnight, but you can buy one beer or twenty-cases next door, anytime, at the “We Don’t Care About Laws Store.”
In America, liquor laws are governed by each state, or even by each county within a state, which makes traveling very confusing. You’re in one county, but to get a drink you have to drive over the mountains to the next county with all the hammered, careening locals who need one more beer before driving off a cliff. In North Carolina, you can’t buy beer while standing on the wrong side of the county line, but you can step across it to the next petrol station where they have cold ones in a barrel next to the check-out counter. In a conservative state concerning drunk drivers, I wonder about the policeman watching Mr. Redneck get into his truck with a beer in his hand. “No, sirree, not drinkin’ and drivin’! I just cracked the can to let it breathe while I’m takin’ it home to share with the family.” In New Orleans, where drinking and driving is an inalienable right, drive-through daiquiri shops, open 24/7, have huge menus posted outside like McDonald’s, presenting standard 8-ounce drinks to the 64-ounce “Trouble-maker” size. The law says the container must be “closed” in a car: you drive up to the window; they put a plastic cover on the cup holding your vat of booze, seal it with two strips of tape, stick a straw through the hole and hand it to you. One way to control drunk drivers—just give the streets over to them for two hours after bar closing time and let ‘em eliminate each other.
A few days after the “no drinking till 25” headline, the news reported the law was rejected for further study and its drafters were sent to the Home for the Terminally Daft to work on a new visa allowing tourists to spend one year in Thailand at the rate of one day per year, valid for 365 years. They’re also replacing the tourism campaign “Unseen Thailand” with “Don’t See Thailand” and incorporating new, compelling slogans: “Experience the world’s largest waves! Eat elephants! See tanks in the streets! No drinking allowed!”
Laws in Thailand were made very clearly unclear to me when I asked a bike shop owner about getting license plates for a used motorcycle sitting in his showroom. “We get plates. Cost 40,000 baht.” I asked, “Is that legal?” He paused, and then said, “Half.”