Vol. VI No. 15 - Tuesday
June 5, - June 11, 2007
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Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

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

Dealing with pain

A friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with a medical condition that will produce pain. He also has another physical skeletal problem that will produce pain, so he’s been really been getting the rough end of the pineapple as they say on Australia.
In the past week I have had two other people come to see me to ask about their pains. At the weekend, I had another couple of folks with pains. However, this is not surprising, as pain is often the presenting symptom for many illnesses and physical conditions. For example, the symptom of a fractured rib is pain on deep breathing, coughing or sudden movement.
In fact, our skeletons are responsible for many of our pains. Fractures and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis are certainly high in the list of likely suspects. Gout, which produces an arthritis in the joint in the big toe gives exquisite pain – just ask anyone who has had it!
But surely it must be possible for us to lead a pain-free existence in this modern world of space travel and palm computers? In actual fact, it is possible to be pain-free, but at too great a cost. The chemicals that are strong enough to mask the pain are also strong enough to render your brain inoperative when taken over a long period. Turning one’s patients into “zombies” is not a good idea.
I do also realize that there are times when you want “temporary” respite from pain. The footballer with a fractured finger can have local anesthetic injected into the fracture so that he can do the two 45 minutes halves plus injury time and penalty shootout. That’s it. Not tablets for the next three weeks!
So why do we have “pain”? Pain is actually inbuilt into our systems for an important purpose. Damage control! Pain is what stops us damaging our bodies even further than they are damaged already. Let’s go back to the broken rib scenario. Most fractured ribs are “cracks” along the long axis of the bone, not a complete break right through, so that the ends are flapping around in the breeze. The pain stops the unfortunate person from doing too much and breaking it totally right through. Pain has a protective influence. With the person who has joint pains or gout, the purpose of the pain is to stop further damage to an already “crumbling” joint or one filled with sharp crystals. Pain makes you rest it, so that it can heal. When you stop to think about it, pain is good for us.
However, there are also chronic pain situations, and these are harder to deal with. Particularly when the pain is coming from a permanently damaged skeleton, or from a condition we cannot “cure”. This is where pain management comes in, and it is a fairly skilful region of medicine, let me assure you. Practitioners in this have to really understand what the patient is going through. What happens is that we (or you) have to maximize an ability of the body’s nervous system known as “attenuation”. This is where the nervous system receives so much pain stimuli that eventually the pain receptors “give up” through the overuse. However, getting to that stage is a long and painful road itself.
Chemical assistance is needed, but it is not just a case of taking big dose analgesics. In actual fact, much of the work in this area is with taking agents to slow down nerve transmission and other agents such as anti-inflammatories, which work with pain killers to make them more potent at a lower dose (so the brain doesn’t get mussed up)! It’s not easy.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Many years ago I visited Chiang Mai. Yes, as an American tourist I was very fond of my Thai girlfriend. Yes, she worked in a Bangkok massage parlor. But my experience was different. During my visit I insisted that I was to go to her village 15 kilometers east of Phayo, so as I could meet her father and mother. Then I was to learn that I would have to pay her “debt” to free her of a contract that they owed to her employer in Bangkok. While all of this was occurring, I became to realize that I could not separate her from her family and bring her to America. It would be wrong. And so after paying her debt and setting her free, many tears fell that day as I said farewell to her at the airport in Chiang Mai to catch my flight to Bangkok. She was too young to understand the pain of being so far away from her father and mother and the pain of being homesick. All of this occurred in 1986. I still think of her and hope she met a nice “Thai” man and she has her own family. It cost me a lot of money. Being that I am an “average American” which is to say that I am not wealthy, I spent money I did not have and it took me five years to pay off my debt. If I were to live in Thailand I would live in Chiang Mai. But probably I will never return. Today I am 65 years old and live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have no regrets. Many good memories. Wherever I traveled in Thailand I was treated with kindness. Yes, I was a tourist and spent money, but I could tell that the Thai people seemed to like Americans. I think that maybe that our American soldiers behaved well enough during the Vietnam war, that they earned admiration of the people of Thailand. I hope this is true. OK, this is my story.
Howard from Pittsburgh, PA.
Dear Howard from Pittsburgh, PA.,
What can I say, my Petal who has been keeping your wonderful memories of 21 years ago alive in your heart? It was an experience that you have not regretted, and before anyone points a finger in your direction, even though it took you five years to pay off the debt, it was money that she would never have been able to raise otherwise. Whether that money was used correctly or otherwise, does not matter. You gave it unstintingly and from the Buddhist point of view will have gained much merit from your generosity. You are correct that this girl would probably not have been able to adjust to life in America, so you were also correct in not trying to force the issue. There will be those who will feel that you were perhaps taken in by the situation, but you dealt with it honorably, as you saw it in 1986. I hope you continue to enjoy your life, and would even suggest that you visit Chiang Mai again. It is different from the 1986 Chiang Mai you knew, but there are plenty of nice people there, both Thai and foreigners, and many Americans of your age. Consider a holiday. Thank you for sharing your life’s experience with our readers.
Dear Hillary,
I hope you enjoy the small gift. (Attached to a bag filled with chocolates, delivered to the editorial office.)
Big D USA
Dear Big D USA,
Yes, they arrived in good condition, and I certainly did enjoy those Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares very much. And thank you. For those new readers, Big D USA has been sending over the odd tidbits for Hillary. However, no real clue as to who he (or even she) is. However, this time, the note was scrawled on the back of a Sky-Top Laundry invoice. It was an unused one too, # 0212. So how does Big D USA get hold of an unused laundry ticket? Am I getting close? And can anybody tell me where Sky-Top Laundry is? I like a good mystery yarn!

Dear Hillary,
Following on in the vein of that naughty man: ‘unbeliever’, may I ask the thorny question, ‘Are you actually a lady of the female gender?’ Your approach in your column seems very masculine to me; why don’t you publish a visual image inside your ‘heart’ at the top of your column, unless you look like Claire Raynor or Marge Proops?
Are you going to give me a literary lashing for my cheek, wearing only thigh-length boots, a thong and nipple tassles (sic), like Madame Whiplash? Ooh, I hope so.
Submissively yours, John Thomas.
Dear Submissive John Thomas,
May I ask the thorny question, ‘Do you really have a John Thomas?’ What have I done to engender doubts on my gender? Your approach seems very British to me, being so disrespectful to my sisters in The Sun and The Daily Mirror, such newspapers known for their consistent high standards. Or should I say, standards. And who are you referring to in the thigh-length boots? You or me? By the way, before you get too excited with your verbal imagery, it’s ‘tassel’, not ‘tassle’, Petal. I will publish my photograph the day you get photos of your John Thomas published in these pages.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

More on the Lumix FZ50

Reclining Buddha taken with Lumix FZ50

I received an email the other day from Alan Puzey, a photographer, after my article on the Panasonic Lumix FZ50, which I felt would be interesting enough to share with everyone.
“Hi Flashman,
“As a photographer of over 50 years, I’m a regular reader of your column when I pick up a copy of Chiang Mai Mail - and previously the Pattya Mail when I used to live there. It’s certainly one of the best and I can see you’re a genuine photographer.
“I was most interested to read in your last column (up here) that you’re considering a Lumix FZ50 - which I did about six months ago. GET IT! I did, after reading very favourable comments on the internet, and now after lots of testing, I am well pleased - though I offer you a couple of reservations.
“I no longer wanted to carry around a case of equipment with additional lenses, flashes, etc and so SLRs were out. Of this sort of alternative the Lumix looked just what I needed - and has proved to be so.
“I love the lens quality and the positioning of controls around the camera. Very logical and easy to use. When I have to revert to the ‘on-screen’ menus, they are pretty good. I didn’t at first like the feel of holding this camera, but now I have got used to it, it’s no problem at all and now feels ‘normal’.
“I like wide angle lenses and was sorry that the lens offered very long focal length but no shorter than 35mm (equivalent). I bought a wide angle adaptor when I bought the camera and now wished I hadn’t - the quality of shots with it are not good enough. All shots with the standard lens alone are great.
“I only use the ISO 100 setting; the sensor is not the best available and all speeds higher than this bring quality down. ISO 800 and 1600 I wouldn’t touch with the proverbial barge pole!
“There are far more detailed reviews on the internet, but these are my main feelings, and I hope they’re of use in your decision. A little in return for your good columns.
Cheers, Alan Puzey.”
Well, thank you Alan for the kind words, but even more for the information on the camera. Like you, I have become tired of lugging a large camera bag with three lenses and my Metz 45 CT1 flashgun. I have also become tired of the wait to see if I really have managed to capture the shot I wanted, or the final result I wanted to produce. It used to be exciting to see if I had really pulled it off. Now it is a time wasting drag. (This must be what getting older is all about!)
Also like you, I enjoy using a wide angle lens, with the 24 mm Nikon almost permanently screwed on the front of the FM2n, so I was a little perturbed to read your comments on their wide angle adaptor. Just what was the problem with it? Distortion? Vignetting? Please let me (us) know.
You also did not mention the capabilities (or otherwise) of the in-camera flash. Since you are leaving the ISO setting at 100, you will need extra illumination in low-light situations. How adequate is the inbuilt flash unit?
I have also been having problems finding the distributor for the Panasonic range of cameras in Thailand. Did you buy your one here? And if so, how much? Or did you buy overseas in duty free or whatever?
Finally, thanks again for your input, and I welcome any other comments from our readers.
Harry F.


Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

The Mirage of Money

This came from the Civil Servants’ Year Book, “The Organiser”, January 1934.
“Capital must protect itself in every way.. Debts must be collected and loans and mortgages foreclosed as soon as possible. When through a process of law the common people have lost their homes, they will be more tractable and more easily governed by the strong arm of the law applied by the central power of leading financiers. People without homes will not quarrel with their leaders...”
As regular readers of this column know, over the last couple of years we have been somewhat critical of the US credit bubble and how credit cards are given out with what seems to be no financial background checks at all. This is backed up with what happened a few months ago when this occurred: “As the membership criteria at American Express remain stringent, the Rewards Plus Gold Card is difficult to acquire for all but the most financially disciplined.” Thus went a letter from the US credit company. This did not go directly to the house resident, a Mrs. Hecox but to her four-year-old pet cat. (Ms. Hecox had apparently already received credit invitations for her children and late husband.)
Those people who love to exploit this situation and other sorts of ‘bubbles’ will now be loving the fact that there are some pretty visible property bubbles now exploding in America and Europe. This is not making bank investors very happy
Bloomberg News has said that figures from Pimco suggest that bond investors who financed the US housing farce could lose up to $75 billion on mortgage-related securities which are linked to impaired borrowers. Merrill Lynch has shown that some of the $450 billion in subprime debt sold in 2006 has lost 37% of its value.
On the Eastern side of the pond, Spanish property developer Grupo Inmocaral CEO, Mariano Miguel, said that he expects an end to the slump in property stocks that was ignited by a 43% drop in shares of Astroc Mediterraneo. However, most people realize he is being a tad optimistic as there is still further to go down before there is a reversal of fortune.
In reality, given that the full economic impact of the subprime debacle still has to work its way through the system and looking at the US equity indices marching constantly upward, things do seem to be rather surreal.
There were a lot of non-fixed rate mortgages that were written during a time of unusually low interest rates. Moody’s Economy.com reckons that $2 trillion of mortgages will have to be re-set before the end of this year. Those people who were lured by these tempting low repayments will now really suffer and many will not be able to cope. The same can be said for those who took out Option ARMs where you get the extra flexibility to miss interest payments at the risk of incurring negative equity.
However, the main thing is that the problems will not just be confined to banks and borrowers. The domino effect will also apply to businesses such as: railways (trains carrying building materials); boat builders (entry-level buyers forced out of the market by rising mortgage costs); Latin America (construction workers’ remittances back home are evaporating) etc, etc, etc.
Whilst there is an argument for suggesting that certain retailers are benefiting from the resourcefulness of the US consumer, this is not what most foreign investors think. Since the start of the year, given the losses incurred by the Dollar Index, most of them will be wondering why they bothered.
The legendary Dr. Marc Faber also talks about those people who heedlessly lump together rising asset prices with an increase in real wealth, ““Since October 2002, the Dow Jones has rallied in US dollar terms, but against gold (arguably a more legitimate hard currency) it has depreciated.. In case we should experience continuous monetary inflation, which could lift, over time, all asset prices such as stocks, real estate and commodities, some asset classes will increase more in value than others. This means that some asset classes while rising in value could deflate against other asset classes, such as happened with the Dow against gold since 2000. I have pointed out... that since 2002, all asset prices rose in value. But recently, some diverging performances emerged. Bonds started to decline and seem to be on the verge of a significant long term breakdown... in times of monetary and credit inflation, such as we have now in the US, bonds are the worst possible long term investment.”
If you look at things from a fundamental perspective, US Treasuries – and other benchmark government bond markets – may actually benefit in the short term from a safe haven bid as subprime contagion in slowly but surely erodes consumer confidence. However, from a technical perspective, the smart investors have already left this asset class and have put their money elsewhere. Indeed, Bloomberg News says that technical analysts are predicting a sustained bear market for bonds. Whether in US, UK or German government debt, a two-decade bull market may be headed into reverse.
Again, as Faber sates, property is another asset class that has recently begun to depreciate against gold. While US home prices have been slowly going downhill over the last twelve months in dollar terms, when compared to gold the decline has been quite substantial.
Whatever the economic outlook, people should continue to have exposure to gold – and other expensive metals. This is the very least you can do to ensure your portfolio is not suddenly damaged in any fatal way.
 

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]


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

The Holiday

directed by Nancy Meyers, 2006

Horses are for courses and different films for different people. We try to cover a variety of types of movie which suit different tastes. The Holiday represents fairly sophisticated romantic comedy - which, indeed, is Nancy Meyers’ specialty both a writer and director. You may have seen a couple of years ago her excellent Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson. We also have here another example of the Anglo-American film with a range of stars from both sides of the Atlantic, and constant cutting between Los Angeles and Surrey, south of London.
Iris [played with gusto by Kate Winslet] is a beautiful, loving woman caught in a sterile non-relationship with a selfish, needy and unfaithful ‘schmuck’ [played by Rufus Sewell, who seems to attract this type of role- see his Crown Prince in The Illusionist ]. She offers her cute country cottage [not particularly like any I have seen in the very pricey posh county of Surrey] for a holiday exchange, hoping to get away from the dastardly heart-breaker. She is taken up on her offer by the glamorous Amanda, a successful and workaholic player in the entertainment world of LA (“No one has time for sex…”), played by a glowing Cameron Diaz. Amanda also has relationship problems being unable to give much time to her partners and open up to them. This is rather too patly explained as being due to the sudden collapse of her parents’ marriage when she was 15, since when she has never been able to shed a tear.
The exchange takes place with plenty of attention being given to the contrast between Californian luxury [home cinemas, remote controlled gates, swimming pools and so on] and British picturesque discomfort [no central heating and sheep outside the window- rather rare actually in Surrey, but possibly symbolic of Iris’ relationship]. This being a romantic comedy whose main aim is to ensure ‘every Jack gets his Jill’ the two ladies now start their journeys, with a great many ups and downs and joys and despairs, towards love. Iris immerses herself in the world around her, befriending a distinguished old Hollywood screenwriter and Miles [Jack Black, School of Rock], her future soul-mate, a composer, who usually gets into the same sort of unrewarding relationships as does poor Iris.
Amanda predictably has an even more stormy time with Iris’ brother Graham [Jude Law], who turns out to be the perfect, sensitive, loving partner and wonderful family man that she needs. This part of the story becomes quite fairy-story-like with Prince Charming awakening the Sleeping Beauty, or perhaps the Ice Queen, with his magical kisses. The most schmaltzy moment of all comes when it turns out that Graham and his two daughters call themselves the Three Musketeers just as Amanda and her parents once did. At this point I decided this had to be faked by Graham and there was going to be a nasty twist- but no, this is romantic comedy and nothing as brutal as that is allowed.
By now you should know whether this film is your style or not. Frankly, although I had no objection to the story-line, I thought it was too long. There is so much dialogue compared with the amount of action that at times the movie dragged. The Holiday has fine acting, a lot of heart, sincerity and good venues; but it lacks narrative drive and wit. There’s a moment when Amanda says, ‘Just for now, be quiet,’ and I couldn’t help but think the director should have taken her own advice to heart more often. Diabetics [the story has some very sugary moments like Amanda rediscovering tears] and the impatient should probably avoid; unashamed romantics should settle down and enjoy the journey to love.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End: US Action/Fantasy – English version, and a Thai-dubbed version. 168 mins. Yes, 2 hrs 48 mins. With Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley.
Many reviews are unkind, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it a lot of fun, and beautifully shot, with extraordinary set decoration and art design. Hugely imaginative. Depp is a delight, and the dialogue witty and urbane, unlike the banality of Spider-Man 3. (Captain Jack Sparrow: “Can we imagine that she is anything but a woman scorned whose fury heaven hath no?”) See it if you have even the slightest interest in pirates. Or Johnny Depp. (For those who are willing to sit patiently through the seven minutes of ending credits, there’s eventually a nice reward. In fact, though short, it’s the real ending of the movie.)
Shrek the Third: US Animation/Comedy – The further adventures of Shrek and his animal and pastry compatriots.
Teng Nong Khon Ma Ha Hear: Thai Comedy – Starring two popular Thai comedians, in a follow-up to their 2006 film Nong and Teng.
28 Weeks Later: UK Horror – Definitely the thinking person’s zombie flick! This follow-up to the wildly successful 28 Days Later picks up six months after the “rage” virus has depopulated the British Isles, which are now occupied by American troops, bringing peace and stability to the nation, much as they do in Iraq. A thoughtful and chilling movie, not for the faint of heart or with weak stomachs. Brits should love the spooky views of London landmarks absolutely void of people. Rated R in the US for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Next: US Action /Sci-Fi – English version, and a Thai-dubbed version (at Vista). Nicholas Cage stars as a magician with the ability to see two minutes into the future. Terrific action movie with nice twisted plot. I thought it was a pure delight, but most people didn’t. Understand, it’s basically an action movie, so there are car chases and explosions, but it’s got an interesting story and concepts, if you haven’t seen too many movies already. Cage gives a thoroughly enjoyable performance.
Spider-Man 3: US Action/Adventure – See it for its mythic Sandman, my current favorite 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. If you like this type of thing, you should like this film very much.
Scheduled
for Thursday, June 7
Ploy: Thai Drama/Romance/Thriller – From director Pen-ek Ratanaruang. Ploy is an erotic psychological drama involving three strangers locked inside a hotel room. Subtle suspicions build up to jealousy, as the appearance of a young woman triggers unforeseen consequences for a married couple. It created somewhat of a stir at its recent premiere during the Directors’ Fortnight Programme at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this, although with the amount of steamy sex supposedly engaged in by Thai actor Ananda Everingham it may be censored out of existence here, and never arrive in Chiang Mai at all. I particularly enjoyed him in the recent Me…Myself.
Ocean’s Thirteen: US Crime/Comedy – With George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Don Cheadle; directed by Steven Soderbergh. Casino heist caper, a sequel to Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve. The crew pulls another ultra-cool con without breaking a sweat, with Al Pacino as their new nemesis, all the while engaging in deliberately underplayed banter and quick give-and-take dialogue such as fans of the series have come to expect.


Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Hard to Leave?

For three months I’m off to America to experience all the reasons why I moved to Thailand. I’ll miss the smiles, the respect, the pace of life and the unwritten motorcycle laws that allow me to weave through chaotic traffic to the front of the pack at a stoplight. (In America, I have to wait patiently in my lane so motorists will not shoot me, while attempting to remain sane and not ride my Harley over the top of the car in front of me.) I will not miss the roar of tuk-tuks or screech of metal storefront doors, but I will adore hearing them on my return. I will not miss the odor of passing dried squid or durian salesmen. (Why do durian lovers always walk while they eat? They’re trying to get away from the smell.)
My friend Mango Joe shortened his annual trip to the USA to one month, supposedly enough time to eat what he had to eat and see who he had to see, but after two weeks, he was dying to return to Chiangmai. Mango called his Thai mate: ‘Kitty Kat, I miss you so much! It’s only 13 days, six hours and eleven minutes until I get back.” KK said, “I know. This is the third time you’ve called today.”
My intense departure preparation was magnified by the fact my bungalow would be closed, dark and unoccupied during the rainy season, a textbook breeding situation for the fungus that has already begun to grow on the outside deck in the light. If I’d left clothes in the closet for three months, they’d be one green mass of mossy mold. Anything vaguely organic had to go. The bungalow is nestled in the shade on the bank of a stream as it enters a marsh. Okay, fine. It’s a dirty trench emptying into a swamp inhabited by millions of insects, many undiscovered by scientists, most of whom got there by migrating through my bungalow, which sits under bamboo and mango trees teeming with snakes, rodents, lizards and nasty red ants. A thunderstorm shook mangos loose that bounded down the roof onto the car, leaving major dents, and sent several leafy red ant nests to their demise on the ground, causing the ants to attempt to usurp the car as their new abode. The recent earthquake that shook the deck and swayed the hanging orchids sent a few more billion bugs to the surface. The remodeling of the neighboring, rotting wooden hut that housed the neighbor’s prized teak boards has driven untold creatures in search of a new home, probably mine, next door.
While gathering outdoor goods, I stepped in a pile of dog poop which imbedded into the waffle bottom of my shoe, requiring use of the brush under the sink, the home of a spider larger than my cell phone, which always reappears no matter how many times I kill it. This time a major cockroach scampered up my arm, unfazed by the smashing of the brush which only raised welts on my arm. It was a fierce competitor and, despite my volley of blows, ran off snickering into another cupboard. (Just imagine if you were smashed by a brush the relative size of a bus.) Outside once again, I felt bites on my scalp and retrieved two red ants that had leaped out of the mango tree onto my head in an attempt to get me to drive their car.
Then while retrieving something fallen from the deck, I felt something else drop on my head and whisked it off with my hand. Ten minutes later, thinking I was just tired with burning eyes, I looked in the mirror to see huge welts developing on my swollen face. That something was a caterpillar and I had just rubbed its poisonous hairs into my face. Luckily I didn’t scratch them into the genital region, causing it to be, not the legendary 10-inches long, but instead, 10-inches wide.
In spite of all this, I will still miss home because I have learned to be part Thai, though not to the extent that all these creatures I complain about could be food. At a candlelight sushi dinner on the deck with my landlord and his family, I was dismayed to see a stream of tiny ants crawling on his plate and asked if I could get him another one. A distinguished architect who formerly played in the King’s band and still meets with him every month, he paid them no attention and said, “Mai pen rai. They don’t have any bones.” If any of my friends from America read this, I can be assured they will not want to stay with me if they ever dare to visit Thailand.



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