HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

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

Breast Augmentation – yesterday and today

One of the commonest cosmetic procedures all over the world is breast augmentation. And people come from all over the world to Thailand to have this done. Why? Well cost is a prime factor in promoting medical tourism, but even before that, there must be a demand for the procedure.
Breast size and women’s well-being have been inexplicably intertwined for centuries. Perhaps it is the result of the young male baby being weaned at an early age and longing for those palpably bounteous days again for the rest of his life! For whatever reason, an “acceptable” breast size means much to many.
There is also the fact that none of us like getting older, or appearing older, and most women after feeding their children end up with smaller breasts, and less fulsome. Consequently, breast augmentation and breast lifting returns the woman’s figure to that which she had in her late teens, early 20’s.
Chasing the ideal shape has even resulted in patents being awarded to various ‘strap-on’ devices, such as Mrs Anne McLean’s patented cone-shaped wire spring devices in 1858.
The medical profession was also interested and a brave chap by the name of Gersuny (and an even braver female patient) tried paraffin injections in 1889, with disastrous results (for the lady and to his reputation). He was followed by Czerny, who made the first recorded surgical attempt to enlarge the breasts in 1895, when he attempted to transplant a lipoma (fatty tissue tumour) from the back of an actress to her breasts. This did not result in a string of actresses with lipomata beating a pathway to his surgery! Surgery gave up (temporarily) at that point.
After this, it was a return to the ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach with various push-up or push-out and “push-off you dirty old man” brassieres. Or various creams and potions of doubtful value and little pleasing result, other than for the not unwilling male masseurs.
However, immediately post WWII, Berson in 1945 and Maliniac in 1950 performed a dermafat flap, while Pangman introduced the Ivalon sponge in 1950, and various synthetics were used throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including silicone injections. Unfortunately, all of these resulted in long and short-term disasters.
However, while handling a bag of blood in 1961, Baylor University surgical resident Frank Gerow noted how much it felt like a woman’s breast. He and Thomas Cronin then went on to invent the silicone breast implant. It is reported that at the time, it was seen as a safer alternative to injecting silicone straight into the breasts, a method pioneered by Japanese prostitutes in postwar Yokohama and later popularized by San Francisco stripper Carol Doda.
By 1963, Cronin and Gerow had developed the first silicone gel breast implant in conjunction with the Dow Corning Corporation. This was the start of reproducible results, and the art of breast augmentation really kicked on. Dow Corning were of course not alone, and many manufacturers produced implants for flat ladies all over the world.
However, in the 1970’s there were claims that the silicone gel produced all kinds of ailments, and as soon as the lawyers became involved, manufacturers were left with mounds of quivering gel, while the courtroom battles ensued. Quite frankly, it is difficult to defend your position against a claim, when the American courts make you prove that whatever is claimed against your product couldn’t happen. There is always a ‘possibility’ that something ‘could’ happen with human biology.
But the demand from the ladies was still there, so saline implants were next, but there are even problems here too. Every augmentation has its risks.
So what are the common problems? First off, deflation. In one large study in the USA, deflation occurred in 21 (2.1%) of 960 implants. Next is infection. Overall, infections occurred in 6 (0.63%) of 960 implants. Capsular contractions are another large (or enlarged) problem. In this study, a total of 25 of the 960 implants had problems, making an overall rate of 2.6 percent. The end result indicating that 95 percent had no problems.
For whatever reason you would like augmentation, it is a (relatively) ‘safe’ procedure that can change your outlook (and how you look) for ever. Just remember to consult a registered cosmetic surgeon!

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
My Thai girlfriend gets dressed in white gear and goes to Bangkok every couple of months to go to the large temple complex there (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten the name). She leaves early in the morning and gets back late that night and generally has a couple of her girlfriends with her for the trip, but whether they go to the temple as well, I don’t know. I know 90 percent of Thais are Buddhists, but is this normal? If we get married would she still do this? I don’t like to doubt her, but I’ve heard so many bad stories about Thai girls. The last time was at the end of May.
Left Behind
Dear Lefty,
You are wrong in your percentages, Petal. At last count it was 94 percent who follow Buddhism. It is normal for Thais with a deep religious faith to want to go to the temple to make merit, and if you have a mature enough relationship, then undoubtedly she will be making merit for you too. I really don’t think she would be going through the ritual of white clothing if all she wanted to do was get out of the domestic restraints and go on the ran-tan in Bangkok. The religious event at the end of May is Visakha Bucha, a very significant event on the Buddhist calendar and marked as a public holiday. If you thought a little more about your girlfriend’s needs, you would also know the name of the temple she is going to. You should even go with her on one trip. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to appreciate the depth of information and teachings that are in the religion. You are a lucky man. You do not deserve her. She would also expect the freedom to practice her religion in her relationship with you. Just the same as you would with yours. (If you have one!)

Dear Hillary,
I do hope that Pensioner Andy was writing his letter to you with tongue in cheek, otherwise we will be besieged by similar idiots. Every trap in the book has been used on him, and he doesn’t seem to know. How can people be so dumb?
Working Willy
Dear Working Willy,
I am so happy that it is still working for you, but just wait until you are at Pensioner Andy’s age. It might be a case for the magic blue diamond Vitamin V additive. You are correct when you say Andy’s letter was tongue in cheek, as was my reply - and then you go on as if it were the gospel, referring to similar idiots, and every trap in the book, and being so dumb, for example. I think you are the dumb one, my posturing Petal. Lighten up. This column is for entertainment, and Andy the Pensioner gave us some.

Dear Hillary.
Further to your advice on wine, I have always found that supplies from Carrefour have been stored properly. I can’t afford the stratospheric prices of your champagne tipples, my lovey wuvey, but the medium to low end is fine for me. Can you tell me, though, why you can’t buy wine in the afternoons? It really sticks in my craw when I have loaded up the trolley and then get told I can’t buy any alcohol until after 5 p.m.
Dear Jeremy,
Thank you for the tip, but I did say the major supermarket chains do seem to understand what is needed to stop the wine bruising before opening! The ban on alcohol bottle sales is to stop winos like yourself getting too tipsy in the afternoons, and falling over and hurting themselves. Not that it has achieved much, I am afraid. I believe that the liquor stores should have a notice on their displays to remind you of the 2 p.m. till 5 p.m. ban. Even better, rope that section off during the “banned hours”. However, if you have to drink in the afternoons, just lay down a cellar at home and pull a cork any time you feel like it.

Dear Hillary,
In many of the bars and clubs (and I don’t mean the ‘gay’ ones), when you go to the Gentleman’s toilet there will be an attendant standing there. Just when you’re about to relax the old bladder muscle, some of these chaps will quietly come up behind you and give you a back and neck massage while you are at the urinal, and I just do not like this at all. The majority of my male friends I talk to feel the same, so why do the proprietors continue to let this happen? There are some clubs I have stopped going to because of this attendant thing. What’s your advice, Hillary?
Dear (another) Willy,
This problem is one that Hillary has no direct understanding of, my Petal, I can only guess. Us girls do it sitting down, if you didn’t know. As far as what to do? I am sure a simple “Mai ow, khrap” (no thank you) would be enough. If that doesn’t work you can always pee on his foot, rather than on your own, as it seems to be at present!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Contre Jour – another French deviation?

Unfortunately for those of British stock derivation, the French were first into photography, so I suppose they are entitled to give us photographic terms such as ‘Contre Jour’ (literally ‘against the light’)
However, most photographers (French included) seem to be a little in awe of Contre Jour photography, and stick to the old maxim of having the light source (generally the sun) coming from behind the photographer. If you do this, you will be assured of a reasonable, but ordinary photograph, which will record your friend at the beach, and otherwise be totally unmemorable.
No, if you want something a little better, it is time for ‘Contre Jour’. The only difficulty with back-lighting, which is the other (English) name for ‘Contre Jour’ is in getting the correct exposure. Going back to the analogy of the girl on the beach, when you take a full-length shot, the person takes up around 15 percent of the image in the viewfinder. So 85 percent of the shot is not really wanted, but from the camera’s point of view, that 85 percent will predominate in the exposure meter’s electronic brain.
Now I know that better cameras have ‘center-weighting’ etc etc etc, but unless you have ‘spot’ metering, the overall exposure decided by the camera will be an average of the bright back light and the shadowed subject in the front. This will give you a dark subject, or even so far as a silhouette, in front of a well exposed background (in this case, the beach).
With today’s automatic exposure cameras you must understand that it doesn’t know what it is that you are photographing. It doesn’t know that the person’s face in the picture is the most important item. All the camera’s brain can see is a mixture of bright lights and dark areas and it will give you an exposure to try and equalize these out. Unfortunately, in conditions of high contrast in the tropical sun, or back lit, the camera reaches its limitations and the end result will be underexposure of the part of the photograph you want. It’s not the camera’s fault - it just means you have to get smarter.
There are a few ways you can demonstrate your ‘smarts’, and the simplest is by selective metering. You want the subject to be correctly exposed, so walk in close to the subject, so the person fills the frame, and note the exposure values. Now go to the manual mode in the camera, set the aperture and shutter speed as per the noted values, then walk back and compose the shot. The subject person will be correctly exposed against a bright background. Great shot!
Another one of these methods is by Fill-in flash. Fortunately, these days many compacts and SLR’s do have the Fill-in flash mode built in, but many of you do not use it - or even realize that you have this facility! If you have it - then use it.
Now, for those of you who have the whole kit and caboodle - an SLR with an off-camera flash, this section is for you. The whole secret of fill-in flash revolves around flash synchronization speed. Some of the very latest, and expensive cameras will synchronize flash and shutter speed all the way through to 1/2000th of a second or better, but the average SLR will probably say that the synch speed is 1/125th or even only 1/60th and it is this figure which drives the exposure setting.
Take note of the exposure settings from the position from which you are going to take the photograph. Now set the off-camera flash to around the f-stop indicated by the camera’s exposure meter. In other words, if the camera is going to use f5.6, then try two shots - one with the flash on f4 and the other on f5.6. Flashes are notoriously unreliable as to their exact setting, but by taking the two shots, one will be OK, and the other will be perfect. A correctly exposed subject against a correctly exposed background.
The third method is to meter for the entire scene and use a reflector to lift the exposure on the subject.
Brush up on your French and try ‘Contre Jour’ this weekend.

Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

Liquidity and Property, part 1

Let’s try to focus more on this liquidity issue that we’ve been discussing on and off over the last few months. The liquidity surfeit that all markets have enjoyed over the last few years, why that will change and what the consequences of that are likely to be?
Let’s look at UK property which has been rampant over there during the easy monetary conditions - for the past 5 years interest rates have been exceptionally low and lending extremely easy to arrange. Individual buyers have been easily able to change properties, acquire investment properties and in some cases even acquire second/holiday homes. Developers have been easily able to launch new projects, virtually willy-nilly. Money supply (M4) has seen a consequential rapid growth to reach a 12-year high. It is likely, of course, that increases in the quantity of money are also likely to be contributing to asset price growth. As Milan Khatri, the chief economist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said last year: “Low interest rates have been the primary fuel for a surge in property demand, though by the end of 2006 these will rise.”
Let’s look at speculative development - a survey by de Montfort University, in Leicester, England, has shown that in 2005 there was 23 billion of development finance out of a total market size of property lending in the UK thought to be between 164 billion and 175 billion. Six years earlier at the turn of the millennium, there was only 9 billion of development finance. In that year, 3 billion was for residential development for sale, and 6 billion was for fully pre-let commercial real estate development - i.e. there was nothing whatsoever for speculative commercial real estate development.
Though this category hovered between zero and 3 billion for the five years up to 2004, it shot forward to 5 billion in 2005. By May 2006, The Times newspaper of London said of this news that “banks have rapidly stepped up their exposure to speculative development finance, from virtually nothing five years ago to 5 billion at the end of 2005 ... Lending to speculative commercial developments, where no business tenants have been signed up in advance to rent the building, is regarded as risky. In the early 1990s, excessive bank lending to speculative projects came unstuck when the economy crashed and developers could not repay their loans ... the rapid increase in lending to these (speculative) projects is beginning to cause concern among some property analysts, who fear that banks should be more careful not to repeat past mistakes.”
The mentality of development is dictated by underlying condition - a typical property boom feeds on itself becoming a race to borrow, buy, build and sell. Transactional justifications become ever weaker and deals conclude that logically should never have been done. Individual and corporate borrowers overstretch, banks distort their lending criteria beyond what is appropriate and margins everywhere become totally unsustainable. The assumption that booms continue forever leads all participants to act as though this one will with no thought for the consequences.
This is readily highlighted in a micro example. There are 13 occupiers in the city who currently occupy 1 million square feet or more; one can only wonder what may happen as they grow their need for space. Some of these occupiers have forecasted that they will grow their businesses at 5 percent per annum and that therefore they will each need a further 200,000 square feet of space within a few short years. Assuming that these forecasts are accurate, that is another 2.5 million square feet of extra office space. Many large firms looking for space in the City have started to identify locations, fuel site assembly plans and, together with a commissioned architect, design before pre-letting the accommodation from a friendly partner developer. Essentially, these firms are becoming property developers to satisfy their new real estate requirements based on an assumption that they will achieve continued above trend growth. If they fail to hit these targets, they’ll find themselves holding empty real estate.
Not a problem, they can rent it to someone else who’s growing like crazy. But what if everyone stops growing like crazy at the same time? And what if everyone has assumed that they will grow like crazy and corporates and developers are suddenly awash with property? And what if interest rates are higher on these heavily leveraged properties at a time when rents, and therefore capital values, which are in the commercial world determined almost exclusively by real rental yields? Suddenly a booming market is contracting more dramatically than it was growing and all those ‘what if’ questions that were never asked are suddenly coming home to roost.
An early warning sign in the UK could be the retail sector, where many retailers are finding trading conditions difficult, yet the property from which they trade is becoming increasingly expensive in rental and yield terms.
In the US the early warning signs are appearing more and more in the residential sector. The well-known problems in the sub prime mortgage sector (which all the eternal optimists are having to work overtime to explain why this should be contained within this sector when logically this should be the harbinger of wider problems) are migrating up the risk spectrum, with borrowers now insisting on at least a 5% down payment for Alt A bonds (loans between sub prime and prime).
Let’s just take a step back - borrowers will now ONLY lend 95% of asset value to borrowers who aren’t prime and in many cases can’t/won’t document their income. Not only were they lending 100% to this category before, in many cases they were lending more than 100%. The assumption here seems to be that lending 100% today to non-prime borrowers (remember that the importance of the security or the loan to asset value becomes more significant as the credit status of the borrower worsens) will be Ok because the loan won’t go wrong and if it does then in a year’s time the asset will be worth 115% of today’s value, so a 100 or 105% loan to value doesn’t constitute risk. Consumers borrowed 100 percent of their home’s value on about 18 percent of Alt A loans made last year, according to Bear Stearns, the largest mortgage-bond underwriter. Another 16 percent had loan-to-value ratios above 90 percent as well as limited documentation, they say.
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]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

Temporarily on holiday in England

Do you like being watched? Do you feel as you stroll, ride or drive around Chiang Mai that you’re every move is being monitored? I suspect that the answer is no to both questions.
Perhaps if the first was changed to ‘do you mind being observed in the interests of security’, the answer would be, not really. However in Thailand it seems that – at present – the questions are not especially relevant. Even in banks there seems little intrusive security, let alone in less vulnerable sites.
In Britain though we now boast some 4.2 million security cameras, one for every 14 members of the population. Imagine this scenario in Chiang Mai. You have a busy day around the city. After breakfast you go out for much of the day, to the gym, the library, the CMU art gallery or a bookshop. You go to a supermarket and call in at a bank for some cash from the ever ready dispenser. In the evening you drive or take a tuk tuk to a meal and then to a bar.
If you have the equivalent busy day out in a major city in Britain, certainly in London, you will have been photographed or recorded on videotape some 300 times. Each time you enter a shop, a bank or walk down the street a security camera will record your actions. As you fill your car with petrol, cross the traffic lights or enter a hospital or school you will be on camera.
They are there for surveillance purposes to record speeding offences, to protect staff in places where cash is used or in hospitals where the patients routinely attack staff. Even in the more dubious areas of Pattaya or Bangkok I don’t recall such activity. It is difficult to know what the Thai people would make of such a situation. More bemusement than distress I would think.
In Britain they are becoming more and more a cause for concern because of two recent developments. People are used to them in small town centres where young people congregate after drinking or a football match. But the two latest developments and the prospect of I.D. cards have the civil liberties lobby worried.
The first innovation has been a small flying object weighing about a kilo which is remotely controlled and zooms around people like a mini helicopter. It is a camera and offers more flexibility than the fixed position cameras that are relayed to police stations and traffic control centres.
The second is a non-fashion accessory to the traffic wardens uniform in the form of a hat sporting a mini camera and microphone. This helps support evidence of parking offences or –more importantly – threats or violence against the wardens.
Meanwhile it is just two or three weeks before the smoking ban comes into force as in other parts of the U.K. The anti smoking campaign has taken heart from this and there are two further suggestions. The first from the E.U. is that smoking should be banned near all premises, such as in doorways where the anti social smokers congregate for their fix.
The other more drastic idea (and this has been around for quite a while) is that people who smoke should be denied medical operations – except in an emergency – until they give up the weed. This is on the assumption that many illnesses are cause by their self harm. It seems easier to simply price cigarettes out of people’s reach, as is the current trend. A packet of 20 now costs the equivalent of 350 baht and is only likely to go up. The Thai anti smoking lobby will push for such restrictive measures in the coming weeks, but will there be anybody around to enforce them?

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

After This Our Exile [2006, director: Patrick Tam, Cantonese with English subtitles]
After This Our Exile carried off almost all the Hong Kong Film Awards this year so it comes with plenty of recommendation and prestige. Patrick Tam is a distinguished film-writer and director. He has assembled a fine crew, including eminent Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bing, and some well-known faces from the entertainment world, including his lead Aaron Kwok and the main female character, Charlie Yeung. It is a peculiarity of the region that it has all-purpose stars: an entertainment celebrity does not specialize but sings, dances, stars in films and makes public appearances whatever his/her main talents are. Aaron, as he is popularly known, has long been this sort of superstar, appearing in legion films but not particularly being noted for his acting skills. This film has been seen as his break-out, showing that as he ages he can become a mature and skilled actor.
Hong Kong cinema typically shows a hyperactive world of brutal crime, but there is nothing of that in this film. The story involves a Chinese family living in Malaysia (actually, one is left to infer this information- the characters all speak Cantonese, but the setting is definitely a small Malaysian town, lovingly shown in the tropical sunshine; the satay looks so good one can almost taste it!). Dad, Shing (the Kwok character), is a charming, aging low-life, who for all his desire to be a good father and husband is continually deep in gambling debt and unable to control his volatile temper- even a simple visit to a small restaurant for the young son’s birthday ends in a row. The wife has had enough of this life and decides to leave. Boy, the son, played by Gow Ian Iskander, suffers from the resulting family break-up and emotional mess. Fathers, family, gambling- these are all issues of importance to Chinese culture and one can see why the film might attract awards.
The story is moving enough with Boy being dragged down by the situation he finds himself in. His love for his parents turns into hate, but after some years he grows into a worthy young man and the film ends with him watching thoughtfully someone in the distance who is probably his father.
Unfortunately, however, despite all those awards, the film did not work for me. There seem to be three problems. First is the acting. The style is old-fashioned and melodramatic, almost reminiscent of the silent screen. Kwok does not make Shing seem at all unbearable. The family home seems pleasant and tidy, and even when drunk and desperate Shing is perfectly presentable. The much-acclaimed child actor makes Boy appear as indifferent and apathetic. There is no passion in the film. Secondly, parts of the story seem to be missing. For example, we never see the obsessed gambler gamble. It as if we are in the days of the old Hays Code forbidding such things on screen! It seems that the film was originally much longer and had to be cut down so this might explain why the narrative flow has suffered.
Thirdly, the problem is the cinematography. This is a strange thing to say, as it is perfectly exquisite, but too often it takes over. Frequently all action stops so that we can observe the exquisite framing. Shots through windows and the slats of blinds almost become a nervous tic. And then there is the colour- the cinematographer seems mesmerized by light and wonderful shades of primrose, lime green, chartreuse, Vermeer blue… The scenes in the small hotel Shing and Boy move to are typical with the golden light, billowing curtains, intense staring eyes and care taken over shadow. This is mannerist cinema where visual effect has taken over from story. At another important moment when Shing is injured, his pain becomes purely aesthetic as the camera concentrates on a superb palette of blues and the shapes of leaves. Such art work is great, but it slows the film down to an unacceptable degree.
Well, I must not labour the point: the film has splendid moments and many flaws. In case you are wondering about the lovely title, it comes from the final prayer of the rosary. The Chinese title is simply Father, but someone has chosen this far more glamorous English name; though possibly it suffers from the same fault as the film, it is beautiful but rather obscure, our exile is our life on Earth away from God, perhaps here it is Boy’s separation from his family, something for you to ponder after watching.

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. 2 hours and 48 mins. With Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley.
More you couldn’t ask for – a fun and hugely imaginative movie. Depp is a delight, and the dialogue witty: “Slap me thrice and give me to my mama!” 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.)
Shrek the Third: US Animation/Comedy – The further adventures of Shrek and his animal, human, and pastry compatriots (I absolutely loathed the Gingerbread Man – what an arrogant and annoyingly sassy half-baked piece of dough!). With Eddie Murphy, Julie Andrews, Regis Philbin, Larry King, and 37 other stars lending their voices to the fairytale. Altogether cute and amusing; perhaps lacking somewhat in intellectual stimulation, but good family fun all the same.
Teng Nong Khon Ma Ha Hear: Thai Comedy – Starring two popular Thai comedians, in a follow-up to their 2006 film Nong and Teng. Of little note for farangs.
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. It was admired by some reviewers and denigrated by others. The influential trade paper Variety slammed the film rather cruelly. “Jealousy erupts quickly but steamy sex and dull narrative move at a glacial pace in [this] Thai somnambulistic movie. [The film] is too flimsy and false to truly engage.”
On the same day, a reviewer at Screen Daily, another influential trade journal, exalted Ploy with uninhibited enthusiasm. “This is such a tasty slice of cinema, by turns oneiric, erotic, funny, and emotionally perceptive. Ploy imposes its own unhurried rhythm but then rewards its viewers for their indulgence, and within the art-house niche that it will inevitably inhabit this could turn out to be a strong seller.”
The film’s director Pen-ek Ratanaruang laughed upon seeing both reviews: “One is so bad and one is so good,” he said. “They’re equally not true.”
I’m very much looking forward to seeing this, although following objections from the Thai censorship board Pen-ek is now re-editing some of the erotic sequences. Thus the version shown in Cannes is unlikely ever to be seen on Chiang Mai screens.
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. A paean to ultra-cool behavior while being well dressed and beautifully coiffed in exotic locales where expense is no object. It’s a delightful patchwork of plot-holes laced together with beautiful fabrications. The crew pulls another con without breaking a sweat, with Al Pacino as its 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.
Scheduled for Thursday, June 14
Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer: US Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action – Marvel’s slightly dysfunctional family of superheroes, The Fantastic Four, meets its greatest challenge yet as the enigmatic, intergalactic herald, The Silver Surfer, comes to Earth to prepare it for destruction. The role of The Silver Surfer is played by Doug Jones, the fantastic and fantastical actor who played both the frightening Pan and even more frightening The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, shown here recently. As the Silver Surfer, he races around the globe wreaking havoc, and the Fantastic Four must unravel his mystery, as well as confront the surprising return of their mortal enemy, Dr. Doom, before all hope is lost.
Sick Nurses: Thai Horror – Whimpering, simpering, and screaming pretty young nurses get killed in imaginative ways. Bloody awful (that’s bloody and awful), to gauge from the trailer. Strictly for twisted teens (and aficionados of bloody awful Thai horror films).

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Spending Time

The hardest part about visiting America is the speed at which dollars fly from the wallet. Pad Thai for is not available for fifteen baht. The inexpensive cost of living in Chiangmai disappears at the airport. My five-baht bottle of water is confiscated at security, forcing me to purchase another forty-baht bottle near the gate to last until Taiwan. Sure, there’s free water on the plane, but there are also three hundred people, only three attendants and serving cups a little larger than one ice cube. Of course, I forget to drink my bottled water, which is once again confiscated in Taiwan because there’s another security station between the gates. Though we have not actually entered the country, nor been released from the Prison of Planes and Corridors, this security stop serves two purposes: 1) to discover plastic explosives that passengers have clandestinely constructed from forks, spoons, magazines, bathroom soap and airline food, which is definitely filled with inedible, toxic substances; and 2) to steal our water so we have to buy another 105 baht bottle of water in their country.

After five hours in Taipei’s Sterile Terminal of Tediousness, surrounded by big-ticket, duty-free frou-frou shops and food prices that keep rising as the value of the dollar drops, the flight to San Francisco lasts forever and ever, though we survive as regularly scheduled, third-rate movies, second-rate food and first-rate turbulence prevent us from near death by boredom. The unfriendly, unsmiling, aisle-sitting Chinese man traps us in our middle and window seats as he eats and sleeps, but never excretes, never gets up, as if he has but one, solitary hole in his entire body for absorption and none for expulsion. We consider relieving ourselves in the air-sickness bags, but luckily, the plane lands. Whisked away from the airport to dinner, we only have the strength to eat one glass of wine and one hot chocolate for 395 baht. Thank God for relatives! Without them we’d have had to add hotel and cab fare, somewhere between five thousand and ten gazillion baht.
Shrouded in fog, San Francisco cools our bone marrow to just above freezing as we bunk with my warm-hearted, but cold-blooded relatives who wear wool clothing and stocking caps inside. As Mark Twain said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” After a long night under seventeen blankets and quilts, we venture out for lunch, since my relatives are eat-out or take-out folks with fridge and cupboards stocked only for their poodle and parrot, including multi-dog vitamins on the kitchen counter and feather shampoo in the shower. My Thai mate wears all the clothing she has brought, plus some of mine, plus fleece goods pinched from my cousin’s closet, and waddles to the restaurant like a short, Asian, pregnant penguin in an outfit from a Goodwill store. A massive hamburger and a turkey sandwich, fries, salad and two drinks: 875 baht. Evening dinner is take-out, vaguely Thai-Malaysian fusion food for two, no drinks included: 1,155 baht.
In search of the sun and the infamous sea lions, we head to tourist central, Pier 39, but mistake several rotund tourists for sea lions and try to feed them peanuts. They’re very pleased and eat the peanuts, along with the corn dogs, cotton candy, salt water taffy and anything else their fat hands can carry. It’s a gawking, shopping, feeding frenzy. One tiny tray of strawberries (although each berry was huge and probably the best we’ve ever eaten in our lives) cost 210 baht. For lunch we order a bowl of clam chowder, a salmon sandwich and seafood jambalaya that would feed a family of four and two lemonades: cost 1,575 baht. America is big, the people are big, and the portions are gigantic. We long for a bit of the homeland, but the Thai restaurant advertises Pad Thai for 575 baht. In an attempt to save money during a moment of complete insanity, I vow to fix the relatives my famous raspberry salmon, mandarin orange tarragon salad and grilled sesame asparagus. The grocery bill is 2,800 baht. I’ve blown my three-month budget in four days and I’ll be back in Chiangmai next week…if I can afford the taxi to the airport.