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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

The 14 year old problem!

We’ve all been there and done that. Squeezed the zit that came up just hours before that big date, and turned it into a weeping beacon. The cause? Acne vulgaris – a vulgar name for a common condition
There is only a handful of people who go through their teenage years without suffering from acne vulgaris, otherwise known as “Zits”. The official figures are that it affects 90 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls in the 14-17 year age bracket. Now while we always think of it as a condition of adolescence, the bad news is that it appears to be starting to spread into middle age as well. Zits for ever! Perish the thought.
There is a tendency to trivialize acne just because everyone goes through it, but when you take into consideration that acne scarring can be permanent, and that for the adolescent sufferer this can produce depression, social isolation and even suicide, then the condition takes a much higher medical profile.
The actual cause of acne is still not fully understood, though we do understand the disease process. What happens is that there is an increase in sebum production by the oil producing glands in the skin. This is most likely hormonally regulated. (Around that age, the hormones do tend to run a little amok!) This results in blockage of the oil producing gland itself (the follicle) which then becomes invaded and infected by a bug called Proprionibacterium acnes. This results in the pustular Mt. Vesuvius on the face which is the scourge of the teenage years.
Unfortunately, there is much myth surrounding the causation of the zits. The first is that it is caused by eating too much chocolate and fatty foods. Not so, say the dermatology researchers. While I believe there is a connection, the sugary and fatty foods are apparently not the cause. I believe it accelerates the condition, though.
There is also an underlying thought that acne is the result of poor hygiene. Let me assure you that this is not the case. “Blackheads” are not dirt and the dark colour is a combination of melanin and the skin cells and the plug of sebum in the oil producing glands in the skin.
Another problem comes from the fact that teenagers get told that acne is just a “normal” part of growing up and don’t worry about it. While most kids will get the condition, it is not really “normal” and should never be thought of that way.
Another of the great myths is that prescription treatments do not work. This is not correct, the earlier the treatment is instituted, the less likelihood there is of permanent scarring. I am sorry, but I have never been a fan of the proprietary preparations which are heavily advertised on TV. If they can spend that much money on advertising, the expensive tube of wonder goo must have a huge profit margin in it.
So what treatments are available? Basically there are two types – rub it on (which we call topical) or swallow it (which we call oral therapies). The problems that occur are the fact that there is no “instant” cure and treatment may have to be maintained for up to six months, or even longer. There is now an oral form of a group of drugs called retinoids as well, and while these have really produced a small “break through” in the treatment of acne, they are also a very hazardous form of treatment which has to be done under the close supervision of a skin specialist. So don’t go buying them over the counter at your local ‘shady’ pharmacy.
That’s the 14 year old acne story. Don’t just accept it as inevitable – but get treatment early!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Where should I take my girlfriend for a romantic night? I intend to propose to her then, so want to make it an evening to remember.
Dear Lochinvar,
You didn’t say in your letter what it was that you wanted to propose. Marriage, ménage a trois or a dirty weekend at Hua Hin? Since you are so indecisive and wishy washy, I hope she says No! to all three of your proposals.
Dear Hillary,
My doctor has told me I have to give up drinking. I work in the entertainment industry, so this is a bit hard. What do you suggest I do?
Dear Ken,
It’s easy. Change your doctor. The definition of an alcoholic is someone who drinks more than their medical advisor.
Dear Hillary,
I think your advice is daft. What right have you got to tell people what to do? Why don’t you go back to your dog-house?
Dear Frank,
I have as much right as you have, my Petal. Since you are the one with a bone to pick, perhaps it is you that should be living in the kennel? Woof!
Dear Hillary,
The wife of one of my husband’s friends will be coming to visit. She said she wanted to see a “sex show” while she is here. What do you recommend, Hillary?
Dear Shocked,
Everybody knows we don’t have sex shows here. The nice policeman told me so. If you’re really worried, get your husband to take her.
Dear Hillary,
Some days when I read your column you really can be terribly bitchy. Why are you like this? These people are only asking for help.
Dear Charles,
I do get bitchy when I have to answer ridiculous obvious questions like yours. I agree though, you certainly do need help, like the rubber room and the funny sleeveless tight jacket. Best to steer clear of me till next week.

Dear Hillary,
The other evening my husband of 20 years called me a bitch. I slept in the spare room that night and now I am thinking of leaving him. He just laughs when I ask him about it.
Extremely Annoyed
Dear Annoyed,
Perhaps if you bark at him again you will get the answer.
Dear Hillary,
You can’t get all these silly letters. Surely they are made up. Tell us, you can unload on us – we won’t tell anyone!
Dear Jimbo,
You don’t know all the troubles we lonely hearts counselors have to take home. Some nights I just sob myself to sleep. Of course on other nights I almost wet the bed laughing at letters like yours, my Petal.
Dear Hillary,
I am a model husband, good looking, never play up, drink in moderation, in perfect health, a witty intelligent companion, and considered by everyone as a “good catch”. This week my wife announced that she wants a divorce. Why, Hillary, why?
Dear Confounded,
It’s probably because she has found out that she is married to a smug, self satisfied, arrogant, pompous twit.
Dear Hillary,
My wife went out the other night and came home at 2 a.m. well under the weather. What do you think I should do about it?
Dear Weatherman,
Get her an umbrella and a rain coat.
Dear Hillary,
I wrote to my girlfriend and told her to expect me at Xmas and she wrote back and said it was not really suitable and she could be away up country. Am I getting the cold shoulder?
Dear Jason,
This may come as a shock, Jason my petal, but Thai girls can have more than one boyfriend. She may be pining for her Jack, Jacques, and Jorgen as well as her Jason. You have to remember you are here for four weeks. She is here for 52!
Dear Hillary,
We want to start a Hillary Fan Club. Will you be the patron?
Your Fans
Dear Fans,
I will be patron provided you charge a decent annual subscription (keeps the riff-raff out) and the money is donated to my favorite charity, the Champagne Fund for Aging Agony Aunts.
Dear Hillary,
My wife discovered some “glitter” in my underpants. Should I tell her I am a cross dresser, or admit to secretly wearing glitter makeup which I rub off before I get home in the evenings?
Dear Garry,
You certainly are a mixed up man, aren’t you, Petal. You have got even me confused. If you are wearing glitter makeup, what are you wiping it off with? Your underpants? The mind boggles.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Norman Parkinson

As this is the 14th anniversary of the Pattaya Mail as the leader in the English language publications on the Eastern Seaboard, I struggled to find some connection between 14 and photography. There is an f11 and an f16, but no f14 I am afraid. There is a 1/15th shutter speed, but no 1/4th either. Then I remembered Norman Parkinson, and the famous tale of his apprenticeship and the reference to a fortnight, which is after all, 14 days. There is a 14 connection for photography after all.
One of the greats, in any discussions on fashion photography, is the late Norman Parkinson who died a little over 14 years ago, aged seventy seven. Primarily a fashion photographer, he produced many original concepts during his lifetime, and always was one to go his own way, even from the outset.
He was indentured to Speaight of Bond Street, the ‘Court’ photographer in 1931 when he was eighteen years old. Those were the days when you paid to be allowed to work under such important people, and Parkinson’s fee was three hundred pounds to able to learn from the ‘great man’.
Speaight had once photographed Kaiser Wilhelm in the trenches and would regale his students with the tale, and how he used a bed sheet to reflect the light into the face of his famous subject. “What do you think the exposure was?” he thundered at Parkinson. “About a fortnight at f8,” was his cheeky reply. That quick-witted response epitomizes Norman Parkinson’s approach to photography as well. Quick to adapt and an underlying sense of humour.
After leaving Speaight, Parkinson set up his own studio in London. He was twenty one and willing to experiment with lighting and was soon in demand from the young debutantes of the day. However, Parkinson soon felt hemmed in by the confines of his studio, but when Harper’s Bazaar magazine commissioned him to photograph hats out of doors, Parkinson was off.
With a hiatus for the war years where he worked in aerial reconnaissance, Parkinson came back with a rush and worked for the international Conde Nast group, with the bulk of his work going into the British and American Vogue magazines. He is credited as having had an enormous influence on post war American fashion photography, setting the trend in that country also in using the outdoors as the backdrop.
His favorite way of shooting outdoors was “contre jour” (against the light) and to use a fill-in flash to light the foreground. Parkinson did this because when you take a shot with the sun behind you, there is no way you can control or modify the light source, but by using fill-in flash he would retain total control, balancing the foreground illumination against the light from behind the model, as supplied by the great celestial lighting technician.
Like all true professionals, Parkinson carried more than one camera on a shoot and would have two sets of medium format cameras (Hasselblads) and another two sets of 35 mm cameras (Nikons). Before committing the final scene to film, he would check all his exposure settings by taking some Polaroid instant films. He even said in 1981 that he had not used an exposure meter for over twenty years. Mind you, with seasoned pro’s such as Parkinson, he would have been able to guess the settings and be spot on over 90 percent of the time.
Whilst he is best remembered for his fashion work, Parkinson was also a very skilled portrait photographer. With regards to this type of work he said, “I try to make people look as good as they’d like to look, and with luck a shade better. If I photograph a woman then my job is to make her as beautiful as it is possible for her to be. If I photograph a gnarled old man, then I must make him as interesting as a gnarled old man can be.” Norman Parkinson, a true professional, and the author of “a fortnight at f8!”

Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

Portfolio Construction - Part 3

Asian property should be preferred to US property. Also, in view of the fact that the UK (as well as Australian, Spanish and Irish) property markets are about to, at the very least, suffer a correction, a good structured note that shorts UK residential property is probably the first asset that should be on anyone’s portfolio radar right now.
One aspect that determines outlook is investment psychology. It’s worth taking into account local factors. In line with national characteristics US commentators invariably tend to be more positive about the US economy than some more objective external analysts. Also historic factors should be considered (the longer that a bull run endures, the more complacency slips into equity markets which is why “maybe this time it’s different” is the mantra that has cost the most money over the last 5 decades).
Some things do change and become different - other market forces remain constant. We’re constantly disappointed at how many analysts and commentators seem to have a disappointingly weak grasp of history. To us it’s clear that we’re now in the typical calm before the storm that has marked just about every previous major correction. Let’s just look at the views of two expert commentators. Firstly, Roger Gray, CIO of Hermes, who answered a couple of questions recently:
“Q: How likely are we to see a storm in markets?
A: Oh I think we are likely to see a storm. One of the things we know about markets is that they go up and they go down and they are volatile. Of course, there is some variation in the extent of that volatility. But I think it would be naïve to assume that we won’t see a severe bout of stress and volatility in markets. Exactly what the trigger is going to be, we could, of course, explore that speculatively, but certainly there will be a trigger and probably every investor has some ideas to what their favourite potential trigger might be.
Q: And your favourite trigger at the moment?
A: I would say we have got an environment where central banks have been gradually tightening their monetary stance. Inflation has been picking up in the last few years. It hasn’t reached maybe alarming levels, but it is also not comfortably under control. If central banks find themselves having to continue raising interest rates because inflation misbehaves as we move into 2008, I don’t think that the market is really poised for that and a squeeze of liquidity could certainly be a trigger for some re-rating of risk.”
So inflation remains a concern but the removal of the surplus liquidity that has supported the markets for the last few years is Mr. Gray’s biggest concern.
William Rhodes, senior vice-chairman of Citigroup, and chairman, president and chief executive of Citibank recently wrote the following: “Much of the good news has come as a result of extraordinary levels of liquidity pouring into opportunities around the globe. To a large extent this is due to the Federal Reserve’s expansionary monetary policies early in the decade and the US administration’s fiscal stimulus. The yen carry trade has also facilitated the buoyant expansion of investments and leverage evident everywhere today. The low spreads, the tremendous build-up of liquidity, the reach for yield and the lack of differentiation among borrowers have stimulated both dynamic growth and some real concerns.”
Pockets of excess are becoming harder to ignore. Problems in the housing and mortgage area such as the sub prime sector in the US are one such example of excess that should come as no surprise. As lenders and investors inevitably become more discriminating, liquidity will recede and a number of problems will surface. Too many countries and companies with vastly different risk profiles are still commanding similar pricing.
Usually, periods of economic expansion tend to last between five and seven years. We are entering the sixth year of expansion in the US. Against that background, we believe that over the next 12 months a market correction will occur and this time it will be a real correction.
Recent market developments should be seen as a warning. What has been evident for a number of months is that, in the US, we are seeing lagging inflation and slower growth. Whether this means that we are going to have to fend off recessionary tendencies is not yet clear.
During the last big adjustment that started in July 1997 in Thailand and spread to a number of Asian economies including South Korea, followed by Russia in 1998 - and led ultimately to the bail-out of Long Term Capital Management, the US hedge fund - a number of today’s large market operators were not yet in the mix; therefore, they may have chosen not to remember the words of Harry S. Truman, “The only unknown is the history that you have not yet read.”
Today, hedge funds, private equity and those involved in credit derivatives play important, and as yet largely untested, roles. The primary worry of many who make or regulate the market is not inflation or growth or interest rates, but instead the coming adjustment and the possible destabilising effect these new players could have on the functioning of international markets as liquidity recedes. It is also possible that they could provide relief for markets that face shortages of liquidity.
Either way, this clearly is the time to exercise greater prudence in lending and in investing and to resist any temptation to relax standards.
I think that everyone should heed this - prudent diversified 5 asset class diversification is more important now than ever. Don’t say that you haven’t been warned!
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

Stand by for massive generalisations. It seems to me that Thais are not overly analytical or especially communicative – possibly through an inbuilt reserve or politeness. Criticism, we know, is unusual, thank yous are withheld in order that the would-be recipient may reap rewards in any future life. The kind of effusive, in your face enthusiasm that we normally associate with some Americans is also a no no. Opinions are, of course, held altogether or vouchsafed but not expressed forcefully.
The observations of Thai manners have been brought home to me during the past weeks as I have shown my Thai friend – over from Chiang Mai –something of southern England, London and parts of northern France and Belgium. It was plain from the start that we were ‘no longer in Kansas’ but it was fascinating to see new experiences absorbed, observed and noted studiously in a daily journal and by photographic record rather than by snap judgements. Hospitality and newness were politely acknowledged, smilingly accepted and logged for future reference
Personally, I found all this both calming and charming. Too often opinions come flooding in from westerners, with little rhyme and less reason. There’s too much gush and not a little guff. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for liking Thailand as much as one does. Happily the photographs taken by friends and family over the weeks show an obvious delight in the trip (excepting perhaps the weather which was not kind) and as I remarked before it is pleasant to see England through someone else’s eyes. I must remember that the Brits are not nearly as stuffy as they are made out to be.
Happily, I’ll soon be back in Chiang Mai – since it is ‘that time’ again. What time you might well ask. The prelude to the Hillside 4 charity event is my reply. On August 4, the launch of that epic social event will be held, with a dinner at the Amari and the charities competing to be the recipient(s) of the funds raised will be chosen then and by subsequent discussion. Earlier this year over a million baht was raised for a single charity and the splendid results were seen later in the year when a new dormitory for a school was opened. The plan this year is for a similar or even maybe a larger amount to be raised – so stand by for social events, raffles and many functions that will be announced between mid August and the end of the year. The culmination will be the January party. So keep your eyes and your wallets and purses open.
A short P.S. Through lack of space recently my follow up remarks on the novel The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill were lost. Set in Laos, this quirky and exotic thriller held up to the expectations aroused by the first 100 pages. The writer, a London, apparently lives in Chiang Mai and certainly knows the regions he writes about. The blurb promises further adventures of the investigative coroner, Dr Paiboun. Let’s hope that the quality of this debut is maintained since it is especially fascinating for those of us who know something of Laos and live in northern Thailand to read about them and their history. I’m not sure whether it is yet in Chiang Mai bookshops or will come out in paperback, but look out for it.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: US Adventure/Fantasy – A sleek and exciting movie. Each film in the series seems to get darker – this one begins like a horror movie, and proceeds as a tense and twisty political thriller, with many dark deeds.
Did anyone else notice touches of England’s Queen in the performance of that fine British actress, Imelda Staunton? She plays a frightening despot, disguised as a harmless and mothering teacher. But she has the gait and the audacity, if not of the Queen of England, at least of Helen Mirren playing the Queen. Or so I thought. And what is that she is wearing, a pink tweed suit? With a pillbox hat? Incredibly frightening woman!
There are many wonderful performances, and effects, and details in the film – marvels for the eye and ear. Nevertheless, I must say that I find the actions and themes in this series to be about as understandable as the Book of Revelation. And it is not helped by the youngsters’ poor enunciation and their tendency to blurt out whole paragraphs in a single unclear utterance. But that’s only the surface of the mysterious and confusing incomprehensibility of the Potter world. Really, do these books and their film adaptations require life-long study, like the Bible or Proust?
Transformers: US Action/Sci-Fi – A gigantic, spectacular, and funny summer blockbuster, with truly exceptional and unprecedented visual effects.
It’s interesting to me how similar in some ways this movie is to Die Hard. Both of them show off the incompetence of the government (any government, I guess). It seems government agencies simply can’t do anything right, and one is perfectly justified in being very suspicious of anything they say or do.
Quote of the week: Autobot: “The parents are very irritating. Can I take them out?”
Yes, the parents are quite infuriating. It’s a fun movie, but quite noisy.
Die Hard 4.0: US Action/Adventure/Thriller – A fascinating story of a conspiracy to take down the entire computer network that holds the US together. It’s very frightening stuff.
Bruce Willis was born to play the role of police detective John McClane, now in his fourth outing, and he seems to be enjoying himself more than he has in years. Here he’s up against a new kind of villain that has been emerging in films recently, the conscienceless computer geek – a genius who might seem like a scruffy youth, but who, in fact, knows all about cracking government security codes, and is at this moment downloading your files. For this villain, sabotage is simply a prank.
And there’s another standard villain (just like in Transformers), which is the response of the US government to a crisis, which for sure is always assumed to be incompetent. As a result, extreme paranoia is a reasonable emotion on the part of the citizenry. Well, McClane is good for crises and disasters, which means he’s just the man for this movie.
The old school approach to stunt work relied on in this film seems to me very much worth the trouble, because you can really see the difference between an actor actually making a death-defying leap and one just faking it in front of a blue screen. Reality is simply a lot better.
A pretty thrilling movie, in my book. If you have any interest in this kind of movie, see this one. It is slick, well-written, and well-acted. You’re in the hands of professionals here.
Kung Fu Tootsie: Thai Comedy – A very low class Thai comedy with a lot of popular Thai television stars. Thais have been laughing a lot at the previews while farangs shake their heads in disbelief. It’s supposed to be a parody of the movie Kung Fu Hustle (2004), itself a parody of the Kung Fu style (wuxia genre), this one made as only the Thailand film industry could make it - with plenty of cross-dressing and obnoxious gay slurs.
Scheduled for
Thursday, July 26

Ratatouille: US Animation – An apparently amazing creation about a chef rat that pleases just about everybody. Don’t miss it. Word is it’s a nearly flawless piece of popular art, providing the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised. Reviews: Universal acclaim.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Bushwhacked in the USA!

In the USA, on July 10, President George Bush’s approval rating sank to a new low of 29, probably persons, not percent, since I haven’t met one supporter in five weeks. And this was just before he invoked, ala ex-President Dick Nixon, an executive privilege to deny documents to lawmakers and prevent former aides from testifying, which fueled an impeachment movement supported by 45 percent of Americans.

Scooter and George aren’t welcome here anymore.
Unfashionable George celebrated this Fourth of July by raising his middle finger to middle and lower America, and gave a Get Out Of Jail Free Card to VP Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff and Fall Guy “Scooter” Libby, a convicted felon sentenced to serve 2-1/2 years in prison. With Bush’s new monopoly power, he’s now rewriting our Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal, unless they’re cronies of mine.” Apparently we’re to believe he knows better than the prosecutor and judge he appointed to try Scooter (a very unfortunate, but stimulating, name to have on the back of a prison uniform), the jury who heard the case and the appeals court that upheld their verdict. Perhaps comedian Bill Maher said it best: “Scooter Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction, and making false statements—or as the White House calls it, a press conference.” No, Bush said it best himself in a 1/29/07 National Public Radio interview: “There is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.” I suspect George’s rating is now down to the magnificent 7: Scooter, Dick, Daddy, Mommy, First Wifey, Brother Jeb and Rush Limbaugh.
As I rode my motorcycle through the USA a few weeks ago, I detected support for Bush out in the bush in the West Virginia hill tribes. Similar to Thailand’s big-ear, longneck Karen people, these big-bellied, redneck starin’ people, speak a different language. I could read the telltale “God is on our side” and “these colors never run” signs, but talking to the natives was tough.
Native question: “Dis ‘ere y’alls?” (Translation: “Is this your motorcycle?”)
Foreign answer: “Back off. You’re drooling on it.”
Native response: “Sweet’ahrt, fetch mah gun, tar ‘n’ fe’thahs.” (Translation: “Kill.”)
West Virginia’s state bird is the middle finger; the state plant is the orange highway cone flower; and judging from the roadside shacks, their state color is primer. Local custom says: “Best place to get a date is at yer family reunion.” It’s like the other side of the Doi Sutep in Chiangmai—a maze of backcountry forests, valleys and mountains—one mile, you’re in the 21st century, the next mile, the 17th. It’s a tiny state, but if you took a huge cosmic iron and flattened out the endless mountains, you’d have a kindred state the size of Texas, Bush’s home: “If people want to get to know me better, they’ve got to know...that I was raised in West Texas, in the middle of the desert, a long way away from anywhere, hardly. There’s a certain set of values you learn in that experience.” This quote makes me West Virginia.
Bush: “So how big is y’alls land?”
Farmer: “Le’s see, over yondah by that locus’ tree, up o’er the ridge, down ta the pond ‘n’ back ‘long the road ta he’ah.”
Bush: “Well, ah can get up at sunrise ‘n’ drive till sunset ‘n’ still not get ta the end o’ mine.”
Farmer: “Yeah, ah used ta have a truck like that.”
Remembering another quote from George, I’m sure he feels very successful in West Virginia: “We expect the states to show us whether or not we’re achieving simple objectives – like literacy, literacy in math, the ability to read and write.”
I’ve talked with many travelers who don’t admit that they’re American while abroad, opting for “I’m from Canada” approach. I prefer the truth and the opportunity to show the world at least one of the 50% that didn’t vote for George, and now one of the great majority that thinks he should return to West Texas, “a long way away from anywhere.” I’m not sure if I support impeachment that would leave us with his VP Dick Cheney, former money-sucking Halliburton CEO, very dangerous hunting partner and quintessential war politician. I guess it would just be business-as-usual: another Dick for president.