Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

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

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Important organs

Ask any man which is his most important organ and he will undoubtedly point to his bladder’s siphon hose. Perhaps it is the magic symbol of masculinity, but it is certainly not the be all and end all. (Though indiscriminate use can end all!)
The liver is one of the more important organs you possess. Without it you will die, whereas you can get by without a kidney, or a lung or a thyroid, or even the willy for example. Yes, I’d rate my liver above my thyroid any day.
Think of your liver as a filtering and de-toxifying device. Chemicals are taken up by the liver, to be broken down into non-toxic chemicals, all to protect your system. Clever organ your liver.
The most well known liver toxin is our old friend Ethanol, more usually referred to as booze. That alcohol affects the liver is very well known, with the end result being called Cirrhosis, a fibrous hardening of the liver which then becomes unable to carry out its job correctly. Toxins build up. You feel unwell and it’s all downhill from there. By the way, the liver only recognizes Ethanol, not the color or shape of the bottle it came in, or whether it was aged in wood for two decades. So all those people who will tell you that you shouldn’t drink beer, but spirits are OK and having both you, and themselves, on.
Some proprietary or prescription drugs can produce an inflammation of the liver tissues too. Or worse, produce a breakdown of the liver tissue itself. Amongst these is the headache medication paracetamol (the ubiquitous “Sara” tablets, for example), but before you throw them out of your bathroom cabinet, it requires some heavy and very frequent dosage of paracetamol to do this.
Other prescription items that may produce liver problems include Methyldopa, several penicillins, Simvastatin (the cholesterol lowering drug), Diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and Ketoconazole (anti-fungal).
Prescription drugs can be dangerous (even though you can get most of them over the counter in Thailand), that’s why they have a PI (patient information) leaflet inside the box (the bit you throw away and don’t read).
However, what about “Health” food preparations? The purveyors of these all cite the fact that the ingredients are “natural” so everyone assumes that this means “safe”. Not so, I’m afraid. Lead, for example, is a naturally occurring compound, and not much good for young kidneys. However, since we are talking about liver problems, hands up all those of you who have heard of Echinacea? Supposedly fixes everything from falling hair to fallen arches - but is it “safe”? Well, Echinacea, along with Kombucha Tea are two of the commonest compounds showing a well documented history of being toxic to the liver. So if you’re sipping Kombucha tea because you’ve drunk too much alcohol, I would suggest that you change to water!
Others for sale in the Health Food shops with known toxic effects on the liver include Evening primrose oil, Valerian, Chaparral, Japanese Daisaiko-to (for dyspepsia), Chinese Jin-bu-huan and several forms of herbal teas such as those from Heliotroprium, Senecio crotalaria and Symphytum. Makes you think that the shops that sell them may be incorrectly named, doesn’t it!
But while the column this week seems to be spreading doom, gloom and disaster, it’s not quite that bad. The liver is a very powerful organ and is capable of regenerating itself quite quickly, so in most cases of toxicity following ingestion of chemical compounds, by stopping taking it the liver recovers and the patient feels well again.
So remember that if you are taking anything regularly and you feel unwell, it may be the liver - but tell your doctor everything you have been taking! And no thanks, I’ll give the herbal tea a miss today.

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary:
Well Jeeez!;;; a thousand pardons!!. I didn’t mean to get your knickers in such a knot. But gawd!; this is the most fun I’ve had since pole-dancing at Happy A-Go-Go, forgetting to put my clothes back on, being bar-fined by four tall velvet-voiced Thai ladies and waking up in hotel roo....….mmmm?…when was that?
Please let me explain myself. As regards slang; I said I never hear such from a “well-spoken Western woman”, as part of my musing, that you are a man. You are indeed well-spoken. Slang is very useful language, and not at all beyond the purview of the well-spoken. In fact, slang exists because there seems no more appropriate word(s) for that which it expresses.
I used the word “dominion” to describe the variety of former English (Did you know Agatha Christie was English?) colonies you might be from rather than list them all.
As to my misspelling of “whiles”, which you correctly corrected, I might point out to you that: “elbow-benders” requires a hyphen, “The Dominion?” is not a complete sentence and “Petunia” does not require a capital p.
Moreover no Earthling “writes as much as they speak”, whatever that means; though perhaps many do not write as WELL as they speak. Then again, we have never spoken to each other (I think?). You also quoted the word “guys” which I never used.
A marriage proposal is yours once you’ve been given it. But now that I think of it, the writer didn’t propose marriage at all did he? I was clearly referring to the people from whom you get your knowledge about Thai girls etc., as being men at the bar or golf course; who wouldn’t share their experiences with a farang woman… I was not referring to those who write in for answers and advice. They’re admittedly clueless. And if you are a man, as I allege, a good deal of your knowledge might come from personal experience, which actually advances my case a little further.
I pointedly did not ask you whether you are a man or a woman, or what your name was or anything else of a personal nature. Not knowing is a (the?) most entertaining feature of your column, and a tribute to your wizardry. For heaven’s sake don’t tell us! That would spoil everything; especially if you turned out to be that 40-something English lady-boy I’ve seen prancing around Soi Bua Kow….making me only half-right.
And I didn’t ask how I could get your job. I asked: “How do I get a job like yours?”, a question BTW that you didn’t answer….. Hey!!?…. isn’t this an advice column?
Tell you what…meet me at the Pump Station, Sat. 9 p.m.… we’ll swap Thai-girl stories, I’ll introduce you to Noy and buy you a Chang yai,…that’s about as bubbly as it gets here. Cheers!
Tumworth Mugglethump
Dearest Tumworth,
Aren’t you just the gentleman! A Chang yai on offer and all I have to do is get the glad rags on and find some place called the pump station (give me a clue, is it Caltex or Jet?) and a bottle of bubbly is mine. How could I ever refuse?
However, so that you don’t think I have totally spurned your very kind offer of marriage, I am not the “40-something English lady-boy I’ve seen prancing around Soi Bua Kow”, so you’re still in with half a chance. If I ever get that desperate.
I see you are still hung up on the gender thing though, attributing me with wizardry, yet another sexist title. Wizards are usually male, my little Pot-pourri of potted English usage. And how poor old Agatha Christie got pulled into all this, I do not know. Of course she was English, coming from Torquay, the veritable Riviera of England, where they experience blistering temperatures in the summer, sometimes into the teens.
You also have caught the drift that this is a column that can give answers and advice, and claim you want both. “Hey!!?…. isn’t this an advice column?” you wrote, and yet in the same letter you denigrate people who ask for this, writing “I was not referring to those who write in for answers and advice. They’re admittedly clueless.” Hmmm where does that put you, Tuggy, old chum?

Dear Hillary,
I am writing a paper on the different ways Thai students attempt to learn English. I recall you’ve received a few letters regarding female students approaching foreigners in shopping centers for this purpose. Could you let me know the name and location of thses (sic) shopping centers? I have been to a couple, but have never been approached by anyone wanting to learn English or for any other purposes.
Teacher J
Dear Teacher J,
Goodness me! Never been approached? “For any other purposes” either? What do you mean? I don’t believe it. Do you use a deodorant? There must be something drastically wrong. Perhaps it is because you make mistakes in your English. It should have been “these”, not “thses”, my Petal. However, just be careful in case you get approached by someone called Noy who works pumping petrol.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Shoot the Bride (and the Groom to make sure)

I have written about wedding photography before. If you are at all adept with your camera, someone, somewhere, will ask you to shoot their wedding. If you can refuse with grace, stop reading and go to the next page. If, however, you are trapped into it - keep reading!
One very experienced wedding photographer even went so far as to call the craft, “Hours of controlled patience, punctuated by moments of sheer terror and intense bursts of creativity.” You have been warned.
However, to make it less of a terror, here are some guides to photographing someone else’s ‘big day’. It is because it is someone’s big day that it becomes so important to get it right. You can’t go back the next weekend and shoot it again!
Wedding photographers talk about the three P’s - preparation, photography and presentation. From the amateur photographer’s point of view, the first two P’s are the most important, although you should not forget the last one.
Preparation. This is very important and can make your job so much easier. This would include going to the church, temple, registry office or whatever before the great day to see just what you can use as backgrounds, and where you can position the happy couple, and their parents, and their bridesmaids, and their friends, and the neighbourhood dogs and everything else that seems to be in wedding photographs. Just by doing this, you at least will know ‘where’ you can take some photographs.
Preparation also covers talking to the couple and finding out just what they expect to be taken. When you take on photographing a wedding, you are taking on a huge responsibility.
Also part of the preparation is to make sure your cameras are functioning properly, so check. Note too, that I said ‘cameras’ because there is nothing more soul destroying than having a camera fail during an event such as this. Preferably, the second camera will be the same as the first, so that your lenses will be interchangeable. Yes, lenses! You will need a wide angle (say 28 mm), a standard 50 mm and a short telephoto (say 135 mm). The wide angle is needed for the group shots and the standard for couples and the tele for “head hunting”, looking for those great candid shots.
Now comes the actual photography itself. You have already written down all the shots that the couple want, so you can cross them off your list as you go. One series of shots should be taken at the bride’s residence, and this includes the bridesmaids. Many of these will be indoor shots, so do take your flash and bounce the light off the ceiling to soften the effect of the flash burst. White dresses should appear white, not grey.
Now you have to rush to the church or wherever the actual ceremony will be, so you can get the bride outside, ready to walk down the aisle with her father, or whomever is giving the bride away.
With those shots out of the way, now you can go and get the ceremony and I do not recommend that you use the flash for these photographs. For some religions, this is a solemn time and flash bursts are very intrusive.
Cross off the rest of the shots as you cover them - the signing of the register, emerging arm in arm, confetti or rice and then the formal shots of the wedding groups.
After all this, everyone is dying for a beer and head for the reception. However, Mr. or Mrs. Photographer, you must wait a little while yet. There is the ceremony of cutting the cake to be done yet, and photographs of the guests enjoying themselves (other than you).
Having crossed every shot off the list, make for the drinks department. You’ve earned it!
The final ‘P’ is presentation. Photograph albums are inexpensive, so put the best shots from each series into a couple of albums and present them to the couple as your gift. And as your final job, make the mental resolve to never photograph another wedding as long as you live!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Portfolio Construction - Part 7

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 the underlying conditions - a typical property boom feeds on itself and becomes a race to borrow, buy, build and sell. Transactional justifications become ever weaker and deals concluded 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 do the same 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 and 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 okay 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. The actual lenders themselves aren’t concerned about risk because after all they’ll sell it on soon enough but what’s forcing them to change their criteria is that the market no longer wants to touch these riskier loans or at least a smaller number of interested buyers will be paying the lenders much lower prices for them. It’s a fact that Bear Stearns Cos., General Electric Co.’s WMC Mortgage, Countrywide Financial Corp., IndyMac Bancorp Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Credit Suisse have all said recently that they are pulling back from buying Alt A mortgages sold with no down payment or in a re-financing of the house’s entire value. This is forcing the lenders to adjust their criteria rather than the fact that there will be huge defaults. If you don’t plan to own the loan book yourself you don’t care how it performs, as long as you can sell it.
Anyone who can’t see the madness of that line of thinking probably shouldn’t be allowed out on their own.
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 Paul Gambles on [email protected]


Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

The road to hell is –definitely – paved with good intentions. This week I proved it when giving into a Thai friend whose birthday it was. I was taking him to dinner to celebrate his 30th and was persuaded that a movie beforehand might be a good idea. Wrong! Ignoring my instincts and the advice from the Chiangmai Mail’s movie column I agreed to see The Odd Couple (Koo Rad).
It is a truism of cinema that ‘low’ comedies do not travel well. The British Carry On series, the Olsen Gang films from Denmark, the films of Cantinflas from Mexico or even Fernandel from France, let alone so-called comedies from Germany, Turkey or wherever find their audiences on home ground is no reason why Thailand should be any different. But it was not the (to me) lack of humour in the film which worried me but the excessive, gratuitous violence, the blatant homophobia and stereotyping and the leaden pace which reduced my mind to mush. Add to this a scene of domestic violence played for laughs and I was left with a nasty taste that no amount of Thai food or Singh beer could eradicate.
Like most people living abroad, I am often asked, “What exactly do you do with your time in Chiang Mai?” What I reply is do most people who are retired or semi retired do with their time likely to be any different in essence if they move to northern Thailand or to southern India or remain in Seattle, Southampton or Stockholm? Life goes on and much of the time is spent with the mechanics of simply ‘living’ but here happily there are plenty of diversions.
Leaving aside The Odd Couple, I enjoyed catching up again with Hairspray, a fun event wrapped round a simplistically presented serious package. And I was in awe of just how credible Bruce Willis remains in yet another Die Hard outing, where the stunts effectively distract one from a story line that is so preposterous that it defies analysis. Rather more excitement there than in the newest Harry Potter film. If ever there was a case of the Emperor’s new clothes the Potter books and movies must be it.
Actually I have never met anyone – youngster or oldie – who when confronted with the simple and direct question as to whether they enjoyed the books/movies responds with a wholehearted yes. But brilliant marketing and peer pressure and now an inbuilt momentum have the ball rolling so fast that it all but unstoppable. So people nod off or sneak out of the films and claim to speed read the books then write to The Guardian asking “Is this a record?” A record in what? Reading a dull book so fast that you don’t notice how dull the writing actually is? And as for the new film, sorry but over theatrical acting, so-so special effects and a gang of uncharismatic youngsters do not add up to magic in my view from the stalls.
There was much more fun to be had at live events during the week. One was held at the Luce Chapel at Payap University, who had sponsored an Aussie jazz quintet along with the Australian Embassy in Bangkok. Led by pianist –composer Mark Isaacs, the Resurgence delighted the mainly Thai audience – many of them students I suspect from the University. There is seemingly a growing enthusiasm for jazz in the area and quite a few venues are attracting audiences in Chiang Mai.
An even better group was to be heard giving a charity concert in aid of Support the Children Foundation (www. scf-thailand.org). This energetic septet known as Hammer, are a southern folk band and reminded me of Ry Cooder with middle- eastern and other influences seemingly in evidence. In fact, I am sure that their music was totally original and this was just my ignorance. None of this matters….the lead singer was fine and the six backing musicians displayed great virtuosity on a range of instruments, with the secondary vocalist proving to be not just a fine guitarist but a superb fiddle player as well.
After the concert we ate at The Maze, which is a pleasant enough restaurant but remains resolutely unable to serve food in anything other than piecemeal fashion. I had better luck in two wildly differing eateries the same week. The first was a cheap and very cheerful local Thai place called Ney Ney which I mentioned once before. I was taking out my Thai partner’s staff and the cost for a dozen or more of us came in at around the same as I paid for a deluxe evening at The Four Seasons, where Italian wines were featured to accompany a gourmet meal. It’s one measure of a city’s vitality that it can offer such an astonishing range of places to eat well and Chiang Mai certainly offers that from the very grand – but still friendly – to the ‘ordinary’ restaurant that may not find itself in any good food guide or column but is none the worse for that.
All in all a pleasant week, but the highlight was certainly a day out at the Mae Taeng reservoir with my farang and Thai friends (one of whom was celebrating being 29 again). The drive takes about an hour from central Chiang Mai (direction Mae Rim) is worth every minute. The vast reservoir in a national park is a wonderful setting and the long boats take one to bungalows with ample decking and diving boards. The food was superb and nowhere can offer fresher fish! I was reminded once again that life in Chiang Mai does not end at the city perimeters and that a really fun day out comes from that magical blend of company with all the more earthly pleasure that are at our disposal.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Ratatouille: US Animation – A superb movie in every way, warm and funny and irresistible, finely detailed, among the classics of animation. Don’t miss it, unless you absolutely hate animation. (Tip: Check the language – Airport Plaza may have a Thai-dubbed version only. It’s in English at Vista.) Warning: He’s on his last legs, giving his last gasp – see him again, in all his ratty beauty, before he expires!
The Bourne Ultimatum: US Action/Mystery/Suspense/Thriller – with Matt Damon, of course. The culminating film of the trilogy begun five years ago with The Bourne Identity, it’s a brilliant chase film, tremendously exciting. But . . . the director Paul Greengrass relies heavily on the effects of hand-held cameras and very rapid editing, in MTV style, causing the audience to have a very jerky viewing experience. Some people feel this adds to the immediacy and realism of the movie, drawing them in. Others get a headache. See it if you want to see the ultimate chase movie.
Rush Hour 3: US Action/Comedy/Crime – Jackie Chan and his police partner Chris Tucker in another episode in this crime fighting series, this time set in Paris. Some critics say the thrill is gone, and formula has set in. In a Thai-dubbed version only at Vista; in English at Airport Plaza.
The Simpsons Movie: US Animation – A funny but disturbing movie. I can’t claim an extensive acquaintanceship with the Simpsons, as I never really watched them on TV. I’m not particularly fond of them, and I’m rather confused by the mass appeal of the series. I did laugh watching this movie, quite a number of times, and found its irreverent satire quite clever. But it left me quite disturbed. Many say it is an accurate reflection of the American family; if so, I think America is facing even greater problems than I thought. In this supposedly representative family I find many amazingly ugly undercurrents, all of which seem celebrated by the movie. The good-natured acceptance of the cruelties the father and son inflict upon each other is, to me, outrageous. An abusive father and an abusive son, played for laughs.
Also, the animation is crude and primitive, to my way of thinking.
However, if you’re one of the millions who have watched a sizable percentage of the 400 TV episodes over the18 years the Simpsons have been on television, then this is going to be a fully enjoyable experience for you. For you, a tip: sit all the way through the ending credits for the additional fun along the way.
200 Pounds Beauty: Korean Comedy/Romance – A fairly well-regarded film from South Korea that finds the comic possibilities in that country’s current fascination with plastic surgery and other drastic makeovers of the human body. Extraordinarily popular in Korea and already seen by more than 5 million people. Unfortunately, it’s beyond our grasp, as it’s being shown here only in a Thai-dubbed version and at Airport Plaza only.
Kung Fu Tootsie: Thai Comedy – Another low class Thai comedy. Drag queens and anti-gay slurs. Down to one showing a day at Kad Suan Kaew theatre.
The Odd Couple/Koo Rad: Thai Low Comedy – An even more difficult movie to talk about. I’ve seen it, and how do you argue with success? The audience loved it. It was the number one box office draw last weekend, edging out even The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s another cross-dressing Thai comedy, which stars Mum Jokmok as a transvestite performer working with a Japanese cop to find a serial killer preying on transvestites. Jokmok, as expected with material like this, goes full out and over the top. Strictly for Thais and those who dote on this low-style, Thai TV-like slapstick comedy.
Scheduled for Thursday, August 23
The One: Thai Drama – The story of a boy who struggles to free himself from his very controlling single mother and lead his own life. He begins his coming-of-age by deciding to study in an up-country university instead of the school his mother has chosen for him, and his life starts to change. Director: Marut Sarowad.


Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Things Said and Unsaid

Lady Astor once said to Winston Churchill, “If I were married to you, I’d put arsenic in your tea.” History says Win said, “If I were married to you, I’d drink it.” That’s an excellent riposte, perhaps to combat previous encounters when he asked her what disguise he should wear at a costume party. Her reply, “Mr. Prime Minister, why don’t you come sober?” Or when Churchill mentioned that having a woman in parliament was like having one intrude upon him in the bathroom, The Lady said, “You’re not handsome enough to have such fears.”
My Thai mate Joom and I have run into a few insults in America, but the shock of the moment delayed the riposte until the perpetrator was long gone. Upon meeting Joom, a 10-year veteran of life in Americaville with great command of the language, a “friend” asked, “So how’s your English? So-so?” as he wiggled his hand in the air. Speechless then, we crafted the riposte a week later, hoping he may ask again. “Actually I’m quite fluent in English. May I get you a dictionary so you can look up the words ‘prejudiced cretin?” At my 40th high school reunion, a witch with a simper of superiority said, “You must be half the age of Scott!” The unsaid riposte, “No, that would make him 69, half as old as you.” Out of the Twilight Zone came another woman who approached silently, took Joom’s hand, inspected it, muttered “you pass” and walked away. “Gosh, thanks so much, but you failed. Did you get a close enough look at my middle finger?” (Gesture censored for the newspaper.)
When you’re sick of being slow with the comeback, take your frustrations out on the public and render innocent victims speechless with these lines:
Call up information. The voice asks, “May I help you?” Say, “No thanks, I’m just looking.”
When someone uses the standard “have a nice day” farewell, say, “Thanks, but I’ve made other plans.”
Walk up to a counter in store and say, “I’d like one of everything.” (I did this once and, without missing a beat, the woman asked, “What size?” I asked her to marry me, but she called the security guard to be my best man.)
I have a fake million-dollar bill with the face of President Bush on it, which is splendid fun to hand over saying, “Do you have change for this?” In Thailand, they think it might be real since all tall, white Farangs must be multi-millionaires. They show it to everyone in the store and then summon all of their cousins to instantly propose marriage. Counter help in America normally work in a No-Joking Zone and stare back with that tight-lipped look that says, “I hate this job. I haven’t smiled in eleven years and I’m not starting now.” At one gas station, the festive owner said, “Not today. You can have the place,” and then walked out the door with my fake million.
If you want to practice your Thai and venture into the Comedy Zone, try these lines to make the restaurant’s day. When your delectable meal is done, ask to see the owner, who will come to the table expecting a complaint. Say with a very straight face: “Aahan khong khun mai dee.” (Your food is not good.) As his/her face falls, say “Aahan khong khun mai dee mack.” (Your food is not very good.) Then as his/her mouth actually touches the floor, say exuberantly, with both thumbs up, “Aahan khong khun dee tiisut!” (Your food is perfect!) He/she will love you forever and tell all the wait staff and the cooks in the back who will laugh heartily, smile till their lips rip and start calling their cousins in to propose.
By far my most clever remark ever delivered, in the moment, with perfect timing worthy of being filmed for a major movie, was years ago in a downtown farmer’s market in America. On my way home from work, I noticed a sign: “Rose prices slashed! Two dozen for $5!” In front of the aging, greasy, longhaired, hippy, stall keeper I opened my wallet to reveal one five-dollar bill. I pulled it out and said, “I’m taking my last $5 and buying roses for my girlfriend.” He said, “Hah! If that was my last five bucks, I’d buy liquor!” I replied, “When I bring these roses home to my girlfriend, she’ll make me lick ‘er.”
Unfortunately we were not so quick-witted with the twits at my reunion. I’ve got to get their email addresses so I can send them this column.


Your Health & Happiness: Thai fruit to be sold at 2008 Olympics

Thirty seven types of Thai fruits have been approved by Chinese officials to be sold at the 2008 Olympics Games in the People’s Republic of China. The committee is particularly satisfied with the taste of Thailand’s pomelos.
Mr. Ovart Apibarlpuvanart, the acting Director of the Office of Agricultural Economics, says Thailand earlier sent 70 types of Thai fruits for the Chinese officials to consider whether they could be sold at the at the 2008 Olympics Games, and 37 of them have passed the consideration. He says most of them are fresh fruits and processed fruits such as fresh longans, dried longans, mangoes, durians and pomelos. He says the Chinese officials will see whether the Olympic Games stickers will be attached on the fruits or not, but Thailand and China have initially agreed to create a marketing brand for Thai fruits.
Mr. Ovart says Chinese officials will also present gold, silver or bronze medals to the fruits with high quality, and he hopes Thailand’s pomelos will be awarded with a gold medal as the officials are greatly satisfied with the taste of pomelos. NNB