The Doctor's Consultation:
by Dr. Iain Corness
Back pains - a common problem
Back pain is one of the
commonest orthopedic problems, and the often used terms such as lumbago,
sciatica and slipped disc get bandied about at the dinner table. However, an
acute bad back is not the sort of condition that you want to chat about over
desserts. The condition can be crippling and not “cute” in any way.
The real reason you get a bad back is because our forefathers decided we
looked better walking on our hind legs instead of all four. Just like a
horse, the bones of our spines lock together nicely when we are on all
fours, and weight can be carried easily on our backs. However, when we stand
up and try and lift, it all goes pear-shaped from there. The spine was not
designed to carry loads, or pick up loads, in the vertical position.
So let’s look at this “slipped disc” problem. First thing - discs do not
“slip”. They do not shoot out of the spaces between the vertebrae (the tower
of cotton reels that makes up your spine) and produce pain that way. The
disc actually stays exactly where it is, but the center of the disc (called
the nucleus) pops out through the edge of the disc and hits the nerve root.
When this happens you have a very painful condition, as anyone who has had a
disc prolapse (our fancy name for the “popping out” bit) will tell you.
Think of the pain when the dentist starts drilling close to the tiny nerve
in your teeth. Well, this is a large nerve! When the nucleus of the disc
hits the sciatic nerve, this produces the condition known as Sciatica - an
acute searing pain which can run from the buttocks, down the legs, even all
the way through to the toes.
Unfortunately, just to make diagnosis a little difficult (if it were all so
easy why would we go to Medical School for six years!) you can get sciatica
from other reasons as well as prolapsing discs. It may just be soft tissue
swelling from strain of the ligaments between the discs, or it could even be
a form of arthritis. Another complicating fact is that a strain may only
produce enough tissue swelling in around 12 hours after the heavy lifting,
so you go to bed OK and wake the next morning incapacitated.
To accurately work out just what is happening requires bringing in those
specialist doctors who can carry out extremely intricate forms of X-Rays
called CT Scans, Spiral CT’s or MRI that will sort out whether it is a disc
prolapse, arthritis or a soft tissue problem. The equipment to do these
procedures costs millions of baht, and the expertise to use them takes years
of practice and experience. This is one reason why some of these
investigations can be expensive.
After the definitive diagnosis of your back condition has been made, then
appropriate treatment can be instituted. The forms of treatment can be just
simply rest and some analgesics (pain killers), physiotherapy, operative
intervention (and we can even slip in artificial discs these days) or
anti-inflammatories and traction.
Now perhaps you can see why it is important to find the real cause for your
aching back. The treatment for some causes can be totally the wrong form of
therapy for some of the other causes. Can you now see the danger of ‘self
diagnosis’ here? Beware!
So what do you do when you get a bad back? Rest and paracetamol is a safe
way to begin. If it settles quickly, then just be a little careful with
lifting and twisting for a couple of weeks and get on with your life as
normal. If, however, you are still in trouble after a couple of days rest,
then it is time to see your doctor and get that definitive diagnosis. You
have been warned!
Heart to Heart
The other day my wife came by a rather interesting bottle of Cuvee
Speciale. As we will be in your neck of the woods in a week or so,
please allow me to drop off a bottle for your approval. I would be
interested in your thoughts of this particular vintage.
Your Gordon Islander
Dear Gordon Islander,
How nice to hear from you again! One of my correspondents who has always
been faithful and has kept Hillary supplied with suitable libations. Are
you still resident in the Channel Isles? And is this another holiday for
the two of you? There’s still many fun places to go to in Thailand, and
the prices are certainly a lot less than in the UK, or even the Channel
Islands, my spies tell me.
Be careful when you come about dropping off the bottle. Placing it
gently is better, but make sure it is marked for Ms. Hillary! I can
assure you that after receipt of the bottle of Cuvee Speciale, I shall
savor it for a while, well several minutes at least, and after chilling
the bottle to the correct temperature, and making sure there is nobody
else around, I shall open and savor again. This is what I really call
‘great expectations’! After that I will drink it all, get tiddly and
laugh a lot! Thank you in advance.
Dear Hilary (sic),
I have just recovered from the shattering blows of your rejection of my
marriage proposal. But I’ll survive. But I love your replies, couched in
your usual splendid English, with its humour and (practically)
non-malicious bite, and deliciously intelligent advice to the hearts and
pockets of men. Close the first and padlock the second! I shall continue
to read your splendid column whilst breath remains in my body.
I was in agreement with your answer entirely, save for a few things you
cannot know. I am not a military nut by any means - I’ve just been in
the military, and found the experience of learning hand-to-hand combat
very useful the other day when a German insulted an English lady I was
with. His nose suffered a humiliating defeat in combat with my elbow. I
hate violence, like most military men, but sometimes it’s necessary.
And how come you don’t know what cutting the mustard means? Pretty
standard slang English surely? Doing what comes naturally is of course
the meaning, but I suppose you were pulling my leg.
I don’t drink because I always drink too much when I do, and so I
stopped. You can’t drink and think. I don’t drink but the lady I am
honored to be with may, if she wishes. I’m no chauvinist pig! I’ll stick
to Pepsi and she can quaff the bubbly by the jeraboam (sic) - I do not
tell ladies what to do. (It’s usually the other way round.)
I of course had a back-up to fortify me against the refusal I so feared
from you. Next month I’m marrying her. She’s a lovely lady, 49 years old
and nags me terribly. But she is a lovable lady, pragmatic, wonderfully
humorous and takes neither nonsense nor prisoners. I live in fear of,
and love for, her.
She’s right to nag - it’s not that men are half-bad and half-good, it’s
that they are 100 percent bad and 100 percent good! She is desperately
trying to bring the latter to the fore and destroy the former. She will
of course succeed. I will succumb.
One last promise, dear Hilary (sic). Your use of the word ‘Petal’, I
believe, but am not sure, identifies you as a Geordie. I know my Andy
Capp! However you may be American - there are words like ‘kinda’ which
One of the things I do here is find people who are missing and whom
anxious, suffering relatives are searching for. I’m not too bad at it.
I’m going to find you and bring you a bottle of bubbly! You deserve it!
Thank you for the lovely long letter, but I had to shorten it, as there
wouldn’t have been room in the paper for the Classifieds and the
Sporting section. So forgive me.
Now, down to serious business, if you are going to promise very large
bottles of champagne, it’s ‘jeroboam’, not a ‘jeraboam’, my Petal. And
just so you understand, my Edwin ‘people-finder’, the term ‘Petal’ is
also used in New Zealand, so don’t hone in on just Newcastle and the USA
in your Hillary people finding.
But I must take you to task, here you were, promising me your undying
love and 10 km walks in uniform and all, and you were hiding another
potential Mrs. Edwin in the wings. I hope you will be more faithful to
her than you were to me. However, I knew you weren’t ‘roi percent’ with
your original proposal, as anyone who really loved me would know how to
spell my name. It’s Hillary, not Hilary. Are you paying attention,
Mind you, I am really getting all of a twitter here. Pulling your leg
while cutting your mustard, while doing what comes naturally? I really
don’t understand, but it sounds dangerous. Very dangerous, Edwin.
Camera Class: by
Golden Dream Pigeon exposed
my time I have bought and sold many cameras, including Nikon,
Hasselblad, Voigtlander, Cambo and Minolta. There was also one I
threw away, called a Golden Dream Pigeon. I threw it away, not
because it didn’t work, but because it took lousy photographs.
It had also cost 90 baht, including the film, so I was not
What I learned from my Golden Dream Pigeon was simply the old
adage - you get what you pay for! Unfortunately, all of us fall
into the trap of the tight fist. Why spend big baht when a much
cheaper article will surely do the same job just as well. I
rationalized Golden Dream Pigeon’s purchase in this way but I
did not think that it could be quite as dreadful as it actually
As justification you tell yourself that all you are paying for
is the “name” plus very expensive packaging with the high ticket
items. Unfortunately, in photography, you pay for more than the
“name”. You are paying for that other ingredient called
The interesting feature about photography is that the measure of
excellence is always the end result. In other words, the photo
says it all. A clear, sharp and well exposed shot shows the lab
did a good job in printing, the film was top quality, the camera
set at the correct exposure, the lens let the light rays through
without distortion and the image was focussed correctly.
So let’s look at some of these basic factors. First, let’s deal
with the camera. What is often not realized is that the
principle function of the camera body is really just to record
the image and be able to alter the shutter speed and aperture
required for correct exposure. It’s still just like a Box
Brownie - but smaller with built-in goodies.
The cost of the camera body today depends on the degree of
sophistication in its built-in features. Electronic
multi-pattern metering, motor driven film advance, auto
rewinding, DX coding to set the film speed automatically,
different exposure modes, smart cards and memory stick
replaceable electronic gadgetry, LED viewfinder displays,
dedicated flash electronic circuitry and ergonomics in design
all add to the cost. None of the above were available in the
Golden Dream Pigeon, by the way.
Next item is the lens. The equipment necessary for the super
sharp snap is the super sharp lens. The sad fact is that no
matter how good or expensive your camera body, whether you use
film or are digital, you will only get lousy pictures if you use
a lousy lens. A good lens is just as important as a good camera
If excellence is your pursuit, look at good quality “fast” (f
2.8 or better) fixed focal length lenses from the same
manufacturer as your good quality camera body. Sure, you can get
a “bargain” at some camera shops (and Duty Free outlets) who
will sell you a Nagasaki 28 - 3000 zoom for your new Nikon or
Canon or whatever. Certainly it will be cheaper outfit than a
Nikon lens on a Nikon camera - but in saving a few baht you just
lost out on excellence.
Now let’s look at some very simple fixes for some common
problems. Blurry photographs can be fixed by selecting shutter
speeds of 1/125th second or faster. Hold the camera with two
hands. None of this one handed technique, waving one-two-three
fingers with the other hand as a count-down.
There are six simple steps on the road to improvement:
1. Take more shots. Some may fail, but one will be good.
2. Move in closer. Many shots fail by being too distant.
3. Keep it simple. Photos are far more effective with one
subject and no background clutter.
4. Specialize. Take pictures of one subject, say boats or trees,
until it is mastered.
5. Read books on the subject. Kodak “How to ...” books are
instructive and easy to follow.
6. Edit your own work by constantly sorting through your photos
and discarding the failed shots. Be ruthless! And remember just
“why” the shot failed.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Portfolio Construction - Part 10
One issue that we expect to see more and more of is that
of ‘flight to quality’. As we have seen in our review of the property
market, there has been too much complacency about risk during the benign
conditions created by the liquidity surfeit of the last few years. This
applies equally at a personal level. The greatest criticism that you could
perhaps throw at MBMG during the last few years is that we’ve possibly
missed out on some speculative opportunities because of our insistence that
you can’t just bet the farm on whatever happens to be the latest trend
irrespective of whether or not there are other good reasons to do so.
Our view has always been that international investors enjoy many attractive
financial advantages. However, it is important that these are combined with
the finest professional service to ensure that money can grow securely under
expert supervision. We therefore insist on using high quality product
providers, such as Friends Provident International (FPI) and Generali
International who are amongst the world’s leading and longest established
international investment companies.
We generally prefer regulated reliable jurisdictions, such as the Isle of
Man, where the Island’s financial supervision legislation ensures the
protection of policyholders’ interests, the quality of management and
professional expertise. The Isle of Man is universally recognised as a
premier location for international business. It has an enviable reputation
for political and economic stability, security and protection. The Island is
awarded the highest Sovereign Credit Rating “AAA” from Standard and Poor’s
(1) and “AAA” from Moody’s (1). Additionally, the Isle of Man has the
International Investment magazine’s “Best International Financial Services
Centre” (2) for the sixth year in a row. It has also been recognised by the
Financial Times publication, The Banker, when it was named European Winner
of its Financial Centres of the Future 2005 in November (3). These have
proven the strength of the Island in pursuing its political, economic, legal
and social strategies.
Tynwald, the oldest Parliament in the world in continuous existence,
signifies the Island’s political stability. The Isle of Man is an internally
self-governing dependent territory of the British Crown.
The Isle of Man has enjoyed 21 years of unbroken economic growth at around
5% per annum (4). The GDP of Isle of Man is 113% of the UK (5) and it has
virtually full employment and low inflation. Furthermore, the Island
introduced a new unified, general zero rate of corporate income tax in 2006.
This beneficial tax regime provides a highly-competitive edge in the
international markets. The pro-business government positively supports and
encourages the development of the Island’s financial services sector.
To ensure the protection of the policyholders’ interests, a statutory
offshore policyholder protection scheme is operated on the Island. The Life
Assurance (Compensation of Policyholders) Regulations 1991 protects
investors with Isle of Man-based insurance companies to levels at least
equal to that available in other financial jurisdictions worldwide. The
scheme protects the investors in the event of an Isle of Man-based insurance
company being unable to satisfy its claims. The scheme pays up to 90% of the
liability of the insurer.
Fast facts - Capital Douglas, Population 76,315, Size 52 kilometres long and
22 kilometres wide. Location The centre of the Irish Sea - 50 km from
Ireland and 50 km from the UK. Parliament Tynwald, National Day 5 July,
Languages English and Manx Gaelic. (Source: Isle of Man Government website
Whatever the situation, it’s always best exploited by doing things the right
A couple of very interesting pieces by the always thought-provoking Tim
Price of UBP recently focused on the nature of portfolio construction, based
on studies by Barclays, ABN and the London Business School and using data
from 1900 to the present day. These both concluded that the use if
derivatives to reduce risk comes with an unacceptably high cost if used
indiscriminately and that like any other investment methodology, these are
tools that are only valuable if used actively and appropriately. A strict
‘safety first’ policy constructed entirely around a blanket use of
derivatives, in other words, destroys return at least as much as it controls
We’re big believers in using derivatives but as one more option in the
portfolio allocator’s toolkit rather than as a one-horse strategy in itself.
The most prudent, not to say ultimately successful, policy is our core
belief to pursue a balanced portfolio of multiple assets. As Tim Price says,
“When it comes to proof positive of the successful multi-disciplinary
approach to asset allocation, one need look no further than the Yale
university endowment under the stewardship of David Swensen. In his 21 years
of managing the endowment, it has generated 16.3% compound annual growth.
Citing this two-decade investment record, Yale acknowledges the support of
strong capital market returns but also the contribution of “disciplined and
diversified asset allocation policies.
“The portfolio’s ‘Absolute Return’ components comprise hedge funds - the
second largest asset class component after real assets. The deviation from
recent historical preferences is striking: in 1986, 75% of the endowment was
allocated to US stocks, bonds and cash. US equity now accounts for just
11.6%, and fixed income - in entirety - for just 3.8%. Private equity and
‘real assets’ (energy, timber and real estate) combined account for nearly
half the portfolio. Diehard sceptics of the value generated by supposedly
‘alternative’ investment management techniques - particularly those
sceptical at the apparent fee burden of hedge funds and private equity funds
- can assess Yale’s net portfolio returns ... the evidence on the part of a
diverse multi-asset portfolio to offer both downside protection and decent
risk-adjusted returns, a la Yale, looks increasingly compelling.”
To be continued…
(1) Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s are independent ratings agencies, who
assess the financial strength of financial centres.
(2) International Investment Magazine is the UK’s leading offshore
publication, published by Incisive Media. (www.isleofman finance.com)
(3) Financial Times, The Banker. (www.isleofman finance.com)
(4) Source: Isle of Man Government website. (www. gov.im/iomfinance/limits)
(5) Source: Isle of Man Government website. (www.
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
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
Thai names are not easy for us farangs, but please note
that of Thanawat Katanyoo, who is, according to a program note at Payap,
just 30 years old.
After graduating from Prince Royal’s College and studying at CMU he found
his natural home in the music department of Payap University and has just
completed five years there studying guitar and composition.
His recital was unusual in that the first half was for solo guitar. His
choice of composers was unsurprising, Guiliani, Bach, Villa-Lobos and the
incomparable Leo Brouwer, who was especially suited to his elegant, slightly
austere style. Under normal circumstances this would have been the start of
an excellent evening.
However, the best was yet to come. The rest of the evening comprised five of
his own compositions (none for guitar), beginning with a wonderful fanfare
for seven trumpets, Talk to the Wind. True, brass fanfares are legion from
early music to contemporary composers such as Philip Glass and, most
famously, Aaron Copland. I am not trying to elevate this young composer into
such heady company but this was a short, spirited work full of invention and
It was followed by an elegant, abstract piece for solo piano, a dance like
virtuoso duo for clarinet and flute and a chamber trio called The Fight of
the Butterfly. Here he matched a high flute (as the eponymous creature)
against a tuba (net) wielded by a little girl (piano).
The finale was a chamber quartet for trumpets, saxophone and piano with a
somewhat ironic title, Cobra’s Swamp Forest, the nickname for Bangkok’s new
airport. This was a wonderful finale, played to the same high standard that
had characterized the evening.
If I were this young man, I would send scores or recordings of the fanfare
and quartet to Harkan Hardenberger, the fine Swedish trumpet player, who is
the greatest advocate of new music for his instrument in the world today.
You can but try!
There are a series of concerts currently running at Payap, Mae Kao Campus
and elsewhere. Details by telephone on 053 248037. The next is the 18th of
Sept, a piano recital in the main auditorium. There will be an Honor Recital
by a group of students on Saturday 22nd and a guitar recital at the AUA
auditorium the following Saturday, 29th. Admission is free.
For details of another intriguing sounding event, Jazz and Movie Vol.1, to
be given at the Payap multimedia room contact 053 248 466. This is being
staged by Thorsten Wollmann who was composition teacher for Thanawat. He and
a group of friends will be concentrating on jazz and music for cinema,
including new works. The date: September 21.The time: 7.30.
And a mention for visiting Europeans, violinist Alessandro Cappello and
pianist Anna Ibanez who can be heard from 7 pm on September 25th at the CMU
art museum. Here there is a charge of 300 baht, with half price concessions
for students, but the venue is the most comfortable and we are in
Writing of CMU reminds me that the Film Space project on Saturday nights
(free admission 7p.m.) has been running a series of action movies and there
are two more on 22 and 29 September.
The first is Fearless, starring Jet Li and the second the exhilerating Thai
classic Ong Bak with Tony Jaa.
In marked contrast to those movies there is – also at CMU – an exhibition of
flora paintings by Jaroon Bansuan- 115 in all, one for each of each year of
the anniversary of Silpa Bhirasri, who is known as the Father of Thai Modern
Art. It runs until September 27th.
Amidst a week of movies and music in Chiang Mai I’ve found time for a couple
of splendid culinary events. There was a well organized dinner last weekend
as part of the progress to the January 10 Hillside 4 party in aid of this
year’s charity. Further money to the swelling coffers was raised by raffles
and auctions. Well over 60 people attended and as usual at this smart eatery
the food was excellent and the staff charming and efficient.
The same may be said of the Italian restaurant Archabeleno, where I had a
most enjoyable meal as a guest of pianist Bennett Lerner. The guest of honor
was Donald Richie, over here on one of his regular visits from his home in
Japan. Film historian, writer of definitive books on great directors such as
Ozu , lecturer, painter and composer and also the director of a dazzling
group of short, experimental, movies. His new travel book is out soon and
his current project is a collection of essays on great films from the silent
era up to Tropical Malady, a superb Thai movie. He is also unpretentious and
charming. All in all a good week in Chiang Mai.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Bangkok Love Story: Friends (Puen): The story of a hit man in Bangkok
who falls in love with the young man who takes him in and nurses him back to
health following a hit gone wrong. After letting this film of gay love
gather dust for 18 months, Sahamongkol Films has now overcome its jitters,
and decided to release it. Good word of mouth.
The Brave One: Jodie Foster plays a victim of a violent attack seeking
revenge on those responsible. Reports are it is a smart, well-acted,
engaging thriller, and that in exploring what fear has done to one woman,
Jodie Foster gives one of the best performances of her career. The Brave One
is a revenge flick, they say, but an uncommon one. Although it is bloody and
at times brutal, it doesn’t revel in the violence. This is about the
psychology of revenge, and whether a person who takes a stance as a
vigilante has crossed over an ambiguous moral line. With Terrence Howard.
Rated R in the US for strong violence, language and some nudity.
Bedside Detective (Sai-lub): Thai Romance – Dreadful. Only for those Thais
who would sit enthralled at the interaction between department store
mannequins. I feel so sorry for the dog in the movie; he is quite good, and
he is saddled with such awful co-stars. Extraordinarily popular. Director:
The House (Baan phii): Thai Horror – Three women murdered in the same
haunted house. The movie is absolute rubbish. Regrettably it is currently
the most popular film in Thailand, and a monstrous financial success.
Director: Monthon Arayangkoon (The Victim).
Chaiya: Thai Drama – Gritty and violent telling of the lives of three
childhood friends who come to Bangkok to become part of the Muay Thai scene
in 1977, the good and most especially the bad. The plotline is often
confusing and difficult to follow, but it is relentlessly action-packed, and
the three friends do involve one’s interest. Good visual recreation of the
period, particularly the evil underbelly of boxing life. Director: Kongkait
Komesiri (Art of the Devil 2). Airport Plaza only.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: US Comedy – Starring Adam Sandler. Two
firefighters pretend to be gay. It is quite funny, and though it is
offensive to just about every human group that exists, including gays, it is
most offensively anti-women. Tries to end up on a good note by preaching
tolerance. Generally negative reviews. Airport Plaza only.
Khon Hew Hua: Thai Comedy/Romance – This is an all-round, multi-purpose Thai
film, with a little bit of low Thai slapstick and bodily-function humor, a
little bit of horror and gore, and a lot of sweet and sour family love. Very
much a personal film of Ping Lumprapleung, who wrote it, directed it, and
stars in it.
Scheduled for Thursday,
1408: US Horror/Thriller – With John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Early
reviews say it’s a genuinely creepy thriller based on a Stephen King story,
with a strong lead performance by John Cusack. A writer who debunks apparent
supernatural phenomena is determined to stay overnight in fabled haunted
room 1408, convinced that the horrific past of the room is just mere
coincidence and a myth. But what he is about to experience is no myth, as
1408 truly is a room where the guests don’t check out by noon. 1408 is more
psychological thriller than outright horror, recycling many of Mr. King’s
familiar motifs. Generally favorable reviews
War – Rogue Assassin: US Action/Thriller – With Jet Li, Jason Statham, John
Lone. It’s a complicated plot, but one that leaves plenty of room for
everything an action fan could want, from gunplay to that old standby, a
decapitated head in a box. Despite its big action stars, War turns out to be
a flabby and formulaic standard-issue crime drama laced with routine martial
artistry. Generally negative reviews.
Ghost Mother: Thai Horror – Mother takes good care of her kids, is murdered,
worries about her kids, comes back home, no one knows she’s dead, continues
to care for the kids while seeking revenge on her murderers.
Gig Number Two: Thai Romance/Comedy – Four horny teenagers, members of “The
Gig Club,” try to come up with a list of four sure-fire rules for how to
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
India: first impressions last
I have just three words to say about India: I love Thailand. Four years ago,
I was on my way to India but Thailand got in the way. It used to bother me
that The Land of Smiles was so damn comfortable, charming and enchanting
that I couldn’t even get out and explore the neighborhood. After twenty-four
hours in Chennai = Madras, my love for Thailand tripled and I had three more
words for India: trash and traffic.
Granted, I only visited four cities in southern India while having a hip
replacement, but that won’t stop me from making sweeping generalizations
about the entire country and its diverse people. If a few of its minions
spent a little time sweeping, India would be considerably more attractive.
In Chennai, a sprawling, grimy conglomeration of 6.4 million people, there
are only three public trash cans that no one has emptied in two thousand
years, which now peek above their expanding mounds of garbage, reproducing
in the sweltering heat and creating new scientific elements of living
debris, growing eyeballs, tentacles and genitals. Besides the bane of
advanced civilization – plastic whatever – these piles are composed of
decomposing produce, rocks and rubbish, sticks and stones, broken bones,
slimy paper this, rusted metal that and decaying other things. Omnipresent
piles of bricks, modern or ancient, smashed or intact, give the impression
that the city is constantly being torn down and rebuilt into a dirtier copy,
and it’s been going on for centuries. Sacred cows wander aimlessly in the
streets and on the sidewalks like stray dogs spreading their sacred pies to
fertilize these germinating piles or squish up the side of your ill-placed
sandal onto the skin of your bare foot.
If I tried this trick, my neck and a couple of toes
would be one centimeter high.
The insane traffic makes Bangkok seem laid-back. New York is calm in
comparison. Everyone is in a major hurry while barely moving. The idea of
“lanes” is a foreign concept. Your personal space around your vehicle isn’t
measured in meters, or centimeters – it’s measured in millimeters. Your
speed is determined by the amount of millimeters between the vehicles
surrounding you and what the limits of your chosen mode of transportation
may be: huge new truck, small old truck, first truck ever built on earth
shrouded in black smoke, car, motorbike, oxcart carrying a billboard the
size of an intersection, cow, elephant, horse, 300-year-old emaciated man
pedaling a 400-year-old bicycle or your bare feet while your head balances
enough fruit to feed a family for a week, two monkeys and a computer,
perhaps all at the same time.
In stark contrast, the women, resplendent in their multi-colored,
intricately woven saris, float above the rubble like innumerable species of
unique butterflies. Their daily uniform for life, the women wear these
flowing shawl/skirt/pants combos for every task: going to the market, work
or school; raking molten asphalt in the road, carrying ten bricks on their
heads in pairs, five high – do not try this at home – swimming in the sea
with a few thousand of their closest friends on holidays; or flying by on
scooters, scarves fluttering three feet behind in the breeze, ready to
tangle in the side mirrors of passing buses and rip off their heads.
Auto rickshaws, three-wheeled motorcycles with a passenger seat similar to
Thailand’s tuk-tuks, are manhandled by Maniacs of Death whose secondary role
in society is to reduce the excess population by their reckless driving.
Lured into the very-common-so-why-did-I-get-sucked-in-again shopping scam of
I Take You Sightseeing Cheap Then Drop You In Deserted Areas Populated Only
By Fancy Museum Stores Selling Goods For A Hundred Times The Going Rate,
after the driver stopped to smoke something aromatic and powerful, we caused
at least two accidents, one of which left a pile of motorbikes in our wake,
which will probably still be there in two hundred years under a growing heap
Everyone honks their horns incessantly for these apparent reasons: 1)
“Another vehicle, person, animal or vegetable is within three kilometers of
me.” 2) “My auto rickshaw doesn’t run unless I honk.” 3) In the legendary
words of a famous Indian philosopher, “I think, therefore I honk.” Enveloped
by an incomprehensible number of honks that equals the number of air
pollution molecules surrounding you, it’s impossible to determine what they
mean or who will smash into you from where.