Vol. VI No. 31 - Tuesday
September 25, - October 1, 2007



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


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

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

If you don’t eat your meat - you can’t have any pudding! (Pink Floyd)

What we eat is something that has fascinated us for centuries. We have made rituals and even fetishes out of eating and drinking, and the oldest gourmet group in the world, the Chaine des Rotisseurs, is still going and began in 1248 AD. That’s a long lunch!
These days, with our tentative forays into ‘real’ science, our dietary habits have also been scrutinized plus the many claims made for modifying the kind of food we eat and what we drink. This in turn, has produced legions of people who swear by various foods which will cure everything from falling hair to falling arches (or even falling stock markets)!
Of course, it is very difficult to ‘prove’ that by taking Vietnamese ground nut leaves or similar items, ‘something’ (usually cancer) does not happen. Even more outrageous are the claims that some herb, poppy or whatnot can actually ‘cure’ cancers. Is it all just poppycock?
To be able to prove these claims needs medical science to look at a large group, or population, and compare its cancer experience with another similar large group or population. Ideally, the two groups are matched for age/sex/ethnicity/working environment, location, etc. You get no worthwhile results comparing Welsh coalminers with sub-Saharan Africans, for example, to go to extremes.
Finally, some results of a 15+ year study in Australia have been presented at the CSIRO Prospects for Cancer Prevention Symposium. The findings emerged from the Cancer Council’s Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study, an ongoing research project involving 42,000 Australians who have been monitored since 1990.
Looking at the dietary habits and the cancer connection, Dr Peter Clifton, director of the CSIRO’’s Nutrition Clinic, said there was “zero evidence” that eating fruit and vegetables could protect against cancer. The nutritionists and the healthy eating proponents were shattered. However, this to me is a much more compelling argument than something that comes from folklore, or the lady next door who swears by it.
What the survey did show was that the three prime risk factors as far as predicting cancers were concerned were identified as obesity, drinking too much alcohol and smoking.
More than that, staying within a healthy body weight range was found to be more important than following particular nutritional guidelines. This means a thin person who does not eat enough fruit and vegetables would have a lower risk of developing cancer than someone who is overweight but eats the recommended daily amount of fruit and five colors of vegetables.
Professor Dallas English, of the Cancer Council of Victoria, told the symposium that despite decades of research, there was no convincing evidence on how modifying one’s diet would reduce the risk of cancer.
“The most important thing about diet is limiting energy (kilojoule) intake so people don’t become overweight or obese, because this has emerged as a risk factor for a number of cancers, including breast, prostate, bowel and endometrial (uterus),” he said.
The link between eating red meat and bowel cancer was “weak” and the Cancer Council supported guidelines advising people to eat red meat three or four times a week, Professor English said.
In Australia, the biggest killer is still heart disease, so healthy eating will lower one’s chances of heart disease, even if it does not protect you against cancer.
Both Professor English and Dr. Clifton predict an increase in the incidence of cancer as a result of Australia’s obesity epidemic, but say exercise can play a vital role in cutting cancer rates, potentially halving the risk of some cancers. That I find a rather sweeping claim, but there is no doubt in my mind that moderate exercise is good for you.
So there you are - get down to a healthy weight and exercise regularly, drink alcohol in moderation only (Australians do not know what “moderation” means) and stop smoking. In this way you will lower your chances of heart disease and cancer.
Goodness me, you might even outlive your doctor!

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Is that chap “Puzzled from California” for real? He has a girl that some blokes would give their right arm for, and he is still wondering if he should put his toe in the water! Put his toe in - he should put his entire (expletive deleted) leg in. I know me fellow Americans can be fairly backward at times, but that bloke takes the cake. I’m from TX and we’re definitely not puzzled!
Amazed from Texas
Dear Amazed from Texas,
I am glad that you are a “fellow American” as I would not have wanted to be so forthright in condemnation as you have been. I did say “I am glad that all males from California are not so reticent!” But of course, Petal, I didn’t know anything about mountain men from Texas. I went on to say, “This girl has been giving you the green light for almost nine years and you are still wondering if she is your “girlfriend” or just a “good friend”!

Dear Hillary,
I am a recently arrived single youngish male in Thailand and was wondering just where I am going wrong looking for love here? I should be thought of as a “good catch”. For a start I am fairly trim definetely (sic) not Charles Atlas, I dress and take care in my apperance (sic) both hygeinic (sic) and clothes wise, have a head of hair that I always keep trimmed and sort of looking good and am still left on the shelf? Hillary from what I can see and I am going to try it out I am going to first grow a beer gut, then by (sic) a Singha beer vest two sizes too small, start going bald but try to hide it with a comb over, wear a pair of oversized shorts with sandles (sic) but the finale would be to compliment my sandles (sic) with a nice pair of black socks pulled up to the knees. Seriously Hillary do I really need to be a badly dressed old codger to find love in this country? Hoping you can help me.
Mick
Dear Mick,
You certainly have a bundle of troubles, don’t you Petal? After re-reading your letter, I wonder if the biggest problem you have is that you cannot spell. It really makes me wonder about you native English speakers. You should be proud of your language, not trying to assassinate it. But back to your problem. On reading yet again (see Mick, I do take your problems very seriously), if you have that much trouble spelling, perhaps you are tongue-tied as well? This can be an enormous problem when looking for love. You really are a little young I fear. Perhaps you should wait until you are old enough to wear an Arthur Scargill comb-over, so that you understand what really happens in the Thailand love stakes. I also feel the Singha beer vest and the black socks and sandals (not “sandles”, Precious) are a little wide of the mark. However, if you have lots of money (you didn’t mention your bank account - remiss of you) then I am sure myself, or one of my older girlfriends would be willing to help.
Dear Hillary,
Can you help our 22 year old son? He is planning on coming over to Thailand at the end of the year to visit his father and me and I am worried that it will not be good for him to be at a loose end too long. He is a quiet boy and keeps to himself a lot, and that is why I was so pleased when he said he would come over after Thanksgiving. My worry comes from the fact that a friend of his stayed over with us for a few days a couple of months ago, and while he used to be a reserved Baptist boy too, when he came here he changed. Some nights he did not even come home and other days we could smell alcohol in his room the next morning. He would not tell my husband or myself where he had been, but I have my suspicions, as I am sure you would too, Hillary. Our son will have spoken to this other boy. What should I do about all this? It really is worrying the life out of me, and I can’t sleep at nights.
Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned Mom,
I fell sorry for you, my Petal, but the first thing you have to change is not your baby boy’s nappy, but your attitude. How old is this lad? Since he is old enough to travel on his own, he is old enough to go out at night on his own. He is 22 years old! Already had the key to the door for 12 months. It is time to untie the apron strings and let him run free, or you will never be a grandmother. On second thoughts, you are making such a performance out of this one that I shudder to think what you would do with a grandson! Keep the boy at home to watch TV with you. You could also teach him knitting while he is here. It is a very good way of keeping idle hands busy, as you know what mischief idle hands can get up to!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Nocturnal neon shoots

I walked down Walking Street the other evening with a tourist and he was looking in wonder at the veritable forest of neon signs, and began to take photographs. Fortunately, this was digital, so he could see immediately whether he was actually getting the picture he wanted.
Initially the camera suggested exposure settings that were way off the beam. The reason for that is simple, as he was attempting to get the neon sign, which was taking up around one quarter of the frame, with the surround being inky blackness. Needless to say, the electronic brain was a bit baffled by all this and the signs were totally overexposed, with the camera trying to turn black night into 18 percent grey.
The first change was to get him to turn off the in-camera flash as that was also confusing the issue. The second item was to zoom in on the signs of choice, so that the electronics had something it could handle. Finally we were getting somewhere!
You have to remember that neon is universal, and unfortunately universally misunderstood by most photographers. With a spitting flash, the auto-focus camera grinds away, but when the traveller gets his prints back, he or she is going to be very disappointed. That huge neon glow comes out as a thin thready coloured tube and nothing like what they saw that night.
The failure to record neon lighting was because the photographer believed the auto camera’s suggestion that since it was night, flash must be used. In fact, most auto cameras these days will automatically get the flash ready by sundown. This, unfortunately, is where the modern cameras are just too smart for themselves. A flash is the last thing you need when taking neon lights. The reason for this is quite simple - the strong white flash burst totally overpowers the weaker neon illumination and washes out all the pretty colours (the reason you wanted to take the shot in the first place!).
So, first turn the flash off. Make the neon sign supply the illumination. So what shutter speed and aperture settings should you use? If you have an auto setting on the camera, or you are using a fully automatic point and shooter then you are already set up. No fancy calculations are required. The camera’s meter will do it all for you, provided the neon is full frame. For once, I am happy to let the electronic brain do its thing (but without the flash).
If you want to get technical and do it all manually, then meter from the neon glow itself and then shoot not only at that setting, but also from one stop below and one stop above. This the pros call “bracketing” and it just simply increases your chances of getting a good shot. In the photography bizz, a pro must come back with the goods - no excuses are acceptable! Not even torrential rain, or polar bears out without a leash.
Now, to really go to town with the neon sign effects, get out your filters. If you have a soft focus one, then put it on for a couple of shots. Another interesting variant is to tightly stretch a nylon stocking over the lens. The result here will be a “halo” around the neon and can make for a very attractive photograph. Try putting a “starburst” or a rainbow filter on too. Just to get something different.
And looking for something really different? Another great visual effect is to put the camera on the tripod and use a zoom lens. Select a shutter speed of around ten seconds and slowly “zoom” in or away from the neon light while the shutter is open. You will get something very different with this technique. Something like a 3D movement effect.
Try some neon shots this weekend - just remember to turn the flash off and fill the frame!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Portfolio Construction - Part 11

In a separate piece Price also analyses how the portfolio construction market came to be where it is today, which he characterises as 3 camps:
1) Cost-savers - the rise of indexation, which have now developed into exchange-traded funds
2) Absolute asset managers who eschew benchmarking in favour of generating pure absolute returns
3) Compromisers - closet-trackers caught in the middle, resolutely hugging the benchmark, plus or minus a percentage point or two, but charging active fees and thus dooming their unit holders to underperformance.
He then does an excellent job of separating fact from fiction:
“The supposition of late has been that the extraordinary capital inflows into hedge funds and private equity have permanently compressed their returns. This supposition is wrong for at least two reasons.
“One: hedge funds and private equity per se do not represent one distinct asset class, but rather an alternative philosophy on the management of risk capital that embraces an alignment of manager and investor interests, the varying use of leverage and to an extent a steely commitment to contrarianism.
“Two: while it may well be the case that ‘average’ returns are dragged down by competition, the entire raison d’etre of so called alternative asset management is the belief that exceptional people can deliver exceptional returns on a sustained basis irrespective of broader market conditions. The recent Gadarene flood of variously clever money into the sector may well compress returns for ‘noise players’, but part of the problem given the well-flagged opaqueness allied to these sectors is the huge dispersion in returns between top and bottom decile managers. A more crowded pond does not automatically extinguish prospects of life, but it does raise the requirement to conduct appropriate due diligence on those players most likely to thrive.
“Working in investment in 2007 feels like being part of a gigantic science project. Two almost contradictory styles (traditional and so-called alternative) are duking it out while more passive low-cost providers dart and nibble at them from the periphery. On the evidence of capital flows to date, the traditional managers are under siege, and possibly being kept afloat only by savvy marketing skills (not a trait one can realistically associate with alternative managers since the regulators essentially prohibit it) and a generally supine investment media. But it is difficult to remember the last time traditional fund managers made the headlines - except to jump ship to boutiques, or to take themselves private in some other form.”
So you might not be able to buy into Swensen’s Yale Endowment, but you can do yourself a favour and ditch the ‘compromisers’ kept afloat by brand recognition and by marketing and not by performance and permit yourself access to the private international investor’s equivalent in the form of Scott Campbell and Martin Gray’s MitonOptimal portfolios.
Look at Kidder-Peabody’s nifty-fifty stocks that until just over 30 years ago were de rigeur and look at just how quickly the power balance has shifted. Long only was the best stock methodology before Jones famously popularised long/short but somehow that inefficient approach has stayed the course because of the self-interest of ‘The Street’ and the lethargy of regulators.
We’ll move on to taking a look at how you should look to approach portfolio construction and then we’ll spend some more time puncturing the myth of buy, hold and prosper (or the lazy way to build portfolios and collect fees for doing nothing as practised by far too much of the retail investment industry).
We have looked at why you shouldn’t buy and hold - why certain asset classes are right at certain times but wrong at others. Equity holdings within the portfolios are at higher levels when conditions appear to be conducive to equities and lower when the opportunity for return appears lower or when equity risk premium is higher. That may sound obvious but adopting a strategy like that and actually implementing it in a way that adds Alpha is achieved by less than 1% of investment strategies out there.
However, there is obviously more to it than just increasing or decreasing allocations - there are also style weightings. Within MitonOptimal, two of lead managers specialise in slightly different types of trade. Scott Campbell’s Core Diversified approach generally tends to invest on a ‘what if?’ basis - i.e., when it makes the allocation it also looks at how this can be hedged in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.
Martin Gray on the other hand tends to make more of a commitment trade - if there are strong enough reasons to believe that a market will move up or down then you access that market in the way that gives the greatest upside - maybe not via the best performing vehicle throughout the cycle BUT instead via the best performing vehicle through the part of the cycle that you’re now in - the upside part.
As a result Martin tends to achieve higher returns, Scott tends towards lower volatility. We utilise whichever approach we’re most comfortable with at a given time - clear blue skies would be Martin, a few clouds on a sunny day would be a combination of both, glorious weather but rain forecast would be Scott. As a result of this there are very few equity funds that we would buy and hold indefinitely. While the equity sub-cycle might typically last six years or so, there’d be a number of adjustments within that time - selling highs, buying dips, re-balancing focus etc - after all, this is active management. In each case it’s about buying right and selling right, which is the part of the equation that most investors seem to find hardest.
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

A couple of weeks ago when writing about the dreadful situation in Myanmar our editor suggested a modification of my comment about a senior Thai official’s attitude towards the junta. In the U.K. we have long enjoyed a free press, able to comment without restraints (short of libel, which can be costly) on anything from politicians to the monarchy and the church and other pillars of the establishment.
The same is not true of many countries, including Thailand.
Earlier this month the Printing Bill was unanimously passed by the National Legislative Assembly and now awaits royal approval and the publication in the Royal Gazette. This will do away with the censorship powers enjoyed by the powers that be, based on archaic laws passed as long ago as 1941, 1942 and 1945.
Interestingly the freer dissemination of news has been drafted by the newspaper industry itself. There are still requirements concerning the proportion of Thai ownership of newspapers and membership on the executive boards and, unsurprisingly, about the publication of materials deemed offensive to the monarchy.
But it seems that within a month or two these outdated laws will cease to exist and that will be one more step towards a greater democracy in Thailand that we may see compounded on December 23rd.
I long ago dropped the word Journalist from my passport, when a note of your profession was required. It proved too much of a hassle when traveling on film business behind the then Iron Curtain and on holiday to some countries, especially Morocco. As a profession the public seems to hold us on a level with lawyers and officialdom in restrictive regimes adds suspicion to contempt. Try telling an immigration officer with limited English that you write for Sight and Sound or The Guardian but only about movies. All they know is that The Guardian is a left wing journal. It’s easier to put down Film Consultant. What the hell does that mean?
Mentioning films brings me to my second topic, a note on the new(ish) Thai movie Puen which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Variously called Friends or Bangkok Love Story it is now running in Chiang Mai and should be seen. It would be easy to criticize it for the lush score, the over emphatic visual style and the occasional weak supporting performance.
Equally it would be glib to lavish it with praise for its brave incursion into Brokeback Mountain territory with its depiction of an intense relationship between two previously ‘straight’ guys who are thrown together in an intimate, exclusive companionship and after a physical relationship fall in love. It is heartening in a Thai film to see a gay relationship treated seriously and indeed explicitly rather than with the usual offensive crudeness that passes as humor.
But I urge you to see it not just for its bravery and importance but because you will no doubt be gripped by its gutsy, roller coaster style.
It is an in your face movie, leaving little to the imagination. There is violence and tenderness and raw emotion which dares you to be indifferent to the anguish of the two central characters, one of whom cannot come to terms with his sexuality. Even more bravely it shows, in a subplot, the plight of the mother and younger brother of the hit man. They are AIDS victims who are harassed and abused by their neighbors, for no reason other than that they too are ‘different’.
The experienced director, Pod Anon, has set his sights on making an entertaining work, but with an important message for Thai society. Quite deliberately he grabs you from the violent opening until the poignant ending and determines that stay with him, as the large audience certainly did at the screening we went to. This is not a film to see on a small screen so wrap up well (it is only on at Major, Airport Plaza sadly – I much prefer the warmer and more friendly Vista at Kad Suan Kaew) and see it in a cinema.
After that rather exhausting experience, my Thai partner and I decided on quiet meal and what better contrast to the Bangkok underworld than the Rachamanka in Chiang Mai with its elegant courtyard restaurant. Happily the ambience is still the same and the staff as attentive and charming as ever. But in the space of a few months prices have escalated and worse still the food has become bland. There are too many good eateries in Chiang Mai for this stylish place to be complacent. Let’s hope it was the real chef’s night off.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
1408: US Horror/Thriller – 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 haunted room 1408, convinced that the horrific past of the room is just mere coincidence and a myth. 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. Reviews say that 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 (Phee Liang): Thai Horror – The Aunt takes care of orphaned kids, is murdered, worries about the kids, and comes back home as a ghost, 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 make out.
Lonely Hearts: US Crime/Thriller – with John Travolta, Salma Hayek. This is a brilliant, bloody retelling of one of the more salacious murder sprees of the late 1940s in the US. Salma Hayek’s portrayal is one of the more frightening examples of the classic femme fatale: she is positively psychotic, yet smoldering with sexuality, and she dominates the film. Travolta, last seen here in a skirt, delivers a strong performance of surprising depth as the detective involved. It’s beautifully filmed, and a remarkably detailed recreation of the period. Fans of classic detective films in the film noir tradition will find much to marvel at. But be warned, it is extremely violent and gory, and the killings are disturbing and difficult to watch, both because of their graphic nature, and because of the callousness with which they are committed. Rated R in the US for strong violence and sexual content, nudity and language. Mixed or average reviews. At 12 Huay Kaew only.
Vista should be congratulated on bringing this film to Chiang Mai as part of their occasional program of out of the ordinary movies – such past films like Pan’s Labyrinth, An Inconvenient Truth, The Good Shepherd, and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Café Lumière. Here’s hoping they keep it up.
Bangkok Love Story (Puen): It’s not doing too well at the box office at the moment. As you no doubt know already, it’s about two straight men thrown together who fall in love. I think it’s a good film with much to like, and the love story does grab your emotions. However, basically it’s a grimy, grisly story set in an unappetizing and violent milieu.
The Brave One: I am very impressed by this film; watching it, I felt comfortably in the hands of experts – real film professionals who knew what they were doing, in terms of acting, plotting, pacing, dialogue, getting the story told in the most efficient and elegant manner possible. Jodie Foster plays a victim of a violent attack who seeks revenge on those responsible. In exploring what fear has done to one woman, Jodie Foster gives the best performance I’ve seen from her. Also an excellent performance by Terrence Howard. Rated R in the US for strong violence, language and some sexuality.
Shoot ‘Em Up: US Action/Comedy – Like its title indicates, this ramped-up modern-day action movie essentially consists of one over-the-top shootout after the other. As preposterous and over-the-top as Shoot ‘Em Up may be, its warped sense of humor and non-stop action make for a very enjoyable film. Or so they say. An audacious, implausible, cheerfully offensive action picture. Rated R in the US for pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality, and some language. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only, and only in a Thai-dubbed version. Really a shame about that!
Bedside Detective (Sai-lap): Thai Romance/Comedy – Dreadful. Only for Thais, among whom it is extraordinarily popular – in fact, the top Thailand film last week.
The House (Baan phii sing): Thai Horror/Thriller – Three women murdered in the same haunted house. The movie is absolute rubbish. Regrettably, it’s also a monstrous financial success.


Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Medical tourism? No, medical adventurism

My hip degenerated due to heredity, age, mileage and destiny. Pain increased, walking decreased and X-rays showed bone on bone, grinding and crackling with every step. Grim diagnosis: hip replacement. Cost: $12,000 in Thailand or $60,000 in the USA. After extensive Internet research, I learned I didn’t need a replacement where doctors “saw” off your leg bone, “ream” out your femur and “cement” plastic in your body. With new chromium cobalt steel components from England plus posterior surgical entry techniques from Belgium – instead of frontal entry where the doctor’s knife could slip and sever soft tissue hanging in that general area – I could have less-invasive, bone-conserving hip “resurfacing” in India for $5,800. The super steel was developed to withstand intense heat during space-shuttle reentry, so I knew at least two parts of me would survive my cremation. Tough decision: no health insurance and I’d save $54,000. I opted for Medical Tourism, though Medical Adventurism seemed more appropriate term.

Indian hospital courtyard and trash: bars keep patients and mosquitoes in.
In Coimbadore, India, we meet Dr. Balasubrama-nian – whose name can be rearranged to spell a rash of warnings: “And barbarians maul!” “A mad brain runs a lab.” “I am a drab, nasal burn.” “Rabid banana murals.” “An absurd, animal bar.” “Anal, urban bar-maids.” Dr. Bala is a good-humored, energetic man with extensive experience in hip resurfacing, who spends 36 hours every day greeting patients, disassembling and reassembling their bodies and phoning surgical candidates in every time zone. He escorts us to our suite – a typical hospital room with attached sitting room, kitchen and bath. It’s a bit stark and cold: bare walls, two orange plastic flowers, and electric hot water kettle with rusted element that looks like it would quickly give you a disease, prison window bars that do not bar bloodthirsty mosquitoes from the room. Like the rest of India, the open windows into the courtyard reveal the hospital is being torn down, rebuilt or somewhere in between.
My hip is X-rayed by a machine that looks like it came from an old war movie, without a lead apron to protect my chest or perhaps my nearby sperm so any children I may have will not glow or turn into X-Men as they leave the womb. No one-second hum: this machine buzzes for several seconds, probably powered by a treadmill of rats in the closet. I hold my breath and try to lengthen the sacred sac allowing the family jewels to drop below the dreaded mutation ray.
During the blood test, Nurse Sans Rubber Gloves ignores my bulging, cavernous arteries with enough blood to launch a small ship and attempts to make medical history by plunging her massive needle into invisible, heretofore undiscovered arteries. After three unsuccessful probes into nonexistent arteries, she tries to suck solid tissue into her needle using both hands and feet to pull back the plunger. Headlines read: “Nurse Searches For New Arteries During Routine Blood Test As Patient Fights Back And Plunges Chopstick Into Her Jugular Vein.”
The anesthesiologist is, for our benefit, called Dr. GBS since his full name has several hundred syllables. His role is vital because whatever Dr. Bala decides to do to me for however long, I do NOT want to feel any of it or wake up to hear the sounds of sawing and sanding in my personal zip code. He asks: “Are you a religious man?” (So the appropriate monk, rabbi or priest can be on call for last rites?) I say, “I’m spiritual, probably Buddhist after living in Thailand for years.” He says, with disappointment and condescension in his voice, “I’m a Christian.” I reply, “Jesus was a great, holy man like many others throughout history.” (I didn’t want to get on his bad side.)
A nurse brings papers to sign that certify that I consent to the operation, that I’m responsible for the removal of any scalpels that Dr. Bala may leave inside me and that I won’t strangle Dr. GBS if I wake up screaming during the operation. Joom signs as a witness. I sign another paper in another language that might say what the nurse said it did, or maybe not. Joom signs as a witness. Then, during a sudden loss of intellectual sanity, I sign a blank sheet of paper the nurse says she has to fill in later. Joom is again the witness; we both are witless. I expect all my money will be transferred electronically into Dr. Bala’s Swiss bank account, my Harley motorcycle will be shipped to the nurse’s husband and I’ll be required to obey every command from every nurse or face additional suffering in the Blood Test Torture Chamber as they extract my sperm from a distant testicle through a secret vein in my neck.



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