The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Lead for your pencil - off the ‘net
Spam should not be confused
with SPAM. One is a daily internet nuisance, while the other is a sort of
manufactured meat product. According to Hormel, the meat manufacturers, SPAM
was derived from the words “SPiced hAM” and that was in the 1930’s, long
before the internet and the unwanted in-box fillers, now called “Spam”.
Every day I receive Spam, offering me the opportunity to keep a battalion of
beauties satisfied. These are the internet email offers of cut-price drugs
that will keep me in a state of perpetual priapism, a continuing (and
painful) male erection and the term was coined after the Greek god Priapus
who is shown in paintings to have a central member like a third leg.
However, this is actually a serious situation. If specific drugs are only
available through pharmacies, on the prescription of a doctor, is it safe to
just buy over the internet, without any doctor’s advice?
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “Patients who buy
prescription drugs from websites operating outside the law are at increased
risk of suffering life-threatening adverse events, such as side effects from
inappropriately prescribed medications, dangerous drug interactions,
contaminated drugs, and impure or unknown ingredients found in unapproved
The FDA goes on to warn that “medications prescribed by a doctor have
restrictions to benefit the patient. Before the practitioner issues a
prescription for a drug the doctor must first examine the patient to
determine the appropriate treatment. Subsequently, the patient receives the
drug from a registered pharmacist working in a licensed pharmacy that meets
state practice standards.” That situation is certainly not the case when you
look at buying blue diamonds over the ‘net, is it? Are you really fit enough
to indulge in horizontal folk dancing, when the wonder wand has said
The incidence of internet pseudo-pharmacies is also very high. In the US,
according to the American Medical Association, there are at least 400 web
sites (and probably closer to 1,000) that both dispense and offer a
prescribing service - half of these sites are located in foreign countries.
But with no regulation, are the blue diamonds really Viagra?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has been fighting drug
counterfeiting since it became a major threat in the 1980s. The problem was
first noticed by the pharmaceutical industry. They saw that their own
products were being copied, and it went on from there.
In fact, the WHO estimates that 25 percent of medications bought in street
markets in developing countries are fake. My own experience in some of the
poorer SE Asian countries has been that another 50 percent are real but out
of date, leaving around 25 percent genuine manufacturer’s stock.
Some authors say that the figures are even worse than that. An international
study published in Tropical Medicine and International Health in 2004 found
that 53 percent of Artesunate tablet packs sold in the region did not
contain Artesunate, a vital antimalarial drug. You can see the danger.
The reports come in from all over the world. The WHO cited the case of a
counterfeit iron preparation that has killed pregnant women in Argentina.
Hundreds of children in Bangladesh suffered kidney failure and many died due
to a fake paracetamol syrup diluted with diethylene glycol, according to a
study published in the BMJ in 1995.
The FDA in the US estimates that worldwide sales of fake drugs exceed USD
3.5 billion per year, according to a paper published in April 2005. The
Center for Medicines in the Public Interest in the US predicts that
counterfeit drug sales could reach USD 75 billion globally in 2010 if action
is not taken to curb the trade.
According to WHO, drugs commonly counterfeited include antibiotics,
antimalarials, hormones and steroids. Increasingly, anticancer and antiviral
drugs are also faked. And you can add to that, the ‘blue diamonds’. Never
forget the phrase “Caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware).
You have been warned. Get your medications on a doctor’s prescription from a
pharmacy you can trust. Or suffer the consequences.
Heart to Heart
I see you have let that Mistersingha person back into the forum, and all
for a bottle of Bacardi Breezer and a Mars bar or something. How the
mighty has fallen, Hillary old girl. I remember when it was French
champagne and Belgian chocolates or nothing. I love your column, but
don’t let your standards slip.
Thank you for your concerns over my welfare and my predilections, but
this has been a time of austerity, my Petal. Everyone has to pull in
their belts, the government tells us, so little Ms. Hillary has had to
reign in some of her excesses, I am afraid. I fully realize that a Mars
bar made in Malaysia is a long way from Belgian chocolates, but that’s
the way the cookie crumbles, as they used to say. The Bacardi was
actually very refreshing too. By the way, Misterchang, this column is
hardly a “forum”, though I do welcome anyone who wants to drink from the
font of Hillary’s wisdom.
Is there anywhere you recommend going to at Songkran? I’ve been here a
few years, seen all the madness, done all the water throwing and trashed
the T shirt. I don’t think I can stand another Songkran, but can’t leave
Thailand at present. Some suggestions, my Petal.
Dear Songkran Sam,
I have news for you Sam, and it’s all bad. First, I am not ‘your’ Petal
and second, everywhere you go in Thailand, they will be playing
Songkran, so there’s not much you can do without leaving the country.
The neighboring countries are no good either, as they celebrate their
own Songkran as well. Since you’re tied here, I suggest that you board
up your condominium, make sure your microwave is working, stock up on
plenty of frozen TV dinners, grab a couple of cartons of your favorite
beer and watch TV for the three, four or five days of insanity. If it
were the French champagne and Belgian chocolates I could have been
tempted to keep you company. If you hear a knock on the door, I’m the
one in the wellies and umbrella.
A few weeks ago some Russian women wrote to your newspaper wanting to
get to know Paul from your TV station. I am much better looking than
him, and I know he has a Thai girlfriend and I like large ladies, so
could you let me know the contact details for the Russians. Many thanks.
Just what do you think I am running here? This is not “Make a Match in
Moscow” or “Sleepless in St Petersburg” (it was so cold last night I was
Vladimir frozen). I really do not care whether you are better looking
than television’s Paul and like large ladies, I cannot just start
throwing names and addresses out the window to anyone who writes in.
There are plenty of Russian lady tourists in town, just say “Hello” or
more formally “Zdrastvooitsa” or something phonetically similar. With
your pen name and direct approach, you can’t go wrong, my Politburo
You may think this request is too simple to publish, but I am sure my
problem is one suffered by many young men in this country. I am from the
UK, here for a couple of years, and am enjoying just being with such
nice people (and the nice girls). Here’s the problem, I have met a right
stunner. She is super and works in an office near mine, in the same
building. I have done the homework through the Thai staff in the office,
and she’s not married or attached or anything like that, but here’s the
problem. She doesn’t speak English. I really want to get close to this
woman (she really turns me on), but I haven’t got enough Thai to be able
to chat her up or anything. What’s the next step, Hillary?
Dear Pasa Angkrit,
What a wonderful pseudonym you have chosen, Pasa Angkrit indeed
(‘English language’ for those who cannot speak Thai). But what a
dilemma! Here you are, hormones raging at the thought of this nice young
woman who really turns you on, even though you have never spoken to her,
or even got close enough to smell her perfume! And you don’t know how to
pop the question. Or any question, for that matter. You have just
discovered a simple and inescapable fact, my Petal. The country you are
in for the next two years and the country the woman lives and works in,
is called Thailand. That’s not tongue tie-land, either. This is her
country, and the language she speaks gets her everywhere she wants to
go, and everything she wants to do. There is a lesson for you here. If
you want to get to know this Thai lady, then go and learn some basic
Thai. After a few lessons, go and try it out on her (the language,
Petal, the language). If she thinks you are a nice chap, she will even
help you with the pronunciations. However, if she doesn’t respond, then
you have to accept the fact that you didn’t make her hormones explode,
the way she made yours. Best of luck with the language course. That is
“Choke dee” as you will learn in lesson 2.
by Harry Flashman
Never believe what you see
used to be that people would claim “photographic proof” to
demonstrate the veracity of something or other. How could you
deny the existence of anything, if you had a photograph of it?
After all, look at the Loch Ness monster. Nessie is real, there
are dozens of snapshots of her, whilst all these other
pretenders such as Big Foot are myths. You’ve never seen a
photograph of Big Foot, now have you?
However, as we sauntered into the digital age, it became very
obvious that not everything you saw in a photo was necessarily
‘real’. Mr. Photoshop soon put an end to that reality nonsense,
complete with his filters and contrast and brightness
adjustments. No, it was an all-new ball game.
But pro-shooters have been bending the truth for years. Even
before Mr. Photoshop. Let’s look at a few examples where the
photographer has to stretch the truth somewhat. Ever tried
photographing champagne? There’s never enough bubbles to make it
look as if it has just been poured. What to do? Drop some sugar
into the glass. Only a few grains are enough to give the almost
still glass of champers that “just opened” fizz look to it. You
also have to bring the light in from the back of the glass, as
well as from the front. Stick the flash head in behind and a
large white reflector beside the camera and you have the
While still on wines, if you try and shoot a bottle of red wine,
it comes out thick dark maroon or even black. Restaurateurs who
have tried photographing their wines will agree. So what does
the pro shooter do? Well he has a couple of courses of action.
First is to dilute the red wine by about 50 percent and secondly
place a silver foil reflector on the back of the bottle. So what
happens to the half bottle of red that was removed to dilute the
wine? The photographer has it with dinner. Silly question.
And so to food photography. This is one area where there are
more fraudulent practices than any other. Cold food can be made
to look hot by sprinkling chips of dry ice to give “steam”
coming off the dish. Not palatable, but it looks OK. Cooking oil
gets brushed on slices of the cold meat so that they look moist
That is just for starters. In the commercial photography studio,
the dedicated food photographer would erect a “light tent” of
white polystyrene and bounce electronic flash inside. Brightness
is necessary to stop the food looking grey and dull. If you do
not have bright sparkly light then potatoes will look grey, and
even the china plates look drab and dirty.
In places such as the USA, there are very firm rules about
photographing food. Mainly the fact that you are not allowed to
use substitute materials which “look” like food, but are
actually not. This covers the old trick of using shaving cream
as the “cream” on top of cappuccino coffee for example, or
polystyrene foam as “ice cream”. Personally I think this is a
load of ballyhoo, because the photograph is just to represent
what the food will look like - you don’t eat a photograph, now
Even in simple portraiture, the concept is to show the sitter in
the best possible way. For example, if the person has “bat ears”
the portrait should be taken with the head turned so that one
ear disappears from view. Not “lying” but presenting Mother
Nature in a different way. And always remember that when all
else fails, it’s a quick trip to the retouchers.
Another area of deception is real estate brochures. I have
inserted an architect’s model of a hotel, as not yet built, into
the aerial shot of a beach resort city. This required working
out the height of the helicopter relative to the height of the
model and then combining the two slides. It took two 12 hour
days in the studio to photograph the architect’s model and
another day in the lab to combine the images.
Never believe anything you see!
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
More on Commodities - part 2
Last week we mentioned China and South Africa (SA)
separately. Now let’s look at them together along with Africa as a whole.
The potential of these two countries working hand in hand is staggering.
Already China has purchased one third of SA’s biggest bank - Standard Bank.
It goes on as the Chinese buy up more and more as the economic boom in China
has triggered a global search for commodities (China is opening a new
power station every 17 days). In its quest to discover new commodities,
China is changing the landscape of Africa. Beijing’s long term strategy is
to remove itself from the vagaries of international commodity markets, it
wants to deal with the countries and companies directly and the Chinese see
South Africa as the gateway to Africa. Chinese trade with Africa is now at
USD100 billion. However, importing back to China is proving more of a
challenge as it is having to build a massive infrastructure in Africa -
roads and ports, etc., in order to get the commodities back to the
The Chinese are not stupid. They bring in their own people with them to do
the work. It is not one of M&A, but to take strategic stakes and to look and
listen. In their private capacity, the Chinese are buying up farms like kids
at a candy store. It must be remembered that the Chinese often say they have
a 100 year view, profits are not that important to them.
Life is not all rosy though. The Chinese presence is creating major angst in
Africa, as Africa is not high tech and China is leading to many African
manufacturers closing down. A huge employer of people in Africa is the mines
and it does not help when the Chinese try to automate a lot of these mines.
There is a perception (and probably rightly so) that Africa will get fleeced
by China, as they are removing the family silver. It is a shame that America
is so unpopular in Africa currently, as they provide a lot more aid than
China do and they are not being appreciated for it.
What all this really means is that it is interesting to note China’s
attitudes to business and how different it is from the West. This has major
implications for commodity shares, as China has the possibility to control
supply and hence cannot afford for the commodity majors to form monopolies.
China’s 100 year view on companies does change the playing field for those
who want to compete with them. Africa needs to get its house in order if it
does not want to end up being robbed blind by the Chinese.
For the very brave this could open up opportunities for investing in Africa
itself. Why? It is simply that Africa has what Asia wants and that is
helping to push up African growth rates. Asia has the stomach for Africa as
it does not care about war or famine, it just has a seemingly never ending
thirst for commodities. When growth rates start to rise above 6% (as you are
seeing in large parts of Africa), then growth moves away from being a purely
commodity story to one of banking and telecommunications - for the purposes
of this argument we will ignore Zimbabwe as it remains a basket case and it
will stay this way for some time. Mugabe will not step down as he is too
greedy and especially after what happened to Charles Taylor.
However, as for the rest of Africa, it is generally believed that the Rand
will continue to come under pressure, thanks to the Current Account Deficit
which is running at 7-9% of GDP. Also, growth in SA will slow due to the
electricity problems, but it will still grow north of 3%. This is partly a
function of the fact that African markets are driven more by domestic
investors and that foreigners play a very small part.
Africa is enjoying some very strong growth rates, with Angola in particular
being one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The media does not
focus on the positive aspects of Africa, preferring to report stories of
wars and famines. The reality is that Africa is growing very nicely and has
been since 1988. Despite the impression the media might give about Africa,
corporate governance in many countries is very impressive and in fact
companies are squeaky clean. Africa is a growth destination and the World
Bank, IMF and the African Development bank predict that it will continue.
Real growth per capita is growing, thanks to strong growth and a falling
There is no doubt about it. Africa is indeed a tough place to do business,
due to poor infrastructure, but this is a positive as well as a negative as
it means that, for the companies that are there, competition is not that
fierce. Banks are the early beneficiaries of growth in Africa. Retail
banking is just starting to take off - for instance the home loan market
does not exist in Egypt which is hardly surprising really when you consider
that doctors and teachers have had to go on strike to get a pay increase
from USD50 per month! But elsewhere there is real potential.
Back to commodities. Commodity funds have clearly become the flavour of the
month, with a USD100 billion of new funds bought to the market in the last
couple of months. The aluminium market is currently very tight, but could
get a lot tighter if the Chinese start electricity rationing. There is a 95%
correlation between the share prices and the commodities themselves, hence
many see prices going a lot higher.
The fundamentals for soft commodities are very good and anyone who thinks
that the supply and demand for commodities is not in their favour must be
smoking their socks. We hold commodities via MitonOptimal in the Core
Diversified Fund and feel more comfortable than ever in holding it, despite
recession warnings out of the US.
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
Directing movies: You’ve either got it - or you haven’t…
The film program at the Alliance Francaise has yielded
some gems recently, notably Rene Clair’s charming Le Silence est d’Or and a
few days ago Jean-Pierrre Melville’s majestic Army of the Shadows. If you
missed those, make a note of another classic, Louis Malles’s feature debut,
Lift to the Scaffold which will be shown at 8 pm on Friday April 18. This
stylish thriller stars Jeanne Moreau, Lino Ventura and a grown up Georges
Poujouly who astonished the movie world a few years before in Forbidden
Lift to the Scaffold also achieved fame through its memorable jazz
soundtrack by Miles Davis, later released commercially. His only one, I
believe. At just under 90 minutes in length, the movie marked the emergence
of a young man who had previously worked as an assistant to Robert Bresson,
made a couple of shorts and co-directed a documentary. Still in his mid
twenties, Malle directed a tense thriller to rank with those of John Huston
(The Maltese Falcon), Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout) and Roman Polanski (Knife in
the Water), among other debuts.
He went on to become a prolific and controversial film maker, whose works
included Les Amants, Lacombe, Lucien and Murmur of the Heart. Sadly, he died
in his early sixties but he helped France grow out of its sprightly new wave
period and made at least a dozen films of real stature.
And mentioning debuts, reminds me that Alexander Mackendrick’s super comedy
Whisky Galore will be on show at the Gymkhana Club on April 25 at 7:30 pm as
part of their season of Ealing Comedies. One of the same director’s two
masterpieces, The Ladykillers, was screened there earlier in the season. His
other great work, Sweet Smell of Success, was made in the USA.
Meanwhile, in the commercial ice boxes of Chiang Mai we have had a few
movies of interest on show, including the Thai romantic comedy Hormones and
the dully absorbing Atonement. Of more interest was No Country for Old Men
and this may be hanging on somewhere in town when this article appears -
certainly it will be out on DVD. We have waited a while for the Chiang Mai
release of this work, widely considered a return to form by the very uneven
Coen Brothers. It came after Oscar wins, including those for best direction
and best movie, (aren’t they the same?), and one for Xavier Bardem, who
collected his for worst haircut worn by a psychopath although it went out
under the title, ‘best supporting actor’.
It always amuses me to note the Academy’s votes going to actors who get
beaten up, make themselves look ugly or demented, suffer silently or who
battle against deformity or disability. I rest my case against all their
frothy awards on the sad, simple fact that Cary Grant did not receive one of
those prized statuettes, despite appearing in and being the major
contributor as an actor to a score of films, any of which were ten times
better than Atonement or No Country for Old Men.
But these, of course, were classic comedies such as Bringing up Baby, I was
a Male War Bride and Monkey Business. “Hollywood logic” decrees that even
the comic genius of Grant and director Howard Hawks could not be taken
Looking to the future, we are still awaiting the arrival in Chiang Mai of
There Will be Blood, which - since we are mentioning Oscars - received many
nominations and scooped for Daniel Day-Lewis the award for best actor for
his rich character study of the heartless oil prospector. The role and
aspects of his performance, especially the voice, were eerily reminiscent of
John Huston in Polanski’s best movie, Chinatown.
There Will be Blood is based, like all the other films mentioned in this
column upon a novel - in this case Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!”, which was banned
on its publication because of Sinclair’s characteristic criticism of the
establishment and capitalism. This prolific writer - a million words in one
year just to magazines - finally lost track of his work, much of which was
written under pseudonyms. But he knew how to best the opposition.
When “Oil!” was banned, he went out and sold a copy on the streets and was
arrested. It turned out that inside the wrapper of his book was a copy of
the Bible and in his defense he showed that he had liberally quoted from the
‘good book’ in his own scandalous work, which had not been read by its
censors. He was let off.
Whether he would have approved the adaptation of his work by writer-director
Paul Thomas Anderson we shall never know. Nor, in my case, care since I am
firmly of the belief that once an author has taken the money and potential
fame offered by movies he must face up to all consequences afforded by a
translation to another great art. Movies are a director’s medium and all
that need be expected of them is to distill the essence of the original. A
truly great director such as Robert Bresson has often worked from novels,
sometimes unacknowledged, such as Pickpocket which was inspired by
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and is - at 75 minutes duration - its
equal as a work of art.
Anderson, who is probably the best director working in the USA at present,
adapted “Oil!” himself, and since I - like most people - have not read it I
don’t know how ‘faithful’ it is. Who cares when we have a film of this
extraordinary power? Anderson, like the clutch of directors mentioned above,
showed his talent at an early age with his debut - also a thriller - Hard
Eight. Like Malle, Roeg, (who was older, having been a cameraman), Polanski,
Huston, Mackendrick, and the Coen brothers with Blood Simple, you can see
from the very start the work of potentially major directors, just as one can
see with Joe Wright that it is just a question of industry, intelligence and
talent. None of which is enough to create a masterpiece. Like a great
orchestral conductor, the film director may improve with age and experience,
or make become mannered or flashy, but unless the special spark is there at
the beginning then practice does not make perfect.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Street Kings: US Crime/Thriller - Compelling, exciting film of a
veteran LAPD detective implicated in the execution of a fellow officer, and
forced to go up against the cop culture he’s been a part of his entire
career. He questions the loyalties of everyone around him, as he finds that
in the process of attempting to keep urban city streets safe, absolute power
corrupts absolutely. Based on a story by bestselling crime writer James
Ellroy (Black Dahlia, White Jazz, L.A. Confidential), a brooding cynic who
experienced his mother’s gruesome, unsolved murder when he was ten years
old. The LA-based writer has been attempting to overcome that childhood
trauma ever since, through his noirish violent fiction. Keanu Reeves plays
an alcoholic Vice Squad cop whose police methods amount to outright
brutality and legal assassinations that have long been covertly approved and
elaborately covered up by his boss, a suave and cunning Forest Whitaker.
Rated R in the US for strong violence and pervasive language. Mixed or
Vantage Point: US Drama/Thriller - Eight strangers with eight
different points of view try to unlock the truth behind an assassination
attempt on the president of the United States. The film, which starts out
very nicely indeed, turns into a really mindless car chase. But it is an
exciting car chase, with many crashes and explosions. Mixed or average
Art of the Devil 3: Thai Horror - Torture porn. Last week I advised
you to stay away from this one. I didn’t heed my own warning, and saw it. It
does have some very nice landscapes, rather nicely photographed in a moody
way. And of course unrelenting torture. Should you desire step-by-step
instruction in the art of pain, this is for you. In particular it
demonstrates in superbly clear manner how to stitch and pin, and indeed
staple, a person’s eyelids open so he will be forced to watch you as you
torture to death his entire family. So if something like this is on your
agenda, you might want to check it out. The most popular film in Thailand
Ku Kuan Puan Maesa: Thai Comedy - The usual, with the usual
Sex is Zero 2: Korea Comedy/Romance - The Korean American Pie returns
- a very popular (in Asia) college sex comedy that manages to be raunchy,
funny, sexy, and emotionally sincere all at the same time, or so they say.
In the style of American gross-out college comedies, it follows the exploits
of a group of students, which eventually takes a serious turn. (Thai-dubbed
only; no English subtitles)
An Empress and The Warriors: China (Hong Kong S.A.R.) Drama/War - Set
in ancient China before its unification, when countless kingdoms battle for
supremacy. Beautifully costumed and photographed war epic. (Thai-dubbed
only; no English subtitles) At Vista only.
I.C.U.: Ghost College of Fine Arts: Thai Comedy - The usual.
Orahun Summer: Thai Comedy/Drama - Boy monks have misadventures during the
summer. At Vista only.
Dream Team: Thai Family/Comedy - Five-year-old boys compete in
Kindergarten tug-of-war championships.
Nak: Thai Animation/Family - Nak the ghost in a new incarnation:
helpful, this time around.
Hormones / Pidtermyai Huajai Wawoon: Thai Comedy/Romance - An
endearing Teen-oriented Thai romance. A very appealing cast has tiny teen
problems and minor heartbreaks magnified to earth-shattering proportions.
There’s a girl who’s head over heels with a Taiwanese idol she’s only seen
in movies; two very likeable boys whose deep friendship is threatened when
they both fall for the same girl; a college student who faces a test of
loyalty when he meets his fantasy girl when his steady girlfriend is away.
If you like this sort of thing, you will enjoy this very much. At Vista
Scheduled to open Apr. 17
Horton Hears a Who!: US Animation/Family - With Jim Carrey, Steve
Carell, Carol Burnett. A whimsical, witty, feature-length version of Dr.
Seuss that’s neither overblown nor smutty nor emotionally hollow. “A treat
for the eye, an epic event. This film is delightful, one hundred percent.”
Generally favorable reviews.
The Forbidden Kingdom: US Action/Adventure - The first collaboration
between martial arts masters Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Based on the Chinese
epic story ‘Journey to the West’, one of the four great classic novels of
Scheduled for April 24
There Will Be Blood: Scheduled for Major Cineplex. US Drama.
Widely hailed as a masterpiece, this sparse and sprawling epic about the
underhanded “heroes” of capitalism boasts incredible performances by leads
Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s best
work to date. WSJ: “What’s so remarkable about this film is not its time
frame but the wealth of its detail, the eloquence of its images, and the
sweep of its ambition.” Oscars for Cinematography, and Best Performance by
an Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis). Rated R in the US for some
violence. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
Shaggy Soi Dog Stories
Of the estimated 6,000,000 dogs in Thailand, approximately 3,000,000 of them
live within earshot of our bedroom. They may be heard most any night, at any
time, giving vocal support to the hyperactive dogs occupying our bungalow
complex, who diligently and uproariously attempt to warn everyone in our
postal code of dangers lurking in the darkness: our neighbor’s return home,
an insect moving, a car headlight hitting a nearby leaf or invisible aliens
invading from another planet. The entrance road dead ends at twelve
mini-homes in a circle surrounded by a small river, trees, bamboo, gravel
driveways and no fences, where twenty some dogs roam, scavenge and breed,
though only two officially have homes. An organic, self-sustaining security
system, the POD (Pack of Dogs) subsists mainly on buffets of rotting food
from neighborhood garbage bags supplemented by miscellaneous leftovers from
the landlord that didn’t make it into the garbage bags.
of USA Humane Society Drop Boxes: Got a puppy? Leave a puppy. Need a kitty?
Take a kitty.
Every dog is a father mother brother sister daughter son illegitimate
offspring of every other dog and seems to have at least one crippled
appendage from a past attack by the rest of the family. Their total combined
brainpower is considerably less than a head of broccoli. After four years of
living here, the POD still doesn’t recognize me and probably thinks I’m one
of the invading aliens that has suddenly become visible.
Their one remarkable trait is the ability to sleep in the sun when it’s a
hundred degrees. Just imagine putting on a fur coat and lounging on baking
gravel for hours, only getting up to move because the patch of sun you were
lying in, for some strange reason, slid over a few feet. An astounding
skill, but perhaps only useful for a POD that wants to harass humans,
because each individual dog must sleep in the exact middle of the driveway,
wait until your car tire is poised to crush its leg, then painfully slink
away while staring at you with a pathetic, but somewhat irritated, scowl
that says, “You have to leave again? Can’t you just drive your car over
there through the bushes?”
If you ask what breed they are, I would have to be very specific and say,
“Dog.” Further classification may include: 1) the shorthaired “Brown Dog,”
five of them that are always groveling, in heat or pregnant; 2) the lazy,
longhaired “Leaf Dog,” a shaggy thing that sleeps 23/7 while attracting
leaves, needles and debris which cling to its fur, so it resembles a compost
pile with legs; 3) the landlord’s “Beagle Mutation,” stunted and stupid with
deformed paws that stick out horizontally, which make him look like the ugly
kid who always got beat up in grade school, eventually causing a terminal
ornery disposition and the propensity to bite the hand and ankles of anyone
that doesn’t feed him. Although named “Dang Thai,” he is generally called
“Damn Thai” or a raft of other four-letter words that, unlike “Dang,” do not
mean “Red.” Being the privileged landlord’s pet, he’s the short, snooty,
rich kid on the block that regularly gets beat up by the POD when the
landlord’s not looking. He also hates us because his nemesis lives with us.
In quintessential Thai fashion, we adopted, or were adopted by, our friends’
adopted dog when they moved away: a Default Dog. His name is Gluay, which
means “banana” in Thai, and sounded cute until we learned he got it because
he likes to lick his banana, especially when we have visitors. Tall, sleek
and strong, the landlord never cared for him since he could whip Dang Thai
anytime and frequently did. Visitors ask, “Is this your dog?” Answer: “No,
he just lives here. He’s his own dog, but likes our food and company.” He’ll
disappear for days and return smelling like Roadkill Meets Rubbish, but a
bath is not in the cards. I’ve tried to gently coax him under the hose, but
I might as well try to wash a random pedestrian on the street. He has
learned to love us, and would probably kill for us, which unfortunately may
be the telephone man when we’re not home.
The good news? He’s our Buffer Dog and keeps the POD at bay. The bad news?
By alerting us at night of the neighbor’s return, headlights and invisible
aliens, his bark starts the neighborhood bay, which sparks the Sansai bay,
which incites the Chiang Mai bay, which ignites the Lampang bay, all the way
down to Bangkok. Maybe I’ll get some sleep if I can just learn the fur coat
on the scorching pavement in the sun trick.
Doc English The Language Doctor: Teaching using TPR
When I first started out in language
teaching I often encountered children who had no written or spoken English
at all. I did not speak any foreign languages at this time and so I was
unable to translate words from English into my students’ native languages.
This made conversation very difficult and teaching pretty much impossible at
first. However, I soon learned more strategies for teaching beginners and
the benefits of the TPR method of teaching. TPR quickly helped me become
more confident working with beginners and helped make my English lessons
Children learn to listen to a language before they can learn to speak it (or
read or write it). The TPR method can help you improve your child’s
listening skills and make them more receptive to listening to and learning
English. You can teach your child to ‘anticipate’ and ‘predict’ words
through your actions and gesture and you can encourage your children to
guess the ‘gist’ of what you are trying to say by providing a sequence of
actions or spoken commands that they can learn to recognize and respond to.
TPR is also a fun way to introduce the language and it can be very physical,
so it is good exercise too! Young children love short doses of TPR and with
a little practice, so will you.
TPR stands for ‘Total Physical Response’ and was created by a guy called Dr.
James J Asher. It is based upon the way that children learn their ‘mother
tongue’ (their first language, or ‘L1’) from birth. The theory goes that
parents have ‘language-body conversations’ with their children, the parent
instructs their child and their child physically responds to this. The
parent says, “Look at mummy” and the child responds by looking, or the
parent says “Come here” and gestures towards the child. The child responds
by moving towards their parent. These conversations continue for many months
before the child actually starts to speak itself. Even though it can’t speak
during this time, the child is taking in all of the language; the sounds and
the patterns. Eventually when it has listened to enough language, the child
reproduces the language quite spontaneously. TPR attempts to duplicate this
effect in the language classroom.
In the classroom the teacher plays the role of parent. The teacher starts by
saying a word (‘sit’) or a phrase (‘look at me please’) and demonstrating an
action. The teacher then says the command and the students all do the
action. After repeating a few times it is possible to extend this by asking
the students to repeat the word as they do the action. When they feel
confident with the word or phrase you can then ask the students to direct
each other or the whole class.
TPR can be used to teach and practice many things:
* Vocabulary connected with actions (run, jump, stand, sit)
* Tenses past/present/future and continuous aspects, such as routines (every
morning I clean my teeth, I make my bed, I eat breakfast)
* Classroom language (pick up the pencil, close your book)
* Imperatives/instructions (stand up, sit down)
* Story-telling (children respond to different parts of the story)
When using TPR at home, remember that children need lots of visual clues to
help them memorize a word or command. If you use gesture, pictures and
movement to emphasize the word, your child will find it easier to memorize
the words. Don’t ‘over-use’ TPR, just a few minutes every day playing ‘Simon
Says’ maybe fun, but not all day, every day. Reverse the roles sometimes and
have your child give you instructions. Play a robot game and get them to
guide you around the house, crashing into stuff if they get the command
wrong. As your children get older they will tire of TPR; however, by that
time hopefully they will be fluent!
Use TPR for a few minutes a day and the results should be impressive. You
can even use songs and video and do aerobics together, responding physically
to specific words in songs, or actions on a music video.
OK, enough exercise for today, I’m off for a cup of tea and a lie down. I’m
getting too old to teach TPR these days; I’ll have to find myself the
equivalent of a teaching ‘stunt double’.
You can find more information on TPR at this TPR Web Site <http://www.tpr
source.com/> and there are some good activities on the BBC Web Site for
young learners <www.cbeebies.com> - check out the Tweenies and ‘Copy Me Do’
for some really catchy dance moves! Check out ‘Bogglesworld’ for a ‘Spell
Book’ containing lots of TPR activities for young children
That’s all for this week. As always, if you have any questions, suggestions
or lame jokes, you can mail me at: [email protected] .com. Enjoy
spending time with your kids.
Welcome to Chiang Mai:
by Tess Itura
What can we do to help?
Increasingly, you’re reading in the Chiang Mai Mail
about charities, events which support charities, organisations which
need volunteers, abuses of human rights, Burma, street dogs, Hill
Tribes, single parents, orphans, refugees, poverty, drug and substance
abuse, AIDS, - the list goes on. And on. Whether you’re already here, or
planning to come here, you will have realised that such issues are a
great deal more “in your face” in Thailand than they are in your home
country. Yes, of course you were aware of poverty, of abuse, of
alcoholism and crime at home, but most of us, in our relatively
comfortable lives in the West, were unable to take an active part in
making other peoples’ lives more acceptable. Responsibilities of family,
of work, of maintaining a home; all these things usually came higher up
the list of “must do’s”. Many of us will have salved our social
consciences by donating whenever possible, the tremendous world wide
response to the devastation and death caused by the tsunami demonstrated
that our hearts are in the right place, (even if some of our governments
needed a little prodding), and many more of us will have worked with the
disadvantaged in some way through our churches. However, we were also
aware that our governments provided social security to many people, and
the major charitable organisations seemed always to be in funds,
supported by the first world economies in which they were based.
When you arrive in a new country, it takes effort and concentration to
construct a lifestyle and get used to doing things somewhat differently.
Most people need time to adjust and to relax when everything is sorted;
I called my time my “gap year”! During that time, I made new friends,
and took a serious look around my new environment. What I began to see,
with new eyes, caused some concern, which wasn’t helped a lot by reading
the local news in this paper! As a result, I started to research on the
internet. What I found convinced me that there is a real need for
foreign residents in Chiang Mai and its surrounding areas to become
positively involved in helping those who cannot help themselves.
Donating is fine, and very welcome, but hands-on involvement shows real
results. Many of my friends help out at orphanages, both government
supported and those run by religious charities; others volunteer to
teach English to monks at Wat Suan Dok. The animal charities both in and
outside the city always welcome volunteers; if you are a dog-lover, Care
for Dogs and the Lanna Dog Rescue will train you in basic care. A large
part of their work is involved with going to the many temples which
house stray dogs in order to vaccinate and sterilise in an effort to
both reduce the number of street dogs in the city and to prevent the
spread of diseases including rabies. The elephant camps will also
welcome volunteers, although is has to be said that the Elephant Nature
Park, the only “as nature intended” home for these wonderful beasts, is
at present a commercial organisation and you must pay to work there.
However, I understand that the owner is in the process of converting it
to a foundation. Friends who go there regularly tell me that is has been
one of the most wonderful experiences of their lives. A limited in
numbers but essential service for single mothers and young victims of
domestic abuse and rape, most of whom come from the minority groups
outside the city, is provided by the Wildflower Home, who house, care
for, heal and train a small number of these unfortunate women. There are
at present expanding their operations, and need volunteers for
construction work, agricultural work and general help. Links to their
website and those of other charities who desperately need your help are
at www. thegivingtrust.org. If you have an interest in alternative
therapy, a wonderful way to help would be to take a Reiki healing
training, and commit some of your spare time to going on organised
visits to hospitals and psychiatric facilities to give healing to those
who really need it. You can find out more, including how to become a
practitioner, at www.asia nhealingartscenter.com. This technique really
does work, and you can use it on yourself as well. A “win-win”
A new and welcome way to give of your time and experience, and also to
learn more about Thai life and customs, has been provided recently by Dr
Duentemduang na Chiengmai, the recently elected Mayor of the city. She
is determined to make Chiang Mai a “Green City”, and, having made the
welcome statement that “the residents of Chiang Mai, whether Thai or
foreign - we are all ‘Chiang Mai people’”, has inaugurated our
involvement with our city by asking for volunteers to help in certain
areas of the Songkran Festival. She has also indicated that our help and
advice would be welcome in other projects. For further information on
this, and advice on how to help, please visit the website of the Chiang
Mai Friends Group, www.retirein chiangmai.com.
Incomers to Chiang Mai have many reasons for their decision to undertake
the complete change in lifestyle that the move from their home countries
represents; but all of us benefit in many ways from being here. Whatever
our previous jobs, abilities and concerns were, we all have many talents
which could be of use in giving back just a little in return for our new
lives, friends and activities. One of the greatest rewards we will
receive from doing so is the feeling that we really “belong”.
This article is published courtesy
of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” information folder, available as an
email attachment from: [email protected]
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao
study passion flowers
The common name of this lovely plant refers, of course, to the passion of
Christ, not erotic passion - although recent studies with chemical extracts
from the plant have been found to improve health and benefit your love life!
Catholic missionaries in South America used this flower as a convenient tool
to demonstrate to the natives that a sign from God which explained the
Easter Passion could be found amongst their indigenous flora. The ten
petals, they decided, represented the Disciples of Christ, minus Judas
Iscariot and doubting Thomas. The five sepals were the four apostles plus St
Paul, and the many stamens the multitude that condemned Christ to death. The
pistil divided into three sections represented the three nails that pinned
him to the cross.
Here in Thailand, Passiflora edulis, in its purple and yellow-fruited
form with black and white flowers, is commonly seen. Instead of eating all
the seeds, try sowing some as they will germinate like mustard and cress.
You will, as a happy result, have plenty of climbing plants to ramble up
trees or along your balcony and which will reward you with tasty and
nourishing fruit. This fruit can also be blended with plenty of sugar, ice
and water to make a delicious soporific drink, ideal before bedtime or at
any time you want to feel relaxed. Many varieties exist, all with beautiful
flowers in many colours, shapes and sizes; all are garden-worthy and with
edible fruit. If you see one which looks different on your travels abroad,
don’t forget to collect its seed, as Thailand could well benefit from more
wonderful examples to enhance its gardens and add variety to the fruit
These plants are the natural food for the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly,
and if the leaf petiol is examined closely you will find “butterfly egg”
mimics which deter the female from laying too many eggs on one plant. If
this should happen, the large number of resultant caterpillars would
voraciously devour all the leaves.
Tip of the Week
If you have trees don’t be afraid to plant climbers to ramble
through them, when they flower they will provide added interest when
the tree is out of flower itself.
The Battle of Browsers
Do you remember Netscape Navigator and how it used to look on our old
“boxed” computer screen? That same “navigator” was the first commercial
internet browser introduced in 1994. It started off very well, being the
dominant browser with up to 90% of users worldwide. The only competitor that
Netscape had to battle with at the time was Microsoft’s one and only
Internet Explorer. Referred to as the First Browser War, It was a
beginning of a ruthless competition. And eventually, the year 1998 gave way
to Netscape’s defeat with IE souring to over a 90% monopolizing share of
internet surfers. It was evident that IE enjoyed a sweet symphony of being
the leader in the browser war from then.
At that point of time, it was obvious to say that if you have browsed the
internet, then you have used Internet Explorer at least once in a lifetime.
Or if you are a Windows user, you are sure to have used it and probably are
a big fan too.
During subsequent years, there came along a lot of new names and brands with
new features and designs. But the one that we have surely heard of and which
has really shown success is Mozilla Firefox. With newcomers becoming more
and more popular, it brought us to an era of a Second Browser War. By
this time, we’ve barely heard of the name “Netscape”. After a long struggle
with its competitors, Netscape’s doubtful existence officially died a cold
death on March 1, 2008.
Let’s look at the top three warriors that are battling it out in today’s
Internet Explorer still leads in the browser race today.
Including all versions, IE holds an over 50% user share. Its popularity
significantly owes to the fact that Windows operating systems comes
pre-installed with IE. While over 85% of the people around the world use
Microsoft Windows operating systems, it is no doubt that majority of
internet surfers are attached to IE. However, recently, as numerous others
have proven this war to be a tough one, IE has been struggling to maintain
its superiority. Introduced with the public release of IE7 in 2006 were
features like tabbed browsing, phishing filter and search tool. It might
have proved a little success but by this time, these were no longer
exclusive features. The competitors would have emerged with the same and
even more features to offer their users. IE7, therefore, did not succeed as
expected. Nevertheless, Microsoft announced its beta release of IE8
recently, which we eagerly wait to see some great enhancements.
The closest competition to IE today is Firefox, and to be exact,
according to W3Schools.com, the percentage of Firefox users is now above
35%, which has never stopped growing since its first release. Standing in
the second position, Firefox is an open source browser developed by Mozilla
and supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Firefox has certain highlights
that definitely please its users. These include features that allow users to
add extensions or change the browser’s interface by applying downloadable
skins. Moreover, being an open-source platform, independent software
developers can create extensions on their own to tune up the browser in the
way they want and share them with Firefox fans around the world. This
creates a strong community of users who will always try to improve the
browser. While the testing version is already out, Firefox is giving
finishing touches to its new 3.0 version.
Safari, an official browser by Apple, is one of the youngest
entries into this war. Having only about 2% users in hand, Safari has a long
way to go to get closer to IE and Firefox. However, its growth rate is
believed to be very interesting. The infamous iPhone and iPod Touch that
have taken the world by storm come with Safari as the default browser. With
more such gadgets being sold, the popularity of this browser is inevitably
boosted. Just recently, Apple released its latest Safari update for Windows,
the 3.1 version, claiming it to be the fastest browser. With this, Apple
does hope to widen its market on the Windows platform.
The world has already bid farewell to one of the major warriors of this war,
while there are still stronger ones working extremely hard to dom inate this
battle. As the technology devotees pursue the fate of this war, common users
enjoy the result of new and better products. The war has a lot more coming
its way for us to expect the unexpected. We shall wait and watch.
Site of the Week
Just for Geeks
This is one website travellers must
not miss. TripIt is a unique, free online tool for travellers to
organize all their travel plans in one place. To start with, all you
have to do is forward your travel itineraries to a given email address
and they will all be organized for you. The tool will put your flight,
hotel and car rental confirmations on one page which can be easily
accessible anytime on the website or even through email. You can print
these itineraries while you are travelling or even share these travel
plans with your friends.
Does the word computer seem like “100110110” to you? Ask
Mr. Tech Savvy for help. Or if you’d like to impress the ladies with your
computer skills, suggest a tip and find it featured here next week!
Go ahead, send them to
Till next week… Tata ;-)
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