Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Your Health & Happiness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiang Mai

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Death and Taxes

I have for you a 100 percent guarantee this week, and it is normally very difficult to get a 100 percent assurance in medicine. However, stay here long enough and the tax man will catch you up, and stay here long enough and you are going to die here. Yes, we are all going to die someday. Even me, though I will let you know when I find the elixir of life, and I’ll sell you a bottle.
I think we are all agreed that Thailand is a great place to live (or otherwise we wouldn’t be here). However, it may not be such a great place to die.
Let me explain a little. Living in Thailand, we are subject to Thai law. What can or may happen in other countries may not be the norm in this country. We are also living in a society that is predominantly Buddhist, so there is a greater importance given on “life” than in the West. If you don’t believe me, have you ever tried to have your cat or dog put down (euthanized)? What is done in every veterinary clinic in the West is not done here. We are living in the mystic East, and don’t forget it.
Now let’s look a little at our own impending demise (it’s coming, so better get ready for it). Most countries do not allow euthanasia, though it is not too difficult to have aggressive treatment withheld in the terminal situation. This is not the same in Thailand. Thai law and Thai medical ethics place an equally high importance on the maintenance of life, even with terminal cases. Where we might say, “Why resuscitate someone with terminal cancer?” that goes against the Thai medical perception of what should happen in the terminal situation.
Now I am not, in this column, going to debate the rights and wrongs of either side of the argument. The medical and legal philosophies are divergent, but I know what I want to happen to me in such a terminal situation. Or I should say, what I don’t want to happen to me in the terminal situation. And I sure as Hell don’t want someone leaping on my chest and restarting my heart if I am terminal. I don’t want to live for another week, or month, or whatever, with tubes in every available orifice, a respirator breathing for me and nutrition being delivered via an intravenous line, while I am unable to communicate with the world. However, if you do not let people know before you are inexorably terminal, the above scenario is what will happen.
What you have to do is to make what is called a “Living Will” (even though it is really a “dying will”). Now this is a medico-legal document, so you need to run it by your own legal person, and to be legal in Thailand, it must also be written in Thai, remember.
The legality of requesting no aggressive intervention in your terminal phase lies in a universal Patient’s Bill of Rights, which does allow for patients to refuse medical treatment - but this has to be done whilst of sound mind. When you arrive in ICU it is a little late, and it can be argued that by that stage your soundness of mind can be queried.
So you should have your Living Will made out while you are not in the terminal phase of life. In my hospital here, this document can be attached to your hospital notes, with a ‘pop-up’ advising the physicians that this document exists. If nothing else, this does state your wishes, and (hopefully) the medical system will give it the requisite importance, even though it may take a little persuading, being contrary to usual situation in the Thai society.
Please note, this Living Will is not a request for personal euthanasia, but a statement requesting the right to die as naturally as possible, and with dignity. Think about this. Research this via the internet. But do something before you are terminal and unable to express your wishes coherently.
And so endeth the lesson for this week.

 

Your Health & Happiness: Health, Fitness and Weight Loss

Where are we at, so far?

Maybe, at this point, I should mention how strange an experience writing this series has been for me, as my whole UK work experience in fitness training, advising, teaching, counselling, etc, has been on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis. Obviously, this series has been aimed at however many people in a once-removed sense; I have had to be careful what I write! Advice given without previous discussion, perhaps giving only a little knowledge, can be a dangerous thing! Consequently, caution and generalities have been my watchword, and, hopefully, those who have carefully followed my advice are, at, least, still standing!
To those of you who have found this column useful and have devised an exercise regime from it, how are you doing? I would like some feedback by email, if possible; you could send to me on my wife’s email address, [email protected], as I am practically computer-illiterate - I’m sure she will pass on your comments! So, where to go from here? Because we are all individuals, any information we receive will be utilised as we see fit, but, like the song says, “It ain’t necessarily so...” Proven principles are a constant, but application is a variable, hence my cautious approach to all this. Recommend one course of action and some people will follow it constructively; others will impose their own convenient interpretation. The whole point of a planned fitness and weight loss regime is that it should be of benefit, physically, mentally and emotionally - and the truth is that any regime’s requirements are invariably less than you expect. What is more suitable for you? A 5 kilometre jog around the area or an afternoon working in the garden? How many miles would you have to walk to burn the calories in a McDonald’s cheeseburger - answer - 11 miles!
The only straightforward answer is regular exercise and a sensible diet. Who knows, by practising these precepts you may come to actually enjoy a higher activity level and improve your lifestyle as a result, thereby achieving a healthy balance. In the real world, it is only when things have gone too far, resulting in obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, angina, late-onset diabetes, etc, that focused, advised exercise is necessary. If the rest of us are wise enough to remain active, eat sensibly, and in doing so avoid the above complications, that’s OK. Two more things I should mention - everyday energy levels, both physical and mental, are invariably improved by increased physical effort, and, as we are all genetically programmed, some people will be more prone to health problems than are others. The bottom line is simple - if you are fit, you stand a far better chance as you get older of remaining healthy!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Is there something wrong with me? Every night I go out, and that’s most nights, I meet some of the most beautiful girls in the world and I fall in love again and again and again. This would be OK if I could remember which bar and which girl, but when I go back the next day there’s even more beauties and I go through it all again. Is this something that happens to all holidaymakers, or am I just lucky (or unlucky)? I say unlucky because it all seems to be costing me a lot of money, and Thailand is supposed to be a cheap place to come to for your holidays.
Confused
Dear Confused,
You certainly are a confused holidaymaker, aren’t you, my Petal. However, Thailand is still cheap, provided you don’t eat rice or drink petrol, but it is your ‘kid in the candy store’ approach to life that is draining your wallet. I am also sure that you are drinking Love Potion Number 9, which in Thailand is generally sold in green bottles and the lovely ladies in the bar will be making sure you get enough for maximum effect. Do you remember the gorgeous young thing, with her hand on your leg, saying, “Wun moah beeyah?” That is neither Thai nor Isaan dialect, but is the universal bar girl’s approach to ensuring intoxication in their “lub you for ebber tee rak” of the evening. Not only does Love Potion Number 9 affect your vision, but it also aids in the opening of your wallet and causes large denominations of money to fall out. If you are very lucky, your credit card will not fall out as well, because Love Potion Number 9 also aids in helping you reciting PIN numbers after several bottles are consumed. My advice is to only drink at the bar within 50 meters of your hotel (there will be at least two within that radius) and to only have 1,000 baht in your wallet before going out.

Dear Hillary,
Where do all the dozeys come from that write in for help? Every week they bob up with another ridiculous problem, including that Mister Singha, though he has been quiet for a couple of months (thank goodness). Thailand is the easiest place in the world to live in, so why do they have so many problems? They should thank their lucky stars they are able to live here, instead of moaning all the time. I live here and do everything here and I don’t have any problems.
Living and Loving It
Dear Living and Loving It,
I am so pleased you are so pleased with yourself, Petal. I take it that ‘humility’ is your middle name. Really, it is time that you learned that not everyone is as fortunate as yourself, and for many, Thailand is not such an easy place, with strange customs, language problems and many distractions and traps for the unwary. Have you never bought a buffalo, or bought a young lady a drink? You should thank your lucky stars you have come through it all so easily.

Dear Hillary,
I am 45 years old and I consider myself to be a fairly normal person. Married with a couple of kids and ask anybody and they would say I’m a happy person, but I’m not. It sounds stupid, but I have got the hots for the maid at work. We smile every day, but it’s got no closer than that, but I feel that she is returning my smiles with more than just being polite. I have not been game enough to speak to her or even touch her as I have a good, well paid, responsible position at work and I would not want to lose that. The other thing is my husband also works for the same company, and I wouldn’t want to hurt him, even though life at home is pretty boring these days. What should I do, Hillary? I can’t ask anyone else, and sorry if I haven’t signed this letter, but I am sure you understand why.
(No Name)
Dear No Name,
You already know what to do, my Petal. This whole thing is just a flight of fancy. Many women at your age wonder what it would be like to have an affair (with either sex) and you are beginning to imagine something out of the ordinary, and transferring your emotions to this poor maid at work, who you have not even spoken to. Does this sound the logical way a woman in a “responsible position at work” would carry on? Mrs. No Name, stop daydreaming, let the maid carry on her job without being jeopardized by you, and just realize that this is a passing phase in your life. If things have become boring in the family home, then start making life less boring. Take time to go to the movies or a picnic on the beach, or a drive to the zoo. There is plenty for you to do, responsibly, that will not hurt your own job, or your husband’s. Take heart in the fact that you are not abnormal, you are just reacting foolishly to what are some of the normal things in life.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Professional Portraits - with minimal equipment

Taking great portraits of people is thought of as one of the harder aspects of amateur photography, but this can be done using a minimal amount of equipment. You don’t need a battery of floodlights, the on-camera flash will do, and the only extra equipment you need is a chair, two meters of black velvet and a large mirror.
As I’ve said before - great pictures don’t just happen. Great pictures are ‘made’. So let’s look at some pro tricks that can be adapted for use by the amateur.
To start with, we’ll get some of the techo bits out of the way. You should choose a lens of around 100 mm focal length (135 mm is my preferred “portrait” lens) or set your zoom to around that focal length. If you are using a wide angle lens (anything numerically less than 50 mm), then the end result will be disappointing, no matter what you do. Unless you like making people look distorted with big noses!
The second important technical bit is to set your lens aperture to around f 5.6. At that aperture you will get the face in focus and the background will gently melt away - provided that you actually do focus on the eyes!
Perhaps a word or two about focus here as it is very important in portrait photos. I always use a split image focus screen and focus on the lower eyelid. This makes sure that the eyes will be exactly in focus. If you are using Autofocus (AF), then again you should make sure you focus on the eyes and use the ‘focus lock’ function so you will not lose it.
Next item is the pose itself. For some reason known only to the village headmen, Thai people like to stand rigidly to attention when having their photos taken. Do not do it! Please, please do not even have your subject sitting directly square on to the camera. This is not a passport photograph we are going to take. It is to be a flattering portrait.
Here’s what to do. Sit the subject in a chair and turn the chair at 45 degrees to the camera, so the subject is not facing directly at the photographer. Now when you want to take the shot you get the subject to slowly look towards you and take the shot that way. You can also get a shot with them looking away from you. You should also position the chair about three or four meters in front of any wall, so you don’t get harsh shadows.
Now let’s get down to the most important part - the lighting. We need to do two things with our lighting. Firstly light the face and secondly light the hair. The answer is the mirror and a large piece of black velvet.
Take the black velvet first. You will need a piece around 2 meters square and the idea is to place the velvet close to one side of the subject, but not actually in the photograph. You get as close as possible and the black will absorb much of the light and allow no reflection of light back onto that side of the subject’s face. Hang the velvet over a clothes drying stand or similar to make life easy for yourself.
Now the mirror. This device will give you the power of having a second light source for no cost! Now since you are firing light into the subject from the top of your camera, you position the mirror at about 30-45 degrees tilted downwards, placed behind and to the side of the subject, pointing basically at the sitters ear. The side you choose is the side opposite the black velvet. Again, you must make sure that the mirror is not in the viewfinder.
You now have a primary light source (the on-camera flash), a secondary light source and a light absorber to give a gradation of light across the subject’s face.
Experiment with the positions of each, but you will be surprised at how much life this will give your portraits. Takes a little setting up, but it is worth it.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The efficient market hypothesis … forget it

The efficient market hypothesis has decreasingly few adherents, rightly so in our view as even investment theorists would find it hard to make sense of the huge indiscriminate price movements in financial markets over recent months. Our favoured fund managers, Miton Asset Management, are passionate believers in active fund management, and the results of their range of funds have shown the substantial value that can be added over time by spotting and taking advantage of inefficiencies in financial markets.
The best opportunities for active managers are those in the byways of global markets. Large companies tend to have hundreds of analysts and investors closely following their fortunes, each competing to take a different view from accepted wisdom. Although it is possible to add value following well-researched large companies’ shares it is naturally easier to do so in those areas where comparatively few investors are focusing their attention.
All asset classes, like most areas of financial markets, have their own cycle. It is always nerve-racking holding investments when they go through periods when they are out of favour although these are normally the very best periods to invest. Certainly this has proved to be the case for the Miton Asset Management who believe that now, more than ever before, is the time when the men will be sorted from the boys.
However, to understand why this is so it is necessary to understand why issues that most investors are regarding as problems in connection with a potential investment are in fact opportunities. Exploiting these opportunities requires an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of the market, what drives a certain given asset, and the continual evolution of the sector in question. Please remember that evolution does also require death as well as life.
Despite the negativity in the market at the moment there are still great opportunities to be had. Just look for companies with a low rating, i.e. a low P/E ratio and high dividend yield (you cannot go far wrong if you look for utility companies with a P/E ratio of 8 to 14 returning a dividend yield of 5%+). Of course, all companies’ share prices fluctuate in the short-term, driven by the supply and demand for their shares, but ultimately the share price is a judgement of investors’ expectations of the future performance of that company. Part of that judgement will be an assessment of the quality of the company’s management and part will be the attractions of its business. This is where a good fund manager will show his true colours as he will be able to choose the what will be good for the fund he/she runs and what will not. This is what will set the manager ABOVE the benchmark indices.
What has further confused things at this time is the detrimental affect that investment trusts have had on the market. There have been a large number of specialist funds listed on AIM (the Alternative Investment Market) over the past two years, predominately investing in hedge funds, overseas property and emerging markets. Many of these funds are poorly understood, and because they were launched with a few large founder shareholders they have attracted little following from analysts. With difficult market conditions some of the founder shareholders have become indiscriminate sellers in recent weeks. This has meant that even when the performance of the funds has lived up to expectations their share prices have tended not to, falling to steep discounts to their net asset value. The same has been true of many traditional investment trusts listed on the main London market, and there are now lots of investment trusts whose share prices stand at discount levels not seen since the depths of the bear market in early 2003.
In the same way as fund managers specialising in direct equities need to carefully research companies prior to buying their shares, investors in investment trusts also need to fully understand the unique characteristics of the funds they invest in. Often investment trusts can appear superficially expensive or cheap at a headline discount level, but analysis shows there to be a good reason for the existing rating.
This is one of the reasons we prefer Unit Trusts as clients are not subject to the idiosyncrasies of this kind of fund. Is the market in a downward phase at the moment? Absolutely! But remember what we said above, it is also the perfect moment for opportunity IF you nous and cajones for it.
The current liquidity crisis, which is a result of the credit crisis started by the problems of sub-prime which emanated from the ridiculously easy credit conditions given by lenders over the last ten to fifteen years, has suddenly thrown up a great opportunity for liquidity providers. Given all the reporting in the press, you would think that we might as well all pack up and go home. However, despite what has gone on with Bear Stearns etc, these tragedies should not be confused with funds themselves. Just because there may be problems with one or two funds and it should be noted that these are related to banks and not fund management companies per se, it does not mean that every fund manager has lost his marbles and gone gaga. In the UK, if one looks beyond the ABS market, there is only one company that is indicating it will give zero returns to its investors and this is probably due to regulatory problems rather than incompetence or the withdrawal of leverage by prime brokers.
Whilst there are obviously detailed analyses that we do not know about, if one looks at the overall scheme of things then the funds that have been in the brown stuff are the ones tied in with the credit markets - especially the on-balance sheet rather than the off-balance sheet credit instruments as these have kept liquidity in the current markets. Those funds which are feeling the pinch have elected to gate redemptions. Whilst this may be inconvenient for the customer it does seem to be the best solution when we are seeing incomprehensible withdrawals of liquidity. However, the important thing is that there is no indication that that the fundamentals underlying these funds’ investments have been compromised. Therefore, this has to be seen as a good buying opportunity. However, I believe there is still the panic factor in the marketplace which will mean there are still more losses to be seen here so I would hold off a bit longer.
Also, it must be remembered that the prime brokers are not taking out leverage across each and every asset class. Equity, futures and OTC currency funds have not seen big increases in margin requirements. Nonetheless, repo terms and margining terms for on-balance sheet credit instruments have been a lot more cautious in recent times. This again is a big buying signal.
Yet again, it must be emphasized that not all asset classes have done badly. Gold has gone over USD1,000 per ounce and oil is over USD130 per barrel. Whilst there may be some profit taking over the short term many think that gold will continue to heading north. Long/short equity has also done well as have many multi-asset class funds. For the more cautious it may well be an idea to use these as a haven.
Despite all the nervousness and worry, the current problems and volatility gives people a great opportunity. Without doubt, the credit markets will come back to rational behaviour. It is then that good risk adjusted returns will be available to those investors that have kept their “powder dry”. And finally, as Rothschild once famously said: “Buy on the sound of cannons and sell on the sound of trumpets.”

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

Ladyboys, Thaksin’s team, rumours of a coup and, of course, Burma

The British press, radio and television, have used the word ‘Thailand’ a great deal in recent weeks - often in a handy phrase ‘Burma’s nearest neighbour’ - and in other topics. Sadly, it has to be said, the Kingdom is known widely for several things besides its obvious attractions as a tourist destination, and not all of these are positive. It needs a serious re vamp of its public relations, what is called in political circles ‘spin’ if it is to recapture the image of - say - a decade or more ago, especially in the face of competition on all fronts from Vietnam and to a less extent Cambodia and Laos.
Thailand gets into world news when some excited journalist picks up a story - as recently - about changes in ‘the law on castration’, as it affects young people wanting a sex change. The image that Thailand is full of lady boys persists and is exacerbated by half baked information. Visitors to the country over the years with their narrow view of ‘entertainment’ and what Pattaya and Bangkok offer are only too ready to dredge up stories of their ‘encounters’.
Another easy story is anything concerning Thaksin’s team, since the ex-Prime Minister bought the British club Manchester City and hired a famous manager and then became dissatisfied with his performance. To be honest, this has been on the back of the rather more important news that surrounded the election and Thaksin’s supposed role in it. The fact that he is very rich and has a home in England adds to the news value. Since, apparently, more players come from abroad than England and other, better, teams are owned by outsiders this is not really that original. It just gives a whiff of ‘scandal’ to the story.
In the more serious papers - among them The Economist and The Guardian - reports of a rumoured coup in Thailand were also aired. As I write this, there has been no follow up to the original stories and one can only hope that nothing develops from them. The last coup was, unsurprisingly, widely criticised and led to a fall off in tourism and also, it would seem, aid from the U.SA. The widely reported stories of fighting in the South seem to get confused in peoples’ minds. That and explosions in Bangkok get the headlines. Is it because bad news attracts the news desk or because negative news filters out and ‘soft’ or good news has no immediate appeal?
There used to be a whole raft of television reports, (very feeble admittedly and usually centred around Phuket and Bangkok), on Thailand as a holiday destination and the same went for the newspapers and magazines with journalist hopping there for a gushing report or two. These seem to have dried up. Doesn’t the Thai tourism industry care about publicity any more? There is an increasing perception here that the Russians now ‘own’ and holiday in Pattaya and that it is an increasingly dangerous place to be for tourists. No counter publicity or stress on the virtues of Hua Hin, the wonderful islands of the South, let alone Chiang Mai seems to counter this.
And finally to Burma. The news continues to be bad, if not worse than a month or so ago and most reporting of what is happening, (or not, as the case appears to be), stems from reporters based in Bangkok or northern Thailand. Or, in the case of a few brave reporters from behind the lines, actually in Burma. Because of Thailand’s economic relations with Burma and a shared border and religion, Thailand’s role - or would-be role - is seen as far more relevant to the situation than that of other ASEAN countries. I said last week that its role could and should be vital in the rebuilding of the areas devastated by the cyclone and consequently in the rebuilding of a relationship between Burma and the ASEAN countries and after that with the rest of the world.
The events of last September seem to have been forgotten and the same fate may await the more recent catastrophe. There can be no greater external cause which the current Thai government could concern itself with than helping to bring aid and future development about in its nearest neighbour. It seems that much has been done and without help from across the border the situation would be even worse. If Thailand wants to build its reputation in the eyes of the world that would be its best move and let the gossip mongers look elsewhere for their stories. It is impossible to imagine that there will not be further trouble in Burma - talks of unrest among the victims of Nargis and those who know the recent referendum was a complete farce and a lie, continue to come from the few reporters there. It’s increasingly realised in the West that the real solution lies with pressure from Burma’s ‘allies’ rather than from the monumental wave of criticism that emanates from different cultures, which have a different role to play in eventually helping to rebuild Burma after years of neglect.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Sex and the City: The Movie:
US Comedy/Romance - Fans of the television show and Sarah Jessica Parker should be very happy indeed with this film incarnation, on the melancholy theme that fairy-tale endings don’t necessarily mean happily ever after. I found it a real chick-flick; see it if you like pictures about very rich and witty, well-dressed but vapid upper-class women and their problems with men, marriage, and living together. Rated R in the US for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language. Mixed or average reviews.
Good Morning Luang Prabang/Sabaidee Luang Prabang: Thai/Lao Drama/Romance - Thai superstar Ananda Everingham, part Laotian himself, is extraordinarily charming as a partly-Laotian Thai photographer assigned a photo shoot in Laos. He is reluctant to return to his homeland, which he left many years before, as he feels estranged from his country. This relaxed and sweet love story/travelogue is a valentine to the land and people of Laos. It’s a Thai-Lao co-production, and marks the first Laotian feature film in nearly 20 years. At Airport Plaza only.
The Other Boleyn Girl: UK/US Drama/History/Romance - A sumptuous and sensual (and somewhat inaccurate) tale of intrigue, romance and betrayal set against the backdrop of a defining moment in European history, The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of two beautiful sisters, Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) Boleyn who, driven by their family’s blind ambition, compete for the love of the handsome and passionate King Henry VIII (Eric Bana). Both women will share the King’s bed, but only the one whom Henry loves the most will rise to the throne and take power as his Queen of England. One sister will fail, and the other will die. Mixed or average reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
Somtum: Thai Action/Comedy - Stars the giant Australian wrestler and strongman Nathan Jones, who was widely popular as a martial arts fighter in previous Thai films such as Tom Yum Goong. Here he plays a fighter of immense bulk, but of equally immense timidity, and with a heart of gold, as he and a bunch of Thai children befriend each other.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: UK/US Adventure/Family/Fantasy - This second installment of the Narnia series was the top film in Thailand last week, as it chronicles the return to Narnia of the four British kids who were crowned kings and queens of the enchanted land at the end of the first film. I find the children to be spoiled rich brats, and so English upper-class! When the four finally get to a beach in Narnia, and decide to go swimming, they take off their shoes before taking the plunge, but leave the rest of their clothes on! Edmund even keeps his tie on! Really, isn’t that carrying British modesty a bit too far?
If you are having problems in explaining the religious symbolism to your kids, or to yourself, help is available! There’s a whole cottage industry of books that have been written as a guide to the correct interpretations of the Christian lessons to be gleaned from the “Prince Caspian” book and movie. One I looked at is “A Family Guide to Prince Caspian” by Christin Ditchfield, which includes biblical citations and devotional readings. I really don’t know how people got along before this book. It’s available for $8.99 from Amazon.com.
Generally favorable reviews.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: US Adventure/Action - I really like Cate! As Irina Spalko, a “Stalin’s favorite” Soviet scientist and KGB agent, Cate Blanchett is marvelous. With a Russian accent as thick as caviar, it seems that Blanchett’s portrayal didn’t sit well with the real-life Russians. They are calling for a boycott of the film and even told Harrison Ford not to visit their country, warning him “You will be beaten and despised.” Generally favorable reviews.
Scheduled
for Jun 12
Kung Fu Panda:
US Animation/Comedy - An animated comedy set in the legendary world of ancient China, about a lazy panda who must somehow become a Kung Fu Master in order to save his valley from a villainous snow leopard. Jackie Chan voices one of the characters.
The Incredible Hulk: US Action/Sci-Fi - Starring Edward Norton. Not a sequel to the 2003 movie. Not an alternate origins story. Sort of ignores everything that went before. It’s the second film with Marvel Comics as producers, after the very successful Iron Man.
Scheduled
for Jun 13
The Happening:
US/India Drama/Sci-Fi - M. Night Shyamalan wanted his new film to open on Friday the 13th, and most of the world is going along with his wishes, hoping he is at last back on track with a movie worthy of his early promise (The Sixth Sense). Mark Wahlberg plays a science teacher who tries to figure out why the world has suddenly gone crazy. Rated R in the US for violent and disturbing images.


Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

The Longest Day

The endless Thursday of travel begins at dawn with final scouring of our bungalow for sublet to a quiet librarian we met on the Internet, possibly an ax murderer, which won’t affect us, but we’ll probably return home to find our neighbors buried under the deck. We board a two o’clock flight to watch movies and eat our way to America.

No decimal point. Petrol almost $500 per gallon?

Scraping together my remaining frequent flyer miles on Northwest Airlines, I succeeded in scheduling flights on their partner China Air in hopes of actually making it to America. Northwest has been in a terminal tailspin with lousy service and canceled flights, earning their new name “Northworst.” In 2005 they declared bankruptcy, as did Delta Airlines, and this year these two industry disasters are uniting into the world’s largest and most inept airline, proving the old adage, “two negatives make a positively ridiculous merger.” Burying the Northworst moniker, they are consolidating under Delta, which stands for “Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport.”
The China Air attendants are friendly, even though they can’t understand my blathering of the Thai language since I routinely forget they’re Chinese. The Chiang Mai-Taiwan flight facilitates a Bangkok bypass with a three-and-a-half-hour leg and a four-hour layover in Taipei that seems to last four days before the next eleven-hour flight. The first meal is an impressive number of items meant to distract us from the fact that none of them have much flavor. Over the hard hair-dos of middle-aged spinsters, I attempt to watch a screen seven rows ahead showing “Dan in Real Life” which should have remained in real life and never made it into a movie. To stave off death by boredom in Taipei, we order from a food court counter displaying massive entrées fashioned from colorful plastic but receive much smaller lumps in varying shades of overcooked gray-green which taste exactly like colorful plastic.
After a déjà vu meal on Flight Number Two, everyone around us goes comatose with gaping mouths creating a cacophony of snores, coughing and hacking that drown out the sound of the engines. On my own personal video screen, I tackle “Mad Money” with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah in a tedious, overacting contest, then watch “The Bucket List” with aging actor Jack Nicholson doing his usual splendid job of portraying aging actor Jack Nicholson, and somehow make it through “Cloverfield” just before my eyeballs fall backwards into the space that formerly held my brain. Filmed entirely as if through a home video camera, we’re first introduced to a bunch of people we don’t like in New York, who are then violently introduced to a monster suddenly destroying the city. For the next hour, the idiot we like the least carries the camera as they all flee madly shouting “Oh, my god! Oh, my god!” over and over and over, while we pray the monster will eat all of them so the never-ending dark, blurry shots of chaos will soon be over, over, over. We shove breakfast down on top of dinner.
Twenty-some hours after leaving Chiang Mai, we arrive in San Francisco at 7:30 pm, still on Thursday. As 600 people funnel like cattle into the narrow, roped gridlock, an elderly woman starts yelling at me, and at people next to me I’ve never met, complaining that we’re butting in line. We’re not butting; we’re all just zombies meandering. She gets louder and nastier; everyone stares at her and smirks; some tell her to “Shut up already!” She screams at a passing security guard who comes over, peruses the situation and says, “Ma’am, there are three lines here. You’re in one of them.” The crowd applauds.
While delivering us to my cousin’s vacant home about 11 pm, the Super Shuttle stops at a petrol station so I zip in to buy some snacks since my relatives are out of town. Waiting in line with two prepackaged sandwiches, chips and drinks, I learn about the weather and political climate on TV: it’s a numbing 57 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind; newscasters debate whether Bush will invade Iran; the snacks cost $20; the shuttle cost $40; we’re trapped here for three months. Outside the petrol sign proclaims “$459” with no decimal point. That’s almost $500 per gallon. We consider using our return ticket tomorrow, if it ever comes.


Doc English The Language Doctor: English + Thai = Thinglish?

Hello! Welcome back to the regular column for parents teaching their kids (or each other) to use English at home.
Often Thai speakers make fundamental errors when speaking or writing English. These are sometimes a result of ‘Language Interference’. Language interference occurs when students transfer the rules of their native language into the new language that they are learning. It’s a good strategy (to use background knowledge of your native language), but it does not always work. It can sometimes lead to communication problems.
These errors are easier to correct in younger learners, but older students may find it harder because the errors have become ‘engrained’, or ‘fossilised’. One could accuse the Thai media of reinforcing language errors by mispronouncing English words (on the TV for example), effectively creating new ‘Thinglish’ words that are undecipherable to a native English speaker (such as ‘sat-or-belli’ for ‘strawberry’). Sometimes it is the meaning that is changed (eg. ‘Gik’ = boyfriend / girlfriend in Thai, for ‘gigolo’? but who knows where it comes from!). It’s sad to see English words treated so brutally by the Thai media, but on the other hand you could argue that this is normal - English is evolving every day with new words being created as fast as old ones die out. The Thai language is evolving also, borrowing words from other languages, re-packaging them and consigning old words and phrases (and customs) to the scrap heap.
Pronunciation Errors
The number of speech sounds in English varies from dialect to dialect, but the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by John C. Wells, for example, uses symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet to denote 24 consonants and 23 vowels used in Received Pronunciation.
In contrast, the Thai alphabet uses 44 consonants and 15 vowel characters. With more consonant sounds at their disposal (and less vowels to choose from), Thai speakers can become confused as to which consonant or vowel to adopt when pronouncing a particular word. In Thai consonants are rarely sounded at the end of a word and are generally not sounded together, so Thais often insert a vowel between two consonants (‘sa-wim’) and fail to pronounce an end consonant (‘going ow’ for ‘going out’). These errors can be corrected as long as you have the patience, but don’t be tempted to ‘echo’ the mistake or let it slide. Try to repeat the word a few times and show the difference by modeling the ‘incorrect’ and ‘correct’ way to say the word. Point out the error in a friendly and polite way; offer an alternative way of saying the word. L and r sounds can become missed up also. Again, model and point out the difference. Show how to use your teeth and tongue to pronounce the word. Say each syllable slowly and clearly.
Often we foreigners have problems mastering the Thai tones. It’s very hard to pick them up and it takes a good ear and lots of practice. Similarly, Thais often have problems picking up stress and sentence intonation, such as the way we often raise or lower our voice in a musical fashion when asking or answering questions. To correct this, you can write a sentence and show your child how to raise and lower their voice by drawing a line that rises and falls over the sentence. Again, model and gently correct.
Stress can be difficult for Thai students to master. Often they will reverse the stress on a word (“birthday” instead of “birthday”). Students need to be shown which particular syllables to stress. You can do this by writing the word and drawing small or large circles above each syllable to show which ones have more stress.
Grammar
There is hardly any grammar at all in the Thai language. There are no plurals, future tense or past tense. Generally Thais indicate future tense and past tense by the addition of extra words, such as the Thai word for ‘yesterday’ (meau-wun). You know that the action occurred yesterday if the sentence contains this ‘time’ word.
The Thai language has no “a” ,”an”, “the”, “some” or “any”; Thai grammar is simpler than English and the complexity of English grammar makes it difficult for Thais to learn. This tends to lead to simplistic sentences. You can encourage your child to expand and experiment with their grammar and writing and to try and extend their sentences - they will be very hesitant at first. Focusing on discrete grammar points and providing lots of input (reading and speaking) and modeling (showing them how to do it) will provide enough examples for your child to follow in order for them to improve their grammar.
Writing
When writing, more errors may occur due to the unique differences between the Thai and English languages. In Thai there are no spaces and very limited punctuation, so you will have to teach punctuation and spacing. The Thai language does not use capitals, so use of correct capitalization should be emphasised. It’s common to see Thai kids mixing upper and lower case letters, especially when they write their name. This is perfectly normal and is another example of language interference.
I don’t claim to be an expert on either the English language or the Thai language by the way (or anything for that matter), so if you disagree with any of the above please feel free to email me and point out my mistakes (or ‘errors’). I’m just attempting to explain some fundamental differences between the Thai and English languages in order for us to know better how to teach our young learners. I am sure you can find more examples and logical reasons why these errors occur.
That’s all for this week mums and dads. If you want more information on teaching your kids at home you can email me at: doceng [email protected]
Enjoy spending time with your kids.


Welcome to Chiang Mai:

Communities within the Community

The Filipino Community in Chiang Mai

Roxanne Llariza-Oddie
For the past 12 years, the Filipino community in Chiang Mai has quietly thrived and grown. From only a handful of missionaries, teachers, and Filipina businesswomen married to Thais, the community now has over 200 members situated all over the northern region of Thailand, including Tak, Mae Hong Son, Phrae, Phayao, Lampang, Lamphun, Nan, and Chiang Rai, although the majority are working here in Chiang Mai. Unlike other foreign nationals, most Filipinos come to Chiang Mai not to retire but to make good use of employment opportunities which are otherwise unavailable in the Philippines.
Many of them teach English in international schools; about an equal number are missionaries or work with non-government organizations. Others are in architecture and design, manufacturing and exporting, IT and related technologies, as well a s in the entertainment and service industry.
In general, Filipinos are sociable and able to adapt and assimilate easily. Although the tendency to “flock together” is strong, most have developed social relationships outside of the Filipino community, especially those who have stayed here for a long time, and have made the effort to learn to speak and read Thai. Interestingly, in addition to speaking their Philippine hometown language and English, there are several Filipinos here who speak fluent Italian, and are proficient in spoken and written Thai as well. Another interesting trivia is that there are a few other Filipinos who have stayed here for so long, they can speak Thai better than Tagalog (or Pilipino).
The Association of Filipinos in Thailand, Northern Region Chapter, is a chapter of the main association in Bangkok, and duly recognized by the Philippine Embassy. It has almost 200 registered members, but non-members and transients do attend the regular gatherings held in June and December every year. There are several other informal sub-groups within the community, usually formed out of common interests or activities, like church groups, teachers’ groups, photography enthusiasts, and the like. Another natural way for alliances to form is the commonality of the members’ region of origin in the Philippines. For example, there are many here from the Visayan cities of Dumaguete and Cebu, and since they speak Cebuano (or Bisaya), members from this area naturally converge, but do not exclude “outsiders”.
Recently AFT-NRC has been busy with several activities. In early March this year, at the request of AFT-NRC, the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok held a Consular Mission here in Chiang Mai. Philippine Consul General and Minister Charles Jose headed the team from Bangkok. Passport applications, registration of birth or marriage, certifications and other legal documents were processed, for the convenience of the Filipino community in this area. This was the third time such a mission was held here, the previous two being in 2003 and 2006.
From March 3 to March 8 this year, AFT-NRC, Alliance Francaise (Chiang Mai), the Informal Northern Thai Group (INTG), in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, and the Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowship Program held “A Short Season of Contemporary Filipino Films”. This was held at the Alliance Francaise mini theater. A total of seven short films and eight full-length films were shown, with a short talk before each showing given by Asian cinema researcher Edward Cabagnot. This was the first public Filipino film showing in Chiang Mai, and the first collaboration between AFT-NRC, Alliance Francaise and the INTG. There are plans to do similar projects in the future.
Also in March, AFT-NRC participated in the first Chiang Mai International Heritage Festival held at the Lanna Polytechnic School. A total of four booths were allocated to the Philippine team. San Miguel Marketing Thailand Limited, (makers of San Miguel Beer - a very Filipino beer), national carrier Philippine Airlines, Mabuhay Restaurant, (the only Filipino restaurant in Chiang Mai), and several volunteers from the Filipino community prepared and manned the booths during the three-day event.
This June 12, 2008, AFT-NRC will be celebrating the 110th Philippine Independence Day. Also on that day will be the election of officers for 2008 to 2010. This will be held at the Lanna Palace Hotel, Chang Klan Road, from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Chiang Mai and its people have been good to the Filipino community. On June 12, Filipinos in the north will be celebrating not only their 110th Philippine Independence Day, it will also be a day of appreciating and celebrating Filipino-Thai relations, a day of thanking their host country and its people for making this foreign land truly feel like home.

This article is published courtesy of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” folder, available as an email attachment from:- [email protected]


HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:

Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao

The Land Of Orchids

Thailand is, quite rightly, renowned worldwide for its extensive range of wonderful and unique species of that most magical and evocative of plants, the orchid, all of which have, over aeons of time, adapted in order to cope with the long dry season.
Clinging to a tree with no access to moisture of any kind for months, yet bursting into vigorous growth with the first torrential deluges of the rainy season can’t be easy!
Orchids are best grown on trees which have a rough bark, which gives a surface to which the plant’s roots can anchor securely in order to extract nutrients form the various mosses and organisms already growing on the surface of the bark. Eventually, rotting leave and other debris will accumulate around the base of the plant like stores in a larder. The plant itself may have to be tied to the tree in some manner initially, until the roots are able to obtain a secure foothold - a similar situation to that of a climber on a sheer mountain face hammering in a piton and securing himself with a rope! Once secure, unlike the climber, the plant will hold onto the tree itself. Remember, if an orchid is a native of Thailand, it will “grow like a weed” with no attention from the gardener; however, if the plant is a native of the Philippines or another country further south with rain all year round, it may well benefit from an occasional spray with rain-water during the dry season. Orchids with non-Thai origins may also benefit from year-round shade. In Thailand, many trees lose all their leaves during the Thai “winter”, exposing the orchids to full sun, which in turn, causes the plants themselves to lose their leaves. This allows the exposed stems, acting as swollen water reservoirs, to ripen in the sun and, in the same manner as their supporting trees, to use this time of full exposure to prospective pollinators in order to initiate flowering on their bare stems.
If you have no tree-cover in your garden, and still wish to grow orchids, place them in containers and try to give them full exposure to the rains. If the containers are placed under a roof where the fresh new growth benefits from the shade as it prevents tender young leaves from sun-scorch, the plant will need constant hand-watering. Tap water is unnatural and therefore harmful to these plants; rainwater should be specially stored and used.
The easiest and most trouble-free way to provide a protective roof for your orchids is to use permeable black netting, which will allow rainwater to drench the plants naturally, particularly during storms. When the plant is about to bloom, why not move it to a sheltered location in the garden where it can be more easily seen and admired in its brief period of glory. Remember, though, to place it where heavy rains and squally winds will not damage the delicate flowers.
Orchids, generally, are not particularly attractive plants when out of flower; a “nursery area” placed out of sight together with a display area for when they are in bloom can be a good idea. The roots of epiphytic orchids are able to absorb moisture from the humid air surrounding them even when it is not actually raining, as they are covered with a unique spongy material called valenum. If rain water is not available for any reason, tap water can be used together with automatic misters usually used near homes to increase humidity in the dry season and to cool the air. These can be placed in order to benefit the orchids’ root areas, which will benefit by not being in contact with harmful lime, as lime in water when used directly on plants can, in time, leave a deposit on the leaves which is unsightly and difficult to remove. As is, of course, lime scale from your bath, toilet or sink!

Tip of the week
Don’t be afraid to buy orchids here in Thailand - prepare to experiment! In the West, orchids are expensive and difficult to grow and to keep; here they are very inexpensive, and, if native varieties, grow like weeds!