The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Tootsies - disproportionate pain
Have you ever broken a toe? Any
toe. If you have, you will remember it as broken toes are damn painful. In
fact, the pain is much greater than many other fractures, such as a nose, or
even a wrist, despite the ridiculously small digits like toes.
Having been born inherently clumsy, I have fractured several toes, with most
occurring by walking into table legs or other immovable pieces of furniture.
I also sacrificed my big toe by managing to drop a large concrete brick on
it. While wearing no shoes. Inherently clumsy.
One year, I celebrated Xmas Day somewhat differently - I broke my toe! It
was unintentional, and not done to get out of domestic chores or to beg off
playing golf with our Xmas house guests, who had beaten me hollow on Xmas
morning. It was a simple matter of catching the corner of the bed in the
After the initial mutterings of hopping one-legged around the bedroom going
“Ow! Ow!” I expected the buzzing throb to quietly go away. It didn’t, but
what did come was the slow appreciation that I had done a little more than
just a stubbed toe. The toe began to swell and took on a beautiful purple
hue, which is almost 100 percent indicative of a fracture. X-Rays really
only confirm the clinical diagnosis.
Now I was actually quite lucky. If you must have a fractured toe as a
pastime, do not pick the big toe for this. It really is the only important
toe, as it is the one that keeps your balance. No joke. When you are
standing, there are all sorts of little receptors in your head that tell
your brain whether you are stable, or in danger of falling forwards or
backwards. These receptors then relay messages to your big toe, to increase
or decrease pressure to keep you upright - and you thought the only reason
for your big toe was to move family pets out of the way!
I was lucky in the fact that my Xmas fracture was of the middle toe. After
the importance given to the big toe, all the others are only there to fill
up the space in your shoes. And no, I’m not joking. Just have a look at your
other toes. What a twisted, misshapen bunch of digits they all are. What
earthly other use is there for them? About as useful as a box of matches in
So what is the treatment for fractured toes? Let me assure you from nerve
tingling personal experience, that the first is pain relief. (As an aside, I
have always said that the ideal doctor to consult is one who has had the
ailment you are suffering from. I am now a specialist in fractured toes.)
Pain relief! Some paracetamol with a good lump of codeine in it works well
for the first 24 hours, and after that, simple paracetamol is really all
that is necessary for the smaller toes, but the big toe might need the extra
oomph of codeine for a few more days.
Again there is a difference between big and little toes as far as further
treatment is concerned. The big toe often needs some kind of immobilization,
and splinting or even plaster may be required. For the smaller toes, taping
to the next toe up is all that is necessary, or if it is the very tip of the
toes that is fractured (that’s the bit we medico’s call the ‘Terminal
Expansion’), just masterfully ignore the toe.
Shoes? Or no shoes? Two schools of thought here. The first is just to wear
sandals or thick socks only, and undoubtedly this can be more comfortable,
but the toes is more vulnerable to more small knocks and bumps. The other
school of thought is to screw your eyes up tight and get the foot into a
shoe. It contains the swelling, effectively immobilizes the digit and does
offer some protection to bumping of the exquisitely painful extremity. Ow!
Heart to Heart
Is the situation in Thailand as bad as I hear it to be? I have been
writing to a couple of ladies through a dating service and was going to
come out over Christmas to see them and make a choice, but reading about
all the problems with these ladies I wonder if it is such a good idea.
I’m 55 and divorced, so I’ve had experience with ladies, it’s not as if
I’m 21 and wet behind the ears, yet I read of other blokes the same age
as me, and all they get is being ripped off. You seem to have a handle
on what’s going on. What do you think?
You are probably the ideal candidate to get ripped off, my Petal. 55,
unlucky in love, probably comfortably well off and working through a
dating agency. What are the women like that you’ve met in dating
agencies in your own country? All of them carting years of psychological
baggage I imagine. There is a common bond here - you are desperate and
so are they. That is not necessarily the best foundation for a life-long
bond, is it? Having said all that, I am sure there are some absolute
gems in the dating agency files, but do not, repeat do not, come over
here at Xmas to “choose” which one of these lovely ladies you will take
as your blushing bride. See if you like either of them, see if they
really can speak English as good as the emails would suggest, and make a
promise to come back at Easter. And keep your wallet locked, don’t write
your PIN number on the back of your credit card, and stay away from the
bars. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but that’s my opinion. I
thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.
Or as the ladies in the corner shop would say, “Peepo! Peepo!” Peasmold
Gruntfuttock has been elevated to the peerage and wonders if the title,
“Lord Fitznok of Soi 6” would be acceptable?
You are a silly twisted boy, and I would imagine, with your strange
English phraseology and perverted thoughts, you would realize that
phrase comes from the wonderful, all leather Goon Show, when in the
fifth series, Grytpype-Thynne says this to Neddie Seagoon on a regular
basis in regard to his silly behavior. It is also heard in “China
Story”, following Ned Seagoon’s admission that he is the British
ambassador, and in “The Whistling Spy Enigma” after Ned arrives at MI5,
giving a long list of patriotic and foolhardy deeds he is willing to do
for his country. And in fact, it was (the late) Spike Milligan who
wrote, “The genuine all-leather Goon Show, price two and six at any good
chemist’s.” These were the masters, Mistersingha. You and I are mere
amateurs and should perhaps keep our wit to ourselves.
The wife of one of my husband’s friends will be coming to visit Thailand
next month, along with a couple of her girl friends. They would all be
in their 50’s, and shocked me when they wrote and said they wanted to
see a “sex show” while they are here. Do you think it’s proper for me to
take them to some of the more outrageous places, or what? I’m really
blown away by this. What do you recommend, Hillary?
Dear Blown Away,
There is nothing to worry about, my dear. Everybody knows we don’t have
sex shows in Thailand. The nice policeman told me so. If you’re really
worried, get your husband to take them.
We are often in Thailand and the one thing that completely confuses me
is the subject of tipping - when and how much? If the establishment
charges a “service” fee, should you tip as well? What do you do as
someone living there, for example? I believe that the wages are not high
for some of the people in bars and restaurants and they need the tips,
but I do not want to throw money away either? What’s your tip about
Dear Terrie Tipper,
There are two situations here - Service Charge or no Service Charge. If
the establishment adds on 10 percent (the usual amount), then as far as
I am concerned - that’s the tip. There are some places that no doubt
pocket the Service Charge, but that’s not anything of our doing, nor can
we change it. That is something between the employees and the owners to
work out. However, if I feel that the waiter or service provider has
gone well beyond that which could be expected, then I reward with a
little extra something for that person, irrespective. You know the sort
of things I like - a little fawning, groveling and lots of compliments.
In an establishment that has no standard add on Service Charge, then it
really is up to you. Small change left over or up to 10 percent is quite
normal. The Thai people are grateful for anything you leave them. It all
adds up by the end of the day.
by Harry Flashman
The Ten Commandments
remains in its purest sense, painting with light. No matter how
you record the image, be that digital or film, you are only
recording the way light falls on some subject. Taken to its
absurd level, when there is no light, you will get no image.
So remembering the basics, here are the 10 basic ‘commandments’
to get better pictures. Follow them through, and I will
guarantee you will get better photographs. And get more fun out
of your photography.
The first is simply to take more shots of each subject.
Photography, like any sport, recreation or pursuit is something
where the more you do it and practice it, the better you get.
That just means putting more film through the camera, or using
up space in the memory card. But be careful you don’t just take
the same shot 10 times! Move the camera position and move the
subject. One of the 10 shots will be a good one.
The one major fault in most amateur photographs is taking the
shot from too far away. From now on, make the subject the “hero”
and walk in several meters closer to make the subject fill the
Focussing! With modern auto-focus cameras the most obvious
focussing problem is where the subject is off-centre. The magic
eye doesn’t know this and focuses on the background, leaving
your close-up subject soft and blurry. Focus on the subject and
use the focus lock facility of your camera.
Tripods I mentioned recently, but one of these will expand your
picture taking no end. Camera shake becomes a thing of the past,
and you will take more time to compose your shots. Using a
tripod is the only way to get ‘Ansel Adams’ landscapes.
Keep your interest and pride in your work by making enlargements
of your better photos. At around 100 baht for most places, this
is very cheap and enlargements do make good presents at Xmas
We all get lazy and it is too easy to end up just taking every
picture in the horizontal (landscape) format. Make it a habit to
always take at least two shots of each subject - one in the
horizontal format and the other in the vertical. You can get
some surprising results that way. Don’t be lazy - do it!
With colour photography, which covers about 99.99% of most
people’s pictures these days, the one major factor to give your
skies and seas and scenery some colour oomph is the use of a
polarizing filter. Get one and use it.
You will always miss some “classic” shots and regret it later,
but you certainly will never get them if you don’t have a camera
with you. With so many incredible photo opportunities in
Thailand, you should be photographically ready at all times!
To give your daytime shots some extra sparkle, use “fill-in”
flash. Most new cameras have a little setting that will do this
automatically for you - even with point and shooters. If you
haven’t, then spend some time learning how to do it. It’s worth
it when you see the results you get.
To give yourself the impetus to go out and take photos, develop
a project and spend your leisure time building up the images. It
can be flowers or fashion, cars or canaries, but fix on
something and follow it through. It’s worth it, just for the
fact that it makes you become an “enquiring” photographer.
Don’t forget, at the end of every year, give the camera a
birthday by buying it some new batteries. You won’t have a
problem damaging the sensitive innards with neglected battery
acid and the camera’s light metering system will work correctly
every time. It’s cheap insurance.
Here is the list to cut out, laminate and put in the camera bag.
1. Take more shots
2. Walk several meters closer
3. Use the focus lock
4. Buy a tripod
5. Make enlargements of your better prints
6. Use different formats
7. Use a polarizing filter
8. Carry your camera with you
9. Use the flash during the day
10. Develop a project
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
All you need to know about Hedge Funds - part 1
The first Hedge Fund (HF) was created in 1949 by Alfred
Winslow Jones, who was a Doctor of Sociology. He was also an ex-journalist for
Fortune magazine. He used short selling to ‘hedge’ against any risk in his
portfolio of more traditional equities. This means he decided that this was the
way to ensure his potential fortune did not suddenly disappear due to a sudden
market collapse as in 1929.
What is less well known is that Dr. Jones discovered a loophole in US company
law which allowed him to avoid the regulators for over ten years.
He proved his theory to friends and they gave him USD100,000. He ‘hedged’ his
portfolio. This means that for every share he bought, he sold ‘short’ the shares
of a similar company in the same sector, whose prospects he regarded as being
less favourable. Going ‘short’ means selling shares that have been ‘borrowed’
rather than owned in the expectation of buying them back at a cheaper price thus
making a profit from the decrease in the value of the share or stock. In essence
Jones was creating a portfolio that was much less of a hostage to the general
market and far more reliant on his ability as a stock picker.
Dr. Jones then borrowed more money to leverage his portfolio. His tax
‘avoidance’ was done by skirting the securities laws which barred investment
companies from dubious speculation. He did this by wrapping his investments into
a limited partnership. Seeing how successful he was, he then introduced
performance fees of 20% of the profits on top of a two percent per annum annual
The good doctor then carried on quietly doing this for himself and his friends
until Fortune Magazine printed an article on him called The Jones That Nobody
Can Keep Up With. According to Fortune, Jones was outperforming his closest
rival in regular fund management by an incredible 85 percent over a five year
period - even after deducting those juicy fees.
People could not believe it and within a couple of years there were over 200
Hedge Funds, all developing a wide range of different strategies that fell
outside of the mainstream, although many of these moved away from Jones’
original concept of hedging in the best way to protect capital and to make
returns more predictable. One of the early pioneers was George Soros. This is
the same George Soros who managed the Quantum Fund which later took on the UK
government and won, making a fortune for Soros and forcing Sterling to exit the
ERM (the predecessor of the ECU and therefore the Euro).
By the early 1990s there were about 1,000 HFs.
Hedge funds were now becoming more widely understood but they were still only
really accessible for the super-rich. With the growth of more funds this was
soon to change as they came to be part of institutional and personal portfolios.
By this time, the whole concept had gotten a lot more complicated and diverse.
Derivatives were coming more and more into play but the wise ignored them. Soros
said they were the “economic equivalent of crack cocaine”. Warren Buffet, who in
essence was at the vanguard of that part of the hedge fund industry that focuses
on private equity, has despised them for decades. However, many ignored their
warnings and in the late Nineties the HF, Long Term Capital Management (LTCM),
nearly brought the financial system to a total collapse.
How did this happen? It borrowed the equivalent of more than USD125 billion even
though it only had collateral of just over USD2 billion in its portfolio. This
was used to make massive one-way bets in the bond markets - Jones would have
been horrified that anyone could class this as a hedge fund when, certainly at
the time of its demise, it was anything but. Notably, these ‘bets’ included
Russia and many other markets that it turned out, to LTCM’s cost, were closely
correlated to Russia. All seemed rosy until the gamble fell apart when Moscow
defaulted on its interest obligations in mid-1998.
Lessons were learned. Today’s HFs offer a lot more diversity than their
predecessors and the managers are much more open about how their funds operate.
Despite the fact that (largely because of LTCM and other members of the
investment lunatic fringe that get incorrectly classified as hedge funds) most
HFs are classified as High Risk, it is becoming more and more usual for them to
be a part of someone’s portfolio as ‘real hedge funds’ (i.e. ones that actually
HEDGE). They can offer good, medium term, risk adjusted performance which can
complement the more traditional bond and equity investments.
To be continued…
The above data and research was compiled from
sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd
nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in
the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as
a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading
the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
Welcome to the land of smiles - except at Suvarnabhumi airport immigration
It would be a gross exaggeration to say that I nearly
turned round on arrival in Bangkok and took the next flight back to
Heathrow, but feeling frazzled after the long haul and the waiting around
before boarding, one is - how shall be say it? - a little vulnerable and
inevitably tired. Therefore the complete contradiction of the signs flashing
above the immigration counters seems unduly harsh.
They state alternately, Welcome to Thailand, then, The Land of Smiles.
Neither stood the ghost of a chance with someone who wished to make a
visitor who has spent 11 hours doing what does not come naturally seem a)
unwelcome and b) not worthy of the hint of a smile in return to one
presented them alongside of the passport and correctly filled in visa forms.
Like most people I am wary of people in uniforms. A little bit of power goes
to many heads. Abolish them, it has long been thought, and wars and bullying
would no longer be possible. The tedious gist of my ‘welcome’ was simply
because of a request by the ticket desk at transit for me to go to
immigration at the main area rather than in their’s. Don’t ask me why. I
trekked back and then had the temerity, (stupidity), to suggest to the woman
who had stamped my passport and stapled my departure card that I should
return to the transit area for Chiang Mai rather than head into the main
airport, as suggested.
The furious pen nearly scratched through the page as she crossed out the
stamp and tore out the form. She called her ‘superior’. Why you don’t
believe her? It seemed to be a departure from the ‘norm’. Apologise, I
thought. Take another stamp. Check in at the main desk. Mea culpa. The
trivial misunderstanding soon passed but I could not help wondering whether
the people in charge of those signs might ask the officers at the desk to
learn some manners. I would never speak to another human being in such
tones. Why should they?
Still, the smiles soon came into play, (not sure if there were 15 variations
as outlined in a fascinating article in the Mail last week), but the sign
Welcome Back Home at the airport and some enthusiastic hugs soon made me
forget the earlier ‘welcome’. The next two or three days meant a series of
encounters but timing was perfect in one respect since I was able to attend
the first of Bennett Lerner’s concerts in his survey of Fauré’s piano music.
The auditorium was packed and many of the people I know in the city were
Some composers establish less of a reputation than they deserve. Often
because one work is so popular that it seems to eclipse others (think of
Barber, Pachabel and Albinoni) and in the case of the French composer it is
his Requiem that it is to ‘blame’. Not of course in the same league as those
of Brahms, Verdi or Mozart but wonderfully moving and accessible and
immensely popular. He also seems somewhat in the shadow of Ravel and even
more so of Debussy who many think of as a founding father of modern music.
Bennett did Debussy proud during that two year festival and with his
recordings and now he has embarked on a similar overview of Fauré’s works,
alongside those of several contemporaries. As a teacher as well as a concert
pianist Ajahn Lerner has decided on a slightly ‘academic’ approach and is
working through the Nocturne’s and Barcarolles in chronological order. Since
Fauré lived a long time (1845 until 1824) and during a momentous time in
world - and musical - history this means that the early concerts will be
centred around composers such as Tchaikovsky, Chabrier, Brahms, Verdi, and
Hopefully, as the seven concerts progress, we will be treated to works from
the first decades of the 20th century in support of the main music. In fact
Fauré appears not to have been directly influenced by the other great
composers of the period, especially the ‘avant-garde’ of the time and his
work remains serene and contemplative and never atonal. As someone whose
interest in music is predominantly the 20th and 21st century compositions I
look forward to the later concerts even more than the current ones. But the
next event should not be missed. It will feature a fine tenor Jan-Ate Stobbe
who is Dutch but lives and works in Bangkok and he will be singing works by
Mahler and Verdi among others, whilst Bennett works his way through further
piano pieces. This is a brilliant idea to welcome friends and fellow
musicians and the performance that Saturday by violinist Tasana Nagavajara
greatly enhanced the evening. He and Bennett seemed wonderfully paired - a
genuine meeting of sympathetic talents. The second one in the series will be
held on Saturday, September 20, at 7:30 pm. Before that though, make a note
in your diary of what promises to be a tremendous evening of music from the
New York New Music Ensemble who will be at the Payap Saisuree Music Hall on
Friday, July 11. This is a rare visit from an international group and it is
only thanks to Lerner’s influence that Chiang Mai is lucky enough to have
them here. Don’t be late … the concert begins at 7:30 pm.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Wanted: US Action/Thriller - If you think you’ve seen it all in
violent and bloody action films, you haven’t yet seen this one: it raises
the bar to a whole new level! Visually I think it’s fascinating - there are
scenes which I really could not believe I was seeing - and I would say it’s
about as exciting as a movie can get. This fast-paced thrill ride, with its
dazzling mix of state-of-the-art visual effects, adrenaline-fuelled action
sequences, and nail-biting terror, is the first American film by the Russian
director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for Night Watch - a stylish horror
fantasy film that has pretty much revolutionized Russian cinema.
A young man (James McAvoy) discovers his father is an assassin, who is
brutally murdered. The son is then recruited into his father’s organization
and trained by a man (Morgan Freeman) to follow in his dad’s footsteps, and
in the process transformed from a drone into a dark avenger. With Angelina
Jolie and Terence Stamp. Rated R in the US (and richly deserved) for strong
bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexuality.
Generally favorable reviews.
Get Smart: US Action/Comedy - A funny and action-filled film, almost
as good as having a new James Bond film around. Steve Carell as Secret Agent
Maxwell Smart, in a movie based on the very popular 60’s US television
series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, which made fun of spies in the
cold war, and secret spy gadgets. Co-starring Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson,
and Alan Arkin. Mixed or average reviews.
Kung Fu Panda: US Animation/Comedy - Pure fun! I love this 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. Sort of a take-off on the recent Jet Li/Jackie Chan
film The Forbidden Kingdom, full of irreverent invention and some dazzling
animation. Very assured and accomplished, sharp and funny, with some
surprisingly tender moments. Jackie Chan voices the monkey, Angelina Jolie
voices the tigress, and Dustin Hoffman voices Shifu. Generally favorable
The Incredible Hulk: US Action/Sci-Fi - With an excellent performance
by Edward Norton, it’s a terrific comic-based action picture with mythic
themes. Very exciting indeed, and a top notch production. I’m enjoying this
new series of movies from Marvel Studios starring their ever-popular
superheroes, which started with the recent excellent Iron Man. Generally
favorable reviews. (No scene after closing credits.)
The Happening: US/India Drama/Sci-Fi - M. Night Shyamalan produces
another mysterious film people will either love or hate. Probably in its
last week, it’s down to two showings a day at Vista only. Shyamalan is an
accomplished director and even if one of his movies does not entirely work,
it is sure to be more interesting than your average run-of-the-mill suspense
movie. Rated R in the US for violent and disturbing images, but it seems
much of this has been clipped out in Thailand. Generally negative reviews.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: UK/US
Adventure/Family/Fantasy - Further adventures of the four British kids in
Narnia. Probably in its last week, it’s down to one showing a day at Vista
only. You will enjoy this if you enjoyed the first film, or if you are
interested in Christian allegories. Or if you simply enjoy children’s
stories. Generally favorable reviews.
The Last Moment / Rak-Sam-Sao: Thai Romance/Drama - A love triangle
develops with much weeping between three university friends, one of whom
becomes terminally ill.
Puppy Love / Haakao: Thai Comedy/Romance - With Mum Jokmok and other
old and new comedy stars, in a story with a bit of female homosexuality, a
talking dog, a lady-boy, and ghosts.
Scheduled for Jul 3
Hancock: US Action/Comedy - A different kind of superhero: edgy,
conflicted, sarcastic, and misunderstood. He gets the job done and saves
countless lives, but he also seems to leave an awful lot of collateral
damage as well. The people of Los Angeles have had enough. So did studio
executives according to reports, who after seeing the original cut
immediately ordered big changes and several scenes reshot, because the hero
was so downbeat, disreputable, and even disgusting. His costume seems to be
stolen off the back of a homeless person, and we’re introduced to Hancock as
he wakes up on the sidewalk in a pool of his own vomit, reeking of alcohol,
and then leaps into the sky to save someone, destroying everything in sight
in the process. Hancock likes to party, and seems to be frequently drunk.
Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman. Not kid-friendly:
There’s a lot of bad language, some graphic violence, and more. Early
reviews: mixed or average.
Friendship: Thai Comedy/Romance - With Mario Maurer (of Love of Siam
fame) and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (of Ploy fame), in a high-school romance,
consisting of “action, drama, sad moments, and comedy.”
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
Opening acts appear to have very glamorous jobs: they perform for a few
minutes, watch the rest of the show and then hang out with the star. WRONG.
The audience comes to see someone else and the opening act is merely in the
way. The promoter pays them as little as possible and cares only about the
headliner. The star is a recluse who performs and leaves. Basically the
opening act is an unnecessary diversion, someone who hasn’t quite made it,
an insignificant person who matters only to his date.
wanted to kill ‘em, but he died on stage.
I have managed to hang out with a few stars. Timothy Leary, the drug guru of
the 70s, a fiercely intelligent, pioneer psychedelic psychiatrist,
world-traveler and genuine character, toured clubs with his “cosmic comedy”
act in the 90s that was heavy on the drug theme that was very “in” in his
day. Some of the terms are still the same today, even if the meanings have
changed. “Drug testing” was never something you feared at work, just a
recreational activity on Saturday night. “Hey, man, I’ll test any drugs you
got!” Leary had a different slant on the popular slogan “just say no to
drugs.” His take: “If someone asks if you want a drug, just say, ‘No, two
In our shared dressing room before our show, my job description broadened to
security guard. Many of his fans were living drug casualties from the past
with brains reduced to sludge material stuck to the bottom of their skulls
and banged on the door while offering Tim mushrooms for a signature on his
books. The actual show was very strange: it was the first time I’d ever
performed for vegetables. They giggled too long at some jokes and guffawed
at places there weren’t any. Some laughed three times: first when they heard
people around them laughing, again when someone explained the joke to them,
and a third time when they finally got it. After the concert we snuck away,
closed a bar and were finally poured into a taxi. Getting lubricated with a
legend was a memorable night for me, but I doubt if Tim ever wrote an
article about imbibing with one of the Jones boys.
Some nights are downright dangerous. My agent sent me to a rock club in the
depths of Georgia to open for Leon Redbone at the height of his fame. By 9
pm, the room was packed with Southern belles and good ol’ boys drinking
shots from sinister bottles stored sporting hand-written labels that the
bartenders kept under the bar. At 9:30, the advertised show time, I asked
the owner if I should start. He said, “Jes wait ‘til I tell ya.” At 10:15,
he welcomed everyone: “We’ll start real soon so y’all jes relax and drink
yourselves silly!” This distracted the patrons for a while, but soon the
yelling got nasty. A large Neanderthal man with two or three very impressive
teeth staggered to the stage shouting, “Where’s Leon? We want Leon!”
It became apparent the owner was holding the show to sell more liquor. Angry
patrons drink more to quell their rage, a rather prehistoric but effective
sales technique. I realized my name was not on the tickets, the posters, the
marquee, nor on the tip of anyone’s tongues between their shots of Southern
Discomfort. No one knew there was an opening act. The only place I could
find the name Scott was in the men’s room on the toilet fixtures where it
always is and where my career would probably be later on that night.
Around 11 pm, an hour and a half after it should have begun, the owner
announced the show from the safety of dark shadows behind the stage. The
audience went berserk. The clamorous crowd could hear nothing above the
sound of their own screams until the owner shouted, “Let’s give a big
welcome to Scott Jones!” The room actually got quiet for a moment while the
audience tried to grasp what was going on. If any words could still slog
through their minds, they must have been, “Who the hell is Scott Jones? The
only hand I’ll give him is around his neck!” As I walked to stage, everyone
started chanting, “Leon! Leon! Leon!” I just wanted my mommy.
I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening except that only a few
things were thrown, none of them hit me, the Neanderthal men let me live for
the longest half-hour of my life, and the owner said my check would be in
the mail. It hasn’t come yet, but hey, it’s only been about 25 years.
Doc English The Language Doctor: Young, gifted & talented?
Welcome back to the regular column for parents teaching their kids English
Most schools tend to place emphasis on improving education for the “average”
student or students at the margin of success. Often there is less provision
made for children who consistently struggle in school, or indeed for
students who find that school work is simply not challenging enough.
This week I want to talk about this latter group of students, the ‘Gifted
and Talented’ students. If your child regularly appears to find school work
(and homework) too easy, or he/she often displays a negative attitude
towards school and school work, then perhaps your child is not being
challenged enough in school. This week’s article might help you determine if
your child is ‘Gifted and Talented’ and hopefully allow you determine the
best course of action for your young Einstein.
What is a ‘Gifted and Talented’ child?
Gifted and talented (G&T) children are those who have one or more abilities
developed to a level significantly ahead of their year group (or with the
potential to develop these abilities). G&T children need to be presented
with work that challenges, stretches and excites them on a daily basis.
How can you spot a G&T child?
Many educationalists have produced lists of characteristics of very able
children. Some of these appear to be negative, but these characteristics may
be a result of not being challenged in school. Once your child is identified
as a G&T child and receives adequate support, then you may see some of these
negative traits disappear.
General characteristics of gifted, talented and more able pupils - he or she
* be a good reader
* be very articulate or verbally fluent for their age
* give quick verbal responses (which can appear cheeky)
* have a wide general knowledge
* learn quickly
* be interested in topics which one might associate with an older child
* communicate well with adults - often better than with their peer group
* have a range of interests, some of which are almost obsessions
* show unusual and original responses to problem-solving activities
* prefer verbal to written activities
* be logical
* be self taught in their own interest areas
* have an ability to work things out in their head very quickly
* have a good memory that they can access easily
* be artistic
* be musical
* excel at sport
* have strong views and opinions
* have a lively and original imagination / sense of humour
* be very sensitive and aware
* focus on their own interests rather than on what is being taught
* be socially adept
* appear arrogant or socially inept
* be easily bored by what they perceive as routine tasks
* show a strong sense of leadership
* not necessarily be well-behaved or well liked by others
Provision for G&T students
There are many ways for teachers to support G&T students. You can discuss
the best forms of support with your teacher and with your child. Your child
might object to being withdrawn from a class so you should agree the best
course of action with your child before you start. The school may charge
extra for additional support, or you can provide your own support / extra
tutoring at home.
Gifted students are educated in a separate class. Some classes offer
directed studies, where the students lead a class themselves and decide on
their own projects, tests, and all other assignments.
Self-pacing methods, such as the ‘Montessori’ Method allow children to
advance at their own pace. Self-pacing can allow children to learn at a
highly accelerated rate.
Pupils are advanced to a higher-level class covering material more suited to
the pupils’ abilities. This may take the form of skipping grades or
completing normal curriculum in a shorter-than-normal period of time.
Discuss with your teacher whether your child should move up a class, even if
it’s only for certain subjects.
Students spend a portion of their time in a gifted class, and the rest of
their time with same grade students of varying abilities. These programs
vary widely, from carefully designed half-day academic programs to a single
hour each week of educational challenges.
Students spend all class time with their peers, but receive extra material
to challenge them. This work is done in addition to, and not instead of, any
regular school work assigned.
Such as extra tutoring, weekend classes, summer school.
Activities like chess, foreign languages, art, dance or music give an extra
intellectual challenge outside of school hours.
I hope this week’s article has been useful. If you want more information on
Gifted and Talented children, you could try this web site from the BBC
Schools Web Site:
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: docenglish [email protected]
Enjoy spending time with your kids.
Welcome to Chiang Mai: Some thoughts on International Refugee Day, June 21
The longer we live here in Chiang Mai, the more we must
surely become aware of the vast mix of ethnicity here in the Northern region
of Thailand, to which we Westerners are some of the more recent
contributors. Many of us might well refer to ourselves as “refugees” from
countries whose ethics and standards are no longer those with which we were
brought up, rather than seeing ourselves as a new-style wave of “economic
migrants” in the sense of affordability of lifestyle. Whatever we may have
felt about the conditions which triggered our decision to leave our
homelands, at least we were fortunate enough to have been able to make a
choice which did not involve crisis, serious hardship and danger, and to
bring our 1st world currency with us to support us in a country with a very
different pricing structure.
The dictionary definition of “refugee” reads as follows: “a person who flees
for refuge to another country/from religious or political persecution/a
fugitive”. The definition which might apply to a host country reads, “a
shelter or protection from danger or trouble/a place of asylum or retreat”.
Ideal definitions, but, in the increasingly disturbed 21st century, media
focus on the vast and seemingly ever-growing number of refugees worldwide
indicates that, although various countries will allow refugees to enter, the
definition of “refuge” is sometimes not met, in spite of the wealth of 1st
world governments and individuals. So, how do these definitions apply to
Thailand, and to Chiang Mai in particular?
Given the geographic location of the Northern area and the recent, (and, in
some cases, continuing), instability of the surrounding countries, it’s
hardly surprising that the former Lanna kingdom should have been, and
continues to be, the focus for refugees. From the first mass exodus, one
thousand years ago, of the Thai Yai peoples from Southern China, displaced
by warlike tribes from further north, who settled in what is now northern
Thailand, as well as in Burma, Cambodia, etc., and who became the basis of
the Thai nation today, to the 20th century influx of refugees from the wars
in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos - innumerable fugitives found refuge in the
mountains, valleys, and plains of this fertile area. Reading through
relevant articles, theses and books, it seems that the majority of these
peoples in the past were, as it were, accepted and integrated to a greater
or lesser degree and were able to reconstruct their lives. Recently,
however, this seems to not have been the case.
A major cause for concern, according to the United Nations High Council for
Refugees, is the restrictions placed on refugees from Burma, (now Myanmar),
whose ruling Junta is engaged in confrontations closely resembling civil war
with peoples living along the mountainous Thai/Burma border. Known here
collectively as “Hill Tribes”, many thousands of them have become refugees
from violence and persecution by illegally crossing the border into
Thailand. The Thai government states that a large number of these “refugees”
are, in fact, economic migrants, and it is true to state that they are able,
even as day labourers on a minimum wage in the construction industry, to
earn more than they would in their own areas, which have frequently been
devastated by fighting and made dangerous by the laying of mines by the
Junta’s military. Who would wish to stay under such circumstances, and who,
having managed to leave, would not want to work to support themselves and
their family, or to send funds back to family still trapped? Whatever their
status, it seems unlikely that here they are obtaining “refuge” or
“protection from danger and trouble”. A large number are confined to camps;
reports of human rights infringements and violence in these camps can be
read on the internet - others, such as the Kayan sub-tribe of the Karenni
peoples, are exhibited as attractions in tourist villages, and receive a
basic allowance for being stared at and photographed, whilst the operators
of the villages make a good living. It has been reported for several years
that, in spite of offers from both New Zealand and the USA to accept and
rehome Kayans and camp-dwellers, local authorities, for whatever reasons,
have not granted exit visas to these refugees.
For those who manage to obtain legal permission to work, the situation is
not much better. The children of such workers, who raise money for their
families by selling flowers at major road intersections around Chiang Mai
city, are not even entitled to a regular education. A local organisation,
KissMetta, have been raising funds to support the NGO Freedom House School,
set up to ensure that, at the very least, these Burmese children have the
chance of a brighter future than their parents. Media reports of local
police visits, including many arrests and confiscations of motorbikes, to
compounds where Burmese labourers live, are not encouraging, neither are
reports of curfews and other infringements. “A place of asylum or retreat”
it most certainly is not.
June 21 was International Refugee Day - the examples described above may be
a very minor microcosm of a worldwide macrocosm - but not to the people who
are living through it. It is the control over their lives which, although
those lives may be marginally more secure than they were in what is
effectively a war zone, is still not allowing them the basic human rights of
respect and acceptance.
So - when life here is occasionally “difficult” for us Western “refugees”
from whatever system we found distasteful, maybe we should remember that our
choice was far easier to make and to live with! And maybe we should try to
help those who were not, and are not, as fortunate as we are. Sadly, we
can’t influence the minds of governments or authorities, but we just might
be able to be of some practical use.