HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiang Mai

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 afternoon.
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 a typhoon.
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! Ow! Ow!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
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?
Dear George,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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?
Dear Mistersingha,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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?
Blown Away
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.

Dear Hillary,
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 tipping?
Terrie Tipper
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.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

The Ten Commandments

Photography 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 frame.
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 time too.
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 management charge.
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 [email protected]

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 there.
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 Mahler.
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: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
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 reviews.
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
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 Axe

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.

He 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 drugs!’”
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 at home.
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 may:
* 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.
Separate classes
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
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.
Home tutoring
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.