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

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

‘Chemo’, cancer and croaking

“Cancer” is still a word which induces fear. And in many cases, rightly so. Cancer can be a killer, but not always so. There are many people who have had cancer and lived to tell the tale. My dear old Mum had cancer of the womb and ended up having a hysterectomy before she was 50 years of age. She is now 91, so I think we can safely say the operation was a success!
The treatment for cancer is classically surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Much depends upon the type of cancer, and how long it has been growing, and how far it has spread. This can be a single modality, or combined. There is also much work being done with the immune system and cancers, with a vaccine for some types of cancer on the horizon.
However, I came across an article the other day referring to advanced breast cancer survival rates and compared two similar kinds of cytotoxic drugs. The end result of the study was that Drug A was more effective than Drug B, but had significantly more side effects as well. Reading further, it was reported that Drug B extended life by 13 point something months, while Drug A had the sufferer living 15 point something months; however, the downside to these two extra months included mouth ulcers, infections and low blood counts. However, the researchers had come to the conclusion that Drug A was best.
I ask you, best for whom? In my book, it wasn’t the patient! Yes, it’s my old hobby horse - the Quality of Life. What is the point of saying you can have Drug A, to give you two extra months of life, when that is a life of misery? One thing is for sure, I will put my last baht on the fact that none of the research team took either drug! At least the famous medico John Hunter gave himself syphilis to try to find the cure. And it wasn’t the ‘fun’ way, but self administered syphilitic pus. You won’t find that kind of dedication today, even though some people would call it foolishness.
We must never forget that in all our research we are not dealing here with body cancers - we are dealing with patients that have cancer! We, the medical profession, must treat the whole person, not the disease.
Now I mentioned breast cancer at the start of this item for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that screening tests can be done, and I would suggest that all you ladies over the age of 40 (or over the age of 30 if your mother or a maternal aunt died of breast cancer) should consider annual mammograms in addition to your monthly Breast Self Examination.
The second reason I mentioned breast cancer is that it is not, as many western women think, the greatest killer of women. For many 10 year groups of women, heart disease is the greatest killer. Yes, heart disease, the greatest killer of men is now firmly entrenched in women’s medicine.
I’m sorry to say this, but along with your quest for equality and work opportunities, you also picked up male disease patterns as well. Heart disease in particular. One of the reasons is of course the western diet high in animal fats, well documented as a precursor of heart disease. Cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries and subsequent coronary artery bypass grafts are all now women’s diseases too.
So what can you do about this? The simple answer is to take a leaf out of the Eastern ladies’ handbooks on living. An Asian diet, which is high in vegetable content and low in animal fats is a good start. More of a Thai ‘jai yen yen’ approach to life’s problems also helps. Use the ‘family’ network to get problems solved, and in fact the family approach to living, with each member helping when necessary, is another good example from the Asian book of life. And finally, the Buddhist practice of moderation, the middle way, applies to the women folk as well the men.
Think well, and stay well.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I have a ‘thing’ for women’s underwear. I particularly enjoy taking upskirt photographs of women’s underwear, which I then post on an adult website. All the photos are staged, nothing illegal, and I usually get bar girls to ‘model’ for me after I have purchased the underwear. The problem I have is that I recently asked my Thai girlfriend to model for me, all I wanted to do was take some harmless upskirt photos of her wearing underwear, then post them on the website. Well, after slapping me, she has left me, and she won’t even return calls or messages I leave on her phone. She has even left most of her personal possessions in our unit. I just don’t understand, it’s not as if the photos revealed her face or anything, just a harmless, upskirt shot of her underwear, which is a perfectly normal and main stream fetish. Can you please give me some advice on how to woo her back because I really love the girl.
Thanks Hillary,
Dear Stig,
Are you the large chap in a raincoat and felt hat that was standing next to me at the underwear counter last week wearing a bandit’s mask and holding a whip? I think you are going to have some difficulty convincing me that what you have is a “perfectly normal and main stream fetish.” The concept of “perfectly normal” and “fetish” are something of an oxymoron, my Petal. A swift visit to a good dictionary produced “fetish, a thing abnormally stimulating or attracting sexual desire.” Perhaps your Thai girlfriend read the same dictionary and decided you definitely weren’t “normal”. From my scant knowledge of the upskirt subject, I was led to believe that the fun was in taking shots that the subject did not know were being taken. Your “staged” photos of bar girls wearing the undies you have bought for the shoot would seem to indicate that your problem is fairly deep-rooted. Did you perhaps wear your mother’s gussies when she was out shopping? That might explain it. No, Stig, your idea was far from “harmless” and the end result was your girlfriend grabbing her undies and scampering with her skirt on. You should develop your photographic interest into “main stream” without the “fetish”.

Dear Hillary,
I picked up one of those tourist magazines the other day and it had listings of places to go for the tourists. The interesting thing was the dual pricing which was plainly printed for the tourists to see that they were going to pay something like twice the price of the Thais. I thought it was against the policy to have dual pricing. We certainly don’t have that in the UK. What is the real situation?
Dear Peter,
Dual pricing is not something I agree with, but it is found in many countries, not just Thailand. The original concept was to make the attraction affordable for the Thai tourists, but charge more for the foreign tourists as they can afford higher prices. In countries like Thailand where there is a large discrepancy between foreign tourists’ spending power and that of the local people, I can understand why dual pricing exists. However, instead of publicly doubling the Thai entrance price, it would be so much better to state one ‘standard’ (foreign) admission price, but offer a 50 percent reduction for Thais. This idea of locals getting a 50 percent discount is more understandable than doubling the price for non-Thais. Of course, there will always be the problem of resident ex-pats who will not be happy at being asked to pay foreign tourist prices. For that group, some form of registration of the fact that they are living here should be enough to convince the girl on the cashier’s desk, but it may take some sweet talking by a Thai partner. Best of luck.

Dear Hillary,
Why do Thai women continue to wear such silly platform shoes and high heels? They are dangerous and many countries have already banned them. There is nothing wrong or not-sexy wearing sensible shoes. What is your opinion, or do you wear such ankle breakers?
Dear Charlie,
When you are only 1.5 meters tall and ride a motorcycle you can’t get your feet on the ground when you stop at the traffic lights. So all the young ladies have only two choices. Wear platforms and be able to stop or ride straight through against the red light. Next time you are looking at young ladies legs on motorcycles take note of the ones who go straight through. They are the ones wearing ‘sensible’ shoes that you want to put everyone in. So the platforms are not as “silly” as you think, my Petal. There are usually good reasons behind the way the Thais do things.

Dear Hillary,
I have to thank you for bringing an air of normality to our community. There is so much BS in the bars and so many newbies get taken in by it all. I loved the British Standard Duck Test and if this were strictly applied then half the heartache will not happen, and the buffaloes might have to fend for themselves. Thanks again.
Dear Don,
I am so glad it wasn’t Donald and the Duck Test. Thank you for the nice words. Next time wrap them around some Belgian chocolates!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

The photography 15

I was reminded by our sister publication, the Pattaya Mail management that the fifteenth anniversary of the Pattaya Mail was this year (and this issue if my mathematics is correct), so I got to thinking just what the number 15 means in photography.

F15 fighter
The simplest is shutter speed, and almost every camera ever made has a setting called “15” which stands for 1/15th of a second. This is probably the most underused shutter speed ever, and yet it can help make your photographs very much better.
There seems to be an idea in the photographic world that anything slower than 1/60th of a second cannot be hand-held, and you must use a tripod. This is tripe - unless you have some medical condition resulting in uncontrolled shaking spasms.
The reason to use 1/15th is to expand the light range in which you can take shots without flash, such as sunsets for example, or to bring out the background, even when using flash. You know the shots taken at a function where you get someone looking like a startled rabbit in blackness, where if you had used a 1/15th shutter speed you would have got a nice mellow background to soften the picture.
Of course there are a few tricks to hand-holding at the slower shutter speeds. The first is to steady yourself and that can be done easily by leaning against a wall or a pole (preferably not a chrome one attached to a go-go dancer). The second is to hold the camera firmly in both hands, take a breath in and hold it and then gently depress the shutter button. I have even shot at a second by holding the camera firmly pressed down on the back of a chair. Take a few as some will have obvious camera shake, but you will get at least one good one.
Still on the number 15. There is a theoretical f stop which could be called f 15. F stops after all are only a way of measuring the diameter of the aperture inside the lens, to bring it to its simplest terms. As you go through the usual f stops of f 8 to f 11 to f 16, you are actually cutting the light down by one half each time. The f stop scale is also an inverse ration, as the bigger the number, the smaller the diameter. There is a good mathematical reason for this, but just believe me.
If you really want to get technical, for example, f/16 means that the aperture diameter is equal to the focal length of the lens divided by sixteen; that is, if the camera has an 80 mm lens, all the light that reaches the film passes through a virtual disk known as the ‘entrance pupil’ that is 5 mm (80 mm/16) in diameter. The location of this virtual disk inside the lens depends on the optical design. It may simply be the opening of the aperture stop, or may be a magnified image of the aperture stop, formed by elements within the lens.
The f stop scale is a sliding one, allowing for fractional differences in the light allowed through to the film (or the digital sensors). Most old cameras had an aperture scale graduated in full stops but the aperture was continuously variable allowing the photographer to select any intermediate aperture, and thus it would be possible to shoot at f 15.
The continuously variable aperture cameras slowly disappeared with ‘click-stopped’ aperture becoming a common feature in the 1960s; the aperture scale was usually marked in full stops, but many lenses had a click between two marks, allowing a gradation of one half of a stop.
On modern cameras, especially when aperture is set on the camera body, f-number is often divided more finely than steps of one stop or half a stop. Steps of one-third stop (1/3 EV) are the most common, since this matches the ISO system of film speeds. Enough technical details! Time to just believe me again.
Finally, a rather obscure photographic 15. The AA lithium batteries that power many cameras and flash units weigh 15 gm. Happy 15th Pattaya Mail.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Caveat Emptor

With due deference to the folks at Market Watch, we’re taking inspiration from one of their long-standing columns and launching our own feature - the latest ‘dumb investment ideas’ of the month. If this caveat emptor prevents just one investor making a bad decision with their hard-earned cash, we’ll consider it a worthwhile public service!
It’s not really a new one but rather an old dog that stubbornly refuses to die although it keeps taking on slightly different guises. It emerged as viaticals (which were sold with pictures of grateful looking terminally ill people so that investors felt that not only were they getting a good return but they were also contributing to the greater good - this was handy for the salesmen of such products as it made it awkward for prospective investors to decline to invest or even haggle about terms). It re-surfaced as Traded Life Policies (TLPs) - you’ll be surprised how many three letter acronyms (TLAs) you see before the end of this article! - and now is re-emerging under the different identity of Senior Life Settlements (SLSs).
The basic idea of both is to release capital before the policy holders die that will eventually come to holders of whole of life policies in the form of death benefits. The law of big numbers says that if you buy enough policies (and generally these are being pooled into offshore funds - if someone tried to get you to buy an individual policy then the alarm bells should really start ringing) and the quality of information is good enough then, on average you’ll achieve expected maturities - some helpful policy holders will die earlier than they are meant to, a very few bang on time and some awkward ones will outlive their expectancies BUT overall it should wash.
In which case the issue simply becomes one of calculating an acceptable interest rate, which is deducted upfront from the amount paid to buy each insurance policy - for instance, if someone had a life expectancy of one year and the simple interest rate were to be 10% then you would pay $90 for every $100 insured and the actual interest rate achieved would be determined by the actual period until the death claim - if the insured dies within 6 months the rate of return is twice the amount expected but if the insured lives for 2 years then the rate is effectively halved. Our problem is that we have a very different view of what is an acceptable return in this market. Let’s look at the risks:
1) Credit worthiness of the institution - because there is an efficient process in most developed markets for securitising high quality life policies (individuals can borrow against them - institutions regularly trade them to each other - even Warren Buffet’s insurance interests trade second hand life policy liabilities) the stuff that comes onto the market for offshore SLS funds is generally not the best. In reality, they are nothing more than a hodgepodge of local insurers that tend to be just about investment grade. Just about investment grade doesn’t cut it with us right now with even the biggest insurers’ abilities to met claims being downgraded. By buying a pool of polices then the risk of default/failure becomes a percentage that should be factored in to the return. For every $100 invested, don’t expect $100 back - something like $96 might be more appropriate.
2) Fraud - search life insurance policy fraud on yahoo and there are a staggering 27.1 million entries! Admittedly not all relate to the TLP/SLS market but a frighteningly high proportion do. This sector has suffered all kinds of frauds over the years - fraudulent applicants withholding information on their applications with the result that claims are subsequently refused, fraudulent statements from medical practitioners about the life expectancy of their patients which result in having to wait longer than expected before claims are met and a great many practitioners within the life policy trading industry engaging in fraudulent or dubious practices - most recently the failure of the Mutual Benefit Corporation. This is now evidenced by the fact that many American states have now outlawed the practice which is what has largely driven the industry offshore to less regulated pastures. With such a huge fraud rate you should prudently set aside at least 5% of the capital invested for such losses, taking the ultimate return of capital down further to say $91.
3) Claim refusal - even in the event of a non-fraudulent application there may be valid grounds for an insurance company to refuse to pay out depending upon the circumstances of the insured’s death. We have never seen any TLP/SLS fund make any provision in advance for this but 1% should be considered a bare minimum, taking the return of capital down to 90%.
4) Extended life expectancy - the experience of such funds offshore thus far seems to have been a survival age higher than originally expected. As mentioned earlier this negatively impacts the rate of return. Even a one year added life expectancy makes a significant difference to the actual return achieved.
What this means for investors is that despite advertised ‘target rates’ as high as 11% we believe that sterling, euro or dollar investors would do well to achieve in excess of 4.75% per year in return for the risk of further loss and for locking their capital away for an indeterminate period.
I can think of far better returns that come with greater guarantees, more certainty, higher liquidity and far less risk. The latest twist that we have seen pairs these policies with structured products - potentially the toxic waste type vehicles in which many of the liabilities of the credit crisis reside. Stunned by the sheer ingenuity of sticking 2 equally appalling investment ideas together and presenting them highly polished as though somehow the one adds lustre to the other, we have no hesitation in presenting the inaugural ‘Dumb Investment of the Month Award’ to this breathtakingly stupid concept.

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

It’s only a number! And by the way, what constitutes an evil giraffe?

Last week, kind friends sent a birthday card from the U.K. and added to the usual greeting were the words. ‘Remember, it’s only a number’. A remark that was probably uttered a thousand time on board the H.M.S. Bounty when Capt Bligh commanded a sailor to be flogged: ‘100 lashes, Mr. Christian!’ You can hear the pathetic recipient saying, since it’s only a number could you knock a few off, make it fifty, forty, even less? No chance.
The problem with birthdays, especially into middle age, is that they come round with a rapidity which never happened when we were young. How long it took from aged nine to reach those magical double figures. What an eternity from 12 to becoming a teenager. We bounced along easily, enjoying milestones, 18, 21. Even the ‘dangerous’ age of 30 and the years just before that when one is considered ‘a young man’, (or woman), and aunts and family friends have ceased to ask when you are getting married for fear of a truthful answer.
Eventually of course one hits forty where life truly begins and with cruel irony sets one on the slippery slope into declining years. In a developed western country the male life expectancy is given at around 78 to 79, even 80 depending on the country concerned (Sweden fares better than most, plus it seems even longer).
If you make it to 60 then you have a 50 per cent chance of reaching that ‘average’ which is naturally just that - an average. Take a large group of men - at least 100 - born in the same year - and one of them will not make it out of his teens. Another will probably stagger on to an unenviable century. Few people who reach that age retain the faculties and talent of Elliot Carter.
In the middle years our numbers are thinned out by accidents (rather higher in this country of motor-cycle mayhem…), wars, natural disasters and those attendant killers - heart disease and cancer, among others. All exacerbated by avoidable contributions from smoking, obesity, drugs and an over-fondness for the ‘bottle’.
And let’s not forget suicide, although lots of those are not acknowledged and get put down as accidents. Less so in the U.S.A. where it is difficult to hide, since half of those who top themselves do so with a gun thanks to the unhappy ubiquity of some 300 million firearms in ‘God’s country’. Many people abhor the very concept of suicide, calling it cowardly or pursing their lips and invoking the almighty. These are the same group who describe themselves as God-fearing as though that were in itself a recommendation or a cause for self-congratulation (or self-flagellation in a few extreme cases).
Why this should be the case escapes me. Why should one fear a notion? And it is only an un-provable belief. And what would be ‘positive’ about fearing something which believers see as a benign presence? Call me simple, if you must. I’ve known quite a few suicides in my time, aged from 18 into their mid-sixties and the most harsh thing one can say about it is that it is selfish since it leaves a lot of physical and emotional mess to clear up. It is inevitably sad and more memorable than conventional deaths among friends and acquaintances. Sad for the departed who must have found life so utterly desolate and without hope and the living who may have unwittingly contributed to that emptiness.
It seems a brave action, to me. And has done since I read H.G. Wells’ ,The History of Mr. Polly‘ for a school exam and found that the hero contemplates just that course. Having decided at around the same time that there is nothing beyond our last breath, it seems remarkably courageous to do something so defiantly final. These comments do - inevitably - have to leave out the group who are seek refuge in suicide from painful and terminal illness or women who can no longer endure brutal marriages, freedom from which is idiotically and cruelly denied them by the church and/or society at large.
Those optimists who can contemplate something beyond this mortal coil are perhaps lucky. After all, it’s human nature to delude oneself, so why not do it big time? Fine as long as they don’t bang on about it. The guys who sit down at breakfast tables on cruises or holiday restaurants and start a conversation that tries to lead to a conversion. Or those handsome, vacant-looking young Mormons or smug Jehovah’s Witnesses, proffering their dowdy publications at the front door.
Next time they call, don’t say, ‘Not today thank you.’ It only encourages them. Just say, whether it’s true or not, ‘This is a gay, socialist, atheist household and my partner has a very low threshold of boredom’. They’ll accelerate towards the garden gate quicker than Batman’s Lamborghini.
Then again, if you are bored on a Sunday afternoon you could always engage them by asking what they think of the comments by the transvestite actor/comedian who, during his stand up routines, asks the question, ”what qualifies a giraffe for being evil ?”. His question relates to the extermination of all creatures (except for the inevitable two by two by two), which were designated as victims of the great flood, because their creator has botched the original job. As we know, animals are not capable of ‘evil’. Cruelty, yes. But it is human beings who are capable of evil. And, happily of great kindness too.
I found this true around the above mentioned birthday, which stretched for four days without prior intention. On the evening before, I realized that I was truly back in Chiang Mai with a visit along with a group of Thai friends to the ever reliable Ney Ney, (along from the Grand View hotel on Super Highway). Good food, inexpensive, fun and bright service. I know nowhere more enjoyable in the city for a casual meal.
Next stop Moxxie’s at D2 with my Thai partner and a confirmation that this has the most refreshing space of any of the up-market hotels, the most charming waiters and some of the best food. Not having been there for a while, it seemed even better in all respects including value, despite a slight hike in prices. During the day I’d been lucky enough to attend the master class/rehearsal for the New York New Music Ensemble’s concert at Payap the next day. Bennett Lerner steered them through an interactive session with students at the McCormack campus and it was an illuminating and charming encounter.
The actual concert the following evening (reviewed elsewhere in the Mail) was a triumph. The quintet have a high reputation and deservedly so. Their remit is to introduce audiences to music of our time. Some of it can be demanding, but all of it proved invigorating and Chiang Mai was lucky to have them at the newly ‘crowned’ Duriyasilp College of Music - elevated in status from its previous Department. After it we went to that perennial Chiang Mai favorite, The Green Mill.
Music of a gentler nature was to be found at the AUA on Saturday, July 12, with guitarist Alessio Monti and four of his pupils playing a wide variety of music on an instrument which to me seems to have the range of an entire orchestra, especially when the compositions are Spanish and feature dance-like rhythms. I joined Nui again for dinner at Krit’s new place off Huay Kaew Road (reviewed a couple of weeks ago in the Mail) and found it well up to standard.
And finally, as the week closed down…or does it open up on Sunday?.. a kind friend, John W., laid on a little drinks party at his elegant condo, followed by a casual meal at the Garden Bar.
It served to remind me on many counts how lucky we are to live in this particular city with many of interesting and convivial company, a range of cultural activities (this week an experimental film festival!) and some of the best restaurants to be found in Thailand and far beyond.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
The Dark Knight:
US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller - The first Batman movie without “Batman” in the title. I think it’s just a wonderful film; dark, complex, and unforgettable, it succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling and disturbing crime drama. If you enjoy either type of film, don’t miss this one. And Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying in its portrayal of an insane mind. I would suggest, however, that the film is not for kids - it’s way too dark for them to appreciate or even understand.
In this episode, set within a year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon, and new district attorney Harvey Dent successfully begin to round up the criminals that plague Gotham City until a mysterious and sadistic criminal mastermind known only as the Joker appears, creating a new wave of chaos. Batman’s struggle against the Joker becomes deeply personal, forcing him to “confront everything he believes.” And a love triangle develops between Bruce Wayne, Dent, and Rachel Dawes. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Wor / Woh Mah Ba Maha Sanook: Thai Horror/Comedy - The usual comedians and an unusual (and mad) dog.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy - Again directed by Guillermo del Toro and again starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, this presents again a dark and difficult fantasy world full of fantastical creatures. It’s a brilliant nightmare, and almost too rich - one is truly overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and strange stories. Generally favorable reviews.
Red Cliff: China Action/Adventure - This $80-million film, directed by John Woo, is being shown here only in a Thai-dubbed version, and that is a real shame. It is a grand and glorious spectacle, designed by China to be released just before the Olympics to soften the hearts and minds of everyone towards China. This, the most expensive film ever produced in Asia, tells a story that is known by heart by probably billions of Chinese, and which they never tire of. It depicts the first setup episodes for one of the world’s greatest battles, the Battle of Red Cliff, to be seen in the second part, scheduled for release sometime around the end of the year. It is really thrilling, and well-done in the way only China with its tremendous resources can command. The film revolves around events in third century China, as the Han Dynasty is facing its death, and the emperor raises a million-man army against two kingdoms that are hopelessly outmatched. Starring Tony Leung.
Hancock: US Action/Comedy - There’s no doubt about it: Will Smith has a lot of charisma for a majority of moviegoers, including me. Here he plays an unsympathetic character, and has to work to gain our good will. Reviewers have widely diverse views on this one. A mess, frankly, but a mess with much to enjoy for fans of Will Smith, though he plays against type a good deal. Mixed or average reviews.
Friendship: Thai Comedy/Romance - I was less than enchanted - it seemed to me unrelated to the real life of people, either young or mature, and somewhat amateurish in writing, acting, and directing. But fans of Thai romances may well take to the unrealistic happenings between the two likeable leads.
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 is a fast-paced thrill ride, with a dazzling mix of state-of-the-art visual effects, adrenaline-fuelled action sequences, and nail-biting terror.
A young man (the very versatile actor James McAvoy) discovers his father is an assassin, and when his father is murdered, the son is recruited into his father’s organization and trained by a strangely-hypnotic man (Morgan Freemen) to follow in his dad’s footsteps, and in the process is transformed from a drone into a dark avenger. Also starring 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.
Scheduled for Jul 24
Journey to the Center of the Earth:
US Action/Adventure/Fantasy - A 2D version of a 3D film, starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. During a scientific expedition in Iceland, visionary scientist Trevor Anderson, his 13-year-old nephew and their beautiful local guide, are unexpectedly trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper and deeper into the depths of the Earth. Traveling through never-before-seen worlds, the trio comes face-to-face with surreal and unimaginable creatures - including man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds, and terrifying dinosaurs. Mixed or average reviews for the 3D version.

Experimental Film Festival in Full Swing
Mark Gernpy
Now showing at the CMU Art Museum is a program of experimental films, independent short films, and experimental documentaries presented by the company of the acclaimed Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in association with the Thai Film Foundation and the independent arts organization Project 304.
The festival began July 13 and runs through this weekend, to July 27. The presentation is quite professional, and the films on the first day were well done, some of them quite interesting, not all of them experimental by any means - some simply high-quality short films on a variety of themes and subjects. Most are from Thailand, but some are from filmmakers all around the world.
This is the touring version of the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival 5, which ran in Bangkok in March of this year, the fifth year of the festival.
The remaining and final showings are this Friday through Sunday, July 25-27, at 7 pm. at Film Space, which is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or perhaps on the roof, if the weather is good enough.
Friday, July 25
The program is in two parts, the first a selection of short films, and the second a feature-length film.
Part 1: 7:00-8:35 PM - Paranoid Dance - Described as a challenging 95-minute program of six experimental films that provoke the imagination and are designed to keep you guessing. Through “unsettling flirtations with genre, paranoia, and strange choreography,” these film artists explore the psychological programming of modern life.
The last of these, “Faceless,” is a 50-minute film by Manu Luksch of Austria with a voiceover by Tilda Swinton, made entirely of footage from actual video surveillance cameras in London, which are ubiquitous. (As required by the law that allows the public release of this surveillance footage, people’s heads are blotted out by colored ovals.) The story: In an eerily familiar city, a calendar reform has dispensed with the past and the future, leaving citizens faceless, without memory or anticipation. Unimaginable happiness abounds - until a woman recovers her face.
Part 2: 8:45-10:25 PM - A Crime Against Art [Director: Hila Peleg (Spain/Germany), 2007, 100 mins] - Based on a trial staged at an art fair in Madrid in 2007, which in turn was inspired by the mock trials organized by avant-garde movements in the 1920s and 30s. The trial theatrically raised issues in the world of contemporary art, such as “collusion with the ‘new Bourgeoisie,’ the ‘instrumentalization’ of art and its institutions, and the possibility of ‘critical artistic agency.’”
The trial begins with the assumption that a crime has been committed, yet its nature and evidence are elusive, and no victims have come forward. The testimonies and cross-examinations become an attempt by the Judge, the Prosecutors, and the Defense Attorney to unravel the nature of the puzzling “crime against art.” The film presents a condensed 100 minute version of the trial.
Saturday, July 26
Part 1: 6:45-8:30 PM - Learned Behavior - A 75-minute program of short and experimental films exploring the poetics of reproduction, and the unconscious forces that shape the patterns of social and political life. How are things passed from one generation to the next? Can we unlearn what we have learned? With an introduction and a Q&A session with David Teh, the curator of the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival.
Among these short films is the controversial 8-minute “Middle-Earth” by Thunska Pansittivorakul, a rather languorous study of two naked men sleeping.
Part 2: 8:30-10:30 PM - Lolay + Giam Eee - A 120-minute ThaiIndie collection of recent video works by acclaimed illustrator and artist Lolay (Thaweesak Srithongdee) and his collaborator, Giam Eee. This feature-length program has never before been shown in Thailand.
Sunday, July 27
7:00-8:00 PM: Experimental Music Videos - a 60-minute ThaiIndie collection of new and recent experimental music videos by Thai filmmakers, including works by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Sathit Sattarasart, Duck Unit, and Thunska Pansittivorakul.
Admission is free to all screenings.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

You are West and hear this bidding (S deals, EW vul):

S      W     N    E
1N     P     2C   P
2S     P     2N   P
3N     P     P     P

This is your hand:
S: 863
H: Q6
D: J10765
C: 952

What do you lead?
Some players might try the “safe” lead of the diamond jack. You, of course, think about the bidding first, before leading anything. 1N by South indicates 15-17 points. 2C (Stayman) shows that North has at least one four card major. 2S by South shows four spades (and denies four hearts). 2N by North shows his four card suit was hearts and indicates 8 or 9 points - inviting to 3N. South accepts the invitation, so should have 16 or 17 points. Thus, NS are marginal for making game, with about 25 points in total. You have 3 points, so your partner must have about 12 points. Since your partner has the points, you want to find his suit, rather than trying to set up yours.
But what is your partner’s suit? North has four hearts and South has two or three. Since you have only two hearts, your partner must have at least four, maybe five. So, you lead the Q of hearts.
The full deal is:


S: 52  


H: A743  


D: K93  


C: Q863  
S: 86   S: KJ104
H: Q6   H: KJ1095
D: J10765   D: 4
C: 952   C: A74


S: AQ97  


H: 82  


D: AQ82  


C: KJ10  

Your partner overtakes your lead and forces out the ace of hearts. Now, when he gets in with the ace of clubs, he takes the rest of his heart tricks. The contract goes down one - and your partner is delighted with your play!
Now watch what happens if you lead the “safe” diamond jack. Declarer wins in hand and then forces out the ace of clubs. Your partner gets in and leads hearts, but it is too late. Declarer takes the ace of hearts, to add to his three club tricks and four diamond tricks (by finessing you for the marked ten), and the ace of spades, to make the contract. If necessary, or if declarer is feeling really lucky, he can also take the spade finesse. On today’s hand this gives him an overtrick. Your partner glowers at you.
Defence is by far the most difficult part of bridge. Sometimes the opponents’ bidding
gives you a map of the hands, so take advantage of it!
I would like to hear from readers about their favourite hands - please do contact me at: [email protected]