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The Doctor's Consultation

Your Health & Happiness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

World Heart Day

Next weekend is World Heart Day (27th September). I know that there are all sorts of “world” days for us to celebrate such as “World Three Legged Water Spaniel Day” and “World Quokka Day”, but other than World No Smoking Day, nothing comes close to the significance of World Heart Day.
Why? Because heart disease still remains the world’s greatest killer, despite improvements in the overall statistics. The list goes:
Heart disease
Cancer
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Accidents (unintentional injuries)
Diabetes
Alzheimer’s disease
Influenza/Pneumonia
Kidney diseases
Septicemia
I have to say that I am at a bit of a loss to explain why Alzheimer’s disease is considered a killer, but the World Health Organization must have its own reasons.
Being a ‘world’ problem, it is also interesting to see the best countries not to live in. Here are some interesting statistics (again from WHO)
Slovakia: 216 heart deaths per 100,000 people
Hungary: 192.1 per 100,000 people
Ireland: 152.6 per 100,000 people
Czech Republic: 148.6 per 100,000 people
Finland: 143.8 per 100,000 people
New Zealand: 127.3 per 100,000 people
United Kingdom: 122 per 100,000 people
Norway: 112.5 per 100,000 people
Australia: 110.9 per 100,000 people
United States: 106.5 per 100,000 people
Germany: 106.1 per 100,000 people
Italy: 65.2 per 100,000 people
Portugal: 55.9 per 100,000 people
Spain: 53.8 per 100,000 people
France: 39.8 per 100,000 people
Japan: 30 per 100,000 people
Looking at those tables it would appear to be beneficial to eat sushi in olive oil and washed down with a nice bottle of Beaujolais.
However, we are here, and unfortunately I have no exact statistics for Thailand, mainly because it is difficult to get exact statistics on anything in Thailand, but just believe me when I say heart disease is also the biggest killer - especially amongst the farang community.
The sad part in looking at the world statistics is that the mortality from heart disease can be reduced. And what is even more sad is that much of it can be controlled by the individuals themselves.
Looking at a few of the risk factors for heart disease turns up high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, overweight and a poor family history (and I don’t mean financially).
Another good thing about those risk factors is the fact that most of them are easy to measure. Cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar (diabetes) are a simple blood test (and results in 45 minutes at my hospital here). Weight? Step on the scales. Blood pressure? Again a simple measurement, and many people have their own automatic machine at home as well. Smoking? Check your pockets for the cigarette packet and do yourself a huge favor by throwing the packet in the rubbish bin. Poor family history? Well, resurrection is currently beyond our capabilities right now, though some expensive insurance plans may include it soon. Just understand that a poor family history means that you should be doubly aware of all the other risk factors. Simple.
World Heart Day is September 27; it might just make sense to pop over to your local hospital that day and see whether you are in the high risk category. There is no point in shuffling off early if you can avoid it, surely.
In the meantime, you can always do the following:
Count the calories consumed each day
Watch the waistline
Measure the morning pulse
Get the cholesterol, triglyceride and sugar levels checked
Get the blood pressure measured
And of course, stop smoking.
Do all that and I’ll see you next year as well! And for those interested, a Quokka is a strange marsupial, about the size of a cat, that lives in Western Australia.

 

Your Health & Happiness: Health, Fitness and Weight Loss

Be S.M.A.R.T. – enjoy your exercise!

John Bailey
After the last several weeks’ emphasis on specific illness-related exercise, it might be an idea to throw in a little more of the philosophy( or theory) of exercise in relation to age, health, attitudes and the mental/emotional issues we all experience from time to time to a greater or lesser degree. For an exercise professional, two considerations are always under review; firstly, the effect of exercise on the individual, and secondly, the client’s potential response to a particular exercise regime.
At one end of the spectrum, a healthy but slightly overweight 55 year-old may well decide it’s time to be more active and fit as an insurance against future health problems. At the other end is the individual who, for whatever reason, has already developed a serious health problem and is at risk of secondary complications as a cumulative effect. In both cases, there are two considerations to address – the potential of existing problems and the maintenance and improvement of both cardiovascular and metabolic health.
A 55 year-old man, for example, is obviously not going to become a body-building champion overnight, and a health problem is not going to disappear after only a couple of months of corrective exercise, although both parties will feel better in themselves by that point. For the exercise professional, this presents a second problem, retention, which goes like this.” I feel so much better, I think I’ll give the gym (swimming, cycling, jogging, whatever) a miss this week.” Thus is continuity broken with the accompanying guilt and loss of self-esteem – pretty soon, it’s back to square one!
As I may have mentioned before, motivational techniques and tactics are essential in maintaining one’s health and fitness status – appropriate exercise has to be part of your lifestyle. Research has found that the main reason for giving up on a regime is “I don’t have time.” Here in Chiang Mai? Possibly retired? You don’t have time? Right!
All of us here are in a privileged situation as regards climate and diet – and free time, unless we’re slaving away 24/7 at a job. It’s how we use the time that’s important. The bottom line is, as always, that it’s up to the individual. A little help, though, is always welcome, and you might be surprised to find out that the most helpful person you know is probably yourself! Unless you are by nature highly motivated, the best was to help yourself is to make a framework around which you plan your strategies of starting and continuing. We all have times when the going gets tough and we just don’t feel like doing anything, which is exactly when the barriers go up.
The most common problem experienced by exercise professionals is “flexibility.” No, not the physical kind, but the “all or nothing” approach to training. “All,” unfortunately, can become “nothing” very easily, resulting in difficulties in reinstating your regime. It’s far better to cut yourself some slack without feeling guilty. Taking 2 or 3 days off is allowable, providing you start again as promised to yourself. After 2 days or so, you will probably feel the need to start again anyway. Another aspect of the flexible approach is to vary your exercise type as and when it suits. If you’re fed up with the gym, swim. If you’re bored with cycling, walk. If you’re tired of walking, run. Etc, etc. This works and can ultimately be as beneficial. No worries – right now there’s 4 years before the next Olympics!
Remember, thought, that you still do need a framework within which to measure your improvements. Welcome, therefore, to the SMART principle, Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time Based!
“Specific” relates to definite, “Measurable” aims and goals to be achieved. These must be “Agreed” on and “Realistically” achievable in a given “Time-frame”. Get it?
SMART is an important strategy, but must have a degree of flexibility, both in increasing and decreasing its measurable units. The best person to help you do this is an exercise professional, but a good friend or training partner should be able to give you enough feedback to help you on your way. The “loneliness of the long-distance runner” is not a good way to achieve success in exercise therapy! You could also become part of a group and enjoy the social aspects, as long as you remember that fitness training is not a competition.
In the end, regular exercise, whatever the motivation, can only increase the quality of your life. Begin a programme at an easy level, review your SMART progression regularly, get your mind and body comfortable with this new way of life, and, most importantly, ENJOY!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Recently I asked you for some advice after my Thai girlfriend left me after I innocently asked her if I could take some upskirt photographs of her underwear. In reply, you belittled and scorned me, which I accept in good nature. But seriously Hillary, I have a question... why do Thai women prefer to wear black underwear, when white looks so much better against their tanned skin? I can’t understand it. It has reached the point where I have been forced to purchase white underwear to give whatever bar girl I pick up to wear. That’s not fair really. I mean, why black underwear? Also, I am not some kind of deviant. Sure I am Dutch and I am old, but I am not some trench coat wearing deviant.
Stig
Dear Stig,
I am so glad to read that you don’t have a trench coat, which makes you feel that you are not a deviant. I take it this is because, in your mind, having a trench coat is the sign of a deviant, my Petal. Well it’s not in mine, Stig. For me, a deviant is someone who does things like sniffing lady’s chairs (and I see an Australian polly went down for that one). Other things that deviants are known to do is taking upskirt photographs.
I also have to take you to task, old Dutch Stig, where you write “Recently I asked you for some advice after my Thai girlfriend left me after I innocently asked her if I could take some upskirt photographs of her underwear.” It was far from innocent, Stig, as in your first letter you even admitted that you set up these photographs to post on the internet, on an adult website. And you also admitted to buying knickers for bar girls to wear as you got down on your knees probably with an electric fan and a box brownie. You wrote, “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.” There’s the crux of this matter (crux, not crutch, Stig), “then post them on the website”. So much for “innocently asked”.
As far as Thai girls preferring to wear black knickers rather than the white underwear that you prefer, I have no experience in this, as upskirting is not one of my regular pastimes. However, I did speak to the young girl in the lingerie shop and she said that both black and red seemed to be popular, but did mention an old chappie who comes in regularly for another pair of white ones. She did not know whether the man was buying them for a girlfriend, or to wear himself. Thailand is the place where you can be yourself, isn’t it, Stig?
However, the real reason for the black undies is to make their skin look whiter by comparison. Thai ladies want to be white, and that is why whitening creams have the biggest slice of the cosmetic market in this country. Simple, so put away the camera and find something else to do with your spare time. Have you tried stamp collecting?

Dear Hillary,
I have a problem in the office. Nui is the secretary for the boss and while the relationship looks very business-like on the surface, I have seen the pair of them out together at night in karaoke bars. I like Nui a lot and I have seen the boss with other women at night, so she doesn’t know about this I am sure. Nui is always very friendly towards me when we meet at work and I want to ask her out, but I don’t want to get on the wrong side of the boss. I’m also thinking of leaving, but I don’t want to leave Nui. Should I ask her to leave with me? I haven’t discussed it with anyone yet.
Alex
Dear Alex,
Are you for real my shrinking violet? You are wondering if you should stroll up to the coffee machine when she is making the boss his morning coffee and breathe heavily and say, “I’m leaving. Want to come with me?” What do you think she is going to say and do? Leave the coffee cup and say, “Hang on a tick, I’ll just get my handbag.” You seem to have built this relationship up in your mind, to the point that you think it is real. It is not, Alex, this is a fantasy that you are trying to make reality, and it just does not happen like that. If Nui shared that fantasy, then go ahead, it could be fun, but she doesn’t, does she? She does not even know what you are thinking, but a good secretary knows how to be friendly with the other staff members. You are mistaking that friendliness for something much deeper.
Let me ask you a pertinent question, my Petal. How old are you? And how old is Nui? I think, reading between the lines, that you are still a teenager and Nui is much older than you. Did you leave the nest too early, Alex, and are looking for a mother substitute?
Alex, yes you should leave, before you make an embarrassing fool of yourself, and wait till you are much older before embarking on relationships.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Making child photography child’s play

We have just had the Jester’s Charity Children’s Fair and there were certainly many children to photograph. There were also many proud Mums and Dads with cameras, but how many got a ‘good’ shot of their offspring? Unfortunately, not as many as you would imagine.
One of the largest problems when photographing children is their attention span. You may know you are trying to get the best shot ever of little Johnny, but little Johnny doesn’t know it. And what’s more, doesn’t care! With an attention span measured in milliseconds, he is not going to stand still long enough for you to fiddle around with camera settings, flash settings and exposure mathematics. No, when photographing children, use the Auto setting on your camera, and that is one of the few times I will recommend that setting! To get a good kid pic means that you have to be totally set up and ready. That means you must begin with an idea of how you want the end result to look.
The music hall comedians always worked on the principle that they should never get on stage with children or animals. There were many good reasons for that, one of which was the fact that neither took stage direction very well, and both had short attention spans. Photographing children and animals is also fraught with the same problems.
Let’s look at the equipment needed first. In general, the further away you get, the more natural the photograph you will get. So, a small zoom lens (35-70) works very well in this situation as you can get far enough away from the child without invading the child’s ‘personal space’ and producing shyness or forced behavior.
Some photographers swear by Auto-focus (AF) for this type of shot, but personally I find that the noise is distracting for children. The “whiz-whizz” attracts for the aforesaid three point four milliseconds attention span, and then they are off again. However, the newer AF cameras (lenses) are much quieter and are probably the best in this situation.
The most important item with child photography is to get down to their level, otherwise by shooting from above you get distortions and a “strange” view of the child.
Since children are fairly mobile creatures, you do need to get a reasonable depth of field to keep the subject in focus. There are a couple of ways to ensure that this happens. The first is to select 200 ASA film. This means you can use a smaller aperture (or your camera can select it, on “auto” settings). This increases the depth of field, keeping your subject in a deeper area of sharp focus. The second is to photograph in good light, which again means the camera can select small apertures.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of taking the shot of your terrible three year old. Put little Johnny in a well lit area of the house, patio or garden with some favorite toys. Sit down on the floor a little way from him and pre-focus the camera. Now just sit there, not joining in to his play world, looking quietly through the viewfinder. Remember that you do have a limited time before Mr. Three gets bored and wants to wander off.
When everything is right, call out the child’s name and catch the child’s first response to you. The inquiring look, or the big smile, will be there to be caught forever on film. You can repeat that exercise perhaps three times before the child will not respond any more, no matter what you do! As I said at the beginning, these little creatures have a very short attention span. Be prepared, be ready and be watchful and you too can get that ‘magic’ shot.
Have a look at this week’s picture. This happy youngster was snapped by doing all the above techniques. The candles on the cake were focusing the child’s attention, and the supplicating hands were caught at just the right time. Not a fluke, but the photographer was there, and ready, and this was just one of about six taken at the time.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Getting a grasp on the Institutes of Deposits Protection Act

One year on since the Sub Prime Crisis in the US emerged and still the global aftermath unfolds. The announcement of banks in the UK suffering liquidity issues has already seen many depositors withdraw their savings. Following the ‘temporary nationalisation’ of Northern Rock and the role of the Fed in the rescue of Bear Stearns, the question of whether UK government should intervene is a hot debate. Even without any banking failures, it’s also a hot topic here in Thailand right now.
Following Thailand’s economic crisis in 1997, the government launched the Financial Institution Development Fund (FIDF) which protects clients’ deposits against bank insolvency or bankruptcy. It was designed to regain consumer confidence in banks and has proven to be successful; locally bank deposits have been considered as a secure method of saving money only a decade after the widespread failure of finance companies and the Bangkok Bank of Commerce.
However, on August 11, 2008, a further Act, known as the Institutes of Deposits Protection Act, was passed which supersedes this.
The Act defines, imposes and sets out some provisional measures which will alter the statuses of financial institutions in Thailand including the security, stability and safety of deposits held by financial institutions. The Act establishes the Institute of Deposit Protection (“IDP”), classified as a juristic person, which will control the Deposit Protection Fund. The IDP has an initial capital of THB 1 billion with the main practical difference between the FIDF and the IDP amounting to a cap on the amount of protection bank deposits will receive. Under the FIDF deposits were protected regardless of the amount whereas the IDP adopts a systematic tier approach.
Instead of the full amount, the maximum amount that the IDP will guarantee per depositor per financial institution is THB 1 million, regardless of the number of accounts owned by the depositor.
In order to adapt gradually, this Act provides a transitory provision which covers the first four years of the Act as follows:
Year Value Protected THB
1        Full Amount
2        100 Million
3        50 Million
4       10 Million
5       Onwards 1 Million
From the effective date of this Act, any person who holds resident THB deposits of more than THB 1 million in a financial institution must reconsider the security and the returns of maintaining those accounts. Savings in commercial banks will no longer be fully protected (subject to a 5 year scale) and will go from a “low risk, low return” investment to “high risk, low return” investment.
The Act will greatly affect the credibility of financial institutions in Thailand. It may encourage depositors to seek alternative ways to safeguard and invest their money.
What are the alternatives?
We could look at keeping deposits within the regulated western and offshore systems but in many cases this isn’t practical. This is Asia’s Century according to global economists because of the demographic and economic trends will ensure that the 21st century will be dominated by Asian politics and culture. Therefore we should perhaps be looking for more opportunities to employ our capital in Asian currencies than in the old world.
It is on this premise that the Asian Century fund was created as a high yielding income fund offered in Thai baht, Singapore dollar and US dollar hedged variants.
The Asian Century fund makes it possible to invest offshore in investment grade deposit securities denominated in Thai baht currently yielding over 8%. What’s more custodial regulations in Guernsey provide 100% protection to investors in the event of the failure of these funds. This protection is unlimited, unlike that offered by the IDP.
Other choices besides the Asian Century fund such as government bond, real estate or even stocks are also available. One thing that we cannot miss though is to study well and reach for a professional guide when needed.

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

Dear Nick…Welcome to Thailand…

A few ‘tips’ to help you enjoy your first visit

I know you’re not actually here yet, but by the time this appears you should be packing for the third time and ready for the off. Leave most of it behind. You can buy anything you need, laundry is cheap and it’s hot in early October. Sadly for us, you’ll probably have spare seats on board, thanks to over hyped political problems and ludicrous announcements from 23 foreign governments, including the UK, who have warned against travel to Thailand.
Anyway, the impasse seems to have yielded some sort of result and hopefully life will be back to normal by the time you arrive. To be honest, apart from so few visitors – the long term effect of which is hard to judge – we notice very little up here. The fact that a person who cooks pork in coca cola and supports the Burmese junta is no longer in charge means only that he will have more time to prepare vivid sounding recipes and less time to influence ASEAN countries’ attitude towards Burma. Win one lose one. I doubt much else will change.
Still, politics need not concern you. What you need is a little advice on your first visit to the Kingdom. Remember that word and you’ll be welcome. You may not think so at Suvarnabhumi Airport, despite the notice above the immigration desks, proclaiming Welcome to Thailand – the Land of Smiles. Many of the staff do their best to disillusion you of that during the painfully slow process. The fact that you’ve been traveling for most of a day and are 6 hours out of sequence only adds to their pleasure. Luckily, it is easier and more pleasant in Chiang Mai and since you are wisely heading straight up here you’ll escape the hurdle of wildly over priced taxi ‘services’ into Bangkok. Here, there’s a flat 120 baht charge into the city. Very clean, very efficient and good value. Let it be said though, tuk-tuks and their often erratic drivers are a different matter. Prices of transport went up with petrol prices. Now they are down no one has told red car or tuk-tuk drivers. A contradiction of the saying that what goes up must come down.
With luck, the very wet weather will have eased by the time you get here, although it will still be hot. The low season scrapes itself off the September floor and hotels here will be hoping for a rise from the 15 to 20% occupancy rate, which has not been helped by the over zealous encouragement of new accommodation here. Something to do with plans, (thankfully aborted), for a casino in the city.
As I said, welcome to the Kingdom. Something to remember, since the King here is not just respected like our Queen is at home but revered. You will hear silly stories about how strict observance is of that fact. In reality it amounts to a showing of respect and good manners – standing during the Thai national anthem, for example. You’ll have picked up other do’s and don’ts in a guide book—a wise investment, as too many tourists arrive without a clue and remain clueless for weeks. It comes down to common sense and good manners. No sloppy dress at temples. Shoes off before entering homes, some shops and all places of worship. Sensible behavior and decorum in public, not pointing your feet at people and so on.
Personally, I think they should make more of the need to keep calm, whatever the circumstances. For the impatient farang – some never seem to learn – this is difficult and it only adds to the stress. Remember, Thai time is not our time. This applies not just to meeting someone but also to the fact that for many Thais the day starts late and ends the same way. Also, meals are not governed by the clock, but hunger.
And talking of meals, these are not ‘governed’ by our strict notions of starters, main course and possibly puddings. Thai food (it is best to eat Thai here during your short visit, since it is cheaper and better cooked than all but the most expensive farang places in Chiang Mai) is best shared, and it is a fact that the quality of fish is infinitely better than the available meat. It is quite usual for everything to arrive at once or for some dishes to arrive very late. To avoid this just order the so-called appetizers first and then order further dishes as you go along. If things get chaotic don’t panic. And don’t get upset. It will do absolutely no good at all. Quite the contrary. No need to count to ten, just say three times, This is Thailand! The alternative is to be like one farang I know who admits to a short fuse and is constantly surly. Or another who thinks that saying something very loudly and more than once makes him more understandable. It doesn’t, of course.
So there you have it. Respect the Royal Family, Buddhism, the general customs and culture without making a fuss about it and you’ll be fine.
Meanwhile, I’d say there are two basic rules. In my experiences Thais like cleanliness and by extension people who dress ‘well’ more than anything else, seeing these as an aspect of good manners. It’s not designer clothes I’m talking about, (though youngsters will notice these), but the state of one’s outfit and its condition. They are a picky lot and a grease spot or missing button is enough to confine any item to the laundry basket. None of above denies the advantage of a well filled wallet. This is a money oriented society, with cash infinitely preferred. Credit cards should be a last resort and very often incur a surcharge.
Despite this very real concern with money and ‘reward’, I must say that in 25 years of traveling here and five years of residency I have never experienced any unpleasantness in respect of money, let alone theft. This is not to say it does not exist. Nor other crimes. Nor drugs, bribery and corruption. Nor violence. It is simply a question of common sense on the part of visitors, who can easily avoid all those things. But common sense is something patently lacking on the part of many tourists, especially the bar louts who hang out in Pattaya and parts of Bangkok and elsewhere, get ripped off and complain about it afterwards. We fare much better here and although there are a few bare-back motor cycle riders in high season and some dodgy bars, Chiang Mai is calm – at least on the surface – and the people here are polite.
The exception to that rule is on the roads. Whilst road rage is not a problem, the general regard for other road users is minimal. That applies to pedestrians especially. Young, old, infirm it does not matter – you are a second class citizen and risk your life at every crossing, whether you have ‘right of way’, (that’s a meaningless green number counting down from 10), or not. I was told recently that Thailand has the highest death rate on the roads of any country. I don’t actually believe this, having seen the driving in Manila and Moscow, Colombo and Delhi, but I’ll bet they are in an unenviable top ten. During their New Year, (that’s Songkran, known as the water and slaughter celebrations), more people die on the roads than in the whole year throughout Scandinavia.
And forget the old song about a bicycle made for two. Three or even four without a helmet between them is quite common. It is also quite common to see a four-legged navigator. Back legs planted in front of the driver, front paws resting on the handlebars. Cute? Possibly. Lethal? Definitely.
Still, as you’ll know from earlier conversations, the good infinitely outweighs the bad here. So pack those slip on shoes, a few lightweight shirts and some shorts and slacks and plenty of cash. Luckily Thailand is still a lot less expensive than Europe. It is now at its greenest and Chiang Mai is really at its most pleasant from October through February. You’ll have to contend with a stupid and excessive tax on wine but keep that as a treat and enjoy the good beer along with some super food. There are some great trips to be had outside, to the north, or around the city, to Chiang Dao or down to Sukhothai. There is also plenty to do in the old city or around the river. The locals are friendly and the farangs nicer here than in any place I’ve been in Thailand. Culturally, it offers a wide range of musical activities, plenty of art shows and galleries, commercial and art movies and - naturally – plenty of local ‘interest’ and Thai culture. It boasts more good second hand book shops than anywhere of its size I have ever visited. And? No, since this is a family newspaper, I won’t venture into other territory. Suffice to say I don’t think you need to be lonely, hungry or bored in Chiang Mai. Deafened on occasion, hot and sticky, run over if you are not very careful. But not bored!


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan:
US Action/Comedy – Starring Adam Sandler. Zohan is an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. It’s an Adam Sandler comedy, and if you like his kind of low crass comedy, you should like this one very much. Here he plays the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for laughs. I laughed. A lot. And cringed. A lot. Mixed or average reviews.
Baan Phee (Phop/Pob) 2008: Thai Horror/Comedy – At least the 11th installment of this popular ghost/horror/comedy series. In Thai with no English subtitles.
Cyborg She: Japan Romance/Sci-Fi – A touching time-spanning sci-fi romance/comedy with impressive visual effects. In the year 2070, a kindly, frail, and physically handicapped Jiro builds a female cyborg and sends it/her back to 2007 to prevent the incident that crippled him. Thai-dubbed with no English subtitles.
Burn / Kon Fai Look: Thai Thriller – All you ever wanted to know about “SHC” – Spontaneous Human Combustion. As you certainly know, that’s the familiar medical condition wherein a living human being suddenly bursts into flames. Director Peter Manus comes up with a pretty far-fetched explanation for this pretty far-fetched human malady. Slow and not really too scary or gory; the film is more a drama, and you will be quite surprised at who the villain turns out to be. Some interesting effects and moods.
Bangkok Dangerous: US Action/Drama – Directing twins Danny and Oxide Pang remake their popular 1999 thriller about a ruthless hitman (this time Nicolas Cage) who travels to Bangkok to carry out four murders. A fairly decent, if cliché ridden and predictable, action flick. You should be happy with it if you like a somewhat low-powered action picture. Or are a fan of Nicolas Cage. Rated R in the US for violence, language, and some sexuality.
Tevada Tokmun: Thai Comedy – About the misadventures of an angel and a monk.
Mamma Mia!: US/UK/Germany Musical/ Romance – Starring Meryl Streep. Immense quantities of popular ABBA music that I find horrifyingly infectious. An extraordinarily vivacious and energetic musical that is bound and determined to make you sing and dance and feel good about marriage. Mixed or average reviews.
Boonchu 9: Thai Comedy – A feel-good movie for Thais from start to finish. It’s the gentlest of comedies and family drama, with the sweetest of characters and the pleasantest of situations. Has some appealing young stars and well-established older comedians.
The Coffin / Lhong Tor Tai: Thai Horror – Ananda Everingham as a claustrophobic architect who participates in coffin rituals to gain a new lease on life. Interesting, and has some good things going for it, with a stellar cast and a fine director, but not quite the movie that director Ekachai Uekrongtham set out to make. The opening sequence of the burial ritual at the temple gives an idea of what the film could have been. The director’s first English language film, but shown in Thailand only in a Thai-dubbed version, with English subtitles which don’t jibe with the movement of the lips. It’s simply awkward.
Made of Honor: US Comedy – A piece of fluff about, what else, love problems, with the appealing stars Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan. Generally negative reviews.
WALL•E: US Animation – A work of genius from the first frame to the last. Robot love in a dead world, and the cutest love story in years. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Death Race: US Action/Thriller – Little more than an empty action romp – mindless, violent, and lightning-paced. Rated R in the US for strong violence and language. Mixed or average reviews.
Scheduled for Sep 25
Eagle Eye:
US Action/Mystery/Thriller – Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan play two strangers thrown together by mysterious phone calls from a woman they have never met. Threatening their lives and their family, the phone calls push the two into a series of increasingly dangerous situations. These two ordinary people become the country’s most wanted fugitives, who must now work together to fight a faceless enemy who seems to have limitless power to manipulate everything they do.
Dive!: Japan Drama – Three young men try to turn their dreams of Olympic gold into a reality in this sports drama from Japan. They are members of the Mizuki Diving Club, which has a reputation for transforming talented young divers into world-class champions, but in recent years the club has had a run of bad luck, and with few winning divers emerging from their ranks, sponsorship is dwindling and unless things change the MDC could go out of business. Faced with this grim possibility, the head coach brings in a new female coach. Lovely but determined, she intends to restore the MDC to its former glory, puts her focus on three young divers she’s convinced have the greatest potential, and pushes them to the limit in preparation for the all-important qualifying meets.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Last week I mentioned the relaxed attitude towards life, exemplified in the phrase mai pen rai (meaning something like “never mind”) which is famously part of Thai culture. However, such an attitude has its disadvantages when it comes to the bridge table, where planning is rather important to success. For declarer, the most important aspect of planning is to count your tricks before even playing to the first trick. If you are in a four level contract, you want to be able to count 10 tricks, in a six level, 12 tricks. Try this with the hands below.
You are sitting South and are declarer in six hearts, with no opposition bidding. The ten of spades is led. You see the North and South hands as below. Before looking at the full deal, decide what is your plan for the contract?

                     S: K64
                       H: AQJ10
                       D: K108743
                       C: -                        
S: ?                                              S: ?
H: ?                                              H: ?
D: ?                                              D: ?
C: ?                                              C: ?
                       S: AQJ
                       H: K542
                       D: 2
                       C: K8654              

I watched one declarer play this. He snarled his thanks at his partner and then paused, correctly, before playing to the first trick, in order to formulate a plan. As play proceeded, it became obvious that his plan involved trumping his club losers on board. That meant delaying pulling trumps. He needed plenty of entries to hand, so he began by playing the spade king and overtaking it with the ace in hand. Then he ruffed a low club and led another spade to hand. He ruffed a second low club and tried a third spade to hand. East ruffed in and led another trump, leaving only one trump on board, while hand still had three losing clubs. Declarer then seemed to lose heart (understandably) and ended up losing a trump, two clubs and a diamond, in addition to the defence ruff, to go down four.
At the other table, declarer paused to count tricks. He saw that he could never get to 12 tricks if he used dummy’s high trumps to ruff clubs, because his trumps in hand were too weak to use to pull trump. The only way was to use his own trumps to ruff diamonds and try to set up dummy’s diamond suit. He won the opening trick in hand and led a low diamond. West went up with the ace, to declarer’s relief, and led a low club. This was ruffed on board and a low diamond was led to be ruffed low in hand. He crossed back to board with a trump, and led a third round of diamonds which he ruffed with the king in hand. West discarded a low spade. Now, he led his last trump to board and pulled trumps with dummy’s last high hearts. He breathed a sigh of relief again when trumps split 3-2. Dummy now has good spades (with the help of the ace in hand) and the good K108 of diamonds. Twelve tricks (three high trumps, a club ruff on board, two diamond ruffs in hand, three spades and three diamonds) and contract made, thanks to careful planning. Admittedly, he needed a little luck, but he went for the only possible way to make twelve tricks, which was by setting up dummy, not trying to set up his hand. More about dummy reversals (setting up dummy, not hand) next week.
This was the full hand, with North dealer and EW vulnerable. Would your plan have made the contract?

                         S: K64
                           H: AQJ10
                           D: K108743
                           C: -                         
S: 109872                                          S: 53
H: 983                                                H: 76
D: A6                                                 D: QJ95
C: Q103                                             C: AJ972
                           S: AQJ
                           H: K542
                           D: 2
                           C: K8654               

I would like to hear from readers about their favourite hands – please do contact me at: [email protected]