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

Can you get a DVT in Business Class?

Let’s clear up the acronyms first. DVT stands for Deep Venous Thrombosis, which manifests itself as blood clots, generally in your lower legs. And secondly, you don’t have to fly to get a DVT.
Now everyone in the world, other than a few farmers in outer Mongolia, has heard of the “Economy Class Syndrome”, in which you end up getting blood clots in the legs from being squeezed into seat 176A at the rear of the Economy section of Plummet Airlines. The rationale is that after sitting in 176A for the 12 hour flight to bring the bad news to Outer Mongolia, the blood flow in the legs slows so much that clotting forms and you end up with yet another acronym, this time called DVT, or more correctly Deep Vein Thrombosis, or even Deep Venous Thrombosis. This has produced a group of nervous airline passengers, cowering in fear, waiting for hijacking or DVTs. Those who can afford it, upgrade to Business class and sit there drinking G&T’s feeling totally pampered and safe from DVT. Unfortunately, you can get a DVT while sitting with the aforementioned G&T in seat 12A as well.
However, there are many ways of getting your DVT, and you don’t have to buy an expensive ticket, plus fuel surcharge to get one. You can get one sitting in front of your work computer. Dear me, your computer is now a killer.
Backing up this contentious claim is one of the world’s respected medical publications, the New Zealand Medical Journal, with the results tabled at the annual conference of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Richard Beasley of the Medical Research Institute in New Zealand studied patients admitted to hospital with DVTs and found that only 21 percent had traveled on long distance flights, whilst 34 percent were sedentary office workers who would sit in front of their computer screen for three to four hours at a stretch without getting up, and do this for up to 14 hours a day. This showed two factors. Firstly their work habit was dangerous, allowing the blood to pool up in their legs, and secondly, they had magnificent bladder control.
Whilst I was joking about the bladder control, I would postulate that to be able to sit for four hours at a time, these office workers were not drinking enough fluid, leading to thickening of the blood, and even more likelihood of blood clots. Look around your office, how many of the staff have a water jug, or even a glass of water on their work station?
That’s enough on the factors leading to DVT, what can a DVT do? What happens is very understandable. The clot breaks off from the deep vein and then travels upwards towards the heart. In doing so, it will go from major, large diameter blood vessels into smaller and smaller again. Eventually, depending upon the size, the clot will become wedged in a very small vessel and shut off the blood supply to that area.
If the blockage occurs in the lung, the condition is called a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). This is potentially fatal. PE causes or contributes to up to 200,000 deaths annually in the United States. One in every 100 patients who develop DVT die due to pulmonary embolism.
There is some good news in all this, if pulmonary embolism can be diagnosed early and appropriate therapy started, the mortality can be reduced from approximately 30 percent to less than 10 percent.
Still, 10 percent is a little too high for my liking. So what can you do to prevent getting a DVT? Apart from the obvious maintenance of good health with sensible eating and drinking and regular check-ups, the important preventive factors include getting up and walking around at least every hour (both in the office and from seat 176A), drinking plenty of water and taking 100 mg of aspirin every day. By making it less likely that a clot can form, you remove the dangers of DVT.
Go and get a glass of water now! And use it to swallow your aspirin.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hilary (sic),
Perusing several recent editions, I came across two writers keen to know what is your true appearance, having only seen the odd drawing of you which could have been mine, sketched from photo’s taken by most ardent admirer, Nairod Remraf. Why sketched, because Nairod’s camera, a box brownie which he’s used since serving in the Boer War, needs expensive serving, its images so poor, in need of enchantment by cartoonist me? So, back to your appearance and why you’re rarely seen? Your modesty prevents you from saying that you have it all! And to be seen and adored in public would have the world media descending on Chiang Mai and giving your modest self, unwanted attention. Re the photos? One of them featuring the back of your shapely legs was quite good and would have been even better had the Big C security chap not apprehended Nairod for prostrating himself on the escalator, the photo being later confiscated by the court. His welfare these days I hear you ask? Well, he’s recovering well after taking up your suggestion to pitch his tent on the Sukhumvit, so very soon, he’ll be refocusing on your sweet self again; and my advice to you is to wear trousers when negotiating escalators!
Dorian farmer
PS: so that you don’t think Nairod too old for you, he says that he lied about his age to serve in the Boer War.
Dear Dorian (and in a roundabout way, your alter ego Nairod),
Photos of me going up the Big C escalators? Taken with a box brownie? You must be mistaken, Mr. Cartoonist. Hillary (two ‘ells’, by the way my Petal) does not go up Big C escalators. In fact, I do not go up any escalators. I have no head for heights and the last thing I need in this life is to swoon into the arms of your lecherous friend. No, when needing to go to upper floors, I always take the lift, as befits a woman in my position.
I am not sure your friend really understood what I meant about pitching his tent on Sukhumvit Road. I neither meant the footpath, nor the median strip, but somewhere around the center lane outbound would be fine. If he pitches the tent close to the hospital, the ambulance charges should not be too difficult for him to scrape together (after they’ve scraped him off the road). When you say he is “recovering well”, is this from the after effects of being run over? (I don’t think I’m that lucky!) Or is it just from the vodka?
Honestly Dorian, I don’t think that your alter ego is the man for me. I don’t give a purple damn how old he is. Thank you for telling me that my legs look nice. I don’t do anything special to keep them that way. Not that I’m really interested, but are there any copies of the photographs left?
Dear Hillary,
This is not a lovelorn problem, so I hope you don’t mind my taking up your time with this, but it is one that nobody has been able to answer, so I thought, as you are the fountain of facts, you just might know. I notice that there appears to be more and more hill tribe people selling native trinkets in Thailand. They just used to be in Chiang Mai down by the Anusarn market, but now they seem to be everywhere, and certainly a long way from the Golden Triangle. That makes me wonder if these traders are real hill tribe people, and if they are, how did they get so far away from home, and are they genuine and is it safe to buy things from them?
Dear Akha,
Phew! You certainly have got your undies in a knot over the hill tribe folk, haven’t you? How did they get away from Chiang Mai? Simple, my Petal, perhaps it is the new cheap flights from Chiang Mai to Bangkok that is bringing them down from the hills, as I have yet to see an Akha lady in the black jacket and skirt, colored socks and funny hat with the back turned up, on a regular flight.
Why do they do this? It is a fine example of the Thai Free Trade Dam Agreements (TFTDA), promoted heavily by the Thai government. If there is a market somewhere, flood it! But what you have to remember is that every time you see a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, it does not mean that he is Hawaiian. Or every time you see a very well endowed woman in a bikini, it does not mean that she is a he. Likewise your genuine hill tribe ladies. If they are far from the beaten track, it is highly probable they are genuine traders in black drag and funny hats, but not genuine hill tribe traders. If I am found strangled in the morning by a rope of silver coins, you will know I was wrong. They were genuine. Is it safe to buy things from them? Totally safe, there have been no recorded cases of bird flu passed on through chicken feather head-dresses.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

How not to miss good shots

How many times have you thought to yourself, “Damn! I wish I had the camera right now!” This is after the shot of a lifetime just happened before your eyes. A shot that could have kept you in champagne for the next three months.
Now these shots do not have to be re-runs of the Towering Inferno, but can be shots that just somehow epitomize life in Thailand, for example. It could be a katoey posturing on Beach Road, or even the buffalo with two birds standing on its neck, like the shot I have used for this week. Always remember that you are living in a land that your countrymen save up for 12 months just to get here for a holiday. You (we) are lucky and should not let photographic opportunities pass us by.
So this week, let’s look at a few specific examples of “how to” when you are looking to record those “once in a lifetime” images.
Every city, town or village anywhere has its parades. And there are plenty of them here. Now, have you ever tried to record the parade? It is actually very difficult. The naked eye sees a long procession of musicians, marchers and the like as they pass by, but the camera sees only one slice of the action about 1/60th of a second long!
There is only one secret word for parades, and that’s ‘height’. You have to get a high viewpoint to successfully record the action, and preferably use a long lens. By shooting down the oncoming procession you will get several squads of musicians, marchers, etc., all on the one frame. By using the telephoto lens you “compress” the action and get more in the one photographic frame. Honestly, if you can’t get up high don’t take parades. You will be disappointed with all ground level shots.
All tourist towns have their nightlife, and we have the odd nocturnal events and places. Lots of lights, neon signs and flood-lit fountains are the norm for this type of photograph. The secret here is a wide angle lens with an aperture down around f 1.8. This is the time to set your digital to 800 ASA, or 400 ASA at least. The other secret is not to use your flash. Now I fully realize that this is photography after dark, but the whole concept is to let the attractions provide the illumination, rather than blasting it with your flash burst. If you try and take neon light using flash you will totally wash out the neon and again get very disappointing results.
One of the more challenging travel situations is the summer beach holiday. It is very difficult to photograph the beach and not end up with a washed out look in the final photographs. The secret here is a polarizing filter and the time of day you shoot. This is where the polarizer works so well, especially with the glare from the sand. The polarizer will also give you a blue sky to contrast the yellow sand. The time of day is also just as important. Shoot early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are skimming across the beach and the tracks and ridges in the sand will show up as shadows.
Some of you will be exponents of the wilderness type holiday, trekking and camping and taking in the vast grandeur of breathtaking natural wonders. The secret here is a wide angle lens, look for low viewpoints and set the ASA on 50 or 100, plus a tripod if you can. The idea here is to use the lens at around f16 or f22 to maximize the depth of field. This in turn and the slow ASA setting, will require longer exposures - hence the tripod. Shooting in this way will give you maximum detail in the shot, maximum content and visual theater. Finally, shoot early morning or late afternoon as well to get the dramatic shadow effects and really give the impact to the Grand Canyon! With charging elephants, however, do not wait to see the whites of their eyes; however, they do look better when polarized!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Where in the world?

A well know magazine recently interviewed MBMG about how the recent political turmoil here in Thailand, coupled with the rollercoaster ride being experienced by the banks and economies around the world, is causing widespread concern about the security of investments. In Thailand, concerns were prompted by a combination of the political situation and the recent passage of the Institutes of Deposits Protection Act (IDP). In simple terms, as stated in a recent Money Matters column, this Act places a cap, or limit, on the amount of protection bank deposits in Thailand will receive. Under this Act, the maximum amount that the IDP will guarantee per depositor per financial institution is one million baht. In the article we reviewed the range of viable alternatives in Thailand, including money market funds, deposit funds, overnight funds and fixed deposit funds in different jurisdictions around the world.
However, this has also prompted us to review the various investment and deposit markets around the world. At the time of writing, we are waiting for the US to approve or not the Paulson request for US$700 billion and so things may be different in the short term by the time you are reading this. Nevertheless, below we have summarized the issues facing investors and depositors and indeed everyone right now:
Africa - The Dark Continent is coming increasingly under the investment spotlight with the increasing focus on MENA (Middle East and North Africa) funds. However, this appears to be driven more by marketing momentum than fundamental economic factors and we would be very wary about all forms of investment in Africa now although commodities and resources are likely to remain attractive and this may ensure that Chinese direct investment into Africa continues.
Summary - African currencies, property and equities right now look too specialized for most investors.
Asia - See below for information regarding specific markets. Investor protection is patchy throughout the region varying dramatically from country to country, as indeed does the quality of financial institutions. Property in Asia is, in general terms, in much better shape than in the West although in many cases we would defer buying opportunities for the short term. Many of the region’s currencies that aren’t completely US$ linked appear to be in reasonable shape.
Summary - We would not rush in right now but, generally, we would not panic either.
Australia - The worst is yet to come for the Australian economy, property markets, equity markets and financial institutions. Finance companies are falling like flies after a DDT dusting and we expect the Australian banking system to come under pressure too. The AUD remains extremely vulnerable as a result, especially against a backdrop of falling interest rates.
Summary - it’s not too late to exit Aussie assets and it makes sense to move money away from ‘down under’.
China - The world’s most populous nation’s inevitable progress to becoming the world’s largest economy has been cemented by the arrival of 3 Chinese banks in the list of the world’s 5 largest banking institutions. We think that the stock market has further to fall, that the property market is entering a major correction and that a recession is on the cards. That said, we also think that China is not excessively leveraged, has huge foreign currency reserves and a hugely resourceful and resilient population.
Summary - It is hard to know how clean China’s banks are so we would avoid keeping money in China and we would be waiting for better opportunities to invest into Chinese equities and property. RMB may not be the best performing currency over the coming 12 months but it will not be the worst either.
Europe - The Euro zone is battling against recessionary forces and some European countries are now openly in recession. The economic pain will be at its worse in leveraged countries such as Ireland or Spain and this is where property and equity corrections will likely be at their most serious. The euro is not as beset with problems as the likes of sterling or AUD but looks expensive and may weaken to some extent. Some European banks may get caught up in the fallout of the sub-prime crisis but overall the European banking system is in far better shape than the US or the UK.
Summary - It is too early to buy European equities just yet, property in Ireland and Spain looks set to fall much further and this now more neutral than positive.
Harvard & Yale - the endowments of these institutions have operated the most successful investment strategies of the last two decades. They continue to go from strength to strength. The main focus of these strategies is to reduce risk and to achieve greater consistency of investment returns resulting in higher gains over the business cycle. MBMG’s client portfolios, managed by Midas Capital (nee MitonOptimal), aim to replicate this philosophy and approach and continue to generate good returns for clients in a range of currencies.
Summary - Despite the global economic woes of present, clients have still made money, are making money and will continue to make money whatever the markets throw at them.
Middle East - Strong oil revenues have created a wall of Arab money, as evidenced by the spending power of the region’s sovereign wealth funds. However, we remain very sceptical about the investment and business capabilities of the region.
Summary - Arab currencies, property and equities right now look too volatile and insufficiently attractive for most investors on a risk/reward basis.
New Zealand - Plunging property market, collapsing finance companies, banks under pressure, equity markets locked into a downward spiral. There may be good reasons for keeping money in New Zealand but all the ones that we can think of are related to the attractive returns from agricultural investments right now.
Summary - Get out while you can!
Offshore - Regulated respectable offshore centers will profit from the added security that they provide. Those with less stringent protections may experience chickens coming home to roost. We have long preferred keeping money in deposit or investment funds in Guernsey, a self-governing UK dependency since 1204, whose financial regulation and law enforcement standards were strongly commended by the International Monetary Fund which found a strong level of compliance with the highest international standards. The Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC) requires that at least 90 percent of assets be held by a third party custodian to provide capital protection in the event of a failure in the investment provider. This means that, if you choose to place your money in a Guernsey-domiciled investment provider, at least 90 percent of your money is protected even if your investment company folds completely.
Summary - A regulated deposit fund in Guernsey can be very different to putting your money into, for instance, a bank in Thailand. If a Thai bank fails, then you will become just one more name on a long list of creditors.
Singapore - The economy seems to be slowing and this would hurt the local stock and property markets. However, the Singapore dollar’s status as the Swiss franc of the East remains intact although we would prefer to hold our SGD offshore rather than in one of the banks in the Lion City.
Summary - The currency may well be a beacon right now.
Thailand - Will the currency, the economy, the property market and the local bourse improve if the political situation is resolved? Maybe, but when will the political situation be resolved? Fundamentals remain attractive and, therefore, there is high potential within the market.
Summary - Could go any way!
United Kingdom - The property market is in the throes of a major crash. The equity market is in a tailspin, the pound remains very vulnerable, the economy is on the verge of recession; things are looking desperate. Banks, especially the smaller ones, are at significant risk of failure. The country’s largest mortgage lender HBOS has been rescued by Lloyds-TSB but other institutions like Bradford & Bingley remain extremely vulnerable.
Summary - Sell property and equities now! Take exposure to other currencies; prefer offshore deposit funds to smaller onshore banks.
USA - What did we say about the UK? - The property market is in the throes of a major crash. The equity market is in a tailspin, the dollar remains very vulnerable, the economy is on the verge of recession; things are looking desperate. All banks and financial institutions are at extremely significant risk of failure. Money held within portfolios at investment banks is generally safe as the banks only act as custodians. However, the size of US institutions may mean that the process of transferring investors’ securities even from Lehman Brothers, which certainly was not the largest institution, may take some time. We believe that it is more secure and more re-assuring to hold assets outside the US right now.
Summary - Sell property and equities now! Take exposure to other currencies, prefer offshore deposit funds to smaller onshore banks.
Zimbabwe - Recently introduced the $100 billion banknote. Sadly, it’s worth just 80 cents. Maybe Zimbabwe exists to prove that things actually can be even worse than in the UK and USA.

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

Ever, Dirk…The Bogarde Letters

Superb companion volume to the authorized biography

Last week, a friend arrived in Chiang Mai carrying some post, a handful of CDs, two tubes of Euthymol toothpaste and best of all a luscious fat book…all 550 pages of it – with super photographs – containing a selection of the letters written by Dirk Bogarde during the two ‘final’ periods of his life. The time from the very end of the 1960s until around 1990 when he lived on the Continent and was happiest and the last decade of his life, which were often melancholy encompassing as they did the final illness of his long term companion Tony and his own declining years, living as he described it a short walk from Harrods.
The letters have been culled and brilliantly assembled from an original two million words into 250,000 words or so of gossip, erudition, information, opinion and personal notes and will prove fascinating (and witty and clever) to anyone interested in this fine actor-writer or post ‘60s culture and society generally. It should be available on line from suppliers or even a good bookshop and deserves to be tracked down. He also wrote 15 books, including biography, memoirs, journalism and several novels which are mostly still in print and can easily be found in one of the many wonderful second hand bookshops in Chiang Mai, alongside John Coldstream’s Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography, which was published in 2004 and issued in a paper back version a year later. A wonderful read.
Since the book was sent to me by the publishers (no doubt at the behest of John C., a friend), I feel free to write about it. None of the above is influenced by knowing the editor and knowing his subject and the easiest way to prove that is to choose (with great difficulty) a couple of quotes from the letters to give a sense of the style, content and sheer magnetism of Bogarde’s writing. He became much more of a writer in later years and indeed much of his fame rested on his books and reviews and a screenplay, since he made very few films in the last 20 – even 30 – years of his life, after making Death in Venice for Luchino Visconti.
Here he is describing a visit for dinner by his neighbours in France, the ‘Atts,’ known to us as (Lord) Richard Attenborough and his former actress wife (Lady) Sheila Sim. “We fed them naturally, in Attenborough Style. A huge, really big leek pie, which Dick had two helpings of. TWO chocolate ice creams with nuts and cream walloped on top, half a round of cheese, lots of bread and butter, figs from the garden and TWO bananas…I sat amazed...but could say nothing… We had a bottle of wine, they did rather and then coffee. Oh! I forgot. With the leek pie they had my tomato salad mixed with fresh basil, sugar and oregano… and ate it all. We had made enough for our lunch today. No way.
But they are, when alone with us here, very relaxed and obviously, one feels, are very fond of us both. We never dry up for conversation and Dick is very un-pompous. EXACTLY what he is NOT in public. Strange. He has had a ghastly time with the Americans over his film (A Chorus Line). They have behaved dreadfully badly, as they always do, and summon him back and forth across the Atlantic as if he was an office boy. I don’t know how he does it or why he lets them do it to him. He agreed he was too decent and that his British Manners of fair-play and good humour were out of place in Los Angeles. As I know to my cost!
However, off they go on Sunday for two weeks. To fight the battle again. No wonder really, that they need so much food. They have to keep their energy up somehow…but I do fear the day when he’ll explode!”
This is just one tiny part of one letter, but somehow encapsulates much of Dirk’s style. His waspish humour, exaggeration, his affection and testiness and constant worry about the cost of entertaining. Also his way – in casual letters – of writing exactly as though he were chatting to the recipient. Throughout the book (though it has been subtly edited and ‘cleaned up for possible libel’), there are countless spelling and grammatical errors, expletives and other politically incorrect statements and a sense of fun and frustration. He hates America only slightly less than Australia and bad manners and televison and a host of other things. He loves many more things, especially some people. And even those he detests (director John Frankenheimer aka Frankenstein) and the fat Welshman (Richard Burton) seems to justify his bile. This is not a book for the fainthearted. It is a roller coaster ride through the life and times of a very fine actor and a brilliant actor. A scrabrous portrait of many of his fellows and yet containing some of the best of all the writing he did. His letter to the widow of director Joseph Losey (with whom he made five films including The Servant and Accident) is a masterpiece of sensitivity and truth and compassion.
He said once, ‘it is an astonishing thing to me to find that I am really not a bit happy unless I am writing. Even a letter will do.’
It also serves as an adjunct to the biography, the memoirs in its revelations about the star himself. Much of the time he was cagey. Notably about an earlier great love and in his studious avoidance of gossip about his nearly 50 year relationship with the wonderful Tony. I was lucky enough to meet him on a variety of occasions. Helping with his hugely successful lecture/interview at London’s National Film Theatre, at his favourite hotel, the Connaught, and best of all on visits to his wonderful house at Clermont, way above Grasse in the South of France. On the first occasion, the house had only just been bought and was far from habitable but his and Tony’s delight with it were a joy to share. Over the years it became ‘grander’ and less primitive, but still welcoming and a wonderful home which he hated to leave. Much of this and his fantastic life emerges from these letters, alongside anger and frustration at the passing years. It was no ordinary life and this is no ordinary book.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Body of Lies:
US Drama – With Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, about a CIA operative who attempts to infiltrate the network of a major terrorist leader operating out of Jordan. Based on a 2007 novel by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Mixed or average reviews.
E-Tim Tai Nae: Thai Action/ Comedy – A boxer in a show in Pattaya falls in love with a Japanese tourist. Looks dreadful, unless you like comedy based on the smashing of testicles.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: US Animation/ Sci-Fi – A new adventure in the “Star Wars” series, here done with animation. The movie has gotten generally negative reviews, most saying that the mechanical animation and less-than stellar script make The Clone Wars a pale shadow of George Lucas’ once great franchise, and a cheap excuse for a big-screen spectacle. It’s more like a long Saturday morning cartoon, and a trailer for the upcoming new Star Wars series on the Cartoon Network.
Disaster Movie: US Comedy – Returning to their seemingly bottomless well of flatulence humor, racial stereotypes, and stale pop culture gags, Friedberg and Seltzer have produced what is arguably their worst “Movie” yet. Seldom has a film been more appropriately titled. Reviews: Extreme dislike or disgust.
Luang Pee Teng II / The Holy Man II: Thai Comedy – Bad boy becomes monk, meets misadventures, makes merit. The first Luang Pee Teng was the top Thai film at the box office in 2005, earning 141 million baht, even beating out Tony Jaa in Tom Yum Goong. This second of the series has a new star, Thai rapper, hip-hopper, and ex-skateboarder Joey Boy, one of the Thai stars in the ill-advised and poorly-received rock version of the Ramakien that played Lincoln Center in New York in the summer of 2006. The cast is filled out by the usual contingent of Thai TV comedians.
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 families, the phone calls push the two into a series of increasingly dangerous situations using the technology of everyday life to track and control their every move. As the situation escalates, these two ordinary people become the country’s most wanted fugitives, who must now work together to discover what is really happening. Fighting for their lives, they become pawns of a faceless enemy who seems to have limitless power to manipulate everything they do.
The script has the feel of something once substantive, but which was poked, prodded, cut, and crimped until all semblance of intelligence was wrung out of it. Apparently, it means to say something about anti-terrorism surveillance and civil liberties, but most reviewers who try to say what it’s about, say it’s about as dumb as can be.
Vista has a Thai-dubbed version as well. Mixed or average reviews.
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. Here he plays the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for laughs. I laughed. A lot. And cringed. A lot. Mixed or average reviews.
Scheduled for Oct 16
Max Payne:
US Action/ Thriller – Starring Mark Wahlberg. Based on a popular interactive video game, this is the story of a maverick cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family and partner. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. “As the mystery deepens, Max (Wahlberg) is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world and face an unthinkable betrayal,” or so says the studio.
Scheduled for Oct 23
Beverly Hills Chihuahua:
US Comedy – In this Disney comedy, a pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua (voice of Drew Barrymore) finds herself accidentally lost in the mean streets of Mexico without a day spa or boutique anywhere in sight. This one actually looks quite delightful, to gauge by the previews.
Tropic Thunder: US Comedy/ War – I have seen this, and I heartily recommend the film, but only for those not easily shocked. You might just have the best laughs you’ve had in years. Robert Downey, Jr. gives another amazing performance, this time playing a black. It’s an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the biggest war film ever. After ballooning costs (and the out of control egos of the pampered cast) threaten to shut down the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia where they inadvertently encounter real bad guys. Directed by Ben Stiller. Generally favorable reviews.


The “Cat’s Whisker” flower

There are a group of understory (which grow under large trees) plants, some native to Thailand’s rainforests, which have long, drooping appendages reminiscent of cats’ whiskers, called Tuccas. The commonest Thai variety is Tucca chantrieri, which fully deserves its common name, the “Bat plant,” as the distinctive side bracts look just like the black wings of a bat in flight. I am particularly fond of any flower which has the extremely rare colour “black,” although the colour itself is not actually black but a very dark purple pigment. This is one of my favourite plants in the world, together with Areseaone with its elegant black and white stripes and the all black pansy, the “blackest” of all flowers.
All the above can be grown in Thailand; T. chantrieri is now in flower and is freely available at the market. Look out for the different forms – some have rather small flowers, some rather green, but the most spectacular is the brown-black variety with its tall stems and its “whiskers,” which can reach up to 12 inches in length.
Flowering is encouraged by water collecting in the base of the leaf stems, and the peculiar black flowers are upward-facing to collect water until they are pollinated, after which they turn their faces downwards in order to set seed. A white/pale purple Tucca is also available and flowers earlier than the black-bloomed example, but has quite spectacular large flowers – very lovely.
These plants must have shade and ample moisture, but can survive drought by losing their leaves and becoming dormant. They survive by their swollen rhizomes – shorten stems which act as food stores. Please do try this plant – the glossy leaves are lovely on their own, and, when in flower, it never fails to arouse interest and comment – if not outright amazement.

Tip of the Week
Always try to buy a plant in flower, then you can be absolutely sure that you are choosing the right colour and form. It can be very disappointing to go to the trouble of planting and nurturing, only to discover too late that you have bought the wrong plant!

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

I recently played a match over two evenings in Chiang Mai, against John Bucher and Jay Sherman, and with Chris Hedges as my partner. John and Jay won the first half easily, but at least we got a little back on this interesting hand. I was sitting North.
South dealer, no one vulnerable

                      S: AJ9852|
                        H: -
                        D: QJ42
                        C: 742             
S: KQ6                                    S: 743
H: A1076                                 H: K843
D: A6                                      D: 7
C: AK106                                C: QJ983
                        S: 10
                        H: QJ952
                        D: K109853
                        C: 5

This was the bidding:
South        West        North     East

2D              2N            3S            P
P                Dbl           4D           P
P                Dbl           All pass

Chris dealt and opened with a weak two diamond bid – a bit unusual because when you have a good major suit on the side, most people do not open weak in a minor unless their partner has already passed. West overcalled two no trump, which actually understates his 20 high card points (in this sequence, the 2N overcall usually shows a decent 1N opener). I decided to bid spades, both to get in the way and knowing I could always escape to diamonds if necessary. After West’s double, I did indeed escape to four diamonds. West doubled again, understandably in view of his hand.
West led his two high clubs, and Chris ruffed the second in hand. He then crossed to board with the ace of spades and ruffed a low spade in hand. He ruffed a heart on board and ruffed another spade in hand. Now, dummy’s spades were all set up. He pulled trumps in two rounds, leaving a trump on board to get back there to cash the three winning spades and throw losing hearts from hand. All he lost was the aces of clubs and diamonds, making four diamonds, doubled into game, with an over trick, for 610 points (Chicago scoring). A better defence is probably for West to switch to the ace of trumps at trick two, and then continue with his last trump, to cut down ruffs on board. However, this makes no difference to the result, because the spade suit can still be set up by taking the ace and ruffing two rounds of spades in hand. The two remaining trumps on board provide the additional entries needed to reach board for the second ruff and then to run the good spades.
The most interesting feature of this hand is that it shows the power of distribution. The North-South hands have only 14 high card points between them, yet 11 tricks in diamonds are cold against any defence that I can see. East-West have 26 high card points between them, yet cannot make any game against good defence (losing two spades and two trumps in four hearts and losing two spades and one heart in five clubs). Points schmoints, as they say!
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