The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Different strokes for different folks
World Stroke Day is just around
the corner, so I may as well use that as the reason for this week’s column.
It is also a very common condition and one of the major causes of death and
A stroke (also called a ‘cerebrovascular accident’ or CVA) occurs when blood
vessels carrying oxygen to a specific part of the brain suddenly burst or
become blocked. When oxygen-rich blood fails to get through to the affected
parts of the brain, the oxygen supply is cut off, and brain cells begin to
Strokes fall into several major categories, based on whether the disrupted
blood supply is caused by a blocked blood vessel (also known as an ischemic
stroke) or a hemorrhage. Since each type of stroke has a different type of
treatment, it is very important for the physician to determine the cause of
the stroke, as well as the location, as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, it is no longer a case of guesswork, but several diagnostic
studies may be needed to pinpoint the problem area, and to work out whether
the stroke is from blockage or bleed.
Some of the treatment modalities include Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
which is generally the first diagnostic test done after a patient with a
suspected stroke arrives in the emergency room. It is used to quickly
distinguish between an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an advanced diagnostic tool that
provides a high level of anatomic detail for precisely locating the stroke
and determining the extent of damage. Due to its high level of sensitivity,
MRI is considered especially useful when the stroke involves small blood
Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is a new noninvasive technology for
imaging the cerebral blood vessels, which yields valuable information
regarding collateral (alternative) blood vessels in the brain. Carotid
Duplex Scanning is a noninvasive study to diagnose blockage in the carotid
arteries. This technology involves recording sound waves that reflect the
velocity of blood flow.
Transcranial Doppler (TCD) is a newer, noninvasive ultrasound procedure that
allows the assessment of blood flow through the cerebral vessels via a small
probe placed against the skull. TCD is a portable test, which can be
performed frequently at the patient’s bedside to follow the progress of
medical treatment for stroke.
PET Scanning, which measures brain cell metabolism, can determine if brain
tissue is functioning even if blood flow to that area appears to be
Cerebral Angiography (angiogram) is a diagnostic study that requires
injection of a contrast dye through a major artery (usually the femoral
artery in the thigh) for evaluation of blood flow to the brain.
So are you having a stroke? The warning signs of stroke include sudden
weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg (especially on one
side of the body), loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding
language, sudden loss of vision, particularly in only one eye, sudden,
severe headache with no apparent cause, unexplained dizziness, loss of
balance or coordination (especially if associated with any of the above
There are several risk factors, including:
Hypertension - having high blood pressure means the blood vessels are under
more tension, and certain weaknesses (called aneurysms) can rupture.
Smoking - Smokers get more strokes than non-smokers.
Atherosclerosis - Deposits of cholesterol on the inside of the arteries
predispose to blood clots being formed.
Diabetes - Uncontrolled diabetes puts the sufferer into a high risk
Alcohol and drug abuse - neither of these make life ‘better’!
Age - The chance of having a stroke increases with age. Two-thirds of
strokes occur in persons over the age of 65.
Gender - Stroke is 25 percent more common in men than in women.
Race - The incidence of stroke varies among races. African-Americans have a
higher incidence of hypertension than Caucasians, and a higher rate of
Family or Individual History - A history of cerebrovascular disease in a
family appears to be a contributing factor to stroke.
While you have no control over your family history, you can take steps to
decrease your risk with medical advice.
Is it time to consult a brain specialist?
Your Health & Happiness: Health, Fitness and Exercise
Cardiac client exercise – straightforward and beneficial
Looking through my folders last week, I rediscovered an advisory
paper written on behalf of a major London, UK, health trust. Re-reading
it, set me thinking that maybe I have been wrong in taking care not to
write about, amongst other things, heart problems. The paper, entitled
“Exercise implications for the cardiac client,” obviously has a
technical side to it, with which I won’t bore readers, but, essentially,
the message is as follows. Provided a few rules are adhered to and
common sense prevails, cardiac clients run very little risk of exercise
To quote, “Exercise is extremely safe for cardiac clients, and serious
side-effects are rare. A meta-analysis of 40 USA trials found that, for
heart patients who undertook exercise training, the mortality rate was 1
death in 784,000 patient hours.” (Dr. Hugh Bethall, 1999) Far less
risky, it would seem, than driving in Thailand! Assuming that your
cardiac problems were diagnosed and treated satisfactorily more than 6
months previously, you should have been signed off by your doctor
together with some advice about lifestyle, diet and – yes – exercise.
You may also have been tested for heart rate response, VO2 max., BP
response, etc. and, if you were given medication, may have been told how
it would affect your exercise response. Provided that you are one of the
vast majority of people who recover successfully from a cardiac event,
an exercise programme set to follow certain basic rules can, firstly,
increase your functionality, secondly, prolong your life, and thirdly,
increase the quality of your life.
I would like to address the above over a period of two to three weeks,
and would like to start with a preface of do’s and don’ts, as well as
do’s and don’ts for several specific conditions. There is, naturally, a
defined Cardiac Rehabilitation Process. Phase 1 involves diagnosis and
treatment, plus past treatment assessment. Phase 2 is recovery, and
phase 3 involves hospital-based exercise classes including assessment of
performance and response. Phase 4 is unsupervised long-term exercise,
usually requiring monitoring by your doctor or hospital unit, would
normally take up to 12 weeks, and is educational and therapeutic.
At the end of the 12 week period, you should have learned how to monitor
your own exercise intensity using the Borg scale, have achieved an
exercise capacity equal to a walking capacity of 4.5 miles per hour, and
have a proven track record of appropriate exercise. You should also
understand the importance of risk factor modification and be able to be
aware of an improved fitness level. Most of the above will be achieved
by aerobic exercise such as walking briskly, rowing, cycling and
Next week – self-monitoring – how it works.
Heart to Heart
First off I would like to say I love reading your column. I do not have
promises of Champagne or chocolates and I am sorry for that. I do have a
question for you though. Do all girls in Chiang Mai flirt with all
tourists or am I just a walking sign board that says here I am come take
advantage of me? Well I don’t really know who is taking advantage of who
but at times I feel that there really is a spark, a kind of connection.
Am I dreaming this or is it possible?
Interesting that you see yourself as a walking signboard. What is the
wording? Obviously not “Prepare to meet thy doom”, though some people
are thinking that way these days with us approaching the time after the
‘low’ season, which will probably be called the ‘lower’ season. Now to
your specific questions - do all girls in Chiang Mai flirt? No, all
girls do not. A percentage do, and that percentage increases
exponentially as you approach the bar areas, until after you have passed
through the “Welcome! Sit down please,” threshold, the percentage is
nigh on 100 percent. Is there a spark, a kind of connection, as you so
eloquently put it? Of course there is! That sparkling connection is
called “money”. Not necessarily Thai baht, but American dollars are
fine, or any other currency accepted by the banks in Thailand (so
Dirhams are doubtful). Don’t worry about the exchange rate, the young
ladies will know already, even though the rates are fluctuating wildly
with the latest nonsense in the nation’s capital. Now, dreaming or
nightmare? Depends upon your point of view, Petal, but I think you’re
I wanted a hair cut so I went to my usual barbers the other day, to find
it was closed. This was something new to me, so I drove around to see
the next one, and it was closed as well. Asking around with my friends,
I was told that all barbers in Thailand close on Wensdays (sic) and it
was a Wensday (sic) that I was looking at. Can you tell me why they all
want to shut on that day. I had to spend the rest of the afternoon in
the pub instead. Is it a govment (sic) rule or what? Good for the pub
bizzness if it is.
Dear Hairy Herb,
Aren’t you lucky, it was just the Bar-ber that was closed, and not the
Bar-beer! Your friends were correct, the barbers close on ‘Wednesday’
(write out the correct spelling 100 times, Petal). It is not a
‘government’ (write this one out 100 times as well) rule, but comes from
the fact that we consider it to be bad luck to cut your hair on a
Wednesday, so the clever barbers may as well close, rather than spread
the bad luck. And it is ‘business’ (so write that out as well. You are
going to be a busy boy!) It is something like the old religious edict of
“no meat on Fridays” overseas, which gave the fish and chip shops some
great trade and gave the butchers a holiday as well.
I was told many years ago that you shouldn’t let your wife’s family come
to stay with you, even just for a few days, as it always ends up for
weeks or months. I thought I was lucky because it never happened to me.
Relatives might stay one or two nights, but that was it. Recently things
have changed a lot now with her brother and her cousin and her mother
all staying in the house with us. They all stay in the one room which I
think is a bit unhealthy, and they’ve been here for three months and
there’s no sign of them leaving. They are quiet and do help around the
house and garden, but this wasn’t what I really expected. I asked my
wife about it but she just says it’s OK and they’ll be going soon after
the brother and cousin have got jobs and mother is just having a
holiday. Well I wish I could have three month holidays. What’s the next
move, Hillary? Enough’s enough, surely. I have a close family in the UK,
but they wouldn’t come and stay forever.
Husband under siege
Dear Husband under siege,
You are now starting to see a little of what Thai society is all about,
my Petal. Family reigns supreme, and it is usual for them all to sleep
in the same room. It’s not unhealthy. It is Thai. When you got married,
you joined a Thai family, much more than your wife joining your UK
family. After all, you married a Thai lady and then you chose to live in
Thailand. You would have to expect that Thai culture will be dominant.
You can try voicing your reluctance to have them there, but be prepared
for difficulties. This is your wife’s immediate family. You can always
try to find them jobs - in a far away city. Lots of luck!
by Harry Flashman
Getting the phuzz out of photos
Modern digital technology is promising us sharp photos. Some
cameras even make people smile in the final image, even though
they might have been scowling. So, have the days of ‘bad
pictures’ finally gone?
Unfortunately, the technology does not cover all possibilities,
but undoubtedly the number of ‘bad pictures’ will be less. With
today’s anti-shake in my latest digital I have successfully
hand-held at one third of a second. Or should I say, the camera
has been able to stabilize the image at a one third of a second
shutter speed. I am sure I am not that steady!
Everyone these days seems to have a small digital camera in a
purse, pocket or handbag, which is brandished triumphantly as
everyone attempts to record the “good times”. This is an
admirable use of the digital camera, but unfortunately the “good
times” can still be spoiled by “bad pictures”. And one of the
reasons is the One-Two-Three. That is the “One-Two-Three” that
every social photographer seems to think has to be said before
popping the shutter, which is accompanied by the photographer
holding up One-Two-Three fingers, leaving the camera held in one
Now I am aware of the fact that the new mini, compact digitals
will easily fit in one hand, but to get a sharp picture, you
have to make sure the camera is still while the shutter is
tripped. One handed picture taking just doesn’t keep the camera
still enough. Especially when as the happy photographer is
waving the free hand in the air, the camera is also waving!
The manufacturers are trying to counteract this by either the
lens or the sensor being programmed to move to counteract
unsteadiness in the camera, caused by the photographer not
holding the camera firmly - or perhaps suffering from
Parkinson’s disease, or perhaps trying to photograph the moon
hand-held at a five second time exposure.
However, this technology is not the be all and end all. It has
its limitations. You only need a slight movement in the camera
to produce ‘soft’ photographs. You will not realize this when
you look at the postage stamp sized LCD screen on the back of
your camera, but when you go for larger prints it all becomes
too obvious, or when you digitally magnify areas of the image.
With the larger cameras, SLR’s and the like, it becomes even
more important to avoid camera shake. After all, why spend
thousands of baht to buy super sharp lenses and get soft
“blurry” photographs. You might as well have stuck with a cheap
disposable “camera in a film box” and saved your money for booze
- which will also give you the shakes just as easily but
possibly more enjoyably!
The simple fact of the matter is that to get sharp photographs,
the camera must be held still while the shutter is held open,
despite all the electronic gizmos. Now, in most daylight
situations if the camera is set on “auto” it will select a
shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second, and while that
sounds “fast” it really isn’t. You will still get noticeable
“softness” in the final print if the hand holding the camera has
allowed any movement.
The secret really is in the grip. And it is a two handed one.
You will not see any professional photographer taking shots with
one hand free. I also recommend that you take a short breath in
and then hold it while gently squeezing off the shutter. Another
good practice is to keep the elbows in by your sides, and even
lean against a solid object, like a telephone pole! In overcast
weather when the camera will select slower shutter speeds, this
is even more important. Your camera will also most likely have
two “hand/finger” impressions on either side of the camera body.
They are not there for decoration. Use them!
No, if you really must let your subjects know that they are
about to be recorded for posterity, a simple verbal
One-Two-Three (while hanging on to the camera with two hands) is
all that is necessary. I guarantee you will get pictures more
sharp than you used to get before.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
A beginner’s guide to the credit crunch, part 1
Recently many people have asked questions about ‘Le crunch’
and we’re guessing that many others want to but are too embarrassed. Heck, it’s
not them who should be embarrassed - if the Tsars of Wall Street had asked a few
more questions we might not be in this mess today. We’ve written some really
detailed pieces about this but one client recently pointed out that while these
might serve as great theses for other economists to pore over; they’re not
always what you might call ‘accessible.’ So, here goes - A beginner’s guide to
the credit crunch.
The credit crunch is basically a global phenomenon whereby the global economy is
running out of money.
How can that be?
Well, we find ourselves in a situation where those who have the money
won’t or aren’t able to give it quite so readily to those who need it. An
obvious example is the banking sector. In a number of countries including the
USA, UK, Australia, Spain, Ireland a record amount of lending took place during
the last decade. Most of this was focused on property as record amounts of money
poured into the residential and commercial property sectors.
Is this why property prices went up so much?
It was certainly the major factor - all asset prices tend to be
primarily determined by supply and demand. The huge increase in the availability
of easy credit on both sides of the Atlantic and in countries like Spain and
Ireland enabled many people who previously couldn’t get credit to suddenly do
so. This extra demand forced up property prices in these places.
These people who previously couldn’t get credit - is this the
sub-prime that we hear so much about?
That’s right - prime rate mortgages are those given to borrowers who
can substantiate good credit credentials. Below that we get Alt-A or
self-certificated loans where the applicants say that their credit is good but
that they can’t prove it. These tend to be referred to as ‘liars loans’ for
obvious reasons; would you admit your credit was bad if you didn’t have to and
if that admission would cost you money in the form of a higher interest rate or
would result in the refusal of your loan application? Ranking below that
category are sub-prime applicants, namely those unfortunates who can’t hide that
their credit isn’t good.
So people with bad credit could suddenly get loans?
People with damaged credit should always have the right to prove that
they have repaired their situation and can now service debt but suddenly all
previous criteria went out of the window and instead of proper credit checking
everyone could now get approval for loans that in many cases they couldn’t
What happened then?
The so called sub prime borrowers were the ones least able to pay and
who found themselves most at risk of defaulting. These defaults built up to the
extent that they became a problem for lenders who had totally under-estimated
the extent of defaults.
Is this the so called toxic debt?
Yes - it’s normal banking practice that lenders lend much more money
than they have in their own reserves. They need to attract some deposits so they
have some reserves of cash to fall back on but they have been increasingly
borrowing more and more money from other lenders. Often this in sold as an
You can sell your debts as an asset?
You can if you’re a bank. If someone owes you money (a debt
obligation) the income stream from that is really an asset - the bank that
originally leant the money can sell it on and take a fee. Meanwhile the right to
collect the capital and interest every month suddenly belongs to the buyer. The
bank who sold the loans is suddenly debt free and can go and do the same thing
all over again.
Why would anyone buy debt?
Well this happens all the time. Someone has a chunk of capital and
wants to earn interest - he can usually get a better return than the bank rate
by buying a debt vehicle. Government Treasury Bills and Corporate bonds are
typical examples of debt vehicles. Buy a US Government T-Bill and you are giving
capital to the US government in return for regular interest payments in the
interim and a promise that they will repay the capital on maturity.
But isn’t that different? Surely the US government will always
You would hope they would - although the US Government has defaulted
before and only last week the markets for government debt indicated that the
risk of US Government default is now higher than it’s ever been. In fact it
rated the risk of US government default virtually comparable to the risk of debt
default by public corporations like McDonalds! But I take your point - not all
mortgages get repaid. Sometimes houses end up being repossessed and lenders can
lose money on these transactions.
Exactly - not everyone will repay these mortgages, will they?
No they won’t. At the moment it’s impossible to guess how many of
these mortgages will be OK and how many won’t. Usually the law of big numbers
means that it’s possible to make an extremely close estimate but right now, that
really doesn’t apply.
What’s the law of big numbers?
Many recurrent patterns of events are capable of being quantified,
provided that the historical data is accurate, the sample data is broad enough
and the comparison is like for like. In other words it’s generally true in
financial transactions to believe that, “If you always do what you’ve always
done, then you’ll always get what you always got.”
Take a broad enough sample of mortgages with comparable key data and the default
rate will be very consistent at comparable parts of the economic cycle. Roughly
the same percentage of Illinois Alpha-rated sub-urbanites would have defaulted
in the boom periods of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Applying probability
of default rates means that probability of losses and write-offs from mortgage
defaults can also be accurately calculated. Buy big enough batches of clearly
defined mortgages and you can be virtually certain what profits you will realize
on these. To help buyers identify what is contained within batches of mortgages
credit ratings agencies used historical data and the law of big numbers to
predict the expected repayment quality of these batches of mortgages.
To be continued…
The above data and research was compiled from
sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd
nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in
the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as
a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading
the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
Musing on Boozing
And how Chabrol dealt with Orson Welles
Last week I wrote about the collected letters of Dirk
Bogarde (Weidenfeld and Nicholson) and mentioned his account of giving
dinner to the Attenboroughs, with his characteristically dyspeptic comment
that the guests had drunk the bottle of wine on offer. Leaving aside the
parsimony of offering only one bottle to be shared at a generous meal, it
occurs to me that Dirk and his partner Tony were the real drinkers at that
table and probably abstained from the vino as much out of indifference to it
as well as a reluctance to open a second much needed bottle. Many heavy
drinkers are well ahead of the pack before the meal is served.
His amusing letters contain innumerable references to alcohol: often the
‘need’ for a beer, a lament about the change of the clocks which means that
he has to wait an extra hour before the first noon-day drink. Harold Pinter
– another heavy drinker – I was with him when he drank a bottle of Scotch
one evening in Exeter, claiming a ‘head cold’ in – has a brilliant scene in
No Man’s Land where the writer draws the curtains on a bright early
evening so that it becomes dark enough to justify a drink. Another is a
Christmas meal involving six bottles of Crystal and, on the early morning
set of a lame brain movie, The Serpent with Ava Gardner, drinking Dom
Perignon at 5.30 whilst she got into her make up.
I recall taking Champagne to his home at Clermont one lunch time and being
less than amused to see the two bottles of chilled Veuve Cliquot (perhaps
they were considered of inadequate quality!) placed dismissively inside the
hallway. We were then plied with large vodkas which were in circulation
since it was already 12.30. The best aperitif ever invented (by the
aforementioned Dom) was discarded in favour of the hard stuff. So, poor
Richard A. modestly enjoying a glass of wine was pilloried for such
Not that Bogarde was in the same league as the screen’s monumental drunks,
the incomparable Robert Newton or Wilfred Lawson, nor our greatest ever film
actor Trevor Howard or his equivalent from across the pond Spencer Tracy,
who went on three-day benders in times of great depression, much to the
distress of his companion Katherine Hepburn. Howard also had a devoted
partner – his actress wife Helen Cherry – who defended his behaviour against
all comers. Responding to a friend who remarked that ‘Trevor never does
anything around the house,’ she said, ‘Yes he does – he fills up the
ashtrays.’ Howard too had a nice line in put downs. Approached by a ‘fan’ at
a bar one day he was asked, ‘Aren’t you Trevor Howard?’ ‘Yes,’ he agreed,
‘When I’m working I am.’
I recall being on a plane with him from London to Biarritz and he kindly
invited me to join him in his car to the San Sebastian Film Festival, where
he was a guest of honour. I was there simply to work. We arranged to meet
later for dinner and I called for him at his suite, only to find him happily
downing Johnnie Walker from the bottle. At dinner he was charming and
relaxed, and suitably caustic about some of his latter day movies including
the then current Wagner. But he left the wine to me. Still, I doubt
whether he mentally criticized me for drinking most of the Rioja. He, like
many Thais and Americans, would possibly have been happier continuing with
whisky during the meal. It is a matter of taste and very un-European.
The early morning drink is, of course, a matter of necessity rather than
taste, and Howard could certainly enjoy that too, although not perhaps to
the extent of ‘Fats’ Waller whose breakfast traditionally was a quart of
gin. Even more than that consumed by the once magical Richard Burton –
dubbed by Bogarde throughout his correspondence ‘the fat Welshman’ – who
began the day with a Bloody Mary. In Melvyn Bragg’s definitive biography of
Burton, it is recounted that this was the start of the normal three bottles
of vodka each day. It was less on occasion depending on what other booze was
consumed and what state his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor was in – since she
could keep pace with him. How did he remember his lines, one might ask,
especially on stage in often monumental roles such as Hamlet. The
answer was with great difficulty and a deal of improvisation. Such boozing
led to a loss of his beauty, much of the quality of his wonderful voice and
a host of lousy movies (he had no taste anyway in film) made for the money.
Paul Newman was another heavy drinker, but had the great fortune to lead a
rich and full life and to marry Joanne Woodward who helped his career and I
believe much else besides. He worked with great presence until well into his
seventies and, although he drank to calm his nerves (I recall several strong
beers on the way to his National Film Theatre interview, as Joanne sat out
of sight on the floor of the limousine urging us to take the long way round
from the Berkeley Hotel to London’s South Bank), and he abandoned the stage
for much of his working life. But he was too much of a professional to let
the drink affect his work and the same could – on occasion – go even for
Burton, who went ‘dry’ as did poor Robert Newton on his last film Around
the World in 80 Days. In his case the effect was so dramatic that he
died soon after.
Orson Welles, a great director and a powerful screen presence, became known
in his latter years for his indulgences, and when signed to act in 10
Days Wonder for Claude Chabrol was seen by that director as a potential
problem. Chabrol – now in his eighties and still making fine movies –
devised a sophisticated and very Gaelic solution. He arranged a deal with
Moet and Chandon (an early example of product placement), so that well
chilled champagne was constantly available for Welles on set. Chabrol
reckoned correctly that this steady supply of not too potent alcohol would
keep his star content but on the right side of inebriation. Also, bubbly
takes more consuming, even for someone of Welles’ vast bulk and capacity.
The film was not much cop, but at least it finished on schedule. A rather
better movie, The Wedding, featured another well known Hollywood
drinker, Dana Andrews, who played a guest at the reception. Director Altman
gave him one of the best lines in the film as he props himself up, glass in
hand and asks a fellow guest if he too would like a drink. The man replies
rather sniffily, ‘No thanks, I don’t drink’. Andrews retorts, ‘So you mean
that when you get up in the morning that’s the best you are going to feel
all day?’ I’ll drink to that…
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Max Payne: US Action/ Thriller – Starring Mark Wahlberg. Based on
the popular interactive video game, it’s the story of a maverick cop
determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his
family. Basically for fans of the game and action movies; has some striking
and stylish visuals in a somber mood, and an intense performance by
City of Ember: US Adventure/Family/Fantasy – A fun family film with a
subtly dark feel rarely seen in kids’ movies. It has almost everything one
could want from a science fiction-based family film: likeable characters, an
imaginative setting, and a fast pace. But for me the fabulously designed
underground metropolis proved more involving than the teenagers running
through its streets. The story: For over 200 years the crumbling,
labyrinthine underground city of Ember has been run by a generator. Now it
is breaking down and no one knows how to repair it. Ominous blackouts
regularly plunge the city into darkness and supplies are depleted. Because
the people of Ember, forbidden to venture into the above-ground world, have
forgotten their past, they face extinction. Mixed or average reviews.
Airport Plaza only.
Body of Lies: US Action/ Drama – Directed by Ridley Scott, with
Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. I liked this very much: a spy movie as
dark as night and as ruthless and vile as Abu Ghraib. Smart and tightly
drawn; it has a throat-gripping urgency and some serious insights. About a
CIA operative who attempts to infiltrate the network of a major terrorist
leader operating out of Jordan. This film did not have a very impressive
opening weekend box office in the US. It’s really too bad. Moviegoers around
the world seem to be allergic to matters revolving around Iraq and the war
on terror. Films like Rendition and Redacted have foundered at the box
office (and never even made it to Chiang Mai), as have movies only
tangentially linked to the conflict (like The Kite Runner, set in a
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan; although that one did run here in Chiang Mai
at Vista awhile back). It would be a shame if such sentiments kept you from
seeing this really quite excellent, thinking-person’s action drama, which
unapologetically raises issues concerning terrorism and the fight to combat
it. Rated R in the US for strong violence including some torture, and for
language throughout. 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.
Disaster Movie: US Comedy – From a seemingly bottomless well of
flatulence humor, racial stereotypes, and stale pop culture gags, comes what
is arguably the worst in the “Movie” series. 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.
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.
I found it very disappointing. 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. Mixed or average reviews.
Scheduled for Oct 23
Beverly Hills Chihuahua: US Comedy/ Adventure/ Family – 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. I thought this one looked quite
delightful, to gauge by the previews I saw, and it was the top film in the
US over this last weekend, but reaction seems to be very mixed, with people
either loving it or hating it. Overall, it comes out as mixed or average
Tropic Thunder: US Comedy/ War – I have seen this, and I heartily
recommend it, 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
Queens of Langkasuka: Thai Adventure/ Fantasy – Nonzee Nimibutr’s
200-million-baht historical action-fantasy, more than three years in the
making, has all the makings of a blockbuster – big stars, loads of special
effects, lavish costumes and an exotic seaborne setting.
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
Here is another interesting distributional hand which was dealt when I was
sitting South. Imagine you are sitting West and hear the bidding below. You
lead a high diamond against three spades doubled, and this is what you see.
Your lead is ruffed on board. Declarer leads the ace of hearts from dummy
and then leads a low heart, with everyone following. You win. What is your
plan for the defence?
West dealer, North-South vulnerable
S: 6 S: ?
H: KQ2 H: ?
D: AK932 D: ?
C: K1063 C: ?
This was the bidding:
West North East South
1D Dbl P 1S
Dbl 3S Dbl All pass
Declarer’s play looks a
little strange. Why not cross to his hand and try a finesse in hearts,
leading towards dummy’s AJ, in the hope that West has the KQ? West did most
of the bidding, so might well hold the missing high hearts. Then, if
declarer leads twice towards dummy, he can score the jack. It looks like
declarer has problems getting to his hand twice. Also, declarer did not try
to pull trumps, in spite of having so many on board. Putting both these
facts together, declarer probably has only two hearts and plans to ruff
dummy’s two losing hearts in hand before pulling trumps.
So, is there any hope for the defence? If declarer has the ace of spades,
then the answer is no. Declarer will win six spade tricks, the ace of hearts
and two heart ruffs in hand, adding up to nine tricks. Even if East has the
ace and queen of clubs, defence is still hopeless. All you can win is three
clubs and a heart. So, the only hope for the defence is that East has the
ace of spades and a couple more. Having thought that through, you lead a
spade. Eureka! East wins the ace of spades and leads a low spade back. Now,
declarer’s goose is cooked – see the full hand diagram below. Declarer takes
five spade tricks, two aces, but only has one trump left in hand to ruff a
heart. He goes down one doubled.
S: 6 S: A103
H: KQ10 H: 9652
D: AK1032 D: QJ7
C: K1063 C: Q95
The bidding might need some
explanation. West opened 1D and North doubled for takeout, instead of
bidding his spades. This gives NS a chance to find a heart fit, if there is
one. I briefly thought of passing the double, because of my long diamonds.
However, my hand is so weak, I thought they would make 1D. So, I was left
with a choice of two three card suits to bid. I chose spades because my
partner’s takeout double guarantees at least four spades, and I could bid
spades at the one level. West now doubled for takeout, telling his partner
to bid something, and showing that he had a good hand. To my considerable
alarm, partner bid three spades. East, with his good nine points and good
spades, reasoned that EW must have the majority of the points (he was right
– EW have 24 high card points to 16 for NS) and decided to double. It was a
good decision, if only his partner were thinking about the defence.
Very fortunately for me,
when I played it, West did not think the defence through. After winning the
heart, he switched to a club. I won the ace in hand and ruffed a diamond to
get back to board. A heart from board was ruffed low in hand and another
diamond trumped on board. Now, another heart was ruffed in hand with the
eight. By now, I had taken seven tricks – two aces, three diamond ruffs on
board and two heart ruffs in hand – and I still had the KQx of spades on
board and the jack in hand. Between them, I was bound to take two more
tricks, making the contract. I was lucky – it should be defeated. Would your
plan have got it down??
Send me your interesting hands at: email@example.com.