The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
AAA - and it’s not your credit rating
AAA stands for Abdominal Aortic
Aneurysm, and as I have often pointed out, we doctors love acronyms. I am
sure that the education bodies have decreed that the medical course should
contain three years of acronyms, as well as another three years of clinical
So what is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)? First off, what is the aorta?
The aorta is the main artery of the body, directly connected to the heart
and taking the vast majority of the blood from that important central pump
to the abdominal organs and the legs. This artery is around 2 cm in
However, a situation can occur, whereby the artery begins to bulge and can
grow to four or five times the normal diameter. It is this swelling that is
called an ‘aneurysm’. Being of the Abdominal Aorta, then explains the AAA
description. An aorta is considered ‘aneurysmal’ when it grows more than 50
percent over its normal size. By the way, aneurysms may occur in any blood
vessel in the body, but the most common place is in the abdomen below the
renal arteries (the blood vessels that provide the blood to your kidneys).
Interestingly, aneurysms are four times more common in men than women and
occur most often after 55-60 years of age. Elderly males have yet another
aspect to monitor, as well as their prostates!
The danger of the AAA comes from the fact that this can burst, like an
over-inflated balloon, and the patient experiences a catastrophic internal
hemorrhage. This is generally fatal. Aneurysm rupture affects approximately
15,000 people per year making it the 13th leading cause of death in the US.
The incidence of aortic aneurysm increases every decade as the population
ages. Fortunately, early detection and diagnosis is increasingly possible as
more sophisticated medical screening methods become available.
So why does this aneurysm occur? Aneurysms are caused by a weakening or
damage in the wall of a blood vessel. There are many conditions known to
contribute to the weakening of the artery wall including atherosclerosis
(hardening of the arteries), cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and
inflammation or infection.
Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is the most common cause of
abdominal aortic aneurysms. This occurs when substances such as cholesterol,
minerals, and blood cells build up in the walls of the artery, and thus
damaging it. The muscular wall of the aorta weakens and with the pressure
inside the artery, it begins to bulge. High blood pressure may speed up the
weakening, but it is not the cause. Aneurysms also tend to run in families,
so there is the thought that genetics may play a role in who gets an
aneurysm. (When in doubt, blame your parents - for everything!)
There is a strong link between cigarette smoking and the occurrence of
aneurysms. Smokers die four times more often from ruptured aneurysms than
nonsmokers. Aneurysms in smokers also expand and weaken faster than those in
nonsmokers, making this the one hundred and twenty thousandth good reason to
give up cigarettes.
Unfortunately, until an AAA bursts, there are generally no symptoms to let
you know you have one of these ‘time bombs’ sitting in your belly. The
discovery is then usually during an annual physical, where it can be
palpated by the doctor, but by far more accurate is an ultrasound, which can
give exact dimensions, and thus progressive indication of how rapidly the
swelling is growing.
The answer to this is an operation to replace the swollen, weakened artery
with a suitable piece of highly expensive ‘garden hose’ of correct length
and diameter. This is a major operation, but once you have had an AAA
detected, there is no other way around the problem. There is also some work
being done on encasing the aorta to contain the swelling, but this is not
the usual method of ‘defusing’ an AAA.
You should be lining up for a routine health check every 12 months, after
you reach 40 years of age. When was your last one?
Health, Fitness and Exercise
Cardiac client exercise – Straightforward and beneficial
Aerobic/cardiovascular exercise is the most beneficial to
cardiac clients, as it utilises large muscle groups and is rhythmic and
continues for an extended and easily measurable period of time. The
benefits are, firstly, a reduced heart rate; secondly, reduced blood
pressure; thirdly, a reduced demand on the heart; fourthly, a reduced
risk of angina, and finally a general improvement in metabolic health
and quality of life, all of which result from a given work load.
So, how do you establish that work load? Too much puts you at risk of
further damage; too little and you will not benefit. For a normal
healthy person, an exercise rate (load) is determined by a percentage,
usually 75%, of their age-related maximum heart rate. However, if you
have cardiovascular or respiratory problems, especially in later years,
you have to be rather more cautious and precise. Therefore, a
calculation, called “heart rate reserve,” is brought into play. For
example, 220 (the theoretical maximum heart rate for a human) at age 60
minus the age figure results in 160. Deduct your resting heart rate
(e.g. 80 beats per minute); this gives you a figure of 80. 40% of “80”
equals 32. Now add your resting heart rate (e.g, 80), which gives you a
figure of 112 heartbeats per minute. Use this figure as your benchmark
heart rate at an effective exercise level. In severe cases of
cardio-vascular problems, the start figure, please remember, is 205, NOT
220! Don’t panic – most modern exercise machines have a built-in heart
rate monitor, which means you can get a good idea of how hard you have
to work to achieve your predicted rate, bearing in mind that the fitter
you are, the harder you will have to work to get there!
The above will give you a confident baseline from which to start, but
you must remember that the fitter you are, the harder you must work,
etc, etc! As a result, you need a subjective method of determining
effort. Of course, there is one, called the Borg Scale after its Swedish
clinician inventor. This scale measures your perceived rate of exertion
(PRE) and is graded from 1 to 10. Zero, of course, is “resting” (and
doesn’t really count), with level 10 represents maximal effort. The
40%-45% you need to achieve is classed as moderate and rated 3 on the
scale. Next question – How do you tell? Simple. Get a friend or your
instructor to monitor you by talking with you. At the point where
keeping up exercise and conversation makes you slightly breathless but
still able to talk, that’s 3 on the scale! It’s really that easy and
surprisingly accurate. After a few sessions, you will be aware of the
exact point at which you are working at your optimal heart rate relative
to your own fitness level. You can then check the machine for its
reading of your actual heart rate. Any drop in your resting heart rate
will indicate an increased fitness level.
At this point, though, don’t try to go faster – just try to remember
FITT, as, in your case, duration (time) comes first. Low intensity
combined with longer duration is the true key to cardiac rehabilitation.
Frequency comes second, type is third, and intensity increase is
The above is important, so I’ll recap it for you. Regular activity is
essential, duration is more important than intensity for cardio
protection, the rate of progression is slower in cardio-respiratory
cases, activity should be enjoyable as all benefit will be lost if you
give up! Another useful way of measuring your activity level is that you
should be burning a total of approximately 2,000 calories per week, as
no real benefit is available to you above that level. Also, burning,
say, 3,500 calories per week, could trigger an event.
Next question – If there is a problem, how do you know when to stop?
What are the warning signs? There are many; angina, abnormal
tachycardia, light-headedness or dizziness, confusion, loss of
coordination, pallor, nausea, drop or failure to rise in blood pressure.
If you experience any of the above, STOP! Go straight to your doctor! In
any event, don’t push to hard for the first 12 weeks of your new
exercise regime. Remember, some of you will only be able to achieve 5-6
minutes’ exercise at any one time, but will be able to repeat this 5-6
times per day. For those of you who are able to achieve 30 minutes at
75% of their predicted maximum, you should be exercising 3 times per
Using the above guidelines will enable you to know your own body and its
response to exercise in an informed and reliable manner. One big
“don’t:” Do not even dream of lifting weights or attempting isometric
exercises. More next week…
Heart to Heart
I have a problem with my wife’s cooking. It’s not that she’s a bad cook
or anything. She does a mean sausage, egg and chips these days, and even
has a go at toad in the hole. So you think I should have no complaints.
It’s not her British cooking that’s the problem - it’s when her
girlfriends come over and they start cooking that Esarn stuff. The
really, really, really bad smelling stuff. Honestly Hillary, when I walk
in the door of the house I get hit with it. It’s so bad I come close to
puking. She knows I hate the smell, but she does this at least twice a
week. It puts me right off my food as well. What should I do? She’s a
great woman, other than the Esarn cooking.
This is an easy one to fix, my Petal. You say you live in a house. All
houses have a back door, and Esarn cooking, to be really genuine should
be cooked outside. Most homes that foreigners live in have two kitchens
- one indoors for the sausage, egg and chips and the other outside for
the Esarn, where the pungent and the putrid smells just waft away with
the afternoon’s breezes. The one outside is called the “Thai kitchen”
and does not get used for toad in the hole, either.
My friends tell me I’ve got no problems, but I am not sure they just
want me to lose my relationship. I am a little worried that my husband
has been playing up recently. He has been going to bars with his
workmates after the office closes and seems to be staying out longer and
longer. I have told him he has to let me know when he is coming home, as
I have often got jobs for him to do around our condo, and he has to have
time to prepare the dinner for all of us (we have a pet poodle). When I
went through his pockets the other evening I found a business card for a
bar in one of the more seedy areas in town. Have I got a real worry here
or not, Hillary. Please let me know.
Dear Waiting Wifey,
You sure do have a problem, Wifey my Petal, you surely do. If my partner
were to be telling me to come home and cook the dinner after I spent all
day in the office, then I’d even go to bars myself, just as retaliation.
Time you learned to cook and fend for yourself. I hope you and the
poodle have some lovely romantic candlelight dinners together. Just
watch out that its coat doesn’t singe. Have you thought about adopting a
pet piranha as well? Wake up, Wifey. Time for you to be looking at what
you are doing, not what he is doing.
Have you ever tried crossing the road here in Thailand? You take your
life in your hands as nobody slows or makes any effort at avoiding you.
Three times this week I have had to jump out of the way of those
dreadful public taxi buses and I feel this can do the image of Thailand
no good at all. What do you think, Hillary?
Dear Pedestrian Pete,
Have I tried crossing the road? What a ridiculous question! Of course
I’ve tried crossing the road. That does not mean to say that I have
always been successful though. Honestly, you men do amaze me at times! I
agree that the sight of people like you jumping ineptly out of the way
of rampant taxi buses will do our image no good at all. Perhaps you
could try ballet lessons at the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy so you could
jump with elegance in a “pas de chat” maneuver (or perhaps that should
be a “pas de bus” number?). However, if you find that crossing the road
is totally impossible, then just take the arm of one of our old folk,
and then using them as a shield, force your way through the belching
I am coming over to your neck of the woods at Christmas and was
wondering if you could help me with accommodation? I want to keep enough
money so that I can go trekking and I want to ride an elephant. Is
Malaysia very far away, as I would like to try surfing? I only want to
spend about seven quid a day for the place, is this possible? I know
it’s probably a funny question, but I’m serious.
Dear Trekker Tom,
Don’t worry, my little impecunious one, Hillary has had sillier
questions than yours over the years. When I first read your letter, I
thought you were asking to come and stay with me, and I was about to
suggest that if you brought enough bottles of bubbly, I might just be
able to help you. However, it is probably better for both of us if you
just find a little pension for around 500 baht a night. There’s plenty
of them. No Malaysia’s not far away, but then neither is Cambodia. Spend
some of your quids on an atlas, that’s a good chap.
by Harry Flashman
For killer pix - try contrast
The secret of great photography is not just in correct exposure
and placement in the frame. You will get plenty of dull
photographs that are perfectly exposed and with the subject at
the intersection of thirds. You need to remember contrast!
Contrast in photographic composition is an effective means of
directing the viewer’s attention to the center of interest. When
I speak of contrast, I am referring to both tonal contrast, as
in black-and-white photography, and color contrast as it relates
to color photography.
In B&W photography, contrast is the difference in subject tones
from white-to-gray-to-black or from the lightest tone to the
darkest tone. In color photography different colors create the
Tonal contrast is generally expressed as high contrast which has
extreme black and whites, or low contrast which has nothing but
graduated greys. The first photograph used this week is an
example of very high contrast, so much so that detail is blown
out, but this is not designed to be a portrait, this was
designed to be a photograph that hits you between the eyes.
High contrast gives very black blacks and very white whites, and
usually with nothing in between. Low contrast, on the other
hand, still has blacks and whites, but everything is
predominantly grey, giving a flat scene which still has tones,
but in which highlights and shadows have very little difference
in densities. In other words, all tones within the scene are
very similar in appearance. However, remember that if you are
shooting in automatic mode, the camera will be set to deliver 18
percent grey, and not black.
Now you can wander around all day looking for a girl in a black
swimsuit on a white sandy beach, or you can manipulate a
photograph to produce that image. If you have an advanced
digital camera, you can program it to record black and white
only and then go from there, but if not, no fear, your software
will allow you to do this post camera.
How do you do the manipulation? First convert the color shot to
grey scale, then play with the brightness and contrast, and you
will very quickly produce an effect like the one used here.
Now high contrast should not be confused with high key. A high
key black and white shot is one where the photo shows mostly
light tones. Conversely, a low key shot is one that has mainly
dark tones. Low key and high key pictures convey mood and
atmosphere. Low key suggests seriousness and mystery and is
wonderful for Halloween photographs. However, high key creates a
feeling of delicacy and lightness. A portrait of a blonde in
white against a white background is an example of high key.
Now to contrast in color. This is where an artist’s color wheel
comes in handy. By picking colors from opposite sides on the
wheel, you immediately have stunning contrasts. Blue and yellow
is a classic example. Another is bright red against a
luminescent green background.
Cold colors (bluish) and warm colors (reddish) almost always
contrast. Cold colors recede, while warm colors advance. Light
colors contrast against dark ones, and a bold color offsets a
Colors with opposite characteristics contrast strongly when
placed together. Each color accentuates the qualities of the
other and makes the color images stand out dramatically. Color
contrast is enhanced when you create the contrast of detail
against mass. An example is a single, bright, yellow sunflower
shot against a blue sky background.
The most important factor when shooting a scene or subject using
contrasting colors is that the two colors have to predominate. A
bright yellow sunflower in a mottled green background and a pale
blue sky with grey clouds does not have the impact of the yellow
Kill ‘em with contrast!
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
A beginner’s guide to the credit crunch, part 2
They didn’t get their predictions right?
You could say that! What was contained inside these batches of
mortgages, generally referred to as Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) was
not really what it said on the label. Sub-prime standards had become more
relaxed than ever before, Alt-A misrepresentations seem to have become more
widespread, lenders had offered increasingly unsuitable terms (interest rates
too low, deposits too low, property sector valuation expectations too high) and
above all the banking industry had become so sophisticated at mixing and
matching different parts of different mortgages together (so called ‘slicing and
dicing’) that the mortgage tranches being presented to the ratings agencies were
nothing like the old models upon which their data was based. Rather than
recognizing or admitting this, the agencies took their fees and applied what now
appear to be wholly inaccurate credit ratings to these CDOs. Because there is a
formula for calculating the price of these CDOs, the banks and other
institutions, such as pension funds, traded these with gay abandon at what now
appears to have been totally the wrong price. Equally these institutions held
large tranches of these CDOs on their own balance sheets.
The inflated prices of these assets inflated the asset side of the balance
sheets of these businesses, the industry booked excessive profits and paid its
leaders excessive bonuses. However, during 2007 it became apparent that the
value of many of these CDOs and related vehicles (such as structured products
built around CDOs in a way specifically designed to remove liabilities from
balance sheets) had been seriously overstated. The price at which these assets
were traded began to plummet until soon many of them could not actually be sold
at almost any price at all. The weakening of balance sheets made it more
difficult for these banks to borrow the ongoing funding that every bank needs to
As stated in a recent article, in February this year Dr. Marc Faber published a
list of 10 American institutions who could be insolvent depending on the real
value of their Tier 3 (in many cases read sub-prime/Alt-A, etc.) assets.
This list included (our subsequent updates added)
1. Bear Stearns: 313.97% - Bought out by J P Morgan
2. Morgan Stanley: 234.88% - Converting status into bank holding company rather
than stand-alone investment bank (like Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers were),
has already taken write offs of $ 11.7 billion
3. Merrill Lynch: 225.4% - Bought out
4. Goldman Sachs: 191.56% - Converting status into bank holding company rather
than stand-alone investment bank and even following capital injection from
Warren Buffet is still rumoured to be looking for a suitor at any price.
5. Lehman: 171.18% - Filed Chapter 11, 15th September 2008, at the U.S.
Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York
6. Fannie Mae: 161.48% - Bailed out in largest government bailout in US history
7. Northwest Air: 142.02% - Exited Chapter 11, May 2007
8. Citigroup: 125.06% - the big one! Arranged additional financing through
Middle Eastern Sovereign wealth funds but still vulnerable despite that, even
after Wachovia merger.
9. Prudential: 119.36% - should be able to work through unless there’s a major
widespread panic, which there will be!
10. Hartford: 108.52%. - Reeling from heavy exposure to Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac
Other names like Washington Mutual, Freddie Mac, Indy Mac and AIG have also been
closed down or bailed out.
However, the problem is not just peculiar to the USA. In Europe, the Belgian,
Dutch and Luxemburg governments injected $16.4 billion to save Fortis; Iceland
has almost gone belly up and the government has had to step in the save the
banks and German financial institutions had to bail out Hypo Real Estate. In the
UK, Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley both had to be nationalized while HBoS
(the country’s biggest lender) will have to be sold to Lloyds-TSB to ensure its
survival. In these cases this was less to do with direct exposure to sub-prime
American CDOs as the sheer inability to ensure adequate ongoing funding in a
global environment where no-one knows which banks are safe and which ones are
not. In such a situation, almost any lending institution is vulnerable although
some more than others.
How can banks suddenly be so vulnerable?
The UK banks perhaps highlight this issue the best. The real
difficulty for these banks was that to maximize profits they lend money from a
- Their own cash (essentially profits that they have accrued over the years)
- Investors’ deposits
- Money that they borrow from other banks and sources.
During the last few years the proportions of these have changed hugely. As
credit has become both easier and in greater demand, banks could not suddenly
rustle up more cash of their own or even more deposits - during this last
property boom, savings rates fell significantly as investors wanted to hold less
cash since it was just earning single digit returns and to have more property
because it had been growing at well into double digits each year. Therefore,
major property lenders like Northern Rock, HBoS and B&B managed to punch above
the lending weight of their capital by borrowing massively from the money
Another change took place at this time whereby the availability and cost of
short term capital as opposed to long term capital meant that banks become
increasingly dependent on short term (less than 1 year) and medium term (1-5
year) funding even though typical mortgage terms were 15-30 years. This was OK
whenever the banks could keep borrowing the short and medium term money.
However, once replacement funding ceased to be available, they simply ran into a
situation where they had to pay back borrowing commitments that they simply did
not have the means to do with. Rumours surrounding NR, HBoS and B&B led to a
spate of withdrawals from these banks that made their cash positions worse and
hastened their inevitable foreclosures.
So are any more banks at risk?
Yes. Very much so. The US bail out plan is designed to provide
liquidity and confidence - the two things that the markets need globally to try
to buy the time to survive the current squeeze. However, it is far from clear
that this will work, although if it does the rewards will probably be
spectacular. We have published a separate MBMG Global Guide to Credit Risks
which looks at the situations facing different jurisdictions and containing
suggestions as to action depositors should consider.
What do you mean the rewards will be spectacular?
The banks that held sub-prime assets on their balance sheets
previously had them priced almost for perfection; i.e., assuming that there
would very little default. The current crisis is now pricing them for disaster -
assuming massive defaults and losses. If the truth turns out to be somewhere in
the middle then anyone buying these debts now will profit handsomely. Warren
Buffet has invested $5 billion into Goldman Sachs partly because of this.
What should I be doing to protect my financial situation and
to look to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves?
That is a very good question. For most of our clients, other than
reviewing their banking deposits in line with the MBMG Global Guide referred to
above, the answer is probably nothing different. Our managed currency portfolios
take exposure to every investable asset class and manage currency exposure and
risk. This combination of diversification; i.e., the ability to invest is almost
everything and anything along with active management; i.e., changing which
assets you actually do choose to invest in, means that there is always the
potential to make attractive, consistent r eturns, especially with active
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
A week in politics is a long time
Advice to Obama – Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln
A British prime minister once remarked that a week was a
long time in politics – it will never have been truer than of the period
between the publication of this column and the outcome of the presidential
election in the U.S.A.
I am not American and doubt I’ll ever visit that country again, and yet, I
care more about the outcome of the presidential election next week than I do
about the gloomy and dire prospect of a Conservative government coming to
power in the U.K. in a year or so. Or about the problems in Thailand which
affect us all here. Or even the despair in Burma, which is a shame upon the
The reasons are obvious, I suppose. We live in hope that the successor to
the worst president since the guy who preceded Lincoln and chose to ignore
the problems that led to the Civil War will redeem his country and
eventually help restore it (and here comes the selfish bit) and indirectly
much of the rest of the world. You don’t believe in miracles either? No, but
you have to believe in hope, redemption and the triumph of right. Put
simply, the world cannot afford McCain and Palin and if they are consigned
to oblivion (did she really ever emerge from it?) and Obama is given a
strong mandate, then the next eight years could be bracing, optimistic and
the stuff that dreams are made of.
Of course, it will depend on many things, not least the man and his
advisers. Here is a true story about the aforementioned President Lincoln
who, when he took office, found himself surrounded by self-seekers, would-be
advisers and job hunters. He gathered a group of them together and told them
this story, which he had heard in one of the bayous near the Yazoo.
“Once there was a king who retained an astrologer to alert him of coming
events and especially to tell him whether it was going to rain when he went
hunting. One day he set off on a grand hunting expedition with a train of
lords and ladies and on the way they met a farmer riding a donkey. The king
greeted the farmer and the farmer replied ‘Good morning, Your Majesty,’ then
asked where the cavalcade was going. When told they were going hunting he
replied that they would get very wet.
The king, however, trusted his astrologer and went into the forest, but by
midday there was a terrific storm that drenched and buffeted the whole
company. They returned home and the king had the astrologer beheaded and
sent for the farmer to take his place. When the farmer arrived he told the
king. ‘It ain’t me that knows when it’s going to rain, it’s my donkey. When
it’s going to be fair weather the donkey carries his ears forward and
carries them backwards for bad weather.’
The king decided to make the donkey the court astrologer and, naturally,
this was done. But later the king declared that it was the greatest mistake
he had made in his life.”
President Lincoln stopped the story there and asked the company why it had
been a mistake. They replied that surely the donkey had done its duty. True,
said the President. “But after that every donkey in the country assembled in
front of the palace and wanted an office!”
Of course, the story rather falls down if you have a potential
vice-president who makes the average donkey seem intelligent (which, in
fact, it is). They are also companionable creatures and hate being on their
own. They can be very noisy and are sadly abused in most countries where
they are used as beasts of burden. But, as far as I know, no donkey has ever
been thrust into the limelight and taken seriously (?) by the press and
other media or been allowed to express opinions that fly in the face of
reason, science and fairness. Given the choice between the two, I’d take the
donkey any time!
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Note: Beverly Hills Chihuahua has been rescheduled for
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, is for me an entertaining Thai blockbuster – big stars, loads of
special effects, lavish costumes, and an exotic seaborne setting.
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 Wahlberg.
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.
E-Tim Tai Nae: Thai Action/ Comedy – A boxer in a show in Pattaya
falls in love with a Japanese tourist. Looks dreadful.
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.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: US Animation – 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 a 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. Parents may be perturbed by the film’s
relentless violence. Generally negative reviews. At Vista only.
Scheduled for Oct 30
Saw V: US Action/ Crime/ Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – Oh, dear!
Just in time for Halloween, I suppose. More of the same torture and gore
with even bigger traps, such as the glass box trap, (which as you know was
originally planned to be used in Saw IV, but is explored more painfully here
in Saw V) and the usual life and death situations, all of which we have come
to expect from the “Saw” films. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) might be dead, but his
traps live on in this fifth “Saw” entry, which finds the series’ production
designer David Hackl at the helm for his debut directing stint. Saw IV
writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan return for more mind-bending
sadism while allaying the misery of anxious movie lovers, as they explain
what happened to Corbett, the daughter of Lynn Denlon and Jeff Reinhart,
following the conclusion of Saw III that left her in imminent danger. And,
Billy the puppet and the red tricycle are finally further explained, thank
Coming Soon: Thai Horror – Oh, dear! To complete the Halloween
pleasantries, I suppose. Not to be outdone by the horror of the US Saw V,
the Thais offer up their own version of a bloody scream-fest. This one is
about a young projectionist who decides to help a friend illegally film a
newly released horror movie, with dire consequences.
Alliance Française de Chiang Mai – November film programme
Friday, November 7, 8 p.m.
Mauvais Sang (1986)
by Léos Carax with Juliette Binoche • Denis Lavant • Michel Piccoli
Hugo Pratt • Serge Reggiani • Hans Meyer • 125mn. Eng. s.t.
The year of the Halley Comet. Two Rival gangs; one led by a mysterious black
widow and the other led by Marc, Alex and Anna; want to get hold of an
invention of a vaccine that can stop a threatening virus. In the meantime, a
story of absolute love between Alex and Anna is flowering in a ghostly
Friday, November 14, 8.p.m.
by Jean-Jacques Beneix with Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez
Frédéric Andréï • Richard Bohringer • Thuy An Luu • 115 mn • Eng. s.t.
Jules is a postman who’s mad about Opera. He is crazy about Cynthia Hawkins,
a Diva who refuses to have an album of her own; so he tries to record her
voice illegally, but he gets into trouble with pirate disc dealers…
Friday, November 21, 8 p.m.
Cause Toujours (2004)
by Jeanne Labrune with Victoria Abril • Jean-Pierre Darroussin • Sylvie
Testud • 87 mn • Eng. s.t.
My first is a moth (exasperating). My second is a mute (enigmatic). My third
is a house (worrying). My all is a film, which takes the form of a fantasy,
about mistrust and its opposite, trust.
Friday, November 28, 8 p.m.
À Tout de Suite (2004)
by Benoît Jacquot with Isild Le Besco • Ouassini Embarek
Nicolas Duvauchelle • Laurence Cordier • 95 mn • B&W • Eng. s.t.
When she hangs up the phone after hearing her lover say “We’re coming right
now,” she knows in her heart of hearts what she hadn’t faced up to before –
that this man she loves, this “prince” from nowhere, is a hoodlum. He has
just robbed a bank and a man got killed. It’s the mid-1970s. She’s nineteen
years old. Right now, as if in a waking dream, she falls headlong from the
tight, narrow space of her father’s uptown apartment into a weaving world of
escape – Spain, Morocco, Greece – and from being an almost well-behaved girl
into the life she’s always wanted, for better or worse.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
The Horsetail Plant
A great plant for trailing over the top of an
earth or other wall or window box, which will
also look lovely simply spreading along the
ground is Russellia equisetiformis. This
plant has long green stems which are similar to
the form of a horse’s tail. Small tubular
flowers, usually in a vivid scarlet red, show
spectacularly when the plant is used to colonise
a sloping area, resembling an amazing red-hot
lava flow cascading downwards. The plant should
be used in this manner, as it will help prevent
soil erosion by means of its network of
underground stems. A fine effect can be gained
by alternating it with Nephrolepis, the
“ladder fern,” which has a similar invasive
network of underground stems ideal for
colonising a sloping area and protecting the
Russellia equisetiformis can also be found
in both a salmon-orange form and a lovely ivory
colour which is very suitable for the white
garden. Both plants have their uses in hiding
the plastic edges of a small pond, or, if your
pond is concrete, to mask the edges showing
above the water line
of the Week
If you do have to clear the natural undergrowth from a
sloping site, replant with an invasive ground cover plant first
and let it become established. This will prevent the rain from
washing away your soil; taller plants and trees can be added
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
Last week, I was lucky to make a doubled contract. This week, I got greedy
and unlucky. I was playing bridge with friends from Chiang Mai at the
charming Chiang Dao Nest resort. I was sitting North and picked up a
wonderful hand. I was trying to decide whether or not to open a strong,
forcing two clubs at my turn to bid. To my surprise, my partner, John
Bucher, opened before I had a chance. Sitting EW were Kit Salisbury and
Chris Hedges. Here is the bidding:
(Kit) (John) (Chris) (me)
P 1S P 3H
P 4H P 4N
P 5C P 5N
P 6H P 7S
I bid 4N, to ask for aces and John
replied 5C, showing none. This encouraged me, because he did not have the
ace of clubs, which would be wasted points. I reasoned that his points must
be elsewhere, such as in his bid suit. I bid 5N, to ask for kings. 6H showed
two kings, so I knew he had the king of trumps. I reasoned that, if he only
has the queen of his opening suit, my hand is good for thirteen tricks in
spades, with only minimal help from my partner’s hand. At the very worst,
thirteen tricks are only a finesse away, and opposite most 1S openers,
thirteen tricks are cold. So, I bid grand slam. Greedy, yes, but not
unreasonable. These were the NS hands:
East dealer, East-West
? S: ?
? H: ?
? D: ?
? C: ?
West led the three of
hearts. In view of the bidding, this looks suspiciously like a singleton.
Once trumps are pulled, hearts will run. Five spade tricks plus six heart
tricks plus ace and king of diamonds adds up to thirteen tricks. The only
problem is that pesky missing queen of spades. What is your plan for making
John ducked the heart lead
around to the nine in hand. He can take the spade finesse in either
direction, hoping to trap the queen in the West hand between board’s ace and
jack, or hoping to trap East’s queen between board’s king and ten. John
reasoned that, since West was short in hearts, he was more likely to be long
in spades. So he played the king from hand, dropping the queen in East’s
hand. The good news was that he had found the queen. The bad news was the
4-1 split. He played the ace and jack from board, but this still left one
trump out. How to get back to hand to pull it? If he played a high diamond
and then ruffed a diamond to get to hand, he can pull trumps. But then he
has no way to get back to board to enjoy the hearts (if he overtakes the
queen to get back to the hearts he will eventually lose to the jack). The
only possibility seemed the faint hope that the lead was not a singleton and
to come back to hand by leading to the queen of hearts. Unfortunately, West
ruffed and the contract was down one. I was criticised for greed, but I
still think it was bad luck!
The full deal is shown
below. Double dummy, the way to make the contract is clear – just lead low
to the ace of spades, dropping the queen. Play the jack, then overtake the
nine back to hand, pull trumps and take thirteen tricks. But how to come up
with this line at the table, without knowing all four hands? Did you come up
with this plan?
S: 8652 S:
D: 96543 D:
C: 643 C:
Send me your interesting hands at: