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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

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Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Sex - Age and ED

There is a group of older men who meet regularly at Au Bon Pain for breakfast. I call them the Saturday morning club, and it is by invitation that I join them. Most of them are at least 70 and a couple are 80, and when a fellow human being gets to that age, they are worth listening to. They’ve seen more and done more than most of us.
One of these chaps is Sam Corwin, an octogenarian who enjoys life to the full, and the following article comes from Sam. I’ve had to tone down some of the ‘earthy’ language (sorry Sam), but it is worth reading because it shows there are essential differences between making out and making love.
Here is Sam’s story in his words: Ageing comes easy. One just rolls with the punches and grows older. Sex is harder to come by and E.D. or Erectile Dysfunction comes without being asked.
Having a lot of free time on my hands, an unused computer and many thoughts to express and share with others, I thought I might print them out for others to read. I believe this information may help older people who might be having related problems. People find it hard to talk to a doctor, especially if it concerns sex. By chance if they come across this article, read it, and maybe it might help them to see what they’re missing in life.
For openers, I speak not as an authoritarian but as an old man who is fast approaching his 82nd birthday. So, give me credit for longevity. This article is primarily for the men with E.D. I am not a clinician or a shrink but one who observes and has also been through E.D.
I will pose a simple question and upon answering it, you’ll begin the first stage of your enlightenment. How many eyes do you have on your Dick, Richard, Peter? If you come up with the same answer that I have, we now move forward.
You go to beach and see the lovely nubile things wearing skimpy bras and thongs and you stare. You may even get some feeling of arousal, which is very normal occurrence. So, your Dick not having eyes gets the felling that is originating in the head atop your shoulders. You begin to get the drift of it? Your Dick is getting the signals from your brain and your brain is controlling your Dick. So the E.D. problem isn’t in the Dick. It’s in the brain.
Now for the Heart People: You’ve had open heart surgery. The doctor gets you out of bed to exercise. While lying there you get horny but you are afraid of the exertion. Remember, your heart is a muscle that needs exercising. As you exercise your heart, the lungs expand and contract providing more oxygen to your system. How much exertion can you take? You are the decider. Don’t pamper yourself or over exert.
In sex, you are the “Band leader”. Your main goal is gratification. This is accomplished by releasing the build up of seminal fluids. Suppose you slow down and enjoy the act at a slower pace that doesn’t set you to panting.
At an expat meeting, a question was asked by someone about performance. The man didn’t ejaculate so he presumed he failed. I had an answer for him. I asked him if he was an actor and expected an Oscar for his performance. Having sex is a pleasurable experience for two and a man doesn’t have to ejaculate to enjoy the event. I know that for a fact. At my age, the seminal fluids build up slower than in younger man. Knowing this I concentrate on my partner. Try being the Romeo and bring your Juliet to the boiling point and meld into the situation. For the heart man, relax and let her be the leader of the band. If you are in harmony, she won’t quit until she’s tired. Just don’t push the exertion factor. If you haven’t ejaculated you’ve had a wonderful experience. You’ve made love and the lady is more than happy for she too has experienced the utmost in human pleasure.
(Thanks Sam. Dr. Iain)


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Hello Hillary,
I read your column every week and cannot understand why you continue to print Mistersinga’s letters. They serve no useful purpose other than to make every other letter you print more interesting by comparison. Maybe I just answered my own question.
Red Barron
Dear Red Barron,
Maybe you did answer your own question? However, I am a softy at heart, and can’t ignore all his letters. Yes, there’s more letters than just the ones that grace these pages of purple prose, let me assure you. I refuse to publish anything that could be considered as referring to my undergarments, for one! By the way, interesting spelling of Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen’s nickname (2 May 1892 - 21 April 1918). He was, as you no doubt know, a German fighter pilot in WWI and was known as the Red Baron (single ‘R’, petal, single ‘R’).

Dear Hillary,
With the general tightening of the belts that will be happening in Thailand, do you think prices will come down in the red light areas? And by how much? This could be a very good tourist draw card if given the right publicity.
Dear TAT,
That is your nickname, I suppose. That’s nothing to do with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is it? Actually, you have me confused TAT, my Petal. We don’t have “red light areas” in Thailand, other than at intersections, where the red is mixed with yellow and green in an alternating kind of fashion. If this is what you mean, then nothing to worry about, as we ignore all three colors equally. As far as “prices” are concerned, not only do we ignore the lights, but we certainly don’t have to pay for them either. Makes me wonder what sort of country do you come from, TAT?

Dear Hillary,
My girlfriend Lek seems to work in a totally different time clock to me. She can go up the road to the market and come back two hours later as if she’d just been away for five minutes. She takes the maid with her so I know she’s not up to something. How can I get her to understand I get worried that something has happened to her?
Dear Untimely,
You have a real time problem here. Thai people do not have the pressing need to watch the clock the way foreigners do. You should explain to her that you are not checking up on her as this is certainly not good for any relationship, but that you are just worried for her safety, which is something Thai people do understand and appreciate. You should also make sure she takes a mobile phone with her. Buy her one if she hasn’t got one already. They are cheap enough these days and will save you hours of agonizing.

Dear Hillary,
We are looking at buying some furniture for the bedroom, but when we go to the store and look at what is there, they tell us that we cannot take the actual wardrobe we see there in the shop and want, as it comes in a kit form. I am hopeless at this construction sort of thing, and my husband not much better (he failed Meccano 1). Have you any answer for us? Or is it DIY lessons out here for everyone?
Bedroom Sweet
Dear Bedroom Sweet,
Time you went to another furniture shop, my Petal. You do not have to assemble the furniture yourself, but your agreed price at the end of all the toing and froing, will include delivery and assembly. If the shop you have been looking in doesn’t explain this to you properly, then it is time to find one that does not suggest you buy a full kit of screwdrivers as well. Hillary had some wardrobes delivered the other day and they assembled both in under one hour, cleaned the room afterwards and even took the packing away. I gave the men a small tip, I was so pleased with what they had done. (Only small, mind you, on my salary I can’t even afford chocolates this week, and champagne is out of the question!)

Dear Hillary,
I live overseas, but I read your column on the internet version. I like the way you have very practical advice, even though sometimes your barbed tongue hides the real meaning for a while till you read it again. I am coming over to Thailand for two months at the beginning of March next year and I would like to go touring all over the place, but since I can’t speak Thai I will need a guide. Do you know of any places that would supply such a person or are the girls that work in the bars suitable and trustworthy for this kind of thing?
Dear Terry,
Open your wallet and say after me, “Help yourself.” Tell me you are not that silly. While I thank you for the kind words, surely if you are a regular reader you will have understood there are hazardous ways of getting things done in this country, and you are suggesting one. There are plenty of guided tours in all the tourist spots in Thailand - use them.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Is this the ultimate point and shoot?

January marked the month that Olympus raised the bar for point and shoot digital cameras with the launch of the new 26x optical zoom SP-590 Ultra Zoom. That’s the biggest zoom yet, and the equivalent of a zoom lens covering 26-676 mm focal length. That is huge.
This means the versatility offered by this zoom lens is extreme, it can capture images from macro to almost any distance. The SP-590 produces 12 megapixel images, and has Dual Image Stabilization, Face Detection, Ultra High-Speed Sequential shooting and a 2.7 inch LCD, and will be available in March this year with an estimated price in the US of $450.
According to the press hand-outs, the Olympus ultra zoom cameras provide flexibility and manual controls for experienced shutterbugs, while being as easy and approachable as a point and shoot for the novice.
The camera is loaded with modes to allow the novice to approach professional quality photographs. The SP-590UZ does this with pre-capture scene modes: Multiple Exposure, Soft Background Focus and Beauty Mode.
The new features enable creative effects to be made inside the camera as the images are captured! These new creative features were adapted by Olympus from the recently announced E-30 DSLR camera.
Multiple exposure, in the new SP-590UZ, means the photographer can take two separate photographs and then overlay them to craft one unique image. For example, placing the moon over a natural desert ridge, or use the new Soft Background Focus mode on your next trip to a National Park. It enables you to slightly blur the beautiful vista, lake or canyon in the background to accent the majestic wildlife in the foreground.
Beauty Mode lets you soften shadows and smooth wrinkles or blemishes on your subject’s face - all in the camera and as you capture the image. Additionally, subtle edits can be made post-capture using the Beauty Fix mode. Choose “Clear Skin” to smooth a person’s complexion, “Dramatic Eye” to slightly emphasize the eyes, and “Sparkle Eye” to brighten and enhance the contrast of the iris and pupils. You can also apply all three edits at once. All done in the camera without a PC and costly image editing software.
For me, this is not really photography any longer, when you can manipulate the images to that degree. By the time you apply Clear Skin, Dramatic Eye and Sparkle Eye you have made a toad into a frog and a frog into a prince. I suppose the none too subtle difference is whether you consider the journey important, or just the destination.
However, the SP-590UZ offers the advanced manual controls that experienced photographers demand and find on a digital SLR (single lens reflex), but has the compact body of an ultra zoom with the flexibility of high-performance optics usually found in interchangeable lenses for DSLR cameras.
“The SP-590UZ brings subjects closer with the world’s most powerful optical zoom, and the zoom is just one of many elements that set this camera apart. Macro to wide-angle there are no compromises,” said Nadine Clark, product manager, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “Because of its compact size and an impressive zoom range, it’s the ideal choice for travelers and everyone who enjoys the great outdoors.”
The bright, f2.8-5.0 lens construction combines aspherical lens elements and extra-low dispersion (ED) lens elements to deliver edge-to-edge sharpness and clarity.
The SP-590UZ connects to an HDTV with an HDMI cable. All Olympus digital point-and-shoot cameras accept xD-Picture Card™ media. Starting with products available last August 2008, they also accept microSD memory cards to capture images.
Dual Image Stabilization enables users to take crisp, clear pictures in virtually any shooting situation - adjusting for camera shake and a moving subject. Olympus’ mechanical Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization keeps images sharp by adjusting the image sensor to compensate for camera shake, which often occurs when zooming in on your subject and in low-light conditions when shutter speeds are slower. Digital Image Stabilization freezes the action with high ISO sensitivity and fast shutter speeds that prevent blur caused by a moving subject.
With all these features, this camera makes your D-SLR obsolete, but I really wonder if the keen photographer wants them all, and at the price, the point and shoot brigade will stick to less expensive cameras.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Southeast Asia competitiveness

Management performance of the 10 countries


managers’ competence Corporate culture Industry  Integration  International operation Productivity Aggregate


          A  A


          priori posteriori


5.9640 5.5278 5.2379 3.0139 8.3312 5.5634 5.5644


5.6905 4.7575 5.4750 2.9300 6.6819 5.0745 5.1078


6.9501 5.9564 7.0872 5.6115 6.0328 6.3325 6.3795


4.2313 4.4215 4.3430 2.0330  6.2321 4.2091 4.2137


7.9662 6.7625 7.5972 7.2534 6.9960  7.3242 7.3546


5.5976 4.2876 5.6029 2.7076 6.9361 4.9817 5.0202


8.5370 6.7385 7.9206 6.2897 5.7475 7.0844 7.1663


9.8234  9.8605 10.0000 10.0000  5.4855 9.1183 9.1820


8.0115  6.1448 7.4559 6.0204 5.3079  6.6244 6.7030



5.2312 5.4680 3.1574 4.8249 4.9759 5.0367




0.2004 0.1727 0.1680 0.1869   0.1293 0.1745  




0.2364 0.2417 0.2122 0.2290 0.2018  0.2680  



A priori 

0.2156 0.2092  0.1926 0.2022 0.1804 0.2381  


0.2364 0.1987 0.2122 0.1869 0.1658 0.2680  

*Bold-face numbers are weights associated with the primary factor management.

National competitiveness of the 10 countries


This research Global competitiveness report World Competitiveness


A posteriori GCI BCI Yearbook 2005

1. Singapore

8.4914 5.48 (6) (5) 89.679 (3)

2. Malaysia

7.0434 4.90 (24)  (23) 65.844 (28)

3. Thailand

6.6713 4.50 (36) (37) 66.012 (27)

4. Indonesia

6.0457 3.53 (74) (59) 33.811 (59)

5. Philippines  

5.8279 3.47 (77) (69) 51.103 (49)

6. Brunei

5.8276 - - -

7. Vietnam

5.6384 3.37 (81) (80) -

8. Myanmar

5.3797 - - -

9. Cambodia

5.1658 2.82 (112) (109) -

10. Laos

4.8864 - - -

We recently came across the article “Measuring the national competitiveness of Southeast Asian countries” published last year by Taiwanese scholars Chiang Kao, Wann-Yih Wu, Wen-Jen Hsieh, Tai-Yue Wang, Chinho Lin and Liang - Hsuan Chen
While this acknowledges that there is no agreed formula, it recognizes that any worthwhile measure is built around quantifying the ability in an environment conducive to improving the prosperity of a country. It is this broad definition that has attracted considerable attention from policy makers, enterprises, and the public, and “rankings based on the spirit of this definition regularly appear in policy statements and the media.”
The report notes that there are two leading indices that measure national competitiveness. One is prepared by the IMD and appears in the World Competitiveness Yearbook, and the other is contained in the Global Competitiveness Report of the WEF. The former uses approximately 300 criteria to rank 60 countries, while the latter uses approximately 170 variables to rank 117 countries. Note that the number of criteria for the two indices differs from year to year and the number of countries being ranked has been increasing over the years.
Both indices rely on evidence-based hard data and opinion-based soft data. The major difference between these two indices is that the WEF places greater reliance on soft data (around two-thirds), while for the IMD this is reversed.
Lall (2001) points out that the Global Competitiveness Report has deficiencies at several levels. It suffers from several analytical, methodological, and quantitative weaknesses. For example, some of its implicit premises are suited to advanced countries, rather than equally applicable to less developed ones. The economic model that supposedly underlies it has little to do with its empirical approach. And there are many variables on which hard quantitative data are available but questionnaire surveys are used instead.
As a matter of fact, these weaknesses are also shared with the World Competitiveness Yearbook. In addition to these shortcomings, both publications concentrate on more developed countries. For example, in the World Competitiveness Yearbook there is a criterion for the number of Nobel Prize winners, for which it is almost impossible for underdeveloped countries to score above zero.
Southeast Asia has 10 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, with a total area of more than 4 million square kilometres and a total population of more than 530 million. Because of foreign direct investment from the East Asian countries, the area has experienced an “Asian miracle” and emerged as a fast-growing region of the world.
This region has abundant natural resources and a sufficient and cheap labour force. Since the creation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), this region has experienced fast economic development. Competitiveness has long been considered a matter of national economic survival by these countries.
In the 2005 rankings, the World Competitiveness Yearbook utilized 314 criteria belonging to four factors: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. The criteria considered in constructing the Global Competitiveness Index of the WEF fall into nine, what they call, pillars: institutions, infrastructure, macro economy, health and primary education, higher education and training, market efficiency, technological readiness, business sophistication, and innovation.
The second column of the following table shows the national competitiveness of the 10 countries in descending order. Singapore has the highest score. This is not surprising. Malaysia and Thailand are the second and third best, respectively. Their scores are significantly smaller than those of Singapore. The remaining seven countries, in sequence, are Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
In the Global Competitiveness Report 2005 (WEF website), 117 countries have been ranked, which include Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The report contains two indices, Growth Competitiveness Index (GCI), which attempts to measure economic conditions that lead to high GDP per capita growth, and Business Competitiveness Index (BCI), which concentrates more on micro-economic factors to measure the current level of competitiveness. The order of these seven countries for both of these two indices is the same as that of this research. The third column of the Table shows the GCI and their world ranks (in parentheses) of these seven countries. For BCI only the ranks have been reported, they are listed in the fourth column.
The results of the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005 (IMD website) are somewhat different from ours. For the 60 countries being ranked, five Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, are included.
The results show that Singapore has the highest national competitiveness and is a distance ahead of other Southeast Asian countries. Malaysia and Thailand, two fast-growing countries in this region, are the second and third best, respectively. The largest country, Indonesia, is ranked the fourth. The Philippines, a country with a glorious past, is ranked fifth. Next is the oil-rich country Brunei. Then we have Vietnam, a country liberalizing its economy and opening its markets after decades of communism. Philippines, Brunei, and Vietnam have very close scores for national competitiveness.
The relatively closed countries Myanmar and Laos are ranked eighth and tenth, respectively, and Cambodia, a country which has suffered from internal turmoil for a long time, is ranked ninth.
Vietnam is ranked lower than the Philippines and Brunei. One reason is its less satisfactory performance on technology, especially on R&D. Hence, if the Vietnam government can require its enterprises to increase expenditures on R&D, then the performance of Vietnam on technology can be improved, and consequently its national competitiveness will be raised.
For Thailand, I think that we are all too aware of the factors that currently require significant improvement.

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

On Being A Hack

The fine American humourist, actor, maker of short movies and journalist, Robert Benchley, was an observer of humankind and happily could also laugh at himself. He drank himself to death and was once chided for his over consumption, being told it was slowly poisoning him. ‘So who’s in a hurry?’ he replied. He also had rather less regard for his skill as a scribbler than others, commenting once, ‘It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.’
Of course, he was far more than a journalist. Most of us who write for newspapers and journals do just that: produce ephemeral copy which reports, comments, criticizes, analyses. Depending on the style of publication one is quite soon ‘yesterday’s news.’ An occasional piece gets syndicated or appears in a hard back review of the ‘best’ of The Guardian’s columns. In the case of the superb New Yorker film critic, Anthony Lane, a fat book of the Englishman’s reviews becomes an indispensable part of any film buff’s collection.
Oddly though, I have been reminded on several occasions recently that even ordinary copy means something to readers. It is happily not as quickly forgotten as one assumes.
Last week at the amiable tango-tea dance at the Shangri La, I was seated opposite a woman who, possibly primed, asked whether I had written the piece on the dire movie, Australia, which appeared in this paper a few weeks ago. I admitted that I was. She replied, ‘That was the most awful thing! Nobody would want to see it after reading that,’ adding that she knew someone who had seen the film and enjoyed it.
Well, the gist of that piece, which was meant to be amusing and more of an article than a review, was to warn readers of what they might expect from that lumbering epic. If it put people off parting with their diminishing cash supply, so be it. Sadly, she had not felt compelled to write to the paper. This is a pity, as I feel more readers should comment on articles or broader issues: the letters section of newspapers is a reflection on both the readers and the publication itself.
Occasionally, people will write directly to the journalist concerned. Last week, a letter wended its way from England about Van Johnson, whose obituary I had written for The Guardian. It was a pleasant note from a fan (of Johnson, not me) who recalled the great days of Hollywood and lamented them as much as the passing of the star himself. It was a sharp contrast to the Swede who took me to task for writing in Ingmar Bergman’s obituary for the same newspaper that he was the second most distinguished Scandinavian director, after the Danish Carl Th. Dreyer Jr.
The irate reader was affronted by this comment on his nation’s genius film maker. That same obituary seems to have caused more offence than any other with vitriolic comments on Google which sort of agree with the Swede, especially because he was positioned as second rung to a handful of ‘greater’ directors. Everyone has their opinions and certainly quite a few people are prepared to share them now that they do not have to put pen to paper.
The man writing about Johnson also thanked me for giving him so much space. Hardly my decision. Hacks usually get given the wordage by the editor.
It goes according to their idea of a pecking order. Bergman was the archetypal Guardian figure: serious, influential and enormously talented. That’s 3,000 words.
Paul Newman? Well not just a great star and long lived, but a major philanthropist. That’s 3,500. Johnson – around a thousand. Robert Mulligan or Kathleen Byron (both recent) slightly less. One suggests a name and they decide the wordage.
Months, possibly years later it appears and the piece either has legs or simply becomes wrapping paper. A colleague who does film obits for the same paper told me that he always dreaded having to write the notices for female stars of the post war years in Britain. These always have a fan base of ageing men who have ‘grown up’ alongside their heroines and pore over every word written. Every slight mistake or criticism is pounced upon. So far, there’s been no fall out from Ms Byron, though I did have a comment on Bob Mulligan where the obit was described as ‘lovely.’ Surely the oddest word to describe a death notice. I think she meant affectionate. Readers are perhaps more astute than we give them credit for, reading, as they do, between the lines. As long as they do, I guess we’ll carry on scribbling.

Let's Go To The Movies: : Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Germany/ UK/ US Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – Fantasy fans should love this.  It’s a vast undertaking with a lot of thought and artistry going into the creation of an entire fantasy world with its own very unique rules, and I found the attention to detail enjoyable.  Plus it has an excellent cast.  Based on Inkheart, a children’s novel by the prolific German author Cornelia Funke (who has been likened to J.K. Rowling), and the first part of her Inkworld series, detailing the adventures of bookbinder and his 12-year-old daughter, who is a voracious reader.  He is a Silvertongue, a person with the rare ability to bring the characters in a book to life simply by reading the text aloud.  Mixed or average reviews.  In a Thai-dubbed version only at Vista; for English, go to Airport Plaza.
Fireball / Tar Chon:
Thai Action/ Martial Arts.  The world of underground barbaric fighting in Thailand.
Red Cliff Part 2:
Hong Kong War/ Action – The second and final half to John Woo’s magnum opus Red Cliff, and an epic on a grand scale in the Chinese manner.  Unbelievably, both Chiang Mai theater chains opt to show it in a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English subtitles, thus effectively ruining this impressive large-scale Chinese film for those who don’t know Thai.
Hod Na Haew:
Thai Comedy/ Drama.  More comedy with popular Thai comedians from TV.
The Elephant King:
US/ Thai Drama/ Romance – Filmed for the most part in Chiang Mai, as two American brothers binge on drink, drugs, and women here in our fair city.  The mother has dispatched the younger son to Chiang Mai to bring his older brother back home to the U.S., but he finds the intoxication of Chiang Mai hard to resist himself, and he falls deeply in love for the first time – with a bar girl.  Rated R in the US for sexual content, drug use, language and some violence. Mixed or average reviews.
The Happiness of Kati:
Thai Family/ Drama – Based on the best-selling novel, it’s well-acted, and beautifully and lovingly photographed.  Best described as a loving tone poem of a film to a certain old-fashioned and peaceful Thai way of life.
US Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – Having seen this again, I was again properly frightened, and again very bored by the first 20 minutes or so.  Makes me anxious to see the original.  Very bloody it is for sure, and not for everyone.  A television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the US government after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into bloodthirsty killers.  It has the single hand-held camera style of such recent movies as Cloverfield.  Some people find that the constant jiggling of the picture and rough-shod editing gives them a terrible headache.  Rated R in the US for bloody violent and disturbing content, terror, and language.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Vista only.
Yes Man:
US Comedy – Jim Carrey as a man who signs up for a self-help program based on one simple principle: say “yes” to everything for an entire year.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Airport Plaza only.
Bedtime Stories:
US Comedy/ Fantasy – Starring Adam Sandler. A surprisingly pleasant and amusing family-friendly movie about a hotel handyman whose life is changed forever when the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to mysteriously come true.  The director is Adam Shankman (Hairspray). Generally negative reviews.
Scheduled for Feb 5
Revolutionary Road:
Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes this year, and one was as best actress for her role in this film. I thought this is a brilliant 2-character drama, set in the 1950’s, based on a novel by Richard Yates, with brilliant performances by Leonardo DeCaprio as well as Kate Winslet, and brilliantly directed by Sam Mendes.  I loved it.  A young, thriving suburban American couple plan to escape from the creeping frustration of their lives and their inability to feel fulfilled in either their relationships or their careers.  Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America.  Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content/nudity.  Generally favorable reviews.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:
Traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans.  Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy revisit their roles from Underworld in this prequel to the horror-action hybrid.  Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos.
Before Valentine:
Thai Romance/ Drama. Four takes on love, made by three Thai directors: Songsak Mong­koltong (The Screen at Kamchanod), Pornchai Hongrattanaporn (Bangkok Loco), and Seri Pongnithi (Ghost in Law, Art of the Devil 1).

Don’t Misss : by Andy Archer

February 6: Romantic Piano Solos at the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre. The Municipality of Chiang Mai is sponsoring this event in one of its most historical settings. The audience will be seated in the open air courtyard and enjoy classical Western music in a Lanna setting. Brilliant young pianists from Korea and Japan will perform some of the most beautiful solo piano compositions by Liszt, Chopin, and Schumann. The concert is free of charge for all, and is part of the Chiang Mai Music Festival taking place the same weekend.
February 7: The annual Chiang Mai Music Festival’s main concert begins at 7.30 p.m. in Ban Wang Tan, Hang Dong. Ban Wang Tan constructed its lakeside concert stage for the Chiang Mai Music Festival in 2006 - every year since then audiences have enjoyed world class performances of classical music in this beautiful open air and lantern-lit setting. The evening will feature young pianists from Korea performing three full piano concerti by Grieg, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky, accompanied at the second piano by their mentor, Professor Tong-Il Han, and his colleague, Professor Jun-Hwa Hur. Transport will be available from Chiang Mai to the Ban Wangtang concert (guaranteed return for 100 baht) with reservations through [email protected] Also (new this year), there will be a Set Thai Menu available for those who wish to dine at the Ban Wangtang Club House prior to the concert. Cost is 200 baht including soft drinks. Reservations are required through [email protected] Pre-concert dining begins at 5:30 p.m. and all service ends at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.
February 8: Suriya Gallery are hosting a talk entitled ‘The World of Shan Migrants’, to be given by Dr. Amporn Jirattikorn. The informal presentation will be followed by a discussion. Suriya Gallery supports the work of Burmese artists, and is located on Huey Kaew Road, No 2 Soi Bua Lang. The evening begins at 6 p.m., and is being held in aid of Cultural Canvas, a local NGO which provides art therapy for children of migrants. For further info, please call Nance on 053-221-969, or email on [email protected]
February 15: This really is something different! An electro-acoustic concert by ‘Loca and the Little Fairy Bells’ - plus a photography exhibition entitled ‘Nightlight Instants’ by Laurent Chiarelli will both be held at the well-known Spirit House Restaurant. Tickets are 300 baht per person, which includes a Thai/Farang buffet supplied by Steve & Num. Limited seating, reservations are strongly recommended – please call calling Laurent on 081-672-6308


Begonias are for everyone

There is a wonderful group of plants with a fantastic array of differently coloured, patterned and shaped leaves and, of this wasn’t enough, lovely flowers too. Many of this species, the much loved Begonia, are native to Thailand.
Begonia leaves are succulent and soft, resulting in their being eaten very quickly by hungry insects, hence their clever camouflage of unexpected colours, which easily confuses prospective predators in the deep, dark undersides of the tropical forest. One example that can be found in out northern forests is called the ‘butterfly begonia’ by Thais, as the reddish-brown patterned leaves are produced in pairs and remind one of large butterfly wings.
As this suggests, begonias make ideal house plants as they can tolerate very low light levels indoors, and their thick, water-containing leaves and fat stems guard against those days when we forget to water them. However, if you do forget to water, they can lose all their leaves, so it is best to keep them looking happy by giving them regular attention.
If this is difficult for any reason, you should choose ‘cane’ begonias, which grow tall stems resembling bamboo, have glossy leaves and are as tough as old boots!
I defy the worst amongst us to manage to kill these rewarding plants, which tend to flower profusely with each new leaf. What more could you want from a house plant? Another bonus is that, if you break off a cane and push it into moist soil, it will quickly root, and soon give you another house plant for free!

Tip of the Week
When your best friend admires your begonias, be generous and break off a leaf to give to him or her, with instructions to keep it in a glass of fresh water for one week, by which time it will have produced roots from its stem. It can then be potted in soil, and will eventually produce a complete baby plant. Why am I asking you to be so generous? If your own begonia dies off, you can then ask your friend to return the favour with a leaf. Generosity is a great insurance policy for all your rare and cherished plants.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Last week’s column was about the forcing defence. Whenever you have four trumps (or you believe your partner has), then the best line of defence is often a forcing one. You try to find the partnership’s best suit and force declarer to ruff in the hand with the long trumps. The purpose is to shorten declarer’s trump holding to the same as yours. Even better if you can reduce declarer’s holding to less than yours – then you are in control of the hand. The deal below is another example of a forcing defence. With neither side vulnerable and North dealing, this was the bidding:
North   East        South     West

1C         P              1S       2D
2S         P              4S      All pass

Imagine you are sitting West. Your hand and dummy are shown below:

           S: KQ98
             H: QJ72
             D: 73
             C: KJ2    
S: A532
H: 85
D: AKQ105
C: 94                    

This is a fairly easy hand to force with because you have four trumps and a strong suit. You lead three rounds of high diamonds. You win the first two tricks. On the third round, dummy ruffs and both declarer and partner follow suit. Declarer then tries to draw trumps. Partner follows to the first round and discards on the second. Now you know that South only had four trumps.
As long as you resist taking your ace of trumps until the third round, you have defeated the contract. If declarer takes a third round of trumps, then you win the ace and lead another diamond. Dummy has no more trumps, so declarer is forced to ruff in hand with his last spade. Now, you have the only remaining trump. You can ruff in on clubs or hearts and cash your last diamond. The contract goes down two. If declarer does not take a third round of trumps, then you can use your low trump to ruff and you still have the ace of trumps to make sure the contract goes down. Either way, the forcing defence kills the contract. Please send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]