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The Doctor's Consultation

Health, Fitness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Cheap drugs - are they safe?

I have written about cheap brand medications before, but the topic is recurring. Cheap (generic) drugs are always a topic for discussion in medical forums. Most people here know that you can buy “brand name” medications, which tend to be expensive, or you can buy “copy” drugs that tend to be cheap.
Let’s just clear up what ‘generics’ is all about. What you have to first realize is that all medications are chemicals, and somebody in some research lab somewhere ‘invented’ it - these days, medical drugs are not naturally occurring substances. The ‘trade name’ for the chemical compounds is then owned by the manufacturing company, for example, the trade name ‘Valium’ is the compound diazepam, or ‘Viagra’ which is ‘sildenafil’. ‘Valium’ and ‘Viagra’ are the trade names, while diazepam and sildenafil are generics.
When you buy ‘Valium’, you are getting the diazepam chemical as invented by that manufacturer, with all the purity and quality controls that a major manufacturer has to abide by. However, when you buy diazepam tablets, these can come from a little factory on a back street in Bangladesh or Pakistan, with none of the hygiene standards being applied that you would expect! Likewise, your cheap blue diamonds, gentlemen, before you start laughing!
The large pharmaceutical companies legitimately say that if they do not have patent protection, they cannot recoup the cost of the development of the drug - in some cases, multi millions of dollars, and then develop even newer ones. However, if after it has been invented, Pakkypharm Pills produce the drug cheaply after zero costs have been outlaid for its research, this is unfair.
In some ways it is worse than ‘copy CDs’ where the artist is not getting paid for his work from the royalties coming from the sale of the CD. Sure you get a cheap CD, but the artist has been ‘robbed’.
Through this minefield walks the medical profession. In the developed world, on one side are the large pharmaceutical companies saying that they need the sales to cover and sponsor future research, but on the other side stands the government, saying that the public purse cannot afford these expensive medications, when cheaper, but chemically the same, alternatives are available. These two opposing sides have arguments that are quite understandable.
In the developing world it is a little different. The end point consumer does not have the money to buy the expensive original research manufacturer’s tablets, and neither do the governments (who in most cases do not have an all-encompassing health care system).
To make it even more contentious, there are medications that could be called ‘essential’ for life. The ones that come immediately to mind are the AIDS treatment drugs. Can you justify withholding treatment from the poor (people or countries) just on price protectionism policies? Figures that have been published in Thailand recently claim that the same medication is available at costs to the consumers between 300,000 baht and 12,000 baht per year. For the poor, one is affordable, the other is not. For government or charity purses, ditto.
My stance on generics falls between the two extremes. For non-essential drugs I believe the original manufacturer deserves a patent period and generics should not be sold within that time frame. During that time frame I would prescribe by trade name only and not generic. This covers medications such as yet another BP reducing tablet, of which there are scores, or another non-earth shattering antibiotic. These are not essential as there are many alternatives.
However, for essential medications, generics should be allowed and offered to developing nations, and to the poor, even though this may be within the patent time frame. In other words, let those who can afford it pay, and those who cannot should be assisted by the manufacturer, who can make their own generic equivalent, as well as licensing other manufacturers to make their drug.
So where do you fit into all this? First make sure that the ‘copy’ drug does contain what it is supposed to and that the drug is released from the tablet/capsule in the strength indicated. Or let your doctor prescribe - it’s much safer!


Health, Fitness :Emotional freedom and holistic healing - help yourself to a New You

Shari Brown
My first experience with the new and exciting self-help modality, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) came in the summer of 2007. I was working on the computer in the early evening, when I suddenly began to crave ice cream, particularly Bud’s San Francisco ice cream, vanilla flavor.
The craving grew stronger until I found myself thinking of going out for ice cream. I was willing to walk ten minutes to Rimping Supermarket, and back, all because I felt I must have vanilla ice cream. Instead, I googled ‘craving for ice cream’, and, immediately, a list of results appeared, most of them recipes for homemade ice cream! But one, ‘How my ten-year craving for ice cream disappeared in 45 minutes and never came back’, stood out from all the rest - an article about how an EFT practitioner had helped her client vanquish her long-standing problem. I was ready to give the technique a try, and, finding the website, www., downloaded the instruction manual at no cost.
EFT works by tapping on certain acupuncture points, from the top of the head to the side of the hand, whilst repeating a previously set-up phrase. I was asked to give a rating to my craving on a scale of 1-10, mine, sadly, was 9! I tried tapping, and to my surprise, the cravings diminished to level 2, which was tolerable. At that point, I went to bed, greatly relieved that I hadn’t needed that furtive trip to the supermarket after all!
On a recent visit to New York, I had several opportunities to prove the efficacy of EFT for myself. My arrival at JFK Airport was four hours late due to an electrical storm, and I found all but one of the access doors to Delta Airlines closed for security reasons. The one open door was at the top of a long, steep ramp - I found myself climbing the ramp, pushing a cart with two heavy suitcases and my small dog. About halfway up, my kneecap popped, resulting in tremendous pain when I put my weight on it. I pushed the cart over to one side and began EFT, which brought immediate relief - so I continued tapping. In less than ten minutes I was able to continue on to my destination. In the morning my knee was normal.
When I arrived at my daughter’s house in New York, she was suffering from contact dermatitis caused by exposure to poison ivy. At bedtime, she found the itching intolerable and was scratching near the affected area. I suggested we tried EFT, and asked her to rate her level of discomfort - it was 9. After tapping a few times, I asked again. This time, she said, ‘It’s 1. Thanks. I’m going to sleep’.
EFT is not new. It is related to acupuncture and involves the same meridians and energy lines as acupressure, Ayurveda and traditional medicine from China and Japan. The technique was first developed by Dr. Callaghan, and used for curing addictions and negative behavior patterns. In the seventies, Gary Craig experimented with Callaghan’s techniques and found that the tapping and vocal phrasing, which hail from acupressure and linguistic programming respectively, were highly effective in many areas of human pain and suffering. EFT works by retraining the conscious mind and eliminating mental blocks. Resistance to change dissipates.
Jaz Goven is a successful EFT practitioner and trainer located in Bangkok. In a recent interview, Jaz told me about her first client and his fear of air travel. All he had to do was think about flying, imagine himself in an airplane, and he became paralysed with fear. Jaz helped him overcome his fear in less than twenty minutes and was as surprised as her client at how quickly the change took place. She is no longer surprised. She has helped people lose weight, stop smoking, and overcome such fears and phobias as fear of public speaking, dogs and thunderstorms. She also uses EFT to help people heal relationships, move beyond anger, deal with grief, and reduce stress.
In addition to her in-person sessions, Jaz also offers appointments by telephone. I had two very successful sessions with her by phone. In one session, I was able to lower my blood pressure as we uncovered an emotional stressor I hadn’t known I had.
More than 75% of all health problems have an emotional component, and for this reason, EFT can be utilized for almost everything. Gary Craig likes to say, ‘Try it on anything!’ EFT is not alone in the ever–expanding world of energy medicine. What EFT, Zone Therapy, Body Talk, Spinal Touch, N.O.T., Brainspotting and similar modalities have in common is that they treat problems at their cause - the vibratory imbalance within the invisible vibratory substructure of the human energy field.
Energy medicine and holistic healing are no longer arcane concepts but are rapidly taking their rightful place in the world of health and wellness. In the United States alone, 36% of adults use alternative healing methods and when spiritual exercise and prayer are factored in, the number rises to an impressive 62%. In Australia, the numbers are even higher: 65% of Australians choose to see a holistic practitioner before going to a hospital. In India, Ayurvedic medicine is practiced nationwide as part of the federal health system, often used alongside conventional medicine in the same hospital. In Japan, traditional herbal medicine, or Kampo, is covered by national health insurance. It is practiced by many conventional doctors as well as holistic practitioners.
These exciting modalities and many others will be presented at the 2nd Worldwide Holistic Healing Seminar, to be held in Chiang Mai on February 20, 21 and 22. The WHHS will be held in the new Empress Convention Centre, and features 40 speakers on many diverse holistic subjects, including myself, from fifteen countries. For more information and to register, please contact [email protected] or call on 053-128415/6.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
With your extensive knowledge and wisdom I would like to hear how you would deal with my problem. On 28th January, I must board the klm flight back to the UK and I am developing “klmitis”. Surely you can find a way for me to prolong my stay here. I mean for all the moans about Thailand, it is not till you need to return to the UK that you realize this. The UK is cold and wet, the beer is less enjoyable, the ladies less enchanting and my job as an Edinburgh taxi driver is tedious and pays only enough for me to venture here four times a year, so please, please give me the remedy to my klm illness. I see lots of other sprightly chappies darting around here so obviously they have been drinking from your fountain of wisdom; please enlighten me so that I don’t have to return to Edinburgh and my taxi on the 28th. - please, please.
Tormented Tam
Dear Tormented Tam,
Oh, I do feel so sorry for you, my Petal, and I am sorry I couldn’t get you an answer before January 28, but letters not attached to French fizzwater or Belgian chocolates do not go to the top of the pile. I’m sure you would understand these things. You don’t take the customers from the rear of the rank, do you. But I do feel for you. Trundling up and down Princess Street, up to see Mons Meg with frozen tourists. No wonder you miss Thailand and the weather, never mind the beer and the ladies.
Now one of the things you have to do to get over “klmitis” is to give up on your current carrier and fly THAI instead. They need the money, Tam (O’Shanter?). But then again, so do we all. (That reminds me, I must have a chat to the editor about my salary. I can’t even afford that awful sugary Spy stuff after it went up 25 satang. You won’t get much of a hangover from the old Spy fountain of wisdom, I tell you!)
However, in the meantime, I do have a better job for you in Edinburgh. Apply as the guide for the Camera Obscura. You know all the landmarks from your cabbie experience, and you would stay warm and dry indoors, up there on the Royal Mile.
I look forward to hearing from you next time you are in town, but do you speak English? I had to correct a lot of spelling mistakes from your written communication, Tam. Or were you writing in Gaelic, or even Doric?

Dear Hillary,
I was one of the people who had to stay another week in Thailand when the airport was closed because of the takeover. Hillary, I was just so disappointed when they opened the place up again and I had to go home. The people who live in Thailand don’t know how lucky they are, getting to live there all the time, while we had to go back to freezing temperatures and freezing women. I will be coming again at the end of the year, can you arrange another sit-in at the airport as soon as we have landed?
Dear Mark,
Hillary can do lots of things, my Petal, but arranging airport sit-ins are way out of my league. However, I am pleased that you enjoyed yourself so much you are coming back again. If your plane touches down in France on the way over, you might pick me up a bottle of bubbles, there’s a good chap.

Dear Hillary,
I’ve read all the books you recommended for visitors to Thailand, but it made no difference, I still fell into all the traps, including the motorcycle and gold necklace. I was so sure that she was different from all the ones in the books, and for a while that seemed to be right. I’d been back in the US for three months now and gotten regular reports from one of my buddies stationed over there, and it lasted two weeks exactly before she was back in the bar. The gold had gone and so had the motorcycle. I’ve got nobody to blame but myself, but by heck those girls know how to push a man’s buttons. Isn’t there some way you can warn us new guys?
Dear Tex,
As you so correctly write, “Those girls know how to push a man’s buttons” and I’m afraid they also know how to spend your buttons, Petal, as you have found out. However, it was better to find this out at an early stage than later. The ladies of the night are great short term company, but it should never be forgotten that they are just doing a job. Doing that job very well, having been through the bargirl apprenticeship scheme, with a major in Wallet Opening and complete with a minor in Begging Letter Writing to Sweethearts.
Warn you new guys? What more can I do, Petal? I recommend the textbooks, but you all fail at the final exams when you meet the “girl of your dreams, who just happens to work in a go-go bar, but she’s different from all the others.” She’s not! Is she?

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

There is so much more to photography than record shots

What’s a ‘record shot’? That is easy to explain - it is any photograph where you are merely recording some event, and neither technique, nor art, nor equipment matters. Record shots are those you take of your wife at the beach with her sister and your brother-in-law. You know what I mean, and you have taken lots of them in your lifetime. Line ‘em up, “Big smile” and click it’s done.
Here’s a simple (and cheap) way to put some art into your photography by using filters, without having to buy expensive filter kits. Filters can be used with any camera, film, digital, compact or SLR, but digital will certainly give you an instant result. I also believe in not spending too much on filters, and when I say cheap, the first one costs 1 baht (and is recoverable) and gives you a center-spot soft focus filter. It will enhance portraits, particularly of women, giving a soft dreamy look to the photo. Using this filter this just means the center is in focus and the edges are nicely soft and blurred. This effect is used by portrait and wedding photographers all over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic” photograph.
You will need one can of hairspray, a one baht coin and a clear piece of glass or plastic (perspex) around 7.5 cm square. This piece of perspex needs to be as thin as possible to keep it optically correct. One supply source can be hardware shops, glaziers and even picture framers.
Having cut out your square, put the coin in the center of the perspex and then gently wave the hairspray over the lot. Let it dry and gently flick the coin off and you have your first special effects filter - the center spot soft focus.
Now set your camera lens on the largest aperture you can (around f5.6 or f4 is fine). Focus on your subject, keeping the face in the center of the screen. Bring up your magic FX filter and place it over the lens and what do you see? The face is in focus and the edges are all blurred! You’ve got it. Shoot! Take a few shots, especially ones with the light behind your subject. Try altering the f stop as well, as this changes the apparent size of the clear spot in the middle. Simple, cheap and easy art.
Here is another, the Super Sunset Filter. This one will give you that wonderfully warm “tropical sunset” which will make people envious that they aren’t over here to enjoy such spectacular endings to the day. To produce the warm glow, just take off your sunglasses and place one side over the lens. It’s that simple! Just look at the difference yourself, with and without the sunnies. The camera will see it the same way.
Soft romantic effects can be produced super inexpensively as well. The first is to gently breathe on the end of the lens just before you take the shot. Your warm breath will impart a “mist” to produce a wonderfully misty portrait, or that early morning mist look for landscapes. Remember that the “misting” only lasts a few seconds, so make sure you have the camera pre-focussed and ready to shoot. If you have control over the aperture, try around f4 as well.
Here’s another. Use a piece of stocking (pantyhose) material. Stretch it over the lens and tie it on with a rubber band. Cut a small hole in the middle and go ahead and shoot romantic portraits.
There are also other ways of bending, refracting or just generally fooling the camera’s lens system. This you do by holding transparent materials in front of the lens when taking your photographs. I suggest you get small pieces of glass or perspex (around 10 cm by 10 cm) and use these as the final filter. You can even use semi-transparent material like shower screen glass. The concept is just to produce a “different” effect, one that the camera will pick up. It is very difficult to predict the outcomes in these situations, but you can be pleasantly amazed at some of the results. The main idea is to give it a try!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Not all funds let you down, part 1

Everyone (who reads this column) knows that Midas Capital is the fund advisor for MBMG International. However, we do also listen to other people. The Lansdowne UK Equity Fund is the largest holding in the Turnstone European fund, which along with Orbis, Berkshire Hathaway and GAA makes up the majority of our equity exposure right now. Lansdowne is a long/short equity fund - it takes exposure to equities that it will believe will appreciate and short sells those that it thinks will depreciate. Theoretically, therefore, it has the capacity to yield returns in all conditions. That, at least, is the theory. Just look at the practice in June 2008, it gained 3.5% whereas the FTSE lost 7.35%. So far this year it is up by 14.8% and FTSE is down by 13.11%. Since launch, in August 2001, it has made a gross return of 378.12% (FTSE has made 7.2%).
We have long been impressed by the fund, but in June we were staggered! How do they manage that? Exposure levels continue to be reduced in response to the lack of judicious use of short and index options is the easy answer.
What do they expect to happen in the future?
“Looking forward there is no doubt that the near-term outlook is as difficult as we can recall. We would accept that there is a lack of certainty to analysis at a macro level. As such, a good deal of our recent moves in portfolio structure has been designed to seek to limit thematic risk while retaining what we feel are strong stock and industry views.” [Please note that all quotes in this article are from Lansdowne]
Like us, they think anything could happen and, like us, they have a structure for any near-term market moves that are driven by a desire from investors to reduce risk. As we have learned, such periods can provide very indiscriminate share-price movements.
As ever, our goal in such an environment will be to manage the portfolio risk appropriately, through such dislocations, while retaining flexibility to take advantage of the mispricing created to driven medium-term returns. Markets had a dreadful month as investors reacted to a range of negative news. To our minds the underlying connection between these concerns was a sense that policy-markers had run out of responses to recent problems. Such a feeling inevitably led to a fear that the current downturn would be deeper and more elongated than previously imagined.
From an Anglo-Saxon perspective this had two main elements. First, the attempt by monetary authorities to keep policy loose in response to declining property prices appeared to have been trumped by rising commodity prices. This worked in two ways. First, it placed a limit on future policy-moves in the need to avoid cost pressures translating to broader inflation. Secondly, it actually has ended up rendering the attempt to loosen conditions void, as consumer discretionary spending was impacted by rising basic goods prices and financing cost rose in line with higher bond yields.
So the extra cash than Central bankers put into the system was converted almost directly into inflation and ended up ‘eating’ itself. Not what ‘Helicopter Ben’ had intended at all.
Lansdowne also make the point that, “The other, less appreciated, aspect of policy was the attempt by regulators to provide a period of grace for credit markets to allow the banking system to recapitalize. In underwriting credit market liquidity and encouraging financial equity-raising post Bear Stearns, it was hoped that the system could stabilize, limiting the degree to which debt-financed asset prices would fall. This move also ran into problems during June as losses sustained by equity investors on such capital-raising began to materially impact their willingness to provide incremental funds. Such a move would, if sustained, prove particularly worrisome as it would force financial institutions into another round of deleveraging, with obvious economic and financial market consequences.”
So the plan to buy the time needed during a possible recession so as to shore up the system was working but now it has to be said, it is time for a new tack.
“With it becoming increasingly clear that initial policy reaction to the credit had failed, attempts to change tack were made. More hawkish noises emerged from the US to limit inflationary fears and attempts were made to directly influence problem markets through supply expansion in oil and disclosure changes in equity markets. The lack of any immediate benefit from such moves, however, led to fears actually being reinforced as the market effectively said that not only had Plan A ran out of steam but Plan B was not going to work either.”
So, how on earth did Lansdowne do so well? They increased short exposure to infrastructure, life assurance and UK consumer-related areas, and long exposure to Inmarsat and QinetiQ, while existing mining positions retained gains made earlier in the quarter.
Over the last quarter a significant proportion of returns have come from the long positions in mining and short positions in financials, at both a sectoral and stock-specific level.
Within mining, BHP Billion, their largest holding by some way, delivered returns of nearly 30% in the quarter, more than double its immediate peers. Meanwhile, in financials, their balance-sheet analysis proved helpful in identifying vulnerabilities in companies across several sub-sectors (notably UK banks, life assurance, investment banks and infrastructure funds).
Amongst the shorts, the negative view on UK-related shares worked well, particularly in the house building sector.
Equally importantly, the fund managed to avoid any material losses in the quarter, despite the volatile environment.

Attribution by long, shorts and option positions for June is show below:
Gross Return       Long Positions     Short Positions    Options
June 2008             -5.8% 1                  0.7%                    0.2%
Next week: And what do they expect to happen and plan to do about it?

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

News and Views

A week ago, I was chuntering on about the ephemeral nature of journalism. I should perhaps have made it clearer that I was talking about ‘ordinary’ hacks, not those brave investigative men and women who sadly lose their lives or liberty every day in the search of the truth. Those who cover wars and disasters and, even more dangerously, expose the corruption and deceit in such diverse places as Russia, Sri Lanka, Burma or in many South American countries where newspapers are often restricted. They face harassment, torture, imprisonment or death just for trying to tell the truth. What they do lives on.
But even ‘trivial’ journalism can linger in the mind and it says something about human nature (mine, anyway) that one tends to recall comments of an acerbic nature, or which are witty and barbed rather than acres of praise. Rather in the way we relish villains rather than so-called heroes.
I recently read Richard Corliss, the Time magazine critic, on a new film called The Visitor, which is one of the films in the forthcoming Oscars list (what an increasingly stupid and money orientated event that has become in its 81 years of existence). I haven’t seen the movie but his comment hardly encourages me to do so: ‘…a film so modest and predictable that it seems like its own remake.’
Kenneth Tynan, a remarkably astute English theatre critic, wrote many penetrating reviews and books. But I still recall a final paragraph in a piece about a variety show, which was topped by a popular British entertainer who never seemed quite the same after Tynan wrote, ‘Frankie Vaughan has the given name of Sinatra, the family name of the divine Sarah and the top hat, white tie and tails of Astaire. Sadly, only his talent is his own.’
The writer Henry James never used one word when 20 or a few qualifying clauses would do, but even he could cut to the point on occasion. Here he is on Walt Whitman, after he had heard a goodly number of the great man’s poems read to him: ‘Oh, yes, a great genius, undoubtedly a very great genius! Only one cannot help deploring his too-extensive acquaintance with foreign languages.’
These are what we might call ‘put-downs.’ Critics revel in them, and the more pithy the better. I forget the movie, but recall William Whitebait, of the New Statesman, writing that it was ‘overly baroque’ and this phrase springs to mind when faced with flamboyant works where the director – all mirrors, crane shots and angles – attempts to con us with so-called cinematic technique. Not that critics don’t get their comeuppance when trying to put down an artist. One said loftily that a portrait did not look like a famous female poet: ‘It will,’ replied Pablo Picasso.
Another great creator, Jean Renoir, several of whose finest works are on view at the Alliance Française this month, was also a harsh critic on occasion of his fellow film makers. Of Laurence Olivier’s rather fancily photographed Hamlet, which had more than its share of views from Elsinore’s ramparts, he once wrote: ‘So you get dizzy looking down from great heights. What has that got to do with Shakespeare?’ And Hitchcock also got it in the neck for Rope, his elegant version of Patrick Hamilton’s play: ‘It’s supposed to be a film about homosexuals and they don’t even show the boys kissing.’
Brevity, apart from being the soul of wit, is also difficult to achieve. Who was it that said, ‘I wish I had the time to write you a short letter?’ There’s no doubt that good writing is the result of hard work, requiring a discipline and intelligence that few of us possess. The poet Edward Arlington Robinson was forced to put a woman novelist, who boasted of her ability to write 5,000 words a day, in her place. Giving her a steely look over the dinner table, he said, ‘Well, this morning I deleted the hyphen from hell-hound, making it one word. This afternoon I redivided it and restored the hyphen.’
I’ve enjoyed three contrasting events recently and have no desire to be critical of any of them. The energetic reworking of Romeo and Juliet, the Musical, at the Kad Theatre proved both a surprise and a delight. Shakespeare’s famous love story about two teenagers kept apart by feuding families has appeared in many guises. Famously as West Side Story and in several film versions, not least in Baz Lurhmann’s only watchable work, so it takes real chutzpah to mount a brisk, no-interval, updated treatment which cuts the story to the bone and adds a score. Not, of course, that it was in Bernstein’s league, but at least the attractive youngsters showed a great commitment and a sense of enjoyment that would put many professionals in the shade. Sadly, the four performances have come and gone but if it is revived or another show comes along, I urge you to see it.
A very different musical event was the continuation of the festival under the general heading Nocturnes and Barcarolles. We are treated to music by Gabriel Fauré and his contemporaries, in this case Reynaldo Hahn. The highlight was Fauré’s La Bonne Chanson, a passionate series of linked songs from poems by Verlaine. Hahn’s charming Portraits of Painters made me wonder why it is not heard more. And Bennett Lerner’s impassioned playing of the Nocturne No. 6, proved a worthy tribute to the late David Crisp.
Another event of a decidedly more sybaritic nature took place at the Amari Rincome last weekend under the apt name ‘Cranswick Wine Dinner.’ A truly excellent five course meal was accompanied by four different wines, one for each of the course except the pudding, which was correctly served last after the cheese course but lacked an example of the superb Australian dessert wines which are becoming increasingly popular as the French price themselves out of the market. Perhaps that would have been gilding the lily. Not surprisingly the wines each had their admirers but my favourite was the Sémillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007, from the south-east. It is apparently going to be featured at the Amari during February and March.
Just space, I hope, to mention two forthcoming events which should be essential listening. Both are at the Saisuree Chutikul Music Hall at Payap University. On Friday 13,, the young Sakdiporn Mitprayoon will be giving a guitar and voice recital, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Admission is free. On the following evening, at the same venue and time, that fine guitarist Alessio Monti will continue his series of world music recitals, with compositions by Bach, Sor, Bellini and himself amongst others. Tickets are just 200 baht or 100 for students.
The musical life of this city would be infinitely poorer without the input of the Music College of Payap University, that’s for sure.

Let's Go To The Movies: : Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:
US Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 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 (Tony Blair in The Queen, David Frost in Frost/Nixon) and Bill Nighy (Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) revisit their roles from Underworld in this prequel to the horror-action series.  Rated R in the US for bloody violence and some sexuality.  Mixed or average reviews.
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).
US Drama/ War – This popped up unexpectedly and off-schedule at Major Cineplex.  I think it a superb war drama and thriller with a lot of thought in it, and a must-see.  Based on an extraordinary true story, it’s an epic tale of family, honor, vengeance, and salvation in World War II.  The year is 1941 and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being massacred by the thousands.  Managing to escape certain death, three brothers take refuge in the dense surrounding woods they have known since childhood.  There they begin their desperate battle against the Nazis.  Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell star as brothers who turn a primitive struggle to survive into something far more consequential – a way to avenge the deaths of their loved ones by saving thousands of others.  Directed by Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond).  Rated R in the US for violence and language.  Only mixed or average reviews, but I thought it riveting, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to see something substantial and provocative. 
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.  An excellent cast.  Based on the Inkworld series of children’s novels by the German author Cornelia Funke, 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.  You may notice something strange about the film – there are two endings!  Next week I’ll tell you how that came about.  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.
Scheduled for Feb 12
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
US Drama/ Fantasy/ Mystery/ Romance – with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton. Nominated for Oscar best picture and best director.  The extraordinary tale of one man, born elderly in 1918, who ages backwards through the 20th century.  I don’t see how anyone can really like this, but I seem to be in the minority.  It’s utterly nonsensical, so I couldn’t get involved, even at 166 mins.  Great makeup! – worth seeing for that alone!  For sure, Benjamin Button’s case grows curiouser still: thirteen Academy Award nominations?  Thirteen, really?  But look closer:  Perhaps Benjamin Button is a big-budget love story with just the right combination of qualities (nostalgic Americana, epic romance) that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences routinely admires.  The screenplay is by Eric Roth, who wrote Forrest Gump, which this reminds me of.  Generally favorable reviews.
A Moment in June:
Thai Drama/ Romance – Well received Thai drama set partly in Chiang Mai and Lampang.  Directed by O. Nathapon, who is also active in theater and draws on his theater experience to devise an impressive crossover of cinema and stage through a play-within-a-film.  Three couples – gay, elderly, and fictive – engage in a melancholy dance of indecision and regret.
US Action/ Thriller. The deadly world of “psychic espionage” where artificially enhanced paranormal operatives have the ability to move objects with their minds, see the future, create new realities, and kill without ever touching their victims.  Not to be confused with the highly regarded Sundance-award-winning film “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire.”
Feb 13:  Confessions of a Shopaholic:
US Comedy. Nonsense wherein Isla Fisher plays a fun-loving girl who is really good at shopping.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

“Six, five, come alive” is an old bridge adage. I was lucky enough to be dealt a hand recently that illustrated this rather well. I was sitting South and this was my hand:

S: 108654
H: J
D: 2
C: AKJ943

Not much of a hand you might think – 8 high card points, with a good six card club suit, but a very ratty five card spade suit. East-West were vulnerable, we were non-vulnerable. East dealt and opened 1C, so I could not even bid my only good suit. I overcalled 1S, in spite of the poor suit. West bid 2D (a negative double showing both red suits might be better). My partner, Chris Hedges, raised me to 2S. East bid 3D. With the above adage in mind (and inclined to optimism by a certain amount of beer), I took it to 4S and East doubled. You may well think that I overbid by going to 4S. My rationale was that we might make the contract if my partner had a decent hand. Since I had most of the low spades, surely he had one or two high ones! Also, we were non-vulnerable. Furthermore, if my partner did not have a decent hand, then the opponents could probably make a vulnerable game and we needed to make an early sacrifice before they could find it.

East      South     West      North
1C         1S            2D           2S
3D        4S            P              P
Dbl       All pass                

The full deal is shown below:

                      S: AJ9
                        H: 10764
                        D: J763
                        C: Q2        
S: 732                                S: KQ
H: Q953                             H: AK82
D: AK1095                          D: Q84
C: 8                                    C: 10765
                        S: 108654
                        H: J
                        D: 2
                        C: AKJ943  

West led the eight of clubs, his partner’s bid suit. I took it with the ace in hand to try and hide from East the fact that the lead was a singleton. I led the ten of spades around to East’s queen. East then tried to cash the top hearts. The second heart was ruffed in hand and another spade led. From East’s double, it looked like he held both the king and queen of trumps. The only chance of making the contract was that they were doubleton. So I went up with the ace. Luckily, the king dropped. The jack of spades pulled the last trump. The queen of clubs was cashed and my hand entered by ruffing another heart. The rest of the clubs gave me ten tricks, thus making the contract, losing only one diamond, one heart and a trump. So you see the power of that six, five distribution game made with only seventeen high card points between the two hands (and a little luck!).
Please send me your interesting hands at [email protected]