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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
emofree.com, 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
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 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
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
by Harry Flashman
There is so much more to
photography than record shots
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: :
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
Defiance: 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.
Inkheart: 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.
Push: 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:
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: 732 S: KQ
H: Q953 H: AK82
D: AK1095 D: Q84
C: 8 C: 10765
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]