HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Mobile phones - the next killer?

Remember the first mobile phones? We used to have to carry a suitcase full of batteries and needed three months at Thor’s gym to lift the thing. Who would have believed that one day we would be able to slip the mobile phone into our shirt pockets.
However, new developments always bring out the soothsayers and harbingers of doom. Forget attacks by extremists, we are all carrying a loaded time bomb in our mobile phone pockets. Well, you could be excused for thinking that with all the shock-horror headlines in the popular press.
I read a banner headline the other day which claimed “Hours of chatting on a mobile phone are suspected to be slashing male fertility around the world, new research shows.” It went on to say that “Men who use mobile phones for more than four hours a day produce fewer and poorer quality sperm, according to results of a study released at an American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans.”
I mean this is so serious, we should never keep mobile phones on our laps, or heaven help us, slipped between your legs as you drive the car. Can’t you see the headlines, “Driver’s gonads blown to bits by mobile phone!” Next time you are standing at the urinal, don’t shake it, Willy the wonder wand might fall off, if we are to believe all this “research”.
If that was not chilling enough, Australian scientists are investigating if children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation from mobile phones. This should have us worried, as Thailand has one of the highest usage rates of mobile phones. Every Thai, from the age of two, or the age of being able to speak, has one. Every child takes one to school. Even the national way of greeting has been changed to suit the mobile phone fad. The traditional ‘wai’ is now done by holding the mobile phone between your palms and bringing it up to touch your nose. True, just look around you.
The study of 110 adults at the Australian Center for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research has apparently confirmed mobile phones cause a change in brain function by altering our alpha waves.
The center is now investigating the effect on 40 children aged 12 to 13, and 20 people aged 55 to 75 years.
Associate Professor Rodney Croft, from the centre, said while studies had been conducted on adults, the effect on children had, until now, remained untested. “Although there’s a tiny effect on healthy young adults, there is a possibility that it could be much stronger in children or the elderly,” said the worthy Professor.
Now, mobile phones are hardly new technology, although the latest 3G variety seem to be able to do everything from cleaning the house, watering the garden and washing the dog, as well as making and receiving telephone calls. There have been claims that using mobile phones produces brain cancer because people with brain cancer have used mobiles, and that is about as stupid as claiming that shoes are the greatest killer in the western society because 99 percent of people who died last year wore shoes.
What is not said in all these shock, horror headlines, is that these research chappies in the hallowed halls of academia need finance to keep going, and they are all in competition with each other to grab a slice of the research dollar. The more shock, horror headers they can get, the more likely they are to get further funding. It is the money train again.
Now there are groups doing genuine research into the malaises of mankind, and the influence of cholesterol on cardiac deaths is a classic example. The Framingham study kicked it all off many years ago, and it has been progressively studied since then. High cholesterol is an adverse factor as far as your cardiac condition is concerned. Believe it. And is unaltered by mobile phone use. Believe that one too. And get your cholesterol levels checked as well.
Beware of ‘scientific breakthroughs’ reported in the popular press. It may just be fishing for funding.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Can you tell me just what goes on in a Thai girl’s head? I have had this relationship with one of the girls in the local bar. If she wants a night off, I pay for her bar fine, and she comes home with me. We have a great time and I usually take her for som tam or something on the way. The other night I felt like seeing her, but when I went to the bar and suggested I pay bar for her she said no. I stayed for a while and then another farang came in and off she went off with him all lovey-dovey if you please. Are they all like this? I thought I had a pretty good understanding with the girl, but it must have meant nothing to her.
Dear Confused,
Let me tell you like it is Petal, and you won’t be confused in the future. “This relationship” as you call it, is nothing like the “relationship” as she sees it. You are as free as the proverbial bird, come along, pick up, put down and here’s a bowl of noodles. And be thankful. She sees one customer who she can get to buy her out when she’s got no better offers. The other farang was probably offering two bowls of noodles. A much better business deal if everything else is equal. Your girl in the bar is a businesswoman, Mr. Confused. That’s where you are going wrong. Your relationship does not “mean nothing to her”. It represents an “off” for the evening and a bowl of som tam and some small change. No more, no less. Stop confusing business with pleasure.

Dear Hillary,
I’ve done what you suggested and stopped looking in bars for someone to share my retiring years. She’s an older lady with a small business. A widow for many years and we get along fine. What I want to know, am I still supposed to pay a bride price if we do get married, or even if we start living together. She has indicated that we could both live in her house, but I don’t know how to bring up the dowry thing. What should I do, Hillary?
Blushing Bridegroom
Dear Blushing Bridegroom,
I am so glad you have taken my advice about the heart to the heart, so to speak. At your ages, neither of you is a nervous teenager, and I would suggest you just go along and play it by ear. She will tell you what should be done, and even if there is a suggestion of a dowry to keep up appearances, it will be a modest one.

Dear Hillary,
The Songkran festival is coming up. Stay indoors and away from the danger, Hillary. We need you. Now, what do you think of the suggestion to ban alcohol over Songkran? Do you think it will help or not? We have had some hot and heavy discussions on this subject at my watering hole, and I think we need some guidance on this, before it turns nasty.
Songkran Sam
Dear Songkran Sam,
Thank you for asking me to be referee. As I see it, any legislation banning alcohol sales over Songkran could not possibly be enforced. How do you stop the Mom and Pop stores selling alcohol? Simple answer - you can’t - without having a policeman checking purchases at every shop. Totally impractical.
The death toll is horrendous, with most fatalities being motorcyclists driving under the influence of alcohol. However, the alcohol itself is not the problem, drinking and driving is the problem. There is legislation on the books allowing the police to breath test and apprehend those over the limit, and that is what the police should be doing, not standing outside grocery stores. An equally impossible to enforce solution would be to ban motorcycles! So the proposed alcohol ban legislation would neither help nor hinder. It just isn’t enforceable.

Dear Hillary,
Do you find this new social habit of kissing everyone three times a turn-off? I think that social kissing is not romantic, and surely shaking hands is better and more hygienic. This three kiss routine is just people making an excuse to slobber all over you. It is ridiculous! How can I avoid it?
Dear Henry (Kissinger?),
Are you kissing me (sorry kidding me)? This is not something new on the social scene as you are suggesting. This is a long time greeting in Europe, that has been brought out here by the several handfuls of Europeans that have settled in Thailand. By the way, there are also certain ‘local’ rules in Europe as far as two kisses, three kisses and even four kisses are concerned. There are also different customs with men kissing women, women kissing women and men kissing men. You have to be a little careful, here, Henry. However, if it all is a little too much for you, all you have to do is to grab the other person first and make kissy-kissy noises beside their ear, while muttering, “Don’t get too close to me, I’ve got a social disease.” They will leave you alone after that. No problem!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Electrography and Kirlian cameras

Kirlian photography is not new, despite claims to the contrary. What should be more correctly referred to as the ‘Kirlian effect’ was demonstrated at the end of the 19th century and was then known as ‘electrography’.
However, it did not get the publicity it needed to catch on until Russian electrical technician Semyon Davidovitch Kirlian and his wife Valentina Kirliana published a paper in 1950 in the Russian Journal of Scientific and Applied Photography in which they described the process, now known as Kirlian Photography.
‘New Age’ followers seized upon this as being able to photograph the ‘aura’ of a person, and, at long last, show to the unbelievers that all the ‘bio-energies’ had a basis in science. Kirlian photography has been linked to telepathy, orgone energy, N-rays, acupuncture, ancient eastern religions, and other paranormal phenomena.
I am not going to get embroiled in semantics as to whether the Kirlian effect and the aura can be used for medical diagnosis (as is claimed), or whether Reiki practitioners have sparks coming out of their fingers when they are ‘healing’. However, I can reveal what is being recorded on film, and what you need to have your own ‘Kirlian’ camera.
First off, the Kirlian effect is ‘real’, but what is being recorded is not paranormal. It is a phenomenon called ‘Corona Discharge’. Corona discharge is seen in lightning and the sparks that come off your fingers after you walk on nylon carpets. This used to be done as a party trick by Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) who used to introduce new discoveries with his body glowing and sparks flying from his fingertips. Tesla, by the way, was a brilliant inventor, and it was he who introduced the concept of alternating current, used today, rather than Edison’s direct current.
The corona discharge that is recorded by the Kirlian photographers requires the object being subjected to an electric current and the size and color depends upon moisture that is present on the skin. This is why inanimate objects do not give off a discharge as do animate ones.
Terence M. Hines, a psychology professor says, “Living things (like the commonly photographed fingers) are moist. When the electricity enters the living object, it produces an area of gas ionization around the photographed object, assuming moisture is present on the object. This moisture is transferred from the subject to the emulsion surface of the photographic film and causes an alternation of the electric charge pattern on the film. If a photograph is taken in a vacuum, where no ionized gas is present, no Kirlian image appears. If the Kirlian image were due to some paranormal fundamental living energy field, it should not disappear in a simple vacuum,” he said.
One team that spent some time examining the Kirlian effect has found a list of 25 factors that can affect a Kirlian photograph, including thickness of the skin, recent physical activity, and yes, mental stress. All of these affect the amount of moisture on the skin. Other factors include voltage level, voltage pulse rate, atmospheric gasses, the internal force and angle of the object held against the film, and barometric pressure. In effect, a single person can come up with different ‘auras’ simply by changing finger pressure and the amount of moisture found in the skin. That’s the science. As for the psychic energy claims, you can make up your own mind!
To make your own Kirlian photographs you will need a high frequency generator, as well as a camera, and ‘fortunately’ the old Polaroid SX70 works well here. A quick check on the internet came up with the following outfit that you can buy. The price includes HV/HF generator, Polaroid camera body, camera case, sample instant Polaroid film (3.25" x 4.25", type 669 or equivalent), instruction manual (click to view pdf file-81KB), interpretation guide (click to view pdf file-540KB), 11x17inch Laminated Poster, and “Life’s Hidden Forces”. Specifications - Shipping Weight: 7lbs, dimensions: 15in x 11 x 6, Power: 110/120V or 230/240V, please specify). And all that, which will allow you to make money at ‘alternative’ fairs will only set you back USD 745.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The New World

Let us look at why we are in the situation we are now in. Marc Faber, of Gloom, Boom and Doom fame, says that between them, Greenspan and Bernanke have managed to achieve what no-one else in history has managed to do - create a bubble in everything, all at the same time and everywhere in the world. We had the most leveraged asset bubble and credit bubble ever seen. It was not just limited to housing but the corporate sector as well. These are now in the process of all bursting at the same time amidst the biggest de-leveraging since the 1930s.
People are still under the impression that this will all be sorted out now that the G20 has met in London and, supposedly, waved its magic wand. Anyway, back in the real world, this will not be a V-shaped recession lasting six months. If we are lucky then it will be a U-shaped one which will go on for a couple of years.
However, given the risk of a financial meltdown, as per Japan post 1990, the idea of an L-shaped recession cannot be excluded. Let’s face it, what financial system there was has broken down, nobody has faith in the authorities any more and there is a complete lack of confidence in anything to do with the financial system. As Montek Ahluwalia said, “Confidence grows at the rate a coconut tree grows. It falls as the rate a coconut falls.”
The recent announcement that the Fed will start to buy up US Treasuries so as to push down interest rates and give better liquidity has been met with mixed reviews. Equities shot up as did many other assets including certain commodities. One thing dived - the US dollar. Not surprising really as what it means is that the US Central Bank will purchase its own debt. This means it is basically printing money.
However, it does seem that they have forgotten one small thing. Currency is like any other asset - when supply increased when there is still a demand then the price will go down. Gold came to the rescue by going up by almost five percent. Would that the UK could have taken advantage of this but good old Gordon Brown sold it all when it was at USD260 per ounce - great Chancellor!
Nonetheless, now that the US money supply is getting ever bigger do the Western developed nations really believe that the rest of the world is going to sit on their collective backsides whilst their exports get kicked into touch by cheaper US products? Not in a month of Sundays is the basic answer.
Byron Wien, a Wall Street veteran of fifty years, recently commented that the present crisis has been building for decades and that from an “economic standpoint, the worst is not behind us”. Marc Faber also echoes these sentiments. He believes the worst will not be over until 2011 and it may take ten years to sort out this mess. Without a doubt, what will happen is that interest rates will go up and there will be massive inflationary pressures.
Back to Wien who thinks that gold will be USD1,200 per ounce by the end of the year and oil will be USD80 per barrel. He also believes that the European Union may break up and that there are a lot more problems for the euro on the horizon.
We all know the situation is not good. The chart on this page gives an idea of how bad it is. The diagram shows that twelve month earnings have declined by 80% which is the biggest drop ever. Also, the S&P500 achieved its first ever quarterly negative earnings. As well as this, the Q4 losses were more than the index had ever earned in any 90 day period.
The head of investment at Invesco Perpetual, Neil Woodford, foresees there will be no recovery for four years. He is another one who reckons the UK and US will really suffer in the near future. He said, “The scale of debt build up is unprecedented. The process of rebalancing the world economy will take many years. We could be in a weak economic environment for three or four years.” Woodford also believes that there will be a continued period of falling prices so deflation should continue this year and next.
Bill Gross is the boss of Pimco which is the largest bond fund in the world. He believes there will be a ‘New World’ which will include de-leveraging and re-regulatory decisions for the financial system worldwide. He is sure that investors will have to change their expectations though as there will be an increase in risk premiums as well as more volatility. This will result in lower asset prices.
This is definitely true but people will probably still have to invest even if they do not want to as bank rates will be giving pathetically poor payments.
Gross says that, “We are all children of the bull market... a bull market of free-enterprise productivity and innovation, yes, but one fostered by a bull market in leverage, deregulation and globalization that proved unsustainable in its excesses. We now must view ourselves as chastened adults, forced into acknowledging a new reality that is dependent upon bear-market de-levering and debt liquidation to deliver us to our new and ultimate restructured destination - wherever it lies.”
However, as stated above, there are still places to make money, multi-asset class allocation is the best way - as advocated by Martin Gray and Scott Campbell - and one that shows positive results, even in these days.
Just like Irving Fisher’s “permanently higher plateau” of prosperity that was quickly turned on its head in 1929, those who would forecast a “permanently lower valley” of despair are also off the mark.
As Kyle Bass of Hayman said, “People will look to ‘old-fashioned’ stores of value - those which represented money long before green pieces of paper backed a promise existed.” These are also the thoughts of our fund advisors, Miton Asset Management, which is exactly why we use them. We are lucky in the fact that we have the sole rights to sell their funds in Thailand - they trust us and we trust them.
So, how to make money at the moment? Multi-asset class allocation. What is the only really safe currency at the moment? The only answer is Gold.

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]

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Two interesting films promised for this week didn’t show up: The International, a Clive Owen thriller about bank shenanigans in high places; and the Russell Crowe crime drama State of Play, now rescheduled for June.

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Crank: High Voltage:  US, Action – The indestructible hopped-up hitman Chev Chelios is played to the hilt once again by Jason Statham, picking up where the first film left off - except this time, he’s chasing a Chinese gangster who hijacked his heart and substituted it with a mechanical one that needs to be jolted regularly with an electric charge to stay pumping.  Rated R in the US for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity, and pervasive language.

Knowing: Australia/ US, Drama/ Thriller – Delightful! And a lot of fun, in a gloomy sort of way.  A teacher opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son’s elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions – some that have already occurred and others that are about to – that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events to come.  Starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Alex Proyas (I, Robot).  Mixed or average reviews.

Khan Kluay 2:  Thai, Animation/ Adventure – The legendary elephant is back in action in this superb sequel to the animated movie Khan Kluay.  Brilliant, beautiful animation that looks 3D though really only 2D, with an engrossing story, set in the time of Ayuthaya, when Khan Kluay is appointed King Naresuan’s royal elephant.  I especially admired the animators’ skill in the opening sequences, as the camera swoops through forests and jungles, and the beautiful final images while Khan Kluay was “dead” awaiting his children to return him to life.  It’s much more assured than the first Khan Kluay, and the animation skills are now really quite advanced.  There are some truly scary parts in the film, as there should be in all good children’s tales, involving death and destruction.  But what can you do?  When a village gets sacked and pillaged, and one’s relatives killed, it’s difficult to make it look pretty.

Race to Witch Mountain: US, Adventure/ Fantasy – A perfectly acceptable and innocuous action film for children (mostly) with all the standard chills and thrills, chase-movie suspense, and wisecracking humor – and a few slam-bang action setpieces.  Well done of its type, and the ex-Rock Dwayne Johnson is (mostly) charming as a cabbie who protects two children with paranormal powers from the clutches of an evil organization that’s up to no good.  Mixed or average reviews.

The Shinjuku Incident:  China, Action/ Drama – Featuring Jackie Chan in a dramatic rather than a fighting mode, and this long-awaited collaboration with director Derek Yee apparently turns out to be a well-done study of the problems faced by Chinese immigrants in Japan in the early 1990s.  It’s rather a shame, though: Shown here in a Thai-dubbed version only, without English subtitles.

Monsters vs. Aliens:  US, Animation/ Sci-Fi – Has gotten some rave reviews from a number of reviewers, and some highly critical.  I found it half imaginative and amusing, half irritating – the really irritating part being Reese Witherspoon’s shrill voice and creepy character.  Mixed or average reviews.

Rahtree Reborn:  Thai, Horror/ Romance – A rather amateurish half comedy, half laughably inept horror film, starring Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer, experimenting in a different movie genre, one hopes for the last time.  The striking posters are truly much better than the film.

Fast & Furious 4: US, Action – Vin Diesel and Paul Walker re-team for the ultimate chapter of this film franchise built on speed and cars.  It’s almost entirely about car races and car crashes, and it’s a profoundly silly movie!  Look, there are some who like that!  Mixed or average reviews.

Sassy Player / Taew Nak Te Teen Rabert:  Thai, Comedy/ Drama – A gay teen soccer comedy in the vein of Iron Ladies, the internationally popular comedy about a gay and transgender men’s volleyball team.  There’s a little bit of everything in this film.  It’s fun.  Directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story).

Scheduled for Apr 23

Hotel for Dogs:  US/ Germany, Comedy/ Family – Irresistible to families because of its mild comedy, slapstick, pathos, many photogenic canines, and a positive message.  (Nearly 70 dogs were used for the making of the film, many of which were actually rescued from the pound.)  With Don Cheadle as one of the grown-ups.  Mixed or average reviews.

The Haunting in Connecticut:  US, Horror/ Thriller – A classic haunted-house film, technically proficient, well acted, with an alarming score, creepy photography, and a great house.  A family moves into a house where the bad deeds of previous tenants have left a foul psychic residue.  Peter Cornwell’s film has plenty of effective scares, but it is also a moving family drama featuring an impressive performance by Virginia Madsen.  Generally negative reviews.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This interesting hand was played in the 2007 World Championships in Shanghai (reported by Andrew Robson). North-South were vulnerable and South dealt:

                            S: 2

                            H: AKQJ5

                            D: 985

                            C: 8543       

S: AQJ965                              S: 1073

H: 1043                                    H: 98762

D: 107                                      D: 2

C: 97                                        C: KQ106

                            S: K84

                            H: -

                            D: AKQJ643

                            C: AJ2        

Everyone had something to say in the first round of bidding:

South      West        North       East

1D            2S              3H             3S


Imagine you are sitting South. You have a very nice playing hand and North’s bid at the three level shows about ten or more points. What do you bid now? Do you settle for a safe 3N or take a risk and go 6D? At Table One at the World Championships South took the risk. The ace of spades was led, followed by a switch to a club. South won with the club ace, pulled trumps in two rounds and ruffed a spade to get to board. Then threw his black suit losers on dummy’s good hearts. An opening club lead is no better, because declarer can win, pull trumps, cross to the board with a third round of trumps and again throw black suit losers on dummy’s top hearts. Either way, “risky” slam made.

So, did you choose the safe 3N bid, like the South at Table Two? West led the nine of clubs, hoping his partner could win and lead a spade through declarer’s king. Declarer beat East’s queen with his ace and played two top diamonds. But now what to do? Declarer could cash seven diamonds to go with the ace of clubs, but had no way to get to board. Alternatively, declarer could cross to board with a third round of diamonds and cash the four top hearts, but then had no way of getting back to hand to cash the diamonds. Either way, declarer is limited to eight tricks. So, the “safe” contract goes down. Which did you choose?

Chiang Mai now has an official bridge club – the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai. We welcome new players. For information on the Club please contact Chris Hedges at: [email protected] If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected] I look forward to meeting you at the bridge table.