Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

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

Looking at health risks by numbers

I can assure you that every practicing doctor in the world has heard about your Uncle Harry who smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, drank two bottles of whisky by lunchtime and lived to be 104. The story of Uncle Harry is trotted out to stymie any thoughts of stopping smoking, or that too much alcohol is really too much of a good thing.
Unfortunately, the unstoppable Uncle Harry means absolutely nothing when we look at health risks from an overall point of view. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one Uncle Harry does not prove that smoking isn’t dangerous, or that too many bottles of whisky won’t cause cirrhosis. That kind of “proof” only comes after looking at large numbers of Uncle Harry’s, and that is done by a special group of people called epidemiologists.
Now the World Health Organization (WHO) has teams of epidemiologists and other health watchers, looking at the spread of disease in the world, and that is more than just Swine Flu. Not just Uncle Harry either. They have a good idea where we’re headed, and much of that depends upon where we are.
The WHO has data to show the major influences and risks to health all over the world, and the global picture is interesting, with differences between life expectancies between the richest and poorest countries now 40 years!
There are even differences between the rich and poor areas in one city. Nairobi, for example, has an under five mortality of 15 per 1,000 in the rich areas and 254 per 1,000 in its slums.
WHO believes that more emphasis on preventive medicine could reduce disease globally by 70 percent. And although I have been critical of WHO in the past (and in the present with its bumbling about Swine Flu), I am all in agreement with its emphasis and focus on preventive medicine.
Now while the WHO wants to see global health coverage for everyone, that is a little too Utopian for me. Throwing money at the health problems in the slums does not fix the problems, and honestly I wouldn’t know where or how to fix it. It is the result of sociological and cultural differences.
However, it is of interest to look at the global health risks, and these I gleaned from a previous WHO Bulletin. The number 1 global health risk is being Underweight. Here is the influence of the African continent, with malnutrition and outright starvation influencing millions. Again, it is the African continent that has dominated the second major health risk - Unsafe sex. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in that region influencing the global statistics. After those two comes High Blood Pressure and Tobacco and then Alcohol at number five, and so much for Uncle Harry.
However, if you split the statistics up and examine the situation in developing countries such as much of Asia the picture is different. Number 1 health risk is alcohol, followed by High BP, Tobacco and being underweight.
A close look at the risks for the developed societies (that covers the Europeans, Brits, Americans, Australians) gives yet another differing list of “most likelies”. Top spot is Tobacco, followed by High BP, Alcohol, Cholesterol and being Overweight.
So, depending upon the society, the things that are waiting to get you are quite different. The WHO report states, “As a country develops and more people buy processed food rather than growing and buying raw ingredients, an increasing proportion of calories tends to be drawn from sugars added to manufactured food and from relatively cheap oils. Alongside the change in diet, changes in food production and the technology of work and leisure lead to decreases in physical exercise. The consequent epidemic of diet-related non-communicable diseases (obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease) is projected to increase rapidly. For example, in India and China, a shift in diet towards higher fat and lower carbohydrate is resulting in rapid increases in overweight - among all adults in China and mainly among urban residents and high income rural residents in India.”
It’s not too late to look at your diet either! And put that cigarette out.

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
My agent in the Ferrari parked on your forecourt reports that your red carpet is looking the worse for wear! You really should not wear your carpet, Hillary! Pop round to Mumbai ‘Arry and get him to knock you up a sari!
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
I had not realized just how ‘keeneow’ you really were until this latest missive. The most I have ever received from you over the years has been a Mars Bar and a Bacardi Breezer if my memory serves me, despite written promises of Belgian chocolates and French fizz-water, and here you are with an agent in a Ferrari no less. Of course, just in case the readers think you have discovered me in my less than Sunday best, I have appended a little history of the sari. One of the famous Sari legends was described in the 5,000 year old Indian epic, the Mahabharat. Legend has it that when the beautiful Draupadi - wife of the Pandavas - was lost to the enemy clan in a gambling duel, Lord Krishna promised to protect her virtue. The enemy was determined to take their prize, caught one end of the sari that draped her so demurely, and pulled and pulled at it to unravel. They continued to pull and unravel, but could reach no end. Thus protecting her virtue.
The ordinary sari requires eight meters, my Petal, and since there is no eight meter red carpet in the office, I think you and your Ferrari agent have been mistaken. Or would you like to send me eight meters of suitable cloth?


Dear Hillary,
Here is some more information about Khru Bah Noi the young abbot of Wat Doi Noi, Lamphun. As well as his bio-diesel and petrol manufacturing, he has designed a rice planting machine which plants seven rice plants at a time with the pull of a lever. He also has made inexpensive air-conditioning units and has plans to produce electricity by using the heat from the sun. But that’s another story!
Delboy

Dear Delboy,
As you can see, I did have to shorten the letter somewhat, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me, as I did manage to squeeze one of the photos in. This young abbot is certainly a very inventive young man and the North of Thailand should be proud of him, with what he is selflessly doing for others.


Dear Hillary,
I will come clean right off and say that I do spend a fair bit of time at night in the bars. I am single, and it’s a good way to meet people. The old bill in the cup routine I think is very good because it shows that the bar trusts you not to lose a couple before you pay at the end of the night. Recently though I have been getting the feeling that my bill is not right, because it seems to be a lot more than I thought it should be. Is it OK to check the amount yourself before the girl takes the cup to the cashier? I don’t want them to think I don’t trust them, when they are trusting me. What is the usual thing?
Unsure Drinker

Dear Unsure Drinker,
You are having me on, aren’t you, Petal. Nobody is that naive any more, surely? It is your bill, and you pay it with your money. Of course you can check it. Mind you, if you are getting yourself to the stage where you can’t count past ten without taking your shoes off, you have a real problem. Is this the situation? You’ve got no real idea how many drinks you’ve had, or how many “lady drinks” you’ve bought in the course of the evening? You have the choice - go on the wagon for a while or take a pocket calculator into your favorite bars.

Khru Bah Noi’s Rice planting machine


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Don’t leave home without them

This week I will look at items that you should have in your camera bag. The list is not so large you need to employ a team of Sherpa porters, but you should have a reasonably sized camera bag.
The first item is a small pocket torch. Any photographer who takes his camera out at night will need one. Even if just to see what way up the batteries go in the flash, which always runs out of volts just when you don’t need it. Setting shutter speeds in the dark can also be difficult. Or even seeing what aperture you are selecting on the lens barrel. And in addition to the humble small torch are the even humbler batteries for it. You can guess the scenario.
Another small, but definitely handy item is a remote release for the shutter. Any time you are trying to do a time exposure, it becomes very difficult holding the button down and not making the camera tremble - especially with long exposures. Cheap, does not take up much space, and very useful.
While talking about time exposures, another useful “camera bag” item is a miniature tripod. With something like this you can mount the tripod on the roof of the car and take five minute moonlight shots if you need it. Often called table-top tripods. There are some with “springy” legs and my photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt was kind enough to bring me one from Germany. Well built and sturdy and deserving of a place in the bag. Thanks Ernie.
Now the next one is not so easy to get here, but you can always get someone to bring you one in from overseas. With the bright sunlight here, the magic brain inside your camera that sets the exposure settings can get confused. Make that ‘very confused’. The answer for consistently correct exposures is an 18 percent grey card. This you place beside the subject and take a meter reading from it. You then set the camera to that f stop and shutter speed and you have the correct exposure for the main shot. If you are serious about getting the correct exposure, and particularly if you shoot slides, one of these is invaluable. You can just fold it up and slip it in the camera bag very easily. However, another trick is to select an 18 percent grey camera bag, and you just take your reading directly from there.
The next item is again not a true photographic item, but is invaluable. It is a waterproof marker pen. How many times have you written details, names, etc., on the back of a print, to find that it has rubbed off on the face of the next print and so forth? Totally annoying and often requires another set of prints to be made.
The last item that is worth considering, if you are a serious photographer, is a battery charger. You will go through heaps of batteries if you are shooting regularly. This gets expensive. Buy two sets of the rechargeable batteries and a charger and your photography expenses will be a lot less. This is particularly so with the new digitals. They eat batteries, so keep a freshly charged spare in the camera bag at all times. Other batteries you should have included are those for any flash guns. There’s nothing worse than whistling while waiting for the flash to recharge!
Another ‘silly’ item is a box of matches - even if you don’t smoke. The rattle of a box of matches will catch the attention of dogs and children. You set up the shot, select the exposure and then rattle the matchbox. You have about two seconds to catch the ears-up inquisitive K9 look, and about the same for children, whose attention span can be measured in nano-seconds.
Probably one of the most important and smallest items is a spare memory card. There is nothing worse than standing beside a photo opportunity frantically stabbing at the delete button to try and get some space in the memory.
Finally, don’t forget the polarizing filter. Use it in the Thailand sunshine and see how much richer your color shots will be.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

You can fool all the people some of the time…

Richard Russell is 84 years old. He has been writing about investments for 59 years. I make no apologies for quoting him here as he is regarded by many as a particular sage when it comes to Wall Street. “People in this country don’t realize how bad things can be, I lived through the Great Depression. I remember people standing in bread lines. It was hard to get a job, any job, back then. But now, you see the restaurants are still full. People are still spending money. They may be worried and they may be beginning to save, but there’s no sense of urgency. And there’s a rally on Wall Street. You know, every bear market produces a rally. You can expect the market to retrace its steps by one- to two-thirds. And every bear market has a surprise. I think the surprise is that this is going to be a lot worse than people expect.”
Russell goes on, “The primary trend is down.” He thinks that President Obama and the Federal Reserve (FR) can do what they want but, in the end, the primary trend will have its way. The present bear market will carry on for the foreseeable future until it “has fully expressed itself.”
Russell is right. People are starting to talk the markets up far too early. Unfortunately, you can fool some of the people with this rhetoric but they will soon realize they have bought too early. They have not studied history. Over the last twenty five years, if there was trouble brewing then the FR cut rates and the markets started to head towards positive territory again. Russell though goes back further than a quarter of a century, in fact he goes back twice as far. He can remember the Great Depression, World War II, the Bear market and stagflation of the 1970s. Russell believes we are “a long way from the bottom.”
Russell went on, “The old Wall Street adage about the dangers of catching a falling knife doesn’t seem to be scaring individual investors away from Citigroup Inc. Some discount-brokerage firms report a surge of individual, or retail, investors buying shares of Citigroup during the past five months, amid the New York bank’s stock-price slide.” These investors believe they are taking advantage of a real opportunity. Russell believes otherwise, so do our chaps at Miton Asset Management. We have been expecting a rally for a while now and it may go even higher before dropping like a stone.
Depending on which ‘expert’ you listen to this is either a recession or a depression. If the American government has its way then it could lead to another Great Depression. If it gets as bad as that then severe changes need to be brought in. Richard’s was asked what he would do if he was in a position of power in America. His reply was most illuminating, “Nothing, I’d do nothing. I’d let it happen. I’d let the bear market do its work.” Why is he being to Draconian? Basically because if things (companies) cannot function properly then they need to be allowed to die away so that things that do work can make better use of the available capital in a more efficient way.
If only Richard’s was in charge. The FR, Bank of England and European Central Bank have increased money supply by an average 9.2% in the past year, or the equivalent of $2 trillion, to $24 trillion. “Inflation worldwide is going to surge in the years to come,” said Mickael Benhaim, who manages about $32 billion as head of global bonds at Pictet in Geneva.
These comments are echoed by New York University professor, Nouriel Roubini, who said that in the best-case scenario, the recession will continue through 2010 in advanced economies while job losses will persist for an additional year. “People were hoping it would be a V-shaped recession - a sharp fall, followed by an equally quick recovery,” he said. However, he went on to say that, “we are in the middle of an ugly U-shaped recession.”
Roubini said the bottom of the ‘U’ - the length of time the world economy will continue to contract - would last a minimum of three years starting from December 2007. If you think this is bad then please do not read on as he then brought in an even worse scenario and said, “There was a one-in-three chance” that the recession would “turn into an ‘L”, which is a period of stagnation put together with a drop in prices as demand falls.
Roubini went on, “People say when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold. In this case, the US is just not sneezing, it has a severe case of chronic pneumonia.” He added, “We all sink or swim together,” also saying there is no way policy action in emerging economic giants India and China can pull the global economy out of the slump.
We may have to all “sink or swim” but is there anything that will at least help us to swim longer and more comfortably than the rest? Well, yes:
1. Western equities are not in good shape. The Japanese market is at the same level as it was in 1981. To put it another way, it is thirty years behind where it should be. This is similar to 1928 in America where you would not get back your initial investment until 1954. If we only go back twenty years with the S&P in America then it would be at 300. This shows that Asian Markets are at either twenty or thirty year lows. The good news is that the dividend yields on Asian stock markets are over three times what you get from bonds in the same countries. Without doubt, when compared to America, Asian equities are quite cheap. The other great thing is that they serve their own markets with tobacco, alcohol or food.
2. Commodities have dived - especially mining and exploration companies. This is a great time to hold gold directly, especially as we cannot trust central banks any more. For the more adventurous oil looks cheap now, so oil exploration companied should be considered.
3. Real estate in the west at the moment is not wise, unless you hedge against continuous falling markets. However, there is still good money to be made in the East - if you know where to look.
4. Even though it is difficult to make any money out of cash, this should be a large part of your portfolio. Use your base currency. Do not trade in FX unless you really know what you are doing.
5. Government bonds should do well short term but will then dive. Well rated corporate bonds will come good.
6. Alternative markets will be incredibly volatile and should only be considered via a vehicle that has a good track record that shows continued success.
Above all else, remember that volatility is the word at the moment. This is because you have the private sector cutting down hard on lending. Families have been hurt so they will try and save no matter what. This means that both credit and liquidity will be harder to find. This is the good news as both parties have learned from the pain of the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, this is being countered by the morons we put into power. Tim Geithner says, “We know how to fix the problems.” He is now secretary of state for the Treasury and has been since late January. If he knows what the problems are why did he not fix them in the six years he was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York? Bernanke has been the Federal Reserve chairman for nearly four years and has not learned a thing. These people will make matters worse. As they do not have the brains to sort out the problems then they will just throw more money at them. This will further increase volatility.
The moral of the story? Multi-asset allocation with alpha management will give you a better chance than most to swim in comfort. A decent, safe fund of funds should be able to give you LIBOR (London Inter Bank Offered Rate) +4% with very little exposure to volatility. Do this and you may even be able to buy a boat.

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

Going to hell in a lift

Nobody enjoys lifts, (elevators - should you insist). People are afraid of getting trapped, feel claustrophobic and recall The Towering Inferno or Bunuel’s The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz. Being stuck with one’s fellows is a microcosm of Sartre’s Huis Clos, his play about a small group of people condemned to a room and finding that hell is ‘other people’.
They bring out our worst insecurities. People shuffle in sideways, look furtively in mirrors (farangs) or spend 15 floors adjusting a single strand of hair (Thais). Close- door buttons are pressed with the urgency of a fire alarm and blood pressure rises quicker than the lift. People seldom speak, even to their companions. But there are EXCEPTIONS.
And these are the farangs from hell. They defy our timid conventions and loudly carry on their conversation in a rant against whichever Thai work- force, custom, habit or modus operandi has most recently upset their sensibilities or imported life style. The gist of the complaint – its root cause – is usually that Thais are not, simply not, the same as ‘us’, namely whichever nationality the person represents. Ipso facto: the Thai is wrong.
You will hear in the lift that a particular hospital is ‘the worst in the world’. That the taxi or tuk-tuk driver tried to rip him off (let’s hear it for New York cabbies!). Or that the guy who was coming to fix the TV. or washing machine did not turn up on time. And so on… and on. You will hear, at near disco level, that the baht is too goddam high, that the restaurant last night served all the dishes at the same time (Thai style!), that this owner of a gas guzzling SUV finds it difficult to park in Chiang Mai, that imported food is getting too expensive, that not enough Thais speak English.
On a more serious level, you will hear that politicians are corrupt (been reading the accounts recently of British MPs’ expenses claims?) and that the police are only after cash. Perhaps a skim through the new 84 –page Amnesty report on torture, rape and theft by Indonesian police and the EU report on similar practices in Turkey would silence some critics here.
Of course we need to be reminded that it is too hot in May, too wet in June and too cold in mid December. That flights are becoming less frequent, that getting visas can be a pain (try getting one to enter the U.S.A. and don’t even ask for a stay of any longer than six months in New Zealand even if you are a property owner there, retired and have a good income). The element of truth in many ‘accusations’ seems to allow the speaker a right to generalize.
Basically, though, it smacks of arrogance, even racism. And an inability or unwillingness to adapt physically, mentally and culturally to a ‘new’ environment. Only last week I heard someone complaining that he wanted to sit where he would not smell garlic. We were in a restaurant, not a lift! I’ll admit that Thais are reluctant to complain and a little constructive criticism is no bad thing, but we are living in a country that has never been occupied (colonized) and not forced to make the compromises of some nations.
So, on the way to the eighth floor is it too much to ask for an end to the complaint about the Thai restaurant that had the nerve to play Northern Thai music rather than Norah Jones, whilst at the same time putting chili in the soup. A problem with these chefs I guess, they will cook as though they’ve lived here all their lives. Here’s the rub. The national dish is Pad Thai. The clue is in the name. In the U.S.A. the national dish is the hamburger, in the U.K. it is fish and chips, in Mongolia it’s Buuz, in Mexico Mole poplano, in Korea Kinachi. Vive le difference, I say.
No, I don’t think Thailand is ‘perfect’. Show me the country that is and I will show you the dullest place on earth. Take Monaco, if you must. The residents live longer there than any place among the 195 countries on our planet (78 years for males, 85 for females). There are defibrillators by the roadsides. They boast 5.8 doctors per thousand of the population. In Thailand it is 0.4 per thousand. In Monaco
infant mortality is four per thousand, half that of Thailand. Though in Yemen it is 80 per thousand. True, unemployment in Monaco is twice that of Thailand, but since all things are relative, let’s recall that in South Africa it is 23% and in Spain, with the highest number of unemployed in the developed world, it has just reached 17%.
Thailand does not come out to well in terms of press freedom. On the scale of one (for the freest media) to 173 (the worst) representing the number of countries listed, the three ‘winners’ are Iceland, Norway and Luxembourg. The losers are Eritrea (173), North Korea (172) Burma (170) Vietnam (168) and China (167). The ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ collects a score of 36, just one point behind France and a little behind the U.K. with 23. Thailand has an unenviable 124, slightly worse than India at 118, though better than Malaysia at 132.
Of course small things irritate us, but it behoves us to look at a bigger picture of the world before we make judgements. Immigrant workers are exploited here as in every country (did you read the recent report on the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic?). But let’s also recall that actual slavery exists in vast regions of the world and it was not officially abolished until 1981 in Mauritania. Women are treated as chattels in many cultures and in even in civilized Switzerland did not receive the vote until a couple of generations ago.
And talking of that country with its lovely mountains (and secretive banking system, defying EU reform) let’s recall Orson Welles in The Third Man on its accomplishment, ‘In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed and they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.’
Things, we must reluctantly admit, are bad all over. In Burma we have a nation in chains. In Iran we have rigged elections. The USA. re-elected George Bush for a second term. And even today Dick Cheney condones the obscenity of the use of torture. China executes more people than all other counties in the world combined, though in Thailand capital punishment is almost unheard of. In Zimbabwe we cannot rid them of Mugabe. Look back over the history of many countries and Thailand seems quite peaceful. Unlike, say, Indonesia which occupied East Timor (now Timor Leste) between 1975 and 2002 and massacred a tenth of the population – around 100,000 people – before leaving them to independence and extreme poverty.
There is appalling disparity between the very rich and the very poor here. But the current government has introduced monthly pensions for older people and a previous administration brought in the 30 baht medical treatment rate. China has steadily dismantled its health welfare system and in the USA. a notion of free universal health care as exists in say Denmark or the UK. is but a dream – or a nightmare to Republicans.
Inequality has grown in most places in past decades, and in a world where children under five die in their thousands of disease and starvation, it makes for sickening reading to learn that the former pop star wife of a famous footballer now boasts a collection of one make of handbag (she is a completist, so buys each model) which has cost well over a million pounds. That’s over 60 million baht. Enough for everyone in Thailand to go weigh themselves!
Let’s get a sense of perspective on the journey to the rooftop restaurant. A realization that, whilst a pocketed ‘fine’ of 200 baht for not wearing a helmet can smack of corruption, we might also choose to spend a few more baht on a newspaper and find some of the good things happening here. Or in the same newspaper might read unhappily of the current trial in Cambodia where the former head of a ‘torture’ prison, Kaing Guek Eav, supervised the slow deaths of some 14,000 inmates, whilst his masters in the Khmer Rouge disposed of an estimated 1.7 million people in more rapid time between 1975 and 1979.
In the same ‘paper we will see an advert for a dress or suit or watch costing twenty times the annual income of an African family. Here, at least there is (an inadequate) minimum wage. Things could be much better. They could certainly be much worse. We live in an unfair, self destructive world. So it’s worth remembering that all those hamburgers require cattle to produce them and they in turn are responsible for 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. So be constructive. Don’t whinge so much. Stop eating beef. Save the world. Eat Pad Thai Paak instead.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
The Secret of Moonacre:  Hungary/ UK, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – A pleasingly old-fashioned fairy tale, fashioned from the relatively little-known children’s novel “The Little White Horse” by English author Elizabeth Goudge, and it’s probably just perfect if you happen to be an 11-year-old girl. The film comes by way of the Hungarian director and animator Gabor Csupo (pronounced “Chew-po”), who gave us Bridge to Terabithia in 2007.
The plot springs from a large, dusty, leather-bound fairytale book about a strange land far, far away. The book is a relic the 13-year-old Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards) has inherited from her dead and dissolute father. The orphan is dispatched to live with her brooding uncle (Ioan Gruffudd – pronounced ‘Yo-wahn Griffith’) in a shabby Gothic pile cursed by an ancient feud over a handful of pearls. His nemesis, Tim Curry, stews in the woods near by. Maria has the magic to settle their dispute – whether she will or not is another matter. The film’s magic realism is frightfully English.
Up: US
(Disney/Pixar), Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – A beautiful animated comedy/fantasy adventure about a 78-year-old balloon salesman (voiced by Ed Asner) who finally fulfils his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. Also starring Christopher Plummer, and a speech-assisted dog. A masterful work of art from Pixar – an exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt adventure impeccably crafted and told with wit and depth. Reviews: Universal acclaim. At Vista only, and only once a day, at noon.
Ice Age 3:
Dawn of the Dinosaurs: US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Romance – If you enjoyed the previous two instalments, you should like this one as well, because it’s more of the same, but with even better animation. With the voices of Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, and John Leguizamo. Excellent for kids and families. Mixed or average reviews.
Wongkamlao:
Thai, Comedy – Popular comedian turned director Mum Jokmok both directs and stars in this well-received romantic comedy which parodies Thai high society and soap operas
Transformers:
Revenge of the Fallen: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – Still the top earner in Thailand and the US – immensely popular. Shia LaBeouf joins with the Autobots® once more against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons® in this battle of the toys. It’s super-intense, and bigger and longer than the original. This film has a high noise level, smashing images, a loud and relentless score, and everyone yelling their lines at high speed – if this is your idea of fun, go. Me, I just have to throw up my hands in surrender and disbelief! What’s the use of fighting such a force of nature? It seems to come from director Michael Bay’s childhood fantasies about playing with toys and blowing stuff up. And fantasising about the hot-looking Megan Fox. And it seems not only boys, but every man continues to have these dreams, and the film is really unapologetic about delivering these fantasies. Bigger battles. Massive explosions. Megan Fox. I’m absolutely amazed that there is any coherence at all to the thing, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Generally negative reviews, but that, too, doesn’t seem to matter.
Scheduled for July 16         
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince:
US/ UK, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery/ Romance – The latest and darkest Harry Potter episode, the Sixth. Will it be the blockbuster the movie folk expect it to be? Will it thrill us all? Early viewers say yes! But you must go see for yourself! You know you will see it, sooner or later, don’t you?
As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he discovers an old book marked mysteriously ‘This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince’ and begins to learn more about the dark past of He Who Shall Not Be Named. And although the forces of He Who Shall Not Be Named are growing, that’s not the only hazard Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to contend with, as another sort of fickle magic is in the air: teenage hormones.
They are saying that it’s a dazzlingly well-made film as Voldemort (… oops! There I go again, naming him!) tightens his grip on both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds, and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Indeed, the story heads for one major character’s death at the end of Part Six, in preparation for the final awful confrontation between Harry and archfiend Voldemort in the climactic “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” now being shot as a two-part film, to be released November 2010 and July 2011. This should be the last of the series, as it’s the last of the books on which the series is based, but the author of the books, J.K. Rowling, and the studio both say, ‘Never say never’.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Earlier this month, a historic bridge tournament was held in Chiang Mai. It was called the Rapprochement Tournament, reflecting the fact that it involved the meeting of bridge players from Bangkok, Khonkaen and both Thai and expatriate players from Chiang Mai. It was organised by Khun Tivatavat and Prof. Prasong of Chiang Mai. On Sunday 5th July more than thirty people played duplicate pairs. On Monday 6th there was a full day teams competition. All participants hope that this will become an annual event. Here is one of the interesting hands from the tournament. South dealt: 

                     S: KQJ

                     H: 8742

                     D: 10982

                     C: 84              

S: A2                                   S: 763

H: QJ53                               H: -

D: KQJ                                D: 76543

C: AJ105                             C: 97632

                     S: 109854

                     H: AK1096

                     D: A

                     C: KQ              

The bidding at one table was: 

South     West         North            East

1S           Dbl            2S                  P

4S           Dbl            All pass         

South opened 1S, choosing the higher ranking suit to bid first, in spite of its weakness. The advantage of this is that if North bids, say 1N, South can now bid 2H and allow his partner to choose between the two suits at the two level. West made a takeout double. North raised and South, looking at his good shape, went to game. West, looking at his eighteen points, doubled.
A heart lead would be trumped by East and quickly take the contract down. Not surprisingly however, West led the king of diamonds. Declarer took the ace and led a low spade. West won the ace and tried to cash the queen of diamonds, which declarer trumped. Two more rounds of spades were led. West, expecting declarer to have more clubs than hearts because dummy had fewer, and noting the lack of an entry to dummy, threw a heart on the third spade. Now declarer took three rounds of hearts, putting West in with the queen. Declarer ruffed the jack of diamonds with his last trump, and forced out the ace of clubs. West was in but helpless, having only clubs left. Declarer won the club lead and had two good hearts to cash. Doubled contract made.
At some other tables, South bid the much stronger heart suit first and ended in four hearts. In spite of declarer’s much better heart suit and the longer combined heart holding between the North and South hands, West’s holding dooms this unlucky contract.
Chiang Mai now has an official bridge club—the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai. We welcome new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www. bridgewebs.com/chiangmai/home.html or contact Chris Hedges at:  [email protected] If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]