Vol. IX No. 34 - Wednesday
September 16 - September 30, 2010



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Updated by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snap shots

Money Matters

DVD of the Week

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

MAIL OPINION

How does your garden grow?

Life in Chiang Mai

Day Tripper

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Dengue Fever – once more!

Aedes aegypti, the mosquito which carries the Dengue virus is here again. With a vengeance.

At the time of writing this column, there are five westerners in my hospital with Dengue Fever. This is not an isolated group that caught it from drinking out of damp glasses in the same bar. The actual figures for Thailand are 70 deaths and over 50,000 cases as of the end of August, an increase of 93.8 percent. Surin in the North East has reported 2,300 cases alone. Last year, there were 180 cases in Northern Thailand and 10 fatalities. That’s more than died from the dreaded SARS epidemic that had people cringing in their homes afraid to go out without a gas mask.

So, despite my previous pleas, (and those of the Public Health Department), Dengue Fever and its potentially fatal variant, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is still with us. The latest figures have now prompted me to repeat my advice on this subject. If you remember reading about it before, I apologize, but the subject matter is very important. This is an important ailment, that can be avoided.

However, first you should understand a little more about Dengue. It was first described in 1780 by a Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia (so it didn’t start here) when the name Break Bone Fever was applied, with the symptoms of pain in the bones and rise in temperature. The name “Dengue” came in 1828 during an epidemic in Cuba. The new name was a Spanish attempt at a Swahili phrase “ki denga pepo” which describes a sudden cramping seizure caused by an evil spirit! Let me assure you that the local brand of Dengue Fever owes nothing to spirits, evil, bottled or otherwise.

Like Malaria, the virus is carried by mosquitoes, this time by one called Aedes aegypti. The virus itself is related to Japanese encephalitis, Murray Valley encephalitis and Yellow fever, and there are four “serotypes” or subgroups of it.

Simple Dengue (if you can call it that) has an incubation period of around four to seven days and then the full blown symptoms of high fever and headache begin. The headache is usually behind the eyes and is made worse by eye movement. From there the pains progress to the limbs with acute muscle pains, which gave it the old name “Break Bone Fever”. Interestingly, some patients complain of a metallic taste in the mouth. (Please don’t ask - I have no idea why!)

On the other hand, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) can certainly be fatal! It appears that Serotype 2 may be the culprit here, but does not usually produce DHF unless you have been previously bitten by types 1, 3 or 4. In addition to the symptoms of Classical Dengue the skin begins to bruise very easily as the blood hemorrhages into the skin. Children are also more susceptible to this than adults. This also becomes much more of an emergency and is best treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of your favorite hospital.

With our ability to treat the viral ailments being very limited, the defense against the Dengue virus lies in the preventive measures. Get rid of any free-standing water within 200 meters of your home, as this is the ideal breeding ground for the mosquito. The other precautions are to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts, especially at sun up and sun down, when the mosquito is at its most ravenous. The other factor to remember is “D” for Dengue and “D” for DEET. DEET is the magic ingredient in mosquito repellents, so when you go to buy some, check the label – if it has DEET, then get it. And then remember to use it!

 

Meet Macha

Macha is easily overlooked sitting out of sight in her little bed along the back wall of the shelter. Although a little shy she is incredibly sweet and affectionate. A small to medium sized dog, 3-4 years old, healthy and sterilised, she is the perfect addition to any home with or without children but preferably not very dominant dogs…take the time to seek her out and she’ll reward you in spades!

If you think you can offer Macha a place in your heart forever…Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01)  email: [email protected] to make an appointment to meet her or visit www.carefordogs.org for more info.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Hello Hillary,

As usual you always seem to give good advice to some of our friends who have fallen by the wayside, and they look to you to be their saviour, this week it is George’s turn to give you his problem concerning his up and coming marriage, your reply is, as usual, excellent and to the point, but after having the same problem in the past, I think I may be able to offer some further advice to this forsaken gentleman, if I may be so bold, George, as Hillary has explained to you, a village marriage is not legal, it is, very simply, a trap to relieve you of your cash, forget about dowries for a start, what are you buying?, a cow, or a buffalo, when I was told that a dowry is traditional in Thailand, I said no chance, forget it, I was married to a Thai girl a couple of years ago, I never went to the village, I went to Bangkok and was married legally, I had a good party with all my friends and the full cost to me for everything was, 30,000 baht, after knowing this girl for only one year George, my advice to you is to run while you still have some money in your bank account, it seems to me that this girl will leave you with nothing, although you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last, LEAVE TOWN GEORGE.
Experienced Pensioner

Dear Experienced Pensioner,
Wow! What a sentence! 248 words without a full stop - you leave me breathless! However, thank you for backing up my advice to George, I also felt he was being led up the matrimonial path by the proverbial carrot. “Experience” is always the best teacher (and you sound as if you have several buckets of it).

Dear Hillary,
Hello again, been reading you since I can’t remember. Whether I was here or in the U.S. All day with the rain I contemplated this writing. In the past you have published two of my writings one 6-11-10, the other 7-15-10 I believe. In my 30 yrs of coming to Thailand, the advice you offer, most of it I had to learn the hard way, because it was before the time of Mail. Of course the farangs that write you are seeking your advice. While you are most knowledgeable, it’s one-sided. It’s always from the Thai female psyche. Sometimes I feel these farang need a slap in the back of head from one who has been there, one of their own. While you always offer a gentle solution to their problems, I feel some just have a hard heads. I know it’s immaterial whether or not they take the advice you offer, it’s up to them. But when it comes to the particularly stupid, I’d like to be of assistance if there is some way I could be of aid in these hard core cases please contact me.

I’m still new at this being retired, and have yet to find a way to occupy my time, sure that will change in the future. Because from what I read in your column it’s always the newbie or nearly newbies who get themselves in emotional / financial trouble. Us old timers are pretty well set, if we don’t know by now there is no helping us, nor are we seeking help. But not to invade on your turf - if I could be of any assistance please contact me.
Take Care,
Les (and Lawan)

Dear Les (and Lawan),
Aren’t you the kindest chap, with an offer of being Hillary’s little helper. It is nice to know there are settled “old timers” as you called yourself, ready, willing and able to step in at a moment’s notice. However, Petal, I think the readers out there are looking for the Thai female psyche, as they don’t understand what their long term partner of two days is thinking. I would also be somewhat embarrassed if you went out on some sort of vigilante exercise, slapping my correspondents around the head as you suggested. I don’t think the editor would like that.

Then there is another problem, and it’s not your salary as Hillary’s assistant, because there isn’t any, it’s where are we going to put you? The editorial desk is not very large, and just fits into my attic with me. If I have a good meal at lunchtime, I can’t get in until after three in the afternoon! In the days when we used to get real paper letters I had to open the envelopes outside as there wasn’t enough room to swing the proverbial cat. Not that I have anything against cats, you must know.

Unfortunately, I can see so many problems, apart from the fact that Lawan might get jealous of your snuggling up to me on one of these rainy afternoons. So many problems and so few ways around it all. I think it is best if we just leave things as they are, but if I find someone needing a bit of head-slapping, I’ll call you.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Holiday encounters

Don’t get your hopes up. This is not some seedy expose of past holiday romances. This is an article on how to get better photographic results from your holiday.

In all the flurry of activity when packing for the overseas trip, it is easy to forget to pack a camera (or two if you are a real enthusiast). However, everyone wants a photographic record of the trip, the event, the new experiences. After all, you saved for 11 months for this, don’t let it just become a casual conversation on your return!

Now before you add “Pack Camera” to the To Do list, there’s a little bit of photographic preparation to be done too. The first, and should be most obvious, is just to make sure the camera works. If you haven’t used the camera for some time, buy new batteries for it and check the memory card before you go away. There’s nothing worse than finding out that the camera had a problem after you get back! You should take a few shots and look at them critically to make sure it is really working properly.

Now, no matter where you go these days, someone has been there before you. And they’ve written a guide book about it too, so your next move is to actually plan some shots before you even leave home. Research your destination properly and you should know what is likely to be a significant place, monument, castle, lake, waterfall, etc., in the area you will be visiting. When you read the Lonely Planet Guide or whatever, use a highlighter pen to remind you of photo opportunities.

Thinking about and anticipating “how” you should take any landmark will produce much better results when you finally arrive to take the picture. You will not be so over-awed that you just stand there and go “click”. You will be ready to try to show this segment of your trip with some photographic flair. It works, believe me!

It is always tempting to take photographs from the plane. There is one classic shot you should always attempt on every trip. That is the aerial. Shooting out of plane windows is not really all that difficult with today’s cameras, but there are a couple of catches. Firstly, pick a porthole where you can see a little of the engine intake in the shot. Adds drama and shows how you got up there! Shoot from the side of the plane opposite from the sun. This way you won’t see the scratches on the plane window. Use a wide-angle lens if you’ve got one, set the camera on auto and get as close to the window as possible, but not touching it (otherwise you get vibrations coming through to give you fuzzy photos).

Shooting the locals. Your research of the places you are going to will soon tell you if there are interesting “locals” which would make good photographs (such as this one pictured here). Priests, tribes folk, indigenous people, policemen in uniform and the like all make for good shots and gives the “atmosphere” of your holiday. It’s OK to shoot when they are unaware of your presence, but if you want a formal photograph, always ask. Just wave the camera and smile if you can’t speak the local lingo. It usually works. If not, wave money! That always does.

If you are going to well known destination like London, Paris, New York, then you will always be able to buy another memory card over there, but if you are going to the Mongolian Steppes, you may need to bring your own supplies. I also suggest that the digital folk take along more than one spare memory card and download their precious images back here, where you know that everything (should) work correctly and not delete images unexpectedly.

Finally, you should think about how you are going to present the results. It is always a huge temptation to bring out folders of photos as soon as you get back. Wait! Sort them, keep the good, throw away the bad. Show only your best shots and everyone will be amazed at your superb photographs!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Is everything as bad as some people say? Part 1

Let’s look at the facts:

- In Q1 the amount of money in America dropped from USD14.2 trillion to USD13.9 trillion which is a reduction of nearly ten percent.

- The M3 figures for the US have been going steadily downhill for the last year or so.

- Assets held by institutional funds fell by nearly forty percent which is the biggest fall ever.

- The UK Telegraph quoted Professor Tim Congdon, who is with International Monetary Research as saying, “It’s frightening, the plunge in M3 has no precedent since the Great Depression. The dominant reason for this is that regulators across the world are pressing banks to raise capital asset ratios and to shrink their risk assets. This is why the US is not recovering properly.”

- The International Monetary Fund has warned that the Gross Public Debt in America will reach 97% of GDP in 2011 and 110% by 2015.

- Larry Summers, the US President’s economic advisor, has asked US Congress for another USD200 billion because what they have given already is not enough.

- The US is almost 8,000,000 jobs short of normal employment.

- As shown by the S&P Case-Schiller Index, house prices in America continue to fall (3.2% in Q1) and mortgage applications are lower now than they have been for over thirteen years.

- The ECRI index of American economic activity has been on a continuous downward slope since October last year.

- Deficit spending leaves America vulnerable to foreign creditors.

- America is hampered by almost zero interest rates.

- As Frederick Thayer of George Washington University has pointed out, there have been six periods in American history of substantial debt reduction, in each case followed by a depression: “From 1817 to 1821, the national debt was reduced by 29 percent to $90 million, and our first major depression began in 1819; From 1823 to 1836, the national debt was reduced by 99.7 percent to $38,000, and a major depression began in 1837; From 1852 to 1857, the national debt was reduced by 59 percent to $28.7 million and was followed by a major depression in 1857; From 1867 to 1873, the national debt was lowered by 27 percent to $2.2 billion, and a major depression began in 1873; From 1880 to 1893, the national debt was reduced by 57 percent to $1 billion and was followed by a major depression in 1893; From 1920 to 1930, the national debt was reduced by 36 percent to $16.2 billion; our sixth major crisis - the Great Depression - began in 1929.”

- The US fiscal policy is heading the world towards a double-dip recession as it has failed.

- In 2010 the U.S. government is projected to issue almost as much new debt as the rest of the governments of the world combined.

- It is being projected that the U.S. government will have a budget deficit of approximately 1.6 trillion dollars in 2010.

- If you went out and spent one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend a trillion dollars. In fact, if you spent one million dollars every single day since the birth of Christ, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.

- Total U.S. government debt is now up to 90 percent of gross domestic product.

- Total credit market debt in the United States, including government, corporate and personal debt, has reached 360 percent of GDP.

- U.S. corporate income tax receipts were down 55% (to $138 billion) for the year ending September 30th, 2009.

- There are now 8 counties in the state of California that have unemployment rates of over 20 percent and in the area around Sacramento, California there is one closed business for every six that are still open.

- In February, there were 5.5 unemployed Americans for every job opening.

- According to a Pew Research Center study, approximately 37% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have either been unemployed or underemployed at some point during the recession.

- More than 40% of those employed in the United States are now working in low-wage service jobs.

- According to one new survey, 24% of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.

- Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008. Not only that, more Americans filed for bankruptcy in March 2010 than during any month since U.S. bankruptcy law was tightened in October 2005.

- RealtyTrac has announced that foreclosure filings in the U.S. established an all time record for the second consecutive year in 2009.

- According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings were reported on 367,056 properties in March 2010, an increase of nearly 19 percent from February, an increase of nearly 8 percent from March 2009 and the highest monthly total since RealtyTrac began issuing its report in January 2005.

- In Pinellas and Pasco counties, which include St. Petersburg, Florida and the suburbs to the north, there are 34,000 open foreclosure cases. Ten years ago, there were only about 4,000.

- In California’s Central Valley, 1 out of every 16 homes is in some phase of foreclosure.

- The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10 percent of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one payment during the January to March time period. That was a record high and up from 9.1 percent a year ago.

- U.S. banks repossessed nearly 258,000 homes nationwide in the first quarter of 2010, a 35 percent jump from the first quarter of 2009.

- For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

- U.S. commercial property values are down approximately 40 percent since 2007 and currently 18 percent of all office space in the United States is sitting vacant.

- Defaults on apartment building mortgages held by U.S. banks climbed to a record 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010. That was almost twice the level of a year earlier.

- In 2009, U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in private lending since 1942.

- To make up for a projected 2010 budget shortfall of $280 million, Detroit issued $250 million of 20-year municipal notes in March. The bond issuance followed on the heels of a warning from Detroit officials that if its financial state didn’t improve, it could be forced to declare bankruptcy.

- The National League of Cities says that municipal governments will probably come up between $56 billion and $83 billion short between now and 2012.

- Two university professors recently calculated that the combined unfunded pension liability for all 50 U.S. states is 3.2 trillion dollars.

- According to Economic Policy Journal.com, 32 U.S. states have already run out of funds to make unemployment benefit payments and so the federal government has been supplying these states with funds so that they can make their payments to the unemployed.

- 39.68 million Americans are now on food stamps, which represents a new all-time record. But things look like they are going to get even worse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting that enrollment in the food stamp program will exceed 43 million Americans in 2011.

- The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced the worst May it has seen since 1940.

- In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

- According to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two-thirds of income increases in the U.S. between 2002 and 2007 went to the wealthiest 1% of all Americans and the bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

- According to a new report based on U.S. Census Bureau data, only 26 percent of American teens between the ages of 16 and 19 had jobs in late 2009 which represents a record low since statistics began to be kept back in 1948.

- During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

- According to the Tax Foundation’s Microsimulation Model, to erase the 2010 U.S. budget deficit, the U.S. Congress would have to multiply each tax rate by 2.4. Thus, the 10 percent rate would be 24 percent, the 15 percent rate would be 36 percent, and the 35 percent rate would have to be 85 percent.

- The worrying fall in M3 may well lead to deflation. Paul Ashworth of Capital economics backs this up, “Core inflation is already the lowest since 1966, so we don’t have much margin for error here. Deflation becomes a threat if it goes on long enough to become entrenched.”

- The Eurozone continues to worry people with people running for cover everywhere. This created yields on ten year German Bunds to 2.56% which is lower than in the Great Depression.

- According to the UK Telegraph, “Spreads over peripheral European debt rose sharply again, jumping to 137 basis points for Italy, 157 for Spain and 220 for Ireland.”

- The sovereign debt markets in Euroland are getting close to where they were before when the previous stimulus package was released. If it did not work then…

- Corporate bonds are suffering, with May showing the worst amount of issuances this century. Research by Bloomberg shows that, in April, volumes fell from USD183 billion to a paltry USD47 billion.

- Spain is causing a lot of worry. At the end of May, bank shares fell by 6% in one day as people worried about the central bank seizing CajaSur.

- Spain has unsold property which is equal to four years demand.

- BNP Paribas is worried that Spain may not be able to honour its promise to help out with the Greece rescue package as if it did not then the rest of Euroland may not be able to cope and then the whole ideal would fall down the plughole.

To be continued…

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]


DVD of the Week: By Brian Baxter

The Ghost Writer (2009)

This clever and quite intelligent thriller, which won the Silver Bear for ‘Best Director’ at the Berlin IFF in February, is probably the best film by Roman Polanksi since he made Chinatown, decades ago. This may not be saying that much considering the disasters along the way, such as Pirates, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Bitter Moon and What? among others. Humour is certainly not his dominant characteristic.

To be honest I have never been a great fan of his rather shrill talent. Most of his darkly sinister films are clever but sterile and lack humanity and certainly any vestige of wit. That he had a ghastly childhood during the war years and a far from easy run since those years does not make the films more palatable.

Even his stunning debut, Knife in the Water and its British follow up, Repulsion reveal – brilliantly – what was to follow. Other major directors who deal in painful psychological and social ‘problems’ – Haneke, Dumont, the Dardennes Brothers – show great compassion in their work.

With his new movie he is on easier ground. It’s a modern day political thriller, co-written by Robert Harris and the director from Harris’s best selling novel. Seemingly there are considerable changes in the screenplay from the book and some of the plotting is very fanciful but the film chugs along entertainingly enough with enough menace and mystery to keep one hooked.

The story concerns a young writer (Ewan McGregor) who lands a highly paid job re-writing and ‘ghosting’ the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan), following the mysterious death of his former ghost. The journalist is whisked from London to the USA and the steel and concrete home which the politician is using as a base for his lecture and fund raising tour. The relentless wind, never ending rain and wintry surroundings certainly create a bleak house atmosphere, made even bleaker by the machinations of the politician (who is having an affair with his secretary) and the feisty wife (Olivia Williams, who gives a wonderful and intense performance) and is later revealed as one of the villains of the piece.

The movie is quite densely plotted as the newcomer to this strange m้nage tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of his predecessor and discovers more than he bargained for, including nasty revelations about the CIA. There are some droll lines along the way, a couple more excellent performances from stalwarts such as Tom Wilkinson as a silky and sinister member of the establishment and a lively cameo from the 94 year old Eli Wallach. Brosnan is excellently cast as a self centred politician with some distinct similarities to Tony Blair. McGregor is, as usual, rather bland.

The music is over insistent as though compensating for the cool tone of the film and I guess many people might accuse the whole thing of being rather old fashioned in its classic directorial style. But if you fancy a good yarn and a little healthy cynicism about politics and big business then this fits the bill. Sadly it never reached Chiang Mai in the cinema after a run in Bangkok but it and other movies by Polanski (including that debut!) are available from the DVD Film Shop at 289 Suthep Road.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Resident Evil: Afterlife: UK/ Germany/ US, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The series continues. Terrible reviews, but the series has always been a big hit in Thailand; they must have found the formula that works here. This time, in a world ravaged by a virus infection turning its victims into the Undead (read: zombies), Alice (Milla Jovovich), continues on her journey to find survivors and lead them to safety. Her deadly battle with the Umbrella Corporation reaches new heights as a new lead takes them to Los Angeles; when they arrive they find the city overrun by thousands of the Undead. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence and language. Generally negative reviews. Shown in both 3D and 2D versions at Airport Plaza (and the 3D version is for a change real 3D); in 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista.

In regards to the 3D process used, I want to emphasize that this is real 3D, in fact using Pace Fusion 3-D cameras, the same cameras James Cameron created with Vince Pace for a number of Cameron’s documentaries, as well as his feature Avatar. Cameron waited ten years until the 3D technology caught up with the vision he had for Avatar, and he was deeply involved in the invention and development of the technology. His systems and cameras remain at the cutting edge of 3D technology. Now, why they would want to use all this marvelous technology for a zombie flic is another question entirely. But I want to do my bit to clear up the confusion as to what kind of 3D is actually being used under the generic and often misleading label of “3D” by places like Major Cineplex. They charge the same price for genuine 3D like this film as for rip-off cheapie post-production 3D, which takes a 2D film and adds some 3D feel to it. And they never let on. Shame, shame.

Eternity / Chua Fah Din Sa Lai: Thai, Drama/ Romance – One of the most interesting Thai movies to come along in some time. Based on a revered and classic Thai novel of 1943, the film depicts a forbidden love story in which adulterous lovers are physically chained together for all eternity. It’s also gotten some controversy because of lots of nudity of the couple, perhaps especially the many views of Ananda’s rear end. But for me, I’m mostly interested in what the director will do. His name is ML Pandevanop Devakul, better known as Mom Noi, and he’s an interesting guy. He’s an acting teacher, arguably the best acting teacher in Thailand, the mentor of Ananda Everingham among others. He comes from a classical theatrical background. As a director he has presented some of the most severe examples of Western drama in Thai adaptations over the years, including Greek drama, Shakespeare, Chekhov, and modern American drama. Starring Ananda Everingham. Rated 18+ in Thailand.

From Pakse with Love / Sabaidee 2: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A follow-up sweet picture postcard from Laos following the first sweet picture postcard from Laos in this planned trilogy, 2008’s Sabaidee Luang Prabang. That movie starred Ananda Everingham, and was the first feature film made in Laos in 20 years. This one stars Ray Macdonald and Laotian beauty queen Khamly Philavong, reprising her role from the first film as a charming tour guide.

Hello Stranger / Kuan Muen Ho: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Riding the local wave of fascination in all things Korean (but especially the boy-band, pop-star craze), comes another rom-com about Thais in that country of wonder that seems to breed only cute muppets. A real hit in Thailand, it’s been the top film by a considerable margin since August 19.

The Expendables: US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – Directed by Sylvester Stallone and starring him and a bunch of his old action buddies – Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and even token appearances by Bruce Willis and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A team of mercenaries head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator. Rated R in the US for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews. English at Airport Plaza, Thai dubbed at Vista.

Scheduled for Sep 23

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: US, Drama – Oliver Stone directs Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Charlie Sheen, and Eli Wallach in this scathing follow-up to the acclaimed 1987 film – 23 years later. Here the disgraced Wall Street corporate raider imprisoned in the first movie is released, and as the global economy teeters on the brink of disaster he partners with a young Wall Street trader on a two-part mission: To alert the financial community to the coming doom, and to find out who was responsible for the death of the young trader’s mentor. Early reviews: Generally favorable.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This interesting deal comes from a Bridge Club of Chiang Mai coaching session. South dealt and East-West were vulnerable. The question is how to bid it.

                        

The bidding that actually occurred at the session is shown below. You may well think that is perfectly reasonable bidding and ask why the deal is of any interest. One reason is that N-S can make a five diamond game, but stopped at only the three level. West will probably lead the jack of hearts, partner’s bid suit. Declarer wins this and pulls one round of trumps, noting the fall of the queen. This indicates a 4-1 split and means that West has a natural trump trick. If West ruffs therefore this will cost declarer nothing, because any ruff will be at the expense at a natural trick. Consequently, declarer switches to clubs so as to be able to ruff a club on board if necessary. When West wins the ace of clubs he cannot afford to lead trumps, because this gives up the natural trick. He will probably lead a spade which declarer ruffs. Declarer continues playing on clubs, ruffing the fourth round on board, and now pulls two more rounds of trumps and plays out high hearts. In total the defence can score no more than one trump and the ace of clubs. 

South   West       North     East

1D        P              1S           2H

3C        P              3D           All pass 

Declarer’s game is not the only one that can be made. East-West can make four spades, played by East, against any likely defence. South, being void in spades, is unable to lead a trump to cut down on ruffing on board and will probably lead a high heart or club. The third round of hearts will be ruffed on board and the defence will likely take only two hearts and a diamond.

So here is a deal where both sides can make game, but not bid them! I cannot see any reasonable way for North-South to bid their five diamond game and I certainly cannot see how East-West can find their four spade game, particularly after North bids spades. So how would you bid the deal in such a way as to find the available games?

Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site www.bridgewebs.com/chiangmai. If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected].


MAIL OPINION : By Shana Kongmun

Oh internet, internet, wherefor art thou?

My internet has been spotty for weeks. Up and down, off and on, slow then fast. My neighbors have the same complaint. I live in the middle of town, so you’d think that it would be better, but apparently not. Its starting to make me a little crazy, I have to admit. Having enjoyed quite good internet when it was installed in April, I had been lulled into a false sense of complacency that I had gotten lucky.

A recent request of Mail readers as to whats up with their internet revealed that it seems to depend on where you live as to how good it is.

TOT has a good reputation on the outskirts of the City, while in my neighborhood, it has a very bad reputation. But, given the way the internet has been with 3BB lately, perhaps that isn’t saying much. Several people noted that their internet was worse when it rained, which suggests that the line quality is poor and that the connections need fixing. Others noted that the speed picked up when evening rolled around which could be a result of businesses going off line for the day.

These stories tell me a few pertinent things. Firstly, that the lines are probably old and in need of replacement and secondly, that they have signed up more new customers without increasing capacity. Not a very good business practice if you want to keep your customers. But, maybe they figure there are only a few games in town, they will be bound to keep some people at least. I don’t know. All I do know is my internet is now very bad.

But everyone complained about the lack of service and information when they do have problems. From “its your router”, to “its your computer” , so why is it that if I do nothing it eventually comes back at the same time as if I turn off my router?And then there is the one I hear all the time, “its everywhere in Chiang Mai”. Seriously? Everywhere?

If this is the case, then something needs to be done before Chiang Mai can position itself a serious contender for the hub of the creative economy in Thailand. And I understand that the Prime Minister is putting forth Chiang Mai as a possible option for the next World Expo. A terrific idea, in my opinion, but one that needs to see the infrastructure improved before it becomes feasible.


How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Some plants which are not suitable in the Chiang Mai valley

Gardeners like challenges. Somebody told me it is impossible to grow the Japanese Wisteria floribunda in my hometown Uppsala, Sweden (59th latitude), so of course I had to try! I selected a south facing corner and covered my precious vines and roots with 50 cm of bracken before winter, and wrapped them with cloth. It worked, but the effort was time consuming. Here in Chiang Mai I planted Wisteria sinensis. It survives, but it does not grow beacuse it lacks a cold period. It grows nicely at nearby Doi Ang Khan (1500 m) which is perfect for temperate plants. To spare you the trouble and money, or to challenge your skills, here is a list of additional temperate species which we have tried at Dokmai Garden (350 m) without success: wasabi (Wasabia japonica), ginseng (Panax ginseng – ’som’), laurel (Laurus nobilis – bai krawan), French lavender (Lavandula dentata), empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa), most tulips (Tulipa spp), tea (Camellia sinensis – cha. It only survives in shade, but does not thrive), cherry (Prunus spp. It grows nicely, but no flowers due to lack of cold) and grape vine (Vitis vinifera – ’a ngun’. Constant spraying with insecticides may do the trick, but that is not interesting to us). However, to our great surprise, these work: ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), olive (Olea europaea - makok), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris – bai gawan), Mediterranean fig (Ficus carica – ma duea farang) and myrtle (Myrtus communis – namman khiao). You need to protect the latter group of plants from the heavy rains during the rainy season, and irrigate during the cool season. Pots or well drained elevated flower beds are suitable. Roses and Clematis thrive at high elevation above the pine belt, at least 1200 meters. At this elevation you can find indigenous and famous ornamentals like the Helena rose (Rosa helenae – sri chantra) and Clematis smilacifolia (Phuang kaeo kudan). Roses barely survive in the valley, and only if you spray like mad. Clematis demands a shady and well irrigated position. www.dokmaigarden.co.th.

www.dokmaidogma.wordpress.com.


Life in Chiang Mai: By Mark Whitman

Where, Oh Where, Have All The Farangs Gone?

By Colin Jarvis

I am sitting in one of my favourite restaurants in Chiang Mai having just been to Baan Tawai, the woodcarving centre near Hang Dong. Over the past year I have noticed that many of the retailers in Baan Tawai have closed down. This is hardly surprising, the place used to be full of tourists from all over the world but today I saw only four customers and a small group of schoolchildren.

The restaurant in which I am sitting is one of four shop house restaurants side by side near the Tha Phae gate. I am the only customer in any of the restaurants this lunchtime yet last year these restaurants were full.

Last week I was talking to Mr Frank, the tailor. He was telling me that his turnover this year is about 20% of last year. A friend of mine who has a fleet of silver minibuses which transport tourists are operating at a 10% capacity rather than their normal 70%. Where, oh where, have all the farangs gone?

Western tourists are worried about their future. Unemployment is high and people are worried about losing their jobs. The value of their houses has fallen and they feel far less wealthy than they did a while ago. They are tending to save rather than spend. At the same time most western currencies have fallen by around 30% against the baht in the last 18 months. This means that even if Westerners would like to come to Thailand the holiday will cost them considerably more than it did two years ago. So Western holidaymakers are tending to take their vacations locally or go without.

Those that can afford to travel long distances for their holidays were advised by their governments, earlier this year, not to travel to Thailand. There is no doubt that many tourists will stay away from this country as they are worried about potential disruption caused by the red or yellow shirts.

Isn’t this great! No loud-mouth drunken youths falling over themselves at the Tha Phae gate. One million fewer people to hinder us as we shop at Airport Plaza. Peace and quiet in which to view the sights and quiet restaurants with cheaper prices.

But is it really good? Actually, no it isn’t. Thousands of businesses that rely on tourism are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. The large hotels are running at about 10% occupancy. If the tourism disappears then so will the transport companies, hotels, shops and many other businesses that we like and enjoy as residents. We should remember that the number of tourists normally visiting Chiang Mai in one year is two thirds the number of people who live in Chiang Mai. They contribute a great deal to the local economy.

For local businesses to continue to provide the range of services they currently do it is absolutely vital that the tourists return in force.

If the farangs are unlikely to come back quickly who else can be encouraged to fill the gap? The answer would seem to be tourists from other Asian countries. Such countries do not seem to have been affected by the global financial crisis as much as Western countries. Their exchange rates have remained, pretty much, where they were in relation to the Thai baht and of course, travelling from Asia, is far cheaper than coming from Europe or North America.

However, Asian tourists tend to come for different reasons than their farang counterparts. Many farangs simply want to lie on a beach and get brown whereas Asian holidaymakers, like the Thais, wish to stay as light a colour as possible. They tend to come for specific reasons such as medical tourism, golf, shopping, food and sightseeing. These they can find in abundance in Chiang Mai. These days there seem to be almost as many spas as temples. There are many excellent hotels that can pamper their Asian guests superbly. Shopping is actually better than in Bangkok as prices are cheaper, all the big stores are here, and handicrafts, artworks, tailor-made clothing abound.

There have been a number of promotions recently run by the Tourist Authority of Thailand, other government departments and trade associations and more are in the pipeline. Perhaps, more important, recently about 20 ambassadors were invited to visit Chiang Mai in order to show them that the city is a very safe and peaceful place to visit and that they should encourage their home governments to be more positive and to remove any negative travel advice is that many still be current.

Amongst the businesses that rely on tourism there does seem to be some confidence that the Christmas and New Year peak period will see an increase in tourism. Providing there is no great catastrophe or political unease they may well be right. Let us hope so for the sake of the businesses, ourselves and the tourists who come to enjoy our fair city. Let’s welcome all tourists to our city and hope the farang comeback soon.


Day Tripper: Lets not forget Doi Inthanon

By Heather Allen

The unforgettable Doi Inthanon has not yet been covered by my fellow daytrippers. And while it has been some time since I have been there, I imagine its just as beautiful now after the rains as it is in other drier times of the year. Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent!

Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain peak, and while it does not compare in height to some of the truly high mountains at 2,565 meters (or 8,415 feet) it certainly does compare in beauty. Originally named Doi Luang, it was renamed by King Inthawichayanon to Doi Inthanon. Deeply concerned with forest conservation, he ordered that upon his death his remains be placed there and the mountain renamed. His daughter, who became Queen Consort for HM King Rama did so when he died in 1897.

Declared a National Park in 1972, you can visit not only the peak (worth a visit for the view alone), but the multitude of waterfalls (beautiful this time of year), the varied and wonderful plant life, rhododendron species indiginous to Doi Inthanon alone, wildlife, and birds. The park supports the largest diversity of bird species in Thailand.. Hike or just sit and look.

Additionally there are Hmong and Karen villagers living in the park, where you can purchase handicrafts as well. Accomodation is available there or at Park Headquarters.

Getting there: Highway 108 west to Chomthong for 57 km. Turn right on 1009, follow the Chomthong-Doi Inthanon Road for 31 km and you arrive at the entrance. Travel time is about 90 minutes, give or take.



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