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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

The Doctor's Consultation: Are you a buffalo? Or a carefree butterfly?

by Dr. Iain Corness

I have said this many times, but despite all the advances in modern technology, the death rate will always be the same – one per person!
So, are you going to die? Undoubtedly yes. Read the above sentence again. The death rate will always be the same – one per person!
Unfortunately, being born is, after all, the very first step in the dying process. Somebody writes your name on that mythological bullet, and one day you are going to collect it. You cannot escape it. It’s the old death and taxes routine. However, you can make it difficult for that bullet to find you! You can dodge and weave for a while.
Now, I fully realize that there are those of different faiths who are happy in their belief that there is an after-life, or reincarnation, or some other way by which we can do it all again, and I am not at cross purposes with that. I am merely talking about the ‘here and now’ – the next life can look after itself, in my book!
In our respective lives, there will be those of us who seem to fly though it all, the veritable ‘butterflies’ who flit from flower to flower, savoring, tasting and, need I say it, enjoying. Eventually, they run out of puff and quietly fold up their wings and pass on. On the other hand there are those of us who stumble around like buffalos from one disaster to the next, one illness to another and eventually succumb – the victim of some tragedy.
Does the first group have a charmed life and the second are only living on borrowed time, or was it written in the stars? Being personally of the ilk that does not believe in prophecy, until one of the fortune tellers round the place predicts the winning lottery numbers for himself, I shall disregard the ‘prophecy’ concept.
Let us look at the butterflies and the buffalos. As far as ‘borrowed time’ is concerned, both are in the same situation. Our lives are fleeting visits to planet earth, and that’s all. Like going on holidays, you try to make the most of your two weeks on the Costa Plenty, so also you should make the most of your six months in Pattaya.
“Six months!” I hear you shout. “Is that all I’ve got?” In a way, yes.
You see, it is difficult to look ahead much further than that in the medical sense. So much can happen. Six months is enough time for a fulminating infection to carry you off, or to develop an aggressive cancer that will destroy your liver and do the same.
So if we are looking at six months worth of future, how can we make it such that it is not this next six months, but some six months way in the future?
The answer is a simple medical check-up. This will predict your future life for you, much better than the Indian fortune teller with his turban and a well thumbed set of Tarot cards. Advance notice of when the Bank of Life is going to foreclose comes from your medical records, not the soothsayers on Jomtien Beach.
But what is the difference between the butterflies and the buffaloes? Nothing really. Both are on “borrowed” time. It is merely different attitudes to life and living. You can complain about only having a handful of rice, or be thankful that you’ve got something to eat, many do not. In other words, a positive attitude. The butterflies have it right. They remain carefree and enjoy life, no-matter how short. However, they are more likely to have longer lives, as being positive strengthens the immune system, protecting you.
However, pity the poor old buffalo. It carries the world on its shoulders to its grave. And that is probably an early grave, because negative people depress their immune systems. This can be scientifically demonstrated.
The choice is yours. Buffalo or butterfly. I know which I’d rather be!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I thank you for publishing my letter (27th October), but I must say your reply includes certain uncalled for criticisms. I am fully aware of the Thai cultural and family traditions. However, my wife was fully aware of the stipulations in the PreNup and was happy to sign them. Incidentally this PreNup is drawn up with each paragraph written in Thai and then followed in English. Since we started living together some 23 months ago, I have, each month, given her an allowance so that she can send money home regularly. Furthermore, she does not want to have much to do with her family and only visits them once a year for three or four days. I had that stipulation inserted in the PreNup as there have been many instances, as I am sure you are aware, of one or two members of the family due to visit and five or six turning up and becoming very difficult to get rid of. Selfish or not, no way am I going to let myself in for this sort of thing.
I should also mention that about a year ago I made a Thai will leaving my house, car and whatever money is in the Thai bank to my wife on my death.
As for being able to read Thai, I have already explained that the PreNup is in Thai and English (as written by the lawyer) and furthermore the ‘Marriage Registration’ from the Banglamung Registration Office (Amphur) states in para 3 ‘Both spouses had a contract before marriage as attached’. I would appreciate a partial apology for your earlier uncalled for comments.
The Thoughtful Farang
Dear Thoughtful one,
You appear to have missed my point, my slighted Petal. When I wrote “Are you sure that what you think was in the document actually is the way you imagine?” I was suggesting that unless you personally can read and understand Thai, what guarantee have you got that the English ‘translation’ and the Thai paragraphs actually are a true reflection of each other? You are trusting a 5,000 baht lawyer, which is not something I would like to do. I also do not read any indication of pre-nuptial demands made by your wife. You have only reported what safeguards you insisted for yourself. Did she have any? I still believe that your ‘thoughtfulness’ only goes as far as your own self. You may have made a Thai will, which is all very fine and noble, but if you are legally married, she collects the lot anyway. Finally, I note that she is to receive your house. Do you own the land it stands on to be able to do this? Or did you do a PreNup agreement with the Land Office as well?
Dear Hillary,
I am beginning to think the lyrics in the old song “If You Wanna Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life, Never Make a Pretty Woman Your Wife” are right on the money. On one hand, I am the luckiest guy in the world to have such a caring, intelligent, and incredibly gorgeous girlfriend. I mean she is a complete knock-out - a perfect 10. But, on the other hand, that is causing me many headaches living here in Pattaya. As you know, most men come here with one thing on their mind. And, no matter where we go in this town, there are always a slew of pot-bellied, follically-challenged middle-aged swine completely and unabashedly leering and ogling at my girlfriend. Every bar is the same story. Their lecherous eyes stare at her as if she were a piece of meat on sale at the South Pattaya Market, and some go so far as to say lewd comments or use their worst pick-up lines on her. The worst part is their complete lack of respect and tact. They act as if I am not even there. I would never think of staring at a woman the way they do to her, especially if I see she has a boyfriend or husband. I think they feel that since there are lots of bar-girls around town they can treat any woman like that here. What do you suggest? Should I just do my best to ignore these neanderthals, or should I punch their lights out, start learning Muay Thai and give them a good kick in the ass, or what? Thanks a lot!
The Boxer
Dear Boxer,
You are a troubled little poppet, aren’t you. You certainly are hanging onto some pent-up aggression. If it’s not punching their lights out, it’s a right proper kicking in the ass. Hillary wonders why you are so insecure with this relationship? I wonder if the problem isn’t the ogling your girlfriend gets, it’s the fact that you are being ignored? Lighten up, puff out your chest and be proud of this gorgeous girl – or you will lose her and end up with a barker. Of course, then you won’t have to worry about the oglers. You might also think about taking her somewhere that people are better mannered. They do exist, you know. They hang around the better class bars, not the ones with ladies outside saying, “Come in sexy man!”


Camera Class:  Photogenicity – the magic ingredient

by Harry Flashman

One of the amazing features of photography is the magic ingredient known as photogenicity. The dictionary even defines it as “having an appearance that looks pleasing in photographs.” And if you take that one step further, it means that the appearance may not be as pleasing in real life. Hang onto that definition!

This really is a toad!

Being able to get photographs that are good enough, and appealing enough, to make the cover of Vogue is every photographer’s dream, but it is not that easy. As they say in the classics, you have to kiss a lot of toads before you find your princess!
Now we live in a country which is renowned for having some of the most beautiful women in the world (and beautiful lady-boys, as discovered by more than one errant, alcohol soaked swain at three in the morning). If that is the case, a trip down Beach Road should give you enough images to get you straight into the pages of Vogue, Cleo, Cosmo etc tomorrow. Oh, if it were only that easy!
Some years ago, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – to shoot a glamour calendar for a client. Girls, girls and more girls, and 12 months to shoot them in. What a dream assignment. Wrong! What a headache!
You see, photogenicity is not something that every model has, but a “comp card” is something every model does have. Now the “comp” which is short for “composite card” is a selection of photographs of the girl in question. You, the photographer, go down to the model agency and they spread out this playing card pack full of comp cards for you to peruse. After several minutes you select three beauties that you would like to see further. These are the lucky ones picked for the “cattle call”.
I should also point out that this selection process should not be done by just the photographer alone. Take an assistant! Your idea of what constitutes beauty and what the world at large (and more importantly, the client) thinks is beauty may be poles apart.
Now when the models arrive at the studio you get the first inkling that all is not going to be that simple. This girl in raggy jeans and a seat shirt does not look like any of the chosen ones! But don’t forget, what you saw was the comp – a carefully selected group of photographs showing nothing but the best and most appealing pictures. What you do not know is that it might have taken 14 rolls of film to get that girl without her eyes shut, and since then she’s put on 5 kg and an assorted face mask of pimples!
However, it is not all downhill from here. You go ahead with the test shoot anyway. You must allow the model time to apply their make-up, and if you thought your wife takes an age, you haven’t experienced a model doing the business! I would shoot one roll of film and then look at the proofs. If one shot in six looked OK then you are on a winner. That’s right – only one in every six and you’ve done well.
The other amazing factor I found out, after photographing countless ladies, is that the ugly toad can sometimes really turn into a princess on film, and the most gorgeous princess can really turn into a toad! That is this magic ingredient called photogenicity, which is not observed by the naked eye. It is something that just sparkles through with those girls that have “IT” – but how you tell is difficult. The only way I know is by the test shoot.
So if you have just discovered the most beautiful lady in town and you take her picture, do not be disappointed if the final print does not do her justice. Remember I only expected one in six – and that’s with great looking ladies who had all modeled before, were signed up with a modeling agency, and were supposed to know what to do.
But do not let me discourage you! Keep trying, there’s a lot more toads out there than you could possibly imagine!


Money Matters:  A House of Cards about to fall? Part 2

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

How stretched is the American Consumer? In one word - VERY!
This highlights a problem that was also the subject of another graph from Bank Credit Analyst. Spending on essential items is rising rapidly in recent years, as energy prices and housing costs are rising. This means there is less money for discretionary items.
So, when it is all combined - slower wage growth, less discretionary money available and a slowing housing market - it all points to the US not performing as it has done. Also, the savings rate is already so low that there is not much room for it to drop. It all sounds like there is the serious potential for a consumer spending slowdown that could lead to an economic slowdown later this year or early next year - at the latest.
This is further supported by the most recent results released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.
Total July exports of $120 billion and imports of $188 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $68 billion, $3.2 billion (around 5%) more than the $64.8 billion in June, revised - another all time record trade deficit! (The previous record was $66.6 billion set last October). The scope of the deficit was even larger than expected - the Wall Street consensus had been for the deficit to widen to $65.4 billion. As if this wasn’t bad enough, July exports fell $1.3 billion whereas imports were $1.9 billion higher than the previous month. The highest decreases in US exports were seen in capital goods ($1.3 billion) and in industrial supplies/materials ($0.6 billion). The biggest increase in imports of goods were seen in industrial supplies/materials ($2.2 billion), capital goods ($0.8 billion), foods, feeds, and beverages ($0.2 billion), and consumer goods ($0.2 billion). Similarly the highest year on year increases in imports were seen in industrial supplies/materials ($11.5 billion), capital goods ($3.7 billion), consumer goods ($3.5 billion), automotive vehicles/parts/engines ($1.2 billion); foods, feeds, and beverages ($0.6 billion); and other goods ($0.2 billion).
It’s interesting to look at the countries where the US still enjoys trade surpluses (shown in billions of dollars) - Hong Kong $0.7; Australia $0.7; Singapore $0.1; Egypt $0.1; Argentina $0.1.
The countries where Uncle Sam trades in the red include: China $19.6; Europe $15.6; European Union $13.4; OPEC $10.9; Japan $7.6; Canada $5.9; Mexico $5.1; Taiwan $1.4; Korea $1.3; Brazil $0.9.
Amazingly, there was little reaction by the markets to the record deficit even though the worsening deficit will clearly cause a major slowdown in economic growth in the third quarter - Mike Moran, chief U.S. economist at Daiwa Securities America, has calculated that if the results for August and September were to match July’s deficit, net exports would subtract 0.7 percentage points from Q3 GDP growth! The reasoning is that the deficit was made worse by the record oil price causing record high oil imports and that this now appears to be easing (bizarre as today’s oversold price is higher than the July record high average price paid and August future prices contangoed as the price per barrel shot above $80!
For the first seven months of the year, the trade gap is $453 billion. This is a faster pace than the same period last year, meaning that the record $716.7 billion annual deficit set last year could be broken. Exports fell for the first time since February, while imports reached record levels. Not the rosiest pictures for an economy desperately trying to ward off recession.
Both the big picture and microcosm point to the same story - the U.S. trade deficit with China increased to $19.6 billion in July from $17.6 billion in the same month last year, while at the same time the trade gap with China rose to $121.3 billion in the first seven months of the year from $107.7 billion in the same period last year, with U.S. exports to China setting a new record in July, allowing China to report recently that its August trade surplus rose to a record $18.8 billion, the fourth straight monthly record. The monthly trade deficits with the European Union and the OPEC nations were also a new record!
As if all of the above is not enough proof to be worried, the International Monetary Fund also waded in and has warned that a global slowdown is looking more likely due to a slower US housing market and high oil prices. In a report released in early September it states that, “There are risks to the global economic outlook that have tilted to the downside.” It also said that the US Dollar could well fall unless policies on savings levels and investment balances were altered.
In its latest report, the IMF underlined what it saw as the biggest threats to continuing global growth. It said that rising oil prices coupled with recent figures showing that the sale of US new homes fell yet again have sparked fears of a wider economic downturn.
“The recent market turbulence is a timely reminder for authorities to strengthen macro-economic policies and persevere with needed structural reforms,” said the IMF’s Global Financial Stability report. It went on to say, “The potential for a disorderly unwinding of the global imbalance remains a concern.”
At the heart of many of the fears are trading imbalances, and the IMF’s report came the day after China said it had posted a record of $18.8bn (10bn) trade surplus with the rest of the world in August. Just compare this with the US. One explanation for this huge gap is the weakness of China’s currency, which makes Chinese goods comparatively cheap, thereby boosting exports. In its report, the IMF urged Asian nations to aim for greater exchange rate flexibility, and said Europe and Japan should improve structural reform.
And yet some people out there are still more concerned about inflation! Anyway, back in the real world…

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 Graham Macdonald on [email protected]