Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The wackiness continues, (slightly modified).

Today, March 1 here, The Bangkok Post had this header on a 3rd page report:

“Doctors urge PM to seek psychiatric help.”

Now that’s funny. You tell me that’s not funny.

But the front page and the editorials were moderate. The letters to the editor were slanted anti-government but weren’t foaming at the mouth as before.

In the business section they replied to my remarks about the stability here with a front page, above the fold article titled:

“Economy to suffer little political effect.”

As if to underline this, the Thai currency strengthened a little.

I think they are beginning to understand the danger involved in undermining the government, which is exactly what they have been doing.

Some have been calling for intervention by the king. His word carries great weight here. When he speaks, everyone listens.

Despite demonstrations, Prime Minister Thaksin is a probable winner in the election.

The opposition has announced a boycott so they can then proclaim he has won illegally. That will allow them to continue their call for him to resign.

It seems their only hope is an end to democracy.

My hope is for stability and peace.

But I don’t count.


I was pretty hard on The Bangkok Post a couple of days ago but they deserved it for their partisan reporting and editorials.

Here are the front page headers for “news” stories on Feb. 26:

“April 2 snap poll seen as a government tactic to whitewash misconduct allegations against Thaksin.”

“Corruption questions still unanswered, says Prawase.”

“High school students join campaign to oust ‘Satan’ from office.”

(That student power thing that made the front page was about an organization of 20 students.)

Those are all the front page stories.

In addition these are quotes printed in a prominent blue box on the front page:

“The charter was once the people’s charter. Now it has been hijacked.”

“The election will take place quickly, which leaves political parties no time to prepare.”

“If this had happened in the old days (the offender) and his family would have had their heads cut off.”

On Monday, the 27th, they published 3 letters to the editor on the subject. Here are the headings:

“PM has taken coward’s course.”

“Thaksin has lost people of conscience.”

“Opposition must stand united.”

But the editors are reading my criticisms and listening to other critics. On the 28th they have pulled back a little (although the top right front page headline reads: “Sanoh labels PM ‘a thief and a cheat.’”)

They have printed a couple of reasonable opinion pieces on their op-ed pages and even 2 letters to the editor that didn’t skewer the PM (one was favorable).

The opposition has announced they will boycott the election. This is probably because Prime Minister Thaksin is probably an easy winner and the opposition doesn’t want to appear as losers, so they won’t play.

While this is going on the Thai currency has strengthened even more and the exchange rate is killing me.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


The Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, has dissolved parliament and called for new elections.

As a non-Thai speaking foreigner I cannot know all that is going on here. Much of the news I get is filtered through the two English language newspapers. These papers are strongly anti-government. They act as a propaganda machine for the opposition. Every editorial and letter to the editor will reflect this viewpoint. They will never print an opposing opinion. Some of the letters they print I believe are fake, written by their own staff to support their position. All news and headers are strongly slanted. I have the impression that there is little or no integrity within these editorial staffs.

I have read that the Thai language newspapers are also of this persuasion (anti-government) while the TV stations are pro-government.

The main complaint against Thaksin is corruption. (I must report that from my observations, which are purely anecdotal, Thailand is the least corrupt country I have ever been in.)

Prime Minister Thaksin is one of the richest men in Thailand. With vast holdings it was unavoidable that some of his actions could be construed as self-serving, whether they were or not.

The most recent dust-up was caused when his children sold stock in the Shin Corp. and avoided paying taxes on the profits. I understand that it was determined in a court that this was tax avoidance not tax evasion. But the perception of the rich getting richer and using the law to do it is too much for his opponents.

They may have a case. I really don’t know.

I do know that the big attraction for me to Thailand is its stability. The Thai currency (baht) has actually strengthened through this crisis.

There have been demonstrations against the government. I don’t know how strong because the papers here are completely untrustworthy

The papers have repeatedly called for Thaksin to resign.

So now he has called for a new election. And how does The Bangkok Post respond? They say, in an editorial you can read *here*, that a new election is not enough.

What do they want?

I suspect they want a suspension of democracy and themselves, representing the intellectual elite, to be appointed as leaders.

Appointed by whom?

By the mobs of course.

Does this remind you of anything?

Don’t take my word for it. That link to the editorial is only good for a short time so I reprint it completely here:

BANGKOK POST COMMENTWe need a lot more than this
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's move to dissolve parliament and call a snap election does not resolve the controversy that has gripped the nation since the tax-free sale of Shin Corp was announced.
Nor does it address the reason for the repeated calls for political reform - the urgent need to restore the checks and balances at the heart and soul of our constitution.
Since the Shin Corp sale, doubts over the prime minister's lack of morals and ethics have widened and deepened. Discontent has grown stronger and louder, prompting even his political mentor, Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, to join other former supporters in the chorus demanding his resignation.
Mr Thaksin yesterday cited a number of reasons for the dissolution - the protesters wanted to topple the government through undemocratic means. And despite all efforts and explanations by himself and government agencies, ''these groups of individuals'' pursued mob rule over the democratic process.
Mr Thaksin also cited the possibility of violence as another reason.
So he is ''returning the power to the people'' as the best way to resolve the current conflict, a decision which has its supporters, especially among the business community.
Politically, of course, Mr Thaksin has his own agenda. By asking the people to decide if he should return to the helm with Thai Rak Thai to form the government, if they do they are happy with his leadership.
Even if Thai Rak Thai returns to power, it does not mean the people only want a leader who can improve their livelihood and economic well-being. Deep down, Thais do care, and want, a leader who not only appreciates the moral and ethical dimensions of leadership, but who lives and breathes it. And the country deserves such a leader. Mr Thaksin should not believe that it's all right just to win the numbers game.
While the leadership issue is important, unfortunately, the whole Shin affair has foreshadowed one crucial shortcoming of the past several years in the constitution even though it is a good charter having gone through exhaustive deliberation before its 1997 promulgation.
It is clear, for example, that the process that allows the opposition to effectively check the prime minister and government's performance must be enhanced. The same applies to the selection process of candidates for seats in independent agencies and improving the qualifications of the selection panellists.
If Mr Thaksin really cares about the country's democratic process, he should pledge during the election campaign to amend the charter so as to bolster the process of checks and balances - no matter whether he is returned to power or not.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


The movie is not playing in Bangkok yet although I’ve seen a half hour preview on TV several times. What I’ve seen has caused me to laugh out loud, which is very uncommon for me. The leaky pen bit is tiresome, uncomfortable and unfunny. When Clouseau leaves an office he leaves it in flames. This is the established tradition. I expect it and anticipate it and laugh my ass off when it happens. He doesn’t leave with a pen soaking a guy’s shirt.

But the rest of the preview is very good. Steve Martin is right on with the accent which is hard to pull off.

The critics hate it. Rotten Tomatoes shows the critics voting 93 to 23 against it. See it all *here*. But critics are a humorless lot. I don’t trust them very much and least of all when a sense of humor is required. I will never forget, when reviewing Police Academy 3, Roger Ebert, looking earnestly at the camera with his beady pig-eyes, wondering why they didn’t use Tim Kazurinsky more in the movie. “This is a funny guy,” he informed me and the rest of America. He was basing that, I suppose, that Kazurinsky had been a regular on Saturday Night Live, ignoring the fact that he had been kicked off for being unfunny.

I digress.

A couple of interviews in the preview made me uncomfortable. Shawn Levy (there’s a name to think about), the director, informs us that this movie won’t be just about mispronouncing words as previous Pink Panther movies had been. They had put in physical humor. Really? It made me wonder if this guy had seen any of the previous movies.

Then Steve Martin told us that Clouseau was now going to be a lot smarter than people gave him credit for. Great! They’re going to turn Clouseau into Sherlock Holmes. That will be funny. No Steve, smarter is not funny. Dumber is funny.

I hope this is a big hit. Wouldn’t it be great to have this series go on and on? It would give me great pleasure.

A Shot in the Dark was the funniest movie ever. That is the one on which the whole series is based. In the original Pink Panther Peter Sellers was a supporting actor (never mind that he stole the film). It was a David Niven, Robert Wagner movie. After that it was all Peter Sellers. It was the greatest comedy series in history.

Let’s hope this particular history can continue.

Friday, February 24, 2006



This was a bad one for the Bush administration.

How bad?

I’m reminded of a scene from GHOSTBUSTERS when Harold Ramis warns not to let the streams cross when they fire the ghost fighting weapons. “Because,” he says “it will be bad.”

Bill Murray asks him to, “Define bad.”

Ramis: “Think of the end of civilization as we know it.”

Murray: “That’s bad.”

(Maybe my dialogue is a little off.)

OK. Maybe the deal is not that bad. But it is pretty terrible for the Bush administration.

It’s funny that some Washington insiders are trying to defend it. These are the same insiders that preach to us that “perception is reality.” They are right about that and the perception here is disastrous for Bush.

Are they losing their grip? Did anyone put any thought into this thing? We can laugh at the Democrat’s focus groups and basing decisions on results obtained from them, but they sure could have used a focus group on this thing

One survey showed that Americans opposed turning over the operations of multiple ports to an Arab firm by 64% to 17%. And Democrats are seen as stronger on national security that Republicans. Could it get any worse? See more *here*.

There is no chance that this deal will go through. But the damage to the Bush administration is irreparable.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


(Even my alter-ego liked this one. [It didn’t make me hurl or give me the runs.] High praise indeed)
(This is copyrighted material. Please contact the author for permission before commercial publication.)


By Walter Guest

Short Story

Farmer spotted the stranger coming across the brown plain while he was still hours away. He stopped work now and then to gauge the stranger’s progress. The stranger never stopped or wavered in his course. He bore straight for Farmer’s plateau.

While he worked, Farmer gave thanks to The Provider. It had been eighteen years since anyone had come to the plateau. Farmer saw an occasional traveler, one only the year before, but they always bypassed his plateau in favor of others farther on.

It was mid-afternoon when the stranger started the climb up to the plateau. Farmer had already worked out what he would do and it had been a tough decision. Leaving two hours of work that would have to be caught up the next day, he put the long-bladed cutting tool on his shoulder and went to greet the stranger.

Just as the stranger reached the top of the slope, Farmer came on him from the side. “Hello,” he said when the stranger was in speaking distance.

The stranger hadn’t seen Farmer approach and started at the sound. He appeared to be startled more at the sight of the long-bladed tool on Farmer’s shoulder. “Hello,” the stranger replied.

Farmer studied the stranger’s build. He was on the slim side but fairly tall. “This is my plateau.” Farmer gestured to the fields of stalks behind him.

“I meant no harm,” the stranger said. “I will pass on to the next place.” He turned as if to start back down the slope.

“Wait,” Farmer said. “Why do you leave?”

The stranger turned back to Farmer. “I thought it was your wish.”

Farmer appeared puzzled. “Why would you think that? I wish you to stay.”

The stranger studied the big man with the long blade on his shoulder. “Then I will stay.”

“Fine,” Farmer said, not moving.

The stranger looked around nervously. “I knew someone would be here.”


This plateau is so… so… neat.”

A hint of a smile formed at the corners of Farmer’s mouth. “Not like that one over there, huh?” He indicated the nearest plateau, a few days walk away, across the brown plain.

“No… No… That one is… It looks… wild.”

“Yes.” Farmer nodded, still looking across the plain. “Wild.” He savored the word a moment.

“Not like here.”

“I’ll say not.” Farmer looked back at the stranger. “But this didn’t just happen, you know. It’s taken a lot of work to get this plateau like this.”

“It looks it.”

Farmer studied him some more, making the stranger look away. “Come,” he said, turning around abruptly and starting off. “I’ll show you.”

The stranger didn’t follow him immediately. Farmer stopped about twelve strides away and looked back. “Come, I said.”

He waited until the stranger was nearly to him before turning again and leading the way through the field.

“I have been traveling a long time,” the stranger said as they walked. “I have seen many strange lands and many strange people.”

Farmer stopped walking and gestured to the surrounding land. “This is the lower field,” he said. “I trimmed these stalks today.”

The stranger hesitated a moment before stepping over to examine the black stalks. The stubble in the ground had been left about knee high. They were about the width of a man’s leg. The recently cut stalks lay where they had fallen, on top of other stalks rotting on the ground.

“It looks like a lot of work,” the stranger said.

“Yes,” Farmer said. “Come, I’ll show you.” He started off again the same way he’d been going. The stranger followed close behind.

When they neared the place where Farmer had left off working, the stranger said, “These plateaus don’t go on and on. Three days walk back that way the land is quite different.”

Farmer stopped again. “Notice anything unusual about the way I cut those stalks?”

The stranger examined the nearest stalk. “No,” he said.

“I mean the shape of the cut.”

“Oh yes,” the stranger said. “It’s V-shaped. That is unusual.”

“Come here. I’ll show you how I do it.” Farmer walked to where he’d stopped work. The uncut stalks were about level with his eyes. The stranger noticed that the tall stalks also had a V-shaped cut on top.

“Watch this,” Farmer said. He angled his cutting tool down and easily cut halfway through the stalk at about the level of his knee. He withdrew the cutting tool and made the same cut on the other side of the stalk. The upper portion of the black stalk toppled over on the remains of other stalks of about the same length.

Farmer went on to the next stalk and cut it the same way. “Are you watching?”

“Yes.” The stranger followed him along the row of stalks.

After Farmer had cut twenty or more he said, “Here, you try one.”

The stranger looked at the cutting tool uncertainly.

“Go ahead,” Farmer said, “it won’t bite you.”

He took the tool. The handle was long so he was able to grip it with both hands.

“That’s all right,” Farmer said, “use two hands. You’ll be able to control it better at first.”

The stranger hacked awkwardly at the side of a stalk..

Farmer laughed loudly. “No, no, no. Slice,” he said, “don’t chop at it.”

“I’m afraid I wasn’t watching you very closely. My mind was on other things.”

“Here, let me show you again. See. One motion. A clean slice. Then the same thing of the other side. You try this one… That’s it. That’s it. But the slicing motion should be away from you. Start the blade near the end. Push it away from you, down and in at the same time. All one motion… See… Then you get a nice, clean cut. Try it again… Now, see, you cut way past center. Look what happens when you cut in from the other side. See? That’s sloppy.”

They worked on until the stranger came to a stalk that was only about chest high.

“Don’t cut that one,” Farmer said. “It’s too short.”

The stranger looked around. Only a few of the taller stalks were left.

When those were cut Farmer said, “That’s it. That finishes the lower field.”

“What are these then?”

“That’s the beginning of the middle field. Those stalks will be tall enough to cut tomorrow.”

The stranger looked at the cut field behind them, then at the field ahead.

“Don’t believe it, eh?” Farmer asked. “You’ll see tomorrow. There are many wonders around here. Come with me. I’ll show you more.” Farmer started off, leaving the cutting tool for the stranger to carry.

“There were people on several plateaus back the way I came.” The stranger hurried to keep up.

“I have four fields,” Farmer said without stopping or turning. “The lower field, the middle field, the upper field and the side field. Each takes a day to cut and each is cut after four days growth. You see how it all works out?”


They followed the path that separated the fields. Soon they came to a mound of earth.

“This is my burrow,” Farmer said. He watched the stranger’s face.

“Very nice,” the stranger said. His expression didn’t change.

Farmer nodded. “It’s built up a little here to keep out the runoff when it rains.”

“I see.”

“Come on down.”

The stranger followed him into the burrow. Farmer turned around in the center of the chamber and studied the stranger’s face as he saw the place for the first time.

The stranger looked around the dark chamber without expression.

“What do you think?”

The stranger nodded. “Very nice.”

The only light came from the opening.

“There’s more,” Farmer told him. “Much more.” He went to the back of the burrow.

The stranger squinted to see what was there.

Farmer reached into a niche dug into the dirt. “Ah,” he said, “The Provider is pleased.” He turned around with a white cube in his hand. “You see?”

“What is it?”

Farmer brought it closer. “Why it’s food of course. Haven’t you ever seen food before?”

“Yes. Of course. It looks like the insides of those stalks.”

“You are wrong. Once it was but now The Provider has made it into food.”

The stranger chose his words carefully. “How did he do that?”

“By taking the evil out. In the stalks it is filled with evil. Eat it then at your peril. Bring it in here and, after a few days, The Provider turns it into food.”

“It dries out?”

“The evil is removed,” Farmer said firmly. “The Provider removes the evil.” He stared at the stranger.

“I see.”

“Here, try this.” Farmer handed him the white cube. Dirt from Farmer’s hand was on it.

The stranger nibbled at a clean edge. It was a little spongy, slightly bitter and doughy tasting but not unpleasant.

“Go ahead. Eat. You must be hungry.”

The stranger ate the cube, dirt and all. “It’s good,” he said.

Farmer smiled. “Thank The Provider. With His help I could feed an army up here.”

“I can see that.”

Farmer brought more white cubes from the niche. “Here. Eat your fill. Tonight there is plenty.” He took a bite from a cube and enjoyed it loudly.

The stranger took a small bite. “Why do you make it in cubes?”

Farmer looked at him strangely. “It’s food,” he said. “Food always comes in cubes.”

“Oh, yes,” the stranger said. He ate on but so slowly that Farmer had eaten four cubes before he had finished one.

“Good, isn’t it?” Farmer reached for a fifth cube.

“Yes.” The stranger picked up another cube. “There are different foods back there, the way I came.”

“We have different foods here.’

“You have?”

“Sure. We’re eating the white. Sometimes the cubes are yellow.”

“I mean different in other ways.”

“I have more than that. Sometimes The Provider leaves gray food. That’s not so good. It’s my fault he does it. That’s a sign I’m not working as I should.”

“Cutting the stalks?”


They continued eating. Farmer finished his cube first.

“There’s only one left,” Farmer said.

“Go ahead, take it.”

“You sure you won’t want another?”

“This’ll be plenty.”

They ate in silence and finished at the same time.

“Now then,” Farmer said, “that’s what I call good food.”

“Yes,” the stranger replied. “You know, on some plateaus, they don’t cut the stalks.”

“You have any idea how long it took me to discover that V-cut I showed you today?”

“No, I don’t.”

“A long time, I can tell you that.”

“I’ll bet it did.”

“If you cut the stalks flat across they don’t grow very fast. If you cut them at an angle,” he gestured with his hands, “all the way across, they grow too fast. Only the V-cut keeps them growing at the right speed, so they reach to my eyes in four days.”

“That’s remarkable.”

“Yes,” Farmer said. “And that’s not all. The height at which you make the cut is very important too. Can’t be too low or too high. Cut them too low and you kill them.”

“You do?”

“Oh, another grows in its place, right alongside. But it’ll be thin and scrawny for a long time.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes. For a long time. So you see the result of your mistake for a long time. It’s there to remind you.”

The stranger nodded. “You’ve learned a lot.”

“Yes. You can thank that for the food we’ve had here tonight. The Provider rewards good work.”

It had become very dark in the burrow. The stranger could barely make out the opening. “Always?” he asked.


“Does The Provider always reward good work?”

“You question that?”

“No,” the stranger said quickly. “It is just that I am not familiar with many things here. Just as I knew nothing about cutting the stalks.”

“The Provider always rewards god work.”


“It’s dark now. It’s time to sleep.”

“Have you nothing to give us light in here?”

“What do you mean?”

“Something we can burn to give us heat and light.”

“Darkness is for sleeping. Why else does it get dark?”

“That’s true.”

“It’s plenty warm enough in here to sleep.”

“That’s true.”

“I’ve never had need for heat or light in here.”

“There is probably no need.”

“Of course not. Let’s sleep now. We have a busy day tomorrow. I have a big surprise for you.”

“You have?”


Farmer was already up when the opening in the burrow first began to show light. He was bustling in the back of the chamber when the stranger awoke.

“Hello,” the stranger said.

“Ah, you’re awake. Good. This is a big day for both of us. Let’s get an early start. Come on.”

Farmer was carrying a big load as he walked by the stranger and up to the entrance of the burrow. The stranger followed him out. Farmer waited just outside.

“Look what I have here.” There was a bundle at Farmer’s feet and he held a cutting tool in each hand. “This one is for you.” He held one of the tools out. “Go ahead, take it.’

The stranger took the tool.

“They are both alike,” Farmer said, “so it makes no difference.”

The stranger nodded.

“That’s quite a surprise, huh? I’ll bet you never expected that.”

“No,” the stranger said.

“Come on then. Come along. Follow me.” Farmer picked up the bundle and started up the same path that they’d come back on the previous evening. The stranger followed in silence.

“You see here,” Farmer gestured as he walked, “this is the middle field. Now the stalks are tall enough to cut.”

“They grew that much overnight?”

“You’ll get the hang of it. You’ll soon be able to know how much the stalks will grow. Look how much the ones we cut yesterday grew.”

“It’s amazing.”

“I told you. There are many wonders here.”

“Yes, you told me. And you intend to cut the entire middle field in one day?”

“It’s not hard. You’ll see.”

“Where will you start?”

”The south corner. Here it is.” Farmer stopped where the path ended at the edge of the plateau.

The stranger looked at the brown plain below.

“Now I have another surprise for you.”

The stranger was silent.

“All of this.” Farmer waved an arm to include the entire plateau. “I’m giving it all to you.”

“To me?”

“Yes. To you. All of it.” Farmer smiled and looked from the stranger to the fields and back again. “Some surprise, huh?”

“Yes it is. What will you do?”

“That plateau over there,” Farmer nodded to the nearest plateau.

“The wild one?”

“Yes..The wild one. I want to tidy it up. I’ve wanted to for some time.”

The stranger studied the plateau. “Have you been there?”

“Been there? How could I have been there? It would take days to get there and back.”

“I suppose so.”

“I never had the time. I couldn’t leave my fields,” Farmer said, “until now. Until you got here.”

“Oh, yes. I suppose so.”

“So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve got enough food in this bundle to last long enough until I can please The Provider over there. There’s more food in the burrow in case you don’t please The Provider right off here.”

The stranger nodded.

“You’ll do just fine here,” Farmer assured him. “Don’t worry about it. Wall, I have to get moving if I want to cover some distance before dark.”

Farmer waved and started down the slope, the bundle over his shoulder and the cutting tool in his hand.

The stranger watched him move all the way down the slope. He watched him start across the brown plain. He watched him until he was a little speck in the distance. Then the stranger turned and looked at the stalks in the middle field.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006



I was surprised that Valentines’ Day is a big deal here in Thailand. It’s a bigger deal than I remember it being back in San Francisco when I was growing up. And then I read that it’s catching on even in China. Read about it *here* and *here*.

Doesn’t it give you a warm feeling? Love is in the air all over the world.

Not so fast White Man.

Look at this:

Muslims in many parts of the world have come out against Valentines’ Day.

…Muslim women burnt Valentine's Day cards in Srinagar to protest against what they say irreligious celebrations in the wake of the cartoon row.

“We want to appeal to our children that you stay away from this western culture. They have made our caricature of our Prophet and now we are celebrating this Valentine Day. It's a blot on our culture,” Chief of Dukhtaran-E-Milat, Asiya Indrabi said.

Read the article *here*. There’s more *here* and *here*.

What a surprise. They ought to get together and call themselves Muslims Against Any Day. Then they could use the acronym MAAD. (That’s taken you clown.) (Oh, I didn’t know that.)

What they are protesting is anything from the west. They have been carefully taught to hate us from infanthood. Unfortunately many of their religious leaders have worked hard to keep them ignorant. Many of their schools teach nothing but religion. Religious beliefs are always the strongest among the ignorant.

I will write it again: The Muslim religion must reform itself. My most optimistic estimate for this to work out is 100 years.

I would reprint the Muhammad cartoons but I am afraid. Not for myself but for my children. I am afraid that devout Muslims might come to my house and kill my children in the name of their religion. That is how many in the world view their religion in the world today. They should be proud.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I’ve been bothered by lung congestion for years. Whenever I visited a doctor (perhaps half a dozen times in the past two decades) I mentioned it. The doctor would only give me a blank stare. A nurse asked me what color was the mucus. I wondered if she wanted to draw a picture of it.

How the hell would I know what color it was? It was in my goddamned lungs. (No, I didn’t swear in the doctor’s office.)

Anyway I got no help from them.

Then I caught this head cold that my dumb kids brought home from school. Of course I didn’t go to a doctor. (Although medical help is pretty good and very inexpensive here in Bangkok.) Doctors are for pussies. (Hey! That will look great on my headstone, “DOCTORS ARE FOR PUSSIES.”) Also, you know what you find in doctor’s offices and in hospitals? Sick people, that’s what you find. I don’t like to be around sick people. Being around my dumb kids is enough risk.

The Jungle Princess brought home some nose drops and an inhalant from our friendly, local 7-11. (They are everywhere in Bangkok.)

To make a long story short, the inhalant (Vapex) cleared up 90% of the lung congestion. It didn’t cure it. I have to use the inhalant several times a day, but the symptoms are gone!

What a simple solution.

Why the hell couldn’t the doctors have told me that?

I don’t think they approve of simple, inexpensive, non-prescription remedies.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I went to see Jackie Mason in Las Vegas. He had always been a big favorite of mine. He had been doing a one-man-show on Broadway and was just opening in Vegas. He was a big star in New York. But the theatre in Vegas was only half full for the show I went to.

That surprised me.

Jackie Mason came out and looked over the audience. Then he started chewing me out. No, not just me, the whole audience.


Because there wasn’t more of us.

Yeah, I know it sounds weird but it is absolutely true. He chewed out the people who showed up because he didn’t have a full house.

He then went through the motions and gave us a short show. At the end he gave us that Jewish kiss-off motion, something like blowing a kiss in other cultures, and walked off.

What a schmuck!

I think of that when I consider this blog. After over a year of work I get perhaps 10 visitors on a good day. Wouldn’t it be a little silly for me to chew out those ten visitors? So I decided not to do it.

So should I give it up?

I thought about it. Then I said ‘screw it.’ I’ll just keep doing it. Maybe this blog will walk into a soda fountain in Hollywood and be discovered.



PRETTY WOMAN was a movie with the most screwed up morals and message in Hollywood history and that covers a lot of history and movies. It was based on a myth and a fairy tale.

THE MYTH: “The whore with the heart of gold.”


Those are around.

No doubt about it.

But what are the chances of finding one?

A gillion to one? A kazillion to one?

No. That’s rude. But the chances are slim. And then, after you think you’ve found her, she has to fit into your life style. That is, unless you decide to try to fit into her life style. One way or another, there have to changes as in every coming together of two lives with two separate loads of baggage.

Why do women in porn often marry men in porn? If they marry at all.

The answer is obvious. No one else could cope with the baggage.

Two people “enduring” each other for a period of time is tough enough when both are pure as gold. A tainted past is something that will always be there.


That is probably the best fairy tale ever written because it encompasses the dream of so many women from childhood on.

But the image of a millionaire prince snatching them our of their trailer park is ludicrous unless he happens to be constantly drunk, such as the Dudley Moore character in ARTHUR.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie had totally screwed up morals and messages, but it was great movie-making. It is not the job of movies to enrich and enlighten the audience. It is the job of movies to entertain and make money.

And that is what PRETTY WOMAN did.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for several years taking singing lessons. Every Saturday we’d have a recital attended by singers and faculty only. If you had something ready you could try it out on that supportive audience. If you passed that test they might let you sing in a full scale recital, held once a month, in front of a real audience. That might lead to bigger things.

When I first started there I was disappointed they didn’t let me sing in the Saturday recital right away. But they let me attend so I could see and hear why. I saw and heard why.

Gerard Butler, the star, the man in the title role in the movie version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA could not have sung in those Saturday recitals. He wasn’t near good enough.

The movie has just shown on Thai cable TV here in Bangkok. I must confess it did not have my full attention. But Mr. Butler’s singing caught my attention. More than once I had to turn around from what I was doing and laugh at the TV. Where in the world did they find him? More to the point, why in the world did they hire him? Not only is his vocal quality poor, he is often off pitch. His biography (*here*) records that he was once lead singer of a rock group and that Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer, wanted that rock sound in the lead. I am wordless. I wonder if there is a back story there. There must be.

Emmy Rossum, the female lead, is a classically trained singer and has performed in nearly two dozen operas…as a child. There are children choruses and child parts in many operas. But then comes maturity and those roles dry up. Ask The Beaver.

Ms Rossum could sing in our once monthly recitals but I doubt it would lead to bigger things. Her voice was weak and a bit on the screechy side. Being in this picture might be the best thing that could have happened to her. Now she is an actress who sings a little rather than being a singer who sings a little. Now she has a future.

Not to beat a dead horse but now that American Idol is back on the air I couldn’t help wondering what they would do with this Mr. Gerard Butler, star of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. There is no way he could pass the first round. The heartless Simon would laugh at him just as I did.

I am not being a snob about this. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, is one of my all-time favorites. I listen to it regularly.

This PHANTOM does not come near that quality.

Monday, February 06, 2006


It is difficult to get the lawmakers to discuss rationally crucial matters involving the national defense of the United States. It appears that partisan politics sometime interfere. Some matters are so serious that the country should not, and probably could not, act on them without the approval of both parties. I offer this solution:

Call a caucus of senate Republicans. Have it open to the press and invite TV coverage. Let the president outline the problem and some possible courses of action. Then let the debate begin with a time limit for each speaker. Then there would be an advisory vote on a course of action.

Then ask the Democrats to caucus with the president making the same presentation and asking them for their advice. He must make the point that he and the country need their support because it is impossible to proceed with one political party opposing every action. Then the Democrats can take an advisory vote on a course of action.

When you are in the right your best weapons are honesty and openness.

When you are in the wrong the worst thing that can happen to you is exposure.

Who could argue with that?

Saturday, February 04, 2006


This cartoon crap is just a tip of the iceberg. The culture clash will be enormous. The Muslim religion right now thrives on hatred and ignorance. This is a big advantage when recruiting volunteers to blow themselves up. It is a disadvantage when trying to compete with others in any other way.

To reduce the huge potential harm that could occur in this clash, one of these civilizations will have to reform. It will have to be the Muslims. It will take perhaps centuries.

To understand the Muslims better, one has to study the history of the Christian religion. It went through an era of navel gazing love of ignorance and hatred. There was a large segment that declared that the bible was the only book necessary to life. Other books were burned. They went through their witch-hunting and inquisition.

Far more people have been killed in the name of the Christian religion than by the war-like Muslims. Think of the entire civilizations that were wiped out in South America. The French conquered all of Indochina on the pretext of protecting a handful of their missionaries and a few dozen converts. Look where that led.

The Muslims right now are where the Christians were in the dark ages. It took them hundreds of years to emerge from that.

In this day of instant communications, the time frame for the Muslims to emerge from their dark age should be much faster.

Perhaps by the 22nd century.

That is my most optimistic estimate.


Superbowl Sunday is finally here. Actually it’s on at 6:30 Monday morning here in Bangkok. When did this football season start? Seems like years ago. When did the baseball season end? Seems like decades ago.

Looks like a good match up. Seattle looks like a winner on paper. But watching Pittsburgh in their last three games, they look like a sure winner on the field. Would I give the 4 ½ points? That’s a tough one. I wouldn’t bet either way because I don’t see an edge there. If it’s just for fun, sure, I’d give it, as long as it doesn’t involve real money.

But the big news is that the first spring training game is less than 4 weeks away.

I see that the Cincinnati Reds just signed their star shortstop, Felipe Lopez. My question was: Who the hell is Felipe Lopez? So I looked him up. Turns out he was a star. For a shortstop he turned in a superstar season. I am hopelessly out of touch.

30 teams are too many to follow. When there were 16 teams, I could name you the regulars and much of the bench of every team. Being a sports and math nerd, baseball was a perfect fit for me. Then I started going overseas and the baseball map started changing.

While living in a tent in northwest Iran, imagine my surprise when I learned that the Giants had moved to my hometown, San Francisco. That literally was unbelievable for a while.

I came home from one of my tours in Viet Nam to discover the Houston team was doing well with a bunch of “unknowns.” That cheapened the game for me when “unknowns” such as Joe Morgan were beating established teams.

I was out of touch then and I’m out of touch now.

30 teams are too many to follow.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Here’s a tip for tourists:

There’s snake farm prominently shown on most maps of Bangkok.

Forget about it. I thought it would be fun to take everyone there one weekend. One of the problems with that is that snake farm is closed on weekends. Seems it is adjacent to a hospital and the weekend crush didn’t please the people who run the hospital.

So I went there alone on a weekday.

The subway runs alongside it but the snake farm is almost precisely between stations necessitating a long walk or a short taxi ride after detraining. Better to forget the subway and take a taxi directly there.

The farm itself is pretty bleak. There were a few cages and pits containing critters. There was a very learned lecture and presentation of various snakes.

It was informative.

It was scholarly.

It was like being in school again.


And the single tiny refreshment stand had no beer!

No only that, I got a contemptuous look after asking for one.


Obviously that was not my kind of place.

But take heart snake and beer fans, and even those of you who couldn’t care less.

There is a snake farm in Bangkok not shown on any map that is well worth seeing. I couldn’t tell you where it is but I can tell you precisely how to get there and getting there is half the fun.

Go to the southern end of the Sky Train (BTS). This is called the Saphen Taksin station or S6. This will put you at the Sathorn Pier on the Chao Phraya River which is the main river flowing through the city.

From here you can take a water taxi that will take you to a snake farm much superior to the one described above. Several signs advertising these taxis are on display at the pier.

At this snake farm there is also a lecture and demonstration but with a lot of scary showmanship. Our kids were entranced. There were many more pits and cages. Our 8-year-old was allowed to play with a little monkey. That was memorable.

There were extensive gift shops with reasonable prices. Most important, there were plenty of refreshments including beer.

Who could ask for anything more?

But there was more.

The water taxi stopped at a couple of places where masses of fish were thrashing about while feeding on bread crumbs thrown to them.

We also pulled over for a floating vendor from whom we bought ice cream for all including the water taxi driver.

The whole thing was 4 or 5 hours well spent.