Archive for May, 2008
Mr. Apidet was dumped outside a rescue service office in a bad way. Broken skull, broken neck and bruising over his face consistent with some form of attack. His wife confirmed that he was the sort of guy who spend his free time pissing people off, and consequently had many enemies.
But, and here is the solution to the mystery, an unknown person had called Mr. Apidet’s wife and told her that her husband had fallen out of a coconut tree. Shortly afterwards, the body was dumped at the rescue office.
Along come the local police who weigh up the evidence. Indeed, when Mr. Apidet was not busy angering all he met, he apparently liked to climb coconut trees. Presumably he could hurl abuse over a wider area from on high. That clinched it for the cops, he must have fallen and accumulated the injuries on the way to the ground. Case closed. Plonkers.
How low can Hollywood go?
Showing at the local cinema, a presumably perverted tale of water-soaked prostitutes, disguised as family entertainment. “Rated PG for some action/peril, mild language and brief smoking.” Yeah, right.
The action/peril no doubt involves hot whore lesbian aquatic action scenes where the peril factor comes from the likely transmission of STDs. The connotations of the question “where did you just put that bar of soap?” could only be construed as mild language by those with no imagination; and I bet the “brief smoking” does not involve tobacco products.
I am outraged. Or maybe mistaken.
When it comes to breakfast, I am a creature of habit. A banana, some Alpen and a yoghurt all mashed up together does me nicely. My wife’s breakfast varies, depending on how convinced she is that she is on a diet. Right now she thinks she is dieting hard, and has a cup of Ovaltine for breakfast. Totally inadequate, which means she then eats a whole lot more during the course of a day, but there is no point in my telling her. Being Asia, most other meals involve rice or noodles. Overall, there is no place in our daily diet for bread. Which is why we spent 7,000 baht on a bread machine this week.
It was not exactly an impulse buy, we have hovered around them on the shelves for months, and then walked away. I know why I want one. I love the idea of a machine where you stick in a variety of apparently disparate ingredients, leave it to whir and burble for a few hours, and out comes bread. How clever is that?!
There is also the promise of the homely, comforting smell of freshly baked bread. Never mind whether you eat it, just enjoy the smell. I had a similar idea with cats, that they would bring a homely feel to our abode. In reality of course, they claw the furniture, vomit on the carpet and sleep on my head, how homely is that? They do smell nice though.
Still, logic was finally defeated and we came home with a big shiny machine with a few buttons to push and large container to hold the soon-to-be-bread components. Ignoring the recipes contained in the bread maker manual, I popped onto the internet and printed out a recipe for raisin bread. Three hours later and I was burning my fingers extracting what looked like a slightly crumpled brown hat from the steaming machine. One end had collapsed and I searched the manual for resolutions. The answer was to add more liquids, less liquids or alternative quantities of yeast; clearly experimentation would be needed. Cutting a slice confirmed that the bread had a molecular weight equivalent to lead. It needed a considerable coating a marmalade to make it edible.
The next morning my wife proclaimed she would have a go. Once the machine started mixing, the resulting goo looked far too liquid (there is a little window you can look through to study the impending culinary disaster), and she declared the attempt a failure. But three hours later, a fine looking loaf appeared, and a slice did not require a fork lift to carry. She had some with her Ovaltine for breakfast, I am still awaiting a suitable hungry moment to try it out.
I give the bread machine a week before it joins some other must-have kitchen appliances in the dust gathering competition. We never eat waffles, so I think we will get a waffle machine next.
The previous post highlighted the despair of the emotionally and financially embittered targets of bar girl affection. The girl takes the house and the man is left on the street with nothing.
Bill Manuel, an Irish gentleman, had bought his wife a lovely house and she had, in time honoured tradition, thrown him out. She had moved in three of her relatives to occupy the space and was courting another foreign gentleman.
While she was out on the town with her new suitor, Mr. Manuel popped round to the house he had bought, and set in on fire. The once loving wife returned to a pile of ashes and three shaken relatives who demanded to know where they were going to sleep that night.
Pattaya is a very popular destination for the suicidal. Maybe people don’t arrive with the intention of topping themselves, but they drift, or jump, into a hedonistic lifestyle which ends in heartache, an empty wallet, and eventually suicide.
The potential victims are easy enough to spot. Sad, lonely blokes from the west, oozing gratitude for the companionship of the pig-eyed, avaricious bar girl on their arm. Undying love is traded and soon the life savings are being “invested” in a house for the girl. Maybe a motorbike or car to go with it; and anything else that the loving, attentive girl can extract until the funds run dry.
Once no more goodies are forthcoming, the girl will lose interest and the man will be evicted to make room for the Thai husband or boyfriend that has been lurking in the background posing as a brother; or maybe another foreign target to help fill the depleting coffers.
The sad, lonely bloke is now even more sad and lonely, and broke. Suicide is a popular way out. In some cases there are somewhat sinister circumstances surrounding the suicide; such as the man who was found with a gunshot to the head and his hands tied together! The cops are prepared to bend possibilities beyond what is reasonable to save themselves the hassle of investigating a murder, so almost every death defaults to suicide. If President Kennedy had been shot in Thailand rather than Dallas, it would have been a clear case of suicide.
The most popular suicide method is jumping off a tall building, and there are regular reports in the local paper. The latest was a Russian man with cocaine in his hotel room, Viagra in his shirt pocket, and his face splattered over the tarmac having jumped from the ninth floor. There was a chair on his balcony; he was either standing on it for a better view and slipped, or was fuelled up on cocaine and decided he could fly. Or maybe his date for the evening had turned out to be a man in a dress. Anything can happen here, and everything does. Sometimes it just becomes too much.
The Eurovision Song Contest has long been a joke. Crap songs by ridiculous artists, it may be considered as entertainment by some, but as a source of musical talent; forget it.
Sad then, that the Irish entry this year failed to make the cut. The singer was Dustin and the song was a haunting melody called Irelande Douze Pointe. Dustin is hugely popular in Ireland and has released six best-selling albums. Dustin is also a turkey glove puppet. Personally I would have voted for a puppet turkey with a hand up it’s arse, this is the sort of act that should win the Eurovision Song Contest.
Still smarting over the exclusion of the turkey, Terry Wogan covered this year’s contest and was further dismayed when Britain’s entry, a dirge sung by an ex-dustman with the charisma of a house brick, came last. The winner was Russia with a song produced by Timbaland and sung by Dima Bilan, a hugely popular artist in Eastern Europe. The massive voting by Eastern block countries for a professionally produced song by an artist they knew, in a language they could understand, was clearly political voting; according to Sir Terry. Unlike the douze pointe that the Irish entry would have received from Turkey had it made the cut into the final.
A visit to Klong Suan market is a pleasant way to spend some time. According to local naming, the market is more than 100 years old, and parts of of it certainly look it. An extended wooden building next to a small river, a rambling home to hundreds of small shops and restaurants. In fact, given the amount of cooking going on, it’s hard to believe that the whole lot hasn’t been razed to the ground at least once in the last hundred years.
The atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly. I was the only non-Thai and was greeted everywhere with smiles. Prices are ridiculously cheap. After a couple of hours of walking around we stopped for a traditional Thai iced coffee, served in an old style glass and supported by a china pot full of tea which you pour onto the ice after you have finished your coffee and freshen your mouth. Cost, 10 baht each!
Whatever the price, I was not so impressed with the duck soup.
“The miracle of birth” is all very well; but it’s just biology. Given enough years, evolution can come up with just about anything; apart from the telephone.
It must have been sometime in my youth when I was amazed by the fact that my mother could talk for hours to her friends via a bakelite device which was joined to the wall by a couple of wires. It was the wires in the wall that really got to me, even more than my mother’s ability to talk endlessly; and I am still astonished that a bit of crappy wire is all you need to connect to the outside world. Of course, nowadays, that same bit of wire will connect you into the wide wide world of web and, apart from making phones calls, you can browse stuff, and download illegal music, movies and hard core porn (not that I do, it’s just an example).
The sense of techno-wonder has not left me and I have spent much of my life being enthralled by gadgets, and indeed my home is a shrine to many mini-wonders which have been acquired, played with, and later discarded or broken, or both.
One gadget that had never really interested me was the mobile phone. Where were the wires for God’s sake? Transmitting conversations through the air somehow seemed less clever than ramming them through a length of wire. Eventually I succumbed and purchased a mobile phone, mainly so I could call for help if I found myself dying in a Bangkok traffic jam, but it was a basic model and the last one I owned had been in my possession for five years. But then my gadget world changed last birthday when my wife handed me a small box in which nestled an iPhone.
You can stick your Nokias where the sun don’t shine, the iPhone is a work of design genius. But the business model for selling them may be less so from a consumer standpoint, especially when it means you can’t buy them officially in Thailand. But that didn’t stop the enterprising Thais. Within weeks of release, iPhones were flooding into the country, being hacked so they would work with local service providers, and being sold at a handsome premium.
Apart from being a phone, which is of little interest to me because I don’t like talking to people and have no friends, the iPhone plugs into my car stereo and provides me with music on the move. I transfer downloaded movies and UK TV programs onto it and watch them when I am stuck somewhere with no entertainment (in the middle of a supermarket pushing a trolley, for example). And, free from the need to find a wifi point, I can check my mails and browse the web anywhere there is a phone signal, and at speeds that beat many of the wireless services available in Thailand. As someone who needs to be constantly entertained, even when entertainment is not normally available (see supermarket reference above), the iPhone has been a boon.
An advantage of having a hacked iPhone is that you are free to add the hundreds of add-on programs that have been developed for it. This week I discovered one which, although essentially useless, re-awakened my techno-wonder for a while. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tune Wiki.
Add this little program to your iPhone or Touch and, when you play your music, it will go somewhere and find the lyrics, and display them to you in sync with the music. Want to sing along to the likes of R.E.M.. but have no idea what Mr. Stipe is on about? Just sing along using Tune Wiki.
In the above case I am deciphering Radiohead, and from the photo, realising that my iPhone needs a clean.
OK, it may not do much, but how the hell does it sync it time with the music? And of course, if you are accessing their servers to get to the lyrics, they can locate you on a map and allow other people to view who is listening to what, and where, at any moment in time. Which means I can call in an airstrike on the the idiot in Bangkok who is destroying his/her ears by listening to James Blunt.
When I first met Doctor Sathit I felt he was a little lacking in the bedside manner department. “You have a grave disease” he informed me gravely. Thanks for breaking the news gently doc, I thought, and enquired as to how grave it actually was. Should I start planning my funeral now or wait until after the weekend?
Turns out that what he was telling me was that I had Graves disease which is not life threatening, but not curable and extremely unpleasant. As well as putting your thyroid into overdrive, the muscles behind the eyes inflame and swell, providing an unusual popeye effect and spectacular double vision. The American approach to managing this seems to involve cutting out some of your thyroid or attacking it with radiation therapy, with potentially nasty side effects. Dr. Sathit was having none of that, and over the next four years he fed me little white pills and gradually brought my thyroid under control.
Over that time, the eyes decided to go their own separate ways in my skull, such that it was difficult to know which of the two images being fed into my brain was correct. This was particularly challenging when driving at speed, at night, in the rain in the narrow streets of Bangkok. I developed a strategy that officially involved aiming between the two images in my head; but more often than not involved just closing my eyes when I got to really tricky bits. Some alcohol in the system seemed to help reduce the overall feeling of impending disaster; and indeed very few people were knocked off their motorbikes.
Once the disease had burned out, I took a trip to Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK where a very nice lady disconnected all the muscles attached to my right eye and sewed them back on again in a different place. When I woke up, both my eyes were pointing in the same direction again. This was a great operation to describe in detail at parties later, usually when little melon balls were served as a starter; although I was recently upstaged by a gentleman whose penis exploded during the act of lovemaking. But he had to hold that story until the banana fritters came for dessert.
Although the eyes are sorted, the thyroid still needs a regular check to make sure that it is not contemplating misbehaving again. So every six months I make a trip to Bangkok to see Dr. Sathit who checks my blood and generally pokes around to make sure all is in order. He charges a wallet-emptying 600 baht for his time, worth every baht for all he has done for me, and the smile he gives when he tells me everything is OK.
This visit I decided to stay overnight and checked into The Davis Hotel in Suhkumvit Soi 24. At the time it was being built there was speculation that The Davis could end up being a pretty seedy place; but it is actually a very smart boutique hotel with spacious rooms, a good enough breakfast and room rates which are very competitive for Bangkok.
The concern over the seediness arose because of the owner, Chuvit Kamolvisit, one of the more colourful characters in Thailand. Chuvit made his money with a chain of massage parlours where you would certainly get more than a massage (a cup of tea perhaps?). In 2003 there was a dawn raid by assorted thugs on an area of land that he owned which was occupied by stall holders and small shops. In a couple of hours, the whole area was razed to the ground in order to make way for a new development. Something of an outcry from those occupying the land who thought they had valid leases but were left with a pile of broken bricks. Arrested by the police, Chuvit spent a month in prison which rather pissed him off. Upon his release he provided lists of policemen that he had been bribing over the years, and even a list of prison officers he had bribed during his month in prison! Some of the police were named as having received free massages (and cups of tea). The fact that Chuvit had been bribing people did not seem to be of concern, but some token policemen were locked up for a while.
Deciding to enter politics, he failed to get elected as Bangkok governor. But he wangled his way into parliament and made headlines on the first day by smashing a jacuzzi tub outside the parliament building, and then lying in a casket. Apparently this was to show he was no longer operating in the sex industry and was going to be a good boy. He was thrown out of parliament shortly after. Chuvit enjoys the limelight and stirs things up in a most entertaining manner; we need more like him.
As I was travelling alone, the trip to Bangkok took about half an hour less than it normally does, due mainly to the lifting of the wife-imposed speed limit. There were occasional hindrances, like this not at all dangerously stacked van in the outside lane.
I would like to point out that “not at all dangerous” was also how I would describe my taking of this photograph, I had the other hand on the wheel at all times and only looked through the viewfinder briefly. Just as well it had not been a mobile phone, the police would have been right onto me.
Arriving in good time in Bangkok, I decided to go shopping, but could not decide between a Lamborghini or a Spyker, so I had a cappuccino instead and pondered how they get the cars onto the second floor of a shopping mall.
Then on to Central World which is a fairly new mall and absolutely massive. It used to be smaller and called the World Trade Centre and the day after 9/11 (or 11/9 if you are from Europe) a friend of mine was on a bus in Bangkok and heard two women talking. They were on the way to the World Trade Centre because they heard it had been bombed and they wanted to take a look…
The WTC (Bangkok edition) was not the easiest place to navigate. There were curving corridors and no obvious design that would help the average shopper find their way around. It has now been absorbed into Central World which has retained the same design approach; meaning that once you are in, it can be very hard to find your way out again. Probably intentional.
I finally escaped and discovered that the secret to global warming is apparently sex.
I took a look around the back of the pillar, just in case the scientific basis was more fully expounded; but there was no further information. Never mind, it sounds plausible and I fully support the concept. A shame that the guy with the exploding penis can’t help resolve this crisis.
If I am being kind, the latest Thai prime minister can be described as “a character.” The people’s choice upon a return to democracy, Samak Sundaravej is not obviously an intellectual giant; but he does provide regular entertainment for the media.
The latest upset relates to the cancellation of his cooking show by the Election Commission. Yes, Samak finds time to run the country and host his own cooking show called Chim Pai Bon Pai, which translates somewhat oddly into “tasting while complaining.” Samak is complaining about the show being cancelled, the Election Commission argues that hosting a show qualifies as being employed, and you can’t be employed and be prime minister at the same time; so nah nah nah.
Samak is also complaining about a suspicious “man with a receding hairline” who is apparently attempting to sabotage the government. A Thai newspaper was quick to respond with a photo of a bunch of prominent people with receding hairlines who are indignant at the implication that their lack of hair means they are trying to get rid of our cooking show host; sorry, Prime Minister.
Rumours abound that another coup may be on the way. If there is, I hope they take it a bit more seriously around here; last time we never saw a tank or even a soldier.