Bangkok Between Burgundy and Boating

A Brief Return 'Home'

Between 'Wat' Charee Visits France and August in Bangkok Part II

August 12-17, 2000

Saturday, August 12, 2000

And, according to the Public Relations Office of The Oriental, today is Her Majesty the Queen's 68th Birthday. Here in Thailand, that also makes it National Mother's Day. As expected, banks, government offices and schools will be closed. Department stores, anxious to do "nothing to affect your shopping plans," will remain open.


DIED 1253

Clare, the daughter of the Count of Sasso Rosso, was converted by St. Francis and became his most intimate friend. Especially towards the end, he often came to the terribly austere little convent and sat beside her in the garden - the middle-class genius with the noblewoman, the defeated reformer with the representative on earth of his Lady Poverty, the poet with his dove of pure silver.

For thirty years the pope would not authorize her order, the Poor Clares, because of the pitiless way of life on which she insisted.

In her old age, when her convent was invaded by Saracens, she rose from her sick-bed, knelt on the threshold, and sang to them appropriate menaces against the heathen out of the Old Testament. It must have been an unearthly thing to see and hear; professional invaders though they were, the Saracens took fright and fled.

Flight MapLast evening ... actually late in the afternoon ... we left Paris. Thai's fleet of 747s comes west daily from Bangkok as non-stop Trans-Asian sleepers. Leaving Bangkok near midnight, they arrive in the Londons, in the Parises, in the Stockholms and in the Frankfurts at about breakfast time. Turned around, they nose back to Bangkok, again as sleepers for most of the way. Now going east, time is collapsed by a factor of about two ... causing the sun to appear to set at twice its normal speed.

With four hours of the flight ahead of me, I obsessed on the little moving map.

Sunday, August 13, 2000

NEWNES, with pre- and post- war deaths:

If yesterday was pure NEWNESIAN, then today is pristine Wescottian, for sure:


A schoolmaster whose pupils stabbed him to death with their pens.

Whether Wescott's research left him with nowhere else to go…or, he felt that the uniqueness of this death was enough…or, he just didn't care…we'll never know. However, this was one of those days when he gave us two lives:

John Berhmans
1599 - 1621

This Belgian boy took vows at the early age of ten. He did not want to live long, and died at twenty-two, without seeming to have been ill. He was exceedingly beautiful, and the Romans loved him for it - which is the reason that he is revered now all over the world.

So, what is happening?

Obviously, I am back at The Oriental. Nothing changed while I was away; all the buildings are in their assigned spots, as are the people. Sure, work on the top floors of the River Wing goes on ... but, most of that is hidden by the construction drapes. Though, there are a couple of hints as to what the river facing suites will see: more of the river ... and more of it from different angles.

Last night Watcharee went back to work.

Though much of the world's attention has been hugged by the recall of trillions of tires made by the Harvey Firestone factory in America, Calbee Foods in Tokyo couldn't care less:


Tokyo - A dead lizard has triggered a mass recall of 62,000 bags of potato chips in Japan, an official said yesterday. The lizard was discovered on Aug. 9 by a woman in Tokyo when she opened her bag of garlic butter-flavoured potato chips made by Calbee Foods, said Calbee spokesman Hirofumi Noine. The lizard was 15cm long. "In addition to the lizard, she told us there were three faeces by the lizard in the bag. We confirmed that too," the spokesman said. "We suspected the lizard had been alive for a while in the bag." - AFP

Also in today's Bangkok Post:


Riyadh, AP - Saudi Arabia yesterday beheaded two Thai men who were convicted of drug trafficking.

Kanok Boonsodsai and Ansawan Song1 were executed in the western city of Jeddah after being convicted of smuggling hashish, the Saudi interior ministry said. It did not indicate the quantity of hashish.

Yesterday's executions bring to at least 85 the number of people beheaded in the kingdom this year. At least 99 people were executed last year.

Executions are carried out with a sword in a public square. Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law which prescribes death sentences for murder, rape, drug trafficking and armed robbery.

1 Good grief ... could this be my tailor, A. Song? He is working on another jacket for me ... this is horrible!

Monday, August 14, 2000

Do you remember THE FIRST CUCKOO? A "selection of the most witty amusing and memorable letters to The Times"? From 1900 - 1975?

As is my wont when filling space, NEWNES and Wescott are always at the ready. For something fresher of news, it is the International Herald Tribune or a local rag. But, for a classic toilet read there is nothing like THE FIRST CUCKOO.

From Sir Nicholas Grattan-Doyle
[Unionist MP for Newcastle-on-Tyne (North) 1918-40]


In these days of wars and rumors of wars, much that would otherwise be of moment passes unnoticed. But food is always of interest, so I crave courtesy to propound this question to those among your readers who are still, in spite of vitamin fiends and slimming devotees, among the rapidly diminishing band once known as gourmets - what is the ideal meal?

Sir Frederick Keeble has just told us that no one has enjoyed a perfect meal since our first parents were expelled from the vegetarian bliss of Eden. On the other hand, two notable banquets - 'dinners delectable' I have seen them called - have just been held in Bath, the first in memory of the author of 'Notes on a Cellar Book,' George Saintsbury, the second the annual dinner of the Wine and Food Society, which would indicate that fine feeding, which the two societies exist to encourage, is not yet a lost art. I append the menus for the information of the gastronomically inclined.

Is either the ideal meal? Is there an ideal meal? In what meal, if any, can the succulent steak and the Roast Beef of Old England claim to be included? And when, if ever, may we expect to see the menu of even the 'posh' dinner - the idiom of the younger generation inevitably creeps in - written in English?

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
November 4, 1935

Saintsbury Club Dinner

La Tortue Royale
Harvey's Sherry

Les Filets de Sole Nantua
Berncastler, 1921

Le Ris-de-Veau en Cocotte
Chateau Cheval Blanc, 1923

Le Perdreau roti sur canapé
La Salade Parisienne
Clos de Vougeot, 1911

La Bombe Nesselrode
Chateau d'Yquem, 1921

Les Delices Edenmore
Cockburn, 1912

Sercial Madeira, 1850

Wine and Food Society Dinner

La Veloute de Tomates
La Consomme Madrilene
Manzanilla Sherry

Les Blanchailles Diablees
Le Supreme de Turbotin Florentine
Liebfraumilch Imperial Silver Jubilee, 1929

Le Selle d'Agneau, persillee
Les Haricots Verts
Chateau Clos Fourtet, 1917

Le Faisan Roti a la Perigourdine
Aloxe Corton, 1919

La Bombe Arlequin
Les Friandises
Martinez, 1908

Dear reader, exactly one month ago Annie had a birthday. And, according to NEWNES, exactly 960 years ago Duncan I, King of Scotland, was murdered. One week and one day from today I shall tie these two events together.

NEWNES, reading headstones:

As did William Randolph Hearst (1951), and Bertold Brecht (1956).

Turning toward cribs:

As was:

'Events' that NEWNES likes for this day:

Completing the trilogy with Wescott:

DIED 357

A priest who opposed Pope Liberius. Apparently the latter was willing that the heretical Emperor Constantius should put him to death. They cut out his tongue, but he was able to speak without it.

This morning the Bangkok Post, in keeping with its fascination with all things Norwegian, carried this Reuters item on its front page (above the fold!):


Oslo - A Norwegian man briefly became the richest person in the world after a mystery bank error dumped 9,999,999,973,885.24 Norwegian kroner (around US$1,122 billion or 44,880 billion baht) into his account.

The Norwegian daily, Verdens Gang said Ole Andresen, 29, from Oslo, noticed the astronomical sum when checking his account via the Internet and reported it to his bank, Den norske Bank (DnB).

DnB, which said it had no explanation for the error, withdrew the fortune. The cash would far eclipse the wealth of the world's richest man, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. - Reuters

Expanding its interest to all things European, the Bangkok Post moves from money to sex:


Phnom Penh, AFP - Cambodian police acting on a tip-off from United Nations human rights workers raided a franchise of a major US hotel chain yesterday to free six European women caught up in a human trafficking ring.

The women from Romania and Moldavia aged between 18 and 23 were being held Sex Slavesin rooms at the Best Western hotel where they were forced to work as prostitutes for businessmen and top government officials, police said.

"We received a call regarding the girls that they wanted to be rescued and we asked for intervention from the deputy prosecutor this morning and they have been every cooperative," said Marlene Aljeos, head of the monitoring and protection unit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Phnom Penh.

"A family member in Romania got in touch with the UN yesterday," she said, adding one woman they had expected to find was missing.

Another rights worker said the missing woman, a Moldavian, was currently with a senior government official.

"One of the girls is still missing, but we have confirmed she was taken away for the weekend by a very senior government official."

"We are working on getting her back now, but it is very delicate."

Ms Alejos said the woman told her they began their journey from Eastern Europe voluntarily, believing they were going to work as dancer.

Police detained Chinese-Canadian hotelier and owner Richard Cheung as well as his Singaporean manager.

I might as well finish this day with the words of others; I did start it that way.

It's only of late that Time and Newsweek have felt the need to profile the lives of contemporaries; this is thoroughly understandable ... as what great national weekly wants to be seen as putting its stamp of approval on someone who might turn sour ... or worse yet ... not turn at all?

But way back in the teen years of the last century The Onion was doing just that. Admittedly, some of its 'profiles' had already made a name for themselves, but who was to say that some of them might just go bad before they died ... and really mess things up for those who said good things in print about them.

Anyway, The Onion took a big chance with Marie Curie and Gertrude Stein ... but, it came out 'smelling like a rose' on at least one of these ("Ha Ha, Ha" would have laughed Miss Stein).

(Hint, Hint, Fellows!)

On both sides of the Atlantic, young gallants are all a-twitter about Gertrude Stein, one of America's most eligible expatriates. GertrudeAdmired as much for her feminine charms as for her experimental prose poems such as "Sacred Emily" and "Pink Melon Joy," Stein continues to captivate many a man.

Perhaps it is that blockish figure which attracts the eye, such a lovely sight given the skinny, underfed look that's increasingly in vogue. Perhaps it's the sack-like dresses of coarse fabric she wears which intrigue artists and avant-garde gentlemen. Whatever the elements in Stein's style, they are literally devastating!

Adding to Gertrude's charm is the company she keeps, including one Alice B. Toklas, a bewitching brunette in her own right. Even if a young wooer should fail to win Gertrude's heart (an all-to-common occurrence!), the chance of a tryst with the lovely Alice is nothing to sneeze at.

Her appeal is undeniable, her work unexplainable - "a rose is a rose is a rose," indeed! We'll believe it only if you're writing about yourself, Gertie!

Part Four in a Series: Marie Curie

To set your eyes upon some of France's most lovely ladies, stop frequenting the ballrooms of Paris and begin searching the scientific laboratories! With smooth ivory skin and breath-taking almond-shaped eyes, Madame Marie Curie, our day's most learned and lovely lady, spends her nights not with her husband, but with a microscope as her companion.

Madame Curie, bedecked with silken locks which cascade upon her well framed shoulders like rivulets of spring snowmelt, was awarded Nobel's Prize for Chemistry after isolating pure radium. MarieAnd isolation seems to be the word for Marie, after the death-by-carriage loss of her husband, Pierre, in 1906. This quaint creature will be quite a discovery for the next man who can woo her favorably.

Ever since her childhood in Warsaw, petite Marie had a penchant for mathematics and physics. With the strong and wise Pierre and able handed Henri Becquerel to instruct her behind the closed laboratory doors, Marie quickly learned more than mere Chemistry.

Now her daughter Irene, barely in double-figured years, is already following in her mother's airy footsteps. This rosy-cheeked debutante says she wants to be scientific too! Let's see if a young lad sweeps away this comely modernistic lass first!

Some have speculated it is Madame Curie's constant contact with the newly discovered chemical elements polonium and radium that give her her ideal, slender figure, stunning snow-white countenance, and alluring lassitude. It won't be long until all the ladies of Paris are carrying radium brooches to bring about this very effect!

To bring a proper end to things, here is Watcharee to say good-bye.

Tuesday, August 15, 2000

NEWNES, had he given it some thought, would have trotted out the theory that a lot of mothers timed the birth of their own precious children to coincide neatly with the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. And, if that wasn't possible, surely then, a number of important deaths must have been 'shirttail' deaths, if not outright 'copycat' deaths.

But, before rolling out this list of Mary-fawners and Blessed Virgin wannabes please take a peek at a bone. Mary's FingerThis is not an ordinary bone, the likes of which can be found by the billions in cemeteries the world over. No, dear reader, this one is a 'relic!' And not just a 'leftover' from any old body. No sir, it's a bona fide bone from that 'other' Mary ... that Mary from the far left side of the bell-shaped curve; way out there at the tip of the taper. While our Lord's mom was trying to figure how it all happened, this little Mary was heaving out Oscar grade moans, wails and screeches along with doing some serious claw damage to the bedding.

Anyway, this is Mary's finger bone.1 It now rests inside a pillar, inside a church, inside Vezelay, inside Burgundy, inside France. Garnished with gold and pearls it is still pretty gross: odd shaped, chipped and spongy looking. And, if you believe that this Mary gave birth to a couple of Christ's children ... well then, where this finger has been will surely turn you off your early morning communion wafer.

1 This church in Vezelay is also the home of one of Mary's other bones: a shinbone from the looks of it. Coming from a boring bit of the body it has little to tell.

Back to the free-riders:

Sticking with the 'body and blood' theme:


During the persecutions of Valerian, this Roman acolyte was taking the last sacrament to some condemned Christians. A heathen crowd gathered around him, curious to know what he was carrying. Lest the wine and wafers be made fun of, he quickly swallowed them, and his perishable body suffered for the imperishable body of God inside it: they stoned and beat him to death.

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1950: New Dogma

ROME - Pope Pius XII will proclaim solemnly on Nov. 1 that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is present bodily as well as spiritually in Heaven, the Vatican disclosed. The doctrine will be the first new Roman Catholic dogma in 80 years. The ceremony is expected to be the most important of the 1950 Holy Year. The announcement followed years of discussion among Catholic bishops, theologians and laymen, some of whom argue that the dogma should not now be proclaimed because of the danger of widening the gulf between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians at a time when progress is being made toward the reunion of Christendom.

Oh and Ah

Good morning! It's a beautiful day in Bangkok. Last night a rainstorm swept through and washed the air clean.

Watcharee, on the right ... and her friend Oh,2 on the left ... say goodbye. It's time for their dinner break; they are headed to the staff canteen for a sardine salad and a lobster curry. Though I have never been there, I'm told that the food in this 10th Oriental restaurant is very good.

2 But a different Oh from the one you have met on these pages before. Parenthetically, I have met many Thai 'vowel' girls (Ah, Oh, Noo, but never a consonant girl.

And, now for something entirely different!

Wednesday, August 16, 2000 (A Full Moon)

Full Moon

I guess this is an edgy time of the year for everyone ... everywhere.

For births and deaths NEWNES looks under rocks:

Wescott's mounting evidence suggests that the line between being saintly and being just plain nuts is a very fine one:

Roch, or Rock
DIED 1337

This rich young Frenchman had a birthmark in the shape of a star on his chest, and it appears to have had a great effect on his imagination. Pitying mankind, he became a sort of doctor, a specialist in the plague. When he caught it himself, his dog fed him and an angel nursed him. In pictures he is always lifting up his clothes to show something on his body - it may be a plague spot, it may be the birthmark.

He is a favourite patron of the sick.

(Watcharee: reading aloud from a piece of paper): "Have you previously visited the Shengen State?"

(Watcharee: continuing to read aloud): "When did you last visit the Shengen State?"

(Alf: looking up from whatever he was doing): "What are you reading?"

(Watcharee: putting the paper down on the bed): "The application from Germany."

(Alf: only mildly curious): "What do you mean?"

(Watcharee: as if talking to a child): "The Germans want to know if I have been to the Shengen State."

(Alf: mildly irritated by what is obviously her mispronunciation of the name of a sovereign nation ... and, sniffing confidence that he'd be able to set her right with just a glance at the paper): "Let me take a look."

(Alf: reading and rereading the questions…then flipping to the front of the document to make sure that the paper is in fact an application for a visa to visit Germany): "What the fuck ..."

(Watcharee: expecting something more from Alf than "What the fuck ..."): "What does it mean?"

(Alf: momentarily wondering if this was some sick trick on the part of xenophobic borderstompenfuhermeisters to keep non Aryans out of the Fatherland): "This is so weird. I've never heard of this Shengen State thing before in my whole life. It sounds like some Middle Kingdom in feudal China. Or a Japanese fiefdom."

(Watcharee: sighing and putting papers back in her file): "I'll ask when I go to the embassy."


(Watcharee: pulling a tiny strip of paper from her purse, settling in with a glass of watermelon juice and awaiting a response from Alf): "This is what the Shengen State is."

Thursday, August 17, 2000

NEWNES ties up loose ends from yesterday:

Since NEWNES unequivocally put a period to that one, I guess we can assume that there was no spillage into today from the others. I mean, if there were any unsheathed swords or still bubbling cauldrons of pig fat we wouldn't expect to find them here and now ... would we? The cast from The Peterloo Massacre and the Battle of the Spurs should have wrapped things up fully by last night. Right?

NEWNES makes no reference to any old/new or east/west symbolism in this neat handoff:

Or, why one writer's words live on while another's…

1840: Wilfred Scawen Blunt, poet, born.

Wescott's terseness leaves us a little unsure of exactly what Emilia did ... and whether she was worthy of having August 17th all to herself:

Emilia Bicchieri

This girl's mother died when she was a child, and she regarded the Virgin Mary as her mother, and acted accordingly.

From the front page of today's Bangkok Post…above the fold and accompanied by a full color picture:1

Web-run Sentinel Not Thief-friendly

RoboguardThe world's first armed robot security guard that can open fire on intruders while controlled through the Internet was unveiled in Bangkok yesterday.

It is one of five Thai-made hi-tech robots revealed by the Thailand Research Fund.

Asst. Prof. Pitikhet Suraksa, of the King Mongkut Institute of Technology's Lat Krabang campus, said his roboguard was developed from an unarmed "telerobot" built in Australia in 1994.

"The robot is equipped with a camera and sensors that track movement and heat. It is armed with a pistol that can be programmed to shoot automatically or wait for a fire order delivered with a password from anywhere through the Internet," he said.

With further development the technology could be applied to building robot guards for important places, including museums that house precious artifacts, he said.

1 Well below the front-page fold (and dribbling over onto page 7) is the report of the unpleasantness aboard the Russian nuclear submarine, Kursk. Page 8 finds the smashed-to-bits Concorde story.

The Barbara Cartland suite is just a skeleton. But, unlike Barbara herself, it will get better. The silhouette of one of ALIMAK'S men can be seen in this nighttime photograph taken from the river through a powerful telephoto lens. For many months now the eerie glow of worker's torches have allowed such spooky peeks behind the rib cage of the River Wing. But, little of note has been spotted; the cosmetic surgeons are still in the wings, so to speak. Up to today only the internists have been at work; toiling with rusting entrails and ruptured orifices, their labor goes thankless.

Next: August in Bangkok, Part II

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