Bangkok for the Change of Seasons,
Part III

Between Part II and Part IV

October 7-11, 2000

Saturday, October 7, 2000

We left St. Francis "... naked, being whipped ... in a cart, bleeding from his mystically ruptured side ... ." Before we rudely interrupt this sweet martyrdom with the rest of his life, NEWNES wants to remind us that others lived and died on October 7th ... though, it seems, that today we only have deaths. But, interesting deaths they are. Actually, it's their occupations, or life-combinations, that set them apart:

Dear reader, do you remember that I said that Cordell Hull did more to shape the century than did Mahatma Gandhi? On the anniversary of their births (October 2nd)? Well, so did the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, which ended on this day in 1944. Cordell Hull had just turned 73.

Part IV in the life of St. Francis:

As soon as he could he went East and visited the camps of the Crusaders and the Saracens; the latter at least paid about as much attention to him as the birds had done. Then he appeared before the Soldan and proposed himself for the ordeal by fire, if some Mohammedan dignitary would also be tried by it. The Soldan had him escorted back to the Christian camp, very respectfully, in the Oriental manner, because he thought him a half-wit.

When we were in Norway Paul ordered pizza. It came with a corn topping. Of course, the expected things were on it as well: cheese, mushrooms, tomato, etc. Not that the corn was terrible ... it was just so unexpected.

Corn Ice CreamThe same with corn in my ice cream. Last night Watcharee and I had dinner at the Gallery Café. Located on New Road, just a few blocks from The Oriental, we have walked past it dozens of times during the last six months. The appetizers and the main course were traditional dishes of Thailand. The ice cream was billed as "coconut." The corn and the little green things made it exotic. Wasn't it the American Indian who invented corn?


Sunday, October 8, 2000

Good morning from Bangkok!

(Continuing the ordeal of St. Francis ... when we last saw him the Soldan, thinking St. Francis a half-wit, had him escorted back to the Christian camp.)

Upon his return to Italy he found that the affairs of the brotherhood had taken a tragic turning. It had grown too large for him. The church was going to take it away. The friars were no longer all 'jokers' and loving brothers and half-wits like himself. St. Dominic Guzman could make use of them; the Inquisition and the Society of Jesus were waiting in history's womb. Should the lawless lover of God have been cunning and worldly, to keep cunning and worldliness out? He had scarcely tried to develop any effectiveness against evil, that is, against the opposite of his good - not seeming to know precisely what it was. One day, he was sitting in a chimney-seat to get warm; his drawers caught on fire; and he forbade his disciples to extinguish the flames, lest they hurt them. He would never snuff a candle. Toward the end of his life, when his face had to be cauterized against neuralgia, he begged the fire to remember his past kindnesses and to be kind to him.

("Tomorrow" St. Francis puts his foot down.)

America On Line (AOL) maintains 'local numbers' throughout the world. However, outside the USA, there does not seem to be a discernable pattern. Business CenterIn some countries (e.g., France and Germany) there is a convenient nation-wide number. In others (e.g., Sweden) there seems to be a different number for every town and hamlet. A few (e.g., Norway) just have numbers for the big cities. For many places the nearest AOL number involves an international call. This was the situation in Thailand. When I first started to log on from Bangkok I had to call the AOL number either in Singapore or in Hong Kong. Now I can use LOXINFO, a Bangkok server who has a direct connection to AOL. Every 'twenty hours' the Business Center at The Oriental refreshes my e-wallet.

IN OUR PAGES: 100 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Imperial Men

LONDON - [The Daily Mail says in an editorial:] "What the country desires is to complete the work of its soldiers be sending to Parliament men who, whether Liberal or Conservative, are sound Imperialists, and may be trusted with the settlement of the South African problem. With splendid discrimination, the nation has singled out such men, and has sent the others, with only a few exceptions, back to their native obscurity."

NEWNES:


WOMAN DUMPED IN FRIDGE

The headline was worthy of the Weekly World News ... the accompanying photograph was not. It merely showed a "scientific crime detection policeman" collecting fingerprints from a refrigerator.

The sub-headline, hastily retreating from this hopeful leader, dribbled out an informative but boring "Cashier Strangled, Cash and Gold Taken" before getting into the details of the fridge murder:

"The body of a female cashier was found in a refrigerator in her apartment on Sukhumvit Soi 85 yesterday. Police said Chan Darat, 21, a native of Ubon Ratchathani province, had been strangled to death. Bangkok PostThere were traces of sexual intercourse but officers were not sure if she had been raped or not. The police also found a bottle of liquor, two glasses and a packet of cigarettes in the room. Her gold necklace and ring, worth about 6,500 baht, had been taken, police said."

"Pirat Darat, 26, said he went to check on his sister - who worked at the Food Lion shopping center on Sukhumvit Soi 83 - at her apartment after not hearing from her for two days. He felt something was amiss after seeing the refrigerator bound with electrical wire, and called police."

"Police said a man living next door would be interviewed, adding that Ms. Chan's ex-boyfriend, Ek sae Han, 22, would also be questioned."

That was how my Bangkok Post presented the story this morning. No doubt seasoned ink-stained fingers in Lantana, Florida would have been lightly impressed with this blandness. Bangkok Daily NewsBut, how The Bangkok Daily News treated the same set of facts is something that would surely be the envy of photo editors not only at the Weekly World News but at every other American supermarket tabloid as well. A full color shot of a totally nude, freshly raped, young dead woman scrunched into the lower four-shelf area of an upright Whirlpool Ice-O-Mat! Unfortunately, not something that you could put on the front page back home and still hope to keep your supermarket manager happy. After all, Mom's shopping cart is, right and left, busily pulling things out of the store fridges and the very last thing that Mr. Whipple wants his customers to think about when reaching for the holiday ham is a flash-frozen Chan Darat.

How the picture editors at the two big Bangkok dailies handled this "pool" photograph of the fridge and its contents illustrates different restraint styles. One newspaper sensitively and judiciously employed a black marker pen while the other paper lazily blanketed everything under the vegetable crisper with dots.


Monday, October 9, 2000


1 NEWNES' misspelling has been left uncorrected.


(Continued ... the pious life of St. Francis interrupted by committee work ... )

No doubt he should have been burnt as a heretic, and would have been, a little later. But this was only the beginning of the Renaissance; St. Dominic was only a little older than he; perhaps no one knew that he was a heretic. But the men of the original brotherhood were a wild lot; furthermore, they neglected all their opportunities to collect money which the lords of the church needed or, personally, wanted.

What St. Francis liked least in the world was education; scholars, especially theologians; scholasticism. What he trusted least was monastic organization, with rules and a police and a hierarchy. In 1219 he held the first General Chapter, with five thousand friars present, and Cardinal Ugolino, and St. Dominic, the Dog of God. Some friars who were also schoolmen, Judases, asked that Francis be obliged to obey a learned council, and that the order should be put under one of the three regular rules, and that Franciscan schools should be founded. Francis answered tragically: 'I want you to talk of no rule to me. God told me that I was meant to be a beggar and a fool, and accepted me on that condition. As for your science and syllogisms, He will outwit you. His devils will drive you back down to your human level, and you will be ashamed.' The cardinal was dumbfounded; all the brothers were frightened; and St. Dominic must have been displeased. Francis gave in. The following year he resigned the direction of his order.

(Next ... his mortal descent ... .)

NEWNES, ever worried that God's little children not get their due:

And, the things they did:

Good morning from Bangkok!

The Bangkok 'broadsheets' (like The Daily News) are best known for their coverage of anything that superstars do ... and, the truly awful things that happen to ordinary folks. Before Watcharee lived here I was hopelessly ignorant of these stories. My paperboy delivered just four dailies: The International Herald Tribune, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and The Bangkok Post. Though the Post poked about on the fringes, it never allowed itself to fully open the door. Stories like yesterday's Whirlpool 'burial' were left to the broadsheets.2 Now that The Oriental's morning paper delivery includes the more popular and colorful side of the news, I hope to brighten your morning coffee with other than gray print.


2 Today's photo-coverage of the murder scene has the Whirlpool appliance being shipped out the door. The "dotted" insert is impossible to 'read.'A


A few hours have passed ...

Good grief! It certainly looked a lot like a fridge! Yes, with the door off! Though the blue plastic lining did seem a bit untoward at the time ... not the sort of thing you'd waste time with if you wanted to get the body onto a proper slab. But, the shape was right ... and it did appear as if 'official' folks were fussing over something 'deadish'. And, they WERE carrying it out of the house.

However, the short of it all is that it wasn't Chan Darat in that box! And the dotted-out bit was not bits of Chan Darat. It was bits of another ... the other murdered girl in today's broadsheet. According to Watcharee, the dotted out insert was a close up photograph of a vagina; a vagina that had been roughly chewed away from the body proper. Of course, that does explain the puzzling shape of the insert ... though, I think, the reader would be just as effectively served had the editors left it out completely. Anyway, apparently the girl had dumped her boyfriend for someone else. He became enraged and killed her. The motive behind the mutilation remains murky ... but, probably not surprising.


A Footnote (2) is incorrect. It purports to identify the photograph as being that of Chan Darat's Whirlpool refrigerator being carried out of her home. The footnote also confesses ignorance as to what is partially hidden behind the dots in the insert. In fact, the photograph is of something else; probably a box containing someone's vagina. The dotted insert is an editorial attempt to partially camouflage a chewed out vagina ... though it is only through a reading of the caption that the reader is made aware of what he is seeing ... or should not be seeing.


This morning's Bangkok Post looks at an unusual 'lost and found' department:

WHEN OVERSEAS WORKERS' DREAMS TURN TO DUST

Thousands of poverty-stricken Thais hoping for a better life seek work abroad every year. More than half of them have their dreams dashed, and the most unfortunate end up ashes left in boxes at the Foreign Ministry's Department of Consular Affairs.

It is estimated that 10 cremations are sent to the department from abroad every month. The ones that linger unclaimed have aroused fear in many department officials. Stories circulate about toilets that flush themselves and cremation boxes that become too heavy to lift. Ashes to ashes!As a result, certain female officials shriek with fear and jump up from their desks when a blackout occurs, a frequent event at the consular affairs department.

If these victims of accidents, disease, and capital punishment are identifiable, their relatives are informed so that the remains can receive a proper ceremony. However, this is not always possible.

Ashes as much as three years old, such as those of one Nai Saeb, are kept in a records room that keeps track of Thais working abroad. Even after some recent publicity, seven sets are still sitting on a table in the room.

"In cases such as fishing accidents, where the victim often uses fake identification, we have problems locating their relatives," said Pnthep Devakula, first secretary in the division overseeing the rights of Thai workers abroad. In such cases, ministry officials turn into amateur sleuths as they try to track down the relatives, he said.

When the deceased leaves behind large hospital bills, the relatives are often reluctant to claim the ashes, he said. This commonly occurs with Aids cases when the Thai embassy abroad had to take care of hospitalization costs in advance, Pinthep said.


Tuesday, October 10, 2000

(Continued ... only Francis' 'swan song' remains ...)

After that he wrote his 'Cantico del Sole, the Song of Brother Sun, and Other Creatures of the Lord," made up a tune to go with it, and taught some faithful friars to sing it. The church now condescends to agree with modern scholars that he did not write it. In 1224 the stigmata broke out in his hands and feet and side. He also suffered from indigestion and from a cataract or some other eye-trouble which necessitated an operation; it was unsuccessful. The one great factor in his life, the one elemental relative of mankind, which he had not praised in his song was Sister Death; he added some new verses about her, and had it sung day and night until his end came - greatly scandalizing Friar Elias of Cortona who was to rise to power after him.

He was a man much like Jesus Christ, that is certain - less intelligent; less dear to destiny, or to the heavenly Father; less tragic. But the friar's life cannot said to have ended well either, or his faith to have been well followed. In any case his faith would have been a grave impediment to what we know was civilization.

Dear reader, for the last week Francis of Assisi has largely taken up Wescott's allotted space. Save for the case of "Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus," I have been forced to skip over the meddling manners and deserved tortures of Galla, Justina of Padua, Pelagia the Penitent, Denis and Cerbonius. But, for the keen, their words and works are not lost: go to Seattle, last year.


Picture editors over at The Bangkok Post and The Daily News work pretty much with the same materials. Minutes before the presses start to roll they have to choose something for Page One. It's at this point where the editor decides who its readers are.

This morning The Post carried this as its photo lead.

Post Picture

The caption read:

PROTEST AGAINST SAVIT
"Members of the Confederation of Electricity Workers of Thailand place a wreath at the main gate of Government House in protest against the PM's Office Minister Savit Bhodivihok's failure to reply to their suggestions on a new structure of electricity prices."

The Daily News went with this cover photo.

Daily News Picture

Obviously, it had something to do with the rape, robbery, strangulation and icebox stuffing of a 21 year-old supermarket cashier. As The News' signature insert is always tied to the main photo, it's probably safe to assume that the man shown with his hands on the throat of another is a policeman showing how the suspect strangled his victim.

In a page 3 article, The Bangkok Post somewhat dryly tells its readers what the Daily News 'said' in its cover photograph:

MOB ATTACKS MAN IN FRIDGE MERDER CASE

"Police Fail to Protect Suspect from Blows"

An angry mob set upon a man charged yesterday with the rape and murder of his neighbor during a re-enactment of the crime.

Some of more than 100 people who gathered at the re-enactment in Phra Khanong district beat Phadung Thadsith, Post Storyaccused of raping and killing Chan Darat and putting her in a fridge.

The body of Chan, 21, a supermarket cashier, was found in her room in Sukhumvit Soi 85 two days after her killing.

Police said Mr. Phadung, 33, who was arrested on Sunday in Sukhumvit Soi 11/1, Wattana district, confessed to the charges and said he had set out with the intention of robbing Chan.

Mr, Phadung said he went to Chan's room at 5pm on Thursday and pretended he wanted to talk to her. When she resisted his attempts to grab her necklace, police said he told them he raped her before strangling her, put her in the fridge and made off with the necklace.

In an attempt to throw investigators off the scent, he allegedly put food and drinks on a table in her room to make it appear Chan's former boyfriend had killed her after a drinking session.

As Phadung was being taken to the scene for the re-enactment, scores of Chan's workmates and local people assaulted the suspect while police struggled to protect him.

Police Captain Naarong Wongsakul said police tried to prevent violence but matters got out of hand as blows rained down on the suspect.

The Post article finishes up with some whining from a 'civil libertarian.' Apparently, he thinks that there has been a "violation of the constitution" ... that suspects should not be plummeted before conviction, etc.

NEWNES, always buffered by the passage of time, never has to worry about what others think is important:

Over at the IHT, the morgue editor can pick and choose among the day's doings and be assured that he'll never come up wrong. But, why did all three stories come out of Paris?

IN OUR PAGES: 100, 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Alcohol Mania

PARIS - The beautiful women of America are denounced as having prey to the demon known as "Manhattan cocktail." The mania for alcohol is such that a lady, when engaged in her toilet, will suddenly seize a bottle of eau-de-Cologne and swallow its contents. Peppermint is taken in the same way, and tea is only a perfume added to rum which is poured into it. There are many other abominations to which the American woman is a victim in these degenerate days.

1925: Bird-Men

PARIS - [The Herald says in an Editorial:] "The future may see the growth of a new, specially endowed race - "the bird-men." The human art of flying will reach its perfection in the full development of the capacity to keep afloat in the air, as the birds do, by gliding with the wind. The record of more that 12 hours aloft by mere gliding made by Shultz in the Crimea is pregnant of suggestion and prophesy. Auto-motive power may not be the chief reliance for safety.

1950: Beauty Contest

PARIS - The Russians want no part of male beauty contests. They have refused to enter the contest for "the world's most beautiful athlete" to be held in connection with the world weightlifting championships in Paris. "It's against our principles" said Constantin Andrianov, manager of the Russian team. The team is staying at the Russian embassy, in contrast to entries from other countries, who are staying at hotels. "At the embassy our athletes will get Russian food, which is best for their health and form," Mr. Andrianov said.

And, where would the Bangkok Post be without a 'snake bites elephant' story?

SNAKE BITES ELEPHANT
Snake Bites Elephant

Dusit Zoo veternarian Alongkorn Mahannop, right, examines the left foreleg of Dok Kaew, a 39-year-old cow elephant. The elephant was bitten by a snake while foraging in a vacant plot near Rama IX road.


Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Dearest reader, last year ... indeed, even three years ago ... NEWNES reminded us of an 'event' so curious in its composition that I did not know where to look for an answer. Perhaps, Andy Page (a devout Anglophile and a man well schooled in the minutiae of all things peculiarly British) has the answer. Every October 11th NEWNES leads the days 'events' with:

Surely 'baggage' and 'The Wash' do not mean what is conventionally thought of when we see these words. Since NEWNES neither capitalizes 'baggage', nor sets it off in any other way, such as with italics or quotation marks, we are led to believe that the word means what it means1. However, 'The Wash' is another story! Could it be a political movement supported by castle elders ... a violent insurrection ruthlessly crushed by the King's own hand ... a low lying area of Cumbria given to flooding ... an early commuter service? At this point, we just don't know.


1 Though this is unlikely.


While trying to find the answer to this, I chanced upon "A I". According to NEWNES, it is the "first British car registration, issued to the 2nd Earl Russell in 1903". It is the initial entry in NEWNES' dictionary. To complete the set of bookends: "Zymose, yeast-cell fermenting agent, discovered in 1903 by the German scientist Eduard Buchner, b. 1860, d. 1917."

(Alf, looking up from task): "Watcharee, both of these events took place in 1903. Quite a coincidence, huh?"

(Watcharee, sounding one, thinking the other): "Really?" ... "Time to get out of the hotel again."

Euplius
DIED 304

"During his ordeal in the torture-chamber, Euplius kept annoying those who were doing the work by reading out appropriate passages of scripture. So they hung the book around his neck and cut off his head."

This morning's Bangkok Post carried this Reuters story on the front page:

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE EXPECTED TO ELUDE SLOBO

Oslo - Slobodan Milosevic can forget about winning the Nobel peace prize. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA said Mr. Miosevic had been nominated by a group of World War Two veterans for helping keep Yugoslavia together. Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, would not confirm or deny the ousted president of Yugoslavia and war crimes suspect had been nominated. But he did say that getting nominated for the prize was the easy part. Winning was altogether another matter. - Reuters

Thai Dance ShowLast night Watcharee and I invited some of her family to The Oriental to see the Thai dance show at the Sala Rim Naam. Though I had seen the show several times (for Watcharee, 'hundreds' or even 'thousands' would be the count), I enjoyed seeing it with someone for whom it was a first. Everyone in the audience busily took photographs of the dancers, as did I. And, here are a few close-ups of just one face. This other face is that of the woman who announces and explains all of the dance routines.

Over at the IHT, there must have been a change of research assistants ... to ones who glean old yellow issues for Paris bylines or Paris linked stories. In any event, the quality of these time snippets has certainly been on the up tick as of late.

IN OUR PAGES: 100, 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Girl Traffic

NEW YORK - Ever since the disappearance from Paris of Marie Auclair and her subsequent rescue in New York, the Herald has been following organized bands whose object is to decoy young women from various parts of Europe, principally Paris, to New York, for immoral purposes. There exists in this city two societies, organized as social clubs, whose membership is confined almost entirely to Frenchmen of a depraved type, whose purpose is to facilitate the traffic in innocent girls from European cities.

1925: Eugenic Law

PARIS - [The Herald says in an editorial:] "The state of Iowa has a eugenic law which has very recently come into force. Under it the constituted authorities have the power, upon certain evidence of unfitness, to forbid marriages. Persons who are feeble-minded or who have been confined in asylums for the insane are subject to this prohibition. One hundred thousand have already been so declared. Their names are entered upon an official list, which is supplied to all persons authorized to issue marriage licenses. The measure seems to be reasonable and practical."

1950: Twain Types

PARIS - The first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to a publisher is said to have been Mark Twain, who in 1874 bought one of the first typewriters put on sale in the United States. The machine cost $125, but this high price did not deter the ever curious Mark Twain from buying the first one he saw. In his first letter, he told his brother: "I am trying to get the hang of this new-fangled writing machine, but am not making a shining success of it."

According to this morning's Bangkok Post, Bangkok's new (and second) international airport will be named Suwannabhumi International Airport. 'Suwannabhumi' means Golden Land. Its tri-letter airport code has yet to be designated. SUM, SAM, SWN, SUU, SWI and SAB are available ... with the vowel centered ones being favored by frequent travelers.

The Bangkok Post and The Daily News are strikingly different newspapers. Though both are broadsheets in the literal sense of the word, the similarity ends there. Just look at their faces; one black and white and gray all over ... and suitable to take anywhere, the other a spilled crayon box of stuff.

Next: Part IV

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