Bangkok ... On the Way to Bhutan
(Part One)

Between A Short Visit to America and Part Two

November 12-16, 2000

Sunday, November 12, 2000 (The Day of Dupes [in France])

A 'lost' day, in a way. We flew from Miami to London ... leaving last night and arriving at Heathrow this morning. Less than two hours separates our two British Airways flights; today's second leg is from London to Bangkok.

For anyone who has a travel agency that works through Worldspan, there is a great new service available to the client. Once you (the airtraveler) know your 'trip locator' number you can log onto their Internet site, type in the alpha-numeric locator and up will come your flight itinerary in really wonderful detail. Our flight from Miami spent eight and a half hours in the air; it covered 4430 miles. The flight to Bangkok will arc 5919 miles and take 11 hours and 20 minutes. Both will be on Boeing 747s; the longer one on a 400 series. Other details include seat selection, meals, stopovers, smoking bans, airport locations, flight departure/arrival times, etc.

NEWNES starts the day with a curious coincidence:

Another navigator died:

A job description that might have been useful many years ago:

Two warriors were born ... one with a very important sounding name:

And, a writer with a much more modest name and title:

Moving into NEWNES' 'events':


Monday, November 13, 2000

We should arrive back home in Bangkok on the 264th anniversary of the death of George Sale, orientalist.

Also died:

'Events' that NEWNES likes:

We are out of the air. BA#019 landed at Bangkok's Don Muang International an hour early. But, the US presidential election is still up in the air.

On Saturday night, "CNN-Airport" at Miami International whispered little hope that it might be all over by the close of business. Nine hours later, "BBC-Airport" over at Heathrow's Terminal 4 observed that Sunday was not a likely day for cabinet appointments. Twelve more hours passed. Bangkok's "ITV-Airport" had no idea when it would end ... besides, reporters there were busy worrying about the upcoming Thai elections.

But, NOW I know how it will end. Yes, I do! The Economist told me how it will end. Yes, for sure! But, I am not going to tell you ... well, in so many words I am not going to tell you (or not tell you). However, I will pass the tools on to you and you can find out how things will end for Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush.

Here's how it goes. And, it's simple ... first, you throw away one rusty old tool ... next, you run out and buy four fun gadgets from someone like Sharper Image or Brookstone.

Ready? OK, watch:

The folks over at The Economist start by making a convincing case for ignoring the conventional pollsters when it comes to predicting the winner in American presidential elections. Incidentally, this convincing case was made long before little Florida hung things up for everybody. That's not to say that the paper expects its readers to approach every White House bid with 50/50 glasses on their noses. No, not at all! It just suggests that we use a few new tools that are a lot more objective than a straightforward question that queries, "If the election was held today, would you vote for Bush or Gore?"

OK, we've tossed out Gallup and others. What do we use in their place?

Christie's wine auctions ... Vogue ... USAToday (Sports Section) ... Business Week. Yes, that's it! Using just these four you can get it completely right every first Tuesday in November.

Forget the polls

Did Bordeaux produce good wine?

Are hemlines 'up' or 'down'?

Who won the World Series?

Did the stock market go 'up' or 'down'?

So, what does this all mean?

If Christie's auction of wine 'futures' is good for the makers of claret, it's good for the Democrats (Gore).

If skirt lengths fall the Republicans will be happy.

If the Yankees win the World Series the GOP is pleased. In fact it's pleased if any American League team takes the series.

Finally, bear markets are fine for the Democrats.

For the last half-century (ever since Ike beat Stevenson in '52) these 'things' have individually yielded a success rate of between 66 and 75 percent. And, now for some 'fuzzy math' to pull this whole thing together. If all four are marching toward one man, as they are this year, their combined predictive power is no less than (.727 x .750 x .667 x .667) to the 4th power. So, even though this race is very, very, very close ... and it looks like it could go either way ... well, that's not so ... the winner is almost certain to be the winner.


Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Watcharee and I were supposed to be back here on the 11th ... sometime during the evening of Loy Krathong. This being the date of the full moon of the twelfth Thai lunar month ... the date when people are supposed to pay homage to the Spirit of the Waters. Obviously, we didn't make it.

Not being here on the 11th did not miff me. Not being here on the 12th did miff me. For that is (was) the 122nd anniversary of the Hayes arbitration decision. Some months ago the Wall Street Journal1 ran a long article about Hayes, Paraguay and his arbitration decision.


1 For years the WSJ ran its whimsical (or quirky) feature in its fourth column ... that is, the fourth one in from the left. Always longer than space would allow on the front page, readers were guided gently to the inner pages for the last amusing bits. All editions of the paper (Asian and European, as well as the mother one from lower Manhattan) carried the article ... and always in the same place. Jonathan Karp's brilliant coverage of Elephant Polo is a good example of why the WSJ is a world-class read. But, for reasons undiscovered, the 'fourth' column was shifted to the left a year or so ago. Now it is the 'first' column. I see this as a promotion.


I want you to read it. But not at one sitting. So, for the next few days, I'll parcel it out. When you come to the bit about him winning the 1876 election by just one vote in the Electoral College you'll see how relevant Rutherford B. Hayes is to today's voters.

Cascading headlines set the tone nicely ... though, admittedly, I have played with their order:

AMERICA'S PRESIDENT HAYES IS HAILED AS A HERO IN PARAGUAY

HE'S A NOTCH BELOW NIXON, YET PARAGUAYANS CHERISH RUTHERFORD B. HAYES
Why? The Mediocre U.S. President In 1978 Gave Them 'Green Hell'

By Matt Moffett, Staff Reporter

ASUNCION, Paraguay On the walls of the soccer club training room, portraits of long-legged scorers and stout defenders stare down imposingly. But looking oddly out of place in the gallery of club immortals, the largest painting of all shows a stern-looking fellow with great whiskers, a black suit and a cravat.

Who is that hairy man? It's Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the U.S. "He is our inspiration our source of strength," says Mario Villasanti, the goalie and team captain. The Club Presidente Hayes is named for the 19th century president, and the players, decked out in red, white and blue uniforms, are nicknamed 'los yanquis.'

Rutherford B. Hayes

In the U.S., Rutherford Hayes is such a minor historical figure that his hometown of Delaware, Ohio, tore down his birthplace to put up a gas station. But to inhabitants of isolated and oppressively governed Paraguay, President Hayes is a great hero who is still revered more than a century after his death. One of the largest Paraguayan states is named Presidente Hayes, pronounced EYE-yes by Paraguayans. He is commemorated in textbooks, monuments and folklore. Paraguayans celebrate a holiday in President Hayes's honor.

"Rutherford Hayes and John Kennedy were in a class above the other American presidents," says Mr. Villasanti, voicing the conventional Paraguayan wisdom. But John Kennedy, the goalie hastens to add, was no Rutherford B. Hayes: "Hayes was the man with truly deep feelings for the people."

Why would one of the most mediocre U.S. presidents rated 26th (right behind Richard Nixon) out of 41 chief executives in a recent C-Span poll of historians be hailed as a popular hero in a tropical country in which he never set foot? It's simple. If it weren't for President Hayes, Paraguay wouldn't own the Chaco, a scorching and largely uninhabited tract of grassland known as the Green Hell.

Tomorrow we'll follow Matt Moffett into this "Green Hell".


NEWNES, unpacking births and deaths ... and things:

As do two inventors:

Deaths claimed:

And,

Newspapers of the day reported:

Supplementing NEWNES, by providing 'darker' events, is William Malloy with his MYSTERY BOOK OF DAYS:

Meanwhile, lab technicians over at The Bangkok Daily News continue to employ primitive dot-making devices when faced with wholesale amounts of spilled blood. Gaping 'chestal' wounds, likewise, are childishly camouflaged.


Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Wescott uses a lance, forgoing the bludgeon:

Albert the Great
DIED 1280

The great German Dominican who taught St. Thomas of Aquinas and, with him, codified and established the faith in such a way that for hundreds of years it should be safe from poetry and the natural need for liberty routing St. Francis' Promethean mysticism, binding the church with chains of supposedly Greek reasoning.

NEWNES, ever resourceful (ever scraping the barrel?), leads us where no man has been before:

Yesterday, we left Rutherford B. Hayes gazing into some shimmering God-forsaken parched acreage ... a loathsome piece of dirt in a foreign land ... something that would later be known as "Green Hell." Why did he go there? Matt Moffett of the Wall Street Journal continues:

In 1878, a year after he took office, President Hayes was called upon to arbitrate a bitter dispute between Paraguay and Argentina over ownership of the Chaco. Paraguay was in no position to defend its interests; it had lost 90% of its adult male population in a suicidal war against the "Triple Alliance" of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Rutherford B. HayesBut in a terse four-paragraph ruling, President Hayes sided with the underdog, declaring that the Chaco, which is about the size of Colorado, was Paraguayan.

No one knows whether President Hayes was really personally involved in the decision, or what the rationale was. "Perhaps they just flipped a coin," observes Thomas J. Culberson, a U.S. historian who specializes in Hayes.

Don't even think of telling that to the Paraguayans. "President Hayes obviously possessed the greatness of spirit to have seen the justice of the Paraguayan cause," says Luis G. Benitez, a prominent Paraguayan historian who has written 15 books. The Hayes Chaco decision is regarded as one of the great triumphs of Paraguayan history, even though the Green Hell is rich only in animal life, including giant, sharp-snouted peccaries, pig relatives once thought to be extinct.

"When I went to the United States, I was amazed that President Hayes isn't perceived as a greater figure than he is," says Mr.Benitez.

Paraguay's ties to Hayes are sometimes manifested in poignant ways. The Asuncion TV program "Tell Me Your Dream" specializes in making fantasies come true for deserving Paraguayans, like 17-year-old Griselda Servin, who had miraculously recovered from a coma following a traffic accident two years ago.

'Hungry For Heroes'

Her dream was going to the U.S., and the TV producers found a particularly Paraguayan way of fulfilling it: She was given an all-expenses-paid trip to Fremont, Ohio, President Hayes' final resting place and the site of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. "She is a young girl and might have preferred a summer in New York," says Amelia Servin, Griselda's mother. "But she did learn more about President Hayes, and he is important to Paraguayans."

Yes, dear reader, let's just hope that when the final ballots have settled we will again have an exportable occupant in the White House ... one to whom little people in little countries can look for guidance.


Is it a grizzly road accident? Perhaps a 'drive-by' shooting? Is the woman dead? Is the man with the book in hand a monk? The man wearing the baseball cap and aiming the flashlight ... is he a cop? The onlookers, behind the candy-cane rope, friends or just people who wandered out of a bar? Are those dark stains blood? I don't know. Nor will you ... as my beloved Watcharee is at her mom's house for the night ... and I don't feel up to asking the room butler why this girl is lying on my front page.

Moving from the Daily News to The Nation, another horror awaits: the long dreaded Bangkokian elections. Using an American tape measure on this one, we are at about the New Hampshire stage. As expected, opening salvos here were patterned on tried and true trajectories that had been developed by experienced American politicians.

RIVAL PARTIES FIRE OPENING SHOTS
Rally Speeches Go For Jugular

"The rival Democrat and Thai Rak Thai parties kicked their election campaigns into high gear yesterday following last week's House dissolution, each hurling stinging accusations at the other during rallies in Chiang Mai and Samut Prakan respectively."

"While Thai Rak Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra attacked the ruling party's economic performance and presented itself as a savior, the Democrats deplored Thaksin's "contempt for human dignity' and his belief that" money alone can win him the premiership."

Is the International Herald Tribune in mourning?

Though Bush and Gore have sent lawyers and investigators to Florida, perhaps the real intrigue lies in Seattle. The Nation ("Thailand's Independent Newspaper"), in a tiny bottom-of-page-3 report,1 notes an alarming voting 'irregularity.'

STRAYING VOTES

COPENHAGEN Two ballot papers for the US presidential elections have turned up mysteriously in the letterbox of a family in the Danish town of Odense, the Fyens Stifstudende newspaper reported today.

Brian and Helle Kain received an envelope containing brochures they had requested from a Washington company, but the package also included two sealed envelopes marked "official ballot."

Helle Kain told Danish TV2 television that she had mistakenly opened one of the envelopes, to discover a vote marked in favour of Republican candidate George W. Bush, cast by Steven H. Forrest, of Bellevue in Washington State. She has passed on both letters to US Embassy officials.

The envelope opened by the Kains had been posted in Shaw Island, 80 kilometers from Forrest's home in Bellevue.

Contacted by the newspaper, Forrest said his wife had mailed the letter in Bellevue, near Seattle, and expressed surprise that the envelope seemed to show it had been sent from Shaw Island.

According to the official tally, Democrat Al Gore defeated Bush in Washington by 936,552 to 826,863 votes. Agencies.


1 The very first story about "Watergate" was buried on page 3 of The Washington Post.


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

LONDON The "Daily Telegraph," in a leader on the Tsar's illness says: "Though there is yet no reason for apprehension, the inseparable contingencies of an illness like typhoid, serious at best, cannot be regarded except with gravity. The health of the Tsar is one of the most priceless assets of the world's peace, and of incalculable value to its happiness."

1925: World to End

NEW YORK Shortly after the beginning of the year 1925 there arose in the little village of Patchogue, one Robert Reidt, self-styled apostle of doom, who announced to all within reach of his voice and the various news agencies that he was able, through Divine revelation, to say positively that the end of the world would come on February 6. Many thousands throughout the country made preparations to face the doom they firmly believed would crack on schedule. Some hanged themselves, others sold their homes and wound up their affairs. And then February 6 came and went and Mr. Reidt has not had his name in the papers since, until today [Nov. 14]. Mr. Reidt is on the loose again. Doom is now scheduled to crack on February 6, 1926.

1950: Color is 'Swell'

NEW YORK Capacity crowds attended today [Nov. 14] the first public demonstration of the Columbia Broadcasting System's color television. The general reaction of the viewers was simply: "It was swell. "Many viewers expressed concern after the first showing over the cost of adapting their sets to color television.


Thursday, November 16, 2000

Into Wescott, right away!

Gregory of Tours
539 596

The first great French historian, a little unhealthy man: one of the strongest and noblest figures in the Merovingian epoch of which he wrote.

Yesterday, little Griselda Servin's mother, Amalia, had just finished telling WSJ writer Matt Moffett that her daughter might have "preferred a summer in New York" ... rather than the all-expenses-paid trip to the Hayes family cemetery plot. But, not wanting to sound unappreciative, she quickly and gushingly assured Moffett that her daughter's "Tell Me A Dream" trip to Fremont, Ohio was probably a good way to learn more about President Rutherford B. Hayes. It is at this point where we rejoin the mysterious Hayes-Paraguay, 'one-way' adoration connection:

It isn't necessary to leave Paraguay to immerse oneself in President Hayes lore. On November 12, the anniversary of the Hayes arbitration decision, Chaco residents uncork a full-blown fiesta, with speechmaking and toasts to Paraguay's patron from Ohio. Rutherford B. HayesThe whole year round, the brawling settlement of Villa Hayes, the gateway to Chaco, operates a regional history museum focusing on President Hayes's achievements.

"Compare and you'll see that Rutherford was the greatest man in Paraguayan history," says Salvador Garozzo, the museum keeper.

Not that the competition is particularly keen. Few countries have endured rulers as brutal and bizarre as Paraguay's. One 19th century Paraguayan dictator, Gen. Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, made it mandatory for followers to wear hats, so citizens could tip them to him. A later strongman, Gen. Francisco Solano Lopez, ordered Paraguay's Roman Catholic bishops to declare him a saint and executed 23 churchmen who refused. After his canonization, Gen. Solano Lopez had his 70-year-old mother publicly flogged.

In company such as this, it's little wonder that President Hayes seems like a giant to many Paraguayans. "Paraguay's history of adversity has made it hungry for heroes and that's why we care about Rutherford B. Hayes today," says Jose Ismael Candia, president of the Hayes sports club.

U.S. historians view President Hayes's legacy more soberly. Mr. Hayes is remembered for the disputed 1876 election in which he carried the electoral college by just one vote. (Pundits mocked him as "Rutherfraud.") In office, President Hayes promoted a narrow agenda of civil service reform and sound-money economics. One of his most enduring achievements was his introduction of the children's Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House. When President Hayes stepped down after one term in 1881, most Americans didn't much miss him.


"Hirci"?

Mrs. Byrne's

How about "merkin"?

Stumped?

"Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words" isn't stumped at all! No, Sir, these two clumps of body hair ... plus, thousands of other rarely seen things are fully exposed in this clever compilation of weird words and odd meanings of not-so-odd words.1 Published twenty-five years ago as a memorial to their family hobby of collecting out-of-the-way words, the Byrne family garage probably holds the last unsold copies of this book. Fortunately, my copy is now desk-side with me in Bangkok. This means that the near ceaseless barrages from NEWNES and Wescott can occasionally be relieved with a word or two from Mrs. Byrne.

"Hirci": noun, armpit hair.

"Merkin": also a noun, false pubic hair.


1 The man and woman (Mr. and Mrs. Byrne) responsible for 'Byrne's' culled and combed much ... ranging from that great standard, the OED ... to the niche lexicon, "A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence".


NEWNES is somewhat limp today ... starting strong but tapering badly:

From the Samsee family album:


Early this morning, while the Op-ed people at the Bangkok Post were worrying about the number and the quality of candidates in the upcoming January elections, technicians in the photo lab over at the Daily News were dipping deeply into the paper's precious reserves of 'dots.' One horrific torture/murder of an old monk, a 16-story 'jumper' who messily bounced off the curb, and a lady with a 'loose' monk ... all had to be dealt with ... all were on the front page ... and all were in color.

Not content with strangling him and leaving him laid out across the News's 'mid-fold', the murderers of this elderly monk squeezed his balls until he told them where the Wat's money was hidden. And then they strangled him. However, the News is strangely silent about the amount of money that was taken from the temple coffers. Suffice to say it was more than a collection-plate skim or a 'poor-box' break-in.

Way south of the fold you can clearly see the 'splats' of a 'jumper' ... and, if you allow your eyes to shift to the right just a bit, you can see where he first bounced. Dear reader, I am a little suspicious of this one. What this guy landed upon looks like a huge slab of very unyielding concrete; garage floor stuff. And, the distance between the two splat points appears to be at least ten feet. Further, falling from the 16th floor,1 our 'jumper' probably reached his terminal velocity before impact. And, what is that wet spot on his chest? Was this man shot or stabbed in the chest and then tossed out of the window? That would explain why the blood pools2 are so far apart.


1 See the man in the blue shirt and the dark trousers ... he is looking up. He is probably looking at the launch floor: the 16th.

2 It's the blood that the Thai censors don't like. Lying about in little wet pools, splattered on walls, soaked into sweaters, gelled into sticky clumps, splashed on shoes, hardened into shellac-like crusts, dripping down broken windshields, matted with hair, gushing from ...

"Enough!"


The next photograph requiring darkroom attention shows a monk and a woman puttering about in a little rubber boat. Here, lab technicians used a blue bar to hide the identity of the woman working the oars. Monks are not supposed to own guns, drink wine or have girl friends. This monk is guilty of all three. Though the woman in the picture is the monk's third vice, the men who wield the mark-out pens at the Daily News apparently felt that she needed some 'protection.'

Next: Part Two

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