2001 in Bangkok

After The End of the Year
and Before Part II

January 1-8, 2001

Monday, January 1, 2001 (01/01/01)
– Bank Holiday in Scotland
– Julian Calendar began in 45 B.C.
– The Festival of the Circumcision
– And ...

Yes, all of the above is straight out of NEWNES ... well, save for very first bits: today's actual date.

Incidentally, although anyone anywhere in this whole wide world can date today's correspondence with the easy to remember and hard to confuse "01/01/01," this convenience will not repeat itself until 02/02/02. After that, the convenience briefly reappears about every 13 months from 03/03/03 right up until 12/12/12. At that point, it goes underground and will not be seen again, in similar form, until 01/01/01 of the third millennium! Yes, a thousand years down the road!

Though many of the world's calendars 'start' the week on Sunday, a more self-serving one (American) uses Monday as its launch day. By embracing this one, too, we can 'create' a special niche for today:

Day 1.

1 Akin to the odometer on your car, our years roll by in units. The tiniest discrete part of a unit of measurement (miles, years, etc.) must have a "1" at the point furthest most to the right of the decimal point .... ANYTHING short of this would have to be a "0". And, since a zero is nothing, it (the zero) has no real meaning for measurement when left totally alone. That's why we had all that fuss about the year 2000 not being the start of the new millennium ... why 2001 was when the big hand finally moved, when the clock went "tick ... " And why 2000 was just the last " ... tock" of the preceding millennium.


NEWNES, though unusually wordy in his bold print, didn't fail us in his responsibilities to the worthy ones who were born or died 'today.'

Though January 1st had its full share of tinkerers and despots, alchemists and flutists, and those of such a weak mind that their only salvation was to be 'called to the cloth', full homage from these pages goes to:

Last night we never left the Oriental's sand box. There was no need to. The marriage of Thai cuisine and Chinese fireworks was spectacular. I used a lot of 'film.' During the next few days I'll feed some of the footage into a little file: right HERE. So, check back for additions and explanations. The first few frames are of Watcharee getting ready to go out.

As promised, yesterday:

Telmachus, Oralmachius
FIFTH CENTURY

Telemachus, an Eastern Hermit, came to Rome and tried to stop the mortal dueling of swordsmen in the arena. He was stoned to death by the bored and indignant public, and later this sort of entertainment was abolished in his honour.


Tuesday, January 2, 2001 - Berchtold's Day in Switzerland1

Lest we forget what a power Spain was at the close of the 15th century, NEWNES is here with something other than the discovery of America:

Also not found in most history ticklers:


1 In less than three weeks the little band that brings you these journals will fly to Geneva. Yes, Annie and Paul, Watcharee and myself, Hermann and Cindy, and our mystery guests (the McNairs from Jamaica).

2 Falling so early in the year, Spanish voters would go to the polls unaware that their husbands and sons were not just dying in a war "in a faraway country of which we know little." Casting their votes in ignorance of Columbus's great discovery, the Iberian Peninsula began a march down a far different road than the one that they would have chosen had it's people only been aware of what her navy was up to.


On this first workday after the New Year's holiday not much is happening on the other side of the fence. The French embassy remains thoroughly gutted. But, we don't have to feel sorry for the inhabitants; a newer block carries on with whatever work embassies are charged with.

Just below me, the Oriental Queen is loading for the trip up-river. Each day it makes the journey to Ayutthaya and back. Click here for a link to my adventure on the boat ... last April or May, I think.

Morton and his wonderful dot-machine were at work over the weekend ... just in time for your breakfast read.

Life on the river continues ...


IN OUR PAGES: 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Sing Sing Lilies

ALBANY, N.Y. – A prison whose yard is adorned with flower beds, shrubs and grass plots and a rose garden, in which thousands of blossoms grow about a fountain, where gold-fish sport among the lilies, is described in a report on Sing Sing prison, made public by the State Commission of Prisons. While the report does not mention the name of the inmate responsible for the flower garden, it is no secret in the prison department that it is Charles E. Chapin, former New York City newspaper editor, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife.

1951: Dalai Lama Flees

NEW DELHI – Tibet's boy ruler, the Dalai Lama, was reported today to have reached Yatung, near the Indo-Tibet border, amid heavy snow. It was considered possible that he intends to establish a provisional capital there. India has asked the Dalai Lama to stay within his country's frontiers –unless he falls into personal danger – to avoid a death blow to Tibetan morale, and Indian Foreign Ministry official announced today.

Our Christmas tree is gone! All the world over, January 2nd must be the day most likely to be remembered as the day when Christmas decorations are torn down. Trees ripped from their roots, manger scenes kicked aside (plastic baby sent sprawling), stockings pulled from their pegs, fake snow vacuumed off the mantle, good-cheer cards tossed into the trash ... in short, a day devoted to returning things to normal. A day when stores are open, a day when people keep regular office hours, and a day when newspapers are delivered.


Wednesday, January 3, 2001 (Feast of St. Genevieve, patron saint of Paris)

1 Why Peabody, and not the German founder of 'kindergartens', should have her birthday elevated to NEWNESIAN status is unknown.

1 Just this last fall the ICCA (along with 'go-withs') visited the spot where Luther hung his hat after being kicked out of God's good graces.


IN OUR PAGES: 75 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Harem Murders

CONSTANTINOPLE – Thirty-seven dead bodies – thirty-six of them the beautiful wives of Achram Bey and the thirty-seventh Achram Bey himself, one of the most distinguished of Turkish princes – have brought to light a murder and suicide program whose details and execution are believed without parallel in the life stories of ancient and modern Bluebeards. Axhram Bey, dissatisfied with the conduct of his three dozen wives, had long been trying to dispose of his harem, it became known here when the sensational crime was revealed.

Dear reader, yesterday The Oriental Hotel launched a new cookbook! Timed to coincide with its 125th anniversary, the book digs deeply into its 'signature' dishes; with each of its restaurants contributing the best of its best. More than a book of recipes, it is a mixture of hotel history, beautiful photographs and essays on how a hotel becomes great. The cover of the book was photographed in the Author's Lounge. Supermodel 'Noo' graces the cover – sadly, there are no 'between the cover' pictures of her ... so, if the cover becomes 'lost', that way goes Noo, too.

Last night the four of us took the Oriental's dinner cruise – a buffet with oars. We sailed upstream as far as the shed that holds the royal barges. On the return we stopped at Wat Arun to catch the sound and light show.

Genevieve
422 – 512

In the beginning, Genevieve was a shepherdess. Her mother, having struck her, went blind; and the child mixed a blessed eyewash which restored her sight. The demons around the future patroness of Paris in her youth delighted in blowing out candles, but her faith relighted them. When Attila was on his way to Paris, she induced the panic-stricken inhabitants to stay there, and perhaps, by praying, made him go elsewhere with his Huns. During Childeric's siege she took charge of the river-boats bringing provisions; upon its successful termination, she smoothed out the relations between the conqueror and his new people; and she persuaded Childeric's son and successor to build a church, the first in Paris.

Dear reader, Saturday's gift from Wescott will be something (err, someone) very special. Please come back on the 6th, if only to check which of heaven's saints will be here awaiting your genuflection.

As long as I am being 'date-sensitive,' I'm sorry that these "end of the old/start of the new" political cartoons are late, even if just by a day or two. This is just one of the things I must suffer through living 12 time zones away from America's east coast.


Thursday, January 4, 2001

Though 'births' and 'deaths' cubbyhole themselves quite nicely in NEWNES'S world, 'events' are not so easy to pin down. Lives, ending or beginning, lend themselves painlessly to a single entry. Whether chiseled into cold granite by the rock mason or India-inked into a great leather bound volume by a functionary in the Registrar's Office, they breathe a finality not found in 'things.' 'Things' or events often spill forward over the fragile dam that only roughly limits downstream flows. Today is a good example of an event gone wild.

The scene is sometime in the early 60's. Bob Collison (remember, dear reader, he is the one who actually wrote NEWNES!) has just moved his morning coffee into the library. The new year is just a few days old. It's a cold gray dawn and the post from London is going to be late as there is trouble with the 'points'. On a long table lay open-volumes of Steinberg's "Historical Tables" ... "Clio", its French parallel ... the old "Haydn" dictionary ... the smaller one from "Nelson" ... Langer's revision of the famous "Ploetz Supplement" ... and, of course, the "Everyman Dictionary."

Cautiously skirting 'events', Collison boldly begins to jot down births and dates. This is the easy work. Those who came before him ... those responsible for recording the 'starts' and 'stops' of lives ... needed only a clock and a calendar for their work.

Humming softly with the morning's caffeine, the day's entries tumble from his pen:

Oops!

Moving to the difficult parts ... where did IT start, where did IT end ... here is where Collison earned his salary. It is for these 'calls' that the publisher was sending him a paycheck. Utah and Burma were easy. Charles I was a 'nasty.'

Yes, dear reader, what exactly did happen on January 4, 1642? It's the "attempts" word that gives us so much pause. Do YOU know what happened? I surely don't. And, quickly skimming forward in NEWNES, I can find nothing helpful about what went on after this 'attempt' started. NEWNES becomes very vague. In fact, the year 1642 does not surface again, ever. And, though Charles I is heard from again on January 30, 1649, it is for a far less happy occasion: his appointment with the court executioner.1

1 Unfortunately for Charles, January 30th is exceptionally cluttered with the goings of other royalty. Being the Feast of St. Basil, the anniversary of the death of Peter II (Tsar of Russia), and the day commemorating the twin suicides of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and Mary Vetsera ... well, our poor old Charles is forced for all time to share this day with others.


Good Grief!!

Bangkok gone amuck?

What has happened?

Morton's magical dot-machine has been pressed into emergency service at a level rarely ever seen in the past. If the case of the "fridge murder" set the standard by which all others should be judged ... well ... after today we just might need a new yardstick. As Watcharee is still asleep, we won't know what we are dealing with until later. Please hurry back to find out what happened beneath these dots.2

1 The 'dot coverage' for January 2 best remains unamplified. Suffice that it was the revolting rape murder of a 102 year-old grandmother by her grandson.


Friday, January 5,2001 (Wassail Eve)

Simeon Stylites
DIED 459

At thirty-two, having tried a variety of shocking ascetic exercises, the Syrian Simeon thought of the mode of life which made him famous, as a means of keeping his soul perpetually alert. The first pillar on which he lived was only nine feet high;at intervals he had it heightened; the last, on which he died, was sixty feet high and three feet in diameter. It is uncertain whether he learned to sleep without lying down, or got along without sleep. He seemed to pray without stopping from sundown until nine o'clock the next morning. He did not eat at all during Lent. The nomads of the Near East came in throngs; he preached twice a day and judged their differences, in the Arabian manner; and whole tribes, shouting his praises, seemed to be converted. He died at seventy. The writers of his time compared him to a blazing candle on an enormous stone candlestick.

Paul would like it. David did. So did I. Mike would be totally in love with it. So would you. Watcharee would be terribly bored. Annie, somewhat bored. Though not gender (nor age) defined, most of its customers are young (under 40) males. Puntip Plaza is a Bangkok mall that specializes in everything that has to do with computers. Five or six floors of shops, stalls and superstores have the answer and solution for your every computer need or want. Yesterday I went there to browse. I came home with an Epson Stylus printer (Photo 875DC).

Dear reader, it started innocently enough. My hotel has a half dozen really good restaurants ... no need to book a table across town. A barber on the premises ... no need to make an appointment elsewhere. A well-stocked gift shop near the elevator ... no need to wander past the lobby. A fully functional business office ... no need to make a trip to the post office. A tailor that makes house calls ... no need to go further than the phone. A movie ... no need to stand in line.

The next step, of course, came naturally; room service wasn't to be limited to food. Look ... now no need to leave my room! What is next?

Slightly more worthy than something of just footnote attention is this bit of action that I caught with my camera yesterday afternoon. The local merchants have just started to warn foreign shoppers of the danger of dealing with local touts. But, these 'good Samaritans' have long worked the streets near The Oriental in search of 'game' for the shifty merchants who employ them on a commission basis. The plot and ploy is almost always the same:

(Puzzled looking 'couple' pausing on sidewalk to read guidebook or map): "Mutter ... mumble ... mutter."

(Friendly acting, well dressed stranger): "Can I help you?"

(Couple, innocently nibbling at bait): "We're trying to find 'Song's Jewelry'."

(Tout, looking and sounding pained): "Oh dear ... is it still in business? Such high prices. And never any discounts. Tsk ... tsk."

(Couple, feeling 'rescued'): "What do you mean?"

(Tout, launching first salvo): "Just a few blocks away I can show you much better quality and at a 50% discount. Our government, in order to encourage exports of jewels, subsidizes the sales at this shop so you only pay half price for everything. Where are you from?"

(Couple, taking bait): "We are from Iowa ... in America. Where is this shop?"

(Tout, convincingly concerned about guests in his country): "It's not out of my way. Let me show you ... in fact, I'll take you there by tuk-tuk. Ah, yes, Iowa ... my wife's sister lives in Iowa ... in Salt Lake City."

(Couple, last words): "Thank you so much. Are you sure that we are not taking you out of your way? How can we thank you? That's Utah, by the way."

(Tout, visibly pleased, flagging down tuk-tuk, his last words, too): "It's my pleasure. Yes, I mean Utah."


Saturday, January 6, 2001 (Epiphany, Twelfth Night, Old Christmas Day, Christmas Day [Spain] and, finally, the Feast of the Three Kings)1

1 A bit of an 'attic'; useful for the storage of out of style feasts and celebrations that have lost their vigor. Coming close to the beginning and/or the end of the year, January 6th has proved through long use to be the perfect 'back closet'. An unwanted bit of the calendar that is far enough from the start so as to avoid the appearance of disinviting old friends too soon and yet so far from the end as to not look like a last minute attempt to thin the party list.


Starting the day with a footnote is bad. With two it becomes convincing evidence that the writer is not sure which road to take. So, the Feast of the Three Kings is 'welcomed' right here in the first paragraph. As is my want, I confuse things from the scriptures with complete abandon and total impunity. "Three Kings" ... "Three Wise Men" ... close enough numerically ... and, perhaps they are the same qualitatively. Much of what has been written about those early AD days is confusing; it was a time of bad roads and poor phones ... a Petri dish of awfulness. So, this skit [120k MPEG] is probably 'right on'.

Of course, Wescott and NEWNES are speaking of the same thing. The bolder type, just above the preceding paragraph, is pure NEWNES. Wescott's words are more limiting: January 6th is:

EPIPHANY, OR THE VISIT OF THE THREE WISE MEN

Left unfettered I could go on ... but, I won't. NEWNES has others who want Internet recognition:

But, once out of the Middle Ages, NEWNES was forced to lower the bar a bit:

Only to be raised again:

Yesterday my IHT arrived late. Two of its "rounded-off-to-the-nearest-quarter-century-slices-of-history" are worth a tardy read:

IN OUR PAGES: 75 (plus a day) and 50 (again, plus a day) YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Longer Lives

CHICAGO – "The American public during 1925 had an excellent health record," said Dr. Franklin Martin, president of the Gorgas Memorial, in his annual report. "The average span of human life has been increased to fifty-eight years, whereas a few short decades ago it was a little over forty. Medical science has still a long way to go to achieve the goal of ultimate success. Our leaders assert that human life should average seventy years and more."

1951: Classy Names

PRAGUE – The Czech newspaper "Lidove Noviny" complained that soda fountains and milk bars were using "signs of class contradictions" in the names given to the ice-cream concoctions. The newspaper said names like "parfait," "melba," "special" and "moka" were holdovers from the days when if a poor man dared buy something "parfait" which was not meant for people of his class, he was laughed at by his 'betters.' "Must this be the case today?" the paper asked. "Are not all these bars and cocktails proof that our way of thinking has not changed?"

With the IHT back to speed:

IN OUR PAGES: 100, 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1901: Shrunken World

NEW YORK – [The Journal writes in an Editorial:] "The nineteenth century will always be memorable as the century that abolished distance in the transmission of thought, and reduced it by nine-tenths in the transportation of men and goods. For some purposes the world has shrunk to a point, and it has been compressed to one-tenth of its former size. That alone would be enough to make the departing century the most note worthy of all the ages that have yet appeared on the roll of history."

1926: Royal Degree

LONDON – The Ancient and Honourable Society of Apothecaries granted the Prince of Wales its first honorary diploma. His Royal Highness is now entitled to add, "L.M.S.S.A." after his name. By virtue of this diploma he is entitled to practice "medicine, midwifery and surgery."

1951: Blood and Tears

JERUSALEM – [Sonia Tamara writes:] I have now seen the new state of Israel, and I can say that a miracle has been achieved. An unusual amount of will and courage, of faith and determination has gone into the effort of re-creating Israel. I will not pretend that the picture is without flaws. A ruthless policy has been pursued by the creators of the new state. They needed land and they needed houses to gather their dispersed people. By acts of terrorism and propaganda, they have induced the Arabs to flee and have later refused to let them return. But what state with its back to the wall, as was Israel three years ago, has not done worse? Every country, including the United States, has had its structure cemented by blood and tears.

Today Thais go to the polls to choose their new leader. Unlike the recent 'long-count' election in the US, this one should be over by cocktail time2 this evening. And, unlike the American one, this one will have the full participation of all the eligible voters now living in the Gore Vidal suite.

As Watcharee is now on her way to Ayutthaya to vote, today's front-page photo from the Daily News is a puzzle. Lord only knows what is in these cages.


2 Unlike how elections are run in the USA, Thais are not only required to vote ... they also have to be sober when they fill out their ballots. To ensure that those who vote do so without the comfort of drink, there is a ruthless nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol both immediately before and after the vote casting.


Sunday, January 7, 2001 – Christmas Day (Orthodox Churches)

Infrequently Wescott allows two 'saints' to share a day. This is one of those days. Such a joint tenancy is rarely explained ... perhaps constituencies of different faiths were given a say ... maybe some heavy work,1 such as the ACTA SANCTORUM2 of the Bollandist Fathers dictated it. Could be that several names came down at once, ex-cathedra style, permitting him no choice. Or ... and this is my personal opinion ... Wescott found two to be of equal liking.

1 Filling some seventy fat folio volumes, some men's lives have been reduced to ruin just attempting to read them. Wescott admits to these " ... not (being) the happiest years of one's life."

2 The first folio starts with "A'Becket, Thomas" (December 29). Hundreds of pages later, the tireless reader (if he is still there) is asked to continue his research into the good deeds of Aloysius Gonzaga (June 21) by turning to folio two. "Zita", April 27th, is the last entry in the great work.


Dear readers, before I march you into the resumes of Cedd and Lucian let's look at Wescott's last words. The last printed page of "A Calendar of Saints For Unbelievers" raises some questions.

"This, the first publication of Leete's Island Books, is a facsimile reprint of the 1932 Harrison of Paris edition, designed by Monroe Wheeler, and printed in Haarlem, Holland, by Joh. Enschede en Zonen, under the supervision of J. van Krimpen. It was the first book to be printed in Mr. van Krimpen's 12-point Romanee type. This edition is taken from a set of unbound sheets printed on Japan vellum and provided by the author. The Leete's Island Book's edition appears in softcover and in a collector's edition bound in paper over boards, limited to 100 copies numbered and signed by the author, fifteen of which are not for sale."

Has Leete's Island Books published anything else?

What else has been published using van Krimpen's 12-point Romanee type?

What happened to the fifteen "not for sale" copies?

Cedd
DIED 664

So great was the authority of this Bishop of London that his king, Sigebert of the East Saxons, having merely visited an excommunicated gentleman, knelt in the dust of the road to beg his pardon. He died of a plague, and thirty of his monks came to where his body lay, resolved to live or die beside it; and like Hindu widows, in the invisible infectious flames, all did die, except one small boy.


Lucian of Antioch
THIRD CENTURY

In prison, about to be put to death, Lucian, a man of letters, thought of a glorious variation of Christian ritual; his disciples lifted up his body, and he administered the sacrament upon it – priest, altar, and sacrificial victim at once.

For NEWNES it was a normal day. Millard Fillmore was born; Andre Maginot died; the Americans had their first national election. Elsewhere:

And, much earlier:


Workers definitely are NOT swarming over the place. Unlike construction deadlines under ALIMAX'S rule,3 the French don't seem to be terribly upset if the embassy's painters arrive on the scene way before the waste water pipes have been fitted. So what if their brushes have to repaint something into which the plumbers have cut a needlessly gaping hole.

3 How best to put this? Perhaps with a Napoleonic analogy? Maybe I should use the great siege of Malta? How about just "The Return of ALIMAX"? Whatever, almost a year to the day, we'll have to pack-up and again leave the Gore Vidal suite. This time it will be the bottom nine floors the New Wing that will feel the blunt pounding of the mighty siege engines. For six weeks, starting in May, Watcharee and I will be evacuated to the Garden Wing while the lower intestines of this place are made right.


Monday, January 8, 2001

I guess that it is only to be expected ... what with the holidays all over ... everybody on his or her way home ... wrappings and gift cards thrown away ... toys with their first dents ... forced smiles wiped off ... it's pretty much the end of things. So, too, with NEWNES: he had to drop down more than a few levels to come up with these:

'Events,' too, found it slow:

By the way, the French are still very much at work on their Bangkok property.1 The façade (water view) appears to be getting the first bits of attention from its cosmetologists. If you recall, just the other day the right side of the place woke up with a fresh face. Today, the painter's toil took the predictable step of balancing out the entire view from the river ... right, left, and middle. But, the roof appears to be entering a new and advanced state of destruction.

1 Incidentally, I have e-mailed this 'Condition of the French Embassy in Bangkok' URL to the French embassy. If they know that the whole world is watching what they do, and the pace at which they do it ... well ... this will probably not change things at all.

Next: Part II

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