2001 in Bangkok, Part II

Between Part I and Part III

January 9-12, 2001

Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Another day in which NEWNES trolls long and deep for names that history wants to remember. Though my undergraduate days were awash with 'history'1 courses, these names just don't register at all. Did my masters fail me ... did I miss the lecture ... or have the advancing years just been too damn cruel?

See!

The argument that none of these people are well known today because they failed to live up to post birth expectations has a big hole in it. As does the same argument when made to explain why the Rural Party is little remembered today.


1 No one ever believes that you'll look back on those undergraduate years as the best years of your life. But, it's true. Life then was a wonderful 'elective.' With surprisingly few 'requirements' and 'prerequisites,' those four years taught me how to tell time:

If nothing before 9:55 and nothing after 3:30, with (and, this is the icing) either Monday or Friday 'off' ... well, what could be better? Just one thing: everything on Tuesday and Thursday! The 'schedule' was everything ... content, teachers, whether it was a 'snap,' girls taking the course ... none of this mattered next to 'when.' And, of course, the worst cases scenario: 7:45, 12:05 and 4:35, MWF! Sometimes 'where' became a factor; anything over on the Ag campus was like starting a class an hour earlier and finishing an hour later.

2 I hope that Andy Page can help. This is the kind of thing that he is good at.


Julian Hospitator
NINTH CENTURY

Julian Hospitator was a great lord whom fate cheated, as in a Greek tragedy. One day a stag that he was hunting turned and told him that he would end by killing his own father and mother. Horrified, he ran away from them to another country, where he married happily; and he thought no more of his fate. His parents, looking for him, came to the castle in his absence. His wife made them welcome. He returned early next morning, found them in her bed, and killed them, before explanations could be made. Then he and his wife went into still another country, and by way of expiation, established a hospital beside a treacherous river, where they tended the sick and ferried travelers across, even in the worst weather. A supernatural leper who Julian laid in his own bed to rest, after a stormy crossing, told him that his penitence had gone on long enough; whereupon he and his wife died.

This made the front page of my Bangkok Post. There is no chance that the driver was our very own Hermann E. Sieger:

TRUCKER TRAILED BY GERMAN FUEL MISER

Schweinfurt, Germany A German truck driver became nervous and cell-phoned the police when he was tailgated up hill and down dale for two hours by a mysterious car that refused to overtake, even when he slowed right down on the grades.

Autobahn police swooped and found the car at the rear was driven by a man taking his wife and two children home from a vacation. The 55-year old man at the wheel said he was just trying to save petrol by being sucked along in the truck's slipstream.

He told police in Franconia he preferred to sacrifice speed to save costs. dpa

Though the Bangkok Post 'headlined' the Thai election results ... the results of which held a disturbing similarity to those seen last November (in a far away place, to people with whom I have little in common) ... I feel nudged by conscience to skip over it in favor of this cuddly human interest animal story:

BOONLERT THE BUFFALO PAID LAST TRIBUTE

A movie star is holding a three-day funeral for the buffalo that starred in his most successful film, helping it become a box office hit.

Boonlert

Bin Banlue-rit is offering thanks to Boonlert, a 32-year old water buffalo with 3m horns, which was a leading character in "Bangrajan", based on a battle between Siam and Burma 230 years ago.

Boonlert, whose unusually long horns were credited with drawing large crowds to cinemas, died on Sunday of natural causes in Lop Buri.

"He could not just die like other ordinary water buffaloes because he had done so much for the movie," said Bin.

"If there had been no Boonlert, the film's revenue might not have reached as much as 70 million baht so far."

At the funeral,which started on Sunday, Boonlert is held upright by rope and draped with white cloth. A Thai opera will be performed in front of the corpse today to pay respects to the buffalo, Bin added. Reuters


Last night, and the night before last, have so far remain untouched. Last night Watcharee and I had a room service dinner overlooking the river. From the green salad the view was of The Sheraton. From the dish of brown rice, just past the bowl of green curry, The Peninsula was on the horizon. The evening of the 7th we spent in Ayutthaya. From here the pictures tell you nothing, or do they?


Wednesday, January 10, 2001

To make up for yesterday, God ordered Stork to make deliveries at some more important properties. Stork, a very independent contractor, packed a mixed bag. And, Reaper's hump-day performance, tacitly operating in tandem with Stork, didn't take much back:

Roughly equivalent:

Back to Stork:

A good return:

Again, Stork:

Final:

"Events," being in-house operations, were all top drawer:

Oringa, of Christina
FOURTEENTH CENTURY

Oringa was a poor creature who tended cows in the valley of the Arno. Her brothers wanted to marry her to a farmer; and she got away across the river 'as if it had been dry land,' which means, probably, that no one knew how she did it. Then she went into domestic service, but sometimes ran off on pilgrimages. Whenever she strayed into danger, Michael the Archangel, like a faithful sweetheart, brought her home.

Apparently Boonlert the Buffalo has more ceremonies ahead of him ... more tormenting public appearances before he is finally allowed to retire into the jaws of the pet food grinders, or, with God's help, into a quiet lye lined hole in the ground. Yesterday we saw him as a freshly dead Boonlert ... yes, a once proud creature of God ... today, a carcass who now needs a tangle of primitively put together lashings just to keep him off the ground. Only this roughly tied snarl of knots keeps the poor dead beast from collapsing into an untidy heap of meat. This buffalo, whose massive weight still must be supported by great ropes and knots, now requires a more complicated bit of rigging to keep him alert. This is done by the clever employment of restraining cords and tilting wires ... a sophisticated string mechanism that keeps him from gradually sinking ... yea, morphing ... into a sad pool of hair, hoof and gristle.

Dear reader, were you here during the days when Lenin's 'handlers' were toiling away in the Kremlin's embalming chambers? If so, you will easily remember the difficulties that the Soviets faced in keeping Lenin 'fresh'. Though Boonlert's caretakers face nothing like that, they do have to be somewhat cautious, as there will be small children who will come to pay last respects to this bovine film star. It would not do to have Boonlert's parts start to fall off, or even seriously sag, mid homage.

Presumably, that is what the little blue sutures help to prevent. So convincing is this work of the Boonlert handlers, that another (and, presumably very much alive) buffalo can be seen here (despite the painful strain of his taxing nostril bite) attempting a final kiss (or, sniff?).

But, had Boonlert's people read this morning's Wall Street Journal, today's 'far left' column would have given them a cleaner and more durable option. Of course, for Boonlert, anything comes too late ... but, for all of his fans and loved ones, clearly this 'freeze-dry' alternative would be more satisfying.


Freeze-Drying Pets Soothe Owners
And the Profits Are 'Phenomenal'

By JEFFREY KRASNER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Jackie Hibbard's voice softens when she recalls how her dog, a terrier-mutt named Itchy, was hit and killed by a car two years ago. But even in death, Itchy is there every morning when the 40-year-old Gilliam, Mo., resident wakes up. Itchy lies on the bedroom floor, her head on her paws and her eyes wide open.

Ms. Hibbard had her freeze-dried.

Creating Perma-Pets

More of the nation's estimated 73 million pet owners are having their departed companions freeze-dried, instead of buried or cremated. The bereaved say turning their furry friends into perma-pets helps them deal with their loss and maintain a connection to their former companions -- at a fraction of the cost of preserving them through traditional taxidermy.

Freeze-drying, generally used for preserving food or purifying chemicals, also retains some individual characteristics like facial expressions that don't survive standard taxidermy, proponents say. "It's comforting," says the 40-year-old Ms. Hibbard. "If you can see her all the time, you really have those wonderful memories."

Freeze-drying has also given the sleepy taxidermy industry a new lease on life, letting many studios expand beyond their traditional hunting-and-fishing clientele. Mike McCullough, owner of Mac's Taxidermy in Fort Loudon, Pa., started freeze-drying animals about five years ago. About all he needed to get started were two freeze-dryers, which cost him $22,000. In addition to dogs and cats, he says he also gets the odd request to do a family bird or lizard. Pet preservation now accounts for 5% of his shop's annual revenue of about $80,000.

"It's getting to be a really big deal," says Mr. McCullough. "The profit margin is phenomenal."

Itchy Alive and Freeze-Dried
Itchy the dog, in life (top) and after being freeze dried.

Freeze-drying pets is still rare. Elden Harrison, president of the Joppa, Md.-based Pet Lovers Association, estimates that less than 1% of the dogs that die each year end up freeze-dried. And it upsets many animal lovers. In a recent survey by MeowMail.com, a Massachusetts-based electronic community for cat lovers, the 2,600 subscribers who responded (out of 12,000 at the time) overwhelmingly rejected freeze-drying. "It's kind of disgusting and demented," says subscriber Heather Marshall, a 23-year-old in Phoenix. "The question is, would you freeze-dry your child or mother or sister or father? Probably not."

'I Don't Do It'

Some taxidermists also turn up their noses at transforming family pets into permanent fixtures. "I don't do it here. I don't want to skin a dog," says Cally Morris of Hazel Creek Inc. Taxidermy of Green Castle, Mo.

Still, the practice is gaining acceptance. "We endorse it," says Mr. Harrison of the Pet Lovers Association, which advises owners on "disposition options" for dead pets.

Gail Timberlake, who owns a catering business in Winchester, Va., doesn't care what others think. Her Chartreux cat, Father Ron, is in the freeze-dryer right now. He will return home in March to resume his spot on the white bedroom chair he once used for afternoon naps.

"I just loved that little guy," says Ms. Timberlake, who found the alternatives to freeze-drying distasteful when she had to put the cat to sleep at age 21. "Ashes? I don't think so. Buried in the ground with the worms? I don't think so," she says. "This way, I can always look at him and kiss him goodnight."

Alan Anger, president of Freezedry Specialties Inc., which sells freeze-drying equipment, says he began promoting pet freeze-drying to taxidermists about five years ago after working with museums to preserve animal specimens. "We saw that the process was the same for doing trophy animals and domestic animals," he says.

He now promotes the practice through what the company calls "Friends Forever," a marketing scheme under which taxidermists purchasing the equipment pay a licensing fee in return for training and referrals from the company. Taxidermists who favor freeze-drying say it's far easier than traditional wildlife mounting. Preserving a deceased animal the traditional way involves skinning it, removing internal organs, cleaning away muscle and other tissue through cooking, rebuilding the bone structure and tanning the hide. Then the skeleton must be padded with foam and other materials, and the preserved skin refitted and sewn on. Mr. McCullough, the Fort Loudon taxidermist, charges as much as $2,000 for a traditional job on a small dog.

Freeze-drying avoids nearly all of that labor, preserving the animal with much less expense. Mr. McCullough, for example, charges between $550 and $600 for a poodle, depending on the size.

The virtue of the process, which was commercialized after World War II to preserve blood plasma, lies in its ability to evaporate water directly from ice to vapor without it ever turning into water.

Al Holmes, who runs a taxidermy studio and wildlife museum in Wetumpka, Ala., starts by manipulating the animal's body into an appropriately meaningful pose. He works from snapshots and consultations with the owners. Then he puts the animal in a regular freezer until solid. From there it goes into a special freeze-dryer. In Mr. Holmes's studio, this is an imposing steel cylinder with a 4-inch-thick plexiglass window. As refrigerators cool the interior to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, a powerful pump sucks out the air, creating a near-perfect vacuum. Little by little, the ice in the corpse escapes as water vapor, which is pulled out of the chamber.

Small animals take about two months to dry completely, while large dogs need as long as six months. "We go by feel," says Mr. Holmes. "We open the machine every other week. When all the water is gone, there's nothing to freeze and they actually feel warm. Then you know he's ready."

Once dried, the animal's bodies don't decay.

Early efforts to freeze-dry family pets produced specimens that later became infested with insects. Taxidermists say they've solved that problem by injecting the pets with solutions of formaldehyde and other preservatives before putting them in the freeze-dryer.

Family pets can also be difficult because so many are overweight. Sometimes, all the fat doesn't completely dry, leading to problems in the afterlife. "You start getting some oozing," says Anthony Eddy, owner of Anthony Eddy Wildlife Studios, Slater, Mo.

But this is nothing a little cotton batting and some household repair equipment can't solve. After surgically removing fat deposits, "I go in there with a caulking gun," he says.

The technical subtleties don't matter to Tauna Hadley of Kansas City, Kan. Her Weimaraner, Weimar Lee, died of cancer in 1999. Now she sits proudly atop a living room wardrobe. "It's like she's asleep," says Ms. Hadley. "She's still a pet. She's just not a live pet."


Thursday, January 11, 2001 [Hilary1 Law Sittings begin]

1 Lovers of the Common Law recognize only two other dates: Michaelmas and Trinity. All else is rubbish.


There is a God!

Proof came today. Anyway, I first heard of it over my morning coffee. No, there was not a parting of clouds, accompanied by rolling thunder ... no lightning ... no bearded presence in the sky ... none of that. God spoke to us through the "International Travel" section of the IHT.

More precisely God spoke to us through the words of Judge T. S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, USA.2

2 Yet further proof that God is an American.


But, dear reader, before we hear from God himself let's position the forces of good and evil:

From the side of the GOOD:

"After spending more than $12 million installing larger overhead bins in its airliner fleet to hold more carry-on baggage, Continental Airlines is trumpeting an anti-trust victory over United Airlines."

On the EVIL side:

"United's check-in templates, which carry-on luggage must be small enough to pass through, have infuriated airline passengers at airport security checkpoints around the United States when they discover their bags will not pass through."

So wonderful are God's words that they must be chiseled here forever and in their entirety:

"United's placement of the templates at all security checkpoints at Dulles International Airport was an unreasonable restraint of trade that caused antitrust injury. If there is any proof of failure in the market to be gleaned from the record, it is of United's failure to provide what its customers desire. The common thread joining all three of United's suggested procompetitive effects i.e., improved on-time performance, safety, and passenger convenience and comfort is the fact that some airlines are not able (or willing) to provide onboard storage capacity and carry-on baggage policies that the flying public wants. In this regard, the existence of the need for such improvements is not attributable to any failure of competition, but rather to the failure of individual airlines to provide better products and service."

Still in the air:

It crept into our dictionary-of-ways-to-die just a few months ago: "Clot Deaths."3 Shortly after the Olympic torch was quenched down under, a young and apparently fit passenger stepped off a Sydney to London flight and promptly died. As airline food was not the culprit, doctors became curious about this new flying hazard. "Deep-vein thrombosis related to long-haul flights" was the coroner's verdict. A Bloomberg wire service report estimates that landings at London's Heathrow Airport alone account for at least one of these deaths each month. Worldwide there are probably 2,5004 of these deaths per year.

3 Next-to-no entries in the dictionary separate this from "Cot Deaths".

4 Equivalent in carnage to five fully loaded 747s smashing into a rock after a terrifying downward spiral approaching the speed of sound.


And, what of Boonlert? From the photograph it appears that his presence at supermarket openings is no longer needed. Did he become the main dish at the buffet? Feed for other animals. Part of a bizarre ritual? Could he have just exploded ... a variant on the spontaneous combustion syndrome? We won't know until Watcharee wakes up.5

5 Ah, good! Watcharee is now up and about. Boonlert is going to be 'stuffed'. Yes, what we see in the photograph is just the early stage of this stuffing procedure. All the mushy bits have to be cut away before the sawdust can be wheeled in. Once the cavity has been prepared, local artisans will shovel him full of things that will not stink. Mounted on casters, Boonlert's final resting place will be in a yet to be determined spot.


Friday, January 12, 2001

Before moving into today (Friday) there are a few loose ends from yesterday that I want to deal with ... from NEWNES and the Tribune ... not Wescott.

Left unsaid on the 11th:

NEWNES gives us two names from whom two great institutions got their names:

Earlier I picked up on a story about "Clot Deaths,"1 the work of that, up to now, sneaky killer2 in the gate area. Until recently, the Reaper's helper most responsible for immediate post-arrival deaths has kept a pretty low profile.3 While the scythe wielder in charge of "Airplane Harvests, General" has grabbed full-value headlines every time one of "his" charges drops from the sky ... or, upends itself in a glorious fireball ... the novice working the gates gets little attention for his efforts. Now that researchers over at the British Travel Health Association have come up with some pretty big numbers ... 2500 per year ... equal to half a dozen fully-packed Jumbos each year burying themselves at tremendous speed into that little coffee shop run by Lloyds ... well, with those kind of deaths somebody is going to sit up and take notice.

What are you getting at, Alf?

David and Adriana spent 40 hours traveling from Bangkok to Fort Lauderdale. It is an amazing tale of survival. Would you like to read about it?

How about putting it in a footnote. If we have time we'll read it. OK?

It'll be in footnote "4."

1 Newly recognized by both sides.

2 Usually a 'trainees' position.

3 Low numbers, low profile.

4 "Yes, we are bushed. We just got back a few hours ago, after about 40 hours of traveling. When we got to the airport our flight had been cancelled due to snow in Seoul, but they put us on a Thai Air flight that left an hour earlier. However, when we got to Seoul we circled for about an hour and finally diverted to Japan. We spent 5 hours on the ground there, before finally going back to Seoul. This was of no big concern to us, since our flight to Atlanta was not scheduled to leave until early evening and we anticipated a nice stay in the Seoul first class lounge. However, when we got there the lounges were full to overcrowding, with people sitting on the floor due to missed flights. Yuck! Well, after being really depressed at this sight I got a bright idea. The showers that you saw in our video, the nice ones that have chairs and are very quiet, were neglected or unknown to the mass of people in the lounge, so I got the key and we passed four hours of relative peace in our private privy with frequent trips to the lounge to grab snacks to bring back. Well, finally we took off and all was bliss in first class. However, our plane had left 2 hours late, so we missed the last plane to FLL and had to spend the night in Atlanta. However the hotel was comfortable and finally we are home."


Of more interest to everybody is yesterday's pick from IN OUR PAGES. Let me go straight into it:

1926: A 'New Messiah'

MADRAS The arrival of the new Messiah will be announced at a great ceremonial meeting on the site of the new temple to the sun. Dr. Annie Besant will proclaim the new "Christ" on the grounds of the Theosophical Society. He is J. Krishnamurti, a young Indian, who has been educated in England and France since 1911. More than 20,000 delegates from many countries are now at Adyar, waiting for the coming. Seven of the twelve apostles who are to accompany the new Messiah on his preaching mission have already been chosen.

As long as I am in the 20's I might as well cover today's IHT entry:

1926: Bigger Ears

LOS ANGELES The human ear is getting bigger and bigger. Eventually it may match that of the elephant, according to Doctor P.O. Pfuffer, Viennese aurist. He claims the aurical evolution is being brought about by the "tremendous din and conflict of complex noises in which we exist." The very strain of trying daily to hear intelligently in a big city is gradually enlarging the ear "through constant irritation, stimulation and exercise" he explains. "It is not beyond possibility that in the course of centuries people will develop radio ears, great floppers capable of receiving radio directly from the air."

Today's Wescott:

John Angeloptes
FIFTH CENTURY

The Bishop of Ravenna had an angel to help him to celebrate mass. Hence his magnificent name. No one but himself, however, saw it which shows how generous men's minds were in the Dark Ages.

Two of today's NEWNESIANS are remarkable because of their 'occupations.' Is NEWNES suggesting that they are undeserving? Is it damnation by faint praise? Perhaps NEWNES was just lazy and couldn't be bothered with looking for more? Maybe he meant to get back to them later on; but for now, this would have to do? We'll never know ... will we?

The curtain is about to open ...


Why didn't someone think of this earlier? It's such a natural. But, before I show you what I am talking about, let me take you back in time ... to a time of artistic experimentation. It's the mid-60s ... Carol Doda is still on stage.1 Topless dancing is taking off in all directions. [And, for one brief shining moment there was even a topless donut franchise.2] But for pure brilliance there was nothing to match the topless laundry. It was a "Suds and Something" kind of place. And because it also had a beer and wine license ... plus plenty of off-street parking ... it became a favorite for the motorcycle crowd. What more did a biker need? But, I stray ... let me move back to the road:

Bangkok has an "Internet Laundry"! And, here is photographic proof. Gone are the old and tattered issues of Cosmopolitan ... no more curly-paged copies of Redbook ... soggy pages of the Daily News are right out.

1 This is hard to believe, but it is true. There WAS a time when 'topless' dancing was illegal. And, YES, dear wonderful reader, not only was it illegal ... but, it was illegal in California! Around about 1964 or 1965 the San Francisco cops arrested Carol Doda for the crime of "indecent exposure." And, Melvin Belli came to her rescue. Yes, the same Melvin Belli of Jack Ruby fame. Ruby was the guy who killed Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was the guy who shot JFK. This could go on endlessly ... maybe winding up right here with the hand that shook the hand that shook the hand that ... .

2 Confusion over exactly what was to be'topless' doomed the business early on.

Next: Part III

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