Back Home in Bangkok, Part III

Between Part II and Part IV

March 18-24, 2001

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Gabriele
Gabriele

Yesterday Gabriele Thiers-Bense posted another of her 'world-class' offerings in the "Friendships" section of the International Herald Tribune. Never exactly sure what she is really saying, I always try to read between the lines:

"... THAT SPECIAL [strange] WOMAN WEALTHY [has Sears card in her own name] WIDOW [for sure, need more details]"

"A striking [deformed] beauty, who embodies everything a spoiled [bitch] and demanding [bitch from hell] World Citizen [visa problems] and society person [lush] expects [never compromising]! She is mid 40 [admits to] 5' 8" tall, presents exquisite elegance [snob] and taste ['more expensive, the better'], a witty "fun personality" [sick] whose subtle intelligence [barely measurable] and sense of humor [really loves 'wheelchair' jokes] is just as entertaining as her refreshing enthusiasm [never shuts up]! She speaks fluently English, Italian, French and Spanish [foreign exchange calculations only], is a member of leading European circles [credit card fraud, overdrawn accounts, major coke addiction, etc.] and absolutely world traveled ['just one step ahead of ...']. Again one of those childless [numerous abortions], totally independent [selfish] and life experienced [school drop-out] women who can afford to [now, 'must'] accompany and really support ['will go anywhere'] their men [women, anyone] with caring attention [Oh, so fucking nosy], business-knowledge [snoops into private mail] and the perfect finish [hopes he dies first] which is required within a supreme-class lifestyle [sponge, leech, hang-on ... etc.]! She maintains several private estates in Europe [mail boxes, apartments of friends], yet resides preferably in her magnificent "beach-house" [month to month cabana rental] in Spain [really cheap help]. Definitely that SPECIAL WOMAN [see above] for a very special ONE-WOMAN-MAN [impotent] ... & ONLY FOR MARRIAGE [negotiable]!

As the week ends, NEWNES brings back some old friends:

Both were 'statesmen', but NEWNES apparently felt that Ivan didn't need amplification ... or, that the other one did.

Born later, this man had a greater influence on our lives. Our trip to Berlin (last fall, in connection with the ICCA meeting) would have been far less memorable had we not stumbled upon the street where he once lived. Whatever ...

Wescott, albeit choiceless, closes with:

EDWARD THE MARTYR
962 978

Edward, King of the West Saxons, was murdered by his step-mother's servants. His half-brother's grief, and popular horror of the crime, appear to have dictated his saintly reputation; so he may be said to have been canonized more or less to make amends.

As does this sunset over the Chao Phraya River.

PS The breakfast team, the workout gang at the Gym ... and the lovelies at the Spa. They all send their best, too.


Monday, March 19, 2001 (Feast of St. Joseph)

Ah, yes ... good show, Andy. A bit more than we really wanted; but ... well, we asked for it, didn't we? Seems that this Ebenezer fellow was a bit of a grumbler ... a malcontent ... not willing to let things be ... in fact, he seems to have been a real pain in the ass. Going around with a bunch of stupid poems ... ranting and raving about the cost of a fucking loaf of bread ... and trying to suck God into the whole bit ... what with his holier than thou beating of his breast ... whining about his dead dad and his near dead mom ... what's he expect a baker to do ... cut his own profit to a zero so that he and his grubby little family could stuff their fat faces with cake? Is that what this Ebenezer Elliott was all about? If so, let's cram him back into his little black hole and slam the book on NEWNES.1

But, before we do:

NEWNES shows us one birthday really worth celebrating:

And, more of your lot, Andy?

Today's IHT anniversaries hint that the hunt for Miss Chopsticks may be getting closer:

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

TIENTSIN The tension here is increasing. A conflict may be expected at any moment. Troops of all nations are under arms. The situation at the railway station remains the same, though the temper of the hostile troops is, if possible more disquieting than before. The French troops are taking part in the trouble, despite the efforts of their officers to maintain a neutral attitude. Yesterday afternoon [March 17] many groups of French ran through the British settlement shouting "Down with the English!" and a number of fights took place, several ending in bloodshed.

1926: Students Shot

PEKING Following the acceptance of the Powers' ultimatum for the clearance of the navigable channels leading to the port of Tientsin, over a thousand students gathered outside the Chinese Foreign Office and started a noisy demonstration against the government. The attitude of the mob becoming threatening, the sentries fired on the students, killing seventeen and wounding sixteen others. Relative calm prevails this evening, but anti-foreign feeling seems to have been fueled again by the ultimatum.

1951: Chinese Retreat

TOKYO United Nations forces sped their advance on a 70-mile front in central Korea today [March 18] as Chinese Communist rear-guard resistance suddenly slackened. Evidence mounted that the Chinese Reds may be abandoning Chunchon, the last major Communist stronghold south of the 38th Parallel. Chunchon had served as headquarters for the Chinese high command since Jan 1.


1 EBENEZER ELLIOTT (The Corn-Law Rhymer)

Ebenezer Elliott has been called "the greatest man that Rotherham has produced". In the book "History of Sheffield" he was recognized as a 'Maker of Sheffield' and as a mark of respect for his work the City Fathers of Sheffield erected a large statue to him in Weston Park.

So who was Ebenezer Elliott and why is a poet so famous in South Yorkshire?

Ebenezer was born at New Foundry, Masbrough, Rotherham, on 17th March 1781 and was the son of a small Iron Founder. He was raised in a very religious atmosphere and was reputed to have memorized much of the Bible. From the age of 16 to 38 he worked in the family business until it failed leaving him bankrupt so he moved to Sheffield and became a very successful Iron Dealer.

Outside his work he was very involved in politics and his poetry reflected the politics and social conditions of the day. He set up an Anti-Corn League in Sheffield to fight the Corn Laws which had priced bread out of the range of poor people (a loaf cost on average the same as a day's wage for most people) and led to hunger and suffering.

Child, is thy father dead?
Father is gone.
Why did they tax his bread?
God's will be done.

Doctor said air was best.
Food we had none.
Father with panting breast.
Groaned to be gone.

Now he is with the blest.
Mother says death is best.
We have no place to rest.
Yes! We have one.

Wars with France and America had prevented the import of cheap grain and the price of corn rose at a very rapid rate, from 43 shillings per quarter in 1792 to 126 shillings per quarter in 1812. Parliament (which consisted of 90% Farmers/Landowners) passed laws (the Corn Laws) fixing the price of corn at 80 shillings per quarter which led to riots and mobs attacking MPs as they went to vote. Even the Lord Mayor of London and Baring the Banker complained about the unfairness of the law.

Elliott wrote a series of strongly-worded rhymes and poems which were spoken from thousands of platforms at Anti-Corn Law Meetings across the country. Ebenezer Elliott became known as "The Poet of the Poor" and "A Red Son of the Furnace" by MPs and in return Elliott named them, "A Place of Knaves", "Tax-Fed Drones" and "The Lords of the Dear Bread". He came to the attention of Dr Southey, Poet Laureate and the Poet Wordsworth, lifting him out of relative obscurity as a poet and into national acclaim.

The "Corn Law Rhymes" were first printed and published in 1831 by the Sheffield Mechanics Anti-tax Society and a complete collection of his work can be seen a Rotherham Library. His most famous and best-known poem is "Peoples Anthem":

When wilt thou save the people?
Oh, God of mercy! when?
Not kings and lords, but nations!
Not thrones and crowns, but men!
Flowers of thy heart, of God they are.
Let them not pass like weeds, away
Their hertigare a sunless day!
God save the people!

When wilt thou save the people?
Oh, God of mercy! when?
The people, Lord of the people!
Not thrones and crowns, but men.
God save the people! thine they are,
Thy children, as thy angels fair,
save them from bondage and despair.
God save the people!

In 1845 Peel repealed the Corn Laws in favour of Free Trade which brought bread prices down instantly. However Ebenezer's own finances suffered as a result of Free Trade, losing much of his wealth and also suffered from poor health.

He retired to Hargate Hill Farm at Great Houghton near Darfield and died there 1st December 1849 aged 68 years. In his will he asked: "Burials at Rotherham Churchyard being no longer permitted, I suggest that my remains shall be interred in my own land, where I have driven a stake at the foot of the hill, near Lord Galway's Ash tree, or if this is objected to, in Darfield Churchyard, at the least possible expense. There is a parish hearse at Darfield, to be had by parishioners for a few shillings."

He was buried in Darfield Churchyard and seven years later his wife was buried with him. His grave is the only grave site in Darfield Churchyard that still retains its railings. His memory was still respected so much a hundred years after his death that when all the rest of the railings in the churchyard were removed to "aid the war effort" his were left in place.

EBENEZER ELLIOTT
(The Corn-Law Rhymer)
1781-1849


Tuesday, March 20, 2001

We haven't seen that 'helpful-hand' in quite awhile.

The 'gloved-hand'?

Yes, the one in 'white'.

With the 'pointy-finger'?

Yes. We ARE talking about the same one, I think. What's he up to now?

IT, you mean?

Whatever.

A "Romeo and Juliet" sort of thing. Only, it's a little more one-sided.

Hmmmm?

Seems as if the girl's parents weren't too enthusiastic about it. So he killed her, and then shot himself. In the head ... that explains the dots.

Anything else?

NEWNES is pretty gloomy, too. Deaths outnumber births 9 to 3.

Just do the dead ones.

What's the difference between an 'ironmaster' and an 'ironmonger'?

I don't know. Maybe, one knows more about iron than the other? Or, one sells the stuff? Ask Andy.

That's it?

Mostly. Though NEWNES does mention that the foundation stone of Dartmoor Prison was laid, on this date, in 1806.

A peek into tomorrow?

An archbishop gets burnt at the stake, a duke is shot and a famous clockmaker dies.


Wednesday, March 21, 2001 (Feast of St. Benedict)

Paul was tugged in two directions on this one. The "Snappy Tidbits" with their delicate marriage of whirled Roquefort cheese, softened farm butter and finely sieved garden fresh celery ... with just a bat's breath of Worcestershire Sauce ... pulled Paul one way. Snappy TidbitsBut, those "Sardine Fingers" spoke sharply, too! They are commanding eyebrow raisers at any party! And, yes, he noted, there IS an analogy here: "Buffalo Wings"! Anyway, both were last night's finalists in that mad rush for the undivided attention of one of the quirk chefs at the kitchens of The Oriental.1 The "Snappies" won. Perhaps the house was low on sardines tinned in tomato; oil now being the preferred bath for canned fish. As with the offerings of any great restaurant, we'll probably never know the real reason why one dish makes it to the menu while another doesn't.2

The Oriental, perhaps worried that other guests might think that 'my' creation was 'their' creation, sent the finished dish to my room under a protective cover. Accompanied by a glass of water and garnished with potato chips ... and arriving without charge (as if to emphasize that what was under the lid was something not to be seen as of-value) ... it was left inside my room with the same grand gesture as would be a piece of embarrassingly traveled luggage. Perhaps out of pity ... I don't really know why ... but anyway ... a few minutes later the kitchen responsible for assembling my room service creation supplemented it, quite gratuitously, with something from their stock dessert menu. I guess that the contrast was just too much to resist.

As promised, NEWNES:


1 The confused reader is directed back to our earlier discussion of what great things can be done with fully adulterated white bread. A rediscovery of a dozen 1927 recipes from a little cookbook from the kitchens of Mother Erickson has allowed this journalist a chance to marry the talent found in the great kitchens of The Oriental with some 'roaring twenties' American mid-western ideas about food.

2 Once when the great chef, Escoffier, was asked this same question, his Gallic shrug and a candid, "I really don't know," was the best answer that the readers of LeMonde could get. Sniffing ruefully, he added, "Perhaps, no one knows." Pressed relentlessly by his interrogator for something more worthy of his culinary experience, he snapped, "Ask the fish!" And, to this day, it is at the pre-dawn Parisian fish markets where the great chefs of France make their menu choices for the day. For many years the Vatican was reluctant to remove 'fish' from that de rigueur Friday menu of French Catholics for fear of being seen as unwelcome dampeners of all that is truly fine with French cuisine.


Thursday, March 22, 2001

You will just have to believe me on this one. I know it'll be hard, as this journal is well known for its spoofs (but, good natured ones ... all of them, I promise). Here goes:

But, first, look at the photograph.

The Red Clock

Everything (save for the tires and the clock face) is red. Not just "red-ish" ... not just "mostly-red" ... not just "pretty-much-the-same-red". NO! All red. And, all red of the same 'red' red.

The view you have is from the rear. But, when I first saw him he was at a 90-degree angle to me. From where I was I could clearly see his spray-painted red ankles, sticking out from his red pants. And, they were riding atop red sneakers that, in turn, were furiously pumping up and down on red pedals. Yes, even the drive chain to the red-spiked wheels was red (albeit a greasy version of red).

Look, dear reader, if this machine had been 'black' to the same extent that it was 'red', the thing could have been a hearse. Yes, some Dickensonian parody of a hearse, but a hearse, just the same.1 Even its backward facing clock ('Father-Time') would have been somewhat in stride with what I saw. Camera in hand, I still would have charged after it. But, if 'black', I would have had a pretty preformed idea of what I was chasing. Perhaps my lens would be searching for a shiny coffin handle ... or, for a lone (Monty Pythonish) leg sticking out into traffic ... or, perhaps even for a trail of leaking ashes and bone bits.

But, it was red.

My first photograph was terribly fogged. The air-conditioned Oriental was only a minute or two behind me, so it wasn't until after the second or third wipe that I got what you just saw. At this point I was actually gaining on this funny contraption.

Just then a security guard stepped in my way. He held up his hand. I stopped. I was intimidated. I don't know why; the man wasn't anyone 'official', he was just a private security guard. Just one of those 'uniforms' that jewelry stores hire to make it look like they run a high-class, but safe, place.

My first thought was that this great red tricycle device was the work of some eccentric member of the Royal Family.2 That all of Bangkok knew perfectly well that this was just cousin XXX or nephew YYY going about his daily 'business'. That if left totally alone, he would, without doing any harm, make his way back to the Royal Palace. No one else on the street appeared to give this strange machine even a second glance. What right had I to be so curious?

But, I was.

As this machine had passed directly in front of several places where I normally shop, I stopped in at one of them and asked the owner about what I had just seen.

Come back tomorrow, I'll tell you what he told me.

PS The clock on the red thing was accurate.


1 Wiley, of the comic strip, NON SEQUITUR, would have to be the artist to do the hearse. He does death so well. Yesterday, he did God (Dog).

2 In England there would be reserved parking places for it at Buckingham Palace and at Berry Brothers Rudd. And, Coutts, the Royal bankers, would even maintain an ATM machine that was 'friendly' to the machine's needs.


Friday, March 23, 2001

"He buys empty gasoline containers from people."


Saturday, March 24, 2001

So easily we forget!

Yes, that is what the advertisers count on.

"Come on strong in the ads! Puff it up, guys! All out of shape! Makes no difference; 'cause by the time they open the box they'll not remember those wordy bits!"

That's the language they use in "Catalog Marketing 101". And, I can prove it.

Let's go back a couple of months: to my Sharper Image purchase of the RAZOR CARE SYSTEM. How eager and naïve I was ... yanking the wrappings off the box so that I could quickly get at my little purchase: the machine that would forever revolutionize my morning shave, the tool that would free me from a least half the time that I usually wasted at the razor-blade/battery/breath-mint/Dell-Diet-book rack in my supermarket check out line.

Yes, dearest reader, how I dreamed! How I hoped!

[Whiiiiiirrrrrr noise of Paul running the reel backwards to Florida]

But, once the wrappers have been tossed ... the box opened ... the thing 'turned on' ... well, it's not quite the same, is it? Where did I get this dream stuff? Why did I think the thing would do what I thought? The directions ... the words on the box ... made no such promises. How did I get it so wrong?

[Whiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr noise of Paul fast-forwarding the reel to Bangkok]

"The Holiday 2000 Catalog", from Sharper Image. Page 39. Holiday CatalogJust below the ad for the "Turbo-Groomer", the little machine that "trims away unwanted nose and ear hair". And, just across from the "Corby Automatic Pants Press", the "Equalizer Foot Pro Massager" and the "Ionic Breeze Plug-In Air Purifier".

This is where I 'got' the dream! Yes, from this long-ago-read ad. Along with old copies of Time and Newsweek, the Sharper Image catalog had stayed 'put' ... aging, if you will ... next to the toilet ... until just this morning.

And, then ...

The 'lost words' were there. All of them. Preserved in print and pictures:

"Magnets envelop the blade in an intense magnetic field." Directly above these comforting words an artist's sketch shows the 'magnetic field' at work. Grey discs (the magnets?) seem to emit red squiggles (the 'field'?) just under a yellow thing (the razor head?).

Under the bold red banner, "Keep blades sharper, longer", the copywriter's words continue to flow reassuringly:

"Razor Care System helps to maintain the sharpness of your razor blades, for any brand of safety razor."

Razor Care System

"Inside the sleekly designed holder are three linearly sequenced, neodymium rare earth magnets, each of an unusually powerful 12,000-gauss rating."

"They are positioned in a carefully calculated configuration that envelops the blades in an intense magnetic field aligned with the linear construction of the blades. The process called magnetostriction aligns the edges by the power of the magnetic field along the longitudinal axis."

"Such strong magnetic action is believed to extend the life of the blades and prolong the sharpness by a significant factor."

"It works equally well with single-, double or triple-blade razors. Requires no liquids or power and the magnets are guaranteed to last a lifetime."

"Unit can be wall-mounted using the concealed suction cup."

See! "Catalog Marketing 101"!

Next: Part IV

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