Bangkok When the Leaves Turn, Part VII

Between Part VI and Part VIII

November 1-7, 2001

Thursday, November 1, 2001 (All Saints' Day)

Last night The Oriental (along with Bangkok's lesser lights) celebrated Loi Krathong. The girls, of course, were the highlights.

Great news: The Economist has just published "INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: The Lighter Side of Current Affairs". From time to time we'll test our knowledge of things that The Economist thinks are 'light'.

Which of the following is equivalent to an exabyte?1

  1. The annual output of all McDonalds's restaurants in the western hemisphere?
  2. The information in about 20 billion copies of The Economist.
  3. The amount of magical charge required to power ten broomsticks (according to the "Harry Potter" books.
  4. The amount of information in about 50m copies of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets".


Mary of Rome
DIED 120

This unimportant Mary was a servant-girl denounced by the neighbors and so badly tortured that there were manifestations about it in the streets of the capitol. A good-natured soldier let her escape, and she survived the experience, but not for long.



1 The answer is (B): "Already drowning in too much information? At least you can now find out precisely how much you are missing: about two exabytes. (An exabyte is roughly a billion times a billion bytes, or the equivalent of about 20 billion copies of The Economist.) This is the estimated amount of unique information the world is producing each year, as calculated by a group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. But while humanity is producing ever more information, it doesn't consume much more than it did in 1992 in the United States, at least. The total time American households spend reading, watching television or listening to music increased only slightly from 3,324 hours in 1992 to 3,380 hours in 2000." Byte Counters, The Economist, October 21st 2000.

Friday, November 2, 2001 (All Souls' Day)

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Mussolini Saved

ROME Was it the Madonna that miraculously saved Signor Mussolini's life yesterday? This is the question that pious Romans were asking themselves as they came out of the churches today [Nov. 2], the feast of All Saints.1 The effigy of the Madonna adorns the insignia of the Collar of the Annunciata, which Signor Mussolini was wearing together with the Grand Cordon of the Mauritian Order at the time of the attempt, and the miraculous deflection of the bullet is attributed to her.

Watcharee and I have new neighbors. Right next door, in Suite 1412 (Graham Greene's place), is the "State of Bahrain". Anything more about what's inside ... well, it's hard to tell; the loopy script probably just identifies it as a 'hospitality suite'. But, pretty much the whole 14th floor has been taken over by the "State of Bahrain"; similar crest-embossed cards are under the doorbells of nearly all the rooms from here to the elevator and back.2

Looking down from my porch, I can see that some extra naval security has been laid on. Presumably, there are 'foot soldiers' in the lobby, as well. I am not really sure if all of this suggests that The Oriental is more or less of a target than it was when the place had a few more Americans about.3


DIED 387

Brought up at the imperial court, this Syrian penitent withdrew into the desert near Chalcis, and lived there in a hut so small that he could neither stand up nor lie down singing, doing handiwork, hungering, and talking wisely to all who came.


1 Is it possible that All Saints' Day, like all Loi Krathong, is 'tied' to the timing of the full moon and the lunar tides? This reading of the IHT 'archives' suggests that this is the case. Or, did the reporter of the day confuse All Saints' with All Souls'? Aside from a few Vatican specialists, hardly anyone knows anything about these two back-to-back 'holidays'. Diarists, calendarists, and other people whose job it is to keep track of bank closing days almost always just blindly and routinely copy the 'work' of others ... .so, there is really no point in asking them for more.

2 A quick trip to shows that the place is "an absolute monarchy". The "family-run government" is quite top-heavy with the Khalifa name; it appears at the head of most ministries (Defense, Electricity & Water, Justice & Islamic Affairs, Oil & Industry, etc.). If Amir Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa himself is in the building ... well, I expect that he'd be two floors up in the really big suite; the one Dan Quayle favored when he was here.

3 But, personally, I am more comfortable with having prayer rugs next door.

PS Good Lord! The naval presence on the river in front of The Oriental has been doubled ... nay ... tripled, quadrupled ... no, hold on ... wait ... Oh My God ... there is now a frigate, or is it a gunship, out front! Jesus, what can all this mean? A guest upgrade?

Saturday, November 3, 2001

Age is creeping up faster than I'd hoped! When I was writing yesterday's journal I completely forgot about those 'stopovers' in Bahrain: it was the refueling stop on "Sing Air's" flight from Singapore to London. The airport was always well stocked with duty free liquor stores and the bars seemed to run on a 24-hour clock. So, obviously these new neighbors of mine don't have to worry too much about all that 'thou shall not drink' nonsense; and they are probably pleased to be out of earshot from that irksome crier in the minaret.

This afternoon I rode up with a couple of them in the elevator; they had just come back from Jim Thompson's House; bundles of silk in hand ... something for the little woman back home, no doubt. They were all robed out in desert-comfy whites; probably looking forward to slipping into something 'lighter' ... something a little less conspicuous for a Bangkok evening.1

This morning's INTERMARKET in the IHT has two ads that should be talking to each other:

Munich's Gabriele Thiers-Bense:


OF COURSE YOU DON'T WANT THE MILLIONS ... if the man is not right, and you don't want to live in a golden cage, if the man isn't right but how is it, if the man is right???? If he looks like a film star, has explicit decency and moral/ethic values, shares precisely the understanding of loyalty, faithfulness and loving attention, which you demand? This WEALTHY GLOBAL PRIVATE FINANCIER is 45 years young, 6'3" tall, presents impeccable distinction, has a prestigious education, privileged residences around the World, maintains private planes, helis and yachts, and would (as all our male clients) respect & marry a woman who has 'made herself', just like him a woman who is not blinded by wealth, but only by outstanding human qualifications FOR MARRIAGE ONLY!

In a private ad, just below the Thiers-Bense offering:

BEAUTIFUL, CHARMING GERMAN LADY - slim, blonde, 30's, very elegant, would like to meet wealthy, sophisticated gentleman for support & discreet liaison. Tel: 0049 (0) 211-4350687.

ChristianeMost male CNN junkies fell in love with Christiane Amanpour during the Gulf War. Oh, God, she was just everything a man ever wanted. A comic strip heroine who was real flesh and blood ... and with such a sexy voice ... and that name! And, now you can see her live, from Pakistan, on CNN, of course.

"Meow ... "

"CNN war slut"!

That's what Andrea Peyser, in a New York Post column, called Christiane Amanpour. Robert Murdoch, owner of the paper had to personally apologize to the offended Amanpour.

According to the IHT, all the furs are back and matted.



Hubert of Tongres
DIED 727

This famous hunter, a fierce immoral man, was converted by a white stag. Having brought it to bay, he fell off his horse and, face down in the forest, listened to it, or to the voice out of the leaves, prophesying, scolding, comforting. It sent him to Bishop St. Lambert of Maestricht,2 who disciplined and educated him for years. In his old age, a bishop himself, Hubert hunted the goddess of the forest of Ardennes, successfully driving her out of men's minds.

He is the saint of dogs, and his blessing is given them before formal stag hunts.

1 The Bamboo Bar was surprisingly full. As the barman called, "last drinks, gentleman", my new-found acquaintance had a parting suggestion: it sort of fell into the category of "wish you'd told me that earlier ... before the cows jumped out of the barn window". But, for whatever it is worth: Understandably, all 'fundamentalist' Islamic texts on terror allow for clean shaven chins ... and 'brothers' are warned not to get too involved in scolding people for being infidels ... nor do they have to bring attention to themselves by excessive mosque attendance ... and carrying metallic Mecca pointing devices isn't necessary ... BUT ... under no circumstances is the rule prohibiting alcohol to be broken. Well, if all the airlines made a pre-flight drink compulsory ... well, that would stop the would-be terrorist right at the boarding gate. Enforcement with inexpensive breathalyzers would guarantee safe and cheery flights for all.

2 Maestricht will be the site of the 2002 AGM of the International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts. It will be held from August 15th until the 20th.

Sunday, November 4, 2001

It's Sunday!

Song of Solomon, Chapter Seven:

"How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! The joints of thy thighs are like jewels."

"Thy navel is like a round goblet which wanteth not liquor; thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies."

"Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins."



Charles Borromeo
1538 1584

The noble Borromeos as a rule dedicated their younger sons to God, incidentally, no doubt, enriching the eldest. Charles, however, was no ordinary high-born churchman. The catechism of the Council of Trent was drawn up under his direction; and he had power all over Europe, maneuvering pontiffs and sovereigns, among others Mary, Queen of Scots. He had a hand in some of the more odious cruelties of the Counter-Reformation. His reforms seemed even to many Catholics unbearable; the Franciscans delegated one of their number to assassinate him; he was not fatally wounded.

There is a statue of him seventy feet high on the shores of Lake Maggiore, and one of silver, life-size, in Milan. Why artists should have represented him in a humble attitude, one cannot tell.

It was he who set Palestrina writing religious music.


On a secular note:

The water in front of The Oriental is less guarded this morning. In fact, the protective naval force looks pretty bare-bones, so to speak.

The Bangkok Daily News has a happy blend of cheesecake and death for its Sunday readers. The identity of neither is known.

This morning the Bangkok Post carries a curious ad: for starters, it is odd that there is going to be "The American Boarding School Fair" here in Bangkok ... yes, on November 5th through the 7th ... at The Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. The meat: the Glenholme School is seeking those ... (ah, students, enrollees, inmates?) ... with "learning disabilities and/or social or emotional deficits". Offering a "highly structured learning environment" ... designed for "altering inappropriate behaviors". I wonder what Google can tell us about Glenholme?

Massage parlors and Internet cafes make this niche area of Bangkok a popular place for guys. In one short city block I counted 8 Internet shops and 9 massage places; all somewhat conveniently sandwiched, beer available.2

1 "To the World He Was a Loser, But to Me He Was the World" Epitaph, Columbia Memorial Mausoleum, Serenity wing, seventh floor, lesser south gallery, Crypt 2387.

2 Not a woman's shoe store in sight.

PS Two clicks on Google and you are at the "tuition" bit at The Glenholme School home page:

Tuition: The approved 2001-2002 Connecticut State Board of Education rate is $7,133 per month, annualized to $85,592 for 12 months. This fee includes special education, residential treatment, and most clinical services. Funding may be a combination of Agency, Boards of Education, and family.

Monday, November 5, 2001 (Guy Fawkes' Day)

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Only One Vote

PARIS Americans in Paris went to the voting booths Tuesday [Nov. 2] in a small and well organized body, so small and well organized in fact, that when the battle had cleared away it was found that only one lonesome vote had been cast. Consul George Orr, who was in charge of the voting in Paris, dispatched the vote to America immediately. As there are estimated to be about 25,000 Americans in Paris now, a considerable number of votes were expected at the Consulate. Consul General Skinner said that in the last few years there have always been a few votes cast on election day.

1951: Atomic Dust

ROCHESTER, New York The photographic paper-coating plant of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company has had to close down temporarily because atomic dust from Nevada test explosions entered the plant's air conditioning system. A company spokesman said a large quantity of sensitized paper stored in the plant for cutting and packaging was destroyed. The dust, which was carried to earth by snow and sucked into the ventilating system, had the same effect as light on the photo papers.

The New Suspension BridgeYesterday we took the 'commuter' up river to the new suspension bridge ... the one you can see from my porch, way off in the distance (even closer with the Mavica at its full 14 power). These 'real' close-ups show how 'finely' it is balanced; once it gets the other footing it'll look more secure, as will the men working on its tip.

Last night we had dinner at a new restaurant over at River City: barbecued fish. We'll have to take David and Rande there when they get here next week. They are coming to Bangkok on the 13th ... something to do with the upcoming 'gathering' of the Patpong Corkscrew Club.

Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Jerry, Billy ... all the really big Reverends must know this stuff. But, I bet this is the first time you've seen it in print ... first time for me, too ... thanks to Chuck Palahniuk.1 Wescott, your LEONARD is in footnote 2.2

I remember. Just the two of us were standing in the back of a crowded, dark auditorium. I remember it was the night of my first big public appearance.

We were smoking cigarettes, I remember. Down on stage, some local preacher was doing his opening act. Part of his warm-up was to get the audience hyperventilated. Loud singing does the job. Or chanting. According to the agent, when people shout this way or sing "Amazing Grace" at the top of their lungs, they breathe too much. People's blood should be acid. When they hyperventilate the carbon dioxide level of their blood drops, and their blood becomes alkaline.

"Respiratory alkalosis," he says.

People get light-headed. People fall down with their ears ringing, their fingers and toes go numb, they get chest pains, they sweat. This is supposed to be rapture. People thrash on the floor with their hands cramped into stiff claws.

This is what passes for ecstasy.

"People in the religious business call it 'lobstering,'" the agent says. "They call it speaking in tongues."

Repetitive motions add to the effect, and the opening act down onstage runs through the usual drills. The audience claps in unison. Long rows of people hold hands and sway together in their delirium. People do that rainbow hands.

Whoever invented this routine, the agent tells me, they pretty much run things in Hell.

I remember the corporate sponsor was SummerTime Old Fashioned Instant Lemonade.

My cue is when the opening act calls me down onto the stage, my part of the show is putting a spell on everybody.

"A naturalistic trance state," the agent says.

To get ready for tonight, staffers went and visited local people to give them free tickets to the show. The agent is telling me this for the hundredth time. The staffers ask to use the bathroom during their visit and jot down notes about anything they find in the medicine cabinet. According to the agent, the Reverend Jim Jones did this and it worked miracles for his People's Temple.

Miracles probably isn't the right word.

Up on the pulpit is a list of people I've never met and their life-threatening conditions.

Mrs. Steven Brandon, I just have to call out. Come down and have your failing kidneys touched by God.

Mr. William Doxy, come down and put your crippled heart in God's hands.

Part of my training was how to press my fingers into somebody's eyes hard and fast so the pressure registered on their optic nerve as a flash of white light.

"Divine light," the agent says.

Part of my training was how to press my hands over somebody's ears so hard they heard a buzzing noise I could tell them was the eternal Om.

"Go," the agent says.

"The agent tells me, "Wait." He plucks the cigarette out of my mouth and pushes me down the aisle. "Now, go," he says.


[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: 100 Stories High
NEW YORK Alfred C. Bossom, architect, who recently returned from an extended tour of Europe, is firmly convinced that New York is to have buildings a hundred stories high. He maintains that there will be two strata of tenantry, the residential population living stop the business institutions of the city. Fifteen stories will be as high as trade will extend, and there will begin the residential section reaching in a series of steps to a height of 100 floors. Mr. Bossom says his prophecies will be realized within fifty years.

The new (still being built) bridge that you saw yesterday; here is how it looks from my porch this morning.

Also, the Peninsula Hotel as seen far away and close up.

This afternoon Watcharee and I are going to pay a visit to the American Boarding School Fair.3 It's being held in the Grand Ballroom of The Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. I want to learn more about The Glenholme School and its program for students with "social or emotional deficits." I want to get Annie on their mailing list. There is a free directory to the first 20 families.

1 Chuck Palahniuk, SURVIVOR, (author of Fight Club).

2 LEONARD, DIED ABOUT 559 Leonard, a noble penitent, lived in a forest near Limoges. The French king and queen were riding there; her labour-pains began suddenly; and Leonard helped her bring into the world a fine baby. The grateful father gave him the forest. He gathered around him a colony of hermits. All his life he did whatever he could for prisoners, seeking their pardon, collecting money to pay their fines; and for a thousand years or more they made a practice of hanging up their chains in his churches, when set free. He is the patron of every sort of captivity.

3 Organized by The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS).

PS Normally I pay no attention to the "Marketing & Media" section of The Asian Wall Street Journal, but this morning one paragraph in an article entitled "War Proves Costly for U.S. Networks" raised my eyebrows. Apparently wiser Madison Avenue minds decided to pause before going down a road that I would have charged down at full speed right away. Here is the paragraph:

"Drug advertisers have been among the biggest buyers of ad time in broadcast-network news shows since Sept. 11. Glaxo-SmithKline PLC delayed the launch of a campaign for Paxil, an antidepressant, because 'we wanted to be sensitive' to the Sept. 11 events, spokeswoman Holly Russell says. So the company launched the ads Oct. 1, instead of Sept. 17 as originally planned."

Just goes to show you why I'm sitting here in Bangkok twiddling my thumbs. If I had been the king over at Glaxo-SmithKline PLC I'd have had my Paxils in everyone's face even before the second tower fell. My little 'Neilson' family ... from Gramps right through Sis ... would be speed-dialing Old 'Doc' Handy for 'a little something to take the edge off'. And, by the time the Pentagon got hit Ma would be passing around my Paxil's in a great big M&M dish.

Or, "Sometimes it's never too early for a Bud!" That would have been me over at Anheuser-Busch.

Wednesday, November 7, 2001



This morning's Thai newspapers are of one: worry about the war and the economy. Well ... almost all; the Bangkok Daily News, with its pulse-finger on Mom and Dad at the breakfast table, knows what goes best with Cheerios. This three frame 'time sequence' suggests that a son's love for his mother somewhere went wrong.2



Herculanus was Bishop of Perugia during the seven years' siege by the Goths, or Ostro-Goths, under Totila. The good old man tried to save his people by a trick: feeding the last sack of grain to the last lamb, and throwing it down into the enemy's camp. At the sight of the fat broken body the barbarians were supposed to conclude that the Perugians had food to waste, and to give up, and go away. In fact they thought and did nothing of the kind: the city was taken, and the cunning bishop's head cut-off. I little child's body was found in the same ditch as his.

1 Not long ago Madame Curie's fame touched the hearts of 'singles'. Her 'blockish shape', her 'sack like dresses', her 'constant exposure' to new and exotic chemical elements ... they all made her the belle of ... well ... wherever her lab was.

2 Watcharee is not here so I am guessing that that the woman in the back of the flatbed is a dead Mom. That the 'rider' (frame 1), now turned 'confinee' (in frames 2 & 3); is the son. Though, the 'Mom' does look young. Perhaps the man's shirt has absolutely nothing to do with the crime.

Next: Part VIII

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