Alf's First Stab at 2002, Part II

Between Part I and Part III

January 10-13, 2002

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Exclusive Daily News photo, 'doctored' by Morton

Of course that's what it looked like ... and it would look like that to anyone who has been around hot air balloons. To the novice ... to the landlubber ... well, it would just look like some tabloid exposé of a local porno movie that was being made, on a low budget, in a tent; something for export, perhaps for a Japanese or a Chinese market. But, we balloonists know better ... no need to read the Thai description; the picture speaks for itself. Yes, a naked girl inside a fallen hot air balloon.

Today was a triple banner day for some novice archivist at the IHT. This rarely happens. More likely than not, the job of combing history for catchy news for today's Op-Ed page is assigned to a journeyman journalist. Easily made impatient with toiling through crusty volumes in the damp bowels of 92521 Neuilly-sur-Seine, he early on realizes that his editors won't carp just so long as the date is right. What actually happened on that date is usually second fiddle. But, not today.1

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1902: Bill on Flirting

NEW YORK - A bill to stop flirting has been introduced into the State Legislature by an assemblyman named Benett. Flirting "coram publico" of course is the variety referred to, and the man who expressed his admiration, even if only in the language of the eyes, for a lovely woman whom he saw on the street, a car, a restaurant or other public place, was ranked with the intoxicated ruffian as a public nuisance. Mr. Benett declares that if the bill of the sort be introduced he will move to exempt all bachelor members of the State Assembly.

1927: Secret Archives

LONDON - A sensation has been caused in Moscow by the discovery in the Winter Palace at Leningrad of secret archives said to contain a mass of documents, letters, and telegrams written and sent by Kerensky and the Tsar, which disclose the plans of the Government during the time that Kerensky guarded the Imperial family at Tonolsk, before they were taken to be executed in the Ural Mountains. The telegrams from Kerensky are all in cipher, and are addressed to the Russian military staff attached to foreign Governments. It is stated that they deal with his intentions concerning Lenin, and the disposition of large sums which were placed at his disposal to meet the menace of the "red revolution."

1952: Art of Planting

MOSCOW - Scientist V. N. Sukachev was rebuked for suggesting that forest trees should be planted in rows instead of clusters to prevent their becoming involved in "a cruel struggling" among themselves. This, said the official newspaper "Socialist Agriculture," is reactionary theorizing arising from Malthusian ideas.

Most of my readers know that Bangkokians (all Thais, for that matter) are addicted to the national lottery. Any hint as to the winning number, no matter how remote, is immediately jumped upon as a possible vehicle to riches. In the past, we here at have helpfully pointed lottery addicts toward such dispersively predictive things as queerly formed banana plants and pigs so fully gifted with sex organs that they never have to leave the pen in search of another. Well, today's Bangkok Daily News will surely prompt a run on numbers that are in some weird way linked to this lemon plant in the shape of a human penis.2


Oringa, or Christina

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 a 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.



Followers of the Patpong Corkscrew Club are asked to identify this famous member's butt. Anatomical hints can be found at the Club's AGM pages. Still puzzled? Contact me at

1 If these prefatory words sound familiar ... well, yes, I did use them about a year or so ago when describing another IHT archive triple play: a furtive 1899 sale of a Botticelli oil of Mary and Christ; a 1924 English attempt to make radio contact with Mars; finally, a 1949 push by Moscow to create a 'Ruble Bloc'. All fell flat.

2 Watcharee assures me that these things appear in the Bangkok papers for the sole purpose of increasing the sale of lottery numbers that would otherwise remain on the shelf. As to exactly how the 'winning' number is spun-off from the thing in print is a mystery; but this, presumably, is why such weight is attached to the thing's appearance to begin with.

Friday, January 11, 2002 (Hilary Law Sittings begin)

A marginal saint even on one of Wescott's most generous days:

Thomas of Cora
DIED 1729

All His life this Italian friar dreamed of preaching the gospel in India and China, but his superiors refused him permission to do so; and he had to be content with traveling about the fatherland, doing good.

The Thai Rhat (always in a tooth-and-nail battle with the Daily News for the all-valuable breakfast readership) managed to get its own cameraman close enough to the scene of a horrific restaurant fire to graphically show the trouble that even a professional salvage-rescue team has in actually sorting out the chops from the guests. "Is this a leg of ... ?"

Meanwhile Morton ... yes, that old D-76 swilling darkroom hand from over at the Daily News ... was asked by us, the publishers of Corkscrew-Balloon.Com, to bring a little anonymity to some 'out-takes' from our recent PCC AGM. His easel 'tricks' allow us to comfortably bring you some candid prep shots of one of our members getting ready for the main shoot. Without that little 'bar' we'd feel pretty guilty about putting these pictures up on the Internet. 'Nudge-nudge' ... if you flip back to the big day itself ... well, you just might be able to put two and two together by yourself.


Yesterday ... or was it the day before ... we reprinted an article from an Indian newspaper about the quirky side of sewing up amputees; you know, people who lose an arm in a coconut thrashing machine or wind up three fingers-short when the band saw takes an unfortunate turn. One of my keen readers, who for professional reasons likes to keep his name out of the tabloid press, sent in this piece of the little known, but important, role of leeches in helping doctors weld pieces to the whole. As it is lengthy I've put it in a footnote.4 This same article, while giving full marks to the little leeches, seems to spoil itself somewhat by giving even fuller chalk points to "Lord Jesus Christ". That part you can find in a separate footnote.5

1 Additional research uncovered the fact that Archer (admittedly the 'outstanding' English jockey of his day) committed suicide shortly before his 30th birthday. Whether he was becoming ... in his mind ... 'too-long-of-tooth' for the sport ... or, more likely, that the bullet to the brain was brought about by a depressing inferiority complex that was indigenous to his slight frame ... well, no one will ever know for sure. The debate will probably rage for as long as there are furlongs to be run.

2 How many knew he was a lawyer? Be honest! Most of us associate him with The Star-spangled Banner, written when he was age 35.

3 Does any one not know of Selfridges on Oxford Street in London? But did you know that he was an American?

4 "One evening Carol Filak was making custom frames with a pneumatic air gun in her shop, The Upper Bay Frame and Gallery in Nassau Bay, Texas. The gun releases V-shaped nails under high pressure. The pneumatic gun misfired, causing the complete amputation of her right index finger. Fortunately, Mr. Filak was working with her and was able to retrieve the amputated finger. He then rushed her to CHRISTUS St. John Hospital's emergency department. Charles Polsen, M.D., a plastic surgeon on CHRISTUS St. John Hospital's staff, was called to evaluate the possibility of replantation [reattaching the finger]. Dr. Polsen has had extensive training in microsurgery. 'Replantation of an amputated digit is the most technically difficult procedure I perform as a plastic surgeon,' said Dr. Polsen. 'Mrs. Filak's amputation was quite distal (toward the tip of the finger), where the vessels are much smaller. This made the procedure much more challenging.' The fact that Mrs. Filak is a right-handed artist made it clear to Dr. Polsen that she wanted all efforts exhausted to save the finger, even for the slightest chance of success. She was brought to the operating room at once and underwent three hours of microsurgery. Afterward, she was placed on blood thinners and leech therapy. Specifically, leeches were attached to the amputated part of her finger. Leeches love blood and have the ability to suck up to four or five times their body weight. This helps reduce the burden on the patient's veins by draining all of the blood from the replanted part. The leeches also contain a natural anticoagulant in their saliva called hirudin. This aids in the flow of blood through the newly constructed vessels."

5 "Still, with all medical modalities exhausted, the patient's newly replanted finger remained compromised. On postoperative day three, Mrs. Filak was scheduled for a second operation during which the fingertip would be examined under a microscope. If perfusion did not seem adequate, the replanted portion would be removed and the finger would be shortened. According to Dr. Polsen, 'When I evaluated Mrs. Filak on the third day postoperatively, I did not think the fingertip would survive.' The evening before her second surgery, Mrs. Filak was visited at the hospital by Sister Frances and Sister Edwin. Sister Frances, also an artist, had a distinct appreciation of how the patient was feeling about the possibility of her loss. Both Sister Frances and Sister Edwin prayed with Mrs. Filak at her bedside. The next day, they visited the accident site at The Upper Bay Frame and Gallery, where they also prayed for her. Early the next morning, when the patient was taken to surgery, Dr. Polsen observed an incredible and miraculous change in the appearance of the newly replanted fingertip. Dr. Pol-sen's response was, 'To say I'm surprised at the dramatic turnaround is an understatement. I am completely amazed.' This experience has reconfirmed Dr. Polsen's beliefs that the restoration and healing of the human body is not only catalyzed by the knowledge and skill of what medicine has to offer, but also the tremendous power of faith and love in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Wescott finds another saint with bewildering powers:

John Angeloptes

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


[from the International Herald Tribune]
1927: Life and Soul

PHILADELPHIA - Scientists were called on in an address by Dr. Heber D. Curtis, an astronomer from Allegheny Conservatory, to prove the existence of the soul after death. Dr, Curtis asserted the soul must possess continuity and that such conclusion was inevitable. "What we crudely call 'spirit' of man makes new compounds, plays with the laws of chemical action, guides the forces of the atom, changes the face of the earth; a creative spirit which reasonably cannot cease to be."

We have further correspondence from our anonymous friend ... the one who yesterday put us on to the power of leeches as handy helpmates to doctors. Usually these little beasts are most useful in cases when the physician's task is to stitch-and-peg a severed limb back on to some bigger piece from which it had been carelessly ripped free. You recall that the thirsty leeches, when turned loose, easily and eagerly (sucked, lapped, gulped) four to five times their own body mass in unwanted blood. This being excess 'rush' blood that tends to pool and fester and turn quite nasty when 'halted' too close to the spot where the once severed chunk has been replanted ... usually into a freshly 'maggotized' open wound-area of the former host-meat.

Well, maggots do sort of a 'mirror' job: rather than suck up bad blood to keep the good meat good, maggots nibble away the rotting, greenish, foul bits of flesh that would otherwise stink up the hospital ward and probably result in amputations, at best, and death at worst. But. Let's let the footnote1 tell the story.

Apparently, there is no 'used' market for gorged leeches or puffed up maggots. Once satiated they are destroyed.2

Before you bog yourself down in the 'maggot' footnote do try to guess which PCC member is hiding behind this frosted glass. If you just can't make up your mind between Ohmy, Amma and Gift, give the picture a 'click' and she'll open the bathroom door for you.

Frosting on the Patpongette

And, for my breakfast readers we have a murder scene from the Thai Rhat. One dead body ... some cops ... a few gawkers.

1 Maggots can help to clean ulcers and other wounds. Maggots have had a bad press. Normally associated with disease and rotting flesh, doctors now realize they can treat infections. The squirming larvae were first found to have curative properties during World War I. Dr. William Baer noticed that maggots were getting into the wounds of people injured on the battlefield. Instead of making the wound worse, they helped clear it up. Dr. Baer starting using maggot therapy at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore - with excellent results. But with the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s, the therapy went out of fashion. However, according to the BBC's Trust Me I'm a Doctor program, they are now making a comeback because of concerns about infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatment. Dr. Stephen Thomas is the sole UK breeder of maggots. He keeps flies in a sealed room and feeds them on pig's liver. The flies lay their eggs on the liver. These are then separated and sterilized and develop into maggots. The tiny maggots are sent out to hospitals in vials. Maggots clean wounds by eating dead tissue. They first spit out enzymes that liquefy the tissue and then suck up like soup. "They are very gregarious creatures and like to feed in close groups so they all get the benefits of the secretions they are producing." Maggots are also able to breathe through their bottoms which means they can work very quickly because they do not have to keep coming up for air while they are feeding. Bradford Royal Infirmary's leg ulcer unit is one hospital which uses maggot therapy.

"Better than surgeons": Kath Vowden, a nurse at the hospital, says people think the maggots are going to be big fishing-type maggots. But the ones used for treating wounds are very tiny. Maggots are traditionally associated with death and fishing. They are put on the surface of the wound and then sealed in with a bandage. The maggots only feed on the dead tissue. Kath's husband Matthew Vowden is a vascular surgeon at the hospital. He said: "Maggots are very small. They can be very exact about what they do. They can dissolve and digest dead tissue. "A surgeon cannot be that exact and will harm some of the living tissue." During the course of a three-day treatment, the maggots' bodies, full of dead tissue, expand from an average length of two millimeters to three times the size. They leave wounds pink and healthy. Mr. Vowden says many doctors are still reluctant to use maggot therapy. He believes this is because they are not advertised like drugs are and because patients are put off by them. "Patients expect tablets. They don't expect maggots," he said.

2 Even the French have not found a way to put them on a plate.

Sunday, January 13, 2002 [Canute's Day (Sweden)]

Being the end of the long weekend,1 the Bangkok Daily News brings its morning sleep-'til-noon readers a colorful front page over which they can linger a little longer than they would on a normal workday. The Bangkok Raht, also fighting for that all-important Sunday morning lay-in reader, goes gore-for-gore and sex-for sex to grab the attention of the man2 of the house.

But, the News probably wins this round. It's a picture of two murdered men whose bodies have been seriously charred in an acetylene-enhanced attempt to reduce their beings to ashes. It takes this week's Kellogg's Krispies Kup Award for "Best Breakfast Read."

However, the Raht's first-runner-up picture (overall) of a horribly maimed Cambodian security guard captures Best in the foreign "Grisly" category.


Many corkscrew enthusiasts have complained that my photographs of the recent PCC AGM 'short-changed' the corkscrews ... that I was more interested in showing off the members, and that the all-important corkscrews themselves were largely hidden from view. Fair comment! So, I'd like to 'replay' the photograph in question: the one of Gift, Amma and Ohmy fondling their pieces ... but, WITH close-ups of the corkscrews that were chosen by the members as their signature props.

Wescott, today, brings us the most common ... the purest ... form of saintliness: ignorance.

Veronica of Binasco
DIED 1497

A peasant girl too ignorant to enter a convent. She studied night after night, beside a little oil lamp, without making much progress. Finally the Virgin told her not to bother; all she needed to know was three letters: a white one for purity, a black one for simplicity and making the best of things, and a red one for ardent interest in the Passion of Lord Jesus. She was admitted into a convent as a lay-sister. It was a hardship not to know enough Latin to sing in the choir with the others. Otherwise the three letters served very well, and she had important visions. In spite of what the Virgin had said, she never ceased making an effort to learn, saying, even when ill, 'I must work while I have time.'

It is odd. The French Embassy ... my immediate neighbor ... though apparently 'all finished'5 still seems to be empty. Throngs of 'frogs'! Forget it; I have yet to see even a single beret about the place. But, a tightly focused analysis of today's photographs suggests that something is wrong with their swimming pool. We'll be keeping an eye on this ... don't worry ... we'll keep you abreast of any fast-breaking news. My money is on the swimming pool as the culprit.

1 Yesterday was 'Children's Day' in Thailand.

2 And, for the little lady of the house, both papers feature large front page pin-ups of young girls against whom Khun Housewife can never even hope to compete.

3 Thailand, too, has a Tatler. Like with the London version, one wonders why advertisers bother.

4 Author of "... the most boring book ever written ...": Ulysses.

5 Somewhere around here I have the earliest known photograph of the embassy as seen from the Gore Vidal suite. Between then and now I have taken several dozen slides of the place; and ... yes ... all of them have found their way into the Internet. Have I received even a single word of encouragement from the French ... even a little 'merci'? No! If it had been the Italian Embassy over there (ah ... down there) ... well, by now I'd probably have been given an invitation to wash the Pope's feet.

Next: Part III

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