July 17-24, 2002
Webmaster's Note, July 17 - Alf and Watcharee's days at the Oriental Hotel are over! Tuesday was their last night as guests of the hotel; they are now formally residing just a couple doors downstream, at the River Garden. Unfortunately, in an apparently unrelated development, Internet communications out of Bangkok have gone haywire. Alf was able to export a few photos as dusk fell tonight on the River Garden ... and a couple photos of Pom and Golf, who joined in a celebratory dinner at The Peninsula. Alf's Official Journal begin tomorrow.
Dearest readers, THOCBDC is now operating out of a new 'house'. For the past 786 days its publishing arm has been located in the Gore Vidal Suite at The Oriental Hotel, right here in Bangkok. Starting with today's publications the presses will roll from much larger facilities: River Garden ... an apartment block just a hundred or so meters downstream from 1410.
Today's edition is understandably abbreviated. Bear with us ... as the days turn into weeks many of your old favorites will be back: Si Quey, Wescott, Morton's up-country whiskey in its cleverly disguised brown plastic bottle of D-76, the ladyboys, elephant polo, corkscrews, hot air balloons, gory breakfast reads from the Bangkok Daily News, blah, blah, blah.
Oh yes! NEWNES is with us today. Take note that Hitler's first stab at writing and the Infallibility of the Pope are only 55 years apart.
As you can see, our new offices are much nicer than the ones we left.
This morning's The Nation (Bangkok) carried a front-page story that was illustrated by an artist's conception of what was going on. What do you think went on? Come back tomorrow for the answer.
What 'diplomatic car' was seen parked in front of a 24-hour massage place?
* Might have been officially included in NEWNES had he been aware of it.
Yesterday's contest produced one winner.2 Mr. D. Bull of the Southern Methodist Corkscrew Society correctly speculated that the lad in the picture was using the rope to keep himself awake while he studied ... D. Bull theorized that the rope would prevent the student from slumping forward into a non-learning doze. Quite correct!
Up to a point!
However, things went terribly wrong for student Eak Chongsawatwattana, 21, of Bangkok's Suan Luang district. According to Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunant, a forensic expert, it was likely that three things happened:
First, the rope pressed against the veins of his neck, causing carbon dioxide to flood the brain. Unconsciousness probably took place within 30 seconds.
Second, upon losing consciousness, Eak's head dropped forward cinching the rope more tightly around his neck. The increased pressure blocked off the arteries, disrupting blood circulation and depriving the brain of oxygen. Brain death might have taken place within three minutes.
Third, the brain swelled, disrupting the respiratory control core at the nape of the neck, stopping breathing.
At this point all prior bits and pieces of Eak's life-long learning just plain disappeared ... 'poof' ... went missing ... gone forever ... no more.
Two sisters in Seville who made fine pottery for a living. One day some loose ladies wanted to buy a pot or two for use in the cunt of Venus. The sisters proudly refused to sell their handiwork for any such purpose. The ladies lost their tempers and broke all the dishes in the shop. Whereupon Justa and Rufina retaliated by breaking an image of Venus. The outcome of all this was that the sisters were condemned to death: one died on the rack and the other was strangled.
Because of the bright-coloured beauty of Giralda, the Moorish minaret in Seville, it seems quite fitting that these lady-potters should have become its official heavenly protectors - though it is the remnant of a heathen temple, and they were so rigorously Christian.
1 Your correspondent (me) went to a Catholic prep school with the son of A.J. Cronin. Yes ... really ... I went to a boarding school run by the Jesuits; and Cronin (the old man) was well liked by the faculty there because of his fanatical Catholicism and his obsequious literary obedience to all things papal. I don't recall reading anything that the man ever wrote ... I just remember that the dust covers of his books reeked of Christ. I remember even less of the son, though I think he smoked my brand of cigarettes: Lucky Strike.
2 Miss B. Elkhart of Leeds (England) speculated that the boy had created a rudimentary random alarm 'clock'; a Rube Goldberg type of device that would remind him when it was time to come to the table for his meals. Miss Elkhart, a nutritionist, thought that the boy placed great importance on taking nourishment at the proper time (i.e., when his mother opened the door to cry out, "Soup's on!").
Reader T. Weems (Rev., Baptist, Reform) of Winona, Minnesota (a small mid-west American town located on the Mississippi River) writes:
"There is an outrageous typographical (?) error in your July 19th account of the lives of Justa and Rufina. The 'loose ladies' who approached these saintly spinners of clay did not want to buy a pot for 'use in the cunt of Venus'! No, they wanted the pot or pots for the 'use in the cult of Venus'. Though the letters 'l' and 'n' are but separated by just the letter 'm' in the alphabet, their operations on the QWERTY-board of all proper keyboards the world over are controlled by the left and right hand respectively. Furthermore, the two letters are not even on the same row ... thus requiring the use of even different fingers on the ... yes ... absolutely poles apart hands. There is surely no excuse for such an obscene error! In my opinion it was intentional. Cheap shock value. For shame! God will have your nuts in a vice for this!"
We had our first dinner party at River Garden. Watcharee, Pom and Golf did all the work. It divided itself neatly into three parts:
For the next few days ... dear reader ... I'd like to share with you the contents of a strange mailing that I received just yesterday.1 The 'mailing' ... a box, actually ... .was sent to my former Bangkok address; it was then hand-carried to me by someone on the staff of The Oriental Hotel. Anyway, the package came from a company in Houston, Texas (Celestis, Inc.).
It contained a VHS tape2 and a colorful, glossy, eye-catching brochure. It also contained various forms and papers3 ... that when read together, signed, witnessed, and paid for ... probably would amount to a contract under which 'the party of the first part' (Celestis, Inc.) would hurl the ashen remains of me or someone of my choosing into space.
Actually, the Celestis company appears to be prepared to lob your 'loved one'4 various distances depending on just how much money you want to spend.
"Earthview Service I and II"5 places the cremated remains into Earth orbit. Thereafter it reenters Earth's atmosphere and "harmlessly vaporizes, blazing like a shooting star in final tribute."
"Voyager Service" is the long toss. The "infinite journey among the stars."
"Lunar Service" smacks the ashes right onto the moon. Or, with a little luck, they will do some lunar orbits before becoming part of the moon dust.
"Ad Astra Service" is an extra or a stand-alone. It names a star in honor of an individual and "transmits a high energy digital memorial message to the stars."6
1 Only a very few of you know that the ashes of my ex-wife were set adrift in the waters off San Diego, California, less than 24 hours ago.
2 Being a very high-tech person, I don't currently own anything more primitive than a DVD. Perhaps my friend, Porn, down at The Super Queen has a machine that will play VHSs; if so, I'll ask her to decipher the contents.
3 Prepaid Service Contract ... Release and Acceptance of Risk ... Terms and Conditions Relating to: Mission Failure, Refund Option, Limitation of Remedies, Governing Law ... Waiver of Right to Cancel ... Authorization for Final Disposition ... Addendum to Trust Contract ... Flight Capsule Inscription Form ... and the Authorization for Release of Personal Information.
4 The "Terms" make it clear that Celestis, Inc. is only undertaking to lift a "token" bit of the bereaved into space. They are talking about a 1-gram sample of the cremated remains (or, 7 grams for a lot more money). Since one gram of ash scraped from a Kelvinator Hi-End Auto Feed Cremator equals about two pounds of loved-one meat, you are actually sending not very much of Dear Old Dad into orbit; perhaps just a hunk of his neck. It's recommended that you stir the ashes well before scooping out the "sample"; otherwise you might be paying good money to have only cheap plywood and a backless jacket reach for the stars.
5 $995.00 versus $5300.00 ... 1 gram versus 7 grams ... (ash wise: hunk of neck versus a full thigh?).
6 Note: "stars," not THE named star!
After the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene is believed to have sailed to Southern France with Lazarus, her brother, and Martha, her sister; to have helped the former to make a nominally Christian city of Marseilles; and to have spent the rest of her life in a cavern in the hills - clothed, perhaps, in nothing but her hair - mourning her dead Lord and the sins she had committed before3 she met Him.
I don't think you can see it on yesterday's picture of the Celestis Rocket Hearse. But, along with the logo of NASA, the American flag and the various sponsorship 'signages'4 there is the name of the rocket manufacturer: THIOKOL. This company, I think, was one of the prime contractors in America's race to put the second man5 in space. Located in Salt Lake City, Utah (USA), it prided itself on being a Mormon company.
Yesterday, dear reader, we saw that Celestis essentially offers five packages from which you can choose.
But, it's best to let the catalog speak for itself:
1 I think we have a piece of her finger bone lying around here some place ... yes, along with a tale tying it in quite closely with the 'only begotten son of Our Lord, Jesus Christ'.
2 Von Liliencron, a German, was born in 1844. Though his most famous work, Krieg und Frieden (1891), may not be familiar to today's readers we must remind ourselves of what R. Collison said in his preface to this latest edition of NEWNES: "Among the names so baldly listed there may be some that at first sight appear obscure or unexciting. The reader who, however, cares to follow these names to their description in the larger dictionaries of national biography and in the national and international encyclopedias will, I believe, invariably find an interesting or unusual story to justify their inclusion."
3 It is with this word ... "before" ... around which the controversy today rages. Wescott was terribly daring in not implying that his use of the word was meant to be exhaustive and/or exclusive. By 'dropping the pen' Wescott neatly sidestepped the firestorm that would come much later. Remember, dear reader, Wescott was writing all this stuff in the 30's: America was in the Great Depression, Madame Tussaud's new building in London was less than a decade old, Guernica had not yet been destroyed by German aircraft [my own uncle, Robert, though not directly responsible, was probably watching the city burn], and King Farouk was approaching the throne of Egypt. It was a different world!
4 Though bloody hard to make out, it looks like OrbiTel, JPL and Boots the Chemist ... among others (perhaps even the government of Korea) are the official Astro-Hearse sponsors.
5 Of course, everyone knows that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. America's John Glenn (I think) was the second. Anyway, Glenn said ... while sitting atop his tower of liquid hydrogen just before the countdown reached "We have ignition" ... that it was "... fucking scary to think that this whole damned contraption was built by the company that submitted the lowest bid ..."
6 The cremated remains of your average-size adult can easily be packed into one Folgers tin. And even this generously allows for the 'foreign' ash ... (e.g., the Bradley plywood Fast-Burn Pass-Box, a clip on tie, any left-in sutures, single serving shorts, etc.). This unfortunately inseparably mixed-in foreign ash usually (and mercifully, I must add) accounts for only between seven to ten percent of the finished baked down bulk (once the oven door is auto-popped open and the Kelvinator Vacu-Sweep-Press is allowed to do its last bits).
Dear reader, now that Watcharee and I are a bit further downstream we have a much better view of the two condominiums with the dueling trees. Comparing today's picture with photos taken in yesteryears, it is still not possible to yet declare a winner. For a while it looked like the Penthouse would get the Gold ... but, now ...
For the American constitutional lawyers among you, this morning's International Herald Tribune has a cute NON SEQUITUR cartoon. A few trial lawyers will also see the truth in it.
For followers of Morton's darkroom skills ... well, this morning's Bangkok Daily News has but a tepid piece: a fatal head wound oozing a meandering and thickish amalgam of blood and pulped brain.
My original plan to continue with the Celestis 'long toss burial' offering is on hold for a day due to this totally unexpected letter from a Chinese/Portuguese woman who brings a brand new torch to the wake. Let's go to her right now:
Reader Ms. Ching-Alvarez from Macau (a former Portuguese colony, now part of China) writes:
It was with enormous interest that I read about this new American way of disposing of the last powdery remains of the bereaved. Yes, how very Yank it is to tightly pack it all into the nose cone of a giant Saturn and fire it into the cold dark vacuum of space ... and, right from the great Lone Star state of Texas: the home of your President. But, I want to bring to your attention an ancient (but quite novel) way of disposing of the 'loved one' that is more in keeping with the Bible.
Here in Macau ... at Jonah's Gate ... we believe in traditions: holy Christian traditions, mind you. I hope you remember from your Bible study days the story of Jonah ... but, just in case ... Jonah was a Hebrew minor prophet who was called upon by God to preach at Nineveh. On his way there (and the facts do get a bit muddled at this point) Jonah was swallowed by a "Great Fish".[*] For us that's the full stop!
Anyway, here at Jonah's Gate we are able to recreate this ancient and holy way of final disposal. In our own 180,000,000-liter aquarium complex we keep several 'Great Fishes' that have been carefully trained to swallow the entire body of the 'lost one' with one loving gulp.
Once the body is placed in our care it is gently shampooed, shaved and thoroughly enema-ized before being allowed to marinate for 48 hours in a highly fragrant and very slippery oil made from only the finest cod, halibut and seal fat.
Only when our expert staff is convinced that the time is just right will the departed be inserted deeply into the post-throatal area of the 'Great Fish'. This suppositorial technique ensures that the 'Great Fish' will not gag and that there will be no unwelcome regurgitation (an absolute must if family and friends exercise the viewing option).
As the 'Great Fish' has a tremendously long alimentary tract the loved one is guaranteed a gentle glide through almost a hundred meters of ever narrowing but softly pliable and living piping. The mild digestive juices work with remarkable kindness to guarantee that the departed dissolves with the minimum of trauma and disfiguration. Even as the deceased is tapered into the colon area the integrity of the process prohibits any of the mortal excesses usually found in competing memorial decomposition scenarios. Approximately 72 hours into the ... ah, we like to think of it as a "final massage" ... the remains of the loved one are tenderly expelled from the anus of the "Great Fish." A specially designed sieve promises that only the 'residuium' of the departed are captured for the complimentary commemorative retaining vessel.
Your humble sycophant,
Ava Maria Ching-Alvarez
CEO, Jonah's Gate
[*] Children's books talk of a whale. This is foolish nonsense ... for the Bible is clear on this point: Jonah was swallowed whole and unchomped upon by a "Great Fish."
1 We at THOCBDT have not referred to Tibballs for quite a while ... not because he fell out of favor; rather, he was 'lost' in the pile of stuff that I called an office over at Gore Vidal. Anyway, "Tibballs" hereafter will refer to THE BEST BOOK OF LISTS (as compiled by Geoff Tibballs).
2 On the adjacent page Tibballs tells us that the Maserati automobile was named after the five Maserati brothers: Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Ettore and Ernesto. One can only guess which of the five was the driving force in the company. Anyone for Bindo?
Today I received posts from places as far apart as Taipei, Taiwan and Wirtz, VA, USA. Both correspondents made reference to recent writings here at THOCBDC.1
Reader Shen Dan (formerly of Shanghai, China, but now currently residing in Taipei, Taiwan) wrote this in 'response' to my reproduction of an artist's sketch from one of the great Bangkok English language dailies. The artist, along with the paper's crime-beat reporter, attempted to show how bad study habits can all too easily kill an overly keen student:
I've spent some time reading your web page and I found a interesting story titled Killer Study Method. It reminds me of the traditional Chinese study method which is similar to belt study method. But Chinese method is more safer, I believe and no one would think it a killer study method. Our ways was: During ancient times, While studying, students are often strapped a belt around their long hair (Not neck!!!) and then connected it the upright-positioned ceiling (Not door knob) with a rope. If they fell asleep, the belt would tighten and wake them up. No one had any doubt of this wisdom. I think it's a smart and more safer idea. What do you think?
Don Under Glass
Changing subjects, reader D. Bull of the Southern Methodist Corkscrew Collectors Club (Wirtz, Virginia, USA) nodded me in the direction of his own 'loved one' recycling scheme. Prefatorily ... I have to say ... anyone who has ever visited an airport gift shop or a seaside souvenir stand has surely seen snow domes (AKA snow globes). You know, those plastic domes filled with clear liquid and little semi-suspendable white flakes that pretend to be snow ... all of which surround some local thematic thing such as Piglet's House or the Lord on a mountain top. Of course, these commercial ones that you stumble upon almost always range from the 'truly tacky' to the 'totally tasteless'.
Well, reader Bull has created a remembrance globe:
If you are anticipating a trip to the crematorium ... even if you are just in the 'pre-need' stage ... please do yourself a favor and make a quick visit to: http://www.bullworks.net/invest/remember.htm.
1 THOCBDC: The House Of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com. We thought we had pretty well covered it until we received this note from Miss S. Beale of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (USA). Miss Beale, a retired English teacher wrote: "You have missed the 'dash' ... yes, the little thing that looks like this (-). The House of Corkscrew-Balloon Dot Com should be 'acronymed' into THOCDBDC. Alternatively, THOC-BDC would be acceptable."