Back Home in Bangkok, Part VI

Between Part V and Part VII

April 7-15, 2001

Saturday, April 7, 2001

Yesterday's books weren't closed but for an hour when I read this:

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Word Wealth

NEW YORK – Dr. Frank H. Vizetelly, lexicographer and managing editor of the Funk and Wagnall's "New Standard Dictionary," has reported that Shakespeare used 23,000 words; lawyers, doctors and ministers1 to-day know 25,000 words, an editor knows 40,000 words, and Woodrow Wilson used more than 60,000 words in three of his books. The average person knows only 8,000 to 10,000 words, an uneducated one 3,000 to 5,000 words, and a six-year-old child 1,000.

Word Power Summary:

If You Are ...Words Known
A 6-year-old Child

An Uneducated Person

An Average Person

Wm Shakespeare

A Lawyer, Doctor, or Minister

An Editor

Woodrow Wilson



[from the International Herald Tribune]

MADRID – An interesting and beautiful ceremony took place last week at the Royal Chapel, when the King and Queen washed the feet of twelve poor men and an equal number of poor women before a large assembly. These poor people are selected some time before the ceremony, and lodged on the royal premises, where they are carefully tended. The men are dressed in quaint, old-fashioned costumes with long coats and tall hats and the women are clothed in the habit of a religious order.

Yes, it is Saturday2 again! And, again time for Gabriele Thiers-bense to whip the cover from her most recent submission. Rather than run through this offer word-by-word, I'd like to just list her savories:

"tall blond beauty ... impeccable reputation ... vivacious thirties ... World Citizen ... great sense of humor ... elite University graduate ... fluent in five languages ... resides with status in the most privileged regions of Switzerland and France ... fascinating ... captivating ... disarming smile ... unpretentious attitude ... classic virtues ... family oriented lifestyle ... pilot's license ... rides horses ... excellent in skiing and sailing ... a good golfer ... perfect host ... creative cook ... simply the dream woman ..."

In the same "Intermarket" ... but, occupying a more modest tenancy:

"STRIKING CHIC BLOND LADY3 seeks affluent gentleman 40 – 60 for intense liaison. Tel: 00 32 475 350909."

Annie went to the temple; and this is what she found:

1 Easily recognized is this unwarranted clumping of "lawyers, doctors and ministers". Having little in common, save for the wish of their parents to see them out of the house, these occupational avenues rarely ever cross again in this life. "Lester has been called to the bench." ... "Our Morton has taken the cloth." Doctors? I don't know ... perhaps they "... do a residency." Speaking entirely different 'languages', maybe a word-net of 75,000 best covers their lot. Vizetelly forgets about the fourth son; the one in the Army. " ... serving the country."

2 The IHT's "Intermarket" is only open for business on Saturdays. Gabriel Thiers-bense has long been its penthouse tenant. Her Munich based 'linkage' service has very little competition in this niche trade; Edith Brigitta Fahrenkrog, also of Germany (Frankfurt), is but a shadow offeror in the business of bringing hunter and prey together.

3 It would not surprise me if they were one and the same person.

Update: In May 2002, we received correspondence from Germany clarifying certain details regarding the Houses of Gabriele Thiers-Bense and Edith Brigitta Fahrenkrog. An explanation is provided in the Bangkok Journal for May 12, 2002.

Sabbath, April 8, 2001

I went to the temple and this is what I found:

Monday, April 9, 2001


IN OUR PAGES: 50 YEARS AGO [from the International Herald Tribune]
1951: Nudism Banned

BERLIN – The East German government outlawed nudism because it believed it interfered with the Communist "peace" campaign. Police and sports officials announced a ban on nudists and naked bathing and the dissolution of East Berlin Nudist Club Headquarters. The East German Communist party was said to have led the fight against the spread of nudism on the grounds that public disrobing last summer had detracted from the work of the Communist agitation teams which visited the beaches to propagandize for "peace."

... the view from the grassy knoll ... as seen from the Texas Schoolbook Depository ... what people on the overpass saw ... hey, and don't forget the guys on the curb itself ... and, the others in the Lincoln limousine ... Jackie, too ...


I'm gently leading us into something that for many months has been seen as a closed book ... a lost battle, to be more analogous ... an arboreal ten-rounder between the tree on top and it's neighbor just below. May I continue?

"Be my guest."

Viewed from a different angle2 ... and, from a much closer perspective ... the "battle of the penthouse trees" seems much more equal. Close ContestThe traditional 'angle' (as viewed from Gore Vidal's premises) shows the top tree as being totally in command. The smaller shrub is taking a bad beating in the eyes of all of us over here at The Oriental.

Until yesterday! The 'underdog' doesn't seem so 'under' in this picture, does he? Not at all! Photographed from a speeding fishtail boat (thus, the slight 'tilt' to the building), the downstairs shrub may be 'down' ... but, it's certainly not 'out'.

Yes, this fight has a lot of 'fight' left in it. We'll continue to monitor the action; and, dear reader, you'll be the first to know the outcome. Knockout, TKO, a win by points...or, even a draw ... our new ringside camera promises that you'll be the first on your block with the news. When the referee raises that gloved fist you will be there!

1 Within these pages ... yes, right here ... much of "Lenin's Embalmers" can be read. This best selling book captured the historic moments that surrounded the 'great body' when it ceased breathing; rather, when it ceased 'breathing' on its own. It is a gripping tale of one man caught on the cusp between the mortal and the immortal. How the contents of a chemistry set and a few garage tools made 'Leninization' the preferred portal for so many world despots.

1 Hence, my Dallas/JFK/Oswald analogy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

The keen reader will call me on this one. Last week, in a futile attempt to trace Wescott's real day of birth (and, of course, that too of his 'roommate' saint) I jumped forward to today. Fulbert was (is) the saint for whom I thought Wescott was aiming. Not so. Tomorrow really is the 100th anniversary of Glenway Wescott's birth. We have no better proof for this than the word of his last 'lover'. Fortunately, Wescott's calendar allowed for 'time-sharing'. So, we have 'two' for today; Fulbert, you've already seen:

Macarius of Antioch

This Armenian archbishop went to Palestine to convert the Jews, but it was such a thankless task that he journeyed North across Europe as far as Flanders, where he died of the plague.1 He sorrowed so bitterly over the sinful races he found everywhere that he had to carry a handkerchief in his hand all the time, for his tears.

Myself, Paul, Laurie F. Jones, Marty (from "the Club") and others learned of him, then forgot him:

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1926: Founding Brew

NEW YORK – Colonel W. H. Stayton recently propounded a profoundly interesting question to Attorney-General Sargent. He seeks a legal opinion on the right to read publicly George Washington's recipe for making home-brew beer, a beverage which he describes as excellent, though its alcoholic content is greater than that permitted under the Volstead Act. What Washington put in his beer and his methods of brewing are subjects of real historic interest.

"I heard this terrific noise. Like a giant 'WHUMP', followed by the tinkle of broken glass."

"Me too. Like thousands of little bells ringing ... all ringing at the same time. By the time I looked out the window ... whatever it was ... well, it was gone."

"From here it looks like the shrub is dead. It's very squished. Pushed in like."

"Yes, nothing could survive a hit like that. We're just lucky that it wasn't one of us."

"So right you are. Poor Reverend Weems ... he was so fond of his little bush ... took such good care of it."

"Yes ... watered and fed it every day."

"As if it was his own child."

"Though it did seem to be getting a bit 'uppity' ... don't you think?"

"I didn't want to be the first to say ... but, yes ... I think he was feeding it some kind of growth hormone ... trying to make it [voice drops to a whisper] more like the Colonel's."

"Ooohhhh ... the Colonel wouldn't have like that, would he?"

"Oooooohhhhhhhh. No ... not at all!"

What caused it we'll probably never know. So far, the only hard evidence we have is a set of before/after photographs. That, and the testimony of one of the tenants who claims to have heard a large 'WHUMP' noise ... along with the sound of what she thinks to have been that of shattering and falling glass. The police have not yet taken a statement from the tenant on the top floor: a Colonel "Something".

1 No! Not 'plaque' (nor 'Plack').

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Is there a link? WWN thinks so. Even though more than 25 years separate the disappearance of "D.B. Cooper" and little JonBenet Ramsey ... even though they have nothing in common (save for some big question marks) ... and, despite the fact that half a continent lays between their final resting spots ... an investigative team at WWN asks the question: "... is the mysterious D.B. Cooper – or a son1 of the skyjacker – the sinister killer of the little Colorado beauty queen?"

The 'Sports Center' at The Oriental has a new instructor.

Had my grandfather known that the Garden of Eden was actually in his own backyard ... well, would "Old Raspy" (yes, our gramps) have run the full length of the field with this chance-caught ball ... or, would he have stood in line with all the other cap-in-hand pilgrims for a short glimpse at 'what might have been'?

There is no doubt in my mind that within days of the map's discovery there would have been a loaf of "Mother2 Erickson's Heavenly Host" bread on every store shelf. His earlier attempt to capture the Eucharist market failed for want of a subtle approach. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee read no further than " ... out-sourcing the body of Christ ... flavored ... choice of colors ... crunchier ... " before dismissing our grandfather's proposal.

1 This is the first indication that "D.B." might have been blessed with a surviving son.

2 Though "Mother" had died off (from grief) years before, Gramps felt no need to change the name of the family's best selling product.

Thursday, April 12, 2001

For darkroom technicians, say on holiday from either New York or Fleet Street ... or from practically anywhere else ... a working visit to one of the photo labs operated by the Bangkok Post or the Bangkok Daily News would likely seem like a tour of a bizarre chambers of horrors. Here, at 136 Na Ranong Road, tanks of D-76 and trays of Dektol regularly give birth to images that are never allowed to slip to the surface in their sister-rooms over at The Times or the IHT. Used to traveling heavily prescribed roads of journalistic etiquette, these amber-light "farangs" are at their riskiest when pulling up pictures of air crashes and tanker mishaps. Their gore is a tame gore. For them, the grizzle is out of sight ... sure, no doubt that there are dead people under that smoldering pile of shredded aluminum ... and, no doubt, that if the lens peeped any deeper lots of fried, torn and mangled muscle and tissue would snap into focus. But for the "farangs", all that hidden sticky stuff is not really theirs to face in the work place.

Anyway, it's all here. All of it is over-here! Yes, this "Banned in Boston" gore1 ... gore in great big dripping hunks ... gore laid slab length in every direction ... gore found on practically every cover sheet of the Bangkok Daily News ... gore almost too much for even the devout readers of the WWN. But you, dear reader, have been here. You've seen it. You know. I know. Lantana is over there. Bangkok is right here. Gore is here.

Today's photograph is terribly disturbing. Being of an 'entrance' scene ... and, not an 'exit' one2 ... the archived negative of this print remains as unspent ammunition. It will forever haunt the minds of everyone in this picture for a very long time.

This picture is password protected. Permission to view it will be given only upon request. (Email

1 Admittedly, in the 'big-splash' shots ... ones where engorged coils of intestines have slurped free of the rib cage ... ones where decapitation has left a puzzled look on the once rolling head ... ones where the ruptured, mangled, twisted, fried and ...

"ENOUGH, for God's sake. I usually do not interrupt foot notes but here ..."

2 If the camera had captured an 'exit' moment ... not an 'entry' one, like here ... well, there would be every hope that the whole thing could be dealt with through 'closure' and through other complicated healing devices. Sadly, that is not the case here.

Friday, April 13, 2001

George Jacob Holyoake, a co-operator and a secularist, was born on this day in 1817 ... according to NEWNES.

Happy Songkran!

Today the tide on the Chao Phya River reached its lunar nadir. What will its silt yield?

Ning is back to work at The Oriental's gym.

Saturday, April 14, 2001

"Stocks Soar on News of Plummeting Bank Robbery Figures"


"Stocks Plunge on Opening of Thiers-Bense-Mart Mega Store"

When I was in college my Economics professor said that the best predictor of what is going to happen in the American economy is not something found in the Business Section of the newspaper; rather, it's over on the 'crime beat' pages where the first signs of a shift will be seen. Pressed for specifics, he cited 'bank robberies' as being the thing to watch. What America's belt manufacturers should look at when predicting the country's future girth is not something from Wall Street; nope, they should look to Main Street, Anytown, Kansas ... the home of America's best bank robberies. In his prime, Willie Sutton was the best 'thermometer' that this country ever had. When asked why he robbed banks, he said: "That's where the money is."

As the number of small town American banks has dwindled, the reliability of the 'Sutton Scale' has fallen into question.1 Even sophisticated sampling techniques have not been able to keep this statistical model from falling short of its goal: giving America a hold on its economic future. We need something new. Something that will tell our planners where our current road leads and what turns we must make if we are to guarantee that every American is guaranteed a full plate of mashed potatoes.


Does the answer lie with our very own Gabriele Thiers-Bense? Perhaps.

With the tide ... there is a moment ... however brief ... when it shifts. From moving upstream to moving downstream ... from rising to falling ... from ebbing to ebbing the other way.2 So, too, the flow in the Gabriele Thiers-Bense columns.

Is it a "buyer's market" ... or, a "seller's market"? Is Gabriele 'hawking' the product ... or, is she 'offering' it? And, what is the product? These questions are perhaps answered by the tone and content of just these two advertisements from the House of Thiers-Bense. One, coming on the heels of the other ... yes, has the tide turned? What do these words tell us?3 Is it now time to hunker down with the basics?

"... a dazzling beauty ... luxuriously living in Paris ... loves sailing ... wants to be spoiled ... upper class tastes ... expects worldwide travel ... expert in dressage and polo ..."

"... genuine lady ... life experienced ... positive attitude ... reliable ... sports trained figure ... loves dogs ... witty ... contagious laugh ... excellent education ... totally independent ..."

1 "We just don't have the numbers." This is a sentence that today is all too frequently heard.

2 Ebbing backwards? Ebbing not at all? Stopped ebbing? Contra-ebbing? Who knows?

3 As with any complex indicator ... no one-reading will suffice ... no single-shake of the thermometer will clear the mercury to the zero point ... no snap-shot will give us a picture of the whole. But, added up ...

Sunday, April 15, 2001

"Acres of crime! Everywhere you look ... right, left ... front, back ... up, down ... it's all around ..."1

Adobe's Photoshop 6.0 can be purchased in Bangkok for slightly more than the price of one can of Coke at The Oriental. For that matter, almost every piece of software ever produced can be found in Bangkok's underground market ... and, found at prices measured in but units of Coca Cola.2

Yes, they are counterfeit.

No, I did not buy any.

Puntip Plaza is to the computer geek as what the Patpong is to a man in heat. Even more so! Floor after floor ... tier after tier ... row after row ... stall after stall ... yes, all of them are in the business of selling everything and anything that has to do with computers. Even seasoned Microsoft employees blanch with disbelief (and hard-to-conceal glee) when first confronted with this much pirated stuff.

I bought it to better 'liquify' people and things. Not found in Adobe editions less than 6.0, this 'liquify' feature in Adobe's Photoshop makes for loads of laughter at someone else's expense. In the hands of an artist the ugly can be made beautiful; Lopez can be made ugly. Unfortunately, in my hands 'downhill' is the only direction the Adobe brush knows. To prove that no one has been singled out for 'treatment' I'll start with exhibiting us. Once Watcharee and I are in the air I'll increase the radius of friends-in-the-lens. Oh, the hell with it ... I'll start with us AND a group shot:

Us Group Shot

1 "... and it's even cheaper than at the company store ..." continues a former Microsoft employee ... while, of course, topping-up his shopping cart with 'brand items' from 'brand names' ... about two cases of Coke worth.

2 A 'standard issue' Coke at any one of the bars or restaurants in The Oriental costs 100 baht. 'Room service' Cokes (poolside-delivered Cokes, too), understandably, must shoulder a premium. Both are normally charged directly to the guest's room at 120 baht per serving. "The baht, you ask?" On Thursday, April 12th, the World Wide Interbank rate (excluding commissions) was 45.46 Thai baht to one US Dollar. Parenthetically, since most of the great international currency exchange markets were closed on Friday the 13th ... (the day that Christ rose from the dead ... or, was that when he was buried?) ... the only "baht-to-another" rates for that date were the ones generated internally on the trading floors of the respective cross dealers. Here, for example, the baht held its own against the Yen, as well as against the Indian rupee. But, moving back to Thursday the 12th ... the baht (once again trading in universal dress) closed lower against the Euro, to 40.1086. Incidentally, the price of gold on the Bangkok metals market remained unchanged, largely because the market was closed for Songkran.

"Alf, where is this footnote taking us?"

I almost forgot. I was equating the cost of a can of Coke with the cost of one disc of Adobe Photoshop 6.0. After some number juggling, yes, Adobe Photoshop 6.0 can be yours for just a little over three dollars. But, you have to come to Bangkok to get it.

PS Dearest reader, I have been derelict in my duties, both to you and to all of the roof-watchers over at the French Embassy. In the past my roof file has only attempted to show the improvements that were made to the older building.

Today's first picture captures the roofs of the newer buildings as well as the 'roofal' work done to the embassy's more riverside property.

The second photograph allows you a view of the French Embassy from the water. It's certainly not a magnificent view ... not in the least postcardish. But, taken from a very low-water position ... at a water level the likes of which has not been seen in many months ... it permits, say, to a viewer in Paris, a dark peek into what is going on below the surface.

PPS. My son-in-law, the doctor ...

"What’s with all these postscripts, Alf? Is your 'Grandfather Clock' running slow with reminders?"

... had a bit of an accident the other day. It seems that he was riding his bike around his neighborhood and someone’s foot got caught in the spokes. Wham! Bham! Followed by 24 hours in the ER ... eight teeth gone ... lips and nose smashed all to hell ... neck in a brace ... and, it seems to have messed up his hair, as well.

Doctor Sam

"He appears to be wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt. Is he a biker?"

Of course not. The man is a doctor. A well respected surgeon of sorts.

Next: Part VII

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